The Marvel Universe – "Whatever happened to Richard Rider?"
Robert Rider walked somberly through the city. It was dark, and at this hour, there weren't many people on the streets. His parents and friends all warned him about the dangers of walking in this neighborhood, especially at this hour, but he didn't care.
Robert had wielded a portion of the Nova Force, and had fought criminals on the grandest scale imaginable, so a couple of drug dealers and muggers really didn't scare him anymore. The thing was though, he no longer had the Nova Force. Not since his brother, Richard Rider, had disappeared.
Richard, or Rich, as he was known to his friends, was the man called Nova. A hero. A leader. A friend, and a brother. He had been missing for several years already, disappearing into something called the Cancerverse, with his friend, Peter Quill, a.k.a, Star-Lord, to stop the natives of the Cancerverse, along with global threat, Thanos. The thing was; both Star-Lord and Thanos had come back to this universe, Rich hadn't.
Peter Quill never talked about what happened to Rich, nor had he ever tried to make any kind of contact with Robert, the Rider family, or even Richard's girlfriend, the Atlantean super hero, Namorita. It was almost as if Quill wanted to pretend that Rich never existed, and that did not sit well with Robert.
Robert had bonded with Wendell Vaughn, the hero known as Quasar, over the last few years, because Wendell had been a good friend of Richard's, both having saved the universe several times alone, as well as together. The two, along with Namorita, constantly searched for a way to find Rich, and while they had had a couple of other breakthroughs, they never found a sign of Rich, or a way into the Cancerverse.
With his hands in his pocket, and his eyes on the sidewalk in front of him, Robert sighs. The pain that he felt, the pain that they all felt, just knowing Richard was alive…was too much sometimes. It's no wonder that he didn't notice the two men approaching him.
"Wrong time, wrong place, nerd!" one yelled.
There was a time when he would have happily accepted the title of nerd, and while it didn't bother him, the way they directed it at him, did. He clenched his hands into fists and got ready to fight.
They laughed at him. One of them pulled out a knife, the other pulled out a gun.
Robert had always missed his powers, especially now. Reluctantly, he sighed and handed over his wallet. It really wasn't a problem, he would cancel the lone credit card he had as soon as the crooks were out of sight. Although, getting a new driver's license and various other identification cards would prove much more labor intensive.
One of the muggers pushed Robert down to the ground, and two men laughed as they walked away. A sudden gust of wind picked up, and while it was strong enough to knock both muggers into a nearby building, it didn't affect Robert at all. Robert chuckled.
Daniel Jones, son of Brock Jones, the former hero known as the Torpedo, lands next to Robert.
"No problem, Robbie. Truth be told, as long as I wear this armor, I feel like I should be thanking you."
Robert patted Daniel on the back. In one of their many exhaustive searches for Richard, Quasar and Robert had come across many of the forgotten 'things' and people of their universe. One of those people was Daniel, and an original Torpedo battle armor!
Daniel's father, and his cousin, Mike Jeffries, had both died wearing versions of the Torpedo armor. They were forgotten, and Daniel believed that there should be a Torpedo legacy. In the big picture, his wants were very similar to those of Robert and Quasar's. They agreed to bring Daniel to their home base, the remains of Project Pegasus, to mentor him.
More precisely, they resided in the underground chambers beneath the rubble that was Project Pegasus. There five of them living there at the moment: Robert, Wendell, Nita, Chris, and Daniel. It was ground zero in the search for Richard Rider.
"Wendell had me come get you," Danny said. "He's being all Quasar-y, and told me to get you back right away."
"Is it Rich?" Robert asked, the hope that he once held in his voice, not as strong as it once was.
"No, I'm sorry," Danny spit out a little faster than he would have liked. "Some sort of new energy source they found. They wanted you to identify it."
Robert nodded. "Okay, let's go."
Beneath Project Pegasus, Robert Rider and Daniel Jones, join Wendell Vaughn (Quasar), Namorita, Chris Powell (Darkhawk), and the former Nova, Morrow. One and all, friends of Richard Rider, and other than Robert Rider, they were all beings of immense power.
Looking around the room, Chris Powell realized the power collected in the room. By no mean, did her consider Robert was useless. He saw Robert as a Project Pegasus manager. A person of the highest intelligence, and the brother of Richard Rider, the man who saved him in deep space.
Chris was recently a captive of the villain Arcade, but has been healing quite nicely from the gunshot wound suffered in that whole scenario. When he was approached by Namorita to aid in the search for Richard, Chris never hesitated.
Presently, they all circled Quasar. His quantum bands encircled all of them in the room, protecting them from the pink radiation that Quasar had pulled out of the Earth's atmosphere. Unlike other radiations, this one was visible, and pink in color.
"Ever see anything like it?" Quasar asked Robbie.
Robbie studied the radiation, and while something about it bothered him, it also intrigued him.
Robert ponders the radiation, his fingers scratching his chin.
"I'm not sure, Wendell," he began. "It looks very familiar, but the reality is that there shouldn't be anything like this on Earth."
"I seem to remember there being radiation reading equipment in some of the labs here," Chris suggests.
"Good idea,' Robbie nods, still not taking his eyes off of the energy, but positive he had seen it before.
"Thanks," Chris gushes. "But for all I know, those things could all just be there to take X-rays."
Boom! Robert Rider remembers where he's seen this energy.
"Quasar," he says excitedly. "Drop your force field from around me, but keep everyone else sheltered."
"Why?" Wendell Vaughn asks in disbelief. "Why would I not protect you as well?"
Chris Powell has never seen or heard of Robbie Rider doing anything rash. Even dealing with all of his grief over Rich, Robbie had always been rational.
"Trust him, Wendell," Chris says to Quasar. "Robbie knows what he's doing."
Chris crossed his fingers, hoping he was right. It would suck for all of them if he was wrong.
Wendell shrugged, "Are you sure, Robbie?"
"I'd say 90% sure," Robbie deadpanned.
"Great…" Wendell exhaled. "Okay, here goes."
Robbie reaches his fingers forward to the energy as Quasar pulls his force field away from Robbie. The energy pulses for a second, recognizes Robbie, and then engulfs him. Glowing, Robbie falls to the floor, unconscious.
Chris Powell transforms into the hero Darkhawk, and rushes over to grab Robbie.
"No! Robbie!" he screams. "Don't do this to us!"
Darkhawk can feel a pulse. "He's breathing!"
"Bring him to the room next door," Morrow calls out, "There's a bed prepped already."
Darkhawk picks Robbie up, only to feel his friend's body crackling with energy.
"What's wrong with him?" Namorita asks.
"I don't kn…" Darkhawk begins to say, but is interrupted as Robert Rider's body explodes.
Namorita slowly regains consciousness. She looks around the room, and everyone is standing around a glowing pink figure. She walks forward to see the love of her life, Richard Rider!
"Richard?" she calls out as she stumbles forward.
The pink figure puts his hand up.
"No, Nita. I'm sorry, Nita. It's me, Robbie."
"Robbie?" she asks. Tears begin to fall. She is relieved that Robbie's okay, but she's also disappointed in herself for seeing something she desperately wanted to see, but wasn't there. Who could blame here though? The two were brothers after all.
"Yes, Robbie," he replied with a smile.
"What happened to you, Robbie?" Nita follows up. "You're glowing…"
"Yes, I am. Tell me, Nita…did Rich ever tell you stories about, the Comet?"
Nita shrugs. "I think so…"
"Let me give you a quick history lesson," Robbie says. "Us finding this energy, or more precisely this energy finding us, was no mistake."
Robbie had everyone's attention. He couldn't help but to smile.
"The Comet was a man named Harris Moore. He and his son, the man known as Crimebuster were heroes here on Earth, before joining my brother as a part of the New Champions on Xandar. They both died defending Xandar. In the Comet's case, when he died, the power coursing through his body was released into the atmosphere. And as we've all been taught, energy never dies."
The room goes silent.
"This is all due to someone recently finding the Comet's dissipated energy," Robbie says. "Equivalent to finding the needle within a million haystacks."
Namorita raises and eyebrow and asks, "Quasar found it, right?"
Robbie chuckles, "Yes, he did. But someone left that energy there for Wendell to find."
Now everyone in the room fell silent. They had been through too much uncertainty and disappointment in the past few years to even bother guessing. They held their breath and waited for Robert Rider to enlighten them.
"Unfortunately for us," Robbie began to lecture. "We've been so busy trying to find Rich that we've missed a lot of 'coincidences' occurring right under our noses."
"Spit it out already, Robbie," Morrow growled. "I'm still not sure that you won't explode again."
"Of course," Robbie apologized as he began to pace around the room.
"Sometimes I still find the need to explain all of the minute details. Everything that's been happening within our little group here: Quasar, Nita, and myself, insisting on staying together. Darkhawk coming back to us. Morrow finding a lone Xandarian ship and bringing it back to us to use for space travel. Daniel finding the Torpedo suit and then finding us…and now me, Richard's brother, being given the powers of the Comet, who was a good friend of Richard's."
Quasar caught on and his eyes began to well, but everyone else waited for Robbie to release them from the tortuous suspense.
Robbie dramatically looked towards the sky.
"It's Rich. He wants to come back, but he needs our help."
Namorita hugged Wendell Vaughn and began to cry as well, otherwise, there were smiles all around.
Later that day, after preparations had been made, the group of friends take flight. Quasar leads the way, with Robbie in his own version of the Comet costume flying just behind him, with Daniel, the new Torpedo following close by.
Darkhawk, Morrow, and Namorita ride in the Xandarian ship that Morrow had commandeered. Its official designation was XN-791704, but Morrow had taken to calling it, the 'Airwalker'.
They were all locked in to the feint signal that Robbie had been picking up. It was a galactic distress signal that Quasar confirmed he and Richard had been using during the Annihilation.
The flight was a quiet one. Where they should all have felt joy about the possibility of finding Richard, they were instead worried that this would be yet another disappointment. It had been too many years already, and they all kept their defenses up.
Until then, they were off to the Tranta System of the Andromeda Galaxy. It was there that the planet Xandar was destroyed.
"This is the place," Quasar announced on their communicators.
"It's so quiet," Namorita says.
"It's dead," Morrow laments. "There's no sign of life anywhere."
With a glimmer in his eye, Robbie Rider says, "Not yet."
"Now what?" Darkhawk asks.
"I'm not sure," Robbie says. Then he jokes, "I've only been the Comet for a day."
Daniel Jones, the Torpedo, has only been in costume for a few months, and had only known this particular group of people for that same amount of time. Other than what he had seen on television, he hadn't known Richard Rider at all, but he could tell that Richard had left a lasting impression on all of them. These people were now Daniel's family, and if Richard Rider meant so much to them, then he was important to Daniel as well.
"Hold on!" Namorita shouts. "I can hear him calling me! Richard's trying to find us!"
Pain. Constant pain. Richard Rider, the Earth man known as Nova, crawls around his cell, aching. His body has been broken so many times in the last few…has it been years already? Yes, it must be years. It was hard to tell time in the Cancerverse. In this dungeon, time was measured by the daily beatings they gave him.
Richard was a hero in his universe. Hell, he was even a hero here in the Cancerverse. Something that was unheard of in this reality, so it made him public enemy number one. He had saved his friends, Drax the Destroyer, and Starlord…Pete. He sacrificed himself, and any remaining power from both the Cosmic Cube, and residual Nova Force, to try and keep the mad titan, Thanos, here with him in the Cancerverse.
Unfortunately, that plan didn't work. Thanos made a desperate attempt to escape, and Rich could only guess that Thanos' escape was a success because the cube shattered moments after Thanos passed through him. All that power was gone…
With all that power gone, Richard came crashing to the ground. That's when more of the Cancerverse's evil counterparts showed up. The first one to hit him came from behind. It was the Cancerverse's Quicksilver. Richard's head snapped backwards due to the sudden impact.
Before he could recover, this universe's Wolverine attacked him. Rich winced at the memory of those claws ripping into his back. Richard would have welcomed the silence of death, but this was the Cancerverse. His death lasted minutes, but he couldn't complain too much, the arm that had been cut off in battle with the Revengers, had grown back.
Rich was taken to the dungeon that the Cancerverse's Revengers used as a prison. He'd been here ever since. He had settle into a pattern in fact. Every morning he would be greeted by one Revenger or another, to be beaten near death. These monsters wanted a way back to Rich's universe and they believed he still had the means to do it.
They were pathetic. There were only a couple of possible ways that could happen. The Cosmic Cube, and maybe even the Novaforce. Neither of which Rich possessed anymore. Sure, he could tell them that, and at first they wouldn't believe him, but eventually they might. Rich wasn't a punk though, and he wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
Instead, each morning he would smugly tell them how ugly they were, or how bad they smelled, and then the beatings would be more furious than normal. Yet, Richard Rider held on. He took comfort in the knowledge that he had saved Pete, and maybe indirectly, his own planet. Pete was the kind of guy who would've done the same for him.
Hell, Pete was the kind of guy that would not let Rich's sacrifice stand. Pete wouldn't rest until he found a way back to the Cancerverse to save Rich. Rich chuckled at his friend's stubbornness. It was no wonder they got along so well.
Richard's laughter faded quickly, and the reality of where he still was, set in once again.
Then one day, everything changed. He still awoke to crippling pain. His body screamed for the agony to end. Maybe today would be the day that he finally died. Yep, a day like every other in his recent memory, only something in the air wasn't quite the same.
This time, it was Richard's counterpart from the Cancerverse that came to give him his daily beating. The door of his cell opened, and Rich looked up to see a uniform very similar to his own. Only darker. Black.
It happened so fast, and Richard didn't feel the first punch, but he felt the second, and the third. Richard also felt something else - hope. The costume wasn't the same, but it reminded Richard of who he had been and what he had stood for. He remembered people depending on him…because he was a hero.
There was a tiny warmth in Richard's chest, and it enabled to take a deeper breath. He is ready for the next punch though, and catches the Dark Nova's fist. Richard smiles, making sure that the Dark Nova sees his smile, before punching him squarely in the face.
Two very super-strong guards rush in to restrain Richard.
"Son of a bitch!" screams the Dark Nova. "Hold him for me!"
The Dark Nova begins to beat on Richard, taunting him.
"I don't know how you were able to do that to me, human! But you're going to pay!"
Richard who has always had a problem with authority, looks up at the Dark Nova and smirks.
"Go ahead and laugh, Earthman," says the Dark Nova. "Even now, we're making plans to erase your existence from your own world!"
With blood pouring down his face, Richard glares at him.
The Dark Nova chuckles.
"That's right. We may have finally found a way into your world," he taunts. "After all this time, even if you wouldn't tell us! You've already been replaced."
"Please," Richard says weakly. "Don't."
The Dark Nova laughs. "Are you begging?"
Richard shakes his head, "You wish. But I do have a condo in Long Island, and if you ugly bastards invade, it's gonna lower my property value."
"Enough!" the Dark Nova yells. "The Star-Lord and the Avatar of Death were able to leave the Cancerverse. Yet you chose to stay back and spy on us!"
Richard finally realized the Cancerverse's take on the situation, and decided that it was best to just let them keep on thinking that, so he would continue to play his role. For dramatic effect, Richard spits blood onto the black boots of the Dark Nova.
Frustrated, and unsure of what else to do with Richard, the Dark Nova kicks Richard in the face and walks away.
As the darkness again consumes him, Richard could only think of how the Cancerverse could have found another way back to his universe. And if they have found a way, why hasn't anyone from his universe found a way to come back and get him? Pete? The Fantastic Four? Hell, even Stark and his government puppets, the Avengers.
Then Richard began to think about his brother, Robbie, and how he had finally become a hero by becoming a part of the Nova Corps. Poor bastard, that dream for Robbie had been crushed, because he and the Worldmind had taken back all of the Novaforce for their final fight in the Cancerverse. Then there was Nita. He had just gotten her back…
Through broken ribs, Richard takes what would be his last breath for the day, thankfully, unconsciousness was just about to take him away. Then he hears, "Attention, Richard Rider…"
Then once again, the darkness.
"So how do we let him know where we are?" Darkhawk asks again.
"He's so alone," Namorita says. Her eyes closed, listening to what everyone is hoping is the feint call of her boyfriend. "It's so dark where he is."
"Dark, huh?" Quasar says aloud. "Okay, everyone, our friend is lost. Let's give him some light to find us."
With that, some very powerful heroes flex their powerful muscles, and light up the area of space that the world of Xandar used to exist in. Hopefully it was bright enough.
Confined to his unconsciousness, Richard Rider finds himself taking a tour of his own internal physiology, he sees his cold, withered veins. His once proud heart no longer beats, and his blood lays dormant, almost curdled. His internal organs are a splash of blues, purples, and black. It was tragic, and he finally felt like he might be ready to quit.
Then…an orange spark near his heart. Then another spark, this one running the length of his veins. Then a spark of yellow! His powerful heart beats once. Twice. It begins to pump bright red blood throughout all of his veins, reinvigorating the Novaforce running through his body.
Then a distant voice. Deliberate, calculated, but not unfeeling.
"Attention, Richard Rider. It is imperative that you listen at this time."
It was the Worldmind! Richard has to calm himself down. He was probably in some form of shock.
But he couldn't stop himself from asking, "Worldmind?"
"Yes, Richard. Did you miss me?"
Richard would love to laugh, but his ribs are broken.
"You bet, buddy," Richard says through gritted teeth instead. "I don't care if you are just a hallucination, I've missed you."
"I have missed you too, Richard," the Worldmind says.
Richard couldn't help but to chuckle, and the searing pain brought him back to reality. The Worldmind was always cold, and would never say something like that. It was okay though, it was something Richard needed to hear.
"I hope you don't mind," the Worldmind continued. "But I rebooted myself with the brainwave patterns of Nova Centurion, Ko-Rel. Her….my patterns seemed to be the least damaged in my library."
Richard swallows dryly and his eyes began to water. He wanted to believe, but afraid that if he got his hopes up too high again, he wouldn't be able to escape the clutches of insanity this time.
"Wait. Are you telling me that you're real, Worldmind?"
"Yes, Richard. It's me."
Tears begin to form in Richard's eyes. "You better not be my mind playing tricks with me, because I will be really pissed with myself!"
"While that statement is very illogical, I assure you, Richard…it's me," the Ko-Rel Worldmind says. It is eager to help Richard, but understands the psychological that its greatest warrior has been through. They would take all the time Richard needed.
Now the tears did begin to flow from Richard's eyes.
"Where were you? Why did it take you so long to find me?"
The Worldmind pauses, then finally responds. "I am sorry, Richard. This universe is foul, and very harmful to me. In fact, I am currently fighting off hundreds of psychic attacks trying to gain access to my inner workings. It has been a challenge to bring myself from our universe to this one, and then to reboot myself after all the damage we took from Thanos."
Richard listened intently to every word the Worldmind had said. At this point he was just so damn happy to hear his friend's voice that he really didn't care how the Worldmind had found him, and why it had taken so long.
Richard began to stand, ignoring all of the pain in his body.
"I've missed you, Worldmind," he began. "But I have to admit, this Ko-Rel persona is an odd choice."
Ko-Rel Worldmind pauses before speaking. "I have had a lot of time to ponder…life, if you will. With everything that we have been through, and with everything you have taught me, I have determined that a new perspective would be best."
Richard didn't care about the pain it caused him, the Worldmind's newfound humility deserved a smile. It was worth it.
Richard's body starts to glisten with sweat, and it convulses ever so slightly.
"It's time to begin your reboot, Richard."
Richard Rider nods.
"Will you feel me in on all the details later, Worldmind?" he asks.
"Affirmative, Richard," responds Ko-rel, "but please, call me, Ko-Rel."
Richard sleepily nods.
"Sleep well, Richard. You have earned it."
The next morning, the Dark Nova came to Richard's cell earlier than usual. The Earthman had left him in a foul mood yesterday, and now he was ready to administer a grand beating! It would be glorious. The human would beg for death, but as there was no death in this reality, it would never come. All there would be, is the suffering.
The Dark Nova slammed the cell door open, and pulled the bloody covers off of the Earthman's beaten body. The sight before him, caused him to gasp. The Nova Prime was in uniform waiting for him!
"A gold dome!" the Dark Nova exclaimed.
Richard Rider, Nova, just shrugged.
"I don't know what that means, but I can tell that you're surprised by my good looks."
Nova reaches out and grabs the Dark Nova by the throat. Nova's eyes glow with energy.
"I would absolutely love to get reacquainted with you with our roles reversed, but my friend, Ko-Rel tells me that I'm long overdue back home."
With that, Nova blasts the Dark Nova with so much gravimetric energy that the Dark Nova crashes into the prison wall, and gets imbedded within it.
"That was a very powerful blow, Richard," Ko-Rel states.
"Don't worry about it. Death doesn't live here, so that bastard will be up and about eventually."
With that, Nova bursts through the prison door, and rockets for the upper atmosphere.
"Okay," Richard begins, "The guards were taunting me with the fact that they can get back to our universe, any idea how?"
Ko-Rel runs a few analytical scenarios through her memory.
"Affirmative," she replies. "As a result of your usage of the Cosmic Cube, it looks like stargates and wormholes now have a very slim chance within this universe. It's all a matter of how much energy."
Nova bit his lip. These possibilities were his fault.
"I don't mean to eavesdrop on your thoughts, Richard," Ko-Rel says, "but a lot of time has passed since that moment. It was inevitable that they would eventually stumble on a way to cross dimensions. I assure you, this is by no means your fault."
Nova takes a deep breath. It did make him feel better to hear.
"I understand," he says. "Just a lot of bad memories is all."
Nova breaks the skyline and is now entering space. He leaves a sonic boom in his wake.
Nova feels so free again. "By the way, Ko-Rel, you never got around to telling me how long we've been here?"
"I am sorry to inform you, Richard," Ko-Rel says, "It has been nearly four years…"
Nova's eyes well up.
"Wow," Richard says softly.
Through the psychic link they share, Ko-Rel can see all of the thoughts that rush through Richard's mind. Then she notices an object similar to a wall, blocking her view of his pain. Her database of human emotions recognizes it as a defense mechanism.
"Oh man," Richard forces out, "All that time. I wonder if the Yankees ever traded Jeter?"
Ko-Rel does not respond. Instead, she slowly releases an extra dose of endorphins into Richard's system, in an attempt to make him feel better.
"So," Richard says, "Are we ready and able to jump out of this place?"
"There is a slight problem with that, Richard. As I mentioned, it's all about power, but we don't have enough of it currently to make that kind of jump. We can open a gate on our end, but that's about it. We don't know far we have to go, we won't know exactly where we have to go."
Richard sighed. It was never easy. He had also learned that while the Worldmind seemed to be without a plan, that was never the case. There were always variables and other scientific stuff that his brother, Robbie would understand better. What he did know, was that he just needed to push the Worldmind with the right questions.
"So," Richard starts. "If we knew where home was, then we could get there?"
"In theory," Ko-Rel states. "However, even if we knew where 'home' was, as I previously stated, we might not have enough energy to get there."
Richard smiles, "That's a start. Could we siphon energy along the way? Say, if it came from home?"
Ko-Rel hesitates before answering, "Affirmative."
Richard chuckled. This was like pulling teeth, but at least they were making progress.
"I'm sorry, Richard," Ko-Rel says, "I don't understand the analogy that this is like the extraction of your teeth?"
Once again, Richard couldn't help but to laugh. "Stay with me, Ko-Rel, I'm getting there. You followed me all this way to the Cancerverse…do you think you could send a message back to our Earth? Back home?"
Ko-Rel does the calculations and concludes, "I believe we could, but.."
Another 'but', Richard cringes.
"But…we would need beings of tremendous power to receive our message."
"Now you're talking, baby!" Richard shouts excitedly. "No problem there, Ko-Rel, we've got a bunch of powerful friends back home."
"Affirmative, Richard. I do believe you're right. You have a plan, don't you?"
"I've had nothing but time for the last four years, Ko-Rel," Richard begins. "I have several plans. Going to need that long distance reach of yours to plant a few suggestions before we get home, though."
The Worldmind plays a recording of the real Ko-Rel, laughing.
"What in the hell?" Richard asks.
"Sorry, Richard. That was my attempt at ironic laughter. You see, while I haven't been able to communicate with you, I have been in your brain all this time. I've seen your plans, and I've already taken action."
"Son of a bitch…" Richard smirks. "That's both awesome and creepy."
"Thank you," Ko-Rel responds, still trying to recalibrate her understanding of sarcasm.
"The lights are on, Richard," Ko-Rel says. "As we speak, we're already headed towards our makeshift stargate. This was your plan all along. I just wanted you to remember it, and become your self again. All you have to do now is make the call."
Streaking through the Cancerverse's atmosphere, and headed for their stargate Richard allows a tear to fall.
Namorita Prentiss could feel a tightness in her chest. She could breathe both on land, and underwater, so the sensation of holding her breath was unpleasant for her. Yet, here she had been, waiting with baited breath, like the rest of her team, hoping for a miracle.
That miracle had burst through a hole in the Xandarian space they had been waiting in! Richard Rider, the man called Nova, and more importantly, her boyfriend, had returned! After years of being missing, he had found his way home!
This was such an exciting time, and here he was, asleep. Robbie, Wendell, and Morrow, had run all kinds of tests on Richard, and he seemed fine. Just exhausted.
The new Worldmind, Ko-Rel, had spoken to all of them while Richard slept. She first thanked them for being here for Richard. Then she went on to say that she hoped everyone here enjoyed the gifts she bestowed upon them, on Richard's behalf.
Daniel Brock found his father's original Torpedo suit. Morrow had found the Airwalker ship. Chris Powell had found his Darkhawk amulet again, as well as the desire to be a hero again. Robert Rider had been given the powers and identity of the Comet, not to mention his brother.
Wendell Vaughn, a man of immense power as the hero Quasar, was given something so very simple, his best friend.
Namorita considered herself the luckiest. She had everything she could ever want, now that Richard was back.
"Nita?" a weakened Richard called.
Namorita cried openly as she screamed, "Rich?"
They hugged each other, not wanting to let go. In their profession, there were too many chances for them to be separated. Richard silently promised himself that those odds would go down.
The happy reunion continued for a long time. Richard gave them all the horrific details of his capture. Not for pity, not out of anger, but more so just to give himself closure. To remind himself that that was no longer his reality. He was surrounded by loved ones.
Even the new kid, Daniel. Richard pulled him in for a hug, and told him that he was now a part of the extended Rider family, a part of the final Nova Corps.
Later that afternoon, as they sat in the Airwalker's dining area, Richard had drank four large bottles of Gatorade, and got brought up to date on the recent happenings of their busy universe.
"Man, I can't believe someone killed the Watcher," Richard gasped.
"About that," Wendell said cautiously. "Something else happened right about that time."
Everyone in the room looked at each other somewhat nervously. They had all agreed though, he had to know. It was now or never.
"What?" Richard asks, kind of nervous now that the room had fallen silent. Literally, almost anything could have happened on their crazy planet.
"There's a new Nova," Wendell said. "A kid."
Richard doesn't know what to say. So many thoughts race through his head, that he can't keep track of those that are rational, and those that aren't. So he turns to the most rational person he knows.
"Ko-Rel," he calls.
"Yes, Richard," she replies.
"Do you know anything about this?"
"Negative," she replies. "I'm just as curious as you are."
"Good," Richard says. "Now that I'm home, I'm ready to see some old friends."
Richard instantly transforms into his Nova Prime uniform.
"Rich?" Robbie asks, nervously.
Rushing towards the ship's exit, Richard calls back to his brother, "Sorry, little brother, or should I say, Comet? When we're in uniform, it's code names only."
Nova rushes out of the ship and into the Earth's atmosphere. He streaks towards the Earth like the rocket that he is.
"Ko-Rel?" he says, "I have a favor. Can you contact a couple of friends for me?"
With that request being made, he shoots downwards towards New York City. Followed closely by Quasar, Comet, Torpedo, and Darkhawk. Namorita and Morros give chase in the Airwalker.
"Richard!" Ko-Rel screeches into his brain. "I've found him. He's 3 miles off the coast of Maine, in the Atlantic Ocean."
"Got it!" Nova responds stoically. He changes his direction, taking a quick glance back at his friends following him. They were keeping pace.
Following Nova, Quasar is worried about his friend's well-being. They had given him every test they could think of. Physically he was fine. Yet, Quasar worried about his friend's sanity. He knew Nova was upset, and he knew that this was something Nova had to get out of his system. As his friend, he was going to be there just to make sure Nova didn't cross the wrong lines.
Within minutes, Nova streaks over the Atlantic Ocean, finding a cruise ship being held hostage by a giant sea creature of some kind. The only thing between the ship and the monster, was a kid dressed up in the Dark Nova uniform from the Cancerverse!
The new Nova, Sam Alexander, had no idea what was coming at him, he was too busy blasting the monster with energy beams.
"Really?" Sam says. "No Stingray, no Sub-Mariner, so I have to come deal with you?"
The creature pushes the large boat aside. Passengers on board scream as the ship rocks.
"What are you anyway?" Sam asks. "Did someone release the Krakken? Because that's probably the best comparison I can come up with."
A voice from behind him says, "Who are you?"
The young Nova turns to see a man dressed in a Nova uniform as well, but this guy was wearing a gold dome!
"I'm Nova," Sam says. "Who the hell are you?"
Richard growls. "I'm Richard Rider. The man called Nova."
Before Sam can say another word, Richard springs into action.
"Quasar, the monster is yours. Bubble him up, and dump it further out to sea. Nita, check out the waters, make sure there's nothing else in there. Darkhawk, Torpedo, you guys check out the people on board the ship."
"Nova," Darkhawk says hesitantly.
"Don't worry, Darkhawk," Rich cuts him off. "The Comet is right here to make sure I behave."
With that, the heroes rush off to their jobs, and Richard turns back to Sam.
"How did you get the uniform, kid? How'd you get the powers?"
Sam is offended by the older guy putting him on the spot like this.
"None of your business!" he spits out.
Richard is pissed. He flies towards Sam and grabs him by the collar.
"Listen, punk. You don't know half of the crap I've had to deal with, and a lot of it had to do with that uniform you're wearing."
Sam powers up and pushes Richard away from him.
"Get off me!" Sam yells.
Sam doesn't want to fight. He was badly outnumbered, and it looked like this guy, Rider meant business. He needed help. He streaks away as fast as he can.
"Avengers priority distress call!" he screams into his helmet. "Come on all you big bad, Avengers. I need your help! Lock into my signal!"
Sam barely gets the last word out when he is tackled in mid-air by Richard. The two heroes come crashing to the sand on the beach. Richard gets up first.
"Don't piss me off, kid," Richard says. "I just need some answers."
Sam turns to Richard, and blasts him in the face with a big energy burst.
"You little…" Richard mutters as he tries to get his vision back.
Sam rushes forward to deliver a vicious blow on Richard.
"Richard," Ko-Rel says. "He is about to hit you."
"I know," Richard whispers. "I was playing possum."
As Sam gets close, Richard reaches out and stops Sam in mid-flight. He now held Sam off of the ground by his collar. Sam tried to blast Richard again, but this time Richard was ready for it, and had Ko-Rel absorb those energies.
The kid was strong, but he just wasn't in the class of Richard Rider. Rich knew it, Same knew it, Rich's team that had followed them, knew it. So did the man that called out for Richard.
The voice was familiar, "Richard Rider, please put Nova down."
Richard doesn't even have to turn his head. Instead, he sighs and replies, "Is that how it's going to be, Captain?"
Richard then turned to face Captain America. "First you call me by my full name like some sort of kid, and then you give this unknown my title?"
Captain America isn't alone. He's brought the Avengers with him, all of them.
"I'm sorry, Richard," Cap begins, "But since our radars have caught your return, you've been acting in less than a heroic manner."
Richard surveys Captain America's forces. "Are all of these Avengers for me?"
Iron Man steps in, "Our sensors also got your power levels, and let's just say that since you've been gone, we don't like to take chances anymore. Consider us proactive."
"Speaking of which," Captain America continued, "Where have you been all this time, Richard…and how did you get back?"
Nova smirked. "I'm glad you asked, Cap. That just tells me that my good friend, Peter Quill hasn't bothered to talk about me in my absence. Any chance the Star-Lord is an Avenger yet? Looks like you got everybody else on your roster."
"Watch your mouth, Rider," Iron Man snaps. "Things have changed since you've been gone."
"It's okay, Iron Man," Captain America says, obviously trying to avoid conflict. "We don't know where he and his team are, Richard. They spend a lot of time in space."
"Cap, please," Nova sighs. "I have ways of knowing things too, and one of those things I know, is that Quill, Gamora, Drax, and their friends, are actually on planet as we speak. are you hiding them from me?"
"How dare you?" Thor says spitefully. "The Captain has been very civil in speaking with you, would do well to hold your tongue."
"Thor's right," Hyperion tells Carol Danvers. "Why is Captain America letting this fool talk so much?"
Carol shushes Hyperion. "He's a hero. He deserves to speak."
Richard drops Sam to the ground. "You have to believe me, Cap. Whether he knows it or not, this kid is trouble."
"You don't presume to tell us how to operate, Rider," the Hulk grunts. "We're the Avengers, we deal with the Earth's biggest problems. Right now, it's you."
The Hulk was a badass. Hulk was the strongest there is. The Hulk was also the biggest basket case in the universe. There was no need to provoke him any further…yet.
Richard then surveyed rest of the Avenger's roster. Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hyperion, Spider-Man, Falcon, Hawkeye, Hulk, Luke Cage, Carol Danvers - whatever she was calling herself at this point, and even several X-Men. This team was stacked.
Richard's team lands behind him, and pound-for-pound, Richard liked his team's chances.
"Impressive team. You looking for some kind of a standoff, Nova?" Hawkeye asked.
"Nothing planned, Hawkeye," Richard replies. "You?"
Hawkeye scoffs at Nova and then falls back.
"Quasar," Captain America calls out. "I take it by your position that you stand with Richard Rider and his friends?"
"Hello, Captain," Quasar responds. "That would be correct, sir."
Captain America nods, respecting Quasar and his choice.
The Hulk on the other hand, has says, "Losing side, Quasar."
"I didn't realize there were sides, Banner," Quasar responds.
The Hulk steps forward. "You got that right, little man. Between me, Thor, and Hyperion, you runts don't stand a chance."
Spider-Man leaps forward, "Rich. Let's not get into a pissing contest. That's not who you are."
"Hey, Spidey," Rich says. "You're right, things are way more tense than they should be, and that's not why I'm here."
"I'm here because of this kid," Richard says. "The one you were all so quick to embrace as my replacement. Do you even know who he is?"
"He is a hero," Thor says. "That is all I need to know."
"I'm sure he's tried to be," Richard says. "But have any of you taken a second to wonder why this guy turns up when I disappeared?"
None of the Avengers answer. The Hulk and Hyperion could care less about Rider, but others like Captain America, Spider-Man, and even Iron Man, feel different degrees of guilt about Richard's statement.
A spaceship breaks through the atmosphere and lands on the beach. Everyone watches it land, they all know who it is. There is an awkward silence as Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord, steps out of the ship and approaches Richard.
Quasar pulls the Comet next to him, "This is it."
Robbie Rider nods somberly.
"Hey, Richie," Quill begins. "It's been a long time."
Peter then offers his hand to shake, but Richard ignores it.
Instead, he snaps, "Why didn't you tell them about me, Pete?"
Peter Quill struggles to maintain eye contact.
Hawkeye whispers to the Falcon, "I hate it when mom and dad fight."
The Falcon nudges Hawkeye to shut up.
"You let everyone forget about me?" Richard asks.
"I'm sorry, Rich," Star-Lord begins. "Truth is; so many things have been happening, we just got busy trying to save the world."
Richard feels as if he has been slapped in the face.
Quill puts his hands up to explain. "Don't take it the wrong way, Rich. Eventually we would have…"
Richard cuts him off, "Eventually?"
The Hulk chimes in again. "Stop being such a crybaby, Rider."
Richard moves Star-Lord to the side. "I'm getting tired of you, Banner."
"What are you going to do about it, punk?" the Hulk asks. "We were already the strongest team ever assembled before these Jedi wannabes got here. Now? Forget about it."
Richard nodded and held his hands up, "I understand, Banner. You guys are pretty intimidating. Me personally, though, I think this whole hero vs. hero thing is cliche."
Richard smiles, "But just for future reference, my friends and I have friends too."
Richard raises his hand to the sky, and a silver blur appears at the edge of the atmosphere. Within seconds, that silver blur becomes visible. The Silver Surfer, Gladiator of the Shi'ar, and the Asgardian powered, Beta Ray Bill, land next to Richard Rider.
"That escalated quickly," Spider-Man quipped.
"I think we need to all calm down for a second," Captain America says.
"I promise, Cap," Richard says. "We're not looking for a fight. I cannot stress enough how much I respect every single one of you as heroes. Avengers and Guardians alike. For the foreseeable future let's just say my feelings are hurt, and I need to sort things out."
Richard then looks at the rest of the Avengers, and especially Peter Quill, and the Dark Nova.
"Otherwise, it looks like you guys have things the way you want here on Earth, as well as the immediate galaxy," Richard shrugs. "We'll take care of business a little further out. The universe is huge."
With that, Richard and his whole team turn and begin to board the Airwalker.
"Rider!" Drax the Destroyer yells.
Richard turns around and walks back towards Drax, who has pulled his knife. Within striking distance of each other, Drax throws his knife into the sand at Richard's feet. In turn, Richard removes his gold helmet. When they are close enough, the two stare each other down.
With the tension mounting, Drax wraps his massive arms around Richard, hugging him. Richard returns Drax's hug. Drax had taken a scared 'super hero' and turned Rich into a commanding warrior. Richard owed a lot to the Destroyer, and Drax had found one of his first friend's in Richard.
They separate and look at each other.
"When you call," Drax says, "I will be there. But your ass better be there for me when I call!"
Richard laughs at Drax, and slaps his friend on the shoulder.
"Thank you for everything, my friend," Rich tells him.
Once again, Richard and his team turn back to the Airwalker.
Richard stops on the Airwalker's stairs, his golden helmet tucked in his arms. He turns to the gathering of heroes.
"How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn't see…"
Richard puts on his helmet and steps into the Airwalker. The Nova Corps fly off into space to catch up with each other, and to plan their future. Things were about to change."
To be Continued…