As a member of the Vanguard, Max Black a.k.a. Quantum has done his share of impossible things. Nothing compares to facing Tiamat, the Celestial Dragon of Destruction, and holding her off just by keeping in his hand on a small red vial with the symbol for infinity on it.

What is this trickery? You’re not even a god! – Tiamat roars, using a claw as big as a building to squash him like a bug. But there’s an invisible barrier around him that stops even the dragon.

-No, just a guy who reads Asimov. I figured the Drylon would never create a being as powerful as you without taking some precautions. You could’ve escaped the Dragon Tomb at any time, but it would’ve damaged the Vial. And since it contains Drylon DNA…

Keep that relic of my old masters! I will destroy the rest of the galaxy! – Tiamat interrupts him; the dragon increases in size, and judging by how much the blue energy is shining under its scales, it doesn’t have any intention of holding back.

-She’s really doing this. Her power is beyond reason – Athena says, looking at the dragon. She’s always presented herself as a larger-than-life figure, but now that she’s forced to consider the possibility of her own death she hesitates.

-No. I’m ending this – Null says. The strain in her voice is obvious: whatever she’s doing, it’s taking all she has. Torn is behind her, keeping his hands on her shoulders, and his red aura is merging with the electricity emitted by her eyes.

-What are you doing? – Pain asks them, coming closer. Vesta stands close to her, trying to protect her friends from anything the Demon might try.

-Channeling the minds of the entire galaxy into a single attack – Null explains, very matter-of-fact.

-Impossible. No single soul is strong enough to do this – Pain comments.

-Watch me – Null answers, gritting her teeth; the veins on her forehead seem ready to pop, and even more worryingly, Quantum can see the Nexus inside her brain heating up.

-Careful! If you keep this up, your brain might explode! – he warns her.

No it won’t / No it won’t – Vesta and the Winter King say in unison, each of them raising a hand toward her, regulating the temperature of the Nexus. The sword is shining more brightly, and it’s just the beginning: the sky is lighting up.

Not because of the sun. Not even because of Tiamat. But because each star is releasing electricity into the other, creating a net that encompasses the sky. Only Athena understands what that means.

-It’s the Nexus. You integrated technology from the Meretrix and the Sanctuary with the sword of Hephaestus, using it as an antenna to boost the signal! It would take hours of use to set up such a vast network, but thanks to the Time Mover, you have hours each second!

-Like a God Eraser as big as the galaxy – Kari translates. Torn seems to be under stress as much as Null, ignoring the goddess and helping his teammate focusing her ability.

-Find your center. Focus your soul.

-Embrace its core – Pain joins the ritual, merging her aura with theirs.

She doesn’t have to do this for long: the effect is almost immediate. Null’s eyes become golden, causing both Demons and gods to get away from her, writhing in pain.

-What just happened? Are you alright? – Kari asks her, while taking care of an agonizing Vesta.

Give me the Vial – Null asks, her voice booming with a strange echo.

Tiamat is almost done focusing her power, meaning there’s little left to keep the place intact. The terrain starts to crumble; as the gravity dissolves, Quantum tosses the Vial to Null who runs towards the dragon by stepping on stones that are standing on nothingness.

The Winter King creates an ice stairwell for her, and Athena’s blessing allows her to survive the absence of air in the vacuum of space.

Noriko Null isn’t thinking about any of this. She’s using the Nexus to channel all the brainpower in the Galaxy, something she won’t be able to do for long before she loses control.

Witness the power of the Celestial Dragon and despair! – Tiamat roars, shooting destruction at Null. The flames move out of her way, unable to approach the Vial of Destiny in her hand.

You want despair? I’ll give you despair! – Null replies, leaping from the ice stairwell to launch herself against the dragon. The sky becomes white when the stars release their power into the sword, while Noriko Null screams:

HEAVEN SLAYER!!!

Tiamat can feel the tiny creature pierce its flesh, travel inside its immense body and emerge breaking through the scales on her back. She feels thousands, if not millions of different streams of electricity and information flow through her veins. The dragon looks at the massive wound on its chest, then turns to face the mortal again. Null has landed on the Ragnarok’s hull, and she’s now staring at her with golden eyes and dripping with dragon blood.

Was that it? I’m impressed, mortal: for a moment I actually believed you would kill me.

-I have. You’re already dead: you just don’t know it yet – she answers sincerely, while the sword stops glowing and her eyes revert to the familiar silver.

You only survived thanks to the vial. If it wasn’t for that…

-Prove it. Kill me now – Null invites her, throwing the Vial of Destiny into space. It’s hard for a dragon to laugh, but Tiamat’s humanoid form that just appeared on its claw has no trouble doing it.

Hahaha! Tell me your name before I erase you from existence, mortal, so that I may remember you for all eternity as the first being to make me laugh.

-I am Null. How’s your brain doing?

My what? – Tiamat asks, turning towards her dragon form. It’s screaming in pain, biting its wing with all its strength and then ripping it off. The human form seems to feel that and Tiamat falls to her knees; when the dragon’s wing transforms into a smaller dragon and starts a vicious fight with the first, the woman starts tearing away her own hair.

What is this!? What have you done to me!?

-Your mind is incredibly strong, Tiamat: even the God Eraser would not have been able to overload it. You’re so powerful, in fact, that the only thing I could find to defeat you… was you.

This hurts! So many voices! Make them stop, make them stop!

-Keep fighting them, Tiamat. The more you oppose them, the more it hurts: I know by experience.

-Null, what have you done!? – Athena asks her, landing next to her and covering her shoulders with the leather jacket she’d left behind. Even the goddess of wisdom is shocked to see Tiamat so utterly defeated and humiliated by her pupil.

-I knew she could be in more place than one while retaining some level of independent thought. So I used all the brainpower I could gather to put each part against each other… effectively breaking her mind into thousands of alternate personalities, all with a single goal.

-Hurting herself? You can’t have found so many mortals with such a desire.

-But I could instruct them to repeat something I had already done, over and over again. That’s why I broke up with Todd: I broke my own heart on purpose so that Tiamat could experience the same, billions of times each second.

We should leave now – says the voice of Hades; his hooded figure has appeared on the hull, carrying the unconscious Persephone in his hands. Clearly he’s seen something the others couldn’t, because all of Tiamat’s bodies begin to glow rapidly. Athena understands what it means.

-She’s losing control of her power. We don’t want to be anywhere near her when that happens.

Don’t leave me! This hurts so much! – the defeated goddess pleads.

-Yeah, it sucks having someone else in your head, doesn’t it? – Null asks Tiamat, before kicking her; without gravity, she’s left to float away from the warship.

 

Bridge of the Ragnarok

Viper hasn’t been able to follow everything, but one thing’s for sure: when L.O.K.I gave control of the ship back to Null, it was only a matter of time before she had to face her.

She didn’t expect her to return with all her allies, but that doesn’t matter: Todd Slate is tied to a chair and she’s holding a gun to his head.

-Don’t come any closer! – she warns.

-Really? A hostage? You claim to be smarter than me, and that’s the best you can come up with? Come on, even Void was more original than that! – Noriko replies, drawing the Genius Gun.

-Safe passage out of this star system or your boyfriend dies. You know I don’t need the gun to kill him, I can do that with my brain – Viper menaces.

-Okay. You have my word.

-What!? Nori, you can’t do that! – Vesta protests.

-Yes, I can. Let him go and you’ll live, Viper: you have my word – Null says, letting the gun fall.

Viper steps away from Todd and lowers her own weapon, chuckling.

-Y’know, I wasn’t sure this would actually-

She doesn’t finish: Noriko has drawn another gun and fired, completely shattering Viper’s wrist. Without missing a beat she blasts one kneecap, then another one, then three shots to her stomach.

-I knew you were full of s##t, Viper. You bleed just like everyone else.

-But… you gave… your word – Viper says, shocked by the ruthlessness of what she believed to be her naïve side. When she looks up, the Genius Gun is touching her forehead.

-I lied – Noriko answers, pulling the trigger. While others look away, she stares at her clone in the eye while she blasts her brain to pieces. And she continues firing, even though Viper is well past death at this point. The Genius Gun doesn’t need reloading: she only stops when Kari grabs her.

-That’s enough. It’s over, okay? It’s over.

She reluctantly gives the gun to her friend, then she turns towards the viewscreen: they’ve put some distance from Tiamat’s position, but the sphere of energy emanating from her is coming closer.

-L.O.K.I, disable all safety locks at Nidhogg level: engage the Negative Drive and take us out of here – Null orders, taking her seat in the captain’s chair without even looking at Todd.

<Unable to comply. Negative Drive not responding>

-Try again – Torn suggests. He’s carrying the Time Mover in one hand: he creates an energy dagger with the other, and when he hits the device there are sparks flying.

<Negative Drive unlocked. Destination and required speed?>

-The Throne Of The Universe, maximum speed.

<Negative Drive engaged. Currently traveling at 400 million lightspeed>

-That should take about eight hours – Noriko says, tilting back her head to rest for a second. Fatigue catches up with her and she falls asleep immediately, missing out the spectacle.

No longer under the control of a deity, Tiamat’s power is released chaotically. While most of it was focused inwards by the various personalities fighting for control, when her mind finally breaks the rest is unleashed in a wave of destruction that nothing seems able to stop. Any ship or planet unfortunate enough to be in its path is destroyed at the speed of light.

In the following months, the 5.000 light-year radius around Tiamat’s resting place will be called the Dead Zone for good reason: nothing inside that area will be able to live.

 

Later, in Null’s cabin

Noriko isn’t exactly surprised to find Todd Slate put his belongings back in his bag. She watches him without saying anything for a minute, before trying to break the ice.

-Eris and Pain have escaped. We’ve cleared the blast zone; we can’t risk running the Negative Drive for too long, so Hades will take us to the Throne. We should be back to Earth in a day or so.

-I’ll stay in one of the guest rooms so I won’t disturb you – he tells her bluntly, picking up his bag and walk towards the door.

-Todd, I’m sorry that… that I had to…

-To use me? To turn our relationship into a weapon?

-I needed a personal record of a deep emotional trauma for my plan. You don’t understand…

-I understand that everyone is just a pawn for your games. You’re just like your mother.

-Todd, please, let me explain – she says, trying to hold his hand. He retracts it and opens the door.

-Congratulations on saving the galaxy – is the last thing he tells her before leaving.

The thing that hurts the most is that she thinks he’s right. She feels she’s just like her mother now.



Ø
End of issue. Click below to navigate chapters.