Fashion Week

 

7k words. A poor shop clerk at a popular interstellar high end fashion outlet finds herself in over her head when a particularly high end customer comes in.

(Tags: Super Strength, Mindbreak, Mind Control, Beauty)

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I didn’t want this shift. I called out today, I didn’t feel great and I figured that there were enough people on the job already today. If I didn’t come in it’d be my last shift, and I’d have a few days of peace and quiet before I focused on figuring out what I was going to do next. Maybe one of the applications I’d sent out would finally pay off, or maybe I’d move into a friend’s apartment elsewhere in the city, or maybe I’d move out of the city and chill at my parents’ place while I figured out what to do with my life next. It didn’t matter, just as long as I wasn’t working any more ten-hour shifts fitting tacky luxury shoes and jewelry for a whole galaxy’s worth of upper-class alien socialites.

“Missy, I need some help rearranging the Brooklyn Galactic display case, if you would?” my manager shouts to me. Even in the chaos and bustle of Saturday rush hour, the shrill passive aggression in her voice was impossible to mistake.

The joy of living in New York in the 22nd century was that you never knew which spaceships would be blocking out the sun today. Since mankind had stepped onto the galactic stage, it was like every week, sometimes every day that some big wig from across the stars would fly down to our humble barely-FTL civilization to pay welcoming presents to the newbies on the block. My parents and people around their age still talked about aliens like some goofy novelty because they got to chill in the woods and suburbs and think about them as an abstracted idea from some ancient 20th century sci-fi flick. I, on the other hand, was pretty close to over the whole alien thing. I was barely a baby when they were discovered, too young to remember when they first came to Earth for a visit, and I wasn’t even in high school when they split NYC off into its own arrangement.

That was the other fun part about living in the city- when the Manhattan Accords were happening, the big world players on the stage all agreed that whichever city became the main “starport” for diplomatic and commercial affairs couldn’t be the territory of any one country. Building a city from the ground up that could support that level of interstellar traffic wouldn’t be feasible, so they came up with the bright idea of having one or two countries fork over one of their existing major cities and turn that into the main starport. Cue the international slap fighting as every city, town, and pueblo under the sun tries to petition for it.

Of course, New York cinched it. The United Nations was already there, most of the negotiations had gone down there, and even if Chinese had more native speakers English was too much of a “lingua franca” to ignore. And it was in that way that me, my parents, and the 40 million other inhabitants of the Greater New York City area, bleeding well into New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and my home state of Connecticut, were all unceremoniously stripped of our United States citizenship and made “citizens of the world”, which is to say serfs under the great beautiful watch of New York City.

“Not so fast, Missy, you’ll scuff the heels,” Janae chided me. I mentally rolled my eyes. The buzzing noise of alien clicks, chirps, whistles, and sing song voices bounced around in my head. Who was it that ditched today? Thomas? Jen?  I said a silent curse towards them.

“Hello, miss?” a quiet voice called out.

I turned and two shimmering green dots met my eyes. I pulled back, trying to not drop the shoes I was stacking as I tried to get a read on her. She was short, age indeterminate. My eyes glanced down. She wasn’t wearing any clothes, though her lime green barbie doll anatomy didn’t exactly reveal much. I looked back up.

“Oh, sorry, how could I help you?” I said in my good customer service voice. I took a few key steps away from Janae, leaving her to deal with the mess. She didn’t respond.

“Well, my master,” she started, gesturing to a burly humanoid, seven feet tall with skin covered in short pink fur and draped in little more than a long robe and some sandals, “they wish to discover if you have any footwear in twice their size.”

“Twice?” I asked. I noticed a glint of daylight shine off her plasticky skin. An android. Huh.

“For their beloved mate,” the robot continued. Her face was blank. Expressionless. I suppressed a shiver.

“Hm, well, we carry a wide range of sizes in the back, is there anything specific?”

The robot whispered something unintelligible to the customer, who responded back with some indiscriminate growls.

“Master would like something becoming of-“

The customer roared as softly as they could.

“Pardon me. Master wishes something specifically ‘fitting of the beautiful human women in the holomags’.”

I tried to force back a chuckle. I prayed the customer wouldn’t notice.

“Yeah, I’ll be right back with what I have!”

I slid away into the background, then into the storage room. It looked typical of any usual shoestore backroom, but the racks weren’t set in place. I pressed some buttons on a dial on the side of one, and the entire rack began to rotate on a conveyer belt, new shelves coming up from the ground to replace the old ones sinking into the back. I’d never checked, but I figured the actual warehouse had to go way, way underground, that or it used fancier space compression technology than I’d ever seen. I lost myself in the idle routine of shuffling through our catalogue to pull up a few choices. One by one, I pulled a few massive shoeboxes off the rack and loaded them onto a cart. Each one weighed like a sack of potatoes. The Kroatians, aka the race of the guy in the front, had fairly easy to read tastes, at least on the broadest cultural level. They might look like warriors, but the gaudy hyperfemme studded boots we had been getting in from Japan sold like hotcakes with them. If the guy was looking for something that reminded their SO of pretty human women, they were looking for something like this.

I recognized one of the brands, then grimaced. These boots weren’t Earth-made, no, but the line had been making its way into New York’s fashion scene anyways. They’d been a hit with just about every alien race that touched down here, which meant it was invariably becoming trendy among the native Manhattan socialites. Which was funny, because if we were part of any Earth country, they would be banned on sight for all the human rights violations the boots embodied. On Earth, the brand went by “Queen’s Love”, a rough translation of the original name. Apparently, we’ve yet to fully meet with the race that made them, but they’d still spread to basically every corner of the incorporated galaxy despite the high prices. It wasn’t hard to see why.

The box peeked over the top of the stack, and I dared to sneak a glance. Size 32 boots made from some grey leathery material, studded with four-point star shaped gems that glowed faintly in the dark of the backroom. Except, I knew they weren’t gems. They were computers. If I had a better light, I could shine in to see the holographic projection, a trick of the light in each miniature supercomputer exposing little glowing dots darting in and about the darkness. Artificial intelligence. Humanoid stick people, barely perceptible with the human eye yet imbued with all the blessings and curses of total sapience, built and designed specifically to forever exist as little self-aware projections on the side of a customer’s shoes. An entire society built as decoration.

It never felt good to look over it. I wondered if they could see me, the godlike shoe clerk who could so casually cart around their entire reality. Would it be better if they knew what they were? Where they were? What the lot in life they had been born for was? Or would it be easier for them to live as ignorant little fishes in a pond tinier than imagination itself. I remember reading about these shoes for the first time when I was younger. I had nightmares for days imagining my entire existence being looked down upon by some terrifying outside eye. It felt so visceral, imagining a finger larger than skyscrapers coming down from the heavens to tap on the bubble that contained my everything, shivering as my entire world shook to rubble. Nowadays I envied the bubble dwellers. At least they could pretend they were the biggest fish in the ocean. At least they couldn’t see the bubble they were trapped in.

I carted out the stack of boxes higher than my head. The cart hovered slightly above the ground, so moving it around was about as hard as sliding a hockey puck along ice. It took me a second to realize something was wrong, and another second to realize where that wrongness was coming from. It was quiet. Ridiculously quiet, quiet enough to hear my own thoughts quiet. Quiet like there was nobody in the store quiet because the entire place was abandoned. Near abandoned, I noted, because there were two figures at the front of the store talking. At least, I figured there were two talking, because I heard one indiscernible whisper from where I was standing, and then a pause, as if waiting for an inaudible response. I left the cart where it sat/floated and walked over.

Janae, my manager, was talking with someone new, some human woman. A customer, I assumed, by her expensive looking blouse and short shorts. She seemed familiar somehow, though I didn’t understand why. I could hear a rhythmic bump, like something heavy had fallen far away, but I couldn’t make out where it was coming from.

“Sorry for the trouble, m’am. It’s just, sometimes it can be a pain shopping and I don’t like being a disturbance,” the woman screamed. Or… said. Or… whispered. I couldn’t tell what tone she said it in, her voice was soft and smooth, as polite as I’d ever heard, yet it registered as loud to my ears. It was like somebody had turned up her “volume”, so that her words boomed no matter how she spoke.

“Oh, it’s, it’s no problem, we’re, doing great here Madame I mean M’am or I, yes-“ Janae said, her eyes darting about the room like a crazed animal til they looked on mine. I’d never seen her this scared before, and her nerves were starting to become my nerves.

“Hey, Janae, is there something going on here? Where did everybody go?”

The customer turned over to me, which I felt somehow as a little puff of wind against my skin. Warm, slightly. She opened her mouth to talk, but Janae cut her off.

“Oh, yes, right, I, the daughter of the diplomatic representative of Shamayi was, well, the good Princess Lune was here, in our humble store visiting! So incredible, right?”

My expression didn’t change but my heartbeat stopped. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh today of all fucking days, today my last day on this fucking job this had to come and happen.

When we reached the galactic stage, most of the other civilizations seemed somewhat humanoid. Some walked on all fours, some had three fingers and a thumb, and some communicated in shrill tones audible only by dogs, but the requirements for intelligent life, and the evolutionary paths to reach that point, tended to favor a few critical features that kept most races at least visually akin to mankind. Some veered further from us, others veered closer, but none were quite so identical as the Shamayi, and no comparisons proved quite the fearsome.

See, the Shamayi were basically the big dicks in the room, and everyone knew it. Their endeavors in science, technology, spacecraft, and culture were renowned galaxy wide, and a whopping fiftieth of the countless contacted planets in the galaxy was in some way under their rule. And the reason it was only a fiftieth and not a twentieth or a tenth or a fourth or half of the galaxy was because their species couldn’t reproduce on a fast enough level to spread out that far reliably and couldn’t see the worth in ruling with an entire race spread out so thinly. That was it. Logistics. Simple, brute logistics were the only thing keeping the tide back.

On Earth we called them Kryptonians. They saw it as a pleasing comparison, and in a lot of ways it was. They were the legendary lost alien race from centuries of pop culture osmosis, a beautiful shining symbol of culture and greatness whose only son would grow to become Earth’s greatest hero. But under the flattery was a darker understanding every person who interacted with the stars in any way knew. The Shamayi were strong. Not strong in the way Kroatians were strong, big burly beasts who could bench press a sedan and plow through a tank on pure adrenaline alone. Not strong in the way that the Tinkertils were strong, smart crafty cunning things that had pushed artificial intelligence so far ahead that they humiliated a century of human progress with how skilled their AI were. The Shamayi were strong on a different definition, a different plateau of strength entirely.

They were strong in the sense that they were untouchable. I hadn’t seen one until now, no, but I knew the stories. I saw the videos. Framed as government testing, though the message was so apparent it didn’t need to be stated. Bulletproof. Missile proof. Laser proof. Firebomb proof. No weapon mankind had forged before the Cosmic Age could make one bleed. Capable of flight. Capable of speeds the human eye simply couldn’t track. And strong, physically strong, in the way that no knowing authority figure was yet willing to disclose.

“Hello, this is, um, this is Missy, she’s our senior clerk here, she will be your attendant for the day,” Jenae spat out, nearly choking on her own sweat.

“I- what?” I responded.

“Be good, Missy. You can close the store for the day after she’s done shopping with us. I have some, errands to run, so I will be, um, okay thanks bye!”

The princess stared blankly as my boss full stop turned heel and ran like a wounded dog. She turned her head to track my manager as she left the store. I felt it. I’d seen them in action, a bit, in rare combat footage, but I had never imagined the actuality of being next to one would be so radically different. It wasn’t a matter of strength or speed or durability, it was something more. Something darker. Like just her presence was so super it was unspooling my nerves. It explained why everyone had left, at least. I put all of my attention into calming my nerves, trying to summon every bit of willpower I could imagine. Connecting my body’s reactions and response to the polite woman who very well could have been my age, whose messy black curls and tired eyes seemed so much like my own, who very well could have been confused for my cousin were it not for the unnaturally pale marble whiteness of her skin, felt surreal on another level entirely.

“Hello, um, Missy, was it?”

And she spoke. She spoke! She spoke in a normal tone overlaid millions of times into a thunderclap echoing in my ears, with a gentle breath that hit me like the windiest day I could remember. I felt myself stumble back to catch my balance, then to regain my senses. My ears had a dull ringing in them but considering how close I’d been to the center I’d assumed that I would have lost my hearing outright. I tried to recenter, tried to refocus, but I didn’t have a moment until I felt her walking over to me. Each footstep shook the ground like an earthquake, and I was realizing with haunting dread that the thumping on the ground was neither her footsteps nor her voice, but the idle pumping of her heartbeat.

“Sorry,” the woman said, in a tone that didn’t throw me back and strike my spirit but still came out as all too loud. “Sometimes it can be difficult for me to figure out the right level of volume. Some species don’t mind louder, but with Earthlings it’s tricky to get my inside voice low enough for your sensitive ears without muting it entirely.”

I weakly smiled back as I tried to stand straight. She was taller than me by an inch, not much but enough to squash the little hope I had of at least being able to visually stand up to her.

“It’s, fine we get all sorts of customers in here, take a seat Miss, uh, sorry what was your name again?”

And she said her name and it was roses and love and eternal bonds given out under moonlit waters, a beauty and tranquility so becoming it stretched across the stars into a black eternity. And then I blinked and rubbed my ears because that wasn’t a word, it was a conceptual transcendental experience that I definitely could not repeat. She seemed to realize this.

“Oh, my apologies. I believe in your tongue it is Lune. You can call me Princess Lune, though most people just call me Lune.”

“Yes, no problem, um, Lune,” I said, fighting the urge to get on one knee and bow, “how can I help you today?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, my sister actually said that one of her attendants bought something from you guys and it was the…”

Oh god she was so beautiful. She didn’t have the poise or the radiance of a supermodel so it had totally crossed my mind, but I realized as the softness of her overwhelming voice lulled me into a trace that her face, her skin, her entire body was completely without blemish, without flaw. Her proportions were in such harmonic symmetry with each other that just thinking about my own face made it seem so crooked and wrong in comparison. How could something like her exist? How could something like me exist in the presence of something like her? There wasn’t any way shape or form we were breathing the same air, sharing the same dimension, re-

“And so I was wondering if you had anything of that nature on hand. Do you know?”

My mind snapped back to reality. “I uh, guh, y’know, we, lotta warehouses, lotta places to, stuff, and places, and, um, yeah, I”

“Ah, never mind then. I’ll just take a look around and ask if I need help with anything, is that okay?”

“Sure thing,” I said. What I wanted to say was ‘anything for you m’am, I would die for you in a heartbeat’ but I figured that wouldn’t be particularly good customer service no matter how hard my heart was crying out for it. It was strange, feeling my mind revolt so painfully against my heart and subconscious desire to see this girl for the rest of my life. I knew I should hate someone like her, so ignorant and unknowing of the way her presence impacted the world around it. People like her funded companies like Queen’s Love, people like her in the past had subjugated star systems for idle amusement. She was the exact brand of pampered privileged prick I had slaved under for two years at this godawful job, and yet I couldn’t stop myself from following her heavy footsteps as she walked around the displays.

She noticed a necklace underneath glass. Almost absentmindedly she reached for it, which was just enough to snap me out of my daze.

“Wait, let me do it!” I yelled.

I couldn’t tell if she heard me. I couldn’t tell if she would have cared if she had. The glass shattered instantly; her touch not delayed even slightly. I ducked on instinct as shards went everywhere. I didn’t need to check if she’d be alright. I checked my employee mandated phone as I rushed to turn off the security alarm. The last thing I’d want would be to get the police summoned over here. I could explain it all to Janae later, she’d understand. She had to understand.

I reached up hesitantly to see her holding up a necklace made of some gold-looking material. She was pinching it with two fingers at the top, and I could see where the pressure from that unending force was causing little bits of melted gold to drip onto her blouse. Indestructible as well, naturally.

“You’re… breaking it,” I blankly said.

She looked at her fingers, then to the gold rolling off her chest to pool and harden on the floor.

“Oh, crap!” she said, and I winced at her tone. Just the slightest bit of anger had riled up a deep panicked flight or flight in my heart. And I couldn’t run, couldn’t abandon my service position, but I certainly couldn’t fight her either, so my head defaulted to the only other option available to me. I froze.

She dropped the half-melted necklace back into the shattered display case, looking over to my frozen form. Every muscle in my body was stretched tight. I wasn’t sure if I could break out if I wanted to.

“Are you okay?”

And just like that, I felt my breath return to me. I took several forced breaths, letting in some rather welcome air into my lungs.

“Yeah, I’m, sorry, I just,”

“Ugh, this is why I hate being on Earth! Everything’s so, squishy! I mean, squishy. Sorry.”

I hadn’t realized I was slowly backing myself against the closest corner I could find, between a display case and a wall of fashionable sunglasses. I also hadn’t realized I was shivering like a madwoman but that much made sense.

“I’m, can we, be of any more service? I’m, sorry I’m,”

“Spit it out.”

“Please don’t hurt me I don’t want to die I don’t want to die I don’t want to die I don’t want to die I”

“Why? Why is it every human I talk to winds up like this? Lune, you’re talking too loudly, Lune, you’re moving too quickly, Lune, that’s too much force, I have to control every single part of my body it’s all so much to think about!”

She exclaimed that last one at a volume so loud I realized only then her voice couldn’t possibly be only physical, because I heard it and did not instantly feel blood pooling in my ears. Instead, it was “merely” the loudest thing I had ever heard magnified countless times over, and also so emotionally painful I felt tears pooling in my eyes. I couldn’t think straight enough to even feel horrified at how readily my emotions were being ping pong’d around. So instead, I spoke on instinct and trained customer service practices.

“I’m sorry you feel that way. Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Lune raised an eyebrow. Less controlled because the room rumbled a bit at it. She took a few booming steps over to me, then waved a hand in front of my eyes.

“You seem… weird. Usually people run away or scream or try to kill me or whatever, but you’re acting, pretty calm, all things considered.”

She walked by my ear as she said the last part, sending every single part of my body into a brief fit of ecstasy I kept barely held in place.

“Please, don’t, speak in front of my ears like that, m’am.”

“Oh, sorry,” Lune said, backing up. I eyed her as she took a seat on one of the couches, testing it out seemingly to see how much weight she could afford to put on it without falling straight through.

“Thank you,” I said. My senses came back to me faster this time. Either she was getting better at holding herself back or my body was adjusting to it.

“So, what do you guys do for fun around here?”

“In the store?” I said offhandedly.

“No, I mean in the cit- hey! You responded!”

She smiled wide and when I saw a glint of her perfect white teeth, I saw heaven reflected. I saw everyone I ever knew and loved looking back at me and I felt love and truth and perfection unsullied by all the pain and suffering mankind had put out. I saw a universe of quadrillions of voices and stories and identities all arguing and fighting and dying over each other, an endless cycle of pain and bloodshed, and then I saw it all dissolve in the wonderous sparkle of her eyes.

It was so obvious. Philosophers had pondered over it, religions had risen and fallen for it, the entire history of humanity had been leading up to it, yet the meaning of life was so painfully simple and obvious. It was her. Lune. Why were we all so attached to the idea of being individuals with our own free will and thoughts and identities when the only happiness would come from being whatever servant or service Lune required from me? Who was Missy, if not Lune’s idle clay in her hand? If not another worthless gem on her boots, unaware this whole time that it was her legs that moved me, her feet that warmed me, her toes who lay just under the surface of my reality? I was in love with Lune, not in the way I might be in love with another human, but in the way only knowable to someone who had well and truly found her one true goddess, who had found the only place in life worth living.

I immediately fell to the ground like the bug I was, barely aware of time or sound or light or any thoughts beyond the extasy of being able to be subjugated by a being so finally worth of my-

“Hey, um, Missy? You doing okay there?”

I blinked. My lips were planted firmly on her right big toe, right on her unblemishable nail polish. I blinked again as I backed away. My memories of the day faded in slowly like my eyes were readjusting to the light after a long night’s rest. I looked up at the long perfect legs of the princess of Shamayi, then past her breasts to meet her gaze. Her white cheeks were flushed candy red with embarrassment. I backed off, crawling back on my hands to look back up to her.

“I, guh, I, I’m sorry I don’t know what came over me, I, very sorry I won’t speak of it again, if you feel like that was too much, I-“

“It’s fine, Missy.”

She said my name again and despite my rational instincts my heart did a flutter jump. I got to my feet and brushed dust off my clothes, then my sleeve against my lips to get out the thin taste of sweat, trying to ignore the mind-numbing flavor.

“I, no. Sorry, I have been very bad at serving you, I barely heard your request, I don’t even know what you’re looking for. I, know there are a lot of different people across the galaxy but I really do promise to try to help you find what you’re looking for. Really, I- I can’t imagine what it’s like when this is what happens to people around you.”

She smiled, clearly trying to suppress the force of it this time. “Thank you. I know it’s just, selfish of me, princess of the stars can’t talk with people without getting starstruck, little miss kryptonian getting all annoyed because everyone else is too puny for her strength.”

“Kryptonian?”

“That’s your word for us, right? I read uh, a lot of your old cultural comics. Its funny how much your culture got right about the universe. A lot wrong, sure, but more right than you’d expect. I really like a lot of the um, Spider-Man stuff, I like how his powers aren’t that strong but he gives it his all to do right anyways. He goes all out every day, and, I, I dunno sometimes I envy that.”

“So you’re a nerd?” I said, with a wry smile.

“Oh come on, does knowing Spider-Man make me a nerd?”

“Considering he’s been around since before my great great grandfather was born, yeah I’d say that’s nerdy, in like, a boring historical way.”

“Well maybe I am a nerd on your world,” she huffed. I chuckled as my hair blew in her wind.

“What do nerds on your world look like?”

“Like, people.”

“Let me guess, you’re a nerd on your world too.”

“Shh!” she said, knocking me flat on my ass. “Oh, sorry. Shhh, I mean. No one else is supposed to know, on Earth I can pretend to be a cool flashy princess type and not into advanced hyperdrive engines and antiquity pop cultures from alien species.”

“Aren’t you the alien?” I said, taking a seat on a nearby cushion a safe distance back.

“It’s relative, stupid,” she giggled. “Oh, um, don’t, you aren’t actually stupid. I don’t know if that’s how it works but I don’t want you to-“

“I don’t think I’m stupid just because you said it,” I responded. “I can take care of myself a little, at least.”

And we shared a frozen moment between us unspoken.

“So, were you gonna buy something? Because like, second you get out of here I’m closing up shop for the night.”

“It’s only three in the afternoon.”

“I fail to see your point, you buying?”

She rolled her eyes. “Pretty bold words to say to a princess, mortal.”

“I’m a pretty bold person.”

Lune flipped her hair and my breath cut out. Just the idle movement of her hands seemed to start up a windstorm, knocking a few cardboard signs down. I caught her eyes, following her gaze down to her chest, and then I felt it. The beat of her heart. It was shaking the ground now, one pound, two pound, three pounds and the fourth shattered every glass surface in the store. People from the outside street could look in now, but why would they walk towards the thing whose heartbeats could tear the ground asunder so easily? I realized that her control wasn’t extending just to herself, but, impossibly, to my own protection as well. So heavenly, so divine, so….

“Feeling bold still?” she said. I snapped back into existence again.

“Hey! Dirty play!”

She shrugged.

“All’s fair in something something. I don’t know the rest of the human quote.”

“Love and war.”

“Right, love and war. I guess I feel bad about keeping you here if you want to leave.”

My heart felt torn but my sheer resolve to disrespect my place of employment won out. “I… have to go I think. But we can still hang out, if you give me your number or whatever you weird alien superman people use to talk to each other.”

“We call them numbers here too, dork.”

“You’re the nerd, nerd. Did you just come here to dick off and windowshop?”

“No, my sister’s assistant said this place had the best stuff around and, well, it’s nice but I do feel a little bad buying something from here now that I’ve smashed up the place like this.”

I looked around the ground. It was littered with glass and toppled shoes and sunglass frames.

“Oh, man, I am so going to get a nasty call tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry about it, I can have my dad put in a good word. Diplomatic immunity’s great, huh?”

“Sure must be. So if you’re g-“

“Ugh, Lune, I said wait for me to get here!”

My hearing went numb as a ringing cut through my ears. My hands instinctually moved to protect them but it was like every word was another onslaught onto itself.

“Hey Vee!”

I toppled over the cushion in pain. I saw Lune’s expression change as I fell.

“Oh, crud. Inside voice Vee, we’re still on Earth.”

“This IS my inside voice.”

“Inside-inside voice then, whatever. Just, be cautious, yknow?”

“Cautious of… oh. Who’s this hoe?”

I looked up to the woman standing over me. She looked a lot like Lune, but with longer hair and a gaze that shouted contempt. She looked down at me, barely recognizing me as a person, before looking back to Lune.

“That’s Missy, she’s been helping me pick out accessories.”

“Have you picked out anything yet?”

“Well, no, but”

“Have you even started looking?”

“A little, but”

“Then what help is this slut giving you?”

“She’s… been nice.”

“Void eternal, don’t tell me I was cursed to have a sister so helpless but to fall for the most stereotypical human routine imaginable. Of course they love us, our pheromones literally reshape their brain structure. Weren’t you supposed to be the nerd of the family?”

She looked down at me again. I was barely aware I was there, or that there was an anywhere beyond just their endless divine words.

“You. Get up.”

I silently did so. I couldn’t meet her gaze.

“Oh don’t be mean to her Vee, she’s different! She’s super good at holding conversation around us, and I don’t even think she has any of the usual cybernetic enhancements to allow for it!”

“Different?” she asked. “We’ll see how different she is. You, human. What’s your name?”

“Missy.”

“A family name?”

“I…. I’m sorry I don’t remember at the moment.”

“Mhm. Missy, what do you think of me?”

“I-“

Her eyes narrowed and my legs got weak.

I almost choked on my tears. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I can’t think of anything but you when I’m around you.”

“And what about my sister? Weren’t you just head over heels for her?”

“She is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”

“See, Lune, they can’t be people around us. Just doesn’t work like that. Maybe you conditioned her to act like reasonable around you, which I dunno you do you, live your peace, but that doesn’t make her people. And I should be clear calling it a ‘her’ is a curtsy to your feelings, because right now, it is basically just sort of furniture.”

Lune frowned. “I, that’s cheating, you can’t just…”

“Need something more? Sure. Missy? Look at me.”

I immediately turned back to her, unthinking.

“Vee, don’t do it.”

“I have to, or you’re going to be acting like a lovesick puppy for every human who acts slightly cognizant towards you for the rest of the trip, and then it’ll be dad’s problem to deal with.”

I looked at Vee, sister of Lune, the princess. I looked at her as she smiled, inhaled deeply, and raised her hand. She raised her hand until her fingers were touching her lips, and then pursing her lips together moved her hand outwards, smacking her lips with the lightest touch. It took what felt like an eternity for my neurons to connect the sensations to concepts to ideas to the understanding that she had just blown me a kiss. And then my legs gave in, the world exploded ten trillion times over, heaven and earth collided, and my mind and thoughts buzzed out to warm static. My universe went black, and smelled of Her.

“Missy! Missy! Missy!”

My eyes focused in on an angel bending over my body. She was cradling me in her arms like a baby, and I realized I had almost no strength in me to speak of. I was barely regaining the faculties to process the syllables her lips were making as words, barely enough to even understand what those words were. The idea of sending signals to move my limbs seemed like a distant scattered dream. I was more concerned with how beautiful and gorgeous she looked while she was crying.

“It’s me Missy, it’s Lune!” she yelled, loud enough to have the words engraved in my soul.

“Lune….” I mumbled out.

“Fuck, Vee, what’s wrong with you? You just leveled the whole block!”

“Its fiiiiiine, I’ll get chewed out by dad for a little bit and then it’ll blow over. What, are they going to tell a duke of Shamayi no? Worse shit’s happened over dumber reasons, they’ll understand.”

“And what about Missy?”

My lips mouthed the words, but I could barely hear myself over their breaths.

“Who… who’s Missy?”

Lune looked over me, shocked.

“Y- isn’t that your name? Missy? You, you’re a clerk here at this store, and, and…”

“I don’t… understand….”

“See? Wiped. Full stop. Back in the imperial days that was how they conquered lesser planets, y’know- just shouted loud enough for everyone to hear, and after hitting factory reset on their civilization, they’d bring in the cleaning crew to sort out the inhabitants and send them off to wherever the empire needed them.”

“No! You can’t just- she’s a person! With thoughts and feelings!”

“She was a person, and then you met her, and now that you know her she’s a doll. That’s your problem to deal with, not mine.”

“Tell me there’s a way to fix this, Vee, or I, I-“

“You’ll what, fight me? Lune, all you do is stay in your room and read holos all day, you’re the nerdiest nerd who ever nerded. Try basic exercise first. I on the other hand…”

“Vee!”

“Kidding, kidding! I wouldn’t flex on a planet with an Anchor Rating this low, even I’m not that ballsy!”

“Well… I won’t just leave this girl here like this!”

“Okay, then take her with you. You seemed to be fond of her anyways, I’m pretty sure the shoes I bought at the store we were just in cost more than she’s worth by like, a factor of five. I’m sure she’d love to hear all about century old superhero comics.”

“You heard that?”

“I hear everything, dipshit. Maybe if you trained your hearing more, you’d be able to sort through everything too.”

“Come on Vee, let me help her! There has to be a way.”

Was I, did I exist? I didn’t feel real. I felt like I was a ghost, observing through eyes that were not mine a world so strange and unfamiliar as to be incomprehensible. Another plane of existence, beyond my grasp. The only thing I understood was the warmth of the arms that carried me, and the soothing voices and appearances of the goddesses whose every facial twitch and heavy breath and spoken syllable made up the completeness of my universe. I wasn’t. They Were.

“Look, fly back with me to the apartment and I can see if one of my friends knows how to fix a busted-up mortal. Okay? Are you happy now? And after that you can buy your little pet, you can fuck her, or make out with her, or set her free, or whatever gross shit you wanna get up to, and then the next time I ask you out to shopping you listen to your older sister and wait for me to show up. Sound good?”

“Awwww, you’re the best!”

I couldn’t help but smile at her beaming expression. She looked down at me and I felt like the most precious gem in the multiverse.

“Lune….”

“Did you hear that Missy? Vee’s gonna get you right up and fixed up, and then we can hang out and play video games and talk about comic books and do all this other stuff, you hang tight until then, promise?”

I stammered out incomprehensible but pleasing grunts with what thoughts I could muster. As the other goddess took off into the sky, and mine not far behind, I could begin to make out the ruins of what had been left behind. Higher and higher we went, but the damage only seemed to continue for an entire mile in every direction, everything within its range seemingly totally removed from this disgusting hideous world. Further out, there were skyscrapers crumbling to the ground and toppling as sirens and shouts rang out into the afternoon.

I observed this all behind glassy eyes like a child, because in many ways I was a child, only dimly aware I was. I could reach out and touch it, some semblance of a shadow of a person behind the lightyears of cream and honey that had been poured over my sense of self. I could observe her floating within me as She and I flew out over the endless cityscape. I could almost reach out and grasp it, yet did not, could not even think to. I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anything but Hers. And looking up to her endless eyes, I knew I truly, truly was.

 

 

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