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Nova: The Next Generation Part Five Of The Shi'ar Conflict

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Submitted by timelord on Thu, 2010-01-21 19:29
« Part Four   Nova: The Next Generation Part Five – The Conclusion Of The Shi'ar Conflict Written By: Timelord ”¢ 01.21.10   Chapter Five: The Shi'ar Armada Nova Prime Richard Rider listened patiently as Xandarian Star Corps Admiral Cyn finished describing the battle plan. The virtual Conference room of the Admiral's Dreadnought, The XBS Victory, was filled with representatives comprising each wing of the Xandarian Federation fleet. The avatar of The Worldmind stood behind and to the left of Cyn. To Rider's left sat his old friend, Admiral Che'Noth, commander of the Tauron wing of the fleet. The decades had been kind to the old Minotaur. Though approaching advanced age for her people and with fur more gray now than the roan color of her youth; Che'Noth still retained the sharpness and sense of purpose that had made her Rich's most trusted advisor during the Guerilla War against the Annihilation Wave. Che'Noth shifted in her seat and the light glinted off the gold caps on the tips of her horns identifying her as a member of Herd Noth. "Admiral Lord Cyn – I must say that today you have proven your reputation for devising unconventional tactics. Normally I would have reservations; but seeing how we are outnumbered by a factor of 3-to-1; I understand both the necessity and genius of your plan. It does, however, require us to commit every ship of the first, fourth, and ninth fleets to the fight. Should we not ask each participant race in the Federation to send extra ships immediately? There will be no ships in reserve to provide rescue or clear an escape route for us should the battle turn against us." Admiral Cyn sat at the head of the table. He was tall and thin with white hair and blue eyes. His black and gold Xandarian Star Corps uniform was heavy with medals – the old Xandarian aristocrat having led Xandar's fleet to victory countless times in the seemingly unending campaigns since the third rise of the Xandarian Civilization. Cyn was a man of few words – a trait which others mistakenly often mistook for arrogance. He replied with a thin smile and a slow affirmative shake of his head. "True – so we shall not let the battle turn against us." Across the table from Rich was the leader of the Adanacian contingent to the Federation's fleet, Admiral Guer-Kon, a former resistance fighter during the Second Xandar-Skrull War. Rich knew him from participation in that selfsame war's campaign to liberate Adanac from Skrull occupation. The Adanacians were the most bio-technologically advanced race in Andromeda – using age-retarding bio-tech to achieve virtual immortality. So, Guer-Kon appeared to be very young even though he was actually several centuries old. Amphibious, darkly furred, with small ears, a sleek head, black nose, and long whiskers; to Rich's eyes the Adanacian looked like a six foot tall anthropomorphized otter. Guer-Kon stood. "I share Admiral Che'Noth's concern; but all available ships have been assigned to protect our planets. We alone must face the Shi'ar and stop their invasion fleet. We cannot wait for reinforcements. We must make our stand against the rapidly approaching invaders and Lord Cyn has devised a plan to give us the edge we need to win. I have seen many battles in my lifetime and have fought next to Admiral Lord Cyn during many of those battles. I am satisfied that his battle plan is sound and I am confident in his leadership. The Shi'ar expansionist agenda must be resisted at all costs or we will all find ourselves in thrall to them. Let it be now that we stop them once and for all." A chorus of "Aye's" erupted from around the table as the representatives of the many races of the Xandarian Federation expressed their approval. Jef, Warrior King of Andromeda's Barthellian Expanse, sat at Rich's right. Jef was an expatriate of Titan – the leader of a group of Eternals who had abandoned their homeworld centuries ago to seek their destiny in the vastness of space. White haired and mustached with steely blue eyes; he was dressed in the black and gold armor favored by the races he ruled. He wore an elaborately designed platinum torc – the only outward symbol of his status as Supreme Warlord of his sector of Andromeda. Both charismatic and physically powerful, the ancient demi-god was a force to be respected. Rich had seen him go toe-to-toe with the late great Strontian Warrior, Gladiator – fighting him to a standstill in one of the many battles of the Raptor Wars over the course of the past decade. Jef stood and let two dark amulets fall from his hand onto the table, waiting patiently for the gasps and murmurs of the delegates seated around him to subside. "They are on the move again. I personally slew these Raptors only days ago. If there are two, then there are likely many more. We obviously did not drive them to extinction as we had hoped. The Fraternity of Raptors is almost certainly behind the recent upsurge in Shi'ar aggression – now using the Shi'ar themselves to fight us instead of proxies like the Veradinae. Ready or not, our hand has been forced; and this battle will help us determine the numbers of the new Raptor threat we must face. We must take the fight to them or the Raptors will surely bring the fight to us – and they will not stop until we are all exterminated. Admiral Lord Cyn's plan is daring indeed; and that is good as it will take all of the daring and guile we may muster in order to defeat the Raptor controlled Shi'ar. I pledge my fleet of ships to this battle and my army of Eternal warriors to slay any Raptors that come out to fight us this day." Admiring Jef's craftiness, Rich suppressed a smile as the other twelve delegates quickly signed off on Lord Cyn's battle plan. Jef had removed any lingering doubts in the minds of the delegates as soon as he dropped the Raptor Amulets on the table. Once the last delegate had committed to the plan, Cyn nodded affirmatively and stood. "It's settled then. Let us all retire to our ships to prepare our crews for battle. This meeting is adjourned." Cyn's avatar disappeared as did all the rest of the commanders except for Rich and Che'Noth. Now alone in the virtual conference room, Rich turned to Che'Noth. "All right Che – tell me what you really think." Che'Noth averted her eyes and pursed her lips for a moment while she considered her response. She looked at the ceiling as she spoke. "Risky. Very risky. Especially for you and The Aurora. If the Shi'ar deviate from the defense strategy expected by Lord Cyn; then not one of our ships may survive this surprise attack on their staging area. This involvement of the Raptors is also unexpected and adds another element of unpredictability. I would prefer more ships at our disposal." Rich shook his head in agreement. "Me too – but d'ast, you and I have faced worse odds in our time." She met his eyes. The two old warriors had together faced many daunting battles over the decades of their friendship. Their shared history of battle rendered moot the need to mention specific instances when the odds were worse. "Aye – that we have." Rich clasped her shoulder. "When we get back to Nu-Xandar, I hope you can stay a few days with Sevilica and me at Oban. It's been too long since we last visited. I've been meaning to drop by to see you and your father. How is the Emperor?" Che'Noth laughed. "Old and cranky – but holding his own with the Syndicate. He'd love to see you again; and I'd enjoy visiting you and Sev."   They were interrupted by the yellow alert klaxon. Rich and Che'Noth made eye contact and nodded farewell to each other. Words were not necessary. Everything that needed saying was reflected in their eyes. The parting of old comrades in arms just before battle was always sad as each knew full well that it might be the last time they saw the other. They both faded into the white void. Re-united with his corporeal body, Rich woke in the Mindworld projection chamber of his battleship, The XBS Aurora. His Executive Officer, Shentak Valt, waited as Rich swung his legs off the virtual-link table. Rich made eye contact with Shentak as he brushed past him and headed for the bridge. "Sit-rep." Shentak talked rapidly as he and Rich rushed toward the bridge. "The Shi'ar have launched several attacks from their staging area. Nu-Xandar, Adanac, and Tauron are under siege. Other smaller attacks have been launched against strategic targets in the star systems of each member of the Xandarian Federation. So far, our defenses are holding. We will arrive at the Shi'ar staging area in fifteen minutes gravimetric. All preparations have been made in accordance with the Admiral's plans and your orders." "Thank you. What's the latest word from Nu-Xandar?" Rich was concerned about Sevilica and Sylvia; but tried to remain as casual as possible in posing his question. Shentak was prepared with answers as usual. "Nu-Xandar and the Orienta Shard are safely ensconced in pocket dimensions. The Automated Defense Field has been breached at several points, but the Planetary Guard and their Nova detachments are holding the Shi'ar at bay. Sevilica is safe on Nu-Xandar. Sylvia was assigned to defense of the ADF." Rich shook his head affirmatively. He did the best he could to compartmentalize and put concerns about Sevilica and Sylvia in perspective. After all, there were no more capable and effective Novas than his wife and his daughter. Arriving on the bridge of the XBS Aurora, Rich was pleased to see a tactical display on the main viewscreen. Live intelligence was being transmitted by Xandarian spy drones. Strangely, the Shi'ar had not substantially modified their fleet deployment since the Xandarian scouting mission of earlier in the day. Rich hoped their arrogance would be their undoing. The avatar of The Worldmind appeared next to Rich. "Richard – may I speak to you in private?" Rich nodded and motioned for The Worldmind to join him in the Ready Room attached to the bridge. As soon as the door to the Ready Room snapped shut, The Worldmind spoke. "The siege of Nu-Xandar has ended in a quick victory for Xandar thanks largely to the efforts of your daughter, Sylvia. However, victory has come at a price. She has transformed into a Supernova, broken her link to me, and disappeared from local Nu-Xandarian space." "Squirt me the report." Rich paused as The Worldmind downloaded the events of the siege of Nu-Xandar directly into his brain. "D'ast. She was doing so well controlling it until right there at the end when she channeled more power to take out those capital ships." Rich pressed his lips together and looked at the floor, furiously concentrating to assimilate and analyze the data. He looked at The Worldmind. "Has Sevilica been informed?" The Worldmind shook his head affirmatively. "Yes. Duchess Dru is at Starcorps Command Headquarters on Nu-Xandar monitoring tactical for any sign of Sylvia's reappearance." Rich struggled for a moment as he considered his options; then took a deep breath as he resigned himself to his decision. "When it's happened to me before, I eventually returned to normal after I had some time to settle down. She's probably just gone somewhere to recover – just like I always advised her to if this ever happened to her. My girl can take care of herself. That's the way I raised her. There's nothing else I can do right now. I'm going into battle in a few minutes. Open a link to my HUD's tactical and let me know if Sevilica finds any indication of Sylvia's whereabouts. I have to get back to the bridge." It was one of the hardest decisions Rich had ever made; and earlier in his life he would have probably rushed out to try to find Sylvia heedless of all the other responsibilities and consequences; but now he was a leader of men and as such he had made the only decision he could make. Hundreds of thousands of lives rested in his hands; and those lives would be saved or lost according to the decisions he made over the next few minutes and hours. He couldn't afford to be distracted by personal matters or by the life of one soldier – even if that soldier was his daughter. Sevilica and Sylvia would be first and second in line in support of his decision. Military families understood such things. He forced himself to return to the bridge. Attempting to push aside his worries about Sylvia, he thought to himself – compartmentalize your problems they say – well that's easier said than done. Stepping onto the bridge he caught sight of Commander Shentak Valt. "Wormhole exit time from my mark." Shentak checked his HUD. "Seven minutes sir." Rich nodded. "Red alert." The red alert klaxon sounded as the crew assumed battle stations. Shentak glanced at the monitor in front of his station. "Admiral Cyn on fleetwide broadcast sir." "Patch the Admiral through to the entire crew Commander." Rich and the Worldmind Avatar stood at attention by Rich's command chair, waiting patiently for the Admiral's traditional pre-battle communiqué. The remainder of the bridge crew also stood at attention by their stations. Admiral Cyn's image appeared on the holoscreen and his voice resounded throughout every ship in the Xandarian fleet. "This is Admiral Cyn. The battle will commence in five minutes. Xandar expects that everyone will do their duty."   Rich, The Worldmind, and the bridge crew saluted as the Admiral's image faded from the screen to be replaced by The Worldmind's tactical feed. Rich took his seat in the command chair as the bridge crew resumed their duties. He shook his head. Cyn gave the same "speech" before every battle. Not the most inspiring words ever spoken, but Cyn had a reputation for winning battles; so his lack of eloquence was easily forgiven. Rich patched into PRIME and quickly reviewed the Aurora's readiness for battle. Satisfied that his orders had been followed to the letter, he returned his full attention to the events of the bridge. Commander Valt announced, "Thirty seconds to wormhole exit. Shields at maximum. All weapons charged and ready. All squadrons poised." Rich leaned forward in his command chair, clenching his jaw and staring straight at the holoscreen. Suddenly, the wormhole terminus formed and normal space could be seen; though space was nearly blotted out by the sheer number of enemy ships. The terminus had formed as planned in the exact center of the Shi'ar Armada's staging area; warping space and crushing nearby enemy ships. The Aurora cleared the event horizon of the stargate and the terminus dissipated immediately. Rich was satisfied. The Shi'ar ships were scrambling to position themselves. The enemy fleet was in disarray. The surprise attack was successful thus far. "Fire radiative aura pulse!" The XBS Aurora, last of the line of the sentient Vengeance Class Battleships and considered a Nova Corpsman itself, generated a massive radiative aura gravimetric pulse expanding spherically from the surface of the ship. The energy wave slammed into the densely packed enemy fleet, destroying some ships and severely damaging others. As soon as the gravimetric wave passed, six other Xandarian Federation stargates formed – one at each flank of the Shi'ar fleet. The Xandarian Wing led the frontal assault. The Tauron Wing led the assault on the rear. The Adanacian Wing attacked the left flank. The Barthellian Wing attacked the right flank. The upper and lower enemy flanks were attacked by coalition fleets from the lesser powers. "Deploy Nova Cohorts!" It was Rich's job to use his Special Forces troops, The Nova Corps, to attack the enemy fleet from the middle. Of course, they had drawn the most dangerous job. Rich watched as 5000 Nova Centurions emerged from the Aurora's hull, formed into cohorts of four, and immediately flew away in every direction to attack enemy ships. "Ahead full sub-light! Launch fighters and drones!" Rich watched as the fighter ships emerged from the Aurora's hanger bays and as the attack drones peeled away from the ship. "Shields to maximum! Compute firing solutions! Prepare to engage the enemy!" The Aurora was rapidly approaching the Shi'ar fleet. The plan was to punch a hole in the Shi'ar line and join the oncoming Xandarian fleet led by Admiral Cyn. Rich glanced at Commander Valt. "Time to firing range on my mark." Valt checked tactical. "Fifteen seconds Sir." Rich turned to Communications Officer Nuf. "Message to Admiral Cyn. We are engaging the enemy." Gunnery Officer Baan glanced up from her tactical. "Sir, we have incoming fire from the enemy lines." Rich felt the impact of the enemy projectiles and energy beams which managed to evade The Aurora's countermeasures. The ship shuddered ever so slightly as the shields absorbed the explosions. "Officer Baan – fire at will." Rich looked at the tactical holo-screen. The battle was raging and both sides were incurring heavy losses. The Nova Centurions and the Aurora's fighter squadrons and drones were creating havoc with the enemy's defenses as planned; and, as planned, they were preventing the enemy from seriously challenging The Aurora. That was about to change as The Aurora was flying directly into the rear of the enemy front line to press the attack. Gunnery Officer Baan glanced at Rich. "Targets acquired. Firing main and secondary batteries." The Aurora, designed to resemble the venerable Upholder Class starships, fired its main forward battery. The powerful gravimetric pulse lanced through space from the massive forward emitter, touching the shields of the lead Shi'ar battleship. The Shi'ar ship's shields were no match for the pulse and it was reduced to a cloud of rapidly expanding debris in seconds. The secondary batteries opened up against the battleship's escort vessels – pounding the Shi'ar cruisers and destroyers with projectile and particle beam weapons while the main battery recharged. Rich felt more impacts against the Aurora's shields from return fire. He glanced at tactical and was relieved to see that so far The Aurora had sustained no damage and was holding its own against the Shi'ar assaults. "Sir! We are receiving a priority communication from Admiral Cyn! You better have a look at this." Valt pointed at the holo-screen as it switched to Admiral Cyn's live tactical feed. Rich looked at the viewscreen as it switched to live feed from Admiral Cyn's dreadnought, The XBS Victory. He stood slowly, watching as a dark cloud descended upon Admiral Cyn's wing of the fleet. It looked as if space itself was attacking the Xandarians. Commander Valt stood next to Rich transfixed as he watched the screen in horror. "What is it sir?" Rich knew the answer to Valt's question but dreaded saying it aloud. "PRIME – magnify visual to extreme focus on the dark cloud descending on Admiral Cyn's fleet." The holoscreen shifted and confirmed what Rich already knew as the black armored form of the new enemy came into sharp focus. "Raptors Commander Valt. Thousands of Raptors."     Sylvia sped through the wormhole, rapidly approaching the time-space coordinates of Xandar's battle with the Shi'ar Armada. Her mind was filled with murderous rage stoked to ever higher levels by each terawatt of Zero Point Energy she absorbed from the structure of the wormhole. Her body had grown to 20 feet in stature to contain the energy coursing through it. Exhilaratingly drunk on Nova Force, she promised herself that once the Shi'ar Armada was destroyed, she would travel to the Shi'ar Aerie and destroy it as well. Her one and only imperative was that all enemies of Xandar must die. She meticulously planned how she would slowly and painfully kill the Shi'ar Majestrix.   The wormhole terminus formed ahead of her and she could see hundreds of Shi'ar ships. Screaming in rage and lusting for the blood of Xandar's enemies, she exited the wormhole and flew headlong into the battle. Obliterating the first ship she encountered, a Shi'ar Heavy Cruiser, she bore down upon the battleship it had been escorting. Shrugging off fire from the battleship and its other escort vessels; Sylvia stretched forth her hand and generated her most powerful gravimetric pulse. The Shi'ar battleship was reduced to debris in seconds. Hungrily summoning more power, Sylvia continued to destroy Shi'ar ships; reveling in the carnage wrought upon Xandar's enemies. Noticing the Xandarian Fleet was being harried by swarms of armored beings; she broke off her attack on the Shi'ar Fleet and rushed to aid the Xandarians. As she approached the Xandarian fleet, she could see that it was under attack by Raptors. Blinded by hate, she rushed headlong into a Raptor swarm, desirous of nothing other than to rend each Raptor apart with her bare hands. Too close to the Xandarian fleet to safely generate a powerful radiative aura gravimetric pulse; she engaged as many Raptors as possible in brutal close quarters combat. The Raptors were caught off guard and before they could coordinate an attack; many fell to twin eye beams or to collimated beams of gravimetric energy piercing their armor. Having decimated an entire Raptor attack wing with her surprise attack, Sylvia turned her attention to the Raptors who were attacking the lead Xandarian dreadnought, the XBS Victory. Flying directly into the flock of Raptors harrying the Victory, she pulverized the unlucky dozen who were surprised by her attack. The remaining 38 Raptors in the attack wing scrambled to adapt and reorganize; the Datasong coordinating their actions immediately analyzing their attacker, forming a counter-attack strategy, and instantly re-configuring their jet black armor to ultra-combat mode. Sylvia pressed the attack, giving them no time to execute their attack strategy. Forming a low yield radiative aura gravimetric pulse to stun and confuse them; she followed up with rapid fire pulses from her hands and eyes as she remained in constant motion to evade the energy weapons the Raptors fired at her. Nine more Raptors fell to her attack; but Raptors were nothing if not adaptable. The remaining 29 Raptors rallied, and, following the strategy designed by the Datasong, gracefully flew in wide arcs, surrounding Sylvia – moving as one to pace her, evade her attacks, and counter her every move as they relentlessly bathed her in powerful energy weapons fire. Sylvia's phasic shields were taking a pounding and she could feel them weakening. The radiation from the Raptors' weapons began to seep through her shields and armor, searing her flesh. Sylvia's vast energy expenditure during combat having quelled her berserk rage; she began to ascend from madness. With her ever so tenuous grasp of sanity she realized her brute force strategy was a losing one – particularly since tactical indicated that two more attack wings of Raptors had broken off their attack on the Xandarian fleet and were closing on her position. Frustrated by the Raptors' perfect countermeasures to her attacks and the growing effectiveness of their attacks upon her; Sylvia realized that the combined efforts of the additional hundred Raptors approaching her position would certainly penetrate her shields and kill her. Single-handedly defending the Xandarian Fleet was not going to be possible at the moment. A new strategy was called for – one the Raptors' Datasong could never anticipate. Gritting her teeth as she summoned more Nova Force from space itself; Sylvia grimly turned from defense of the Xandarian Fleet, heading into open space with 129 Raptors in hot pursuit.     The Aurora violently shook; taking heavy fire from the Shi'ar front line battleships. Rich surveyed the holographic monitor next to his command chair. Admiral Cyn's plan had worked well at first; but the Shi'ar were rallying with the help of the Raptors. Nova Cohorts and Xandarian fighter ships were keeping the path opened by the Aurora clear of the enemy and preventing the Shi'ar from surrounding the Aurora and destroying it. The Aurora was making headway through the Shi'ar front lines, now nearly halfway in its mission to fracture the Shi'ar front lines and join the Xandarian Fleet. Nevertheless, Rich was worried. Due to the Raptor attack, the Xandarian Fleet was taking heavier than expected losses and there was a danger that it would be routed. Rich clenched his jaw. "PRIME! Clear us a path! Full power to the forward emitter. Maximum dispersal. I want to destroy or disable as many Shi'ar ships as possible with one shot. We've got to cut through this line and aid Admiral Cyn!" The Worldmind Avatar stirred and moved closer to Rich. "Richard, it is critical that you pay attention at this time. Sylvia has appeared on the front lines near the Xandarian Fleet and has engaged the Raptors in combat." Rich jumped to his feet. "Tactical on main holoscreen!" The holoscreen shifted to visual tactical feed, picturing Sylvia locked in mortal combat with a wing of Raptors. Rich clenched his fists in frustration as he beheld his daughter. He needed to go to her. Sylvia had obviously transformed into a Supernova. Her quantum body coursed with energy and had thus grown proportionally to contain the energy. Readings indicated that she was continuing to summon power. From personal experience, Rich knew the danger. She was not experienced enough to control such power; so the power would control her. She was already showing signs of it – rushing headlong into battle and relying on brute force rather than strategy. That could get her killed and could also endanger the campaign. He was again torn between the duty of fatherhood and duty to Xandar. Commander Valt turned from his station. "Sir! Incoming message from the Victory. Admiral Cyn wishes to speak with you." Rich nodded and the holoscreen shifted to the image of the bridge of the XBS Victory, Xandar's mightiest dreadnought battleship and flagship of the Xandarian Fleet. The Victory had sustained heavy damage and the Xandarian Fleet was wavering under the attacks of the Shi'ar Armada and The Fraternity of Raptors. Admiral Lord Cyn stepped into view. The old aristocrat looked disheveled and the Victory's bridge was in disarray from battle damage. "Rider. The Victory has been compromised. Our stardrive is going super-critical. We're going to lose the containment field. I'm ordering all the ships of the fleet to withdraw from vicinity of the Victory. We're going to take as many of these d'ast Raptors with us as we can. I am ordering you to take command of the fleet." Rich was stunned. "Sir. We're almost there. Hang on and I'll divert some Nova Cohorts to assist you." Cyn shook his head. "Negative. There's nothing you can do for me. Take command of the fleet and carry on the mission." Rich stood at attention and saluted the Admiral. "Aye Sir. I am assuming command of the fleet. It has been an honor serving with you." Admiral Cyn returned Rich's salute and his image faded from the holoscreen to be replaced by an external view of the Victory, surrounded by Raptors pouring fire into its battered hull. The Victory began to glow as the stardrive went critical. The titanic explosion took out the wing of Raptors harrying the ship. Valt turned from his station. "Sir. Sylvia has withdrawn and is heading into open space. Jef the Barthellian Warlord is leading a force of Eternals to engage the Raptors and reinforce the Xandarian Fleet. ETA for the Barthellians at the Xandarian Fleet coordinates is five minutes." Rich nodded. "Put me on fleetwide broadcast." Valt pressed a button on his console and looked up at Rich as acknowledgement of his order. Rich paused. The weight of responsibility was heavy. The future of Xandar rested with him now. He made his decision. "This is Nova Prime Rider. I am assuming command of the campaign. Carry on with the battle plan. Feed all tactical to the Aurora." Rich nodded to Valt to close the broadcast. He breathed a small sigh of relief. Sylvia was withdrawing from the battle into open space – safe at last as she could outrun the Raptors – and Jef was rushing to counter the Raptor threat. The battle plan could still succeed. He turned to regard his bridge crew. "Helmsman! Full speed ahead. Gunnery Officer! Clear me a path to the Xandarian Fleet! Do whatever it takes to get me there!"   Sylvia sped into open space, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the Xandarian Fleet. Her Raptor pursuers had been joined by several other wings and she now had 300 Raptors closely following her. The Datasong had obviously concluded she was a major threat to the Shi'ar and had ordered its Raptors to eliminate her. Even at her current power level, she couldn't hope to defeat 300 Raptors. Shrugging off the energy blasts of her Raptor pursuers, Sylvia slowed and turned as if to fight, allowing her pursuers to close the distance. As the Raptors closed ranks and descended upon her, she reversed course and headed into open space again.   Concentrating, Sylvia opened a large stargate and headed directly for it at top speed. The Raptors, determined to prevent her escape, further closed their ranks and increased speed to attempt to prevent her from entering the stargate or follow her into it before she could close it behind her.   The stargate loomed before Sylvia as she bore down upon it at top sub-light speed, her Raptor pursuers pouring fire into her quantum body in an attempt to stop her escape. Sylvia shook with the effort to simultaneously maintain the concentration necessary to keep the stargate open while shoring up her shields against Raptor energy blasts and controlling the murderous Supernova rage roiling within her. As she closed on the large stargate, she called upon the last of her reserves of concentration and focused on a point just in front of the large stargate, smiling savagely as she watched a small stargate open. Sylvia entered the new smaller stargate and it rapidly closed behind her. The Raptors' Datasong too late realized the danger. The Datasong screamed at its Raptors to clear the vicinity of the large stargate; but they had no time to comply. The super-heated plasma from the star into which Sylvia had opened the large stargate exploded at the speed of light from the large stargate's terminus, engulfing all 300 of Sylvia's Raptor pursuers and instantly vaporizing them.   A small stargate opened near the Xandarian Fleet and Supernova Sylvia Rider-Dru emerged; rushing headlong into a wing of Raptors. The Raptors' Datasong was reeling from the sudden loss of 300 of its Raptors and was thus once again taken by surprise. Thirty Raptors fell to Sylvia's surprise attack before the Datasong of the Raptors could compensate. Compensating, the Datasong of the Raptors ordered an all out attack against Sylvia and she immediately found herself surrounded by hundreds of Raptors and fighting savagely for her life. Summoning more Nova Force, Sylvia descended into the berserk rage of a Supernova, crushing all Raptors who ventured within her reach and destroying others with gravimetric pulses. Whenever Sylvia's fists connected, a Raptor died. Wherever her eyes rested for a moment, a Raptor died from twin gravimetric pulses. Wherever her hands pointed, a Raptor died from a gravimetric pulse. Lost in berserk rage, Sylvia barely noticed the wounds inflicted upon her by the attacking Raptors. She merely drew more Nova Force to compensate and to supplement her healing factor – heedless of her further slippage into madness as her power consumption grew exponentially and thus unsustainably. Little did she realize that the Datasong had deduced this weakness and was sacrificing Raptors in order to destroy her. As Sylvia turned to engage an attacking Raptor, she was surprised to see it bisected by a longsword passing through its torso. From behind the bisected Raptor emerged a warrior in black and gold armor wielding a large adamantium longsword. Sensing the power of the warrior and having succumbed to berserk warrior rage, Sylvia made to attack him. The warrior raised his hand in the universal gesture signifying halt. "Still your rage child. Such anger is unbecoming of a demi-goddess."   In response to the warrior's words, Sylvia's rage subsided and clarity of thought returned. She felt herself fading into the white void. Now within the white void of pure thought and energy, Sylvia found herself facing the warrior in black and gold armor. The warrior removed his helmet revealing the face of a handsome white-maned humanoid. "You're new to the local pantheon of gods. What is your name and why do you wear the uniform of a Nova Corps Cadet?" Sylvia instantly recognized her host within the white void and was awed to be standing in the presence of such a renowned Eternal. He exuded the ancient power and authority of the King that he was – and his feats were legendary within the local group of galaxies. She removed her helmet. "I am Sylvia Rider-Dru, Countess of Sura and Nova Corps Cadet First Class." The King smiled and bowed. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Contessa. I am Jef, King of the Barthellian Expanse. So, you're Nova Prime Rider's child and now newly ascended into demi-goddess-hood?" Sylvia smiled and returned the bow. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Majesty. And yes – I am newly transformed into a Supernova and I'm having a hard time controlling the powers. You seem to have a special ability to help me control my powers much like another being I know, the Xandarian God Gamill. Are you acquainted with him?" Jef frowned. "Yes, I've had the displeasure of meeting Gamill and the other Xandarian gods. We need to return to the battle soon. I've given you some temporary internal controls to help you regulate your power. When we return to the battle in a few nano-seconds, you concentrate on destroying the Shi'ar ships and leave these Raptor vermin to me and my Eternals." Sylvia bowed again. "Thank you, Your Majesty." Jef smiled and nodded his head. "Noblesse Oblige child. Never forget that we nobles have the obligation to use our powers to help others in their times of need. Now, when this battle is done, I hope you will do me the honor of visiting me on Barthel Prime so that we may become better acquainted."   "I would be honored, Your Majesty." Sylvia donned her helmet as the white void faded to be replaced by normal space – only a few nano-seconds having passed since she first encountered Jef. Jef stood before her, hefting his mightly adamantium longsword; and around her she could see more than one thousand of Jef's Eternals engaging the Raptors. The Raptors' ranks were rapidly dwindling and the Xandarian Fleet was re-grouping in preparation to re-engage the Shi'ar Fleet's front lines. With a wave to Jef, Sylvia turned and flew toward the Shi'ar Fleet. Jef turned to engage a Raptor, driving his sword through the Raptor's chest while directing twin eye beams of cosmic energy at the Raptor's head. As the Raptor's head melted, Jef kicked the Raptor's headless body off of his sword and rushed to join his warriors in their assault against the remaining Raptors.   Sylvia reached out with her powers, accessing Xandarian tactical and ascertaining the position of her father's ship, The Aurora. The Aurora was fighting its way to the rest of the Xandarian Fleet, cutting a wide swath through the Shi'ar ranks with the help of its Nova Corps Cohorts and fighter ships. The other Xandarian Federation fleets were also inflicting heavy losses on the Shi'ar; and a successful final push against the Shi'ar Fleet would likely result in victory. Sylvia was determined to provide that final push against the Shi'ar Fleet. Approaching the Shi'ar front lines, she began to block the attempts of damaged Shi'ar ships to form stargates and withdraw from the battle. She flew straight for the lead Shi'ar battleship, determined to strike a decisive blow in her initial attack. The Shi'Ar battleship exploded as Sylvia smashed through its hull and released her most powerful radiative aura gravimetric pulse. She engaged the battleship's escort vessels, making short work of them as well. The Xandarian Fleet was right behind her and the ship-to-ship battle was re-engaged. The Shi'ar began experiencing heavy losses. Sylvia destroyed every battle group she encountered, clearing a path to The Aurora and dividing the Shi'ar line. Strangely, she found that it was getting harder to summon her powers and she was experiencing something she now rarely experienced – physical fatigue approaching exhaustion. A squadron of Shi'Ar fighters bore down upon her, and with a smirk, she destroyed all of them with rapid fire gravimetric pulses; but found herself faltering at summoning more power as she approached the next battle group. She now found it effortful to continue to block the Shi'Ar fleet's attempts to form stargates to escape while at the same time assisting the Xandarian fleet in destroying the remaining Shi'Ar vessels. She realized she would soon have to choose one or the other; and surveying tactical, decided that there was nothing left of the Shi'Ar fleet that the Xandarian fleet could not handle. She turned to make her way back behind the Xandarian line where she could concentrate fully on preventing the Shi'Ar from escaping by continuing to block their stargate formation. As she disengaged from battle, her power momentarily fluctuated, and she felt her body begin to contract, shrinking to normal size. She had never felt so tired before; and it was now becoming painful and effortful to block enemy stargate formation. Desperate at the thought that her faltering power might cost Xandar victory in today's battle, she called upon Him. "Overmind! Help me!" The Overmind appeared, a smirk gracing his handsome face. In mocking tone he spoke, "Ah sweet Sylvia, you refuse the help of my idiot savant brother, The Worldmind, and finally deign to call upon me when you have all but exhausted yourself due to premature use of your developing powers. When will you learn to listen to me? When will you heed the advice of your betters?" Sylvia gritted her teeth to retain her composure. "Can you just help me now and patronize me later? I'm about to lose consciousness from exhaustion. Give me more energy!" The Overmind shook his head. "Would that I could sweet Sylvia. You have chosen to ignore all that I taught you and become a Supernova prematurely; long before you were ready to wield such powers. I am surprised you are still sane. It must have been purely my influence over the past several months that has kept you from descending irretrievably into paranoid madness. Now you have exhausted the capacity of your immature quantum structure and it is rapidly failing. I am not sure if you can even survive – let alone ever wield such power again." Tears stung Sylvia's eyes – not for her possible demise as she would gladly give her life for Xandar – but tears of frustration at being unable to continue the battle. What good was this pseudo-god if he couldn't help her in time of greatest need? "Gods-dast-it you pretentious bastard! Can't you for once do something besides criticize and cynically pontificate? Help me help Xandar!" He shook His head negatively. "You know that I cannot directly intervene." Furious with him now, Sylvia exploded in rage. "Get away from me then! I renounce you! I never want to see or hear from you again for all eternity! Spend your sad, worthless life alone in your quantum realm and contemplate how today you lost the battle for Xandar and the respect of the one and only other living being who knows of your pathetic existence!" Stunned by her rebuke, The Overmind recoiled, speechless for once. Sylvia noted His reaction. She was more important to Him than He had always pretended. It was obvious – He loved her and had never had any intention of letting her die; and most importantly, He could intervene. He quickly recovered His composure. "This could kill us both and it has consequences that you cannot begin to understand. What I now do I do for Xandar; not for you, precocious child, or in response to your pleading and demands for favors." He melted into her and she felt unimaginable power; along with pleasure more intense than any orgasm she had ever experienced and intimacy beyond that she had ever enjoyed with any of her lovers. Coursing with power, Sylvia's fatigue vanished and she grew to the 50 foot stature of a mature Supernova. Surely this was how it felt to be a god. She heard His voice in her head. "This cannot be maintained for long. Move quickly to end this fight or we shall both perish." Sylvia turned to face the Shi'Ar again. With cool confidence and clarity of thought and purpose, she extended her hand and encircled all the remaining ships save one with gravimetric nodes. She ordered the nodes to contract; watching with cruel satisfaction as each ship was crushed below its Schwarzschild Radius, vanishing in a flash of gamma radiation. She hovered before the Shi'Ar flagship, the only remaining ship from the Shi'Ar fleet. "Go now and do not return to Xandarian space or you shall surely die. So commands the Countess of Sura." She formed a stargate behind the Shi'Ar flagship and, with a thought, propelled it into the stargate, sending it home to the Shi'Ar throneworld with news of their abject defeat. Sylvia felt The Overmind leave her body, Himself exhausted, and flee to His quantum realm. Her body quickly shrunk to normal size and she found herself so fatigued it was hard to stay awake. Consulting her HUD for coordinates, she set course for her father's ship, The XBS Aurora, and turned to make her way there. Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she turned just as Gladiatrix slammed into her and landed a massive punch to her jaw. Sylvia reeled head over heels from the punch. With normal Centurion level powers and phasic shielding, the punch had nearly penetrated and she fought to retain consciousness. Dazed, she turned to face Gladiatrix just in time for Gladiatrix to slide an adamantium knife into her abdomen and slowly slice upwards, attempting to eviscerate her. Sylvia grappled with Gladiatrix; holding her free hand and her knife hand to prevent Gladiatrix from further slicing her open. Their eyes locked. Gladiatrix smiled cruelly and with mock concern said, "Hurts?" Gladiatrix had mostly recovered from their earlier fight and was incredibly strong. Sylvia was exhausted and she shook; using all her might to hold Gladiatrix off and slow the upward advance of Gladiatrix's knife. Gladiatrix sneered, advancing the knife another centimeter upward against Sylvia's resistance. "So tell me Countess, does your purri still become wet at the thought of killing me? I am so enjoying killing you that mine is soaking wet." She advanced the knife another centimeter upward, twisting it to increase the pain, enjoying watching Sylvia shake as she fought to slow the advance of the knife. "This is for all my teammates you killed, for all the ships you destroyed, for all the Shi'ar you mercilessly slaughtered today, and for your treatment of me when I was your prisoner." Sylvia had never felt such excruciating pain; but refused to give Gladiatrix the satisfaction of hearing her scream. The knife was approaching her sternum and would soon pierce her heart. There was only one chance. Summoning all her flagging energy, Sylvia formed a radiative aura gravimetric pulse, sending Gladiatrix careening away from her, momentarily stunned from the explosion of the pulse. Sylvia pressed the wound stretching from her abdomen to just below her sternum, attempting to hold in her blood and mutilated organs as she weakly turned and headed back toward the Xandarian fleet. The nanites in her uniform quickly shifted to cover the wound and knit it together; and her healing factor went into overdrive; but she had expended too much energy in the battle and was continuing to expend energy in this fight – energy she critically needed to heal her grievous wounds. She felt sick and could taste blood in her mouth. She was finding it hard to breathe from the massive internal bleeding; and she began to gag and retch blood. Her uniform's emergency life support system sensed her distress and automatically intubated her. Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she saw Gladiatrix rapidly closing, holding the knife ready for another attack. Sylvia couldn't outrun her, so she turned to fight; trying but failing to summon a gravimetric node to imprison Gladiatrix. Sylvia nearly blacked out from the effort to fight. Despite the sickness from her wounds and the terrible pain, weakness, and fatigue; she somehow managed to fight back to consciousness just as Gladiatrix was almost upon her. She hadn't the energy to even try to summon The Overmind for help. She felt another wave of sickness which threatened to send her into unconsciousness; but her indomitable will resisted it. She raised her hands to fight, enduring the terrible pain that came from each movement of her body. "Get away from my daughter you farking bitch!" A blur of navy blue and gold motion flashed by Sylvia and slammed into Gladiatrix. Nova Prime Richard Rider arrived. Gladiatrix was surprised and fearful for a moment – not expecting to encounter the man who had killed her father and her mother. Her moment of fear at facing the Nova Prime cost her dearly as it weakened her psionic shields long enough for Rich to land several powerful blows, dazing her before she could put up a fight. Sylvia had never seen her father fight so savagely. He fought with the ferocity of a father protecting his young; showing Gladiatrix no mercy as he relentlessly unleashed the awesome power of Xandar. Rich landed blow after powerful blow, faster than most eyes could track; pummeling Gladiatrix into near unconsciousness before in murderous screaming rage bathing her in the unforgiving blast of his most powerful gravimetric pulse. Gladiatrix's flesh was charred to a cinder and she became still – slowly floating away into the cosmos. Richard rushed to Sylvia and took her into his arms. She looked into her father's worried eyes and could see tears streaming down his face as he beheld her grievous wounds. "Sylvia? Oh God! Syl? Are you OK baby? Activate your healing factor baby. Give it all your energy. Do it now! I don't want to lose you. I love you. Sylvia? Sylvia!" Sylvia lost consciousness, safe in the arms of her father. Her last thought was that if she had to die, at least she would die proudly on the battlefield in service to Xandar; and at least her father would have to admit he was pleased with her performance in today's battles.   Chapter Six: Who Shall We Fear? The white void beckoned and Sylvia heeded the call. It was different this time though – more effortful to make the journey. She felt weak, fatigued – and wondered if she had the energy to make it back to the corporeal realm. She felt the energy signature of the void shift ever so slightly – and when she changed the spectrum of her vision, she could see Zero Point Energy – or as the Xandarians nicknamed it, "Nova Force," being absorbed by her body. Sylvia was puzzled. She appeared to be alone; but of course, she now knew that she would never be truly alone in this realm. She looked around. Where was He? Reaching out with her natural powers, she scanned the realm and sensed His presence. Concentrating, she projected her consciousness through the void in His general direction. She found Him slumped and sitting on the 'floor' with His head bowed. Though she could see that He was absorbing copious amounts of Zero Point Energy from the void, He still looked gaunt. She shook her head. "Poor thing – you look like schlag." He looked at her and scowled. "I feared your renunciation of me and your vow to leave me alone and in peace were too good to be true." She laughed as she sat down next to Him, "Curmudgeonly as ever I see." "Hmph." He looked away. She leaned into Him and kissed Him on the cheek. "Thank you for helping me." He looked despondent. "You have no idea what that ill considered action has cost me." She made eye contact with Him. "Oh, but I do. When we melded, I learned a great deal more about you including that your aid cost you your independence and continues to risk your existence. I know that right now, the only reason I'm still alive is because of our now permanent bond through the process of Quantum Entanglement – the same process the Worldmind uses to channel Zero Point Energy to every Nova. When we melded, we became one entity. When you separated and came back here, we maintained our connection because we are now part of each other – entangled as it were. You feel sick because I feel sick. I am alive because I'm drawing some of your energy to heal. If I die, you may die." He stood and became his usual haughty self. "You know too much, precocious child; but you know much less than you think and understand little of what you know. Do not ever believe one such as I could be killed as easily as one such as you." Ignoring his bluster, she looked at him with genuine affection as she now knew with absolute certainty how he felt about her. "It really is you – the individual Xandarian Eternal, Gamill, right now isn't it? You're not the Uni-Mind I'm talking to like you were when we first met." He looked irritated. "You did learn too much during our meld." She shrugged her shoulders. "So you're a Xandarian Eternal. Why all the secrecy about that? It's long been assumed that Xandar formed naturally without the aid of Celestials – thus no Eternals and no Deviants. Now I know that assumption is false. What harm could there be in the populace learning the truth?" He voice was stern. "As I said, you understand little of what you know. Xandar is a special experiment on the part of the Celestials. Secrecy is critical for the success of the experiment. If the population were to become aware of the experiment, error would be introduced and the Celestials would be forced to abort it. Do you understand what that would mean?" She nodded. "Yes I do. The Horde would descend upon us and destroy all. Don't worry. The secret is safe with me." She saw that his absorption of ZPE was slowing and that he was nearly back to full strength. She smiled, feeling better and stronger as He felt better and stronger. She knew she was nearly healed and would soon need to return to the corporeal realm; but she couldn't resist teasing Him a little before she left. Lowering her eyes to half-mast and adopting her sexiest, vampiest, most flirtatious attitude and posture; she stood and put her arms around His neck, pressing her body into His, her lips only centimeters from His lips. "I suppose in a way our entanglement means we're married. Care to do your husbandly duty before I go and make me come as hard as I did when you melded with me?" He was shocked and clearly exasperated as He pulled free of her. "Is that all you ever think about?" He looked at her self-satisfied expression, realizing He had been successfully played. He shook His head in frustration. "Go back to corporeality. Your parents are worried about you and need some reassurance." She laughed in delight at His discomfort. "I'll be back soon." He sighed in resignation to that fact. "I know." She turned to leave – then stopped. Looking around, she said, "Won't the rest of you come out and say hello?" She paused. "No? All right then. Maybe some other time." She winked at Gamill before fading into the void. The pantheon of Xandarian Eternals materialized the moment Sylvia left, completely surrounding Gamill. Frammi stepped forward and slapped Gamill's face. "You are a fool Gamill! You risk us all by tying our fates to that little strumpet. You should have let her die. We could always have cloned another. Now, you've narrowed our options to one – her specifically – and to make it worse, entangled us all with her at the quantum level. What were you thinking? Don't bother to answer. We've had enough of your lies. We will form a Uni-Mind and your true motives will stand revealed."     Sylvia stirred and fought her way back to consciousness. Her eyes slowly opened and she found herself in the familiar surroundings of the Nova Corps Infirmary on the Orienta Shard. Her parents, Richard Rider and Sevilica Dru, stood over her bed; both still dressed in their Nova Corps uniforms and both wearing expressions of worry. Visiting from Mindworld; the hard light holographic avatars of her Grandfather and Grandmother, Lord Severus Dru and Lady Ronica Dru, stood at the foot of the bed. Richard smiled in relief as he stroked her hair. "Hi honey. Welcome back. We've all been worried sick about you. Your friend, Kritana, just left. She's been here since you arrived; but needed to go express her sympathies to Cadet Ren's family and Cadet Luf's family." Remembering what happened to Surfaan, Sylvia made eye contact with her father. "Did he and the rest of my Cohort download to Mindworld?" Rich nodded affirmatively. "Ren, Bem, and Luf are all safe in Mindworld. All have chosen to be re-iterated. New bodies are being cloned and they should all be back to active duty in a year." Sevilica leaned in close to Sylvia. "The doctor says you're recovering faster than he's ever seen before. How do you feel?" Sylvia took a moment to take stock. The terrible pain was gone, she was breathing on her own, and she was feeling strong. "I feel well. I think I'm ready to go back to active duty now." "That's my grand-daughter! She's all Dru!" proclaimed Lord Severus, eliciting laughs of relief from everyone, including Rich, who decided to let the royals indulge their egos and to ignore the small slight to him. There was a slight commotion in the hall and all eyes turned to the door as the hard light holographic avatar of King Ferenus Dru entered; accompanied by his daughter, Queen Adora Dru, and his grand-son, Prince Proculus Dru. The avatar of The Worldmind followed closely in step behind the High King of the Mindworld. Everyone in the room adopted the position of fealty. As Sylvia was lying down, she did the best she could to adopt the position of respect to the King by bowing her head until her chin touched her chest and placing her right fist over her heart. The King was touched by her gesture and approached the head of the bed. "My dearest grand-niece; you honor me when I came to honor you. Your heroic actions today have brought about an end to what could have been a long and costly war. It seems that the Majestrix is now eager to resume negotiations with us after you helped us hand the Shi'ar a decisive defeat. All Xandar is in your debt and you bring great honor and acclaim upon our royal family. I bestow upon you the title of Heroine of the Xandarian Federation and proclaim a celebration to be held in your honor." Sylvia's eyes glistened, holding back tears. "Thank you, Your Majesty. I would like to nominate as fellow heroes the remainder of my cohort – Cadet Tas and the Cadets who gave their lives defending Xandar – Ren, Luf, and Bem." Ferenus smiled at her. "It is a true sign of nobility to share the credit for one's successes. I will honor your request. Now, I must go to attend to affairs of state; but we will speak again soon." Ferenus turned to leave, gesturing to Sevilica, Severus, and the Worldmind Avatar to attend him as he departed. He caught the eye of his daughter, Queen Adora, and nodded slightly. The Worldmind Avatar hesitated a moment, staring at Sylvia before turning to follow Ferenus. Proculus and his mother, Queen Adora, remained to visit with Sylvia, Ronica, and Richard. Proculus approached the bed and took Sylvia's hand, squeezing it with affection. "I am so proud of you. I hope you can take some time off from the Academy to come visit me at the palace." Sylvia was so happy to see her best friend that she fought back the pain that came with movement, raising herself in bed to hug Proculus. "I would like that." Adora, Queen of Corporeal Xandar, approached the head of the bed. "I've heard reports of what happened to you, Sylvia. Tell me the whole story from your perspective."   King Ferenus found an empty conference room to confer privately with Severus, Sevilica, and The Worldmind Avatar. Once seated, he got right to the point. "I need to understand what happened to Sylvia today. It appears that she became a Supernova, was able to accomplish the astounding feat of controlling all that power without going mad, and then reverted back to her 'normal' power level. What happened? What are we dealing with? What do we do with her? The Shi'ar are accusing us of developing living weapons of mass destruction in violation of any number of treaties with The Galactic Council. The eyes of The Galactic Council are on us. This could cause a pan-galactic weapons development race. I need information and I need options." Sevilica and Severus exchanged looks, surprised by Ferenus' line of questioning. Sevilica was first to speak. "Are you suggesting that Sylvia is some kind of danger to us?" Ferenus shook his head negatively. "I suggest nothing. I am asking for information. We all know that we have been capable of creating Supernovae since shortly after we began creating Novae. We didn't create them for a very good reason. Our initial experiments found that they were unstable and uncontrollable. While fiercely and even heroically protective of Xandar; they tended to pursue their own, often times monstrous, agenda for Xandar's protection; ignoring the orders of their superior officers." Severus leaned forward. "Sylvia demonstrated no such instability and lack of control. In fact, the reports I've seen indicated she was in control of herself and the situation most of the time." Ferenus nodded affirmatively. "Granted she was in control most of the time; but she also exhibited some erratic behavior, broke her uniform's link with the Worldmind, and used her title inappropriately to represent herself as part of the government and send threatening messages to the Majestrix. It seems clear that--." Sevilica interrupted. "We all know Sylvia is different. She's a hybrid, like her father. Her father has shown a similar ability in the past on more than one occasion – becoming a Supernova for short periods of time, successfully controlling the power, and then reverting to normal. We have never determined the full extent of Richard's powers; but we understand them better than Sylvia's because his powers are mediated by our technology. Unlike her father, Sylvia was born naturally able to channel Nova Force. It logically follows that she would have greater control. Perhaps this Supernova transformation is a natural ability for her. Ultimately though, we admittedly understand little about her powers and abilities." Ferenus frowned. "Precisely my point – both Sylvia and her father are unique; but whereas Richard is a known quantity and can be controlled by our technology if absolutely necessary; Sylvia is an unknown with no current means of external control should it become necessary." Sevilica was starting to become defensive. "This is my daughter we're talking about – and Richard and I have trained her since childhood to responsibly control and use her powers. I think, if anything, the restraint she exercised today can be attributed to that. I'm also getting a little uncomfortable with the direction this conversation is taking and I think Richard should be invited to join the discussion." Ferenus shook his head negatively as did Severus. "The Nova Prime is revered among our people and we literally owe him our lives many times over; but ultimately he is an instrument of the government – not a decision making part of the government. This is a government affair and he does not belong here at this time." Sevilica looked to her father for support. Lord Severus looked into Sevilica's eyes. "I'm sorry Sevilica, but I have to agree with Ferenus. This is a government affair; and I would also point out – a royal family affair. Though Richard and I have our differences as you well know; I do respect him. He would, however, bring to these proceedings an unnecessary emotionality as well as his legendary insensitivity to the ways of the royal houses. Right now we need clarity of thought and sensitivity to politics both within our sphere of influence and outside of it." Sevilica was seething with anger. "I think you both once again underestimate Richard; and apparently Sylvia, and apparently me as well. After all the three of us have done for Xandar and as many times as we have risked – and in my case, given my life – you talk about Sylvia as if she's a monster to be contained and Richard as if he's an ignorant rube. I've had enough of this conversation. If you will excuse me, I need to join my heroic husband and attend to my heroic daughter's recuperation." Sevilica stood to exit. Ferenus jumped to his feet and slammed his fists down on the table in rage. "Sit down! Your King commands it!" He locked eyes with her and held her in his gaze. Shaking with anger, Sevilica slowly sat down. Ferenus sat and calmly continued. "Do not misunderstand. We all love Sylvia and we love and revere both you and Richard as well. Sylvia is a heroine of Xandar and we will properly honor her. We merely need to understand this situation so we may appropriately respond. Now, when Richard held all the power of Xandar, the Worldmind devised a method to prevent him from becoming a Supernova and to help him exercise control. I am suggesting that we adopt a similar method with Sylvia." Sevilica turned her fury to the Worldmind. "I thought you had been strangely quiet through all this discussion. So, this was all your idea wasn't it?" The Worldmind Avatar seemed unusually distracted as if his thoughts were far away; and was thus strangely slow to respond. "It was indeed my suggestion. However, I have changed my mind based on new information." Ferenus did a double take, frowning in puzzlement at The Worldmind Avatar. "What? What new information?" The Worldmind shifted uncomfortably. "Passive scans of Sylvia revealed that she is already linked to a Quantum Tesseract much like the one I inhabit and is now for all intents and purposes an entity much like myself. Modifying her uniform to build in a level of technological control over her would simply be ineffective for all practical purposes; though it may still have some political merit." Severus leaned forward. "You mean she is now a power equal to you?" The Worldmind Avatar shook his head negatively. "No, I mean she is a power greater than me. She is beyond our ability to control with technology. I must agree with Duchess Sevilica Dru. Sylvia likely has the natural ability to become a Supernova and has developed internal controls through training from her parents. I suggest that we continue her training as a regular Nova Cadet and bring her up through the ranks as we would any recruit. Rather than in fear attempt to control the uncontrollable with our technology; I suggest we nurture her ability to become a Supernova and develop it through special training to use to the advantage of Xandar. We can use this to our political advantage with the other great powers of the local group as well. Sylvia can be our great deterrent to aggression." The room fell silent as the leadership of the Xandarian government contemplated the Worldmind's suggestion. Their contemplation was interrupted when Adora, Daughter of Ferenus and Queen of Corporeal Xandar, entered the room. Taking a seat, Queen Adora made eye contact with each of them. "The Worldmind has uploaded this meeting to me, so I am current. I have just heard from Sylvia her perspective on her experiences as a Supernova and I am satisfied that the Worldmind's assessment and suggestions are correct." Ferenus shook his head affirmatively and slapped the top of the table with both hands. "It is agreed then. Sylvia will continue her Nova Corps training as usual and will receive special instruction as to how to control her powers. This meeting is adjourned. Come Adora, Worldmind, and Severus, we must determine how we will respond to the Shi'Ar and the other great powers when we are questioned at The Galactic Council. Sevilica, please join us at the Palace as soon as possible." Ferenus rushed from the room – happy to have Xandar on center stage at The Galactic Council and controlling the debate. Xandar mattered again on the pan-galactic level for the first time in a long time.     The Uni-Mind finished monitoring the activities of the Xandarian ruling class via its surreptitious link through the Worldmind to the corporeal world. "What fools be these mortals. They know not the face of their true enemy." Turning its full awareness to scan the cosmos, the Uni-Mind, or Targot as it called itself, confirmed what it had sensed earlier. The ancient enemy was coming.   The End Of Nova: The Next Generation The Shi'ar Conflict Afterward I'd like to thank Matt for his support both with constructing the teaser artwork and for posting this first NTNG serial on the site. I'd like to thank Daz for all his support and feedback and idea contribution over the years we've been writing fan fics together. Finally, I'd like to thank the readers who've followed this first serial and who have taken the time to send me constructive feedback. I'd like to hear some more constructive feedback now that the story is done.
    – Whether you liked it or hated it
    – Just let me know why in the
It'll help me become a better writer. – Timelord P.S. For those who liked the story, here's a sneak preview of the next chapter in Sylvia's saga taking place about two years after 'The Shi'ar Conflict.' This story is called 'The Veradinae War' and will be released some time in 2010. Enjoy.   Nova: The Next Generation The Veradinae War   Prologue: Earning the Stars General Karn'al'Seleel waited impatiently for the Xandarian prisoners of war to arrive so that his victory ceremony could begin. Standing seven feet tall, he flexed his thickly muscled arms covered in rough reptilian skin and extended his biomantium coated claws in an attempt to stave off the cold. He detested this planet, called Sudana by its inhabitants. It was a moon of a gas giant planet that orbited on the edge of the habitable zone of a red dwarf star system. Sudana was covered in deciduous forest save for a few small settlements sparsely scattered across the major continents. Even though it was summer in this hemisphere of the planet, it was still far too cold for Karn's tastes. He wished to conclude his business here and return to the lush, hot jungle of his native Veradin; but it was likely he would be on Sudana for an extended tour of duty as Sudana lay on the border between Xandarian and Veradinae space; and was protected by the Xandarian Federation. The battle to control this sector of space was still raging; but the battle on the ground for Sudana had been decided in favor of the Veradinae Empire. The Xandarians had fought valiantly; but in the end they had been outnumbered 20 to 1 and it was that ratio that had won the fight. The Xandarians had been prevented from reinforcing their troops and Karn simply fought a battle of attrition. The last of the planets Xandarian defenders would soon arrive to be paraded before the victorious Veradinae forces and presented to him for final judgment. He would decide which would go to the larder to feed the troops, which would be given to the troops to vent their rage upon, which would go to the troop's seraglio; and which, if any, would join his personal seraglio. This ceremony, considered primitive by most other races in Andromeda, was among the many reasons the Veradinae were feared; as most knew that the vast majority of prisoners would go to the larder or be given to the troops for sport. The victory ceremony was the tradition of his people and was expected by the troops; and it would take place as scheduled if the d'ast prisoner transport shuttle would just arrive. Karn looked from the dais where he stood elevated over his amassed troops. Nearly 100,000 Veradinae Mercenaries hatched from his family's own factories waited patiently, controlled by the steady infusion of the drug, Bliss, and the knowledge that with his mere touch of a button on the control box he wore on his belt they would be denied Bliss, and thus life – as Bliss withdrawal was immediately fatal. The vast sea of disciplined, battle-hardened warriors standing before him was considered the best army in the galaxy. Even the mighty Kree respected the fighting skills of the Veradinae. He looked to the side of the dais where his cooks worked feverously to prepare his victory feast. He and his sons would dine upon the Xandarian General, the Xandarian Centurion, and the Sudananite President – all of whom he had personally slain in combat. His long forked tongue flicked to sample the smell of fresh Xandarian blood on the morning air emanating from the cooking tents. Karn's eldest son, Savad'al'Saleel, approached him on the dais. At six feet, he stood a foot shorter than his father. His head bore the same red crest as his father's, indicating he was a member of the ruling class. His armor was painted like that of his father, bearing the symbol of the Saleel Cartel, a subsidiary of the ruling Beliim Cartel. His mouth, sporting rows of vicious serrated teeth – some covered in drops of purple venom, was open in sign of excitement and anticipation. "Father, the prisoner transport is on final approach. The prisoners have been prepared for presentation to you." Karn's next eldest son, Cand'al'Seleel, stood to his left and presented an electronic clipboard with a list of 12 names and ranks. "Father, the 12 prisoners include a Denarian ranked Nova Corpsman and 11 Star Corps regulars. The Denarian was captured from a rescue shuttle that was shot down. She was the only survivor and she has been badly injured." Karn was surprised. It was rare to capture a Nova Corpsman alive. "Has the Denarian been de-powered?" Cand shook his head. "No. Restrained only. Denarians lack enough power to seriously threaten our armor as you well know. We decided to leave the powers intact for now until you passed judgment – in case you decided to give the Denarian to the troops for their sport. It might be good practice for them to kill a powered Corpsman." Unable to argue with Cand's reasoning, Karn merely handed the clipboard back to him and turned his head to catch a view of the prisoner transport shuttle landing about 50 feet from the dais. Nictitating membranes flicked across his white eyes as he focused on the door to the shuttle. The shuttle door popped open immediately upon touchdown, disgorging six guards who quickly herded 12 Xandarian prisoners toward the dais past the jeering Veradinae troops. Karn studied the prisoners closely. Seven Xandarian males and five Xandarian females. The prisoner first in line was the Denarian; and Karn found the Denarian's looks intriguing. He turned to Cand. "Bring me the Denarian first." Cand spoke into his armor's microphone and one of the guards roughly grabbed the Denarian and shoved her toward the stairs of the dais, prodding her to ascend to the dais and receive General Karn's judgment. Karn watched as the Denarian ascended the stairs. Her helmet was dented and smeared with dirt and blood. Her hands were bound in energy damping cuffs that completely covered them from view. Her uniform was torn and she walked stooped from a back injury and with an obvious limp from a wounded leg as she laboriously climbed the stairs to the dais. As she neared the top of the stairs, Savad, impatient with her slow progress in ascending the stairs, grasped her arm and dragged her the rest of the way to the dais to stand before General Karn. Karn towered over the Denarian as she stood stooped from her back injury and cowering in fear. He looked down upon her for a long moment, taking her measure and assessing her feminine attributes as her uniform was skin tight and left little to the imagination. His sons, Cand and Savad, flanked the Denarian to the right and left awaiting his judgment and standing ready to carry it out. Karn nodded to Cand. "Remove her helmet." Cand roughly removed the Denarian's helmet and threw it to the ground; revealing a lovely young raven-haired female with dark brown eyes. She was visibly trembling and stared at the ground, refusing to make eye contact with the General. Karn's tongue flicked to sample the female's scent and he immediately felt strong sexual desire for her. "Make her look up at me. I would like to see her face." Savad grasped her roughly by the throat and jerked her head up, forcing her to look directly into Karn's eyes. Karn could see tears in her eyes. He brushed his long claws against her face and smiled lustfully. "Fear not young Xandarian. You will have the honor of joining my personal seraglio. My sons will de-activate the nanites in your body in order to de-power you. I will then inject you with my venom to make you my slave. Please me and you may become queen of my seraglio. Displease me and you will die most horribly. Either way, before this day is done I will show you sexual pleasure such as you have never known." Karn nodded to Savad to begin the nanite deactivation process and Cand attached the necessary tech to the energy dampening cuffs restraining the Denarian's hands.   Savad looked puzzled. "Father, this Denarian has no nanites in her body; but the readings indicate that her power level vastly exceeds that of even a Centurion." Karn turned to behold the Denarian; only to find her standing straight, looking him in the eyes, and grinning savagely. "It's a ruse! Guards--." The energy dampening cuffs surrounding Denarian Sylvia Rider-Dru's hands exploded from a radiative gravimetric pulse, sending shrapnel in every direction and temporarily blinding Karn and his sons. Sylvia pointed one hand at Cand and the other at Savad; instantly vaporizing both of Karn's sons with gravimetric pulses. Karn reached for his side arm; but before he could un-holster it, Sylvia landed a punch to his chest; crushing his armor plating into his body. Unable to draw breath, Karn doubled over as he helplessly gasped for air, eyes wide with terror as Sylvia grasped his head and tore it from his body. Sylvia wheeled around and threw the General's severed head at the guards and troops amassed before the stairs at ground level leading to the dais; all of whom scattered in shock and surprise as their commanders head landed among them and rolled to a stop. Sylvia grasped the Bliss control box from the General's body, using her quantum powers to hack past the firewall that would normally render it useless in her hands. She felt the AI of the control box surrender to her superior power and triumphantly held it above her head just as the Veradinae mercenaries recovered from their shock and trained 100,000 weapons upon her. Sylvia looked at them defiantly, knowing that they hesitated to fire simply because she held the Bliss control box and feared it would be damaged. She also knew that in an instant they would rush her en masse and attempt to physically wrest it from her grasp. "Listen you worthless bunch of gods-d'ast schlag eating lizards! I've got control of the Bliss Box. You work for me now or I cut off your little happy drug like this!" She ordered the box to stop the flow of the drug to every one of the troops and the AI of the box complied. She was instantly rewarded with 100,000 screams of fear and anguish and pain. She deprived them of the drug for 15 full seconds, watching with both satisfaction and fascination as one of the most fearsome armies of ground troops in the known universe was instantly reduced to a crying, moaning, helpless mass of quivering reptilian flesh. Many of the troops began to become physically sick, vomiting and soiling themselves as withdrawal symptoms advanced to the next level of lethality. She knew if she deprived them of Bliss much longer, they would all die; and as satisfying as that might be, she realized that they might just have their uses in this little war. She ordered the Bliss Box's AI to restart the flow of Bliss at a 50% reduction from normal and watched as the mercenaries shakily regained their feet and awaited her orders. "I am Nova Corps Denarian Sylvia Rider-Dru, Countess of Sura and your new commander. If any one of you mother-farkers has a problem with that, step forward and I'll be happy to kill you right now. Otherwise, kneel before me to demonstrate your fealty and I might just give you a little higher dosage of Bliss." She watched in satisfaction as 100,000 Veradinae Mercenaries fell to one knee. "Kneel lower you culk-sucking schmaugs!" She watched in amusement as the entire mercenary army fell to their stomachs with their faces in the dirt. "Now stay there until I decide whether to kill you or reward you." Sylvia ordered the Bliss Box's AI to release her fellow Xandarians from their bonds and motioned for them to join her on the dais. She ordered the Xandarians to use the communications equipment in the dais' control room to contact the Xandarian fleet and let them know that Sudana was back under Xandarian control; and to request emergency relief and reinforcement. Turning to make her way to the stairs to descend into the mass of troops to further subjugate them, Sylvia found her path blocked by Karn's headless body. She sneered. "So you would've shown me sexual pleasure such as I have never known? Better than you have tried. Still, I doubt you were ever capable of that feat you worthless mother-farker." She kicked the headless body out of her way, watching it fall off the dais to the ground below. Standing at the head of the stairs with her arms akimbo and a brisk breeze blowing through her long raven hair; Sylvia Rider-Dru inhaled deeply and looked out over her vast new army thinking to herself, You know, I might just get my Centurion stars for this little coup. « Part Four