Kythera, 950 light-years from Earth

Max Black has been through many fights since becoming the superhero Quantum, but this may be the most frustrating. Nothing he’s thrown at Enyo has worked: laser blasts, electricity, even hard radiation, nothing seems to affect her. Adding that her black helmet covers almost her entire face, and that she’s just said a few scattered words, it’s impossible to get a read of her strategy.

“Okay, what have we got here? She’s invulnerable, she can fly, and she blew up a mountain just by screaming at it. What am I missing?” he thinks, trying to come up with a plan.

Enyo lands and sticks her arm into the ground, up to her elbow. She picks up a mass of land as big as a house, throwing it at Quantum like it was just a baseball.

“Oh yeah, she’s also pretty freakin’ strong” he adds, transforming into a laser. He tunnels through the rock easily, aiming for Enyo’s red eyes: if she can see, then light must be able to get through.

Unfortunately for him, digging through solid rock has slowed him down. Just a little, but enough for Enyo’s divine reflexes: she’s able to grab the laser with her hand and to hold it steady.

“There are so many reasons why this shouldn’t work” Quantum thinks, trying to change into another energy to escape; Enyo is still somehow holding him.

Until something else enters the picture, a woman flying so fast that the air around her is catching fire. She grabs Enyo’s cape, throwing her off balance; then she spins faster than the eye can see, and when she lets go Enyo is launched at several hundred miles per hour into the nearest hill.

-Are you alright? – Vesta asks Quantum, offering her hand to help him stand; he didn’t even notice he’d turned back into his human form.

-Don’t tell me: she’s from your family – he jokes, catching his breath.

-She’s my niece, the oldest daughter of Zeus and Hera. Let me talk to her, maybe we can reason.

-You know that’s never worked before, right?

Enyo dusts off the dirt from her uniform, then slowly removes her helmet. There’s a slight resemblance to Hera, but it’s hard to tell because her hair has a very short bowl cut. And it’s pink.

She lets the helmet fall: it’s heavier than it looks, sinking into the ground.

-It’s been a while, Enyo. Why don’t we just sit down and talk things through?

-Fight – she answers. Her voice is more high-pitched without the helmet, which makes her somewhat less intimidating. Until she starts screaming again.

Quantum gets out of the way, but Vesta still stands. The pressure wave that Enyo is generating is a true force of nature, powerful enough to plow through the earth itself; Vesta struggles to walk towards her, especially because the ground is pulverized and blown away. Enyo stops, leaving Vesta visibly tired but unharmed, floating before her.

-Impressive – Enyo comments, nodding.

-I’m not the goddess you remember, Enyo. If you don’t leave this planet, I will fight you.

-Good – Enyo answers, jumping towards her. Vesta is able to avoid her first punch, but not her uppercut that sends her straight into the air.

Before she can react to this, Enyo rises to punch her in the stomach, then she backhands her so hard that Vesta is embedded in yet another hole in the ground; the hit was as loud as thunder.

Quantum hits her with enough electricity to power half the United States, but Enyo doesn’t slow down. As soon as Vesta is back on her feet, she has to be on the defense: her forearms block Enyo’s punches. She plants her feet, but the force of the impact is enough to create earthquakes around her.

-Max, now! – Vesta shouts. She closes her eyes as Quantum transforms into pure light and concentrates it all on Enyo’s face, temporarily blinding her.

Vesta’s body catches fire and she releases a stream of flames directly at Enyo; it’s so hot that it’s no longer fire, it’s plasma. The ground is vaporized and the sudden increase in temperature is the equivalent of releasing dozens of nuclear weapons each second. Enyo is still standing in front of the blast, even when Quantum adds his own energy to the assault.

-Now this is just ridiculous!!! What are we supposed to do now!? – Quantum complains.

-Die – Enyo answers, flying through the stream of destruction; when her fist reaches Quantum, his energy is dispersed. Vesta lands a solid punch, but her fist is hurt more than Enyo’s jaw.

-Ow! What are you made of!? – she asks, massaging her injured hand.

-Pain – the war goddess says, returning a punch that Vesta isn’t fast enough to dodge. She’s also too dazed to avoid the second, and by the third she bends with pain. She can see that Enyo is smiling when she hits her once again, putting all her strength in a punch to the gut.

Vesta spits blood and kneels, gathering her forces and trying a desperate uppercut. It fails completely: she can’t lay a finger on Enyo, and all she gets is another punch to the stomach and more blood coming out of her mouth. She tries to fly away, but Enyo grabs her leg and slams her into the ground. Vesta can hear the sound of her bones snapping, and she lets out a scream when Enyo’s boot presses on her breast.

-Beg – Enyo says. Vesta’s body catches fire, but only briefly: Enyo increases the pressure, and Vesta can clearly feel something in her ribcage cracking.

-Beg – Enyo repeats.

-Never – Vesta says before screaming again. Enyo’s other foot just broke her arm.

-Beg – Enyo insists, crouching to hold Vesta’s head and slamming it on the ground, three times.

Vesta answers spitting blood in her face. Enyo’s red eyes shine like stars; she steps off Vesta and once again takes a deep breath.

-Take your best shot – Vesta taunts her: she doesn’t have the strength to escape.

Enyo prepares to unleash her scream, and for the first time in millennia Vesta is certain to die.

But her body disappears into a show of lights, a second before Enyo’s voice rips apart the continent.

 

Warship Ragnarok

Vesta isn’t conscious to see this, but her body has been teleported on the bridge. Quantum and a Kari duplicate try to check her vital sighs, while Null orders:

-Ragnarok to Talaria: we have Vesta and the others. Do you have space for more civilians?

Not anymore, and it seems you’re full as well. We should retire to Tyche space.

-Go ahead, it’s better if we take different routes.

-Enyo is flying towards us, and it looks like she’s really angry! – Kari warns her.

-Engage the Star Drive and set course for Arcadia!

The Ragnarok changes position, so that the planet doesn’t occupy the entire viewscreen. The stars aren’t there for long, however: with the press of a few buttons, the ship goes faster than light. Noriko Null isn’t interested in the spectacular view, jumping out of the captain’s chair to check on Vesta: she doesn’t have a pulse but she’s still breathing, if just barely.

-What happened down there!? – she asks to Quantum.

-She kicked our asses. Another second and she would’ve killed Vesta.

-Uhm, Nori? We have a problem: Enyo is still in pursuit – Kari says, pointing at her console.

-Push the Star Drive to maximum speed.

-We’re already at maximum! Two million lightspeed and she’s almost catching up!

-Shields are off during travel, if she attacks us we’re dead. Everybody hold tight, this is gonna get bumpy – Noriko warns everyone, returning to the captain’s chair and fastening her seatbelt.

-Disable all safety locks at Nidhogg level. Authorization code: R1XF7PZNG880I3HB-NULL.

<Code recognized. Negative Drive unlocked> – the ship’s artificial intelligence acknowledges.

-At my signal engage the Negative Drive, 300 second burst. NOW!!!

<Negative Drive engaged. Currently traveling at 400 million lightspeed>

The ship suddenly accelerates, deforming the space around it. The stars are no longer visible, covered by the discharge of electricity that arches from one point of the ship to the other. It’s not a comfortable ride: everything shakes unpredictably, like a plane hitting a turbulence after another.

It lasts exactly five minutes, then the Ragnarok comes to a complete stop and the stars reappear.

<Negative Drive disengaged. Running automatic diagnostic, please wait>

-We’re at… wow, 3805 light years from Kythera! – Kari exclaims, looking at her console.

-Cloak the ship and engage the Star Drive when the diagnostic’s done; we still have more than 6,000 light-years before we get to Arcadia. Kari, you have the bridge – Noriko says, unlocking her seatbelt and following Quantum and Todd, who took Vesta to the infirmary during the travel.

Kari creates a duplicate to sit on the captain’s chair, praying for her friend.

 

Eresos, 40.000 light-years from Earth

Isis and Hera are sitting in front of one of the pyramids, while servants pour their drinks; as a courtesy, Isis has changed her form to the height of a human. The setting is relatively informal, but they are both wearing their respective crowns to remind each other of their status.

I assure you, Hera, that I have no intention of staying in the Olympian Galaxy for long. I have my own realm to govern, but I cannot ignore the problems of my former territory.

-I understand you completely, Isis. Demeter was foolish to leave Persephone in charge, and see what happened to your fair land: mostly uninhabited and ruled by the vile Talos robots.

As Queen of this galaxy, should you not take care of the situation by annexing this sector?

-Alas, my duties as queen, wife and mother are already stretched thin. What I need is someone to rule this part of the galaxy in my place.

Are you referring to young Tyche? Or perhaps to Hekate, who rules the nearby sector?

-Tyche is the illegitimate daughter of two of my husband’s bastard children; I can’t trust her. And Hekate’s vow of celibacy makes her troublesome. Tell me Isis, would you leave the galaxy if I appointed my daughters to rule in my name?

I may, if the threat of these Talos robots is dealt with.

-Oh it will be, fair Isis. It will be dealt with soon – Hera smiles.

 

Warship Ragnarok

The infirmary is state-of-the-art, but the medical sensors are just baffled by Vesta’s body. She’s laying motionless on the bed, covered with bruises and with blood on her mouth. Her heart is not beating but somehow she’s still breathing, and x-rays can’t penetrate her skin.

Noriko Null is operating the sensors and even she can’t make sense of the readings, with Quantum looking over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the data she’s reading. Even if it’s nonsense to him.

-She’ll be fine, she just needs to rest for a while – Ulysses reassures them, entering in the infirmary like he owns the place. Noriko grabs his shirt and pushes him against the wall.

-This better be worth it. Why was Enyo on Kythera!? – she asks angrily.

-My agents intercepted several communications from Hera; they haven’t been able to decode them, but I believe she told Enyo about the Master Portal.

-Why wasn’t I informed? I may have been able to crack whatever code they used!

-Or you could’ve told us about Lysia’s death and the Infinity Whatever stuff! – Quantum adds.

-It was on a strictly need-to-know basis – Ulysses replies coldly, crossing his arms defiantly.

-Well I hope you’re happy we saved your precious portal. We’ll leave you and the Lampyrian survivors on the nearest planet; you can inform the Republic they’ve lost another damn fleet.

-I understand your frustration, Null, but saving the Master Portal was of the utmost importance.

-Fine, whatever. I’ll take it with me and see if I can get it to work again – she replies, flashing her silver eyes to make her point. Ulysses is less than impressed, though.

-You know you can’t. If your ship is destroyed, we lose yet another Drylon weapon.

Noriko would make an argument about this, but is distracted by Vesta’s groaning.

-Don’t try to move. I think you have multiple fractures and organ failures – Noriko tells her, grabbing the nearest flashlight and pointing it at Vesta’s green eyes: the pupils contract.

-Left pocket – she struggles to say before coughing and spitting blood on her hand.

Vesta tries to recover something from her pants, helped by Noriko: it’s an envelope. Noriko takes a single sheet of paper from it: there are Japanese ideograms on it.

-What does it say? – Quantum asks.

-“Your turn” – Noriko answers, crumpling the paper and grinning her teeth.



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