ASH: ASH #100 - Starslayers: Chapter 3 of 3

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Thu Aug 6 12:13:37 PDT 2009

                                CHAPTER THREE

     The splash page is almost entirely bright orange, save for three
silhouetted figures of indeterminate gender.  One is central, pushing the
other two aside.  Fiery letters across the bottom of the page read, "Power

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #100
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||            Rising Sun Part 4 - Starslayers
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2009 by Dave Van Domelen

[July 31, 2026 - Somewhere in Transvenusian orbit]

     Nothing had ever been fast enough for Gerard Custer.  Even when he'd
still been entirely meat, his mind moved faster than his body could follow,
making him an uncoordinated youth and an awkward adult.  And while his
thoughts had flown faster than any human's could, it hadn't been enough to
catch the attention of the Advanced Studies Institute of Eurasia, so he'd
never gotten the kind of training that might have helped him adjust.
     When Doublecross discovered him, though, things got both better and
worse when Gerard was turned into Goldmind.  Gerard's brain had been turned
to solid light, increasing the speed and power of his thoughts a thousand-
fold or more.  But like most of the Light Brigade of his "cohort", the
transformation had been partial, and the rest of Gerard's body remained meat,
now even slower by comparison.  His mind fled into computers, which at least
could hope to keep up, and he barely noticed or cared when his meatsack of a
body was destroyed.
     But even bodiless, things could not move quickly enough for Goldmind.
In coordinating the swarm of photonic moths around the Sun, he had to contend
with the unavoidable and infurating time lag imposed by the universal speed
limit.  People thought light moved really quickly, but when you're
coordinating actions over hundreds of millions of kilometers, it's like
trying to run an army using carrier pigeons.
     At least, he thought wryly as the modified Khadamite AI unleashed by the
Academy of Super-Heroes intrusion team severed his connection from the moths
and burrowed deep into his mind, the end would come quickly enough....

               *              *              *              *

[Falcon Bay, Venus]

     Gauntlet groaned as he opened his eyes.  "What just hit me?  Bakajin
sneak attack?  Wait, who painted my armor blue and gray?  Who are all you
people?  WHERE AM I?"
     "Holy crud, I'm a girl!" Johnny Angel gasped.  
     "And you're black," Lady Lawful observed, frowning.  "Either this room
is huge, or I shrank."
     "You're smaller," Red Widow confirmed, "and Chinese.  I got all skinny.
Who stole my butt?"
     "An' I'm HUGE!" Centurion looked down at himself.
     "Calm down, everyone," a familiar voice said from the doorway. 
     "General?", Contact asked.
     "You were in there for days, and it was subjectively months.  I have no
idea what kind of long term effects the persona programs are going to have,
but it looks like you're not snapping back to normal right away," the
General, or Major Walker, or Netwalker said.  "It'd probably have been better
if I could have eased you out, finish breaking down those memory barriers so
you knew fully who you were before coming back, but the whole network was
collapsing from the assault program we dropped on Goldmind.  I didn't want to
risk getting trapped in a pocket dimension severed from our reality."
     ", we did it?" Contact asked.  "We saved the world and
     "Come on outside and we can wait to see together.  Even if the network
collapsed entirely, the shell will probably hold on course by pre-programmed
inertia for a while," Netwalker shrugged, but he sounded hopeful.  
     "Gah, I feel like there's two people in here," Lady Lawful/Breaker
clutched her head.  "Aaron, how do you manage it?"
     "Ask me again when I'm back down to *only* two," Contact smirked as
Netwalker led them out into the orange-tinged sunlight.  Venus was inside the
shell, but Falcon Bay was close enough to the north pole that the horizon was
ruddy with reflected orange light.
     Outside, Solar Max swooped down and grabbed his wife in a careful
embrace, his armor making it a little awkward.  "Missed you," he said.
"Well, I mean, you were right over here the whole time, but..."
     "Um, I missed you too, but right now I still feel halfway like I'm a guy
from the 1940s, so if you could put me down before I'm completely freaked
out?" Meteor asked.
     Solar Max turned to Netwalker, who simply shrugged.  "New territory,
sorry.  But, hey, you guys've dealt with worse, right?"
     "Yeah, but..." Solar Max started to reply, then paused.  "Getting a
message from Star Knight, he's about a light minute out.  The shell's
starting to break up, but it's not dispersing.  He thinks there must've been
a default instruction on the moths, they're moving with purpose.  Maybe
returning to a pre-programmed rendezvous point to drop off their energy, like
TerraStar warned they would.  We need to get on this and figure out where
they're going and get there as soon as possible," he turned to head for the
communications building.  "Lightfoot should be ready to go again by the time
we know what's up, anyone whose head is back in one place by then, be suited
up for space.  We need to intercept the moths when they start to return

               *              *              *              *

[Several light-minutes from Venus]

     "It's not enough!" Irrlicht wailed in despair as the moths flocked to
her and gave up their immense power.  "We cannot rend the veil!"
     Whiteout was worried.  Oh, not about the plan itself...he'd always known
it was a long shot, and figured plan B was going to get used no matter what
they did.  But to see the normally icy-cold Petra Hollander practically in
tears was...unsettling.  For all that she cultivated the air of a cool and
calculating plotter, she genuinely loved Doublecross, and now it looked like
everything she'd done to bring him back had failed.  The loss of Oblivion and
Goldmind, possibly of Mothflame, who hadn't reappeared since the fiasco at
Falcon Bay...and it hadn't been enough.
     "Calm down, Irrlicht," Whiteout said, grabbing her shoulders.  She'd
assumed her meat form as soon as enough moths had arrived to generate a
sealed shell, because plan B required her energies not be mingled with those
of her unborn child.  There wasn't much air in the shell, only a little that
some moths had stolen from Venus on their trip in, but she didn't need much
for the plan to be enacted.  Whiteout remained in light form, however.  No
sense overextending the limited resources.
     "Sorry...sorry..." she muttered, slowly regaining her composure, if only
in a brittle sort of way.  
     "Concentrate on the alternate plan, Irrlicht.  We already know the child
you carry has potential, even if it was squandered on that fool Chiaroscuro,"
Whiteout sneered.  For all their clever games, the Impossible Five gave away
more than they likely intended to.  Had Chiaroscuro really thought none of
them would recognize him as descended from Irrlicht?  Even leaving aside the
similarities of the meat, his photonic signature was unmistakable.  For all
that he imitated powers like those of Oblivion, his origins were in
Irrlicht's powers.
     "Yes, yes," she nodded, concentrating on the nearest moths and willing
them to fly into her body, passing through her abdominal wall and bonding to
the tiny fetus, a child barely old enough to be noticed without medical
instruments.  He had survived numerous transitions to light already, as
Irrlicht had known he would, so she didn't need to employ Doublecross's risky
conversion procedure.  In fact, of all the Light Brigade, Irrlicht alone came
by her light body via the Magene, it was a power she possessed before ever
meeting the Lord of Living Light.  But now her child gained the power of the
Sun itself.
     "Chiaroscuro is light and shadow," Whiteout whispered, "but this child
will be pure light.  Perhaps he will be the reincarnation of Doublecross, and
if not, he will still be our lord's heir...."

               *              *              *              *

[Mount Olympus, Kingdom of Q'Nos]

     It was all getting easier, Phaeton reflected.  An hour after dawn, and
he was still buoyed by the rush of worship.  The edge hadn't dulled yet,
something that had happened previously within minutes of expending power to
replace the Sun over these lands.  If this trend continued, he realized, it
would only be a matter of days before all the power he expended on this
effort came from worship and none from his personal reserves.  Then it would
be time to expand, rise higher into the sky and collect more and more
worshippers.  Perhaps within a month he could replace the Sun entirely!
     Or...perhaps it wouldn't be necessary.
     The swollen orange Sun started to wobble, the pieces making up the shell
around the true Sun breaking up and moving somewhere else.  Within moments,
the shell was more of a halo around the true Sun, which shone through at
almost full strength.
     Phaeton didn't know why this was happening, although he suspected it was
more due to the actions of heroes than due to any plan on the part of the
children of the pretender sungod.  Heroes had an annoying tendency to dash
the plans of god and man alike.
     "New plan," Phaeton smiled to himself, dimming to his normal radiance
and streaking into the skies at speeds faster than light itself.  With the
Sun restored, worship would soon slow to a trickle.  Why be satisfied with
that when he could grab the power stolen from the Sun himself?

               *              *              *              *

[Undisclosed location somewhere on the Mediterranean coast]

     "I apologize, most un-radiant Chiaroscuro," the tiny holographic daemon
looked as remorseful as its twisted features would allow.  "The mistress has
not fully implemented interplanetary capacity for our teleportation system
yet.  Even using the Venusian repeaters, the projected accumulation point for
the solar energy is well outside our range."
     Now little more than a humanoid shadow with dully glowing red eyes,
Chiaroscuro snarled.  "Don't worry about a safe reception, I can handle that
myself.  I just need to be pointed in the right direction...the teleport beam
is several times faster than I can fly on my own, and won't require as much
of my concentration."
     "Yes...concentration," the little hologram considered that.  There were
times when it was clearly acting as the emotional front for the affect-less
Matrioshka, and this was definitely one of those times.  For all that she hid
behind her literal and figurative shells, the woman was as much a schemer as
any of the Five, and Chiaroscuro imagined she was weighing the costs and
benefits of agreeing in hopes that he'd suffer a "transporter mishap".  Of
course, given how the shadows were eating at him, he could imagine that his
teammates were starting to see him as a liability or even a hazard.  Another
Kid Ebon, consumed by forces he sought to command.
     "Look, it's that or I try to use the powers I inherited from my father's
side.  And you remember what happened last time I did THAT, yes?"
     "Indeed," the daemon nodded warily.  "Very well.  Transport commencing
in five seconds."
     Five seconds later, subjectively speaking, he was at the surface of the
new second Sun.  He hoped nothing significant had happened in the several
minutes the transport beam had taken to cover the distance from Earth to

               *              *              *              *

[Several light-minutes from Venus]

     "So," Solar Max addressed Star Knight over scrambled comlink as he
unlatched his armor from the exterior of the ASH Orbiter, "would you say this
is an improvement?"
     "This" was a second Sun, about a thousand kilometers across.  A small
prominence was visible where power was being siphoned away by a figure so
bright that it stood out against the overall orange brilliance of the orb,
energy swirling around it like an artist's conception of a black hole's
accretion disk.  Elsewhere, a tiny dark spot slowly grew.  At the center,
visible only when Solar Max set his helmet's filters to maximum, was a
blue-white glow that could only be Irrlicht.
     "Sure," Star Knight shot back.  "The problem's now small enough to
shoot.  Always a plus in my book."
     "THAT'S small enough to shoot?" Lightfoot's disbelieving voice added to
the comlink chatter.  "Exactly what have you been shooting at lately, Star
Knight?  That thing's the size of a small moon!"
     "That's no moon," Beacon added as he emerged from the orbiter.  "Sorry,
someone had to say it."
     "I didn't say shooting it would do much good," Star Knight shrugged.
"But a thousand clicks is better than several hundred million, yes?  So,
who're the players?  My heads up has positive ID on Irrlicht and Whiteout at
the middle of that mess...Mothflame may or may not be inside, her signature's
all over the moths so she could simply be invisible in that mess.  Who're
the party crashers?"
     "The bright one could only be Phaeton, the Titan who has allied himself
with Q'Nos," Peregryn replied.  "Even reduced in power, I fear there is no
way we could directly engage him.  The dark blot also seems to be godly or at
least demonic in nature, but it is a power unfamiliar to me.  There seems to
be a stalemate in the offing, however, as Ms. Hollander's inherent connection
to the stolen solar power is letting her resist the attempts by the other two
to steal if from her.  The standoff will not last long, however," he warned.
     "I hope Phaeton's not angry I buried his statue," Lightfoot muttered.
     "Buried it?  I think I blew it up!  Er, will blow it up.  In the future.
A future," Beacon sputtered to a stop.
     "Hey, there's an idea," Star Knight said.  "You can open up time rifts,
right?  I read Blitzkrieg!'s report from the depot, you did a time travel
jaunt recently, for whatever 'recently' means when it comes to violating
causality.  Maybe you could dump this whole ball of wax a billion years or so
into the future and let Nova Sol deal with them?"
     Solar Max contemplated the subtly shifting orange orb for a long moment,
watching the balance of power teeter back and forth.  "No," he finally said.
"Bad idea, for at least two reasons other than my lack of control over
temporal...stuff.  Yes, I've shoved a Big Bad into the timestream before, but
that time I had assurances that there would be someone waiting to pick it
up.  For all I know, the fireball would pop out in ten years right on top of
     "Okay, I didn't say it wasn't a Hail Mary play, but thinking big seems
to be the only option," Star Knight countered.
     "Then there's the other reason.  The Br'er Rabbit ploy," Solar Max
pointed out.
     "Whuh?" Star Knight's face was covered by his helmet, but his body
language clearly conveyed his confusion.
     "Please don't throw me in the briar patch!" Lightfoot chimed in.  "You
need to watch more of the classics."
     "Exactly," Solar Max nodded, wincing as the prominence surrounding
Phaeton thickened.  "We still don't know exactly how Irrlicht expected to use
all that power to bring back Doublecross.  Maybe they planned to storm the
gates of the afterlife, which would require that their version of Doublecross
had a iffy proposition.  But what if they planned to make a time
bridge and grab him from the instant when Beacon discorporated him?  Trying
to push them outside of time would do most of the work for them!"
     "Then what?" Star Knight was clearly exasperated.  "We can't attack
directly, I'm not carrying any starkiller class weapons in my back pocket..."
     "At the moment," Lightfoot muttered.
     "...and at least one of those people is the next best thing to a full-on
god.  If we were closer to Venus we might try to enlist Inanna, but she's a
planetary spirit and I doubt she'd be much good out here," Star Knight
pointed out.
     "You may not have a starkiller in your back pocket, but you *are*
wearing a hyperdrive on your back, right?" Solar Max gestured at the lump on
the back of Star Knight's armor.  One reason Star Knight was so rarely on
Earth was that his power levels tended to get dangerously high, and a
hyperdrive was a convenient way to drain off excess energy while also taking
him where he was needed.  "Hyperspace is still causally connected in the
normal way, so it wouldn't be a conduit to the past.  It's already full of
energy, so dumping all that in would at worst make for a navigation hazard
for a while."
     "I doubt it'd stop them from coming back," Star Knight seemed dubious.
     "Oh, an unstable hyper transition can be awfully painful.  At worst,
we're looking at eliminating one or two of the combatants, we can worry about
pulling another plan out of our hindquarters after this gives us some
breathing room.  Plus, time dilation at the interface might bump them ahead a
few years, give us time to prepare something more permanent," Solar Max
countered.  "Not the same as a wormhole, it shouldn't let them go back in
time," he added.
     "From briar patch to tar baby," Lightfoot realized.  "Hey, Peregryn, is
there any spell you know that could make the tar baby extra sticky?"
     "Their own lust for power is already stronger than anything I could
add," Peregryn noted.  "But I do believe that, based on some of what I've
learned studying the old WorldMaze that I destroyed, I could ensure the
transition to hyperspace is particularly unpleasant."
     "One problem, though," Star Knight said.  "My hyperdrive isn't exactly
designed to create a thousand-kilometer-wide gate.  In fact, there isn't any
hyperdrive with that kind of envelope."
     "Hyperdrive, no.  A Hyperspace Inversion Device, however, could take
advantage of the reality cavitation effect to do the same job," Solar Max was
grinning behind his impassive helmet.  "If you've read Blitzkrieg!'s reports,
Ritter, then you know about the hyperbomb."
     "I also know that if it were that easy to turn a hyperdrive into a
hyperbomb, everyone would be doing it," Star Knight countered.
     "Not everyone has access to magic and mad science.  Peregryn, what do
you think?" Solar Max asked.
     "Ordinarily, no," the mage replied.  "But that sphere of energy is
already similar enough to the natural state of hyperspace to invoke the
Substance pillar in aid of the Space clastic.  And the mere presence of
Phaeton tends to break down the walls between worlds to begin with.  Yes, in
this case, I think I can do it...I will require some moments to prepare."
     "Guys, I think they've noticed us," Lightfoot sounded more than a little
     "Ritter, you stick close so Peregryn can cast his spell, I'll distract
them," Solar Max ordered.
     "How?  Throw rocks at 'em?" Star Knight shot back.
     "By making them think we're trying plan A!"
     With that, Solar Max shot off towards the miniature star, its image
rippling around him like a mirage as he concentrated on warping gravity.
     "Hah, foolish mortal," Phaeton's voice boomed in Solar Max's head.
"I've walked the surface of a neutron star, your gravity well is nothing by
comparison...and to think I was almost worried.  Do your worst, perhaps it
will sever the annoying link between this power and the mote at its center."
     He ignored the mocking voice and shot into the star itself.  It wasn't
really a star, of course, and his armor was able to deal with the radiant
energy with only moderate protests and flashing of warning telltales.  It
was, in fact, about as bad as being in hyperspace, the young opaque universe
full of ionized plasma.  Unfortunately, just as the photonic moths had
blocked radio communication between Earth and Venus until Star Knight had
punched a hole in the shell, now he was cut off from the others.  He'd have
to sell this as a serious attempt but get out before the improvised hyperbomb
went wasn't an experience he really wanted to repeat, especially if
it meant riding along with this lot.
     "That's as far as you go!" Whiteout challenged him, having come out from
the center of the false star to meet him.  As insubstantial as the moths
were, they still slowed Solar Max's progress, and he was barely a tenth of
the way in.  Just as well, he wasn't really trying to reach the center, just
look like a credible threat, and he didn't want to need several minutes to
     "Give it up, Understudy," Solar Max broadcast, assuming that if Whiteout
could use radio to talk to others, he could hear it as well.  "You're in way
over your head...there's *gods* out there fighting over this power, walk away
before they decide you'd make a good dessert."
     "Heh.  I haven't been an Understudy in a long time," Whiteout chuckled.
"And once it might have bothered me to be called that, but I'm helping birth
a new god here, and nothing you can say or do can top that.  We'll see who
has whom for dessert!" he added, flaring up and firing a beam of orange-
tinged white light at Solar Max, nearly overcoming its refractory coating.
     "A new god?  What about your old one?" Solar Max jabbed back, sending a
ripple of spacetime that partially refracted Whiteout's body in a way that
looked like it had to be painful.  "I thought you were trying to bring back
     Whiteout shrugged, either unhurt by the gravity wave or putting a good
face on it.  "Petra was the only one of us really married to that plan.  I'm
just as happy making a new god of light, it strikes me as less chancy than
trying to undo death.  Way too many cautionary tales about that in
literature, myth and history."  He renewed his own attack, smirking.  "But we
hardly need a god to deal with you, foolishly entering our place of power!"  
     Alarms screamed at Solar Max as the next blast nearly breached his suit,
Whiteout drawing additional power from the moths about him to enhance the
blast far beyond his normal limits.
     Then Solar Max felt a strange tingle, one he'd felt before.  An
incipient hyperspace event.
     Whiteout seemed to sense something as well, and without a word he was
gone, apparently back to Irrlicht's side.
     "Okay, I'm outtahere!" Solar Max grunted, pouring on the speed and
heading back the way he came.

               *              *              *              *

[Outside the energy sphere]

     "This hurts," Star Knight grunted.  "A LOT.  Is it supposed to?"
     "Powerful magic demands a price.  Be assured that I am paying my share
as well, but don't let the pain distract you," Peregryn warned.  "I have set
the link between your hyperdrive and the energy sphere, attempting to enter
hyperspace will instead create an inversion around the sphere...but it will
take much more power than you are accustomed to using.  Perhaps all your
unfettered might.  You will need to let go of your rigid mental discipline,
relax the wards that hold your power in check."
     "Maybe you want to back up the Orbiter before I do that?  Totally
uncontrolled, my power can destabilize planetary orbits," Star Knight said
through gritted teeth.
     "You supply the power, I will guide it.  Do not worry about us, I need
to be close to you in order to control the explosive release," Peregryn
deadpanned, nothing in his voice to suggest he recognized the double
     "O...kay..." Star Knight nodded.  "I hope...JakZak's ready to...leave,!"

     Reality shuddered.
     A piece of it vanished, replaced by a small flare of heat and light,
like the dot left turning off an antique television.
     Then space itself crashed in around that point, sending all in the
vicinity tumbling out of control in all directions.
     Nearby, an Mercury-crossing asteroid shifted orbit.  The ASH spacecraft
tumbled back towards Venus.  Solar Max and Star Knight were buffetted into
unconsciousness and drifted off on separate vectors.
     And a shadow slowly faded.

               *              *              *              *


     Suffused as he was with stolen energy it took Phaeton a moment to
recognize that his surroundings had changed.  He was in the positive energy
plane, what the mortals had taken to calling "hyperspace".
     He barked a short, victorious laugh.  With his competitors gone, no
doubt left behind in the mortal plane, it would be only the work of moments
to "digest" the energy, at which point he'd emerge from the positive energy
plane and return to his worshippers in triumph.  The temporal warping that
had accompanied his trip to the positive energy plane was a trivial obstacle
to such as he.
     "No, I don't think that'll be happening."
     "Who?  Oh...Baal Samin," Phaeton snarled as another form materialized
around that voice.  "This isn't your floor, go back to your mopping,
     The Phoencian god smirked, and a pushbroom appeared in one hand.  "True.
The positive energy plane isn't part of the Celestial Temple, per se.  But
you'd be surprised how big the keyring of a janitor can be.  Or when we might
be asked to go clean up a mess on another floor."
     "I may be reduced in stature, Baal, but I'm still more than powerful
enough to...wait..." uncertainty cast a literal shadow across Phaeton's
intensely glowing face, followed by a pang of genuine agony.
     "Having trouble with your meal, I take it?  Yeah, that's me, with a
little help from some of Apollo's solar poison.  You Titans were always too
arrogant, Phaeton, focused on flashy displays of might.  That's why Zeus and
his lot managed to get most of your worshippers retroactively turned into
their own, if not outright wiped from history, you know.  Zeus may like his
flash and bombast too, but he's a lot more subtle than you guys.  A brick is
more subtle than you guys, though," Samin grinned as he gestured with the
     "At least we had worshippers once!" Phaeton countered.  "A third of the
world paid fealty to the Titans for millennia before Zeus's trickery!  You
lot had what, a handful of merchants for a few centuries?"
     Baal Samin bowed his head in a mockery of submission.  "You have me
there.  A few thousand Phoenicians were all we had.  All we needed, really.
Do you have any idea how much influence we had on culture, influence that no
one felt threatened by?  We never got that big, but we never fell far either.
Oh, sure, the Judeo-Christians mixed us in with their other demons and devils
and cast our worshippers as the badguys, but did you ever think that maybe we
encouraged that?"
     "I don't follow?" Phaeton ceased his struggles with the photonic moths
within his body for a moment, and a few emerged to flutter about in the
omnipresent glow of hyperspace.
     "Most of the time, demons are the result of either really powerful
weapons created by Fullbloods or of the fall of a Fullblood due to a setback
in the timewars," Samin explained, treating Phaeton like a particularly dim
student caught in the hall without a pass.  "Aside from a handful of
cultists, they lose all their worshippers and temporal influence.  They're no
longer a threat to the other Fullbloods, since they're so far down the ladder
there's really no chance of climbing back up.  A position you were
dangerously near before you started this gambit, I might add.  But Ba'al,
Moloch and the rest of my family got to keep our historical powerbase.  Sure,
the Phoencians passed from the Earth, but in the normal way, as opposed to
being erased.  Casting us as demons, though, has caused a lot of the other
Fullblood families to consider us no more threatening than the real demons.
As long as we see to our portfolios and don't try to make any moves for more
power, they let us be.  Sometimes even call us up for the occasional job they
don't feel like doing themselves."
     "Pfah," Phaeton spat.  "What sort of gods are you?  Crawling salarymen."
     Baal Samin shrugged.  "Salarymen still drawing a salary.  Phaeton, old
bean, the timewars weren't something you could opt out of once they started.
If you were a Fullblood, it was either fight or vanish.  But not all of us
really wanted power for its own sake, and once we Phoenicians made sure we
wouldn't be wiped out in the opening moves, most of us were happy enough to
be ignored and go about our non-power-accumulating pursuits, and the ones who
weren't were at least careful not to get us mixed up in their 1998 schemes.
My pursuit involves keeping a clean house," he pushed the broom along a
nonexistent floor for emphasis.  "Call me the Felix Unger of reality if you
want, assuming you soaked up enough mortal culture to get the reference.  And
that lines up nicely with Apollo's desire to see you broken and humiliated.
I keep this corner of spacetime relatively free of meddling godlings...other
than myself, of course...and Apollo gets to see your face rubbed in the dirt
again without any effort on his part.  You really ticked him off back in
1997, did you know that?  He even went to Hades to get the properties of gold
changed so that your big statue in Chicago would sink, and that takes some
doing!  Me, I'm small potatoes compared to that."
     "So," Phaeton narrowed his eyes.  "What now?  What humiliation do you
plan on inflicting on me?  Think carefully, for if I survive it will be
visited upon you in return a hundredfold."
     "Oh, nothing much," Samin pointed the brook at Phaeton.  "Just a little
broadening of your horizons.  Did you know that despite our awesome ability
to transcend space and time, very few Fullbloods ever leave the era of
humanity?  Let me give you a tour," he prodded Phaeton with the broom,
sending him tumbling out of hyperspace and backwards through time....

     ...over Tunguska in 1909, where a fragment of the power flaked away from
Phaeton, sending him bouncing across the timescape... the Western Hemisphere in 1871, where he lit fires all across
North America...

     ...moving faster through time, he involuntarily rained fire down on
Sodom and Gomorrah and heard Baal Samin's bitter laughter at the irony...

     ...devastated a forest in 34,000 BCE that had never known the hand of

     ...then triggered the eruption of the Indonesian Toba supervolcano
seventy four thousand years before the beginning of his trip and nearly wiped
out nascent humanity...

     ...dumped much of his purloined power into what humans would name the
Nordlinger Ries crater in Germany and caused the "Miocene Disruption"...

     ...and finally, what remained of Phaeton and the merest piece of the Sun
slammed into a place that would one day be called Chixulub, some sixty five
million years later.  In his death, Phaeton ended one world and opened the
door to another.

     And as he died this final death, devoured from within by the power he'd
sought to make his own, power of the Sun poisoned by jealous Apollo, Phaeton
heard Baal Samin's mocking voice say, "Screwball in the corner pocket...."


                              TO BE CONCLUDED!


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