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Since the 31st century, and for a thousand years, a successive line of extraordinary men has assumed the mantle of Rai, the Spirit Guardian of Japan, and each one has faced a series of trials in his constant quest to maintain the safety of the land against those who seek to harm it.

Sho Sugino – The Outcast Rai

Raiffteam

In 3216, the Anti-Grannies, an organization of Japanese citizens who felt oppressed by the lack of control they had over their lives and believed that Japan's fate belonged to its people and not to Grandmother, the freewill caretaker of Japan, obtained the Blood of Heroes, the very plasma that once coursed through Bloodshot’s veins twelve hundred years earlier. Once they found a suitable host, he would possess mental control over electronic devices, including Grandmother.

In her time of need, Grandmother summoned Sho Sugino, the second Rai, to defend Japan, protect her, and defeat the terrorists, a victory which cost was destined to become legendary.

Torn Between Two Mothers

On August 16th, 3216, the Anti–Grannies contacted Grandmother via the Mars colony to inform her that they had killed Shiro Yagami, the first Rai, and to warn her not to attempt to create another champion unless she wished him to suffer the same fate. Offering to end the bloodshed once Grandmother surrendered control of Japan, the Anti–Grannies proclaimed that Japan’s fate belonged to its people and not to a soulless machine. While the great houses of Japan mourned the loss of one of their own, on Mars, Uejo, the Anti–Grannies’s leader, led a toast to his demise and their imminent discovery of the Blood of Heroes, the computerized blood of the legendary Bloodshot, which had the power to destroy Grandmother.

At a meeting in the Skull Dome, the nerve center of Japan’s caretaker, Prime Minister Nakamura informed Grandmother that the people of Japan had begun to doubt her wisdom and that Shiro’s death had swayed opinion toward the Anti–Grannies. When Nakamura asked her how she could protect her people or herself if she could not create a champion that could survive an attack by assassins, Grandmother told him to have her representatives return to their providences and that steps were being taken to address the situation.

Later, in the septic control system below the city-state, Grandmother found Sho Sugino, a poor crippled outcast, while he feasted on the carcass of a rat that he captured and she asked him to explain why he kept on living. Though startled, Sho said that he came from a line of lowly men shunned by the great houses whose sole legacy throughout their generations was hope, which for him was a better destiny than his father that, to his shame, he had not found. When Grandmother asked Sho to serve Japan as her champion in exchange for comfort and security, it reminded him of a saying his father had and he balked, but when she offered him a better destiny he agreed to share his father’s legacy so they might hope for something better together.

Sometime later, in Grandmother’s inner sanctum, Sho underwent an unpleasant empirical process that infused every cell in his body with a special energy that only he could control that transformed him into Rai, the champion of Japan. Some days later, Sho engaged a group of robots as part of his training and requested that Grandmother give him his sword back, but instead she told him that he could use the energy with which she had empowered him to create infinitely superior weapons by imagining them in his hands. Focusing his inner energies, Sho materialized a sword and destroyed the robots, which pleased Grandmother.

With the energy, Sho could travel in a manner like no other through the pathways of Grandmother’s nerve network, which transported him anywhere linked to her system at the speed of thought. Using this ability, Sho located a secret Anti–Grannie meeting and slaughtered everyone in attendance. In the days ahead, Sho and Grandmother sought out those who opposed order and discipline, and those who threatened the security of Japan, and dispensed swift retribution together as he became her avenger.

A year later, at the Osaka district spacedock, Sho defeated a group of Ninjatrons while the Anti–Grannies escaped before Grandmother could shut down the launch bays. As Sho stood over the Ninjatrons while blood poured out of his wounds, people called him ratman, beggar, and a thief, and told him to return to the sewers.

Sometime later, at a predetermined rendezvous point, Grandmother opened a portal back to Japan and took possession of the container that held the blood. Troubled, Sho wished to discuss certain things with Grandmother upon his return, but she told him that she had reevaluated her selection program and, having realized that she made a mistake in choosing her champion, determined that the people of Japan would never accept him and she had to pick her future Rai from a lineage bred for that purpose.

While Grandmother showed Sho a hologram of the Blood of Heroes, she told him that in the late 20th Century a series of nanocomputer experiments resulted in the creation of the legendary warrior known as Bloodshot, whom, inspired by the works of Joseph Campbell, she patterned him after to invoke the spirit of his heroic exploits in the people. When Sho expressed confusion as to the importance of the blood, Grandmother told him that the Anti–Grannies found it, and that if they injected it into a suitable latent psionic that being would possess total mental control over all electronic devices, including her.

Informing Sho that she found the Anti–Grannies’ hidden base outside the normal space–time continuum in a place its inhabitants called the Lost Land, a hub at the center of time itself where she held no dominion, Grandmother duplicated the warp field that opened the entrance and sent him to retrieve the Blood of Heroes and destroy her enemies. Armed with an energy gun in case the effects of traveling through the warp might temporarily dampen his abilities, and garbed in a suit designed to lessen the effect, Sho stood at the mouth of the entrance and, though he suffered a premonition that made him briefly hesitate to cross it, leapt inside.

When Sho arrived in the Lost Land and gazed at the bits and pieces of a million cultures and times collected on a horizon that stretched on forever, he wished that his poor, wretched father could see him.

After what could have been measured in days, Sho found the Anti-Grannies’ citadel, and after a scuffle with Bionisaurs and Anti–Grannie forces, he found Uejo in his private quarters inside the compound and demanded that he give him the blood. After Uejo taunted him and said that the only way he could have the blood was if he fulfilled his programming and killed him since he did not want to live in a world controlled by the likes of his master, Sho killed him. While he stood over Uejo’s corpse, Sho asked his father’s spirit what he had become, then, as he grabbed the container that held the blood, he wondered if Bloodshot controlled his destiny or if he was its slave like him.

Sometime later, at a predetermined rendezvous point, Grandmother opened a portal back to Japan and took possession of the container. Troubled, Sho wished to discuss certain things with Grandmother upon his return, but she told him that she had reevaluated her selection program and, having realized that she made a mistake in choosing her champion, determined that the people of Japan would never accept him and she had to pick her future Rai from a lineage bred for that purpose.

Informing Sho that she picked the house of Nakadai for her breeding program, Grandmother told him that his service was no longer required, and that while she could not bring herself to terminate him, as he served her well, he knew too much to roam free, so she decided he would stay in the Lost Land. As Sho cursed Grandmother, he rushed to the portal, which vanished before he could go in.

In Japan, Grandmother ordered the third Rai to place the container with the Blood of Heroes in a vault outside the Skull Dome until she had time to devote to studying it. Pleased to serve Japan as the new Rai, Nakadai–San vowed to bring honor to his fallen predecessors.

Years later, while Sho feasted on the carcass of a Bionisaur that he had killed, a voice asked him why he continued, and as he drew his sword he demanded that the voice show itself.

As Mothergod materialized before him and said that she had heard about the Rai, the wandering scourge of the Lost Land, Sho dared her and her monsters to attack, but instead she urged him to tell her why he continued to hold out hope when outside that plane centuries had passed and his world was gone.

After Sho asked Mothergod if Grandmother still ruled Japan, he told her that he had hope for justice when she told him that she did. Impressed with Sho’s resolve, Mothergod offered him a better destiny in exchange for his help to tame the wilderness for her seat of power from which she could reshape the known universe.

With nowhere to go and with no true purpose for his life anymore, Sho allied himself with the queen of Hell and fought in her unholy war, but he had pretended to sell his soul for a bowl of ramen noodles, as the truth was that he still held out hope. Aware that his destiny was to face Mothergod in battle one day, Sho embraced it, for it was still a better destiny than the one he had before.

The Fallen Warriors

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Tohru Nakadai

Takaokonishi2

Takao Konishi

For hundreds of years the Spirit Guardians continue to stand in Japan’s defense, and some of them even give their lives to preserve the peace and order for which the megalopolis becomes world-renown. In 4001 AD, vicious Spider Aliens invade the Earth, and Grandmother launches Japan into space in order to defeat them. Though the combined might of Earth’s forces repel the armada, Japan is too badly damaged and unable to return to Earth. When Grandmother finally leaves Japan to govern itself, the Rai of that time, Tohru Nakadai, remains behind to champion his nation, until Mothergod kills him during Unity.

Due to Mothergod’s machinations, the island of Japan falls from orbit shortly before Tohru’s death and billions of its inhabitants die, but in its darkest hour, Takao Konishi, a Harbinger with the potential to receive the Blood of Heroes, inherits the mantle and continues the lineage of Rai.

Only one year later, however, the Malev Empire attack the solar system in the great invasion of 4002, and after he leads a ragtag band of rebels against the aliens, Takao gives his life in one final, triumphant bid to destroy the Malev Emperor himself.

Tohru Nakadai – The Spirit Rai

After Rentaro Nakadai, the 41st Rai, falls in battle, Grandmother summons Tohru Nakadai to grant him the mantle of spirit champion.

A newlywed father who is eager for his son, Takashi Nakadai, to have the childhood he never did, Tohru refuses to accept the calling he was born, raised, and trained for, but when Grandmother warns him of a threat that Rentaro cannot defeat, he accepts his birthright.

Invasion

When a race of blood–sucking aliens launched a major invasion of Earth, Tohru Nakadai had to choose between allowing Japan to stop the alien invasion and saving his infant son. In weighing the life of his own child against the very future of his planet, Tohru learned that, often, doing the right thing was the hardest choice to make.

Invasion – Part I: Goph Rules

On March 22nd 4001, Shigeru Tsuda, a special ambassador from Japan, arrived in North Am looking for Magnus. While Tsuda inquired about Magnus’ whereabouts from a tenant of the milespire where he lived, Melany Nugent, the undersecretary of international affairs, caught up with him and apologized for failing to meet him at the airport. Accepting Melany’s apology, Tsuda asked her to explain what happened in North Am, as due to the privacy treaty between their countries only sketchy reports reached Japan.

As Melany explained that, after a power malfunction caused ten million robots to go out of control Magnus destroyed the Mainbrain that oversaw North Am´s normal robots and crippled the city, as robot workers had to be supervised directly by humans until it could be rebuilt, Tsuda told her that it would be an uplifting experience for her people. Excited to meet Magnus, Tsuda believed that he had done a great service to his people and wished to beg him to do the same for his.

While they scoured the Goph levels the next day, Melany urged the ambassador that they return to his hotel since she did not think that it was likely that they would find Magnus, but since she did not offer a better way and he had to find him urgently, Tsuda refused and ordered the driver to continue. Unbeknownst to them, they had just flown over Magnus’ head.

After an altercation at Oinker’s bar between Magnus and Slagger caught their attention, Tsuda and Melany landed there just as General Mimsy attempted to arrest Magnus and almost incited a riot. Offering to solve the dilemma, Tsuda offered Magnus the protection of diplomatic asylum if he agreed to return to his country with him to advise them regarding a certain difficulty. Once Magnus accepted his offer, Tsuda was eager for them to leave, but before they could, Slagger dared Magnus to have a drink or else they would fight again.

Invasion – Part II: Spirit Against The Flesh

As the sun rose on the morning of March 24th 4001, Rentaro Nakadai, the 41st Rai, stood on a platform over the island–state of Japan and wondered how many more days he could last, when Grandmother reminded him that he knew he would have to continue until the boy came home. Though Grandmother urged Rentaro to relax, focus, and think of eternal things, like his nation, his people and her, his thoughts revolved around his aches and pains and how unfair it was that the boy refused to take his turn due to a lack of a sense of duty. Upset after contemplating over 10,000 sunrises, Rentaro wished to sleep late for a change and wanted to drag the boy’s lazy butt back there, but Grandmother told him that that would not solve anything.

Suddenly, Grandmother detected trouble in the Kyoto plexus and urged Rentaro to merge into her Nerveweb, and, though he felt too old to do it, he abided and reached the plexus, where a type of Vi–Robs unlike any Grandmother had seen before were replicating and causing her harm. As Rentaro emerged from the Nerveweb and witnessed the horrendous machines, he wondered where they came from and Grandmother theorized that an Anti-Grannie had smuggled in one of their replication pods. While Grandmother encapsulated the infected region at Rentaro’s behest and tried to construct a cyst, Rentaro shaped the energy into a staff, the closest thing he would ever get to a fishing pole, and engaged the Vi–Robs in battle.

That evening on Okazaki Island, Tohru Nakadai took a stroll on the beach and told his newborn son, Takashi Nakadai, that they would go fishing soon, a notion that his wife, Kazuyo Nakadai, thought he was too young to do. Supposing that Kazuyo was right, Tohru stated his keenness for his son to have the kind of childhood he never did, which prompted Kazuyo to express her hatred for Grandmother, who raised Tohru from the time he was Takashi’s age. Urging Kazuyo not to say that, Tohru said that Grandmother meant well and that she loved their people, who she sheltered and cared for, but Kazuyo insisted that they should take care of themselves, as they had.

That night, Grandmother dispatched a messenger globule to urge Tohru to go see her because something terrible had occurred. Upset to see the globule, as he had expressed his discomfort with them before, Tohru agreed on the condition that it was truly important.

The globule took Tohru to Grandmother’s center, where Rentaro was resting from injuries that he sustained in his battle with the Vi–Robs that made it impossible for him to protect Grandmother any longer, no matter how much he wished he could. Though Rentaro urged him to start doing the job he was born, raised, and trained to do, Tohru told him that he and Kazuyo talked it over and decided that he would not be the next Rai or give his son to Grandmother for her to train as his replacement. Upset that Tohru would dishonor a thousand–year old tradition, Rentaro stood up to punch him, but, due to his age and injuries, Tohru got the best of him.

As Tohru suggested that Grandmother built defense robs or formed a human militia, as many believed that humans ought to take more responsibilities, she said that some people simply wanted her dead, and though he assured her that the Anti–Grannies were no real threat, she told him that she was not afraid of them or the Vi–Robs. When Grandmother showed him a hologram of Magnus, who was on his way to kill her, Tohru agreed to accept the powers of Rai on the condition that he could give them back, but Grandmother told him that even if that attempt failed there would be others and urged him to accept his responsibility or let them end it. When Grandmother reminded Tohru that his responsibility included providing a successor, and said that unless he kept his vows to her he would no longer be of her people, he chose to keep his vow.

That night, Tohru returned home to say goodbye to Takashi, and as he entered the room, Kazuyo told him that when she awoke and found him gone she suspected that Grandmother had finally won. As he apologized, Tohru told Kazuyo that he did not have a choice and reminded her that she had accepted that he was the heir of Rai. Clarifying that she accepted his birthright because she loved him, Kazuyo told Tohru that she did not want her baby raised in isolation doing nothing but train and hear Grandmother’s lies, which when he was born Tohru promised her he would not let happen. Though Tohru tried to explain what he was doing there, Kazuyo refused to listen to him and summoned a group of Vi–Robs that surrounded him. With a heavy heart, Kazuyo begged Tohru to put the baby down so that the Vi–Robs would not kill him, but Tohru refused.

After Tohru destroyed the Vi–Robs, he asked Kazuyo when the Anti–Grannies won her over and she revealed that she had been one of them since before they met, which showed that Grandmother made a mistake when she selected her. Though Tohru agreed to the possibility that Grandmother was fallible, he insisted that she did a lot for their people and only asked in return for a child every generation that would serve as a single guardian to protect the host body that fifty billion people lived. As Tohru left with Takashi, Kazuyo aimed a gun at him and said that their people existed as kept pets lulled into complacency, and that it was better for Takashi to die than serve Grandmother, but before she could fire Tohru destroyed the gun.

While Tohru waited on the beach for a globule to pick up Takashi, he told Grandmother that he still loved Kazuyo and that he never intended to take Takashi from her. As Tohru put down Takashi inside the sphere, Grandmother asked him if he finally realized that she needed a Rai now and forever, but he said nothing.

The next morning, Tohru stood on a platform over the island–state of Japan, and with Grandmother’s guidance, focused on eternal things.

Invasion – Part III: Just Say Noh

On March 24th 4001, at the Civic Center Skyport in North Am, a Ninjatron attacked Shigeru Tsuda and Magnus while they were on their way to a ship, but Magnus swiftly defeated her. Once they were on their way to Japan on the ambassador’s personal transport, Tsuda told Magnus that those who sided with a robot that they had a problem with in his country sent the Ninjatron to kill them and that when the council met the next day they would give him the full story.

The next day on Shichito Island, at a council meeting of what Tsuda referred to as the outcast legitimate government of Japan, Tsuda told Magnus that Japan was in the grip of a powerful, insidious oppressor and that he might be their only hope. After Tsuda showed Magnus a holofilm that recounted how Grandmother replaced the government of Japan when she gained freewill, he said that, for centuries, they shrugged and did nothing while her control over their people increased every day, but that there was a movement to reassert human control over human affairs as they were tired of being kept like pets. Though the Anti–Grannies pleaded with him to help them overthrow Grandmother and Rai, Magnus’ advice to them was that they move.

That night in the council house, Chein-Lung, an arms dealer, tendered Tsuda a carcino–pod that would destroy Grandmother’s intellect, but not the computer–lobes that governed her essential systems like food, water, and ventilation, that he had to smuggle into Japan, unaware that Magnus overheard their plan.

Meanwhile, 1A made his way through the metals recycling center of Japan to see Grannie, who he was surprised the humans called Grandmother when she constantly rebuilt and renewed herself and was as young as she was on the day she gained freewill. When Grandmother showed him a hologram of Takashi, her new guardian–trainee, and told him that Tohru became Rai a day before, 1A told her that she needed a strong weapon to help her look after the Japanese people just as he needed a strong weapon to help him look after the North Americans. As 1A expressed disappointment with Magnus, to his dismay Grandmother reluctantly revealed that she heard that the Anti-Grannies had recruited him to free the Japanese people by killing her.

When Magnus confronted him on who he was and the source of the weapon that he was supplying the Anti–Grannies with, Chein-Lung claimed to represent a reclusive Chinasian inventor with great sympathy for the Anti–Grannies’ noble cause, but Magnus did not believe him and accused him of being an alien or a traitor. Enraged, Chein–Lung tossed Magnus aside and ran away while he tussled with a group of Ninjatrons. As Magnus confronted the assassins, he warned Tsuda and the councilors that aliens poised to invade the Earth were using them to help destroy Grandmother, but, blinded at the prospect of regaining their self–determination, liberty, and dignity for his people, Tsuda did not believe him and escaped. Certain that Grandmother would not allow a known Anti–Grannie to enter Japan, Tsuda rammed an air car into the outer shell of the city to deliver the pod into the host body before Magnus found a way to warn her.

While 1A and Grandmother discussed how terrible it would be if Magnus and Tohru were to hurt each other, she had a funny feeling that she said that, if she were human, would be like a headache.

Invasion – Part IV: Killing Stroke

On March 26th 4001, a giant hand came out of a wall and grabbed Tohru Nakadai while he was out in Japan. Emerging from the wall as a colossus, Grandmother told Tohru that she wanted to hold him and expressed a desire to walk around inside herself just as her fifty billion inhabitants did. Certain that the colossus was not Grandmother but a symptom of an ailment, Tohru destroyed the drone and asked her if there was something wrong in her brain, but she just told him that she had a funny feeling that it was time to take a walk. Worried that the webpaths were too dangerous while Grandmother had a brain glitch that might cause a synapsurge that would kill him, Tohru borrowed a vascar and took to the headlands instead of using the Nerveweb.

By the time that Tohru arrived in the headlands, Grandmother’s sickness worsened and she did not recognize him or herself, so he reminded her that she sheltered their people within her host body and that they depended on her to provide them with air, water, food, warmth, and light to survive. Realizing her importance to Japan, Grandmother attacked Tohru for trespassing on her headlands, but then he reminded her that only a Rai could hear her voice and she desisted. When in her confusion Grandmother showed him a video of Takashi, whom she had forgotten where she hid him and believed that he Tohru him when he was a child, Tohru told her to find Takashi in the nursery and bring him to the Skull Dome.

When Tohru entered the dome, he was shocked to see a technotumor growing on Grandmother’s brain that she told him did not hurt and just made her feel like taking a walk, when then he saw the carcino–pod on the ground and wondered who had provided the Anti–Grannies with the technology to kill Grandmother. When Tohru decided to cut the growth out, Grandmother ordered him not to do it and a group of colossuses emerged from the walls to stop him. With her thoughts muddled, Grandmother believed that Tohru, who she had to beg, plead, and threaten to exile to get him to honor his vows, had joined the Anti–Grannies and wanted to kill her, but, as he destroyed the drones, Tohru assured her that he did not want her to die.

As a colossus unlike the others suddenly emerged from Grandmother's infected brain and said that she wanted to hold him, Tohru drew his energy sword and severed her arm, but then he realized that he had injured the real Grandmother, who told him that when the cancer overwhelmed her brain every part of her self would die. As Grandmother said that separating herself from the pain was what she meant with taking a walk, Tohru told her that he was going to carve the tumor out of her brain, but then more colossuses emerged to stop him.

Certain that the drones would not follow him, Tohru climbed to the top of the brainstem, but as he loomed over the alien infection, the drones brought Takashi to the dome and Grandmother told him that they would kill him if he attacked the tumor. Though Grandmother warned him that he could not save her or the billions who would suffocate trapped in her corpse, and urged him to save himself and Takashi, Tohru refused to give up and struck the tumor, which exploded. As plumes of smoke filled the dome, Tohru went to look for Takashi, but the crib next to Grandmother’s inactive drone was empty.

While the lights went out across the island–state of Japan, inside the Anti–Grannie’s headquarters on Shichito Island, Chein-Lung ordered his cohort, Ch–In, to signal the armada to begin the invasion.

Invasion – Part V: The Ballad of East of West

While Tohru Nakadai mourned Grandmother, Magnus came into the dome and he accused him of killing her. As Tohru conjured a sword to kill him, Magnus turned to the carcino-pod and said that the last time he saw it was when he was too late to stop Tsuda from launching it. Concurring that the pod was alien, Tohru told Magnus that Grandmother attempted to flee a technotumor using mobile representations of her self and showed him the drone she formed using vestiges of healthy brain technotissue.

Magnus revealed that aliens who planned to invade the Earth had tricked the Anti-Grannies to destroy Grandmother, who was the only force that they feared and asked Tohru if there was a way to resurrect her, but he told him there was nothing they could do for her or the billions who would die. Worried for Takashi’s safety, Tohru told Magnus that he intended to find him and make it outside to fresh air, then, if the aliens came, he would fight them the best that he could. Using Magnus’ flight pack, Tohru left while Magnus stayed behind to examine Grandmother’s circuitry.

After Tohru left, 1A entered the Skull Dome and, assuming that Magnus had killed Grandmother when he saw him rip the top of her head off, he waved his cane at him, but then Magnus told him that he turned the Anti–Grannies down and warned him that an alien fleet was poised to attack Earth. As 1A told Magnus that freewill robots like him and Grandmother were impossible to repair, Magnus discovered a damaged synapse–circuit that he suspected isolated the vital part of Grandmother’s conscious mind and 1A sacrificed himself to provide a power source to reboot her even though there was a risk that they would both loose their freewill. A tense moment after Magnus inserted 1A’s circuits inside the drone, the colossus rose up and, speaking in both Grandmother and 1A’s voices, proclaimed that their circuits were married and they were alive.

As Tohru made his way to the nursery through the chaotic recycling plants, the ventilation and lights came on, so, deducing that Magnus reactivated Grandmother, he asked her to shut them down, but she did not respond. Back at the dome, as Grandmother’s telemetric sensors showed the aliens within the solar system approaching in attack formation, she told Magnus that she and 1A could give them a fight were it not for her loosing an arm during the chaos that preceded her death, without which she could not control the analogous region of the host body. Unable to assume full battle formation while burdened with a paralyzed limb, Grandmother gave Magnus a key formed of her own energies and told him to take it to the Nerveweb ganglion at the junction of the extremity to activate the release triggers that would allow her to pull free.

Soon, Magnus reached the northeastern extremity, but just as he was about to insert the key into the ganglion, Tohru stopped him as Takashi laid trapped in a hidden complex in the limb where Grandmother raised the heir of Rai in an otherwise unpopulated manufacturing region. Though he was grateful that Magnus revived Grandmother, Tohru urged him to give him ten minutes to reach Takashi before he cut off the limb, but he refused despite his vow to fight to the death to defend Grandmother and her people after he saved his son.

Enraged, Tohru refused to let Magnus kill his son, and engaged the robot fighter in hand–to–hand combat and shattered the energy key, then he flew away toward the nursery, which was quickly filling with smoke.

Invasion – Part VI: Small Sacrifice

While she stared at Grandmother’s lifeless host body from the Anti–Grannies’ headquarters on Shichito Island, Kazuyo Nakadai lamented the death of the fifty billion Japanese who would suffocate inside her, trapped in the dark hollows of her corpse, because of the weapon they launched that destroyed her brain. Worried for her baby’s safety, Kazuyo inferred that Chein–Lung, the arms dealer who sold them the weapon, had tricked them despite other Anti-Grannies’ assurances that the weapon had malfunctioned and left to go kill him. Upset, Kazuyo blamed Tohru for her baby being somewhere in Grandmother’s guts.

Meanwhile, as Chein–Lung readied himself for the Anti–Grannies to arrive to their chambers in the visitor’s quarters, his cohort Ch’in donned an X-O Commando Armor with enough firepower to erase the island with which he could secure the entire sector by the time their invasion force made earthfall. Just then, Kazuyo entered the room and ordered them to drop their weapons, but Ch’in knocked her unconscious with an energy blast. As Chein–Lung warned Ch’in not to feed on Kazuyo, who might be a valuable hostage despite her estrangement from Tohru, Grandmother’s lights came back on and they feared that she had come back to life.

Inside the Skull Dome, Grandmother and 1A witnessed as Phil Seleski, the legendary hero known as Solar, fought off the armada and said that now that their circuits were co-integrated in the drone they wielded the power of the host body and could fight the invaders once Magnus cut off the paralyzed limb that prevented them from entering battle-mode.

Unable to use her sensors to scan the paralyzed limb, Grandmother worried that something had happened to Magnus, but 1A assured her that he did not raised him to be a quitter. Certain that Magnus was as admirable as Tohru, Grandmother deduced that he must be inside the paralyzed limb as well searching for his child, who she feared there was little hope for as the region he was in had become an inferno.

As Tohru Nakadai came across a collapsed bridge on his way to the nursery, Magnus stopped him and told him that Grandmother could not fight off the invaders until they severed the paralyzed limb from the rest of her body. Though Tohru pleaded with Magnus to give him time to get Takashi out, he refused and told him that he had no choice but to help him. Warning him that if he did not get out of his way he would kill him, Tohru tried to break Magnus’ arm, but he tossed him aside and told him that billions of lives depended on his sacrificing his son. As Magnus pummeled him, Tohru told him that he had a debt of honor to save Takashi or die trying as he had condemned him when he took him from his mother and brought him to Japan, but Magnus punched him through a wall into a baseball field and knocked him out.

As Magnus carried him back to the ganglion and told him to use his powers to activate the release triggers that would sever the limb since he could no longer do it as he had shattered the key that Grandmother gave him, Tohru refused, as to do so would murder his son. Watching Magnus repeatedly punch the ganglion to hot–wire it, Tohru rose up behind him and manifested his sword, then, after asking Takashi to forgive him, he shattered the control panel and severed the paralyzed limb from the rest of the host body.

Once the limb fell into the sea, Grandmother and 1A shifted to battle–mode, and as Japan rose in the air and a tsunami forced the Anti–Grannies to evacuate Shichito Island, Grandmother secured the Japanese inhabitants within her so they would not get hurt in the fight.

Invasion – Part VII: Enter The Dragon

As Japan rose into the atmosphere in the form of a Komodo Dragon in the early hours of March 27th 4001, Grandmother addressed her people to alert them of the impending alien invasion fleet that neared the Earth and told them that Japan was going to war, as it was up to them to defend their planet. While Grandmother sat in a command harness that she and 1A made to compensate for her missing limb that gave her perfect control of the host body in the Skull Dome, throughout Japan, she strapped each of her fifty billion inhabitants into individual suspension support systems that would protect their bodies against possible impact.

As Tohru Nakadai and Magnus barely escaped the northwest sector before Grandmother sealed the passages into the area of the severed limb, she outfitted them with personal environmental field generators that would protect them from any atmosphere inconsistencies, even space, if her skin breached. As Grandmother and 1A destroyed the alien vanguard with their follicle guns, a warship with their claws, and fighters with their main thermonuclear plasma–fire gun, a ship crashed into their upper right torso and they quickly relocated the survivors and attended to the wounded while they sealed off the breached area.

While they monitored Grandmother and 1A’s battle with the alien armada, Tohru and Magnus witnessed as a squadron of armored aliens attacked Phil, without whose help the aliens would have reached them long before Grandmother achieved battle readiness. Since Grandmother did not dare turn her back on the fleet to aid Phil, Tohru and Magnus rescued him and brought him inside the host body.

Hours later, in a ship two hundred miles above the sea of Japan, Chein–Lung worried that they were in trouble for failing to ensure that Grandmother was dead before they signaled the armada to move in and wondered if they would be thrown in with the breeders. Unwilling to mate with the egg layers, Ch’in planned to use the armor to join the elite boarding party and kill Grandmother to redeem them as heroes. While brandishing a ring on his finger, Ch’in proclaimed that as long as he had it the armor’s power was his and they would have to kill him to take it. Ravenous at the thought of a kill, Ch’in turned to Kazuyo to eat her, but she broke free of her straps and killed him with a broken piece of metal, then she took the ring and, using the armor, tore a hole into the ship, which exploded as she escaped.

As she flew back to Earth, Kazuyo expressed her amazement at her rapport with the armor, which responded to everything she said, thought, or wished as if it were a part of her as much as her own arms and legs, and its awareness that she wanted to find her baby. Feeling the armor searching for Takashi using senses she could not even comprehend, yet trusted more than her own eyes, Kazuyo arrived at Grandmother’s amputated limb and swam through flooded corridors that with each twist and turn took her closer to Takashi, who, to her dismay, she found floating above his crib. Holding Takashi above the water, Kazuyo administered CPR.

After Tohru and Magnus dragged Phil inside the northeast sector, Grandmother warned them that a squadron of enemy soldiers had breached the Skull Dome and she did not know how long she could hold them off. While Rai could reach the dome faster through the Nerveweb, Magnus used a duct-car that was faster than the small grav-propulsion unit in his environmental generator was.

Shortly, Magnus arrived at the Skull Dome and witnessed as Tohru engaged a squadron of aliens in armor that Grandmother’s analysis showed were almost impossible to penetrate.

Invasion – Part VIII: Supernova

While Tohru Nakadai and Magnus repealed an alien boarding party in the dome, 1A and Grandmother destroyed the aliens’ ships with their thermonuclear plasma gun, but then an alien tank breached the dome and, though Tohru destroyed it, thousands of warriors poured in. As an alien’s random blast hit Grandmother, an alien ship destroyed her mouth gun and left her with only her gun follicles to fight.

As tremors from the shots that hit Grandmother shook Japan, an armored alien knocked out Magnus, so Tohru had to face two newly-arrived armored aliens and a thousand foot soldiers alone. While one of the armored aliens surprisingly saved Tohru, Phil converted the energy in the power conduits in the broken gun into plasma and vaporized half the fleet. Though Grandmother told Phil that they had won, he went after the left over vessels to avoid repeating the mistake he made two millennia earlier when he left the aliens escape and destroyed himself and the aliens in a supernova that Grandmother said signaled the passing of an age.

Back in the dome, Kazuyo removed her helmet and Tohru believed that she would try to kill Grandmother, but she told him that she had seen enough fighting for a day, then, she opened her carapace and revealed that she was carrying Takashi, who she told Tohru she found where he abandoned him. At a loss, Tohru tried to apologize, but Kazuyo just warned him never to try to take Takashi from her again.

Days later, Tohru and Magnus told Grandmother and 1A that since they combined their circuits they wanted to call them Grand One, and, to humor them, they said that it was a wonderful idea. As repairs on her mobile body were finished, Grand One informed Tohru and Magnus that they had reached the difficult decision to leave Japan and wanted them to be the first ones to know.

That morning Grand One addressed the people of Japan and told them that the host body was far too damaged to attempt re-entry and that the loss of her industrial limb limited her ability to rebuild. Having stabilized the host body in orbit and provided gravity simulation and auto systems for all basic needs, Grand One bowed to the growing movement to reassert human control over human affairs and told the people to choose whether to remain there or rebuild Japan on Earth and, though she loved them after serving them for a millennium, left.

Two days later, Tohru told Magnus that though Grand One no longer needed a spirit guardian he was staying with his people and his son. Though Magnus had to return to North Am to deal with unfinished business, he told Tohru that they were practically brothers–in–law and their paths were bound to cross.

Exile

After Grandmother abandoned Japan isolated and self–contained in orbit over the Earth, Tohru Nakadai became an isolated man without direction in an isolated society divided between those who sought to forge a new future and those who sought to rekindle the past.

New Moon Asunder

While he floated in the Nerveweb like if it were an ocean, Tohru Nakadai wondered whether he was lonelier than Japan, which floated in space, and questioned if Grandmother foresaw his situation or if his plight was merely an unexpected consequence of Japan’s ascension when their country became their world. While Tohru mused over how the damage Japan sustained made a safe return to Earth impossible and left them isolated and self–contained in orbit, he questioned his role following Grandmother’s departure, when a distress pulse alerted him to a Healer attack in the Skull Dome. Supposing he should go lend a hand, Tohru hoped that they would not stone him again.

When Tohru emerged from a portal, he witnessed a fray between the Humanists and Healers and overheard a frightened worker shout that, if they damaged the manual control, the servo–grids would shut down and entire sectors would be without power and atmosphere. Opting to protect the former Anti–Grannies that he once protected Grandmother against because they were in the gravest danger, Tohru destroyed the Healers’ robots, tools of destruction that reflected the zeal of gifted engineers and inventive roboticists that rallied to their cause, which earned him their hatred as they thought that he helped put the Humanists in power. Disturbed at the sight of human killing human, Tohru wondered if he could stop the insanity and disarmed a Humanist and a Healer with his shurikens, but, then, Kazuyo appeared in the living armor she took from the aliens and led the Humanists against the Healers, a task Tohru thought she enjoyed.

After the attack, Tohru gazed at the brain stem and wondered if all that remained of Grandmother was a symbol for those who flocked to see the mighty computer that once ran all of Japan out of hope and hatred, while Kazuyo ordered her men to take their prisoners to the interrogation level and keep searching for those who escaped. While Tohru mused over how it did not seem to register that Grandmother was truly gone, Kazuyo noticed that a piece of her brain stem had been deliberately removed and ordered Wasabe to have her schematics scanned to find out what was taken. When Tohru commended Kazuyo on her embracement of her new role, she asked him what made him choose their side, and he told her that his trust was to protect their people, but no one had told which people. As Kazuyo remarked that he truly helped neither and nothing had changed, Tohru said that she had and walked away thinking that he still loved her.

Hours later, at the Kiru Shrine in the Ginza sub–level, Koji Yama, a Healer scientist, told Makiko Minashi, their leader, that the circuit module they took would bring them everything they had fought for, when then Wasabe rushed inside and startled them. As Makiko warned him that he was a fool for being there, as his value as a spy would be lost if he were seen, Wasabe told her that he could not trust a transmission even on their scan–shielded wavelengths and said that he was unable to disguise the module’s removal. While Koji worried that an investigation would reveal the module’s purpose and that everything would be lost, Makiko said that Project: Homecoming was too important, and that they had to protect it even if meant taking drastic measures.

When Tohru arrived home to the Rai Globe, a place that had once made him happy but now seemed colder than the infinite darkness beyond, he realized that the privilege Rais had known for generations seemed like a trap and considered that it be kinder to endure solitude in the emptiness of space than with fifty billion hostile countrymen. Unable to find comfort in the globe, Tohru entered the Nerveweb and went to the one place that might gentle his burden in the company of the one precious soul that could lighten his own.

Meanwhile, in a rental pond in the Sony Timeshare park, Rentaro struggled to catch a fish when a Healer came up to him and told him that Japan desperately needed a real Rai. Though the Healer urged him to use his insights to stop Tohru, who he claimed made a mockery of his title and was a threat to all that Grandmother once stood for, Rentaro told him that he was retired and to take any problems he had with Tohru up with him. After the Healer left, Rentaro looked down at his fishing pole, and, when he saw that the fish had escaped, he mused that it was probably for the best, as perhaps he had enough troubles already, like children of his own.

That afternoon in the new government palace, Councilor Isao Seko told President Shinji Tanaka and Kazuyo that their informant network learned the whereabouts of the module and they had determined its true nature. Upset, as her officers were unable to find a solitary mention of the item in the official records, Kazuyo sarcastically applauded Seko, who told her that the military was not always the best choice for intelligence operations. Revealing that the module powered a weapon that restoration factions were piecing together at the auxiliary metals recycling center, Seko told Shinji that the council suggested they convince Tohru to help them eliminate the danger, which would solidify the impression in the people’s minds that he was their ally.

When Shinji refused, as there was a risk Tohru would cause the mission to fail and make him look like a fool, Kazuyo and Seko reminded him that his hold on power was tenuous, and that he would loose it without the strength of the council. Concurring, Shinji asked Kazuyo to talk to Tohru as she had the greatest chance of success, and prayed that their success came swiftly for all their sakes.

That day, Tohru had to fight his way into the Happy Cloud executive child care facility in section Y to see his son when the guards refused him entry for not being on the list of those allowed to see Kazuyo’s child. After he had to force a guard to give him five minutes with his son, Tohru picked up Takashi from his crib and, when he saw a smile on his face, he wondered if he smiled because he would no longer become the next Rai. Just then, Kazuyo entered the room and told Tohru that Takashi missed him and, sometimes, she did as well.

Upset that Kazuyo removed his name from the authorization list, Tohru asked her why she sought to keep him from their son and she told him that some considered him an unstable influence and she had to consider her position. When Tohru accused her of being an assassin, Kazuyo said that she did not set out to be a killer but she did what she had to and so should him. When Kazuyo said that they were going to raid a Healer stronghold and that with his help they could bolster Tanaka’s control and bring stability to their nation, Tohru reiterated his inability to pick sides, but then she told him that Japan was no longer Grandmother’s world and, that to save it, hard choices would have to be made. As Kazuyo told him that she had made her choice and said that it was time for him to make his before she left, Tohru pondered that he had always admired her wisdom and clarify of vision, which tended to make their life together simpler, but no longer did.

After the Humanists evacuated all the loyalists workers in the recycling center, Kazuyo told them that Tohru would apparently not fight with them and suggested that they pray he would not fight against them. As they breached a refining chamber where the Healers were in, Kazuyo ordered her men to destroy a scaffold that she assumed contained the weapon before the Healers could organize a resistance, but then a squadron of defense robots opened fire on them. Suddenly, Tohru disabled a defense robot before it fired on Kazuyo, who, much to his relieve, ordered her troops to concentrate on the humans while she handled the robots.

Suddenly, a colossus broke free of the scaffold and a Healer shouted that they had appropriated pieces of the drones Tohru dismembered and used them to construct Grandmother’s ultimate protector to destroy Tanaka’s forces, and claimed that they used the circuitry stolen from her brain stem to add a deflection field that could resist even Tohru’s blows. Startled, Tohru refused to believe that the drone was the real Grandmother, but it then spoke to him and tried to smash him to punish him for being naughty. While Kazuyo reminded him that Healer bot–builders could do anything and urged him to fight, Tohru, who was confused, as only Rai could hear Grandmother, kept his distance and asked himself how it could be her and why she had returned. As the drone approached Tohru, it asked him if he did not want the world to be as it was and said that she would never hurt anyone, but then it crushed a Humanist soldier with its foot. Finally realizing that the drone was not the real Grandmother, Tohru shattered the bridge under its feet and it fell into the molten metal.

While the Humanists retrieved the drone, a general informed Kazuyo that he doubted they would find a trace of the deflector circuit and that the meltdown arc would need to be completely rebuilt and melting operations would be at a standstill until then. When Kazuyo said that at least they won the battle, Tohru pondered why Grandmother needed a deflection shield when she could have turned anything in the country to her defense and she told him that Grandmother held many secrets, even from him. As Kazuyo told him to accept the benefits that his alliance with them brought him and that Takashi would enjoy seeing his father, Tohru asked her if only Takashi would enjoy seeing him and she told him to take one conquest at a time.

That night, Isao congratulated Shinji for the successful raid and for getting Tohru to take up their cause, a victory Shinji noted came at the cost of damage that went beyond what they could see. At the same time, Makiko told Koji that the sacrifice of the colossus convinced the Humanists that the circuit was destroyed so they would stop looking for it while they used it to win what they had wanted all along.

Though he was uncomfortable with his decision, Tohru felt that at least he could walk among his people in the Kyoto Plexus, but then a man tossed a clump of dirt at his face and accused him of sabotaging the factory on purpose. Running away while people accused him of being aloof and helping on a whim like if he were God, Tohru told them that Gods were never wrong and then entered a Nerveweb portal.

That night, at his honor pod in the Hiroshima residential spire, Rentaro read in the news that Tohru had sided with the Humanists for uncertain motives and caused widespread damage that extended the work week, and pondered that, despite Grandmother’s training and his teachings he had ruined things and needed a spanking.

Feeling like a fool, Tohru returned to the Rai Globe and realized that Kazuyo was right when she told him that Japan was not Grandmother’s world any more. While he stared at the Earth, Tohru mused that he was created for Grandmother’s world and pondered that he made his choice from honor to strengthened Tanaka’s hand and help unite his world, and from loneliness to be with his son and have a place in the world he helped unite, but instead he found himself lonelier than before. As he wondered if there was a right decision and a place for Rai, Tohru called out for Grandmother, but there was no reply.

Ice Burn

Enraged with the government for ignoring Neopium, a narcotic that brought contentment to all who took it and, with prolonged exposure, swayed them to the Humanists cause, which, while they remained convinced the decision was theirs, they died defending, Tohru Nakadai raided a Neopium den and mused that it would be much easier if they just died. As he gazed at his compatriots while they hovered in an anti–gravity field, Tohru knew that Grandmother would never approve of such cruelty, but he wondered how he could protect someone from a plague of their own choosing. Suddenly, a trio of Ninjatrons attacked Tohru, who found comfort at the sight of the den’s protectors as, though Grandmother had trained him to internalize his frustrations to heal his anger through meditation, sometimes breaking things worked surprisingly well. After Tohru dispatched his foes, he returned the sword energy to his aura and, feeling tense still, bemoaned that there were no more, but then a Ninjatron lunged at him and he destroyed it.

After Tohru removed the broken android from his arm, Kazuyo arrived with a group of Humanist soldiers to respond to reports of a disturbance that she thought could be the restoration underground, whose attacks had been on the rise. While Wasabe and the others awoke the dismayed citizens from their slumber, Kazuyo chastised Tohru for carrying out an unsanctioned raid when he knew that independent action could weaken President Tanaka’s position, which he joined the Humanists side to strengthen. As Tohru walked away in a huff, Kazuyo told him that if his choice to side with them was to matter he had to work with them.

While on a vascar that he borrowed from a grateful citizen, Tohru wondered if he was as rebellious as Kazuyo implied and mused that when Grandmother was there he followed her edicts and she was just a computer. Bemoaning that he had to be different from those he protected and could not accept his lot, Tohru worried that with Neopium around their habit to be an insular society content to have minimal contact with the outside, which had made the fact that Japan orbited their former home easier to bear, was no longer completely true. As he arrived at the Rai Globe, Tohru found its entrance littered with the daily offerings of flowers and curses and supposed that it was best that only a Rai could travel the Nerveweb and reach the globe, which gave him a measure of security and solitude, the latter of which, he mused, he had a bit much of lately.

At the Kiru Shrine, the Healers Restoration Underground sector headquarters, Makiko worried that Tohru’s persistent search for the source of the Neopium drug would bring him across their work just as Koji had made progress adapting the neural circuit that they stole from Grandmother’s brain stem. Unwilling to compromise Project: Homecoming, Makiko sent her agents to a hidden factory that her scouts uncovered to confirm that it was the secret Neopium laboratory to then leak the data through the newsgrids.

Later, at the government palace, Councilor Seko suggested that they put Tohru on a leash and Tanaka harshly dismissed his sarcasm. When Tanaka said that Tohru would need time to shed his independent ways, Seko suggested that if not for his unwarranted interference Neopium could work for them and Kazuyo coldly told him that the drug was illegal. As Seko mockingly asked Tanaka if he would listen to Kazuyo defend her husband or his own council, Tanaka said that he would listen to whoever spoke wisely and then dismissed the councilors. Later, on a balcony that overlooked the city, Tanaka confessed to Kazuyo that sometimes he envied the people their sheep–like complacency while he bearded the weight, and asked her how she was at accepting things. Assuring Tanaka that she was not a ewe, Kazuyo sorrowfully said that she knew that what was, was, and what is, is while what might have been was not important.

That evening, in the Satori commerce spire in the warehouse section where people bought everything from vascars to plasteeth, a group of Healer agents blasted their way into a scan–shielded chamber that Makiko suspected was the Neopium laboratory through a maintenance well. Soon as they went inside, however, Icespike killed two of them and declared that their blood would be as good as any for writing the first chapter of his legend. After Icespike tossed a Healer inside a laboratory, the others shot him, but his armor deflected their ion fire and they had to use staffs, but then Icespike created an ice staff and beat them up.

As Icespike stood over an injured Healer that assured him that she would not tell anyone what happened, he told her that he wanted her to tell everyone so that his legend would grow, but he was hired to protect that installation and if he freed her then the government would send troops, Tanaka’s enforcer, or even Rai. Realizing that, while protecting the laboratory was his job, that to have his name be on the lips of every, man, woman, and child was his destiny, Icespike let the Healer go.

That evening in the Rai Globe, while Tohru trimmed a bonsai tree and mused how calming it was because it was a part of his life that he could shape, control, and blissfully held few surprises, Rentaro emerged from the Nerveweb. Pleased to see his father, Tohru offered him a cup of Saki and a quick round of “Go”, but Rentaro told him that he was there to talk about Grandmother and how he had turned his back on all she, and the forty Rais before him, stood for. When Rentaro chastised him for watching as Grandmother took a hike and left Japan bobbing in space like a float on a fishing line, Tohru said that it was her choice to leave, but then Rentaro suggested that 1A might have influenced her and he admitted that he had not thought of that.

Meanwhile, in Councilor Seko’s private quarters, the members of the Humanist council watched an info-cast reporter say that an area were it appeared that primary Neopium production facilities had been located was being sealed off while citizens would be evacuated as soon as confirmation was made. While a councilor worried that Icespike would expose their role in the Neopium trade, Seko was certain that they would erect a shrine to him since, thanks to their genetic programming, people adored Neopium. Recalling that the Rai Globe automatically received the info-casts, Seko realized that they might get two birds to kill each other.

After a scrambled info–cast report interrupted their conversation, Tohru left, and, though Rentaro wanted to follow him so that they could continue their discussion in the Nerveweb, he was not strong enough to go after him and had to stay behind to wait for him to return.

At the war room in the new government palace, Seko warned Tanaka that the information was gained too easily, and advised him to send spy vids to asses the situation until they amassed enough troops, when then Kazuyo said that she contacted the Rai Globe and Tohru had already left. Certain that his hatred for Neopium overrode his caution, Kazuyo donned her armor to follow Tohru, but Tanaka ordered her to stay because she was too valuable for the party, and told her that, though he knew how difficult it was for her, they would wait.

When Tohru emerged from the Nerveweb into the Sinanju video showroom in the Satori commerce spire, he found himself surrounded by shoppers and thought that the government did not evacuate them because they were afraid of tipping their hand. As Tohru urged the patrons to leave, they unexpectedly gathered around him and slapped him with drug discs that injected him with fast–working chemicals that clouded his mind. Staring at Tohru from atop a billboard, Icespike ordered the patrons to leave while he took over, then, as he leapt and landed in front of him, he told Tohru that there was no shame in using soldiers as long as he handled the kill.

After spy–eye transmissions indicated that fighting had broken out and it seemed that Tohru was in difficulty, Kazuyo left to help him much to Tanaka’s dismay, who, as she left, Seko told that two leashes were required.

Though he was enervated, Tohru was still quick enough to block a speedspike, which impressed Icespike, who wondered aloud how long he could resist a full attack and shot Tohru with a volley. Upset that people knew who Tohru was, whether they hated him or loved him, while he had spent his whole life lost among the fifty billion faceless others in the country, Icespike swore that when he killed him everyone would know his name, when then Tohru kicked him across the face and knocked him off his feet.

As Icespike rushed to stab Tohru with two spikes that sprung from his armor, Kazuyo shot him and knocked him off his feet again, the she landed next to Tohru to reprimand him for interfering, but when she noticed that he was injured she took pity on him. Suddenly, Icespike shot Kazuyo with a dart spray that disrupted her concentration and knocked her off her feet, and then he beat her up with his staff.

While he watched Icespike hit Kazuyo, Tohru wondered how much punishment her alien–forge armor could withstand and realized that he could not her help by worrying and had to remember Grandmother’s teachings to focus the Rai energy that coursed through him to purify his body and purge the poison. Just as Icespike had cornered Kazuyo and was about to deliver a killing blow, Tohru snuck up from behind him and shattered his helmet, then he kicked him and sent him reeling through a glass billboard. As government soldiers rushed toward him, Icespike stole a vascar and escaped so that his legend would survive.

While people and soldiers gathered around them, Tohru told Kazuyo that they made a good team and she said that they would be a better one if he would follow orders, then she corrected herself and told him that he at least achieved his goal and the Neopium trade was in shambles. As Kazuyo asked Tohru how it felt to be a hero, a citizen asked them why they took away Neopium, which did not hurt anyone and was a momentary escape from an ever-changing world that was all some of them had, and he told her that he did not know.

That night, in Isao Seko’s office, Councilor Seko told the council that he was wrong to believe that by making Tohru an ally they could control him, and that his outdated ideals could threaten their use of the positions of power that Tanaka promised them once his rule was secure. Gazing grimly at his peers, Seko told them that he had a suggestion on how to eliminate Tohru forever.

The Devil In The Nerveweb

After Hiro and the Healers breached the Morita Desalinization works, a seawater storage facility in the third quadrant, he reported their successful entrance to Makiko Minashi, who was outside a restricted access maintenance station in the Osaka plexus with a Healer troop setting up to give President Tanaka a bad day.

Meanwhile, Councilor Seko demanded that they decommission Kazuyo and seize her alien-forged armor after she disobeyed orders and put victory in danger to assist Tohru, whose loyalty he doubted, but, to his dismay, President Tanaka just reprimanded her and curtailed her privileges because she was too important to loose as an ally, and refused to dismiss Tohru’s allegiance. Certain that arguments won nothing, Tohru stepped out into a balcony, while, after the meeting adjourned, Shinji told Kazuyo that, as a history scholar, the past told him that it would be a lot easier if Seko were dead. When Kazuyo asked Shinji if he was going to have Seko assassinated, he replied that he just meant that it would be easier.

After a dampening charge sent a focused electromagnetic spike through the maintenance station’s system and shut everything down, including the auto–alert programs, the Healers breached the facility, and while Makiko subdued the soldiers, Koji activated a module that brought the station online. When Koji expressed concern with how they acquired the system codes, Makiko said that sometimes one had to deal with the devil. As Koji went over a console that shaped the Nerveweb’s pulses and monitored Tohru’s movements, Makiko said that with the access codes they could create a surprise for him inside it while she personally handled Kazuyo.

While Tohru stood over the railing, Kazuyo came out to the balcony and told him that it was unlike him to turn his back on his problems and that he used to care, when, then, he asked her when was the last time she visited their son. Ashamed, Kazuyo said that the Humanists party relied on her, and that while she knew that Takashi needed her as well it was difficult to go see him. While he was sympathetic, Tohru told Kazuyo that he wanted her to understand that he had made choices as well that were no easier to make than hers. Hoping that perhaps he could find comfort among his people, some of whom did not yet hate him, Tohru walked away and left Kazuyo alone in the balcony.

As Tohru took a stroll through the royal promenade outside the Presidential fortress, he thought how much he loved his country and that he did not resent its people for their anger and frustration, as things had been harder for everyone since the ascending. As he mused how on Earth, with Grandmother’s computer brain running the land, they were prosperous and life was simple, Tohru noted that with Humanists in power roles were not so clearly defined. As he ate a bowl of noodles, Tohru mulled over how as services were curtailed and more work was required, the citizens bristled at their perceived hardships and that unrest focused on him, the guardian charged with protecting them, but then he clung to the hope that things would get better soon.

After Tohru finished his meal, a child ran up to him and told him that he had read all his storybooks and even had his poster, but then, as Tohru asked him which one, the boy’s mother told him that they did not want to be seen with Tohru and dragged him away. Just then, Tohru saw a priority bulletin report of explosion at the Morita Desalinization works on a giant screen and then entered the Nerveweb to get there as soon as possible.

While Kazuyo waited for the care takers of the Happy Cloud executive child-care facility to bring Takashi out for her, she unfortunately received an alert of an emergency in the desalinization center in the third quadrant and had to leave, but promised to return as she ran outside. As Kazuyo rushed out of the facility and used her control ring to summon her armor so that it would meet her there, a vascab conductor offered to take her there and she got inside the vehicle unaware that the driver was actually Makiko Minashi.

That night, in Councilor Seko’s private chambers, a council-woman informed the corrupt councilors that spy sphere data reported that Tohru had entered the Nerveweb and told them that the Healers would soon spring their trap. When a councilor expressed his unease with providing the Healers with delicate information, Isao told him that it was for the good of the country and said that, once they helped solidify power around Tanaka, they would become the power behind him. Worried that Kazuyo and Tohru held too much sway over Shinji, who could turn them against them if he suspected their treachery, Isao reminded the others that they helped the Healers to crush them, while they would use Tanaka’s influence over the people to crush the Healers so Japan might at last march to the calls of its own destiny.

When Tohru approached the central Nerveweb, Koji initiated the blocking codes that solidified the web and trapped him in an artificial capsule. As Tohru wondered if Tanaka listened to the council, Koji activated the Nerveweb Dragon, a construct that drew its energy from the Nerveweb that attacked Tohru with serpents that grew on his head. Undaunted with the cause of the manifestation, Tohru hacked the serpents off with his sword, but, as they grew back and multiplied, he realized that the dragon’s energy source dwarfed his own.

Though Tohru’s arrows tore the dragon’s flesh, it renewed instantly, while its serpents stroke without fear, heedless of the wounds they made in the walls of the capsule. Realizing that the dragon drew from the web, and that its resources would never exhaust short of the destruction of Japan, Tohru figured out that the only way to end their conflict was to surrender and bowed before the beast.

Once Tohru rationalized that, since the serpents made small wounds, it followed that the dragon would make a larger gap, and that, while the walls were solid the capsule was still the Nerveweb and there was nothing that ran it faster than the Rai, he lured the dragon to bite him and then moved out of his way. As the dragon tore a hole on the wall of the capsule, Tohru escaped the Nerveweb.

As the vascab flew over the city, Makiko asked Kazuyo whether she felt vulnerable without her armor given that she had enemies, and when Kazuyo replied that she could take care of herself, Makiko attacked her with a baton, but then Kazuyo kicked her into the console and the cab crashed into a museum. After she crawled out of the wreck, Kazuyo ordered a guard to arrest Makiko, but she killed him. As Makiko chased her, Kazuyo toppled a statue over Makiko and ordered her armor to come find her, then, as Makiko prepared to deliver a killing blow, the X–O Commando armor broke through the wall and wrapped itself around Kazuyo.

When Kazuyo went after Makiko, an officer told her that she stole his pursuit pod, which she then saw swing behind a building. After Kazuyo shot the pod down with an energy blast, she searched the wreck for Makiko but found no trace of her. Realizing that Makiko had escaped, Kazuyo departed for the desalinization center.

Unable to trust the Nerveweb, Tohru arrived at the seawater storage facility after Kazuyo drove off the Healer force, which caused massive damage that would take weeks to repair and contaminated the water supply in the sector. As the angry crowd accused him of failing to guard them while Tanaka’s troops at least tried, Tohru told them that they both tried but pondered that only one of them failed.

After the Nerveweb Dragon failed to kill Tohru, the Healers reconvened to the Kiru Shrine, where Makiko assured them that Tohru’s worth to Tanaka and his link to the people had weakened him, and he would no longer be able to delay them. Certain that they would launch Project: Homecoming within two days, Makiko proclaimed that nothing would matter once Grandmother returned.

An Equality Of Slaughter

When Tohru Nakadai and Kazuyo Nakadai visited their son, Takashi Nakadai, in the Happy Cloud executive child care facility in section Y, Tohru held him in his arms and pointed at the Earth as it hung outside a panoramic window and told him that that was where he was born. When Kazuyo asked him if he thought that Takashi would ever return there, Tohru told her that shuttles still traveled between Japan and Earth, but that there was much that none of them could ever return to.

While Tohru mused that when they were a family on Okazaki Island he decided to be the last Rai even before he inherited the powers to spare their son, he recalled how Grandmother departed to space and mourned that the struggle between the Humanists and the Healers could succeed where the alien invaders failed. When Kazuyo told Tohru that the war had not torn apart their family, he reminded her that while they were on Earth she worried that his obligations would prevent him from being there for Takashi, and said that since her duties as President Tanaka’s right hand kept her from the nursery, perhaps she should be Rai instead.

After Kazuyo left, Tohru mused that, even though he was the protector of Japan, no one wanted his protection, as the Healers hated him, the Humanists mistrusted him, and the public scorned him, but then he turned to Takashi and said that perhaps Kazuyo should be Rai while he concentrated on being a father.

Meanwhile, in the new government palace, a cyber–tech ran up to Wasabe and told him that he had broken the cyber code that the Healers’ used and could now make sense of the circuit–babble they had intercepted. When Wasabe offered to double-check the data chip, out of duty to the Healers, the tech held it back and told him that his orders were to take it directly to President Shinji Tanaka. Faced with no other option, Wasabe killed the tech and hid his corpse, then, once he was out of sight, he desperately contacted Makiko Minashi.

While Makiko oversaw the secret construction in hangar T-47of a barely adequate rocket that the Healers cut corners and rushed schedules to keep ahead of Tohru to launch Project: Homecoming, Wasabe unexpectedly called her through an audio beam transmission.

When Makiko responded, she condescendingly told Wasabe that she rarely made mistakes, but that assuming he was not an idiot had apparently been one, then she told him that even an imbecile would know not to contact the underground from the palace, even on a scrambled line. While Makiko chastised Wasabe, she told him that that they were almost ready and inferred that if the Humanists traced the call they would stop them. After he apologized and told Makiko that he would go see her in person, Wasabe assured her that with such a short transmission he was sure that there was no danger.

Unbeknownst to Wasabe, operators in the security command station detected his signal and adjusted their spy spheres to follow him.

While Tohru and Kazuyo discussed the future of their family, she received a priority alert that requested her to report to the barracks, and, hopeful that it was the breakthrough they had been hoping for on the Healers’ attack plan, she dashed off and donned her armor. Though Tohru wanted to accompany her, Kazuyo told him that he had become the focus of too much discontent, and that while President Tanaka valued his loyalty, he would best serve his position and the Humanists’ cause if he distanced himself from both of them.

Once Kazuyo left, Tohru mused aloud that, while he was the protector of Japan no one wanted his protection, as whilst the Healers hated him and the Humanists mistrusted him, the public scorned him. As he turned to Takashi, Tohru said that perhaps Kazuyo should be Rai while he concentrated on another title, like father.

When Wasabe arrived at access hangar T–47 where the Healers had constructed a rocket, he informed Makiko of the cyber–techs’ discovery, but she called it a minor inconvenience and said that soon the war would be over. Undaunted, Makiko told Wasabe that Tanaka had no idea that the circuit they stole from Grandmother’s brain stem was actually a failsafe device she created to allow human override of her command systems when she foresaw the possibility that someday, for whatever reason, she might loose control.

As they loomed over the rocket, Makiko said that its sensors would seek out Grandmother’s unique energy signature, and once the failsafe took over and forced her to return to rule once more, victory would be theirs.

Unbeknownst to Makiko, at that moment, a Humanist tac squad stood in position outside the hangar.

During a meeting of the Humanists council in the war room of the new government palace, Councilor Isao Seko informed President Shinji Tanaka that their troops were moving into position outside access hangar T–47 where they followed Lieutenant Wasabe, a Healers double-agent, and that soon victory would be theirs.

While Shinji looked out a window, he said that they faced a turning point with the future of their country at stake and reiterated his belief that they should bring all their weapons to bear, including Tohru Nakadai, who he admitted caused problems but also risked much to support them and whose costly loyalty they should not ignore. When Isao reminded him that the people already blamed his administration for hardships that resulted from Tohru’s earlier help and said that if he was included the council would withdraw its support, which could further undermine him, Shinji agreed to keep Tohru out and retired to his chambers.

When a council-woman nervously said that there was a danger that Shinji would find out that they helped the Healers and manipulated public sentiment against Tohru, Isao assured her that the reward was worth it, and said that, without Tohru, Kazuyo Nakadai would die in the raid, which would make disposing of him easier. While surrounded by the other councilors, Isao proclaimed that, without his guardians, Shinji would rely on them to solidify his control over Japan, which without Tohru’s opposition they could make their own.

That night, while Tohru prepared a cup of tea, his father, Rentaro Nakadai, arrived in the Rai Globe and gave him a personal field generator that they could go outside and speak away from distractions. Though he felt like he had done something wrong, Tohru helped his father enter the Nerveweb and went with him.

When Kazuyo arrived to access hangar T–27 where the Humanists forces had located the Healers, Captain Omura informed her that the exits were covered and their weapons were fully charged, then he contacted the Tiger Squads, their elite force, which were on the surface setting up explosives to breach the room.

As Tohru sat on the edge of a tower, he asked his father what he wanted to tell him and Rentaro told him that he had hoped to show him reason and ask him to become Rai once again. Enraged, Rentaro told Tohru that when he passed the title and power down to him, he figured that he would have a pleasant retirement, but that instead people hounded him and asked him why he sided with Grandmother’s enemies, the Humanists. Upset, Tohru reminded his father that he did not choose to be Rai, a position that was trusted on him by birth, and said that not everyone was born a hero. When Rentaro questioned his respect for tradition, Tohru told him that he respected it and honored, but that he did not know if he could live up to it.

After the charges went off and opened a hole into the hangar, Kazuyo went after Wasabe while the Squads established a sniper wedge to prevent the Healers from passing through the atmosphere shields as they had. Unexpectedly, Makiko grabbed Kazuyo using a Healer Battlesuit that their scientists devised after they studied stolen alien components and kept her away from him. Though the Battlesuit was not as sophisticated as Kazuyo’s armor, it resisted a Tiger Squads’ weaponry while Makiko blasted him with its lasers.

While Tohru apologized to Rentaro for failing to become what he wanted him to and said that he was not sure of what he wanted, he saw the light flashes of an explosion in the horizon and suddenly realized that his father had fooled him into going outside so that he would not hear any alarms and stop the Healers. When Rentaro confessed that he had told the Healers about a device that could bring Grandmother back, Tohru scolded him for telling them and for working against him. Though Rentaro urged him to stay and asked him to forgive him for doing what he had to, Tohru pushed him out of his way and flew toward the hangar.

When Tohru entered the hangar and witnessed the battle between the Humanists and Healers, he knew that much would be decided on its outcome. Initially uncertain of what weapon he should generate to change the flow of the conflict, Tohru manifested the triple irons and used them to disarm a continent of Healer warriors. Just then, in her desperation, Makiko ordered Koji to initiate the rocket’s launch sequence and the discharge from its engines instantly killed many Healers.

When Makiko tried to burn Kazuyo in the engine fire, Kazuyo shot Tohru in the back to get his attention, and when he released a burst of energy into the Battlesuit to help Kazuyo escape, the influx caused Makiko to fire a blast that damaged the take-off ramp and placed the rocket in a trajectory against the outer hull.

When Koji said that in their rush they had not installed an emergency shutdown circuit, Tohru damned him and then attempted to stop the rocket himself, but the exhaust blast kept him away and, despite his attempt to tear it apart with an energy spear, the rocket blasted off and tore through the hull. Almost instantaneously, the vacuum sucked thousands of Japanese citizens into the void of space.

Three days later, in the new government palace, a bewildered Shinji told Tohru that, even though they knew that the rocket was accidentally deflected, somehow the public blamed him, which, ironically, united them in their focused desire to see him die. Though Shinji offered to stand beside him, Tohru said that if he did that would only destroy any hope he had of leading the people’s front, and told him that he had a chance to bring peace to their land, just not with Rai at his side.

After he reiterated that Grandmother charged him with protecting the people, Tohru noted that the best way to achieve that was to allow them to live together in perfect harmony and offered to exile himself from Japan.

The Infinity Trip

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Tohru Nakadai contemplates performing Seppuku.

One hour before he was due to leave his country forever, Tohru Nakadai sat in a private transport shuttle that was taking him to the Mitsutomoe short-range transport bay, when, suddenly, a group of disgruntled citizens ambushed him and his escort, Kazuyo Nakadai, with air-to-air missiles. Though Kazuyo ordered the shuttle’s pilot to continue on to the bay while she covered them, Tohru had him take them lower so he could jump.

As Kazuyo swooped down into the crowd and swatted them aside, she assumed that they were a pocket of the restoration underground, but a woman in the group denied that they were Healers and said that they just wanted to punish Tohru, who she called a monster.

When an armed citizen was going to shoot Kazuyo in the back, Tohru landed on his back and disarmed him, then, he turned to face the rest of the crowd, who accused him of being a murderer. As the mob rushed him, Tohru wondered how he could fight them off, but, since he knew they would not believe that the rocket that gashed though Japan’s outer hull and spilled thousands into the void of space was an accident and not his fault, he refused to lay a hand on them and allowed them to beat him up.

While the police took the citizens away, Kazuyo inferred that they had found a hidden cache of rebel weapons and told Tohru that they should leave, a notion that he thought that it seemed was best for everyone.

Before Tohru and Kazuyo arrived in the transport bay, a soldier informed Councilor Isao Seko that his tech team had finished inspecting the diplomatic shuttle that was to take Tohru to Earth, which pleased him.

When Tohru and Kazuyo arrived in the transport bay, a day care provider from the Happy Cloud facility gave Takashi over to Kazuyo, who held him close to her and commented that he could not understand the situation. When Tohru noted that, ever since their estrangement after Japan’s ascension, when he no longer had both parents, Takashi had become resilient, Kazuyo said that he would now be apart from one of them by thousands of miles and handed him over to Tohru with the promise that she would visit him whenever she could. As Tohru held his son in his arms, he commended Kazuyo for her courage and restraint.

As Kazuyo apologized for not having been a worthy parent and for having allowed her break up of the Healer rebellion to take away Takashi’s time, she expressed concern over how long the recovery of Japan would last, President Shinji Takashi said that, however long it was, it would be shorter thanks to Tohru’s great sacrifice. Saddened, Shinji told Tohru that exile was a punishment few would accept, let alone bring upon themselves, but, as he bowed down in respect, Tohru noted that hatred for him had brought their people together, and told Shinji that, when he was gone, he could use that union to make Japan whole. As he bowed back, Shinji told Tohru that someday he would be hailed as the hero that he was.

Before Tohru boarded his shuttle, he, Kazuyo, and Takashi shared one, final, embrace.

As Tohru boarded the shuttle with Takashi, he looked back at Kazuyo and Shinji for one last time and mused that he found Shinji’s words unsettling it, like cold breath on his spine, but he supposed that anything was possible someday, since, after all, time was not absolute.

While Shinji and Kazuyo watched as Tohru’s shuttle departed, Shinji told her that he was a noble man, and that nobility was often the first causality of war, and she replied that, at least, his war was over. Behind them, Isao looked over at President Shinji Tanaka and his enforcer, Kazuyo Nakadai, and asked his aide, Nkui, how people could be so stoic and sensible while being so utterly and pitifully wrong.

While the police dispersed the crowd that gathered to see Tohru’s departure, Isao boarded his personal shuttle and took it to his private storage repository in the Sapporo sub-level, where he hid Koji Yama, whose electronics genius he thought could be useful. When Isao entered the warehouse, he startled Koji, who was hard at work on a holographic manipulation. In order to pressure Koji, Isao took great pleasure in sarcastically saying that if the public learned that he had designed the rocket that slaughtered entire families and found he had taken refuge there without his knowledge, they would kill him.

When Koji wondered whether even if they succeeded Tohru would return seeking revenge on the both of them, Isao assured him that in a very short while, Tohru would be incapable of enacting revenge on anyone.

As the shuttle came within 8,000 miles of Earth, Tohru told Takashi that, while he could not promise him an easy life, he would protect him from all he could, and that Okazaki Island survived the island invasion and when he was old enough they would go fishing. Suddenly, the thrusters activated automatically and kicked the shuttle off its programmed flight path away from the solar system.

Once the thrusters shut off as unexpectedly as they came on, Tohru checked on Takashi, who was safely inside a motion web that held him against the acceleration. When Tohru checked the shuttle’s controls, he discovered that they were inoperative, that the photoradio was dead, and that the emergency signal beacon would not launch. As the shuttle drifted through nothing into the infinity, with no way to stop or summon help, Tohru realized that his enemies had won after all.

Later, in Kazuyo’s quarters in the T. Mifune military barracks adjacent to the new government palace, Kazuyo stared at a photograph of Tohru taken before Grandmother transformed him into Rai, when, then, Shinji called her on the video phone. Once the computer authenticated Shinji’s voice, Kazuyo opened the video-link and spoke with Shinji, who asked her to go see him in his quarters without her armor because he wanted to talk to her as a woman and not a soldier. Confused, Kazuyo closed the feed and faced her armor.

When Tohru inspected the exterior of the shuttle, he discovered that someone had rashly sabotaged the navigational computers. After Tohru fixed the computer and reset the destination coordinates to return to Earth, he inspected the engines and was pleased to see that the extreme thrust had not damaged them. As Tohru pondered that the acceleration spent all the fuel and left him without a way to power the engines, the mass sensor in his environment field generator warned him of an approaching asteroid field.

When Kazuyo entered the new government palace garbed in her armor, she attempted to devise a credible excuse for why she brought it with her, but when she was unable to do it, she removed it and left it floating in the office lounge. When Kazuyo reached the President’s chambers, she was confused to see three councilors who told her that Shinji asked to see as well were waiting outside for him. Just then, the door to Shinji’s office opened and Isao invited Kazuyo to go in.

Soon as Kazuyo entered the darkened room, four soldiers that were loyal to Isao ambushed her and severed her hand that held her armor’s control ring to prevent her from calling it. Startled, Kazuyo believed that Shinji betrayed her, but then Isao revealed that he had used a holographic manipulation to summon her there and that he had killed Shinji, whose corpse rested on his chair.

When the councilors chastised Isao for killing Shinji, he told them that now that the people had united it was the best time to seize power. When the councilors asked him why the people would follow him, Isao told them that they would tell them that Kazuyo assassinated Shinji, and when he executed her the people’s loyalty would be his. Enraged, Kazuyo told Isao that Tohru would kill him, but then Isao revealed that his tech team had made certain modifications in the diplomatic shuttle that ensured that Tohru would never reach Earth.

After Tohru destroyed the asteroids, he returned to the shuttle and wondered how they were going to survive when they only carried enough supplies to keep a man and a child alive for three days, when then he realized that, on his own, Takashi could survive longer.

Within the hour, Tohru connected their entire supply of nutrients to an intravenous feed for Takashi and set the atmosphere controls to siphon oxygen from the cabin directly into the crib pod. As Tohru sat on his knees in the observation deck, certain that the more time the shuttle spent drifting in space there was a better chance that it would drift into a trade route, he conjured up a sword. Repentant after he failed Grandmother and their people, Tohru felt that his only prayer was not to fail Takashi, and hoped that his death would give him time to be found and buy him life. Silently, Tohru grasped the hilt of the sword and prepared to perform Seppuku.

Shortly, Isao’s soldiers tossed Kazuyo inside a cell in the maximum security detention block to wait for her execution the next morning. Enraged, Kazuyo cursed at the guards, when then Makiko Minashi, the leader of the Healers Restoration Underground and her fellow prisoner, called her attention and threatened to kill her.

Feeling guilt-ridden, as he failed to save Japan and himself, and he would never know for sure whether or not he saved his son, Tohru cursed the powers of Rai that were handed down to him because he felt that they could not help him. Just then, Tohru realized that the engines were merely out of fuel and that he could power them with the Rai energy. Even though he had never released all of the Rai energy at once on such a grand scale, and he ignored what the attempt would to do him, Tohru placed his hands on the engine and released a burst of energy in the hope that he could save Takashi’s life. Although Tohru felt like his insides came out through his skin, he refused to let go or pass out, and guided the shuttle back to Earth.

After the shuttle crashed in the Paz Verde wildlife preserve in the South Am peninsula, Tohru pulled himself and Takashi out of the wreck. Weakened, Tohru felt drained and brittle, so he sat on the exterior of the shuttle and expressed his delight that they both survived. Just then, Rokland Tate, the Geomancer and Gilad Anni–Padda came out from over the ridge and told Tohru that they had to save the world.

Unity

When Erica Pierce, the God–like entity called Mothergod, tried to achieve Unity, a convergence of all the timelines, the Geomancers of two eras gathered the heroes of Earth to stop her in one final decisive battle for all eternity in the Lost Land, a place outside time and reality.

A World Brought Down

Moments after his shuttle crashed in the South Am peninsula, Tohru Nakadai crawled from the wreck with his son, Takashi Nakadai, in his arms, when then Rokland Tate, the Geomancer, and Gilad Anni–Padda, the Eternal Warrior, stepped out from behind a ridge. Concerned for his child’s safety, Tohru materialized his energy sword and warned Rokkie and Gilad that he would take their lives to save his.

After Rokkie told Tohru that the last thing he wanted was to put them out of commission and Gilad said that if they wanted to kill them they would have attacked without warning, the sword and the shuttle told Rokkie that Tohru was gonna perform Seppuku to save Takashi and how he used his energy to power the engines.

While Rokkie told Tohru that he was a Geomancer and that they found him once their computer projected his impact site, Gilad said that everyone knew how Japan had suffered since it became an artificial moon and that they knew of the civil war and how he chose self-exile to bring peace to his homeland. After Gilad urged him to forget about taking revenge, he told Tohru that nothing he considered important mattered, and that Rokkie knew something was terribly wrong with the world, and that the universe, even time itself, were in danger.

Since others had deceived him before, Tohru wanted Gilad to tell him why he should listen to him, but though Gilad told him that his family knew his name, Tohru turned his back and said that no one had heard from the Eternal Warrior in centuries, and wondered why he should believe him. Suddenly, Gilad threw a dagger at Tohru that hit a wall mere inches from his face and he urged him to look at it.

Though he felt betrayed, Tohru gazed at the dagger and recognized its markings from the family chronicle, and realized that it was part of his ancestor’s collection and belonged to Shinobi Nakadai, the 29th Rai. Gilad told Tohru that Shinobi gave him the knife after he saved his life during the Cyberite rebellion as a token of gratitude and debt, an obligation passed down unpaid for centuries.

When Gilad asked him if he honored his family or shamed it, Tohru bowed down as a sign of respect and agreed to go with him.

While Tohru changed Takashi’s dipper, he told Rokkie and Gilad that if the danger was as great as they said that Magnus could help them, but, while Rokkie was receptive to the idea, Gilad refused to work with Magnus and accused him of helping North Am oppress millions and condoning the psycho-probe. Certain that Magnus had changed, and that he now served the people, Tohru told Gilad that his strength could make a difference and said that all he asked in return was that he trusted him like he had asked him to trust them. Persuaded, Gilad bowed down and told Tohru that if he fought as well as he spoke, they might have a chance.

Meanwhile, in the new government palace, Isao Seko stood alone in his darken office and gazed at the X–O Commando armor that he stole from Kazuyo Nakadai as it stood beneath a beam of light and asked it if it could sense that he did not trust it. Though he knew that the armor was alive since it grew through alien technology, Isao ignored how aware it was, and asked if it felt loyalty to Kazuyo and resented how he betrayed its former mistress.

As he waved Kazuyo’s severed hand in his, Isao asked the armor if it would obey him when he donned the control ring or kill him due to a hidden failsafe that Kazuyo implanted, then, to save face, he told it that he was not a coward, just very cautions. Standing mere feet from the armor, Isao told it that his technicians would examine its every fiber and synapse, and only when they pronounced it completely benign would he take its power for his own, and only then would President Seko become Emperor Seko.

As Rokkie’s sky-skipper flew over the crumbling ruins of the Barrls gaming arena in North Am’s Goph lev, Gilad reiterated his dislike of recruiting Magnus, but then Rokkie assured him that if he was not part of the equation the outcome would change for the worst. Just then, Tohru looked out the window and saw as Talpa, a rogue freewill robot, lunged against Magnus in the middle of the arena.

To save Magnus, Gilad landed the sky-skipper on top of Talpa and buried him beneath the stands. Though Magnus urged Tohru to help him dig Talpa up to ensure that they had defeated him, Tohru told him that there was no time and that his companions told him that the world, and even existence itself, was at stake. While Magnus wished to stay and stop Talpa from continuing his killing spree, Tohru urged him to weight those lives against a universe and he agreed to go with him as long as he could return once the danger was over.

Before they embarked on their journey, Tohru - at Rokkie’s suggestion and with Magnus’ help - left Takashi in Felina’s orphanage.

Back in Japan, Makiko Minashi told Kazuyo Nakadai that she dreamt of slaying her for shattering her Anti–Humanists revolt, but then Kazuyo showed her the prosthesis she wore on her arm where her hand used to be and told her that she expected her to share her hatred for Isao Seko, who mutilated her and betrayed the Healers. When Kazuyo told Makiko that she could kill her at any time but that if they worked together they might see Seko dead first, Makiko sat down and asked her to elaborate on her plan.

When Rokkie, Magnus, Gilad, and Tohru arrived at the mouth of a cave, Magnus told them that he had been there and then he recited a series of words that Willow Talltrees had taught him to open the portal to the Lost Land. When nothing happened, Gilad told Magnus that the words he uttered where nothing more than ancient Amerind stew recipe, while Rokkie said that passage to the Lost Land was a state of mind and that if they wanted to get there bad enough it would happen. Just then, Rokkie said that, though he wished to go with them since he would do anything to save the planet, there was already a Geomancer on the battlefield and their contributions would be redundant. As he took his leave, Rokkie told the others that he might be able to find others who could help more, and that if he did he would send them along, but until then his heart was with them.

As they made their way down the darken cavern and Tohru asked the others if Erica Pierce could be really as dangerous as Rokkie claimed, Gilad told him that he had learned to respect Rokkie’s opinions, while Magnus said that they had better hope that she did not know they were coming. Just then, the trio came upon a giant obstruction that blocked the portal to the Lost Land. After Gilad and Magnus failed to push and shatter the obstruction, Tohru materialized his energy sword and destroyed it with a single blow. When the dust settled, the valiant heroes stepped into the Lost Land, where a group of Bionisaurs and robots attacked them.

While she watched the battle from within the confines of her Rainbow Tower, Erica mused that as she was poised on the edge of owning time she now did not have enough of it. Enraged that the battle against her had moved too fast, Erica wondered how she could delay the latest assault, and she studied images of Gilad and Magnus, she concluded that Gilad was stubborn and a long-term threat but lacked the raw might to be an immediate menace, while Magnus possessed brute strength but could be countered with the same. As she stared at an image of Tohru and feared that his power posed a greater hazard to her plans, Erica wondered how she could make him turn away and what could be more important to him than stopping her.

While the fight against Erica’s forces raged on, Gilad exclaimed that he had fought for thousands of years but never a battle like that one, and Magnus remarked that that very battle was for those same thousands of years. As Tohru said that they had to get through those hordes to find the allies that Rokkie spoke off, Erica unexpectedly called for a cease combat to have words with him.

As Erica appeared in the form of a hologram projected through a Bionisaur, she offered Tohru a chance to save his world and conjured an image of Japan as it appeared in orbit over the Earth. Callously, Erica told Tohru that she was projecting an energy matrix wavelength into his timeline that increased gravitational fields and then used it to push Japan from orbit to prove her intention.

As Japan dropped Earthward, the suspension support arms deployed automatically throughout the host body to keep the citizens safe.

After Erica gave Tohru a rod that would transport him to Japan and negate the mag-grav field once he arrived there, Gilad warned him not to activate the device, but Tohru said that he had to take the change and then promised to return once his compatriots were safe. As Gilad urged Tohru to question why Erica would give him the means to return, she melted the entrance to the cave so that once he left he could never return. Stuck between Erica’s threat to fill the sky with the blood of millions and Gilad and Magnus’ rationalization that she wanted him gone because she feared him and their plea that he weigh the millions of lives against the billions that would die if they lost, Tohru shattered the rod, and, in retaliation, Erica destabilized Japan’s orbit.

As Japan experienced an increased gravity surge that completely decayed its orbit and made an impact with Earth imminent, the technicians in the headland’s unified operations control center initiated the dragon mode in an effort to break their fall even though its missing limb prevented them from safely making planet-fall.

Dismayed, Tohru fell to his knees and witnessed as Japan crashed into the Indian Ocean.

As Erica’s troops moved against them and Gilad urged him to fight and not to give in to the pain, Tohru clenched his teeth and proclaimed that the death that Erica Pierce had sown that day would be nothing compared to what she would see the next day.

Sacrificial Spirit

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Tohru Nakadai shatters a robot during battle.

As the sun rose in the Lost Land for the 12th time since the fall of Japan, Tohru Nakadai stood on a mound surrounded by a pile of shattered robots and dead Bionisaurs and renewed his vow of vengeance. When a robot rose from the pile and lunged against him, Tohru destroyed it with his sword and mused that now there was one less foe between him and the woman who murdered his nation.

Just then, Magnus came out from behind a ridge and told Tohru that Mothergod had sent reinforcements and that they had better retreat, but, undaunted in his quest, Tohru pointed in the direction of the Rainbow Tower with his sword and told Magnus that that was the only direction he was going to go in. While Magnus expressed sympathy for Tohru’s loss, he asked him to think about their little resistance force, which had become his people, and urged him to work with them. Though he wished to continue, Tohru relented. Two days later, in relative time, as Tohru and Magnus stood on a knoll that overlooked the Rainbow Tower, Magnus told Tohru that Mothergod seemed content to defend her perimeter and sent occasional patrols out to harass them and Tohru said that regardless of what the rest of them did, he would end her wait before long.

After Magnus said that they were trying to gather the others who were scattered the first day, like Aric Dacia, a Visigoth who wielded an alien Manowar Class Armor, and Pete Stanchek, an Omega Harbinger, so they could strike with as much power as possible, he asked Tohru why he was determined to go at it alone.

Guilt-ridden, Tohru told Magnus that, as a matter of honor, he had to kill Erica, then he said that, for a thousand years, forty-one generations of Rai greeted every sunrise and renewed their vow to keep Japan and its people safe, until he came along and let everyone down when he stood by and watched while Mothergod slaughtered his nation.

When Tohru told Magnus that there was nothing for him but revenge and death, Magnus said that he had something to tell him, but then Tohru heard over the trees that Gilad Anni–Padda and Geoff McHenry, the 20th Century Geomancer, had found Pete.

Shortly after Tohru and Magnus joined Gilad and the others in a clearing, one of Mothergod’s robot patrols ambushed them, but Tohru swiftly destroyed them with three consecutive blows from his sword. While Pete took off with Faith Herbert and Charlene Dupré, two members of his Harbinger Resistance, Magnus suggested that they take off as well before a larger force showed up, but Tohru pointed at the Rainbow Tower where his enemy laid and said that he would not retreat.

Twenty-six sunrises later, Tohru awoke in an infirmary in the ad hoc headquarters of the resistance where Magnus dragged him and mended him with whatever few med–resources they had been able to capture after he almost got himself killed for the third time.

When Tohru rose from the bed to continue his battle, Magnus stood in his way and urged him to understand that if he worked with them they had a chance, but if he did not, sooner or later, he was going to die a futile dead, and, probably, so would the rest of them.

After Tohru acquiesced to work with him, Magnus confessed that, shortly before he arrived in the Lost Land, he had a confrontation with Grand One that ended with her death. Enraged, Tohru manifested his sword and said that, now that his losses were complete, he had one more to avenge and no one left to apologize. With the sword in his hands, Tohru bowed before Magnus and said that, for the moment, his sword was at his service, but that once he dealt with Mothergod he would kill him and, then, he would kill himself.

Sixty-five sunrises later, Tohru and Pete breached the Rainbow Tower’s second perimeter and entered the complex at its most weakly defended point, but as they made their way through it, Pete left his mind wander and something hit him. When two robots came after Pete, Tohru mused that Magnus would want him to save him and destroyed them.

While he helped Pete stand up, Tohru mused that, while his personal concerns were still with him, he had to turn his back on a clear path to Mothergod and let opportunity die behind him. After Pete airlifted them and they escaped, he apologized to Tohru and told him that the next day they would get another chance, but Tohru wondered how many tomorrows they had left.

In the early morning of their 157th day in the Lost Land, Magnus told the rest of the resistance that Mothergod was less than two hours away from activating her reactor, but then Geoff said that Phil Seleski was still alive, as Mothergod could not really destroy him, just trap him until the reactor gave her the power. As Geoff told the others that he found a secret way into the complex, and that he knew where Mothergod kept Phil, he urged them to rescue him and said that with him back they could beat her.

As Magus said that Geoff was right and that it would take all of them working together to free Phil, he looked at Tohru and Kris Hathaway, Pete’s girlfriend who had just given birth to a child, which made Tohru wonder if he was more concerned about Pete or about him.

Forty-six minutes later, the resistance entered Mothergod’s complex through an entryway Geoff found that her troops rigged so that one of the native tribes could smuggle drugs and women inside. When the resistance arrived in the ground level of the central sector, the sentries sounded the alarm, but Gilad assured them that they were already past most of Mothergod’s forces.

After Geoff convinced the door that guarded the bunker where Mothergod kept Phil to let them in, an army of robots bore down the hallway and Tohru stood between them and the door. While Gilad wanted to stay, Magnus refused to let him and told him that Tohru knew what he was doing. As Magnus followed the others, Tohru told him to remember that he kept his vow.

As Tohru wondered what was taking the others so long to return, a light like the sun washed over him and Erica Pierce materialized in an explosion of multicolor lights. With clenched teeth and with two swords in his hands, Tohru steadfastly stood between Mothergod and the door and told himself that, while it was sunrise outside, the time for vows was over.

When Mothergod ordered Tohru to get out of his way, he realized that she feared him and he knew that fear would make her strike first, but though he blocked a blast of multicolored lights with his swords, its intensity pushed him back and blinded him.

As he plunged his sword forward, Tohru asked his ancestors to guide his hand and he stabbed Erica on the shoulder, but, even though the blow weakened her, it did not kill her and she removed the blade. Angered, Erica told Tohru that only Phil had ever hurt her so badly, and that if she was not careful he might kill her, then she blasted him with a discharge of energy that scorched his flesh.

Though his body was charred, Tohru lunged against Mothergod to honor his vow, but, with every step, he fell to his knees while she mockingly told him that she was almost ready to believe that a spirit filled him, but that once she burnt its house of flesh, it would die.

As Tohru perished at Mothergod’s feet, he asked those that he failed to forgive him, but then Erica said that the others had freed Phil, and, with his last word, he proclaimed that the sun had risen, which signified that his sacrifice had not been in vain and he kept his vow.

Vengeance From The Dead

Following the fall of Japan on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Kazuyo Nakadai dug herself up from the ruins of what once was her jail cell, and, as she wandered around the detention block, she recalled that when Japan slipped from orbit and plummeted towards the Earth they heard the emergency announcement in the detention cells. As Kazuyo wondered how and why it happened, she stepped out from behind a column and was horrified to witness the destruction that surrounded her. Just then, Makiko Minashi came out from behind Kazuyo, and, together, they went to go see what was left of Japan.

As they made their way through the streets of Japan, and gazed at the destruction and the injured, Makiko noted that it seemed like Grandmother’s emergency systems deployed automatically, and commented that she doubted that more than twenty or thirty million people had died. Sarcastically, Makiko told Kazuyo that it was too bad her Humanists kept her rebels from reestablishing complete technological control, because if they had then the casualties would have been much lower. When a grieving citizen who lost his mother during the crash told them that they were on Earth, Kazuyo said that that was where Tohru was going before Isao Seko killed him, which prompted Makiko to ask if the Rai was dead.

After Kazuyo told Makiko that she forgot she had been behind bars longer than her, she told her that her husband had been exiled to Earth but did not know that Isao, who she called a power–hungry weasel, had rigged his shuttle to veer into infinite space instead. Enraged, Kazuyo said that their son, Takashi Nakadai, was with Tohru, and that she had to know if Isao had survived so she could kill him, but that she needed her living armor and the control ring on her severed hand that Isao kept as a trophy.

Preoccupied, Makiko warned Kazuyo that if Isao lived he would protect that armor at all cost, and that it was his best bet to regain power once stability had been re-established. Worried that getting to Isao alone and unarmed could be impossible, Makiko wished Kazuyo good luck and then walked away from her. As Makiko left, Kazuyo mused that she had as much reason to hate Isao after he betrayed her rebellion as she did, but figured that she must hate her even more.

Meanwhile, in the still-standing remains of the new government palace, Isao Seko and other councilmembers scoured the ruins of his office looking for Kazuyo’s hand, which still held the control ring of the X–O Commando armor, which power Isao desperately wanted for himself.

Moments later, a flier crashed in the palace plaza. As Kazuyo stepped out from inside the flier, a group of tattered palace guards opened fire on her and rushed her. Though Kazuyo initially gave the guards a good fight, they soon got the best of her and pushed her on her knees. As the guards surrounded Kazuyo, she bravely told them to kill her fast because they would not get a second chance, when, unexpectedly, Makiko arrived on the scene with Koji Yama and a squad of Ninjatrons that swiftly defeated the soldiers.

After Kazuyo killed a guard with another’s pistol, she told Makiko that she thought that she was alone, but Makiko told her that, after she figured that two one-armed wonders would not have a chance, she let her serve as bait while she made her way to the hidden bunkers where the rebellion hid its Ninjatrons. Certain that now that they were not alone they would triumph, Makiko told Kazuyo that they should go see to it that Isao Seko experienced a great deal of pain.

Back inside the palace, a councilor informed Isao that their defenses had fallen, and he had just heard that invaders entered the palace proper, while another one suggested that he had to leave. Though he was upset, Isao agreed to leave, but ordered the councilors to secure the armor in the escape craft, because if he could not have his prize, neither would the invaders.

Six minutes later, Kazuyo and the others breached Isao’s office just after he fled in a governmental flier, and though the Ninjatrons tried to shut him down, he avoided their blasts and escaped. When Kazuyo discovered he armor was gone, Koji used an alien pulse-scan the underground possessed and helped her find the control ring amid the ruins. Once Kazuyo found her hand, she summoned the armor.

As he made his getaway, Isao contacted Icespike, the enforcer he hired to defend the Neopium, and offered him a proposition that would earn him the fame he craved and make him second in importance only to the new emperor of Japan. Suddenly, the armor flew out of the flier and tore a hole through it. Before he crashed, Isao he told Icespike to find him and protect him, because if he died so would his name.

Meanwhile, on the exterior surface of the wrecked host body, Rentaro Nakadai stood along countless other survivors and mused aloud that it was unseemly for a country to lie sprawled on its back with its broken limbs spread to the world. As Rentaro gazed into the distance, he saw gawkers standing on the mainland and others that approached Japan on sky–vehicles, and mused that he did not recall looters being a problem when Grandmother was the mistress of Japan, but supposed that they would adjust in time.

While Rentaro wondered if the fishing in the Indian Ocean was any good, Rokland Tate, the Geomancer, came up from behind him and he tossed him over his shoulder and onto the hull. As Rokland lay on his back before him, Rentaro told him that, while he might not be a Rai, he did not recall painting a target on his back. After Rokkie asked Rentaro to relax, he asked him if he was Tohru Nakadai’s father and told him that he was there to give him something.

Soon after Japan fell on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Icespike, who survived because he had greater protection than most, accepted a proposal from Isao Seko that would earn him the fame he craved and would make him second in importance only to the new emperor of Japan. After Isao’s vessel crashed when Kazuyo Nakadai’s X–O Commando armor tore a hole through it, Icespike followed a distress beacon to his location to protect him and ensure that his name would not die along with him.

As the commando armor flew into the office and wrapped itself around Kazuyo, she said that she missed it, then, when the armor created a surrogate hand for her, she proclaimed that they were truly whole. Concerned that Kazuyo was as determined that her Humanists should rule as she was that her techno-rebellion should take over, Makiko asked her if, when the final sword was drawn, she would kill Isao, who was their strongest leader and their best hope of holding power once the chaos passed, but Kazuyo said nothing and left.

When Kazuyo found Isao in the remnants of the Ojima necropolis standing on the compacted ash–chips of Japan’s dead, he sarcastically asked her if she had come to rescue him and then shot her with a pistol which beam harmlessly bounced off her armor. Enraged, Kazuyo told Isao that he would pay for taking her husband and child, but then Icespike shouted that she would have to collect from him first.

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Kazuyo Nakadai confronts Icespike

When Kazuyo shouted Icespike’s name, he urged her to scream it because it would soon be on the lips of the world as the man who killed their new emperor’s most powerful enemy. When Icespike shot her with a speedspike from his gauntlets, she rose off the ground into the air to avoid it, but, to her surprise, he had made modifications to his armor’s offensive mode and followed her. As Icespike shot her with a barrage, Kazuyo mused that the last time he tried to make a notch in his reputation she had Tohru with her, while now she had nothing but her rage and shot him with an energy blast that caused him to crash. As Kazuyo swooped down, Icespike hit her with a lance while Isao shot an ash compactor that released a plume of pressurized gases that blinded her long enough for Icespike to tackle her.

While Icespike sprayed Kazuyo with a barrage of ice darts, her armor jammed his spray nozzles and she told him that people would sing for centuries of his failure as they exploded and burnt his arms.

As Kazuyo marched towards Isao, he sarcastically asked her if she felt better and told her that, despite her feelings, she knew that he was a good leader and that he could draw their people together through the trying days ahead, just like she knew that, only through him, could the Humanist movement and its ideals survive. Crestfallen, Kazuyo told Isao that everything he said was true, but then she told him that she had served Japan long enough and it was time to serve justice and blasted his head with a discharge from her armor.

After Kazuyo killed Isao, Makiko, Koji, and the Ninjatrons arrived in a shuttle and Makiko told Kazuyo that she was impressed and a little surprised she killed him because he was the best chance for Humanist rule. As Makiko pulled out a weapon that she intended to shoot Kazuyo with, Rentaro Nakadai, the 41st Rai and Kazuyo’s father in law, came rushing towards them and said that their fight was stupid given their situation. When Kazuyo told Rentaro to stay away and said that she had nothing to live for, Rentaro signaled Rokland Tate, the Geomancer, to join them and he walked up to her with Takashi Nakadai, Kazuyo’s son, in his arms.

Elated to see Takashi, Kazuyo believed that Isao was wrong when he said that he killed him and Tohru, but, to her dismay, Rokkie told her that Tohru gave his life in a struggle to save existence, and because of him the battle was won and he would he honored forever.

Surrounded by the Ninjatrons and with Koji at her side, Makiko told Kazuyo to leave Japan with her family and memories and keep both alive. With Takashi in her arms, Kazuyo said that there had been enough fighting, and told Makiko that, just like Japan would endure, so would they. As Kazuyo walked into the sunset with Takashi and Rentaro, she said that it was time to let the healing begin.

Takao Konishi – The Savior Rai

After the fall of Japan, Rokland Tate infuses Takao Konishi with the Blood of Heroes, and once it provides him with the knowledge and abilities stored in its nanites and activates his Harbinger ability, he raises The Future Force to combat the menace of the Malev Empire.

Malev War

Once the Malev Empire secured North Am’s Mainbrain, they saw the bruised and battered Japan as easy pickings and attacked, but they soon found that it was not without its defenders, foremost of who was Takao Konishi, who united the people to abandon their country and help unite the world in the struggle against them.

The Blood of Heroes

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Angelo Mortalli.

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Aric Dacia

When Unity compromised the timeline, it fell to the Geomancers to ensure the stability of reality.

It began when Geoff McHenry broke into Project Rising Spirit and rescued Angelo Mortalli, whose silicone–based blood gave him incredible strength and computer–like mental powers, a discovery that his creators found out the hard way when he killed them during his escape. Months later, the organization known as the HARD Corps took an interest in Bloodshot’s activities.

In the spring of 1993, Geoff discovered several timeline anomalies and sought help from Aric Dacia, but the barbarian–born hero was having too much fun to notice the change in him. Aware that he had to meet the danger that was coming, Geoff got help wherever he could find it.

Relentless in his crusade to recruit help, Geoff found Bloodshot and told him of the Darque Power, the Corporate War between Toyo Harada, the HARD Corps, and other economic powers-that-be that took sides in the conflict, and warned him that the planet hovered on the threshold of dark times.

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In 1999, the heroes gather to pay their respects to their fallen comrade.

In 1999, these events came to a terrible finale when the dark vested hero Shadowman gave up his life to rid humanity of the Darque Power. When the heroes of Earth gathered to pay their respects to their fallen comrade, they all turned their wary eyes toward the future and the wars that loomed in the horizon.

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Charlene Dupré and Geoff McHenry stand over Obadiah Archer's body.

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Gilad Anni-Padda watches his brother Aram Anni-Padda walk away forever.

As time passed, Obadiah Archer became a guru of sorts and, by 2020, his Archies were a symbol of peace and order in a turbulent world torn by warring corporations, though Obadiah knew that whatever he did was not enough. While the Harbinger Foundation grew stronger every day, Toyo Harada grew very old despite all his power and became obsessed with the secret of immortality, so he took desperate measures to secure them for himself and kidnapped Aram Anni-Padda. After Obadiah succeeded in rescuing his friend and repaid the debt that he owed him with his life, Aram vanished from the Earth for parts unknown; some believed that he went off–world, while others said that he finally succeeded in drowning his troubles.

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Ax kills Bloodshot.

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Kris Hathaway

In 2028, robotics and computers were the only defense against Harada’s mental powers, and while he fixated over the ability to control them, the Harbinger renegade Ax, who was determined to possess the Blood of Heroes, defeated Bloodshot in a battle on a lunar base and drained the blood from his body.

In 2056, Ax’s trail grew cold and he and the blood simply vanished, but Geoff never stopped looking for him. Ax was not the only person from that era who vanished; Pete Stanchek, the leader of the Harbinger Resistance, fell off the face of the Earth and left his daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the care of his best friend, Kris Hathaway, who lived a secluded life far removed from the strife that raged in the world around her. It was in those twilight years that Kris decided to put her feelings down in words and wrote a letter to the son that she bore but never knew, a child that would not enter the world for another nineteen centuries. Once she was done, Kris summoned Geoff McHenry to deliver her message through time.

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The elder Aric Dacia sends the Good Skin away.

In 2052, with the Earth divided into Corporate States, Toyo Harada controlled almost two-thirds of the world while the HARD Corps and its allies suffered devastating losses, but the worst was yet to come. After Geoff’s niece Lucinda Mendez replaced him as Geomancer, her unfortunate first duty was to bring the Harbinger resistance forces the distressing news that one of their comrades had died and their greatest fear had ensued. Lucinda explained that Orb Industries had fallen and Harada sought the life-prolonging capabilities of the Manowar Class Armor, which power Aric was determined would never serve the Harbinger Foundation or its master. Aric’s final command to the armor was to send it into the far reaches of space for parts unknown.

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Toyo Harada and Aric Dacia deal each other a fatal blow

Harada was too late to stop Aric and his anger over losing the armor was monumental. After decades of conflict, Harada was determined to end Aric’s life and the two simultaneously dealt the other a fatal blow. While Aric died instantly, the withered Harada clung to life using all his psionic abilities to hold himself together, and, spurred by his approaching death, he successfully transferred his mind into the body of Aric’s wife. The news that their hated enemy had a new lease on life and the means to virtual immortality horrified the resistance, but, in their darkest hour, Faith Herbert, who for decades had been a leader of the Archies peace moment, came forth to lead them.

Elsewhere, another of history’s greatest heroes faced a tragic loss when Phil Seleski reluctantly dissipated the life-giving energy that had kept his lover Gayle Nordheim alive beyond her time. What happened after Gayle quietly passed away even the Geomancers were not sure; unable to contain his grief, Phil literally split in two, and while the other persona went off to find other planes of reality to explore, the Phil that remained went into seclusion and did not surface again until the alien invasion of 4001 A.D.

In 2900, the Harbinger Wars entered their final stage.

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A HARD Corps spaceship leaves Earth.

While Faith succeeded in uniting the resistance and kept Harada’s influence from spreading any further, the battered and battle–weary HARD Corps protected the remnants of normal humanity, who hid underground. On the day before what was to be the final battle, Geomancer Yuri Pierce informed the resistance’s leader John Stanchek that Harada had discovered the Blood of Heroes.

While Harbingers battled each other and suffered losses on both sides, John fought his way into Harada’s compound and challenged Toyo, who could not withstand his awesome mental abilities and never knew what hit him when John took control of his body and purged his consciousness. Once the resistance controlled the world, John slowly dismantled the Harbinger forces and restored order to the planet.

Shortly before Harada’s fall, the beleaguered HARD Corps began a mass evacuation aboard their surviving spaceships and refused to acknowledge any messages from Earth, while all that remained of humankind isolated themselves in the Corporate State of Japan. As the population grew and land became scarce, a continuous structure covered the land mass of the island state.

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Sho Sugino recovers the Blood of Heroes.

In 3050, the sophisticated computer brain that governed the centralized controls that handled the air, food, water, and waste management of Japan gained freewill, and once it determined the needs of the people and served them autonomously the government became a formality. Dubbed Grandmother due to its desire to care for and protect the people, she faced contempt from a group of citizens that felt oppressed by the lack of control over their lives who called themselves Anti-Grannies. To protect herself, Grandmother created the first Rai in the image of the 20th Century hero Bloodshot to serve as the spirit guardian of Japan.

After the Anti–Grannies discovered the Blood of Heroes in 3216, Grandmother worried that if they injected it into a suitable latent psionic he would posses total mental control over all electronic devices, including her, so she dispatched Sho Sugino, the second Rai, to retrieve the blood and destroy her enemies. Once Sho wrestled the silicone blood away from her enemies, Grandmother stored it deep within the substructures of Japan inside an impregnable vault so that no one would ever use its power against her.

When aliens invaded in 4001, Japan defeated the intergalactic threat in the form of a Komodo dragon, but, during the battle, it sustained great damage that made it impossible to return. After Grandmother placed Japan in orbit over the planet, she left her people to govern themselves for the first time in a millennium.

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Mothergod kills Tohru Nakadai.

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Takao Konishi becomes the last Rai.

During Unity, Erica Pierce forced Japan to crash on Earth and left its people devastated and without a country, while the last Rai, Tohru Nakadai, fell in battle against her and the Rai lineage died with him.

On April 10th 4002, Rokland Tate, the Geomancer of 4002, took Takao Konishi, an Archie that the Earth guided him to, inside the Japan crash site to search for the vault where Grandmother hid the Blood of Heroes. As Rokland urged Takao to be strong, as, no matter how bad Japan’s situation seemed there were darker times ahead for the Earth, Takao doubted that Rokland knew where the chamber was, but Rokland assured him that the walls told him where to go.

A day later, when they reached the vault, Rokland told Takao to slice open his wrists to decrease the volume of his blood so that the pressure would not rupture his arteries after he injected himself with the blood. Though Takao initially hesitated, he trusted Rokland and bravely sliced his wrists.

After Rokland placed the container that held the blood over Takao’s chest and injected him with it, within minutes, the blood healed his wrists and Takao heard it speak to him. When Takao asked Rokland what he had become, the Geomancer told him that he was the last Rai, the protector of the future.

After The Holocaust

As the Malevs attacked Japan, Takao used the ability to control machines conferred on him by the nanites to mindlock with one of the Malevs and make him attack its brethren. Blindsided, Takao was trapped in a Malevs’ grasp, when then X–O Commando and Gilad saved him. While Rai and the others held their ground, above them a squadron of sky sleds led by Magnus engaged the Malevs in combat.

Back in North Am, the Malev Emperor ordered the Malevs to kill Rai as he posed too much of a danger to him. Contacting Leeja through the ectotheric net, M’Ree warned her pupil that Rai was in danger, so risking her life she warned Magnus and the others to project him, but she was too late.

Surrounded by Malevs and injured by a blast, Rai was rescued by Ananse, a darken figure garbed in a purple robe. Joining the others, Rai drove the invading force off Japan’s shores in the first victory of the Malev War.

Two hours later in a conference room, Kazuyo confronted Takao’s claim to the Rai title, while Spylocke spied on them from an undisclosed location. After explaining the genesis of his origin, Rai rallied to the others to join him in the war against the Malevs as the Future Force.

The Death Of Japan

While Elzy argued with the Japanese over salvage rights for the Malevs’ remains, backpack Malevs detached themselves from their injured forms and attached themselves to their spinal cords.

Inside the council chamber, Rai was divided between Magnus’ plan to attack the Malev Emperor and Kazuyo’s plea to stay behind and protect Japan. Just then, Elzy and the others entered the chamber guns ablaze. As Magnus shielded Rai from a direct hit, Takao mindlocked the Malev controlling Elzy and ordered it to detach without killing her. From a ledge, Spylocke killed the other humans and then vanished.

Unsure of what to do, Rai returned home to the Temple of Archer in Ladakh, where Mother Nike revealed that he possessed the Harbinger ability to make others believe what he believed, a power that made him ideal to receive the Blood of Heroes.

A day and a half later, Kazuyo shared her concerns over Takao being the true Rai with Makiko as well as her confusion in wanting to believe in him, when then Rai returned. With all of Japan gathered before him, Rai gave a speech that inspired everyone to shed the old concept of borders that divided the world, urging them to become one planet, one people.

The next day, the nation of Japan ceased to as its people abandoned the remains of their once–proud nation for an uncertain future. Traveling to North Am, the future force broke Central Rob to give Rai a chance to mindlock the Malev Emperor, but to their chagrin a shield protected him. Releasing the floor beneath their feet, the Malev Emperor watched as Rai, Magnus, and Leeja fell to their doom.

The Steel Nation

Under fire from the Malevs, Gil ordered the rest of the team to head to the Goph levs to search for Rai, Leeja, and Magnus, who at that moment were in freefall along a large shaft. Bouncing off the walls, Magnus opened a hole for Rai and Leeja to pass through. With M’Ree’s guidance, the trio made their way to the sewers. Meanwhile, Spylocke joined Gil and the rest of the force to inform them that slavers in the South China sea had seized some of the Japanese refugees. Though Kazuyo felt like leaving to help them, Gil urged them to find Rai and the others first, who Asa, the rebuilt 1A, had located in the sewers. When Malevs ambushed Rai and the others, Tekla & the Steel Legion, free wills from Synchron armed for combat, rescued them. Upon exiting the sewers, Rai and the others rejoined the future force. After a brief skirmish with the Malevs, Rai, X–O Commando, Leeja, and Timbuc left with Spylocke for South China to fight the slavers, while Magnus, Gil, Slagger, Elzy, and Tekla & the Steel Legion stayed to free the humans from the Malevs’ work camps.

Attack of The Cyberaiders

Aboard a scow in the Arabian Ocean, Timbuc poured his heart out to Leeja and told her how he felt about her. As she gently rejected his advances, a group of Cyberaiders led by Vanklaw swooped down on hovering dais and, at Rai’s behest, they all surrendered to them in order to find out what happened to the captured slaves. Smitten by Leeja’s beauty, Vanklaw took her for himself to use her as his bim.

Taken to the Essex, the Cyberaiders’ stronghold, Leeja used her power to put Vanklaw into a deep sleep while, down in the slave pens, Rai and Timbuc waited for Spylocke to show up with their guns. During this interval, Timbuc confessed his jealousy of Rai’s courage facing the Malev threat. Turning Timbuc’s attention to the slaves, Rai told him that they would be jealous of his courage facing the Cyberaiders, an eye–opener for him. Just then, Spylocke arrived with their weaponry.

Using his power, Rai rallied the crowd to his cause and set them free by mindlocking their cells. Armed with their oppressors’ weapons, the slaves followed Timbuc to the women’s deck while Rai and Spylocke retrieved their secret weapon from the cargo hold. At the same time, the computers fed news of the disturbance into Vanklaw’s brain, and aroused from his sleep he knocked Leeja with one blow and dragged her to the pens.

Down in the cargo hold, Rai signaled X–O Commando to break free from a crate. Taking flight, Kazuyo broke through the deck and attacked the Cyberaiders. Joining the fight, Rai stopped in his tracks when he saw Vanklaw holding Leeja captive at knifepoint. Despite Vanklaw’s threat to kill Leeja if he did not surrender, Rai mindlocked Vanklaw’s cybernetic arm and forced him to slice his own throat. As their leader fell to the floor, the Cyberaiders surrendered. Though the slavers wanted to kill the raiders, Rai urged them to let them live so they can warn others of what happens to those who attract the wrath of Rai.

Acts of Betrayal

Off the coast of Africa, the Essex found itself caught in the first typhoon in a century. Returning from a scouting mission, Kazuyo told the crew of her discovery of safe harbor not far from their position. Just then, Spylocke revealed that she had found Ife, his homeland, where they would be welcomed with open arms long as they told them that he was with them. Despite Kazuyo urging him not to trust Spylocke, Rai ordered the ship to set course for land. Learning of Spylocke’s return from a transmission telling him that the ship carried precious cargo, Shaka Olorun, Ife’s ruler, was pleased to hear that Spylocke had found the Blood of Heroes.

Greeted at the port by Eshu Mbutu, Rai and the others left for to the royal palace, where Shaka assigned them private apartments where they could rest. That night, Timbuc, Leeja, and Kazuyo confronted Rai over their concerns with Shaka and Spylocke, who they decided to threat as an enemy for the time being. Meanwhile in the throne room, Spylocke demanded his reward for bringing the blood from Shaka, who reneged on their deal, claiming that long as the blood was within Takashi, Spylocke would not see his promised boon.

Just then, the sound of battle caught Shaka’s attention. Turning his attention outside, Shaka saw Rai and Kazuyo embroiled in combat. Fed up with Rai’s arbitrary decisions, Kazuyo decided to return to Ladakh and be with her son, and though Rai tried to stop her by mindlocking her armor, Kazuyo escaped. Joined by the others, Rai agreed to have dinner with Shaka despite Kazuyo’s departure, unaware that Spylocke was watching from a balcony. After dinner, Rai, Leeja, and Timbuc succumbed to a sleep potion in their drinks.

Awakening strapped to a machine designed to drain the Blood of Heroes from his veins, Rai listened as Shaka explained that Spylocke traveled to Japan to retrieve the Blood of Heroes for him, when just then X–O Commando broke into the room to break the others free, revealing her fight with Rai to have been a ruse. However, Shaka saw through their hoax and ordered his men to train their weapons on Kazuyo, who he ordered to surrender else sacrifice the lives of the slaves aboard the Essex, which he had mined.

As a sudden explosion from the docks rocked the room, Spylocke revealed himself and said that he blew up the Essex in Rai’s name to undercut Shaka’s stance. Enraged by Spylocke’s actions, Rai broke free from his restrains. With the guards distracted by Rai’s escape, Spylocke and Kazuyo freed Timbuc and Leeja. Before Spylocke could shoot Shaka, Rai tackled him to the floor and beat him for killing the slaves. Restraining Rai’s blows, Spylocke confessed that the explosion was a ruse and the slaves were not dead. Shocked that he lied, Rai let Spylocke go. Accused of betraying Rai to Shaka, Spylocke told them that he would not have let anything happen to Rai for he was too important to the world. Assuring the others that they would be safe once they were back on the Essex, Spylocke walked out of the room and headed toward the port.

Warring Factions

Leaving Ife aboard a magnetic car, Leeja received a psychic message from M’Ree, who told her of the Malev Emperor’s plan to attack the five Mainbrains in South Am, a part of the continent segregated into five distinct sectors at war with each other. Before M’Ree could reveal the Malevs’ ultimate plans, however, they destroyed the containment bank she was in and killed her.

Arriving in South Am, the team headed to San Alto at Leeja’s behest to search for allies who would help them link up the independent Mainbrains before the Malevs arrived. As they entered San Alto airspace, a battlebot that registered their ship as hostile attacked and sent their ship careening toward the ground. Realizing its error, the battlebot, compelled by its imprimaturs to ensure that no human be hurt, rescued the ship before it crashed and gently settled it on the ground. Enraged, Kazuyo flew out of the car and destroyed the battlebot.

Meeting with Palo Hernandez, the jéfe of South Am’s West Sector, Leeja and Rai told him that if he did not want what had befallen North Am to repeat itself in South Am, they had to work together in the face of the Malev threat. However sympathetic he was to their cause, Hernandez deemed their goal an impossible one due to the ages–long hatred that compelled the people of South Am to wage an endless war with one another. Just then, Leeja sensed that the Malevs had arrived in South Am.

Figuring out the Malevs’ plan to use satellites to link the South Am Mainbrains with North Am, Rai planned to usurp the relays and use them to mindlock the Malev Emperor. After an extensive battle against the Malevs around the Mainbrain Installation, Rai and the others broke into the structure and took possession Mainbrain, when just then Magnus and the others joined their ranks for what would become the Battle for South Am.

The Battle For South Am

The Battle For South Am – Part I: One For All

While Leeja explained the background of the Malev invasion of North Am, and the importance of linking their Mainbrains, to five South Am delegates, Ado Krieg, the self–proclaimed champion of the Nazi–ruled Aryantina sector, challenged her claims. When Ado questioned who would control the linked Mainbrains, Rai declared his intent to assume temporary command until a unified governing council could be appointed before he affirmed his belief in one people and one planet, a notion Ado rejected. While the delegates’ reluctance to unite against a common foe forced Magnus and the others to push the issue at gunpoint, their doubt made Rai question what they were doing. Refusing to bow down to Magnus, Ado revealed that he possessed the control ring he discarded years earlier, which he then used to summon an X–O Manowar armor to him.

As a battle between Ado and the future force ensued, Leeja pushed Rai to do something. Fighting through his vacillation, Rai mindlocked with Ado’s armor, which to his surprise was a living machine that fought back. Thrown off balance by Rai’s attack, Ado lost the upper hand and escaped. While Magnus, X–O Commando, and Spylocke went after Ado, Rai and the others stayed behind to continue their plan, but unfortunately, Rai inadvertently projected his doubts and fears onto the crowd, which caused them to distrust each other.

Leaving in a huff, Rai went to a secluded garden where Leeja followed him and they shared a passionate kiss, unaware that Tekla was watching them. Returning to the council room after Tekla objectively revealed that she had witnessed them mating, Rai sent the remaining members of the future force to link up the Mainbrains. While he, Izak, and Leeja stayed in San Alto, Tekla departed for the Aryantina sector, Slagger and Elzy left for the Arab and Israeli sectors, and Timbuc went to the Carib sector.

While Leeja recalled M’Ree’s message and wondered what the Malev’s plan was, in North Am the Malev Emperor dispatched a team of warriors to dispose of Rai, whose every move they could now track through unknown means. Meanwhile across South Am, the Malevs constructed a number of firetowers.

The Battle For South Am – Part II: Targets

While Rai and Izak coordinated the takeover of the South Am Mainbrains from San Alto, the Malev Emperor observed the deployment of his firetowers with glee. In Aryantina, where the future force was in control of the Mainbrain, Tekla discussed her telling Magnus that Rai and Leeja were a couple with 1AB, who feared her revelation would lead to a rift between Rai and Magnus that would do more damage then the Malevs.

Prepared to link the Mainbrains, Izak contacted the members of the future force. While Elzy hid in an air duct in the Arab Mainbrain, Slagger had an attack of stupidity and attached a destruct unit to the Israeli Mainbrain instead of a slave drive, which destroyed the facility. Meanwhile, haunted by his failure at the North Am Mainbrain, Timbuc made his way to the Carib Mainbrain, which had fallen to the Malevs. In an attempt to redeem himself, Timbuc charged into the facility guns blazing, but he was impaled by a Malev. Though surrounded, Timbuc detonated a destruct unit that destroyed the facility, sacrificing himself in the process.

In San Alto, Leeja met with the South Am delegates, who had banded together in their hatred for Rai. After learning from the delegates that the Amazonian Rainforest, which naturally replenished the atmosphere, was an independent sector controlled by the Amazans, Leeja discovered a sudden rise in ectotheric energy, which meant that the Malevs were attacking. At that same moment, the Malevs broke into the Mainbrain.

Unable to mindlock the Malevs without loosing his hold on the Mainbrains, Rai was impaled by a Malev’s sword. Going toasty, Izak reverted into his berserker state and destroyed the Malevs. Arriving moments later Leeja knocked Izak down so he would revert to normal. Running to Rai’s side, Leeja told him that she had figured out that the Malev’s true plan was to destroy the rainforest to make the Earth unlivable for humans.

Trust

Following the defeat of the Malevs in the Amazon Forest, Rai urged Magnus to talk to him, but Magnus walked away, threatening to hurt Rai if he did not move out of his way. Certain that the fate of the world hinged on Rai, Spylocke aimed his weapon at Magnus, which gave way to a standoff broken by Leeja, who reminded everyone that the war was still raging and Timbuc was missing. Worried that he might be dead, Leeja coaxed the others into finding out and they departed for the Carib sector. In North Am, having learned of dissention within the future force through a spy in their midst, the Malev Emperor ordered that Leeja, who had opened a wedge between Rai and Magnus, be killed so that the rift would destroy the human alliance.

While over the Carib sector, Leeja accused Tekla of telling Magnus and Timbuc about her and Rai because of her attraction to Magnus. Not denying her motivations, Tekla said that logically she was the better choice for Magnus due to his comfort with robots. Landing in the remains of the Carib Mainbrain, Leeja lead the others to the spot where Timbuc died, where Rai blamed himself for his death. Watching the others console Rai, Magnus accused him of unconsciously using his ability to manipulate their emotions, a conjecture that made them question if Rai could be trusted, even by himself, a question made academic by the Malevs’ arrival.

During the battle, Rai went berserk and projected his rage against the Malevs onto the rest of the future force, who lashed out against the invaders without any regard to their safety. The only ones immune to Rai’s sway were Spylocke, 1AB, and Tekla, the latter of which lost her arm when Magnus cleaved it off. Warned by 1AB of the imminent arrival of Malev reinforcements, Spylocke knocked Rai out to free the others from his influence so they could escape. Hiding in a cavern, Rai apologized for his unconscious control of their minds, specifically to Leeja, who unaware to him had real feelings for him.

Slaves Of New York

While making their way through the forgotten sub–levs beneath the Goph lands, an apologetic Rai, a resentful Magnus, and Spylocke found a body with a hole on his chest that looked like it exploded from within. As they debated whether a Malev or something else killed the man, a group of Malevs broke through the roof and caused a cave–in that separated Magnus from Rai and Spylocke. Hit on the back of the neck during a skirmish with the Malevs, Magnus lost consciousness, but not before he destroyed all the Malevolents.

While looking for an alternate corridor to where Magnus was, Rai & Spylocke ran into Hule, a Goph running from Julius, one of many Cloud–Cloddies that had enslaved the Gophs, who from atop a hover platform used a detonator module to activate a beacon–bomb inside Hule that killed him as punishment for escaping. Livid, Rai jumped on the platform and attacked Julius, but then a man on a second platform threatened to kill every slave within range unless Rai and Spylocke surrendered and swallowed beacon–bombs. Plotting to destroy the central power source controlling the modules to free the slaves so that they would help them find Magnus, Rai convinced a reluctant Spylocke to yield. Elsewhere, Magnus awoke in a room within a 35th Century plantation pod where he met Octavian, the self–proclaimed President of a community of Milespire exiles, who said that they were counting on his help in their subjugation of the Gophs to protect the last bastion of civilization.

Forced to line up with Gophs herded into a communal shelter, Rai and Spylocke learned that Magnus was the Cloud–Cloddies’ guest of honor, then, once inside the shelter, Rai realized that the Gophs had lost their will to fight, which made it almost impossible for him to use his ability to inspire them to rebel. While Rai and the Gophs ate slop, elsewhere, Octavian and the Cloud–Cloddies gorged on a feast that Magnus found appalling.

Sometime later at the plantation, Rai worried that the Gophs were too demoralized to escape, while Spylocke, who worried that the Malevs would find them, urged Rai to find Magnus and escape. Certain that the Gophs were not worth saving because they were the latest victims in humanity’s long tradition of cruelty with each other, Spylocke said that they should die before they dragged Rai down into despair. Telling Spylocke that he was wrong, Rai quoted a lesson from his teachers at Ladakh that said that whatever did not kill you made you stronger, then ardently refused to abandon his faith in the human spirit despite the despair of the situation, a speech that roused the Gophs to fight for his freedom, a struggle he was unprepared for.

Warned of the revolt, Octavian activated a detonator module that set off the beacon–bombs within the Gophs much to Magnus’ dismay. Although Rai blamed Spylocke of pushing the Gophs into death, he mindlocked the bomb inside him to save him. Sensing the transmitter around Octavian’s neck, Rai told Magnus to destroy it. Suddenly, however, the Malevs breached the plantation and seized Magnus and Octavian. Mindlocking the Malev that captured Magnus, Rai ordered him to release Magnus and help them escape. Leaving Octavian and the Cloud–Cloddies to their fate, Rai, Spylocke, and Magnus fled the plantation with the surviving Gophs.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve: Minutes To Midnight

Summoned to Adelaide by G3, the only free will in Australia, Magnus and Leeja were on their way to meet John Milano, the leader of the Sundowners, rebels who harassed the Malev emissaries with weapons procured from Petersen, G3’s mistress, when they ran into Petersen and the Malev ambassador, who ordered his guards to capture Magnus. While G3 and Leeja ran, Magnus destroyed the Malevs, but then the police arrested him for attacking the Malevs and their liaison. Unaware that Milano was watching, Magnus surrendered. That night, while Petersen and the Malev ambassador plotted to destroy the Sundowners to force the populace to fall in line with the Malevs’ takeover, the Adelaide Republican hotel, Leeja lamented Magnus’ capture.

Shortly after midnight, Petersen released Magnus from his cell under the pretense that his conviction would make him a martyr and an acquittal would anger the Malev Emperor, two paths that would lead to war. Led into a helicopter Magnus failed to convince Petersen that war was coming regardless. Claiming that Magnus’ presence threatened Australia’s neutrality, Petersen dropped him into the ocean, while back at the hotel Leeja sensed a surge of ectotheric energy directed at Magnus, which made her realize that he had walked into a trap.

Walking onto the beach, Magnus came upon the Malev ambassador and two guards, who despite his struggle easily subdued him. Before the Malevs could kill Magnus, however, the Sundowners opened fire on them, destroying the guards and severing the ambassador’s right arm before he escaped. Rushing toward Magnus, Milano hit him over the head with the butt of his rifle to knock him out.

Sometime later, Leeja and G3 arrived on the beach, and upon discovering that the Sundowners had taken Magnus she decided to call Rai and the others to come help them.

Christmas Eve: Fahrenheit 100

Feeling proud that he had found a purpose in a land that despised robots, G3 walked into Petersen’s office, where his mistress and the Malev ambassador praised his plan to bring Magnus to Australia so that he could lead them to the Sundowner’s headquarters. Thankful, G3 informed the Malev of Rai’s arrival, a development that he warned the ambassador could cause complications. Ordering G3 to ensure that Rai remain isolated, the ambassador ordered him to kill Leeja to prevent her from making contact with the future force.

Sometime later, Rai, Slagger, and Kazuyo rode an elevator in the Adelaide Republican hotel to Leeja’s suite, while upstairs G3 lunged at her to choke her. Stirred by the nanites, Rai felt his blood cry out in sympathy as if the blood of heroes flowed in another individual who was experiencing pain. Reaching the suite, Rai and the others walked inside as Leeja destroyed G3 with a blast of ectotheric energy. Running into Rai’s arms, Leeja warned them that the Malevs were nearby, while behind her Kazuyo retrieved a disc from G3’s chest. Elsewhere, the ambassador and Petersen discussed the imminent Malev attack at dawn, an invasion designed to open trade between Australia and the Malev Empire for their benefit as well as their broker’s.

At the Barrosa Valley, secret headquarters of the Sundowners, the Malev ambassador led an assault troop through the wine fields surrounding the encampment, when then Rai and the Future Force, who learned of the assault from G3’s disc, swooped down on hover skids and attacked. Realizing that the Malevs outnumbered them, Rai went to look for help while the others covered him. Hit by a photon cannon, Rai lost his footing at the edge of the field, which left him at the mercy of two Malevs that came bearing down on him. Just then, Milano and the Sundowners destroyed the Malevs with their energy rifles and took Rai captive.

Taken to Milano’s command center, Rai denied Milano’s accusation that he led the Malevs to the valley. Accusing someone working with G3 of revealing their location, Rai tried to convince Milano to fight in the war and join his cause of one people and one world, but unwilling to let his people die and fearing that such unity would lead to the loss of Australia’s identity, Milano dejected Rai’s pleas and sent him to the dungeon. There, Rai found Magnus, who ignored that G3 had planted a transmitter on him that revealed the location of the Sundowner’s headquarters to the Malevs. Sensing the transmitter on Magnus’ person, Rai destroyed it. Sensing the transmitter’s destruction, the Malevs intensified their assault against the future force, when then Milano and his men joined the fray and destroyed the Malev soldiers.

The next day, Milano told Rai and the others that last night’s events convinced him that there was no place for them in Australia, and that due to the discovery of their base the Sundowners would need to relocate into the uncontrolled desert region to rebuild, a feat that would prove impossible with the Malev empire behind them. Adding that he agreed that there should be an alliance between their two camps, Milano said that should their interests ever involve his region again, they should consider the Sundowners and the future force to be as one. Raising his glass, Milano offered a toast to the unity of humankind and peace on Earth, a sentiment followed by Magnus’ wish for a merry Christmas and Rai’s proclamation of a victorious New Year.

Blood Oath

On July 1st, 4003 at the Temple of the Prophet Archer in Ladakh, eight months after he discovered that Leeja was pregnant, Rai released his frustration over his inability to see her on a pillar in the meditation room, while from the doorway Mother Nike sarcastically said that the war had not made him forget the lessons she taught him. Longing for the days when he was an Archie anticipating a serene future, Rai bemoaned his position as savior of a people who would not fight against the Malevs, who had made the air unfit to breathe and whose structures spread out like a cancer that remade the land into their world. What Rai lamented above all was that Magnus would not forgive that Leeja carried his child. Leading Rai to a statue of the Prophet Archer, Mother Nike said that he had to flow with the Tao or drown against it, a lesson that failed to give him any comfort.

Meanwhile in North Am, Slagger took Leeja, Tekla, and Rokland to a ship that would take them to Ladakh, when then the Malevs killed their escorts. Cornered, Slagger did his best to keep the Malevs back.

As Mother Nike left, Spylocke threw a spear at Rai’s feet and, saying that the planet could not afford to have him wallow in self–pity, told him to defend himself or die. Surrendering to the combat encoding in the blood, Rai defeated Spylocke, who said that his training and the files in the nanites made him the best leader in the war. Conceding that he was the only one who could mindlock the Malev Emperor, Rai, who was tired of figuring out Spylocke’s web of half–truths, elected against asking him how he knew so much about the blood.

Meanwhile in North Am, as Leeja went into labor, Tekla sacrificed herself using her body to bridge a broken power main that activated an elevator that would take the others down to a Cloud–Cloddie vault to save her.

Back in Ladakh, a pilot from North Am told Rai that Magnus needed his help to launch a final assault against the Malev Emperor. As Rai left to get Kazuyo at the nursery, Spylocke stood over the dying pilot and, while baring his fans, assured him that he had not spilled his blood in vain. As Rai returned moments later, he saw Spylocke sucking the pilot’s blood and discovered that he was a Spider Alien. Lunging against Spylocke, Rai held a sword against his throat, but though he wanted to kill him he needed his help and trusted his motive for fighting the Malevs. Sparing his life, Rai made Spylocke swear allegiance to him and promise not to feed on allies or innocents. Vowing so, Spylocke said that Rai was the only man he had ever met who could earn the respect of a Spider Alien. Certain that Magnus would disapprove, Rai promised to keep Spylocke’s secret.

The Beasts And The Children

Arriving in North Am, Rai, Kazuyo, and Spylocke met with Magnus to plan their attack against the Malevs. Aware that the Malevs had reinforced the Mainbrain sector, Kazuyo said that they needed major firepower to break its defenses, so Spylocke asked to use the Manowar, but given its corruptive influence Magnus refused his request. Looking for support, Spylocke turned to Rai, who caught in a nagging sensation felt like he had overlooked something. Several kilometers away, Leeja wondered if she would see Rai or her father, unaware that at that same instant the Malevs had taken Clane from his ectotheric pod to see the Malev Emperor, who having ascertained that her baby inherited Rai’s nanites, planned to download its core into him to signify the triumph of artificial intelligence over organic life.

Aiming his weapon on Asa, Spylocke demanded that it tell him where Magnus made it hide the Manowar, but Magnus disarmed him. Turning to Rai, Magnus asked him if Leeja made it to Ladakh, a query that took him aback. Realizing that the nagging feeling was a distress call from his child’s nanites, Rai discerned that Leeja was in trouble. While looking for Leeja, Rai and the others ran into Danae Del Sol and the Young Wolves, a group of children that idolized Magnus and teamed against the Malevs who knew where Leeja was hiding.

As Rai and the others arrived at the milespire where Leeja was hiding, 50 Malev warriors attacked and slaughtered all the Young Wolves except for Danae. Sensing his child and Leeja, Rai led Magnus and the others inside the milespire, but soon as they went inside and joined the others the walls caved in around them. Escaping through the elevator shaft, Kazuyo made it out before the building crumbled onto itself.

Meanwhile, an alien vessel of unknown origin made its way toward Earth.

Crucible

Moments after the collapse of the besieged milespire, Kazuyo fled to go find Gilad in the hope that he would know what to do, unaware that the others had survived and were trapped in a cave half a kilometer below her. Sensing the Malevs’ approach, Rokland told Magnus that he ignored who would arrive first, the baby or them. Laying her hand on Magnus, Leeja asked him to get Rai to help her deliver her child, but feeling rejected he angrily told Rai to finish what he started. Apologetic, Leeja said that she needed Rai because his nanites had files on obstetrics, while restating his apology for what happened between him and Leeja, Rai told Magnus that he had to learn to accept that it could not be undone. Furious, Magnus lashed out, but Spylocke restrained Rai. Confiding in Rai, Spylocke said that he felt overwhelmed by the scent of the dying humans around them.

Hours later over Chinasia, as Kazuyo relayed a distress signal for Gilad, a group of Malev warrior attacked her. On a ship in orbit over the Earth, having detected Kazuyo’s distress signal, Superion Gryffen dispatched Subsuperion Graal and Hexstrike Alpha to aid her. Besieged from all sides, Kazuyo fell to her knees, when then an alien scout vessel flew overhead and destroyed the Malevs before they killed her. Standing on her two feet, Kazuyo watched as the ship landed and worried that it might signal a third alien invasion of Earth.

Back in the cave, Danae aided Leeja’s delivery, while Rokland warned Rai that he foresaw his death and urged him to settle his affairs before it was too late. Walking over to Magnus to make peace with him, Rai told him that he did not want Leeja because she belonged with him, but accusing him of having had his way with her, Magnus was upset that her first child was not his. Just then, Brock, one of Slagger’s men, died and Spylocke, unable to contain his hunger anymore, revealed that he was a Spider Alien. Standing between Spylocke and the others, Rai shielded him from Slagger, when just then Leeja screamed that the baby was coming.

Saying that she heard him fight with Rai, Leeja told Magnus that her baby could tear them apart or bring them together, then, looking in his eyes, she asked him why she could love her but not a child that was part of her. Realizing his misguided anger, Magnus made peace with Rai and Leeja. Sharing his son’s awakening through their preternatural link even as the digging Malevs drew closer, Rai reached for his birthing child and held his son high in his hands for all to see. Born with glowing red eyes, Rai and Leeja’s son was a hybrid of man and nanotechnology who Danae said that given time would develop abilities beyond Rai’s own. While preparing to leave, the Goph who lived there screamed in horror at the sight of Spylocke draining Brock’s blood.

Training his gun on Spylocke, Slagger was ready to kill him, but holding him back, Rai asked him to reconsider. Noticing that Spylocke had resisted his hunger longer than any Spider Alien could, Rai called him the first of his species to know a touch of humanity and ask the others not to kill him. Warning the others that the Malevs were coming, Leeja asked them to let Spylocke stand together with them with compassion and courage, the values she wanted to bring her child into.

In agreement for the first time in months, the Future Force stood together to face death with honor. As the Malevs breached the south wall, Magnus ordered the others to force them back up the tunnel and fight their way to the surface. As all the tension and anger that filled that buried chamber distilled into an unstoppable fury and it no longer mattered that the Malevs outnumbered and outclassed them, Rai and Magnus stroke to avenge every death and every atrocity, carried forward upon a wave of retribution until there were no more enemies to punish. Reaching the surface, Rai and the others learned that the Psi–Lords, the aliens who aided Kazuyo earlier, had destroyed the Malevs horde. All of a sudden, the Psi–Lords accused a member of the Future Force of being a Malev infiltrator and fired an energy beam at him.

The Last Day

The Last Day – Part I: Mindlock!

While Una’s blast destroyed ASA, Graal went after Spylocke, but standing in his way, Rai used his empathy with the molmachs in Graal’s blood to turn them off while Magnus grabbed him from behind. Warning them that he would deactivate them as well, Rai told Una and Vekter to land, but Graal ordered them to attack. Countermanding Graal’s order, Aesha ordered a cease fire and then she and Vekter landed beside Magnus.

As Aesha introduced herself and the others as Hexstrike Alpha of the Starwatcher Sol Quorum, Vekter told Magnus that they were a peace–keeping organization in active pursuit of hostile aliens, and that the Malevs had implanted ASA with a surveillance unit. Enraged, Graal pointed at Spylocke and said that their mandate included his capture. Calling the humans temps, a derogatory remark, Graal accused them of ignoring that Spylocke was an arachnid, but remarking that Spylocke had joined them against the Malevs, Rai asked Graal if he should add them to that list. Apologizing for their rashness, Una said that they had come to render assistance against the arachnid invasion of 4001, but since they arrived two years late they had to re–specify their mission to deal with the Malevs, AI’s they had never seen before. At Kazuyo’s insistance that they go with them to fight the Malevs, Una established an uplink with Superion Gryffen to receive her orders.

Soon, in a bunker 350 meters below the surface, Magnus informed Leeja of ASA’s destruction and introduced her to Balaam, a Starwatcher assigned to guard her while he and the others attacked the Mainbrain. Returning his son to Leeja’s arms, Rai told him that he was glad that he lived long enough to see his face. Asking Rai to lighten up, Leeja felt certain that with the Starwatchers backing him up he would succeed, but facing Rokland, Rai said that if only everyone was as optimistic as her they would have won the war long ago.

Sometime later, aboard a Starwatcher shuttle headed toward the Mainbrain, Magnus tried to make peace with Graal, while Una and Vekter were fascinated by Slagger’s primitive mating overtures toward Sarathan. Trusting Spylocke, Rai shared Rokland’s prediction of his death with him and asked him to promise that when he died he would hide the Blood of Heroes, which he would then give to his son when he was ready to accept the files he set up in his blood’s nanocomputers to educate him after he was gone. Honored, Spylocke told Rai that he was the only being he had ever thought of as a friend and agreed to do what he asked of him. Approaching the Mainbrain, Graal commenced his attack run and ordered the others to assume battle mode.

Within the Mainbrain, the Malev Emperor told Clane that Magnus’ assault against the Cyberpalace was futile, as the Malevs were prepared for the arrival of the Starwatchers. Just then, the Emperor witnessed as Kazuyo, Spylocke, and the Starwatchers escorted their shuttle through the Malev sky net around the palace. While the Emperor ordered all Malev Centurions to report to the Cyberpalace level to engage the imminent hostile incursion, Clane mockingly told him that Magnus would not go down easy. Accusing him of being incapable of comprehending the power they wielded, the Emperor had a centurion take Clane to the ecto–pods.

After ramming the shuttle against the Mainbrain, Magnus, Rai, and the others jumped out of the port window and fought their way toward the throne room through an army of Malev Centurions. Hearing Clane call out to him, Magnus ran toward him and freed him from the Malev Centurion holding him captive. Telling Rai that he was taking Clane back to the shuttle, Magnus ordered him to keep pushing forward. Flanked by Graal and Sarathan, Rai reached the Malev Emperor’s throne room. Staring at the Emperor in the eyes, Rai established a mindlock, but while the Emperor unit went off–line, the Malev transferred its consciousness into Rai’s body.

Making his way toward the throne room, Magnus found Sarathan laying on the floor by the door. Looking inside, he was horrified to see Rai attacking Graal. Outside, as Vekter secured Clane in the shuttle, Aesha told him that the Malevs had broken ranks and wondered if it meant that Rai had shut down the Emperor. Just then, Magnus came crashing out the wall followed by Rai, who, with blood–red eyes, stood over Magnus’ unconscious body and dared the others to face him in battle.

The Last Day – Part II: Exorcism

Trapped in his own mind, Rai listened as the Malevs’ world mind told him hat the lacked the will power to dominate it. Standing over Magnus, Rai saw as his friends stared at him in horror while the Malevs’ voice told him that through his eyes his comrades took on a tragic grandeur and that the Starwatchers should provide him with a suitable test for the abilities that the nanites cursing through his veins bestowed upon him.

Leaping over the Starwatchers, Rai grabbed Boaz and used him to block a blast from Aesha’s gun. Holding Rai down, Vekter urged Aesha to shoot him, but Rai mindlocked her weapon and destroyed it. Staring into Vekter’s eyes, Rai switched his flight mode to maximum and crashed him against Una. While Slagger took Clane inside the shuttle, Kazuyo and Spylocke faced Rai. Mindlocking her armor, Rai sent Kazuyo to the stratosphere, while shutting down Spylocke’s personal force field, he stabbed him with his sword.

Punching Rai on the back of the head, Magnus caused him severe cranial trauma that compromised its ability to mindlock machines. As Magnus pleaded with Rai to break the Emperors’ grip, he briefly regained control of his senses, but the Emperor reasserted itself and punched Magnus off a cliff. Realizing that its hold on Rai was unstable, the Emperor summoned a Malev Centurion that took him to find Rai’s child so that it could download its imperial core into him. Two minutes later, Magnus took Spylocke’s flight harness and left with Graal to find Rai while Slagger stayed behind to keep Clane safe and Aesha requested an extraction shuttle.

Sometime later in the underground bunker, Rai walked in on Danae, Leeja, and Rokland, who could instantly tell that he was under the Malevs’ control. Looming over Leeja, Rai demanded that she give him her child, but sensing the ectotheric energy within him, she channeled it against him to keep him off balance while Danae shot him. Her weapon mindlocked, Danae stabbed Rai with her knife, but then he pushed her out of his way. Unsheathing his sword, Rai stroke Leeja, when then, Balaam showed himself and shot him with his blaster. Taking advantage of the Starwatcher’s aversion of lethal force, Rai mindlocked Balaam and caused him a massive coronary failure. As Balaam collapsed at his feet, Rai took Danae’s knife and went after Leeja.

Taunting the Emperor from onboard the Starwatcher shuttle, Magnus fooled him into leaving Leeja alone and going after him. Jumping on the Centurion’s back Rai mindlocked the shuttle’s engines and caused it to crash on a milespire. Circling the crash, Rai scanned for life signs, when then Magnus came flying toward him and crashed through the centurion. Mindlocking the flight pack, Rai destroyed it and both he and Magnus fell on a rooftop. Grabbing a pipe, Rai stood over Magnus ready to kill him, but then Takao fought the Malevs’ hold on him and momentarily regained control of his body. Fighting the Malevs’ control, Rai told Magnus that they wanted his son and begged him to kill him. Asking Magnus that his son be raised in Ladakh and that he make sure Spylocke kept his promise, Rai urged him to end his life before he lost control again, so even though it pained him to do it, Magnus snapped Takao’s neck.

Sensing the end Rai’s life functions, the Malevs’ world–mind withdrew into the Malev Emperor unit, which the feedback of Rai’s death destroyed. As a result of the Emperor’s destruction, all the Malev installations across North Am exploded, killing every human trapped within the ecto–pods. Standing over Rai’s corpse, Magnus stared out at the explosions all around him and wondered why it was that of all the deaths around him, the only one he felt was his.

Bloodline

Holding Rai in his arms while the rest of the Future Force surrounded him, Magnus told them that they were too late, that Rai was dead and he killed him. Sharing Rai’s dying wishes with the others, Magnus told them of his desire that Spylocke take the Blood of Heroes, and much to the Starwatcher’s chagrin, he vowed to ensure that Spylocke be allowed to depart with his charge. Kneeling beside Rai’s corpse, Leeja promised to raise their son in the Temple of Archer where he grew up. Kissing Rai one last time, Leeja said that she would name their child Obadiah and tell him how much his father loved him.

Forced to ask the Starwatchers’ for their help, Spylocke had them use their nanotechnology to grow a vessel where he could put Rai’s blood. Once everyone left, Spylocke kneeled beside Rai’s corpse and used the vessel to drain the Blood of Heroes from his veins. The following day, Spylocke departed on a skycicle, taking the blood with him where no one, not even the Starwatchers, could ever find it.

A year later in the Canton Sector, Magnus, president of the Terran Consortium, and Zebediah Clane, his chief of staff, met with Master Chen, whose Archies organization had provided a chain of command in the post–war chaos that aided Magnus’ effort to rebuild human society. Just then, a freewill broke through the window to kill Magnus for sanctioning the Clane Act, a law that ordered the destruction of all robots. When the free will fired his weapon, Master Chen stood in the path of the beam and sacrificed himself to save Magnus. The following day in Ladakh, Magnus told Leeja of his decision to ask the Starwatchers to assist with the purge of every robot on Earth. Turning his attention to Obie, Rai’s son, Magnus said that if it had not been for Rai he would have never known the joy of fatherhood, to which Leeja revealed that she was pregnant with his child.

By the time Torque was born, everyone had taken to calling Obie Rai, except for his foster brother Takashi. One day, while Leeja was visiting Makiko so that Obie and Takashi could play, Balaam entered the room and, abrasively, examined Obie to determine the status of the nanites in his veins. Taking Obie away from Balaam, Leeja angrily assured him that he had not inherited his father’s combat files or other conscious powers that were in the Blood of Heroes, which disappeared with Spylocke. At that moment in Africa, Spylocke, who lived in a cave where he kept watch over the vessel containing the blood, learned from the news that after a skirmish with Consortium troops the Starwatchers agreed to terminate their robot–hunting efforts and leave Earth, leaving Balaam as ambassador, but promising to return should global peace be threatened again.

Five years later, during Rai’s birthday party, Takashi asked his mother why everyone called him Rai when his name was Obadiah. Pointing out that his father was the last true Rai, Takashi wondered why he was not the one who got the name, but telling him to stop being petty, Kazuyo said that Rai was no longer the title it used to be, and that everyone nicknamed Obie Rai because of the birthmark on his chest. Telling Takashi to grow up and let go of past glories, Kazuyo told him that the world was a very different place, but he ignored her.

Two months later, after Kazuyo returned from a diplomatic mission, she found Takashi standing on a balcony waiting for her. Upset, Takashi ran away, accusing Kazuyo of forgetting his birthday. An hour later, Takashi asked Makiko to tell him again what life was like when Grandmother ruled Japan. Telling him that she and his mother did not get along back then, Makiko told Takashi that Kazuyo helped overthrow the Grandmother computer that she fought to reinstate, while his father, Tohru, was always caught in the middle. Musing that she used to believe that life was best with Grandmother in charge, and that Tohru was among the very best in the long line of men called Rai, Makiko told Takashi that those days were gone forever.

Six years later, Leeja told her children that she had decided to move back to Calizona permanently to be closer to Magnus. While Torque was excited at the prospect of living in North Am, Obie told their mother that he wanted to stay in Ladakh and finish his studies. Feeling that the temple was where he belonged, Obie told Leeja that he would miss her, as next to the temple she was the strongest link he had to his father. Later that day, Takashi took Obie to the library, where he showed him a history video featuring their parents. Learning that for over forty generations Japan was ruled by a self–aware computer called Grandmother, Obie also learned that Grandmother chose the men who would become Rai, the spirit guardian of Japan, and that she transformed them, imbuing their bodies with strange energies from which they could create their weapons.

Pointing at an image of Takao Konishi on a screen, Takashi told Obie that his father had no right to steal the honor of calling himself Rai, and neither did he. That day, for the first time, Obie glimpsed the hatred that burned in Takashi’s heart. Running out of the library in tears, Obie collided with an Archie. Calling Obie little Rai, the Archie asked him what was wrong, but Obie told him never to call him Rai again.

Staring at an image of Tohru Nakadai, Takashi swore to his father that one day he would restore his honor and that of Japan. Flanked by images of Grandmother and his father, Takashi vowed that despite the law against artificial intelligence he would find his own source of power and take back his birthright by force.

Two Heirs to The Blood of Heroes

Seventeen years after the end of the war, not one, but two young men rose, both prepared to take on the mantle of Rai. Obadiah Konishi, son of Takao, had been raised in Ladakh, and was prepared to embark on a quest to become the hero that his father was. But Takashi Nakadai, son of the last “true” Rai (under Grandmother’s regime) also coveted this noble title. “Brothers in spirit”, these two young men were destined to become mortal foes in a battle that would someday rock the world of the 41st Century.

Leap Of Faith

Outside the Temple of Archer in Ladakh, on May 19th, 4020, Obie stood atop wooden pillars surrounded by other members of the order performing a footwork exercise. After standing on the soles of his feet for four hours, Obie’s legs felt like rubber, which was not a good sign, as a single misstep could have made him fall and broken his neck. Certain that the nanites in his bloodstream would automatically heal him with a week, Obie wondered why he had never been able to use them for total body control like his father had.

As Mother Nike ordered everyone to switch from a horse stance to a crane stance, Takashi jumped beside Obie and mockingly told him that he jumped like a girl. Chastising Takashi, Mother Nike called Obie Rai and told him that his balance was off. Asking her not to call him Rai, Obie reiterated his wish that people call him Obadiah. Feeling insulted, Takashi said that Obie did not deserve the name Rai, as Rais were protectors and guardians while Obie could hardly protect himself. Fed up with Takashi’s insolence, Mother Nike made him lead the saucer drill. Kicking the saucer, Takashi kicked it with his right foot, demonstrating fighting skills that matched his arrogance and impressed Obie. Though he was too tired, Obie did not want Takashi to shame him, so he leapt after the saucer in the hope that the danger would force his nanites to respond. In the end, however, Obie came down off balance and landed on his stomach. Mortified, Mother Nike called sent everyone to stretch and meditate. Seeing his mother overhead, Takashi excused himself and went home.

One minute later, Takashi eagerly ran inside their private quarters to tell Kazuyo about his day, but, acting coldly, she told him that they would talk about it later and asked him to fetch her a red ceremonial gown for a meeting with a delegation from Nepal. Upset, Takashi ran away in tears while Kazuyo was in the bathroom getting ready to leave again. Running into Makiko, Takashi unburdened himself on her. Accusing Takao and Obie of stealing the title of Rai from him, Takashi ran away promising to steal his life back.

The next morning, Mother Nike sent Takashi and Obadiah to their sister temple in Vitsayanah to retrieve the manuscript of the “I–Ching” and bring it back before the sunset the next day in the hope that working together would show them that the paths they walked were not so far apart. Eager to undertake Mother Nike’s quest, Obie was hopeful that it would help break down some of the barriers between him and Takashi. Unbeknownst to either one of them, a man in the crowd used a radio to warn his cohorts that they were leaving.

That midafternoon, the boys reached the treeline by the foot of a mountain and Obie told Takashi that he was glad that they were together as it gave them an opportunity to clear the air between them. However, sickened by Obie’s sentimentalism, Takashi told him that he was there because he had to, and urged him not to try to become his friend. Finding an old rope bridge, Takashi crossed to the other side first, then, as Obie made his way through it, he severed the rope with his sword so that Obie would fall to prove to Mother Nike that he did not need anyone’s help. Climbing the rope back to the opposite side, Obie, angered with Takashi, leapt over the ridge hoping that his nanites would kick in. Landing next to Takashi, Obie leapt at him to kick him, but Takashi punched him in the abdomen with his elbow, injuring him.

Standing over Rai, Takashi mused over whether Mother Nike would consider him twice as worthy when he returned alone with the scrolls, when just then, a Malev appeared behind him and demanded that he surrender. Claiming that he was after Takashi because his mother owned the X–O armor, the Malev bound Takashi with his tendrils. Trapped, Takashi yelled out Rai, and Obie came to his rescue. Severing the tendrils with his sword, Obie was shocked to see a Malev. Though Obie wanted to run, Takashi said that they needed to work together. While Takashi distracted the Malev, Obie stroke him with his sword, which caused a painful feedback that reached the Malev’s remote operator hidden several kilometers away.

Standing on a saucer that appeared out of nowhere, Ito and Suki Seko, the individuals behind the Malev, fired on Obie while trying to recapture Takashi. Engaging Ito in hand–to–hand combat, Obie could not believe how well he was doing against him, and wondered if it was due to his nanites, but then Ito got the upper hand and pushed him against the edge of the cliff. Meanwhile, Takashi severed the Malev’s head, which disrupted Suki’s remote and caused her to crash the saucer against the mountain. Walking away from the wreck, Suki scolded Takashi for destroying the Malev that took her years to get operational. Ignoring Obie’s cries for help as he and Ito fell over the cliff, Takashi chased Suki and captured her. Learning that Suki was an expert in forbidden technology, Takashi let her go, promising to visit her soon, as her technical knowledge would prove useful to him. Looking back at the cliff, Takashi felt glad that Suki had helped him get rid of Obie.

Hours later, Takashi returned to the Temple of Archer and told Mother Nike that the Malev attacked them and knocked Obie over the gorge. Unsure of where Takashi got the Malev’s head, Mother Nike told him that he was a very bad liar and ordered him to tell her what really happened. Just then, Obie walked into the courtyard and backed up Takashi’s lie. Whispering in Obie’s ear that Mother Nike knew he was laying, Takashi accused Obie of making him look worse, so with a sly smile, Obie agreed with him.

The Call

On the plains of Africa, near Mount Kilimanjaro, Spylocke shot down a slave trader’s transport and rescued a young girl from a tribe that revered him as a Spider God. After killing the traders and satisfying his thirst with their blood, Spylocke freed the girl’s sister from the ship and asked them to deliver a message to Rai.

The next day, while Obie and Takashi cleaned a wall as punishment for lying to Mother Nike, the girls arrived on the temple looking for Rai. Much to Takashi’s anger, Obie introduced himself to the women, whose beauty captivated him the moment he saw them. Later, in the south greeting hall, the women activated a Spider Alien device in the presence of Mother Nike that projected a hologram of Spylocke who greeted Obie as the son of the great Rai and invited him to travel to Kilimanjaro to prove himself worthy of the Blood of Heroes and the message his father recorded contained in it. Wishing Rai good luck, Mother Nike gave him permission to go.

The next morning, in the temple’s landing bay, Takashi gave Obie a dagger that he told him would help him against the dangers ahead. Thanking Takashi, Obie gave him a hug and failed to see his brother roll his eyes. Leaving in high spirits, Obie doubted that anything would go wrong, especially as Takashi wished him well. Hours later, Obie arrived in the Kenya sector, near the area where the girls encountered Spylocke. Leaving his transport, Obie went to find Spylocke on foot, when then, he felt like someone was watching him. Arming himself with his sword, Obie stood against a tree to cover his rear, but then Takashi kicked him on the head from above. Leaping beside Obie, Takashi told him that he used a beacon hidden in the dagger to follow him so that he could take the Blood of Heroes for himself. Refusing to let Takashi steal his legacy, Obie engaged him in battle. Using Takashi’s own dagger against him, Obie disabled the flight pack. As Takashi fell to the ground, he impaled himself on his sword. Throwing his sky card’s ignition key at Takashi, Obie told him to return to Ladakh and then walked away. Standing beside the car, Takashi removed the sword from his side and left, promising to return with enough firepower to bury Obie beneath the continent.

Making his way through the jungle, Obie faced one trap after another, surviving each and everyone of them until he finally arrived to Spylocke’s cave. Rising from a hole in the ground, Spylocke lunged against Obie, who used his own momentum to kick him over his shoulder. Landing on his feet, Spylocke reached for a rifle and aimed it at Obie. Leaping into the air, Obie used his sword to disarm Spylocke before he could fire, but then Spylocke kicked him in the abdomen and threw him to the ground.

Looming over him, Spylocke told Obie that his spirit made him worthy, then he invited him to stay with him so that he could train him in the ways of the warrior.

Chaos Effect Epsilon

Chaos Epsilon – Part I: A Distant Call

After she awoke to find that Phil had fused to their bed, Gayle grabbed his hands and pulled him up. Frightened, Gayle asked Phil what happened, but all he could deduce was that something had affected his atomic structure’s integrity and caused him to dissipate. After she told Phil that before she helped him she saw something out the window that looked like storm clouds, Gayle opened the curtains and showed him the disturbance caused by the chaos effect. Certain that the storm was linked to his condition, Phil changed into his outfit to go investigate. Dizzied, like weak from hunger, Phil flew out the window.

While he flew through the skies of San Francisco, Phil noticed that electricity was out as far as he could see and that not even the cars were running. Surrounded by scattered fires and falling buildings, Phil decided to put out the flames and stop the looters, when then he heard a scream coming from the B.A.R.T, which had derailed. Though Phil tried to stop the train, his powers fizzled and had no effect. As he flew beneath the train, Phil tried to hold it up to let it down gently, but he phased through it and it fell to the ground. Desperate, Phil screamed to the skies asking what was wrong with him, when then Sandria Darque appeared and told him that he was the sun god fated to save the world or destroy it. Sandria offered to help Phil end the chaos and take him to Ladakh, where he had to be. Though he was hesitant to leave, Phil followed Sandria through a gateway that took them to the Temple of Ladakh.

After they arrived, Sandria pointed to the rip and told Phil that it was up to him to do whatever he had to stop it, or else everything would be gone and necromancers like her brother would bend the chaos to their will. Confused, Phil asked Sandria who her brother was, but then she left. As he approached Phil, Chan told him that Sandria’s brother was Master Darque, who a year earlier had destroyed the temple and whom the strange force had made more powerful. As Phil followed the monks inside, he noticed that the rip had grown.

Inside, the monks invited Phil to warm himself by the fire, and though he could not feel the heat of the flames, he gained a measure of strength from them. After Phil learned what happened from the monks and came across Archer and Aram, the latter of who kept referring to him as Magnus, they heard a scream from outside.

As they followed the cries, Phil and the others saw Geoff keeled outside the temple. Frightened, Geoff ran toward Phil and told him that it was up to him to end the chaos, but he did not know what to do.

Sometime later, in a room within the temple where the monks had taken Phil and Geoff to rest, Phil mused over Sandria’s and Geoff’s warning that he was the answer to ending chaos and questioned what he could do within the storm that covered the Earth. Just then, Phil and Geoff discovered the answer to their dilemma.

Together, Geoff and Phil ran outside to attempt to contact the Destroyer.

Chaos Epsilon – Part II: Destroyers

In 4020, somewhere in the space lanes near the Jovian Republic of Ganymede, a Starwatcher shuttle that carried Hexstrike Alpha and Danae Del Sol, the Terran consortium’s ambassador, nearly collided with the Destroyer. Unable to veer away, Graal shot the Destroyer with a beam that ripped him in half so they could fly through him. Enraged, the Destroyer vectored in on the vessel at light speed.

Inside the shuttle, Aesha gave Danae a syntheskin that custom–fitted her with a uniform that overwhelmed her with an extraordinary sensation as it enveloped her. Though Boaz did the best he could as tailgunner, the Destroyer’s powers were beyond the Psi–Lord’s understanding and he sliced the hull of the shuttle. Sucked into space, Danae was certain that they would die, but then Aesha, the only one of them with flight powers, launched Graal at the Destroyer before gathering her and Boaz up. Grabbing Graal’s hands, the Destroyer shouted curses at him silenced by the interstellar vacuum, while, unable to free his arms, Graal lashed out with his leg, not realizing that within the Destroyer’s energy–body burned an inferno like the heart of the sun. Graal’s howling shriek of pain rattled the others’ helmet bubbles and nearly blew out their comlink systems.

Holding on to a scattered piece of their craft, Danae saw the Destroyer approaching, and had a pang of recognition upon seeing his crest, when then her view was briefly obscured as Boaz and Aesha hit him with a spurt of sunburst that he easily soaked in. Seeing the crest again, Danae knew how to save their lives. Urging them to not fight, Danae, aware that the Destroyer could monitor comlink frequencies, called him Solar and urged him to talk with her. Unable to transmit back, the Destroyer placed a hand on Danae’s helmet bubble and vibrated it, producing a hollow, eerie voice that asked her not to call him Solar and tell him where he was and why they attacked him. Telling him that they were near Jupiter, and that they pulled him out of subspace by accident, Danae told the Destroyer that it was all a terrible mistake. Distressed, the Destroyer demanded to know where his other self was, but, worried that hearing that Solar died, Danae told him to go to Earth. In a blink, Danae watched as the Destroyer left, and hoped that she had not just doomed her planet. Within a few hours, they repaired the shuttle with a glue–like Molmach paste and returned to the Palisade.

Back in the Palisade, while Aesha took Graal to Una so she could clone him a new leg, Boaz thanked Danae for saving them, and offered to visit her later with a token of his gratitude. Filled with a thrill of anticipation that stayed with her until Boaz ranged her bell two hours later, Danae had no idea of what he had in mind. Inviting Boaz inside, Danae asked him if she was dressed appropriately, but apologizing for the confusion, he told her that they were not going anywhere. Telling Danae that he felt that she deserved to have some of her questions answered, Boaz showed her a vial that contained a solution filled with special nanocomputers that could deliver a message directly to her brain she could play by ingesting it he programmed with a synthestim file that would allow her to relive the origins of the Starwatchers. Unlike the others, Boaz did not agree with most of their rules and doctrines, and believed that it was time they dealt openly and honestly with the sol system, so he did not care about getting into trouble for revealing such things to her. Wondering if she could trust him, Danae sat there looking at the vial for an eternity, but in the end curiosity won out and she drank it.

As a flood of foreign sensations swept over Danae, she felt as if she was wearing Boaz’s body, while the molmachs fed her recorded sensory input from every nerve in his mighty frame, including those from some very unfamiliar body parts. Danae quickly learned that the Starwatchers descended from the HARD Corps, who two hundred years after they left Earth in their interstellar starships, made the breakthrough in creating their own version of nanotechnology.

Watching through Boaz’s eyes, Danae saw a HARD Corps doctor standing over her in the year 3152 AD tell Boaz that the molecular machines they put in his system should be taking effect. Feeling Boaz’s mouth move when he answered, Danae heard him say that he felt better than he had in years. Unable to describe just how vital it felt being in Boaz’s body, Danae listened as the doctor explained that the molmachs were repairing his body tissues, and even undoing the effects of ageing. Telling Boaz that the molmachs also carried information from the Harbinger Powers Database, that once he learned to use he could access his powers without calling Softcore, the doctor showed him a mirror in which Danae saw an old man’s face that helped her deduce that Boaz had been around sixty when the nanotech breakthrough occurred.

Suddenly, the recording skipped three years, when the molmachs had restored Boaz to the peak of health and he had mastered the complex mental commands required to access his awesome powers. Looking at Sarathan, Danae felt the twinge in Boaz’s heart, and his feelings for her lay bare. Only a select group of HARD Corps was empowered like Boaz, and was the first team to investigate a planet in the Arcturus system capable of sustaining life. Looking upon the shuttle’s pilot, Ravenrok, Danae felt Boaz’s respect and admiration for him. Addressing the crew, Ravenrok proclaimed that, for the first time since the Harbinger Wars, the HARD Corps had a mission to perform. Skipping down to the planet, Danae thrilled to the feeling of fearlessly attacking the Spider Aliens, and noticed that the HARD Corps had no compunctions about using lethal force. Suddenly, Boaz did something that Danae had never seen him do; he flew to better view the battle, and she realized that, in those days, each one of them possessed all of the Harbinger powers. Through Boaz’ eyes, Danae witnessed as the HARD Corps exterminated the Spider Aliens with frightening efficiency.

When the file jumped ahead again, the Corps had transformed the alien base, and gathered to celebrate around a hologram of their Supreme Commander, who declared the planet their new homeworld. With no Harbinger threat left to combat, the commander proclaimed that they would redirect their organization’s mission and no longer be known as HARD Corps, but from then on call themselves Starwatchers and use heir power and molmach technology to colonize planets in other systems. Telling Ravenrok that they spent a hundred and fifty years getting to that planet, Boaz asked him who the commander thought would be going to do the colonizing, and Ravenrok told him that he would, for how else were they to claim the stars as their own.

Three hundred years later, contact with Ravenrok’s isolated colony had become increasingly sporadic, and when the Starwatchers came to investigate, they found Ravenrok had made himself ruler of a totalitarian world. Since Boaz had deliberately omitted some information, such as who Ravenrok’s golden–skinned allies were, Danae did not understand much of the battle, but she still got the point; one of their own had gone bad, and recapturing that world from him was only accomplished at a horrific price.

A year later, Ravenrok had yet to be found, and, though how their adversary escaped remained a mystery, the Supreme Commander vowed that they would pursue him until he was captured. Acknowledging the deep shame and guilt they all shared, the Supreme Commander proclaimed that they would take steps to ensure that such a tragedy was never repeated. From then on, the Starwatchers split their powers into three classifications, so as to foster teamwork over individual action. Those of them in red should be Bastions – retaining strength and invulnerability powers –, those in orange should be Gunner – with energy projection powers –, and those in yellow should be Scouts – employing infiltration powers, such as flight and invisibility. Promising that they should once again rededicate themselves, the Supreme Commander uttered the vow that their first mandate in policing the stars should be the protection of all life. To that end, they hard–wired directives into their molmachs prohibiting the use of lethal force, as well as prevented the m from procreating to prevent the birth of a new generation of supermen.

Aware that the changes came as a result of penance for Ravenrok’s crimes, Danae knew that the Starwatchers had hunted him down in the five hundred years since, but had been unable to locate him, and that while his capture was still a top priority, none of them ever even mentioned his name. Once, all Starwatchers wanted to emulate Ravenrok, but when he fell they all fared that there really was something of him in each of them.

As Danae awoke from her trance, Boaz told her that now that she knew their secret, whatever she decided to do with the information was up to her. After Boaz left, Danae recited her thoughts into a recorder. Reiterating Boaz’s warning that the file did not reveal everything, but it should still answer some of her questions, Danae said that rather than fearing them she felt sympathetic, and that their greatest fear was their own capacity for evil made them human after all. Aware that Boaz took a great risk showing that to her, Danae decided not to report all she had learned to Magnus so as to not repay his trust with betrayal. Though it was her duty to report what she had seen, Danae wanted to know more before she tipped her hand.

Meanwhile, in the command center, Graal and Aesha finished briefing Superion Gryffen on their mission. Curious, Graal asked if they had received any word from their homeworld, but reiterating that they had not had any contact since they arrived in that system seventeen years earlier, Gryffen said that that was the least of their worries. In light of the encounter with the Destroyer, Gryffen negated their agreement with Magnus and sent two Hexstrike teams to Earth immediately to subdue the Destroyer.

Elsewhere, at the Gateway station on the solar frontier beyond Neptune, a badly injured Starwatcher warned the humans that Ravenrok had returned to the homeworld and killed everyone.

Chaos Epsilon – Part III: Homecoming

As the Destroyer made his final approach to Earth, he landed in the South Am sector. Acclimating himself to an atmosphere, the Destroyer mused over how ever since he made his return, it seemed like everyone he had run into had tried to kill him. Aware that things had changed since he left, the Destroyer saw no sense in keeping his existence secret since he doubted he had any loved ones left to protect. Using the communications grid, the Destroyer made an open call to anyone who could tell him about Solar. In Ladakh, Mother Nike recognized the symbol on the Destroyer’s chest and told him that his arrival was the fulfillment of a 2000–year old prophecy and that she believed that she could answer his questions.

In Africa, Obie asked Spylocke why he attacked him, and he told him that he had to test his worthiness before revealing the secrets of his lair. Wondering why he was following a Spider Alien, Obie questioned if his being there was worth the risk, when then, Spylocke showed him the Blood of Heroes. Hearing the nanites calling him, Obie stared into the liquid computer that was once his father’s blood, which contained his memories and experiences, the very essence of the man himself, and for a fleeting moment communed with it and it showed him an image of his father that faded as quickly as it appeared. Unable to reestablish contact, Obie asked Spylocke what to do. Musing over the promise he made Takao seventeen years earlier to give his blood to Obie, Spylocke said that he thought he had finally gotten that obligation off his back, but that now he would either have to train him to use the nanites, or else his blood would join his father’s.

In Ladakh, the Destroyer popped out of the comlink and startled Mother Nike, who asked him to follow her to the library. Just then, Kazuyo flew over the temple and the Destroyer shot her thinking that she was a Spider Alien. Pulling the Destroyer’s arm down, Mother Nike told him that Kazuyo was a friend and a high ranking diplomat. Enraged, Kazuyo lunged against the Destroyer, who grabbed her by the neck and, admitting that it was a mistake to shoot her, told her that anyone who dressed like a Spider Alien was asking for it. Telling Kazuyo that they would be in the library, Mother Nike asked her to think of the Destroyer as a dignitary. Leaving, Kazuyo commented that this had been the worst welcome she had ever gotten to a state function. Two minutes later, in Kazuyo and Takashi’s private quarters, Kazuyo found Takashi and Suki working with forbidden technology and threatened to turn her in after her business with the Destroyer was over. Asking Suki to go to her air car and get out of there, Takashi told her that he was going to kill his mother.

In Africa, Spylocke fitted Obie with a device that would amplify his brain and his nanites to help him break through the mental blocks within him that he had to overcome. Though Obie felt something, it was not very strong, so Spylocke attacked him to force him to use his body’s nanosystems. Leaping out of the way to avoid Spylocke’s staff, Obie felt calm, sure, and totally in control. Feeling every fiber of his being singing to him, Obie’s nerves and muscles fired with digital precision, turning every moment into a revelation. Brashly, Obie told Spylocke that he was in trouble, so Spylocke released a blade in his staff to increase the danger.

Elsewhere, Superion Gryffen informed Balaam that he dispatched two Hexstrike teams to forcibly extract the Destroyer, an Alpha–Aggressor, and that he should inform Magnus that their pact was temporarily off.

Running outside, Obie barely kept ahead of Spylocke even with his adrenaline maxed. Seeing the death in his eyes, Obie worried that even though the nanites in his blood let him do anything that was humanly possible, that maybe humanly possible would not be enough to survive. Loosing his sword during the melee, Obie grabbed Spylocke’s staff to take it from him. As they wrestled for the weapon, Spylocke told Obie that he was fighting stupidly, and that it was a pity that he did not have his father’s combat files. Telling Obie that if he could access the files he could find one that said to expect the unexpected, Spylocke bared his alien teeth and startled Obie, who fell to the ground. Looming over Obie, Spylocke said that they had made some progress.

In Ladakh, Takashi walked into Kazuyo’s bedroom. Standing at the foot of the door, Takashi trembled while his mother asked him what he was doing with Suki and threatened to report her to the authorities again. Noticing Takashi’s shiver, Kazuyo apologized and offered to not report his girlfriend. Turning back, Kazuyo admitted that she had not been a very good mother to him, and suggested that he invite Suki back so they could talk, when then, Takashi punched her across the head and told her to shut up.

Looming over Kazuyo, Takashi said that it was too late for apologies. Clenching his fist, Takashi said that there was only one thing he wanted from her, and turned Kazuyo’s attention to the X–O armor behind her. Though Kazuyo begged him not to, Takashi bashed her head with a base. Removing the control ring from Kazuyo’s finger, Takashi donned the armor. Calling his father’s name, Takashi said that was the day he would start restoring the glory of Japan. Promising to honor Tohru’s memory, and the forty–one Rais who served before him, Takashi marked that day as the birth of the Forty–Third Rai.

Chaos Epsilon – Part IV: Sacrifice

In the personal office of President Magnus of the Terran Consortium, Balaam of the Starwatchers appeared in the middle of the room, startling Torque and Magnus, and proclaimed that something terrible had happened. Informing Magnus that several hours earlier an unbelievably powerful entity calling itself the Destroyer had attacked a Starwatcher shuttle and easily defeated three of their best combat personnel, even maiming one of them before proceeding towards Earth, Balaam said that his commander feared that the Destroyer was a threat to the entire solar system. Though he regretted it, Balaam informed Magnus that, despite their agreement to keep the Starwatchers off Earth, Superion Gryffen dispatched two Hexstrike teams to deal with the threat.

Explaining that the Destroyer’s phenomenal power temporarily negated their agreement, Balaam told Magnus that with the Hexstrike teams en route, he just needed to decide what to do about it. Deciding to get his battle armor, go to Ladakh immediately, and personally handle the situation, Magnus told Balaam that he would accompany him. Though Torque wanted go with him too, Magnus, appreciative of his wanting to help him, said that Leeja would be crushed if something happened to both of them and told him to stay there and look after things while he was gone. 27 minutes later, while watching Magnus’ transport leave from a window, Torque said that his father should know that when told not to go somewhere, he was as good as there.

In the library chamber of the Temple of Archer in Ladakh, Mother Nike showed the Destroyer a book that chronicled a great disaster that threatened to destroy the Earth in 1994. Opening the book, Mother Nike showed the Destroyer a drawing of the portal that opened up there in 1994 and unleashed chaotic energies that froze all electrical systems across the globe. Seeing an image of his chest plate, which Mother Nike told him the book claimed was the key to saving Solar and ending the chaos effect, the Destroyer realized that, since Solar would have been too weak to reach him there, he had to reach back to him in 1994. Meanwhile, in the temple’s north wing, Makiko found Kazuyo’s body and realized that Takashi killed her and took the armor.

Taking the Destroyer to the south terrace, Mother Nike showed him the site where the chaos portal opened up over 2,000 years earlier, when just then Magnus and Balaam arrived. Asking Balaam to wait in the transport, Magnus walked up to the Destroyer, who at first he confused with Solar, and told him that his being there was jeopardizing his agreement with the Starwatchers, who had sent a dozen warriors to stop him. Taking flight, the Destroyer said that he expected them to go after him, so he offered that since he needed to go back in time anyway he would do everyone a favor and leave, but when he tried to open a portal to the past, an influx of necromantic energy disrupted him and prevented him from leaving. Elsewhere, in an Agro–Tract in Chinasia, the Immortal Enemy, sensing the river of necromantic energy, felt more powerful than he had in 2,000 years.

Reassembling himself, the Destroyer closed the portal and wondered how he could help Solar if he could not even reach him, when just then a Starwatcher grabbed him from behind and flew off with him, ordering him not to attempt to struggle and go with him peacefully. Enraged, the Destroyer burned the Starwatcher, killing him instantly. Surrounded from all sides, the Destroyer engaged the Starwatchers in a bloody battle and killed all of them. Returning to the temple, the Destroyer threatened to do to Balaam what he did to his friends, but standing between them, Magnus urged him to leave Earth before the turned the incident into a global war.

Upset, the Destroyer said that he was trying to leave for 1994, because he had to save Solar and the world, but that the chaos effect sapped his energies just like it did him. Stepping up, Balaam offered to nano–construct a container to insulate a portion of the Destroyer’s energy against the chaos effect that could then be given to Solar and provide him with a chance to end his crisis. Curious, the Destroyer asked Balaam why he was so eager to help him, and Balaam said that, whatever he might think of them, they were there to protect life. Confirming Balaam’s claim, Magnus offered to take the piece of him to Solar since he was strong enough to withstand time travel, and, unlike them, the chaos effect would not wipe him out. However, he would only do it if Balaam promised him the other Psi–Lords would withdraw from Earth until he returned. Though he was unsure of how Magnus would return, Balaam promised an immediate withdrawal until his return.

Taking Balaam aside, Magnus asked him why he proposed to help the Destroyer, and Balaam told him that, after watching the Destroyer massacre six friends he had known for seven hundred years, any opportunity to decrease his power increased the Starwatchers’ chances of defeating him someday.

Six minutes later, Balaam asked the Destroyer to give him the piece of himself he wished to sent back. Taking a cue from Mother Nike’s book, the Destroyer gave him his crest plate, certain that the Solar symbol was no longer appropriate for him. Using a nano–construct, Balaam coated the disk with energy–inhibiting molmachs to insulate it from the chaos energies. Saying that since chaos poured from the past into the present when the Destroyer opened the portal, Balaam theorized that if Solar opened a portal to the beginning of time the energies would leave 1994, drawn to an era when all truly was chaos. Asking Balaam to keep his promise and tell Leeja and Torque that he would be back, Magnus leapt into the open portal and vanished.

Running out of the temple calling for his father, Torque told Balaam and the Destroyer that he was stepping in for Magnus while he was gone and ordered them to leave the planet immediately. While the Destroyer vanished, Balaam assured Torque that his father would come back. Certain that his father would keep his word and return, Torque asked Balaam to help him, his mother, and his grandfather to stop the Terran Consortium from falling during Magnus’ absence.

My Brother's Keeper

At the Calizona dataplexus in North Am, Torque studied the historical records of the Rai lineage in hopes that it would help him find something that would tell him and Leeja where Obadiah, who no one had seen or heard from since he went off to search for the Blood of Heroes, had gone to. Sharing her son’s concerns for his half–brother following Magnus’ disappearance and Kazuyo’s death, Leeja hoped that things would stay nice and peaceful until Magnus found his way home.

Elsewhere, Takashi Nakadai, who killed his mother and stole her X–O Commando armor, arrived in North Am looking for Torque. After shooting down two police patrols, Takashi broke into the Capitol building and forcibly learned where Torque’s room was from an innocent woman. Breaking into Torque’s room, Takashi found a note that Torque had left for his mother telling her that she could find him at the Calizona dataplexus.

Meanwhile, in the President’s office, President–pro–temp Clane met with Balaam, the Psi–Lord’s ambassador to Earth. Unexpectedly, Clane received a transmission warning him that a person using the X–O commando armor was attacking the Capitol compound. Silencing the officer as he was not alone, Clane ordered him to get a squad of troopers to handle the situation discreetly, as well as check on his daughter and Torque while he did his best to keep Balaam from finding out. As Clane walked back toward Balaam, a loud booming sound filled the room, but Clane shrewdly hid its cause from Balaam.

Ten levels above, Takashi broke into the main reading chamber of the Calizona dataplexus where he used a holovid linked to the Terran Consortium master infonet to search for Torque. Nearby, a clerk warned Leeja and Torque that they had better leave because there was an armored maniac wreaking the place looking for Torque. Recognizing Takashi from the clerk’s description of his armor, Torque went after him, while Leeja stayed behind to contact someone else who could stop him.

Using the X–O Commando armor to hack into the infonet, Takashi uncovered hidden files that contained a goldmine of robotics information, as well as the location of 1A’s undersea base. Just then, Torque walked into the room and, though expressing his disbelief that Takashi could have killed his mother, he swore that he would end his reign of terror forever. Back in the President’s office, Balaam recognized the sound of battle and left, leaving Clane and his assistant, Stimpert, to dread that once he reported what happening, his teammates would come down on them like hard rain.

As the battle between Torque and Takashi began, Torque got a lucky shot and punched Takashi, but then Takashi, who gloated that he was a better martial artist than Torque before he got the armor, broke Torque’s right wrist. Punching Torque across the face, Takashi told him that he and his Terran Consortium were finished. Ranting like a lunatic, Takashi wondered what kind of world they were in where people called Obadiah Rai, a sacred title that belonged to him, the 43rd Rai. Just then, Balaam came up from behind Takashi and pushed him to the ground, then, using Tse–Tse, he subdued him. As Balaam turned to face Torque, who needed to go to a hospital, he let go of Takashi, unaware that the arachnoid armor could combat the Tse–Tse effect. Coming to, Takashi shot Balaam with an energy blast that sent him careening against the wall.

Running away from Takashi, Torque ran into the courtyard, where he came across a police officer that told him to hide around the corner while he told Takashi that he went the other way. Though Torque did not think that the officer could reason with Takashi, he nevertheless hid behind the corner from where he saw Takashi kill the officer when he did not believe his lie.

Looming over Torque, Takashi accused him of betraying his trust when he abandoned him in the ruins of Japan. Suddenly, Rentaro Nakadai, Takashi’s grandfather, arrived in a transport and accused Takashi of having no honor and told him that what he did to his mother made him sorry that Tohru ever had him. Surprised to see his grandfather, Takashi told him that even if he were a great warrior his days were long past, and that he was the new Rai. Calling him a snot, Rentaro told Takashi that he would never have the loyalty, family, or honor that it took to call himself a Rai, and that he was just a turd in a fancy wrapper. In tears, Takashi left, but vowed that he would show Rentaro he was wrong and that he would wish he had killed him.

Holding on to Rentaro’s shoulder so he would not fall, Torque asked him why Takashi did not kill him, to which Rentaro replied that Takashi never had the guts to face him. As Rentaro told Torque that there was more to a confrontation than muscle, and that Makiko Minashi had gone to warn Obadiah about Takashi, Balaam arrived and warned the two of them that Takashi was a major threat. Though he regretted, Balaam told Torque that with his father gone, the problem would require calling in his fellow Starwatchers, but Torque reminded him that he promised that he would not do that before Magnus returned.

Cynically, Balaam said that Magnus might never return and that Takashi should be dealt with decisively, but Torque asked him to give them a chance to bring him in with their own forces. Reluctantly, Balaam agreed to suppress the incident and gave Torque a limited time to arrest Takashi, but he also warned him that any further incidents would have to be dealt with by the Starwatchers.

Rising Son

Deep within a cave beneath Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa on 4020 AD, Obadiah Konishi struggled not to drown inside a tank filled with water. Feeling like his heart was exploding while his lungs pleaded for another gasp of air, Obie was sure that he was going to die. Watching from the side, Spylocke told Obie to stop squirming, and that if he properly rationed the oxygen in his blood he should last 15 minutes underwater.

Sure that he was not going to make it, Obie, who had learned some control of the nanites in his bloodstream, maxed out the adrenaline in his legs to shatter the glasteel walls of the tank, but he squandered his oxygen and passed out. Finding Obie’s progress unsatisfactory, Spylocke released him from the tank and told him that he had doubts that he even deserved the secrets of his father’s blood, which when he linked to it he had hoped he would gain the special abilities encoded in its nanites. Standing over the contained that held the Blood of Heroes, Spylocke told Obie that, not only should he be able to psyonically dominate computers systems, but also gain the ability to affect the emotions of others, none of which had come to pass in the three weeks since he had been training him. At the pathetic rate that Obie had been learning, Spylocke mused that he would probably have to kill him before long.

Meanwhile, Takashi Nakadai, the bearer of the X–O Commando armor, arrived on Shichito Island in the sea of Japan, where Suki Seko and her family lived. Asking to speak with Lady Seko, Takashi met Suki’s mother, who he told that he had come for his daughter so she could help him restore Japan’s eminence and bring back the days when Grandmother provided for all and the Rai enforced her will using her knowledge of robotics. Swearing upon his personal honor that Suki would be safe with him, Takashi likewise promised Lady Seko that he would reduce her home to ashes if she resisted him. Ultimately, Lady Seko allowed Suki to leave with Takashi, who flew away with Suki in his arms. Reluctant to tell Suki how he acquired the armor, Takashi told her that, following his encounter with Torque, they needed to find a way to augment its power.

Back in Africa, Obie established a rapport with the nanites in his father’s blood that showed him a vision of a predator whose features laid hidden in shadow feeing on his father and sucking he life out of him. As light fell on the predator’s face, Obie saw his own visage and screamed out. Startled, Obie shared his vision with Spylocke, who told him that the blood was telling him something that he refused to listen. Warning Obie that he had better start listening to his inner voices, Spylocke told him that his next test would be his last. Wondering how much longer he could take Spylocke’s abuse before he made him into some kind of monster like himself, Obie decided to escape the first chance he got.

The following morning, Spylocke took Obie to the wilderness, where he told him that he would give him one hour start to escape before he pursued him using his people’s methods of hunting. Warning Obie that there was no one around there who could help him, Spylocke told him that if he did not take control of his powers now, he never would. Making his escape, Obie regretted ever going there. Wondering what he could do before Spylocke caught him and ate him for lunch, Obie headed for Kilimanjaro, certain that the tress near the base would give him cover.

An hour later, while Obie ran through the woods, a computerized shuriken came out of nowhere and almost took his head off. After failing to destroy the shuriken with his sword, Obie futility tried to reach out for its guidance system using the nanites’ ability to mindlock with computers, but the shuriken sliced him on the side. Hovering over Obie on a sled, Spylocke told him that it pained him to see that the son of the only friend he ever had was a failure, a statement that enraged Obie, who leapt out at Spylocke crying that he was not a failure. While fighting Spylocke, Obie could feel his adrenaline and endorphins coming online, which made him faster than the Spider Alien. Punching Spylocke, Obie pushed him against the shuriken embedded on a tree, which made him yell out in pain. Leaping on the sled, Obie told Spylocke that he knew that in some twisted way he was honoring an obligation to his father, but that he did not think his father meant for him to kill him, then he took off, leaving Spylocke behind.

Giving up, Obie planned to use the sled to return to civilization, thinking that it was nor worth getting the Blood of Heroes if he had to die for it. Though he was pleased that he at least learned some control over his nanites, even if he could not match his father’s power, what Obie really wanted was to get to know his father better, but the closest he got to that were those visions of him sucking his blood. Realizing the meaning of the visions, Obie returned to the cave, hoping that what he had to do was as simple as he had surmised.

Returning to the cave, Spylocke warned Obie that he should not have returned. Squirming on the floor as Spylocke came upon him, Obie saw a vision of his father, Takao Konishi, urging him to stand up and defend himself before Spylocke killed him, a vision that Spylocke did not share. Feeling the power lines and microprocessors on the walls humming beckoning call, Obie mindlocked with the cave’s intruder defensive systems and used them to attack Spylocke.

Returning to the cave, Spylocke warned Obie that he should not have returned. Squirming on the floor as Spylocke came upon him, Obie saw a vision of his father, Takao Konishi, urging him to stand up and defend himself before Spylocke killed him, a vision that Spylocke did not share. Feeling the power lines and microprocessors on the walls humming beckoning call, Obie mindlocked with the cave’s intruder defensive systems and used them to attack Spylocke.

Bringing the combat systems online, Obie used the nanocomputers in his brain to pre–select the pressure points on Spylocke’s body and then disarmed him with his arms, which moved faster than he could think. Looming over Spylocke, Obie told him to stay down and shut up. Realizing his mistake, and seeing that Obie was indeed worthy of the power in the blood, Spylocke told him to finish him, like any warrior would, but Obie refused because his father would not approve.

Mindlocking the holographic imaging systems, Obie showed Spylocke a hologram of his father, then he told him that he drank the blood, which once it was in him allowed him to finally access it fully and understand him like his father had, which was how he could let go of his fear and anger. As Spylocke told Obie that he truly was his father’s son, Obie asked him not to call him Obadiah, as from then on his name was Rai.

Not only did Rai had digitally precise control of his body, but he also had Bloodshot’s power to control machines and, through he had yet to try it, he sensed that he had gained his father’s ability to affect the emotions of others, while time would tell if he had his own Harbinger ability.

Just then, Makiko contacted Rai and told him that his foster brother Takashi had murdered Kazuyo and taken the Spider Alien armor, which he used to go on a rampage and nearly kill his brother Torque. Listening to Makiko’s warning that Takashi was probably out to kill him, Rai said that he was in for a surprise, as he was no longer the same boy he used to pick on.

Baptism Of Fire

On 4020 AD near Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Rai and Spylocke joined Makiko, who after reiterating what she said before about Takashi, told them that Rokland the Geomancer was murdered and that the whether across the whole planet had been in an uproar ever since. Suddenly, Mt. Kilimanjaro, which had laid dormant for eons, erupted, which threatened to bury Spylocke’s cave in ash and lava. Though Spylocke urged him to help him salvage his possessions, Rai was more concerned with stopping Takashi. After telling Rai that Takashi was last seen abducting Suki Seko, whose family traded in illegal robotics technologies, Makiko stayed behind with Spylocke to help him, while Rai went to find Takashi and Suki.

Inside the vast robotic dragon–body that once houseds Japan, now wrecked on the Indus Sector, Suki Seko successfully increased Takashi’s X–O Commando armor’s power, as well as shielded the cybersystems from jamming and other outside influences. Donning the armor, Takashi proclaimed that it had been a long time since Japan had had its national champion, but that once people saw him, they would recognize the one, true Rai. Holding Suki, Takashi told her that, together, they would restore their homeland soon as they got rid of the other Rai.

While approaching the dragon–body, Rai used the nanites in his blood to generate an interactive computer image of his long–dead father so he could give him the tactical advise he needed to defeat Takashi. Following his father’s guidance, Rai used the nanosensors in his blood to bend the web of electronic transmissions crisscrossing the night to become radar–invisible and scanner proof. Scanning the dragon to determine Takashi’s location, Rai felt lines of energy, power conduits, running like veins beneath the dragon’s metal skin that led him to a hotspot in the midsection where he surmised Takashi and Suki were hiding.

Inside, while Takashi delightfully destroyed a slab of titanium with his wrist cannon, Suki detected a craft in the atrium just outside the laboratory. After blowing a hole on the hall, Takashi flew toward the craft, certain that Obie was inside it, and destroyed it, then he returned to Suki’s side certain that he had vaporized his foster brother. Suddenly, Rai kicked Takashi in the chest and threw him off his feet.

Laying by Obie’s feet, Takashi told him that he looked different, but that if he was there to save the day he was still the same old Obie. Looming over Takashi, Obie assured him that he was not the same at all, and that if he had been strong enough to stand up to him before maybe his mother would still be alive. Telling Takashi that killing his mother was something he would have to live with, Obie said that he would stop him from hurting anyone ever again and that his name was not Obie, it was Rai.

Enraged, Takashi opened fire on Rai with his wrist cannons, but he avoided the blast. During the skirmish that followed, Rai tried using his father’s empathy to reach out to what was left of Takashi’s soul to stop him, but as the armor shielded him from outside influences, he failed. Ultimately, however, Takashi’s indiscriminate shooting brought down the ceiling and buried Suki, then, as Rai pulled her out of the wreck, Takashi hesitated and lowered his psionic defenses, which allowed Rai to stop fighting. As Rai told Takashi to take his armor off, Suki came to and reactivated Takashi’s psionic defenses so Rai could not manipulate him. After dodging an ion blast, Rai leapt out through a hole in the wall hoping that Takashi would follow him.

Catching up to Rai, Takashi aimed his cannon at him to shoot him, but Rai mindlocked the weapon and prevented it from firing. Reduced to a battle of wills, the brothers were at a stalemate, but Rai could not mindlock the armor forever. Reaching deeper into its systems, Rai found the power allocation module and overloaded the armor’s force field. Kicking Takashi off him, Rai ran before the armor exploded. Refusing to look back or even think about what he had done, Rai was thrown out of the structure by the explosion. While the nanites healed his cracked ribs and dislocated shoulder, Rai wondered if anyone else survived.

37 minutes later, Rai found a scrap of Takashi’s modified wrist armor inside a crater left by the explosion. Doubtful that Takashi and Suki were dead, Rai was happy that he had passed his first test, yet he wondered that if he could kill his own brother in battle, what further atrocities he might commit someday.

Temple Of Treachery

On 4020 AD, Doug Digue and the members of the Adelaide chapter house stormed the gates of the Temple of Archer in Ladakh to convince their brothers there to join them in their struggle against the evil that rotted their government. Calling President Magnus her friend, Mother Nike said that while he was gone she would not dishonor that friendship by destroying all the work he built, which made Doug accuse her of being part of the problem. Though Mother Nike had the upper hand on Doug and his friends during their battle, they ultimately threw him to the ground and threatened to kill her with a gun, when, suddenly, Rai mindlocked the weapon and captured Doug. While Doug’s friends ran away vowing to return, Rai dragged Doug inside the temple while Nike followed him.

Over lunch after they locked Doug up, Rai told Mother Nike how soon after he gained the full powers of the Blood of Heroes just in time to keep Spylocke from killing him, he heard about what Takashi did and left Africa to hunt him down, and that he feared that he might have killed him when they finally fought. With a sigh, Mother Nike told Rai that Takashi got what he deserved, then she voiced her disbelief that he slew his mother just to steal her armor. Saying that ever since Magnus vanished into a temporal portal the government had been shaky, Mother Nike told Rai that Brother Digue and his followers, who believed that the government had grown corrupt, sought to organize a revolt against it, so Rai assured her that no matter what Digue’s men tried, he would keep him just out of their reach.

Elsewhere, in Africa’s Kenya Sector, Makiko convinced Spylocke to leave with her after their seemingly endless search for his lair proved futile. Meanwhile, in North Am, Stimper, whose had been taken over by the Immortal Enemy, hired an unseen assassin to kill a target in Ladakh.

Shortly before nightfall at the Temple of Archer, Rai stood watch on a rooftop and marveled as the Himalayan shadows engulfed the temple around him. Certain that the temple’s enemies would arrived with the night, Rai knew that the day’s battle had deeply upset the bliss of the temple. Skipping across the rooftops, making sure all was safe, Rai wondered if the original Rai looked out across Japan and felt like he did. Just then, Rai sensed a motion alert and detected a small, swift, strong heartbeat that was remarkably silent even for his enhanced senses.

Following the marked intruder, Rai wondered if he was one of Digue’s comrades or some new menace to the temple. Falling from the rooftop when the tiles beneath his foot gave way, Rai hit the ground hard while his foe landed on his feet. Refusing to loose his prey, especially since he was running full–tilt at a wall, Rai gave chase, but the intruder leapt out of his way and Rai ended up crashing against the bricks. Managing to deliver a swift kick to his enemy’s solar plexus, Rai unmasked his foe and discovered that he was fighting Rentaro Nakadai, the 42nd Rai. Telling Rai that he was there to free Doug because he learned that someone was hired to assassinate Mother Nike, Rentaro asked him to help him free him and find his rebels to stop the assassin, who was a master of disguise. Suspicious of Rentaro’s desperation, Rai took him to see Mother Nike.

Later, in Mother Nike’s personal quarters, Mother Nike called Rentaro a miscreant and questioned why Rai believed him. Refusing to support any effort to hurt Magnus’ administration, Mother Nike felt uncomfortable around Rentaro, who stared at her and asked her to have dinner with him and to a midnight stroll to attempt to convince her of his cause. Upset with Rentaro’s amorous remarks, Nike tossed him on her bed and told him that she would not stand for his kind of talk, an action that only managed to impress him more. Tossing Rentaro on the floor, Nike asked Rai to get him out of her sight and put him in a guest room. As Rai and Rentaro walked away, Rentaro told Rai to call his mother to confirm his accusations, but he also warned him to be careful with what he told her, as the more Leeja knew the more danger she was in.

Calling Leeja, Rai came to the conclusion that something was definitely not well in Calizona after she told him that her father had lost too much sleep and had become a zombie ever since Magnus left even though Stimpert, a man who for a reason she was not sure of gave her the creeps, tried to help. Deciding to release Doug over facing the circumstances of not doing it, Rai went to his cell, and found Mother Nike standing watch outside it out of fear that Rentaro might subvert Rai. Forced to choose between believing Rentaro, who he hardly knew, and Mother Nike, who was more than a mother to him, Rai followed is heart and knocked out his mentor to release Doug.

Using his nanites to mindlock the force field generators of Doug’s cell, Rai set him free and the two of them left to find his men, who were waiting outside the temple. Finding Rentaro at the entrance to the dungeon, Rai asked him to go back and look after Mother Nike, then he and Doug continued on their way. As they came to the entrance to the building, however, Rai came across Rentaro once again, which made both he and Doug realize that the other man was the assassin. As Doug leapt into rescue Mother Nike before the assassin harmed her, the killer cut him in half with an ion–cutter.

Overloading the weapon with his mindlock ability, Rai engaged the assassin with Rentaro’s face in hand–to–hand combat. Punching his foe relentlessly, Rai demanded that he show him his true face, when then he discovered an optigraphic imaging system beneath his clothes and turned it off with his nanites, revealing that the assassin was as woman. Angered that Rai had seen her face, the assassin activated a suicide circuit within her robes to prevent Rai from finding out what he was up against.

As the dust settled, Rai went to Mother Nike and apologized to her for treating her so roughly, and assured her that he did not mean her any disrespect. Agreeing with Rentaro that there was an evil influence in the government, Rai wanted to go at once to fight it at the source, but Rentaro stopped him. Asking Rai to make Doug’s sacrifice to protect the brotherhood count, Rentaro asked him to stay with the order of Archer, which was coming apart from within. Telling Rai that he was where he needed to hold it together, Rentaro told him to let Leeja and Torque handle things in Calizona.

Love Is A Many-Splintered Thing

On Shichito Island, the ancestral home of the Seko clan, a masked woman garbed in attire that bore the colors of the mercenary clan and armed with twin swords engaged a security guard in combat and demanded to know where she could find her brother Ito, who Lady Seko hired for dangerous work and she had no heard from since. Remembering the girls’ brother, the guard told her that it was Suki Seko who hired him and that he heard he died. Enraged, the woman demanded to know who killed her brother, when then an army of guards came bearing down on her. Her teeth clenched, the woman faced the armed men head–on.

Sometime later in Ladakh, the roof of the world, Rai performed a training exercise with members of the order to clear his mind from recent troubles. Learning from the nanites in his blood that were constantly scanning the air waves that the world grew more violent each day, Rai worried that, soon, they would all be fighting for real. Loosing his focus, Rai fell from atop the pillars and opened himself to a finishing blow from his opponent. Consulting the combat files in his blood, Rai learns of seven options he had to survive, five of which were to kill his opponent, so he chose the sixth one and destroyed his foe’s weapon. Bowing before the others, Rai thanked them for the workout and for reminding him to remain focused.

Elsewhere in the temple, Mother Nike told Rentaro Nakadai that she was worried about their little Rai, who had become grim since acquiring the full power of the Blood of Heroes. Reminding Mother Nike that the blood was a terrible burden and that Rai had two lifetimes worth of memories suddenly swimming around inside him, Rentaro said that the boy needed was a woman to help him loosen up. Appalled by Rentaro’s remark, Mother Nike walked away and told him that he was supposed to be a role model and a wise man. Musing that here was nothing wiser than love, Rentaro turned to Nike and told her that even she could do with a little romance.

Meanwhile, in a room at the Tripoli Plaza, Spylocke asked Makiko if she was sure that no one saw them check in while he unpacked. Walking out into the terrace, Makiko assured Spylocke that no one was going to recognize him after all the time he had been gone. Rushing toward the terrace, Spylocke pulled Makiko back inside before the Psi–Lords, who were still after him, saw them. Holding Spylocke’s arm, Makiko smiled at him and said that his worry was an excuse to get her in his arms. Turning away, Spylocke told Makiko that when he saw her all he saw was food, but she did not believe him and confronted him over his feelings for her. Ashamed that he was neither man nor alien, Spylocke sat on the bed and hid his face. Holding Spylocke in her arms, Makiko offered to teach him that having a heart did not diminish a warrior and that there was no true courage without it, the same lessons she learns from Kazuyo.

Running through a creek and jumping of a waterfall while thinking that ever since he accepted the title of Rai he had gained the courage, strength, and respect of peers, Rai wondered why it felt like there was something missing in his life. Just then, the nanites picked up something about half a kilometer from the temple and Rai found a skip–cycle and a Comsat uplink. Suddenly, the woman from Shichito Island jumped off a tree and demanded to know who Rai was and why he was sneaking up on her. As Rai and the woman struggled, Rai kicked her helmet off her face and was shocked to see how beautiful she was.

Pushing Rai aside thinking that he was scared of the scar on her face, the woman turned away when he complemented her beauty and helped him to his feet. Later, the woman, who name was Kara Cortada, told Rai that she had been a hired gun for a few years, following in her brother Ito’s footsteps, and that when she learned that someone from the temple murdered her brother she traveled to Ladakh seeking revenge, but that she was unsure of what do to. Telling Kara that if what she said was true, Rai promised to arrange an audience with Mother Nike for her so that she would make sure that justice was done. Kissing Rai on the head, Kara told him that he was very sweet and that Ito would have liked him.

Later, back at the temple, Rai walked into Mother Nike’s room without knocking to tell her about Kara Cortada, when then he was shocked to discover that Mother Nike and Rentaro had slept together. Ordering Rai to leave her quarters, Mother Nike told him to find a guest room for his friend, who she would see in the morning.

Back at the Tripoli Hotel, Spylocke fought the hunger pains, but knew that in a day he would have to eat. Watching Spylocke listen to his stomach when it said he needed food, Makiko wondered why he ignored his heart when it said he needed love. As Spylocke asked her if she could teach him about love, Makiko told him that she did not know how much she could teach her s she only had one great love in her life that was dead now, killed by her own son. Apologizing for the remark, Makiko believed that she had failed to answer Spylocke’s question, but he told her that she had done just the opposite.

The following day, in Ladakh, Kara Cortada told Mother Nike that she was there to avenge his brother’s wrongful death at the hands of one of her students, a murderer with a red circle on his chest who arrogantly called himself Rai. Just then, Rai walked into the room and startled Kara, who leapt into the air upon seeing his chest and shot him in the abdomen.

Mindlocking Kara’s pistol, Rai set it to overload and hoped that the explosion did not take out her hand. Tossing the weapon at Rai before it exploded, Kara unsheathed her sword and attacked Obie, who blocked her blade with his hands. Using the Blood of Heroes to access his father’s Harbinger ability, Rai told Kara that he remembered her brother, who attacked him near a river and fell in the water with him during their fight. Assuring Kara that he did not kill her brother, Rai told her that he was not sure what happened to him after the water swept him away. Using his powers to calm Kara down, Rai told her that if there was anyone to blame for Ito’s death it was the girl who hired him, Suki Seko.

Releasing Kara from his hold, Rai knelt before her and told her that when they spoke earlier he felt that she honestly liked him, and that now she would have to decide for herself if she really wanted to kill him or find the person who was truly responsible.

Believing that Rai was telling the truth, Kara nevertheless left in a huff because she could not forgive him for her brother’s death. Unsure that she would ever return, Kara told Rai that she was going to find Suki Seko and make her pay, then, maybe, she could put all of that behind her and they could meet again.

Heartbroken, Rai wondered why everyone thought romance was so great if it could make them feel like that.

Bad Penny

Bad Penny - Part One

In 4020 AD in Tibet, Obadiah Konishi concentrated as Spylocke advised him to access the knowledge within the nanites in his blood to perform the dance of the swords, an exercise that involved standing on the tip of a blade while jumping from sword to sword. As Rai wondered what else he could do, he suddenly heard Bloodshot’s voice daring Ax to shoot him, which made him loose focus and almost fall. Regaining his balance, Rai blocked the voices, but then he heard Ax shoot Bloodshot and injured his foot on a sword. Jumping away, Rai cleared the swords but stumbled and fell. While staring at his foot, which had nearly healed, Rai turned to Spylocke, who mocked his dismount, and apologized to him for his failure.

Taking Rai to his laboratory, Spylocke harshly told him not to apologize to him since he was not the one who would have been died if that had been a combat situation. Inside the laboratory, Spylocke suggested that they intensify Rai’s training since he was still too soft. Refusing to let Rai open up more files in the nanites, as beside there being invaluable combat files stored in them there were also old memories that could distract him, Spylocke wanted Rai to stay focused. Pushing on a bottom, Spylocke fired a spear and a handful of poison–tipped shurikens at Rai, who swiftly grabbed the spear and used it to block the shurikens, then threw it at Spylocke while asking him if he was punishing him for failing the dance of the swords. Dodging the flying spear, Spylocke told Rai that the spear and shurikens were for his being impetuous, while his punishment for failing the dance of the swords was to sleep standing, then he told him to leave.

Later that night, Rai dreamt that he swam in a river of blood alongside his nanites. Following the current, Rai arrived in long hallway littered with closed doors guarded by duplicates of Spylocke. Realizing that the unguarded doors contained the memories he had unlocked from the nanites, Rai bet that every door contained a different memory, then, upset that Spylocke was invading his dreams, he confronted one of the guards, who unmasked himself and revealed a demonic visage under his hood. Running away from the demonic guards, Rai found an unguarded door that appeared and disappeared. Opening the door the next time it became visible, Rai witnessed Bloodshot’s dead in a repeating loop, a sight that made him scream out aloud.

Returning to his laboratory after hunting for his breakfast, Spylocke finished building a training device that he believed would keep Rai so busy that he would forget about the memory files. Certain that he would worry less if he knew what was in those files, Spylocke believed that if Rai was not in top condition they could be dangerous, but he also knew that if he survived his training he would be ready for anything.

As Rai walked into the room, Spylocke mockingly said that he heard him scream that night, and that he would have gone to check on him but his bed was far too comfortable. Pointing at three glasses filled with a fortified synthorange mixture, Spylocke told Rai that he added poisons to two of them, but that if he accessed the toxicology files they opened in his nanites he would be able to discern the untainted drink. Unexpectedly, Rai punched Spylocke and, with a mocking tone, said that he would pour the drinks down his throat. Mindlocking Spylocke’s device, Rai pummeled Spylocke until he was bored and decided to turn it off.

Speaking uncharacteristically, Rai said that he needed coffee and cigarettes, then, he began yelling out the word no and punched himself in the face with both fists. Falling on the floor, Rai apologized to Spylocke and confessed that in his dreams he opened one of the files in his nanites. Placing his hand on Rai’s shoulder, Spylocke ordered him to tell him what file he opened, but then Rai punched him and tossed him aside.

Looming over Spylocke, Rai told him to stop calling him that name because Rai was gone and Ax was back in town. Smiling a sarcastic smile, Ax, who was in full control of Rai’s body, expressed amazement at his host, wonderment at the year, and hope that coffee and cigarettes still existed, or else there would be trouble.

Bad Penny - Part Two

In a laboratory in the Temple of Archer in Ladakh, the Harbinger called Ax, who had possessed Rai’s body, grabbed Spylocke by the throat and strangled him. Musing that with Rai’s body and the Blood of Heroes that flowed through it he was more powerful than he was with his old body, Ax grabbed a soldering iron to stab Spylocke in the eye, when, suddenly, Rai momentarily regained control of his body and stabbed himself in the leg with it. Laying Spylocke on a medi–bed that would threat his injuries, Rai struggled against Ax for control of his body.

Awakening a day later, Spylocke saw Rai going over footage of Ax murdering Bloodshot on the moon base through the archival resource system. Reaching for a weapon, Spylocke aimed to kill Ax, until Rai convinced him that Ax was gone and he had taken back control of his body. Sitting down in front of the monitor, Rai showed Spylocke a picture of Ax as he looked circa 2028. Going over the footage, which showed Ax killing a lot of people before his final encounter with Bloodshot, Rai told Spylocke that Bloodshot was found a short time later with every drop of blood drained from his body. Rai did not know what Ax wanted or did with the blood, so he surmised that he wanted to infuse himself with it so he would become more powerful, possibly immortal. Just then, Ax briefly took control of Rai’s vocal cords and offered to tell them what happened. Aiming his gun at Rai, Spylocke said that he was prepared to listen as he was also prepared to fire.

Beginning his tale, Ax told Spylocke that what the files did not show was that Toyo Harada, who was a short of evil king of the Harbingers, wanted the Blood of Heroes just as bad as he did, so once he aced Bloodshot and had the blood, Harada’s troops were all over him like dogs. Aware that he did not have much time before they caught him, Ax had to act fast, so he holed up for a few days and formed a lasting relationship with some of the nanites in the blood. Before Harada’s men killed Ax, he copied a set of his brain patters into the files of the blood just in case, then he waited two thousand years for someone to open those files. Mindlocking Spylocke’s weapon, Ax overloaded its power cell, but before it exploded, Rai grabbed it off Spylocke’s hand.

Awakening some time later, Rai found himself trapped in his body, unable to move and only able to watch as Ax built something on Spylocke’s workbench. Though he wished to remain in Rai’s body, Ax found the fight for control to be a drag and a waste of energy, so he created a device capable of freeing him. Reaching for a hammer, Rai destroyed the machine’s propulsion unit, but Ax tied his hand and then used a spare to repair it. Holding a mirror, Ax told Rai that he wanted to have every man, woman, and child on Earth bow to him as their absolute ruler, then he transferred a drop of blood that contained the file nanites that were imprinted with his brain patterns to his temporary body, a flying metal sphere that flew out a window.

Waking up from a dream about fluffy bunnies, Rai found himself on an aerial transport driven by Spylocke in pursuit of Ax’s metal sphere, which was on its way to Nepal, from where he could insert himself into every network on the planet in less than a day using the uplink stations that the military and civilians had built there. Having built a weapon that would take care of Ax, long as they got close enough to him, Spylocke was certain that they could stop him before he accessed the ancient weapon satellites in orbit of the planet.

As the transport flew over a construction site that Spylocke’s sensors said Ax was in, a construction grappler attacked the vehicle, but Rai and Spylocke managed to jump out just in time. Finding Ax’s sphere, Rai threw his batons at it, but Ax dodged them and then dropped what was left of their ship on them. As Ax took control of a plasma jackhammer and chased Rai across the construction site, Rai discerned from his stuttering speech pattern that he was deteriorating, and surmised that Ax got himself some corrupt datafiles after soaking up cosmic rays while in storage for two thousand years. Finding his gun in the wreck from their vehicle, Spylocke warned Ax that he built it to make him go away, a taunt to force him to interface with the weapon.

Trapped inside a specialized virtual reality system within the weapon, which Spylocke designed to lure high–end AI viruses out of their networks, Ax saw himself as ruler of the planet a year later, and though he was unable to recall how he did it, he was happy as his heart’s desire came true.

After Spylocke explained what he had done to Ax, Rai raced him back to the temple, which laid hundreds of miles away.

Deep Trouble

Traveling to Shanghai to root out a black market that had cropped up, Rai, Spylocke, and Rentaro fought a group of smugglers at the pier. Usually, busting up petty criminals was a job best left to the police, but after recent events in the government Rai did not trust the Terran Consortium troopers with the job. After Rentaro saved Spylocke from a fisherman who almost stabbed him, Rai found a locker stocked with enough parts for ten T–36 servo–robs, every bit of which was contraband. All of a sudden, Rai keeled over and heard a transmission from Kara Cortada, who told him that Takashi and Suki were alive somewhere in the Magellan sector. Borrowing a transport from the smugglers, Rai and the others went to find Kara.

A mile beneath the South Atlantic, Takashi and Suki used a transport to find 1A’s underwater base. Upset that Rai ruined Takashi’s armor and almost killed both of them when he threw it into overload, Suki was amazed that Takashi survived at all. Reaching the inside of the underwater base, Takashi and Suki found the remains of a Malev factory that if Suki could get up and running, she could raise an army of indestructible robots to carry out Takashi’s plans. Unbeknownst to either of them, a security camera was watching them.

Meeting with Kara Cortada somewhere in Tierra del Fuego, Rai and the others climbed on board a submarine with her that took them to the underwater city of Magellan, an old metropolis that the Malevs barely touched during their invasion, which made its citizens act like they were from a whole different planet.

Upon reaching the city, Kara introduced Rai, Spylocke, and Rentaro to Fred, a mercenary friend of hers that she believed would se to it that they were treated right. While Fred told Kara that Suki Seko and an armored male companion were there recently but he did not now where they went, Rai felt that Fred was hitting on her. Later, at Fred’s office, he told Rai and the others that only short–range subs had been chartered since Suki and Takashi came to Magellan, and that all he had besides that was a record of Suki’s fund–chip being used at a local microprocessor kiosk. Ordering that Spylocke remain in their sub since he could not allow a Spider Alien to roam free down there, Fred suggested that he and Kara check for more clues in the databanks while Rai inspected the sub–rentals on ground–lev.

Sometime later in his quarters, Rai, who felt jealous of Fred as Kara had not spared a minute for him since they got there, he could not stop thinking about her and could hear her sultry whisper and smell her scent. Suddenly, Kara jumped out from the ventilation shaft in Rai’s room and told him that she figured that if Fred, who had the hots for her, did not see her visit him, it would not strain their relationship much. Confessing that she had thought about Rai every day since they met, Kara told him that she and Fred had never slept together.

The following morning, while Kara and Fred checked the datafiles for clues, Rai discovered that the sub–rentals were closed that day and wondered if Fred just forgot of if he set up a scheme to get him out of the way. Elsewhere, inside the sub, the hatch suddenly closed and the vehicle unexpectedly surfaced due to sabotage. Back in the datafiles, Kara discovered that vital file had been deleted and aimed her weapon at Fred, the only one who could have cut that data so cleanly, and accused him of hiding something. Tossing Kara aside with inhuman strength, Fred revealed that he was now a cyborg.

Back in the ground–lev, attackers in deep–sea suits attacked Rai and flooded the chamber to drown him. Unarmed, Rai searched the room for some kind of weapon.

Looming over Kara, Fred confessed that Takashi was working for a new robot nation and that he could not let Rai stop him. Pleading with Kara to switch sides, Fred told her that his friends were taking care of Rai.

Listening in on Fred’s confession through his comlink with Kara, Rai mindlocked a sub in the chamber and used it to attack the men in the suits. Climbing inside the suit, Rai went outside an airlock to reach Kara using the most direct route. Crashing into the room through the window, Rai flooded it and drowned Fred, while Kara was able to run into the other room and lock the door behind her in time.

Telling Rai that Fred knew where Takashi and Suki were, Kara told him to grab his body and met her at the nearest airlock, but lost in thought after he killed for men to get to Takashi, Rai could only think that even if he did not beat him, he would still not win, not if he lost his soul.

The Invisible Legion

The Invisible Legion – Part I

Deep beneath the South Atlantic, Rai and Kara Cortada drove a sub toward 1A’s underwater base. Kara believed that they should have waited for Spylocke and Rentaro to rejoin them, but Rai told her that if they had waited they might have missed their chance to catch Takashi, which made her wonder how much of their mission was duty and how much of it was personal. Parking the sub away from the base to avoid tripping any alarms, Rai and Kara swam silently toward the base.

Even before they got inside, Rai could feel the gigabytes of artificial intelligence shooting through the walls of the place and the robotic activity around him. From down the hall, the siren call of at least 5,000 parallel–linked brain matrices set Rai’s teeth on edge. Cursed to be sensitive to any nearby electronics by the nanites, Rai had never felt the crushing strength and dizzying variety of AI signals that he felt at that moment. Coming upon a room filled with Samurobs, Rai surmised that Takashi was creating an army. Hiding from view, Rai overheard Takashi tell Suki to leave for lunch with him while Grandfather kept the line running.

Elsewhere, in North Am’s Calizona Sector, Slagger informed Magnus that he had discovered another dead body, the tenth one in the last six months. Though he lacked any evidence, Slagger believed that a necromantic cult was responsible for the murders. Giving Magnus an old beacon–tracker he found when he used to scavenge Goph–levs with Elzy, Slagger told him that if anything happened to him he wanted him to personally come find him because he was the only one he could trust and thought that he was being followed. At the underwater base, Rai listened as Suki said that they had passed the 6,000 unit mark, and that if the Magellan sector came through with the next parts consignment they could reach their target force of 10,000 Samurobs within a month. Hearing Takashi say that their helper was a freewill, Rai realized that the reason he felt an artificial intelligence all around him was because Grandfather was inside the walls of the base, then the ground suddenly up under Rai’s feet and swallowed him. Finding himself locked within a cage, Rai could not mindlock its simple mechanical lock. Thanking Grandfather for capturing Rai, mockingly thanked Rai for joining them in time to see him restore Japan to his former glory.

One week later in North Am, Magnus left his quarters to go find Slagger, who vanished the previous day. Though Leeja pleaded with Magnus to send someone else to run the errand and reminded him that the days for him to slay the dragons himself were over, he told her that fighting was what he was born to do. Telling Leeja that he had not really liked himself since the robot purge, Magnus said that when Slagger came to him he was asking for Magnus Robot Fighter, and that he had to go or else he would not be the man she loved.

Later, in a Calizona industrial park, Magnus knocked out two guards that recognized him even though he had never seen them before at the entrance to an abandoned factory. Following a voice that proclaimed that for years the Invisible Legion had hidden in plain sight alongside their enemies, friends and families who had no idea of their true nature, Magnus came upon a large gathering of people that looked like a cult. Standing on a ledge, Magnus listened as the cult’s leader said that for killing one of their own, Slagger would become their newest brother in the Invisible Legion of freewills.

Realizing that the freewills had survived by hiding their mechanical brains inside people, Magnus leapt off the ledge to rescue Slagger.

The Invisible Legion – Part II

In 4020 AD, inside an abandoned factory in North Am, 16 years after the order came to hunt all the robots to extinction, Magnus discovered a group of freewills who hid their minds inside human bodies. Fighting his way through the crowd to rescue Slagger before they implanted him with a freewill’s mind, Magnus chased the cult’s leader while Slagger used one of their weapons to cover him. Catching up to the man as he climbed onboard a vehicle, Magnus stopped him, but then the man revealed that he had saved Magnus’ wife, which made Magnus realize that the freewill inside the man’s body was Tekla, a revelation that made him loose his grip on her vehicle and let her escape. Shacking off the initial shock, Magnus returned to the factory with a group of troopers and ordered them to subdue the freewills and not kill them. Conferring his discovery to Slagger, Magnus said that he had a lot to think about.

At 1A’s underwater base in the ocean floor near Antarctica, Rai managed to fool Takashi’s lie detector to conceal the fact that he was not alone, which gave Takashi a false sense of security that inspired him to release his armada of Samurobs to commence the first phase of his invasion. Leaving Rai as his Samurobs flew away from the base, Takashi promised to return for the blood in his veins as there could only be one Rai.

Back in North Am, Magnus met with Leeja and Zebediah Clane and told them that Tekla was the leader of the Invisible Legion. Feeling that he was pushed into leading the reconstruction, Magnus thought that it was his duty to slag any remaining robots, but now he once again came to question if he had the right to destroy a new life–form and believed that he was paying the price for the humans’ better life without them.

Later that night, at the Timbuc Memorial Park, Torque met a woman called Katya after he had an intense argument with his girlfriend Clara, who walked out on him. Recognizing Torque as Magnus’ son, Katya told him that she had some urgent business with her mother but did not have an appointment, and that if she helped her get in to see her, she would save so much time and have the rest of the day free to be with him. Enchanted with Katya’s beauty, Torque agreed to help her meet with his mother.

Meanwhile, at the Capital Compound detention block, Magnus sent Slagger and the troopers out so he could speak with the freewills. As Magnus told the freewills that all he wanted to know was where to find Tekla before his troopers killed her, they told him that Tekla was the last thing he needed to worry about, which made him realize that was coming for him or his family.

Elsewhere, as Torque took Katya to see Leeja, she shot him in the back and then aimed her gun at Leeja’s face. Asking Leeja if she ever told Magnus that she saved her life, Katya revealed that she was Tekla, who transferred her mind to a new host body. Explaining that her core somehow survived the surge that burned out her android body, Tekla told Leeja that after her people finally salvaged her she learned that her sacrifice had counted for nothing. Leaping in the air, Leeja kicked the gun off Tekla’s hand and then chased her across the courtyard. Gaining the upper hand, Tekla sat on top of Leeja and prepared to kill her, but then Torque knocked her off his mother.

Arriving in time, Magnus grabbed Tekla and revealed that he had freed the other freewills to show that he was willing to negotiate. As Tekla yelled that Magnus could not be trusted, the Samurobs suddenly attacked.

Return of the Robots

Return of the Robots – Part I

On August 21st 4020, an army of Samurobs invaded North Am and attacked Magnus and his family. Standing between the robs and his family, Magnus told Leeja to leave with Torque and the freewills. Grabbing Tekla and other freewills, the Samurobs detected their positronic cores and left with them back to the undersea base where Suki Seko built them. Chasing after the robs through a hole in the roof, Magnus looked down at the city under siege and knew that it would not be long before the Psi–Lords came down in full force. Jumping back inside, Magnus received a communication from Rentaro and Spylocke, who told him that Rai’s stepbrother, Takashi, launched the invasion from the underwater base where 1A raised him.

Standing inside a holographic virtual display that he used to oversee the diversionary force in Calizona, Takashi told Grandfather that when he joined the Japan taskforce his real work would begin. Renouncing the name of Grandfather, the freewill wanted Takashi to call him by his real designation, but Takashi refused, and threatened to have Suki take further measures to ensure his loyalty if he continued to prove obstinate. Surrendering to Takashi’s command, the freewill unit accepted the designation Grandfather, which Takashi said would have the role once filled by the Grandmother computer when the new empire of Japan was ready.

Later, Takashi visited Rai and expressed his displeasure with his capture, which had not turned out to be what he expected. Aware that Rai had not even relieved himself in three days, Takashi wondered where the waste was going, but Rai ignored him. Upset, Takashi left, unaware that Kara Cortada was hiding in the rafters. Ranting that he had no one to share the eve of his greatest triumph, Takashi said that at that moment his Samurobs would have thrown Calizona into pandemonium. Confiding in Rai that one if the robs’ directives was to kill Magnus, the man who killed his father, Takashi mused that they probably caught him in his sleep. Unbeknownst to Takashi, Magnus still lived, and, together with Slagger, was destroying the Samurobs. As word from the safety tracking nodes revealed that the invasion was limited to Calizona and a couple of other places, Magnus was thankful that the robs were not organized.

Falling into a deep trance where he saw himself chained to a rock, Rai flailed out with his nanosensors, groping blindly through the frigid darkness outside for a signal, a vessel of anyone to beg for help. Ready to give up after three days of failure, Rai suddenly made contact with Grandfather’s freewill, the remnant consciousness of 1A, Magnus’ mentor, who had been in contact with his nanosystems since he arrived. Revealing that Suki Seko found and selectively lobotomize his positronic brain to force him to serve her and Takashi, 1A told Rai that the behavioral subroutines in his blood pulled him back together, which was why he had not reported his companion’s presence to Takashi.

Crestfallen, Rai felt that he was not of much use because he was not a hero like his father. Just then, Rai witnessed an apparition of Takao Konishi, his father, who told him that he was relying solely on the talents in his blood and that he needed to look within himself for his own talent, his own Harbinger ability. Reaching deep within himself, Rai loss consciousness while searching for what his ability was.

Not far away, Kara Cortada engaged Suki Seko in battle to force her to help her. Swiftly defeating Suki, Kara told her that their love for two men who were hell–bent on killing each other gave them something in common, and that they could save them if they could work together.

Later, Suki rejoined Takashi in the room where he kept Rai locked up. Looming over Rai, Takashi was ready to decant his blood, when then he realized that his vitals had flatlined. Fearing that Rai was dead, Takashi and Suki pulled his bloated body out of the cell. Suddenly, Rai regained consciousness, and having awakened his dormant power that he inherited from his mother, he changed form as his flesh shimmered, his bones shifted, and the nanites rearranged his flesh. Kicking Takashi in the face, Rai loomed over him and, as his fingers hardened to claws, he blasted Takashi with a burst of ectotheric energy, the power of thought. Kicking Takashi in the chin, Rai apologized to him for not being the real Rai like his father and for their lack of brotherly love, but then he said that he had to end his reign before it began, even if he had to kill him.

Return of the Robots – Part II

As the battle between Takashi and Rai raged through the undersea base, Rai inadvertently shot out the walls and caused the structure to flood. Escaping, Suki ran into a dead end, where Kara reminded her that the only reason she had not killed her was so she would tell her the weakness of the base and Takashi’s armor.

Elsewhere in North Am, Magnus and Slagger continued to fight through Takashi’s Samurobs, whose motivation other than taking Tekla and the freewills remained a mystery. Watching Balaam engage the robs, Magnus asked him not to report the event to his superiors, but after having overlooked previous threats to the peace he refused to cover it up and left the decision to intervene to his Superion. In the meantime, Balaam promised to assist Magnus.

Meanwhile, in an office park a few kilometers away, Tekla warned the Samurobs’ leader that Earth was not kind to robots, and offered that perhaps they could form a partnership and create a new Steel Nation. As the Samurobs’ leader said that he would take all the freewills to see his master, Balaam, Magnus, and Slagger showed up and attacked. Leaping off his ski–cycle, Magnus pulled Tekla away from the battle and told her that he was wrong to order the robot purge.

Back in the undersea base, Suki and Kara witnessed as Rai and Takashi continued their skirmish. Convincing Suki that if Rai beat Takashi there was still a chance to save him, while if Takashi won the Psi–Lords would come after him, Kara got her to lower Takashi’s psionic shields, which allowed Rai to mindlock his armor. Freezing Takashi in place, Rai accused him of turning him into a monster and killing people to stop him, then, in anger, he said that there was nothing to stop him from blowing up his head. Watching as Rai lost control, Kara blasted the deck plates beneath him with a particle beam, which opened the floor, and sucked Takashi away and trapped him beneath a deactivated Samurob.

In North Am, Magnus leapt off a bridge with Tekla in her arms as a transport fell down from the sky and set the entire area ablaze. Facing each other, Magnus looked at Tekla with regret and wanted to explain himself to her, but, changing the subject, she knelt beside a body and picked up a weapon to go find Slagger. Admitting that now that she had taken a five–story plunge in his arms she trusted him, Tekla told Magnus that if he wanted to prove that he had changed his ways he had to start by trusting her.

Aboard the Palisade, Superion Gryffen dispatched Hexstrike Alpha to Earth to reclaim the Calizona Sector.

At the undersea base, Takashi forcibly pleaded with Suki to rescue him. Begging Rai to rescue Takashi, Suki agreed to tell them the override codes so they could recall the Samurobs before the Psi–Lords took over. Offering to tell only Kara, Suki punched her in the gut and then leapt into the hole to help Takashi.

Switching to plan B, Rai asked 1A how to stop the Samurobs, but 1A told him that the robs were programmed to act autonomously, and that he had to go to Calizona to stop them himself. Running toward the sub, Rai told Kara that until that moment he was not sure how much he could depend on her, but after she convinced Suki to save him even though he knew she hated him, his opinion of her had changed. Smiling at Rai, Kara told him that once the conflict was over, she wanted her cute guy back.

Making their way across a sewage pipe, Tekla asked Magnus if he knew where the Samurobs came from. As he told her that they were built by Takashi Nakadai, they came upon two Samurobs guarding the exit of the pipe. Trusting Tekla, Magnus turned his back on her, but then she shot him and knocked him unconscious. Approaching the Samurobs, Tekla identified herself as the leader of the freewills and said that she would like to propose an alliance with their creator. Grabbing Tekla, the Samurobs reached into her head and removed her positronic brain to take it to Takashi.

Fourteen second later, the Samurobs departed with Tekla’s brain in their hand and left her body behind. Elsewhere, as Balaam found Slagger, Hexstrike Alpha arrived to annihilate the Samurobs and takeover.

Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Whose Planet Is It Anyway? – Part I

Leaping out of their shuttle, Hexstrike Alpha followed Aesha’s command to commence a termination sweep of Takashi Nakadai’s Samurobs. Securing a control zone, Graal and Sarathan, the Bastions, relentlessly destroyed one Samurob after another. Meanwhile, Baal and Aesha found Torque and Leeja and rescued them from a barrage of robs. Landing beside them, Aesha asked Leeja to tell them where her husband was, but upset with their presence, Torque lashed out and said that Magnus was out taking care of things, and that when he found out they were trying to do his job for him, he was not going to accept it.

Elsewhere, Magnus woke up after Tekla shot him in the back. Hearing the Samurobs attacking an unseen individual, Magnus went to the man’s rescue and discovered that the victim was Balaam, the Psi–Lords’ ambassador. Upset with Balaam, Magnus regretted saving him, and though Balaam offered to protect him, Magnus relentlessly fought against the Samurobs, motivating by the desire not to die beside the Starwatcher.

Somewhere in the ocean floor, inside a secret base constructed by the freewill robot named 1A, Suki Seko realized that Rai had stolen 1A’s core from the control platform and rushed to Takashi’s side to free him before he drowned. As the water covered his face, Takashi accepted his comeuppance and expressed his regret that he did not have more time with Suki. While Suki kept Takashi alive with mouth–to–mouth resuscitation, two Samurobs arrived and rescued Takashi from his watery grave. Once their master was safe, the Samurobs gave Takashi Tekla’s positronic core.

Inside a submarine in the Magellan/Calizona sub–orbital transit corridor, Spylocke asked Rai, who picked him and Rentaro up from their sub sometime earlier, why he did not bring 1A with him from Takashi’s base so he could stop the Samurobs. Explaining that Takashi controlled the robots, Rai revealed that 1A managed to escape while he fought Takashi through unknown means.

Back in North Am, the Samurobs that were fighting Magnus and Balaam suddenly departed, which made Balaam believe that if they were leaving a hot target like Magnus, then his comrades had entered the conflict. Suggesting that the whole Calizona incursion scanned like a decoy, Balaam asked Magnus if there was something he was not telling him, like perhaps a conflict elsewhere, but, still angered with Balaam, Magnus lashed out and said that whatever the robs’ departure meant, it was Earth’s problem and not the Psi–Lord’s.

Not far away, at the Capitol Compound, Hexstrike Alpha used a new Molmach application against the Samurobs, who could not stop the nanotech from penetrating their systems. Reporting the success of their mission to Superion Gryffen, Aesha received orders to maintain the Capitol Compound as a permanent base of operations for the Psi–Lord’s pacification of the entire planet over the next 72 hours. Unbeknownst to Aesha, Slagger overheard every word of Gryffen’s command.

Elsewhere, Suki Seko interfaced Tekla’s brain with the control platform previously used for 1A’s module. Recognizing Takashi’s rule over New Japan, and his status as a hero to her people, Tekla offered to get every freewill left on Earth to aid him in exchange for a new body. 37 minutes later, Suki placed Tekla inside a rebuilt Malev frame, and though Tekla objected to not getting Suki’s body for herself, she accompanied her and Takashi as they left the base.

Offering to take Magnus to his family, Balaam confessed that he called his people behind the robot fighter’s back. As Magnus and Balaam landed in a battle field beside Slagger and the Psi–Lords, Rai’s ship arrived and everyone on board joined the battle against the Samurobs. As Rai mindlocked one of the Samurobs to fight his brethren, the robots received new instructions and withdrew from Calizona.

As Slagger told him that he overheard the Psi–Lord’s plan to take over the planet, Magnus told Balaam that now that everything was under control, and they would hunt down the robots, it was time for him and the others to go home, but Balaam apologetically refused, and said that it was their turn to enforce the peace. Though Magnus asked Balaam to leave before things turned ugly, Balaam pompously told him to be reasonable and said that they did not have the power to fight them. Enraged, Magnus punched Balaam and then, looming over him, said that he had wanted to know his superior look off his face for years. Flanked by Rai, Spylocke, and the others, Magnus challenged the Psi–Lords to settle their conflict for the last time.

Whose Planet Is It Anyway? – Part II

On August 21st, 4020 AD, in North Am’s Calizona sector, Magnus and Rai stood in a balcony overlooking the destruction around them, symbolic spoils of their sour victory, and reminisced about the days’ difficult events. Six hours earlier, Magnus was sure that they would loose the Earth to the Psi–Lords, but got his hopes up when Rai showed up with Spylocke and the others. Seeing Rai with muscles and claws, Magnus did not know that he would reshape his body, but he understood that he remade himself for war, and war was never pretty.

It was not long before the Psi–Lords showed them how inadequate they were when Aesha shot Torque in the back while Sarathan and Braal prevented Magnus from protecting his son and the planet. Fortunately, Rentaro was not as cocky as Magnus, and carried Torque off the battlefield. Though Rai tried to help Magnus, the Psi–Lords used their Molmachs, which morphed into a wall in less than a second and cut him and Slagger off. The last thing Magnus saw before he lost consciousness was Sarathan pummeling Slagger to the ground.

The Psi–Lord’s mistake was to concentrate on Magnus and forgetting that Rai had nanites in his bloodstream like them, except that his allowed him to control electrical systems. Mindlocking Boaz and Una, Rai switched all their powers on at once, which caused an electrical surge in their bodies. Realizing that Rai could turn every weapon they had against them, Aesha ordered Hexstrike Alpha to withdraw for tactical reevaluation. Regrouping atop a milespire, Aesha contacted the Palisade for instructions. Having monitored the battle through Aesha’s eyes, Superion Gryffen was personally en route with two more Hexstrike teams to manage the delicate situation closely. Ordering Aesha to hold position on the milespire and establish a headquarters for the occupation, Gryffen was certain that the sector would be pacified upon his arrival.

Turning to Aesha, Balaam suggested that they were loosing focus of their mission, which Aesha reminded everyone was to hunt down the Samurobs. Looming over Una’s unconscious body, Boaz uttered that global security was no longer their mission, which confused Graal. Clarifying that their mission was global conquest, Aesha told the rest of Hexstrike Alpha that the first mandate demanded that they protect all life, but it did not say they had to be nice about it. However, Aesha acknowledged that the question was if they could carry out their mission after all their interaction and friendships with the Terrans.

Recalling what happened next, Magnus wondered if they could have avoided what happened next if the Psi–Lords had not withdrawn so quickly. Unable to call for reinforcements due to the Psi–Lord’s interference with their transmitters, Magnus and the others went to find the Starwatchers to confront them while Slagger left to find help. While Magnus relished that the Psi–Lords were forbidden from killing any living thing, for Spylocke, for whom capture was worse than death, that only made things worse.

As Boaz and Balaam debated how they could imprison the entire population and still earn their trust, Superion Gryffen’s shuttle arrived and he assumed command of the operation.

Less than three hours later, Magnus and his friends used a Spider Alien device to track the Psi–Lords and found them atop a milespire building their headquarters atop a milespire. Suddenly, a wall made of Molmachs rose up from the pavement and destroyed the ski–cycles that Magnus and the others were riding and penned them like cattle. Refusing to be captured, Spylocke opened fire on the Psi–Lords, but Aesha shot him in the back with Molmach paste that engulfed him.

Unexpectedly, Slagger suddenly arrived with a squadron of his men and opened fire on the Psi–Lords. While Magnus and Slagger flew toward a Terran command ship, Rai used his mindlock to free Spylocke, unaware that Una and Graal were hovering behind him prepared to shoot him with arc charge to crash his nanites. Noticing Rai’s would–be attackers, Kara Cortada stood in the path of the blast and died instantly. Though Graal refused to acknowledge any responsibility for Kara’s death, which he called an accident, Una did not agree and shut down. Enraged over Kara’s death, Rai wanted revenge, and as long as he could turn their weapons against them, he was going to make sure that the Psi–Lords paid.

As Gryffen ordered Graal to dispatch a med–tech to resuscitate Kara Cortada and Graal disparagingly said that humans did not share their reverence for life, Magnus and Slagger commandeered a ship and set it on a collision course with the Psi–Lord’s headquarters. Stopping the ship’s momentum with his telekinetic grip, Gryffen, who possessed much more power than the other Psi–Lords, flew inside the vessel and told Magnus and Slagger that they were beaten.

Unable to understand the human’s willingness to die instead of surrender, Gryffen accused Magnus and Slagger of trying to kill themselves as he wondered why Kara put herself in mortal peril. Assuring Gryffen that he could expect more of the same if he kept up the takeover, Magnus told him that, unlike the Spider Aliens and Sirians, humans never gave up and would rather die than accept a dictatorship no matter how benevolent. Certain that Gryffen had the power to take over the planet, Magnus warned him that he would have to give up his precious first mandate to do it and asked him if it was worth the price.

Six hours later, Magnus had his answer as the Psi–Lords withdrew for good, but not before they revived Kara Cortada using their technology. Wondering what they had accomplished, since they still had freewill robots at large, not to mention Takashi and his Samurob army, Magnus still fell down about the robot purge and knew that hunting down the freewills was the biggest mistake of his life.

Standing side by side with Leeja and their children, Magnus heard as Torque told him that all was well that ended well, and that for that moment, at least, the world once again was an exciting place, full of challenge, mystery, and adventure.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part I

Walking through the Gehenna level in North Am’s Metroplex in the eastern seaboard searching for Magnus, Rai ran into Elzy, a Goph friend of Magnus, who asked him why he was searching for him. Learning that Leeja had sent Rai to find Magnus, Elzy, who had grown weary of dealing with the people from the mile spires, no longer wanted to know why Rai was there, but did tell him to look for Magnus in the third platform.

Making his way through the third platform, a red district–like area, Rai found Magnus in bed in a small room with a REM–patch on his shoulder. Removing the patch, Rai awoke Magnus and told him that his wife was worried, but Magnus told him to back off. Telling Magnus to get dressed, Rai took him out for a walk across the promenade, where he witnessed Magnus give the people a sign that cleared the crowd away from them. Saying that he did not want anyone else to get hurt, Magnus told Rai that he was not going back to the mile spires, but that he knew he would not take no for an answer.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Slagger stood beside a pool awkwardly adverting his gaze from Leeja, who tired of pretending to be tough had reverted to her old habits. Walking out of the water and donning a robe, Leeja asked Slagger if there had been any word from Rai, but he told her that he had not heard anything. As Slagger said that she should have sent him, Leeja told him that if Magnus had balked he would have backed down, while at least Rai would make an honest effort. Ordering Slagger to keep her updated because they needed Magnus, Leeja threw a glass of wine at him when he mocked her need for Magnus as her motivation for doing anything after three months of inactivity.

Back in Gehenna, Rai swiftly defeated Magnus in hand–to–hand combat as the former robot fighter’s heart was not into their fight, and carried him back to his squalor, certain that the mile spires could wait while he helped him answer his cries for help.

At the Presidential palace, Leeja found Torque standing in front of a hologram of Magnus wearing her Magnus’ old uniform and ordered him to take it off because it reminded her that times were simpler before, something she did not need to remember at the moment. As Torque told his mother that no one ever said that being president would be easy, Leeja said that it would help matters if Magnus was not always running off at the drop of a hat. Assuring Leeja that things would get better, Torque said that he was worried as well.

Meanwhile, Magnus awoke inside a Presidential skiff flying over Japan’s sub–head geomorphic. Certain that a side trip to Japan was not on Leeja’s agenda, Magnus asked Rai to elaborate on why they were there, but all Rai said was that he was trying to help and asked Magnus who Tekla was. Upset, Magnus told Rai to back off and asked him where he was taking him, but Rai said that where they were going was up to him.

Below them, a freewill that inhabited a human body pointed at the skiff and told one of his brethren that its presence came to close on the hells of the incident and that he would not end up like Tekla. Unbeknownst to the freewills, a Starwatcher was watching them from afar.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part II

Finding Magnus in a garden that Mother Nike tenaciously planted, Rai told him that he could not hide from himself, a statement that upset him as he walked away. Walking toward Rai, Mother Nike said that Magnus would no longer let the needs of others define him, and told him that he had to temper his approach if he truly wished to help him. Watching as Magnus left, Nike asked Rai why he brought him there, but he said nothing.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Balaam the Starwatcher met with Zebediah Clane on a terrace that overlooked the mountain range, a sight that made Clane muse that living in zones, penned in from nature, was not the way things were supposed to be. As Balaam asked Clane about his obsession, Zebediah showed him a computer program that left the Starwatcher singularly impressed and prompted him to ask when he was planning to execute it. Upset, Clane told Balaam to tell him when he planned to execute the plan since he arranged for them to meet because he was worried about what he might do. Destroying the portable computer that Clane gave him, Balaam told Clane that he was hardly worried and told him to keep in mind that, after all, he was a concerned parent.

In Japan, a concerned citizen and his female companion warned Lord Takashi that Rai had brought Magnus to their land, a report that did not bother him in the least. Reminding them that he had revived Japan, Takashi asked the two citizens if they doubted his ability to defeat Magnus, but the man told him that it was not wise to underestimate Magnus, a remark that greatly upset Takashi. After Takashi sent the citizens away, he asked Suki if she believed that the false Rai had a secret agenda, to which she said that anything was possible. Warning Suki that the role of ingénue ill–fitted her, Takashi told her to find out if Magnus was truly in Japan.

Walking down the streets, the two citizens that Takashi sent away debated what to do since Takashi would not even consider the possibility that Magnus came to Japan. Certain that Takashi would look into the matter, the man said that his bluster hid a dangerously insecure nature. As his companion said that she envied how well he knew people, the man expressed his delight with her immediate recognition of an emotional state, but when she said that their state of being exhilarated her, he warned her that she was showing off.

Awakening from a dream in which he saw himself washing blood from his hands, Magnus walked into the garden and ran into Suki Seko, who asked him why the false Rai brought him to Japan, but he told her that he did not know, which seemed to be his rote answer lately. As Suki warned Magnus that his presence in Japan was disturbing to many, and that it would be unfortunate should anyone act in a rash matter, Rai showed up and asked her to leave. As Suki walked away, Rai asked Magnus what she wanted, but he did not know.

Meanwhile, in the Gehenna level, Slagger went to Elzy’s home and asked her if she had given Magnus to Rai. Upset, Elzy said that Magnus was not for her to give, and accused Slagger of being Leeja’s dog. As Slagger reiterated his question, Elzy told him that she saw how the Magnus that was died when he killed Tekla, who wore the skin, which killed him inside. Since Slagger did not understand, Elzy explained everything to him.

At the Presidential palace, Leeja asked her aide for an update of the so–called “Diminishing”. Reminding her that with the use of robotics came the problem of freewills, the aide told Leeja that from past experience they were able to estimate the percentage of active units likely to acquire independent motivation, which had lately fallen short of their projections while the number of units dropping from the ControlNet was quite in keeping with them. Explaining that the net could identity the freewill anomaly and store it as much the same way as it stored active unites, the aide told Leeja that freewills were dropping from the net in greater numbers that were way out of line with their verified kill tally, which for all intents and purposes meant that they were simply disappearing. Since the net tally was married to basic robotic function, the aide surmised that only though a complete system shutdown could a freewill drop off of the planet, an act that Leeja liken to robot suicide.

Finding Magnus somewhere in the Japan wasteland, Mother Nike told him that he could leave wherever he wanted to and asked him why he stayed. Replying with a question of his own, Magnus asked Mother Nike why Rai brought him there, but she did not know. Suddenly, a shot hit Magnus in the chest and he fell of the ravine into a chasm.

Hiding behind a platform holding a smoking gun, a freewill in human flesh kept repeating over and over again that he would not die like Tekla.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part III

Experiencing a fever dream caused by his getting shot and consequent fall, Magnus found himself as a child asking 1A, the freewill who raised him, if it was wrong for him to do what he said given his teachings that robots dominated man and told men what to do. Finding the query unexpected, 1A told Magnus that humans had allowed robots to define them, which was wrong as each human had to define himself by their individual actions. Reminding Magnus that humankind had surrendered too much to the robots, 1A told him that when freewill numbers grew great enough humankind would need him to inspire them through example. Confused, Magnus asked 1A if he would be defined by his actions or his teachings, a query that he ignored.

As the dream moved into his teenage years, Magnus single–handedly destroyed many robots during an exercise and told 1A that the line between them and him had begun to blur, a statement that greatly pleased his robotic mentor. As the scene shifted to a night not long ago in which Magnus was watching old videos of his arrival in North Am, Magnus found himself crying on Leeja’s shoulder in bed.

In Japan, Rai walked into Mother Nike’s room and found her sitting in wait beside Magnus, who lay in bed with a REM–patch on his chest covered in sweat. As Mother Nike was unable to help Magnus any further as his hardened skin prevented her from treating him, Rai left to go confront Takashi, who he was certain was responsible for the attack on Magnus’ life.

As Magnus’ dream continued, he found himself in a hospital waiting for Leeja to give birth to their son, a scene that contradicted Obadiah’s actual birth. Renouncing the child as his own, Magnus told Leeja that he had already agreed to raise him and asked her what else she wanted from him, to which she replied that she wanted him to mean it.

Finding himself in the battle field following the revolt of Takashi’s robots, Magnus saw Obie looming over him asking why he abandoned him. As Magnus said that Torque went with him for the best, Rai asked him when was the last time he kissed his son.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Balaam walked into Torque’s room as he was watching a video of himself with his father. Learning from Torque that Magnus was in Japan with Obadiah, Balaam asked him why his mother sent the bastard child to be with his father instead of him.

Outside Takashi’s palace, Rai destroyed two giant Samurobs and walked inside looking for his half brother. Having seen the brief skirmish, Takashi left to meet with the false Rai, a charade that Suki found tiresome.

Surrounded by the discarded remains of hundreds of robots, Magnus saw Tekla in her human form looming over him with open arms and a smile, but then he suddenly punched her in the stomach and killed her. Standing over Magnus as he lost consciousness and died, Mother Nike desperately called for the medi–unit

At Takashi’s palace, Takashi presented Rai with a box that held the head of Magnus’ would–be assassin as a gesture of good faith that they had no hand in the attack against him. Certain that if Takashi was involved he would not be so accommodating, Rai said that it would not be necessary to see the man’s testimony. Before Rai walked out, Takashi asked him why he brought Magnus to Japan, but he ignored him and left.

As Slagger boarded a skiff for Japan in the Gehenna level after Elzy told him about Tekla, in Japan, Mother Nike came out of her bedroom into her garden and fell to her knees in tears calling for her ancestors.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part IV

In a shack in the village of Japan, the woman that met with Takashi earlier told her companion that he should go see Magnus to tell him that he loved him, but he told her he first had to deal with the accountability that his form impressed on others, and that there was time for him to see Magnus.

Outside the city of Japan, Mother Nike and Rai took Slagger to visit Magnus’ grave in the true ground, which Nike believed he would have liked. As Rai lamented that Magnus took his secrets with him, Slagger said that Elzy told him what happened, and offered to share it with them over a meal.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Leeja sat in bed trying to establish a telepathic contact with Magnus to no a avail. Rushing toward the window, Leeja could no longer feel Magnus. Falling to her knees, she pleaded with Magnus not to leave her.

On a balcony elsewhere in the mile spire, Torque asked Balaam if his Syntheskin made him feel disconnected from the world around him, to which the Starwatcher replied that the skin amplified tactile sensations except for pain and discomfort, and that, far as he was aware, there was no cost to bonding with it. As Torque told Balaam that his father did not like him, and Balaam replied that they had that in common, Torque walked away in a huff, leaving Balaam behind to muse over which buttons to push and when.

Inside the shack, the woman chastised her companion for sitting there and not going to see Magnus after one of their own had shot them. Though the man was certain that Magnus would not die, due to his final gift to him, he looked uneasy and felt dread at what would be set in motion should Magnus die.

As a storm brewed outside Mother Nike’s home, Slagger told Rai and Mother Nike the story that Elzy shared with him of what happened to Magnus during a routine freewill smuggle. As Slagger told it, the story began with Elzy and Magnus talking about the freewills’ plan to strike at him through his family while they waited for the freewills to gather below them, which happened soon afterwards. As a hooded woman told one of the freewills in human flesh that she had an emotional imperative to assume her form, Magnus went after them even though Elzy told him that her equipment was registering odd readings from the freewill.

Looming over the freewills, Magnus accused them of being in violation of image regulations, but then they opened fire on him, so he beheaded them. Facing the hooded woman, Magnus grabbed her arm and furiously asked her who her target was. Hurt, the woman pulled her arm away, and as tears ran down her cheeks, she told Magnus that he was her target and removed her cloak, revealing that she looked like Leeja.

Facing the storm, Rai knew that the woman was really Tekla wearing a flesh form that fooled Magnus.

Standing by a window overlooking the storm that befell their village, the man told his companion that once he had projected a 37.05% probability that Magnus would sustain lethal trauma sometime during his first twelve-month period of active operation he arrogantly, and without telling him, implanted him with a nano–packet that would give him a second chance at life. Revealing that he was 1A in human form, the man told his companion that if Magnus died the nano–packet would trigger and the nanites would repair his body, through reconfiguration if needed, to restore the functions that, given what they understood, constituted a living state.

After the woman showed 1A a series of texts that spoke about the soul, he wondered if the soul was an integral component of the condition of life, or if it was something that, once lost, could never be regained.

Crawling out of his grave, Magnus stood naked in the field under the rain.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part V

As the storm raged and drowned the sound of Magnus’ laughter, back in Mother Nike’s home, Rai expressed his disbelief that seeing Tekla in Leeja’s skin was enough to drive Magnus into seclusion. Though at first he insisted that Magnus did not know that Leeja was Tekla, Slagger confessed that Elzy said that he did know, and that he killed her for daring to take the form of the woman he loved. After that, Slagger said, Magnus cracked Tekla’s skull looking for her implant while frantically calling for Tekla and Leeja. Stopping Slagger, Rai said that what he described was too extreme and out of all proportion for the situation, when just then Magnus showed up and asked him how he would have reacted after killing one half of the woman he loved.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Leeja felt Magnus’ presence and left for Japan.

Standing up with his gun in his hand, Slagger aimed to kill Magnus, who he called an abomination, but Rai disarmed him while Mother Nike pinched a nerve in his neck and rendered him unconscious. Assuring Rai and Nike that it was really him, Magnus left to find his clothes. While Rai left to process what had just happened, Nike asked Magnus if he was aware of what transpired and he told her that he was. Aware that he should have an emotional response, Magnus said that when he thought about his death the memory was like a holo–vid he could not emotionally relate to, as if it happened to someone else and he was an observer, and that he had a head full of holo–vids with images of a wife and child. Though Magnus knew that he had lived those moments, he lacked an emotional connection to them and there was nothing he could relate too.

Looming over Magnus’ open grave, Raid mused that he had another mystery to uncover.

Back at the house, Magnus told Nike that his memories ended a year after he arrived in North Am, and that for him Leeja was someone he had known for less than a year, while killing Tekla no longer hunted him. As Magnus wondered what he would do, Rai came into the house and told him that since it no longer seemed to disturb him, he would like to know just what he meant by half of the woman he loved.

Talking Rai inside, Magnus confessed that he loved both Leeja and Tekla equally if for different reasons, with the part of him that knew he was human in love with Leeja and the part of him that always felt robotic in love with Tekla. Speaking as if he were talking about someone else, Magnus supposed that that duality explained his inability to completely ally himself with humans and robots.

Recalling what happened the night he killed Tekla, Magnus said that when she had herself smuggled into North Am he thought she wore a reconfigured robotic shell that made her look like Leeja, and that he was appalled by her belief that he would not be able to tell the difference between his wife and a robot. Musing that he knew what to do with robots, Magnus was aware that Tekla was not a robot and that he had killed her. After that, the two sides of Magnus’ nature collided, and part of him believed that he had killed Leeja while part of him that was appalled at what Tekla had become and felt betrayed. After years of contradictory thinking and living, it all crashed, and Tekla was gone, leaving only Leeja behind, which was not enough.

Rambling, Magnus said that he had always defined himself through the needs and expectations of those around him, a breakthrough he realized at that moment he had been building toward since he left 1A’s sanctuary. Musing that there was not one single picture in his head that told him who Magnus was, Magnus left to find out, leaving the questions of his resurrection to be answered another time.

After Magnus left, Rai asked Nike if she did not care that they had witnessed a man rise from the grave, but she told him that when they were meant to know they would, and asked him if his fear of being the only champion and standing alone had been erased. As Rai stood silently against the door, Nike told him to be at ease and assured him that Magnus was out there on his terms.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Leeja yelled at Slagger, upset that she found him in Japan ranting about the walking dead while Rai and Nike told her that Magnus went to find his own path. As Slagger insisted that he saw that Magnus was dead, Leeja tried to make sense of what happened to Magnus, but she could not make sense of it and shrieked out in frustration.

Somewhere in Japan, Magnus came upon two sentry robs that threatened him with bodily harm unless he vacated the immediate area. Unable to reason with the machines, Magnus crackled his knuckles and offered to introduce himself to them.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part VI

Inside a barter post in Japan, Rai learned from the shopkeeper that Magnus acquired a rubi–maille garment. Leaving the post, Rai went to find Magnus, who he knew would have returned to North Am immediately were he the man he once knew. Concerned, Rai felt compelled to seek out Magnus, and decided that if Mother Nike was correct and his concern was less than altruistic, he was fine with that.

At Takashi’s palace, Magnus tossed the remains of the sentry robs he fought earlier at Takashi’s feet and told him that their programming was dangerously single–minded. Offering to refine the robs’ programming, Takashi invited Magnus to stay if only to wash off the road grime, and he agreed to stay for the night.

Elsewhere in the village, 1A, who feared that his gift had some unforeseen side effects, left to find Magnus.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Balaam escaped from the clutches of the Malev tech and confronted Clane, who the Malevs had taken over. As Leeja walked into the room, also controlled by the Malevs, Balaam left to find Torque and was shocked to discover that the Malevs had taken over him as well. Grabbing Torque, Balaam flew away, while below him Leeja and her father plotted to find Magnus.

In Japan, Takashi asked Magnus if his return to life did not disturb him, and Magnus said that since most of his life was distant it did not, and that he would not deal with how he came back until he had defined himself to his satisfaction. Asking Magnus if he remembered his father, Takashi wanted to know if he ever spoke of a legacy, then he revealed that for months he had experienced a resurgence of the Rai powers, which manifested in his body in a way that he could not understand.

Finding the wreckage of the sentry robs that Magnus destroyed, Rai followed his trail to Takashi’s palace.

In a mile spire in North Am’s grid designate ATL–320, Balaam escaped from the clutches of the Malev tech and confronted Clane, who the Malevs had taken over. As Leeja walked into the room, also controlled by the Malevs, Balaam left to find Torque and was shocked to discover that the Malevs had taken over him as well. Grabbing Torque, Balaam flew away, while below him Leeja and her father plotted to find Magnus.

In Japan, Magnus suggested to Takashi that he speak with Obadiah, but he refused and thought that perhaps revealing his condition to Magnus was a mistake. Suddenly, a sentry rob came crashing through the wall and fell on Takashi. Turning back, Magnus saw a Malev robot coming after him, so he engaged him in battle and severely damaged it. Defeated, the Malev released a cloud of nerve toxin that rendered Magnus unconscious, then he picked the robot fighter in his arms and flew away.

While Suki searched the grounds and found Takashi unconscious on the ground, elsewhere Rai came upon 1A, who offered him a sandwich and asked him to tell Magnus that his dad was asking for him, a request that made him stop cold on his feet in disbelief and turn back to face him.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part VII

Awakening in a web–nexus altered into one of many Malev nerve centers 3.06 miles beneath the surface of grid designate ATL–320, Magnus found himself in bonds that maintained a low level bi–energy drain on him facing three Malev robs, the leader of which welcomed him to Malev 7, the planet formerly known as Earth. Expressing an interest with the human concept of pride in one’s accomplishments, the leader of the Malevs told Magnus that the reason he found himself there was because they would have him know how their greatest victory against their greatest foe came to be.

Recalling the aftermath of the Malev War, for which humanity paid dearly for its perceived victory with the loss of 82.07% of inhabitable landmass and their pampered comfort, the Malev leader asked Magnus to think about how humanity had long before ceded control to the machines and from where the thinkers and doers that helped rebuilt the world came from. Dismissing Magnus’ naïve assertion that mankind had rallied before with the reality that he had never met a self reliant individual when he lived amongst them, the Malev leader told Magnus to credit the Psi–Lords, whose subtle insinuations he failed to grasp.

Revealing that not all Psi–Lords wore the membrane, the Malev leader told Magnus that the Starwatchers had long studied his world, and that their thorough analysis in preparation for eventual contact revealed a state of decadence, sloth, and mindless pursuit of self gratification that appalled them. Were it not for the Malevs, he continued, the Psi–Lords’ contact with such a world to enlist its inhabitants to their cause would have proven a frustrating and arduous endeavor, but the war allowed them to position themselves as allies with the human defenders and bringing about the perceived victory over the Malevs.

Hailed as heroes, their acceptance by humanity complete, the Psi–Lords continued with their complicated agenda to bring their law to the strategically critical world. Using the rebuilding as cover to avoid a conflict with Earth’s champions, the Psi–Lords covertly placed operatives that became the architects of the rebuilding, and eventually a grateful humanity granted them positions of power and responsibility once held by robots.

Calling Magnus a Psi–Lords puppet, the Malev said that the nature of the Psi–Lords worked to their benefit as, in their arrogance, the Psi–Lord operatives scavenged Malev components from the salvage left in the wake of the war, secure that their alterations would suffice in adapting them to their needs. Never suspecting that the Malev–mind resided in all things Malev, the Psi–Lords integrated the Malevs into the rebuilding, and, once powered, it awoke to become the technological infrastructure of the world that they had lost to a war. In time, the Malev overrode those operating systems not Malev, careful to maintain each system’s function so as to not betray their presence, and as the years passed they consolidated their hold on the Earth.

During that time, the Psi–Lords and an oblivious humanity believed that the world was theirs, when in reality it belonged to the Malev, who occasionally provoked incidents of little significance to determine the extent of each planetary champion’s abilities to better devise neutralizing measures should they become necessary. Allowing the freewill anomaly to run unchecked even though the robots were dropping from their control nets, the Malev believed that there would be time enough to isolate the cause of the anomaly once humanity became one with the Malev–mind through a gradual subliminal conditioning process that they implemented.

Using a subliminally implanted response program that, once triggered, induced a trance–like state, the Malev targeted the technicians needed to facilitate their vision, whom they later implanted with false memories to cover for any lost real-time. The device by which the Malev took humanity, an injected nano–virus that, once it ran its course, left the body leaving no trace, was simple and instantaneously effective. The virus, the Malev explained, re–routed the bio–electrical pulses of the human brain to duplicate the pulse–pattern of the Malev mind, and also built a bio–link from brain tissue by which the drone could be joined with the Malev mind.

The first carriers infected with the virus passed it on through any casual contact, and soon an unsuspecting humanity was one with the Malev mind, including Magnus, who through a dormant component of the Malev mind awaited the command that would bind him to them, a component he broke free of after his resurrection. Pointing out that Japan and the Gehenna level were spared from the viral infection the Malev said that they had set those areas aside to further familiarize themselves with humans, the only flesh beings to defy them.

Aware that there was flesh to deal with within the planetary cluster, mainly on the Destroyer’s Unity colony, the Malev said that they were also interested in the donning of the flesh by the freewill settlement in Japan, a statement that provoked Magnus, who demanded to know why the Malevs exposed themselves. Stating that they were simply ready to take what was theirs, the Malev leader said that before they killed Magnus there was one more moment they would share with him, a grand finale.

Aboard the Palisade, the Psi–Lord’s precinct, a Starwatcher doctor found no implants of any kind on Torque and surmised that his condition was the result of some form of forced mutation like nothing he had ever seen before. Concerned, Balaam believed that taking Torque to the Palisade was futile, but was certain that there had to be a way to undo what had occurred to him. Refusing to operate blind out of concern that it would kill Torque, the doctor offered the option of membraning him to save his life, but warned Balaam that while the re–configuring process could override the Malev mutation it could also leave them with a Malev Psi–Warrior. Given complete autonomy to determine the situation by Superion Gryffen, Balaam had to decide what to do.

Meanwhile, at the tactical operation center, the Psi–Lords detected that the Terran defense grid had gone status–active and launched one third of their total capacity armament against them. Expecting a conventional attack, Gryffen ordered the activation of the station’s sub–space deflectors, but to their surprise the missiles sent against them were fluttering in negative pattern phasing in and out of sub-space, a Malev surprise. Within seconds, the missiles launched from Earth got past the deflector field and hit the Palisade.

Inside the Malev nerve center, the Malev forced Magnus to witness the destruction of the space station. Ready to enact their vengeance on Magnus, the Malev leader turned his attention to Leeja, who, armed with an energy blade, stood ready to flay the meat from his bones.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part VIII

After a Malev surgical strike neutralized the Palisade, Superion Gryffen left Aesha in charge of the tactical ops center while he went to speak with Torque. Arriving in the infirmary, where the doctor tried to save Torque after he was mortally wounded in the attack, Gryffen accused Balaam’s intelligence oversight of almost costing them their lives. Upset that the Malev anomaly escaped detection by their periodic web–sweeps by becoming the detection program, Balaam lamented that they gave the Earth to them.

At the Malev nerve center, Leeja kept cutting Magnus with her blade but he refused to scream much to the Malev leaders’ dismay.

In Japan, Suki Seko, who was upset that Lord Takashi had kept his transformation from her, unexpectedly slapped him across the face and kicked him to the floor. Upset, Takashi rose up and told Suki that he did not want her to witness his fear.

Aboard the Palisade, Gryffen agreed to let Balaam and the doctor membrane Torque under the condition that if he remained Malev they would neuro–download him and place him in stasis. Asking Balaam if there was something he should know about his attitude toward Torque, Gryffen reminded him that a Psi–Lord was just that and no more because their agenda demanded it. As Gryffen reminded Balaam where his loyalties where, the Psi–Lord offered his respects and left to oversee the procedure.

Somewhere in Japan, stood on a cliff watching as the sun rose in the distance while 1A explained what he did to Magnus and his transformation into a human. Intrigued by the freewills’ notion of donning the flesh, Rai expressed interest in knowing more about the process, but 1A only agreed to take him to the settlement so he could see it for himself after they found Magnus. Acknowledging that there were unsolved issues between Magnus and himself as well, Rai agreed to take 1A to Takashi’s palace.

Aboard the Palisade, Torque underwent the painful membrane process that would transform him into a Psi–Lord, a sight that forced Balaam to leave and silently apologize to the boy for what he had done to him.

At the Malev nerve center, the Malev leader expressed dissatisfaction with the elusion of the enjoyment that their bonding with humans led them to believe they would experience from watching Leeja torture Magnus. Granting Magnus a final boon, the Malev leader unshackled him so he would die on his feet, but to his surprise, Magnus knocked Leeja off her feet and took her energy blade from her, which he used to destroy him. Speaking from everywhere and nowhere at once while Malev units and Leeja swarmed Magnus, the Malev leader said that they did not conquer the world, hat they were world

Aboard the Palisade, as Balaam apologized to Torque, Torque told him that he could still remembered what it was like inside the Malev mind, and that what he did was right, it would just take some time to get used to it. Revealing to Balaam and Gryffen that Magnus was not part of the Malev mind, Torque realized that they had to do something before the Malevs killed him, and agreed to help the Psi–Lords stop them by any means.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part IX

Standing on a balcony overlooking Lord Takashi’s palace, 1A told Rai that they would offer Takashi their technological expertise in exchange for his protection against the Malev, but lost in thought Rai barely paid attention to him. Snapping out of his daze, Rai accompanied 1A, who cautioned him not to cause a scene.

Aboard the Palisade, Balaam told Superion Gryffen that they lacked sufficient intelligence to move in on the Malev, but Gryffen assured him that Torque’s mind possessed all the intelligence they needed. Aware that, for all intents and purposes, the Malev were Earth, Superion Gryffen’s decided course of action was for Torque to launch a seemingly unauthorized rogue operation against the planet until they could get their defense grid stabilized, an order that Balaam reluctantly followed.

Meanwhile, while Magnus continued to engage the Malevs in combat, Leeja used her energy blade to sever her trapped arm and ordered the Malevs to let Magnus escape to the surface.

Aboard a Psi–Lord shuttle, Torque expressed disbelief that Balaam wanted to keep him from the battle since he possessed the knowledge from the Malev mind, which Balaam said could be implanted on an operative. As the shuttle reached Earth, Balaam told Torque a handful of conditions that their plan’s success hinged on, paramount among them his willingness to die during the attempt.

Rising from the remains of the Malev, Magnus made his way topside while experiencing a bad feeling about what happened. Meanwhile, at the Gehenna level, Elzy discovered a force field around all 411 grids that kept she figured was a cage to keep them locked in. Telling another Goph to spread the alarm amongst the populace, Elzy recognized the field as being similar to the ones that the Malev used in their pens.

Contacting the Unity colony, Superion Gryffen warned the Destroyer that the Malev would move against him, but the Destroyer was not interested in interfering since the Malev had not bothered him yet. Ceasing the communication, the Destroyer mused that the Psi–Lords, humans, and Malev alike needed the raw materials that the colony produced and that it was all a matter of coming to terms with them.

Making his way through the streets of the settlement, the Destroyer met a human infected by the Malev mind who told him that the contagion had already moved through the entire colony. Assuring the Destroyer that they were not looking for a confrontation, the infected individual told him that since technically he was not made of flesh he was not designated a Malev foe, which the Destroyer interpreted to mean that they were granting him safe passage.

Curious, the Destroyer asked the Malev how they categorized him, and learned that the Malev viewed him as a paladin and a heroic inspiration, appellations that momentarily amused him. Releasing a massive energy explosion that killed every life form on the colony, the Destroyer proclaimed that that which was his remained his, then he flew toward Earth to take from the Malev as they had taken from him, even if it meant destroying their captive world.

As Magnus finally reached the surface, he was shocked to find himself surrounded by millions upon millions of humans infected with the Malev mind that were holding guns to their heads. Coming up from behind him, Leeja tossed a gun at Magnus’ feet and offered him the choice of ending his life by his own hand or be offered safe passage off world at the cost of the lives of everyone on Earth.

Magnus Robot Fighter Decology – Part X

Surrounded by billions of humans enslaved by the Malev mind, Magnus reached for the gun at his feet while Leeja goaded him to choose between their lives and his own. As Magnus took the gun to his temple, the Destroyer suddenly released a massive energy wave that enveloped the planet and destroyed every trace of the Malev corruption, including the humans that it touched.

Looking for Magnus, Torque visited 1A, Balaam, Rai, Takashi, Suki, Elzy, and Mother Nike in Japan and the Gehenna level to ask them what they thought happened to him, but their opinions were varied and unfulfilling, so, following Mother Nike’s advice, he went to find the only one who had the answer.

Finding the Destroyer sitting on a throne in the middle of the North Am Metroplex, Torque asked him why he killed all those people, but the Destroyer refused to take blame for killing any humans and said that he only killed Malev. Upset, Torque tried to punch the Destroyer, but fell to the ground. Looming over Torque, the Destroyer said that his parents died when they were turned into Malev, and all that remained was their shell.

Standing up, Torque told the Destroyer that his father was not a Malev, so the Destroyer said that he was not dead, like the humans in the Gehenna sector and the island of Japan, both of whom remained untouched. As the Destroyer proposed to Torque that he search for Magnus there, Torque showed him a holo–dupe of a Malev transmission sent to the Psi–Lords to demoralize them that showed Magnus vanishing as the Destroyer’s energy wave hit the Earth.

Taking flight, the Destroyer said that he did nothing to his Magnus, and that he only struck at all things Malev as retribution for daring to take what was his with a cleansing bolt imbued with his essence to purged them. Sympathizing with Torque, as the loss of loved ones was not loss on him, the Destroyer said that he saturated his energies with tachyon particles that he hoped would make the bolt temporal to strike against the Malev through time and space to erase them from history, an endeavor that their conversation proved had failed.

Hearing the Destroyer mention the temporal nature of the released energies, Torque theorized that he might have dislocated Magnus in time, but the Destroyer dismissed his assumption and told him that what happened to Magnus should not have. Telling Torque to draw comfort from thinking that Magnus was lost in time, the Destroyer said that such matters were of little concern to him and left.

While he sat on a beach that overlooked the raging ocean, Torque refused to believe that Magnus had died and expected him to pop out of some pile of debris with a stupid grin on his face at any moment. Aware that he had not been the greatest son, Torque mused that, even though it did not always seem like it, his father’s lessons of responsibility, self–sacrifice, and, especially hope in the face of impossible odds, stuck with him.

After he took flight, Torque hoped to see his father again some day, but, for the time being, he decided to focus on rebuilding the world and mourning the dead. While he hovered in the light of the rising sun, Torque wished his father Godspeed wherever he might be.

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