More time passed -
The Altering began in 2000 and with it came the Age of Villains.
The Age of Villains, full of strife between superpowered individuals that thought themselves lords rather than men, ended in 2045 when Vanguard struck down Zahak.
From Zahak's end bloomed the Monstering, throwing the world into even deeper chaos.
The Monstering ended in 2070 as Vanguard's power reached heights never before seen, pushing back the great Titans that killed billions.
A full seventy years of conflict throughout the world. By that point, peace was a faraway concept - a distant dream. And that dream never came back.
2077 and 2090 saw the first and second Corpowars.
2100 saw the death of Vanguard.
2120 heralded the invasion of the Greys.
But now, finally, after over a century of constant devastation, mankind grasped that lost dream again.
2035 began a new age.
The Age of Peace.
The Hero stood at the rooftop of a pristine white tower tall enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the clouds. The sun was bright, its golden rays an ever warm welcome. The skies were blue - bluer than they had ever been after world initiatives to maintain the planet's ecosystem with the aid of the Voice.
The Hero moved to the edge of the rooftop, looking down with arms crossed. A large black shield with three points shone with neon light on the face of the tower beneath him. Each of the points flickered with a differently colored light.
One mint green like the Hero's personal bulwark. A symbol of the Hero.
One a pure, snowy white. A symbol of the Voice that regulated the world's variants.
One a deep, ultramarine blue. A symbol of the Panopticon.
Together, they created the WPA (World Protection Alliance) that was responsible for ushering in this Age of Peace.
Carefully programmed machines, guided under the regulated superintelligence of the Panopticon, now transitioned mankind into a post-work, post-scarcity era. And with that transition came a new blooming of mankind's development.
Without grappling with the base struggle for survival, to fill one's stomach or to fight for one's life, mankind devoted themselves solely to progress.
A progress borne out of a century of wartime trauma. A progress that, hopefully, would make the very idea of war a fairytale in time to come. A progress that, under the WPA's guidance, contributed to the Starbound Movement.
The Voice agreed to shelter humanity on earth, but only on the condition that mankind find a way off the world in time.
Thus, the Starbound Movement was formed. Now, the best and brightest minds across the planet devoted themselves to moving man to the stars. Humanity was now growing up, leaving the guiding hand of its mother earth to seek the vast infinity of the cosmos beyond.
"Dad, what are you looking so serious about?"
The Hero looked back to see his daughter. She was now fifteen, nearly a full grown woman. She was dressed in a black costume streaked with lines of neon rainbow. She had inherited mostly her mother's ability to control the flow of energy, and it showed in her multicolored, iridescent eyes and hair strands.
She was a hero in her own right, though, having been born after the Grey invasion, she had never known any conflict above stopping the occasional street thug.
The very concept of heroes themselves were becoming outdated. Automation - true automation, not the kind fragmented by corporate interests and Panopticon directive shortcomings - had vastly improved global security.
However, the Hero always made sure to reason with the Panopticon, never going too far to create a surveillance state where man was stripped of their will.
By now, the idea of a hero was mostly a way to reminisce on old times. Old warriors who had lived and died for the greater good.
"I'm just amazed at how far we've come," said the Hero, looking down again. His heightened vision could see far below, down to the streets of Haven.
They thrived with activity, full of people with smiles on their faces - a stark contrast to the grim, dirty, frown-ridden masses that populated practically every city before the Age of Peace.
The streets were spotless clean and presented an oddly harmonious fusion between nature and futurism. Vines crawled down drone cleaned buildings of pure white. Trees, grasses, and flowers and flowing blue waters stood side by side with streets and mega buildings.
"You're in one of your reflecting moods again, huh? But you know, this is all how far YOU'VE come," said the daughter. She crossed her arms. "Me, I feel like I haven't done anything. Which feels even worse considering I have an incredibly awesome dad who basically saved the world."
"I couldn't have done it myself. I needed everyone. Especially your mother," said the Hero.
"Glad to see you acknowledge me." Elaine warped in through a swirl of distorted space. A white labcoat trailed behind her as she adjusted cracked goggles above her head.
"Hah, I thought you were listening around," said the Hero, smiling. "I never do get the chance to bad mouth you, huh?"
Elaine raised a brow as she stood beside the Hero. "And you feel like doing that?"
"No, not really - you get what I mean," said the Hero.
"Dad, I think you should stop while you're ahead," said the daughter.
The Hero sighed. "You're right, Krysa. Your dad can handle planetary threats, but your mother? And you? Now that's a struggle."
"Oh, you-," Elaine playfully punched the Hero's shoulder. She motioned downwards to the peaceful streets far below. "You know, before all of this, you used to always be serious.
You always had to work toward something even if it meant you had to skip a meal. Or take an extra hit.
Now, though, you're so much brighter. Like you changed with the world."
"Sorry I catfished you. Thought you were shacking up with the serious, brooding type, huh?" said the Hero.
"No." Elaine smiled. "I always knew you were like this. Deep, deep down. Plus, the other alternative was Adam. And, well, that wouldn't have worked at all."
"I can't imagine uncle Adam settling down with a single person at all," said Krysa, shuddering. "He has a different girl by his side like, every week."
"He was always the greedy type," said the Hero. "One of the first things he told me was that he wanted to be a hero to eat burgers. Because as a street rat, he'd never gotten to try one that wasn't fished out of a dumpster."
"It really is crazy how much the world has changed since your time," said Krysa.
"Yeah, it really is. Almost…unbelievable. Almost too perfect," said the Hero. He put his hand out, reaching towards the streets. "It almost feels…unreal."
"Stop that," said Elaine. She put a gentle hand on the Hero's shoulder. "All the blood that was spilled, all the times we pushed through pain and terror, all the times we got back up after we knocked down - all of it built this up.
If our struggles were real, then so is this."
"You're right," said the Hero, nodding.
Elaine nodded with the Hero. "You always need something in front of you. A big goal, a big enemy, something you can reach out to and overcome. Now that it's not there, you're left wondering whether you really can enjoy the good around you, whether there isn't some fight to be had somewhere else you don't know about."
Elaine stood on her tiptoes and kissed the Hero's cheek. "But it's time to rest now, honey. You've earned it. You more than anyone else."
"Hold up…" said Krysa. She squinted her eyes, looking out to the distance. "You guys see that?"
The Hero's eyes widened. In the clear blue sky, a color that the Hero never wanted to see again manifested.
Grey that swirled around in a circular, spiral arrangement, tearing away at space as it leeched color from the deep blue sky and its pure white clouds.
It was…a Rift?
"What is that?" wondered Krysa. She had never personally encountered this, but the Hero knew better than anyone else what this was.
"Elaine, check with the Panopticon. Our planetary dimensional shield should still be stable!" said the Hero.
"I'm on it." Elaine put a hand to her head, her eyes flashing. She furrowed her brows. "The shield is still up and stable."
"Then how…" The Hero shook his head. "No, this isn't the time to be asking these types of questions. I have to deal with that now, before the Rift opens up anymore than it already has."
He put a stern hand on Krysa's shoulder. "Krysa, go with your mother and engage planetary defenses. I'll handle that."
"But dad, I can help-," began Krya.
The Hero shook his head. "No. This…is too dangerous for you. And my shield's managed to shut down a Rift before. It can do it again. Stay with your mother and protect her.
I can trust you on this, right?"
Krysa nodded. "I got it, dad."
"Good." The Hero broke his seriousness for a brief moment, smiling at his wife and child. "I'll be back soon, alright?"
With that, the Hero pushed off the rooftop, soaring toward the Rift as his dark green cape billowed behind him.