Macavity116

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Also,since Whetu can prevent people from perceiving her presence,why doesn’t she get healing and then use that power at Aoraki in case anything goes wrong?And if things do go wrong, she can stab Akira in the back (literally).

Remember this line?

“She’s refused all medical treatment.” one of the guards said. “I think she’s just trying to let herself die. We were getting ready to sedate her and stitch up her wounds before you got here.”

It might be illegal to do something like that here in America, but I guarantee you after Queen Kendra left the room, Royal Army medics forced their way into the room, tranquilized Whetu, and then performed lifesaving surgery against her will.
 

HistoryDude

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So Whetu will probably end up helping them…useful.

Well,I can’t wait until two Mondays from now (also when my finals are over,so…)
 

Macavity116

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Well,I can’t wait until two Mondays from now (also when my finals are over,so…)

Three Mondays, my friend. Chapter 5.1 used to be Interlude #5. We won't be seeing Kendra or her friends until Chapter 5.2.
 

HistoryDude

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Wait,wasn’t Interlude 5 originally Chapter 5.5?
 

Macavity116

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stnylan

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This is all feeling like it is going too easy. (Easy, I know, is a relative term).
 

Macavity116

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This is all feeling like it is going too easy. (Easy, I know, is a relative term).

Even the best-laid plans never survive first contact with the enemy. ;)
 

HistoryDude

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Wait,what happened to Yukiko?Hakara doesn't mention her,and he mentions nine people.Paradox had 9 people (including herself) as part of her team in Interlude 2,before Mira joined...

Also,a few lines about Paradox:
To Paradox:"Foolish is he [or she],who for the world would change a faithful friend" - Euripides

I have a theory about why Paradox started killing all her teammates.It is summed up in these two quotes:
"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
"He [or she] who fights with monsters lest he [or she] becomes a monster.When you gaze long into an abyss,the abyss gazes also into you." - Nietzche

Also,Paradox's philosophy can be summed up in one quote:
"It is better to be feared than loved,if you cannot be both" - Machiavelli
 

Macavity116

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Wait,what happened to Yukiko?Hakara doesn't mention her,and he mentions nine people.Paradox had 9 people (including herself) as part of her team in Interlude 2,before Mira joined...

When Hakara said "There's nine of us total" he was including himself. That means when he failed to mention Yukiko, it's because she was somehow removed from the team long before the events of Chapter 4.8.

See Interlude #4 to learn more.
 

HistoryDude

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Whiro's letter in Chapter 3.6 is the closest we're going to get to a full-scale title drop in this story.

**Edit - May 7: The words "Faith in Chaos" will be spoken aloud by one character near the end of the story.

Yup. The title of After Everything got reused as a chapter title. I thought about doing the same thing for Faith in Chaos, but so far I haven't found/written a chapter worthy of being named after the story itself.

The answers are in and around those two chapters, yes. Chapter 4.8 and 5.2 (Edited May 7)

Chapter 5 will consist of 5 updates. One of those updates is just Interlude #5 reworked to be part of the main story. (I've decided there won't be any Interludes between Chapters 5 and 6)

Well,who says "Faith in Chaos"? Eteka's reaction will be great.Although he might be made aware of Mira's...questionable loyalty...

Also,I'll link Stormbreakers with your other two tales once it's released.I'll take a wild guess as to that date...October?

Also,I'm going to post all my predictions and their accuracy (or lack thereof) sometime later.Maybe next weekend,when I'll finally start some AARs (Finals will be basically over by this point,so...)
 

Macavity116

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Well,who says "Faith in Chaos"?
Enutanga.

Also,I'll link Stormbreakers with your other two tales once it's released.I'll take a wild guess as to that date...October?
Originally, I had a wild idea to launch Stormbreakers on September 11, because that's the birthday of its main character, Jericho. However, I don't think that'll happen. Faith in Chaos looks like its going to end in the final week of June at a minimum and mid-July at a maximum. (I have military obligations in July and August) There's just not enough time to prep Stormbreakers for launch. I'll probably start posting my next AAR after I get home from PDXCON. So, expect Stormbreakers to start in late October at the earliest and December at the latest.
 
Interlude #4

Macavity116

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So, yesterday, @Dodge nominated Faith in Chaos for the Weekly AAR Showcase, which is really cool! Thanks again Dodge!

To celebrate, here's the next chapter of the story!
===============


Faith in Chaos - A Stellaris Story
Interlude #4



December 21, 2012 A.D. - The 40th Cycle
Hiroshimaeki Train Station, City of Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Earth



Chihiro Tachibana, Blake Robinson, Aaron Ray, and Kotori Sato couldn’t believe what they had just seen. On the far side of the train station, Yukiko Takahashi and Yutaka Yamamoto raised their weapons defensively. Chihiro was the first one to act. Losing her temper, she shrieked at her former friends:

“YOU TRAITOR!! I’LL KILL YOU!!”

Chihiro raised her handgun so quickly that Blake hadn’t seen it. The subsequent eruption of gunfire caused him to duck for cover behind a cash machine! Blake hadn’t been ready for a gunfight! His M4 carbine lay empty at his side while Kotori, Chihiro, and Aaron all sent bullets towards the two traitors. Yukiko raised her AK-74 and popped off a few rounds before she turned to flee. Yutaka followed suit. The sound of gunfire was replaced with the sounds of a door slamming, glass breaking, and Blake's girlfriend cursing in Japanese.

“FUCK!” Chihiro screamed. “Blake, are you alright!?”

Blake poked his head out from behind his hiding spot.

“You couldn’t have waited for me to reload!?”

Kotori grabbed him from behind.

“Kill traitors now, argue later!” She yelled in broken English.

The Stormbreakers burst out of the train station and into the streets of downtown Hiroshima. All around them, the noises of modern warfare suddenly became overpowering. Machine guns thundered in the distance, mortars and artillery made cracking sounds like thunder, and the deep thudda-thudda-thudda of helicopter blades seemed ever present.

Blake looked frantically around for their runaway targets.

“There they are!” Aaron yelled, pointing south.

Directly across the street from the Hiroshimaeki Station, the skyscraper once known as City Tower Hiroshima had collapsed into a heap of rubble, giving Blake, Chihiro, Aaron, and Kotori an unobstructed view of the Enko River and the rest of Minami Ward, which was still burning brightly enough to light up the entire city like it was daytime, even though it was currently just past midnight.

Yukiko Takahashi and Yutaka Yamamoto were running for their lives along the Enko Bridge, desperately trying to reach the other side of the river. A Soviet BTR-80 (an armored transport vehicle) allowed the two traitors to pass before spinning its turret around to face the four Stormbreakers.

“Shit! Find cover!” Chihiro yelled.

Blake threw himself behind the shattered remains of a Japanese Type-90 battle tank just in time. The dull thudding sound of bullets meeting armor told him he’d just escaped death for the umpteenth time today. Clutching his M4 Carbine close to his chest, Blake lay on his stomach and crawled underneath the destroyed Type-90. After a few seconds in the dirt and debris, he was able to see out from under his hiding spot. Blake had a poor (but acceptable) view of Enko Bridge and the BTR blocking his line of sight.

“Chi!” Blake had to shout over the sound of the BTR’s machine gun. “I can’t see Takahashi! Where are you!?”

“I see you, Blake!” Chihiro called back, “And I see ’em both! They’re crossing the Hijiyama Dori and going into that brown hotel!”

“SERGEANT RAY!” Blake yelled, “Did you hear that!? Can we hit it?”

Aaron responded quickly.

“I’ll call it in! Keep that BTR busy!”

Blake wriggled backwards, extricating himself from underneath the wrecked tank. He and Chihiro both took cover behind the destroyed Type-90 and took turns throwing hand grenades at the BTR. While Chihiro threw, Blake aimed his carbine rifle at the BTR and fired in bursts, then Chihiro did the reverse, using her M90 sniper rifle to protect her boyfriend while he tossed a frag grenade.

After three blasts, the BTR crew had enough. The rear hatch opened and three Soviet Army troops dismounted, choosing to engage the Stormbreakers on foot. Blake spotted the targets and called the first one out for Chihiro.

“There’s a Communist behind that blue car! 200 meters along the bridge! Aim for the passenger door!”


CRACK!

Chihiro’s sniper rifle sounded like a lightning bolt! Dust and debris blew away from the blue car as her round pulverized the interior before exiting the car and striking the man hiding behind it. The two remaining soldiers had to stop advancing and find cover when Kotori opened fire with her assault rifle.

While Blake, Chihiro, and Kotori engaged the enemy on the bridge, Aaron worked to bring about the deaths of the two traitors who had endangered all of Japan. He had to yell into his radio due to the intense gunfire:

“Thunderbird one-five, this is Stormbreaker two-one! We need you to hit a building on the north end of Minami Ward! Target is a brown twelve-story hotel, three-hundred meters north of Danbara Elemetary! It’s right on the river!”

The voice on the radio replied with an urgent tone.

“Stormbreaker two-one, Thunderbird one-five. Recon shows Soviet armor within 100 meters of your last reported position. Withdraw to a safe distance so the gunship can engage.”

“NEGATIVE!” Aaron yelled. “High priority targets inside that hotel! Level that building to the ground RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!”

“Confirmed... Ordinance away. Better take cover, Stormbreaker.”

High above and out of sight, an American AC-130H gunship turned and focused all of its weapons against the hotel building. On the far side of the river, the entire hotel building exploded and collapsed! Once the target was reduced to dust and smoke, an anti-tank Hellfire missile dropped away from the gunship and sped towards the Enko Bridge!

Blake, Chihiro, Aaron, and Kotori all ducked behind cover as the BTR on the bridge was hit and blasted apart! Shrapnel rained down, hitting the ground with the force of hailstones. The one surviving Red Army soldier abandoned the attack and ran the other way, screaming hysterically!

Kotori adjusted the scope on her rifle and tried to get a good look at where the hotel had once been.

“It’s gone.” She reported. “If Yamamoto and Takahashi were in there, then they’re definitely dead now.”

“Good enough for me.” said Chihiro. “I think we should get out of here. Blake, Aaron? What about you guys?”

The two Americans looked very grim.

“We’ll have to find a detour.” Aaron said, “We’ve only got fifteen minutes until the engineers blow the Aioi Bridge. We’ll be stranded on this side of the river... along with half the Red Army.”

Chihiro stood up and shouldered her sniper rifle.

“I know a way across.” she said. “Follow me.”



Yukiko Takahashi was lucky to be alive. She didn’t remember the exact moment the hotel had collapsed, nor was she aware of how narrowly she had escaped death. If she or Yutaka had paused even for a moment, both of them would have been crushed under nearly twelve floors’ worth of concrete. At the last moment, they had exited the hotel, barged into the tiny little Ramen shop next door, ran through the entire restaurant and emerged in a back alley. She and her companion had been shielded from the worst part of the attack, and now they stumbled through dust clouds, looking for the street.

A loud rumbling noise caught their ears. Two Soviet BTR’s and a T-90 battle tank thundered down the roadway and came to a stop in front of them. Yutaka reached into his pocket and produced his Soviet Union passport. Yukiko did the same. They held their documents above their heads while half a dozen Red Army soldiers advanced on them with weapons drawn.

A Soviet officer looked at Yutaka’s papers first, nodded, and said:

“Glad we found you, comrade. Colonel Volobyov was getting worried. Who is the woman?”

Yutaka turned to face Yukiko.

“She’s got the location of the Japanese artillery.”

He nodded at Yukiko, who realized that was her cue to share what she knew. Reaching into her pocket, Yukiko produced a tourist map of the city of Hiroshima, the type of map with highly exaggerated features to emphasize tourist hotspots and places of interest. Yukiko had used a red marker to draw a circle around the Funairi Hospital in Naka Ward, which was about eight Kilometers away, clear on the other side of Hiroshima.

“The Japanese cannons are set up in the parking lot.” Yukiko explained. “They’ve got spotters on the roof of this Pachinko parlor about two blocks away, and this bridge right here on the Tenma River is rigged to blow. You’ll have to attack from the north and-”

Before she finished her explanation, Yutaka pulled the map out of her hands.

“Thank you, Yukiko, I can explain to them myself.”

As casually as someone would reach for their cell phone, Yutaka upholstered his pistol and raised it to Yukiko’s chest.

“I only needed the map.” He said, not even looking at Yukiko. “Not you.”

“WAIT!” Yukiko screamed!


BANG!!

It felt like she’d been punched really hard in the chest! Yukiko’s breath caught in her throat. Clutching her breast with one hand, she fell forward, hitting the pavement face first. Yutaka and the other soldiers laughed loudly before all seven of them pointed their weapons at Yukiko’s limp body and fired away! She was vaguely aware of hundreds of impacts all over her head, back, arms, and legs. The ear-splitting roar of half a dozen assault rifles subsided... then someone made a disappointed noise.

“Isn’t there supposed to be blood?” one soldier asked.

“It’s all the dust.” Another said dismissively. “What a waste of time. Let’s get out of here. We still have to shut off the enemy artillery.”

Bored with the lack of blood and convinced Yukiko was dead, Yutaka and his comrades moved on. As soon as they were gone, Yukiko sat up. She was shaking and terrified. She had no idea how she had survived the onslaught, and that scared her more than anything else. As she sat up nearly four hundred bullets, mushroomed out and flattened, slid off her back and cascaded to the ground, sounding like a grotesque rainstorm. When Yukiko realized she was completely unharmed, and had no realistic explanation for being so, she started to panic.

“What the hell is happening!?” she screamed out loud. “What the fuck is going on!?”

From behind her, an unfamiliar voice said:

“I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to come with me to get the whole story.”

Yukiko spun around.

A teenage Japanese girl was standing behind her. She had waist-length black hair and was wearing a Japan Self-Defense Forces uniform. The patches and nametapes identified the stranger as “Private Nanako Yamada.”

Yukiko gave the stranger a cautious look.

“You’re a kid.” she said. “Why should I go with you?”

“Because you just survived getting shot hundreds of times and I know why.” Nanako said in a curt tone. “I can help you understand what just happened here, and help you learn to master your Gift.”

Yukiko slowly patted her pockets, checking to see if she still had any of her weapons. She did not.

“Why do I have to go with you?” she asked. “You want something from me?”

“Psh, it’s nothing.” Nanako said, “I just need you to help me out with something I’m working on. Hell, it’s not actually going to be ready for a really long time, so we’ll sort out the details later. All you have to do is say ‘yes’ and we’re in business!”

At that moment, an American attack helicopter roared overhead, firing rockets at some unseen target. The furious wind kicked up dust from the obliterated hotel and shrouded Yukiko and Nanako in darkness.

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Yukiko said slowly.

“You do.” Nanako answered. “You can take my offer, or you can take your chances with the Stormbreakers. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about your Gift, and in turn, you’ll do something for me later.”

“And what is that ‘something’ I’ll have to do later?” Yukiko asked cautiously.

“Don’t you worry about it.” Nanako replied. “It’s nothing in the long run, seriously.”

Reluctantly, Yukiko stepped forward and extended her hand towards Nanako. The teenager gleefully took it and the two soldiers shook hands vigorously.

“Welcome aboard, Yukiko.” Said Nanako. “It’s great to have you!”

Yukiko was taken aback.

“Hang on,” she said, “How do you know my name?”

Nanako smacked herself in the forehead.

“D’oh, I’m such an idiot!” she said.

Then Nanako stepped forward and placed her hand on Yukiko’s forehead, saying:

“Let’s just change that…”




SO IT IS, AND SO IT SHALL ALWAYS BE.
No it wasn’t, and no it won’t.
==========


June 15, 2229 A.D. – The 115th Cycle
JSDF Ark Angel, Partogan
Homeworld


When the sun rose on that final morning, the Ark Angel was silent. The ten crewmembers barely looked at one another and carried out their pre-takeoff tasks without saying a word.

Mira felt a sense of overpowering doom building up in her. Twenty-nine years ago, she had made a deal with the End of the Cycle, and part of that deal involved Mira “bringing about the end.” At the time, she hadn’t known what to think about this statement, and was caught off guard when the End of the Cycle considered her end of the deal fulfilled after she’d accidentally re-awakened Riri Nui. Now Mira knew why the End of the Cycle had released her after the volcano had begun to smoke. She should have known then, but perhaps she’d suppressed the knowledge, unwilling to face the reality that Mira herself had brought about the end of Partoga.

Twenty-seven years after Mira’s Psionic Lance had struck the mountainside, Riri Nui was now fully awake and ready to unleash its Great Wrath for a second time.

“Accelerometer and seismometer readings are off the scale!” Arioch reported from the cockpit. “The big one’s coming in a few hours!”

Akira pushed past Soo and inspected the Time Core in the cargo bay one last time.

“Everyone arm up!” she ordered. “Just like we discussed, we’re going to be fighting on that thing’s ground and on its terms! Leave nothing to chance!”

All ten members of the Ark Angel’s crew began to arm themselves with what weapons they had. Mira’s Celestial Gauntlets were useless to her, so she gave them to Akira.

“Full circle.” Mira said. “The other Akira gave me those three decades ago. In a way, they’ve come home.”

Akira slid the Gauntlets over her hands and flexed her arms. The Templar weapons didn’t give Akira any new powers, but rather amplified the Psionic powers she had stolen from the End of the Cycle. Meanwhile, Whetu Kealoha pulled a sword down from the baggage compartment above everyone’s heads. Mira pointed at it with a little confusion and said:

“On the one hand, it’s really neat to see you with the Royal Saber, but what good is that thing going to do against the End of the Cycle?”

Whetu smiled.

“This…” She drew the sword partway out of its sheath, allowing Mira to see the crystal blade, “Isn’t an ordinary sword.”

Manaaki and Yukiko grabbed Psionic Amplifiers. While they both knew how to use the Gift without those tools, the situation called for every advantage they could get. Arioch, Hakara, Anika, Soo, Chong-Il, and Mira armed themselves with pistols, but this was unnecessary. They were not Gifted, and therefore were not going to join in the actual fight against the End of the Cycle. They would stay aboard the Ark Angel the whole time, if things went to plan.

Akira had laid out her escape plan several days beforehand:

“Arioch, Chong-Il, Soo, Mira, Anika, and Hakara: you’re going to take off from here and fly the Angel into the lowest orbit you can. Watch for the Shroud to overtake the planet, and as soon as the transition is over, come back down and collect us. Yukiko, Whetu, Manaaki, and I are going to stay on the planet surface when The Reckoning happens. When the End of the Cycle attacks, we fight a rolling retreat. Keep moving backwards and giving ground until the Angel gets in range.”

Akira had then held up an odd device, showing it to Mira. The strange device looked like the stock and trigger assembly of a short rifle, augmented with all sorts of advanced technology.

“This,” Akira explained. “Is a Return Beacon. It only works if the Ark Angel is within a one thousandth of a Light-Second of you, that’s about three hundred Kios. Pull the trigger, and the Angel’s Hyperspace Core will start up and force you to do a Wake Jump. You’ll rematerialize aboard the ship, right in front of the Core. Get out of the way quickly in case someone else needs to come home. Got it?”

“Understood.” Mira had answered. “So, why are you telling me if I’m going to stay aboard the Angel?

“Because we’re going to be fighting the End of the Cycle.” Akira answered. “That thing has incredible Psionic powers and we need to be ready for anything.”

Once all of the weapons were chosen and sorted out, there was the question of armor. Mira didn’t question why Whetu, Manaaki, Yukiko, and Akira all donned bulletproof vests if they were planning to fight a godlike Shroud-being. The identity of their prospective enemy would make anyone put on even the smallest possible protection.

Finally, there was nothing left to do but the deed itself. Everyone was ready. The ship was fully stocked, fueled, and ready for the journey through the end of time. The four Gifted members of the crew were armed and armored. All ten members of the Ark Angel crew gathered around one of the computer consoles in the forward section of the fuselage and began to watch the seismometer.

Every few minutes, there was a tremor, each one larger than the next. Hundreds of Kios away, Riri Nui heaved up and down as it was wracked by cataclysmic quakes. The ground shook beneath the spaceplane, causing everyone to shift their footing. Finally, the spaceplane was hit by an earthquake so powerful that it shook terribly and Soo fell to the floor!

“This is it!” Akira said loudly over the aftershocks. “Manaaki, Whetu, Yukiko, on me. Everyone else, we’ll see you in about thirty minutes!”

Akira and her teammates descended the boarding ramp. The Wanaka badlands, normally covered in snow during these early morning hours, were flooded with melted snow water that covered a hidden layer of ice. As the ramp began to retract, Mira could hear Akira giving a final pep talk to her friends.

“We just wanna escape, guys. No heroics. This is going to be a fighting retreat. Give ground, back up, and don’t get bogged down in a straight fight against this thing. You see a chance to run away, you take it!”

And then the ramp fully retracted, sealing the fuselage away from the outside world.

Mira took her place about halfway back along the fuselage. Sitting in an engineer’s seat, it would be her job to monitor the Hyperspace Core and let the rest of the crew know if someone Wake Jumped onto the ship.

Up in the cockpit, Hakara and Anika began to work the controls, preparing for takeoff.

“Hydraulic systems are green!” Anika started, “Start the ignition sequence!”

From somewhere behind Mira, Soo called out, “Nuclear reactor online! Hyperspace and Time Core online!”

“Starting engine one!” Hakara reported.

Out his window, Arioch checked the starboard engine. It roared to life and began to exert thrust, giving Mira the awkward sensation that the right side of her body was being shoved.

“Good start!” Arioch yelled up to the cockpit.

“Starting engine two!” Hakara called out.

Lee Chong-Il peered out his window on the port side while the powerful thrust on both sides of the ship evened out.

“Good start!” Chong-Il announced. “We’re ready!”

“Anti-ice system engaged!” Anika said, “Brakes cold. Setting orbital destination now… Ninety by one-hundred Kilometers. Main Engine Cutoff will be at three minutes, five seconds.”

Another earthquake! The whole spaceplane rattled violently and Anika yelled:

“Skip the damn checklist! Get us in the air!”

The brakes were released and the spaceplane began to roll forward across the frozen ground. The Ark Angel moved slowly at first, but quickly began to accelerate as Anika and Hakara pinned the throttle! Mira was pinned to her seat and jostled up and down by every bump in the ground! Just when the shacking and rattling became too much to handle, the Ark Angel pitched her nose up and lifted off!

Mira had flown in space aboard a spaceplane, and had re-entered the atmosphere in one as well… but she had never done a takeoff in one. If the situation hadn’t been so dangerous and desperate, she would have enjoyed it! She could feel the incredible power of the engines pushing the spaceplane higher and faster! Then Anika reported:

“We’re passing into the upper atmosphere, ready for engine switch!”

“Hey Mira!” Soo called out, “Get ready for a jolt!”

The Ark Angel’s air breathing engines cut out! With no more forward thrust, Mira was suddenly thrown forward and would have hit her face on the computer in front of her if not for her safety harness.

“Ugh,” Mira gasped. “That was some jolt!”

WHAM!

Both of the Ark Angel’s closed-cycle rocket engines ignited, throwing Mira violently back into her seat! Soo laughed loudly.

“Not funny!” Mira protested.

Looking up, Mira noticed that the sky above the Ark Angel was getting darker and darker.

“We’re clear of the atmosphere!” Hakara announced. “Commencing orbital insertion, Main Engine Cutoff in two minutes-“

“Look!” Soo yelled,

Mira craned her head up to look out the window again, meanwhile, Hakara rolled the entire spaceplane until it was flying inverted, and all of the windows in the fuselage faced towards the surface of Partoga.

Down below, Riri Nui was visibly swelling up. Even though the Ark Angel was now over one hundred Kios above the planet, Mira could plainly see what was about to happen. She felt her heart skip a beat… her breath caught in her chest…

Mira was watching homeworld die.

Even from all the way up in orbit, Mira saw a gigantic earthquake strike Partoga City! Dozens of skyscrapers collapsed immediately, sending great plumes of smoke and dust into the sky. Hundreds of fires broke out across the Megalopolis and quickly became immense firestorms. The Silver Sea rippled dangerously and a great Tsunami rolled away from the Partogan Continent, travelling in all directions!

The many islands of E-Ena foundered beneath the Tsunami! Whakaari Island changed color from green to brown as all vegetation was swept away by the great wave, the Tren Krom peninsula vanished completely as the lethal wave rolled up the western coastline of Levakia before slowly retreating back out to sea.

A second earthquake struck the Partogan Continent, this one was so powerful that the entire western half of the landmass vanished beneath a layer of dust and smoke. In a matter of seconds, Partoga City was levelled to the ground! Further north, the Seawall Mountains collapsed in a series of horrific rockslides and avalanches, allowing the Raki Ita Valley and Archer’s Canyon to fill with water. The very ocean itself seemed to withdraw away from the coastline! A second Tsunami crashed into the frozen mass of the Southern Ice Cap. The wave bounced off the ice wall and returned to the Southern coast, where Whakaari was submerged for the second time before the wave leapt onto the Mangaia. The city and surrounding jungle were pulled up by the roots and dragged out to sea.

Mira couldn’t watch any more. She tried not to think about Maki, Tai, Moana, Arapata, or how so many other people she knew were dying right now. She put her face in her hands and tried to cry, but Hakara had shut off the Ark Angel’s engines, leaving Mira in a low gravity environment where her tears would just stick to her eye. While Mira wiped her face with her sleeve, she heard the other crew members talking about the sight before them.

“Oh, god. That’s never easy to watch.” Lee Chong-Il commented. “Does anyone have eyes on Akira or the others?”

“I’ve got her on my targeting screen.” Said Arioch. “They’re under Telekinetic Shields, just riding it out.”

“There goes Enzor.” Soo said, “The End of the Cycle still hasn’t shown itself.”

“It’s waiting for the death toll to get higher.” Hakara answered. “How are you doing back there, Mihaka?”

“Am I doing better than the other Mira?” Mira choked, trying to stop crying for her friends and family.

“She’d think so.” Said Arioch. “Just remember, we’re going to put all of this right. This disaster won’t happen if we can just get put future right.”

Soo screamed.

“There it is! It’s starting!”

Mira peered out of the window just in time to see it. Riri Nui heaved one last time, as though it were taking in a great big breath of air before letting out a scream…

And then the entire western flank of the Mountain began to move. The biggest avalanche Mira had ever seen in her life thundered down the slopes and crashed into the outskirts of Partoga City. Within moments, the western slopes of Riri Nui had completely collapsed, and for a fraction of a microsecond, the magma-filled insides of Riri Nui were visible…

…before the entire Mountain exploded.
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A column of ash ascended into the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds! The shockwave of the blast rebounded around the entire planet, and for the briefest moment, Mira actually saw a flash of purple light as the shockwave was repulsed by Yukiko Takahashi and forced to go around herself, Akira, Whetu, and Manaaki.

Riri Nui itself was annihilated! Rocks the size of starships rained down across Partoga and Levakia, while the walls of Archer’s Canyon collapsed, filling in the iconic landmark. Lake Naho, a huge body of water in Northern Partoga, was nowhere to be seen. It had evaporated in mere seconds and was gone.

Opaque clouds of ash and smoke began to fill every level of the atmosphere and spread out in all directions. In mere minutes, the entire western hemisphere of the planet was hidden from view beneath a shroud of dark clouds that just kept growing.

“Wait for it…” Arioch said slowly.

To Mira’s amazement, the swirling clouds below the Ark Angel began to change color. Fading away from their acrid grey and black shades to something more… Purple.

“This…” said Hakara, “Is what happens when you make a deal with the End of the Cycle. The Shroud itself overruns the whole planet.”

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Caption said:
The JSDF Ark Angel orbits high above a Shrouded World.

Down below, something incredible was happening. The ground, the water, the air, and every other aspect of the planet had changed, growing duller and fainter, as though the entire world was being drained of some indescribable yet invaluable quality. While the lifeless Partoga began to take on a purple tint, a single point of light became visible through the clouds, roughly in the spot where The Mangaia had once been.

“That…” said Arioch, “Is the Reckoning. It’s here.”

“Which means it’s safe for us to get close again.” Said Soo. “Let’s get into position!”

“Confirmed, starting the boostback burn!” Hakara said from the cockpit. “Everyone hold onto your breakfast!”

The Ark Angel flipped over so that her engines were now pointing in the direction she was flying. Both of the closed-cycle rocket engines ignited and began to slow down the ship. After about three minutes of vigorous burning, the Ark Angel cancelled out her forward momentum and began to fall down into Partoga’s atmosphere, simultaneously accelerating towards the spot where Akira and her teammates had been left.

“Akira, this is Angel!” Aricoh said into the radio. “What’s your status? How are you doing down there?”

“We’re okay!” Akira’s voice sounded tinny and far away over the radio. “We’ve got eyes on the Reckoning, it’s coming this way! You stay out of range until we put it down! I’ll signal you when we’re ready for pickup!”

“Roger that!” said Chong-Il, “Don’t forget we’ve got a missile up here and a few hundred rounds of ammunition left if you want some fire support, too.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” Akira replied. “Out.”

Everyone aboard the Ark Angel undid their safety harnesses and migrated towards one of the windows. Wedged between Soo and Arioch, Mira looked down at the planet and saw what everyone else was looking at. For a moment, she thought she was looking at a thunderstorm. Dozens of flashes of brilliant white and purple light illuminated the clouds below, while the clouds themselves were diffused and blown away by immense shockwaves that could only be generated by powerful Psionic attacks.

“They’re fighting.” Soo commented. “It won’t be long now.”

“We’re in range!” Arioch reported, “Akira, you guys can hit your beacons at any time!”

“We aren’t done yet down here!” Manaaki’s voice yelled over the radio. “We’ve gotta put this thing down first!”

The brilliant flashes of light continued for several more minutes, carrying on like some terrifying fireworks display, until…

“Standby,” Manaaki’s voice called out over the radio. “I’m coming home!”

Mira pulled herself away from the window and propelled herself towards the hatchway at the back of the fuselage. She opened the door just in time to see a Quantum Wavefront open up directly in front of the Time Core and deposit Manaaki on the floor. The transition from planetary gravity to… well… no gravity… must have come as a shock to Manaaki because he flailed around in the air desperately for a few seconds before Mira grabbed him with one hand and pulled him into the crew compartment.

“We’re getting some good hits in.” Manaaki panted. “I’m pretty confident we’ve got the upper hand down there. We’re gonna pull out one by one and do a Time Jump as soon as Akira puts that thing down for the count.”

As soon as Manaaki was away from the Time Core, the Quantum Wavefront opened again. This time, Whetu flew through it as though she’d dove into it headfirst. She soared across the little chamber and collided with the Time Core itself.

“Wait!” Mira said, “Where’s your sword?”

“Yukiko’s got it!” Whetu said. “Get outta the way! She’s gonna come through in a second!”

Mira and Whetu scrambled away from the Time Core, then turned around, expecting to see Yukiko Takahashi rematerialize at any moment…

But she didn’t.

“Hey!” Whetu yelled up the cockpit. “I think we’re out of range! We need to go back!”

“Negative, Kealoha.” Replied Arioch. “We’re only about a hundred Kilometers away from Akira and Yukiko. Something’s gone wrong on their end!”

Mira and Whetu pushed and shoved their way to the front of the spaceplane. Just as they found a window to look out of, all of the other members of the crew gasped with fright!

Everyone saw it at the exact same moment! A brilliant beam of white and purple light shot upwards from the planet, extending into space! Moving at the speed of light, there was no time to evade! The column of Psionic energy connected with the Ark Angel!

“What the hell!?” Soo yelled as the cabin filled with blinding light!

“What’s going on!?” Hakara yelled as Mira closed her eye and held her breath.

Psionic energy overwhelmed the Ark Angel and her crew, and for a moment, Mira felt like she was caught in the grasp of a giant hand, and then she heard a voice… a voice she had not heard in 26 years and had hoped to never hear again:

YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE WHAT WAS ASKED. YOU WILL STAND APART.

The sounds, the smells, and all other sensations of the Ark Angel vanished. Mira was acutely aware that she was no longer aboard the spaceplane, but chose not to open her eye. She already had a sense of where she was… and didn’t want the confirmation. A distant rumbling echoed between the clouds and the ground. Mira felt the tremors in the mud beneath her. She had no choice… she opened her eye.

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It took Mira a few moments to get her bearings. She had arrived in a place that was both foreign and strangely familiar. Mira stood on the precipice, at the edge of this strange new realm for a moment overlooking a vast ocean of swirling color and shadow. Then Mira remembered: I’ve seen this place before.

She had seen this place exactly twice before. Almost 30 years ago, during her first and third forays into the Shroud, Mira had visited these dark lowlands which were somehow even more nightmarish and frightening than the rest of the Shroud. Here dense purple smog hung low to the ground, and the muddy terrain was difficult to cross. All recognizable landmarks were gone. If Mira hadn’t been in orbit just a few minutes ago, she never would have believed she was really standing on what had once been Partoga.

The Shrouded World around her was sickening. The air was damp and heavy, and Mira’s body seemed to be sinking into the mud, which caused her to finally stand up. A ceiling of dense blue and purple smog hung low to the ground, and deep rumbling sounds echoed across the terrain. Mira realized that those rumbles were the sounds of a distant battle.

Now that she knew where she was, Mira decided she very much wanted to get out of here. She reached to the utility belt of her Ark Angel flight suit and pulled out her Return Beacon. Squeezing the trigger hard, Mira closed her eye and waited for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

Opening her eye cautiously, Mira looked down at her Return Beacon. There was nothing wrong with it as far as she could tell, which meant only one thing: she was too far away from the Ark Angel for the Beacon to work. Feeling a sense of rising panic in her chest, Mira began to frantically look around for anything or anyone that might be helpful, but there was only wasteland as far as her eye could see.

Finally, Mira found herself gazing in the direction the sounds of battle were coming from. Between herself and the battleground was a ridgeline of small mountains and hills that had once been the Unnamed Mountain. Thinking to herself, Mira realized that she could get back to the Ark Angel if she crossed those hills and reunited with Akira, Whetu, Manaaki, and Yukiko.

Mira started walking towards the blasted remains of the Unnamed Mountain, and was so surprised by what happened next that she tripped and fell flat onto her own face!

A single step forward had carried Mira across nearly five Kios of ground! She had shot forward like a bullet from a gun and was suddenly much, much closer to the ridgeline than she had been a few seconds ago!

Okay. Mira told herself. Shrouded World means the Shroud’s rules apply here. Good to know.

Now that she was ready for the Shroud’s unusual properties, Mira was able to cross vast distances in mere seconds. She ascended the ridgeline and reached the top at a jog, never breaking a sweat or becoming tired. When she finally reached the top, Mira was confronted by a familiar sight:

It was exactly the same image Mira had dreamt about for the past twenty years.

In the lowlands below the ridgeline, Akira was locked in intense Psionic combat with the Reckoning. The monster was huge and terrifying to behold! The collective energy of every living being on Partoga was now contained within its physical body, and it released that energy in massive bursts! Akira was wearing Mira’s old Celestial Gauntlets and she was using them to great effect. With her left hand, she had conjured up a shimmering purple shield. It absorbed blow after blow as she closed the distance between herself and the Reckoning! With her right hand, Akira was clutching a handful of Soulfire, which burned brighter and more furiously than anything else.

The Reckoning and Akira paced in circles around one another, while the ground between them was torn asunder and the air itself rent by volley after volley of Psionic attacks meeting each other. Electricity arced and snapped from the surface of the Celestial Gauntlets, making Akira look like she was standing at the epicenter of a lighting storm!

Mira didn’t know what, if anything, she was supposed to do now. She was just starting to consider climbing down the hillside when Akira suddenly turned her head and looked straight at Mira. A look of shocked surprise flashed across her face before being replaced with genuine terror. Akira did a double-take, turning her head quickly back to the Reckoning and then back to Mira. She screamed:

“Stay where you are! DO NOT INTERFERE WITH ANYTHING!!”

The Reckoning took advantage of Akira’s momentary distraction to attack her again! The ground below Akira’s feet broke and fractured, for a moment it looked as though the planet itself would open up and swallow her whole, but then Akira countered! Twin bolts of lightning struck both Akira and the Reckoning, and when Mira’s eye had recovered from the sudden burst of light, she saw that Akira had performed an Inversion! Trading places on the battlefield with Akira, the Reckoning was struck by its own attack! The ground opened up and the monster fell into the hole!

Before the Reckoning could recover, Akira had done something else: She raised her hands, palms out, and a Quantum Wavefront opened up directly in front of her and Yukiko leapt out of it! Raising Whetu’s sword high above her head, Yukiko brought the blade down on the Reckoning!

Whetu’s blade struck true! Even from this great distance, Mira could see the nightmarish creature had actually been wounded! Blood (if you could call it that) had stained Whetu’s crystal sword. But Mira still remembered when she had fought side by side with the End of the Cycle at the Second Battle of Archer’s Canyon. Physical injuries were beneath this monster.

Sure enough, the Reckoning lashed out with a telekinetic burst and sent Yukiko flying. At the last second before she hit the ground, Yukiko dropped Whetu’s sword used her Unique Power to Repulse the ground below her, slowing her fall just enough for the landing to be soft. Then Mira noticed another curious feature of the Shroud: Even though Mira was several Kios away from the battle, she could hear the combatants talking to each other as though they were standing next to each other:

“This isn’t working!” Yukiko panted. “We shouldn’t have sent Manaaki and Whetu back so early!”

“This is working.” Akira replied. “You just don’t see how yet!”

OMISSIONS OF THE TRUTH ARE NO LESS THAN LIES.

The Reckoning’s voice seemed to emerge from the very world itself, as though the entire Shroud was talking to Mira, Akira, and Yukiko.

“Just keep ignoring it!” Akira shouted.

Akira and Yukiko fell silent, they continued to back away from the Reckoning, which slowly advanced on them. Even though her powers were long gone, Mira could tell that all three combatants were launching powerful telepathic attacks against each other. It was simply a question of whose willpower broke first… and then, quite unexpectedly, Akira’s voice spoke in Mira’s mind:

"Mira. No matter what happens next… DO NOT touch anything. DO NOT speak to anyone. DO NOT interfere. DO NOT engage. Swear to me you will just stand there and WAIT FOR ME. I WILL COME FOR YOU. This is all for the greater good… for the Perfect Future we all want.”

Then, Akira said out loud to Yukiko:

“Alright, Yukiko. It’s time. Let’s get this done.”

“Agreed.” Said Yukiko. “What’s our play?”

“Gimme that sword.”

Akira ran over to Yukiko. Both of them had their weapons raised and were continuing to shield themselves from the Reckoning’s mental attacks. Yukiko passed Whetu’s sword over to Akira, turned back to face the Reckoning, and said:

“Whatever you’re gonna do, do it fast!”

Mira saw what was about to happen! She cupped her hands to her mouth and took in a deep breath, but before she could scream a warning-

Akira lunged forward, driving Whetu’s crystal sword into Yukiko’s back! Yukiko’s scream echoed throughout the Shrouded World, going on and on for Kios upon Kios.

“Wh- Wha- WHY!?” Yukiko’s final word echoed across the Shrouded landscape, drowning out Mira’s own scream of terror! The voice of the Reckoning echoed back:

YOU AGREED TO IT.

“You promised to help me with something I was planning,” Akira whispered into Yukiko’s ear. “…To do something special for me, and this is it: I need you to die for me… right here… and right now.”

Akira pressed her foot to Yukiko’s blood-drenched back and pushed hard, withdrawing the crystal sword from Yukiko’s body and allowing her former teammate to fall to the ground. Then Akira dropped the sword to the ground and slammed one of her own hands into the mud, just near Yukiko’s corpse! Psionic energy flowed freely from Akira’s hand to the corpse, and it began to emit an intense violet light.

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Caption said:
In this rare photograph from the Second Hyperspace War, Akira "Paradox" Robinson uses her Gift to create a Psionic Ghost from the corpse of a fallen humanoid. Ghosts are semicorporeal copies of their creators, and they have all of the same powers and abilities as their creator. Ghosts have a very limited pool of Psionic Energy and will cease to exist once their powers are exhausted."

The Reckoning must have understood what was happening because it gave up on telepathic attacks and charged straight at Akria! She tucked her head low and dodged the assault, then ignited her Celestial Gauntlets! Two shimmering semi-corporeal blades extended down and away from Akira’s wrists, and she used them to keep the Reckoning at a “safe” distance while something strange continued to happen to Yukiko’s body.

From this distance, Mira had to squint her eye to be able to make out what was happening, but it looked almost as though a spectral… thing was starting to separate itself from Yukiko’s corpse. A head, arms, and torso rose up from the body, and then the Spectral Ghost fully separated itself from Yukiko’s remains and readied itself for combat.

The Spectral Ghost was translucent and seemed to constantly shift its color from blue to purple to violet and back again. It was shaped exactly like Akira, but had none of her features. Its face was completely smooth, with no eyes, nose, or mouth. Shard Blades extended from thick bulges around its wrists (no doubt copies of the Celestial Gauntlets) and raw Psionic energy radiated away from its “body.”

Mira didn’t need to guess or be told what was going to happen next. Somehow, she already knew. Akira had just created a Psionic copy of herself. That Ghost possessed all the same powers as Akira, which meant…

The Reckoning was about to be hit with Akira’s most powerful attack…twice.

The Reckoning looked back and forth between Akira and her Ghost. It seemed to be considering its options.

YOU ARE VICTORIOUS.

“Yes.” Akira said, savoring the moment. “Yes, I am.”

NO VICTORY IS PERMANENT.

“We’ll see about that.”

The Ghost pressed both hands to its head, pulling nearly opaque wisps of Psionic energy of its own skull. Then the Ghost reached forward with one hand, made a grabbing motion… and pulled.

The very fabric of space and time was torn asunder! For the briefest of seconds, Mira though that Akira had opened up a Void Rift, like the one she had seen at the Second Battle of Archer’s Canyon so long ago... but then she realized Akira had done something far... far... far worse. Created as violently as possible, this was no simple hole in spacetime. This was Akira’s unique power: She could destroy matter and energy outright.

In less than a second, the Reckoning was pulled to pieces in a grotesque and ultraviolent fashion as Akira wiped out everything in the immediate area! Her power destroyed everything within its radius. It annihilated matter, destroyed space, stopped time, and then abolished the empty void left behind! The Wound in the Universe continued to grow, swallowing up Akria, Yukiko’s body, the Shrouded World, everything! It didn’t stop! The Wound continued to grow unchecked and uncontrolled!

Mira screamed and turned around. She ran as fast as the strange properties of the Shrouded World would allow! In mere seconds, Mira scrambled down the mountainside, running for her life! Mira could feel the Wound growing larger and larger, it consumed more and more of the planet behind her! She had only gone a few extra Bios, however, when she feet fell through the ground, and the Wound caught up with her at last! Mira was sucked out of this reality completely and vanished into darkness.



Mira opened her eye and quickly looked around. Swirling blueish-green clouds passed gently above her head while a wide array of strange and frightening things clawed at the corners of her mind. There was no mistaking it this time, Mira was well and truly inside of the Shroud itself, but something was different. Something was horribly wrong.

The Shroud was in complete upheaval. Thunder and lightning were nearly continuous, the ground heaved dangerously underneath Mira’s feet, and the ever-present fog had turned into acrid smog. Mira spun around on the spot, looking around for the Wound that had just dropped her here. Instead, Mira’s eye caught sight of the most terrifying thing she had ever... or would ever... observe:

Akira Robinson was standing about half a Kio away, her feet somehow planet firmly on the “ground” which appeared to be breaking up and shattering in slow motion below her. As the Shroud seemed to come apart around her, all five Shroud-Beings closed in to attack. The End of the Cycle, wounded but still dangerous, led the charge. Next to it was the Eater of Worlds, which had changed its appearance since the last time Mira had seen it. It now bore a disturbing resemblance to the 115th Manaaki Ranginui, who Mira had fought and vanquished so long ago. The Composer of Strands had outflanked Akira and was closing in on her right side, raising its nightmare-inducing appendage to deliver a perfectly calculated strike. Akira was also outflanked to her left. The Instrument of Desire was so radiant that Mira was nearly blinded and had to look away as it approached. A loud buzzing and hissing sounded just above Mira’s head! She looked up just in time to see the Whisperers in the Void fly overhead. As they soared past, they gave Mira a look of mournful recognition.

In the center of the ambush, Akira had hazily tucked Whetu’s sword into her belt and was now manipulating an orb of Psionic energy in her hands. The Celestial Gauntlets glowed and shimmered brightly as Akira charged up one last Psionic attack.

“AKIRA!” Mira screamed,

Akira’s voice forced its way into Mira’s mind at once:

This is going to work. Don’t move, don’t talk to anyone, don’t interfere or intervene. Do nothing until I find you.

Just at the moment when the attacks of all five Shroud-Beings were about to make contact with Akira’s body, she pulled her hands apart...

And then she Abolished everything around her.

Akira, Mira, the End of the Cycle, and all four of the remaining Shroud-Beings were caught in the blast radius... and before the local Universe around her was utterly annihilated, Mira had one last thought:

I guess we’re about to find out if that thing can die or not. Too bad I already know what the answer is for me.

And then all of space and time in Mira’s immediate vicinity was Abolished. Right down to the last atom.



Then, it all came rushing back!

Energy, matter, time... the building blocks of the surrounding Universe started pouring into the Wound in much the same way that water rushes into an empty bowl that was dropped into a sink. The implosion pulled Mira forcefully towards its epicenter, sending her tumbling across both space and time! Disoriented and confused, Mira closed her eye and allowed her body to go limp. She just waited for the insane cacophony of sensations to end, and worried she might go insane before it did...

...

The cold breeze on Mira’s face was welcome. She tasted rain on the air. Opening her eye, the first thing Mira noticed was that her eye was being hurt by the sun. Looking up, she caught the last glimpse of afternoon sunlight before grey rainclouds blew in. The wind swept across town, causing several palm trees to bend and sway.

Mira then looked around her surroundings, taking everything in. She was standing on the edge of an open-air market in a town filled with Humans. She must be near a coastline because there were palm trees everywhere, and she could smell salty ocean water. The market in front of Mira was closing down. Several humans were talking in English, complaining about a midday rainstorm. Most of them ignored her outright. One young man looked right at Mira as he walked by. He smiled and said something to her in a language that sounded strangely similar to Partogan, but wasn’t. Mira wasn’t sure if the man had said “You’re Welcome” or “Live long,” but she was sure he was trying to be polite, so Mira smiled in a friendly way at him.

A loud voice caused Mira to jump with fright! She looked around frantically for a source, only to realize it was coming from a vehicle parked on the street nearby. The vehicle itself was an armored van, the type of thing one would expect law enforcement to use. Two Humans were casually leaning against the van. They were both armed with Gauss Rifles and wearing paramilitary uniforms that contained a red patch on their shoulders. Mira recognized the symbols on the men’s patches. These two soldiers were Peacekeepers of the ADVENT Coalition.

The loud voice Mira had heard was coming from a gigantic loudspeaker strapped to the roof of the van. As she watched, the loudspeaker continued to deliver its prerecorded speech:

“We must never allow these insurgents to fill our hearts with fear.” a male Human voice said, “These criminals and traitors seek to destroy all we have built! To return us to the chaos of the Old World. Only together can we oppose them. United in the Elders’ love for us we shall prevail, no matter the cost! Your loyal ADVENT Peacekeepers will stop at nothing to prevent further attacks by criminal elements such as the one that occurred today. The Elders have total faith in our ability to overcome any and all threats to our peace! So remember, fellow citizens: Only together can we build a better tomorrow. Long live ADVENT. Long live the Elders!”

ADVENT? Insurgent attacks? Old World? Humans?

Mira’s head was swimming. She was starting to build up a theory as to what had just happened to her, but she needed confirmation. She needed to see some kind of proof.

Mira started to walk away from the spot she’d been standing in for who-knows-how long and nearly tripped. She’d been so busy taking in her surroundings that she’d failed to notice she was now carrying an umbrella in her right hand.

Doing her best to look casual, Mira began walking through the town streets, taking aim at what she suspected was the downtown area. The more of the town she saw, the more she found it to be familiar. During her first visit to Earth over twenty years ago, Mira had visited an island republic called Hawaii, and more specifically, she’d visited a town called Wailua. This town she found herself in now bore a very strong resemblance to Wailua... except there was a lot less poverty and a lot more Peacekeepers.

The downtown area was exactly where Mira thought it would be. She started walking past shops and stores, looking for television screens. After about ten minutes of searching, Mira found one right as a few solitary raindrops fell atop her head. By a stroke of pure good luck, the television was turned to a news station. It took Mira another minute to remember how to read English, but she found the day’s date in one corner of the screen at long last... and her theory was confirmed.

Today’s date was Friday, the 21st of February in the year 2025.

Mira was on ADVENT-Occupied Earth... During the Second Hyperspace War.



It was starting to rain now. Mira had no idea how long she was going to be trapped here, but she distinctly remembered hearing Akira say “I’ll come for you.” She decided to stay in the town, and began walking laps around the downtown area. As she walked, Mira fiddled with her umbrella, trying to get it open. Finally, just as the rain intensified to an actual downpour, Mira got the umbrella open and took shelter beneath it.

Cool and refreshing tropical rain thundered down the city streets, forming little rivers and streams in the gutters. Mira felt the heat of the day being stripped away and took a deep, relaxing breath. Perhaps being trapped here for a little while wasn’t so bad. There was no fighting here, no crisis or impending danger. If Mira hadn’t found out what year this was, she would have been very hard-pressed to believe the deadliest war in Galactic history was playing out around her.

Mira’s meditation was interrupted by two things happening at the same time. First, she heard the voice of a child groaning with frustration. Then, a wet object wrapped itself around Mira’s right leg. Opening her eye and looking down, Mira saw that a large piece of cardboard had gotten caught in the wind and blown across the rain-soaked streets. Mira bent down and picked it up. Mira saw that something was written on the now-ruined cardboard. Scrawled with black marker in really bad English were the words:

“Will du anithing 4 food”

Looking around, Mira tried to find out where the cardboard sign had come from. Peering around the corner of a building, Mira laid eye on one of the most pitiful things she’d ever seen in her entire life.

A human girl, possibly 9 or 10 years old, was sitting cross-legged in the alleyway. Everything about this human was dirty and worn… she was clearly homeless. She wore a bright yellow tee shirt that was several sizes too big for her, meaning it looked a little like a ragged dress on her. The girl’s blue jeans were faded and torn, and her toes stuck out of her shoes. The girl had brown skin that suggested African ancestry, but her round face and straight hair seemed to be more Asian than anything else.

The homeless child completely ignored the fact that she was sitting outside in the middle of a driving rainstorm. She only cared about the sandwich clutched in her hands. She took huge, greedy bites of it while an ADVENT Burger wrapper settled into a nearby puddle. The child was so caught up in her sandwich that she didn’t notice Mira’s approach until she held out the sign with one hand and said:

“Excuse me, is this yours?”

The homeless child looked up from her meal and quickly grabbed the sign. Then she stood up and said.

“Okay, fine. I’ll go away, alright?”

“Woah, woah, hang on.” Mira put her free hand up to stop the girl from pushing past her. “I’m not gonna make you leave. I actually don’t think I can.”

The homeless girl looked up at Mira’s face, and the two of them locked eyes for a moment. What Mira saw made her gasp. The homeless girl had purple eyes.

Akira’s warning seemed to vanish from Mira’s mind instantly. The old scientist Mira had been in her youth suddenly re-emerged from the depths of her subconscious and began to ask questions. Who is this Gifted Human? Does she have anything to do with Mira appearing in this time and place? Does she have access to her powers? Does she have an Amplifier?

“So, uh… you’re saying I can finish my burger?” the homeless girl asked.

Mira snapped out of her train of thought.

“Obviously, yes.” She said quickly. Then she held out her umbrella. “Come on, get out of the rain.”

This did not have the effect Mira was hoping for. The homeless girl did step underneath the umbrella, but she did so with an expression of nervous apprehension on her face, mixed with a little fear. Mira and the human sat down together in the alley, pressing their backs against the brick wall and angling Mira’s umbrella into the rain. The homeless girl gave Mira another nervous glance and then proceeded to wolf down her sandwich in three huge bites. Mira sensed that the girl might try to run away as soon as she finished swallowing her food, so she said:

“If you want, you can wait with me until the rain stops. I’d feel bad if I knew you were out there getting cold and sick.”

The child looked up at Mira and opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. Mira wondered if the girl wasn’t used to people being nice to her. After a moment, the homeless child moved in a little closer to Mira and rested her head on Mira’s shoulder.

“Thank you.” She said quietly.

“You’re welcome.” Mira replied. “Is this place your home? Are you from around here?”

“Lived on Kauai my whole life.” The homeless child replied. “This is like, the tenth time I’ve been to Lihue.”

Lihue? That name sounded familiar to Mira. She distinctly remembered reading it in a history decades ago. Mira scrunched up her face in thought.

“Are you okay?” the homeless girl asked.

“Uh, yeah.” Mira said, “If we’re in Lihue, then that means we’re not too far from the Seaport.”

“Nawiliwili Bay.” The homeless child replied casually. “I go down there, like, a lot. Try to get on the boats, but they never have any room for me.”

“You’re trying to leave?” Mira asked. “Why?”

“I hate it here.” The girl answered. “Rains too much and there’s not enough food. And I always wanted to go to Korea. I heard people talking about it and it sounds awesome!”

It was like an invisible puzzle piece had slid into place in Mira’s mind! Suddenly, she remembered why the name Lihue was so familiar to her!

Mira remembered visiting a museum in Japan during the Midak expedition: While she was there, Mira had found a huge exhibit dedicated to the life of Jericho, the Human who saved the entire Galaxy from the Beast during the Second Hyperspace War. A Biographer had told Mira that Jericho had once been trapped on the island of Kauai in the Pacific Ocean, and that she had escaped by stowing away aboard a cargo ship in Lihue. A week later, the ship had dropped her off in Pyongyang, a city in Korea!

Struggling to remember the details as best she could, Mira said:

“You know, kid, I knew somebody who did get on one of those boats. They made it all the way to Korea and they did pretty well for themselves. You’re not wrong, trying to get out of here.”

The homeless child looked very excited.

“Really?” she asked. “How’d your friend do it?”

“She sneaked aboard an empty fuel tanker.” Mira said. “When they’re empty, security is much more lax and the crew is smaller. There are literally hundreds of places for you to hide and most of the cameras and alarms are turned off.”

“Cool.” The girl said. “How do you tell if a fuel tanker is empty?

“It’ll sit really high in the water.” Mira said. “You’ll be able to see the red bottom of the ship, and it’ll look taller than normal.”

“That’s, like, really super cool!” the homeless girl gasped. “So what did-“

But before the homeless girl could finish her question, an immensely powerful gust of wind blew through the alley and tore the umbrella right out of Mira’s hand!

“Oh, crap!” Mira shouted, “Hang on, I’ll be right back!”

Scrambling to her feet, Mira chased the umbrella into the street. Rain was now flying horizontally across her view, and the intense wind only continued to pick up speed. Before Mira could grab the umbrella, though, she was buffeted by a new wind coming from the opposite direction! Caught in a vortex of air and water, Mira could only kneel down and cover her face, waiting for the waterspout to pass her by, but then a hand closed around her shoulder and a voice said:

“Aha! I found you! Told you I would, now let’s get outta here!”

Mira felt a powerful pulling sensation, as though someone had tied a rope around her waist and was pulling her backwards. The town, the island, the Earth, and everything else from the year 2025 was left behind, and for a moment, Mira’s body seemed to be hanging in empty space. She watched the stars and planets race around her as time itself raced past her, but in which direction, she didn’t know.

Mira’s vision was reduced to a nondescript blur as Akira pulled her further up and away! They smashed through what felt like some king of barrier and finally landed in the ruins of what had once been the Shroud. As soon as they landed, Akira let go of Mira and put her hands on her knees, panting and wheezing heavily.

While Akira tried to catch her breath, Mira looked around at what Akira had done: A small patch of the Shroud, roughly the size of a Gunship, had been completely destroyed by Akira’s power. As soon as the Wound had closed, the Shroud made some kind of attempt to re-form itself, but there was something wrong with the air, the ground, everything. Looking at the spot where the Wound had closed, Mira couldn’t help but feel she was looking at the terrain through a dirty window… the colors were off and the area itself seemed… fuzzy…. Almost as though the individual atoms were spaced too far apart in a failed attempt to compensate for the ones that had been lost forever. But there was one other thing about the spot where the Wound had closed:

Mira could see five shadows. Each one shaped like a Shroud-Being, the shadows were burned into the air and ground, eerily similar to the shadows of Partogans incinerated by the Nuclear Weapon strike on Fort Miranda long ago. Mira reached out with one hand and tried to touch the shadow of the Whisperers in the Void, only to find that her hand passed right through it with no ill effects.

“Are they…” she started to ask.

“No.” Akira coughed, then she fell to her hands and knees and began to retch loudly. “It’s… *gasp* … it’s not possible to… to kill those things… but…”

Akira stuck her finger down her throat and vomited onto the ground. Spitting up blood and other fluids, she stood up.

“That…” Akira said slowly. “What you’re looking at, Mira, is the worst way you could possibly hurt those things. They’re going to survive… but they’ll never fully recover from getting hit like that. Thanks to Yukiko’s sacrifice, we’re never going to see the End of the Cycle again.”

A huge storm of thoughts flew through Mira’s mind. What sacrifice was Akira talking about? She had murdered Yukiko! What would the rest of the team say when Mira and Akira came back without her… and how long would it be before Akira murdered Mira in the same way?

In that moment, Mira realized she simply couldn’t trust Akira under any circumstances. She was brought out of her thoughts when Akira suddenly retched, fell to her hands and knees, and began to vomit again.

“Sorry.” Akria gasped. “Abolition is a… a really powerful… but pretty nasty bit of Psionics. It’s unnatural.”

“Are you gonna be okay?” Mira asked cautiously, doing her best to look concerned.

“Yeah.” Akira said. “Can you please keep talking out loud? I can’t read minds when I’m like this.”

Mira picked up Akira and the two started walking across the wrecked Shroud together, looking for their exit point. While Akira guided the way, Mira was practicing a certain type of walking meditation. She was determined to keep her mind clear and empty of stray thoughts, so that when Akira regained her ability to read minds, there would be nothing suspicious to find in Mira’s head. To convince Akira she had no reason to suspect anything was wrong, Mira said aloud:

“I think you’re right, by the way. Yukiko’s sacrifice was totally worth it. We’ve gotta find a way to honor her when we get back to the Angel.

“Damn right.” Akira coughed. “Let’s get out of here. I can’t wait to never see the Shroud again.”




Month Invalid, Day Invalid, Year Invalid
JSDF Ark, Angel, Interplanetary Space, Trecta Star System (Unclaimed)



Mira found the Return Beacon to be a surprisingly unpleasant experience. As soon as she rematerialized aboard the Ark Angel, she felt an overwhelming urge to vomit. It didn’t help that Akira actually did vomit when she appeared a moment later. Anika and Soo grabbed them both and wrapped them up in warm blankets before asking:

“Where’s Yukiko?”

The spaceplane was silent for a moment while everyone realized what her absence meant.

“She didn’t make it.” Akira answered.

“We owe everything to her.” Mira said slowly, keeping her eye on Akira and her mind as quiet as possible.

Whetu pulled her sword out of Akira’s belt and instinctively raised a cloth to clean it, only to find the blade was already spotless. Then she said,

“Hang on, does that mean what I think it does?”

Akira nodded.

“The End of the Cycle is incapacitated… Permanently. We’re in the clear.”

A rousing chorus of cheers and applause rang throughout the little ship. Finally, Akira raised a hand for silence.

“This means we don’t have to look over our shoulders anymore, guys. We can spend all the time we want getting this next cycle exactly right. Everyone plays their part and pulls their weight, and I promise you all, the 116th Cycle will be the last cycle. We’re almost at the end of the tunnel and there’s a light waiting for us there.”

Akira smiled at her comrades.

“Let’s get this done. For Yukiko, and for all of our friends and family. Let’s build them a Perfect Future. Hakara, and Mira: go fire up the Time Core. Arioch, get us prepped for a Time Jump. Send us to the 116th Cycle.”

Hakara and Mira only needed about five minutes to activate the Time Core, but the rest of the ship wouldn’t be ready for a Jump for nearly half an hour. This meant Mira had plenty of time alone with Hakara in the Core… and it turned out to be time well spent. As soon as the metal hatchway was sealed behind them, Hakara looked Mira right in the eye and said:

“Alright, the old Mira would make the exact same face when something was troubling her. What did you see?”

Mira looked up at Hakara.

“I’m not sure I can tell you.” She said cautiously.

Hakara leaned on the Time Core and tapped his head with one finger.

“Worried Akira’s gonna poke around in here and see what we talked about? Don’t worry about that. I’ve learned to keep my head clear, just like you Gifted people do. I also sleep with a Mindshield. I’ll get you the one Yukiko had in her bunk. Not like she’s gonna need it anymore. So you can feel safe telling me what horrible thing Akira did this time.”

“This time?” Mira repeated. “You mean-”

Hakara nodded.

“You’ll figure it out quickly enough. So let me guess, Whetu’s sword came back clean because either you or Akira washed it off. Did Akira at least look at Yukiko when she did it?”

Mira’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t believe Hakara had gotten to that conclusion so quickly.

“Yeah, I’ve had my qualms and misgivings for a while now.” He said. “This isn’t confirmation for me. Reinforcement is a better term.”

“But-“ Mira stammered. “If you knew she was doing stuff like that, why stay with her?”

“I kept telling myself ‘One more Cycle,’ thinking each one would be the last.” Hakara said. “Then each Cycle I kick myself for not quitting sooner.”

He unfolded his arms and took a step closer to Mira.

“You wanna see something else she’s lied to everyone about?”

Hakara gestured for Mira to approach the Time Core. He tapped his fingers on a touchscreen and brought up a diagnostic screen. It contained records of what exactly the Time Core did during its previous usages.

“When you met Akira, did she feed you some story about an XCOM scientist telling her about time being circular?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not. She lied.” Hakara said simply. “Time is naturally linear. It only goes forward. Period. These loops… these Cycles… they don’t happen naturally. They’ve never been observed in the wild, and Arioch and I can’t create them under scientific conditions. This device works by forcing Time to curve backwards onto itself. Do you understand, Mira? Without Akira, without this... this thing, there would be no Cycles. It’s not just Akira’s powers that violate nature. Her ship does it too. Akira’s the one who decides when the Cycle begin and end… because she is the only one who can cause them.””

If she hadn’t been before, Mira was now seriously reconsidering her choice to join Akira’s crew. She gave Hakara a serious look and said.

“Hey, listen. Are you serious about quitting the team?”

“Yes. She promised this would be the last Cycle. If it doesn’t pan out in our favor, I’ll quit.”

Well,” Mira said, “Let me know before you bail out… and I’ll go with you, okay?”

“Deal.”



Half an hour later, the Ark Angel was ready for her next Time Jump. All nine of her surviving crew members gathered together in the forward fuselage for one final meeting.

“Our first stop,” Akira said, “Is the Taiidan Homeworld, about five hundred years before the First Hyperspace War. Mira. It’s going to be a few months, our time, before we get to the Levakian Uprising. I expect you to pull your weight and earn your keep around here, got it?”

“Of course.” Mira replied.

Akira clapped her hands together excitedly.

“Okay, Soo: You’re going to be pulling double duty as my copy until we replace Yukiko. Hope you’re ready to get spotted a lot. Arioch and Hakara, you two need to re-write any plan that involved Yukiko. Mira’s proven she’s trustworthy, so we should start giving her solo assignments somewhere around the Hiigaran-Bentusi War. Whetu and Anika, you already know what the two of you are going to be doing on Partoga. Lee, you did a killer job with the disguises this past cycle, so you’re going to be in charge of that again. Manaaki, get to work repairing those Celestial Gauntlets. You’re gonna need them for the First Hyperspace War. Does anyone have any questions?”

No hands were raised, no words spoken.

“I love it.” Akira said, “Let’s go get our Perfect Future! Engage the Time Core and initiate Hyperspace!”

 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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Akira causes the Cycles?Then,what does the End of the Cycle do?

Also,I feel like the Shroud-Beings aren't gone for good...


Also,I feel like Mira being in the past/future is part of a time loop,an ontological paradox...

Looks like Akira can break the Laws of Physics...
 

HistoryDude

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Also,I feel like that power means that Kendra and co. in the main story are completely and utterly screwed...

I also have this weird feeling that the Shroud-Beings are going to return,and they're going to be pissed at Paradox.

What even is Paradox's plan,anyway?What does she want to do after the Second Hyperspace War is averted?
 

Macavity116

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Akira causes the Cycles?Then,what does the End of the Cycle do?
In the Stormbreakers Universe, the End of the Cycle served a similar function to Father Time, a character from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair. It was a mechanism for bringing about the final end of everything once the Universe reached the end of its natural lifespan. Certain dialogue and narration throughout both After Everything and Faith in Chaos implies the End of the Cycle knew it might not live to fulfill its original purpose, though.

The End of the Cycle wasn't present in Extinction, the original version of this story from 10 years ago. Instead, Akira was being hunted across time by a mixed force of heroes and villains from across all of my other stories. Akira defeated and wiped out the Unholy Alliance almost exactly the same way she "killed" the End of the Cycle today.


What even is Paradox's plan,anyway?What does she want to do after the Second Hyperspace War is averted?
She still wants the galaxy as a whole to survive the Second Hyperspace War with as many civilizations intact as possible, as well as creating a future in which Jericho and the Stormbreakers score a definitive win against the Beast during the War in Heaven. This plan also includes annihilating Asalele to prevent her own discovery.

Over the many Cycles, Akira's become okay with the idea of using more and more extreme measures to accomplish that goal, and now Akira is no longer concerned with how many people pay the price for her own success.

Akira's intentions are noble, but her tactics and methods are inexcusable and unforgivable.


Also,I feel like Mira being in the past/future is part of a time loop,an ontological paradox...
We better hope Mira doesn't run into Jericho a third time. (Fourth if you count Chapter 3.6 of After Everything) The timeline is already too complicated. :confused:


Looks like Akira can break the Laws of Physics...
Just the one: The Law of Conservation.

Energy and Matter cannot be created nor destroyed... except when Akira Jaqueline Robinson is around.


I also have this weird feeling that the Shroud-Beings are going to return,and they're going to be pissed at Paradox.
The Shroud-Beings are alive, but for once in her life, Akira actually spoke the truth. They will not be able to recover from their injuries. The Paradox will act with total impunity from today onward.


Also,I feel like that power means that Kendra and co. in the main story are completely and utterly screwed...
Your feelings are justified.
 
Last edited:

HistoryDude

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In the Stormbreakers Universe, the End of the Cycle served a similar function to Father Time, a character from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair. It was a mechanism for bringing about the final end of everything once the Universe reached the end of its natural lifespan. Certain dialogue and narration throughout both After Everything and Faith in Chaos implies the End of the Cycle knew it might not live to fulfill its original purpose, though.

The End of the Cycle wasn't present in Extinction, the original version of this story from 10 years ago. Instead, Akira was being hunted across time by a mixed force of heroes and villains from across all of my other stories. Akira defeated and wiped out the Unholy Alliance almost exactly the same way she "killed" the End of the Cycle today.



She still wants the galaxy as a whole to survive the Second Hyperspace War with as many civilizations intact as possible, as well as creating a future in which Jericho and the Stormbreakers score a definitive win against the Beast during the War in Heaven. This plan also includes annihilating Asalele to prevent her own discovery.

Over the many Cycles, Akira's become okay with the idea of using more and more extreme measures to accomplish that goal, and now Akira is no longer concerned with how many people pay the price for her own success.

Akira's intentions are noble, but her tactics and methods are inexcusable and unforgivable.



We better hope Mira doesn't run into Jericho a third time. (Fourth if you count Chapter 3.6 of After Everything) The timeline is already too complicated. :confused:



Just the one: The Law of Conservation.

Energy and Matter cannot be created nor destroyed... except when Akira Jaqueline Robinson is around.



The Shroud-Beings are alive, but for once in her life, Akira actually spoke the truth. They will not be able to recover from their injuries. The Paradox will act with total impunity from today onward.





Your feelings are justified.

Total impunity?Real total impunity?Asalele still exists...

Wait,when was the 4th time (I know 3.1 and 3.6 and this one)?

Wait,doesn't that imply that Akira always told the truth about her intentions?

The End of the Cycle's purpose makes sense now,thanks.

Also,no victory is permanent...so Akira might still lose... (unlikely,though)

Also,I know what Akira's theme song should be...No I just need to find the link...
 

HistoryDude

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What Akira's theme song should be:
 

Macavity116

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Wait,when was the 4th time (I know 3.1 and 3.6 and this one)?
Mira has now met Jericho three times:
  1. Chapter 3.1 of After Everything (Shroud)
  2. Chapter 3.6 of After Everything (Shroud)
  3. Interlude #4 of Faith in Chaos (Time Travel)
I'm saying Mira should avoid a fourth encounter, because Jericho probably remembers meeting Mira during her own childhood.


Wait,doesn't that imply that Akira always told the truth about her intentions?
Yup. She's not 100% evil.
 

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So,that means she's going to encounter Mira because people never do what they should do...

Also,can't wait until Chapter 5.1 aka "let's see Mira (possibly fail to) ditch the team!". Too bad I have all of my finals first...

So,Mira did just create a time loop (Ouroboros),right? I feel like this form of time travel is going to be the key to defeating Akira... and Whetu's sword is going to be absolutely useless.
 

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So,that means [Jericho is] going to encounter Mira because people never do what they should do...
Assuming Mira lives through Chapter 5.5, of course.


So,Mira did just create a time loop (Ouroboros),right?
Possibly. What we do know for certain is that Mira Mihaka is now directly responsible for everything that happens in my next AAR: Stormbreakers. Jericho's arrival in North Korea is the inciting event for that particular story.


I feel like this form of time travel is going to be the key to defeating Akira... and Whetu's sword is going to be absolutely useless.
*Checks the gameplan for Chapters 5 and 6.*

I'm gonna save this comment and come back to it after Chapter 5.4.