The street that bordered the south side of Kilika’s tower was now apparently an open-air church. Several hundred people had gathered for a morning service. I stood at the very edges of the throng, pretending to be part of the crowd. Strider remained in the basement of an apartment, while I had eyes out for our two targets. If our teammates failed, the two tyrants were likely to come storming out and raise some hell.
Waiting and observing was something I had gotten very good at, so I let myself pay attention to the sermon even as I repeatedly checked the two buildings.
Two women dressed like grim reapers stood on podiums that framed the southern entryway of the tower. They preach of Kilika’s divinity and wisdom to the ragged masses who had made the pilgrimage to her capital. They spoke words of encouragement, like how humans were the ants at the Goddess’s feet and that to be allowed to lick their boots was a great honor, and other such delightful news.
After a few minutes of this, I was starting to get a bit worried. But then, I saw Kilika come out of the Tower with Shoggoth in his new form behind her. She was dressed in a navy robes and a wildebeest skull with golden horns. It was positioned to cover her face completely, making me wonder how she could see through it. Maybe there were eye holes disguised in the front, or maybe her power just allowed her to see through things.
She stood with regal bearing. Upon seeing her, the gathered crowd prostrated themselves before her, kneeling, and bowing low. I did likewise, attuning my sonic power, “zooming” it in to hear her and Shoggoth. I also made quick glances up at speed to keep an eye on things.
“Act as you would, without calling me out,” he whispered to her.
“Oh, Kilika, Great Devourer of Souls, what wisdom do you have for us today?” said one of the priestesses. Her eyes were wild with delight at this particular good timing.
“Always know your place,” Kilika said, projecting my voice with practiced volume. “The mortal crawls at the feet of the Goddess. Please her, and you shall enjoy her protection. Disappoint her and feel her wrath. If these options do not please you, you know the alternative.”
“The Doorway!” whispered the priestesses.
The crowd raised their heads up, but stayed kneeling. “The Doorway… the Doorway… the Doorway…” they chanted, almost hypnotically. “The Blessed Path… the Gateway to Divinity…”
“Yes,” Kilika continued. “If you wish to stand tall with us, the Blessed, then you must do as we did, and brave the Doorways. Step into the Gaze of the Divine, and if you are deemed worthy, return as a God!”
“A god…” they whispered. And yet, I saw the hesitation. Even the fear of destruction or the promise of ascension did not inspire all to take such a risk. Millions entered the Doorways. Only hundreds came out. And those that did were always at risk of being slain by a rival. Most people, even forced to live as peasants scratching at the dirt under the dubious protection of a superhuman upper class, had some assurance of life and provision, if they just did their level best not to piss off their masters.
Kilika finished up her words of the Divine, repeating herself in a bit more flowery of a way, then striding off to the west. The crowd bowed again, murmuring their prayers. I stood and zipped back between the buildings behind us, hopping a low wall and dashing around. As I came back up to the main street across from the former university, I saw Ojau was already heading towards Kilika.
I sent a small twittering noise into Ojau’s ear, mimicking the sound of a bird in the distance. “Yes,” I heard him mutter.
Excellent. The Eater of Souls and the Annihilator met about halfway between their buildings, exchanged a few words, then turned and headed down a street away from me.
One block down, an easy walk since everyone gave the two a wide berth, they entered a long building with a blue roof. I made my way around and ducked into an alley. “Ministry of Foreign Affairs building,” I said to the ground.
I appeared in the basement level of the building, Strider appearing next to me. The room was dark until I found and flicked on the light switch. It was a simple room, an emptied out office space. From the dust, it hadn’t seen any activity in a couple years. There was nothing to do but wait until our companions could get to a private spot on a ground-adjust floor, and then—Ojau/Hitchhiker, Kilika, and Shoggoth appeared next to us.
“God, finally, hit this asshole already!” said Hitchhiker. Shoggoth unsheathed the device, popping it out of his arm, then held it to Ojau’s head. Right as he pressed the button, Hitchhiker burst out of her host. I caught her, and she sagged against me, gasping. “Jesus… I’m starting to think… this is gunna kill me… one of these days…”
Ojau looked stunned and twitched for a moment, then blinked. He scowled, but he didn’t try and disintegrate any of us. “Alright, the two of you will obey any of us in the room except each other,” said Shoggoth, ensuring we all could give orders to the two genocidal tyrants.
“Understood,” said Ojau gruffly. Kilika slowly nodded.
“Alright,” I said, once I was sure Hitchhiker was steady on her feet. “Now, we need to get into Xyla and Yrba’s citadel. I’m told this is done through a portal system by Malakurai the Traverser?”
“Yes,” said Kilika, almost robotically.
“Make the call,” I said, grabbing the mind-control device from Shoggoth.
The Eater of Souls pulled out a cell phone and tapped the screen a few times. I was a little surprised it was that easy, but I didn’t have time to question how they kept a cell network up. A moment later, a swirling portal appeared in the room, and two women stepped out of it. One was a light-brown Hispanic woman in an all-black body suit with a rose vine design running up the left side. The other was a black woman with straightened golden hair and crimson eyes, dressed in a white top and blue tights. Yrba and Xyla, respectively.
“What’s the emergency?” said Xyla, crossing her arms. Yrba clasped her hands behind her back. Both stood confidently, their expressions stern.
They didn’t have time to blink before I hit both of them with the device.
“What the fuck was that?” said Xyla, she shared a glance with Yrba, then they turned to Kilika. Clearly, they were clones, and not the original. We suspected the device wouldn’t work on them, since Yrba’s power gave her total control of the clones she made.
Strider teleported them right into the ground, and placed Ojau and Kilika in front of the portal. At top speed, I set the device on the ground, and with a shove, I forced the two tyrants into the portal with me, just before it closed.
We came out inside a huge metallic chamber, atop a metal platform. A large, fat woman was sitting on a giant chair, in front of an array of computers. She gaped at us. “Kilika? What’s going on?”
“Kill!” I commanded.
The woman didn’t even have time to widen her eyes before she stiffened, then slouched forward, dead. She knocked over one of the computers as her head slammed into it, sending half the array of monitors tied to it crashing to the floor.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Malakurai,” said Kilika. “She handles all transport duties across—”
“The original or the clone?” I said.
I nodded. “Alright, then. Kill and destroy absolutely everything here except the three of us.”
It happened faster than I was ready for. Kilika simply swept her gaze all around, up and down. Right after her, Ojau did the same, his eyes flashing with white light. It was like God was taking a cosmic pencil eraser to the structure around us. I saw brief glimpses of labyrinthine inner structure, various halls and chambers and elevator shafts. About halfway through Ojau’s annihilation wave, the floor dropped out from under us. The citadel had been floating, and either of the destroyers’ powers must have taken out whoever or whatever held it aloft.
We found ourselves in free fall, both of them still snapping their gazes around to make sure they got section of the Citadel they could. The structure had been huge. Seeing it peeled away from the inside, it had to be the size of several skyscrapers bolted together. And yet, nearly all of it was gone by the time we hit the jagged peaks of the mountains below.
We were all durable enough to survive the impact, striking the rocky ground and bouncing off. After a few more impacts, the world around us flickered and we were suddenly standing upright, facing the base of mountain. Strider had made the trip over and caught us as we hit the dirt. We looked up to see a few fragments of the Citadel raining down in the distance. More importantly, we could see the sun shining in the blue sky overhead.
“Holy shit, did we actually do it?” said Hitchhiker. “All these years, and all it took was an ad hoc quartet of has-beens?”
“The Queens got lazy and overconfident,” said Strider. She held up the device and grinned. “Also, we had help from aliens.”
We all chuckled, less from humor, and more just the sense of relief. We allowed ourselves a minute to savor the moment, watching the last bits of the Citadel fall and tumble down the mountainside.
“So, what now?” said Shoggoth.
I opened my mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a sudden feeling of weakness. The world around me started to speed up. No, not speed up; I realized my own superhuman speed was slowing down! I saw everyone else suddenly tense up, as if they too were feeling a similar effect.
It took me a second too long to realize that something was draining away my powers. By the time I started moving, the bullets were already raining down upon us.