Issue 28: And All My Dreams Torn Asunder
My order slew the first planetary Unity Dragon. Those horrific fellows that spawn in particularly polluted places. Your Earth only had one thanks to the efforts of the Light Shamans and holy defenders. Alongside some magical demi help. Typha? It currently houses 15 of them. This is why we must connect all major Arc Points. Dexter and Eliza have done well in that arena but we must work faster. Soon the storm will reach your shores.—Father Dennis Miles Brookes
I knew they’d be able to reach us. Pandora had us locked away. We didn’t find out some other details of the Glass Tower until later but Arthur and I remained resolute. We didn’t need to speak. We assumed we were being recorded the entire time. In powers, actions and voice.—Tobin Murphy
Cooper and Auggie did let a key detail slip. They had to make me beyond exhausted to let my future self enchant C’alain’s blade. Considering at that moment and time I was kept mostly clueless, it still made it hard to believe I was organizing things from a distant point in the future to ensure events played out in the past. What astute readers will pick up on? It wasn’t necessarily me all the time. As I was a Host to White in those intervening years, I was also hosting to another. Far more cosmic entity. Oh, and should we change this to the 23rd century? –Sleeping in Starlight, a memoir of the 22nd century
Legion of Tomorrow HQ
November 10th, 2115
Blue Blaze volunteered, “I’ll go. No one gets left behind.”
Various demis nodded. “Arthur wouldn’t leave any of us. Just say where!”
Mighty Mallet cheered. While Adam Lazer added, “With a big enough distraction force we can allow others to infiltrate this Glass Tower. With limited data, it is unknown if it’s a multi-dimensional construct or VR simulation. Perhaps a bit of both.”
A Red Defender shouted, “So it is decided? Get ready.”
Rune proclaimed, “Let me at them! I’ll show them true magic!”
J’ino lowered herself into the tank. Various cords rested about her body. Lorain triple-checked the connections. “The main strike team will keep Pandora distracted. Lazarus is going with you. Judgment, Trouble and Gulliver.”
J’ino replied, “Got it. Did you put the package inside?”
Lorain glanced away. Her mouth tightened. “Yes. I know why but I still hate using my powers for this. It's goulish.”
Eliza carried the bio-droid version of J’ino over to the other room. The lid closed over the actual J’ino and she closed her eyes. The connections sending a thrill through her. Bright white light burned behind her eyelids then she blinked.
Eliza came into focus. “Alright Space Lady, what’s two + two?”
“Four fewer hugs you get this year.” J’ino stuck out her tongue. The next hour was spent acclimating to movements. She’d do more while in route but for now, all the basics were in place. Doc ran a scanner over everything. “This will do. Even I can barely tell and it's my specialty.”
White murmured, <<Using cloned brain matter to hide the processors was inspired. But I understand your protests. In idle hands this tech could be used for great evil.>>
Lorain nodded. Having the cleansing bombs hidden within the “stomach” of the droid would destroy all evidence and hopefully take a bite out of Pandora’s defenses. Eliza picked up her “mother” and said, “Weight is only off by 3 pounds.” Cooper poked his nose in with Auggie asking, <<Can this tech be used to help replace those who cannot regen very well? I know Bardaxians who have this problem.>>
Lorain smiled, “That’s an excellent idea, Augustus.”
Tobin dreamed. The dreamcatcher his hands warm to the touch.
Just a little longer. It seemed to say.
Arthur nudged the young man. His eyes snapped open.
The landscape was a verdant jungle today. The calls of predators reached them.
They moved. This place was odd. They felt no hunger or thirst. Each had ideas about that but said nothing out in the open.
Pandora studied the suspended forms of Tobin Murphy and Arthur. While she had learned about their fighting abilities within the simulation, their reluctance to banter annoyed her. She turned from the displays. Sister Nyx leering over their immobile forms. Itching to run experiments. The Litari flowed around the keeper. Shadowy tendrils around the emaciated being’s shoulders, “Worry not. The bigger prize will come soon. I didn’t exactly hide where I was going!”
Nyx replied sardonically, “That is both a blessing and curse. I want the Queen Bee.”
Her fingers twitched. J’ino would be hers. So much tapestry to paint across the cosmos.
The Nameless Expanse
Within Unity’s Domain
Set quailed. “Master!
From behind a palace of black glass, Thoth and X’mil watched. Their faces were unflinching. This would be their fate if they displeased Unity. The Claws around Thoth’s wrists hissed, “Such a shame. For a gray herald to go above his station.” An enormous black skeletal hand reached down and buried its nail tips into Set’s chest. White tendrils exploded from the connecting point.
Set’s body convulsed.
His very soul in the cupped bony digits of Unity. From dozens of mouths, “Now you cannot lie to me. You are mine or did you forget this?”
One finger rested upon the slim light of Set’s soul. Black scrawl spewed forth. Coiling around his entire being.
Only truth from your lips. To friend, enemy, stranger, to the void of all.
Unity knew the price. So he would find a way to sow those lips shut.
Unity hissed, “Do they both walk the wider multiverse once more?”
Set’s mouth moved, the words coming fast and high-pitched.
“Yes! The Black Father exists as well. Though I do not know his face!”
Unity turned a set of lantern-hued eyes towards Thoth, “What do you know?”
The cosmic voice rumbled with malice. Guttural, cold, and unforgiving.
Thoth replied promptly, “I believe the J’kua hide the Black’s host from our sight. I beheld him during my assault on Earth.” X’mil bowed low. Locking his knees to hide his trembling. He didn’t think he fooled Unity with that paltry action.
X’mil explained, “At the birth of Eliza Murphy, the Artock attacked the A51 facility….”
Unity studied the three men before it. J’kua.
The cursed blighted race.
Yet the dark beauty of the Keepers resonated from that foul seed.
X’mil recounted his days at the Uplifted Area 51. Leaving no detail out. No matter how inconsequential it seemed. After he was done, new marks of power appeared on his face and wrists. Unity fixed its dread gaze upon Set, “You see? Rewarded. You think me mindless? Short-sighted peon! I was there! I saw the blood seep from White’s body.” A dark mass lashed out. Curling around Set. Disturbingly tender. Then it began to squeeze.
Set’s bones shifted.
Fire erupted along his back.
His eyes bulging.
Set awoke, clutching his chest. Every muscle in his body was on fire. He stumbled over to the refresher. The sights and sounds of the Litari Offworlder enclave a familiar buzz in the background. As he stared into the mirror he growled. A normal human face greeted him. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Generic in every way. Slimmer build than he was used to. His gray sash was inert. No connection thrummed. Black scrawl danced behind his eyelids.
You will watch for me. Be my eyes.
He pawed at his neck. He wanted to scream yet no sound came out.
Unity’s voice took on a sweet note, You cannot speak. Only to me.
Set brought up this body’s INet H.U.D. He concentrated.
He could bring up the information. Do nearly everything possible but mentally type out words. He tried sign language. Nothing.
Written word. With archaic pen and paper.
His fingers would not act. He tried drawing. Nothing.
Unity’s laughter cut straight through his soul like a knife through butter.
Perfect Silence. The Puppet never had a thought.
The mirror darkened. Pandora smirked. “Who’s been naughty?”
He tapped the refresher sink surface rhythmically. It came out like a broken melody.
No way to send an S.O.S even with that universal language.
She giggled at him, “No form of expression! HOW LOVELY! Chop chop! Do something useful, like spying on the Litari!”
His body moved. Dressing itself without his prompting.
Null Ship Central Node
Unity Consumed Universe 2533
Chronos bowed. The dark mirrors chiming with the message he had been hoping for. He wondered how his daughter faired with her new form. The misty profile of Typha came into view upon the opaque surfaces. Living stone encrusted everything. Except for one building at the heart of Argax City. That shifted a speck of light on a barren planet. Chronos studied it silently. It had the hallmarks of Aether’s work. His old master was still praying at the Altar of the Three. The high orators of the cursed Weave. Unity’s voice curled around Chronos’ mind.
Find the Old Ones.
The Markav Collective.
Those that reside on Mars are but pale imitations!
I glanced up as Gwen entered my quarters.
She wouldn’t stare directly at me. We were en route to the Glass Tower. Pandora was rolling out the red carpet. We had to take the bait. She shivered, “I’m sorry.”
It was weird. Like she wasn’t apologizing to me.
I replied, “Gwen, you gotta stop beating yourself up over this. Mistakes happen. You wanted to help.” She took a few more steps forward. Face turned away from me. I reached out to cup her chin, bringing her eyes up to mine. They were blank. Whiter than any surface I had ever beheld.
Golden tears fell onto my hands.
She moved. Lightning quick. Gripping my shoulders.
“Beware the Path of the Ancients.”
Hazy images tore through my mind. Only three were conveyed with any clarity.
Seven of Aether’s people gathered around a grid of green spheres.
Hidan shouting, “NO! THAT WAY LIES DEATH!”
The first Bardaxians crowded around a three pronged structure. The faces of the rock worn with age. Their voices raised, <<The thread of the first shall be the last. We entrust the Vigil to the one who will be.>>
I spun. Endless stars whirled around me.
I am here.
You will never be alone.
Seek the J’kua’s path. Only then can we bring them home.
Auggie’s brown eyes shifted. He barked as Star focused in on him. Her voice bleary, “What’s up? Did I fall asleep again?” The corgi nodded. His front paws planted on her chest. <<It was important!>>
Emerald K-9 agreed, <<Yes. We are almost to the rally point. Remember to wear your Sunday best!>>
I could hear White’s incoming tirade. I forestalled it with, “Well at least that means they think you are the best thing for me to greet the day with!” She settled down. But not before she added, <<I just worry. Perhaps too much!>>
I replied, “Lorain doesn’t think I worry enough. So we balance each other!”
Some of the other demis laughed at that.
Mighty Mallet winked, “Don’t you worry Star! With all of us here? We will make the very cosmos tremble!”
Golden Bulleteer grinned, “That old razzle dazzle! As it was in my day.”
The rest of the Golden Redeemers were here as well. Along with the enhanced members of the Jupiter Rising. We were going all in. Mom shifted next to me. Not ignoring dad per se but maintaining a professional demeanor. Since his civilian ID wasn’t linked with his demi persona. So I hooked an arm around mom, “We will get them back. You know we will cause even the Queen herself is here.”
My grandmother, M’taris hid a smirk as Guinevere and Marion replied simultaneously, “But of course!”
Robin Hood cried out, “With a whole ship of Kings to ride herd on everyone!”
The Javelin carrying all of us was idling in Weave Space. Awaiting the signal from Lazarus. My brother remained back on Earth. Guarding that artifact. Mom rested her head against my arm.
Waiting was the worst part.
Lazarus motioned Gulliver and Trouble forward.
The area around them a cacophony of color. The Glass Tower was in normal space. Protected by various Dark Shaman Wards. Beyond that was a fortress floating in the black of space. Made of Unity’s mirrors. Bits of metal. Keeper Null tech. A regular nightmare that could befuddle the senses. Trouble floated over to another ward. Ripping through its defenses. They would make a hole big enough for the Javelin strike team. Jace marveled at the poise of Lazarus. To be bonded with the first light shaman was a boon he had never expected.
Tyre spoke through the blade, <<Easy now. Focus!>>
As one they maneuvered Lazarus towards the final ward in that sector around the Glass Tower. The blade rendering the final traps inert.
Pandora watched from the center of her floating fotress.
Grinning she turned toward Nyx, “Now the fun begins!”
The Keeper eyed the progress of the demi and its Defender cronies with little interest.
J’ino was the prize.
Issue 27: Here
Issue 29: Here