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For years, the secrets of the universe have been privy only to a select few charged with documenting the exploits of the Earth’s heroes, information than found its way into the hands of the public. Although they do not reveal the whole picture, the following excerpts make the tapestry of the universe a bit clearer.

Secrets of The VALIANT Universe

Armorines

In 1993, inside The Factory in Hudson, New York, General Kendall and Doctor Zahn discussed Antonio Cordova’s PT exam results, a conversation that Colonel Gardner called a waste of time until they got final approval from Senator William Ackerman, who just then walked into the room and threw the team’s dossiers on the table, saying that Washington approved the Armorines’ roster.

Holding Michael Sirot’s dossier, General Kendall reiterated his disapproval of having an NSA agent as part of the unit. While refusing to debate Sirot’s placement on the team, Senator Ackerman voiced his reservations about Gunny Lewis leading the team due to his age. Citing Gunny’s record in Viet Nam and the value his training and knowledge provided, General Kendall insisted that he stay in the team. Acquiescing, Senator Ackerman insisted that as soon as the recruits were sufficiently trained Lewis leave the unit.

Bloodshot

Mr. Alcott, Gilad said that you wanted me to write down what I know about Bloodshot. Here goes…

…You know about the experiments they did on him at Project Rising Spirit –– they put the tiny little computers in his blood –– then I showed up and he escaped…

…Gil said that Bloodshot fought others like him, but they didn’t live very long. I saw a few of them myself, in New York.

Gil called’em Speedshots.

You want to know why he’s different? Why the experiments didn’t kill him, too?

Even Hideyoshi Iwatsu, the old man who ran Rising Spirit, wanted to know that.

And he risked his life, turning himself into a Speedshot, to find out.

It’s because he’s a Harbinger. And if your files are as good as I bet they are, you know what that means.

Bloodshot had a power inside him –– I think that’s why he can control machines –– that just hadn’t surfaced yet.

The traumatic shock of the experiment triggered it.

I think that’s what kept him alive. The part of his brain that makes him different from a normal man…

…I hope this helps.

Sincerely, Geoff McHenry.

The Second Life of Dr Mirage

Dear Doctor Mirage and Carmen,

It happened while I was plunging through time ––

–– a feat engineered by Master Darque.

I should have killed him when I had the chance.

Now –– because of him and my stupidity ––

––I may have changed the course of time itself.

The time stream carried me to the Chinese Communist Revolution in ’49.

Peking was in shambles ––

––plenty of death energy to be absorbed and returned for Darque’s use.

All I could think about, amidst the destruction, was finding the portal back to my own time.

But then I heard the scream of a child––

––Shadowman’s instinct simply took over.

‘You’re the Shadowman, Jack! protect the innocent ones of the night and––

––don’t think about such things as a time paradox!

That’s all that was running through my head.

I kept telling myself that one little Chinese girl couldn’t disrupt the space time continuum.

It wasn’t till years later that I was enlightened as to the consequences of my actions.

Hwen…it was your mother, Mae Fong that I rescued from the treads of that tank.

She should have died then… but she didn’t… because of me.

I’m afraid… you, Dr. Mirage… should have never been born!

(Excerpt from a letter to Hwen Mirage from Jack Boniface. 4/16/97)

Eternal Warrior

While none of the immortal brothers are truly invulnerable, they all possess rapid regenerative capabilities.

In 1916, when caught in the blast of mortar fire, Aram –– known also as Armstrong –– lost both legs, which took six years to grow back.

Arriving in a spectacular lightshow –– the time arc –– Ivar is responsible for countless legends based on a “White God” appearing to primitive tribes throughout the world.

Ivar, The Timewalker, is actually the oldest of the brothers, but due to his living his life non–linearly, he is for all intents and purposes the youngest.

Although he is a rakish rogue with women, Ivar’s heart belongs to the memory of Nefretete, the Egyptian queen he was forced to leave behind.

Gilad Anni-Padda, known as “The One”, has worn, at one time or another, his trademark claw and arm–shield.

Rumor has it that when Armstrong imbibes the right spirits, he gets in an artistic mood. Once after an all–night party, he decided to throw a few hundred tons of stone slabs together… we now know it as Stonehenge.

Even with their extraordinary resilience, the brothers feel as much pain as ordinary human beings. When Gil’s eye was put out during the Spanish Inquisition, it grew back over the course of a week, but the pain was nearly unbearable.

Harbinger

Late one night at the Harbinger Foundation complex in Bolivar, Faith Herbert, Simon Morrell, and Victoria Martinelli broke into the computer room to check out their files. After reading Butch’s file and finding out that his real name was Gaylord, Faith opened Victoria’s file, which said that she peed in her pants until she was eleven. Just then, Mira Choudhury, Butch MacFaddin, and Samuel Coleman caught them and told them that Coach Nicoletti was waiting for them.

After the kids left the room, two Webnet operatives came in through the window and installed a transmitter in the computer that gave them access to all of the Harbinger Foundation’s files.

HARD Corps

In Sigmund Heydrich’s office inside the Ranch, HARD Corps’ headquarters, Stuart, an Omen technician, accused Heydrich of killing Superstar, an allegation that Sigmund vehemently denied. Conceding that no one ever noticed technicians like himself, Stuart told Heydrich that the day Superstar’s invulnerability failed he saw him putting some kind of circuit chip in the uplink transmitter that controlled the Corps’ power shifts. Impressed, Heydrich admitted that what Stuart saw was true, adding that he was sure that he would agree that some measures were necessary once he learned why they were taken.

Confessing that Omen Enterprises was working on a project the HARD Corps might oppose, Heydrich was certain that the Corps would threatened the project if they could become invulnerable, so he removed the ability from their repertoire for the good of the company.

Indifferent to Heydrich’s motives, all Stuart wanted was to get paid for his silence, but Heydrich shot him in the heart rather than pay. Calling security, Heydrich told them that Stuart had attacked him, but that he took the gun from his hand and shot him to save his life. When asked if he had any idea why Stuart snapped, all Heydrich said was that some things were just meant to remain secret.

Ninjak

Weaponeer File: Date –– 5/15/93 1300 Hours

Hiding his identity as the Weaponeer, Colin King sent Henri Montblanc two emails designed to conceal the truth of his role in their organization.

Incoming Coded Satellite Transmission: 285847928839275658890334 Unscrambling…

Weaponeer One: Transatlantic shipment successful. Full payment deposited in Swiss Bank account No. 3438765.

Message Two: Re: Agent Alicia Guerrero. Violation of established procedure noted following completion of assignment. Agent refused to comply on future assignments and resigned. Request permission to terminate with extreme prejudice. Stop.

Coded satellite transmission Weaponeer Two: Henri Montblanc –– Eyes Only.

Replying to himself, Colin ensured that no harm would happen to Agent Guerrero.

Message One: Deposit to Swiss Bank account No. 3438765 verified.

Message Two: Re: Agent Alicia Guerrero. Request received. Permission to terminate with extreme prejudice denied. Termination at this level reserved for willful theft, collusion or misrepresentation with intent to profit only. Agent’s actions did not compromise herself or the mission.

Orders are as follows: Apply surveillance to Agent Guerrero. Determine all movements for next twenty–four hours. Authorize Weaponeer enforcer “Ninjak” to return Agent Guerrero to clinic for memory bloc. Stop.

Walking away from the computer, Colin opened a closet where he kept his Ninjak uniform, when just then, his phone rang. Answering the call, Colin spoke with Henri, and assured him that he would be prepared to deal with anything that the mission entailed.

Rai

In 4020 AD, at the Temple of the Prophet Archer in Ladakh, Obadiah Konishi, son of the last Rai,Takao Konishi, took part of a sparring session with a masked partner who easily defeated him. Removing her mask, Mother Nike told Obadiah that though he sparred well his prowess was nowhere near that of his father’s.

Starting into the horizon, Obadiah explained that, although he inherited some of his father’s nanites, he did not possess the knowledge stored within them, which remained locked inside the Blood of Heroes, which Ananse took with him when he disappeared to honor Takao’s dying wish.

Wondering where Ananse took the blood, Obadiah ignored that what he was searching for laid hidden in a cavern somewhere in Africa, where Ananse stood a silent guard over the legacy of two eras.

Secret Weapons

Beneath Heathrow Airport in London, England, Charles Sinclair and Neville Alcott discussed the discovery of a Webnet transmitter in a small island in the South Pacific, which they agreed was the perfect mission to test the four parahuman suits they found in the Weaponeer’s vault.

Meeting with Jillian in the analysis room, Neville and Charles stared at the faces on the computer screens of the four agents chosen for Project: Secret WeaponsAndre DuBois, Carol Hatcher, Richard Grant, and Joe Valez –, who under Bloodshot’s leadership were ready to depart for Webnet’s island.

Shadowman

After midnight, at one of the many homes of Master Darque, Shadowman broke through the window into the parlor to challenge the spell that Darque had cast on him. Amused, Darque raised Shadowman in mid air and cut him to ribbons, but convincing himself that it was all in his head, Shadowman refused to scream, and instead dared Darque to kill him, but Darque just threw him out the window and told him to go home.

As he fell, Shadowman laughed at Darque and said that he could not kill with his own hands because the Voodoo Coven had blocked him. Walking away while Darque mockingly told him to return whenever he desired more abuse, Shadowman was certain that, though Darque could not kill him, he could still torture the hell out of him until he broke his spell.

X-O Manowar

Somewhere in Italy in 408 AD, Aric the Visigoth followed a stranger into a Roman temple and dared him to show himself to face punishment for betraying his people. Holding a knife in his hand, the stranger leapt out of a ledge at Aric to kill him, but the Visigoth’s sword proved mightier than the stranger’s dagger and Aric stabbed him on the chest to avenge the innocent blood that his betrayal spilled.

Hours later, the stranger rose from the ground cursing the barbarian and promising that Gilad the One would have his vengeance someday.

Chaos Effect Beta

If This Be Madness

His personality split in two as a result of Darque’s spell, Shadowman ran through the streets damming Darque for making him too weak to kill him, while Jack thought that he needed to stop Shadowman’s run. Back in Darque’s estate, Sandria Darque scolded Darque for what he did to Shadowman, who he promised she could have for the coming chaos. Mocking her, Darque told Sandria that he could not refuse her anything, and that she was sure to have a Shadowman. Concurrently, Shadowman came upon a theft in an alley and leapt at the muggers to stop them. Feeling the rising energy, Sandria asked her brother if he still welcomed the chaos, and he said that he embraced it. Elsewhere, Jack worried that whatever was happening was a bad thing, when then, a surge of energy filled them with power unlike any they had ever seen. Afraid, Sandria watched in horror as the energy destroyed their home, while, in the face of his imminent Godhood, Darque dismissed her concerns.

While a helicopter crashed in the French Quarter, at the hospital an aura of energy surrounded Patient 937 and awoke him from his coma. Elsewhere, Sandria asked a looter why it was that in the face of chaos some men stole while others performed acts of selfless heroism, but he lacked an answer. Leaving the man on a rooftop, satisfied that there was no answer, Sandria floated away amid his calling her the Madonna of Chaos.

Meanwhile, in a cemetery, as Darque ordered an army of corpses to remove the covers to their graves and the doors to their crypts so that he could use them to store the necromantic energy pouring into the world, he saw Shadowman leap over a wall threatening to kill him. Reduced to pure ID obsessed with destroying Darque, Shadowman shot him with a burst of energy from the Shadowman symbol on his shirt that peeled his skin away. Astonished by Shadowman’s power, which he felt might be enough to best him, Darque commanded his creatures to drag Shadowman down to the ground. Impressed with Shadowman’s power, Darque mused that it would take an army of the dead to stop him, so he raised one to do just that. Lacking the time to lead his soldiers, Darque raised the body of his ancient mentor, Anton Quigley, so that he could serve as his general. Burning his seal of power into Anton's brow, Darque sent him forth to lead his army and destroy Shadowman. Carried away on the arms of the dead, Shadowman vowed to return and kill Darque.

Back in the hospital, Rotwak dragged nurse Giulia to Patient 937’s room, when then a looter took her hostage while another knocked Rotwak out. Suddenly, a hand pulled the looter away from Giulia and tossed him out the window. Stunned, Giulia stood before Patient 937, aka Maxim St. James, who, restored to full health thanks to the influx of necromantic energy, was ready to finally take out Darque. Back in the cemetery, while Darque pared his nails to collect flesh that he scratched from Shadowman’s face, Sandria left through a door in space that she opened with her new power to fetch Hwen Mirage and Carmen Ruiz so they would help save the world.

Off the coast of Florida, Hwen steered a coast guard vessel across a storm in search of a missing fishing boat. Suddenly, the sea calmed and Sandria appeared, calling the Mirage to her. Helping the Mirage, Sandria raised the fishing boat off the water and back to the coast. Astounded by the effect the necromantic flow had on Sandria, Carmen feared that she had become a Goddess. In New Orleans, Mamma Nettie, who chaos had rejuvenated, went to find Marcia Lewis to ask her to help her find Jack. Hearing Nettie say that she could use her feelings for Jack to find him, Marcia thought how a week earlier she would have laughed at such notions, but even so, she agreed to help, and moments later they left her house on two bicycles.

Following Jack deep into the French Quarter, Nettie ordered him to use the power to burn Darque’s army, and her command got through his mindless ID and he did as told. Looming over the charred corpses, Shadowman was insane with killing Darque, who at that moment in the cemetery, mused over how even if Shadowman were to defeat his army, he would still be crazy.

Amid the fire and riots, Maxim St James smelled Darque’s evil in the night and promised to stop him.

The One

Months after Darque slaughtered the monks in the temple of Ladakh, Brother Ting and others restored it to its previous state to ensure that it would flourish once again. Among the new comers to the temple was Chan, a young boy who Brother Ting took under his wing as his pupil. Weeks later, Chan asked his teacher why they had not sought revenge against Darque. Calling change the inevitability of life, Brother Ting told Chan that he believed that a greater good would come from the tragedy that befell their brothers.

Months later, at the estate of Hwen Mirage and his wife Carmen Ruiz, Carmen suggested that they go to their place in New York while the contractor rebuild their Miami estate. At that moment, in a nearby shopping mall, Mamma Fong confessed to Rico that she could not get over what happened to her son. Agreeing with her, Rico felt like giving Hwen and Carmen credit for sticking together in spite of his disability. Still, Mae could not shake a feeling of dread that filled her. Back in the estate, Hwen shared his mother’s dread, a sensation that felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In Ladakh, the monks awoke to discover a black hole of dark energy opening in the heavens above. Feeling that something incredible was about to occur, the monks witnessed as Ivar the Timewalker fell out of the hole into their courtyard. Gravely injured, Ivar reached for the sky and said that he had brought the end of everything with him before he lapsed into unconsciousness. Consigned to await the outcome, the monks saw as the hole engulfed the sky and inferred that, soon, it would engulf the world too.

The energies released by the opening caused a planetary shutdown of all electrical systems that spared no bit of technology. In New York City, the streets filled with people proclaiming the coming of the apocalypse, critical life–saving operations in hospitals came to a stop, and airplanes crashed into airports. In Miami, Mae and Rico found themselves in the midst of a blackout that confirmed her sense of dread.

Back at the estate, Hwen could sense that the energy disrupting all electricity was necromantic in nature. Frightened, Carmen sensed that something terrible was about to happen, when, suddenly, the surge of energy hit Hwen like it did the others. Moments later, Carmen and Hwen discovered that the surge had made him solid. Teary–eyed, Carmen and Hwen passionately kissed.

A passionate hour later, Hwen and Carmen laid on the floor, surrounded by their clothes. While Carmen felt happy for the first time in awhile, Hwen looked forward to telling his mother and Rico what happened, when then he realized that they were out there in the midst of whatever was happening. Pointing out that whatever happened was bigger than they were, Carmen told Hwen that they would find his mother and then find out what was happening to the world and him. At the mall, as Mae and Rico fought their way through a group of looters, Hwen appeared and sent the thieves on their way with a demonstration of his power. Hugging Mae, Hwen surmised that the necromantic pool exploded and broke down the laws of physics.

Sometime later, while pulling a woman out of her car, Hwen learned that his energy levels were unlimited. Throughout the long hours, the Mirages’ rescued one victim another, until Hwen saw a sinking fishing boat in the marina. Using his necromantic energy to substitute for the electrical current of a coast guard’s vessel, Hwen and Carmen went to rescue the fishermen. At that moment, Sandria Darque appeared over the bow of the ship and told Hwen that he had to go with her, but he refused to leave until he figured out how to save the ship. Telling Hwen that the problem was in his thinking, and that he continued to comprehend like a mortal even after gaining the power of a God, Sandria levitated the vessel much to the Mirages’ awe.

Back in Ladakh, Chan asked Brother Ting if he believed that what was happening and the incident in their temple with Master Darque were connected. Assuring him that everything, from Darque, to the portal, Ivar’s arrival, and his very presence there were connected, Brother Ting told Chan that everything served some purpose that in time they would come to know. Staring at the mouth of the darkness above them, Brother Ting told Chan that their brother’s deaths brought him there, at that time, at that place, to play his part.

A short while later, while Hwen towed the boat back to shore, Sandria insisted that he had to go with her, but he refused. Though grateful for her help in rescuing the boat, Carmen still did not trust Sandria, who told her that trust would cease to be an issue if the world came to an end. Telling the Mirage that her brother was the only one who could explain what was happening to them in a way that they would find useful, Sandria took them to his sanctum in New Orleans through a door in space.

Taking the Mirages to the Dragon Maze, Darque and Sandria willed the runes that covered their flesh off them to show them the fate that awaited mankind. Showing them the opening in the curtain of time over Ladakh, Darque reiterated his sister’s reference to Hwen being the one and told him that he had to plug the hole before they all perished. Opening a door way to Ladakh, Sandria asked her brother about the Shadowman, who she required in order to save the world. Called forth, Shadowman stepped out of the darkness and followed Hwen and the others through the doorway, leaving Darque behind.

In Tibet, Sandria and the others stepped out of the doorway into the temple’s courtyard, where Chan welcomed them. Standing under the looming rent in the sky, Sandria told Hwen that, with all the courage he could muster, he had to block the flow of energy until the others came to seal the breach. Teary–eyed, Carmen faced Hwen and told him that she had just realized that once he closed the rent he would revert back to his phantom state. Aware of what would happen, Hwen nevertheless felt that saving the world was the reason he gained a second life. After kissing Carmen one last time, Hwen rose to the mouth of the hole and plugged it.

The Darque Gods

Hovering over the cemetery adjoining the ruins of his home, Master Darque stared out at the chaos around him and wished that it could go on forever. Returning to his chambers, confident that his army of the dead would pursue Shadowman to his destruction, his sister could not oppose him, and that the Coven would be powerless without his champion, Darque had forgotten about Dr. Eclipse. Having gained the powers of a God like Darque and many others, Eclipse was at a loss on what to do with his newfound abilities. Focusing Eclipse’s attention on a miniature of the sun, Darque fooled him into visualizing the celestial spheres orbiting the fiery star and split himself into six individual planetoids orbiting the sun.

Running away from Nettie and Marcia, Shadowman saved an old man from a group of looters, but then the cops arrived on the scene. Resisting arrest, Shadowman beat up a cop after he shot him. Calling him Jack, Lt. Szymanski urged him to stand down, but calling Jack weak, Shadowman beat up the lieutenant and escaped.

Elsewhere, Maxim and Rotwak made their way across the French Quarter looking for Darque. Curious, Rotwak asked Maxim how he knew that Darque was still alive if he had been in a coma since 1944. Pointing to the Shadowman symbol on his chest, Maxim told Rotwak that the closer he got to Darque, the more it burned, and that whatever restored his youth might have empowered Darque. Just then, a runaway carriage came running down the street, and Maxim mused that in the country of chaos, the 19th Century man might be king.

Back in Darque’s chambers, Darque hovered over a pit surrounded by his minions. Aware of Sandria’s need of Shadowman’s participation to end chaos, Darque, who was most anxious to see chaos cease once he had captured sufficient necromantic energy lest every fool receptive to it be ordained with divinity, used the flesh he scratched from Jack Boniface’s face during their battle to create a soulless double that served only him.

Just off the coast of Florida, while Hwen Mirage towed a fishing boat back to shore, Sandria insisted that he had to go with her, but he refused. Though grateful for her help in rescuing the boat, Carmen still did not trust Sandria, who told her that trust would cease to be an issue of the world came to an end. Telling the Mirage that her brother was the only one who could explain what was happening to them in a way that they would find useful, Sandria took them to his sanctum in New Orleans through a door in space. Taking the Mirages to the Dragon Maze Darque and Sandria willed the runes that covered their flesh off them to show them the fate that awaited mankind. Showing them the opening in the curtain of time over Ladakh, Darque reiterated his sister’s reference to Hwen being the one and told him that he had to plug the hole before they all perished. Opening a door way to Ladakh, Sandria asked her brother about the Shadowman, who she required in order to save the world. Called forth, Shadowman stepped out of the darkness and followed Hwen and the others through the doorway, leaving Darque behind. Before crossing the threshold, Sandria told her brother that he had not deceived her, and left, fearing that Jack’s clone would be the Shadowman her vision predicted.

Basking in the glow of the necromantic power that filled the sky, and the knowledge that his rivals had been neutralized, Darque was nevertheless aware that someone would inevitably stop the chaos effect, so he went about collecting as much Darque power as possible. After sacrificing one of his servants, Darque stepped out into the cemetery, which his dead servants had transformed into a battery to collect the necromantic energy that poured from the skies, and sealed the crypts and tombs. Surrounded by his rotting minions, Darque was satisfied that he had hoarded the energy of a billion deaths, enough to feed him for a thousand years, and had accounted for all those who might threatened him. Elsewhere, using the carriage, Maxim followed the burning sensation of his Shadowman symbol to Darque’s location, confident that Darque ignored that he still lived.

Back in the Quarter, Shadowman came upon a burning building. Seeing a little girl trapped in the top floor, Shadowman wrestled with his need to kill Darque and his sense of heroism, the latter of which won out in the end, restoring Jack’s dominant personality. Leaping inside the building, Shadowman rescued the girl and took her out the window, where Marcia and Nettie were waiting for him, glad to see that he was back to normal.

Alone, filled with power that would last him for centuries, and confident that his enemies were gone, Darque believed that now he would finally have time to study his fate, inscribed in the runes upon his skin that he called the Book of Darque. Outside the cemetery, Maxim followed his burning symbol to Darque’s chambers. Letting his body vanish, letting only the symbols remain, Darque transformed into energy and vanished, promising to return once he had studied his own destiny written in the air. Standing over the hovering runes, Maxim sucked them into his symbol to trap Darque within the purgatory of the Shadow Portal. Simultaneously, on a rooftop overlooking the Quarter, as Nettie told Jack that there was a link between his Shadowman symbol and Darque, Jack felt a door slam shut in his chest and both he and Nettie felt Darque’s departure. Sensing Maxim’s involvement, Jack was glad to know that he was too mean to die.

Back in the cemetery, Maxim told Rotwak that it was better that no one knew where he was going and rode away in the carriage.

The Outcast Rai

In 3216, the Anti-Grannies obtain the Blood of Heroes, the very plasma that had coursed through Bloodshot’s veins nearly twelve hundred years earlier, and once a suitable host was found it can give him control over any electronic device, including Grandmother.

In her time of need, Grandmother summons Sho Sugino, the second Rai, to defend Japan, protect her, and defeat the terrorists, a victory which cost is 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, Sho Sugino, a poor crippled outcast, feasted on the carcass of a rat that he captured when, suddenly, a voice asked him to explain why he kept on living. Though startled, Sho told the voice 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 the voice 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 the voice offered him a better destiny, he agreed to share his father’s legacy with it so that 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, Grandmother found Sho in the sewers from which she liberated him and asked him if he was not well, as she did not understand his unhappiness. Realizing that his life was not better, just different, Sho told her that the people shunned him because he was a fighter but an outcast unworthy in the eyes of Japan, who would never accept him as its champion, unlike Shiro Yagami, who was a respected nobleman but not a warrior. Telling Grandmother that she could take the man out of the gutter but he feared she could not take the gutter out of the man, Sho traveled to her Skull Dome, where she told him that she had a quest for him.

While showing Sho a hologram of the Blood of Heroes, Grandmother 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 posses, amongst other powers, 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.

Upon his arrival in the Lost Land, Sho was amazed at the bits and pieces of a million cultures and times collected on a horizon that stretched on forever and wished that his poor, wretched father could see him. After what could have been only measured in days, Sho found the Anti-Grannies’ citadel.

Finding Uejo inside the compound in his private quarters after brief scuffles with Bionisaurs and Anti–Grannie forces, Sho demanded that he give him the Blood of Heroes. As Uejo taunted Sho, and said that the only way he could have the blood was if he fulfilled his programming and killed him, as he did not want to live in a world controlled by the likes of his master, Sho killed him with two swift strokes. Standing over Uejo’s corpse, Sho asked his father’s spirit what he had become, then, he grabbed the container that held the Blood of Heroes and wondered if Bloodshot controlled his own destiny or, if like him, he was its slave.

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.

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.

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