The White House, Washington D.C.

President Keen slams his fist on the desk out of frustration: the live feedback from Egypt isn’t working anymore, and they’ve lost contact with the armed forces in the Mediterranean.

-Does anything work around here!? – he groans.

None of the people in the Situation Room have much to say, until a military aide adds:

-Mister President, we have new data from N.A.S.A.

The holographic screen now shows new images, live from the satellite network: the Mediterranean is now completely white, a color that is rapidly expanding into the Atlantic and over Europe.

-What am I looking at? – the President asks.

-We are receiving multiple reports of temperatures rapidly falling below zero, expanding from the last known location of the Winter King; the phenomenon is projected to reach the East coast in minutes.

-He’s freezing the planet – President Keen realizes.

 

Null Tower, New York City

The same images are being shown in the Operation Center, where Kari Zel is pacing nervously.

-There has to be something we can do about this!

-If Null needs help, she’ll call us – her husband Kiros tries to reassure her, although he’s just as worried about the situation. Bob Null is sitting on the couch facing the screen, holding his newborn daughter Nalani when he notices something: right outside the windows, there are people falling from the sky and to their doom.

-Maybe we should call her – he says, jumping up from his seat when suddenly there are several flashes of light in the room: half a dozen Lar soldiers have just teleported in.

-Security breach! O.D.I.N, raise the forcefield!!! – Kari orders, creating enough duplicates to take care of the invaders before they can do anything.

<Unable to comply. Security measures overridden by unidentified energy field> – the Tower’s artificial intelligence explains.

-They have us sealed in – Kiros understands, creating his own duplicates to assist Kari: she needs the help, because the number of teleported invaders quickly increases to the point of overcrowding both the room and the hallway leading to it, especially including all the duplicates.

With all this confusion Nalani begins to cry; Bob tries to keep her as much out of the action as possible, and he notices too late the Lar who is about to shoot him in the back.

When he does notice him, it’s because a beam of pure kinetic energy has just pushed the invader to crash through the nearest window. Bob tries to calm down Nalani:

-It’s alright, see? Your sister is here.

The Lar pause for a second, looking at Noriko Null who has just arrived together with a Lampyrian they don’t recognize. She’s wearing her trademark green leather jacket again, together with her prosthetic left arm, and she’s holding two Genius Guns.

-Rapid fire – she orders, and the weapons oblige: they move and fire on their own, hitting every single target with superhuman speed and precision, decimating the invaders in seconds.

-I want these things so badly – Kari comments.

-O.D.I.N, execute Program Square One as soon as I leave the Tower, authorization code: CL34NSL4T3-NULL. Is everyone alright? – Noriko asks going straight to her father.

-What do you mean “leave”? What’s going on? – he asks.

The temperature drops significantly, and a sheet of ice completely covers the windows.

-Winter is here – she says, her silver eyes shining when other people are teleported inside.

It’s the Winter King, standing next to Leiko Tanaka.

Null. I wish to have words with you.

 

Saqqara, Egypt

Blue Star’s assessment of the capabilities of the Winter King’s capital ship was correct: she’s too fast and agile for its weapons. Unfortunately, her suit was never designed to operate in such a cold environment and without it her human reflexes are not nearly enough. After a couple of close calls, she decides to change her plans and lands directly on the hull, where White Star is slowly melting the outer shell of the ship by shooting it with massive amounts of thermal energy.

-It’s not working. This thing is more durable than I thought – the Japanese hero admits.

-Let’s try together – she suggests: unlike him, her powers don’t come from the suit. She releases as much energy as she can, a powerful stream of blue energy that seems to be too much for the ship.

-Great job; I’d kiss you if you were a guy – White Star tells her, rushing inside.

She follows him, sharing his enthusiasm: the ship might have been too much for them, but each one of them has the firepower of an army.

Once they face the Lar soldiers, their first reaction is to protect themselves with a forcefield: they’ve done this countless times, both in training and during the invasion of North Korea, and they’ve been tested as being impervious to any human weapon.

But these soldiers are not human. Their lasers pass right through the field, piercing their suits like ordinary bullets. Blue Star can absorb energy, so the only damage she sustains is wearing a costume full of holes. White Star is not as lucky: being only human, he doesn’t stand a chance.

At first she’s shocked to witness the death of her ally. When the fire concentrates on her, the shock turns into anger as her body begins to radiate blue energy.

She releases everything in a scream of primal rage: seen from the outside, the result is a massive explosion that blows away a sizeable portion of the ship.

 

Null Tower, New York City

Kari and Kiros Zel immediately attack the Winter King, with predictable results: the two Myridians are immediately trapped in blocks of ice, and since these are duplicates the disappear rapidly.

The Lampyrian called Lily learns the lesson and doesn’t move, preferring to see how this plays out.

Noriko has her Genius Guns ready, but they’re not aimed at him: she’s ready to shoot Leiko.

No weapons – the Winter King clarifies; the guns suddenly become so cold that Noriko is forced to let go the one held by her real hand, while the prosthetic one is stuck leaving her unable to fire.

-I’ll never let you have this planet. Never.

This world is already mine, you have no say in the matter. I am here for another reason – the Winter King clarifies, walking towards Bob Null. Leiko does the same, but she first looks at Nalani.

The baby babbles something incoherent, then Leiko looks back at Bob and smiles.

-Robert. You have been busy – she says, getting her hands on Nalani.

-Get your hands off her!!! – Noriko protests, her silver eyes shining.

You have the solemn word of the Winter King that no harm will come to the child.

-Hello, little one. You’re as cute as your sister was, when she was born – Leiko tells Nalani, slowly taking her in her arms. The baby laughs, blissfully unaware of how much her father and half-sister are terrified at the image of her being in Leiko’s hands.

-I’m your aunt Leiko. Can you say Leiko?

-Ee ii coo – Nalani tries to repeat. Watching her mother act like a human being is disconcerting, and somehow Noriko feels reassured when Leiko’s face returns to her stern expression.

-Close enough. You can have her back – she says, trying to hand Nalani to Noriko; given that her left hand is still immobilized, she prefers to let Lily hold her little sister.

What is your name, good sir? – the Winter King then asks her father.

-Uh? I’m, uhm, I’m Bob – he answers, confused when he sees the alien monarch get on his knee right before him.

I am Khios XCV of Boreas, Winter King of the Seventh Galaxy, Sovereign of the Winter Kingdom, Protector of the Lar Empire. Bob of Earth, will you grant me the honor to take the hand of your daughter Noriko in marriage?

-Hey! Don’t I get a say in the matter!? – Noriko objects.

-Well, you both seem to like technology, so…

-Dad!!! I’m not marrying the Winter King!!!

-Sorry dude, we’ve all been there – Bob shrugs. To put it delicately, the Winter King doesn’t like it.

This planet belongs to my kingdom now. And it is my royal prerogative to take any subject I desire as my bride.

-Over my dead body – Noriko threatens him. The Genius Gun she previously let fall to the ground flies back to her hand, by magnetically repelling the ground, and she pulls the trigger.

In the blink of an eye, she vanishes together with Lily and Nalani. The Winter King’s face is hidden by his helmet, but Leiko is clearly taken completely by surprise.

-Where did she go!? – she wonders.

<Program Square One initiated. Erasing all data in three, two, one> – O.D.I.N. announces, and at the end of the count the entire Null Tower goes dark.

What is the meaning of this?

-My best guess is she wiped out the computer memory to make sure you couldn’t get anything out of this – Bob hypothesizes.

-That’s not true. I… we have you – Leiko answers, caressing his chin.

Bob resists the urge to hit her, hoping that his daughter knows what she’s doing.

 

Somewhere equally cold

The blast from the Genius Gun breaks a block of ice. Noriko frantically looks around, using her only working hand to zip up her jacket.

-I don’t get it, when did you get a teleporter? – Lily asks, covering herself with her wings for extra warmth; Nalani is crying again.

-I wasn’t the one to take us here; come this way – Noriko instructs her, walking towards the only thing visible: a mountain, partially hidden by a thin fog. Everything else around them is an endless and featureless stretch of ice and random rocks.

-How can you know where we’re going? – Lily wonders.

-Nalani!!! – shouts a voice from the fog; Catherine Kalama runs towards Lily and takes her daughter in her arms, without questioning why there’s a blue skinned alien in front of her.

-It’s alright, it’s alright, mommy’s here – she reassures the baby.

There’s another person behind her, an African-American woman wearing the remains of a blue costume. Giving the thermal radiation she’s generating, she must be the reason why Catherine didn’t freeze to death.

-Dr. Kalama? Blue Star? You’re supposed to be in Egypt – Noriko recalls, scratching her head.

-We found ourselves here a few minutes ago. The good news is that I was able to take down the enemy’s mothership; the bad news is that I have no idea of where we are – Blue Star admits.

-We’re in Antarctica – Noriko explains, without missing a beat.

-You just had to spoil my reveal, didn’t you? – a male voice asks. Both Noriko and Blue Star shoot instinctively, but they miss their target.

-Now now, is that the way to greet your dashing hero, sunshine? – Hermes asks; he’s dressed in Earth clothes, with an Hawaiian shirt left open to show off his perfectly sculpted chest.

-Just be glad I didn’t pack a God Eraser. What do you want?

-I’m a god of simple tastes. I’ll settle for the classics: save the world, get the girl, that kind of stuff.

-Go #### yourself. Everybody else, let’s get inside – Noriko tells the others, continuing to walk towards the mountain and purposefully ignoring Hermes.

-What do you mean “inside”? We’re in the middle of nowhere! – Dr.Kalama complains.

-Not exactly. Authorization code: Niflheim!!! – Noriko shouts at the mountain.

A red Ø symbol slowly lights up on one side of the mountain, deactivating the hologram that conceals a massive titanium blast door. It’s so heavy that the two special Nullbots opening it are struggling to move it, and they’re ten feet tall.

-Welcome to Midgard Station – Noriko tells her guests.



Ø
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