There are over seven billion people on the Earth, no two of whom are completely the same. Despite that there are things which we all share. Our commonalities are what bring us together the most easily. They’re the basic glue that allows us to understand one another. They’re also one of our greatest weaknesses.
Biologically, species which lack diversity run a huge evolutionary risk. A single disease can kill them off because no member is different enough to be immune to it. Spiritually, the same was true in a way.
There are “primal spirits” that are infused into the deepest parts of Earth’s spiritual plane. They represent the core elements that define the Earth. They’re not unchanging and they’re not immortal. Primal spirits can die and new ones can be born as the concepts that define the Earth’s reality shift and change.
“They’re trying to summon Gaia.” I blurted out as the idea crashed over my mind like a tidal wave.
“The primal spirit of life? Even at its height the Shadow Court could never have controlled her. If they summon her here, she will not be well disposed towards them.” Adella said.
“Wait, so they’re trying to summon Mother Nature and she’s going to beat their face in? Cool! Problem solved then right?” Jessica asked.
“No. The Oblivion Knight controls the court remember? If he’s having them summon her, then he doesn’t care about controlling her.” I said.
“The Knight is an Annihilator type Remnant. He’ll have only one goal in mind.” Agent Haffrun agreed.
“He’s going to unmake her.” I said.
“Unmake?” Jessica asked.
“Erase the spirit of life from all of history. The past, the present and the future. There will never have been life on Earth. No people. No animals. No bacteria.” I said.
“It’s why the Parliament of Time would send a World Breaker fleet if they determine that the Earth has been corrupted. Imagine something like that spreading across multiple worlds, getting stronger with each one it destroyed.” Agent Haffrun explained.
We all fell silent. I think even Agent Haffrun was a little overwhelmed by what lay before us. She’d understood the threat a class nine Remnant represented based on a theoretical understanding of how they worked. Being faced with one that was threatening the world she’d been given responsibility for was a very different experience from the theoretical.
“The fleet won’t be needed.” Patches said, breaking the silence.
“Right. If worst comes to worst, I know how to prevent the Oblivion Knight from unmaking Gaia.” I said.
“How?” Adella asked.
“I’ll kill her myself.” I explained.
“That would kill every living thing on the planet.” Adella observed.
“Yes, but only in the present. Our history would remain unchanged.” I said.
“What good would that do? We’d all be dead right?” Minnie asked.
“It would buy time for Agent Haffrun’s people to arrive and eliminate the Oblivion Knight. Then all they’d need to do is unmake one specific thing and Gaia’s death can be undone. It’ll be like the Oblivion Knight never existed and Gaia was never killed. Seven billion people, all the animals, bugs, everything, all back the way it was. The Shadow Court would even be vastly diminished since any that were changed to Oblivion Courtiers would be purged as well.” I said.
While the others took that in, I looked over to Way. She knew who the one person who’d have to be unmade was. The one who killed Gaia. Me.
She didn’t say anything but I saw something harden in her eyes. Meta-awareness showed me her future in that scenario. She was impossibly faster than me. She wouldn’t let me kill Gaia. She’d lash out with the force of a dying star. She’d make herself the one that would have to be unmade.
I closed my eyes. I couldn’t let her do that. I wasn’t faster than her, but thanks to meta-awareness I would know when that moment was coming. The future wouldn’t play out according to her plans. Before she could take my place, I’d have the Persephone warp her back to Saturn’s orbit. She was fast, but not that fast. By the time she got back I wouldn’t even be a memory.
“Time manipulation? Even as a last resort, it’s a terrible option.” Agent Haffrun said.
“Do we have a better one?” I asked. I felt cold. I was remembering the feeling of the black flames as they ate away at me.
“Yes. All we have to do is win. We beat the Oblivion Knight ourselves.” Patches said.
I shook my head. “You don’t know how powerful he is.”
“He’s less powerful than you. And less powerful than her.” he indicated Way.
“That’s so not true. Last time I fought him I barely managed to escape and that was only with Way’s help.”
“You have her help now. And you have his name.” Patches said.
“More than that. She crafted his name.” Adella added.
“Hey, yeah, you’re a Faerie Queen too right? You should be able to do all kinds of things with his name.” Jessica asked.
“It’s not safe to attract the attention of things that are as powerful as he is.” I kept my eyes down as I remembered what I did to the Shadow Courtiers who were foolish enough to speak my name.
“For that offense we remain unchastened.” Patches observed.
I blinked. That was true. I’d been using the Oblivion Knight’s name without thinking about it. Even from a world away he should have been able to hear me and act against me. Even if he needed me for something, he wouldn’t have any reason to hold back on attacking me that I could think of. I’d be much more pliable as a resurrected black fire ghost like the Oblivion Courtiers.
“Ok, you’re right. We should be going into this with a plan to win not just survive as best as we can.” I said.
“There are other complications you should be aware of.” Aget Haffrun stated. With a gesture she activated a series of holographic displays depicting the stadium where the citizens of Brassport were being gathered.
“The Knight is not showing up on any scans. We can’t pinpoint his location. Typical behavior for an Annihilator Remnant would be to lash out with its power destroying everything it came across. Annihilator Remnants that are above class seven sometimes rise beyond that and manage to channel their need to destroy toward specific targets. This lets them work with others, especially corrupted minions.” she said.
“Which is what we’re seeing here?” I guessed.
“Being named will have altered him as well.” Adella noted.
“I don’t get that. I mean I understand how names can be powerful magically, but what’s the big deal about giving him a name? I mean couldn’t someone have just called him Fred or something?” Jessica asked.
“For entities without a fixed physical embodiment, spirits and Remnants for example, the definition of what they are derives largely from information which accumulates around their nimbus callosum. I did a dissertation on that as part of my acceptance to the Parliament’s diplomatic corp. It’s a fascinating subject…” Agent Haffrun began. Then she noticed her audience’s expressions of bewilderment, “But perhaps one for another time. The succinct version is: only certain names will resonate with a spirit and, in theory, few names, if any, will resonate with a Remnant. There’s very little there for the name to resonate with.”
“So how did Jin name our boogeyman then?” Jessica asked.
“I surmise that she glimpsed one of the stray fragments of the man he once was and capitalized on that. Jin did the Oblivion Knight converse with you at any point?” Agent Haffrun asked.
“Yeah, in the Shadow Court’s realm. He offered to let me join him and he tried to justify what he was doing. He’s not stupid though, so why would he do that if it was the one thing that could trap him?”
“He’s not trapped by the name you gave him, just changed. With the name he lost some of the purity he’d held, the connection to conceptual annihilation that he draws his power from, but in exchange he gained a foothold in reality. That was the key he needed to be able to access the physical world directly. His earlier attack was confined to the Dreamlit world. That destruction happened to translate into the real world as well but cross barrier effects are unpredictable and impermanent. The physical police station is damaged, but it can be rebuilt and its history was unaffected. Even the Dreamlit version of the building will be restored once the real police station is rebuilt.”
“So I made him more powerful?”
“And gave us a path to victory. He risks losing everything if he faces us. He’s no longer part of the concept of annihilation, he’s a distinct entity. That means we can isolate him and consign “the Oblivion Knight” back to the Unreal.” Agent Haffrun said.
“He will hide behind his minions. The corrupted Queen and the Courtier’s she controls. Until they’re dealt with he will have no reason to manifest anywhere in the Dreamlit or real worlds.” Adella said.
“Can we call in the Galactics for them at least?” Jessica asked.
“With how hard those Oblivion guys fight, the Galactics wouldn’t be able to hold back much. And what would the Galactics do for our parents? They’re still possessed right?” Minnie asked.
“We have another option I think.”, I said.
“Do tell.” Patches said.
“The Oblivion Queen controls all of the Courtiers but they only follow her because of the central law of the Court.”
“All that matters is power.” Adella said, quoting one of the Court’s central mantras. Her distaste was plain in her voice.
“Right. There’s no loyalty or love for the Oblivion Queen. They won’t necessarily follow anyone who’s more powerful than her, but if someone with the proper position in the Court can take her down they’ll have to follow the new Queen. Thanks to the former Queen, the title I have would qualify me for that.”
“Ok, how about power though? Do you have enough to beat her?” Minnie asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve had my abilities less than a day, but I can kinda see what they’re capable of and it’s pretty scary.” I said.
“Unfortunately there aren’t any good tests to determine what a dream walker’s limits are. And we don’t know what all of the Oblivion Queen’s are either.”, Agent Haffrun said, “We need more of a plan than simply sending you in there to fight the Queen. Persephone, report on current battle readiness.”
“Synthesizing Ultralight Cannon in progress at sixty two percent.” the ship replied.
Meta-awareness filled me in what that meant. The ship was converting itself to a war footing. The Ultralight Cannon it was constructing was a faster-than-light particle beam weapon. It was the sort of weapon a World Breaker ship packed. Alone the cannon couldn’t instantly disintegrate the Earth could but given time it could get the job done.
The Persephone was kept in a non-militarized state despite the risks that presented to Agent Haffrun because the Parliament of Time refused to allow the sort of carnage that could occur if anyone from my world got their hands on a weapon like that. Assuming we survived the coming battle, Agent Haffrun would be stuck with the equivalent of filling out forms for weeks for her decision to unleash that sort of force.
“Ok, we’ll be able to provide backup. You won’t need to beat the Queen directly. Force her through a portal and the Persephone and I can destroy her in one shot.” Agent Haffrun said.
“There’s going to be a problem with that. She’s got guards.” Heartbeat said. She’d been watching the display of the stadium where the Courtiers had gathered.
Professor Platinum, Invertix, the Red Shadow, and Constellation. The four most powerful heroes who’d been on the task force to destroy the Shadow Court. From this far away I couldn’t tell how many Shadow Courtiers it took to hold each of them in thrall. Whatever the number was though the Courtiers had that many and more to spare for the task.
“Jin doesn’t have to worry about them.”, Nell said, “They’re our problem to deal with.”
“Think we can take them?”, Minnie asked.
“Only one way to find out right Jin?”, Jessica said, cracking her knuckles.
“Heartbeat. You’ve wanted to advance to full hero status for a while. I apologize but I’m going to have to grant that request. I believe you’re ready, but these are terrible circumstance to verify that belief and this is an unfair burden to lay on you in any event. The same goes for the rest of you. This is more than anyone should ever ask of you, but things being as they are I’m compelled to ask anyways.” Agent Haffrun said.
“It’s our world.” Nell said.
“And our families.” Minnie added.
“Honestly, you couldn’t keep us out of this if you tried.” Patches said.
“And we won’t lose.” Way said simply. She didn’t have a family or a world to protect, but in a sense she was fighting for something she loved too; the memory of her father as he’d been rather than the Remnant monster that remained.
“Alright then team. Let’s plan out how we’re going to do this. Here’s what the Persephone can do for us…” Heartbeat began. She was a natural at taking the lead because she really was “full hero” material. That was handy. It gave me time to think.
The Oblivion Queen had millennia of experience to draw on. We had at most fifteen minutes to put together a plan to stop her and use the Courtiers against the Oblivion Knight. We needed something that they’d never see coming.