Tag Archives: The Torian

Deals and Breakers 7



So here’s how it laid out. Lacastra was behind the plot to kill her brother, using Mickledorn who had a laundress poison him. Micledorn was then killed by her Security Chief. He was framed in part thanks to Grurn, who murdered the Butler for her. And now all this was revealed. It would be time to slap the cuffs on her in a police procedural, but she had her poofy-sleeved house guards who outnumbered us. Also, Grurn got his sword back, revealed he was working with her, and was also part of the people opposing us who were armed.

On the other side of things, there was the Mobian, his companion Lily, Sir Reginald the fighting fish, all the other guests who haven’t already been murdered, my girlfriend Holly, and myself. If not for the fact I need to worry about other people surviving, this is just a fun time with some future dead bodies.

“We don’t need to turn this into a bloodbath,” the Mobian offered.

“It would be difficult for the staff to clean up, but that’s what they’re there for,” Lacastra said.

“Except for the bit where you kill them freely in all this,” I said.

“They’re good for that, too,” Grurn said. I noticed some of the guards looking at each other. The beat-up Security Chief had crawled to the rest of his guys. He’d admitted to killing Mickledorne for Lacastra, and had not been treated well in return. The beating was my part, though. He decided to eliminate me for my suspicions. One helped him up and he whispered to him. The guards backed away from Lacastra and Grurn, then turned their polearm-rifles on Lacastra and Grurn.

“What is this?” Lacastra asked, outraged. “I demand you turn your weapons on them!”

Grurn slowly sidled over toward a side door of the garage. One of the estate’s maids closed and locked it before he could.

“Are you going to come easily, Grurn?” Sir Reginald asked from his fish tank on treads.

Grurn raised his Tarn blade, a local design to this water/swamp world. “Prepare to be sushi, Reginald.”

“No, he’s ours!” said a bunch of squeaky voices all at once. Guinea pig-like creatures swarmed out of the group of guests, headed toward Grurn. He swung and missed with this sword as they climbed onto him, nibbling enough to make him drop his blade, but carrying him to the ground, gnawing away.

Holly leaned in close. “I’m glad I didn’t eat one as an hor d’oeuvre.”

“So they were guests then?” I asked.

She furrowed her brow. “With the staff turning on them… I still don’t know.”

Regardless, the guinea pig things left us with the sight of an alien skeleton picked clean of meat and ligaments and fat everywhere that wasn’t covered by clothing. Grurn had become the prey of a vicious pack of appetizers. Or maybe some sort of hive minded rodent party guests.

“I think I’m going to barf,” Lily said, covering her mouth and looking away.

The Mobian edged toward Lacastra, who looked as shocked at the consumption of Grurn as almost everyone else. “You should come along peaceably.”

“Per my inheritance of my brother’s stake in the planet, I am the law here,” she said.

Sir Reginald blubbed. The front base of his water tank unfolded to reveal the barrel of some sort of projectile weapon. “I shall extradite you to my liege lords landholdings for trial immediately, followed by similar trials for the crime committed against the other gentry present.”

Lacastra made one last attempt at avoiding responsibility. She turned to the Security Chief. “Do something!”

“What’s my name?” asked the Security Chief.

“What?” the owner of the planet asked. “Why? It’s… Bob?”

“Stand down, men. Let them take her,” the Chief said.

“Letting someone live actually helped a situation,” I whispered to Holly. I noticed Mobian gesture toward Lily. They left the aristocrats to deal with their issue, and started heading down a side corridor. Holly and I followed. “Wait up!”

“Oh, you two,” Mobian said. “That worked out rather nicely if I do say so myself. And I do.” He smiled at his own joke. “You were both astonishingly useful, it was a pleasure to meet you.”

“If you’re ever on Earth, you’ll have to look us up,” Holly suggested. I gave her elbow an elbow.

“Oh, you’re from Earth?” Lily asked.

“Yeah, you’re from Earth?” Mobian wondered. “Bit early for that,” he pointed to my eyes.

“Well, we’re on a bit of a trip outside our usual time and place,” Holly admitted. “A friend said we simply had to attend this party.”

“Your friend has a weird sense of humor,” Lily said.

“I appreciate your help regardless,” The Mobian said. “Perhaps I will see you again.”

I nodded. “Yeah, you definitely will.” I held my hand out for a shake. He took it. I squeezed. He pulled back, but I puled him toward me, onto a nanite blade that pierced one of his hearts, then broke off and went after the other one. “Sorry about this, but you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.” After all, it was another incarnation of Mobian who made a deal to help me out in exchange for this attack.

“NOOOO!” Lily screamed. I let Mobian dropped and let her cradle him as he died. Except he didn’t just die. His skin began to glow. He looked like he was aging rapidly.

“Gecko, I left the watch in the room,” Holly said. She waved me on with her, then started running. I ran after. I think we’d both decided it’d be better to get out fairly soon after the assassination. I’m not sure if it’s really an assassination if it’s part of the plan for the target to come back to life, but that’s close enough for the Dark Brotherhood.

It didn’t seem all that necessary. When Holly and I barged into the room, her winded and me not so much, I checked the hallway behind us. “I don’t think anyone’s coming.”

“Fine, then I’m taking some of this stuff, too,” Holly said. She grabbed some of the shinier metal objects around the room. I shrugged and grabbed the fur rug from in front of the fireplace, as well as a painting I liked of a warped penguin with a beaklike-mouth on top of its head.

“I wish we’d planned this so we could have robbed everyone else,” I said.

“You’re the one who went and killed him right then,” Holly said. She sat on the bed. “Ugh, wish we could take this bed with us.” She sat up suddenly and lunged for the nightstand. She held up the pocket watch The Torian gave us to call him for our escape. “I got it!”

I rushed over with the rug and painting, then hopped onto her lap. She pressed the button on the watch.

We both dropped into time vessel. Amber colored walls and floors swirled with yellow energy all around us. We looked around toward the platform where Mobian and Torian control the vessel from. Torian looked a lot worse than I remembered. He staggered down the steps, coughing, the sat down on the steps. “Did you have to cut it so close stealing everything?”

I shrugged. “Not like Morigoth or Lacastra are going to notice it gone.”

He shook his head. “Not what I mean. That adventure took place quite some time ago to me. At the time, I didn’t understand. I held a grudge against you. This far along, I understand why you did it, and why you said that to me.”

“It was a shame to do it. That’s the nicest you’ve ever been to me,” I said. I stood up and helped Holly up as well.

The Torian, the villainous incarnation of the Mobian, laughed. “That was our first encounter.” The laughter turned into coughing. “And this will be our last, sort of.” He smiled at that. His skin began to glow. “The good die young, but I didn’t last forever.”

So we ended up getting a view of of the reincarnation process after all. When the glowing stopped, the old man who sat before us turned out to be a gawky, middle-aged man. Same clothes, but his coat was all the wrong size. “Hello, ooh,” he felt his teeth. “New teeth.”

“Hey, which one are you?” Holly asked enthusiastically.

The time traveling alien looked himself over. As he talked, I noticed his accent had changed quite a bit. Maybe a bit of Welsh in there? Space Wales, maybe? “So stuffy. I’m back to my old self, I think. Or my new self. But don’t worry, I don’t hold a grudge. It really had to be done, because it’s how it happened. You killed me, and then I incarnated as him.”

“So the Torian sent us to make sure he would be born, in a way,” I said.

“That’s right,” the newest Mobian said, smiling with some big front teeth of his. “It really hurt, you know. I should hit you for that, but, you know.” He gestured to the belly I carried.

“This explains something of the heretofore-unexplained tension between us, “ I said.

“Mm,” the Mobian said. He walked up the steps. “I better get you home then.”

“No offense, but I hope we don’t have our timelines so closely entangled going forward. Hope in one hand…”

“Actually, Mobian, I have an idea for a stop before you get us home!” Holly said, holding up her hand.

Cue the trip back to Vermont, years ago. The Mobian exited his time craft with us. “Vermont, home of the whitest of bread.”

Holly pulled me along. “I’m trying to remember… there we go.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

She kept pulling me along, though she had to stop. She’d already strained herself running around the Morigoth Estate, and we hadn’t gotten even a full night’s rest there. It bugged me that there was nothing for me to connect to, putting this firmly pre-wifi and bluetooth. We ended up stopping off near some park where a teenage Holly was arguing with a teenage boy.

“If you stopped being such a stuck-up bitch and just went with it, maybe you’d have some fun with your privileged life!” the boy yelled at her. He grabbed the younger Holly. She was crying and swaying.

The older Holly called out. “Hey! Let her go!” The boy panicked and let go of young Holly’s wrist, then booked it. We came running up.

“If Mobian were here, he’d say some weird stuff about timelines and interference with yourself probably,” I said.

“Just come on!” Holly called back. Her younger self had fallen to her knees and was crying to herself. The older one knelt down and hugged her. “It’s alright.” She looked up at me and said, “She’s high as fuck right now.”

“Who are you?” young Holly asked. She brushed her hair out of her face. “This can’t be real.”

“I’m you from the future, and I want you to know it gets better. You get out of here and you meet people who care about you.”

“And who’s that?” asked young Holly, pointing at me.

“That’s your girlfriend.”

I waved at young Holly, who gawked. “I’m a lesbian?!”

“More bisexual, maybe demisexual,” Holly answered. “But she’s a hot kickass cyborg assassin and she loves going down on you.”

“Can we phrase that in a way that doesn’t make me sound like I molest teenagers?” I asked my girlfriend.

“Come on, let’s get home,” Holly said. “The future’s going to be amazing.”




Deals and Breakers 2



Holly had like a sixth sense for when I was ready. She met me down in the basement while I was just finishing my fitting into a bohemian number: loose, frilled tank top, sandals, and a boho skirt with whirling patterns and dots and shit. I looked like a hippie cyborg. Hmm, that’d make a good movie. “Killer Cyborg Hippies!” Sounds very grindhouse. Added bonus, it describes a lot of Republicans who’ve had pacemakers put in. At least, they used to be hippies. They dropped that shit long ago.

“Someone looks like she hangs up signs saying ‘life, laugh, love,’” Holly said. She stepped down in an old flapper dress. Not a bad choice, actually.

“I wanted something with a loose skirt. All the better to air out my ladybits,” I said,

“Yeah, you like airing those. You really surprised the doctor when he saw a pregnant lady packing dong.” She walked downstairs and over to the table with the pocket watch on it. One click and it’ll call Torian for our adventure into the past. “I’m coming with you.” She held up a small piece of luggage.

“Is that why you didn’t mention anything to the rest of the family?” I wondered. I hadn’t said anything about it and neither did she. I grabbed my own bag, which was actually bigger than hers but more of a giant handbag. I needed enough clothes to cover up one or two helpful implements I’d packed.

“You didn’t tell anyone either,” Holly pointed out. “You want to go and do this too, don’t you?”

“Well duh,” I said, pointing to the dress. I’m not running around uncomfortable while killing someone at the sight of some sort of space party in the past. I had some robots finish off a second braid on the right side of my head. “So, our little secret?”

She winked and checked that her Mauser was in her purse. “Our secret. Let’s go to the party then, my dear.” She picked up the pocket watch. I stepped close to her and put one arm around her so that one hand rested on her lower back. I wrapped the other around her hand and, staring into her eyes, clicked the top of the watch.

We were surrounded by a grinding noise and flashing lights, before resting in an amber orb with a raised dais upon which stood The Torian. “Would it be cliché to say it’s about time?”

I shrugged. “Time travel tends to be about time.” Holly and I separated from our embrace, but we held onto each other’s hands.

“We’re ready to go on an adventure!” Holly said, bouncing just a little in her slips.

“Morigoth House, Planet Eidos Alt 9. It’s a celebration,” I recapped.

“Yes, the Morigoth family purchased the last freehold on the planet. They’re celebrating ownership of the whole planet. I can provide you cover as some minor starfaring nobility. Your clothes will do; it shouldn’t be any stranger than any other attire or customs.”

“Oh, we can be sisters!” Holly said. She stopped and thought about it a minute. “…in-laws?”

“Perhaps you should be the noblewoman, and I’ll be your maid,” I said. “A put-upon, pregnant servant can get a lot of sympathy and leeway when she isn’t absolutely invisible.”

“And I get to boss you around?” Holly asked with a grin.

“So much so that you insist I sleep in the room with you, if we’re there that long.” I turned to Torian. “Is this going to somehow take a month?”

“A few days would be pushing it. It’s been so long, I don’t remember how long it took. Remember, you’re not there to solve the murder mystery. That’s going to be solved by the Mobian. You just have to fatally wound him at the end of it.”

“Any tips you can give us?” I asked. “Poisoned food to avoid or anything? Somewhere to avoid getting knifed for being a witness?”

“No, I think you’ll manage just fine without spoilers. Stay close to Mobian and you should be fine. No matter our difference in perception, he’ll move planets to keep the innocent safe. It’s why he’ll never see you coming.”

“I’d rather hope not. That’s the point of the us sharing a room,” I said.

“Are we ready for the party?” Mobian asked.

I looked to Holly. She looked at me and nodded, so I turned back and answered, “Take us to the ball, fair godmother.”

“Ha!” Mobian scoffed at me. He threw a switch on a console and the grinding started up again. When it finished, a white door opened in the side of the sphere we’d traveled in. “There. Keep the pocket watch on you. And remember, it’s a thousand years before you left Earth. Here.”

He hobbled down toward us and held out a card written in alien script that I could read. I took it off him. “Ah, we are formally invited. Will do, Mobian. See you before you know it.”

Mobian looked after us but didn’t say a thing.

We stepped out onto a swanky place, gilded and fancy polished stone with interesting natural patterns. I couldn’t call it marble. “It looks lovely and old! Look at these columns!” Holly said, walking along and running her hands along them. There was music playing, ethereal and broken up with a saxophone-like instrument on occasion. Maybe some other form of horn. I never learned the whole orchestra.

We emerged out of a side corridor. When I turned to look back, Mobian’s temporal vessel was gone. In place of it was a heavy, dark wooden door and frame. When I turned to look back where I was going, Holly had stopped and was looking to me as a bipedal, humanoid alien approached. It was bald, with bright pink skin. It wore a crisp black suit. “Pardon me, I didn’t hear you enter. May I see your invitation?”

“Yes,” Holly answered, “My servant girl has it. Here, Delilah.”

“Coming, my lady,” I said. It wasn’t hard to sound put-upon. I held the invite out. While I did so, Holly winked at me and put her luggage into my grip.

The alien butler looked it over, then put it away into his pocket. “Thank you.” I noticed he was only addressing Holly. “I can arrange separate quarters for your girl.”

“That won’t be necessary. I like to have her attend me when I sleep,” Holly said. She’d slipped into an old-timey accent and sounded like what you’d expect from a movie with a flapper in it.

“That is of course your choice, but the privacy of your affairs may become necessary. Please, let me know if that is the case,” the Butler said. He stepped to the side and beckoned us onward with a little bow. “Please, this way.”

I followed after Holly but when she brought Holly to a larger room with green wallpaper with golden leaf on it and various other well-to-do folks, he stopped me from following. “I’ll show you to your lady’s quarters so you may ready it for her.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said.

“You are quite with child,” he observed as we left the room.

“Yes. Another full-time job,” I said. “But it’s important for me to be near my lady.” And here I’d adopted an attempt at an Irish accent. It wouldn’t matter. They’ve never heard of Ireland on this planet. Hell, at this point in time, mine was the first Irish accent attempted in Modern English. The Irish would be doing bad imitations of me.

We started up some stairs, but the Butler lagged behind. “Please, allow me to take your bag.”

I was surprised, but let him hold onto my giant handbag as we ascended the stairs. Down the hallway, the doors all looked a bit different. Each one had a colored theme and different sorts of alien fauna around it. The Butler stopped at one with a predominantly dark green look to it, as well as a carved animals on it that looked like manatees with gas masks on. “Let me know if your lady shall require additional amenities.”

It was certainly a full room. Thick carpets laid over the floor, a huge fireplace carved to resemble plants climbing up to the ceiling, and a bed big and soft enough to drown in. I took back my bag from him and went over to the nearest table, an intricately-carved small one between two chairs instead of the larger one with a painting. It was from the perspective of someone peeking out of a forest of kelp down a drop-off to a plateau covered in red grass, with the surface of the ocean higher above.

“I’ll let you know when I’m done unpacking so that I can become acquainted with the facilities I will need to make her feel at home,” I said to the Butler. He nodded his head, with just the barest hint of a smile.

“Very good.”

He left me to put away the clothes, at which point I snuck some little guide strips onto my person. They would pair with my augmented reality program and create markers that only I would see. In a pinch, they could also boost radio and cell signals, but they were incapable of listening out or providing holograms. They weren’t bugs. To anyone else, they would look almost like strips of gum.

After that, I headed downstairs. I didn’t see the Butler or notice a way to ring him, in case he asked, so I headed over toward the big hall where Holly had been deposited. Along the way, I left a couple markers in case I needed to find my way.

Holly was having a good time, chatting with a large red fish in a closed-off aquarium mounted on treads. The top of the tank came up to her midsection. She actually laughed at their conversation before excusing herself and heading over to meet me. “This is so freaky and cool!”

“Is that a fish in a tank?” I asked. “I mean, treads and so on?”

“Yeah, that’s Sir Reginald. He’s some kind of war hero,” Holly squealed with delight. “I get to say I talked with a fish in a tank. Well, you know, not in a tank tank, but a tank tank!”

I understood what she meant, even if everyone else would look at her funny. “I got our room all packed away. What do I call you as far as all these people are concerned?”

Holly cleared her throat and pressed her hand to her clavicle. “I am Lady Holly Snyders of Hanover, owner of Deep Space Nine.”

I nodded. “Solid, there’s no way they’ll get the reference. Plus, Gene Roddenberry and that pretzel company owe us royalties now.”

“Eh, eh?” Holly pointed at me. “Pretty smart, right?”

I nodded. A waiter passed by carrying guinea pigs in little square, clear containers. We both stared at it as it went before I asked, “Is that food or a guest?”

“I’ve been too afraid to ask,” Holly confessed. “Anyway, is it alright if I keep schmoozing?”

I nodded. “Yeah, for sure. Let me know if you spot the Mobian anywhere. I’m going to get a tour from Jeeves for later.”

“Yeah, I bet he’ll show you around the estate,” Holly said.

“What’s that about?”

“He was looking at you,” Holly said.

“I might could use that, but I’m not going to use that, ya know,” I said. “What about you, anyone trying to marry into the family?”

I followed Holly’s gaze to a centaur-like alien with a bony plate that curved backward and could have been mistaken for a cartoonish hairstyle. “That does it for you?”

“Eh, I could see it. He reminds me of a guy I used to date in high school before shit went belly-up,” she told me. She reached over for my hand and held it briefly. She jerked her hand away when we heard someone yelling at someone else in the room.

“It was a crooked deal and you know it! You have no right to this land!” a being with slick, see-through green skin declared. She was speaking to gray-skinned man with a buzz cut of white hair. “My people do not belong to you.”

“If you insist on that then I will have to ask them to leave my land,” the gray alien said. A pair of guards the same pink skin as the butler began to move up behind the woman, who didn’t notice.

“No need for all that, thank you!” said a third person. He looked human, spoke in some sort of British Isles accent, and was dressed in a brown coat with a rainbow scarf. “I’m the Mobian, so nice to meet you Mr. Morigoth.” He held his hand out for the gray alien. Meanwhile, a blonde human woman came up behind him and quietly ushered her away from the guards, who looked to Morigoth. He waved them away dismissively while having his introduction with the Mobian.

A cough came from behind me.

“I’ll keep an eye out for that, my lady,” I said, looking like I’d been doing my job before turning around toward the Butler. “Ah, there you are. I couldn’t find you, so I thought I would check on my lady here.” Holly had gone back to the party.

“This way, ma’am. Let’s get you acquainted with the relevant portions of the estate.”

I smiled. “Yes, I think I’d quite enjoy seeing the sights with you.”

The pink alien’s cheeks turned a little blueish-purple. A blush. Holly was right. Just hope she doesn’t Captain Kirk a centaur in bed with me.



Deals And Breakers 1



There’s so much pressure. Everybody wants something from me. And it’s called an ultrasound. It’s considered a scandal that I haven’t bothered getting one. Why would I need doctors when I have robots?

“I’m going to find you a doula,” Holly said while eating a sandwich in front of me. I kept staring at the buffalo chicken. The chicken wasn’t moist enough. It needed a good mayo. “Hey!” she snapped her fingers. “What did I just say?”

“You wanted to get some new age woman to rub my belly and wave incense around,” I said.

“Yes, but no, but yes,” she huffed.

“We could get a midwife instead,” Sam said. She didn’t come bearing food. Wait… no, that was eye shadow. “I’m worried how hungry you are. I’ve been talking with the sister-wives and they want a specialist. Medusa’s worried that with everything you exposed yourself to, the baby might be weird.”

I glared at her.

Sam held out a sandwich. “It’s for your own good,” she said. “We’re just concerned about the baby, like you are.” I still glared, but I bit into it.

“My body is the pinnacle of health. Not like I’m going to turn myself into a regular person after having godlike abilities,” I informed her. “Sure, that was before I ate all this crap, but I’m keeping an eye on myself.”

“And were they collaborated for pregnant women?” Holly asked.

Sam rolled her eyes, but Holly grinned at her joke. Sam made a good point as well. “Remember that time you messed up your chromosomes?”

I took a deep breath. “Fine. You may convey your goddess to the vagina doc.”

Sam scoffed. “Take yourself, bitch.” She smiled at me, though.

“I’ll go!” Holly said, jumping up over the counter to kiss my cheek.

Hoping on the sleepy town not being that busy, which wasn’t a good bet anyway, we decided to go see the place in person. Since supers have made Radium a haven for our kind and our families, the town has grown and updated dramatically. At this point, very little of the town is what it used to be. They’re working on an actual hospital now, but we’ve got some more doctors. An awful lot of superheroes and villains have doctors among their friends and family, or support staff, or some of them are doctors. For reasons of trust and security, they’re asked not to wear the costumes while practicing. It could be awkward if a hero goes to the doctor and finds out his nemesis is checking his prostate.

I decided not to do a background check on the doctor inspecting my vajayjay and its passenger beyond finding out if he’s good at his job. And I had Holly with me to provide snacks she hid in her purse and keep me company. She has this cute smile when we hold hands.

Instead of the OB/GYN, the Torian entered with his back turned to me. The human-looking time traveler was the evil incarnation of the heroic Mobian. He was also older, with grey hair, and a clean white coat over his usual tan one. “Good morning, Mrs. Gecko. Let’s take a look at that baby now.”

“You’re not looking up my cooch,” I told the Torian.

“I’m not the Torian,” he said.

“Yes, you are. You’ve even got his smell, like sour decaf coffee.”

“I’m a tea drinker, you-!” He turned, revealing a fake mustache that fell off. He grabbed it out of midair and held it back up to his face. “I mean.”

Holly pulled out a Chinese broomhandle pistol and held it up to his face. “You carry a gun?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’s new,” I noted, looking at her.

She blew me a kiss. “I’ve never had a pregnant girlfriend before. I’m protective.”

“Alright,” Torian dropped the mustache. “I came because I need your help.”

“The favor I owe you, right?” I asked.

“Right,” he said, hesitating.

I sighed. “You came to me a short while ago in my timeline and gave me a crystal that stabilized an alien device that changes the size of things. You gave it to me in exchange for a later favor.”

The old time traveler thought about that. “I closed the loop. Yes. Well, you probably would have survived if I hadn’t, but things would have been much more difficult for you.”

I held up a hand. “Please, do not try to explain time travel. It’s nonsense, all of it.”

“Well,” he pulled the white coat off and tossed it aside. “Do you think your appointment can wait?”

“No!” Holly said, waving the Mauser she held.

“What’s going on here!” shouted the doctor as he held the door open.

“Wrong room,” Torian said.

Holly had her gun behind her back. “Yeah, grandpa’s getting a little senile. He was just leaving.”

“Yes, yes. I suppose I’ll go have lunch at that place I saw in town, Maskies,” he said and left past a suspicious doctor.

I looked to Holly and rolled my eyes. Maskies was a local restaurant with a super theme that started up a few months back. The staff have uniforms like costumes, and name food after various supers. I heard I’m on the menu somewhere. They put up signs announcing new hero merchandise. I’ve been avoiding the place. Holly and Sam have teased me about it. And since I don’t want to discuss getting my body probed by the human species, I’d rather skip to that place.

“It’s not that bad,” Holly said. “Regular women do it all the time. Besides, it’s good news!”

I maintained my grumpiness as I bumbled through the door into Maskies and was immediately greated by a host in a Captain Lightning cape. “Hey folks, welcome to Maskies. We hope you have a super time with us today. How many are we seating?”

“We’re meeting someone an old British guy here,” I said.

His face brightened. “Oh, him!” He pointed me over to the Torian, who was was “fighting” off some kids in complimentary masks who were celebrating a birthday.

The host showed us to a booth near the bunch. Torian took a break and walked over, easing into his side of the booth. “Ooh. Nothing makes you feel your age like children. I suppose I don’t need to tell you that.”

“Indeed,” I said. “So, what’s the job?”

“What, right to work? Don’t want to enjoy some food first? I hear pregnant ladies have all sorts of cravings,” he said.

Holly was already looking at the menu with a grin on her face. He had a point, I just didn’t want to see. Alas, I gave in and found myself looking down at a menu offering Forcelight fries, Claw fingers, and Venus Vegan burgers. I feel like Venus might be offended by that one. They had a Mix N’Max series of drinks with things like orange drink mixed with Sprite, root beer mixed with Dr. Pepper, or sweet tea mixed with lemonade. “I don’t see me on here,” I noted.

Holly reached over and pointed to the wing menu. “You’re a sauce.”

Sure enough, Psychopomp sauce was one of the offerings. Apparently mine was a spicy and sweet dipping sauce featuring mango, habanero, and honey. “That’s nothing at all like how I take my wings.”

“They’re just having a bit of fun,” Holly said. She patted my shoulder. “Besides, you don’t like this place anyway.”

“I thought I was a bit more meaningful than a sauce,” I said.

Holly was watching me with a cute smile. A teenage waitress stopped over, dressed in a costume I didn’t recognize at first. “Can I help you?”

“Do you have a discount for actual supers?” Holly asked.

I shook my head. “Don’t listen to her. She’s the sort who has a birthday every time we go out to eat.”

The waitress laughed. “You must be the hero.” Oh, how much fun they had with my expression. “We have a discount if you come in costume, but not when you’re in your civilian clothing.”

So I tried the Psychopomp wings with a side of Forcelight fries, which are thick, spiral-shaped fries seasoned with ranch seasoning with smoked cheddar and green onions. I devoured it. As soon as I came up for air after tearing through wings and fries, Torian cleared his throat. “No wonder Mobian found you terrifying. But the truth is, he knew you were going to kill him at some point.”

“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was the murder and genocide.”

He waved that off. “We’ve seen an eternity’s worth of that. No, there was a prediction you would kill him at some point. And you know he hasn’t appeared on Earth for some time. Something’s wrong, not that he knows it, and I believe now is the time.”

“Or you want it,” I said.

“I believe I am the last incarnation he has, and after a thousand years I’m quite feeling my age,” he said.

“You’re confusing me again. Let’s stick to the relevant bit: where and when do I kill the Torian?” I said. Holly reached over and dabbed at my cheek while I discussed assassinating a legendary hero of Earth.

The Mobian reached into his coat and pulled out a small rectangle. He slid it over where I could see alien lettering that, nonetheless, I could understand it. “Oh, those translator germs are still so handy.”

“Yes, that is another reason it has to be now,” Mobian said.

The card read that I am formally invited to spend an evening in Morigoth House on the Planet Eidos Alt 9 as part of a celebration. “He’s going to be at this party?”

“He will stop there with a travel companion and they will be caught up in a plot to murder everyone when no one knows who the killer could be in a party full of shady characters. You will fit right in.”

I laughed. I got a good feeling about this. “So go to a party, kill your other self, and get out somehow?”

Mobian pulled out a pocket watch. Holly grabbed it and turned it over. “Neat.”

“I built that to signal my timeship. As soon as you’re prepared, signal me, and I’ll get you to the party on time.”

“I’ll be sure to wear my laciest, prettiest dress,” I said.

He raised his eyebrows. “Please do. They’re aliens a thousand years in the past. Dress how you like. I’m sue you’ll be perfectly disarming.”

“Happy birthday to you!” sang a line of waitresses as they came over to our table. They put a domino mask on me. Holly had her camera out and recorded it, and my glare, as they sang to me in front of everyone.



Topsy Turf 6



“Would you call this a tribunal?” I asked Medusa.

“Maybe. I guess. If we had to call it something,” she said. We’d all gathered in the rear of my veterinary clinic, where the mobile slime molds had removed the truth serum and brought us a bunch of tables and chairs. I gave one some cash and sent it on a fast food run, making sure it knew to touch the bags but not the food itself. I think it understood. It nodded like it did.

Spinetingler had turned into a much more normal shape, this time a floating black mass inside a cloak dark enough to look like a hole in reality. Mindgame looked much healthier than when I first captured her for Spinetingler. The non-aggression pact between myself and the other major villain had been forged when I agreed to help reunite them. My homo machina physiology, that I now lack, is highly resistant to mind control. That was important, because Mindgame, as she goes by now, essentially blanks people’s minds and controls their bodies like her own puppets. When I found her, she had control over a whole apartment building. Neither it, nor her, were in the best shape physically.

She caught me looking and winked. “Nice to see they’re feeding you,” I said. “Last time we met in-person, you had missed a few meals.”

“You’re that girl who kidnapped me.” She tapped her temple. “But something’s wrong. You can’t keep me out anymore.”

Spinetingler leaned forward to block her view of me. I nodded appreciatively to him. He nodded back, then whispered something to her.

“Can we get on with this?” Venus asked. “We need to figure out what comes next. No one seems to like my world.”

“If your world is permanent, my life doesn’t go right,” the white and blue-clad speedster said.

“Who are you, again?” Medusa asked.

“Uh, I’m the Cobalt Racer, from the future. I’m Qiang’s husband, so you’re my mother-in-law. Uh, you and Venus both are,” he pointed between the pair of them. “And I guess you too,” he pointed to me. “I came back because of temporal reverberations that were erasing things in my future. When I came back, the past wasn’t right.

Mix N’Max, my old frined, was with us, as was the goddess and Max’s snu-snu buddy, Pestilentia.

Joining the familiar faces were two others, including the representative of the alien machines. It was a flying, coffin-shaped device with a mechanical humanoid torso hanging from it. I hadn’t had time to catch up on where the machines were in this reality, but I’d helped arrange for them to set up a homeland on the inhospitable outer planets of the solar system in the real one. This one had been sent to fight Venus, but I don’t think they trusted sending one of their negotiators. Being less connected now, I can’t just spy and see if Venus left them alone in the solar system or if she fucked around with them.

Torian was the other extra person, and the time traveling old man looked extra cranky. “I need to stop all of this right now. I already heard how this meeting goes. It takes too long, with too many arguments, so I came back to do this right.” He started pointing around, first to Pestilentia and Max, “You two don’t give a shit. In fact, you’re high,” he directed that to Max.

Max chuckled. “I can tell you I’m high, too. Doesn’t take a time machine to know that.”

“I was never sure if he could get high,” Medusa whispered.

I shrugged. “He can if he wants to.”

“That aside, she wants someone hurt,” Torian pointed a finger at Mindgame. At Spinetingler, he explained, “You want someone punished for controlling you like you control others.” Next was Medusa and Venus, “They don’t want their parents to be dead again and that’s a sticking point.” He pointed to me. “You want to go back to the way things were and you’re willing to give up the power and make some changes, but you don’t like that you had sex with your twin sister.” He was right, but she wasn’t my twin when I had sex with her. Now there’s something not everyone gets a chance to say.

That got me some looks from everyone. Torian moved onto the speedster, “You want reality to go back to normal because you hit the jackpot marrying Qiang and you don’t want anything to endanger that future.”

He brushed off his suit jacket and sat down again, then cocked a thumb toward the machine representative. “The two of us don’t want any humans to have that sort of power. That sort of thing is why folks don’t like gods existing, the meddlers.”

“This doesn’t sound like that big of an impasse,” I said.

“I think you should fight each other to figure out who gets to decide how the power gets used,” Torian said.

“That idea is shitty,” Max answered. He pointed toward Venus with a blunt he hadn’t been hiding or anything. “She still has the power.”

Torian had been removing the crystal ball from an inner pocket on his coat that it shouldn’t have fit into. “This will remove and contain the power.” Oh yeah, sure. That’s all it’ll do. “That way it won’t be an unfair fight.”

“Even I can detect that falsehood,” the alien machine said. It examined the device closely, then raised its arms. “I believe I have a solution.” With only that warning, it zapped Venus.

I dove on instinct. Cobalt Racer and Venus were faster, probably fast enough that they could actually see the purple blur pulled out of Venus by the alien machine. I landed hard, feeling the power race through me. I felt incredible, again. For one thing, gravity was once again a suggestion instead of a rule. I stood up, taking in a frozen scene. A trail of light showed Cobalt Racer had pushed the alien machine away and then got tackled by Spinetingler. Torian reached toward the middle of our gathering in vain. Venus dusted herself off, not frozen. I looked to her, cocking my head. “Wait, I got the power.”

“So did I,” my wife said. “I can feel it.”

She was right. I pulled up my omniscience and gave it a go, replaying the scene. I dove before anyone and happened to get in the way. Venus had enough chance to speed up and try to intercept what was going to be pulled out of her body. We both touched it, with Venus diving overhead and me hitting the ground. And we both contained it, becoming roughly equal in power.

“So what’s this mean?” she asked.

“Hon,” I approached, hands raised. Just in case, I sought out the knowledge needed created a copy of the device the machine had used. The clever thing had done an astoundingly quick visual analysis of Torian’s device and quickly recreated it using its own transformable internal structure. No wonder the thing was meant to deal with reality warpers. “I really think it’s time for our honeymoon to be over. That’s all this was, right? I told you one change. You changed the world. It’s time to go home.”

“You sure you don’t want to fight?” Venus asked. “We get up to some fun stuff if we fight.”

“Oh yeah?” I snapped my fingers and we appeared in a dark void. I didn’t unmake reality or anything, I just took us away from everything.

“How’d you do that?” she asked. “I don’t think I can affect you that way.”

“I’ve picked up a few tricks. You’re saying you want to fight?” I had to wonder a bit about that.

She snapped her fingers and part of the darkness opened up like a monitor. One showed me dressed in a black leather costume that had to be terrible to sweat in, catching Venus on a rooftop with a giant stolen diamond in hand. One tussle later and the clothes were off. Another monitor appeared, with me in my armor getting beaten by Venus, who handcuffed me and proceeded to feel me up. More were out there, different versions of ourselves all created when we try to change reality to give each other an edge.

I walked up and wrapped my arms around her. “Feels like you can do anything, so why shouldn’t you? It’s a little tough for me to be the one arguing against it, except maybe people need to save themselves rather than having it saved for them.”

Venus scoffed. “Are you saying you’re more responsible with this power than I am?”

I shook my head. “I’m saying that superheroes aren’t going to save them. As long as people are people, there’ll be a Klan or Nazis or a bunch of creepy British guys thinking trans people are bad. Heroes can fight them and villains can kill them, but people have to change to stop them from being a thing in the first place.” I paused to see if I was getting through to her. The way her eyes teared up, I figured I was getting close. “I’ve been thinking I should find some way to get rid of it.”

Venus stepped in close, shutting down the monitors. “How? You can’t trust the Torian.”

“Of course not. But I want to get the world sorted out real quick. And by that I mean go back to our version of things… mostly. I did say I’d let you change one thing, right?” I held my hand out and created an image of her parents.

Venus nodded, and turned into an intangible, ghostly form that flowed into me. I felt the power, all of it, once again. I also briefly felt the temptation to go back on what I said. Instead, I snapped my fingers and the dark void fell away.

We were back at the shop. My electronics shop, not veterinary clinic. The rest of this whole bunch were all frozen still, but I pushed them all back into their seats and restarted time. They had a moment to finish shouts or try to lunge before their memories updated. “You did it,” Cobalt Racer said, smiling. He had such a nice, genuine smile. He better not hurt Qiang.

I nodded, then let Venus step out of me.

“What about punishment?” Mindgame asked. I waved. She and Spinetingler went back to their abandoned theme park home.

Torian stood up, holding his crystal ball. “You have to give it up!” I whisked him away to his timecraft and sent him off to Betelgeuse a million years ago. While Cobalt Racer was watching all this, I sent him back to the future.

I looked to the machine that had come. It was strong. No much for even half my power. “I’ll give it up. Your people know me.”

“Really?” Max asked “That’s a lot of power to give up. You sure you don’t want me to hold onto it for safekeeping?”

“I’m sure.” I was also sure I had gotten my body to my liking, like being just thick enough in the right places, with hair a mixture of a beautiful red that becomes blond. It made me happy to no longer be a twin of Dame. I also kind of phased out the relationship she had with an alternate body I controlled. The experience in the other reality soured me on that stuff. It didn’t put me off being able to change forms, so of course I took advantage of things in a way I didn’t tell anyone. Of course I left myself a few advantages like flight.

“There we go… a few nice changes… everyone’s got themselves a weird dream to remember the other reality by,” I muttered aloud.

Venus… Isabella, walked a few steps to get her feet under her again. Maia, aka Medusa, walked up and hugged her. Their parents appeared in the yard from the other reality without any gift-wrapped memories of this version. I added, “Some people get a little more to remember things by.”

Medusa and Venus both looked to the resurrected mom and dad and walked over. I raised my fingers for one last snap. “Just one thing left to deal with, I guess.” Two if you count the copies of Torian’s power-extraction machine that appeared in my basement lair.


Energy cannot be created or destroyed.

“I thank you,” the machine said. It shot off into space.

That left my family, and Pestilentia, to head on over to the house for a big reunion with the real Sam and Holly. It took a long time before everyone got to sleep. I couldn’t help smirking to myself as I hugged my pillow.

It was the perfect pillow. It stayed cold when it needed to, would stay worm when it needed to. It couldn’t get dirty or mashed out of place. I might even say it’s a god among pillows.

There, back to normal.



Topsy Turf 5



I’m not just doing this out of contrarianism or a dislike of the exact circumstances Venus dumped me in. I actually feel pretty bad how much I’m neglecting just enjoying things with my family in a world where they’ve been given a happy ending; turns out I have professional masseuse training that Sam and Holly know all about. I’m neglecting people who love me and wanting to change their entire world, and I can tell they’ve noticed something. They’re worried. Sam’s a little hurt, even.

That’s why I suggested a day off before we make our move. The others took it. A day to relax before an intense operation. Let them gather up anything they need last minute, or just enjoy what they can of the world while we’ve got it. I think they truth serum has them pessimistic about our chances. I spent some of it with my neglected family.

I appreciate what Venus tried to do. She tried to give me the life she thought I wanted. Or that she thought that I thought that I wanted. Or that I thought that- I’m stopping this here. She tried to make a perfect world for us, where even a bunch of people I killed were brought back and given a second chance to be good people.

If I was the only problem, it worked against the notion that this whole thing is bound to fall apart on Venus. You know, except Max and Pestilentia were already back to the bad side of the law. Same for the Greens and the Reds. Venus messed with their heads to make them want to do good. Her idea of good failed.

Now, there’s Spinetingler and his daughter, Mindgame. She got caught hunting down Texas state officials involved in a shelter that was trafficking the kids for sex. The governor’s called out the Texas Rangers to hunt her down, which is going poorly for them. Mindgame can take over a person’s mind like it’s nothing. The Rangers investigated and claimed the sex abuse never happened. Other investigators looked at it and came to the opposite conclusion, probably because they actually talked to the kids in question. It’s a low bar, but Mindgame’s buried them under it.

The day after it was announced the governor was sending the Texas Rangers after her, video emerged of Mindgame leading the bunch of Rangers to a field where they all dug a big mass grave and beat each other to death with their shovels.

Spinetingler went in a different direction. The videos coming out of his haunted houses of people taking video of their journey turned into horror movies. People would go in expecting some out-of-season spooky fun. They got a bunch of scares tailored to their individual fears and secrets. It stopped being fun. For more and more, it stopped being survivable. The videos suggest a lot of people have literal skeletons in their closets.

The funny thing is they’re still following the spirit of Venus’s brainwashing. She wanted them to be law-abiding citizens and superheroes. Now, they’re more examples of what happens when someone interprets that the best thing to do involves going outside the law. And for others who require some restricted substances to live, they’re choosing to live rather than let the law kill them. I myself was able to pay someone to smuggle cocaine to Powder. Like, if a guy requires nuclear waste to survive, you can bet he’s breaking into places containing it.

With a little digging, I found it’s not just the former villains having that issue. Some of the forceably-reformed are doing well in their new lot in life. In contrast, some of the street-level superheroes are getting caught knocking heads. The problem with linking your moral concept of good to a system of justice and welfare is it won’t survive too well if that system is built badly. If she did what I think, Venus didn’t want to interfere too much with that. I think she had confidence that superheros could fix the problems themselves. All of that from a little online snooping.

Without my powers and with the less-refined algorithms I used, that “little digging” took me hours. I wanted the ammunition to try and convince Venus. It’ll probably fail anyway. She’s got power and an annoying tendency to think she’s right all the time. I’d wish we could give her anxiety, but sometimes the people who are the most anxious will press ahead anyway when they think they can make it work, just as stubborn as the ignorant ones.

Woops, think I got something that wasn’t truth serum on me while cleaning the armor. Nope, definitely not truth serum.

…Ok, so one potential back-up plan I have for when this fucks up is time travel. Don’t know if that means finding a time machine or someone who can run super fast. That’s why I stopped to ask Medusa as we gathered into my shop, “Hey, you know any speedsters?”

“You know any time travelers?” she asked back. She turned to offer help toward one of the ambulator mold slimes placing containers of Truth Serum around before stopping herself. “Feels weird without my team here. None of them know her, really.”

“I don’t know her either,” Pestilentia said. “Can I leave?”

“We need you here because you’re the closest to her power level,” Max explained.

“So I’m the ‘oh shit’ button,” Pestilentia confirmed.

“Do we need to stand any special way?” Max asked.

Medusa and I both shook our heads. Medusa answered, “She’ll listen when we pray.”

“You have to pray to your wife?” Max asked me, ever-present smile growing wider.

I raised my eyebrows and gestured with my head toward Max’s girlfriend, the goddess of decay and disease. He shrugged.

“Are we ready?” Medusa asked. Nods answered her all the way around.

“How does praying work?” Max asked.

“Oh Venus, goddess of boners,” I started. “Also, my wife. We would like a chat with you. That’s myself, and also Medusa-”

“Leave me out of the prayer, please,” Medusa interrupted.

“Me too.”

“Uh huh.”

“I would like to talk to you then all by myself,” I said. “As the baby momma of your demigod spawn, I desire an audience.”

I waited.

“Last time, she responded a lot more quickly than-”

Suddenly, we were all standing in the courtyard of Master Academy, which had seen some better days.

“Shit’s on fire, yo,” Max said, pointing to a burning building.

While he was checking out the pretty flames, I noticed the fight going on nearby. Venus was in a beam war with some device that looked like a crystal ball held by an evil time traveler known as The Torian. She occasionally shot eye blasts at a speedster who tried to rush her. I didn’t recognize the speedster. There was also a glowing, flying coffin-shaped mechanical being with what looked like a humanoid robot torso hanging off it, also trying to blast Venus. The blast stopped before it touched her, but it was slipping.

“Can you help?!” Venus called out to us. Her head spun around behind her to blast the speedster.

“Hold up!” I said, raising my arms. “What’s going on?!”

“It has to be this way!” Torian yelled above the fray. “With her powers, she’s too great a threat to the timeline. She threatens to tear reality apart with her constant changes! I have to entrap her powers.”

Constant reality changes? I didn’t notice any of those. This all got way way more hectic since we left my pet shop back in Radium.

The speedster stopped by us, panting. He wore a white and blue costume. “Listen, I know this is confusing, and I don’t know what you’re doing here, but I’m from the future. I’m trying to help my mother-in-law, but she’s not listening.”

Waaaaaait a minute there… “She’s your mother-in-law?”

“Yeah, I came from the future using a speed-activated temporal anomaly inducer,” he pointed to what I thought was a harness on his costume. Then he pulled out a disk with some wires and a couple small lightbulbs on it. “I can displace her in time and give us time to talk it over. “

“We are-” the robot started to say.

“Enough!” I shouted. “Everyone stop! That means Torian, super speedy flashy guy, and you, alien machine god-thingy. Everyone calm your tits!”

And amazingly, they did.

I took my helmet off and walked up to Venus, maneuvering to stand between her and Torian. I actually had an idea for the speedster to take Torian back in time to steal the powers from me just before Venus got them, but that’s not what I was going to go with. Instead, I hugged my wife. “Hon, I think we need to talk and try to do better.”

I could hear the booing already. Max was upset he didn’t get to start a fight. He had a water bottle with a squirter ready, too. Instead, I hugged one of my favorite squirters, Isabella. I whispered to her, “You messed up, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the world.” Then I raised my voice, “And you don’t need to be beat up or zapped or whatever that thing was going to do,” I pointed to the freaky flying automaton, “over a mistake.”

Venus quietly cried, but stayed wary of the situation. I saw her concentrate on me, probably reading the plan I came up with in favor of the plan I’d had to talk to her.

Medusa also came up and hugged her, covering another area someone might come at us.

“I thought you brought me to fight,” Pestilentia muttered.

“I brought you in case of a fight. Can we just all calm down and talk? This isn’t a monster… this is my wife, Isabella. And not too long ago, she tried to get people to give me a chance instead of trying to kill me all the time.”

“She’s me,” Medusa added. “My sister now, but she’s just a younger me from a past timeline. Any mistakes she makes is one I’d have made in her place. If any of you want proof she can grow and change, I’m it.”

“She’s my friend’s wife!” Max announced. He stopped, not adding onto it, then started toward Venus with arms outstretched in the silence.

Pestilentia grabbed him by the collar. “Touching, but you don’t know her that well, remember?”

“I thought we were all doing it, “ Max explained.

“Wow… so you’re Qiang’s mom,” the speedster said, eyes fixed on me and mouth agape. “She’s told me so much about you. You really are a hero.”

If I’d had laser eyes, that speedster would have been dead in a flash.

The ground rumbled before I could come up with some pithy comment. A huge skeleton clawed its way free of the earth, eyes glowing green. “You will pay, Venus, for what you did to us!” It managed to free half of itself, a bony torso with a few scraps of viscera clinging to it, twice the size of anyone else there.

“It’s Spinetingler,” Venus whispered.

“Calm, Spiney. It’s Gecko, by the way. We talked her down. We’re going to resolve this without fighting. And back in the real reality, you and I had an arrangement about staying out of each others’ business.”

The skeleton sighed. “You better be sure about this, Gecko. But if anyone has a plan to kill a god, it would be you.”

If he only knew.

“That’s boring. I wanted to punch someone,” Mindgame said. The pale, wild-haired young woman climbed out of the hole as well, brushing dirt off her black tank top and pants.

“Are you a god?” I asked.

“No,” Mindgame said, causing the skeletal form her dad had taken to facepalm.

“Remember what we went over, sweety,” growled the skeleton. “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes!”

“I’m not going to use that line just because it worked on mom,” Mindgame whined. Though she turned and looked me over. “But if you’re real nice, I’ll be your goddess.”

I felt Venus sprout extra arms to wrap around me. Mindgame held up her hands. “Jesus, I’ll back off.”



Temporal Difficulties 6



The two Mobians from different periods of time, one going by the name Torian, were not amused at what I’d done.

Mobian took issue with Torian’s indignation to point out, “You were going to change the future, too!”

“Only in subtle ways that slip past because nobody knows anything! There would have been a Reagan, just a brainwashed Reagan,” Torian answered.

Ignored by both, I commented, “It was a .22 or I’d have cleaned his brains out for sure.”

“Brains…” Mobian said.

“Yes, having them is why I killed the shithead,” I pointed out. Plus, that George Bush guy is shit in elections.

Mobian held up a finger, focusing on Torian. “If his brain is untouched, he can be brought back in a reasonable facsimile of life.”

“We need a mad scientist,” Torian said.

I raised my hand. Both of the time travelers glanced my way, then looked back to each other. “Or a necromancer,” Mobian suggested.

Well, that’s insulting. Don’t they know how much impossible knowledge I’ve shoved into this head so I could break the fundamental laws of physics? They’d rather put their trust in some magic man who waves a wand around and goes “Is this your zombie?”

Torian scratched at his head. “Do you know a necromancer at this time?”

“You have all of time and space at your fingertips and can’t find someone who can bring people back to life?” I figured I’d mock them a bit. There had to be aliens who could do this shit. There’s not a single one of those super advanced species that can handle that problem?

“Traveling to a different time risks allowing the timeline to settle,” Torian explained, “The longer we spend attempting to undo this, the harder it becomes. Most aliens wouldn’t help us.”

“Aren’t you two aliens who look human?” I asked.

Torian pointed at me and laughed. Mobian threw his hands up, then answered, “Such limited senses.”

I rolled my eyes. “I mean, sure, keep insulting me, not like I know where to find aliens with advanced technology and magic on Earth, or necromancers.”

I’d already figured out a possible lead. Some years back, a long-lived superhero named Captain Lightning caused a stir when he accidentally murdered a necromancer around Washington D.C. That’s one potential person, but that’s counting on a lot of variables that could be off. I never looked up the guy’s age or when he came to be living in the District of Columbia.

“If you think on it, she’s the one who has to stay here,” Mobian said.

“Yes,” Torian said, turning and grinning at me.

An invisible force threw me out of the timeship and onto the street. I landed next to some guy who looked down at me, then back at the ship, which was still disguised as a mailbox. “Holy cow,” he said. “I just sent for the mail order bride.”

“You don’t want me,” I said, rolling to my feet and brushing myself off. The guy was so fixated on me, he didn’t notice the mailbox lift off into the sky and disappear in a flash.

I had no idea where they went, but it occurred to me that I knew where they had to go. And soon. I guess they had some hang-up about going back and changing the past they’d already been present for, but Reagan’s body was still here. I turned to the guy who thought I was his mail order bride. “I need your car.”

“I don’t have a car,” he said.

I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “How did you get here?”

He pointed over to where people were getting onto a bus.

Minutes later, I sped down the road in the hijacked bus, one of the passengers calling out, “Holy shit!”

Spotting traffic up ahead, I decided to go around it in the lanes going the other direction. I swerved past a car heading my way. It honked at us. I honked back and called out, “Learn to drive, asshole!” They just don’t teach troubleshooting anymore. Or maybe they never did. I never actually took a driving course over here, so I don’t know what people have to learn to get a driver’s license. Oh well, I got us around traffic ok. When someone tried to shout that I missed their bus stop, I called back, “I got somewhere else more important to get to!”

“I think I’m having a heart attack!” someone else yelled from the passenger seats.

“Anyone know how to get to George Washington University Hospital?!” I asked.

That made it much easier to find my way. Unfortunately, we picked up first one police cruiser, then a second, third, and so on. There was a street ahead where they tried deploying road spikes, but we had to make a turn, leading to a tense “Whoaaaaa!” from the passengers as we all leaned to our rights to keep the bus from tipping from the turn. We made it through ok, and the GWU was in front of us, along with a small cordon of Secret Service agents and the Presidential Limousine. In the sky, a shooting star, likely Mobian and Torian, descended toward the hospital.

I smiled. “Reminder, passengers, that you should always buckle up for safety.” I clicked my own belt into place, briefly wondering if this thing even had seatbelts for passengers. The agents saw the speeding bus coming for them and ran out of the way, then opened fire. The windshield shattered into a spiderweb of cracks and a couple bullets bounced off my skin. However, the pain was yet to come. The bus plowed into the limo and jerked to a surprising and sudden stop. I stood up, a little shakey after the crash, and bowed to my passengers. “I’ve been your captain, thank you for riding, and don’t forget to tip your wait staff.”

The door didn’t want to open, so I kicked it off its hinges and hopped down to the ground, still recovering my balance a little. I started walking back to the limo, because the bus had stopped about halfway through its front section. Shots still rung out, and at least one agent ran right up to me to try giving me a headache with his Uzi. I smacked it out of his hands and kicked his knee into bending the opposite direction. Another one ran at me with a baton. I grabbed his arm and held it up, gave his armpit a tickle, then twisted his arm until the baton was stuck up his chocolate highway. Is that an accepted term for the butt? Either way, y’all know what I mean. I kicked him where it hurt to dispose of him, meaning the butt-on, and turned to pull open the door to the Presidential Limo. It was empty. Shit.

Reagan couldn’t have gone far. He was dead, after all. He had to still be in the hospital. They’d have him either in the Emergency Room or Operating Room, depending on how soon they checked his vitals. The day suddenly grew dark. Clouds were gathering in the sky, swirling into place above the hospital. Something unnatural was going on here.

I ran in and found myself facing a hunchback and a wolfman immediately. I picked up a nearby rubber plant and smashed it on the hunchback’s head. The wolfman ran toward us, but I gave it a body throw into the wall, where he slid down until his head rested in the worn green upholstery of the seat.

“What are you doing?!” screamed another guy, running toward the hunchback. He just looked normal.

“You must be the mad doctor himself. I’m here to stop you raising the dead!” I pointed at him accusingly.

He brushed aside hair to look at the bleeding scalp of the hunchback. “You dick. I’m here with my friends. They’re getting elective surgery to fix their kyphosis and hypertrichosis!”

“Ooooh… whoops… my bad. Just, this is the emergency room, so y’all are here in the wrong place.”

“Not anymore we aren’t!” the guy yelled up at me. Fair enough. I ran further in.

My instincts were to look for the greatest flurry of activity, but there was a lot of that. Some asshole just tried to ram a bus into the hospital, and that got people moving. I grabbed someone in a wheelchair and dumped him out in case I needed a weapon. I brought it with me as I checked the rooms. Even clocked a nurse who jumped left one room too fast for my liking, but that didn’t have Reagan in it. Hearing thunder shake the building, I decided to stop fucking around and rush the operating theatre. Which I then had to find through a few twists and turns.

I knew I had the right place when I saw more Secret Service agents. I rounded the corner and one of them opened up on me with his Uzi. I ran up and based him to the side using the wheelchair. The other one stuck the barrel of his handgun into my ear. FUCK. My ears didn’t adjust quickly enough to prevent some momentary tinnitus, and the force from the bullet jerked my head hard to the side. I growled and smashed my head sideways into that guys. I dropped the wheelchair and flipped him into it upside down, then kicked it down the hallway.

I kicked open the door to the operating room and ran in. I was back in the timeship. I turned and tried to dive back out, but crumped up painfully against the unseen barrier trapping me on the vessel.

A voice echoed out behind me. “Isolate and quarantine.” Mobian was at his work station, Torian standing behind him. Before I could head toward them, I felt the barrier press in on me, like I was in a small closet. It pulled me to the side, out of the way.

I screamed at them. “He kills millions!”

“It’s necessary!” Mobian answered back. Fucking “heroes”.

“I shall be off until we meet again, Mobian,” Torian said. He turned to walk down the stairs of the dais. Mobian let him get as far as the door, where the “evil” time traveler found out he wasn’t allowed to leave either.

“I’m sorry, but you are too dangerous to go free as well,” Mobian said. “Quarantine and isolate.”

Torian’s arms pressed to his sides, but then he said, “Backdoor Torian 19810330.” Then he pulled his arms away from his sides and adjusted his coat. I felt the pressure release from me as well. Torian turned to me, “I installed a backdoor to release me if Mobian tried to betray me as he did you. Would you kindly deal with him for me?”

I cracked my knuckles… then waved my hands. “Nah. You deal with him.”

Mobian set to work on his console, messing around with it. I felt us move, as much as I could.

Torian snorted in frustration. He twisted the head of his walking cane and pulled out a sword, then started running up the stairs surprisingly fast. The vessel tilted and threw me against the ill-defined, swirly rounded walls of the timeship. Torian flew off the stairs and out the door before everything straightened up.

Mobian, breathing heavily, straightened his hair. “We’re no longer in 1981, so there is nothing else you can change there. Are you going to behave if I take you home?”

I crossed my arms over my chest and glared daggers at him. “I originally worked it out with Torian that he’d return me to when we left, but there was an angry mob outside my place of business. And you agreed to let me kill Hitler and steal Spanish treasure.”

“That was before you broke our agreement and killed Ronald.” Mobian made a big show of pushing one button in particular.

I appeared in my store again. It was a couple of weeks after I’d left. There wasn’t anyone around. I walked to the door, cautiously, and wandered out. There was so much more internet activity, everywhere. The streets seemed even more deserted than usual. The news said something about a mysterious disease spreading around the world, a pandemic. Authorities urged everyone to stay inside and stay away from each other.

Something those time travelers did must have messed with the timeline. Only explanation. They brought Reagan from the dead and it caused a future global pandemic.



Temporal Difficulties 5



It won’t be said that the 1970s is capable of breaking me. My first thought was I could just wait things out until Mobian shows up in 1981 for Reagan’s assassination and meet him there. The problem there is I was working off the assumption he betrayed and abandoned me. I knew something was off about him, and my trust issues automatically decided he had decided I was expendable. It’s just weird that he didn’t have much to tell me.

But I didn’t like the thought of being without my family for so long. I know, it’s kind of lame, but I love them. I could be having fun in the 1970s, rigging things in my favor for the future, but instead I hate the idea of not seeing my daughter for six years. I didn’t even work out anything with my girlfriend Medusa to sleep around if I got stranded in this kind of situation. Meryl Streep’s 26 in 1975, and I could be getting a piece of that!

If I’d been anyone else, I’d have had no choice but to spend years learning how to properly sing and making my living as a time-displace lounge singer who gets rich off my extensive collection of future music until the day I can reclaim my life. But I knew I had better options. After a few days spent disco dancing and thinking up a plan, I came to the conclusion I needed to hitch a ride with a time traveler. And the way to do that was to disrupt the timeline. I needed to kill Richard Nixon.

The thought settled into my head and I started planning it out when I heard a ruckus from outside the bathroom stall I was sitting in. Bathrooms are still a place that provide me with inspiration and reflection. Also, a few phone numbers to call if I want a good time. I was even scratching one or two in there with a pocketknife I’d taken off a would-be mugger. I kept it ready while I tugged my panties up, prepared for a fight.

“Come out!” said a British man’s voice.

I kicked the door open and declared, “I’m a lesbian!”

Mobian, the younger version, stood there, looking at me. “What are you doing here, Psycho Gecko?”

“I should ask you the same question. This is the women’s room,” I gestured around to the lack of urinals. Seeing him notice the knife, I closed it up and slipped it into my back pocket.

“It’s 1975!” The younger-looking time traveler said.

“You brought me here,” I told him.

In the stall next to me, someone farted.

Mobian’s face wrinkled up. “Excuse you.”

A voice from the stall called out, “Excuse yourself, titfucker. This is the girls’ room. You piece of shit, you better get out of here before I flush you down the pipes.” Another fart.

I waved Mobian to the door. “Out. I’ll be out in a second.”

“You better not think of escaping,” Mobian said.

I held up my hands. “I’m thinking about washing, you nasty fucker.” Gross, running out without washing my hands. What kind of person does he think I am?

He waited right outside the door for me, with questions. “How did you get here?”

“I told you, you brought me. But an older you.” The club was dark, so I turned to a wall and used my eyes to project an image of the older Mobian onto it like a slideshow.

“Torian,” muttered Mobian like a curse.


“He’s… not me,” the time traveler said.

“He had your timeship,” I said, switching to the interior of the timeship I’d been brought in.

Mobian grumbled to himself before telling me, “He is me, but he isn’t me. He’s… there’s a reason I look different sometimes. It’s not just my physical presence. Each reset changes me, brings different aspects of my personality to the forefront. This man, Torian, is the result of the process going wrong. He is me, but his memories and personality aren’t right. They’re jumbled and twisted around. He opposes everything I stand for, and I hate him for it.”

“And because you’re his past, he can’t kill you or something,” I suggested.

Mobian ran a hand through his hair. “We don’t know. Neither of us knows which is the past self of the other. I don’t remember being the Torian, but he doesn’t seem to remember what I’ve done, who I’ve met. Trades on my name though, bloody annoyance.” He looked at the image, shaking his head, then turned to refocus on me. “You said he brought you here. Why?”

“We were going to disappear Jimmy Hoffa. Something about him having an artifact giving him telepathic powers. Turns out, it’s implanted in his head, and it’s strong enough to make me stop. Then these pair of guys show up with business suits and gas masks on. Hoffa made me sleep, and they were all gone when I woke up.”

“He planned to meet with them?” Mobian asked.

“I don’t think so. He didn’t like telling me what we were doing on all the stops, but it seemed to catch him by surprise, too,” I said.

“All the stops,” Young Mobian repeated. “Tell me about the rest.”

We had to move outside to tell the story, but I knew a place that was open all night where we could find some donuts and coffee. After I finished, Mobian sat back and sipped on his coffee. After calmly setting it down, he leaned forward and said, “And you just went along with it without questions?!”

I shrugged. “Contract killing, you know? Normally, I like to be well-informed, but the nature of the business is you take money and you kill someone.” I leaned forward and set my hand on his. “Hey, it’s not about their life story… just their death story.”

That didn’t reassure young Mobian. “Right, well we better go find what Torian is up to and when. I have an idea when to look.” He stood up and pulled his hand away from mine. “Please don’t touch me.”

“I was trying to be reassuring.”

I told him all about Torian’s concern with Reagan’s assassination, so I didn’t expect a surprise. We showed up in 1981, with Mobian declaring, “Something’s wrong. Out of place.”

“Torian said John Hinckley Jr. had been convinced not to shoot Reagan,” I volunteered. “I’ll gladly shoot him instead. Wouldn’t put much stock in his surviving.”

“No,” Mobian said. “You cannot do that to time.”

“Bullshit, time guy. I let you talk me into sacrificing my sanity to your status quo. I’ve regretted it ever since, and I’m still not the monster who sacrificed so many people to a slow, painful death by disease the way that blob of flesh and senility is going to. Reagan killed millions by his neglect.”

Mobian locked eyes with me. “I’m sorry, I truly am.”

I shrugged and sat down on the shiny floor of his timeship. “Have fun stopping Torian without me.”

“How much do you want?” he asked. “You’re for sale. What’s your price? A run through the cabins of the Titanic? The holds of the lost Spanish treasure galleons? A rifle through the salvage piles of 2277? You’re a heartless killer for sale. How much?”

I considered rushing him and putting him on his ass, but his vessel had ways to keep me locked inside. It would make no sense for him to trust me and bring me along to help stop whatever was going on if I did that. I smiled at him. “I’ll take the Spanish treasure galleons for pay, sure, but throw in killing Hitler and we have a deal.”

He eyed me for a moment, then nodded. “Fine, in the bunker. A little early won’t hurt. I mean it won’t hurt the timestream. He will hurt plenty, won’t he?” Mobian smiled at his joke. Just keep smiling. We’re all fine now.

With that agreement rather tenuously made, we headed out. Once he left the confines, the glowing orb we had traveled in became a mailbox. I hopped onto a rooftop which revealed we were either in Washington D.C. Or close enough to see some of the famous buildings of that city.

I still had my lone holodisc, useful for a disguise. Just the one projector can create problems if anything gets in the way. I popped it on as best as I could, knowing this was going to be scrutinized a lot more than the Cooper heist. There would be a lot more people around, and my ass wouldn’t spend so much time in a seat.

“It is the day of,” Mobian said. “Hinckley is in the hotel around the corner. Reagan will be here later today.”

“Why’s Hinckley even here if he was talked out of it?” I asked.

Mobian shrugged. “The an aberration is present, the easier it is to detect and the more time you have to stop it.”

“Then why’d he give me so long to hunt the Zodiac?” I asked, hopping down beside the time traveler.

Mobian smiled. “Simple. He didn’t know who Zodiac was.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because I don’t know who Zodiac was,” he answered, setting off down the street. It took a moment, but it was actually a good answer considering the weird time shenanigans going on here. And then we turned a corner and there was a damn limousine out front.

“This is cutting it kinda close, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Reagan’s inside for a meeting. We have plenty of time for our own,” Mobian answered.

Despite the security measures, we had enough leeway to make our way up to the rooms. It’s a good thing Mobian knew the way with his freakish memory, because we were still a ways off from any internet I could use. We made our way up to the room. Mobian pressed up against the wall and whispered to me, “How do you want to do this?”

I raised a finger to my lips and quietly answered, “I have an idea.” I knocked on the door. “Hey, Mobian, you son of a bitch! Open up!”

After a minute, a voice that wasn’t Torian’s called out, “I think you have the wrong room.”

“I know that wrinkly old asshole’s in there. I’ve waited six years to see him again!”

The door opened quickly, and Torian looked out at me. “What are you doing? Keep it down!”

I pushed my way in and pulled the door closed behind me. “That’s all you have to say after abandoning me?”

“You seem to have gotten by just fine. How did you know I would be here?” he asked. I looked around the crowded hotel room. Jimmy Hoffa sat on the bed near John, the assassin. I noted the absence of the two men with the gas masks. “What happened to your friends with the masks?”

Hoffa smiled. “The old guy made me a better offer.”

“Indeed,” Torian said.

I put my hands on my hips. “Well, it looks like you’ve figured out the situation with Hinckley here, so I guess the only thing left is to take me home, right?”

Torian smiled and nodded. “Yes, I’ll show you out.”

I let him lead the way and reached behind me. He exited and I quickly shut the door behind them, turning and throwing the knife. Hoffa’s head had started to gleam with purple light, but that faded when his hands came to his chest and he felt the pocketknife’s handle protruding.

“Don’t do that,” I said, but he went ahead and pulled it out, causing blood to gush. He fell forward, painting the bed blood red.

Hinckley stared down at him, then up at me. He jumped over and reached for the nightstand next to the bed. I was there in a moment to grab the gun from his hands and pistol whip him upside the head. When I opened the door, I had a fully-loaded .22 LR revolver in my hand and a would-be assassin thrown over my shoulder. Mobian looked up at me from where he leaned on the wall, then pointed down the hallway to where old man Torian was running away faster than I’d have thought he could.

“He,” Mobian gasped. “Sucker. Punched. Cane.”

I pointed back into the room with a thumb. “Well, I took care of Hoffa. And this guy.”

Mobian reached out and leaned on my arm. “Right. Downstairs.”

That’s how we got to be in a crowd that nobody in the Secret Service checked as ol’ Ronnie Reagan walked out of the hotel to get into Chair Force One or whatever they call the primary Presidential ass-mover. The holodisc presented the illusion of an awake Hinckley taking aim and firing. Mobian and I fled with some of the others in the crowd when he got dogpiled by a couple of people. The shots went off, Reagan was rushed away in the limo, and I went with Mobian to where he parked his timeship.

“We still need to pick up Hoffa,” he told me, then stopped dead when Torian stepped out from behind the mailbox. He asked his amnesiac past or future self, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here because there has been a change in the timestream beyond what we both planned. I would have replaced him, but there would still have been a President Reagan in history,” Torian said. “Can’t you feel it?”

Mobian stood there a moment, then turned and glanced at me. “What did you do?”

I smiled. “You didn’t have a problem when it was millions of people dead from AIDS or that Brady guy getting his brains blown out. But one slight adjustment in aim to the side, and suddenly you’re outraged.”

Mobian put his hands to his head. He turned to look at Torian, then back at me. Torian approached and raised his cane to point at me. “Have you any idea what you’ve done?”

I folded my arms across my chest. “I killed Ronald Reagan. Now, which one of you’s giving me a lift to the new future?”