“So, you’re the Emperor around here, huh?”
Ryan, in his jeans and blue t-shirt (emblazoned with the phrase +5 Shirt of Wounding), looked hilariously out of place here. The room was surrounded by men and women who looked like they were cut from the same cloth as Daasti, all of them armed with fancy looking rifles and those mercurial swords Ryan had enjoyed using so much. Need to pull one out to keep for myself when I hit reality again.
He had a feeling that after he was done here, they’d vanish fairly rapidly.
At the head of the room, on a platform that scuttled on spider legs, sat the Emperor, his alleged son. The sight of him was nothing short of revolting. His skin had been pierced by dozens of augmentations, many of which were gold and silver and, as far as Ryan could determine, were purely decorative. The skin at the edges of those implants was beginning to rot, giving him a half-undead look. His legs were shriveled and warped from disuse – a cable connected the back of his skull to the platform, letting him control it mentally. His eyes were huge and lidless, with tiny implants occasionally spraying them with moisturizing water.
“We are, your Divinity.” Those wide, unblinking eyes were focused on Ryan, and his blistered tongue slipped out to moisten his lips between words. The voice that came from between those lips was…well, if you could imagine a teapot with a particularly phlegmatic cough trying to speak, you had the Emperor’s voice. “And we would ask of you – why have you returned after so much time? The Book of Science is nearly a hundred millennia old, Father”
“Okay, don’t – yeah. Don’t ever call me that again. I don’t have any kids.” The soldiers at the side twitched at the blasphemy, but…well, can God blaspheme?
“Now that we’ve cleared that up…” Ryan stuck his hands in his back pockets, tearing his gaze from the monstrosity of flesh on the throne. “A hundred thousand years? Man, time does fly when you’re running around fighting a war with an evil god.” He snapped his fingers, creating a chair for himself. A nice comfy office chair, which he experimentally rolled a short distance across the floor. “Well, your highness, I swung by to see what you were making of the gifts I left you a hundred thousand years ago.” Why am I acting like this? But it felt natural, it felt right, and he decided to take the oft-repeated advice – he rolled with it.
On an office chair through a sci-fi throne room.
Those lips were parted by blistered tongue again. “Well, your Divinity, we…created weapons, as you ordered. And then spread your worship across the cosmos! This entire Galaxy now bows to you.”
“Mmmmmhmmm. And the weapons, I’ll admit, you got those right. But what did you do those who didn’t worship me?” He smiled as he asked the question, trying to put the mass on the throne at ease.
“We purged them, your Divinity. Over seventeen entire species have been eradicated – in your name, of course.” That tongue, which was just getting grosser every time Ryan saw it, flicked out over his lips. “And others, like the soldiers here, were reeducated.
Ryan was silent for a long time. Seventeen entire species, wiped out in his name. “Wow. You’re serious?”
“Of course, your Divinity.”
Ryan rolled his chair over to Daasti. “You were reeducated?”
“Yes. I had not seen the wisdom in following you, but now your light fills me!”
Ryan looked at the man, then back at the Emperor. “My light fills him.”
“Yes, your Divinity. So, mmm, if I may ask…what do you think of your Empire?”
Ryan rolled the chair across the room, motioning some of the standing re-educated soldiers out of his way as he did so. He got to a window, which gave him a great view of ships coming in and out. He took a moment to study the devices they were using – it appeared they’d found a way to create stable wormholes.
He could feel the Emperor’s expectant look on his back. “Honestly, Emperor? You really want to know what I think of my Empire?”
“Of course, your Divinity.”
Ryan nodded, still not looking back at that pulsating mass. “I think you have a kingdom of rot, a dystopia of pus. I think you have created the most disgusting mockery of all that is right and good with science, and once I’m done dismantling it to its component pieces the only echoes of your legacy will be a cautionary tale on how one should never pervert reason like this.”
The Emperor’s disgusting little voice piped up here, “Your Divinity, I mu-”
Ryan’s voice amplified so that every single person on this massive moon of a vessel could hear it. “I AM NOT FINISHED.”
He enjoyed watching the Emperor quake. He kept his voice amplified so that the ship would hear every word. “You have the nerve, the absolute nerve, to claim to be of my blood, to commit horrors in my name, and then you ask me what I think of it?”
The Emperor’s wide eyes widened further. “You told us to build weapons!”
Ryan stopped, taking a deep breath. “You’re right. I did. My mistake.” He snapped his fingers. The Emperor flinched. The soldiers flinched. When they realized they were still intact, they looked at him, until the Emperor finally spoke. “What did you do?”
“Oh, that? I just fixed a little loophole in physics you were exploiting. No more wormholes. Apparently you all can’t be trusted with Faster than Light Travel, so I’m taking it away until you prove you can behave.”
The huge eyes bulged further. “What did you do?”
Ryan tilted his head to the side, eyebrow going up as he did. “In what way was that unclear?”
“That will unmake the Empire! With the wormholes, how will we control the slaves!? The network that keeps the re-educated in check – it will collapse!!” The phlegmatic teapot was shrieking now.
Ryan gave him a thumbs up and a broad grin. “Look who’s paying attention.”
“The Empire will collapse! The greatest civilization in history will be in ruins!”
That finally propelled Ryan out of his chair, to his feet – and into the air, where he floated, crossing his arms across his chest; half divine wrath, half disapproving father. “I am aware, you tiny, pathetic man. I’m deliberately collapsing this empire, because there is nothing great about it. And while I’m at it -” He snapped his fingers again, and the Emperor screamed.
“What did you do!? Oh Ryan’s Holy Name, what have you done!?”
Ryan ignored the irony of having his own name taken in vain against him, instead focusing on the question. “As a friend of mine is fond of doing, let me answer your question with a question.” Ryan turned to Daasti. “Hey, Daasti! What do you think about the Empire?”
Daasti took a few ragged breaths, and said something quietly.
“Sorry, Daasti, couldn’t quite make that out.”
Daasti looked up at him, and Ryan was taken aback by the hatred he saw there. He’d gotten hate in his life, and even more since becoming a god, but Enki’s rage was a candle being tossed into the sun compared to the hate Daasti directed at him.
“I said. I had. A family.”
Daasti charged at Ryan, the silver sword springing to his hand. There were about a thousand ways Ryan could stop him, but instead, he just did the invulnerability trick he’d tried when he first arrived in his Nanoverse, then floated down to the ground so Daasti could wail upon him for a moment. Around the room, other re-educated eyes, seeing clearly for the first time in years, turned towards Ryan.
After a few moments, Daasti was panting, and Ryan put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. But I’m going to make it right. For starters, I’ve restored your free will, all of you.”
Without looking, Ryan raised a hand. The Emperor, who was trying to scuttle away, floated into the air. “Really, son? I broke your hold over every re-educated in the galaxy with a snap of my fingers, and that was right after I literally rewrote the laws of physics. And your response was to sneak off?”
He looked at the formerly re-educated, and moved the Emperor over to them. “I’ll let you do what you see fit with this. Daasti, can I talk to you a bit longer?”
Eyes still burning with hate, Daasti rose to his feet. “You are a monster god, a war god. What do you want with me?”
Ryan took a deep breath, looking out the window. “I…man, you have no idea how crappy I feel about this. I just wanted to accelerate technology, but I didn’t think about providing any kind of ethical framework for it. You hate me, I get that – this is all my fault.”
Daasti regarded him as he stared at the Empire. “So, what? I’m supposed to feel pity for you? You’re Ryan. You’re God.” That ugly rage welled up in Ryan, and he focused his attention on Daasti. To his credit, the man who had seen him wink a planet destroying plasma beam out of existence didn’t flinch. “Go ahead, if you’re going to,” Daasti said, not breaking Ryan’s gaze. “Annihilate me. At least I’ll die free.”
Damn, Ryan, you’re glaring at him now too? He just pointed out you’re the worst kind of absentee dad and you’re going to get pissed at him? This place is messing with your head, fix it and get out. But that ugly feeling remained as he stared at Daasti. Ryan narrowed his eyes, and he wasn’t seeing Daasti the flesh-and-metal-ex-slave. He stared straight into Daasti’s soul, and saw the man he truly was.
“No, Daasti. I’m not going to annihilate you. I’m going to do something much worse.” Ryan reached out and put a hand on Daasti’s forehead. In a series of clattering clanks, every augmentation fell out of him, bouncing on the floor. Daasti stood there, as natural as the day he was born. “I’m going to make you a savior.”
Daasti shuddered and nearly fell. “What did you…what happened?”
“I just made you into a demigod. You’re a good man, Daasti. Full of rage, and with a hate for this Empire and this twisted version of what I want people to believe.”
Ryan looked out over the Empire again, where ships were slowly lining up in front of the no-longer functional wormholes. “I don’t believe people need religion to have morals. But I found a primitive culture and accelerated their technology without doing the same to their philosophy. I created a monster. You have the power now to slay that beast.”
Daasti stared at his hands. “So, what, you’re going to leave again?”
“Yup.” Ryan gave Daasti a smile, and began to feel that hatred, that rage, fade away. “Between you and me – I have no idea what I’m doing. You can’t possibly screw it up worse than I did. But don’t let it go to your head. I’ll be back, and if you turn out to be just another Emperor – well, then I’ll have to fix things myself.”
“It’s too much for one man alone, Ryan.”
“Oh, I figured. That’s why you can share the power. Pick carefully, and good luck.”
And with that, Ryan was back in his staging area. He felt sick, and weak. What the hell is happening to me?Knowing only he had to get out of here, he dropped out of realspace and began the journey back to Reality.
I really, really hope Crystal doesn’t expect me to roll with this.