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Everything I needed was inside brown bottles. But, something outside them needed me. So, I crawled out for a while.

  • Doc-Danger

 

1 Hour Later - Doc-Danger - The Rumor

I’m rocketing to nowhere in the most notorious stealth ship in the universe. I rub my neck. Jesus, that Masked Man had a mean grip. I’m tempted to fly back and cut another chunk off him. That’s not going to happen. My name’s Doc-Danger. Despite what you may have heard, I am not the guardian of the universe. Someone else can deal with that asshole.

I warp portal opens on the bridge. High Roller walks through.

“What the fuck was that?” he asks.

“I know, right?” I say. “That guy was a lot tougher than you said he was.”

“I said he was extremely powerful. Possibly the most powerful being in the universe.” says High Roller.

“Yeah, but I didn’t believe you. You didn’t sell it.”

“Do you believe me now?”

“Sure. But, only because he sold it. I still think you’re full of shit.”

“Fair enough.” He calls a chair from nothing, and slumps down next to me. “Did you find what we’re looking for?”

“No.” I say. “All that math was incomplete time travel equations. Useless. You get anything?”

“I won a couple billion secrets. Not what we need, though.” he says.

“Dammit.” I say. “Can I look at them?”

“Sure.” He tosses me an encrypted data cube.

I un-encrypt the data and spread it around me in a loose dome. I’m a messy reader.

“You know, when you do that with my secrets, they’re not secrets anymore.” says High Roller.

“This is the best stealth ship in the universe.” I say. “Nobody knows where we are. They definitely ain’t reading over my shoulder.”

High Roller points over my shoulder. I turn. The Man in the Mask is behind me. Jesus fucks! I blast him. It wrecks the left side of the ship, but doesn’t affect him. Damn. Having no immediate backup plan, I freeze in the ready position.

“Yeah, he’s not really here.” says High Roller. “That’s a simulacrum I made to illustrate your overconfidence. We have no idea what the Man in the Mask is capable of. We must assume he knows everything we do or say.”

I unfreeze. Call a new left side of the ship from nothing. “Fair enough.” I say.

I settle back into my studies. I feel a presence over my shoulder. The Man in the Mask is still there. He’s closer now.

“Are you going to get rid of that?” I ask.

“No.” says High Roller. “You’re still overconfident.”

“Fair enough.” I say. Fuck you, I think.

I warp portal opens on the bridge. Fox walks through.

“What the fuck was that?” he asks.

“I know, right?” I say.

“Fuck off. You weren’t supposed to be there. What’s the point of making a plan with you? Now they know there’s two humans with the three cosmic abilities. And, that we’ll fight together. Also,” Fox points at the Man in the Mask. “What’s he doing here?”

“That’s a simulation. It’s to remind us that he could be listening to us at any time.” I say.

“Good reminder.” says a beautiful woman. “You never know who’s listening.”

“Jesus!” I say. “Who the fuck are you?”

“That’s Eve.” says Fox. “It’s cool. She’s cool. Did any of us find what we were looking for?”

I frown at Eve. Re-encrypt the data cloud around me. “No.”

“Well, that’s it then.” says Fox. “The next Impossible Party isn’t for 6 years. I’m not waiting that long for answers we probably won’t get.”

Fox is impatient. I don’t blame him. Before Fresh Start was invented, he was doomed to die young. Living fast is hard habit to break.

“There’s still the Warpers.” I say. “They’re a smart bunch of motherfuckers.”

Warpers are beings that have mastered warping, but not true sight, or the call to nothing. There’s trillions of them for every Space God. They’re generally a good bunch of guys. Smart as fuck too. I suspect that collectively they know exponentially more than the Space Gods. I wanted to start my search with them, but was outvoted.

Fox shakes his head. “If the Warpers knew how to stop the Halfmen, they wouldn’t need us.”

Eve perks up. “You guys are hunting Halfmen? Cool.”

I scowl at Fox. The only currency that Space Gods recognize is secrets. Fox is ambivalent to this reality. He’s a hole in my fucking piggy bank.

“We’re not hunting Halfmen. We’re hunting information.” I say.

“What kind of information?” asks Eve.

“How to kill Halfmen.” says Fox.

Arrg! Fucking kid!

High Roller smiles. “We’re interested in various topics. Halfmen being one of them.”

Halfmen are a plague on Warper societies. Manufactured beings, they possess the three cosmic abilities, but are mentally stunted, wanting nothing but to kill Warpers. Halfmen attacks are relatively uncommon, but when they happen, the death toll in in the high billions. They’re clearly weapons from a Space God with a hate on for Warpers.

When I first came to space, I was in trouble. Some Warpers helped me. Before we parted ways, they were set upon by a Halfman. He and I had a mild altercation that cost me some anonymity.

Fox hates Halfmen. He wants to hunt them. He wants to arm Warpers with God Machines. But, Space Gods take secrets seriously. I guess it’s okay to invent True Sight or the Call to Nothing. But, if you spread that knowledge around, you get a visit from the Man in the Mask. We crashed the Impossible Party to see how big a problem that was. I rub my neck. It’s a big fucking problem.

“So, you’re not hunting Halfmen?” says Eve.

I scowl at her. I’d like to ask her to leave, but I don’t want to push my luck with Fox. I really did fuck up the plan for the party.

“It’s lunacy to fight Halfmen. We will die.” I say.

We just got to space, and have no idea what’s going on. We barely know how to use a God Machine. Also, we don’t know who’s making the Halfmen. Could be fucking Eve!

“You don’t have to fight Halfmen.” says Fox. “I’ll do it.”

I look at High Roller. High Roller looks at me. The Man in the Mask watches silently.

“You’ll save a lot more Warpers if you have us with you.” says High Roller. “Doc just wants us to fight smart.”

I nod. That’s not remotely what I want, but whatever.

“You want to start saving Warpers immediately. Doc wants to accrue knowledge.” says High Roller. “I aspire to be gloriously useless. Eve, you want anything?”

“I’d like to have a ride in The Rumor.”

“Well, this all seems doable.” High Roller smiles. “I’ll make a schedule.”

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Doctor Zero

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