Just a few hours ago, this sector of space was completely empty. Until a new star came into existence, rapidly increasing its size and temperature to match those of Earth’s sun. Now that it’s ready, Ra emerges from it as a fiery falcon of pure plasma. Millions of degrees hot, wildly radioactive and as big as a small moon, looking directly at him is impossible for any mortal.

He compresses his energy into something more manageable: a humanoid statue of pure gold, with large wings on its back and a black Ankh on its chest. The face is completely hidden behind the golden mask of a hawk, with only the eyes leaving a glimpse of the unfathomable power inside this form. With his new body Ra is able to land on the planet without incinerating it, something appreciated by the god who is building it.

-There. How do you like it? – Marduk asks him. His form is more humanoid than Ra’s, but he’s clearly far from human. His skin seems to be made of grey marble, with several black cracks; his chest is exposed by the open brown vest he’s wearing. There’s a golden helmet on his head, elaborate enough to serve as a crown. His black beard is so thick it almost covers the necklace of white dragon teeth hanging on his neck.

Ra doesn’t talk, completely uninterested by the scenery. At Marduk’s command the ground rises to form a huge column, several hundred feet tall, which is the only thing protecting it from the colossal tidal wave approaching. An entire ocean forms in a matter of minutes, rapidly covering the planet with the only exception of the column… whose top is now an island.

Another god emerges from the water, looking distinctly more human than the first two. The unruly green hair and beard is almost as eye-catching as his perfectly sculpted body, enhanced by his bare-chested attire: green metal shorts and elaborate golden bands that cover his entire forearms.

-Poseidon. I was wondering when the Olympians would finally decide to shake things up.

This is not your galaxy, Marduk. Choose your words carefully – Poseidon answers.

-I am not here to pick a fight, Poseidon. This is neutral ground, remember?

To underline Marduk’s words, a pentagram of fire appears out of thin air. An extremely muscular Demon emerges from it, accompanied by two Demon guards: his sheer size makes them look tiny.

Your Divinities. I am Oblivion, and as the current Lord Of All Demons, I speak on behalf of all Hell to welcome you to the Middle Galaxy – he says, bowing out of respect.

Don’t bother us, creature. We allow your kind to exist, but don’t presume to be useful to us.

You will not be disturbed during your assembly, Lord Poseidon. However, Lady Ereshkigal has requested my presence as witness for the issues she wants to discuss.

Whatever. Just as long as there are no more unwelcomed guests.

Of course Isis chooses the exact moment to teleport on the planet. And of course she’s not alone: she brought with her a very diverse group. Three gods (Hades, Vesta and Tyche), three mortals (Null, Kari Zel and Ganos Lal) and someone in between the two.

Ulysses!!! You DARE to bring my son’s murderer here!? – Poseidon shouts. The ground shakes so much that the mortals are having difficulty keeping their balance. And that’s not all: Poseidon points at Ulysses, and his hand shoots a stream of pressurized water in the form of a trident. The idea may sound innocuous, but Poseidon put so much pressure into that attack that being hit by that trident is the equivalent of being shot by a tank.

Still, the trident is still made of water, which evaporates when it hits a wall of pure fire.

-No, brother. There will be no fight today – Vesta tells him.

So this is the moment you decide to crawl out of the shadows, Hestia. I did not agree with your exile from Olympus, but allying yourself with mortals proves your guilt.

If you’re done posturing, Poseidon, I would remind you that the rules of the Assembly give each of us the right to call any witness. I will allow Hestia and Null to come inside – Hades says.

-Hm, excuse me, but what about the rest of us? – Kari asks, more timidly than usual: she’s still intimidated by the presence of the death god.

-Null needs no one. I am willing to let her proceed on her own – Ganos Lal says.

-Well I am not! I am a true goddess, daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite! – Tyche protests.

If you must, Tyche. But as a gesture of cooperation to Poseidon, I will ask the mortals to remain outside… if Poseidon will let Ulysses live, that is.

Fine. I can kill him anytime. But this “Null” you speak of… are you talking about the child? – Poseidon asks, coming uncomfortably close: he smells like salt water and testosterone. She would never call him attractive, but his presence is overwhelming: she’s feeling hot just by staring at him.

What use would such a tiny creature have for gods of our stature? – he asks, his hand coming closer to her cheek. Until she slaps it away, making her eye shine.

Back off, creep. I don’t care how powerful you think you are, I deserve to be at this meeting.

I like this child. I will enjoy breaking her, but not today. She can come inside with us.

-Inside what, exactly? – Tyche asks.

The ground shakes again, but this time because something beneath it is moving. The earth spews thousands upon thousands of snakes, who disgustingly twist and writhe upon each other until there are so many of them it’s like being in front of a building entirely made of snakes.

-I think I’m gonna be sick – Noriko comments, doing her best not to throw up.

The sickening scenario doesn’t last long, thankfully. The snakes slither away, revealing the presence of an actual building beneath them. Something that resembles a Gothic cathedral, with glowing nine-sized polygons serving as elaborate windows. The snakes converge into a single place, fusing together to form a person… a goddess.

There’s a slight resemblance to Isis, in the perfect symmetry of her face and her brown skin. She doesn’t show much of it: the legs are covered by bronze armor and a black skirt. Green metal snakes twist around her arms; her bronze chestplate leaves the midriff exposed, and it incorporates a black and green cobra head over her heart.

The Throne Of The Universsse is ready – she hisses.

Thank you, Nephthys. We shall proceed – Isis declares, standing up from her throne; like most of the gods present here, she’s twice the height of a human.

-Wish me luck – Noriko says to Kari before leaving her behind. She didn’t pay much attention to it before, but she’s been holding her hand the entire time.

“I guess you can take a girl out of Myridia, but you can’t shake off years of indoctrination… she’s scared s##tless of these gods” – she thinks.

When the door to the building opens, Noriko wonders if the same can be told about her.


Inside the building

The place feels huge. It’s smaller than the Isis pyramid, but something about it feels spooky. Maybe it’s the gloomy light that is carefully filtered through the stained glass windows to create a clear path towards the center of the building, or the echo of Noriko’s footsteps… since every other person here is a god, slightly floating above the ground.

-What is this place, exactly? – she asks to Vesta, a little ashamed of finding herself whispering.

-This is the center of power of the known universe, where the Nine Gods decide everything. I haven’t been here since I was a kid… must’ve been a million years ago, literally.

-What can you tell me about the Nine Gods? You seem to trust Hades.

-He’s not as bad as mortals think. I wouldn’t consider him an ally if I were you, but he’ll be willing to listen. Poseidon is even more stubborn than Demeter, and he’s not exactly what I’d call a progressive god… don’t even try to talk some sense into him, it never works.

-Sounds encouraging. What about the other pantheons?

-I don’t know them very well. The Egyptians will probably follow whatever Isis decides: her sister Nephthys is queen only because she’s the widow of their brother Set, and Ra doesn’t really care about anything these days. He’s the oldest of the Nine; for him the Assembly is a waste of time.

-He hasn’t said a word yet. He doesn’t even move – Noriko notes, watching the golden avatar of Ra float while remaining still as a statue.

-You have to remember that these gods are older than the oldest lifeform on Earth, Noriko: they may act human, but their way of thinking is alien even to me. The Sumerians are the wildcard here: I know next to nothing about them, other that everyone is afraid of Ereshkigal. Except maybe…

-Well, well, well… – a powerful female voice interrupts Vesta’s words.

It’s a gorgeous woman wearing a tight electric blue dress and covered with precious jewels, including a thick golden crown that would break a mortal’s neck. The resemblance to Vesta is uncanny: she has blue hair and is so well-endowed she makes her sister look flat-chested, but otherwise they might as well be twins. She holds out her hand, expecting Vesta to kiss it.

-I see your exile hasn’t changed you, Hestia. You still don’t know how to dress properly.

-It’s Vesta now, my queen – Vesta answers, emphasizing the distaste she feels of calling her sister with her title while she bows kissing her hand.

-Please forgive my grand-aunt, grand-mother, she means no offense. I shall fix it – Tyche offers, snapping her fingers. As she does so, Vesta’s orange tube top and skintight jeans are replaced by a silk sleeveless chiton. Noriko’s clothes are also changed, with a rather unflattering green peplos.

-Never do that again – both Noriko and Hera say at the same time; silver and blue eyes exchange a tense look, and they both shine for a brief moment.

-I was asking to the spawn of my husband’s children to refrain from calling me “grand-mother”. I assume you are the mortal child who killed my sister Demeter?

-Indeed I am. You have a problem with that?

-We shall speak at the Assembly – Hera answers abruptly, then she dramatically holds her cape to walk away from them to speak with the other gods.

-Well. That was a great start – Tyche says ironically, sighing. Noriko walks towards them and holds her blue cloak, ordering with shining eyes:

-Change me back. NOW.

-Don’t you want to be at your best when addressing the Nine Gods?

-I’m at my best when I don’t have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction in front of the most powerful beings in the universe. Change me back, NOW – Noriko repeats, adjusting the fabric on her dress; despite Tyche’s effort, it wasn’t made for someone without the curves of a goddess.

There’s no time to fix the issue: suddenly a bubble of pure darkness appears before them, and when it disappears it reveals Quantum, Torn and the alien known as the Grey Lady.

-Whoa. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore – Quantum jokes, looking around at the strange architecture. Torn is predictably calm about the situation.

-We weren’t in Kansas. We were in New York – he says, missing the joke.

-Vesta. Nori. Nice dresses – Quantum comments, just before Tyche restores Noriko’s clothes.

-What are you doing here!? – she asks, zipping up her jacket.

-The Emissary fetched them for me – a woman answers, coming out of the shadows and pushing Quantum to the side to approach Torn. Her skin is pale grey, and she shows much of it: the metal bra leaves much cleavage, and there’s only a rather loose white loincloth to cover the rest. Everything she wears is white, including the spiked bracelets and anklets, which only accentuates the contrast between her pale skin and her long dark hair.

-C’mere handsome – she tells Torn, grabbing him by his collarbone and suddenly kissing him. Considering the passion she’s putting into it, and the fact that he doesn’t object, it’s no surprise that his friends are staring at him with their jaws dropped once she’s finished.

-What? – he asks them, raising an eyebrow.

-DUDE!!! What the Hell!? I mean literally, don’t you have a wife in Hell!? – Quantum objects.

-Yes. Everyone, this is my mistress Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sex and violence.

-You sleep with one of the Nine Gods!? – Vesta asks, incredulous.

-He’s almost as good as his father in a fight, and even better in bed – Inanna teases Torn.

-We have never fought in a bed. We did have sex on a bed, however – he clarifies.

-What about your wife!? – Vesta asks, but Inanna answers instead of Torn:

-She ain’t bad either. Speaking of chicks who know how to have a good time, how’s your sister?

-Alive. I think.

-Great! Now if you excuse me, I have this whole thing about ruling the universe going on, but we can catch up later. You can bring your pets if you want – Inanna says rushing away, ruffling Noriko’s hair as she passes by her. All eyes are immediately on Torn once again.

-What? – he asks them, raising an eyebrow.

-You knew Ereshkigal’s sister the whole time and you didn’t say anything!?!? – Noriko shouts.

-She was my father’s mistress before I was born. We’ve met a few times, but I haven’t seen her in thirty years. I didn’t think it was an important detail.

-I just can’t wrap my head around you having a mistress! I thought Demons didn’t like sex.

-Not with each other. Inanna is a sex goddess. Literally.

-Dammit Torn, just when I think you can’t give me any more headaches, this happens. Can I at least count on your… relationship… having a positive impact on her attitude towards mortals?

-Probably not.

-Fantastic. So we’re about to meet the most powerful beings in the universe, and the only one who might be on our side is the god of death – Noriko says, shaking her head.

-Technically he’s the god of the underworld, not the god of death – Vesta clarifies.

Noriko doesn’t say anything else, just walking towards the center of the building.


The Throne Of The Universe

Now Null understands why it’s called like this. The central room is under a large round dome, where a very detailed painting shows nine different galaxies; nine stained glass windows show the individual symbols of the Nine Gods.

The Egyptian gods sit on their respective three thrones: Ra under the Ankh, Isis on his left under the Phoenix, Nephthys on his right under the Snake. The Greeks are next to them: Hera is sitting on the throne of Zeus, under the Bolt, Poseidon is to her right under the Trident, and Hades to his left under the Helmet. Next to them are the Sumerians: Marduk in the center under the Eagle, and Inanna to his left under the white eight-pointed Star. The throne to his right, under the black eight-pointed Star and dedicated to Ereshkigal, is still empty.

There is a tenth throne, also empty. Behind all the others and much, much larger, suitable for someone at least two hundred feet tall. Heavily damaged and charred, under the symbol of two crossed scythes.

-Are we expecting someone else? – Null asks to Vesta, whispering.

-That was my father’s throne, when he was Emperor Of The Universe. It’s been empty for the last million years – she says.

-Kronos used to rule all three pantheons? Why don’t you people tell me these things!?

-Right. Because you never keep secrets from us – Vesta replies.

-Alright, I guess I deserve that – Noriko admits.

-╤□►▲‡‡►║╬╚◄□▲‡‡╤▲╪╤►₪- the Grey Lady tells them; they don’t understand her words, but by her tone and her pointing at the Nine Gods seems to say “shut up, they’re starting”.

Noriko still hasn’t figured her out: she can clearly understand them, yet chooses to speak in her alien language. And her power is significant, if she was able to teleport Torn and Quantum all the way from the Milky Way.

Hera is the first to speak. The other gods look at her with a mixture of diplomatic respect and contempt: they know she’s not quite at their level.

-Esteemed divinities, thank you for accepting my invitation. I know I’m not allowed to vote at this assembly, unlike my beloved husband Zeus, but I am allowed to present a motion.

Then hassste and let usss vote. We all have more important thingss to do – Nephthys replies. Noriko would find her speech pattern funny if the situation wasn’t so serious.

-Very well. Since they have been proved to be too dangerous to be unregulated, I propose to consider possession of Drylon technology a capital offense under divine law.

-What!? – Noriko shouts: if this passes, it’s effectively a death sentence for her! Her very life is now completely dependent on divine politics.

End of issue. Click below to navigate chapters.