|"If The Radiance Of A Thousand Suns Were To Burst At Once Into the Sky..."|
(Art by Dean Stahl)
* * *
Barcelona in the early afternoon. Blissful. Unaware.
The Sun is shining. Clear blue skies. Laughter
A glowing, gold ball flies away from Neo York City.
About to arc up, and head into deep space.
Across America, the TU surrenders, one and all.
Guards dropping their guns, hands over heads…
… save for one in New Jersey, who’s got the device.
He laughs as it turns on, expecting to win.
* * *
The Sagrada Familia, tall, kingly, and sprawling.
Miles above its spires, something strange appears.
“What the !@#$ is that?” SPYGOD asks the pilot.
A bolt of blue lightning is heading their way.
Josie and Straffer smile to see it all going so well.
So far there's no casualties, all is on schedule…
… then the Nthernaut screams. His forms fall apart.
And Neo York City shakes, clear down to its core.
* * *
“Oh my lord,” New Man says, seeing what’s happened.
“Can you call him? Tell him to teleport it again!”
Confusion at Team Omega’s hidden headquarters
“What the !@#$ is going on?” Cataclysmo roars.
“I thought I had more time?” Ben Franklin asks, uncertain.
“Is it over? Did I do something wrong?”
Tempete Bleu curses SPYGOD, for making him rush.
A proper apocalypse should be deliciously slow.
* * *
“I can’t raise him,” the Sound says, grimly.
“That thing was sweating uranium. He's probably dead.”
“No need to panic,” Underman says, unconcerned.
“If the TU goes down, we don’t have to join them.”
“You know what you did,” Shift says: “But that's past.”
“It's time for you to fulfill your part of things.”
He calls on his new powers, festering deep inside.
Fires a bolt of writhing, black fire at the golden sphere.
* * *
The teleporter flailing alongside, skin red and bumpy.
“Well, that’s darned unusual,” the Colonel says.
Zips to the left to avoid whatever that !@#$ was.
“What the !@#$?” Straffer spits, seeing the Nthernaut vanish.
“Thomas? What’s wrong? Are you okay…?
… radio silence greets his questions.
The Nthernaut is quiet. The glowing blue projections are gone.
* * *
And if the fall doesn’t finish him, the nuclear payload will.
The blackness changes course, strikes them starboard.
There's a horrible smell. Everything goes dark.
“All-Stars, head to Jersey,” Josie orders.
“Something’s gone wrong with Nthernaut. We need containment.”
The TU guards whoop and holler, thinking they’ve won.
Someone takes charge, orders a lockdown.
* * *
“I told you, it’s too late,” the Pusher laughs through broken teeth.
“Might want to change vacation plans.”
“I’ve already got us fake IDs,” the Technocrat announces.
“I figured this party wasn’t going to last.”
“Then, is this the beginning of the end…?” Ben asks as Shift gets in.
“Relatively speaking,” the silver man says.
Tempete curses, seeing the Chakram shake it off.
He’ll just have to get his hands dirty, after all.
* * *
“Shut the !@#$ up,” Red Wrecker hisses, stomping his pelvis flat.
“Get me live, now,” New Man commands.
“I like a man who thinks ahead,” Underman says, nodding.
He’s about to give an order, then his head explodes.
“Drive me to Paris, three days from now,” Shift says, pointing.
“And remember, you knew this was coming.”
Rushing in to meet the ancient spaceship, he remembers its secrets.
Soon he’ll squat over its ruined hull.!@#$ on its engines.
* * *
“This is New Man, calling all strategic talents. Please respond.”
“We have the mother of all code reds, here and now.”
The woman in red leather steps from shadows, Hǫfuð in hand.
Shoots four more times. Grins behind her mask.
Ben nods, knowing all too well what this is.
But he made promises, once, and cannot now break them.
His fists won’t so much as dent this !@#$ thing.
Tempete Bleu shrieks in rage, his human visage melting.
* * *
End over end, the weapon falls towards the church.
Its loose parts curl away, creating a cloud of debris.
“That is him,” SPYGOD says, astounded.
“I always knew there was something !@#$ed up about that frog.”
A bone-white AASS truck makes its way to Jersey.
In its rear view, the city begins to change shape.
“What have I done?” the TU guard asks, suddenly uncertain.
The device begins to glow in his hands.
* * *
Whipping this way and that, closer and closer
People on the ground see it coming, wonder what it is.
“Not my first Antichrist,” the pilot shrugs, making yogic gestures.
“Won’t be my last, either, or so I’m told.”
Certain skyscrapers fold and twist on themselves.
Remolding, shifting. Become antennas, shooting upwards.
The guard screams, overcome by white energy.
The device is gone. So too, is he -- below the waist.
* * *
The call goes out, but the response is slow and sad.
No one is ready to deal with something like this.
“Yes, I’ve sanctioned them,” Red Queen calls in.
She winks at Disparaitre, who's hiding in the shadows.
The Bugatti stops in Paris, three days in the future.
A woman in red appears. Nemesis. Ben gulps.
“I’ll kill you, bastard!’ Tempete Bleu howls.
“I’ll rape this world to death! I'll use your skin to wipe my !@#$!”
* * *
Commands turn to raging, then back into pleas.
Le Compagnie refuses to even pick up their phone.
“And I’ve got Glimmer, like you asked,” she says.
Holds up a glass bullet. A living star rages within.
“Sister,” Shift says, waving the teleporter towards them.
“Ride with this man to the past. I must remain here.”
Something not unlike a windshield wiper knocks him away.
Sreams in white-hot agony. Spirals out and down.
* * *
Closer still. Less than a minute from impact.
People finally realize it’s a bad thing. Scream. Run.
“I better finish his !@#$ off,” SPYGOD says.
Makes appropriate gestures. Divine guns come online.
The towers are now tuning forks. Turning. Humming.
The white light flies from New Jersey…
… and disperses into the city. Energy becomes sound.
A signal radiating outward. SLEEP NO MORE.
* * *
Directly below, the Sagrada Familia empties.
Screaming crowds run around a Bugatti, oddly parked.
A sound like a backwards sitar. The creation song, reversed.
White light strikes. The monster screams, flies away.
The TU guards falter, confused by the white light.
When they come to they’re surrounded. Surrender again.
The signal flows outward, over land and sea.
Wherever it goes, the sleeping Supergods heed its call.
* * *
“Someone, please respond,” New Man begs.
“There has to be someone. Someone who can take it out…”
“… I should go,” Disparaitre says, dropping his cigarette.
“I’m the only one who can deal with it, I think.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Ben Franklin says.
But he doesn’t dare to look Nemesis in the eye.
Tempete Bleu screams, voice shattering glass for miles.
How can this !@#$ing thing be so strong? How?
* * *
“I’ll… try to siphon the energy,” Night Phantom says.
He slips into the dark, wondering if he’ll return.
“That’s a negative, soldier,” Red Queen commands.
“You’re needed for the next phase, and you know it.”
“I know you are,” Nemesis says, getting out and looking up.
“That changes nothing. Your !@#$ is mine.”
“I will destroy you! You hear me, (REDACTED)?”
“I will not be beaten by the weapon of a dead god!”
* * *
Faster and faster, the decaying bomb falls to Earth.
2000 feet and closing. Then 1000. And then…
… the golden orb vanishes. One second it’s there, then gone.
Tempete Bleu blinks, uncertain what it means…
… when the Nthernaut reappears, right where he left from.
Alright, that was strange, he says, looking at the city…
… which is transforming back to normal, its deed done.
The signal has been sent, now. There’s no going back…
* * *
… as a figure in red leaps from the spires of the church.
Nemesis grabs the nuke, teleporting before she screams…
… as the Chakram appears around him, its energies dwarfing his.
He thinks of the bug zappers of his youth, and then…
… “You alright, Thomas?” Gold Standard asks, flying in.
For a minute there, I lost myself, he jokes, as…
… the signal rings across the world, awakening ancient minds
gathering strength and speed as it goes…
* * *
… all the way across the world, to a small atoll.
Nemesis lets it drop, somehow knowing it belongs here…
… in oblivion, falling into the blackness he called his own.
This is not the end, Armilus, his masters promise. He laughs…
“I think we won,” Gold Standard says, looking around.
“I think we did,” Nthernaut agrees, but seems unsure…
… because something is stirring. Something old, something new.
And nothing will ever be the same again.
* * *
At long last, the President opens his eyes.
It's nighttime in Paris. He knows this without having to look out the window, and realize the bright lights are from neon signs and office buildings.
He just knows. And he also knows it's been ages since he's had that clarity.
That sense of being here and now.
He springs to his feet, shaking his head. He looks around the ruin he's made of his office. The guns, the targets, the wastecans full of flattened bullets.
The rifle he's been cradling all night, a single bullet inside...
"What the !@#$?" he asks, remembering his actions as though they were happening to someone else: "What the !@#$ was I doing?"
There's no one else here. Everyone has left. Henri is... somewhere. America. That's right.
"Need some coffee," he says, but then realizes he doesn't. He needs water. Now.
On the way through his offices, he can hear the communications coming through to empty desks. A revolution in America. Supplies and emergency work being handled by some third party. The Sagrada Familia wrecked by a cloud of radioactive debris. Team Omega not answering their calls.
(A nuclear blast at their old testing site in Fangataufa. What was that about?)
He goes to the bathroom. Splashes water on his face. Greedily slurps down handful after handful, feeling more alive for each one.
No one is here at night. He's alone. But normally he should hear something, from here.
His estranged wife, listening to her television shows. His surviving daughter and her music.
He leaves and goes into his apartments. They're cold and dark. His wife is not here, and he can't hear his daughter.
The side room he's been sleeping in is open. He looks at the couch he's been sleeping on. It's been made for him. Unusual.
On the table, there are two things he does not remember being there. He does, however, know what they are.
"Oh my god," he says, realizing something. Hoping it isn't true.
He runs into the bedroom he hasn't been welcome in for months. She's not there. The bed is made up. There's strange, brutal-looking sex toys on the dresser.
He all but kicks down the door to his daughter's room. There's been a struggle. There's blood on the floor. Recent blood.
"Oh no no no..." he shouts, heading to the kitchen for the hidden hotline. He has to call someone. He's going to need help.
The kitchen. There's no one there.
But the walk-in freezer his wife had them install, just after they came to blows, is open.
Written on the door, in what he knows is blood:
HAPPY FUCKING BELATED BIRTHDAY TO ME
(Two days ago. He missed it. Crazy with guns. Crazy.)
The President gasps. He knows he shouldn't look in there.
He knows he has to.