The world's strongest (retired) inventor fights an interstellar warrior. It is kind of a rough time for everyone involved. Mainly superpowers just on an unbelievably powerful scale.
“So what’s the excuse this time?”
“Amanda!” Lady Justice spits back.
A bored looking young woman walks down a brilliant, gilded corridor. Her guide, a beautiful amazon of a woman, tries to ignore the blithe remark. The amazon is suited in light armor reminiscent of a Roman centurion. An absent midsection exposes a row of chiseled abs. Scars on the skin hint at countless battles fought and weathered. Even now her poise commands respect. Yet the other girl out of the corner eye can see an uncertainty in her gait, a slight shake about her hands. She pretends to not notice.
The girl, who’s name is Amanda, is far more interested in the hallway itself. It’s maybe twenty feet high, marked by massive, larger than life statues in gaudy costumes. They’re tall enough to dwarf even Lady Justice’s 7 feet of height, never mind Amanda’s barely over 5’4 demurity. It makes her feel small in a way so few other things do these days.
Lady Justice leads Amanda down corridor after corridor, hallway after hallway on their way to a massive main meeting hall. It resembles one of her college’s lecture halls, sort of. Rows of seats lead upwards and outwards from the elevated center, where a grand table seats up to 12. The two enter from a door behind the center, immediately met with the empty rows extending upwards and backwards. In fact, the only people in the room right now are Lady Justice, Amanda, and five other proudly dressed superheroes who have not had a decent night’s sleep in days.
Whatever heated conversation was raging dissipates as eyes one by one fall on Amanda. It’s strange how different she looks to them. On her far right sits Commander Chris, battleguy extraordinaire, master of two hundred unique martial arts plus a few he developed himself. His rugged desert cameo hugs his body tightly but not too tightly, showing off muscles earned from years of concentrated training. Hanging on the chair is his laser gun the Vendetta v4.8430, an automatic rifle of Amanda’s own design that fires concentrated ultraplasma at speeds of over one hundred thousand miles per hour. It is so fast it appears almost as a concentrated beam of light, and hits so hard it treats steel like a hot knife towards butter. His appearance is grizzled right down to his tough guy beard and his tough guy helmet (also Amanda’s own design) that just shout Badass Dude. He looks away the second Amanda meets his gaze.
To her left, the Aquamancer, hydrokinetic extraordinaire, nurses some wounds on his arm. Bubbilia, reputed psychic able to construct the second most powerful force fields on the planet, looks distantly off in some unseen direction. Gadget Guy, second greatest technician in modern history, shoots Amanda a nervous pained smile, which Amanda returns with a friendly wave. And then finally, the Astralnaut, cosmic explorer of the stars, grimaces in Amanda’s direction. Amanda notices that their left arm is missing entirely. And then there’s Amanda herself, auburn bed hair hastily compiled into a the messiest of messy buns, rectangular glasses caked with dust and dandruff she’d been meaning to clean off for about a month now, and trademark dark grey hoodie marked with a small stain near the bottom she really really hoped nobody would notice.
Lady Justice stands at attention. She coughs.
“These are the members of the Alliance we could spare for this meeting… or bring back at all,” Lady Justice states.
Amanda stares, what half interest she got from seeing Gadget Guy quickly waning.
“Okay, fine, just get it over with, blow up the big screen or whatever and show the giant monster before I pass out.”
“Excuse me?” a voice spits back. Amanda looks in the direction- first to the Commander, who stares very intently away from her eyeline, then to the Astralnaut, standing right at attention, eyes burning hate right into her.
“It’s like, friggin, 2 am in the morning EST, you people have no respect for-“
A sharp cut of hardened cosmic dust extends from Astralnaut’s single arm, shaping into the form of their trademark spear. It points right at Amanda’s neck. Amanda doesn’t blink.
“It is you, inventor, who shares no respect whatsoever. The lives lost, the pain endured, the suffering caused because you weren’t at the ready, because you… you….”
A darkness falls over Amanda’s eyes. “Do you really want to play that game.”
Lady Justice cuts in. “Enough, both of you. Amanda, show some respect for once. Astralnaut just came from the front lines, he’s done his duty a thousand times over. Astral… I know it’s been a hard day but trust me this isn’t the way. This can only go well if we all come and talk on common terms.”
Amanda sighs. “Fine, sorry about your arm or whatever Astral, I’ll fix it up when all this is done if you’re still alive or whatever by then.”
Gadget Guy is the one to spit out. “Amanda!”
“Okay okay fine Gus, sorry, that was a joke in poor taste. I’m sorry I was an ass to you Astral. Is that good, are we good?’
Astralnaut sneers but sits back down. As they do, Lady Justice flips a switch on the wall, dimming the lights and drawing attention to the screen on the wall. As the projector warms up (Amanda takes a mental note to give this Russian outpost a total upgrade, and a second mental note to chide Gus for not fixing it already), the scene fades into a warzone. Countless enemy forces fly about the charred ruins of some far north minor Russian city. They seem almost like bad guys from one of Amanda’s favorite sci-fi shooters, big buff grunts with the hard green skin of ogres dressed head to toe in tacky alien power armor. Some attempt to slink off, though they’re picked off by long range shooter type superheroes keeping watch over the perimeters. A blast of light here, a crack of lightning there.
“That’s what I saw on the tv already, and it looked way worse there, like black out the sky bad. What’s the big idea?” Amanda remarks.
“Just keep looking,” Lady Justice answers.
The camera pans further down, into the city center itself or, well, what would be the city center. There might ordinarily sit a few skyscrapers maybe ten or fifteen stories high, some apartment blocks and government buildings all in the same garish brutalist style. Right now, it’s a crater fifty feet into the ground that extends for half a mile in every direction. Amanda raises an eyebrow. The camera, far, far from the action itself, zooms further in on the center of the crater as it rises higher to get a better view.
And there it is. Right in the center of the carnage and destruction, the ground littered with fallen capes, heroes and villains alike who had joined forces to stop this new sudden foe, stands a girl wearing a golden tiara. Amanda knows it’s her because right as the camera locks in, another figure comes into frame. It’s an impossibly muscular beast of a woman. Her absurdly oversized muscles bulge from every angle, her head itself appearing comically small in comparison as every fiber of muscle flexes and contorts. Each is countless times stronger than the strongest steels Amanda hadn’t designed herself. Amanda recognizes the musclegirl Mei, her own friend, her own…. Well, creation, an arrogant attempt to create a hero stronger than strength, stronger than even Lady Justice herself. And she succeeded, as always, beyond anyone’s wildest dream in the form of Huge Girl.
Huge Girl swings at the new foe, but the young woman (no older than Mei or Amanda herself) glides out with inhuman ease. Amanda clicks her tongue. Mei’s superform was always muscled but no, this caricature of strength had to be Terrazer. In it, her form bulked out twenty times more, and her fists became literal firepower, each punch carrying the force of thousands of tons of TNT. And lo and behold, as her fist swings to hit literal air, a massive shockwave bursts out from it, the force in her swing sending out a burst of wind powerful enough to crack the earth below. Amanda winces as the villain appears behind Mei and in the blink of an eye throws a kick strong enough to send her flying all the way to the edge of the crater. Terrazer Mode isn’t fast enough, it sacrifices far too much speed to ever be viable against a one-on-one opponent with any sort of superspeed. It’s meant to punch meteors into crater, to demolish buildings as quickly as possible. That Mei’s been brought to this point makes Amanda go very quiet.
The villainess cracks back a shoulder. She’s notably light in frame, in shape but far from some heap of raw muscle like Huge Girl or even Lady Justice. She’s wearing glasses, and between that and the poorly cut black bangs on her head she looks almost dorkish. It clashes against the tiara and the miniskirt and the sandals that might otherwise make her come off like something out of a Greek myth or some cheesy fantasy anime. She seems almost absentminded as she stretches, bored even. It’s easy to forget the truckloads of heroes she’d put down just hours before. Suddenly, chains of light whip around her arms mid-stretch, a host of other bindings made of diamonds, steel, and golden energy itself rising to lock her in place. She looks up to see The Great Enchanter hovering a hundred feet in the air above the battle, arms stretched and straining to maintain the powerful magics in place holding her tight. And then she… looks away, almost as if her curiosity were satisfied just by glancing at whatever caused this.
Amanda notices how quiet everyone else is being. From the looks on their faces, she figures it hasn’t been too long since they were out on the field. The invader idly notes her bindings, but before she can do anything else, Huge Girl bursts out from the distant wall, a huge rumble glitching the audio as she charges over with the speed of a bullet train. The invader looks over to her. Five seconds pass. She’s made it halfway across the field. The girl looks up at the sky, perhaps noting the shape of the clouds. Seven seconds pass and Mei’s nearly upon the opponent when she takes a huge leap into the air, higher even than the Enchanter flies. Nine seconds pass. She’s easily two hundred feet in the air when she begins to make her descent, one elbow extended like a wrestler from legend about to go in for the most dangerous piledrive known to man. When impact hits, it nearly sends the camera from off balance. It explodes with enough force for the shockwave to fill the entire crater turned arena and then some.
Amanda doesn’t have to check to know the opponent survived.
The room is silent, before Amanda breaks the silence.
“Soooooooooooo you want me to fight that thing.”
“Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Amanda says, cutting off Lady Justice.
“I understand your frustrations, but you have to see how unprecedented this new opponent here is.”
“I planned for unprecedented! I gave you guys everything you needed for unprecedented! Your gear upgrades, the new automatic laser targeting software me and Gus helped write up, the lasers it took me like, a whole night to construct, and even then it was under all your garbage restrictions on how strong I can even make a laser, I mean-“
“Amanda,” Gadget Guy cuts in. “This is bad. Like, really really bad.”
“It was really bad when Doctor Amphibious unleashed his ultimate lizard king on Miami a year ago. It was really really bad when the Johnnycake and the Red River Boys went to town on Vegas six months ago. It was really really really bad when that generic mock brute ogre alien warrior came down to earth seven weeks ago and whipped the asses of everyone in this room right now and then some. Gus I’m tiiiiiired of being the last resort. I’m tiiiiiiired of being told that I’m mankind’s last blah blah blah when I’m- and pay attention here- not even a real superhero! So I do all this work so that I can go to sleep easy and I get interrupted by the same old same old sob stories and general mayhem! Mei wasn’t even supposed to be fighting and now she’s getting her ass kicked on live tv by some dipshit whohah whore from whoresville who fucking fights in a glorified miniskirt like, seven sizes too tight!”
“I’m sorry we had to resort to Mei- we-“
“You’re, sorry?” Amanda says. She doesn’t bother to look up as the dust clears with the invader standing proudly atop both Huge Girl and Enchanter. “I don’t know if sorry will really cut it here!”
“We had to buy time to bring out reinforcements and right now she’s one of the only people who can hold her off for any meaningful length of time.”
“Fuck sure, whatever, just give me the rundown. I don’t care anymore.”
“She calls herself the Universal Champion. She tends to not speak unless it’s against an opponent she perceives to be powerful, a bar she’s steadily raised over the course of the last forty-eight hours. She appeared well in the middle of the invasion force, but she didn’t begin fighting until a full day into the battle. Just about everyone in this room’s gone toe to toe with her, and more than a few have paid dearly for it.”
“Okay, okay, sure, anything else?” Amanda says, already scrolling through her phone’s database of inventions.
“Again, we’re limited in resources. Her human form is suspicious enough as is considering the rest of the alien invading force, but her clear English fluency is impossible to ignore. We’ve searched her face through every record we have, no matches. She’s a total enigma.”
“Neat. Any uh, real information I can use, powers, weaknesses, anything?”
“As far as we can tell she has a fairly traditional bruiser’s kit- super strength, super speed, durability, the works. It’s just boosted to degrees functionally unheard of, with no clear limits. She moves faster than our fastest speedsters, hits harder than our hardest brawlers, and can seemingly tank everything and anything we throw at her, including your own technology.”
Amanda rolls her eyes. “We’ll see about that last one. So she’s just, like you?”
“Only in the loosest sense. It seems the longer she fights the stronger she gets with no clear end to her stamina and no signs of long-lasting damage. Our strategists are hoping are it points to some unspeakably massive outer dimensional energy reserve.”
“This is what they’re hoping for?”
“The hope being that she’s working off an exhaustible reserve that doesn’t physically impact her in any clear way, and that if we throw enough at her, those reserves might dry out and she might start taking some real damage. It’s far preferable to the alternative.”
“That we haven’t done anything at all to her,” Amanda surmises. Lady Justice nods.
“The screen!” Gus shouts. Amanda and Lady Justice look back up.
“Turn out the sound!” someone else at the table shouts as Lady Justice scrambles to flip various dials and levers on the wall that bring the arena back into focus.
When the visuals come to, The Great Enchanter is dead. The scuffle had to be quick. Before, both Huge Girl and Enchanter were prone on the ground, now Huge Girl is towering above the Universal Champion and Enchanter is… well, everywhere around them. His head is at Champion’s feet, the fresh blood on her sandals leaving nothing to the imagination. One leg can be seen far from the scuffle. The rest is too scrambled to be made out as much more than giblets of blood and viscera too thoroughly minced to even be seen as obscene. Whatever the invader hit him with it… didn’t leave very much intact. It’s just a shower of blood that, peculiarly enough, only seems to have covered Huge Girl in red. Not a single drop seems to stick to the invader, either on her skin or on her costume.
Amanda can only whisper out a brokenhearted “…no…” before the screen blurs again.
In a fraction of a second, Huge Girl’s massive, overdeveloped arm winds back to throw a punch that nearly takes the camera offline from the aftershock. There’s a flicker as the champion moves to dodge it. The jab Champion throws back pieces straight through Mei’s chest like a holepunch through cardboard. There’s a pause that hangs long over the battlefield, then right as the packed dirt around the fighters starts to crack, a windstorm unlike any other erupts. The camera goes offline instantly, and the heroes are left alone.
All eyes turn to Amanda as the lights brighten. No one wants to be the first to speak.
“Send me in. I want that bitch dead.”
The Allegiant Alliance Transports (Amanda had wanted to call it the Allegiant Alliance Aircraft for the alliteration but she couldn’t manage to get the appeal approved) take off from the runway of the Alliance Hall. Amanda’s in the first next to Lady Justice, the only person beyond the pilot who felt comfortable enough to ride with her in the mood she was in. Gus and Astralnaut had stayed behind. Gus would serve as mission control, while Astral had been ruled unfit to return to battle in their current condition. The other heroes ride on the other transporters along with some Alliance Guard troops. This is all theater, of course. It is perfectly clear by this point that if Amanda can’t take down this new unprecedented threat, the whole of humanity couldn’t. Really, if Amanda fell it wasn’t like humanity would get the chance to mount a counterattack anyways.
Amanda’s thoughts remain clouded on the entire trip over. Justice looks over sympathetically, doing her best to try to get inside the head of someone who’d fought on the same battlefields she had for years but had never suffered even a tenth of the pain. She empathizes less with her hero work, but instead of a moment from childhood. Her family had been too poor to afford pets, but she had managed to befriend one of the wild dogs that roamed the streets of town. Every day she’d come after school to feed them right behind the butcher’s store with whatever scraps she had saved from breakfast. The story ends, predictably, with her coming home one day with a particularly nasty bite. She was too naïve to hide the whole story from her father, who went out that next morning with his shotgun to put an end to the problem himself. Lady Justice tries to connect with that feeling she felt, of a child understanding pain for the first time, a baby who’d never known how it felt to be cut.
The transport rises over the destination, the massive crater that appears far wider in person than on the screen. Amanda idly wonders how its size would translate to her hometown- way larger than the park, maybe as large as her neighborhood? It’s hard, around where she lives its rare to have such wide uninterrupted skyline. Lady Justice says nothing, and that says more than enough about her thoughts on the fight to come. She just stares blankly at a dot on the ground that Amanda takes is her target.
“Alright, alright a girl can take a hint,” Amanda says.
She pulls out her upgraded smartphone, flipping through its apps til she finds one that suits her. As she presses it, her form starts to dissolve from the chopper like a scene out of Star Trek.
When she materializes, she’s standing eighteen feet from the Universal Champion, smiling idly by the corpse of her best friend. She’s still in her casual clothing more or less, though a collar around her neck glows lightly and seems to produce a light glow around Amanda’s presence. Gone are her traditional slippers, replaced with her designated combat boots. The rest, however, remains untouched. Amanda doesn’t look up from her phone. She swipes once, twice, then the corpse disappears. She’s never tried necromancy but… well… there’s a first time for everything. The UC looks up at Amanda. She’s confused and just slightly insulted.
“Excuse me, but, you don’t seem too strong. Is there anyone else that”
A laser hits the ground immediately around the UC like a crack of lightning. It pounds and bounds, boring a hole dozens… hundreds… now thousands of feet deep with an intense blinding red. Every sign of the Enchanter’s remains disappears instantly. Given a second, it’s strong enough to disintegrate uncut diamonds, given five it’s hot enough to evaporate metals. Amanda leaves the orbital strike running for 20 seconds. Earlier forms were broader reaching, their aftershocks radiating for miles out, but the condensed limited targets are far more convenient.
The Universal Champion steps out with a wide grin on her face that grabs Amanda’s attention. “Oh, you’re way stronger than I thought. This is going to be so much fun!”
Amanda almost chokes on her own anger. “I doubt it.”
“My name’s Unalis, I’m the Universal Champion!”
“My name’s Amanda. They call me a lotta names, I guess. I’m the smartest person on Earth, the greatest inventor to ever exist. You just killed one of my best friends and you’re going to suffer more than you ever thought possible for that.”
The girl has the audacity to let a giggle escape at that, then looks up. Amanda follows her eyesight to where Lady Justice has just dropped out of the helicopter, no parachute. Showoff.
“Amanda, get ou-“
It’s like teleportation. It’s not teleportation but it’s so fast it’s like teleportation, so fast Amanda’s holistic autonomous levitational oversight (HALO) systems can only barely spring into action fast enough to blunt the punch the champion throws directly into her face. The collar glows. The world explodes, the tightly compressed stone beneath the girls’ feet peeling away with ease. Amanda’s world becomes a massive blur as her body, though protected by the powerful antigrav barrier her automatic defense systems put up, totally ragdolls through the air, faster than most cars can travel.
The next hit Amanda’s ready for. Though her body can’t react fast enough, her mind is enough to send the signal to the psychic control node that in part manages the HALO systems, a signal that gets her teleported just before the champion swoops over her airborne body. Her body fades from the scene right before the next punch can connect. Even from her new location she can see the second smaller crater the alien, Unalis, has now broken into the battlefield. It’s amazing how she-
Unalis appears in front of her face in midair. The HALO systems didn’t even detect her movement. Amanda couldn’t understand how something could move so quickly. Time seems to slow down as the giddy young conqueror’s kick continues its trajectory. Caught this off guard, there’s little to no chance the HALO systems can output an antigrav field strong enough to deflect even a tenth of this kick’s power. And Amanda in that moment realizes that there is nothing she can do to stop her own death. It’s strange, having the clarity to see one’s own reaper directly in the eye. Amanda chalks it up to some bitter quirk of her mental prowess, so smart that in times of intense duress she can even think faster than movement. It would be impressive were it not so useless in the face of unflinching devastation.
And then an angel comes. Lady Justice might not be even close to the speeds either of the girls can put out, but she’s fast enough to be able to land on the battlefield, spot, reach, and push Amanda out of the way of the next sure to be fatal blow. She’s almost fast enough to avoid the blast entirely. Almost. The kick lands, just the bit of sandal glancing Earth’s second strongest hero’s arm. It’s enough to tear the arm off entirely, a spout of blood and viscera in slow motion spouting from the shoulder as the arm soars off, far away from its owner.
Time resumes. Lady Justice collapses on the floor, the strain to move at these speeds already taking its toll on her. She barely has time to even process the pain threatening to shut down her body. The only thing that gets her next few steps forward is the knowledge that Amanda is the only thing standing between this monster and the total annihilation of humanity. That duty alone.
Amanda gets the hint. She’s already taking steps, neurons firing left and right sending commands faster than the fastest ethernet connections. Indeed, the information is being directly teleported, little packets of electrons warping the countless miles to her laboratories all around the world (and the one on the moon but the heroes don’t need to know about that one) sending commands. The first ones being, of course, to warp in stronger equipment. As Unalis finally gains on her and the near-death Lady Justice, the first of these new boons appears in her hand. At the speeds Amanda processes information at, she can just barely see Unalis break out into a sickening grin before she’s hit with the full power of the Perfect Grade Concussive Ultrahyperburst Final Mode V.49188899. It’s an old model, way back during the days she was moonlighting as Gadget Girl still, but it wasn’t retired for being outdated. It almost looks like a megaphone, an oversized plastic purple toy that seems like a child’s plaything to the untrained eye. Of course, there’s no eye trained enough to fully recognize Amanda’s genius, past or present.
She plants her feet in the ground, the Incredible Wonderful Next Generation Autobalancing Directional Anchoring Stabilizing Superboots V.2000001 digging themselves into the dirt for a few fractions of a second while Lady Justice’s body continues flying off into the distance. It’s all the security she needs to justify pulling the trigger right as Unalis catches up.
The world explodes a thousand times over. There’s no fire, no smoke, not even the tell-tale signs of electric shock. It’s just waves of kinetic force moving across the air at speeds fast enough to make even a few molecules hit with the strength of a boxing champion’s strongest knockout jab. Silent, too, via a mechanism that was… well, Amanda has forgotten what that mechanism is, but she’s sure it’s just as brilliant as all her inventions are and will always be. Whatever it is. Regardless, Unalis doesn’t seem to be bothered by the unending kinetic force that sends everything else not totally tied down to the earth off into the distance further than the eye can see. Even her hair seems to stay right where it is, as if Unalis can’t manage the effort to even pretend to be impacted.
Amanda groans, and sets it up to level 2.
This seems to have more of an impact, slowing Unalis’s progress to a crawl. Or, something akin to it, without a direct reference Amanda can’t tell whether Unalis is moving slowly or if her mind’s just spend up to such ridiculous speeds that even Unalis’s near instant movement seems like a snail trapped in molasses.
Amanda sets it to level 3.
At this point, though Amanda can’t see it, Lady Justice’s movement has been caught by the speed of the shockwave, and her body is well in the process of being flung far out of the crater battlefield, which is in itself starting to expand. Were it not for Amanda’s HALO system working on full blast, it’s no doubt her entire body would be turned to mushy pulp by the sheer force of the concussive shock gun’s power. Unalis’s expression is unreadable, if only by all the dust the explosion is giving off making it hard to make heads or tails of anything anymore. The good news at least is the power’s stopped her flight in its tracks. Which means…
Amanda turns the dial to 4. Then reconsiders and cranks it to level 8 before everything ends.
When the cameras come back online for the Gadget Guy Gus and the Astralnaut, the entire scene is different. It’s likely the systems had to get an entirely new camera flown in (quickly enough, considering the camera system is Amanda’s own work), so it’s understandable. Amanda and the Universal Champion, whose name is now known as Unalis, are trading blows evenly now, every few seconds Amanda pulling out some new gizmo teleported in from one of her countless secret labs. Right now, she seems to be engaged in a strength contest with two comically large robotic arms sprouting from a futuristic backpack. Just one arm is wider than her body and just barely shorter than her height. Unalis’s expression is difficult to make out, but she seems to be taking things in stride as she one by one breaks and tears down each one of Amanda’s gizmos.
“You’re friends with this monster?” Astralnaut asks. It’s a fair question. Rude, but fair. Gus can’t even pretend to act like this sort of showing isn’t nightmarish on both fronts.
“She’s never shown this sort of strength before.”
“But she gets stronger every fight nonetheless.”
“Nonetheless, yeah. It’s crazy thinking that this is the same Gadget Girl I used to fight alongside. Now I’m stuck here playing ‘mission control’ while she proceeds to carve her name into the tectonic plates for the greater good or whatever.”
“Oh, how did the evacuation efforts go? Any news from the front?”
“They found Lady Justice buried under some rubble twenty miles out from the epicenter of the battle. One of her arms was gone. No word from any of the other encampments after the Gadget Girl activated her concussive force cannon.”
“Our greatest hero is doing more damage than the threat she’s trying to prevent.”
“Yeah. I. Yeah…”
“There is no need to blame yourself. We knew the risks going on of summoning her to fight for us. We would not have called her here were we not certain the alternative was far worse.”
On screen, Unalis finishes crumping the last arm into a tiny metal crumple the size of a baseball. Its red hot surface glimmers off the camera. Amanda is shouting some sort of obscenities at her over this.
“The alternative of letting whoever this new person is be the boss of us.”
“I dislike this in any case. Relying on this impudent girl to save us time and time again like she’s some sort of goddess over our race.”
“She’s not… impudent,” Gus mumbles, unsure of his own words.
“They do not put her in front of cameras. They say she retired from stress. They put her victories to her name, but erase the costs, misconstrue the damage she does. Deliberately, so people might not connect the truth and see how our entire species hangs on the precipice, helpless to the whims of some idle dragon hiding in human flesh.”
“But even still. This new monster plays by no such rules, no such laws. Only bringing devastation and destruction. We can only hope our monster is stronger.”
“You seem to act like they’re the same.”
“Do you not? They carry themselves with the same mannerisms.”
“I mean the ego and arrogance are there, I guess, if I’m being a little mean to Amanda here.”
“It is not arrogance. Arrogance is unearned superiority, unwarranted elevation of the self above the rest of man. An active effort of hubris.”
“So, what does that make them, if they aren’t arrogant?”
“It’s the understanding. The calm, focused understanding that comes with knowing one is well and truly infinitely beyond every other thing.”
“That’s… dark, Astralnaut.”
“When I became this… thing that I am now, I was in space then. You know the story, I presume.”
Amanda is screaming while holding the back end of a missile aimed directly at Unalis. She seems to be smiling as she bends the missile upwards with a single finger. The two are bickering not like battlehardened enemies but like sisters in a squabble over stolen clothing. Whatever venom Amanda had at Mei’s death seems vanished, water under the bridge.
“Something something, experiment to reach beyond the edges of the solar system, encounter with alien parasite space force, unspeakable revelations into the deep underbelly of the cosmic blah blah blah, something like that?”
“Something like that, you could say. I was alone, boy. I was in the stars, far from my family and my home and all I had ever known, all any of us on this small rock had ever known. And I saw the unexplainable eternity, of all the stars and the galaxies and black holes and laws and formulas and civilizations and knowledge this universe had in store, yes, but more than that I saw what was between. I saw the nothing, the overwhelming all-encompassing nothingness that surrounds existence like a night warmed blanket that so utterly dwarfs all that is with all that is not. I knew in that moment what it meant to be small before something so totally vast and beyond one’s comprehension.”
“I think I know where you’re going with this.”
“That is what I feel when I see these two fighting, boy. I see all that we are, all that I have ever known, what little of my own humanity remains in this shell of a form, I see it all withering away in the presence of beings so great and powerful they render all else mere dust and dressing to their presences. How lucky we are to have a dragon too blind to know its own strength. How truly blessed.”
Back on the battlefield, Amanda is not having a very good day. She is quickly running out of new toys to throw at this woman. She’s tested Unalis on basically every physical level imaginable, bombarding her with missiles and lasers and infinite obliteration beams and enough firepower to fund a third world war start to finish. And not a single blow she leaves seems to even leave lasting marks on Unalis. She shrugs it all off with a smug grin and a laugh, and anything she throws at Unalis twice seems to have even less of an effect, like Unalis’s own boredom plays an impact in the results.
“Super hyper quantum teleportation black hole dimensional bea-“
She can’t finish reciting the beam before Unalis seems to appear above her. In a panic she fires the beam, only for Unalis to casually sidestep it, still in midair, still mid fall, as though it were as easy as dodging a softball thrown by a toddler. It explodes into a miniature blackhole, swallowing pieces of the battlefield which had grown as far as the eye can see, the blast radius now far encompassing the surrounding areas beyond the town. It wasn’t clear if there was anything that even could survive the blows being exchanged like money on this field.
Unalis looks behind her, not even lightly pulled in by the field. She grabs it and seems to… literally press the mini black hole from existence, crushing it in her grip before staring at it briefly, a purplish black annihilation still very much active. And then, like an animal examining a new toy, Unalis… puts it in her mouth. Cutting off the suction threatening to suck even Amanda in, her HALO system now on its fifth replacement in the past five minutes. And then Unalis chews and swallows. The black hole. In her mouth. And then like a petulant child she shows her tongue. All gone. All gone!
“How… did you…”
“That tasted weird. Could you make the next one taste like strawberries? No no noo make it taste like mint. Or, hm, maybe chocolate? Oh, chocolate mint, make it taste like chocolate mint!”
This isn’t happening. Amanda has finally decided this current moment isn’t real, she either died earlier on in the fight, or her entire life has been a strange mirage of a dream this entire time, a fantasy world where everything always went her way until some brat with the strength of a god showed up to break all of her fancy inventions and then beat her to death. This wasn’t the sort of thing seen in real life, or in a superhero film, or in an action film at all. This scene is a scene straight out of a cartoon, a one off gag. Amanda’s discovered so many countless laws of physics, obscure rules and forces and theorems that allow her to get away with all the ridiculous seemingly impossible gadgets she pulls out of thin air every second.
“Heatwave tentrillion ex!” Amanda yells, as her gauntlets launch a wave of fire three times hotter than the sun outwards in every direction, the epicenter for a few painful moments becoming a terrifying second sun.
Unalis appears above her, and the kick sends Amanda hurtling back into the ground with a shockwave audible in China. A thud that sends off a magnitude 8.5 earthquake that rends the landscape asunder. Amanda doesn’t bother to get up, though the HALO system levitates her out of the fault lines forming all around now. The sky and ground seem indistinguishable with the sand and dust, and even the HALO system’s advanced scanners and sensors can’t make out much more than Unalis’s frantic movements, the warrior moving out of sight the second the system manages to catch sight of her. It’s like this is all a game for Unalis, every new desperate last resort Amanda throws out only further fueling her endless enthusiasm and bloodlust for real combat.
She looks up and can only groan as Unalis continues in for the bodyslam. Didn’t Mei do something similar? Amanda had almost forgotten about Mei. She… she died, but it feels like it’s been hours. Has it been hours? Minutes? Days? Years? In this wasteland time bears no meaning. Amanda feels almost ready to embrace death as at least an alternative to the painful stalemate she was trapped in right now. But fate wouldn’t allow that.
A strand of Unbreakable Super Tie Bond Hyperwoven Dark Matter Materialism 2 Rope V.129000 ties around Unalis’s ankles right as she leaps in for the final blow, shaking her off her course as she’s flung around and around the battlefield. Amanda follows the lasso all the way to Commander Chris, strutted out in his finest (Amanda designed) battle suit, more mechanical pieces than man showing. To his side is Lady Justice, tattered and bruised as all hell but inexplicably still standing. The joys of Gadget Girl grade emergency medical technology, Amanda supposes. The one-armed wonder’s fit enough to grab Unalis out of the spin Chris had her in. She wordlessly dunks Unalis into the ground, then leaps down to continue the punches. It won’t do anything, it wouldn’t have done anything before and it certainly won’t now, but it’s enough to give Amanda a few precious seconds to do what she does best: scheme.
And Amanda’s mind chugs. It just doesn’t make sense. She had gone into the fight expecting some arbitrarily strong and durable bruiser, it’s what the documents on her said, it’s what the other heroes said on her at the meeting. But it doesn’t line up. All superpowers require some form of seemingly supernatural minor forces working to counteract the usual laws of physics that most humans had to abide to. It made sense. Amanda herself had documented nearly all of them. But this girl seemed to break rules that Amanda didn’t even know existed. It wasn’t like her powers worked in some strange new unpredictable way, much the opposite. It’s as if the laws bend to accommodate Unalis’s powers. Like, the black hole stunt shouldn’t have worked in even the slightest, the only reason it hadn’t sucked the entire planet in was because Amanda had in effect closed it off to its own little pocket dimension, which of course made perfect sense and was in perfect accordance with the laws of the universe as Amanda had observed.
This idea, the idea of laws shaping to form the desired application haunts her. It haunts her in part because of how terrifying the possibility is, how impossible it is to reject based on all the information she’s gained from this fight alone. But it’s also terrifying because it lines up with minor suspicions she has with herself.
Amanda’s always known and has always fervently defended her work as strictly scientific. Of course it is, if it didn’t work under the laws of physics it wouldn’t work at all. Her work isn’t magical, and she’s always been very specific to the idea that everything in this universe operates along the same understandable laws of physics. And yet, how many times had it been that Amanda had invented some gizmo under the right levels of duress, only to prove the underlying principles worked after use? How many times has Amanda had to rework the principles and explanations she puts forth for her own equipment and technology, simply because it doesn’t hold true in the slightest after a minor bit of research?
“Of course. The answer was right in front of me this whole time,” Amanda mutters to no one in particular. She sends some signals to her labs, a request not for new instruments of devastation, but for materials. Tools. Just a hammer, a wrench, and a bit of scrap metal, her own specialized blend of ultrasteel v2.39 of course. It warps into her hands, and she begins doing the other thing she does best: Invent.
It doesn’t take long after that for Lady Justice to get thrown out again like a piece of trash, a plummeting superheroine crashing right to the ground. Amanda idly notes that Bubbelia and the Aquamancer hadn’t shown up at all. Were they still around, or had they died fruitlessly in the middle of her fight with Unalis? Amanda still found herself in shock from time to time realizing how fragile even the greatest heroes in the world could be. Amanda didn’t have super strength or super durability or super speed. Just the world’s greatest mind and the inventions inventory to prove it. It made her respect Lady Justice more for being able to get beaten into the ground so many times and come back standing. It’s why she was comfortable letting Mei go out and fight before.
But no matter. Amanda was ready this time. Unalis does what Unalis does best and teleports directly in front of Amanda. Amanda barely recognizes how much air the champion displaces whenever she moves around, but out of the corner of her eye Amanda does see Chris get knocked off his feet like a balloon in a windstorm. Quaint.
Unalis revs up a punch, whether it took half a millisecond or a thousand years is of no concern to Amanda. Because when she throws it, Amanda’s own arm is there to counter. She grabs Unalis’s punch in midair, squeezing just a little bit just to let the invader know just how totally the tables have flipped. Its like time freezes again as Unalis’s eyes lock with Amanda. She is expecting some unspeakable shock and horror, some real total pain and anguish at finally being bested. The momentary surprise and fascination is annoying but Amanda decides to take what she can get. She pulls her own arm back for the ceremonious bitchslap, only to find Unalis breaking out of her grip instantly, following up with another blow. Amanda counters, only for Unalis to try another. And another. Again and again til the two women are nothing more than a blur racing around the battlefield.
“You’re a lot stronger than you were before, Amanda. I’m glad, I was starting to get bored of the fight before, but now I can tell I was definitely right coming here.”
Amanda can’t respond, and really Unalis shouldn’t be able to talk considering the fact that both are clearly going faster than the speed of sound. How Unalis can make air vibrate fast enough so that Amanda can hear it is a total mystery, but Amanda decides to ignore Unalis’s fragrant rule breaking. She can break the rules now too.
“What did you do? Did you find some new courage in your heart? Is it some new ultra bloodline technique only unlocked through incredible stress? Is this your superform?”
Amanda, again, can’t respond, but if she could, she would have explained the simple logic behind the new Unalis God-Lowering Yielding v.1.0. An on-the-fly modification of the HALO system now represented as a literal flowing disk over Amanda’s head rather than a simple choker around her neck. Just with the few materials she had made, it was already clearly trouncing every bit of technology she’s ever made. It was obvious, really, all Amanda had to do was make technology that utilized all the undiscovered scientific laws that Unalis, the drunken genius she is, unconsciously abides by in her fighting. And now Amanda has all the strength, speed, and durability Unalis has. So elegant.
Its crazy, Amanda’s barely even able to keep up with how powerful she’s become in mere moments. Was Unalis keeping all this to herself? It took all her might, all her wits, all her incredible knowledge to deduce exactly how to scientifically match her strength, and Unalis wielded it like a child might hold a bat. No idea how to make proper use of the strength it affords. The wind, the heat, the exhaustion she had been feeling moments ago, is replaced with a euphoric peace that felt like getting the best massage all the time every day forever. And now she was going to use this strength to bash Unalis’s head in.
Amanda disappears, or more accurately moves at speeds so fast that light slows to a trickle. Visibility dips to nothing as the world blurs from the relativistic effects. Were it not for some of the other safeguards in place on the UGLY system, this entire battlefield would have become the world’s next atomic bomb testing ground. She felt unstoppable. She felt like a god… which was weird, since Amanda specifically did not believe in gods, or have any particular desire to be one or do much beyond laze around all day, watch anime, and slowly push humanity up and outwards into the stars.
Unalis seems almost frozen from her perspective, though the fact that she’s even able to twitch at these speeds is disgusting enough. Amanda doesn’t give her the chance to do much more than that. She grabs Unalis by the head and slams her face back into the ground. Kaboom. She slams again, and again, and again, throwing in punches and a few kicks and every other mediocre karate move she remembers seeing in her favorite shonen anime. Amanda is pretty sure this is pretty awesome or at least would appear so on screen were this not happening faster than the highest resolution camera she didn’t make could switch from one frame to the next.
Amanda lets her anger go as she continues beating in. She barely even thinks of Mei, so sure in her own abilities now as she is. Mei will be fine. She’ll bring her back to life and then she and Gus and all their other friends can grab Chinese food at that really good place a few towns away like they did last weekend. And they’ll all laugh and she’ll get mad when Gus beats her at Tekken again and threaten to lock him in the infinite chairs dimension again. So instead her anger is at Unalis’s hubris, the arrogance to believe she could step foot on Amanda’s planet, mess with Amanda’s humans, and tell Amanda how to do things properly. She punches and kicks and screams as she digs deep into the earth with her blows. It’s all liquid now, molten rock pouring in miles upon miles below the earth, the nearest dozen miles doubtlessly leveled to rubble from her anguish and pain.
Amanda screams til she can’t scream any more, and suffices herself with punching Unalis deeper, through the crust of the earth into pure molten rock as the Eurasian plate starts to crack in half, leading to countless level 9 earthquakes raging in major cities all along the world. Tsunamis form, the populace screams as this new unknown world ending threat seems to reach its zenith. Amanda doesn’t know. She barely could bring herself to care anyways. She’s done her part. She rises out of the pit, flying at hundreds of miles per hour til she breaks the surface to the cracked, eviscerated wasteland left in the wake of her passionate rage.
The Commander is there, floating just above the ground with his thruster boots. His uniform, his body armor seems so unbelievably tacky and droll. Amanda only recognizes it a few seconds later as her own handiwork. It’s like all her earlier work seems like child’s play compared to what she’s using now, which only a few minutes into its use seems to totally dwarf every other item she has ever made. There is no point of reference for the UGLY system. It simply stands alone.
She touches ground. Lady Justice is here, somehow. Amanda doesn’t know how, and she doesn’t care enough to ask. She realizes belatedly that Commander Chris is asking her questions, but she tunes him out totally and utterly. She couldn’t care less. She just wants to go home, and maybe take a shower.
Crash. She hears it and her heart stops. The booming sound, followed by another boom, and another boom, and another boom. Small explosions, but these are not explosions. These are the angry shouts of an angry goddess who has escaped her prison. Amanda doesn’t want to turn around, she can’t turn around, her face Is frozen where it is in a sort of numb accepting horror. Commander Chris stammers back, floating backwards at a slow rate. It doesn’t matter how fast he goes, really. Lady Justice stays still where she is.
Amanda finally works up the courage to turn. Unalis is glowing, a bit from the magma still clinging to her body and costume, but a quick shake off does the trick. Some of it lands on Chris, shutting down his propulsion mechanisms. A worthless flaw to a worthless product. He crashes to the ground painfully. Amanda’s systems keep it from even touching her skin.
Unalis isn’t mad. Of course, she isn’t mad, she’s never been mad this entire time. She’s like a puppy, a dog who only grows more excited the more energy Amanda puts into making her go away. Amanda can’t help but smile at the absurdity of it all. The UGLY system may have been off the cusp, but all her greatest inventions were. It simply put is the cumulation of all her talent, a new level of skill and finesse that it would take Amanda years to even fully understand. Surpassing it feels almost off the table outright. And yet, Unalis was still here. She stands, still, not a scratch visible as the magma drips off her. Perfect as the day she’s crashed down. Inexhaustible.
But no, no, Amanda’s mind fights it. Either through heroic courage or bitter ego, she fights the temptation to lose hope, to give up on ever being able to defeat this terror. She refuses defeat. She came this far from her inventions, surely more can come. Surely-
“Wow, I think you’re stronger than my dad is!” Unalis says. Amanda’s train of thought shatters. Of course she had a father but…
“I- what?” Amanda stammers out, unsure how to speak. She has to shout at this point over the rumblings from the Earth, something the UGLY system helps quite a bit with.
“He was the legendary hero of Asmuri, the Lightning King who helped seal and kill the Fifteen Dark Lords of Fortunal with his might! He had all these super cool friends he got over the years from his quest, and all these cool weapons and new magical techniques…”
Magic? These people had magic? Unalis had barely shown much more than strength, durability, and flight and those alone had torn this world in two.
“Are they, all as strong as you? Everyone from your world.”
“Um, no, I guess. My dad was super duper strong though, like, I want to say about as strong as you when we started fighting, though not as strong as you are now. My mom was a little bit stronger, maybe? I don’t know, I never knew her. She was like, the daughter of the Emperor Demon King, the strongest of all the fifteen Dark Lords, and she had his chosen spirit or will or whatever, which meant that I was sort of the inheritor of both. So I kinda got her strength and his strength too.”
Amanda smiles. She really shouldn’t, considering all the damage that Unalis had done, all the people she’d killed just by fighting them directly, nevermind the uncountable number of casualties simply caught up in her destruction. But it’s all so ridiculous, so silly to imagine the grandiose fantasy story that Unalis was spinning right now.
“So you’re like some sort of double anime hero, right?” Amanda jabs.
“I, yes! Exactly! Yeah! My dad trained me for a while, because he wasn’t sure what was going to happen when he died, or if the dark lords were still around, but eventually I got too strong for him to fight, so he got scared and sent me away for a while to learn how to use my powers more responsibly. Eventually I figured the reason he was so scared was because the Dark Lords he sealed were still around in the underworld, waiting to come out and take me over to rule the world again.”
“So you went on a magical quest, met new friends, and learned to reseal the dark lords-“
“No. Well, yes, I did go on a quest, and I met very good friends, but I didn’t reseal the dark lords. I killed them! I found them in the underworld and crushed all their immortal souls to dust so they’d never threaten the world again!”
Amanda whistles, despite herself. “So, what, at what point do you start going on the galactic tour?”
“Well, after that I started getting sort of antsy, because I barely got to try to use my strength on the Dark Lords and they all died forever so I couldn’t bring them back and try again. And my dad was scared of fighting me because he wasn’t sure if I’d hurt a lot of people. Eventually I guess I started scaring everyone, and then the crafty witch who trained my dad all those years ago finally found me, and she said that I could fight as many people as I wanted, as long as it was in this other world, and as long as I kept trying I would eventually find someone strong enough to let me go all out!”
“And let me guess, that person’s me.”
“I don’t know, maybe?”
“I mean, I kinda did just memorize your entire powerset and hook up to your infinite reserve energy source, and then optimize it to use it more efficiently than you are, and that was just with five seconds of prep time. I’m sure with-“
“Wow, I don’t understand what any of that means, but that sounds like you’re ready then!”
“Ready for what?” Amanda snorts. “To go with you on your magical fairyland adventure to see the next princess and save her from the evil dragon darkgoul of the whateverthefuck kingdom?”
“No. I mean ready to see my second form.”
Amanda hears a ringing in her ears.
“My second form! I haven’t got to use it a long time, and I think it’ll be really fun to fight you in it!”
“Come on, come onnnn, it’ll be fun! I promise!”
Amanda’s mind races. This is fine, this is fine. She’s figured out Unalis’s gimmick, there’s nothing else the brat can do that would surpass her defenses, and with this new on the fly invention gimmick she has going on, she can respond to just about anything Unalis can throw at her. Maybe this will let her finally take a peek at whatever well Unalis is drawing from, let Amanda cut her off from it and finally win. This is doable, but…
“If I, if I fight you, what happens? If I give you a good fight, do you leave Earth and never come back?”
“Why would I leave Earth?”
“Because I fought you in your second form.”
Unalis giggles. It’s a shrill, inhuman sound that makes Amanda’s blood run cold. This entire time, Amanda had fallen into the trap of seeing Unalis as just an overgrown child in a woman’s body, a simple mind using powers beyond her comprehension. But this, this wasn’t like that. Her eyes aren’t human. They just aren’t human at all.
“Sooooorry, I think I misled you. I have a lot of forms after my second, it’s just, I’ve never really had to go past my second. After I show you that I’d have to show you my third, my fourth, I’d definitely have to show you light form and dark form, plus super dragon form, then there’s…”
“How many forms do you have.”
“Um…… thirteen? Thirteen sounds like a good number.”
Amanda fights the urge to vomit her stomach out right now. She is beginning to get the growing realization that she is not going to leave this fight alive. Nothing’s ever come even close to making her feel this level of dread, no enemy in the past has even amounted to more than a molehill for Amanda to stomp on, any advancements she uses in a fight always serve merely to serve as insult to the injury Amanda loved to lay down on villains, just as a way to show off her own greatness. But no, no there has to be a way. If she can just bait this transformation out, she can invent… something. There’s always something she can invent to escape any pickle, any disaster she stumbles into. That’s what a gadgeteer does.
So she swallows her pride, and a bit of her fear, and speaks.
“Fine. Show me your second form so I can kick your ass right back to where it came from.”
Unalis’s face glows up. “Thank you so much!”
And then the rest of her body glows up. The ground underneath begins to tear away as a rune circle made from light starts to carve into it. More circles appear to her side, to her front, behind her back as her eyes start to glow with this sort of endless radiance. Two horns just from the top of her head. A girlish, childish pink wraps around her, and like some sort of magical girl sequence her robes start to poof out into the attire of a princess, or perhaps a prince, pink pantaloons poofing out at the thighs, a single sash crossing down her front with beautiful insigna scrawled into it. Her hair too, takes on the cutsy beautiful bubblegum pink as delightful boots form around her feet. She jumps and tumbles around as her outfit forms itself, as the light turns an artificial candy pink color.
And this bubblegum light stings, Amanda realizes, it stings quite a bit. Her UGLY system nearly begins shutting down from the devastation it’s wrecking on it, though Amanda isn’t even sure exactly why. There’s no logical reason for it. She hears a scream, and Amanda turns to see Commander Chris. He’s weeping, she realizes belatedly, as the light starts to consume his body, his suit, his essence with its beautiful lively thoughtlessness. Radiance. The word comes to her late, but it’s the only word for it. It is as though it had decided the superhero unworthy to be in the presence of whatever new form of life Unalis was ascending to, and with another scream it poofs him from existence into a sprinkle of sparkles. Lady Justice seems only barely able to continue clinging, some form of the divinity in her blood, perhaps, only barely able to hold off total annihilation at the hands of a superior presence.
When the dust settles, Amanda is left speechless. She’s beautiful, well and truly beautiful with how her hair forms into two perfect buns, each in the shape of a heart. At one of her hands is a scepter, made of the finest materials across an alternate universe, each forged with countless eons of ceaseless primal forces crashing against each other. Her eyes radiate a natural power and authority that resonates just a bit even in Amanda’s own heart. She’s not even done anything and yet it’s clear that Unalis has well and truly dwarfed her previous strength, that untouchable thing that no living creature on earth had managed to wound, and only one living creature had managed to even interest for long, was now but an ant at the feet of a temple to a new goddess.
Amanda’s heart caught in her throat.
“Do you like it?” Unalis says, and the soft beauty of her words almost rends Amanda from the material plane. Her vision scatters for a second as she feels per particles scream to tear from each other. But she can’t. They can’t. She still has work to do, she still has to… do… something. Her mind is screaming, scrambling to teleport in new pieces to replace the old ones, her inventing work now done entirely without touch, adjustments made to the halo floating above her hair on the fly trying to accommodate all the new implications of Unalis’s new form.
Unalis waits for a response Amanda simply cannot give, and then continues.
“Okay, well, I guess I should probably show you my magic now, I’ve never had to before. So, please be excited!”
She raises her scepter. At its tip, a small point of flame forms. And then it balloons to the size of a mountain. Almost as large as the entire crater, larger than the town she had first attacked. Large enough to fill Amanda’s vision completely with its fiery presence, as it glows from orange to yellow to blue to a white hot agony. Amanda says the words and silently Lady Justice vanishes. Amanda wishes her system had enough power left to do the same for her.
“Dark Super Ultra Turbo Magical Pretty Girl Flame Adventure, go!”
And then the second sun touches down. The explosion is visible from space, a flash of unbelievable light that showers the entire northeast hemisphere in grace. A shout, from one god to another, of wonder never before seen. Everything is touched. Russia as it can be known vanishes, swallowed in a hellblaze that extends to Japan, to China, India, the middle east, eastern Europe. An entire supercontinent briefly baptized in a light that turns the night into day around the world, and fills all those lucky enough to survive it with a holy fervor, an unquenchable desire to just touch the beautiful, wonderful thing that had graced their world for long enough to see it fit to destroy. Surely, if Earth survives this day there would be cults, nay, entire religious sects formed purely off the mysterious stranger, the image people now had of a princess beautiful beyond words, carved into their souls for all eternity.
Amanda raises her eyes. She’s alive, just barely. Every part of her aches, doubtless internal bleeding all around. The ground bubbles. Magma. The entire crust has been evaporated; a dozen miles carved all the way down. There’s no signal from HQ. There is a very good chance Astronaut and Gadget Guy are dead. Gus… she shakes her head. There’s no time. Her modified UGLY system worked, just barely, just enough to totally break.
“Sorry! I didn’t realize how powerful even my Level 1 spells could be to you all. You’re all so… squishy!” a voice like the voice of god shouts before everything.
Amanda feels so lowly, the strongest hero earth would ever know reduced to an ant crawling around in the dirt. And above, the eye of god and a magnifying glass burning everything she knew to rubble. It angers her, infuriates her. She’s gotten so comfortable with the position of dominance, so familiar with its embrace that anything less feels unfair, impossible, illegal. This isn’t fair. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.
But she tries to calm herself. She has one last trick. It’s difficult, impossible, destructive, selfish, but… at this rate… there’s nothing left. There’s no chance. She couldn’t bruise Unalis before she took on this new horrible form, and even the smallest of Unalis’s newest attacks nearly destroyed everything. It is obvious, in hindsight, just how badly Unalis had been holding back. She hadn’t murdered Lady Justice, she had taken her sweet time letting Amanda regain her bearings and pull out new attack after new attack. Unalis had just been curious, interested in seeing if anything Amanda could do could make her feel anything. By all accounts and purposes, Amanda had failed. If maybe, just maybe Unalis had stayed in her first form the UGLY system would have been able to make her feel just a bit of pain, some bruises, enough to push her back, to convince her to end the assault on Earth. But no. No she had gone on, and now even the invading forces were not but the dust Unalis inhaled as she floated above it all.
That too, was obvious. Those creatures were never hers. She had clearly found them some time ago, challenging their greats as she had Earth’s, and besting them, ordered them to find other planets for her to wage war on. How many other worlds had Unalis rendered to dust? How many had she just grown tired of and extinguished like idle sparks? Was this the sort of person Amanda could have been in another world, with just a bit more strength? There was no sense in it. No sense at all.
Unalis floated to the ground. In her holy divine presence, the ground cooled to a manageable level, solidifying in a thirty-foot radius. Amanda bends over, barely able to look Unalis in the eye.
“It was very fun fighting you, miss Amanda! I hope we can meet in the next life, and maybe you can be stronger there, too!”
Amanda isn’t sure if this is just a gesture of politeness, or a legitimate threat. Who knows, perhaps the afterlife is a real place. If it is, no doubt Unalis would be able to stroll in there like a gentle autumn breeze. If Amanda existed in any sense, she would never truly be safe from Unalis. Either her next move worked or there was no point staying alive.
“Yeah, it was nice meeting you too, bitch,” Amanda says. She turns out to see Unalis. She probably knew, she could probably see it, see Amanda’s hand pressing down on the badly concealed trigger of the toy gun she had cooked up in the last few moments. The Ultimate Annihilator. No version, because if it worked there would be no need. A stupid, selfish weapon meant to eliminate all matter in a universe, across every timeline, every possibility, every scenario known and unknown. A total wipe. Nothing would avoid it. Nothing could avoid it. But Unalis would try, and that’s all Amanda needed.
And then time froze for a third time. Quite literally, like it would in a movie or tv show. The world turned the greyscale. Amanda felt her body go stiff, not frozen but just almost so. The Ultimate Annihilator’s beam was undeterred though, it would continue moving until the end of time. Or, until a new stranger appeared in midair. The green beam fizzles out harmlessly against her skin. She doesn’t seem to notice.
It’s a woman, taller than both Amanda and Unalis by far, older looking too. Though her back is turned, she might be in her late 30s, early 40s. She’s dressed in a long, black dress that hugs her generous figure tightly enough that Amanda can full stop make out where the fabric begins to dip into the woman’s ass. It’d be tasteless if it weren’t the most perfectly shaped thing Amanda had ever seen, and were it not supernaturally becoming Amanda to press her face against it and die there.
She spoke, and Amanda’s eyes rolled into the back of her head like something out of a porno. The greatest feeling she had ever known, and she barely even understood the words. What little of her brain wasn’t filled with the joy at her body having met its god was trying its best to decipher the language, which felt more like twenty thousand languages being layered on top of each other and scrambled. Were she not the smartest girl on the planet, she definitely would be screaming from the unbearable pain of it, but as is it’s more like a mild headache to process as the words finally become clear.
“I wasn’t even gone for that long! It was only a few eons,” Unalis protests, ever the petulant baby.
“You have clearly been disrupting the natural order of this universe.”
“It’s a backwater universe anyways! The supremeness in this cluster of universes barely cares about this one!”
“That is because YPRQHMBLWVCTH and I share an agreement to not mettle in each other’s affairs. I imagine he believed you to be doing some training on my behalf. I will speak with him myself on that later.”
“Uh, he’s only like, a level four god anyways, why do you even listen to him?”
“You rely too much on strength alone, child. His knowledge and cleverness is a danger all its own. That he does not expand beyond the reach he has is his own choice to make, but do not take him lightly. Many stronger gods than you have made the mistake before.”
“Whatever, I was just looking for some good fights. You’re always too busy to train me, I can’t go home because I’m so strong I can’t fight anyone from home without breaking the planet in half, I can’t do anything! You’re the worst teacher ever! I wish dad’s teacher was helping me, she was cool.”
“She and I both agree the only way you will be able to return as a suitable goddess is if you learn the first trappings of respect and restraint, and fighting the first things you see like a neanderthal will do you no good in learning either.”
“Excuse me, but, what, the fuck?” Amanda asks, and immediately wishes she hadn’t. Both look at her with sudden shock.
And then Amanda takes in the full extent of the mysterious woman’s visage and she feels worthless. She feels like a peasant before a king… no, a rat before a tiger… no, a bug before a child…. No, a germ to a whale…. Words failed her. She just felt so truly utterly impossibly small before something so incredibly beautiful. Her nose is perfect, her pale skin glimmers in the light, her radiant hair glows just the most beautiful shade of electric blue, matching her eye color so perfectly it makes Amanda fit to die on the spot. Her bosom is, god, Amanda feels like she’d sooner betray everyone she’s ever known than not spend the next eternity totally smothered in that embrace. Amanda likes women as much as she likes men but, in this moment, she can’t understand why she’d ever be attracted to anything beyond the present goddess of beauty and grace and perfection. Amanda is crying, she realizes, not simply watering up with tears but actively sobbing before something she felt utterly disgusting just existing in the same space as. As though her presence was an infection.
And then Amanda is silent. Her senses slowly bleed back as whatever radiant aura the woman had around her seems to be slowly dissipating. Amanda feels slightly less inclined to lap at this new goddess’s feet til the end of time like the lovestruck puppy she was, though she is still very much open to the offer.
“You can understand my words,” the woman plainly states.
“… yes,” Amanda replies.
“Interesting. You were the one Unalis was fighting?”
“Impressive. Very few mortals have managed to witness her second form and live, fewer have managed to express rational thought afterwards. Or… are you mortal at all?”
“I’m an inventor. I’m a very good inventor.”
She gestures towards the halo around her head, the UGLY system.
“None of this seems to abide by the laws of physics customary to this world.”
“Well, there are actually a lot of minor edge cases where, properly used, you can-“
“Interesting,” the woman continues, ignoring Amanda’s words. “Bending the laws just slightly to allow for the technology necessary. A girl who can make anything. How novel. A god of insight, perhaps? A god of invention?”
“I’m not a god.”
The woman stares at her, then her eyes glow brightly. Amanda screams, or would if she had a voice. She realizes the reason she doesn’t have a voice is because she doesn’t have a body. She’s staring at her body as it crumbles to dust, brought to dirt by the slightest bit of power from this stranger. Amanda looks down at her own spectral hands, then back up at the woman. She barely feels herself returning to the land of the living.
“You avoided your own destruction, not simply of your body but your soul. Were you mortal you would have simply crumbled to dust, and your eternal soul would have drowned in my endlessness and dissipated there. Many weaker gods, in fact, have had the same happen to them. For you to remain like this, you must be possibly as strong as Unalis herself. Interesting indeed.”
“But I’m not a god. I’m not a god. I’m not a god. I’m not a god. I’m not a god. I’m not a”
And Amanda is silent. The rest of Unalis’s reprimanding by the woman continues, her presence still unspeakably attractive but less ego crushingly so. When it is done, the two finally turn to Amanda, and she can speak again. She considers her options, then says her words out very carefully.
“What can I do to make sure you never come back here ever again?”
“I don’t want you here anymore. You just destroyed… so much.”
“It would be a trivial matter for me to restore things as they were.”
She blinks. It wasn’t necessary for her to blink, Amanda knows, but she does anyways just to show the ability off. She blinks and outside of the bubble, the world begins to reform, waves reforming from the reforming buildings and reforming people and returning to the sea, the cracks in the mantle healing themselves. All the world, brought to the near end of ruin and despair, pulled back just before the brink of total annihilation. She even sees Mei, poor sweet Mei, teleport back onto the field, her wound healing in sped up time. The other fighters on the field mime out the fight as they one by one return to life. The three begin to float higher and higher above the world. Amanda can only watch silently.
“I can bring things back, but I want something from you in return.”
“Join me. It may be chance that brought us here but, well, I know Fate, and I don’t believe she would be so fickle. This must be her will, truly, that we might meet here, young Amanda. I find and collect young gods like yourself, like Unalis, and teach them how to harness their power.”
“But, the inventions and the-“
“Gods have their own ways. The divine power in a spirit, it finds its own ways of manifesting, its own rules. Think about it like simply another undiscovered law of science.”
“Like an undiscovered law….”
“Your strength is simply so powerful that it must manifest somehow. In you, you have your inventions and creations, as wonderful as they are. Unalis has her strength, and the endless number of additional abilities and powers inherited from centuries of legendary tales of heroism.”
The woman laughs softly. “I have my ways. You may call me Beana, the Goddess of Grace.”
“Hello, Beana. I’m Amanda, you probably already know that but um… I invent things. I still don’t think I’m a god but if training with you will keep my world from monsters like you, I’m fine with that. We all get our happy ending.”
“If you accept, you will however be introducing yourself to a new sort of danger. There are many gods in these worlds, Amanda. Many are stronger than Unalis, some are stronger than I. I cannot guarantee you that you will not find issues in the future, but I do promise that, with my help, you will be more equipped to deal with intrusions into your peaceful life. And you will, perhaps, even find something more interesting than living among the ants.”
“They aren’t ants. They’re my friends.”
“Say what you will. I’m sure you’ll find something to sate your boredom in any case, Amanda the slumbering goddess.”
“But first… I need to do one more thing.”
Gadget Guy crawls through the dirt and rubble. He watches idly as it, too, begins to put itself together. His own wounds are starting to restore themselves. The screen just nearly exploded when the champion asspulled a second form, and then she used her attack and…. Everything exploded. But he had survived, somehow, and now things seemed to be fixing themselves. Did Amanda… win, somehow? Even for Amanda this was an outcome he couldn’t have expected. The Astralnaut is somewhere there too, probably on the other side of the compound by now, digging themselves through their own rubble as it reforms into HQ.
Gus doesn’t need to second guess turning. It’s Amanda, alright. Battered, bruised, bloodied, the (new?) halo around her head dimming like a lightbulb about to burn out. She’s floating just a bit above the ground, but she rushes in to hug him and gravity takes over.
“I’m…. so…. Glad… you’re alive,” Gus says.
“Me too,” Amanda whispers.
“Did you kill her?”
“No but… we figured something out.”
“What?” Gus pulls back, water in the corners of his eyes.
“I’ll have to go for a while, Gus. I promise things will work better for it. They’re putting things back together, hopefully that should undo most of the damage. Mei is fine, she’s back on the battlefield but she’ll probably be confused when she wakes up so just, tell her what I’m telling you now. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I will be, and I promise we’ll all hang out when we do.”
“This is, god, you go and almost die and now you’re going off into space?”
“I’m kind of an asshole like that.”
“Yeah. You kind of are,” Gus says, smiling faintly.
Amanda starts to glow. “Oh. I guess that’s my cue to leave.”
“Can you write letters from wherever you’re going?”
“I doubt it, but I’ll ask! And I’ll bring back any souvenirs I find, too! And- and, whatever video games I find, and maybe a shirt, and and-“
Amanda vanishes into thin air. Gus wipes away his tears. He hears a buzz at his sides. He realizes only now that the building has finished reforming, and he’s outside of it, in the surrounding forests. He holds up his radio.
“Gadget Guy, are you in, Gadget Guy, do you read me, copy?” Lady Justice shouts through the static.
“Yeah, I’m… I’m good. We won.”
“Yes. We won, somehow. No sign of Gadget Girl.”
“Amanda? I just saw her.”
“You what? What was her condition?”
“Battered, but alive. She’s leaving our planet I guess, some sort of deal. She’ll be back though. She always comes back.”
“I. I see. I’m sorry.”
“Nah, it’s fine, I’ll live. She was getting bored of this place anyways. I just hope she finds whatever she’s looking for out there.”
Gus stares up at the sky. It’s evening, and the stars are just beginning to come out