@king_leo: I know I cut it short, but you're wayyy to busy in here
"If so, both Maya and Tassi are free to come and visit", Leonel answered, a militaristic calm flowing from his every word and gaze, "But I'm not returning to a planet where I have to sacrifice my own freedom by crippling myself just so I can clap my hands without worrying about shattering every window in a city. Here, I can be myself. And that pisses you off, because you've never had the chance to be yourself", the Prince of Power noted, his sharp eyes piercing into Catalina's, "It's why you hate the fact that you look like mother, it robs you of your own identity. It's why you can't even call her your mother, and instead call her "Ziccarra", like she's your stepmother and you a standoffish child". Still holding her gaze, Leonel continued, "But you are right about one thing. She did do horrible things. But that's not why I identified with her. She was no savior and neither am I".
"See, despite your groundless accusation that I think or am pretending to be a savior", he almost chuckled, lips curling with amusement, "You couldn't be more wrong. I don't give a shit about being a savior, not really. I care about making sure this universe doesn't end, but being a savior? Please", he scoffed, "I'm no savior, and I don't pretend to be. I am a warrior. And I do what warriors do, and that's to seek out and destroy my enemies. I don't save people. I destroy my enemies. And despite you thinking me a coward for leaving my family, only warriors have the nerve to leave their loved ones behind to go to war and destroy their enemy. Only warriors make the kind of sacrifice one needs to be ready for... aaah funk it. I'm wasting my breath, this shit doesn't matter to you. You've already formed your opinion, ill-informed and all", he shrugged. "Good luck with the blade then", Leonel dismissed, turning away and lifting off the ground to hover as he always does.
"If you're ever near Earth don't forget Tassi. I wish you well"
"I won't", that much he promised, "And no, you don't".
A heartbeat later, and Leonel'd vanished, off to resume his experiment.
"Charming name", Leonel noted, his eyes gleaming at the hammer with a scientific curiosity, "And anything's better than Thunderclap, I suppose"
"Thanks." She says in reply, then smiles at his bad joke, "Very true."
"So, we know what you call your hammer. What do you call yourself?"
With an inward sigh, Lara chides herself for being thoughtless by forgetting to introduce herself, which she should have done the moment she could speak. Looking rather apologetic, she fixes her earlier error, "Thunderstorm, but I didn't pick the name. Earth's media did and it's stuck to me ever since. It's nice to meet you." She hopes to get a name out of him as well, but if she has to guess he might be some kind of royalty. The way the man carries himself, so regal, clues her in that he might be.
Thunderstorm waits for his responses to her before she explains about Empress Nairah and what to do about approaching her. Good thing the GSC gave her some useful tips. She tried asking Superion, but he's not on the best of terms with them right now, especially with the Empress. "In a some ways, they are lot like Earth. In others, I'd say they are more like Vulcans as they tend to suppress their emotions. In turn, they aren't easily offended. Unlike Earth where there is a dominant gender, Plutonians consider both genders as equals and they also share equal rights. Women, however, typically take on the more intellectual roles and leadership while the men usually take the roles of warriors and battlefield commanders. Plutonians place a high value on honor and the typical Plutonian will usually keep his or her word. Lying, or any act that is considered dishonorable, is generally frowned upon, sometimes severely. Combat is also treated with honor since a Plutonian will not attack a helpless opponent, attack from behind or attack an opponent who is not armed unless the Plutonian is attacked first. If possible, a Plutonian will weaken themselves just to face an opponent on equal footing."
Lara realizes that Leo might not get the subtle reference to Star Trek. She makes a mental note to stop making references to such things as she addresses his questions about the Empress, "Sending a gift ahead of your arrival would be ideal, something rare and precious. The rarer, the better. I suggest an exotic weapon of some kind, something she can hang upon her wall. Don't mention the hero known as Superion, she and him are...not on the best of terms. Don't mention Earth either, she doesn't like Earth. Other than that, try not to show too much emotion. The Plutonians frown upon it, even in other species. Always keep your hands to your sides and when the Empress speaks to you, always make direct eye contact. She respects that, but do not speak to her unless she speaks to you first."
Lara now tells Leo what Nairah is like according to what the GSC is has given her, "Empress Nairah has the reputation of always keeping her word, she is honorable, but almost emotionless. She is a warrior, but also royalty. She is responsible for the expansion of her Empire, ending a brutal civil war among her own people and conquering 12 planetary systems, but not like the Imperium. She, and her Empire, don't kill needlessly, she'll even order her engineers to help rebuild what was destroyed and make the lives of their conquered subjects as comfortable as possible, sometimes even improving such conditions. Lastly, the Empress has expressed her distaste for the Imperium, but has so far stayed out of their way aside from a few minor skirmishes."
While tearing her consciousness from the physical world, along with her maker, that outside world may as well not even existed. Owing to her own talents or the partial willingness of the Ancient One, Trinity's ploy worked; but her mind was fragmented. Falling into a quasi-catatonic stupor, her expressions fell lifeless. She offered no response nor any resistance to Leo's words or actions, the small fragment of real-world consciousness that remained entirely devoted to inhibiting her body's natural adaptations so Leo's machine could work.
But Nordok was a being whose existence spanned backwards through time for longer than most intelligent beings could even conceive. It was never going to be easy. He lashed like a trap sprung from her own mind. The Destructor's advantage lay solely in the fact that - while he had strategically conceded ground in a ploy of his own, she'd still been the one leading, even if only slightly. Rather than move or protect her neck, her astral body spun in place, wincing under the pressure of his grip. But she'd allowed herself to more effectively resist, unleashing a flurry of blows toward his midsection as fast as she could think them.
In the real world, the catatonic Destructor remained completely still. A few stray grunts, a low growl rumbled in the back of her throat, as what remained of her split consciousness half-processed the battle inside. Hollow cerulean eyes fixed on Leo. She'd have loved nothing more than to keep hurting Leo. He deserved it and she didn't need Nordok to convince her of that. Subconsciously balling and unfurling her fists, she took one heavy step forward. Two. Three.
She was walking away from Leo. Walked until she'd placed herself in a corner, got down on her knees and, gazing into her hands, began firing a pair of superheated lasers into each palm.
Thunderstorm. Repeating the name in his own mind, Leonel smiled, "Thunderstorm and Lightning Strike. Your powers have to do with weather manipulation, unless of course you're a living, breathing red herring", he quipped, his subtle wit breaking through his militaristic steel. "You can call me, Leonel", he nodded, 'King Leonel', he failed to add, identifying more with his born godhood than his earned monarchy. "Not quite as grand as 'Thunderstorm' but I wouldn't change it", a jest, his smile cool and his mind hardly minding a name that meant 'young lion'. Having taken note of Thunderstorm advice, the Prince of Power nodded in gratitude, "Your information'll help a lot, thank you. If anything, it'll keep me from otherwise offending an entire civilization whose help I need".
White cape flowing with him like a gale as he turned round, Leonel cast his eyes on the glowing hexeract floating nearby, and issued a command. "Hex, space-time coordinates to the capital planet of the Plutonian Empire. Now", voice firm, and it's timbre strong like a Roman general, Leonel turned back and locked eyes with Thunderstorm once more while Hex - Augusta's resident A.I. did as told. "As for mentioning the hero known as Superion, I was never going to. Not really familiar with him, so the fact that he's Plutonian, that wasn't something I knew. And I won't mention Earth either, I barely do anyway", he assured. "Again, thank you for your help, Thunderstorm. You're a powerful warrior but a sharp mind as well. If you're based on Earth", Leonel paused, Thunderstorm's Star Trek reference having flown over his head, "I'll reach out to you once it's time to prepare - really prepare - for the war to come".
"For the time being, I'll focus on convincing Empress Nairah to help wipe the Imperium from the cosmos". Though with the credence Plutonians are said to give to honor, the Prince of Power wondered just how effective they'll be in a war against an enemy not so honor-bound. "And since you've a good relationship with the Green Sentinels, I think they'll be instrumental in making sure there's never another Imperium again after we've dealt with the current one".
Shooing Grunt to another corner of Augusta, Leonel turned back to cast his gaze upon Trinity. He'd done all he could for her. Two technological wonders of his own creation rode alongside her in her mind as cavalry against the Ancient One. With little else to do, the Prince of Power breathed in and allowed his nanomachines to continue their work on his injuries, regenerating his lost arm, and repairing all damaged tissue. One minute, two, three, his shattered nose'd healed, and flesh and bone began to spiral out his cauterized shoulder to slowly - but surely - form an arm. But like an eagle, he kept his eyes trained on Trinity, watching as she stumbled her way to a corner before attempting to burn through her own palms.
Leonel did nothing. Not yet at least. He watched, curious. "What the funk is she doing?", his mind thought, and his eyes following every photon that screamed out her eyes. "Why are you like this?", he yearned to ask. Half the time, he found her a kindred soul. And the other half? Petulant and emotionally unintelligent. Still, the Prince of Power understood Trinity's limitations, and the emotional upheaval of having Nordok - that abomination - in her own mind, a predicament she was now quick to blame him for. So, Leonel turned away, sank into the nearest chair, and felt his new arm sprout free as he watched and waited. For either Nordok to be purged and Trinity to regain control of her mind and body so that they may "talk", or for the Ancient One to emerge victorious and for him to annihilate with means he'd never use against Trinity.
He simply sat. Stern, and waiting.
Selene’s raven locks of hair whipped without governing through the clear blue sky as her petite figure moved at untraceable speed. Below her, the Mediterranean stretched endlessly. Something about the rich history of the ocean grounded her, reminded her that life had existed in a delicate balance of peace and chaos for thousands of years before the birth of her personal drama.
She traversed her journey with unthinkable pace, the space below her shifting from turquoise waters to solid ground it what seemed like only an instant. Her feet touched down on the ground gently, where she took several strides in the direction of a grandeur building.
Wealth and power dripped from every surface of the Italian villa, which sat on a stretch of land overlooking the ocean. Towering walls surrounded the establishment, amplified by security forces both technological and supernatural. Selene passed by several armed guards without effort.
After the dissolution of her family home, as well as her family, for that matter, the Liafador legacy found herself without anything to fill the void in her life once filled by family obligations. Having made a call to her headmistress during her years at the Delacour Academy, she secured herself a place to call home for the time being within the walls of the Milan chapter of the Huntington’s Hellfire Club. While geographically located within the Italian region of Liguria, the nefarious organization’s business dealings frequently required a train or limousine ride to the populous city of Milan.
Within the walls of the opulent mansion, Valerie delivered her most promising graduating students to Selene for further training. The potent genetic gifts of a child of Alexis Pettis and Ziccarra Liafador made Selene the perfect candidate to facilitate the Hellfire Club’s undisclosed army of super humans.
A formally tailored man approached her within the villa’s grand hall.
“Miss Liafador, I am pleased to see your safe return. I have come to deliver a message, from your brother, received through the War Room.”
She thanked him curtly, still agitated from the result of her previous engagement, before swiftly entering the confines of the chapter’s War Room. Renaissance décor contrasted again the bright lights of holographic screens displaying numbers and statistics pertaining to the Hellfire Club’s affairs.
Brushing her fingers through the air, she found the message sent from space by her brother. The urgency brought a darkness over her amber eyes. Leonel remained the sole member of her scattered family whom Selene kept frequent correspondence. Still, it rarely required her immediate presence.
With a few taps on the intangible screen in front of her, Selene activated the technology Leonel had granted her access to in order reach his otherwise uncontactable region of the universe. In a shimmer of silver light she disappeared.
Entering the white walls of her brother’s quarters, Selene slid her hands along the surface of her shoulders as if to dust off nonexistent space dust from her teleportation. Her gaze landed on her brother, her eyes fierce and inquiring.
“What’s going on, Leo?”
In the realm of the mind, time was without meaning. A battle that seemed to span millennia in the astral plane could transpire in the blinking of an eye in the material. The laws that governed the greater universe were rendered null and void in a place that was pure thought. The unstoppable force met the immovable object; the Destructor's inexhaustible rage clashed against the Ancient One's implacable will. Around them in the mindscape, entire star systems were born and burned out, while back on the Augusta, only seconds passed.
Nordok made no effort at defense. Blows that would have shattered the mantle of a planet rained upon the midsection of his astral form, threatening to shatter it into psychic fragments, but his grip on his prized weapon's throat only grew tighter. He had begun to realize that, even if he successfully overwhelmed Trinity's volcanic consciousness and assumed control of her physical body, her powerful ally was no doubt setting up contingencies to ensure that his victory was short-lived. When both submission and victory were out of the question, there was only card to play: chaos.
A pulse of pure, vile thought exploded outward from the Ancient One's malevolent mind, carrying across the dimension of thought like a tsunami. In stark contrast to the power behind it, however, the message it carried was a simple one. It is time. Initiate the expansion. Across the universe, every servant of his possessed of a living mind would receive his command, and obey.
As the Destructor's fists grew hot, mirroring the energy she was focusing upon them in the physical reality, Nordok unleashed an unconventional attack: he released the life energy, what many would call the souls, of all the living beings he had consumed from Infernus in his last battle with Trinity and Ra. Here, in the mental battleground, all the terror, anguish, and fury of a million lives would be released like the flood from the shattering of a great dam. To control the frenzied thoughts of such lesser beings was not difficult, to one possessed of a mighty enough will, but it required a great deal of psychic finesse; otherwise, attempting to stop or control the battering of raw thought and emotion would be akin to trying to clean up liquid mercury with one's hands, and with a comparably toxic result.
Leo and his pleasantry. But just as he was able to gaze into her soul and determine her troubles; she was able to gaze into his and find there was some truth to his statement, even if it was a joke. Some jest were truths in concealment. A friend might joke on his companion for not obtaining affection from a woman, but his joke was no joke even if he said so - he meant every word but to avoid piercing the heart of his companion he disguised it as a joke.
She heard his phrase once before: It was a phrase Chiron, her mentor, once said to her. "Your mother might throw you to the wolves, Helena, for you to return leading the pack in glory." Those words echoed in her head as she dwelled on her current situation with her mother. Was Chiron trying to tell her something? If so, what pack would she lead? It seemed unlikely.
Picking up a game piece from her chessboard - a black pawn - she advanced to intercept his joke with her own. "Is that so? Only if you do not become one with their entrails first." She tapped his stomach with the back of her hand playfully. His abdomen felt dense like the pelt of the Nemean Lion and the cellular structure of Heracles. Despite her attempt to disguise her fears with a subtle banter, Leo somehow was able to perceive the vapor of Phobos invading her mind.
He told her everything she was, confirming what Artemis and her mother had once told her. Before they both abandoned her to protect her from the fury of Zeus. She had to admit, it felt good to be in the presence of someone who held her in such esteem, seemingly wanted to get acquainted with her, and stand by her side. But his compliment held no substance at least to her. Those were the things she desired to be, but knew she could never achieve - not after everything she experienced. She was a wanderer - a nomad, drifting from place to place, pretending to still be royalty and a proud warrior. She had bitten into the golden apple of discord and plunged herself into ruin like Paris of Troy. The only thing she had left was her wits, training, and what she inherited from being a demigod. "Ares has whispered the seeds of war into the ears of the Ancient One. The more we dwell on me, the closer the Ancient One and his fleet reach our part of the cosmos. With that being said, I vow to Athena to lead your men into battle." She strongly affirmed, her eyes remained fixated on his as to show him she was not deceiving him. While she still felt she was ill-equipped to lead anyone into battle, she was willing to swat aside her insecurities and fear to win this war for humanity, the cosmos, and Leo.
Leo was like the Snowlion of Tibet; he radiated with power and contained a strength so rare that many would mistake him for a celestial being or even Heracles himself. He was fearless and dominant by nature - like the primordial creature itself. Being that of his nature, Leo couldn't help but say the last final word. He gazed into her essence once more and determined what was antagonizing her as if he was blessed with the foresight of Apollo. When he spoke to her, he roared only but truth - disrupting the illusion Hecate casted over her eyes for only but a moment. He was right all the greatest generals and battlefield commanders in history had made mistakes, sometimes even foolish ones.
General George S. Patton - Old Blood and Guts - America’s best field commander during World War II and debated by some to be the greatest general in American history, made one crucial mistake during his time in service. Patton led an incursion on a camp confining his son and other prisoners. Blinded by his love for him, Patton underestimated the camp's defenses and lacked enough men or vehicles to free and escort the prisoners. Realizing this mistake all too late, the small band of troops were surrounded by the Germans and taken prisoner. That camp was one of the last camps to be liberated during the war. While Helena understood and sympathized with Patton for this mistake, she would have not allowed love to blind her if the Fates were cruel enough to put her in the same situation. When your loved ones were in danger, the wisest thing to do was to remain calm and allow a sound mind to guide you. "I am aware. But what I did was no mistake." She closed her eyes as she revealed that painful truth - her hands gripping the handle of her enchanted sword, resting at her side - her black leather gloves creaking as she tightened her grip from reliving the memory in her head. "There will be time for us to discuss my past once we achieve victory. Until then let us please summon my...uncle." She politely demanded, not wanting to explore into the sensitive topic any longer - not when a war was looming over them.
Summing an Olympian was probably the riskiest idea she had ever concocted. As far as she knew, her family wanted her imprisoned in Tartarus or obliterated for reasons that were as mysterious as her electric blue eyes. But if that were true, then why did Thanatos not serve her on a platter to Zeus? He surely had every opportunity to and she was not buying into his excuses. Why did Artemis integrate her into her tribe? Why did Athena, her mother, implore her to seek Apollo? Then there were the gifts bestowed to her by certain Gods. Nothing made sense. If all her relatives wanted her dead, she would be dead now. "A bit early to be meeting your family" Another teasing remark made by Leo, interrupting her as she debated with herself in thought. "Silence. I am trying to think." Her natural Greek accent overpowered her American accent for a brief moment. She gave him a sly smirk, reassuring him she meant no harm but now was in charge of his fortress.
"In any case, summon him. This should be interesting, to say the least. I think he and I could work well as machine smiths. In fact, he could be instrumental in smithing armored suits for the allies who'll need it. The ones who cannot breathe or otherwise survive in space".
That was the plan. But how would she summon the Smith God plagued her mind. In Ancient Greece, encountering a God or Goddess from the Greek Pantheon was uncommon. Helena clutched the device given to her by Leo as she continued to pace back and forth in thought. She did hear isolated tales of ancient priest offering the Gods "divine" offerings just to stand in their presence. But what did she have of great value to offer to -- coming to a sudden realization, Helena bent her arm and brought her clutched hand close to her face. "Praise Athena; Hephaestus now awaits us." She opened her palm with a grin, revealing the crimson shaped device to him. "A worthy sacrifice to a smith, wouldn't you agree?" She bantered, reversing his own strategy against him.
What better offering to give to a blacksmith God than a remarkable device made from an unknown material. She understood this was a risk, one she did not approve of. But other choice did she have? The Imperium fleet could strike at a moment's notice; they needed to gather their resources and manpower with haste. Gazing at Leo, standing proud and tall like a Roman Centurion; she could deduce he was not aware of her current situation with her family and the risk she was taking to summon Hephaestus. That banter he made earlier "A bit early to be meeting your family" proved her argument further. Nevertheless, war demanded strategic risk and she was willing to make that choice for her world, the cosmos, herself, and Leo, despite what could happen to her. Closing her hand on the small device, Helena gently pushed past Leo and moved to the center of the hallway. Lowering herself into a kneel and raising her arms to the air, palms open, the demigod warrior began to pray in the name of Hephaestus.
"O, hand-strong Hephaistos, Blacksmith of the Gods,
I humble myself before you to summon you in this frightful hour
Please take this offering, O, inventor of hone-edged swords
and impregnable armor,
aid us in our most desperate hour."
Silence overtook the floating fortress at first until the small device levitated from her hand. Not knowing what to expect, Helena rose from the ground and took a long step back with her hand held firmly on the handle of her sword. If her planned worked, she needed to stand guard in case he attempted to slay her. Her striking blue eyes wanted to glance toward Leo to see his reaction, but she reminded herself to keep her mind sharp and clear of distractions. If anything happened, she counted on the proud warrior's assistance. Suddenly the device exploded into a cloud of thick black smoke and overpowered her nose with the smell of car exhaust. Fanning the fumes away as she coughed, the smoke finally cleared and there stood a lump sized of a man. "Who dares keep me from my work?" His deep voice boomed, shaking the very foundation of the floating fortress as if a volcano was about to erupt.
Physical body echoing vestiges of the astral encounter, Trinity groaned as the Ancient One tightened his grip. Furiously pounding his midsection with no noticeable effect, the constricting vice managed to slow her assault, sapping her strikes of their strength with each blow. When that failed, she sought to dig in, literally.
On Earth, she'd learned of substances that could cut through virtually anything. And, while the laws of this new realm were yet alien to her, the Destructor reasoned that she could channel the same power regardless of where she was. Balled fists unfurled and locked in a knife-hand position, shimmering the silver like blades of true adamantium. As Nordok released his captive souls, the Ancient's Daughter plunged her hands toward - and hopefully into - her maker's midsection. She dug in, in an attempt to anchor her spirit to his. There she could hold herself even as the chaos her maker unleashed threatened both mental and physical forms.
Souls - an endless sea of them that she herself had a hand in snuffing, which she herself absorbed into her body, all released into her mindscape at once. Their anguish was now her own, multiplied by millions. Even relentlessly constricted by Nordok, the roaring tide threatened to sweep her away in her own mind.
But, while her form seized and locked, Trinity retained focus on her individual self, her strength, the one way she'd been trained since creation.
The pain in her hands burned hotter and hotter, spreading through her entire body and astral form. An improvised two-pronged strategy and massive gamble both, cosmic radiation fired from her eyes, and the cosmos itself seemed to favor her by weakening her physical being. Then if she lost the battle in her mind - lost herself - she'd little doubt that without the spark which made her uniquely Trinity Blue, Leo would be able to defeat Nordok and her body, even if he would never understand nor appreciate her own efforts toward that end. It was her intent, however, that this would be wholly unnecessary. For while her physical body declined, the strength of her mind was focused through her pain.
It had always been her own unique brand - of pain, and of feeling - more intense than most, for through Nordok she'd felt pain on a scale few if any other beings could fathom. For every surgery and experiment she underwent while fully conscious—for every training session gone wrong—for every battle, every blow and every cut and explosion she'd endured because of him—for every instance in which he'd made her a prisoner in her own body, stimulating every single pain receptor at once, Trinity's eyes burned hotter. So, too, did the rest of her. So, too, did the Astral Plane itself. Socially stunted though she may have been, she understood fighting. She understood that her greatest strength was in that which earned her the lifelong epithet, Destructor. Only by embracing that, by loosing herself from the shackles labelled "other," would the Child of the Cosmos have any hope to stretch her nascent potential and overcome the Ancient Tyrant in his own terrain.
The heat spreading in her body was never designed to be contained in her fists, nor even her singular form. Clutching him just as tightly as he had her, within seconds her astral spirit immolated, and the individualised sphere of existence around it likewise erupted into scorching flames.
Trinity wasn't going to control the chaos. She was going to annihilate everything in it.
"Thunderstorm and Lightning Strike. Your powers have to do with weather manipulation, unless of course you're a living, breathing red herring"
Thunderstorm does that sort of half smile on the left side of her mouth. She finds that she likes his sense of humor. As far as good first impressions go, he's made a good one on her. When he says his name, she nods, "An honor to meet you, Leonel."
Young Lion, huh? Nice. She thinks to herself.
When he thanks her for the information, she says, "Your welcome." She doesn't want to see that handsome face redden with embarrassment if he happens to do the wrong thing with Empress Nairah.
What comes next, Thunderstorm tries to stop but cannot as the space station appears in Plutonian space. A massive space station appearing out of no where is going to get the Plutonians attention in a major way. Lara determines to help Leonel out of this particular jam. But not being able to speak until he's finished, she finally has a chance to get a word in, "I think, perhaps, I should stay for a bit longer. After popping your space station into their space unannounced, I'll need to help you convince the Empress you came here on a diplomatic mission and you are no threat."
She berates herself for not thinking to tell him this sooner, so she looks apologetic, "I may be based on Earth but I'm an ally of Asgard as well. I help protect the nine realms, so my word has a little weight." She shrugs, "What can I say? King Thor likes me."
Then she adds, "Before you visit the Empress, please let me talk to her first. That way, your road to convincing her to join you will be easier."
Holding a stare on a cascade of holographic screens glowing bluer than his eyes, Leonel did as he'd been doing for what felt like an eternity now; reviewing war strategy and tactics. Strong arms crossed over his chest, white cape brushing against his boots like a groveling peasant, the Prince of Power awaited the arrival of his sister. And finally, as a cold gale swept through Augusta's halls, Leonel felt a familiar spike in the electromagnetic spectrum - and turned round to lock eyes with Selene. Her voice floated to his ears, and he uncrossed his arms, "We have a problem". With a wave of the hand, every screen spat out three-dimensional holograms of Imperium vessels.
"The Abyssal Imperium is a space-faring empire. That in itself isn't a problem. The problem is that the Abyssal Imperium is my enemy, and it's leader, a powerful abomination who lays claim to the entire universe. It calls itself Nordok", he paused, face stern and eyes the cold steel to Selene's sharp stare. "But to all the star systems who fear it, Nordok's known as the Ancient One. And under it's direction, the Imperium has attacked Earth before. I may not live on Earth, but you do. So an ancient monstrosity who lays claim to Earth and uses what it calls "cosmic sorcery" to make the impossible - possible - is a problem for everyone on Earth". Continuing, Leonel held his sister's gaze, as though he were Caesar, and she Augustus. "I've gathered allies, come up with a war strategy and the tactics to implement it, and created whatever inventions I can to help. But I need your help".
"The Imperium's as much your enemy as it is mine. Really everything in this universe. You're the only other warrior in the family. And what warriors do is destroy our enemies. And the enemy daring us all at the moment is bigger than all the bullshit happening on Earth combined. I'd reach out to the rest of the family as well - but", Leonel paused, arms crossing over his chest once more, "Tassi's a child, and both Maya and father are too kindhearted, too good for their own good. We don't need heroes, we need warriors, people with the nerve to take the difficult decisions we have to be able to take to win a war. And none of them, with the exception of Cat, are warriors. And Catalina's an entire situation on it's own".
"Only if you do not become one with their entrails first"
"The entrails of the king of the jungle?", Leonel smirked, eyes as sharp as Helena's wit, "What's a king to a god?". Their banter however, faded, giving way to the weight of doubt and regret flowing out Helena's throat alongside every word. His eyes on hers, his gaze unapologetic and piercing, the Prince of Power's mind repeated in thought what Helena'd spoken in word. 'The more we dwell on me, the closer the Ancient One and his fleet reach our part of the cosmos'. Stepping closer, Leonel's strong gaze held, and his shoulders seemed to broaden. "Point taken", he paused, his body seeming taller - larger - the closer he drew. "But the more you dwell on your self-doubt, the closer Nordok will be to defeating us. I don't just want you leading those men into battle. I need you to believe that you can. Because you can".
And the Prince of Power would accept nothing less. "But you're right, we can talk about this later. And believe me, we will", he asserted, a glimmer of his dominant spirit peeking out his eyes to do what perhaps Helena'd long since needed; for someone to challenge her. Arms at his sides, cape draping over him like a king's cloak, Leonel watched as Helena did as she'd promised and summoned Hephaestus. Focused, Leonel listened to her chant, catching her every word and watching her do what the priests in Ancient Greece so often did. But Helena prayed not for the good of her crops or for a storm to pass. She, of divine blood herself, summoned her own flesh and blood. And slowly, a silence blanketed the air and covered the ears as nay an echo passed till a pillar of black smoke roared high into the air, and out it's heart walked a figure more round than god.
Yet as he spoke and Augusta rocked from side to side, quaking and bowing in respect, there was no mistaking it. He who stood before them was Hephaestus; Greek god of volcanism, blacksmiths, and craftsmen.
"Who dares keep me from my work?"
Hephaestus demanded, "We do", the Prince of Power - a god not unlike Hephaestus himself - answered. Unafraid, bold and steely, Leonel stood firm and undaunted. This was not the first god his eyes'd met, only the most Greek. "Because there's a threat to this entire universe. And the universe, god of blacksmiths, includes Olympus. The threat looming near is greater and more ancient than us all". In his fingertips, Leonel held the power to destroy entire worlds with nay a thought. But even he was little more than a spec in the Abyssal Imperium's windshield. "But, I'm a stranger to you, and you in a stranger's home. So", he paused, his eyes breaking from Hephaestus' to meet Helena's, "I'll let someone more familiar - your niece - catch you up to speed".
For a moment, there was nothing. Only Leonel, sinking in wait on a chair, and Trinity and Nordok dueling for dominance in the halls of her mind. Leonel did not breathe and had never needed, so as he sat still - his eyes focused on Trinity's like lasers - the only sound that echoed was the low hum of Augusta's Exomatter Reactor Core. Calm and collected, the Prince of Power gazed upon the collar he'd strapped round Trinity's arm, then into her brain to glance at his femto-scale machinery at work. All measures he'd taken to purge the Ancient One from Trinity's mind. All measures that'd done little else but give Trinity a boost, as ultimately the power to boot Nordok from her mind lied truly in Trinity herself.
So Leonel watched, brow wrinkling as he scowled, frustrated over his inability to reach into her mind and do more. Sitting, waiting, and pinching the bridge of his nose, he sighed. He was anxious. Anxious for Trinity to succeed and for the madness in her mind to finally end. But he could do nothing, and he could see nothing of the war being waged in her mind. Nothing until a row of holographic screens floated to him - and told him a tale he couldn't believe. What the femto-scale machines swimming through Trinity's mind were reporting... was impossible. But it was quantum information, the kind that constitutes what man calls a "soul", the kind that Leonel'd used from Ra's own soul to forge Hex; Augusta's resident A.I. And it was far too much. Like a rising tide of millions upon millions of soul-based quantum information flooding Trinity's mind and whatever else there lay.
And there, in that moment, Leonel waved the holographic screens away and climbed into the air. He could sit no longer. How could he? How could he sit with Trinity waging the greatest of mental wars in all the cosmos? Leonel could do nothing - but he had to do something. So he clenched his fists, felt the power to end worlds swarm through his limbs like a wave of heat, and a primal anger crackle in his heart as all that power could do nothing to cleanse Trinity's mind. "HEX!", Leonel roared, his voice shaking Augusta like a storm with a boat at sea. ||-Sir?-||, Hex answered, concern rising from it's robotic monotone as a glowing hexeract glided into view. "Prepare the rest of the femto-scale machines", he ordered, "If things don't get better, there's a sacrifice I might have to make".
Leonel's intention was clear. If he and Trinity could not purge the Ancient One from her mind, then he would use his super science to spring free the quantum information of his own mind, soar into the astral plane, and drag a weakened and distracted Nordok into his own mind. Then, at least, Trinity would be free, and he himself'd deal with Nordok however need be.
Even in the depths of his own cosmic arrogance, the Ancient One was not too proud to admit that his enemies' strategy had been a masterful one. Outside of the astral plane, he knew that Leonal awaited with his infernal technology, no doubt poised to once again strike, should Nordok triumph over Trinity's consciousness and reassert control. If left him in an unenviable position: the surest path to defeat lay through victory. As a being of pure dark energy, it would be difficult to destroy him, in any permanent sense, but any energy could be confined, given adequate means, and it would seem that this Prince of Power possessed those means.
That left him with one option: to cease resisting. He could feel the fury building in the Destructor as she sought to annihilate him, even at great trauma to her own mind. So then. It shall be so. As her astral form self-immolated like the phoenix of legend, that of the Ancient One was likewise caught up in the conflagration, and his consciousness scattered across the astral plane. While this would not be fatal, it would take him some time to reconstitute his essence , and until such time, his ability to act directly would be greatly diminished. However, this would put him beyond the reach of the technological traps of Leonal, as his snares would find nothing substantial enough to lock onto, even at the quantum level, at least for a time.
Nordok, however, was not inclined to leave a battle in the enemy's hands without one final gift. In the nanoseconds before both their forms were engulfed by the psychic equivalent of a supernova, he released something into Trinity's mindscape, something he hoped, in a fit of dark humor, would demonstrate to his wayward "daughter" a lesson he had never been able to adequately teach her: the nature of consequence. If Trinity was not able to find and neutralize his vile gift, she would find the souls of any sentient being who died at her hand bound to her own mind.
He left his gift behind, with a lingering peal of inhuman laughter, as he slipped into a state of dormancy.
In the Astral Plane a fire raged that, on the surface of any physical world, would've scorched the locale beyond recognition and sundered the atmosphere. As it so often had, Trinity's rage brought with it the ruin of those around her. But eventually, as a certain clarity set in, the flames subsided. She was left alone. Feeling with her mind around the realm of spirits, Nordok's presence was already fast on its way to becoming little more than a distant memory. The others he'd brought along with him, scarcely anything more than scars he'd left behind.
Still she felt no satisfaction. That was not the end. It couldn't be; for if it was, not only Nordok but her own mind and spirit should have been annihilated as well. She'd freed her mind but the Ancient had escaped oblivion once again. Alone in the barren dreamscape, Trinity sighed–
–and awoke, gasping, on the floor of Augusta. She was on her back, her eyes felt burned and dry, and she could hardly move a muscle to raise herself up, crawling up along the wall to stand up while her body struggled to recover from both the loss of the Ancient's excess power as well as her own self-sabotaging cosmic radiation.
That just left one thing: Leo. She turned and found him with her eyes, and remained silent. Beckoning with her eyes, ever-intense but lacking that telltale intent that meant danger. Vibrant color returned to once pale ceruleans, urging him on. Well, this is what you wanted. Your move.
Hephaestus ignored the Prince of Power as if he were an invention that no longer held any significant value, and staggered on toward the demigod warrior. He walked with a limp and uneven shoulders, an implication he suffered from severe scoliosis and a crippling injury. Was the tale of Hera tossing him from Mount Olympus true then? If so, what kind of mother would strike malice against their own child. In truth, she felt uneasy as the Smith God moved toward her, but she managed to subdue her impulsive desire with reason: Hephaestus was there only chance at obtaining a substantial amount of resources in little time. If they wanted to increase their odds of success against the Imperium, they needed to anticipate a conflict with the crippling God yes, but not provoke one. In fact, this was the perfect opportunity for her to discover if Hephaestus was another relative trying to destroy her or maybe she could get some answers about her life and mother without having to visit Apollo on the Island of Delphi.
Now standing face to face with the lump sized God, did Helena finally see what Hera saw when she held a newborn Hephaestus. His head was disformed and bulging. His face and skin plagued with what appeared to be severe dermatitis - patched rashes, thick, and cracked skin, that mocked the appearance of crocodile scales. Despite his unsettlingly appearance, she sympathized and thought no less of him. In fact, she praised his mechanical aptitude and brilliance. But she couldn't help but wonder, how a immortal being was capable of suffering from physical infirmities such as this. "Such divine handiwork," Hephaestus said as he studied her face, observing all the details that made up her features. Honestly, she didn't know whether he acknowledged she was real or part of his work. According to Greek tale, the Blacksmith of the Gods did spend most of his days working his forges, so it would come to no surprise if he grew as mad as Dionysus. . "Like your mother," He concluded, acknowledging she was indeed real. "She refuses to be courted and till this very day preserves her chastity. Such a disappointment." The volcanic smith grumbled under his breath.
"That scolding look comes from her, of course," Hephaestus drew closer to her to get a better look. She wanted nothing more but to send him crashing into the nearest wall as he drew closer. She remembered Hephaestus had once succumbed to the lust of Aphrodite and the arrows of Eros, and attempted to rape her mother in one of his forges. According to the tale, her mother went there to request weapons be made for her, but Hephaestus being the lonely God that he was and attracted to Athena, attempted to sexually assault her to no avail. Not to say the blacksmith was attempting to rape her now, but she would not hesitant to backhand him if he tried. The mission was the only reason she allowed him to get as close as he was to her. Now that the two stood inches from each other, Helena realized more about the divine smith than she realized. His right eye suffered from aniridia syndrome and was larger than his left eye. He wore a leather brown welding apron over his shirtless disformed endomorph body with various tools stuffed into the chest pocket of the apron. His body was impressive for someone who suffered from multiple deformities and physical infirmities; he was stocky from working in his forge for over a millennia. His hair was long, brown, and thinning. The whiskers on his long brown beard were kindled with fire, burning through the strings of hair hanging from his face. Interesting enough, she noticed some whiskers burned slower than others as if his beard consisted of slow-burning fuses and quick black powder fuses.
"But those mysterious eyes, ah those come from your clever father. I am afraid the deep sorrow that plagues you does not," Hephaestus continued to blabber on, analyzing every small detail of her as if he were built with an identification system. "You would be better off, if you allowed me to free you from this burden by placing you in one of my automatons." He concluded, his good eye erupting with insanity. As she assumed before, the Smith God possibly was a little mad from all the years he spent confined to his forge, work, and the Cyclopes that worked with him. Having a promiscuous wife and a family who shunned him also contributed to what appeared to be insanity. "Thank you for the offer, Lord Hephaestus. But I must decline," She said, glancing at Leo with a look that said she would grow to regret this decision. "So you know of me?" Helena asked the obvious. What she really wanted to ask him was the fate of her mother after her treachery against Zeus. Knowing more about her father and herself plagued her mind too, but she knew better than to ask such complicated questions without first obtaining the aid of the blacksmith.
"Bah!" Hephaestus grunted, offended by her rejection. His long beard smoked and hissed from his displeasure, increasing the speed of fire burning through his whiskers. "Forgive me," He sighed. "There comes a time when rejection grows tiresome." He regained his composure, returning to his normal gruff self. His whiskers grew longer, causing the small fire to restart itself and burn through strings of hair in different paces. Fast and slow. Hephaestus nodded. "All of Olympus knows your name, girl. In fact, your name travels far beyond Greece." He scooped up the shattered remains of Leo's device, the one Helena used to summon him. "How is that even possible? I have done nothing to achieve such notoriety." Helena was surprised by this revelation, the expression on her face stunned as if Zeus sent shockwaves through her body and paralyzed her muscles. "I see you inherited your father's curiosity. But as your mother revealed, I am in no position to share the Will of the Fates or recite the prophecy," Hephaestus said as he began fiddling with the broken parts in his hand, handling it with extreme care and precision. "Maybe I should forge myself an Oracle? No, no, no, Apollo will not approve of this." He grumbled to himself. A part of Helena expected a disappointing response and yet she found his response antagonizing. The desire to know more about the circumstances circling around her life antagonized her.
"That is what everyone keeps telling me. Very well," She responded half-irritably. The quest to seek Apollo was still part of her fate. "So you are not seeking to slay me?" The demigod asked as she glanced toward Leo with a stern look. It was a look that read to be prepared for what possibly came next. Hephaestus hands stopped working, his bushy unibrow narrowed together. "Slay you? Child, if only you knew what I risked to preserve your life in that shell of yours." He pointed at her and then to her black sleeve. Underneath, her metallic vambraces gleamed. Helena once again looked stunned at the shocking revelation. Hephaestus was responsible for preserving her life? Forging her divine cuffs? That explains a lot. She wanted to ask him more, but she realized she already strayed away from the real reason she risked summoning the God. The demigod warrior doubted the blacksmith would reveal much more anyway. At least now she knew only some of her relatives were attempting to decimate her. Sadly the worst of them all was Zeus. "Now why did you summon me here, child of Athena? You have kept me from my work long enough." He complained.
"Because there's a threat to this entire universe. And the universe, god of blacksmiths, includes Olympus. The threat looming near is greater and more ancient than us all".
Leo's words were once again bold and straightforward, finally catching the attention of the defected blacksmith. "And so we have longed been informed, boy." Hephaestus regarded the Prince of Peace with a scowl on his disformed face. Helena didn't know whether her uncle was dissatisfied with the presence of Leo or the fact the Ancient One dared to invade earth. "Will you aid us then? We are in need of your talents, ingenious one." She intruded, hoping Leo did not take offense to her uncle's aloof demeanor. The last thing she wanted was for this all to come to ruin over a misunderstanding. "Hm," Hephaestus limped toward Leo with the small device still in his seemingly rough, overworked, dry hands. As he slowly made his way to the proud warrior, her sensitive sense of smell caught the whiff of burnt coal, sweat, and metal. Now standing before the Prince of Power, the stone mason attempted to imitate Leo's intimidating and imposing stature, but because of his short stature and physical impediment, he looked to be leaning instead of standing proudly. She had to admit, Hephaestus still looked intimidating with his physical infirmities, burning and smoking beard, stocky body, ingenious mind, and the domain he held. But if there was a contest on who looked more intimidating as a warrior, Leo would have won. Appearances could be deceiving though, she learned that as a child. If the tale of Hephaestus participating in the Gigantomachy War were true, his physical appearance and infirmities were not to be underestimated.
Realizing how divine Leo looked compared to himself, Hephaestus frowned. "Humph. I cannot help you."The volcanic God pulled an unusual screwdriver from his front pocket, placed the tip of the metallic shaft into the hand held device, and began to turn the handle. Helena shut her eyes and bit her lower lip in disappointment. "And why...not?" She asked with a small hint of irritation over his response. "If I aid you, Zeus will not be so forgiving as he was to your mother and Artemis. I am not Athena, child; I am no favorite of Zeus." Hephaestus revealed. Not one to fold so easily, Helena quickly wasted no time in counter attacking his argument. "Yet you have been aiding me my whole life for reasons that are still as mysterious as Chaos. Or was that deception?" Helena crossed her arms, confident she checkmated the God. "Demigods,"He grumbled. "A mind as calculating and wise as a computer programing. And a heart as vigorous as a roaring engine. Very well played, child of Athena," Hephaestus congratulated the demigod warrior, but the fire burning through his bearded strings of hair revealed he was angered by her mockery of him. "I will agree to aid you once more. But once you achieve victory, I will request the aid of your companion here on one of my projects,"He gestured at Leo. The Blacksmith of the Gods examined the proud warrior as if he was trying to determine if he was in need of repairing before taking him to one of his forges. "Now how can I be of any assistance?"He asked the Prince of Power. Helena glanced once more toward Leo, hoping he would accept such simple terms.
@king_leo This post exhausted me, lol. Toward the end I started to slack off, but I am learning to push through all that. Anyway next post Hephaestus will be taking his leave ;)
The air'd grown thick with something. Not a force of nature - but anticipation. His brow furrowed and his body tense, Leonel held Trinity in his gaze and resigned himself to his sacrifice. "Hex, prepare the-", his words however, were cut short by the subtle sound of conscious muscle movement - from Trinity. Fists clenched and his power swelling, the Prince of Power scowled, not yet sure if Trinity had regained control of her own mind, or if the Ancient One had conquered it. But as his gaze held, Leonel grew at ease and waved his machines away. Striding forward, his tattered cape flowing behind him, Leonel stopped a foot from Trinity, and locked eyes with her. He could see it, the fire in her gaze. Yet it was different, cold instead of raging, threatening not to burn... but crackling, still there all the same.
Back straight, shoulders broad, and his posture strong and full of nerve, the Prince of Power flicked his wrist, and his femto-scale machines soared out Trinity's pores. "You did it", he acknowledged, voice calm and steady, "And this might not mean anything to you, in fact, knowing you, you'll probably find this insulting, that maybe I didn't think you could purge him from your mind", he paused, crossing his arms over his chest, "But he was proving a pain in the ass to get rid of, so I was about to use my machines to transfer him from your mind to mine. To make your problem mine. He'd be in my mind... but at the very least you wouldn't be in pain anymore, not from him at least". For a moment, the silence settled between them, as if reality itself was lying in wait for what would become of this encounter between a god and a force of nature. "Look, I know you hate me at the moment, and that you want to make me pay and suffer and so on. But, Nordok still exists. The Abyssal Imperium still exists, and I've been working, preparing, for a long time, to go to war with them. For you as much as me".
"You know Nordok and the Imperium better than anyone. And I can only hope that you hate them a little more than you hate me at the moment. Help me destroy them. Nordok, the Imperium, all of them. And then after that, we can settle whatever... this is", he gestured, to himself then her.
There, in that moment as Hephaestus dragged his feet like a leper slugging through mud, the Prince of Power could hardly help the smirk he wore. 'Of course', he thought, amusement flowing out his throat as laughter. Rising into the air, Leonel sat himself in midair, foot resting on the opposing thigh, and watched the scene unfold like a god presiding over the judgment of man. After all, were the Olympians not among the most human gods? Flawed and in need of ambrosia to attain immortality? And wounded - by rejection of all things. So Leonel watched, his blue eyes following Hephaestus' touch every time it drew near Helena's skin, and his ears catching the broken god's words.
"I will request the aid of your companion here on one of my projects"
"Smart man", Leonel smiled, descending to the ground to stand an inch from the Greek god of blacksmiths. There, clad in his armor and draped by an ivory cape, Leonel seemed an amalgamation of Greek gods and legends. His strength had no known limit, and his body sculpted to the proportions of Heracles. To gaze upon him, man looked up, at the sky, as they did with the sun - and Helios. He was a warrior, like Achilles, a king like Zeus, and yet, he held Hephaestus' gaze like a Roman, a Caesar; strong, steely, and icy. "You have my word, god of blacksmiths", Leonel assured, a hand on Hephaestus' shoulder but slid closer to his neck - friendly as much as it was dominant, "So long as we have yours". Withdrawing his hand, Leonel smiled, "You're a legendary inventor. And that's what we need against the Abyssal Imperium. Someone to help us solve one half of our problems".
"We're short on numbers. The sheer brute force of numbers and war resources aren't on our side. The Imperium has more, and as skilled and powerful as my allies are, as good as my technology and tactics are, there's only so much we can accomplish against a military force with the resources to mine entire star systems and threaten to conquer the entire universe - without having enough numbers and weapons ourselves". For a moment, Leonel glanced at Helena, meeting her eyes as if wondering what hand Athena herself could give them. "That is what you can help us with, smith god. And in return, I'll help you with that project you mentioned. As a token of good will, I'll give you this", he paused, handing Hephaestus a scepter marked by a blue button. "Press the button and the scepter releases waste-consuming nanites that will keep your forges clean by consuming ash and so on from the floors, and the smoke from the air".
Trinity'd always given Leo more than others. Listened, when he spoke she afforded him more thought than most. He wasn't that bright, in her estimation, but there was a spark of a being she didn't mind so much - trite annoyances aside. (Help him? This was her fight, and he was the one helping.) But a lot of those seemed smaller, with Nordok gone. She didn't care that he doubted her. Her own doubt prompted her to attempt the spiritual kamikaze maneuver as a last resort. Other problems, however, magnified under a new light. She waited for him to finish and responded, "You idiot." But due to physical weakness, fatigue, or some intrinsic softening, the fire she perpetually harbored was...smoldering, at best.
"I never hated you. That was never what any of this was about. No one has to ask me to help destroy the Imperium. I'll do that even if I'm by myself. But," she said, bracing with her arm on the wall, "I don't feel I can trust you. You say the same things he says. 'I'm the only one who cares about you.' 'You're the most important person to me.' 'Nobody else loves you.' Just like him. But Ziccarra was right. You love me when I help you, but then, all of...this," mimicking his nebulous "us" gesture, "That's what you really think of me. I'm stupid. I throw petty tantrums because that's all I can comprehend.
"I...don't know if I'll forgive you. The Imperium will always take priority, but I'm not interested in making things right, right now, and that's not because you put Nordok in my head again. "
She thought a second, twisting her head while piecing the information together. It seemed unlikely, but worth another try. Pushing herself from the wall so she'd have use of both her hands, slightly slumped, her movements labored, she began. "I wanted to hurt you because you were responsible for hurting me. That...simple. It's...the true essence of the Cosmos. If someone hurts you, there should be a proportionate response. I cannot help that. It is...nature. The Will of the Cosmos. But I only ever wanted to hurt you," punching his arm lightly with her fist, "like that." Now came the hard part.
"I cannot explain it very well, as I have only recently become aware of it, but the Cosmos is...more than just physical suffering and not-suffering. There's...something else. I cannot touch it, nor even see it, but I can feel it. It's...inside of me, and everybody else too. It exists, I think, where I could see Nordok."
Holding her hands out, there formed between them a ball of azure light energy which formed a vaguely humanoid shape. A thin strand of energy extended from it, and a smaller, brighter ball attached to this tether. A flush suffused her features and she avoided looking at him. "I'm...still trying to understand it. This is the best I can do. It's like this here. You can't touch it, but you can still feel it. That's what you did. No one could've hurt me like you could've, just with words like that. No one else could hurt me there," waving her hand around the smaller energy ball.
"I didn't wanna hurt you there. But you did, repeatedly, on purpose, and that was worse than anything else I've felt. I never wanted to hurt you like that. I never tried to make you feel worthless. I never called you a waste of time even when I was mad. I never made fun of the fact that nobody likes you, even though Ziccarra told me about your sisters, and you admitted that you also didn't have anybody but me.
"Go ahead and say it - 'I don't owe you anything.' But friends shouldn't do that to friends, and if that's what love is, dictated by beings like you and like Nordok, then I'd rather be alone."
Silent, his eyes trained on Trinity's, and his mind as cool as ice, Leonel listened to her every word, caught every climb and fall in pitch, and felt the weight of her every word hanging thick in the air. He glanced at the energy construct she'd formed between them - blue like his eyes, and hers - and his face softened. Gone was his Roman air, and in it's place, the Prince of Power felt a lump thicken in his throat. There was no one. Hardly anyone whose words he'd give as much credence to as he did Trinity's. After all, did the flow of his cape and arrogance of his stride not make clear there were little the Prince of Power cared about in the universe? Yet as he locked eyes with Trinity once more, Leonel shut his eyes - and thought.
'Ziccarra'. It was a name echoed twice now by Trinity. But it could not be his mother. She was dead, and has been so for so long. No... it was, 'Shayla', his mind thought. Another enemy for him to destroy once he wastes the Abyssal Imperium. "I'm sorry", he said, his voice and gaze genuine, his face softening as if to reach out to Trinity. "I truly am. I never meant to hurt you", your feelings, your soul, "Those things I said to you", calling her stupid and reducing the hurt she felt to childish temper tantrums, "I'm sorry. I never apologize for anything, Trinity", Leonel paused, "I never care enough to, and I often mean what I say. But I'm apologizing for this. I... I shouldn't have belittled how you felt, and I shouldn't have hurt you in the first place. And you're right, nobody likes me. After all, I go around not apologizing for anything I do, concerned with my own interests and being distant with everyone that it ruins every single one of my relationships".
"And the worst part is, as I watch my ties to other people, my relationships with other people crumble... I don't even really care. Except", Leonel paused, "The rare few. Like this one. There's only so much words can convey because we often never have to prove the things we say. But I do care about you, I really do. If you don't trust me, if you never want anything to do with me ever again... then you won't have to see me ever again. But there's one thing I don't want of you. I don't want you to think that this was all an act. That I was just using you and never cared about or loved you. So here", he offered, a peek into his mind, into the well of quantum information that told tales about how he truly felt about her. All the love, the care, and even the frustration. "I just want this, so you can leave here knowing that you did - do - mean something to me. Take a look into my mind and see for yourself".
"I'm no telepath, and this is no trick. I don't need your help with the Imperium, I just want you to know that you do mean something to me. After that, you can go. You'll never have to see me ever again. I might see you when I go to war with the Imperium, but if you want to be done with me, I promise to not even look at you. But this is something you deserve to know".
Of course! That made sense. Trinity'd gotten used to not poking at Leo's mind after a few mild attempts led to somewhat snappish responses, certain relations established as off-limits save for by invitation. But by now it seemed obvious, and he'd even invited it so she wouldn't even have to fight for it.
The miniature display vanished and Trinity glared intently at Leo—through him, concentrating on his essence. She reached out, ready to pluck from his mind the book titled Trinity Blue. Her physical body might've been weakened, but she'd still be able to read his thoughts rather quickly. Fixed glare on his forehead, they stood in silence for nearly a minute before speaking up.
"I...cannot." She blinked twice. Furrowed her brow, face balled in concentration, and tried again. Her puzzled expression returned, fixed on her face.
"Something is wrong. The gift of the Shadow Brethren, I cannot use it."
Like a pair of sapphire arrows zeroing in on their target, Leonel's eyes followed Trinity's, and his mind hung in anticipation. And yet, the familiar prodding of her psychic finger never came. Instead, the Prince of Power caught confusion and fruitless effort on Trinity's face.
He needn't hear anything more. Eyes shut, Leonel drew in his breath, and something genuine flowed out his throat. "I'm sorry", he said, his words and gaze more powerful - more meaningful - than before. "For everything. I know I can't do anything and my words have no tangible value but... I'm sorry". Looking past Trinity's shoulder, the faraway gates of Augusta parted open, and Leonel kept his eyes on Trinity. "Maybe we'll never go back to the way things were or be better than even that, but, I'm at least happy Nordok's not in your head anymore", he smiled, warm and true.
And the sensation was strange. He hadn't felt happiness for someone else in so long, it was as strange as it was good. "Goodbye, Trinity".
@king_leo: It was difficult not to be entirely focused on her inability to touch his mind. Why couldn't she? Had Nordok found some way to sever her intimate connection to the Cosmos on his way out? Was it something she'd done? What other implications were there to consider as a result? Trinity considered Leo carefully, the matter of their trust looming as the very first of those.
He was correct. It was difficult to place stock in his words, she was learning. They changed easily and she could be no more certain these were true for him than his previous statements. Ambivalence tore at her from both sides. She wanted to believe he was truthful now - at least some of her did - but she couldn't just forget everything. Leo had a power few if any other beings in the universe could boast over her, not physically, but in the way he could affect her mind and spirit. Like some form of sorcery the Ephemeran genes provided no resistance to. Her nature was to insulate herself against vulnerabilities but that was new.
"I don't know," Trinity said with a half-hearted shrug. "We are an effective team, as we always were, but I'll need time to decide what I think about you. I don't know how to decide. But maybe in time. I'm weak, and vulnerable." She glared at the burning holes drilled partway through her hands, radiation still coursing through her body. It was hard to gauge but, Trinity wagered internally, at the moment she was little more powerful than one of the stronger Earthlings. Finally she looked him in the eyes, self-assured – and ineloquently brusque – as ever. "If you'd let me stay here comfortably until I recover, I will consider your expression of goodwill seriously, and that the benefits of your friendship might be more important than the damage you can do to my..." Her thoughts froze, unsure what to call it. Still she looked at him as though she expected an answer, half expecting him to understand her meaning anyway.
While Trinity voiced her feelings, Leonel stood silent with his eyes locked on hers, and his ears catching her every word. "I understand", he finally answered, stepping forward and commanding Augusta's gates shut with a wave of his hand. "My home is your home. Stay for however long you need", he nodded. "And you're right, we do make a good team. Our record is good. So even if at the end of all this you cut all personal ties with me", Leonel paused, his gaze strong and calm as his eyes never wavered from Trinity's, "Our team dynamic could still work whenever there's a dangerous enough enemy". While auto-repair and waste consuming nanomachines soared through Augusta's halls undoing the damage and mess caused by his and Trinity's battle, Leonel turned round to gaze upon a distant doorway leading to Augusta's guest spaces.
"This area of the space station has all the lounges, rooms and guest spaces. Choose whichever room suits you the most", the Prince of Power said, turning back to once again lock eyes with Trinity. "In the meantime, I'll go prepare a different space for Grunt. He'd probably disturb you if he stayed here", he shrugged, lifting into the air to fetch Grunt from wherever he'd shooed him to. "Also", he paused, arms at his sides, body climbing higher into the air, "I know one of your hobbies is conducting evolutionary experiments. I have a simulation room where you can tinker with the different outcomes of this variable and that. It's not exactly the same as watching whether or not a live civilization can adapt in time in response to a certain change but", he paused, shrugging once more, "It's something. If you want to use it, my A.I. can show you the way. Just call for Hex".
And lest she need him for anything else, Leonel glided off in search of a beast he'd tamed into a pet.
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