An Owl From A Far Off Place

II of V.

It was truly impressive, the end of the universe. The twisting spirals of physics unraveling across the cosmic expanse, stars burning in the undying fury of a place without thermodynamics, galactic spires shooting in and out of the pockets of vacuum. Reality itself losing meaning.

Atop a burning world, two figures suddenly took shape. The one on the left was slouched, long hair peeking out of a tattered robe covering the rest of her figure. Her name was Seras. The one on the right stood tall, a skirt of iron studded leather covering her legs, ornate leather covering the rest. She held a glaive, lifting the heavy metal with one arm as nothing. Her name was Evalyne.

Both of their faces were obscured beneath identical masks, fashioned in the shape of an owl.

Evalyne took a few steps out, surveying the surrounding area. Rust colored clouds dominated the sky, the ground below them a dull brown, cracked and dotted with craters. "This isn't it."

Seras' head snapped towards her partner. "What?" Incredulity bled through her voice. "We've exhausted every single other option. It has to be this."

Evalyne slowly shook her head. "No. She wouldn't let things come to this."

"How can you be sure?"

Evalyne turned towards her companion. "If you doubt me so much, check the planet. You know as well as I it isn't here."

The air suddenly dropped in temperature as a bright yellow rift opened up across the sky, shaking the two out of their argument.

"How long do we have?" Evalyne asked as she bent towards the ground.

Seras pointed her head towards the sky, caught in concentration. "Soon. Very soon." An arm showed itself from her robe, black feathers coating all but a scaled hand, ending in five taloned fingers. The ground began to shake, cracks appearing in the horizon. The temperature quickly began to rise again as jets of gas erupted from the newly formed abysses. The ground around them began to fall away, the small sliver they were perched upon the last stable aspect of the collapsing planet around them.

"It isn't there, is it?" Evalyne asked her partner. Seras did not respond, her glare focused on the world around them.

"Stop. It isn't here" Evalyne said, standing up, "But I think I know where we can find it." Sand fell from her hand as she admired the shard of twisted metal in her hand, unfazed as the end of the world suddenly stopped, the falling continents around them paused in their descent as if caught by an invisible string.

Seras view focused the metal in Evalyne's hand. Her other hand snapped out of the robe to catch it. She inspected it, lowering her other hand as she did so. With an eerie silence, the ground pieced itself back together, sand and rock returning to where they had been only moments before.The last rifts righted themselves and the escaped gas of the screaming planet stuffed back into its dying maws. The wind shifted, blowing away from them, the world caught in fear as it realized who had set foot upon its dying lands.

Seras studied the metal, brushing aside the sand. "It definitely isn't natural." She carved a circular rune onto it which glowed a faint blue. "Recent as well."

"Is it worth looking into?" Evalyne asked but Seras had already gotten to work. A hand crawled out from under robe and began to carve other runes into the shard, soon followed by another. Soon, a dozen hands were working, each acting independently of the other ones. The hands began to slow down, the shard entirely covered by glowing runes. With a final scratch across the metal, the hands slowly retreated back into the confines of the robe.

There was silence as Seras duplicated herself. To an outside observer, it would have appeared that a copy of Seras had stepped forward outside of the original. The copy was identical, possessing the same clothes, the same hair, even still holding the metal in her hand. The two Serases paid each other no mind. The copy took several steps forward before taking a single powerful leap, cracking the ground and launching herself into the distance. In the air, the copy went through the same thing the original went through, and in a matter of moments thousands of Serases were set out upon the world, all looking for the same thing.

"How much is this going to take," Evalyne asked.

"Trust me, I'm fine."

"I'm not asking about you. When we do find out what happened to it, when we know where it went, we're going to have to get to it; and I'm not sure how much longer this reality is going to keep up."

"This is going to be the last, I know it."

"That's what you said last time. And let's say we do find this thing; we aren't deathless anymore. Our safe houses have long been destroyed, and if one of us if forced to tackle another reality alone, we will fail."

"We're not going fail."

"I have full confidence that we won't. But this reality is falling apart at the seams and we have nowhere left to run. Failure is no longer out of the question and I don't think I can do this without you."

"I…" Seras sighed. "You know I-"

She cut off suddenly, her head snapping to the right. "Found it."

The blackened sand around them began to hover. In front of them, the surroundings began to blur away from a single point on the horizon. The blur grew, covering the ground and the sky in its strokes. The metal shard in Seras' hand began to glow and pulled itself towards the point. Without a word, the two walked into the event horizon.

The blur around them covered everything in its grip. Soon, all color was lost, the muted hues silenced to black. The two walked, unaffected by the all consuming tunnel which had formed around them. With a snap, all color suddenly returned, the two figures now standing in a completely different environment. There were no mountains here, simply flat ground, save for one thing: a twisted, jutting heap of slag sticking out of the ground, towering in front of the two figures. In the sky, the yellow rift grew larger.

One of the copies stood at its foot, staring upwards, the shard glowing a bright blue in its outstretched hand. Seras approached the copy, taking out the original shard. Meeting the copy, Seras stepped into the same position as it, once again fusing with it. The shard’s blue shine grew larger as the clouds in the sky began to slow their race around the world. Glowing lines snaked their way across the slag, splitting into thousands of different lines as they made their way towards the top. The heap began to crack, splitting open and uncrumpling itself, taking shape. As it did so, it crawled out of the ground, revealing the bottom of the iceberg. From the surroundings, other shards of metal shot out from the ground, magnetized to the structure taking form in front of them. Gradually, the rough outline of a black, sleek space vessel took shape in front of them. The metal covering it unrusted, the cracks undid themselves, and a large tumor of radioactive material excised itself from the side, as the crumpled body took shape before them.

The metal shard flew from Seras' hand and fit into the final hole, completing the ship. “Gotcha.”

Evalyne looked at the side of the ship, the deep gray off set by a familiar insignia. “Of course it’s them," Evalyne chuckled as she eyed the circle with three arrows pointing inwards. “Well, it isn’t any doubt who took it."

“They won’t die, will they,” Seras responded as a staircase descended from the side of the ship, touching down just beside them. Seras turned towards Evalyne. “After you,” she said, gesturing towards the top the ship.

The two rapidly ascended as the staircase retracted behind them. In a minute, they were at the top, in an airlock. “Unlock,” Seras demand. The ship did as it was told and the airlock was opened. The two exited the airlock and quickly found themselves within the bridge.

“Make sure they had it,” Seras said. Evalyne walked towards the captain’s chair, sitting down and spinning towards the screen which had just made its way down. The big screen glowed a faint gray, a single field visible in the middle. Evalyne simply stared at the screen. The screen glowed green before giving the all clear: “Access Granted.” Information flowed down it, thousands of files representing insane amounts of data.

“They left here approximately 4 billion years ago and…yep.“ Evalyne turned towards Seras, a smile certainly lit beneath the mask. “They definitely had it.”

“Perfect. Does it say where they went?”

Evalyne turned back towards the screen. This time, however, it was flashing on and off, ‘Warnings’ printed all over it. “Crap.”

The ship rocked as a rain of asteroids hit its side. “We need to move. Get this thing in the air, now.” Seras raised her hand and the planet once again collapsed into itself. Peering out the window, the yellow rift had opened up, spewing space debris towards the planet. “So that’s what that thing was.”

Evalyne quickly geared the ship into launching position, the collapsing planet actually helping it get into a position ideal for launch. “And go!”

The ship blasted forward, the rockets in the back which had been waste only moments before roaring to life as the ship shot into the atmosphere and beyond. The yellow rift continued to lob obstacles their way, rapidly approaching as it did so.

The ship flew out of the rapidly collapsing planet, debris shoved every which way in front of it. Seras fell to the ground as the ship was scraped by yet more of the yellow rift’s raking claws.“Focus on piloting the thing,” Seras yelled, pulling out a sword from beneath her robe as she got back onto her feet. “I’m going to deal with our buddy out there!”

Evalyne leaned backwards, pulling the ship up to dodge the yellow once again. “Where am I supposed to go?”

Seras looked back towards her. “Where all things go at the end. The center.” Evalyne nodded in understanding as Seras ran towards the bridge window and jumped through it. As quickly as the vacuum of space sucked her and the shattered glass through the hole, it reformed, the splintered glass piecing itself back together, dragging Seras along with it, who landed safely on the outside. An asteroid the size of the moon loomed in front of them. Seras turned away as a copy left on top readied its sword. Seras broke out into a run, her tattered cloak falling away into the vacuum of space. Long black hair flowed out as she ran, headed towards the back of the ship which had been set aflame. Behind her, the asteroid split apart into pieces. Low to the ship, she made two more copies who quickly went to defend the sides of the ship as she made her way towards the back. Any damaged portions of the shipped she passed began to repair themselves. Despite the ship’s speed, the yellow rift was still rapidly approaching. It bared its teeth, expelling rocks and jets of starflame towards the ship. It was hungry. Seras grew ever faster before reaching the edge of the ship.

For Seras, time seemed to stand still for a single moment. Seras closed her eyes and focused. It had been a long time since she had done this. Opening her eyes, she pushed off from the ship. Six golden lights shot out from her back and covered in her in a giant golden aura which grew exponentially in size, quickly outsizing the massive yellow rift. From underneath the lights, six wings took shape and unfurled, revealing a sun sized, golden version of Seras. Reality itself was enraptured in her power, warping itself around her. Behind them, the ship’s engines finally repaired and it shot out of range, turning into a small point in the distance.

Her name was Seras and she was a many winged angel, coming down upon the rift in unmatched, divine fury. A golden sword appeared in her hands as she swung across the space in front of her. As she did so, another set of hands appeared to do so in the same moment. And another. Sword after sword, hand after hand, she tore apart the rift until it was nothing but space dust. She sped past its corpse as the golden light began to fade.

Evalyne sat alone in the ship as it sped towards the center of the universe, staring in boredom towards the ceiling. “Took you long enough.”

Seras walked out from out of the corridor behind her, once more wearing the tattered cloak, ignoring Evalyne’s comment. She walked towards the bridge’s window, peering out towards the universe which grew darker and darker by the moment. She turned towards her left as Evalyne walked besides her.

They both stared out of the window. “There isn’t much time left, is there?” Evalyne asked.

“No, but after all this time we’ve never been closer.” Seras placed her hand on the window.

Evalyne let out a sigh of relief, and started to walked away, towards the corridors. She paused next to the exit. “The computer said nothing about where they were going or if they even took. You are sure they're at the center, right?”

“As sure as I have ever been.”

Evalyne let out a sigh of relief and walked out of the bridge, leaving Seras alone in the dark room of blinking monitors and colored lights. Seras stared towards something beyond the horizon.

Beneath her mask, two blue singularities burned in her sockets, deadset on her goal. “We’re finally going to find you,” she whispered to no one in particular.

The ship raced towards the end of all things.

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