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With All Respects To Max Tegmark, We Like It Here (Terminus Invasion 2018)

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Cobalt Templar's attention turned to the enormous monstrosity, his eyes narrowing inside his helmet. His stance shifted, his cape twirling around for a moment before shifting into a large, bulky pack that quickly screamed with increasing exhaust. 

 

"Ladies. Please keep the chaff busy. I will engage the beast until you can join me."

 

He launched into the air, training faintly-blue fire, his sword gleaming, his armored fist crackling. The air rushed around him, and then he was perched on the Warbot's chest. His sword flashed out, clashing against the thing's armor, his fist pummeling at the plating keeping the abomination in one piece. 

 

"I defy you! I shall strike you down!"

 

Even if he wasn't making much progress, he likely had the thing's attentions. 

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I would do anything for Jessie, Aquaria agreed to the voice from the trident, but she doesn't need my help right now. Indeed, even as she had the thought, Singularity smashed one of the drones completely to pieces just by striking it with her shield. The trident fell silent at those words, perhaps not sure what to make of its champion's attitude. Aquaria wasn't particularly concerned by the exchange - in her experience, powerful artifacts tried to tell her to do things all the time, and real willpower represented making a treasure, even a divinely empowered treasure, work for you rather than for its makers. The gods are testing my sense, she decided, and that was that.

 

Of course, with that dilemma resolved, she had to settle the other dilemma - the hordes of murderous cybernetic fiends that were trying to murder all she loved! With Cobalt Templar committed to his opponent and Singularity engaged in battle, Sea Devil did move to help Jessie - dodging and leaping her way to her friend's side. The horde was coming fast and strong, but she fell into the rhythm of battle as if she'd been born there - striking again and again with her trident, impaling a torso here, slicing a head off there, the energy of her armor crackling along the black blade with a greenish lightning fury! "I have them!" she croaked loudly to Singularity, hoping to free her friend to rescue the prisoners she'd overheard. 

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Singularity was lost deep in the rhythm of the fight, disabling or killing a drone with every economical movement of her body. Her focus was so complete that she might as well not have been paying attention at all when Sea Devil approached. For a split second it looked as though Singularity would attack her closest ally just for coming into range, then just as suddenly she checked herself, almost seeming to wake up. "People, building, got it," she confirmed. Taking a few extra seconds to clear a circle around herself, she bent her knees and jumped,, taking to the air and using whatever bits of pipe or masonry she could get hold of to direct her travel as she flipped and swung towards the trapped humans or trap for humans, whichever it might be. 

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Singularity's sudden move made her the target of the Omegadrones, but their power was beginning to diminish as the heroes cut through their ranks. Blasts turned against her shield and pikes broke against her skin, leaving behind cuts and burns but doing no serious damage to the nigh-unstoppable powerhouse. They seemed to know what she was doing, but with so many foes on the field they were in no position to do anything about it - at least for now. The prisoners were inside a vacant outbuilding, one whose roof had been torn off and the building itself sealed up, turning what might have been a warehouse or parking garage into an open-topped box with a sinister purpose. The drones were focused on Singularity now, but the people Jessie could make out through the windows looked too frightened to move wide-eyed and bloody. Where could they go, anyway?

 

Sea Devil forced herself to concentrate on her own fight as she watched Jessie disappear into the melee on her way to rescue the trapped humans, her trident warming in her grip. The gods _were_ on their side today! 

 

Though maybe not on Cobalt Templar's side! The giant Terminus abomination responded to his defiance by simply raising one giant leg and kicking him aside, and across the field into a nearby wall, concrete and rebar flying as he made a tremendous, teeth-rattling impact. The creature had taken out several Omegadrones with the force of its blow, but there were more where that came from...

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An over-sized hand crackling with energy grasped the rubble above where Cobalt Templar had struck. His armored form rose, barely so much as dented by the impact of the blow. His jetpack roared to life, and with renewed determination, he kicked off from the ground and seared through the air toward the abominable warbot.

 

"I barely felt that you walking trash heap!"

 

He impacted the thing, feet-first, hitting it in the upper chest. His enormous sword rose and then plunged down. This time, instead of merely creasing the thing's armor, it actually sank in, splitting the plates of metal, and burning into whatever foulness lay beneath. 

 

"You cannot stand before my flames! Now fall!"

 

The crackling fist reared back, and then slammed into the warbot's neck, even as he kept his sword firmly planted. He had every intention of destroying the thing, on his own if need be. 

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The two titans squared off, both of them battered and leaking things, Cobalt Templar's sword cutting deep into the neck of the Terminus abomination. It wasn't summoning the Omegadrones to its aid - evidently whatever was inside that _thing_ was prepared for single combat too. 

 

Sea Devil continued her fight against the cybernetic horrors - but the battle was not going well. She could kill one or two, or even five at a time by kicking with her mighty legs or slicing with her energized trident, but there were always more of the foul things, closing in on her and trying to drag her back into a mass of cybernetic bodies that would drown even her beneath their weight. In desperation she bit one through a clawing limb that was reaching for her sternum, then had to gag and leap away. Poison! Well she hadn't planned on eating them before, and she certainly couldn't eat them now, she thought quickly as she balanced for a moment on her trident, stuck halfway into a concrete wall as the drones took off and blazed after her. She didn't pray to her gods for help now - no, she knew that Dagon and Hydra did not listen to the songs of the weak. So it came as a great surprise when they sang to her

 

We know you want to save yourself. We know you want to save your friend. If Jessie knew she was in trouble, Jessie would come and help her, even if it meant that Jessie would be hurt, or die. 

 

You don't need to tempt me like a Surface-Man! Aquaria thought in desperation. I want to live! I want my friend to live! If you speak for the gods, I hear your song in deep waters! What more do you want? 

 

They told her. And with a bellow of "Yes!" Aquaria leaped back into the fray. 

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Singularity studied the killbox dispassionately for a moment, even as she continued dispatching the already-weakened Omegadrones who came too close. Some tiny, mostly whited-out part of her tactical mind imagined herself as the threat to be placed into the box to dispatch the inconvenient people inside, but she instinctively shied away from the thought before it could surface. The people needed a way out of the box. Even if they would not take it now, eventually the pressure of terror from remaining inside the box would equal the pressure of terror from leaving and then they would need a way out. Bracing her shield against her upraised forearms, she crouched slightly behind the shield and ran full-tilt at the wall, smashing through it with the force of a speeding car. When the dust cleared, there was a ragged hole in the wall, perfect for escaping through. Without a word to the people inside, she shifted her shield back to one arm and continued fighting, keeping the drones away from the makeshift door she'd made. 

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Smashing through the wall brought about terrified screaming from the people inside - but then nothing else, when they realized this was a superhero and not another Omegadrone. Much, much later, people would tell Singularity that the damage from earlier battles on the site had made things easier. Anything that was going to fall down in this building, or off it, already had! But as it was she had her opening and her way out, and if the people inside weren't taking it yet, she could sense their energy building behind her - when the drone army thinned, they would make a break for it!

 

Aquaria felt like doing a little screaming of her own - the robot army had her on the back foot, forcing her back against a stone wall and besieging her with their limbs and blades. She felt something slam against her back, hard enough to slam her head against the front of her armor - and flipped her trident around neatly to impale the Omegadrone behind her through the head. I am not a Surface-Man! she bellowed inside her head, absurdly angry that the creature had thought her capable of being snuck up on from behind. But of course they didn't need to sneak, did they? If she hadn't known the gods could hear her song, she might have been afraid. 

 

 

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Under his helmet, Corbin Hughes snarled. He hated the Terminus. He'd fought them before; not as long as he'd faced other foes, but the scars and memories of the events of Claremont's graduation day those many (to him) years ago were seared in his mind. He'd bled during that conflict. He'd seen horrors; he sometimes still woke at night, the image of a Terminus Zombie version of his fiancee hanging in front of his eyes. Quo-Dis had comforted him when she could; either gentle touches on his shoulder, or soothing telepathic sensations from half a continent away. And he'd gotten better, he had. He'd spent more time in therapy about his experiences on a war-torn Earth than about those few days gallivanting around a handful of timelines. 

 

But some nights, he still remembered that terrible, flaming figure, and he couldn't help but wake soaked in sweat and with tears streaming from his eyes.

 

And now? Now some stapled-together doom-engine murder-bot was trying to help tear apart his city and his world, and kill his neighbors. 

 

"NO!"

 

His power-fist rose up and slammed home, sinking below the armored plates of the thing, the crackling energy burning away the ichor to a sickly powder that floated away on the breeze. 

 

"I struck down your master! I helped kill Omega! I refuse to lose to you!"

 

His great,  burning blade rose again and slammed down, into the thing, before being ripped out and sideways, as Cobalt Templar sought to do nothing less than tear the creature apart. 

 

"FALL!"

 

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As the Omegadrones closed in again, in desperation Aquaria struck the ground with her trident - and knew with a sudden certainty that she'd done exactly the right thing. "Sing!" she bellowed at the top of her lungs in her native tongue. "Sing for the land that was! For the world that is! And the future that will be!" She looked above and felt awesome power crackling through her, and with a shout she felt the waters of Hydra close around her and suddenly rush outwards everywhere, blasting away the drones that surrounded her and sending them scattered through the wrecked plant. Her voice shifted to Lemurian as she went on - "Sing! For OUR WORLD!" She could hear the humming of the universe as it rose against the invaders from outside that sought to destroy it, the singing of the gods themselves and of the awesome power of a million Deep One voices rising as one. When she sang, she sang with the joy of the gods themselves in her voice, their gratitude filling her like a warm meal. "FOR THE STARSI AREI RIGHT!

 

From outside, from where Singularity stood, it looked for all the world as if a bubble of dark oceanic water had formed around Sea Devil and suddenly erupted outwards in a miniature tsunami! The ground around Aquaria was glowing in a strange eldritch pattern, and so was the glowing elder sign on her shield. The drones that had been besetting her and the humans she guarded were in retreat now; no, they were giving up their harrying of the prisoners and their guardian and heading pell-mell for her friend, who seemed weak, down on one bended knee amid the drones she'd sent scattering from her earlier attack. 

 

Across the field, something was happening to the giant robot Cobalt Templar was fighting. He wasn't entirely sure what was happening because it was happening behind the abomination, the vast pulsating bulk of its metallic midsection concealing it from Corbin's view, but he could see a sickly-brilliant yellow glow emanating from back there and hear a low, guttural song that the overall noise of the battle partially obscured. Suddenly, something wetly organic erupted around the robot's back and grabbed it by one arm, then came around from the other side and grabbed it there, stretching its arms out wide and leaving it for the moment helpless. It was hard to make out exactly what had a grip on the creature - something with limbs like a gigantic octopus, but with toothy maws at the center of each sucker, and skin that was more like closely lined fishhooks than soft wet hide. But whatever was back there, it seemed to be on his side...

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