22 years ago...
...and 2850 years in the future.
"The Nietzscheans have taken the Prayers Whispered In The Night. With that kind of firepower, it's only a matter of time."
"But...but how? That's a Glorious Heritage class—how did they, I mean, the ship's AI—?!"
"Yeah, well...turns out the AIs in the Glorious Heritage and Siege Perilous class starships aren't all as loyal as Andromeda Ascendant. Hell, if Andromeda was still in action, she might've turned on us by now too."
"Daddy? What's going on?"
"Hush now, Mi Amore Cadenza. Pack your things. You, me, and Mommy are going on a little trip, that's all." Daddy smiled. "Hey. You said you wanted to ride on a High Guard ship, right? Well guess what? We're all gonna get to ride on The Ponderous Orbit of Triton! Doesn't that sound like fun?"
Cadance stirred fitfully in her sleep, her ring pulsing with flashes of violet light as she remembered that horrible ordeal.
Daddy...the Colony Magistrate. A man of influence in the Commonwealth, with aspirations toward higher office and greater power. Then THEY came, and...
In those early years on Earth, her wise, intelligent, well-respected and connected father was forced to eke out a living as a car salesman while he steadily worked toward a law degree. Now, he was a respected corporate lawyer who worked inside the system to protect consumers from capitalist greed, but he would never be the important man he would have been back home.
Tears leaked from the corners of Cadance's eyes.
They'd had a hard time patching Mommy back together after she was wounded in the escape, and the crash on Earth had done lasting damage. She'd been fine, more or less, for years after—she had a bad limp, she got tired easily, she needed regular injections for pain and had had three surgeries on Earth, which Father had acquiesced to with all the grace of a man asked to feed his wife through a wood chipper. Still, Mommy had been cheerful, caring, considerate, and compassionate, and she worked as hard as she could around the house. Cadance helped out as much as she could, but as she got older...
As Cadance got older...
She sniffled, her ring pulsing.
First it was the throng of girls she surrounded herself with, always talking and laughing. Then it was the boys—sometimes two or three different boys in the same week.
She suspected her parents had always known more about her sex life as a teen than they let on, but they never once confronted her.
Then, when Cadance was on the verge of flunking out of college because she was partying too hard, borrowed time finally caught up to Mommy, and she died.
Her death sobered Cadance up, focused her. She stopped partying and started focusing on her studies, shifting her career focus to education. At night, she'd hear all the kind, wise, things her mother had ever said to her drifting through her head, and it shaped her into a new woman: caring, compassionate, and driven to see young people succeed and make something of themselves.
Their careers and personal lives had long since separated Cadance and her father; he lived in Manehattan and they saw each other maybe twice a year, if that. Since her mother's death, they hadn't been as close as they should have been. As close as they'd been before their world was literally torn apart around them.
The demonic red face and yellow-on-black eyes of Tirek Anasazi interrupted Cadance's dreams, leering at her, taunting her.
She screamed in her sleep, a violet aura exploding away from her—barely contained by a warbling teal magical shield.
Sunset Shimmer and Sci-Twi looked at each other nervously.
"We need to get that ring off her," Sunset said. "She's gonna kill somebody. Or get herself killed."
Sci-Twi swallowed. "I...I'll work on it," she said mutely. "Cadance..."
* * * * *
"Ya big gray PUTZ!" Harley Quinn snarled between coughs as she staggered on the pavement a half a block away from a towering inferno. "You was suppos'ta knock out tha power, not blow up tha freakin' building!"
Rhino grunted. "It's not my fault, Harley!" he protested. "What idiot puts the main gas line right next to the main breaker panel like that?"
"It is a glorious fire, My Queen!" Inferno reported, enraptured by the massive blaze. "Truly, you should be proud!"
"Screw off, ya big metal bug," Harley growled, trying to wipe soot smears off her suit. Her face was more black than white. "There was gold an' jewels in tha vaults, an' now it's all BLOWN TA HELL!"
"Funny, I was just thinking you should have gone there with it," a cold voice said from above. Three figures dropped into view: a lavender-haired boy in a blue jacket and grey pants, a girl with spiky red hair in a black gi, orange skirt, and purple-and-black boots, and Starfire. Harley tensed as a black disc opened behind them; she could feel Raven emerge.
"Ah, just great! MORE FRIGGIN' CAPES!" Harley exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. "So where's Bird Boy and his Batman-lite schtick?"
"Robin is handling search and rescue in the destroyed building," Starfire said. "We were sent to determine the cause." She narrowed her eyes. "It would seem we did not have far to look."
"These guys don't look like much," Kinoa said. "I think I'll go help with the fire. You've got this, right?"
"Yeah," Trunks agreed. "Even if Raditz was with them, this wouldn't take long."
"Eh? Raditz is here too?" Kinoa asked, blinking. "Ah, is that who you meant by 'Saiyajin who are supposed to be dead'?"
"Aa." Trunks waved Kinoa off with a grin. "Go, help the people in that building. I've got this."
As Kinoa flew off, Harley frowned up at Trunks. "Pretty cocky, aintcha flyboy?" She pulled a massive bazooka out of nowhere. "See how ya like THIS!"
Before she even pulled the trigger, Trunks was behind her. "I don't," he said grimly, taking it from her and crushing it with his bare hands.
Harley blinked comically at him. "Umm..."
Meanwhile, Kinoa ascended above the blazing building, took a deep breath, and let her ki explode. As her hair turned golden and her aura flared around her, she began moving faster than the human eye could see, flying between falling supports, ignoring the flames and smoke, and pulling trapped people out of the upper floors of the building. Below, Robin was swinging in and out of windows, grabbing people and swinging them to safety, while Cyborg was jury-rigging a water pulse cannon using the nearest fire hydrant and his own sonic arm cannon.
The police and fire department quickly arrived; the police set up a cordon for crowd control while the firefighters aided Cyborg, not bothering to question who he was or why he was tampering with city equipment. The natives could only watch in astonishment as Robin and Kinoa went in and out of the building, coming out with more and more people. Firemen and paramedics swarmed over the survivors.
Robin and Kinoa landed next to Cyborg at the same time as he furiously pumped sonic-assisted water into the blazing lobby. "Is everybody out?" Robin asked.
"Not picking up any more life signs inside," Cyborg said. "I think you got everybody."
"We've got a problem," the nearest firefighter said. "There's a gas line feeding this blaze and we can't get it shut off—"
A second explosion rocked the block. Glass showered down all over the street as the building tilted with a loud, alarming groan. People behind the cordon screamed and began running for their lives even as the emergency crews erupted into a frenzied swarm.
"PULL BACK! PULL BACK!"
"This is bad, Robin," Cyborg said worriedly. "That whole thing's gonna come down."
"I don't know if we can stop it," Robin said.
Kinoa bit her lip. "I can," she said. "But I need everybody within a block radius gone. If I make even the smallest mistake, I could end up levelling the block."
Robin stared at her in alarm. "That's too risky!" he cried. "Don't—"
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing!" Kinoa called as she shot into the air, her aura flaring.
Robin bit off a curse, then turned to the nearest police officer. "GET THIS BLOCK CLEAR, NOW! EVERYONE OUT!"
The cop nodded and barked orders into his radio. Despite the chaos, a somewhat coordinated mass exodus began, clearing the entire block of people. Once everyone was gone, Kinoa stared down at the teetering, burning building. She took a deep breath and cupped her hands at her side.
* * * * *
Edward Elric frowned as he adjusted the straps on the holster slung across his back. The curved wooden hilt of a large sword with a revolver cylinder at the base of the blade jutted from the collar of his coat. "Not that I mind toting around a weapon I don't gotta make from my own automail or whatever's lying around, but who came up with this thing?"
"It's a product of Shinra's military R&D division," Sephiroth said with an amused smirk. "Personally, I think it's ridiculous. The physics behind it are patent nonsense."
"I dunno, I think it looks kinda cool," Zack said with a grin. "Besides, the Materia mounted on the mechanism give it some...interesting magical abilities."
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "You've tested it?"
"Yeah, I gave it a go in the training bay," Zack said. "It's not bad, though I prefer this." He patted his Buster Sword lovingly.
Ed shrugged. "Well, here's hoping I don't need to use it too much," he said. "So, what's the plan?"
"Well, before that monster invasion, we were headed down to a city called Canterlot," Zack said. "It seems to be where all the action is. The center of all the chaos."
"Our orders are to investigate and determine how exactly Midgar was transported to this world," Sephiroth said. "And once we locate the source, return with an extraction team to relocate it to Midgar for thorough examination."
"Extraction team? You mean an army," Ed said sourly.
"But first, we gotta find out what happened to bring us here, and from the sound of things, it isn't just us. This whole world's gone crazy."
"Yeah, I kinda figured that out already from the giant freaking monster and stuff," Ed said.
"Since there's three of us now, we should take the jeep," Sephiroth said. "No offense intended, but I don't think you can handle one of the Shinra bikes."
Ed shrugged. "Yeah, I'm cool with being in the back seat." As they entered the Shinra garage, he stretched, rolling his shoulders. "So long, big metal mushroom city," he said. "Open roads, here we come!"
* * * * *
Starfire, Raven, and Trunks stared as a massive column of blazing blue ki enveloped the burning building. "Masaka...!" Trunks hissed.
"Whoa," Raven said, eyes wide.
"Uhh...yeah, I surrender," said Charmcaster, staring in pale shock and ignoring the fact that she was already tightly wrapped in what used to be a signpost.
"Ditto," Harley muttered through a swollen jaw. Her entire face was a mass of bruises, and one of her sleeves had been torn off to bind her arms behind her back with.
"The Allspark," Inferno's head murmured reverently. "The source of all, it must be!"
"Shut up," Trunks said idly, thumping Inferno's head. Bits of Inferno were scattered all over the place.
Rhino sat on his rump on the sidewalk, staring dazedly at the blast. Huge chunks of his suit were missing, and his nose was broken. "I miss fighting Spider-Man," he complained.
The shaft of ki dissipated; everyone blinked rapidly as their eyes adjusted to the normal blue sky and daylight returning.
The entire building was gone, fire and all. It had simply ceased to exist.
"Again, whoa," Raven said.
Trunks pinched the bridge of his nose. "Talk about overkill," he muttered. "Right, let's hand these guys over to the police, then regroup at the hotel."
In the wake of the their departure, a shimmering ripple of silver drifted like a mercury shadow across the building's ruins, gliding up the side of a nearby building and pooling on the roof. A shining silver face rose up out of the rippling silver puddle like a bubble.
"Matamata Saiyajin ka...? Hn. Omoshiroi..."
The face dissolved with a shimmering ripple, and the silvery puddle drifted across the roof, slowly growing in size.
* * * * *
The surf kicked up. Conan adjusted his weight on the board, riding the crest of the wave. A small crowd on the beach cheered him on. He smirked, doing a few flashy moves as the current carried him to shore. Once he was on the sand, he received a round of applause. He shook his hair out and made his way across the hot sand to the sprawl of blankets where Monica, Tron, and Kooh lay spread out, all wearing swimsuits and sandals. He sat down next to Monica, accepting the bottle of sunscreen she offered, and began reapplying it to his arms and torso.
"Anything?" he asked.
"Nothing," Monica said, shaking her head. "Your men in black have disappeared, and the squid girl and her allies are laying low. Even with our own weapons and skills and my magic, attacking them head-on is just too risky."
"Yeah, they have the home field advantage," Conan agreed. "You have no idea how well armed they are, and then there's that shark man you told me about. There's...no telling what he's capable of."
"You know, we could just buy one of these beach houses," Tron suggested. "I mean, if we bought a beach house, maybe got some part-time jobs or something to keep up appearances, we could...y'know...maybe just stay here, live our lives in comfort on the beach?" She looked at the others. "I mean, would that be so bad?"
"It is peaceful and relaxing here," Kooh said.
Monica sighed. "I'm enjoying it here as much as you girls, but I can't just ignore my responsibilities back home. Sooner or later, I need to find a way back."
"What about you, Conan?" Tron asked.
Conan sighed. "I won't deny I'm having a good time, but..." He leaned back, arms folded behind his head. "I still need to track down Gin and Vodka. I need to settle that score...I also need to get my cure." He grimaced. "I'm tired of being stuck in this little kid body, especially now that I'm spending all my time on the beach."
"You mean spending all your time on the beach surrounded by cute girls in bikinis, right?" Kooh asked teasingly.
"Exactly," Conan replied without hesitation or embarrassment. "I mean, I have a girlfriend back home, but if I'm honest with myself? If I was Shinichi right now and not Conan, I..." He glanced at Monica, his cheeks flushing faintly. "I probably would've cheated on her with you by now. Maybe even..." He coughed and looked away. "Well, let's leave it there."
Monica's face flamed furiously. "I, um, I...oh wow..." She turned away, playing with her hair. "Wow."
"Heeeeeeeeeeeeh," Kooh drawled, a lascivious leer on her face. "Now we've gotta find you a cure," she said, making exaggerated porn music noises.
"KOOH!" Monica cried, flinging a towel at her.
"You know," Tron said slowly, "with all this weird magic and science and alien stuff showing up all over the place..." She looked over at Conan with a curious, appraising frown. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were able to find a cure for your condition somewhere in all this chaos."
Conan blinked. "I...hadn't even thought of that..."
The group sat in silence for a long moment.
"Okay," Monica said. "I think...tomorrow, we'll make arrangements to go to Canterlot. We'll search for a way to cure Shinichi, maybe try to find progress on a way to go home. And then, if...if we're still stuck here with no way to get back..." She poked her fingertips together. "We'll...we'll come back to Canterlittle and see about that beach house."
* * * * *
"Well, this has been...interesting," Robin said. The Teen Titans stood facing Trunks and Kinoa; Coco stood meekly behind them.
Trunks smiled. "Good luck, you guys," he said. "If things get too hot to handle here, call me." With a wave, he turned to the two girls. "I, uhh...guess we'd better..." He coughed sheepishly, then pulled out his capsule case and scanned the guide. "Hmm..."
"What's up?" Kinoa asked. "I can carry your girlfriend if you're too embarrassed."
"Meep!" Coco squeaked.
Trunks blushed. "Could you please not?" he said tiredly. He selected a capsule, activated it, and tossed it. In a puff of smoke, it expanded into a cherry red sky car with the Capsule Corp emblem as a hood ornament and white leather seats. "Thought this might be less of a bumpy ride than the ornipther," he said, jumping into the driver's seat.
"Shotgun!" Kinoa called as she vaulted into the front passenger's seat. Coco blinked, but scrambled into the back seat, carefully buckling herself in.
"Goodbye, Titans!" Trunks called with a wave as he started the engine.
"Goodbye, Trunks! Goodbye, friends of Trunks!" Starfire called.
As the car took off into the air, Trunks brought it around on a south-southwest bearing. "Alright," he said. "Next stop, Canterlot."
* * * * *
Hundreds of miles from land, at the bottom of the ocean, a sentient being was talking to himself. And himself.
Softly oscillating blue and green lights provided dim ambient illumination to cabins and bays and corridors devoid of life.
Triton liked the colors. They matched the ocean outside his metal skin. The ocean was beautiful. Peaceful. Tranquil.
"I'm sick of this ocean."
"It's a little boring, yes."
"I hope we're ready to leave soon."
"Patience. Being at the bottom of the sea for twenty two years hasn't exactly helped repairs. We're close."
In the swimming ocean lights, on the command deck of a ship of the stars, lost in space and time, three identical faces—male, tanned, with shoulder-length blond hair and a scrub of beard—looked at one another and nodded.
One was a visual display on a screen. Another was a hologram. The third was a man, yet not a man.
All were Triton.
And Triton was ready to rise.