Tag Archives: The Mobian

Back To The Past 1

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“Nope. Nooooope!” I said, turning away from The Mobian’s timeship. I turned and began to walk away. From the 360-degree heads-up-display of my power armor, I could see Mobian, or at least an older, scarf-clad version of Mobian than the one I’d seen before, turn and look at his companions. The bleach-blonde middle-aged woman was just as clueless. It was the other woman, an older version of Venus with grey hair and a robotic right eye, followed after me.

“I come begging for help and you turn your back on me? Since when!” she said, hurrying to grab my shoulder.

I turned. “As much as I love to hear about you coming and begging me, future Venus, you said no daughters. An awful lot of stuff I get dragged on seems to take a month of my time, and that’s a bit too long for me to leave her alone.”

She looked me where the eyes of my helmet should be and walked around to block the direction I had been walking. “We need the world’s best assassin. Do you want your daughter to see kill people?”

“My daughter’s been through some shit.She can handle me turning someone’s skull into my own personal dickpuppet, but what I don’t think she can handle is me just dumping her to go run off for a week or a month or however long.” I poked her in the chest, noticing that the tattered top she wore was less like her hero outfit and more like scrounged-up body armor.

The Mobian poked his old, grey-curled head in from the side. “If I may, my timeship does not operate by what humans call ‘San Dimas Time’. I can return you to the instant after you left.”

“And if something happens, then I’ve just suddenly disappeared from her life. Either Qiang travels with me on a journey throughout time, or you can fuck off to Transexual, Transylvania looking for someone to do the Time Warp with, gramps, got it?”

“We need you,” Venus said, moving closer and crowding me in.

I looked between Venus and Mobian, then leaned in, brushing my upper hands through their hair. “Shh. Shh. It’s ok.” Then I reached down and slapped a lower hand on their asses at the same time. “So, how serious are y’all about needing me?” They stood there awkwardly for a moment before I let go of their heads, stepped past them, and pushed them behind me with both sets of arms. “Get the fuck outta here! Killers are a dime a dozen. Like that guy.” I pointed off to the distance where Specialist St. John sat by a fountain, his giant alien blaster shotgun taken apart for cleaning. “Dragoon there used to be a mercenary. Killing for pay is the mercenary way.”

“We’ll let you bring your daughter along!” said the blonde woman, marching up behind me. Venus glared at her and the Mobian bit his bottom lip briefly.

“That is a bad idea. She’s a child,” Mobian said.

“No, fine,” Venus said, turning her glare to me and trying to fight it down. “If it’ll get you to come along, bring her. We’ll look after her.”

Dear reader, do you ever get that feeling like you’re not being told the whole story?

“You need me that bad, eh?” I looked to Venus, focusing on her. “Must be something pretty important. Why do you need me? Come on. I’m not a tool here.”

She blinked her biological eye and crossed her arms, standing with feet spread just a little. “We need you. In fifteen years, Mot awakens. It is an ancient god of death and pestilence that consumes everything. It empowers its followers to kill; it spreads filth and disease wherever; it takes the powers of whoever it consumes and sends their ghosts and corpses to round up more for it to eat. It’s unstoppable. Mobian finally came when we had no other options,” she gestured to Mobian, who bowed his head sheepishly. “It’s too powerful now. We have to go back to when it was weaker.”

“I’m following along with you so far, but why me?” I asked. I pointed over at Dragoon again. “Mercenary. Works for cash.” I pointed at myself. “Untrustworthy psycho. Gonna try to love you up and turn you into a horny toad.”

It’s a testament to how rough a future she comes from that this got Venus to smile just a little. She got control of her mouth, but it still happened. “It does things to people. Mot forces people to confront the worst about themselves. It brings out every bad thing about them and makes them see it.”

“Like depression?” I ask.

She shakes her head. “Worse. Most people can’t put up a fight.” I don’t think she has much experience with depression. “We know where it will be at one moment, but we may only get one chance to destroy it. We know, don’t we? You know the truth about yourself?” She laid a hand on one of my forearms. “I can’t think of many who could get close to it through all of that.”

I cocked my head to the side. “What about future me?”

“You were dead. Will be dead.” The tense problem was just one portion of the awkwardness in those words.

“ You’re going to have to tell me how that happens,” I said.

“It’s a deal,” she said quickly. “Come help destroy Mot, and I’ll tell you how you die.”

“The timeship will be parked well away from this depression aura thingy, right?” I asked.

“Why?”

“For Qiang, of course. It was already agreed I could bring her.

“Yes,” Mobian said. “We wouldn’t want her to experience anything so terrible.” He looked between future Venus and myself. “We are agreed. Gecko, gather all you will need as well as your daughter.”

And I did. I grabbed Qiang, loaded up a couple extra rubber chicken grenades, and brought the radiationthrower back out of its carefully-sealed lead refrigerator. I don’t often get a chance to just drag the thing out, but it seemed like a good time to carry around an unlicensed nuclear reactor in a backpack. It helped conceal another thing I figured would be useful, especially if this depression aura was real. I’d been hoping to make more use of drones, and my brief time on the alien world attested to that. I snuck a couple of smaller drones under my cape, attached to the battery pack back there, as well as the back of my belt.

“Hey baba,” Qiang said, taking one of my free hands. Yet another advantage of having extras. “If we’re going back in time, can I see mama again?”

Hoo boy.

I squeezed her hand. “I sure hope so. I’ll see if they can do that, ok?”

I left a message for the Directory that I may or may not be gone for awhile. I’d let them know if I was leaving, and not to go selecting anyone else to take over for me too quickly if I don’t come back from the trip I may not go on. Mobian’s timeship was still where we’d left it. The blonde kept an eye out for me, though she spent more time checking out the various supervillains leaving. Most had been on their way out already, but Mobian’s vessel didn’t strike any of them as a good omen. As much as he was a hero, he was one who tended to show up around the time things were going wrong. It wasn’t so much that he caused problems, but he tended to be where problem were.

“Hey there,” Future Venus said, smiling warmly at Qiang in a way she’d never managed for me. Qiang ran over to go hug her. An idea flitted through my head of adopting more and more kids until she was forced to love me, but that obviously wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even be fun, not even to watch from the outside. Might be a handy way to start my own gang of villains if I’m willing to put the years into it, so I decided to put it on the list of Possible Future Schemes. It’s right up there underneath “Engineer Global Ice Cream Shortage”.

I’d expected the inside of the ship to be all cluttered, with weird hoses and levers all around. It was a lot bigger on the inside than I expected, with a floor of some cloudy amber material. The walls were way more white than I preferred. A bit hard on the eyes there. The Mobian was standing atop a raised platform made of some dark metal that clashed with the rest of the interior. On one of the walls was a doorway of brass, perhaps, that led to further interior. Perhaps there were rooms there. Out here in this section, there was only the raised platform Mobian stood at pressing things, and the blank area for the rest of us to stand.

The opening we’d entered by closed up, cutting me off from the world’s information once again. “Are we ready to bid this millennium adieu?” Mobian asked, then leaned down to smile at Qiang. “It’s a smooth ride so you won’t need to buckle up.”

“Can we go see my mommy?” she asked in the Riccan pidgin.

Mobian’s friendly demeanor faltered for a moment. “I’ll see what we can do.”

“You speak Riccan?” I asked him.

He winked and pointed up at the ceiling of the ship. “My ship ensures we understand each other. Everyone who travels through time on it is linked, but the field dissipates if not soon renewed. Buckle your unnecessary seatbelts, folks!”

Despite that, the blonde woman was leaning on the side of the raised portion where it met the floor in a gentle ramp, holding onto the lip for support. “It’s ok,” I said. “I’m sure this nuclear device will be fine if it’s jostled too much.” I raised the radiationthrower. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“The where isn’t as important as the when. Tell me, have you ever been to the Cretaceous before?” Mobian asked. A part of the white wall cleared up like a fog, showing us lowering onto the edge of a marshy area. “If the location is important to you, this would be the continent Laramidia.”

“I think I caught that once,” I said. “So, this is is where an ancient god of death. Hey, after I kill this thing, I call dibs on its title.” Huh. Can a god of death be killed? Interesting question, but I suppose it depends on the type of god. My brief look into this Mot critter before leaving the present didn’t turn up a lot of info. Lived in a pit, ceaseless hunger, covers the land with filth. I actually had so much of a hard on for killing a god of death, I didn’t even want to pull out the social commentary, like wondering if this was Rush Limbaugh’s house or something.

The door opened and Venus volunteered to show me the way. “We’re far enough way that the ship won’t be affected. I’ll lead you as far as I can.”

I nodded and knelt down to look Qiang in the eye. “I gotta go deal with this thing, then I’ll be right back. Until then, this people are supposed to be nice to you.” I reached out and booped her nose with one of my lower hands. “See you in a bit, dumpling.”

We hugged. “See you soon, baba. Don’t get eaten by monsters.”

I patted her head. “Don’t worry, sweetie. Monsters hide under the bed because they don’t want me to find them.” And they don’t like it when I try to cuddle in the afterglow. I hugged her for a few seconds before breaking it off and standing up.

Once we’d exited the time ship, Future Venus pulled out a device and pressed a soft button on it. It created a conical hologram in front of her with lines marking ranges and a beeping dot in the distance. “This way,” she said.

We walked on for a bit, her not really responding to my attempts at conversation. Stimulating stuff, too. “And if that wasn’t bad enough, then Napoleon’s guys are just like ‘fuck it, kill ’em all. It’d just be cheaper to buy new slaves,’ and start gassing folks.”

“Do you just look at the worst humanity has to offer?” she asks.

I shot her a look. “No. I just figured I’d learn about the Haitian Revolution someday. It’s just your history, and it’s interesting. And those worst of humanity types come along naturally. Unfair to classify them as different. They are humanity.” We took turns hopping over portions of the swamp that we were circling around.

“Your daughter’s half that, too.”

“Yeah, she is. She gets to be my daughter. How fucked is her life going to be if people hold it against her, right? But that’s why I’m taking some of those lessons you tried to teach me to heart.”

“Bullshit,” Future Venus said as she stepped over a root thick enough to rival many a tree.

“I trust you with my daughter. I trust you enough to drag me to Jurassic Park. And I’ve been trying to do things to make the world a little better. I don’t want Qiang hurt because of a cycle of revenge that started with me.”

Venus hurried to get further ahead of me. “We’re almost there.”

“What, my attempt to be a tiny bit more responsible offends you, my dear Venus?” I jumped in front of her and turned around.

She stopped, of course. Even with the years on her, Future Venus was still beautiful and stubborn. “You’re bringing up some conflicting feelings, and it’s not easy knowing what’s coming left in your life and mine. My life from back then,” she gestured back behind her, toward the ship.

“Yeah, I plenty of conflicting feelings about you too. I hate you, but at the same time you’re so wonderful. A strong, unflinching hero with your stupidly naive goody-goody ways. I suppose Captain Lightning is too, but he’s not the one who seems willing to die for the belief there’s a better person in me.”

She crossed her arms. “And he’s not as pretty as me.”

I shrugged. “True, but I just learned it’s not an age thing at all, beautiful.”

She smiled and turned away, shaking her head. “You talk some shit.”

“Yeah, I do. But, ya know, I could always make someone look like you. They’d just never mean as much to me as you do,” I said. It felt a little warm under my helmet, but what the hell? I’m dead when she comes from, and present Venus won’t know any of this. “There’s a reason I can’t bring myself to kill you.”

“Yeah, because I can still fight you off.”

I handed off the radiationthrower to my lower set of arms and popped my helmet off so I could blow her a kiss. “Keep flirting like this and we’ll see.”

That got a laugh. When she stopped, she looked at me for a moment, pondering. Then she put her hand on my shoulder, leaned in, and something magical happened. “The-” she started to say before I made a little more magic happen. She didn’t let me go on forever, pressing a finger to my lips. “There. We’ve tried it. A man from your past and a woman from beyond your future.”

“Well see,” I said. When she backed off further, I put my helmet back on and redid the seals. “Unless changing the timeline makes you disappear, you could always stick around with myself and Qiang.” And my wife, too, but I wasn’t so stupid to mention that when I was on a roll.

Her smile faded and she looked down, shaking her head. “That won’t work.”

“If you’re afraid I’ll die on you, you’re supposed to give me that info anyway,” I reminded her. She sighed and walked past me. That… got chilly in a hurry.

“We’re almost there,” she said.

“Ok,” I said. I stayed quiet, hoping to give her time to think and sort all this out. Probably some hero hangup she’s dealing with?

I don’t normally enjoy nature hikes, but the day’s events made this one just awesome. If Mot the death god was trying to bring me down, he wasn’t doing shit. Maybe that’s what got Future Venus, but I wasn’t feeling a thing. I was thinking on that when she stopped, staring down at a strange stone that definitely looked out of place there from the glow within. The smooth obsidian orb just sat there. “This our Mot guy? A bit on the small side, and I thought there’d be a pit.” Behind me, the drones dropped out from under my cape. One took off for cover, the other headed up into the tree tops.

Venus looked back and up, trying to follow the noise, but didn’t seem all that concerned. “That leads to Mot. I’m not going any further, but wait a moment,” she turned and patted my shoulder. “I was going to tell you when you died, now, before you touched it. I can’t now. I hope you can understand.” She stepped back.

“This Mot aura’s really doing a number on you… Let me just deal with that. You tell me afterward.” I turned and walked toward the orb. “What do I do?”

“Just touch it,” she said. Nice words to hear coming from her. I went to nudge it with my boot and-

It was like it blew up on me, but not explosively. One moment it’s a rock on the ground, the next it’s surrounding me, everything held in place in rock or crystal or whatever’s the fucking difference when I’m trapped like that.

I could still feel the drones at least, but before I could direct them to fire on the thing, a diamond-shaped thing flew through the sky. It was even smaller than the timeship, but when it touched the ground, four beings appeared. Four humanoids, each wearing a different primary color with black and silver as secondary colors. The same damn things that showed up at the end of the big villain raid on the alien planet that created the Deep Ones and experimented on the mercenaries who accidentally found the portal.

The lead one in red made a sound that, after a moment, shifted into English words. “Go.” Venus turned and jogged away, sparing me one last glance. Red guy turned to me then. “You understand this language?” he continued in English.

I’d have nodded, or given him a middle finger, but both were hard to do. “Yeah, fuckface, but if you really want to speak my language, let me out of this thing.”

“You are Psychopomp Gecko, member of an infant race, leader of a group who attacked the society of your superiors. We will exact punishment for your trespass. You can not escape. You have no allies. Our victory is complete. Our power, overwhelming. Resistance will only bring pain.”

“Oh, you have no fucking idea,” I growled from inside this crystal ball that encased me as I stared out at a a foursome of aliens who decided to commit the world’s least fun suicide.

Archive Transmission Fragment 1 Complete

Archive Decompiling Resumes… … … …

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The Knights Illuminati 9

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“I’m trying to tell you this is real!” shouted a red-faced fat man on a TV screen. “It’s the god-damned Illuminati! It’s the demons that are getting in because of the fluoride in the water supply that’s turning all the frogs gay. This is how the apocalypse starts, people! So I’ve heard from a credible source that all the world’s supervillains teamed up and formed a secret society. They invaded an alien planet, folks! The same aliens who came to this planet a long time ago and built the pyramids. They built the pyramids and, and, and, they genetically engineered humans into evil fish monsters. They made the soy that’s turning men into women. It was the Greys and Bigfoot teaming up together! Now they’re pissed because the Super Illuminati, the Black Knights Templar, stole the Roswell UFO and flew there. It was that fucking Psycho Gecko over there in the Pacific. He did it when he stole the nuke! The nuke, people! Wake up and smell the mushroom clouds!”

The red-faced man tore his shirt open and reached down. He came back up with one of his shoes, which he banged on his desk over and over until they cut over to where a gay guy with a swastika armband started talking up some sort of herbal supplement meant to help people think better, the camera moving quickly to avoid lingering too long on the part of the label that mentioned soy as one of its ingredients.

Satisfied that Infowars ran with the info I leaked them, I got away from there. I’ve had most alcoholic beverages known to man and a few unknown to man, and that website was killing more of my brain cells faster than any seashine the Deep Ones cook up in their stills. But that was kinda the point. After the debacle of electing that one moron in 2016, nobody with any sense is trusting the sort of people who believe that fucking channel. So glad I killed that fucker. I’ve probably been nominated for a peace prize or something.

With all the loot we took from the alien planet, people were eager to spend. And spend they did. I took from them most of what they took from the aliens. But, hey, they got free t-shirts. I even threw in the sleeves, complementary. Those are high quality sleeves; I coulda charged them $50 a sleeve.

I’m not all take and no give, though. The villains who attended this little shindig got themselves some nice door prizes. For instance, the Patches. High tech, low maintenance, these thin little computers utilize the latest and greatest super science has to offer allowing villains to stay Patched into things like the internet, bluetooth capable devices, and VillaiNet. That’s what they settled on for the name. It’s got a social media function, including the ability to post videos, but there are also forums, live chat, an auction-site setup, and a site for those of us who produce things for sale. Instead of each needing a different place, they’re all connected in one spot for ease of browsing and ordering. There are some pretty nifty augmented reality functions inspired by Ricca’s use of it.

But it’s not like a wrist computer or eyeglasses or anything. Both of those can be pretty clunky in combat and mess with a person’s costume. They can be slapped onto the skin of a user to access its functions with an incredibly thin monitor that doubles as a keyboard. And only works on the skin of a villainous user. It reads the DNA of the skin it’s attached to as a biometric security measure, with a database kept up to date and stored here on Ricca. Extras have been sent out in case people need them, but also to bring more people into it. They can slap them onto their skin, have their DNA scanned, and have a registration process start up to make sure they’re actually a villain. They don’t even have to stay on; there’s a sequence to detach it. They can be reattached anytime, no problem.

I think this went well. As I said before, this wasn’t about a Legion of Doom and some big plan to defeat the Super Friends, though not for lack of planning. If they were real, I’d start things off with a canon aimed at Apache Chief’s junk. Timber! Well, it’d be pretty hard for him to have any timber after getting shot there, but y’all get my meaning.

See, it’s like I said at the last big meeting of all of us, where the Patches were being shown off and distributed. I could have just described the inventors talking up all the features and getting things synced up, but those guys love to hear themselves talk. Not like me. I’m great at talking, so everyone loves when I talk, not just me. Completely different.

Ouroboros, as the guy really in charge of all this as far as organizing, was once again in the middle of the whole tent, shushing people down. They’d gotten all excited about the Patches. Everyone was eagerly anticipating theirs. I already had access to the network, because this is me we’re talking about and I helped get the whole thing set up. I’d get one in due time but I was much more interested in what was coming next, which involved Ouroboros hogging the spotlight with an address of his own.

“My fellow villains, I know we generally disregard the rules.” That drew chuckles from the audience. “Despite that, I believe in what we’re doing here. Psycho Gecko is right. The heroes are organizing. The world we grew up in is becoming less certain. This gives us a chance to survive and even thrive in the coming chaos.” He poked a tablet on the table before picking it up. “These aren’t much more than a code of the rules most of us followed. Don’t murder a fellow super. Don’t put them in a coma. Those are capital offenses punishable by execution.” He gestured to me.

I waved at everyone, “Hey everyone. I just got a new necklace made of ears!”

Ouroboros continued. “Exposing another’s identity, attacking or outing another villain’s family, permanent disabling, near-murder, or sexually assaulting another super are to be judged by the community. There are a range of non-capital punishments they may decide on, including beating, theft, and shunning. We’ve left open the possibility that the community can vote for capital punishment.”

Well, not exactly what I was hoping for there. I mean, it’s nice for them to codify that, but I figured a bit of rape might be worth a visit from me. I heard some booing, but for all I know they disagreed with the idea of that being punished at all. Someone else called out an important question as well. “Who’s going to judge us?”

Ouroboros’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “I would eagerly take the job if not for the vote you evidently missed. The allegation and evidence will be posted for everyone to see. We all get a vote in it, except the accused and the victim or victims.” Huh. I’m sure some people were looking forward to being some sort of judges or capos or something. Easy way to make lots of bribe money and get a lot of power over people. Ouroboros looked disappointed to me, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

As someone who regularly hates and uses masses of people getting caught up in stupidity, I can see this system going badly just as easily. Hell, at least with Ouroboros, you know it’d take a big bribe. Some of these guys knifed their own mothers for a nickel. I’ve seen their records, that’s not an exaggeration. It’s not off the table now either. But while I’m excellent at seeing the flaws in things and plans that take advantage of that, fixing things is generally out of my wheelhouse. But I’m trying. And one of the best things you can do when confronted with a nigh-insurmountable problem is to keep trying different things. If cyanide doesn’t work, try a spiked mace. If they shrug off the mace, unleash the killer mutant sea pigs. And on and on.

But I left several outs, like all good plans. Gotta have room for improvisation. Areas where I can show a little trust. They disappointed me with the lower sentencing for sexual assault rules, but there was something in there I’m sure was a canny decision by Ouroboros. The rules said supers, not villains. We’ll see how that language plays with the heroes when they find out about this. I mean, we’re talking villains here. Someone’s going to yap about it. In the meantime, as Ouroboros was saying, “These rules apply to all supers. If heroes violate them, they will be subject to the same punishments to be executed by our fellow villains.”

I caught some glances sent my way at the word executed. He gave an “ahem” to get people’s attention again. “We won’t officially help you with civilians who break these rules, but you can always obtain help through VillaiNet. However, these rules will also be applied to members of law enforcement going forward. These rules will not be retroactive to save us from a lot of finger pointing and retaliation as soon as we get out of here. Any change to the rules of our new legion of rogues.” Ok, now he’s just fucking with me, “are to be adopted only after receiving 90% of the vote in polling.

You know how hard it is to get 90% of a group to agree on something? That’s like “nine out of ten dentists agree that brushing your teeth is good for you” territory. And there’s still the one fucking dentist.

With all that adopted, there wasn’t much left to do except help kick everyone out. As much as people seemed to enjoy their vacation, I’m sure they were ready to get back to robbing people and trying out their new souvenirs. I made sure to find Spinetingler before he could depart, and not just to oggle his daughter. Though he was talking to her when I ran across them. They were in the middle of the fountain at the villain village, having some sort of discussion about the water.

“A baptism ritual would work, I know!” she said, stomping a heel against the ground.

Spinetingler, in his black leather outfit with a hood obscuring his head, nodded. “Yes, I envision a twisted cult mass. We need to find the proper cult leader to empower and prey upon the latent fears of… hello Gecko.” He turned, taking me in with glowing red eyes in the darkness.

“Hello, Tingles,” I said. I don’t think he cared for the nickname, though his daughter giggled in a way that made me wonder just what her mental age was. “I just came to say thanks for stopping in.”

He clenched his fist. “It provided an adequate vacation for my daughter. Otherwise, the meetings wasted my time.”

I shrugged. “Sometimes, just being around is enough. But I just wanted to let you know I don’t consider our agreement superseded by the new rules or anything. Let’s just say if you happen to cross those lines, I might be in the middle of a bath when they call. Or have difficulty finding you. All I ask is you don’t make it look obvious if you can help it.” I held out my hand for a shake.

He took it and squeezed, leaning in quickly as if to try and make me jump. Joke’s on him, I had to stop myself headbutting him. “Agreed,” he said, then abruptly turned and walked away. “Come darling!”

His daughter eyed me as she passed by before her heels disappeared into flats and she jogged to catch up to her father.

Whew. It was good to get that out of the way. I was looking forward to getting into some trouble myself, though. Maybe see about some new shit to steal. Kidnap some more staff for the labs. Ooh, and work on a custom VTOL stealth vehicle for transporting small squads of people. I had so many things that needed doing when electricity crackled out of nowhere. Suddenly, a glowing orb of white light appeared, lightning arcing off it. With a boom, it was replaced by a larger glowing orb settled on the ground. An outline of a door appeared in the side of the orb, which was about the size of a tall shack. The black outline soon filled in and out walked an old man in a brown coat, vest, slacks, and a scarf. “Psycho Gecko, I need your assistance.”

“Oh you do, do you?” I asked, looking over the old man and the vessel that registered on my HUD as The Mobian’s vessel. “Who are you and what are you doing with this thing?”

“He’s the Mobian,” said a middle-aged bottle blonde. “And if you have trouble believin’ that, you’re not our guy, guv.”

“I need your help,” the Mobian said. I would have sworn the guy was younger. I still haven’t seen him since I set off that Dimensional bomb really close to him and a fleet of fluid-based aliens intent on enslaving everyone on Earth to use as soldiers in an alien civil war.

“The only thing I don’t believe is that you’d ever come to me for help,” I said, setting my helmeted chin in one hand and using the other three to prop it up.

“If we had any other choice, we’d have taken it,” came a familiar voice. I looked over to see who else would be joining us from out of the time ship. I was rewarded with the sight of a tired, weathered Venus with grey streaking her hair. A scar split her brow and the skin of her cheek underneath the crimson glow of her prosthetic right eye. She raised her left hand, spinning some blocky gun of a make I’d never seen before along a lever on its underside.

I jumped up and clapped four of my hands. “Oooh, does this mean I get to take my daughter along on a trip to the future?”

“Daughter?” asked the blonde woman. “Where we’re going, we don’t need your daughter.”

Mobian set his hand on my shoulder. “I need you, to go back with me… to the past!”

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AvPG: FUBAR FTW 6

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You know, space is a lovely place. The rhyme was unintentional, but I couldn’t help but admire the view as I sped off toward the Fluidic fleet in my new spaceship. I got it fairly cheap; it only cost some lives. Now, given how I’ve been getting wounded regularly against these foes, it would be pretty reasonable to ask how I could have pulled off such a feat as capturing the ship.

I suppose I could answer with pushups, situps, and plenty of juice, but one of the things making this trip tougher is that I ran off without any food or water. I’ve looked around this place, and I have yet to identify any food. Could be they have it and I’m incapable of recognizing it as such, but I’m not yet to the point of gnawing on everything around to find out if it’s edible. Could be they have some sort of beam system, or nutrition pills. Could be I’ll start chewing on what I think is food, only to find out it’s mold because the janitors were all conscripted to fight. Maybe they eat lightning crap thunder, who knows?

Anyway, the truth is always simpler and more disappointing to those used to my tendency for overly-elaborate plans. I got into their engineering sections, which I recognized through a combination of guesswork and a minor ability, perhaps you’ve heard of it: I can physically merge with computers. Granted, it took some poking and prodding to be able to pull off the ol’ Vulcan mind meld with something from Vulcan itself, but it worked. I found it, got into the computer systems that handled life support, and played around.

I know, it seems dishonorable, like a vegetarian Klingon, but as any Qo’noS chef would agree, today was a good day to fry. Cranking up the heat was just a matter of minor inconvenience. After that, it was a matter of turning off the airscrubbers. It surprised me to find out our alien buddies breathed a mixture of gasses similar to Earth’s own, but it shouldn’t have. Otherwise, how would they have survived on the planet at all without their suits? I took a brief smell of things and found it to be a little off, but that could also have to do with the odor of a bunch of people sharing a confined space. Including the odor of any of them getting it on, it’s safe to say assume. Gorn porn aside, once there’s no playing fair when Romulans like these want to ream us.

After that, they panicked and tried to go over my head with higher and higher levels of authorization. Then they sent someone to break down the door. Oh yeah, they had doors. With the things being all weird and fluid, they were smaller than I was used to and crescent-shaped. Just as long as they didn’t take me to the moon, let me play among the stars, I’d be fine. I had no desire to see what life was like on Jupiter or Mars. Besides, like anyone would really want to go see John Carter?

So I heated the ship up hot enough to kill a Sebacean, backed up the gas enough to kill a Hynerian, and waited them out like a…I’m drawing a blank here. Let’s just call that one a reference to the Silence. End result, they all died painful, slow deaths like a Decapodian having choke sex. Ok, I’m having a bit too much fun with all these references. Unlike a Nibblonian, these stopped being cute awhile back. No one wants to hear me Babylon 5 times as long as necessary just to fit in a bunch of alien names.

Good thing I couldn’t smell anything in my suit, too, because I didn’t bother cleaning the whole ship out. I just didn’t want to, nor did I have the time. Plus, I kept getting this feeling some of them were faking me out. They were weird gemstones laying in puddles of black goo; how could I tell they were dead from a distance?

So, yay, I told the ship to rejoin the rest of the fleet and found a way for it to give me a visual of Earth. Then I put on Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech. Ah, the lone planet of humanity. It’s a shame people are such assholes to each other. Makes it real easy for someone like me to justify what they do. Then again, as I realized on the way up there, I did run off to risk my life ending the alien threat once and for all. I didn’t do that for any noble reason, either. I mean, the planet is where I keep my stuff, and I have friends there. And considering how the Fluidics treat people, they put up with me a lot better on Earth. If not for the fact that I think all those incompetent morons back on the planet were incapable of solving the problem, this little trip almost looks heroic.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel it was going a little too according to plan…

That’s when the hailing frequency came in. My only bridge crew was a bomb designed to tear a hole in reality, so I had few options for dealing with communication. I couldn’t even swivel a chair around. The closest they had to seats were these bowls. But why not stick a serial killer in a bowl, eh?

I had to merge enough to bring up audio-only communications. To my surprise, the aliens communicated amongst themselves in the universal language: English. “Hail, expeditionary ship Neir. You are returning for repairs?”

When in Roman, speak as aliens do. “Yes. We are badly in need.”

The next sounds I heard sounded like sloshing and splashing. Several important-looking lights came on indicating something about the mass of ships I was in a direct course for. Figuring I’d said something wrong, I started mimicking a crackly sound and broke up my speech. “Sor-…pairs. Transla…cuckolded minotaur…sploosh.”

The lights changed from yellow to blue. I didn’t know if that was good where these guys came from, so I adjusted the ship’s velocity. “Number two,” I said to my bridge crew. “Make a note of this: when diplomacy fails, the next step…is ramming speed.”

Shots struck the ship, causing much shaking. Luckily, no consoles exploded. I fired back at the first ship to attack, despite knowing my one vessel could never repel firepower of the magnitude coming from a fleet of what looked like at least forty.

“I hope you have a better plan than this, chap,” said a British-sounding voice through the panel suddenly. I’d forgotten I had the aliens on the phone.

“Well, to quote Sun Tzu, ‘No plan survives contact with anemone,’ though I like to think most lovable jokers like myself would prefer to throw coconut cream octopi,” I answered back.

A smaller group of ships, five of them, broke away from the main fleet to intercept me, firing on after the other. Suddenly, a glowing blue orb of light flew out from underneath my stolen ship. Its tail expanded to cover the front of the ship, forcing the sensors to compensate when giving me a visual. The shots connected, but lacked the impact of previous hits. The computer showed less damage where they hit. “I never expected you to be the one to lead a martyr’s charge, Psycho Gecko. Not after we met so long ago.”

“Mobian?” I asked. “It was just last summer. Not even a year ago, I think.”

“A year for you. Do you have anything to stop these guys?”

I shrugged. “Just a little something I whipped up once to destroy a planet. I know how sensitive you are to violence, though, so I toned it down.”

“You let me worry about the violence. Just keep whatever it is ready. I shouldn’t think we’ll need it, but they haven’t been listening to me before now. Maybe this will make them shut up and consider peace,” Mobian said.

Before I could do much of anything, the light of his ship grew brighter. The ship felt like it was breaking apart around me as more shot struck. Something exploded. I didn’t know Mobian’s game plan, but I directed a message back to Earth all the same, “People of Earth, this is the USS Gecko, boldly going where some-damn-body’s got to go to save the planet. The ship is heavily damaged, so this may be my final message, and I just want to say I hate your guts. All of you, starting with Aaron A. Aaronson. I hate you. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and nobody else but you.” The ship shuddered. “Ok, I think something just took out the salad bar, so I need to cut this short. I just want to say, kiss my ass you rotten motherfuckers. And if anyone wants to find my secret hidden treasure from all my heists, it’s buried at the-.” I added some crackling, then cut off the channel to Earth.

Moments later, the ships fired and the light from Mobian flared up again. By the time I got sensors to compensate, it had faded and they insisted we had bigger problems than a light show. Like avoiding collision with the rest of the Fluidic fleet, which we were now in the midst of.

“Attention, would-be conquerors of the planet Earth,” The Mobian began while I checked over the ship, wondering how much I had left. Life support was failing, engines were gone, and I didn’t even want to guess what the bathrooms looked like after all that shaking. And due to the aliens being a mass of fluid around a solid core, which probably explained the hardiness of the artificial gravity. Liquid does interesting thing in a vacuum.

Long story short, the Titanic was in better shape at this point. This thing just didn’t have any water to sink into.

Anyway, Mobian was still talking, “I have with me a psychopath with a really nasty weapon capable of blowing you all away, every last one of you. He will do this. You don’t get it! You can set humans back a couple hundred years if you lose, but if they lose, they will commit genocide on you. They will take this further than you ever could, or you can listen to me, stand down, and we’ll talk this out. This planet is big enough for the two of you. You don’t have to be invaders. You can be partners, if you can show an ounce of compromise. I’ll make it happen.”

Of course, I might be recalling that wrong. I kept an ear out for it, but didn’t bother to sit still and listen to all of it, what with having armed the bomb. Mobian can have peace, sure. He can have all the peace he wants. He can sit down, pull himself out a big plate full of peace, carve off the peaciest, most pacifistic part of it, and down a big glass of harmony cola while he’s at it. I settled for carrying it out to one of the wholes in the hull and dumping it into space, where simply blowing this ship up wouldn’t do them any good.

Then I made for the shuttle, using the dead liquid bodies of my enemies as an express slip n’ slide to escape. I think it’d make an excellent evacuation tool in more situations, actually. It’s fun, it’s quick, and you can just toss unconscious people onto it. Only problem is, some folks might go back into the disaster just to do it again. I may or may not be one of them. I climbed into a shuttle, a newer one than I’d used to get there, and started hightailing it toward Earth.

“You still there? Everything alright?” Mobian’s voice came from the shuttle’s communications system as well. I think he broadcasted to all of them in the area, actually.

“Yeah, just taking a shuttle here. Just being prepared to get a little distance. You think they’ll agree to a peace now?” I double checked the bomb in my head. Rather than putting it on a timer, I gave it a receiver. The power went straight to me head, y’all could say. This way, I could tell it to go off, or it’ll go off if I die. “Hey, just how bad is it that I changed the future?”

“Changed it? How?”

I quieted down some as the shuttle gave me a clear view of the Earth again. It really is something being out there. “I was supposed to die. I think this all would have gone very differently if I’d never known that.” A signal came to me showing I was now out of range of the blast radius. “Hey, out of curiosity, just how quickly can your ship get far, far away from those others?”

“Why do you ask?” Mobian asked before his voice dropped in dread, “…what have you done?”

First there was a sound, like wind blowing hard through a crack. Pulling up that view on the sensors was like looking back at the birth of a black hole, except a black hole is still a hole in space. This was like if you took a picture of space and then photoshopped it so that a part was removed and everything scrunched up to try and connect everything. It wasn’t very big, which was part of how I arranged things for reasons that will become apparent. The actual matter transmitted to another universe would be relatively small compared to the other effects. For instance, the way everything in the immediate vicinity, which included a lot of alien ships, were suddenly pulled inward to crash against one another while tearing away from any parts at the edge of the radius. Then things started to get really jumbled and explodey in there.

I couldn’t devote myself to observing it, though. The shuttle shuddered and bounced around, even as gravity pulled parts of me in different directions at the same time. Or I assumed it was gravity. Being in close proximity of that detonation didn’t do a lot of good for physics.

Slowly, space began to expand again to fill its proper dimensions without anything that had been inside the Dimension Bomb’s center remaining. Everything else that had snapped inward like a space demolition derby (note to self: trademark the shit out of that!) rocketed away in bits and pieces, none of which looked all that functional.

I lost sight of it because I suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the planet, as if snapped there like a rubber band. Out of nowhere, I tasted something purple, but I had no time to concentrate on that because I had to fight the shuttle for control. It died on me, and y’all could say I was dead set on not joining it in such a grave situation.

Between the aliens and the bomb, some folks on Earth probably expected Jesus to show up riding a Utahraptor to fight Lord Voldemort. I passed over a desert at one point and saw the sand forming a tidal wave, so it wasn’t just me getting fucked up. The sunlight briefly shined blue, then green, then red, then yellow again over the water. Descending, my shuttle even hit some local wildlife in the form of a flying pack of dogs. Odd. I wouldn’t have thought they’d had enough time to get so high up. Then again, I’ve never technically seen the aftermath of a D-Bomb explosion. I just knew it could get pretty bad for areas not inside the point of detonation. It was made to kill a planet, after all.

I’m not sure now if what saved me was the ship’s power kicking back in or if the ground became bouncy the way things are going, but physics returned to normal by the time I stopped throwing up all over the place.

Yep, Earth. It was good to be back home. What, ya’ll thought this would end the big theatrical way, where everything cuts out in the middle of me plummeting back to Earth? Like I’d pull that kind of cliffhanger situation. Ha!

Now, seeing as I landed in Antarctica, I just had to keep from freezing to death. On the plus side, at least I found some water. A bit on the cold side, but it is water. Now I just need someone to deliver a pizza. Yep. I’m sure there’s lots of food to find around this place. Like a nice tall plate of fuck!

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Time in a Bottle 7

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***Connection established***

Because of course it was, readers. What’s a little bullet to the head compared to the pure, unadulterated badassness of knowing I survive long enough to die in an alien invasion? To be fair, even I had my doubts there in the coma. Or I probably did. Hard to keep track of that. Good thing I loaded up on nanites while dealing with my little viral invader.

Seriously, good thing. Dying isn’t really on my itinerary if I have any say in the matter, now or in the future. Y’all know why. So after reviving from the dark nothingness of being kinda sorta maybe almost possibly dead, I took a bit of a break to make good and sure I was over it. It was a lot like that time Miss Tycism hexed me, except hers made me experience conscience thought, which allowed me to figure out I was dead. This was just being nothing. Not having thoughts. Not existing, at least as far as my consciousness was concerned.

Then I got angry. I’d certainly say I have a reason or two, though I can find plenty of other excuses. To start with, the bastards didn’t even bury me. Oh, and they looted my armor. Those role-playing bastards! Well, it’s time for the obligatory recurring boss battle, bitches.

Of course, keep in mind that I’ve had some time to reflect on these events, and my mindset at the time wasn’t quite so lighthearted.

Naked, freezing my ass off, hungry, and wielding a whip, I set foot outside the door of the hut they left me in and found a large wolf. It licked its chops. “Come at me, Lon Chaney, and I’ll make you look like the Phantom of the Opera.”

When I approached the door to the infamous clock tower a few minutes later, it was with a few new scratches but a warm pelt to cover up partially. A little torn, and split in some places, but better than going naked. They certainly hadn’t left anything better on the snowmobiles and their sled trailers. Whatever problem they’d had getting in, the doors stood wide open now. Why would they lock up? They captured or killed the perceived threats. Unless the various monsters broke in. That’d be a shame. We wouldn’t want any monsters in the clock tower, now would we?

Actually, yes we would.

I entered with great care and caution: I charged up the steps, waving my fetish store weapon in the air, accompanied by the song “Bad Clown is Back”. I took stairs two at a time, wondering if they had anybody guarding that low down. Up one set of stairs, up another to the left, and then a third one to that left noting the occasional drop of bird crap every once in awhile. After traveling clockwise up a clock tower like that, I found a landing with a dull brown skeleton laying on it.

I went to kick it and hurt my toe on old metal. Seems the old clock used to be guarded by clockwork of a sort. Or someone got intimately acquainted with the bronze age in a whole new way thanks to time shenanigans. Time…shenanigans! Shenanigans in time! Sorry, for a moment there, I imagined an 80s tune in my head.

Besides, the next person to say shenanigans deserved to get…well, I didn’t have a pistol to whip them with, but at least I had a whip. I suppose that could be useful for whipping of some sort.

Back at the time, I figured I’d do more than just whip whoever I ran into, and made a valiant effort to keep that anger going as I continued up the clock counterclockwise. I steadily rose into the belly of a mass of old machinery. None of it moved, so I didn’t miss anything. I guess you could say I was worried I’d be late.

Ba dum tish.

Turns out I’d been closer than I expected. Squeaking and creaking began from higher up, descending to meet me. Human voices called out as well, but I don’t think they knew about me at that time. That changed after three more sets of stairs, where a guard stood on the fourth landing, calling up in a language I couldn’t understand.

I figured my translation program got fried in all the excitement, or I lost it with the reformat.

The guard spotted me out of the corner of his eye and turned. He shouted some more to whoever listened up above and went to raise his hunting rifle. I had already swung the whip, knocking it to the side. A loud crack and muzzle flash accompanied a shot that hit nowhere near me. He didn’t get off any more shots. The next time he tried, the whip wrapped around the gun and I snatched it away, reaching the top of the stairs.

He tried to dodge away from me, but I pushed him over to the edge of the landing. He twirled his arms, trying to reverse his balance. I grabbed one of his arms. Perhaps not knowing me or just not caring, he let me and then tried to throw his weight forward. I pulled when he did so and launched him face first into the wall. He staggered back, probably a bit fuzzy. Figuring he couldn’t understand me anyway, I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “There there. This way to the medical tent, comrade.” Then I showed him a shortcut to the doctor’s that involved him walking off the edge of the landing anyway.

I guess they shouldn’t have called it a landing then. A departing, maybe, but not a landing. That’s what he did on the floor instead.

About that time, the squeaking had reached me and I noticed the cogs beginning to turn in the middle of the shaft. I also heard shouting from higher up, and looked up to see the faces of other guards, including the bastard who shot me, all looking down. I raised my whip to the sky. “You’re all going to die in here!” I promised them loudly. That drew more shouts

I looked for a shortcut, too, figuring I needed to get my ass in gear. Or, more specifically, on gears. I wrapped my whip around my waist like a belt and jumped for a cog hanging close to me in the middle of the shaft. Unlikely that pansy Batman, I have no trouble jumping small gaps out of costume.

I scrambled up the gears, careful not to lose fingers or toes. Ever been mountain climbing? Try mountain climbing where the mountain is constantly moving and can crush you if you stay in one place too long. I pretty much immediately regretted my decision to take that route, instead hoping the next contestants on Romania’s Next Top Corpses would meet me halfway.

Three of them waited on the fifth landing up from where I jumped. There they were, sitting around, training guns on the only way I could get up there while I tortured my arms and legs sneaking up to their level. Hunting rifles instead of anything military grade.

I meant to land behind them as silently as possibly, but I skidded on the stairs and bounced off the wall. The thud alerted them, but they didn’t react well to the whip flying toward their faces. I didn’t whip them, I just tossed it. Anything vaguely snakelike being thrown at a person’s face tends to make them flinch, unless you’re a porn star.

I kicked the middle guy in the balls hard enough to knock him on his ass. I poked the one on the right in his eyes and grabbed the other one by the balls. Treat your enemies like you would treat life. When I pulled back my hands, I had a pair of eyeballs shishkebabbed in one hand and a pair of nuts in the other. But at least I put them back. The guy on the right dropped to the ground with a gonads in his sockets, while the one on the left held his crotch as he tried to get used to the new additions in his scrotum area.

The third guy took one look at his buddies and decided that getting the hell out of there was the better part of valor. I grabbed my whip and tried to crack it overhead to speed him on his way. Still not that good at cracking a whip.

Nobody obstructed the remainder of my ascension to the top room until one of the corner landings ended at a door. You know, I really expeced a lot more guards there, but that turned out to be the height of their resistance. Like the body back at their trucks, maybe they’d been killed off by others. I couldn’t recall the face of the guy who shot me enough to tell then if I’d encountered him already.

I banged a fist on the door to “Shave and a Haircut”. “Alright, you assholes! Turn off your clock before I have to clean it for you!”

The door opened and I then I found the guy who shot me, pistol leveled at me. I dove over the edge and this time he missed. I know I probably seem like a badass with a whip, but I’d been getting by on hope, luck, and the weapon’s simplistic design. Then again, a whip isn’t much of a weapon.

So even though I didn’t have time to aim for any particular piece of machinery, I did a hell of a lot of flailing. I suppose I also thought I had inevitability on my side. Either way, when my arms failed to catch hold of anything, the whip wrapped around a gear rotating parallel to the ground.

Ideally, he’d have thought I fell. From the bullets whizzing by and ricocheting everywhere, I got the distinct impression he knew where I was. I’m just glad the gear wasn’t too slow. Though, from the way he shot me in the ass and leg, it clearly didn’t rotate fast enough. Gritting my teeth and growling to myself, I realized I needed a way to surprise the guy. Or at least something else I could throw at him. If everything went well, I’d probably get one shot while he had one shot.

When I came around again, he saw the whip dangling from the gear, then quickly adjusted his gear as I limp-ran along the top. Even hunched over like I was, I had enough momentum to give the balled-up wolf pelt a good throw. It soared through the air only a short ways before opening and obstructing his view of me. That covered up my further run and another dive. I skidded off the floor of the landing, skidding and partially converting to Judaism. On the plus side, the results of that skid also gave me a higher range on my singing voice. Or is that higher pitch?

Either way, at least I got on there and got close while he blew a hole in the pelt. When I came up, I grabbed his hand and twisted the wrist sharply, forcing him to drop the weapon. My open palm came up and caught him under the chin. He would have stumbled back, but I kept a firm hold on his wrist and pulled him toward the edge. One good throw sent him a little too far into the inner workings of whatever device had been set in motion.

It ground his bones, and itself to a halt.

Limping, bleeding, scraped, naked, and pissed off, I stepped into the room.

The Mobian was just removing the handcuffs around his wrist and helping Fortune Cookie with hers. “You were right it seems.” Looking to me, he said, “Jolly good distraction. They put your stuff over there.” He pointed over to a dais holding a panel with a wheel holding a series of circles. Astronomy, perhaps? Behind it, a gyroscope with dozens of rings vibrated, but otherwise stayed still. The rotor in the middle looked spherical and glowed a faint green. It made quite the grinding noise to the chagrin of an older man who stood nearby, trying various switches on the panel.

Beside all of that sat my armor in a pile and a set of tools.

“Cool, just what I need.” I walked over, ignoring the panicking man, and checked for my syringes. None in the pouches. But I did spot them behind the pile, not too far away from a cot. On it sat an empty syringe and the dried remnants of pink goo. The nanites are programmed to break down and expel organic matter that isn’t me or any part of my implants.

I injected myself and pulled on my armor, ignoring Cookie and Mobian’s attempts to talk the old man out of his course of action. I couldn’t understand Cookie or the man, but Mobian had some sort of universal translator thing going on because I could hear him. You know the drill. “Blah blah blah, think of what you’ll do to the world, blah blah blah, Nothing justifies this, blah blah blah.”

I tested out my gauntlets, and smiled to myself as the energy sheath appeared with no problems. Then I walked over and smashed my fist into gyroscope’s rotor. The grinding noise stopped as the sphere itself blew apart in the direction I’d punched. I turned to the now-silent trio. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt your talk?”

The old man looked at me with sunken, reddened eyes. Whatever he said, he spoke softly and in a language I couldn’t understand. I looked to Cookie. “Can I get a translation? Had a bit of a data loss recently. Also, good to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you too, Gecko. Sorry for not saying so earlier, but it was more important to stop what was happening. Besides, I knew you would show up.” She smiled at me. I waved my hand forward, urging her to get on with it. “He said that this is his life’s work, and it doesn’t matter if you destroyed it. He will rebuild.”

The Mobian put his hand on the old man’s shoulder. “This isn’t you. You were never like this and you don’t have to be.” The old guy shook Mobian’s hand off his shoulder and muttered to himself.

Cookie stepped over and translated more quietly for me. “He said that Mobian doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know what it’s like to lose a son and grandson in a simple, stupid car accident.”

Mobian shook his head. “No, I don’t, but I have lost many friends and companions over thousands of years. Everyone mortal faces death, and I can’t be there to save everyone. I shouldn’t be there to save everyone.”

The man whirled on him, holding a finger up right in Mobian’s face. The gangly time traveler swallowed heard as he heard out the verbal assault. “I trusted you. You saved me from the camp, and I saw you other times saving the world. You were a god to me. A false god.” She declined to translate what the old man spitting on Mobian meant, but I picked that one up by context. “You can’t save everyone, but I can. I can prevent anyone from ever dying again.”

“You would prevent anyone from ever living again, too.” Mobian said. I could tell that even though the old man’s scheme had flaws, his accusations stung.

“Translate for me?” I asked Cookie. She nodded. “Who was responsible for your son’s and grandson’s deaths?”

The old man glanced my way. Cookie dutifully translating between us. “A Parliament Member. He didn’t go to jail. The police determined my son was in the wrong. But I know Marius would never be so reckless. Mihai was in the car.”

I nodded. “I can see to it that he does get punished for what he did to you. I understand how you feel. Something bad like that happens and your world ends. Your world stops, but everyone else’s keeps moving on. Everything moves too fast and before long you feel like you’re in another world entirely. You want to keep a hand on it. Am I in the ballpark?”

The old man heard me out, then nodded.

I shook my head. “I can’t let you stop the world. That’s why I did what I did.”

“You can’t take my knowledge away from me. Send me to prison. I will find a way to do this thing if I have to tell everyone how. Somebody will follow through for me.”

Mobian spoke up again. “Don’t. You can move on from this.”

“The world can move on, but I am too old,” said the man.

I stepped closer to the old guy. “Moving on is not required, but I can end your suffering.”

Mobian shouted “No!” but was too late as I grabbed the man’s neck and snapped it like a brittle twig. I let the man drop as Mobian continued his hysterics. After a few seconds of that, he began pounding on my chest. It became difficult to believe this guy ever worried anybody. “You didn’t have to do that! I could have saved him.”

“You can’t save everyone,” I reminded him. I glanced back at Cookie and the device. I made sure to get a real good look at the device in case I missed anything earlier. The design on that part could come in handy if anyone could scale it way, way down. I held out my arm for Cookie, who slipped hers into it, her head downcast. We left Mobian there to sob beside the dead man.

“Could you have killed him?” I asked her as we made a much slower and safer descent.

She shook her head and whipped a tear away. What’s with all the waterworks around here?

“Then that is why you needed someone like me.”

Halfway down the tower, we came across the blinded man crawling slowly to what he hoped was safety, whimpering to himself with each step. His friends had left him behind. I kicked the side of his head and sent him off the edge to a screaming death.

Cookie stopped to gawk at me. “Was that necessary too?”

“No, that one was fun.” I held up a hologram of a ticket with holes punches out under all but one skull. “And now that I’ve got that one, I’ve won a free food gift card from the Targu Secuiesc funeral parlor. He died so that I may enjoy a sub sandwich. Truly, that soldier was quite the giver.”

Cookie took my arm again on our descent, but muttered to herself. “He gave ’til it hurt.”

Now she’s getting into the spirit of things.

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Time in a Bottle 6

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Behold, the majestic giant clock tower in the ass end of nowhere! Look upon its strong stone base carved right from the mountain. Marvel at its giant door barricaded by some guys. As if that could stop me.

Actually, it might. I think that time spent in the future gave me a virus. Yep, totally the future thing. Nothing at all to do with being strapped to a bed by a vampire. Though, seriously folks, if you’re going to have sex with dead things, always wrap it up. Remember, a penis bag could prevent you from needing a body bag.

I thought I was mostly fine after getting out of that timeshift zone and didn’t notice any problems even running from some prehistoric knee-high raptor thingies. Then I reached the little village here at the base of the tower and got sick. I didn’t like the idea of laying around another so-called abandoned village, but I also didn’t like the idea of shitting my pants. It might ruin the delicious chocolate pudding I hide back there.

At least the clock workers didn’t have time to pack up all their cots before we got there. We didn’t actually see them, which worked for me. I needed to lay down and pump myself full of juicy nanites, ready to flood my system and repair damage at the cellular level.

Would have been real nice if they’d worked. The damage didn’t physically exist, not even to my cybernetic components. Heck, I could have even altered the nanites to handle damage to my armor, but that wasn’t it, either. The hardware was fine; the aliens fucked up my software. Most people won’t understand, but it’s rather difficult to work through the programming of your own eyes, brain, and other body parts. You ever try to code a spleen? I didn’t think so. Most of y’all don’t even know what a spleen does. Well, I got that baby back in order and pumping out hot espresso in no time.

Here your programmers are excited about video games and there I was debugging my pelvic splanchnic nerves. One wrong ganglion and I could have had a bowel movement so large, I’d have been lucky to have any bones left.

Things got a bit trippy there; at some point I had to chase a rogue line into the language center and wound up speaking in faux-Shakespearean English. That’s the language center of the brain, not the language center of the pelvic splanchnic nerves. Those things speak a language all their own. If the saxophone plays the language of the heart, then the best instrument for contacting your pelvic splanchnic nerves is the percussion burrito.

I worked on that and pulled my armor off, prompting Cookie to throw snow at me to try and clean me up. It wasn’t an ice thing to do to me. “Forsook, thou dost not throw snow at mine crotch, you fusty nut with no kernel.” I glared at her as I injected a nice helping of nanites into my neck. I’d rather have them around in case of organ failure so they can keep things running.

“Did somebody just quote the Bard?” asked Mobian, stepping into the room.

I “Eek!”ed and held the loose snow over my crotch as if to shield my delicate privacy. “Thou sayest what?”

“You have a problem, sir.” Mobian pointed at me, then turned to Fortune Cookie. “Hello again. I’m glad you two finally made it. What’s with him?” He directed the question at Cookie who rifled through her pack for a bottle of water she sipped.

Since she was preoccupied, I answered the question about me directed at her on her behalf. “Sick. Went through a timeshift and caught a virus from the future. Hey, I fixed the Hamlet-wannabe sound. Drink up, me hearties! Aw jelly-boned crud buckets. I sound like a pirate!”

The Mobian looked at me, then began to smile. He tried to fight it even as he told me, “Oh. I hope you turn out fine. It would be a shame if you died.”

Cookie glared at him. “He got me here, which is more than I can say for you. You left us back in the town.”

“I was coming back, but by then you already left. In the future, be more patient. We have all the time in the world.” The smile he flashed her looked far more convincing than what he forced out for me, but it only pissed Cookie off.

She walked right up to him and poked him hard in the chest. “No, we don’t. We don’t have a lot of time. I don’t know how much anymore because we’ve gone forward and backwards in time so much on the way up here. I don’t even know what year it is anymore. We need to get to the top of this clock tower.” She pointed at the wall in the direction of the clock tower.

Mobian nodded. “We should start now and leave your friend to catch up.”

“He’s sick,” she indicated me with her hand. “Let him rest, then take us right to the top. Be more patient.” She threw his words back at him.

“About that, you see we have a tiny problem. You see, this tower is the epicenter, right? Right. It’s all very complicated and I don’t have time to explain everything. Only, you see, my ship, the Stridar, can’t seem to go up there.”

“Too much rum gave ye the whiskey dick,” I added.

Mobian didn’t even glance at me. “Shut up, you.”

“You stayed here doing nothing all this time when you could have picked us up, so now we have to hurry up there without the guy we need.”

While they went back and forth on that, I had to crunch some numbers. As advanced as those aliens had to have been to reach earth, they still had to work within the limitations of human programming to make anything compatible with human operating systems. It’s like giving yourself a partial lobotomy because your brain is incompatible with the locals. But what could I possible know about that?

I ran into a bit of trouble when it looked like it would jump to the organics. I’m pretty much the only person on earth that could happen to. Instead, I managed to trap it. It involved priorities. It had its straight. I had its figured out. Ah, the limitations of artificial intelligence in the face of chaos and irrationality. It reminds me of that time I was hired to slay the Roko Basilisk. Pissed off a whole bunch of transhumanist uber geeks. I have no problem with nerds and geeks on their own, but there comes a time when an obsession becomes so intense that you’re rejecting reality in favor of it.

Not that I’d know anything about that, either.

So even though the transhumanist people got all outraged, they couldn’t even have me prosecuted. It wasn’t murder because that involves a human victim. It wasn’t animal cruelty because that involves an animal. It wasn’t even destruction of property since none of them wanted to come forward and claim it wasn’t sentient. If you ask me, it wasn’t much of an artificial intelligence anyway. It just played the Sims all day, making people resemble anyone who didn’t like it, then torturing them.

I swear, you’d think I was giving those transhumanists a heart attack.

Holy crap, I was having a heart attack. Nanites, away! Meanwhile, I continued ignoring the argument between Mobian and Fortune Cookie to concentrate on my parts, particularly the cybernetic portion of my brain and my spinal cord. That’s right, I have a spinal cord, meaning I technically do have at least one sympathetic fiber in my body. Some might say I have at least two; a parasympathetic fibers.
That’s just a little anatomy humor for y’all. You know there’s going to be more coming.

There was the little bastard. Rewritten code. Gibberish that screwed up the functioning of my heart valves. I took over manually while reverting the code. Nanites repaired the dead muscle tissue.

I performed a quick check of my autonomic functions. Balls fine, bladder, kidney, ass, intestines. Crap, my heart was screwing up again, but this time from an excess of adrenaline in the system. Way too much. I breathed in and out way too fast, but hardly took in any air. Motherfucker! I will murder this virus and feast upon its code!

I moved even more quickly through the system, shutting off the flow of adrenaline completely while I tried to clean up the adrenergic storm, which sounds like an awesome band name. “Tonight, for one night only, hold onto your panties as we introduce Adrenergic Storm!” They’d totally play “Through The Fire And The Flames”.

I had a moment to think on the solution while my body attempted to stabilize most of the physical symptoms. Because I’m awesome, and because this all took place much faster than activity outside my own body, and because adrenaline surges slow down the perception of time. But mostly because I’m just that awesome.

More problems cropped up in the spinal cord. The modification I’d made to give myself remote control over my limbs in case of paraplegia or quadriplegia acted up, too. I was hitting myself. At least I knew why I was hitting myself. The heart operating system had been corrupted again. Jinkies, a clue!

I found the bastard code having settled in to my central nervous system registry files, having written itself in to come back after any modifications, including reversions, to the other stuff. That’s when I noticed I had wifi up again. The thing tried to spread outside of me. Uh uh, buck-o. Not when Captain Mega Asskicker The Ultimate Psychopomp Cornelius Gecko the Great is handling things. It’s time to chew bubblegum, kick ass, and take names. It’s time to layeth the smacketh down upon thine candy ass!

At least the bitch of a virus couldn’t crack the interdimensional transceiver. That thing’s set up in a format and encryption from my old world. The only way data gets out that way without my say-so is a timer connected to its own local log only accessible through my organic components. A deadman’s switch, you could say. If I go too long, at least it’ll tell as much of the tale of my death as possible before I get there. Luckily, I haven’t had to make much use of that one outside that time Shieldwall almost killed me in Empyreal City. I don’t even know when it’ll send stuff with how this trip has been going.

At the very least, I won’t just disappear and leave people wondering what happened.

That shouldn’t be the case with this virus, but it worried me. Fucker spread way too fast. And, as I realized when I tried to clean it out of the registry, it could come back about as fast as I scooped it out.

Damn thing had a message, too. An attempt at subliminal messaging, as if that’d work. Obey. Serve. Give in. Surrender. Pave the way.

Bitch, like I’m that easy.

I still had an ace up my sleeve, but a potentially dangerous one. Reformatting back to my old system. As in, before I got to this version of Earth. Whole different way of storing and connecting files. Some stuff might not be there afterward, but most of it should be. I figured I could check through and recover the data that didn’t have any nasty surprises waiting for me, then do a quick repair of affected programs. It would all be isolated, unable to spread, until I gave the order. Even if I did clear infected files, I think our little virus would soon find itself incompatible with the new way of doing things around here.

That also meant I’d have some problems with a few functions. You know…seeing, hearing, breathing, pumping blood, shitting, and cleaning my own blood. Minor inconveniences, obviously. At least I still had the adrenaline surge on my side. I swept through my own nervous operating system, rendering it all unavailable and unreadable.

I briefly wondered if Cookie might try to give me mouth to mouth when she noticed I wasn’t breathing, but pushed that to the side while dealing with my imminent demise. Kissing could come later, when I live to tell about it.

I focused on my core, heart, and lungs first. Had to keep the power core contained, the blood flowing, and the air moving.

After that, I had a lot of systems to check, like the stomach, liver, and pancreas. Oh, and the bowels. My small intestine was fine, but the malicious bugger had buried itself in my large intestine and my rectum. Rectum? Darn near killed ’em!

Told you I had more coming. Speaking of coming, I checked the gonads. Luckily, the virus didn’t have the balls.

I didn’t worry about my eyes and ears until last. For those keeping track at home, the ears aren’t part of the autonomic system, but I still have parts of them cyberized so I can handle loud noises like rock n’roll and explosions. Insert gratuitous Iron Maiden here.

All in all, I purged myself of the foreign invasion, and even avoided brain damage in the process. That’s really important. Some things are even more thorough at screwing up data than a virus.

Feeling like my usual awesome self, I sat up, pumping my fist in the air. “Aha! I am invincible!”

Except it’d been awhile since I checked in with reality. Over by the door of this shack we’d huddled in stood Mobian and Fortune Cookie with their hands up in the air, men with guns standing around them. One of them stood right in front, training his pistol on Cookie and taking her smaller pistol away with the other.

he whirled flashloud-

***Connection lost. Archiving transmission. Preparing transfer. Transfer complete.***

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Time in a Bottle 3

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I think it’s fairly safe to say that the Mobian and I don’t get along. He didn’t take kindly to the story from Fortune Cookie that will fail and she brought me along to keep that from happening. When he tried to ask if she was absolutely sure, she pointed out that she had foreseen where to find him. I have to admit, that did a lot to help her credibility with me.

I still don’t necessarily like being manipulated into all this, but Fortune Cookie had some good points. It wouldn’t destroy the world, but being stuck in time isn’t something I want either. I imagine it has something to do with being frozen in place, in one moment. I don’t even know if I’d be conscious and frozen there. As I believe we’ve established by now, there’s only so much stuff I can make up in my own head to keep myself entertained.

So there I was, recruited to be the one person capable of stopping time from ending. I’d begun having the thought every now and then that perhaps the Soviet rocket fuel vodka gave me permanent brain damage, because that’s fucked up. It all seems so far-fetched. Really, Cookie’s answer that I was basically the best she could get on such short notice is the most satisfactory answer I could come up with to why I got pulled in on this one.

I mean, I do have a penchant for killing people and widespread destruction, two things the Mobian just doesn’t do.

But enough about all that, y’all are probably interested in what we actually did. Not much. It was late and I’d been drinking, so Cookie figured I should sleep. Also, was damn glad to have my crate back. I had to get it stowed away, and that led to more drinking with the people I had move it. That led to a brief car chase and a night in the local police station. They released me, so I showed them I had no hard feelings with a night out at the local bar.

I may be developing a problem. However, given he body count it’s racking up among the civilian populace, I wouldn’t say it’s my problem.

After all that, Cookie woke me up with a big backpack dropped on my head. Surprisingly, she hit my actual head. As in, the one with the brain. The one with the brain organ, not the metaphor. I’ve been assaulted by woman waking me up before, and never before had I ever met someone so sick and depraved as to not hit me in the crotch. Something’s seriously wrong with this woman. How dare she treat me that way!

I tossed the backpack to the side and stood up in bed, pointing a finger down at her accusingly while wearing only boxers. “That’s it! I demand you punch me in the crotch like a normal person.”

She ignored my gyrating crotch, tempting target though it was. “Get down, please. We need to find the person or thing that we’re here to stop.” She picked up the backpack and held it out to me. “I bought some things you can use.”

I took the pack and opened it. Laptops, radios, cell phones, that sort of thing. “You just expect me to throw all this stuff together somehow and just magically detect disturbances in time.”

She crossed her arms. “I’m having trouble seeing where we need to go.”

I dropped to my butt and grabbed the alarm clock off the motel night stand. “Here, if anything happens to time, this should tell you.”

“Wakey wakey in there!” A British voice called out, then the Mobian slammed the door open and walked in, holding some doohickey in his hand. The blocky device had a rotating satellite dish up top near a spiraling antenna and a cord that led to earphones on his head. When he saw me in bed with Cookie there, he pushed a button that stopped the dish and pulled off the headset. “Oh, am I interrupting?”

“A gentleman wouldn’t tell,” I said, taking Cookie’s hand and kissing the back of it.

She pulled it away, bright red spreading across her face. She turned toward the Mobian. “I am trying to convince him to build something to find any disturbances in time.”

Mobian pointed down at the gizmo in his hands. “I’ve got that. I’m tied in with my ship. This should tell me if any large timeshifts occur. If you want something to warn you, get a watch.” He pointed to the alarm clock in my hand.

Cookie put her face in her hand and turned to stomp out past Mobian. He turned to look at her, then looked back at me. “What got into her?”

I raised an eyebrow. “You want me to answer that honestly?”

His face deflated. “Not at all. One of us better go after her, she’s so sure we’re all needed to fix this. You two are so close, maybe it ought to be you.” He stepped to the side to give me a clear path through the door.

“Moai, clothes!” I called out. Moai shot up from his mattress on the floor, spooking Mobian who flinched back a step.

As I rushed out the door, I heard Mobian telling Moai, “You remind me of these angel statues I’ve met.”

Still in boxers, I ran out and then headed for the stairwell, wondering if how necessary this was the entire way. Then again, I figured it didn’t matter because it gave me a chance to run outside nearly nude. In fact, I stopped halfway down the stairs to throw off my boxers and continued shouting, “Free at last, free at last, good balls almighty, they’re free at- oh, there you are.”

I found Cookie just outside the building, looking things up on her phone. “I think I should call your enemy Venus. Maybe she will take this seriously.”

“I stayed to help, didn’t I? Wait a moment.” I held out my hand to the side. On time, my clothes tumbled through the air to land nowhere near where I anticipated. I began picking them up off the concrete and putting them on. “I’m here. I’ll save the world, I guess. Yeah, you probably didn’t pick the best person for that, but I’ll do the job.”

“I thought you would take it more serious than you’re known for.”

I shrugged. “Bad shit’s going to happen whether I’m frowning or laughing. I might as well try to have fun. Who knows, maybe that’ll throw whoever’s doing this off even more. Like if the Allies at Normandy had charged up the banks dressed as clowns. They’d have had a lot more fun, and lots of people are scared of clowns. You’re asking me for a tall order, though. Mobian’s looking, and I bet he knows how to contact us.”

She scoffed. “He’s not happy I brought you along. He doesn’t like serial killers.”

I nodded. “Most people don’t. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s a sad fact that serial killers are a persecuted bunch. They try to lock all of us up.”

Cookie glanced down at the ground, tapping her foot for a few seconds. Then she looked back at me. “Fine. How would you like to start your search?”

I realized she also stood on uncertain ground. Whatever she’d been doing in relation to the Japanese Underworld, it hadn’t involved something as major as a worldwide event of disastrous proportions. She was outside her comfort zone as well. “Ok, here’s what we should do. Mobian came here for some unknown reason. Something must be up around here. We should ask around in a place where tourists asking questions won’t seem that strange. I think that means we head back to the pub, where I happen to have gotten in good with a few people thanks to keeping them drunk.”

I normally wouldn’t explain it so well to someone. I intended to flippantly suggest we head to a bar and figure things out from there. When Cookie nodded, I added, “This is new for me too, ya know. Last time I did anything like this, it’s more because Spinetingler wanted to kill me. Now you have me here to try and save the day.”

She made a big show of exhaling. “That sounded serious.”

I held out my arm to invite her along. She took it and we headed out to find that pub again “Just giving you a break. The arm is perfectly safe, no need to pull away. It won’t bite you.”

They welcomed us at the bar thanks to my efforts building rapport. I stepped up with Cookie in tow, greeting the excited patrons who hoped for another day of drinking on someone else’s tab. “Hello there, fellow drunks and alcoholics. What’s the news of the day? Anything unusual going on?”

It didn’t take too many drinks to loosen tongues enough that I got a bit of news not normally passed on to tourists, though it helped that I’d been seen in the company of a strigoi. That’s a type of vampire, for those who don’t know. Every place has a different type of vampire, it seems like, and some of them seem so different that it seems stupid to categorize them all as part of the same sort of being. Even the blood-drinking thing isn’t a good indicator, since Romanian werewolves are known to drink blood too.

Speaking of which, there had been a lot more werewolf attacks than usual up in the mountains to the north. That hushed the formerly-jovial attitude. A man with a bushy beard leaned over and tried to explain. “We get werewolf attacks here. Not often, but we get them. They are the big wolves. They eat dead bodies and kill people to drink blood. Something has them riled up.”

Someone else joined us. He looked like a teenager except for his bushy beard. “It may be those men who came through. They went that direction with a lot of trucks.”

“Do you know what they had in the trucks?” Cookie asked.

A woman joined us as well. I had my doubts at first, with the bushy beard hanging off her face, but the boobs gave it away. “My brother talked to his uncle’s cousin who knows a girl who works a truck stop for johns and she told her told him told him told me that she gave one of the drivers a Portuguese Breakfast in the back of the truck and it had a bunch of brass in it.”

I bought some extra drinks for the bearded people who were so helpful to me. “Just brass? Just a bunch of ingots or something?”

The bearded lady shook her head. “Different shapes and sizes.”

Cookie looked at me. “Would that be used in anything?”

An old man with a bushy beard, bushy sideburns, and bushy ear hair joined us, shaking his empty mug for us. I glanced at the barkeep and cocked my head toward the old guy. One refill later and he told us. “It could have something to do with the giant clock tower in the mountains.”

Cookie and I both asked the same question.“Giant clock tower?”

The beareded teen nodded. “Oh, that old thing. That could be it.”

So I guess everyone knew where there was a giant clock tower in the Carpathian mountains this whole time. And now a bunch of werewolves are running wild in the same direction as the tower. I wanted to run out and punch them, but Cookie insisted we go back to Mobian and tell him. Except he was missing. According to Moai, Mobian’s device pointed north and dinged, so then he ran out and disappeared into his ship.

After transmitting the tale using the beeping of a cell phone, I paid him off in a glass of mineral water and turned toward Cookie. “That Mobian guy’s a bit of a dick. Just for that, I’m not bringing him anything to drink. Now, do we have any rockets or artillery around here?”

Cookie grabbed the backpack she brought earlier and dumped out all the electronics she bought. “I’m not doing that. We better get hiking.”

Oh fuck me. Now I’ve got to go on a camping trip? I hate camping. I hate it so much, I don’t even do it when I’m drunk. Hell, I hate camping so much, I don’t even do it when I’m trying to hurt myself. Fuck, I just hate all of it. Nature can go eat a dick.

Well, look out Nature. It looks like it’s finally time for the dick to bite back.

Damn, just how much of my brain has all this alcohol killed?

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Time in a Bottle 2

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This isn’t too bad a town. They rolled out the red carpet for me once they figured I was just an eccentric rich person. That’s the difference money makes. If you’re homeless, you’re insane. If you’re rich, you’re eccentric. Whether or not money can buy happiness, it sure does buy a clean bill of health from a psychiatrist.

Anyway, I dumped a bunch of money renting a room while I waited on Moai and bought myself some goodwill at the local taverns with a few rounds of beer. Well, up until the door slammed open one night and a bald man in black clothing entered. He had some really gnarly teeth and overgrown eyebrows. He pointed one finger at me, a dirty yellow fingernail grown to a length more like a claw. “You are the one who killed my brother!”

I raised a frothy glass of amber liquid. “Actually, he got drunk off my blood and passed out in the square when the sun came up. Please, let me make it up to you with a drink.”

His hand joined the other one behind his back as he approached and eyed my glass. He sniffed. “Is this some sort of trick?”

“Nah,” I said, then set the glass down. I reached under the table and zipped up my fly. “I just didn’t want to get up. Bartender, some more beer! And make sure you’re washing these glasses really well.” To the vampire guy, I asked, “You can drink beer, right?”

“Bitch, please,” he told me. “I’ve drunk beer that made Charlemagne want to swear off drinking. This piss water won’t faze me.”

“Uh, yeah, I suppose you could drink the piss water if you really wanted, but I meant the beer.”

This whole thing sounds like I’m spending my time getting wasted, but that’s not the case. For one thing, beer tastes nasty. Even European beer. Lots of people love it, though. Handy tool for getting people on my side. It helped with the vampire, after all. He wasn’t that bad of a guy after several drinks. Turns out, his brother was a dick. He just felt honorbound to come after me because I seemingly killed him.

We settled our differences in a game of beer pong. I almost nailed a shot from behind my back, but he swiped it away before it could finish rolling into the cup. The whole bar let out a collective “Awww,” when that happened. In the end, he had his revenge as I fell to his superior ball handling skills.

He didn’t bother with grabbing any blood, which is good. I prefer my blood in my own body, when possible. After we finished the game, we both sat outside in the same square that claimed his brother and passed some vodka between us. I asked him if there’s any chance his brother could be revived. “You all have a lot of odd powers. Maybe find a guy and drain him over the ashes?”

He shrugged. “Time stops for us physically, but death is still the end.” He passed the bottle back my way.

I took a swig, then held it up in the air. “Damn. Here’s to being late to your own funeral.” I passed it over again. He raised it, but before he could drink it, someone grabbed it from his hands. We both turned and there stood the woman in the Chinese dress. Except now, she wore considerably warmer clothing.

“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure everyone gets where they’re going on time,” she said, taking an impressive drink off the bottle herself.

“A bit thirsty, weird lady I met in Vladivostok?” I leaned back and looked her over.

“You remembered.” She smiled and handed the bottle back to the bloodsucker.

“You have something to do with that Fortune Cookie person, so I doubt you’re surprised.”

She bowed her head. “I don’t know everything, and it would have been difficult to expect you to remember anything from that night.” She lowered herself and offered her hand. “Call me Cookie.”

I hopped to my feet and took her hand. “At last, we meet at first,” in consideration of our meeting in Vladivostok, I added, “…for the second time. Confused yet?”

“Yes,” said the vampire, who didn’t bother looking up from the bottle.

“No,” said Cookie. “But wait until I have to use the future tense to describe the past. You’ll wish you had that vodka.”

Ah, right. I probably will be as confused as she thinks now, in the past of her future, when she talks like she’s talked before about things that haven’t yet happened. But that didn’t happen that night. That night, she finally told me what I’m doing in Romania and the significance of my run in with Romanian undead nightlife. “He doesn’t matter,” she said with a nod toward the vampire.

The vamp gave a soft hiss.

“Be nice to the guy, his brother died recently.” I checked the time on my HUD. It gets annoying having the exact time in the lower corner of your eyesight constantly. Ever watched a clock while you waited for something? That’s why I kept that program more in the background where I could call it up. I wanted to warn the vampire if daylight approached. From one being who hates the sun to another, it seemed like common courtesy. Besides, he might be one of those Quiverful kids. There might be nineteen siblings and counting all waiting in the wings to try and bleed me for revenge.

“My brother was a sheepfucking asshole!” said the vampire. See? His brother fucked sheep. There might even be vampire lambs hiding in my pillows to drain me dry.

“See? Not only did he have to grow up with an asshole brother, but now he’s dead and he’s got to feel sorry for him!” I pulled out my wallet and dropped some lei, the Romanian currency, in his lap. “There, now you can buy yourself a drunk hooker to help you get to bed tonight.”

He picked himself up and threw the bottle at a nearby car, setting off the alarm. “There are no hookers around here! They’re too afraid to walk the night. I’ll go now. Maybe find some sheepfucking farmer to remember my brother by.” He walked off a ways before melting into a wolf and loping off into the night.

I looked at Cookie, who waved me toward her and started walking her own way. I joined in beside her. “I’m glad you’re not angry,” she admitted, speaking in English this time.

I adjusted my coat to try and bundle up against the cold. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it’s warm in the Carpathians. “I’m a bit ticked off. After Vladivostok, I intended to go to North Korea and wreck the place. The North Koreans and I got into a bit of a disagreement this time, so I don’t like them. They’re assholes, I’m a dick. It’s about time I forced my way in and screwed the place up. Fuck yeah. So why am I here?”

She glanced sideways at me, reaching back to adjust the ponytail of her hair. “The fate of time itself may rest in your hands.”

I rolled my eyes, then swiped at a moth flying around my head. “I don’t believe you, because that sounds unbelievable and nobody would be stupid enough to try and have me do that.”

She gave me a flit of those lashes of hers. “What if I said you were a special individual uniquely suited to the task at hand, painstakingly manipulated into just the right position to help me deal with this crisis?”

“Sounds like bullshit.” I zapped the moth out of the sky with my laser eye.

“It is. You were the best choice I had available to me when I noticed that time only went to a certain point and stopped. I look into the future and I can catch a glimpse, a scene, and know when it’s going to happen.” She rubbed at her thin nose. “I started noticing that everything stays static, everywhere, for months. I traced it back. The time stop happens later this month. I looked around for someone I could pull into this who might be able to help. I did a lot of research, too. I know you are a bad person, but you have experience I may need.”

I turned around so I could better watch her lagging behind. “For someone who can see the future, you don’t seem terribly well-prepared.”

“Futures change.” She kept her chin up as she spoke to me, looking me right in the eye. “Time is a many-branching path. The future changes all the time. Six months ago, this wouldn’t have happened. Now, it’s fixed. It will happen.”

I tilted my head. “If it will happen, absolutely will, then why bring me here?” I stumbled over a curb and almost fell.

Cookie grabbed my arm and threw her weight back, helping me regain my balance but losing hers in the process. I caught the same hand that grabbed hold of me and pulled her up as well. I let her go, pretty damn sure she knew that was going to happen. She confirmed it when she looked up at me, speaking softly under the glow of a streetlight. “I knew you would fall, but I didn’t know I could stop you. Do you know why?”

“I know you’ve got a pretty face and a body pressed close to mine after I also helped stop you from falling. Some people might suspect you’re using that to make me sympathetic to you. Right now, that makes you like those people who do the commercials with sad songs playing over hurt dogs.” I let her go and stepped back away.

“I’m sorry,” She bowed her head. “but it helped make a point. Your question was valid. I can’t see the result of my own actions. With you here, that gives me a chance, and I know you want to help. You don’t have to keep finding things to get upset about.”

I hate that she knew I just played hard to get, but I needed one more answer. “Why Romania? How did you see it started here?” I put my hands in the air. Instead of waving them like I just didn’t care, I merely spun around to theatrically indicate the validity of questioning why time stops in Dracula country.

“Because of him.” She pointed off down a side road. I stopped and caught myself before I needed to throw up, then looked in that direction, watching as Moai and my crate parachuted down to land in the street, blocking it off.

“Him? That’s Moai. He doesn’t know anything about all this time stuff.” I waved at Moai. “Yo, what’s up? Good to see you!”

“Not that. Him.” She pointed at a light hanging in the air. Looked pretty distant, before I noticed it growing in size with a steady hum. It grew to about the size of a phone booth, multicolored electricity streaking across the outside as it settled on the ground. The outline of a door appeared in the middle of the glow, then opened to reveal a man who stepped out of it. The glowy orb thing disappeared with a snap, and the man turned to us, looking a little fancy in his pinstriped brown suit.

The gangly fellow smiled warmly. When he spoke, I placed the accent as somewhere north in the British Isles “You won’t believe this, but something very cool is about to happen around here. Shame I have to stop it. Listen, folks, time is coming to an end!”

Weird British guy, glowing ship, association with temporal phenomena. Yep, I knew of this guy. A bit out of my league if he decided to stop me, but he generally worries more about extinction-level events. Well, that’s a thought to end constipation. I looked over at Fortune Cookie, whose closemouthed grin and raised eyebrows revealed her own excitement in the phase of my obvious exasperation.

Our newest visitor looked between the pair of us. “Don’t panic, everything will be quite alright. I am the Mobian.”

Why do I suddenly feel like I’m no longer the main character in my own life?

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