HFO Post 36 opens on the planet Tatooine, which is the seat of power for the Big O. Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding has arrived to petition the Big O to look into the disappearance of Marquis Rosslefot at the Cosmic Customs House, which happened in HFO Post 35. The vizier to Big O, Fladnag the White, denies the grand duke access to the Big O, who declares that his own people of Discharding are capable of creating power Engines then surely this would be no great deed for the Big O. Fladnag, however, points out that the Big O is so powerful that he could transform everyone in the NeSiverse into robots that don't complain. The grand duke is sufficiently cowed by this threat when Dora, the secretary, announces other supplicants. Fladnag has them all enter at once, knowing they are here for the same thing. There is an introduction to many Characters and several Pantheons that these Gods belongs to. The Cosmic Deities, The Eternal Pantheon, who are mostly deities concerned with the Narrative, and several Terran Deities and people; Chronos, Jim Seven, Morthrandur, Arkng Thand and Hermes Trismegistus, who is using his incredible speed to transport himself between Tatooine and Orbital One with Hero Force One. There is also Serapharch, second-in-command to The Nameless, and High Imp, who was once High Angel and in the position that Serapharch now occupies. Eternius, the Omnarrator, complains about the long-winded introduction of everyone before bickering starts between the deities. Eternius explains that the Eternal Pantheon has godly rights over the Cosmic Deities now that the Narrative has spread beyond the confines of Earth. Runekeeper, a cosmic god of magic, states that the Neverending Story is still limited to the Earth, but Chronos points out that a new Story, led by the Writers Al Ciao the Writer and Britt the Writer, is happening across the NeSiverse, away from Earth. They then tell a story of the beginning of the NeSiverse where Runekeepr created the ley lines, the Three Fates created destinies and Aeon created linear time. They then created Earth and Eden, with The First Man, Arkng Thand, as the spot where Mega Jonestown Prime, and the Twelve God-Monarchs, would arrive. But the Ancient One toook the Earth and humanity, thanks to Ring of Ultimate Writing Power, who created Atlantis, the Illuminohqi and brought about the Neverending Story itself. A pact was then drawn up between all the deities and Ancient One, the Story would remain on Earth and the Cosmic Deities could occupy the rest of the NeSiverse, but appears the pact is being broken by the Writers. The WriterGod allows Writers free will, if he has any power over them at all. Arkng Thand asks for attention as he plays a memory of his own for everyone to see. In the memory, on Earth in the manor called Deitopos, Ancient One lies dying of old age. He is reluctantly to leave, but when Arkng Thand shows him that the Story lives on without his input, Ancient One dies. Several Cosmic Deities are enraged that they didn't get to claim their intended position (p)ages ago. Memnoch, the Cosmic Devil, looks forward to getting more souls for the 666 Circles of Tartarus, but Thand points out that the current ruler of Earth's Hell, Acidspitter, is technically a member of Hero Force One, who are the locus of the current Story, Hero Force One (Story), and cannot be taken out so easily. The Cosmic Deities fear what Al Ciao the Writer and Britt the Writer may do to the rest of the NeSiverse, but as they cannot tackle those Writers, they decide they must somehow deal with Hero Force One instead. Hermes Trismegistus suggests that they look into R.I.T.E. as that is the focus of Hero Force One's efforts at present. On Orbital One, Hero Force One are talking to the Void Ranger, Lobo Ono. When they discuss how to return the galactic supercluster to its rightful place, Hermes suggests that they hold off on doing that as they need to learn more about R.I.T.E., who are the ones that moved it in the first place. Seraphim doesn't want to endanger the cluster to the Netherwyrms, but Lobo Ono confirms that the area is protected from detection. He also notices that Hermes is flickering, to which he confirms he is rushing between here and Tatooine. He tells the group that the area is protected by the Nova Shroud and when Lobo Ono asks how he knows such details, he also tells Lobo Ono he is about to get a call from Fladnag the White. Fladnag tells Lobo Ono, also, to wait on restoring the supercluster. A moment later and a new 'team mate' arrives at the behest of Hermes; High Imp. Most are scared of him, Seraphim horrified and Magick curious. Hermes points out that they already have a demon on the team and that High Imp can contact the Ordimarian Devil.

Post

On the planet Tatooine in the Outer Galaxies of the NeSiverse, the capital of the omnipotent Big O and his underling deities, an odd-looking alien in a dapper suit and a monocle is berating a very weary Fladnag the White.


Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding: Discharding demands that you look into the disappearance of the Marquis Rosslefot! Turn the Cosmic Customs House upside down if you must!


Fladnag the White: We are far too busy governing the NeSiverse to police everything else that visits here. We'll leave it to the Cosmic Customs House, and I believe you've already spoken with their authorities.


Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding: Nonsense! If your be-tentacled god is so omnipotent, why doesn't he simply fix my problem, all the problems of these people in your waiting line? I waited a month in that gods-forsaken line to see him, and here I see a meaningless flunky!


Fladnag the White: I'm afraid the Big O is busy with important business. Besides, if he troubled to fix everyone's every whim, there'd be other people complaining about that.


Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding: Pah! In Discharding we can make steampunk Engines(c) to do whatever purpose we can imagine! I should think it a simple matter for the Big O to--


Fladnag the White: The Big O is omnipotent, Duke. You might want to take a moment and think about what that really means. He could will it, and everyone in the NeSiverse would be a robot, unable to complain or have a rebellious thought. If he willed it, every being everywhere could be inflicted with unimaginable pain, even a visitor to the NeSiverse, such as a personage from Discharding.


He fixes the suddenly pale Grand Duke with a steely glare.


Fladnag the White: If I were you, I'd be very very glad that the Big O cares nothing for your concerns, and be very very afraid if he ever did take interest.


The Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding gulps. Before he can muster up a response, a commotion breaks out from beyond the audience chamber. Fladnag sighs, and presses the speaker button on his desk.


Fladnag the White: Dora, what is happening out there?


The voice of an extremely weird looking green alien girl with 8 legs, 3 arms and snakes for hair, but with a very ordinary name, answers him.


Dora: I'm sorry, sir! It seems several delegations of gods are each demanding to see you immediately.


Fladnag the White: I see. Send them all in.


Dora: Sir?


Fladnag the White: You heard me.


He looks up to see the Grand Duke Diggleton of Discharding still standing there.


Fladnag the White: You are dismissed, Duke. Unless you're absolutely SURE you want me to bring this to the Big O's attention?


As the Grand Duke flees as fast as his alien legs will carry him, Fladnag steeples his fingers to face the various gods coming into the audience chamber. The waiting room beyond is full of impatient supplicants, and the line stretches out beyond the palace across the desert sands.

It's true, what he told the Duke. The Big O cares nothing for governance, but only his own hedonistic pleasures, and he delegated the real business of running the NeSiverse to his faithful vizier eons ago. Therefore, he, Fladnag, knows exactly what these deities are barging in about... he is only surprised it hasn't happened sooner.


Eternius, Supreme Omnarrator: Fladnag, ol' chap, be a good fellow and fetch the Big O for me.


Fladnag rolls his eyes. No one 'fetches' the omnipotent Big O, not even for a powerful deity whose business cards herald him as "Supreme Being".


Three Fates: I say! How rude of you to interrupt us, you upstart! This is our audience!


The three fates - three beautiful women of varying apparent age - speak simultaneously, three voice saying the exact same words with the exact same inflection at the exact same time. These are not the various norns on Olympus, which is the home of Earth's gods. No, these Three Fates are the cosmic Fates, the deities that govern the destinies of all the NeSiverse, and not merely Earth.


Memnoch: Ah, but my dears, you steal every audience you enter, with your breathtaking beauty.


His voice is silky and deadly, a satin glove pulled over an iron gauntlet. Standing at ten meters tall, this cosmic devil - the overlord of NeSiverse's hell, rather than the devils of Earth who rule over Earth's hell - is sheathed in black shadow-wrought armor draped by a red cloak. An open-faced horned helmet reveals only blackness within, and Memnoch's charismatic voice rings hollowly out of a faceless visage.


Three Fates: Silence, worm, we care not for your poisonous words.


The Runekeeper: If we all would be silent, I believe the esteemed vizier has summoned us together for good purpose.


The deity over all magic in the NeSiverse nods to Fladnag the White as silence falls among the assembled deities. There are trillions of deities in the NeSiverse, most worthy of little or no mention. Mere dozens of deities are here assembled, but even among those, only a handful are worthy of mention here.

First, are the COSMIC DEITIES, those are powerful and influential on a NeSiversal scale.

Fladnag the White. Technically only a demigod, he has been assigned the business of governance by his master, the omnipotent Big O, since the disappearance of Mega Jonestown Prime eons ago left the Big O as the most powerful deity in the NeSiverse.

Three Fates. These women weave the destinies of the entire NeSiverse and all within it.

Memnoch, Warden of Tartarus. There are many hells in the NeSiverse, such as Earth's hell. Tartarus, however, is the cosmic NeSiversian hell, where the worst of the worst are assigned at death, to be warded by its master, Memnoch. Memnoch, by dint of being the cosmic devil, is infinitely more evil and powerful than Satan, Helebon, or Darkside.

The Runekeeper. A bald man with an expressionless face in a suit, the Runekeeper is the god overseeing all magic in the NeSiverse, which he categorizes as runes. A great bound tome is chained to his wrist and held in the crook of his arm, in which is detailed every spell, every rune, every user of magic, that there ever was or will be. The pupils of his eyes are his most unusual feature, being glowy sigils of indecipherable power rather than black points.

Aeon. Behind his sunglasses are clocks for eyes. Though there are many local time deities and local time enforcement agencies through the NeSiverse, Aeon is the head of the NeSiversal Temporal Flux Monitoring and Adjustment Agency. NTFMAA is a horrible acronym, of course, so Fladnag once had a flunky find an obscure alien language in which to translate the agency name. In this obscure alien language, the agency's acronym is T.I.M.E. Don't ask what the words are; Fladnag asked once, and the flunky is still speaking the second word, thousands of years later.

Phractal. Weird crystalline creature, highly intelligent, rarely speaks. The embodiment of the fractal nature of the NeSiverse and all its dimensions, mathematic and narrative. Currently, the Eternal Pantheon (see below) are slumming it in his space castle.

After these cosmic deities, there comes the ETERNAL PANTHEON, or so they style themselves. They hold power wherever there is a story, for they are:

Eternius, the Omnarrator. The Supreme Being. Or at least, that's what his business cards say. He is the head of the Eternal Narrative.

PublisherGod. Theoretically, he holds ultimate veto over any story, but since he only has power where there are stories, he tends to let any lousy fanfic slide through, just to increase his area of influence. Hate Harry[Ext 1]/Draco[Ext 2] slashfic[Ext 3]? Roll his celestial mansion, the way everyone else does.

CensorGod. A self-righteous prick who takes it upon himself to decide what is and is not appropriate for a story. His greatest ability is his sonic scream, which sounds like BLEEP!

CopyrightGod. Yeah, you've already met him, last post. 'Nuff said.

EditorGod. Holds sway over all Editors, who themselves hold sway over all Writers. Wields a rainbow-ink pen, and paid lip-service by Geb the Editor (who really venerates Nick the God of Jam Donuts above everyone else).

CharacterGod. On the lowest rung of the narrative totem... or the highest? Debate rages, and it's clear which side the CharacterGod comes down on.

HorseGod. Not related to narrative whatsoever, he only got in on the basis of his on-point humor. God of horses everywhere in the NeSiverse, and as a very few know, a secret agent for R.I.T.E.

WriterGod. A mysterious being whom many powerful and influential entities find unsettling. Some say he is the God of Writers, just as his title says - a distinctive and powerful position, to be sure, but inferior to many others. He appears to have once moonlighted as the God of Earth, back in the times of Atlantis, before voluntarily abdicating. Some whisper that he is even more, that he is none less than the Nameless... the supremely omnipotent One who rules over all universes and all stories, everywhere, everywhen.

The third category of deities admitted to see Fladnag is the TERRAN DEITIES. Those who hold supreme influence over Earth and its powers. One would think their authority insignificant in the grand NeSiversal scheme... but one would think wrong, for certain pacts were made in the dawn of time......

Jim Seven. Formerly the seventh devil of Earth's hell, now the God of Earth's heaven, situated in the Terran country Burundi. Not actually present (being busy with a go-kart race), in this case represented by the underwhelming Archangel Bertwick.

Hermes Trismegistus. Representing both the ancient gods of Earth (who all currently reside in Olympus) and the magical powers of Earth, this ancient and powerful god is virtually in two places at once: here, and the Hero Force One space station, constantly superspeeding back and forth between the two locations at such impossible velocities that less than a millionth of a millisecond separates each journey.

Chronos. The present-day Chronos (not "Fruit"), founder and head of Earth's Time Enforcement Agency, or TEA.

Morthrandur. A mysterious undead figure, unafflicted by the traditional vulnerabilities of undead. He possesses considerable power, influence, and knowledge, and is something of a wild card among the deities and powers of Earth.

Master Arkng Thand. Earth's oldest, first man. Knows practically everything. Possessed of supreme physical and martial skill, which he has not deigned to demonstrate for several millennia. Mysterious motives, perpetual meddler.

Two other beings, who defy the categorization of the others, are present as well.

Serapharch. Second-in-command to, and voice of the Nameless, a position he ascended to after his predecessor went to the dark side. Also second-in-command to Jim Seven, the god of Earth, a position he ascended to at the same time, for he and his predecessor both also chose to serve the WriterGod during his stint as God of Earth 12,000 years ago. However, when the WriterGod abdicated, the Serapharch chose to stay in his role. He is still supremely powerful as the right hand of the Nameless, but can only access that omnipotence when acting in that office. When acting in the office of Earth's heaven's right hand, he wields lesser but still considerable angelic power.

High Imp. Formerly High Angel... Serapharch's predecessor in both that archangel's current offices. He once wielded untold power, having made pacts with every deity present, and many more beside. Through his clever scheming, none of those he bargained with could claim his soul, despite his siphoning of their powers. They still fear and respect him, but what none of them know (save Arkng Thand, who keeps the secret for reasons of his own), is that High Imp's soul finally shattered under the weight of the many pacts, and he is now little more powerful than a mere impling. He still resides in the courts of the mighty, to keep up appearances... for were any of his former power sources to know of his weakness, they would exact terrible revenge on the one who tricked them.


Eternius, the Omnarrator: FINALLY! I thought I was gonna die of boredom during that recitation of all of us. I did perk up during the bit where he talked about me.


Aeon: Oh, please. If you're the 'Supreme Narrator of All', shouldn't YOU have narrated that?


Flustered, Eternius flounders for a comeback.


Arkng Thand: Doubtlessly, it was beneath him.


All the deities eye him dubiously, but accept his words. Eternius takes Arkng Thand's words at face value however, whereas the other deities appreciate the dry irony of his tone.


Three Fates: What are THEY doing here anyway???


The three women gesture simultaneously to the Eternal Narrative Pantheon and the deities of Earth.


HorseGod: Damn. That triple-voice speaking is a bit spooky. And hot.


Aeon ignores the HorseGod and takes the opportunity to shoot Chronos a withering look. Well, as withering a look as one can manage through sunglasses. Chronos ignores it; she may 'only' be the leader of Earth's Time Agency, but she's not about to take any guff from the cosmic Time Agency's leader, fancy obscure-alien-language acronym or not.


Eternius, the Omnarrator: Well to answer your question, Three Fates, that's quite simple! We're here to assume control over y'all!


On the heels of that absurd pronouncement, the HorseGod rapidly steps in.


HorseGod: Ah, don't mind the rhetoric, folks. What he means is that, we expect certain allowances, now that the narrative has spread beyond Earth.


Runekeeper: Nonsense. The Neverending Story is still contained upon Earth. More or less. Your influence ends there, as was agreed eons ago.


Chronos: In case you haven't noticed, there's a new story now. You're in it, by the way.


The Three Fates screech in indignation.


Three Fates: You see this, Fladnag? That is what has come of this! Al Ciao and Britt the Writers are... MEDDLING! They are expanding the story to every corner of our precious cosmos! It was AGREED that the story would stay on Earth! AGREEEEEEEED!


HorseGod: Okay, the screechy whining, not so hot.


Fladnag rubs his eyes. This is not going to be easy.


Fladnag the White: Alright, let's start from the beginning. The very beginning. When the NeSiverse was first being spun out of the dimensional flux.


Some of the cosmic deities get dreamy looks on their faces.


Runekeeper: I spun ley lines into sigils painted as stars across the cosmos...


Three Fates: I unspooled fresh new destiny into a forming tapestry...


Aeon: I funneled the flux into linear time...


Hermes Trismegistus: And you worked together, blessed by the 12 God-Monarchs that were the Big O's forebears, creating a great project. You created zodiacs, ley tapestries, complex fates, all around a locus in the metaphysical center of the NeSiverse. There, at the locus, you created a planet, where all ley lines crossed, all fates intertwined. You named it Earth, and it was to be the site where the space city Mega Jonestown Prime would land. In the great ley nexus of the planet, a lush paradise called Eden, your prize awoke.


Arkng Thand: Me. The first Man, fruit of your labors.


Memnoch: Until the Ancient One came.


Three Fates: Curse him!


Fladnag the White: Yes. He assumed control of your locus, spun narrative destiny around the planet and claimed it for himself. Created a city, created a lineage, created a story. Atlantis, the Illuminohqi, the NeS. You could not stop him, not with his Ring of Ultimate Writing Power.


Eternius, the Omnarrator: Yes, yes, and we swooped in to assume our rightful place.


The EditorGod snorts.


EditorGod: Our narrative influence was limited at best. That's the way the Ancient One wanted it. Created enough plotholes that even my rainbow-ink pen couldn't tame his world.


Fladnag the White: By that time, Mega Jonestown Prime and the 12 God-Kings--


FeministGoddess: God-MONARCHS!


Fladnag the White: What the Tartarus? You weren't even invited here! SECURITY!


Pig-faced Gamorrean guards drag the FeministGoddess out. Fladnag continues.


Fladnag the White: Where was I? Oh yes. The God-Monarchs were gone, it fell to the Big O to handle things. Which means it fell to me.


High Imp: You made a pact...


The fiend speaks his first words of the gathering, his words veiled by a hellish glee at the irony. Aeon picks up the reminiscence sullenly.


Aeon: Right, Fladnag, you sat us all down and made a deal with the Ancient One. He could have Earth, but that was ALL he could have. Even when the Eternal Narrative Pantheon moved in, once the NeS finished incubating, their influence was mostly limited to Earth, to the site of that gods-damned story!


Three Fates: Yes, so what's changed?! Why are those two damn Writers spreading the influence of Earth and the Eternal Pantheon beyond their confines!!! You must stop this!


PublisherGod: No, you must give us our prerogatives! Golden thrones will do nicely for a start.


Runekeeper: I say, if the pact is broken, let me have Earth's magic back! I'll start with Hermes Trismegistus's soul.


Hermes Trismegistus: I'd like to see you try! You may have a universe of magic at your disposal, but my magic is at the heart of it!


Fladnag the White: SILENCE! You cosmic deities ought to be grateful that the Ancient One came and did what he did. Otherwise this would be a smaller, lesser universe. Mega Jonestown Prime only became as great as it did because of all the touristing entities coming through, who came through only because a story was going to be in this universe!


Chronos: Oooh, so extra-versal visitors came because of the story, making Mega Jonestown Prime and its God-Monarchs great, before there ever was a story? Gods, I love nonlinear causality.


Aeon: I know, right? Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey!


Chronos and Aeon fist-bump before belatedly realizing that they hate each other. Awkwardly, they turn away.


Three Fates: Fine. Grateful. That's us. The very soul of appreciativeness. Now get Al Ciao and Britt the Writers the hell out of my affairs!


All eyes turn to the WriterGod, whose face can't be seen, despite being in broad daylight. The WriterGod smiles beatifically.


WriterGod: I'm afraid I take a hands-off approach to my Writers. I'm an advocate of free will, you might say.


Master Arkng Thand takes the opportunity to speak.


Arkng Thand: I've prepared a holographic display for you all. If you would turn your attention this way, please.


The lights in the room dim, and a mini-movie plays from Arkng Thand's memories.

Originally Posted by The NeS. Page 50. Post 1999.

Earth's heroes are fighting for their lives in an arena, and the story is disintegrating around them. But then Thand's memory-view turns away from the oracular view of Deitopos's balcony, revealing that he is within the dreamstate, in a manor called Deitopos. The view pans within the manor room. Age and decay cling to the air, for in a bed, an old old man pants raggedly.


Ancient One: Thand... I have called you here...


Thand: Rest, old friend. You've earned it.


Ancient One: No. Not... yet. Soon... the story... must continue...


Thand: It no longer needs your thought to sustain it. It has grown and taken its own form, a self-sustaining life of its own. See?


He gestures to the window, the balcony of Deitopos, the view of which spans across the world. The arena which contained horrific battles is calm now. Corpses litter the field. Lightning crackles in a shriveling sky. Two men sit in the center of it all. A shining sword splits the heavens, a beacon of hope and immortality. The Ancient One sees it, and life passes from him at last, a guttering sigh of release, even as the world reforms through the balcony view.


Thand closes the Ancient One's eyes.


Thand: Slumber peacefully, my friend.

As the holographic memory-image fades, only a few - Hermes Trismegistus, High Imp, Memnoch, and Fladnag the White - notice the memory-Thand taking a ring off the dead Ancient One's hand...


Three Fates: Wait! When the Tartarus did THAT happen? I could have reclaimed control (p)AGES ago!


WriterGod: Not with those Writers in play, I think.


The Three Fates try to glare at the WriterGod, but find themselves unable to direct any malice his way, and instead look awkwardly away.


PublisherGod: Yes, it certainly feels like (p)AGES that we've been waiting for the Writers to NOTICE they can expand beyond Earth, thus expanding the Eternal Narrative Pantheon's dominions!


EditorGod: Oy. Speak for yourself. I'd rather they stay on Earth, I already have enough plotholes to deal with as it is...


Runekeeper: I demand that the Big O himself come out to deal with these two Writers!


Fladnag the White: I'm afraid the Big O is occupied with important business.


The loud moans of an alien Japanese-Expy girl's pleasure suddenly cuts through their conversation. Fladnag doesn't miss a beat.


Fladnag the White: Extremely delicate matters.


Memnoch: I've no problem with this. More souls for the 666 circles of Tartarus, after all. And maybe I can bring Earth's hell under my boot.


Arkng Thand: The current ruler of Earth's hell is technically on the books as a member of Hero Force One.


Memnoch: Hero Force What?


Three Fates: Curse them! They are the center of Al Ciao and Britt the Writers' machinations! This story revolves around them!


Chronos: If that's the case, why are there so many posts in a row that barely involve them?


CensorGod: For such powerful beings, you're all missing the point. You do know of Al Ciao and Britt the Writers, yes? Even as they expand the Eternal Narrative Pantheon's domain, we live in fear of them, for their destructive ambition knows no bounds. Only the Ancient One's pacts, that sustained the NeS for so long, curtailed them, and that only because they chose to respect it. In a new story, with no bounds... I shudder to think what might happen.


The deities who know of these two dastardly Writers shudder. The deities who don't consult various divinations and then shudder. If the Big O was present, and not busy with "delicate matters", he would shudder too, already having been a victim of the two dastardly Writers in the past.


Morthrandur: --If you wish to deal with Al Ciao and Britt the Writers, it is Hero Force One with whom you must deal. If you wish to exert influence on Earth, it is upon Hero Force One which you must exert. If you wish to expand your influence into the cosmos, it is through Hero Force One that you must expand. They are the locus of this story, and it revolves around, moves through them.--


The various deities and powers look around at each other, meeting gazes, taking the measure of each other. The 12 God-Monarchs could have unified this group, but they are gone, and the only noble baron-deity of Mega Jonestown Prime left is the Big O, who holds no interest in doing so. It is left to Fladnag the White, the Big O's vizier, to bring them to consensus. He looks at Arkng Thand, the man who knows everything. Arkng Thand meets his eyes, then flicks his gaze briefly to Hermes Trismegistus.


Fladnag the White: You know something, Hermes?


The sorcerer-god smiles tightly.


Hermes Trismegistus: I highly recommend you all acquaint yourselves with R.I.T.E. I believe they may hold the key to Al Ciao and Britt the Writer's eventual plans... and defusing them, if necessary.


There is a long silence. High Imp is the first to break it.


High Imp: You are currently a member of Hero Force One, are you not, Hermes?


----------


On the Hero Force One space station, the heroes and Lobo Ono are convening in the war room.


Dr R. Deep: Now that that... misunderstanding is settled, we should focus on the task at hand. Namely this catastrophic battle. Then we can focus on getting this galactic supercluster back to Earth.


Magick Snowflakes: Somehow...


Hermes Trismegistus: Actually, about that. I think we should keep the supercluster where it is for a while.


The other heroes look very sharply at Hermes.


Qhobeg: What the hell are you smoking, Hermes???


Hermes Trismegistus: Tissle-forest steam-kelp, from the Discharding dimension. Why do you ask?


Qhobeg stares at him for a moment, open-mouthed, before Hermes catches on.


Hermes Trismegistus: Oh right, it was a rhetorical question.


Lobo Ono: Hang on, Mage.


Deep, Magick, and Hermes Trismegistus all look at Lobo Ono expectantly. Lobo Ono scowls.


Lobo Ono: How many magic-users does one team need, anyway?


Qhobeg gestures out the window at the distant battle.


Qhobeg: Judging by that fracas... more than we've got.


Lobo Ono: Whatever. Trismegistus... you seem to be... flickering.


Hermes Trismegistus raises his eyebrow.


Hermes Trismegistus: Those are some VERY acute sense you have there. Yes, I'm superspeeding back and forth between here and Tatooine.


Ben, the Company Kid: Tatooine[Ext 4]? But that place isn't real!


Lobo Ono: Yes, it is, just not the one you're thinking of. So what do you happen to be doing on the NeSiverse's supreme god's home base?


Hermes Trismegistus: Let's just say, you're about to get a call from your boss.


At that moment, Lobo Ono's highly futuristic cell-phone-analogue rings, and he answers it.


Fladnag the White: *over highly futuristic cell-phone-analogue* New priority. Keep supercluster safe, but do NOT seek its return for now. Ensure local stability, then investigate R.I.T.E.


Lobo Ono: I... see. Understood.


He hangs up, and looks at Hermes Trismegistus in surprise.


Deep: What, exactly, is this R.I.T.E.?


Hermes Trismegistus: Getting to that. They're the mysterious entities, identities unknown, who moved the supercluster. I believe they have good reason for doing so, a reason that could save the universe in the long run.


Seraphim: Not if it sacrifices the supercluster in the short run! What about those space monsters?


Lobo Ono: Netherwyrms. We're safe from them at the moment. Special magitech project has been deployed. You're not cleared to know more than that.


Hermes Trismegistus: Project Nova Shroud, it's literally cloaking the entire supercluster.


Lobo Ono: Dammit, Hermes, how do you know these things?


Hermes Trismegistus: I would tell you, but we have another order of business.


Deep: We do?


A shimmering of silvery sparkles heralds a long-distance teleport onto the station. A hulking fiend appears behind Hermes Trismegistus, with a horned visage and batlike wings. Ben yelps in fright, and Seraphim's jaw drops.


Hermes Trismegistus: Quite. Meet High Imp, Hero Force One's newest member.


Magick is staring in horrid fascination at the demon. Seraphim is in shock, but she knows him in person, and parted from him peacefully the last time they met, in Canada. Ben is hiding under his chair. Qhobeg's jaw has dropped open and is working soundlessly. Lobo Ono has knocked his chair over getting to his feet, and has all six of his guns cocked and leveled at the demon. Deep is unmoved, his face expressionless.


Deep: And why, exactly, do we need him?


Hermes Trismegistus: Oh come off it, you already have one demon on the roster, even if he wasn't originally a demon when he signed on. But for starters... he has the Ordimarian Devil on speed-dial.


A slow grin spreads across Dr. R. Deep's face.

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