PowerLand
Author: Othello Gooden Jr.

Chapter 6
The Stardust Girl

There were massive casualties on both sides. A cease-fire was called but it wasn't official. The Nexus and the Anomaly were both on the defensive. Crystal prepared to strike back but secretly as Don and loyal soldiers were against it. Those loyal to Crystal kept the war going unbeknownst to their leader. In the aftermath, Don and the Nightmare rebuilt their nation. They also grew closer to each other. Though Don was responsible for Nightmare’s creation but unlike him, she was a GEB. Furthermore, Don began to see her as his equal and she likewise with him.

 

Not once did Don ever call the Nightmare by her given name but he never asked either. Yet he never noticed her except as a soldier. Nightmare by far was only woman he trusted. No doubt there was other females in the Anomaly race but Nightmare had a certain splendor and charm that set her apart from the others. There were some memories of Lina that were shared between her and the Nightmare. Her given name was Crystal. She told him it was the middle name Celes’ mother gave her. Whereas Lina was the nickname given to her by her father.

 

Some believed the love between Don and Crystal was forced because she was a telepath and he wasn't. They tend to forget that the Anomaly were naturally strong-willed and mental intrusion was almost impossible. Don being the strongest of them all and as their leader, was at the pinnacle of strong minds among the populous of L.O. Those naysayers that publicly spread this rumor of Don and Crystal’s so-called “fake-love/rape relationship” were quickly dealt with. Some of them had the idea erased from their minds by Crystal while others became fodder for her summons.

 

A few years went by and Crystal bore to Don a girl. She named her Zini. It was by the baby’s appearance that made her unique. She was albino with wavy gray hair and turquoise blue eyes. Zini’s name meant “spirit of the wind” in the Sumerian/Akkadian language. Her pale skin and gray hair made her look ethereal. These features were why she was named Zini. The girl was an eyesore among the inhabitants of Caprice. Zini was born without superhuman abilities but inherited Don and Crystal’s immortality. To Don, Zini was just another human.

 

Crystal did everything in her power to get Don to accept Zini as his own. She did so by having her daughter’s body infused with Stellarium. This product was a combination of Polloxium, Diamond, and the Dark Matter Substance. Polloxium’s radioactive isotopes were neutralized in the creation of this new element and being reinforced by the other two made it nearly indestructible. Stellarium granted Zini an indestructible exoskeleton at will and had a beautiful, smooth armor-like texture on her skin. Innately, Zini possessed superhuman strength, above average speed, and reflexes.

 

Unfortunately, this still wasn't enough as Don sought to have Zini killed, seeing her as an abomination not worthy to be called his daughter. Their failure to successfully do so and ultimately forced Don to give up on doing trying to have Zini killed as all of his assassins ended up missing or dead.

 

In her early teens, Zini continued to fight for her father's affection. Zini’s peers were often confused as to why the Don disowned her. It was true that she wasn't born with superhuman abilities but the Stellarium coursing through her veins, in their opinion, made her just as good. Those of the inner court, except her mother, believed differently.

 

As she grew towards young adulthood, Zini suffered more at the hands of her father's unloving attitude as he turned the whole city against her. The only one who loved Zini within Caprice was her mom. Zini cried many nights after this but her sorrow gradually turned into apathy and resentment. If Don disowned her then she would do the same to him. Secretly, Zini still desired that connection and hoped one day her dad would see the light.

 

On the streets, the people of Caprice mocked Zini daily. Her first mistake was retaliating. This landed her in jail but only for a while at a time and happened occasionally. As Zini’s reputation grew, the scornful remarks and persecution stopped among the common people. Only some weren’t afraid of Zini and continued to poke fun at her. The bodies of these bullies were never found, however, Stardust was found where they last stood. Henceforth, Zini was known as the Stardust Girl because those who were foolish enough to provoke her were reduced to Stardust.

 

For a long time, Don believed Zini was just an abomination. Crystal, on the other hand, knew that Zini’s superhuman abilities would manifest itself later in life but didn't know when and how. When Zini was a child, Crystal couldn't read her mind because it was impenetrable. Unfortunately, her husband wanted a warrior for a child and not an Einstein. He didn't care much about diplomacy. The latter was something their daughter excelled at, even at school—Zini was smarter than all her peers and frequently amazed both her fellow classmates and teachers with her genius.

 

When Crystal augmented Zini’s body with Stellarium, she couldn't be harmed. When Zini got into fights, most of the time they were won without her throwing a fist. There were exceptions and in these instances, the bullies hurt themselves on Zini’s diamond tough skin. After a while, they stopped trying to pick fights with Zini, knowing their intimidation methods were in vain. Furthermore, engaging this girl in a fist or even a super powered fight was futile because she was impervious to their attacks. Don saw her peaceful nature as a sign of weakness. She had the potential to exert her destructive power but didn’t.

 

Rumors about a “Stardust Girl” amongst the Royal Guard started years later and after Zini was banished from her castle home. Talk about this Girl’s deeds peaked Don’s interest. From his standpoint, her power was something that could be of value as one of his soldiers. He highly doubted the Stardust Girl was that abomination so-called their daughter despite Crystal’s belief.

 

When Zini was brought before Don's throne, she was quickly dismissed. Don scolded his men for mistaking the Stardust Girl for this young woman. At that moment, Zini snapped and boldly challenged Don to see for himself for who she truly was.  Zini appealed to his power and position. Don accepted her challenge but warned her that this would be her last battle. He would no longer tolerate her being. The battle seemed to be one-sided until Don insulted Zini’s existence. Then the Dragon awakened. Don watched helplessly as a floor beneath him broke apart. Zini lifted him in the air in a godlike display of telekinetic mastery.

 

Time seemed to slow down as Don watched bits of marble tile and Stellarium encase Zini. The architecture of the fragments formed a four-winged humanoid Dragon with yellow lightning crackling around his daughter. He looked deep within Zini's slender rock like helm. The emotionless stare from her eyes’ purplish red glow petrified him. In his last breath, Don uttered her name. He hadn’t called his daughter by her name since Zini’s birth.

 

It was far too late for Don to beg Zini for mercy or forgiveness. To her, he was past redemption. The lightning intensified, and got happier as it neared its prey. Energy flared around each bolt that lashed out at the Don. He was so petrified, to scream for help would be futile but he tried anyway. Even then, the thunderous rumbling of the maelstrom around them dwarfed Don’s screams. This cyclonic threshold kept out anyone who tried to intervene. Alas, what was left of this proud tyrant was a pile of Stardust. Many in the room watched in fright as their leader screamed for his life while helplessly frozen in midair by Zini’s power. Her chain energy bolts dissolved him faster than a bath salt in water.

 

The Royal Guard poured into the throne room and quickly surrounded her. Some of them moved into the storm but were dissolved as the energy bolts from within struck them. Those who managed to get through the field met the same fate as the Don by Zini personally. Crystal then called out to Zini. Her daughter angrily growled, violently rocking the area with her dragon-like deep voice in response to her mother calling her name. Zini turned her head toward her mother. Their eyes met. Crystal felt a kind of sadness beaming through her daughter’s mind. In this form, Zini was vulnerable. For the first time ever, Crystal could read her daughter's thoughts.

 

Only on Don’s deathbed did he see the warrior within his daughter. Knowing this gave Crystal mixed emotions. She was enraged at Don for turning their daughter into this monster with his abhorrence of her existence. The sadness came from seeing what Zini became as a result of his hatred for her. Crystal peered further into Zini's mind and saw a conflicted little girl—scared of her own power and felt alone in a society that saw her as an outcast. Moreover, Don’s hostility toward Zini her whole life drove her to insanity.

 

Deep down inside, Zini still wanted his approval but at the same time, became disconnected from reality in her effort to do so. The latter scenario created an entirely different person within her psyche. The Stardust Girl was truly a gem—the progeny of Don and Crystal. Zini overcame everything that challenged her—she was a prodigy.  Zini was peaceful—but a little too much. This annoying part of Zini reminded Crystal of her arch nemesis, Lina. The Stardust Dragon was the manifestation of Zini’s raw power and frustration with a corrupt society. To Crystal, this dragon part of Zini was a worthy ally but also a formidable opponent. This attribute of the Stardust Dragon also reminded Crystal of herself in a way that almost mirrored her thirst for power. It wasn’t quite the same because in her mind, Zini wanted peace for all but the Anomaly were conquerors.

 

This kind of power was both awe-inspiring and frightening to Crystal. Though she was proud to have Zini as her daughter, the Anomaly would never look at her the same way ever again. Some saw the Stardust Dragon in action but most of Caprice’s Royal Guard didn’t believe in its existence—until the Stardust Girl’s power was unleashed upon their king.

 

The dragon moved toward Crystal, taking the woman’s mental intrusion as an act of aggression. Without hesitation, Crystal attacked the Stardust Dragon with a powerful mental blast and kept hammering her until the maelstrom dissipated. Zini reverted to her normal self. Her armor crumbled to dust with debris falling from the sky as the TK maelstrom abated. When the dust settled, Crystal teleported to Zini’s side to catch her as the girl slowly fell to the ground. Zini’s eyes gradually lost its luminescent, eerie glow. The magnificence of her turquoise blue irises returned.

 

Crystal wept bitterly as she held her unconscious daughter close to her bosom. What alarmed her the most was within the thoughts of her men around them. They wanted Zini dead—retribution. They failed to realize or understand the pain Zini felt inside over the years and never would. Most of them shared Don’s twisted view of this young lady. Crystal believed that Don deserved what happened to him. Had Don not hurt Zini like he did, he would’ve still been alive today. More men poured into the throne room. Some of them demanded Zini be executed. Those who suggested such a heinous fate died at the hands of Crystal. She had enough and as tensions rose in the room, she teleported out of the throne room with Zini.

 

Both of them were alone in a nearby forest. Crystal took one look at her beloved daughter and touched her forehead. She suppressed all memory of Zini’s life in Caprice. The only thing Zini knew was her name and how to utilize her great power.  Also, she was forbidden to visit her birthplace. Back in Caprice, all memory of Zini was erased from the populous and the Royal Guard. The only person who knew she existed was her mother. Even if Zini did return due to her curiosity, she was stopped at the front gates. For now, Zini’s path was hers to choose but as a wanderer of PowerLand.

 

Zini awakened in the forest alone but she was at peace. Inside her, the fire continued to burn—For better and for worse. Those who stumbled upon her domain with ill intent awakened the dragon. Zini’s adventurous spirit kept her on the move and some on her journeys found her odd appearance much to talk about. Only those stupid enough to challenge the Stardust Girl saw the futility of such a quest.

 

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