Lower New York Bay

With Manhattan floating above ground, hostage by a spaceship in the form of a black pyramid, the entire nation is in a state of emergency.

Attacking the pyramid is the last resort: it could crash on the city killing at the very least thousands of people. That is, unless the city falls prey to gravity again and brings the death toll in the millions.

Some show of force is still needed, though, which is why so many fighter jets are constantly flying around the city and why several aircraft carriers and warships are approaching the giant hole in the water where Manhattan used to be.

The Navy has amassed several ships in the Bay, trying to approach the city from the south; they still haven’t recovered from the unprecedented loss of personnel and ships against the fight with Artemis, but they can’t stay and watch.

Yet it’s all they can do when Naiad shows up. The blue haired demigoddess stands on water, facing an army that is itching for revenge. And she giggles.

-You look so cute with your little toys! But this is a grownup thing, so you can just shoo – she says, waiving her hand dismissively.

At her command, a tidal wave pushes away all the ships, despite their best efforts to navigate around it: suddenly, the water itself has become an enemy.

It’s the signal that the situation has degenerated. The fighter jets come closer to the pyramid and open fire; the missiles are stopped by an invisible forcefield before they can do any damage.

The woman sitting on a floating rock cracks her knuckles and smiles.

-Alright, this is more like it – Scarab says, summoning rocks directly from the Earth’s crust exposed by lifting the city, and turning it into a fine dust. The jets are caught by a violent sandstorm, and soon there are flaming pieces of metal raining on New York.

Naiad rises in the air to look at the spectacle, admiring it like fireworks. She doesn’t get much enjoyment from it, though, because she’s hit in the face by an energy beam. Naiad may not be a full goddess, but it takes more to seriously injure her: she’s just pissed now.

-Who did that!? You’re going to regret it! – she shouts, throwing a powerful jet of water around her.

Two people fly around the stream, firing energy at her again. They are wearing costumes similar to Blue Star’s, but the woman is dressed in red and the man in white.

-<We have engaged the enemy> – the woman says in Russian, resuming the fight.

 

Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs

Leiko Tanaka observes the battle from the holographic screen. It’s not exactly common to have the Defense Minister of Japan directing operations here, but her Neural Enslaver is working perfectly.

It’s easy to exert control because her presence makes a lot of sense: Red Star and Blue Star may be Russia and Japan’s only superhuman agents, but the suits that give them powers were supposedly designed by her. It’s not public knowledge that they are based on the Excess and Overkill suits built by Abyss, and Leiko is fine with that.

We should have been consulted before this attack, Tanaka – the Secretary of State objects.

-With the Vanguard gone, my agents are the last resort. If they fail, your President can order a nuclear strike on the city.

That’s out of the question!

-I have the utmost fate in our chances, mister Secretary. I am, in fact, putting my life on the line – Leiko notes, although it’s for completely different reasons that what the Secretary believes.

 

Atlantic Ocean

Kari Zel takes a deep breath, finally able to fill her lungs with air. Anyone else would be dead by now after falling into the icy water. But Kari is a survivor: not only she managed to swim to the surface, but was able to do so while carrying the unconscious body of Noriko’s clone.

Luckily the Phoenix NX-3 is waiting for them: the flying motorbike is still losing black smoke from its engine, but it’s floating. After making sure that the clone is still breathing, Kari checks out the bike’s computer, glad that the interface is surprisingly easy to understand.

“Good, the secondary engine still works… thank the Gods for Noriko’s foresight” she thinks, restarting the engine. She’s cold, she’s tired, and the sutures from her stomach wound are open again. But there’s a job to do, and she pushes the Phoenix NX-3 to maximum speed.

 

The Dark Pyramid

The Scribe’s new armor not only makes him much bigger, but also much faster than expected: Noriko can barely see its fist approaching, before Torn jumps in front of her to take the punch. And she’s happy that he did, because he’s thrown to the other side with enough force to kill or at the very least seriously injure a human.

-He’s strong – Torn comments, surprisingly landing on his feet. The Demon is also faster than what his size would suggest, and in no time at all he’s already trying to open the armor using his energy swords. It’s no use: the armor’s too tough for them, and all the blades decompose into red sparks.

-What are we waiting for? Let’s get out of this place! – Kristen Lynn tells Noriko Null: there are times when even the best journalist puts her life before the story.

-That’s a good idea, I may have to go all out against this guy: it’s going to be dangerous – Quantum proclaims; he tenses his body to be ready to transform into energy, but Noriko stops him.

-No. Go to the Tower and get the Gravity Gauntlets.

-What about the Scribe?

-NOW! I don’t have time to explain!!! – she yells, with her silver eyes flashing. She and Quantum exchange a tense look: Kristen immediately picks up that something’s wrong between them.

-I have a plan. You can trust me this time, I swear – she pleads.

Quantum hesitates. What if she wants to go against the Scribe on her own? That proved disastrous against Selene, and this time they’re on Earth. Still, she’s more than earned a second chance.

-It better be a good plan – he says, disappearing after turning into radio waves.

-NEEDLE OF THE EYE! – Torn shouts: he’s jumped on top of the Scribe’s armor and he’s trying to insert an energy sword into its head, but the armor is still proving unbreakable. The Scribe takes him by the leg and slams Torn into the ground, making the pavement crack.

Aside from a civilian scared for her life, the only other person present is Vesta, who is still trapped by neutral matter chains. And even though Quantum can’t hear her, Noriko still answers:

-I’m sure it’ll be, Max. Once I’ve figured out what it is.

 

Appat Island, Greenland

Out of all the things Noriko Null’s done to get on the news, one has slipped attention: the purchase of this uninhabited island. Maybe it’s because curing AIDS or promising to build a city on the Moon are more interesting to the general public, or because there’s nothing to say about this 80 square miles of mountains and ice. Mostly ice.

Right now, to Kari Zel it’s paradise. She gets off the Phoenix NX-3 motorbike, carrying Noriko’s clone on her shoulder: she has no idea why it was so important to reach this forsaken place.

But after risking her life to get here, it’s a relief to finally see the only indication that civilization has reached Appat Island: a steel door. That leads straight into solid rock, apparently.

Not exactly inconspicuous, but it can be forgiven since it’s in the middle of nowhere. Kari approaches and knocks on it. Twice.

This is a restricted area. Please identify yourself – the door says. It’s a frighteningly deep voice, but Kari recognizes it: it’s the same used by the Nullbots.

-Kari Zel – she spells out. There’s a maddeningly long delay before she hears a reply.

Subject confirmed. Please provide authorization code.

-Is it really necessary? I mean, I have Null’s clone right here, who else could I be?

This is a restricted area. Authorized personnel only.

-Oh for the love of… fine, fine. Let’s see, what was the memory trick? Ah yes, the code is 1KGMATGWF: “I Killed a Goddess on Myridia and All They Got Was Freedom”.

Permission granted.

The door opens slowly, and Kari realizes how heavy it must be; it reminds her of the NORAD blast door, before Eris destroyed the place. There’s a Nullbot on the other side, greeting her:

Welcome to Project Seven, Kari Zel.

-About freakin’ time – she says with a smile.

 

Null Tower, New York City

Even though the building is protected by a forcefield, this isn’t a problem for Quantum: since it’s transparent, all he needs to do to get through it is turn his body into light.

He searches frantically for the Gravity Gauntlets: there are so many laboratories in the Tower, it’s not easy to find them.

-ODIN! Where are the Gravity Gauntlets? – he asks to the building’s artificial intelligence.

Safe 47B. Please follow the holographic indicator – ODIN answers, helpfully creating a holographic arrow that points directly at the safe… unlike Noriko, Quantum doesn’t know every room’s arrangement by heart.

-Great. Can you locate any members of the Guild? – he asks, opening the safe using his fingerprints.

The Guild did manage to sneak into the building for a surprise attack before, so it’s better to make sure they didn’t leave anyone behind.

I cannot locate the Winter King, the Mist and the Scribe, though I assume the latter two are on board the Dark Pyramid. Naiad is above New York Bay, and Scarab is behind you.

Quantum already considers himself lucky to have gained the power to transform into energy, but today gives him a new reason: when a boulder smashes through the Tower’s window, he can move to another floor in the blink of an eye instead of being squashed to death.

He moved purely by instinct, and it takes him a moment to grasp the situation. He can see the Arab-looking woman standing over a floating rock, right outside the window, crossing her arms and making a disappointed face; the bronze scarab carved into her navel faints slowly.

-Well look who’s here. Ready for a rematch?

The last time he fought Scarab, back on Myridia, he had to use the Antimatter Punch to stop her; it’s enough power to annihilate a mountain, and doing that in New York is not an option.

-Can’t say that I am… – he answers before disappearing.

He transforms into pure light, reaching the Dark Pyramid in a fraction of a second; to avoid bouncing off its purely black exterior he changes again into radio waves, reaching the room where the rest of the Vanguard is fighting the Scribe.

-Ihopetheseworkgottagonowgoodluck! – he frantically says to Noriko while dumping the Gravity Gauntlets in front of her; without giving her the time to comment.

About five seconds after starting his sentence to Scarab, he’s back in front of her to finish it.

-…but I guess I’ll think of something.

 

The Dark Pyramid

Kristen Lynn wishes she had a camera with her. She’s a great journalist, but words can’t do justice to what she’s seeing: Torn is moving faster than humanly possible to avoid the Scribe’s armor, while continuously throwing energy swords at it. All they do is bounce off and cut the walls.

-Can’t you do something about these? Like on the Vulcan Forge? – Vesta asks to Noriko, trying with all her strength to break the chains of neutral matter that are holding the goddess.

-Not without the proper…

-Ihopetheseworkgottagonowgoodluck! – Quantum interrupts her, dumping two metal gloves on the floor. Noriko smiles, and her silver eyes shine.

-…technology. Well okay then, time to turn the tide. Stay close to me, miss Lynn… the Vanguard is about to get serious.



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