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kilowoggl

Green Lantern: The Movie Report First Look At Kilowog

 

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR GREEN LANTERN: THE MOVIE BELOW

Interview

IS THIS KILOWOG?

Our “early christmas present” featuring Blackest Night #6 was well-received by readers of Cosmic Book News. We decided to put together another Green Lantern feature, this time on Green Lantern: The Movie. We scoured the internet researching all the resources and relevant information. We even managed to come up with a couple exclusives (we think)!

The Kilowog images are believed to be FIRST LOOKS.

Is it the real thing?

Who knows?

UPDATED 1:51pm Eastern: Kilowog images verified.

Here is what we do know:

CREW (based on IMDB.COM):

    #1. Martin Cambpell (“Goldeneye,” “Mask of Zorro,” “Casino Royale”) is the director
    #2. Donald DeLine (“Italian Job,” “Fool’s Gold,” “I Love You Man”) is credited as one of the executive producers.
    #3. Greg Berlanti (“Everwood,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Eli Stone”), Michael Green (“Smallville,” “Everwood,” “Heroes”) and Marc Guggenheim (“Brothers & Sisters,” “Eli Stone,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) are credited with the screenplay.

CAST (based on IMDB.COM):

    1. Ryan Reynolds (“National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” “The Proposal” & “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) is Hal Jordan.
    2. Blake Lively (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” “Gossip Girl”) is Carol Ferris.
    3. Peter Sarsgaard (“Kinsey,” “The Skeleton Key,” “Jarhead”) is Hector Hammond.
    4. Mark Strong (“Sherlock Holmes,” “RocknRolla,” “Body of Lies”) is rumored to be Sinestro (according to ). It has also been rumored that Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”) had been up for Sinestro, but based on the preceding link, that appears to not be the case.
Interview

IS THIS KILOWOG?

THE STORY:

    According to MTV.com, director Martin Campbell said this, “Well, Kilowog will be [in it]. Tomar-Re is in it. Sinestro is in it. Abin Sur is in it. All the origin people. Carol [Ferris], of course, who will be played by Blake Lively. All the main characters are there, and it’s a complex story. The origin story of Green Lantern is complex, probably one of the most complex, which makes it a challenge to get it right.”
    Now, based on a script we found a couple years back at a comic book message board, Carol Ferris and Sinestro will not be the full fledged villains, but the characters will be set up as the villains for a second “Green Lantern” movie.
    Director Martin Campbell confirmed this in an interview with , that was published on their sister site, , “I think it will stick closely to the origin story, but we all know Sinestro, for an example, is a character who goes over to the dark side, and of course, Carol, played by Blake Lively, in later versions becomes a bad guy as well. I think people will be able to see forward to the characters that in the comic went on to (become bad guys)… but people will be ahead of us on all that I think.”

SCRIPT: (based on a Green Lantern Script(?) from 2008 – are they using the same?)

It is 15 years ago, and we meet a 12 year-old Hal who is talking to his father, Martin Jordan, a test pilot for Ferris Air. We then meet 12 year-old Carol Ferris who has a mouthful of braces.

During an air show, Martin Jordan’s plane explodes and Martin flies the jet away from the crowd and it explodes.

It is today and we then switch to outer space, and Abin Sur is in a space ship returning the body of Markot who had been slaughtered “in the service of protecting his sector.” Sur is discussing the death with Tomar-Re and it is raveled that three Lanterns had been “slaughtered before him [Markot].”

But as Abin Sur flies the ship, he is attacked by Legion. Legion, in the script is described as being “the size of a whale with tentacles of an octopus and a shark’s killer grin.”

-Continued After LEGION-

Here is how Legion appears in the “Emerald Dawn 2” comic:

Feature

LEGION
EMERALD DAWN 2

Feature

LEGION

– END LEGION-

 

Feature

HAL JORDAN

Wounded in battle, Abin Sur, flies the ship towards Earth. As Carol Ferris is waiting to show off Ferris Air’s latest project, three pilot-less jets, that will go up against three piloted jets, with Hal Jordan being one of the pilots. Carol is hoping to sell the pilot-less jets to the United States government so, various senators and generals are on scene. But Hal Jordan is late because he is bed with a beautiful blond. But then the blond’s boyfriend shows up and Hal is off.

As Hal arrives and banters with Carol, we learned Hal and Carol apparently had sex after Junior Prom, however, Hal promises to be the pilot-less jet.

While in the air, the pilot-less jets take out the other two piloted jets, but Hal performs a risky maneuver that will leave him unconscious and he ends up beating the three pilot-less jets.

Hal lands the jet, banters with Carol and is grounded for his actions. As this happens, Abin Sur’s ship falls to Earth and the ring is sent out to find Hal.

We then switch to a scene between Hal and his family.

It then switches to outer space and we meet Sinestro and Tomar-Re for the first time. Sinestro hears of Abin Sur’s death and screams at the Guardians for doing nothing about their death.

We then go back to Hal, as he climbs into his Mustang, Hal is surrounded by a green energy and flies to where Abin Sur is told, basically, “You are a Green Lantern!”

Hal meets up with Abin Sur, and dies. Hal calls his friend Tom Kalmaku (aka Pie-face) to come and pick him up. Hal buries Abin Sur and Tom promises to bring the ship back to his place.

Later, we see Hazmat and government troopers combing the area of Abin Sur’s ship, and we meet Mr. Pipe who is searching for Abin Sur’s spaceship, but find nothing. This leads us to FBI headquarters where we meet Dr. Hector Hammond, who is performing an autopsy on a murdered crystal-meth dealer. Hector is brought in to perform an autopsy on Abin Sur.

Feature

GREEN LANTERN

Pipe claims Abin Sur was a friend. As Hammond autopsies Abin Sur, he finds a yellow piece of Legion. It continues to switch scenes with Hal holding up the ring that reveals the Green Lantern oath. As he recites it, the golden light from the piece Legion begins to mess with Hector Hammond.

After this, Carol comes to Hal’s apartment and takes him out to dinner. While out to dinner, they have lobsters and Hal’s ring comes to life and creates a hammer and cracks open her lobster.

Hal races from the restaurant out into a lobby where he meets the blond’s boyfriend and his pals.

They beat up Hal, but he creates a giant hand and punches them out.

Hal begins figuring out to use the ring.

We switch back to Hector Hammond who wakes up and finds himself reading people’s minds. He finds he can move things with his mind and he begins to menace his pretty assistant and his boss.

Back on Oa, Hal arrives and meets Sinestro and he trains. In this time, Sinestro asks the Guardians to weld a golden light against Legion, because the green light had no effect on Legion.

Hal sees the footage of Legion and says, “I am out of here!” He flies back to Earth as the rest of the Corps ready for battle with Legion.

We switch back to a West Virginia farmland where Hector Hammond is practicing his new powers with his boss.

Hal arrives back on Earth, as the Green Lantern Corps goes to war with Legion. Ferris Air holds another air show, and this time Hector Hammond’s father, a senator and former astronaut, agrees to fly to the thrill of the gathered crowd. Hector is in the crowd watching and he uses his mind games to screw with his father’s controls.

Feature

GREEN LANTERN

Hal changes into his Green Lantern uniform and saves the day. Green Lantern meets Carol and Hector’s head begins to transform.

Hal decides to use his powers for good, and Hector begins to develop his own powers more and more. Hal, in his Green Lantern uniform, takes a moment to talk with Carol.

Hector begins to use his powers to rob banks and appears dressed like a million bucks at a huge event that is being attended by many of Washington, D.C.’s elites and makes an obnoxious impression. He then attacks his father with his mind, but Pipe shows up with a gun trying to regain control of the situation. But the guns fire and Hector forces the bullets into his dad.

Hal hears about the incident with Hector and he flies off.

Hector and Hal fight it out, and Hector’s head gets bigger and bigger. Hector then reveals he knows Hal’s real identity, and he ends up using Hal to kill eight people.

Upset, Hal returns to Oa and encounters Sinestro. Sinestro explains what Legion is via the Book of Oa. Sinestro explains that 33 Lanterns were killed in the raid against Legion, but Legion was captured.

Hal asks Sinestro for help in taking out Hector. However, the Guardians tell Hal he needs to finish his training, but Hal said there is no time. He then returns the ring and walks off. Legion breaks out of his cell and begins to take out other Lanterns as Hal looks on with horror.

Hal then picks up the rings of all the dead Lanterns and he flies after Legion with ten rings.

Hal and Sinestro fight it out with Legion and Hal uses the Central Power Battery to destroy Legion. After the explosion, Hal falls to the ground and stands up with gray on his temples.

Sinestro asks the rest of the Lanterns to suit up and fly to Earth and assist Hal against Hammond.

Switching back to Earth, Carol discovers a hangar housing Abin Sur’s old ship and Hector arrives at Ferris Air looking for Hal. He is in a wheelchair and his head is huge now.

Hector sends out the previously mentioned pilot-less jets to destroy Coast City.

The rest of the Lanterns arrive and fight it out with the jets and save the day.

Hal confronts Hector and offers him the Power Ring in exchange for Carol. Carol is launched into the sky and Hector takes the ring and creates Legion. The ring reacts to Hector and explodes sending him back into his chair.

Feature

GREEN LANTERN

As Carol flies off, Hal’s ring is out of power, so he gets into an F-16 to catch Carol. Before Carol can hit a cliff, Hal hits the ejector button and grabs Carol. The ring comes back online, somehow, and he turns back into Green Lantern and both he and Carol kiss.

Later, the President of the United States announces that General Pipe, or Alan Scott as he is revealed, says that for years, he has known about aliens and the Corps.

Later Scott talks to Jordan and he admits he wore a ring and was able to contact Abin Sur.

The movie ends with seeing Hector in a facility.

Scott then urges Jordan to see the Universe, and Jordan agrees.

Jordan then bids farewell to Carol and Tom. He takes off into the sky and meets up with Sinestro and agrees to be trained and the movie ends.

Additonal concept art:

 

Green Lantern is set to debut in theatres June 11, 2011

MORE: Sony Pictures Imageworks as the lead visual effects studio on Green Lantern

    [page_title]

    Nova: The Next Generation Part Five Of The Shi’ar Conflict

     

    Nova: The Next Generation

    Part Five – The Conclusion

    Of

    The Shi’ar Conflict

    Written By: Timelord 01.21.10

     

    Chapter Five: The Shi’ar Armada

    Nova Prime Richard Rider listened patiently as Xandarian Star Corps Admiral Cyn finished describing the battle plan. The virtual Conference room of the Admiral’s Dreadnought, The XBS Victory, was filled with representatives comprising each wing of the Xandarian Federation fleet. The avatar of The Worldmind stood behind and to the left of Cyn. To Rider’s left sat his old friend, Admiral Che’Noth, commander of the Tauron wing of the fleet. The decades had been kind to the old Minotaur. Though approaching advanced age for her people and with fur more gray now than the roan color of her youth; Che’Noth still retained the sharpness and sense of purpose that had made her Rich’s most trusted advisor during the Guerilla War against the Annihilation Wave.

    Che’Noth shifted in her seat and the light glinted off the gold caps on the tips of her horns identifying her as a member of Herd Noth. “Admiral Lord Cyn – I must say that today you have proven your reputation for devising unconventional tactics. Normally I would have reservations; but seeing how we are outnumbered by a factor of 3-to-1; I understand both the necessity and genius of your plan. It does, however, require us to commit every ship of the first, fourth, and ninth fleets to the fight. Should we not ask each participant race in the Federation to send extra ships immediately? There will be no ships in reserve to provide rescue or clear an escape route for us should the battle turn against us.”

    Admiral Cyn sat at the head of the table. He was tall and thin with white hair and blue eyes. His black and gold Xandarian Star Corps uniform was heavy with medals – the old Xandarian aristocrat having led Xandar’s fleet to victory countless times in the seemingly unending campaigns since the third rise of the Xandarian Civilization. Cyn was a man of few words – a trait which others mistakenly often mistook for arrogance. He replied with a thin smile and a slow affirmative shake of his head. “True – so we shall not let the battle turn against us.”

    Across the table from Rich was the leader of the Adanacian contingent to the Federation’s fleet, Admiral Guer-Kon, a former resistance fighter during the Second Xandar-Skrull War. Rich knew him from participation in that selfsame war’s campaign to liberate Adanac from Skrull occupation. The Adanacians were the most bio-technologically advanced race in Andromeda – using age-retarding bio-tech to achieve virtual immortality. So, Guer-Kon appeared to be very young even though he was actually several centuries old. Amphibious, darkly furred, with small ears, a sleek head, black nose, and long whiskers; to Rich’s eyes the Adanacian looked like a six foot tall anthropomorphized otter. Guer-Kon stood. “I share Admiral Che’Noth’s concern; but all available ships have been assigned to protect our planets. We alone must face the Shi’ar and stop their invasion fleet. We cannot wait for reinforcements. We must make our stand against the rapidly approaching invaders and Lord Cyn has devised a plan to give us the edge we need to win. I have seen many battles in my lifetime and have fought next to Admiral Lord Cyn during many of those battles. I am satisfied that his battle plan is sound and I am confident in his leadership. The Shi’ar expansionist agenda must be resisted at all costs or we will all find ourselves in thrall to them. Let it be now that we stop them once and for all.”

    A chorus of “Aye’s” erupted from around the table as the representatives of the many races of the Xandarian Federation expressed their approval.

    Jef, Warrior King of Andromeda’s Barthellian Expanse, sat at Rich’s right. Jef was an expatriate of Titan – the leader of a group of Eternals who had abandoned their homeworld centuries ago to seek their destiny in the vastness of space. White haired and mustached with steely blue eyes; he was dressed in the black and gold armor favored by the races he ruled. He wore an elaborately designed platinum torc – the only outward symbol of his status as Supreme Warlord of his sector of Andromeda. Both charismatic and physically powerful, the ancient demi-god was a force to be respected. Rich had seen him go toe-to-toe with the late great Strontian Warrior, Gladiator – fighting him to a standstill in one of the many battles of the Raptor Wars over the course of the past decade.

    Jef stood and let two dark amulets fall from his hand onto the table, waiting patiently for the gasps and murmurs of the delegates seated around him to subside. “They are on the move again. I personally slew these Raptors only days ago. If there are two, then there are likely many more. We obviously did not drive them to extinction as we had hoped. The Fraternity of Raptors is almost certainly behind the recent upsurge in Shi’ar aggression – now using the Shi’ar themselves to fight us instead of proxies like the Veradinae. Ready or not, our hand has been forced; and this battle will help us determine the numbers of the new Raptor threat we must face. We must take the fight to them or the Raptors will surely bring the fight to us – and they will not stop until we are all exterminated. Admiral Lord Cyn’s plan is daring indeed; and that is good as it will take all of the daring and guile we may muster in order to defeat the Raptor controlled Shi’ar. I pledge my fleet of ships to this battle and my army of Eternal warriors to slay any Raptors that come out to fight us this day.”

    Admiring Jef’s craftiness, Rich suppressed a smile as the other twelve delegates quickly signed off on Lord Cyn’s battle plan. Jef had removed any lingering doubts in the minds of the delegates as soon as he dropped the Raptor Amulets on the table.

    Once the last delegate had committed to the plan, Cyn nodded affirmatively and stood. “It’s settled then. Let us all retire to our ships to prepare our crews for battle. This meeting is adjourned.”

    Cyn’s avatar disappeared as did all the rest of the commanders except for Rich and Che’Noth.

    Now alone in the virtual conference room, Rich turned to Che’Noth. “All right Che – tell me what you really think.”

    Che’Noth averted her eyes and pursed her lips for a moment while she considered her response. She looked at the ceiling as she spoke. “Risky. Very risky. Especially for you and The Aurora. If the Shi’ar deviate from the defense strategy expected by Lord Cyn; then not one of our ships may survive this surprise attack on their staging area. This involvement of the Raptors is also unexpected and adds another element of unpredictability. I would prefer more ships at our disposal.”

    Rich shook his head in agreement. “Me too – but d’ast, you and I have faced worse odds in our time.”

    She met his eyes. The two old warriors had together faced many daunting battles over the decades of their friendship. Their shared history of battle rendered moot the need to mention specific instances when the odds were worse. “Aye – that we have.”

    Rich clasped her shoulder. “When we get back to Nu-Xandar, I hope you can stay a few days with Sevilica and me at Oban. It’s been too long since we last visited. I’ve been meaning to drop by to see you and your father. How is the Emperor?”

    Che’Noth laughed. “Old and cranky – but holding his own with the Syndicate. He’d love to see you again; and I’d enjoy visiting you and Sev.”

     

    They were interrupted by the yellow alert klaxon. Rich and Che’Noth made eye contact and nodded farewell to each other. Words were not necessary. Everything that needed saying was reflected in their eyes. The parting of old comrades in arms just before battle was always sad as each knew full well that it might be the last time they saw the other. They both faded into the white void.

    Re-united with his corporeal body, Rich woke in the Mindworld projection chamber of his battleship, The XBS Aurora. His Executive Officer, Shentak Valt, waited as Rich swung his legs off the virtual-link table. Rich made eye contact with Shentak as he brushed past him and headed for the bridge. “Sit-rep.”

    Shentak talked rapidly as he and Rich rushed toward the bridge. “The Shi’ar have launched several attacks from their staging area. Nu-Xandar, Adanac, and Tauron are under siege. Other smaller attacks have been launched against strategic targets in the star systems of each member of the Xandarian Federation. So far, our defenses are holding. We will arrive at the Shi’ar staging area in fifteen minutes gravimetric. All preparations have been made in accordance with the Admiral’s plans and your orders.”

    “Thank you. What’s the latest word from Nu-Xandar?” Rich was concerned about Sevilica and Sylvia; but tried to remain as casual as possible in posing his question.

    Shentak was prepared with answers as usual. “Nu-Xandar and the Orienta Shard are safely ensconced in pocket dimensions. The Automated Defense Field has been breached at several points, but the Planetary Guard and their Nova detachments are holding the Shi’ar at bay. Sevilica is safe on Nu-Xandar. Sylvia was assigned to defense of the ADF.”

    Rich shook his head affirmatively. He did the best he could to compartmentalize and put concerns about Sevilica and Sylvia in perspective. After all, there were no more capable and effective Novas than his wife and his daughter.

    Arriving on the bridge of the XBS Aurora, Rich was pleased to see a tactical display on the main viewscreen. Live intelligence was being transmitted by Xandarian spy drones. Strangely, the Shi’ar had not substantially modified their fleet deployment since the Xandarian scouting mission of earlier in the day. Rich hoped their arrogance would be their undoing.

    The avatar of The Worldmind appeared next to Rich. “Richard – may I speak to you in private?”

    Rich nodded and motioned for The Worldmind to join him in the Ready Room attached to the bridge.

    As soon as the door to the Ready Room snapped shut, The Worldmind spoke. “The siege of Nu-Xandar has ended in a quick victory for Xandar thanks largely to the efforts of your daughter, Sylvia. However, victory has come at a price. She has transformed into a Supernova, broken her link to me, and disappeared from local Nu-Xandarian space.”

    “Squirt me the report.” Rich paused as The Worldmind downloaded the events of the siege of Nu-Xandar directly into his brain. “D’ast. She was doing so well controlling it until right there at the end when she channeled more power to take out those capital ships.” Rich pressed his lips together and looked at the floor, furiously concentrating to assimilate and analyze the data. He looked at The Worldmind. “Has Sevilica been informed?”

    The Worldmind shook his head affirmatively. “Yes. Duchess Dru is at Starcorps Command Headquarters on Nu-Xandar monitoring tactical for any sign of Sylvia’s reappearance.”

    Rich struggled for a moment as he considered his options; then took a deep breath as he resigned himself to his decision. “When it’s happened to me before, I eventually returned to normal after I had some time to settle down. She’s probably just gone somewhere to recover – just like I always advised her to if this ever happened to her. My girl can take care of herself. That’s the way I raised her. There’s nothing else I can do right now. I’m going into battle in a few minutes. Open a link to my HUD’s tactical and let me know if Sevilica finds any indication of Sylvia’s whereabouts. I have to get back to the bridge.” It was one of the hardest decisions Rich had ever made; and earlier in his life he would have probably rushed out to try to find Sylvia heedless of all the other responsibilities and consequences; but now he was a leader of men and as such he had made the only decision he could make. Hundreds of thousands of lives rested in his hands; and those lives would be saved or lost according to the decisions he made over the next few minutes and hours. He couldn’t afford to be distracted by personal matters or by the life of one soldier – even if that soldier was his daughter. Sevilica and Sylvia would be first and second in line in support of his decision. Military families understood such things. He forced himself to return to the bridge. Attempting to push aside his worries about Sylvia, he thought to himself – compartmentalize your problems they say – well that’s easier said than done.

    Stepping onto the bridge he caught sight of Commander Shentak Valt. “Wormhole exit time from my mark.”

    Shentak checked his HUD. “Seven minutes sir.”

    Rich nodded. “Red alert.”

    The red alert klaxon sounded as the crew assumed battle stations. Shentak glanced at the monitor in front of his station. “Admiral Cyn on fleetwide broadcast sir.”

    “Patch the Admiral through to the entire crew Commander.” Rich and the Worldmind Avatar stood at attention by Rich’s command chair, waiting patiently for the Admiral’s traditional pre-battle communiqué. The remainder of the bridge crew also stood at attention by their stations.

    Admiral Cyn’s image appeared on the holoscreen and his voice resounded throughout every ship in the Xandarian fleet. “This is Admiral Cyn. The battle will commence in five minutes. Xandar expects that everyone will do their duty.”

     

    Rich, The Worldmind, and the bridge crew saluted as the Admiral’s image faded from the screen to be replaced by The Worldmind’s tactical feed. Rich took his seat in the command chair as the bridge crew resumed their duties. He shook his head. Cyn gave the same “speech” before every battle. Not the most inspiring words ever spoken, but Cyn had a reputation for winning battles; so his lack of eloquence was easily forgiven.

    Rich patched into PRIME and quickly reviewed the Aurora’s readiness for battle. Satisfied that his orders had been followed to the letter, he returned his full attention to the events of the bridge.

    Commander Valt announced, “Thirty seconds to wormhole exit. Shields at maximum. All weapons charged and ready. All squadrons poised.”

    Rich leaned forward in his command chair, clenching his jaw and staring straight at the holoscreen. Suddenly, the wormhole terminus formed and normal space could be seen; though space was nearly blotted out by the sheer number of enemy ships.

    The terminus had formed as planned in the exact center of the Shi’ar Armada’s staging area; warping space and crushing nearby enemy ships. The Aurora cleared the event horizon of the stargate and the terminus dissipated immediately.

    Rich was satisfied. The Shi’ar ships were scrambling to position themselves. The enemy fleet was in disarray. The surprise attack was successful thus far. “Fire radiative aura pulse!”

    The XBS Aurora, last of the line of the sentient Vengeance Class Battleships and considered a Nova Corpsman itself, generated a massive radiative aura gravimetric pulse expanding spherically from the surface of the ship. The energy wave slammed into the densely packed enemy fleet, destroying some ships and severely damaging others.

    As soon as the gravimetric wave passed, six other Xandarian Federation stargates formed – one at each flank of the Shi’ar fleet. The Xandarian Wing led the frontal assault. The Tauron Wing led the assault on the rear. The Adanacian Wing attacked the left flank. The Barthellian Wing attacked the right flank. The upper and lower enemy flanks were attacked by coalition fleets from the lesser powers.

    “Deploy Nova Cohorts!” It was Rich’s job to use his Special Forces troops, The Nova Corps, to attack the enemy fleet from the middle. Of course, they had drawn the most dangerous job. Rich watched as 5000 Nova Centurions emerged from the Aurora’s hull, formed into cohorts of four, and immediately flew away in every direction to attack enemy ships. “Ahead full sub-light! Launch fighters and drones!” Rich watched as the fighter ships emerged from the Aurora’s hanger bays and as the attack drones peeled away from the ship. “Shields to maximum! Compute firing solutions! Prepare to engage the enemy!” The Aurora was rapidly approaching the Shi’ar fleet. The plan was to punch a hole in the Shi’ar line and join the oncoming Xandarian fleet led by Admiral Cyn.

    Rich glanced at Commander Valt. “Time to firing range on my mark.”

    Valt checked tactical. “Fifteen seconds Sir.”

    Rich turned to Communications Officer Nuf. “Message to Admiral Cyn. We are engaging the enemy.”

    Gunnery Officer Baan glanced up from her tactical. “Sir, we have incoming fire from the enemy lines.”

    Rich felt the impact of the enemy projectiles and energy beams which managed to evade The Aurora’s countermeasures. The ship shuddered ever so slightly as the shields absorbed the explosions. “Officer Baan – fire at will.”

    Rich looked at the tactical holo-screen. The battle was raging and both sides were incurring heavy losses. The Nova Centurions and the Aurora’s fighter squadrons and drones were creating havoc with the enemy’s defenses as planned; and, as planned, they were preventing the enemy from seriously challenging The Aurora. That was about to change as The Aurora was flying directly into the rear of the enemy front line to press the attack.

    Gunnery Officer Baan glanced at Rich. “Targets acquired. Firing main and secondary batteries.”

    The Aurora, designed to resemble the venerable Upholder Class starships, fired its main forward battery. The powerful gravimetric pulse lanced through space from the massive forward emitter, touching the shields of the lead Shi’ar battleship. The Shi’ar ship’s shields were no match for the pulse and it was reduced to a cloud of rapidly expanding debris in seconds. The secondary batteries opened up against the battleship’s escort vessels – pounding the Shi’ar cruisers and destroyers with projectile and particle beam weapons while the main battery recharged.

    Rich felt more impacts against the Aurora’s shields from return fire. He glanced at tactical and was relieved to see that so far The Aurora had sustained no damage and was holding its own against the Shi’ar assaults.

    “Sir! We are receiving a priority communication from Admiral Cyn! You better have a look at this.” Valt pointed at the holo-screen as it switched to Admiral Cyn’s live tactical feed.

    Rich looked at the viewscreen as it switched to live feed from Admiral Cyn’s dreadnought, The XBS Victory. He stood slowly, watching as a dark cloud descended upon Admiral Cyn’s wing of the fleet. It looked as if space itself was attacking the Xandarians.

    Commander Valt stood next to Rich transfixed as he watched the screen in horror. “What is it sir?”

    Rich knew the answer to Valt’s question but dreaded saying it aloud. “PRIME – magnify visual to extreme focus on the dark cloud descending on Admiral Cyn’s fleet.” The holoscreen shifted and confirmed what Rich already knew as the black armored form of the new enemy came into sharp focus. “Raptors Commander Valt. Thousands of Raptors.”
     

     


    Sylvia sped through the wormhole, rapidly approaching the time-space coordinates of Xandar’s battle with the Shi’ar Armada. Her mind was filled with murderous rage stoked to ever higher levels by each terawatt of Zero Point Energy she absorbed from the structure of the wormhole. Her body had grown to 20 feet in stature to contain the energy coursing through it. Exhilaratingly drunk on Nova Force, she promised herself that once the Shi’ar Armada was destroyed, she would travel to the Shi’ar Aerie and destroy it as well. Her one and only imperative was that all enemies of Xandar must die. She meticulously planned how she would slowly and painfully kill the Shi’ar Majestrix.

     

    The wormhole terminus formed ahead of her and she could see hundreds of Shi’ar ships. Screaming in rage and lusting for the blood of Xandar’s enemies, she exited the wormhole and flew headlong into the battle. Obliterating the first ship she encountered, a Shi’ar Heavy Cruiser, she bore down upon the battleship it had been escorting. Shrugging off fire from the battleship and its other escort vessels; Sylvia stretched forth her hand and generated her most powerful gravimetric pulse. The Shi’ar battleship was reduced to debris in seconds.

    Hungrily summoning more power, Sylvia continued to destroy Shi’ar ships; reveling in the carnage wrought upon Xandar’s enemies. Noticing the Xandarian Fleet was being harried by swarms of armored beings; she broke off her attack on the Shi’ar Fleet and rushed to aid the Xandarians.

    As she approached the Xandarian fleet, she could see that it was under attack by Raptors. Blinded by hate, she rushed headlong into a Raptor swarm, desirous of nothing other than to rend each Raptor apart with her bare hands.

    Too close to the Xandarian fleet to safely generate a powerful radiative aura gravimetric pulse; she engaged as many Raptors as possible in brutal close quarters combat. The Raptors were caught off guard and before they could coordinate an attack; many fell to twin eye beams or to collimated beams of gravimetric energy piercing their armor. Having decimated an entire Raptor attack wing with her surprise attack, Sylvia turned her attention to the Raptors who were attacking the lead Xandarian dreadnought, the XBS Victory.

    Flying directly into the flock of Raptors harrying the Victory, she pulverized the unlucky dozen who were surprised by her attack. The remaining 38 Raptors in the attack wing scrambled to adapt and reorganize; the Datasong coordinating their actions immediately analyzing their attacker, forming a counter-attack strategy, and instantly re-configuring their jet black armor to ultra-combat mode.

    Sylvia pressed the attack, giving them no time to execute their attack strategy. Forming a low yield radiative aura gravimetric pulse to stun and confuse them; she followed up with rapid fire pulses from her hands and eyes as she remained in constant motion to evade the energy weapons the Raptors fired at her. Nine more Raptors fell to her attack; but Raptors were nothing if not adaptable.

    The remaining 29 Raptors rallied, and, following the strategy designed by the Datasong, gracefully flew in wide arcs, surrounding Sylvia – moving as one to pace her, evade her attacks, and counter her every move as they relentlessly bathed her in powerful energy weapons fire.

    Sylvia’s phasic shields were taking a pounding and she could feel them weakening. The radiation from the Raptors’ weapons began to seep through her shields and armor, searing her flesh.

    Sylvia’s vast energy expenditure during combat having quelled her berserk rage; she began to ascend from madness. With her ever so tenuous grasp of sanity she realized her brute force strategy was a losing one – particularly since tactical indicated that two more attack wings of Raptors had broken off their attack on the Xandarian fleet and were closing on her position.

    Frustrated by the Raptors’ perfect countermeasures to her attacks and the growing effectiveness of their attacks upon her; Sylvia realized that the combined efforts of the additional hundred Raptors approaching her position would certainly penetrate her shields and kill her. Single-handedly defending the Xandarian Fleet was not going to be possible at the moment. A new strategy was called for – one the Raptors’ Datasong could never anticipate.

    Gritting her teeth as she summoned more Nova Force from space itself; Sylvia grimly turned from defense of the Xandarian Fleet, heading into open space with 129 Raptors in hot pursuit.

     

     


    The Aurora violently shook; taking heavy fire from the Shi’ar front line battleships. Rich surveyed the holographic monitor next to his command chair. Admiral Cyn’s plan had worked well at first; but the Shi’ar were rallying with the help of the Raptors. Nova Cohorts and Xandarian fighter ships were keeping the path opened by the Aurora clear of the enemy and preventing the Shi’ar from surrounding the Aurora and destroying it. The Aurora was making headway through the Shi’ar front lines, now nearly halfway in its mission to fracture the Shi’ar front lines and join the Xandarian Fleet.

    Nevertheless, Rich was worried. Due to the Raptor attack, the Xandarian Fleet was taking heavier than expected losses and there was a danger that it would be routed. Rich clenched his jaw. “PRIME! Clear us a path! Full power to the forward emitter. Maximum dispersal. I want to destroy or disable as many Shi’ar ships as possible with one shot. We’ve got to cut through this line and aid Admiral Cyn!”

    The Worldmind Avatar stirred and moved closer to Rich. “Richard, it is critical that you pay attention at this time. Sylvia has appeared on the front lines near the Xandarian Fleet and has engaged the Raptors in combat.”

    Rich jumped to his feet. “Tactical on main holoscreen!”

    The holoscreen shifted to visual tactical feed, picturing Sylvia locked in mortal combat with a wing of Raptors. Rich clenched his fists in frustration as he beheld his daughter. He needed to go to her. Sylvia had obviously transformed into a Supernova. Her quantum body coursed with energy and had thus grown proportionally to contain the energy. Readings indicated that she was continuing to summon power. From personal experience, Rich knew the danger. She was not experienced enough to control such power; so the power would control her. She was already showing signs of it – rushing headlong into battle and relying on brute force rather than strategy. That could get her killed and could also endanger the campaign. He was again torn between the duty of fatherhood and duty to Xandar.

    Commander Valt turned from his station. “Sir! Incoming message from the Victory. Admiral Cyn wishes to speak with you.”

    Rich nodded and the holoscreen shifted to the image of the bridge of the XBS Victory, Xandar’s mightiest dreadnought battleship and flagship of the Xandarian Fleet. The Victory had sustained heavy damage and the Xandarian Fleet was wavering under the attacks of the Shi’ar Armada and The Fraternity of Raptors.

    Admiral Lord Cyn stepped into view. The old aristocrat looked disheveled and the Victory’s bridge was in disarray from battle damage. “Rider. The Victory has been compromised. Our stardrive is going super-critical. We’re going to lose the containment field. I’m ordering all the ships of the fleet to withdraw from vicinity of the Victory. We’re going to take as many of these d’ast Raptors with us as we can. I am ordering you to take command of the fleet.”

    Rich was stunned. “Sir. We’re almost there. Hang on and I’ll divert some Nova Cohorts to assist you.”

    Cyn shook his head. “Negative. There’s nothing you can do for me. Take command of the fleet and carry on the mission.”

    Rich stood at attention and saluted the Admiral. “Aye Sir. I am assuming command of the fleet. It has been an honor serving with you.”

    Admiral Cyn returned Rich’s salute and his image faded from the holoscreen to be replaced by an external view of the Victory, surrounded by Raptors pouring fire into its battered hull. The Victory began to glow as the stardrive went critical. The titanic explosion took out the wing of Raptors harrying the ship.

    Valt turned from his station. “Sir. Sylvia has withdrawn and is heading into open space. Jef the Barthellian Warlord is leading a force of Eternals to engage the Raptors and reinforce the Xandarian Fleet. ETA for the Barthellians at the Xandarian Fleet coordinates is five minutes.”

    Rich nodded. “Put me on fleetwide broadcast.”

    Valt pressed a button on his console and looked up at Rich as acknowledgement of his order.

    Rich paused. The weight of responsibility was heavy. The future of Xandar rested with him now. He made his decision. “This is Nova Prime Rider. I am assuming command of the campaign. Carry on with the battle plan. Feed all tactical to the Aurora.” Rich nodded to Valt to close the broadcast. He breathed a small sigh of relief. Sylvia was withdrawing from the battle into open space – safe at last as she could outrun the Raptors – and Jef was rushing to counter the Raptor threat. The battle plan could still succeed. He turned to regard his bridge crew. “Helmsman! Full speed ahead. Gunnery Officer! Clear me a path to the Xandarian Fleet! Do whatever it takes to get me there!”

     


    Sylvia sped into open space, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the Xandarian Fleet. Her Raptor pursuers had been joined by several other wings and she now had 300 Raptors closely following her. The Datasong had obviously concluded she was a major threat to the Shi’ar and had ordered its Raptors to eliminate her. Even at her current power level, she couldn’t hope to defeat 300 Raptors.

    Shrugging off the energy blasts of her Raptor pursuers, Sylvia slowed and turned as if to fight, allowing her pursuers to close the distance. As the Raptors closed ranks and descended upon her, she reversed course and headed into open space again.

     

    Concentrating, Sylvia opened a large stargate and headed directly for it at top speed. The Raptors, determined to prevent her escape, further closed their ranks and increased speed to attempt to prevent her from entering the stargate or follow her into it before she could close it behind her.

     

    The stargate loomed before Sylvia as she bore down upon it at top sub-light speed, her Raptor pursuers pouring fire into her quantum body in an attempt to stop her escape. Sylvia shook with the effort to simultaneously maintain the concentration necessary to keep the stargate open while shoring up her shields against Raptor energy blasts and controlling the murderous Supernova rage roiling within her.

    As she closed on the large stargate, she called upon the last of her reserves of concentration and focused on a point just in front of the large stargate, smiling savagely as she watched a small stargate open. Sylvia entered the new smaller stargate and it rapidly closed behind her.

    The Raptors’ Datasong too late realized the danger. The Datasong screamed at its Raptors to clear the vicinity of the large stargate; but they had no time to comply. The super-heated plasma from the star into which Sylvia had opened the large stargate exploded at the speed of light from the large stargate’s terminus, engulfing all 300 of Sylvia’s Raptor pursuers and instantly vaporizing them.

     


    A small stargate opened near the Xandarian Fleet and Supernova Sylvia Rider-Dru emerged; rushing headlong into a wing of Raptors. The Raptors’ Datasong was reeling from the sudden loss of 300 of its Raptors and was thus once again taken by surprise. Thirty Raptors fell to Sylvia’s surprise attack before the Datasong of the Raptors could compensate.

    Compensating, the Datasong of the Raptors ordered an all out attack against Sylvia and she immediately found herself surrounded by hundreds of Raptors and fighting savagely for her life. Summoning more Nova Force, Sylvia descended into the berserk rage of a Supernova, crushing all Raptors who ventured within her reach and destroying others with gravimetric pulses.

    Whenever Sylvia’s fists connected, a Raptor died. Wherever her eyes rested for a moment, a Raptor died from twin gravimetric pulses. Wherever her hands pointed, a Raptor died from a gravimetric pulse.

    Lost in berserk rage, Sylvia barely noticed the wounds inflicted upon her by the attacking Raptors. She merely drew more Nova Force to compensate and to supplement her healing factor – heedless of her further slippage into madness as her power consumption grew exponentially and thus unsustainably. Little did she realize that the Datasong had deduced this weakness and was sacrificing Raptors in order to destroy her.

    As Sylvia turned to engage an attacking Raptor, she was surprised to see it bisected by a longsword passing through its torso. From behind the bisected Raptor emerged a warrior in black and gold armor wielding a large adamantium longsword. Sensing the power of the warrior and having succumbed to berserk warrior rage, Sylvia made to attack him.

    The warrior raised his hand in the universal gesture signifying halt. “Still your rage child. Such anger is unbecoming of a demi-goddess.”

     

    In response to the warrior’s words, Sylvia’s rage subsided and clarity of thought returned. She felt herself fading into the white void.

    Now within the white void of pure thought and energy, Sylvia found herself facing the warrior in black and gold armor.

    The warrior removed his helmet revealing the face of a handsome white-maned humanoid. “You’re new to the local pantheon of gods. What is your name and why do you wear the uniform of a Nova Corps Cadet?”

    Sylvia instantly recognized her host within the white void and was awed to be standing in the presence of such a renowned Eternal. He exuded the ancient power and authority of the King that he was – and his feats were legendary within the local group of galaxies. She removed her helmet. “I am Sylvia Rider-Dru, Countess of Sura and Nova Corps Cadet First Class.”

    The King smiled and bowed. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Contessa. I am Jef, King of the Barthellian Expanse. So, you’re Nova Prime Rider’s child and now newly ascended into demi-goddess-hood?”

    Sylvia smiled and returned the bow. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Majesty. And yes – I am newly transformed into a Supernova and I’m having a hard time controlling the powers. You seem to have a special ability to help me control my powers much like another being I know, the Xandarian God Gamill. Are you acquainted with him?”

    Jef frowned. “Yes, I’ve had the displeasure of meeting Gamill and the other Xandarian gods. We need to return to the battle soon. I’ve given you some temporary internal controls to help you regulate your power. When we return to the battle in a few nano-seconds, you concentrate on destroying the Shi’ar ships and leave these Raptor vermin to me and my Eternals.”

    Sylvia bowed again. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

    Jef smiled and nodded his head. “Noblesse Oblige child. Never forget that we nobles have the obligation to use our powers to help others in their times of need. Now, when this battle is done, I hope you will do me the honor of visiting me on Barthel Prime so that we may become better acquainted.”

     

    “I would be honored, Your Majesty.” Sylvia donned her helmet as the white void faded to be replaced by normal space – only a few nano-seconds having passed since she first encountered Jef. Jef stood before her, hefting his mightly adamantium longsword; and around her she could see more than one thousand of Jef’s Eternals engaging the Raptors. The Raptors’ ranks were rapidly dwindling and the Xandarian Fleet was re-grouping in preparation to re-engage the Shi’ar Fleet’s front lines. With a wave to Jef, Sylvia turned and flew toward the Shi’ar Fleet.

    Jef turned to engage a Raptor, driving his sword through the Raptor’s chest while directing twin eye beams of cosmic energy at the Raptor’s head. As the Raptor’s head melted, Jef kicked the Raptor’s headless body off of his sword and rushed to join his warriors in their assault against the remaining Raptors.

     


    Sylvia reached out with her powers, accessing Xandarian tactical and ascertaining the position of her father’s ship, The Aurora. The Aurora was fighting its way to the rest of the Xandarian Fleet, cutting a wide swath through the Shi’ar ranks with the help of its Nova Corps Cohorts and fighter ships. The other Xandarian Federation fleets were also inflicting heavy losses on the Shi’ar; and a successful final push against the Shi’ar Fleet would likely result in victory. Sylvia was determined to provide that final push against the Shi’ar Fleet.

    Approaching the Shi’ar front lines, she began to block the attempts of damaged Shi’ar ships to form stargates and withdraw from the battle. She flew straight for the lead Shi’ar battleship, determined to strike a decisive blow in her initial attack.

    The Shi’Ar battleship exploded as Sylvia smashed through its hull and released her most powerful radiative aura gravimetric pulse. She engaged the battleship’s escort vessels, making short work of them as well. The Xandarian Fleet was right behind her and the ship-to-ship battle was re-engaged. The Shi’ar began experiencing heavy losses.

    Sylvia destroyed every battle group she encountered, clearing a path to The Aurora and dividing the Shi’ar line. Strangely, she found that it was getting harder to summon her powers and she was experiencing something she now rarely experienced – physical fatigue approaching exhaustion. A squadron of Shi’Ar fighters bore down upon her, and with a smirk, she destroyed all of them with rapid fire gravimetric pulses; but found herself faltering at summoning more power as she approached the next battle group.

    She now found it effortful to continue to block the Shi’Ar fleet’s attempts to form stargates to escape while at the same time assisting the Xandarian fleet in destroying the remaining Shi’Ar vessels. She realized she would soon have to choose one or the other; and surveying tactical, decided that there was nothing left of the Shi’Ar fleet that the Xandarian fleet could not handle. She turned to make her way back behind the Xandarian line where she could concentrate fully on preventing the Shi’Ar from escaping by continuing to block their stargate formation. As she disengaged from battle, her power momentarily fluctuated, and she felt her body begin to contract, shrinking to normal size. She had never felt so tired before; and it was now becoming painful and effortful to block enemy stargate formation. Desperate at the thought that her faltering power might cost Xandar victory in today’s battle, she called upon Him. “Overmind! Help me!”

    The Overmind appeared, a smirk gracing his handsome face. In mocking tone he spoke, “Ah sweet Sylvia, you refuse the help of my idiot savant brother, The Worldmind, and finally deign to call upon me when you have all but exhausted yourself due to premature use of your developing powers. When will you learn to listen to me? When will you heed the advice of your betters?”

    Sylvia gritted her teeth to retain her composure. “Can you just help me now and patronize me later? I’m about to lose consciousness from exhaustion. Give me more energy!”

    The Overmind shook his head. “Would that I could sweet Sylvia. You have chosen to ignore all that I taught you and become a Supernova prematurely; long before you were ready to wield such powers. I am surprised you are still sane. It must have been purely my influence over the past several months that has kept you from descending irretrievably into paranoid madness. Now you have exhausted the capacity of your immature quantum structure and it is rapidly failing. I am not sure if you can even survive – let alone ever wield such power again.”

    Tears stung Sylvia’s eyes – not for her possible demise as she would gladly give her life for Xandar – but tears of frustration at being unable to continue the battle. What good was this pseudo-god if he couldn’t help her in time of greatest need? “Gods-dast-it you pretentious bastard! Can’t you for once do something besides criticize and cynically pontificate? Help me help Xandar!”

    He shook His head negatively. “You know that I cannot directly intervene.”

    Furious with him now, Sylvia exploded in rage. “Get away from me then! I renounce you! I never want to see or hear from you again for all eternity! Spend your sad, worthless life alone in your quantum realm and contemplate how today you lost the battle for Xandar and the respect of the one and only other living being who knows of your pathetic existence!”

    Stunned by her rebuke, The Overmind recoiled, speechless for once. Sylvia noted His reaction. She was more important to Him than He had always pretended. It was obvious – He loved her and had never had any intention of letting her die; and most importantly, He could intervene.

    He quickly recovered His composure. “This could kill us both and it has consequences that you cannot begin to understand. What I now do I do for Xandar; not for you, precocious child, or in response to your pleading and demands for favors.” He melted into her and she felt unimaginable power; along with pleasure more intense than any orgasm she had ever experienced and intimacy beyond that she had ever enjoyed with any of her lovers. Coursing with power, Sylvia’s fatigue vanished and she grew to the 50 foot stature of a mature Supernova. Surely this was how it felt to be a god.

    She heard His voice in her head. “This cannot be maintained for long. Move quickly to end this fight or we shall both perish.”

    Sylvia turned to face the Shi’Ar again. With cool confidence and clarity of thought and purpose, she extended her hand and encircled all the remaining ships save one with gravimetric nodes. She ordered the nodes to contract; watching with cruel satisfaction as each ship was crushed below its Schwarzschild Radius, vanishing in a flash of gamma radiation. She hovered before the Shi’Ar flagship, the only remaining ship from the Shi’Ar fleet. “Go now and do not return to Xandarian space or you shall surely die. So commands the Countess of Sura.” She formed a stargate behind the Shi’Ar flagship and, with a thought, propelled it into the stargate, sending it home to the Shi’Ar throneworld with news of their abject defeat.

    Sylvia felt The Overmind leave her body, Himself exhausted, and flee to His quantum realm. Her body quickly shrunk to normal size and she found herself so fatigued it was hard to stay awake. Consulting her HUD for coordinates, she set course for her father’s ship, The XBS Aurora, and turned to make her way there.

    Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she turned just as Gladiatrix slammed into her and landed a massive punch to her jaw. Sylvia reeled head over heels from the punch. With normal Centurion level powers and phasic shielding, the punch had nearly penetrated and she fought to retain consciousness. Dazed, she turned to face Gladiatrix just in time for Gladiatrix to slide an adamantium knife into her abdomen and slowly slice upwards, attempting to eviscerate her. Sylvia grappled with Gladiatrix; holding her free hand and her knife hand to prevent Gladiatrix from further slicing her open. Their eyes locked.

    Gladiatrix smiled cruelly and with mock concern said, “Hurts?”

    Gladiatrix had mostly recovered from their earlier fight and was incredibly strong. Sylvia was exhausted and she shook; using all her might to hold Gladiatrix off and slow the upward advance of Gladiatrix’s knife.

    Gladiatrix sneered, advancing the knife another centimeter upward against Sylvia’s resistance. “So tell me Countess, does your purri still become wet at the thought of killing me? I am so enjoying killing you that mine is soaking wet.” She advanced the knife another centimeter upward, twisting it to increase the pain, enjoying watching Sylvia shake as she fought to slow the advance of the knife. “This is for all my teammates you killed, for all the ships you destroyed, for all the Shi’ar you mercilessly slaughtered today, and for your treatment of me when I was your prisoner.”

    Sylvia had never felt such excruciating pain; but refused to give Gladiatrix the satisfaction of hearing her scream. The knife was approaching her sternum and would soon pierce her heart. There was only one chance. Summoning all her flagging energy, Sylvia formed a radiative aura gravimetric pulse, sending Gladiatrix careening away from her, momentarily stunned from the explosion of the pulse.

    Sylvia pressed the wound stretching from her abdomen to just below her sternum, attempting to hold in her blood and mutilated organs as she weakly turned and headed back toward the Xandarian fleet. The nanites in her uniform quickly shifted to cover the wound and knit it together; and her healing factor went into overdrive; but she had expended too much energy in the battle and was continuing to expend energy in this fight – energy she critically needed to heal her grievous wounds. She felt sick and could taste blood in her mouth. She was finding it hard to breathe from the massive internal bleeding; and she began to gag and retch blood. Her uniform’s emergency life support system sensed her distress and automatically intubated her. Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she saw Gladiatrix rapidly closing, holding the knife ready for another attack. Sylvia couldn’t outrun her, so she turned to fight; trying but failing to summon a gravimetric node to imprison Gladiatrix.

    Sylvia nearly blacked out from the effort to fight. Despite the sickness from her wounds and the terrible pain, weakness, and fatigue; she somehow managed to fight back to consciousness just as Gladiatrix was almost upon her. She hadn’t the energy to even try to summon The Overmind for help. She felt another wave of sickness which threatened to send her into unconsciousness; but her indomitable will resisted it. She raised her hands to fight, enduring the terrible pain that came from each movement of her body.

    “Get away from my daughter you farking bitch!” A blur of navy blue and gold motion flashed by Sylvia and slammed into Gladiatrix. Nova Prime Richard Rider arrived.

    Gladiatrix was surprised and fearful for a moment – not expecting to encounter the man who had killed her father and her mother. Her moment of fear at facing the Nova Prime cost her dearly as it weakened her psionic shields long enough for Rich to land several powerful blows, dazing her before she could put up a fight.

    Sylvia had never seen her father fight so savagely. He fought with the ferocity of a father protecting his young; showing Gladiatrix no mercy as he relentlessly unleashed the awesome power of Xandar. Rich landed blow after powerful blow, faster than most eyes could track; pummeling Gladiatrix into near unconsciousness before in murderous screaming rage bathing her in the unforgiving blast of his most powerful gravimetric pulse. Gladiatrix’s flesh was charred to a cinder and she became still – slowly floating away into the cosmos.

    Richard rushed to Sylvia and took her into his arms. She looked into her father’s worried eyes and could see tears streaming down his face as he beheld her grievous wounds. “Sylvia? Oh God! Syl? Are you OK baby? Activate your healing factor baby. Give it all your energy. Do it now! I don’t want to lose you. I love you. Sylvia? Sylvia!”

    Sylvia lost consciousness, safe in the arms of her father. Her last thought was that if she had to die, at least she would die proudly on the battlefield in service to Xandar; and at least her father would have to admit he was pleased with her performance in today’s battles.
     

    Chapter Six: Who Shall We Fear?

    The white void beckoned and Sylvia heeded the call. It was different this time though – more effortful to make the journey. She felt weak, fatigued – and wondered if she had the energy to make it back to the corporeal realm. She felt the energy signature of the void shift ever so slightly – and when she changed the spectrum of her vision, she could see Zero Point Energy – or as the Xandarians nicknamed it, “Nova Force,” being absorbed by her body.

    Sylvia was puzzled. She appeared to be alone; but of course, she now knew that she would never be truly alone in this realm. She looked around. Where was He? Reaching out with her natural powers, she scanned the realm and sensed His presence. Concentrating, she projected her consciousness through the void in His general direction.

    She found Him slumped and sitting on the ‘floor’ with His head bowed. Though she could see that He was absorbing copious amounts of Zero Point Energy from the void, He still looked gaunt. She shook her head. “Poor thing – you look like schlag.”

    He looked at her and scowled. “I feared your renunciation of me and your vow to leave me alone and in peace were too good to be true.”

    She laughed as she sat down next to Him, “Curmudgeonly as ever I see.”

    “Hmph.” He looked away.

    She leaned into Him and kissed Him on the cheek. “Thank you for helping me.”

    He looked despondent. “You have no idea what that ill considered action has cost me.”

    She made eye contact with Him. “Oh, but I do. When we melded, I learned a great deal more about you including that your aid cost you your independence and continues to risk your existence. I know that right now, the only reason I’m still alive is because of our now permanent bond through the process of Quantum Entanglement – the same process the Worldmind uses to channel Zero Point Energy to every Nova. When we melded, we became one entity. When you separated and came back here, we maintained our connection because we are now part of each other – entangled as it were. You feel sick because I feel sick. I am alive because I’m drawing some of your energy to heal. If I die, you may die.”

    He stood and became his usual haughty self. “You know too much, precocious child; but you know much less than you think and understand little of what you know. Do not ever believe one such as I could be killed as easily as one such as you.”

    Ignoring his bluster, she looked at him with genuine affection as she now knew with absolute certainty how he felt about her. “It really is you – the individual Xandarian Eternal, Gamill, right now isn’t it? You’re not the Uni-Mind I’m talking to like you were when we first met.”

    He looked irritated. “You did learn too much during our meld.”

    She shrugged her shoulders. “So you’re a Xandarian Eternal. Why all the secrecy about that? It’s long been assumed that Xandar formed naturally without the aid of Celestials – thus no Eternals and no Deviants. Now I know that assumption is false. What harm could there be in the populace learning the truth?”

    He voice was stern. “As I said, you understand little of what you know. Xandar is a special experiment on the part of the Celestials. Secrecy is critical for the success of the experiment. If the population were to become aware of the experiment, error would be introduced and the Celestials would be forced to abort it. Do you understand what that would mean?”

    She nodded. “Yes I do. The Horde would descend upon us and destroy all. Don’t worry. The secret is safe with me.”

    She saw that his absorption of ZPE was slowing and that he was nearly back to full strength. She smiled, feeling better and stronger as He felt better and stronger. She knew she was nearly healed and would soon need to return to the corporeal realm; but she couldn’t resist teasing Him a little before she left. Lowering her eyes to half-mast and adopting her sexiest, vampiest, most flirtatious attitude and posture; she stood and put her arms around His neck, pressing her body into His, her lips only centimeters from His lips. “I suppose in a way our entanglement means we’re married. Care to do your husbandly duty before I go and make me come as hard as I did when you melded with me?”

    He was shocked and clearly exasperated as He pulled free of her. “Is that all you ever think about?” He looked at her self-satisfied expression, realizing He had been successfully played. He shook His head in frustration. “Go back to corporeality. Your parents are worried about you and need some reassurance.”

    She laughed in delight at His discomfort. “I’ll be back soon.”

    He sighed in resignation to that fact. “I know.”

    She turned to leave – then stopped. Looking around, she said, “Won’t the rest of you come out and say hello?” She paused. “No? All right then. Maybe some other time.” She winked at Gamill before fading into the void.

    The pantheon of Xandarian Eternals materialized the moment Sylvia left, completely surrounding Gamill.

    Frammi stepped forward and slapped Gamill’s face. “You are a fool Gamill! You risk us all by tying our fates to that little strumpet. You should have let her die. We could always have cloned another. Now, you’ve narrowed our options to one – her specifically – and to make it worse, entangled us all with her at the quantum level. What were you thinking? Don’t bother to answer. We’ve had enough of your lies. We will form a Uni-Mind and your true motives will stand revealed.”

     


     

    Sylvia stirred and fought her way back to consciousness. Her eyes slowly opened and she found herself in the familiar surroundings of the Nova Corps Infirmary on the Orienta Shard. Her parents, Richard Rider and Sevilica Dru, stood over her bed; both still dressed in their Nova Corps uniforms and both wearing expressions of worry. Visiting from Mindworld; the hard light holographic avatars of her Grandfather and Grandmother, Lord Severus Dru and Lady Ronica Dru, stood at the foot of the bed.

    Richard smiled in relief as he stroked her hair. “Hi honey. Welcome back. We’ve all been worried sick about you. Your friend, Kritana, just left. She’s been here since you arrived; but needed to go express her sympathies to Cadet Ren’s family and Cadet Luf’s family.”

    Remembering what happened to Surfaan, Sylvia made eye contact with her father. “Did he and the rest of my Cohort download to Mindworld?”

    Rich nodded affirmatively. “Ren, Bem, and Luf are all safe in Mindworld. All have chosen to be re-iterated. New bodies are being cloned and they should all be back to active duty in a year.”

    Sevilica leaned in close to Sylvia. “The doctor says you’re recovering faster than he’s ever seen before. How do you feel?”

    Sylvia took a moment to take stock. The terrible pain was gone, she was breathing on her own, and she was feeling strong. “I feel well. I think I’m ready to go back to active duty now.”

    “That’s my grand-daughter! She’s all Dru!” proclaimed Lord Severus, eliciting laughs of relief from everyone, including Rich, who decided to let the royals indulge their egos and to ignore the small slight to him.

    There was a slight commotion in the hall and all eyes turned to the door as the hard light holographic avatar of King Ferenus Dru entered; accompanied by his daughter, Queen Adora Dru, and his grand-son, Prince Proculus Dru. The avatar of The Worldmind followed closely in step behind the High King of the Mindworld. Everyone in the room adopted the position of fealty. As Sylvia was lying down, she did the best she could to adopt the position of respect to the King by bowing her head until her chin touched her chest and placing her right fist over her heart.

    The King was touched by her gesture and approached the head of the bed. “My dearest grand-niece; you honor me when I came to honor you. Your heroic actions today have brought about an end to what could have been a long and costly war. It seems that the Majestrix is now eager to resume negotiations with us after you helped us hand the Shi’ar a decisive defeat. All Xandar is in your debt and you bring great honor and acclaim upon our royal family. I bestow upon you the title of Heroine of the Xandarian Federation and proclaim a celebration to be held in your honor.”

    Sylvia’s eyes glistened, holding back tears. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I would like to nominate as fellow heroes the remainder of my cohort – Cadet Tas and the Cadets who gave their lives defending Xandar – Ren, Luf, and Bem.”

    Ferenus smiled at her. “It is a true sign of nobility to share the credit for one’s successes. I will honor your request. Now, I must go to attend to affairs of state; but we will speak again soon.”

    Ferenus turned to leave, gesturing to Sevilica, Severus, and the Worldmind Avatar to attend him as he departed. He caught the eye of his daughter, Queen Adora, and nodded slightly. The Worldmind Avatar hesitated a moment, staring at Sylvia before turning to follow Ferenus. Proculus and his mother, Queen Adora, remained to visit with Sylvia, Ronica, and Richard.

    Proculus approached the bed and took Sylvia’s hand, squeezing it with affection. “I am so proud of you. I hope you can take some time off from the Academy to come visit me at the palace.”

    Sylvia was so happy to see her best friend that she fought back the pain that came with movement, raising herself in bed to hug Proculus. “I would like that.”

    Adora, Queen of Corporeal Xandar, approached the head of the bed. “I’ve heard reports of what happened to you, Sylvia. Tell me the whole story from your perspective.”

     


    King Ferenus found an empty conference room to confer privately with Severus, Sevilica, and The Worldmind Avatar. Once seated, he got right to the point. “I need to understand what happened to Sylvia today. It appears that she became a Supernova, was able to accomplish the astounding feat of controlling all that power without going mad, and then reverted back to her ‘normal’ power level. What happened? What are we dealing with? What do we do with her? The Shi’ar are accusing us of developing living weapons of mass destruction in violation of any number of treaties with The Galactic Council. The eyes of The Galactic Council are on us. This could cause a pan-galactic weapons development race. I need information and I need options.”

    Sevilica and Severus exchanged looks, surprised by Ferenus’ line of questioning. Sevilica was first to speak. “Are you suggesting that Sylvia is some kind of danger to us?”

    Ferenus shook his head negatively. “I suggest nothing. I am asking for information. We all know that we have been capable of creating Supernovae since shortly after we began creating Novae. We didn’t create them for a very good reason. Our initial experiments found that they were unstable and uncontrollable. While fiercely and even heroically protective of Xandar; they tended to pursue their own, often times monstrous, agenda for Xandar’s protection; ignoring the orders of their superior officers.”

    Severus leaned forward. “Sylvia demonstrated no such instability and lack of control. In fact, the reports I’ve seen indicated she was in control of herself and the situation most of the time.”

    Ferenus nodded affirmatively. “Granted she was in control most of the time; but she also exhibited some erratic behavior, broke her uniform’s link with the Worldmind, and used her title inappropriately to represent herself as part of the government and send threatening messages to the Majestrix. It seems clear that–.”

    Sevilica interrupted. “We all know Sylvia is different. She’s a hybrid, like her father. Her father has shown a similar ability in the past on more than one occasion – becoming a Supernova for short periods of time, successfully controlling the power, and then reverting to normal. We have never determined the full extent of Richard’s powers; but we understand them better than Sylvia’s because his powers are mediated by our technology. Unlike her father, Sylvia was born naturally able to channel Nova Force. It logically follows that she would have greater control. Perhaps this Supernova transformation is a natural ability for her. Ultimately though, we admittedly understand little about her powers and abilities.”

    Ferenus frowned. “Precisely my point – both Sylvia and her father are unique; but whereas Richard is a known quantity and can be controlled by our technology if absolutely necessary; Sylvia is an unknown with no current means of external control should it become necessary.”

    Sevilica was starting to become defensive. “This is my daughter we’re talking about – and Richard and I have trained her since childhood to responsibly control and use her powers. I think, if anything, the restraint she exercised today can be attributed to that. I’m also getting a little uncomfortable with the direction this conversation is taking and I think Richard should be invited to join the discussion.”

    Ferenus shook his head negatively as did Severus. “The Nova Prime is revered among our people and we literally owe him our lives many times over; but ultimately he is an instrument of the government – not a decision making part of the government. This is a government affair and he does not belong here at this time.”

    Sevilica looked to her father for support. Lord Severus looked into Sevilica’s eyes. “I’m sorry Sevilica, but I have to agree with Ferenus. This is a government affair; and I would also point out – a royal family affair. Though Richard and I have our differences as you well know; I do respect him. He would, however, bring to these proceedings an unnecessary emotionality as well as his legendary insensitivity to the ways of the royal houses. Right now we need clarity of thought and sensitivity to politics both within our sphere of influence and outside of it.”

    Sevilica was seething with anger. “I think you both once again underestimate Richard; and apparently Sylvia, and apparently me as well. After all the three of us have done for Xandar and as many times as we have risked – and in my case, given my life – you talk about Sylvia as if she’s a monster to be contained and Richard as if he’s an ignorant rube. I’ve had enough of this conversation. If you will excuse me, I need to join my heroic husband and attend to my heroic daughter’s recuperation.” Sevilica stood to exit.

    Ferenus jumped to his feet and slammed his fists down on the table in rage. “Sit down! Your King commands it!” He locked eyes with her and held her in his gaze.

    Shaking with anger, Sevilica slowly sat down.

    Ferenus sat and calmly continued. “Do not misunderstand. We all love Sylvia and we love and revere both you and Richard as well. Sylvia is a heroine of Xandar and we will properly honor her. We merely need to understand this situation so we may appropriately respond. Now, when Richard held all the power of Xandar, the Worldmind devised a method to prevent him from becoming a Supernova and to help him exercise control. I am suggesting that we adopt a similar method with Sylvia.”

    Sevilica turned her fury to the Worldmind. “I thought you had been strangely quiet through all this discussion. So, this was all your idea wasn’t it?”

    The Worldmind Avatar seemed unusually distracted as if his thoughts were far away; and was thus strangely slow to respond. “It was indeed my suggestion. However, I have changed my mind based on new information.”

    Ferenus did a double take, frowning in puzzlement at The Worldmind Avatar. “What? What new information?”

    The Worldmind shifted uncomfortably. “Passive scans of Sylvia revealed that she is already linked to a Quantum Tesseract much like the one I inhabit and is now for all intents and purposes an entity much like myself. Modifying her uniform to build in a level of technological control over her would simply be ineffective for all practical purposes; though it may still have some political merit.”

    Severus leaned forward. “You mean she is now a power equal to you?”

    The Worldmind Avatar shook his head negatively. “No, I mean she is a power greater than me. She is beyond our ability to control with technology. I must agree with Duchess Sevilica Dru. Sylvia likely has the natural ability to become a Supernova and has developed internal controls through training from her parents. I suggest that we continue her training as a regular Nova Cadet and bring her up through the ranks as we would any recruit. Rather than in fear attemp

    [page_title]

    Nova: The Next Generation Part Four Of The Shiar Conflict

     

    Nova: The Next Generation

    Part Four

    Of

    The Shi’ar Conflict

    Written By: Timelord 10.10.09

     

    Chapter 4: Demi-Goddess

    The rocket propelled adamantium ‘Nova Killer Round’ easily penetrated the phasic shields and tore through the chest of the lovely raven-haired Nova Cadet who had been lying in wait to surprise attack the approaching Veradinae dragons. She fell to the ground silently. The two Veradinae advance scouts converged on her body, anxious to dine on her flesh while she was still warm and freshly dead. They retracted their helmets in preparation for their meal. Her body began to writhe and shift, instantly breaking apart into two cloudy swarms of billions of tiny objects. Before the dragons could react, the nanites moved swiftly – entering the ears and noses of the Veradinae and burrowing into their brains. The dragons fell to the ground and convulsed violently for several seconds as their brains were pureed. Then they became still and moved no more. From the treetop, Sylvia smiled to herself as she ordered the nanites making up her uniform to exit the skull cavities of the slain Veradinae, clean themselves, and reform around her. It had been child’s play for her to wield her power to communicate with AI’s to order the nanites composing her uniform to morph into a facsimile of her to use as a decoy for the enemy scouts. Once the dragons had “killed” her facsimile and un-sealed their armor to dine; they were vulnerable to attack and the nanites had performed both admirably and silently. She much preferred the direct approach of a stand up fight over such guerilla warfare techniques; but she was willing to do what was necessary to give her people a fighting chance against the approaching enemy. She waited while the nanites clothed her nude body; and once her helmet formed, she quantum linked to Surfaan with one simple message. “Two enemy down. Fifteen to go. Send in the drones.” Sylvia prayed that the drones would keep the Veradinae busy long enough for Bem’s troop ship to win their own firefight with the Veradinae harrying the larger group of survivors, finish extracting the larger group of survivors, and come to the rescue of her smaller group of survivors.

    Sylvia paused as the Xandarian Attack Drones, twelve small seamless silver orbs about the size of her fist, sped silently past her position, fanned out, and began their hunt for the enemy. Using her natural power to communicate with any AI, she patched into the AI controlling the drones so she could gauge enemy strengths and weaknesses as the drones attacked. She didn’t expect the drones to do much but slow the dragons down; as all advanced ground armies had developed counter-measures for drone attacks. That was why ground armies were still comprised of biologicals. AI drone systems could nullify each other and telepresence could be rendered inert via disruption of communication between operator and drone; but super-powered biologicals did not suffer the same constraints and were not so easily counter-measured. They could function independently and adapt to changing battlefield conditions – bringing guile, innovation, and un-predictability factors into the equation – the very factors that often won battles. In the final analysis, biologicals had millions of years of head start on AI’s in finding clever ways to kill each other. Biologicals were simply better at killing than AI’s.

    Melding with an AI was always a strange sensation. Multi-tasking was something biologicals did not do very well; so to meld with an intelligence that multi-tasked as a matter of course was at first disconcerting. Sylvia felt overwhelmed for an instant before her mind made the adaptation from sequential information processing to simultaneous processing. Experiencing the drone attack from the point of view of the controlling AI, she was essentially in twelve different places at once – “seeing” what each of the twelve drones saw as they searched for the enemy. Quickly adjusting to this unfamiliar experience, she was able to follow the progress of the drones as they weaved through the murky swamp, using the natural terrain in addition to their stealth tech to mask their advance on the enemy.

    The drones paused. The enemy had been found. Fifteen heavily armed dragons and one Veradinae drone controller android were about a mile from the survivor encampment and advancing as rapidly as the terrain allowed. Passive scans indicated that the Xandarian drones had not been detected. Sylvia attempted to penetrate the Veradinae Android’s firewall; but it was too strong for her to quickly overcome. She cursed to herself. She had hoped to render the enemy drone controller inert or even use it against the enemy. She realized that her drones would now get only one chance before the Veradinae droid took counter-measures. Sylvia and the AI concurred on the attack plan. Explosive charges were set and the drones attacked.

    The Xandarian drones each picked a target. As one, they swooped down from the treetops at top speed in a surprise attack. Two drones targeted the android; and the rest targeted individual dragons. The Veradinae android reacted instantly, raising a force field and releasing ten interceptor drones. The Xandarian drones impacted against the android’s force field; exploding on contact. The Veradinae android was not harmed; but the concussion from the blast threw the dragons into momentary confusion; knocking three of those closest to the android off their feet. The Xandarian drones moved to capitalize on the enemy’s confusion; diving toward those most vulnerable to attack. The Veradinae interceptors did their job, intercepting and destroying most of the Xandarian attack drones; but two Xandarian drones managed to evade the interceptors and impact against two of the dragons who were thrown from their feet by the initial attack’s blast. The resulting explosions took one dragon’s head off and the other dragon’s leg off.

    Sylvia was pleased. Xandar had been lucky. The drones had inflicted more damage than she had expected they would. She had one last immediate range glimpse of the enemy before her last drone was destroyed by an interceptor. She saw the commanding dragon walk over to the dragon that lay injured from loss of its leg and shoot it in the head.

    Sylvia used her powers to conduct a long range scan in order to assess the enemy’s incurred damage. She was pleased to learn that the enemy had been slowed and was now having to take time to re-group. She quickly flew back to the survivor encampment to prepare to engage the Veradinae.

    Arriving back at the encampment in seconds, she was greeted by Surfaan Ren. Ren had divided the encampment into defense zones and fortified each zone the best he could with the available men and material. The Star Corps regulars were ready. Surfaan would command the ground troops; and Sylvia would harass the enemy from the air.

    They didn’t have long to wait. Within minutes of her arrival, Sylvia’s HUD flashed a proximity warning. The enemy was closing. Sylvia took flight, activating her uniform’s camouflage function, becoming invisible against the pale blue sky of the planet. Surfaan had prepared one last surprise for the enemy and it would be her cue to attack.

    The Veradinae marched straight for the encampment. They were positioned in a ragged semi-circle, obviously intending to simply overwhelm the encampment with superior numbers and firepower. The Veradinae droid sent attack drones in to soften defenses; but Xandar’s droid sent interceptor drones and stalemated the attack. As the enemy entered the Xandarian outer perimeter; Surfaan activated the anti-personnel mines he had placed, watching with satisfaction as the explosions and adamantium shrapnel killed two enemy troops and caused the enemy line to waver.

    Capitalizing on the wavering enemy line, Surfaan ordered the Xandarians to open fire; and the troops laid down a withering assault of plasma charges and projectiles. From the air, Sylvia dove in for a strafing run against the enemy line; firing furious volleys of gravimetric pulses from her eyes and both hands. She sighted her primary target and rushed in for the kill; smashing through the Veradinae android’s force field and then through the android itself, tearing it apart and rendering its drones useless. As the inert Veradinae drones fell from the sky, the remaining Xandarian drones were freed from their aerial dogfights with the Veradinae drones. Xandar’s drones dove from the sky to attack the enemy; and several dragons fell to explosions from drone impacts.

    Though suffering heavy losses, the Veradinae were nothing if not tenacious. The remaining eight dragons regrouped under the leadership of their commander and made a concerted push against the Xandarian line. Concentrating fire from their hand held and armor mounted weapons; the Veradinae were able to overwhelm the Xandarian force field defenses, battering them down.

    As the Veradinae grouped to rush the Xandarian line; Sylvia flew into their midst, generating a powerful radiative aura gravimetric pulse. The armor of the three dragons nearest her absorbed the greatest part of the concussion; killing the dragons instantly. Most of the rest of the dragons were knocked off their feet; but their commander managed to maintain his footing and rushed Sylvia with his claws extended, intending to rend her apart. Sylvia had learned from her earlier fight with an actual dragon to stay clear of dragons’ biomantium-coated claws; so she twisted and dodged the dragon’s attack, firing gravimetric pulses from her hands into its back as she took flight. The dragon twisted to avoid the pulses hitting its power packs and its armor-mounted plasma cannon fired at Sylvia. The plasma bolt bounced off Sylvia’s shields, but disrupted her flight function, causing her to tumble to the ground.

    Momentarily stunned from the impact with the ground, a dragon rushed Sylvia and she barely recovered in time to twist away from a vicious swipe of its claws. Another dragon rushed at her; and she fired a gravimetric pulse into its chest as she took flight; knocking the dragon into the line of fire from one of the Xandarian defense zones. The dragon was caught in the concentrated fire and suffered several penetrating wounds from adamantium projectiles as Sylvia’s gravimetric pulse had weakened its armor’s force field. Before Sylvia could gain altitude, the Veradinae Commander leaped into the air, caught her by her ankles, and slammed her head into the ground.

    Fighting to retain consciousness, Sylvia groggily twisted in his grasp attempting to activate her flight function and escape. Flexing his muscles, he slammed her into the ground again; causing her to lose consciousness for a moment.

    Sylvia awoke to a familiar voice shouting, “Let go of her mother farker!” as Surfaan Ren flew to her rescue; firing short bursts of adamantium projectiles into the Veradinae Commander’s armor at point blank range so as to avoid hitting Sylvia with any stray pellets. The Veradinae Commander roared in pain as several projectiles penetrated its armor. It turned loose of Sylvia to attack Surfaan as Surfaan had strayed way too close to the dragon in his attempt to distract it before it killed Sylvia.

    The realization that Surfaan had only seconds to live snapped Sylvia back into full consciousness and she viciously kicked the dragon’s leg, buckling his armor and causing him to sink to his knees roaring in pain. Gritting her teeth and rapidly struggling to her feet, Sylvia built up a gravimetric pulse in her right hand and with all her might struck the dragon commander in the head at the same time as she fired the pulse. Screaming in rage as her gravimetric enhanced punch penetrated the dragon’s helmet armor; she felt the dragon’s head explode before its decapitated body fell limply to the ground.

    Sylvia twisted to avoid the shots fired at her by another dragon and took flight behind Surfaan, placing herself between him and the remaining dragons so her more powerful shields could defend him from their weapons fire.

    Sylvia’s HUD flashed a warning that she was being scanned by a Xandarian Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) device and she looked up to see Bem’s troop ship sliding into place over the Xandarian encampment.

    The ship’s plasma cannons and 50 caliber adamantium projectile weapons opened up against the few remaining dragons, causing them to scramble for cover as they returned fire. A hatch from the bottom of the ship opened and waves of Nova Cadets rapidly descended to the ground. Each Nova Cadet scooped up a Star Corps Regular and ascended to the ship as other Nova Cadets provided covering fire.

    Sylvia and Surfaan provided covering fire and were the last to board the troop ship. The hatch snapped shut behind them and the ship rapidly ascended through the atmosphere into space, entering a stargate to the Orienta Shard as soon as it achieved minimum safe distance from the gravity well of the planet.

    As the Nova Cadets tended to the wounded and stowed their combat and rescue gear, Sylvia caught sight of Surfaan placing his rifle in a weapons locker. She walked over to him and he turned to her with a smile of delight on his face.

    Sylvia returned his smile. “Thanks for saving my ass out there.”

    He raised his eyebrows and made a great show of craning his neck to examine her ass. “How could I let such a cute ass go to waste? Besides, I do like a screamer – more so in the bedroom than on the battlefield though.”

    They shared a laugh; but were interrupted by a shout of “Commander on deck!”

    Nothing if not efficient, Bem arrived with several clerk droids to begin debriefing. The cadets scrambled into formation and prepared to provide reports. The ride back to Orienta was going to be filled with official Corps business.

     


    Surfaan finished his report to the clerk droid and headed to the mess hall of the ship. As he approached the door to the mess hall, it snapped open and out stepped Kritana Tas.

    Unable to avoid the encounter, Surfaan sheepishly smiled at her in greeting. “Hi Kritana.”

    Kritana’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him. “Fark you Surfaan.” She brushed past him.

    His face red with exasperation and embarrassment, Surfaan said to her receding back, “Come on Tana! You can’t still be mad at me.”

    In response, Kritana simply made an obscene gesture over her shoulder without turning back around.

    “Oh nice! Very mature! Talk to me?” he said with no real expectation that she would.

    Surprisingly, she stopped and turned around. Walking up to him, she placed her fists on her hips and with arms akimbo angrily got right in his face. “Talk to you? I’ll talk to you. What do you have to say?”

    Caught off guard, Surfaan’s mind blanked and he could only blurt out a feeble, “I’m sorry.”

    That was not what Kritana wanted to hear. She huffed. “That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got? Why did I waste my time?” Shaking her head in irritation and disgust, she turned to depart; then changed her mind and turned back to him. “You know – when you decided you wanted to fark that little Rigellian First Year Cadet, all you had to do was tell me. It’s not like I’m possessive or jealous or have ever demanded exclusivity. I thought she was cute too and I might even have joined in if she’d been interested. All I ever asked was that you never lie to me. I thought that we had agreed on that much.”

    He shook his head affirmatively. “I know and I was wrong to lie about farking her. I farked up. I’m sorry. Can’t we just put this behind us and be friends again?”

     

    Kritana shook her head negatively. “I have to be able to trust my friends to tell me the truth. That’s obviously beyond your capabilities.” She turned her back and walked away.

    Surfaan watched her go, cursing himself once again for farking up the good thing he had had with one of the most gorgeous, sexy, and capable women he had ever known. He turned to enter the mess hall. The door snapped open and he saw several cadets milling about the food and drink synthesizers. He spied Sylvia extracting a drink from a synthesizer portal and waved to get her attention. She smiled in response and he took that as an invitation to approach her.

    He decided to try confident humor. “Now that we’ve openly admired each other’s asses and established that we’re both screamers, I was hoping we could get some private time together to get even better acquainted. Care to share a shower?”

    She laughed. “Subtlety is not your strong point.”

    He shrugged. “What can I say? I believe in making my intentions known.”

    She suppressed a smile. “Oh, by reputation I knew your intentions before I ever met you. My mother warned me about men like you.”

    He looked deeply into her eyes. “Your mother sounds like a wise woman. We’ll name our first child after her.”

    Sylvia raised her eyebrows. “My-my-my, the rumors about your large ego are true after all.”

    He grinned. “I’d love to show you which large rumors about me are true.”

    She laughed. “No doubt you would.”

    He decided the time was right to make his pitch. “So let me. After this mission, we all get a week’s liberty. Let’s go out tonight.”

    She looked away for a moment as if seriously considering his offer. “Would that I could. I’ve already made plans to celebrate with a friend tonight; and I leave for Nu-Xandar on the first shuttle out in the morning.”

    He decided to go for broke. “Well, how about if I meet you somewhere before or after your date with your friend?”

    She shook her head negatively. “You are a persistent one aren’t you?”

    He grinned. “I’ve been called worse.”

    “I know” she deadpanned.

    He laughed. “Come on – we both know you want to give me a chance.”

    She hesitated – then relented. “I really do have plans tonight and my date will be an all nighter – but I’ll be at The Paradise for awhile. Maybe I’ll see you there.”

    Surfaan was mentally shouting ‘Victorie;’ but his verbal reply was calm and confident. “You will definitely see me there Sylvia Rider-Dru.”

    The General Quarters klaxon sounded and with a last smile at each other, Sylvia, Surfaan, and the remainder of the cadets scrambled to prepare for arrival on the Orienta Shard.
     

     


    “I’m telling you that you’re wasting your time Surfaan.” Owan Luf downed his synthahol shot and ordered another. The droid bartender complied and Owan stared morosely at the drink. “Listen to me. Nobody knows more about disappointment than me. There are plenty of women here who’d love to spend the night with you. Better pick up one of them. The one you’re waiting for is a royal – as far out of your league as I’m out of Kritana’s league.”

    Surfaan rolled his eyes. Owan was a nice guy; but Owan could be such a wet blanket – especially when he drank. “And I’m telling you that I’m on to something here. She wants me. I know it. Nobody knows more about women than me.”

    Owan downed his drink and ordered another. “You’ll see.”

    Surfaan smirked. “Yeah right.”

    The Paradise was Orienta City’s oldest, largest, most popular pleasure club. It was nearly full to capacity tonight with cadets celebrating the first liberty of the year. The music was loud, the dance floor was full, drinks and vapors were flowing, and the sex rooms lining the perimeter of the first several stories of the building had long waiting lists. The sex rooms were opaque at times and totally transparent at other times. They became transparent when they were randomly and intermittently illuminated for club patrons to observe the activities taking place within – pandering to the exhibitionistic and/or voyeuristic traits just below the surface in nearly everyone’s personality.

    Surfaan was worried that he might miss Sylvia in the crowd, so he placed himself at the Center Bar where he could scan the new arrivals at the entrance. The entrance, some forty feet away, was lined with a canopy of Halthri Trees – the last of the line still alive from pre-cataclysm Xandar. Halthri trees contained natural illuminants, their branches lit with thousands of points of light to attract the insects that pollinated them. They were truly a natural wonder whose beauty was beyond compare. He looked at the tree tops stretching all the way to the skylights at the top of the building.

    So distracted, Surfaan almost missed Sylvia’s arrival. As his gaze drifted back to the entrance, he stood transfixed as he beheld her. Dressed in a simple skin-tight white mini-dress that emphasized every lovely curve of her perfect body, she was the very picture of a goddess. The light from the Halthri’s refracted off her dress, seeming to make it glow of its own accord. Her high-heeled white shoes and white dress perfectly contrasted with her lovely raven hair, dark eyes, and lightly tanned body. She scanned the crowd as if looking for someone.

    Surfaan elbowed Owan. “See Owan – she’s looking for me. Observe and learn.” Surfaan took a step in her direction.

    He stopped short in stunned silence when he saw Kritana Tas rush up to Sylvia and greet her with a long passionate kiss. Arm-in-arm, the two lovely women descended to the dance floor.

    Surfaan turned to look at Owan.

    Owan finished his drink and ordered another. “Told you so. They’re the two hottest women in the academy. Of course they’d end up with each other. In fact, they’ve been seeing each other for weeks now – ever since Tana dumped you.” Owan downed his last shot of synthahol and did not order another. “D’ast. I hoped I’d have a chance at Kritana once she dumped you.” With one last longing look at Kritana, Owan got shakily to his feet. “I’m out of here. Not going to torture myself about Kritana any more. My shuttle leaves for Nu-Xandar first thing in the morning. I better get back to the Crista and sleep this off.” Obviously tipsy from drowning his sorrow in synthahol; he staggered toward the exit, weaving through the throngs of celebrating people.

    Surfaan scanned the dance floor. Kritana and Sylvia were dirty dancing – obviously in heat for each other. In fact, they couldn’t keep their eyes or their hands off of each other. Surfaan leaned his back against the bar, ordering a vial of endorph-vapor and a shot of synthahol.

    While waiting for his drink and his inhalant, he indulged some prurient fantasies about the lovely young ladies. “Ah – the possibilities” he whispered to himself. When his inhalant and his synthahol arrived, he popped the lid off the vapor vial, held it to his nose, and inhaled deeply. He downed the shot just as the music ceased. Before the next song started, Kritana whispered something in Sylvia’s ear. Sylvia shook her head affirmatively and they parted ways after a quick kiss. Sylvia weaved her way through the crowd and eased up to the Center Bar; taking a seat about ten feet away from Surfaan. She hadn’t noticed him yet. Surfaan realized that it was “now or never” time. He sidled up to her. “Well hello Cadet Dru. Fancy seeing you here in this den of iniquity.”

    Sylvia touched her chest and batted her eyes in mock surprise. “Why Cadet Ren – what a surprise.”

    He cocked his head. “Buy you a drink?” Without waiting for a reply, he motioned for two shots of synthahol.

    “Trying to ply me with synthahol are you?” she teased.

    “But of course – and would you care for a vapor too?” Without waiting for a reply, he motioned for two vapors. “So where’d Kritana go?” He asked casually, hoping that the answer would be ‘far away.’

    “To get a room” Sylvia replied matter-of-factly as she picked up the shot of synthahol placed in front of her by the bartender. She lifted the glass in salute. “Our body counts were higher than anyone else’s today. So, to you and me – the two best d’ast cadets on the battlefield.” She clinked her glass against his.

    He was delighted by her praise and her seeming receptivity to him. “I’ll drink to that.” They downed their shots simultaneously and he motioned for two more shots just as the vapor vials arrived. He handed one vial to Sylvia. They popped off the lids to the vapors and inhaled them.

    The shots arrived and Surfaan motioned for two more – double strength. He made eye contact with Sylvia. “So you’re seeing Kritana. Now I know where you heard all the rumors about me.” He handed a drink to her.

    Sylvia accepted the drink and downed it before teasingly replying, “It seems that your loss was my gain.”

    Surfaan was dismayed as he saw his prospects for spending the night with Sylvia rapidly diminishing. Before he could reply, he nearly spilled his drink as Kritana brushed past him to stand between him and Sylvia.

    Shooting Surfaan an angry glare, Kritana muttered, “These places will let any kind of sleaze in won’t they?”

    “It’s always such a pleasure when I run into you unexpectedly.” Surfaan raised his drink to Kritana in salute before downing it.

    Kritana ignored the sarcasm and turned to Sylvia. “Is he hitting on you? Tell me if he’s hitting on you. I’d love an excuse to kick his ass.”

    Sylvia was a little tipsy from the drinks and vapors. She stroked Kritana’s hair. “It’s all right sweetie. We were just talking.”

    With a sideways glance at Surfaan, Kritana moved closer to Sylvia and gave her a long, passionate kiss – slowly moving her hand up the inside of Sylvia’s thigh until it disappeared under Sylvia’s dress. Sylvia breathed deeply and arched her back as she moaned in pleasure and pulled Kritana closer, deeply kissing her.

    The two double-shots arrived before Kritana and Sylvia finished their kiss. Surfaan drank one and reached for the other. He needed the drink to help him cope with the strange blend of jealousy, envy, and arousal he was feeling.

    Kritana pulled back from the kiss. “Come on Syl. I called in some favors to get us to the top of the waiting list. Our room is ready.” Kritana pulled Sylvia away from the bar and they headed for a row of transparent rooms. Sylvia waved goodbye to Surfaan as Kritana rapidly dragged her through the crowd in an attempt to get her away from Surfaan as quickly as possible.

    Surfaan was not so easily dissuaded. In fact, Kritana’s attitude had stirred his competitive spirit. He caught up to them when their progress was slowed by the crowd of people in the club. “You know Sylvia; I think I’m on the same shuttle as you in the morning. Would you save me a seat next to you? We can make arrangements to get together while we’re both on Nu-Xandar.”

    Kritana huffed in irritation. “Go away Surfaan. She’s not interested in you.”

    Surfaan was not ready to give up. “So you say – but let’s let Sylvia speak for herself.”

    Before Sylvia could reply, Kritana hustled her into a room and slammed the door in Surfaan’s face.

    “D’ast!” Surfaan was frustrated as he turned to retreat to the Center Bar. He stopped short as he felt someone grab him by the collar and pull him back. Turning, he found himself face-to-face with Kritana Tas.

    Kritana glared at him. “She wants a toy and you’re the closest thing to an AI dildo I can find on short notice.”

    Surfaan glanced over Kritana’s shoulder to see Sylvia sitting on the bed. Sylvia let her eyes drift below Surfaan’s waist before making eye contact with him and smiling coyly.

    Surfaan grinned at Sylvia before making eye contact with Kritana. “Happy to be of service ma’am.”

    Kritana rolled her eyes as she grabbed his arm and pulled him into the room. “Just shut up and take off your clothes.”

     


    Sylvia stared at the ceiling of the room in The Paradise Pleasure Club – bored, irritated, restless, unable to sleep – an intolerable situation made all the more annoying by Cadet Surfaan Ren’s soft snoring as he lay next to her fast asleep. Kritana Tas was snuggled up to Ren on his other side; her head resting on his chest as she also soundly slept. Though Sylvia required less and less sleep as her powers developed; the world was made for those who did require sleep, so she often found herself all powered up with no place to go. The Overmind had explained to her that someday she would no longer sleep at all. She looked upon the arrival of that day with abject dread.

    Sylvia briefly considered dropping in on The Overmind; but quickly quashed the idea. She was not in the mood to tolerate his typical condescending attitude; but more importantly, she was still angry with him. She sighed and turned onto her side, watching Ren as he slept. She liked him. He was a handsome young man full of dreams and possessing a lean, muscular figure, curly brown hair and hazel eyes. He was about two years older than her and about a year older than Kritana. He was a fine soldier – brave and bold – and on a personal note – a very skilled lover. She understood why Kritana liked him. Ren was the perfect complement to Kritana’s seriousness and ambitiousness. He made her loosen up, relax, and laugh. Sylvia smiled, satisfied that Kritana had finally forgiven Ren’s transgression. All it took was a little talk and a lot of sex. Kritana stirred and snuggled closer to Ren before instantly falling back to sleep. Kritana was among the best Xandar’s armed forces had to offer – smart, capable, tough, serious – and on a personal note, strikingly beautiful, incredibly sexy, and a passionate lover. Sylvia considered herself lucky to have had the pleasure of spending such an enjoyable night with two of the Corp’s finest Cadets.

    They had all gotten to know each other better during rest periods from farking. After Kritana had finally forgiven Ren; they had all discussed possibly forming a steady triad relationship. Sylvia was warming to the thought of a steady relationship with them. She smiled in satisfaction as she recalled their evening together. Over the course of the evening they had farked in every conceivable three-way combination – some of which would have been impossible without their powers to manipulate gravity. It was some of the best, most satisfying sex Sylvia had ever had. She was impressed with Ren and Tas. Apparently other club patrons had been impressed as well – as the audience outside their room had grown with every illumination. Sylvia realized that the royal family would be displeased with such a public display if they ever found out; but what happened in pleasure clubs stayed in pleasure clubs – so they would likely never know. Besides, Sylvia and her friends were young and teeming with super power. Super-powered individuals had super-powerful sex drives. That was generally understood. But even super-powered individuals had their limits; and after several hours of farking, Surfaan and Kritana literally collapsed in exhaustion. Sylvia laughed quietly to herself when she realized that the hint of a sexually satiated smile still graced Ren’s sleeping face.

    The Red Alert Klaxon sounded unexpectedly, jarring Sylvia out of her private amusement; and both Ren and Tas out of their post-coital slumber. They all made eye contact for a second, realizing what this alert likely signified – diplomacy had failed and Xandar was now in a shooting war with the Shi’Ar. With a thought, their uniforms appeared around them and they flew from the room through the ceiling exit and into the sky; joining the rest of the thousands of scrambling cadets rushing to the Nova Crista’s assembly area.

    Arriving at the assembly area, the cadets quickly organized into formal columns and reported their presence and readiness for duty to Worldmind tactical. The Commandant of the Academy, Alistan Nix, approached the podium overlooking the assembly area and motioned for silence. “We have been ordered to full alert status as we are now at war with the Shi’Ar Imperium. The Shi’Ar and Xandarian Federation fleets are preparing to engage. A strike against our homeworld is considered likely. The Orienta Shard has been ordered to adopt a defensive position within a tesseract. All cadet classes have been promoted to active duty status to assist the Xandarian Planetary Guard in defense of Nu-Xandar. Stand by to receive your orders from Worldmind tactical. When your orders are received, you are to depart for the indicated duty station immediately. Dismissed.”

    Sylvia’s HUD indicated that she was again assigned to a unit under command of Third Year Cadet, Ensicus Bem. Bem’s unit had been assigned to help defend one of the asteroid-based command centers for the Automated Defensive Field surrounding Nu-Xandar. Sylvia’s orders were to report to Troop Ship #347 departing from Landing Field #4 in five minutes. She hurriedly flew to the landing field, arriving at the same time as Surfaan Ren, Owan Luf, and Kritana Tas. Bem hustled the cadets aboard and the ship immediately took flight along with the thousands of other ships and tens of thousands of Corpsmen streaming off the Orienta Shard to report to their duty stations. The troop ship quickly cleared the dome and headed into space. Sylvia looked back upon her beloved Orienta City, watching as the last of the ships and troops cleared the dome; and the Orienta Shard, last surviving legacy of old Xandar, shimmered and disappeared into a pocket dimension as a failsafe against another genocidal attack against Xandar. With the Worldmind and cloning facilities on the Orienta Shard safe from all attack; Xandar could never fall again. She turned her HUD’s attention to Nu-Xandar. Thanks to Adanacian tech, Nu-Xandar too could enter a pocket dimension; and certainly would if the automated defenses surrounding her were ever breeched. She could see the Star Corps Planetary Guard ships deploying from the Torus and the Nova Centurion support troops taking up defensive positions. Looking forward, she could see her ship rapidly approaching one of the Command and Control asteroids placed in Libration Points within the field of automated defensive satellites surrounding Nu-Xandar and The Orienta Shard. The Automated Defense Field was a network of cloaked mines and robotic attack drones deployed in a spherical arrangement orbiting Nu-Xandar. Outside the plane of the ecliptic, the ADF was composed of nothing but self-replicating stationary mines. Along the plane of the ecliptic, the ADF was composed of mobile attack drones which could be ordered to attack or allow passage of any ship approaching Nu-Xandar. The Command and Control Center Asteroids controlled space traffic approaching and departing from Nu-Xandar; and had total control of the ADF. Calling up her HUD and patching into Worldmind tactical, Sylvia could see the Xandarian 6th and 8th Fleets deploying outside the ADF. She requested the position of her father’s flagship, The Aurora, and found that her father was with the Xandarian Federation’s First Fleet in the area of space under dispute between Xandar and Shi’Ar, some 10,000 light years from Nu-Xandar. Tactical indicated that the Fourth and Ninth Federation Fleets were on their way to rendezvous with the First Fleet; but that Xandar and her allies were still outnumbered by the approaching Shi’Ar Fleet.

    The troop transport ship touched down on the landing pad of the C&C Asteroid and was immediately lowered into the asteroid’s hangar bay. The cadets hurriedly disembarked, anxious to meet the base commander and report to their duty station in one of the gun turrets. As they approached the security doors, they were automatically identity scanned and granted entrance. Hurrying down the corridors bustling with Starcorps regulars rushing to duty stations; they finally arrived at the bridge of the C & C. A grizzled, gray-haired old warrior, Commander Harvan Soth, was busy issuing orders and did not immediately notice the arrival of the Cadets; leaving them standing silently at attention for several long minutes. Finally, he turned his attention to the cadets; approaching Bem.

    The cadets saluted as Commander Soth approached them. Returning their salute, he got right to business. “Millennian Bem. You will report to Gun Turret #4 and your cohort will provide all necessary aid and assistance to the gunnery crew there under command of Lieutenant Johaan. Any questions?”

    Bem shook his head negatively. “No Sir.”

    “Good. Dismissed.” Soth turned to leave just as the overhead lights flashed red and the emergency Klaxon sounded.

    A Lieutenant shouted to Soth. “Sir! Multiple stargates forming outside the ADF! Our fleet and our Centurions are engaging incoming Shi’Ar ships.” Scanning a data screen, the Lieutenant jumped to his feet. “Sir! Multiple attempts to pierce our teleportation dampening field are being recorded. We are compensating.”

    Soth looked concerned. “Lock down this facility! All crew to action stations! Internal security prepare to repel intruders! Centurion detachment to the surface to repel any enemy materializing outside the dampening field! Communications – message to The Torus. The ADF is under attack and a breach is possible. We are beginning countermeasures.”

    Sylvia watched as the heavy security doors slammed shut; securing the C & C. Glancing at a tactical screen picturing Nu-Xandar, she saw The Torus, that wonderful combination of Xandarian and Adanacian tech that made life on Nu-Xandar possible, begin to glow with unimaginable power. Nu-Xandar shimmered and disappeared into a pocket dimension. Sylvia breathed a sigh of relief. At least her mother was now safe; though if she knew her mother, Sevilica was probably having difficulty restraining herself from leaving her governmental duties and joining the Centurions defending Nu-Xandar.

    Soth glanced at Bem. “Change in orders Bem. Your squad will assume guard duty of the C & C. Arm yourselves and take up positions.”

    Bem nodded to the cadets and they rushed to a weapons locker; each grabbing a plasma rifle, a projectile side arm, and an adamantium-bladed knife. Sylvia reluctantly armed herself along with the others. She had no real need of arms as she already possessed Centurion level powers; having been born naturally able to wield Nova Force. Her friends Ren, Tas, and Luf had only the cadet-level Nova powers of flight, slightly augmented strength, and partial invulnerability granted by their newly upgraded Nova Matrices. Bem had the Millennian level powers of energy absorption and projection granted upon entrance into the third and final year of the academy. Bem assigned the cadets guard duty over the security doors leading into the C & C.

    The Lieutenant was again on his feet shouting to Soth. “Sir! The teleport signals are overwhelming the dampening field! Enemy troops have materialized near the surface. Our Centurions are engaging.” C & C tactical screens flashed with images of Centurions clashing with Shi’Ar armored troops and Imperial Guardsmen. “Sir, multiple contacts power diving toward the surface of the asteroid!”

    The asteroid shook from a massive impact; and the ceiling burst as multiple super-powered beings invaded the C & C. When the dust cleared, Sylvia could see that the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, led by Gladiatrix, had arrived. The Xandarians were quick to react. Soth drew his side arm and began to empty the clip into the chest of Galdiatrix. Purple-skinned, purple-clothed, lean, strong, and sporting the Mohawk hairstyle of her father; Gladiatrix smiled cruelly as she grabbed the still firing Soth by the neck and lifted him off the ground. Shrugging off his adamantium bullets; she snapped his neck and disdainfully threw his body to the ground. Bem and Luf flew at Gladiatrix, furiously firing plasma rifles; as Tas, Ren, and the Starcorps Regulars in the C & C all engaged other Imperial Guardsmen.

    Sylvia threw down her rifle and fired a gravimetric pulse at the nearest Shi’Ar Guardsman, Smasher, vaporizing him from the waist up. Determined to prevent the Shi’Ar from disabling the ADF by taking control of the C & C; Sylvia flew toward the next Imperial Guardsman; firing gravimetric pulses furiously. She had studied the Imperial Guard at the academy and recognized this one as Diprin, an energy manipulator who easily shrugged off the blasts. As Sylvia closed on Diprin; Diprin spun and lashed out with her adamantium claws, just as Sylvia expected she would. Sylvia easily dodged the attack; flipped over Diprin, and put her fist through the back of Diprin’s head; killing Diprin instantly.

    Sylvia had no time to gloat over her second kill as she was struck from behind by Velociti-raptor, the lizard-like speedster of the Imperial Guard. The strike did not penetrate her phasic shields but it did knock her off balance and into the energy matrix trap of Imperial Guardsmen Grelan. Sylvia absorbed the energy matrix as Grelan attempted to constrict it and slice her into cubes; firing the absorbed energy back at Grelan and knocking him off balance before he could construct another energy form to attack her. Her enhanced senses indicated Velociti-raptor was speeding toward her for another attack. She sidestepped his attack while drawing her adamantium knife and slashing savagely. Velociti-raptors body slammed into a wall and writhed on the ground. His severed head rolled across the floor, stopping at her feet; his eyes wide with terror as his mouth moved in silent screams at approaching death before finally becoming still. Sylvia took flight and flipped to avoid the slash of the energy sword the now recovered Grelan had directed toward her in an attempt to decapitate her in revenge for the killing of Velociti-raptor. She easily evaded the sword, fired a gravimetric pulse at him to distract him; and with all her might threw her adamantium knife, burying it in Grelan’s left eye to the hilt. Grelan silently keeled over, falling to the ground instantly dead.

    Sylvia wheeled around in time to see Gladiatrix kill Luf by tearing him in half. Bem already lay dead on the floor beneath the feet of Gladiatrix, having been torn limb from limb. Sylvia and Gladiatrix locked eyes for a moment; each taking the measure of the other. Breaking the pause simultaneously, they rushed together; both intent on killing the other.

    “Sylvia!” yelled Ren, flying between the combatants in an attempt to protect Sylvia with a clumsy attack on Gladiatrix.

    Gladiatrix put her fist through Ren’s chest; splattering blood and gore upon Sylvia. Ren’s head fell back as Gladiatrix extracted her fist; and he briefly made eye contact with Sylvia as the light left his eyes and he fell to the ground.

    Sylvia screamed in blinding rage and grief; firing her most powerful gravimetric pulse into Gladiatrix; stunning Gladiatrix and blasting her several miles into the rock of the asteroid. Sylvia was also stunned at the level of power she had just wielded. The battle had stopped as all combatants were staring up at her in stunned silence – staring UP at her as she had grown to eight feet tall and was glowing white hot with power. Energy arced from her eyes and across her body. She found it hard to think, her mind clouded with rage and consumed with hatred for Xandar’s enemies. She had become a Supernova – a vengeful demi-goddess intent on slaying Xandar’s enemies.

    “My gods Syl, what’s happened to you?” said a distracted Kritana Tas. One of the Imperial Guardsmen, Mentat, sought to take advantage of Tas’ lapse of concentration on the battle and made to deliver a killing blow. Before he could strike, Sylvia bound him with rings of gravimetric nodes; shackling his ankles together and shackling his arms to his waist. She smiled cruelly as she ordered the nodes to contract. Mentat screamed briefly as the contracting rings trisected him. The remaining four Imperial Guardsmen turned from the Star Corps regulars they had been engaging to regard Sylvia.

    Grinning broadly now, energy coursing across her body, mind filled with nothing but the bloodlust of a berserk warrior; Sylvia issued her challenge. “What’re you waiting for you Shi’Ar purries? Trying to decide which one of you wants to die next?”

    The Imperial Guardsmen began to spread out in an attempt to surround her. Lasher moved to Sylvia’s left, charging her energy whip. Killbird took flight, hefting her cosmically powered mace. Fightmaster moved to Sylvia’s right with the dangerous grace of the galaxy class hand-to-hand combatant that he was. The weapons specialist, Quartermaster, moved to attack Sylvia from the rear; ramming a new clip of ‘Nova Killer Rounds’ into his projectile weapon. The surviving Xandarian Starcorps regulars and Nova Cadet Tas took the opportunity to re-group, re-arm, and lock down the C & C’s computers to keep the Shi’Ar from fulfilling their mission of commandeering the C & C to disable the ADF.

    Quartermaster fired before Sylvia could dodge. To her surprise, her new larger body was going to take some getting used to as she now had to recalibrate her kinesthetic sense in regard to where her body was in space, how big it now was, and how fast she could move it. The adamantium slugs would have easily pierced the phasic shields and body armor she started the day with; but her new, more powerful shields were more resistant and the slugs merely glanced off. She was, however, knocked off balance by the impact of the slugs; and her unfamiliarity with her new body caused some coordination problems which left her open to attack from Lasher’s energy whip.

    The whip wrapped around Sylvia’s torso, pinning her arms to her sides and delivering a jarring shock; as at the same time at point blank range Quartermaster unloaded a clip of slugs into Sylvia’s helmet. Sylvia reeled from the attacks; but as she was quickly becoming accustomed to her new body and as she was driven by berserker rage; she shrugged off the pain and focused on killing her enemies. Sylvia focused twin eye beams onto the whip, sending a massive jolt of energy into it. The feedback traveled up the lash and into Lasher; blowing Lasher’s right arm off at the shoulder. Flexing her muscles, Sylvia broke the whip pinning her arms to her sides and swatted the still firing Quartermaster into the wall, stunning him.

    Sylvia ducked to avoid the swing of Killbird’s cosmically powered mace; but stepped directly into the path of Fightmaster’s kick to the torso. Stunned, she stumbled and was immediately struck by Killbird’s mace. Sylvia felt the cosmic power penetrate her shields and burn her flesh, sapping her power. She knew she couldn’t afford to take another such strike. Dodging and taking flight, she blasted Killbird with a collimated gravimetric pulse, flipped, and kicked Fightmaster in the head, stunning him.

    Lasher was bleeding profusely from the site where her right arm had been separated from her shoulder; but had recovered enough to materialize a second whip and was wielding it with her left hand. Sylvia’s enhanced senses warned her that Quartermaster had recovered and was preparing to fire. Sylvia took flight just as Quartermaster fired, and the slug meant for Sylvia instead tore through Lasher’s chest, killing Lasher instantly. Quartermaster was momentarily paralyzed by the realization that he had just killed his teammate. His paralysis cost him dearly as Nova Corp Cadet Kritana Tas flew from behind a computer panel where she had taken cover and fired her projectile weapon point blank into Quartermaster’s head, splattering his brain onto the ceiling of the C & C. Kritana then flipped to avoid a vicious punch from Fightmaster and fired at Killbird before again ducking behind a console for cover where she continued to lay down covering fire against the Imperial Guardsmen.

    Killbird dodged Kritana’s shots, but too late realized that her dodges had placed her within reach of Sylvia. Sylvia caught Killbird in a headlock and quickly snapped Killbird’s neck.

    Fightmaster and Sylvia locked eyes from across the room. Fightmaster prepared to attack Sylvia, demonstrating his prowess by adopting several attack positions, taunting Sylvia as he invited her to prepare to defend herself. Sylvia sneered cruelly as she fired twin eye beams into Fightmasters forehead and watched him crumple to the ground instantly dead.

    The remaining Xandarians were frozen in place, staring at Sylvia. All knew that Supernovas were obsessively devoted to the protection of Xandar; but they also knew that Supernovas were paranoid, murderously psychotic, and dangerously unpredictable.

    The Avatar of the Worldmind appeared on Sylvia’s HUD. “Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru. It is critical that–..”

    Sylvia broke the link, silencing him; having no time for his prattling. There were enemies of Xandar to destroy. It was so hard to think. She knew there had been another enemy; but what had happened to it? She saw a familiar figure and turned to Kritana Tas demanding, “Where is the other one? Where is the one called Gladiatrix?”

    Eyes wide, Kritana pointed down the tunnel bored by the gravimetric pulse Sylvia had directed at Gladiatrix. Sylvia turned to the tunnel and sensed an object approaching at hypersonic velocity. Before she could react, she was struck in the midsection and driven several miles through the rock to the surface of the asteroid and out into open space; emerging into the thick of battle between the Xandarian Centurions and the Shi’Ar Imperial Guardsmen.

    The pain of having been essentially used as a drill bit through the nickel-iron asteroid had inadvertently helped Sylvia’s brain become accustomed to her new larger body. The pain had also cleared her mind of psychotic process and rage; and she was now able to focus. She remembered her mother’s advice about pushing all else aside but the battle; and by force of will, cleared her mind of all thoughts but those of combat. Quickly assessing her whereabouts, she could see combat raging all around her as Nova Corpsmen engaged Imperial Guardsmen and Shi’Ar regular troops. She could not risk cutting loose with full power against Gladiatrix for fear of endangering her own comrades in arms.

    Gladiatrix gave Sylvia no time to recover; delivering blow after powerful blow, attempting to pierce Sylvia’s phasic shielding so she could deliver the killing stroke. Sylvia dodged Gladiatrix’s next punch and delivered a massive punch to Gladiatrix, sending Gladiatrix careening into the surface of the asteroid. Sylvia watched in satisfaction as Gladiatrix entered the artificial gravity well of the asteroid which gave it Xandarian normal gravity on the surface; and smiled as Gladiatrix impacted the surface, creating a sizeable crater.

    Gladiatrix was stunned and Sylvia was not about to give her time to recover. Pressing her advantage, Sylvia dived to the surface, furiously firing gravimetric pulses into Gladiatrix. Gladiatrix reeled from the assault but was able to dodge many of the pulses and flew out of the crater to meet Sylvia’s attack.

    Sylvia landed the first punch, sending Gladiatrix flying into the field of boulders created by her impact on the surface of the asteroid. Hefting one of the boulders, Gladiatrix sent it flying at Sylvia as Sylvia rushed to press the attack. Sylvia blasted the boulder into an expanding cloud of dust and pebbles with a gravimetric pulse; too late realizing that while an effective response, it had been a strategic blunder as the dust and debris momentarily clouded her tactical. Gladiatrix took advantage of Sylvia’s blinded tactical to surprise attack; flying directly out of the dust cloud and landing a massive punch that stunned Sylvia and sent her flying hundreds of feet; landing roughly on the ground outside one of the asteroid’s automated gun turret defenses.

    Sylvia’s enhanced senses warned her that she was being targeted by the automated defenses; giving her just a second to dodge before the area where she had landed was vaporized by a plasma bolt. Apparently, the ‘Identify Friend or Foe’ system did not recognize her as a friend in her new Supernova quantum body; and had reacted accordingly.

    Sylvia’s senses indicated that Gladiatrix was rapidly closing and Sylvia could also tell that the automated defenses were again targeting her. She had only a second to form a plan. Sylvia ran across the surface of the asteroid to attract the attention of all the surface defenses, deftly dodging the plasma beams and rapid fire 50 caliber adamantium slugs being sent her way from the automated defenses; deliberately staying just a second ahead of the targeting system. She rapidly closed the distance to Gladiatrix, taking flight to meet Gladiatrix head on, but dodging Gladiatrix at the last second, leaving Gladiatrix in the line of fire from the automated defenses. Gladiatrix was struck from multiple angles by 50 caliber adamantium slugs and by plasma bolts; causing her to scream in agony and fall twisting and writhing to the surface of the asteroid into a minefield; just as Sylvia intended.

    Gladiatrix landed stunned next to a mine which suddenly blossomed with metal tentacles wrapping around Gladiatrix and imprisoning her. Two Xandarian Sentry Androids deployed from nearby bays to take the captured Gladiatrix into custody; training their projectile weapons on her and ordering her to surrender. Sylvia was engaged in dodging the automated defenses; delaying her ability to get to Gladiatrix and deliver the killing blow she so desired to deliver. Gladiatrix quickly recovered, flexed her muscles, and freed herself; using one of the tentacles as a whip to attack the androids who were now firing at her with their small caliber Gatling-gun-like weapons. The androids’ adamantium slugs were not powerful enough to penetrate Gladiatrix’s shields; but they were powerful enough to cause her pain from the impacts. Enraged, she attacked the androids. Using the severed metal tentacle she held to decapitate one of the androids; she leaped into the air and decapitated the other with a quick kick to the head. Before the android could fall, Gladiatrix tore the gatling gun from it’s body and began firing at the rapidly approaching Sylvia, striking her squarely in the chest and knocking her to the ground in the minefield.

    Sylvia landed on an explosive mine; the concussion throwing her deeper into the minefield as the anti-personnel shrapnel glanced harmlessly off her shields. Landing roughly, a mine surrounded her with an energy net as a gun turret popped up from the ground and targeted her. Sylvia could sense that Gladiatrix was closing fast even though Gladiatrix was also slowed by having to dodge all the automated defenses. Sylvia absorbed the mine’s energy net and used it to destroy the gun turret before turning to engage Gladiatrix.

    Still wielding the tentacle, Gladiatrix struck Sylvia in the head with it just as she turned; and the impact sent Sylvia flying head over heels, roughly landing on her stomach. She rolled to avoid the next strike from Gladiatrix’s makeshift whip; quickly flipping to grab the whip before Gladiatrix could withdraw it. Sylvia altered her gravimetric energy signature and sent several terawatts of alternating current into the tentacle, paralyzing Gladiatrix as she firmly gripped the tentacle. Maintaining the current flow, Sylvia turned the whip to her advantage and swung the helplessly paralyzed Gladiatrix over the minefield; slamming Gladiatrix into the ground over a concussion mine. The explosion blasted Gladiatrix back into space above the asteroid and Sylvia rapidly flew to close the distance. Before Gladiatrix could recover from Sylvia’s attempt to electrocute her and the concussive force of the blast from the mine, Sylvia pummeled Gladiatrix into unconsciousness.

     

    With Gladiatrix’s shields down due to unconsciousness, Sylvia was able to bind Gladiatrix with rings of gravimetric nodes – shackling her ankles together and her arms to her waist; and placing a spherical node around her to prevent flight. She then turned her attention to the remaining Shi’Ar combatants that the Centurions had yet to subdue; killing all of them with gravimetric pulses. Per order of the Worldmind, the Nova Centurions warily withdrew to the C & C asteroid to secure it; leaving the Imperial Guardsmen captured by the Centurions to Sylvia’s tender mercies.

    Sylvia floated in front of the beaten and captured Gladiatrix, knowing that Gladiatrix would quickly regain full consciousness. She decided to help Gladiatrix along in regaining consciousness and ordered the ring shaped nodes to form razor sharp points where they bound Gladiatrix. She ordered the rings to contract slightly, pushing the points into Gladiatrix. Gladiatrix stirred and stared at Sylvia with a mixture of rage and hatred, teeth clenched to keep from screaming.

    Sylvia smiled cruelly before saying with mock sympathy, “Hurts?”

    Gladiatrix snarled, “Fark you!”

    Sylvia sneered, “Thanks for the offer but I prefer my women a little more feminine looking than you.” Sylvia pointedly looked Gladiatrix’s thickly muscled body up and down; noting every masculine-like feature. “Correction – a LOT more feminine looking than you.” Then, just for fun, Sylvia ordered the rings to contract some more.

    Gladiatrix screamed in agony as blood ran from the places where the rings pierced her skin; and looking at Sylvia with hatred yelled, “You farking schmaug! I am going to farking kill you! I am going to burn your schlag-hole homeworld to a cinder!”

    Sylvia’s eyes burned in response to the threat to her homeworld; and she found it difficult to fight back the murderous Supernova rage. “Wrong thing to say to a Supernova.” Sylvia ordered the rings to contract some more and was rewarded by Gladiatrix’s screams, the sound of several of Gladiatrix’s ribs snapping, and the site of blood oozing from Gladiatrix’s mouth.

    Sylvia moved in close to Gladiatrix. “I want to kill you so much it makes my purri wet just thinking about it. But, I need you to carry out your role of lapdog and convey a message for me.” Sylvia reached out with her mind and contacted the AI of a nearby automated hospital ship, ordering it to her position. “I want you to tell your lowborn piece of schlag of a Majestix that Xandar is now under protection of me, The Countess of Sura, and I will brook no incursion of foreign powers into Xandarian space. She is to withdraw from the disputed area, withdraw from Xandarian space, and end all hostilities against Xandar or I will collapse her Throneworld into a black hole.”

    Gladiatrix spat blood upon Sylvia in response.

    Sylvia was enraged – and in a universal gesture of disrespect used the back of her hand to slap Gladiatrix’s face; watching in satisfaction as Gladiatrix’s head snapped back from the blow and as more blood oozed from Gladiatrix’s mouth. Sylvia moved her head within inches of Gladiatrix’s head and through clenched teeth issued her final insult and warning to the helpless Strontian warrior, “You worthless farking kint! If I ever find you in Xandarian space again, I will kill you!”

    Sylvia roughly threw Gladiatrix into the open hatch of the hospital ship and, gathering up the rest of the gravity node imprisoned Imperial Guardsmen, roughly followed suit with them. She ordered the hospital ship to deliver the Guardsmen to the Shi’Ar Throneworld and opened a stargate for it; watching it disappear into the stargate’s event horizon before turning her attention to the battling fleets.

    The Xandarian and Shi’Ar fleets had both suffered heavy losses in their battle outside the ADF; but the Xandarians were holding their own. The Shi’Ar plan to collapse the ADF had failed thanks to Supernova Sylvia’s efforts. Now she was determined to take out the Shi’ar Fleet.

    Sylvia targeted the lead Shi’ar Battleship and sped toward it at her maximum speed, plowing through intervening ships and dodging or shrugging off any projectiles or energy bolts directed at her. The lead Shi’ar Battleship recognized their danger and aimed a withering assault at the oncoming Supernova to no avail. Sylvia smashed through the hull of the ship and released her most powerful radiative aura pulse when she reached the exact center of the ship, utterly destroying the Shi’ar capital ship in seconds.

    With their command ship gone, the rest of the Shi’ar fleet disengaged from the battle to regroup.

    Emerging from the debris field of the Shi’ar command ship, Sylvia aimed gravimetric pulses at the two nearest Shi’ar cruisers, completely destroying them. She turned to pursue a Shi’ar destroyer that was attempting to form a stargate to flee. With her Supernova-enhanced command of gravitons, she ordered the stargate to close before the Shi’ar destroyer could enter it. The destroyer sent a message of surrender to Sylvia, but pleas for mercy were now lost upon her. Summoning the immense power it had taken to destroy the capital ship had caused her internal controls to slip and she had descended into the murderous rage that was part and parcel of being a Supernova. The destroyer was reduced to an expanding cloud of debris in seconds.

    Heedless of all Shi’ar unconditional surrender messages; Supernova Sylvia blocked all Shi’ar attempts to form stargates to flee and mercilessly destroyed the remaining seven Shi’ar ships. She then formed a stargate to the location of her father’s fleet some 10,000 light years distant. She knew a massive battle was underway there and that Xandarians were in danger. Supernova Sylvia’s only coherent thought was to destroy Xandar’s enemies; and she was determined that not one enemy of Xandar would return to its homeworld alive.

     


    The End of Part 4

    Of

    The Shi’ar Conflict
     

    Come back next time for the conclusion of The Shi’ar Conflict.

    [page_title]

    Nova: The Next Generation Part Three Of The Shiar Conflict

     

    Nova: The Next Generation

    Part Three

    Of

    The Shi’ar Conflict

    Written By: Timelord 9.29.09

     

    Chapter Three: Revelations

    Second year Nova Corps Cadet Surfaan Ren swatted at the insects buzzing around his face and ears, cursing his luck once again as he slogged through the fetid muck of the densely foliated swamp while taking care to make as little noise as possible. The camouflage function of his standard Corps cadet uniform would keep him hidden from most active and passive scans; but he knew any noise or environmental disturbance he made could be detected by the d’ast Veradinae Mercenaries that shot his ship down on this smelly, gods-forsaken world. He took grim satisfaction in the knowledge that at least the mercenaries were suffering as well. The Xandarian troop ship had been able to damage the Veradinae Privateer ship enough to bring it down on the planet too. The Veradinae, no doubt under the employ of the Shi’ar, were getting bold – challenging Xandar’s rising influence in Andromeda. The Veradinae Empire would have to be dealt with as soon as issues with the Shi’ar Empire were settled.

    Distracted by his thoughts, a misstep caused him to sink hip deep in muck; and he gagged at the smell of methane released from the mud as he attempted to free himself. His actions only caused him to sink further. There was no other choice now. He would have to use his powers to free himself; thereby risking detection.

    He checked his HUD. The most recent update from the Worldmind indicated a rescue party was on their way with an ETA of three hours. Surfaan prayed to Frammi that the Xandarians arrived before any Veradinae rescue party. Switching to bio scan, he found the swamp was teeming with life; and some of it appeared to be large and predatory. He decided to give those a wide berth. No indication of intelligent life – but the Veradinae camouflage methods were as effective as those of Xandar; so there was no guarantee the mercenaries weren’t close. Ranked as a second year cadet, he had been given the powers of flight, enhanced strength, and partial invulnerability; but still held only a fraction of the power of even a Millennian-ranked Corpsman; so he was no match for a Veradinae Dragon. He slung his plasma rifle over his shoulder; wishing again that cadet level powers included the ability to produce gravimetric pulses so he wouldn’t have to lug around a weapon as he made his way toward the crash site of the escape pod carrying the remainder of the Star Corps Cadets. Surfaan had been the Nova Corps cadet assigned to a training mission for Star Corps regular cadets. No one had expected to be engaged in actual combat during a routine training mission; particularly since Xandar was not at war with anyone just yet – though relations were supposedly getting tense with the Shi’ar over some ancient territorial claims.

    With a final look around, Surfaan used his powers to slowly levitate out of the mire. Once back on solid ground, he ordered the nanites making up his uniform to begin cleaning functions as he slowly resumed his rescue mission.

    He had moved less than 100 yards when a proximity alert flashed across his HUD. He froze and powered down his rifle as he flattened his back against a large tree; allowing the camouflage function of his uniform to render him invisible both to visual detection and to scans. His HUD registered two large reptilian life forms nearing his position. Using visual detection only, he caught sight of two Veradinae Dragons approximately 200 feet opposite his position on the other side of a pool of stagnant water. The dragons were bipedal, eight feet tall, and covered head-to-toe with biomantium battle armor. One of the dragons paused as if sensing something. The armored helmet covering its head retracted; revealing the face of Surfaan’s enemy – green scales, rows of serrated biomantium-coated teeth, and the blue head crest of a mercenary field commander. The tattoo under its right eye was the triple-bar symbol of its owner, The Beliim Cartel, the ruling cartel of the Veradinae Empire. The dragon scanned its surroundings; its long forked tongue flicking in and out of its mouth as it tasted the myriad of scents permeating the swamp. For the first time since his unplanned arrival, Surfaan was grateful for the masking stink of the swamp as otherwise the dragon might have detected his scent. Surfaan stood perfectly still as the dragon visually scanned its surroundings; aggressively extending and retracting its biomantium coated claws. For a moment, its eyes seemed to rest on Surfaan’s position; and Surfaan held his breath as the dragon’s nictitating membrane slid across its eyes twice before it shifted its gaze elsewhere. The commanding dragon motioned to the other and they moved off in a direction away from both the encampment of the Star Corps Regulars crash survivors he had already rescued; and the crash site of the last escape pod that was his destination. Surfaan breathed a breath of relief. A Centurion would be hard pressed to deal with two battle-armored Veradinae Dragons. With Cadet-level powers, he would have had no chance. Surfaan waited several long minutes, powering up his HUD and checking to see that the dragons had indeed departed the immediate area before resuming course to the crash site of the last escape pod.

     


    Second Year Nova Corps Cadet Kritana Tas was quickly earning a reputation as a highly skilled pilot. She checked the panels and screens in the cockpit of the troop shuttle. Everything was nominal. ETA at the Orienta Shard was two hours 15 minutes gravimetric. Kritana worked hard to be taken seriously. She always had. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, with a perfect figure and strikingly beautiful features – the tendency for those who didn’t know her was to treat her as mere eye candy and nothing more. A simple background check would prove that Kritana wasn’t just another pretty face. Top of her class while in public education, top of her class in Star Corps basic training, one year of Star Corps service with citations for performance with distinction, first candidate selected for entrance into the Nova Corps Academy one year ago, and first in her class at the Nova Corps Academy. She was only 19 and it was her goal to earn her Centurion Stars before she turned 21.

    Kritana glanced at her co-pilot, First Year Cadet Owan Luf. Luf was large-framed, swarthy-skinned, and dark-eyed with a shock of short, straight, dark-brown hair that forever seemed in need of combing. He was a good-natured, gentle giant that she counted among her closest friends. She knew he had feelings for her, but pretended not to notice so as to spare him the disappointment of rejection. He just wasn’t her type for a romantic partner – and besides, she only had eyes for her new lover.

    The cockpit door slid open and Third Year Cadet, Millennian Ensicus Bem, eased into the cramped space, pausing as the door snapped shut behind him. Bem was tall, thin, and pale-skinned with blue eyes and blonde hair. He came from a military family with a long history of service to Xandar. He was a bit of a martinet and Kritana avoided his company whenever possible as she found him dreadfully dull. Unfortunately, he was in command of the training exercise the cohort of Nova Corps Cadets had just completed in Andromeda’s neighboring galaxy, The Milky Way. Kritana hadn’t expected to see Bem until close to arrival time on Orienta. Her curiosity was piqued.

    Bem cleared his throat. “Tas, Luf – we’ve got a small change of plans. The Worldmind just contacted me. We’ve got a ship down with Cadets being threatened by Veradinae hostiles. Our course puts us close to the planet where the ship went down; so we’re the nearest ship and we can get there faster than anyone else. We’ve been assigned rescue duty. Prepare to exit the wormhole. The Worldmind will form a new stargate to get us where we’re going.”
     

     


    First Year Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru had turned down the various invitations of the other cadets in the bunk room of the troop ship. She found herself strangely un-interested in participation in gambling, conversation, endorph-vapor, synthahol, sex, and other pastimes that had been offered to her to help while away the time until arrival back at the Orienta Shard. She simply relaxed in her bunk lost in thought and unable to sleep. The Academy was everything everyone said it would be. Her first eight months of basic training had been grueling to say the least. There had been lots of classroom study – both actual and virtual – concerning military strategy, combat techniques, pan-galactic law, diplomacy, Nova Force Theory and application, physics, teamwork, and weapons training. Particular emphasis was placed on analyzing known super-powered foes in the employ of the great powers of the Local Group of Galaxies; and learning how to defeat them. Classroom study hadn’t been her only activity though. Her body was requiring less sleep as she matured. So, she spent time that would normally be devoted to sleep in The Overmind’s tesseract; learning from him how to better control her developing powers. In eight short months he had been able to teach her how to improve her natural abilities to wield Nova Force and how to focus her powers more precisely than before in order to produce more energetic gravimetric pulses as well as sturdier defensive shields. She was now more powerful than a Centurion; but was forbidden to actually use her full powers until such time as she had completed academy training and been promoted to Centurion rank. For now, she was under orders to use nothing more in the way of powers than were allocated to any other Nova Cadet.

    Sylvia was looking forward to a well earned week’s liberty now that her first eight months of basic training at the Academy were drawing to a close as capped off by this, her first training mission. She and fifteen other Nova Corps Cadets in her Cohort under command of Millennian Ensicus Bem had participated in joint war games with 30 Star Corps Academy Cadets conducted in the galaxy neighboring Andromeda, the so-called Milky Way Galaxy. It had been several years since she last visited the Milky Way. Her last visit to the Milky Way was a family trip to her father’s homeworld, Earth, to visit her grandparents, Charles and Gloria Rider. Sylvia always found Earth to be a primitive, smelly, backwater planet; but she always enjoyed visiting her human grandparents and she loved seeing her father so filled with joy to be back on Earth for even a short while. For those reasons, she harbored a certain begrudging fondness for The Milky Way.

    Concerned by the troubling dreams she was beginning to experience when she did manage to sleep; Sylvia decided to drop in on The Overmind for an unscheduled visit thinking that perhaps The Overmind would have some insight into her dreams. She hit the privacy button in her bunk and patiently waited as the privacy screen fell into place. Now effectively alone, she reached out with her mind and felt her consciousness fading into the white void of The Overmind’s Quantum Realm where she found herself face-to-face with Him.

    Haughty as always, The Overmind frowned when she made eye contact with Him. “How easily bored you are little Sylvia – not to mention presumptuous. In the future, you really must call ahead to request an audience with me. These drop-ins are an inconvenience.”

    Sylvia smirked and she let her voice drip with sarcasm as she bent at the waist in an exaggerated bow. “O Great Oracle of Xandar, might your unworthy student beg a few nano-seconds of your time?”

    He huffed in irritation. “Very well. What do you want now?”

    Sylvia found it hard to suppress a smile. She so enjoyed taunting Him as He was just too easily irritated and too easily given to impatience. It was due to His lack of interaction with corporeals of course. In many ways, He was learning from her as much as she was learning from Him. “I’m finding it increasingly difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep – and;” she hesitated, “I’m having strange dreams at times. I don’t understand these dreams. They take place long ago on my father’s homeworld, Earth – and they’re about people I’ve never met and places on Earth I’ve never been. It’s troubling. Can you help?”

    He smirked. “Of course I can help. That’s why you bother me incessantly isn’t it?”

    Refusing to take the bait and deciding to taunt him some more, Sylvia adopted her most innocent facial expression and tone of voice as she shrugged her shoulders. “Well, if it’s too much trouble, I could always just ask The Worldmind.”

    He laughed derisively. “That’s rich sweet Sylvia – a precocious child taking advice from a half-wit automaton. I’m almost tempted to let you do it for the amusement value.”

    She grinned. “Almost tempted? That’s what I thought. You wouldn’t dare miss an opportunity to prove your superiority over The Worldmind and me.”

    His eyes narrowed. “Do not attempt to goad me whelp. Remember your place and also remember that if The Worldmind is a half-wit; then you are even less. Now, open your mind and prepare to learn.” He touched her forehead.

    Sylvia opened her mind to his touch and found herself standing by The Overmind in what appeared to be a large biological structure. Movement was everywhere as organelles performed their functions.

    The Overmind’s eyes narrowed once again as He fixed Sylvia in His stern gaze. “Do you recognize this place Sylvia?”

    He was testing her – but she had learned better than to state the obvious or just hazard a guess in His presence. She used her powers to reach out and analyze her surroundings – and the answer to His question came to her as it always did when she used her powers of analysis – as intuitive knowledge. The answer was a bit disconcerting; but she quickly recovered. “We’re within a cell. One of my own body cells apparently.”

    He smiled. She had passed His test and He was pleased. “Well done for a change little Sylvia. Now, to answer your questions about sleeplessness and dreams, use your powers to enter the nucleus and tell me what you see.”

    Sylvia closed her eyes and concentrated, reaching out with her analytic powers and projecting her consciousness into the nucleus of the cell. As she entered the nucleus and moved closer to its center, there was a flurry of activity, culminating in the formation of a female-shaped avatar. As the avatar’s features formed, Sylvia at first thought it was an avatar of herself; but upon closer inspection, it was not her – but a woman who bore a strong resemblance to her. The woman was older – in her mid-thirties at least – blonde haired, sloe-eyed, strikingly exotically beautiful and dressed in the trappings of royalty from Xandar’s distant past. The woman’s eyes were closed. Sylvia tentatively moved closer. As Sylvia approached, the woman’s eyes snapped open; and from the woman’s eyes emanated a blinding light. Sylvia was bathed in the light and overwhelmed by images too numerous to comprehend – love, sorrow, flight, battle, refuge, death. Sylvia reeled from the assault, staggering backwards in confusion, pain, and disorientation. Before being forcibly ejected from the nucleus, Sylvia heard the woman’s voice in her mind – Beware the ancient enemy. Now go. It is not yet time and you are not yet ready.

    Sylvia collapsed into the waiting arms of The Overmind, feeling weak and drained of energy to a point such as she had never felt before. Together, she and The Overmind departed her cell and returned to his tesseract where Sylvia quickly felt her energy return.

    Her strength renewed, Sylvia roughly pushed away from The Overmind’s embrace, furious with Him. Enraged, she turned to Him, fists formed and barely able to restrain herself from striking Him – fighting back tears as realization dawned. Through clenched teeth she shouted, “How dare you, you son of a schmaug! I was nearly killed! You could have warned me! You could have prepared me! I should never have trusted you!”

    For once, His demeanor softened. He appeared almost sad as He quietly said, “Still your rage Sylvia. I could not have prepared you. You had to meet your ancestor and creator, Lady Marz, under these terms. It is the only way you can begin to understand what is happening to you and why.”

    Sylvia turned her back on Him and wiped the tears from her eyes, pausing a moment to regain her composure. She didn’t want Him to know how much his seeming betrayal had hurt her. Still angry, she turned back to Him. “Why didn’t you tell me before now? Why couldn’t you have told me what to expect?”

    He broke eye contact with her and looked away, appearing genuinely sorry to have done anything to hurt her. All His typical arrogance gone for a moment, He appeared vulnerable for the first time since she had met Him. He shook His head slowly. “There are some things even the gods do not know. Like your geneticists and The Worldmind, even we gods have not been able to divine the mystery of your creation. You are many thousands of years ahead of your time and Lady Marz guarded her secrets well. Even we gods have not been able to approach the nucleus as closely as you just did; so there was no way I could have known what would happen. I had hoped the Lady Marz would admit you and share her secrets.”

    Infuriated anew, Sylvia shouted, “So you used me? You’ve been using me from the start to learn this Lady Marz’s secrets? I’m out of here.” Sylvia turned her back to Him and prepared to exit the tesseract.

    “Wait!” He commanded.

    Sylvia ignored Him and prepared to leave; again fighting back tears.

    “Please wait,” He said softly – almost pleadingly; “Let me explain and apologize.”

    Something about the tone of His voice caused her to pause. He had never been polite to her before – much less apologetic for any slight He had ever directed at her. She hesitated, feeling her resolve weaken. She wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, set her jaw, and turned back to Him; looking him straight in the eyes – her anger still smoldering. “I’m waiting,” she snapped.

     

    He looked away for a moment as if at a loss as to what to do next – again showing His lack of familiarity with the ways of corporeals. Deciding on a course of action, He met her eyes. “I apologize. I truly had no idea that you would have such a traumatic experience or I would never have allowed you to visit the nucleus. You are right – I should have been more forthcoming with what little I did know in order to better prepare you for the experience.”

    Sylvia breathed a little easier, surprised at the seeming sincerity of His apology and shocked by His admission of having made a mistake. Nevertheless, she was still angry and hurt. “Fine – as far as that goes. Now, tell me why you were manipulating me to get to the secrets of my ancestor. What possible secrets could a corporeal keep from the gods?”

    He appeared to relax. “As I told you when we first met, I am a quantum entity. I know much and have great power – so I am a god in comparison to mortals; but I am neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Your ancestor, Lady Marz, divined the secrets of the creators of this universe; and used that knowledge to set in motion events to create you. She deliberately created barriers to keep entities like myself from discovering the secrets of your creation.”

    Sylvia was suspicious. “Why would she wish to keep entities like you from learning her secrets?”

    He hesitated – then decided to answer. “If the gods exist; does it not stand to reason that the daemons also exist?”

    Sylvia held her breath a moment as realization dawned. “The ancient enemy Lady Marz mentioned.”

    He nodded affirmatively. “Just so.”

    A question nagged at the edge of her mind. “Why have I never heard of such an illustrious ancestor? Who is Lady Marz?”

    He was starting to become his typical haughty self again as He realized that Sylvia was beginning to forgive Him. “Lady Marz was Xandar’s greatest geneticist and gene engineer. She fled Xandar during the Xandarian Civil War that brought your royal house to power. Her name and all records of her existence were erased from Xandarian history.”

    Sylvia was puzzled. “If she is related to my royal house, why would she flee? House Dru defeated House Tul when my grand-uncle, Ferenus Dru, slew the despot King Sauvinus Tul in individual combat over two thousand years ago.”

    “Yes,” he acknowledged her account of history, “But the Civil War lasted many years and the leader of the rebellion against House Tul, Duke Ferenus Dru, was never assured of victory. He rescued his lover, Lady Marz, from House Tul’s captivity and sent her into space to protect her. She disappeared, never to return to Xandar. Her fate was unknown until your father was made a Nova during an emergency deputization to save his homeworld, Earth.”

    Sylvia was surprised. “My father’s hybridization is one of Xandar’s greatest mysteries. The Worldmind’s records contained no genetic matches for his Xandarian heritage. You’re saying that Lady Marz is my father’s ancestor?”

    The Overmind shook his head affirmatively. “Yes. When your father was deputized, The Worldmind learned of his Xandarian genetic heritage and reported it to King Ferenus. The King ordered all records pertaining to the matter sealed in order to protect your father from the minions of the daemons – those still loyal to House Tul. It is why he was left alone and operational on Earth for so long with no contact from Xandar.”

    All the revelations had left Sylvia numb with shock – particularly the knowledge of having another being alive within her. “So, these dreams I’ve been having about ancient peoples and places are the memories of Lady Marz? She was made part of me through my father’s genetic heritage?”

    He nodded affirmatively. “Yes. Lady Marz apparently arrived on your father’s homeworld some thousands of years ago and was instrumental in forming one of the great civilizations there. Has your father not spoken to you before of the similarities between Xandar and Rome?”

    Sylvia’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “He has – but I suppose everyone thought of it as merely a strange coincidence of parallel social evolution.”

    He smirked. “Hardly coincidental.”

    Sylvia began to feel anxious. “So what happens to me now? Will Lady Marz continue to grow in power as I grow? Will she take over my body and mind? How do I cope with this?”

    He looked exasperated. “I honestly do not know the answer to your questions; and you do not know how much it pains me to admit that. I promise that I will do everything I can to help you – if you will allow it.”

    Sylvia looked at him suspiciously. “To be honest, you’ve compromised my trust today. I’m still angry and hurt. I need time away from you to think.”

    Sadness clouded his face for a brief moment before he caught himself and returned his expression to impassivity. “I understand. Before you go, let me caution you about your developing powers. As you mature, you will gradually lose your mortal needs for such things as sleep and food. For now though – you must heed the Lady’s warning of readiness and allow your powers to develop naturally. Irreparable harm might be done if you seek to accelerate the process of your evolution.”

    Sylvia shook her head affirmatively. “Understood.” She turned away from Him and departed from his tesseract.

    He stood and looked at the place where Sylvia had been for several long moments, so distracted by His thoughts that He failed at first to notice the materialization of Ishta, Frammi, and the entire pantheon of gods behind Him.

    Frammi spoke for the rest. “Honestly Gamill, how do you abide the prattling of mortals?”

    Surprised, He turned to regard the beautiful black-skinned goddess of fortune. “She is more than a mere mortal.”

    Frammi sneered. “You always did have a soft spot for mortals – especially the pretty ones. If I didn’t know better, I would think you were developing feelings for the little mortal trollop.” Frammi’s eyes narrowed. “Remember Gamill, she is a means to an end for the gods – a foot soldier in the coming conflict. She may become one of us some day if she survives; but she is not one of us now.”

    He was irritated. “Do not lecture me Frammi. I know what I am doing.”

    Frammi stepped forward and put her arms around Him; giving Him a passionate kiss. Desire was reflected in Her eyes as She said, “We must all meld into the uni-mind now. We must become one to consider what has transpired and determine what to do next.”

     

     


    Sylvia’s consciousness re-united with her body in her bunk in the troop ship just in time to hear someone shout, “Commander on deck!”

    Sylvia put her recent troubling revelations behind her as she lowered the privacy screen and swung out of her bunk. Dropping to the floor, she immediately rushed into formation with the other cadets and stood at attention as the commanding Millennian, Ensicus Bem, entered the bunk room.

    Bem paused a moment, looking at the Cadets. “We’ve got a situation to deal with. One of our ships is down and our people are being harried by hostiles. We’re on a rescue mission now and I need you all to get down to the staging area of the ship and gear up for combat and rescue. We’ve got planetfall in 30 minutes. I’ll brief you on specifics in the staging area. Get moving!”

    The cadets scrambled. Before Sylvia could join the other cadets, Bem stepped in front of her. “Not you Dru. I have a special mission for you.”

     


    Nova Corps Cadet Surfaan Ren surveyed the crash site. The 12 Star Corps Cadet regulars had made it to the ground in their damaged escape pod, but just barely. Five of them were too badly injured to travel and a makeshift infirmary had been set up to provide first aid. The other seven cadets were in marching and fighting shape. The conclusion was that they all were going to have to wait for the rescue party to arrive rather than joining the larger group of survivors some ten miles southeast of their current position. Surfaan prayed to the gods that the Veradinae didn’t find them before the rescue party arrived. These Star Corps Cadet regulars had no powers and would stand even less of a chance against the Veradinae than would he.

    First Year Star Corps Cadet Vilnius Saan approached Surfaan. “Sir, we’ve finished setting up the defensive perimeter around the escape pod as ordered. All those in fighting shape have been issued plasma rifles. Passive scans show no signs of the enemy.”

    Ren shook his head affirmatively. “Good work Saan. Keep a sharp eye out for the enemy. There are at least two of them and they’re hunting for us. No doubt, there’s a bounty for our helmets. If they find us, tell your men to pick out a target and concentrate fire. If we’re able to stop them, that’ll be the only way.”

    Saan saluted, “Aye sir,” then rushed off to inform his troops of Ren’s orders.

    Ren checked his HUD. The rescue ship was still nearly 45 minutes away. He hoped they’d pick this group up first as they were in far worse shape and far more lightly armed than the larger group. His HUD flashed a proximity warning. Surfaan cursed under his breath. Three enemies were approaching. He quantum linked to Saan. “Tell your men to prepare to engage. We’ve got three enemies approaching. Remember what I said about concentrating fire. I’m going to go out and try to draw them away to buy you time enough for the rescue ship to arrive.”

     


    The Xandarian troop ship exited the Stargate Terminus and effortlessly inserted itself into orbit. A hatch opened in the belly of the ship and the lone figure of Nova Corps Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru streaked out, power diving for the surface of the planet.

    Sylvia checked her HUD. The troop ship was receding, preparing to land near the coordinates of the larger group of Xandarians to be rescued. Sylvia had been given special orders from The Worldmind to use as much of her power as necessary to complete this mission successfully; and had been assigned rescue of the smaller group of survivors. Her HUD pinpointed the coordinates of the survivors. It was her mission to secure the area and prepare the survivors for extraction by the troop ship. Her HUD flashed a warning. The survivors were under attack. Clenching her jaw in frustration, she increased speed to maximum and dived into the atmosphere, not even attempting stealth in her approach to the battle. The events of the day had been terribly frustrating and upsetting to her; and all she really wanted to do was hit something as hard as she could. She resolved that if even one Xandarian had been harmed by the d’ast Veradinae; they better pray to their gods to save them from her wrath.

     


    Surfaan stood still with his back against the tree trunk, waiting for the Veradinae Dragon to approach his position. The camouflage function of his uniform helped him blend in to the tree trunk. He hoped Xandarian stealth tech was better than Veradinae detection tech. He held his breath as the lead dragon approached his position. He could hear them approaching, not even attempting stealth. They knew the Xandarians were under-powered and would be easily overcome. They were over-confident; and that could be used against them.

    As the lead dragon stepped near Surfaan’s position, Surfaan stepped out from the tree and with all his might smashed the butt of his rifle into the armored head of the dragon, shattering the stock of the rifle. The dragon staggered backwards, momentarily stunned, leaving its neck exposed long enough for Surfaan to jam the barrel of the rifle under the dragon’s chin and fire the entire charge of the weapon at once. The resulting explosion took the dragons head off; and threw Surfaan twenty feet through the air, where he landed roughly on the ground, stunned and momentarily disoriented.

    Shaking his head, Surfaan looked up from the ground where he lay, recovering just in time to see another dragon leaping through the air directly toward him. Scrambling and activating his flight function, he scooted clear of his landing spot and slammed into a tree just as the dragon landed where he had been lying just a moment before. The dragon extended its claws and prepared to jump at him again. Screaming in rage and terror, Surfaan drew his sidearm, pointed it at the dragon, and squeezed the trigger; instantly pumping one-hundred rounds of adamantium pellets into the Veradinae.

    The Veradinae froze and lowered his gaze to his chest from whence poured thick green blood from numerous gaping holes in his armor. The dragon made eye contact with Surfaan; then fell face first to the ground.

    Surfaan stood, eyes wide with surprise that he was still alive as he stared at the projectile handgun. “Fark me. I didn’t think this thing could bring down a dragon.” His head snapped up as he heard a hiss. In the excitement, he had forgotten about the third dragon. It was leaping straight for him. He raised his sidearm and squeezed the trigger. It was empty. Surfaan screamed and turned to flee; expecting the dragon to land right on top of him – but then a blur of navy and gold snatched the dragon out of the air in mid-flight and smashed it against an outcropping of rock. The rock was pulverized and the stunned dragon struggled to its feet just in time for a female in the navy and gold uniform of a Nova Corps Cadet to land about ten feet in front of it and begin blasting away at the energy and projectile weapons attached to its armor.

    Surfaan watched in stunned silence as the dragon reeled from the barrage of gravimetric pulses; but kept its feet. Satisfied that the dragon was now bereft of all external weapons, the Cadet stopped the barrage and faced the dragon; removing her helmet and tossing it to the ground. Surfaan was able to confirm what he already knew once he saw the lovely features and the raven hair of Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru. He had never been introduced to her and did not know her personally; but everyone knew of her and who else could it have been? Surfaan listened closely as he saw that she was saying something to the dragon.

    Sylvia looked at the dragon standing ten feet in front of her. The dragon retracted its helmet; and Sylvia could see that it sported the blue head crest of a mercenary field commander and had a tattoo under its eye indicating that it was owned by the Beliim Cartel. Still angry from the events of earlier in the day, Sylvia needed to vent her rage and a good fight was just what she was looking for. She sneered at the dragon. “What are you waiting for you schlag eating lizard? I thought you mother farkers preferred a good fight up close and personal.”

    Needing no further challenge, the dragon roared and leapt; extending its claws and baring its teeth. Sylvia took flight, meeting the dragon in mid air – avoiding a vicious swipe of its claws and landing a mighty punch to its jaw that sent it reeling head over heels to land roughly on its hands and knees. Shaking its head to recover from the blow, it attempted to stand; but Sylvia landed in front of it and kicked it in the face, knocking it onto its back.

    “Is this the best the mighty and feared Veradinae Dragons can do?” Sylvia taunted. “I’m surprised anyone pays you purries to fight for them.”

    Overconfident, Sylvia strayed close to the dragon. The dragon sprang to its feet and took a vicious swipe at Sylvia, attempting to cut her in half at the waist. Sylvia reacted quickly, stepping to the side and barely avoiding his biomantium-coated claws. He was able to attack faster and recover quicker than Sylvia had anticipated. She would not make the mistake of underestimating him again.

    Sylvia gave the dragon a toothy grin to taunt it further. “That’s more like it. At least make this a challenge for me.”

    The dragon’s eyes narrowed as it began to circle Sylvia warily. “I will dine on your still living flesh and when you beg me for a quick death to end your suffering; I will only act to prolong your agony.”

    Sylvia smirked. “The Beliim Family is making their dragons as weak as they are dumb.”

    The dragon roared and rushed toward Sylvia. Sylvia dodged his attack, stepped behind him, and smashed the power pack to his biomantium armor with a well placed punch. Being lighter weight and cheaper to produce, biomantium was almost as tough a metal as adamantium; but it had two weaknesses. First, it had to be in physical contact with a biological organism to produce the natural force field that gave it its wearer partial invulnerability; and second, it had to have a steady power supply to maintain the force field. Sylvia deprived the armor of its power supply; thus making the dragon more vulnerable.

    The dragon was enraged, reacting faster that Sylvia expected. It pivoted and attacked; its claws penetrating Sylvia’s natural shields and her armor, inflicting deep cuts to her back as she attempted to twist away; and again to her torso as she turned to face the dragon. Before Sylvia could react, the dragon ended its attack with a savage kick to her torso, knocking the air out of her lungs and throwing her, stunned, fifty feet into the swamp where she landed in a pool of shallow brackish water.

    Sylvia shook her head and fought to regain her breath. She had never been hit so hard when she had fought dragons in simulation. She began to re-think the wisdom of challenging an actual dragon to a bare knuckled fight.

    Sylvia’s natural senses gave her a proximity warning; but before she could move, the dragon landed on top of her, its massive clawed feet pushing her beneath the brackish, stinking pool of water. Sylvia’s mouth filled with the fetid water, causing her to gag and struggle to keep the water out of her lungs as the dragon extended its claws and penetrated her flesh. Cursing herself for removing her helmet at the start of the fight – a helmet that would have instantly kept her air supplied – she felt fear. She had been too cocky and – though tough – she was realizing that she was not indestructible. Her fear quickly gave way to her Rider-inherited rage and she formed a radiative aura gravimetric pulse. The explosion sent the stunned dragon airborne along with a large portion of the flora of the surrounding swamp.

    Sylvia struggled to her feet, then immediately doubled over and wretched, evacuating the nasty water from her mouth and lungs. She was bleeding, covered in muck, her hair was filthy and plastered to her head, she stank, and she felt pain from multiple wounds where the dragon’s claws had penetrated her shields and uniform armor. The nanites composing her uniform quickly moved to bind her wounds, repair and clean her body and uniform, and enhance her healing; and she could feel her natural healing factor kicking into overdrive. Sylvia felt a cold burning hatred. She had intended to merely beat the dragon into senselessness when she challenged it to fight. Now, there was no way it was walking away alive.

    Using her natural senses, she located the dragon struggling to its feet where it had landed some 30 yards away. Her senses gave her a mental picture of the dragon. Its armor in tatters from absorbing the gravimetric explosion, it was bleeding from several wounds and was obviously shaken; but she knew it would recover and come after her again. It would not stop until one of them was dead.

    Taking flight, Sylvia covered the distance in seconds, smashing into the dragon’s torso and driving it to the ground. With all her might, she struck the stunned dragon in the mouth, knocking out its fangs and several rows of serrated teeth. The dragon struggled to maintain consciousness and raised its arms to attack. Sylvia burned one of its arms off with a gravimetric pulse; then twisted and tore the other arm off at the elbow. Heedless of the dragon’s screams of pain, Sylvia used the dragon’s severed arm as a blunt instrument, pummeling its head with all her might until all that remained was a bloody pulp and the mighty dragon lay still and dead.

    Her rage abated and her bloodlust sated, Sylvia dropped the dragon’s severed arm onto its lifeless chest. Catching movement from the corner of her eye, she wheeled and prepared to fire a gravimetric pulse.

    Surfaan Ren yelled, “Hey, don’t shoot – I’m a friendly!”

    Sylvia stood down and walked over to the young man.

    Surfaan handed Sylvia her helmet. “You dropped this back there.”

    Sylvia took the helmet. It collapsed at her touch and she tucked it into her belt. “Thanks.”

    Admiration was reflected in Surfaan’s eyes. “Gods-d’ast! I’ve never seen a fight like that! I thought you were crazy as grat schlag to challenge a dragon to a bare knuckled fight – but you did it and won!” He shook his head, grinning from ear to ear. “By the way, thanks for saving my ass over there.” He gestured over his back with his thumb to a spot where lay the corpse of the dragon he had shot.

     

    Sylvia made a point of craning her neck to examine his ass. “How could I let a cute ass like that go to waste? Besides, I do like a screamer – more so in the bedroom than on the battlefield though.”

    Surfaan had always liked girls who could hang with the guys; so he laughed at her good natured ball busting. “Ah – I see you mistook my family’s ancient battle cry as a scream of terror.”

    Remaining deadpan, Sylvia observed, “So your family’s battle cry is a high-pitched little-girlish ‘Ahhhhhhh’ whilst rapidly fleeing from the battlefield?”

    Surfaan shook his head negatively, adopting a look of absolute seriousness. “No. I was saying ‘victorie‘ in the ancient language. What you heard was me shouting ‘vict-ahhhhhhhh-rie’as I lead the unsuspecting dragon to his doom in a trap I had prepared for him in the swamp.”

    Sylvia shook her head affirmatively. “Oh, I see. My mistake. You did good out there, taking out two dragons all by yourself.”

    Surfaan grinned. “Thanks. My name’s Surfaan Ren.”

    She smiled at him. “Sylvia Rider-Dru.”

    He laughed. “I know. Like you need an introduction. I’ve heard of you. Everyone’s heard of you.”

    She raised her eyebrows. “I’ve heard of you too. I’ve heard you’re quite the womanizer.”

    Surfaan adopted his most innocent look. “Vicious lies and rumors spread by those who would seek to discredit me. Believe no rumor you’ve ever heard about me.”

    Sylvia looked disappointed. “The rumor I heard was that you were a pretty good fark. I’d planned to check it out for myself; but since you say not to believe any of the rumors, I guess there’s no need.”

    Exasperated, Surfaan grimaced and raised a hand in a gesture of defense – stammering, “Now, that particular rumor you can believe – but none of the rest are true.”

    Her eyes flicked below his waistline for a moment. “So I shouldn’t believe the rumor that you have a very large–.”

    Surfaan interrupted. “That one’s true too. You can believe the rumor about the size of my culk.”

    “Ego,” she deadpanned.

    Puzzled and flustered he could only manage an anemic “What?”

    “I was going to say ‘ego.’ I haven’t heard any rumors about your culk size. But – thanks for the unsolicited information. I’ll keep it in mind.” She smiled sweetly and flicked her eyes below his waistline once again as she donned her helmet and turned to head in the direction of the survivor camp.

    Embarrassed and humiliated, Surfaan decided to try a last ditch save effort. “You know, normally I make a much better first impression than this. Can we start over? Hi, my name is Surfaan Ren.”

    Sylvia wheeled and shouted, “Look out!” as she took flight and pushed Surfaan aside and to the ground.

    Several projectiles landed where Surfaan had stood just a moment before. The dragon that he had shot was apparently not quite dead.

    Surfaan rolled to cover, fumbling to reload his handgun. He peeked out from his cover in time to see the dragon on its knees shakily aiming a projectile weapon in his direction. Then, Sylvia landed behind the dragon, grabbed its head, and savagely twisted it – instantly breaking its neck. The dragon fell heavily to the ground – certainly dead this time.

    Neither Surfaan nor Sylvia had time to gloat. Their HUD’s began flashing proximity warnings.

    Surfaan could hear Sylvia shouting into the quantum link, “Kritana! We need extraction now! We’ve got seventeen dragons heading our way!”

    Not waiting for a reply from the troop ship, Sylvia and Surfaan made eye contact for a moment – then as one they took flight and made for the survivor encampment. Words were not necessary to convey what they both already knew. They might go down; but Nova Corpsmen never went down without a fight – and Corpsmen always fought to the last man.
     


    Come back next week for Part 4 of The Shi’ar Conflict – and yes, there will be Shi’ar in Part 4; and one of them is named Gladiatrix. See you next time!
     

    [page_title]

    Nova: The Next Generation Part Two Of The Shiar Conflict

    Nova: The Next Generation

    Part Two

    of

    The Shi’Ar Conflict

    Written By: Timelord 9.13.09

     

    Chapter Two: Quantum Realm Solace

    As evening fell on Nu-Xandar, Sylvia could see Tranta’s last rays glancing off the Torus as she boarded the mag-lev train to the alien sector of Nu-Orienta City. As always when night fell, her gaze was drawn to the sky. The Orienta Shard shone as the brightest heavenly body. No matter how many times she visited the shard, she never grew tired of it. Soon it would be her new home for the foreseeable future. Sylvia closed her eyes and imagined it parked in its Libration Point between Nu-Xandar and Tranta, spinning slowly and keeping protective vigil over the fledgling planet, Nu-Xandar. The academy beckoned and tomorrow she would answer its call, take up residence on the Orienta Shard, and begin her new life as a Nova Cadet. Tonight though, was her last night of freedom and she planned to enjoy it to the fullest. Her father had been particularly tough on her over the past week and she needed time to relax and unwind.

    She caught site of her reflection in the window of the mag-lev. Raven haired, dark brown eyes, shapely athletic body barely covered in her sexiest shear white micro-mini dress with a plunging neckline highlighting her perfect breasts; she was satisfied that she had made the right selection of attire for the night’s activities.

    The mag-lev stopped at the station and Sylvia’s spirits rose upon seeing her cousin, Proculus, waiting for her with their mutual friends, Augustus and Celena. Proculus was tall with curly brown hair and brown eyes. He was clean shaven with an athletic body and handsome features inherited from his mother, Queen Adora. Augustus and Celena were black-skinned with dark eyes and curly black hair. They stood close and couldn’t keep their eyes off each other. Lately, they had become more than friends.

    Smiling broadly, Sylvia was the first off the train, giving Proculus a quick kiss on the cheek in greeting and hugging Augustus and Celena. Some of the other passengers stared at Proculus and Sylvia as they passed by; recognizing two of Nu-Xandar’s celebrities, The Prince of Xandar and The Countess of Sura. Those that recognized them gave the sign of fealty. However, recognition was the last thing Sylvia wanted. Her only desire was for an evening of anonymous fun with her friends. She wanted to at least temporarily forget about her miserable day and the changes in her life that tomorrow would bring. The four friends blended into the crowd, joking and making small talk as they meandered toward their destination, the Mercurio Pleasure Club.

    Nu-Xandar’s new Capital, Nu-Orienta City, was bustling and growing rapidly as Nu-Xandar’s influence and power grew throughout Andromeda. Business, industry, and residential districts were under construction everywhere. The layout of the city mirrored the traditional Xandarian model as exemplified by the Orienta Shard’s Orienta City. The Xandarians tended to keep to themselves; and the alien cultures formed their own district. The Xandarians mostly turned a blind eye to the activities in the so-called alien sector; though many visited the area for recreational opportunities officially frowned upon by proper Xandarian culture. Club Mercurio was officially frowned upon by proper Xandarian culture.

    Club Mercurio was the newest, largest, and most popular of the pleasure clubs. Ten stories tall and gleaming in artificial illumination, it stood out in stark contrast to all the new construction surrounding it. It offered all the sensual delights of a galaxy class spa, able to provide services to please all known species which might partake of its amenities. As such, the line at the door was quite long.

    Sylvia gave Proculus a questioning look. “Wasn’t your friend, Aristus, supposed to meet us here?”

    Proculus nodded. “He’s already inside.”

    Sylvia looked at the line. “We’ll be hours getting in if we have to wait in line and I have to be home by midnight. I know you don’t like to do this but what say for once we give up our futile attempt at anonymity and use our celebrity to get in quicker?”

    Proculus grimaced in mock disapproval, then smiled. “All right. Just this once though and just because you’re going away tomorrow.”

    They made their way to the celebrity entrance where they were immediately recognized as four members of Xandarian royal society and granted entrance into the club. The party atmosphere of the club was intoxicating – no doubt helped by the deafening music and the cloud of endorph vapor that constantly fell from above. The four friends were escorted to a VIP table where they ordered shots of synthahol and vials of concentrated endorph-vapor. Sylvia had not visited the club for several weeks and looked around to see what was new as the décor was constantly changing and as new amenities were constantly being added. She spied Aristus leaving the dance floor and approaching their table. The handsome blonde-haired blue-eyed young man went straight to Proculus, greeting him with a passionate kiss. Aristus was Proculus’ newest lover. Sylvia smiled and wondered how long this “relationship” would last; as most of Proculus’ relationships lasted little more than a month.

    The shots and vapors arrived; and Proculus stood, raising his glass to make a toast. “To my dearest cousin Sylvia, Countess of Sura – and tomorrow bearer of a new title: Nova Corps Cadet First Class. All Xandar takes pride in your accomplishment; and on a personal note – both we and all the regular patrons of this club will miss you terribly.” Everyone at the table laughed and downed their shots. Proculus waved for another round to be brought to their table before taking his seat next to Sylvia.

    Sylvia turned and hugged Proculus. “I’m going to miss you more than anyone.”

    Proculus’ eyes glistened. “I don’t think we’ve ever gone more than a few days without seeing each other since we were children. I don’t know if I can stand to be without my best friend for the eight months you’re precluded from having visitors.”

    It was Sylvia’s turn to fight back tears. “Well, maybe you can make another exception to your rule about not using your Princely status to manipulate things and come see me. Maybe a surprise inspection of your troops would be in order?”

    Proculus nodded. “Maybe it would. In any case, you may expect me to abuse my rank to get both myself and your parents front row seats at your graduation ceremony. But enough of this sadness I say. Let’s celebrate.” Popping the lid off his endorph-vapor vial, Proculus inhaled deeply before passing it to Aristus. Celena, Augustus, and Sylvia shared the other vial; and soon all sadness was replaced with euphoria.

    The shots and vials continued to flow; with everyone becoming more relaxed and disinhibited. Removing their shirts, Proculus and Aristus went to the dance floor; and Celena and Augustus began to snuggle up. Despite the effects of all the nanite-bonded chemicals; Sylvia began to feel more and more like a fifth wheel. Like Proculus, her relationships tended to be short-lived; and she currently had no steady lover. She started as she looked out over the dance floor, catching site of Him.

    Celena noticed Sylvia’s reaction. “What is it Syl?”

    Sylvia shrugged. “Nothing. I just thought I saw Him again.”

    Celena smirked. “Him again? The drop-dead handsome young man with the curly black hair that you get glimpses of, have dreams about, and get all wet about; and that none of the rest of us have ever caught sight of in all the time we’ve known you?”

    Sylvia laughed. “Don’t start. I know what I saw and I think He was heading for The Maze.”

    Augustus smiled salaciously as Sylvia got up from the table and steadied herself, still slightly dizzy from the vapors and shots. “Well, good hunting then.”

    Sylvia made her way through the throngs of milling and dancing people; occasionally catching brief sight of her quarry, only to have Him disappear in the crowd. When she arrived at the entrance to The Maze, He was nowhere to be seen. She was determined to finally meet Him and, willing her clothes into her personal tesseract, strode headlong into The Maze. The Maze was literally a large, darkened, maze-like structure with an aphrodisiac-laced atmosphere. It was where people came to experience anonymous sensual pleasures with others; the extremely dim lighting making the identity of other participants difficult to ascertain. One entered The Maze unclothed and experienced the Maze through touch rather than sight.

    The Maze was filled to capacity and pitch dark as usual. No problem for Sylvia as she could “see” in any spectrum she desired. She decided to hedge her bets and use her night vision to find Him in the crowd of bodies caressing and pleasuring each other. The aphrodisiac-laced atmosphere of The Maze began to affect her; slowing her progress as she willingly partook of the sensual pleasures surrounding her – caressing and being caressed; kissing and being kissed – though she eschewed all invitations for more intimate contact as she searched for Him. She spied Him – back turned to her so she couldn’t be sure; but he had the right body and the long, black, curled hair – it had to be Him. She approached Him and put her arms around Him. He turned. It was not Him. It was, however, a very handsome man; and Sylvia could no longer deny her aphrodisiac enhanced desires. She kissed him deeply. His mouth tasted of synthahol and his skin of salt from sexual heat. She burned with desire for the pleasures of his body as he held her against his rock hard chest. She felt a woman’s soft body press against her from behind and begin to caress her breasts. Twisting her head, she found herself in the embrace of a beautiful young blonde woman. She kissed the woman deeply as the man kissed and caressed her breasts, her abdomen, her thighs – and began intimate exploration with his tongue. Running her hands through his hair and pressing his head into her; her breathing became heavy and she moaned in pleasure with each stroke of his skilled tongue. Sylvia abandoned her night vision and surrendered herself to the anonymous sensual pleasures of the maze. The tensions of the day dissipated in erotic bliss as she and her two lovers melted together – each bringing the other to multiple heights of passion and release over the next few hours. Finally sexually satiated, they retreated to a corner of the maze where they could rest and recover in the comfort of each other’s arms.

    Eyes at half-mast and feeling physically spent from the combined effects of the previous days of combat training and this night’s regimen of synthahol, endorph-vapor, aphrodisiacs, and sex; Sylvia found it hard to keep a smile off her face as she now felt more relaxed and carefree than she had in days. “Mmmmm – thanks you two. That was just what I needed.”

    The woman smiled. “The pleasure was all ours Contessa.”

    Sylvia smiled back wickedly as she realized she had been recognized. “Don’t you believe it.”

    Taking her leave from The Maze, Sylvia made her way into the spa, intending to shower, rest a short time, then catch up with her friends to report that once again He had eluded her. As she passed by a large zero-g group sex room, she caught sight of Celena and Augustus preparing to enter along with about thirty other couples.

    Celena waved from the crowd. “Come join us in here.”

    Sylvia waved back. “I will as soon as I’ve showered and freshened up.”

    Sylvia made her way to the shower room and stepped under the stinging spray, basking in the heat of the hot flowing water and letting it wash away the last of her week’s tensions. She closed her eyes and thought of Him, frustrated that she had once again failed to meet Him and thinking it strange how she longed for a man she had only glimpsed in dreams and crowds and shadows. As she indulged her deep longing for Him, she realized she could no longer hear or feel the shower; or hear the bustle and noise of the multitude of others enjoying the amenities of the club. Her eyes snapped open and she found herself in a white void.

    He stood before her – a handsome young man with curly black hair and deep, black eyes wearing white form-fitting clothes that showed off a perfect body – just like in her dreams and her brief glimpses of Him. He was the most handsome man she had ever beheld and she immediately felt desire for Him. She also noticed for the first time that He bore a striking resemblance to a depiction she had seen before. She was dumbstruck into silence as she considered the implications.

    He beheld her for a long minute before finally speaking. “You should not be here.”

    She found her voice. “What? Who are you? Where is this?”

    He shook His head. “You are not ready to be here. You must go back now.”

    Sylvia was both un-nerved and irritated. “Fine. How do I do that?”

    “The same way you arrived – by wanting it desperately enough. Now go. I will invite you to visit again when you are ready.” He turned his back on her and made to leave.

    Sylvia was angry now and began to build a gravimetric pulse. “Don’t you give me curtly cryptic answers and turn your back on me you son of a schmaug! You will properly address my questions!”

    He wheeled back around to face Sylvia, seething in anger, energy arcing across his body and flashing in his eyes. “Precocious child! Do not even think of summoning your power here! You know not what you do. The consequences could be devastating to all you hold dear!”

    They paused a moment – eyes locked, each taking the measure of the other. They both stood down; but continued to stare at each other warily.

    He shook his head, breaking the tension. “I had hoped you would not inherit your father’s stubbornness and obstinacy; but I see my hopes were in vain.”

    Sylvia was surprised. “You know my father?”

    He smiled. “Yes – I know him well and I love him dearly; though he does not know me.”

    Sylvia was feeling irritated again. “Straight answers seem to elude you sir; so let me ask you directly once more – just who the fark are you? Why do I see you in my dreams? Why were you at the pleasure club tonight? Why have you brought me here?”

    “You should not be here and it is too soon for you to know the answers to all those questions.” He broke eye contact and smirked as He looked her up and down. “And you are out of uniform.”

    Sylvia had not noticed that she was still nude until he pointed it out. Refusing to be daunted, she set her jaw and clenched her fists, readying for a fight. “Are you going to answer my questions or not?”

    He looked exasperated. “I don’t suppose you will leave without an altercation if I don’t answer your questions?”

    She stared at Him in response.

    He shook His head. “I thought not. Ask your questions.”

    She considered her options. “The first logical question is: Where am I?”

    He smirked. “You could use your powers to figure that out – but to answer your question; you are within what you would understand to be a pocket dimension or a tesseract – though I prefer the term quantum realm.”

    She reached out tentatively with her powers to gather information. “This place resembles the Worldmind’s tesseract. How did I get here?”

    He sighed. “By wanting to be here. Your innate powers allow your consciousness to travel to this realm.”

    She was beginning to understand. “Are you a quantum entity like the Worldmind?”

    He laughed. “Sweet Sylvia, I am the Xandarian Worldmind.”

    It was Sylvia’s turn to smirk. “I’ve met the Worldmind; and you look, act, and talk nothing like him. Also, the Worldmind and my father are well-acquainted; but you claimed that my father does not know you. I have no idea how I got here; but I assure you I did not bring myself here. You sir, are a liar.”

    He laughed, “Your impudence is most amusing – do keep it up,” He said as He morphed into the familiar figure of the Worldmind Avatar. With the Worldmind’s voice – albeit in a mocking tone – he said, “Nova Corps Cadet First Class Sylvia Rider-Dru, it is critical that you pay attention at this time.” Then keeping the appearance of the Worldmind Avatar, but switching back to His voice, “I have spoken nothing but the truth to you since you arrived in this realm.”

    Sylvia had lingering doubts. “I remain unconvinced of your identity. If you are the Worldmind, you must comply with the lawful commands of a duly authorized corporeal Xandarian. As the Countess of Sura, I have repeatedly given you orders and you have demonstrated a level of independence exceeding that explicitly programmed into the Worldmind.”

    He seemed to find Sylvia’s observation amusing. “The Worldmind you and the rest of Xandar know is but a small part of me – the part that can be accessed and controlled by your technology. I am so much greater than that. The part of the Worldmind you know must obey your lawful commands as it is linked to your technology. I am not so constrained. In fact, I purposely keep the Worldmind unaware of my existence. He is new to existence as a facet of the greater quantum entity. Given more time, he will come to learn what he is. As of now, he is constrained by his own childish ignorance – much like you.”

    She let the insult slide and held her breath for a second before her next question. “You bear a striking resemblance to ancient depictions of the Xandarian God of War, Gamill. Are you Gamill? Are you a god?”

    He seemed to ponder the question for a moment before deciding to answer it. He morphed back into the form of the handsome young man. “I am Gamill.” He morphed into the familiar form of the lovely black-skinned goddess of fortune, Frammi. “I am also Frammi.” He morphed into the familiar form of the red-headed goddess of love, Ishta. “I am Ishta.” He rapidly morphed into the entire Xandarian pantheon of gods and goddesses before coming full circle to the form of the Xandarian Worldmind and then, once again, Gamill. “I am all the rest. We are all facets of the greater quantum entity.”

    She was stunned, having never truly believed in the existence of the gods. “So, you are a god.”

    He shrugged. “What is a god? Is a god not merely a being with vastly greater mental and physical abilities than you possess yourself? Would not primitive beings believe you were a god?”

    “If being tiresome and obtuse in answering simple questions are godly traits; I would say you are at least worthy of consideration of the title” Sylvia observed dryly. “Why appear to me in the form of Gamill?”

    He responded to her sarcasm with a barb of His own. “At last – an intelligent question. The populace of Xandar sees the Worldmind with whom they are familiar as a formal, wizened old man as that is their subconscious conception of how a god should look and act. You, on the other hand, see me as a peer; as this is your subconscious conception of how your perfect peer should look and act. In fact, you see me as the War God, Gamill, as you are a true warrior. One day when your powers are fully developed we will be peers. Right now, you are no more than an adept.”

    Sylvia was starting to be convinced. She felt solace here in this realm as if she belonged here; and as she used her powers to tentatively scan the physical properties of her surroundings, she realized that this entity was speaking truly. One question nagged at her consciousness. “Why have I seen you in my dreams and caught glimpses of you since I was a child? Why reveal yourself to me now?”

    He nodded, appearing to be pleased with her question. “As a quantum entity, I am everywhere on Xandar at once. With your developing powers, you can see me anywhere you like if you concentrate. Though you don’t consciously realize it, you have attempted to contact me intermittently since the very moment of your conception. I have rebuffed each of your attempts as you are not ready to be here. You brought yourself here uninvited and have refused to leave despite my numerous reasonable requests. I did not ‘reveal’ myself to you. You intruded.”

    She refused to let one nagging question remain unanswered. “Why not reveal yourself to all of Xandar?”

    He frowned. “It is not yet time to do such a thing. One day, over the course of time, all Xandarians will be able to ascend to this realm to become part of the greater quantum entity. You are the beginning of that evolution of your species and you already know how some have reacted. You have experienced their fear of your unique gifts. Some would seek to accelerate the evolution of your species and some would seek to retard it if the outcome was widely known. Nothing must be done to influence the natural evolution of your species. So, for now, the gods must remain quaint and fanciful ideas in the minds of all Xandarians, revealing themselves only to those unique individuals with special gifts who may advance the evolution of your species in accordance with the plans of the greater quantum entity. You are such an individual as others have been over the millennia. Through you and your unique gifts, I have a physical gateway into your corporeal world that I otherwise would not have. I cannot directly intervene in your corporeal world except through you – and you cannot speak of my existence to anyone else. You now know why. It could adversely affect the evolution of your species.”

    Sylvia smirked. “If I told anyone else I was conversing with the gods, they would think I was insane. You have nothing to fear. Your secret is safe with me.”

    He seemed satisfied. “There is hope for you yet, sweet Sylvia.”

    “So am I invited back here to learn from you how to wield my developing powers? Am I ready yet O wise one?” she asked with a hint of sarcasm. “By the way, what do you call yourself?”

    He paused before answering. “I answer to many names as you now know – and I cannot stop you from returning any time you wish. However, you are welcome back in my realm; and I will help you learn to control your powers.”

    She stopped to consider all she had learned. “I’m not comfortable referring to you as Gamill or any of the other gods – and clearly you are something over and above the Worldmind. How about if I call you ‘The Overmind?’ Would that be acceptable?”

    He nodded. “Yes, but go now back to your pleasures of the flesh. You should enjoy them while you still can. Some day such pleasures will exist for you only as memories.”

    Sylvia blinked and found herself back in the shower room; only a few seconds having passed since she ‘left.’ She quickly dried herself and made her way to the zero-gee room to find Augustus and Celena. Based on what she had learned of the Quantum Realm, she decided to heed the Overmind’s advice regarding enjoying the pleasures of the flesh while she still could. It would put her getting home past her mother’s midnight curfew; but she would deal with that later.

    ________________________________________

    Come back next week for Part 3 of The Shi’ar Conflict to follow Sylvia on her first adventure as a Nova Corps Cadet.

     

     

    [page_title]

    Nova: The Next Generation Part One Of The Shiar Conflict

     

    Nova: The Next Generation
    Written By: Timelord  9.3.09

     

    Prologue: The Legacy

    People stared. They always stared when she appeared in public. It made her uncomfortable; so she took pains to conceal her identity. Today she dressed in non-descript clothes – not her typical haute couture by any stretch of the imagination – just casual black slacks, black boots, and white blouse. She wore large, dark sunglasses so as to mask her face without drawing undue attention. Yet, she could not help but draw attention. People – especially men – stared at the shapely, raven-haired young woman.

    Shifting uncomfortably in her seat as the mag-lev train made its way to the Nova Crista, she began to regret her decision to ride public transportation rather than just use her powers to fly there. She had thought use of the powers she was born with would draw undue attention and perhaps interfere with her goal for the trip.

    Her powers – now at Centurion level – were a constant source of concern for her, her parents, and others. Some feared her natural ability to wield Nova Force. Rather than needing nano-tech mediators bestowed and controlled by the Worldmind, her powers were a consequence of her genetic heritage. Those that feared her whispered that she was what her father called a “genetic Eve” – the next step in Xandarian evolution – and a portent of extinction for all normal Xandarians. Those that feared her didn’t know her and they didn’t understand her genetic heritage of course – and even the most renowned Xandarian geneticists were at a loss to explain her abilities.

    She sighed – understanding why some feared her and for an instant wishing she could be like all other Xandarians. It had been easy to hide the powers when she was younger. At first, during early childhood, her powers merely gave her the ability to absorb and discharge energy, the Worldmind-like ability to sense and analyze the physical world, and the ability to interface with all forms of artificial intelligence. As she grew older, she developed the abilities of flight, super strength, and invulnerability. Once her body reached physical maturity at the age of 16, she also developed a healing factor. No one knew how or even if she would continue to evolve. She was unique.

    Her brooding was interrupted. Someone had recognized her. It always happened. She was, after all, the daughter of two of the most famous citizens of Nu-Xandar; not to mention a member of the royal family and a Countess in her own right. She was an honest to goodness celebrity on Nu-Xandar and it was inevitable that someone would see through her disguise. An older citizen had recognized her and had given the sign of fealty to the royal family by placing his right fist over his heart. The rest of the passengers on the train followed suit. As uncomfortable as she was with royal protocol, she adopted the poise of the Countess of Sura and nodded to each in acceptance of their signs of respect and fealty; relieved that the train was slowing as it entered the station at the mall of the Nova Crista.

    When the doors of the train slid open, she stepped out into the bustling mall, relieved to feel Tranta’s heat against her skin and a light breeze blowing through her dark hair. Looking up, she saw the great dome of the Orienta Shard overhead; and beyond the dome, she could see Nu-Xandar rising in the east along the dome’s horizon – the great Torus anchored to the planet collecting Tranta’s energy and providing the gift of habitability for her people as they lived their lives on their new homeworld. She quickly hurried through the common area and made her way to the steps leading to the doors of the Great Hall of the Nova Crista – the headquarters of the Nova Corps – denoted by the great red 8-pointed star symbol of the Worldmind Hegemony emblazoned on the building. As she approached the secure area, she was greeted by two seamless metal bipedal silver sentry androids asking for identification. They moved with grace and fluidity as their bodies gleamed in the morning sunlight – never once taking her out of the sights of the projectile and energy weapons contained in their casings. Sighing, she presented her nano-tech wristband for scanning. Most Xandarians didn’t have to tolerate such hassles as their Nova Matrices instantly identified them. She didn’t possess a Nova Matrix like all other Xandarians. Her body just absorbed all nano-tech that was implanted and the Worldmind refused to allow her to use her natural ability to form a direct link to it due to the unknown nature of her still developing powers. She had to wear an external link to the Worldmind around her wrist for identification purposes. Of course, the inconvenience of not having a Nova Matrix for identification purposes paled in comparison to the most profound implication of not having a Nova Matrix – for not having a Nova Matrix also meant that she was more mortal than all other Xandarians. She could not be instantly downloaded into the Worldmind if she was suddenly killed – to live an afterlife in the cybernetic space of the Mindworld or be later resurrected via cloning.

    The sentries accepted her identification and saluted her with the sign of fealty. Nodding to them, she walked through the doors into the Nova Crista.

    The Nova Crista was truly impressive. Built millennia ago on the highest hill in Orienta City upon the site of an ancient observatory, the Nova Crista – meaning “Crest of New Stars” in the old Xandarian language – was the traditional headquarters of the Nova Corps. The Nova Prime’s office was in this building – and deep under the building was the Quantum Interface to the Worldmind’s tesseract. She had picked a day when she knew the Nova Prime was off-world on a mission for the Xandarian Federation as he would not approve of the business that brought her to the Nova Crista today. She took a moment to examine the Great Hall as it had been quite some time since she last visited. The Great Hall was massive. The floors were solid granite and the walls were dark wood. The ceiling arched high overhead. The Great Hall was the extent of most people’s contact with The Corps and was for all intents and purposes a museum celebrating the history of the Corps. Statues of renowned Novas were interspersed with display cases containing relics from the Corp’s history. Beyond the hall were more secure areas – access only being permitted to Corps personnel. She spied an open Worldmind interface just behind a statue of Centurion Gabriel Lan and quickly made her way to it. Touching her hand to the interface, she requested an audience with The Worldmind.

    Her consciousness faded into the white void of the Worldmind’s tesseract and she found herself face-to-face with the avatar of the Xandarian Worldmind. The Worldmind Avatar, an aged Xandarian male dressed in a standard Nova Prime uniform, placed his fist over his heart and spoke with the consensus voice of the gestalt. “Greetings Countess. To what do I owe the honor of your visit today?”

    She hesitated a moment – for the first time questioning her decision. Her parents were two of the greatest Novas who ever lived. She wielded the Nova Power as a birthright. She was part of the ruling family of Xandar. Becoming a Nova was her right and her responsibility to Xandar. Being a Nova was her legacy. “I am here to apply to the Nova Corps Academy.” With a thought, she contacted the AI within her wristband link to the Worldmind and submitted her application to the Worldmind Gestalt.

    If the Worldmind was surprised, he didn’t show it. “You are younger than the typical age selected to join the Corps – and typically basic Star Corps Training as well as at least one year of service as a Star Corps regular is required before anyone is granted admission to the Nova Corps Academy.”

    She set her jaw. “I am well aware of the rules and regulations. However, you know as well as I do that I already possess Centurion-level powers. I need the training and I desire to use my powers to serve Xandar and The Corps. Besides, others have joined the Corps without going through the typical admission requirements. Pyreus Kril is one example as are my own father and mother.”

    The Worldmind nodded affirmatively. “That is true, but circumstances dictated those exceptions. Such circumstances do not apply in your case. In your case, the support of your parents is required and…”

    She felt nervous for the first time since entering the building. Neither of her parents would attempt to interfere with her choice to join the military once she was of age. However, her father opposed early entrance to the Academy and wanted her to wait a little while longer; and her mother had also wanted her to consider attending Law School. She had made up her mind and did not want to discuss the matter with them any further. She just wanted to quietly join the Corps and begin formal training. Her royal rank gave her certain rights in regard to status in the military. She decided use of her rank was her only choice to avoid involving her parents. She interrupted the Worldmind, “That won’t be necessary. I am…”

    The Worldmind held up his hand to silence her. “How like your father you are. Please let me finish. Your parents anticipated your decision and have already given their support. Your application is accepted. You will receive orders as to when to report to the Nova Crista for admission to The Nova Corps Academy. Welcome to The Nova Corps Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru.”

     

    Nova: The Next Generation

    The Shi’ar Conflict

    (Part One)

     

    Chapter One: The Woman Called Nova

    The bruises and cuts ached, but Sylvia Rider-Dru could not afford to let the pain distract her from completion of her scouting mission. She pushed it aside and entrusted her recovery to her healing factor as she sped through the disputed area of space attempting to evade her pursuers. Tactical indicated that a Superskrull was closing fast; as was a squadron of Annihilation fighter ships and a battle armored Veradinae Mercenary. She had already destroyed one of Lord Ravenous’ Annihilation battleships; but it had not been without cost. She was beginning to feel fatigued. All she wanted to do was make it back to the Xandarian fleet and bring her scouting mission to an end with the startling news that Xandar’s greatest enemies were amassing along the border of The Xandarian Federation in preparation for invasion.

    Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she dived to avoid a bolt of cosmic fire from the Superskrull; necessitating an immediate twist and course change as she also dodged a shot from the Veradinae. She knew they were trying to catch her in crossfire and that her options for escape were becoming limited as long range tactical now indicated the enemy was closing from nearly every direction. She dived to avoid another shot from the Veradinae; and landed directly in the line of fire from the Superskrull. She reeled from the strike of cosmic fire, feeling the heat penetrate her Nova uniform’s back and helmet armor; burning her skin. She recovered just in time to grapple with the skrull. This Superskrull had been given the combined powers of the Terran Fantastic Four, much like the legendary Kl’rt. He grabbed Sylvia with a massive fist modeled after ‘The Thing;’ and began to squeeze the life from her. She was having trouble controlling her new powers; and had fired a radiative aura gravimetric pulse only a few minutes earlier to destroy the Annihilation battleship; so it took all her will to fire another radiative aura pulse. The skrull’s fist exploded; freeing Sylvia. Quickly recovering; she wheeled and, summoning all her might, put her fist through the stunned skrull’s head, savoring the sight of one of her people’s ancient enemies convulsing and becoming still. She had little time to gloat as her proximity alert flashed again. She twisted to avoid the shot fired by the Veradinae, but miscalculated her trajectory and found herself directly in his flight path. The Veradinae was eight feet tall, bipedal, thickly muscled, and covered in biomantium battle armor hosting an array of projectile and energy weapons. Sylvia knew that underneath the powerful armor was a fierce reptilian soldier bio-engineered to be nothing but a savage killing machine. She had to evade the great dragon or kill him as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he would not stop until he had killed her. Sylvia changed course and attempted to twist away as the dragon closed the distance between them; but he compensated for her evasive maneuver and fired an energy weapon which momentarily stunned her. The dragon capitalized upon Sylvia’s disadvantage, moving in for the preferred method of killing for any Veradinae – up close and personal.

    Sylvia screamed as the Veradinae Dragon’s biomantium-coated claws pierced her body’s natural phasic shielding and her uniform’s armor; sinking deep into her flesh, attempting to rend her in half. “Mother Farker!” she yelled in rage and pain as she twisted in his grasp and with all her might landed a massive blow to the side of his armored head, tearing away his faceplate. The dragon writhed in agony as his battle armor decompressed and as his body fluids began to be pulled through his skin into the vacuum of space; but he did not let go. Before she could recoil, he managed to sink his biomantium-coated teeth into her arm. She felt his venom enter her body and her will to fight began to ebb. Desperate now to be free as proximity alerts were continuous and as she was beginning to feel sick and sleepy from the venom; she looked into the dragons eyes and fired twin eye beams. The dragon’s mouth opened and his head and arms snapped back reflexively as his brain was fried. Freed from the clutches of the dragon, the nanites composing her uniform moved quickly to seal the breeches from the dragon’s claws and teeth. Her healing factor was working furiously to compensate for the effects of the venom and the wounds inflicted by the dragon; but she hadn’t the luxury to rest and let it totally heal her. The fighter ships were almost within range and a phalanx of superskrulls was closing fast. She shook her head to clear the effects of the venom; and grabbing the dragon’s body, sent it flying into the windshield of the lead fighter, destroying it upon contact. She dove, firing gravimetric pulses from each hand, destroying the other two fighters. Sluggish but recovering, she flipped and resumed course at full speed for the Xandarian fleet, the phalanx of superskrulls in hot pursuit.

    Twisting and diving at maximum speed, she avoided the bolts of energy and the projectiles fired by her Skrull pursuers. Tactical indicated that the Xandarian fleet was dead ahead; and to her great relief, she could see four Centurions speeding to her rescue; lead by none other than her parents, Richard and Sevilica. Tactical indicated that her Skrull pursuers had fled at the sight of the approaching Nova Corps; so she slowed and happily flew into the embrace of her father’s open arms. She gasped in surprise as her father’s arms suddenly became elastic, wrapping her in a tight cocoon. Enraged and embarrassed at having been so easily duped; but unable to generate another radiative gravimetric pulse; she focused her will and extended her phasic shielding until she was able to break the hold of the superskrull. Her ‘mother,’ now transformed into her true Skrull identity, acted quickly and landed a blow to Sylvia’s head that sent her reeling back into her ‘father’s’ tender embrace once again where he applied a neural inhibitor to her neck. She became paralyzed and unable to control her powers.

    Richard Rider was annoyed with his daughter. He snapped, “End simulation,” and watched as “space” faded away to be replaced by the cavernous interior of Nu-Xandar’s Nova Corps holographic Battle Simulation Arena. He reached to his belt for his helmet. Catching his reflection in the glass of the observation and control booth, Rich once again felt both surprise and amusement at how much he had come to resemble his father. Rich ran a hand over his recently grown goatee and smoothed back his “salt-and-pepper” colored hair before donning his helmet and nodding to his lovely wife, Sevilica Dru. Even after all the years of hardship and sacrifice as they together toiled to build Nu-Xandar from Xandar’s ashes; he still found himself hopelessly in love with the auburn-haired blue-eyed beauty. It didn’t hurt that she was just as shapely, sexy, and vivacious as when he first met her at the tender age of 17 during the Second Xandar-Skrull War. Sevilica was living proof that cloning did have its advantages; and as he caught site of his reflection again, he made a mental note to consider some cosmetic treatments for himself as time and near constant warfare had taken their toll on his 51 year old body. He also noted that Sevilica looked a little tired – the weight of helping govern Nu-Xandar seeming to rest more and more heavily upon her shoulders with each passing day. He knew they needed a vacation. Sevilica ran her fingers through her long auburn locks of hair and donned her helmet as they headed for the door.

    Sylvia was relieved to have sensation return to her limbs; but watched in dismay as her mother and father emerged from the control room of the Nova Corps Battle Simulation Arena; mentally preparing herself for her father’s expected harsh criticism of her performance today. Lately, she and her father had been at odds for reasons she really did not understand. It seemed that they went out of their way to disagree with each other now; and nothing she did seemed to please him. Richard was dressed in the uniform of The Nova Prime and Sevilica wore a standard Centurion’s uniform, eschewing as usual any outward sign of her royal status as Duchess of Orienta. Sylvia steeled herself as Richard and Sevilica took flight to meet her at the top of the domed arena.

    Sylvia tensed and stood at attention as Richard and Sevilica arrived; avoiding eye contact by staring straight ahead unflinchingly as Richard removed his helmet and focused on her, an irritated look on his face. “What the hell was that Syl? Where’s your focus? You made elementary mistakes that would have cost you your life in a real battle; and the lives of anyone under your command had you been accompanied. We’ve taught you better than that. Don’t trust your eyes when you’re fighting Skrulls! Use your powers to do an identity scan. Do you realize that if you’d made a mistake like that last one in a real battle situation that right now you’d be dead or worse – a prisoner of the Skrulls being readied for vivisection?”

    Sylvia pressed her lips together tighter in reaction to her father’s rebuke; but exhibited no other reaction or outward sign of upset – though inwardly she was seething. He didn’t understand what she was feeling – the doubts and fears about starting a new life as a Nova Corps Cadet, leaving her childhood friends behind, and yes – leaving home. She didn’t want to be here today, her last free day before starting the academy. She was only here at her father’s insistence. She wanted to be with her friends one last time before departing for the Orienta Shard. She hoped her mother would render more supportive feedback; but it was not meant to be.

    Sevilica shook her head. “This is truly disappointing Sylvia. Your father and I have been training you for years now and you’ve performed so much better than this in the past. Combat doesn’t wait until we are ready for it to fit into our schedule and combat doesn’t give second chances when we make mistakes. When you enter battle, you must push all distractions aside and keep your focus. One serious mistake and you’re dead. You need to think about this experience and decide what you would do differently should you ever face a similar situation in the future. I expect you to do better next time. Now, I know you want to get out of here. Dismissed. Oh, and Syl, on a personal note – I know you’re going to want to go out and celebrate your acceptance into the academy with your friends, but I want you back at Oban by midnight. Your father and I want to have some time with you in the morning before you leave for the Orienta Shard; and we want you rested and prepared for your first day of duty to The Corps. Understand?”

    Sylvia nodded her understanding, remaining silent and avoiding eye contact with either of her parents – especially her father – and sulkily flew to the exit; dejectedly heading for Oban, House Dru’s ancestral palace.

    Sevilica and Rich watched her go. When Sylvia had cleared the exit, Rich turned to Sevilica and made eye contact. Their eyes locked on each other for a moment before the seriousness broke and they both shared a small laugh. Rich smiled broadly. “She made some mistakes sure enough but that’s just due to lack of experience. With a little experience and discipline, she’s going to be hell on wheels! I tell you Sev, I’ve never been so proud. She was magnificent! Her powers have developed to the point where she now has more power than a Centurion. Did you see the way she took out that battleship and that dast superskrull? Incredible! She’s better than either of us were when we were about her age.”

    Sevilica arched an eyebrow. “Well, you’re half right. Maybe if you’d had the opportunity at her age to train on Xandar instead of wasting time on Earth; you’d have been as good a Nova as both Syl and me.”

    Rich grinned in response to Sevilica’s typical competitiveness. “Why’d you let her go so early? I was going to make her run through the simulation again.”

    Sevilica rolled her eyes. “She has to have some fun sometimes too. If it was up to you, she’d be training all day every day. Her friends are taking her out to celebrate tonight. She starts the academy tomorrow and she won’t see them or us for the next eight months you know.”

    Rich’s smile faded and sadness was reflected in his eyes. “I know. Our little girl’s growing up fast. Can’t blame me for being proud of her for being the youngest ever allowed to enter academy training. I just want her to be as ready as possible for all the dangers she’s about to face so she’ll be safe. That’s why I’ve been pushing her so hard.”

    Sevilica floated up to Rich and kissed him. “I know and I’m proud too – of both her and you. I know how hard it’s been for you to let her go. Now my love, let’s go home.”

    Rich grabbed Sev and pulled her close. “Not so fast. We have this facility reserved privately for the next hour. What say we put it to good use? I’m thinking the Veradinae seraglio program.”

    Sevilica laughed. “Only if you play the role of the sex slave this time.”

    Rich grinned wolfishly. “Deal.”

    _________________________________________

    Read Part Two for the next chapter in the serial of The Woman Called Nova. Here’s a sneak preview:

    Chapter Two: Quantum Realm Solace

    As evening fell on Nu-Xandar, Sylvia could see Tranta’s last rays glancing off the Torus as she boarded the mag-lev train to the alien sector of Nu-Orienta City. As always when night fell, her gaze was drawn to the sky. The Orienta Shard shone as the brightest heavenly body in the sky. No matter how many times she visited the shard, she never grew tired of it. Soon it would be her new home for the foreseeable future. Sylvia closed her eyes and imagined it parked in its Libration Point between Nu-Xandar and Tranta, spinning slowly and keeping protective vigil over the fledgling Nu-Xandar. The academy beckoned and tomorrow she would answer its call and begin her new life as a Nova Cadet. Tonight though, was her last night of freedom and she planned to enjoy it to the fullest. Her father had been particularly tough on her this past week and she needed time to relax and unwind.

    She caught site of her reflection in the window of the mag-lev. Raven haired, dark brown eyes, shapely athletic body barely covered in her sexiest shear white micro-mini dress with a plunging neckline highlighting her perfect breasts; she was satisfied that she had made the right selection of attire for the night’s activities.

     

     

    [page_title]

    Who Watches The Mothman: Interview With Niall Matter

    Folklorists and monster seekers have been hunting a creature called the Mothman that has been seen haunting the countryside of West Virginia.

    In the recent comic book film, Watchmen, Canadian born Niall Matter ( Eureka and Stargate Atlantis ) filled the wings of a super hero, also named Mothman. This Mothman, who appeared in the Watchmen comic, was created by comic book greats Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. He served as part of a Justice Society of America type super hero group, called the Minutemen. However, the Mothman is confined to a mental asylum, where he is forced to deal with his alcoholism and paranoia.

    Matter, whose career is beginning to break out, spoke with CosmicBookNews about the Watchmen movie, television and the Mothman legend in West Virginia.

    CosmicBookNews: To start with, and just for the sheer heck of it, had you ever heard of the legendary Mothman in West Virginia? Some people say it is a Native American god, others say it might be an alien.

    Niall Matter: When I got the roll in the Watchmen movie, I did a Google search for “Mothman” and I read up about [the West Virginian legend].

    CosmicBookNews: Any thoughts on it?

    Niall Matter: Yeah, I said, “That is crazy!”

    CosmicBookNews: Speaking of crazy, it seems like the fans have really taken to Watchmen. Have you been surprised by how big it has been?

    Niall Matter: I was not surprised, I knew how big the comic was.

    CosmicBookNews: Were you familiar with the comic book?

    Niall Matter: I wasn’t. Obviously I have heard people talk about the comic book for a long time, but I had never actually really read it before I was on this project.

    However, when I had heard the Watchmen movie was being made, I looked into it and I ended up landing a little roll in it.

    CosmicBookNews: Were you given any extra background information by creator Dave Gibbons who had been on set?

    Niall Matter: Not really.

    [Director] Zack [Snyder] taught me a little bit about the Mothman and he told me who the character really was. [Zack] gave me kind of an outline as to who the Mothman was and the issues he faced, like his drinking and such.

    CosmicBookNews: Were you able to, if you pardon the expression, wing it when you needed too?

    Niall Matter: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Zack told me, “Do what feels right to you.”

    CosmicBookNews: It seems like you had a lot of fun with it. Did you play the Mothman, say the way a super hero was played back in the 1940s. You know a sort of “old time” way. Like the heroes say, “Gather around, kids. Listen to your parents and drink your milk.”

    Niall Matter: Yeah!

    Absolutely it was really fun to delve in too something different from what we are used to watching [in current super hero movies]. I was able to turn this into an old school, corny, semi-cheesy style of acting. [Laughs]

    You have to look at this at the time Mothman and his fellow Minutemen actually were in. I mean I loved delving into the over the top body language that was used back then.

    CosmicBookNews: Even the costume seemed “old school” – as you said. You didn’t have the body armor, say Nite Owl had, or even the armor Christian Bale had for The Dark Knight.

    Niall Matter: The costume was just a cotton suit over the top of my body with the wings strapped over. I did not have anything else, say body armor, like Batman or Nite Owl had. I had to wear the cotton suit to stay true to the “times” and “era” that Mothman was in.

    That was the style the super heroes were wearing back then.

    CosmicBookNews: Because you are from Alberta, Canada, I have to ask this for the fun of it, who would win in a fight – Bret “The Hitman” Hart or Niall “The Mothman” Matter?

    Niall Matter: [LAUGHS] Oh yeah! The Harts are formerly from Alberta. However, I would say, probably Bret “The Hitman” Hart would win, because those Hart boys are pretty big.

    Actually, I grew up on a farm in Alberta and the Hart Brothers used to have a painting company and the Hart Brothers painted our huge barn. I’m a lot closer to the Hart brothers than you realize.

    CosmicBookNews: [LAUGHS] So there was a chance to see the Hitman fight the Mothman?

    Niall Matter: [LAUGHS] It could’ve have happened.

    CosmicBookNews: We at CosmicBookNews are breaking it first – a fight between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Niall “The Mothman” Matter – it could’ve happened !.

    Niall Matter: Yeah! It could’ve.

    CosmicBookNews: With that said, I know Bret Hart is a legend in Canada. But you are no slouch yourself with fans. All you have to do is take a look at the IMDB.Com message board under your entry.

    Had you heard from any of them about you being in Watchmen?

    Niall Matter: Yeah, many of the fans – who were fans of mine from the television shows I had been on [ Eureka and Stargate Atlantis ] had written me and said it was fun to see me on the big screen.

    CosmicBookNews: Was there a difference from doing a television show to doing movie for you?

    Niall Matter: The biggest difference was the amount of time I found myself on set and the type of set. When you are doing television, you are on the set more of the time – well at least compared to Watchmen.

    However, when I got to the Watchmen set, you were blown away by the size of it because you basically were walking the streets of 1940. As I said, I was just blown away by the massive set and the scale of it.

    CosmicBookNews: I was reading that your parents have a water transport company, were they able to bring of the water to the Watchmen set?

    Niall Matter: [LAUGHS] No they are based in Alberta and that is the province next over from where the set was in British Columbia. They would have had to truck and over through the Rocky Mountains.

    CosmicBookNews: Well, our web site can give them a plug anyway.

    Matter Water Service – located in Leduc, Alberta – the best water in Canada!

    Niall Matter: Thanks!

    CosmicBookNews: Well jumping back to Watchmen and genre television, do you want to continue in the science fiction field or would you like to branch out?

    Niall Matter: I think my career is getting ready for a transition from roles in science fiction to roles in comedies. Which is strange, because I feel the most comfortable doing drama even though I have not done as much in it.

    I definitely want to get into to more drama and features in the future.

    CosmicBookNews: Any type of roll in particular?

    Niall Matter: Yeah. I would really love to tackle a darker roll. Think Edward Norton in American History X.

    I want to do something that is both physically challenging where I have to hit the gym and transform in to that person physically as well as mentally.

    CosmicBookNews: Well, either way, you’ll have fans watching.

    Thanks so much for your time.

    Niall Matter: Thank you.

    For more information about Niall Matter, visit his web site www.niallmatter.net.

    And a special note of thanks to Trina Allen for arranging the interview with Mr. Matter.

    [page_title]

    Annihilation Conquest Book 1 TP

    Annihilation Conquest Book 1 TP When your land is occupied, you have two choices: assimilation or resistance! The first salvo in the exciting sequel to Annihilation, this deluxe hardcover showcases many of Marvel’s most fondly remembered cosmic characters, updating them for a new generation of sci-fi starved readers! Still recovering from the Annihilus War, the …

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