@alana_callahan: Oh my gosh, thank you Mercy! I really appreciate those kind words. I kind of slacked off with the last bit of my post, but thank you very much <3 <3
As much as she wanted to send a punch across his chin, she refrained, It wouldn't achieve anything; and without the power of the Goddess flowing she'd probably only break her hand.
"You really think you have us all figured out don't you?" She scoffed, having previously taken a deep breath to calm her nerves.
"Maya and Tassi love you, they don't care that you're different from them. They care that you're apart of their lives you teach them things no one else can. That's the first thing. The second thing is, you hold Ziccarra to such a high standard, but Leonel, she was a horrible bitch. I don't care how good she was once YOU came into our lives; she'll always be the person that tried to have me killed, she'll always be the person that tried to murder Tassi and blackened Maya's heart. The fact that THAT'S the person you're comfortable with causes some concerns. I think it's both evident that I look like mom, but I damn sure didn't like her; hell I know I didn't love her. So yeah, your argument, you tried it."
She could feel the swelling anger starting to subside, her body was returning to it's natural state. She didn't need to fight him she needed to say what was on her mind. Catalina and Leonel were sort of the same, neither of them were born into this family, Leonel adopted and Catalina was created. The fact that he got to be on his own and discover what it meant to be Leonel; while she was stuck taking care of the family was a source of jealousy. Sure Maya and Alexis were woke, but how long would it take the both to be at 100% could they defeat Zeon if they had too? Probably not.
She could've left along time ago focus on raising HER daughter, but she would never be able to live with herself if anything happened to them in their vulnerable states.
"I don't know about these moral shifts, but I do know the only time I acted out of character was because the person I loved was being held in the balance, and I made a choice to save them. But you're right, I am going to cut the shit, you isolated yourself from your "family" She said using the air quotes, (which was a clear indication of her anger cause Cat hated air quotes)
"You isolated yourself up here because you're a funking coward, Earth has way too many emotional ties for you. So you sit up here dealing with space conflicts with people I'm assuming don't know your exact origins and you pretend to be some savior. Because on Earth the people that can hurt you the most you have an emotional tie too. You may have these aliens fooled with that High School Musical confessional but you're not fooling me"
Exhaling deeply Cat's eyes tilt down toward the decorative box containing Zeon's demonic blade. Cat's eyes and demeanor told two conflicting stories, her eyes show sadness or betrayal, never in a million years would she figure the two of them would be at odds. Her demeanor was just as strong as the Goddess she harbored. Once she realized meeting him would achieve nothing she'd made a choice and was fully prepared to standby it.
"I came here, because I was going to ask you to keep Zeon's blade. It's powerful and has the power to corrupt" She explained, through her time here her grasp on the box became tighter, at first she was going to part with it...but not anymore.
"But, this is a Liafador problem. So I'll handle it. If you're ever near Earth don't forget Tassi. I wish you well" She lied the Prize Fighter had no intentions of speaking to him again.
I'm thoroughly in love with this post. It reads as such a true and genuine sister/brother interaction.
This was longer than intended, mi amor. Don't feel obligated to respond in kind lol.
The vast expanse of space. It had been her sweetest refuge once. The endless possibility of the skies. Now she was afraid it would be her final resting place and she would be lost at sea like the sailors of old.
The drum of her heartbeat echoed in her ears like a chorus, discordant in her brain and worrying. Worrying because even as her hands shook on the controls, she was beginning to lose focus. Her eyesight was starting to blur, and Scout was barking in the background, but it was getting quieter and quieter, and her sweet old pup had never been known for quiet.
Her AI system, Aria, was nattering, going on and on about her plummeting blood pressure. Maybe there was some kind of alarm ringing? Blood was seeping through the slash in her technoweave suit, the pliable yet strong fabric laced with something or other, designed by Ellie. His weapon shouldn’t have been able to breach her telekinetic field, nothing should have. It shouldn’t…. She shook her head, rubbing a hand soaked with her own blood across her face, leaving traces of the precious fluid across her stark white skin.
“I know...know where,” she slurred, more to herself than anybody else as she slumped further into the seat. Alarms started blaring again and she realized from the readout that her ship had been damaged during her quick exit. Limited time to figure out the plan.
Scout was trying to nuzzle her, shoving her nose into Alana and barking sharply, as if to keep her focused and aware. It worked a little. Not much, but just enough. Alana jammed some coordinates in, ones that she had memorized. It had felt stupid at the time, sentimental in a way that she was not interested in, but if they ended up saving her life… well, the fact that she had memorized them in the first place was a secret she would be more than happy to keep.
The jump from one sector to another was not kind to her body, and even less kind to the deteriorating engines of her ship.
||System malfunction imminent. Engines at 23%. Autopilot nonfunctioning. Crash imminent.||
She could see the space station coming into focus. Her salvation laid within, if she could make it. And so did her hell.
Alana clenched her jaw almost to the point of cracking her back molars as she gripped her controls as hard as she could. She was bleeding out and something was deeply wrong with her wound, but that wouldn’t be a problem if she was dead before she landed.
Scout yipped as the ship dipped and sputtered and Alana tried to whisper nice things, even as Aria’s form flickered and died out. The AI was dead for now - no more status reports. Not that she needed one. A layer had just peeled back.
Her palm, slick with blood, slipped against the controls, and her ship dipped again, even as it began picking up speed and she steered it towards the docking bay. She had no comms to indicate she was coming in hot, to indicate this was a mayday situation. If his sensors didn't pick up who she was, she was going to crash into a closed door and nothing would matter anyways.
She managed to lock course, steering into the trajectory she needed to hit the opening... if it opened. But she wasn't going to be around to see if she made it or not. She couldn't fight off the inky blackness that had been steadily seeping into her vision. The frantic barks of Scout was the last thing she heard as she let the darkness claim her. "Leo..."
"Distracted from what needs to be done?", his brow raised and eyes shimmered with amusement. "Don't flatter yourself too much, Helena", Leonel teased, strong arms crossing over his chest - a shield of herculean might. "I've been fighting wars since before you were born", he paused, his words a subtle glimpse into the grim reality of a childhood torn asunder by war and blood. "I always know what needs to be done. Even if it's a few years too late", his smile vanished, the shadows dancing over a brow heavy with the weight of the universe he'd lost. "If your role in this is to die at war with the Imperium... it's the price we pay as warriors. And in your case you'd be doing more than facing a consequence. You'd be giving yourself to a cause you believe in. Protecting people".
For a moment, the weight of his words sat heavy in the air, but as the silence came to pass, so too did Leonel's severity. "Though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss you", he smirked and bantered, "Without you I'd have no one else to disagree with". And as fate would have it, the Prince of Power disagreed with Helena's words, as promised. "Have pride in what you are", Leonel countered, "You're a goddess. But you're basing your godhood on the flaws of your relatives. I don't recall your name being Hephaestus or Hera or Apollo, Zeus and so on. Why compare your godhood to theirs? Should a soldier defending his country base his humanity on a serial killer because they both kill? Not all gods are the same", he dismissed, "Your name's Helena. A goddess of war as much as a goddess of peace. I recognize that, and so should you. Because you do know what you're fighting for. Otherwise you wouldn't be committed to stopping the Imperium".
"You care about people, and you fight for them. How you came to be that person is for you to find out. A lot of people don't know who they are. In a world where things are expected of us, we don't all know how we became who we are. And you should know this better than I do, because I'm up here on a throne in space, alone. You're on Earth where people struggle with the paths of their lives all the time. So do yourself a favor, Helena and do what your brain keeps telling you not to", he paused, firm in word but caring in intent. "Let people in, humans specifically. Because many of them struggle with what you're struggling with. And you can learn something from them that the Greek gods can never teach you; perspective. That's the one lesson I'll always keep from mankind". The Greek gods were flawed and more human than they cared to admit. They drank from ambrosia to free themselves from the tyranny of aging, and were struck by envy and the sins of man.
Leonel, in his heart of hearts, pitied them. Gods recognized gods, and to him the Olympians - most of them - seemed unfamiliar. Helena however, was different. Few of the ancient gods folded their divinity round the human values of the greater good. Yet Helena breathed in the human spirit but glowed with a divinity that was hers by right and birth, and where other gods sparked fear - she raised hope in the heart of man. "You're a goddess, Helena. And a hallmark of a god is the ability to shape the world. And whereas your relatives shaped the world by opening Pandora's box, you shape the world from the goodness of your deeds. And in that sense, you're more god than even I am". For Leonel shaped his own world and when it suits his world - his hand touches the cosmos beyond. Finally, like the gates of Troy, Helena opened herself to Leonel. Holding her gaze, the Prince of Power listened to her every word and imagined her every trial.
Here before him stood a princess stripped of her title, moved from her home and scorned by gods bound to her by blood. For a nanosecond, he recalled the desire in her eyes when she'd stroked his cheek. How she'd lingered in the comfort of his warmth and hold, and how he'd glanced at her lips and she his. Leonel imagined then, that she hadn't that physical comfort since leaving the comfort of her home. "I'm going to Delphi with you. As for me", he scowled, his mind pulling back to memories of a now barren universe, "I'm not from this universe. I'm from a universe like this one. A parallel one called Reality M. My father was Thee Champion. A god, divine being, what have you, who was born not from a mother and father, but from random chaotic quantum fluctuations in the fabric of reality. Specifically, in the core of the Sun".
"My mother was Ziccarra Liafador, a mortal by birth and Cardinal goddess by ascension or apotheosis. They were both heroes once, great heroes. But they became infected, made into pawns of a secret posthuman society called the Third Society who used them as tools to take over the world. War took over my world, and I joined the resistance force against my parents. At the time, I wasn't even ten years old", he recounted with ice flowing in his veins. "But we couldn't hope to defeat them yet. My parents were powerful. Still, the war went on. Countries bowed to my parents, and heroes fell to them. As I grew older, I came to lead the resistance force with two close friends, one of whom I rescued from a concentration camp. Addison Hopewell, the one I rescued, and Alana Callahan".
"But at that point, the war turned into a losing battle. We were fighting to have a say in how we'd all die. But I always knew my potential. That if I found refuge and trained, I'd have the means to defeat both my parents. So we planned, use the last of our resources to build a machine to transport me to a different universe, this one. I arrived and was found by this universe's version of my parents. Here, I had siblings, a family. But my mind was always on Reality M. So I trained. Grew stronger, smarter, better. Another exercise in futility", he almost growled. "People from Reality M had begun escaping into this universe, but only few survived. They weren't however, escaping the war. They were escaping something else. The decay of our entire universe".
"Now? It's a graveyard. Empty. Everything decayed to subatomic particles and my universe reached it's final energy-state. It's dead and it's going to stay dead. Nothing can happen. It's final entropy. So I came here, for nothing. My universe was going to die anyway. So I spend my time up here, training and thinking, experimenting, learning. To prevent, at least, the possible destruction or end of this universe because it's the only one I've got left".
In the heart of the Hypercube - of abstraction given form - the Prince of Power sat. Yet no ground lay under him, no ceiling hung above him, and no walls surrounded him. Only blackness surrounded him, a void of ordinary space-time glitching and giving way to the chorus of higher dimensions he'd yet to reach. Eyes shut, legs under him, and his cape glowing like a comet's ivory tail, Leonel tethered his senses to the hum of the hyper-spatial bulk and meditated. But while he found serenity in the voice of the cosmos, another fought for her life in a scorched prison barreling towards Augusta's emerald gates. And it was only by the eye of Augusta's resident A.I. - Hex - that the starship's crash was made a landing. Like a rushing wind, the hours swept by as nanobots treated Scout and Alana for wounds and injuries while helper-bots monitored them under the glare of sapphire lights.
Come the next day and Leonel stepped out the Hypercube's heart to catch the beat of a familiar song; Alana's heartbeat, then Scout's. And for the nanosecond it needed to, his heart surrendered to shock and emotion. At one point, he and Alana were close, and Scout... Scout was the only good to come from Reality M. He would see to their full recovery then send them off. Gliding over Augusta's ivory floors, Leonel hovered to the med-bay and a command flowed out his mind. And like a coast, Hex was drowned by the rising tide of Leonel's will. ||-My assistance, sir?-||, Hex answered, it's voice echoing from a hexeract floating nearby. "Yes. You let people into my station without any clearance from me", Leonel reminded, voice and brow heavy with disapproval. ||-My apologies, sir. However, sensors indicated a DNA match to known acquaintances of yours. They were in danger-||, Hex reasoned, drawing little response from Leonel - merely a glance.
"What're their injuries?", Leonel asked, his air carrying as much concern as it did regality. But he was controlled, icy like a Roman general come to comfort a wounded centurion. ||-At present? None. However, during their arrival, both were in critical condition. They are now conscious and awaiting you in the medical bay-||, Hex answered, it's robotic monotone - a tune dead of emotion - reminding him of the graveyard Reality M had become. An vacuum of maximum entropy where all things had decayed into subatomic particles. No information processing for life to occur. There was nothing. Less than nothing. "Dismissed", Leonel waved away, gliding into the med-bay to first lock eyes with Alana, and then Scout, the puppy he'd adopted in Reality M, and the last great tether to what little humanity persisted against his godhood. "She's gotten so old", he noted, the concern rising in his voice and glimmering in his eyes.
He could see the receding gums of her mouth, and he could hear her struggling heart and the creaking in her joints. Age was a tyranny that came for all mortals. And this was another reminder. "Scout's in pain", eyes locking with Alana, ears listening to the dog's labored panting. "You", he pointed with a glance at a helper-bot, "Revitalize the dog with the nanobots. To her physical prime. And get rid of any genes that give way to disease". With his commands given and followed, Leonel's gaze returned to Alana. His face softened an inch. They were close once, and she was a dear friend who fought the good fight in Reality M. But they'd been apart for too long, she was human, and his mind couldn't help but pull back to thoughts of Helena, a goddess who drew his interest like no other.
Things were different now, and would never again be the same. "I'm glad to see you're not dead. Once the nanobots are done taking care of Scout, I'll get your ship repaired, give you some supplies and then send you off". With the war with the Abyssal Imperium looming near, Leonel could afford little time.
Alana was in a daze watching Leo move, as she monitored the slightest of twitches in his jaw just prior to healing Scout. At some point in time Alana would have fought against it, railing against the diversion of the natural order. But it was Scout. Scout and... Leo. She would do anything for either of them. Her eyes fell on him for a moment, as he was distracted by Scout, and she thought her heart would rip from her chest.
As she sat on the metal slab of table, her palm itched. She wanted to touch his face, stroke her hand down the granite cut of his chiseled jaw as she had a thousand times before. What had once been an easy familiarity was now a stilted.... something. She didn't have a word for the silence between them, or the longing in her heart, even as her traitorous body tilted toward him, before she quickly recalibrated herself.
Sharp green eyes met the deepest of blue just for a moment, and in that one isolated moment in time, she believed. But it was a nanosecond and then she was gone, abruptly jerked back to the present and the stark cold reality of her current situation. The man that she had loved with her whole foolish heart had lived in this body once, but no longer. The being before her, was not the Leo that she had loved. But still her heart sought his out and she couldn't seem to still the traitorous organ.
Her breath hitched and she clenched her fists before sliding onto the floor and embracing Scout, ignoring the pull at her gut. On the surface the wound was healed, but her skin felt like it wanted to peel off her body. She felt like she was on fire, not able to fit in her skin. Every nerve ending was alive, every synapses was firing in a way that it never had before. Alana absentmindedly ran a hand underneath the pedestrian black tank top she was wearing over where her wound had been. It was gone, physically, but her gut felt like the wound had reopened and was trying to tear her body asunder.
The new and revitalized Scout nuzzled her snout against Alana's neck, and Alana shifted onto her butt on the floor, wrapping her arms around the young pup. A single tear slipped into Scout's fur as her memory slipped back into the perfect moment in time, a rare respite in Reality M, where she and Leo had adopted the pup together. They were going to start their lives together, and this, this cold stalemate was where they had ended up. It was like a series of small deaths and terrible goodbyes every time she was in his presence.
She couldn't bring herself to look at him as she smoothly unfolded her petite form and stood straight, to her full stature of 5"4'. Her knees locked as she fought the urge for them to buckle beneath her. She wouldn't show an ounce of weakness in front of him. It would be mortifying to display it, knowing that she would receive nothing of the sweet affection that had been like air for her once upon a time.
She still hadn't brought herself to utter a single word in his presence, afraid her voice would crack with the tears that threatened to clog her throat. "Great, thanks." It was all she could bring herself to utter. If she told him she was happy to see him again the floodgates would open, and that would be the end of what remained of her meager shredded pride. "You should spend some time with Scout, she misses you" she whispered as she forced one leg to life and move, followed by the other. Alana couldn't bring herself to look at him, and so she looked over his shoulder, directly at the doorway. "If it's not too much of an imposition, I'd like to spend another night, make sure I have my feet under me. Then I'll be out of your hair. Thank you for the..." she drifted off and absentmindedly waved a hand, "the hospitality. Hex was helpful."
She moved around him, and her body again was drawn to his, as if he were the sun, and she a planet caught in his rotation. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping it wouldn't always be like this. It took every ounce of willpower remaining in her tense body to avoid brushing against his arm, avoid resting her cheek against his shoulder, as she had done a thousand times before. Once touching him had been as natural as breathing.
The second her back was to him, Alana sank her teeth into her lip and squeezed her eyes shut. The pain was overwhelming her body. Hex had already shown her to a room, she just had to make it there and figure out what the hell was going on with her. Because god knows she couldn't show an ounce of anything in front of Leo. Not now, and not ever again.
She stumbled once on her way out of the room, and mustered what was left of her depleted energy stores to continue down the hallway, hoping against hope that he was cold enough not to care.
The difference between them - god and mortal - was astronomical. Leonel's heart was controlled, while Alana's embarrassed her. His thoughts flowed calm like a breeze, and hers raced like a wind. So there he floated, ears catching the chorus of suffering in Alana's heart and lungs. "You were hoping for more", he deduced, with neither shame nor hesitation. Holding her gaze, the Prince of Power did for her what he did for few - he landed. Feet touching the cold ivory floor, Leonel's face softened still, yet his chest stood wide and his shoulders broad, a warrior's posture. And his battle? To ease the pain in Alana's heart. "I've moved on, Alana. I respect you too much to pretend otherwise", Leonel paused, for now choosing to say nothing of his burning interest in Helena the Shield Maiden - a god like him.
He would, at least, spare her that pain. Strange for one who so strongly values harsh truths over comfortable lies. "There's a reason why my father's interest has only ever been with people like him", gods, and beings who operated on a scale governed by physical laws man might never have the privilege of knowing. "Because we relate more to people like us. We live and think in nanoseconds. Process all our feelings, reactions and decisions in time frames most people think make us distant... detached. I can't blame them for thinking that. After all, a nanosecond is to a second as a second is to thirty one years and seven months. So for people like us, you can imagine how long a second feels. And you can imagine how quickly, from the perspective of others, we move past things. Emotional upheavals, heartaches, rage. What to us are months and even years of emotion, are seconds to everyone else".
Glancing at Scout and following the peppy arc of the pup's wagging tail, Leonel spoke on. "We hadn't seen each other in years. Years in a normal person's time perception. So you can only imagine the eternity that was for me. I felt it all and dealt with it all, even longer than it usually takes me. But I did. And my feelings have changed", he made clear, his tone sympathetic but calm. "I'm sorry I can't give you something more. And as for spending the night, you're free to. My feelings may have changed but you're still important to me. A close friend", he promised, and as time flowed forward, that was all they'd ever be. "Take the time you need. Your ship should be repaired in some minutes. And any supplies you need you can relay to Hex, he'll get all your shit sorted", he smiled.
Watching Alana leave for the room Hex had prepared for her, Leonel glanced back at Scout and his smile widened. "I have an Imperium to destroy but here the universe throws the biggest distraction my way", he paused, crouching low to scratch Scout behind the ear. "I suppose I can spare a night. Just one".
Things weren't looking good.
Food, water, oxygen...all were running low. The escape shuttle was cramped, and being crammed into it was starting to take a noticeable toll on the passengers' physical and mental health. These weren't spacers or interstellar marines, after all; they were mostly young children to barely-adults, with little training and even less experience that would help them survive or even understand the dangers of being adrift in the void of the uncaring universe.
Of course, it wasn't like their "leader" was a seasoned traverser of the stars, either. She'd spent most of her relatively short existence in cryo-stasis, and running a cantina on a seedy space station didn't exactly confer the rank of captain on anyone. She knew how to manage the controls, and was doing her best to lure in any vessel that might pick up their distress beacon, but as luck would have it, it seemed like all of the greedy lowlifes that would have normally scooped a tiny vessel like hers up had opted to bypass adding on additional cargo in favor of getting away from the superpowered beings who had caused a rift to black hole to open in the middle of the station as quickly as possible. Should have probably seen that one coming...
Her head snapped up from where it had sagged onto the control panel as a proximity alert began blaring. Blinking a few times to reassure herself that she wasn't succumbing to space madness, she took in the impressive expanse of the Augusta as the shuttle's drift brought them to within visual range. She had no idea who or what, if anything, might be inside, but the time to be picky about option was, well, it had never exactly been in the first place, really.
Her deft fingers danced across the control panel as she filtered her message through the onboard omni-translator and broadcast it across any frequency within range. "Hey! If anyone can hear me, this shuttle needs help. It's packed with civilians, and we're running desperately short on supplies. Scan us if you want; we've got no weapons. I'm willing to negotiate for the safe passage of my passengers."
Then the waiting began. Almost involuntarily, her right hand flexed, as the reptilian claws began to lengthen, in anticipation of the "negotiations" coming down to blades and blood. They had a tendency to do that, she'd learned.
She stopped in her tracks as he landed, and fought the urge to reach out and touch him, to run her hand along his cheek as she had every time he had landed before her ages ago. A memory threatened to punch through, and she suffocated it.
He had never been one to mince words or avoid a painful truth, but hearing what was already so clear to her spoken out loud in words that could in no way be misconstrued was like a punch to the gut. It took everything she had not to flinch. He had always been a god, but he had been her god, once upon a time, her love. And something in him had changed between then and now, something that she hadn't noticed early enough when last they had been together.
He was trying to be kind to her, to explain in clear uncertain terms why he no longer felt for her once he had, what was for him many ages ago. On some level she heard it, processed it, understood it. But in her heart, in this moment, it was casually cruel in the name of being honest. She would thank him for it later, she was sure, but now it took everything she had not to let her knees wobble and falter beneath her. "I understand, Leo," she said softly; it was all she was able to muster at the time. Her palm itched with the urge to touch him, not as a lover, but as a friend. But if she touched him, let memories of what once was overcome her, it would be game over for both of them.
"If you're fighting the Imperium you should analyze any debris that was pulled from my wound. It was from Zedracus' weapon," she said as she turned her back to him again, this time walking down the corridor with purpose. She was going to collapse from exhaustion if she didn't hit a bed soon.
Scout's happy yips echoed as Alana continued walking, her her soul was lighter, if only marginally
Her mind was not her own.
She stood on a ship, in a body that was not her own, in a mind that was not her own. Huge glass windows spread before her, giving the perfect theatre to the death and destruction of the planet below. Imperium ships circled in orbit and she stood and watched, her hands clamped behind her back.
She? No. That wasn’t right. Who?
S/he watched from orbit as Imperium ships gathered around the planet. The inky swell of space filled with the superior ships blinking in, one by one, by one. The world below, Delos, practically trembled before their might. S/he had thirsted for this for so long, and now finally it was here. The royals were below, the Solaris family would perish. The system would bend the knee, and the Imperium forces would continue their ruthless conquest.
“Air the transmissions,” he ordered without blinking. S/he wanted to hear their panic, their fear, their prayers. S/he soaked up the cries for help, the wails of torment, the last minutes of an entire planet, as the ships fired plasma bolts along the lateral lines of the planet, beginning the glassing process.
A heady arousal built as the cries came closer and closer together, ending in a piercing cry as the planet screamed in unison, followed by a glorious boom, and then… blessed silence. The planet of Delos was nothing more than rubble in the system, and scattered ships of refugees which he would take glory in hunting to the edges of the universe.
She screamed in her sleep, a dual psychic and telekinetic wave radiating out from her sleeping form and cascading through the ship; a psionic shockwave.
Alana woke up in a cold sweat, her voice hoarse, as she rolled to the side of the bed, fell to the floor on legs that refused to hold her weight, and ran for the bathroom off her suite of rooms. Chills wracked her small frame as her body tried to excise the utter malice which had just overtaken it.
She sat on the cold floor and huddled her knees to her chest, her arms shaking as she shook her head back and forth, not even noticing the freshly red hair that had overtaken her previous brunette.
First Trinity, and now Alana. The Abyssal Imperium had wronged two of his most cherished people. If it wasn't personal before, it surely was now. Yet as he ran his fingers through Scout's thick coat, Leonel tempered the anger simmering in his heart, and in his mind he locked away a promise to make the Imperium pay tenfold. A promise that the cosmos would see unleashed come the dawn of war. But for now, his attention lay in the present - with Scout and Alana. For hours, he and his faithful companion played, replacing the quiet intensity of a warrior-king with the chorus of happiness and simplicity. And in time, the weight of fatigue set in Scout's heart, and sleep drowned his mind like a tide with a coast.
The Prince of Power however, needn't sleep. Energy was his rest, and the Hypercube gave him plenty. In a place black and colorless, Leonel hovered in midair, meditating and absorbing the storm of energy from exomatter - ultra-dense tachyonic matter from the hyper-spatial bulk itself. Again and again the Hypercube disengaged and reengaged the exomatter from bulk space, feeding Leonel a wave of energy his cells called sustenance. Stepping out the Hypercube with the thrum and crackle of power in his very veins, Leonel caught the familiar cry of Alana's scream - and the thundering surge of psychic energy rocking Augusta's very core. "Shit", he cursed, his face a canvas of concern. "Hex, neutralizing frequencies on! I want the anti-psi nanobots calming the shock-wave", Leonel roared before braving the psychic sting of the rampant energy and soaring into Alana's room with a cavalry's urgency.
||-At once, sir-||, Hex assured.
In Alana's room, the Prince of Power found a sight unrecognizable. His eyes gazed past her sweaty skin and wet hair, and found a psychic storm swarming Alana's cells. It was wild and untamed, and her hair was... red? "Funking hell, Alana", his eyes widened, face wrinkled by worry. Gliding towards her, Leonel would tolerate no protests as he carried her into his arms. "Are you alright?", he asked, voice softer, pitch lower, "That was a lot of power you released. Enough to rock my entire space station. You've never had this kind of power. And your cells", he paused, as stern as he needed to be, and as soft as she needed him to be. Though his feelings'd changed, their depth hadn't. She was still important, still dear to him, still a friend who'd seen the best and worst of him. "They've mutated completely".
"That's probably why you were so exhausted", he said, carrying her out her room to the medical bay for tests and observation. "You've undergone some kind of transformation. And your cells are firing off like fireworks. Psychic energy. We need to make sure this won't harm you. Or my space station", he bantered, hoping to lift her mood, if only for that sweeping second. Though as they neared the medical bay and he handed her to his helper-bots, the smile faded from Leonel's face. "What happened during your encounter with the Imperium?".
Her small frame shook chaotically in his arms as her mind tried to fold in on itself, even as it was surging outwards, reaching for something. Her friend's arms encircled her in their unbreakable hold, nearly cradling her as worry and concern laced his voice. Nothing broke through to her enough to actually register and settle; she was a prisoner of her own mind at the moment as psionic energy tried to consume her.
Goosebumps sprouted on her arms as she shivered furiously in his arms, even as sweat soaked her hair. Every time she tried to speak, her mind caved in on itself and no words came out. All she could do was live over and over again the sick joy of Zedracus as he killed a world. Alana came to herself for just a moment, tears streaming down her face as she rested a cheek against Leo's shoulder in a moment of rest as the shakes wracking her form ceased for a moment.
"They're dead," she whimpered, before keening against his shoulder, her little body trying to shake itself apart again, bile rising in her throat.
He deposited her onto a bed and the helper-bots immediately began placing electrodes on her, only for them to spark and fizzle the second that they did so. Her body wasn't regulating itself, and power surges were sparking from her irregularly. Nothing compared to the psionic wave that had threatened to overcome the ship, but it was, well, not good.
She drew her knees up to her chest as she sat in bed, looking to Leo for help. The helper-bots were frazzled, not quite sure how to deal with such an unknown quotient. "The... there.... there's s...some......something I should t-tell you." She fought past the lump in her throat as her teeth chattered and sweat slicked hair she hadn't even noticed was red to her forehead.
One of the helper bots jumped as she sparked again, static crackling in the air around her. ||After you left M I did something that in hindsight you probably would not have approved of. Ashley Knightfall developed a serum, and I took it. We were dying and you were…. You were gone, Leo. And I didn’t know what else to do. It altered me, genetically, it funked with my psionics, it strengthened my shield, but I think it did something more.||
Halfway through, she had transitioned from spoken word to telepathic speech, without realizing, as her powers fluctuated and surged. Her emerald green irises expanded, nearly overtaking the whites of her eyes as she continued to shake.
Alana lifted the bottom of the tattered grey t-shirt, one of the few things she’d salvaged from M, and ran her hand over the ragged scar on the pale white skin of her stomach. It was healed only because of Hex and the assistance of the medical bay, but it thrummed with an unnatural energy. ||Zedracus’ weapon sliced me,|| she bit out. ||It may have altered me further.||
Another surge, and this time she slid down to her back, digging her heels into the bed as every muscle in her body tenses to a fine point, before finally relaxing., and turning on her side, curling into the fetal position “Find a way to knock me out, Leo. It’s too much,” she whimpered raggedly. Every time she closed her eyes all she could see was death and destruction, and the joy and excitement it had aroused in Zedracus.
To hear her words was to feel the weight of Reality-M - and it sat like a mountain on his shoulders. "M was a curious case", Leonel sighed, shooing the severity of universal death from his thoughts. "We were so distracted by the war that we didn't notice the decay, the entropic death happening all around us", he reminded, his brow wearing the severity he'd so recently expelled from his mind. "Things can't even happen there anymore. M has reached thermodynamic equilibrium, maximum entropy. Atoms can't even form there anymore. For a long time I trained to become strong enough that a threat like the ones my parents posed in M wouldn't go uncontested here. So now we have the Abyssal Imperium, and I intend to destroy them".
"But the Imperium isn't the real problem. The real problem is the decay that took our universe from us. Because I don't know what caused it, and if I don't know, then nothing's stopping it from happening to this universe too". It was a grim scenario. And hopefully one that would never come to pass. "It's one of the reasons I'm up here using my Hypercube to study the past. A fate of thermodynamic equilibrium isn't a great mystery", Leonel paused, arms crossing over his chest, "It's a possible end to any universe, at least the ones that are like this. But what happened on M wasn't natural. M wasn't due a "big freeze", not even close. And yet it happened. Something caused it. And if I learn what, maybe I won't just prevent the same from happening here, but revive M as well". A discussion however, for another day. Instead, the Prince of Power caught the sharp crackle of his electrodes failing, and dismissed his helper-bots amid their confusion.
Brow furrowed, eyes concerned, Leonel passed his gaze over Alana's body, glimpsing at the psychic energy thickening in her veins. He watcher her eyes flare bright like stars, and his gaze deepened, peering past the rolling sea of energy and into her very cells and genes. He scowled, and heard her voice float not to his ears - but echo in his mind. "Your cells are mutating more and more every second. They're turning into receiving and transmitting devices uniquely sensitive to the properties of psychic energy. Alana, there's no other way for me to tell you this. You're turning into a conduit of psychic energy. But it's all happening so fast that your body has no time to filter out any excess energy, to keep you from bursting". He could only imagine the pain. Striding to her side, a command flowed out Leonel's mind and his nanobots answered.
"Just stay calm". Reaching for her hand, his thumb stroking it's back long and soft, Leonel watched his nanobots swarm into her pores to do their deed; filter out the excess psychic energy causing her pain. They would keep her body stable, and her mind sound. "Once your mutation's complete, your body'll stabilize on it's own. Till then, my nanobots will be your meds". Glancing down, his cape brushing against her cheek like a soft breeze, Leonel released his grip, "So what've you been doing all this time?".
Maricela's was improving exponentially, be able to conjure a gateway while their father was in mid-flight was one thing, but being able to pin-point Leonel's signature across the galaxy was monumental. Not even at the apex of her control of darkness could Cat transport herself across a galaxy.
Wiping the residual tears from her eyes after she broke the news to Tassi; news that devastated the young child--and her too tbh. The two of them had been together for years, every decision from the time she took Tassi in to now had been in Tassi's best interest--this was no different. Much like their mother before her, she'd give her life to ensure that Tassi lived--she truly believed she was the "Child of destiny"
A child that could reforge a new Family government, a prosperous and happy one. Despite the drying tears, Cat's face repel a look of immense sadness, Tassi had called her "Mom" which was ironic because that was the one person she was actively trying not to be like. It wasn't until she heard Tassi say it that she realized...she really was Ziccarra--the best parts of her.
"You told me once. That in your universe our roles were reversed. That I was the one protecting you, you survived and I died. I'm here to tell you...that's not the case here. I-I need your help Leonel."
Upon the surface of a moon, Villon was confused, uneasy, and afraid. He was afraid of the feeling of not being complete, like a puzzle messing its pieces. He felt that part of himself was lost, yearning to come united with himself. This feeling continuously enveloped him throughout his duties. The feeling of being a shell of one's self. Whenever he was alone, in the darkness of space, he would always try to find an answer to this feeling. Unfortunately, he couldn't find one. The lack of self bothered him deeply, and the worse part about it was that it always returned. The emptiness, the void, within him desired to be filled.
How can he protect others, when he is on shaky grounds with his very being. It frightened him, that there could be an event to separate part of himself. However, he knew that it was there. Somewhere in the empty space, The Grid would never lie to him. He felt it calling him by name.
The word 'Freedom' rang in his ear quickly loudly, alarming him. He quickly looked around the coarse landscape, finding no other person besides himself. 'Freedom' kept pounding upon his skull, practically beating him into submission. The sound of freedom wasn't beautiful as many people say it is. It was a ringing sound, a low-pitched one. It seemed to speak to his entire being. The feeling of freeing others wasn't sweet, but detrimental. However, he felt that that was a part of him, but somewhat different from him.
However, Villon noticed something that was extreme eye-catching. A large space station in the void of the cosmos, it was beautiful in its own sense. The Non-God was impressed by the structure and technology that it possesses. However, realizing how nonhuman it is alarmed him. He was unsure if it was a threat to Earth or was it harmless. The uncertainty made him uneasy, so he decided to examine it. However, he didn't want to startle anyone so he would let his presence be known beforehand. He would increase his luminosity to the equivalent of a yellow star causing the darkness surrounding to him to turn blindingly white. He then gradually approached it. However, as he continued to proceed closer to it, his cells were being drawn towards it, collecting a surplus of zero-point energy. This increased his uneasiness.
He would begin to wonder who made the Ship Station and kind of species they were. Unsure of what language they speak, he would hold his head down and hold up a "V" gesture with his right hand. He watched an American movie known as E.Tit stated that the gesture meant universal peace, and he believed them
The Prince of Power's mind was racing. The war with the Abyssal Imperium loomed near, High Kings and Queens from the top of the cosmic strata had come down to pass judgment on him and his family, and Alana - a dear friend - was becoming a psychic force once human. So he took his refuge to the cosmos, drifting between galaxies in an emerald fortress. And there, Leonel sat on a throne that long symbolized his leave from Earth. Rarely did he walk among man. Instead, he ventured the cosmic sea above them in search of answers, solutions. A solution to the decay, the entropic death of Reality M, to the plight of his family, and to the threat posed by Nordok and the Imperium. It had not been easy, and it might never be.
So as a gale rushed through the fabric of space-time and a portal tore open nearby, Leonel rose from his seat and scowled a storm. He didn't recognize the energy crackling round the portal, nor did Augusta's sensors and scanners. An enemy? Perhaps. Fists tightened, eyes turned to smoldering pits of white, and his power surging, Leonel stood ready. And yet, there was no enemy. Only Catalina, his sister. "Oh", he paused, the glow fading from his eyes, "Shit. It's you", he smiled, "I didn't recognize that portal. It's energy frequencies weren't from the device I gave you. Doesn't matter", he shrugged, dismissing the thought. Though as his eyes lingered on Catalina, and he caught the strain of sadness on her face, his own face softened. Catalina'd always been difficult, always defiant, always wild like a storm that could never be calmed. She was their mother's pathologies magnified, tenfold.
And perhaps that was why they had been so close once. She resembled the mother he related to, and she'd been his unbowing shield in Reality M. It was often said that those who love strongest fight hardest. Perhaps then, it was why he and Catalina'd dueled so furiously. "I underestimated what you were going through on Earth. Between Tassi, your own daughter - congratulations by the way - the Lavaliere you had to wrestle from Zeon, and all the other shit, you've kept busy. But you can only do so much alone. When you need to take a break, bring your daughter here, I'll watch over her", he offered, gliding to her side with a true hand on her shoulder. "And I'll help you with whatever you need". After all, was he not raising an army and smithing machines to make a ruin of the Abyssal Imperium for his friend?
What lengths then would he go to for his sister?
In space, sound did not echo. And yet, in the cosmic wasteland between galaxies, the thrum of reality - of all things - was heard clearest. It was a low hum, imperceptible to all but the ears of gods and the instruments that mimicked them. It was the chorus of quantum fluctuations and virtual particles blinking in and out of reality's fundamental foam. To those who could hear it, it was a song most beautiful. And as Augusta drifted at the edges of Andromeda's arms, it was a song precious to it's halls. But alas, it did not last. A blinding light flared across the blackness, and all drowned in it's electromagnetic scream. A rogue star? No. As Augusta's gates parted the glow, Leonel's eyes found not a star - but a golden man.
Behind the Prince of Power, Augusta's gates slammed shut like giant slabs of emerald. His cells drank the light soaring bright all about them, and gold faded to coal. Space was black once more, yet the man before him was still golden. Glimpsing at the man's hand, at his gesture, Leonel made his assumptions and strode forward. An E.T. reference, must be human, he thought. Yet as the Hyper-God climbed into a glide, his white cape spread like featherless wings of light and Leonel came to hover a meter from a man who was anything but. His titanium facial muscles wore a mask of curiosity and for a nanosecond, confusion. Finally, as arms that could end worlds and smith wonders crossed over his chest, the Prince of Power came to realize how wrong he was. He's no human. That much he was certain. His eyes passed over him and he saw no DNA. And this... being's cells were humanoid only in style.
In substance, they were truly alien.
Astonishing, otherworldly - like his. The being before him was a stranger. A stranger governed by laws more prominent by word of cosmic order. He was powerful and potentially dangerous. Leonel took note, met the stranger's eyes with neutrality and waited. It was the stranger after all, that had come to his door.
Surely, Leonel imagined, he had come in search of something.
Villon stood silently as he noticed a stranger approached him. The Grid would move and the wavelengths around the stranger shifted in ways Villon hasn't seen before. The light that was once produced by himself was seemingly effortlessly swallowed the newcomer's cells. It was an astonishing view, as the light fed the ribosomes of Hyper-God. He has seen others who empower themselves through light, but it was always staggered Villon. From the photons being pulled to the biological structure, to the conversation of light energy into proteins and what-not. The sight was amazing, he wanted to touch it and almost did. But his mission prevented him from doing so. He noticed the stranger floating in the vastness of space with him and after a quick biological scan. The Non-God could tell that he wasn't human.
Villon's clear blue eyes sharpened as he examined the ship behind him, searching for any incoming threats. He could only find a woman upon the ship but ignored her. He looked at the man who could possibly be friend/foe. Then, he would begin to open his mouth to speak, but instead of words, there was a distortion in from of his face, causing him to seemed deformed to others besides himself.
The Golden Guardian would quickly stop his attempt at speech and would decide to write with the visible light. His finger would begin to illuminate and gleam with intense light. The light would be directed to a location a few miles away from them with a simple message upon it:
Friend or Foe
She focused on his voice with laser precision as psychic energy surged through her body, causing minor convulsions followed by unabated aches and shakes. Many a time they had drifted off in bed together with him musing about the universe, explaining complex theories. It had been her lullaby. She focused on it now, storing the information to peruse later, because all she could process right now was his voice and the very basics of the information he was relating to her.
"Hurts," she whispered as it felt like every nerve ending was on fire, like her body wanted to crawl out of its skin. Silent tears streamed down her cheeks - she had learned the brutal art of crying noiselessly a long, long time ago - and breathed a deep sigh of relief as he reached for her hand and she felt almost immediate relief as the nanobots coursed through her. She took several deep breaths and was about to answer his question when the pain came over her again.
Her natural psionic ability had always been a defensive telekinetic shield, and now it was on steroids. Telekinetic and telepathic psionic energies mingled and coursed through her body like a storm, clearing out any impurities down to the smallest atomic level - impurities such as the nanobots regulating her intake of psychic energy. Alana let out an earsplitting scream, followed by a quiet keening moan, as her back arched and she nearly passed out. The psychic energy was running rampant through her again, and the lights in the room flickered.
All she could do was withstand the deluge of psionic energy as it crashed upon the rocky cliffs of her mind as it shattered and pieced itself back together, new, different. What felt like centuries passed in mere moments, and she lay still on the table, soaked in sweat, still shaking a little, but nothing compared to the convulsions that had previously overtaken her.
Alana realized she was still holding Leo's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze before she brought her arms up and rested the backs of her hands against her forehead, breathing deeply, in and out. Her body felt electrified, different, stronger, better, new.
She wasn't able to form words yet, her mind was racing in ways that it never had before, and she was shellshocked to say the least. Instead she reached out for Leo's hand and tried to show him what she had been doing. Fighting against the Imperium. Running rescue missions. Running sabotage missions. Trying to avoid his quadrant of space for as long as she could. Emotions she didn't mean for him to feel slipped in there - this was new power was unwieldy, fluctuating in her head - and her fear and homesickness and loneliness bled into his mind for just a second before she fought to lock it down.
"This feels weird," she whispered, stretching her free hand in front of her face and watching as sparks of psionic energy jumped from fingertip to fingertip.
Like a guardian angel, the Prince of Power stood by Alana's side, his hand squeezing hers as he gazed upon the psychic chaos unfolding under her skin. Her cells sparked like fires eager to be lit, and once more Leonel imagined the pain. Had Alana not felt the tyranny of agony enough? Had she not seen the specter of death one times too many in the tragedy that rotted their home universe? The totality of her pain came into his view - and it sickened him. Nanobots purged, her body unstable, Leonel scowled and the daring light within urged him to take a risk for her and pull her energies - her psychic torment - from his cells to his. Though of the energy his cells drank was electromagnetic, not psychic, Leonel thought nothing of it.
He was a warrior. A god. He was born into war and forged by the fires of conflict. He would take Alana's suffering and endure it with the steel of a Roman god of war. And yet the lights above danced a glitchy rhythm - and Alana stabilized. Brow furrowed and his face twisted by concern as much as curiosity, the Prince of Power passed his gaze over Alana, through her flesh and into her cells. He scouted her molecules and body a thousand times over for every heartbeat, and as her hand left his, he found the sea of energy in her body... calm. "Hm", hand rubbing his chin, eyes searching for any rising tides of psychic energy in her cells, Leonel shrugged. "Well shit. As painful as that transformation was, it looks like all we needed to do was let it play out. Imagine that", he paused, mouth pulling back into a smile as his banter swept in, "You even had me scared for a second there, which as you know, is a funking long time for me".
"I'm glad you're okay".
The sincerity and sympathy echoed from his voice as much as it sat in his smile. And her response came not as words, but a touch of the hand that pulled him into a psychic hall of memories. She was not reading his mind, but sharing her thoughts. And the Prince of Power glimpsed at everything. And as sparks crackled from her fingers to his, he felt all her longing and emotion crash into him like a meteor sent by a life they no longer shared. A love he no longer felt. Like a jailer, a warden, Alana locked away the emotions she'd surrendered to him a mere second ago. Withdrawing his hand from hers, Leonel, try as he might, could return none of the love she so desperately sought. Time had passed, things had changed, and so had he. His interest lay in another, a goddess both of war and peace.
So as his cape fluttered from the arcs of energy surging about Alana's hair and skin, Leonel offered her only what he could. Like a gentle breeze, his hands touched the sides of her face as he drew her gaze to him. He smiled, gentle and sympathetic, and his lips grazed the corner of hers, his touch warm - and the kiss gentle. It was neither of love nor of passion. But of closure and depth. The depth that their friendship now had. "I'm sorry that things changed, Alana".
Behind him, Augusta glimmered. A grand emerald drifting through the cosmos like a star. Drifting as home to a god whose hand passed through the hyper-spatial bulk. A god who now hovered before a being whose power knew no bounds, and from whom he'd been asked a strange question. Friend or Foe. Leonel's eyes caught the glow of words written with light instead of ink - on reality instead of paper - and he couldn't keep his left eyebrow from raising. A being more anomaly than anything else had roamed the cosmos and cast the light of stars upon him to ask him a question the Prince of Power could regard as no more than trivial. Weird, he thought, his answer as suspended in space as his cape behind him.
A conversation of such means'd - with light writ in space itself - was pointless. But Leonel was no fool. To invite a stranger into Augusta's ivory halls would be to surrender himself to the reason of animals. No, less than animals, for even they defend their territory from the unknown. Instead, he gestured. Come with me, his hand waved, his body speeding through space like a cosmic bullet. Traversing a sea of stars and black, Leonel raced past the speed of light as his space-time processor upgraded the space around him - pushing higher and higher reality's processing speed till soaring past light itself was made possible. Light years ahead, a moon awaited them. Finally, Leonel slowed and descended, gliding into the moon to catch the smell of iron ore in it's crust and a strong wind. There, with an atmosphere, they could speak.
"Neither", the Prince of Power'd answer, voice deep like thunder, "To be a friend is to have a relationship, as is being a foe. I have none with strangers. And I've never met you, I don't know you, your intentions, your past, your present. To judge you as either friend or foe without knowing you would be awfully stupid of me". Perhaps this man of gold was a man of good. A protector of values treasured by many a community across the cosmos. Or perhaps he was a tyrant, malicious and eager to impose and oppress. Leonel had yet to know.
So against this stranger of infinite power, he would stand firm and on guard.
The slightly rough skin of his palms grazed against her cheeks as he held her face gently. Alana squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, focusing on the recalibration that her brain - nay, her entire body - had just undergone. Changed to the most minute of levels, the entire world felt different, changed, new. But the feel of his hands on her skin was the same as it had always been.
Something twinged in her stomach, in her heart, and settled in her gut. Nostalgia. A mourning for what once had been, and for what may have been again at some point. The small death of a part of herself, and the burying of an era of her life. She opened her eyes slowly, meeting his eyes, deep blue like a night that was just shifting to darkness.
There was love in his gaze, but it wasn't the fresh love of a first romance, or the fiery love of a grown lust, both of which they had experienced. It was the love of a dear friend, one who cared deeply, who loved her, but who was no longer in love with her, and never would be again. She forced that part of her life into a coffin and buried it six feed deep in her brain. Bury the old, greet the new.
His lips brushed against the corner of hers with almost destructive tenderness, and she shored up the cracks in her heart and held herself to only a single tear streaming down her cheek. It was sorrow, not for their lost love, but for the gentleness of youth that they had somehow found in a warzone. A simpler time that they would never get back. It was the goodbye to the old, the hello to the new.
Alana wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled his head down, gently resting her forehead against his, closing, her eyes and sitting in silence for a blessed few moments as they both said their goodbyes to what had been, and welcomed in this new era of who they were to each other. "I'm sorry too, Leo," she whispered as she pulled away from their forehead to forehead embrace and rested her forehead against his shoulder, unable to be so close to him for this next part. "Sorry that I wasn't able to be what you needed, sorry that I didn't fight harder, sorry that we can't go back to simpler times. But never sorry for what we had, never sorry for you."
She worried about him. He was too removed up here, away from his family, away from humanity. Alana patted his shoulder and placed a quick kiss on his cheek, patting his shoulder as if to say she was okay. It was at that moment that Scout yipped from the doorway before leaping up onto the med-bay bed and plopping her gargantuan form between them, pushing them apart. The Caucasian Shepherd was known for it's size, but Scout had never acted as anything other than a lapdog, and Alana could see now how much their pup had missed Leo.
Alana leaned over Scout, burying her face in the dog's tufts of fur, gently stroking her fingers against her, before Scout shuffled out from under her and tried to crawl onto Leo's lap as Alana lay back in the bed, absolutely exhausted. She felt wrung out, strung on a tightrope, and like every inch of her body and brain had been beaten. The stripe across her abdomen still felt like it was on fire, and every now and then a spark of psionic energy would flicker at her fingertips. "What am I?" she asked quietly, mostly to herself.
(I wrote this post when I was going through my little episode, so I apologize if it feels rushed and bland. My next post will be definitely better).
"You do not understand, Leonel. I do not judge my godhood because of the actions of my relatives. If that were the case, I would have judged my mother based on the actions of Zeus. I wholeheartedly believe there are Gods compelled by righteousness. Is Hephaestus, while flawed, not good for aiding us in our fight? Is Hephaestus not good for giving me these?" She held up her forearm - her black sleeve draping downwards, and revealing her gleaming vambraces. "These protected me my whole life - from many foes. They shielded the world from the fury that lies dormant within me." She rubbed her encompassed forearm, her face clearly troubled at the thought of being a potential menace to the world. "Leo, there is no peace for demigods. Nothing to be proud about," The former princess reaffirmed, her tone as confident as her mother during a game of wits. "It is because of this nature that I was chased from my home. It is because of this nature that Ares descended from Olympus, and tried to slay me. It is because of this nature that my own home was invaded, and possibly reduced to ash. I could continue, but that will be as endless as Chaos."
Helena refused to be proud of something that has only brought confusion, torment, and loss. While this is what made her into the woman she is today, she yearned for some happiness and answers. The only demigod to experience a happy ending was Perseus, and for that she despised being a demigod, because she knew the price of being one. Not only that, but she was the only demigod to experience a journey that bore similarities to the forty years of wandering from the Bible of the Christian God. She allowed his encouraging words to be loosed at her - A goddess of war and peace - something she did not want to be. Immediately the words of truth that sailed at her like an arrow changed trajectory and sailed back to the Prince of Power, as if Helena was the Aegis Shield - radiating fear. What was worse than a demigod? A god or goddess with immorality. "Thank you for seeing something in me that I cannot clearly see at this point in my journey," The demigod warrior approached him until she was in the proximity of his body heat. She could hear the enchanting whispers of Aphrodite, trying to charm her into kissing his lips, but her mind was as solid as the shoulders of Atlas, which bore the weight of Ouranos. She could hear the mischievous laughter of the winged gods associated with love and sexual desire dancing around her, hurling antagonizing commands to kiss him. "But in order for me to truly experience peace, I must know the truth. One cannot truly become who they are meant to be, if they do not know who they are." She extended her arm toward him for a handshake, disappointing the divine beings of love.
Don't flatter myself too much." Helena scoffed and sniffled at the notion, even if it were a joke. She wanted to squeeze his hand if he accepted it, but instead she responded. "I do not flatter," She paused for a moment, contemplating whether she should make her chess move against him or not. "Even if I did, you certainly take the prize from me," She bantered and made her move, reminding him of his flirtatious behavior. In order to win someone over sexually or romantically, you had to flatter them; whether it was sincere or not. "I believe you'll make the right decision if the Fates will my death; you don't seem like a man who allows attachments to get the best of him. I am just an assuring woman."
"I've been fighting wars since before you were born", Helena felt the compulsive desire to roll her eyes mockingly, but she held herself back once she realized his words concealed a hidden sadness. She was not one to assume without some form of evidence, but the way he paused made her curious, and want to pry deeper into his past. The demigod warrior of all people knew what it was like to mask a past tragedy. The Prince of Power may have conquered his demons - unlike her, but that did not mean he was immune to past hurts. Leo at the end of the day was no automaton forged by Hephaestus; he still experienced sadness and other emotions, unless he was an automaton and she was wrong. Luckily this was all speculation in her mind. "Oh shut up, in my experi-" The former princess held herself back, and decided the banter was not worth countering. They were seven years apart, and while there was a possibility he had experienced more wars than she had; there was no way to know for sure, as she had seen her fair share during her time as a huntress. Besides, was it worth countering someone who was pulling her strings, much like the Fates? Was it worth countering someone who like her was troubled by something from their past? No.
"If your role in this is to die at war with the Imperium... it's the price we pay as warriors. And in your case you'd be doing more than facing a consequence. You'd be giving yourself to a cause you believe in. Protecting people". Helena nodded in agreement, a slight smile dominating her lips. If she wasn't at war with Aphrodite and the children of love, she would have shown him how impressed she was with his way of thinking. Much like her mother, Helena was skilled with concealing her facial expressions and how she truly felt - but only when she was truly focused. "Glad we can agree on that, Prince of Power." Her eyes narrowed when he singled out "protecting people." She found it suspicious that this was the second time he seemed displeased with her tendency to aid others in need. Why was that? A question for later.
Helena did not want to jump into another conversation, even if her curiosity was attempting to get the best of her. Instead of questioning him about what seemed to be his distaste for selflessness, she listened as he explained to her how she did know what she was fighting for, why she should let people in, and how much better she was than her own relatives. Those were all words of wisdom, but again, there were reasons for why she was the way she was. "I believe it is Sun Tzu who once said; if you know yourself and your enemy, you need not fear a hundred battles. While we are not enemies, at least for now, I think we should first hear each other's tales before drawing any conclusions." She suggested. Sun Tzu was right, she needed to know herself, and that is what she planned to find on Delphi.
"I'm going to Delphi with you. As for me", Leo once again displayed his persistence to journey with her to seek out all the answers she deserved to know. As much as she wanted to reject his attempts to pry into her life, the Fates willed against it, and she knew she was better off surrounding herself with those who felt the need to concern themselves in her affairs. There were advantages and disadvantages to being alone, but the same applied to having companions. She could not see why the Fates wanted her to form her version of the Argonauts, but she understood it was time to allow people in. "Nothing I say will stop your determination; so why even bother protesting?" The former of princess sort of bantered, as there was some truth to what she said. "But go on." She beckoned him to tell his story, something she was curious about.
Hearing his words made her realize she was not the only divine being out there with a traumatic past. It was not even known to her that the Prince of Power carried the same nature as her, but even worse; he was a god, and she was a demigod. One day she would age and wither away - if the Fates were merciful enough to give her that - while he would stay youthful, handsome, and strong. She wanted to ask so many questions about his godhood, but his traumatic experience is what kept her curious nature in line. Now she understood what Leo meant when he said he could relate to her. Like her, he must of struggled with discovering his purpose after his universe was wiped out. Like her, he must of distanced himself from humanity after forging this floating fortress. And like her, he was probably once filled with regret and confusion. Both of them had lost their worlds, and while she still was not certain about the fate of her world; she still could not return to it. "You were correct about not being so different from me," She moved to clasp his hand with her other hand, as a way to show sympathy. "It makes this all the more easier," The demigod warrior confessed. After hearing what he had been through, she now felt like she could confide in the Prince of Power. For the first time in her lifetime, she had a companion she could relate to. "I am sorry about your world, and your parents. It must of been hard for you to accept this universe as your own. But now I understand how you could relate to me," She admitted with no regret, confliction, or fear.
"Tell me: What is the fate of your parents from your universe? Did they fade? Did they escape? I wish to know more about your parents, and the corruption that overtook them."
The Sentinel knew that he had many to question to ask but none was as important as this. Being friend or foe was important to him, if the man was friend then the following series of questions could be asked, if foe then no questions can be asked. He was a protector and the question which seemed trivial to others was important to him. It determined whether to bring death on others, or help them in their ventures. The large alien station that drifted in the cosmos startled him, not for his own protection ,but for the protection of others weaker than him. However, the man stated for him to follow his own path. This was an odd request but if it helped Villon get his answer he would do so. Before he followed the man, he let flicked his wrist to release a small particle from it's hold on the universe to travel at trans-luminal speeds to see where he was being taken to. As the particle it it's location, it traveled back in the space-time continuum due to special relativity. As it returned to the Sentinel, it proved the senses of where it was.
A moon, thought the Sentinel. This was an odd location to meet, but it may be because that the cosmos disallows sound. The Non-God accepted the odd being's invitation and followed him, now assured he wasn't going to be ambushed. A faster than the speed of light, did they both arrive at a coarse landscape. It was grey,lifeless, and everything that The Creationist hated. So to lighten his nerves he gave the moon a better atmosphere, plant life, water, alien animal life, and sentient life. After he provided the barren moon an ecosystem, he then began to listen to the Hyper-God's answer.
Neither, was the stranger's reply, but seemed to miss the question maybe due to the Golden Guardian's lack of a detailed question. He seemed to have thought the question was for Villon's own relationship to him and if he was a friend to himself. As the life bloomed in the background, he would then clear up the question; "Of course you have no relations to myself. The question was asked to ensure that you needed not to be annihilated for Earth's sake of peace.", he knew that if the Alien had any knowledge of Earth that the Hyper-God knew of Earth's many futile wars and endless quarrels, but his job as the Guardian wasn't to be the Mother but the protector of Earth.
The Sentinel was more concerned about the strange Connection that he felt to the ship, it felt like a sharp pain and pleasure to himself. So he would then another question concerning the object. "Assuming that you are neither ally nor enemy to Earth as well, and have no relations with it's people. Would you mind answering the following question? Why do you carry such an object on your quarters? Is it a weapon, is it for defense?"The Sentinel hasn't been in contact with any 4th dimensional entities but he has been their before. It was a realm of wonders and such, but for the Sentinel it was new land to discover. The Sentinel looked at the thriving life and began to babble about life and it's mysteries, but then stumbled across a question that he had for a while and decided to ask the stranger just cause.
"Forgive me for asking much questions, I am a curious being, but I have another to ask you. Is anarchy the better alternative than a dictatorship? "
"Leo, there is no peace for demigods. Nothing to be proud about"
Helena's voice echoed as clear as day, and her words floated to Leonel's ears with a conviction he found admirable - but misguided. "No, you're wrong", he countered, surrendering to the tide of disagreement rising in his heart and mind. "You weren't chased from your home because you were a demigod any more than Atholis' people were massacred because they were human. Atholis had enemies, and the Winter Solstice was an opportunity for those enemies. Ares didn't try to kill you because you're a demigod, he tried to kill you because he's Ares. He's more a mad dog of war than a god of war. You keep blaming your nature for things that have nothing to do with it. Being a demigod is not a curse. Being a member of the Greek pantheon is".
"If you can't even have pride in yourself, in what you are, why should anyone else? Why should the people you save be proud to have you around? Why should your mother be proud to have you as a daughter? Why should I be proud to have you as an ally?", he scowled, his eyes daring to pierce into hers like arrows sharp and blue. "Why should anyone else see your worth if you can't even see it yourself?", Leonel pressed, unapologetic, harsh, but well-meaning. He stepped forward, and the air shifted, giving itself to the quiet intensity of his gaze. "So stand straight, chest out, and chin high. The world is cruel. Horrible things happen to everyone. Did I lose my mother, my universe, my entire way of life because I'm a god? What about everyone else who wasn't? Did the 300 Spartans die because they were Spartans or because they were outnumbered? Did Heracles try to shoot the sun with arrows for being too hot because he was a demigod or because he was stupid? You're the hero, Helena, not me. So I shouldn't be the one to tell you not to surrender your own hope and pride".
To the rest, the Prince of Power said little. Allowing himself a small comfort from his past, Leonel - for a fleeting nanosecond - retreated into his own thoughts as the tale of his past still hung in the air. Sighing, and his eyes closing to the lost chance to reclaim his home universe, Leonel pictured the cosmic graveyard Reality M'd become. Black and empty, save for the stray particle - elementary instead of subatomic - running a lonely race for light years. His mind lingered in the dark, till the small comfort of his thoughts'd given way to the great comfort of Helena's hand grasping his. Her eyes were sympathetic, as were her words. Meeting her gaze, Leonel who'd been driven from his home yet held the power to smite worlds, had found a kindred spirit. And as she stood up close, and his eyes caught the soft glow of a woman more goddess than mortal, her beauty stared him back. He pulled her closer, perhaps he shouldn't have, yet regret found no home in his heart and mind.
She was an inch from him, and for that instance, he glanced at her lips. Passion had claimed his gaze, if only for the fleeting tick of a nanosecond. "My birth parents are dead. And as far as I'm aware, only I and a handful of people escaped my universe's death. And the corruption that took my parents and I suspect - decayed my universe - came from the 3rd Society. Never understood their motives but they're... alien. Not in the classical sense. They're just different. They think differently, feel differently, if at all. And they harvest people as information-processing units. What for? I don't know. Sometimes they corrupt people to do their bidding. Of course, they could've never imagined what my parents'd turn into. They lost control of them. They all died but", he paused, holding her gaze with stark severity, "There's a 3rd Society in this universe".
The Prince of Power lived in an emerald fortress of his own making. It drifted through the cosmos, today in Andromeda, tomorrow the Great Attractor. And yet, Alana still had the strength of knowledge to find him. So here she walked, a mortal in a verdant city of gods built by the one with whom she'd once known love. Their embrace lingered till finally their bodies divorced from one another, and he met her eyes as her words flowed soft. "It's okay. Our lives have never been easy. We lost a universe. This, we can handle", he smiled, his words a small but true comfort. But there was no comfort in what awaited them all. War. The Abyssal Imperium. So as he felt the touch of her hand on his shoulder, and the graze of her lips on his cheek, Leonel could distract himself no longer.
Were it for the Imperium, Alana would've been elsewhere, not here reunited with him. In the cold crust of dead planets, he'd find the remains of his dear friend buried - they were merciful. For if not, she'd spend what was left of her years bent by the tyranny of slavery. On Battleworld? Elsewhere? He could only imagine. "Alana", Leonel began, fingers running through Scout's coat and scratching her behind the ear to the frantic wag of her tail, "Don't take this the wrong way, I'm happy to see you and Scout, but shit's really hit the fan in this universe. The Imperium is gearing up to conquer the universe, and I've just learned that multiple Universal Lavalieres, are on Earth. They're powerful cosmic artifacts that promise omnipotence to the person to gather them all. And I've taken it upon myself to stop one of those things. The Lavaliere business seems more like a potential problem than an active one. But the Imperium is very much active".
"And as much as I'd love to spend feel good time with you and Scout, I can't afford to. If I don't destroy the Imperium, few other people'll try. I've gathered allies, drawn up plans and amassed war resources. I could use you. We work well together and you're a leading veteran of a war of a scale most people'll never live to see. If you're willing, I can catch you up to speed on everything", he offered, hoping that Alana's spirit still held a strength that could bend steel, and her heart a courage that could brave fire. "Plus, with your recent transformation, I can't let you leave just yet. There's no telling what might happen to your body in a day, week or month. We need to make sure you're stable, and beyond that, train you to best use that massive energy at your disposal".
"As for what you are. You're a conduit of psychic energy. But that's putting it simple. We'll need to run some more tests to know, in detail, what you've become. But hey", he smiled, eyes glancing at her flaming hair with amusement, "Red's a good color on you".
"Damn" She said eying the otherworldly appearance of the Augusta, on her previous visit, she became to incensed to appreciate the structure.
"Yeah life down there has been giving me the business. I haven't really had a time to sit down. And you might wanna wait for me to 'potty train' Maricela before sending her up here. That is not a teenager you want in space." She remarked actually managing to forge a smirk. Since the destruction of Cape Tassi at the hands of Ada, Cat had been the sole protector of the family; save for stopping the Lavaliere from falling into the hands of an alien, she didn't consider herself a hero--wasn't something she cared for. Mari was a different story altogether, Cat had her as a 12 year old when she was living as a child slave in Colombia. She and her caretaker Cherish, manage to conceal baby Mari and place her up for adoption--she found Cat all these years later.
"But I need you to tell me something. Am I turning into mom? I mean, you know what I mean. I've started painting, dancing a bit. Played the piano for the first time; and I've literally never touched one of those damn things. But I'm doing all this because I want to right? not because I was created to do it?"
Cat always struggled with the idea of being a clone, especially more so after their mother died because she physically transformed into Z. Establishing an identity in the shadow of another was challenging; and the thought of becoming Ziccarra consumed her to the point where she became disrespectful.
"I want to apologize by the way. And listen up, I'm only going to say this once so clean the space dust out your ears. I-...I-...was...wrong. you were right...fck that hurt...but I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lashed out like that. I was jealous."
"Sounds like your daughter needs discipline", the Prince of Power paused, catching his sister's smirk before matching it with his own, "You'll find no better place for that than here with me". Here, Maricela would find a fortress raised for science as much as military, one often drifting through parts of space unknown where she'd find no soft heart - only the steel hand of her uncle. Shrugging the thought from his mind, Leonel's mind pulled back to that which mattered most; destroying the Abyssal Imperium and saving his family from cosmic judgment. Meeting Catalina's eyes, Leonel watched her summon as sincere an apology as she could, and to it, he shut his eyes and smiled.
For his sister, his forgiveness was not imminent - it had already been granted. No Liafador surrendered to the emotional chorus of the heart more than Catalina and Zeon. When they loved, they gave their souls. And when they raged, they burned down worlds. "Don't worry about it", his smile held, "Besides, every single thing happening in these halls is being recorded. If I want to hear you apologize again, I'll just replay this. Over and over again", he taunted. "But you don't have to apologize. Sometimes, we just can't help how we feel", that he understood. Before a general's ice ran in his veins, the Prince of Power once burned with a warrior's daring fire. He'd learned to tame it, and with it came a calmness that paved the way for the height of his godhood.
Emotional upheavals, rage, hatred, sadness - were all resolved by a brain that processed thought and feeling in nanoseconds. Yet soon came the whisper of an emotional upheaval, but not his, Catalina's. Before him she laid bare her fear of becoming her mother, a woman she detested with a fire that could melt titanium. "Cat", Leonel began, voice and face softened by a sympathy and kindness felt only between siblings, "You've always been your own person. You're a clone of course, I'm not going to bullshit you and say that you're not, but you've never been our mother. Genetically, you inherited some of her behaviors, as is expected. Genes play a key role in behavior. But you've also been molded by environment".
"You've lived a very different life. You're more uncompromising than she was. And because of that, people are less likely to agree with you, which led to you become fiercely independent and self-sufficient. Not that mother wasn't, but not like you. When the world stood against her, she had a supernaturally good husband by her side. When the world stood against you? You stood on your own. From all the problems you've faced and overcome, you've developed a strength of character stronger than the one she had. So no, you're not turning into anyone. And unless your accent turns Malagan, I don't think you have to worry".
"I'm glad you're painting though, and playing the piano might be the escape you need from all the madness of our lives".
Though the idea of Mari learning from Leonel was enticing, the small bond the two of them forge was starting to blossom she didn't want to force anything on her--at-least not yet.
He didn't have to say apology accepted for her to know it was, there was this inexplicable bond between them. As the oldest sister, she strong and resilient to their younger siblings; but in the face of her older brother? She could truly lower her wards...that's why Alexis wanted them to talk.
Isis was the only sister that was older than her, over the years their relationship waned; and to be honest Cat didn't even know if she was living anymore--but it was nice to have someone to open up to. Even if he was kind of an A-hole.
She'd never understand it, maybe she wasn't meant to; but Leonel loved Ziccarra so much. She could see it in the expressions he made when talking about her, He'd always been her favorite that was no secret, but he also was the mediator between daughter and mother. His explanations of what made them different brought a uncharismatic smile on to a once sullen face.
However soon after the smile soon faded, and two siblings who were previously divided now had to become a well oiled machine. Cat's eyes narrowed as her hands folded neatly across her breast.
"Tell me about the Imperium"
"Tell me about the Imperium"
The words hung in the air, lingering round his ears like an echo in a tunnel. Leonel was no hero with a bleeding heart driven to preserve order and uphold all that was good and true. He was a warrior and scientist in a fortress far from Earth. The Prince of Power kept to himself, and fought only for his interests and those of his family. Yet the Abyssal Imperium threatened them all. Nordok cast a dark storm upon the cosmos that imprisoned the fearful in the shadows of their worlds. The Abyssal Imperium laid claim to the universe. And this, the Prince of Power could not allow. "The Imperium is a cosmic empire, as I'm sure you know. It strip mines planets and enslaves native populations as war resources".
"I'm not sure about the true size of the empire, but it spans star systems. And given their reach, with Battleworld being an Imperium hotspot while the Imperium has holds on the other side of the universe, it's probably much bigger than we think". Titanium arms crossed over his chest, Leonel met his sister's eyes with the gravity of coming danger. "So numbers and size are an enormous issue here. That can't be understated. Like most space-faring empires, the Imperium has a fleet of battleships. Good hulls, effective weapons, high numbers. But there's a problem faced by any ship moving through space; heat management. Without an atmosphere like the one on a planet, heat loss is a lot harder. There's no convection or conduction. In space you can only lose heat via radiation, which is the slowest and least effective to lose heat".
"So", Leonel shrugged, cape rustling with his shoulders, "I thought I'd build a strategy to exploit that. Ships produce a lot of heat. A lot of thermal radiation's emitted by on-board electronics, every engine maneuver, force field generators, the power core, weapons firing, attacks suffered, and the shared body heat of the on-board crew. It's a big vulnerability because at some point you'll be producing more heat than you're losing. And if you're in a ship where this is happening, you can either surrender - or be cooked alive while the hull of your ship melts. And Imperium ships are loaded with heat generating tech. All we'd have to do is force it's hand with a blitzkrieg of attacks that'll add to that heat. Kinetic bombardment to make the ships' shields work harder and thus - get hotter. Plasma beams and so on".
"But", Leonel sighed, leaning against the nearest wall as his gaze held, "The numbers are a problem. We'd be overwhelmed getting in close enough to do that. So I'm thinking about using either lasers to shoot Imperium ships from tens of thousand of kilometers away before they can even see us. And even better, integrate portal technology. That'll maybe help us get around the numbers problem. What's really in the way though, is the fact that the Imperium's leader, Nordok, can't be killed. At least not conventionally. That... thing can be physically destroyed but it uses something called cosmic sorcery to keep coming back. Not even destroying the quantum information that should constitute it's consciousness works".
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