by Eddie Glover
For all those who didn't read Malibu's twenty issue run of Mantra, I'll give you this. Lukasz was a warrior in the service of a sorcerer named Archimage for 1500 years, being reincarnated into new bodies every so often. After one of Archimage's knights, Thanasi, betrays the sorcerer to his evil brother Boneyard, Archimage is captured and most of the knights killed. Lukasz is slain by a mercenary named Warstrike who was lied to by one of Boneyard's men.
Lukasz is reincarnated by Archimage....into a woman's body!! He becomes the voluptuous Eden Blake mere moments after she'd been in bed with a man. After learning of how he became this she Lukasz develops magical powers.
Note: This story is my way of starting to unravel the Black September mess that Marvel used to kill the Ultraverse. If you like the story but don't recognize the characters Lukasz/Eden was in Mantra from 1-23 before Marvel relaunced with Lauren. Warstrike was her sometimes partner for the first 8 issues then had his own series for a time. Now he's in Exiles. Hardcase was one of the Ultraverse's first characters only to be tossed aside....I HATE these..."he never existed" rewrites....see Crisis on Infinite Earths. He was a super-strong man whose friends were butchered by NM-E. He has been missing in action since Black September. Ultraforce is a team of heroes led by the Black Knight. Others on that team are Prime, Topaz, the new (and apparently fake) Prototype, and Lament.
Lukasz lit another cigarette as she waited in the dark. Warstrike was to have met her nearly ten minutes before.
"Hey baby, looking good!" a punk whistled.
Lukasz looked down at her female form, hell she knew that she was a babe. She'd been a man for too long to not appreciate a beautiful woman, even herself.
"Back off!" she snarled.
The punk pulled a knife and grinned, "Take it off and you won't get hurt."
Lukasz/Eden lashed out with a kick and broke the man's wrist. She flipped him into a pile of trash and pulled out the pistol she carried.
"Don't....don't kill me!!" the man sobbed in fear.
"I should, you little shit!" Lukasz snarled, "You'd have raped me!"
"No....I swear!" the man stammered.
"He's not worth the trouble, blue eyes," a man said from the shadows.
"'Strike?" she asked, after knocking the punk out.
"In the flesh, as damaged as that flesh might be at the moment," he groaned while walking into the light.
"Oh, God!" she gasped at the wreck of a man staggering towards her.
Warstrike managed a thin smile, "You should have seen me before the healing started."
"Who did this?" she asked.
"NM-E. I imagine Aladdin knew all about it." he said with obvious distaste.
"They sent that creature after you!?" Lukasz gasped.
'Strike groaned but waved her away, "They weren't after me but Amber and Sienna Blaze. Aladdin must want their energy powers for some reason. Eden...it's going after the new Mantra next...and it learned from its first battle with her!" he said firmly.
Lukasz/Eden bit her lip for a moment and snarled, "If only I weren't so useless now! I've lost my magic...I'm just a woman!"
"You were Mantra before, and I don't think you'll let that kid get killed now!" Warstrike snapped.
Suddenly Eden felt a sharp pain in her head and an intense tingle flashed through her body, causing her to fall to one knee.
"Eden!?",Warstrike yelled in concern while looking for any attacker. "Speak to me!"
Tears were falling from Eden Blake's lovely eyes as she arose. The armor she'd worn as Mantra was back, as were her powers. She teleported them to the site of a bloody battle, only to see Lauren Green, the blonde teenager who'd replaced her as Mantra lying on the ground wounded horribly. Dozens of police and civilians lay wounded nearby, some dead.
"Lauren....I'm so sorry," she cried while cradling the dying girl.
"Ms...Ms. Blake.....get...get away...couldn't stop it....just wanted to be....a hero....like you....." The girl died in her arms.
Lukasz had seen thousands of people die in her various lifetimes but this one hit her like a thunderbolt, kindling the rage inside of her.
The stunned NM-E had taken a moment to identify the newcomers but it raised it's weapons to attack...only to have Mantra's blast shear off one of it's arms.
"You souless piece of shit!" Eden roared. "You killed her!"
Warstike watched in awe as Mantra blasted the machine with huge bolts of fire and magic. He'd never seen her so powerful...so enraged as now! But the creature seemed invincible, for every wound Mantra inflicted upon it, the former one healed. She could not win it seemed, and the beast's brain was well protected. She would need one blast to kill it, but NM-E was designed to know it's own weakness and so it kept that area well hidden behind arms and weapons.
Suddenly a man grabbed the creature from behind, twisting its arms and holding it immobile.
"Blast it!" the man snapped.
"Hardcase!?" Mantra gasped. The hero had vanished from the face of the Earth after Black September, and only a few remembered that he'd even existed!
"No time for that, kill it!" he growled.
Eden blasted the brain of the mechanical NM-E with enough energy to kill a dinosaur....and still the creature struggled.
Hardcase picked the weakened beast up and slammed it down, then bent over the brain casing and smashed his fist into the fleshy brain, killing the unkillable NM-E.
"It's dead," he said simply.
"Where did you come from...how?", Mantra asked.
"I don't know if you remember the whole battle against Black September, but when reality reknit itself...I was left out. Something altered the history of our planet so that Hardcase never existed. I've only lately come to realize that force is within Ultraforce...as Prototype," he said grimly.
Mantra was stunned. Lauren was dead....now she was seeing someone supposedly dead standing before her.
"What can we do about it?" she asked.
"I've actually been looking for you two," he said. "You are two of the originals...and you remember the way things were. I'll need your help," Hardcase said with a frown.
Warstrike growled, "Listen 'Case, I'm sorry for all you've lost....but I need to find my teammates!".
Hardcase sighed, "Ultraforce has them. Whatever it is that replaced Prototype will undoubtedly use Amber and Sienna to further his plans."
Mantra looked at her youthful replacement then at the carcass of NM-E before answering, "Let's go. We need to restore things to normal...once and for all," she said firmly.
Eden touched the Sword of Fangs for the first time in months. She'd given it to Lauren when the girl had taken over as Mantra.
Tears formed as she thought of the young girl lying dead at the hands of the killing machine NM-E. If only she'd never lost her powers to Lauren, this never would have happened!
"Don't blame yourself," Warstrike said as he put a hand on her shoulder. "There was nothing you could have done without your powers."
"Lauren was just a kid, Brandon! I should never have left her alone to end up....like she did.", Eden said with a snarl.
"Time to go people, our mysterious Prototype has taken action! Look outside!" Hardcase snapped.
Eden looked out the window and gasped, the whole of San Francisco looked like something out of medieval times....or like Boneyard's realm.
"It's Boneyard," she almost whispered.
"He's dead, Lukasz!" Warstrike growled.
"Think, 'Strike! If he could reincarnate his men, why couldn't he restore himself to life? This fits his plans exactly!" she growled.
Hardcase frowned, "We all saw Boneyard die on the Godwheel, but you're right...this stinks of sorcery!" he growled.
"We need to get to Ultraforce...if Boneyard can transform the world, then I think I know what he's done to them and 'Strike's teammates!" Eden snapped. With a thought, she transformed into Mantra and lifted the two men aloft with her. It would be a few hours before they reached Arkansas, where Ultraforce resided.
Broken Cross, Arkansas---Ultraforce HQ
Topaz felt the magic the moment it was unleashed. She had no sorcery herself, but knew the feeling from her time in Gwendor. She raced to where it was coming from...Prototype's room!?
"Bob!?" she gasped upon seeing a grinning Bob Campbell, known as Prototype, lounging upon a throne of metal with three women fawning over him, seemingly under the man's control.
"Topaz!" he chuckled, "You will make a fine addition to my harem!"
She powered up her staff even as her skin turned metallic. A slight snarl caused her lip to curl upwards, "I would rather die!"
"Very well," Prototype said coldly. A blast of...magic hurled from the armored man's gauntlets, sending her crashing though walls and into the main meeting hall.
"What the hell!?" the Black Knight gasped as she landed at his feet.
"Is she...?" Prime said in horror.
"She's alive...but only barely. What the hell did this to her!?" he snarled.
"I did!" Prototype laughed as he walked in with three women clad in very little.
"Proto! You traitor!" Prime snarled. He flew towards the smiling man only to be blasted by a fire blast and an electro-magnetic pulse.
"Lament!?" the Knight was stunned at her fawning mindlessly over Prototype, as were the other two...who he also recognized.
"Sienna Blaze and Amber Hunt! I don't know what your game is, Bob, but it ends here!" he growled.
"Oh I don't think so, and I have another surprise, Mr. Whitman...one that you will find quite startling!", he laughed.
Dane could only gasp as Sersi walked in, dressed as the other women were.
"Who are you, how can you control her!?" Dane snarled as his sword blazed.
"You probably don't know me, Mr. Whitman, so I'll keep that information a secret. I've taken your friend Mr. Campbell's body and so I have his armor, and my magic! As for my control of these lovely ladies it is something I can do to women, especially those who are my wives!" he snorted in glee.
Dane lashed out at the possessed Prototype and was stunned when his sword bounced off a force field around the man.
"Sersi, if you please," the man smirked. The Black Knight was instantly....a woman! He...she backed up in shock then fell to her knees as the man's power forced her to.
"You are mine, Knight...as is Prime!" the intruder laughed.
Dane managed to turn her head, ignoring the long brown hair cascading over her shoulders, and saw a gorgeous woman in Prime's uniform kneeling in submission before the false Prototype. Topaz had been healed by Sersi and also seemed to be controlled. She was dressed as they all were, in the silken veils of the man's harem wives!
"You wonder why I transformed you rather than merely killing you, perhaps?" the man smirked. "I can drain the energy of my wives, and with most of you Ultras I will be more powerful than ever. But I can do so much more....with this!" he produced a gem.
Dane's eyes widened in shock at the sight of one of the Infinity Gems…but which one!? She strained to break the man's hold over her...she was NOT a woman and should be able to break the man's hold....but she was female and that seemed to be all the man needed to enslave someone.
"Sersi my dear, I'll be needing your powers!" he laughed. With a thought she fell to the ground sucked dry of all vitality, reduced to a crone who moaned pitifully.
"No!!!" Dane snarled. She went wild with rage and slashed out at the man with her sword. He shielded himself even as Topaz knocked the female Knight out.
"Now what should I do...perhaps a world of followers devoted to me...yes, I like that!" he laughed.
Magic raced from him to cover the world, altering every Ultra into a female so that he could choose the most powerful to feed him. He stood restored to his true form at last as the magic made the Earth over into a realm devoted to him....and Boneyard ruled all!
Somewhere above the Great Plains, Mantra felt the magic wash out over the world. Being attuned to magic, she could almost see it as it lashed out over the planet.
"What the fuck!?" a woman gasped behind her.
She floated still and looked back in shock at a VERY female Warstrike! The altered man was every inch the blonde bombshell now and seemed ready to flip into insanity.
Hardcase, somehow unaffected she noted, tapped the new woman on the head. 'Strike was knocked out and floated unconscious in her power.
"How is it that you're not affected?" Mantra asked him in confusion.
"I'm something more than an Ultra, and I control my own molecular structure now. Now I know it's Boneyard!" he growled.
"He apparently wants an Ultra-powered harem to drain, and since he can only control and drain women he's somehow turned even the men into women, let's just say I have experience with that!" she snorted.
"You!?" Hardcase seemed shocked, "Sorry, you just don't look like a former man!", he whistled.
"This body was never male Hardcase, my soul was placed into this form to stop Boneyard and learn magic. I was always in male forms for 1500 years, then one day 'Strike killed me after being duped by Boneyard's minions and I was brought back as...this!" she said, indicating her female form.
"I just thought of how we're going to get in there. We have to assume that Ultraforce are now his wives and will surely attack us...unless they think we're in his power as well!" he chuckled.
Before Mantra could ask him how he planned to pass himself off as a woman, he began to change...and in a few moments a female Hardcase stood before her, as feminine as herself!
"Now let's go into the belly of the beast...and hope we get the answers we need!" the female Hardcase said while they flew on.
It would be a few hours before they reached the new citadel that housed the all-powerful Lord Boneyard and his harem, yet they didn't speak. Each knew what would happen if they failed.
Mantra landed on the ground with Hardcase and Warstrike, acting as if their minds were already in Boneyard's power. While this wouldn't fool Boneyard himself, it did confuse the female Prime who was guarding the citadel that had been Ultraforce headquarters.
"I hate to leave him...her like that," Eden mused as they looked back at the motionless female Prime.
"If Prime were to enter this fight, we would lose. I can't fight him and the others at the same time," Hardcase pointed out.
Warstrike pulled her uzi off her shapely hip then frowned at the new shape of her body.
Eden saw his discomfort and smiled, "I sympathize with your plight, Brandon, but you need to act like a woman for this to work."
"Hello, Lukasz, I must say you are looking as lovely as ever!" a man laughed.
"Is that Boneyard!?" Warstrike gasped.
"No," Mantra snarled. "Come out, Notch. I'm surprised you're still alive."
"Boneyard saw fit to release me from my prison cell. He needed help here it seems, being a god requires good assistants!" the man chuckled.
"You mean lackeys, don't you?" Mantra scoffed.
"Woman! I have had enough of your talk!" he roared.
Hardcase moved to intercept until Mantra snapped, "He's mine!"
Notch's sword was out and cutting through the air in seconds...but the Sword of Fangs easily deflected the blow. Mantra backpedaled then lashed out, catching Notch across the stomach. Although he was cut, it was not nearly deep enough for a fatality. Notch roared in rage and hammered down again and again, pushing her to the floor.
"Now you'll die, bitch, a fitting end!" he snarled.
Mantra rolled enough so that Notch's sword only cut into her side. In the process, she thrust the Sword of Fangs through the villain's chest. As the man died before her, Boneyard stepped into the light, clapping gleefully.
"You bastard!" Mantra snapped in rage. She hurled her power at him only to see it bounce off his shields.
"I could kill you or transform you in any number of ways, old enemy. But first you can deal with someone I brought especially for you!" the man laughed.
"Hello father," Thanasi, now known in his female form as NecroMantra, said while appearing before Mantra.
"Don't call me that. You are nothing of mine!" Eden growled.
"I was born by that lovely form you now wear, father! And it was YOU that impregnated Eden while you occupied a male form! You are both parents to me, and now I must kill you...a shame we won't be having big family reunions!" she laughed.
"You couldn't kill me before. And now you won't have a chance," Mantra said firmly.
NecroMantra hurled her leather whip but Mantra caught it, spun herself closer by pulling upon it, then decked the smaller woman with a punch to the nose.
"You broke muh nobe!" NecroMantra yelled in pain as blood gushed from her face.
"I'll kill you!" the injured woman shrieked then blasted at Mantra...only to see her gone.
"What...where...?", she asked in confusion.
The spell was upon NecroMantra before she could turn. Her shape youthened rapidly until an infant baby girl cried in her clothes.
Suddenly Mantra realized that Hardcase and Warstrike weren't at her side.
"Your allies are now my wives Lukasz. Hardcase thought he was immune to me, but not when I possess this lovely gem!" he laughed while holding up the Infinity Gem he had used before.
Eden/Lukasz suddenly realized that she was now naked....and couldn't move!!
"So very lovely," Boneyard said with a grin while running a hand along Mantra's large breasts.
The Sword of Fangs was vibrating wildly at her hip, ready to run itself through the crazed villain's head.
She ignored Boneyard's groping hands then reached into herself, tapping the power she'd long underused. It wouldn't be enough to stop the man but might stop the real problem.
The paralysis field dropped quickly and the sword lashed through Boneyard's chest. He smirked and healed himself easily with the gem. But that gave Mantra the moment she needed and she hurled the Sword of Fangs at Boneyard's wrist.
The razor-sharp metal slid through flesh and bone easily, severing the hand from the arm....severing the Gem from the wielder.
Everyone seemed to shake their heads in confusion, as if waking from a long dream. Then they remembered who had changed them.
The now mortal Boneyard staggered backwards, his eyes wide as he gaped at the stump where his hand had been.
Hardcase picked up the severed hand and pried open the fingers. She held the gem and concentrated for a moment. All the men were men again, and everything was as it had been...before Black September!!
Prototype hovered overhead, now once again Jimmy Ruiz inside the high-tech armor. Ghoul, banished in the Black Knight's regime, was back now that Hardcase once again led the team.
Hardcase looked around at this new/old Ultraforce. Ghoul, Prime, Prototype, Topaz, Contrary, Black Knight, and...Mantra.
"Some things are different. As I remember it you never joined us," Hardcase said with smile.
Mantra looked at them and realized that Warstrike was also a team member, with Eden still as Mantra he'd never left to found the Exiles.
"I've been given a second chance, it appears. And I now know that I'm who I am for a reason," she repiled calmly.
Prime seemed confused, "Eden? But you're not Mantra anymore....are you?", he seemed puzzled.
Hardcase explained. "Those who were here will remember the changed reality created by Boneyard. The others will not and will act as they would have before."
"Penny for your thoughts, blue eyes?" Warstrike mused. He was wearing the uniform she'd first seen him in, the one that didn't include the mask he'd worn in the old reality.
"Brandon, you don't know how good it is to hear you say that! Now I've got two kids to get home to...if Black September never happened, then Gus and Evie should be unchanged."
As she flew towards her home, floating on winds she'd missed these long months, Mantra thought about this second chance they'd all been given. For her, it meant a chance to really be a mother to Gus and Evie, and to really make a difference as Mantra this time. It wouldn't be easy...but life never is--is it?