Peter was enveloped by a black, soulless void. A second later, he realized that word—void—wasn’t sufficient. Void implied stillness, void implied peace. This was different. He was haunted by a sense of palpable disquiet; a pervasive unease that wasn’t just everywhere, it was every thing.
[TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.] Dissona thundered. [IN ANOTHER MOMENT, I WILL COMPLETE MY ASCENDANCE. THIS IS MY LAST GIFT TO YOU, PETER LEE—I’VE SLOWED YOUR PERCEPTION SO YOU CAN FULLY APPRECIATE YOUR FAILURE TO STOP ME.]
Peter’s astral heart dropped in his chest. Fuck. Earth…existence…it’s over. His head drooped. His eyes closed.
There’s nothing I can do.
[THAT’S RIGHT.] The Pain Lord’s amusement oozed from her psyche. [ALL THAT STRIVING, ALL THAT EFFORT…ALL FOR NAUGHT.] Her words were followed by sick laughter. [IF YOU’D SIGNED ON WITH ME, YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST ENJOYED YOUR LAST FEW MONTHS ON THAT SHITTY MUDBALL YOU CALL A HOME.]
Was she right? Would things have been better if he’d served as her minion? He could have relaxed, languishing away in soul-killing pleasure…
He could have…he could have…
No. His eyes steeled. A timeless part of him came to the fore. No, that would have been worse, and you know it. You fucking know it.
Peter didn’t realize it (not at a conscious level, anyway), but he’d just passed an eons-old test. Even as he faced the bitter end, he still hewed to what he knew to be true. Earth was doomed, but he couldn’t have given a finger-blasting fuck.
He was gonna stick to his goddamn guns.
[Fuck you.] he projected. [I’ve watched ‘Return of the Jedi’ a billion times over. So believe me when I say that I’ll never join you. Not even now.] Just to himself, he thought: Thank you, George Lucas.
[WELL.] she emoted gruffly. [KUDOS—COUNTLESS OTHERS HAVE SUCCUMBED TO MY POWER. I’M NOT SURE IF YOU’RE INCREDIBLY BRAVE OR PLAIN FUCKING STUPID.]
[Same thing, as far as I’m concerned.] He would have shut his eyes, but it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference in this murky, lightless vaccuum. [Go ahead.] he projected. [Do your worst.]
Dissona’s mind-shredding laughter swirled and rose. [I ALWAYS DO.]
Peter reached out with his soon-to-be-eaten psyche. [Eun. Kora. I had the time of my life with you two, and I wanted to let you know it before—]
Dazzling light poured through the dark.