Burst

by BRK

 In a sealed-off underground bunker, exposure to a tear in the fabric of space-time created by an illegal energy experiment is producing some interesting changes in the men trapped inside. And on top of everything else, it’s Christmas, and there’s no way they’ll ever see home again…

Added: Dec 2020 11,494 words 5,302 views 4.7 stars (10 votes)

B
Brains pulled off the headphones he was using the monitor his equipment and swiveled in his chair to face us. The look on his nerdily handsome face was grim.

I groaned and tossed my e-reader onto the coffee table with a clatter. “Don’t tell us,” I pleaded, slumping back in the couch dejectedly and glaring at him—as if my dirty look would in any way deflect what was coming.

Brains let his lips curve into a wry, crooked smile. One eyebrow arched over the frames of his Buddy Holly glasses in the direction of his loose mop of charcoal-black curls. “Looks like I don’t have to,” he said, his subdued Russian accent doubly adorable when he was being all sardonic. His usual mug of fresh black coffee steamed on his worktable next to him, and as often of late I experienced a sudden urge to taste that strong, bitter brew on his tongue.

“Another burst?” Stretch huffed distractedly from the lounge’s east doorway where he was idly hanging from the pull-up bar he’d mounted there a few weeks back, his feet drawn up behind him. “Don’t these interdimensional percussive exoradiation emissions know it’s almost Christmas?” He shifted his grip and pulled himself up in a slow, steady movement until his chin passed above the bar, then lowered himself in a similarly measured fashion, his firm biceps and triceps shifting under his warm-terracotta-brown skin like a smooth, unstoppable machine.

I watched him. We all did. We’d more or less given up pretending we weren’t all scoping each other out most of the time—that was around the same time we stopped bothering with shirts. We just hadn’t quite pushed through the membrane of hesitation into the next phase yet. It was coming, though. I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, but could feel it.

“I know, right?” Brains agreed, his dark blue eyes raking over Stretch’s long, rippling, coppery torso. “So inconsiderate.”

Arousal filtered through me, but my frustration was stronger. I dropped my head back onto the couch and frowned up at nothing. “We need to do something,” I muttered. As soon as I said it wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to seem like I was rebuking Brains, who’d been working day and night on a solution to our problem, or make it seem like I was ungrateful for what he was doing for us. I tossed him a guilty glance, but he just winked at me.

“I’m not sure why you’re complaining, Beef,” Valentino put in from where he was lounging indolently on the nearby love seat, leaning slightly on my handle to help make his point. When I looked over, he twisted his silent-movie-handsome face into a rakish smile and brushed the backs of his fingers lazily down his flat, olive-toned belly before deliberately moving his legs just a little further apart, inevitably drawing my eye to the sizable bulge pushing out the crotch of his otherwise well-fitting camos.

We might have to change his nickname to Horse, I thought, my mouth going a little dry.

I let my gaze caress that obscene shape for a full heartbeat. I could almost smell his latent, simmering arousal—hell, I could practically taste his fat, thickening cock even tucked away as it was in a taut ball that strained the teeth on his pants zipper. As soon as my own bulge started to respond, though, I hastily got to my feet and found somewhere else to look. “That’s not the point,” I responded belatedly as I turned my back on him.

I knew what he meant, though. Ever since the Incident…

My team and I were in the middle of a raid on an illegal experimental reactor when everything went wrong. Phoebus Energy Technologies had claimed that flex-membrane subnuclear fission would change the future of humanity: limitless free energy from the interstitial space between atoms would be ours for the taking, they said, using a theoretical refocusing dimensional interface so effective it made the dark-unquark space between atoms into a galaxy-sized pocket dimension saturated with enough energy, when brought across the reality gradient, to basically power everything forever. Was it the gibberish of madmen? Too good to be true? A second Promethean revolution? Who the fuck knows. A lot of people were skeptical, while others were rabid believers.

The problems started when evidence suddenly surfaced that Phoebus was proceeding in secret with a Stage 3 test-launch, despite only Stage 1 trials having been approved. Terrified politicians ordered commandos in to shut the place down and arrest everyone in the facility before they twisted a screw the wrong way and blew up the planet. My team broke in and entered the compound at the exact moment the dimensional interface synchronized reality and Phoebus’s scientific phantasmia.

What went wrong, I don’t know. Brains was a junior Phoebus engineer and the only one to stay at his post and try to contain the reaction when we burst into the compound, while the rest of the techs scattered like rabbits; he says the interface was matching specs down to the comma and that all the theory was lining up. The Incident shouldn’t have happened at all. I think he suspected sabotage, maybe from a rival energy conglomerate. What I do know is that an unplanned burst of interdimensional exoradiation knocked out everyone who hadn’t fled the compound, which amounted to exactly five people: my team plus Brains, and shunted our destines onto a new and unexpected path.

Outside, someone panicked and activated the elaborate Armageddon failsafe, sealing the entire underground facility inside impenetrable, ten-meter-thick concrete walls in all six directions. When we came to, we were closed off in our own little world: four soldiers, a tech, an empty research compound, a metric ton of food and supplies, and an unstable interdimensional interface that had apparently torn a hole in the thin fabric of reality. That little tear meant that every so often, at erratic intervals, we were exposed again and again to strange, uncanny bursts of exoenergy that had somehow been enforcing strange and decidedly beguiling effects on our bodies and our minds.

As I stood there I could almost feel Valentino’s smoldering gaze lingering on my perfectly round, hard glutes, which were giving my own straining camos more than a little trouble. Maybe he would be the one to push things, I thought. Maybe that was what we were waiting for, for Valentino to act, or for me to back down and let everyone know it’s okay, or both. I was definitely a good part of what was holding us back, because at some level I was afraid to truly and unconditionally accept what was happening to us.

Sure, I liked what was going on with my body. With all of us. I really liked it. I’d never been this big or this ripped. I was perfectly proportioned and exaggeratedly swole all at the same time. And every time, it was a little bit more. I loved it, all of it, to a degree that embarrassed and alarmed me. The electric feeling of my body as it thrived and developed… the gradually intensifying beauty of my fellow exiles… the increasing sense of raw connectedness we were feeling… All of that was a constant rush. And I mean constant. I was aware of me, of us, all the time, 24/7.

But the bursts, still random and mostly unpredictable until minutes before they came, were coming more frequently now. I was pretty sure the changes we were experiencing were accelerating too, getting subtly more dramatic with each burst’s new exposure to the exoradiation. Maybe that wasn’t terrible for me, or Stretch, or Valentino. Our changes were mostly physical. But what about Brains? True, the main effect on him seemed to be that he was getting progressively more adorkable in a way that seemed to be flipping all our switches—mine included, and I would have said before all this started that he was a good ways away from my usual type, not that he hadn’t been slathering on a few layers of mouth-watering brawn here and there over the last three weeks as well. (My nickname and comm handle, Szechuan Beef—later shortened to Beef—originally came as much from my well-known preference for thick-muscled Asian fuck-partners like me as from my own obsessive workouts and the results I gained from them.)

But I was starting to suspect that Brains wasn’t just getting cuter—he might be getting smarter, too. His mind seemed more efficient lately, leaping rapidly to new deductions and unexpected insights. What if his brain kept ratcheting up beyond what he could deal with? What if he started functioning at too high a level to even be able to understand human speech, or interact with us in a normal way?

And then there was the other member of our little crew, who in some ways seemed to be getting hit with the change stick harder than all the rest of us.

I looked around the big lounge. “Where’s B.D.?” I asked.

Stretch just shook his head, not even looking at me as he started on another slow pull-up. The head-shake wasn’t because he didn’t know; it was because it was a dumb question.

Valentino rolled his eyes and leaned forward to pick up my e-reader. Brains just gave me a meaningful look.

I sighed.


One of the strange things about our new home was that it was all huge rooms connected by narrow, cramped corridors. The lounge I’d just left was big enough to park buses in, and the screening room adjacent to it could have premiered a minor blockbuster; and yet the long connecting passageways, like the one I was now in linking the habitation facility to the primary unit complex where B.D. always was, seemed to have been built for some unknown race of skinny-ass bastards, like sentient hatstands or those chaos-breeding mops from Fantasia. Nothing around here made me as aware of the slowly accreting breadth of my hard, muscle-packed shoulders quite walking down these hallways. I kept wanting to glance up at the frosted fluorescent panels overhead and check if I was getting too close.

The corridors were all long and straight, too, which made the perspective seem like they were narrowing as I went and I’d have to burst out of the contracted passage at the end like a moose escaping one of those tiny house things.

I could feel B.D. ahead of me, just as I could sense the others back in the lounge behind me. It was like… how can I put it? It was like when you’re right next to someone, a finger’s breadth away, so close that their warmth and proximity feels like it’s pressing against you, and you know they’re there even with your eyes closed. Your skin becomes a sensor array, every part of it reporting the closeness of someone else. Their breath, their heartbeat, the hot blood rushing through their veins, all of it is right there, forming a whole in your mind. B.D. was close enough for me close the mere millimeters between us and fold him into my arms and whisper meaningless things in his ear as his thudding pulse synchronized with mine, and yet… and yet he was not there. He was far ahead of me, just as the rest were far behind. There was nothing in sight but a long daisy-yellow corridor under milky fluorescent lights.

Yeah, that’s the other thing about this place. The Phoebus color branding scheme meant everything down here was either pallid yellow or neon orange, and we were all a little sick of it—except for Brains, who’d tuned it out ages ago. Me, I was kind of jonesing for some vivid cold colors somewhere. At that moment I’d have given a great deal for a paint-roller and few gallons of Cadbury purple or lapis-lazuli. Also: the whole compound had a faint background whiff of damp earth. It was fairly pleasant as latent scents went, like walking through a rainy meadow or along the banks of a country stream, and it was subtle enough to pass unnoticed most of the time; which was good, as dwelling on it could cause you to remember there was rather a lot of earth between you and the rest of humanity.

I didn’t have to duck under the door-frame at the end of the corridor that led into the expanse beyond. Not yet. But I did so instinctively anyway, while trying not to think about wall-busting moose.

Sure enough, I’d found my quarry. He was about twenty feet ahead of me, leaning on the balustrade separating the room’s outer ring from the working central core. It was his usual spot. But everything around him was… not so usual. As soon as I entered the large, round room I felt a soft, thin crunch under my boots, and I stopped cold, looking first at the floor at my feet, then the rest of the room before me.

We called the space I was in the interface room. It was a huge torus a hundred meters wide and ten meters high—the whole of it painted, of course, in lurid orange-juice orange, walls, floors, ceiling, everything—and was originally designed to have been the collection zone for the exoenergy drawn from the interdimensional interface. But the million-dollar ebony pseudoplasmic collection panels that had arched around the core were now smashed and twisted as if they’d been subjected to death by torment, and instead of a pinprick of easily managed steady white light, a shifting, shimmering dinner-plate-sized almond-toned wafer-like disc shone coolly at the exact center of the space, rotating end over end on what seemed to be a sporadically shifting axis. As I watched its size and hue shifted slightly, wobbling perceptibly smaller and greener and jerkily accelerating up its rotations before jumping abruptly back to its previous size, speed, and color.

The unstable sunlike disc of transforming exoenergy wasn’t what had pulled me up short—that was normal, unfortunately, though the spasmodic fluctuations did seem to confirm Brains’s warning that a burst was imminent. No, what had me gobsmacked was that the entire interface room was coated in an inch of fresh, pristine white snow.

Snow! And it wasn’t just on the ground. More thick flakes were gently falling from nowhere, drifting through the kind of cool, clean air like you’d find in a remote forest winter before coming silently to rest with the layer of snow that had already fallen. A snowflake settled on my nose, feeling cold and real as it melted and trickled down to my lips. I out stuck the tip of my tongue and tasted pure, clean water. Real, or so complete an illusion as to amount to the same thing.

I observed B.D. for a moment before crunching slowly over to where he was leaning on the observation railing. There were no footprints, so either the snow had fallen around him over the last hour or so, or the inch or so of snow now on the ground around us had emerged all at once from Narnia or Westeros or wherever it had come from. He was shirtless, like the rest of us, and his decently broad shoulders were dappled with drops of water from melted snowflakes like the one that had just landed on me. He was also sporting a red Santa hat atop his long, fast-growing locks, and unless it had been secreted away with the pre-packed jumpsuits and hazmat gear that hat was exactly as impossible and inexplicable as a blanket of white, fluffy snow in a completely enclosed interface room in a sealed underground compound two thousand meters under a tract of abandoned farmland outside Omaha, Nebraska.

I took the spot next to him on the railing and slid my tanned and brawny arm over his smaller, paler shoulders, feeling the droplets of water quickly equalize to my temperature. I tend to run warm, body-heat-wise, and I hoped I could lend him some of my metaphorical bloodfire, if he needed it. I hadn’t been touching the guys like this, not wanting to escalate things, but in this moment I didn’t even have to think about it.

B.D. smiled up at me, and my heart squeezed in my chest. Fuck, he looked more exquisitely handsome even than I remembered. My fat cock started thickening instantly, responding more readily to B.D.’s inhuman beauty than to Valentino’s raw, cocky carnality, Brains’s adorably alluring cuteness, or Stretch’s limber, hyperathletic physique. His wide, winsome smile was almost literally breathtaking, and heartbreaking too.

We’d always called him Beautiful Dreamer, B.D. for short. He was twice as handsome as any of us; not exactly pretty but more yaoi-hot than bara-hot, if you follow me. The eyebrows drew my attention first, I think. They were this dark russet-brown, like his silky, now shoulder-length hair, and so perfect you wanted to focus in on them and stare at each individual follicle, celebrating its achievement of the ideal. Then there were his eyes, which seemed sharper and clearer than any eyes you’d ever seen, and you were so taken by that that you didn’t even register the color at first. They seemed hazel, but the brown was actually like dark, burnished gold, and the green flecks were like vivid jade, and you just wanted to melt into those eyes and drown there. Then his cheekbones, his immaculate creamy skin, his rare-steak lips—everything about him overwhelmed you with a sense of absolute, radiant male beauty, almost to excess.

And that was before, when we were likely as not streaked in mud and other, less savory effluent in various undisclosed corners of the world. We were all good-looking guys: Stretch was like a recruitment poster for Olympic athletes, Valentino could get any guy in any bar with a half-smile and wink, and I’d caught more than a few guys boning up in the showers and pretending they hadn’t been watching me (or not pretending, depending on their level of brazenness). But even the straightest guys would just sit and stare at B.D., lips slightly apart, and if he turned to smile at them they’d gulp and look away. And that, as I said, was before. Before his beauty started being one of the two things about him the bursts seemed bent on enhancing beyond what was even possible, taking what was intense and beyond what was normal and stepping it up, exposure by exposure.

Sometimes he had his head in the clouds, but mostly it was his vibrant imagination that had supplied the other half of his name. On missions he’d make up stories to keep us occupied during the long stretches of hurry-up-and-wait; after a while these had started featuring regular turns from randy yet virtuous superheroes conspicuously based on us, which Valentino and I thought was hilarious and Stretch didn’t seem to mind, so he kept doing it. He talked about his dreams, too, which sounded as elaborate as novels and were filled with strong, loving men engaged in improbable adventures in distant worlds or arcane fantasy realms. His creative gift could be turned to more mundane uses, too. On one mission he had able to picture the man who’d made a series of strange footprints, including height, build, and the source of his limp, to such a degree that we were able to identify him mixed into an airport crowd the next day; another time he’d animated our plan of attack in his head and spotted where it would go wrong (I stupidly hadn’t factored a gate we knew about that would slow down one of the teams). Both times, his ability to vividly imagine people and events in motion had turned an uncertain outcome into solid success.

Since the Incident, though, I’d been starting to suspect that B.D. wasn’t being completely successful at keeping his imaginings inside his skull. There was a litany of clues, though whether everyone was tracking them or just me I wasn’t sure.

The first was about eight days back, shortly after I’d stopped wearing shirts (because mine weren’t fitting me anymore) and the others tacitly followed suit. The next morning, we discovered that all of the shirts had just disappeared. Apart from the hazmat materials it appeared there were now no upper body coverings whatsoever anywhere in the compound. Stretch and Valentino each thought the other had done it as a prank, but Stretch wasn’t really a prankster, and Valentino’s pranks—well, that’s a whole different narrative.

Then, four nights ago, Stretch had been prepping dinner and discovered that the back-up deep freezer was suddenly packed to the brim with five different kinds of fresh, premium ice cream, and each of those five flavors just happened to be somebody’s absolute favorite kind of ice cream ever. We weren’t likely to let a windfall like that go to waste, eerie or not, so we had our ice cream dessert and sat around topping each other with increasingly unlikely explanations for where the ice cream had come from (mine was underpants gnomes looking for a new gig; Brains suggested the freezer was really a prototype replicator that had gained sentience and wanted to please us; B.D. spun a tale of rewards earned for our knightly rescue raid of a captured wizard-prince, conducted nude for some reason, which the prince’s magic semen had then wiped from our memories).

Then the next night it turned out that the download of Top Gun in the compound’s digital library had inexplicably developed a climactic make-out scene between Maverick and Iceman. (And the witch-guys in The Covenant were now naked and kissing each other throughout the whole movie, but that was pretty much how I remembered it from when I was a teenager anyway.) We all clapped and cheered in the theater when Mav and Ice finally broke down and went at it for three minutes, like anyone would.

The kicker was last night. I’d dreamed B.D. had woken me up in the middle of the night, appearing in my bed with a hungry smirk. He’d put a finger to his lips, then peeled back the sheet covering my naked body and started sucking ardently and lovingly on my fat, raging hard torpedo cock. He was amazingly good, too, bringing me more pleasure with a few simple movements of lips, mouth, and tongue than I’d felt in years, maybe ever. When I’d reached for him, though, my hand had gone through his shoulder—he wasn’t really there, even though the blow job was very real and was driving me to climax in record time. I came so hard I nearly blacked out, and when I opened my eyes there was no B.D. and no sign he’d even been there apart from my damp, turgid cock and euphoric afterglow. So… clearly a dream, right? Except I was certain it was real, somehow. From the way Valentino, Stretch, and Brains were all giving him odd looks over their morning oatmeal I’m guessing I wasn’t the only guy to have that particular “dream” last night, either.

This, though. The snow. The snow, and the hat. There was no place they could have come from except the intricate recesses of B.D.’s fevered mind.

B.D. knew it too. I could see it in those arresting green and gold eyes of his. He knew something was happening to him, and he was unsettled and excited and scared all at once, like we all were, in our own ways. And, on top of all that, he was homesick at Christmas. Not an unfamiliar experience for a soldier, but B.D. held his memories of back home close—he came from tight-knit Minnesota family, I’d seen a million pictures and raided my fair share from the hundreds of tupperware containers full of delicious toll house cookies, brownies, and other goodies his mom had sent him over the years—and I was pretty sure those sounds and smells and images of his family and the place he’d grown up were as fresh for him as if they’d happened yesterday.

I smiled unselfconsciously back at him, feeling nothing but unconditional love. Maybe because I’d been thinking about this for a while now, putting the pieces together and watching for new evidence day by day, I’d already unconsciously prepared myself to accept that B.D.’s imagination was escaping his head a little. In fact, mostly my reaction was that warm sense of relief and pride I usually got whenever something I’d been figuring out was proved to be right.

“Let me guess,” I said. Then I started crooning, Bing Crosby style: “Yooooou’re dreaming of a whiiiiite Christmas…?” I sounded a little rough to my ears, and maybe a little off-pitch—my singing had once been unkindly compared to a donkey braying, and while I didn’t think it was as bad as all that, it was clear that the whole “getting better looking and bigger all over” regimen I was being dosed with didn’t include any idol creds.

B.D. didn’t care about any of that. As I sang to him his smile bloomed into a huge grin that was so stunning, in that moment I was utterly devoted to him. He joined me in a happy duet, branching deftly into a lilting baritone harmony. “…wiiiith every Christmas card I write,” we sang quietly, our faces close. “May your daaays be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white!” We beamed at each other for a second or two as the snow fell silently all around us and the forgotten anomaly spun in the distance, and then—I couldn’t help it. I kissed him. Briefly at first, then slow and sweet and lingering. He responded eagerly, kissing me back with a steady confidence that made it seem kind of like our whole story had been leading to this singular, unending moment of simple, shared happiness. His tongue was long and warm and (as I knew from last night) very talented, and I kind of wanted it my mouth forever. He seemed to like my strong, thick tongue just as much.

We kissed for a long time standing there in the impossible snow, B.D. wrapped up in my powerful arms while he held me tightly around the waist. It was, in my mind, without question the best make-out ever. Even Maverick and Iceman didn’t have anything on us.
When we got back to the lounge, Valentino had apparently managed to pry Brains away from the elaborate agglomeration of monitors and equipment he’d set up in the corner and long enough to start giving him a sensual backrub on the deep, chocolate-brown sofa I’d been lazing on earlier. Valentino didn’t seem to be trying to stop his hefty bulge from grazing rhythmically up and down Brains’s firm, tight ass as he learned forward to work the tech’s meaty traps and delts. Brains didn’t seem to be objecting, not if his purred “Mmm, that’s nice” was any indication. I could feel their intense arousal, right alongside my own. Theirs was, I dunno, spicier and a little more urgent than the slow burning need B.D. and I had been building back in the primary complex. Stretch was off to one side in the open area near the arcade, slowly contorting himself into various unlikely yoga positions. He was almost ass turned on as the other two, maybe just from theirs bleeding off onto him, and he didn’t feel altogether happy about it.

They all felt us, too, as we entered the lounge space. Brains craned his head up to look at us from where he was getting erotically shiatsued, and frowned. “Uh… where’d you get the hats?” he said.

I looked up toward my own forehead, as if I could see the warm, white-trimmed, scarlet Santa hat I could feel I was now wearing over my buzz-cut jet-black hair, a twin no doubt of the one B.D. was sporting over his own flowing brown locks. I turned my head and glanced down at him curiously. He looked up at my hat and then at me, his lips quirking sideways in the ghost of a smile—though I could tell he was feeling slightly sheepish, too, like maybe he hadn’t fully meant for me to have a hat like his, but there it was anyway.

Fuck, just looking at him made my heart ache. I smiled back at him, pretty much helpless not to. Then, with a shrug in Brains’s direction, I turned and headed over to the vending machine area. B.D. followed me. Of course, the habitation complex had a proper refectory next door with real food—specifically, a warehouse’s worth of high-quality rations, plus one deep freezer inexplicably packed with our favorite ice cream. But we kept the vending machines stocked too just for variety, though with the payment part disconnected.

As we passed the couch, Valentino added, “And why do you both have wet shoulders?”

I stood in front of the drinks machine, as if considering what to get. “It’s snowing in the interface room,” I told them, then pressed the button for a Coke Zero, listening to the can tumble noisily down into the silence. I glanced quickly over at Brains for his reaction. His gaze shifted immediately to B.D., who was pretending to study the myriad permutations of Doritos in the next machine. I nodded to myself. Of course, Brains was on top of what was happening with B.D., but being on the same page with him was reassuring.

“Wait, what?” Stretch demanded, unfolding himself and moving over into the central area to join the conversation. He looked very tall and lanky, like he always did when he was stretching himself out, his red-brown skin damp with sweat. Valentino reluctantly climbed off of Brains as well and helped him to his feet, and the three of them stood in a little tableau staring at us, the couch between us. Valentino looked intrigued, Brains was alert, and Stretch’s brows were down and mashed together hard.

I handed the soda to B.D.—it was his favorite, and he took it gratefully—before facing the others. “Snow,” I repeated blandly. I jerked my head in the direction of the primary complex. “In the interface room. About an inch, inch and half, I’d say. It was still falling when we left, though.” I rubbed my chin, very deliberately, like a stage actor telegraphing his mental state to the back rows. “Hmm… I wonder if we have any hot chocolate?” I mused.

Stretch turned to Brains, looking concerned. Right now Stretch towered over the other two by almost a foot, though so far he’d always contracted back after exercising to something close to his original height and proportions—not that those hadn’t been steadily increasing over the past three weeks. “Is it a side effect of the anomaly?” he asked.

“I… don’t think so,” Brains hedged, sliding a hand nervously along one of his black suspenders. This time his sidelong look was aimed not at B.D. but at me, as the director of this little farce.

“Who cares,” Valentino said. “What I want to know is, can we make dirty snowmen? Like, fucking each other, with big dicks and big snowman muscles?”

I sucked in a breath through my teeth. “I kinda doubt it,” I said. “It felt a little too dry and fluffy to pack well enough for snowman dicks.”

B.D. cleared his throat, and we all looked at him. He was standing next to me, the unopened soda still held awkwardly in one hand like he didn’t know what to do with it, and he looked… uncharacteristically uncertain of what he was going to say next. “Um,” he said cautiously, “if you guys want, I could—”

Just then a klaxon blared from Brains’s set-up on the other side of the room, and everyone turned in that direction. The monitors were all blotched with red. The klaxon gave three quick blasts, eehn – eehn – eehn. We all knew what that meant by now, but Brains said it anyway.

“Burst’s coming,” he announced.


It’s like floating.

No, that’s not right. It’s like falling. Like, when you do a drop from really high altitude for some reason, and you’re falling and falling and falling, and there’s no Earth rising up to meet you, no wind tearing past you, no parachute. No sun, or light. Just that feeling in your stomach that you’re dropping faster and faster, toward nothing, toward the center of everything, and that you’d be falling forever and you’d never stop, always falling, faster and faster…


We were all falling together.

I’d felt this, before, a little, a sense of indistinct connection during the burst; but it was stronger this time. We were the universe, us five, that rapid plummet pulling through each of us. We were being transformed, separately and together, the things others saw most in us enhanced… expanded… multiplied.

I felt Valentino, wanting to express his love for us through the joys of giving and taking. His connections with others, men and women alike, had always merged the physical and the emotional, and he cherished his gifts of seductive looks and an alluring cock as his own way of sharing love and profound, soul-healing pleasure. Our minds brushed, our bodies merged, overlapped, shifted free. He was overjoyed at the changes he’d experienced and elated that he was changing again, maybe more powerfully than before. He loved that we were changing, too, growing sexier and more primally attractive with every burst, because when we finally came together—which is to say, when we finally came together—the sublime gratification would be all the more exquisite.

I smiled to myself as we fell. Valentino was happy.

The endless vortex shifted. Brains twisted past me, sliding through me as though all his mass were merely the curves of the universe. I felt so many things from his mind. A dozen trains of thought were in constant motion. He felt responsible, as the last of the techs involved in the project that had gone so wrong, and determined to shut down the anomaly and find a way out before it was too late. And he had new inklings of how that might be achieved—new paths of intense thought that had branched out only moments ago. An edge of irrational fear that he might change too much, mirroring my own fears for him, was masked by a rational certainty that the changes were benevolent, and, more to the point—the idea slipped through my mind from his with what felt like a literal shock—they were not only benevolent but curated. He enjoyed the novelty of being buff and looking like someone who pumped iron like a pro, and of being the object of attraction and affection by impressively hot men like us. But the strongest feeling I got from him was simple jubilation at having finally become part of a team that respected him, and that he could respect—something he’d not had in his life before the Incident, I realized, and that was a real tragedy.

Brains was good. Happy, determined, worried, but good.

Things changed again, and this endless space between moments became an overlap between me and B.D. I was not prepared for the intensity of his love—for all of us, but me most of all. His homesickness was like an ache he was trying to master. I saw his snow-covered family farm, his beautiful, smiling mother, their cozy house filled with warmth and food and decorations and a lot of very pretty relatives from teens to octogenarians. I could see his fear of what he was starting to be able to do, and how it was struggling with a willingness to accept his nascent gift, and, alongside that, the knowledge that he must do so—because his gift was the key. I could see other things, too. Stories and fantasies enough to fill a hundred libraries, and—

My mind was filled with a pallid, spinning disc. The anomaly. The disc became a rip, as though the metaphor of a tear in space-time was real. And through the rip, stars. Planets. A whole universe within the interstitial gap between atoms. A dimension gateway! A world like ours, and unlike ours. Water that was not water, air that was not air, humans that were utterly inhuman. And one, aware of me, of us. Staring with stark amazement at an explicable tear in the fabric of space and time—at, and through

The falling changed, and as I was still wondering what I had seen—was that why B.D. had been spending so much time in the interface room? was he literally staring into the abyss, and was it literally staring back??—when my essence converged with Stretch. He was resisting, though. Pulling away. The changes were becoming more than he wanted to accept. His own transformation was one thing. That had involved endurance, indefatigability, finding he could stretch and contort himself far more than he ever had before; he had accepted these things stoically, knowing they could be useful for his missions and for the grounding peace he found in exercise and meditation. The changes in the others, though. My getting bigger and harder, Valentino becoming more sexy and seductive, Brains getting cuter and smarter, B.D. becoming uncannily beautiful—it all triggered a visceral fear in him. Most of all, his sudden realization of the implications of the snow and what it meant about B.D. terrified him. He was fed up. Done. As much as he loved us—and I could feel a love in him for all of us, even Brains whom he hadn’t known as long, that was so potent it was like a force to mold planets with—despite all that he wanted out. Out of the cycle of changes, the compound, the squad—everything.

I knew I didn’t have much time. This isn’t like you, Stretch. You don’t run.

Shut up, Beef.

When West died, did you run? Does that sound like you, Stretch?

Shut UP, Beef!

I get it. I really do. But I’m still me. B.D. is still B.D. You’re not going to lose us.

For fuck’s—

B.D.’s voice. I’m still me.

Valentino’s voice. I’m still me, and then some. I groaned, not sure that was helpful.

Brains’s voice. Stretch. Come back to us. We need you, buddy.

We need you.

We need you we need you

Fuck.

I love you guys. Scared Love

We’re all scared

Together

Strong together

It’s happening

strongtogether happeninnng


We were back in the lounge, but things were different. The usual bright lights were muted, and all around were shadows and shifting colors that hadn’t quite come into focus. The whole room seemed to be spinning around us, as though we were on a ride that was slowing to a stop but hadn’t quite ended yet.

We were standing together now, not where we were but in the center of the large room, clustered close. Stretch was at the center of us and we were all around him, arms pressed together, shoulders brushing. My left hand was on his warm flank—it was still a little damp with sweat, and right then that seemed hot. Other hands were touching him too: Brains, behind him, had slid his palm up to grab his square, inch-thick chest. B.D. was to my right, once again with my heavy, uber-swole arm slung over his more lightly muscle shoulder, and he was stroking Stretch’s stacked, washboard abs. To my left a smirking Valentino was actively caressing Stretch’s corded, terracotta-red arm.

I was swimming with hot arousal, and I wasn’t alone. I was as amp-on-eleven turned on as if we’d all been spending the last half hour engaged in increasingly intense foreplay. My fat, heavy cock was as hard in my camos as a thick iron bar. Our mutual connection seemed stronger, too, like barrier after barrier was being broken down between us, and I swear I could feel the others’ arousals as if they were my own, their hard. aching cocks as if they were mine, the hunger for the touch of hand and mouth along acres of exposed skin merging with my own.

The room was still spinning, so we focused on each other. I looked up at Stretch and made eye contact, holding his gaze firm. He was embarrassed now, chagrinned at having exposed his weakness to us, and grateful, too, we still accepted him. Thank you, said his eyes. I stroked the side of his long torso and mouthed, “We need you.” Then I made a show of licking my lips, and thank god, he grinned brilliantly, transforming his beautiful face.

I could tell we were changed. I could feel it. This latest burst had improved us, again. And this time, the differences were not quite as subtle as they had been the over preceding three weeks.

Stretch was taller. I was above average height even for an American, let alone an American of Chinese ancestry, but Stretch had always had a good three inches on me. Now, though, if I broke our gaze and looked directly ahead of me, I’d be looking at right at one of his reddish-brown nipples. And here’s the thing about Stretch getting taller: for me this wasn’t just about him gaining some height, like someone had gotten a car-jack and ratcheted him up a few more inches. No, the thing that I was finding indecently hot about Stretch was that his height was variable—it depended on mood and how much he’d been exercising and doing his impossible yoga. And that being the case I could not stop thinking about how his whole body was responding to arousal like he was one big, hot, 280-pound boner we were crowded around and caressing with affection and desire.

I knew that wasn’t all of what was going on with him, either. I could feel his body almost like I could my own, and I was able to sense the way it was almost bonelessly limber now if he needed it to be. The rubbery taffyness of his flesh had gotten another boost, too, and I so wanted to see what he could do with his arms, and his legs, his tongue, his cock… Of course, the nickname had been a brainless joke handle for the new extra-tall lanky guy we didn’t know back when he’d first joined our elite squad, but now it was actually coming true, and not just because of how he loomed over us more whenever he was incredibly turned on like he was now.

Stretch cupped his hand along my cheek, then dropped both his hands onto my hugely bulging traps. “Fuck, Beef, you are starting to look like a tank. A beautiful tank,” he said, squeezing and stroking my shoulders in a way that made my dick try to get even harder. “Man, your muscles are like iron bands,” he said, squeezing my fat traps as hard as he could.

“That tickles,” I teased. I liked this Stretch a lot better—this was the real Stretch, the one I’d gone on a hundred missions with. He’d been pretty easy-going before (and pretty foul-mouthed, too); it was the pent-up, withdrawn version of the past few weeks that I hadn’t recognized.

“Look at those pecs,” Valentino put in, sounding strained for some reason. He gave a low whistle. “You could shelter small children from the rain under those.”

“Guys, you’re embarrassing me,” I lied, wishing I had a hand free to adjust the big hard-on straining along my hip. They ignored me, of course.

Fuck,” Stretch said, now mauling my cannonball delts, which seemed to impress him even more than mt traps. “Fuck, Beef, you could probably bust us out of here through all that concrete with a few punches.” He moved his hands again, this time to my ridiculously thick upper arms. He was still going on about my muscles, seemingly half to himself. “Fuck, you’re all strong and hard now everywhere. Maybe we should change your handle to Tank.”

“I like ‘Beef’,” B.D. put in, and I squeezed him closer to me. “Oof!” he said. “Fuck, you are strong!”

There was something odd about his voice, and I was about to turn to him and try and figure it out. Just then, though, Valentino, who’d been watching Stretch stroking my muscles with avid interest, winced suddenly and shoved both hands into his camo pants. “Fuck,” he barked, “these things are killing me!” A second later he wrenched free two massive uncut, incredibly hard erections, which he proceeded to position more or less straight up, smearing a considerable amount of precum over his very fit torso as he did so. They were a darker shade of olive than the rest of him, and so enormous that despite the fact that one of them was actually overlapping the other by about a third of their flat, palm-wide girth, between them they completely obscured Valentino’s tight, lickable eight-pack.

“Holy shit,” I said stupidly. “Are those real?”

Valentino just grinned and danced his thick movie-star eyebrows at me.

“Fuck, dude,” Stretch whispered reverently, staring hungrily down at them. “How long have you had two?”

“Since the last burst a couple days ago,” Valentino replied smugly, looking down at them again like a proud papa. He spent another couple of seconds “adjusting” his monsters, though now I was sure he was mostly just showing off, before looking up and favoring us with a general smirk. “I was saving them for a surprise—but I was interrupted,” he added, aiming a wink at me.

“Sweet,” Brains said, peering around Stretch’s torso to get a good look.

Brains was amped up along with the rest of us. He was now irresistibly cute. His charcoal curls were even more adorably floppy and inviting, his dark blue eyes seeming to have developed a permanent glint, and his whole demeanor welcomed endless hugs and cuddling. More than that, though, thanks to our deepening link I could almost literally see his mind working. All those dozens of trains of thought I’d picked up on during the fall were now multiplied and vividly luminescent. He had a possible way out for us, I saw with surprise—one that didn’t seem to involve me smashing my way through ten meters of concrete, thankfully; but there were still variables in play, and he wasn’t ready to talk it through with us yet. He was charting and projecting all our changes, too, including ones that we didn’t even see in ourselves… and he was using our shared connectedness to add what we saw and felt and sensed as data to feed his light-speed reckonings, alongside everything he knew and saw and felt and projected. His enhanced brain wasn’t just him—we were a part of it, too, and somehow I found that immensely reassuring. None of us should be alone in this. Strong together.

Even so, I wanted to make sure he was okay. I didn’t have to say the words, I just lifted my eyebrows at him in question. Are you okay? they asked him.

He grinned his wide, adorkable grin. Dude, his smile said, I am so okay.

My stomach fluttered as I turned to look at B.D., and… fuck. Just… fuck. He was so viscerally, fantastically beautiful my dick actually shifted enough along my hip to escape my pants and start throbbing and squeezing between my waistband and my torso like it couldn’t wait to fuck something. His thick, vibrant russet-brown hair was a couple of inches longer under his bright red Santa hat, and I really looked forward to carding my fingers through it, but again what really grabbed me were those dark, perfect eyebrows. I spent a moment just staring at them, letting them fill my vision, before dropping my stare to his eyes, which were still god and green and yet somehow more. It was like there was an almost-unseen layer underneath those heartwarming hues that slowly shifted and churned like a barely-glimpsed kaleidoscope, and I’m being honest when I say I could have happily gazed into those eyes, drinking in their shifting, soul-healing radiance, pretty much forever.

But I had to see everything. I wrenched my gaze away and stroked my eyes down his firm cheekbones, taking in creamy skin that looked beyond perfect, then those wine-red lips that called to me, and… stubble. Before, his jawline and lips had been as pristine as the snow in the interface room, no matter the time of day. Now? Now he had this faint, perfect dapple of millimeter-high, russet-brown stubble, exactly not too dense and exactly not too sparse, all along the firm line of his jaw and around his siren-song mouth. I gasped. This single accent, this enhancement of an already exquisite face I couldn’t have imagined getting any more alluring, somehow made him twice as handsome. I couldn’t hold myself back any longer, and Stretch, seeing where my attention was, decided to stop fondling my arms for a minute and instead reached up and stole my hat. I barely heard the others chuckling and telling him it looked good on him. All I knew was the kiss I was about to experience, the kiss that quickly deepened into long, long moments of sweet, ardent lovemaking done with mouth and tongue.

Two quick pats on my shoulder brought me quickly to my senses. “Heads up,” Stretch said.

I looked around quickly. The room had stopped spinning and snapped into place, and now the shadows and colored lights had an explanation. The usual bright, clean lights were off, and instead our lounge was basking in the multicolored glow of hundreds and hundreds of blinking Christmas lights festooning the walls, the doorways, the vending machines, Brains’s equipment, and most especially the giant, fifteen-foot Christmas tree mounted in the northeast corner of the room where Stretch did his yoga. It was a good-looking tree, with dark needles and a healthy feel to it. Wrapped presents were arrayed underneath it, though who they were for and where they’d come from I had no idea.

There was something unreal about all of this, and not just that all these holiday trappings had suddenly coalesced out of some unknown neverwhere. There was some kind of tension in the air at a level I couldn’t quite put a label on. Psychic, maybe, or metaphysical. This wasn’t reality, not yet.

“I don’t think we’re out of the burst,” Brains said quietly, confirming my suspicions.

What had prompted Stretch to call me to alert status was activity beyond the tree. Because of course there wasn’t just a tree, there was also a cavernous oak fireplace in the usually blank wall beyond it, complete with several framed pictures of us in various groupings and, it need hardly be said, five scarlet stockings, each full of goodies and inscribed with our nicknames in festive handwritten cursive letters: Beef, Stretch, Valentino, Brains, and B.D. I was just starting to frown at the strangely empty hearth—no iron grate, no ash, just a clean, empty firebox—when I noticed soot falling onto it in little busts… exactly as if someone were making their way down the chimney to join us.

It might be raccoons, but… probably not.

I exchanged looks individually with each of the others. They nodded, and we moved from our mutual fondling cluster to a loose squadron formation behind me. I stood at the ready. I had no weapons, but I had been trained to become a weapon myself long before I’d become as abnormally large and as abnormally strong as I was now.

A large, very full scarlet-red bag with white trim plopped suddenly to one side of the hearth. I exchanged a look with Stretch at my right flank. He shook his head in disbelief.

Then a man in dark boots and heavy red pants dropped with a thump onto the other side of the hearth, neatly avoiding the bag he’d let fall before. In a smooth, deft motion he climbed out of the fireplace and took a step forward.

From the waist down, he was dressed as… well, he had the pants, the belt, and the boots. Up top, he was dressed… like us. No shirt, no red jacket, nothing but hard, defined abs; a powerful, thick chest dusted with red hair; a distracting lat flare visible even from the front; and thick, wood-chopper’s arms ending in meaty hands that surely knew their way around the most sensitive nooks and crannies of a man. Above that, his face was lumberjack handsome, with a full but short, neatly trimmed red beard, wavy red hair, a genial smirk… and a scarlet hat with white trim, exactly like that one I’d been—no, actually, I was wearing one again. Had Stretch given mine back, or had I gained a new one from the same source I’d gotten the first one from?

The handsome stranger who’d come down our nonexistent chimney beamed at us, still with that all-knowing smirk. “Ho ho ho,” he said. “Meee-e-eerry Christmas!”

“Sorry, no Marys here,” I said. “You’re probably looking for the other sealed-in bunker next door.”

“It happens a lot,” Stretch chipped in. From my other side Valentino added, “You should see what happens when we try to order pizza.”

It was a strange situation, but I was keeping my head. I was too much of a soldier to worry about how my giant boner was sticking out of my pants, or that Valentino, at my left flank, was twice as exposed as I was. This guy, I didn’t think he’d mind. I also didn’t think he’d be intimidated. The bulge in his Santa pants was hard to get a gauge on, given the looseness of the costume and the thickness of the material, but it was pretty obvious he was packing something hefty down there.

The visitor smiled a little at the banter and made a point of looking around. “I like what you’ve done with the place,” he said, moving over toward the tree. He crouched to examine a couple of the wrapped packages, then stood and faced us with an easy grin. “Makes me feel right at home.”

“Why don’t you tell us why you’re here?” I asked.

He tapped the side of his nose, as if to tell us we were already in on the secret I was asking about. “Why do you think?” he responded.

I could still feel that tension in the air. It felt unnerving, like a misaligned engine. Something was building toward a release, or a break. What that was, though, I had no idea.

“It seems like we’ve already gotten our gifts,” Brains said from behind me.

The visitor—fuck, my brain had already labeled the red-bearded, Santa-pantsed interloper who’d come to our “town” as Kris Kringle, and there was really no going back. Thank you, Rankin/Bass Productions. I felt the name percolate through the connection to the other guys and take hold with them, too, to various levels of amusement (or, in the case of Valentino, who’d never seen the stop-motion classic, mild bafflement).

The hunky stranger I was now calling “Kringle” in my head nodded sagely. “You’re right,” he told Brains. “I don’t usually show up after the presents are handed out.” He said this meaningfully, like it was a clue.

I, on the other hand, was all for people spelling things out in situations like this. “So why’d you come?” I repeated, taking a step toward him so he would focus on me. “Milk and cookies?”

He took a step forward, too. We were now only a foot or so apart. The guys were now arrayed behind me in a semi-circle, one step back. I examined his expression for hidden meanings. He was my height, surprisingly—not a lot of people are, especially not the height I had now. “Maybe,” he said, “I’m here to offer you one last gift. As a thank you.”

“Can I have more cock?” Valentino piped up instantly.

“He’s joking,” I said, maintaining eye contact with our Mr. Kringle.

“Not really,” Valentino muttered. With my left hand low I gave a hand signal that in this context meant “cut the chatter”. Valentino snorted.

I needed to know if he was real. I reached out and grasped his shoulder. It was firm and warm, palpably strong. He smiled, and his smile told me what I’d already known before I even lifted my hand. In this reality, the reality of the bursts, flesh and muscle I could feel with my hand didn’t prove anything.

I kept my paw where it was, though, telling myself it gained me a tactical advantage if I felt him move. He didn’t mind. My cock didn’t mind, either.

I kept looking him dead in the eye. They were a vivid blue, just like the puppet in the movie. He was a lot hotter than a puppet, though. A lot hotter than any guy I’d met outside of this room. “Who are you?” I asked, really curious now. “How did you get here?”

There were four possibilities I could think of. The first was that he was search and rescue from topside… dressed as Santa Claus, with a bag of presents, coming down our nonexistent chimney. I could safely discount that one. The second was that the anomaly had created him, just like it had created my muscles and Valentino’s… assets. That seemed reasonable and was my current front-runner. Third was that B.D. had imagined him and made him real, like the ice cream and the snow. I had no doubt he could do something like that now, and if the decorations weren’t part of whatever illusion Mr. Kringle was spinning, then B.D. probably did those, too; but I wasn’t sure why he’d imagine a cryptic Santa. The fourth… I remembered that inhuman gaze from beyond the tear, and I shivered inwardly. This guy couldn’t be that… person, could he?

“Kringle” gave me a small, friendly smile. “I’ve been here as long as you, Beef,” he said. “I’ve been with you the whole time.”

“He’s the anomaly,” Brains said immediately from behind me. “He’s saying goodbye.”

I almost turned and looked at Brains, but I kept my eyes on the stranger. “The fabric of space is healing,” he explained. “I only have one last chance to share my gifts with you.”

“There’s only one thing we need,” I said cautiously.

“But you have that,” the stranger said. “Brains has figured it out, and your Beautiful Dreamer can make it real. You don’t need me for that.”

My empathy caught up with what he’d said before. One last chance… He’s saying goodbye… If the anomaly was sentient, then—

I tightened my grip on his shoulder, almost unconsciously. “You’re dying?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I am a… kink, you might say, in the motile fibers of the living universe,” he said. “But this experience will end, and I’ve never had human friends before.” He tilted his head, considering. “Maybe that can be my last gift. A way to keep a little part of me with you. Not to keep changing you or anything,” he added, seeing my slightly alarmed expression. “Just to… hang out.”

I smiled, relieved, though I still wasn’t quite sure what he meant. A keepsake, maybe? Like we’d all have Kris’s face tattooed on our butts or something, as a memento? Whatever it was, we could deal. “Sounds good. It’s… been strange knowing you, Kris the Gift-Giving Anomaly,” I said, and his bright blue eyes danced with amusement. “Strange but amazing.”

The stranger put his hand on my shoulder, copying my gesture, and squeezed the muscles there tightly. I did the same with him. “Good luck,” he said. Then with a grin he added, “May your days be merry, and bright!”

I smiled back at him, and impulsively—I’m not even sure who moved first—we kissed.

The room started spinning again, rapidly picking up speed, and within seconds everything went black.


When we came to, we quickly discovered that “Kris” had given us a last round of gifts after all.

Valentino, to his unbounded delight, now had three enormous overlapping palm-wide cocks, all of them now reaching almost up to his thicker-than-before pecs. Stretch was now even taller and capable of turning almost completely elastic, which he spent every day from then onward methodically testing in every way he could think of. B.D. was somehow even more beautiful; we discovered later that he made pretty much any guy instantly hard, and a lot of guys came spontaneously if they got anywhere close to him. We, as his friends, could moderate that—the second part, with the spontaneous orgasms, mostly. Though when he spoke it was all up for grabs. I’d thought I’d noticed something about his voice before, and now it was obvious: not a lot deeper, but richer and instantly seductive. If he was talking dirty you might find yourself cumming for hours at a time just listening to him.

Brains? He’d acquired a twin brother, or a clone, or another self—I wasn’t exactly sure. All I knew was there were two of him, which meant twice the brain power. They were usually hugging, or cuddled up somewhere, or kissing, or just holding hands. It was crazy adorable.

As for me, I was now far stronger than humanly possible, and as tall and as hugely muscled as I wanted to be. I was literally harder than steel, too, not all the time but as the situation called for it. Usually I was harder than steel in the metaphorical sense as well, seeing as I spent every possible moment in the company of my Beautiful, reality-warping Dreamer.

And there was something else. When I regained my senses I was lying on the floor with an arm thrown over someone who appeared to be Kris-the-Anomaly—same face, same chiseled body, same Santa pants, hat, belt, and boots. But when he opened those vivid blue eyes and stared into mine, there was no recognition there. In fact, when I probed his mind there seemed to be no memories at all. The others were climbing to their feet as I helped him stand, and he took us all in with a mix of wonder and growing apprehension.

He looked around at all of us before focusing on me. “Who—?” he whispered.

I give him the most reassuring smile could. “I’m Beef,” I explained to him. I grasped his shoulder like I had Kris-the-Anomaly, wondering if some trace of memory could still be triggered. “And you’re Kris. You’re our friend.”

He nodded. He looked at us all again, and then broke into a nervous grin. “You guys are all… amazingly hot,” he gushed.

We laughed. “You’re not so bad yourself,” Stretch said. He introduced himself with a big hug, and all the others did the same (Brains and his double just called themselves “Brains” and gave him a double hug together). He came when B.D. hugged him, which, we told him as his face flooded with red, was his rite of passage as entry into our little team.

We all went into the interface room just in time to watch the spinning anomaly collapse and vanish. I was kind of sorry to see it go—my life had irrevocably changed because of that strange kink in the motile fibers of the living universe, and I was glad I’d had the unlooked-for opportunity to say “so long” before he went.

The snow was gone, too. Only the ruined collection equipment remained to show that anything interesting had ever happened in this room.

Just as Kris-the-Anomaly had said, Brains had finally figured out how to get us out of the bunker, and B.D.’s abilities had now progressed to the point of making the plan operational. The high concept was absurdly simple: B.D. would open a portal with one end here in the interface room, and the other end someplace topside. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as that, naturally: Brains had mapped out a hundred variables that needed accounting for in order to ensure the portal was safe and stable and didn’t explode Nebraska (a distinct possibility, apparently). Plus it was actually fairly tricky to keep the portal open while you were passing through it, since the version Brains and B.D. were implementing was more mental construct than physics (at least, Newtonian physics), and required B.D.’s focused attention for it to remain alive and viable. But with his doubled brainpower (I get the impression it was actually closer to cubed, but really it’s not a usefully quantifiable thing) Brains had sorted the entire operation.

A little nervously, B.D. opened the gateway right there in the center of the interface chamber where the anomaly had been. (It was huge and square, for some reason, which threw me—everyone knows portals are round!) Once he saw the snow-covered fields and the sprawling red clapboard farmhouse of his family home, though, he relaxed and was much more confident. A fluffy black and white dog appeared from around a fence, spotted B.D., and galloped through the portal straight for him, grinning in the way only dogs can. B.D. gathered him up and played with him aggressively for a few minutes, deliriously happy, and we all watched with huge smiles and maybe a few tears.

We all stepped through just as though we teleported places every day (which soon became the reality for us, but never mind that for now). B.D. walked through at the end with the dog, his last scrap of trepidation washed away the moment he was in snowy Minnesota. He turned his back on the portal and closed it with barely a thought.

Once she’d recovered from the shock of seeing her son alive—we’d all been tersely reported dead in action, with the details withheld as classified—his mom welcomed us all with open arms, ecstatic to meet her son’s friends and fuss over us like she’d acquired five handsome new offspring. The rest of his family was the same, though his college-freshman brother was amusingly round-eyed and hugely boned the entire time we were there.

Since we were all officially dead, as soon as we were alone together again Valentino floated the idea of becoming a clandestine band of secret superheroes. It was a ridiculous suggestion, and the capper—with great penises comes great responsibility—really only applied to him. Stretch just laughed. And yet, as we curled up under blankets together drinking hot chocolate and watching the stars from B.D.’s Ma’s back deck, it was hard to see how our lives could proceed in any other direction.

So how exactly did we go about making it happen, and who did we fuck along the way? Well, that’s a story for another time.

Update posts:
Weekly Update: 26 December 2020

Flashback posts:
Friday Flashback: Let It Snow

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