Kythera, 950 light-years from Earth

Todd Slate has yet to adjust to the idea of being on a starship, standing right next to his girlfriend.

-Be ready to be amazed, Todd. Kythera is a real paradise – Noriko tells him, sitting on the captain’s chair as she gives the signal to the pilot: one of Kari Zel’s duplicates.

-Powering down the Star Drive – she announces, enjoying her latest job.

As the ship decelerates below the speed of light, the planet appears. And so do the two opposing fleets that are exchanging firing shots.

-What the… what’s going on? – Noriko wonders.

-I recognize the Republic’s fleet, but who are the others? – Kari asks.

-This is bad. L.O.K.I, do we have a signal from Ulysses?

<Yes, mistress. I am receiving a distress call with his identification code> the ship’s AI answers.

-I can’t land the ship in the middle of a warzone. Max, can you go down there and check?

-Sure thing, Captain – Quantum answers, making a military salute before disappearing.

-He enjoys this a little too much. Shields up, target enemy ships and engage – Null orders.

-What are you doing? You’re not seriously considering fighting these things!? – Todd protests.

-I didn’t build a warship to watch people die. Fire when ready.

 

On the surface

As soon as he arrives, Quantum realizes that calling this a warzone wasn’t an exaggeration: he’s been here before, and it’s almost unrecognizable.

The gigantic statue of naked Aphrodite has been cut in half, the brothels are on fire, and there are spots of blue Lampyrian blood on the grass.

His first instinct is to help, but how? He can’t just electrocute the entire enemy army: he has the power to, but that’s a last resort. He releases a powerful electromagnetic impulse, hoping it may disable all the laser weapons, but all it does is damage the airships: the first vehicles crash within the first minute, but the battle is far from over.

-What are you doing here in the open!? – Ulysses shouts at him, holding his wrist and almost dragging him inside the nearest building, while two scantily clad Lampyrian women provide cover fire with machine guns. He recognizes the attire from his last visit, and Ulysses notices that he does.

-Yes, they’re prostitutes. They make the best spies for the Mortal Liberation Front.

-I should get out there to help the fight, Ulysses, these girls will get slaughtered out there!

-All of this will be pointless if we don’t stop them from taking the Master Portal.

-The what? Oh, you mean the Stargate right?

-Yes, there’s a Drylon teleportation device beneath the surface, we need to get it to safety before she arrives or the galaxy is screwed.

-Slow down, what are you talking about? Who is coming!? – Quantum asks, forcing Ulysses to stop. He once saw him stare down Abyss, but this time he seems legitimately scared.

-War herself.

 

Bridge of the warship Ragnarok

Ironically, this is the worst place to appreciate how much Earth’s only warship is dominating the fight. Nothing the opposing army has to offer seems to be able to damage it, as it flies right through its formations and leaves behind a trail of destruction.

-Target hit. Enemy weapons and engines disabled – Kari reports.

-Shield still holding at 99% – another Kari announces.

-Is it just me, or this is way too easy? – Kari asks.

-They were probably counting on the element of surprise. Signal the rest of the fleet to get to safety. We’ve got this – Noriko boasts, trying not to smile.

-Long range scanners are picking up something heading this way, 4 million lightspeed – Kari says.

-It’s probably Tyche’s ship. She’s a bit late.

-It’s too small to be a spaceship. It looks like a – Kari starts to explain, before her senses are overwhelmed by a screeching sound. The screens show only static, while the entire Ragnarok vibrates violently.

-What the f##k was that!? – Todd shouts; his ears are still ringing.

-Sensors are coming back online. I have no idea what I’m looking at – Kari admits, looking at the screen before her. Noriko gets off the captain’s chair, still a little dizzy from the sound, and checks out the raw data coming from the sensors.

-Some sort of hypersonic vibration; I have no idea how it’s possible. The sensors are fried, but maybe I can get a visual – Noriko explains, rapidly pushing buttons on the console’s touchscreen.

The main viewscreen does come back online, unfortunately. The ships are still in orbit, but they’ve been torn to pieces: hulls and wings and corpses are floating in space. There’s no way to be sure without the sensors, but it looks like the Ragnarok is the only surviving ship.

-Oh my Gods. All these people – Kari gasps, horrified.

-Null to Quantum, what’s the situation down there? Max, can you hear me? Dammit, we lost communications, I’ll waste several minutes to fix that. What was that thing!?

 

Below the surface

Seeing the cave with the large circular stone brings back memories: Quantum saw it the first time years ago, when the planet was under Talos occupation. The last time it wasn’t surrounded by a dozen Lampyrians armed to the teeth, however.

-Why is it still here? I thought Persephone stole it WAY back, when Hephaestus was still alive.

-And the Mortal Liberation Front stole it back; we used it during our war with Hermes and Eris, don’t you remember? – Ulysses reminds him.

-Dude, we had to deal with like half the galaxy during that, I can’t remember everything. But why bring it back here?

-Because it’s the last place where anyone would look for it – Ulysses explains, right before an explosion on the surface makes the cave shake.

-Or so I thought – he adds, shrugging.

-Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s teleport this thing anywhere else.

-That may be a problem – a Lampyrian explains, leaving the guards to come talk to Ulysses. She looks exactly like any other Lampyrian: blue skin, long blue hair, no nose, large bat wings coming out of her back, and a figure that makes you understand why their services are so in demand.

-It’s not working. I can’t turn it on without the Infinity Key, even if I’m pregnant.

-Wait, you have pregnant soldiers guarding this thing!? – Quantum protests.

-Pregnant humanoids have a higher chance to activate Drylon devices – Ulysses reminds him.

-I know, but we’ve never needed them for this thing. Can’t you call Lysia? – Quantum asks, referring to the Lampyrian agent that used to be in charge of the portal.

-My mother died months ago of old age – the Lampyrian explains.

-What? Lysia can’t be your mother, there’s no way she had a daughter your age!

-Lyrhea is thirteen months old. Remember, Lampyrians age faster; unfortunately they die faster too.

-What about the doohickey Lysia used to control Drylon tech?

-The Infinity Key? We haven’t been able to get it to work since my mother died – Lyrhea explains.

-So what? If the Stargate doesn’t work, there’s no harm leaving it behind, right?

Just then, someone creates a new opening to the cave, carving rocks with her bare hands. Ulysses and the Lampyrians hold their breath as the woman arrives: they seem terrified.

Quantum studies her: she’s dressed in black and purple, more of a military uniform than clothes, although they do a poor job of obscuring her curves. She’s wearing a black cape and a black helmet that covers most of her face, mouth included. Only her eyes are exposed, and they are bright red.

-Let me guess: she’s a goddess – Quantum says, his words covered by the sound of machine guns and laser pistols. Everything bounces off her, even when she walks towards Lyrhea.

She’s firing directly at her eyes, but the goddess doesn’t even blink. Until a lightning bolt hits her back; then she turns, looking menacingly at Quantum.

-Uhm, hi. Nice helmet, very Magneto. My name is-

Flee – she says. Her voice alone creates a pressure wave that would pulverize the bones of any human being, if his target hadn’t turned his body into pure light.

-It’s “Quantum”. Look, there’s no need to get violent okay? We can discuss things like adults.

-What? I thought you said you were stronger than Ares himself! – Ulysses intervenes.

-Come on, you think she’s dumb enough to fall for that!?

-You should fight OUTSIDE to see who’s stronger, AWAY from us – Ulysses stresses.

-Oh, I get it! Hey, surprisingly hot Darth Vader babe, how about you and I-

Die – the goddess says, and her voice is enough to pulverize the rocks behind Quantum; luckily for the rest of the mortals present, her power is so focused she doesn’t hit them.

-That doesn’t work with me, remember? Maybe the helmet’s a bit too tight – Quantum mocks her, knocking on her helmet before flying outside. She falls for it, following him; flying through solid rock doesn’t seem to slow her much.

She tries to punch him, hitting just air and light. He moves away a couple thousand miles, something that takes him a fraction of a second, although she’s not much slower.

Enough – she finally says, stopping in mid-flight and crossing her arms. Quantum circles her a couple times, trying to convince her to follow him, until he returns to human flesh on a grassy hill.

-Oh so you’re ready to talk now. Fine, why don’t you start telling me who the heck you are?

Enyo.

-Man, and I thought Torn didn’t like to talk. Fine, Enyo, what do you want?

War.

-That’s… vague. Look, this planet belongs to the Mortal Republic, okay? I’m giving you one chance to surrender. What do you say?

Enyo opens the lower part of her helmet to reveal her mouth: her purple lips form a smile before she takes a deep breath, turns towards the closest mountain… and screams.

It starts as a scream, yes, but the pressure wave she creates goes way beyond sound and into the absurd: Quantum covers his ears and closes his eyes, an instinctive response to the dust cloud that covers the scene. When he adjusts his senses and the wind clears the air, Enyo is floating in front of an enormous mushroom cloud rising out of the crater that has replaced the mountain.

That – she says calmly, once she’s closed the helmet again.

Quantum would gulp if he dared to turn human again. He activates the Neutral Transmitter to say:

-I don’t know if anyone can hear me, but I think I might need some help on this one.

Indeed – she replies, flying towards him.

 

Bridge of the spaceship Talaria

Sitting on the captain’s chair on Tyche’s capital ship, Vesta feels uncomfortable. It’s been thousands of years since she last held a position of power, and it brings back painful memories. But that has to wait, when the viewscreen shows the field of debris in orbit.

-We are being hailed by the Ragnarok, Your Holiness – the communications officer tells her.

-Put it through. Nori, what’s going on? – she asks.

I’m ordering what’s left of the fleet to retreat. Is your ship’s teleporter still working?

-It is.

Ulysses has civilians to evacuate, I’ll send you his coordinates; teleport them and the Master Portal on the Ragnarok, then scan the area. Take any mortal you can find and leave the system.

-Will do. What’s happening on the surface? We’re picking up massive energy surges.

Quantum is fighting someone. The sensors aren’t working, all they get is a woman screaming.

Vesta’s hands hold the chair’s armrests they leave fingerprints, despite being made of marble. When she stands up with fire in her eyes, there’s no doubt it’s a real goddess that orders the crew:

-Follow Null’s plan. I will deal with War myself.



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