My victory was short-lived, or so it felt. It’s kind of hard to understand time in this context. Things feel shorter and longer, and my HUD clock reads “Fuck it, IDK”. I was working in the lab late one night when my eyes beheld an eerie sight. It wasn’t a creature or an experiment I made, though I wanted to. Alexander claims he doesn’t need any subdermal protective mesh or musculo-skeletal material enhancement.
Nor was it the result of this interesting fungal bread the whole bunch seems to like. Apparently you’re not supposed to eat as much as I did this once.
No, this was my basement window warping and growing. I figured this was the house’s doing, so while it drew my attention and concern, I settled for throwing on my fully-repaired armor and calling out to those above, “Hey! We have a situation down here!” I didn’t hear a response, but I set up this nifty new weapon I’d built with some of the concepts and technology laying around here.
The window grew wider and stretched down to the floor. Then it shattered and through it jumped that oversized suit of power armor that looked like an iron maiden with arms and legs made of girders. I was actually standing with my back to the window when that happened, but I’d set up the big void gun. I didn’t have a good name yet, since this bunch already took “void cannon” for the smaller version. Void Launcher, maybe.
I thought I’d already killed this Iron Maiden thing before now, but no big deal. I smacked the Void Launcher’s firing button and dropped down under the barrel. It gathered energy and spewed a mobile extradimensional wormhole encased in a forcefield that shattered upon impact with the Iron Maiden. The wormhole was small and localized, in the sense that it tossed everything within a nine-foot sphere to the void between universes.
I have no idea how accurate the jargon and nomenclature is on the sciency-sounding shit I’m saying, but I know it fired a contained ball of “hole in universe”. That wasn’t enough to get rid of all of Iron Maiden, but the body that I get its name from is gone, leaving parts of the arms and legs behind.
I was ducking around it to try a second shot but something struck it right down the barrel, and then electricity jumped off it to shock me.
From behind the meat shield that had been the Iron Maiden came a veritable “Who’s Who?” of people I’ve pissed off before. Leading the charge was Lone Gunman, who was dead in my timeline. I had attempted to kill him several times when he was the sidekick of another super, Six Shooter. He then turned murderous vigilante when I succeeded in killing Shooter. That lasted until I killed him.
Next was a woman in flowing purple robes. The HUD had to recognize her: Miss Tycism, a magical heroine I offed years ago. Next was a woman in a shiny suit of pink and gold armor that looked a lot like an advanced version of Medusa’s suit when she was Venus. She was standing next to a hulking man with an artificial body that was as smooth in form and movement as if it was organic. His head was furry and resembled a sloth. That’d be Human Sloth, Venus’s super boyfriend I killed.
“Ok, I think we need to have a talk-” I started, but that’s when the lightning impaled me from through that portal. The last one to float on in was Captain Lightning, the magical superhero. Unlike the others, I never killed this one. The costume was the same as I was used to, but he was darker skinned; probably the apprentice and successor that Captain Lightning took on. Some future version pissed off at me about something I have yet to do, unlike all the dead people. Yes, even Venus. I killed a future version of her once.
What’s sad is that these are just some of vengeful dead they could have brought back from recent history to kick my ass.
I was weak after the lightning, so I activated a drone to the side, meant to attach to my power armor and supplement its strengths with a rotating sawblade and flamethrower. I flew it at the bunch instead. Neo Human Sloth grabbed it in his claws and tore it apart.
“Hold on, guys, don’t tell me you’re working for the guy who wants to wipe out most of existence and all superheroes too,” I said, hands up. With a moment to breath, I left an illusion in my place and crawled to the side. I came up to the side of Captain Lightning, trying to keep my suit where it could maintain the lie.
“We’re here to stop the person who beat and kidnapped Forcelight, and killed most of us,” Venus said.
All of you, dear, except Captain Lightning II. He’s the one who whirled around to face me and went to punch me. I raised my hands, activating the systems I’d replaced my energy sheaths with. After that failure with Darklight, I decided implement more of that Void Cannon technology. From my forearms down became engulfed in the pure lack of existence. And then the gauntlets crapped out and left me without all-powerful invincibility. Every version of Captain Lightning punches hard. And then mystical rings of runes wrapped around my arms and pulled them around my body. I let loose a paralyzing banshee’s shriek but more runes surrounded my face. Nobody fell, but Miss Tycism did a bunch of hand gestures that were probably responsible.
Venus raised an arm and used a flamethrower of her own, torching my nanomachines. Human Sloth grabbed me and lifted me up. And our buddy Lone Gunman stepped up to point a gun at my head from pretty close by.
“So… this it?” I asked the bunch.
Miss Tycism raised a hand, her voice echoing, “Sleep.”
I woke up in a clear cube in a room of white walls, floor, and ceiling. Just pure white. It was painful, and might have been where the glow of light came from. Venus stood on the other side of the clear enclosure. “Well, if this is meant to be an afterlife, I’d like to speak to a manager,” I said, standing up and looking around. My armor, which I’d been left in, was getting nothing from this whole room except acknowledgment that Venus was there. “So, when are you from? The big fight between me and the copy of my mind y’all downloaded?”
She nodded. “That’s the one. Forcelight came to me before I could dig you up. Offered to show me how much worse the world would be because of you.”
“You should really have a chat with the version of you from when I left,” I said.
Venus shook her head. “You’re here because most of us wanted to take you alive. It was important to Forcelight.”
“Yeah, she’s getting paid to help destroy the universe with the opportunity to kill me. You’re not in with a good bunch. But you and the others being tempted is my fault, too. What about my friends?”
She shrugged. “Lightning, Forcelight, and the others wrecked the place, but time pirates stopped by to loot the fight. Maybe they survived.” A column of light appeared around her. “Looks like I’m off. I hear Jaguar Slayer’s got a better world in mind for me and my friends.”
Venus disappeared and was replaced by Darklight. Formerly Forcelight, until she got burned in my murder of her. Jaguar Slayer nabbed her just before her death. “Ah, here to kill me!” I greeted the person I’d so recently beaten and captured.
“Here to gloat,” She pulled her mask off so I could see her laughing at me.
“So, how is this going to happen?” I asked.
“I’m going to drag it out and let you see as your whole life is destroyed. You’re at my mercy now, and that prison there is completely immune to anything you are capable of, and several things you aren’t,” she says. “You exist at my leisure here. I want to see you crying and begging.”
She paused as if to let me respond. “What about my life? Going to wipe out more of me?”
“You’ve got a kid, loved ones, friends. Even a reputation. I can take it all out. I’ll turn your family against you. You want to see your friends broken and betrayed. Or your reputation. Time travel to every moment that fueled your reputation and undercutting it. You’re going to be a joke. Psycho Gecko is going to be the joke it always should have been.”
“All of that to have me cry and beg?” I asked. “I can give you tears without you hurting other people and going down that path. If it’ll make you feel better and save others, yes, I’ll cry.”
My captor shook her head. “No. You don’t get to pretend to take the high ground after everything you did to me. You get to sit there and watch. Hunger and thirst won’t touch you. You won’t age. You won’t get sick. You’ll be there, my captive.”
I walked up to the wall of the cube and gave it a few hits while Darklight talked, finishing up with the whole of my strength. The Nasty Surprise did nothing. Same for the whip. Nothing I had on me did a thing to the walls, and I tried everything. Except the nanites. Those were no longer answering. Nothing was. I didn’t have a connection to anything else.
“You don’t have to be the villain,” I said.
“I’m the victim!” she yelled, stepping close to the wall between us.
“Yes, you are. It’s my fault. If I could go back and not do it, I would. But as far as you and I are concerned, this is what happened. All you can do is make it go differently for someone else before the person you’re helping wipes them all out anyway.”
Darklight and raised a hand and the middle finger on it before she was columned on out of there. Leaving me, now her prisoner, now beaten by my past victims, now to have my life unraveled.
I got a call. Unknown number. What the hell, even a robocall couldn’t make that day worse. I picked up and heard, “Hey Gecko!”
“Who’s this?” I asked.
“It’s Wattson, dear. Everyone, she’s alive!”
I heard cheering in the background. “Only because the person I thought I beat wants to burn my life to a ruin and hurt everyone positive in it.” I said. “How’d they get in the House anyway?”
“They had smuggled a device onboard that allowed them to find us even when not in a firm time,” Wattson explained.
“Shit, this was because I captured her.” There we go, the universe penalizing me for not murdering someone again.
“Er, no. According to Captain Codburn, the signal was present before that. It started when we brought you onboard.”
Oh. There we go, the universe penalizing me for not murdering someone again. “Shit.”
“It’s not entirely bad. We can find you and the base of their operations outside of time. You’ll be avenged upon them soon enough.”
“Good, I don’t like being the damsel in distress. But try not to kill any of these types if possible. I mean, protect yourselves, of course, but…”
“I understand, this is some deeply philosophical lesson you’ve learned while confronting the demons of your past. It happens a lot to time travelers,” Wattson answered.
“Thank you for understanding,” I told him.
“Hang tight. Wattson out!”