Heart of Iron acts as the unofficial "story" of Heroforce setting up the backdrop to the game's world and viewing day-to-day life and conflicts with the Heroes fighting for dominance over Coronite. While much of the series is focused on heroine Fera, it often switches perspectives to other Heroes and side characters as well. It is largely inspired by the Overwatch comic series.
Issue 1: Iron Maiden
The issue begins with a shot of space, with the camera slowly focusing on a large ringed planet with multiple biomes visible; a flyover of the planet showcases the vast and varied wilderness that the planet possesses, with many shots of hazardous and giant wildlife. The scene finally settles on a vast desert at night, purple jagged crystals poking out of the sand. The vast, clear night sky shows a multitude of moons and planets, far out into space, bathing the surface in natural light.
On the desert surface, two warriors duel. One is a young woman in armor, spear and shield in hand, while the other is an imposing grey demon-like creature with a glowing red cape, wielding a radiant scissor-like weapon against her. The two dance across the sands, weapons clashing and sparks flying as they strike each other. The grey being eventually manages to catch the woman's spear in his scissors, snapping it in half with excessive amounts of force. The shockwave created by the break knocks both back, and both begin panting in exhaustion as the spear slowly begins regenerating.
The woman readjusts her stance first, planting the regenerating spear in the sand to balance herself upon it. She looks at her opponent, just as exhausted as she is.
Fera: I take it... *pant* You'd be okay with a little break?
Time passes, and the two warriors have put down their weaponry and are sitting around a small fire, trying to warm up in the sheer cold of the nocturnal desert. Warming her armored hands in front of the fire, the woman turns to the grey being, who is seemingly cold-blooded, as he is curled up closer to the fire than she herself is.
Fera: ...You alright?
The reptilian man just grunted a bit and shuffled, adjusting himself in front of the fire.
Fera: My name's Fera. Fera Bolstar. I'm here on behalf of-
Reptilian: Terra. Naturally. You are a Terran, after all. Why else would one be here on this Skrage-forsaken rock?
Fera: I take it you aren't too happy with being here, either. What's your story?
Reptilian: Why should I tell you? You're the enemy, and as pointless as this war is, I have to do my duty... Uphold my honor as a Valienite shogun.
Fera: Shogun? That's awfully high in the ranks of Valienite culture to be deployed as a common foot soldier.
Xyzor: I am Shogun Zyveri Xyzor! I am NOT just a common foot soldier! I was chosen by my world and masters for my skill in the art of combat! My emotions towards this pointless war mean nothing in the face of defending my honor!
Fera turns away, staring back into the fire.
Fera: Not even your life, then...
Xyzor: If I am to die on this rock, it will mean something! The sins of my past will be wiped clean in the eyes of Valienite lore and song! They will sing my praises for millennia!
Fera: Don't you have family back home on Vala? Wives? Children? I know Valienites are a polymorphous species due to the gender divide...
Fera: *sigh* There are some sins that nobody will be able to forgive you for. And I know that. I do my best to keep a positive outlook on everything, but... I know I'm not perfect. I'm not the model soldier people called me back home.
Xyzor: So you're some pitiful attempt at a Terran supersoldier, then. Captain? General? Leader of your armies?
Fera: None of that. I'm nothing more than a foot soldier. I'd like to think I'm an above-average one, but I'm just a grunt in the Terran army.
Xyzor: Then what great sin could one as low-ranking as you have possibly committed?!
Fera turned back to Xyzor, her eyes filled with guilt.
Fera: I'm the one responsible for this war.
The setting changes as Fera begins telling her story to Xyzor, flashing to a mechanical-looking training hall. The woman is shown spearfighting with a man in similar armor, wielding similar weaponry; the two are evenly matched, and each struggles to break the other's guard before the man finally wrenches Fera's shield from her hands, pointing his weapon at her neck.
Intercom: TRAINING SESSION COMPLETE. VICTOR: KOBOL.
Fera takes off her helmet, running her hand through her sweat-drenched hair, extending a victory handshake to her opponent. Kobol looks at it for a second before returning the gesture.
The scene changes again, this time to a locker room. Fera and other women of varying races are changing clothes and armor, with the Terran changing from her armor into a tank top and shorts. In the middle of this process, she is approached by an red and white feathered woman.
Teryx: Yo, Fera. Everything alright?
Fera: Oh, Teryx. Just the girl I wanted to see. You know the meteor shower's tonight, right?
Teryx: ...Yeeeaaah? And your point?
Fera pulled out a pair of metallic strips from her pocket and handed them to her friend.
Fera: Well, I know you've been dating Kobol for a while, and I was thinking you two'd enjoy a night under the stars with each other. Fine dining, beautiful view, the works...
Teryx: F-Fera, how much did these tickets cost? These are for the space net orbiting Terra! This is way bigger than some ritzy hotel or something!
Fera simply shrugged.
Fera: Hey, I wasn't doing anything tonight anyways.
Teryx: Okay, honey, something feels off. Why are you going through all this trouble to do this for Kobol and I? There's no reason-
Fera: It's because you two deserve each other. Propose to him, Teryx. You never know when something major will strike. Take this opportunity to make your move.
Teryx began softly crying out of gratitude, Fera smiling to herself as she closed her locker and began to head home.
Teryx: Th-Thank you, Fera....
Fera: Just helping the homefront, Terry.
Fera left the military center in a good mood. Those tickets were going to go a long way towards getting Teryx and Kobol together, and she could rest easy knowing that her superiors had given her a week off of duty, giving her ample time to watch the meteor shower on her own time.
She walked through the streets of Reagan City, the capital of Terra that she had been told was named after a famous and beloved Old Earth president. Looking up at the stars as she walked, she thought about her family; it had been three months since she had been able to come home and see her mom and brother. Maybe tonight would be the perfect time for a reunion.
Her priority now, however, was getting home.
She eventually made her way back to her apartment, a decently-sized place that was entirely provided for her by her job in the military. She often wondered why exactly the Terrans had such a vast military, considering the worst threats that ever came to the Solus system could be dispatched with essentially one squad- it was surprisingly peaceful despite having so many races with such vastly different cultures.
She supposed that may have been due to the Catalogers, the ancient race who watched over and created the Solus system for one express purpose: conservation of life. In their multifaceted eyes, life in the universe was slowly withering away due to the natural process of entropy. Thanks to them, the races of the universe were united in a perfectly crafted solar system, designed to keep all the life they could safe.
As Fera slipped on a sweartshirt to head outside and watch the meteor shower, she thought harder on the topic for a bit. Perhaps, in the eyes of the Catalogers, the Solus system was intended to represent the unity that had come of the initiative. It was like one big giant organism, with everything working in tandem to ensure homeostasis.
If that was the case, she was glad to be an antibody.
Just before she was about to head outside, her phone rang; a call from Teryx. She answered, hoping things were going well on the date she had set up for them.
Fera: Hey, what's up? How's the stargazing go-
Teryx: Fera! Look at the sky! NOW!
Fera was confused, but she ran out of her house to see what Teryx was going on about. What she saw was both awe-inspiring and terrifying.
There was no meteor shower. Instead, some sort of massive portal had opened in the sky: far away from Terra, but in the Solus system, nothing was too far away from anything. After a few brilliant green flashes, the portal was gone, leaving behind a large ringed planet.
Something was wrong here.
It had been two weeks since the appearance of the massive superplanet's arrival in the Solus system. Despite it seemingly being nothing more than a benign, normal planet, Fera and everybody else knew that no normal planet could teleport. Nothing had happened yet, but the Terran army was running its troops through more and more extensive exercises on a daily basis.
The people were scared.
Fera was back in her apartment, physically and mentally exhausted. They'd been working everybody so hard over the planet's appearance; they'd actually temporarily dubbed it "Coronite" due to the intense auroras that flared over the poles of the planet on a nightly basis. She didn't know what would happen next, but in the back of her mind, she knew it wouldn't be good.
Her phone rang. Teryx. This would either be a much-needed breather or something to make her situation even worse than it already was.
Fera: Hey, Terry...
Teryx: Fera, something's going on in the plaza outside the military base. There's some nutcase ranting about the new planet and things are getting hectic. We need help.
Fera closed her phone and ran out the door. Something terrible was definitely about to happen.
A small crowd had gathered around the man standing in the plaza. Fera was wary and cautious; his bright green robes didn't look like anything she had ever seen before, and though he looked human, there was still something off about his biology.
Strange Man: I'm telling you all this for your own good! That planet is nothing but a trap! Your lives are forfeit if you set foot on that rock!
Despite the words he was saying, there wasn't a lot of anger or emotion behind his words. He seemed calm and collected despite seemingly trying to rile up people's emotions- people who were scared of Coronite already.
Fera walked up to the man, wanting to know more about what was happening.
Fera: Excuse me, sir. I'm Fera Bolstar, member of the Solus United Military. You're going to need to answer a few questions-
Lucius: Well, hello there, my lady. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Lucius.
Fera: ...Mr. Lucius, what are you doing here? What is the purpose of this demonstration?
Looking up close, Fera could tell that something was definitely off about Lucius. His ears were pointed, his skin was exceedingly pale, his muscle mass was near nonexistent, and the bone structure that she could see just didn't look human at all. Just what was this man?
Lucius: The purpose of me being on this rock at all is to tell you this... Stay far away from that planet at all costs. It's nothing more than a deathtrap, a graveyard for anybody who comes near it.
Fera was confused; what were this man's motives, and just what exactly was he. She needed answers.
Fera: Sir, I'm going to need you to come with me for questioning.
Lucius grabbed Fera's shoulders, the anger behind his voice growing.
Lucius: Listen, we do not have any time to discuss this. Listen to me! Your civilization is in danger-
Fera had seen enough. Lucius was definitely unhinged. She could answer the question of what he was on about later; for now, he needed to be apprehended. She grabbed his arm, twisted it backwards, and pinned him to the ground. The man didn't so much as grunt in response.
Fera: I'm sorry about this, but you're under arrest for assaulting an officer of the law. We're going to have to detain you until further notice.
Lucius: Ma'am, you are making a grave error here. I have important information-
Fera: Tell it to your interrogators.
Fera walked the strange man inside the building. Maybe now she would get answers about who he was...
Lucius had been detained, locked behind bars for his refusal to explain himself. Meanwhile, suspicions about the superplanet had begun to grow, and studies were being tested in the atmosphere above the strange mass. It was another two weeks before Fera and her squadron were called in by their superiors.
The leader of the Solus United Military was one Pyrit Gangue. Gangue wasn't very strong for a military leader, but he was smart. The mustachioed man could outwit, outplan, and outthink any threat imaginable- he always had some plan tucked away in that head of his, but it wasn't often that somebody could find out what he had planned until the deed had been done. He was a self-admitted coward, but he knew that he could avoid danger for both himself and for others by planning ahead.
In Fera's eyes, he was more of a politician than military leader, simply due to how conniving he could be at times, but it wasn't her role in the machine to complain.
Gangue stood before Fera's squad, tweaking his mustache nervously as he warmed up for his big announcement.
Gangue: Squadron DV-6, I believe you are all aware of the superplanet dubbed Coronite that appeared in the Solus system just over one month ago, correct? Well, I have some... important news to share with you all today.
Teryx: (whispering) This isn't gonna be good, Fera.
Fera: (whispering) Shhh! Wait for the commanding officer to talk.
Gangue: Our analysis of the planet has shown that, at its core, lies a source of vast power the likes of which have never been documented before. The Terran government decided to occupy the planet, drilling to the core in order to unlock its secrets. However... other governments interjected.
This definitely wasn't good.
Gangue: Half the species in the Solus system interjected to this proposal for one reason or another. Proximity, cultural shenanigans, resources, the works... They all decided that they had more valid claims to owning the planet than Terra. While the general populace is scared senseless of the rock, behind the scenes, it's been all-out political warfare over a territory debate. That's why-
Fera was confused. Why had nobody been informed about this territory debate beforehand? And what energy were they talking about? Was this why Lucius had said the planet was dangerous in the first place?
Gangue: That's why we're going behind their backs. We're taking Coronite for Terra, and this squadron will be the platoon of brave heroes who will blaze these bright new trails for us!
Oh no. No. No.
Teryx: Fera? You ok?
Fera's mind was racing. Not only was her commander sending her and her allies off to some completely uncharted and possibly deadly planet, but they were doing so in such a blatantly illegal manner that she knew this was wrong. Why was Gangue doing this? Why was he not only promoting this idea, but being the one to come up with it in the first place?
Gangue: Ms. Bolstar. Attention, please.
Fera snapped out of her thought-consumed state, her mind cleared and focused on a single point. What was happening here was wrong.
Fera: Commander Gangue, this is illegal.
Gangue: *enraged* Wh-What?!
Fera stepped forward, Teryx making a reach towards her as if to prevent her from going through what she was about to do. She towered over the short man, ready to make her intentions known.
Fera: Sir, this violates so many laws it's not funny. You are risking the lives of this unit not for the sake of exploring this new and most likely lethal planet, but for harvesting its resources... Not to mention you are doing this behind the back of every other civilization in the Solus system!
Gangue: Bolstar, I don't care what we have to do to get this operation done. We're doing it, and that's final.
Fera: But what reason do you possibly have to-
Gangue: If we don't harness that energy first, somebody else is gonna do it. And when they do, I guarantee you the first thing they'll do is try to conquer and subjugate the Solus system.
Fera: And what evidence do we have that our military won't immediately use it ourselves?
The squadron began murmuring to themselves about the argument between grunt and commander. Gangue was visibly getting more and more angry and flustered.
Gangue: I'm not going on with this. Get back in line. We're going through with this operation.
Fera: No. There's no way I can morally let this be carried out! I'll- I'll do everything in my power to stop this travesty from happening!
Gangue threw his hands up in exasperation, his face flushed with anger... But in one instant, it all drained away, giving way to a form of morbid curiosity. He turned back to Fera with a wide grin on his face- she was getting a bit worried.
Gangue: Incorrect, Bolstar. You won't be stopping this operation. It's cancelled, kaput. I'm even going to tell the rest of the Solus system about this...
It... wasn't going through?
Gangue: Because a squadron's not going to be the one to take the planet. No. That's your sole responsibility.
The news came quickly to both Fera and the rest of the Solus system.
It was swiftly announced that Terra had dropped any pretenses about wanting to obtain Coronite for itself, and proposed a challenge to the rest of the races in the Solus system based around Fera's defense against the original operation.
Every species that felt that they deserved to have ownership of Coronite would send not an army to battle over it, but one single solitary representative. It would be a battle between not groups of strong warriors, but the best of the best that everyone in the running would have to offer. These "Heroes" would engage in battle, with the final victor winning the planet for their homeworld.
Fera was visited by Kobol and Teryx the following day. The mood was somber, and the reason for the visit was swiftly revealed to be a letter from Gangue himself. The message was simple and clear; Fera was being drafted to serve as Terra's Hero. No way out of it was presented, as it went on to say that refusing this "honor" would only serve her military ranking being stripped from her and being sent regardless.
The room was silent.
Teryx: ...I'm sorry, Fera.
Kobol nodded his head in agreement.
Fera: It's not your fault, guys... *sigh* I can't believe this is happening. Thanks to me, there's an all-out war between the people of Solus.
Teryx: What are you going to do about it?
Fera looked at her friends for a second. The two people who had gotten her through her military career this far... She gave them a hug before getting up to start packing her things.
Fera: I can't do anything but fight to stop this, now can I? I need to do everything I can to make this right. You two... Stay safe, for old time's sake.
The scene changes back to Fera and Xyzor in the desert. Fera lies back in the sand, having explained her story to the Valienite warrior. Xyzor still seems conflicted.
Xyzor: ...So this meaningless conflict is all thanks to you?
Fera: I didn't want any of this. I stood up for what I thought was right and... And now everybody on this forsaken rock is stuck here fighting for their lives. All because of me...
Xyzor: I'll say this now, Terran. You have nothing to be at fault for here.
Fera: No, I-
Xyzor: You stood up for your beliefs. You showed courage in the face of something you thought was wrong and the result turned out to be this pointless conflict. You yourself are not the cause of this. If I had acted as you did, perhaps I would not be here... But I do not believe this event is your fault.
Fera: Thanks, but... So many people joined this battle willingly or unwillingly. Only one is supposed to make it off this planet alive, and we don't even know if it's safe to inhabit!
Xyzor: I have confidence this conflict will be resolved, Terran.
Fera: I'm beginning to think that crazy Lucius guy was right. This planet is a deathtrap- but we made it one.
The scene cuts to an advanced prison back on Terra, with the colors and structure of the walls suggesting it is located within the military complex. Only one cell is occupied; it is filled by Lucius, sitting calmly as a female guard stands watch over him.
Guard: You've been awfully quiet there, prisoner.
Lucius: Oh, me? Don't mind me. I'm just thinking about... What is it you've been calling it? Coronide?
Guard: You know nobody's going to that rock until the Heroes are done with it, right? Least of all you.
Lucius's demeanor shifted for the first time- he became visibly shocked at what he had heard.
Lucius: I-I'm sorry, what was that?
Guard: Some dumb war initiative someone came up with. Every race who wanted ownership of Coronite is sending a single individual to fight for their name on it. Last one standing wins. Why they didn't send actual military is beyond me...
Lucius: You've doomed everybody, you know that?! Your mad search for conquering the universe is going to kill off all life in the universe!
The guard pressed a button on her belt and electricity emitted from the walls, shocking Lucius onto the floor. The man was panting, but somehow, his skin was the only thing that was singed, his clothes completely negating the electric charge.
Guard: Silence! Shut it with your conspiracy theories before I come in and beat them out of you. Oh, and if you somehow think you can escape, those bars are constantly regenerating metal. They can be broken, sure, but they'll just grow right back. A nutcase like you is never getting to your precious planet.
Lucius: *pant* *pant* Yes, officer. I understand perfectly.
Lucius went silent again for a bit... then he perked back up, as if the previous events hadn't happened.
Lucius: Hey, uh... Have you ever heard of a little something I like to call plasma?
The guard seemed suspicious.
Lucius: It's nothing much. It's just something I can do. I can control the impulses of the nervous system, release the electricity and energy en masse... Bam. Plasma. It doesn't even have to be mine. It's just sort of... magic, I guess!
Guard: What kind of nutcase Terran are you? There's no such thing as ma-
With that strange, incomprehensible, and almost eldritch sound emitting from Lucius's mouth, a flare of green energy flared up from the throat of his guard. She collapsed to the ground, the inside of her mouth, throat, and even the corners of her eyes charred black from the plasma. She was dead.
Lucius: Who said I was a Terran?
He flicked his finger, a blade of the same green electricity extending from it. He sliced the bars, and the extreme heat sliced through them instantly. Normally, the bars would have instantly regenerated as the guard had said. Lucius's blade, however, was so hot that the slice was instantly cauterized; with the metal assuming it was entirely intact, it only regenerated a little and then remained cut. The man simply ducked under the bars and walked out, staring at the corpse of the woman.
Lucius: I'm sorry, ma'am. But I need to make my way to that planet as soon as I possibly can. I don't care who I'm going to have to kill to get you off... It's for the good of every sentient lifeform in the universe.
Issue 2: Survival
The scene is set: the desert from the previous issue, now in bright, vibrant sunlight. The strange ruins of an eroded building bake in the sun, as silence settles over the area.
Then, the silence is broken with a powerful explosion sound.
Parts of the building crumble to the ground as their structural integrity is compromised, leaving massive piles of dust in the air. The loud crashes echoed through the desert... Then silence fell again, everything going back to how it had been before.
Gargan: ...That was a close one.
The bulky Vulkonian did his best to hide behind one of the intact pillars, wiping the dust out of his eyes. His thick, craggy skin deflected most of the rubble and impact from the explosion, but it still hurt really badly. He winced as he clutched his shoulder, which was stained yellow; definitely bleeding. That last shot definitely made its mark.
Gargan looked over to his side, checking out his partner. The Gesinesan was cowering behind a pillar, shivering intensely out of sheer terror. Guess the brave hero facade dropped as soon as real danger showed up. Then again, Gesinesans only communicated through beepy chirps... Not the best thing to have when you're trying to survive via quietness.
Gargan: *whispering* Psst! Retron! Shut it!
Retron stopped the beeping, but the cowering continued as he tried to shrink down, hiding himself. Gargan was beginning to have second thoughts about partnering up with this guy.
Gargan tried sneaking a peak behind the pillar and was almost shot directly in the eye, the bullet just grazing the side of his face. Sure enough, the Arakan sniper that had been harassing the two was casually walking in circles, trying to talk to the two of them.
Skoru'Da: I know you're there! Just come out and we can settle this peacefully!
The pair was silent.
Skoru'Da: ...No? Okay, then... Perhaps I should show you what you're dealing with!
The crustacean loaded his rifle with a set of red metallic bullets- no doubt made from Glycinium, an alloy designed for warfare that easily exploded when exposed to a vast temperature change. He fired into the sand and an explosion rocked the desert.
He fired into the sand again, this time closer to the ruins.
He fired a barrage of three shots, each one closer than the last to Gargan and Retron's position.
Skoru'Da: That's all it takes. I could have killed you already by now... but I want to talk. Come out or I actually start trying!
The sun beat down on the three as the battle came to a standstill. Nobody dared move lest the other attack. Retron had passed out at this point.
The Arakan stood still, slowly closing his eyes. He was getting tired. Now was the time to-
The ground exploded as a large flower emerged from underneath Skoru'Da, launching him far into the air. The flower opened and a slender green figure emerged- a Lillius, teenage, female. Gargan was legitimately shocked; the Lillus were pacifists. Why would they send anyone to fight over this rock? He grew even more confused when the girl raised her arm, firing a large vine from the ground that grabbed the sniper, smashing him down into the sand. No Lillius had that kind of power.
Skoru'Da: What the-
The Arakan quickly retaliated, grabbing his rifle and firing a quick shot directly into the vine. It was torn to shreds quickly, and the crustacean rolled to the side and took aim at the girl.
Skoru'Da: You little... That's it!
Retron rolled out from behind his pillar, made a loud beeping noise, and thrust his hands in the direction of the girl. A massive wall immediately formed out of various blocks- the Gesinesan natural ability to manipulate hard light. Now Gargan remembered why he brought the coward along.
Gargan pulled down the switch on his cybernetic arm and the all-too-familiar valves released along his wrist. He looked towards Skoru'Da and made a punching motion, and his hand flew forward. Connected by a chain to his arm, the hand rocketed off in the sniper's direction grabbing him by the shoulder.
The Arakan caught on quickly, and while Gargan tried dragging him in for a beatdown, he swiftly turned around and delivered a kick to his face seconds before impact. His target stunned, he unloaded a pair of shots to his shoulder and chest, which spewed yellow blood everywhere. Retron lept forward, sword in hand, hoping to catch him off guard, but he too was shot down, his entire floating hand exploding into cubes.
The sniper looked around, victory seeming certain to him... but he had forgotten the Lillius.
As Gargan clutched his chest, trying to stem the flow of blood, the Lillius pulled out a staff-like weapon and threw it outward. It extended into a whip, curling around Skoru'Da's rifle and pulling it out of his hands. He angrily turned to her, but it was too late, as she thrust her arm forward and another vine emerged from the ground, lifting him up and smashing him onto the hard stone of the building.
His shell cracked, the Arakan began leaking his blue lifeblood all over the ancient ruins. Gargan was happy. An eye for an eye- in this case, the man was getting off easy, considering he has also blown off Retron's hand.
The Lillius wasn't done. Gargan and Retron watched, clutching their wounds, as she walked up to the horrified sniper as he feebily tried to back away. She stepped off her flower, clutching her staff in both hands and raising it to the sky.
Lillius Girl: This is your honorable death. Ecanruf eht! May your soul receive the judgement it deserves!
She brought the staff down on him, cracking his shell and spilling more blood. The girl had saved them... Though now she was coming towards them. Gargan tensed as pain coursed through his wounded muscle, and Retron went back to his rapid scared beeping.
The girl knelt before Gargan, the tip of her staff glowing with light.
Raune: Don't panic! Don't panic. I'm not here to harm you. I am Princess Raune of the Lotisid Kingdom. I am here to heal you.
The sun began to set as Gargan lay against one of the pillars of the ruins, at Raune's behest. He winced as pain shot through his arm once more.
Raune: Look, I know it hurts. Just stay still.
Gargan: It's fine. It's not like this hasn't happened before or anything.
Raune: *angry* You've been shot! You lost your arm! I'm serious, stay still for just a sec...
Gargan complied as the girl clutched her staff, holding it over his wounds. Some floral scent filled the air as she began chanting, and a soft green light began emanating from the staff's tip- Gargan watched in silent amazement as his wounds clotted and healed themselves within seconds, the pain somehow magically vanishing.
Raune: *chuckle* Lillius aromancy. It's a medical technology that basically causes extreme cell growth in injured areas by tracking down areas it deems injured, encouraging the body to heal itself naturally. Plus, there's floral essence to dull the pain as well.
Within seconds, the wound was healed. The girl moved on to Retron, shining the light on him and causing his destroyed hand to slowly reform itself from tiny blocks. He simply made a cute chirp and closed his digitalized eyes in happiness... She really was there to help.
Gargan: So, uh... Why're you here? Last I heard, Lillius were pacifists.
Raune: Hey, we all have reasons for coming here. Why're you here?
Gargan: Touche. Well, I'm the Vulkon "Hero", though I guess you could judge that at first glance.
Raune: My mother would often go on long trips across the Solus system for diplomatic missions. She taught me about so many other cultures... Is it true the Vulkon basically rely on self-improvement as their core value or something?
Gargan: That's actually pretty true. We are built around the ideals of becoming the best individuals we can be, no outside help or augmentations. Just plain, pure, unadulterated strength... So I was an outcast because I decided to get a cybernetic arm after my old one was sliced off. They don't want to sully themselves coming here. That's why they sent a bounty hunter- someone they deemed "lesser".
Gargan motioned towards the happy beeping Retron.
Gargan: I literally have no idea what this guy's story is. I found him a week after I arrived. He didn't want to fight me and just sort of tagged along. I don't think he even fully knows what's going on.
Retron waved with his reformed hand, a simple yet happy expression across his face. He really didn't want to hurt anybody of his own volition- he just wanted to protect his friends.
Raune: I... I'm sorry, Gargan.
Gargan: *shrug* It's fine. I was never that social anyways. But yeah, spill. Why is some princess fighting for a race that doesn't fight? Something's up.
Raune sighed before beginning her explanation.
The setting changes to a watery planet with large green roads coursing across the water, massive flora jutting from the surface of the sea like towers. The scene arrives at a large city, with round buildings constructed from plant matter- the name displayed lists it as Estildum, capital city of Lillius.
The scene then shifts to inside the largest building, where a much-younger looking Raune is seen speaking with an older Lillius, whose skin is shriveled and browning.
Elderly Lillius: Na se kanoto vota mi saphora, Raune.
Raune: Nei'ha, eo'hato...
Raune began crying emerald-green tears, the trademark of Lillius internal fluids and chlorophyll. The situation for her planet was getting worse by the second.
Alra: Se Coronite notorum a'ko filia mak'ano notare. Mai'h na noto.
Lillius Advisor: Sei notare na'aha folre, Alra Pedisio.
Raune: Vah! Sei notare na'aha, Eo'hato.
Alra: Saphora, vetra! Atatra! Mi saphora vetrah anok mi'e a'ko Lillius mak'ano.
Raune: Lillius mak'ano vetrah aleo kurad mai'h, eo'hato. Naheo se notare t'eato lil vis vetra noto. Mai'h kah noto!
Alra: Atatra! Alra Pedisio tare me, Raune!
The young Lillius looked to the ground in sorrow. She knew she had to fix things somehow, but she just wasn't able to convince her mother of what needed to be done.
Raune: ...Mi'e noto.
Raune slammed her staff on the ground in defiance.
Raune: Mi'e noto. Me na hol'noto i'h hol'norla uk'taso.
Raune: Mi'e asume Hero res'o nota mai lilis!
Alra became enraged, thrusting her staff at her child intimidatingly.
Alra: *enraged* Atatra! Atat-
Raune lept into the air, pulling her mother's staff out of her hands and throwing her onto the ground, out of her flowery throne. Grabbing a small pendant from around her neck, Raune began focusing as vines began growing from the floor of the natural building.
Raune: Vetra, eo'hato. Na me atatra.
The vines wrapped around Alra as she feebly reached to grab her staff once again. Her limited green color faded to brown as the vines drained what little life she had left away, her movements slowing to a crawl before ceasing entirely.
Raune's mother was dead.
The girl kept concentrating as she forced the vines to pierce into her body. They began supplying the nutrients they had stolen from the older Lillius, causing the bud on her head to fully bloom and her strength to increase. By the time it was done, the young girl had truly bloomed into a powerful ruler- one who now knew what she had to do for her people.
The advisor was awestruck; it was either due to the horror of the event he had just witnessed or the beauty of the new monarch who had blossomed before him. As terrifying as the ordeal was, by Lillius law, Raune had just proven herself a more capable ruler than her mother in at least one way... He had no choice but to see if she would manage to be a better ruler in any other way.
Advisor: *gulp* Vah?
Raune: Me vioso a'ko noto se notare.
Gargan: Hey, lady! Snap out of it! What's the story?
Raune had gone into full flashback territory. She looked down at her leg and saw Retron shaking it as hard as his feeble limbless hands possibly could. How long was she out for?
Raune: I, uh... I came on a diplomatic mission from my homeworld. I'm here to end the war, not fight in it.
Gargan and Retron both began laughing.
Gargan: I'm sorry, but didn't you just stab that guy's brains out?
Raune: *indignant* Hey! I saved your lives, didn't I?
Gargan: Yeah, you did. And I'm forever grateful for that. But you had no reason to jump in and kill the guy yourself- that was all you.
Raune was silent, as were Gargan and Retron.
Gargan: Hey, uh... If you're really trying to end this war... You're going to need all the help you can get. I'm fully expe-
Raune bowed before Gargan with a smile on her face.
Raune: If you're willing to help, I'll gladly take it! Thank you!
Retron beeped happily that the duo had now become a trio- in his mind, they'd most likely be friends as long as physically possible, with nothing splitting them up.
Retron was not the brightest one in the group.
Gargan: Heh... Was expecting some resistance or just general "Oh no, I can do this on my own" nonsense. Nice to see you're actually willing to let us help you.
Raune: Hey, this is a war where its one person per army. Any form of teamwork is gonna dominate, right?
The trio sat down in the sand and began talking, getting to know each other better. The scene fades out as it rises into the night sky.
The scene changes to a snowy mountain with a strange alien citadel atop it. The rings around the sky determine that the planet is still Coronite. A small ship flies to the citdael, landing in a small alcove. The cockpit opens as Lucius emerges from the ship, running his hand through his hair.
Lucius: *pant* Back home. I am not used to whatever primitive technology those others use... Gah. I'm borderline sickened after that flight.
Lucius walked through the empty halls, the cold not fazing him at all- as if he was built for this climate. Looking over all the deserted, cold rooms, he eventually came across a large balcony with am mysterious device sitting in it, glowing with a green flame like the ones he himself created. Sticking his hand directly into the flame, he absorbed it, his vitality recharging almost immediately- even minor wounds faded away in the flame.
Fully restored, Lucius looked over the horizon, witnessing a barrage of explosions off in the distance. The beings he had met were right- a war had begun over his planet.
Lucius clenched his fist and leapt off the railing, his heels creating sparks of plasma as he grinded down a rail extending from the citadel. He would do whatever it took to save both his world and the others he had come across...
Even if he would wind up killing hundreds of people in the process.
Issue 3: Onward
The issue begins in an alien jungle at nighttime, filled with a massive beautiful array of various glowing flowers. Trees fall down and flowers are stomped as a massive scorpion-like creature walks through the dense forest, armed with large mechanical turrets and dotted with glowing blue eyes all across its body.
The creature emits a low growling roar as the camera zooms into one of its eyes. The scene then changes to a room of small beetle-like creatures, hunched over monitors and seemingly controlling the scorpion's movements and monitoring its vision.
A slightly larger beetle, dressed in a more ornate uniform, stands and addresses the others.
Leader Beetle: Pi pio pi! Pi tii!
The leader went silent for a second, seemingly just for dramatic effect.
Leader Beetle: Piiiii!
The smaller beetles began cheering without taking their eyes off of the monitors. The scorpion, now revealed as the massive beast Girtabilium, kept slowly carving its way through the dense jungle. However, despite the eyes covering its body, the behemoth failed to notice something...
A shadow flying swiftly overhead.
The Sukubian perched in the treetop canopy, liking her fingers intently. It wasn't just a show of excitement- her saliva was poisonous, and coating her talon-like nails in the fluid would make for an extremely effective weapon.
Amoir crouched as she prepared to strike. She hadn't felt this alive in years- Coronite was doing wonders for her body and mind. She had spent the last few years working in a... "secretarial" position to a Sukubian councilor, but with the whole war for the superplanet going on, she took the chance to use her extreme athletic capabilities and become one of the most famed Sukubians on her planet- the one who captured Coronite.
The beast marched below with its many eyes, all linked to a mind too incompetent to actually see her travelling through the branches overhead. Those eyes were nothing but weak points for her to strike with the whole of her might... A means to an end in order to down this giant beast.
'The cover of night aiding her, Amoir lept off the tree and landed into the massive gun station perched atop the beast stalking its way through the jungle. A silent swipe of her hand sliced the tubes that pumped glowing blue fluid into the central gun, and the liquid nanofuel splattered all over her as the gun shut down.
The Wim Plo monitor station noticed the central energy cannon went down, but the scientist monitoring it simply assumed it was cooling down from overheating. It tended to do that- the Girtabilium's weaponry was so powerful it tended to overexhaust itself. With the press of a few buttons, the other guns remotely shut down.
Amoir licked her nanofuel-covered lips, the glowing blue fluid infusing her with power. The guns were down. Just what she wanted.
She raised her clawed hand and shoved her talons right into one of the beast's many, many eyes. The sharp piercing and the acidic venom both delivered a painful stealthy strike, and the monster bellowed a low, piercing groan that echoed across the jungle.
The hunt was on.
The Wim Plo engineers scattered in fear as the cameras inside their beast's eyes were destroyed one by one. They hadn't seen their unseen assailant leaping on to it, despite having hundreds of focal points, and now it was being blinded to them. They were losing their sight and their grasp on the beast.
Leader Beetle: Piiiiiii! Pi!
But nothing could get the Girtabilium back under control.
Amoir dashed from the claw of her target to the platform on the back. She had been nicked by the tail and claws a bit, and was bleeding profusely from more places than she cared to admit. Still, her plan had succeeded. The beast was blind.
Licking her wounds, she chuckled to herself.
This was going to be easier than she had thought.
The beast slowly readied its tail for a strike.
The strange assailant has inadvertently freed it from the control of those who had bound it to their will, breaking the devices controlling its mind and muscle movements. It had gone from an engine of war to a massive predator, following nothing but its own instincts.
And its instincts were telling it to attack the prey atop its back, bleeding from all over. It was vulnerable. Now was the time to strike.
The tail swooped downward.
Amoir almost didn't notice the falling piece of chitin, but she had something else watching her back. Split-second calculations went off in her head, and a strange jelly-like disc appeared between her and the stinger, capturing it in mid-air.
Amoir: Karma's a b-tch, my friend.
The gelatinous disc burst into a crackle of purple explosions, burning down the course of Girtabilium's body. Every nerve in its system was on fire. The brain couldn't handle the sheer sensory overload... It perished then and there.
Back on the Wim Plo base, things were chaos. They had lost their only weapon. Theyir one chance to become something greater than themselves... Gone. Amoir, meanwhile, just laid back against a tree and began licking her wounds.
Mission one of sixty-four: complete.
Issue 4: Concern
Fera poked at the burning machine with her spear, attempting to tend the fire.
It had felt like weeks since she had seen Xyzor, and had that heartfelt conversation that had made her feel somewhat better about being stuck with her duty on this alien deathtrap. She was still stuck in the desert, though, and things hadn't exactly been getting better on her end.
She had been getting the news. Heroes were dying, and that was taking a toll on planets all across the system. Families were being torn apart, finances were being rapidly shifted as bets were won and lost, and entire societies were being changed as they had lost their one chance to claim right to the planet, and potentially harvest the energy within.
And now, she had made things even worse.
The once-pristine machine burning to cinders in front of her was BUNKR. BUNKR was the AI that governed the Promakan species, a race of reptilian creatures whose veins coursed with electricity; they had created the incredibly intelligent AI long ago to defend them, protect the species, and help them grow prosperous. When the time came for dominance over Coronite to be established, they had no choice but to nominate the AI, as it was the only warrior their society had.
It had everything it needed to succeed; mastery of the system's races and their biology, thousands of combined years of war tactics and martial artistry, and near-unlimited intelligence. How could BUNKR lose?
Fera had confronted the AI herself. It was defenseless. They were so confident in BUNKR winning that they had only granted it a small body, wielding nothing but two small arms and a screen to project a face. The Promakan were so confident in the AI's strategic abilities that they hadn't given it any means of defending itself.
It was begging her to release it from the prison that those it was meant to protect had placed it in. She obliged.
As she sat watching the fire blaze across what remained of BUNKR's iron body, she realized that the Promakans had doomed themselves with this ploy. They had sacrificed everything- the AI that governed their society, supplied their power, made their food- in an attempt to battle for Coronite. Their society would collapse without it. The species would be forced to evacuate to other planets, causing widespread chaos and panic.
And it was all her fault.
Fera held her head in her hands as she started sobbing.
Why was she the cause of so much pain and suffering? All she wanted to do was protect people, not hurt them. She had brought war to the system, brought major loss of life, and now decimated and ruined an entire civilization.
She looked up into the night sky, tears still in her eyes. The smoke spiraled upwards as the planet's beautiful sky, filled with rainbow-colored streams of starlight. She clenched her fist in defiance.
Fera: No more.
She grabbed her spear from BUNKR's burning body, pointing it to the stars.
Fera: I am a hero. It's my job to save people. To stop conflict. And that's what I'm going to do. If I really did start this war, then I vow to end it!
Gangue: Lad, please shut the door. I have a visitor.
Gangue's young secretary sheepishly clicked the switch that sealed off the commander's windows and doors, leaving him completely invisible to the outside world. Confident he wasn't being watched, he pulled out a small flat metal disc- a holographic transmitter- and switched it on.
His contact flickered into existence- a hunched, wizened-looking creature that resembled a crustacean with its tough, bumpy carapace and clawed hands. His glowing orange eyes, though weary with a near-endless age, showed a glimmer of wisdom and power that Gangue was inspired by. This creature- a being from beyond the origins of time itself- was San-Sokeh, a Cataloger.
San-Sokeh: Ah, Gangue. We meet again. I presume that you wish to speak more of that planet?
Gangue: Precisely, my friend. The Hero project has... not gone as planned. Ms. Bolstar hasn't been doing much other than letting other planets win the war.
San-Sokeh: Why do you believe that you are so entitled to the reward behind this planet's core? You have not done research into what you believe is an energy source, and yet you claim it to be yours by right? Why must you do this?
Gangue: Why shouldn't we? We're humans, after all.
San-Sokeh nervously fiddled with a small ornament pinned onto the sash he was wearing. Gangue recognized the shape: a small blue hand with six fingers. Gangue pulled out a similar looking object from his pocket, this one being larger and made of cold metal.
Gangue: I see you're a Tierist. Good to meet a fellow believer.
San-Sokeh: I do not believe in the Mother. I know. I have seen her, with my own eyes, as all of my people have. She is no myth.
Gangue picked up a glass of some pale orange liquid and took a sip.
Gangue: I've read up on all my history, Sokeh. We aren't Terrans. That's never who we were. We were never meant to stay confined to one world, one planet. No... we're humans! We're explorers, voyagers... conquerors! It is the essence of humanity to explore, to chart the unknown and claim it by divine right... and that's why we deserve this planet.
San-Sokeh seemed a bit unnerved, but kept his steely expression.
San-Sokeh: Your kind was the only to proceed my own in the mother's embrace, yes... But you are different. You are, or perhaps, were, her special project. Then, you changed. She tried to end your race and start again, but every time, your kind turned back to base instincts. She has not bothered you since humankind left its dying world for the Solus System- for Terra. Perhaps it is for the best that you not pursue the instincts of a now dead species, Mr. Gangue?
Gangue took another sip from his drink and glared at the hologram.
Gangue: Tell me, Sokeh... Are the Catalogers not still using the Lillius as glorified slaves?
Sokeh's expression finally broke a little.
San-Sokeh: T-the Lillius were made by the Mother for us, with her own hands. They were our tools... We used them to cultivate life and civilization across the galaxy...
Gangue: And yet to this day, just because Tiera "gave them to you", you think the Catalogers can rely on them to act as servants? I know what your people do to them- using them as servants on your own homeworld and what not. Sneaking and abducting Lillius because you feel you have a right to them-
San-Sokeh slammed his claws on the table he was sitting behind. He had had enough.
San-Sokeh: They are our right by the Mother herself! We are owed their duties by their own creator!
Gangue: Hmph. Society has "changed", my friend, and yet you still rely on the culture of the past and the word of Tiera to dictate how you live your lives. Is that anything worse than what I believed we are owed?
San-Sokeh: I... We...
Gangue: I'll say it again. We are not Terrans. We are humans- a species bound to the destiny of conquering and claiming everything in our path. It is in our very nature as crafted by the Mother herself; why should we deny that?! Coronite is a sign from above, Sokeh. It is the right of humankind... and Ms. Bolstar is proving she's not human by fretting and avoiding conflict instead of embracing it. She's a true model Terran, alright... a figurehead who just wants to keep everyone ignorant and unaware of what we really are.
Gangue finished his drink and he turned back to San-Sokeh's concerned crustacean face.
Gangue: I'm dispatching the first squadron of the Blast Corps to Coronite tomorrow. No more games, we're taking the core without the useless "Hero".
Lucius rummaged through the vault, discarding tube after tube. All of these valuable transcripts and passages, the lore and history of the Coronid people... Worthless compared to what it was that he needed to claim.
Furiously, he slammed the wall, scattering the liquid-filled tubes everywhere. Some broke open and spilled on the floor, letting loose the valued contents. The Great War of Selmaron... Gone. A collection of famed Cirzon-era poetry... Spreading across the floor like meaningless water. The data pertaining to the royal lineage... Down the drain in an almost literal sense.
Lucius didn't care. None of that history mattered anymore. The Coronid were dead, and he was all that was left. No amount of liquid knowledge was going to change anything. What he needed was that monster.
He finally located his target- a smaller vial of liquid hidden in a secret compartment in the wall. This was the key to revealing his target.
He ran over to the control console and plugged the tiny green vial into a central hole, scanning his hand on a nearby panel to confirm that he was, in fact, the scientist responsible for managing this whole fiasco. His identity confirmed, a large tank rose from the center of the room in a burst of steam and plasma, containing the monster he sought out.
She looked like a Coronid, that was for sure. She had the long white hair that female Coronid were known for, the same pale skin that came from years of dwelling in these dark snowy regions, and even the skeletal structure had the same obsidian-black color and shape as the Coronid body. Of course, anybody could clearly tell that she wasn't normal- four massive wings emerged from her back, resembling bright blue ice more than anything natural. Her body was split down the middle- kept open and preserved ever since the dissection hundreds of years ago.
Lucius stared intently at the creature's innards. Despite not visibly beating anymore- being preserved and suspended in stasis gel would do that- the tubes connected to the organ in the center of her chest kept pumping some form of glowing orange dust out of her system and down into the bowels of the machine she was hooked up to. Lucius knew exactly where that fiery dust was headed- into the core of the planet, where this creature's essence was imprisoned.
And now, for some reason, the people of this system were after the immense power.
Lucius felt that same vibration in his head. The creature was trying to speak to him. It still wasn't done talking.
Mysterious Creature: Scientist. How nice of you to finally visit after all these years. What has it been... a century and a half? Maybe two? How've you been?
Lucius: Silence, monster. I went into cryosleep for my own good. I'm your watcher, after all. Can't have you trying to break out with our entire race gone, after all.
Mysterious Creature: Why must you call me a monster? I'm a messenger from your creator!
Lucius: One who attempted to destroy our entire civilization. You almost did, actually. Credit where credit is due.
Mysterious Creature: The Coronid weren't sticking to the script! You were getting out of hand, evolving and advancing at far greater a rate than you were intended to. Good thing your people were so easily manipulated by religion back then. For such a scientific race, you sure didn't doubt the winged Coronid who fell from the heavens. What a bunch of dupes...
Lucius threw a tiny flare of plasma at the tank as an attempt to startle the creature. The body, of course, didn't move.
Mysterious Creature: Anyways, I'm so glad you went to sleep on me! Sure, it means that there was nobody to trick into letting out... But I got to spent a long time charging energy. One big boom and suddenly Coronite's at the other end of the galaxy! Shame I couldn't just break myself out. You were quite clever about that sealing system!
Lucius: Why did you bring the planet here, monster?! What is your goal?!
The psychic voice just laughed in his head. It was a cacophonic howl of pure chaotic laughter that would have disturbed him... if he hadn't been hearing it all throughout his cryosleep.
Mysterious Creature: You've met them! The humans- oh, excuse me, they go by Terrans now for some reason- they're ruthless! They're going to hunt down any source of energy and power they can find! They'll break me out of this planet even if it kills them... Oh, but of course, I can't forget the main event!
Lucius: ...What main event?
Mysterious Creature: Why would I spoil the fun? She may not come into play for years, but our creator has a very special plan in mind for someone here...
Lucius slammed the panel again and the voice vanished from his thoughts. The tank slid back into the depths of the laboratory as he speedwalked from the building. Along the way, he stepped in a puddle of liquid leaking from one of the info tubes on the ground. He shrugged it off, not stopping to worry about the loss of history.
A new history was about to begin.
Issue 5: Beginning of The End
Fera poked at BUNKR's still smoldering remains as the sun rose over the horizon. With the sun came a wave of sweltering heat that she knew from basic survival training would swiftly overtake the desert she found herself in. Another day of wasting away on this forsaken world...
She really did mean what she said the prior night, though. This wasn't right, and she needed to start devising a way to stop this conflict. How she would be going about this gargantuan feat, however, was beyond her. She was just one person, and the person who started this entire battle no less. She'd need something huge to stop the entire thing...
Suddenly, she heard what sounded like voices echoing from over a sand dune. More battlers. She followed her training to the best of her ability, ducking behind a rock and trying to overhear what they were talking about. It sounded a lot like... bickering.
Gargan: I told you we should have gone south! The sun's rising now and it's going to be in our eyes all day!
Raune: Me naloko... This way leads back to the biggest source of fresh water on the planet. We need that to keep on surviving.
Fera heard a weird beeping noise that sounded like malfunctioning technology.
Gargan: You said it. Alright, water's sounding good right now. Let's keep trucking.
Fera watched as a trio of people walked past her- a Vulkonian, a Gesinesan, and a Lillius. Weren't the Lillius pacifists? Why was one here? Regardless, she primed her spear and readied herself for a jump as they continued walking onward. Time to subdue them.
She leapt into the air, prepared to tackle the Vulkonian and hold him down with her spear and shield. Halfway through her descent, however, he must have noticed her, and he turned around swiftly to reveal a powerful-looking cyborg arm. Pulling a hidden lever, he launched his hand like a grappling hook towards her, hoping to snag her out of the air.
Thinking quickly, Fera slashed forward with her shield and tossed it aside. The hand grabbed onto the shield rather than her torso, leaving her descent uninterrupted; using the momentum from the toss, she began spinning around and smashed her target with a piledriver, knocking him clean to the ground. He tried to push her off, but she pressed down on him with her spear, using its weight to subdue him.
'The Lillius backed away with a small yelp as Fera held down the Vulkonian with all her might; he was down an arm from that grappling hook stunt earlier, but even still the two were evenly matched in strength. The Gesinesan lept toward her, sword in hand, and she had no choice but to roll to the side and hope to avoid his blow. She succeeded by the skin of her teeth, but felt herself immediately in the air again- the small, blocky warrior had summoned a huge platform from the sands and launched her skyward, without any control over her momentum.
She stuck her spear into an approaching sand dune in an attempt to halt her flight, but the sand was too fine to have the spear remain in place, and she simply slid down the dune as the other Heroes came after her. She readied herself to fight... then stopped in place. She didn't have any reason to fight them.
Gargan was the first over the hill, arm cannon primed and ready to fire at their assailant. To his surprise, she was standing there, spear at her side and arms raised in a gesture of surrender. Attacking him out of the blue, and then immediately giving up? Who was this girl-
She was the Terran. Crap.
Fera: Look, I'm sorry about jumping you. I thought you were actively looking for someone to kill.
Gargan: Self-defense, huh? Well, for someone who doesn't seem to want to fight, you sure did a really good job at it. You managed to catch everyone off guard and almost managed to overwhelm someone as buff as me. What's to say this isn't yet another trick?
Fera kicked her spear as far away as she could without moving her arms.
Fera: I don't want anybody fighting, frankly. I'm trying to end this stupid, pointless war as fast as possible. If you three have the same sentiment, I'm 100% willing to partner up with you if you guys want.
Partner up? This chick? As far as all the news said, she was the one who started all this...
Raune and Retron came up over the hill, the former looking concerned and the latter flailing his sword wildly in an attempt to combat the attacker. Gargan held up his hand to stop his diminutive friend's approach- they needed to give her a chance, at least.
Gargan: Name's Gargan. This is Raune and Retron. We're heading off nearby to get some water if you need anything.
Gargan reached out his hand in a show of peace. Fera eagerly accepted- after all this time on her own, she finally had the potential to make allies and end this entire feud. This was her chance.
Fera: Fera Madeleine Bolstar, at your service.
Fera sat around the watering hole with her newfound allies, splashing the ice-cold water on her face. Coronite's climate was one of the most confusing she had ever encountered; she was in a jungle right next to a desert, and yet the water welling up from the ground here was chilling and refreshing, almost as if it had been refrigerated. The whole planet just... felt off to her.
Gargan: So, run this by me one more time. You're trying to end an entire war by yourself with half the Solus System splintered into factions and fighting for supremacy. You had this planned before you found people willing to team up with you?
Fera: Pretty much, yeah.
Gargan: You are either the gutsiest woman I've ever seen or the stupidest. I'm in.
Raune: That begs the question, though. What exactly are we going to do to get everyone's attention and try to stop this? It's not like we can just send in a signal to the entire system at once.
Fera: True... But it'd go against my point to just beat everyone else on the planet, even if it's in an alliance.
Gargan: I'd be down for that, not gonna lie. You got the actual swolest guy on the planet right here and that'd be one mission he'd be down to do for ya.
Retron chirped happily as Gargan flexed his one organic arm. Raune dipped her leg-like root in the pool of water as Fera kept thinking about what she could potentially do.
Raune: What ever happened to that one crazy blond Terran guy? He was on the news everywhere. He got people's attention...
Suddenly, Fera flashed back to Lucius. She hadn't thought about that man ever since he was arrested... and she hadn't seen him or heard about him since then. What exactly had happened with him? Fera pulled out her communicator to attempt to ask someone on the other end.
Fera: Command? This is Bolstar. Please respond, I have an urgent query.
...Static? Nobody on the other end was responding at all, almost as if someone had cut the line. But that wasn't possible because there was no line to cut... Was there some sort of sabotage going on? Or did Command... No, they couldn't have.
Raune: What's wrong, Fera?
Fera: Command's not responding... Maybe later. Regardless, if that man isn't just a lunatic and actually came from this planet, which might be the case, there's potentially some old technology or civilization left on the planet-
Raune: That we can use to prove ownership! Nobody can fight over this territory if we can prove it's already inhabited! It'd violate Cataloger conventions!
Gargan cocked his mechanical arm in preparation.
Gargan: I saw what looked like a huge citadel in the snowy regions to the north flying in. That seems like a good place to start the hunt!
In an dark, craggy wasteland somewhere on Coronite, a large eight-wheeled vehicle rolled across the landscape. None of the threatening spires dotting the behemoth's surroundings seemed to bother it, as it simply rolled on down to the first flat plain it could find. Once situated, the doors of the hulking mech rolled open, as humanoid figures in heavy protective armor leapt out.
While some began scouting the nearby area, armed with the latest high-caliber weaponry, others began spray-painting various lines and circles on the ground. From the inside of the vehicle came more Terrans, carrying components for some form of strange device. With the painted marks as guidelines, the group of soldiers managed to quickly assemble what looked like a massive drill, with multiple slots on the sides for empty canisters.
With the press of a button, the drill began its slow descent into the depths of Coronite. The hard rocky surface cracked and split apart as the drill greedily seeked out whatever energy source existed at the planet's core. The war was not needed- the Terrans would simply conquer and take what they needed.
The creature sealed within the planet's core could feel it. Her body confined to the tank that Lucius had sealed her inside, she nevertheless began to slowly smile as she felt the drill pierce deeper and deeper into Coronite... It felt like a needle being pierced through her body, delivering her the boost of power she needed oh so very much.
Her siren song had worked perfectly. Finally, her ultimate goal was within her reach.
Issue 6: Reunion
Fera climbed up the steps to the snow-covered citadel, with Gargan leading the charge in front of her and the others behind her. The region sent chills down her spine, and not just from the incredibly low temperature... The entire place felt eerie, as if something invisible to her was staring through her very being. She couldn't back down now, though. They had to check out the citadel.
Finally, the group came up to the massive door to the mysterious alien palace, decorated with strange runes of an alien language none of them could decipher. Everything about the building just felt wrong.
Fera: I don't suppose anybody here reads Ancient Coronite Language?
Gargan responded by pulling a lever on his mechanical arm, which began humming with energy as it glowed bright red. A massive burst of plasma shot out of his palm, blowing a wide hole in the door. So much for preservation of culture.
Raune: I assume that the door read "Please Knock", then.
Fera prepped her weaponry as her allies did the same. Entering the imposing building's ebony halls, the two felt warmer as some sort of heating system activated, but that did little to counteract the intense chill the group felt from nervousness. Expecting the building to essentially be some kind of living quarters, they were shocked when they found the place filled with what looked like computers, with long lines of shelves filling the halls.
Raune: Is this some sort of... library?
Gargan: Ain't anything like any library I've ever seen. What library has bottles of yellow stuff instead of books?
He was right. No books or script of any kind to be found anywhere, simply rows and rows of tiny vials, filled with a pale yellow liquid. The lack of any familiar sights made the building feel far more alien than it should have.
But, then again, weren't they the aliens trespassing on this planet?
Guided by the pulsing lights moving them down the hallways, they came across what seemed to be the primary hub of the citadel. At first, it seemed to be nothing more than more computer consoles and shelves of tubes, but sitting in the room's center was another massive tube with something floating inside. The outside was so frosted over, however, that Fera couldn't make it out.
Gargan: Okay, this just got... infinitely more suspicious.
Raune: Could that be one of the natives? Cryogenically frozen for storage, perhaps?
Fera: Can't tell, but whatever it is, we need to investigate it. If we can prove there's still life here, then nobody can claim this land as their own anymore.
Fera cautiously stepped forward towards the large tank, each step growing more tense. Before she could touch her hand to the glass surface, however-
Fera was swiftly met with some form of hot blade directly to her neck. She glanced off to the side- it was Lucius once again, extending some sort of green energy blade from his hands. Raune, Gargan and Retron all reached for their weapons as Lucius increased the blade's intensity. Fera winced, but didn't dare move yet.
Fera: Well, if it isn't you again. I assume jail treated you well?
Lucius: Don't play dumb here. This is something far bigger than you could ever hope to comprehend.
Retron: *angry beeping noises*
Gargan: Yeah, what he said. Look, dude, we're trying to get people to stop fighting over this planet-
Lucius: Yet you all jumped at the bit to try fighting for it, didn't you? Your petty squabbling for the sake of power not only endangered countless lives who were sent to fight for a goal that doesn't exist, but soon, the entirety of the universe!
The entirety of the universe? Was Lucius really this psychotic? Fera tensed up again, aiming to get away from his blade.
Fera: Lucius, we just want to talk things out. Please put down the... laser sword thingy and listen to reason.
Lucius slashed his spare hand upwards at Fera, who dodged her head to the side to avoid both of the glowing hot beams. Rolling to the ground, she righted herself, taking defensive position behind her shield and aiming her spear forwards. Retron, seeing an opportunity, formed a pair of blocks around Lucius's feet to trap him in place; following his lead, Raune threw her staff forward in whip formation, grabbing his over-extended arm and pulling it back. Gargan revved up his arm in gatling mode as the five heroes stood silent, each waiting for their foe to make the next move...
Lucius took the first move, slicing downwards and contorting his back in an uncomfortable looking way to slash at the blocks holding down his feet. Gargan let loose with his rapid-fire barrage, but the alien seemed to simply slide around each bullet as if his body was moving in slow motion; yanking his ensnared arm towards his chest, he hurled Raune into Gargan's back. Fera, seeing a chance to retaliate, lunged forward swiftly with her spear, only to have it caught between Lucius's hands. Their eyes locked; Fera's full of determination, Lucius's full of what seemed to be fear.
Retron summoned a wall between the two, dividing the rivals and releasing Fera's spear from her foe's grasp. Seizing an opportunity, she jumped over the wall, shield held down below her like a snowboard. Though her intent was to crush him under her weight and prevent him from moving, he simply lifted his hand upward as it glowed with more green energy; in a shocking display of power, he simply hurled her over his head, shield and all. As Fera crashed to the wall behind him, she saw Lucius extend a blade in each hand once more, rushing towards Gargan for a double slash attack. Miraculously, his mechanical arm seemed to block the impact of the blow, and the Vulkonian returned the offensive by venting the arm's pressure regulation systems. A thick, scalding cloud of steam emerged from the ports and vents of the arm, causing Lucius to leap back while shielding his eyes.
Raune and Retron seized Lucius while he was stunned, ensnaring him in more vines and hardlight restraints wrapped around his torso and waist. Fera got back to her feet, retrieving her equipment as the alien blew his confinement off in another massive burst of plasma energy. Seizing her opportunity, she thrust forward once again, managing to slice the side of his head with the point of her spear.
Everything seemed to go silent as everyone was stunned, especially Lucius. Blackish blood ran down his scalp slowly as he turned towards Fera, his eyes full of a wild, manic fear that wasn't there beforehand.
Fera: Stand down. Now.
Fera thought she was doomed. That could've been the final thing she ever said. Her target was so powerful that he could've obliterated her on the spot. But he didn't. He just sort of... fell to his knees and held his wound. To her surprise, it started glowing a soft green as it began healing... but Lucius didn't fight back.
He started sobbing.
Lucius: Y- You can't do this.
Raune: What's wrong? Finally decided to listen to reason?
Lucius: I spent hundreds of years in cryosleep for the protection of the universe- centuries of enduring the nightmares and visions that were thrust upon me by what it is I needed to contain. All of this... so that nobody would need to go through what my people did.
Tears started streaking down his face. Fera, concerned, put her hand on his shoulder- as expected, he didn't respond to this physical interaction. She had always seen Lucius as sort of unhinged... but now, he was well and truly broken.
Lucius: And now... And now all of that's been for nothing. I couldn't save the universe after everything I tried to do.
Fera: Lucius, please tell us what you mean. Do you just not want people accessing the energy source at the core of the planet? Is it that important?
Suddenly, Fera began hearing strange cracking noises in the distance. Something was wrong... and the frosted-over tank in the room was making strange noises as bubbles rose from it, the figure within moving around ever so slightly.
Lucius: T-The core... It's no energy source. No prosperity will come from that... Only destruction. Pain. Anguish. Genocide.
Lucius got to his feet, still blankly staring ahead as he looked fearfully at the tank.
Lucius: The only thing inside this planet anymore is the monstrous demon that slaughtered my people.
After several hours of digging, the Terran drill managed to excavate a massive tunnel that pierced through the heart of the planet like a bullet driving through flesh. Once it hit the core, the squadron of scientists and military personnel that had been sent to the planet would descend in heat-barrier suits to examine what exactly the power source they had sought for so long was.
Gangue poured himself another glass of the same beverage he had been drinking last time he conversed with his Cataloger friend. San-Sokeh was certainly looking more... worried than last time.
San-Sokeh: My friend, do you not feel something wrong with this entire process? I feel as though we are unearthing secrets that should have never been released to the galaxy.
Gangue: Hah! You think there's something in there we shouldn't be playing with? Some... big, scary monster, perhaps?
San-Sokeh: No, not that. Think about this logically for a second. The Terrans extract the source of power from the planet's core through this drilling process. How does the introduction of this power source into the existing society we Catalogers spent years developing influence that?
Gangue made a face to indicate he was listening. He was not.
San-Sokeh: Introducing a new, incredibly powerful source of energy will unnaturally influence the way many races of the Solus system will evolve culturally for years. Technology beyond the bounds of sustainability will be developed that is reliant on- Wait, no! That is the issue! We do not know if this energy can be replicated or reproduced! This entire "Heroforce" project may have been in the vain hopes of a single deposit of this energy, the likes of which will never be found again!
It was official. The commander had lost the support of his adviser and friend in this quest for resources. Gangue simply chuckled in response.
San-Sokeh: What is so funny, Gangue?
Gangue: You say this like we're gonna be sharing this with anyone.
San-Sokeh: Wh-What? Gangue, you said this energy would be used for the betterment of the people of the Solus System-
Gangue: Oh, it will! The Terran- no, the human population is going to thrive under the prosperity that this energy source is going to bring. Everyone else can go screw themselves. We're the ones who've gone out of our way to take what we want instead of hiding behind this proxy war!
San-Sokeh: The war was your idea!
Gangue: Then it's their fault for not taking the initiative and going behind everyone else's backs like we did! Look, Sokeh- your kind talks a big game about how they're all high and mighty because they "made the Solus System", but you and I both know they still haven't dropped that nasty little slave-owner thing. It's at the core of your culture. I'm just trying to keep humanity intact within the Terran culture- what remains of a once-proud race of conquerors and rulers.
San-Sokeh: So that's it, then? Conquest and subjugation?
Gangue: What else would anyone use that kind of power for, my friend? Humans take what they want, even if that's everything. I wish Ms. Bolstar learned that and got with the program.
Gangue tapped away at his computer, with multiple camera feeds examining areas of Coronite. One previous video feed captured Bolstar conversing with what seemed to be a few more Heroes- a Gesinesan, Lillius, and Vulkonian. Humans didn't need to rely on others to accomplish their goals- Terrans did.
Gangue: Tell ya what, Sokeh. Stick with me through this, and the Lillius is yours.
He wasn't surprised when the Cataloger shut up. Guess they really couldn't shake those ancestral roots like the Terrans seemed to want to. Gangue pulled up the live feed from the drill; he had been informed the tunneling was almost complete.
What he didn't expect were the screams. Instead of the warm glow he expected to emerge from the tunnel, what looked like tendrils of swirling dust rose out of it like an awoken monster from a long-forgotten age. Equipment was hurled from the ground as the personnel on side were dragged into whatever maw existed down in the dark depths of the core. They really had been messing with something they shouldn't have this entire time.
Wasn't Gangue's problem.
Issue 7: Corona
Before Fera could ask what was going on, the huge glass tank began to shake. Fine cracks began to splinter through the frosted glass before it all crashed to the floor, cold liquids spilling everywhere as some creepy-looking body fell from its former holding container. It... looked human. Or rather, as human as Lucius did. There was something off about the creature's anatomy and proportions, not to mention the giant crystalline wings slowly shaking and shivering on its back.
Despite its stomach being sliced open, the naked feminine form slowly rose to its feet as if it were simply waking up from a long nap. The long tubes and wires embedded in its organs simply popped out, and trails of some dark red dust began falling out of her as if someone had punctured a sandbag. She opened her mouth to speak- her voice was like two different people speaking at the same time.
Mysterious Creature: *yawns* Morning, Lucius! Guess my plan worked out after all! I didn't think I'd get so cramped after all this time, though... Mind if I take a stretch before I-
She didn't even get to finish the sentence before Lucius plunged another glowing blade of plasma directly into her exposed organs. The fear in his eyes was gone, replaced with a searing, almost primal rage. Unfortunately for him, his target didn't seem to be phased at all.
Mysterious Creature: No love for old friends, huh? We spent years alone together and this is how you greet me?
Fera swung her spear up to the being's neck, ready to join in Lucius's assault if needed. Even with the differences she had with him, she could tell that whoever this woman was, she was far worse.
Fera: I am Fera Bolstar, member of the Solus United Military! State your name and just what in the universe you a-
Mysterious Creature: Oh, I'm sorry, but I think that I fall outside your jurisdiction, Little Miss Policewoman. Mom told me never to do what anyone says unless she agrees with it!
Fera: Who in the world is your-
Lucius: Fera! This creature isn't to be trusted! She manipulated my entire race- lead them slowly towards their death- then killed all of them! Corona must die here and now before she can do the same to the rest of this system!
Corona: Awww, Luci! I appreciate the compliments! Unfortunately, what I don't appreciate is someone getting in the way of my big moment after I spent hundreds of years trapped in some stupid containment core planning and setting things up, so... I'd like it if you could pull the blade out.
Gargan: Hey, if blades aren't your thing, try this.
With gritted teeth, Gargan fired his gatling on Corona at maximum velocity, the violent heat of the gun warming the frigid room swiftly. Fera noticed the gun was trained upwards, avoiding hitting Lucius or the exposed wound at all; instead, all the bullets were aimed square at her head, and every single one made its mark.
After a time, Corona stopped moving. Gargan ceased fire, letting Lucius finally release the blade and take a few deep, calming breaths. Fera put her spear down as more of the strange dust fell from her face. Everyone was silent for a second.
And then she started laughing again.
Corona: Boy, Luci! You sure know how to pick friends!
Corona flipped her head back up like a monster from a horror movie. There were massive gaping wounds in her face, pouring out more and more of the odd sand where blood would be on a normal being... The bullet holes, exposing the core of her head, were glowing with an demonic orange light. Despite her disfigurement and mutilation, she just kept smiling that creepy smile, which looked less and less like a recognizable expression with half her face blown off.
Suddenly, the red dust that had been piling on the floor stirred to life, forming a whirlwind of erosive particles around Corona before coalescing inside her. In a moment's notice, her body went limp, huge whip-like tentacles made out of the dust lashing from her insides as she smacked Gargan backwards. Lucius, without hesitation, fired another burning hot beam of plasma directly at her, striking straight through her body. Much like Gargan, the wound seemed to barely bother her, and she formed two demonic-looking blades out of the dust as she lunged towards him.
Without hesitation, Fera leapt in front of Lucius, shield raised to block Corona's blade attack. The clash of metal told her that she had done so, and in the slow-motion rush of adrenaline that followed, she turned back to look at the alien behind her.
This man... this scientist had done unspeakable things and lead to the instigation of a great battle with plenty of casualties. But the battle wasn't his fault... If they had listened to what he had said when he arrived, everything would probably be okay currently. Lucius was just trying to do the right thing.
Lucius seemed to get what she was thinking just from eye contact; the panic in his eyes melted back into determined resolve. It was time to put aside their differences for now and partner up.
Things were not going very well on the Corona front. With the initial blade attack blocked, she seemed bound and determined to break Fera's guard, pounding on her with massive amounts of quick tentacle jabs. When that didn't seem to work, the wisps of dust wrapped around her shield instead, aiming to pry it out of her hands. Lucius pushed back with another concentrated plasma beam, but all that intense heat didn't seem to deter Corona at all.
Lucius: Need a hand, my friend?
Fera: Nghh... Much obliged, Lucius.
Corona: This has been fun, everyone, but I have much bigger fish to fry, so if you don't mind... LEAVE THIS MORTAL COIL LEST YOU SUFFER MY WRATH FURTHER.
Raune: Not if we have anything to say about it!
As if waiting for a cue, Gargan leapt up into the air, firing his grappling hook at Corona's head and pulling it sharply backwards to distract her. Momentarily thrown off guard, the eldritch creature turned her dusty particles towards the Vulkonian instead of Fera and Lucius for just a moment. That was all it took.
On Raune's signal, Retron summoned a large hardlight cube and threw it directly into the open gaping wound of Corona's chest. Once lodged inside, Corona finally took notice that something was off.
Corona: What's this? A trick?!
Raune: Think of it as a gift.
With a flash of green light, Raune turned her healing staff towards... Corona? The familiar green glow flashed around their enemy as all of her wounds- the bullet holes, slash marks, and even the gaping chest void- sealed up in an instant. Fera was confused for a second... before she realized the flow of dust from Corona's body had ceased. In that moment, she didn't have any offensive potential.
Corona: What? No! No no no no NO! I've spent centuries trying to escape this cocoon and you seal me back up inside it?!
Gargan: Oh, relax! You didn't even open up your present yet! Hey, buddy! Do the honors!
With a happy beep, Retron snapped his fingers. In an instant, hardlight spikes shot out of Corona in every direction, piercing her sides, chest, and head. Just to make sure not a single piece of the dust escaped, the wounds were encapsulated in a seal around the spikes. Corona was downed, unable to regenerate or use whatever that dust was as a means of offense.
Everyone took a big sigh of relief, but Lucius seemed to take even greater joy in the vanquishing of what seemed to be his foe. He fell to his knees again, crying tears of happiness and turning to face everyone.
Lucius: I... I'm sorry your peoples have had to go through much hardship surrounding Coronite, but with the death of this foe, I hope that I can make the apologies you are owed... and that we can end this meaningless strife.
Fera extended a hand to help her new ally up from the ground. For the time being, his actions were forgiven... and what kind of Terran would she be if she didn't stand up for someone wanting redemption?
Fera: As a member of the Solus United Military, I'd love to take you up on that offer, Mr. Lucius.
Naturally, the touching moment was punctuated by Corona exploding violently.
Issue 8: Climax
In a split second, Corona's humanoid shape was torn to pieces, bursting into a cloud of red dust that hovered in the air like a swarm of flies before rushing out the nearest window in a serpent-like stream, smashing through the glass. Fera and the others chased after it as fast as they could, but before they reached it, the dust drifted off towards the horizon, where there seemed to be some strange orange glow.
Lucius: That light! Corona must be fully awakened by now!
Raune: So that lady in the tank wasn't Corona?
Lucius: No, just the vessel part of her. When Corona first came to our civilization, she appeared in the guise of a mythological figure, taking on a shape like ours but even more transcendent... That's what those wings were. Deep down, though, she was a hideous monster. We won't be seeing that, thankfully... Years of being trapped in the planet's core have dried up her essence and reduced her true form to nothing more than crumpling dust.
Gargan: Man, this thing just gets more complicated the longer we talk about it. Look, we need to go ASAP. This thing is even more dangerous now.
Fera: Agreed. Gargan, Raune, Retron... Lucius. You all together on this?
Everyone nodded to show their affirmation. The looks of determination on their faces gave her hope that they weren't afraid to do anything they could to take down this eldritch horror... and fear they might lose their lives in the process.
No, Fera thought. That's what I'm here for. I am their shield.
Was it hypocritical to essentially be putting her life on the line for those who were willing to give theirs up, just for the sake of protecting them? Probably. But she just felt that she needed to do that.
Besides, they could all be dead after this battle anyways.
Fera: Then let's do this! For the protection of all life in the Solus System, we cannot lose this battle! It ends here and now!
After some time, the quintet arrived in the craggy mountainous region that Corona's light seemed to be emerging from. A far cry from the frigid wastes that Lucius's citadel had resided in, this region was dry and rocky, yet it felt just as inhospitable to life. Before them reached a wide gap in the middle of the dying landscape, glowing with that same eerie orange light that Fera knew reached down to the depths of the planet. Floating just above the pit was Corona.
Or rather, what she assumed was Corona. Gone was any real physical form, with the monster now simply taking on the form of a massive sandstorm-like cloud of dust. It moved like a snake, swirling in and around itself in a grotesque and otherworldly manner, and at the center of it all was more glowing orange light that seemed to pierce into her like an eye. It was the single most repulsive thing Fera had ever seen... and to think Lucius had been fighting against this thing in cryosleep for centuries.
Fera had never seen anything like it. She was in awe, but she surprisingly wasn't scared at all. She simply thrust her spear forward as a gesture of challenge towards the monolithic dust swarm, prepared for what could be her final battle ever.
Fera: Hey! We aren't done with you yet!
Corona's voice echoed through her head as if speaking to her from all sides. It had dropped the feminine tones that she had heard before, now speaking entirely in guttural monster speech.
Corona: You're back?! Feh! Luci, you make some awful friends. I'm so glad I'm done with you!
Gargan: See, everyone?! Even as a giant ball of monster dust this b--ch is nothing but a whiny teenager! We've got nothing to be scared about!
Raune: Corona! We're not going to let you have your way and destroy the Solus System! We are here to show to you that we are strong enough to defend them from your wickedness!
Retron made an angry alarm noise while brandishing a giant sword that he had summoned, signifying his own willingness to fight.
Lucius: My people made the mistake of letting you bring about our end, thinking you were some divine being sent to bring about our salvation and ascension. Now, we are here to bring about your end before you can do the same to others.
Corona shifted and turned more violently than before, ready to unleash her power on the group. Fera readied her weapons, with her allies doing the same.
Corona: You dare attempt to strike me down? I am divinity! I was created for the sole purpose of purging impurity from the universe! Killing those like you is my sole reason for living!
Fera: Guess you just lost your living privileges.
Corona retaliated swiftly, spraying lashing tentacles of dust in every direction. Fera blocked two that made their way towards her, with both streams simply bouncing off her shield. Lucius and Gargan managed to weather the storm fine, but Raune and Retron found themselves thrown upwards into the air by the attack. Realizing that his gun wouldn't work on something like this, Gargan flicked a few switches on his arm as cold vapor began to run down it.
Fera stood behind her shield, poking at whatever pieces of the storm got close to her. As she suspected, it didn't seem to faze Corona at all; her attacks simply passed right through the dust. With a sudden bang, she saw a trail of blue smoke fire from Gargan's position, bursting open into a cloud of liquid nitrogen; the area around the blast zone froze solid, including all of the Corona particles caught in it. From their position high in the air, Raune threw her whip at Retron, spinning around in the air and launching him at full force towards the frozen area. Brandishing his immense sword, he sliced clean through the ice, causing the dust surrounding it to simply fall to the ground like harmless sand.
It was then that Fera noticed that there seemed to be sparks of energy running through the dust cloud; while the cloud was formless, the streaks of energy that flickered for just a few seconds seemed to actually maintain the swarm's shape and allow Corona to attack. If they specifically targeted these limbs, they could whittle Corona down to essentially nothing!
Fera leapt beside Gargan, piercing another frozen section of the swarm with her spear and severing it into multiple tiny chunks. Corona seemed to take notice of them, however, and her swarm began concentrating around them like a hurricane, slowly closing in. Lucius jumped in just in time, his hands glowing with intense plasma energy as he thrust them to the sides. With one word spoken in some unspeakable alien tongue...
The swarm was pushed back in an immense explosion, giving the group some breathing room. Gargan primed another ice missile, but didn't launch it, instead shoving his hand directly into the dust in a large arm sweep. Everything the vapor touched froze instantly, creating a massively wide streak of fragile ice. Gargan turned on his heel, making a 180 and finally releasing the primed missile towards the other end of the storm. Fera slashed through one end of the ice, while Lucius fired a plasma blast at the other, and in one fell swoop the hurricane dissolved.
Raune and Retron made their way to the trio, Raune's staff glowing with healing energy. Everyone was back in relative fighting form, and they had figured out Corona's weakness... but it seemed as though the supply of dust the monster had to make up its form was near endless. Visually, it seemed as through they had only made a small dent in it, and the enemy's gaze felt distinctly more aggressive than it had before.
Corona: I thought I told you to lay down and die! Guess the naughty people need their punishment!
Corona seemed to vanish entirely, the dust dissipating and scattering in every direction. Fera was alert, keeping an eye in every direction that her foe could come from... And then she was thrown into the air, a spiky tendril launching her skyward before grabbing her and slamming her back into the ground. Gargan primed another ice missile, but another tendril appeared directly behind him, preparing to stab him through the chest.
The tendril lunged forward in the blink of an eye, but before it could reach him, Retron appeared with a comically large blade and shield, deflecting the attack to save his friend. The two shared a look of brotherly companionship before Retron was blasted back by another tendril, as a third wrapped around Gargan's body and began growing more spikes. The Vulkonian let loose a guttural cry of pain and anguish that Fera had to cover her ears for.
She rushed in, weaponry in hand, to try to free Gargan from his prison, but was swept back by more of Corona's form, constraining her and forming tight bonds around her. She struggled to escape as she was brought closer to the glowing central core.
Corona: Oh, no, not you! Your fate is much greater than you understand, mortal. I certainly wished I had the authority to purge you from this world, but a being far more powerful than I has plans for you!
Fera: Hnnng- What do you mean?!
Corona: Don't worry! I'll just take out the aggression on your pathetic little allies here! That ought to cool me down enough for the meeting with Mother!
Corona continued her onslaught of her allies. Retron, who was just getting off the ground, was pulled back down by tendrils emerging from the ground, which pulled off the same spike trick as it had with Retron. A swarm of tentacles surrounded Raune, who began countering by summoning thick roots from the earth. The two sets of tendrils began jabbing at each other rapidly, but Raune's roots were quickly shredded by Corona's attack, and they all jabbed into her sides at once, causing her to let out another cry and drop her staff.
Lucius, doing his best to fire off more plasma and keep Corona's essence at bay, saw Fera trapped in Corona's clutches and rushed in to free her. As expected, he was smashed backwards by a heavy attack from the monster, crashing into the ground and leaving a crater at his impact site. The alien struggled to his feet, but was then tied down by more dust piercing into his sides, including a snare around his mouth to keep him from performing his ultimate attack again.
Corona's laugh echoed through Fera's head, preying on her shock and despair at seeing her friends beaten and tormented like this. She- she was supposed to protect them. She had failed at that one job, and now they were all going to die.
No. She wouldn't let that happen.
Something felt like it snapped inside Fera's mind. Her determination to save her friends and the Solus System grew even stronger in the dire situation they found themselves in, reaching a boiling point. She felt her heart beating faster, then slowing down to a crawl, her muscles hardening.
To Lucius, the only other person actually able to look at Fera, her transformation was even more drastic. It looked as though her entire body was turning pitch black, but what seemed to be a glowing orange aura matching Corona's grew around her. It seemed as though Fera actually did have one last trick up her sleeve...
Corona looked at her captive in the last few seconds before whatever transformation she was undergoing happened, her singular eye shifting from insane amusement to primal fear. In a single instant, Fera burst from the darkness surrounding her, a pulse of energy rippling through the air as a sharp noise echoed through the canyon, mimicking the sound of glass shattering. Her armor had transformed into a sleek, monochromatic suit radiating orange energy, and her helmet had vanished entirely, letting her hair float freely from the sheer amount of force she was giving off. She opened her eyes to glare at Corona; her irises and pupils had changed from their standard color to the same orange force surrounding her. This was not the same mere soldier that had been standing there moments before.
Corona: What in the name of-
Corona didn't even get to finish the sentence before Fera dropkicked her right in the central core, stunning her as the dust cloud temporarily dissipated. Fera fell to the ground, though Lucius could see that she was somehow floating just above the rocky surface. She rushed over to him as fast as she could, hoping to free him; though she had no weapon at first, she summoned what looked like a spear when she got up close, the mysterious weapon featuring a long curved blade rather than a standard tip. In a swift slash, she managed to sever the binding keeping Lucius down.
Lucius: *gasping* F-Fera... T-Thank you...
Fera: Don't thank me yet, Lucius. We still have a job to do.
Fera's next target was Raune, carving her out of her confinement and handing her staff back to her in order to help the injured Lillius stand up. With Raune in charged of healing everyone back to fighting condition, Fera took care of Gargan and Retron's bindings as well. In a flash of Raune's light, everyone found it easier to breath and move around. They were back in this, but they would need a plan to actually finish Corona off for good.
Fera: Gargan, we need to target the core. Those ice missiles can sever the connection it has to the rest of the body, but Corona will be able to fight at top condition until we either hit the core or get rid of the entirety of the body.
Gargan: Got it, but more importantly what happened to you?!
Corona began reforming behind them, spiraling multiple tendrils together to form what looked like a drill. In record-breaking speed, the spiral lunged towards Fera's back- and was swiftly deflected. A massive barrier floated in the air in front of Fera's outstretched hand; somehow, she had reacted to the attack within seconds. She turned back to the group and smiled.
Fera: I just... got a little extra motivation, I guess.
Everyone was floored by Fera's sudden growth, but nobody was complaining. This was their chance to finish the job.
Raune: I'll stay on healing duty! I want to defend you guys too!
Gargan: Okay, beepy, pretty boy, cover me while Fera does her thing. I have an idea.
Retron chirped happily while Lucius looked insulted, before switching his tune and chuckling to himself. It almost looked like he was feeling nostalgic... Regardless, Fera needed to get back into action soon. She could sense Corona preparing her next attack.
Fera summoned a pair of the same bladed spears, wielding them as if it was something she had been doing her whole life. Corona, her attention focused entirely on Fera, began jabbing at her from all sides with attacks, but Fera took the defensive, spinning her weaponry in large circles at incredibly high speed. Though her attacks did nothing to separate the dust from Corona's nervous system, it managed to slice through the body at high enough speeds to prevent its approach, forcing the monster to try again.
Lucius had gone on the offensive as well: any time Corona tried taking potshots at someone else, he simply countered it with a concentrated beam of plasma. Raune was keeping everyone's stamina up, letting Fera and Lucius defend non-stop; meanwhile, Retron was simply giving words of encouragement to Gargan, who was frantically fiddling with buttons and valves on his arm.
Corona had had enough of this nonsense. Winding up the whole of her being into a giant drill once more, she lunged at Fera with an attack she believed too big to counter. To her surprise, Fera retaliated by summoning what looked like almost a hundred spears, tightening them into a spiral of her own to counteract Corona's strike. The two stared each other down as they wrestled for power, both seemingly evenly matched.
Corona: This! This must be what Mother meant! Oh, this passion! This determination! This sweet, succulent drive! I can't believe that our plans have almost come to fruition! HahahaHAHAHAH!!!
Fera: Shut up! I don't know what's going on with you or this "Mother", but I do know this! You're a threat to the innocent people of this system, and it's my job to make sure you can't harm anybody!
Corona: What a coincidence! I've been told YOU idiots are the threat here! Guess we aren't so different then, huh?
Fera: I mean, I protect people and you kill them. Either way you slice it, that's significant enough of a difference.
Corona: SHUT UP AND STAND DOWN!!! I can't kill you, you know?! I'm supposed to make sure you're alive for Mother and all that! But that doesn't mean I can't bring you to an inch of your life!!
Fera: Oh yeah! There's a difference too!
As if on cue, Gargan finished working with his arm. The mechanical limb hissed and let out a great burst of cold vapor as he aimed the limb up towards Fera, launching it with a single flex of his upper arm. With all of the ice missiles primed, the disembodied limb flew up to Fera, who caught it in her hands. Despite all of her extra strength, she still felt the intense sting of the cold object in her hands, making her timing all the more important.
Fera focused the spiral of spears into a more refined point, drilling inside of Corona's own drill. In another split second, her barrage of weaponry opened up into a massive cone, temporarily opening up her adversary's vulnerable core.
Fera: You've been sleeping on the job! That's no way for a soldier to act!
In one mighty toss, Fera threw Gargan's arm directly into the core. The object exploded on contact, releasing an even larger burst of ice that quickly enveloped Corona's being. Her screams grew ever louder in everyone's heads, but slowly died down to nothing. Fera knew she had to finish the job; calling upon one final, gigantic spear, she sliced the core in half. Lucius, seeking his revenge, dealt the final blow, snapping his fingers and generating a burst of plasma that blew Corona into tiny, minute pieces.
The glow emanating from the gap before them died down. Corona had successfully been slain.
Fera reverted to her normal armor in a flash of light, no longer powered by a will to fight and exhausted from the climactic encounter. Everyone seemed to share the same feelings; though everyone seemed tired, they had smiles on their faces, relaxed in knowing the war and violence was over. Lucius, especially, seemed to finally be happy for once, his people having been avenged.
She really had saved everyone.
On that note, as if being struck down like a chain of dominoes, everyone began collapsing from exhaustion. First it was Raune, then Retron, then the armless Gargan, and finally Lucius, who shared one last thankful look with Fera before resting. She took a look around her environment, settling down on a nearby rock, and nodded off with the rest of her newfound comrades.
At long last, it was over.
Issue 9: Checkmate
???: Wakey wakey! C'mon, ma'am, I really need you to get up!
Fera rose from her slumber as if it was just getting out of bed like normal. As to be expected, it wasn't. Gone was the rocky outcroppings and giant chasm, having been replaced with what looked like a great starry sky and strange celestial-looking floor. Even stranger was what seemed to be a gigantic crack in the air nearby, looking into a strange golden vortex.
It quickly dawned on her that none of her friends were there with her. In fact, nobody was except a strange blonde woman in purple robes with large horns. Immediately, she assumed a kidnapping. She rose to her feet and threw a fist, only to have the woman seemingly fade out of existence and appear slightly to the side.
???: Oh, great! You're up! I'm glad nothing bad happened in that fight with the fairy.
Fera: Where on Terra am I?! Where are the others?
???: The others are back on the planet where I picked you up. As far as I'm aware, they're completely safe and sound! You should feel great! You guys beat something that few in the universe have actually succeeded in fighting against!
Fera was more confused than angered now. She needed to figure out where she was and what had happened to her.
Fera: Okay, first off, who are you? Are you this "Mother" person Corona talked about?
Nyxiel: Oh, sweet Inversim no! My name's Nyxiel, and if anything, I'm trying to get rid of "the Mother"! I'm what you might call a yokai, you see-
Fera: Alright, no tangents. Where am I?
Nyxiel: *sigh* The edge of what we call the Pyroverse. This is the farthest reach of existence for us, and I brought you here to discuss a lot of important matters. Fera, this might be a lot to take in, but you've just become one of the most important individuals in our universe.
Pyroverse? What was this woman going on about?
Nyxiel: Okay, first I need to explain some major rules about how our universe works. The "Mother" that you heard about from the fairy is Tiera. She's the entity that created the entirety of the Pyroverse over the remains of some old, dying one. Basically, she's a background dictator who influences all of evolution in this universe. If something doesn't turn out how she likes, bam. She sends in a fairy and that leads to the extinction of that entire world.
Fera: Okay, stop. You're telling me that the creator of the universe wanted Lucius's people dead? Do you know how insane you sound right now?
Nyxiel: You got any other explanations? The Coronids were getting dangerously close to understanding what Drive was, and Tiera wanted them dead.
Fera: And now we have a new buzzword.
Nyxiel: Oh, Drive is so much more than a buzz! It's... how can I describe it? Drive is the will to fight, the motivation to grow stronger and improve yourself, the determination to fight against that which oppresses you... It's essentially fighting spirit manifested as a form of energy. Every living thing in this universe runs off of it, and in some cases, can manifest it when sufficiently motivated to accomplish a goal. That's what your power boost in that fight back there was! Your Drive to save your friends manifested as some kind of ultimate form!
This nonsense was almost too much to take in... yet Fera knew this was all real. What else could explain her miraculous transformation? The surreal, uncanny nature of Corona? Everything that had happened to her now? In her heart, she knew Nyxiel wasn't lying... and yet she had to wonder...
Fera: So what's this whole thing about me being super important, then?
Nyxiel: Yeah... so it turns out that you might have the highest concentration of Drive in the entirety of the Pyroverse's history. My dad and I don't know what seems to have caused it, but we think it might be tied to your genetics on top of your personality and upbringing. You are in essence, the perfect cocktail to create Drive. And that's what Tiera wants.
Fera: She wants Drive?
Nyxiel: She needs Drive. She's been around for millennia, and her body is decaying. Her power is waning, and she's only able to carry out her desires through proxies like the fairies. Tiera cannot create Drive, and as such, despite her will to exist, her body is not motivated to. You know why Corona didn't want to kill you? The fact that you have so much Drive means you're the perfect vessel for Tiera- her mother- to inhabit and regain her powers.
Fera couldn't move out of shock. She stared down at her hands, knowing for the first time that she was looking at a body that apparently the creator of her universe desperately wanted to get her hands on. She felt scared, furious... and determined to keep herself out of harm's reach. For the sake of everyone, she couldn't let herself fall into Tiera's clutches.
Fera: So... So how do we combat this?
Nyxiel: Currently? We only have one option.
She gestured towards the glowing golden crack behind her.
Nyxiel: It took a lot of effort and power, but I managed to crack open a seam into a pocket dimension. Perfectly peaceful, no conflict. And once you go through, Tiera won't be able to track you down. It'll be a safe haven for you until the time comes when it's safe for you to rejoin the battle. It means she can't use your body... or its power... to harm anyone.
Fera: I get it. Leave the battlefield for the sake of everyone. After all this conflict, I'm more than willing to-
Nyxiel: There'd be a cost though.
Nyxiel pulled a small purple object from the ether... It looked like a strange fusion between an insect and a flash drive. Fera then immediately assumed its function just based on thinking about the latter object.
Fera: That's a Drive inhibitor, isn't it?
Nyxiel: Sadly, no. This is a memory inhibitor.
Nyxiel: Tiera's power is great. If you were to concentrate too hard about her or elements of the reality she created, her connection to your Drive might lead her to seek you out. For the safety of the universe, we need to blank most of your memories. The general stuff would be there, of course, as well as muscle memories, but a lot of the events of your life would vanish... as well as your knowledge of how to use Drive to access that Ultimate Form.
But she'd forget everyone that she'd known her whole life. Her parents, Teryx, Kobol, Xyzor, Raune, Gargan, Retron... and Lucius. The people she had come to know and admire would all be gone. There was a very real chance that she'd never see them again. She sniffled back a tear- all of this coming at her at once was overwhelming.
Nyxiel: Oh! No, no, please! We- I can make some other plan if you need it! Oh Inversim, I didn't think this would be as much of a concern as it was! Maybe Stark was right-
It was then she realized that it was for those people that she needed to go along with Nyxiel's plan. All the people she was so concerned about would need her vanishing in order to stay safe... The fate of everything was at stake.
Fera: No. I've decided... Give me the inhibitor.
As Fera made peace with her decision, Nyxiel lined her up with the glowing crack and shoved the inhibitor into the base of her skull. The object jacked immediately into her brain, burrowing under the skin and leaving nothing but a small wound. Fera instantly felt the pressure, and soon started to feel woozy and strange as the inhibitor did its work. With Nyxiel's help, Fera walked directly into the shining crack and into the start of what was effectively a new life.
Fera rubbed her head, trying to ease the pain she felt at the back of her skull. Everything surrounding her was an intensely bright light, as if she had been hit with the full power of the sun. Her body felt weirdly cold, and her head had pulses of pain and sensation pulsing through it over and over...
Then, as she slowly opened her eyes, everything faded into a soft, dull, emptiness. She was sitting down on the sidewalk, staring up at the apartment building beside her. It was... hers, right? The sounds of the bustling city around her shook Fera back to full consciousness. She brushed off her tank top and jogging pants, getting the dust off of her after what seemed like a tumble- and then she saw the woman in front of her.
Fera: Are you alright?
Fera helped the woman up off her feet, pulling her off the ground. A blonde with glasses, wearing light, casual clothes, seemingly just out for a stroll of some kind before she... presumably bumped into her. Fera's head still wasn't working right, but she could have sworn the woman blushed a little when they locked eyes.
???: S-Sorry about all this! I didn't see you, I guess I wasn't looking-
Fera: It's okay, please don't worry, Ms...
???: Lotus, ma'am. I was just walking to get some... some... ugh...
Fera noticed that Lotus's head was bleeding. Whatever she had done must've been harder-hitting than she expected.
Fera: Come with me, Lotus. We need to get that head of yours looked at.
Lotus: Wuh? O-Okay!
Fera wrapped her arm around Lotus's shoulder, leading through the apartment building doors and taking her to her place where some medical supplies would hopefully be. She felt her own head clearing up, bits and pieces of assorted memories being returned to her and reconstructing her life. Of course, this was all the doing of the Drive Inhibitor embedded in her skull, but she didn't know that. At the moment, the woman was noticing even more of a blush on Lotus's cheeks, a nervous expression as she held Fera's hand tightly.
Fera smiled. Something told her that even though she didn't really know where she was or what she was doing, she was in good hands.
Lucius was abruptly woken by a slap to the face. It had been a long time since he had actually been able to sleep peaceful without Corona's voice in his head messing with him- it was a shame that he had to wake up so soon. The one who slapped him turned out to be Gargan, who looked surprisingly tense...
It took a second for Lucius to stand up and recognize that he was surrounded by a battalion of what appeared to be Terran soldiers. They had armor resembling Fera's, but with a cold blue coloration replacing the vibrant orange and firearms to accompany their shields rather than spears. Behind him, Raune and Retron stood wielding their weaponry in defiance of the armed people surrounding them. Nobody seemed to know why these soldiers were here on Coronite, but they knew they were in danger. Gargan was down an arm and everyone else was exhausted, but they had just beaten Corona. Surely they could-
Almost instantly, the soldiers trained their weaponry of the group. Caught by surprise, everyone took a few hits before Retron surrounded the group in a protective hardlight bubble. The firing squad didn't seem to give up, and their bullets were wearing down the shields faster than Corona seemed to.
Lucius: Why are these people here?!
Gargan: Shrahk if I know! I just woke up with a gun barrel to my face and these people were here!
Raune: I thought the contractual agreement of this battle was that it would be only Heroes fighting amongst each other! Squadrons of soldiers should not be here!
Retron let out a desperate beep as the barrier shattered and he collapsed to the ground, tuckered out. Gargan rushed in, scooping him up in his one remaining full arm and rushing towards the enemy ranks with a heavy tackle. While he distracted them, seemingly undeterred by the number of shots hitting his body, Lucius summoned some spheres of plasma as Raune pulled up some additional roots for cover. It felt like no matter how much they fought back, they didn't manage to put any sort of dent in the forces facing against them.
It was then, with a startling crack, Raune's staff was shot through by a sniper hidden off on some cliff. She yelped in shock as the roots she had been controlling with the healing tool dried up almost instantly- the cover they once provided was torn through as Lucius and Raune were struck by many more projectiles, bringing them to their knees. Off in the corner, Gargan had been beaten into submission already, with large metallic seals being wrapped around his torso and arms to restrain him.
Raune: ...Garg... an... Please...
Lucius: *panting* 🝎🝗-
Before he could speak the words that would let him pull off the devastating technique he needed to save everyone, Lucius was hit in the back by the very same sniper, the shot piercing through his chest and bringing him to his knees. He was still alive, but he knew he wouldn't be if he took one more shot.
After everything they had done to save the universe, this is where they ended up.
The squadron stopped firing as a slow clap echoed throughout the dusty canyon. Parting the sea of bodies, out stepped a small Terran man in heavy protective gear, clapping patronizingly towards the fallen quartet. Accompanying him was some strange, crustacean-like being in what resembled clerical robes, a somber yet determined expression on his blank face. The Terran examined his surroundings, scowling.
Gangue: So, that blasted Bolstar turned traitor, eh? Allying with a bunch of scum like you, doing who knows what to the people stationed here, and above all else... DESTROYING THE ENERGY SOURCE EVERYONE WAS RISKING THEIR LIVES OVER! That wench is officially an enemy of the state! If she were here, I'd have her executed now!
It was only then Lucius realized that Fera wasn't there with them. He looked all around him- there were no signs of her anywhere. Could she have ratted them out? No, he didn't believe she would do that. She wouldn't be an enemy of her people's military if that was the case. That just begged the question; where did she go?
Lucius was hit in the head again with someone's gun and knocked over. When he woke up, the two commanders were looking directly at him.
Gangue: Oh ho ho... So it's you. You were supposed to be waiting out this war in a cell, my friend.
Lucius: If it's all the same, sir, I'd prefer to not sit around while fools fight over my rightful home.
The Terran just laughed.
Gangue: Your home, eh?! Well, don't worry! We'll be leaving this hunk of rock soon enough since you idiots destroyed the one valuable thing on it.
San-Sokeh: Gangue, calm yourself. The loss of Coronite's energy is a grave one indeed, but do not forget that we also managed to find the technology of whatever people once dwelt here. Your plans are not forfeit just yet.
Gangue: That's true... But still, the war criminals we have before us need to receive their punishment. Destruction of valuable human property and the deaths of the research crew we sent here should earn you plenty of prison time, if not death.
Lucius: We didn't kill those people... and besides, you're the ones invading on territory that isn't yours...
Gangue slapped Lucius across the face, only to be immediately retaliated by having a chunk of wood thrown at him from somewhere. Both Lucius and Gangue turned to face the origin point: Raune, now struggling to stand up.
Raune: *panting* I was told by a friend once that they sent him into dangerous situations against his will because they saw him as inferior. This is what I see in you right now... A man who believes that he is able to take what he wants without consequence because he sees others as inferior. Am I correct in assuming this is your belief system?
San-Sokeh: And who are you, child?
Raune: I am Princess Raune of the Lotisid Kingdom, current priestess and regent of the Lillius people. But more importantly, I am friend and ally to Fera Bolstar, the one who risked her life leading the charge against a being that very well could have destroyed the entirety of the Solus System. She saw us all as equals, working together for a common goal; the betterment of everyone's lives. She fought against the spirit of those who ruined the life of my friend and those who would bring despair to others. She fought against those like you.
Steadiness returning to her, Raune's posture grew taller and her face more determined. San-Sokeh seemed to tense up.
Raune: Gangue! You have overstepped your boundaries in a mad quest for power. I haven't even known you for that long and you reek of someone who thinks of naught but stepping on the backs of those he thinks weaker than him! It is for this reason that I will spread the word to my people... you must be...
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, San-Sokeh ran at Raune with startling speed, lunging at her with a claw strike that seemed to burst with a bubble of light. She was knocked over, only to be picked up again by the Cataloger, lifting her up with one arm and examining her face with the other.
San-Sokeh: You may bear the title of regent, but you are no leader. The Lillius have no leader. They exist to serve us.
Raune: *gasping* Please... let go...
San-Sokeh: Your kind were bred from the origins of the universe to be subservient to the Catalogers. Your very existence is that of inferiority. While you claim your independence from us...
The Cataloger turned to face Gangue before looking back at Raune, a strange expression coming over his face. It was almost disturbing.
San-Sokeh: Some traditions can never be broken. Your place is under me, princess.
Raune struggled further as Lucius tried reaching for her, only for Gangue to step directly onto his hand with intense force. The old man starred directly at him, a sinister expression creeping over his visage.
Gangue: Any final words before we haul you three worms off to prison where you belong?
Lucius looked up and noticed what looked like a six-fingered hand on the commander's neck... It almost looked like a tattoo. Distant memories of the time when his people were still alive came back to him- and visions of the same symbol plastered all over their cities when Corona was still influencing them. He simply smirked.
Lucius: Tell your "Mother" that her reckoning is coming.
Corona crawled out of the broken machinery at the core of the planet. Or, at least, what was left of her. Somehow, Luci and those idiots had actually managed to beat her, reducing her to a small wisp of energy and just a few particulates of dust. They had deprived of her of most of her power, so much so that she wouldn't be able to recover for another 5,000 years. But she was alive, and that was what mattered.
Then she realized that Mother might check in on her. What would she do? Corona had spent centuries in stasis waiting for her plan to come to fruition, and now it would be for nothing! Ohhhh, she was in trouble...
???: And just where are you going, Corona?
Within a nanosecond, she was there. She took on the form she did when residing outside of her home in the universe's core, one suited to dealing with those that worshiped her. Her body was sculpted to perfection, her form befitting that of a goddess, but there was an underlying uncertainty and unease that pierced through the beauty she radiated. The palms of her hands contained radiant eyes, pieces of her statuesque body had crumbled apart and were leaking celestial flame, the pleasant face one would expect of a mother was naught but a blank void with a terrifying gaze, and her torso was broken up into a growth of crystal that resembled the maw of a hungry beast. She was beauty and terror incarnate.
She was Tiera, Mother of All Creation.
Tiera: Flattery will not get you anywhere, Corona. Now, tell me, why is it that you haven't contacted me in hundreds of years?
Corona: M-Mother! I-I didn't expect to see you here! Did I mention you were looking lovely today?
Tiera: *sighs* Look at you, reduced to barely a sliver of consciousness. Looking around, I would have assumed that the task I assigned you to perform would have been accomplished. You successfully exterminated the Coronid blight, one of the last viruses infesting my galaxy and the fate I have ordained for it. Yet here you are, not in a regenerative state and reduced to your final breath. Explain yourself, daughter.
Corona: I apologize, Mother! I was captured by the last surviving Coronid, sealed alongside him for the centuries in which I have not been able to hear your voice. It has only been recently that my full form has been able to emerge from this prison where I was-
Tiera: You let the Coronid live?! I crafted you for the very purpose of exterminating them! Not once has a Fairy failed in their divinated task of exterminating a race... save Aria and Naga. Oh, your poor sisters... They fought valiantly in their efforts to purge the humans for me. A blank canvas with which to create the perfect being, ruined in the only failures a Fairy has had before... I am glad I decided to give up on that pet project. Mosaic's success in wiping out the humans has taken great strides in easing the pain of the failure that they were.
Humans? Oh no, no, no... The girl with the Drive. She was-
Tiera: She was what, now? Corona, you claim to have encountered the Host I have been seeking for so, so long?!
Corona: Y-Yes, Mother! B-But, the thing is-
Tiera: She is human.
Corona nodded somberly- at least, as best she could. Tiera's blue body shifted to a violent white as she uttered a growling screech that sounded like the deafening silence of a black hole. Corona just backed up from the brilliant light emanating from her Mother.
Tiera: The pathetic race shown to me in a long-forgotten dream, created on a mere fanciful whim... They slayed Aria, the deceiver who was bested by an emotionless golem, Naga, a vicious predator destroyed by primitive avian lifeforms with nary any knowledge of what they faced, and Mosaic, a being equipped with a near-endless army of creatures with which to wage war! Three times, a Fairy was forged in the perfect manner to exterminate their race, and each time they failed! And now, millennia later, they remain in this universe, ending the existence of other agents of my will?!
Corona: Not just that! The Host? They're gone.
Tiera: Do not lie to your Mother, Corona! Even if she is human, the Host is the one opportunity I have to regain the powers that have been waning for so long now- to find the Drive I cannot possess!
Corona: No, I'm serious! I felt the immense amount of Drive she gave off, and that's just gone now! She's not even dead, I would still sense that level of energy somewhere in the universe! The Host is-
In a split second, the remnants of Corona's body were floating off the ground into her Mother's outstretched hand.
Tiera: So because of your failure, my greatest hope for attaining my true power is gone beyond even my power. Your loss to the Host has potentially brought about the end of my creation.
Corona: M-Mother, please!
Tiera: A daughter that disappoints her mother needs punishment.
In the simple crush of a hand, Corona's essence was siphoned away into Tiera's body, leaving nothing of the sentience that was there a moment before. Tiera simply sighed as her body toned back down to deep blue, more tiny cracks forming across her body.
This universe was hers, yet corruption and infestation seemed to go awry. Beings evolved and grew beyond the scope that she had meant for them to, and when things grew too problematic, a Fairy would swoop in and destroy their civilization, setting the stage for Tiera to restart their growth. No matter how hard she tried, things grew out of her control, and after so long, her body had lost the Drive to create, to inspire, to keep balance.
And now, the ultimate Host, the being throughout all of history most filled with Drive, was beyond her grasp.
Tiera: Accursed humans... Well, if I cannot have the perfect vessel to contain my spirit, I suppose I must settle for the inferior option...
Lucius had been confined into a cell on Terra, just like how he began his excursion into the world he had found himself in. Not just any cell, though- they had seen what he was capable of with the last cell, and under Gangue's direct orders, had been placed in the highest security vault they had access to. A giant cube with walls of red lasers that would slice him on contact, suspended over an airlock that they had the option to open any minute, and all the while, they had his arms and mouth sealed with metal and chained to the center of the cell. Clearly, they didn't want him escaping again.
It had been days since he had seen Gargan, or Raune, or Retron... and he still had absolutely no clue what had happened to Fera. He was beginning to fear that something awful had happened to them. In his position, however, there was nothing he could do.
Unable to express his frustration through any other method, he began crying.
Nyxiel: C'mon! Don't give up hope just yet! I really need ya for this!
Lucius looked up, startled by the mysterious voice that seemed to come from nowhere. Suddenly, he heard the sound of machinery creaking and bending, and he looked around to see that the arms lifting the cell over the airlock were now in the process of being absorbed by some strange dark portals. Sirens sounded and the room flashed with red warning lights as someone triggered the release system. He braced for his impending death... only to realize that the portals were suspending the cell in the air either way. Someone was breaking him out.
A puff of shadow flashed before Lucius's eyes- he could've sworn he had just blinked, yet before him stood a strange horned woman in purple garb. Her expression seemed confident, but behind that was what seemed to be stress and urgency. In a snap of her fingers, Lucius's bindings dissolved.
Lucius: My lady, I greatly thank you for your assistance, but I have to ask-
Nyxiel: Nope! Sorry, we have no time for asking questions. We're on a time crunch here!
Lucius: What exactly is going on? Why are you breaking me out?
Nyxiel: I'm breaking all of you out. You and your friends! I already got Fera to a safe location, but I need all of your help to-
Lucius grabbed Nyxiel by the shoulders, his mind a cross between concern and joy.
Lucius: Fera's alive?!
Nyxiel: Yes, very much so... But you may not be able to see her for a long time. I promise, it's both for her own safety and that of the entire universe. I promise she is unharmed and chose to do this of her own accord. Now, will you come on and leave or not? We've got more people to rescue!
Leaving everyone behind in order to be the shield for the whole of reality- it seemed staggering to his scientific mind, but deep down, he knew that was just what Fera would do. Wherever she was, he knew that he would see her again someday. Granted, if what this woman was saying was true, then the entirety of the universe as at stake now.
The doors burst open as another battalion of armed soldiers burst into the room, guns at the ready. Without hesitation, Lucius took the woman's hand as she opened up another portal.
Lucius: I'm coming with you.
Nyxiel: Now that's what I like to hear! Let's go!
The two slipped into the dark gate and vanished entirely, no trace remaining. It seemed as though the adventures these Heroes had gone through... were not quite yet complete.
Cast listed in order of appearance.