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Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant | Emily Prichert

Day of the Arlaaekan Invasion

Columbus, OH > Pacific Point, CA


Because I have been playing sports for as long as I could remember, I’m no stranger to high-pressure situations. Whether it was a playoff game in a softball tournament or a cheerleading competition, I’ve learned to thrive on the stakes of the game. However, an alien invasion is an entirely different ballgame. Losing in softball or cheerleading, while still disappointing because of the days of training and practice spent in preparation for the final performance, wasn’t a life-or-death situation. A worldwide alien invasion, on the other hand, had way higher stakes. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if we didn’t prevail.

I splashed some cold water on my face. While I really did need some extra time to blow dry my hair after the postcoital shower Will and I shared, I also wanted to take a moment to gather up my composure. I wanted to wear a brave face for him. While Will did have the powers of a parallel universe version of himself who was actually a superhero, he was still a regular person thrust into an extraordinary situation, much like the rest of the world. I wanted the last moments we had together before Athena stows him away to be happy and relaxing.

Once I had finished mustering my confidence, I tightened the fabric belt on my pink bathrobe around my human form and headed back to my bedroom. Will, already changed into his pajamas, was sitting up on my bed, leaning up against the headboard. A Nintendo Switch rested in his hands, which was taking up his attention. Right when I entered the room, I immediately noticed he had tidied up my room: he had gathered up all the clothes we had discarded before everything got, well, steamy and tossed them into my laundry hamper. He even made up my bed, which now looked like nothing had happened in the past hour.

I bounced over and plopped down onto my bed right next to him. I turned to him and said:

“We should really do this way more often.”

Will peered up from his Nintendo Switch and replied to me: “What, taking a shower together or having—"

“Why not both?” I answered with a coy smile. Scooting closer to Will, I wrapped arms around him and leaded my head against his shoulder. In turn, Will slipped one arm out of my embrace and reciprocated my affection.

“So, anything you want to do before Athena gets back?”

“Oh, yes. I almost forgot!” Will responded as he clicked a few buttons on his Switch to save his game progress. Setting the portable device down, he wiggled just enough out of my embrace to reach over to the nightstand on his side of the bed. He retrieved a necklace with a simple, wooden fish symbol, which circumscribed an equally simple cross, hanging from the necklace’s cord.

“Do you remember these?”

“Of course,” I answered. Back in middle school, when we had finished our confirmation prep class and received the sacrament itself, our instructors gave us these necklaces. High school and college had past since we got them, so it must have been mixed in with miscellaneous jewelry I had stashed in a shallow bowl on that nightstand.

“Since we didn’t have time to get rings, I thought this could be a temporary substitute until we can get some real bling.”

I noticed Will said “when” and not “if” we buy our wedding bands. A glimmer of hope arose in my heart as I could see him looking towards a time after the alien invasion. I then sat up and shifted myself to the edge of my bed. Will, in turn, took a seat directly behind me and, after I pulled my hair to a side to give Will access to the back of my neck, draped the necklace on me. Once he had finished tying the back of the necklace’s cord, he leaned forward and plucked a kiss on my cheek.

“You wouldn’t mind rubbing my shoulders before I get dress, now would you?”

Without saying a word, Will began to massage my shoulders. I not quite sure how to explain what happened next, as everything in between seemed like a blur. One moment, I was enjoying the shoulder rub Will was giving to me. But after a few kisses on my cheek and neck, one thing led to another. I allowed my bathrobe to slip off my shoulders, with only the fabric belt keeping the garment situated around my waist and draped over my lap. Will continued to kiss me as his hands wandered about, with one ending up on my inner thigh, while the other cuirassed my left bre—

Not that we had much time to do anything, as a loud clang of metal armor suddenly echoed throughout my room. Almost as soon as Will and I had become carried away in this moment of passion, Athena had materialized at the doorway of my room. When the goddess saw us, she merely shook her head and rolled her eyes. Much like when a parent would happen to stumble upon their daughter getting busy with their boyfriend, anger wasn’t present in her eyes: just disappointment, and maybe a tinge of awkwardness. We, on the other hand, were like two deer caught in some headlights, frozen in place when we immediately recognized we were no longer alone.

“Well, I guess I have returned just in time before you two could do anything stupid,” Athena announced as she stepped into the room. In total embarrassment, Will and I remained entirely still, not quite sure what to do.

“Come on now! We don’t have all day, even with my powers,” Athena snapped at us. At her urging, we started to part ways. While Will crawled off my bed, I covered myself back up with my robe. I could see in Will’s eyes that he didn’t want to go. And I couldn’t blame him, as his choices would be either to cower in some corner and hope the aliens don’t blow him up or be left in some empty void while unconscious. Unfortunately, we both knew that the latter option was safer for him. After one last kiss, I went over to Athena.

And in a blink of an eye, I was alone in my parents’ house. I sat there for a few seconds before hoping onto my feet and getting dressed. Since I was going to be dressed in my superhero costume for what would come next, I just pulled on a pair of athletic shorts and a t-shirt so that, if for whatever reason I would need to get out of my costume, I wouldn’t be stuck only in a robe.

As I finished pulling my shirt over my head, I paused for a moment when I saw Will’s suitcase sitting next to my dresser. He must have brought it in after our shower. An idea popped up in my head. After I shifted through his clothes, I finally found a graphic tee, one with a Spider-Man print on it and immediately exchanged it for my own shirt. Weirdly enough, even though I knew that Will was in some pocket dimension right now, the fabric clinging to my torso eerily made me feel like he was still embracing me, thereby calming my nerves to a degree.

“It is time,” Athena alerted me as she reappeared once more. She placed a hand on my shoulder in preparation for teleporting to Pacific Point. The moment before we warped out, I reached down and deactivated my power nullifier. Why not have the process of getting ready happen while we’re in route?

The bright California sun blinded my eyes as Athena and I arrived at Pacific Point. Once my eyes had readjusted to the light, I caught sight of the current state of my home. Alien ships zoomed about the skyline, although it seemed like something had put a dint into their forces. The streets were drenched with water, as if it had down poured all day, an rare occurrence in sunny Southern California.

“Arachne?” I heard Emily’s voice call out. My fellow Viera model was dressed up in her Pinup superhero persona, her normally brunette hair was currently a vibrant red. I’ve always meant to ask her how she does that, but it either always slipped my mind or I couldn’t talk about it without revealing our alter egos. As she hurried towards me, she never glanced towards Athena, who had remained next to me. The Goddess of Wisdom must still be invisible to everyone except for myself.

“I thought you were back in Ohio?” Pinup asked.

“Well, I was there, but it seems like you all could use a hand, or at least a few legs,” I replied with a smile as I tapped the display on my power nullifier. Since I had not had time to procure a new copy of my normal Arachne costume, I was still stuck with the one belonging to my 90’s version. The California weather was way too warm for a bomber jacket, so I found a setting that would stash the coat away wherever my costume was stowed while keeping the rest of the outfit intact.

“Oh, that’s a cute necklace. Did your boyfriend give it to you?”

“Necklace? What necklace?” Flustered, I immediately rubbed my fingers over the exposed skin just below my collar bone until my hand brushed up against the cord of the wooden fish necklace. Sighing in relief, I spoke up again: “Oh, that necklace. I guess you can say he gave it to me."

Even though Emily was wearing sunglasses, I could see the emotions in her face change from confusion to a moment of eureka to an expression that could only mean TMI.

“Did our good Catholic girl finally turn to the dark side?”

“What?” I exclaimed, clearly regretting opening up this Pandora’s box, “No, no. Will and I are married now.”

“Wait, when you said you were heading home to attend a wedding, I didn’t know it was your wedding!”

“Oh, no, that wasn’t our wedding. It kind of was a spur of a moment thing right after invasion began.”

“When did you have time to get married?”

“Um...that’s complicated. Honestly, I’m not sure how the timeline works,” I answered Emily.

“Anyways—” I said in an attempt to change the subject, “we should get back to this alien invasion.”

“Agreed,” Pinup answered. Before we headed out, I ran my hands through my long, blonde hair and pulled it back into a ponytail so it wouldn’t get in the way during the battle. However, I realized I didn’t have a tie or scrunchie to keep my locks in place.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a hair tie, would you?”
Character you have created: Liam Porter
Alias: Citadel
Speech Color:Olive
Character Alignment: Hero
[...]
Do you know how to post pictures on RPG boards?:No


Accepted.

Also, to post pictures:
[img]Put url to image here (preferably from an image sharing site, like imgur)[/img]


Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant

Day of the Arlaaekan Invasion

Columbus, OH


I didn’t think Father Ed would ever stop talking. While it took us a little coaxing, Will’s and my old parish priest did finally agree to marry the two of us. Usually in a Roman Catholic marriage, the groom and bride-to-be have to complete a marriage preparation run by the parish for anywhere between six to twelve months. Since we did not have six months to spare due to the alien invasion, Father Ed didn’t reject our marriage request despite the short notice. However, the elderly priest had one stipulation to perform the marriage ceremony: we had to sit through a crash course that the regular marriage prep would have covered.

Yet, I noticed something strange had happened after Will and I tied the knot. Because Father Ed was cramming over six months’ worth of material in less than a day, it felt as if we were cooped up in that church for several hours. But once Will and I got back to the rental car, the digital clock inside told an entirely different story, as only thirty minutes had passed, somehow. Neither Will nor I could explain this bizarre temporal mystery. While it was a little unnerving not to know what had happened, I was relieved that I hadn’t been stuck inside a church while all my superhero peers fought off this alien invasion.

But before I could punch some aliens in the face, I wanted to make sure my parents were okay. Ever since we left for the Columbus Zoo, I had not heard from them. I just had to check on my parents first. Otherwise, they would be in the back of my mind for the rest of the day and that would definitely distract me when my attention should be on stopping an alien invasion.

My heart fluttered when I pulled up into my parents’ driveway. I was not sure what distressed me more: not knowing whether my parents were safe or having to tell them Will and I got hitched on a whim? And I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I had noticed Will had been checking his phone every couple of minutes or so.

“Feeling the butterflies, too?” I asked Will.

“I’ve been texting my folks ever since we left the zoo, but I have yet to hear back from them. I’m really concerned that something—”

“Don’t think like that. I’m sure they’re fine,” I reassured him, although I truly didn’t know what was up with his family, as I’m not a telepath, after all. I reached out and interlocked my hand with his. The stress of an alien invasion, the unknown status of his family, and having gotten married just less than an hour ago was causing his body to shake.

“Let’s do this,” I said. Will merely nodded.

With each step I took towards the front door, my heart beat harder and harder against my chest. We had reached the front door and I retrieved the spare key when my heart sunk. As I started to insert the key into the lock, the door creaked open at my slightest touch. Turning to Will, I pressed my finger against my lips and then gestured inside.

My father always stashed an aluminum baseball bat in the hallway closet. Not that a metal stick would do much against an advanced alien race, but it nonetheless reassured me. Plus, my parent’s house was not designed with my arachnid physique in mind. Even if it were, I couldn’t risk a chance onlooker spotting my true drider self through one of the dozens of windows on my parents’ home. So, I had to stick with the baseball bat. At least I played softball up to the collegiate level.

I creeped down the hallway; my hands gripped at the bat’s handle. In the living room, the television blared. The smoke of burn food reached my nose as I continued down the hall. After I peaked around the corner and saw nobody in the living room or the kitchen, I rushed to the oven. My mom had left brunch on the stove top and never removed it. What would have caused my parents to evacuate the house in such a hurry that they risked burning the building down?

The charred bacon and eggs almost made me hurl. So, I immediately tossed the ruined brunch. Yet, while I discarded the food, the wood flooring back down the front hallway creaked. As Will was standing right next to me, I knew it wasn’t him. With slow strides, I tip-toed to the corner right before that hallway. My heart raced as the steps came closer. Was this going to be my first encounter with these invaders? Or was this just some jackass taking advantage of the chaos caused by this alien apocalypse? Whoever they are, they’re going to be eating aluminum soon.

As soon as the intruder had gotten only a few steps away, I threw my weight into my swing, Yet, instead of the crackle of bones or a clang of metal, a hand caught the bat and even imprinted her hand onto the shaft.

“Athena? What the hell? You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“You would have recovered,” Athena retorted.

“No, that’s not what I—ugh! —whatever. Where are my parents?”

“I have whisked them, along with both your other relatives,"—Athena pointed at both Will and I—"away to a pocket dimension where they’ll slumber until this cataclysm has passed.”

“And what if we don’t win?”

“Well, they would expire in their sleep, none the wiser. But it will not come to that.”

I just gave Athena a blank stare after I heard her speak so nonchalantly. Not that it came as a surprise to me: she wasn’t human, after all. Nonetheless, her explanation was not at all comforting, placing even more pressure on me to get out there and lend a hand. But I decided to pivot the conversation, as I didn’t want to dwell on the image of my relatives floating in suspended animation for eternity if the invading aliens happen to win and conquer the Earth.

“So, I guess you’re here to usher me off to the front lines. When do we leave?”

“Not quite yet. I still have to move him to safety,” Athena answered me, as she gestured towards Will. “In the meantime, I want you to rest and prepare yourself mentally for the task at hand.”

“Wait, by the time you leave and return, it’ll be only a few minutes. What type of rest would that be?”

“I have created a temporal anomaly around this abode. You should have plenty of time.”

“A temporal what?” Athena sighed when she heard my question.

“Time will flow slower within these walls. Seconds will feel like minutes and minutes like hours.”

“Wait, we just experienced something like that back at our Catholic church. You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”

Athena’s left eyebrow perked up as the goddess heard my words. Before she answered me, she paused for a moment, as her lips were curled. The cogs were definitely turning inside Athena’s head. She finally spoke up after the short pause.

“I would have to look into it, but that has to wait, as we have more pressing matters at hand.”

From the expression on Athena’s face, I could guess she knew something. This time distortion was way too specific for this to be a coincidence. Yet, Athena was right in a way: aliens were invading Earth. Figuring out what happened back at the church would be pointless if a bunch of little green men conquer this small rock that we call home. I will have to remember to bug Athena about this later, assuming we get out of this mess in one piece.

“Anyways, do you really have to take him—I reached out and pulled Will next to me, shoulder-to-shoulder—“right now? I’ll be able to relax better if he’s here with me.”

Athena furrowed her brow before giving her response. “Since I still have to track down a few more of your relatives, I guess—”

“Oh, thank God. I guess you have a heart after all.”

“But you two better be ready upon my return.”

“When have we ever disappointed you?” I replied. However, when Athena started to rub her chin with her free hand, I interjected again before the goddess could say anything. “Okay, don’t answer that.”

Athena merely shook her head before departing. Once she was gone, I grabbed Will’s wrist and began to drag him towards the staircase.

“Wait, where are we going?”

“Well—” I trailed off as I tried to explain to Will what I wanted to do in the few minutes (or was it hours?) Athena had gifted us. I turned to face Will, still holding onto his hand. With my free hand, I began twirling the ends of my blonde hair. “Since we went through all the trouble to get married, I thought we should, well, you know, consummate it.”

For a moment, we stood there, staring at each other, as what I had said registered in Will’s head. He rested his freehand on my lower back. We each drew closer to the other, until our lips met. My heart raced while we kissed. However, my conscious nipped at the back of my mind, as if it were telling me that I shouldn’t be here, that I should be fighting the invaders and saving people.

When our lips parted, I looked into Will’s eyes and asked, “I am a terrible person for wanting this intimate moment with you while aliens are invading and people are dying? My mind is urging me to help the other heroes, but my heart yearns for this moment with you, just in case it is our las—”

“What? Of course not! Athena was going to leave you stranded here anyways. You have a big day ahead of you. You gotta unwind somehow.”

“I love that about you.”

“Hmm?”

“The positivity. Always looking on the brighter side,” I replied. “But if we’re going to do this, we better get to it. God knows when Athena will be back.”

Now that we were on the same page, we scampered up the stairs and down the hallway to my bedroom’s door. However, right when I started to twist the door handle and push it open, Will wrapped his arms around my waist and halted me from entering.

“Wait, shouldn’t I carry you across the threshold? What do you think, Mrs. Adkins-Grant?” Will smiled right after he said my new name. Long before I ever considered marrying Will, I had not yet decided whether to take my husband’s name or to go the hyphenated route. Now that I have heard ‘Adkins-Grant,’ I kind of like the ring to it.

“Well, then, lead the way, Mr. Grant.”

I wrapped my arms around Will’s neck before he swept me off my feet. I kept forgetting that both of us had been temporarily replaced by parallel universe versions of ourselves, whose appearances we were for now stuck with (not that Will changed much in his appearance). Once Will had carried me over the threshold of my bedroom door, we didn’t waste a moment. As he carried me over to my bed, our lips mashed together. He eased me down onto my bed. What happened next seemed like a blur, as our hands explored each other’s bodies. It wasn’t until his shaking hand began to touch my power nullifier.

“You want me being all spidery during our first—”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he interrupted me before planted another kiss on my lips. As soon as he deactivated my power nullifier and my arachnid physique became manifest in all of its glory, we immediately returned to the foreplay. Goosebumps broke out on my skin as he focused on my spider half: my eight, spindly legs, the exoskeleton ridges on my cephalothorax, the soft and bulbous abdomen with my two—

Anyways, at this moment, we were starting to strip off each other’s clothes. Obviously my shorts, socks, and all were discarded during my transformation back into a drider. Will’s nervous fingers crawled up my spine until they reached the clasp of my bra. While it took him a couple tries to unlatch it, he eventually freed the girls from the prison formally known as a bra. Slipping the straps off my shoulders, I tossed the undergarment onto the floor. When I turned by gaze back to my husband (I still can’t comprehend that we’re married!), I noticed he wore a perplexed glance.

“What?”

“It doesn’t look like anything has changed, except maybe they look bigger. I guess they really do have a gravitational field of their own.”

“You’re such a goofball,” I answered back.

A few days ago, Will and I had an open discussion about our sexual boundaries, especially after that elseworld version of myself, while technically in my own body, tried to guilt Will into sleeping with her. We both agreed on saving our first sexual encounter until after marriage. And since we just got hitched, that wasn’t an issue anymore.

We also discussed some of the complications involved with my drider physiology. As volunteering for a live dissection to figure out where exactly all my organs are wasn’t on the top of my list of things I wanted to do this summer, Will and I had, up to this point, to extrapolate from normal spider anatomy. Let’s just say that my spider abdomen houses some important organs and that makes the vanilla missionary position quite untenable. And that doesn’t take into account that, even if he would lie flat on top of me, his head would only reach my navel. So, there was going to be some Twister-like canoodling involved in this one.

After some serious contorting and bending under my bed’s sheets, we finally found something that seemed like it would work. Sure, even with leaning on my side and curling my torso towards Will, I still had a foot or two on him. Well, I suppose he wouldn’t mind the view. It was at this moment that everything became so real. My heart was beating like the engine of a locomotion. My hands trembled. A voice inside my head was second guessing every decision I had made since we left for the Columbus Zoo. But I wasn’t going to let eight cold feet stand in my way.

“You’re ready?” I whispered to Will. I tried sounding confident, but my wavering voice betrayed me. He nodded in turn, although I didn’t need my spider-senses to tell that he, too, was nervously trembling. I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. I bit my lip and prepared myself for what came next.

“Wait!” Will suddenly uttered as he pressed his knees against my spider abdomen to stop it from descending.

“What’s wrong?”

“We can’t do this,” Will said as he pulled himself up to be face-to-face with me. Disappointment dripped from his face as he spoke those words.

“Why not?”

“Remember what happened on our first date?”

At first, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. As far as I could remember, that date turned out pretty well. Sure, we did have our awkward moments, but we were still figuring out our comfort zones. The Sunday mass went on without a hitch and that Greek restaurant wasn’t too shabby, although the whole fortune cookie knock-offs were a little—

“Ah, shit,” I uttered as everything came back to me. Will got this really bizarre fortune from that restaurant. While we first thought it was the most roundabout way to encourage people not to drink and drive, Athena had explained that I would get insta-pregnant the first time Will and I slept together. As much as I wanted to think that Athena was trying to enforce her own virgin lifestyle onto me, my past experience with this Greek goddess forced me to take her warning seriously.

“It would be our luck,” I continue while I rolled over, so as to be lying next to Will, “for us to get cockblocked by some stupid Greek prophecy.”

For a minute or two, the two of us just lay in my bed, side by side. Will did eventually wrap his arms around my waist in an attempt to make the most of our ruined moment. We went through all the trouble to get married and we can’t even have sex? Sure, I’m a little bummed about it, but this has far greater repercussions. We’re too young to have a kid right now: Will’s going to be starting grad school in the fall (or at least that’s the plan, pending one alien invasion) and I’m still trying to figure things out, whether this modeling thing will work out. Plus, a superhero side job isn’t the most conducive to raising a child. Does this mean we’re not going to be able to have sex for the next couple years until we’re ready to bring a new life into this world? What the fuck?

Then it came to me.

“Wait, what if we were to continue in a way that would have zero chance of getting me preggers?”

“I don’t know. Oracles from Greek mythology have a way of screwing over people who try to bypass them. Oedipus and his family would be exhibits A, B, C, and D.”

“Yes, but they didn’t have the benefit of science and actually knowing how the human reproductive system actually works.”

I could see the inner conflict playing out on Will’s face. Although he wanted to get on with our little romantic moment as much as I did, he also wanted to take the responsible action, considering the ramifications we luckily just recalled before we did the deed. Since my husband still hesitated, I leaned towards his ear and whispered something into his ear (what I said is none of your business). Will’s face immediately grew flush, glowing brighter than the red on my costume.

“Wait, you’re fine with that?”

“Hey, the other me wanted to perform it on you a few days ago. What the hell, why not?”

“But what about you? I don’t want this to be one sided.”

“Oh, I got that covered. Remember what I told you after I embarrassed you in front of my mom two days ago?”

“Of course. And you still have explained what you—”

“Why tell when we can do some hands-on learning,” I interrupted him by pressing a finger against his lips. I then pulled my shirt off over my head and tossed it onto the floor. “So, make those hands of yours useful.”
Character you have created:

Alias: None

Speech Color: lawngreen


REJECTED...just kidding. I have to read it first.

Christopher Arthur III

Lost Haven, ME

“Guardians, when I said let’s gather up, I didn’t mean to dilly-dally and smell the roses,” Chris snapped at the others over their communicators that were connected to his suit’s computers. He had given all the members of the Guardians these card-sized devices so they could effectively coordinate their efforts. If they happen to get out of this apocalyptic scenario alive, Chris knew he might have to schedule some drills to practice their assembling time.

And Chris needed help now more than ever, as his fight with the Arlaaekan had grinded down to a stalemate. Although Chris might have been able to take on the alien invaders one at a time, the group transports that Arlaaekans had been sending down to the surface had created pockets of dozens of soldiers. Chris definitely did not want to field test how well his armor would stand up against several blasts from the Arlaaekans’ energy weapons all focused on a single spot on his suit. All he could do at the moment was give civilians cover as they retreated to safety.

“I programmed our communicators to locate one another,” Chris explained over the intercoms, “but if you would prefer directions, I’m located 12 blocks west north-west of Lost Haven University. You can’t miss the mass of aliens clogging up the streets.”

Chris peaked over the wrecked SUV he had been crouching behind and launched a missile from the wrist of his amor at one of the Arlaaekans, whose attention had been drawn elsewhere. As soon as the explosive payload left his armor, Chris immediately ducked down, and luckily so, as several green beams soared over his lowered head. At this rate, he would be surrounded before he could take out all of soldiers in front of him.

“Alright, I’m here. What do you need?” Iron Knight heard Radiance’s voice come from beside him as he saw her take cover behind the same SUV. Chris could not quite put his finger on it, but something looked off or different about her. Maybe divine was the right word.

“I don’t know if we can do it by ourselves, but we need to slow these guys’ advance,” Chris suggested.

“Then maybe you need a boost?” Radiance replied as she reached out her hand. Giant sparks were dancing off her fingertips.

“I don’t think that’s how it wo—”

A jolt of electricity radiated throughout Chris’ armor. Yet, he did not feel any pain or shocks. In fact, the readings displayed on his helmet UI indicated that the power surging through his suit was off the charts. All the systems were running at an efficiency higher than anything he had recorded while testing out his armor.

“Or I guess it does,” Chris admitted, still stunned at how Radiance’s powers had interacted with his power suit. “Anyways, cover me.”

The boosters on Chris’ feet launched him several feet into the air. As he descended, Chris drew his sword. The blade’s edge sparkled with lightninglike plasma, even more intensely after the supercharging Radiance had given Chris. With one downward swing, he struck one Arlaaekan on the right clavicle; the alien crumbled to the pavement as Chris landed.

[Energy Beam Incoming]

Chris miraculously sidestep a blast from one of the fallen Arlaaekan’s comrades. He counterattacked with another wrist rocket. The ballistic missile slammed into the Arlaaekan who had fired at Chris and sent him flying backwards in its mangled armor.

“Alright, who’s next?”



Earlier


Upon Olympus on high, Hermes fluttered about, rushing to and fro between the abodes of his brothers and sisters, his uncles and aunts. The messenger of the gods eventually came upon the luxurious home of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Hermes found his half-sister soaking in a nature pool beside her dwelling. The waters sparkled purely in the sunny light that poured upon Olympus’ high slopes.

Yet, Aphrodite was not alone. Eros, her son, hovered about, while the three Graces sat at the edge of the pool, dipping their legs into the clear water. All their eyes were locked upon a small puff of clouds that floated over the pool. The cloud displayed a scene playing out on Earth. A blonde woman and her beau stood before priest of that religion that had ousted the Olympians from their hegemony in the Mediterranean. It took Hermes a moment to recognize the woman, since she was not all spidery at the moment, but he recalled she must have been Athena’s favorite.

“Greetings, Aphrodite!” Hermes hollered as he approached, “Our Father has called for a council of the gods and he requires your presence immediately.”

“What terrible timing,” Aphrodite complained as she raised out of the pool. The Graces took the goddesses clean clothes and draped her body. “My schemes have almost been consummated. A tragedy it shall be if I miss it.”

“Then you better leave at once,” Hermes suggested before zooming off again to pass the message along to the next Olympian.

Aphrodite rung out her silky red hair before setting out for her father’s halls. Once she was ready, the Goddess of Love held out her hand and watched as her body dissolve into a whirlwind of butterflies. The cloud of butterflies fluttered towards the portico of Zeus’ palace, where Aphrodite reformed herself. Within the halls of Zeus, many of the Olympians had already arrived, while more filed inside to their seats, although none dared to sit before the King of the Gods had done so first.

Once mighty Zeus had taken his seat and the rest of the Olympians followed suit, Gray-Eyed Athena was the first to speak as she rose up from her chair.

“Lord Zeus, the father of gods and men, have we become so complacent in our ivory tower to forsake humanity in its hour of need? Did Themis in vain pity Promethides after you released the deluge upon the world? Does your underworld brother keep a steady guard over the Titans and the Giants for just a danger from the stars to threaten the mortal realm? Even you, father, smote Clymene’s foolish son with your forked lightning bolts to prevent the sun from scorching the Earth and rendering it barren.”

“If we do not intervene, the Earth sure will fall and humanity shall be eradicated. With the mortals extinguished, our last anchor on this plane shall be severed and we will quickly fade into nothingness. Not even the techniques and technology we have developed to maintain ourselves in our weakened states will be able to save us. Are we so devoted to our mandates and accords that we would prefer our own mutual destruction to a breach of our sworn prime directive? Swift action must be taken, else all shall be lost.”

Zeus wore a somber expression on his face as he sat in his throne and listened to his daughter’s recommendation. Once Athena had concluded her speech and returned to her seat, the father of gods and men stood up and addressed the assembled Olympians.

“No fault can I find in your words, Tritogeneia. Indeed, even I have grown lax on curbing divine intervention in human affairs. Yet, we have stayed without the bounds of the exceptions in the mandate we agreed upon with our brethren pantheons. This alien invasion does not fall under that purview. Humanity forsook us long ago. To us immortals, humans are like unto the leaves of the trees. Springtime births the buds of arboreal foliage and summertime nourishes them into maturity. But autumn causes the old leaves to wrinkle and the winter winds seal the deaths of any that had not fallen yet. So is the race of men.”

“Yet, do not fret, my daughter. A council of the pantheons have been summoned and I must attend as our representative. While I do not reckon the other chief gods will arrive at a different conclusion, the fickleness of our kind makes anything possible.”

Once the father of gods and men had finished, he concluded the assembly and departed upon his chariot, drawn by divine horses. The remaining Olympians watched as their lord soared through the sky and vanished upon the horizon. Now left alone, the siblings and children of Zeus disperse to their own abodes upon Olympus on high.

Aphrodite rushed back to her home, as she did not want to miss any of the juicy romance the Goddess of Love had manufactured. Yet, before she could relax in her pool, Aphrodite noticed another four-horse chariot charging through the sky. At the reins was Zeus’ favorite child, Athena, not doubt intending to aid the mortal heroes, whether it be her spidery pupil or someone else.

“Eros, my boyish child, I must check on my handpicked hero. I would hate to have to find a new champion if the mortals happen to repel these extraterrestrial invaders. I will be gone for only a short while. Yet, fetch me if things start to heat back up down there,” Aphrodite commanded as she pointed to the cloud she had been using to eavesdrop upon a certain drider and her new husband.

With her commands given, Aphrodite transformed into a dove and fluttered away. Through the metaphysical path the Olympians had long used to traverse their own divine realm and the mortal world below, the Goddess of Love descended upon Lost Haven, where she found the Iron Knight out numbered and outgunned by the Arlaaekans.

Seeing her champion in need of aid, Aphrodite pulled the oldest trick in the Olympian playbook. Once she flew down from the roof, she changed her appearance once again. But this time, Aphrodite took on the form of one of Iron Knight’s fellow Guardian, Radiance. The Goddess of Love was not quite as good as Athena at hiding her divine figure while in a mortal disguise, but this effigy should suffice. Just like how Diomedes raged upon the battlefield of Troy, Aphrodite’s divine power would tip the scales in the Iron Knight’s favor until her real allies could arrive.
SO I'm working on porting The Ambassador over here, @nitemare shape @Hound55 @Dedonus just a smol suggestion for maybe adding a section to the character sheets. A bullet point form for RP hooks - where the player can write in bullet form ideas/instances/scenarios where other characters will have an easier time connecting or interacting with the character for good ooc info. Like a quick access info area. It's not heavy on details, and if someone wants to get more details they can, of course, read the rest of the sheet. But ye! Just a suggestion.


Never thought about it. I like it.


Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant

One Day Before the Arlaaekan Invasion

Columbus, OH


The wedding reception was in full swing. All the guests had already consumed their dinner and endured listening to the the embarrassing stories from the best man and the maid of honor. Once the bride and the groom had concluded the first dance, many guests stormed the dance floor. With a mix of both recent hits and classic beats, everyone had something to dance to.

After several songs had passed, I dragged Will back to the table where we had been seated for much of the reception so I could take a quick break before returning to the dance floor. We both relaxed in our seats and began sipping on the water we had left over from dinner. Yet Will’s sister, Sarah, had already beaten us to the table long before I even thought to retire from the dance floor. Her eyes were glued to her cell phone.

However, before I could take advantage of my break, I noticed a crowd of women were gathering on the main floor. The bride was among them and holding a bouquet. It was obvious that the bouquet throw was about to happen. I don’t know where she came from, but Will’s mother had noticed that we were still at the table.

“Sarah, go join your cousins,” Mrs. Grant ordered her daughter once she had arrived at our table. “You, too, Aubrey.”

Sarah groaned as she rolled her eyes and pulled herself out of her chair. I just shrugged my shoulders and stood up. Before I headed towards the crowd of women, I turned to Will for a brief moment.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t let anyone steal my seat.”

We just barely arrived at where the other ladies were gathered before the bride released the bouquet. Sarah and I were lounging on our feet in the back since we were late arrivals. Sarah was still preoccupied with her cell phone, showing how little she cared. One the bundle of flowers were released, it tumbled through the air, end over end. Just like a Hail Mary pass attempted at the end of a tight football game, some girls in front of us tried to leap up and snatch the bouquet out of the air. However, they weren’t blessed with the catching ability of an NFL-caliber receiver. The floral prop was tipped off their hands and tossed further backwards.

Through sheer luck, the bouquet just so happened to have ricocheted right into my arms. I honestly did not know what had happened until I realized I was holding those flowers in my hands. I cracked an awkward smile as I held the bouquet, since it felt like everyone’s eyes were locked on me. The rest of the ladies begrudgedly dispersed after they had failed to secure the prize.

Well, almost everyone was disappointed to some degree, at least.

“Thank God it didn’t come my way,” Sarah muttered as she walked back towards her seat, still looking at her phone. “Who really wants some rando stranger putting their hands up your skirt. Or worse, one of my cousins. Gross!”

As I skirted over to the side, all the bachelors took the floor. Instead of a garter that’s usually tossed after the bouquet, Will’s cousin was holding a standard football. Will mentioned to me his cousin had played quarterback at a small, local college, so this choice was not entirely out of left field. This change in tradition probably was for the best, for, if I am to be honest, throwing a used garter into a throng of singles guys is kind of weird.

Anyways, Will’s cousin wound up and placed a perfect touch on the ball. The football drilled through the air in a perfect spiral. Yet, the lob was not heading towards the mass of men in the center of the room. Instead, just like a pitcher who had tossed the ball to the first baseman to tag out a runner trying to get a head start to second base, he threw the football to somebody standing several feet to the side of the rest of the guys: it was Will. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was planned after I caught the bouquet.

After Will caught the football, it was time for the last wedding tradition related to the bouquet and garter. I’ll be honest, since Will’s not the most athletic person in the world, I was praying the ball wouldn’t beam him in the face or something like that; I was relieved when he caught it. A chair had been pulled out to the main floor. Once I had taken a seat, one of the bridesmaids handed Will a garter. Once Will slipped the garter past my ankle, I wasn’t surprised when he stopped right above my knee. While I am clearly not a telepath, I knew Will well enough to guess that he was too shy or embarrassed to have his hands up the skirt of my dress while a room filled with hundred of guests were watching. I yanked up on the garter through the fabric of my dress until it felt comfortable, if wearing someone else’s garter could ever be described as such.

An applause erupted in the hall after this ceremony had completed. The DJ restarted the music to entertain the wedding guests until the cake was ready to be cut by the bride and the groom. I therefore dragged Will back onto the dance floor.

As we danced, a memory from one of my parallel selves flashed in my head. I found myself back at my senior prom, or rather this Aubrey’s senior prom. Nostalgia filled my ears as Lady Gaga’s recorded voice belted the verses of Just Dance through the music speakers.

Yet not everything was right that night. The sky glowed with an eerie green tint and the screams of confused teenagers filled the air. Doctor Diplodoc’s metahuman domes had already started to mutate random individuals. I began to panic as I realized that the skirt of my prom dress, now in tatters, revealed my arachnid lower body.

“Are you alright?” I heard Will ask me. His voice immediately snapped me out of this dreamlike state and dropped me back into the wedding reception.

“Just peachy,” I replied while I formed a smile on my face. Yet, while this vision was not exactly how I received my powers, even reliving that Aubrey’s experience left me a little unnerved. So, I tried to distract myself with the festivities of the reception. Nothing bad could happen here.

Right?



Day of the Arlaaekan Invasion

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Powell, Ohio


On the day after the wedding, Will and I decided to take the opportunity to visit the Columbus Zoo once more before we needed to start flying back West. Sure, we have the San Diego Zoo on the West Coast, but, as native Ohioans, nothing quite compares to the Columbus Zoo. This is especially true considering how much the zoological park had developed over the past couple decades.

Once we had finished strolling through both the Congo Expedition and Australia & Islands sections of the park, we started to head back towards the Shores & Aquarium section so we could venture through the Eastern portion of the zoo. As we were passing by the carousel, we made a quick stop at the Aldabra Tortoise exhibit, even though we had seen it on our way into this side of the zoo.

The carnival music and the laughter of children from the zoo-themed carousel filled the air around us. The two tortoises on the other side of the fence meandered around their pin, like a bunch of Sunday drivers in a hurry to go nowhere. One was chowing down on some leafy greens, while the other seemed like it was trying to find just the right spot for basking in the sun. They looked like they didn’t have a care in the world. And why would they? They were a bunch of turtles.

“I won’t lie, but when I caught that bouquet, I thought your family was going to drag us to the altar right there and then.”

“I think they were just relieved that you actually existed,” Will answered me back.

I then reached out and placed my hand on top of Will’s as it rested on the fence in front of us. Yet, out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed something peculiar happen. Both of the Aldabra tortoises, almost as if they were doing it synchronized, stopped what they had been doing and turned their heads up towards the sky. I always thought turtles were supposed to be slow and lumbering animals, but I was surprised at how quickly these little guys withdrew their legs and heads into their shells.

“What got them all spooked?”

“Some animals can sense bad weather from miles away, but we’re in the middle of Ohio and there’s barely a cloud in the sky.”

Then our cell phones began to buzz inside our pockets. When I saw the news notifications that had popped up on my phone’s screen, I couldn’t believe what I read. Several cities worldwide were blow off the face of the earth in a mere instance. And apparently aliens were behind all this destruction. From the murmuring from the other zoo guests, it sounded like they couldn’t comprehend the possibility of little green men going all nuclear on our planet, but considering the things I have seen, I don’t think anything would surprise me nowadays.

But when in the distance, just within eyeshot, a single Arlaaekan ship zoomed past the city of Columbus, as if it were either just scouting for the rest of the invasion fleet, or trying to spread fear by its mere presence, reality quickly set in for everyone. Confusion broke out as parents tried to scoop up their children and families were rushing this way and that. Everyone wanted to save whatever was dear to them.

“So, I guess you gotta do your thing now?” Will finally spoke up after he too saw the news reports. Although he did not say it with words, his face and the tone of his voice painted an entirely different picture: one of fear and anxiety.

I wasn’t sure what made me do what I was about to say. Maybe the impending alien apocalypse drove the words out of my lips. Or maybe the decade’s worth of memories from my elseworld counterparts influenced my decision. Whatever the cause was, the words just slipped out.

“Let’s get married,” I blurred out.

“Wait, what?” Will asked.

“Will you marry me?”

My heart sunk as I saw Will drag his feet with a response. Certainly I had popped the question way too quickly. With all the scattered memories of my parallel universe selves in my head, it was easy to forget that our relationship had only begun back in March. Yet those memories made it seem like we’ve been together for years. Heck, I even have a memory of another Will proposing to me.

Or maybe Will wasn’t as comfortable with my spider side as he made himself seem to be. Having a sexy spider girl as a girlfriend was one thing, but he might not be ready to commit himself to a life with an eight-legged freak like me. How could I not see this coming? Will always insisted on sleeping on the couch whenever he visited. Did he not want to wake up next to a ginormous spider? Sure, the girl of his dreams was attached to that spider, but there still was that giant monster.

“You know what, forget I mentioned it,” I muttered as I turned away from Will. “I’m sure Athena will be here soon.”

“Aubrey, wait,” Will said. He reached out and grabbed my wrist. Yet, he didn’t yank on my arm.

“It’s okay, Will. I jumped too quickly into this.”

“No, no. Let’s do it,” Will answered back. I could tell the sincerity in his eyes and his voice. “But I don’t want our love to be rooted in fear. We’re not making this commitment just because aliens are raining out of the sky. I want this proposal to be a pledge of hope: a promise that, after you and your friends have kicked these little green men off our front lawn, we will have a future together.”

As soon as Will had finished speaking, I threw my arms over his shoulders and planted a kiss on his lips. My heart was no longer burdened by the anxiety over whether I jumped the gun by popping the question. Sure, we looked out of place while everyone else were panicking over the alien invasion, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t about ready to allow anyone, including little green men, to ruin our moment.

“We still have the same priest at our parish when you used to live here,” I mentioned after we parted lips. “I’m sure we could ask him to tie the knot for us.”

“Maybe we should stop at the courthouse first. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who thought of this idea.”

“Oh, right. I guess we better get going.”
The Mandela Effect: Part 20


Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant

Two Days Before the Arlaaekan Invasion

A suburb of Columbus, OH


Will and I finally pulled up into the driveway of my parents’ house. After I turned off the ignition, both of us sat there for a few moments. I leaned my head back against my chair’s headrest and I started to rub my forehead with my hand.

“Are you feeling okay?” Will asked, as he could tell something was off. “Is it your power nullifier?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine once we get inside. Considering the punishment I have received as a superhero, I think I can handle a little nausea.”

“You should have told me sooner. I would have drove instead,” Will told me.

“Hey, we got here in one piece, didn’t we? Everything is fine.”

After this little exchange, we exited the rental car and pulled our luggage out from the trunk. We dragged our suitcases to the front door and I then rung the doorbell. For a few seconds, we stood there on my parent’s front porch. Since neither of my parents had answered the door by then, I started to dig through the black hole that was my purse as I searched for the spare key to the door. However, before I could find the key, we heard the door’s bolt click and the door swung open.

Standing in the doorway was my mother. For as far back as I could remember, people have always said that I looked like a younger, split image of hers. Well, this was at least the case until I had that run-in with that metahuman trafficker, who ‘blessed’ me with the physique of a comic book heroine. I guess we can still say that we resemble one another from the neck up.

“I’m so sorry it took me so long to get the door!” my mother apologized, “I was just starting dinner and your dad was out back doing some yard work. But please, come in!”

But before I could step foot inside, my mom noticed that something was wrong, just as any mom would when their kid was sick.

“Sweetie, are you feeling okay? You look a little green,” my mom asked as she pressed the back of her hand against my forehead.

“I appreciate the concern, mom, but I’ll be fine. It has just been a long day.”

“Alright, but if you’re still feeling under the weather, we probably have some Advil or something that might help.”

After my mom had finished worrying about me, Will and I both then entered my parents’ home. Since the stairs heading upstairs were to the right, Will and I left our luggage next to the steps and then followed my mother down the hallway and towards the kitchen. My mother hurried to the sliding door to the backyard and hollered to my dad, letting him know that we had arrived. She then checked the oven before turning her attention back to us.

“Thank you for letting me stay over, Mrs. Adkins. I know my parents really appreciated it,” Will told my mom in an attempt to break the ice.

“Oh, we’re just so thankful that our Aubrey could come home, even if it is for only a few days.”

At that moment, my father finally made his appearance, as he slid open the backyard door and came inside. Since he had been working in the yard, dirt coated the casual pair of athletic shorts and gray t-shirt. I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw he was wearing one of the football t-shirts from the high school he coached at. Before coming in, he removed his shoes so he wouldn’t track soil through the house.

“How’s my little bee?” My dad said as he welcomed me home. However, as his pet nickname for me had slipped out of his lips, my dad paused for a moment. “Wait, can I still call you that since spiders aren’t bugs?”

“Brian!” My mom snapped as she heard my dad say the word ‘spider’. As I had just recently revealed my powers to my parents, they now also had to be careful about what they said about me.

“What?” My dad asked in response. You could tell from his expression that the cogs were turning in his head, trying to figure out what he had done wrong.

“We don’t know if her boyfriend knows about—” my mom paused as she thought about what she was about to say, especially since she just had criticized dad about potentially revealing my superpowers, “—what makes Aubrey so special.”

“Mom, he already knows.”

The tension in the room immediately melted away. My mom gave a sigh of relief when she heard me say that they didn’t just screw up. My dad’s reaction, on the other hand, was quite different, as he pumped his fist, as if he had not done anything wrong. I just rolled my eyes.

“Since dinner isn’t ready yet, why don’t I show Will where he’ll be sleeping,” I suggested as an excuse so I could turn off my power nullifier while not in front of my parents. Sure, they do know about my powers, but I kind of want to ease them into it.

“In the guest bedroom,” my dad sternly told me.

“I’m not in high school any—”

“Don’t make me repeat myself, Aubrey Rose,” my dad replied, “Our rules under our roof.”

“And we already have made up the guest room just for Will,” my mom interjected to get a more calmer voice into the conversation.

“Fine,” I relented, not that I had much of a choice, “Let’s go see the guest room.”

“And there will be no crawling on the ceiling,” my dad called out to me as Will and I headed back towards the stairs where we had left our luggage when we had first entered my parents’ house. “Else, you’ll be using your spider powers to give the ceiling a new coat of paint to cover any footprints!”

At the top of the stairs, there were a set of doors that led into a “bonus” room that acted as an additional living room: the perfect place to watch sports or a movie. A hallway stretched out away from this bonus room, with my parent’s room sitting at the end. The guest room just happened to be the first door after the bonus room. The decor of this room was pretty beige and neutral: pretty much a hotel room.

“You don’t mind me changing into something a bit more comfortable than this dress while you unpack?”

Will nodded. He was about ready to walk into the room, dragging his suitcase behind him, but I spoke up again.

“Before I go, could you give a hand and unzip the back of this dress?”

As I left Will behind, I continued towards my bedroom. I passed the bathroom that I had to share with my brother up until I left for college. I love my brother, but thank God I don’t have to share one with him any more (although some of the girls I shared a dorm with my first two years weren’t any better).

Once I was in my old bedroom, I tossed my suitcase onto my bed and pulled out a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt. After I had changed and threw my hair into a ponytail with a leftover hair tie I found on my nightstand, I began unloading the rest of my suitcase. When I was almost finished, I heard a knock at my door.

“Yes?”

I had expected either of my parents to be at my door, but when I saw Will peak his head through the ajar door, I just rolled my eyes.

“Will, you don’t need to knock,” I told him with a chuckle.

“Hey, I didn’t know if you were done changing. I would rather not walk in on you while you’re in some degree of undress, especially with your parents being around.”

“And that’s total BS,” I half-jokingly, half-seriously told my boyfriend. Honestly, he was the type of person to be bashful about this sort of thing. Yet, considering my current profession and what had happened between us when my alt-world self was in the driver seat of my body, there was some evidence for me to call shenanigans.

“So, how does my room live up to your expectations?” I asked Will. My room, however, was a shell of what it had been back when I actually lived in it. Just like when you finally move out of your parents’ house, and not just going off to college, the room looked plundered of many of my personal items, as I had obviously taken them with me out west. Sure, my shelves still displayed some sports trophies I had earned all the way up to high school and there were some old photos from my teen years sitting on my dresser and desk. However, I couldn’t help feel like there was a kind of blandness with the room, as I had taken with me everything else that would have made it my own.

“Um—,” Will muttered as he considered his answer and looked around at my room, “I’ll be honest, I never really thought about it. But considering I’ve seen how your apartment looks, I’m kind of surprised this is so tidy.”

“Hey!” I retorted when I heard Will mention how much I keep my apartment decluttered (or lack thereof). But I’m not that bad. Sure, I might leave some clothes lying around in my bedroom, but it’s not like I clutter the rest of my apartment with my laundry! I then picked up one of the pillows from my bed and hurled it at Will. As it was a fluffy, soft pillow, the impact wasn’t anything serious, although it was definitely worth it to see the shocked expression on Will’s face after he realized he was just beamed by a pillow.

After Will tossed the pillow back onto my bed, he noticed a large basket in the corner of my bedroom filled to the brim with stuffed animal plushies. While there was a good variety of animals in this herd of plushies, a good number of them were bunnies, including one especially worn and loved bunny sitting on top of the pile. Before he could make a remark about them or walk closer to the basket, I spoke up first.

“I would have taken a few of them with me, but, considering I’m a superhero, something will eventually go boom and I don’t want them to be unfortunate casualties.”

“Then it’s probably safe to assume this one was your favorite when you were a kid?” Will guessed as he picked up the ‘well-loved’ black and white bunny from the top of the pile and tossed it over to me.

“What gave you that idea?” I replied with a smile on my face as I caught little Oreo in my hands.

“Oh, I have a turtle stuffed animal from my childhood who’s in a similar condition.”

“I would bet they’re going to be best friends some time.”

“I’m sure they will.”

I then set Oreo down right in front of my pillow before I grabbed my empty suitcase and tossed it into my closet. Now that my luggage was fully unpacked, I turned around and leaned up against the frame of my closet’s door.

“Anyways, wanna see a cool trick?”

“You’re not going to do anything to get me in trouble, are you?”

“What? Don’t let my parents get into your head. This is something I think you’ll really dig.”

I then double tapped my power nullifier and deactivated it. Almost immediately my lower began to morph back into its drideresque state, However, unlike the many times I had done this before, instead of my clothes no longer fitting because my arachnid shape, my yoga pants expanded and took on a new form to accommodate my eight spider legs and the rest of my spider body. As this transformation happened, I watched as Will stood there, stunned. Yet the expression on his face showed a piqued curiosity rather than fear or concern.

“So, what do you think?” I struck a pose as I spoke those words.

“Utterly speechless. Athena’s work, I presume?”

“What makes you think that? The fact these yoga pants fit my spider half like a glove? As much as she can really drive me crazy, she did do a grand job,”

Obviously Athena didn’t do this unprompted, though. After I complained enough that switching between my human and drider forms while wearing my normal clothes, especially when I needed to change unexpectedly, was quite a hassle, Athena finally caved to my complaints and worked her magic on some of my clothes as a test. Some turned out better than expected, such as these yoga pants, as they’re form-fitting. Others weren’t as successful. The pair of jeans we tested on were just too stiff and restrictive for my arachnid physique. I would have mentioned this to Will sooner, but all the parallel universe craziness had distracted me.

“Sounds like you’re feeling better already,” Will suggested. My healing factor sure is nice sometimes. Often I just have to turn off my power nullifier for a few minutes to dispel the nausea.

“I’d feel even better if you would come over here and give my shoulders a massage. It feels like someone tangled up a bunch of cords into an impossible knot and shoved them into my shoulders,” I told my boyfriend. I patted the top of my spider thorax, to indicate to him to hop on to give him better access to my back.

Will paused after he heard my suggestion. He glanced back at the door to my bedroom and took care to shut it without it making any noise. I could understand his hesitation: it would be a bit awkward for my parents to walk in on us while he was sitting on the back of my spider half. Nonetheless, after he had shut the door, he followed through with my request. I crawled onto my bed and rested my spider half on the mattress. Once I had taken a spot on my bed, Will then climbed up on my spider thorax.

“Wow, you really weren’t kidding about these knots,” Will said as he began to rub my shoulders.

“Considering the day I had, it’s a miracle there aren’t more.”

“I thought meeting your parents went pretty well,” Will suggested, “although I don’t know whether I should be relieved or offended that your parents are more worried about you getting handsy with me and not the other way around.”

“Oh, it started way before that.”

“First, it was the flight here. Although my power nullifier hasn’t failed me yet, the crammed rows of an airplane would be the worst place for a failure to happen. Even if we were to ignore the part where I would be essentially outed, I don’t even want to image what would have happened if all of this would have spontaneously appeared.”

As I spoke, I gestured to the entirety of my spider half.

“I actually hadn’t considered that possibility,” Will admitted, still rubbing my shoulders. “Maybe on the way home we should give you the aisle seat.”

“Yes, that would help so much to fix the situation,” I sarcastically retorted.

“Hey, it was just a thought!”

“Next, we had to meet your folks first. Will, I mean this in the most loving way possible, but I am never driving with your mom again.”

“Hey, I did try to warn you that she’s the queen of backseat drivers, but no, you wanted to show off.”

“I was trying to give off a good impression. But dear God, I would rather face some wacky supervillains than her.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation to you, it will be a couple decades before we have to take her driver’s license away. Plus, I think she likes you, especially since, and I’m quoting her here, I’m dating a ‘good Catholic girl.’”

“Really?” I said as I cranked my head around to look back at Will. “More like a ‘good Catholic girl,’ whose head is stuck to a porn star’s body, who’s still trying to dress like a ‘good Catholic girl.’ And she doesn’t know about the whole spider thing. So there's that.”

“Hey, give yourself a little more credit! You’re beautiful just the way you are, eight legs and all,” Will snapped back. He then reached over my shoulder and planted a kiss on my cheek.

“Anything else besides introducing me to your parents?” Will then asked.

“Well—” I said with a smirk on my face, which was still turned towards Will. “I have been heaving these humongous girls around all day. They sure haven’t been helping out my back.”

“Oh, what a terrible curse you have, having a cup size big enough to wear as a hat, yet still being able to fit into a size zero dress,” Will teased while still focusing on my shoulders.

“I know, right?” I said half-jokingly. “You saw the bullshit I have to put up with when we went to find me some new clothes.”

“I’ll admit, even I started to feel the pain. Felt like you went through hundreds of outfits before you actually found something that fit well.”

Will then continued to massage my shoulders. We just needed a little ‘us’ time, you know. After being crammed into that plane with a bunch of strangers, then thrown to the wolves with Will’s folks, and then finally seeing my parents, there’s just only so much more you can take. And a little shoulder massage was just what the doctor ordered.

“Aubrey, Will, dinner is ready,” we suddenly heard my mother say from the other side of my bedroom door after she had lightly knocked on the door.

“We’ll be right down,” I hollered. At that very moment, Will had, probably by accident, found a sweet spot on the back of my shoulders. “Oh, that’s the perfect spot. Keep rubbing it right there.”

“Sweetie, is everything alright in there?” My mom asked from the other side of the door. There was a momentary pause before she uttered those words. The tone of her voice made me think she was suspicious of us doing exactly what they told us not to do. Well, technically they didn’t say anything about not having sex. They just said we were going to be sleeping in separate bedrooms and I shouldn’t be crawling into Will bedroom during the middle of the night. So they just insinuated it.

And I'm not sure why I did what I was about to do here. Maybe it was the bitterness I had from my parents treating me like I was still a teenager. Or I might have wanted to see if my mom really thought Will and I were 'getting busy' right under my parents nose at the first opportunity we had. No matter the reason, what happened is what happened.

“Mom, I won’t come in if I were you,” I called out, “Will is caressing my boobs so gently and sensually.”

“What are you doing?” Will hissed in a whisper into my ear. He began to slow down how fast and how much pressure he was rubbing my shoulders.

“Hush! I got this under control,” I whispered back. Now was the time for my best attempt at an acting performance.

“I think...he’s going...to make...me...oh God—” I gasped as those last words escaped my lips. At that same moment, I no longer felt Will’s hands massaging my shoulders, although they were still planted square on my shoulders. For a second, he shifted his position on the back of my spider half, as if he were planning on diving off my back whenever my bedroom door would undoubtedly be swung open. Yet, he seemed frozen in place out of embarrassment and fear.

If my dad had been on the other side of that door, he probably would have crashed through the door and rushed in. Luckily, it was my mom. Instead, she creaked open the door, almost as if she were afraid of what she would see on the other side of the door. Once the door had been cracked open enough for her to stick her head through the opening, she finally discovered that I was pulling her leg. Her face gave off an expression of relief, although I could still detect a little bit of discomfort from my uncanny arachnid appearance. Even though I had told my parents about my secret identity, this was the first time she had seen me without my power nullifier activated. Although she clearly was trying, I knew it was going to take time for her to get used to the idea of a good portion of her little girl was now basically a giant spider.

“Wow, I can’t believe you actually thought we were doing that. Have a little faith in us, mom!” I said with a coil smile on my face.

“I want the record to clearly show that my hands are definitely on her shoulders,” Will interjected with a sheepish voice to highlight his innocence. I could feel his hands ever so slightly shake as they still grasped at my shoulders.

“What? I wasn’t insinuating you were doing anything like that,” my mom tried to defend herself, but the tone of her voice betrayed her, indicating quite the opposite.

“Really, mom? Really?”

“Anyways,” my mom tried to change the subject, “dinner is ready.”

“We heard the first time, mom. We’ll be done in a second.”

“I had not thought about it until now, but do we need to find something for you to sit on at the table?” my mom asked, obviously referring to my drider half.

“Oh, this band I have allows me to look normal whenever I want. So I don’t need any special accommodations.”

“It wouldn’t be any trouble for you dad to carry over a bench or stool over to the table. You don’t have to hide yourself in front of us,” my mom said, although I could see in her eyes a discomfort at the giant spider body attached to my waist.

“No, no, it will be simpler this way.”

“Alright,” my mom finally relented, “but don’t take too long, else your dinner will get cold.”

With that said, my mother exited my room and, presumably, went back to the dining room. Once she was gone, Will and I began to laugh a little at what had just transpired, although his was more of a nervous laugh.

“I won’t lie, but that expression on my mom’s face was priceless.”

“I can’t believe she fell for that,” Will replied as he hopped off the back of my spider half and sat next to me on my bed, “What you were saying was so ridiculous that I don’t know how anyone could believe that could ever happen.”

“Oh, you little spring chicken,” I said before planting a quick kiss on his check.

“Wait, what?” Will asked when he heard my reply. He wore a confused expression on his face as he tried to figure out what I meant.

“Well, I’m going to need a couple more minutes so I don’t see my dinner a second time tonight, but why don’t you head down now?” I purposefully ignored answering Will’s question as he started to push him off of my bed and towards the door.

“Wait, Aubrey. You can’t leave me without an explanation,” Will protested and in vain resisted my attempts to push him out of the room.

“I’ll explain it the next time we want to go to the beach,” I whispered into his ear as I finally managed to force Will outside of my bedroom door.

“But, Aubrey, you still haven’t cleared anything up,” he said as I closed the bedroom door on him. “Aubrey? Aubrey?!?”

I just ignored his pleas and instead tossed myself back onto my bed and sprawled out on it. I reached out and grabbed Oreo, who had been lying on my bed and pulled it into my arms. For a few more minutes, I just rested there on my bed, staring at the ceiling. No supervillains to worry about, not world ending cataclysms. Just a little break from all the superheroic craziness that had become my life, if one would call seeing one’s own parents and your boyfriend’s folk a vacation.

It was definitely good to be home.
Character you have created: Kenneth De'Kane
Alias: The Candycane
Speech Color: Light red
Character Alignment: Villain
Identity: Kenneth De'Kane


The Mandela Effect: Part 19


Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant

Two Days Before the Arlaaekan Invasion

John Glenn International Airport

Columbus, OH

I stared out of the small, oval window while I waited for the airplane to pull up to the jet bridge and park so everyone could depart from the aircraft. Weeks ago, we had already planned to attend Will’s cousin’s wedding. It was the perfect opportunity to meet each other’s folks, as I would be dropped into the deep end at the wedding, while we were going to crash at my parent’s place so we wouldn’t have to fork up cash for a hotel room. Will and I had contemplated canceling this little trip back home to Ohio due to the weirdness that had happened to me as of late. We could have easily given an excuse for why I would not be attending the wedding. However, because we had repeatedly pushed back meeting our significant one’s parents, we felt the pressure to carry through our original commitment, despite my altered physical appearance.

Once the plane had come to a halt, almost all the passengers, or at least those with aisle seats, jumped to their feet to grab their luggage from the overhead carriers, despite the flight attendants had not yet announced they were ready for departure. Everyone was always in a hurry, either to catch a connecting flight or just to leave the airport.

Will had slipped out of his seat and acquired our bags from above, first handing my suitcase to me first before procuring his own. He then sat back down to wait until it was time to actually leave. Eventually the flight attendants announced it was time to disembark and they thanked us for flying with them today. We waited a few moments for the people in front of us to file out of the plane before we could exit our seats. When Will got out of his seat, he waited for me to slip past him before heading down the aisle.

Once we were inside the airport proper, we started to leave Concourse B until I spotted the restroom opposite of the airport’s Eddie George’s Grille.

“I better change before meeting up with your folks. I’ll be back soon,” I alerted Will as I gestured towards the restroom. He nodded and waited outside while I changed into something more presentable. I had dressed for comfort for the flight, as flying from California to Ohio is quite the trip. As a D-list celeb, if I’m even that high on the letter chart, just a pair of athletic shorts and a baggy, oversized t-shirt, along with sunglasses and a baseball cap was enough to sneak out of Pacific Point. And once outside of California, I doubted most people would recognize who I was. I swear there was one, maybe two people who did a doubletake when they saw men, as if they realized who I was. Or they were just staring for another obvious reason.

Once I was inside the women’s room, I entered one of the stalls and unzipped my carry-on suitcase. I pulled out the cutest casual dress from the suitcase. I doublechecked to make sure no tags or sales stickers were still attached to the dress. As I had not reverted back to normal, as I had hoped, I had to make an emergency shopping spree for a few outfits for this trip. Even before all the alternate reality bull crap, I already had issues finding well-fitting clothes. And this time, it was an utter nightmare, as it took me forever to find that cute dress and a few other outfits. Obviously I tried to dress incognito while shopping, although wearing an oversized hoodie in the middle of the summer might have achieved the opposite effect. Well, at least Will was a trooper and went to all the checkouts for me.

After I had finished changing into the dress, I walked in front of the bathroom mirror to doublecheck my appearance. I used my brush that I had stashed in my suitcase to tidy up my hair from wearing that baseball cap. Once I had finished brushing my hair, I threw it back into a ponytail. Speaking of my hair, I also managed to book my stylist again to get my hair under control. I was a little worried about trying to explain how my hair had grown back to its original length in a few days, but apparently she had seen weirder things in the past week. By using the rate at which my hair had regrown since my last appointment with my stylist, I had her cut it short: not quite a pixy cut, but just long enough to make a tiny ponytail. And now, my hair was back to its normal length before all the parallel reality chaos.

I did one more pass on checking my dress. Since this dress had a v-neck design, I brought a bandeau to wear underneath so the Grand Canyon wouldn’t be running down the front of the dress. Plus, I was hoping the bandeau would help mask the bra I wore underneath it being too small. I tugged up on the bandeau just to be on the safe side before I existed the restroom with everything stashed back in my suitcase.

Upon my exit, I found Will still standing in the spot I had left him. He had not noticed I had returned, as his attention was on the Eddie George’s Grille.

“I see you’re thinking with your stomach.”

“Hey, traveling makes me hungry.”

“Well, we better be going. Can’t keep your folks waiting.”

Will nodded in agreement. He took my hand and we continued down Concourse B until we exited the security check point. Once outside, we descended the escalator to the baggage claim. As we wend down, we passed under a collage made of red, blue, yellow, and cyan square titles, along with pictures of famous landmarks of Columbus, Ohio, including the Shoe, Short North, and the Columbus Zoo. Between the two escalators stood an abstract sculpture, composed of what looked like brush strokes of the same colors of the collage overhead.

When Will and I were about halfway down the escalator, I noticed a middle-aged woman waving profusely at us. Next to her stood a girl who seemed to have be around Will’s age. Although Will’s sister was holding a rectangular sign in one hand, her attention was entirely on her phone. What was weird, however, was that, even though I had never met any of Will’s immediate family before, because I have fragments of memories of them from the parallel reality Aubreys ever since my healing factor restore my normal psyche, I kind of know them, if that makes any sense.

“How long does your sister spend on getting hair to get it to be so curly?”

“She doesn’t,” Will replied.

“Wait, but you and your mom have straight hair, maybe wavy if we’re stretching the definition here. Where did she those locks?”

“She gets them honestly from my dad.”

As we continued down the escalator, I heard Will give off an audible sigh. When I turned to him, I saw he was shaking his head. I only realized what was wrong when I took a closer look at the sign his sister was holding. It read: Loser. Meanwhile, Mrs. Grant had also noticed something was amiss from her son’s facial expression and body language, along with my own confusion. She too leaned forward to see check the sign, as Will’s sister was holding it slightly in front of them. When she realized what was written on it, she gave Will’s sister a light NCIS slap on the back of her head before she took the sign out of her hand and flipped it over, revealing what it should have read: Will & Aubrey.

Once we had finally reached the ground floor, we approached Will’s mother and sister. His hurried over and embraced her son in a big bear hug.

“Oh, I missed you so much. You’re still eating well and getting enough sleep, right?”

“It has been a little more than a week since you last saw him, mom. He hasn’t gone off to grad school yet,” his sister interjected, although her glance was still directed towards her phone. Mrs. Grant, in turn, just brushed off the comment.

“Yes, mom,” Will answered as he was released from his mother’s hug. “Anyways, I know it’s probably obvious, but this is Aubrey.”

“Oh, it’s so nice to finally meet you!” Mrs. Grant exclaimed.

“I still don’t believe she’s real,” Will’s sister again interjected and again was ignored by her brother and mother.

“Sorry we haven’t done this sooner, but things late have been craz—” I started to say as I held out my hand, but I was taken by surprise when Will’s mother instead gave me a bear hug, too.

“Will did mention you two went to high school together, but I feel like I have seen you somewhere before.” Mrs. Grant suggested after she had finished giving me a friendly hug.

“From a porn magazine,” Will’s sister blurred out for the third time.

“Sarah Lee Grant. What did I say about being rude to our guest! You haven’t said one nice thing since they have arrived.”

“Um,” I spoke up to try to break the tension in the air. “We both were in the same Confirmation class in 8th grade.”

“Oh, I used to volunteer to teach religious ed classes back then. I must have seen you there.”

“So, where’s dad?” Will said in an attempt to change the subject.

“He already went to check us into our hotel. Speaking of which, you have to thank your parents for us for letting Will stay a few nights, Aubrey.”

“Wait, if dad has the car, how are you going to get there?”

“Well, we were planning to hitch a ride with you. You were planning to get a rental, weren’t you?”
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