Warship Ragnarok, 65.000 light-years from Earth

When Noriko Null arrives in the cargo bay to meet the rest of the Vanguard, she feels a chill. She’s wearing a patched up Hostile Environment Suit, yet she still feels the Winter King’s presence.

Your troops are ready, Lady Null, if a little too undisciplined for my tastes.

-Why do you keep thinking you’re in charge? – Quantum asks the Winter King.

Because I am king. I regret to report that Lady Tyche and miss Zel will not join us.

-Good. I need Kari to focus on piloting the ship: L.O.K.I’s programming can’t be trusted to handle this, not quite yet. As for Tyche, to be honest I still don’t know why she’s here in the first place.

She said that the destiny of the galaxy will be decided today, and that requires her presence.

-Save me from the gods that believe their own hype. Alright people, ready to begin? – Null asks.

-Yeah. Let’s kick that dragon out of the galaxy! – Quantum cheers.

-That’s my job, Max. Your job is to let me get as close as possible to Tiamat, no matter what.

-Including death – Torn specifies.

-Yes. Thanks to Persephone’s and Enyo’s idiocy, we’ve lost the element of surprise; we only have one shot at this. If I don’t get close enough, there’s no second chance.

Speaking of death, will Hades assist us in any way?

-He might save Persephone and me. It’s as much as I’ve been able to get from him – Vesta says.

-Let’s say we pull this off. How exactly are you going to stop Tiamat? – Quantum asks.

-Leave that to me – Noriko answers, light of her silver eyes visible through the visor of her helmet.

<Thirty seconds before we’re within reach, guys> Kari warns them through the Neural Transmitter.

-Uhm, Nori, do you have a second? – Quantum asks Null, getting close enough to whisper to her.

-I have about thirty.

-Be honest: is this a suicide run?

-I won’t lie, there’s a high chance we won’t make it out of this alive. Does it change anything?

-You came here straight from the bridge. There’s still enough time to say goodbye to Todd.

-I already did. In fact, it’s an integral part of the plan – Noriko answers cryptically, raising the sword she confiscated from Viper… except she’s added new technology to the hilt.

<We’re here. Gods be with you, guys>

-Like I ever needed them – Noriko replies, the sword now crackling with electricity.

 

Outer space

The Ragnarok is barely visible next to the planet-sized beast. The dragon is big enough to generate its own gravity; when the cargo bay opens, the team falls on its scales.

Quantum is the first to arrive, of course, and watches the warship fly away. Torn and the Winter King land soon after him, followed by Vesta carrying Noriko in her arms.

This required far less effort than I anticipated – the King comments.

-Crap, did you just say “this was easy”? You NEVER say “this was easy”! – Quantum complains.

Watch your tongue, peasant. Why would it matter if I said it was easy?

-Because of that – Torn explains, pointing at the dozens of smaller dragons spawning from the scales. Smaller being a relative term: each is big enough to swallow them whole.

-This is it guys! I must reach the dragon’s head, I need you to open a path for me! – Null orders, firing the Genius Gun at one of the smaller monsters: the kinetic impact it generates is enough to make its head turn, but nothing more. Another dragon roars fire at her: the Winter King raises his hand, and the wall of ice he creates is apparently enough to stop the blast.

-I don’t know what’s crazier: using ice in space or using fire-resistant ice – Quantum comments.

You cannot hope to comprehend the Winter Armor’s power. I control coldness itself.

-How is that supposed to make more sense!?

-Focus – Torn chastises them, using his scythe to decapitate the dragon emerging from the scales behind them. When another three attack, they don’t waste any time: the Winter King encases them in a block of ice, which is easily blown apart by Quantum’s energy blast.

-Tiamat’s head is over a hundred miles away; we’ll never make it like this – Vesta advises, breaking a dragon’s jaw with a punch; even without an atmosphere, everyone can feel the vibrations.

-Already on it. I had a contingency plan in case we couldn’t land close enough – Null explains, looking at one of the giant scales. A motorbike jumps above it, using one of the dragon’s head as a stepping stone before stopping right before Noriko’s position. While the pink armor obscures her face, there’s no doubt about who just pulled off this stunt.

-Kari? I thought you were going to sit this one out! – Quantum tells her, electrocuting the dragon.

-That was before I knew I could ride a bike on the back of a space dragon!

-Let’s do this – Null encourages them, taking her place on the bike behind Kari.

The scales come to life, transforming into even more dragons, and she responds to their roars revving up the motorbike’s engine.

-I love my life – Kari comments, starting to drive towards the monsters.

 

On the Ragnarok

Being caught in the middle of a fight between Tiamat and Hera is not easy: the ship’s maneuverability ensures it’s not hit directly, but it’s a bumpy ride. Viper and Pain are rocked in their cages, with the latter considerably more agitated.

-Alright girls, don’t get any crazy ideas – one of Kari’s duplicates admonishes them, as soon as she enters the room, leaning against the wall to keep her balance.

-Where’s my brother? – Pain asks.

-Where do you think? Fighting a giant space dragon with Null – Viper answers.

-Sounds like fun – Pain comments, digging her fingers inside the forcefield and ripping it apart with her bare hands. Kari knew she’d try something like this, and there are already five duplicates ready to fight her when Viper intervenes yelling:

-Soul disruption!!!

The duplicates barely have enough time to scream before they painfully pop out of existence. Pain sighs, disappointed to have lost the chance of a fight, as she cuts open Viper’s prison as well.

-With the Vanguard gone, it shouldn’t take much to take control of the ship. Ready?

-I don’t care about this ship. I’m here to take revenge against my brother Torn.

-First Eris, now you? Why do people keep forgetting I’m the smartest person in the Galaxy and start thinking for themselves?

-I’m smart enough to realize you only care about yourself – Pain answers, before disappearing inside a pentagram of fire.

-Well, maybe she’s not as dumb as I thought after all – Viper shrugs.

 

On the surface of Tiamat

The battle is chaotic at best. There seems to be no limit to Tiamat’s ability to spawn smaller versions of herself: the bike has to constantly dodge one attack after the next. Null is using one hand to hold tight to Kari, while the other one… her new artificial hand… is constantly firing the Genius Gun at one enemy after the other. Vesta and the Winter King are keeping up with her, one on each side: the goddess flying and erecting a wall of fire, the monarch riding a horse made of pure ice and constantly throwing cold blasts. Null was uncertain about his involvement, but despite being an enigma with ridiculous powers he’s proving himself to be a surprisingly reliable ally. Quantum and Torn are working as support, dealing with any dragon that doesn’t follow a pattern: moving at the speed of light or teleporting from a pentagram to another, their movements are truly unpredictable.

All seem to be doing well until a new obstacle appears: a woman right in the bike’s path.

Kari does her best to avoid her, but even with her reflexes and the vehicle’s maneuverability there’s really no time: they crash against Tiamat’s humanoid body.

Kari and Noriko survive only thanks to their suits, but it does take them a while to get back to their feet. Time that the rest of the team doesn’t waste: they all attack Tiamat at once, yet predictably don’t make any sort of impression on the Primordial goddess.

-This is getting repetitive – she comments, covering her mouth as she yawns. She looks up: Hera is covering the sky, in her giant bird of blue flames, ready to unleash all of her might.

-That’s enough – Tiamat responds, snapping her fingers.

A simple gesture, but it throws all senses into a whirlpool of insanity as Tiamat manipulates matter and energy at dazzling speed. Even Null has trouble understanding what’s happening: when things slow down, the first thing she realizes is that she’s chained to a cross. She’s not the only one.

The Vanguard is similarly incapacitated, as are four goddesses: Athena, Persephone, Enyo and Eris. They’re all on the top of a mountain surrounded by mist, but there’s no planet beneath them.

Tiamat’s human body is in the middle of the circle of crosses. Her dragon form is behind her, significantly smaller than before: small enough to hold Hera’s cloak in its teeth, with the Queen of the Galaxy dangling like a lesser prey, trapped by a rope made of thorns.

-I leave the galaxy alone for a billion years, and what do I find when I return? Pests, infesting my family’s ancestral home. This cannot be tolerated!

“Can anybody hear me? If I get free I can end this!” Null says through the Neural Transmitter.

-Who interrupted me? – Tiamat asks, turning towards Noriko. Her body phases through the Hostile Environment Suit, thankfully keeping the T-shirt and pants she’s still wearing beneath it. She falls to the ground; she barely has time to wonder how she’s breathing before looking up to Tiamat.

-What a curious contraption. A Drylon weapon surrounded by animal meat.

-What, you’ve never seen a mortal before? – Noriko asks. Her mind goes to the sword that’s still tied to the suit’s back. She doesn’t even have a clear thought about it before it’s in Tiamat’s hands.

-I see you’re trying to shield your mind from me. Why is this object important to you?

-I just need a distraction! Can anyone do anything? – Noriko desperately ask.

-If you care so much, I will give this back to you – Tiamat says, swinging the sword towards Noriko. The memory of Viper cutting off her arm is still fresh; she instinctively closes her eyes.

When she opens them again, there’s a Demon woman in front of her, parrying the attack with the two energy swords she carries in her hands.

-Fight me! – Pain challenges Tiamat; the goddess has never used a sword in her life, so despite her immense power it’s ridiculously easy to disarm her. The weapon flies upwards; when it falls Noriko catches it, using her left artificial hand just to be sure.

-Fight? I the Celestial Dragon of Destruction! I do not fight! – Tiamat answers, her human body fading away. The giant dragon behind her lets Hera fall to the ground, opens its wings to cover half the sky and roars:

I DESTROY!!!

Everything around her is an extension of her will. The good news is that, by concentrating all her power into a single body, her prisoners are finally set free. The bad news is kind of obvious.

-We can’t beat her in a fight! What do we do!? – Vesta asks.

-I can end this. Just buy me a little more time! – Noriko answers. She’s holding the sword horizontally, using both hands: it’s charging with electricity, while her silver eyes are shining.

-How about the Time Mover? It can give us all the time we want! – Kari suggests.

-We don’t know how to operate it. And Tiamat would simply destroy it – Athena clarifies, quickly joining the conversation. There are bruises on her face and a noticeable crack on her breastplate.

I thought it was that device that kept her prisoner – the Winter King says.

-Tiamat can obliterate galaxies. If she wants to destroy something, she does – the goddess states.

-And now she wants to kill us – Torn states dryly, pointing at the dragon about to shoot fire.

-I’ve got this – Quantum reassures them, disappearing at the speed of light.

Tiamat is done playing. The dragon’s mouth doesn’t just release ordinary fire, but a tiny fraction of its essence. But a fraction is more than enough to annihilate a solar system, and even the two goddesses of war present are sure this will be the finishing blow.

What they least expected was to see the energy diverge in two paths just to avoid the target that put himself in front of them: Quantum, holding the Vial of Destiny in his hand.

-I figured out your weakness, Tiamat: you can’t harm a Drylon. As long as I have this, you can’t even touch me. What are you going to do about that?



Ø
End of issue. Click below to navigate chapters.