I was barely conscious as I felt gentle hands on my body. They lifted me carefully, and a moment later I was unconscious again.
Over the next few days I slipped in and out of consciousness. When I finally woke, I realized that I was on a boat, and we were moving down a river. Kindly dark skinned faces looked down on me, and they were paddling.
Where was I? The channels that had held my Ki were raw, and trying to use any hurt, but even so I could feel that we were approaching a city of some size.
There were sounds of helicopters coming, an I faded out of consciousness again, only to wake on a helicopter, looking at even more dark skinned faces.
I woke in a hospital room.
Eidolon was sitting beside my bed.
"What happened?" I asked.
"As far as I can tell, we won," he said. "It took all but three of the Endbringers, and we lost Doormaker, but Scion just disintegrated in front of us."
My mouth felt dry. "How long has it been?"
"A week," he said. He glanced around him. "Scion managed to kill Doormaker when he detected some of the doorways he was making to move troops in. No one has seen Alexandria or Panacea since then."
They were trapped on the other world, without a way to get back.
"That's why nobody came to pick me up," I said.
"Your father and the other Saiyans are also on the other side, which is why I'm the one who is here for you." Eidolon said. He hesitated. "You know your secret identity is gone, right?"
"What?" I asked.
"When you gave that last message to the entire world... parts of the memories you sent us included your identity. It included how you felt about... everything. Every person on Earth knows who you are, and they all know what you did."
Everyone in five thousand worlds. I hoped that it didn't cause problems for my counterparts in other worlds, especially if they didn't have the same powers that I did.
"And how are they taking it?" I asked.
"We've had to put guards on our guards," Eidolon said dryly. "People are going crazy wanting to get to you. The whole world has been celebrating, at the least the parts that weren't destroyed."
I felt a sudden sense of guilt. "How many people died?"
"A hundred million," he said. "Most of them from the CUI. Their government was basically decapitated, and the entire country has degenerated into warring factions trying to take over what's left."
I grimaced. "I didn't want anyone to die."
"You made the right call. They almost certainly planned to kill you and use Shucai to take over. Whether that would have worked out for them, no one can know."
We were both silent for a moment.
"So what now?" I asked.
"There were enough Cauldron assets left here on planet that I was able to get a likely future projection. There probably won't be many more natural triggers; there may have been a few floating around that hadn't taken root yet, but when you destroyed the rest of Scions true body, you destroyed the source of natural triggers."
"Maybe that's for the best. Powers haven't done a lot for the world."
Eidolon shook his head. "We're going to need them to rebuild. The fight damaged millions of acres of farmland in Africa, and there is going to be a massive famine. We're releasing Panacea's solution to help the people there."
"The stuff that turns your skin green?"
"It doesn't completely remove the need to eat, unless you basically sunbathe for several hours a day, but if it can give people seventy five percent of the food they need, it can make a huge difference. We're distributing it to the Chinese too, because their farmland was hurt even worse."
"I was trying to keep him away from the cities."
"No one is complaining," he said. He was silent for a moment. "I wan to thank you for giving my strength back, and for reminding me of why I became a hero in the first place."
"I did what I had to," I said. "I couldn't let you keep taking a vacation when the world was ending... plenty of time for that afterward, one way of another."
"Are you going to be able to use your powers again?" he asked. "I've got Leet building an interdimensional transporter, but it won't work unless the other end is in the other dimension. He has no way of pinpointing Cauldron's universe."
"I can feel Ki some," I said. "It may take me a while to get strong enough to feel other dimensions, though. I don't know how long; I've used Panacea or the Bacta tank to heal for so long that I don't know how long natural healing will take?"
"Will the Bacta tank help?" he asked.
"I'm not physically injured," I said. "I think it's going to have to heal on its own. I don't think anyone has come up with a way to deal with metaphysical injuries."
"We'll have to talk about it later," Eidolon said. "You are still officially the leader of Cauldron, so I suspect you've got a few ideas about what you want to do with the world. You should think about it."
He stood up. "Get some rest, and heal. The world needs you."
A moment later he was gone.
Sophia slipped into the room a moment later.
"Sophia?" I asked.
"They've got us guarding you twenty four hours a day until they're sure you can protect yourself again. This is my shift," she said. She grimaced. "I've had all I can take of the partying. Did you know they're planning to dedicate a holiday to you?"
"Hebert day or some shit like that. I don't think they've come up with a name for it. It's almost enough to make me wish Kaiser was still alive. He'd have an aneurysm."
"I'm not Jewish," I said peevishly. "My name is French."
"It's not like the Nazis liked the French very much either," Sophia said. "Knowing that some girl saved the world... some Jewish girl."
"I just said..."
She grinned, her teeth white against her dark skin.
We were silent for almost a minute before Sophia said, "Did you know that I was helping your Dad train those Chinese wimps?"
"No," I admitted. "I was busy with Shucai. Why?"
"He asked. But we learned something interesting."
She held her hand out in front of her, and frowned, concentrating. It took her several seconds, but a moment later a ball of bluish flame appeared over her hand. It was tiny, far smaller than what I'd been able to generate even in the beginning, but the implications were staggering.
"You mean we can teach Ki to ordinary people?"
"Uber is already way ahead of me," she admitted, frowning. "Leet's been trying, but he can't get it no matter what he does. The bigwigs in the Protectorate want to see whether it is something anyone can do, or if you have to have some kind of inborn talent for it."
She closed her hand and the light disappeared.
"Either way, they are wanting to start a school, and your Dad insisted that it be opened in Brockton Bay... or at least he did before he disappeared."
"He'll be fine," I said. I could almost feel his life force at the edge of my awareness. It was enough to make me believe that he was alive.
A school like that in Brockton Bay would bring resources to the city. Everyone would want their people trained there, and it was likely that national governments would pay a lot to have it done, especially if there were no other new parahumans.
That would mean that the city would be on the map, and businesses would move in just to be near it. It would require housing, restaurants, entertainment... it was exactly what a city like Brockton Bay needed to get back on its feet. I could see Dad making sure that local people got the jobs too.
If he and I were the only ones who could teach the skill, that meant we had a monopoly.
Sophia looked down at her hands.
"I'm really sorry for what I did to you," she said. "I'd like to say I didn't know how you felt but I didn't really care. I was going through some things and I took it out on you."
"What brought this on?"
"Your message," she said. "I felt what you felt, and the bullying was part of it. I don't think you realize just how much of yourself you put into it, or you wouldn't have opened yourself up that much. I sure as hell didn't. I'm just glad nobody saw my face, or I'd be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life."
"Because people would hate me as much as I've hated myself, and a lot of them wouldn't stop at just shoving me or saying things. I'd be the most hated person on the planet, and even my family wouldn't be safe."
I'd heard of Internet mob justice; seeing something like that in real life would be chilling.
"I would have thought Ems might be ready to apologize," she continued, "She had to have heard you the same as me. But she's locked herself in her room and hasn't come out for a week."
I was silent for a moment. "I was done with her a long time ago."
She nodded. "I just wanted you to know that I really am sorry... not that I'll admit it around anyone else. I can't have anyone thinking that I'm a whiny weak little bitch."
"Don't worry," I said. "They just think you're a regular kind of bitch."
"I can't argue with the facts. But at least I didn't broadcast my secret identity to the whole world."
"Five thousand," I muttered.
"Five thousand worlds," I said. "That I was communicating with."
"So you mean there's worlds out there where like... humans didn't evolve, and lizard people know who you are?" she asked. "Maybe even people with ass faces."
"You're the one with the ass face," I said. "And maybe? I didn't bother checking the race of the people I took power from."
"Which is why a Nazi never would have saved us," Sophia said.
We both chuckled.
"So what are you going to do once you get back on your feet?"
"Help rebuild," I said. "Maybe for a year or two,."
"Well, I promised Scion that I was going to go out into space and kill all of his brothers and sisters. I kind of hate to break a promise."
Sophia whistled. "That's a pretty tall order."
"It's the only way I'm going to get stronger. Besides, what am I going to do around here? I've pretty much served my purpose, and how long is it going to be before people start feeling threatened by me?"
"We've got guards on you right now because there's been talk about killing you before you wake up," Sophia admitted. "By some members of Congress. There's some people who are worried that you'll take over the planet. They didn't make it public, because people would riot if they did, but there's been some inquiries. It was enough for the Bigwigs to make us watch you."
I wasn't sure just how much protection Sophia and a few PRT troopers would really be, not if they really wanted to get to me, but I could also feel a couple of Dragon's suits nearby. That was probably a bigger deterrent.
"What would I do with the planet if I had it?" I asked. "Build a throne and stroke a white cat?"
"Neeerd," she said, but if she caught the reference that meant she'd seen the same movies I had.
"It's gonna be a new world," Sophia said. "Won't have to hold back on the crooks with the Endbringers gone or under control. Hell, now that Eidolon's got three of them working for him, nobody is ever gonna take a potshot at him again."
Because what if Eidolon dying triggered them to start killing again. Right.
"We're going to kick ass and take names," she said enthusiastically. "And your Dad's school is going to make it worse for the villains. They'll probably be having you teach cops and soldiers mostly... none of this more villains than heroes crap."
There would probably be disputes about who got taught. The United States would want to be the only ones who had powered soldiers and cops, but every other country in the world would insist that they got part of the pie too. It might even end up in global conflict if Dad and I allowed something like that.
I wouldn't, at least while I was on planet, and I'd keep working on Dad until he was tough enough to leave behind.
"I'm not going to let the government take over," I said. "I'm going to make sure that regular people get a chance too."
"You'll get villains that way."
"Maybe we'll provide training in ethics too," I said.
"So what... real life Jedi?"
"Why not?" I asked. "You called me a nerd, but Dad's an even bigger one. Making the people with powers into ambassadors isn't the worst thing in the world."
"Yeah... it worked out great in the movies."
"Well, we'll try to do better," I said. "Not get all arrogant and complacent."
"Arrogant... you? No..." Sophia said exaggeratedly.
"I just blew up two hundred planets at the same time. That's kind of a big deal. So maybe I'm a little arrogant after that... sue me."
"Well, you'll never get me in one of those robes," she said. "They look like crap."
"You planning to join up?" I asked.
"Your Dad promised to teach me how to fly," she said. "That's really cool. He's not nearly as stupid as I thought the first time I met him."
"Uber too. He's kind of kick ass, and he's got great..."
"Don't say buns," I warned her.
"Moves," she said. "Hell, it never even occurred to me to try to do the crap you and your dad were doing. Who ever heard of parahuman powers you could learn? But he tried, and he figured it out, and that makes him a kind of a genius."
"Well, his talent is learning skills or something," I said. "Maybe he just thought he could pick up a few things."
"Well, anyway..." Sophia said. "I'll bet you the first day of school is gonna be weird for you."
"Everybody knowing who you are..."
"Glory Girl and Panacea made it work," I said.
"They weren't crap in terms of being famous. You know how everybody thinks they know celebrities because they've seen them on TV? Well, imagine that except that they've actually been inside of your head. They actually will know you."
"Maybe I'll get to home school," I said. "At least until I go off planet. We can argue that my being at school puts the kids in too much danger."
"Are you kidding? You eat Endbringers for lunch; if anything people are going to want their kids in your school because they'll be safer there than anywhere else."
I shrugged uncomfortably. There wasn't anything I could do about it; I'd have to make a decision soon, though, because school was about to start in a couple of weeks.
"I wonder how many kids are going to be brave enough to ask you out," Sophia said. "They'd have to have balls the size of the moon to even think about it, even if they are a girl."
"Who cares?" I asked. "I'm just going to focus on repairing the world and getting ready for my next fight."
"There's more to life than just stomping on villains," Sophia said. She looked surprised. "Not that I ever thought I'd hear myself saying that. "
"Scion's people have been destroying whole races over thousands of years," I said. "Every one of them I kill will save more people than... anything."
"Squid people, probably," Sophia said dismissively.
"You don't understand," I said. "Since this last set of power ups, I can feel the life on other worlds. There are worlds that are brimming with life, places the Entities would love to devour. I could teleport to one of them right now... or at least when my powers get back to normal, assuming I knew I could breathe the air. I'm going to get Leet to build me something to help, or maybe have Panacea change me so I can adapt to alien atmospheres. She'd probably be happy to do that."
"Good to know that you're so confident that people will do what you want," Sophia said dryly.
"Well, either they like me, or they want me to leave. Either way they'll help me."
"Right," Sophia didn't look convinced, but it didn't matter.
I'd won, and when I'd finished turning the planet into the kind of place where people would want to live, I was going to seek out new worlds and new challenges. I'd come home sometimes; probably like a kid who was off to college; mostly to get my laundry done and pick up some extra money.
In the space of a few months I'd gone from being powerless and bullied to being the most powerful person on the planet. I loved that feeling, and I liked helping people... even if they turned out to be squid people, or little green men.
For now, at least, life was good.