The Realm Eternal Resources Department
Seeking a replacement Thunder God for the canon Marvel Universe, Earth-616. Must be worthy enough to wield mystic enchanted hammer Mjolnir. Seeking to diversify; willing to accept women in this role. Need not be Norse to apply.
Position Reports To:
Your direct supervisor will be the head of the Norse pantheon, Odin Borson, the All-Father. Odin is known for his laissez faire leadership style, depending on your good judgement as to where your powers will be needed next. However, it is wise to avoid incurring his wrath because despite your raw capacity as the God of Thunder wielding one of Asgard’s mightiest weapons, Mjolnir, it pales in comparison to the cosmic might of his personal Odin-Force, the energy of the Realm Eternal bound within him. On the spot reviews are known to occur, without notice.
What does being the God of Thunder mean in Asgard?
- As the Asgardian God of Thunder, you will be expected to protect the Realm Eternal from a variety of threats, foreign and domestic. (For domestic terrorists see: Ulik, Surtur, and Loki)
- Foreign threats can be extraterrestrial, threats from rogue space empires, cosmic beings of vast capability such as Celestials or Heralds of the World Devourer, Galactus and other potential galaxy or even universe-level threats capable of wiping out all of existence as we know it. (See: Galactus; Thanos; Abraxas)
- There are also threats of an extra-dimensional nature including incursions from Niflheim, Jötunheimr and Hel. Threats from demonic realms are rare but have been known to occur. (See: Surtur, Dormammu, Shuma-Gorath)
- There are the occasional uprising in nearby dimensions of the Nine Realms which must be put down from time to time and the ever-present threats found on Midgard, the home of Humanity. (See: Red Hulk, Kang the Conqueror, Juggernaut)
As the God of Thunder you will be expected to act honorably with the integrity measured by your worthiness to wield the mystic warhammer Mjolnir. Such a powerful weapon should not be in the hands of just anyone and the device is capable of determining if you have been engaged in activities unbecoming a God of Asgard.
Please Note: Mjolnir will not stop you from engaging in normal activities such as drunken rages, casual destruction or the murder of threats to Asgard. Its worthiness requirements will vary wildly so one should expect to be on one’s best behavior or find oneself without the power of Thor at a crucial and often life-threatening moment (which will happen far more often than you might suspect.)
Some of What You’ll Do:
Handling Domestic Terrorism: Domestic terrorism is an ongoing threat in Asgard.
- You should be comfortable bashing giants in the head: At one time this was the primary job of the God of Thunder. Times being what they are, most giants have learned to leave Asgard alone with the exception of giant extremists such as Surtur the Magnificent (see below).
- This does not mean threats at home are insignificant. The Mistress of Hel, the sorceress Karnilla, and the crafty Prince of Asgard, Loki have all been implicated in plans against the throne of Asgard. However, they manage to find loopholes allowing them to continue to plot against the throne even while being thwarted. This is at least 30% of your job duties.
Being an Avenger: At least some of the time, you will be relegated to Midgard.
- Thor participates in the Norse Penance Program of being a part-time member of the superhuman defense group called the Avengers. Since Loki was the catalyst to creating the Avengers, Asgard has been involved in a form of restitution where Thor provides services on Earth in return for not being liable for any damages caused by the Prince of Asgard.
- These duties are usually light, rarely requiring your full capacity as a Thunder God. Being the physical cornerstone of the group affords you significant perks in the Avengers and every so often, a significant threat to Asgard has been detected in relationship to such an association with this human funded group. (See: Korvac/Michael; The Mad God Thanos) This can be anywhere from 5% to 25% of your job duties as needed.
Cosmic Ambassador of Asgard: In recent years, this part of the job has been relegated to fellow wielder of the Thor power, Beta Ray Bill.
- When engaged, you may find yourself engaged in pitched battles against foes whose powers rival or even exceed your own. You will find these missions extraordinarily exciting and wish you could spend more time there before returning to Asgard. But return you must.
- Foes discovered there will most likely follow you home to continue your mortal struggles, mostly because they find so little challenge where they live. Repelling such threats will take up about 10%- 25% of your job.
Other job duties will include:
- Repelling of the Midgard serpent, Jormungand’s attacks at the base of the World Tree Yggdrasil or other parts of the Nine Realms as needed. Rumored to be the son of Loki and thus cannot be killed due to potential scandal.
- Checking the chains on the Wolf of Asgard, Fenrir who cannot be killed due to his invulnerability and another possible relationship to the Prince of Asgard, Loki.
- Trash incineration using heavenly lightning discharges twice a month or as assigned.
This is a job that will require presence: You must be able to be intimidating just by being in the room. You have some cachet already being able to wield Mjolnir, but if studying you is a journey into mystery or you are able to confuse the King of Asgard as to your identity, this is an assured bonus. If you can beat the Odinson senseless with his former hammer, so much the better.
Excellent fighting skills: You should have the fighting capacity to hold your own against the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, Asgard’s prime defenders of the Realm with any weapon, under any conditions. These champions have been defending Asgard for centuries! There will be a performance exam even if you pass the worthiness requirements. Without these skills, the threats of the Realm Eternal, even armed with Mjolnir will simply be greater than you can handle.
Knowledge of the Nine Realms: You should be able to navigate the Nine Realms without a map because Mjolnir will allow you to travel to realms beyond our own. Extra-dimensional travel should hold no fear for you.Being lost in the Negative Zone does not distress you in any way. Experience with the Dark Dimension and its hordes, the Mindless Ones fills you with battle lust and the desire for combat against nigh-indestructible enemies.
Job Perks: Being the God of Thunder does come with a considerable number of perks.
- The primary perk being the use of the most puissant of weapons, Mjolnir. The short handled warhammer has several abilities which make it one of the most powerful weapons in Asgard.
- The warhammer enables the wielder to fly at incredible speeds both on planet and in space. It has, in the past, been capable of interstellar flight as well.
- It may be thrown with incredible force and will return to the wielder after striking a target. Few things can prevent it from returning.
- Even the might of the Greek All-Father, Zeus, could only impede it for a second.
- It may summon storms and discharge lightning at targets. It may also project a variety of energies and force fields. It may also interrupt electromagnetic phenomenon around it such as magnetism and gravity.
- The hammer may not be picked up from the ground by anyone who is not worthy. It becomes immobile and quantum-locked to that location.
- However, note that a sufficient amount of ground around the weapon has been moved successfully allowing Mjolnir to be relocated. (See: SHIELD archives)
This job comes with a considerable history of a complex and oftimes confusing realm of science and sorcery. The are the messy squabbles that come with being a member of an immortal family, and though you will bear no blood relationship, your kinship through the power of Thor ensures you will become embroiled either as a proxy or as a tool to powers greater than yourself. You will also become part of a tradition of great heroes who have in the past wielded, even temporarily, the Power of Thor. Use it well. Use it wisely; for glory, for honor, for Asgard!
What happened to the previous Thor? Won’t he be defenseless without Mjolnir?
It is just that you worry about the former Thor; the Odinson has made many terrible enemies during his time as defender of Asgard. While it is true, the Odinson will no longer have the powers of the storm and Mjolnir at his command, the Realm Eternal is confident he will still be a valiant warrior of Asgard.
- His battle prowess is legendary. He has served at the vanguard of Asgard defenses for thousands of years. Armed with little more than a steak knife, the Odinson could still defeat an army of giants.
- He is still physically the strongest warrior in Asgard. Being both the son of Odin and the Earth Goddess Jord, gives him near-limitless strength and endurance, far beyond even the most battle-hardened Asgardian. Only the All-Father approaches his physical might.
- He will still have access to the considerable armory of Asgard and may return to using the Jarnbjorn, a personal weapon from an earlier age. Soaked in the Odinson’s blood, it is capable of damaging even a Celestial in combat.
- He will still have his Gauntlets and Belt of Strength, which double his physical strength and striking power. Reserved for situations of extreme duress due to the prolonged weakness after their use.
- The Odinson will still have a level of mobility. He has a chariot drawn by two mystic goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, capable of traveling across dimensions and even into space. As an added bonus, they may be eaten and as long as no bones are broken, they will resurrect themselves by the coming dawn.
Fear not for the Odinson, for glory will still be his in combat. Now apply for this position if you dare.
A final note: All enchantments on Mjolnir, both past and present are at the whim of the All-Father and may be added or rescinded without notice. This includes any limitations on the Power of Thor itself such as sixty seconds without Mjolnir causes severe power loss, random worthiness checks or the addition of frail mortal identities capable of being killed. Job offer only valid in the Earth-616 continuity. Marvel Cinematic Universe, Earth-19999, will not be affected by this transition.
After the debacle with Damballa, I decided I needed to go back to work.
Imagine that, using work to avoid my, as usual, failing social life. We’re going to ignore the fact my girlfriend’s patron deity just tried to have me whacked and go back to solving magical mysteries.
Fishing around in my pocket, I had a message from Carole on my phone. I had ignored it for a few days and since she didn’t press the issue, I knew I had some time. Just as I hit the message retrieval on this new mystic smartphone, now with magical apps, her face popped up in the super high resolution display. No, I hadn’t read the instruction manual. I wasn’t expecting it to fare any better than my previous phones.
May as well hear it live. “Hello Boss. I was just thinking about you.” It’s the truth this time.
“Engram, I know you didn’t pick up my message. So now you have three murders to investigate.”
“Okay, what’s the story?”
She was sitting at her desk with one of those new screens which acted as both a send and receive display. She was shuffling some papers on her desk and drinking her ever-full decanter of coffee. No, really. It never runs out. I don’t know how much she paid for it, but I have never been able to find one in all of my travels. “It’s in Seattle. We have three executives who have been ex-sanguinated.”
“Vampires? You’re calling me for vampires? Don’t you have two dozen guys who specialize in the head-chop removal thing?” I was disappointed. I tried to look upbeat just the same.
“If it was vampires you and I wouldn’t be talking. Yes, you can do them, but your technique leaves much to be desired. I save you for the really exotic stuff like this. Our two executives were drained of all their blood, from the inside.”
“Okay, better.” Sounds more intriguing. “Do go on.” They’ve been found on the scene, their offices ransacked, their bodies twisted and holes torn through their flesh, from the inside.” She takes a sip of coffee and a picture shows up on my phone. Poor bastard looks like he’s been through a meat grinder. Not a spot of blood anywhere, though. Clothes torn outward, pants ripped as if a razor-sharp scalpels had peeled them back.
Not a drop of blood.
I know she noticed but I had to be sure. “You realize all of the chakra centers have a hole in them, right?”
She nodded. “That’s why I am calling you. You are one of our few Western chakra users. Everyone in Asia is already working on something else and can’t be reached for comment.”
“Is there anyone who can work with me on the case in Seattle? It’s not my town, so I’d hate to step on anyone’s toes.” I hadn’t unpacked. Everything was still in the car. I only came up to the hotel for a quick shower and a nap. I guess since everyone’s dead, I can stick to that schedule.
“As a matter of fact, there is someone. But you will have to recruit them yourself. It’s a Shinigami.” Shit. The hits just keep on coming. “The Quintessence said these deaths are suspicious and they believe the attacks are of a magical origin. They have an agent there already working on a related case. They’re confident you will find them adequate to the task.”
The sound in her voice made it clear, I wasn’t getting a choice. I had to ask about one thing before I agreed to it.
“Shinigami. You do realize they’re known for gratuitous collateral damage, right?” This is an understatement.
The Quintessence, an informal collection of worldwide death gods who manage Death and Dying here on Earth, send them out claiming to be preventing men from facilitating greater evils and becoming hosts to demons. As far as they’re concerned whatever their divine operatives destroy, the Quintessence will claim it was necessary for the safekeeping of Humanity. Tell that to the villages, towns, and cities they wreck.
“And you want to pair them up with me, also known for a bit of mayhem and destruction when no one is looking. You think this is wise? How much of Seattle do you think will be left standing when we’re done?”
“All of it. I am expecting you to be the soul of reason and the mitigating factor for their operative while you’re on this case. Besides, you can’t do less than whatever it is we’re fighting. I sent you a video. You might want to have a drink before you watch it.”
Okay. Have a drink. Heading to the mini-bar in the room. “No. Not the mini-bar” she adds. “You will need a real drink, maybe two. Part of it is an internal surveillance camera. I will leave it up to you to figure out what we’re looking at.”
I put my coat on and looked around the hotel. I figured it would be a while before I came back. The download took some time, so I headed down to the bar. My earpiece notified me when the download was completed. I finished my first drink and was started on my second when the video clip started.
The video was of an office building high over the Seattle skyline. The external camera showed glass being broken out of the windows near the top floors. I see something whipping around but can’t quite make it out. I see a man momentarily running around before the lights go out.
Here’s where it gets strange. After the window is blown out, I think I see the man run and try to leap out the window. Willingly.
He tumbled once when something reached out the window. He’s plucked right out of the air and snatched back into the darkened room.
The video changes to a security camera inside the office. The fellow behind the desk is fairly nondescript, muscular, blond haired, a bit of a five-o’clock shadow. I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. He hurried off the phone and a few seconds later he clutched his chest like he was having a heart attack. He looked up as if he were hearing something, then the lights crackle and start going out, one at a time. He tried to scream but only a gurgling came out. Something proceeds to cover the lens of the camera, so all I can hear is is office being tore apart.
I can hear the subtle crunching of furniture, the snapping and crackling of the Lexan safety glass. I hear the running steps and a split second later, the whip-like crack and the momentary sounds of struggle. There was the brittle pop of long bones, some muffled screams and then blessed silence. The camera records the sound of everything in the room. When the camera clears and there is video again, the room is in disarray.
A bomb couldn’t have done better. The security team arrives five minutes after the first panic button was pressed by the executive. I watch them check the room, look over the dead body and scramble their details around the building. The attached report indicated they found nothing out of the ordinary. All the doors and secured windows were still locked. External cameras said nothing came or left the building.
We only know three things about whatever this is. It’s fast, terrifyingly fast. The whole clip takes less than three minutes. It kills without leaving a trace, not a footprint, not a bomb blast, not a trace of etheric energy of any kind.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t roar, doesn’t scream, no sounds of triumph. It doesn’t make a sound while it kills you.
With Just a Spot of Darkness © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved
Gerald Duncan was down on his luck, again. Just out of prison and found himself standing in front of a convenience store.
With a gun in his pocket.
I don’t want you to feel sympathy for him. Because he doesn’t deserve any.
You don’t know him like I do. I know him from deep within his darkest recesses. Those places even he doesn’t talk about. The things he has done. The lives he has ruined.
Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because it’s what I do. I redress balance in the Universe.
I am a Black Cat. Not impressed? I can understand, you walk by black cats every day, I imagine. But I am not one of those. I am a Black Cat.
You may have noticed the capitalized B and C in my nom de plume. I am a black cat in appearance, yet so much more than that.
I am completely black, both inside and out. From the tips of my ears to the souls on my feet. Yes, I walk on souls, not soles. You see, I am a Shinigami, a death spirit. I address the balance of souls and their placement in the Afterlife.
Not a job for any ordinary black cat.
You may call me Ink. My friends call me Inky.
We aren’t friends yet.
But we could be. If you come to understand why I do what I do.
Black as in evil, you ask? That depends. I like to look at it as using fire to fight fire. I recognize evil because I am, in theory, evil. I recognize how desperate and crazed evil can be, because I was once just like that. Cowardly, just the tiniest bit craven. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Those were the bad old days. We are a few centuries past those. After living my nine lives, I was content to go to Purgatory, as is the wont of most animals to be recycled into soul-stuff and returned in some hapless litter to be thrown into a river and recycled again until someone deemed me worthy to keep.
Don’t make that face. You people do it all the time. Drown kittens in bathtubs, throw them in rivers, shoot them in front of innocent children, and you send them to veterinarians by the truckload. Who gets the dirty job of putting them to sleep. What a euphemism. Sleep is nothing like Death.
Sleep is enjoyable, relaxing, refreshing, something to be sought after and savored. Death is none of those things. Humans.
Anyway. I was offered an opportunity to lay judgment upon the worst of you lot. I didn’t ask any questions because I was unique among cats. I remembered my lives. I remember being recycled, time after time. I bore the history of my existence and the humans who lived with me, treated me well or ill and I remembered them all perfectly.
I could see into their souls and knew which would kick me and which wouldn’t. And why.
I agreed to the job of judging human souls and came back to the world ready for work. Let’s just say the first years didn’t go so well. We’ll get into that some other time.
Suffice it to say, I got better at the job and now do a bang up operation and brisk business improving humanity. Like this fellow we started talking about Gerald Duncan. He is about to rob a liquor store.
I am not certain I should allow it. Technically, I am not supposed to interfere with what people do to other people. The Union of Souls does not particularly care about their mortal frames. They are concerned with their spiritual development.
I disagree strictly on principle and meddle whenever it suits me. How can a man improve if he is never given the opportunity, I have always said.
My handlers disagree but don’t seem interested in stopping me. Perhaps they would like to do what I do, avenge and correct, and their hands are tied. Not sure. Don’t care. Duncan is moving.
Time for work. He is a wretched thing. He reeks of his fear and his frustration since leaving prison. He hasn’t been able to find work and though he claims to be clean when he talks to his probation worker, he hasn’t actually been able to stop using which has been affecting his judgement.
I found him three days ago, mugging an old man. He hit the old man in the face and stole his wallet. I sat with the old fellow till he passed away. I shepherded him to his final resting space and by the time I returned, I had lost Duncan in the process.
I picked up his trail several days later and wanted to understand him before I Judged him. Now I understand he is in the throes of drug use and hasn’t been in his right mind for weeks.
He will not murder anyone else tonight.
I slip into the store behind him. He never sees me. I see a camera in the corner of the store and it will malfunction during the two minutes he and I have a conversation.
He is nervous and agitated. He has already drawn his gun on the young woman working the counter. I run past him between his legs and scratch his ankle deeply to get his attention. It appears neither socks nor washing have been part of his wardrobe arrangement for some time. I will have to wash for a bit to get the smell off.
While he is hopping around I jump up to the counter and politely ask, “Please put your gun away. I don’t want you shooting anyone.”
“What the fuck? You tripping, yo. Now I’m seeing talking cats.”
“Language, young man. You do speak English…yo?” I see the confusion building up on his face. With his limited capacity, it can only lead to one conclusion. I turn my head nearly all the way around and yell at the young girl behind the counter. “Duck!”
With the sense a mother gifted a cat with, this young woman vanished from sight as three rounds from the rust-encrusted .38 exploded in my general direction. I say general because, even though I could have dodged the bullets, even at this range, I didn’t have to.
Let’s say his aim was addled by drugs, lack of sleep, an involuntary detox and a firearm the last time it was shot Eisenhower was President. Any one of these would have been an impediment. Collectively he had a better chance if I was hanging from ceiling as a pinata the size of a Buick.
Shame, really. I didn’t want to go here but he didn’t leave me any choice. “Repent.”
I lock eyes with him. The sorcerous green of mine, turning fiery red, grab the limpid pools of waxy chocolate he called eyes in a fervid embrace. He struggled to break contact, his eyes frantically moving, trying to pull away.
“Repent, ye sinner. Know the suffering of those you harmed, feel their collected rage, stored forever by the Earth as a testament to human cruelty. See thy works and despair!”
We break contact as the air thickens with smoky fog, the lights in the store momentarily go dim as the doorway to the Suffering Wastes opens and the collected harms caused by Gerald Duncan all come forth. He breathes them as a smoker would in reverse. Each sin entering him, through his mouth and nose. As each fills him like a breath, he spasms as if the sin took up new residence in his limbs.
It is over in a moment. No one who was in the store was able to remain awake as this glimpse into the beyond overtook them. Few Shard dwellers ever truly understand there is anything beyond there, there.
“Young lady, it is over. You can come out.”
The clerk who was wearing a badge that said Maggie, stood up, looked at the cigarette boxes with bullet holes and first says, “Mr. Minette is going to kill me.” A momentary pause and her eyes widen for the realization. “You can talk.”
“You are astute, young woman. You should call your authorities, let them know they will need an ambulance and a conveyance to a mental institution for Mr. Duncan.”
Gerald Duncan, writhed in an internal pain, his body consumed by the sins he had committed. “Maggie, he is becoming a Penitent. In a few weeks, the pain will have swept his body clean of drugs or the need. It will refocus him on finding a way to do right by the people or their families he has harmed.”
“How do you know that?”
“I did it to him.”
“What happens if he doesn’t do right. My ex was a dope-fiend and he always promised he would do better when he kicked, but it never lasted. What if he slips?”
I jumped up onto the counter as the police arrived. They awaken the two or three customers who hid quietly as mice when the firearm was used. I suspect it’s a survival instinct in this neighborhood. Be invisible, stay alive. They were none the worse for their exposure to the Suffering Wastes.
A nightmare or two tops, unless they’re really bad people, then a bit of the Waste might have gotten into them. A couple of weeks of terrible dreams, waking nightmares, hallucination and other assorted afflictions. If they have enemies, this might be the time when the lambs make a rug of the lion.
She hadn’t said anything about the talking cat part and told the police the man fired his gun and had a seizure. What kind of seizure? What do I look like? A doctor? Wait, let me go in the back and check my PhD and they left in a hurry kind of statement. A fiery young thing. I like her.
I hadn’t decided to leave yet. Watching the young woman close up, I sensed there was something about her that was different. “I’ve decided, you are going to take me home and find me a bowl of milk and something with some texture on it. A nice steak, rare, sounds good.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because, my dear. Unlike the other five people in this store, you were unaffected by my spell of Penitence at close range. That makes you a curiosity worth investigating.”
“Compelling reason, but no. I don’t see why I should. Besides my mother always told me to avoid talking cats.”
“She was a wise woman. How about I just saved your life?”
“Rib-eye sound nice? Remember, I am only a store clerk.”
I followed her as she started the long walk to the market. I faded into the shadows as we walked. I could sense something evil flickering around the streets, each taking an interest in Maggie, store clerk, from a small city, in the middle of nowhere.
I think I will be needed here for some time. I hope Maggie can cook.
With Just a Spot of Darkness © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved
Traveling Light approached from the dark side of the Earth-sized Precursor artifact, keeping the planet between them and the polar radiation jet of the Malcanari Singularity.
As the vessel penetrated the atmosphere, they could see the radiation plumes of the shield around the planet constantly lighting the sky with an eerie, flickering light, bright enough to see by. The ship touched down near the Corvan constructed facilities near to one of the tallest of the spires rising almost fifty miles into space from the surface of the planet. Like many of the Precursor artifacts, this one’s immediate purpose was not easily understood and the Corvan facilities appeared to have been here for many decades, maybe even centuries.
Their construction was a series of concentric circles with the oldest of the constructions nearest to the center. As they grew more sophisticated, more technology was shipped to the planet, along with building materials. The last ring of the construction appeared to be made from the very surface of the planet itself, scans indicating it having been molded in some as yet unknown fashion.
Major Wilks, Essver Dreamsinger and Master Wex left the ship, fully equipped with a variety of weapons and scientific equipment, most of which Essver carried. Master Wex carried his large force staff and a pulse emitter, wrapped around his left hand. Chuntra thought he should carry a ranged weapon, just in case and customized him something that would work with his fighting style. The projector was on the back of his hand but would not prevent him from using his force staff or any of its variations. She also configured it to be in sync with his shield allowing him to shoot through the shield without disrupting it.
Master Wex refused a full combat suit, instead opting for a molecular shield sprayed on and hardened to a diamond toughness. Powered by a micro-cell, it would resist all but the most powerful of weapons. Its biggest drawback was its closeness to the skin, so it transferred kinetic energy even if it couldn’t be penetrated.
Acrobatic or speed-based martial artists preferred this armor since their style of fighting prevented them from getting hit in most combat in the first place. His oxygen supply was provided by an internal converter common to the Subaki. With their highly efficient metabolisms, he would be able to survive for a week if he did nothing but meditate. In full-out combat, he would be sustained for twenty four to forty eight hours.
Essver wore a Sjurani war-suit, a large, clunky, heavily plated affair, equipped with layered force fields, molecular plating, and numerous weapon systems ranging form auto-cannons to plasma burst artillery. The Sjurani prided themselves on their peaceful nature today, but once were one of the most warlike people in the galaxy. The suit was painted with a number of garish runic symbols. Essver explained them as family sigils reputed to offer protection against harm.
The weapons of Sjurani warsuits speak volumes to their history of warfare. The suit added to his already considerable bulk and the dense-crys dome allowed him to see in all directions while still offering him diamond-hard protection he could see through. It augmented his already considerable strength but did nothing for his speed. He was as slow as Wex was fast.
His war-suit’s one concession to mobility were its jump jets, allowing it to make forty to sixty meter hops across the battlefield and still being capable of firing any number of its weapons during those hops. Essver added some Humani computer protocols to the suit, allowing him more advanced targeting and heads-up scientific displays. He never revealed any of these upgrades to his people since they thought their capacity for violence had no equals. Their cousins in Humani came close.
The Major stepped off of the ship, in the Resurrection Frame, and she was configured for stealth operations, in midnight black with only the tiniest of lights showing on her carapace. There were numerous lighting systems across her front and back, but they were currently dimmed to disguise their usefulness. Taking some time to reconfigure, she boasted several adaptations designed to help battle their suspected enemy, the Nox. Projectile weapons replaced all of her energy weapons. The resulting surplus of energy was redirected into armor plating and external force fields, increasing her damage resistance. She was also smaller and lighter than normal. She was rigged for speed, silence and extreme physical force.
The Major carried a psychic blade, a molecular weapon forged from psychically bound metals capable of being hundreds of times harder and sharper than any normal metal could be. The psychic metal was attuned to the major’s psychic profile and allowed him to manifest a field of force along the edge of the blade capable of penetrating almost any know armor worn in combat.
This blade was created by a group of psychics who trained with the Bel-ha for decades learning their secrets. Extremely rare weapons, most were found in the hands of elite soldiers due to their prohibitive cost. A psychic blade in the hands of a skilled user could not be stopped by any normal metals or barrier fields. Only the strongest fields used on large mechs or small starships were capable of stopping such a weapon. The major also carried a standard Humani military flex blade, more than adequate for fighting almost any foe in the galaxy.
The major tested his suit’s multiple spectrum visions, both using ambient light as well as the emitted radiations his suit was capable of projecting. The frame allowed him to see in a variety of spectra so it was just a matter of finding one that worked for his needs. His weapon load out was extensive, carrying a long range pulse rifle, two heavy pulse pistols, and a shoulder mounted rocket launcher. Their scans of the planet indicated there were over two hundred Nox scattered across the facility.
The three of them strode free from the ship and Biyu took off after a few seconds and was gone from sight. No one said goodbye, though they all were sure this might be the last time the seven of them were together.
Chuntra and Biyu had filled the command module allowing complete freedom of movement for the aquatic Corvan. Biyu moved to the center of the bridge and accepted the two dozen cable feeds which plugged into her body at the limbs, spine, and torso. As she was connected, the cables were tightened making her appear to be a spider in the center of a technological web. Chuntra slid between the cables without touching them, grateful for the freedom of movement outside of her exosuit. Teela would periodically appear and disappear from the command area as she coordinated readings between the main bridge and the engineering science station below decks.
The three sentients did not speak much during their first hours as each pursued their specialty. Chuntra monitored the communications channels used by the Nila picket ships, the command coded frequencies from the approaching fleet and ansible transmissions from Corva Prime. Each stream of data was organized via timestamp and priority to be analysed collectively. Several of the transmissions were encoded and could only be accessed via her diplomatic credentials. The greatest benefit was her ability to remain anonymous and not even having to report her intercept of the transmissions. Being a galactic diplomat had its privileges.
Biyu spent her time linked to the ship’s sensors augmented by Nehaikai’s rig attempting to understand the strange temporal readings in the surrounding space-time. There appeared to be pockets of information scattered inside the nebula, many pockets, tens of thousands of them spaced all over the nebula, with the greatest concentration of them near the event horizon of the rift star.
There was another concern that held her attention during her investigation. The star that was used to originally power the rift had an unusual axis which pointed into the nebula and as a result allowed the polar jet to be directed at the primary Precursor station. This meant the world would have been highly irradiated if the had not been the Precursor radiant shield technology in place.
Even so, they were forced to approach the planet from the dark side with the planetary shield between them and the polar jet. The polar jet would not be serious problem as long as the shield were active. Even so, it created a no fly region that she was sure to put into the ships systems to ensure, there was no chance they would accidentally fly into it. The ship’s shields would protect them but would draw upon power reserves depleting them at three times the normal speed.
Traveling Light’s AI, Teela, spent the next two hours trying to compensate for the temporal distortion created by the quantum fluctuation permeating the nebula. She tried numerous algorithms to compensate for what she assumed was a necessary variation to keep the rift unstable enough to travel through. She altered course and flew closer to the rift in order to analyze what maintained its stability. As they approached the rift star, she appeared on the bridge and cleared the viewport.
Re-configuring it for a telemetry overlay, she included all of the information being harvested including flight patterns, communication bands, distances, fleet times to intercept and all of the temporal pockets scattered throughout the nebula. Adding to this, she included the quantum fluctuation field, and its attendant densities. Panning the view backward, she included the Precursor crystal worlds. She began to rotate the image until she found a point of view she deemed important. Chuntra and Biyu looked on, trying to see what she was seeing. And then she stopped.
“I don’t see it,” Biyu began, drawing her attention away from her data surveys being fed to her via cable. She focused on the information stream coming from the visual display and accompanying data.
“Look harder.” Teela did not hint. She did not want to prejudice the conclusion.
Chuntra looking at the two sentient machines did not see how she could notice something the two of them found, but there was something disturbing about the patterns in the anomalies in relationship to what was once the star Malcanari. Then she suddenly turned pale and drew her tentacles close to herself. “They look like ships,” she blurted out, pointing to the monitor.
Biyu turned the image and projected the paths of the anomalies back toward the rift. She organized the movement and compared the placement in four dimensions taking into account the temporal phasing of the rift. Then she saw it too. There was an area of interface between the intruding universe and our universe spanning from the rift. The area of interface was filled with tens of thousands, maybe even a million of these pockets of probability. They were not quantum foam or fluctuations. They were ships.
“She right, they are ships.” Teela looked at the two of them and said again, “You’re still missing it.”
“The quantum field is decaying as it’s being rerouted to broadcast the atavistic Corvan signal. This reroute will collapse the field. Not only will this subvert the entire Corvan stellar navy, turning each unshielded Corvan into an atavistic, crazed and supremely capable enemy-of-the-state but when that happens, these probabilities will become actualities. We will be surrounded by nearly a million of the ships that belong to creatures that exterminated the mightiest we beings we have ever known to exist, the Precursors. Two birds with one stone; disrupt the Hegemony and attack it while it struggles for control.”
“Oh shit.” Biyu whispered.
Teela coordinated another long distance scan to confirm her suspicions. “We have movement. The stasis field at the very edges is on the verge of collapsing.”
Chuntra opened a channel to the incoming shielded Hegemony fleet. “Now is your moment of decision, Fleet Command, you can pursue us or you can shoot an enemy fleet that was likely caused of the destruction of the Precursors, you can’t do both.”
A quick look between the three of them convinced them in only a second that Chuntra’s statement was premature. “Now he’ll have no choice,” Teela intoned. A nod was all it took for coordination.
And with those words, Travelling Light turned in toward the Malcanari Rift, a doorway between Universes where one of the fiercest species ever known to exist was pouring out of it, in untold millions and one of the fastest ships ever made flew right into the maw of this ancient enemy.
The fleet commander directed his ships to align for jump to the enemy fleet and to fire at will…
“Good afternoon and welcome to the final day of Farnsworth’s Monster Emporium and Death-ray Dealership hiring session. My name’s Todd.
“Today is your last day in our training and we have winnowed you down from one hundred possible candidates to the top twenty. You have spent a month and survived working with some of our most popular products. In this last series of tests, we are going to review some of our most popular products to see how you would answer possible calls from clients.
“Are there any questions? Yes, number 5?”
“Excuse me sir, you used words like winnowed and survived. These were colorful choices, yes?”
“No. Not really. Of the original one hundred of you, only twenty remain. Fifty were traumatized by injuries and left emotionally or psychologically scarred. Twenty were injured and unable to continue. Five unfortunately were lost to the vagaries of the technology and yes, five were killed beyond our ability to save, which in fact made their deaths spectacular because we do have very good medical facilities. You lot are the best, the brightest and the toughest.
“Sir, I was wondering how many people made the last round of selections?”
“You don’t want the answer to that question, 13.”
“Yes, sir. I do.”
“Of one hundred, 2 made it.”
“Sir, what happened to the rest?”
“What is that?”
“That is a space-time rupture event caused by a discontinued product. The room was overlaid with a reality that has the human race replaced with wooden robots. We were unable to restore the primary reality to that local area. Only two students were able to be recovered. The rest were lost when the event horizon collapsed.
“To prevent any further such catastrophes, we will be isolating you in several working environments with the members of each of four groups chosen at random. I will work with each group separately. Our goal is of course to recruit qualified candidates but if I deem you unqualified, you will be removed from the test environment. Any other questions.”
“I do, sir. What’s to stop us from taking what we’ve seen and revealing it to your competitors? This agency is hardly the only one in the world providing such technology to super-villains at large?”
“Please activate the Mobius Light™, focused on number 12. Number 12, Antwerp.
“Can anyone tell me what just happened? Where is Number 12? The Mobius Light™ is deep within your catalog and most of you may not have gotten that far. Number 1?”
“The Mobius Light™, created by a time-traveling warlord, Dr. Mobius, who died in a conflict with the Crimson Avenger (the first one) is a one way, limited time travel device, sir. It is used to move a person to a point before they become aware of a particular event. Mastermind villains use it as a means of erasing the minds of detectives and other investigative types preventing them from becoming aware of the Mastermind in the first place. By the time they catch up to the clues which reveals the Mastermind, he is gone, like a ghost.”
“Why doesn’t a villain use this device to conquer the world, Number 1?”
“Because sir, you are sent into the past but on a different continuum. You replace your temporal doppelganger and continue on there as if you never answered the advertisement. In the Mobius reality, there are no super-villains or superheroes. You live out your life as your more quiet and dull self. Hence few super-villains are willing to use it on themselves or their arch-nemesis.”
“Very good Number 1, you have earned your ranking among this group. Number 12, and indeed anyone who applied for this job has been returned to an approximation of their previous life.
“We have improved the Mobius Light™ somewhat since the last catalog update and we don’t sell the upgrade. Our failed potential employees have been returned to their lives, in this timeline, unaware of having applied for this job. Anyone applying for this job will have been implanted with an aversion to our company, its products and metahumans, in general.
“What it means for you is this: If you don’t die, you’ll be sent to the past and we shall never have met. Good luck.”
Routed through internal email:
Farnsworth’s Monster Emporium and Death-ray Dealership is happy to announce the hire of three new employees for the sales and technical support division. Please congratulate Number 1, Number 5 and Number 11 to our happy family. Help them settle in and get comfortable with our latest product releases.
Let’s be sure to thank Todd for his excellent leadership during this hiring period and keeping casualties to a hiring division low. Great work, Todd. Enjoy your bonus. Now let’s get out there and make the ordinary genius able to succeed at villainy. (Yes, we know superheroes shop here too, we just don’t talk about it. Stop sending me email about superheros who shop with us.)
Professor Farnsworth, MD, Ph.D etc…
Temporal Director of Evil-Brain-in-a-Jar Reality and Causality Division
More Tales of Tech Support © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved
“Hello sir, Farnsworth’s Monster Emporium and Death-ray Dealership, this is Todd speaking. How can I help you this morning?”
“Can you speak up sir, I’m having a little trouble hearing you. Ah, you’re using your speaker phone. How can I be of service today? You’ve purchased some of Professor Peril’s BamHogZu Lair Defender.
“An excellent choice for those among the elite Plant Mastery villain set; fast-growing from its Bamboo ancestry, caustic from its Hogweed genetics, and with the tailored Kudzu genes, it forms spiny, and beautiful blooms from spring to fall. You’ll have a lair safe from prying eyes in no time.
“I see. Plant Mastery is anyone with level five on the Magnus Scale of Domination. You lack complete Plant-Mastery? It should still respond fairly well to Plant Domination at level two, or even basic Plant-weaving at level one. It might take some time to cover your whole lair as an effective barrier.
“Sir, it wasn’t a recommendation for you to possess some degree of plant control, it was a requirement. Fortunately you’ve called us in time and we can use our Drone Supply and Return service to expedite you something more suitable to your needs.
“You’ve already planted it? Nothing to worry about. It will lie dormant for two days without plant mastery to activate it normally. We’ll send over digging robots to remove all traces of it. Sir, why are you screaming? I can’t understand you. Why would you need a broom?
“Oh, Zoom! Oh my. Zoom Plant Growth Accelerator and BamHogZu ARE a potent combination. You should not have been sold this product with no plant mastery whatsoever. I didn’t realize you had already activated the growth acceleration. Wrapped around your legs? You should stand very still right now. Sir. Sir! You are going to have to stop screaming. The plant is designed to grow toward the sounds of suffering.
“That’s better. Are you wearing any clothing? Tuck your hands into your sleeves. Slow your breathing. If you remain quiet, the plant should begin growing onto the barrier wall you placed it against and away from you. I know your legs where the BamHogZu is touching you are in great pain, part of its caustic Hogweed genes, but you mustn’t push it away, as it will only grow toward you faster. Thrashing is a growth stimulant.
“We are dispatching an extra strength defoliant to your location. If you are willing to pay a bit more, we can have it carpet bombed by a fast attack drone. Please be advised, there will be side effects from being at ground zero. The defoliant will leave you with a bright orange skin tone for four to six months. You will also be toxic to any living plant during that time. The orange color will also stain any bright fabrics you wear so you might want to consider more orange in your wardrobe or make everything you own black for a while.
“Spines penetrating your legs. Got it. Those drones are on their way, ETA about four minutes. Remember to hold your breath for as long as you can. There may be some stinging. Thank you for calling Farnsworth’s Monster Emporium and Death-ray Dealership. Have a great day.”
More Tales of Tech Support © Thaddeus Howze 2014. All Rights Reserved
The first quarter of this year was not spent idle.
I have written twenty new tales of speculative fiction you haven’t even seen yet. Starting this month, you will see those new tales appearing as time allows.
You will also see changes in the future of Hub City Blues as we work to complete running serials and start new ones. We will have another 30 Stories in 30 Days in May and will be creating new connections with other writers and artists whose talents should not be missed.
I admit to being a less than stellar marketer of my talents and my offerings, but I am trying to change all that. Look down the sidebar and see new ideas, products, connections and people whose ideas are worth reading, viewing and listening to. These are not advertisers, these are friends whose work I respect. (When I get known well enough to advertise, I will make sure you know about it.)
If you have loved what we’ve done so far, please fasten your seatbelts because this year promises to blow your socks (and anything else you are wearing) right OFF! Sit back, and enjoy the best source of speculative fiction to be found on the internet. Tell your friends, families and pets (hey, pets have to have something to do while you’re at work) to set their browsers to Hub City Blues as the speculative fiction stories, novellas, and novels coming out in the year ahead are gonna be AWESOME.
Essayist, Author, Eco-Warrior, Mentat, Creator, Destroyer, Iconoclast, and Champion
You can follow me on twitter at @ebonstorm
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The probe ships of the Prime were immense.
Twice the size of the moon at a quarter of the orbital distance meant they were easily visible from the planet’s surface.
They meant to surprise us. It worked.
But now that I was clear on a plan, I wasn’t about to back down now.
The male Caretaker walked over to us and knelt down before Faran and I. “You have no reason to trust us; we have wronged you and cannot undo what has been done. We are now in need of your assistance. Without it, in a matter of minutes we shall all perish.”
“We are not in a position to absolve you of your guilt, Master Caretaker. As far as helping you, anything we do in the next minutes will be to save what remains of my people and their world. The question should be, can you do anything to help while we attempt to right this wrong?” Faran’s body language spoke of intensity and the line of her mouth seemed grim and determined.
It felt like the wrong thing to say at the moment, but I had to ask, “Do you two have names? If we need to coordinate, I would hate to call you what I think of you.”
The male responded, “You may call us Builder and Destroyer, for that is what we are to our people. She creates the way, and I destroy anything opposing her will.”
The female caretaker laughed out loud, the first sound of levity since our conflict began. “His language is crude, so he barely has words for what we do. I am the Will and the Word, the Shaper of Worlds, the Creator of Truth, and he is, in our language, the Breaker of Laws, the Unrelenting Force, The Soul of Destruction. Those would be closer to our true names.”
I pinched the nerve between my eyes trying to forestall a headache. All the aliens in the universe, and I get the poet conquerors. “Destroyer and Builder it is, then. Not against poetic license but shorter callsigns are better.” The Destroyer smiled while he looked at his sister. The more dire the situation, the happier these two seemed to get.
It was good to see everyone so upbeat, so I went ahead and asked the question that needed asking, “What’s the plan? How long can we expect them to wait before attacking us?”
Builder seemed to look skyward toward the new twin moons and then she said, “They will be another half hour, in your time, before they fully appear in our space. They are currently in two locations, one there, the other here. Their causality drive will eventually complete the transition and then they will be fully here and able to unleash their abilities upon this world.”
“How are they able to communicate with us?” one of Faran’s choir piped up from behind the group. A short fellow who up to this point had said very little other than being a voice in the energy-dampening song heard earlier.
Builder answered “When we expanded your awareness, and made it possible for you to see them, the trace was able to be formed because your awareness was untrained and left a reality trace they could use. Following this disruption, they were able to send communication directly into our minds.”
“Reality trace?” It was clear this guy was a scientist. That wasn’t the first question on my mind.
“Our abilities allow us to transcend much of what you call reality, in a fashion similar to the Oan omniweapon. We have the ability to view our universe without affecting the quantum layer of reality. Our ability allows us to see reality without affecting it. Unfortunately we do this without conscious effort and by expanding your senses, we forgot you still believe the universe responds to quantum interaction. You saw them, and by seeing them, affected them and allowed them to follow you. But don’t be upset, they were on their way here. The energy output and signatures of the Guardians War of Light convinced them we might be here and they were already altering their course to investigate.”
The Destroyer added, “They were unsure if we were all here, so they only sent two probe ships to check. If they were completely certain, more, many more would have arrived. Our best hope lies with deception.”
I think I understood what he meant, but this would require someone on the front lines. “You want to convince them you two were the only one’s here and move your people while they verify.”
“Very good, John Stewart, our battle together has given you new appreciation for deception. For our plan to work, it will require the ultimate sacrifice. We will have to engage them.”
Faran and her choir looked at me. I knew my duty, I would not allow them to come to further harm. “How would that even be possible, you said they weren’t all here yet?” I was still trying to catch up to science in the conversation.
Another member of the choir spoke this time, a woman, her voice, soft and lilting but filled with the authority of her understanding. “They are using a technology which allows them to violate what we believe is a principle of the universe, that an object can only be at one place at one time. But for them, that is not necessarily true. While they are transitioning, they are in both places and yet in neither completely. What the Destroyer is suggesting is we destroy the space-time region they are attempting to occupy and snap them back to the spot from whence they came. They will have to recalibrate their technology and during that time, the Builder will be able to transfer her people.”
Apparently shocked by the level of understanding the Builder approached the choir and stood in front of them. She made a gesture of obeisance “We have done a great wrong by you, my children. We will make it right. John Stewart, I will need your ring.” She held out her hand and I placed my hand in hers. Our hands began to glow and my ring glowed even brighter. “Your ring’s recharge is keyed to a somatic, sonic litany. Please utilize it now.”
I looked at Faran and bade her to come close, putting her ring next to mine and began: “In brightest day, in blackest night, let no evil escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.” I felt my ring charge instantly. This was no ordinary charge either. This was an amplified thing, similar to the effect given when a Blue Lantern was nearby. My ring was supercharged.
“Now, you and my brother must go. The work being done now must be done by scientists. She reached out to Faran and took her hand.”
I reminded her, “You’ll need a connection to the Great Battery of Oa.”
With her entire body glowing with the green power she replied casually, “I have it.”
I have to ask one more time. “Will it provide the computational capacity necessary? Without hurting anyone, without damaging the Battery or the Lanterns dependent on it?”
“Yes.” Then she began reciting some complex mathematical formula which began to form in the air around her and Faran’s family chorus. In a matter of minutes the air rippled with scientific symbols I had no chance of understanding. The Destroyer and I took to the skies as his power seemed to renew and he matched me easily.
My ring chirped “Incoming priority signal from Oa.” Don’t have to guess who this is…
“2814-3, this is Guardian Kem. Your ring is engaged in an unauthorized connection, access and utilization of the Great Battery’s resources. Your computations encroach upon classified Guardian projects and indicate you are potentially being compromised by an outside agency. You will respond at once!”
In for a penny, in for a pound. “This is John Stewart sector 2814. I am activating my Honor Guard protocol for access to Oan resources on a priority one mission to save an entire species and their respective planetary biosystem. The planet is about to be under attack from a Guardian level threat. Please allow the computations to continue unabated.”
Guardian Kem barely batted a metaphysical eye before responding in my mind, “That cannot be allowed to continue. These calculations indicate the possibility of an energy release capable of rendering the entire Dirne star system and twelve nearby stars, physically unstable enough to rewrite local physics.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your allies are about to negate physics making it possible to bypass fundamental laws of the local universe, processes like gravity would simply cease to exist. Without the fundamental force of gravity, stars expand unchecked, their fusion processes could be interrupted or they may even explode if instead gravity increases. Matter as you understand it may simply cease to exist. You have no idea why or how they are doing these things. Regain control of your ring at once.”
“I can’t do that.” All I can see is Xanshi in my mind, millions of voices shouting out because I did nothing. Could do nothing to save them. Not this time.
“You can’t or you won’t?” The tone of the conversation had turned unpleasantly confrontational. Guardian Kem had the sound of someone about to do something rash.
I’ve had about enough of this. “I won’t. Furthermore, you haven’t even listened to why I’m doing this. You sit on Oa and backseat drive while I have to risk my life making a judgment call about a threat you probably have known about for centuries but didn’t see fit to even brief me on before sending me on this mission. If I go into the Book of Oa, would I find an entry on the Prime, their super-galaxy, their ability to create energies similar to the Green Power, their ability to alter reality on a scale similar to your own? I bet I would. So before you berate me or threaten to turn off my ring and abandon me here, how about putting your immortal super-powerful brain in my shoes and make a decision on something other than the immoral calculus of what’s best for the Guardians and instead think about someone else for a change? Isn’t that why you put us out here because you lack the emotional capacity to care about anything? Does that even include us?”
There was no response from the ring as we exited the atmosphere and increased our speed and our approach to the Prime world-weapons. They would be fully realized in less than ten minutes. We had ten minutes to destroy two objects with the subjective power of the Great Battery of Oa.
The Destroyer increased his speed and telepathically reached out to me. “Your masters limit your capacities while claiming you use the most powerful weapon in the universe. Have you ever truly used your ring in a way that utilized what you know, what it knows and what you could truly do if your capacities were unleashed? You use your weapon as little more than a club to beat your enemies to death using radiation or kinetic energy transformation. Have you ever wondered what could be done if you simply forgot what you know and became one with the power itself? Allowed it to suffuse your body, your mind, expanding your physical and mental capacities? Or is your training designed to limit your capacities for development?”
I thought about the question and I considered how we trained new Green Lanterns, basically the same way we have always done, project your will, envision a physical thing from your culture, from your worldview and recreate it using the Green Power. Was there another way?
The Destroyer began to glow with an energy level similar to when I first met him. He continued, his telepathic voice more resonate as he became the power he truly was, “The answer is one you need to find in the next two minutes because despite what your masters believe, wielding what you believe to be the mightiest weapon in the universe will not be enough. Your ring is a toy we give to our children.”
His last transmission to me was not inspiring. “You will have to do better than that.”
My ring decided to share the final bit of good news for the day. “Your connection to the Great Battery is being prioritized for shutdown. It will take ten minutes for the shutdown to propagate to our location. In ten minutes you will have no powers at all… This shutdown will include all copies of your ring made in the last 24 hours.”
Yep. Good news.
Rebirth © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved