Epilogue Book 1

Prior Chapter

I sat in my chair, in the brightly-lit room, far underground, staring at dozens of large monitors, watching preparations.  Various gods and humans with divination powers had worked to determine where these newest bugman attacks would occur.  Gods of war and battle waited at every portal.  Today, I saw Thor, Ares, Durga, Hachiman, Virtus, Serbon and Gabriel at the predicted portal emergence points.  Around them, four other gods with highly useful battle abilities waited in a loose circle around each portal, about two hundred feet from the center.  Each of the four second-line gods had a cadre of chosen human supers surrounding them.

The bugmen were apparently extremely desperate for resources.  They were extremely difficult to take alive, even by gods, but it had been done, and their minds had been read to verify the information from the one near-comatose bugman we had captured from their first attack.  Their civilization was on the verge of collapse.  They had never managed to leave their Earth, as weightlessness caused them extreme biological distress, death within hours for an adult bugman.  They had managed to get to their moon, and the gravity there was sufficient for them to survive, but they had apparently only managed that by sending eggs, which were then hatched and tended by machines, remotely, until adulthood.

They had tried to attack through a portal there, on the moon, which had not gone well for them at all.  That portal had manifested in sunlight, where both Ra and Luna could act upon it with their full strength.  Luna’s power of fascination rendered the invaders immobile, and Ra burned them down, regardless of their armor.

The attacks had become more and more desperate.  Every wave contained more attackers, with poorer equipment.  The sheer mass of dead bodies was sufficient that, after the battles, the killing grounds had to be exposed to heat sufficient to break down their body chemistry, or else their body chemicals would poison the areas where battles had occurred.

There were a couple agricultural gods that would help after the sterilization, but only rarely was there any assistance offered by the gods capable of generating sufficient heat for sterilization.  Gods didn’t seem to be very interested in post-battle cleanup.  When I asked, one of Matty’s friends had volunteered to take Dr. Fusion to each battle site after the portals had collapsed, resolving that issue nicely.

“Alvak.  Are the Svartalve insertion contingents ready?”

The speakers built into the headrest of the chair relayed his response to me.  “Yes.”

“OK.” I looked at the timers under each of the seven active monitors with red LED lights around their images.  Less than ten minutes.

I sat up a little straighter, took a deep breath, and then picked up a very large sheath knife from the table beside my chair.  It was large enough, and light enough, that I could wield it efficiently with my weak, oversized hands when I was changed into the soul well.

Removing the knife from its sheath, I stared at it, turning it slowly so it glinted in the light.  I felt a bit queasy, but dry-swallowed, and calmed myself.  The soul well deadened emotion in me, but it didn’t eliminate fear completely.  It had been a great help to me during mental recovery, by allowing me to face my fears.  Black birds, especially large ones, still scared the crap out of me in human form, but I could act, they didn’t mentally freeze me or cause uncontrolled panic.  Darkness was just a minor irritation now, even pitch blackness, unless I was already fearful, in which case darkness magnified my fears unpredictably.  Black birds in near darkness were still bad.  Very Bad.  Knives still bothered me, which was one reason I refused to allow anyone else to use knives on me for what I was about to do.  Alvak had offered to make a machine to do it, but I refused that as well.  Anne thought I was nuts, but it wasn’t Anne’s choice.

Get to it.  Not much time left.

I carefully cut a foot-long, inch-wide strip off my left thigh, and handed it to the first Jinn in line, an albino, about six feet tall and three hundred pounds with Polynesian features, wearing flip-flops, a pair of black Bermuda shorts, and an obnoxiously brilliant neon yellow pullover T-shirt.  One of Ali’s uncles.  He called himself Jamar.

A youngster, by his own admission, barely older than the human race.

I smiled.  “Thank you for helping today, ‘youngster.'”

Jamar grinned as he dropped the strip from my leg into a fanny pack at his side, and then moved to a nearby wall and created a door.  “Calvart, please ask Thor if I can open a door and enter the area with him?”

Calvart spoke.  “Thor, base here.  Are we clear to send a soul well fragment to your location?”

On one of the monitors, I saw Thor hold his wrist up to his face.  “Yes.” Came the response, slightly after Thor’s arm was already moving back towards his side.

I continued cutting, intentionally forcing myself to recognize what I was doing, to try to help deaden my fear of knives.

It has helped.  A lot more than those hypnotherapy recordings.

Six more long slices from my left leg.  Six more Jinn and Jiniri with fanny packs.  Six more gods were asked permission, and six more Jinn and Jiniri stepped through doorways to stand beside those gods, preparing to use the pieces of my body as lures.  Ali and Matty were two of them.

I cut one more strip and handed it to Karina, who would stay by my right side as a reserve.  One of the last two of the youngest ten Jinn and Jiniri on the planet that were wakeful stood to the left side of my chair.  He would accompany me, myself, if I had to act directly.  The last Jiniri was with Anne and Danny at one of the gatherings in Enclave viewing areas where they would watch the fights.

I still didn’t understand why Anne and Danny went to the meetings.  I was deep underground, and Jane didn’t get anywhere near the fighting.  I suspected it was simply to be there for others, and that was a good enough reason, even if it made me a bit nervous because they were around people that might get violent if they saw their family members hurt.

Fifi will be there too.

I pitied the poor normal human that might piss that little mop off by attacking my family.  I had, as a joke, gone to a butcher and gotten a cow femur that had been stripped of most of its meat, and brought it to the Enclave apartment, wrapped heavily in butcher paper.  I spread out the butcher paper and put the femur down next to her water bowl, and Fifi had just stared at me for a moment, before walking over, picking up the twenty pound bone with her mouth, somehow, carrying it into the bathroom, and jumping into the bathtub with it.  She then pawed the curtains shut and commenced to making crunching noises for the next five minutes that had me cringing.  Anne had silently watched the whole thing, grinning like a madwoman, and held my mouth closed as Fifi pawed the curtain back open and the bone was gone.

Now I’m Fifi’s favorite person, when I’m at the apartment.

I’m probably one of the butcher’s favorite people too.

Seeing the butchered bones helps desensitize me to meat images as well.

Calvart’s voice spoke.  “All seven emergence locations have soul well fragments in place, and defenses are ready.  We are activating shielding now.”  I watched onscreen as containment fields sprang into existence around the predicted portal emergence points and above the ground.  The bugs had yet to use nuclear weapons.  We suspected it was because they were using all radioactive materials for power generation.  None of the bugmen that had been captured had mental imagery of nuclear weapons.

I heard all seven war gods check in with Calvart, acknowledging the shields.  Coyote and a few of the other pantheon head gods had done a good job of twisting metaphysical arms to get all of the extant gods and major magical beings to sign on to the new contract.  Part of that was threats of selectively calling in the debts owed to me from my past actions, and the promise of future power.  The darker gods had been happy with the old contract, because it was easier to interfere with.  Loki had even admitted that in front of me with a smile before one of Odin’s wolves gripped his left leg below the knee, and growled.

I sheathed my knife, and placed it on the table next to me.

I think the new contract works much better.

I would now be assisted by five Jinn and five Jiniri, chosen to be the five youngest of each type who were wakeful, not just a single Jinn.  Ali and I had both been relieved when he was no longer required to be my sole attendant.  There had been some bad moments.  Now we enjoyed each other’s company again, when we were both in a mood to speak to one another.

Anne was happier as well, since having so many Jinn and Jiniri around allowed her and Danny a high degree of safety.  With ten Jinn and Jiniri around to make sure I wasn’t surprised or injured, she could live with me now, in the house, and the apartment was Danny’s.

Gorgon had not interfered with me at all since I gave up my company to the board of directors and Danny.  I sent Jamar, the oldest and most powerful of my current assistants, to talk to Gorgon and make sure there wasn’t anything being planned.  The response had been, and I quote.  “Do you think I need to be told what you are, Jamar, or what other beings Zeke Collins has for allies now?  I got what I wanted from him.  Go away.” Jamar indicated that Gorgon had been sincere, and I didn’t need to worry about him, for now.

As long as Danny and Jane stay together anyway.

I could hear Alvak and Calvart talking with others, organizing secondary and tertiary defensive perimeters.  They were probably also building circuit boards, or programming new applications, or whatever else needed to be done, but they helped me coordinate defenses well enough.

The range of the fragments of the soul well that I sent to each portal site was smaller than the whole me would have been, about fifty feet in radius, or half as much range for them than my whole body would be.  With the energies that the gods released, the shielding was likely to burst, and some enemies thrown clear.  I had seen Mjolnir pop a shield like a soap bubble when thrown, but Thor had only done that once, and apologized profusely afterwards for his thoughtlessness.  The bugmen themselves had some weapons capable of breaking shields, but we were seeing less of them now.  Still, there were always at least a few leakers, sometimes a lot of them.  The secondary defensive lines always got some action, and the tertiary defensive lines frequently had to help a little.  Every now and then either I, or tactical reserves standing by with gods that could teleport, were required.

I watched as the Jinn and Jiniri at ground zero repositioned themselves, and then buried themselves under ten feet of dirt and stone.  This wasn’t to protect them, but to make them immobile, at the point of entry of the invaders.  The invaders would then be concentrated on attacking the ground under their feet while the war gods slaughtered them.  The mass of earth and stone over them would prevent the gods from knocking them away from the portal.

Not needing to breathe is a plus.

If a god wanted a share of power from a battle, they must contribute either before, during, or after the fight in a way that matched the roles set out in the contract, or in an alternate way that at least three pantheon leaders agreed would be useful.  Loki had even stepped forward once and taken a place within the shields, just to show that he could, when Thor insulted him.  It had been frightening to see him fight.  The bugmen simply died as they entered our world.  They froze solid when Loki blew at them, and then shattered when Loki struck his staff on the ground.

Thor had attended the same defensive position as Loki’s, as one of the four inner perimeter gods.  He even stated clearly that he was there to take over the defense when Loki failed, because he didn’t think Loki could hold the center.  As the portal closed, Loki had walked past a speechless Thor, simply raising an eyebrow, saying nothing.  The next day it seemed as if every Goth or Emo kid in the world was wearing white face paint, carrying a staff, wearing robes, and gushing about how awesome Loki was.

Thank you for the idea, Coyote.

I just wish I had been there to see his reaction when Loki realized what happened.

Of course, the Svartalves had already had the idea of using the soul well as a bargaining tool to put darker gods into situations where they would be seen as heroic, with hundreds of different variants, when I asked.  In the end, the new contract would basically force all gods to assist humanity if they wanted power.  If they refused to help, they would be forgotten.  If they tried to attack sufficient numbers of humans to generate enough fear to power themselves, the other gods, powered by the soul well’s power, would tear them down and banish them in a dimensional pocket like the one Ahmed had trapped me in.  The Abrahamic gods, due to their inability to manifest bodies on Earth, were allowed to send angels in proxy.  Archangel Gabriel was their normal choice, and he was no lightweight, even compared to the war gods.

The countdowns ended, and the large containers of assault balls appeared, as always, and the war gods and Gabriel destroyed them almost instantly, like normal.  The gods and archangels could use their magical abilities to destroy the incoming devices before they were formed sufficiently to activate.

No creativity.

Not that I’d rather they be better fighters.

It was painful to watch the carnage, but about three hours later, Alvak announced total success.  Seven teams of Svartalves, four per team, had teleported through the portals to the other side, bypassing the battle completely.  They had reported from the other side that the environment found there would sustain Svartalve life, and that there was magic, but it wasn’t being manipulated within their sensing range.

I can’t even imagine how desperate the bugmen must be to keep attacking like this.

A great many rapid experiments had been performed, and the far side Svartalves were confident that their mission would be a success.  The Svartalves on the other side had then destroyed all seven of the bugmen’s portal generators, trapping themselves in the cross-layer dimensional space.

Twenty-eight Svartalves were now responsible for doing whatever was necessary to force the bugmen to first control their birthrate, and then to help them develop their bodies and technology to allow them to become a spacefaring race.  The Svartalves would only allow the opening of future cross-layer dimensional portals for peaceful purposes of exploration or trade.  Those transplanted Svartalves and their descendants would also protect that dimensional layer from attacks from yet other dimensional layers.

The geas on the Svartalve race would hold no matter where the race went, even to worlds with no magic, it was thought.  Svartalves had been into space, far from any magical source, to test their theories with extra care.

When Svartalves say they tested ‘with extra care’ I’m willing to take the results as ironclad.

The Svartalve racial geas was carefully designed, by Svartalves, to force any Svartalve that even thought they might have figured out a loophole in the geas to, first, not utilize the loophole, and, second, report the possible loophole to every other Svartalve they knew.  They must then communally figure out how to fix the geas and get rid of the loophole, after which point, they would create a god to adjust the geas, and then extinguish the god when the fix was in place.

Seeing the expressions of the human gods that heard the Svartalves explaining this had been hilarious.  Coyote had kept it to himself, not telling any of them.  The Svartalves had calmed the frightened gods by saying that it had taken the Svartalves forty million years of strict breeding programs to develop the ability to kill off their own gods.  The human gods just needed to prevent the human race from developing into a gestalt-capable mind.  Then, upon further questioning from Thoth, the Svartalves had explained how their eugenics program had worked, and I was the one that was sick.

Svartalves are scary as hell, sometimes.

I can’t even imagine what the Troodon must have been like.

I didn’t think the human gods needed be concerned, and they agreed with me as far as I knew.  Trillions of Svartalve hatchlings had been culled in the name of Svartalve racial self-improvement.  They had no mammal sensitivities about their young, though they did at least regret the necessity on some level.

At least they say they do.

Stop it.

If they wanted to do humans in, they could have already, easily.

They probably have hundreds of plans already drawn up, in case they need to.

Not that I’m going to ask.

Nothing was guaranteed, but with all Svartalves forced by racial geas to monitor and take actions to repair or improve their own racial geas, it should be self-preserving.  The only reason the Svartalves allowed such a geas was because they placed it upon themselves through their first temporary god, Valsom.

The inefficiency of including human tinkers in the Svartalve geas had annoyed Valsom, and he was also clear that he didn’t think the human gods could handle modifying the main geas on humans, so he had provided the human pantheon leaders a stripped down version of the Svartalve geas.  The geas was far less complex than the Svartalve geas, but it apparently satisfied the human gods, who implemented it.

A great deal of mental healing efforts had been put into helping Tinkers.  For some, it was a lost cause.  They had grown too accustomed to their own mental illnesses, and could not be cured without basically turning them into different people.  Others blossomed into fine mental health with minimal guidance.  Some had mixed results.  Jane, for example, was still extremely agoraphobic, rarely going outside, but she had lost most of her OCD tendencies.  The Svartalves fixed the tinkering genetic modifications so that the infused elementals and spirits of innovation in future tinkers would draw energy from metabolic processes, as opposed to other parts of the human mind.

“Alvak, Calvart, are there any mop-up operations ongoing?”

“No, Mr. Collins” was repeated in stereo.

I held out my hand to Karina, and spoke.  “Calvart, please call the Jinn and Jiniri with soul well fragments, and ask for them to return.  Alvak, please communicate with the gods and find out if there are any strange requirements for delivery, or if there are any complaints about any gods not doing their jobs appropriately.”

“Yes, Mr Collins.” Stereo again.

Karina handed me the strip of my leg, and I fitted it into place, watching as it wriggled slightly, healing back into place, almost instantly.  The other seven pieces of me arrived in short order, and were all fitted into place on my leg.  I now contained the soul energy of hundreds of thousands of dead bugmen.

I saw Anne and Danny arrive on camera, and made sure the red light on the door was lit so they knew not to enter yet.  Their escort Jiniri, however, needed to attend me, and opened the door, walking into the main cavern.  Fifi was there with Anne and Danny, and ran in circles around the two of them a couple times before flopping down on Danny’s feet, rather than on the floor.

Even temple guardians prefer a warm place to lay down.

The last Jiniri approached, and all ten of them held hands, except the Jinn and Jiniri nearest to me, who only held the hand of one partner.  They each reached out and I reached out to them as well.  As they touched me, I felt the heavy syrup sensation of the soul energy being drained from me through both arms.

I looked at Ali.  “Were you able to get it all, and evenly distribute it?”

“Yes, Zeke, everyone got an equal share.” Ali answered as he removed his hand from my wrist.

I stood, and then shifted back into my human self and pushed the base intercom. “Good job everyone.  You all know what to do from this point on.  Let Alvak or Calvart know if there are problems that you need help solving.  They’ll let me know if I need to know.  There will be a cookout at my place tonight, if any of you want in, just show up.  I’m the grill-master tonight.  Beef burgers and turkey dogs.  If you want steaks, Danny will fire up the other grill.  Remember, no pork, please.  Bring your own anything else.  The grill shuts down at ten, the lights are out at midnight.” I released the button.

“See you there, Zeke!” Ali commented as he ran to one of the nearby walls, created a door, and stepped through it with a wave.

I made sure my phone was connected to the access point system, in case someone needed to reach me.  It was almost guaranteed that someone would probably think they needed me, and I’d end up pushing them off to the Svartalves unless it was something that actually needed my attention, like a social/people problem.

I pressed another button and the red light at the door turned green.  Anne and Danny pushed through, and I went to meet them, tucking my phone into the inner pocket of my windbreaker.

Anne gave me a hug, and I slapped Danny on the back.  Danny said he was going to get Jane from over at her mother’s, and I nodded.  Anne and I hurried back to the house to close all the blinds and make sure Jane’s ‘safe closet’ was in good order.

Human technicians and practitioners, and a couple of the Jinn and Jiniri arrived in short order, before I even had the charcoal lit.

Jamar saw my predicament and grinned.  “Don’t worry, Zeke, I missed giving fire to humankind by a few hundred thousand years, but I’ve got this, I think.”  The charcoal caught fire, and was immediately ready to cook on.

“Thanks Jamar!”  I quickly started tossing burgers and dogs on the grill.

After I had the grill covered with burgers and dogs, but before I had to carefully watch for flare-ups from dripping grease, I spent a moment looking up at the stars.  I couldn’t see them well through the smoke and with the outside floodlights on, but they were still there, winking.

I wish there had been a way to save you, Ahmed.

Anne walked up behind me and put her head on my shoulder. “Thinking about him again?”

I flipped a couple burgers that really didn’t need flipping yet.  “Yeah.  Is it that obvious?”

“When you look off into nowhere with that pain on your face, yes.  It’s obvious.  At least to me.  I’m sure the Jinn and Jiniri notice it too.  I bet it’s part of why they like you so much.”  She pushed me away from the grill a bit and pulled my head down, staring into my eyes.  “Happy thoughts, Zeke.  Think about what you and your team did today.”  She gave me a kiss on the nose.

Anne then produced a white chef’s hat and apron, which had apparently been tucked behind her back, made me put them on, and went back inside to work with Matty to make sure the non-grilling parts of the party went well.

I put myself on autopilot on the grill, thinking about what we’d managed today, finally.  The first step towards not just protecting Earth, but all Earths.  The organization I’d built wouldn’t stop alien invasions from other places in our dimension, but the Svartalves said that the number of dimensional layers was finite.  That meant, eventually, in a few hundred thousand years or so, we will have ended the possibility of all Earth-based cross-layer dimensional attacks.

I might even see that day.

I still knew almost nothing about magic.

I no longer wanted to know about magic.

Success isn’t magic – it just feels like it.

Prior Chapter

44 comments

  1. farmerbob1

    At this point I’ll be taking a few days, perhaps as many as a couple weeks off.

    I need to plan. I think I did a pretty good job of not allowing the main character to get too crazy-powerful, which was one of the major exercises of this book.

    I don’t need to just plan, I need to really plan, I think.

    My next project is going to be planned with an outline of events, rather than random things happening because they happened to pop into my brain on some given day. A lot of you liked the last parts of Arc 3, Zeke’s path to recovery from his mental damage. Most of that was planned. After I wrote the part where Zeke killed Ahmed, everything just unfolded in my mind, a framework of what I wanted to happen, roughly, and I made that happen. That clarity ended when Zeke was healed and woke up on the sand, as himself.

    I liked that. I want to try that with a whole book

    I’m not sure if I’ll be doing another book in the Reject Hero universe or back over in the Symbiote universe, or perhaps even something else, completely new.

    I will create a new post, rather than comments, when I get some traction on what I plan next.

    • AvidFan

      Well. It’s been a wild ride. I missed the beginning of Symbiote, but I was here for the whole ride for Reject Hero. Can’t wait to see what you think of next! ;D

      As for things happening just because they popped into your head, I personally don’t dislike that. Can be interesting to see a story unfold when unplanned things happen, especially for web serials, since we get to see you adapt to your own changes.

      One last thing: You have done technology, and now superheroes/magic/supernatural-ish. Is there a chance your next story will be swords and dragons? 😛
      I will be eagerly awaiting whatever it is.

    • Bobby

      “I liked that. I want to try that with a whole book”
      Yes, please do so. 😛

      It’s pretty obvious looking back that this story wasn’t planned. Essentially, you’ve got the beginning of one story that morphed into a different one. None of the early plot threads (Gorgon, the Enclave, etc) were resolved satisfactorily, meanwhile a bunch of new stuff about gods and magic appears and takes over. If you wanted to keep the story centered on superpowered humans and Zeke’s struggles, you’d have needed to make Ali way less helpful and probably axe the svartalves, too. Not have all gods ever owe him boons, either, because that makes a threat like Gorgon irrelevant. If you wanted to have it centered on the magical world, you’d need a completely different beginning for the story, and more setup for Ahmed.

      Stuff like that is what planning is for. You write interesting stories, or else I wouldn’t have archive binged, but more attention to your plot will definitely improve your work.

      • farmerbob1

        Thanks for reading!!

        Yes, the whole planning thing really needs to happen. I’ve been bothered by this for a long time now. I’ve been poking around and reading things by established authors, and almost every one at least builds a framework for a book, before they even begin to write. That’s the next project. I’m only playing around with the crossover story right now, but it was planned. I need to step it up and start writing more in that story, to let me get back to my next original project, but I’m discovering again why it is that I don’t like writing in other people’s universes. Everything feels just a little bit off, because I don’t KNOW the characters in my head. So it’s slow. I am writing today, but not sure if a new chapter will appear there today, because I’ve been told that I’ve done some pretty heinous things with sentence length in the story, and I need to look at that. It may have slipped by me because I’m trying to write other people’s characters.

  2. Michael

    Ah, the “Book 1” clears things up. Great NaNoWriMo, by the way; it flowed really well and just got better and better towards the end.

  3. ereshkigala

    Let’s hope Zeke’s team doesn’t bite more than it can chew by accidentally delving in a highly populated, highly hostile dimension. Like, say, the Warhammer 40.000 version of the galaxy or the DnD Abyss.

    Though seeing Thor kick some Ork and Tyranid @ss might be highly entertaining. 🙂

    • farmerbob1

      Thank you very much for your kind words!
      I hope my next work lets me improve as much as this one did.
      If I can manage this whole “planning” thing for a whole story, I have high hopes 🙂

  4. DeNarr

    So I really liked this story, but it didn’t have quite the same draw that Symbiote did. It kind of felt like you pulled a little bit of a genre switch on us. It became less about Super Heroes, and more about Magic and Gods. Heck, in this epilogue, all the fighting seemed to be done by gods. That doesn’t mean that it was a bad story, it just felt like you changed your mind on what type of story you wanted to tell.

    • farmerbob1

      The genre crossing was annoying, even for me. I enjoyed writing it, but I hated watching it happen, if that makes any sense?

      Symbiote, the main character ballooned in power, and in Reject Hero, the secondary characters did. Still learning. I’m definitely wanting to plan the next project, so I can avoid flailing around and going in weird directions on days when a whim grabs me.

      Still, I was happy with Zeke, as a character, and I did do with him what I wanted, even though the story around him went a bit off in a few places.

  5. ereshkigala

    What seems a bit off is what kind of resources a civilization with fusion power would really need, even if they can’t escape their own Earth-analog. Off the top of my head;

    1) Food is easy. Farming inside buildings or underground has been used by ants for some two hundred million years now. With fusion power, all you need to do is build layered cavers extending 3 miles into the crust, with a floor every 10 feet, fusion-powered artificial lighting and temperature control, and automated harvesting. Given enough time and work, you could thus multiply any land you had by three orders of magnitude. Also, no reason you could not build comparable hydroponics in the oceans. Given time and enough work, you could have an effective farmland 10.000 times that of Earth.

    2) Living space is easy. Consider a modern city that can have 10 million people in about 200 square miles. Now imagine a city bigger than Texas. A million square miles would fit over 50 billion people. Now, imagine if those people lived in thousand-floor skyscrapers rather than your average residential buildings, multiplying the number of people by a factor of 30. And now imagine a few dozen such cities in the world. That’s over fifty trillion people.

    3) Raw materials are easy once you got fusion power. A significant percentage of the Earth’s crust is aluminum and iron for typical machinery. An even larger percentage is carbon and silicon, for ceramics.

    4) Pollution is irrelevant. You’re using fusion power and high-energy industry, not fossil fuel. Even if there was some air pollution, the air recucling systems for that much artificial farmland would pump the air into it and absorb it. As for waste disposal, cast them into a high-temperature furnance and recycle through the simple expedient of fractional distillation – once temperature hits 4.000 degrees or so, you can distill just about any mixture if you don’t want to get back organics.

    So essentially, I see no problems with a planet supporting a population of tens of thousands of times that of modern-day Earth if it was sufficiently industrialized. That the Coruscant of the Star Wars universe has serious problems supporting its measly two trillion inhabitants is a sad case of failed research by the writers. I mean, the city has over 5.000 levels and it is planet-wide. That’s hundreds of trillions of inhabitants AND their food production.

    • farmerbob1

      A fully realized high technology Earth as you describe would, indeed, be able to support a stupendous number of individuals, however it would require that all sciences be sufficiently advanced. That’s part of what the Svartalves will be doing on alternate Earths. Help with population control. Find technology holes and fill them. Get the civilization off-Earth and start building real space industry. Artificial gravity will instantly make the bugmen capable of space travel, for instance. (It would do wonders for us too, heh)

  6. thomas

    Nice! For the last week, it was obvious the end of the arc was near, so the epilogue does not really surprise me. I don’t think you come close to exhausting all of the Strangest world. I hope you return to it someday soon. 🙂

    😐 😐

  7. AvidFan

    “Soul well fragments”.
    Makes me picture a civilisation billions of years in the future in a pre-industrial age all scrambling to collect the most pieces. Then they get enough and Zeke thinks it’s safe to revert to his human form (assuming he still hasn’t discovered if reverting back while in tiny pieces has ill effects). Then hilarity ensues. Then we realise Zeke is the last human. Then sadness ensues.

  8. Michael

    Hmmm, the issue I see here is that Zeke’s got too many magical and divine connections now, and so do his enemies – it would require some kind of Contrived Plot Device to cut him off from using them as solutions (nothing wrong with those, as long as they aren’t too overboard and you make sure to think them through, of course). Everybody but Gorgon’s pretty much cool with him. He would need to face a problem that had real power to keep him from reaching out to his allies to make things interesting.

    • farmerbob1

      If I return to Zeke directly, it will probably be to have him in some sort of teaching position for supers, as a secondary supporting character. That would be either telling the story in omniscient point of view to allow me to display Zeke’s thoughts from time to time, or from the point of view of one of his students, or a team.

      Or I might just tell the story of another character in the Rejectverse, with Zeke rarely doing anything that the new character knows of, other than coordinating defensive actions against dimensional assaults.

      The bugmen didn’t have their own gods, but bringing in more gods would just make things even more fantasy-ish.

      I have considered telling Gorgon’s story. I kind of felt bad about leaving him after so much development, but I was having a hard time figuring out what would stop Zeke from simply dropping in on him with a stop sign (or monoblade) and ending him if he actually hurt Zeke’s family. Gorgon is not immune to Zeke’s power, Zeke doesn’t get tired when he’s the soul well, and any of the Jinn or Jiniri would be able to fudge up his escape plans.

      Certainly there are things I can do, even with Zeke as a main character (power swaps are always interesting) but I’ll definitely need to plan it.

      I have been strongly leaning towards a short planning test project, a fanfic crossover of the Dresdenverse and the Pactverse. Butters and Bob meet Blake and Evan.

      I haven’t committed myself to it though, still winding down, writing a short piece of non-fiction, and thinking things through.

      • Michael

        Y’know, it’s mildly depressing and a little hilarious that this multiverse’s name is stuck on “Rejectverse” because of the first story you tried out in it 😉

        • farmerbob1

          Oh, If I do more stories in this universe, there’s going to be very little in the way of “normal” superpowered people. The thoughts of how much fun I could have with even the most blasé super-powered individuals with the right mental issues… Octagon, for example. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story about a super-strength and invulnerability character with a borderline severe hoarding mentality.

          Megalomaniacal super-smart supervillains are so boring. Why not a Speedster supervillain with OCD issues and danger sense? Writing from that point of view would be delicious, the mental outrage when people disorganize his stuff, or interfere with his plans. The heroes trying to use his OCD as a weak point to trick him into traps or disadvantageous positions, but his danger sense warning him and (mostly) keeping him from being caught.

        • Michael

          You know what might be fun? A precognitive with a mental illness entirely unrelated to their power. “Precognition makes you crazy” is so ingrained that “Nope, that’s all you” would be refreshing. Even better if the mental illness manifests in a manner similar to their power, but unlike their power, doesn’t actually correlate to reality.

        • farmerbob1

          Hrm borderline severe delusions of grandeur, where they imagine themselves to succeed at almost everything, but they can simply look into the future and see themselves fail? That would be really hard to write, but could be interesting. One chapter for each delusion.

          The book arc could be that precognition ended up being a sort of therapy for the delusions of grandeur, because they were able to see for themselves that they were wrong, and finally, after they (mostly) conquered the delusions of grandeur, the end result is a person who is actually rather competent and moderately sane.

        • Michael

          It would be interesting if he wasn’t able to quite tell apart the precognition and the delusions, or even had the precognition interpreted through the lens of delusion – for example, he decides to try skydiving, and his precognitive ability gives him a flash of terror-pain-field-car-hospital-bright-lights-darkness. “Ah!”, he says, “I will be the greatest doctor the world has ever known!”

  9. Kenneth

    Great story! I think what I enjoyed most in both Reject Hero, and Symbiote, is how you depicted the main characters. The kind of changes they went through presented them with situations that they had no coping mechanisms in place for. Watching them evolve as people in extraordinary situations was very enjoyable. Thanks for your hard work!

    • farmerbob1

      Thank you. One of the things that I have seen is that I, personally, am far more attracted to a good character than I am to a good story. Sometimes, a story is really good, and grabs me, and the characters are meh, but that’s rare. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time that happened to me. Probably back when I was still in school. The Mote in God’s Eye is one of my most favorite books that I can’t remember any of the characters from. Blood Music is another. Infectress is a third. But those are exceptions. Most of my favorite books are my favorites because of the characters, not the story or plot or world. Raj Whitehall, Harry Dresden, Pug, Vladimir Taltos. Not only are they larger than life, they feel real. It seems right when they pull a win out of what seems like a bad situation, rather than contrived.

      *Edit. I had to add Beldin here as a special case of awesome. He’s not a main character, but I liked him MORE than the main characters in Eddings’ Belgariad, Mallorean, etc books. I always had the distinct feeling that he is humoring the other characters in the books, and holding back so he doesn’t make them feel inconsequential.

      At this point I’m fairly certain that I’m going to practice planning a story by writing a 5-10 chapter crossover Dresdenverse/Pactverse fan fiction before I do anything else. After that, I still don’t know, but I am strongly considering a story where there are no powers or extra-human abilities. I’m thinking I want to try the whole planning a story thing on a larger scale before I go back and do Symbiote over again from scratch.

  10. RayBjorn Andreasen

    OMG ! Never have I hear anyone referense Beldin from Eddings’ books … finally i’m no longer alone in loving this character …

    I’ll be here reading whatever your new stuff might be …I havent read anything I didn’t like yet …

  11. Moridain

    Thanks for an awesome story.

    I personally think that this would make a fantastic end point. Stories don’t need to drag on into forever, after all, and I think anything you do from here might cheapen the universe a little.

    He is with his family, protected by both a bodyguard of Jinn and the careful eye of every god on the planet on top of his own near immortality. The planet is safe from extra-dimensional assault, and the gods have been revealed and chained by their own greed for power.

    The situation means that the MC can’t effectively put himself in danger now without risking the entire planet.

    Perhaps another MC in the same world? An exploration of what a world with more open access to gods looks like?

    It might be interesting to see a Manifested Danny. 😉

    But I think Strangest has run his course as an MC.

    • farmerbob1

      Aye, Zeke would certainly strongly resist anyone trying to get him to be active in the super community. He knows what he’s doing is damn important.

      There are plenty of different options though. Even writing about Danny might be rough. Zeke will try not to interfere too much in his son’s life, but if he’s threatened. Yeah, Zeke would come out of retirement for his family, stop sign in hand. Chances are that he wouldn’t even need to do that, he’d just ask a boon in return for all the worship and attention he’s arranged for the gods.

      I could see him as a potential background character, but I’d have to be careful with him. The idea of a story from Gorgon’s point of view, perhaps from before Zeke’s appearance, has crossed my mind, several times.

  12. Joel

    Just read this in half a day. Really liked it. Are you ever going to publish it so I can give you money for an ebook version?

    Little disappointed Miss Perfect randomly dropped out of the story. Everyone else I could remember popped back up occasionally.

    • farmerbob1

      Mrs. Perfect was fun, but she was dangerous, in a way. Writing a character with mental illnesses that some readers might share and know better than the author can bring the lightning down if you aren’t careful. When I realized what I might be setting myself up for, it scared me off a little.

      I don’t feel that Reject Hero is ready for publishing. It was unplanned writing for the most part.

      Like Symbiote, I will probably rewrite it, clean it up, actually plan it and give it a solid storyline and plot to follow.

      That will happen after Set In Stone: Follower though. A lot of story elements will change, but the characters that remain will stay much the same. In a rewrite, Gorgon will also have a greater place too. I had a great deal of fun writing him, and the conflict I could have stirred up between Mrs. Perfect and Gorgon was something I really wanted to poke at, but never did.

  13. Andrul

    Huh. I was waiting for you to put something else up after Symbiote finished and totally missed this until now. Boy do I feel unobservant.

    I’d just like to say thanks for putting the stuff out here for us to enjoy. And I don’t know if I’d worry too much about what ‘experts’ tell you about illnesses, etc… People easily forget that fictional worlds are not our world and inaccuracies can easily be explained as differences between the worlds. As long as your world is internally consistent it doesn’t have to match up with our “real world”. If it makes people less picky, preface each story with a statement to that effect, right along with the old saw about any similarities to people living or dead are purely coincidental.

    Caveat: The above opinion is offered freely by a person who is not politically correct although he does try not to insult people too regularly. Consider the value of said opinion to be equivalent of what was paid for it.

    • farmerbob1

      Thanks for reading!!

      As I grow in confidence as a writer, I might change my mind and embrace some more controversial topics with less caution, but for now I’m still a bit afraid of them. The idea of a preface statement does have some merit though. It would make things a little more ‘safe’ feeling.

      I will admit that I am struggling with my current writing project. Writing rationally and keeping it interesting is hard. I have another project that’s been building in my head now for weeks that I’m afraid to start writing because I feel that it will completely derail ‘Set In Stone.’ I’ve already popped off a 30k word crossover fanfic story in a week as a side-track, I’m trying to stay focused.

      That being said, I might just have to let the muse off it’s leash and start a second project if I can’t get myself fully engaged in the current project.

  14. zack

    Thanks for the fun read!

    I found your story from a link at Citadel: https://unillustrated.wordpress.com/ , and enjoyed many of your ideas.

    I found that you have a writing style/flavor extremely similar to B.V. Larson in his Star Force series. (I haven’t read his other stuff, but would wager it’s the same sort of feel). So similar in fact that I half suspect you are Mr Larson himself playing with some ideas.

    • farmerbob1

      Thanks for reading!

      I am not Mr. Larson, and am not familiar with his writing. That said, I’ll definitely take a look and see if I can pick up something of his to read.

  15. jimhenry1973

    I enjoyed this a lot, though not as much as “Symbiote” (at least the first two or three books) and “Set in Stote”. I especially liked arc three, even if it starts new hares and doesn’t chase down the ones from the first couple of arcs.

    A couple of minor points to consider if you ever do the rewrite you talked about:

    1. There seems to be an inconsistency about Zeke’s language power as the soul well. In the scene with Arson et alia he can’t understand Korean. But later when he and Ahmed (I think) are testing his powers, he understands all the languages Ahmed tries on him. That could be because he only understands foreign languages when the soul well is charged with souls; I was expecting some explanation to that effect, but if it was ever included, I missed it.

    2. The usual singular of “svartalves” is “svartalf”. It pluralizes like “leaf/leaves”, “wolf/wolves”, etc.

    3. The commenter “thomas” posted a lot of incorrect or overgeneralized grammar advice; some is outright wrong, some only applies to formal nonfiction writing and not necessarily to first-person narration and dialogue. The bit about “split infinitives” (a Latinism, nothing to do with real English), for instance, and the fetish against using “then” as as conjunction.

    Thank you for posting this. I look forward to whatever you write next.

    • farmerbob1

      Hrm. I will have to look at the language thing. I suspect I will remove any inherent language abilities. Zeke has enough going for him, and universal language comprehension isn’t needed, I don’t think.

      I will also have to look for incorrect spellings of Svartalf! Thanks!

      I take every grammar suggestion with a grain of salt, even from grammar tools like Grammarly, which I have caught in multiple errors. Normally, when I make corrections around a suggested grammar correction, I make the correction in such a way that it completely removes the perceived fault, whether or not it is real. Thomas is not alone in his perceptions of grammatical correctness, and I was normally able to accommodate him, and, by extension, others who share his grammar beliefs. As for using ‘then’ as a conjunction, if I don’t watch myself, I do it WAY too often, so Thomas calling me on it wasn’t objectionable to me. It allowed me to defuse a potential repetitiveness issue.

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