Nova: The Next Generation
Written By: Timelord 9.3.09
Prologue: The Legacy
People stared. They always stared when she appeared in public. It made her uncomfortable; so she took pains to conceal her identity. Today she dressed in non-descript clothes - not her typical haute couture by any stretch of the imagination - just casual black slacks, black boots, and white blouse. She wore large, dark sunglasses so as to mask her face without drawing undue attention. Yet, she could not help but draw attention. People - especially men - stared at the shapely, raven-haired young woman.
Shifting uncomfortably in her seat as the mag-lev train made its way to the Nova Crista, she began to regret her decision to ride public transportation rather than just use her powers to fly there. She had thought use of the powers she was born with would draw undue attention and perhaps interfere with her goal for the trip.
Her powers - now at Centurion level - were a constant source of concern for her, her parents, and others. Some feared her natural ability to wield Nova Force. Rather than needing nano-tech mediators bestowed and controlled by the Worldmind, her powers were a consequence of her genetic heritage. Those that feared her whispered that she was what her father called a "genetic Eve" - the next step in Xandarian evolution - and a portent of extinction for all normal Xandarians. Those that feared her didn't know her and they didn't understand her genetic heritage of course - and even the most renowned Xandarian geneticists were at a loss to explain her abilities.
She sighed - understanding why some feared her and for an instant wishing she could be like all other Xandarians. It had been easy to hide the powers when she was younger. At first, during early childhood, her powers merely gave her the ability to absorb and discharge energy, the Worldmind-like ability to sense and analyze the physical world, and the ability to interface with all forms of artificial intelligence. As she grew older, she developed the abilities of flight, super strength, and invulnerability. Once her body reached physical maturity at the age of 16, she also developed a healing factor. No one knew how or even if she would continue to evolve. She was unique.
Her brooding was interrupted. Someone had recognized her. It always happened. She was, after all, the daughter of two of the most famous citizens of Nu-Xandar; not to mention a member of the royal family and a Countess in her own right. She was an honest to goodness celebrity on Nu-Xandar and it was inevitable that someone would see through her disguise. An older citizen had recognized her and had given the sign of fealty to the royal family by placing his right fist over his heart. The rest of the passengers on the train followed suit. As uncomfortable as she was with royal protocol, she adopted the poise of the Countess of Sura and nodded to each in acceptance of their signs of respect and fealty; relieved that the train was slowing as it entered the station at the mall of the Nova Crista.
When the doors of the train slid open, she stepped out into the bustling mall, relieved to feel Tranta's heat against her skin and a light breeze blowing through her dark hair. Looking up, she saw the great dome of the Orienta Shard overhead; and beyond the dome, she could see Nu-Xandar rising in the east along the dome's horizon - the great Torus anchored to the planet collecting Tranta's energy and providing the gift of habitability for her people as they lived their lives on their new homeworld. She quickly hurried through the common area and made her way to the steps leading to the doors of the Great Hall of the Nova Crista - the headquarters of the Nova Corps - denoted by the great red 8-pointed star symbol of the Worldmind Hegemony emblazoned on the building. As she approached the secure area, she was greeted by two seamless metal bipedal silver sentry androids asking for identification. They moved with grace and fluidity as their bodies gleamed in the morning sunlight - never once taking her out of the sights of the projectile and energy weapons contained in their casings. Sighing, she presented her nano-tech wristband for scanning. Most Xandarians didn't have to tolerate such hassles as their Nova Matrices instantly identified them. She didn't possess a Nova Matrix like all other Xandarians. Her body just absorbed all nano-tech that was implanted and the Worldmind refused to allow her to use her natural ability to form a direct link to it due to the unknown nature of her still developing powers. She had to wear an external link to the Worldmind around her wrist for identification purposes. Of course, the inconvenience of not having a Nova Matrix for identification purposes paled in comparison to the most profound implication of not having a Nova Matrix - for not having a Nova Matrix also meant that she was more mortal than all other Xandarians. She could not be instantly downloaded into the Worldmind if she was suddenly killed - to live an afterlife in the cybernetic space of the Mindworld or be later resurrected via cloning.
The sentries accepted her identification and saluted her with the sign of fealty. Nodding to them, she walked through the doors into the Nova Crista.
The Nova Crista was truly impressive. Built millennia ago on the highest hill in Orienta City upon the site of an ancient observatory, the Nova Crista - meaning "Crest of New Stars" in the old Xandarian language - was the traditional headquarters of the Nova Corps. The Nova Prime's office was in this building - and deep under the building was the Quantum Interface to the Worldmind's tesseract. She had picked a day when she knew the Nova Prime was off-world on a mission for the Xandarian Federation as he would not approve of the business that brought her to the Nova Crista today. She took a moment to examine the Great Hall as it had been quite some time since she last visited. The Great Hall was massive. The floors were solid granite and the walls were dark wood. The ceiling arched high overhead. The Great Hall was the extent of most people's contact with The Corps and was for all intents and purposes a museum celebrating the history of the Corps. Statues of renowned Novas were interspersed with display cases containing relics from the Corp's history. Beyond the hall were more secure areas - access only being permitted to Corps personnel. She spied an open Worldmind interface just behind a statue of Centurion Gabriel Lan and quickly made her way to it. Touching her hand to the interface, she requested an audience with The Worldmind.
Her consciousness faded into the white void of the Worldmind's tesseract and she found herself face-to-face with the avatar of the Xandarian Worldmind. The Worldmind Avatar, an aged Xandarian male dressed in a standard Nova Prime uniform, placed his fist over his heart and spoke with the consensus voice of the gestalt. "Greetings Countess. To what do I owe the honor of your visit today?"
She hesitated a moment - for the first time questioning her decision. Her parents were two of the greatest Novas who ever lived. She wielded the Nova Power as a birthright. She was part of the ruling family of Xandar. Becoming a Nova was her right and her responsibility to Xandar. Being a Nova was her legacy. "I am here to apply to the Nova Corps Academy." With a thought, she contacted the AI within her wristband link to the Worldmind and submitted her application to the Worldmind Gestalt.
If the Worldmind was surprised, he didn't show it. "You are younger than the typical age selected to join the Corps - and typically basic Star Corps Training as well as at least one year of service as a Star Corps regular is required before anyone is granted admission to the Nova Corps Academy."
She set her jaw. "I am well aware of the rules and regulations. However, you know as well as I do that I already possess Centurion-level powers. I need the training and I desire to use my powers to serve Xandar and The Corps. Besides, others have joined the Corps without going through the typical admission requirements. Pyreus Kril is one example as are my own father and mother."
The Worldmind nodded affirmatively. "That is true, but circumstances dictated those exceptions. Such circumstances do not apply in your case. In your case, the support of your parents is required and..."
She felt nervous for the first time since entering the building. Neither of her parents would attempt to interfere with her choice to join the military once she was of age. However, her father opposed early entrance to the Academy and wanted her to wait a little while longer; and her mother had also wanted her to consider attending Law School. She had made up her mind and did not want to discuss the matter with them any further. She just wanted to quietly join the Corps and begin formal training. Her royal rank gave her certain rights in regard to status in the military. She decided use of her rank was her only choice to avoid involving her parents. She interrupted the Worldmind, "That won't be necessary. I am..."
The Worldmind held up his hand to silence her. "How like your father you are. Please let me finish. Your parents anticipated your decision and have already given their support. Your application is accepted. You will receive orders as to when to report to the Nova Crista for admission to The Nova Corps Academy. Welcome to The Nova Corps Cadet Sylvia Rider-Dru."
Nova: The Next Generation
The Shi'ar Conflict
Chapter One: The Woman Called Nova
The bruises and cuts ached, but Sylvia Rider-Dru could not afford to let the pain distract her from completion of her scouting mission. She pushed it aside and entrusted her recovery to her healing factor as she sped through the disputed area of space attempting to evade her pursuers. Tactical indicated that a Superskrull was closing fast; as was a squadron of Annihilation fighter ships and a battle armored Veradinae Mercenary. She had already destroyed one of Lord Ravenous' Annihilation battleships; but it had not been without cost. She was beginning to feel fatigued. All she wanted to do was make it back to the Xandarian fleet and bring her scouting mission to an end with the startling news that Xandar's greatest enemies were amassing along the border of The Xandarian Federation in preparation for invasion.
Her tactical flashed a proximity alert and she dived to avoid a bolt of cosmic fire from the Superskrull; necessitating an immediate twist and course change as she also dodged a shot from the Veradinae. She knew they were trying to catch her in crossfire and that her options for escape were becoming limited as long range tactical now indicated the enemy was closing from nearly every direction. She dived to avoid another shot from the Veradinae; and landed directly in the line of fire from the Superskrull. She reeled from the strike of cosmic fire, feeling the heat penetrate her Nova uniform's back and helmet armor; burning her skin. She recovered just in time to grapple with the skrull. This Superskrull had been given the combined powers of the Terran Fantastic Four, much like the legendary Kl'rt. He grabbed Sylvia with a massive fist modeled after 'The Thing;' and began to squeeze the life from her. She was having trouble controlling her new powers; and had fired a radiative aura gravimetric pulse only a few minutes earlier to destroy the Annihilation battleship; so it took all her will to fire another radiative aura pulse. The skrull's fist exploded; freeing Sylvia. Quickly recovering; she wheeled and, summoning all her might, put her fist through the stunned skrull's head, savoring the sight of one of her people's ancient enemies convulsing and becoming still. She had little time to gloat as her proximity alert flashed again. She twisted to avoid the shot fired by the Veradinae, but miscalculated her trajectory and found herself directly in his flight path. The Veradinae was eight feet tall, bipedal, thickly muscled, and covered in biomantium battle armor hosting an array of projectile and energy weapons. Sylvia knew that underneath the powerful armor was a fierce reptilian soldier bio-engineered to be nothing but a savage killing machine. She had to evade the great dragon or kill him as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he would not stop until he had killed her. Sylvia changed course and attempted to twist away as the dragon closed the distance between them; but he compensated for her evasive maneuver and fired an energy weapon which momentarily stunned her. The dragon capitalized upon Sylvia's disadvantage, moving in for the preferred method of killing for any Veradinae - up close and personal.
Sylvia screamed as the Veradinae Dragon's biomantium-coated claws pierced her body's natural phasic shielding and her uniform's armor; sinking deep into her flesh, attempting to rend her in half. "Mother Farker!" she yelled in rage and pain as she twisted in his grasp and with all her might landed a massive blow to the side of his armored head, tearing away his faceplate. The dragon writhed in agony as his battle armor decompressed and as his body fluids began to be pulled through his skin into the vacuum of space; but he did not let go. Before she could recoil, he managed to sink his biomantium-coated teeth into her arm. She felt his venom enter her body and her will to fight began to ebb. Desperate now to be free as proximity alerts were continuous and as she was beginning to feel sick and sleepy from the venom; she looked into the dragons eyes and fired twin eye beams. The dragon's mouth opened and his head and arms snapped back reflexively as his brain was fried. Freed from the clutches of the dragon, the nanites composing her uniform moved quickly to seal the breeches from the dragon's claws and teeth. Her healing factor was working furiously to compensate for the effects of the venom and the wounds inflicted by the dragon; but she hadn't the luxury to rest and let it totally heal her. The fighter ships were almost within range and a phalanx of superskrulls was closing fast. She shook her head to clear the effects of the venom; and grabbing the dragon's body, sent it flying into the windshield of the lead fighter, destroying it upon contact. She dove, firing gravimetric pulses from each hand, destroying the other two fighters. Sluggish but recovering, she flipped and resumed course at full speed for the Xandarian fleet, the phalanx of superskrulls in hot pursuit.
Twisting and diving at maximum speed, she avoided the bolts of energy and the projectiles fired by her Skrull pursuers. Tactical indicated that the Xandarian fleet was dead ahead; and to her great relief, she could see four Centurions speeding to her rescue; lead by none other than her parents, Richard and Sevilica. Tactical indicated that her Skrull pursuers had fled at the sight of the approaching Nova Corps; so she slowed and happily flew into the embrace of her father's open arms. She gasped in surprise as her father's arms suddenly became elastic, wrapping her in a tight cocoon. Enraged and embarrassed at having been so easily duped; but unable to generate another radiative gravimetric pulse; she focused her will and extended her phasic shielding until she was able to break the hold of the superskrull. Her 'mother,' now transformed into her true Skrull identity, acted quickly and landed a blow to Sylvia's head that sent her reeling back into her 'father's' tender embrace once again where he applied a neural inhibitor to her neck. She became paralyzed and unable to control her powers.
Richard Rider was annoyed with his daughter. He snapped, "End simulation," and watched as "space" faded away to be replaced by the cavernous interior of Nu-Xandar's Nova Corps holographic Battle Simulation Arena. He reached to his belt for his helmet. Catching his reflection in the glass of the observation and control booth, Rich once again felt both surprise and amusement at how much he had come to resemble his father. Rich ran a hand over his recently grown goatee and smoothed back his "salt-and-pepper" colored hair before donning his helmet and nodding to his lovely wife, Sevilica Dru. Even after all the years of hardship and sacrifice as they together toiled to build Nu-Xandar from Xandar's ashes; he still found himself hopelessly in love with the auburn-haired blue-eyed beauty. It didn't hurt that she was just as shapely, sexy, and vivacious as when he first met her at the tender age of 17 during the Second Xandar-Skrull War. Sevilica was living proof that cloning did have its advantages; and as he caught site of his reflection again, he made a mental note to consider some cosmetic treatments for himself as time and near constant warfare had taken their toll on his 51 year old body. He also noted that Sevilica looked a little tired - the weight of helping govern Nu-Xandar seeming to rest more and more heavily upon her shoulders with each passing day. He knew they needed a vacation. Sevilica ran her fingers through her long auburn locks of hair and donned her helmet as they headed for the door.
Sylvia was relieved to have sensation return to her limbs; but watched in dismay as her mother and father emerged from the control room of the Nova Corps Battle Simulation Arena; mentally preparing herself for her father's expected harsh criticism of her performance today. Lately, she and her father had been at odds for reasons she really did not understand. It seemed that they went out of their way to disagree with each other now; and nothing she did seemed to please him. Richard was dressed in the uniform of The Nova Prime and Sevilica wore a standard Centurion's uniform, eschewing as usual any outward sign of her royal status as Duchess of Orienta. Sylvia steeled herself as Richard and Sevilica took flight to meet her at the top of the domed arena.
Sylvia tensed and stood at attention as Richard and Sevilica arrived; avoiding eye contact by staring straight ahead unflinchingly as Richard removed his helmet and focused on her, an irritated look on his face. "What the hell was that Syl? Where's your focus? You made elementary mistakes that would have cost you your life in a real battle; and the lives of anyone under your command had you been accompanied. We've taught you better than that. Don't trust your eyes when you're fighting Skrulls! Use your powers to do an identity scan. Do you realize that if you'd made a mistake like that last one in a real battle situation that right now you'd be dead or worse - a prisoner of the Skrulls being readied for vivisection?"
Sylvia pressed her lips together tighter in reaction to her father's rebuke; but exhibited no other reaction or outward sign of upset - though inwardly she was seething. He didn't understand what she was feeling - the doubts and fears about starting a new life as a Nova Corps Cadet, leaving her childhood friends behind, and yes - leaving home. She didn't want to be here today, her last free day before starting the academy. She was only here at her father's insistence. She wanted to be with her friends one last time before departing for the Orienta Shard. She hoped her mother would render more supportive feedback; but it was not meant to be.
Sevilica shook her head. "This is truly disappointing Sylvia. Your father and I have been training you for years now and you've performed so much better than this in the past. Combat doesn't wait until we are ready for it to fit into our schedule and combat doesn't give second chances when we make mistakes. When you enter battle, you must push all distractions aside and keep your focus. One serious mistake and you're dead. You need to think about this experience and decide what you would do differently should you ever face a similar situation in the future. I expect you to do better next time. Now, I know you want to get out of here. Dismissed. Oh, and Syl, on a personal note - I know you're going to want to go out and celebrate your acceptance into the academy with your friends, but I want you back at Oban by midnight. Your father and I want to have some time with you in the morning before you leave for the Orienta Shard; and we want you rested and prepared for your first day of duty to The Corps. Understand?"
Sylvia nodded her understanding, remaining silent and avoiding eye contact with either of her parents - especially her father - and sulkily flew to the exit; dejectedly heading for Oban, House Dru's ancestral palace.
Sevilica and Rich watched her go. When Sylvia had cleared the exit, Rich turned to Sevilica and made eye contact. Their eyes locked on each other for a moment before the seriousness broke and they both shared a small laugh. Rich smiled broadly. "She made some mistakes sure enough but that's just due to lack of experience. With a little experience and discipline, she's going to be hell on wheels! I tell you Sev, I've never been so proud. She was magnificent! Her powers have developed to the point where she now has more power than a Centurion. Did you see the way she took out that battleship and that dast superskrull? Incredible! She's better than either of us were when we were about her age."
Sevilica arched an eyebrow. "Well, you're half right. Maybe if you'd had the opportunity at her age to train on Xandar instead of wasting time on Earth; you'd have been as good a Nova as both Syl and me."
Rich grinned in response to Sevilica's typical competitiveness. "Why'd you let her go so early? I was going to make her run through the simulation again."
Sevilica rolled her eyes. "She has to have some fun sometimes too. If it was up to you, she'd be training all day every day. Her friends are taking her out to celebrate tonight. She starts the academy tomorrow and she won't see them or us for the next eight months you know."
Rich's smile faded and sadness was reflected in his eyes. "I know. Our little girl's growing up fast. Can't blame me for being proud of her for being the youngest ever allowed to enter academy training. I just want her to be as ready as possible for all the dangers she's about to face so she'll be safe. That's why I've been pushing her so hard."
Sevilica floated up to Rich and kissed him. "I know and I'm proud too - of both her and you. I know how hard it's been for you to let her go. Now my love, let's go home."
Rich grabbed Sev and pulled her close. "Not so fast. We have this facility reserved privately for the next hour. What say we put it to good use? I'm thinking the Veradinae seraglio program."
Sevilica laughed. "Only if you play the role of the sex slave this time."
Rich grinned wolfishly. "Deal."
Read Part Two for the next chapter in the serial of The Woman Called Nova. Here's a sneak preview:
Chapter Two: Quantum Realm Solace
As evening fell on Nu-Xandar, Sylvia could see Tranta's last rays glancing off the Torus as she boarded the mag-lev train to the alien sector of Nu-Orienta City. As always when night fell, her gaze was drawn to the sky. The Orienta Shard shone as the brightest heavenly body in the sky. No matter how many times she visited the shard, she never grew tired of it. Soon it would be her new home for the foreseeable future. Sylvia closed her eyes and imagined it parked in its Libration Point between Nu-Xandar and Tranta, spinning slowly and keeping protective vigil over the fledgling Nu-Xandar. The academy beckoned and tomorrow she would answer its call and begin her new life as a Nova Cadet. Tonight though, was her last night of freedom and she planned to enjoy it to the fullest. Her father had been particularly tough on her this past week and she needed time to relax and unwind.
She caught site of her reflection in the window of the mag-lev. Raven haired, dark brown eyes, shapely athletic body barely covered in her sexiest shear white micro-mini dress with a plunging neckline highlighting her perfect breasts; she was satisfied that she had made the right selection of attire for the night's activities.