Macavity116

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Is General Macavity a distant relative?
No, but considering how often I make references to the musical Cats, it was inevitable the name was going to be used. :)

Akira will have a way to overcome latex allergy.
Her father did, so it's quite plausible Akira can get around her allergies too.
 
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Macavity116

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Well here we are.

As of the moment this message is posted, the final chapter is complete. The companion video is being uploaded to my Youtube channel right now and I expect the processing phase to be completed later tonight.

Like always, I want to offer my deepest thanks to everybody who has chosen to take the time out of their day to read my stories. I do not hold any real expectations for these tales, I'm just doing this for the fun of it. I want to heap extra thanks upon @HistoryDude, @Midnite Duke, @Tim0307, @volksmarschall, @RustyHunter, @Nikolai, and @Idhrendur for their engagement over the past few months. You've made this experience all the more fun.

And to all of the silent users and visitors who read through this story without ever leaving a comment, thank you for your time and attention as well. :)

Regarding the companion video, I wanted to explain something just in case you are one of the 3 people watching the series (yes, I can see you in my analytics) I wanna brag about explain a couple of things regarding the final episode:
  • I saw a chance to include a reference to one of my all time favorite movies, Infinity War, in this chapter and I seized it. If you are one of the three people watching the companion videos on Youtube, you may notice an audio glitch right around an iconic moment. That's because I taught myself to snap my fingers specially for that scene. Sadly, my attempt at a fingersnap turned out to be very bad, so I removed it via editing, which is why the sound may cut off a little.
    • (Also, how the hell did I make it 28 years into life and never learn to snap my fingers!?)
  • The bombastic fanfare that plays before each episode of the Youtube series has been replaced with a higher quality version of the song that includes more musical instruments and a better quality sound. Hopefully it's easier on the ears.

And finally, there's one last tradition I need to uphold. Longtime readers know that whenever I announce the final chapter of a story, I will always end the post with a single line from the end of the story. A kind of hint as to how the tale will conclude, if you will. All Our Sins Remembered does not have an epilogue, so today's ending hint will be drawn directly from the final chapter instead. Thank you all for reading my story once again, and I'm grateful for your time and attention.




It was time to get started.
 
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Macavity116

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This is the final installment of Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox

The final chapter of All Our Sins Remembered will be posted next, and then this AAR will be over.



Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
THE FINAL UPDATE
Issue Number Seven, part nine


Nagasaki, Japan
September 11, 2084



The Stormbreakers found it easy to lose themselves in the crowd. Nearly one hundred thousand religious pilgrims were slowly shuffling together in the same direction. They were moving away from the military parade ground where, just an hour before, Secretary-General Etienne and Blake Robinson had given speeches in honor of the veterans of the War in Heaven. The words of the two leaders hung powerfully in the air, yet the words of Blake Robinson rung particularly loudly in the ears of a young Human with sandy hair and a vaguely Asian complexion.

Varian Robinson was hard to recognize. Normally, it is nearly impossible to tell if Varian was a man or a woman, but today, they had adopted the most masculine disguise possible. Varian kept their jaw squared and puffed out their chest, trying to project confidence..

Kingi and Maui weren’t far away. They were about fifty feet ahead. They would reach the destination first, and just like Varian, they were dressed in simple monochromatic garb to blend in with the religious pilgrims.

The pilgrims themselves were Humans from all over the planet, and they were on their way to the spot where, just forty-eight years ago, a legendary battle played out.

Here, on the shores of the Ariake Sea, the northern coast of Nagasaki, was the spot where Jericho. The savior of all mankind, had done battle with Akira Robinson, the Paradox. During their epic fight, much of the surrounding space was destroyed, and ultimately, Jericho commanded the ocean itself to rise up and strike as a Tsunami. Akira responded by using her darkest and most dangerous power. The Paradox attempted to Abolish Jericho. Akira used her power to destroy matter and energy to open up a hole in the Universe itself, one that almost swallowed Jericho, who only just managed to escape. Now, almost half a century later, the local Japanese population had constructed a shrine around the site.

The centerpiece of this shrine was the exact spot where Jericho used her immense power to close the hole in reality opened by Akira. The very fabric of the universe was permanently damaged, and the whole area had a strange, unreal texture to it, as though it was being seen through a foggy window. As soon as each pilgrim stepped into the shrine, solid lines were blurred, time lost some of its meaning, colors became sounds and sounds became liquid. Reality was absurd to the point of disbelief. Each person stepped through the thin spot in spacetime and as soon as they came out the other side, they were greeted by several Sorceresses and Acolytes of the Cult of Jericho. The cultists offered their warmest blessings to the pilgrims and bestowed gifts of water and food before moving on to the next person. Varian, Maui, and Kingi all had their eyes on one particular Sorceress.

Erin Hyatt was standing right next to the thin spot. Each time a pilgrim exited the rift, she grabbed their hands in her own and blessed them with gentle and loving language. She was dressed in the green robes she always wore and a grey blindfold hung down around Hyatt's neck, symbolizing how her eyesight was restored by Jericho.

All three Stormbreakers knew the plan. Each person was wearing two sets of gloves: a thick set of warm travelling gloves, and underneath… a set of simple rubber gloves made from latex. All of the Intel suggested Akira Robinson suffered from a latex allergy inherited from her father, Blake. If true, then this simple test would reveal whether or not the Paradox was currently impersonating Erin Hyatt.

Kingi reached the thin spot first and steppe through it very swiftly. In fact, he moved so fast that when his body passed through the damaged and warped reality, he briefly left one of his arms behind and had to wait for it to catch up. Then he stepped clear and tried to embrace Hyatt… but an Acolyte reached him first and pulled him away. Kingi was sent off with a warm bowl of fresh soup.

Then it was Maui's turn. He had even worse luck. As soon as he stepped into the thin spot, his smart glasses malfunctioned and he was left momentarily blind. A completely different Sorceress reached in and dragged Maui out of the Rift. A few minutes later, it was time for Corder and Varian. They went in separately, Varian first. Varian spent a total of three seconds inside of the thin spot. In that time, Varian saw, as though they were reaching a fork in the path, the sudden divergence of time. Hundreds of alternate timelines branched out and away from Varian, showing them the many possible futures. In quite a lot of these futures, Varian had sorted out their gender identity confusion and had fully accepted themselves for who and what they were. Shaking his (or her) head in frustration, Varian resisted the urge to go off on a tangent. She (or he) had the rest of their life to figure out what exactly they were.

Instead, Varian pressed on and reached the other side of the thin spot in reality. Just before daylight came into view, Varian pulled their right-hand glove off and reached out, the bright blue of the rubber glove plainly visible for all to see. A bare, uncovered hand reached in and grabbed Varian’s gloved hand. Erin Hyatt pulled Varian out of the thin spot with far more strength than one would expect for an elderly woman. Realizing that Hyatt was still holding onto the gloved hand, Varian reached out and took both of the Sorceresses hands in their own. Then he (or she) embraced her, and did their best to impersonate an awestruck worshipper.

“Thank you, kind lady.” Varian gasped. “I think I see everything more clearly now.”

Hyatt gave Varian a kindly hug. For good measure, Varian brushed one of her (or his) hands against the back of her neck. Then he accepted the cup of wine offered by the Cult leader and walked away.

“I got her.” Varian replied. “Both hands and the back of her neck.”

Then Varian held one hand up to his (or her) ear and whispered.

“Uplink? How long do we have to wait for a reaction?”

“Only a minute or so.” Maui's voice replied through the earpiece. “Anaphylaxis is fast-acting.”

Varian, Maui, and Kingi all turned to watch Hyatt, pretending to enjoy the food and drink alongside the other pilgrims. A minute snailed by, and nothing happened. Hyatt was undisturbed, her skin did not change color, and she appeared to be breathing normally. Varian swore.

“I got her, I swear I did.”

“If that’s the case,” Kingi said, “Then there are only two possibilities left: Either she is not Akira Robinson, or perhaps she went to a Gene Therapy clinic and had the allergy cured.”

Varian cursed under his breath and was about to write off the whole operation as a loss when Kingi tapped his (or her) shoulder and said:

“Oh, hey. Who is that guy talking to Hyatt right now?”

Looking up, Varian spotted a tall man with bright green eyes and sandy brown hair, who was locked in deep conversation with Erin Hyatt. Even stranger wad the fact that this guy was not dressed as a pilgrim. Instead, he was wearing a casual business suit, complete with a button-up shirt and black tie. Varian had no idea who this man was, but the Cult leader Hyatt certainly did. The businessman whispered into Hyatt’s ear for a few moments and her face lit up as though she’d been given some very good news. Somewhere behind Varian, Maui let out a gasp.

“I know him!” Maui whispered into his communicator. “That’s Indy Hutch, he’s the CEO of Pactical.”

“Pactical?” Kingi repeated.

“Pactical Weapons Systems.” Maui explained. “They’re a megacorporation based on Earth. They’re a weapons manufacturer.”

“I’ve heard of Pactical.” Said Varian. “During the last war, Pactical sold weapons to both the ADVENT regime and the Human Resistance, and they made a fortune. Do you think he’s supplying weapons to the Progeny now?”

“No reason to think he isn’t." Kingi grumbled.

The trio of Stormbreakers started to depart from the scene. Once they got out of the Shrine, they started walking along the bridge back into Nagasaki. Pedestrians moved along in each direction, and the blue waters of the Ariake Sea crashed against the nearby seawall, causing just enough noise for the Stormbreakers to carry on a conversation without being overheard. Maui pulled a handheld radio from his pilgrim’s robe and called the Niagara:

“Ninu, I need you to go into my quarters and find my second pair of digital glasses.”

Maui, Varian, and Kingi paused to lean over the railing, pretending to enjoy the view of the sea while they waited. Finally, Ninu called back.

“I’ve got them!”

Varian and Kingi looked at Maui with curiosity. They weren’t sure what he was up to. Maui was multitasking now. With one hand, he was talking into the radio, and with the other, he was adjusting the smart glasses on his face. The digital display on the lenses was showing a complex schematic of a computer chip. Furrowed his brow, Maui said:

“Okay, Ninu. I know this'll sound odd, but I need you to break the left arm of the glasses and pull out the computer chip. Yes, really.”

“Uh, okay.” Ninu sounded confused. “Is there anything you want me to look for?”

“Yes.” Maui said quietly. “Look for the name of the manufacturer. Who made that computer system?”

For about a minute, there was silence except for the crashing of waves and the chattering of other people on the bridge. Finally, Ninu’s voice came back over the radio.

“Maui, I thought you said you designed and built these digital glasses yourself.”

“I did.” Maui replied, “But I bought the parts on the black markets of New Levakia. Who manufactured the main computer chip?”

“Pactical Weapon Systems.” Ninu replied. “Date of manufacture is July of 2081, about three years ago. Does that tell you anything?”

Varian let out a gasp, and Maui raised an eyebrow. Varian snatched the radio out of Maui’s hands and opened up the back panel. Underneath the batteries was a white sticker. Written on the sticker were the following words:

Product of Pactical Weapon Systems, made in Terra Nova.

“Maui, you said that Pactical was a Megacorporation.” Varian said.. “How big are they?”

Maui’s eyes flicked back and forth as he pulled up new data on the lenses of his smart glasses.

“Before Earth started this war, Pactical was selling military-grade weapons and technology to almost every corner of the Galaxy. They had branch offices on nearly two hundred planets, including Hiigara, Aoraki, Taiidan, and Paku Nui.” He said.

“I think,” Varian concluded. “We've found our next line of investigation.”

Nodding in agreement, the trio of Stormbreakers started moving with a purpose. Walking briskly off the end of the bridge and back into Nagasaki proper, they were going to make a beeline for the spaceport. Where the Niagara was currently pretending to be a local security ship. Just as they passed the World War Three memorial, something happened.

A middle-aged woman stepped down from a statue of “The Defenders of Hiroshima” and crossed the sidewalk without looking. Varian gasped and tried to side-step out of the way, but Kingi wasn’t so lucky. He plowed right into the lady and nearly knocked her off her feet. Stooping quickly, Kingi recovered and saved the woman from a nasty fall.

“I’m so sorry!” both Kingi and the local woman said together.

The lady bowed to Kingi in the Japanese way, apologized one more time, and then walked away, vanishing into the crowd. Kingi let out a low whistle.

“Impressive.” He commented.

“What do mean by that?” Varian scoffed. “That lady was a total klutz.”

“And yet…” Kingi held up a small scrap of paper. “She gave this without revealing her identity. That is most impressive.”

He unfolded the note, Maui and Varian peered down at the elaborate and refined handwriting which said:


To my dear child Varian

Your father got in contact with me. He has friends in America who can help you. Look for a group of American Resistance fighters based in Michigan. Look for the ones who fought against the UN in the Battle of Saginaw last month. They’re on our side.

Robert Lansing and his son Jay
Lawrence Ridge
Piper Russell
Abby and Cera Roberts

Your father is in Alpena. Tiny town in North Michigan. UN Army has a Blacksite in the area, so be careful.

Good luck, Stormbreaker.

With love,
Your mother



Varian quickly looked up and scanned the crowds again, but Himawari Robinson was long gone. And a few minutes later, so were the Stormbreakers. The Niagara lifted off from the spaceport and sped east, across the Pacific Ocean and towards the nearly lawless American continent. Varian knew she (or he) could trust their mother. Varian's father was a different story.

After all, they’ve never met.





TO BE CONCLUDED IN THE EPIC FINAL TALE FROM THE STORMBREAKER UNIVERSE:

THE LAST HEROES - A STELLARIS STORY



 
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Wait, what? She's never met her own father? Not even as a kid?

So Erin's not Akira. Or she fixed the problem. Which assumption are the New Stormbreakers going with?

And that an Enemy Mine I'm sensing?

Also, do psionics work in this area because the hole in reality prevented them from being destroyed? Or what?
 
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Macavity116

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Wait, what? She's never met her own father? Not even as a kid?
Varian’s mother, Himawari Robinson, divorced her first husband after less than one month of marriage. However, George Farshtey did not realize he had impregnated Himawari until after the couple split up. Himawari is currently married to her third husband, a Partogan named Amako Patariki. Amako is Varian’s stepfather and primary father figure.

The man Himawari mention in the letter is Varian’s biological father, George Farshtey.

y4me0ho8j_KBL1T797wxfZfyMfRM1fmqZ53gZNAHNSyP9O1ZxZvmt2OuQ_f-3voRjPsNvLHXYH2VQlGKsCu0wqb5sHfRbDec45Z6fP6g0oxisI7EKy46DN-PyNyyauUABwMlY_9nLrUYwVFgAk0FCprLuZsk2yI2GBUTZmf0W-uvcBgmnVhwX3qrVaASKeOaSwd


And that an Enemy Mine I'm sensing?
I'm not familiar with that movie. I'll add it to my watch list.

Also, do psionics work in this area because the hole in reality prevented them from being destroyed? Or what?
No one knows. The Nagasaki battlefield is under Progeny control, and they have very tight restrictions on what people can and cannot do in there. Erin Hyatt has been quietly seizing control of any battlefield where either Jericho or Akira fought in the past and has been restricting access to anyone who isn't seeking a religious experience.

So Erin's not Akira. Or she fixed the problem. Which assumption are the New Stormbreakers going with?
The group is divided, but the Varian-led majority thinks they have the wrong person, and Akira is elsewhere.
 
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Chapter 15: The End of This Story and the Beginning of All Others

Macavity116

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Chapter 15
The End of This Story and the Beginning of All Others



Akira considered the offer before her.

Power and knowledge beyond all possible comprehension would be hers for the taking. Once Akira combined the powers of her four patrons with the power taken from the End of the Cycle, she would be one of the deities of the Shroud, a titan among gods. All powerful and all knowing, Akira would be able to reduce the Universe to atoms and remake it in her grand design. This, this was the key. All she had to do was accept whatever terms were offered. Somehow, in complete defiance of the incredible difference in scale between herself and the End of the Cycle, Akira managed to communicate her willingness to accept the offer, which still stood.

The omniscience and omnipotence of a God would belong to Akira…


IF ONLY YOU BRING FORTH THE END.

She hesitated. The end? What did it mean by that? Akira assumed that it was referring to the end of time. The moment when she expected to depart this Universe and into the next. As soon as this concept appeared in her mind, two forces rose to correct her. The Whisperers in the Void and the End of the Cycle made it clear to Akira, in no uncertain terms, that The End was, in fact, the total annihilation of everything. Not just the Earth or the Solar System. Not just the Galaxy… but all Galaxies. The Universe itself. The vastness of the multiverse beyond would fall silent. Without the energies of normal space to sustain them, the realms of Hyperspace, the Shroud, and the Unbidden domains beyond would eventually succumb to starvation and perish. It would be the final ending. The period at the end of the last sentence in the history of existence. On the other side, there would be nothing, ever again.

IT WILL BE THE END.

Akira flailed about in her mind, desperate to find some loophole, some way out. This wasn’t what she wanted! She wanted to carry on, past the end of time and back to the beginning. How was she supposed to do that if the whole of spacetime was snuffed out? Once again, the Whisperers in the Void provided the answer.

There is no loop.

The End of the Cycle commanded Akira to look down. Infinitely far below. Akira could see the physical plane. At its command, she understood that her knowledge of time was flawed, for she had studied time from the inside, while she was experiencing it. Now, from her heavenly vantage point in the Shroud, Akira could see time itself, isolated from physical matter. Causes and effects came together and mixed like two channels meeting to form a stream…

A stream that only flowed in one direction.

Akira finally understood, time was neither a loop, nor was it a straight line… but a winding, meandering progression that moved inexorably forward, never turning back on itself. What she wanted to do, to loop back to the dawning of history, was just not possible.

This discovery should have broken Akira.

She had come so far, sacrificed everything and left her whole world behind, radically and irreversibly transformed own body and soul. And now Akira discovered that all was for naught. For her efforts she was being offered the opportunity to do the dirty work of some God of destruction! Akira’s emotions, amplified by the Shroud, grew into a mighty thunderstorm before ballooning out into a hurricane. In an instant, she made up her mind. The torrential storm of emotions parted as Akira reached out one hand towards the monster.

The End of the Cycle extended one gnarled, ghoulish appendage. As it reached out to Akira, the hand-like structure at the end of the appendage burst into bright blue flames. Akira and the End of the Cycle grasped one another in a gesture that just barely qualified as a “handshake” and the blue fire raced up Akira’s arm, stopping just short of her elbow. There was no pain.

Only these words were spoken.


BRING FORTH THE END.

Akira, her body shining as brightly as a newborn star, ascended to the highest peak of the Shroud. She knew what she had to do, and she acted quickly, so as to keep me mind clear of all conscious thought. Akira gathered her own powers, now augmented by all five of the Shroud-Patrons. She siphoned energy directly from the End of the Cycle. Each moment she spent gaining power, Akira felt the Shroud grow dimmer and quieter. Thunder and lightning roared around her as the hurricane of Akira’s intentions grew into a cataclysmic maelstrom. Time itself was so diluted and warped around Akira that she could have stood there on the summit of the multiverse for a few seconds or a few centuries without being effected by the passage of time. Then, when the range, scope and scale of Akira’s powers reached a peak of omnipotence, she raised her right hand…

And clicked her fingers.



In an instant, too fast to acknowledge or react in any possible way, all intelligent life in every conceivable universe was simultaneously snuffed out. Anything that was even capable of rational thought simply blinked out of existence, leaving behind whatever Psionic energy that was contained in its conscious mind. On Akira’s command, the Shroud parted and allowed her to step into the physical realm once more. She stood on the ruins of the Angel Moon, high above Hiigara. This had been the biggest cluster of sentient life, and thus the biggest well of Psionic energy.

Akira gathered all of this energy into herself, and rose. She absorbed all of the emotional energies of the people she had just wiped out and she became the Reckoning.

From one planet to the next, star to star, Galaxy after Galaxy. Ultimately, the boundaries between universes were rendered meaningless. The Reckoning could neither be halted nor delayed. What life remained tried to flee. Spaceborne creatures fled to the dark spaces between Galaxies, only to be hunted down one by one.

How long this extermination took is irrelevant. What does time matter to an eternal being? Soon enough, stars grew dim. Galaxies faded and were lost from view. Where once there was light and warmth and color, there was now only the inky black. It wasn’t even cold or silent. It was nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Without intelligence and emotion to sustainability it, the Shroud began to starve. As the Psionic energy that made up the Shroud was drained, the strange and fantastic things that lived here perished as well. Ethereal flickered and faded. The strange lands built from emotion lost their features before vanishing completely. Before too long, the End of the Cycle would be left to contemplate its own demise in a barren empty world.

As the final protons decayed away, what was once a vibrant multiverse of limitless possibilities was left a formless and silent void. At long last, the End of the Cycle was triumphant. It had finally accomplished what it had been seeking to do since the dawn of time. Just as it had predicted, the mortal girl’s foolish quest to seek out the beginning of time had instead concluded with the destruction of both space and time.

The End of the Cycle, now satisfied, settled in and began to wait for the final ending.

It waited… and waited…

And then the realization struck like the beam of a pulsar!

Time still existed, and it was passing! Seconds ticked by and became minutes. An hour was adding up. The End of the Cycle finally realized that the destruction of everything was not complete, and in that single moment of doubt and disbelief, the illusion came crashing down.

Like a shattered pane of glass, cracks opened up in the surrounding darkness before falling away. A dark sphere, surrounding the End of the Cycle on all sides, shattered apart and revealed everything! The Shroud was still intact. The universe was unharmed. Everything, from the moment when Akira had snapped her fingers, was an elaborate illusion, a hoax! And the girl herself was gone. Roaring so loudly it could be heard in the Unbidden Realm, the End of the Cycle set itself upon the pursuit!



Akira was only a short distance away from the Ark Angel when she heard the roar of the incoming monster. She knew the illusion was broken at the End of the Cycle was coming. Scarlett, Inez, and Ingrid raced out to meet her, daring to brave the strange properties of the Shroud.

“Akira, something’s coming our way!” Ingrid said.

“How do we get out of here!?” Scarlett cried, her face full of terror.

Inez pointed to the ship and said:

“I can’t get the engines to light up, but the Time Core seems to be fine. Don’t think we wanna try jumping in this strange place, though.”

Akira’s face lit up. She had an idea.

“Have you started charging the module, yet?”

“What? No!” Inez replied. “We don’t even know where we are or how we can, wait, what are you doing?”

Akira had pushed past Inez and pointed one of her hands at the Ark Angel. A pulse of Telekinesis hit the ship with such force that several of the thermal protection tiles broke free. Two things happened at once. In the cockpit, several buttons were pushed of their own accord, while an invisible force typed a command into the Hyperspace Core computer. A serene computerized voice spoke out loud, saying:

“Hyperspace Core charging. Ready to jump in eight minutes.”

The second thing that happened was a sudden burst of movement from the boarding ramp. A metal contraption flew through the air towards Akira and she grabbed it in both hands.

“What’s that thing?” Ingrid asked.

“Isn’t that the Venn Brace you got from Site X?” Scarlett asked. “That thing’s got to be over a hundred years old? There’s no way it still works.”

Akira ignored them both. She needed to focus and only had a short window of time. Of course, Scarlett was right. This thing was, in fact, a Venn Brace. It was a piece of 1960’s-era XCOM technology that was once used to capture and imprison an Ethereal being. The actual device was in the cuff, meant to be worn on the wrist. The Brace drew power from the backpack, which contained a miniaturized Elerium Core. When she first took it from Site X, Akira had been planning to rebuild the Venn Brace into a Psionic weapon, but had never found the time.

But now, Akira had nearly godlike powers, and that kind of issue was a thing of the past. She knew she had roughly sixty seconds until the End of the Cycle was upon her, yet in that time, she could get so much done, and a plan was starting to come together in her mind.

Akira drew from the vast knowledge granted to her by the Whisperers in the Void. She perfectly understood the Venn Brace at a glance and instantly knew how to repair and improve upon it. With but a wave of her hand, Akira used the Composer of Strands to restore the Venn Brace to full working order. Now she had a weapon to channel her powers through. Akira put her right arm into the metal cuff and locked it in place, then she strapped the power cell across her back. The metal surface felt cool against her shoulders.

In the distance, the End of the Cycle erupted forth from the valley of shadows. Its power preceded it as all of the terrain and Psionic life in the monster’s path was laid to waste.

Inez, Scarlett, and Ingrid all looked from the gargantuan monster to Akira, their faces flush with terror and panic.

“It’s coming!” Ingrid screamed.

“What do we do? What do we do? What do we do!?” Scarlett cried.

Once more, Akira turned to the Whisperers for answers… and in less than a second, she had one. It was a callous answer, an evil answer…

But in the grand scope of things… how evil was this going to be, really?

Akira knew far more about the nature of existence now than ever before. She understood that her three friends were, in the cosmic sense, as insignificant as a speck of dust, and to insist otherwise would be a futile effort. In Akira’s plan to re-write history, Scarlett, Inez, and Ingrid were not only pawns… they were pawns that are both expendable and replaceable. Once Akira reached the next timeline, these three would exist again. So as far as Akira could tell, there was no harm in getting the maximum amount of usefulness out of these three right now.

With just thirty seconds until the End of the Cycle arrived. Akira turned towards the trio and unleashed a torrent of Psionic energy upon them. Scarlett, Inez, and Ingrid all screamed and wailed in agony as their bodies and minds were transfigured and transformed. The Composer of Strands molded their bodies into new shapes, the Whisperers in the Void carved and whittled at their conscious minds, the Eater of Worlds implanted the talents and abilities of psychic warriors, while the Instrument of Desire erased all of their hopes and dreams, to replace them with new ones.

In just a moment, Ingrid Tsiajotso, Scarlett Freeman, and Inez Vasquez all ceased to exist. And in their place stood three identical copies of Akira Robinson, complete with her memories and her Psionic powers. At the command of the true Akira, all three of her doppelgangers turned to face the oncoming threat and the End of the Cycle crashed headlong into four overlapping shields!

Keeping her arm raised, Akira cast her mind back to the Ark Angel. The computer screen in the cockpit said:

“Hyperspace Core charging. Ready to jump in seven minutes.”

The End of the Cycle smashed its way through the telekinetic shield and the battle began! The four Akira’s scattered and laid into the monster with all of their powers. The titanic lovecraftian beast lashed out in all directions and meeting stiff resistance. Soulfire, as bright and hot as a newborn star, poured down the creature’s back while invisible swords lashed out at the extremities.

The Shroud around them changed to reflect the ongoing conflict. Swirling clouds of blue and purple gathered around the scene to form a cataclysmic hurricane. Each of Akira’s copies used her powers to bend the storm to her will, striking the End of the Cycle with extensions of the Shroud itself. The true Akira used telekinesis the lift the Ark Angel into the storm and allowed it to be caught by the cyclone. Gliding in a great circle around the End of the Cycle, Akira commanded the spaceplane to restart its airbreathing engines.

The Time Core needed another five minutes.

The End of the Cycle recovered and took the initiative. A wave of strange energies rippled away from the monster and hit all four of the attacking Akiras. The true Akira lost her balance and fell, disoriented. A high-pitched scream caused her to look up just in time to see one of her companions being seized by the End of the Cycle. Its nightmarish appendage wrapped around the copy of Akira and the creature focused all of its powers upon her. In an instant, the false Akira was utterly annihilated! Nothing remained of her at all.

Both of the remaining doubles and the true Akira all struck at once. A Psionic rift opened between the attackers and the End of the Cycle. The tear in reality was amplified by the Eater of Worlds, which projected itself into the battle via all three of the surviving combatants. The great terror’s body began to warp and distort as the rift drew nearer and nearer to it. Blinded by fury, the End of the Cycle seized the true Akira and both of her doubles and threw them towards the rift! Akira felt herself slide past the border of the tear and her body was instantly wracked with incredible pain.

It was as though every nerve and fiber of her body was on fire! Akira, the true one, was caught in an unending torrent of agony. Desperate, panicking, Akira reached out with one hand and grabbed a fistful of Psionic energy… then she pulled back. Around her, Akira seemed to vaguely sense her two remaining doubles doing the same thing.

All at once, reality was turned upside down and inside out! Colors became sounds, air was liquid and the blood in Akira’s veins turned to white-hot plasma. The forces and sensations of reality being destroyed around her was just too much to handle, and Akira lost consciousness.



Slowly, groggily, Akira woke up. She felt cold, the same kind of cold a person feels after stripping off a layer of clothing. Akira opened her eyes, and she found herself wishing she had died in her sleep.

Her doubles were nowhere to be seen and the End of the Cycle was directly over her. With appendages that came straight out of the most graphic and disturbing of nightmares, the creature was peeling the Shroud-patrons off Akira’s body in the same way it would have torn the skin from her bones. The Eater of Worlds was the first to go, and as Akira felt her incredible strength being torn away, she rose up to try and fight back, but the End of the Cycle applied the full force of its own being against her, pinning Akira in place. She struggled and screamed and cried as the Instrument of Desire and Composer of Strands were both violently torn away, depriving her of their powers.

Then, just before the Whisperers in the Void were also seized, they gave Akira one final, desperate play. Fighting against the immense telekinetic field holding her down, Akira pointed the Venn Brace on her wrist towards the End of the Cycle. A shaft of golden light shot out of the brace and struck the body of the cosmic horror, lighting it up in terrifying relief. As soon as the connection was made, Akira poured all of her own energies into it. It took all of her own willpower, but Akira finally managed to reverse the siphon. Psionic energy flowed in the opposite direction, out of the End of the Cycle and into herself! Akira felt some of her powers being restored. All four of the Shroud Patrons were lost, yet in those crucial seconds, she managed to outright steal several of their powers and abilities.

Knowing that her deed would be discovered in a matter of seconds, Akira conjured a telekinetic force and severed her connection to the End of the Cycle. The golden beam broke with a bright flash and a crack of tremendous thunder. For just a moment, the great terror shifted its attention to see what had caused the noise. In that instant, Akira sent a pulse of Telekinesis into the ground below her. Akira shot up into the air in a violent uncontrolled ascent. She twisted her body as she fell, looking for the Ark Angel.

It was still flying, caught in the hurricane of Psionic forces churned up by the battle. As the End of the Cycle rose up to finish off Akira, she pulled herself through the Shroud on a Telekinetic tether, simultaneously summoning the spaceplane to herself. Akira just barely managed to catch her hands on the boarding ramp as the ship sailed by. With blood leaking from her fingers, she crawled up the ramp just as a bolt of dark energies hit the Angel. The spaceplane’s armor sizzled and a trail of acrid smoke billowed out behind the ship as it flew one final orbit around the End of the Cycle. As soon as the boarding ramp was closed behind Akira, she raced to the cockpit and activated the Time Core.

As the yellow Quantum Wavefront started to materialize in front of the Ark Angel, Akira nosed the spaceplane down into a dive. She set a collision course for the End of the Cycle itself and pinned the throttle to the wall. This was it! No matter what happened next, the fight was over!

The gargantuan monster reared up to its full height and enveloped the Ark Angel with its own power. Psionic energy permeated every corner of the ship, radiating out of every panel, computer screen, and button. Akira turned on the Venn Brace one more time and started to siphon up as much of the End of the Cycle’s power as she could, channeling all directly into her own body. With her new stolen powers, Akira played her final desperate hand.

Less than a second before the Ark Angel would have collided with the End of the Cycle, the Quantum Wavefront finally lurched backwards and swallowed the spaceplane! The Shroud, the monster, and everything else vanished! At once, the ship’s computer tried to abort the Hyperspace Jump and drop the Angel back into the Shroud.

“Warning!” said the computer. “No valid destination selected. Abort jump! Abort! Abort!”


But Akira would not allow the Ark Angel to return to the Shroud. She divided her attention, standing upright in the cockpit, she pointed one hand towards the Time Core and manipulated it with telekinesis. With the other, Akira reached out beyond the confines of the starship and extended her power into Hyperspace itself, pulling the uncooperative vessel along. Leaving the Shroud behind, Akira was using her stolen powers to forcefully tunnel her way through Hyperspace by hand. She knew where she was and she knew where she wanted to go, and since no path existed between the future and the past, she was going to make one!

Using energies and powers stolen from the End of the Cycle, the Whisperers in the Void, the Composer of Strands, the Eater of Worlds, and the Instrument of Desire, Akira bored her way through Hyperspace and pulled the Ark Angel through the path she had created. When she ran into impossible concepts in time and space, Akira forced them, against all logic and reason, to become possible. In her battle against nature and the very universe itself, Akira expended most of the energy she pilfered from the End of the Cycle, but ultimately she triumphed.

The stream looped back on itself, even though every law of physics and motion and gravity insisted that it should not have. The rules of Quantum mechanics lay shattered at Akira’s feet, and the Ark Angel was deposited in an empty black void by the Waveform.

For the first time since… since Akira didn’t remember when… there was silence. But it only lasted for a moment.

Before Akira could lower her arms or take a breath, a series of alarms went off all across the ship. Thermometers rose to such a high temperature that the displays failed. The outer skin of the spaceplane was so hot that steam was billowing out from behind the control panels and smoke rose from the carpet floors. The metal walls of the fuselage grew hot to the touch and started to glow white. And before Akira could react, a brilliant white light shone through the blackout curtains, which had been knocked loose by the violent jump.

The Ark Angel had materialized in the center of a newborn Universe, less than one hour after the Big Bang had occurred. All of creation was still expanding at incomprehensible speed, compact and superheated. Realizing that the spaceplane would not survive in this ultra-hot environment, Akira desperately tried to punch a new command into the Time Core, but the controls were so hot the buttons and keys were starting to melt. Sweat dripping down her face, Akira threw one last pulse of telekinesis into the Time Core, forcing a final jump. One last time, the Quantum Wavefront swept backwards and enveloped the ship.

This time, the Time Jump went smoothly, and the Ark Angel instantly rematerialized. At once, the ship started to cool down. As the imminent danger passed, Akira stepped backwards, tripped and fell over. Landing on her back in the rear of the cockpit, Akira looked down to discover that in the intense heat of the dawning of the Universe… her shoes had melted.

That was when she realized that she had succeeded.

Akira was battered and bruised, she had lost all over companions as well as the four Shroud-Patrons, but she had still managed to take something of value. She still had the immense powers of the End of the Cycle and its four lesser companions, safely stored inside of her own conscious mind. She had a fully functioning Venn Brace, meaning that the capture and imprisonment of other Psionic beings was still possible. And finally… she had accomplished the impossible.

Akira had travelled into the past by visiting the end of the future.

Lying exhausted on the floor, Akira began to laugh. Drunk with triumph, she laughed and laughed until she was hoarse. Then she stood up and realized that her encounter with a demonic god of destruction had left her completely exhausted. Akira stumbled back to the crew quarters and found her bunk. She took off the Venn Brace and dropped it on the table, then she collapsed into her bunk bed and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.



After witnessing the creation of the Universe, Akira slept for seven days.

Finally, after a week of resting, Akira woke up. She washed the blood and grime of battle off and dressed in a clean flightsuit, then she went to the cockpit and pulled back the blackout curtain. Akira was so stunned by the beautiful sight in front of her that her breath caught in her throat.

The Ark Angel had fallen into orbit around a cluster of newly formed stars. The Universe was no longer in its chaotic infancy, but it was still very young. Nearly all of the stars were mind-numbingly gigantic in size and scale. In the distance, Akira could see a brilliant Supernova marking the spot where one of the earliest stars in history had met its demise. No matter which direction Akira turned the ship to face, she could not see the Galactic Disk. Whatever time period she landed in, it clearly predated the creation of her home Galaxy.

Akira put her hands on the Time Core control panel and was about to start typing in a destination when she hesitated. Now that she was here, that she had actually arrived in the past, she found that she didn’t know where to start, what to do. She laughed at herself for a moment, then opened up one of the drawers in the wall next to the pilot seat. Akira retrieved one of the tablet computers that had her list of historical events to change.

Akira knew what she wanted to do, what she had to do. She would create a new timeline, one in which the world was a better place for herself, and for her family, too. She resolved to at least try and honor Asuna’s final wish, but most importantly of all… Akira would make a Perfect Future for herself, one where she could spend the rest of her life in peace, without fear of her life ever being disturbed again.

Flicking through the data on her screen, Akira stared long and hard at her new ultimate goal. On the tablet was a map of the Galaxy, which showed one whole Galactic Arm under the control of “The Empire of Men” while all remaining spaceborne civilizations would be subjugated by Humankind as vassals, client states, or puppets. In the center of it all, the Earth would be insulated from all external threats for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A psionic army would maintain peace and order on the Human homeworld, doubly ensuring the peace and pre-emptively neutralizing anyone who so much as dared to think about upending the order of things.

Once this future was established, there would never by any conflict or violence anywhere in the Galaxy again. There would only be peace and order.

Full of determination and resolve, Akira keyed her first destination into the computer and initiated a Time Jump.

It was time to get started.


 
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volksmarschall

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Wonderful stuff as always Mac! You have much to be proud of finishing yet another AAR! You actually inspire me to try to be more determined to finish my AAR projects more often which seem to just go on and on and on and on... LOL.

No doubt our next installment with be well worth reading. :cool:

I'm sure I'll spot it when it comes out, or when I have the free time. ;)
 
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Midnite Duke

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Thank you very much for your time and effort. I listened to all and read part. Akira reminds me of Pandora and King Midas. All may not be as she wishes. When she makes her first changes, what will the 'butterfly effects' be? This has been a tremendous undertaking. Please, when you start your next part let me know so that I can give you a shout out.
 
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HistoryDude

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Enemy Mine is a trope.

So Akira scammed all of the Shroud-Beings?

She's definitely evil now. If such things can even be applied to such a being.

Why were the Whisperers in the Void helping Akira?

So Akira did force time to become circular. That's... horrifying, if you think about it.

What happens to the universe now that there's no psionic energy? Is time "linear" again?
 
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Macavity116

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Wonderful stuff as always Mac! You have much to be proud of finishing yet another AAR! You actually inspire me to try to be more determined to finish my AAR projects more often which seem to just go on and on and on and on... LOL.

No doubt our next installment with be well worth reading. :cool:

I'm sure I'll spot it when it comes out, or when I have the free time. ;)
Thanks so much for reading!

I'm very committed to the next installment being the final one in the series. (For real this time!) So I do hope you get to see The Last Heroes when it goes live.

When she makes her first changes, what will the 'butterfly effects' be?
The answer to this one goes way, way back. All the way back in "Faith in Chaos" Akira confessed to replacing the mysterious instigator of the First Hyperspace War with herself. 1HW is a nearly-forgotten conflict mentioned a couple of times in that story, but it laid the groundwork for most of the other conflicts in the Galaxy.

If you want to see the full extent of Akira's tampering with time, along with many of the butterfly effects caused by her work, I would strongly recommend Chapter 3.2 of Faith in Chaos. That's the chapter where it is revealed that Akira is being tracked/pursued across time by an organized group of Psychics, and that group paid close attention to Akira's actions across history.

Faith in Chaos is the second Stellaris story I ever wrote. However, it is the fourth installment in the series, chronologically.

This has been a tremendous undertaking. Please, when you start your next part let me know so that I can give you a shout out.
Certainly. I've already attempted to end this series once, but I am very confident that the Stormbreaker Universe will end once and for all with The Last Heroes. It should be an incredible finale. :)

So Akira scammed all of the Shroud-Beings?
Yup. During Faith in Chaos, she only bragged about scamming the End of the Cycle because it's such a much bigger bragging right than ripping off the other four... at least in Akira's mind.

Why were the Whisperers in the Void helping Akira?
They were still bonded to her, and thus obligated to assist right up until the moment of separation. We saw something similar happen to the Eater of Worlds and Manaaki Ranginui all the way back in After Everything.

What happens to the universe now that there's no psionic energy? Is time "linear" again?
Without the Shroud, there will be no End of the Cycle to force the death of the Universe at a fixed moment in time. The death of the Universe will play out more like what modern scientists have predicted... with the Universe continuing to expand inexorably into eventual oblivion.

Also, now that Psionics have been destroyed (That's The Stormbreakers, Chapter 47 for all of you new readers) Akira is no longer able to force time into a loop. So yes, the natural flow of spacetime will eventually straighten back out into a "linear" direction.



I can't thank you all enough for reading yet another one of my stories. It means so much to me, and I continue to enjoy sharing these tales.

Just for you, dear readers, here is one final sneak peek at The Last Heroes:

This image represents my best guess at the physical appearances of all six five of the main characters in the tenth and final installment of the Stormbreaker Universe, brought to you with the same LEGO parts that I used to show off Mira Mihaka, Mami Tamihana, and Jericho this time last year. Enjoy!

y4mqft3dm5ClHWE8INq5NevBGSDXpJftv82_cuJieo3yfW25NnarDNtrYp1wa0kNsSFOeIZZqg9y2UdR1zeoHxABOiJZ3pZU0ihZEdLwZIpgKzsodLakkTPuMkTEEzbEq6s-GWOeu0b9VHztnNuUY7KG_DkMeTS21RLsbYs87qGlkMg6SMdeCCildGFNk4t8a6Z
 
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Macavity116

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Afterward​

Well, here we are.

You’ve reached the end of All Our Sins Remembered, the ninth major installment in the Stormbreaker Universe. Whether this is your first time reading one of my stories, or your fifth, or your tenth: thank you for reading. You, dear readers, are the reason this project is so much fun for me, and why I keep coming back to share more and more of the fantasies my sister and I dreamed up almost a decade and a half ago.

This is the third Stormbreaker Universe story I’ve completed since the original Trilogy ended on this day one year ago. It took me three full years to write After Everything, Faith in Chaos, and The Stormbreakers… and now three more written entries, plus multiple side-stories and two whole Youtube series have been released in just one-third of the time. I think it’s safe to say that the epic universe I’ve crafted has reached its high-water mark.

But that means I now have to quote a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Matrix Revolutions:

“Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

After all the writing, recording, and posting I’ve done over the past four (almost five) years, I’ve reached a point where the vast majority of the universe, events, places, and characters I created during my middle school days are now preserved in this series, albeit with a layer of Stellaris overtop of it all that previously did not exist. And now we’ve reached a point where I can only bring one more major story to you. Once this next installment is complete, there simply won’t be enough untapped materiel left in my personal universe for another book. The wellspring of ideas is finally about to run dry.

The Last Heroes will be my final foray into the Stormbreaker Universe, and I promise you all: you are in for an epic ride.

But you will have to wait for a while, as I need to take a short break. I apologize for making you all wait, but All Our Sins Remembered was by far and away the most difficult story to write and it caused me a great deal of stress. I’m not burned out yet, but this story has left me feeling worn out and I just need to catch my breath. Writing a prequel of this scale, predating the entire series, was a mental exercise that took much more out of me than I was counting on. So a hiatus is in order.

But by now, I’m sure most readers know me well enough to remember that I won’t just leave you hanging for the next few months. I love dropping hints and leads and sneak peeks at my next project. Honestly, I’m trying to encourage and foment guesswork and theorycrafting amongst the readers. It used to be a common occurrence back in the days of Faith in Chaos and I loved every moment when someone tried to guess where the plot was going.

As we stand here, one year to the day since my (happily) failed attempt to end this series, I am more than happy to give you all an extended preview of what will be the genuine, irreversible, and grandest possible finale to the Stormbreaker Universe!

Enjoy the preview and I’ll see you when the time comes.




“Mark it in the history books. This is the end of an era for mankind. Even after we've defeated the remaining aliens, what then? Have we sacrificed our own humanity for a taste of their technology? And if we manage to exploit this power further, do we risk being consumed by it... presumably, just as they were? Will we see a line in the sand and refuse to cross it? Or will we move forward, willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of total victory? I have to believe that is not our future. Provided, of course, that the aliens' technology remains in the right hands.”

Doctor Raymond Shen, XCOM Chief Engineer, 2015



THE LAST HEROES
A STELLARIS STORY

Prologue: A Parting of the Ways


November 9, 2085
Bannack, Montana



A foreboding chill settled over the mountains of western Montana. It was early morning, and the sun wasn’t going to rise for a few more hours. The only movement was in the sky, where a shiny point of light grew brighter as it approached. With a roar of engines, the flying object arrived on the scene.

The supermodern spaceplane throttled down its engines and began to fly in lower and lower circles above a valley where Grasshopper Creek wound its way between two hills. There was no sign of civilization below, save for a simple dirt road that wound and twisted in an effort to follow the water. Much like the rest of the region, the surrounding hills were devoid of forest. Patchy groves and thickets of trees presented themselves here or there, but none were in a place that could have impeded a landing.

Two sets of vertical landing thrusters brought the spaceplane down to a pinpoint landing atop one of these bald hills. The boarding ramp barely finished lowering into place before a blonde-haired man raced away from the ship.

The man charged down the hill and came into Bannack, a ghost town that had gone without inhabitants for over a hundred years by this point. While many of the structures were crumbled into ruin, a single building remained in what could be passed off as “decent shape.” It was the entrance to one of the many mines that were bored into the hills surrounding the town.

But this was not one of the gold mines Bannack was founded for. The structure was newer, made from reinforced concrete, and the heavy steel door was painted with a round insignia that depicted a white five-pointed star rising above the continental United States. Underneath the insignia were the faded words:


“WARNING: RESTRICTED AREA
US ARMY INSTALLATION
DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM
THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF STRATEGIC EMERGENCY COMMAND
Posted by Executive Order of John Kennedy, President of the United States, October 3, 1962”


The man pushed the door open. Inside, he found a well-lit and well-maintained corridor that led deeper into the mine. Along the walls were more warning signs, these even more foreboding than the first.

“Danger! Element 115 is highly unstable.” One sign read. “Radiation protection required beyond this point.”

Ignoring all of these, the man pressed on, moving quickly down the corridor until they came to a reinforced steel door. He slid a keycard into a slot, where a green light illuminated before the door opened on its own. A computerized voice said:

“Welcome back, Emanuel Espinosa.”

Professor Espinosa stepped into the next chamber. It was an underground research facility, fully staffed with dozens of workers and furnished with the latest in modern technology. The facility itself was carved right into the walls of what had once been an Elerium mine. A researcher waved in greeting to the Professor and asked why he was making an unexpected appearance.

“Where’s my wife?” Professor Espinosa spoke in a way that suggested he was not here to show his spouse any affection.

Sensing the rising anger in the Professor’s voice, the researcher replied:

“She’s in surgery room number fifteen. You should know-”

But the professor didn’t wait. He took off at a run towards a hallway on his left. Soon, he was in the “Experimental Surgery” section of the facility. Doctors and scientists, dressed up in medical scrubs, moved from one operating theatre to the next, while other researchers sequestered themselves in decontamination chambers. Someone tried to stop Professor Espinosa and make him put on gloves and a mask, but he shoved them aside and shouted:

“Scarlett! You need to stop this, right now!”

He found the door labelled with the number “15” and forced it open, causing the people inside to cry out in surprise. A surgeon pointed to one of his assistants and barked an order:

“Sedate her, quickly!”

In the middle of the operating theatre a small child, dressed in a hospital gown, was sitting upright in a chair, surrounded by complex devices and machinery. A sterile sheet was draped over the back of her head, while thick leather straps were bound around the little girl’s chest, arms and legs, keeping her immobile. On the surgeon’s command, another man injected the girl’s arm with a syringe. The child took a deep breath and closed her eyes before passing out.

Seeing this caused Emanuel a lot of distress. He balled up his fists and stepped into the operating theatre, where he was immediately confronted by a nurse.

“Sir! Sir, you can’t come in here! You’re not clean!”

“Good!” Emanuel replied. “This procedure needs to be stopped!”

The professor shoved the nurse out of the way and began to menacingly approach the lead surgeon, who raised his hands and said:

“Wait, Professor! We haven’t started yet!”

“Then release her, now!”

At the same time, an alarm was raised. Two security guards entered the room behind the professor, armed with stun batons. Moving quickly, Emanuel reached into his coat, drew a gauss pistol and took aim at the guards, who withdrew a few paces.

“Back up!” Emanuel shouted. “This atrocity will not continue, and I’ll wipe out anyone who tries to stop me!”

Behind him, the alarmed medical staff quickly undid the straps and pulled the unconscious girl out of the chair. Her long black hair fell down to her waist like a cape. With one hand the Professor grabbed the unconscious girl and pulled her up until she was draped over his shoulders. Keeping his pistol-hand raised, Emanuel started to depart the same way he came in, but he didn’t get very far. Behind him, a doorway on the far side of the operating theatre swung open and three people stormed into the room:

Rafi Bakir, an Arab man, wore a military uniform and was brandishing a laser rifle.

David Sepulveda, a Mexican American, wore a crisp black suit and tie with matching sunglasses.

Finally, following them into the room was Scarlett Freeman herself. The professor’s wife was also dressed in business attire. But unlike her comrades, she was unarmed. Scarlett took one look around the scene before locking eyes with her husband. Like the girl draped over her husband's shoulders, Scarlett also had long black hair.

“What the hell is the meaning of all this?” She demanded. “What are you doing? Put her down!”

“No.” Emanuel spoke in a voice full of contempt. “You’ve tormented this child and others like her for far too long. I’m putting an end to all of this!”

The Professor kept his weapon aimed towards Rafi Bakir, but his gaze never left Scarlett’s face. Her expression softened and she tried to put on a forgiving tone of voice.

“My love, maybe you don’t fully understand the work we’re doing here, perhaps-"

“Oh, shut up!” The Professor spat at his wife. “Don’t you get it!? I’m doing this because I do understand! You’re going to finish what the old regime started fifty years ago, and I’m going to spare Humanity the anguish of reliving a nightmare that should have been forgotten!”

Emanuel turned to aim his pistol directly at Scarlett’s heart. Rafi and David both raised their weapons but Scarlett waved them off. She returned her husband’s cold stare and deftly replied:

“Shoot me and you’ll set Humanity back fifty years, but you won’t stop it. Put down the gun, my love, and all will be forgiven.”

Emanuel cocked the hammer.

“You lost the right to call me “love" a long time ago, monster.”

The Gauss pistol went off with the sound of a cannon! The metal slug crossed the distance between husband and wife with hypersonic speed, and then it raced back the way it came with equal power. Before he could even comprehend what happened, Professor Espinosa was shot with his own bullet! He collapsed to the floor, dropping both his weapon and the girl, while blood dripped from a wound in his lower abdomen.

Wracked in pain and agony, Emanuel was barely aware of two sets of hands grabbing him and lifting him into the air. After a painful but short journey, the Professor was literally thrown out the laboratory entrance and back into the Montana wilderness. Coming to rest on his face, the professor rose to his knees and looked up at the trio who had just ejected him. Scarlett, Rafi, and David all gave him looks of genuine disdain. Clutching his wound, Emanuel spit at them.

“You won’t get away with this.” He seethed.

“Oh, please.” Scarlett scoffed. “I already have. You’ve seen it for yourself, the government, and the military. Everyone’s in my corner now.”

“I don’t mean them!” Emanuel raged. “Mortal men can judge you however they want… but when She learns what you’ve done…”

Emanuel rose to his feet, he had found new strength as he prepared to invoke the name of the savior. It was like her power gave Emanuel the last ounce of willpower he needed to see this through. He pointed to his wife with one bloody hand and cried out for all of the dark world to hear:

“THE HAND OF JERICHO WILL BE HEAVY UPON YOU!! SHE WILL RISE UP AND SMITE YOU!”

“Then I’ll start the smiting!” Scarlett shrieked.

She grabbed for the weapon in Rafi's hand, and at the same moment, Emanuel turned and fled. Behind him, the chatter of laser fire was accompanied by the frightening thuds, pops, and snaps of laser bolts sailing over the Professor’s head! Clutching his bloody wound, Emanuel staggered away from the scene and into the darkness.

With a great roar of engines, the spaceplane he arrived on flew low over the ground, raking the landscape with its floodlights and opening its boarding ramp. Both of Scarlett’s companions gestured to the spacecraft, but she shook her head.

“Don’t worry about him. Let him go.” She said. “Before too long, he’ll be irrelevant.”
 
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Actually, that's a good question. What's Jericho doing in all this?

I feel as if Scarlett will have problems. Especially once her involvement with Paradox gets out. Fame is always so ephemeral, is it not?
 

Macavity116

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Actually, that's a good question. What's Jericho doing in all this?
As mentioned in War of the Paradox: Issue 5, Part 2, Jericho immediately went into hiding somewhere on Earth when hostilities broke out. Thousands of members of both the Progeny and the Cult of Jericho are searching the islands of New Zealand in what can only be described as a holy manhunt. What they'll do when they find her is yet to be determined.
I feel as if Scarlett will have problems. Especially once her involvement with Paradox gets out.
Scarlett seems overly confident in both herself and whatever twisted operation she's running. The fact that she's unfazed by her husband's change of heart suggests her plan has reached a highly advanced stage... which is bad for everyone else.
 

Macavity116

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Congratulations, Akira, I have named you Character of the Week.

Holy... wow! Thanks so much!


Alright, you guys know the house-rule. The Last Heroes is still not ready to be posted online, so I'll do you all one better. I wrote this short little story just for you, dear readers, to celebrate this unexpected awAARd. I cobbled it all together in about four hours, it's a scene that I was going to include in The Last Heroes at first but decided to drop later on. Thanks to @Midnite Duke, I've brought this scene back from the dead.

Please enjoy this celebratory bonus chapter... which takes place exactly 24 hours before the beginning of The Last Heroes.



Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Special Issue
“The Beginning of the End”



February 28, 2086
The Cathedral of Jericho, Altair Star System



The starship Niagara touched down on the runway, deployed her parachutes, and then skidded to a halt. Nobody came out to greet the vessel. There was only an eerie silence. The world known as Jericho’s Cathedral was quite literally a relic of some bygone era.

Ten-thousand years ago, the entire planet was covered in a vast city, constructed by the mighty and equally mysterious Progenitors. Natural landmarks like rivers, mountains, and oceans were paved over and covered in urban sprawl, but at some point in the distant past, the inhabitants of this grand planetary city suddenly vanished. The Ecuminopolis was left to rot for ten millennia until Jericho’s devotees claimed the place as their own.

Here on this world, the six Stormbreakers found their expectations being defied at every turn. Varian Robinson, Corder Leang, Kingi Mihaka, Cetla Shu’naan, Ninu Dokunle, and Maui Ririnui were expecting that they would have to fight their way past a horde of cultists and Progeny members… but instead, they were stunned to see a complete change of behavior in their supposed enemies. From the spaceport to the Grand Temple, the Stormbreakers encountered over a hundred cultists, none of whom were hostile.

Every man and woman the Stormbreakers crossed paths with reacted with a smile and a friendly wave. Children, dressed in the green robes of the cult, offered flowers and shiny trinkets to the warriors before cheering and laughing as they returned to their parents. Not a single cultist acknowledged the weapons carried by the Stormbreakers. They simply nodded and said:

“Welcome, travelers. Jericho will be happy to see you.”

The very atmosphere was disarming, literally. As they drew closer and closer to the Grand Temple, each of the Stormbreakers returned their weapons to their holsters. Laser rifles powered down, Arc Blades stopped humming, and Kingi’s brass knuckles returned to his pocket. The only member of the team who was still on some kind of alert was Corder. The Human-Levakian Hybrid swished her tail and turned her ears towards every sound, keeping her muscles tense. Finally, the Stormbreakers reached the Grand Temple of Jericho.

It was the only structure on the planet less than ten-thousand years old. Amidst the wreckage of the old Progenitor City, the new structure gleamed like a priceless gemstone. Colorful windows of stained glass reflected the blue light of the Altair star in a dazzling display across the surrounding rubble.

To their continued surprise, the Stormbreakers realized that they were allowed to walk directly up to the entrance. Ninu was especially nervous and it took him all of his self-control to stop from asking the Progeny why they were allowing the Stormbreakers in their territory without resistance. The six comrades were able to join a long line of people who were waiting for their turn to enter the Grand Temple. Acolytes of the Cult, dressed in green robes and hoods, wandered up and down the line, blessing the faithful and offering kind words. One Acolyte spotted the six Stormbreakers and made his way over to them.

“I’m starting to think they’ve been ordered to let us in.” Maui whispered to his friends. “Everyone keep calm, do not draw any weapons.”

The Acolyte drew level with Corder.

“Jericho knows you’ve made war against her followers.” The Acolyte said in a stern voice. “She thanks you for respecting the sanctity of the Cathedral. This is a place of peace and serenity. So long as you do not draw your weapons, you may move about the Cathedral in peace.”

Ninu couldn’t hold it in any longer. From his perch on Cetla’s shoulder, the tiny reptilian made himself heard.

“Why, though?” Ninu burst out. “Your comrades have tried to kill us on several occasions, and we’ve returned the favor. Why the sudden détente?”

The Acolyte clasped his hands together and bowed his head.

“Jericho wills it.” He told the Stormbreakers. “On this world, there will be no conflict between us. Once you’ve departed from this place, you are free to resume your war.”

And on this note, the Stormbreakers entered the Grand Temple.

Everybody was struck dumb by the sheer beauty of the Temple’s interior. Ornate shrines of gilded metal and shimmering crystals decorated the corners. Intricate patterns of blue and yellow weaved their way through the carpeting in between the wooden pews. To the left and right, stained glass windows dominated the walls, rising to over thirty feet in height. Each window contained a depiction of one of the original Stormbreakers, posed in some image of Apotheosis. Varian shuddered at the sight of his grandparents, Blake and Chihiro, immortalized in stained glass. In the image, Blake and Chihiro were both on their knees while a heavily deified version of Jericho touched their heads.

Varian had to put his (or her) hand on Maui’s shoulder to avoid getting lost, as their gaze would not break away from the images in the windows. It took a few minutes, but the Stormbreakers finally made their way into a pew and sat down. That was when Varian saw the high altar.

The high altar was a colossal structure, built with a great many shelves to house a large number of what the Cult considered to be relics. Varian and the others knew what these “relics” were on sight. They were, in fact, artifacts left over from the Second Hyperspace War. Elerium Cores and plasma rifles languished together while a suit of Icarus Armor adorned a mannequin in the center of the altar. A Codex Brain was propped up between two fragments of what used to be Mira Mihaka’s Katana. Right in the center of the altar, in the place of honor and pride, was the Boltcaster, the very weapon Jericho had carried and used throughout most of the war. Finally, to Varian’s genuine alarm, she (or he) could see the severed head of Kon-Mon Dessurik, the Elder’s Chosen Warlock, perfectly preserved in a jar of some unknown fluid.

Cetla nudged Varian and gestured to the person in front of the altar.

“There she is.” He grunted.

With a swish of jade green robes, Erin Hyatt arrived. Throughout the Temple, cultists rose to their feet and pressed their fists to their hearts in a kind of salute. Hyatt, the so-called “sorceress”, raised her hands and asked the convocation to be seated. The Stormbreakers were on the edge of their seats. Corder was so excited that she was panting.

“This is it.” She whispered.

“Time to see if Macavity’s intel was right.” Maui replied.

“Shhh!” Ninu hissed.

The Temple fell silent as Hyatt began to speak.

“Oh faithful, it has been so long since I was able to bring you good news. Yet, I am able to brighten your day with the best of tidings.”

Several cultists yelled out:

“Thank you Sorceress!”

“We are grateful!”

Hyatt raised her hand. Silence again.

“A year and a half ago, the Human race was thrown into crisis.” Hyatt spoke. “Brave Human soldiers were engaged in a desperate conflict against the soulless machines of the Micore Empire. At the same time, a cosmic storm of unprecedented nature enveloped our Galaxy, making interstellar travel so unsafe. With war and the space storm threatening our lives, many of us turned, as we should, to Jericho for strength and resolve in these troubling times. But then you all know what happened. Jericho was taken from us.”

There was an outbreak of hissing and angry muttering all around the temple. Once again, Hyatt motioned for silence.

“The girl who killed the gods, the woman who became a god, spirited away from her devoted faithful by enemies unknown.”

For the shortest of moments, Hyatt’s eyes flickered and locked onto Varian Robinson. Then she looked away.

“The faithful were lost, without direction from Humanity’s Savior. Jericho’s Progeny suffered their first defeats since the Second Hyperspace War almost fifty years ago.”

A moment of silence. When Hyatt spoke again, there was a noticeable upswing in her voice.

“But there was hope. A small number of the faithful braved the great space storm to return to Earth. They went to New Zealand and they searched. They combed the streets of Christchurch, swept the slopes of Whakaari, and sifted through the neighborhoods of Auckland. The faithful demonstrated great resolve and dedication to Jericho, and that is what allowed them…”

Hyatt paused for dramatic effect. She looked at the Stormbreakers again.

To find her.”

There was an uproar in the temple as thousands of cultists rose to the feet and started to cheer and celebrate. Varian, Corder, Ninu, Cetla, Maui, and Kingi all looked at one another, horrified. Up at the altar, Hyatt raised her voice and declared joyfully:

“Praise the girl who killed the gods! Praise the woman who became a god! Praise the savior of all Mankind, the Beastslayer, She-of-the-Void, Jericho!”

And then a woman appeared. At first glance, Varian genuinely thought she had simply materialized from thin air. To say she was beautiful is a vast understatement. All six Stormbreakers felt a powerful sense of attraction to her as she strode into the light. The woman was a Human of East Asian descent and was mind-numbingly attractive. She had pale skin, long white hair, and vivid blue eyes. Unlike the rest of the Cultists, this woman was dressed in flowing white robes with a matching cape attached to a golden corset. Varian and the others instantly knew that whoever this strange person was… she was NOT Jericho.

Yet when the gathered cultists saw her, they threw up their arms and cried as one!

“JERICHO! JERICHO! HAIL JERICHO!”

Varian was horrified.

Ninu was appalled.

Corder was sickened.

Cetla was disgusted.

Maui was incensed.

Kingi was outraged.

“That’s not her!” Maui shouted above the noise. “That’s not Jericho!”

The noise of people cheering was threatening to raise the vaulted ceiling. Meanwhile, up at the altar, the False Jericho raised her hand in the same way Hyatt just did. Silence fell at once, although the cultists remained standing.

“My faithful…” the False Jericho spoke in a soft voice, almost as though she was addressing a lover. “I’ve come home to you.”

Once again, Ninu lost his cool.

“Liar!” The little lizard shouted. “You are not Jericho! You’re a charlatan! A fake! A phony!”

With a noise straight out of a nightmare, nearly everyone in the room turned to face the Stormbreakers. Varian, Cetla, Kingi, Maui, and Corder all stood up, ready to defend Ninu. The Kelt, however, only had eyes for the False Jericho.

The fake god returned Ninu’s defiant gaze. Then, she opened her palm.

A bright blue flame materialized in her hand, flickering and crackling dangerously. The False Jericho gave Ninu a terrifying expression and spoke:

“Only a fool denies the god who stands before him.”

All around the temple, there was a building sense of hostility. Varian read the room and understood that the Stormbreakers were very quickly wearing out their welcome.

“Let’s go.” Varian hissed. “Now.”

Corder seized Ninu and clutched him close to her breast. Moving quickly, the Stormbreakers staged their exit. As soon as they started moving, hundreds of cultists started jeering and swearing at the retreating Stormbreakers. Ninu perched himself atop Corder’s head, between her ears, and continued shouting at the False Jericho all the way out the door.

“Stop trying to get us killed, Ninu!” Corder yelled.

“We saw a lot more than we were expecting to see!” Varian added, “Let’s get out of here while we still can!”

But Ninu was having none of it. The tiny lizard continued to scream and shout:

“When Jericho sees what you’ve done, she’ll burn you like she burned the Beast! You’ll go the way of ADVENT and the Elders, straight into the dustbin of history!”

As the Stormbreakers fled the Grand Temple, they could hear the voice of the False Jericho behind them, calling out to her followers:

“Suffer not the Xeno! The age of Humanity begins today!”


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Caption said:
The False Jericho by Jéssica Santana
 
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Well, if that was intended that was intended to rile up the new Stormbreakers, it succeeded.

I can easily see Jericho not reacting kindly to this...

Can't wait until The Last Heroes comes out.
 
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