Ok, so maybe this power is tempting me. Upon the monthly reminder that I’m a werereindeer, I considered, merely considered, only considered… blowing up the moon. Now, dear readers, before y’all get upset at this, I was going to replace it with something else about as dense. I had some ideas for certain people I could use instead. They wouldn’t shine as bright because these are some pretty dull, dense people. But they’d be there and we could hopefully still have tides. Those are important, right?
Other ideas that occurred involved sending it to another dimension and all that, blocking the light from it for a night, or spending the night on the backside of the big cheese itself. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time on the weredeer stuff when I had these disappeared Omega pearls to deal with. For all I knew, someone else figured out how to merge with them. I even thought of not even doing it this time. I had a lot of control over my own body, and that included the ability to snuff out this magic condition I’d been stuck with.
I’ve gone a little soft. Usually I mean with the belly I’ve added. Makes it even more fun now, being a chubby gal flying around with my superpowers. But on top of that, I like Reindeer. If someone told me when I started all this that I’d like some aspect of myself, especially a part that wants to be heroic, I’d probably have torn off that person’s ass and made them it eat. I’m reluctant to say this, but maybe all these people fucking around in my brain fixed things by accident. Or maybe I fixed it somehow when I had infinite cosmic power. Like how when I thought about it, I checked and found I was no longer infected by the disease engineered to shut down any powers above the human baseline when in contact with certain collars.
I went ahead and made that permanent for myself before hearing the alarm letting me know it was almost full moon time. Then I split off a body just for Reindeer to manifest through. We were in my base, not the Skylab. Sam was with us, using a large computer system and some of the recon drones I’d built to check a few areas I remember pearls being in. One of those areas was Technolutionary’s portion of the SkyLab.
I wanted to handle it myself, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to revert to Reindeer in the middle of all this. And I didn’t. Though Sam did comment on all the screaming and snapping and stretching. “That’s gross to hear.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to feel it,” I told her.
Reindeer stood up. Whereas most people who turn into some sort of were-thing find themselves consumed by instincts and evil desires to tear other people apart or what-have-you, my alter-ego decided to become a hero. My therapist says it has to do with buried desires to be a hero that fueled my villainous rampage and desire to save the world in my own twisted way at times. But weredeerism isn’t treatable with pills and techniques, at least none I’m aware of.
“You get used to it,” Reindeer said, shaking herself off and grabbing her costume. “You’ve got a problem. Things going missing. You know this is probably Technolutionary, right?”
“Or the demons,” I said.
“Or the Exemplars,” Sam contributed.
“Yeah, and we have to remember there are a lot of unknown unknowns,” Reindeer warned. “But we already know one untrustworthy supervillain who has the ability to track down every single pearl on the planet. We’ve been expecting him to betray us.”
“True,” I said. “And he was experimenting on materials to resist the effects of Omega energy.”
Sam joined in. “And he already told you he wants to weaponize the pearls instead of hiding them. And his section of the lab is emptied out.” The monitor showed us both that his part was missing. There goes the longshot that it had something to do with that one guy in the chair powered by a pearl that time. I lost track of him pretty quick.
I shrugged. “I thought he’d be able to keep it together longer than this. Ok, Sam. We’ve confirmed he’s gone. How about some of those other pearls?”
“Gone,” Sam said, switching to a bank of views. The views didn’t show anything, which was the point. If they’d showed pearls, we’d know the pearls were where we left them.
“Ok, let’s activate the trackers,” I said.
“We planted enough of them,” Reindeer muttered.
Sam pulled up the global view and activated the numerous bugs I planted all over Technolutionary’s gear. Never on his armor itself, because I figured he’d find those. Instead, my nanobots got them all in the guts of his machines. I left a few really obvious ones on some of the equipment for him to find and disarm, figuring he’d let his guard down if he thought he’d already gotten all of them.
They all lit up in the same location: Empyreal City. The place had seen plenty of problems from the last time the pearls were in action there. “Let’s go,” Reindeer said. She grabbed some of her gear, like the grenades that looked like Christmas ornaments.
“You don’t want to take the night off?” I asked. “This is my problem. You got your own life.”
“Right now, we got a pile of shit to clean up. You could use all the shovels you can get if she’s figured out how to use these things.”
We both kissed Sam goodbye before leaving. Here I’d been worried Reindeer would have my body dating someone else, turns out she’s got at least some of the same taste as me. And I don’t mind Sam being a bit of a furry.
But before we went, I access the vaults. There were a lot of pearls out there. I had my own misgivings. I can tell because Reindeer, who is also me, voiced them. “You know you shouldn’t do this. It’s risky.”
I know,” I said. I grabbed pearl after pearl, absorbing their power. Not all of them. Just enough that to make me feel like we’d still have an edge over Technotutionary. And from there, I took us right to our partner.
This base had been built into the sewers, inside a half dome of metal. It was a pretty wide open space, widened and torn apart to make enough room. All of Technolutionary’s equipment was there. Technolutionary, I found, was inside a metal cage hanging from the ceiling, his armor on the floor below him.
“Gecko,” Reindeer called, looking at an armored throne with mechanical legs. The man seated in it had his own armor. More than that, he had a chair powered by Omega energy, and a mess of tendrils all with their own. Even just looking at him, I couldn’t feel the pearls.
“Gecko? The Psycho Gecko? Welcome. As you can see, I’ve beaten you to the rest of your prizes, but we can leave this where it is, yes?” the man said. His face was covered in a smooth white plastic mask, or some other material that looked like plastic. Some people have a lot of fun creating stuff that looks like plastic. It’s an aesthetics thing. People are like that.
“Who do I have the displeasure?” I asked.
“I am Parietal, the fastest brain alive,” he introduced himself. “I became interested in the potential of the Omega pearls. You ended my most promising experiment, providing their power to others and watching the chaos that ensues. I planted a tracker on your friend, Technolutionary. From there, it wasn’t difficult to-”
Parietal was interrupted by a crunch. Reindeer raised a hoot off some sort of bug-like device that had been sneaking up on me while he drew my attention. “Sorry, did I ruin that plan?” Reindeer asked.
“Who are you and why are you here?” Parietal asked.
I made a show of turning to look at Reindeer, then disappeared and reappeared behind Parietal’s chair. I punched my hand through it, feeling more resistance than I had since gaining this level of power. Fast brain over there must have figured out some nifty materials. The tendrils whipped around and tried to fire on me but I absorbed the energy. I didn’t need to sense the pearls to drain them. I cracked that throne like an egg and pulled out the ones it used as an energy source of its own. I absorbed that one, too. All mine. The machine burst open with a crimson explosion.
The man in the throne stood there. His jumpsuit had neon red lines running along the arms and legs, but he seemingly knew when he was beat. Reindeer kept an arm pointed at Parietal, sonic weapons armed, but was busy tearing the lock open. Technolutionary practically jumped into her arms, I guess a bit of a furry himself. I don’t know if he knows about that curse of mine.
“It’s fascinating, but I wonder what will become of you as you gain more power,” Parietal mused, turning around to face me.
“A means to an end,” I said.
“What a glorious end,” he said. Guy was kind of creepy.
“Behind you!” Reindeer and Technolutionary both cried out.
Spheres rolled over the inside of the dome, spreading out in a semicircle. They didn’t fire at me. They fired near me, all of their beams converging. I caught the expanding blast, draining it before it expanded and blew the hell out of me, Reindeer, the city, and that other guy we were working with.
Technolutionary and Reindeer dropped down, Technolutionary’s armor standing up and sliding onto him. “Turn it off!” the other villain ordered, raising an open hand to Parietal. He had lasers built into each finger.
“I don’t think I will. I need to run,” Parietal said. The red lights intensified and sprinted out of the way of both the lasers and Reindeer’s sonic blast. The lasers nicked him, damaging the suit enough for me to feel the power from another pearl beneath. The others tracked him, trying to blast the super smart speedster, but they ended up blasting off a part of the metal dome instead. Parietal raced toward that section, leaving a hole in the wall behind him. So a super tough super smart speedster. Or at least smart speedster. Let’s not give the guy too much credit here.
Reindeer flew after Parietal, but Technolutionary lagged behind, keeping his lasers trained on me while I drained the energy from this weapon system. That’s what it was, a nifty means of defense and a way to blow the whole base up if Parietal lost. It also meant I had a fuckton of pearls we hadn’t already collected feeding me energy all at once.
“Gecko. Can you handle it?” Technolutionary asked.
I nodded, realizing then that I’d become a glowing person and once again burnt through my clothes. And I had an idea, then. I didn’t just contain the power, though that’s what I was doing. I had held almost all of it at one point. I used it. Might as well, and it would take some of the strain off me. I wiped that power-controlling disease off the face of this and every other Earth planet infected with it by us. I cured… everything. AIDS and HIV? Gone. Cancer? Wiped out. Diabetes? Eliminated. All injury, all disability. The only thing stopping me from all transitions was not wanting to delve into every individual mind and find out the level of transition they wanted to go to, but I’d have time for that. I didn’t wipe out the homo machina mutation, either, nor the others inflicted with the unique condition that gave me Reindeer.
“What’s going on?” Technolutionary said. “I’m connecting to my satellites, what are you doing?”
“What a god should,” I answered, head snapping around to stare him down.
“You’re not a god,” he said.
“I might as well be. Isn’t this what you wanted? A weapon to scare off everyone who would come after our home?” Ok, I was a bit intimidating there. But this guy wanted to use this power. I use it to fix something and suddenly he’s scared of me?
Enough jerking off. I reached right back up those converging beams and yanked all of those remaining pearls I couldn’t feel right out and into me. The residual blast was weak, really just blowing the lights out. I had enough light on my own. I sent Technolutionary to his lab and followed after Reindeer.
I appeared near her, up on the surface. “Where did he go?” I asked.
Reindeer shook her head. “I don’t know. Got away. Still can’t track him?”
I hated it, but… “Nope.” I tried expanding outward, even looking for wind disturbances, things moving at high speed. Either his shielding was that good, or the fastest thinker on Earth put some distance between us and is laying low. “But I’ll find him again. People don’t lose obsessions that easily.”
“Are you ok?” Reindeer asked. “Something’s different.”
“I had to absorb a lot more energy,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”
“Really? Because you’re flashing everyone.”
Oh yeah. Nude. I created a costume real quick. Didn’t mean to create an omega symbol on it, but fixed that real quick. “I’m great. Never better. And so long as I have the power, I think a lot of people are going to feel better than ever.”
“That sounded kind of ominous, girl,” Reindeer commented.
“Ugh, I prefer it when the doubting voices stay in my head,” I whined. Then, on a whim, I teleported some beer cheddar cheese to me to enjoy with my whine. This “ultimate power” shit is handy when I’m not completely homicidal.
I don’t even need to sleep. It’s a little annoying. As busy as I am, I do enjoy resting. You’d never know it to read all of this dren, but I do like a good sleep or cuddle or even some sex. It’s just that sex isn’t the most important thing in life. Not when you’ve recently gained minor reality-warping powers by absorbing fragments of a dead extradimensional conqueror.
Attacks are ramping up, too. People are posting stuff online. At least with the Facebook posts, they mostly just blow themselves up somehow. It’s gotten so bad, that hearings are scheduled sometime next year to speak to a representative from Facebook, if they decide to send one, to discuss the problem of people posting instructions on how to blow stuff up on there. At least VillaiNet has better threads that actually work.
The heroes aren’t blameless, either. Some of them are using the same stuff, even if the collateral damage isn’t so bad. They might be some of the ones blowing themselves up. Some people have this idea that if you give everyone the ability to destroy a building as easily as a sneeze, the world would be better off and force people to cooperate. These people know nothing. Every day, people do stuff because they’re angry, sad, depressed, frustrated, or out of conspiratorial beliefs. And the people crying about how folks need to act rationally turn right around and act the same way, especially if the “rational” and unemotional decision is one that harms them. So what I’m saying here, I guess, is it’s kind of a bad idea to give everyone such power. Maybe that’s how other civilizations can manage to live outside their own initial solar systems: having some sort of responsible way to handle advanced powers and technology.
All I know is, you give enough people the kind of power I was wielding, you’d have plenty of people doing worse than I ever did. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s sobering to realize I’m still more responsible than way too many people out there. Fuck, I was even left in charge of a kid.
So it’s getting worse. Technolutionary’s just decided to leave confronting the people with that stuff to me. He’s going after ones that seem to have been left alone. His device tracking the things worked, but it took a lot of processing power to load everything at first. So he runs out, grabs one up that landed in the beach or a mountain somewhere, and brings it back. At base, he’s found a way to use one as an energy weapon and has built a detachable, expendable pod onto the Skylab. There, he’s decided to try various alloys for anything that offers resistance to their powers. He’s even gotten some thunderbolt iron to give that a go.
I would be more worried about him having his own Omega pearls off in that lab, except I can track them now. I did make an alteration to my multidimensional base. Sam helped me out and moved all of the pearls I had stored in various obscure spots and reprogrammed the algorithm in those accessways to store them all in dimensions Technolutionary doesn’t have access to. Preferably, no one has access to these. I prefer dumping these in Earths devoid of sapient life. Quite a few of those wiped themselves out with nuclear weapons, or were killed off by plagues.
Part of me wonders what I could do with so many planets with no one else to claim them. The rest of me is busy with stuff like bodyslamming a humanoid walker powered by a heart of Omega energy. The guy behind this one was smart, but he was also destroying half the bank stopping a bank robbery. The robbers were huddled up behind a counter… no, nevermind, they were dead. The guy in the big robot didn’t realize it yet. He kept firing his minigun. Guy must have been using up more money than the corpses on the floor possibly could have stolen. They all looked like regular guys in sky masks and all, no costumes.
I swooped in over the police barricades and through the ruined doors that the walker stomped through. The walker got enough of a heads-up on my approach to activate a scarlet forcefield, clear with veins of energy crossing over the surface. I brought myself to a stop against it, drawing the energy out. The walker turned and opened fire on me, nevermind I had the street and people behind me. I blocked it all with my body and wings while funneling the Omega energy into me. That’s really all these “pearls” are: his energy, crystallized and contained. It wouldn’t hurt to draw it into myself. I once handled way more, and it’s not like it gives me a huge boost. It’s a pretty convenient way to handle this. Even the crystal shell, also from Mr. Omega, was drawn up into the flow of it and pulled into me.
The walker came to rest, powered down. The minigun couldn’t fire anymore without a power source. And I felt a rush. Not as overpowering as back in the Blasted Place, but I can’t lie that it felt good.
“Hope you bothered to install a failsafe for a power outage,” I told the walker’s pilot. “Or a way to breathe. You gave the guys robbing the place a few extra vent holes, too. I wouldn’t expect a lot of sympathy from the dead. Or the people you just shot at.” I nodded back to the street with my head.
I left him there, flying out and disappearing into the glare of the sun. Didn’t need to go deposit another pearl, so instead I went back to looking all civilian-y and picked up Qiang from school. Despite her being pretty damn smart of a kid, she’s running into some trouble. Smart as she is, she’s been neglecting her education. It’s been a few weeks since she turned in any assignments in one of the classes. She’s bored, sounds like. Would rather do interesting stuff. So I picked her up for a chat. Carried her around on my shoulders while we looked into some of the storefronts. The bakery here makes some damn good donuts.
“Ok, kiddo. I know it’s boring and you can just pick it up quick, but you won’t always be able to. You gotta have a foundation, like with martial arts. Gotta punch before you can spin kick.”
“But I don’t wanna! I want to play games or hang out with Dee and Cam. You didn’t have to do homework.”
“Yeah, I never did homework. That means there’s a lot of stuff I had to work even harder at as an adult. You get all this, you’ll grow up to be even smarter than me,” I told her. “And if you don’t go ahead and get all the homework for Social Studies done by Friday, I won’t let you see your friends or have internet access anymore. And you know I can cut you off. Maybe if you were smarter than me I couldn’t…”
She didn’t like it.
Medusa spoke up, having approached while we were examining giant cookies in the window. “If you don’t make good grades, you can’t be an Exemplar like me.”
I turned around and saw Medusa… and Venus. Same person, but Venus was pulled from another, now-alternate timeline a few years earlier. They were there in civilian clothing, but Medusa wore a black leather jacket and shades, while Venus had a long wool coat on.
“She has a kid,” Venus noted, probably to avoid asking a silly and suggestive question like “How?” Instead, she took a sip of some sort of cold coffee drink.
Qiang was a little bit confused, but I pointed to Medusa. “That’s the one we know. The other’s a copy from the past, before she ever met you.”
Qiang held out her hand toward Venus. “Hi, I’m Qiang. You look just like other momma.”
Venus held a hand over her mouth and nose, her cheeks bulging for a moment before she turned away. Medusa patted her on the back and gave me a silent laugh. I received a text from her. “Now I no y u tzed me so much.”
Points for hands-free communication, but that grammar…
Qiang was smiling, too. If she didn’t do that on purpose, she’s probably going to from now on. She looked at Medusa conspiratorially when the woman lowered down to talk to her. “I got bored in school, too, but now I know all sorts of stuff that helps me save the world. You want to help me someday?” She made a fist. Qiang made one right back. “Alright! Then try more in school, even if it makes you want to sleep.”
“I think I need to use the restroom. Do they have one in there?” Venus asked.
“Of course,” Medusa said. She looked to Qiang. “Why don’t you go in and pick out a treat, just one. If that’s ok with your mom?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
Qiang and Venus both went in, leaving Medusa and I outside.
“So, what were you wanting to talk about?” I inquired.
“What’s this with you and Technolutionary?”
I have her the quick run down. I could tell she wasn’t happy to know I’m supercharged again. Last time I had anything close to this level of power, I let it go to my head and killed a bunch of her friends.
“I’m going to work on a contingency,” She told me.
I nodded. “I know. Not just for him, right?”
“Sorry,” she said with a sad little smile.
I nodded. “No, don’t be. It’s smart.”
“We’ve been trying to track some of the seeds. That’s what we call them. You don’t trust us to hold them?”
I shrugged. “It’s a little late to let you have all of them now, but some of these people I’m stopping are heroes. Some of them, you never even would have seen coming. Too late now anyway.”
Medusa sighed. “No, yeah, I know. You don’t run to me over everything. Just prove me right about you. Please.”
And I totally intend to, as soon as I figure out where all of the pearls went. They all disappeared when my mind, and choice parts of my body, were occupied in bed with my girlfriend. You suck on a great pair of tits and suddenly a bunch of super-powerful artifacts go missing all at once.
In the course of liberating Omega Pearls, small portions of the power of a godlike being that had once possessed me before being banished from the universe, I went to Hell. The Hell Dimensions didn’t end that encounter better than they left it. They were testing the ability to bond the pearls. This caused a dangerous explosion. When they realized I was there, the demon scientist in charge decided they would take care of me the same way. The difference is, I didn’t die. Instead, I made an example and then I let the demons and prisoners go. Then I tried to head home.
Somehow, I ended up in the crimson pocket dimension remains of Mr. Omega himself, on a great plain and facing a lesser version of Omega who greeted me as a sister.
“I’m not sister of yours. Why did you bring me here?” I asked.
“You are meant to rejoin me,” he said.
I laughed. “You aren’t even the real thing. You’re like a tiny reflection in a shattered piece of mirror.”
Lesser Omega nodded. “I am the most powerful remnant, but there are many others. You have a number of the smallest pieces inside you, your body adapted to the power. Most can not directly harness this energy.”
“This power is dangerous for them to use,” I said. I glanced down at myself, checking myself over. The bonding process had overloaded me a little, leaving me naked. The addition of some demonic body parts was my idea of mocking the demons. I curled up my tail and its tiny end spade. I created a simple dress, long but sleeveless. I also tried toning down the scarlet glow and the demon parts. “And I’m not too fond of giving Mr. Omega a chance to reform.”
“I think you will,” Lesser Omega said. He swept his arm along the plains we stood upon. “You may even claim this entire space as your own, in the end. You proved your worthiness once before.”
“Flattery’s a nice change of pace from most enemies,” I informed him. Even now, my heightened senses allowed me to see things happening all over these smaller planetoids all floating in what had once been Mr. Omega. There were beings, an entire ecosystem born out of the power seeking a form, or attaching itself to multiversal detritus. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks. Some of them are things I sent through the cracks with my blatant abuse of dimensional technology.
Part of it included humanoids. Some humans, maybe? Some elf-like beings were around as well, their forms made that way based on pop culture ideas about them, making humans into a thing they wanted to be. And some of them weren’t far, an army waving a banner with an omega symbol on it. The Lesser Omega’s army of conquest. This was just the closest one. There were other armies as well. In the sea was another army. The dead rested in wrecks and rock formations, bodies animated by Omega energy tethered to another Lesser Omega. An Omega leading machines. A gargantuan forest advancing slowly at the behest of an Omega that gathered an army of creatures and plant people. Even an Omega that seemed to be a large worm, underneath a mountain, sending up worms to parasitically capture people.
“Hell of a world you have here,” I said. “I’d rather go back to my own.”
“Take my power. Bring me with you,” he offered. He didn’t even buy me dinner first. Not like buying someone dinner first was an impediment for giving them my “power” though. The thing was, if he’s stuck here, that kind of does the job for me. He’s contained. That’s the reason I’m involved in all of this. These powers are already showing themselves to be destructive to my home. That’s what that Earth is. And sure, it’s wildly imperfect. I want to kill at least half the people there myself. But it wasn’t about power for myself. I didn’t grab this stuff for myself.
It’s like he could read my mind. “Think of all the good you could bring to your world.”
“That’s not what you’re thinking of,” I told him. Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. And every time I try to force the world to be the way I want it, things go bad.
“No,” he admitted. “But I accept the trade-off if it means the ascendancy of myself with you. If it means coming being part of the winning side.”
I wondered what to make of that. Mr. Omega seemed set on hating me with an undying passion last time I saw him. Now, a remnant of him is willing to give me his power under the assumption that, when faced with a conflict involving other Omegas, I’m the one that would come out on top. And he’d rather be part of that than deal with another Omega winning out.
I shook my head. “This isn’t my conflict. If I accomplish my goals, none of you will come out on top. Unless we’re going to fight about this, I should get going.”
The Lesser Omega looked me over. “No, I don’t think I will. Go. You will return on your own or one of us will find a way to your planet. You have all of eternity to feel the call.”
“Could be awhile cleaning up this whole mess. Looks like a lot of creatures could end up with Omega’s power so easily.”
The Lesser Omega shook his head. “No. The power here changed other beings or formed remnants representing aspects of Mr. Omega, if we are advanced enough to have a personality. The ones on Earth may do the same, but you are one of the few who can handle it without further changes. You were already altered by our source to be vessel that can wield it. You will be just fine.”
He was lying. I’m sure. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made a deal with an Omega for vast amounts of power. This version of Omega is clever. He’d influence me into gaining more power, him growing stronger, with me losing more control.
I did fingerguns. “You’re pretty good. Don’t pull me here again.” I turned and opened a breach. As I left I could feel something pull me back. It wasn’t the Lesser Omega, but some sort of binding. Magic, that’s what. I knew it thanks to what the power had done to me, but that same power is why I was dragged back. I had a lot more “me” in me than anything else in the Omegaverse. Not to say I’m special and somehow capable of doing things by sheer uniqueness, just that I could tell these bonds didn’t respond as well to someone who wasn’t just another part of Mr. Omega. I slipped them and ended up on Earth, back in my own front lawn. I took a step and noticed that I’d accidentally materialized with my leg merged with the lawn flamingo and popped it back out. The flamingo went back to keeping an eye on the law, hidden laser ready for any trespassers like Jehovah’s Witnesses or mosquitoes.
I reached out to recreate the exact same connections I had digitally. These powers I have, they warp reality and impose my own on the world. Not enough to just take over the world, but enough to let me repair the stuff this burnt out in me once this power had been thrust upon me. As soon as I had control over my cave and all, I checked on my daughter Qiang and my girlfriend Sam. Qiang was fine, Sam was jabbing Technolutionary with adrenaline to help him get part of a building off his crushed leg while medical nanobots healed him.
I pulled my focus back a little.
Empyreal City wasn’t looking too hot. There was one guy flying around on a metal throne with tentacle-style robot arms coming from it, blasting everything around with beams of Omega energy. Down on the street, a man in blackened metal armor with six glowing red pearls set in it was blasting it out with someone who wielded a sword and gauntlet in one hand that had six of his own spread across them. Those two would blast at each other, with the resulting effect wrecking everything around them.
I needed an alias. I dropped the demon traits entirely and covered myself in a thin but armored costume, enough to cover my skin. Metal angel wings grew from my back because in the moment I figured I’d go with something like Lady Guardian.
Technolutionary was at least stable at the moment. Meanwhile, armor guy and sword guy were getting ready for another round. They fired, straight on. I appeared between them, floating over sand that used to be a street, and caught a beam in each hand. I absorbed them, then turned. I threw metal feathers at the guy in the armor. The dimensional teleporter’s aiming computer had a little trouble latching on in the middle of all this, but my new powers helped. I took the pearls. God, I’m overpowered. And I could be more so. Just gotta eat these pearls… I hid them in my base again.
When I looked up for the other guy, he was just gone. Nowhere around, nor could I track him. So I’m sure that’s a great sign of things to come. So then I flash-stepped on over to Technolutionary and Sam. They were still recovering, but Technolutionary raised a gauntlet toward me and jumped to his feet.
“Relax, it’s me,” I said, opening the mask up.
Sam ran into my arms, hugging me, but then also slapping me. “Where the hell have you been?!”
“Got a little sidetracked with Hell, and, uh, turns out I am a bit different when it comes to these pearls.”
“From my readings, they should have vaporized you in a massive explosion,” Tecnolutionary said. “That’s why people need some other way to harness their power.”
“Well, the good news is that’s not a problem with me. One of those bunch here got away, though. Couldn’t seem to track him, and I can track things you wouldn’t believe right now.”
“This is all worrying,” Technolutionary said, probably also meaning the idea of me being given these sorts of powers. He’s not entirely wrong. But I can hold onto these for a little bit, right? I can already feel more of the pearls out there. Should be easy enough to grab them all up and find some way of keeping them out of the wrong hands.
“Hey,” Sam interrupted my thoughts. “You’re back, right? You, not all this?” she motioned toward my wings.
“Yeah,” I told her, wondering how much I was lying, and how much I was actually myself.
I was once imprisoned in a complex underground prison called the Cube, like a Rubik’s Cube. Been thinking about that now that I’ve actually managed to put together the control for my own base. I need a name for the base itself but for now it goes everywhere. One little cube lets me connect to every seam in the place and change it up. A self-sufficient, transdimensional hideout with access to energy and resources beyond the reach of anyone else. I gave Sam a key that I can turn off from a distance, in case Technolutionary doublecrosses me.
I consider it more of a “when” instead of an “if” situation. My goals and his sometimes cross over enough for us to put aside past betrayals and work together, but it never lasts long. In this case, I don’t know how long he expected me to think we’d work together. There are so many of these Omega Pearls around. They’re just little bits and pieces of this overwhelmingly powerful being that had been trapped between all universes for a long time. He got into our world through a situation that involved possessing my body, and getting kicked out seemed to have left bits of his power around.
The situation’s ripe for shit going wrong. That’s why I have a base that transcends space and the universe, accessible from a control cube floating in the main cave. It was a wonder of technology that could revolutionize the world. I kept it to myself and used it to steal some computer parts real quick. I hefted the box, adjusted the exit to send me to the Skylab.
The Skylab, our cooperative lab, gets its name from the fact that it’s flying. Maintenance robots keep it functioning while, on the inside, we were working on a way to find out the enormity of our task and make it much easier.
We don’t know how much, but Technolutionary and I have come up with an idea. We’ve figured out enough about how people can access the pearls that we believe we can plug it into a computer with a mapping system. We’re going to use the power of satellite technology to try and track down the rest. Worst case scenario, instead of some inherent connection, we analyze its unique energy signature and try to find that around the world minus any hidden deep underground or in lead. Or in other dimensions, like in the Hell Dimensions.
With nothing but hard work, determination, old-fashioned grit, sayings people have heard a thousand times, and an army of robot minions, we assembled our new supercomputer. We threw the code in there, and Technolutionary slapped one of the pearls we had in the “Omega chamber” as he called coffeepot-sized container.
“I thought there’d be more electricity shooting out. You mad scientists love that,” Sam said, sipping on coffee.
Technolutionary cleared his throat, then pressed a button. The entire wall behind our supercomputer revealed itself to be a monitor that flashed lightning across it, thunder echoing throughout the lab. “Does that meet your approval?”
Sam gave him the thumbs-up.
“Good,” I said. “Let’s get this bad boy scanning.” I walked over to the side of the supercomputer tower, packed full of computing goodness, and flipped a switch. The computer’s fan started and the light turned on. A holographic projector in front of the tower turned on, showing a hologram of Earth. Overlaid on top of it was the word “Scanning…”
And it kept on floating there like that. After a couple of minutes, Technolutionary went over to open the tower and look into it. “It’s working, right?”
I brought up the holographic keyboard and the task menu. “Yep. Taking up the entire CPU, too. I think it’s just taking a long time to work.”
Five minutes after we activated the seeker program, a red blip appeared. “We got one!” Sam declared. “And at this rate, you guys can go collect one every time it pops up!”
Technolutionary grumbled to himself. “I’ll grab it if you want.”
I shrugged. “If you want. Looks like this is going to take awhile. I might duck out, go for some I know of in another dimension.”
“Might as well,” Technolutionary agreed.
“What about me?” Sam said, leaning on me.
“I’m going to Hell, and I don’t want to take you with me,” I said.
“Like, a sexy hell, or lake of fire hell?” Sam asked.
I waggled my hand. “I mean, I thought some of the demons were hot, but the place was a floating crag of rust and metal used for target practice, so…”
Sam nodded, took a sip of coffee, and pulled a chair out from the wall. “Looks like I’ll be watching the hologram. You have fun, babe. But if you find a sexy demon…”
I nodded. Just like with how I tried a couple dates with Medusa again, Sam and mine’s relationship is polyamorous. It’s kind of like being polygamous, but without the marriage or the pedophilia.
I barely even needed to get ready. I mean, the power of these portals was at my fingertips via a wireless electronic link. I could drown them in lava, or an ocean. I could drop a blue whale on my enemies, or cast them into the heart of a collapsing star.
Recognizing the signs of a power trip in myself, I decided to slap myself a few times and armor up. I’ve killed too many people who thought the exact same things. I hadn’t even set up a forcefield generator that could project one through a portal to cover me. I checked and rechecked the armor, and made sure all the equipment was doing ok. I even upgraded winrar from the demo to an actual purchase just to make sure something wouldn’t go wrong in the heat of battle. And I expected heat in Hell.
I reappeared, armor computer racing to analyze the situation and project a cloak of invisibility around me. I was back in the big egg-shaped building where I’d disappeared. The damaged globe was gone, as were the pearls around it. There were a few lights left on, but it all looked abandoned and dusty. I hopped outside for a better look, appearing on top of the egg.
A large number of vehicles were parked a ways away, around a set of clear cubes with metal along the edges and corners. Inside, I could see people. Outside, I saw demons. Some more of the ones with all the tendrils, and even a pack of the feral ones that looked humanoid with odd proportions and claws. There were also more conventional demons, with different skintones, spade tails, and a pair of horns up top. They wore suits and labcoats as one of them, a demon with a pair of welder’s goggles on, stepped forward to one of the cubes with a huge batch of Omega pearls.
They were all forced together, a basketball-sized bunch levitating out of reach of his hands. That they moved where he wanted suggested they were under his power in some way. He forced them through the clear portion of the cube somehow, and then they flew at the human. While they glowed red, he made a gesture that left an imprint of azure in the air in front of him, around the pearls, and on the prisoner’s chest. The pearls flew into the human.
So I guess they got impatient with whatever they had planned and tried another weaponization. It was the eyes of the person in the cell that were subsumed into crimson first, then their skin. The clothes they had on were rough with clawmarks, but they burned off as the floated… and then the cube was just gone, prisoner and all. An explosion off in the distance helped me track it again. I looked over there and zoomed in, finding nothing left but a floating mass of pearls and scraps of the cell the person had been in. A child-sized demon in a biohazard suit appeared, scooped them into a plastic container, and then teleported back to the demons at the cubes. I did the same, staying hidden so I could figure out what was going on.
The demon who had done the insertion was babbling to the others in a language that my translator program hadn’t yet figured out. I didn’t have a complete enough sample last time. Then, he approached the other cube and spoke English. “Greetings, mortal. Don’t be afraid. Soon, I will give you more power than you can possibly imagine. You can become a god unto yourself, in the service of elevating us. We are finetuning the spells we use for this, so we will be with you momentarily. And know that if you die, your death will not be in vain. You will have given us the greatest gift of all: knowledge.”
The prisoner in the cell stayed on his knees, praying, trying to drown out the demon. When the demon stopped talking, I could hear he was speaking Spanish. A demon walked up to the head scientist demon and said something to him, who sighed. “It worked in the movies, where all humans speak the same language. Fine. Are we ready? I’m not explaining it to any test subject twice.” He turned around to look at the imp carrying the container, which I was sneaking up on.
The demon scientist raised a finger, pointing one long nail at me. He spat something in his language, then moved his finger around in a circle, leaving yellow symbols in the air. I kicked the biohazard demon out of the way, who disappeared with the container. Its body reappeared nearby, in a crowd of more of the little ones in protective gear. Meanwhile, all the demons around me looked my way, noticing me at once.
“Who are you?” asked the scientist. “Get her!”
Two larger, bony-plated demons with no horns stood nearby in black suits. Flames engulfed their outfits and left them in spiky armor, holding swords. With a wave of my hand, I created a portal from the tips of the swords to the inside of their skulls. The demons guards fell. I turned and opened another portal, bringing me the container of pearls.
Suddenly, I noticed the blue glow on my chest and the container. The pearls flew into me.
Everything went red hot. My awareness exploded. Like instead of having your consciousness focused in your head, through your eyes, everything expanded outward. Past that land mass, past the other islands of the Blasted Place, out from the cluster of dimensional flotsam that is collectively called Hell. I’d been there before. When Omega possessed me, there was far more power than this safely ensconced in my body. I willed myself back to myself, finding myself naked with scarlet skin. I was also in one of the other islands. Doubtless, the demons expected an explosion.
And to think, I hesitated? I feared the power. It felt so good. Familiar. Like sliding back into a bodysuit of godmode. Just for fun, I decided to add a spade tail, pair of horns, and a couple tiny wings. Just a bit to mock them. I realized I could no longer feel my dimensional network, but that’s ok. I took a step from a barren floating island of rust and reappeared in the middle of the demons.
“What did you think the good result was going to be if you turned someone you hated into a god?” I asked. They understood. I had put understanding into the words, regardless of their language.
The head scientist’s lab coat fluttered like a cape as fire and electricity built up in his hands. I raised a hand and dissipated the energy. Then I spread his atoms out until he fell apart like ash.
All the demons lost their shit. I took a look at a few, wondering if I ought to grab one… no… no. That’s not who I am, not even with this power. And I don’t mean because there was a female guard demon and I was wondering how those bony plates work in mating.
I let them go. They couldn’t do anything to me, even use me as a suicide bomb. Instead, I turned to the cubes, and the people within. I thought to myself that I’d like to find out where they came from. Lines appeared in the air, probably only to me. I sent them all back home. I was going to go back myself, but then I got a fitting little idea. I flew far above the whole area. Yes, flew. It’s different even than with the antigravity. The control and the feeling of physics being my bitch… it’s my way of telling the world it doesn’t own me anymore.
A lot of the demons were still fleeing. I shrugged and sent them to other islands. Then I imploded the one they all had been on, smirking. The Blasted Place… I wasn’t done with it yet. I gathered up all the remaining demons. All the little imps were gone, leaving guards and scientists. I brought the entire crowd to me in a protective bubble and let them watch from above this pocket dimension. I intended to wipe out the rest of the land here.
Then I hesitated, thinking of Sam and Medusa and Qiang, and everyone else I care about. “Go home,” I told them. “Leave us alone.” I sent them away. Then I left the Blasted Place. I meant to go home, but something else drew me in. I’d seen it before, a red blemish in the divide between universes. I recognized it now as the remains of Mr. Omega from when he was drawn out of ours. There was another pocket dimension there, a vast expanse of land. I appeared there in front of Mr. Omega himself. No, my newfound awareness told me this wasn’t just a smaller Mr. Omega. This was a piece of him, in the same way the pearls were pieces of him.
“Hello sister,” the Lesser Omega said.
Teleportation is an amazing power with many forms. The version I have lets me walk through a door in my basement and step out into a cave with no entrance to the surface, deep beneath the Earth, with weird stalactites in part of it that look like snow hanging from the ceiling. A corridor from there leads to an old, abandoned military base on a Pacific island near the returned continent of Mu. I’m building more doors. There’s one that leads to the inside of an asteroid where busy automatons of mine chip away at heavy metals and bring them back to be used. Another takes me to the base hidden underneath my shop; it serves as a refuge for criminals and supervillains who need to lie low. Finally, there’s the door that I open to get to the Skylab I share with Technolutionary.
I don’t even need the doors. They make it easier recognize where one place ends and another begins. It’s incredibly powerful, even if it doesn’t sound like it. Sadly, it was used for something like saving people. I mean, it was technically what I was trying to do. It just interrupted me in the middle of stealing really valuable shit.
“Hey!” Sam said, coming up behind me. My girlfriend/minion wore some nice short black jeans with fishnets for me. Well, she wears them because she likes them and I just go along appreciating how they make her look. “What have you been doing?”
I stood at an arch, looking into a bunch of cubbies. I whirled around, holding bonds in one hand, a brick of cocaine in the other, and a pearl necklace of the nonsexual kind around my neck. “What?!”
“First, don’t what me. Second, I’ve been trying to reach you. Technolutionary has an alarm on a big monitor and he says he needs your help.”
I had to be the saddest woman anyone had ever seen in a pearl necklace with a brick of coke and a fistful of one million dollars in someone else’s money. I reset the arch to a more neutral destination: the inside of a space station my robot builders were putting together. The arch has five different sensors that will turn it off in case of hull breach, solar flair, or other dangers.
Sam and I took the door to the SkyLab where Technolutionary was adjusting the view on his Big Monitor. It was divided up, different camera angles focused on a fight going on. He wore his close-fitting power armor, the armor plates adjusting subtly to account for weight distribution. His face was far more recessed in the helmet he had, his faceplate still in his hands.
“What is it, where is it, and why do we care?” I asked.
“Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the where.”
“Now I don’t care,” Sam responded.
Technolutionary brought up one divided window and ran it back. “I was running tests on how to utilize the Pearls. I’ve made advancements, and so have others.” That window framed a still shot of someone in brassy armor with a softball-sized Omega pearl in a backpack firing crimson energy blasts at another super. That one had a trio of smaller pearls, one in a necklace and the other two on leather gloves he wore. He was dressed like some sort of wizard, flying through the air, hurtling fireballs and red lightning at the other one.
I got facial recognition on both, but Technolutionary had already run it and put it on screen. “Brash is the man in the armor. The wizard is Lord Shadeheart.”
Sam gave a golf clap. “Not bad.”
I glanced her way. She shrugged. “Better than your evil villain name being Gecko without a lizard gimmick.”
I squinted in an exaggerated look of hurt and betrayal. She stuck out her tongue at me.
“They’ve been in the local Tuscaloosa news for some time. Shadeheart is a nobody former archeologist who got arrested for stealing and selling minor magical artifacts before he appeared one day with his three magic stones and started hurling thunderbolts. No one had the context when he first appeared to realize what the stones were. Then there’s Brash, who was known for his engineering and exoskeletons in high school that he tried to turn into a superhero career. He managed to rig some good power sources in recent years thanks to recent advances, but then a few months ago he shows up with that red backpack, using it as a source of energy. He probably tapped the core and is lucky he found a way to contain it for now.”
“So one hero, one villain,” I noted.
“Both are walking time bombs,” Technolutionary said. “They’re fighting and this time they both have that Omega energy. Look what’s happening.”
He showed video real quick of Brash firing a beam that hit a squiggly red line of false lightning from Lord Shadeheart. It unleashed a hell of an explosion. The two seemed to be protected by the pearls they used, but cars were blown away and buildings, or what few Tuscaloosa has, shifted and fell. Shadeheart focused his magic on keeping one from smacking into him, while Brash tried to lower one down.
“I suppose we oughta steal those from them,” I said.
“This looks like a job for Supergirl!” Sam said, clapping me on the back. “One hero for the villain, one villain for the hero.”
“What hero?” I asked.
“She means Lady Guardian. Yes, I know it’s you,” Technolutionary said.
“I’m no hero,” I declared.
“Babe, you can be anything you want to be,” Sam whispered in my ear.
I blushed and decided it was still a good time to wear some armor. The Lady Guardian armor zipped over to me and encased by body, hiding any expressions from the world. “So I’ll take Shadeheart?”
Technolutionary sighed and pushed his faceplate into place. “I would prefer to face off against Shadeheart for the challenge and study, but this works better. Let’s get our channels tuned.”
“Same bat channel, same bat time?” I asked. It was really him making sure our encrypted communications were on the same wavelength.
“I’ll stay here and monitor the monitor,” Sam said. It was better than having her out there near falling buildings and massive energy blasts.
I turned to the doorway I used to walk in. “Time to… ugh… save Tuscaloosa.” The door shifted destinations I dove out first, coming out of the sky overhead. Technolutionary ran out and took flight, catching up to me briefly during my free fall before peeling off to find where Brash ended up.
The vaguely-angelic, semi-organic Lady Guardian armor’s shimmery wings were more nanomachines, but I had built in the same antigrav tech I’d stolen for use in the other armor. I adjusted course, aiming to come down right on top of Shadeheart’s head. He surveyed the mess around there and fired off a few scarlet magic bolts that tried to collapse more buildings on Brash. He didn’t notice the growing shade until just before I got there, turning his head to look up.
I crashed into him, feeling one of his shoulders make a snapping noise. We both spun out of control for a moment. He reached at me with one gloved hand that glowed carmine. My “wings” slipped underneath it and yanked the glove off. A burst of red pushed us apart, throwing us in different directions as he used his remaining glove to separate us.
I oriented myself upright and saw he’d encased himself in a maroon orb, naked hand now holding the shoulder of the arm that had a glove left. I unleashed a blinding flash with the suit’s holoprojectors and swooped down below, avoiding a burst of what looked like blaster fire from his glove and necklace.
I came up below, my wings forming tendrals that spread over his orb and guided him upward, rapidly. I opened another gateway just for us and passed through it, releasing the orb into space, the final frontier. Lord Shadeheart didn’t react well. Lots of people don’t under those circumstances. He looked at me, then began to fly toward Earth. He ended up slowing before that, the orb faltering. I caught up to him as soon as it went down, my nanomachines crawling over him to both see to his health and separate him from the sources of his power. We passed through the gate again, coming to rest in the woods near Tuscaloosa.
I’m not fond of what he used that power for, but I’ve done worse. “You’ll live. You’ll be sore for a bit, but you’ll live,” I told him. Gave him a little slap on the cheek. He groaned and stirred. “I’m keeping your gloves, though. Gonna find out how you’re tapping onto these things.”
I changed the destination of the gateway nearby and tossed the gloves and necklace through. “Ow!” Sam said over the radio.
“Sorry!” I called out. “Didn’t realize you were that close.”
Technolutionary broke in. “Watch out! There’s a chopper around, with guns. They’re taking shots at me.”
I took to the air and scanned the disaster area. There were a couple of helicopters, one black and one with the Tuscaloosa Police Department decal on the side, right next to the open door and the rifle barrel. The black copter had something similar going on, but the rifle looked to be much heavier caliber. I flew into the air above the whole chaos. The police sniper trained the rifle on me and let a shot go. The bullet bounced off my tit with an annoying pain, but better than it going into the middle of that. I opened another gateway, appearing immediately in front of that open door and grabbing the rifle from the deputy. I handed him back just the scope. “You can have the rest when you can prove you’ve grown up.”
Then I did the same quick two-step on over to the black chopper. I immediately had an OSR badge thrust into my face. “Lady Guardian, we’re not here for you!” yelled one of the agents inside. I had to read it more than hear it under the circumstances.
“There are better ways to handle the disaster down below than adding bullets to it!” I warned them, pointing down at stunned bystanders in dust and debris. Nearby, I noticed Technolutionary, straddling the back of Brash’s armor and carving off a support strut for the larger pearl. It fell off, Brash’s armor stumbling and jerking. Technolutionary encased it in more of that goop from the Skylab and stuck it under his arm. I opened a gateway behind him that he dove through back to safety. I dropped down below the helicopter, through another one that left me in the Skylab well. I closed up all those ways to get back to us.
Sam stood in front of us, oversized gloves and necklace on. “Mwahahaha! Now I shall be the mistress, foolish mortals!”
Behind her, the monitor declared “Bum bum bum!” and let out old time dramatic thunder.
“Actually, these things aren’t working for me,” Sam said, pulling the stuff off. “Don’t know why, but I’ll go put them in one of the new scrambled cells.” She walked off to go delivery them to safe holding in these small randomized caves all over the world that this one particular portal accesses randomly.
“You didn’t kill Shadeheart, did you?” Technolutionary asked, popping out his faceplate.
I shook my head. “Might be worth one of us visiting, finding out how he could make those work.”
The other villain nodded, then tossed me the ball of goop. “Yeah. This thing looks like it was drilled into. We might learn something from it, but it’s clear we’ve run out of time. That’s three small-timers who figured this out and ended up with the ability to level a city by accident. Imagine if it was someone else like us. Or someone who wanted to do more.”
I nodded, remembering the scale model of Earth in that one Hell dimension weapons testing area. “Yeah. We’ve got a lot more ass to kick on our hands.”
“You want to rethink your phrasing there?” Technolutionary asked.
There we were, in the high school gym, just my ex, myself, and various improvised weapons. They had to use the gym to store some textbooks, chairs, and broken desks that were already wearing out or out of date. What had started as Medusa asking me to attack her while she ran an obstacle course turned into me breaking a small school desk on her back and her stabbing me through the gut with the metal leg. Worse, it simultaneously knocked the wind out of me and gave me a new hole to breathe through.
She paused long enough for me to rip the leg out, but kept going, jumping a final set of hurdles to reach the finish line before circling back around to me and asking, “You ok?”
I nodded. The nanomachines were already dissolving the metal in my hand and using it to temporarily patch up the hole in my belly. “You got stronger.”
Medusa, sweaty, nodded. She still looked sexy wet, even if I knew the smell wouldn’t be the best. And even if it was a little more mature of a look than when I first met her. Not like she’s super old, but I don’t have that hero worship I used to have where I got creepy obsessed with her. “We have our own upgrades.”
I stood up, all good to go except for a hole in my workout shirt. “I was worried I’d gotten too far ahead of you for you to catch up. Guess that isn’t true.”
“Neither of us are in armor,” she said, trying to soothe my ego.
I chuckled. “Yeah. Plus I have the extra bodies. And the extra powers.”
“Come on. We gotta get this place picked up,” she said. Our meeting there was an after-school thing. Just a personal favor for her, since she wants to keep herself sharp. “Unless you need to run off for anything?”
I shook my head. “Nah, dinner’s in the oven for awhile still.”
I could tell she wanted to say something. Just something about her body language was off. Luckily, we were saved by a threat to the world. Her highly-modified phone beeped with a shrill tone. “That’s my world threat alarm,” Medusa said. She pointed at the phone and it went to speakerphone. “Shoot!”
“Uh, yeah, there’s a message here from the President. He wanted to bring us in on a situation where he says an alien attorney showed up claiming to have a signed contract from someone on Earth to buy all of Earth’s oceans and transport them off-world.”
I shrugged. “Looks like you’ve got to go find an ace attorney or something.”
“Yeah. You want to be part of it or…?”
I shook my head. “I’m a lot better at TV law than intergalactic law. If I turn out to have any files on anything, I’ll send them over. And you can call on me if you need my particular set of skills.” I actually did have some documents still saved from one of the times I’d been abducted by aliens. And I imagine the cattle rustlers are going to be annoyed at losing their source of prime beef if these others succeed. I threw in what little I had on the alien peacekeepers and a few contact numbers that might play a part and dropped that off in an Exemplar digital document stash.
I ended up rushing through the cleanup once my ex had to go. Then it was back home, to the girlfriend and kid and the white picket fence. And the augmented reality ghost standing there near my front gate wearing the Technolutionary’s armor. “Hello Gecko.”
“Technolutionary,” I said. “You found this place?”
His armor was still pretty tight against his body, with a metal face over his own. Owing to the digital nature of our exchange, the helmet’s lips moved when he spoke. Or he’s really cyberizing himself. “They don’t hide it as well as you think. I don’t intend to retire, but I thought I would keep tabs on you.” He raised his hands. “Don’t worry. Your family’s safe. I can’t think of any situation where a threat against them actually aids me in the long term.” He finished that sentence quickly. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s another situation going on.”
“Aliens want to steal the oceans,” I said.
The Technolutionary nodded. He seemed to have mellowed out a bit since the last times I interacted with him. He’d always been a creepy fanboy of mine, obsessed with using my anatomy to help humanity progress into a new era of technological supremacy. “If it’s not that, it’s ecoterrorists, crossdimensional invaders, time travel; the bullshit never stops. We need to do better.”
“This is another scheme of yours,” I said.
“Yes, I admit it. I have a plan instead of waiting around for the next big threat to try and wipe us all out. My dream of humanity’s advancement ends if that happens. I’ve studied you. It was your dream, too, in your own unique way. “
See? Creepy stalker. Maybe a bit too ideological and incapable of recognizing my hypocrisy and selfishness.
“You can’t fix people,” I told him. “Not without a good knife and a sewing kit. But as silly, and ignorant, and frustrating as humanity is, you have to work with the fact that they’re individuals. And I guess with the fact that you can’t prevent the next big threat ahead of time.”
“What if you could?” Technolutionary asked.
I took a breath to help bite back my knee-jerk assumption. “This better not be about time travel, because the rules are just straight-up incoherent at this point.”
“No, oh no, god no,” Technolutionary insisted. “It’s not artificial intelligence either. I thought about it, but a computer capable of predicting the future with any true success is smart enough to try and take over itself.”
I didn’t point out that an AI trying to take over was way more likely if its entire way of thinking came from someone who himself wanted to rule the world. He may hide it behind all his talk of improving thing, but Technolutionary’s got that itch. I’ve seen the signs.
The digital ghost held up an grape-sized orb. “It’s this.”
“It’s one of those Omega Pearls. They’re pieces of Mr. Omega’s power, the power you once wielded, orphaned after he’s been banished again. People are realizing they’re out there. Before long, they’re going to figure out how to tap these powers.”
I thought back to the last time I turned into a were-reindeer. We went bowling and a guy showed up with a red suit that, now I think about it, reminds me a bit of the coloring that was such a big part of Mr. Omega. The being really loved red.
“That actually could be the next big thing, yes,” I admitted. “So you want to gather them all up, for safekeeping and allowing you to tap into that power.”
“Wha-? Really? Like I would do tha- yes, you got me. I was going to appeal to you by suggesting we gather them all and hide them, but you got me. The potential is enormous. But if it gets you to work with me again, I’m willing to let you do the hiding. We could stop someone worse, someone who wants to destroy everything, from getting them. And maybe, just maybe, we can use them to stop other threats. We work so good together. Remember what we did with the Homo Machina? This could be the next leap forward, a way to make everyone back off and leave Earth alone.”
Between his know-how and mine, we figured out a procedure to transform a human into a homo machina, my type of human. We’re the latest evolution in humanity on my Earth of origin, and greatly resented because of our abilities that allow us to physically connect to technology like computers and control them as extensions of our own bodies. But aside from that, he had a point. It makes sense that people would try and grab that power and tap into it. That alone sounds like the beginning of a crisis. And being able to use it… well, I don’t know if we can safely do that. Mr. Omega was partially in control, and the worst instincts it brought out of me was mindless destruction.
“Tell you what,” I told him. “You’ve tempted me. Let me think it over a few days.”
The next couple of days saw some super scrambling to handle the alien ocean crisis. Since I wasn’t a direct part of it, I only know so much of what went on. There are rumors that a glowing sphere was seen having something to do with it. And then they brought me in.
“How would you feel about working security?” Medusa offered. “Takes an assassin to stop an assassin kind of thing?”
That gave me a front row seat… well, more like a back alley seat… to the signing of a contract. Nothing major. They ended up setting down on the same island where I worked things out with the alien robots. Maybe it’s becoming a thing, but the tourist industry’s going to really pick up there over an island that’s been home to two intergalactic agreements.
I slunk around the trees, moving all over the place, tapping into NATO drones and directing a few of my own around to help me keep an eye on everything. I still took the time to record it as some demonic entity in a couture suit sat down and scribbled out a contract that left the alien’s encounter suit leaking a thin saline solution. All pretty standard stuff, and I didn’t get the go ahead until the shuttle craft was out of the atmosphere. I swung by where Medusa stood in her dress costume. “All clear?”
“Mostly,” she said. “Earth’s oceans are saved, except for all the pollution and dying species. Now, we just have to pay off the infernal forces of the hell dimensions. They asked for a really big retainer this time.” She nodded toward the demonic lawyer.
“I presume a really large crate of Dr. Scholl’s won’t do the trick?” I offered.
Medusa grinned. “No souls or soles this time, not exactly. This is supposed to be something pretty valuable.”
“Yeah it is, it’s got an effect,” I said, eyes drawn to the armored box brought out. It looked like a really secure pistol case, but the demon insisted on it being opened, showing a red orb the size of a baseball. It felt warm out of nowhere, but maybe that was the hell dimension thing. “What is it?”
“I think it’s an Omega Pearl,” she whispered back.
“Just giving that thing away to demons now?” I asked.
“It wasn’t my decision. Besides, if they try to use it, we’ll stop them. We always stop them,” she turned to wink at me, but her smile lacked sincerity. It’d be hypocrisy to not understand that, given I’m a whole ‘nother deal with the devil she made. So I’ll understand. But I sure as shit won’t trust where this is going. That’s why I tapped into the tracking beacon the UN left on the case. It’ll be found in no time, but at least it’ll give me a headstart.
I waited until I got back home and swept myself for bugs before posting to VillaiNet.
“Who are you?” Technolutionary asked, stepping around me. I heard him moving, even if I couldn’t see him. Just circling around me
Things were hazy. My head didn’t feel right. These drugs they were giving me were utter shit. If they had any of the good stuff, they could get all the high without as many of the bad effects. It made it harder to concentrate on what I needed to be doing. I’d warned Medusa, I knew that. Thanks to the haze I was in, I kept repeating that part over and over again, trying to motivate myself to do something useful. It was like I was caught in a loop.
I finally broke out of it enough to reach out. I knew there had to be some kind of machinery around me, but I guess they didn’t use much bluetooth here, so I was just as blind about that. Either the whole facility was as good at locking down vulnerable devices, or they’d shielded the room I was in. I leaned toward the first because I had sent a text. There’s ways to do it, of course. Doesn’t even always involve lead. Fuck, Superman would be screwed if he went to Flint, Michigan. Perfect arena for Aquaman to take him down.
Someone was tapping me on the forehead. “Huh?”
“Who. Are. You?” I heard this guy ask. Technolutionary. I first ran into this guy on this seasteading settlement these guys were failing at. Technolutionary was taking advantage of the total lack of laws to kidnap people, remove their brains, and replace them with computers that could control their bodies in rudimentary ways. Shuffling, grabbing, biting. More than I could do then.
Anyway, this guy has a creepy crush on me because he sees me as a higher form of being and wanted to turn people into homo machina like me. Damn, I make stupid decisions. No wonder the only people who date me are messed up or of inferior intelligence, like Medusa. Stupid hero, with her stupid integrity and ethics and never giving up on me and her cute butt.
I tried to stick a hand up and point at the sky, but I was still stripped down. “I am the Great and Devious Empress Psychopomp Gecko! Wait, why did I not want to say that?”
“Gecko? Really. What are the odds?” I heard Technolutionary move closer. Mostly I smelled him though.
“Stop eating fish,” I told him. “It’s nasty and they’re lying to you.”
“Interesting. We don’t usually observe the effects of the anesthesia on a conscious subject. Interesting. They scanned you to find out how difficult it would be to replace your eyes and made a note of a number of unusual objects in you.”
“Was one of them a pencil in my wrist?” I said with a laugh.
“I can scarcely believe one of my creations caught you, but they said you lacked your armor. Still you survived the fight. I must pull rank and have you to myself,” he said.
“You don’t wanna do that. I’m a real bitch,” I said, then laughed.
He chuckled as well. “Not when I’m done with you. Let’s put you back to sleep though…”
“I better not wake up with you inside mmmmph,” is all I got out before a mask slipped over my mouth and I was out.
I’m really not sure I trust anesthesia from a bunch of people who don’t care if their patient survives. When I awoke this time, I was sure they hit me with some really good shit, because I could see. I shot up off of a cot I was on and found I looked really different, too. The loop started up again, thinking how weird that was. It was a nicer room than I expected, too. There was a bed nearby, with Dame on it.
Oh wait… that was me. I can tell, because she didn’t have eyes. Which meant I wasn’t me now. I briefly wondered if they scooped my whole damn brain out, but I had a bunch of red hair falling in front of my face. And my body still had my hair. Generally, they’d take that stuff off when removing a brain. Don’t ask how I know.
As I was shaking the hair out of my face, I noticed a mirror on the wall as well. I stepped over to it. My HUD tried to come up with a match on the face that looked back at me, pale but not as freckled as I expected. Weird, I even had heterochromia. One eye was blue and the other was so brown it nearly blended in with the black part you see through in the middle. I had no clue who this person was, though. I couldn’t even try to get an update on my files because I was completely blocked off… except for some weird connection that had automatically been made. I turned and checked my body to see an earpiece attached to the far side of my head.
Cool. I wonder if that means I can be more of these things. I looked down and felt my new self up, then I had a thought and checked this body’s pulse. Good, not groping a corpse. The thought of having a sexy body that’s, like, undead with a bunch of unnecessary guts torn out and stuff just seems creepy AF. Totally cuts down on the sexiness factor.
“I wonder what this was about?” I wondered. I said it a few more times because, again, loop. If I had to put a really accurate transcript of my thoughts at the time, this would be ten times longer and make a quarter as much sense as it does now. I don’t even want to go over how long I spent hopping up and down to look at this woman’s boobs. A little smaller than I preferred, but nice. Kinda weird to think of myself as sexy, too.
Finally, I heard a voice come through an intercom. “How are you adjusting to the extra body, Gecko?”
It was Technolutionary, pissing me right the fuck off. And that’s when my hands lit on fire. I looked down at them, wondering why they’d really be big enough buffoons to stick me in a body with superpowers, but then everything went black. Again. At least this time, I was still conscious, just blind again. Then I heard a hissing noise and went back to unconsciousness, telling myself I’m never sleeping again.
I awoke spitting up some stomach acid and being held upright with my arms tied over my head. I heard alarms off in the distance. Woowee, woowee, woowee, woowee. I started to turn the volume on my ears down, but then I heard a voice. “Let her go, Technolutionary!”
“Medusa?” I asked, trying to turn my head in the direction the voice was from. Hey, it’s that sexy lady who makes me feel hope. Wow, she sent me a LOT of text messages.
“It’s me! Did he hurt you?”
“Uh, he tried to beat me up with a super speeder and keeps giving me drugs. It’s terrible. They’re really cheap drugs.”
I heard a scoff nearby. “This President relied on my work, and still he cut corners. You were to be kept sedated until I trained you nice and properly not to try and kill me in any body I stuck you in.”
“That was a hot redhead,” I said.
I heard the crash of something metal hitting flesh. A gun went off, but didn’t hit me. Oh yeah, I can do that thing where I look through people’s cell phones. Before I could, the bond holding my left hand released. I reached over to the other one to tear and pull until it came loose, too. Bleh. First they give me crappy drugs, then they give me crappy copper? What happened to pride on one’s work?
I slapped myself before I could get stuck in a loop again and realized I had that thing on my ear still. Interesting. Bending over is when I realized that when I was put on display, I had also been dressed in a skimpy dress. While I did that, I tried to see how I could get that thing functional. What I found is it was dead. No battery, or power source of any sort. Instead, it had a wireless energy system.
Well, I can beat that. After all, I’m a power source. When it turned on, I found myself looking through a pair of eyes that were watching as I pummeled Core. I stopped. “Sorry about that. Don’t worry, change in ownership.” I hopped off him. He jumped up and tried to punch me a few times, but I backed off and deflected the blows. Then I reached up and removed that Freedom Legion helmet. I don’t think it was made to be unlocked from the inside, but I did so and turned to try and find me.
I was in a large hangar of some sort, with a control room overlooking it. There I was, up in the control room. Medusa was between me and Technolutionary, who had on purple and red power armor under his lab coat. He floated in the air on jets of flame from his calves and underneath the rear of his coat, outside the window while an armored Medusa looked between him and a guy in a shirt and tie who held a knife to my throat.
I hoped this puppet body resisted heat as well as she generated it. Even without knowing all the intricacies of her powers, seeing Technolutionary again helped me ignite that spark of anger the sedatives threatened to smother. I jumped her up into the air, shooting twin blazing jets of flame behind me from my hands, then tossing a couple handfuls of fire at Technolutionary and at the guy with the knife.
Inside the control room, the guy with the knife pushed me toward the fireball and tried to get out of the way. I dropped, caught his legs between mine, and tripped him. I had his knife away from him in a moment and, after some experimenting, found a place to put it in his chest I was satisfied with.
Through the other body’s eyes, I could see Technolutionary had dodged the fireball and moved closer to Medusa, who grabbed his leg. I jumper my firestarter again, aiming for the window, and landed inside just after Medusa finished smacking him around into stuff. He sprayed her with something that coated her in ice, then pulled free. Turning to reassess the situation, he saw me on one side of him in the skimpy red dress he’d stuck me in, and me on the other side of him in the Freedom Legion jumpsuit he’d stuck that other body in.
“Now, wait a second,” he said, turning to look at my original body. He turned toward the other and caught a fireball to the helmet. He flew up then, launching a rocket to blast a hole in the roof. He almost missed it, too, having damaged one of his calf rockets at some point. Guess that’ll teach him to use me as a damsel in distress, dammit.
That left me and Medusa, who was looking between me. Both of me ran over to her and hugged her. “Who are you?” she asked the Legion puppet.
“It’s me. I think Technolutionary wanted to do some freaky twin thing where he somehow connected me to just the one body,” I said with both voices.
“That is all kinds of creepy,” she responded.
“Can I keep her?” I asked, hugging my other self. I mean, they already took out her brain. Might as well…
“That’s also creepy,” Medusa said. I slumped with body bodies, but then Medusa started chatting into a radio. “Good, disable it Core. All of them.” She looked to the redhead, who didn’t fall over or anything, then stepped over to the broken window. I followed, unsteady between days of confinement and loads of drugs, until I helped myself out with my second body. Through her eyes, I saw a bunch of Freedom Legionnaires fall over. Just not mine.
Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Medusa was looking down at the skimpy outfit I was in. “Were you already in that when he caught you, or did he actually dress you for when he tied you up to distract me?”
“That was him, but it’s nice, right?” I asked, the redhead running her hand down my body.
I didn’t need eyes to tell that she was blushing under her visor.
A few things changed since I’ve been gone. I half expected to come back and see another crisis going on that needs me to fix it. It’s October. A zombie uprising wouldn’t be out of place, especially with the High Technolutionary working with the U.S. Government. Or maybe evil clowns. Those are slightly less used, and I probably wouldn’t get some obscure Romanian or Sumerian version that barely resembles the fun ones.
Heck, even when I save a bunch of aliens, the only reward I get is being dropped on a cow patty with a new mask for my suit and a long-ass hike back to almost-civilization. But the air smells right. The animals sound familiar. And the food is made of less crap. Ah, I’m hardly back and I’m already complaining. I don’t know if that means I’m glad to be back, or I’m just an asshole. A bit of column A and a bit of column B. If the only thing people at that diner have to worry about is me being a grouch after so long without my meds or knowing anything about my family.
I think she’s doing ok. There’s stuff about me being deposed, me gaining godlike powers, and me invading my own country that was trying to establish a Constitutional Monarchy. It’s foreign affairs, so most of the world’s coverage was sketchy, but at least the BBC had some articles and video on the big fight and the effects show of Omega being banished. I got to watch as I got tossed through the same hole in reality. Captain Lightning tried to fetch me before it could happen, but it was closing while I went through. At least it’s clear I’m in the correct universe.
Afterwards, it went pretty smoothly. No talk about my heir, though. Ricca decided it’s going to drop the monarchy part and trust in democracy. Bold choice after the past few years. Queen Beetrice of North Korea formally separated from Ricca and relations with South Korea are friendlier than ever. Most of the colonies on Mu are friendly, but a community of supers and aliens has sprung up calling itself Godland. That’d be the Three Hares colony. The Bronze City recalled its soldiers peacefully and has also separated while they explore options related to more distant relatives of the king I replaced. All of it handled relatively peacefully.
It’s hardly a utopia. There’s lots of rebuilding to be done, and that portal that sucked Omega and me up was followed intermittently by smaller portals all over the world that dropped off junk and creatures that had been lost between universes. Nothing too disruptive, it seems. Nothing like the White House coming back.
In fact, the government under their current asshole is throwing together some Department of ExtraNormal Affairs to handle any of that transdimensional detritus and special superhuman threats to “the country”. I’ll guarantee that last part’s going to be abused. This is the guy who assembled his own gang of faceless superhero bodyguards, then ignored California. Which is in all kinds of interesting legal shape after that mess.
With an ok burger and fries down the gullet, I sat back and let it digest while I looked into Medusa specifically. She seemed like the most obvious one to look for. A quick search later and I found I was right. She’s been busy. She pulled a jailbreak in Hong Kong, stole a bunch of oil from a pipeline in Canada, and destroying a bunch of land-clearing equipment in Brazil. She didn’t do it alone. Some of the soldiers were in repainted Riccan power armor, or costumes. She’s got herself a team.
The latest thing they pulled was wrecking a bank IT center, with some stories saying she stole from it and others claiming she just data. And after that, she left a message that was quickly taken down off Youtube, but not before various news agencies reported on it.
“My name is Medusa. I was a hero. I still am,” it started with her wearing her mask but not her armor. She made eye contact with the camera, which is something her armor’s visor prevented. “I realized the world needs saving in a way most superheroes can’t. You can’t punch climate change. Dirty cops protect each other and put heroes in jail. The rich and powerful take what they want, and sometimes the criminal organization is our government. I thought I did more good as an exemplar for the world to come around to. I was trained to be that model hero, but I can’t do it anymore. I have to save the world. Sometimes, I have to save it from itself. I’m still a hero, but now, I am Medusa. Some call me a terrorist. Now, we are Exemplar.”
Eh, not the name I’d have gone with. I would have picked something like Nox or Dusk, personally. It was a solid piece of monologuing, though. And the name did lead to a handy bit of wordplay when she was referred to as an ex-hero turned exemplar. It gave me a name to search for, too.
On VillaiNet, I was glad to see my old access still worked. I was old news by now. That happens in such a fast-paced news cycle, though there was something of a betting pool on wondering when I’d return. Their logic was sound. I’ve either faked my own death or nearly died enough times before that it’s not confirmed until the body is seen publicly. Others thing it’s a waste of time because I might change my appearance completely and hide as someone else.
Medusa’s not on there. Mix N’Max has an account, but it says he hasn’t logged in for a couple months. But a little look-see revealed that some villains claim to be working for Exemplar. My lead came from one named Core who supposedly got arrested.
Core got nabbed in Louisiana. Some town called Belle Blanc. The Freedom Legion had been there, and he’s currently being held in some specialized super jail in Shreveport. I ordered some applie pie to go as I made up my mind to help him with bail. I didn’t know if his talk of working with Medusa was just boasting, but I’d figure it out a lot more quickly after I got him out. He was a lead, one I knew how to find.
I walked out, across the street to a two-story motel, and looked at my options. On the one hand, there was a trio of motorcycles crowding a parking space. Tempting. Another had an autumn red Plymouth fury in it. I’m kinda sick of that color at the moment. The only other occupied space held an RV. That really narrowed my options down.
I made great time, like many people do when traveling through the early hours of the night and ignore all those pesky signs about speed limits. That meant the guards at the William J. Lepetomane Correctional Facility For The Differently Criminal got one hell of a surprise when, a little after noon, an “Aoooga!” horn heralded the RV crashing through the fence and then wall of the facility.
At first, I thought I landed in some forsaken and forgotten series of back rooms they use for the hidden torture, but the supply closet and printing room clued me in to having crashed the Administrative section. It wasn’t a full-blown prison, and it was shockingly cozy. Everything was some shade of sickly yellow or shit brown. But not the kind of rich brown you think could grow a mighty oak from it. The kind of pale brown where you wonder if you’re getting sick. Listen, I normally keep a weapon handy in the bathroom. Of course I’m going to check to make sure nobody’s trying to assassinate me up the shit shute.
Speaking of shit shutes, the people who responded did not look like they’d seen their best days. The first one bounced off of me, made easier by me being invisible. The one after him skidded to a stop to help their comrade up. They left themselves wide open and their shirt untucked. I’ve heard the sounds of the dead on the battlefield and the rattle of murder victims in damp alleyways. The ripping noise of grabbing somebody’s underwear and tugging it up onto his head is one of my favorites. Throwing him onto his back and hearing his head bounce off the linoleum is a bit of a letdown by comparison.
I tried to have fun with it. I mean, if I can’t, it’d make this miserable work. Medusa has to like beating people up, too, otherwise it’d be really miserable for her and any other heroes pretending to be villains. Like, take this one woman who rounded the corner and smacked into me. She didn’t go down like the other guy, but did bounce back slightly. I grabbed her chest and the bra underneath her shirt and undershirt. Setting a boot on her belly, I kicked her, knocking her into another couple of guards and bowling them over even as I removed her bra right through her tops.
Nah, guards and the desk workers were easy. I made it into the holding area before too long, and the doors seemed to be built to mundane security specifications. The reason why became apparent when I got into the main holding area and found the rooms there where people were stacked four deep. Each one had a power dampening collar on. I became visible again, looking like an indistinct figure in a black robe and hood that completely hid my face. I tore began tearing open doors, asking, “Anybody seen Core around here?”
The first bunch stayed where they were. The second group scurried out without bothering to answer, but this guy with a teardrop tattoo under his eye nodded his head toward a second-story room across the cell block. “He’s in A27.”
I flourished a bow. “Thank you, my good dude.”
I still tore open a few more doors on my way over there. Not all of them would try to escape. Most had to realize they couldn’t get too far with their powers turned off. Maybe some weren’t thinking, or some had plans in case something like this happened. But enough of them began running for it that I thought made for useful chaos.
I tore open the door indicated by teardrop tattoo. “Hey, y’all? Is this 2B or not 2B?”
“This is A27,” said a guy in a radiation suit. Couldn’t get a look at his face through the blue glow from inside.
“I’m looking for Core,” I said.
Behind him, the other three inmates silently pointed at the guy in the radiation suit, who raised his hand and pointed at himself with a thumb. “That’s me. Did Medusa send you?”
“Not exactly, but I’m a friend,” I said. “Do you need that suit? I didn’t have a plan for that much conspicuousness.”
“I can’t control the nuclear core without my powers. I have to have it with the collar on.” He pointed at his neck. I felt around through that section of the suit and found a bulge. I got both hands on it. “I’m going to need you to tone down the glowing and irradiating as soon as I tear this off. You ready for this?”
Core nodded. The other three inmates behind him shook their heads in rapid disagreement. I tore the collar apart, tearing Core’s suit open in the process. The blue light quickly faded and he pulled off the suit to reveal a man in pale, sickly brown poo-colored pants and a chest with shifting metal armor plates built into it that closed over a core.
I stepped back so he could follow me out, catching the sounds of fighting and the crackle of electrical discharge. Core followed me out. “Do you have a way to get us out?”
Behind me, somebody who had gotten their collar off let out a trumpet as he transformed into a bipedal elephant man and jumped through what had been a reinforced window just prior to his impact with it.
“Depends,” I responded. “You need to recover anything they took from you?” When he shook his head, I pointed up to the hole. “Then that’s how we’re getting out.”
He actually paused to raise his face to the sky and smell the air. The guy got caught like a week ago. I had to grab him and drag him along with me. “Escape now, sniff later.”
In the paraphrased words of deceased cyborg president Richard Nixon: “Gecko’s back!”
I didn’t much care for the Imperial Institute of Science on my first tour. Even on this auspicious day, I didn’t much care for the place. Ok, so I made sure to bring Qiang along with me, as usual. She’s still clingy, but this time I had something in mind. We talked about it beforehand. She doesn’t know much, but she knows I haven’t hurt her like she was told would happen to her. Instead, I cook for her, I’ve given her a nice place to stay and warm bed, and I don’t mind when she wants to practice her hiding. I think she’s impressed I can find her so easily, and I like the fact that a tiny person who likes owning a knife enjoys hiding around the place, so long as she’s my tiny person.
We’ve compromised on that. I’ve taught her some knifeplay, including safety, and she asks me before carrying around a knife with her. I think it and I both make her feel safe. Not so fond of waking up in bed with the blade near my crotch, though. She can hug onto me all she wants, but I don’t want to get an accidental circumcision because she had a bad dream about snakes.
Things have been fairly smooth so far between myself and Qiang, and I think it helps that I don’t give a crap about some of the messes and we have a pair of maids. I don’t even think I’m that bad to them. I cook for myself. I don’t puke all over the place. Hell, I haven’t even been taking them up on the offers to bathe me or sing me to sleep. It’s not that I dislike sex or anything, but sex with unwilling partners brings back bad memories. I don’t trust them to be making those offers of their own volition, given my situation here.
If these goose-stepping fuckbots ever decide to have me assassinated, I’d rather the people in what amounts to my household don’t have any extra reasons to help them.
And I do expect assassination. If I had to guess, they’ll watch me while I make bombs until they know enough to recreate them, then off me. I’m considered something of an untrustworthy person, I believe.
That’s why I was incredibly suspicious of the special underground route to the Imperial Institute of Science. The second time around wasn’t much better, but it was an important day. The day to get my species back, when I could start working over Russia and the Ukraine. I also had something in mind with Qiang, which is why I made sure to bring her, knife and all.
I had been ushered down to the underground maglev line for the event, the servant not arguing with me bringing a knife-wielding little girl with me. Huh. Didn’t I have some other little girl following me at some point? Pale, long black hair, all that? Or am I thinking about the tall, thin guy in the suit with the weird arms and no face? It’s hard to keep track of these things.
It was also hard to gauge the route to the Institute of Science. Between the speed, the turns, and the various giant doors that blocked off regular intervals of the track, they didn’t want anybody know how to get from point A to point B. Those doors were a big problem for me. All it would take is one of them “malfunctioning” and I’d be nothing more but a pretty splat.
The arrival platform was gleaming white. Seriously, how many people does the Claw force to work in janitorial around here? Everything’s clean, and there’s way too much white.
We walked between a pair of arching stone arms that rose up to hold a sword in one and an atom in the other. The room appeared to narrow, but not as a trick of perspective; it actually narrowed to a single metal door that held an elevator. This time, the assistant didn’t take me down to the Experimental Warfare labs, which was all about lateral thinking in warfare. I was impressed by their suicide drone bombers. I can see all kinds of handy situations for those.
This time, we went down to Soldier Enhancement. The door opened, leading to a long corridor. This is the part where you’d expect windows showing cyborgs and genetic experiments and all, but this was one of those cases where the Claw chose practicality over theatricality. I’d been told on the first trip this is where they did that kind of thing, but I hadn’t been down here myself.
The assistant led us down, then took a right at the crossroads. When the door opened, it looked like some mixture of an emergency room and quarantine. Think one huge semi-private room, with some sort of thick plastic cubes with decontamination showers outside each of the doors. They weren’t perfectly clear, so at least the people inside had a tiny bit of privacy.
We were greeted by a man in close-fitting purple and blue power armor with a lab coat, a smile across his exposed face. “Psycho Gecko, how wonderful to see you again!”
“Technolutionary, you’re here,” I said. Power armor notwithstanding, he’d long been studying the merging of man and machine. My ability to do so naturally turned him into something of a stalker for me. I worked with him to save the Earth from alien invasion. We came up with a process to turn humans into my species, homo machina. When Master Academy saved my life but rendered me human, it wasn’t a surprise to learn he’d been part of it. Now, time to render unto Emperor Gecko that which is Emperor Gecko’s.
“The dynamic, devilish duo, together again at last!” exclaimed my former stalker.
“Word,” I said. “I’ve certainly been waiting a long time for this meeting.”
He looked down and noticed Qiang, who hid against my leg. “And who is this?”
“This is my daughter, Qiang,” I said. I felt her grip around my leg tighten.
“I didn’t know you had a daughter. I didn’t know you would bring little Qiang to watch her daddy’s transformation.” He looked up at me. “I have everything ready to get started.”
“What about the homo machina DNA? That’s still good to go?” I asked.
He nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes. The Buzzkills from Korea have all the samples we would ever need, you dog you.” He pointed to a wall, where fuzzy black carapace floated in a jar. Buzzkills, insectoid bee people I used as my minions for a little bit, mostly related to the alien thing. Their queen, Beetrice, had something of a crush on me for some reason. Strange bee reasons, and I think because I’d been such an important presence in her life. While bigger and stronger than me, I’m not opposed to the bee look or the Amazonian stuff, so I did eventually go for some snoo snoo with her. So now I guess I have lots of kids. Not sure how I feel about whatever put one in a jar for all this.
“There is an additional concern I have,” I said. As near as I can tell, Qiang has no understanding of English. She can tell when she’s being addressed and called, but that tends to involve her name, too. “Do not look at her, but I would like her to be altered as well.”
His head cocked slightly. “She isn’t homo machina?”
I shook my head. “In fact, we might need to replace an X chromosome of hers.
He thought it over for a moment, eyes looking upward. “She’s not really your daughter, is she?”
I grabbed his chin and looked him in the eyes. “Yes, she is.”
I settled into my quarantine square. Qiang insisted on holding my hand and staying with me, which would make my plans for her easier. I spoke to her in her language. “I am getting back my powers, but they have to treat me and I might get sick. You may get sick too. The man I spoke to said we will be stuck in here for at least a day, and you will have to stay with me, ok?”
“How will we eat?” she asked.
“They’ll bring us food,” I said.
The process had supposedly been made safer, but it still felt like shit. I was loaded up with regenerative nanites to keep myself running and to help spread a retrovirus that went in and inserted the correct DNA where it needed to go, while helping accelerate growth so I don’t have to wait until everything gets replaced. Hell, some parts of the human body would take far too long for that.
I got achy, tired, weak. They certainly suspected the range of options to trigger the dead man’s switch I bragged about having connected myself to my bomb. Anything to keep my heart from stopping, though. I recognized a strange smell at one point, soon accompanied by a little dulling of the senses. Qiang, in a chair next to my bed, fell right to sleep without ever dropping my hand.
Some of Technolutionary’s team came in, immediately prepping a little bed to set as closely next to mine as they could. By the time she woke up, I was there to hold her hand and tell her she had gotten sick like I said might happen. Things got a bit messy there. She threw up. While cleaning her up, I threw up. That prompted her to throw up some more. She started crying, so I held her and told her she’d be just fine, all the while grinding puke into us both.
And it was. We were fine the next day, and they let us shower thoroughly.
Technolutionary was there to greet us as we came out, all clean. “How are we feeling today?”
Qiang doesn’t understand English, but from the glare on her face, she didn’t appreciate his cheerfulness. I concurred, I just didn’t show it so well. “I feel more like myself.”
“You want to test it out?” he asked.
Five minutes later, he showed us into one of the Soldier Enhancement labs that had its own firing range. “Here is where we test our weapons,” he said, showing off a gun that featured no trigger. “And that is Hyuk. He was a prisoner of war, but he is useful and cooperative, so he has been put to work here.” He nodded toward a guy cleaning standing out on the range, messing with something hanging from the ceiling.
“Cool,” I said, grabbing the gun and grinning wide as I felt my body reach out and connect to it. I could feel the system inside and find the simplistic program to fire it. I raised my arm and the gun. “At last, my arm is complete!” Lovely musical, though not the best quote for the situation in retrospect. I turned and fired, shooting some bright blue ball projectile, hitting Hyuk in the hip and collapsing him. Then I noticed he’d hung a target up for me. I’d just assumed, him being a prisoner and all.
“He’s not the target!” Technolutionary called out.
I shrugged and pulled away, removing my hand a bit too soon. It’s been awhile. “You’re right, I need to work on my aim. Was trying to hit him in the dick. Hey, you still got a dick, right?!” I then turned to Qiang, who was looking back and forth between the gun and Hyuk. “Want to play too?”
So now my Qiang is homo machina, like me.
“If reasonably possible, try to take resistors alive. If they act more like mindless zombies, don’t bother. We could restore their brains, but that’s just the hardware. The software would be gone. And if they’re aliens, kill them. Unless they offer a surrender,” I informed the men in my Australian expedition via Electric Eye Sydney. They didn’t look too happy to be working for me, and it didn’t help that this Electric Eye wore a dark cloak and black leather clothing to hide its appearance.
Elsewhere, a voice asked, “Talking to yourself?” My actual physical head swiveled toward the source of the voice. Someone was actually there in my “throne room” back in The Hague in the Neither World. My eyes found Venus, my longtime archenemy. She’d escaped awhile back, and apparently traded in her Slave Leia costume for something more practical. I ignored her while my mind concentrated on the task of dealing with the situation in Australia.
“We know Technolutionary is using the Sydney Opera House as a forward base. It’s a supervillain thing.” It really is. I wrecked the Statue of Liberty once, and destroyed the Empyre State Building in Empyreal City. It’s about showing off. Rarely does a supervillain gain infamy from blowing up Alberto’s Taco Cart or burning down a Burrito Bell. Depending on the frequency of dysentery in a population, the latter might even make them a hero.
“It doesn’t matter to him if anyone volunteers for any of his experiments. Some of the locals claim that anyone who does volunteer, he turns into the same species of human as Pyscho Gecko. Those who don’t gain a new outlook on life. A computer-in-the-brain outlook on life. Simmons, what are the Fluidics doing?”
Back in the Hague, my translation program worked to solve the problem of military jargon and give me a basic understanding of what the man said. Roughly speaking, there are between a dozen and two dozen aliens in Sydney attacking cell towers, radio towers, satellite uplinks, and anything else that extends my control over the population there. They are scavenging parts and equipment as well. We couldn’t get close enough to see what. On top of that, they’re fighting Technolutionary. They launch attacks every now and then, especially whenever Technolutionary sends a convoy of human-bots off into the wilderness of the Australian interior. If I had to guess, they weren’t onboard with Technolutionary’s little rebellion. It might even be why the shield wasn’t operating at full capacity, though there were too many other factors to tell for sure.
The original briefing involved significantly more acronyms.
“Yes, we’ll try to avoid taking on the aliens. Remember: the enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. Don’t get me started on enemies who like to keep sea life as pets, because that’s my enemy’s anemones and signficantly more complicated,” I warned them, in part because “enemy’s anemones” is really fun to say. “I suspect following a convoy would lead us to the ship. I won’t tell you the best way to do your jobs, since y’all have your own way of kicking ass and taking names. The Recon Marines have secured transportation, so they’re task is to find the enemy ship, infiltrate it, and damage to the point of failure anything that looks like one of these drawings.”
Electric Eye passed around some drawings I worked hard on, in the sense that I had the robot connect to a printer and create them based on what I managed to pull off the ship I’d commandeered that time, and the shuttle I crashed back to Earth on. They presented the soliders with depictions of the ship’s reactor and capacitor, power transfer nodes and a few important backup fuses, and the shield system itself. Any one set of targets and redundancies should incapacitate the shield.
The marines left, a pretty good bunch. While some would disparage the brains of men and women in the armed forces, recon marines have to be especially tough and bright for their job. Typically, they leave the officers behind and head into hostile territory in smaller groups, to infiltrate, sabotage, and neutralize. A hands-off mission to sneak in and blow shit up is right up their alley. So off they went to slay a dragon and win a fancy-ass sabre while I nailed the kidnapped princess.
“Don’t you ever turn on a light in here?” Venus asked again from where I sat. I preferred the darkness there, actually.
I broke away from Electric Eye to address her. “I’m surprised you came back, but I’m busy.”
“You were busy the other day, too,” she said. Then I remembered her comment on me talking to myself hadn’t been the same day.
“You could say I’ve been distant. Mind elsewhere.” I looked down at her as she approached. Instead of looking directly at me or even sizing up my armor, she focused on the IVs pumping needed nutrients into my body.
She read one of the bags. “What are you doing?”
“Eating takes up time. There are too many problems. One moment, there’s a riot starting in Texas.” I concentrated a moment, going elsewhere. “It’s over with. One riot, no rangers.”
“Step down, please. This is going to end badly for you when it ends. Why is it so important for you to kill yourself?” she asked.
“Killing myself, secondary concern. You got what you wanted. I am putting my talents to better use, helping people. One phone-recorded mass rape in India stopped. Mass transit groping in Japan detected. Terminating. I appear to be one of the few thinking with the correct head on this planet. I- oh come on, you Pakistani bastard, it’s a fucking chicken!”
She turned on a light. “At least something’s ending the robot speak of yours. You can’t control the world. It isn’t right. Someone will kill you. It’s the only way anyone can put up with you now.”
“Didn’t I tell you, under the influence of truth potion, that I was distracting myself before? This is me without distractions. One moment, someone in Kenya is wearing a leisure suit. There, another injustice fixed. This is the greatest good I can do for the world. This is the only way I can protect it.”
“The only way you’ll protect it without admitting you are wrong.”
Keeping track of her peripherally, my eye flitted all over the place as I saw things that weren’t there in the room with me, checking up on the world and keeping a portion of my attention fixed in the fuzzy image of Australia. “What are you trying to solve by talking to me here? This is useless and will not end the threat you perceive of me. Besides, it is within the right and potential responsibility of those gifted above their fellow man to guide the rest, as !Chinin said. Sorry, as one of the Founders of the United States said, too. I can look it up later, but this is why I prefer references your world can understand. Either way, the reasoning to the superiority of representative government over pure democracy is sound.”
Venus slapped me across the helmet. “This isn’t what I wanted from you. This isn’t being a hero!”
“I’m sorry if I defied your expectations, my dear Venus. I am not maintaining a status quo I do not believe in. I am helping billions instead of dozens. I just put out a fire in Irkutsk. I just reticulated a number of splines in Macedonia. Someone attempted and failed to rob a bank in Lima. I-…I wish I could sleep. There are too many problems. I am everywhere. Every cry for help I ever imagined, I now hear. I can’t stop them all. I can’t save them all. I can’t even punish them all. At least I’m trying. How dare you, Venus? How dare you hate me! How dare any of you?! Not one of you ‘heroes’ has even tried.”
Venus folded her arms. “Yes, some of us have. Remember Sexahol? You thought that was wrong, too.”
I remembered. An intoxicant hit the streets. Anyone who took it experienced affection and lust. It all turned out to be a plot by an old, retired hero to fix the world. His name was Breakdown. I resented being drugged and used my armor’s life support and filtering to stay sober. I also resented him trying to make a deal with me by offering me various Sexahol-drugged women, including Venus and Leah, a runaway that I went on to mentor briefly.
“You are seeing why we can’t. Even you can’t save everyone, and you’ve done something no one ever has before. No one wants to move forward with all these things you want to do, and I bet they move slowly in spite of your threats. We had to be drugged to be nice and loving to each other. It made us something we aren’t. You haven’t quite done that yet, but it would be the only way to accomplish what you want, and you don’t like it,” she went on, making a good case. She hadn’t yet gotten used to the fact that she herself was no longer human, it seemed. Thank Technolutionary for that one.
“I hate you so much sometimes, Venus. You’re like the little conscience I never had. I’m trying, ok? Not even that’s good enough for you, I guess. Now, I have to deal with aliens and Technolutionary in Australia.”
She looked disappointed, but told me, “Kick his ass.”
I hate her and love her so much. I sure did pick a good archnemesis.
Over the next few days, the SEALs and Eye struck against Technolutinary. Between the Australian military, the Fluidic aliens, and my guys, he could no longer risk convoys or even hunting parties to obtain more human-bot bodies. It didn’t help him any that the Aussies were evacuating their people as much as possible now they had a clearer understanding of what Technolutionary did to people.
Taking out the other supervillain didn’t even matter so much to me. The primary goal of the expedition was the shield. Once it fell, I’d have a world’s worth of military might to rain down on him. Under siege, Technolutionary could no longer reinforce the ship.
Finally, Eye received an acknowledgment from the marines that they found the ship and were going in. Technolutionary must have had some sort of communication with his minions there as well, because he made a push with all his forces, heading in that direction.
Well, as many of his forces as he could. The humans helping him seemed to peel off and stop in the face of the firepower arrayed against them, having neither the loyalty of the human-bots, nor the flying power armor of Technolutionary himself. Eye saw his form-fitting purple armor fly off, emotionless metal face hiding any panic in his real one.
But Electric Eye had rockets. Eye flew and caught up to Technolutionary, timing it so Eye’d catch him just past the edge of the city. He turned and unleashed a cloud of micro missiles. Eye threw off my cloak, letting them suffer premature detonation as the robot closed the distance. He seemed surprised when Eye reached into the top of my back-mounted aquarium, pulled out an octopus with a bit of blue on it, and tosses it at him. Unfortunately, it hadn’t kept very well. Neither did those really bitey clams. Even worse, there had simply been no way to bring in a shark.
Still, it distracted him enough for me to get close. He could blast those animals all he wanted, so long as it let me close enough to whip out my Koala-chuks. The critters were ornery and more than happy to claw away at the armored man Eye swung them at. Then again, most animals would have that response if they had a stick of wood shoved up their ass with a chain attaching it to another of stick of wood shoved in another koala’s ass.
“Who are you?” he asked, bringing his palms together to fire a burst of white-hot plasma at me that Eye effortlessly deflected with a now-sizzling marsupial. He maneuvered backward, firing to suppress me and keep his distance.
A distorted voice answered, singing. “I’m made of metal! My circuits gleam! I am perpetual, I keep the country clean! I’m electric, Electric Eye. I’m protecting, electric spy.”
With that, Eye switched the Koala-Chuks to my left arm. I fired the rocket on that arm, which disconnected and flew at him, koala’s spinning. While he shot at it, Eye fired my right arm on a course for the other villain’s metal codpiece. Ding, ding, ding! It’s not the sound of game show victory so much as repeated armored groin punches.
Technolutionary punched something into a control panel on his left wrist, then slashed at the groin punching arm. A glowing beam sword erupted just in front of his left hand and cut through the rocket. He swung it up to disarm the other hand of its koalas, leaving one to scream for help as it plummeted back to earth.
Seeing that, Eye fired the legs next. They circled him for a few seconds. Then he jerked around, remembering the ship. His armor carried him off, with Electric Eye following. The robot tried to throw him off while avoiding the blade, doing little more than banging its foot uselessly against an ass ensconced in purple armor. Eye even managed a good headbutt at one point, which I like to think justified the decision to add a robotic butt to this Electric Eye robot.
Before long, Eye saw the ship in the distance. But before either of us could reach it, the transparent shield rippled and faded away. I felt whole again. And angry. And like a man who suddenly controlled a lot of aircraft, anti-air missiles, and drones. Electric Eye stopped and let him continue his useless pursuit of the ship. The missiles launched by those lovely American aircraft under my command convinced him to do the same as he dove into the wilderness avoid them. We lost track of him, last heading so far west, he’s probably at the Hutt River. Well, he’s Jabba’s problem now, and if he ever resurfaces, he’ll be in deep Bantha poodoo.
A helicopter helped get the recon marines out of the area before another set of missiles made sure Technolutionary wouldn’t have any more alien ships or forcefields to cause trouble with.
As for the aliens, if they hadn’t surrendered, I’d have housed them in a smoking crater. The fact that they did…well, I could say that I listened to my conscience, annoying as she is, and let someone live. Or I could focus on preparing this new statement I’ll release in a few days about how, thanks to the treasonous efforts of a resistance leader named Technolutionary, the evil, genocidal, mind controlling Fluidics managed to escape in a pair of shuttles, no doubt to gather reinforcements. If I keep this up, I’ll have people practically salivating to follow my lead every time I ring a bell and claim “Aliens want to attack us for our freedoms!”
Just think, some critics actually claim I can’t control what people think.