The battle was not going in the Exile’s favour. While Ikaris had been temporarily taken out of the battle, he had soon regained consciousness and assaulted Power Princess with a vicious ferocity unseen before now. It was clear he didn’t appreciate being humiliated and wanted to return the favour ten-fold.
Meanwhile the Sentry had almost dispatched all of the Imperial Guard, save Starbolt and Mam’selle. The pair stood with the Exiles in a brave last stand, defiant to the end and the villain merely laughed. The remaining Vanguard laughed with him, with the appearance of toadies trying to please their master. At this moment Zarda really hated the Eternals for what they had turned the human race into.
She didn’t have time to ponder it though, as Ikaris had his hands around her throat. As hard as she tried to break the hold he was simply too strong, and she was quickly running out of air. She hated the thought that his cruelly grinning face would be the last thing she ever saw.
How could she have fallen so far from grace? She was a Utopian, a warrior queen, a member of the greatest super team of her time, the Squadron Supreme! And yet here she was, failing her mission and dying at the hands of a pathetic worm.
“No…” she choked out.
She refused to go down so pitifully, she was Power Princess! Focusing all her rage, she lashed out with a savage kick to the place no man, even an Eternal, wants to be kicked. Ikaris let out a loud “oof” and grimaced in pain but refused to release his hold, so she kicked him repeatedly in the same place until he collapsed in agony clutching his nether regions. She knocked him out cold with a savage punch to the head.
“Woo P.P., way to fight dirty!” shouted Morph only a second before an energy blast from the Sentry blew him into a thousand doughy chunks. He would be fine, but it would take him several minutes to reform himself, another warrior down.
The Sentry, shocked to see Zarda standing over his defeated master, launched himself at the warrior woman in a fit of rage. He never reached her though as a blinding light suddenly appeared in the centre of the group which seemed to hold every Terran suspended. The Sentry’s furious visage was only inches from her own.
She focused her attention on the light, and realised it was a man whose body was overflowing with energy. He stood suspended several feet above the ground, clutching a small box in his right hand.
“Miguel, you’re alive!” Exclaimed a surprised Blink.
“Spider Man was dead?” asked a confused Longshot, they never had the chance to tell him.
“Yes, but not for long…the power is too much,” his voice was eerily calm, despite his morbid words.
“What the hell’s going on Spidey, you an angel now?” asked Sabertooth sarcastically.
“Reed Richards had a cosmic cube, now its mine. The battle is over; there is only one more thing I have to do…”
Each Exile and the surviving Guardsmen disappeared in an intense flash of light, leaving a dazed and confused Vanguard behind.
The Swooping Talon
“What is Sharra’s name just happened?” Demanded an incredulous Deathbird. The entire Terran fleet had just detonated before their very eyes, and while it was an answer to her prayers, she still wanted to know how it had happened.
“I…I don’t know,” replied Admiral F’Dor, dumbfounded.
“The Warpring still remains though,” added Christopher Summers grimly.
Without warning, the Exiles, Starbolt and Mam’selle materialised onboard the bridge in a flash of light so bright they were left seeing spots for several minutes.
“Whoa Miggy, when did you become dues ex O’Hara?” asked a newly reformed Morph.
Miguel looked sadly upon his friend, with his new insight provided by the cube he could see the cancerous darkness growing within the man. He longed to rid him of the curse he knew nothing about but he only had enough strength for one last task.
“Thank you friends, you gave me a life of adventure,” he said sadly.
“Miguel wait…” Morph reached a hand out to his friend, but he snatched it back quickly, burnt from the barely contained power radiating from his body.
He turned his attention away from his friends; there was no time for goodbyes. Already large growing cracks were appearing along his flesh. The power of the cube had burned him up from within; it alone was sustaining him now.
The Terran Armada was gone but the Warpring still remained. Already he could sense more ships massing on the other side of the portal, thirsting for Shi’ar blood. Instinctively, he understood the nature of the ring; it was very advanced Celestial technology, but modified, butchered by the Eternals.
The ring itself existed out of synch with the rest of reality but with the cube he saw it clearly, and it horrified him. It was not technology that powered the ring but biology, human life to be exact. Thousands of women were entombed within the cold iron of the ring, connected to all manner of machinery, slumbering in a technology induced stupor. Each woman was in fact a clone of the same person; a mutant woman named Lila Chaney.
Disgusted with the Eternals disregard for the sanctity of life, he was half tempted to go through the gate and wipe them from existence himself. Sadly, he lacked the time and the power. Instead he teleported each clone to a safe world, far from the Terran Empire where they couldn’t be abused anymore. While he had sentenced the soldiers on each Terran vessel to death he couldn’t bring himself to harm these clones; they hadn’t asked for this life.
There wasn’t long now, patches of flesh had already burned away revealing the white hot supernova of power that the cube had unleashed within him. He mused grimly that perhaps Richards had got his revenge after all; his cube, taught by a madman, hungered for destruction and would consume anyone who wielded it from this day on.
Pushing the thought aside, he used the last of his strength to atomise the Warpring, so it could never be restocked with clones again. Perhaps there were other Warprings in use by the Empire, but something told him there was only one. The thought brought a smile to his dying lips.
His friends looked up at him, their expressions varying from grief to awe to pride. He didn’t want to die, but if he had to go he was proud it was like this. Slowly their voices drifted back to him like whispers on the wind.
“It didn’t have to be this way,” said Blink sadly, the tears running freely down her face.
Victor looked proud, as is Miguel had finally become a man, “You saved the day kid,” though a slight choke in his words betrayed his inner feelings, ever hidden.
“I was proud to fight by your side,” said Zarda, ever the warrior.
“I hope you find peace my friend,” added Longshot, whose face was awash with tears. This was the first death of a friend he had experienced since having his memory wiped. Unlike the others his heart wasn’t hardened by loss.
Lastly, Morph was too much of a wreck to even attempt a joke. His normally comical features hung downcast and distraught. “Not another friend…” he cried.
“Thank you Morph…for making me funny,” he smiled wryly before pain wracked his body; it wasn’t long now. He had to warn them of the evil out there, watching them. “You can’t go home…the Monolith, its watching you…”
There were no more words; burning light spilled forth from within him and the last remnants of his flesh burned away, leaving a vague mass of energy. Slowly the energy dissipated, like ashes in the wind, leaving the murderous cube lying on the cold steel floor.
The remaining Exiles eyed the device warily, but before they could act they were teleported away to the next world. Their mission was accomplished, but was the cost too high?
The woman named Heather Hudson clutched her throbbing head and felt nauseous. For the briefest moment she hoped she was hung over and the events that preceded this were merely a drunken dream, but alas that was no the case.
The last thing she remembered was Axel Asher teleporting her out of the Crystal Palace. Wait, that wasn’t entirely true; she did remember something after that. She remembered the sensation of falling an impossible distance, with nothing but empty darkness the keep her company…until she saw the giants. One red, the other blue, they were each too large for her primitive human brain to process.
After that there was nothing but delirious fever dreams until she awoke in an incredibly humid jungle with a large bump on her head.
“Oh god, it’s my 21st party all over again,” she groaned, grimacing at the sound of her own voice.
“Exile Heather Hudson!” screeched a painful voice nearby. She looked up and saw a Sovereign class Timebreaker running her way. For a moment her hopes rose, had they come to save her? Then she realised this was the Timebreaker Asher had teleported before her. There would be no rescue; she was alone on some far off world with only a giant stick insect for company.
A rustling in the undergrowth behind her caused her to spin about in fear, expecting an attack by a jaguar. Instead she found a man in a costume that strangely resembled a large bat, standing with one boot atop a rotting log, looking down upon her with a penetrating stare.
“You seem lost,”
Next issue:A ranger, a barbarian, a crusader, an acrobat, and thief and a magician…need I say more? Fine, how about gods, god eaters and aliens? Also, meet the newest Exile; she’ll rock your world.