Null Island, Pacific Ocean

The Valkyrie lands on the only landing pad of the island, suitable only for vehicles capable of vertical take-off. Doctor Catherine Kalama gets off the vehicle, shielding her eyes from the sun to admire the beautiful volcanic island.

Unfortunately, the view is ruined by the dozen Nullbots standing guard around the Valkyrie. She doesn’t know how many are working on the island, but they seem to be everywhere.

-Welcome to Null Island, Doctor – Kari Zel greets her. The purple haired girl is wearing a pink bikini top with matching shorts, and she’s exactly identical to the other Kari Zel that disembarks together with Caroline.

-So she actually went through with the name change?

-Was there any doubt how she’d call it? – Kari asks back. The two twins touch: one of them disappears with a popping sound, transferring all knowledge to the other.

-It’s a pity you can’t stay both here and in Hawaii, doc. This place is fantastic.

-Considering the price tag, I hope so. Can I see Noriko? I have the results of the malaria vaccine.

-I know, we talked about it during the trip, remember? This way.

Caroline follows Kari closely, looking for any sign to distinguish her from the other duplicates.

-If you don’t mind me asking… what happens if you absorb a body that’s been injured?

-Nothing. Well, except I remember the pain along with everything else, so I only do that if it’s an emergency. Otherwise I just make the duplicate disappear.

-That’s incredible. And you always had this power?

-Yes, but it takes years of practice to make a duplicate that lasts more than a few seconds.

-Amazing. I still can’t believe you’re from another planet.

-There’s lots of weird things on this planet too – Kari comments, opening the door to the mansion.

Built directly on the island’s inactive volcano, it’s a relatively small building when compared to Null Tower. Despite the size, though, its laboratories are easily the most advanced on the planet.

Noriko Null is alone, talking in Chinese while sipping coffee and studying the hologram of something vaguely reminiscent of human DNA.

-<You have to excuse me, mister President, I have another meeting. I’ll call you back>.

-What are you doing!? – the doctor asks.

-I’m rebuilding Beijing and studying the Lampyrian genetic code, why?

-Is that coffee?

-Not quite. It’s an infusion of genetically engineered…

-Does it have caffeine?

-Maybe – Noriko answers by glancing at the cup.

-Give me that. You have a weak heart and are recovering from a serious blood infection! – the doctor protests, taking away the beverage.

-Honestly, I don’t know why you hired me as your personal physician if you’re going to do whatever you want regardless of my advice.

-Kari, would you mind leaving us? The doctor and I have business to discuss.

-Sure. If one of you two geniuses need me, I’ll be at the beach – Kari says before leaving the room.

-Your friend is quite something.

-I have the leader of a sovereign nation on the other line, doctor, so if you don’t mind telling me why you had to come here in person instead of sending me the results…

-You purchased this island to get some rest while your robots build a new Tower, but every time I come to see you you’re in a lab. Shouldn’t you be outside?

-I sunburn easily. I promise I’ll go out once I’m done with this study.

-What is it, anyway? It kind of looks like DNA – the doctor says, looking at the hologram.

-It’s the Lampyrian equivalent. They’re half-alien hybrids, if you can believe that.

-The things I’ve had to believe since I’ve met you, Noriko…

-Fair point. Technically, all Lampyrian are clones: an adult female gives birth to an exact replica of herself.

-You mean they’re hermaphrodites?

-No, they’re all female. It’s called gynogenesis or pseudogamy: the egg develops into an embryo without any inheritance of genetic material from anyone but the mother. The problem is that their cells never slow down their activity; Lampyrians rarely live longer than two years.

-You said something about them being “half-alien”. You don’t mean they’re half-human, do you? There’s no way that DNA is compatible with humans.

-This may sound…weird. Lampyrians evolved from alien creature called Harpies, some kind of bird space monsters. Apparently they are compatible with gods, because they mated with Zeus.

-Zeus as in the Greek god?

-I’m afraid so. It stands to reason that Lampyrians can mate with other gods. Since they are far more humanoid than Harpies, it is possible that an offspring between a god and a Lampyrian could… yes, I think I have it now – Noriko realizes, snapping her fingers.

-What? You have what now?

-I can cure the Lampyrians.

 

Lysia hates Null Island. She appreciates the privacy, being the only blue-skinned winged alien on the planet, but being separated from her work for the Mortal Liberation Front is unbearable.

Especially for three months, which is one eight of her lifespan. But Null’s latest request is the worst possible insult for her.

-You want me to WHAT!? – she protests.

-I will not have sex with her!!! – Vesta adds. If there’s any doubt over the outrage of the normally demure goddess, her eyes are literally on fire.

-Nobody is asking you that!!! I just want genetic samples to study – Noriko defends herself.

-Gods and Lampyrians are not genetically compatible – Lysia insists.

-Has anyone tested that?

-It’s common knowledge among my people.

-You descend from the offspring of Zeus and a space bird. I think he’s compatible with anything.

-No argument there. But I don’t have what you need – Vesta explains. The anger in her voice is already gone… she can’t sustain it for more than a few seconds.

-I know, ideally I would need a male god, but if I can splice together the right chromosomes…

-I’m sterile.

The awkward silence seems to last an eternity. It’s Vesta herself that decides to break it:

-Why do you think I’m the only goddess of my generation that never had children? I can’t.

-I’m sorry. I didn’t know – Noriko apologizes sincerely.

-It’s okay. I’ve had a million years to come to terms with it. Literally.

-If only more gods had your same problem – Lysia comments.

She’s lucky that Vesta is such a forgiving person, because it’s the only reason she’s not yet burned her alive with her stare. Which, being a fire goddess, should be a serious concern.

-Why do you hate my family so much?

-They enslaved the entire galaxy and treat my people as livestock. Do I need other reasons?

-Vesta is not like other gods. You’ve seen it – Noriko defends her.

-And yet, she refuses to join the Front in the fight against them. And you will not give me the means to rejoin the Front with the formula to defeat the Talos, or the schematics for the God Eraser.

-Lysia, we’ve talked about this. The God Eraser doesn’t work without me, and if I tried to use it in my present condition it would likely kill me. As for the Talos, I told you I have a plan. I just need a little more time to make preparations.

-Time is exactly the one thing that I don’t have – Lysia protests, storming out of the building and flying away. Noriko sighs: yet another thing to take care of.

-Maybe I should talk to her – Vesta suggests.

-Good idea. I’ll go back to…

-And you need to get out of here and get some fresh air – Vesta orders, pulling Noriko outside.

There’s no use fighting her, knowing that she can pretty much bench press a planet.

 

The beach is perfect, worth every penny she paid for it. She carefully places the towel on the sand, applies a generous amount of sun lotion (she wasn’t kidding about burning easily) and laying down.

She soaks in the sun, listening to the ocean and relaxing.

For about thirty seconds.

-This is so freakin’ boring – she complains, reaching for the N-phone inside her bag.

-You missed a spot right here – someone whispers to her ear, touching her lower back.

Noriko draws the Genius Gun from the bag and fires. She misses her target completely despite being point blank; the telekinetic blast lifts a cloud of sand in the air.

-Lovely place. Although you’re a little overdressed for the occasion – Hermes says, dodging another blast. When Noriko tries to pull the trigger a third time, the gun disappears from her hands.

-What do you want now? – she asks exasperated, tossing a towel to the naked god.

-I just wanted to see how you were doing. You know how I care about you.

-Really. My body was taken over by my evil twin, thousands of people were killed by your step-sister and I almost died, and you cared enough to show up three months later.

-I know, I’m such a romantic god.

-Lysia told me that Kythera was attacked by Hekate soldiers bearing a remarkable resemblance with the Centurions of the Empire of Shadows. Are you working with my mother?

-A gentleman never tells.

-What do you really want from me, Hermes?

-I need to ask you a favor.

-Seriously? I may have another personality, but I’m not that crazy. Why would I do that?

-Well, I was hoping because your mother shared with you tales of our passion…

-I don’t have to hear this.

-…but I figured you’d be interested to know that Hephaestus is stationed at 30 light-years from here.

-And you’re telling me this out of the goodness of your heart, I’m sure.

-Well…not exactly. You remember Persephone, right? Demeter’s kid, green hair, foul mouth? She managed to defeat Hekate by allying herself with Diana.

-“Diana”?

-Yes, that’s how Artemis wants to be called now. She suffered a major defeat against Hephaestus and when she came back, well, she just wasn’t herself anymore. You wouldn’t happen to know if something happened to my dear step-sister, right?

-Nothing comes to mind – she lies.

-Well, I won’t bore you with the details, but according to my sources while Hephaestus is away Persephone will attempt a decapitating strike against his headquarters, the Vulcan Forge. I’d like you to blow it up before she arrives.

-Again, because you are such a caring god.

-Yes. And because Diana has the means to take control of the Talos and use them as her own army.

-So blow it up yourself. You don’t need me to do it.

-Well, you see, that’s funny, but I really do. He has means to deny me access to his star systems. You might have wondered why I didn’t pay much attention to Earth lately, well…

-You’re losing the war. And you need me to save your a##.

-In a manner of speaking. Also, Persephone allied herself with Diana only because I asked her. When you destroy the Forge, she will attack Diana with everything she’s got.

-Can’t she do it right now?

-Persephone doesn’t care about the Olympian Galaxy, she only wants revenge against Hephaestus for disrespecting her. If you don’t defeat him, her alliance with Diana will become real. So, what do you say? Ready to make “Slayer of Gods” a little more grammatically correct?

-Only if you start wearing pants.

-I’m not making promises.



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