Mortal Memorial Museum, Myridia

Kristen Lynn is starting to feel sick. She thought she’d be able to remain impartial during the visit, to explore the somewhat alien society of Myridia. But the pictures and recordings of the memorial show things she won’t be able to keep out of her head for long. The atrocities of the Demeter regime are even worse than what she’d been able to gather from conversations with Kari: the massacres, the mass graves, the blatant sexual slavery, nothing was off the table when it came to keeping the population terrorized and under control.

-Are you alright, miss Lynn? You seem rather pale – President Sil asks her, creating a duplicate to turn off the recording of one of the victims of the breeding camps, where pregnant women were literally chained to the wall from conception to birth.

-I just need some fresh air – Kristen tells him; she really feels like throwing up now. The President accompanies her outside, leaving the screen on pause.

Once they’ve left, something pink causes the spacetime to warp beyond recognition. A beautiful woman with white hair and a miniskirt steps out of the portal; as she stops to make sure her pink uniform is in perfect condition, another figure emerges from the wormhole. It’s a man, seven feet tall, wearing a black armor covered in spikes and thorns; the only note of color is the light of his red eyes shining through the small opening of his helmet.

-Are you sure this is the place, Ilithyia? – he asks her.

-Don’t be silly, of course it is. Now hurry up and get dressed – she replies, striking a pose while using her divine powers to transform her pink clothes into a traditional Myridian pink dress.

-Not my style – he shrugs, walking out of the room. He just makes a few steps before he’s confronted by one of the museum guards, pointing a lance at him. Under his helmet, Phobos smiles.

He grabs the guard by the throat and lifts him off the ground with one hand, bringing him closer.

-Show me what you fear – Phobos says, his red eyes shining. The guard tries to scream, but there are now thousands of red spiders crawling out of his mouth. Both the mortal and the god are then covered head to toe in the disgusting mass of arachnids; when they disappear, Phobos is wearing a red toga and the guard is a pile of dust on the floor.

-Now that is my style. Ready, aunt Ilithyia? – he asks. The goddess nods, and the couple calmly strolls out of the museum holding hands.

 

Presidential Palace

Noriko sits down on one of the benches of the garden, feeling overwhelmed by the situation; Tyche sits next to her, thankfully separating her from Dionysus. Fortunately, the wine god is more interested in the bottle he just conjured up than in talking with them.

-Why would anyone want to marry that!? – Noriko notes, pointing at Dionysus.

-Don’t sell him short. Even you have to admit he’s very handsome – Tyche points out; while true, she struggles saying it when Dionysus is drooling wine over his tunic.

-What is it with everyone fixating about marriage these days!? – Noriko complains.

-I’m a goddess, Null. I’ve been pondering about the political implications of my marriage since I was five hundred years old.

-And Dionysus is the best you could come up with? Dionysus, really!?

-Y’know, it’s actually a great idea – the wine god intervenes, pausing to belch – I don’t care about ruling. As long as I can get drinks, drugs and sex whenever I want, she can be the boss.

-I thought you’d be angry at me for destroying the Guild and pretty much kicking you out of your own sector – Noriko admits.

-I was! But hey, I got over it. Holding grudges ain’t healthy, y’know – he snickers, throwing the already empty bottle behind him. By the time it’s shattered, he’s already holding a new one.

-By your reaction, I assume you turned down Syzar’s proposal – Tyche changes the subject.

-Let me guess: that stunt was your brilliant idea, wasn’t it?

-I urge you to reconsider your position, Null. It’s the perfect political marriage: after all, you and Syzar are the two most powerful mortals in the Galaxy.

-Only on a technicality – someone else says. The voice belongs to a man with an unruly red beard, approaching the gods as if they were his equals.

-Ulysses. I didn’t expect to see you here – Tyche admits.

-Yes, I have a nasty habit of sneaking up on destiny. I apologize for my late arrival, Null – he says, holding out his hand to help Noriko stand up.

-No need to apologize, Ulysses. You’re perfectly on time – she tells him.

Suspiciously so, I would say. Your arrival must have something to do with the wedding.

-Of course it does, Tyche. He’s my date – Null reveals, holding Ulysses by his arm.

As the couple walks away from the gods, Tyche’s flaming halo becomes increasingly brighter.

-Ulysses. Do you realize how much his involvement complicates things? – she asks angrily.

-I like his beard – is all Dionysus has to comment, before thawing away another empty bottle.

 

New Rhetra

Todd Slate feels out of place. This isn’t his planet after all, and unlike the Vanguard he doesn’t have a personal connection to this place… it’s just his second visit, after all.

He’s in the living room with the others. Old Man Vor sits on a lazy chair, facing the couch where Kari Zel is laying down with her head resting on her fiancée’s lap. Since this is a Myridian house there aren’t many chairs: Todd and Max Black are using the only other two, and Vesta is just levitating cross-legged next to them.

-I wish I had pictures of that – Kari says laughing; Todd was too lost in his thoughts to follow the conversation. Her soon-to-be husband Kiros resumes his story:

-So the Oracle turns and sees this twelve year old girl with a pink miniskirt, standing next to a guy knocked out cold! Twice her height and maybe five times her weight!

-I really don’t think he was able to have children after that kick – she comments.

-And she tells him, “you missed one”, right before I bit his ankle! I had never seen someone punch an Oracle in the throat hard enough to dislodge his Godstone!

-It was a risky move. If Kiros hadn’t distracted him, the Oracle would’ve killed you – Old Man Vor comments, pausing to take care of a loud coughing fit. Kari creates a duplicate to take care of him, while the original moves her hand through the sky blue hair of Kiros.

-Alright, I’ll admit I was showing off. Who hasn’t done something stupid to impress a cute boy?

-Oh she impressed me alright. I spent the next ten years trying to find out something about that girl who saved my life – Kiros continues.

-Ten years? Let me guess, you were afraid to ask her out? – Max asks.

-No, it wasn’t like that. The Oracles burned down the entire town and, well, there was a lot of confusion after it. Also half of everyone I knew was killed that day – Kiros reveals, radically changing the atmosphere. Nobody wants to add anything until Vesta changes the subject.

-What did you tell her when you proposed? – she asks in her usual warm tone.

-Oh he didn’t have the courage to ask me! I had to pop the question, as you say on Earth!

As the discussion continues, Todd Slate gets up and goes into the kitchen. He’s not exactly in a hurry to get another glass of pomegranate juice, but he really needs a break.

-What do you think about Kiros? – Max asks him, materializing next to him in the blink of an eye; Todd tries his best to hide his surprise and annoyance about his behavior.

-I don’t know. He’s okay, I guess – Todd shrugs.

-I think he’s an idiot – Max comments, lowering his voice.

-Come on, you’ve known him for what, a couple of hours?

-He looks like a surfer dude. And he asked me if “brown people”, his words by the way, are the same species as the, again his words, “the slit eyes people of Null”!

-You know he’s basically an alien and that you and Noriko are probably the first black and Asian people he’s ever seen in his life, right? Just give him a break.

-What do you think of Kiros? – a Kari duplicate asks them both, materializing right between them.

The two men look at each other uncomfortably.

-He’s an… interesting guy – Max grudgingly admits, but Kari sees right through him.

-You don’t like him? He’ll be so disappointed if you’re not interested in a threesome!

-I’ll gladly leave you two to discuss this – Todd excuses himself, quickly turning away from them only to bump into another Kari duplicate that’s blocking his passage.

-Let’s get some air – she tells him. And by the way she holds his hand, it’s not a suggestion.

 

On the house’s rooftop

The Myridian sky is much different from Earth’s. The planet orbits a sun that is part of a complex system of six stars, leading to a bizarre cycle of sunsets and sunrises.

Todd and Kari are sitting on the rooftop watching two stars disappear below the horizon, while another one is already rising on the other side.

-I wanted to thank you for coming, Todd. This can’t be easy for you – Kari tells him.

-I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see an alien wedding. Also it seemed important to you.

-We’re friends, aren’t we Todd? Not just colleagues?

-Technically we were never colleagues. I wouldn’t say we’re close but yes, I consider you a friend.

-Then you understand I have to talk about your breakup with Noriko, right?

-Yeah, I figured – he sighs. He knew this was coming.

-I don’t want to pry. But you were such a nice couple, I don’t understand what went wrong!

-Do you love Kiros?

-Uh? Yes, sure, why?

-What if he told you he doesn’t love you back? That he values your companionship but can’t feel the same way you do?

-I guess I’d break up with him, if I knew that was true. But Noriko loves you, right?

-She doesn’t think like us, Kari. Compared to her, we’re about as smart as a dog. Why would she feel at our level if her mind operates on a completely different level?

-Now you’re just being ridiculous. Noriko has feelings like any other person!

-Then where is she? She’s supposed to be on this planet for your wedding, but she’s disappeared to take care of other things as soon as we’ve landed.

-That’s unfair. She has a lot on her mind; she’s doing something important!

-I used to make excuses for her too, Kari. I dedicated all my time to her life and her work, and I thought that would make her happy. But I’m tired of helping her stay human when she doesn’t want to be human, Kari.

-You’re wrong, Todd. I know she hurt you, but you’re being too harsh now.

-I’ll see you at the wedding. I hope you and Kiros find happiness – he tells her, leaving her alone with her thoughts. She had no idea the breakup had such an impact on him, and she decides to take action: she takes the N-Phone and calls Noriko.

-C’mon Nori. Pick up the phone if you still care – she tells nobody.

 

Presidential Palace

Ulysses is holding Noriko’s left hand, inspecting the prosthesis. She’s never been this close to him.

-Nice work. Athenian technology with your own improvements, isn’t it? – he asks.

-I’m guessing you already know that Athena impersonated you, the last time we met?

-I also know of your problems keeping your Nexus under control: I can help you, if you let me.

-Like that time you stared down Abyss. But how do I know you’re not Athena? – she asks.

Noriko’s phone starts ringing; the picture of Kari winking at the camera shows her who is calling. She could answer, or she could resist when Ulysses pulls her closer. But she doesn’t.

-Make me feel human again – she pleads, as her silver eyes shine.

-We’re both so much more than that. Let me show you what you can really be, Noriko.

The phone continues ringing while they kiss, stopping only when he lifts her to take her to the bed.