“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.
“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.”
“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.”
Topsy Turf 3
Venus dropped me off at home after the family visit with a hug, appearing on my lawn. The flamingo was a simple flamingo. The lawn gnome riding a dinosaur was a simple lawn gnome riding a dinosaur. She hugged my shoulders and kissed my tender cheeks and told me, “See? I made the world better. Just like you made the world better for Qiang.”
There was something I didn’t trust about the way she looked at me. That put me off. That’s my wife, and I love her. In spite of all of this, I do love her. She’s just stubborn, thinks she’s right about everything, and puts way too much trust in the justice system. Along with the reality warping powers she stole from me that she used to change the world. But I think we can make it work.
I didn’t say anything, proud as I am. Just let her teleport out. But also, she’s objectively wrong. She erased what fragmented memories I had of my parents so she could substitute this other couple. I never tried to erase what my daughter remembered, just claimed to be someone she couldn’t. And while I’m willing to admit some of how I treated her is a bit shady, Venus is supposed to be the moral one between us. Also, I altered Qiang’s genes for my own vanity’s sake. She was my daughter before that, and she’s my daughter now.
That’s what Mom and Dad seem to think of me, but they don’t know any better. This wasn’t a choice, this was a lie of reality. And so I went inside, saw to my motherly, domestic duties, and checked on the progress of my villainous power armor and nanomachines, while doublechecking my list. I want Medusa, Spinetingler, and Pestilentia. Maybe I should see if Human Sloth wants to be a part of this. He’s supposedly a good guy.
Yeah, that’s what I thought of the parents, too. Then Venus showed up. Maybe this is foolish. I’ve beaten Venus before. She beat me, too. She changed me, before she became a god.
Fine. Improvise, adapt, overcome, eradicate, and evolve. And build a bomb.
Even without my homo machina abilities, I still had ways of tracking down the elusive Medusa, my girlfriend, the older version of Venus who had chilled out in some ways even as she cooled me off. The Exemplars don’t advertise their base in this timeline, but I knew because I guess I’d been invited to stuff as Medusa’s long-time girlfriend in this timeline, and fiance. The Office of Superhuman Resources hates it, same as in the real reality.
I’d vindicate them, but it’d be much more effective to pin the blame on someone who already hates them but won’t be touched normally. I settled on, holy shit, she brought back one of the Presidents I killed as a guy who lost an election. The whining alone shows that wasn’t a good idea. On top of that, he’s putting out a bunch of BS about supers being dangerous. It’s a whole thing they’re onto now. Tweet after tweet from his vapid supporters claiming that having any sort of superpower gives people an innate advantage. They use Master Academy taking in orphans and training young supers as evidence that supers want to recruit people’s children into dangerous lifestyles.
I hate him. Perfect fellow to frame.
I called up Medusa, “Hey dear, it’s been a little bit.”
“What’s up?” she asked. I heard gunfire behind her.
“Sounds like someone’s having fun,” I said.
“Yeah…” she didn’t sound happy. “Can’t talk about it, but we’re on coyote duty. Waste of time and resources if you ask me.”
Ah, border smugglers. Medusa actually helped get people across humanely in the real world. Now, because Venus is still wedded to the idea of heroes helping law enforcement all the time, she’s helping round up immigrants and refugees. “Ok. I was just thinking about you and wanting to do dinner. We can talk about plans later if you want.”
“Yeah, we should. This guy in charge of this, Caulfield, is totally anal about anything like this. He might think I don’t heart the idea of beating up people looking for a better life. One of these guys we’re arresting is still wearing his army uniform. His U.S. Army uniform.”
Oh right, a weird consequence of Venus letting that one President live was the United States deporting immigrant veterans.
As a side benefit of being a Shieldwall Reservist, I get some degree of access to their teleporter systems. Still don’t trust the things though. I plugged the reservist watch (which decoder function) into my computer and set to work masking the identification signautre. Couldn’t bypass that it all goes through Shieldwall HQ, but the armor helps with that.
The armor couldn’t just be the same ol’, same ol’ either. I finished an independent power source for it. It took a bit of programming to make the fresh suit compatible with the nanomachines and better able to handle the task of camouflaging without my brain’s direct interface stepping in.
I worked all day and night on it, but I still found time to send Qiang off to school. She was offered to me as an incentive when I was selling Dimensional Bomb technology by some people who did not get what they wanted and did not mean it as a family thing. Times like that make me glad to be an asshole who enforces an agreement even to the detriment of the other party. But she’s my kid. I paused long enough to reflect that Venus touched a nerve before I slipped into my armor, activated Invisible Mode, and teleported to Shieldwall Headquarters.
I stepped out of the teleporter tube. It was a big room, able to hold meetings in, with the teleporters and their equipment against one wall. A control station was in the middle of the room. I had memores of people setting up a small stage on it when necessary. Someone was manning the station, a cyborg of some sort. With my memories, I knew him as Cyber-Eye or something? He looked at the teleporter tube, then at the computers. I hopped over and landed behind him, skidding to a stop because the damn floor was painted concrete. World-spanning transporter system, but nobody’s putting up money for carpet or carpet-cleaning.
Cyber-Eye turned toward the direction of the skidding, reaching up to keep his fedora on. Smaller metal hands opened up his trenchcoat, with one pair of tiny hands holding a blackjack and another wielding a short-muzzled .38 revolver. I saw the lens that replaced one of his eyes adjust as he saw me, then adjust again in fear when I lunged at him. I stopped myself bouncing his face off the console, since I need to type stuff out now. Instead, I swept his legs out from under him and tossed him on the hard floor. Then I yanked him up by his metal right arm, swinging him in an arc to smack the floor again.
I stepped over to the computer and found where his signal showed up in the teleporter hub. A few button presses later and I sent him safely on his way to a new home: Death Valley. I figured he’d be fine, and that was good enough for me to strand him. Then I added some new coordinate to this amazing machine. I finished it off by tapping the chest of my armor. “Gecko to Engineering, one to beam-”
I got the timing wrong.
“-up.” I finished as I appeared in the Exemplar base, a quiet office building in Hagerstown, Maryland. Alarms went up. Someone must have an alarm about that sort of thing. And I was in an some off-white corridor like in a really boring office. They broke up the plainness of it all with motivational posters. One featured a young hero, maybe a sidekick, hanging from a rope on the side of a building, with the words, “Hang in there!” underneath.
If this is Venus’s vision of what to do with her future self/older sister, then I detect resentment. I prepared to throw people through walls when someone rounded a corner. A guard, or perhaps soldier, in black Exemplar armor raised a boxy rifle. The barrel was wide enough to launch grenades, and my memories told me that there were plenty of guns designed to disprove the concept of “bullet proof” still. The thought crossed my mind that this was an odd thing for Venus to include in her perfect world.
The guard swept that gun across the hall, then advanced. Another guard followed, similar gun and armor. Both moved past me as I stepped to the side. They paused at one point and I looked them over, checking for wallets and other mementos. I ended up following them through a door, down another hallway, and into a room swarming with people. “We’re clear between here and the restrooms!”
“Thank you, gentlemen, for securing the crappers,” said a guy with some stunning red hair. It was a really sexy ginger color. Just an amazing color. Shit happens, I guess. I ordered the nanomachines to flow out low and eat their way through everything that isn’t a person. I grit my teeth, thinking back to how I’d have killed them all in a mess of shimmery nanite tentacles at one time. I imagined the screams. Someone bumped into me, the invisible person, from behind. I turned and got a hand over his mouth just after he let out the start of a scream. More started up when others noticed.
I doubled him over with a punch while nanites dissolved his clothes. The guards I followed in turned to me, but their guns fell apart in their hands. Their armor fell away. For my own viewing pleasure, the redhead’s clothes fell away, too. I tried to spy on him while kicking knocking out someone trying to flee out of this command center. Next thing I knew, the redhead was in front of me, throwing a punch at my helmet. He grabbed his broken hand, gritting his teeth. “What are you?”
“I’m here to make this country great again,” I said, as an implication of the person I’m framing for being behind the attack. Felt disgusting to phrase it that way, but it was true in a different sense. Still, I lost the smug smile under my helmet thinking back to my argument with Venus and her dig about me wanting to go back to a status quo. “You should look me up when I’m not on duty. But for now, I have a large bomb here.”
I tossed that guy through the remains if the door and down the corridor. He’d survive. I sent a new signal to the nanites. Most were recalled to my armor while the rest planted a bomb. The digital timer said ten minutes. The actual timer was set for five.
I teleported back out of there, stopping off at Shieldwall and stormed over to the computer. No one had noticed anything wrong yet. It gave me plenty of time to mess around with the computer, altering the records, before dropping a grenade on the console. I made damn sure it was done teleporting me before the device blew up, leaving a lovely little trail that should drive Medusa to take revenge on a politician who the law refused to arrest and try even as he now attacks the government again.
Elegant. Simple. Can’t wait to find out how I fucked it up while I’m recruiting someone else.
Topsy Turf 2
The Reds got into it with the heroes again. I didn’t get called out for that one, so I guess they felt they had it. It had something to do with the Reds giving away food and providing some basic health check-ups on the street. They didn’t have a permit for the first part or all the certifications for the second part, and there was some question of where they got the drugs. Because just like the Greens were brainwashed to be good and that still meant protecting the environment, the Reds apparently actually believe in helping regular-ass people and sabotaging corporate oligarchs. They stole drugs and medical equipment and their doctors weren’t certified.
The cops and some of the heroes ended up being super rough with a bunch of homeless and poor people. Some of the supers performing some police brutality were ones who had been turned “good” by Venus; others were people who’d already been heroes.
If there’s one positive thing Medusa took away from her interactions with me, it was to fuck the police. In this altered reality, Venus made her work for the Office of Superhuman Resources, with the Exemplars being her special operations team. As a mere human, I had to look all this up or write code to scrape the internet for news on some of the people I’m looking up. It gave me something to do while the fabricator constructed additional nanomachines for my use.
For all I knew, Venus saw everything I was doing. Part of the problem with materials and powers that block godly omniscience is I didn’t even find out how to build the things. I’m hoping she’s overwhelmed or actually believes in giving me enough autonomy that she’s standing off. Dealing with full-on reality warping was a lot easier when I was one.
I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the monitor. I hadn’t thought about my physical appearance much. I’d been more weirded out by the fact that I’ve had sex with Dame before, and now she’s my sister. Now, I know how twin fantasies work. Been there myself. Just I have a whole lifetime of memories with her as my twin sister, super close, and also memories from the real timeline where I made her scream and cling to the comforter.
I’m morbidly curious how she wrote other relationships of mine. Oh wow, I think I had a pregnancy scare with Mix N’Max. Ok, I’m actually kind of glad she wrote back out me giving North Korea’s top military minds blowjobs. If I get out of this, I might keep that change. Whoa, and Beetrice, the bee queen, is my college girlfriend. I went to college?
I pushed the distractions aside. Medusa was first priority as an ally. Second and third would be Spinetingler and Pestilentia. I think Spinetingler’s reality-warping is stronger, even if he doesn’t understand it as being that exactly. I tried to remember if I had any past with him. Nope, but she and I were friends going back to high school, where we were pretty popular. Ugh. I’m over following the lives of high school supers. It gets creepy being that focused on the lives and drama of teenagers, and really over-inflates the importance of high school to the rest of someone’s life. Though the memory of seeing Venus as a rival cheerleader on the other side of the football field is kind of nice. I hated her and crushed on her all at once.
Ah, but if she went to a regular high school… yeah, I remember now. She has parents in this version of things! Before, Venus ended up with Master Academy because she was an orphan. Now, she had a family. I guess she kept the name and gave herself powers anyway, without Master Academy focus-testing stuff.
Holy crap, some high school drama gave me useful information. I have to talk to those parents. Holy crap, they’re my in-laws. I can even remember them from the wedding. I have their phone number! They’re going on the list of people to get on my side. If they’re good people, and I doubt Venus made them assholes, they will hopefully agree with me about Venus not doing all this to the world. That actually bumped them way up my list of priorities.
I didn’t need the armor for this meeting. But I needed to grab a bag and put some flying time in. I left behind some dinner for the family and a note informing them I had to go handle something epic. Despite not being a villain, I still have both the base under my store and a flying machine. There were a lot fewer weapons on it now that it was supposedly built for a hero. Flying was a little sloppier without the innate connection that came from connecting to it with my mind and using it like a piece of my body.
It took hours before I landed in New York, in the driveway of a nice house in the suburbs. It was a quiet place, with enough land and walls to give the parents of two famous superheroes some privacy. It didn’t make a lot of sense in this version of the world, where there weren’t supervillains. I knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” I heard a guy’s voice call out. “Oh, Delilah!” My father-in-law opened the door and hugged me.
“Hey John,” I said. “We really need to talk about your daughter.”
“Come on in,” he waved me in. “Is it about Maia? I don’t agree with polygamy, but you’re very special to both of my girls.”
“I meant Isabella, actually… is she around, by chance?” I asked. My father-in-law walked around and led me into the living room to take a seat. He had the NFL Network muted on his TV.
“Not right now, but I’m sure she would come if you wanted,” he answered. “Sofia! Delilah’s here!”
My mother-in-law looked out from the kitchen. It smelled lovely in there. “Hi dear!”
“Hey Sofia,” I waved back.
“Don’t you be formal with me young lady,” she said.
My memories told me she always hated me calling her that. “Mama Sofia.”
She came out and hugged me. “What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to talk about Isabella. And you both, actually. I think we better all sit down first.”
We took a seat. A memory popped up in my head, one from this new timeline. I bullied and pranked Isabella for the first couple years of high school. Then things turned around for us and I was stopping by their house to pick Isabella up for prom. John had been cleaning a shotgun.
I cleared my throat. “Ok, so this whole timeline has been altered, significantly. You know, with how Isabella has her powers… her control over reality is big. She’s made some huge changes, and I think she’s lost her way.”
“What do you mean?” John asked.
“Did she do something?” Sofia questioned.
“She did a lot of somethings. She brainwashed people. And it might sound like it’s for a greater good, but she doesn’t realize the violation. And she doesn’t realize it’s not going to stick.”
“What do you mean? Brainwashing?” Sofia asked.
“A lot of people that you know as heroes aren’t heroes. She twisted their minds. Like those gangs in New York. She turned them into her idea of good, tried to make them cooperate with the law and all. And it was the law that started bashing heads in. But I don’t think you can just go in and change a person’s brain like that.”
“That’s… no, she wouldn’t,” John said. “What’s going on?”
“I wasn’t a superhero,” I admitted to them. “I was a supervillain. I didn’t go to high school with her. I never bullied her. Well, I kinda did, but it was all in very different context. I was her enemy, and I had my reasons for my life. But in spite of that, we fell caught feelings. We fell in love. It was a journey we both went through and it changed us, but then time travel and this power interrupted it. She changed my life and my body. I was pregnant before she changed it. I was pregnant and she altered my body.”
Sofia was shaking her head, starting to tear up. John was holding her. I was upsetting them, but I had to press it like that. I needed them upset and questioning. I’m still pregnant in this version of events, but it hits people hard to hear that someone messed with a pregnant woman’s body.
“Why are you telling us all this?” John asked. “You’re upsetting my wife.”
“You two are one of the changes. In the original timeline, Isabella was an orphan. You died a long time ago.”
Lightning flashed. Isabella appeared, more like Venus, dressed in regular clothes but with a glow that blinded me. She grabbed me before I could say anything else and we left there, instead appearing in a bare, black space. “How dare you?!”
“How dare you?!” I threw back at her. “You changed me. You messed with my head. You wouldn’t even love the version of me that lives here. And it’s not fair to her, either. She didn’t make any choices of her own.”
Isabella exploded at me, only verbally. Given her powers, the literal version could also happen. “I made the world better. You justified yourself talking about the need for radical change. I made it, and now you’re defending the status quo. I made everyone’s lives better. It’s not my fault people don’t like it.”
“It is. You made the world this way, so you are responsible. You’ve got all the power and all the knowledge, but your perspective is all wrong. Your idea of good means that good guys and bad were stomping on the homeless whose only crime was trying to get relief. Plus, you know, you still left people homeless. You have your limits, too. But look what you did to me?”
We appeared in a very nice house. I recognized it as home. It’s where Dame and I grew up. “I gave you family you didn’t have before. I gave you a mom and dad.”
“Hey darling!” my mom said, coming around the corner. “Oh, hello Isabella, how are you?”
My dad came out of his study. They didn’t fit right, maybe. They were Dame’s parents before the change. They weren’t the ones that died, I don’t think? Except I couldn’t remember their faces. Instead, I remembered this mom and this dad. I sniffled.
“What’s wrong, sweetpea?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, what’s wrong?” Isabella looked over at me. I shook my head for a moment. I knew I was forgetting things from my childhood, not that I had the best recollection from before my kidnapping. Instead, these memories felt stronger, but without overriding me like they did for a few days under Isabella’s influence.
Mom and Dad hugged me. “Did you bring that granddaughter of mine along?”
“Not this time. We just popped in for a quick visit,” Isabella said, joining us in the hug. My wife and my parents. For a little bit, in spite of the blatant manipulation, I let myself believe.
Topsy Turf 1
So here’s the score… I shared power with Isabella, aka Venus, the version of my nemesis-turned-lover pulled out of time a few years back. She wanted to marry me after I used my godlike powers to give myself her baby, so we got hitched and took a honeymoon in space where I merged with her symbiotically. I also decided to let her use my power for something of her choosing when we got back to Earth.
Now, I’m a fucking human. Not homo machina, human. I have real eyes without lasers, no internal wifi router, and my skin went from bulletproof to squishy. And she made it where I’m a retired superhero who can turn into a reindeer-woman. As far as I can tell, every other villain on the planet is a superhero like this.
Mix N’Max runs pop-up pharmacies. Spinetingler is a pumpkin-man who lures people into his haunted house to scare them straight. Powder, who is literally powered by cocaine, is in the hospital because of sudden withdrawals. And if you’re wondering how Spinetingler has anyone to scare, I think Venus only swapped over super criminals. The Greens gang either became super cops or turned their lives around, but she wrote the past so that mundane purse snatchers and burglars existed. And crimes are still happening. My computer has a link to the Shieldwall Database.
Shieldwall’s a thing again. It went from a bunch of people I pissed off trying to stop me as a supergroup, to being a worldwide superhero collective. I have an inbox full of superheroes congratulating me on the recent marriage like they know me. Including, it turns out, from my sister Dame. Yeah… now she’s my sister. I think Venus just plain erased the Three Hares conspiracy, so now Dame and I are twins who grew up in a nice fancy place. Dame tests security for banks and museums.
That made me wonder what she did to my actual brother, who was over in our home dimension. To make it more confusing, this Earth was connected to yet another version. That one, everyone was all swapped around so the heroes were villains and villains were heroes. I was overwhelmed with questions and missing my omniscience. Also, really wish gravity couldn’t touch me anymore. I feel so heavy now, and that’s not the pregnancy talking. I don’t have the enhanced musculature either.
I didn’t need this shit. I had a direct line to Venus. After all, she’s the goddess now. Just had to igure out prayer. I once heard that it’s actually pretty easy; “you just put your hands together and hope.”
Venus’s face appeared on my monitor. “Gecko! I should say ‘Delilah’ now. You got back to me fast. How are you getting adjusted?”
“Ve- Isabella, I know you made all the villains heroes, but what else did you do?” I questioned her.
“You’re upset.” She sighed. “Give it a fair shake, ok? I’m giving you a shot at a boring domestic life and at being a hero. There’s no past for you, but not just for you. I gave all of them a chance.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose in exasperation. “You did a lot more than that and you shouldn’t.”
“Why not? Your power is all-knowing and all-powerful. It’s not capable of making a mistake,” Isabella said.
She plucked the accusation of a mistake from my mind. Before I could speak, Isabella continued, “Just give it time. Please. You know you’re contrarian and you pretend you don’t want a chance to be a hero.”
That’s not true, readers, but even if it was, you can’t just make people heroes. I was going to tell Venus about it, but she left my computer monitor. Just left. Didn’t pop out to continue talking with me or anything. Left.
I put my hands together again. “Get your ass back here!”
“I know you’re listening! I remember how annoying prayers were until I tuned them out!”
“I’m your wife, dammit!”
A halo of light erupted from the computer monitor. I got up and went about my usual day. I woke my adoptive daughter up, fed her, got her ready for school. My sister and I passed some texts back and forth, since she was still up just after a heist. Then it was off to the store instead of tackling Holly back into bed. Selling weird and quirky gadgets to small town America, aka Radium. Someone even came into the shop and got an autograph from me for her action figure.
It was a nice, boring, easy day. Yeah, it was nice to be with my family. Everything else was boring. Being some shop owner. I’m almost a nobody.
The next day, I woke up and got my daughter ready and off for school. But I had to put the store on hold. My Shieldwall Reservist alert watch activated. I threw on my spare costume at the store while reading the alert. Somehow, the Greens had gone crazy. They were an order of environmental guardians who protected the Earth after having been exposed to a mysterious chemical in their drugs. They’d ended up animalistic, with fur, horns, even hooves. And now, all of a sudden, they were rampaging around the city. They were rapid-growing trees on streets and bridges, destroying every car, and were trying to take down the city’s electrical grid.
Heh. Don’t know why I felt so smug and cynical, but I guess they realized a conflict between keeping the peace and opposing damage to the environment. Now, Shieldwall was calling up some reservists from all over to come to Empyreal City to fight them. Something felt off about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Instead, I stepped out of the Empyreal City Shieldwall Meeting Hall teleporter tubes and activated my powers.
It felt just like the first time transforming. It’s uncomfortable. It never happens evenly. My muscles tore and stretched. Bones shifted and grew, sometimes breaking as they moved. The bone growths that spouted from my head were the worst part. The antlers grew out of my head, only appearing after the velvet burst, all bloody and gory. I almost gagged when I got slapped in the face by some of the velvet.
Somebody walked up to me, a guy in slacks, shirt, and tie. “Whoa, we don’t need you. You look too much like the guys who are doing all this.”
“Like hell we don’t,” an older, guy said. He was dressed the same as the first, but heavier set, no shades, and his clothes seemed more worn. “Residents near the natural gas plant in Jamaica are telling me the skies are filling with pollen there. Everyone else is busy. Do you know how much energy this fucking city takes? Beggars and choosers, Davidson, for Christ’s sake.”
Davidson and Jameson, liason officers from the Office of Superhuman Resources.
“Jamaica?” I asked.
I flew into the air and took off through the roof access of the Meeting Hall, humming the Sorting Song from Futurama. Everybody say Jamaica!
My antlers glowed. Sometimes, people wonder if I might be trans or something because of the antlers thing, but female reindeer have them and keep them for a long time and-.
Oh, there was the cloud of pollen. Like a flower explosion happened in Queens. The Kennedy International Plant was hidden under a thick yellow cloud that immediately made me wish I didn’t have a nose. “Oh deer. I wish I wasn’t going into all that.”
I activated the sonic arm cannons and flew directly overhead, firing downward to force the pollen onto the ground. The cloud settled, revealing what the Greens had been hiding. In its place was a huge flower with thorns on the edges of the petals and along its waving branches. It snapped its petals closed, using the thorns like fangs. My antlers lit up, but there was the whole natural gas plant it had grown right near. I had to be careful. Pipes and such. The very thing that more easily gets rid of it is exactly what gets rid of the power plant I’m here to save.
Ok, so I can’t do this easily. If I was going to be lazy and take the easy way out every time, I’d have just been a cop.
Where’d that come from?
I swooped right down the middle of that flower, into, past grasping stamens that swallowed me whole. I ended up trapped in the bottom of its main stem, squeezed on all sides. I pressed my arms and legs against the walls, especially aimed upward and downward. I turned the sonic weapons up high and fired, tearing the flower off and splitting the stem, freeing myself. Chunks of the flower fell down on me. A big part fell on me, slamming me into the body of the giant plant and landing on the top of the root bulb and throwing up a shitload of pollen that had landed.
I felt it growing back around me. I blasted it again, trying to give myself room. Finally ended up clearing enough space to do some light blasts into the roots, tearing out chunk after chunk as I went, sneezing all the while because of all the pollen.
When it no longer seemed to be trying to grow back, I crawled my way out of the sticky mess, covered in chlorophyll that trapped pollen all over me. I was sneezing, goopy, I had things in too many unpleasant cracks. In the words of Master Shake, “I am 30 or 40 years old, and I do not need this.” And then I get outside and see people posting that shit on Tiktok for likes. Curious onlookers who couldn’t bother to, ya know, run from the potential giant fireball that would have happened or the plant with thorns the size of their bodies.
And then word came in from Jameson about some of the Greens elsewhere.
I was glad to finally get back home, cussing and muttering to myself about them teleporting me but leaving the fucking goo all over. Lives saved, power plants still most operational, and meanwhile we’ll all get called fucking corporate shills because we didn’t want people to go without heat or hospitals to go without power and all that shit. We’re not the ones who decide to build wind turbines and tidal turbines and nuclear plants. At least the Greens didn’t try to fuck with those.
First thing when the teleporter dropped me off in my basement, a shower. The one down there was built to handle all sorts of biohazards. Just… really not fun getting the chlorophyll out of some of those places. When I got out was a message on my computer monitor. “Do you see yet?”
I shook my head. Motherfucking Venus… Isabella… she brainwashed me! That message was the trigger to revert it. She tried to make me a hero for a day and a regular person for another. In the middle of my anger, I had a long laugh over the fact that it didn’t stick that well even when it happened. I hated being some spandex cop. I was still me, though. I still had my perspective.
That’s what did it for the Greens, too. She changed their minds temporarily, but whatever thing they’re into, however it affects them, it changes their perspective, too. As far as they’re concerned, what they were doing was right, and there are others who believe in it as well. Pull the plug, destroy all that stuff, and that way the rebuild might as well be clean sources of energy. If it happened to them and started to happen to me, it was going to happen to others. Medusa, Maia, for instance. The reason she went from being Venus to taking that identity was because she got to the point where she couldn’t stand upholding a flawed system blindly, where the worst abusers were protected because they were rich or come from the right family.
So that’s a flaw. It’s something I can use to maybe convince Isabella to turn things back. Or she might try to correct things again.
I knew I needed a plan, and I needed allies. I didn’t want to think about it, but my wife and I might get into a domestic dispute over all this.
Oh my god, and she made me a cis woman. I mean, sure, now guys who beat their wives will stop objecting to me playing Jeopardy, winning beauty pageants, and being middling at sports, but at what cost? That’s… I don’t even know. I was furious at her for everything she did, all these changes, some of them like she didn’t even know me but wanted to force me to do what she thought was right.
The fabricator had a new suit of power armor ready for me by the time I woke Qiang up the next morning.
Alien Villainess 5
It was all wrapped up. Myself and my wife who couldn’t be evil if she tried made it back to our cruise. The captain yelled at us awhile, but we tuned it out. We were still merged symbiotically, which was fun. It was more fun when we got back to our cabin. I mean, sure, there’s sex and all that. That’s fun. Makes me cum and everything. Great for a workout. Decent for reproduction, but that’s not why we did it.
I’d have been fine just being with her. Isabella. The woman trained to beat up supers and given the name Venus by people who know sex sells. There was something intimate about the way we’d bonded. I don’t mean having an adventure together. We’d had those in our own twisted way. This was just a lot more intimate bonding. I don’t think anyone’s truly been in my head before, outside of Psychsaur, the telepath. Always thought it was weird she did a 180 on me immediately after getting up inside my head, but I had something in me that got her on my side. And I experienced that with Venus while she got to try that with me.
It wasn’t a matter of feeling normal, or feeling completely right.
Anyway, we kept up the merger for the rest of our trip was solved pretty quickly after the wormhole spat us right back out onto the correct route where it got us. It then disappeared like some sort of miracle or act of Gecko. The ship decided that its first stop after returning was going to be an extended one to better evaluate and repair the ship and mental damage associated with the ordeal. That mostly meant lots of relief for the crew, who had to deal with angry, hungry, anxious guests. One of the blob crewmembers was nearly eaten. It wasn’t because the guests started to turn to cannibalism; it fell asleep in a bowl and was mistaken for gelatin.
The Captain and several of his best blobs were ready when Isabella and I were ready to depart, still sharing one body. He oozed forward to meet us. “Would it matter if I said I wanted to hold you until I find out what games you played with my ship?”
“Not one bit,” we said. Nearby, some of the passengers ran out into the street of the city in a group aimed at the closest bar. The screams started soon after they entered, along with the fighting and the Jimmy Buffetf music. He was probably pissed that aliens stole copies of his recordings and… wait, I checked on it with my omniscience. He was nabbed accidentally by some passing aliens in 2001 and signed a music deal that included opening a restaurant chain. Dude’s loaded with alien currency.
“At least tell me who you are. Cleopatra and Mona Lisa can’t be your real names. They two of the most common aliases in the universe.”
“That can’t be true,” Isabella laughed internally.
I did a quick scan with my omniscience and found a weird coincident. “So it turns out that a lot of species have common names that sound similar to some Earth names, including…”
“No,” Isabella said out loud, laughing.
“You treated our lives like a game!” the Captain accused. “I’ve met many beings who feel entitled to harm my crew because of money and power, but space is deep and it doesn’t care who you think you are. You best kill me first if you play games with our lives ever again, because I would move stars to see the universe rid of you.”
“Don’t you know?” we said. Our eyes went pure black. “We eat stars.”
I don’t know where he kept them, but the Captain had balls to keep staring us down as we left. Isabella felt bad, but I reminded her, “See? You managed to play the villain a little bit. But don’t worry. There’s a difference between bad and evil. You were just a little bad.”
“I’ll stick to sometimes taking the bad karma option in games,” she told me. “Can we go home now?”
With a snap of my fingers and an unnecessary burst of light, we indeed were home. Well, a brief stopover on a rooftop overlooking Empyreal City on a stormy wintry night. With my powers, the cold didn’t bother our shared body anyway. Lightning streaked through the sky, illuminating a city and the dancing raindrops that pelted it. “To everyone else, it’s a horrible night,” Isabella said.
I took awhile before responding, waiting on a beautiful lightning strike I knew was coming. It’s nature, like a raging river. You can shift the tide over time, but you can’t stand up to it. Not unless you’re something beyond human. “It doesn’t have to be,” I suggested. “But how you’ll use my power goes beyond just one night. I’ve been avoiding spoilers, giving you privacy. Tell me what you want.”
“I want to do it myself,” she told me.
I eased her into the omniscience. My experience controlling multiple bodies helped me compartmentalize things. If it didn’t matter, I didn’t care. And plenty of times, I left it partially or entirely off, which has inconvenienced me before. So I thought it best to ease her into it.
“I can see eternity,” Isabella said.
“Oh, that would be the omniscience about psychedelic mushrooms,” I guided her. That helped take some of the edge off other knowledge she could access. People think omniscience, they assume it means knowing all sorts of good or neutral things, like how to build Dyson Spheres or how gravity actually works. The lab coats are going to kick themselves when they realize the second one. But it also means knowing all the bad. When and how everyone will die. What went through the minds of a planet of sentient beings when a massive asteroid wiped them out. What it felt like to be every victim, and every victimizer.
I wasn’t surprised when Isabella needed awhile to adjust.
“It took me awhile to relearn sleeping after all this hit,” I mentioned to her.
“I know…” she dwelled on the thought for awhile. “…what I want.”
The began to change things, reaching out with her power, racing along a lightning bolt. It became a fractal that struck the Green Zone of Empyreal City, the neighborhoods taken over by the Green gang whose tainted drugs have made them animalistic and allowed plants to retake the urban environment. The growth became less intrusive, more like an unusually gentrified, environmentally-friendly neighborhood.
The worrying part was the changes made to the Greens themselves. The unmutated gang members changed, mentally. They were all going to give up crime. She’d changed their minds. And the bestial ones were different now. Still changed, still willing to protect their territory, but they were getting uniforms and badges.
“Isabella,” I warned.
“Listen, I did so much to give you a chance to be good and to be a heroine. You’re better than you were, right?” She had that edge of conviction and begging in her voice. Right there where belief meets going out on a limb. I needed to talk her back away before something happened.
“Yes, but the journey taught the lesson. It was my choice. You can’t just make people how you want them to.”
“I’m cutting the ‘journey’ out the way you cut out disease and disability,” she responded.
“That’s not the same. It’s not that simple with people’s minds. Different points of views and circumstances aren’t a disease.”
“No, you’ll see.”
I sped up, but she already had. Lightning struck us.
I woke up sick to my stomach and with a bladder that wanted to explode. I rolled over out of what turned out to be a bed and nearly fell. For the first time in awhile, gravity actually meant something to me. And I really had to pee. And throw up. I stumbled to my room’s bathroom to empty both ends. Only then could I really take stock.
I couldn’t fly anymore. No laser claws. I thought I had omniscience, but it turns out I’m a smart-ass know-it-all. Still hot, though. I tried popping my eyes out; had to put THAT back in in a hurry. Why is it when other people mess with my body, they fix my eyes?
Ok, I realized it, too, but I think that’s different because I want to think it. As near as I could tell, I was human. And not just human as a shorthand. Since I didn’t have any other powers, even the ones I copied off people I studied, I tried connecting to the internet through the devices I integrated into myself. When that failed, I hugged the TV. Then I grabbed a phone off the charger in the living room. And I didn’t have an external phone. Plus, what the fuck was up with all this sunlight? Ugh, it was morning and everything.
Ok, so I was human. That’s not a good way to start things off. Seemed to be my own house. I rushed to Qiang’s room and stopped myself before I burst in. She was asleep. Then I realized there might have been someone in the bed with me back in the bedroom. I snuck back over there to spot Holly Wayne and Sam Hain in their nightclothes, Holly drooling on Sam’s hair. Sam gave a rough snore. Beautiful.
Then I remembered that thing with the Greens. I checked the closet, worried there would be a police uniform. My heart caught in my throat when I saw the blue outfit hanging up, but then I realized it had a skimpy skirt and fuzzy handcuffs. Whew, it was just a sexy Halloween costume. It hung next to my Sexy Karen outfit from the night I demanded to see Sam’s manager.
But then I saw the other costume. It looked like Reindeer’s costume, but small enough to fit my frame. I checked my head just in case but didn’t feel any antlers. No, wait, that’s because I only had antlers when I transformed. The costume even had a the ability to shift and grow.
I realized I knew that because I had extra memories. Memories of being Delilah Gecko, a human from this Earth who somehow had the power to turn into a reindeer woman who can fly and shoot light beams from my antlers. I also tend to react to trouble by saying “Oh deer.” Sam and Holly were my girlfriends and sidekicks. We met through my friendship with the superhero Mix N’Max, who was currently dating Sporea, the goddess of renewal. I had been a hero, before retiring to pursue a quiet domestic life with my family.
I stumbled down to the basement hideout, and to the computer that was still connected to the outdated extradimensional blog. It had a link to the hero messenger, HeroNet, where my fiance Medusa asking what I thought about this old cathedral as a wedding destination. But there was also one there from the goddess Venus, my other wife. She asked, “Do you see yet?”
Already have a WordPress.com account? Log in now.