Author: Tyler Trieschock | Banner: Tyler Trieschock

[Continued from Match 245]

Millions of stars glistened in the endless void of space. The only guidance given to a crimson comet which burned across the cosmos at an unfathomable speed. Solar systems flashed by for the being as he pursued a demon created by his absence. As a broken planet came in sight, the being within the aura halted his travel to gaze upon the destruction.

Crystals and rock floated in what once was the upper atmosphere of a planet which held life. Now, thecorpses of the flora and fauna floated throughout the void of space. From his view hundreds of miles above the surface, the interstellar being watched continents crack away from the planet and seas bulge, creating juvenile deserts. No life existed on the helpless world from SpaceGodzilla’s wake, and Ultraseven felt his shoulders gain the burden of all the vanquished lives.

The Ultra focused on the carnage, allowing it to embed itself within his memory which rivaled the life cycle of stars. In his absence on Earth for the last fifty human years, creatures of great power spawned. Monsters he could have killed if not for the great evil which challenged him and his garrison. An enemy once called friend.

The Ultra slowly peeled his sight away and transfixed on a single glowing star. On a planet that orbited around that star, he would find the planet’s killer. SpaceGodzilla would partially terraform the planet, infecting it with his crystalline menace, but even in his fortress, the monster would fall before the might of an Ultra. SpaceGodzilla would perish for the injustice the alien abomination brought upon the universe.

The Earth would never fall under Ultraseven’s watchful eye.

*****
Deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens – 7 Days After SpaceGodzilla’s Defeat

Zone Fighter’s body flashed as he reverted to his human form, dropping down upon steel deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens as Ultraseven, his size now matching Hikaru’s human form, landed just beside him. Crewmen, their weapons lowered yet ready to use if the new being proved hostile, approached, but Hikaru waived them down before turning to Seven and bowing slightly.

“You’re Ultraseven, correct? I’m honored. My father, Yoichiro, knew many of your garrison.”

A flash overtook Seven, revealing black hair and pale skin. A blue, short sleeve, collared shirt covered his upper body while khakis and brown running shoes overtook his lower half. A smile formed on the very human face of Seven while his right hand stretched out.

“The honor is mine to meet a Peacelander who still lives. My condolences for your people and your planet.”

Hikaru arose and outstretched his hand, grasping the warrior of light in unity as the two alien fighters took delight in their meeting. The chatter of the naval officers behind Hikaru snapped him out of his daze and he signaled Seven to follow him into the interior of the vessel.

*****

The command center of the U.S.S. Cowpens, usually the center of activity for the ship, contained only a single member of its normal crew. The Captain of the warship, in his finely kept, wrinkle free blue uniform, stood speechless as an outcast in a group of figures that ranged from the understandable to the impossible.

To his immediate right, Monique Dupre and Elsie Chapman stood in preparation for the coming meeting. The captain kept his eyesight away from Monique’s gaze, unwilling to test her fierce glare, and instead focused on the hand movements of Elsie. Her fingers insistently tapped on the console behind her. A tactic to distract her mind which, as the speed of the twitching increased, Cole could only assume was failing.

To his right, one of the supposed guardians of Earth, Moll, sat upon a command console in a meditative trance. Out of the group, the five inch tall figure caused Cole’s heart to race. Her colorful kimono, fine jewelry and tranquil nature radiated a sense of peace, but all of her good intentions could never overshadow the monstrous being she worshipped as her god, which still persisted just outside the U.S.S. Cowpens.

And to his front, the crimson humanoid alien called Ultraseven in a form that mimicked human appearance and clothing. His body seemed unusually rigid, his eyes unflinching even as he expressed a confident smile.

“I’ve cleared my deck, now what are you?”

Seven’s gaze pivoted to the Captain. “My name is Ultraseven. I’m a being from the Space Garrison, which you can think of as an interstellar defense force for all life. My directive is to protect this world at all costs, as it has been my goal for nearly five human decades. Sadly, I’ve been away most of that time fighting a being which threatened all life in the universe.”

Cole’s eyes rolled from intrigue to disbelief.

“This is going to be one hell of a report…”

“For humans, you all don’t seem surprised by my arrival?” Seven commented as he swept his hand from side to side.

“With your arrival, you’re actually the fourth humanoid extraterrestrial species we’ve run into, and unlike the last…” Elsie paused for a moment. “Actually, most encounters with extraterrestrial life, we’re happy you’re not trying to kill us upon first contact.”

Seven’s brow raised in concern and the alien glanced toward the captain. “Are there others joining us? I would assume the Peacelander?”

“Where is the last of your team and the other alien?” Cole remarked as he checked the antique watch on his left wrist. “I cleared my men for this, and I’m damn sure I want them back to their posts as soon as possible.”

Moll’s head tilted slightly to the left as she concentrated in her meditative pose. “The teammates you call Randy Hernandez and Audrey Timmonds are overlooking your injured friend, Anthony Hicks. Hikaru Sakimori, the being from space you call Peacelander-”

“I am here!” Hikaru shouted as he dashed into the room. As he came to a halt next to Seven, Hikaru’s eyes swept across the room with a look of remorse.

“I went to gather the others, but the Major…” Hikaru’s words fell silent.

Elsie’s brow raised in curiosity. “Why? What’s going on?”

A single tear began to drop from Moll’s right eye as she felt the emotion of the duo a few floors below her. “Major Hicks has fallen unconscious. He is in immense pain.”

Monique’s gaze remained focused while Elsie’s fingers stopped cold. The biologist’s eyes widened in shock and the scientist turned to depart, merely for Seven’s hand to block her exit. Elsie turned her head, her eyes unleashing a new rage as Seven’s smile tilted into a grim frown.

“We need to discuss the events that have unfolded,” Seven explained. “I apologize for not arriving sooner. I could have ended this situation with far less death and pain for all, but to ensure this agony does not spread, please tell me what occurred so I can resolve what remains.”

Elsie took a step back, the fury in her eyes subsiding slightly.

“Where should I begin?” Elsie remarked as she placed her right index finger on her chin. “Right! A madman kidnapped me, my friend over here and another teammate. Our team leader, Nick Tatopoulos, along with the man dying a few floors down helped our escape. Sadly, we couldn’t stop him from calling SpaceGodzilla, who in his death destroyed the island and ripped two holes in space and time. How’s that? Oh,” Elsie emphasized as her harsh gaze moved to Hikaru, “and he’s the one responsible for shooting my friend who, as the priestess said, is in immense pain, which you don’t seem too concerned about.”

An annoyed expression emanated from Seven before Moll recaptured their attention.

“The tears that emanate light and darkness are not only the fault of SpaceGodzilla. In trying to save the past, I traveled with my sister through time, and upon our return, we were caught off-guard… The battle that followed created what now exists on the island and I fear has taken the life of my sister.”

“I hate to cut you off, but you’re staying, Dr. Chapman,” Cole asserted before asking her, “Is what they say possible?”

A scowl burned across the room to Cole, sending a well hidden shiver down the old man’s spine.

“Maybe, I don’t know, sure! Why not? You keep forgetting, but I’ll emphasize it again. My doctorate does not apply to quantum physics and the manipulation of time. Put simply, my primary focus is on biology, and it’s why I’ve spent the last seven days confirming if it’s possible to safely pass through those anomalies. But yes, I agree the hypothesis that an exploding space-reptilian when too close to an insectoid deity exiting a temporal anomaly generates dimensional gateways.”

“How do we close them?” Seven inquired, ignoring the scientist’s final comment.

“Okay,” Elsie countered as she turned to Seven, “that I can help with. I think the anomalies are stabilized by the crystalline structures still growing across the island in some type of feedback loop. The growth of the anomalies and the crystals is increasing at a near exponential rate putting some weight behind the notion of perpetual growth, at least as long as the crystals gain access to new resources.”

“Closing them is not the priority,” Monique countered. “Dr. Tatopoulos and his creature passed through the rifts and their retrieval is our concern. We shall be departing soon to retrieve them both if they still live.”

Hikaru nodded in approval and stepped next to Monique. “With my help, we should be quick to rescue both of them, so I,” Hikaru noted as he gazed to Elsie, “can set the failures I’ve made right.”

Seven’s smile faded as he heard the pair speak, drawing his attention to the agent.

“I believe you fail to see the lives at risk by allowing these tears to remain open. I have seen what those crystals can do to a planet. If they continue to spread, the Earth will not survive.”

Monique’s eye raised slightly in curiosity.

“Is it not hypocritical to lecture on protection if you have been absent for decades?” Monique retorted as she took a step toward Seven.

Seven took a step toward Monique. “I have been fighting an evil far beyond your comprehension, one I thought I could call my ally. It was not my choice to be absent, and I regret every moment I was away.” Seven’s fist clenched in hidden fury. “Every time Belial fought my garrison, I could have saved lives on this planet. Now that I have returned, I assure you this is my only goal.”

“And the doctor?” Monique inquired as she moved her head to mere inches from Seven’s.

Seven’s eyes remained still, unfazed by the agent’s actions. “The technology of my garrison is far beyond what is possible on this planet. I can request aid in retrieving your friend and your sister,” Seven noted as he turned toward Moll, “as I think it’s better than endangering the Earth. Would you not agree?”

“Threading life-saving needles while the Earth is at risk is kinda what we do,” Elsie countered, attracting Seven’s gaze. “Look, I’ve been flying drones into this thing for the last few days. Both anomalies open approximately for two hours every twenty-seven hours on the dot. The next opening will be in less than forty minutes. We go in, twenty-seven hours later, we fly out. Do what you want with the island after, how’s that?”

Seven glanced away from the group. His eyes twitched, thoughts flowing through his mind as he weighed both sides. As he began to open his mouth, a feminine voice echoed.

“You fail to think about the consequences of entering the tears,” Moll noted as she remained still with her voice as loud as a whisper. “I know of this arrogance, and I will no longer let it blind me. As the guardian of the Earth, I should never have taken that risk, and even with all the guilt I feel, I cannot allow your group to enter the void.”

Hikaru took a step toward Moll, blanketing her in his shadow as her face turned pale.

“How can you stand aside and do nothing to save-”

Darkness encompassed the bridge and all within the vessel. A resounding chirp echoed from beyond the U.S.S. Cowpens from a wary god, ready to unleash its fury if the alien took another step. As Hikaru gradually retreated from Moll, the great shadow of Mothra Leo parted as well.

“I can,” Moll affirmed with tears swelling in her eyes. “As an Elias, a guardian of Earth. Mothra still needs time to recover, but Seven, do what you must.”

*****

Hikaru’s fist slammed against a metal wall, allowing the clang to reverberate across the medical ward. As he prepared to throw another punch, Monique’s palm intercepted Hikaru’s blow, halting his fist mere inches from the agent’s hand and the wall.

“This will not solve anything,” Monique critiqued, lowering her arm.

Hikaru stumbled backward, glancing across the room to all that resided within.

Major Anthony Hicks lay unconscious to his left. His body remained motionless and nearly silent, only the sound of intense breathing from the oxygen mask over his face giving any sign he still clung to life.

Beside him, staring at the dented wall, a man with curled, black hair and slightly lighter skin inspected the dent. The comical smile he expressed showed no sign of letting up as he commented, “Wow, I bet the Captain felt that one.”

The joke deflected off of Hikaru’s frustration, forcing him to gaze upon a woman whose eyes showed as much rage as his surely did while also suppressing an immeasurable amount of anxiety. Audrey Tatopoulos’ long, golden hair ran past her shoulders, forcing her to move it as she gazed over Hick’s bedside.

Feeling sorrow from looking at the wife of the man who saved him, Hikaru shifted his vision past Audrey, Monique and Elsie to a lone, old man who tirelessly worked in the back of the room, repairing his greatest creation. For two days, he refused to sleep, yet his movements seemed to be as fluid as the first. Hikaru’s right hand clenched shut, envious of Goro Ibuki’s resolve.

“So, how do we proceed?” Hikaru inquired to the group.

“Yeah, how we saving Jefe?” Randy reaffirmed as he gazed to Monique and Elsie for the answer.

“With the priest’s approval, Seven will begin destroying the crystals in the next fifteen minutes,” Monique stated with ire. “He hopes to use his garrison to retrieve Nick, if he still lives, in the next month or two.”

“We’re not waiting that long!” Audrey snapped with fury. “We need to go, now!”

Elsie rubbed her temples in frustration. “Technically, the two aren’t wrong. These crystals are acting like a persistent infection. If they spread too far or too deep, things could get horrible fast. Not to mention destroying so many could have unforeseen results themselves. Anti-gravity distortion the most-”

“Yo, I think Jefe is the focus. Not flying crystals,” Randy retorted.

“I agree. The crystals would be easier to eliminate with Zilla, Jet Jaguar, Ultraseven and myself all focusing on the task,” Hikaru affirmed.

“I got it!” Randy proclaimed with fanfare as he clapped his hands together. “Look, the giant moth is looking out for the incredible shrinking woman, right? So, all we gotta deal with is the red guy, and we got our own superman to punch him out.”

Randy walked next to Hikaru, placing his elbow on the alien’s shoulder. “You knock him out, we go in. By the time he wakes up, we’ll have flown back out with Jefe and the Z-Man. We get yelled at by the military and red lantern, claim we’ll never interfere again, maybe cry a little in regret – actually, Mendel isn’t here so maybe skip that part – and float back to the mainland.”

Hikaru took a few steps forward in silence. His head tilted upward, glancing at the metallic lights hanging from the ceiling.

“If I fought Ultraseven, there is little chance I could win. Even with Jet Jaguar, I doubt I could do so reliably.”

A blond blur entered the bottom of Hikaru’s vision. Gradually, the alien warrior lowered his vision to gaze into the eyes of Audrey. Tears overflowed their ducts while a certain rage coursed just underneath the look of grief.

“Talk to him, fight him. Either way, all I’m asking is for you to try. Please, just… try.”

Audrey’s eyes closed, desperately trying to hold back any sorrow merely for a confident hand to rest upon her shoulder.

“Mrs. Tatopolous,” Hikaru asserted, drawing Audrey to look upward once more. “I ensure you, you won’t lose your world. I promise you this.”

Randy’s hands fell upon Hikaru’s and Audrey’s shoulders causing both to look at him.

“Now that you two had your moment, how we picking who goes where?”

“Well,” Elsie exclaimed as she gathered everyone’s attention. “I’ve received no visual data from the drones I’ve sent, only basic atmospheric data due to interference. I can confirm that these anomalies, if they do displace space and time, lead to worlds that possess Earth-like atmospheres with temperate climates. Oxygen, Nitrogen and other gases are nearly equal in ratio to that of our own. I can also confirm that whenever they take place, it’s after August, 1945.”

“Ahh yes! Obviously a lack of German in the air, or would that be too much?” Randy quipped.

“No but, you’re close,” Elsie retorted, causing Randy to look at her with astonishment. “Atomic bombs dropped in that year released a certain radiation that I can pick up. It’s actually still in the air today, so I can also say the history of these times are similar to our own as well.”

Audrey’s right hand rose as it spun in the air, her mind racing with questions as she decided the best to ask. “So, if it’s like our own, shouldn’t we be getting drones or things flying back through?”

Elsie’s body leaned against the back wall. “Well, yes and no. The black portal’s carbon is in surprisingly low amounts in the air, suggesting that either humanity isn’t polluting the atmosphere, somehow removed it… or there is no longer any humanity.”

“Is there really a choice among your options?” Monique rhetorically inquired.

“Well, on that positive note,” Elsie continued, “the other is far worse. Radiation levels are consistently elevated close to the anomaly and a few hundred meters in every direction from it, to the point where prolonged exposure could lead to serious health complications. If Nick traveled to this one, he is easily already experiencing symptoms of radiation poisoning.”

“Jefe’s got a fifty-fifty shot of being in that one though. He could be chilling in the other while the Z-Man eats some fish that glow in the dark. Probably way~ easier to catch, right?” Randy quipped with a grin toward Monique, her glare remaining unbroken.

Monique’s eyes closed as she stated, “Or they are both in one rift or they could be dead in the other. We must be prepared for all scenarios.”

Audrey’s face gradually turned away from Hikaru, stopping as her right eye focused on Monique, the agent’s eyes still closed.

“He’ll be fine.”

The elderly voice drew the group’s attention. The balding part of his head shined for all to see as the inventor continued to focus on Jet Jaguar’s socket. Without moving his gaze, Goro continued. “Your friend is right, you should be prepared for any loss, but I believe you will find him. Call me a fool, but faith always seems to defy even the most logical of arguments in my experience.”

As he finished talking, Goro let loose a breath days in the making. Tools dropped from Goro’s hands. A ping which reverberated across the room as Jet Jaguar rose from the slab of metal he lay upon. The machine looked toward his inventor, a permanent smile which was countered by the toothless grin of his inventor.

“Jet Jaguar is ready,” Goro affirmed as he turned and began to walk toward the door. “I’m far too old to go, but I’ll keep the captain distracted. No better way than the ramblings of a senile, old man with far too much time on his hands.”

As he reached the door, Goro looked at the group with a toothless grin which seemed to expel optimism. “Good luck, my friends. I wish you all a safe return.”

“And Hikaru,” Goro noted as he pointed toward the Peacelander. “Do not doubt yourself.”

*****

Seven’s body flashed with power, reverting from a humanoid appearance to his classic design. Bulbous, immobile eyes gazed upon the island from the command deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens before glancing at Cole.

“Keep your vessel at a safe distance. Destroying these crystals may cause unforeseen effects.”

Cole nodded and looked to the island. “Don’t have to tell me twice to stay away from this mess. You do realize the group below the deck isn’t too happy about the decision?”

“Do you think it’s best?” Ultraseven inquired.

“To be blunt, no. But what I think isn’t relevant. What I know is those things are a danger. If I were ordered to destroy them, I wouldn’t hesitate. And I doubt the seventh fleet will when it arrives tomorrow.”

Ultraseven nodded in agreement and turned toward the exit.

“Ultraseven. Would you have done this without my approval?”

Ultraseven’s movement came to a complete halt, shifting his gaze toward the tiny guardian of Earth, whose eyes barely possessed the strength to open and look up at the alien.

“With the Earth at risk, without question.”

*****

“So, we need teams, and since I’m making myself a leader, I call the robot!” Randy yelled as he walked over and placed his arm over Jet Jaguar’s shoulder. “Going to need to figure out a new name for yah, metal man. Jet Jaguar is a few decades out of date.”

“Your preferences aside, we need to base our groups on dealing with either scenario,” Elsie affirmed.

“Actually, we do not,” Monique noted as she opened her eyes. “The creature, while not Godzilla, still absorbs radiation. Therefore your surveillance would have shown signs of inconsistent radiation levels. Since this is not the case, he could have only gone in the black rift. The robot, Randy and I shall proceed through with our stolen transport from Winter. Hikaru will go through the other when he finishes his fight.”

“What if he doesn’t? What about me and Elsie?” Audrey demanded.

“You will do nothing. We lack a second, reliable transport and it is foolish to contaminate yourselves merely to feel better. You will only place yourself-”

Audrey’s body twisted around in seconds, closing the distance between Monique faster than most people in the room could react. Her face stopped inches from Monique’s, meeting one cold stare with another while Audrey’s nails embedded into her own thigh.

“-in danger,” Monique affirmed as she uncrossed her arms. “You lack training and are compromised with emotion.”

Randy, Elsie and Jet Jaguar stood silently, waiting for an explosion of fury from Audrey while Hikaru took a few steps to break the pair up. Audrey’s palm bolted up, waiving Hikaru off as her glare remained steady, matching Monique’s.

“You know, Monique, I don’t have those things. I’m not trained and stability… not on my mind right now. I’m just an ex-reporter, not a ruthless killer, but you know what that gives me? The ability to call bullshit when I see it and it’s coming from you more than anyone here. That and a shit ton of guilt.”

Monique’s eyes dilated slightly, transforming the scowl on Audrey’s face to a slight grin. A smile she kept as she stormed out of the room in silence.

“Dr. Chapman, monitor the crystals while we are gone and ensure Audrey stays,” Monique ordered, snapping Randy and Elsie out of their daze.

“That was pretty cold, French Fry,” Elsie acknowledged. “You sure–”

“I am,” Monique responded, leaving the room without another word.

*****

The whistling wind across the barren landscape made the only noticeable sound as Zone Fighter, in his powered form, touched down a few meters behind Ultraseven. The warrior of light kept his back to Hikaru, his gaze transfixed on the growing white plague which infested all the land in front of him to the ocean’s edge.

“You’ve come to stop me?”

“No. I’ve come to ask you for time.” Hikaru pleaded.

“Anyone could have asked this,” Ultraseven countered as he pointed to Hikaru, “But only you could threaten me if you ask for restraint and fail. Restraint which could jeopardize the Earth. I will not take that risk for two lives which can be saved by my garrison after I do what needs to be done.”

“And what if they don’t have that time!?” Hikaru snapped. “What if they both die?”

Ultraseven hesitated a moment, his mind flashing to the helpless alien beings whose dead bodies filled the space above their broken planet. “I do not wish to consider that possibility. If they do perish, then it will my failure, and I will carry that burden as I continue to protect his world.”

“A burden?” Hikaru whispered, clenching his teeth as the statement echoed throughout his mind.

“What gives you the right to demine their life?”

Ultraseven’s voice remained calm as he responded, “Tens of thousands of years protecting life from those who wish to corrupt it. I’ve never deviated from this goal, unlike yourself.”

Hikaru’s fist squeezed ever tighter while Ultraseven waived his hand from left to right, extending it toward Hikaru.

“A being too focused on your selfish path of redemption to see he will cause the destruction of another world he wishes to protect.”

Hikaru’s eyes parted in disbelief. His fists opened while the wind blew across his twitching face. In a flash, the astonishment faded as pure rage overtook Hikaru.

“How… How dare… Zone Double Fight!”

A shockwave of wind overtook Ultraseven’s body before a flash overtook his sight. As the sensory overload ended, a fist far greater in size than him slammed perpendicular into his body, launching Ultraseven like a pebble across a lake. His body bounced repeatedly, shattering a few random crystals which blocked his trajectory before his arms extended toward the sky in defiance.

“Dwuwah!”

Ultraseven’s true size, over eighty five meters in height, crashed feet first onto the ground and continued to slide across the surface until the shattering earth beneath his heels finally subsided his movement. No longer affected by Zone Fighter’s blitz, the warrior of light stepped out of the trench his feet dug from the strike and faced his opponent.

Ultraseven’s whole body ached from the force of the strike. If he hadn’t blocked the punch at the last second, the blow surely would have crippled him. No matter, he could still move, and if Zone Fighter wished to end their dispute with a sparring session, he would oblige the few moments it would take.

A battle cry roared from Zone Fighter, whose sprint lasted a second before he brought his right fist down upon Ultraseven. With his right palm, Ultraseven caught the blow before taking a step backward and dodging a second move as Zone Fighter launched a palm strike aimed at the warrior’s head. Infuriated, Zone Fighter lunged forward, merely for Ultraseven to duck under the attack and thrust his palm outward. The warrior of light’s hit impacted Zone Fighter’s chest, launching him off his feet and onto the ground a dozen meters away.

Zone Fighter rolled across the barren earth, recovering to his feet just as fast as his fall and propelled himself at Ultraseven once more with a high kick. Ultraseven’s head jerked to the left at the last second and the mighty warrior grabbed ahold of Zone Fighter’s legs before launching him at the crystal fields which sprawled behind the warrior of light. Zone Fighter spun in the air, colliding with a few crystal formations before rolling across the ground and stopping at the basin of another crystal at least thirty meters tall. Zone Fighter hands dug into the rock in frustration as he pushed himself upward, revealing an unnaturally bright green hue as his color timer’s light shined against the black dirt.

What was he thinking? Ultraseven wasn’t a monster he could pummel with little thought. In fact, with their respective experience gap, he was the monster in the brawl!

Ultraseven’s shadow draped over Zone Fighter’s unmoving form, his right arm extended in a show of chivalry. Zone Fighter eyes looked upon the good natured display, but his fists remained clenched. In defiance, a mighty scream echoed from Hikaru.

“Meteor Jet!”

A sapphire aura exploded around Zone Fighter’s body, catching Ultraseven off guard as the Meteor Man’s right hand slammed onto Seven’s face. Both warriors took off at a blinding speed, the inertia of Zone Fighter’s launch allowing him to thrust Ultraseven’s head through pillars of crystals. Each formation shattered with ease, exploding into a fine white dust until a shockwave of telekinetic power from Ultraseven’s palms launched Zone Fighter skyward. The meteor man rotated in the air merely to shout, “Meteor Missile Might!”

Silver bracelets snapped onto Zone Fighters wrists, but instead of pointing his arms toward Ultraseven, the azure alien pointed his hands to the sky and unleashed the entire barrage in a single shot. An explosive blaze engulfed the air above Zone Fighter, who used the concussive force of the blast to launch himself downward at Ultraseven, his legs pointed to deliver a crippling strike. Yet as he approached Ultraseven’s body, still sliding backward from the initial hit, the scarlet being vanished into thin air. Dirt rocketed upward as Zone Fighter touched down, implanting himself in the ground up to his knees until Ultraseven reformed from his teleportation and collided back into the unaware warrior fist first.

Zone Fighter skidded backward from the impact, but a sudden flash of blue aura quickly overtook his form once more. The distance between the two warriors vanished in the blink of an eye before Zone Fighter unleashed his Meteor Punch. A dozen strikes bombarded Ultraseven’s body, pummeling him to the ground and allowing Zone Fighter to extend his hand outward toward the fallen protector.

“Meteor Freezer!”

A stream of white, coolant-like material vented from Zone Fighter’s hand’s tip toward Ultraseven, who began to roll away from the substance. The freezing coolant spewed across the black earth as Ultraseven hid behind a crystal to regain his bearings. A familiar flash overtook the warrior of light and his body teleported behind Zone Fighter.

The Meteor Man spun in disbelief.

An extended long kick to his abdomen returned sense to Zone Fighter.

Zone Fighter continued to counter-attack, but every miss gave Ultraseven the perfect opening. As his strikes tore into Zone Fighter, Seven couldn’t help but notice the difference in experience.

How many sparring sessions against fellow Ultramen did he undergo in his lifetime? How many monsters fell before him in battle? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? If not for this, Zone Fighter’s superior strength and varied arsenal could have proved threatening. But in the end, if HIkaru thought he could match a veteran of the Space Garrison…

Zone Fighter yelled in defiance as he launched his fist forward, slamming it into the palm of Ultraseven’s left hand. Rock splintered beneath the warrior of light’s feet before Ultraseven’s right hand slammed into Zone Fighter’s chest cavity, unleashing a gurgled gasp from Hikaru before propelling him backward at least one hundred meters. Alien energy swirled atop Zone Fighter’s forehead crest while Ultraseven took a knee in preparation for a Wide Shot.

…he would prove himself to be a pale imitation.

Steam vented off Zone Fighter’s battle damaged body as the bright light faded from the ray’s collision. His legs trembled, his muscles stressing just to keep Hikaru upright, but the azure alien warrior would, no… he could not yield! His back legs stretched out, striking something which caused Zone Fighter to turn and discover the edge of a crystal sea.

Hundreds of crystals, roughly fifty meters tall, stretched a half mile until the ocean’s waves. A rhythmic glow flowed from one edge of the formation to the other, a sign of the power they channeled to the anomalies he swore to protect, but as Zone Fighter returned his gaze to Ultraseven, his failure revealed itself.

Ultraseven stood confidently within a blackened landscape devoid of any crystal structure. Shattered pieces of crystals rolled in the wind, evaporating into dust over the span of seconds, but no crystal stood undamaged from the battle. Zone Fighter’s fists clenched in anger..

If the battle continued, not only would he lose to Ultraseven, but the crystals would surely be destroyed in the resulting confrontation. He couldn’t lure Ultraseven away like a rampaging beast, and while the crystal’s power kept his energy reserves replenished, at some point, his body would physically give out to the strain. As Zone Fighter thought, he moved his right leg backward into a defensive stance, merely to feel his leg’s weight disappear.

Ultraseven burst forward, his steps launching rocks into the air merely for them to hover as he approached Zone Fighter. Hikaru felt every footstep of his adversary, yet his senses were instead trained on his back leg. Zone Fighter’s Zone Meter flashed from blue to red, immense power channeling through his body in preparation for what he needed to do.

Ultraseven’s fist flew forward.

Zone Fighter’s hands slammed against the ground.

“Meteor Proton Cut!”

Energy waves erupted from Zone Fighter, fracturing the earth beneath his body before the ground cracked in every direction like broken glass. Ultraseven slid backward from the force, watching the rock fracture, upheave and bend like water. The crystal sea behind Zone Fighter flowed like a wave as the rock they grew from split apart, releasing dust clouds into the air.

A weary breath escaped Zone Fighter before a swift kick propelled him against the basin of a crystal, revealing the Zone Meter which blinked a dire red light. Zone Fighter’s head gradually tilted upward, discovering an extended hand from Ultraseven for him to grasp, but Hikaru shook his head side to side, causing the hand to raise into a striking pose. With swift movement, Ultraseven brought his right hand down upon his fallen adversary, yet an expected cracking sound stopped his attack mere inches above Zone Fighter’s head.

Ultraseven glanced to the landscape behind him, hearing the ground screech and moan as rock upheaved through the fractured earth. Further cracks erupted across the already splintered earth as rock and crystal gradually began to take to the air.

“Meteor.”

Ultraseven’s gaze shifted back to Zone Fighter, the forming fissures’ echos nearly deafening all other sound.

“Storm.”

A violent crack thundered around Zone Fighter and Ultraseven. In a dark flash, their vision became an endless wall of black.

Rock overtook Ultraseven’s body, bouncing him around in every direction as it smashed against him. Cracks of light beamed through the ocean of rock only for the flowing earth to seal the breach as more fissures formed. With every second, Ultraseven’s body shook, convulsing as super-heated air flowed through the cracks. As a crystal smashed against his face, Ultraseven’s fists clenched. Energy surged through his being before he blasted through the earth around him. The concussive force tore apart the ground around the alien, allowing him to recover to his feet. As he arose, Ultraseven glanced in every direction to discover a sea of ascending rock.

Chunks of blackened rock, crystal and smaller debris floated in the atmosphere like an asteroid field as far as his eyes could see. Some pieces the size of his fist while others dwarfed even Ultraseven, with large, crystalline structures attached to their form like an inorganic cancer. As the crimson warrior walked to the edge of the ground he stood upon, shock coursed through the being as he noticed himself now miles above the Earth’s surface. Shock gradually replaced rage.

How could he let this happen? To risk the Earth to allow someone to vent their foolish rage. He was reckless in sparring with Zone Fighter, but wher-

A steady yell drew the attention of Ultraseven to a massive chunk of floating rock a mile out. Red lightning swirled in the distance against a being growing in power. Shockwaves erupted from the blinding display, vaporizing chunks of earth floating too close. As harsh winds began to flow past Ultraseven from the display of power, the crimson warrior channeled immense energy into his right arm for the Wide Shot.

Ultraseven felt sorrow in his actions, but he couldn’t hold back any longer. If Zone Fighter wished to escalate the battle, to endanger the world he held so dear, Ultraseven would regrettably oblige.

Zone Fighter relinquished his scream, staggering forward while his head hung low. Glowing veins of crimson power flowed across his arms. His light timer emitted the brightest blue light he’d ever seen. Lightning danced across the warrior’s body, striking the ground and the tips of nearby, floating crystals.

Critical Mass.

There was no doubt within Hikaru’s mind he attained the form. A power he could use to rival an Ultra, to fulfill the promise he made to Audrey and ensure her world would not be lost. A few scattered tears rolled from Hikaru’s yellow eyes as he briefly remembered the promise he made to himself years ago. Gradually, his mind returned to the present, noticing the red figure of Ultraseven in the distance.

Ultraseven was right. Selfishness did drive Hikaru.

“Critical…”

A colossal blue aura enveloped Zone Fighter, unleashing a shockwave of energy which launched pieces of hovering earth in all directions no matter the size. Red lightning intensified across the azure alien’s body, his muscles expanding as he focused his power, creating a constant stream of azure energy which flowed around his body like water.

The desire to be a hero who kept their word. To ensure no human or creature felt the pain of losing all they cared for. He would be the only one to feel the sorrow of a world lost!

“Meteor…”

Zone Fighter’s body moved to a sprinting position. The earth beneath his back foot cracked violently from a simple step, sending fractures throughout the one-hundred-meter round sphere of rock he stood upon. The tears across his face evaporated into steam and flowed around the determined eyes of Hikaru who solely focused on Ultraseven.

Ultraseven’s body snapped to a pose with his right arm pointed upward as his left arm touched his right elbow. Blinding power erupted from the length of Seven’s right arm, pushing the rock Ultraseven stood upon backward as it vaporized all in its way toward Zone Fighter, who remained as rigid as stone in a ball of uncontrollable aura.

No matter the opponent, Hikaru knew he couldn’t turn away from this battle. If Ultraseven wished to challenge him, to test how far he would go to ensure no one felt the despair within him…

“Jet!”

The one hundred-meter round sphere Zone Fighter stood upon shattered like glass as he blitzed off its form into the incoming ray. The blue meteor trailed across the sky and struck the ray, yet instead of detonating, Zone Fighter’s form rocketed through the attack in a second. Ultraseven’s eyes went wide, an almost silent gasp echoing as time slowed to a crawl in the presence of the Meteor Man. Beneath the sapphire aura, the defiant eyes of Zone Fighter stared back. Hikaru swung his right arm outward, shattering the Wide-Shot in a single swipe and forming a fist, glistening with unfathomable power.

…then he would regrettably oblige.

“Meteor Fist!”

*****

Moll’s eyes burst open as she felt the agony of Ultraseven, pivoting her gaze to the darkened sky littered with rock and lightning. Her mind raced with questions and statements. Her eyes twitched, tears forming across the perimeters of her eyes before she reasserted her stern expression. The Elias’ eyes closed, a calm breath flowing softly from her mouth as she returned to a meditative position. As a second breath exited, Moll opened her eyes to discover her folded hands shaking ever so minutely. Without any further hesitation, Moll closed her eyes once more and focused not on the two battling warriors, but a figure thousands of miles away.

Glowing specks coalesced within a cavern filled with little light and an overwhelming amount of mechanical contraptions. Robotic creatures, not active, but their insides spilled out for all to see, lay randomly scattered across the cavern floor as a lone figure, with short black hair draped over her goggles, welded armor. The female’s attention gradually focused on the forming light a few feet from her, and as Moll’s appearance formed, the mechanic pulled off her goggles and unleashed an annoyed glare.

“Hello sis, wondered when you’d finally get back,” Belvera noted as she pulled herself from underneath one of her newest creations. Her hands brushed across her abdomen, wiping away dust which revealed long, embedded stains of grease across her over designed leather dress. As her uncaring glare returned to Moll, Belvera leaned against the machine she just worked beneath. “So, what mess you get yourself in?”

“How did…” Moll stated with shock in her voice. Belvera rolled her eyes. “Look, I’m not dumb. You’d only speak to me if there was a problem or if you weren’t attached to the hip with…

Belvera’s brow raised as she looked around her home before returning to the glowing form of Moll.

“Oh.”

“Fairy is no more. Lora’s gone, or she might be lost and to search for her could risk the world. I need your help, sister.”

Belvera let loose an annoyed breath, her eyes closing from the overreaction as she walked to a damaged Garu-Garu. “No. You don’t.”

Moll’s eyes widened, her face changing from sorrow to anger. “How can you turn your back on your sisters? How can you be this childish in the face of global-”

“Shut it!” Belvera snapped, refusing to look at her sister as she looked over the damaged machine. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on. I honestly don’t care, but the childish one isn’t me, it’s you. Always been you.”

Moll’s eyes focused, her fury increasing as Belvera continued, “The moment you lost Lora last time with Grand King Ghidorah, you decided to risk changing all of time by sending Mothra to the past. For someone so put together, you didn’t think to request aid of the humans or other guardians. No, risk changing all of time. Great plan, sister!”

“Lora and the children would have died if I didn’t act!”

“But you didn’t. You froze, sis,” Belvera asserted. Slowly, the dark Elias turned to her sister, her hand placed across her forehead in frustration. “You two rely so much on each other, you freak out the moment you’re not side by side. So stop talking to me and do something productive.”

The fury from Moll’s eyes gradually vanished as a soft smile of appreciation formed across her face.

“Thank you, sister,” Moll responded as she began to fade. Sparks of energy flowed from her form, deconstructing her essence as Moll stated, “I too hope you will heed your own words.”

In a flash of light Moll vanished from the room. Light drained from every corner of the cavern with her departure, leaving Belvera staring off in a dark void. Without any hindrance, Belvera walked back to her Garu-Garu. Tools clanged as they dropped to the floor. A soft thud echoed as Belvera sat down and maneuvered beneath her mechanical companion, yet as her hand moved to grab a tool, a fist formed which smacked across the cold ground in frustration. As quickly as the fist was created, the priestess’ hand extended, allowing Belvera’s fingernails to tap against the floor while she thought.

*****

Randy looked to the sky in awe for a moment, watching red lightning encompass the congested blue sky, but the sound of helicopter blades spinning attracted his attention back to a sleek, black helicopter to his right. With a quick jump, Randy dived into the boarding bay which housed an already seated Jet Jaguar before the vehicle took off. A look of ire projected to the pilot, but he knew deep down she didn’t really care.

“Trying to ditch me?” Randy yelled.

“Take a seat,” Monique retorted without batting an eye.

Randy climbed atop a seat merely to glance out of the ascending helicopter and spot a woman with flowing, blonde hair. Even as she grew smaller, the dot proved unavoidable to Randy’s sight. A breath of resentment vented from Randy who slammed his head back against his seat in visible protest.

*****

In a sea of floating rock, a cone-shaped void suddenly formed with Ultraseven at its apex, the impression of Zone Fighter’s fist still embedded into the right side of his face. Shaking off the attack, the warrior of light jettisoned into the debris field, unsure where his foe hid, until the sky cracked with thunder. Crimson missiles illuminated the floating rocks above Ultraseven, sending shivers down the warrior’s spine.

The storm descended upon Ultraseven with unending fury. Fire and red bolts obliterated the debris field Ultrasven traversed through while the warrior felt the shockwaves ripple through his body, his flight mere meters away from the full explosive wrath of Zone Fighter. Bolts of energy lanced across his form, scorching his armor. Yet Ultraseven defiantly flew on.

Seven’s eyes darted across the debris field for a place to turn the tide. He needed a place to get his footing, to think to… there! Ultraseven’s body spun ninety degrees, allowing himself to kick off a rock and jettison to the rotating chunk of mass below him while the debris field behind him vanished in a shockwave of fire.

Nearly five hundred meters in diameter, the largest chunk of what once was half the island rotated gradually as the small cluster of crystals across its edges sparked with cosmic power. The floating mound of rock shuttered as Ultraseven crashed upon its surface, its rotation stopping briefly from the force of the warrior’s impact before another impact reversed its rotation.

Ultraseven’s gaze shifted to a sparkling, sapphire aura that encompassed all in front of his vision. For a brief moment, he watched as the azure field diminish, Zone Fighter’s piercing, furious glare burning the memory within Ultraseven’s mind before he burst forth and slammed his right, glowing fist against Ultraseven’s abdomen. Ultraseven gasped violently, bending to the gut punch, but the blow proved the first of many. A series of earth shattering punches in the span of a second slammed across Ultraseven’s body. Transparent, circular voids of superheated air materialized with every hit until a final strike against the Ultra’s face sent the crimson warrior cresting around the floating mound of rock and allowed the sonic booms which formed to violently echo like thunder.

Ultraseven’s body circumvented the spherical mass of rock, his arms extended forward from the shear force of the strike, but with a turn, his flight became a sprint, running at full speed with a plan formulating on how to end his defiant foe.

Zone Fighter’s head gradually crested over the rock’s horizon, acting as the target for Ultraseven who leaped into the air for a high kick. The Meteor Man’s right arm collided with Ultraseven’s strike, flipping and rotating the crimson figure through the air. Upon rotating to face Hikaru while upside down, Ultraseven detached the weapon attached to his forehead, the Eye Slugger, and launched it like a boomerang. The Meteor Man evaded just out of the weapon’s range, sidestepping the projectile to launch a fist into Ultraseven’s head. In a flash, the crimson warrior vanished, reforming behind Hikaru and continuing his body’s rotation, to slam his right foot into the back of Zone Fighter’s head.

Ultraseven hit the ground rolling, looking behind himself to see the Ultra Slugger crest the horizon before turning to face Zone Fighter as he charged towards him.

Seven seconds. It was all the time he needed.

Ultraseven’s shoulders glowed as he gathered power, channeling it into his right arm which surged forth with an open palm and hit air, yet a dozen meters away, Zone Fighter stopped in place. Telekinetic powers froze the Meteor Man where he stood, but willpower pushed him ever closer to Ultraseven. Finally, Zone Fighter’s Meteor Jet returned with a surge, pushing him so close he could clearly see his shadow over Ultraseven, the red bolts cascading across his body singing Seven’s armor. With a simple hand gesture, the crimson warrior raised his left hand, lifting his fingers in unison.

Realizing something amiss, Zone Fighter redirected his propulsion to the left side of his body, moving a dozen meters to the right before a familiar weapon burst forth from the ground beneath his feet. The Eye Slugger sliced open Hikaru’s chest, making the red lightning bolt on his armor run red with his own blood before it flew past the spot his head use to be.

Hikaru screamed for the heavens to hear, staggering backward merely for Ultraseven to cross his slash by cutting across Zone Fighter’s chest from right to left. Another echo of anguish resonated from Hikaru before he fired a Meteor Zone Slice. The golden arrow struck the Eye Slugger’s energized blade, shattering upon impact into an explosion of sparks.

Miniature projectiles blanketed Ultraseven’s form, piercing his crimson armor in dozens of locations. Beams of pure light that encompased his very essence shined out of the warrior of light while his Eye Slugger sparked with dysfunction, forcing Ultraseven to sheathe the weapon. Drained from the fragment’s damage, Ultraseven turned toward Zone Fighter as the Peacelandian slammed into him using his Meteor Jet.

Zone Fighter’s hands clutched Ultraseven’s throat and squeezed with all his might, smashing the warrior of light through the endless floating debris field as they plummeted to the surface. With every rock which Ultraseven’s head plowed through, he smashed his fist against Zone Fighter’s body. A strike against the slash across his chest prompted Zone Fighter to release his grip, allowing Ultraseven to spin and slam his left foot forward. Zone Fighter’s body vanished into a dust-filled haze, prompting Ultraseven to slow his descent. Hikaru reappeared in an instant, grabbing ahold of Ultraseven’s head and launching himself downward once more.

The warrior of light’s body flashed, fading out of existence and forming behind Hikaru, placing Zone Fighter into a chokehold. Zone Fighter’s right elbow slammed into Ultraseven’s side. Again and again the mighty blows struck Ultraseven until finally he gasped in pain. The choke hold’s strength melted away and Zone Fighter spiraled to deliver a mighty blow across Ultraseven’s face. Keeping pace with Zone Fighter’s strike, Ultraseven returned the blow with one of his own.

Ultraseven’s left hand smashed across Zone Fighter’s head.

Zone Fighter slammed his fist into Ultraseven’s nose.

Ultraseven screamed in defiance, uppercutting Zone Fighter’s chin.

Hikaru bellowed with fury, launching his knee into Ultraseven’s abdomen.

The blows continued to trade, each savage hit more violent than the last. Rocks exploded from the two’s trajectory, each unwilling to focus on anything other than the other fighter. Ultraseven and Zone Fighter’s hands slammed together, each trying to force the other back, but sheer willpower kept both on equal standing. Each let go of the other, smashing their respective right hands into their opponent’s head before putting some slight space between their foe to unleash their signature weapons.

Hikaru screamed in fury as the jewel atop his head channeled immense power, shining as bright as a star.

Ultraseven bellowed in rage, forming an L with his arms that glowed with insurmountable energy.

The Earth silenced them both.

Two, monstrous plumes of dust trailed into the air while the island trembled from their respective impacts. Rock rained across the landscape, creating a thin cloud of dust just above the ground which now barely possessed enough land to stay above sea level. From the silence that encompassed the isle, a red humanoid slowly rose from his crater.

The once stoic Ultra staggered onto higher ground, his movement sluggish compared to just a few moments prior. Seven gradually scanned the landscape for any sign of Zone Fighter, expecting to see him in a similar state or unable to stand within his own crater; however, as Ultraseven finished glancing over the area, he discovered no trace of the Meteor Man

Surely Zone Fighter’s body couldn’t have been completely vaporized from the ensuing impact. Could it be another ability? Cloaking, perhaps, or speed great enough to to prevent-

Ultraseven’s face snapped right. A shockwave of force rippled across his head while his body stumbled backward in response. The warrior’s arms flailed through the open air as he fumbled, trying to strike whatever hit him but as he recovered, Ultraseven glanced across the blackened landscape, watching a human-sized being wearing azure, alien armor touch down upon the Earth.

An endless repetition of harsh breathing plagued Hikaru’s ears. He lacked the strength to stay in his monstrous form, but even without his size or Critical Mass, he still possessed the strength of Zone Fighter, the will to press his body far beyond its limit and the foolishness to continue a fight he surely couldn’t win. No matter the odds, for as long as Ultraseven still threatened the world he promised to defend, he could not allow Ultraseven to win. With a defiant scream, Hikaru jettisoned himself toward Ultraseven and swung his right fist in defiance.

*****

Inside the cockpit of a transport helicopter on the U.S.S. Cowpens, Audrey desperately searched for some type of guide or easy start up booklet for the craft she wished to commodere. She needed to understand the dozens of switches, buttons and levers across the control panel. If she didn’t Nick could… Audrey banished the thought and continued her frantic search.

She only had a few minutes until some crew or Elsie found her, and she couldn’t convince them to join her. With the vehicle marked as hazardous from damaged rotors from Cyber-Godzilla’s attack and its filters infiltrated with remnants of ash, no sane person would dare fly with her even…

“Hello, Mrs. Tatopoulos.”

Audrey’s body spun ninety degrees in fright, slamming against the side of the craft. Terrified eyes looked over the tiny human who stood upon the seat next to her, but as quickly as terror entered her, anger returned in force. Veins popped from Audrey’s forehead as she leaned closer to Moll.

“Give me one reason I shouldn’t throw you out of this thing.”

Moll’s hands shook briefly. Her gaze remained unfocused, shifting with every breath but gradually her hands became rigid, her posture every more defiant.

“I have failed as a protector of Earth for the days that have past. My selfish desire to avoid the mistakes I’ve made has placed lives, innocent and good-natured, in peril that I can not ignore any longer. To correct these mistakes, I will help you search for those that are lost.”

Audrey’s face turned white in shock, but her composure quickly recovered, unamused at the shift.

“How exactly, are you,” Audrey exclaimed as she pointed to the priestess with her index finger, “going to help me? Can you fly this thing? No, then how?”

A confident smile appeared on Moll’s face, vanishing into a great shadow which blanketed not only the helicopter, but the vessel as well.

“I would recommend you hold onto something Mrs. Tatopoulos.”

Audrey rapidly strapped herself into her seat merely for the entire craft to shutter, shaking wildly as it flew off the ground in the grasp of Mothra Leo. The U.S.S. Cowpens swayed from the hurricane force winds. Men screamed in fright, with some firing their guns in self-defense, but the ship remained upright, allowing its members to watch the guardian fly toward the white anomaly with a helicopter in its grasp.

Deep breathing echoed inside the craft from Audrey while the steel hull creaked from Mothra’s claws.

“Wait, what about Hikaru? If Mothra’s carrying us in, who’s going to help him?”

Moll jumped atop the console and glanced over the horizon to the crimson, humanoid figure in the distance. Her eyes closed once more in concentration, focusing upon Zone Fighter’s mind and the memories within. She could perform no action to help the struggling warrior, only words and they would need to be enough.

*****

Hikaru’s human-sized right arm collided with Seven’s right fist, creating a shockwave of air to erupt. The ground beneath Seven cracked in all directions from the force while pressure jettisoned Hikaru back toward the ground as a sickening snap echoed for both to hear. Hikaru touched down at an angle and continued to slide across the ground at a pace he couldn’t control, creating a dust trail as he desperately tried to slow himself with his extended left arm merely for a pile of rock to intercept his path.

Jagged rocks smashed into Hikaru’s back and cranium. All the air within his lungs immediately vacated as blood spewed from his jaws. The mighty warrior fell forward, colliding with the charred earth without any attempt to catch himself.

Harsh breathing escaped from Hikaru’s lips. Sight became nothing more to Hikaru than a constant blur. Blood seeped across the earth from his horribly fractured right arm and ruptured bruises across his body. If he could actually feel the full damage his body sustained, Hikaru couldn’t imagine the immense agony he’d experience. The warrior pressed against the ground in defiance, desperately trying to lift his minuscule weight with his left arm, but pain and fatigue chained him against the ground. Repeatedly Hikaru tried to raise himself, screaming against his inability until tears gradually began to fall from Hikaru’s eyes.

How could a hero break the promises he swore with all his heart to uphold?

How could he fail when so many needed him…

Ultraseven watched Zone Fighter’s human body remain stagnant, a weary breath venting as he realized the fight was finally at an end. The battle was one he never wished to fight, proving far closer than he ever thought possible, but at last, he could do what the universe needed. The anomalies represented a threat to all life on the planet, and a single human or a monster could not compare to the billions of lives at risk. If Zone Fighter lived, Ultraseven wished he would understand. The crimson warrior of light’s shoulder guards began to glisten with energy once more, his gaze turned to the sky and power sparked across his arms. With one final blast of his Wide Shot, the crystal blight upon the world would be brought to a swift end and the anomalies along with them.

The ground beneath Hikaru’s face began to sharpen in detail as the dizziness gradually began to fade and the pain, long dulled by his state of mind, struck him with the force of a tsunami. An earth-shattering migraine took control of the warrior’s mind, nearly deafening all of his other basic senses excluding the pain, so much so his body barely registered a gentle wind which blew past the fallen warrior.

“You’ve given up?”

Hikaru’s eyes widened from the voice. His mind briefly cleared from the question and his head jolted back in response. A being of light, one a few inches in size took shape in front of Hikaru who barely registered the new form. As the spirit finished forming, Moll opened her eyes to gaze upon Hikaru’s struggling form.

“How? Why?” Hikaru mumbled at a loss of words.

“Your mind is not clear. I am here to mend those wounds, to help the woman you desperately seek to protect from the misery you know so well.”

Tears and droplets of blood struck the rock beneath Hikaru’s head which sunk in despair. “I couldn’t keep my word… I never could… ”

The priestess turned away from the Meteor Man, gazing upon the crimson humanoid who stood ready to obliterate the floating field of crystals hundreds of meters above them.

“I can not deny your path in life is filled with despair. The great loss you’ve experienced, I would not wish it upon even the most heinous being. But from your dread derives a gift not even I possess. In your memories, and even today, I can see no matter how desperate or hopeless a fight, you always stood for those that can’t stand for themselves. I, in my times of weakness, can not say the same.”

Moll’s stoic stance broke for just a moment, eyes wandering to the ground in self-doubt before her pose returned, her head held high.

“Now, like you’ve done so many times,” Moll asserted, raising her right arm upward with a clenched fist and a smile glowing with confidence. “Stand once more, Hikaru.”

Moll’s essence faded into glittering sparks of residual energy, revealing Ultraseven’s figure in the distance to Hikaru whose eyes focused upon him like a hawk. A spark of resistance flashed within Hikaru’s eyes. The warrior smashed his left arm into the ground, fracturing the rigid earth for dozens of meters in all directions as he easily pushed himself up, agony unable to halt his movement. Hikaru staggered to his feet, blood dripping off his form as he took a fighting pose. With Seven no longer focusing on him and needing a boost of adrenaline, Hikaru grabbed his shattered right arm and pressed against fractured bone .

Broken bone impacted torn muscle, unleashing a shockwave of pain from the corresponding nerves. The desperately needed boost of adrenaline flowed hand in hand with agony through Hikaru’s beaten body. His eyes bolted open. Teeth scraped against the other. Slight growls echoed as Hikaru desperately held his breath before he unleashed a yell with the force of a monster’s roar.

“SEEEEVVVVVEEENNN!”

Ultraseven’s gaze pivoted to the destitute landscape as a war cry echoed past him and an explosion of dust jettisoned skyward. The warrior of light instantly brought up his arms in the form of an X, ready to deflect the incoming assault. He couldn’t see his adversary’s miniature form, but he knew a strike would be imminent.

Hikaru felt himself rocket through the air at a speed never experienced in his human form. His left fist condensed so tightly that blood oozed from the open wounds across it.

One final punch. With his right arm shattered and his adrenaline fading fast, he needed one definitive strike against his opponent and as his target neared, Hikaru brought his fist down with all the monstrous force of Zone Fighter.

Inhuman strength shattered the earth opposing Hikaru’s punch. Fissures split beneath Ultraseven’s stance. The warrior of light’s defensive stature loosened, parting the warrior’s arms as Hikaru’s form jettisoned directly up and glided mere feet from the warrior of light’s chest. Hikaru’s legs retracted, his eyes remained focused upon his target and as Ultraseven’s jawline neared, Hikaru unleashed one final warcry of defiance.

“METEOR STRIKE!”

The defiant Peacelander’s war cry echoed as his legs jettisoned forward, striking the bottom jaw of Ultraseven. Seven’s head jolted back instantly. The crossed arms of Ultraseven flung into the air like a ragdoll, his body momentarily lifting into the air before crashing back down, head-first, with a colossal thud. Ultraseven’s head rolled to the right, his fingers twitched and subconsciousness gradually took hold of the valiant defender of Earth.

A mere blue dot rotating high above the ground, Hikaru’s body spun like a leaf caught in the wind. His bloodshot eyes looked over Ultraseven’s fallen body with terror but as he remained stagnant, a smile of relief formed on Hikaru’s face. Tears of victory rolled from the warrior’s eyes as a new sensation suppressed the pain of his shattered body, intensifying as he noticed Mothra Leo fly through the white anomaly.

The satisfaction of a promise kept and a world saved from destruction.

Winner: Zone Fighter

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