I was half-right.
Imparted directly to her mind, with no practise, training, or even learning, and very little context, Leo's theories manifested for Trinity as though she'd thought of them herself. Despite her intellectual understanding that it hadn't quite been her doing, the process and the feeling along with it elicited a genuine self-satisfied smile for all of about a half-second.
But Ra's mockery didn't escape her. Both the Ancient, Nordok, and the one true goddess, Liberty, had made her feel that way before. Unblinking and unwavering, her glare remained fixed for what seemed like eternity. Not yet. Soon enough. She tried to steel her mind, to resist the destructive impulse welling up within, told herself soon Nordok would be gone, and then she could deal with this idiot.
She was not even looking forward to confronting Nordok, not particularly. As many times as she'd dealt with The Ancient and his lackeys, Trinity ceased to find that feeling akin to pleasure in the prospect or the act of crushing them. They always spent so much time stalling and talking that the fun was quickly drained from every encounter. Now, more than anything she simply longed to see them ended, to have her vengeance completed but the process was no longer thrilling. Least of all beside some delusional who couldn't even appreciate how great she was while Leo cried over some dead woman on the other side of the universe.
Trinity made a point of exiting the cube first, poised as she could be but very deliberate in showing off her own superiority. Even if she hadn't been there before, it was only natural.
Given the importance of the planet and the prior visit she knew it'd be only a short time before a security detail was upon them for...whatever security was for. "You follow. Try not to get lost or hurt. Or do. I don't care." She tossed the remark callously over her shoulder and, doing her best to recall where she'd last encountered Nordok's physical form, made off for that exact spot, anticipating little resistance--or at least nothing that mattered, though entirely unaware as to whether or not this was the case, for she didn't care to look.
No living being had set foot in the sanctum of the Ancient One since he and Trinity had last fought. The damage from that battle, including the compacted remains of the Ancient's robotic host body had been dutifully cleared away by silent robotic servants, and then an oppressive silence had once again consumed the cavernous chamber. Nordok had remained in his nebulous, incorporeal form, declining to create himself a new body, and his concentrated, malevolent energies now filled the space with a palpable miasma of terror and despair. He seldom needed to issue commands to his servants, for they knew their duties and went about them with little need for oversight, and so the being who had shared his birth with that of the universe itself brooded upon thoughts unfathomable to mortal minds.
Trinity's arrival, abrupt as all her actions were, disrupted this reverie. The Ancient One was immediately aware of her arrival, for her energy signature was utterly unmistakable. Though the timing and manner of her arrival were not anticipated, her sudden presence elicited no great surprise in the horrific being's mind; this was not the wayward Destructor's first visit, and her return was considered to be all but an inevitability. The Ancient might have even smiled, had he possessed human emotions or a face with which to express them.
"Welcome home," echoed a voice every bit as cavernous as the room itself, and which seemed to come from both everywhere and nowhere, "Destructor."
Floating high in Infernus' atmosphere, the Phenomenal One found himself scoffing at the barren wasteland of a planet, "How mind-numbingly dull", he smirked, his ears focused more on the sound of his own voice, of even his fluttering cape than Trinity's cold-hearted jab. Hovering about, Ra took in the totality of what was a truly depressing world - smog hanging thick in the sky, and craters scarring every inch of this dried rock. It was abhorrent. The kind of place that'd strip every inch of hope and optimism from anyone's mind. And as his glowed blue and his gaze peered past the planet's crust and into it's hollow heart, the 8th Wonder was shocked. There was no warmth in Infernus' belly despite it's name. No molten core. Instead, there was an abyss.
An abyss whose depths held horrors that none may ever truly understand until they've been plunged into it's soul-gripping darkness. So as the Glorious One gazed further into the planet's inferior, to that colorless void where the only colors were the black of scorched rock, and the grey of large industrial structures, he scowled in earnest. Then and there, Ra had stared into an alien purgatory, where sleep and death were the only escape. If he'd wanted to stop the Imperium before, he surely did now. And finally, the sounds of a cosmic horror echoed ubiquitously, wrapped in a hideous voice that greeted Trinity like a daughter returned to her home. The Ancient One was heard but it was the 8th Wonder who spoke. "Oh? Not going to confront us physically? Or can't you?", Ra taunted, his voice floating with a calm air of mockery. "I've been told your body was destroyed".
Though as the laughter echoed from his chest, arrogant and cool as always, Ra hoped to lessen the effort Trinity'd need to exert in absorbing the heat energy of Infernus. So as he laughed and his eyes glowed like lit sapphires, the Phenomenal One fired an endless stream of light/light radiation, sweeping his gaze across the planet as the photons speeding from his eyes blasted the electrons orbiting the atoms in the atmosphere. For once an atom loses it's electrons, it loses energy - and therefore heat as well. So there, sweeping streams of photons across the planet's atmosphere, Ra blasted away it's warmth at the atomic level. In the wake of his burning gaze, Infernus'd grow colder, far more than it already was. He'd made Trinity's part easier for her. Now, all that was needed was for her to absorb the remaining heat energy, to turn Infernus a void without the energy for information to exist.
To test the limits of the Ancient One's invincibility.
Trinity's brows furrowed in disappointment. Although he had no physical form, she could still "see" his essence lingering about the chamber like a hanging, spectral mist. But no physical form meant there would be nothing of him for her to bust up whether Leo's plan succeeded or failed, and so, even in success, the venture would be a disappointment far from the triumph she envisioned.
But she had learned a measure of forward-thinking, and told herself that the satisfaction lay most significantly in feeling the absence of his existence in the cosmos, even if she didn't actually believe it. Besides, there were other benefits to this plan which would reveal themselves in time. Still, she was in no rush. Mostly she watched Ra. It was no particular effort to show a lack of interest in the Ancient (no one would believe that anyway) but if he'd been expecting her and hadn't prepared a physical body, then patterns dictated most likely Nordok would content himself--as most Imperium confederates did when the Destructor arrived in their atmosphere and they realized they were outmatched--with empty words, idle threats and taunting. Dull.
So the Siren of Sinister Science ignored her former master's greeting and turned her eyes on Ra. Watched him and the devastating effect he had on the world, the Dark Lord's (second) greatest creation and all its inhabitants. If she could appreciate beauty, and if the latest wannabe-godling hadn't courted her enmity as he had, Trinity might have appreciated his capacity for destruction. She did her part, absorbing energy as she'd be able from Infernus, but slowly, relative to her intended part. Mostly she watched. Watched and waited to allow Nordok and his pawns the opportunity to retaliate. To see how they would, if they would.
He would have expected more, from a being of such obvious power, than repartee about physical forms. After all, matter was only one of two aspects to the universe, and it was, in his own self-exalted opinion, the less interesting of the two, by far. Less interesting, and less useful. Bodies, after all, were merely vessels for energy, and it was the contents of those vessels that concerned him.
Bluster aside, however, the Ancient One had to concede that his wayward "daughter" had selected an impressive specimen for an ally. Not since their encounter with the Earth goddess had he sense such an intense energy emanating from a singular being. As an entity of pure, if utterly malevolent energy himself, he was aware of what was transpiring. The divine one was stripping Infernus of energy, and his wayward "daughter" appeared to have gained a new talent of her own, as she sought to absorb the vital force of the world itself. A very clever tactic, indeed, and Nordok felt a stirring of what could very well be confused for affectionate pride at his Destructor's continual evolution.
Still, this was an affront, and such things required answers, lest others take it as encouragement to launch their own displays of defiance. "You will find, godling," the deific alien miasma's thoughts echoed throughout the entirety of the dead world, "that there is very little that I am incapable of. Behold!"
With that, the Ancient's energy pulsed and expanded, spreading until it encompassed the rocky, metal-laced globe. The mechanical denizens of the world were largely unaffected, but Nordok's biological servants, hordes of alien soldiers and servants, as well as dignitary parties from hundreds of cowed civilizations, suddenly stiffened and froze, as those their veins had suddenly been filled with glacial ice. A glaze stole over their eyes, which then faded in luster, as the ruler of the Imperium's vile energy was swiftly withdrawn, taking with it the very life of every living creature on Infernus. Their bodies toppled and were still, unable to even begin the process of decomposition, as all life energy had been consumed, down to the merest microbe.
Now flush with the power of a planet's worth of life, Nordok's nebulous form roiled and expanded like an enraged thunderhead, as he once again turned his loathsome attention to Trinity. "Seeking to claim my power, dear ? Your method is sound, but are you prepared to bear the cost? Are you even aware of what you must sacrifice if you wish to 'destroy' your master?"
With that, the robotic denizens of the world finally swung into action. They paid no mind to the Destructor, for the Ancient One had made it clear that none were to raise a metaphorical hand against his greatest creation but himself. Instead, they zeroed in on Ra, the diving presence that floated above them, obliterating what little energy the world had left to offer. The thin atmosphere hissed angrily as it was pierced with plasma bolts launched from the anti-air turbolasers that dotted Infernus' surface, as hangar doors creaked open to disgorge swarms of Striker aircraft, which swiftly accelerated to attack speeds as they approached from all directions.
In the face of the Ancient One's awesome power, Leo's plan failed in spectacular fashion, leaving the Glorious One and the Destructor to confront a cosmic horror that seemed impossible to destroy. But Ra was no fool. Even as he floated high in the planet's emptied skies and passed judgment over the Ancient One, he was never so arrogant so as to expect victory to come so easily - much less against one of the mighty Nordok's caliber. With eyes of lit sapphire, his glowing gaze peered into the 5th dimension where the arrow of time broke into different directions - alternate realities, possibilities, timelines. He'd seen the world where he and Trinity had succeeded in little more than seconds upon their arrival. And another where the Ancient One smote them both to ash for their insolence.
He had seen many a variation of their day on Infernus, and more often than not, it was a day riddled with failure. For Ra, this was no final battle. This was a test. An experiment to determine just what he would need to defeat Nordok, to truly destroy him. Perhaps then, only his final resort would do, the Hexahedron. But there was little time to think of it, for in the wake of their great failure, Nordok's energy swarmed across Infernus' cratered surface, seeping into it's bed of dried soil and rock until the planet was left foul - as dead as it's parent star. Then, oh then the Glorious One felt it, a surge in energy from below the planet's surface. He felt the buzz of electromagnetism from weaponized lasers, heard the clinking and clanking of mechanical joints working, the sharp hiss of cooling gasses as hangar doors parted open to unleash storms of attack aircraft the Glorious One's way. Slowly, the smugness faded from Ra's face, giving way to the cold scowl of a god scorned.
Nordok's forces were unlike any other. Powerful. Deadly. Far greater than any military force Earth had ever and would ever see. And had Ra been anything less, anyone less, he'd have been obliterated, blown out of the sky like an eagle facing a fighter jet. But he was Ra, the Hyper-Dimensional God. An Omega Deus. The first of his kind. The only one in existence. He could not be felled by the firepower of a mechanical army. So as his cape fluttered ominously while a sea of lasers tore the air sunder, warming it as they soared closer to him - they stopped. Seized by the Glorious One's gravitational field, every single laser hung still in the air, suspended like frozen fireflies around him. And with nay a wave of his hand nor a blink of his eyes, every single laser was redirected, sent to incinerate Nordok's robot minions and burn through the hulls of his attack ships. "Oh my, who would've seen that coming?", Ra taunted in mock surprise.
"Leo's plan has failed", the Omega Deus made clear, "I'll devise a superior one. However, this planet will be my consolation prize". Supercharging his cells with the stellar radiation coursing through his veins, Ra's muscle tissues swelled and the strength of his gravitational field skyrocketed, threatening to tear away the entire planet, shattering it's crust and spilling out it's hollow interior into the vacuum of space. If he succeeded, there would be nothing left of Infernus. Torn to pieces, it would take it's new place in the cosmos as a dust cloud.
From the chamber, Trinity scanned the planet for details well beyond what normal eyesight would allow, and although her mind was fast she lacked the maturity and experience with focusing on so many things at once. On her task; on Ra; on Nordok, the wave of death sweeping over Infernus taking the lives of his forces, and on those mechanical foes still operational. On observing the old machines and scanning for anything new which might be used against her as she scoured the cosmos for remnants after the Ancient was gone. The battle itself, however, was quickly losing her interest.
Ra versus the machines...She had little doubt as to the outcome, for she had been there many times before, and though the idea of the Eighth Wonder being anywhere near her own level she considered nothing more than a foolish lie he told himself, Leo's confidence earned him at least favour over even those machines which had subjugated or otherwise destroyed countless worlds for her former master. And as her boredom increased so too did the rate at which she drew in the power of Infernus. All the while ignorant any indication that things were not going according to plan.
So then, when she heard Ra announce resignation to failure, Trinity began to seriously reevaluate her begrudging ally. However she was allowed only a brief moment of alarm before Nordok addressed her, making them aware that he was privy to their scheme.
"Your method is sound—"
That was all she needed to hear. All she cared to hear. Neglecting the fact they were presently dealing with the being who'd puppeteered a significant portion of her life including after her desertion, at that she turned her focus almost entirely inward, concentrating on drawing as much power as possible for the time they had left. Time further shortened by Ra's impromptu attack on the entire planet. The Cosmos itself reached out to her. She felt Ra's power at work and some unconscious piece of her nearly mentally commended him. That was not her way.
Hmph! As often as she'd thought of destroying the world herself, Trinity doubted little that even Infernus held little true meaning to Nordok. Somewhere inside herself she was sure she'd once thought destroying the planet would end him. And although that notion now seemed silly, the idea of allowing that guy to claim Infernus as a trophy was almost insulting.
Trinity continued focusing on her task and made no move to stop him. Nordok was one of the most powerful, and arguably the most versatile, manipulators of natural and unnatural forces she had ever encountered. He would stop Ra himself (and she would laugh at his failure). Or Ra would tear the world asunder, forcing further adaptation which was wholly intriguing to the walking Nexus of Evolution. Either way, he'd given a grand opportunity to gauge where the false god stood as a being of power.
By any objective measurements, the combined assault of Ra and Trinity would be devastating. Overwhelming. It would be nigh-impossible for most sentient minds to attribute destruction on this scale to two individuals; this was a level of wholesale annihilation one generally associated with cataclysmic cosmic events such as gamma bursts, black holes, and supernovas, or to apocalyptic battles between innumerable fleets of capital ships. In the space of mere moments, Infernus had been stripped of all organic life, had its mechanical hordes, which had trodden countless civilizations into dust, brutally decimated, and now the very ambient energy of the planet was being siphoned away as its very structure began to fracture and fray.
Truly, this would be a memorable day.
There was much that the Ancient One could have done to intervene. He could have brought his staggeringly powerful telekinesis against Ra, forcing the divine being to contend with a force that could hurl moons across a solar system as he swatted about the elite of the Imperium military like so many annoying insects. He could have attempted to trap Trinity in one of his portals, casting his wayward Destructor to virtually anywhere in the universe and removing her immediate threat from his presence. He did neither of these.
To Nordok the Ancient, everything was a means to an inscrutable end. To achieve his goals, no cost was too great. Trinity had realized the truth of the matter, for the loss of Infernus troubled him not at all, for he no more required a planet in order to exist than he did a physical body. The world's forces would likewise be sacrificed en masse with little consideration; he would do likewise with the entire Imperium if it suited his goals. All that mattered to the Ancient One was himself, and the achievement of his will.
The will of the universe.
Thus, even as Ra flexed his cosmic might and the very planet around him groaned and shuddered as it was torn asunder, the Ancient One reached out towards Trinity the Destructor, so intent on consuming the worlds power, and merged his own incorporeal essence with the energy she was consuming, attempting to ensure that she did not simply absorb his power, but would absorb him in totality. She would bring his malevolence into the very core of her being, drawing him right through the imposing psychic shields that were his last gift to her, and which protected her mind from even his potent thoughts...when he was outside of them.
If his gambit succeeded, he would plant the seeds of his own ultimate victory at the apex of their own, as the detritus that was once his army floated off into the void of space with the shattered pieces of what was once his seat of power, now reduced to little more than asteroids. Even as Trinity would realize that she and Ra were the only beings left floating in the shadow of an utterly annihilated world, a nebulous, shadowy form would manifest in her mind's eye, indistinct except for two orbs which glowed with a hateful and all-too-familiar power.
"Greetings, daughter. Are you prepared to fulfill the purpose for which you were created?"
Swirling around him like an accretion disk round it's star, Infernus' remains took their new place as a ring system of dust and rock orbiting it's destroyer and creator - the Glorious One. Arms folded neatly behind his back, the white of his still cape in stark contrast to the blackness of space, Ra was silent and arrogant in his triumph. And the gravitational field he'd flexed from his muscles to bend an entire planet to his will now held the Infernus Ring System in place. Hovering, his eyes - glowing and blue - gazed into the vacuum of space to glare at the Ancient One whose eyes were here, there, and everywhere. But as every fiber of his being yearned with the desire to deal His divine justice to this cosmic menace, his hubris cost him.
The Glorious One, a god unlike any other, one who prided himself on his inimitable nature... had been duped. Duped as his divine gaze - meant to peer into higher superstring dimensions - failed to see Nordok's ubiquitous essence do it's damnest to blacken Trinity's heart, to turn her into his foul and misshapen core. For as Trinity drank in the energy around her, Nordok's essence crept behind a cosmic curtain too thick for Ra to see through. The Ancient One generated no heat, emitted no radiation, crackled no electrical field, and hummed no magnetic tune. There was nothing. No light. Only the awesome power of Nordok. Glancing at Trinity from the corner of his eye, Ra sighed dismissively, expelling a small gust of air at a warm enough temperature and high enough speed to carry his vocalizations in a vacuum - he talked in space.
"I'll return to deal with you in due time, Ancient One", Ra swore, the smug eloquence of his words echoing smooth and clear for Nordok to hear. Having broken his gaze from Trinity, Ra remained unaware of Nordok's attempt at seizing her mind. Instead, making no effort to leave with Trinity, deciding that she could do so under her own power, the Glorious One shrank his gravitational field, relinquishing Infernus' remains from his invisible grasp - and sped off, back turned and eyes facing forward, an open target for Trinity to attack or follow.
With Infernus reduced to an insignificant collective of leftover rocks and scrap metal, Trinity held herself aloft in the void. It was an insignificant, purely symbolic victory, but it felt good.No, so much better than that. She could practically see the power newly stored within her body, feelthe Cosmos, its connection to the Ancient's daughter through that power, like never before. The molecules constituting her body superheated and vibrated, energy not fully under her control. Control was never that big a priority for the Destructor. Excess energy leaked into the void, crackle and snap in the concentrated form of lightning.
Trinity looked at herself in wonder and admiration, then turned a disdainful gaze on Ra. Not long into their supposed partnership it'd been her plan to make him suffer; she just didn't know when. With Nordok out of the way
She whipped around, this way and that, searching for anything that might constitute a new body, or the energy signature that embodied his consciousness earlier. The truth, she already knew, somewhere just beneath her conscious ability to access, and just how it had occurred. Something went missing when she allowed Ra into her mind to implant the specifics for Leo's plan into it. Until then she just didn't know what it was.
She'd torn down the defences erected by the Shadow Brethren to keep even Nordok out and there was nothing to stand in their place. Idiot Ra and his stupid lazy idea left Trinity completely open, vulnerable just as the day she was made. Now she couldn't get to him. At all. It was simply impossible. She spat silently every curse she knew in every language she understood, raging blindly and wishing to hit anything.
On refocusing, however, Ra was gone. Departed while she was distracted. Damn it, he'd distracted her. That was the worst part. Nordok and his lackeys loved to talk. The only thing they're any good at."Just shut up," she thought at him, enhancing her eyesight for a chance to catch Ra before he could get too far, just managing to spot him.
Inexperienced. Lacking social intelligence and interpersonal skills. Naive, maybe. But Trinity was no complete idiot. Compared to the issue she presently faced, facing Ra was small-time. To preserve her own peace of mind, she'd have to find someone to help. Leo made it abundantly clear where she ranked in his list of those who mattered, and the only other connections she held that could be considered remotely friendly were the goddess and the smuggler...What was his name...Dolter? Boltar? Whatever. He'd be harder to track anyway considering the depth and breadth of his connections across multiple galaxies. Then it was settled.
Trinity was heading for Earth.
"Just shut up,"
"I'm afraid that we are past that point, my Destructor," the nebulous figure intoned from within her mind. "You sacrificed your ability to reject my thoughts when you absorbed my energy into yourself. Tell me, have you yet surmised the purpose for which I created you, or do you think you were intended to merely lay waste to worlds and armies? For such menial tasks, I have more weapons than I could ever possibly need. No...you were designed to be my weapon against gods, to hurl down the very divinities who would oppose this universe's true destiny. Your incalculably impressive ally departed far too quickly, or I would have been more than willing to provide him with an answer to his question about my bodiless state. You were the perfect weapon, in all ways but one: control. I have since realized that, in order for you to fulfill the great destiny for which you were forged, I would need to assume direct control. Thus, I now have my new body. Yours. Had he remained, he would have made the perfect specimen to test our new abilities against."
In the churning debris field that had once been the capital of the Imperium, shards of what had once been terra firma crashed against the remnants of horrific machinery and other shattered errata, creating a truly hazardous stretch of space that was not without treasure to lure the bold and foolish. Scattered amidst the destruction were bits and pieces of science, technology, and dark sorcery which, either through the sturdiness of their construction or simple luck, had thus far evaded a crushing destruction.
Two great remnants of the former planet collided, the larger smashing the smaller apart...and smashing open a cryo-stasis unit hidden away in a chamber that had been concealed within it prior to the planet's sundering. As the unit's occupant was hurled out into the vacuum, fingers twitched and eyelids suddenly snapped open. A muscular, armored arm raised and clenched a powerful fist. As senses shook off the darkness of a long sleep, deeply-embedded mental conditioning was triggered.
Seek out the enemy.
Guided more by some instinct than any knowledge, the figure pointed itself in the direction of a scavenger ship that lingered at the edge of the debris field, its crew too busy scanning for potential salvage and alert for threatening asteroids to recognize the danger she represented. She was through the hatch before the crew realized what was happening.
Some minutes later, she wiped the blood from her gleaming axe as she regarded the ship's controls. They were a slapdash affair, but she was confident she could figure them out. After a short period of toying with various interfaces, the ponderous vessel altered its course and set a warp jump to the nearest inhabited system.
The hunt was underway.
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