Tag Archives: Venus

War On Uranus 9

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Finally, the day we were to head back. I woke up, noticed I had an extra pair of arms in bed, and smiled at the thought of the body pressing against me from behind. I turned and pushed Venus’s brown hair out of the way before kissing her. She eventually woke up, returning my affection until she opened her eyes. She started and sat up onto her knees before smiling sheepishly. “Sorry, forgot who you were for a moment.”

I tugged the covers up over my chest. “Mmm, was a little longer than a moment.”

She smiled that lovely smile before she leaned in close. “No, I knew what I was doing then.” She kissed me once on the forehead.

I winked at her. “I’d say you did.”

She blushed, then bit her lip. She hugged a pillow to herself and looked over to where Dame had been propped up on a chair, still not waking. An earbud-like device rested on Dame’s thigh. “Trying that was wrong, though.”

I’d given her the gizmo for her as a surprise. It let her inhabit Dame the same way I could, but Venus wasn’t having anything in that situation. She got back out of Dame and we got into an argument. There was some light pushing, and I fell on the bed while dragging Venus with me. Before we knew it, the argument was over.

I rolled my eyes, then walked my fingers up Venus’s thigh. “If it’s so wrong, go grab some handcuffs and lock me up.” I started to kiss her knee, but she popped me with the pillow.

“I’m serious. What you’ve done to her is beyond the pale. And trying to get me in her?” She shook her head.

I pushed the pillow away and reached up to run my fingers through her hair. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I smiled at her, hoping temptation would override her morals again.

She got up and walked over to the other utilitarian chair by Dame, gathering her clothes up along the way and began pulling them on I slipped into Dame and sat on Venus’s lap. She held me for a moment but pushed me away when I moved in for the kiss. “No. And I don’t care what your nanites said about the damage. Fix her. Bring her back. Give her her brain back where neither of us can take it over again.”

It was more of a sad rebuke than angry. She followed it up by getting dressed and heading out to check on our departure details.

When the Buzzkills used some of our limited nanite supplies healing my stab wound up, I held onto a little bit. I reprogrammed them for diagnostic purposes, to tell me more about what was going on with Dame. They found damage throughout her lovely cybernetic brain. If anything, it’s a surprise it didn’t affect me more. Or maybe it did, like when I forgot who I was. After that, they focused on healing her injuries from the underground fight. You’d be surprised what organs can bruise, dear reader.

Either way, I figured I’d keep her fed and watered, make sure she goes to the bathroom in the right spot. I’ll get her fixed when we get back home. Probably. I’m tempted not to. It’s the kind of perverse transhumanist mayhem I so selfishly love. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she won’t be there when it’s fixed. Brain injuries are interesting like that, but doubt it’s the kind of thing that could kill her while leaving her intact enough for me to take over.

Speaking of taking her over, I can freely move back and forth again. Near as I can tell, something in my transceivers just… gave out. A power surge from the Domeship shouldn’t have affected me, so maybe it was residual damage left over from the mag-lev rails. I’d been dancing with those trains an awful lot. Fuckin’ magnets, how did they mess up my brain?

It took me longer to get ready for the day than usual, due to having to shower and dress two bodies. Maybe Venus wants to walk around smelling like stank, but I have some class. Travel looked to be more difficult, and I thought of grabbing some duct tape and doing a conjoined twin scenario. I remembered there was already someone who tried to kill me on the ship and figured that would probably add a few more enemies I didn’t need yet. Never know when you’re going to catch something bigger than a scalpel to the heart. I opted to tie her to my back, like a pack. I don’t actually want her hurt while she’s a backup body for me.

I still attracted dirty looks with Dame tied to my back by a bedsheet rope. Good thing I didn’t need to ask for directions. I got enough glares and “Fuck You”s from heroes I only cheerfully waved at.

We all met in the dome. We stood there among defectors and rebel crew to watch as the Senate renamed itself the Forum and appointed a three-person ruling Council to run things via the dome functioning like a giant round TV screen. Some of the rebels near me, who weren’t so much rebels anymore, muttered about how they thought the whole body should have been gotten away with and replaced by regular people.

I’m not sure what that said about the chances of this government standing up, but I felt a lot better when Warman met with the joint session of the Forum and Council to be presented with an armistice. I rolled my eyes at that one. We fought for peace and got a break. Now, we get to leave the peace treaty in the hands of some of the people who tried to sell us out and join the invaders. I sighed and texted Venus. “This is why I should have assassinated the Consuls. They’d be much more inclined to go ahead and accept a peace treaty if they knew how grave the situation was.”

“Bad gecko. Bhave.”

“We have to talk about your shortening problem.”

“L8r. Turning ship over 2 nu capn.”

“I may have to break up with you over the text speak.”

She didn’t reply for several minutes, either processing it or too busy with ceremony. After nearly ten minutes, I received he reply. “U! Break up w/ME after last nite?!!!”

What’s the point of all the shortcuts if you’re going to add so many extra exclamation points. Some believe more than three such pieces of punctuation are the sign of a diseased mine, and I can’t help but suspect it’s true after seeing it in action. “It is painful to read.”

“U tricked me n2 Dame.”

“She’ll never even know unless you tell her once she’s back to normal.”

“I no. That’s y its feels so bad.”

I frowned as I looked over the words in my HUD. I’m going to go ahead and take her at her word this really did make her feel bad once she stopped thinking with her vulva. I thought of all the confusing feelings and the way she used those. Her replacing her doppelganger and tricking me. Freeloading and getting close to my daughter. She tricked me into dates and cuddles and snuggles. Just talking and watching TV together. Dates. Her smile.

And even though she seems to have meshed well with her old friends, I still caught the clear disapproval about her being with me. I have no clue why she’s with me. And I realized that really mattered to me. Because if I knew why she stooped to slumming with me, it would give me an idea what I could do to keep her. It was truly an insidious plot.

“I don’t know what you see in me, Boopsie, but I wish I could live up to it enough to keep you around. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that to you,” I sent to her. Not exactly reminding her it takes two to make the beast with a billion backs, but she knows that part already. I’m giving her an out. A way to shift blame onto the villain.

They announced that the ship would be transitioning back to our world within one hour, pending the return of our delegation from the surface and the arrival of diplomats from the new government. I set my system to hold all incoming texts and calls for awhile. It seemed safer to stay out of the way. Instead, I stopped by the infirmary. They had taken good care of me, feeding me nutrients through IV. It could have been much worse. I chould have had to eat their shitty food.

The understaffed bunch who had been manning it were taking a well-deserved break. I stared at the bed where my body had lain. I’d already checked around it for anything to tell me what was going on, but they’d cleaned up already. It was a hygiene concern when you’re supposed to heal the sick and dying. The heroes signed off on it, said they checked the area over thoroughly.

There was no video surveillance of this hall of rest beds. It wasn’t expected to be a private area at all; it held seven beds. The report I cajoled out of Eschaton said they had hardly anyone else in the room with me. Of the two, one was zonked out on a sedative at the time and the other was in the bathroom. My paranoia wanted to tell me this was by design. My pragmatism said anyone waiting to kill me would have found that to be the perfect moment to go for it.

Still, I had to check.

The hero who’d gone to the bathroom had been identified in the quick report I’d been given. Almost two pages long, it didn’t have a lot of details, but it emphasized that Electrikitty had been cleared and had nothing to do with the attempt on my life. It took most of the hour to find out where she called her litter box. She didn’t have as good of quarters as Venus, which led me to briefly wonder why Venus got special treatment. Leftover goodwill, or a protective measure for being close to me? Probably just my paranoia acting up again. Either way, I walked into one of the eateries and sat down across from a superhero wearing an electric blue cat ear headband, and a white costume with blue electricity patterns over the chest, arms, and legs.

“Oh my god, is that a dead body?” she asked, looking at Dame on my back.

I glanced back, then shook my head. “She’s only sleeping. Say ‘hi’ Dame.” I inhabited Dame briefly to raise her head up. “Hi, Dame!” I jumped back into my body to look into the gawking, open-mouthed expression of Electrikitty. “Listen, do me a favor. I’m looking into that incident in the infirmary, the stabbing?”

“I already talked to the other heroes,” she said, squinting at me. “Have we met?”

She looked pretty convincing, not knowing who I am. I smiled at her, “Maybe in another nine lives.” I watched as she rolled her eyes at the comment, then I continued, “I was just wondering if there was anything you saw at all. Maybe something you remembered. Anyone you noticed between your bed and the restroom.”

She shook her head. “No. The only thing I can think of is to ask those guys in the colorful suits and the helmets. One of them had a crush on her or something. He was always watching.”

“But not that day?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Maybe?” Truly, Electrikitty was a font of knowledge. She legitimately seemed not to remember me the whole time. I dunno, maybe she was just that messed up at the time. Even her tipoff about the Justice Rangers was just pointing toward a direction I was already headed. I didn’t just suspect them of having something to do with it, but I did remember how often they liked to hover over me and watch me. They either almost certainly knew what happened, either by participation or observation.

I found them hanging out back under the dome itself. They mostly stuck together in a group and were all in costume. Justice Rangers inevitably stand out. They even usually wear their colors when out of costume.

I walked right up to the group, who were conversing with a group of Uranals in fancy dress and a few heroes, including Pinion and Warman. The group quieted as I approached, as if it’s unusual to see a four armed woman with a seemingly-lifeless woman tied to her back.

“Can I help you?” someone asked.

“Ricca Island Police. I need to ask someone a few questions about a murder,” I said. I dont know if my Security forces, the primary peacekeepers of the island, go by that, but it made for a good acronym: RIP. And I am in the chain of command, so it’s not really a lie. I’m at the top of the chain.

“Gecko,” Warman said, “May I have a word with you in private?” Warman’s shrewd party politicking caught me off-guard. I hadn’t taken him for the diplomatic type.

“No can do, Wardude. I need to have a chat with these guys, gals, and non-binary pals to see who tried to kill me.”

Warman pushed past the group, none of whom were smiling now. Or so I assume. You can’t really see into those Justice Ranger helmets. He caught me away from the group and put an arm on my shoulder. “This is the diplomatic entourage. We do not need any wild accusations flying now.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t have this peace if not for me and you know it. They’d have shattered Uranus. The food riots, the food relief, the Buzzkills coming to your aid during the protests; all me, baby. Hell, the Buzzkills would have been keeping a better eye on me, but I had them helping y’all out.” I poked him in the chest with one finger, staring him down.

“If you want to talk about all this after we get back to Earth and the diplomats are out of sight, have at it. Accuse whoever you want. Hell, accuse Elvis,” he gestured over in the direction of Honky Tonk Hero, who was having a picnic with Pinion. “But I’ll tell you now, you won’t find nothing. Nobody saw anything and nobody wanted to see anything because you’re a vile son of a bitch who half the people on this boat want to see knifed. To be quite honest, no hero here is going to throw their buddies under the bus over you.” He poked back, between the boobs.

He withdrew his hands as things got quiet. I was looking into his eyes, but thinking through the best ways to hurt him. He nodded behind me. “You want to give them a reason to put you down? Nobody here gives a damn about you but your bugs.”

Oh look. I just found out I CAN get even angrier. “You don’t call them that,” I told him.

“Hey Warman,” said a voice from the side. He turned to look and caught a fist to his jaw. It stumbled him, owing to the element of surprise and the enhanced strength of the woman behind the fist.

Venus stepped between us, rubbing the knuckles on her right hand. “Murder isn’t ok just because the victim is an asshole, asshole.”

Warman spat off to the side. “Look who’s talking. You seem pretty tolerant of murderers nowadays, Venus.” He projected his voice, making sure he was heard by those around us who were clearly following the action. I glanced around and saw many of my Buzzkills assembling in squads in case it came to it.

“My name’s Medusa,” she responded. “I for the people, not the law. There’s no one so wretched they don’t deserve to be saved.”

Whew. Terrible day for rain. Had to hold back and make sure none got on my face.

There was a bright flash, then a voice over the ship’s intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Earth, home universe.” I could even feel the familiar internet sync up with my brain, managing to spoil the entirety of the current season of Game of Thrones before I ever had a chance to watch it.

That got a cheer from the part of the crowd that wasn’t caught up in our drama, as well as the Justice Rangers and the Uranals.

Warman turned. “I have to go see to a lasting peace to a war that threatened billions. You go kiss that bitch who murdered your boyfriend,” he said by way of parting shot. He headed back over to the diplomatic entourage, who seemed to quickly forget the scuffle.

Medusa wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t worry. I got you.”

The absurdity of it got a laugh from me. I hugged her back, kissed the top of her head. After a couple of minutes, she looked up. “You want to round anybody up?”

I looked over her head at the Justice Rangers. The pink one stared at me. I raised one of Dame’s hands to give her the finger, then answered Medusa. “I want to go home to my family and hug my daughter.”

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War On Uranus 8

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There I was, a woman on a mission, deep in Uranus. It got a bit hairy, I’ll admit. Even a bit nutty at times, some might say.

The heroes wanted to wait, but the revolution wouldn’t listen to them. It had too much momentum. The heroes talked to whoever was supposedly leading this thing, only to find out they were trying to write up declarations and constitutions. They didn’t even realize the mob they supposedly led started a riot in front of the Chair and the Tower.

“At least we know where this weapon or bomb is,” Gorilla Awesome told me. He loaded a hefty backpack onto me. They’d stuck at least one of pretty much any tool not nailed down in this thing, and a couple that had been torn off of where they’d been fixed. Unless something goes really wrong, I don’t know what I’d need a vice for. I have too many already. The oxygen tank was probably a good idea, though.

I don’t know how Dame had this thing upgraded, but I was glad she figured out a way to remain in contact with people while still going intangible. When I first encountered her, the intangibility had an issue with electricity. My internal power source had a heck of an effect on it once. Nothing like that to worry about in Dame’s body, just a computer brain. That’s what prompted me to improve it. Er, her.

Still a bit of a mixup from time to time, what with me sharing her brain at the moment. You can’t really make this work without some feedback from the other direction.

I could have dropped from the Domeship and gone intangible for quicker results, but I thought it’d suck to overshoot and keep going. From what the brain trust of heroes told me, it’d be a really bad idea to go too deep into Uranus. Something about portions of the mantle consisting of liquid diamond. I really want to see that kind of shit, but without being subject to the kinds of pressures that would liquefy diamond.

They flew me down while some of the heroes deployed to try to slow down the rioting. I hopped off, went intangible, and did my best to swim down through everything. Someone, keeping track of everything, noted, “Dame is loose. Alpha, Beta, Gamma team are deploying.”

It didn’t take too long to sweep through sewers and foundations. I was blind below that. “Further down,” Gorilla Awesome urged in my ear. “Left. No, the direction to the left of how you just moved.”

I had to stop and think that one through, then shifted. “Ok, I’ve turned so that’s my left now. Let’s get going.”

“I hope the light works,” he said.

It took a good hour of “swimming” through a bunch of minerals and ice I couldn’t see in the first place. I felt uneven, jagged things passing through me painlessly. The texture changed when I reached the end of that half hour. Solid and dense, then a layer of solid and slightly porous. I followed that down to a floor of dense metal. Past that was air. I tried to trace it out and found enough room to at least turn solid. I’d been so long without real mass and wasn’t used to the weight of the backpack I’d been loaded down with, so I fell as soon as I turned solid, cussing.

Gorilla Awesome was alarmed. “Dame, are you hurt?”

“Just wasn’t used to so much sass in my mass after all that.” I breathed in through the oxygen mask and turned on my headlamp. It’d be a big room for a house, like a living room, but square, with these columns built into the wall. In the middle was a big, black egg on a stand. “Congratulations… their secret weapon was a dragon’s egg.”

“Really?” Awesome asked.

I rolled my eyes, “Probably not, but it looks like an egg.” I started to approach, but I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I looked down. Nope, hadn’t been stabbed. I didn’t smell anything if there was something in the air. “Ugh, that’s not good.”

“What?” Awesome asked.

“I hope there wasn’t some kind of poison or viral agent down here… feels like I just got knifed in the chest.” I felt something warm spray all over me. “It’s for real like someone really, 100% stabbed me.” I fell to my knees, trying to take a breath even though I was fine on my end.

“Dame, what’s wrong?”

“Check on Gecko!” I coughed up. I took a minute or two to gather myself. I felt cold in spite of being deep underground. I crawled over to the stand and reached up to adjust the device attached to my ear, setting it to Venus’s frequency. “Boopsie, talk to me. Something’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I think it might be my body, up there in the infirmary.”

“What? Gecko?” she asked. “Dame warmed me you could take over her. How long have you been in there?”

“The night I went into a coma. I don’t know how that happened. I just woke up in Dame when she had that head injury with you.” I took a second to remember her body didn’t have trouble keeping air in her lungs. “I don’t know why. I tried going back.”

“I’m on the ground. I can’t-, I’m nowhere near the infirmary. They’re checking on you. They’ll save you, alright. Stay with me.”

“Keep talking, Boopsie.” I focused on the sound of her voice as I forced my way to the stand and dropped the backpack. I fumbled around in there and pulled out a small blowtorch and a box of matches. When I looked up, I noticed a thin, vertical line of light cast on the stand that certainly didn’t match my head lamp. I turned to look and saw a column cracked open. Out stepped a nude, grey-skinned man. The column insides looked like a padded pod with some computers, wires, and tubes hanging up.

The clone looked at me. “You are here to activate the device?”

I nodded. “Yep. That’s completely why I’m here. I’ll handle the bomb. You go back to sleep and I’ll handle it from here.”

His eyes glowed red. Oh, well, if it’s a fight, that I might be able to handle. I whimpered as I stood up. Venus’s voice came through loud and clear in my ear, “You can’t fight. That’s Dame’s body. You’re already dying, please don’t take her with you. We’ll figure something out.”

With friends like this, it’s a wonder I’m even trying to stop this planet being blown up. I mean, I technically get everything I’d want anyway if I just kinda “Oops” the doomsday device into activation. I might have to sacrifice Dame’s body to do so, though, which would look like a lot better option if mine wasn’t dying. But then, if my body dies, my mind’s going with it anyway.

I started shaking my head from side to side, concentrating on a beat. “I got this feeling on a Summer day when you were gone. I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn. I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs. I crashed my car into the bridge.”

The grey man shifted so my back wasn’t to the egg, then flew at me. “I don’t care!” I yelled at him and activated Dame’s intangibility bracer. He flew through me and smacked into the hard metal walls. “I love it.”

Now, I managed to at least sway in time to the music. It helped me concentrate. I went solid and grabbed the goody bag they’d packed me. I tossed it into his arms and rushed him. He caught the bag and then had to put up with his attacker leaning on him. I pulled out a pair of pliers and squeezed his nose with them. “This’ll help with the smell. It can’t be pleasant this far down Uranus.”

He half groaned, half growled and grabbed my hand in an iron grip. Yep, definitely superpowers. He pulled my hand away and the pliers dropped. “You will diEEE!” he screamed and hopped up and down, dropping the bag. It hit my other hand that had caught the dropped pliers and knocked them loose, causing me the pliers’ hold on his exposed nut sack. He threw me at the opposite wall, hard. I phased through it.

He stepped away from the wall, looking around, then walked toward the doomsday device. My voice reverberated out from around him as I maneuvered through the solid exterior. “You’re on a different road, I’m in the Milky Way. You want me down on Earth, but I am up in space.” I poked my head out from above him. He looked up and zapped the ceiling with red lightning. I dropped down, only turning solid once I smacked into the floor, and scrabbled to grab the egg thing. Then the bracer went on again and I fell through the floor with it.

The next time I sang, it was from a corner. “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch.” He turned and tried to zap me again. He hit the egg, blowing a piece of it off and exposing circuitry.

He ran and slid on his knees to cup the egg against him, checking it over. I came out of the floor behind him and grabbed for that blow torch, then the matches. The flicking of matches got his attention and he turned in time to see fire. Glorious fire! He got an eye full, and practically screamed with joy at the sight. Or maybe that was pain. As happy as I was to hurt him, I still felt like someone was turning me into a sub sandwich, so the feelings were a bit confused in me as well. But I held him there, grabbing the back of his head to force his face against the torch. The first punch to Dame’s chest made my back pop. The second made something inside break. He didn’t finish the third, because by that point I’d burnt a hole through half his head. I was almost burning my hand, but I waited until his body stopped wiggling. I let drop to the side and I shut the torch off, falling to my knees.

I didn’t even have the decency to wheeze for as bad as I felt. I fell forward, over his feet and against the shell of the egg-shaped device. It sparked a bit, but zapped me. So, it still had power. I would have to handle this with delicacy. “Venus, I’m feeling kinda fucked. But not in the good way. I’m feeling like I got mounted by a horse and nobody bought me dinner first.” I began tugging stuff out, breaking shit. Truth be told, doomsday devices usually pretty sensitive. It began to whine at one point and I noticed vibrations, but then I got the blowtorch reignited. I held it up to the exposed portion and began to burn my way through it. It snapped, crackled, popped, and stopped vibrating.

I celebrated by tossing the torch aside and laying down for a nap.

When I awoke, it was to Venus’s voice in my ear. “Gecko? Are you still there?”

I groaned, putting a hand to my chest, by which I meant Dame’s chest. “Still here.” At this point, I couldn’t tell which body the pain was coming from, I just knew I was tired of it. “Tell the Buzzkills… have a syringe ready for me.”

I had been worried I was going to die there, next to some egg that someone buried in Uranus. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but neither was the thought of those dickweeds in the Justice Ranger outfits getting the last laugh, or being abandoned by heroes who loathed my presence, or the thought of what would happen to my daughter without me there. So I decided I wasn’t sleeping anymore until I clawed my way out of Uranus and into the light again. I vowed to rise again. Plus, coming back from the dead always gives a person serious cred for building their own cult.

Finding the way out was easy enough. I went up. It was all the time spent injured, even if it was made easier by phasing through crap. When I reached the surface, I left the radio sending an SOS and just laid there, trying not to breathe too hard.

I woke up this time and held myself with four arms in my own body, glad to be back. Fuck that whole “toppling the government” celebration the heroes were having with the resident Ewoks of the Butt Planet. I couldn’t get a good read on what exactly happened. There was talk of tarring and feathering, but also drawing and quartering.

Still no sign of Dame waking up on her own, though.

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War On Uranus 7

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I don’t know why I felt like checking in on Psycho Gecko. They have us on a rotation system where we spend a few hours on duty, then come back to help. They have even less time out than when they go out on patrol. It used to be, they’d go out, hang out on rooftops, and eventually find something to stop. We’re all being zipped to and fro to hot spots where the work or fighting is almost constant. I’m mostly used for search and rescue, and scouting.

I was scared at first; I’m sure as shit not a fighter. I haven’t been scared since the head injury. More… sad, I guess? And angry. God, so angry. I didn’t think I hated them so much. If it was just the soldiers who shoot at us, that would be understandable. But I pulled a mother and her child from wreckage and wanted to slap the hell out of that crying baby. I wanted to yell at the woman and tell her this was all her fault, too. I didn’t want to be there, risking my life for people who let all this happen when I could be home.

I don’t know why I’m thinking of home so much. Home’s a penthouse paid for with stolen money because I didn’t want to live off money from those hermits with the god complex. But that wasn’t the only weirdness to happen to me. I had an incident while scouting.

They needed me to see how the soldiers were arrayed near this Perilous Tower place and the Consul’s Chair. They named their palace after a seat. I bet it’s because it had a humble name a long time ago. The oldtimers who say they’re gods talk about that stuff. “I remember when Stonehenge was nothing but a bunch of druids sitting around on rocks doing rituals.”

I got a good look, but I was sneaking around the streets circling the Chair when a group of armored soldiers with jetpacks landed around me. I normally play this safe. I could activate my bracer and go underground without issue. I turned it on and threw a punch at the nearest of the five soldiers around me. I had a thought that I didn’t know how many it would take to kick my ass, but I knew they didn’t bring enough.

I had ideas about grabbing guns, choking people, snapping necks, but the soldiers around me opened fire through me. Didn’t do shit to me, but they got themselves good. Their armor stopped most of it. I went solid long enough to grab for one’s gun. His strap stopped me from pulling it free, so instead I smashed it into his throat and sent him splaying. Another raised his gun, sans strap. I twisted it free of his grip, phased, and held the gun out so the receiver poked through his head. When I went solid, the gun did too.

He landed next to one of the people who hadn’t tanked bullets as well as the others, leaving me two more to play with. Play? The fuck am I doing “playing” with soldiers? No respawn, no GG. Like, when one of them pulled a knife and tried to stab me in the pancreas. I grabbed it, twisted his wrist, stomped on his ankle, then drove it into his throat. The warm blood splattering me snapped me the rest of the way out of whatever was going on with me.

I went insubstantial and ran. I stopped after what felt like a mile. I don’t know. I work out, but I don’t marathon run and why the fuck am I talking about my workout routine? I fucking killed those guys. They had visors and armor and I couldn’t see their faces but they were probably human people. Even those grey fucks are human, maybe.

It took a minute before the trembling stopped. I wanted to say it was emotion, but I knew it was adrenaline. I’d be fine. I probably didn’t even kill that one with how weak I am now. That thought convinced me that, more than anything, I needed to get off the ground. Because I realized, holy shit, I was critiquing that shit mentally. I knew I could do better, but thought that was a pretty sweet ankle kick considering the boots they had on. And that’s why I took a deep breath and screamed for a moment. Then I called up the ship and told them to I was done and to get me the hell out of there.

When I got back onto the ship, I headed for the medical ward. I heard someone calling for me back in the docking bay, but I needed drugs and shrinks and some electroshock therapy. Lots of electroshock. Lots of drugs. I remember when they wanted to put me on some when I was a teenager. They thought I was too willful. The people at the program… my parents? What program? I was remembering two different sets of events. What. The. Fuck?

I headed for the beds. I needed to lay down, that’s all. I ran over to the bed next to Psycho Gecko and tried to collect myself. I laid back, tried to take my mind off this, whatever this was. I started wondering if I’d see those guys in my dreams, but knew I wouldn’t. A weird little phrase occurred to me. I don’t know if I’m a woman dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am a woman. Don’t know where that came from. I know who I am. I…

A lot of shit hit me at once that made the whole “murderer” thing affect me even less than it already was. The me in the mirror didn’t match the me inside, again. This time, instead of being hairy and masculine, it’s because the me outside was Dame. I’ve spent a few days dreaming I was a butterfly. I’m a Gecko instead. I groaned, looking over at my body.

I sensed a presence and looked up near the doorway. It was one of the Justice Rangers, checking in on my body. He wasn’t paying me any mind. Kinda emblematic, I guess. My past is always there. I’m always tied to it. Venus thinks I could be better. Do I dare entertain the thought that she’s right? And what then? Give it an actual go? Abandon my daughter and my empire? Even abandon whatever this is with Venus? That’s the same thinking that drove me into my cowardice when I had a time machine. I didn’t make things better because I thought of what things were like now.

So leaving aside all that, I could just leave my body on life support. Let go of my past to try being a better person.

I know, I know, dear readers. It seems downright laughable for me to seriously consider. Of all people, I’m the one who pondered making a real and earnest change. Seeing what I could be if I let go and began again.

I sighed to myself, because it occurred to me that if any part of me really wants to be better, that means not hijacking some other person’s body and taking over her life permanently. I got up and pushed past the Ranger while telling him, “Stop staring, asshat.”

I found a seat in an area where people might not suddenly and catastrophically need beds, and tried slipping back into me. Nope. Well, shit. That couldn’t be good. I reached up and felt the stitches on my, or at least Dame’s, head. Maybe something got messed up in there, combined with falling asleep at the wrong time? Questions for later.

I went to go grab some food, giving my comatose body some side eye. I’m gonna be hungry as fuck when I wake up, but Dame needed to eat for now. It was there, while grabbing myself cloned, cooked meat patty and green beans so pale they were teal, that I saw Venus sitting and reading something on her phone.

“Surprised you get coverage here,” I said as I sat beside her at the table. Luckily, no matter the universe, humans sitting and eating leads to a limited number of options. It’s a lot easier to explain than all the English over here.

“Hey Dame,” she said, covering her mouth as she talked. She swallowed before shooting me a smile. “Heard you had some trouble.”

I rolled my eyes. “Like you wouldn’t believe. I actually need to tell you about something real quick.”

She looked to the doorway, where Gorilla Awesome bounded in. Gorillas running at you tend to draw attention. That goes double if they can talk and built their own jetpack. “I’ve found the reason they invaded! It’s that damn Gecko’s fault again, too.”

Venus sighed and looked down at her plate for a moment before collecting herself and asking Gorilla Awesome, “So Honky Tonk won that bet you two had?” Awesome snorted and pulled a seat away so he could join us on the other side of the table. Venus focused on him. “Did you run over here during my break just to remind me my girlfriend’s the devil?”

Aww… that’s the sweetest thing she’s ever said about me.

Gorilla Awesome shook his head. “Would that were the case. No. It was in the same series of messages that alerted us to a major problem. They were curious by the weapon used to attack Executor Paldrin’s province. They were relieved it wasn’t what they initially suspected it to be, but an attack that cuts them off from dimensional travel was still considered a grave danger to them. They are heavy importers of raw materials. They can’t survive otherwise. Most distressing for us, they suspected it was a mobile version of what they term the ‘Spite Solution’.”

“Let me guess, they kill everyone.” I volunteered. “You don’t call something a ‘Solution’ without a lot of people dying.”

Awesome nodded slightly. “Yes. There was an uprising on Earth. A political rival from a family with superpowers suddenly grew in strength and threatened to depose the Consuls. Because the rival, the Consuls, and most of the Senate were on Earth at the time, nobody ultimately knows if the Consuls used it to spite their enemy or if someone else used the opportunity. All these Consuls know is the Earth is a slowly-spreading lifeless asteroid field. Despite that, they have completed a similar device on Uranus.”

Venus jumped up. “Next time lead with the doomsday device they currently have!”

“Sorry!” Gorilla Awesome raised his damn, dirty paws. “But the good news is, we know where it is.”

“Where?” Venus asked, sitting back down.

“A mile beneath the Chair building. Completely surrounded by ammonia ice, blocks of methane, diamond cement, and metal plate so that no person could get in and out,” Awesome answered.

Venus looked to me. Gorilla Awesome did, too. After a moment, I figured it out, “Oh, right, if only we knew someone who could just phase down about a mile and do something to mess with it.”

Venus patted my arm. “Thank you for offering. You’re a dear.”

Thoughts of Dame and Venus were interrupted by a gorilla with a Ph.D. Telling me, “Don’t worry. We will talk you through the disarming process. This is an area where I would prefer having Psycho Gecko awake if at all possible, but it’s probably best we let sleeping bitches lie.”

Gee, thanks. Nice to know what people say when I’m not around. Little do they know the person they’re insulting is the one preparing to plunge into Uranus to save everyone.

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War On Uranus 6

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I have to revise my opinion of these rebels. Or perhaps it’s the political rivals I shouldn’t have underestimated. They spread the word that the Consuls didn’t have that much force behind them. People demonstrated. It’s an odd verb to use, especially as protesters often have to hide their identities to avoid being attacked later by paramilitary forces. Nah, what they’re demonstrating is their displeasure. Light enough cars on fire, the people in charge start to realize they messed up.

They didn’t start with fire. First, there were shouts. When the cops started beating them, they brought out the sticks and bricks. Then the soldiers brought out guns, and the protesters went in with fire. Then the heroes arrived to save the day.

It was always something that annoyed me about them. Heroes save people, sure, but they’re mainly known for upholding the laws. Even if those laws are unjust. Refusing to take a lives, when it would be the best solution. I don’t have to think too hard to come up with a few people whose deaths would make the world better.

A better world… yeah, it sure did a lot of improving, didn’t it? Fuck, we went from being invaded by other planets to other dimensions. No use worrying about that distraction at the moment.

So the heroes arrived to save the day. They put themselves between civilians and soldiers, to save the citizens of an empire that tried to conquer them. They threw soldiers around, pulled guns away, whisked people from underneath danger’s blade. And they didn’t kill. I thought I changed them at one point.

So many had been brainwashed by the Claw. I couldn’t beat him, but I freed the heroes and villains under his control. They had the power to do what I couldn’t, but I figured they’d all get a thirst for blood in them. They’re saving their enemies. I saw it from the Domeship: a soldier tried to beat a protester with the butt of his rifle. A glowing acoustic guitar stopped it, and Honky Tonk Hero kabonged the soldier to the ground. He helped up the protester, guided them to safety, and stopped another one from smashing a downed soldier’s head in with a brick. It was like that all over the planet, including the capital.

And they were failing. I think they had just about everybody deployed. Heroes, most of their defectors. That was why I was there. They could either keep more folks around as bridge crew to make sure this thing stayed in the air, or I could take over. The only group they hadn’t used, per my orders, were the Buzzkills. The heroes were more than happy to put themselves in danger. They can’t make that decision for my gals.

I warped the ship over a city called Owa. An explosion blew apart something in the street. “Toasty!” I said to no one in particular. I called down to the team there. “Major Tom to Ground Control. Everything ok down there? It’s looking a bit hot on the streets.”

“This is Pinion.” Right, flying super. Purple and light blue costume with fabric wings. Likes to throw feather-shaped knives, but she’s a hero. “They broke out the mortars. We need help.”

Whoever had that smart idea wasn’t getting it out to their buddies, but that didn’t do much for Pinion and her team. I opened up communications. “This is Gecko. Pinion needs reinforcement. Is there anyone available? Also, beware of mortars.”

“Syncopate here. I think we have this. Give me-” He went staticy for a minute. Syncopate… the guy has these little dishes around his cuffs to help concentrate sonar powers. He sounded out of breath when he checked in a couple seconds later. “This clone unit is tying us down. I’m sorry. I think we need some help now.”

I looked over at the Buzzkills standing at attention, then looked back at the situation. I cut the transmission to the heroes and looked to the Buzzkills again. “This part of it isn’t our business, so I don’t expect y’all to follow orders without questions. This is voluntary.”

“Father Empress,” said one of the Buzzkills as she stepped forward. Quite an odd title there, made possible thanks to my gender situation. “We are not only drones. We have been watching the situation as well. What the heroes are doing helps all of us. I will assemble squads to deploy and help them, first in force at the most dire hot spots, then moving to the rest. We will make you proud.”

I turned to keep an eye on the Domeship’s view screen, even though I didn’t need to with my body directly connected to its central computer. “Thank you, daughter. Be safe. Let me know when you’re ready to warp to the next hot spot.”

She and the other guard bowed, and they left. I kept my mouth shut and digitally generated the transmission when I informed the heroes. “Buzzkills are preparing to deploy. Pinion, you’re up first. Then Syncopate. All teams, keep me abreast of any trouble that pops up. We’re working on the worst spots first, moving onto others.”

A text appeared in my HUD from Venus. “Nice to see ur joining fight.”

I rolled my eyes and texted back. “Aren’t you too busy punching to type?”

“How do u no I’m not braining it?” she asked.

“Because if you were using a connection to it instead, you wouldn’t be stuck in text-speak. Fight first. Flirt later.”

“Never stop u before.”

That gave me a brief smile before the Buzzkill runner came in. “They are away.”

“That was quick,” I said. The Buzzkill didn’t say anything. She was conspicuous in her lack of speech. “You were planning for this.”

“We want to make you proud and protect our hive. We run maneuvers, we train. We plan. We are ready to fight for what we care about, Father Empress,” she said.

Well, nice to see my half-bug bumble babies got brains. If I’m going to send them into a fight to help heroes save people who wanted me dead, at least one side in all this is doing some thinking. “Pinion, help is on the way.”

“Thanks, Gecko,” she said. I put her gratitude aside. A bright white light saw us over to the next hotspot, Poarch.

“Syncopate, Gecko,” I announced. “Still alive?”

“Alive and rockin’,” he said.

I tried to remain all business during the flight of the bumblebees.

The main fighting ended quickly in most spots. Others raged on. The people, emboldened by their new protectors, refused to back down. They encircled government buildings and garrisons. I lost track of everywhere I shuttled people. It just kept going, with me as a glorified ferry. Get up, disconnect long enough to go to the bathroom, grab some nutrient-filled cloned food, and back to being the ship’s brain.

The hardest nut to punch was the capital. The seat of the Republic’s power also held its largest concentration of forces on the planet. The protests and riots that broke out there were nearly stomped out while the Buzzkills were busy with the heroes forcing other guard units to surrender and lay down arms. And then while the heroes tried to arrange for some sort of protective force to guard those other areas that wasn’t going to start a new massacre.

Meanwhile, I stood, sat, or even knelt in one place. It got so bad, I actually passed out. I didn’t realize it until I heard Venus calling out. I opened my eyes and realized I was laying down in a building. It was night, things were on fire, and a portion of the wall was gone. A hand gripped the floor. I checked and that was where Venus’s voice came from. She was holding on with one hand while holding onto a person with the other. She tried adjusting he grip, but the floor bent a bit more.

“Dame, get her,” she told me. Just great. I can’t get a break even when I pass out. At least I was off my ass, even if it wasn’t my ass I wore now. I didn’t even think about it, hitting the phase bracer and passing through the floor to land on the one below. I grabbed the guy Venus held and pulled him away from the edge and the damaged structure. Venus landed near us, and checked the guy’s head and neck. “I think he’ll be fine.”

She turned to me and I saw a wince underneath her visor. “That looks pretty nasty. You should get back to the doctors.” She reached out, a flashlight on her wrist snapping on. “Get that looked at.”

“Tis only a flesh wound,” I told her.

Gorilla Awesome’s voice broke through what had been a nice moment that had me wondering if I could steal a smooch. Dame told Venus about the whole brain puppet thing, I’m sure. Either way, the supersmart jetpack gorilla told us, “Something has happened on the ship. We need a skeleton grew again.”

“What’s up, Awesome?” asked Venus.

“I found Psycho Gecko unconscious at the controls. I expect it’s sleep deprivation. She won’t wake up no matter how hard or often I slap her. The Buzzkills are moving her to quarters, but I require aid to fly the ship.” Well that didn’t sound good.

“Jesus, is this the first anyone’s relieved her?” Venus asked. A burst of light outside showed darkened smudges all over her power armor. I checked my own self out and found Dame’s costume had a few tears as well. My feet ached, my head throbbed, and my muscles were all sore from days of physical activity with little rest. I was all jittery, too. That’d be the adrenaline. I leaned against what had been a table and breathed in and out, trying to control this body.

Gorilla Awesome sighed. “I am going to implement full rotation. It will allow us to shuttle the wounded more efficiently, and allow us to rest outside of a warzone.”

“Good idea. Let the bees know,” she looked to me. “You should go up, too.”

“I-” I started to refuse, but then my head pain roared forward like a bull and I focused on wincing and getting through the pain. Even if it’s me feeling it instead of Dame, I decided it was a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, the heroes and my Buzzkills had pretty much run themselves ragged like this. Warman stayed to fight, along with some of the supers who didn’t need to worry about that so much. And I passed out when being flown back up.

I dreamed I was back on the ground, scouting out the soldiers and finding people trapped in buildings to rescue. Ugh, and I still felt like crap when I woke up, but at least I woke. I was getting some of the blood out of my hair when I heard some of the doctors talking about the casualties. That crazy bitch Psycho Gecko didn’t even do any fighting and she ended up in a coma.

I looked at myself in a mirror for a moment while my body as a whole complained. For just a moment, I thought I didn’t look right, like I wasn’t looking back at my own face. I shook it off, and headed off to grab some chow before I went back down. Whoever said there’s no rest for the wicked didn’t count on the egotistical empress of assholes snoozing while Uranus is on fire.

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War On Uranus 5

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The heroes had a job for me. Venus called me up in the middle of pulling a little prank. “Are you busy right now?” she asked.

“I could normally work through it, but I’m about to lose you in a minute. Electromagnetic interference. You’re not riding the rails on the surface, are you?” I grit my teeth a little as I delicately bent some wires toward each other with the aid of some insulated tongs.

“We’ve been analyzing the situation over here using their version of the internet, knowledge from the defectors, and information we’ve all learned in our activities.”

“Our activities? I’m the one who interrogated hostages. What did y’all do?” I’ve been out here stealing shit. I haven’t seen these heroes out and about, helping me blow shit up.

“After we fought off the planes, we have been helping out. We’re healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and helping protect people from gangsters called the Kah. We’re trying to utilize all our abilities, which brings me back to why I called. We have a few anthropologists and sociologists among the secret identities. They think-”

“Hold that thought in your pretty little head, dear,” I said. The wires touched and I fell back as my cyborg parts rebelled all at once. It took a few seconds to shake everything off and try to stand up, which got harder when some trains and individual cars started to land all around me on the cold Uranal dirt. Others smacked into the rails above me, but none overcame the magnets. It was only a brief power surge all along a kilometer of track, but it disrupted the flow of people and goods between places.

While I waited on everything to stop falling and to explode if it was going to, I called Venus back. “Ok, I’m back.”

“Do people need our help?”

“Probably. There’s probably injured,” I said. I paused as a man screamed on his way down from the tracks. He landed with a thud, then cried out again. “Yeah, definitely going to need some medical help for collateral damage.” A metal groan drowned out the man’s screams, followed by a falling train car plowing into the man. “You know, nevermind. I think the casualties took care of themselves.”

“I’m sending them anyway. Do you need a ride?” she asked.

I looked over where I left my tread cycle. I stole it off a Kah courier. “I’m good.” It disappeared under another train car. “You know what? A ride would be nice. I’m out here kinda far. Transmitting coordinates now.”

She briefed me as I waited underneath the rails in case any-friggin-thing else decided to fall off. Annoyed me, too. I liked that cycle. I want another one, with built in rocket launchers and machine guns. I’ll paint it red and call it “Minstrel II: Electric Boogaloo.”

The info I’d picked up was puzzling. I hadn’t pieced it all together yet, but a picture was starting to form of a severe labor shortage and a highly nationalistic culture where only a minority of people bought into the ideology.

Venus explained. “At some point, their capital was Earth. We don’t know what happened. The Republic’s line is that it was destroyed in some way. We don’t know what that means. Now, it lives on with a colony on Uranus that has to rely heavily on resources from provinces, which seem to be other conquered worlds. It has been a long time since they heard any news of new conquests, so they think the provinces are having trouble and that’s where they keep the majority of their military.”

I tried connecting a few dots myself. “So Paldrin was a provincial leader, maybe with a world or part of a world under his control. He went after us with his own forces that were more like the provincial garrisons or auxiliaries. Then I took him out and the main military invaded us. If you’re right about the military situation, I wonder why they threw good money after bad?”

“We wondered about that. How did you kill Paldrin?” Venus asked.

“It was a super weapon. Kinda meant to destroy everything within a certain radius, but untested. I didn’t know how much it would destroy. It was derived from D-bomb technology, but the Dudebot I sent it with didn’t get shot back to our dimension until a week later or so.”

She was quiet for awhile after hearing that, probably coming to terms with the idea that I might have killed a planet. It was self defense, but still. Whatever I am to her, I don’t expect her to take genocide well. Though I suppose I think genocide has more to do with specifically targeting a certain ethnic group to wipe them out, including using methods like sterilization. An entire planet is really too indiscriminate to be genocide.

Regardless of all that, when Venus next spoke to me, she cut to the chase. The heroes have gaps in their knowledge, and they want to figure some things out. They want me to infiltrate the primary military command center, the Tower Perilous, located in the capital city. It looked like a tall, vaguely phallic cement building inside a number of smaller stone buildings that radiated out in a sunburst. I took a good long look before I left the Domeship. Venus didn’t see me off or have anything to do with the briefing. They had Honky Tonk Hero handle that, though I noticed. Odd choice, and I suspect he lost a bet from how happy he seemed over it.

The whole thing would have been much easier with the aid of my power armor. Too bad that got dissolved away by the Praetor, eh? On top of that, they don’t seem to really bother with women in their military, and most folks don’t just have an extra pair of arms. But, fuck it, I didn’t want to stick around on the ship while everyone but my half-insect daughters gave me dirty looks. The desire to kill me was palpable, and yet they need me. It’s all feels familiar.

As if to emphasize that point, I spotted my old nemeses, the Justice Rangers. I nodded toward the red and green ones, “How ya doin’? Enjoying the ride?” As one, they gave me a salute that would be an insult in our dimension of origin. I gave them the ol’ Spaceballs salute right back.

Clone stuff. It’s all clone stuff around here, not nearly enough cybernetics. They put so much work into building things because of that. It also made it more difficult for me to throw some armor together. Luckily, I had an idea on that front. I made a people suit. Before people start getting upset, I cloned a suit of grey skin to hide myself inside and some padding to disguise my milkmakers. Grey people are allowed to have extra arms on this planet. Pour one out for Buffalo Bill; truly an inspiration.

Their security is shit on this planet. I rode the train like anybody else, got into the capital like it was no one’s business. There were some delays when the trains had to divert around messed-up rails and underneath bomb scanners, but it’s not like anybody wanted me back with the heroes quickly. From there, I had to navigate the landscape of glass and local concrete that was the big city. People looked, but not twice. As someone with grey skin and a leotard, I was someone they didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.

The Tower Perilous was easy enough to find. That one had a security wall around it to keep people out, but any big wall like that has its weaknesses. Unless you have people watching it all over, it’s simple to hop the thing like I did. I checked some of the outer buildings on my way toward the jackpot in the middle. They looked like a combination of storage and trophy room. Golden statuettes full of precious gems looked a little fancy to be in a storage locker, but there they were, packed in with gold in all kinds of shapes and sizes. If every one of these buildings had that kind of stuff in it, they were fucking loaded.

Which, I realized with a smirk, is exactly the problem. You dump that much gold on the economy all at once and it becomes worthless.

They had soldiers in honor guard uniforms who nodded to me on my way through. I wouldn’t be surprised if their vents are big enough to walk through upright, these people. It was a bit tough navigating, but someone in a nice uniform smiled and approached. “May I help you?”

“Praetor M,” I introduced myself. “I have been sent to see to the Grand Executor’s files.”

His brow furrowed. “The new Grand Executor hasn’t been appointed yet.”

“The old Grand Executor. I must see to his files.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. I walked past him, toward the elevator. He followed along into there with me, not calling in security if that’s what he meant to do.

I looked to him. “We have discovered an existence of a technopath among the invaders. I need to harden the encryption on the Grand Executor’s system, whether there is a new one or not.” I held his gaze until the man punched a button on the elevator. At least this machine wasn’t too convenient for them to do away with.

The Grand Executor’s office was one nice piece of work. I think the guy had rugs on his rugs. All sorts gems, bottles of stuff, incense, bundles of scrolls, and odd little clockwork sculptures. This guy had weaponry bling all over the place, as well. A small, if ornamental, armory hung on one wall: rifles and handguns shared it with naginata, swords, and a large fang. This was not the office of a professional general, and his unfamiliarity with our world compared to Paldrin might mean I was barking up the wrong tree.

“Leave me in private,” I told the aide who showed me the way as I stepped around an ornate desk carved to resembled the base of a great redwood. The chair behnd it had the same touches, carved so that the legs looked like trunks and spread into roots at the bottom.

“Are you sure? What if the technopath attacks?” He asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Nothing you could do would stop them. Thank you for your help. I will handle it from here.”

Frowning, he left me in private. I ran my hand over the screen of the flowing shell material that made up the exterior of the computer on the man’s desk. Its curves encompassed the monitor and keyboard. I checked around for the tower. A cable ran down from the shell into the floor itself. I pulled back the rug under the desk and found the tower was the floor, hidden behind a layer of glass. I checked to make sure nobody had slipped in while I was preoccupied, then I pulled up the sleeve along one of my lower arms and dug my fingers into the skin around the wrist. A trail of blood circled the wrist where my fingernails cut it. I pulled the skin off like a glove and slipped it into a pocket. I dialed back my eye laser to cut through just the floor, just enough to get my hand into the oversized circuit boards below.

It was actually an older version of the same sort of software on their tanks and the Domeship, so it took a moment to orient myself. And then, worlds opened up to me. I established a link with the Domeship.

“Gecko here. Analyze this,” I started uploading key parts of the data. They were right. We were fighting something of a vestigial empire. Its provinces were other versions of Earth, and almost all were in rebellion or close to it after to much of their military power had been drawn off. One was successful, having almost completely routed their local Executor and Governor after all contact with other worlds had been lost for a week. “Oh wow. Turns out I didn’t kill that planet,” I said, putting that up on the screen for the heroes to see.

I thought about it. I had access to emergency overrides for Dimensional Relay Towers they used in the provinces and on Uranus to travel to other dimensions. I grabbed as many files on how they worked and began deleting the copies they had.

I had something to say to the heroes though. “I could end this right here and now. They have a force here… token, really… but I could shut down their vehicles. I could stop the trains. Cut off the cloning labs. Or I could turn them on each other. Clone soldiers loyal to us. Ram the trains into each other. I could render them helpless on all their worlds, and here. I could use their own relays to tear them apart. They’d never threaten anyone again.”

“Please, Gecko,” Venus said on the Domeship. “Shut them down. I don’t want that much death on our conscience.”

“If all we do is turn stuff off, there’ll still be plenty of death when we bring the fight here. You’re trading their lives for our lives. Lots of heroes there who may not like you speaking for them on that.”

Warman joined in. “That’s our decision, you son of a bitch.”

“We became heroes to shield the innocent,” Eschaton said.

I got flooded by hundreds of agreements. It was an overwhelming cacophony, but in the middle of it I could focus on Venus and her discussion with someone. I don’t think they knew I could hear. “Do you trust him?”

“I want to trust her,” Venus emphasized that last word. “I think she’s more than what you want her to be.”

I sighed. “Fine, emergency shutdown initiated. They’re wide open for you. Have a happy revolution doing things the hard way.”

“It’s the way that lets them live and doesn’t give them cause for reve-” Warman was saying before I cut the audio feed.

If the heroes want to kill themselves, who am I to argue? I’m getting sick of Uranus anyway. Though it did make me smile to realize my nemesis isn’t quite sick of mine yet.

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War On Uranus 3

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I don’t know much about the culture of this other dimension, or the history of their people. It IS another dimension, I’ve confirmed that much. This bunch we’re facing were a colony of Earth’s until something happened to Earth while one of the Consuls happened to be here for a visit. I picked that much up while skimming their version of the internet here. There’s suspicion that whatever happened to that Paldrin guy, and now our appearance, might be like that. Some of that involves a theory that we destroyed the Earth, but most people wonder if we’re being used to make someone inconvenient disappear. It’s a stretch.

That’s why, despite being snubbed by the heroes, I felt it was my duty to spy on their meetings with the local resistance. Seemed to be your standard bunch of bomb throwers. That’s not a statement against bomb throwers, but they’re always going to be a minority even among people opposed to whoever’s in power. I mean, if the people who want to use violence to overthrow a government are the numerical majority, then the situation’s usually either more openly violent or the opposition group is past tense.

I’ve thrown plenty of bombs before. The sheer magnitude of bomb is why I’m a pariah in my original universe.

After their little meeting of hearing all about how they will gather their allies and prepare to march on the capital, the heroes showed them out of the room politely and Gorilla Awesome pointed out:”That group is a cabal of extremists who would give up before they get within a hundred miles of the capital. We need mainstream support.” He turned to Raan, the defector, who was still in the room. “Has the government committed any atrocities we could exploit?”

Raan shrugged. “They’re wasting money and lives in multiple wars in other dimensions. Consul Gar Kiteer of the consuls used to frequent parties of a patrician found to be engaging in pedophile sex slavery, some of them at Consul Kiteer’s villas. Some of the victims came forward to attest Kiteer raped them at the parties, and are now in hiding after he said he would protect his followers if they made those accusations go away. Consul Ma’Du’He has persecuted the serfs, the women, and minority religious groups, putting many into camps meant to deport them to the provinces while tearing their children away from them and giving them to party supporters. Their political rivals in the Senate recently passed a non-bindng pledge to remain civil while opposing them.”

Gorilla Awesome sighed. “This is going to be difficult. We need to destabilize this world without causing reprisals or extensive loss of life.”

If that’s not the beginning of a “be careful what you wish for” story, I don’t know what is.

I stopped eavesdropping through Dame’s hijacked ears and sat up where I’d been slumped in an eating area. I had my armor again, but it’s a pain to clean at the moment, so I wore some of the coveralls like they have on the ship.

I looked around for someone native to this strange new world and found them. Crew discipline is shit now that they’ve defected to side that didn’t try to murder them last, so I found a guy out of uniform and in clothes. I don’t know if you’d call it a robe or a jacket; it could have been a greatcoat with a fuzzy collar and a loose layer of extra fabric around the hips that covered pockets. I just couldn’t tell if it was some sort of robe instead.

Regardless of what he’s wearing, I sauntered over and prepared to use my feminine wiles to charm the man out of information. I pushed his tray of food to the side and sat in its place, one leg on either side of his shoulders. “Hey, wanna talk to me?”

He blushed, looking me over, but especially between my legs. “Hey, “ I told him, leaning over and tipping his head up with my chin. “My boobs are up here.”

“I see that.. what’s going on? What is this?” He at least had enough sense after the blood rush to his crotch to know this wasn’t normal.

“I just need a little bit of information and I thought I’d use you to get it,” I said. I played with some hair on his head. “I just need to know where you Uranals grow food. When I look outside, I don’t see a lot of farmland.”

“Ma’am, we’re in the air.”

Huh. A bit too much of an erection-induced intelligence drain. I leaned back and folded both pairs of arms across my chest. “Well, I did figure you grow stuff on the ground, but where?”

Another guy approached and pulled me off the table and onto his lap. “I’ll tell you where the meat comes from if it’s a mouthful of protein you’re wanting.”

I smirked and shifted myself in his lap sharply. The man let out a high-pitched wail and fell back, trying to grab at his pained crotch. I got up and sat back on the table, leaving him to hold himself and feel sorry. “As I was saying, I want to know where food is produced on Uranus. I imagine it’s well-fertilized.”

“Uh… the plants are, I guess?” the first guy responded, not entirely comprehending. “There are farm settlements. Big domes the size of cities that grow plants. Uh, and there are only a few meat labs.”

“Meat labs, you say?”

He nodded. “Labs they grow meat in. Do you have meat where you come from? It’s really neat.”

I rolled my eyes. “Ok, I think I got enough info to try and pin this down on my own.”

I could have used more help, but I wasn’t sure if he’d actually know locations, and now I knew I was looking for something like a city. I found a few nearby, actually. The biggest near this city was the August Agriculture And Meat Lab.

It was far enough away, but services by rails, like any of them else. And, after keeping an eye on its deliveries, I found out it serviced a couple of cities in the vicinity. That’d be even better for my purposes.

Getting in took some patience. Once I had my eye on August, I could see they were linked into the high speed rail network. It criss-crosses the planet, moving rapidly. It mainly stops in the big cities or those areas like the lab that are centers of production. There are smaller stops along the way, but the trains just slow down while mechanical arms swap out containers or attach a new car to the train. The lab is always sending something off, so it’s always got some of its cars coming back. I just had to help myself to a bundle of heavy clothing and an abandoned jetpack. Next thing I know, I’m being shipped into the facility and sneaking my way past workers.

The meat labs looked like something out of hellraiser. On the outer edges of it, it almost looked like skinned skeletons without any organs, but the “bones” were some sort of fatty, stretchy substance, and it lacked things like skulls that people don’t eat. They twitched, which turned out to be from the frame it was in moving and stretching the meat. As I went further in, the meat thinned down. And here I was with nothing to blow it all up with. But I had a pretty good idea where to find some.

The fields were under a big dome that gave glowed red. Were I superman, I’d probably have felt a bit weak. The plants loved it. From a high view, I saw it all divided up into sections radiating out from the central lab hub. Potatoes, corn, various roots and shrubs and so on. And, right there near me, the supply shack. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff they put in fertilizers.

The dome got a big hole in it to let in the natural cold of Uranus. Cold, cold methane. Some sort of secondary shield came up to quarantine the area, until it failed for some mysterious reason that let a lot more in.That just ruined the veggies, but what about the meat? Well, I loaded up a train car with as much of my new special sauce as I could and shoved off, or whatever the engineer lingo is. I unfurled the sails, powered up the warp core, fired my thrusters, and the train left the station. Luckily, they built the things to be fairly user friendly. I got the hell out of there, waited until I got to a safe distance, then waited even further before blowing the secondary explosions.

I felt it. I think the people on the Domeship probably felt that one. It didn’t derail my train, but I was also disappointed it didn’t do more to the mag-lev line behind me. Because while centralizing a food supply is excellent as far as quality control, efficiency, and reducing pollution, it creates a heck of a chokepoint. Strike hard at just a few locations and it affects how much food a lot of different places get.

I road that train on and on, through a city without stopping, ignoring a lot of calls from Venus in the process. My goal was to get a bit closer to the capital, but then someone figured out it was me. I saw these things catch up to me in my loan car, like helicopters if they had a big disk instead of rotors and a cockpit like a jet. “Cease and desist at once!” called out a voice from within. I ignored it and kept going, but tried to keep an eye on methods of escape. If I had to escape, I’d be aiming for the ground. They’d shoot me out of the sky, and all these cyborg parts don’t mix well with hopping on mag-lev track.

Would they shoot? It’d still cause an explosion, but there’s a difference between an explosion way out between settlements and one inside a city. But there was still a lot of traffic around, zipping to and fro. The closest oncoming rails had a line of train cars oncoming. I tried to get an idea on timing and speed, overclocking part of my brain. And then, when the time was right, I fired off the jetpack.

The wind was killer, and the magnetic forces at play left me blinded and hurting in the cold. I was also really glad that however these packs worked, they didn’t ignite the methane around me. I bounced into the side of a train car, scrabbled, scraped my fingernails along it, and tried turning my body to keep up at least long enough to find the rear entrance. I flopped against a low rail, suddenly glad I no longer had nuts. Grabbing on (to the rail, not the area where I used to have nuts), I pulled myself over it and felt along. The door opened, letting me into a cabin where I could suddenly see again and fans vented methane out.

It was a cargo car. Consumer electronics, as far as I could tell. I gave us extra time to get away before I remote-detonated the car I’d just left, taking out a few lines of the track way behind us. I settled in behind some boxes and finally answered Venus.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

I smiled. “Agitating. Figured I’d make myself useful.”

“Are you ok?” she asked.

“Perfectly fine, though I advise giving extra time on any detonators in this atmosphere.”

“We saw news of explosions at a food lab. Did you get what you were after?” she asked.

“Yeah. If people aren’t agitated, they will be when there’s less food to go around. And they’re not going to be too fond of damage to the transportation network. But I got an idea for you. I need a smaller craft, something where I can hijack some train cars but not destroy everything. Remove their food, provide it to allies.”

She laughed at that one. “You’re gonna be so much trouble. I’ll see what we can do up here. Maybe we can play good cop to your bad cop, pretend we oppose what you’re doing.”

“Just don’t forget the handcuffs. And buckle up, sweetums. Shit’s about to go down on Uranus.”

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War On Uranus 2

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I’ve talked a bit about interrogations before. About how the preferred way to get information is through building a rapport with someone instead of beating it out of them or tearing stuff apart. Unfortunately, every time I try to personally demonstrate this, clueless people keep giving me accurate information during the torture part. There I am, trying to interrogate properly and save people the terrors of torture, and they fuck it up.

I thought of all this while I was taped to a chair while people took turns punching me in the face. It was a group of heavyset men and women working me over, members of a crime family called the Kah. I heard the name whispered in certain shadows, and by a bartender into a hidden microphone. They had escorted me to a back room for a talk, which I thought me useful even when they broke out the tape and the chair.

There were five of them, which seemed a bit excessive. We’d managed to get a lot of organizing done, and gotten a pretty good chunk of defectors. Most of the military guys didn’t stick with us, but they were pretty week from the cold and the lack of fresh air, so they didn’t put up much of a fight when we took their gear and left them in some little town next to the mag lev lines. I thought it was a highway of some sort, but they appear to be the main form of long distance ground transportation.

After that, we sat down and found out about the existence of groups who were, shall we say, enthusiastic about altering their government. I believe it has to do with the vote belonging only to people who own a certain amount of property and money.

Don’t worry about the ship. I left Gorilla Awesome at the controls. Unlike Venus and Warman, he didn’t head off to go find members of a resistance or rebel group while seemingly forgetting I even exist.

I’m not disappointed and bitter.

I found my way to the surface as well, because I have a bunch of daughters who are flying bee people. I had some of them drop me off and I decided to go looking for explosives. A day of wandering around the icy white and grey streets of the nearest urban stack of shit, I found a bar where the right word could get you a meeting with folks who know how to get stuff.

I don’t need explosives. There are still some on the ship, and stuff to make even more. The reason I went looking for bombs or bomb parts is because that would lead me to someone who sells them to people on this planet, in this dimension. There’s a fairly limited market for that sort of thing, involving religious fundamentalists, anti-government terrorists, and revolutionaries. Sometimes, there’s even a difference.

That brings me back to the little room in the back of a bar where four guys and a woman were taking turns hurting their fists on my face. “Who sent you? What agency are you with?” asked this one big guy with a receding hairline. He wound up and slugged me in the chin, then shook his hand. “Fuck’s sake, she’s a hard one.”

“Most be part of her powers,” said the woman with a ponytail of brown hair. She reached over and grabbed something that looked nearly like a wood baseball bat. It was shorter, with a more consistent thickness along its length. She spun it around to show me where straight razors were embedded in the wood, facing out. “Or she’s got a head full of metal instead of a brain. Did you think we were amateurs? Get her throat.”

Someone behind me put his hands around my throat and started squeezing. I kicked my legs against the tape holding me and arched my back, groaning and coughing. The woman hefted the razorbat, then noticed my mouth doing funny things. She stopped and nodded to the guy behind me, who let me go. “You have something to tell us?”

I nodded, coughed, then informed them. “Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m there.”

“There?” asked the guy behind me.

“It means I’m not coming anymore,” I said. He leaned forward to look between my legs. I snapped the tape the rest of the way through and grabbed his head, biting his ear and pulling him over me into my lap. That was in case the woman swung that bat, and she did. Her partner took the blow instead of me. What a nice guy!

When she swung again, I grabbed at the bat and ended up pinning it against him. Flexing, I managed to pull my legs free of their tape. I hadn’t been able to weaken it with really sharp nails like I had the ones on my arms, but legs are stronger. The bat got loose as I did.

I stood up and closed my eyes as a chain smacked me in the face. I flinched back, into a punch that got some fight bite from me. The chains came for me again and I raised a hand to cushion the blow. Another hand went downtown to grab his blowjob cushion. I picked that one up and threw him against the wall. He hit with a thunk and skidded down.

The asshole who punched me pulled out a knife and swiped at my face. I caught it in my teeth and raised my eyebrows toward him. I twisted his wrist to force him to let go of it, but the bat caught me in the back before I could do anything else. I spat the knife at him, where it grazed his cheek. Groaning, I did a split. The groan had more to do with taking a hard piece of wood from behind. I’m not opposed to that sort of thing with warning. I chose to show my displeasure by bending back and throwing a punch forward and back, catching a pair of differently-equipped crotches in each hand. I swept my leg around to trip the guy in front of me and spun to grab the woman by the clam and the arm. I tossed her over head, where she landed next to the chair and the guy who had slumped off it onto the ground.

That left one guy still standing and holding something in hand. It crackled with electricity as he stabbed it at me. I jumped back and kept jumping until I fell against someone. Looking back, I saw the dazed guy I’d tossed at a wall. He grabbed at me, but I pulled free and sidestepped, leaving him to get cattle prodded by his buddy. The guy with the prod turned around to look for me and got poked in both eyes like a cartoon. I grabbed the prod and gave him a little shock to each of his nipples in turn. Then I wound up and smacked him in the back of the head with the handle.

That left him, two more guys, and the woman all down in a close group near the chair. I got a pleasant little idea. I dropped the prod and instead grabbed the chair, jumped, and came down with all my weight on it. It cracked as it landed on them, but I just wasn’t massive enough to make it pop on four of them at once. I slid off and grabbed the chair, then smashed it to bits on their heads. All the Ikeas weren’t putting those four back together again.

Then I turned to the last one, and looked around. I found the cattle prod and checked to make sure it could still shock. Crackle crackle. Then I smiled at the guy leaning against the wall and informed him that, “You and I are gonna have a little chat about hospitality. Because I don’t really care if my questions get answered now, and this prod fits right here the sun doesn’t shine.”

“The Geetoh Valley?” he asked.

“Sure, buddy. Let me send it there through your wormhole.”

Proving me right, he did not provide any useful information.

I stepped out of the backroom, covered with blood, and made my way toward the bar. The bartender had signalled some people when I came in and started asking for things that go boom in the night. He seemed surprised to see me again. I pulled up a stool, because they even have stools on Uranus, and immediately sighed as a hand landed on my shoulder. “Everybody wants to get kicked in the Geetoh Valley ton- Boopsie!”

I’d spun around to find Venus there in heavy clothing like the local wore. Warman was with her, also out of costume, and they had some friends with them, one of whom had a barcode tattoo on his face.

“What have you been up to?” Venus asked.

I shrugged. “Just enjoying a Bloody Mary, but it spilled on me a bit.”

Warman turned to the barcode guy. “That’s who I meant.”

I stood up and held out my hand for a shake, but barcode guy spritzed me in the face with something. I grabbed for his arm, but felt myself falling forward…

…and off a sofa in a room somewhere, two hours later, drooling all over the place. I shook my head, but my face was numb. Standing up wasn’t so easy, either. The floor kept moving.

“Oh, you’re up!” I heard. Psychsaur’s scaled hands helped me stabilize myself. I hugged her, and she hugged back. “Been awhile.”

“You too,” I managed without biting through my tongue. “They tranqued me?”

“Tranquilizer spray,” Psychsaur said. She reached up to scratch the feathers she had in place of hair. “They did it to Venus and Warman when they found them. They call themselves The New Serviles. Bunch of assholes.”

I laughed at that, then almost fell over. She eased me down onto the sofa and sat down next to me. I slapped my face a few times, then looked to her. “Hey, sorry about you and Venus. You ok?”

She smiled without showing any fang. “We’re good. It was wonderful, but we had our reasons.” When she saw me trying to stand again, she put a hand on my arm. “Hey, rest a minute. They don’t want you out there anyway.”

I sighed. “Yeah, they’re leaving me out of stuff. Realized that one already. Who goes off to do shady clandestine stuff and leaves me out of it?”

“Did you find any resistance to the guys who attacked us?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Beat up some organized crime members. Members of the Kah.”

“You beat up some criminals, they found these guys. It worked out without you.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll level with you: they don’t want either of us out there while the Serviles are around. Their government takes every super they find and presses them into service or uses them for power clone material. They don’t trust supers, especially not supers who look super.” She motioned to me with my four arms and herself with her reptilian features.

I rested my chin on my hands, and my elbows on my knees. “Fine… but I still don’t like being left out just because the heroes don’t like me and Venus is ashamed of me.”

Psychsaur laughed. “I knew it! You two are together?”

I waved a hand. “It’s complicated, I think. I don’t know what we are, especially if she’s insecure enough to dump me in side rooms and leave me behind.”

“Well, I’m used to that,” the telepathic hero said. “I was never as good at fisticuffs as she was, so I’ve been left behind before. They don’t need you right now.”

“They never think they need me. They didn’t think they needed me when we first got on this ship, for instance,” I want to stand up, but Psychsaur stopped me again.

She looked up at me. “They need you to stay out of the way. Just for now. Take a minute to rest… get a shower.”

I looked down, at my outfit, the underlayer of my armor. I’d been wearing it all this time, having been used to it. Unfortunately, I no longer have the environmental seals that keep others from smelling me. And we were in some sort of small suite.

Psychsaur, clever girl, took my costume off to be laundered. I had nothing but a towel to wear out. Which turned out to not be so bad when Venus walked in with a smile and a dinner for two.

What happens in Uranus, stays in Uranus.

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War On Uranus 1

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Believe it or not, it takes more to end war with an expansionist foreign power than showing up with a single confiscated vessel full of people with no clue how to run it. We didn’t intend to bring it here, but we were immediately put at the mercy of the Consuls Exalted, as they called themselves. With Venus holding my hand, I made it to the command pedestal and slipped my hands free of their gloves to try and gain control over the system. If I hadn’t had all that time to practice with this army’s network defenses, I might have been kept out.

When I cracked that bad boy wide open, sections of the floor rose up to form stations and round seats in front of them. It was a circle, except for four gaps. The consoles unlocked for them as well. Quietly, not transmitting to the Consuls, I informed Venus, “I’m doing a diagnostic to figure out what this puppy can do.”

“Who put you in charge?” asked Warman. Eschaton stepped up next to him.

Venus had my back. “If you know anyone else who can fly this thing and learn what it does, be my guest.”

“What is your offer for clemency?” asked one of the Consuls.

“Y’all wanna talk?” I asked.

“Put us through,” Warman said.

“Putting you though,” I echoed, so he wouldn’t immediately start talking about having a wedgie or insulting me.

“Consuls, I’m Warman, the Man of War, and this is Eschaton. Earth’s mightiest heroes are on your doorstep. We hope you make the best choice for yourselves and your people.”

“What do you have to offer us?” asked one of the Consuls. I mentally designated him Lefty, because his image appeared on the Left on the dome around us.The one on the Right looked bored.

Eschaton spoke up. “He just told you, we have Earth’s mightiest heroes, here to stop you if you don’t.”

Righty asked, “How many armies?”

“Excuse me?” asked Eschaton, bristling.

Lefty leaned forward to his camera. “What my colleague means is what are you going to use to beat us? You come to our home, you demand things of us, and you didn’t even offer us anything to trade. If you don’t want to do this the civilized way, we wonder what you hope to accomplish against our armies.”

I got an idea what the sensors were and how they worked, and I set about figuring out what was up outside. I expected another Earth, probably another advanced one. Instead, I found myself poking around Uranus. We were on a whole different planet in the solar system, hanging over the world’s largest urban center. Environmental sensors on the vessel noted the hole and advised a quarantine, despite the presence of breathable atmosphere and decent temperature over the place.

I looked into the domeship to figure out what was up with it and all the way more urgent alerts. There was minor damage and break-ins all over, which made sense. I went ahead and unlocked everything except for an area noted to be the brig. Whatever else, I don’t think any of our people ended up there already. There was still some fighting going on at this one bay. Containers hadn’t been launched or something. I figured that meant things holding infantry, their vehicles, or the tanks. I locked that area back down and sealed it. No air in or out oughta fix things, along with dropping the temperature in that part of the ship. The problem should sort itself out in payroll.

With me in control of the intercom and these guiding lights, I could even better direct people around to any areas of other resistance. Just because almost all the soldiers were gone didn’t mean it was a simple thing to capture. This ship was big enough to house an entire army and support staff. We still had most of the support staff up here, and not nearly enough heroes or Buzzkills. We’d need to arrange a headcount to see who we have and what they can do if anything worse happens. I don’t trust these Consuls.

Some would say that they don’t trust people further than they can throw them, which always seemed like an odd saying to me. In my line of work, human pest control, I tended not to trust most people unless I could get my hands on them. I didn’t usually need to throw them to gain their compliance after that point. It’s not really a part of my fighting style. I suppose a more reasonable saying for me is that “I don’t trust them further than I can kill them.” On my new home, that’s pretty much the entire Earth. Here, it’s less than a room in distance.

I noticed a number of smaller aircraft gathering outside, not staying particularly far away. None tried to land on us, but I didn’t like the cut of their jibs.That’s when I discovered the Domeship had no weapons systems of its own. I checked over anything we could use and found that the same system that hopped dimensions could also move something within the same dimension, via wormhole. That’s interesting. With all those things gathering there, I might need something like that.

An angry statement from Righty the Consul got my attention. “Your destruction of an entire province is an affront to our republic. Your presence here signifies your need for our civilization.”

Warman folded his arms. “You attacked us out of nowhere. You don’t get to complain about your casualties.”

Venus spoke up to ask, “Why did you invade?”

“Chief Executor Paldrin saw an opportunity to add another province to our control. We would bring our civilizing presence and superb leadership to your world.”

“I’ve heard this before. Your idea of civilization means taking our resources and trying to reeducate awy our culture,” Eschaton said. He would know, given his Native American heritage.

“Our administration of the province would cost us. We only ask you pay your fair share of the expenses. It is better to surrender before the cost to you becomes too burdensome,” Lefty said.

I think pretty much all of us were ready to tell them where they could stick their civilization, though the fact that they were on Uranus killed the impact of the phrase.

On the intercom, I reached out. “If any of those Justice Rangers are onboard, we could use some city-wide offense here.”

I muted the Consuls. “We’ve got a bunch of aircraft outside and no weapons on this thing for some bizarre reason.”

“How much is a bunch?” Warman asked.

The ship was pretty good about sorting that out for me. “I’ve got 74 target locks on us currently. Don’t know how many friends you brought with you, but I don’t know what they’re packing.”

He went over to check a console. “Can you fly us over a city?”

“We are over one. Biggest one on the planet.”

“They wouldn’t,” Eschaton said.

I rolled my eyes. “I would.”

“We can take them,” Warman said, looking to Eschaton.

“I’d feel better if I knew what we had on our side,” I said. “There’s a saying I keep in mind, a joke I heard once. ‘I didn’t know how many of them it would take to whoop my ass, but I knew how many they were gonna use. That’s a handy piece of knowledge to have right there.’”

“Evasive maneuvers?” Warman asked.

“Dude, it’s basically a floating city. I think I can make it go faster than it traveled between. D.C. And E.C., but I couldn’t dodge whale dick in this thing.” I got an alert, but not much of one. The ship shook as explosions tore into it.

“What’s going on?” asked Venus.

Eschaton flamed on, but I called out, “Stop! I’ll get us out of here.”

“You said you couldn’t move that fast,” Warman growled, hefting his three-barreled cannon.

I spoke to them and over intercom at once, “Hold onto something, people. Prepare for starburst!”

A white aura surrounded the ship. It didn’t seem to last as long this time, and we didn’t catch a view o the universe divide. When it settled, we were no longer under attack, though the Consuls were still on our dome.

“Where are we?” Warman asked, stepping up close to me.

“The other side of the planet,” I told him. “It can do shorter jumps. I believe we should reopen talks with the Consuls.”

“Do it,” Eschaton said with a hard voice. Parts of him still burned.

I reopened the line and Venus is the one who stepped up. “You just opened fire on us while we parleyed.”

“There is nothing to parley,” Lefty said.

“Then we shall have to get medieval on Uranus,” I said.

“Is that supposed to be a threat? What’s that mean?” asked Righty.

“Oh, not much. Illuminated manuscript, the spread of crenallations, beating up Popes. Maybe grabbing a heavy chunk of metal and bashing in the heads of the half of your people who don’t die from plague.”

“How dare you?” asked Righty with righteous indignation.

“How dare you?!” countered Venus.

Warman came up next to me. “Cut these sister-kissing sons of bitches off, will you?”

I nodded and ended transmission. I also double-checked the network defenses of the ship and added some of my own improvements. “Done.”

“What do we do now?” Eschaton asked.

“We need to know who we have and what they can do,” Warman said. “We should get rid of their crew.”

“If I may,” a voice said from behind us. We all turned and saw a man in white coveralls who now had the stinger swords of my Buzzkill guards at his throat. “I am one of the officers. The Consuls really tried to kill us?”

“Looks like it,” Venus said.

“That is a violation of my rights as a member of a patrician family,” he said.

“What are you gonna do about it?” Eschaton said, approaching.

The man backed away from the heat coming off the hero. “My name is Sollis Raan, and I want to help you. I think many in my crew would, now.”

“You think?” Eschaton asked.

“Our leaders tried to kill all of us, from the highest patrician to the lowest plebian,” Sollis said. “I think I’m the highest-ranked officer aboard now.”

“I want a full census of your people,” Warman said. He lowered his cannon, but in a way that made it clear he’d have no issue raising it up again. Moot point, I think. If the man tried anything, I saw where at least three different stinges would be stabbed through him before Warman could twitch his trigger finger. “Eschaton here will go with you, make sure you’re an honest man. We already plan to deal with a couple of dishonest ones, so we don’t need any more.”

Sollis nodded. I nodded to the Buzzkills, who lowered their stinger swords. Eschaton damped down his flames a bit as he walked Sollis out to go see to their part.

I looked around to Venus and Warman. “I have good news and bad news.” I didn’t wait for the inevitable decision about which is first. “Good news, we are on the same planet as the Consuls. That was the capital we were just over. We can get there anytime we want, I think.”

“The bad news?” Venus asked.

“We are on Uranus. I’m going to make a lot of bad jokes.”

Warman grunted. “Keep your trap shut. This isn’t cops and robbers. This is war.”

I nodded. “You got it. I’m sure you’ll find there’s no one better suited to going to war on Uranus.”

And so began our efforts to tear Uranus a new one.

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Things Fall Apart 4

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If all this sounds like things have been a bit separated so far, good. The heroes still don’t like me or trust me. A lot of the villains don’t like or trust me either. Part of that’s because we’re generally less likely to play nice with others. Plenty of them are suspicious at how often I end up helping save the Earth and my close relationship with some of the heroes. Instead of trusting me to corrupt Venus, they worry she’s trying to redeem me. Laughable, right? She is trying, but the idea of her succeeding? Ha!

The division between hero and villain hasn’t just been because of personal feelings. I don’t know who thought it up, but Venus passed on to me an idea to make it look like the heroes and villains weren’t united. She explained it to me thusly, in a private meeting we had one night in a parking garage: “The villains need to look like they only care about themselves. The heroes will be front and center fighting. When the ship gets here, we’re certain they will send down more people and try to take us out. Don’t leave us hanging.”

That was when I got here, after I kinda wrecked Master Academy’s trap.

All this separation is good for me though. The infosphere, datanet, whatever you call the collective digital world surrounding the Earth, it’s loud as fuck right now. I have people spread out all over the world and it’s overwhelming me. If I don’t concentrate so much on what’s in front of me, I begin to lose track of myself. It’s easy to jump into a helicopter that needs support in Ghana or screw with a camera system in Belarus. Checking the road ahead of refugees in Costa Rica and redirecting a GPS. Setting off car alarms in Cairo to ruin an enemy ambush.

For a long time, one of the things that worried me about my archnemesis was her ability to get me to focus on her. To concentrate to deal with her, even if it was just screwing with her. Now, it helps to keep me back in myself. I suppose the fact that she was holding me in her arms as we laid on the roof, staring up at a sky covered by the 8-pointed body of the domeship above us. “I’m not good at romance, but it would have been good to see stars, right?”

We’d met halfway between Rothstein’s, where I’d taken rooms for my guys and myself, and whatever hospital she’d been helping at. The heroes have a makeshift command center, but they don’t rest that well. Sometimes, a villain with a handy skillset slips through. Harder to tell who it is in plainclothes unless they have four arms like I do. A lot of the people who risked staying were also willing to risk nanites.

“There’s too much light pollution anyway,” she said, stroking my hair. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“I think I’ll kill them all,” I said,yawning.

She shifted to look down at me. “There’s no reason for that.”

“I hate them. That’s a good enough reason,” I told her.

She took one of my hands. “I don’t hate them and I don’t think you should either. They’re soldiers, or they’re clones who believe they only have value as weapons. We want the boss sitting in his high chair who thinks it’s their business shooting at our homes.”

It was good to have her there and to be able to focus. What came next required a lot of focus.

They attacked just before first light.

I awoke to rumbling, alone on the rooftop. Even my internal HUD clock read “You fuckin’ serious?” I looked around and saw giant rectangular containers slowing down on jets before crushing buildings and cars. One landed nearby and opened up to reveal a trio of tanks. Jump infantry landed nearby. I rushed to get my armor back on and shot Venus and her friends a message. I don’t know if they noticed me before I got my invisibility going. Satellite coverage went wonky, but they weren’t headed back toward Rothstein’s like I was. I hopped up a skyscraper and saw them converging on the square the heroes were using.

It’s a new square. So much rebuilding around here, I didn’t even bother learning this one’s name. I don’t know if they gave it some legacy name, or went for something new. Based on the number of armored vehicles heading that direction, I knew it soon wouldn’t matter if I learned its name.

They were a silent bunch, aside from the grumbling engines and the marching boots. They didn’t really try to destroy everything in their path. If it was quicker to take the road, they took it. If it was easier to smash through a wall or a building, they did that. The enemy forces were moving in a circle, but half stopped short, where they would have cover. The rest kept going until they were in rage of the trailers and tents the heros were using. They opened fire, as if the heroes were another military force.

I understand the need for a nice, orderly bunch like superheroes to have themselves a centralized location to do all their heroing from. It’s a pretty good way to handle things before the digital age. You just gotta wonder at the invaders expecting nighttime vigilantes to have slept in such a place. I watched through traffic lights and other cameras as one group realized something was up.

The bunch that backed off prematurely did so to avoid getting hit by their compatriots’ fire. They were at least out of firing range and behind buildings. I assume they weren’t ready when the heroes’ illusionist made his move. Eschaton melted tanks. Honky Tonk Hero based one to bits with his enchanted guitar. Warman tried tearing off cannons to use for himself. The Justice Rangers kicked and flipped their way through grey-skinned infantry.

The rest of the enemy army advanced on them, and they weren’t alone. The ship disgorged more infantry. Many of them hung in the air and fired down on the heroes. It seemed like overkill. I was once again reminded of the phrase I stole from a comedian. I don’t know how many of them it was gonna take to kick the heroes’ asses, but I knew how many they were gonna use. The heroes couldn’t even finish off the separated division before the rest of the army met up with them. It would look to anyone else like a slaughter in progress. I could listen in by now. I cracked the code to their communications frequencies. The invaders had a plan where they could even warp in the remnants of the first wave.

I landed in the square at that army’s back, uncloaked, a pair of Roman candles in my hands that I set off. Every comms line the invaders used screeched loud enough to make a deaf man grit his teeth. I dumped the candles away. “I believe this is when the cavalry’s supposed to arrive?” A holographic bugle appeared in my hands. I pretended to play a charge as six grey men floated closer. One of them looked a bit different because of some burns on the side of its face.

“You are but one. You cannot save your friends,” said the one in charge. “Turn off this music and surrender.”

I cranked up “Free Your Hate” too loud for me to hear anything else they said even if they shouted and ran for them. I tripped though, when the ground rumbled even more. In front of me, a line of giant drills pierced the street. The group floating in front of me turned to look at the signature Drill tanks of the Drillers opened wide. Fire, ice, and sonic weaponry covering them, a menagerie of menaces were loosed onto the streets of Empyreal City, right against the backside of the invading army. Unicorn fired a spiral beam from his horn through a line of infantry. A squad of Drillers hopped on top of a tank and started cracking it open like a safe. Crankshaft rolled up into a ball of metal and flesh that Gearshift kicked toward a soldier who reloaded his grenade launcher. She waved her hand and Gearshift kept rolling and even accelerated, bowling over the soldier and smashing into the side of another skirted light turreted support vehicle.

The jump infantry took to the air to join the supporting fire from above. They wouldn’t find the air any more welcoming. Spring is the time for bees, and Buzzkills filled the air by the hundreds. Led by Queen Beetrice, the bee people fired spines and pierced armor with stinger swords. The sky was ours.

The six in front of me turned back to face me. “We will kill you,” said the lead one.

I let a hologram walk forward while I turned invisible. “You know how ‘try’ is a synonym for annoy? You may try.”

The lead one clapped his hands together. Where the hologram stood just exploded spontaneously.

The six turned back to the battle. The lead, with the spontaneous explosion powers, gurgled in surprise when the Nasty Surprise shot through his throat. Same for the one next to him. I jumped onto the next one and crushed his skull between two other hands. Blood fountained everywhere and negated the ability of my cameras to work or my projectors to project. I grabbed onto the next closest one, who instinctively flew upward. His eyes started glowing as he glared at me. I shoved thumbs into them, cackling and yelling, “Thou wouldst stare at me, mortal?”

It’s not so funny in writing, but I guess you had to be there, covered in blood, squishing a guy’s eyeballs. He didn’t find it funny. He screamed. Screaming has to be a product of being social animals. I can’t imagine a loan predator, surrounded by enemies and prey, screaming when it’s hurt. No, it’s a social thing, letting others in your pack, herd, or gang know you need help. Benevolent person that I am, I decided I would help end this Praetor’s misery. No problem whatsoever. It was a snap!

That left me a good distance up with some rockets to ease me back down. I reached up and found myself caught my a pair of Buzzkills. The remaining two must have figured it out. The one with the burn started off, but eased back and let his comrade come first. That one spouted metal spikes. He stayed back. The spikes shot off him. I wasn’t so much worried about myself as I was my two helpers. Unfortunately, there was only so much I could do. I raised arms and legs to try and block, but the Buzzkills still went slack and began to drop. I could even still survive the fall, as long as the spikes sticking through my armor and squishy bits didn’t kill me.

I fell toward the waiting arms of the spiky son of a pin cushion, trying to think how problems like this are usually solved. The idea of solving a puzzle box briefly came to mind. Ridiculous. Laser flashed out, and I fell through the two halves of the spiky son of a bitch and right to the burned man. He spread his arms and a green wall appeared in front of him and forged a wedge that flew at me. It smashed into me and plates melted off. I had nothing left but the armored undersuit I stole off a future version of my nemesis before I killed her. Even the spikes that somehow penetrated were gone.

I couldn’t see shit through my melting helmet, but I felt when he caught my throat and began to squeeze. “The others did not realize your power is not in your body. Your spine and heart will soon join it.”

The remains of my helmet fell away, showing that I at least still had both cybernetic eyes working. “Do I know you?” I gasped out.

“It is too late to surrender and see yourself spared. You will die when those my master answered to take your planet,” Praetor M said before punching his hand into my belly. You know how you get hit sometimes and it knocks the air out of your lungs? That, plus I think one of my kidneys exploded. It was like he tried to put his arm through me. I swear, my back fucking popped.

“Look in my eye while you kill me? Face me!” I pleaded. Praetor M obliged. It made it easier when my eye warmed up and another laser shot out, lobotomizing him. I grabbed his hand and pried it off my throat while he thrashed around. Then I reached into the hole, setting my thumb on the bridge of his nose, and pulling. One, two, and then I tore the front of his face off, trying to laugh at the pain and around the lack of air. “Face me!”

I fell, but someone caught me. I was kinda having trouble there, keeping conscious. I think it was the lack of air. I looked up at a Buzzkill, who jabbed me with a syringe of what I soon realized were regenerative nanomachines. I gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled. Mandibles make it hard to tell, but I have experience because of Beetrice. When I’d gotten a bit less aerated, I looked around because I swore we were going up, not down. I looked over and saw the Domeship next to us. We rose and she set me down on the deck. All around, I saw more joining us, flying under their own powers or being set down by more Buzzkills.

I didn’t have the full electronic suite of my armor anymore, but I still had the electronics in my body. I reached out to hear Warman giving orders. “-board, board! I’m tired of being on the defense. This time, we’re invading. We’ll take this ship and we’ll take it to their world.”

Aww. I missed most of the ground battle. Though, when I looked around, I noticed something. Aside from myself and the Buzzkills, all I saw were heroes up here. Next to me, a gorilla wearing a jetpack grunted as he landed.

I waved to him. “Gorilla Awesome? They really brought everyone along, didn’t they?”

A huge explosion below drew our attention. Awesome, the Buzzkill, and I both looked down at the flames. I hissed in pain from tenderness when I bent over and straightened up. “There goes the neighborhood.”

We swarmed the ship, though the “we” seemed to be pretty much only heroes and whatever Buzzkills decided to attach follow along with me. I don’t know if that’s because of any particular orders to that effect. We didn’t see much resistance. Someone jumped out with a pistol and got a stinger in his neck, one through the cheek, and another through the temple. A woman in unusual clothing stood next to him, screaming. Gorilla Awesome jumped ahead of us and picked her up. He shushed her, then politely asked, “I am truly sorry. Where is the command center of the ship, that we might minimize loss of life?”

She kept screaming, so he set her down. The Buzzkills raised their sting swords, but I held up my hands. “Leave her in peace. We’ll find someone else.”

Gorilla Awesome held out his arm as someone tried to scuttle past. He grabbed the fleeing man and pulled him in close. “You there. Where do the people in charge work?”

“Please don’t kill me,” he said.

“Deal,” Gorilla Awesome said, grabbing the man’s hand and shaking it.

The bridge, I suppose it could be called. Sounds of fighting were ever just out of reach as we approached. It was in the large dome, inside an inner dome at the center of that one. Because so many people can’t resist putting the spot all the important people hang out in somewhere central or where they can see things, without regard to how much of a target that makes them. The outer dome had a park paved in metal mosaic tiles and walls made up of warped pentagonal shapes. As we rushed along, the outer dome began to glow red hot in one spot. It melted open and Eschaton followed, heading toward the inner dome. Warman jumped through the opening, firing cannon that spat green fire from one of three rotating barrels. The green fireballs burst through the inner dome, and Eschaton flew through. Warman landed, then followed Eschaton in a single bound.

By the time we got in there, a man in pearl white armor with a trio of horns arching up. He wielded a three-pronged spear that he used to hold back the stream of blue flame pouring from Eschaton’s hands. Warman strode up next to Eschaton and raised his tri-cannon. Gorilla Awesome raised a meaty arm, a grappling hook shooting out to wrap around the spear.

The armored man muttered something and let the spear go as Gorilla Awesome yanked it away. He slapped something on a pedestal the moment before his face disintegrated and he fell, blackened skull cracking into pieces.

The ship shook, and through the holes I saw a blinding light. I felt more than saw the next part, where an infinite blackness stretched out containing expanding droplets full of lights. We passed through something red that felt like it scraped my nerves as we passed through. The light fell away, and my head was assaulted by new information. Data, in languages I don’t know. I managed some of the encryption, but others were merely familiar. The communications came through from all around, maybe through the dome itself, and through me.

“Grand Executor, why have you returned?” they asked. I saw a pair of faces. I saw signals flying all around us.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. It moved up along the back of my neck and over my hair. I raised my head, focusing again. I looked up to Venus in her black power armor. She looked down to me. “Put me through to them.”

I nodded and concentrated. “You’re on.”

She spoke, and I sent her words out. “Leaders of this invading world. I am Medusa, a hero of my world. We have defeated your army, taken your ship, and defeated your Grand Executor. I must stress that we want peace. Chief Executor Paldrin did not give us peace. The Grand Executor did not give us peace. We are here on your world and I ask you, will we have peace?”

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Things Fall Apart 2

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The domeship is still, STILL, taking its sweet time. They’re just inconveniencing us at this point, I swear. But as I flew into Empyreal City with my personal bodyguards, my Buzzkills hot on our trail, I found the city wasn’t prepared. Instead, it had tri-cannon tanks rolling down the bigger roads while other vehicles tried to shoot down anybody flying through the air. I first became acquainted with that when the Psycho Flyer went into evasive maneuvers to dodge explosions and shrapnel as we headed to the Master Academy.

I just stood up to get a drink from the refrigerator. I landed on the ceiling in a way that made me exceedingly happy to no longer have balls. I pulled a Jean-Claude Van Damme up there. In power armor. Then we did a loop de loop, with me smacking against the rear loading door. A sudden reversal, the kind of maneuver few aircraft can pull off, sent me shooting forward toward the seats again with a “Wheee!” One of my guards grabbed me and helped me strap back in before another barrel roll.

“This is your pilot speaking,” said the intercom. “Folks, we’re just facing some mild turbulence caused by AA guns. We’re going to try and push through it, and have you landing in no time.” I felt the Flyer release missiles to answer the incoming AA fire. “If you look out your windows you’d see nothing, but I can see- Empress’s tits!” The Flyer pulled a downward U-turn that involved all of us being upside down for several seconds. More missiles departed, then he came back on the intercom. “Empress and gentlemen, thanks to ingenuity and a well-placed building, we are temporarily out of danger. We should be at our destination shortly.”

I pinged the cockpit. “One second here… did you just use my boobs as a swear?”

“Sorry,” he said, then made a noise with his mouth to sound like interference. “Cutti-… out… inter… damaged… on’t… kill me.”

After that, the intercoms no longer functioned. I looked to the other soldiers around, who were anywhere but at me. “What’s this about people using my tits as a swear?”

It’s amazing how little time it takes to fly anywhere once someone’s aware you know they use one of your body parts in a swear. If I picked up on the context and mumbles of my retinue, it’s actually swearing by my boobage. Like “Empress’s tits, that fish was three feet long!” or “Empress’s tits, that was a close one!”

I still don’t know why they focused on the boobs, though. I put way more work into my ass. I can snap a person’s neck in the right shorts.

We did not land safely at Master Academy. Master Academy wasn’t a safe place to land. Even with the Domeship in Jersey, they had folks besieging the Academy. The Academy had the windows all barred and much better perimeter defenses than I remembered. Their energy shield still worked, though it seemed to come and go from what I saw. A quartet of tanks sat outside the place, with motorized artillery parked further back, and smaller troop carriers between those points. With that kind of setup, I was more confused how the invaders hadn’t broken through already. The motorized artillery just sat there, though. I wanted a closer look at their missile racks, but all I got were the tanks raising the two outside barrels of their triad of cannons to fire at us. They weren’t as good at hitting us as the formal AA, but they were still worth dodging.

The pilot took the Flyer in close to the tops of buildings, hugging them, trying to keep from putting the target out there to get shot to pieces while we figured out what to do. And I began to regret Ricca’s reliance on superhumans and power armor infantry over a more traditional armor unit. But I had something for that anyway. One of the guys dropped off a scout drone. I expanded my consciousness, no LSD necessary, and hopped into it, moving it in to keep a cautious eye on the situation at Master Academy. It grated on me to do so. Feels like I spend so little time in my own body. I half worry I’m going to forget how to get back to it. But I have to keep at it. My ability to crack the enemy’s systems is going to be incredibly important. Because those nice, shiny tanks have all sorts of things on them to keep drivers and gunners from fucking up, and communications is paramount in an urban environment.

More tanks rolled up and began to encircle the place. It was an awful lot of firepower. I didn’t think they had the shields for this. In this wonderful, fast-paced world, it can often take too long to get a response when you really need help. That’s why I, Empress Psycho Gecko, and everyone at the wonderful world of Ricca, specialize in delivering dynamic, some might even say volatile, solutions to a number of problems in mere minutes. In this case that, meant intercontinental missiles carrying beefy anti-tank missiles directed to a number of on-site targets by me. The part where I played air guitar while blasting “Raining Blood” was just icing on the cake.

I think we did a pretty good job minimizing collateral damage to the people I cared about. That one street with all the launchers was fucked. The flanks of the Academy weren’t much better.

The call from Venus came immediately. “That was you, wasn’t it?” she asked.

“Ma puce, of course it was. I decided to rename that street ‘The Road To Hell’. Oughta keep them off your asses for awhile.”

“We wanted as many of them on our asses as possible before we turned the area into a killzone,” she said. “You should have called me when you got in town.”

“Well excuse me, princess. We were just getting in town when we came under fire, then we tried to hook up with y’all and found the whole place was a bit explodey. How the hell did y’all have a shield that could do that, anyway?”

“It’s not a shield, it’s an illusion. The Academy’s been trashed for days. At first, they maintained the illusion to distract from the evacuation. Then Mender had an idea.”

“Darn ideas. More trouble than they’re worth, I tell ya.” I set the drone to return and came back to myself. Looking down, I could see a couple of tanks stop and begin the delicate process of a three-point turn to avoid going near the Academy. For those who don’t know, a three-point turn is when a tank forward and to the side over someone’s car and a small tree, backs up over a bench, then pulls out over an abandoned bike so that they’re going the opposite direction as when they started. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, which is probably why the rear-mostof the tanks went into hover mode instead and just rotated its base. I marked that one on my HUD as the first to go if I engaged this pair.

“If you have any, now’s the time to share. Where are you?” she asked.

“Not too far. We’re parked on a building near the Academy. Looks like there’s a little pizza place across the street. The name’s ‘Pizza The Action’ and it has a superhero on it whose powers include her midriff and the tops of her boobs being bulletproof.”

She groaned. “The one with the hooker heels?”

“I wouldn’t call them hooker boots,” I said.

“They’re bright red and have straps going up to the knee. There’s no way a real hero could run in those things.”

“Sounds like you don’t chase many hookers,” I said. “And I know they look bad, but they’re surprisingly comfy, as far as heels go.”

“No,” she said, her exasperation becoming a bit happier.

“Oh yeah,” I told her. “Maybe I’ll show you, once this is all done.”

“Easy, girl. You want to show me something, show me how we get the supervillains to help fight. We know they’re here because we sometimes see them robbing places. It’s not a big deal, but sometimes they fuck up the electricity and water, or they steal food.”

I chuckled. “Using me for my connections, I see.”

“I didn’t know you had hooker heels or I would have asked for you to bring those, too,” she answered, which got a laugh out of me. “I hope you know I wanted you with me regardless. You’re the baddest bitch I know who still understands what happens if the planet blows up under you.”

“I’ll see if I can round up any more bad bitches and get a bitchfest going.” I knew right where to start with. I ordered the pilot to follow the bouncing ball: a digital trail toward Rothstein’s Sports Grill. And to turn on the adaptive camo of the Psycho Flyer this time. It either worked, or anybody with guns decided not to bother with us. It gave me long enough to pull up VillainNet.

I hadn’t bothered before because I figured most of them would have the sense to look around and go, “Ya know, these people trying to kill all of us may not take too kindly to our continued existence.” There’s an important lesson there: don’t underestimate the stupidity of people. No matter how low you think human intelligence can go, folks can always dig deeper.

VillainNet was abuzz with people passing info. A lot had left already, along with a lot of people. Others were settling scores and grabbing everything not nailed down. I intended to crash Rothstein’s and make it clear, there and on VillainNet, that some asskicking was in order. I found Rothstein’s protected by a glowing blue cube, prompting me to ask in an chatroom, “WTF is up with the infinity stone around Rothstein’s? Hulk better not be getting smashed in there.”

“screw u, weere hiding” was the reply from Badguy6969. There’s always someone like that, and his profile showed that it was someone named Crankshaft, a chop-shop mechanic turned into metal.

“If you think hiding’s gonna help, you really are a crank. Let them get tanks set up and they’ll turn this place into a speedbump.”

The replies were an avalanche of folks asking “why?” in various ways, with various cusswords attached. None of them involved my tits. One common variation is why they should fight for a horrible government that wants to lock everyone up or worse. I’m paraphrasing and condensing there. And did they have a point? Sure. Except that government already surrendered and was dissolved. Probably in an acid bath, here’s hoping.

I concentrated and dove into VillainNet, overriding it and sending out a video of my helmet as I spoke. And I sent it out everywhere. I didn’t want any of these fuckers pretending they hadn’t seen it. “When the bodies are bulldozed into a trench and covered over, do you think anyone’s going to care which one sat it out? If you want to get out here and fight me because you took their deal and are willing to side with the people who would kill me, fine. I can live with that. But don’t sit in there and whine about how you don’t care if we all end up in the burn pile just because you don’t like this government or that government and both sides are all the same.”

“I’m not asking you to fight for a so-called democracy where the party in power admits allowing people to vote undermines them. I want you to fight for you and those you love. If you want a better tomorrow, then first make sure there is a tomorrow. Stop waiting on a hero to show up and make it all better for you. If you don’t care enough about your beliefs to fight for your life and a better future, who will? I should be obvious, there are already plenty of people ready to take both away from you. So even if you don’t like who you’re fighting alongside, get out there. Save the world today. Build the world you want to live in the day after that.”

A pair of tanks rolled up near Rothstein’s and turned their cannons toward it. Oh well, not like anyone wanted to hear my grandstand anyway. “Anyway, the psychopathic, serial killing mass-murderer has to go do more to save your sorry asses than y’all will.”

I charged up my gauntlets, opened the trapdoor, and jumped down. The rockets on my elbows flared to life. I fucking piledrove that tank. Tore a hole right through it to the sewers below. The second tank reversed course with its ability to hover and began to get out of there. I came bursting out of the sewers through a hole now in front of it with one of the city sewers’ many giant alligators in hand, and tossed it at the tank. It fired and destroyed the gator in a spray of pink goo that covered me as I approached low and jumped on top of the tank’s turret.

“That’s not an explosion,” I said in a horrible excuse for an Australian accent. I pulled out a machete with a built-in grenade. The lasers on my helmet flashed out as they cut open the hatch on top of the turret. A grey man raised a pistol at me, but I cut his hand off, then stabbed the machete down his throat and kicked his body back into the tank. I hopped off and, realizing the video was still going, turned to walk away from the tank. A plume of smoke and someone’s loose arm erupted from the opening as the machete detonated. “That’s an explosion.”

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