4 Once in a blue moon - Beyond The Impossible
For all his family's complicated history, Bob's world used to make sense. He was a single father in his middle thirties with an eighteen year old daughter; remembering his date's name and making sure her daughter's life was going to be better than his own was really the extent of his whishes.
That was five minutes ago.
Now some kind of green blob who can take the form of a beautiful woman and calls itself "the Many" has broken into his house, has stolen the most valuable thing Bob has ever owned, and her twin was smashed into a wall by a bike driven by Bob's daughter. Who apparently now has silver glowing eyes and has learned to drive. And for some reason Bob's most valuable possession looks like a perfectly spherical rock. To sum: things just got really weird, really fast. And Bob still can't remember his date's name.
The rock has rolled towards the Many, who doesn't seem to mind the destruction of its twin.
<Step away from the sphere. NOW.>
Noriko's voice is firm and convincing. The Many hesitates.
<We wish to avoid conflict if possible. We have what we came for; we will not harm you.>
<You exploded in my face!!!>
<All witnesses must be eliminated.>
The Many quickly picks up the sphere, slowly looking around. It's hard to crash a bike a few blocks away from a very recent explosion without attracting a lot of attention, especially in New York.
Sirens are approaching quickly. People are looking out the window to find out what all this noise is about. The traffic jam is picking up the pace.
And there's a flying goddess in a waitress dress with no shoes landing at Noriko's side, with an African-American man in her arms. This is what finally ticks off the Many.
<We are not prepared to face an Olympian. The Heart will take care of this.>
The rocks glows blue.
A blue energy bubble surrounds this very, very strange group of people. When it disappears just a blink afterwards, there's only a huge hole in the ground.
You have seen this place before. It's a small dark spot on the edge of the Moon's face. When you looked it didn't have a New York sidewalk with half a wall and six people, but it does now.
<No. Freakin'. Way> is Bob's reaction when he looks up, seeing only stars surrounded by grey mountains. He doesn't have much chance to marvel at the beauty of the universe, since Deena has thrown herself into his arms screaming in terror:
<WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?>
<We did not anticipate this. The Heart is malfunctioning.>
<Shouldn't you be suffocating?> Vesta asks, just as confused as anyone else.
<Don't you mean "we" should be suffocating?> Max replies.
<Oh, I don't really need to breathe. Hey, why aren't you freakin' out at this?>
<Why should I? This is awesome! I'm on the Moon!!!>
<We have less than two minutes before the air that's been teleported with us fades away and lets us here to die alone> Noriko clarifies.
<You just had to spoil the moment, didn't you?>
<Listen, Many or whatever your name is. If you didn't want any witness, it's too late. This diversion might kill us, but Vesta will survive. And I can assure you, she will not rest until she has taken the Heart from you.>
<I didn't say an…oh yeah, I get it. Sure, I'll never rest until I catch you, Many. Totally. To get away with this, you'll have to go through me> Vesta plays along.
<We agree with your suggestion> the Many answers, shooting a blue ray through the rock.
Max immediately jumps in front of the ray, pushing Vesta and taking the full blast.
The blue energy rips his body apart, hollowing his body from the inside out. He barely has time to scream, since his lungs are one of the first things to disappear. All it takes are two, maybe three seconds, before all that's left of Max Black is blue mist on the surface of the Moon.
<No!> Vesta shouts, grabbing the mist with both hands and…well compressing it, for lack of a better word, back into human shape.
Noriko is watching speechless; she has all of mankind's experience at her disposal and yet she can't believe what she's seeing. Max's body is re-forming while he screams in reverse: Vesta is basically putting his atoms back together.
<Is he going to be all right?>
<I don't know! I have no idea what I'm doing!> Vesta admits: most of Max's body is intact, but there's still a lot of blue mist around him…which as far as she knows could be a good sign.
<Nori, behind you!> Bob shouts.
Noriko avoids another blast from the Many by moving to her left a couple of inches; just enough to grab the Many's arm and twist it.
Any human would try to resist or scream in pain, but the Many simply stares as her arm twists unnaturally. She still has the sphere in her hand and is not letting go.
<If you are the best this world has to offer, we are not impressed.>
<Neither am I> Noriko answers, using all of her strength to smash the sphere right into the Many's face…literally, since the woman's face seems to have the consistency of jelly.
Amazingly she's still alive, and only takes a step back. It will probably take her a moment to recover from the injury, but Noriko's not going to give her one.
<Nobody steals from Null and lives> she threatens before touching the sphere.
Then everything goes blue.
Earth, New York City
Empire State Building, 87th floor
Leiko is standing in front of the window, hands behind her back, overlooking the city. Her daughter's reaction wasn't entirely unexpected: she was raised by her useless father, after all. A part of her can't help but admire the girl's will to stand up for herself, though.
She walks to her desk, where a small wooden box is waiting for her. She opens the lock and a metallic sphere, not much larger than her fist, starts rising in the air.
<You are late> it says, using a voice far deeper than humanly possible.
<I decide when to let you out of the box, Core. Never forget who is in charge.>
<Leadership is meaningless to me. I have no interest in being in charge of amoebas like you.>
<Really. Then maybe I should bury you again where my grandfather found you.>
<I will concede that our alliance has been useful. Your father had a much smaller vision for this planet than yours.>
<I had my own reasons for killing him.>
<Of course. But unlike him, you are willing to use my knowledge to its fullest potential. It may take some time, as inferior beings like you measure these things, but there is no doubt: the future is ours.>
Someone knocks at the door. The Core floats back to the box, which Leiko closes before her secretary enters the room.
<Miss Tanaka, I'm sorry to disturb you, but you asked to be notified immediately.>
<Did you find her?>
<No, ma'am. We haven't been able to locate miss Null after she left the building. However, the surveillance cameras in her apartment show that the sphere has been stolen.>
<Was it a dark haired woman dressed in green?>
<Y-Yes, ma'am. How did you…>
Leiko smiles. She rarely does, but this time it's worth it.
<Then it worked. My daughter may still be worthless, but we finally caught the gods' attention.>
The moon dust settles slowly, thanks to the lower gravity. Noriko Null stands on the green ashes that used to be a woman a few seconds earlier.
<You…you vaporized her> Max says.
<You have a real talent for stating the obvious, mr. Black. Is everyone alright?> Noriko asks.
This is the last straw for Deena. She's been clinging to Bob, her date and Noriko's father, since they've all been teleported here.
<WE'RE ON THE MOON! WHY ISN'T ANYONE FREAKIN OUT!?> she shrieks.
Noriko is not amused; she stares at her father, stating with supreme annoyance:
<Father, either slap some sense into that woman or I will do it myself.>
<"Father"? What happened to "dad"?> Bob answers, visibly puzzled.
Noriko sighs, massaging her temples: this is a very long night.
<This isn't the right moment, Father. Our priority should be to go back to Earth before we asphyxiate or freeze to death. Vesta, am I to understand you're the reason we're not dead?>
The immortal waitress without shoes just shrugs.
<I'd be a pretty bad goddess of the hearth if I didn't keep my guests warm and breathing, now, wouldn't I?>
<That almost makes sense> Max notes <Hey, why don't you use that gizmo to beam us back?>
<I'm working on it> Null answers, concentrating on the sphere in her hands, which looks like a rock. For as long as she can remember, it's always been on her father's nightstand and it's never looked interesting…she never even asked where it came from.
She was able to control it briefly before, using its power to disintegrate the Many; it can't be that hard to do it again.
There's a blue flash of light. When it disappears, the Earth is filling the entire sky. And it's becoming visibly larger each second.
<Honey, maybe you should keep working> Bob suggests to his daughter.
The Earth is getting bigger because Noriko teleported a chunk of moon rock just above the atmosphere. A football-stadium-sized chunk.
The air surrounding the newly formed asteroid starts burning thanks to the friction with the Earth's atmosphere. The fire moves towards Vesta's hands, who shouts:
<I can't keep us alive much longer! DO SOMETHING!>
<I said I'm working on it!> Noriko answers, looking intensely at the rock in her hands. So intensely that her silver eyes are shining: she's actually concentrating a small fraction of humanity's thinking power on the problem at hand.
<Done> she says before another bright flash of blue light.
Everyone hits the sand, falling from a couple of feet off the ground. Everyone except Vesta, who is floating in the exact place where she was teleported.
<Where are we now?> she asks.
<Coney Island> Noriko answers, wiping the sand off her face.
Bob Null tries to get on his feet again, stumbling and falling again right on top of Deena. She passed out two teleportations ago.
<Nice work, Nori…whatever you did…> he mumbles.
<I'm afraid we didn't do enough> Vesta says, pointing at the sky.
The football-stadium-sized chunk of Moon rock is about to fall on top of New York City.
Max Black was pretty much raised by comic books and television; his father was a cop and his mother never had less than two jobs at a time.
Contrary to the cliché, he wasn't the black nerdy kid with glasses that always gets bullied; he was the high school quarterback who could kick your ass if you said anything funny about Superman's costume. Since knowing the full Avengers roster by heart didn't get him a job in Chicago, he moved to New York as soon as he could…most of his heroes lived there. Well, a fictional and highly idealized version of New York, at the very least.
He was almost surprised that the city wasn't always about to be destroyed by a supervillain or an alien invasion. Even more surprisingly, the fact that an asteroid is about to wipe the city out of the map doesn't make New York look more real in his eyes.
<Now what?> he asks to the silver eyed eighteen year old Asian girl that's turned his life upside down in less than an hour.
She's holding to the spherical rock called the Heart of the Universe as if her life depends on it, mostly because it actually does.
<This thing isn't working. I think it's resisting me somehow.>
<So…we're going to die, right?> Max asks.
<-Sorry, I'm really not good at that> Vesta answers, leaving the ground and flying towards the asteroid; there's a huge boom when she reaches the speed of sound a hundred feet above.
But that's nothing compared to the deafening explosion of the meteorite; it's loud enough to shatter windows several miles away.
Max isn't watching the explosion; he's covering his eyes from the sand lifted by the first sonic boom. Vesta caused quite a little sandstorm when she kicked off.
<Next time give us a warning shot or something!> Max complains, trying to move the sand.
But the sand isn't moving. It's still in the air.
<What the heck is going on? Why is everything so quiet?> he asks, even though he can't hear his own voice.
Just outside the sandstorm, the picture is clear. And it's very much like walking through a picture: everything's perfectly still. Noriko is concentrating on the sphere.
Max waves his hand in front of her eyes: she's not blinking. She's not even breathing. A drop of sweat on her forehead is absolutely immobile.
That's not the weirdest thing: Max's hand is now made of bright yellow light, like the rest of his body. His mind struggles with the change for the briefest of times, before he comes to the sudden realization that will change his life forever:
<I have super-powers! Whoo-hoo!>
As he shouts with all the joy of the world, he looks up. Frozen in time, the asteroid's explosion is filling the entire sky.
<Crap. The end of the world stuff. Forgot about that.>
Later, Max is lying on the beach with his hands behind his head. It's impossible to know how much later: it feels like an eternity, but nothing is changing.
"Okay, let's see what we've got here. I probably didn't stop time; I don't have problems breathing. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not actually breathing. That rules out super-speed I guess. And how did I get superpowers anyway?"
Max steps up, walking towards Noriko. Actually walking is misleading: he just wills himself in another place and appears there. The drop of sweat on her forehead hasn't moved.
"Too bad I can't ask you, little miss genius. Maybe that gizmo can unfreeze time" – he guesses, trying to touch the Heart of the Universe. His hand phases right through it.
"Figures. Maybe it's for the best, I don't want that thing to disintegrate me tw…wait a second".
He pictures a familiar scene again: him pushing Vesta out of harm's way, the Heart's death ray disintegrating him, and Vest pulling him back together.
"That's it! She did something wrong putting me back together, like mixing that thing's energy with my body or something. That means…"
He looks up. The explosion hasn't moved.
"That means absolutely nothing. I'm still stuck here. What kind of lame superpower is this?"
Max then wills himself right inside the explosion. Vesta is still there, still frozen in time after punching the asteroid. And her waitress dress doesn't even have a scratch.
"So you turned into what…energy?" – he wonders. Then something in his mind just connects all the right dots; he snaps is intangible fingers, making no sound.
He tries to grab a fragment of the meteorite; his hand passes through it at first, but when he puts his mind into it the space rock explodes.
<Max? What are you doing up here?> Vesta asks.
<I can turn my body into energy!> he shouts with all the joy in the world, before flying away literally at the speed of light. Turning his body into a laser.
Imagine you live in New York. You hear a loud noise and you look up: the sky's on fire.
Then you hear a much louder noise, loud enough to drown all the voices in the world, even the noise of the millions of windows shattered.
If you're not too terrified to keep looking at the sky, you see the most fantastic light show imaginable as a streak of light ricochets between rocks the size of cars to incinerate them, one by one. Finally, if you haven't completely lost your mind yet, every impossible thing you've just seen… the fire, the meteorite, even the fine dust falling to the ground after the laser hit the rocks… everything just disappears in a blue streak of light.
It was quick. Everything happened in less than a minute, when even a lifetime wouldn't be enough to really understand.
Because what just happened was simply impossible. And this is the night when the world begins to understand that the impossible is now real.
Max flies back to the beach, turning his body into human flesh again. After an eternity, the wind is finally letting the sand fall to the ground.
Noriko Null is standing on the sand, with the Heart of the Universe in her hand and half a smile on her face.
<Told you I was working on it.>