June 3, 2054
Everyone called him “Nate”. His parents had christened him Ignatius Conrad Miller, because his father had been cursed with a common moniker. The year his father had come into the world, Liam had been the most popular name for boys. Growing up, whenever Nate complained about his name, his father would say, “Well, at least you never had to sit in a class with four other kids with the same name as you.”
Then again, Nate had never gotten to sit in a class at all.
It wasn’t until this exact moment that Nate actually understood how his father felt. It had taken him seventeen years to fully comprehend what had possessed his father to bequeath unto him the name Ignatius. Now, as he held his son for the first time, Nate found himself overwhelmed with a desire to give his son a better life.
The soft knocking on the wall couldn’t make him tear his eyes away from his son. “Got a name picked out?” There was no mistaking the Old Man’s voice: he was quiet, and perpetually sounded winded.
Nate nodded. “Jude. Kubi and I wanted to… After…” He started to choke up.
The Old Man understood. “Jude would be honored, Nate.”
“He should have been here.”
Nate raised Jude up and gently kissed the top of his head. He heard the Old Man’s shuffling walk as he slipped through the threshold and into the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the candles’ flames flicker as the Old Man passed. “How’s Penny doing?”
“She’s fine,” Nate said, smirking. The Old Man was the only one who could call her that without evoking her wrath. To everyone else she was Kubichek—or Kubi to the father of her child. Nate had frequently wondered if she would consider taking his name when they got married.
Of course, he would have to have to pop the question first.
The Old Man nodded. “I remember when her meemaw gave birth to our boy—Penny’s uncle.” Without looking at him, Nate could tell the Old Man was beaming with pride as he thought back to his youngest child. It would be a bittersweet smile: the Old Man had survived his wife and all three of their children. “Weeks later, she was still wiped out.” He used the wall to guide his creaking bones to the floor, so that he could sit beside the liter his granddaughter rested on.
Nate looked up and smiled as the Old Man reached out and lightly brushed his granddaughter’s cheek with an old and gnarled hand.
Minutes passed by in silence. Eventually, footfalls echoing down the hall reached his ears, heralding the doctor’s return. As she entered the room, Nate found himself holding his breath. He felt guilty: if it hadn’t been for them—for Nate and Kubichek needing someone to deliver Jude—Atlanta Curie would have been on the battlefield, where she belonged. She would argue that she was happier treating the infirm and injured, but there was no denying that her abilities made her a great asset out there.
Though didn’t look much older than Nate, Atlanta was closer to the Old Man’s age than she was the teenager’s. She was immortal: Nate had personally seen the blonde woman killed twice, and each time, she was back on her feet within minutes. She didn’t age; she didn’t get sick—as far as he knew, nothing could kill her.
There was more to her than that, however: while she wasn’t as impervious as Connor, or as fleet of foot as Nate, or as mighty as Leo, Atlanta was stronger, faster, and tougher than the average person. She was a human wrecking ball, and she belonged on the frontlines with the rest of their family.
“Has she woken up?” the physician asked.
“No,” Nate said quietly, keeping his head down.
“Hello, Atlanta,” the Old Man said. “You look well. How’s the family?”
Nate had almost forgotten: Doctor Curie wasn’t just close to the Old Man’s age—she was his age. They’d gone to school together; they’d graduated together from the New Vindicators Academy.
Though he’d never been there himself, his parents had often told him stories about that place: it was a school in New York—one Neo-Sapiens came from every corner of the world to attend. Other Neo-Sapiens taught them things normal kids were learning: calculus, history, British literature, Latin… but the students of the New Vindicators Academy also learned how to use their powers to protect themselves and their families.
That was the only thing Nate could relate to: for as long as he could remember, he had been learning how to use his powers to survive.
Atlanta smiled fondly at her ripened classmate. “They never cease to make their parents proud,” she said before kneeling down on Kubichek’s other side. The woman gently reached out and stroked the girl’s sweat-matted auburn hair. “Kubichek?” she asked. “How are you feeling, darlin’?”
Kubichek’s eyes fluttered open and the room shook. Ordinarily, it would not have been a cause for concern: St. Deimos was perpetually under siege by the Wardens, and buildings taking heavy mortar fire were nothing new. What unsettled them all was the muted cacophony that now filled their ears: it was like a deafening whir that threatened to drown out all other sound.
It woke Jude, and allayed the newborn’s wails.
The Old Man mouthed something, reaching back for the wall.
“Stay,” Nate said, reluctantly rising to his feet. He wanted to keep holding his son. He wanted to pretend for just a little while longer that there wasn’t a war being waged outside.
Atlanta began to rise, but Nate waved her to sit back down. He handed the kneeling woman his child and nodded to her, then looked to Kubichek. He knew his words would be muffled by the strange noise, but hoped the doctor would understand him all the same: he wanted her to stay, and watch over his family.
Kubichek started to cry as she was passed their son. Nate touched his first two fingers to his lips, and she mirrored the gesture.
“Back in a flash.” He spit sparks as he spoke. He stretched his legs for the barest of moments before sprinting towards the door.
Electricity trailed behind him as he ran. In such a state, the neurons in his brain fired faster than normal, giving him heightened reflexes. He needed them: at his fastest, Nate was three times faster than sound. Without his lightning-fast reflexes, he long ago would have died after colliding with one obstacle or another.
Once he was outside, he quickly scanned his surroundings. His eyes froze on the behemoth now dominating the sky. It was like nothing he had ever seen in his life: a metal monstrosity easily capable of plunging an entire city into shadow, were it not from the legions of infernos that exploded from its stern.
Even from such heights, the whir of countless turbines keeping it aloft filled reached his ears. This was the source of the noise—but why had they not heard its approach?
Nate’s eyes followed several smaller shapes ejected from the juggernaut. If this was some new weapon the Wardens had prepared against them, he suspected that whatever had just been jettisoned would give him the answers he would need.
Nate took off again—this time moving all-out. As he ran, a shockwave rippled off of his body and cut through the air, leaving behind a halo of white where he had been standing. His eyes stayed on whatever had been fired overboard, and his trajectory altered to meet it. Only a few times did he have to pause to allow for it to plummet. Only when his target had crashed did he inhale, and when he exhaled, he was standing at the edge of a smoking crater.
Looking down in the pit, he looked down on a shuttle—a small ship big enough to carry a skeleton crew. A hatch opened on the larboard side of the vessel. Two men stepped out, looking like night and day. There was nothing to imply they were comrades of any sort: one was a short, broad-shouldered man who wore only boots, breeches, and scars; his companion’s clothes, on the other hand, looked like the uniform Nate’s parents had showed him… the uniform of the New Vindicators Academy.
It was slightly different from the uniforms his parents had worn: though this man’s was black with a white ‘V’ slashed down over the shoulders and across the chest, it lacked sleeves; it had an oval window cut into the chest; a black cape hung from its back.
Despite these variations, there was no denying that it marked the man as an enemy of the Wardens, which made him an ally.
Nate waved a hand over his head as he stepped down into the crater. He shouted to the two men, but the whirring noise from their ship continued to silence his voice. Though he couldn’t call to them, they had seen him: the shirtless one—the bald man—pointed towards Nate.
The one in the New Vindicators’ uniform began to fly towards Nate. Nate grinned at the thought of greeting an ally in this war—this war that had entered the world before Nate had—and then realized the man was not slowing down.
Crimson flames blazed in the man’s eyes and in his hand. Those flames transformed into a whip that sped through the air and struck the ground where Nate had been standing just moments ago. He watched as the man—who he surmised must have been about his age—turned to him. With a free hand, he swept back long hair—darkest obsidian with a single stripe of white dashing through his bands—and revealed a snarling expression that well communicated his killing intent.
In his confusion, he looked back towards the shuttle—as though this man’s cohort could help Nate make sense of what was happening. The man was gone, but movement out of the corner of his eye caused him to look up: the man was dropping out of the sky, a glowing green mace in his hands, threatening to grind Nate into the terrain.
Nate vanished and reappeared at the other man’s back. With an electrified fist he slugged the man in the back and it felt like he was punching a brick wall. He felt the bones break in his hand. He felt his blow yield nothing. He gave a scream as he staggered back. He cradled his broken hand like he had his son barely a minute ago.
Suddenly, Nate was overcome with despair. It was futile to fight them, he told himself. These men were too strong—too powerful. There was nothing he could do against them. They were going to kill him.
Nate wanted to run, only to tell himself it was futile: the one with the red eyes had flown so fast—outrunning them was out of the question. If he fled, he would only lead them to the building where his family was. They would follow him. They would kill him, and then they would kill Kubichek and Jude.
In his despair, Nate knelt down and began to sob. It was the duty of every father to give his son a better life. Accepting the execution these two offered, Nate hung his head and waited for the final blow.
Arms coiled around Nate in a hug and he was pulled back to his feet and flung onto his back. Suddenly, he found himself looking up at a tall, emaciated man in his late forties—Merle. Quickly, Nate put it together: Merle Tremblay had come to the crater to investigate, saw the skirmish, grabbed Nate, and pulled him through one of his portals to safety.
He could feel the despair leaving him, like an abscess oozing pus. He understood now: that despondency had been manufactured by one of those men. They were Neo-Sapiens, and one of them had the ability to instill his victims with melancholia.
Merle took a moment to catch his breath. He opened another gateway and motioned for Nate to head through. On the other side, Nate saw a small contingent of their brethren: Connor Crete towered over the others, sitting on what had once been a Warden panzer. The brute was eight feet tall and made entirely of rock. He was quiet—he hardly said a word—but those like Atlanta claimed he had once been impossible to shut up.
He was the only one who had noticed Nate and Merle’s arrival: the others’ eyes were on the monster darkening the sky overhead. David Jorgenson, the Mullins siblings, Nate’s aunt Kayla and her son Thomas, Leopold Fox, Sasuke Nakahara, Albert Curie, Carl Hamilton, Paul and Opal Simmons… One of them pointed excitedly, and Nate followed their hand to the ship’s underbelly. Someone was diving, and fast.
Panic began to set in before he realized it was one of their own: Claude Gordon was in one of his tyrannosaurid forms. From his father, Claude had inherited the ability to transform into any dinosaur; from his mother, he had been blessed with unstoppable flight.
Slamming into the ground, Claude reverted back to his natural form. He shouted something, but Nate couldn’t make him out over the roar of the turbines.
Andrea and Ryan Mullins moved to opposite sides of the camp and raised their arms towards the heavens. Suddenly, an obsidian dome spread out over the group, and the sound of the turbines was silenced.
Electricity sparked. Nate saw his mother’s sister, Kayla, standing with her hands held just inches apart—electricity crackling between her palms to illuminate the dome. “Tom,” she said. Her voice was hoarse. “Nate.”
When his cousin copied the grizzled woman’s actions, Nate hurried to do the same. “What the hell is that thing, Claude?” Carl asked. Like Atlanta, Carl was someone Nate had seen cut down in battle. Like Atlanta, Carl was much older than he appeared.
“Some sort of ship,” Claude said. “It’s not Warden-make.”
“What happened?” Nate asked. “How did it get this close without making a sound?”
“We were fighting the Wardens,” Carl explained, “when that thing just appeared out of nowhere. It just blinked into existence.”
“It shot something out,” Leo said, looking to Nate. “Your brother went off to investigate.”
Nate moved to leave, only to realize he had seen scores of those ships ejected from the main ship: there was no way of knowing for sure which one his brother had gone to intercept.
“Transports,” Merle said. “They were carrying Neo-Sapiens. Nate got to one first—he tried to welcome them, and they responded by trying to kill him.”
None of the others understood: in this conflict, there were only two sides: the Warders and the Neo-Sapiens. It was so strange to imagine there were Neo-Sapiens out there who were their enemies. “Maybe they were brainwashed by the Wardens?” Opal asked.
“Maybe,” Nate said. “Their eyes glowed with flames.”
“Nephilim,” Carl said, obviously taken aback by this news. He looked to Connor; the titan looked away sadly. “The last Nephilim was killed ages ago. It… It’s not possible.”
“They were strong,” Nate said. “They moved so fast, and the one…” He looked down at his broken hand. “It was like punching a brick wall.”
Albert made his way to Nate and took his hand in his. In moments, he had used his powers to restore the hand to its original state. “Where about the others?” Nate asked.
Albert looked to Claude. “Isaac and Niels went with him to investigate the ship. A few others went to scout the shuttles.”
“What do we do?” Opal asked.
“Nate and Merle say these people are hostile—that’s all we need to know.” Carl looked up at the dome as though he could see the ship through it: the Mullins’ siblings’ powers allowed them to isolate everything under these domes. It was impossible to see, hear, smell, touch, or taste anything through them. “We have to assume this is the Wardens’ latest play, and it demands a response. I say we have Merle port us all up there, and we tear that thing apart from the inside.”
“Wait,” Opal said, rounding on Nate with a confused look, “what are you doing here? Is Kubichek…? Did she…?”
Nate smiled. “A few minutes ago. Momma and baby are fine.”
Cheers went up under the dome; congratulations were offered; hands were shaken and backs were patted. “All right!” Carl roared, slaying the respite from today’s crisis. “You all hear that? We have something to celebrate tonight! Let’s get up there, and make sure we all make it back!”
At Carl’s command, the dome went down. Claude took Merle and flew into the air, intending to get the man a bird’s eye view of the ship. Once he had a good landing site, he connected the camp with the deck, and the last remnants of the Neo-Sapien race charged into yet another battle for their very survival.
Hmmm...a post apocalyptic NV story. Awesome.
Heh. Are we gonna see any more of the parallel versions of the 720 world? (AKA our PCs) Or what happened to them?
Impeach the peach!
Crinoverse - Avengers
Crinoverse - Young Avengers
Crinoverse - Bay City Sentinels
Crinoverse - Time After Time
Crinoverse - San Antonio Avengers
Crinoverse - Honnounji Academy
Be careful what you wish for. Alternate future characters can have a short lifespan ;~)
Seems to be a Sci-Fi trope that needs to be followed.
Seems like the main characters died every time they told that story in SG1.
So, future is terrible, humans are attacking a neo city on a regular basis, and now we've got super advanced tech wielding Nephilim... and then the scary part: Bulwark doesn't talk.
It's the end of the world!
June 6, 2033
Felix reacted. He wrapped his arms around Karlina and squatted down. As he sprang up, his feet left the ground. As the couple deftly dodged the shuttle that slammed into the park, he clung to her tightly—tightly, but not too tight. He knew his strength, and knew not to squeeze her with all his might, just as he knew not to evacuate her at his top speed.
It was moments before he landed. Miles away from the city, he could hear again. She was screaming now. Karlina was terrified, and that saddened him. It wasn’t the sudden appearance of the mammoth warship that spontaneously filled the skies over Vienna that frightened her, nor was the deafening whirl of its engines the catalyst behind her fright. No, she hadn’t understood what was happening: she met the ship’s appearance with confusion. Her fear was born from the revelation that the man she’d been dating was a Neo-Sapien.
Felix Infinity was a Neo-Sapien, who had inherited his powers from his parents: from his father, he had the gift of flight, speed, strength, and durability; from his mother, the power to grasp how something worked by merely looking at it. She called it the curse of comprehension, and it worked on people as well as things.
It was what told Felix that, right now, his girlfriend feared him more than she did the mysterious attack they now faced.
Felix nodded glumly. He hadn’t told her yet—he was working up to it. He’d hoped to tell her today, but doubted that he’d find the courage.
Karlina backed away slowly, and Felix sighed. “Get to safety,” he said. “I’ve got a city to save.”
Crouching down once more, the twenty-three-year-old rocketed back into the sky, flying towards the ship blotting the sky with its hideous visage. He could have plunged his fists out front and picked up speed. He could have rammed it. He was impervious to harm, and colliding with the ship would do more harm to it than him. Instinctively he knew, however, that such an act would help to bring the ship crashing down, destroying Vienna, and killing hundreds of thousands of people.
No, he couldn’t bring the ship down—he had to make it leave. It had appeared suddenly, it should be able to disappear suddenly too.
As he flew, Felix could see more shuttles like the one that had nearly squashed them. They had created massive craters where they landed, and men were climbing out, setting up equipment. Felix landed and glared at the pair of men: one was tall and lean; the other was mustachioed and muscular. At the sight of him, both men abandoned their project and charged him.
Felix watched as the tall man summoned a sword from thin air. It wasn’t too impressive: his father could do something similar. “All Nephilim can conjure a soul-weapon,” his father had long ago told him. “Mine is a whip, but the others could be anything—a spectral sword, staff, spear… Whatever weapon most resonates with their essence is what they will call.”
This man, however, was not a Nephilim. His eyes gave him away: missing was the tell-tale sign of flaming eyes; those same solid, heatless flames did not compose his sword, but rather solid steel swept through the air. The sword was an ornate blade with nary a nick along its edge. It looked newly forged, and led Felix to believe that it had never been used in combat.
He would have thought the man inexperienced, were it not for his stance. The movement of his feet—the way his fingers closed around the hilt… It all served to announce that the man was an expert swordsman, and not to be taken lightly by anyone whose skin was breakable.
Felix let the man bring the sword down over his chest. It cut his shirt, but not his flesh. Curiously, the man let go of his sword then, and the sword continued to hang in the air. As he summoned a second sword, his partner lunged for Felix.
His body was covered in quills, like a human porcupine.
He tried to tackle Felix—to pull him to the ground. Felix simply grabbed the man by the neck and threw him twenty meters away. He looked to the other man then—the swordsman—and regarded him the way anyone else would a fly buzzing about. He watched as the man continued to slash at him, let go of his sword, and summon another. Each sword hung in the air, moving of their own volition. He understood then: if he could summon an infinite number of animated blades, why not do it? The man’s power let him summon a sword one at a time and animate it by swinging it.
Felix reached out and grabbed the man’s neck, then flew straight into the air. Two hundred meters above their shuttle, Felix regarded the man with a warning glare. The man responded by summoning yet another sword, and swinging it down into Felix’s arm.
Shaking his head sadly at the man, Felix let go of the swordsman and raced him to the ground. Under him, Felix thrust his fist skyward and into the plummeting man’s spine.
Bucking the swordsman’s corpse off his knuckles, Felix walked over to the machinery the two men were unloading. He looked it all over: metal prongs half as long as he was topped a stubby cylinder long, thick cables ran from. It was unwieldy for a weapon, and if it was a weapon, they would have used it. His eyes went to the two flat, broad handles jutting from the sides of it. They were the right size for a foot—to help in driving the devices into the earth.
He looked at the cables—at the odd plug at the end of them—and wondered what they plugged into. There were no other instruments—no other components to be seen. He stepped onto their ship and looked around for anything they simply hadn’t had the chance to unload. The controls didn’t like that much different from any jetliner he’d flown before. He was confident that after a few seconds of sitting behind the controls, he could fly the ship better than the two men had. What he didn’t understand was the controls next to the door.
Beside each door was a monitor screen lit up, displaying a redundant fuel gage, as well as gages for what looked to be a fleet of ships. Flying out of the city, he had seen several other ships jettisoned from the behemoth—all with the same purpose as this one, no doubt.
Stepping outside, Felix scrutinized the hull and found a panel that he was able to pry open. Underneath was a plug that looked to fit the prongs on the cable.
They were siphoning resources from the ground, Felix surmised. The device would be stabbed into the soil, hooked up to the ship, and something would be drawn out of the earth and stored in the ship. What, though? Why?
His powers functioned through observation: he was confident that if he saw the process, he would have a better handle on what these invaders intended. Taking the device, he pierced the ground with it and hooked the machine up to the ship. Inside, he touched the screen and watched as a command prompts popped up in a language he cracked in no time.
His eyes fell on one of the prompts: “BEGIN STOICHEION ABSORPTION.” Stoicheion? What was stoicheion?
Sighing dejectedly, Felix packed the equipment back into the shuttle and closed the doors. Sitting in the pilot’s chair, his hands swept over the controls. He let the engine start up. He pulled back a level and felt the shuttle begin to lift up from the ground vertically—it was hardly a surprise, given the distinct lack of wheels on the ship, as well as the downward-facing thrusters on the stubby wings.
While it would have been no tremendous feat for Felix to fly back to the enormous ship clouding the skies of his city, he needed to return the ship. He needed to dock it. If his hunch was correct—and they usually were—the shuttles were sent out to gather stoicheion for the larger ship.
Immediately, he realized his error: the other scouting parties were still gathering stoicheion. By returning now, he was the only ship in the sky. He looked suspicious. He feared the hulking ship would turn any weapons it possessed on him.
He hadn’t considered that he would also be drawing the ire of his own allies.
The shuttle’s sensors began beeping in alarm. His eyes swam over the monitors, only to see a flashing screen alerting him to an incoming projectile. Before he could respond, the ship shook from the impact. Whatever hit him knocked him off course: Felix went into a roll. He fought with the controls; he struggled to right the jet.
Though he would survive a crash completely unblemished, the same could not be said for the ship. He needed the ship. He needed to see how it interacted with the mothership. Desperate to save the commandeered vehicle, Felix shot out of the captain’s seat, knocked the door free from the rest of the shuttle, and flew to the jet’s underbelly.
As he moved to stop the ship’s freefall, he caught sight of what had hit him: the leader of the Vindicators—at least the branch based in Austria. His statuesque frame was clad in the form-fitting uniform complete with the white ‘V’ cutting across his chest. A white cape flapped in the wind behind him and matched the gloves and boots he wore. His short, dark hair was flecked with grey. His piercing eyes were replaced with crimson furnaces.
It was his father, Dominique Infinity, the hero known around the globe as Paragon.
At the sight of him, Paragon flew towards the ship. He put his hands on the bottom hull, holding it stable while Felix returned to the captain’s seat. He started to fly, and soon, his father was sitting in the seat beside him.
The roar of the engines from the mothership prevented them from hearing one another, and forced them to communicate non-verbally. Father gave a permissive nod; son clenched his jaw determinedly. He guided the shuttle back towards the dark beast hovering high above them. As they neared, Felix’s eyes took in the artillery dangling to the ship’s underbelly: railguns, machine guns, missile silos—the giant ship was armed to the teeth.
Unable to hear anything above the hum of the mothership’s engines, he wondered how scouting parties were able to report back. His eyes swept across the control panel for anything that would let them communicate with the larger ship: a keyboard, keypad, straight key… If they were supposed to do something to hail the ship upon their return and failed to do so, would those armaments swivel to train themselves on the approaching ship?
Fortune seemed to favor them: doors to a docking bay opened, and Felix easily guided the craft in. The doors closed behind them, and the hum was muted.
“Where the hell are we?” his father asked as the ship landed.
“Beats me,” Felix said. He rose up from the chair and made his way to the open door. Stepping down, his eyes swam over everything. The only feature in the room was a long, thick hose capped by a plug similar to the one onboard. “A ship this big must require a lot of energy,” he said. “I think these ships… They’re sent out to harvest energy, and bring it back to the mothership.”
“What energy?” Paragon asked. “Like, they’re drilling for oil? Tapping into our electrical grid?”
“Huh? What’s that?”
“I’m not sure, dad. I’ve never heard of it.”
“So, what do we do? I mean, these people attacked us, right? The pair I ran into tried to kill me.”
His father didn’t appear to be listening to him. “Damnest thing too: one of them was Iconclast, and I stopped him fifteen—twenty years ago. He looked just like hadn’t aged a day.”
Before Felix could mull over this new information, his ears registered a door opening at the nose of the ship. He could hear footfalls, but no voices. Someone was coming. They weren’t talking, but they weren’t trying to be stealthy either.
The pair turned the corner and Felix’s eyes bulged in surprise at what now stood before him: they were short—a little under one-hundred and twenty centimeters—and nude. Their hairless bodies didn’t sport genitalia, navels, or nipples. They almost appeared amphibian. Indeed, their dull grey skin looked almost rubbery.
Their limbs were long and thin, while their oval-shaped heads were large. Their mouths were thin lines, and their eyes were large, tilted, and dark pools of black.
They looked like every image of alien life forms he had ever seen.
“They’re real?” he said, as stunned to see them as they were them. “Aliens are real?”
His father, however, had no sense of wonder. He simply fired jets of crimson flames from his eyes, striking the first one. The other moved to fight back, only for Paragon to conjure his soul-weapon. He moved so quickly, and lashed it around the creature’s neck. He jerked it forward and grabbed one of its arms, pinning it behind its back. “Talk!” Paragon roared. “Tell us who you are, where you came from, and what you’re doing here!”
The alien’s mouth didn’t move, but they heard its voice all the same: “Unhand!” it said. “Will not like this! Will slaughter!”
Paragon laughed. “You? Slaughter me? Did you see how quickly I dropped you and your buddy?”
“Only engineer! Others will avenge!”
Felix looked to his father in surprise. “I think I’m starting to get it,” he said. “It’s like they don’t have any use for personal pronouns. It’s almost as if-”
“Spare me the grammar lesson, Felix,” Paragon spat. He twisted the creature’s arm and evoked a pained cry from it. “Talk, you bastard! Who are you! Where did you come from?”
“Armada,” the creature said. Again, Felix didn’t see its lips move. He wondered if the alien was speaking telepathically. “Everywhere.”
“Armada?” he asked. “Is that the name of your ship?”
“Ship Elpis,” said the alien.
“Why did you come here?” Paragon demanded. “What are you after? The stoic-con?”
“Stoicheion, dad.” Felix knelt down so that he would be looking the alien in the eyes. “What is stoicheion?”
“Energy. Powers Elpis.”
“Why? What is the Elpis?”
“Dad, I… I think this is the Elpis. I think we’re aboard the Elpis.” He saw the look of confusion on his father’s face. Dominique Infinity was a great many things: powerful, valiant, heroic… slow on the uptake… “This ship’s name is the Elpis.”
“Then what’s the Armada?”
Felix looked to the creature his dad was throttling. “How many ships like this do you have?” he asked. “How many ships like the Elpis are there?”
“There is no ship like the Elpis.” It wasn’t the same telepathic response they’d come to associate with the creature: the voice came from an intercom speaker nestled in the corner of the ceiling. “The Elpis is the flagship.”
“Who are you!?!” Paragon thundered, throwing the ccreature aside and scanning the room, looking for a camera. “Where are you!?! Show yourself, you coward!”
“Mum called me Alfie,” he said. “Alfie Griffiths. I s’pose with a name like that you can see why I’d prefer to be called ‘Creeper’, yeah?”
There was something melodic about the way Creeper spoke. It reminded Felix of one of his teammates: Robert Price, codenamed Dragoon, had picked up several of his father’s habits—his accent chief among them. There was no doubt in Felix’s mind that Creeper was Welsh.
Before he could devote anymore cerebral power to the man’s accent, a door opened behind them. Felix turned and his eyes fell on a girl a year or two his senior. She was beautiful, with high cheek bones and almond-shaped eyes. Her brown hair crashed down over her shoulder in waves. She wore a clothes more appropriate for the bedroom than the battlefield; leaving little to the imagination, they showed off her athletic body.
She strongly resembled one of his father’s teammates: she could easily pass as Shiver’s daughter.
“Hi, boys.” She flashed them a flirtatious smile. Felix couldn’t stop himself from smiling back. His father, however, was not so easily charmed.
Paragon launched himself at the young woman. She didn’t seem concerned by his impending onslaught: instead, she lazily raised her hand and let a torrent of cold explode from her palm. Frost formed around Paragon’s body and soon became a wall of ice encapsulating his entire body.
“There’s lovely!” Creeper said across the intercoms.
Feeling something on his legs, Felix kicked. He looked down to see skittering darkness climbing up his legs: legions of bugs were spreading over his knees and up his thighs. He gave a scream and frantically tried to swat them away. He hovered in the air, only to feel them dropping down from the ceiling into his arm.
His hands began swatting at his skull and then his shoulders. He panicked as the swarm began to coat him and he screamed as he felt them climb into his ears. Howling only gave them another orifice to enter through: the bugs made their way past his lips, over his tongue, and down his throat.
The young man started to spit. Then he vomited. He collapsed to his knees and frantically scratched at his skin. The bugs continued to swarm over him and into him. He fought for as long as he could, but soon a different sort of darkness swept over Felix Infinity.
It's so weird to be rooting for Dominique Infinity. So very, very weird.
Well if one can root for Liz Lamperouge...
Although I don't think we'll see him again, given how we've already jumped across worlds and years.
But hey, in one universe Gwyn has a kid, so thats something.
So many characters my head spins. But that's to be expected. Can't wait for more.
April 23, 1995
Part of the national defense, public order, and national security system, the Serviciul Român de Informații—the Romanian Intelligence Service—was tasked with harvesting, evaluating, and disseminating any and all information that pertained to national security. Authorized by the High Court of Cassation and Justice, it was their mission to identify and counter threats to public order, both domestic and foreign.
Before joining the SRI, he and his brother had served as officers in the Romanian Armed Forces. Five years later, they were two of the agency’s most sterling agents—a reputation they no doubt owed to their experience in dealing with incidents involving Neo-Sapiens. In 1991, they successfully apprehended a killer capable of transforming himself into a living shadow. Ten months later, they saved a village from a teenage boy who lignified everyone he touched. Within a few short years, they had successfully resolved five such issues—five more than anyone else in the agency.
The brothers had a reputation for dealing with the unexplained. That was likely why they had received such a sensitive mission…
As soon as the report reached Bucharest, the brothers had been dispatched. An hour later, they landed in Alba County, where a helicopter waited to take them into the mountains. They’d been briefed on what had happened, yes, but neither was ready to accept what the poliția so easy had. Still, as they rounded Ardaşcheia Peak, they could see why anyone would be so quick to believe that aliens had invaded Transylvania.
“Isuse Hristoase!” the younger of the two exclaimed. Ordinarily, his big brother would have shot him a cold look for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Given the circumstances, however, he was willing to forgive the expletive. There, nestled in the Trascău Mountains was a flying saucer straight out of science fiction.
His eyes followed the path of destruction and he said a silent prayer that it had come down in an unpopulated area: the craft had come in fast and hard, leaving a gash through the earth and trees before colliding with a rock façade. The crag had partially collapsed, nearly burying the vessel. Were it not for the plumes of smoke rising up from it, he doubted if he would have spotted it.
The helicopter landed in a small clearing not far from the crash site. As he stepped off, he noticed a small smattering of onlookers. The nearby village of Arieșeni barely boasted a population in the thousands. Still, he wanted to keep the news contained, least a panic spread like wildfire throughout the commune.
According to the report, the people of Arieșeni were the first ones to see it: the ship had appeared in the sky, smoke trailing from it as it rocketed towards the mountains. The crash had sounded like an explosion, and though they had come to see if anyone had survived and needed help, the sight of a flying saucer left many too paralyzed with fear to come any closer.
He was snapped back to his senses at the sound of his own name, only to realize his little brother was introducing them to one of the local officers. “So,” Sorin asked in Romanian, “what do you make it?”
The officer looked at Sorin as if he’d just asked what color the sky was. “Aliens, sir.” He rolled his eyes. “The Bible doesn’t mention any little green men.” Mourning the officer’s common sense, he began to make his way up to the wreckage. “No, you mark my words: a Neo-Sapien made this.”
This theory seemed to baffle the officer. “What, with his power? He just conjured it up?”
“Some of them are super-smart,” said Sorin. “They could design an aircraft that’s light-years ahead of what the military has.”
Now that they were closer, he estimated that the ship was fifteen meters in diameter. He stripped off his glove and carefully touched his fingertips to the side. When he found it wasn’t hot, he put his whole hand against the hull of the ship. “Have your men found a way in?” he asked.
Again, the officer looked at him like he was mad. “Why would we want to?”
The agent bent down and examined where the ship met the earth. If there was a hatch below, there would be no accessing it here. He opened his mouth to order the man to call for a cutting torch when he decided to climb up onto the craft instead. The rock and debris made an uneven ramp up to the top, but a ramp all the same. Soon, he stepped onto the ship and almost slid off. The metal was so smooth, he barely had any traction.
A warning glare stifled a laugh from his brother. He got down on his stomach and tried to crawl to the center of the ship. There was a seam in the metal, as though it were meant to open there. He futilely tried to pry the door open with just his fingers, but resigned himself to calling for a crowbar. Moments later Sorin was at the top of the ramp, leaning as far as he could to try and toss his brother the bar.
He made the metal bite into the seam and the man gave a groan as pushed back. He pushed too hard and almost found himself sliding off the ship, only to quickly catch himself. As he struggled with the hatch, he stuck his tongue out and licked the corners of his mouth and felt the hairs of his mustache in doing so. It was a nasty habit of his that his brother gave him nothing but grief about.
A few more moments of careful prying and he felt the hatch shamble to life. There was hiss of air escaping and he leaned back, watching as the metal rose up. Looking at the underbelly, he was surprised to see stairs and realized that the craft must have come down upside-down.
“I need a light,” he called. His brother called down to the officers, who must have scrambled to get one; he didn’t have to wait nearly as long for the flashlight as he had the crowbar.
After a few taps against the hull of the ship, the torch came on, and the agent peered down into the saucer. It didn’t look like a long drop into it. Pinching the light between his head and his shoulder, he gripped the sides of the hatchway and lowered himself in.
Once he found his feet, he took the flashlight in hand once more and began to scan his surroundings. The ship’s innards were mangled. Something that looked like a hot water heater with a broken, oval-shaped window was pinched by a bent beam; it seemed the wall of the ship had begun to buckle against the load of rubble pressing against it. The flashlight passed over some chairs, what looked like a metal tray table, some sort of console rent beyond repair, and nearby the mangled corpse of…
The agent screamed at the sight of it. The creature was small—maybe one-hundred and twenty centimeters tall—with long, gangly limbs and dark eyes sunken into an oval shaped head. Completely nude, its skin was grey and smooth.
It was an alien, he realized. Aliens were real after all.
His screams had drawn his brother to the hatch. “What is it?” he called down. “Are you all right?”
“Ge-get the people out of here!” he roared. “Sorin, it’s true! It’s an alien ship!”
To his credit, Sorin didn’t bring his sanity into question. He knew his brother well enough to know that he wasn’t one for joking—not on the job—and he knew that he’d still been holding onto his senses when he’d descended into the saucer…
As Sorin hurried to clear away the onlookers, a faint cough sent shivers up his brother’s spine. The agent turned around slowly, fearing what sort of nightmare he would find behind him.
His eyes bulged when his flashlight found a woman—a human woman. Immediately, he recalled the stories of alien abductions—stories he had discounted as twaddle.
The dark-headed woman was pregnant, he realized quickly, and pinned in place by a long bar of metal shooting through her right thigh. “Please,” she pleaded with a weak and feeble voice, “help me.”
She spoke English, forcing him to be thankful he’d studied the language in school. “Hang on,” he told her in her native tongue. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
She chuckled, only to cut off in a fit of coughing. “I’m not going anywhere,” she managed.
The man plotted his route precariously, careful to not take a tumble in the rumble and end up needing help himself. As he reached her, he realized that she had lost her left arm just below the shoulder; a makeshift tourniquet was all that was keeping her from completely bleeding out. It was a fresh wound—no doubt received in the crash that had killed the extraterrestrials.
He gingerly put his hands on the metal beam and inspected where it pierced her. It was thick. If he removed it, she’d begin to rapidly lose blood. If he could get a blowtorch down here, he could cut around it…
Realizing she’d grown quiet, he trained the flashlight on her face, only to find her eyes closed. “Wake up!” he roared, crouching down to lightly slap her face. “Stay with me! Keep talking!”
Her breathing was slow and labored. He was terrified for the woman’s chances.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She gave the man her name, and he returned the courtesy.
“I’m going to get you out of here. Hold on.” Turning back towards the hatch, he yelled for his brother, and returned to speaking Romanian. “I need a cutting torch down here! There’s a woman! She needs help!”
“Ajutor nu-l va face în timp.”
He was astonished to hear his native language slip through the woman’s lips. “You speak Romanian?” he asked.
“It’s part of my power. I’m…” She hacked. “I’m a Neo-Sapien.”
The man crouched in front of her. “Is that why they abducted you?”
She chuckled softly, careful not to laugh. It hurt to laugh. “Actually, I abducted them.”
For a moment, he wondered if maybe her Romanian wasn’t as good as he had first thought: it sounded as though she thought she had abducted the aliens.
“I took… one of their ships. I had to recalibrate the shift drive. Argus must have known… He tried to blow us out the sky before we shifted… I was just trying to get…” She started to choke and had to fight to regain control. “Trying to get home… I have to warn my son… Warn him… the Armada is coming. When they…” She trailed off into a fit of coughing. “They’ll destroy everything.”
“I don’t understand. Whose armada? What country?” He looked to the aliens and wondered if instead he should be asking ‘what planet?’
“Please,” she said, “I don’t… I’m not going to make it.” He was forced to agree with her: her breathing was getting harder. “You have to…” She closed her eyes. “Please, take my baby.”
The agent let the flashlight drop beside him as he took her face in his hands. “Stay with me!” he commanded. “You said you came to warn your son! Who is your son? Whose armada? When are they coming?”
“He… goes to school… New Vindicators…”
New Vindicators? He had heard of the Vindicators—the team of Neo-Sapiens based in America. He’d heard that their roster had changed recently: the Aurelius’ team had retired, and a new group was protecting the globe now. Was that what the woman had meant?
He shook her, demanding answers. The moment he realized she had gone—that she had given up the ghost—he sighed, and reached for his knife…
By the time Sorin had thrown a rope into the ship and climbed down, the sound of a baby crying was reverberating off the walls of the saucer. “A baby?” the younger brother asked. “Is that a baby…?”
He trailed off when his flashlight found his big brother covered in blood, holding the wailing infant. “Her name is Herta,” Radu said. Growing up in Cluj-Napoca, the Radikovich brothers had adopted the elderly woman who lived next door as their bunică. Her name was Herta Eliade. He had always imagined, if God blessed him enough to grant him children, that he would name his daughter after that saintly old woman.
Outside the ship, Radu tended to Herta while Sorin delved back into the ship. Alone, he put the deceased into body bags—obscuring the truth from the officers who helped haul them up. Herta’s mother’s remains were the first to be raised from the ship, followed by the trio of alien corpses Radu had spotted inside. After the fourth black bag was raised, the men signaled for Radu: his brother was calling for him.
Sorin ascended from the belly of the ship wearing an astonished look on his face. “There was another woman on board,” he said excitedly. “She’s unconscious, but she’s alive.”
Radu couldn’t take his eyes off of the child. “Take her in,” he said. “Perhaps she can help us to understand what this armada is, and how best to prepare for their prophesied attack.”