“Not now, Jaku!” Bojack’s voice came soaked in rage. “Get out!”
Amber artificial light peered through the half-open metal door, blocked only by the hulking figure of Bojack’s first mate. Jaku’s skin seemed almost black in the light contrast. The captain’s blood was running hot. A drop of sweat rolled down his cheek and dribbled onto the steel floor.
“My apologies master, but they’ve begun the assault.”
“Don’t think I already know? Get out!”
The first mate stared down his captain before walking out, slamming the heavy door behind him. Another blast rocked the ship, causing the hanging chains in the closet to rattle. Squealing, a space rat scurried between Bojack’s legs.
“Cunt,” Bojack whispered, pulling himself out of Zangya. “I’ve lost it,” he complained. “It’s no use.” His cheeks burned, and he still felt the fire in his belly, but it was waning, and soon it would be snuffed out. Try as he might to hold on, his passion was slipping through his fingers like sand.
“They’ve started the attack,” whispered Zangya. She was his third mate, but there was only one thing about her he valued. “Should we go, captain?”
“Aye,” breathed Bojack. “Aye, and I’ll make them pay for this. You know I like to get off before a battle. I always do. It’s bad luck not to.”
The woman giggled, wiping herself off and pulling up her pants. “You and your luck. One of these days, master, you’ll realize the only luck in this life is the kind you make for yourself.”
Bojack didn’t have time to listen to that bitch. He walked out, slamming the door behind him, feeling the ship rocking and vibrating each time another attack hit. There wasn’t much time to do what he wanted to do. Returning to the bridge of his starship, Sanity’s Eclipse, Bojack found Jaku sitting in his captain’s chair.
“Up! What’s going to be done about our little problem?” the captain grumbled, taking his seat. He noted the warmness of it; Jaku had been sitting there for several minutes. “You couldn’t help yourself but to interrupt me. Why haven’t you shown that same initiative with our enemies?”
“Apologies captain,” Jaku said, going to a knee and placing a fist over his heart. “But the only way to deal with these alien bastards is to take the fight to the planet’s surface.”
Bojack gripped the armrests of his chair, thinking. “Do it,” he murmured. “Lead the Galaxy Warriors into war. Cover this world in the blood of our enemies.”
Jaku fell to a knee again and tore off his shirt, revealing his sinewy physique. He stood a foot taller than Bojack, confidence reigning supreme on that shifting face of his. One moment, he seemed to be as loyal as anyone on the Sanity’s Eclipse, but at other times… either Jaku was stupid or he was trying to bring Bojack down. Bojack didn’t know which one it was.
“Master Bojack… I will not fail you.”
“You better not. The universe is filled with the bones of those who dared to stand against me. All of them failed. I expect these beasts to end up no differently. Their fates are already sealed. They have no chance. Wipe them out by the end of the day.”
“Yes, captain,” Jaku replied, bowing stiffly.
Bojack peered out the window to the planet below. It was a desert world with what appeared to be a few sparse jungles and mountain ranges dotting the surface. On either pole, a glacial mass lay white as bone. A single sprawling ocean separated the planet into several sizable islands. Even now, Bojack could see the planet’s orbital defensive turrets pelting his fleet with rust-colored energy bolts. Further off, the blueish light of the system’s star burned like an angry eye, covering Bojack in its warm, knowing gaze. Looking away, the captain found Jaku again.
“Nyare. It has a reputation around the galaxy for being home to considerable wealth. Find me the treasures of this world, and I will give you your own fleet, Jaku. Fail to do so, and I’ll kill you myself.”
“I will do as you command, Master Bojack.”
“You will not fail me,” Bojack spoke, the threatening tone of his voice echoing throughout the bridge. “The Galaxy Warriors are the last of our species. Remember that, and don’t be reckless.”
The first mate left him like that, his scarlet cape billowing behind him. The rest of the crew followed Jaku out, sans a few Galaxies Warriors who would need to keep the Sanity’s Eclipse operational. Another blast rocked the vessel, causing the lights to flicker. The metal walls danced with light, seeming to bend and mock Bojack. He bit his tongue so hard he could taste blood. It ran hot and thick down his throat.
Bojack stood. The armrests on his captain’s chair had been smashed. He paced up and down the room, thinking over what he had done. The chains hanging from the ceiling jiggled and swayed. “No… it’s not fair. They get to have all the fun. I want to get in on the action.” He cracked his knuckles and stamped his foot on the steel-grate floor. “I want to feel their blood flow between my fingers as I suffocate the life out of them. I am the strongest being in the universe! They should fear me… not my first mate. He won’t get all the glory. Not this time.”
Bojack looked out the window again, down towards the planet and the sea of incoming energy bolts. He knew then what he had to do, and for the first time since he had been inside Zangya, his blood was flowing hot again.
Fire snaked around windows of Bojack’s landing craft. Clutching the bleeding heart, he ripped it from the hanging chains and bit into it, tasting the iron and muscle. This was the heart of his last foe; a tradition he had taken part in since his second battle was eating the heart of his last vanquished foe just before the start of the next battle. That wasn’t always possible – sometimes he vaporized his victims, and sometimes their bodies were not able to be recovered – but he tried to do this as often as possible. It made Bojack feel unafraid, feel like he was ingesting the powers of those he had slain. The tradition was as old as his species itself and had been taught to him by his father. Bojack tried to remember when he had eaten his father’s heart, but his memory of that day was hazy as a ravaged sky, split open in his mind like a festering wound seeping out pus.
This heart was eight days old, freshly unfrozen. It was one of the better-tasting ones he’d had in his years.
When the landing craft came below the clouds and Bojack could see the light of day outside and the distant yellowish desert sands below, he knew it was time. Kicking open the thin metal door, he jumped out, letting his ship sail onwards through the peach-colored sky (he’d go back for it later). The planet was sultry and star-scorched, ten times worse than Bojack’s homeworld had been. In his pirate garb – his thick blue cloak, puffy white pants, his heavy boots, and his black bandanna – he was already feeling the heat. Sweat clung to his teal flesh like space mosquitoes. Below, sand danced and swirled as desolate winds blew.
Surveying the area, Bojack sensed many cities scattered around the world. There were millions if not billions of natives on this planet. Sensing that Jaku and the others had spread out across most of Nyare’s islands, Bojack could tell they were engaging the planet’s military defenses. And he could tell that his Galaxy Warriors were slowly overcoming their foes. Instead of helping them, Bojack decided to turn his attention to the nearest city, where he knew many civilians remained. Unprotected and weak were they – his favorite kind of prey.
Soundless as a breath of wind, Bojack came to the city and found that it was built of metal and stone and wood, with tall, tree-like skyscrapers dotting the landscape and many smaller buildings clustered around them. The streets were lined with spotted trees cloaked in leaves of blood and fire, many of them just starting to fall off and leave their hosts bare as skeletons. He noticed lanky feline-like aliens walking about below him: their fur was aqua with black stripes; they had thin, long tails and huge, wide ears, large heads and eyes, and puny power signatures. Bojack knew they would be easy pickings.
He conjured two super-heated balls of emerald energy in his hands, aiming them down at the unsuspecting aliens. Grinning devilishly, Bojack released his attacks and conjured up another pair of energy balls. He threw those too, at the people, the buildings, into the streets, at the skyscrapers, coating the entire town in his hate. The captain drank in their screams, reveled in the fires that sprung up and burned through the metropolis, and felt delight spread through his mind upon seeing the foolish natives burn with their homes. Bojack bared his teeth and laughed inexorably. They were so weak, these maggots who had dared shoot at his ship. They would soon be wiped out and forgotten, buried in the sand and left to rot… that much Bojack swore.
Bursting through buildings, chasing down fleeing aliens from above, energy blasts in his hands, Bojack had a wonderful time. Debris and fur flew through the air, riding the wind. Everything became so dirty, so bloody, so horrible; it was just how Bojack liked it. His blood was racing, his heart pumping. The heat was making him feel alive. He killed thousands that day, painting the streets with blood and blown-off limbs and chunks of flesh.
By evening, an army of soldiers appeared, ready to face down Bojack. There were thousands of them, perhaps a million, all locked in regimented lines, holding energy blasters or other such projectile weapons. All of them pointed their killing machines at the genocidal space pirate. Bojack knew they had been coming for him long before they arrived; he had sensed it. He welcomed them. If they wanted to die, he would not stop them. When the army found Bojack, he was just putting the finishing touches on his destruction of the city. Ash rained down from the sky like hellfire.
“Hapless fools. They don’t know they’re marching to slaughter. In that case, I think it’s time they meet the butcher!”
Bojack drew his ki about him and air dashed right into the middle of the Nyarin army. They shot at him in a panic, countless energy bolts hissing and buzzing through the air. But these beings were weak; their weapons were pitiful. None of them could hurt him. He was invincible. He would take everything from them.
He tore Nyarins limb from limb, snapped necks, incinerated them by the hundreds with ki waves. Sand whirled around him; he could taste the bitter dirt in his mouth, could feel it in his eyes and nose and ears, but that wasn’t enough to stop Bojack. When he was covered in their blood, Bojack began to howl with amusement. Try as they might, the furry beasts could not touch him. He jumped into the air and slammed his fist down into the dried-mud ground, cracking it and making a huge crater. Sand spewed upwards like a fountain. The ripples of his attack traveled through the air, sending waves of energy through the bodies of the soldiers; those who had survived to that point suddenly burst into meaty, furry balls of gore, splattering on the ground in a collective groan. When the dust settled, the army was defeated.
Around Bojack, the yellow sands began to stain purple, and silence returned to the world. In the distance, Nyare’s star was falling towards the horizon; with fading light, the world looked browner and older and more ready to die than it had at high noon.
Yet, as Bojack was catching his breath, he sensed something was amiss. There were no longer as many Galaxy Warriors as there had been before. He could sense the growing void in the universe with each passing, the echoes of their deaths singing of cruel tragedies and lost futures. Anger surged through Bojack’s veins; he had told Jaku what would happen should the man let too many of the Galaxy Warriors perish.
Bojack gathered himself, trying to clear his mind so he could find where Jaku was. But the thoughts of killing his first mate, of bringing justice to that smug little man, gnawed at his brain like a parasite. He realized then that he desperately wanted Jaku to go, to relieve himself of a man who might have been plotting to overthrow him. Even if it wasn’t true, all Bojack needed was himself. He didn’t need the others. He didn’t need Jaku, that smug bastard. They were all replaceable… all of them except Zangya. Bojack knew once she produced a son for him, she too would lose much of her worth.
In a flash, Bojack felt Jaku’s power. It was unmistakable – large, fluctuating, and cocky. The captain could tell a great deal about a warrior just from reading their power signature. And yet, Bojack could sense something else with Jaku – another power, almost his equal. Foreign it was, and old; noble and brittle and melancholic it seemed to Bojack, and he wondered who this fighter was. There were other fading power signatures around the two – both Galaxy Warriors and foreigners. A great battle was unfolding. Bojack moaned, bringing himself to full power, and flew after them, faster than the winds.
They were fighting in a sandstorm when he found them. Dead Galaxy Warriors and Nyarins were lying in the sands, many face-down, others crawling and bleeding and pleading for mercy. Bojack hovered in the air, his arms crossed, not willing to lower himself into the fray quite yet.
When he saw a tall Nyarin clothed neck-to-toe in jet-black armor jumping from Galaxy Warrior to Galaxy Warrior, killing each one with a single swing of his energy pike or a punch to the gut, Bojack considered charging in. Yet when he realized his warriors were weak, that they were allowing themselves to be slaughtered by a native alien, he stayed himself. These were not warriors worthy of being his companions. Bojack was the strongest person in the universe. If his soldiers were so weak, it would reflect poorly on him. Better they died now and spared him that shame.
It was only when Bojack saw that Jaku had transformed into his Full Power form that he began to reconsider. Jaku ran forward, green-skinned and red-haired, through the screaming sandstorm, and attacked the Nyarin warrior. Briefly, they engaged in a blow exchange where both of them faced each other down without backing off. It was stunning; Bojack had never seen anyone match Jaku’s Full Power form before. Hell, in Full Power, Jaku was nearly as strong as Bojack.
His heart was beating loudly in his ear. He could taste sand. Lightning cracked across the sky in green streaks. The light of the blue star was fading; Bojack didn’t have much time. He rushed forward.
“Jaku!” he roared when he reached the two. “What have you done?!”
“Ma… ster B-bojack!” Jaku panted, wiping his brow “What are you doing here?”
“Saving you from humiliation. Come here.”
Jaku’s face was covered in uncertainty for a fraction of a second, and then he decided to heed his captain’s words and break away from the Nyarin warrior. The Nyarin stuck his pike in the sand and leaned up against it, breathing hard. Bojack could see the man was old – too old. He needed to die. He’d lived long enough.
“That guy’s tough,” Jaku said, trying to catch his breath. “Never seen anyone like him!”
“Do you remember what I told you before you left?” Bojack asked, his arms crossed. He was frowning, squinting, feeling sand nip at his cheeks.
“Master…” Jaku replied, his eyes widening in understanding. “P-please, let me finish–”
“Shut your cunt mouth!” Bojack lunged forward and punched the green-skinned Hera through the throat until his fist connected with Jaku’s spinal cord. He grabbed onto those bones, ripped what he could out of the hole, and kicked his first mate’s corpse away, blood dripping from his hand.
“You’re a mad one, aren’t you?” scoffed the Nyarin warrior. He stood up, picking up his energy pike and twirling it around. “Killing your own man? That’s pathetic.”
“You’re old,” Bojack grunted. “You should know better than to mock someone stronger than you.”
The Nyarin laughed. “My name is Arbados, Commander of the Nyarin Praetorian Guard. I am the strongest being on this planet, not you. I’ll kill you before you kill me.”
Bojack laughed recklessly. “That’s funny. Just for that, I’m going to end your life slowly, old man. I want to see how many of your bones I can break before you leave this life!”
Around them, Bojack could see his Galaxy Warriors fighting Arbados’ Praetorian Guards. Most of them were winning – he saw Bujin, Zangya, and even Kogu blasting away the best Nyarins on the planet with ease. Others were not so lucky, and thus they perished and were forgotten. Only the strong survive, Bojack knew; only the strong were worth remembering.
“Leave this place,” Arbados spoke solemnly, “or I will be forced to cut you down, alien.”
“You may try.”
“Woe to the man who tempts my wrath.”
Bojack raised his fists and the Nyarin fell into a fighting stance as well. “It’s time you’re acquainted with the strongest warrior in the universe, old man. I’ll be your last foe, and I’ll eat your heart before I leave this place.”
Sand spun around them, cutting at their exposed flesh. Screams echoed through the desert as Galaxy Warriors and Praetorian Guards breathed their last breaths. Bojack and Arbados kept their eyes focused on one another, neither moving. The heat in the captain’s cheeks was becoming overwhelming. It was no longer so hot out, on account of it being evening, but Bojack still felt restless. His heart was going like a madman. He needed to kill this stupid old man.
With a hoarse bellow, Bojack charged Arbados. The Nyarin jumped back, parrying Bojack’s savage, heavy blows. Bojack’s style was slow and improvisational. He didn’t think about what he was doing, just went on instinct. The man studied him shrewdly and blocked with deliberate poise. And then, as Bojack took another step forward and his foot sunk into the sand, the commander found his opening. His punches were quicker, more elegant and precise, an art form as well as a mode of combat. He dismantled Bojack’s parries with ease, and the captain could begin to understand why Jaku had failed against this man.
“You’re a clever one!” Bojack sneered. “But I see what you’re trying to do. It won’t work against someone of my power!”
“Arrogance!” Arbados spat. “I’m not even at half my power! Leave this place, before I kill you!”
“If you’re only at half power, you’re in trouble, old man!”
Bojack flipped over the Nyarin and air dashed forward, slamming his shoulder into the furry alien’s back. Arbados dropped his energy pike and fell into the sand. Bojack was on him at once, grabbing the man by the back and trying to squeeze him slowly to death. Arbados screamed and fought and a second later, he head-butted Bojack, breaking the space pirate’s nose. Bojack howled with pain as his blood flew from his face. Before he could even wipe his leaking wound out of his eyes and mouth, Bojack found the commander was on him again. They exchanged punches, curses, and energy blasts. At close range, throwing energy balls was a dangerous game for both of them, though they were each able to dodge the first couple of surprise attacks.
Arbados teleported to Bojack’s side and hit him with a flying kick, knocking the space pirate to one knee. Then, he shot a point-blank rapid energy attack at Bojack, covering the larger alien in a swarm of purple ki blasts. When the smoke cleared, Bojack was nowhere to be seen. Confused, Arbados looked around and was met with a boot to the jaw, sending him flying away into the swirling sands. Thunder bellowed from the coral sky.
Though there was low visibility in the heart of the sandstorm, Bojack held the advantage; he could sense power signatures. He doubted this old man could. Teleporting around Arbados, Bojack was like a ghost, probing and sending exact punches and kicks just where Arbados wasn’t expecting them. On the third attempt, the Nyarin caught Bojack’s foot and threw him to the ground. Then they were upon one another again, hungry for each other’s blood. Bojack rolled away and stood up, punching and kicking wildly. And there was the leader of the Praetorian Guards blocking him.
Both were breathing hard by now, though Bojack was the only one sweating. His punches came sloppy and desperate, overreaching severely. He wanted to end this, to kill the man who dared stand against him. Bojack hated Arbados, hated that anyone could make him feel pain. When his punches didn’t do much, he switched to ki blasts, and yet Arbados batted those aside. They dueled over dead and dying bodies, over fresh corpses and soon-to-be corpses; all the while, Arbados maintained his focus on Bojack while Bojack felt his heartbeat grow with intensity, felt the blood in his veins radiating pure ire.
Bojack jumped back, his cape flapping around him. Wiping his brow, he said, “You were stupid to mock me. And you were even stupider to not have killed me already. Now I’ll make you pay!” Bojack screamed, his aura shining around him, covering him in its warmth. And when it settled down, when the light flickered and went out, there stood Bojack, green-skinned and red-haired, his shirt gone, his muscles larger. He was now in his Full Power form, bringing a massive increase to his power signature. He could feel how much stronger he was than Arbados and guffawed. “You fool! Don’t you understand that it’s over now? There’s no way you can stand against me now!”
Arbados sighed and fell into his fighting form again. Bojack once again charged him. He couldn’t just sit back like the Nyarin. He had to fight; he had to attack his foe. He was too impatient. When their fists locked, Bojack shot an energy attack from his, burning the commander’s knuckles. Arbados let out a cry and teleported behind Bojack, kicking him in the back of the head. Bojack barely felt the attack.
Taking to the air, Bojack called forth his ki reserves into his hands, fat beams in either palm. The wind howled around him like a dying animal. He aimed the attacks at Arbados and bombarded the man with all of his fury. Arbados came to the air too, to dodge. He stared at Bojack like the space pirate was a sick space puppy, and then disappeared into the sands.
“Come back! There’s no running from me! I’ll hunt you down!” Bojack goaded. He fired his energy beams off into the darkness, hoping to hit the man he still sensed nearby.
When none of the blasts made contact, he charged into the storm himself, sensing for his quarry. That was when the captain felt Arbados’ power level grow suddenly and massively – so massive it became close enough to his own power that Bojack didn’t know who was stronger anymore. For the first time since the battle had started, Bojack paused. A tendril of fear snaked around the space pirate’s heart, caressing it gently. For the first time, doubt was in his mind, and Bojack didn’t know what to do.
Out from the eye of the sandstorm came Arbados, with all of his power. He led with a kick, hitting Bojack in the face and sending the space pirate flying like a ragdoll back to the ground. Dazed, the captain stood up and saw Arbados walking towards him. Purple energy sparkled and shimmered around his form, and his eyes had become two pale flames. In his hand was a burning indigo energy beam that Bojack knew would be strong enough to kill him, even as he was.
He shook his head, feeling pain pulse through his skull. He had a headache, felt sick to his stomach. His heart was beating too fast. It was getting sore. His bloodlust was beginning to fade. But Bojack wasn’t done yet. All of his wrath came to him when he remembered that this petty alien was trying to kill him. He would defend himself and his title of the most powerful being in the universe, and no one would doubt him. No one.
“This’ll finish you off!” Bojack screamed, conjuring a light blue ball between his hands. Then, he split the ball in two and aimed each hand at Arbados.
Arbados was standing calmly, his indigo beam covered in lightning and burning like it was on fire. He held his attack in one hand, as arrogant a display as the space pirate had ever beheld. And then, in instinct, they both threw their attacks at one another. Bojack felt the heat of his opponent’s beam even from several feet away; their energy clashed in an explosion of plasma and sparks and electricity. The winds grew, spewing sand everywhere. Bojack felt the impulse to close his eyes, but he couldn’t. He had to see Arbados die. He used all of his strength to push his energy beam forward. Arbados did the same, and they were locked in a stalemate. Try as they might, neither of them held the edge; neither could overcome the other. Bojack didn’t understand. His rage grew even larger. Why was this alien able to stand up to him? Why was he struggling as he’d never struggled before? It didn’t make sense. This was a planet of weaklings.
“You will not kill me!” Bojack screamed, seeing with horror that, at last, the beam struggle was beginning to move in his direction. He was using two beams, slightly spreading his power across two sources of energy. That gave Bojack a slight disadvantage, especially noticeable in a beam struggle lasting this long. “Bastard! I’ll make you into food for the worms!”
Arbados did not reply, making Bojack even angrier. He screamed again and tried to push back against the Nyarin’s beam; with all of his strength, he grit his teeth and pushed forward, only to find that he was up against a wall. There was nothing he could do. For a moment, Bojack knew he was going to die, and he felt a sense of peace wash over him. He felt acceptance. But then, the warrior in him returned, and Bojack swore to himself that he would never give up. There was still a way for him to win.
Bojack teleported behind Arbados, foregoing the beam struggle any further. His Galaxy Buster collapsed against Arbados’ blast, but that was no matter, for Bojack had just used the element of surprise to get behind his foe. He created a green energy ball in one hand and threw it at Arbados, hitting the Nyarin in the back of the shin.
Arbados screamed and fell over, blood and skin and muscle flying into the air from where Bojack’s attack had taken a chunk out of his leg. He rolled over, but Bojack punched him in the jaw and made him collapse against the sand.
“I don’t get it…” Arbados was crying, tears running into his aqua fur. “They said I would be strong enough… that I’d have the power to defeat you…”
“What are you blabbering about, old man?”
Arbados’ eyes widened and his lip quivered. Lightning exploded in the sky, illuminating his old face. “You will not win, Bojack the Destroyer!”
A chill spread across Bojack’s body. “How do you know my–”
Arbados lunged forward, punching Bojack deep in the gut. The space pirate stumbled back, kicking Arbados across the face. But the Nyarin didn’t go down. He twisted to the side and hit Bojack twice in the shoulder, nearly causing Bojack to collapse. Then, Bojack swung wildly, trying to hit the man, but he missed. Arbados flew over him, landed behind Bojack, and kicked his legs out from under him. The captain fell to the sand, spinning through it, the taste of dirt and blood on his tongue. When he went to stand back up, Arbados stood over him, his energy pike in his hand. He blasted Bojack away, causing the space pirate to be blown into a pile of dead Nyarins and Heras. Standing up, Bojack could only see the energy pike of his foe; everything else was swallowed up by the sandstorm. Lightning cracked and spread across the sky. The sun’s last rays of light were on their way. The ball of fire had already sunk behind the horizon. It was only a matter of time before the light was gone.
Roaring, Bojack formed another energy ball in his hand and charged at Arbados. For a split second, the two saw one another, each lit up by the light of the other’s attack, and then Bojack threw his ball of energy into the sand, not at Arbados; he realized only too late what the Nyarin was planning. Sand flew everywhere. When a mass of it went into the commander’s eyes, he dropped his own energy attack and let it sink into the sand. Bojack teleported behind the commander and prepared to snap his neck when Arbados spun around and swung his energy pike in graceful arcs.
Bojack felt the heat, but there was no pain. His skin split open, blood gushing out from the two cuts the Nyarin had left on his face. He screamed in surprise and horror and put his hand together, creating a quick green energy beam. Then, he let loose the beam into Arbados’ chest, and the old warrior, who was still in the midst of swinging his pike, had not the time to dodge or block the attack. He was hit full on in the chest. Bojack beheld the Praetorian commander scream, his armor melting, his fur melting, his skin melting. And then, the momentum of the attack thrust Arbados away, deep into the sandstorm, to die.
That was good, Bojack knew. He wasn’t dead yet; Arbados would die a slow, painful death, and Bojack would be there to watch, to relish in that fool’s last breaths. He went to run after the Nyarin when he found he couldn’t move. Perplexed, Bojack tried again to move, and found that he was stuck in place, only able to look around with his head and neck. He shouted, screamed, cursed, tried to make energy blasts, tried to teleport… but nothing worked. He was stuck. Then, the invisible power that held him forced him to his knees.
The sandstorm lessened, and Bojack saw that the sky had turned a deep crimson. Looking around, he saw his Galaxy Warriors still engaged with the Praetorian Guards; but there were few of them left. He saw Zangya, her face covered in cuts and bruises, looking wild-eyed and scared. Next to her was Bujin, his second mate, fighting off a dozen Praetorian Guards at once. He watched Kogu using his demon’s blade to cut through his foes and Bido using explosive ki blasts to push back the Nyarins trying to rush him. There were four of them left. That was it, aside from the small group still on Sanity’s Eclipse. All of his Galaxy Warriors – all of the surviving Hera in the universe – had been reduced to less than a dozen warriors. It sickened Bojack to see, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything about it.
Together, with impressive uniformity, the surviving Nyarin Praetorians jumped back from the Galaxy Warriors and teleported away, leaving only dust in their wake. Where they teleported to, Bojack never learned, but he quickly noticed that they had left the desert – it was now only Bojack, his surviving warriors, and the corpses of the fallen to keep them company. No one else was there. A keen wind blew, long and uninterrupted. All else was silent.
“Master Bojack!” Zangya yelled, running over to him. The others soon followed. “What happened?” He almost felt something for her, almost loved her. But she had given him a daughter, not a son.
Bojack went to speak when the last rays of the day faded out and night came upon them. And then he saw them. There were four sets of eyes, shining with timeworn nobility, surrounding him all on all sides – north, south, east, and west. The others saw the eyes too, but when they tried to attack, they found they couldn’t move, just like Bojack.
A bright light suddenly covered the group, but Bojack couldn’t feel a thing. The sounds of the world left Bojack, and all he could hear was his own heartbeat, erratic and deep and lonesome. He didn’t know if this was Arbados and his Praetorian Guards or something else, but Bojack knew he and his Galaxy Warriors had lost. Whatever had them had them good. They were going to die.
The white light washed over Bojack, and he expected to feel the heat of deadly energy melting away at his body. It was a shock, then, when Bojack felt nothing at all. Those four pairs of eyes pierced through the blinding light, to stare at Bojack with contempt and pity, and try as he might, he could not look away.
“Who are you to judge me?!” he wanted to scream, but he couldn’t open his mouth. He was the strongest being in the universe; it was he who decided who lived and who died. Not these bastards. Not anyone else. He wanted so badly to snap their bastard necks.
The last thing Bojack remembered was the look in those bright eyes of the cloaked watchers staring down upon him, like he was a naughty child in need of punishment, not the strongest being in the universe.
|The Heels of the Unknown|
Starfall • Crushing Blue