@rosso: All worlds shall fall, in due time...
@nordok: Tch! "Allow it." Her fists balled even tighter."It's not up to you." She thought of the goddess's words, spitefully pushing them into the aether so that he could hear them in Kelly's voice - a telepathic spit in the face. "I choose my purpose, and I won't fail because I won't allow it." From where she stood she glanced with a passing curiosity at the constructs of the failures. She might have been concerned by the resemblance had he not already admitted she was head and shoulders above them. Whatever happened to them, that wouldn't be her.
Once her curiosity had passed she began to move, seeking the maker. Step after step took her deeper into the facility and as she passed each row, both tanks on either side of her cracked and then shattered, spilling bodies onto the floor. A bunch of knock-off rejects doesn't scare me. Next?
"Is it not?" The voice echoed throughout the mindscape, turning the breaking of the tanks into a mocking laughter. "For all your lashing out, what true harm have you done to me? You cannot banish me from your mind, and why would you. Your power increases a thousandfold with my presence."
The proto-Trinities melted into gelatinous goo as they were were spilled upon the floor, mixing with fluid in which they were suspended to create a unpleasant, viscous sheen. "Once you have dealt with the past, it is time to look to the future. Others will come; our combined power is too much of a threat for them to do otherwise. They may have once shown you friendly faces, but now they fear your power. They will seek to weaken you, lessen you, all under the guise of 'helping' you. They will be your first true test."
@nordok: "You're wrong," she shot back. "It has nothing to do with you. They've always feared my power—just like you do. She's the only one who didn't."And...Leo? Maybe. Trinity still wasn't sure what it was she'd seen in his face when she began her experiment on Ephemera. He didn't like it. But beyond that...uncertain.
Stopping, she glanced at one of the bodies as it dissolved into liquid, enhancing her sight to see more clearly. Her head inclined slowly and she gazed around the area. No biological markers. No physical markers at all. Whatever elaborative retort she'd been thinking of died then, lost to wherever discarded waste fell in the Astral Plane.
This place...not my mind, but...whatever all this is...where he really lives? If nothing else she understood that she could assume security over none of her thoughts anymore, so she didn't think hard on it, but wondered briefly if this realm was somehow the key to ending the Ancient Titan once and for all.
"And where is she now?" The voice had a hard, mocking edge to it. "You are alone in the universe, Destructor, as it was meant to be. You can trust in nothing but power, and all the power you possess, you possess because of me. Nothing you destroy will ever alter that."
With that, the Ancient One receded into the shadows of the mindscape. He felt the brief flicker of pensiveness. One seed was planted; he would plant others, as need dictated. As much power as he possessed, he had time in even greater abundance.
As the chosen heir of Thee Champion, few things sat heavier on the American God's shoulders than a hero's duty. And it was duty that compelled his heart to investigate a threat so foul, it's very presence put at risk the survival, prosperity and self-determination of all things across the stars. With the Mind Lavaliere in his grip, Achilles breathed in and stared into the deep blue of it's glow till his body went rigid - and the spectral sum of his mind broke free, drifting to the gates of an abstract world that unfurled before it. There lay a misty void, not meant for those who wandered with their minds vulnerable and unguarded.
The Astral Plane.
But with the Mind Lavaliere shielding the quantum information that so delicately comprised the vast sea of his consciousness, Achilles waded through the metaphysical fog with confidence. With the same daring and nerve that followed him into battle. So he strode, feeling nothing as the realm so desperately tried to probe a mind made impenetrable by the power of a cosmic artifact. Passing his gaze over the haze of psychic energy all about him, Achilles saw neither a lost soul nor a wandering mind. He'd come far enough. A scowl stormed on his brow, and the American God crossed his armored arms over his chest.
"Call it here".
His voice commanded, and the Mind Lavaliere obeyed, humming a psychic ripple meant for an abomination so ancient, it was as old as the universe itself.
The mindscape that underlied the physical universe was rife with them, of course; to the uninitiated, they would be as indistinguishable as the waves of the sea that pummeled every shore. To one who had existed from the birth of the universe, such waves were little more than cosmic background noise; an unavoidable consequence of the sentient life that had been seeded across the countless galaxies. This ripple would have been indistinguishable from that noise, save for two features: its power and the fact that it had been intended for the Ancient One, specifically.
Both of these distinctions were significant. The potency of the source of this ripple alone would have made it worthy of attention, and it was exceedingly rare that any being deliberately sought the last of the Ancients out. The rare few who did usually approached him at whatever location in which his vile energy was currently most concentrated, it was all but unheard of for him to be...summoned.
Curiosity was never sated by idle speculation. With a twitch of his darksome will, a rift opened in the very fabric of reality, and the being known as Nordok thrust his malevolent consciousness into the Astral Plane, the realm of pure thought and consciousness, manifesting himself at the origin of the powerful disturbance that had been sent to him as an emissary.
"Who seeks an audience with oblivion made manifest?"
Jayce's instincts has been triggered by ominous feelings recently. A threat lurks about his neighborhood strong enough to tip the scales of the energies, yet it remains unseen to his magic eye. He knew there was just one place to look into.
He turned on one of his favourite songs - L'amour est un oiseau rebelle. It was one of the most relaxing songs and ideal for focus.
Jayce sat down quietly on his mat in his room he called the Temple - a specially designed sanctum in his apartment for all things mystical. He closed his eyes and started to meditate.
With a moment's of concentration, he reopened his eyes in the Astral Plane.
Everything was the same - except a blue canvas had painted over it all. He checked back to ensure the safety of his physical body before floating off through the walls.
He saw many harmless spirits casually strolling. They all gave him a respectful nod as he drifted by.
"Say, you wouldn't happen to know of any evil troublemakers, would you?" He asked. The spirits shook their heads.
He closed his eyes for a few seconds and concentrated. "Listen, Jayce. Feel." He told himself. All was still and the air was peaceful. But then something slipped up.
A tremor a mile away. Not a physical one like the ones the Hulk sends, no. An astral tremor. It was extremely mild, but Jayce felt it. It was a being powerful enough for Jayce to feel it a mile away, but clever enough to hide its tracks. This was no common foul beast.
Jayce then took a moment and snapped back into his physical body. It was time to get to work at his Forge.
Silently, by the will of a power invisible to the mortal eye, space-time was torn asunder - and out it's warped maw walked the Ancient One.
"Who seeks an audience with oblivion made manifest?"
It spoke, suspending every particle and wave with a voice first heard at the very dawn of existence. Yet here where ethereal essences made their home, a demigod stood before the Ancient One with nay a beat of respect in his heart. There was only nerve, the kind that sparked the flame of courage a hero uses to cast light upon the darkness. The daring the 8th Wonder used to step forward and meet eyes with a terror as old the universe itself. Nordok, cosmic tyrant to end all cosmic tyrants. He - it - was a mountain, casting a vile shadow over Achilles as the American God passed his gaze over it.
"I thought you'd be smarter", Achilles taunted, uncrossing his arms as a wink of a smirk teased the edges of his lips. "Considering I'm the only other person here, the only logical inference is that I'm the one who summoned you".
"But I didn't call you here to insult you. I came here to talk. So, of all the planets in the universe, why Earth?".
The Ancient One folded massive arms over a chest in which no heart beat as he took stock of his summoner. The other's bearing matched his tone; he had all the look of a forthright warrior, a being fully capable of subtlety but seeing it as the demesne of lesser creatures.
His question, however, was telling. He was interested in Earth, or at least of the Imperium's intention towards the backwater rock, but Nordok's own agents had not identified him as being among the planet's defenders...yet, at least.
"Earth?" The necromantic behemoth shrugged his shoulders. "It is a world, and it harbors life. All such aberrations must be purged for the universe to reach its intended perfection. Beyond that, it is hardly even a high priority for my servants, save for when a notable fugitive takes refuge there." Eyes that glowed with a noxious energy narrowed as they fixed on Achilles. "Now indulge me, stranger. What is your interest in that world?"
As the Ancient One spoke, the American God took note of the power-mad despot's apparent disinterest in Earth. Yet as Achilles' eyes pierced through the ethereal mist, he could not help but doubt the indifference Nordok claimed. Earth had long been a hub of the outstanding. A backwater planet indeed, but one where lower civilization held many of the Universal Lavalieres, where a Universal Judge had gone to pass judgement on the cosmos, where migrants from universes abroad go to make their homes, and where an untold number of genetic anomalies ran rampant.
That it did not and could not draw the Ancient One's attention was something the American God not bring himself to believe. "I find your lack of interest in the planet hard to believe considering you put a lot of effort into invading one of it's cities. As for my interest in that world", Achilles paused, a glint of skepticism in his eye, "It's simple. My interest in that world comes from the fact that a powerful empire that spans an untold number of galaxies devoted a lot of resources to a war campaign against one city, on a backwater planet. A backwater planet mind you, that said empire's leader claims to be terribly disinterested in, and yet...", he squinted.
"That aside, what do you mean by the universe reaching it's intended perfection? A universe with no more information processing? Where maximum entropy has been achieved?", he pressed, bested by his thirst for knowledge.
The Ancient One's body remained immobile, his expression impassive, but the faintest trace of annoyance crept into his voice, and it was not directed towards his mysterious summoner. He had been idly wondering how long it would take before Zedracus' arrogance inconvenienced him; the Betrayer of Delos was a useful blunt instrument, but he was also the perfect illustration for why organic life was a variable that had no place in a truly balanced cosmos.
"Do not make the mistaken of equating me with my Imperium," he replied. "It is an extension of my will in many ways, but my living subordinates have been permitted to retain wills of their own, for the present. The 'invasion' to which you refer was little more than a resource-gathering excursion by one such. Behold."
The jade titan casually waved his hand, and the nebulous fabric of the astral plane was brushed aside to create a small window into the arenas of Battleworld, where captive humans mixed with unwilling gladiators of dozens of world to die beneath the slavering fangs and exotic weaponry of the Inevitable One's menagerie of killers.
"As to your question," he continued, dismissing the barbaric view with a gesture, "organic life is not required to process information. It is an aberration, an element of chaos. I am the will of the universe, and inevitably, inexorably, the universe will be united under one will. My will. But I presume that you did not draw me here for a lecture on cosmic philosophy, bold one. You yet have your own free will. Speak it."
Every word the Ancient One so strongly preached made clear one thing and one thing only, that he - rather, it - was an agent of entropy. Nordok, it seemed, marched to the beat of a drum that promised thermodynamic equilibrium in all of space and time; a universe where nothing will or can happen. A cosmic graveyard. Glimpsing into the shimmering gateway the Ancient One had so effortlessly cast, Achilles felt the rise of a cold fury at the sight of captive humans forced to meet a gladiator's death. In slavery, and for the entertainment of the wicked.
Yet once the gruesome sight was dispelled, the American God met eyes with that which promised greater suffering than what man, off-world or not, could ever think possible. "Everything is an element of chaos", Achilles corrected, "But you're right about one thing. I didn't call you here to talk philosophy. I called you here to learn, about you, your motives - or at least what you claim to be your motives. And the motives behind a cosmic empire attacking one city on a backwater planet".
A second later, the American God withdrew all pretense of neutrality. "You claim to be the will of the universe. But I'm the will of the people, of all the life you're trying to destroy. In due time, we'll see whose will is stronger".
And with the primal fury of a thunderclap, Achilles was plucked from the mists of the Astral Plane by his Mind Lavaliere.
Certainly the Cosmos was humoring itself in a twisted comedy starring the destroyer turned celebrity wild card. Once again, Trinity found herself travelling through the Astral Plane. Once again she found herself possessed by some great power after absorbing an energy that multiplied her own power beyond conception. But at least now she'd entered the metaphysical realm of her own accord. If nothing else she sought more than the death of the one seemingly cohabitating her mind and body.
An expanse of stars stretched out in all directions and Trinity was falling, rocketing aimlessly through the void. No sense of direction to orient herself, up or down, left or right had no meaning. Trinity realized she was screaming, but no one was around to hear.
CRSSSHH!!! She slammed into some invisible wall and the void shattered like glass. She kept falling.
This was a mistake. No matter her natural aerial proficiency, here she was just as helpless as a rodent caught in a wind tunnel. She kept falling. Crashing—
It felt like she'd lost consciousness countless times, each time awaking to find herself still falling, smashing through layers of reality, until finally she was numb to the pain. What felt like an eternity later the stars began to change, and though still tumbling through the air, Trinity felt a shift in the realm around her. A sensation like gravity pulled her toward a semblance of ground. And just like that, she was safe.
She halted in the air. The Los Angeles skyline greeted her. She could hear the humans bustling about below, some murmuring about "what just happened." A faint trace of Caitlin Riker hung in the air. It was then that sheTrinity noticed Selebrity tower reaching up from below. But that's not where I...I left. I was just—
It was only her second time in the Astral Plane, and though she had learned from her encounter with Nordok she was still barely even a neophyte. Over a short range she'd have had better chances scanning for distinct signatures on the material plane but there was no telling how far her target might have gone with a whole universe to explore. Or if she was even there. It could've all just been a hallucination. But she had to try.
"Ziccarra! Come back here and answer me if that was really you! Otherwise I'll destroy your body," she cried, projecting her thoughts as far as she could imagine across the aetheric sphere. Across the planet, across galaxies, perhaps even other realms. Who- or whatever else might hear be damned. Trinity'd waited long enough to have a proper talk with the Ninjan. Reaching her was all that mattered.
"If you killing me would save me from your wretched screeching, feel free"
Almost on cue, the Spectral Queen of Calamity presented herself before her Cosmic Conqueror. The Astral Plane exposed the inner machinations of the Calamity Queen's absorption process, allowing her to appear as various souls she claimed over her destructive tenure. The host for this particular meeting? Maya Summers of Earth 6.
Ziccarra circled around her multiple times before folding her arms just before the Selebrity star with a raised eyebrow.
"What do you want child I don't have all day. Actually, I suppose I do have all-day since you seem perfectly content keeping me as your pet."
@supreme_sapien: I learned about him from the 90s cartoon series, and he's been a favorite ever since. But Legion is far and away his best depiction. He was one of those characters that not every comic writer seemed to be able to grasp the fundamentals of (Claremont was always the best, imo), but Legion really took all the best bits from the character's history and put them all in one magnificent performance.
@inner_demon: The actor did a fantastic job. They way he maneuvered (mentally) was inspired. The series in general was phenomenal but yeah, had me wanting to make a Farouk alt. I remember him from the animated series too. The Storm one right? Took over her brother or nephew or somethin...?
A brow rose on Trinity's forehead as her call was seemingly answered by someone entirely different than who she'd intended to summon. "Get lost, I'm looking for..."
The realization set in slowly. Ziccarra looked different but her energy was the same. Perhaps, like Nordok, she could shed her physical form and inhabit other bodies? It'd certainly explain Trinity's current predicament.
"What do you want child I don't have all day. Actually, I suppose I do have all-day since you seem perfectly content keeping me as your pet."
"Yeah, so get comfortable. We might be here a while," said Trinity with a derisive smirk at the designation "pet." The noise of the city faded as, around them the landscape morphed. Now they were standing in the foyer of a large manor - a mental representation of the very same in which she'd kept Ziccarra's physical body, encased in the now frozen pool. Without so much as a look in its direction the fireplace came to life, crackling gently a few feet away. Trinity sat criss-cross in front of it and stared at the floor.
"They wanted me to kill you, you know. Everyone said you were too dangerous." After a somewhat awkward pause she looked up at Ziccarra. "I've never spared an enemy before. Ever. Once I've decided it, you're done. But I didn't wanna fight you. You hit me first. Why? What goal, what were you doing in New York?"
The Calamity Queen huffed in agitation; it appeared she was going nowhere anytime soon. The endless abyss soon came to life, fixing a large manor with a fireplace around the two women. "I've died plenty of times in my life." Three times to be exact, her revelation wasn't meant to alarm the Daughter of Nordok rather provide some clarity into the exact nature of her being. A being so ruthlessly powerful, she could cheat death.
"Let me set the record straight. I hit you only after you hindered my plans. I wouldn't have even touched you had you allowed that citadel to plow into the city. But you didn't." Ziccarra explained, positioning her hands across her chest. "At the time, I was being blackmailed by the High Queen. So I was forced to do her bidding until she revealed her weakness to me. After Our battle in the portal, she appeared to me, and I absorbed her. She became too mortal for her title. By that time, I was too incensed to allow a defeat at your hands, so I stayed."
Ziccarra ran her hands thru her goldenrod hair; at this point, it was more of muscle memory, considering she was just a spirit. "What I want to know is what compels a powerful being like yourself to WANT praise from these insects? take it from someone who knows, it doesn't last long. They love you today and leave you tommorrow.
The idea wasn't that far-fetched. For most entities death was among their greatest fears, many spending their entire lives seeking ways to circumvent it. But for some, like Nordok, it was merely an inconvenience. That didn't matter though. For Trinity, all that meant was they hadn't found the right way to be killed yet. She recalled the message from one known as Maya. And if defeating this "high queen" made Ziccarra the High Queen, then defeating her makes me...? Then perhaps she should learn about this "Source Wall," in case anyone ever intended to use it against her.
After Our battle in the portal, she appeared to me, and I absorbed her. She became too mortal for her title. By that time, I was too incensed to allow a defeat at your hands, so I stayed.
"Tch! For all the good that did you," Trinity said, crossing her arms defiantly. Everyone talked about what they'd "allow" her to do, but in the end she always did whatever she wanted. Her confidence was largely restored since the victory in New York but she'd never openly admit how much she wanted to avoid the risk of another fight with Ziccarra, at least not so soon; although as a neophyte in the Astral Plane she masked her true thoughts and feelings poorly.
Receding further into herself, her posture tightened and she turned away as she thought about the inquiry, reticence fueled by their internal conflict.
"And why not accept their praise?" she shot back. "It feels good, that should be good enough. Everyone always wants the same thing from me anyway, I might as well help the ones who don't hurt and torment me. But you"—the walls of the imaginary manor trembled as the memory struck her and she rose to her feet, suddenly back on the defensive—"you're working with the Imperium! He wanted you to bring me back?"
"Tch! For all the good that did you,"
She could only scoff, she wouldn't admit it, but Trinity was right. Her body was currently imprisoned, and her contingency seemingly wandered out of the Universe. She didn't say anything outright, rather the effort of thought personified in her facial expressions.
She wondered if there were a reason for this encounter. Trinity certainly didn't have to leave her alive; she probably wouldn't have afforded the Selebrity Champion the same honor. But the fact that she'd manage to dissolve her naturally sarcastic demeanor to engage in a somewhat meaningful conversation showed her they weren't too different.
She remembered what it was like, transcending her body's threshold for power, becoming one of the most powerful people on the planet. The addiction to fame, before choosing to do what she pleased. That choice frequently leads her to both ends of the moral spectrum, but once she realized she was a big fish in a small pond, her breach leads her across worlds, and the will to do what she wanted eventually transformed into Multiversal Blight.
The manor shuddered, and her captor became defensive once more, revealing some mental crutch the Exiled Ninjan Queen hadn't noticed before.
"Heh, the Imperium? That's what you're worried about." The Great Calamity chuckled whilst shaking her head. "I've worked with the Imperium before. But did I come after you? Madison Maynard was working with the Imperium, but did she come after you? Hell, the High Queen was working with the Imperium...you see where I'm going with this." Ziccarra revealed trying to show Trinity the extent of her irrational thinking.
"If the Imperium wanted you, and I'm not saying they don't. You'd know it. You're a strange woman" The Astral construct stood up before folding her hands across her breast. "I killed the High Queen. A woman that persecuted anything that hopped across the multiverse. You beat me. Do you think the Imperium is the institution interested in you Trinity? Let me ask you this: You know what the Imperium wants from you, but do you truly know what Samson Starr wants from you? Especially when he finds out about this powder keg of power you're sitting on."
"Damn it," Trinity cried, stamping her foot, "why can't you ever just...fecking talk to me!?" The tremors reverberated throughout the Astral Plane. "No more riddles, and no more stupid fecking questions! Just tell me what you want me to know." Exasperated, her face was pleading but her jaw was clenched. She was reaching out, grasping at the ether, desperately resisting the urge to lash out at Ziccarra's mind.
For Trinity it seemed like a no-brainer. Since the very beginning, Nordok had been there. His was the first face she saw, and his presence loomed over her life, no matter how far he was and no matter how much time passed. If anything, these until-now unknown alliances raised even more red flags. They meant Nordok was no longer confined to his own intrinsic resources within the Imperium, but was now willing to ally with complete unknowns whose power rivaled or even surpassed his own. Madison Maynard, the name meant nothing yet but Trinity mentally filed it away for later. But Ziccarra had pushed her harder than anyone ever had, and if she'd done so primarily thanks to this High Queen's power, then at least two out of three of Nordok's new alliances were problems the Destructor could barely handle. And those were just the ones she knew of. But that didn't entirely resolve the issue of Samson and the Earthlings.
Composing herself, Trinity smoothed back the hair of her astral form and again veiled herself in shaky bravado. "Samson already knows I'm the most powerful thing he's ever seen, why does it matter if he 'finds out' I'm even more than before? If he crosses me I'll just do what you did. Maybe I'll finish him."
Turning away, she drew nearer to the fireplace and stared into the flame. "You could help, you know." She shrugged, and let her shoulders fall uncharacteristically low. "If the High Queen could do all this stuff...then I can do it too now, right? You show me these secrets you're hoarding, show me how to use her power, and neither Nordok's nor Samson's plans will matter anymore. If they cross me"—and she knew her maker would again, it was as natural to him as breathing to the humans—"they're done."
Ziccarra's head shifts to the area throughout the manner, Trinity's tantrum tampered with the specifics of the astral world, causing certain areas of the manor to appear as if they'd contracted some computer glitch.
"If the High Queen could do all this stuff...then I can do it too now, right? You show me these secrets you're hoarding, show me how to use her power, and neither Nordok's nor Samson's plans will matter anymore. If they cross me"
Ziccarra's eye bent in confusion; all of this confused her. If this were an actual physical meeting between them, she'd have a headache. "Help you?" She scoffed at the thought. The two of them beat each other senseless just a little over a month ago, now she was asking for help? It felt like they'd both employed the same tactic--'turn the other' Ziccarra on a crusade to develop a more independent Trinity. While Trinity was trying to? What was she trying to do?
"You have the power of a Multiversal Being coursing through your veins. Beings like that have creators--parents. You don't think they will come looking for their child? As powerful as Nordok is, he has rivals. Beings who think the same exact way, and will try to use you to get a leg upon him. You're a dog on a leash to Samson Starr, and if you assume otherwise you're foolish. He has dangled everything you want in front of your face and you get weak in the knee at the fame he's given you. But in the back of his mind, you're a threat. And if you haven't considered for even a moment that he's developing a plan to take you down should he need to; then I'm afraid Nordok is the least of your worries."
Though she tried to lace her tongue with venomous intent it was clear she was speaking from experience. This exact situation played out many times with her on again-off again husband Jean Luc in her universe. Maya deduced that he literally drove her insane, and perhaps the reason she voided herself of most of her positive emotions. She shrugged without explanation as if she'd thought about it and ceased caring mid-thought.
"Look, if you need to hear it from my mouth. I was not trying to take you back to the Imperium" She wouldn't go into it, but Alexis Pettis was a thorn in her side ever since she'd entered this Universe. She managed to defeat him once; it was a fight so powerful the universe rippled with each blow. The aftermath left her near death; it was Nordok and the Imperium that revitalized her. In return, she conquered the whole world's in his name; at least until she grew tired of it--but she didn't remember him mentioning Trinity. Or maybe he did and she forgot.
"What is he to you? Nordok I mean, Is he your daddy? Why does he have such a hold on you?"
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