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Beyond and Above

Written by Furlough :: [Wednesday, 24 April 2019 20:55] Last updated by :: [Friday, 26 April 2019 17:56]

Beyond and Above

by Furlough

The afternoon sky was overcast, covered in dull-grey clouds that threatened rain. The city below it was outwardly just as dull, teeming with nothing but utterly mundane scenes. Lone birds flitted about between the sky and the street, people walked quietly back and forth trying to get to their destination before the apparent downpour, and the steel frames of cars rolled around unassumingly, hiding any indication of their occupants’ intent from curious onlookers.

One such car pulled up to the entrance to the parking area adjacent to the Greenmire Estate apartment complex. The gatekeeper idly nodded at the driver as he raised the barrier. In truth, the old keeper couldn’t say he knew who the driver was, but he couldn’t really be bothered to remember every resident of the complex. The place boasted a hefty number of high-rise buildings over a zone several blocks wide, and the residences were constantly changing hands, so the memory and mental acuity required to remember each and every resident at all times were far more than he was getting paid for. He figured he’d just let in whoever found their way to the gate and pulled up with some degree of confidence.

It wasn’t until a much more conspicuous military vehicle pulled up to the gate a couple of minutes later that he realized he might have messed up for real this time.

By then, however, the occupants of the first car had found a quiet spot to park and were scrambling to disembark, bringing with them a small laptop computer as their only burden. Outwardly, they looked ordinary enough that any onlookers would be quick to dismiss them, but the escapade that had brought them there was anything but. Even if any curious gawkers had known their titles or occupations, they’d have a hard time placing what could have brought the two of them together in the first place.

On the one hand, there was Dr. Lucia Adler, an almost too perfectly inconspicuous woman in her mid-thirties. Holding a degree in computer science, she had gotten some contracts for work in academics but had been unfortunate enough to fail to secure reliable contacts or continued employment, and so her livelihood had steadily dwindled. Unable to procure honest work, Lucia had found herself forced to turn to more unsavory activities, employing her computer savvy to embezzle funds and acquire valuable corporate information to sell off. She wasn’t particularly happy about finding herself in a position where she had no choice but to resort to criminality, but she got a certain dark gratification from the knowledge that she was clever enough to do it without getting caught.

But whereas the authorities had remained clueless as to her involvement in various cybercrimes, the parties she had found herself working alongside as a result of her turn had adopted a keen interest in her. It was this interest that had led her to the present situation; once upon a rotten day, Lucia had received a visit from Mr. ‘Cane Lento’ Casale, a dangerous man she never would have worked with if she had the choice. As it turned out, however, it was not a matter of choice, as Casale instead opted to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

Considering who she was, the idea of it should have been simple. Break into a military database, poke around real quiet-like, and get what valuable data she could without arousing suspicion or leaving any trace of her involvement. A textbook in-and-out job, if they wrote textbooks about that kind of thing. And at first, that’s just how it was; Casale had left one of his gorillas, the ne’er-do-well Joey Belmont, to watch Lucia as she worked and in case anything happened, but she didn’t let him be more than a cursory distraction. The database itself, which took a little longer to break into than most but posed no real problem for her, yielded some interesting-looking stuff; documents, reports, files that detailed the inner workings of the organization. It wasn’t the sort of thing that interested Lucia terribly, and the potential risk had kept her from attempting such breaks on her own.

Perhaps it was this lack of experience in that environment that led her to drop her guard – though more likely it was how out of place that single piece of data had looked. Among all manner of boring, official-looking digitized papers, Lucia suddenly noticed an isolated file that betrayed no indication whatsoever of what its nature or purpose was. It was apparently a short piece of code, designated “frankenstein_algorithm”, filed under the single category of “parapsychology”. It was obviously a far cry from the sort of documents Lucia had been told to lift from the database, but once she saw it, she just couldn’t bring herself to ignore it. The special brand of curiosity that had led her down her particular path of learning soon got the better of her, and she resolved to take a closer look. She only managed a cursory look at the code, however, which managed to tell her the algorithm was apparently meant to alter the graphical display qualities of a computer monitor, albeit in an unusually detailed way – before she was greeted with telltale signs of expulsion from the system. For the first time, she could actually remember, she’d been caught.

Under most circumstances, Lucia would have liked to assume the usual precautions she took when doing a job like that would be enough to mask her true identity, but this was the military she was dealing with. In a rather panicked hurry, Lucia resolved to simply salvage the files she had already acquired on her laptop, including the mysterious algorithm, then rush out of her little apartment – with Joey in tow.

“What’s the deal?” Joey barked at her. “You done?”

“Yeah, well, ah, things got hairy in there,” Lucia retorted. “The, er, fuzz might be coming after us for a bit.”

“You done screwed up, woman?! The boss said you were the best!”

“I AM the best, you imbecile,” Lucia said, raising her voice. “Why do you think I’m scrambling to get us the hell away from here now? The stuff in that database is obviously worth a bundle or else they wouldn’t have that kind of security. At least I got the stuff, anyone else would have walked away empty-handed. So if you want the goods to ever make it to your boss’s hands, you’d better buckle down and make sure we make it out of this with our hides!”

“… hmph,” Joey muttered, not sure if he could effectively backtalk that sentiment.

The two climbed into Lucia’s car, neither too sure of where they could even go. Lucia remembered the Greenmire Estates; she had pretended to be a resident there once so she could drive through the complex and avoid traffic from the surrounding avenues. Sure enough, the tricked had worked again, but even in a location as weird as that, their pursuers had tracked them down. Lucia herself couldn’t even explain how they had done it so efficiently if they had tracked her car, or somehow bugged her laptop, but that didn’t matter much anymore. She and Joey were cornered, trapped, with nowhere to go.

The next couple of minutes were a blur. Lucia and Joey barged into the nearest building, finding the lobby deserted. More out of impulse than anything, Lucia scrambled towards a nearby door, which opened into a broom closet, and dashed inside. Joey followed and haphazardly began stacking some of the supplies inside against the door, taking care to jam the doorknob tight so it couldn’t be easily opened. This done, the two took a moment to catch their breath, and Lucia gingerly opened the laptop she had been carrying around to provide some light in the now-darkened space from the monitor that now displayed the code that had caused her to get caught.

“It’s fine… right?” Lucia muttered.

Joey just turned to look at her in a huff but offered no words.

“They can’t possibly know we came here specifically. We’ll just wait for them to leave, they couldn’t—”

Lucia’s thought was interrupted by a sudden loud banging noise someone was making against the door. It instantly became obvious that what she had hoped for wasn’t going to happen.

“Shit!” Lucia gasped. “Now what?”

“You tell me, lady,” Joey retorted in frustration. “You got us into this mess!”

“Goddammit!” Lucia’s attention turned to the laptop monitor, which displayed the code that had enticed her so. “And all because of this… just what the hell do you do, anyway?”

The banging noises continued. It was clear the door wasn’t going to hold for long. Lucia was helpless to do anything but stare at the mysterious code in front of her.

“Looks like this might be the end, but…”

“What are you muttering about?” Joey asked.

“Might as well find out what this does…”

Lucia turned her attention to the computer. With a few keystrokes, she compiled the inscrutable code into an executable format. One more press and the program began running, though it just made a few uneventful flashes of color appear upon the screen, flashes that nevertheless continued on for a bit.

“Dammit…” Lucia thought as she witnessed the rather unimpressive display. “If only things were easier… If I could get out of here...”

Not really sure of what else to do, Lucia and Joey continued to stare at the shifting colors on the laptop screen. Behind them, the banging on the door continued steadily until, finally, it gave way and the room became flooded with light.

* * *

The sun had been shining down all day, lighting up every part of the city with its light. Not a single cloud stood between the sun’s rays and the interior of the fancy car Lucia and Joey were in, which was headed for the Greenmire Estates. No one over there was actually aware of it yet, but the two of them had a date, one they were sure nobody would dare to try and sour.

And how could they, when they were two such fine-looking folks? Joey was very well made up and clad in such sharp-looking clothing that nobody who didn’t know better would have guessed at his humble origins – although he himself was pretty sure that rather than him, all eyes would be on Lucia, as was usually the case.

Nobody really knew anything about her, but you could bet they all wanted to; looking not a day over 20, the olive-skinned, raven-haired bombshell drew all manner of awed and indecent stares wherever she went. It was hard to argue that this wasn’t what she wanted, as the glamorous backless minidress she seemed to wear to every social gathering she’d ever been spotted in seemed perfectly tailored to show off her frame and figure. A delicate balance of tantalizingly tight fabric and exposed skin helped accentuate her perfect complexion, hypnotic curves, and subtle yet impressive musculature, which all came together in a symphony of allure that never failed to bring her the attention of whoever she wanted, whenever she wanted it.

It was only Joey, who had been working together with her for some time, that knew the depth of her cunning, and the shady enterprises she often used it for.

And yet, even though Joey had already seen Lucia’s eager, cavorting frame crowned by a smile meant for breaking anyone’s heart many a time before as they approached their destination, something seemed a little off. Maybe it was to do with the place, Joey thought; they’d never been to this area before, after all. The more closely he looked at the otherwise unremarkable brick and mortar buildings around him, the more he was filled with an odd sense of déjà-rêvé – a faint memory of having already seen the place from that angle, even though he was positive he had never been there before. And whereas he was usually able to dismiss sensations like that after a couple of moments, this particular one stuck to him in a way he couldn’t ignore.

“Something the matter, J?” Lucia’s faux-valley girl accent coupled with the ring of her voice, which was just as much of an ambrosia for the senses as the rest of her, brought Joey out of his reverie momentarily.

“Huh? No, nothing, it’s just… Why’d we pick this place again?”

“Hm? It ain’t like you to space out like that, Joey,” Lucia retorted. “One of the well-to-do tenants up on one of the penthouses is throwing a party, and we figured no one’d be opposed to having us on the guest list. Not the hardest premise to remember, now is that?”

“No, but… have we ever been here before? I’m getting this weird feeling…”

“These parts are awful drab, so if we have, it couldn’t have been a time I care to remember.”

Lucia strode over to the lobby of their chosen building, her every step making her hips sway with a carefully calculated erotic motion. Joey found himself entranced by the spectacle easily enough, but as they went inside the building, he found himself distracted once more by his intrusive half-memories. The lobby had the appearance of an ordinary waiting area, but there was one part of it – a door which seemed to lead into a janitorial closet – that caught Joey’s attention with inordinate tenacity.

“Race ya up to the top?” Lucia suddenly cried. Joey turned to her, noticing that she had just called the elevator, but was heading for the stairs.

“Sure, you’re on,” Joey conceded, though he had a feeling he already knew how that would end.

“Just be glad I don’t feel like making any easy money off of bets today,” Lucia smirked.

Joey got in the elevator and pushed the button for the penthouse, fifteen floors up. As the doors closed, he could see Lucia start to bound up the nearby staircase. The narrow metal box ascended upward at a steady pace, certainly faster than Joey himself knew he could manage, but he also knew that when Lucia was involved, ordinary standards just weren’t enough. And surely as could be, once the elevator reached its destination and the doors opened, Joey was greeted by the sight of Lucia, wearing a smug smirk, casually leaning against the wall with one arm. Though he was no stranger to that sequence of events, Joey couldn’t help but to be surprised not only at his partner in crime’s athletic prowess, but how she managed to do it while wearing fancy heels and without even breaking a sweat. It didn’t even seem like something any ordinary human could do without a lifetime of rigorous workouts and physical training – something he had never known Lucia to have done in all the time he’d known her.

“That was fun,” Lucia remarked dryly. “But enough of that, J, it’s time to go to work.”

Not very far from the elevator was the entrance to the penthouse, a fairly spacious and well-decorated area filled with smartly-dressed young folk. They looked like they all came from families that had more money than they knew what to do with. The perfect victims, the duo that had just walked into the room thought knowingly to themselves.

Their M.O. was simple. The two used their charm to put those around them at ease and made them feel fortunate to be in their company, certainly enough to dispel any suspicions that they were the ones responsible for lifting a number of small valuables with swift sleight of hand. Joey took care of the lifting most of the time, as his more modest attire was better equipped to conceal the goods they made off with (though Lucia’s own ‘assets’ could conceal a fair bit of small hardware in a pinch). As such, Joey began to look around and case the place as subtly as he could, which eventually led him to what looked to be the owner’s bedroom. It was a bit more sparsely furnished, with a queen-size bed, a few shelves decked out with luxury editions of books that looked as if they’d never been opened, and a small mahogany desk equipped with a desktop computer.

The moment his eyes came to rest on that last object, Joey’s mind was suddenly flooded with the same brand of intrusive images that had assaulted him earlier. The arrival at the complex, the broom closet – for some reason, these things were linked to each other and the sight of the computer, and when they all came together in his mind, Joey was surprised to find himself thinking about other mysterious elements as well. A flash of light, a host of stolen information… and somehow, Joey suddenly knew, it all had to do with Lucia.

It made no sense in light of what their actual reason for being there was, and yet Joey couldn’t ignore the bizarre epiphany he had just experienced. He quickly went off to look for Lucia and asked her over to a quiet corner.

“You’re sure we’ve never been here before?” Joey asked again, hesitant to begin explaining something so strange to her outright.

“That’s one time too many you’ve asked me that today, Joe. What’s the deal?”

“There’s just something really weird about this place, and… and it’s like it has to do with you as well, y’know?”

“What the blazes are you talking about?”

“You did work with computers once, right?”

“Well, yeah, it’s what I studied, but...” Lucia paused as if she too was starting to experience memories she couldn’t quite explain. “That didn’t go on for too long since this paid better… right?”

“You’re realizing it too, then?” Joey realized he might just be on to something after all. “The weird thoughts? Something that doesn’t quite make sense?”

“Don’t quite…” Lucia had dropped her fake voice and was starting to talk in a drier, less thickly accented tone. “Joe, did you always talk like that?”

That remark seemed odd to Joey, but he did realize he had momentarily lapsed into an odd inflection that seemed almost stereotypically gangsteresque. However, even as he realized this, yet another thought that clashed with what he knew came to his attention.

“I dunno if I did, but were you always this… y’know… stupid hot?”

That question had Lucia ready to go off on how stupid Joey was for a moment, but she caught herself as she realized there was something oddly pertinent about that query after all. She knew she was hot, but she couldn’t remember if it had been like that all her life, or… or if there was a time in which she was frumpier, and… older. How was it possible she remembered being older?

That was the moment another flood of inexplicable memories came into her mind. She’d been with Joey, who really was some kind of mafioso, and she was being chased down by the authorities. Lucia’s gaze darted around nervously, but nothing in the lavish penthouse looked as though those memories, clear as they were to her, made any kind of sense. She turned to Joey, the one who had instigated that sudden change of perception in her.

“Hey, why did you come and talk to me about all this just now, anyway? Did you see something?”

“Well…” Joey thought back to the outside and entrance of the building, but he realized that what had really triggered that remembrance had been the sight of something else. “I looked in the bedroom, and saw a computer, then I got these weird flashes in my mind. Think that’s got something to do with all this?”

Lucia thought hard, suddenly able to dig around her newfound memories with surprising clarity. She recalled a laptop and that which it had held… the Frankenstein Algorithm. Something she’d stolen without needing to, something that had set her on that strange path somehow. She remembered how she’d stolen it too, and all of a sudden she knew that if she was going to figure out what was going on, she’d have to do it again.

“Show me where this computer is,” she spat out at Joey.

“Right over here.”

The two of them went over to the bedroom. However, as they were rounding the corner in the hallway that led there, someone suddenly called out to them. It was a young man in rumpled fancy clothes.

“Hey, can you two kindly not go back there? Party’s out here.” The man spoke with a slightly nervous jovial tone. Lucia figured he was the owner.

“Aww, but…” Lucia said, instantly adopting all of her seductive mannerisms again, “I really… really… wanted to see what it was like in there. Couldn’t you show me?”

The man came under her spell immediately, all but forgetting that Joey was standing right next to them. Lucia caressed his chest and arms outwardly before seizing his hand and beckoning him to follow her into the bedroom. Leading him towards the bed, she pushed his body down onto it while planting a kiss on his lips. As he reveled in the delirium of having tasted her beauty, Lucia swiftly produced a small, damp handkerchief from a side pocket on her dress and smothered him with it. In moments, he slumped down on the bed, unconscious. The whole thing had happened so quickly that the door had remained open, but with the deed done, Joey quickly went into the room and closed the door behind him.

“Easy enough,” Lucia remarked.

“Now what?” Joey asked.

“Now you make sure that door stays closed. I gotta go to work, then we’ll find out what’s really going on.”

That said, Lucia sat down at the computer desk and began to fiddle around, her deft fingers not skipping a beat. Even if she remembered spending years perfecting the art of being a femme fatale, she also had memories of a time spent as an expert hacker, a skill she was glad to discover had not left her in the slightest. She remembered breaking into a specific database and stealing a specific asset, a path whose steps she was able to retrace without much trouble. She gave it her entire focus this time and succeeded in not getting caught. Just a few minutes after knocking out the penthouse owner, Lucia had once more procured the mysterious Frankenstein Algorithm that seemed somehow responsible for the bizarre conflict of perception she and Joey now found themselves in.

“This is it,” she remarked once the code was in front of her once more, displayed on the computer monitor.

“What is it?” Joey asked, curious to see what she’d discovered.

“I don’t really know,” Lucia admitted. “But apparently, it’s what’s caused these weird memories of ours to manifest. And that’s not all. I remembered something else to do with this thing… A memory of being chased down by the fuzz, or someone, but they had us cornered…”

“Us, getting caught?” Joey was puzzled. He didn’t remember that ever happening – at least not in this ‘life’, or whatever it was.

“Yeah…” Lucia didn’t remember it with the clarity of really having lived through it, but she was sure it had happened regardless. As she focused on that memory, her thoughts became filled with resentment towards her pursuers. “Those pigs… if only I could get them to bugger off even then, to shrug off their stupid demands…”

And as she thought of this, she idly let loose with a few more keystrokes and executed the mysterious program. The monitor suddenly lit up with a bizarre and seemingly meaningless succession of colors, yet it managed to seize both Lucia and Joey’s full attention. The two continued to stare into the surreal spectacle as their consciousness imperceptibly began to grow more and more blurry…

* * *

Beneath the early evening sky, Joey came to suddenly. Had he nodded off in the driver’s seat? At least the car was parked, he thought as he looked around. And yet, even though what he saw quickly assured him that he was supposed to be inside that car, he couldn’t quite bring himself to remember why he was there at that precise moment, or if there was anything he was supposed to be doing.

A cursory glance outside the vehicle revealed his location; he was parked at a rather busy street downtown, with quite a few people crowding the pavements, immutably going about their business. Joey spied a few familiar sights surrounding him; a distant stairway leading to the subway underground, a host of unremarkable glass and concrete office buildings.

And yet, the structure directly in front of where he was parked was what finally made his memory begin to stir. It was an older building with a greyish-white façade and a remarkably gaudy neoclassical architectural features, with marble columns and a pediment and everything. At once, he knew it was a bank, and he knew something important was happening there. It was the reason he had come there. But what was it exactly?

What happened next confirmed his suspicions pretty much immediately, even if it didn’t surrender nearly as much information about the situation as he’d hoped. With a loud, resounding BOOM!, one of the bank’s walls suddenly exploded outward into a mess of dust and debris. The ground beneath the street shook with a strength that even Joey could easily feel, no doubt from the massive impact that had caused the wall to collapse – and yet, there was something about both the force of that impact and the oddly subdued quality of the sound it had made that led him to believe that whatever had been responsible couldn’t have been a bomb. At least, not a conventional one.

The answer to his silent question soon came striding out of the debris. Though he instantly realized he should have known without a doubt who had been behind it all, Joey was still floored by the sight of her. Any man (and an awful lot of women) would have given anything to be by her side for any amount of time, but he was the one who had somehow landed the opportunity of being her accomplice. For anybody who knew of her also knew that the sight of the incredible muscles covering her statuesque frame and the stunning amazonian beauty that adorned her very being on top of that was not nearly enough to indicate what she was truly capable of.

Then again, any witnesses to what she had just done – punching her way through a solid marble wall without a single scratch or bruise to show for it – would perhaps be a little more eager to believe what Joey already knew to be true. Of course, that was before taking into account the reinforced steel lining of the vault that lay directly behind said wall, another element that had failed to prove an obstacle to even a single blow from her absurdly powerful muscles.

But Joey already knew this only too well, as did Lucia. On top of her god-like strength and resilience, she commanded a fearsome intellect that had masterminded all manner of astounding crimes, but she had decided to conduct this simple heist as a show of her might and superiority, to demonstrate how far beneath her the lowly mortals who lived in the city were. Who else in the entire world could ever stride into one of the largest banks completely unarmed and simply walk up to the vault, paying no mind not only to the throngs of people who would try and stop them, but also the numerous metal and stone structures littering the building’s interior – which bent, snapped and shattered upon meeting her flesh as if they were made of cardboard?

Out on the street, Lucia now stood with a cruel smile on her face and caught sight of several panicked bystanders doing their best to flee the scene, noticing how the fear on some of their faces had redoubled once they’d caught sight of her. The knowledge and the display of the power she held over each and every one of them brought her great pleasure. She loosed a wry chuckle as she casually slung the prize she had snatched from the vault interior – a massive canvas sack filled to the brim with an impressive volume of cash and gold – over her shoulder like it was nothing, even though by Joey’s estimate, the haul must have weighed well over a ton.

Just as Lucia was about to bring an end to her revelry and make her way over to Joey’s ‘getaway car’, a small group of individuals suddenly scurried out from the bank’s front entrance. Lucia turned to look at them with a look of bored disdain but soon came to smirk once more as she realized who they were. It was a number of security guards, who had probably been rallied to try and deter her by the bank authorities. Sure enough, they soon began to shout half-hearted warnings in shaky voices and drew out guns to point at her.

One of them, the youngest-looking of the lot, found himself succumbing to his nerves and fired off a shot at Lucia without fully meaning to. A brief silence ensued but didn’t last long, as everyone present already knew that it would make no difference. The other guards didn’t even add to the gunfire, as they needed only a moment to confirm what they already feared to be true: The initial shot had hit Lucia square in the chest, leaving her none the worse for it save for a tiny singed hole in her dress. The bullet itself now lay on the ground as a harmless, squashed lump of metal

Lucia cocked her head, challenging her hopeless adversaries to show her what exactly they planned to do now. The guards could come up with nothing to do but hesitate for several more moments, but before long, one of them noticed the car parked by the side of the road – the one Joey was inside of. The guard in question couldn’t say exactly what it was, but there was something about the car that told him it was there for Lucia. Maybe he had spotted it at a previous crime scene, or maybe seen it in a news article or a report about the invincible titaness – but what drew his attention next was the presence of somebody inside as Joey stirred slightly. The guard raised his gun and pointed it at the car.

Joey didn’t even get a clear look of what happened next, but a couple of moments later, none of the guards were still standing where they had been just a few seconds prior. Lucia had caught sight of the observant guard’s movement and quickly used her free hand to grab hold of one of the massive slabs of debris that had resulted from her grand exit and threw it at the offending guard with gargantuan force. Before the others could react, she gave them the same treatment. This done, she scoffed and strode over to the car, where she promptly opened the passenger door and got inside.

“Amateurs,” she murmured. Even when disdainful, her tone was always surprisingly seductive, bringing Joey to full attention.

“Everything goes fine, there, ah boss?” Joey uttered. “You okay?”

“Babe, you already know the answer to that,” Lucia countered with a muted smirk. “If anything, you should be wondering if you’d have been fine if I hadn’t been right there to kick ass as usual.”

“Oh yeah. Guess I, uh, didn’t notice.”

“Let’s just get out of here before more flatfoots with bright ideas show up.”

Joey started the car at once, expertly speeding away from the scene. He was reasonably certain that some police elements had identified his car, but he didn’t expect anyone who actually bothered to give chase to present much of a problem, in no small part out of their fear of the invincible herculean beauty sitting beside him.

Lucia herself didn’t even pay the rough driving any mind as she dug into the bag containing her haul. Joey knew she’d had the value of the spoils calculated in just a couple minutes. Nobody, not even him, knew the whole story behind the amazonian mistress of crime, or how it was possible that she had one day emerged onto the scene endowed with the strength of a demigoddess and the ability to shrug off seemingly anything short of a nuke.

A lot of theories had come forward, though, sure enough. As Joey knew only too well, her incredible intellect and blurry background in the hard sciences was no secret, and it played no small part in the elegance with which she formulated and executed her criminal schemes. Some believed she had been in some kind of freak lab accident that had given her those incredible powers, not unlike a comic book character. Some believed the devious villainess had somehow used her own cunning to deliberately develop a method of super-empowerment the particulars of which had somehow simultaneously eluded the world’s best minds. Others yet suspected that she had somehow been contacted by some kind of supernatural presence or phenomenon, be it some manner of magic left over from antiquity or a host of alien beings from beyond the stars.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but the one thing most theories as to her emergence seemed to agree on was that she had, at one point, been an ordinary mortal just like everybody else. Considering the fact that her incredible criminal activities had not become prominent until recently, that certainly made more sense to Joey than the notion that she had somehow possessed her incredible powers all her life and kept them hidden. But as all of these theories came into his thoughts, something else began to resonate within his mind. The part about Lucia having once been a normal human.

He knew for a fact that if that was the truth, he had never met her beforehand – certainly not on any occasion he remembered with any sort of clarity – and yet, the idea conjured up oddly specific memories within him. Memories that were varied and contradictory. He had a faint remembrance of an extremely ordinary woman coming up on her middle age, yet he also thought of a much younger, sexier woman that somehow occupied the same identity in his memories. How was such a thing even possible? Joey couldn’t explain it to himself and became even more puzzled on the matter as he stole a glance of the Lucia Adler he knew personally, the one who sported not only incredible beauty but also enticingly subtle muscles that belied titanic superhuman strength. How could all these strange, contradictory images ever be reconciled?

“What are you thinking about?”

Lucia’s voice was more than a little surprising to Joey. She hadn’t even cast a glance in his direction after the car had started moving, and yet she could tell there was something unusual on his mind. The extent of her intellect that way was just as impressive as the rest of her abilities.

“N-nothing,” he muttered. “Just thinking.”

“We’ve established that. Your specific thoughts are what I asked you about.”

“Iunno,” Joey said. “Some weird stuff. Like, some of the stuff they say about you on the street.”

“What stuff would that be?”

“Well, how you got so strong. If… if you weren’t always so strong, that is.”

“Yes, well, people love to talk, don’t they. But you must have heard about that kind of stuff a thousand times. How come it’s got you so shaken up just now?”

Joey became not only increasingly nervous but increasingly unable to hide it. He knew he’d gotten more than a fair bit of condescending talks like that from Lucia in the past ever since he’d agreed to become her loyal minion – but just then, he remembered hearing that kind of talk not only from her but from the inexplicable other versions of her that he somehow remembered. The one he recalled with more clarity was the younger, sexy one, almost as if he had met that one more recently, even though he knew for a fact he had never met either one at all. And as more of these inexplicable memories began to creep into his mind, he was struck by a notion he found surprisingly disturbing – the idea that all of these Lucias could somehow be one and the same.

“Say, boss?”

“What is it?”

“If you don’t mind me asking terribly much… were you always this strong? Or did you change somehow?”

“Afraid that’s a secret, little Joseph. But again, why on Earth are you asking about all this now?”

“Well, do you think… do you think it’d be possible for somebody normal to change so much they’d end up like you? From a normal, scrawny human to… well, you?”

“A lot more is possible than what most people ever care to envision. But I think we both know that my place on this wretched planet is far above all those cattle prowling the street. Or are you saying you’d rather have rumors of me being, or ever having been an ordinary mortal like the rest of them?”

“Well no, of course not, but I…”

“You what?”

“Did we ever meet in a time before you were the way you are now?”

The question seemed as impertinent to Lucia as the rest of Joey’s babbling, and yet it proved to be the necessary catalyst to make something stir in her own mind. There was a lot about her old life she refused to ever let on to anyone, but Joeys’ comment got her thinking about her own memories. She was sure she had never met the goon before she procured his services as her minion, and yet there was something in the back of her mind telling her that she may have known him, even worked with him, in a time before her ascension into the body of a superwoman. And what was that he had said about people changing? She had her own secret about how she herself had accomplished that feat, but it seemed that he was alluding to something more distant, more extreme. Something that wasn’t quite within her reach, an ignorance she did not care for. But as she thought about it more and more, the notion seemed to grow progressively less hazy, until it seemed there was something, an epiphanic explanation, right on the tip of her tongue.

“An algorithm…”


“An algorithm. Do you remember it? A memory from another time, something about an algorithm.”

Joey did not remember it clearly, but there was certainly something to her words. He knew now with absolute confidence that he remembered her talking about it, but not ‘this’ her; the other her, the one that wasn’t immune to bullets.

“I remember you… well, not ‘you’ you, another you, it’s hard to explain—”

“Just get to the point.”

“I remember you poking around on a computer, I think. Searching for something strange.”

The sound of those words muddled Lucia’s mind even more with memories she couldn’t immediately explain. However, some things were becoming clear within her mind: The existence of another version of her, or perhaps multiple versions, ones whose memories now somehow inhabited her present superhuman self even though their memories possessed no knowledge of the specialized methods this version of her had used to transcend her ordinary human weakness. She suspected those past selves, ordinary, weaker human selves, had somehow wormed their way into her current super-body.

But where had they come from?

And more importantly, if they had been drawn to her in a bid to make themselves stronger, did that mean she could do the same?

“What computer?” She resolved to press Joey for everything he was worth. “What was I searching for?”

“I dunno! Something military, I think.”

Lucia scoffed. It was hardly the specifics she needed, but it was enough to set her on the right trail.

By then, the car had made its way well towards the edge of the city limits. Joey was heading for one of Lucia’s many provisional safehouses, a hideout disguised by the façade of a farmhouse past an inconspicuous dirt path not very far down the highway, but his navigation was suddenly interrupted by Lucia’s voice.

“Go east,” she commanded.

“Ah… how far east?” The order had caught Joey off guard, but he knew better than to question her.

“Just a few miles past the exit. The place shouldn’t be that far.”

Joey complied with Lucia’s command, and about twenty minutes later, the two found themselves nearing an unused but clearly marked exit. Lucia told Joey to make the turn, which he did, but only because he had no choice. He had seen the words written on the sign, and couldn’t help but audibly gulp as he neared what he now knew to be their destination. On the other hand, Lucia adopted an evil smile, as she knew she was more than capable enough of doing what she had just set out to, and if her suspicions were correct, the payoff from this enterprise would be something prodigious indeed.

Just a few minutes later, Joey quietly parked by the side of the road overlooking the Morris Woodwright military base. The driver hesitated, fearful of his boss’s intentions, whereas Lucia wasted no time getting out of the car and standing before the gate, her expression immutable, her fists planted firmly on her hips, her long raven mane tussled about by the wind, making her look like a defiant heroine from ancient mythology. She only held this pose for a few moments, then immediately strode forward intent on getting what she came for as quickly as possible.

The iron bars covering the length of the entry gate promptly creaked and groaned as Lucia’s incredible strength bent and snapped them out of her way, creating a terrible racket. In seconds, the yard Lucia proceeded to walk into was filled with a slew of army recruits and personnel, some of which immediately rushed her in an attempt to apprehend her. They very quickly learned that their pitiful attempts to tackle her to the ground or beat her down were useless. One of them clung to her arm as he attempted to punch her in the gut, but accomplished nothing but to give himself sore knuckles. Lucia casually raised her arm and made a quick swatting motion, lifting the soldier up and tossing him a couple of dozen feet away.

That was when the gunfire started. For a minute or so, a number of soldiers fired upon the intruder with a variety of small arms. Lucia merely stood facing them, arms crossed. The bullets had no effect on her, as she knew they would. The fire gradually died down as the soldiers realized their attacks were having no effect on their target save for making her clothing progressively more tattered. A silence soon descended upon the scene and Lucia began to smirk, positive that merely by making her presence known she had asserted her absolute dominance over these ordinary beings.

However, what happened next surprised even her. A new racket surfaced as a large piece of machinery suddenly began moving beside Lucia. It looked to be some kind of crane for moving heavy cargo around, and it sported a winch with a massive steel container attached to it. Before anyone, even Lucia, could react, whoever was operating the crane suddenly moved the massive load over the beautiful titaness and released it, dropping a few dozen tons of equipment right on top of her.

The impact and commotion of the machinery’s movements caused a big cloud of dust to kick up from the ground, but those watching could make out that the container was apparently motionless. The soldiers loosed a few gasps of excitement and even a few laughs and yelps of celebration, but as the dust cleared, all grew quiet again and the soldier’s faces changed into terrified grimaces. The reason the container had remained motionless was because it had landed square on Lucia’s outstretched hand, and now she held it aloft with a single arm – an arm that was nowhere near close to tired, as evidenced by how perfectly still its burden was. The invincible woman proved that she still had strength enough to spare as she momentarily flexed her arm, then flicked the massive container upward, sending it on a short-lived arc that ended with it landing on the crane, crippling the heavy piece of machinery and swiftly killing its operator.

Once Lucia casually dusted off her hands and crossed her arms as she turned to look at the rest of the soldiers, they began to scatter in fear of their lives. No doubt some of them would try to regroup and call for reinforcements, Lucia thought, but that hardly mattered. She’d be able to get what she had come for in a matter of minutes, but as the first step to ensure that she suddenly grabbed hold of one of the men attempting to run past her and held him up by the neck.

“Where’s your computer room?” She asked dryly.

“I’ll never—”

Lucia tightened her grip slightly. Any more pressure and the man’s neck would snap like a twig.

“I’ll give you one more opportunity. Now, where is it?”

The man, who by now was suffocating in excruciating pain, feebly raised his arm to point at one of the buildings to the right of the entrance. Once Lucia laid her eyes on the place, she discarded him like a piece of trash.

“Joe! Get over here. We’ve got work to do.”

Joey, who’d been spying on the goings-on from a safe distance, quickly scrambled over to Lucia and followed her as she strode towards the indicated building. A few doors torn off their hinges later, the two found themselves in a small room lined with metal boxes which sported a number of intermittently flashing LEDs and were accompanied by the murmur of more than a few cooling fans. Within moments, Lucia spotted a nearby input terminal and sat down to work. Her fingers tapped away at the keyboard with a deftness and delicacy that surprised Joey, who’d just witnessed the incredible feat of strength she had demonstrated outside firsthand. However, after only a few more minutes of looking through a variety of lists and files that Joey couldn’t make sense out of, Lucia finally stumbled across what she was sure she’d been looking for.

“Frankenstein Algorithm,” she read out loud. “So this is it?”

“What is it?” Joey uttered, although the words had already caused a new series of inexplicable thoughts to arise in his mind.

“Heck if I know. It was stored in a local database. It was the only thing in there that looked even remotely familiar, so I let myself in.”

The two remained silent for a little while, unwilling to share the strange thoughts and memories that the sight of the inscrutable file had begun to stir in them. For his part, Joey grew more and more nervous, for though he could not explain it, he was almost certain of the notion that whatever that thing was, it had somehow been responsible for his memories of Lucia going from an ordinary woman to a veritable force of nature who could terrorize an entire city without breaking a sweat. And whatever it was, it had fallen into her hands once more, and he feared she would use it to somehow make herself even more powerful. But what could be more powerful than a human steamroller who could shrug off bullets? Part of him was curious, but a greater part was both terrified and frustrated, for he realized that even if he knew how it worked, there was no hope of stopping her from using it now.

On the other hand, Lucia was having similar thoughts, and grew far more excited than she could ever remember at the prospect of infusing herself with even greater god-like power, but she was silently frustrated at the knowledge that even if this thing could do that for her, she could not explain it. She, who had used her own colossal intellect to conquer the limits of humanity and raise herself above all others, was hopeless to explain this strange phenomenon that could seemingly do all that and more in a far less complicated way. She wouldn’t allow that to stop her from using it to her advantage, of course, but the silent rage it inspired within her was something she could not ignore. If only I could understand this, she thought. If only I somehow had the power to make sense of this, and to do it all of my own power, just as I have accomplished everything that has brought me to where I now stand.

But she was unwilling to be kept from her prize for a moment longer, and for the next several seconds, the room was flooded in a strange multi-colored flashing light from the monitors.

* * *

Joey looked around. The place was dimly lit and the decoration cliché, almost too perfectly so. Someone who didn’t know better would probably have said it looked like Dracula’s dining room. Perhaps that was just her style – some of the stuff in the room had been custom-molded by her, after all, to suit her tastes for exactly how she wanted the place to look.

But now they were all here. It hadn’t been long at all since she had decided to emerge and begin her takeover of the city, an enterprise that had taken her the lesser part of a handful of days. Other than Joey, the ones sitting before her now were those who had once dared to think of themselves as authorities in the months or years before she decided to make her presence known. The mayor, the police chief, the fire chief, the district attorney, and various directors of public elements. And sitting right alongside them was a different group, that made up by those who held positions of power that the officials were not too eager to acknowledge. Those who moved about in the city’s underbelly, dealing with its less fortunate parties in a more direct fashion.

But the reason they had all been brought together like that was that those kinds of distinctions had been rendered meaningless by her arrival. Lucia had basically summoned them there as a formality, to accept their unconditional surrender straight from their own mouths.

The officials in attendance certainly had no intention of challenging that notion, as they had seen and dealt with the consequences of what she was capable of firsthand. That was a day nobody currently living in the city would ever forget. For a while, as news of the disturbances spread, the media and various experts were quick to suspect some kind of freak natural disaster was behind it all. However, it was far more brutally destructive than any natural disaster that had ever been recorded – at least, depending on how historical you considered the Old Testament to be. For that decisive half-hour or so, people around the area and the world scrambled to try and figure out what kind of earthquake could shift land and structures like that, or what manner of inland hurricane could generate such cataclysmic atmospheric forces, until the appearance of the massive throne formed out of metals that had been yanked out of the nearby buildings and reshaped into a lavish chair made it clear that whatever was happening was not natural. And sure enough, when they took a closer look, she was sitting right there, lording over the city she had just decided was now hers.

But she knew that there were others now sitting before her who were of a different ilk. They had survived and earned their place on the street by being the strongest, the most cunning, by crushing all who stood in their way. They had never concerned themselves with the banalities of bureaucracy or by trying to achieve a pleasant image; they thrived on being feared, not loved. Ordinarily, they would go to any lengths to defy anyone who would try and undermine their authority, but Lucia could sense that the best of them had already realized how ridiculous it would be to oppose her.

But as always, there was an exception to the rule, and in the case of this gathering of pencil-pushers and malefactors, that distinction belonged to ‘Cane Lento’ Casale, a two-bit crime boss from the seedier parts of the city. Even as their ranks had begun to fill the room, Lucia could already sense a reckless air of defiance about him, and just now, moments after she had finished making her ultimatum to them, she was only too sure she was about to witness the perfect opportunity to demonstrate exactly what a ridiculous folly it would be to take on such an attitude.

“The hell do you mean, kneel?” Casale yelled out indignantly.

“Exactly what I said,” Lucia said, her tone an eerie calm that denoted absolute confidence. “Everyone present was brought here because they were once thought of as leaders, but now that I have risen, that time is finished. You have already seen what I am capable of. I can bend cities, move mountains, tear entire lands from their foundations. Compared to your lot and everyone else you know, I am, for all intents and purposes, a goddess. But that’s not the limit of my abilities; I assure you, I possess and command the mightiest and most exceptional mind of any creature that has ever lived or will ever live upon this world. Any need your kind might have had for any power structures you might have known prior to my apotheosis has now been rendered moot. Starting with this city, I have decided to personally assume control of the whole of civilization – a power shift that will most assuredly benefit everyone involved. Except, of course, for those who would dare to defy me.”

Though her voice was barely above a whisper, it was powerful enough to clear to reach everyone’s ears with outstanding clarity. Lucia had spoken her ultimatum in a slow, deliberate manner that left everyone there feeling even more intimidated. They already knew the truth of her words, and now there was no doubt left in any of their minds that she was dead serious. The only one who remained an exception was Casale, who clung on to his defiant bravado and resolved to come out with another outburst to punctuate his displeasure.

“I will NEV—”

He didn’t get to finish the word, as he suddenly felt a strange, tremendous invisible pressure seize his entire body a mere moment before he was suddenly lifted up in the air, held aloft for all sitting at the table to see. As the visitors watched in horror, Casale’s body contorted in hideous agony for several seconds before being joined by a different figure that contrasted with it greatly. Lucia herself had risen from her grand chair at the end of the table and was now levitating with divine elegance next to the wretch who had dared to even consider snapping at her.

“I find your lack of faith in me… idiotic.”

Smirking at her own remark, Lucia quickly took on a bored visage and looked away as she made a slight wave of dismissal with her hand, which was followed by Casale being launched in the opposite direction by the same invisible power that had seized him. The movement carried him with such force that when he hit the wall, his body exploded into a mess of gory mist and spilt entrails.

A collective gasp of shock and disgust went across the table as those present witnessed the grotesque demonstration of Lucia’s power. And it was at that moment that Lucia herself felt surprised for the first time in ages as she sensed a particularly distinct sense of distress coming from Joey, the only mortal minion for whom she felt even the slightest sense of regard. At once she knew there was something off there, something she had to address at once.

“As for the rest of you,” she began speaking without skipping a beat, “I shall have you attend a public ceremony wherein you shall formally relinquish your authority to me. A purely symbolic gesture, of course, but it should help ease others into the idea that resisting my dominion is absurd, however slightly. But at present, I have some other business to attend to. Leave this place, I shall summon you when all is ready.”

Lucia’s guests quietly got up and shuffled out the door awkwardly, afraid that even turning their backs to her could be construed as a sign of disrespect. Soon enough, however, Lucia was left alone with her minion, whom she immediately turned to.

“Something the matter, Joey?” She asked. “I thought you’d always been my staunchest follower. Aren’t you glad to see me finally taking steps to ascend to the throne of Empress of the World, the kind of office I have always been entitled to?”

“Of course I am, Your Ladyship.”

“And yet there is something on your mind, dear, isn’t there?”

“It’s… it must just be the excitement of the occasion, Your Ladyship.”

But Joey knew there was no point in lying to her. It was, after all, mostly through the uncanny mental powers Lucia possessed that she was able to manipulate the world around her in such incredible ways. Those same powers allowed her to peer into people’s minds and manipulate them to her whim. And yet, the turmoil that had arisen within Joey’s mind upon seeing the brutal murder of Lucia’s dissident made him feel that it might be something even she could not explain.

“Strange memories… huh?” Lucia uttered.

Joey gulped. The jig was up.

“You’re right, my dear, this is certainly something unusual… but nothing I can’t unravel, I’m sure. There’s something in there about some of those people and… myself, also, in a different world? Like a different life… but how could that be, hmm? And, in one of these worlds, I had just found something, something that scared you terribly…”

That was the only part that Joey had managed to focus on with any kind of clarity.

“What a concept. Something I’d found in a dusty old computer that could make me as powerful as this? But I can see that you have no memories or knowledge of how that really happened, but… it seems you also remember a version of me that was pretty powerful even before I became this way. Now how could that be, when that’s something even I don’t remember? You’ll have to excuse me, but this is by far the most intriguing read I’ve done in a really long time. I’ll have to probe a little deeper.”

Joey suddenly felt something like an ethereal pressure take hold of his head, like a vise being tightened on his brain, but only slightly. He could tell that while his mistress was taking care not to truly hurt him, she still regarded him as no more than a tool to be used for her benefit.

“I see it more clearly now… an old world – no, more than that. The farther I go, I see memories of other women who bear my name but are so weak and ordinary. What then is the connection? Ah! There is something there… something that spelled the end of each their stories. Something called the… ‘Frankenstein Algorithm’?”

Joey suddenly felt the pressure on his head let up as Lucia released her grip on his consciousness, and he fell over forward gasping for breath. Lucia herself turned what she had just learned over and over in her brain; even her prodigious mind was hopeless to comprehend something it couldn’t explain, as it was waiting for that particular knowledge.

But then, gathering knowledge was hardly an issue for a woman of her abilities. She quickly figured that if something like that existed, it had to be because somebody had made it so. And that meant that an explanation, an answer to the riddle before her, had to be present somewhere. Lucia got to work at once, as she levitated up high towards the vaulted ceiling and focused her mind. Her eyes rolled back into her head, taking on a look of pure alabaster as she began to extend her influence far across the lands that surrounded her. In a tremendous wave of psionic force, she touched the minds of every sentient being who’d ever shared the same air she breathed. Her power reached far, covering towns, cities, eventually enveloping the entire continent, scanning the thoughts of everyone living, and even some stray wisps left over by the recently deceased.

Ere long, she found her prize. She immediately focused the brunt of her force on greedily draining the information and adding it to her own vast knowledge, then just as quickly broke off her mental surveillance so as to focus the whole of her energy on rifling through it. The things she learned during the few moments it took to do so filled her with a diabolical glee, which she expressed first by chortling, then by breaking into a fit of maniacal yet melodious laughter. It was a sight that filled Joey with equal parts dread and wonderment.

“So that’s it, then,” she finally said, though it was more like thinking out loud, once she had settled down. “A clever enough ploy, to be sure. But such a short-sighted implementation. To think, it only took such an insignificant irregularity to overcome it…”

Lucia suddenly turned to Joey, who had been reduced to staring while shrinking back in fear. The triumphant living deity put on a pleasing smile and began to approach him, using a minuscule amount of telekinetic power to make him chin up and face her more directly. She put more tact and, dare she say, love into that gesture than she ever had before while using her powers on another being.

“Joey, dearest,” she began. “Have I ever told you just how much I appreciate you? It’s got nothing to do with your devotion to me, of course, that’s just something every pathetic human ought to have if they know what’s good for them. No, I’d just like you to know how thankful I am for… everything.”

With a slow, deliberate motion that nevertheless proved extremely surprising for Joey, Lucia leaned forward and planted a deep, passionate kiss on his lips. Even if she weren’t a force of nature personified, Lucia possessed an unearthly beauty that was only punctuated by her prominent yet elegant feminine muscles, a visage that anyone capable of feeling sexual desire would kill to be with. But the combination of her sensual majesty and the incredible superhuman powers he had seen her exercise with such ruthless mastery was too much for him, and Joey lost consciousness at once, knocked out by the sheer bliss of experiencing the affection of such a creature.

Lucia watched her faithful servant fall into a peaceful slumber as she continued to smile, still very much pleased by the implications of the knowledge she had just acquired.

“That’s right, Joey. I’m extremely thankful for everything. For you may not realize it, but thanks to you, the dominion of everything is now within my grasp. And now that I am about to claim supremacy over everything… I’ll just go ahead and make sure you come with me.”

Lucia rose back into the air and once more focused her powers, though now they were directed exclusively toward herself and her sleeping servant. In his unconsciousness, Joey was suddenly invaded by an oddly familiar sensation, as if of a sequence of strange colors flashing before his eyes, but there was something different about it this time, a subtle variation that tugged at his mind with a far stronger purpose than ever before.

* * *

Joey felt more at peace than he could ever have imagined possible. He couldn’t explain why right away, as the position he soon realized he was in – bowing on his hands and knees, his forehead touching the cold, rough stone floor, his hands clasped together in prayer – did not match up terribly well with his idea of comfort. And yet, there was something in the air that made it clear there was no position he’d rather be in, no matter what.

Yet his curiosity led him to pull himself together momentarily in an effort to explain it to himself. As he got up, he saw that he was in some kind of gigantic, circular plaza with hundreds of other people gathered around him. They were all in the same position he had been in a moment before and clad in the same modest cloth garments he soon realized he was also wearing. It was all like something out of a painting depicting a scene from an old epic, or a frame from mythology. But he was sure this was all very much real, even as hard as that got to believe as he finally turned his gaze skyward.

That’s where he once again met her gaze. The Goddess, the one who had given the Earth the honor of being the heart of her universal empire, in all of her divine glory. Words struggled to evoke the majesty of what it was like simply to behold her; all Joey could think of was simply that everything he had ever thought of as beautiful or erotic in a person was perfectly embodied in her frame. He immediately knew, too, that her love for all her subjects was limitless, as evidenced by the simple fact that they shared the same existence as her and that she allowed their continued existence, for it was terribly clear that she possessed the power to end it if she so desired.

But there was no need for her to do such a thing when she could instead join her myriad subjects in revelry to explore pleasures that were heretofore unknown in the reality she presided over. As Joey watched, he could clearly make out her frame gently descending upon the plaza, though she wasn’t alone – a small throng of creatures possessed of clearly superhuman beauty (which nevertheless paled in contrast to her own magnificence) were clinging to her figure, caressing and attempting to please her however they could. A particularly statuesque female was hovering in front of the Goddess, fondling her breasts passionately as she shared a series of sensual kisses with her mistress. Seemingly as a reward for her enthusiasm, the beautiful thrall’s frame appeared to change even as Joey looked on, her breasts growing larger, hair lengthening, and a second pair of arms with which to please her Goddess suddenly sprouting from the sides of her torso.

The enthralling spectacle carried on for a bit longer but eventually came to an end as the Goddess touched down on the open space at the center of the plaza. As she met the ground, the superhumanly beautiful serfs who had been clinging on to the Goddess’s body slowly touched down as well and walked into the crowd of praying subjects, and as they strayed further from their mistress, their frames quickly degenerated into those of mere mortals, and they quickly came to resemble the ordinary humans they now walked amongst. However, even as Joey watched, the Goddess made a subtle beckoning gesture with her finger, which compelled another group of worshippers to rise from their prostration and approach her. As they did, their own bodies transformed into something nearer to her own divine perfection, even if their beauty was still very much subordinate to her own.

However, immediately after this happened, the Goddess beckoned one other to come to her. Powerless to resist, Joey stood up and began to walk towards the Goddess. Even if he did not feel himself transforming, her divine influence touched his mind, strengthening it so that it may retain its clarity as she conveyed the truth to him.

“Listen now, and behold a miracle,” her all-powerful voice echoed within his mind, “for what else is a miracle but a tale of wonderment that proves to be true?”

The Goddess slowly began to rise into the air again. The new group of servants she had blessed began to service her, but she cradled Joey close, as he held a special place for her in this particular spurt of reverie.

“Once, in a world of old, there lived a sage who could see a hidden truth that others could not. Surrounding the living, there lay a thin veil that served as a passageway to other worlds, though it was one that could not be crossed by their bodies, but only their souls. Through a lifetime of observation, this sage came to learn more and more about the nature of the veil, and finally formulated a way to cross it at will, for the sage knew that in an ocean of worlds where all was possible, the deepest desire of every person would eventually be found.”

Joey heeded the Goddess’s every word. But as they all came together in his head, he began to stir. Something felt odd.

“But the sage foresaw darkness, a great evil that would befall all if someone were to misuse the potential of the power he had discovered. So he used the potential himself to cloud its true nature by way of a great enigma, a colossal contrivance, a perplexing predicament, an intangible intricacy, a—”

“I’m sorry… what the hell are you talking about?”

Goddess Lucia smiled. She had succeeded in bringing the old Joey back, not that she ever had any doubt that she would. He beheld the all-powerful woman in front of him, who had granted him such superhuman clarity of thought that he could focus on the question of what precisely she had meant by such a ridiculous fairy tale rather than on the rest of her.

“I mean precisely what I said, Joey, though I knew that some lame wordplay would be enough to bring the real you back to the world of the living.”

“What, so you mean to tell me that some magical recipe was enough to turn a dull-looking tart like your old self into… this?”

“Nothing magical about it, darling. It’s very much real.”

“Then what was all that nonsense you were babbling about just a minute ago, about some invisible barrier that only souls or minds or whatever could cross? There ain’t nothing scientific about that!”

“Sure there is. Ever hear of the theory of morphogenetic resonance? Well, now you have.”

Lucia willed the knowledge into Joey’s brain. He didn’t even feel compelled to act surprised, thanks to her mental manipulations.

“Aight, then, let’s say I buy into all that. Then what’s the deal with that puzzle thingy you were talking about after?”

“Ah, that’s simple. Remember the Frankenstein Algorithm?”

“That thing you kept looking for on the computers?”

“The very same. Even with my old knowledge of computer code, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was supposed to do – it was just something that made a computer screen project a few pretty colors for a few seconds. It wasn’t until I got to be at the helm of me that I could read everyone’s minds that I finally got the skinny on what it truly is.”

“And so?”

“Can’t you even make an effort to work it out yourself?” Lucia teased with a divine laugh that brought a pleasured cooing out of her servants, which Joey promptly ignored. “The algorithm’s execution was designed to stimulate a person’s mind in such a way that they would tap into the morphogenetic field and come to inhabit the body of another version of themselves within a parallel universe. According to the theory behind it, this happened all the time, but few people ever noticed because they had no control over it. The algorithm was designed to let the user approach a specific reality based on what they desired.”

“Sounds like a hack job, if you ask me. The new bodies you and I moved into couldn’t even tell that anything had changed right away. Until we figured it out, it was like nothing was different.”

“Ah, but that’s the clever thing. You see, the algorithm’s designer was afraid that someone would come along and… well, basically pull off what I just did and use it to give themselves unimaginable power, becoming an unstoppable tyrant. So a slight alteration was made; whoever used the algorithm would have their consciousness sent to inhabit a body in their desired universe, but they would lose all memory of their transition and would be placed in a universe where they were physically separate from any record of the algorithm.”

“They were supposed to forget? So how come…”

“That’s where you come in, my darling. You see, whoever designed that algorithm clearly didn’t take into account every nuance of human memory. Every time I used it, you were affected by it as well, and even though it responded to my desires, you were brought along with me and were not hit by its amnesia effect as thoroughly. By witnessing certain things, your own memories of the old realities you had come from began to surface, and hearing about them caused the same effect within me. The one failsafe in this super-program that was quietly left to rot in an old military database, and we bypassed it by complete accident. Complete coincidence. So call me Miss Antichrist, because I guess I’m the great evil in the yarn I was spinning for you earlier.”

Joey stood in midair with his arms crossed, considering everything he had just heard. It seemed ridiculous, but the very presence of the Goddess made it clear that he had little choice but to assume it was all true.

“There’s just one thing that still doesn’t make sense to me,” Joey offered. “What’s with the name? Frankenstein Algorithm? It seems just a little out there. Is it called that because it’s transplanting our consciences or whatever into these other worlds?”

Lucia loosed a low, pleasured laugh.

“Oh, Joey, Joey. I’m so glad you asked me that. The name did seem a little conspicuous, didn’t it? But no, in my last couple forays into godhood, I’ve finally managed to work out what that really means.”

“Guess that’s a no, then.”

“Of course not. Don’t you remember that according to morphic resonance theory, the potential for a consciousness to travel between realities is assumed to be a constantly occurring phenomenon? Simply precipitating that same phenomenon in an unrefined fashion would be amateur work for someone able to craft something like that. No, the algorithm’s true strength lies in the potential for its users to remain tethered to their original reality.”

Joey raised an eyebrow. “What, so you’re telling me that the place where I first met you—”

“Is still very much out there, that’s right. Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure what the state of our old bodies there is like, but it’s not like that matters much when I’ve already managed to secure this much power.”

“So you’re planning on staying here? Guess that really ain’t a bad deal for you, but what’s that got to do with our original bodies?”

“Ah, my Joey, jumping the gun again. And just when I was about to tell you the kicker. The whole purpose of being tethered to our initial reality was probably to do with the algorithm creator’s original intent, jumping sideways through time to discover scientific advances, or cures for cancer, or what have you. But to truly be able to capitalize on that, you’d not only have to bring your mind and memories from one reality back to the other – you’d have to bring something a little more concrete.”

“You don’t mean…”

“I do. That’s why it’s called the Frankenstein Algorithm. An engineered force that can create an amazing patchwork creature made up of bits from different realities.”

“So that means you’re going to—”

“Absolutely. Have you looked at me lately, J? I’m a goddess, a literal goddess. I can have whatever I want, and I want for nothing more than any manner of pleasures the universe and reality have to offer me. And yet, due to the circumstances, even I have been cheated of a few things. Thanks to the Algorithm, my consciousness traveled into this body – no, all my other bodies too – at a point in time when their desirable traits had already been established. I was robbed of the experience of acquiring those traits for myself. Even now, I awakened into a universe I had conquered, without really having conquered it myself. I think at least that would prove for an interesting night out, don’t you, dear?”

Lucia had finally come to the closing point of her spiel, and so she slowly began to loosen her grip on Joey’s mind, allowing his baser human sensations to start coming creeping back to him. Before long, he was assaulted by a staggering sense of pleasure, becoming once more unable to ignore the majesty of the Goddess. Still, he felt the same inexorable sense of peace he had felt when he awakened as she embraced him.

“Don’t you worry, Joey-boy. It was because of you that all this was possible, after all, and I’m no ungrateful wench. I did say I’d take you with me, after all. I’m going to make you feel sooooo good~.”

The group of bodies intertwined in divine lovemaking far above the world grew in brilliance, as the Goddess focused a fraction of her limitless power into sparking the essence of the forbidden knowledge that had brought her there – except now, she repeated her journey in reverse, while zealously holding on to every ounce of the power she had come to hold upon reaching its end.

* * *

The clouds had abandoned the sky, but the darkness of the late twilight meant that the gloomy atmosphere had not gotten any better. The sight of a large, armored vehicle sprayed in a green military camo pattern attracted a few gazes from curious bystanders, but the vehicle managed to make its journey throughout the city’s streets without any significant disturbances.

Seated within the vehicle were the unconscious and seemingly lifeless bodies of Dr. Lucia Adler and the lowlife Joey Belmont, lazily watched over by Staff Sergeant Connie Walters and Private Harris. The two soldiers had been sent to track down and apprehend the criminals, who had broken into a military database and apparently stolen some data, data which was currently held in the beat-up laptop that was also secured within the vehicle.

The two had heard a rumor or two in their time, about a weird computer program somewhere in their data banks that some shady types had come looking for. Few of those who had set out on that mission had succeeded, but all who did were supposedly reduced to this state, vegetables in a sort of permanent coma. The experts had never been able to figure out just what the strange program was supposed to do but figured it might have been some weird relic left over from the days of MKULTRA or something like that. It certainly didn’t seem like something that could be reliably used for anything productive, nor were they eager to run the risk of it being leaked to a party that would weaponize it, so they preferred to keep quiet about it. And yet, whenever a case like this popped up, of some poor saps falling victim to the program, they couldn’t help but wonder why someone would not only seek it out but try it out on themselves as well.

The results were the same every time. Effective brain death for the victims. The two perpetrators were being taken to an army facility to be detained, but unless anybody came forward who was willing to take them into hospitalized care, their future looked grim. Staff Sergeant Walters certainly wasn’t expecting either of them to wake up anytime soon, which is why it came as more than a slight shock when Lucia’s eyes suddenly shot open and she sharply drew breath in a quick gasp.

The surprised Sergeant’s first instinct was to reach for her sidearm, but as she watched, Lucia’s body began to convulse violently, as if she were having a seizure. Given that as far as she knew, this was the first known instance of anyone ever breaking out of the coma-like stupor that followed exposure to the Algorithm, Sergeant Walters figured she had better try and get the frumpy thirty-something stabilized and readied for questioning. She yelled for the driver to speed it up, and barked at Private Harris to radio the base they were headed for and tell them to get a medic ready.

This done, she lunged forward and tried to grab a hold of Lucia in order to keep her still, stop her from hurting herself. As soon as she laid her hands on the shady scientist, however, she felt an odd sensation she couldn’t properly describe as if a strange, tingling energy was coursing into and through Lucia’s very being; as if the space she occupied were shifting in a way she’d never seen before. Still, she made her best effort to keep the other woman steady, and she thought this had paid off as Lucia’s movement suddenly wound down and the weird sensations surrounding her subsided.

“Hey lady, are you alright?” Sergeant Walters asked her. “Can you talk?”

The Sergeant looked on intently, waiting for a response, but was puzzled when she observed that the only sound the other woman was making was a low, guttural laugh.

“I can do all that and more, honey.”

A sudden explosion shook the street as the walls and other parts of the armored vehicle shot off in all directions. A small volume of traffic that was following the speeding vehicle came careening towards the scene, but an invisible force diverted it so that a clearing was left on the spot where the armored vehicle had once stood. When the smoke cleared, the nearby onlookers were treated to the sight of the reanimated Dr. Lucia Adler, whose tiny female body hovered lazily in midair, infused with a god-like power from beyond the known universe.

“Ahh,” she said with an exaggerated stretching motion. “Always feels good to be back home and slip into the old clothes. But there’s something missing… ah, yes, my Joey!”

Looking down at the remains of the vehicle, Lucia spotted Joey’s unconscious body, which thanks to her influence, had made it out unharmed. With a snap of her fingers which caused a conspicuous flash of light, Joey’s body recovered its vitality much as Lucia’s had done earlier, albeit much less dramatically.

“Whah…?” Joey muttered, looking up at the floating woman.

“Oh yeah, suppose this dusty old thing isn’t gonna cut it,” Lucia said while looking down at herself. “But that’s fine – to be honest, I’ve just been dying to see what this feels like!”

Another snap of her fingers and a small earthquake began to shake the environs, sending people running for their lives as Lucia’s body began to transform. In moments, the drab, aging woman began to grow taller, more muscular, and more beautiful. Her body lengthened, muscles bulged, and imperfections disappeared in an incredibly sensual fashion as she smiled, laughed and cooed in self-indulgent debauchery, creating the sort of scene that, if recorded, would lead to countless overused loops or worn-out tapes. After what seemed like an eternity, where there once had been a plain-looking woman there now floated a nine-foot-tall goddess of unfathomable power and beauty, lazily drifting about on her own center of gravity as she continued to fondle and play with herself even in the afterglow of her orgasmic self-empowerment.

“Ahh…” she murmured in a voice that would put any sex hotline operator to shame, “now that’s a fun welcome-home present. Some additional improvements could be made, but… always fun to shake it up every once in a while.”

Lucia turned her eye to Joey, who was still standing on the street, but now had his mouth agape and a raging bulge in his pants.

“How could I forget?” she said to herself while shrugging with her hands up like an innocent child. “Come on, babe, you’re coming along too.”

One more snap and Joey began to change. He retained a mostly human stature, but with a frame that would intimidate the world’s most impressive bodybuilders. On top of that, Lucia gave him the gift of flight and just enough superhuman power that he could keep up with her.

“Glad that’s sorted out,” she said. “And would you look at that, there’s a whole world out here filled with cretins who are mere insects compared to us. Looks like it’s time for a night on the town – and tomorrow, the world!”

Just a few moments after the two of them flew off, Sergeant Walters began to regain consciousness. It took her a few minutes, but just as she finished pulling herself together, she focused her view to make sure the things she’d been seeing as she woke up weren’t the products of delirium. In the distance, off in the downtown area where all the tall buildings were, some kind of bizarre commotion was going on. Some of the buildings were changing shape, morphing like putty, being transformed into exuberant structures and palaces of various architectural styles. Right in the center, the tallest building of all was changing into what seemed like a miles-tall statue depicting an insanely sexy woman. Once it looked like the transformation was complete, a spark of multi-colored lights began to rain down from above, and the air was filled with gleeful laughter that seemed like it was coming from the statue itself.

At once, Sergeant Walters knew that the inexplicable sight was somehow connected to what had happened to her. Making an effort to get up despite the pain she was in, she moved over to the unconscious Private Harris and tried to raise him from his slumber. As she did so, however, she also noticed the laptop that had belonged to that strange doctor and the goon, which had apparently survived the explosion and fallen open, and was now showing the very piece of code the theft of which they had been nicked for. More out of impulse than anything, Sergeant Walters reached over to grab it just as Private Harris was starting to come to.

“What’s going on?” The younger recruit asked once he regained use of his voice.

“Looks like hell’s breaking loose out there,” the woman offered. “Might be some crazy terrorist attack, but… can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this.”

“And the prisoners?”

“Can’t say I see them around here. Maybe they got away.”

“What’s that?” By then Private Harris had begun to hear the echoes some of Lucia’s elated laughter.

“Sounds like some crazy bitch. Maybe she’s the one leading the attack out there.”

“Izzat the stolen computer stuff you got there?” The Private asked, noticing the laptop Sergeant Walters had picked up. “Maybe that’s got something to do with this whole thing.”

“I dunno about that,” Sergeant Walters muttered to herself, “but if this is all connected somehow and that doctor chick has something to do with this… I just wish I was able to go right up to her and give her a piece of my mind.”

As the Sergeant spoke, her still-sore body lost its balance and she accidentally tapped some of the keys on the laptop. The algorithm program began to execute, and both Sergeant Walters and Private Harris looked on in mild puzzlement as a series of strange colors began flashing before their eyes.


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