Usual language and graphic content disclaimer. Do not Google anything Donut references. You've been warned.
We must know our past to understand our present.
Ameldi’s job was a difficult one, but it was one she did well. The mantle of the Goddess of Death was a heavy burden to bear, yet she carried her cross with unwavering conviction. She was tasked with balancing the flood of light and stemming the tide of new life by countering with equal forces of darkness and death. It was a task she had carried out for eternity, delivering the end with merciless efficiency. She was a necessary evil, a primordial force of nature.
The dark Goddess wore her favorite form, that of shimmering bronze skin and lust inducing curves adorned only by golden rings linked together to form a dress of precious metals, as she contemplated the scene playing out before her. No matter what form she took, the chains could not be shed. She could alter their appearance, to an extent, but chains they would always be. They were a constant reminder of her burden; she was bound to her duty.
The meddling fictional transient known most often as Rani and his unnatural inverse stood mere feet apart, blinded and immobilized in the physical realm thanks to the figure that hovered in the air above them, manipulating the dreamscape containing them with a simple controller consisting of only three buttons and a joystick with the ease of playing a videogame. The Captain’s consort was somewhere nearby, though Ameldi did not see her, their powers were intertwined and proximity to each other was needed for either of them to utilize their gifts. Ameldi knew little about the pair, and she didn’t care to know more, so long as they played their role in reversing the damage wrought by Rani’s restless musings.
When Amedli restored Rani to life after his fateful encounter with his wicked reflection, she had not imagined returning equilibrium to her dominion would develop into such a convoluted affair. She tasked him with a single purpose upon freeing him from nonexistence: he was to avenge himself and end the paradox. The paradox created when Rani fell to his polar opposition, in a realm that was not his, long before his existence. The impact of that logic defying event shattered the continuity on a quantum scale, and the ripple threatened to return everything to nothing. He had, put simply, broken reality.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the inverse was a growing threat that could potentially rival the severity of the impending apocalypse with his ever growing army of clones and crimson voids threatening to collapse the universe upon itself. The Harbinger of Red had forged a vacuum by amassing so many of his soulless mutations, and their swelling numbers would produce a vortex capable of devouring all if he wasn’t stopped. Two cataclysmic dangers stemming from one source. When Rani fucked up: he fucked up bigly.
“You did well to cast them into a darkscape before they could clash again. This would all be for naught if Rani was slain by the NegaGinger a second time. The Abomination must fall, and it must be at Rani’s hand to restore reality to its true form.”
“Yeah.” The Captain replied simply, his attention entirely on the task at hand.
“What about the others: the drunk and the bitch?” Ameldi never thought she’d work as part of a team, much less alongside a sentient star. Stars tend to have long memories, and most did not appreciate her role in bringing those long lives to an end. Yet Realta sat nearby, dipping her toes in the waters of the temple fountain without concerned for respect or protocol. She didn’t look to Ameldi for a response; instead the silver skinned celestial kept her gaze trained on the twin sarcophagi housing the comatose Salem and Arali.
“Leave them be, we can’t risk them distracting Rani. This stage of the plan is critical; there is no room for error.” Ameldi knew not what dreams The Captain projected onto them, nor did she care. Rani had revealed himself and brought them into fold to prevent them stumbling upon threat by other circumstance – a discovery that would have meant certain doom. Rani had insisted they be kept safe as a condition for his participation, a twisted joke considering there would be nothing left in existence had he refused, but he failed to mention any provision concerning their mental state. Their reality was at the mercy of The Captain and Trix, the duo could project torment or fantasy at a whim. Ameldi did not know what Trix was, a banshee perhaps, but she was the link to The Captain as his partner and Realta as her sister.
If Rani suffered a second death today, it would be up to the other three to buy Ameldi the time required for a third and final attempt. With the element of surprise gone, however, it would almost certainly be the third strike. Rani had faith in members of his team not present to be able to complete the mission, but he also had faith they would all remain to see it through to the end. Sky and Sabine had proven him wrong once, Ameldi was not willing to risk him being wrong again. Despite his assurances of their loyalty and competence, the chained Goddess had observed that Rani went to great lengths to keep his friends oblivious to her team and her role in his resurrection.
If they managed to pull his off, Rani just might live long enough to see himself become the villain.
Aethon checked the time display on his wrist, calculating the progression of events as he decrypted the data from the drive he recovered from the ginger installation. If Rani’s estimates were accurate, and they usually were not even remotely approximate, then he should nearly in position. More realistically, Rani’s had deviated from the formula and the entire program had either crashed or was currently stuck in a loop designed to end at the moment of maximum climax.
They had prepared for both scenarios.
When Rani briefed Aethon on his role in the operation, the quarter ginger advised the cyber ninja that the algorithm was more nuanced than it appeared. Rani told Aethon of the required showdown without elaborating on the necessity of it. Aethon assumed at the time that it was a matter of theatrical pride for Rani to avenge himself, but now he had reason to doubt that deduction. Rani had assigned him the role of ensuring the cloning operations were ceased if the strike on GingerCorp failed to execute or if the building was nothing more than a honey pot – a trap.
Aethon’s job was to implement the failsafe and activate the killswitch that would halt all operations if Rani was unsuccessful in terminating the clone batch.
According to the newly decrypted text scrolling in rapid flashes across the visor of his suit, the assault on GingerCorp was both a trap and the key to terminating the cloning process. Neither variable was a surprise for Aethon, he had already calculated the probability during the briefing. He was not expecting, however, the redirect. GingerCorp was not the cloning facility: it was the portal to it.
“Shit.” The last logical fallacy fell away and Aethon realized Rani had taken advantage of his emotional detachment. Rani had chosen him for this particular role because he knew it would be analyzed and executed with mechanical efficiency. The failsafe exploit would end the operations but releasing the flammable coolants from the clone producing equipment and igniting the firewall protocol. It was essentially a self-destruct program, and Aethon recognized the code. Rani had designed this code, and set the conditions for its remote execution.
The aspiring martyr charged into the trap knowing it would get him to the true facility to inject the sequence via his uplink to Aethon, and Aethon doubted Rani had any designs on returning from the pathway. The cyber warrior opened a direct channel to Donut, overriding the radio silence initiated by the pink Spartan with a backdoor bypass.
“Donut, come in. Don’t let Rani go through the portal to the real cloning facility. I repeat, do not let him go through that portal alone. He wants to make it a one way trip, over. “
Donut and Shemo
Well shit in chocolate sauce, that was the kind of information Donut could’ve used before Rani went rogue. This plan was going about as well as a Google search for salsa snack. Donut shuttered in revulsion, the scar of that memory stinging as the mental image resurfaced.
“Shemo lost his scent; do we have a plan B?” Sabine and Sky had already ran with plan GTFO, Salem and Arali were off doing whatever drunken Scotsman and psychopaths with daddy issues did – so probably each other, and now Aethon drops this rolling steamer all over the place that Rani ran off on a mother fuckin’ Leroy Jenkins. They were getting fucked and shit on all over the place. Once again Donut concluded that there had to be roofies involved.
“Belay that, just tell me where the portal is and how we use the damn thing.” No man left behind, they would charge in and unfuck this situation Virgin Mary style. “The good news, Shemo, is that the only way things could get any weirder is if a Cheeto became president of a country. The bad news is Rani left to solo the boss battle for all the marbles. Oh, and you smeared your lipstick.”
“So we crash his party. We’re not going to let things like time, distance, and insane suicide missions stop us from kicking epic ass.” Shemo wiped at the red stain on her bottom lip with a casual thumb. “Blood” Shemo clarified simply, examining it casually. She wasn’t bleeding.
The longer this story dragged out, the more erotic it got. Donut was okay with this.
“I’ve entertained this charade long enough.” Rani projected his thoughts without speaking, his body unresponsive to his commands in the dreamscape. “Captain, mind pulling back the curtain?”
The Captain said nothing, but the dark obscurity slowly brightened and focused to reveal the long hidden truth. They were still inside the illusion, but now it reflected reality. Rani and his foe stood at the center of the image, neither budging as the scene expanded to show their surroundings. They were in what looked like a bizarre hybrid of ancient pyramid and mad scientist’s lab. Sarcophagi and glyphs of the ancient world adorned the weathered stone walls and floors, and complex machines filled the vast chamber all around them. New life could be seen growing inside the chambers of metal and crystal, balding forms that had not yet assumed their soul deprived state.
Ameldi, Realta, and Trix sat on the ledge of a balcony overlooking the scene, watching the projection play out across the surface of the water of the fountain below them. The Captain stood between the fountain and the pair of them, maintaining the illusion.
“They never served you; they were never about complete annihilation. The only way to avoid that is for me to be the one to stop you. Anything else would’ve just lead to Game Over. They played you. We played you. But the best part is: you played yourself. You thought you captured me, but this is where I wanted to be. Here I can take you and your strawberry patch out, like a boss.“
The cat was out of the bag; it was time to finish this.