Seed of Hope
Prelude

The Regess lay dying. It was not the first time destruction had been wrought upon her people, her children. First, it was the Children of Shadow, who feared the power of the Flower of Life. Then, it was the Robotech Masters, who coveted its power. The last time had been the humans of Earth, so like the Robotech Masters in appearance, yet fighting only for the very home her own people had taken from them. Each time they had fled, the last by breaching space and time itself.

And now, they were dying once more, this time their destruction wrought by the carelessness of kindred beings, who, like the Invid, sought to learn and evolve, but did so through an incredibly inefficient and careless manner.

And this time, she was dying with them.

No.

She would not let this be the end of her people. She sensed the shards of themselves the entities had cast down and shaped her people in their image. She took her strength, her power, her knowledge, but most importantly of all, the essence of the Flower of Life, and flung them across time and space.

The humans of Earth, she knew, could be petty and destructive, but there was good in them as well.

She may die, but her people would live.


The entity Cauldron named "Eden" would have considered it a rogue shard, a forgery, but to the Invid, it was their last seed of hope. For all the Regess's skill at shaping her creations, it wasn't like the shards cast off by the entities.

And perhaps, that was for the better.

The true shards were built to seek out conflict. They bound themselves to potential hosts and waited until they reached the lowest points in their lives in order to get direction and focus on what they should provide. The rogue shard needed no such context. It was not built to limit itself beyond the limits imposed by its host.

And, in a very real sense, it had just lost its mother.


Blasto glared at the tripartite flower, but it refused to acknowledge him. No matter what he tried, he couldn't tease out the mysterious plant's secrets. Superficially, it was simple enough, a hybrid of different plant classes, a flowering plant that reproduced through spores rather than seeds.

But once he dug deeper... he just didn't understand it. It made no sense. And it was maddening.

He was a Tinker, damn it! Plants were his thing! How could there be a plant he didn't understand?!

He hung his head in defeat.

Whoever had created this strange new flower and the vaguely feline pollinators that accompanied them was far beyond him.


When the plants, harmless as they seemed, and their friendly little pollinators had first emerged in Brockton Bay, Amy Dallon worried. She knew, deep in her heart of hearts, that Carol's suspicions would fall on her. After all, they knew her power could do this, could shape life however she wanted.

But the accusation never came.

When Carol returned home with samples of the new plants - after Vicky had adopted one with the timeless plea of "It followed me home! Can I keep it?" - she had simply asked that she ensure it was safe.

Amy had never had such a migraine before or since.

It seemed to be safe, but it still worried her. Especially with the way that- that creature kept following Vicky.


"WHOO HOO!" Skidmark crowed as he inhaled the spores. Whatever this new weed was, it was fucking awesome!


Her name was Sophia Hess. She was also known as Shadow Stalker, and she was a predator, hunting the filth in the night.

But now... now, she watched. The ABB thugs in the alley below were going down tonight, one way or the other. It was just a matter of seeing who that redhead was inside first: predator or prey?

She never got the chance. Had she been anyone else, she doubted she would have seen it, but her own power and the affinity for shadows that came with it meant she tended to pay more attention to them.

So when a massive shadow detached itself from the alley and started padding silently toward the altercation below, it caught her attention, and she looked away just as the redhead's own gazed landed on her.

It looked vaguely feline, but if it was a cat, it was a gigantic one, four and a half feet tall and eight feet long, with hellish-looking red eyes that were starting to glow faintly. It moved with an impossible grace, gliding far more quietly than something that size had to right to... before it lunged into action.

Sophia blinked.

A gunshot rang out.

And it was over.

Blood practically covered the alleyway, with pieces of the ABB thugs scattered around to add to the decor. Sophia swallowed back the taste of bile as the hellcat suddenly looked up, pinning her with its soulless gaze.

She froze, a comparison to deer in the headlights coming unwillingly to mind. The hellcat turned away, and she let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She shifted into her shadow form and fled, cursing herself inside.

I'm not prey! she thought fiercely. I'm not weak! I'm not...

The words rang hollow in her mind.