“Psycho Gecko killed Captain Lightning,” Lightning’s successor announced to onlookers. The video was all over Youtube. Amazingly, that was all there was to the video. Somehow, the part where he told everyone I am the Unicorn Goddess didn’t record, didn’t upload, and was instantly forgotten by everyone, including the new Captain Lightning.
“Looks like he’s got a lot to learn still,” Sam said, leaning on my shoulder on the couch. Holly had me move my arms so she could slide onto my lap.
“That’s your fault, though,” Holly added.
Sam patted her friend’s head. “She’s right, you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know. Just like I know he’s got a good reason to hate me, even though I had a good reason to kill him.”
We were at this martial arts tournament being held at the local high school. The town of Radium had settled on integrating the super and non-super schools together, and one of many events they were trying to build a community spirit was stuff like this. With the rise of the show Cobra Kai, it was pretty popular, and Qiang had some competition out there. We were all trying to avoid this stage mom yelling for her son. They segregated the competition by sex, so Qiang wasn’t going to get a chance to whoop her kid’s ass. Instead, we tried to ignore her.
“You ever find out where the non-binary kids are competing?” Holly asked.
“Ugh. They’re making them play pretend,” I explained. “Don’t even see why they have to segregate this stuff anyway. When someone comes at you in a dark alley, are you going to be able to ask to segregate that fight? No, you kick ’em upside the spleen.”
“Cut their dick off,” Sam said.
“Poke their eyes out with your nails!” Holly added. We made for an intimidating cheering section. Qiang waved, all smiles, while she waited for her next fight. She raised up a box of popcorn. “Anyone want some?”
I reached out with a prehensile tongue to grab a couple pieces off the top.
“Pass one here,” Sam requested. I slipped one to her using the tongue before chowing down on the other piece. Holly giggled and waved at an older guy who’d been staring. The staring didn’t stop when two more women joined our little crowd. Medusa brought the wings, and Venus brought tacos.
“Boopsies,” I acknowledged them.
“Isabella,” Venus said.
“Maia, at least when we’re dressed like regular people,” Medusa said.
Sam laughed. “So you split up your names?”
Medusa smiled at her. “I let her have the first name, because I’m going to be a good big sis.”
Sam shook her head. “How do you get used to that? She’s you!”
I raised a hand. “Ooh!”
“No!” the whole quartet said at once. I hadn’t even made the suggestion.
I turned my nose up. “Fine. It was just an idea of an offer.”
“Don’t you have a big enough harem?” Venus asked.
“I don’t know. Last time I checked, my alleged fiances were having second thoughts,” I noted. Now, omniscience doesn’t mean omniwisdom, and I could tell I’d hit a sore spot. “I’m sorry. We’ll talk about that later. We’re here now and let’s enjoy watching Qiang rearrange some faces.”
“Up next, Kim Hart versus Qiang Lamb,” the announcer announced. We all started cheering. Venus started a wave that Holly continued, dropping popcorn on me. Through odd chance, all of the popcorn fell into my mouth.
I noticed Medusa watching and gave a little, “Ta da! And for my next act of god…”
“Shh, our kid’s beating people up,” Sam said.
“Our daughter,” Holly said. Medusa and Venus repeated it. I shook my head, thinking about how we are most definitely not a normal family. Qiang and Alexander are going to have some interesting lives, but I hope they have it only as interesting as they want.
Meanwhile on the mat, this Kim girl showed a lot of acrobatic skill dodging Qiang, and the confusion Qiang had about it left her open to get a point scored against her. Qiang came back the next go-round and blocked a kick before giving the girl a punch to the chest.
An older woman with a red dye job she hoped looked natural leaned down and tapped me on the shoulder aggressively, “Excuse me. Do you have to do that?”
I turned toward her. “Do what?”
“That!” she waved her hands at my little lesbian cuddle fest, with Sam on one side of me, Holly in my lap, my arm having slipped around Venus, and Medusa holding my hand that ended up on the other side of Venus’s shoulders.
“We’re just here existing,” I said.
“What’s your problem?” Sam asked.
“She doesn’t like lesbians existing,” Holly answered.
“No, you can exist, just don’t do that here,” the woman said.
“Do what?” Medusa asked, giving her a glare.
“You know, touch each other,” the woman said. She had her fingers entwined with her husband’s next to her.
“We can touch in public same as you,” Medusa said, nodding toward the woman’s hand.
“She thinks we’re unnatural though,” I pointed out.
“I didn’t say that,” she said. I snapped my fingers. “You are unnatural! It’s not right that children can see you exist. Little girls are too impressionable and should be thinking about having sex with men!” She held her hand up to her mouth. “I didn’t say that!”
“Sounded like you did, ma’am,” Holly pitched in.
Venus cleared her throat. “Talking about little girls having sex at this sort of event might count as public obscenity or whatever this state has.”
Medusa took the layup. “Maybe I should get my friend the sheriff in here.”
“Hey, you have no right,” the husband chimed in, pointing his finger at us. “We paid good money to come here and think about sex while staring at little girls!”
“Funny how that keeps slipping out,” I said.
Red-faced the couple ended up leaving, muttering to themselves. The wife said something about the doctor giving her the wrong pills.
We finally got to concentrate on my girl’s match. While we’d been chatting with that annoying couple, Qiang and Kim had themselves a longer bout where Kim used her acrobatics skill to dodge, mostly jumping or throwing herself out of the way. Qiang stayed on her and Kim never had time to full regain her feet, so my daughter was able to get her eventually. Qiang wasn’t nearly as winded as Kim was from all that jumping going into the fourth round, and started off feinting a sweep. Kim jumped, but was slower dodging and realizing the feint, so she caught a food to the chest about the time she landed, giving my daughter the win.
We had a little break then before the finals.
“So, we’ve been thinking,” Medusa said. “It’s not legal for you to marry two people in this country.”
I snapped my fingers. “Drat. Guess the wedding’s off, especially because I’m already married to someone else technically.” One of them is even roaming around somewhere. She came from a Bronze Age-level society on a lost continent that came back. We were married for political reasons. As soon as the ceremony was over, I drugged her to keep her in a coma while I stayed with this other woman I was seeing for political reasons. To make it up for her, I eventually brought her out of it with various enhancements, and let her lead the life of an adventurer.
“Delilah Lamb is not legally married to anyone,” Medusa said. “And neither is Psychopomp Gecko, who exists as a legal entity who has been pardoned before. The Unicorn Goddess is in even weirder legal space. You don’t have to pay taxes since you’re the head of your own religion.”
I shrugged. “After everything, y’all still want to marry me? Attaching your name to mine?”
“We’ve done a lot of thinking about it. It was a big consideration, to add to it. That’s why I’m going to sully my bad reputation with it,” Medusa said. “How’d you like my last name? Psychopomp Gecko-”
“And Delilah can take mine or we can hyphenate. Either way, we decided not to do two weddings in one day, so we’re splitting it up and I’m going first,” Venus added.
“She’s become a real brat now that she’s a younger sister,” Sam said.
Holly gave her a playful swat on the shoulder. “Either be nice or marry our girlfriend yourself.”
“By the way,” Venus said, “I appreciate you keeping the omniscience off right now.”
I shrugged. “It’s not as interesting if I spoil the competition.”
Venus just smiled at me. Someone else tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see a Catholic priest. “Excuse me, Delilah Lamb?” He opened a Bible he had with him that had a cheat sheet tucked within it.
I went to turn to Venus, who was right next to me, and ask her what she did, but I noticed Medusa revealed a veil she put on Venus. Sam was pulling on a tuxedo sweatshirt and a clip-on tie. Holly got off my lap and pulled a small bouquet of flowers out of the bottom of the trick popcorn box. She whipped her phone out and started playing the wedding march at a subdued tone.
“Elaborate deception,” I noted as Sam put a veil on my head.
Qiang came running up, stopping to grab a pillow with a couple rings on it from her backpack.
We left the gym with Holly jumping around tossing popcorn at us. Sam stuck a sticker to my back reading “Just Married.” I refused to let Qiang be outdone. She skipped along with her trophy and a sign behind her reading, “Just kicked ass.”
Of course, that’s when alarms sounded. Worldwide news alerts went up as gigantic spaceships blotted out the sky. “People of Earth,” they announced on all channels and frequencies “Fear not. The Trobogorian Directorate promises not to kill anyone.”
“Which ones are these?” Sam asked.
Venus raised my hand and kissed it while Medusa answered. “They’re the pacifists, technically. They prefer weapons that keep people alive in excruciating pain.”
“Yay, kicking aliens to the dark side of the honeymoon,” I said, smiling over at Venus. I don’t know why I couldn’t stop smiling. It shouldn’t have meant so much, but it did. And I knew it’d be fun to go beat up some invading aliens, too. The last time a Trobogorian expedition hit Earth, it didn’t go their way. Now, they’ve got me to deal with, and about a bajillion angry alien machines mobilizing around the outer planets to help protect the people who gave them a home.
Heck, I bet this’ll all be cleared up before Outlaw X gets done entertaining y’all instead. Cut me some slack, I’m on my honeymoon.
Sickeningly Sweet 5
I told my family. They deserved an explanation better than me ignoring it and keeping a doppelganger around to comfort them every time I popped out of the Madstone. And they knew something was up. Venus and Medusa both reacted pretty badly to the death of Captain Lightning, along with everyone else. However people felt about him alive, he’d been a superhuman institution. And the Unicorn Goddess had killed him.
So first, I pulled myself together enough to appear at home, then I summoned Medusa and Venus to me. Their surprise was quickly replaced with attempts to pummel me in anger and sadness. I was beyond their ability to help me, at least that early on in my escape. They knew it too, and it was Medusa who came to her senses first, grabbing Venus and asking, “Why?”
“Holly told you what’s going on,” I reminded them. I hadn’t left them completely in the dark. “I’ve been trying to get the stone into my possession and release myself. I asked Captain Lightning for help, but he refused because a fight between us would cause widespread damage and he didn’t want to encourage it by helping me. I almost had it, but he got there first and started adjusting the enchantment on the stone. He wanted to permanently seal me inside it. I guess I was no longer the lesser evil.”
They were still crying and processing it. Even with my powers slipping back into the Madstone, I could still have changed their minds and made them understand but I didn’t want that. I don’t want all my relationships to exist because I fucked with people’s heads and made them like me. I still had awhile. “I have at least an hour before I have to return to the Madstone and recover.”
“What?” Venus said.
I snapped my fingers and gave them, as well as my onlooking girlfriend Sam, my side of the experiences on the day I killed Captain Lightning. I won’t brainwash them, but it’s a lot easier to make someone see my point of view when I can literally give them all the knowledge of my point of view.
“I wanted to wait until you’d both attended his funeral. I’m sorry to… I don’t know. Ruining a lot of things, I guess.”
Sam came over and hugged me. Medusa hugged Venus. “Send us back where you got us. We’ll talk later. We need time.”
“I can pop out again in a couple days. I’m just… everything was going so well. Y’all were joking and planning a wedding. People weren’t dying in the streets with a goddess of disease running loose.”
Qiang had come out of her room to watch us. The course of these events had me worried, even saddened. It’s funny. Right back to killing superheroes and getting locked up, only this time it had a great deal more weight to it.
“I could bring him back… provided I get out of this thing. Kinda funny how that works,” the one thing keeping me from bringing him back. Perhaps I should have. It would have been more humane, maybe. Bring him back, wipe out everyone’s knowledge of how things went down, and just make him never think of doing the same thing again. Maybe the next time, after gathering my strength in the Madstone.
“You could go back in time, too,” Sam suggested.
“What are you suggesting?” Venus asked.
Medusa shook her head. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong even.”
“Who’s to say?” another voice cut in.
We all looked over at someone standing over by Qiang, but who made a show of stepping away. He wore a big, flappy yellow zoot suit and a wide-brimmed hat tilted back to show off the horn nubs on his forehead. He was clearly a demon, judging from the red skin and the fire burning in his eyes. “Call me Zazz; rhymes with jazz.”
It wasn’t his real name. He raised a finger topped with a black, pointy fingernail. “Uh, uh. No looking up a person’s name. You’ll use up the goodwill I have toward you for pissing off so many of my fellow fiends.”
What’s even the point of omniscience anymore if every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a way to circumvent it?
“What do you want, Zazz?” I asked. Qiang quietly palmed a knife. Venus, Medusa, and Sam were also getting ready for a fight, with Sam inching toward a lamp.
“I want to thank you for what you’ve done to ruin the plans of some of my rival demons,” he said with a smile. A too-white smile.
I shook my head. “No thank you. Especially time travel.” I raised a hand to wave him off, letting the palm glow a little as a threat.
Zazz winked. “Think about it. I’ll be in touch.” He disappeared in poof of smoke that cleared away.
“Well, I don’t trust him,” I told the family. After a moment, I added, “ I know things are fucked up, so I’ll send people elsewhere or just leave if y’all don’t want to, but can I spend some time with y’all before I get tossed back into the Madstone?”
Despite everything, we had a nice couple of hours together before they watched me pulled back into my prison. I rested up, little by little, because I needed all of my strength. It was time to stop fucking around and giving anyone any chances. I’ve been lazy. I’ve relied on senses that are nowhere near as powerful as I thought they were, and which are only getting weaker. And I subtly made everyone who knew forget about my spare bodies I could project my consciousness into.
So, emotions done. Riddles put off for now. Time for work, after a brief refractory period to regain my power. Once upon a time, I’d visited the pocket dimension created out of the remains of the entity Mr. Omega. I absorbed part of his essence to obtain my power, but other pieces of him gained various levels of existence in the dimension and went to war with each other. One that I spoke with explained it all to me in boring exposition before offering to escape with me by letting me absorb him and his power, in the hopes he would manipulate me from inside.
I’ve reached a part where that factors into a couple different plans I have. I appeared back in the Omega dimension.
I saw skies of red. Red roses, too. I saw them bloom for me and a herd of felines with antlers that looked up at me. Looked like miniscule shards of Omega’s core had joined with some felines. Barely any Omega energy there, really.
The place was a lot less warlike than I remember. I made damn sure to use my omniscience there and saw that the various Lesser Omegas that looked like copies of the original had settled into a stalemate. Some hibernated, others cultivated their lands and the life growing there, and the one I came to see had become an avid observer of the wildlife spawned by all those various shards joining with the discarded debris of the multiverse.
He appeared near me, a crimson man wearing a laurel of leaves and a toga. “Dammit,” I said, “Everyone’s gone hippie!”
He examined me for a minute, a minute of my power… not slipping away. I needed to test if this applied to other dimensions or just this little one my powers were associated with. It was refreshing to not be on a time limit. I just have to either drag my whole family away from their lives, or live apart from them here in a land full of nothing but the essence of a colossal cockthistle who I hate. The only way this could get worse was if it turned out Florida was immune to the Madstone’s pull.
“I once called you sister, but you’ve grown and changed,” the Lesser Omega said upon breaking the silence. “You are little like us.”
“Last time I was here, it was all war and gloom. Looks like the rest of you changed,” I said. It would almost be a shame to take his power for myself.
“This world has flourished into a peaceful world of burgeoning new life, unburdened by the grudges and conflicts of our past greater self. I have been watching to see how the world grows, what wonders arise,” he answered.
“So, remember that deal you once offered, giving up your power to me…?” I nudged him.
He tossed the toga and laurel aside. “I am ready when you are. This is the most boring place in the multiverse.”
“What’s this? Surrendering, are we?” asked someone else. It was another Omega clad in blackened armor with a green sheen on it. “If you wanted to die, you could have come to me.”
“Who’s this anal swizzle?” I asked the scholarly Omega.
“That is a more warlike aspect. He’s disappointed no one wants to fight anymore and tries to goad us,” that Omega answered.
“I’d like a fight, but you can let me kill you instead!” the armored Omega declared, materializing a spear in his hands.
“You know, it’s not the outside that matters so much as what’s inside,” I noted. With a flick of my hands, small dimensional portals separated his head from his body, then scattered pieces of his body to other dimensions. It left an irregular core there, what is known on my planet as an Omega Pearl. I approached it and laid my hands on it, absorbing his power into me.
The scholarly Omega backed away. “He’s gone.”
I nodded to him. “Yeah.”
That Omega shook his head. “No, he’s truly gone. Not even a personality inside you.”
I shrugged. I felt more powerful, but it was hard to tell if I was any douchier than before. I’m already pretty douchy.
“I am rethinking what we discussed before,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “You said this place was boring.”
“I imagine being dead is more boring,” he said.
“Good thinking. You should use that imagination thing more. This place could use some sprucing up.” I looked around. Most of the world was an unblemished wilderness, with the Omegas barely even creating shelter to live in. “Have you ever heard of Minecraft? Might give you some ideas.” I created a laptop with the game for him, letting him see it.
Mr. Omega had been banished back before people realized the Earth was round. These guys could use something telling them to build and develop.
The scholarly Omega leaned in and tried pressing buttons on the laptop. After a few tries, he figured a few things out and was playing around in it. After a minute, I realized he’d become less aware of my existence. I left a few more laptops for the rest, as well as a server for the bunch, all under a sign reading, “Get your creative juices flowing.”
Then it was back to the Madstone, now with twice the power at my disposal for when I hop out and murder my best friend’s girlfriend. I want to make sure that what comes next isn’t a fight, but a murder.
I’m glad I don’t have to sleep. It’s difficult. It’s weird. Sam woke up at one point and held my head in her lap. “What’s wrong?”
“Just wondering how real all of this is.”
“You should keep seeing your therapist. You know you need help.”
“I can fix myself if it becomes a problem,” I told her.
“How’s that going for you?” she asked, running her fingers through my hair. “I’m glad I’m seeing you and not the kid.”
“I eased things for them, but Godhunter convinced them they didn’t want to be my vessel.”
“That’s good. You two need to talk about your relationship.”
I tilted my head back to look into her eyes more. “Hmm?”
“Oh, you have a relationship with them. You each wanted it on your terms without thinking about it, and it isn’t a normal one, but you have one.”
I took her wrist and kissed it, then responded, “You don’t approve.”
“I don’t want another relationship where I have to help raise my partner.” She booped my nose. “But we’ll figure something out if you decide you want to be with them. And you’ll have to figure out your gender issues as far as possessing them.”
“Hey,” I said, putting my hands on her cheeks. “What do you want?”
“This isn’t about me,” she said quickly. Heh. Can’t blame her for not knowing. Who really and truly knows what they want out of life. “Oh, I know!” She flipped on the TV and landed us on an early morning televangelist.
“I thought I got these guys?” I asked. More than a few of these bozos had died under mysterious circumstances. Or as mysterious as could be. I think this guy’s show was hosted by some old fart I made sure had an overdose on the cocaine he was doing on his private jet. Which isn’t as funny as the one who had a heart attack while inside one of his congregants. He didn’t go nearly as painfully as some of the others. The Catholic Church in particular has so many positions to fill, they might have to let women be priests, bishops, and cardinals.
“New guy,” Sam said.
“Wish there wasn’t always a new guy.”
“There’s money in being the new guy,” Sam pointed out.
On-screen, the new guy was ranting now. “If sodomy and fornication and abortion aren’t sins, then may God strike me down right this instant!” He opened his spittle-rimmed mouth, red faced, finger pointing up in the air on an outstretched hand. Then his eyes widened and he reached for his chest. He collapsed to the concerned murmurs of his fleeced flock, who rushed to help.
Just before the program was cut off, someone ran onstage and called out, “Someone get a-”
“That was fun,” I said.
“Shouldn’t have pissed off a goddess who likes sodomy and fornication so much,” Sam suggested, then giggled. She put a hand on my belly. “I can’t speak for your views on abortion.”
“I’m pro-abortion,” I said. “Only way to be sure the anti-Christ isn’t born.” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Oh, is that who you’ve got there?” she asked.
“This is Alexander. And if you keep this up, I’ll dump him on you.” I turned and poked her in the belly.
“That’s a wicked idea,” she said, kissing the top of my head. “I can just imagine you showing up as somewhere as Gecko and when people threaten to kick you out or something, you point to one of the heroines and say, completely truthfully, that she’s carrying your baby.”
We had a laugh over that, before she whispered, “It’s going to be freaky enough once you finally tell-”
“I’ll tell her when it’s time. It’s not like I’m going to force her to pay child support.”
The conversation drifted off then and, somehow, I did sleep. It made more sense once I entered a dream and had enough lucidity to realize what was going on. “This is another of those things like Santa did to me,” I said as I stood next to a dusty old gas station. I looked around at it, a lot of things going out of focus. “Probably bits my brain isn’t bothering with.” I turned back around to see something speeding along my way. I looked down at myself, wearing my armor. I think that was just part of my self image. It became a dress so I could stick my leg out and hope to attract a ride.
The hovercycle stopped next to the pump and the guy on it got off to gas it up. He pulled off his motorcycle helmet to reveal a tusked alien like I’d hallucinated back when Godhunter’s harpoon was sticking through my face. He looked a lot like what I saw in that delusion, shaking knotty hair out over the black leather biker jacket he wore. He even had denim jeans. I think my brain was mixing the alien with the familiar to give me a point of reference.
The tusked alien stopped inside the gas station, trying to avoid looking at a little tusked alien kid. He tripped over a tower of legos. “Dammit, son! Nearly made me break my leg. Then what, I’d have to stay here, playing with you?” Just like with Godeater, it came through in English.
The kid got off the floor and ran into the back. The cashier, his mother, put her hands on her hips. “You don’t have to be like that with the kid!”
“Sorry, baby, but you know my first love is the open road,” he said, trying to play it cool.
“If I knew that was so literal, I’d never have opened my legs to you. Why are you even here? Needing more money?” She pushed a button to open the register. “I got nothing. It all goes to taking care of our son. You may love the open road, but you don’t have sex with it.”
The guy flipped his helmet onto his head and walked out. “I’m tryin’ baby.”
“This is terrible,” I said, a bucket of popcorn appearing in my head. “Show me more.”
The biker got on his hoverbike and road off down the road opposite the way he came. Then, from the direction he first arrived from, a trail of dust in the air. He drove up again, stopped, and got more gas. This time when he headed in, the door was stuck. He nearly fell opening it, but walked in. “Son, we gotta talk!”
“I got nothing to say to you,” the teenage alien child said. The biker took off his helmet, showing a little age. So if I had to guess, the kid was Godhunter. Last time I had dreams like this, it was a bunch of irrelevant backstory meant to posthumously humanize the beings trying to kill me. I’m pretty sure Santa’s doing it. He fears my power and wants me dead.
“I’m sorry I missed the funeral,” he said. “The news didn’t catch me until-”
“I don’t care!” the teenager bowed up at his dad. “You never know anything in time! Why come at all?!”
“Because I’m your dad. Come on, you need someone right now,” the father said. He held his arms open like for a hug.
The teenager snorted. “Oh, I get it. You think there’s an inheritance.” The teenager held his own arms open wide. “This is it! A rusted-out, piece of shit gas station! All mine, until I sold it.”
“Sold it! That’s great, son. How much did we get?” the dad asked, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
The son brushed them off. “We didn’t get shit. I got enough to leave and join the Rangers.”
“Son, you don’t understand what that’s like-” the dad started
“It can’t be too hard if you could manage it,” the son said. He walked outside. The father tried to follow, but the son slammed the door, knocking the father in the face. There was a sound of some engine starting. The father ran outside, throwing on his helmet. He turned to see a speck disappearing into the distance down the way he’d driven from. After a couple seconds, including kicking at a rock, he wandered over to his hovercycle, revved it up, and headed his own way.
The speck he’d been looking at started getting bigger as it got closer. Godhunter’s dad was back, the hover cycle not looking as pristine as it had in the past. When he walked in, the interior looked a little cleaner than it had before. There was an unfamiliar person working the counter, and a TV on the wall showing starships and other planets. “The war is going badly for the empire, but with the help of the Ranger Corps, we’re making them pay for every inch of soil with gallons of blood. Even today, imperial weapons engineers are refining the lessons learned by the Rangers to even the playing field. The gods’ will be done and their message be spread.”
“Your kid in that?” the cashier asked.
Godhunter’s father shook his head. “Probably dead in a trench somewhere.”
He walked back out while the cashier muttered, “Doesn’t even keep up with his war hero son…”
He hopped back on the motorcycle and this time I floated in front of him. By this point, I was trying out a look much like Morgan’s, but emphasizing my femininity. I didn’t care about distracting whatever this whole thing was playing out in front of me. I was just playing around with a notion. Still, I’m not Morgan. I’m Delilah. Yeah, this is going to take a talk. And while I don’t mind a bit of sexing things up, I also don’t want to help raise a girlfriend. Which, ew, sounds gross to even say.
When Dadhunter looped around again, it was night. He stopped at the pump again. The bike was… well, the bike was floating trash. The parts that weren’t caked with dirt and dust were barely held on. The dad checked the gas pumps, then jogged inside. His jacket was all cracked and his visor had a piece missing. The gas station didn’t look the best either. The interior was dark and dusty. One of the lights only half-hung to the ceiling. The dad reached across the counter to flick a switch.
The arm going for the switch jerked up and pulled him to the ceiling by a thin line. “Fuck!” he called, then twisted to put his feet on the ceiling. Instead of kicking off, hidden clamps activated and held him there.
Godhunter, looking about the same age as his dad had in the first part, was just there. It was like he formed out of the broken wood and metal of the counter into a man wearing a dark uniform, but not the advanced suit he had when he went after me. He pulled his old man’s helmet off, revealing an elderly alien whose tusks had shortened with age. “Son! Good to see you! You gotta get me out of here.”
Godhunter just looked at him. The dad tried to reach for his son’s shoulders, but Godhunteer took a step back. “Aw, come on. Get me down. There’s a reason you came back for me, isn’t there? You’ve got tickets on one of those arks, right? Come on, I’m the only family you got.”
“You’re not even family,” Godhunter said. The dad’s face fell. “But you’re the best I have.” And the dad smiled again. It didn’t last long before Godhunter’s blade gashed his throat, quick for someone without superspeed. The dad bled out, his blood glowing as it landed in some ornate jar. Godhunter raised a radio. “Beginning trial.”
The blood burst out in a small tornado that settled into the form of a red-skinned tusked alien wearing a toga. “You called to the gods with a debauched blood sacrifice!”
“I did,” Godhunter said. He clipped the radio to his belt and pressed a button.
The god in front of him advanced, then stopped, waving a hand. Lasers became visible. “Mortal tricks,” the god said, becoming transparent. It tried to step through the lasers, but was then shocked. That caused it to move too far back, getting shocked by something on that side. It ended up collapsing in pain. “I can’t call them. Why is it silent?”
Godhunter nodded with his head. “New thing. Scientists thought it up. Figured if we were going to lose this war and our planet because of some holy war, we’d get rid of the troublemakers that started it.”
“You can’t kill me! I am a god! I’m older than your species!”
Godhunter pulled out a blade that glowed green and rammed it through the head of the god,who went silent. “This knife is older than our planet.”
Godhunter carved off the head and brought it back with him, then called on the radio, “Test complete.”
With Jack o’ the Lantern warning us about Godhunter being around, I knew we’d have to tread carefully. So I just teleported everyone in the house out of there, except Jack. Really, just my girlfriend Sam, my daughter Qiang, and Morgan, the young non-binary hero whose body I’m possessing. I tried to stop, but they keep channeling me into her. They’re getting just a bit clingy.
We stopped off over at Santa’s place. A line of person-sized toy soldiers guarded the edges of the North Pole, which is actually in a pocket dimension. One of the nutcrackers nearest to me pulled its saber out while the next two raised wooden rifles. “Identify yourself!’ the first one challenged.
“I am that I am,” I said.
“Heresy detected. Identity confirmed. Welcome, Gecko the Unicorn Goddess.”
Sam snickered. “That’s still not old.”
Qiang smirked to herself, but didn’t laugh out loud the same way. I booped her nose. “Hey kiddo. You want to have some colorful hair like us?”
“I thought I’d go blonde,” she said. I did finger guns at her and bam! Her dark hair became a natural blond, even on her eyebrows. She grabbed her phone and immediately started checking herself out in selfie mode.
We were on our way back when I noticed a couple of things at once. First was the distinct realization that I couldn’t just know things about the place this time. I could before. I’ve gotten a bit dependent on my omniscience, sure. The conflict with Parietal was the swift kick in my brain’s ass I needed to get me out of that mindset. I sent out a swarm of nanites first. Second, I sent Qiang and Sam elsewhere, to my hidden extradimensional base. The things standing in their place were replicas I created with appropriate weight but no minds. I also teleported my armor onto me with the holographic projections already on and bolstered by my godly magics to keep from being detected.
The nanites told me that the nutcrackers who challenged us were already disabled, but left standing. And Santa had also detected something was wrong. I could tell he knew I was out here, and someone else. I created a double inside next to him. “What’s the scoop, Claus?”
He had a candy cane-striped shotgun and started at my presence. “Someone very naughty is out there, and you. Chimney secured, boys?”
Over at the hearth, a trio of elves finished bolting a metal plate to the opening and setting a bear trap.
“What about Morgan?” Santa asked.
“What about Morgan, big boy?” I asked. The room darkened as a spotlight appeared over Santa’s head. “What’s going on there? And don’t lie to me, Nicholas. I see when you’re sleeping and I know when you’re awake.”
“I’ve never been on the other side of this before,” he said, sweating nervously. “Isn’t this the wrong time?”
I nodded. “Yeah, good point.”
Back outside, my fake family and I did our best to approach slowly, with me seemingly none the wiser. I pretended to ignore the slight crunch of snow. The pain was a lot harder to ignore. There was a harpoon through my face. It glowed, preparing to explode. I teleported into Santa’s house with my double, but the harpoon came with me despite trying to leave it behind. Not good. I pushed the harpoon out with a sneeze, where Santa caught it in a box. The elves were on it and, in less than a second, it was a beautiful present that disappeared from Santa’s hands.
I healed up Morgan’s face and killed the pain, then ejected her from my presence. She stumbled free, leaving me in the armor and her in the clothes I’d been wearing under it. “What..?”
I didn’t have time for all that. I appeared on the roof, nanomachine cape flowing in the wind among jingle bells. The area immune to my omniscience had moved, but it gave me an idea. I dove into the snow, creating my little snow tunnels that showed on the surface. Others diverged as I created copies of myself, some later looping around to rejoin me. I felt the harpoons detonated as they struck into the powdery snow, throwing up a bunch of mist but missing me each time.
And then, I left nothing but copies making the visible tunnels. The nanites told me where the center was. They even told me someone was there. I arose from the snow behind him, silent, and realized someone else was utilizing cloaking technology other than myself this time. Something on his armor whirled around toward me and then he wasn’t there. In his place was a device that, when it went off, blinded my god senses.
I was at the edge of Godhunter’s sphere of anti-omniscience, vulnerable after some sort of deific flashbang. He was reminding me a lot more of myself than I’d like. The nanomachine said he was raising a new weapon. A burst of blue plasma missed me and hit the workshop off to the side, blowing it sky high. A nutcracker’s saber had knocked the barrel of the weapon to the side. A blade flashed into existence, cutting that nutcracker in half. The other raised his rifle and pointed it at center mass of Godhunter. If it hit my assailant, Godhunter showed no reaction but to cut the head off the solder and punt it toward me. I appeared behind him again, poking my head out. “Wow, you missed!”
He blinked again. I blinked right after him, appearing with a dress over my armor and a scythe in hand. Next time we tried this, I was in a hoodie with a trident. Then a deerstalker with a jacket and a khaki skirt. Then a black dress with a squid on my head. “Listen, buddy, I can do this all day.”
Another plasma burst, seemingly melting me. I let the double reform, then stepped out from behind it. “You ok, bro? How could you not kill me? I’m right here!” He raised his plasma rifle and found it sparking with its barrel bent around with the end pointing toward him.
I saw the flash of the blade a mere moment before it would have intersected, and then bisected, me. And as Sam can tell you from our bedtime shenanigans, a moment is all I need. You know, to get someone on their back. What other things would last only a moment? I can quite literally fuck for days now. Weeks, possibly, but we haven’t tested. Either way, the Nasty Surprise caught Godhunter’s sword.
It disappeared, but a net appeared around me, glowing, wrapping me up. The nanites went to work on it while a Godhunter stepped back, footprints in the snow telling me where he’d gone. He was still invisible to me, but now his weapons shifted again, forming a spear. And then my nanomachines got to it, eating away the tip just in time for him to ineffectually stab at me.
“Ara ara, did you- and he’s gone.” He left me another flashbang that I made a serving platter cover up. It went off without affecting me. So then the challenge was following all the links as he fled into the wintry forest. Oddly, my nanomachines had trouble breaking into the armor. He actually sealed it on an atomic level. They just had to eat into it instead, disrupting the shifting surface of it.
He materialized in a black suit with a rough, sharklike exterior to it. The helmet covered everything, without a mouth or visible visor. Instead, there was a white crosshair on a background of red splatters. He held a dark blue pole in one hand. A part of it slid open and a handgun formed into Godhunter’s other hand, with a barrel as thick as a forearm. He pointed it right at me, but I hit the super speed, dodging to the side once, twice, three times. The next thing he aimed it at was a Wanted poster of me on a tree, with the words, “Unicorn Season” written at the top. He shot that and the page fell off. The one after it had an image of Godeater and said “Godeater Season.”
He jumped and turned toward a copy of himself holding that gun to his own head. He ducked and popped his copy in the head, and through the portal hidden in there. The bullet fucking stopped itself in midair rather than impact the back of his helmet.
“Hold up, why’d that do that?” I asked. I appeared behind him and looked at the bullet. Of course, I didn’t have long even in sueprspeed because Godhunter fired at the ground and shot himself a chasm to fall into. Kept shooting, kept creating holes. I followed after, flying toward him while a grid pattern formed out of electricity around him. I didn’t know what that was, but I shrunk and flew through the grid to join my nanites on him.
A flash of light and we were somewhere. It looked like his base, because he jumped up and immediately stripped out of his outfit, tossing it into some sort of decontamination chamber that burned off my nanomachines.
The Godhunter himself was red-skinned, with a main of hair that stretched down to his shoulders and small nubs of tusks. He had a really short, hairy tail, and the muscles weren’t all in the places I’m used to. I appeared behind him and impaled him with my arm and-
A light appeared. A creepy, glowing face carved into a turnip. “Wake up. You’re trapped good, aren’t you?”
Jack O’ The Lantern, that raggedy personification of fall and Halloween, stood in front of me. Together, we were in a dark place. “I’ll give the lass credit, you used your brain. If you’d been more violent, he’d have got ya good.”
“What?” I asked.
He grinned his rotten smile and asked questions in rapid fire. “Where’d the present go? How come that one took so long to blow up but the others didn’t? Why weren’t there more flashbangs? Why does an alien have a human symbol and red blood on his helmet? Why did the bullet stop? Why were you playing around with Godhunter?” He paused a moment. “You’re a trophy.” He lifted his turnip lantern which morphed into a copy of the very harpoon that Godhunter had shot into my face. “And this is a sophisticated probe that alters brain chemistry and mimics stimuli on contact. Godhunter’s first shot trapped you in an illusion.”
A god-killing opponent who hides behind deception and illusion, using flashbangs and weaponizing connections between brains and computers? This guy was really getting on my nerves.
And with that, I woke up, shifting to and fro as Godhunter, in that same black suit minus the crosshair and blood feature. I still had a harpoon through my face… Morgan’s face. She… had not taken any of this well. And now she was conscious and paralyzed while her head was being sawed off her body. I felt it come loose with snap, my head rolling to the side. Godhunter looked away to grab something. I put the saw and the harpoon from my face through the back of his skull.
I knitted my body together, put Morgan to sleep, and sent my power through both of the objects until the hunter exploded into goo that coated the walls of the room and the skulls pinned to the walls by other harpoons. I didn’t feel anything left in them. Maybe they’d been living trophies at some point, kept alive in those lost little worlds. Maybe the delusions were strong enough they could convince gods to die. Maybe I didn’t feel like letting any of that place, a spaceship in Earth orbit, exist anymore. I unmade it and scattered the atoms.
Then it was back to the North Pole, where at least some of the fight seemed to have occurred. The workshop was blown apart. Santa poked his head out of the workshop, where he and other elves were digging to save more of their kin. “Where is he?”
“Dead!” I told him. “Not even a trophy left of him.”
Jack appeared accompanied by a wind carrying dead leaves on it. “I don’t know about that, I took myself a trophy.” He held up a mask: the front of Godhunter’s helmet how I imagined it, with the crosshairs. “And I’m glad we can part ways with treats, lass. Twas ever so pleasant to have a warm place to sleep, and to play a trick on a tricksy one like the Godhunter. I enjoyed the story you told in your head as well.”
“Truth is, it’s kinda got me worried more of this is another lie,” I said.
“You’ve got to set your feet on solid ground somewhere. Maybe it’s all a lie,” Jack said, trying at comfort without ending the mindfuck.
Santa lifted a piece of wood so that his nutcrackers could head down into a cellar. “There’s always a lie, whether it’s the space between solid atoms or the concept of justice. You’re in the real world, but Jack is Jack. His tricks are his treats.”
“Fine, you flabby party pooper. Steal her again from me,” Jack said, sticking out his tongue at Santa. Then to me, he bowed. “A pleasure, lass. Nicholas tells the truth this time. I have repaid the debt I owe to the both of you and will be off, unless you need anything else of Stingy Jack?”
I waved him off, then sat down on a chair I formed out of snow, clutching my head. Whether it was the hallucination or the pole shoved through my face, I had a splitting headache. But Godhunter had a corpse. And I had a daughter and a girlfriend. The latter of which, upon seeing me appear in my base, hugged me hard and asked, “You ok? How’d it go?”
“It was a trip,” I told her.
I’ve discovered how to sleep again. It turns out it’s not just when I’ve used up a lot of energy. I was pretty beat up by Godeater. He punched my head off at one point! Not the sort of thing most people experience and get to tell about it.
“Here, let’s let you rest,” Santa Clause said, patting me on the back while my loved ones embraced me.
The spirit of the season did something. That was a doozy of a dream, or I guess a vision. I was hanging over a planet with a blue sun. The flora and fauna were alien, but somewhat familiar. Like this one animal, a lanky wolf-like creature with its eyes spread further so they were on opposite sides of its head. It scratched at the grass before taking a nibble, then perked its head up. It started to bolt before it was set upon by a squirrel the size of a dog that sank a pair of large fangs into the wolf’s neck.
They had houses, towns, and cities, with a lot a of flags around on certain buildings. Coat of arms, that’s what they were. There were local lords in charge of land, even dividing up cities among them. And the people on that land looked a lot like Godeater, but with the antlers in different positions. A few had them down low against the jaws like his had been. They weren’t the big, beefed-up version, nor did they roam around in loincloths or anything. I was sure that’s what it was by this point, both from having taken Godeater apart atom by atom, but also because nobody else was drooping shag carpet from their crotch.
I ended up stopping over in a temple in a position of prominence in a grimy old city. I just knew it was a religious building. There, a holy man gave a sermon on the gods’ gift of blood magic. “Let others be your strength. That is the teaching of the holy consumption. Our blood is a shield for our fellows.”
Then the panic started. Someone in the crowd had stabbed someone else with blood in the same way Godeater had stabbed me. That one called out, “You lowhorns would say that! The gods favor the strong, that is why they gifted us!” With that, he hefted his victim overhead and threw it toward the altar where the holy man spoke. The victim exploded in midair. When it was all said and done, the holy man was among the shocked survivors. The person who initiated the attack had gotten away, but not before dragging a couple of the other attendees off with him.
The holy man tried to heal them as best as he could, taking from the dead to keep the living alive. That was stopped prematurely when others with weapons and armor arrived. They used spears to back the crowd up, and guns to take the holy man into custody.
Godeater, before he was Godeater, was imprisoned in a bleak cement hole. He read. He meditated. He shadowboxed. At some point, they let him out into a place meant for exercise. A bigger one of his species came for him. Godeater spat blood into his eyes, blood that blinded him and ate away his eyes. Then Godeater tore out his throat.
Outside, things got more and more tense and violent. And then there was some sort of big war between different factions of lords and monarchs. In the middle of that, you had ethnic and religious in-fighting that culminated in some of the lords then having to turn around and fight their own people. More and more, people began consuming their enemies.
Godeater was released in the middle of this. He barely got back to his temple before it was half-melted by a laser attack initiated by one of the lords’ forces putting down a rebellion. Godeater tried to preach but didn’t get much of a following until he invited some of the more popular folks like himself to dinner. In the middle of it, someone threw a bomb in through a window and Godeater shielded everyone from it, cutting an arm badly to call the blood forth. That got him some prominence for the next couple of months. Then came the invitation to speak with the king of those lands. There were protests over that as well, and a plot by one of the king’s enemies working with the highhorn supremacists in the area.
The king brought in representatives from that group and others, figuring he could just order them to shut up and make peace. The same person who had attacked the temple in the first place showed up as one of the representatives and detonated some of his own friends. It was chaos, but in that chaos, but Godeater survived it. And when guards came, they assumed it was him. He had enough, and used the blood around him to kill them. He feasted on them. By the time a group of lords arrived to see to their king’s safety, or regrettably take up the throne upon finding him dead, they found Godeater occupying the throne.
He was king for a day. Antimatter bomb stockpiles, meant to enforce an uneasy peace, were finally used. The only person not to unleash the ones under his personal command was Godeater, and it didn’t make any difference. They were left with a wasteland. In that wasteland, feeding on others to survive, was Godeater. He traveled from a broken and desolate feudal land to the seat of an ancient and untouched temple. There, he prayed, seeking to commune with the gods. Out of pity, a god and a goddess answered, appearing to him. “Why did you let this happen?”
“This was in your blood. We guided you, hoping your people would avert their own destruction.” The shimmering goddess leaned down to kiss Godeater between the base of his antlers. Godeater turned his head upward and kissed her, holding her there. The both of them were engulfed in a blood barrier, her eyes bulging as she squirmed.
The other god worked magic of his own, striking the blood with lightning again and again until it cracked and burned. When it fell away, he was faced with a toothmarked husk of a goddess, and a shimmering Godeater. The god didn’t escape either, but their essence allowed Godeater access to the realm of their gods, who were few in number but still possibly more numerous than the species that had believed in them. In the end, Godeater took the staff of a healer god and fashioned to it the antlers of a war god. He wore the vestments of the god of magic and tattooed beneath his skin spellrunes of protection from the goddess of defense and protection. Then he stole the teleporter and moonbase of the god of science fiction and began figuring out how to raid other planets for other gods.
His idea at first was just to go after the harmful ones, either tearing their worlds apart or standing by while they destroyed each other. But even Godeater knew at that point, he’d settle on any god. All of them were equally worthless, except as food. “The other gods will be my strength,” he vowed, hoping to fill the hollowness inside himself with revenge.
I woke up and blinked, feeling incredibly refreshed. The bed was soft, if small, and my mom was banging on the door. “Hey, get out here and help your brother!”
“My body parts aren’t right!” I called back. My omniscience needed a moment to kick in and tell me that was the mother of Axinomancer, aka Morgan, whose body I was in. I teleported myself out of them and back to my own house, where Sam and Qiang were hauling a decoration onto the roof. It was Santa Clause atop a skeletal horse, holding aloft He-Man’s sword as if heading into battle.
“Wow, Santa really went all out pretending to go to war,” I said.
Qiang got so excited, my daughter actually dropped her end. I raised it back up telekinetically before it could drag my girlfriend down the roof on the other end. Qiang slid down and hopped off the roof into my arms, hugging me. “Mama!”
“Hey, kiddo. I’m fine. Just had to spend a couple days resting.”
“Have an interesting wake-up call?” Sam asked. My girlfriend winked at me, her hair now dyed bright red and green in stripes. Made her look a little bit like that chewing gum zebra.
“Something like that,” I said. I peered back into the past. Shortly after my defeat of Godeater, I ended up drawn back into Morgan while Santa put me into a healing rest. He threw in the dream as a bonus, to help me understand the person I killed. I also saw Morgan flying around fighting crime a little bit, with my colors and my wings and my horn and my powers. In a moment of hypocrisy, the thought crossed my mind that I couldn’t trust her with my powers.
We don’t have time to unpack all of that.
“Whatcha doin’ kiddo?” I asked my daughter in my arms.
She slid to the ground and pointed out their festive changes to the yard. “We’ve been decorating!”
They’d put up some cardboard cutouts of Legolas and other Lord of the Ring elves with some green and white hats on their heads. A Jack Skellington blow-up peered up out of my fence. Finally, the lawn gnome with a bunch of anti-trespasser weapons had a sweater on that read, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.” It did have one of those.
“I think the only thing we’re missing is Home Alone,” I said.
Qiang pointed to the mailbox next. “Some jerks were putting smoke bombs in there, so I rigged it with a pellet gun.”
“It’s a two-fer! The door of the mailbox says they’ll shoot their eyes out!” Sam called out, hauling the sword-wielding Santa into place. I latched it into position for her. “Thanks! Can you help me off the roof?”
“Don’t worry, I warned the mailman,” Qiang whispered to me.
A snap of my fingers and she appeared in front of me, cups of hot chocolate floating in the air. It was all very nice, and almost Hallmark-y.
So of course, it didn’t last the night. We were awakened by such a clatter. How I had fallen asleep became apparent when I hopped out of bed and noticed Morgan’s reflection in the mirror. They’d done something at night. I took just a moment to adjust the body to my liking before seeing what was all the matter with my mind.
I couldn’t sense anything outside the house. Like a blank spot, as if the world ended at my mailbox. I blinked to the door and everything still looked just fine out there. Then that weird negation of my omniscience disappeared, except as far as telling me what it was. That I found out from the unicorn plushie impaled on a spear with the back end stuck in the ground.
There was also a carved turnip on our couch. I gestured to it and undid the illusion I sensed, revealing a lanky, grinning guy in tattered clothes.
Sam grabbed a seax sword off the wall. “How did Chester A. Bum get in here?”
“That’s Jack,” I told her.
Jack took his hat off and bowed to us. “Jack o’ the lantern, here to assist if you need it. The fat man said you might be stubborn, though, so tell me to fuck off if you want. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before.”
I nodded toward the plushie. “Was that you?”
Jack nodded enthusiastically. “I have a flair for the dramatic. You know, tricks and treats and such as that. The next one’s arrived and he falls part of the way into my domain. Hunters love the autumn, and the Godhunter’s here for game. I’m warnin’ ya.”
“Thanks,” I told him. “Anything I can do to pay this debt?”
He laughed and held open a small leather pouch hanging from his belt. “You could turn yourself into a coin if you’re feelin’ generous.”
I laughed. “Yeah, nice reference. You can stay three days on the couch if you’d like,” I told him.
Jack o’ the Lantern turned to it and let loose an excited little “Whee!” before hopping onto it.
“What’s that about?” Sam asked when I led her into the bedroom.
“The spirit of Halloween’s based in part on a legend of a conman forsaken by heaven and forbidden to be captured by hell.” I explained.
Sam raised an eyebrow, “You think he’s ok to stay here?”
“Guy doesn’t see a lot of hospitality, and we can’t entirely trust him, but if he’s warning us. And if Godhunter comes through the living room, maybe he’ll go after Jack first,” I finished explaining to her.
She still brought the seax back to sleep with next to the bed. It was kinda hot.
I’ve got three alien entities all gunning for me, all going to get here at different times. Godhunter, Godkiller, and Godeater. They’ve supposedly got experience killing things like what I am now, and specifically have ways to deal with Omega powers. Those being the powers I got by absorbing some pieces of a godlike being, that strikes me as bad.
But if there’s one lesson to take away from my back and forth with the twice-deceased superhuman named Parietal, it’s that I still have human ingenuity and my more mundane skills to fall back on. Also, I have Santa Claus.
I brought Qiang and Sam with me to Santa’s workshop, in the middle of a fluffy white wonderland of soft snow and cold that never quite seemed to penetrate enough to be harmful. The sign read North Pole but we seemed to be in something of a pocket dimension, just off to the side of Earth and connected to it. A copy of me was hanging out with them, tossing around snowballs and building snowpeople while the real me inspected the workshop.
“What do you want, young person?” Santa asked me.
I raised an eyebrow, then pointed with the unicorn horn on my forehead toward the factory assembly line putting together nutcracker soldiers. “An army capable of distracting these things hunting me. Figured you knew that.”
Santa, the personification of winter that seemed to reflect humanity’s reality and aspirations of the season in the form of a popular character, thumbed his nose with one coal-black glove. “I was addressing the other one.”
My eyes stopped glowing. My short hair maintained its two-tone color, blonde and red this time, but I left Morgan, the young non-binary hero known as Axinomancer, in charge. “Oh my god, it’s Santa!” They hugged the jolly old elf.
“Yes, it is. It’s nice to meet you, Morgan, but may we speak privately?”
“Fine,” I agreed real quick using Morgan’s mouth. I focused my attention elsewhere, like the satellite defense network. I didn’t forget all that recent satellite shenanigans. At first, I had the idea to arm them to try and catch the godmurderers on the way in, but then I figured it’d be better to turn the weapons inward. They were coming along just fine, a ring of death rays pointed at Earth. That can’t go wrong.
And then it was outside to dive under the snow. I left a trail Bugs Bunny-style, snaking through the snow toward my squealing daughter. I felt a couple snowballs land near me, then she turned and ran. My daughter screamed from all the fun as I caught up to her and pulled her into a shallow tunnel of the snow. When we next surfaced, I was jumping like an orca with my kid riding on my back. We landed with me swimming through the snow, but Qiang fell fof when raising her hands to avoid a loose snowball Sam threatened her with.
I then rose up through the snow, forming a unicorn of snow that I jumped out of. Which is right about when I heard Santa calling from Morgan’s body. I put most of my attention back over there, Morgan’s eyes glowing again as I took control. “You done with your private chat?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Being there in more than one perspective, it affected me. Through one set of eyes, I was watching Santa’s workshop gearing up for war. Through another, I watched my daughter and girlfriend both enjoying the idyllic winter fun outside. And something clicked. My omniscience isn’t complete or anything. It seems to be limited by distance, to an extent. But just to be clear, omniscience is about knowledge. This was about wisdom, which doesn’t seem to be an inherent Omega power.
“This is wrong,” I commented where Santa could hear.
Jolly ol’ Saint Nick turned his head to peer at me over his tiny spectacles. “What makes you say that?”
“Togetherness and joy and a light in the darkness, all that shit that at least a bunch of people associate with this season. But you’re here making soldiers for me, working on ways to fight a war alongside me. This is wrong.”
“It is survival,” he responded. “What would you do?”
“It depends. If I want to survive, I do one thing. If I want to do what’s right, I do something else. I really want to be selfish. I’m so good at it.” I gestured to the body I possessed. When he opened his mouth again, I raised a hand. “I’m not seeking your counsel. Your problem goes away if I do the selfless thing.”
I saw pity in Santa’s eyes.
“I swear, sometimes I think you know all of this is coming ahead of time. Like you knew I was letting all of this go to my head and needed something to bring me out of it.”
“The future is easier to see if you aren’t its maker,” Santa said. “Perhaps that’s why your knowledge is spotty about things to come.”
I sighed. “No, it’s kind of too clear right now.” I couldn’t see into the future. And maybe if I had more power I could. Every Omega Pearl for a couple solar systems was already inside me, but I knew a whole pocket dimension teeming with more. Problem is, that kind of power is supposed to be something these guys can already handle.
A hard winter’s wind kicked up a light pelting of snow onto us outside. Santa jerked around. “It’s here.”
I reached out for any disturbances. Something had just appeared in the solar system, out near the asteroid belt. It accelerated instantly into a beam of light. We didn’t have long. “Stand down, Santa. I think I should handle this on my own.”
I jumped out of Morgan and into my double. Sam looked at my face and her expression changed. “It’s time for us to fight?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No. It’s time for me to fight.”
I removed myself, and a lot of other things, appearing in the midst of the asteroid belt, staring at the beam of light and emitting a great red light. That was a bit tough, as my own wanted to come out as a mixture of violet and orange. I wore my armor, reinforced with some shit mortals can’t forge, a shimmery cape reaching out along the ground of the asteroid behind me. One difference was my unicorn horn poking out of the head of the armor, though it was sealed close enough to be safe if I somehow had to worry about pressure or oxygen.
The beam of light seemed to stop. I blinked to the side, avoiding the crashing mass that threw up chunks of iron, nickel, and stone.
He was a biggun. Nine feet tall, pale grey-skinned, with a mantle of black fur around his collar. It matched this loincloth he wore, so either it really needed some intimate shaving, or it was part of his clothing. On its feet were a trio of long claws that bent down underneath the feet itself, almost like natural running blades. Its two hands were three-clawed as well, but they were equadistant apart and looked more or less like a normal finger, just long and with pointed nails on the end. One of those hands held a staff with horns and antlers attached to it; they didn’t dangle like trophies but instead were embedded in it such that it they made the staff more of a weapon. Even fangs and jawbones were embedded in it, forming sawed portions in part.
The grey body in front of me lacked a tail, but had antlers of a sort. Rather than sticking up, they bent down and wrapped around the side and lower portion of the face, the pointed ends looking like a set of bony fangs protecting the mouth and jaw of the creature. Its nose was pointed and stuck out past the antlers, and above those were four eyes. Each was a different color, and looked all the more alien by having pupils like if a cat had another catseye intersecting it perpendicular to its own, like an X.
I reached out to find a way to communicate and found a long-dead language of a similar people driven to sapient sacrifice and ultimately a bloody breakdown and death as a few elites fought for power. This was the last one. “Which one are you?” I asked in that tongue.
“I am the strong who consumes the weak. I feast on deities and heroes,” it declared. Yeah, that’d be Godeater.
“We don’t have to do this,” I told him.
“I know,” he said, then puffed up. Well, maybe that’s a light-hearted way to put it, but he gained another couple of feet of height, body bulging with muscle. His antlers dug into his growing jaw, splashing some blood out onto the asteroid. More blood began to leak down his staff from the hand clutching onto it where a jawbone and teeth were joined to it. Mine would look positively puny in comparison to some of the pieces on that.
It’s a good thing I’m not a hero.
Godeater roared. I used my powers to teleport a puppy into his heart. Instead, his blood glowed and the cute lil Corgi pup appeared in space an inch away. “Aww,” I said, sending the puppy back to Earth.
Godeater sounded like he was laughing. I snapped my fingers and began to move at superspeed. When I returned to normal speed, He stopped laughing and bent over, reaching for that loincloth that was now poking up quite a bit. The roar he let loose was a mixture of pleasure and frustration as wet spot spurted onto the inside of his loincloth.
“It was me, Barry!” I said. I didn’t want to go into further details because he knew what I did in hand to handjob combat and wouldn’t get the reference anyway. With a swipe of my hand, I dropped another asteroid on him, the two hunks of interstellar rock and metal crashing together with a deafening sound and a shockwave that I resisted easily. Nothing like jerking off an alien and smashing him in the asteroid to make me glad I was wearing protection over most of my body.
“That’s what the people of Earth like to call ‘Beat Your Dick December’,” I said.
I barely got the words out before the asteroid was thrown off. Te bloody beast was still alive, and even more coated in his own bodily fluids. Some of that was still blood. A thin strand of it reached up to stab into the asteroid and blow it apart. Many of them hit me and bounced off, but more of those blood strands were coming for me.
I sped up again. So did Godeater, tearing a chunk of my midsection armor out with a free claw and spinning around to meet me as I tried to get behind him. He hit hard throwing a punch that would have just straight-up splattered the brains of anyone else on Earth. My head actually came off for a second and he swing his staff at my body.
I ducked under a swing from that staff and skidded, aiming for below his legs and hoping not to get dripped on. I popped the Nasty Surprise out from the right forearm of my armor, the miniature chainsaw blade catching on his grown and stopping my movement as it ground into the meat. I pushed myself out from under Godeater as he fell, holding his own badly-wounded parts, bleeding all over my cape. My body then grabbed my head and I willed it to reattach.
“You…dare…!” It declared.
“Fortune favors the daring,” I muttered to myself as my nanite cape rose up and formed a multitude of nanoblades that absolutely dissected Godeater. The process was pretty gruesome, throwing a hunk of antler toward me.
After the stopped, hairlike nanite protrusions reached into his body and pulled it apart, sending bloody chunks every which way. Except the blood reached for the blood, and drew all of it back together.
Well, shit. Tough fuck.
Godeater turned to me with wild eyes. “Blood pulls to blood!”
Huh. Having failed to go medieval on his ass, I decided it was time to go ancient Hellenistic on his ass.
I began to fly upwards, teleporting myself close to the sun. He appeared in front of me, bringing hunks of asteroid with him. He reached for me. I blinked past him and kept going, reaching out and causing a solar flare that I grabbed the end of and waved so that the solar flare was trying to fry through his leg. He kept coming, catching me in the chest with that staff. Alien horns buckled my armor plates. I headbutted the beast, but that didn’t get me the separation I sought. Instead, he came back with one that broke my horn off, and then another that smashed my helmet open. Another broke my nose, which I didn’t think was possible anymore.
Godeater got real close to my face and growled, “Fresh meat.” His fangy mouth tore off a hunk of my cheek. A plume of his blood stabbed me in the gut, tearing a hole in my armor and flesh, his blood pouring into my body to eat at my innards.
Ok, ancient Hellenistic ideas about hydras didn’t work either. If I was relying solely on my powers, that would have been the end of me. Guess it was time to pull some wacky sci fi shit that Zeus never would have thought of.
Carnivorous alien blood wasn’t the only thing flowing through my veins at that moment. Regenerative nanomachines swarmed the foreign body, small enough they’ve taken my own blood cells apart and repaired them. They didn’t bother repairing these, dismantling the eaters into base components that didn’t pull together. “Nanomachines, son! Your blood can’t do jack!”
Godeater grunted in surprise and frustration, swinging his staff for me again. I opened a portal, the staff flying through to hit himself in the back and drawing yet more blood. It’s a wonder he had any left at that point, but regeneration has been known to cover that possibility. Still, it stumbled him. He reached for my throat with his other hand and a new portal opened so that he grabbed his own throat and squeezed.
“Aperture Science. We do what we must because we can,” I taunted, but while I taunted, I created more portals. I couldn’t create them in his body or already around his body, but I could make them and move them into position for his flailings to catch them. Blood may pull together, but would it pull together when bits and pieces of him were being separated and sent into black holes, gravity wells, suns, and entirely other dimensions?
I slipped behind him and grabbed his own staff, creating a portal for his head that sent it to the Omega pocket dimension. One crack with the staff separated his noggin and threw it through that portal for them to have their fun. The body spasmed as much as it could as I tore it apart atom by atom and sent each one to an entirely other place. When I was done, there wasn’t any blood left to call to other blood.
I reappeared back in the North Pole, a bloody mess and with a ten foot staff of alien fang and horn in hand. Santa, Axinomancer, Qiang, and Sam all rushed over. “Well, that’s one.”
Troubleshooter’s a pretty nifty tech heroine. I outclassed her pretty easily because of my own abilities as a homo machina, but she’s pretty good at all this stuff. Diode’s satellites, Mouser and Rammer, have sniffed out a dozen satellites. A few days observation with me putting in appearances helped us figure out if there were anymore. They noticed whenever I did things like show up to provide some rain and debris clearing to California. I cleaned up a lot of lead, reversed some desertification, and filtered out some air pollution. I didn’t need to appear in person to make all that happen, so me showing myself was purely about getting noticed by the wrong people.
Not just Parietal and his desire to keep living after I killed him. That’s disrespectful. What’s creepy is my cult I’m getting. I can hear them praying to me. Investing, test scores, dick sizes. I try to answer those last ones, by the way. That’s just good PR. Once that gets out, I’m going to be bigger than every other religion combined. I don’t necessarily answer the follow-ups looking for girlfriends or boyfriends or theyfriends. I sometimes answer the bigger boobs prayer, but only when it’s from the person themselves. When nature closed a door, I opened a boob window.
Yeah, it’s a bit shallow, but also why not let people look how they want to look if it’s within my power? That includes my fellow trans folks. I didn’t forget them or the many ways they express themselves. Not everyone gal’s looking for a pair of ovaries, and some guys are just happy with taco Tuesday every day.
I dare say, in the middle of all this work, some of it actually made me feel happy. Helping people who needed it, and some who don’t. Finally cutting through all the BS and just fixing it. No weird, high-tech things. Just a wave of my hand and the ice caps are repaired. I could fix mankind.
I could even create a situation where I was willing to sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner. I sent Troubelshooter and her crew home, figuring I’d keep track of the entire world enough for them to enjoy the holidays if possible, or hang out in the base if not. A few of them stayed there and threw together their own dinner.
And I sat down with my family. My daughter, Qiang. My girlfriends, Sam and Bridget. Whatever you call Holly, other than Sam’s friend. I mean… considering she’s sleeping with me more than Bridget is, who is trying to get up the nerve to tell me she’d like to move out and explore the world on her own. And, oddly in my case, some actual family. My half-brother Davilo joined us, along with my former ward Leah.
“So this holiday is about thanking people?” Davilo asked.
Leah giggled. “Not exactly.”
I explained. “It’s a day of giving thanks for the good things in one’s life, in commemoration of when colonizers from another continent arrived on this one and nearly died before surviving with the help of natives they later murdered.”
“Are all their holidays this weird?” Davilo asked.
I shrugged. “I think every holiday’s weird once you look into it, even ours. The even celebrate the death of a famous holy man with chocolate and declarations of romantic love.”
Davilo nodded along. “We have Rectification Day, commemorating the Vuldrini, yes.”
That got a lot of blank stares. When Davilo didn’t elaborate, Leah cut in. “They have some bizarre holidays over there, too.” She looked around. “Um, so you’re like the Brides of Gecko? Dracula gets three, Gecko gets three?”
“Whoa, I’m not wearing a ring.”
“I don’t know if I’d marry her, my last marriage went so badly…”
Davilo cut past the answers. “I’m thankful for my family, which I thought I lost.” Crickets. “Is anyone else giving thanks for family?”
Holly spoke up first, “Parents dumped me for drug addiction.”
“Mine were sadistic religious fundamentalists,” Sam said.
Leah shrugged. “Family problems because I turned out to have powers.”
Bridget decided to answer, too. “I got sick and my husband thought I was replaced with a changeling. Then he tried to burn me alive.”
“That’s horrible!” Holly declared.
Bridget patted her hand. “Don’t worry. It was a long time ago, and I’m better off now.”
I’m going to miss Bridget’s sense of humor. I looked over at all of them, including Qiang who had stolen a piece of pumpkin pie and was eating it while the rest of us were sitting there not chowing down. I added my own bit to this. “Not all family is what you’re born with. I’m happy with the family I’ve found, and it even feels like we’re missing some folks. I don’t think I’d be the same person if not for the amazing people who have come into my life over the past few years. Even some of my enemies turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
“Aww, are you transmitting this to the Hallmark channel right now?” Sam asked.
“Fat chance,” Holly muttered. “I’m missing Christmas romance movies.”
I slapped the table. “Christmas has no place here this early!”
“What about food? Does that have a place here, ’cause I’m starving,” Leah said.
“Isn’t there a blessing involved?” Bridget asked.
“Dear Unicorn Goddess, bless us and this food, and may we not clog up the toilets,” Sam said. “Let’s eat!”
“Unicorn goddess?” Leah asked.
By that point, everybody was shoving some form of food into their mouths and were too busy to answer her, myself included. Sure, food doesn’t really do anything I need, but I enjoy the taste. A star is good, but it’s all calories with no flavor. My body desires a sun, my palette prefers homemade gravy. And, after gulping down half her mashed potatoes at once, Holly even told them all about the appearance of a godlike being with a unicorn theme, without giving up my secret identity.
It was, believe it or not, a nice night.
Even Parietal didn’t interrupt it. Everything was gravy.
Then came Black Friday.
I was trying to doze. I once again lost the ability to sleep, but I instead entered a lower state of consciousness while still aware. That’s an awful lot of stuff now that I’ve got a cult about me. Makes me wonder if there might have once been gods, and they all decided to let their religions die out rather than put up with all the bullshit calls in the middle of the night. Except for Zeus. If there was a real Zeus, he’d be texting people back, like “You up?”
I noticed the increase in activity before Troubleshooter did. There were more calls for me, darker prayers. I’d always gotten some folks who wanted me to hurt people. I could have done it easily, but I’d been trying to avoid that. I mean, sure, I made things like debt records disappear and that technically would cause some harm to someone with a financial interest in it. That’s not the same as wishing to break the jaw of a loudmouth kid next door. That was soon followed by noticing that some of these prayers were referring to me by another name: Psycho Gecko.
I didn’t like that, so I went ahead and did a planet-wise forgetfulness spell about me being Psycho Gecko. Unlike some people, I made exceptions for folks I was cool with knowing. That reprieve lasted five minutes, then they went right back to it. I was about to do it all over again and throw in forgetting the existence of Psycho Gecko, but I sensed that Troubleshooter sought my presence. “Every one of the satellites we’re tracking and at least a dozen more are transmitting. Parietal took a page out of your playbook and is interrupting the media with reminders that you are the Goddess.”
“That explains why it didn’t matter if I made them forget. These things aren’t affected, so they remnd everyone,” I looked out over the screen, paying particular attention to the display of Earth and some of the satellites made of Parietal’s special metal.
I checked it out myself, popping in to hover in the air above Times Square in Empyreal City. There were images taken off cameras, showing me and showing the Goddess. It wasn’t terrible convincing. It’s not like I went from one to the other in public or anything. My physical features were different as well. Body shape, weight, that sort of thing. It was ridiculous, but the assertion itself was enough to make people believe it. Then he showed the completely made-up part showing me turn from one to the other, using the old transformation from Sailor Moon. Which is awesome and I’d do it, but that’s not how I change. The part that really pissed me off was then showing another transformation, showing me turn into one of my old looks as a guy.
“What do you want, Parietal? Come on, too scared to talk?” I asked.
Next came the deepfake people. AI-generated faces and computer-generated voices. “Do we really want our children worshiping some man who pretends to be a woman? Some murderer who pretends to be a goddess?”
I growled to myself. This wasn’t just done to expose me, this was done to piss me off. Whatever’s coming next, Parietal didn’t want me thinking straight. And here I was getting snapshotted in public by a bunch of people who would no-doubt overanalyze my reaction.
Nearby, one of the monitors turned into a large P. “What do you want?” I once again asked.
Words began to scrawl over the screen. “I want you to lose your power. No one should have that much.”
“So what, you want me to give it up and you’ll stop? Or are you just going to hunt down the next person on the list?”
“I do not know. You killed me. I was created for this purpose from downloaded memories.”
“You don’t have any other concept of existence other than this? You literally couldn’t think up anything else to do?”
Images flashed onscreen. Various heroes, some now alive, some never dead. The White House and Statue of Liberty appeared as well, likely referencing a time I fought the Statue and sent the White House into another dimension.
“I’m trying to make it up to the world,” I said.
“You are beyond amends,” Parietal declared. “Prove it. Undo this without brainwashing people. Save yourself and prove yourself a monster. I predict you were going to erase the information from everyone’s minds again and enact Kessler Syndrome.”
He was right. That’s what I had in mind to fix all of this. I mean, if something bad happens, but all the effects are reversed and no one has any memory of it, did it really happen? Dame would say “no” after I cleared her mind of some past trauma and memories. I shook my head. “You want to make that impossible for me anyway. You won’t stop hounding me until I’m dead or I’ve found some way to lose my powers.”
Troubleshooter called while I was busy. “Goddess… Gecko… there’s more to this. Something’s going on. Diode’s been analyzing one of these hidden satellites, and they’re not just set up to transmit to Earth.”
“Then where else?” I asked.
“It looks like it’s a trans-dimensional relay. We don’t know where this has gotten out to, or how long it has been transmitting.”
“So someone or something else is watching for some reason. I don’t suppose you can do me a favor and find a way to take all of these out.”
“It will take some time, but your will be done,” she vowed.
“You’re not going to want people hearing you say that soon,” I told her. I reached out for any disturbances. The most I found that a lot of folks were paying attention to our little planet. Extraterrestrial eyes were upon us.
I drifted down from where I floated. My wings faded away and my hair lost its vibrant colors, becoming curly and brown. I kept the horn, though I also regained some of the pleasant chub I liked to carry around.
“Hello, everyone. I am the Unicorn Goddess. I am Psychopomp Gecko, and I mean you no harm.”
Granted, there’s a lot of dead assholes not alive anymore to hear me say that. But this isn’t over. This is just a temporary setback until I figure out Parietal’s game and make sure death sticks. And unlike Hathor or some other goddesses, I will not be cowed.
Anyone ever have your girlfriend and her best friend try to tag along on your super secret conspiratorial meeting with a group of vigilantes who want you dead? I tried invoking my goddessness to keep Sam away, saying, “I’m going to work this one in mysterious ways.”
Sam had grabbed her friend and former co-minion Holly to hang out with us. Mix N’Max, Holly’s boss and my friend, was supposedly too busy looking for some sort of alchemical artifact called a Madstone and didn’t want to take a break from braving the wilds of the Appalachian mountains. We’d spent the day hanging out at my pet ranch. Using my godlike abilities, I stole enough money in various forms and set up a trust that owns a shit-ton of land and hires people to care for pets. And a bunch of the money goes to rescuing pets. I wanted it all self-sustaining in case anything happens to my god powers.
Eventually, I pulled them away from the ranch by reminding them I had to go kill a man about a horse. But before all that, I pulled up the information I had on the situation using satellites and the big monitor. Every base has to have a big monitor. It draws the attention where you need it, gives a room focus, and gives you helpful internet access to look up lists consisting of three items. Plus, it made it slightly easier to share info with Holly and Sam, and I’m lazy as fuck. Kind of hard to be an effective deity if you aren’t, I guess.
“And that’s what we know,” I said after laying out the scenario: I’m meeting with people who want to kill me, but don’t know that it’s me they want to kill, so I can find out who I need to kill and then kill them. It’s brilliant in its simplicity, especially since I’m feeling strong enough to go full Scanners and blow up some heads while sucking out knowledge.
“Question,” Holly raised her hand. “Is blowing up their heads really necessary?”
“Answer. No, it’s just fun and I like seeing what noises I can make. Any others.”
Sam stood next to Holly, enjoying the coffee from the base’s supercharged Keurig.“It’s real annoying that you’re at the stage of having apologetics instead of apologizing, but are you saying you don’t want me going with you?” the foolish mortal I like boning dared question me. “Don’t underestimate them, ok? Humans do really stupid things when they’re scared. The thing about your reputation is they might try to blow up the whole city to kill you, when they have a go at you.”
“You think I don’t know?” I asked.
“You seem pretty arrogant about your power supposedly making you untouchable. Power you got from a being you saw get beat first-hand.” This fucking woman, I swear. One of the few people on Earth to never be the least bit worried or intimidated about me and, even as a god, she’s not scared. But she’s still rightfully calling me on my shit.
“Fine. Let’s get you suited up.”
“Me too! I wanna come!” Holly said, bouncing up and down.
“Later,” Sam said, patting her on the shoulder. Holly blushed for a moment. My girlfriend turned to me then and asked, “You got something she can wear, too?”
I gave them a pair of power armors, perfectly tailored. They got weaker muscle enhancers for the legs so they wouldn’t break their legs if they got jumpy. Interlocking armor plates with space for movement, over a resistant under-layer and padding., in this case my classic look of diagonal armor strips. They even got the helmet with the visor that looked slightly glaring, though Sam got a smiley face design under it, while Holly’s looked sad and had three tear drops under the corner of the eye. They also both got these little soft fabric attachments with bells on them, like a jester or harlequin hat. These were designed to tear off in a fight rather than catch on anything. The finishing touch is that Holly’s was grey on the left side and orange on the right, while Sam’s was orange on the left and grey on the right.
I wore the classic armor I was best known for, but reinforced with all kinds of shit you can only throw together if physics is done with your shit.
“Hey, this is pretty cool.” Holly jumped up and down until she bopped her head against the roof of the cavern. She stopped then and started testing how far she could turn, pausing when facing Sam to ask, “How’d you do that? Convince her to take us?”
Sam took a break from stretching in her armor to assume a T-pose. “Dominance. Pure dominance.”
“You keep this up and I’ll make me chocolate have calories for you again,” I threatened.
“I want that!” Holly said. She sauntered up as best as she could in power and leaned against me. “Say, you’re looking really pretty.”
I giggled. “As if that wasn’t going to happen. Fine.” I booped where her nose would be through the helmet and changed her body slightly. “Added bonus, I got rid of your food allergies.”
“I hope you can get rid of other problems,” she said.
Sam walked up and put her hands on both our shoulders. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: crime now, sex later.”
“Uh,” I started to object.
“I’ve told her that,” Sam clarified. I teleported the three of us to Columbia. We all stepped out of a phonebooth on a street corner.
“What’s this?” Holly asked, turning to look at the thing we just exited.
“Nothing much,” I snapped my fingers. Yes, foolish mortals. With the nigh-unlimited and slowly-returning power at my fingertips, I have access to the secrets of the universe. I finally used them to learn how to snap my fingers. I’m kinda proud of that. And with the snapping of my fingers, the phone booth was sucked away into a square portal on the sidewalk with a crackling sound and a little electricity arcing off it.
We were headed toward a building that used to be a restaurant, the Beefateria. I read information off it, exploring with my limited omniscience. The Beefateria served nothing but meat of all kinds of animal. They were mauled to death by a mutated parsnip. A member of Counter is a member of the state health inspectors and pulled some strings.
Eyes were on us as we approached, and then more than eyes. We turned the corner to the street the Beefateria was on and somebody floated down to land in front of us. Young guy, a bit too skinny for blue tights and the cape wore. Nineteen. Geez. Then again, time passes. I’m not longer the new hotness I used to be.
“You’ve yee’d your last haw,” I told him with a fake Texan accent.
“I’m not here to fight!” the hero threw his hands in the air, but did not wave them like he just didn’t care. “I’m here to warn you! The people you’re going to meet are going to try and kill you.”
I shrugged. “Yeah.”
“We know,” Holly said.
“My friends and I are going to stop them, and we don’t want you there. They didn’t want to warn you, but I knew we had to.” I reached out while he said so. Yeah, there were other heroes around. I recognized three from the attack on the Exemplar safehouse: the shackled monster guy, the guy in feline power armor, and the ghostly floating woman. There were a few others, all also young. It was like a super zoomer league.
“They think they can take me, really?”
He shrugged. “Some of them, but they’re wrong. I keep up on the Discord. Medusa says you’re reasonable. So don’t go in, and let us handle it?”
On the one hand, there’s something about the arrogance of the whole thing that gets to me. This bunch has never been more wrong about being able to handle me, but this guy seems ok.
“You know, I went along with this because I was trying to find out who the head of this whole thing is and take them out.”
“We can help with that. Just, let us do it?”
I looked back at Sam and Holly, who were looking at each other. They radiated disappointment. Despite that, Sam spoke up, “You can just get it from someone at the end, right?”
I sighed and told her, “Fine. And fine.” That second one was directed toward this hero. “You got somewhere you want us to hang out while all this goes on?”
“This way, please,” he said.
We ended up being directed to a food truck sitting a couple streets over in the parking lot of a grocery store, with a few tables set out for us. The under-sized wonder dropped us off at a table with a woman with a teal vest. A couple of mechanical arms reached around to join her biological ones typing on a laptop.
“Troubleshooter?” I asked. Oops, might have to pretend I’m not semi-omniscient.
“Gecko,” she said, leaning back in her chair momentarily. The mechanical arms kept typing. “I’m glad you decided to be reasonable. I wasn’t sure what you were going to be like in all this. We had someone on the inside, but we stopped hearing about him when he went on the trip to meet you.”
I thought back to the guy whose neck I snapped just to make a point.
“Weird. Maybe he was a loose cannon,” I suggested.
“He was a family man. I’m glad I didn’t have to look his wife in the eyes and tell them why he wasn’t coming home,” Troubleshooter said. “I made sure she had enough money to keep the house, but it was touch and go there.”
I feel like Troubleshooter knows it was me.
She looked to the junior hero there. “You better get into position. They’re about to start. Gecko, you and your friends can sit. Talk. Have a taco. They have great shredded pork here.”
Holly and Sam looked to each other before Holly walked over to the truck.
Sam and I settled into some of the wooden chairs in front of Troubleshooter. “So you’re working with children now?”
“We were all that young once. Someone’s got to mentor the next generation, instead of kill them. Besides, my condition made it difficult to do the job anymore. If I ever find out where the Unicorn Goddess lives, I’ll send her the world’s biggest fruit basket. So when I found out someone was hunting the Unicorn, I directed the team to get in here and help. What are you doing with these guys? You’re too smart.”
“Well, thank you for that, and for at least one of our team viewing me as reasonable. Some of these guys asked around where I was retired. I didn’t trust these guys knowing where I was, and I knew their silly little goal would also include taking out a president-killer like me. So I figured I’d get in, find out who is in charge, and disappear him to a black site about six feet underground.”
“Can we talk to the head honcho?” I asked. “I’ll happily stay out of your way once I get a chance to extract some information.” I decided to go pay attention to whatever was going on. The young heroes were moving in, dropping a few of the guards with some limited fights. Guards. Yeah… they had a bunch of people with plasma rifles, even some rocket launchers and flamethrowers. And in the middle of the whole thing, a bomb.”
“One moment,” I said. I held my hands up and teleported the explosive core of the device there. A little bit of phasing and poking around, and I disarmed the thing. Removed a lot of wires and other things that would make it go boom, then teleported it right back to lull people into a false sense of security. “There. All safe.”
Troubleshooter looked at me, both mechanical arms now sprouting high-powered lasers pointed at me. “What the fuck was that?”
“Nothing you need to be concerned about,” I told her.
“If you can do that…” Troubleshooter stood up, arms disarming. “Holy shit. You’re-… why didn’t you just find out who the head of Counter was on your own?”
“I’m a little weak right now after the other day. Nothing I saw from any of them told me who was in charge. The guy I talked to made it seem like he was, but there’s no way. He had to meet with people, get approval, all that.”
“That’s… wait. Now that’s weird,’ Troubleshooter looked at her laptop. “There was a signal. Someone hit an alarm. Someone activated a detonation transceiver but..”
I checked for myself. The transceiver was just a piece of equipment, there, all by itself. It relayed a detonation signal to the bomb, which didn’t go off, but where did it relay it from? Somewhere in space.
“That’s weird,” I said.
“That’s a satellite,” Troubleshooter said. I slid around to look at her computer. It showed something floating up there that relayed the detonation signal. I tried to look and… couldn’t. Drew a blank.
“Either I’m really on the fritz right now,” I started.
Sam sidled up next to me and finished the thought. “Or Parietal shared his miracle metal with someone else before you got him. There’s a satellite in space your powers can’t perceive.”
And as we found out afterward, every single one of these guys in the restaurant was either a cop taking extra work or on leave from around the area. They didn’t have anybody higher up for me to read. The young heroes had them all restrained in the Beefateria for Troubleshooter to accompany me and my minions. “Nothing useful from any of them. Come on, who at least hired you?”
“It’s just something that went out to all of us through the union,” one of them blurted out. It was really a rhetorical question from me anyway, since I was seeing the same thing from all of them. This was just a bunch of cops with some similar ways of thinking all given a chance to make extra money doing something that matched up with their thought patterns.
I shook my head, then gestured to Sam and Holly. “Let’s get out of here.”
And of course I got a call the next day. Troubleshooter was on the line. “We need to work together to beat Counter.”
“No, we don’t,” I said.
“Are you really…? Nevermind, I don’t want to know the answer to that. I really don’t, because I can’t believe it. But if you are who you think you are, then I’m doing this to help you. You gave me my whole life back. I, that, whatever. I’m still not processing all of this. Let me help you.”
“What do you bring to the table that I can’t manage?” I asked.
“I found the satellite,” she told me. “Satellites, actually. And a company producing the unique alloy used to make it and the outer walls of their factory’s walls.”
“Sounds like you don’t even need me,” I told her.
“I can’t believe I want you around, but here we are. Times change. Let me help you stop people trying to turn back the clock, and maybe we’ll find out who keeps building things to stop you.”
Counter, an organization of various government law enforcement types to deal with supers who are too powerful, is playing coy with me now. I’ve made contact with them to try and get in on the action so I can tear them apart, with them not realizing that Psycho Gecko and this new goddess fixing problems are one and the same. They’ve met with me, but haven’t brought me in, but I can’t tell if that’s paranoia or incompetence. Nothing I’ve seen gives me any reason to believe these people are worth the worry. I might’ve jumped the gun at the idea of being held accountable.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a pregnancy to make happen. According to time travel, I need to conceive a son. I could literally pull DNA from anyone on Earth. Just about. My powers are still working their way back, and even having already figured out who the other parent of Alexander is, I’m tempted to play around, make a few changes. Instead, I tried visiting Medusa. Which often turns into me visiting Venus as well. But who wants to hear all the little details? This isn’t a soap opera. Though a soap opera wishes it included some of the things I can do. Like how Sam and her friend Holly spent a few days with swapped bodies.
In my defense, using godlike power to indulge in some fetishes is a way better result of me being a goddess than most would have hoped for. And I’m not pulling any of that goose-on-girl shit like the myths say about Zeus.
I don’t neglect Sam, though. We were checking on my multi-dimensional base. Not multi-dimensional like having length, depth, and width. Multi-dimensional as in parts of it cross over into different places in different dimensions. I made sure they I crossed over into places I wouldn’t be disturbed. Some of those made for an excellent place to build an army of robots. Only simple programming. I don’t use slaves.
Sam clomped in on shoes that elevated her petite body to approach a more workable height. Sam looked down at her current body. “What did you say this porn model’s name was?”
“Porphyria,” I said.
Sam looked down at herself. “I like most of it,” She wagged her head to emphasize the two-tone pigtails, one violet and one green. She waved her hands down at her admittedly short body. “But you know how hard it is to reach things like this?”
I waved my hand, swapping bodies around again. Sam smiled seeing herself grow, and the curves, but then felt herself up and checked her hair. “Aww. I liked the hair and piercings. Neat tattoos. And some jiggle in my wiggle.”
“Some bump in your grind,” I responded.
“Cool,” Sam grinned, walking over. She stumbled a moment, since I’d swapped her clothes too. “You think keeping a secret robot army might make the Post Office think you’re secretly a threat to the world?”
“I just figure I might as well take the opportunity to build things up. You’d be surprised what you need a bunch of this stuff for. But I bet I could go ahead and build something to serve a similar purpose to Necrosaur. Make myself look better.”
“You hardly need to, now that you’ve come out and admitted you cleaned up the oceans and cured everyone all at once. Unless you just need something to send out and stop to make yourself look good.”
“I’ve considered it, but if I’m not on Counter’s hitlist now, then they’re small fry.”
I felt a tingle. Not a spidey-sense; just something related to my returning powers of perception. With a wave of my hand, I used my godlike power to hit the remote control and turn on the monitor on the wall. News channels took up some parts of it, along with my own satellite feed.
A group of heroes were attacking an Exemplar safehouse in Baltimore. Medusa’s group isn’t entirely on the legal up and up with their people, but the Office of Superhuman Resources has been looking the other way because they tended to fight criminals in government when they clashed. There’s an understanding. Evidently, some of these heroes decided they would go after a small Exemplar office and take down what they thought were supers. What it had turned into was a stand-off with a bunch of heroes shooting into a building and the Exemplars trying to avoid causing a bloodbath. Or at least they wanted to look like heroes.
They wore a bunch of cheap costumes. Tights you could get anywhere, dirtbike armor, dollar store domino masks. They all wore heavy-duty plate carriers beneath the spandex, designed to stop higher calibers than usual. I peered into their minds. Off-duty local cops, hired to raid the place and being told they’d be seen as heroes. Told that they’d have some protection from people higher up. They’d all gotten cash delivered to their mailboxes courtesy of Postal Inspector Agnetti.
Everyone else missed the team that went in from below. How would they have known to watch out for a black feline power armor, a wasted-away shirtless man with metal bands around his wrists, and a floating pale woman with white hair and ragged, white clothes who floated through the air? This was a whole different-looking bunch. Unlike the cheap costumes made to disguise cops, these were the real deal. The guy with the shackles beat his arms against a maintenance access hatch leading up into the Exemplar base. The Exemplars probably picked that spot for that hatch, and now some moaning thing smacked it with meaty thuds. The floating woman gestured to it. I felt the telekinesis she commanded, putting pressure on it. The one in the cat power armor didn’t do shit.
It almost made me sad I wouldn’t be smacking this bunch around personally. It wouldn’t even be fair, but I kind of want to see what fight they ‘d put up. Which is the thinking that convinced me some of this god stuff was going to my head. A fair fight is nothing to aspire to. If something matters to you, you don’t want a chance of losing. You want to grind opposition to dust if it’s important. If it matters.
I waved a hand and made the conflict all disappear like it was nothing. I simply whisked the Exemplars and all their possessions away to the main Exemplar base. Instead, when the police busted in there, they found the place full of what were supposed to be toys for sick kids meant to be given out at Christmas. They looked pretty silly in front of the cameras, moreso when their badges all fell out of their cheap tights at the same time. Whoops.
It won’t be enough to discredit them. It’s a little much to snap my fingers and impart intelligence onto the same reporters who just believe everything someone with a badge tells them.
Sam slid up beside me. “Hey, what’s on your mind?”
“Just wondering if this is what my life’s going to be, solving people’s problems from afar. If I’m getting bored already, I can see why any gods that might have existed throughout history would take a step back, too.”
“Maybe you’re just entering a tired patch,” Sam said, kissing the side of my neck. “You know what you could do?”
My girlfriend slid a hand onto my belly, fingers tickling. “You should take pregnancy leave. Have you told her yet?”
“I didn’t do this to pressure anybody into a relationship or anything like that. Even before meeting Alexander, I wanted something like this for awhile. She’s just who I wanted to have a baby with.”
“Better her than me,” Sam said with a wink. “I don’t want you pissed in the delivery room with god powers looking at me and shouting that this is all my fault.”
I giggled. After calming down, I looked to her, “You sure you don’t want a baby with me?”
She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Please no. I’m happy to help raise my partner’s brats with other people. The sex is just that good!”
That gave me a laugh that turned into a groan as I nuzzled her. “Why did it take us so long to get together?”
“You were a massive fucked-up bitch,” Sam responded, causing me to laugh again.
“Yeah, I suppose so. Well, I guess I’m glad you made the first move. Even if you’re waiting until I have some brats to help raise.”
“Qiang’s amazing. And I bet Alexander’ll be cool, too.” It was all very sweet, and made sweeter with a kiss that didn’t want to end.
Afterward, I told her, “I’ll consider taking a break once Counter’s dealt with.” She shook her head but patted my cheek.
“Come on, I think our girlfriend’s fixing stew,” she said, referencing Bridget, the woman I brought forward to avoid her canonical death by burning at the hands of a husband convinced she’d been kidnapped by the fae. In a way, he ended up proven right.
Counter didn’t contact me again until after dinner. They didn’t know I was the unicorn goddess, but they knew I was Psychopomp Gecko, the killer supervillain. “We would like to contract with you. We made a mistake relying on amateurs,” said the voice message. Showing at least a little competence this time, it was a digitally-created voice, a text reader. “If you agree, you have 48 hours to meet with our people in Columbia, Maryland. If you do not meet us there, we will assume you do not want to meet with us and we will leave you alone.”
“What was that, dear?” asked Bridget with a smooch to my cheek. The woman was so full of life and outgoing. She also thoroughly enjoyed indoor plumbing and liked a good bath on a full stomach, with my head laid back against her. She smelled a lot nicer since being pulled out of the past as well.
“Just something about what I’m doing nowadays. I have a date with destiny, or at least with the bozos who think they can take me out for doing some good in the world for once,” I mentioned, drowsing there in the bath with Bridget.
“Destiny’s a good name for your look with the wings and the big horn, isn’t it? Only, I thought unicorns were attracted to virgins,” she snuck another kiss onto my cheek.
“I can do a lot of things with these powers, changeling,” I joked. “Don’t tempt me.”
“Temptation’s so fun for the both of us, Destiny the unicorn.”
Not my name, but she’s right that I need one. Oh, woe is me, workshopping my happenings nowadays in the arms of beautiful women who care about me. Yes, I must be worn out to want to spend more time doing that instead of beating people up. So tired. Guess I’ll just have to see if Sam and Bridget can work on my stamina.
Great Power 10
I like to think I had power before, but this is a whole new experience. And I don’t just mean all the freaky sex stuff, though I enjoy that. Not going to share all of it, but I enjoy it. No, I’m referencing the fact that it’s like some sort of spiritual telemarketing thing going on. That demon who tried to threaten me into serving him wasn’t the only one to end up asking. I’ve been getting solicitors at my door all the time. First thing in the morning, I zap myself back to my house after hanging out in someone’s dreams all night, and get a knock on the door.
Who is it? It’s an eye. Just a yellow eye with a black pupil and black sclera, hanging in a tear in reality with a cane poking out so it can knock on the door. “Greetings, living being. I am the Watcher Who Sees All Under Existence And Laughs At Your Futility, but you can call me Bob for short. I am here to talk to you about an exciting business opportunity exclusively for you. I promise you would be one of the first on this plane of existence to take part and rise higher than any other being in corporeal existence.”
I crossed my arms and leaned against the door frame. “You know, I just got rid of all the plastic in the ocean the other day. Broke them all down into their base components and return to sender. Back into the ground or whatever.”
“Er, yes. Admirable of you. We aren’t planning to destroy the world, but the management of it has been left to these petulant younger races for too long. We want to bring in dynamic new leadership, beings that cannot die and thus have an interest in the long-term well-being of the planet. It might be unpleasant for most of the inhabitants who are unused to such control over their movements and minds, but we’re willing to let you in on the ground floor and reward you with a domain of your own with select followers to join you.”
I lifted a finger. “Hold on, I think I left the oven on. Let me just go get it.” I closed the door in his eye and went back to get Qiang up and start getting her around for school. It’s easier now that I can snap my fingers and erase her tiredness. I like to send it to people I don’t like. She gets to have any breakfast she wants as long as it’s not something like chocolate cake. Then I just teleport her right to school. Naturally, Sam was too sleeping for all this. I never liked getting up that early and it’s really only convenient for me now because of my ascendancy. The only one up at that time was our new houseguest, who I heard humming in the tub.
I sighed to myself and went back to the door, where Bob the Eye waited. “Shoo,” I told it.
“I haven’t even shown you my charts. Ma’am, please, many of us lack a proper face, but you can still have a heart!”
It was a good line. It’d probably been waiting eons to use it. But if it needed my help, that meant me working against it would go pretty well. And it didn’t show me the charts, but I didn’t trust it. “Tell you what, if you really want to go over it, we’ll do lunch tomorrow. You like Italian?”
“They’re a delicious people,” he responded. I could see the happiness in his eye, like a glow. Which is weird, because I’d always thought you saw happiness in someone’s gaze by the way the skin and muscles around the eye looked. I get a meal out of it and he gets to feel good and tell his bosses he tried. Whatever counts as a boss for something like that.
Then it’s off to the bathroom to cuddle with my abductee, Bridget. She smiled up at me and splashed a little water my way. “Good day, darling fae.”
Oh she’s a charmer. “Good morning, Bridget. Getting acquainted with the wonders of indoor plumbing?”
“I thought I knew when you put the knowledge into my mind,” the smiling woman said. She had a good figure on her, with a square jaw. I’d heard she was beautiful, and the standards were a little different then, but there was a certain fire and attractive outgoing nature to her. It as different than Sam’s Fuck The World attitude. “This is a cottage of wonders.”
“Wait until you see things outside,” I told her.
“They’ll wonder who’s living in sin with you now,” she said. She waved me over. “Come on. Let me see more of the fairy who stole me from my husband.”
Depending on your definition, she’s either a widower or she’s still technically married to a guy who was just about to burn her to death. He claimed she’d been stolen by the fae and replaced with a changeling. And here I am, a goddess with the power to pluck people out of the past. I restored her to health, gave her the tools to survive here, and was even working on an idea in case she wasn’t into Sam and I. And even though it worked out this time, I’ve got plans for that other Earth. There are plenty of wrongfully killed people I could save without causing problems for the timeline if that’s even a thing. And I used my powers to find out time is a chain of donuts in an infinite loop, so that naturally means I can pull it off easily.
Cut to lunch the next day. I was sitting with Bob at a little place in Sicily, finishing up some carbonara. Bob floated a glass of wine to his pupil, where a set of sideways teeth and a group of five tongues welcomed it. As a courtesy, he’d closed his mouth while he chewed. He could still communicate with me telepathically, telling me stories. “So Yjorgo’ph’laz didn’t realize he was completely naked until we were already there! He had to go through the whole invasion wearing nothing.”
“Wow, Bob is that you?!” We glanced over to see another eldritch monster in a business suit “casually” walking by. I emphasize “casually” because this was clearly some sort of play. The thing appeared to be a lump of flesh that filled up the suit, with featureless fleshy nubs coming out of the suit sleeves.
Bob’s eye narrowed. “Sdeeeeevxxxxv, what black hole coughed you up here?”
“Is that any way to speak to your old pal? Come on, give us a hug.”
Bob floated closer and Sdeeeeevxxxxv wrapped its flesh nubs around it. Stuck to the end of one by like moisture and skin oil was a card with its name on it. “ Sdeeeeevxxxxv Ycksn, Freelance Agent for Freelance Entities.”
I took the card, at least so I could “accidentally” leave it in my napkin. A small part of Sdeeeeevxxxxv’s head-lump folded in on itself in a wink before I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Walked right out the door of the restaurant and onto the moon. I bounced around a bit, knowing I should get back to my daughter, my girlfriend, and Bridget. I sighed because I was having some weird angst that I guess is normal whenever someone gets power beyond comprehension. Just needed the perspective on that and I sent the angst away. Eliminated. Power, remember? This isn’t comparable to some politician’s or businessman’s story.
Maybe a few of them picked that moment to have heart attacks or strokes. No need for a genocide to put things on a better path. Like a dictator slipping and breaking his neck. Leave the subtle stuff for that. His barrel bombs exploding in their bombers was a more visible sign of my intervention. Visibly saving people looks so nice. Saving people by killing the person killing them just doesn’t sound as nice to most folks who aren’t under the gun. The same as messing with the timeline doesn’t sound so good when you’re starving to death.
There’s an idea. I reached out with my powers through time and space. I found an untouched Earth. A lot of familiar animals and a few unfamiliar.ones in familiar niches. Even some that are extinct over here. I pulled that entire planet and its moon into this dimension. Took more out of me than I thought. I put it on the opposite side of the moon while I made a few changes, the first of which being a field to keep the gravity of the extra stellar bodies from affecting the moon and Earth. Adding habitation here and there, with some basic infrastructure. At the same time, I reached into the past.
And of course I get a call. Can’t do anything without complaining. “Hey Medusa.”
“Gecko, what’s going on?” She sounded worried.
“Relax, the gravity’s not affecting anything right now, and I know where to put it.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“I know you worry, and I know you feel guilty about it. I’ve felt how you feel about me. Maybe you’re right. This is a lot of power to leave at my whims. But I’m going to try and use it right.”
“Talk to me. Tell me what you’re doing,” she said. “We haven’t talked in awhile.”
“The evolutionary line leading to humans died out early in the timeline of this Earth. I can’t just pull millions of people out of the past and set them on our Earth. It would be too much of a mess. But this way, there’s a whole ‘nother world. A world of genocide victims and executed witches. They get a second chance.”
“That’s… amazing,” she said. Oh, right. I created a replica of the West Coast branch of the Master Academy and grabbed the same supers I killed the last time I had this level of power.
It was going pretty well until Bob and Sdeeeeevxxxxv appeared with the mad genius speedster with them, Parietal. One of Parietal’s arms was encased in a device with five tendrils coming from it. “Gotta let you go. Going to have a super fight on the moon.”
The flesh creature raised its arms at me while I was busy building a fucking world, encasing me in its gross sausage-looking meat arms. Bob’s tongues shot out as he grew bigger, fanged sideways mouth at the ready. I took a moment to disintegrate them. Parietal sped up and started to strafe me. I blasted a chunk of the moon off under him and sent him flying off into space. His gadget reached out but didn’t have the range to catch me.
Then I finished with Earth 2. It’s the hottest new sequel around. If you liked Earth, you’re gonna love Earth 2. Oh, right, Native Americans killed in pandemics and massacres. Gotta get them in there, too.
As I was working on all that, I became aware of another little issue. Holes in reality. More of them. Some of them held countless eyes. Others opened to walls of groping flesh. They resisted my closing the holes that attempted to fill up the space around both Earths. I forced them closed, inspecting the fabric of reality and found it worn. Torn, actually, with a big fat fucking Earth-sized hole. So on top of everything, I had to use my energy to fix that. The only time something was actually a challenge for me since getting these new powers, and it felt like running a marathon on a belly of rotten chicken.
At the end of it all, I sent Earth 2 to its new home, on the same orbit as Earth, half a year behind. And then I nearly collapsed, suddenly aware of the need to breath and eat. I wasn’t out of power, but I was burnt out. Almost. I looked to the flailing Parietal.
I created a sphere of force around him and contracted it until he squished like a bug. It then formed spikes that stabbed inward, hooked, and tore him and his outfit that blocked my perception and powers. Free of him, I drew the four Omega pearls he had with him into myself. It provided a nice boost to keep me going until I’ve recovered my strength. And when the portal opened behind me and the massive demon who once threatened me peeked out, I stared into the abyss with glowing eyes.
The abyss coughed. “Just checking. Lovely weather we’re having. Nice day to you!” His claws reached out and pulled that portal closed behind him.
I reappeared at home. Woke up some time the next day to Medusa fussing all over me. “Hello beautiful,” I said with a smile. “It hurt when I fell from the heavens.”
Medusa rolled her eyes and grinned. She turned away when I reached up and guided her face back toward mine with a finger. She stopped me from kissing her and instead gave my forehead a smooch before calling out, “Medusa! Sam! Qiang! What’s-Your-Name! She’s awake!”
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