All the governments in the world have been in a state of emergency for several hours by now, with the military of almost 200 countries ready for anything.

They weren’t ready to see the sky filled with flying pyramids. Thousands of jet fighters engage the enemy, but it’s hard to call it a battle: no missile is able to get past the invisible shield that surround the vessels, no matter how many you throw at them.

Luckily, no one is crazy enough to resort to nuclear weapons: the pyramids are keeping low altitude above major populated areas, so firing a nuke would mean millions of civilian casualties.

Obviously, panic is widespread. The aliens are doing precisely nothing, but the sounds coming from the sky are terrifying: from the impact of the missiles against the shields, to sirens that haven’t been heard since World War Two.

Time seems to freeze: there’s a clear sensation that all Hell is about to break loose.

In London, the shadows of two flying pyramids loom over the Big Ben; the jets flying circles around them and raining missiles and bullets on them are just annoying mosquitoes to them.

They remain undisturbed until something blindingly bright comes from the north: four streams for pure energy that hit one of the two pyramids so hard it explodes into a million pieces.

The jets are too busy to get away from the explosion, and the civilians peeking through the windows too frightened by the thunderous sound, to see clearly what happened. Thousands of much smaller rays take care of all the myriad debris: the result is that the alien ship has been destroyed so thoroughly that not a single piece of it touches the ground.

When the cameras point at the sky, they see a spaceship flying over their heads. It slows down considerably, rotating 180 degrees around the second pyramid. The white letters spell RAGNAROK on its left side, illuminated when the ship fires again.

The second pyramid doesn’t have the time to react: it explodes in a furious fireball that fills the sky, but that amazingly doesn’t do any damage to the rest of the city.

The people of London cheer and applaud not just because the invaders have been taken care of, but because they recognize the Ø symbol beneath the ship and the voice coming from its loudspeakers.

<I am Null. Keep calm and carry on, the situation is under control>

The Ragnarok flies off, leaving the United Kingdom headed west towards the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs

It’s hard to overstate the impact that the images from London have on the people watching from home, or from the various seats of government: just when the situation seemed utterly hopeless, the Ragnarok completely changed the game.

Leiko Tanaka might be the only person watching the footage with disgust. She hears the cheers coming from the White House and from the Kremlin, and she closes her fists so hard that her fingers risk cutting her flesh.

-What. Is. That !? – she asks with barely restrained hatred.

It’s a spaceship! Where did that b##ch get a spaceship!? – the President of Russia asks.

We’ll worry about it later. She seems to be headed for New York; Tanaka, what’s your position on this? Can your agents provide support? Tanaka? – the President of the United States asks.

Japan’s Minister of Defense doesn’t answer, because she just took the holographic projector and threw it on the floor with a furious scream.

Since she ordered all military personnel to leave her alone, the only person witnessing her tantrum is a Japanese man in a black witness suit and carrying a katana on his back.

-Black Knight – she calls him.

-Yes, ma’am? – he answers calmly.

-Has communication with Ravage been restored?

-No ma’am. We lost all contact after he provided visual confirmation of the Heart Of The Universe.

-The clone must’ve taken it with her on the ship. Call the Mist, we need to be on the Dark Pyramid when the Scribe recovers the Heart. I will not lose to the likes of HER – she says, looking at the footage of the Ragnarok.

 

The Dark Pyramid

The Scribe is more composed than Leiko, but not by much. He’s looking at a hologram of Earth showing the position of his forces: dozens of red dots are moving fast towards the Ragnarok.

-It won’t help. The Ragnarok’s shields are powered by the Negative Drive, and so are its plasma cannons. Your ships are hopelessly outclassed – Noriko explains with pride.

-Since when do you have a spaceship!? – Quantum asks the question on everyone’s mind.

-Warship. I began construction right after Artemis attacked Earth: it’s based on the schematics of all the spaceships I’ve been able to study over the years. The Twin Dragon, the Supreme Scorpion, the Callisto, even the Dark Pyramid itself, plus some stuff I’ve picked up on the Vulcan Forge. And of course I’ve added quite a few improvements of my own.

-It is an impressive vessel – the Scribe admits.

-Well, I am a genius. Now let’s examine your options, Scribe, shall we? If you send your entire fleet to fight the Ragnarok, you lose: its shields are too powerful, and one ship won’t stop the Vanguard. If you carry out your threat to destroy all life on Earth, this ship gets blown sky high, and you lose. If you kill me, you lose. If you teleport me back and try to flee, you won’t get away fast enough because the Palladium is still enforcing the light speed limit in this solar system, and you lose. I don’t know if you play chess, Scribe, but on Earth this is called checkmate: the only option left is surrender.

-That would be true, Null, if you and I were playing the same game.

As a testament to the Scribe’s words, something hits Noriko’s brain like a jackhammer. She’s not the only victim: Vesta, Quantum and Torn are all affected by something that feels like someone’s just poured acid into their skulls.

-It’s a God Eraser – Vesta tries to explain; she’s strong enough to lift an entire city, but right now she doesn’t have the strength to stand up. Noriko and Quantum are also too weak to do anything, while Torn manages to get up, leaning on a red energy sword.

-Interesting. I never thought Demon minds were so adaptable – the Scribe admits.

-Adapt to this. Soul Resonance!!! – Torn shouts, and his body is surrounded by a red aura. He charges towards the Scribe faster than his eyes can track, and decapitates the Guild’s leader.

The Scribe’s head rolls on the floor; the pain in Torn’s head is still too much to let him concentrate properly, and he doesn’t see the katana stabbing him until he sees the blade come out of his chest.

Noriko’s eyes flash as much as they can: she wants to shout something, but it’s taking every fiber of her being just to keep conscious.

Black Knight retakes his sword from Torn’s body, who is spreading blood all over the floor. He’s not alone: the Mist is right next to him, working one of the ship’s consoles.

Don’t worry, your friend is still alive: Demons are very resilient, although they lack my ability to grow new clones to replace obsolete bodies – the ship says, talking with the Scribe’s voice.

-Doesn’t change… anything… I have the Ragnarok – Noriko replies, talking through the pain.

Perhaps. But I have everything else.

To prove the Scribe’s point, three new people are teleported on the Dark Pyramid: the Demon Ravage is keeping Noriko’s clone hostage, threatening to cut her throat. But it’s the third one that worries her when she sees her black high heeled shoes.

Her eyes look up. The beautiful Japanese woman in a business suit is looking at her with an evil smile on her face, and the Heart Of The Universe in her hands.

-It’s nice to see you again, my dear daughter.

 

The Ragnarok’s bridge

Kari Zel is just about ready to panic. Void and Ravage have been teleported away, leaving her alone with LOKI’s hologram on a ship she doesn’t know how to operate.

<Warning. We are receiving a call from the Dark Pyramid> LOKI tells her.

-That’s bad.

<Seventy-five pyramids converging to our location>

-That’s worse. Can you put the call on the screen?

LOKI obeys, but Kari wishes she hadn’t asked: the screen shows Leiko Tanaka holding the Heart Of The Universe, next to Black Knight who is threatening to cut Noriko’s throat.

Kari Zel of Myridia. It seems you are protected against unauthorized transport.

-Bet you didn’t see that coming – Kari gloats, while actually she had no idea about this; it must’ve been something Null installed in the Battle Bracelets and forgot to tell her.

A pity that Null didn’t think to provide the same precautions for her clone.

-Or maybe that’s what she wanted you to think. You know you can’t take out the Ragnarok, right?

And since you cannot attack the Dark Pyramid without killing your friends, it seems we are at a stalemate. Now that I have all the Drylon technology this world had to offer, Earth holds no interest to me; but I would prefer to keep my fleet intact.

-Are you asking me to surrender?

I will now order my fleet to leave the planet. Hold your fire and I will release the hostages; attack me and you won’t have to time to prevent me from ordering an antimatter bombardment.

-Kari don’t – Noriko tries to say, but Black Knight’s blade comes too close to allow her to speak.

Her silver eyes shine, but in a different way from usual: the light comes and goes repeatedly, and it takes her a good twenty seconds before returning to normal.

-Dammit, Scribe, you leave me no choice. I surrender.

A wise choice – are the last words coming from the screen.

 

 

All over the world, people cheer for victory when they see every single ship rise in the sky and quickly leave the planet. New York in particular can see the Ragnarok accompanied by no less than seven pyramids that surround it.

The only person who isn’t cheering is Kari Zel, now sitting on the command chair. When Vesta, Quantum and Torn are teleported on the bridge, she creates duplicates to assist them.

-Are you injured? Do you need medical attention? – a duplicate asks Torn, whose clothes and duster are soiled in copious amounts of blood.

-Amateur. He aimed for a human heart; he barely scraped my left one. I’ll be fine.

-How did the Scribe teleport them? Why didn’t the shields work!? – Kari asks.

<The Dark Pyramid’s spacial displacement wave generator exceeds its estimated specifications> – LOKI answers; Kari doesn’t have the time to figure out it basically said “its teleporter works better than Null expected”:

-Ow. Now I know what Zeus felt like when Athena was born – Vesta says, holding her head.

-We have to get back to the Dark Pyramid! Noriko needs us! – Quantum tells Kari, running to her position; he’s in pain like the others, but this takes priority.

-No. We better stick to her plan – Kari replies.

-What plan!?

-I don’t know, but she wants us to stay out of it and be ready to engage the fleet.

-How would you know? Did she send you a message through the Neural Transmitter?

-No, it’s still jammed. But the light in her eyes was a message – she reveals.

-What? What did she say?

<… .- -.– -.– . … –. . – – …. . … …. .. .–. .-. . .- -.. -.–> LOKI says with a series of beeps.

-I meant in English – Quantum rolls his eyes.

-“Say yes get the ship ready”. I think.

-You think!? We’re planning to stop an alien invasion based on that!?

-Well in my defense I learned Morse code like a week ago – Kari shrugs.

The Dark Pyramid

The room where they bring Noriko and her clone is different from the others: the Egyptian design is still very clear, but it lacks the dramatic flair of the throne room. There are three high tech chairs here, and only the middle one is occupied. There’s an elderly Japanese woman sitting there.

-Grandmother!? – Noriko recognizes her.

I have to say, I did not see that coming – Void echoes her thought.

-This is a nice family reunion – Leiko jokes, while Black Knight and Ravage secure Noriko and Void to the other two chairs, locking them in position.

-Then again, it’s only proper that my mother should attend my daughter’s funeral.



Ø
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