Bitter 509

“Um, do you know where I can find the nearest church?” Now that she’d broken the ice, might as well get it over with.

The woman put the broom down, leaning it against the wall. “Which denomination are you?”

Britta hadn’t considered there’d be more than one, but it was hardly a surprise for a large city to have several religions and several churches to serve them.”

“Oh, well, um, the Great Gnome in the Sky?”

“Never heard of it.”

“The Almighty Toad?”

The woman pulled a face. “You’re not one of them, are you?”

“No, it’s not like that. I’m just visiting churches, for the architecture. I like to look at nice buildings…” It sounded idiotic as she said it, even though it was a perfectly normal hobby. The expression on the woman’s face wasn’t helping. People who looked at you like you were an idiot made you feel like they might be right.

“I see,” said the woman. She grabbed the broom and began sweeping again. Maybe sweeping was the only routine they’d given her. That and being judgemental, apparently. “Well, there’s the Church of Stan Lee at the bottom, there.” She pointed with the end of her broom. “They have some very nice walls you might like.”

Church of Stan Lee? Was that related to Stan and his rebel uprising, or just a dev acting out his nerd fantasies?

Brita opened her map again and looked along the road the woman had indicated. There was a small symbol that looked, if you squinted, like a Spider-man mask. Did every church have its own unique symbol? That would make it very hard to find one if you didn’t know who they worshipped there. On the other hand, if you were a member of that church, you were probably only interested in finding your place of worship. In any case, she’d found one and it wasn’t too far.

“Thank you,” she said to the woman, who ignored her.

It didn’t take long to find the Church of Stan Lee. It was a triangular building with stained glass windows. The images in the windows appeared to be Marvel comic characters, although somewhat abstract, probably for copyright reasons. Britta only recognised the Hulk. Green and purple worked quite well in stained glass form.

There was a big wooden door that was closed. Britta tried to push it, then pull it. Her size made it tricky, but she should have had enough strength points to be able to open it. She realised it was locked. Churches were meant to be open and welcoming, especially if they had a save point you needed to use.

Britta knocked. Finding another church would take too much detective work. Although there was bound to be a Batman Temple somewhere, possibly with a Boy Wonder chapel next to it. She checked the map for the bat signal.

“What?” said a voice from above her.

Britta backed away from the door. There was a face peering out from a small opening halfway up. It was a man, that was about all she could be sure of.

“Hello. I’d like to come in, please.”

“Are you a true believer?”


“With great power?”


“With. Great. Power.” He looked like he expected a response. Secret password time?

“Come great responsibility?”

“Wrong!” A small flap slammed shut over the opening.

Wrong? How was it wrong? Everyone knew that phrase. Even Mum would have known the answer. Then again, why would the secret password be something everyone knew? It was probably some obscure nerdy thing.

“Actually, in the issue number three, November 1962, the phrase was originally ‘with great power comes immense responsibility’ but they changed it in later reprints.”

“There! There she is!” Britta turned to find soldiers approaching, led by Lavazza. Apparently, he’d found a way to get in the city. “She’s the rebel spy I told you about.”

Britta remained where she was. Running was an option, but the soldiers would know the city better than her, and she didn’t have any idea where to go.

“What is it?” she said, surprising herself at how unconcerned she sounded. They were here to drag away for some crime she hadn’t committed, but so what? There were ways to overcome even the most unfair opponents. It was what made this world so much better than the real one.

“Arrest her, before she gets away,” said Lavazza, grinning. His eyes had a mad quality she hadn’t noticed before. It seemed she really had made an enemy of him even though she’d gone to such lengths not to. Might as well have not bothered.

The soldiers, six of them, formed a circle around her. She couldn’t escape now if she wanted to. Well, not in the conventional way.

“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” she asked the soldier in charge. He had a slightly fancier helmet, which was how you could tell who was important. The game was not only fun, it was also educational.

“This man says you are working for the rebels,” said the soldier. “Are you?”

“No,” said Britta.

“I heard her,” said Lavazza. “She said she was here to assassinate the king.”

Usually, a person who planned to gain a reward for ratting someone out would do it privately. You didn’t want people to know you were a snitch, for obvious reasons. From how things were playing out, Britta assumed Lavazza had turned informant in order to gain entry into the city. She could see how that would be an effective way to do it. The Empire was looking for insurgents and rebel scum, and he was offering to point fingers.  The fact he was doing it so publicly suggested he wanted her to know he had turned her in. He had got the better of her. It was an incredibly petty thing to want known.

The only problem was that she wasn’t aligned with the rebels. She had nothing to do with them.

“If I was going to assassinate someone, the king or whoever, why would I go around telling people about it?”

“She was recruiting, said she needed people to provide a distraction.”

The annoying thing was that it did sound quite plausible. He had put a lot of thought into his revenge plan. If only he’d put the same level of effort into finding his own way into the city, he wouldn’t have to be such a pain in her neck.

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