Bridge of the Ragnarok

When Max Black a.k.a. Quantum gets to his senses, there’s a strange sight before him: Vesta is about to punch him with a flaming fist and Torn is seconds away from jabbing a dagger in his eye.

-I don’t think I wanna know – he admits.

-You were under mind control trying to kill us – Torn explains.

-Dude, I said I don’t wanna know, okay? Is everyone alright? – Quantum asks; the bridge has sustained considerable damage during the fight he doesn’t remember.

-We’ll know soon enough. L.O.K.I, are the shields holding? – Kari asks to the hologram next to her: two serpents intertwined between each other.

<Shields at 30% capacity. Regrettably the Ragnarok’s construction was not completed before launch, so we have no backup generators>

-Did you just call that thing “Loki”!? – Quantum asks.

-Yeah, that’s the name of the ship’s artificial intelligence.

-Now that’s just asking for trouble…

-How many of the Guild’s ships are firing at us? – Vesta asks.

-I’d say all of them – Kari answers.

<There are currently 4,987 ships firing at us. Shield at 25%>

-Okay this obviously isn’t working, we have to think of something – Quantum reminds them.

Just then, the battle ends: all of a sudden, all ships have stopped firing. Everyone turns to Quantum:

-I didn’t do anything!

-Fury is here – Torn informs them. Quantum and Kari seem worried, while Vesta asks:

-Who’s Fury?

-Another one of Noriko’s personalities. You weren’t there when she manifested it on Hell, but she scared the crap out of Abyss – Quantum explains.

-I thought she needed massive amounts of energy to turn into her – Kari recalls.

On the screen, the hull of the Dark Pyramid is now overflowing with pure blue electricity.

-I’d say she found them – Vesta states the obvious.

 

The Dark Pyramid

The room is falling apart pretty quickly: its systems weren’t designed for this kind of use. Leiko walks away from Fury until she reaches a dead end. She doesn’t want to face her: the last time she fought one of her daughter’s personalities, she almost died and she was hurt so bad that she won’t be able to have children again.

Black Knight comes to her rescue, leaping towards Fury with the intention of slicing her in half with his katana. But when his blade meets the energy sword in Fury’s hand, it shatters upon contact.

Wait your turn. I will kill you last – Fury tells him, and she clearly means it.

-How are you able to use Torn’s power? – Leiko asks her.

Any living being can access the Blood. But it takes a toll on living tissues: Demon bodies are specifically designed to withstand the stress, but humans are not.

-So in order to kill me, you have to be ready to die.

I’ve already pushed this body too far. I am already dead, so I might as well enjoy myself.

-Maybe so. But before you do, I want you to see your defeat – Leiko answers, showing something to Fury: a small device, the size of a pen, with a button she’s ready to press.

What is it, Leiko? Another ultimate weapon?

-This is the end of Null – she declares, pressing the button and pointing at one of the few screens still functioning: it’s a map of nearby space, showing Earth.

Leiko’s expression turns to desperation, as she presses the button again and again.

-They should be here by now!!!

What’s the matter, Leiko?

-Why isn’t this working!?

Oh it is working just fine. I’m sure the bomb you’ve placed on the Palladium has blown it up.

-What… you know!?

Know what, that you have an ally ready to attack Earth? Just waiting for you to disable the Palladium? That you were going to wait until you had complete control over the Scribe’s technology, in order to betray your ally as well and steal more ships? Oh yeah, Leiko, I’ve known for months. I’ve known since Null let you steal a fake Palladium… the real one is safe.

-That can’t be true! I checked the Palladium, it was the real one! – she objects, still pressing the button over and over again, until she throws it in Fury’s face.

Now I suppose I could ask you the identify of your ally, which Null never discovered, but the truth is I really don’t care. I just want to kill you as painfully as possible.

Fury jumps at her, clasping her throat in her hands. Leiko tries to break free, but her opponent is surprisingly strong for her minute size. And Leiko starts to choke.

Yes. Look at me. I want to see your eyes when you die. I want to see you

Fury’s sentence ends with a scream of pain: Black Knight has taken her by surprise and jammed Void’s syringe into her neck.

Aaah! What is this!? Why does it burn!? Took you long enough!

Black Knight takes care of Leiko, who is coughing loudly to regain her ability to breathe. They both watch Noriko, who is shaking more and more violently while talking to herself.

This is all your fault! It was a last resort! It burns! How long will it take? I don’t know! Why didn’t you let me kill her? You’re weak! I don’t wanna die! Do something, Null!!!

-We’re leaving – Leiko orders, and Black Knight doesn’t need her to repeat: they run away, and while he turns back to see Noriko kneeling in pain, Leiko has no thoughts for her daughter.

-Shut up, all of you! I am Null, I am in charge, and I will beat this!!!

-Where are we going? We’re on a spaceship! – Black Knight complains.

-Exactly. There must be an escape pod – she answers, opening a door: instead of an escape, however, she finds one of the Scribe’s clones.

-You wanted to betray me, isn’t it? Who is your ally, the Winter King? The Mist? Athena?

-We have to get out of here, Scribe!

-I am already in the process of transferring my database to another mainframe; I can let this vessel go down in flames, and you with it.

-I will not lose to her. Save me, and this is yours – Leiko pleads, offering the Heart Of The Universe as her way to freedom.

-Without the Nexus, this is useless. But I suppose I can steal it again – the Scribe agrees, holding out his hand to receive the Heart.

-No – a stern voice says behind them. The Heart Of The Universe flies away from their grasp, and straight into Noriko’s hands.

-You again. What personality is it, this time? – the Scribe asks, dismissively.

-All of them. None of them. For the first time, I am one.

-Am I supposed to be intimidated by… what happened to your eyes? – the Scribe asks: he just noticed that they’re not silver anymore. They’re golden.

-That syringe? Cerebrospinal fluid from my father’s brain. Which means that there are currently two DNA strands inside me, similar enough to confuse a certain kind of alien technology.

To prove her point, something unique happens to the Heart… there’s a crack on it, leaking blue light, and more and more are still opening on its surface.

-By the Gods, she’s really doing it. The Heart Of The Universe is opening!

-Let’s see what this baby can do – Noriko says with a smile, and all the cracks burst open at once.

 

 

When Quantum and Vesta come onboard, the first passing through the hull as a beam of neutrinos and the latter by ripping it open with her bare hands, they find an absolute mess.

The laboratory is in ruins, with debris everywhere. There’s a Demon with his head chopped off, and an elderly Japanese woman over a pool of blood.

-What happened here!? – Vesta wonders.

-Never mind that, what the fu##’s happening over there!? – Quantum asks, pointing at the other side of the room… or at least it was a room, before the wall was decomposed into a million pieces by a bright blue light.

The Scribe is shooting at Noriko, but the laser isn’t reaching her. She’s floating a couple feet off the ground, her arms outstretched and her eyes golden. There’s something in front of her chest: a mass of light, larger than her head but vaguely shaped like a human heart. There are pulsating lights inside of it, constantly changing color. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s hard to concentrate on it when the wind blowing from its position is destroying everything in its path.

-So beautiful. So beautiful – Noriko repeats, gesturing at the ship like she wanted to move a curtain.

The hull moves under her command, and the effect reverberates through the ship. When she’s done, everyone is standing on a floor surrounded by debris and stars… but the air is still breathable.

-Noriko, are you okay? – Vesta asks, floating closer to see how she’s doing: Noriko’s clothes have been ripped, in particular the leather jacket’s back has been burned away to reveal the metal implants on her back. Now, much to Vesta’s amazement, the metal disappears to leave behind only normal skin, before the jacket is repaired molecule by molecule.

-Better than okay, Vesta. Way better.

Noriko floats away into space; the goddess follows her in an effort to save her, but her friend is perfectly cable of doing the same.

-Mind over matter. Is this what being a goddess feels like? My God, this is so intoxicatingly sublime… there’s nothing I can’t do. I’m one with the universe.

-That’s… nice… why don’t you come back inside? – Vesta asks politely, unsure how to approach the situation. Noriko sounds like she’s high as a kite.

-Not yet. I have things to do. Things that need to be fixed.

 

On Earth

Despite Null’s best efforts, Manhattan’s landing wasn’t perfect. The fact that there were precisely zero casualties is a testament to her genius and to the precision of the Gravity Gauntlets, but there were hundreds of billion dollars in damages. Car accidents, broken windows, shattered roads, broken bridges, flooded subways, and that’s before counting all the military ships sunken by Naiad.

Just when people are thinking that reality has been restored to normal, the impossible happens again as everything seems to fix itself.

Millions of people watch in astonishment as the Brooklyn Bridge rebuilds itself: brick by brick, lifted by a mysterious yellow light. The chasms in the streets close on their own. Each little shard of glass flies back to its original position. Ships that were broken in half return intact to the surface. Everything, from subway tracks that become straight again to bumpers that bounce back to their original shape, is fixed to perfection. It’s as if Manhattan was never lifted in the first place.

 

The Dark Pyramid

Leiko can’t see any of this, of course, but she can feel the Heart’s power. It’s everything she’s ever dream of, and something more… and Noriko took it from her.

-It’s not fair. It should’ve been mine – she complains to the sight of her daughter flying back inside what’s left of the Dark Pyramid, with the Heart shining on her chest. She sees her float to her mother, whose body is still in a pool of blood… blood which flows back inside her, as Noriko kneels to her and holds her hand. And her grandmother squeezes her hand.

-<I’m sorry. I don’t know how to fix you… I’m not smart enough> she confesses.

-<It’s fine, dear. I’m just happy that something good came out of our family. I’m honored that my name will be carried by such a smart and beautiful girl> – Noriko Tanaka says, before closing her eyes one final time. As a last gift, all the blood on her has been washed away, and her granddaughter moves her hands in a graceful position. Her tears fall from her face… until they disintegrate once she stands up again.

-There. Damages have been fixed. Now… vengeance.

Her golden eyes shine brightly. Leiko and the Scribe share the same reaction: fear.



Ø
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