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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE - S4 FINALE: "Secret Invasion, Part 2"



  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Hmmm. Given that Parker’s costume was transformed into a black Doom-tech suit by magic and it was inducing rage-like-stuff via hormones one might wonder if the thing could gain its own form of sentience. Nah, that would be too silly.

    I mean, where would it get the time to develop sentience when its owner is busy fighting a secret war?

  • Hi I'm Vee!Hi I'm Vee! Formerly VH; She/Her; Is an E X P E R I E N C E Registered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    "Enough!" Vlad takes flight to attack.

    Vlad stops.

    In time.

    He is reversed.


    This is kind of a weird scene.

    One might even call it



    Hi I'm Vee! on
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy The Lady of Pain Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm The City of FlowersRegistered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Hmmm. Given that Parker’s costume was transformed into a black Doom-tech suit by magic and it was inducing rage-like-stuff via hormones one might wonder if the thing could gain its own form of sentience. Nah, that would be too silly.

    I mean, where would it get the time to develop sentience when its owner is busy fighting a secret war?

    Yeah, I mean if that were possible, then you might as well say the thing could grow it’s own teeth, or tongue, or eat people or something. Absolutely ridiculous!
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    "Enough!" Vlad takes flight to attack.

    Vlad stops.

    In time.

    He is reversed.


    This is kind of a weird scene.

    One might even call it



    He might want to get that checked out by a doctor.

    MsAnthropy on
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    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
    FencingsaxHi I'm Vee!
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    I ain't sayin' nothin'. I'm just steepling my fingers and observing these very interesting reactions.

    Thank you to all of you who've read this far, by the way. I really appreciate you coming along with me on this wild, dorky ride, and your reactions and speculations are super-duper gratifying.

    I think I can confidently say that if you enjoyed season 1, you are going to get a kick out of season 2.

    PowerpuppiesRear Admiral ChocoFencingsaxMatev
  • FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    Man, alternate Marvel is a super interesting setting for an RPG, apparently

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Man, alternate Marvel is a super interesting setting for an RPG, apparently

    I think that's partly to do with making it an espionage story. Like, a spy world needs organizations for the characters to belong to and to give them missions, factions/ideologies competing for their loyalty, conflict on multiple fronts to add complexity to the problems, lots of small and large mysteries (who can you trust, what really happened when X, etc).

    So to have that stuff, all the heroes and villains on Earth-1491 work for different spy groups or represent different points on an ideological spectrum, like SHIELD's pragmatism vs Reed's more inflexible morality, or Doom's grandiose megalomaniacal villainy versus HYDRA's fascism. The various big conflicts of the Marvel Universe (and there's no shortage of those, from the Kree-Skrull War to the Council/Parliament) are presented in a way that facilitates participating in them and tipping the scales.

    And those elements that make a good spy story also make a good RPG. You want reasons to get the party together or people they can work for, you want clashing motivations to help create interesting drama, you want plenty of unsolved mysteries so you can engage player curiosity, you want lots of different ongoing conflicts instead of just one main one so that the PCs aren't just playing second banana to the canonical heroes of the setting.

  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy The Lady of Pain Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm The City of FlowersRegistered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I ain't sayin' nothin'. I'm just steepling my fingers and observing these very interesting reactions.

    Thank you to all of you who've read this far, by the way. I really appreciate you coming along with me on this wild, dorky ride, and your reactions and speculations are super-duper gratifying.

    I think I can confidently say that if you enjoyed season 1, you are going to get a kick out of season 2.

    I will say that part of my joking was thinking to myself what type of character I would have pitched had this been something I were involved with. I already had Venom—particularly the Flash Thompson / Agent Venom take—on my mind.

    MsAnthropy on
    Luscious Sounds Spotify Playlist

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Yah, I'd either go with a symbiote or a failed Captain America branch (Maybe a version of Nuke that didn't suck. Improbable, but not impossible) or maybe one of the heroic goblin types. All sorts of things to play around with.

    Matev on
    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Doom's grandiose megalomaniacal villainy

    Doom's done nothing wrong to date, change my mind.

    Powerpuppies on
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy The Lady of Pain Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm, Breaks the Rhythm The City of FlowersRegistered User regular
    edited September 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Doom's grandiose megalomaniacal villainy

    Doom's done nothing wrong to date, change my mind.

    Well, he allowed @desc to change his av, which I consider a crime.

    MsAnthropy on
    Luscious Sounds Spotify Playlist

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
  • descdesc Goretexing to death Registered User regular

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    It's been two weeks since the events in Kazan.

    Elise Arnell - now codenamed Sensate - has spent the time moving out of her Van in the parking garage and into an actual set of quarters in Avengers Tower. She's since disposed of The Van in what she refers to as a Viking funeral, purchased a brand new bright blue convertible, and been on dates with the princess she now exclusively refers to as "Crys."

    Vladimir von Doom - the artificial being formerly known as V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R. who now styles himself Victorious - has been making time to have personal conversations with members of STRIKE/SHIELD, and has been checking in on the new members of STRIKE-3, “the Invincibles,” as much as possible.

    Michael Westin, the Behemoth, has spent the last two weeks intensively researching "Asgardian Magic," consulting with Jeremiah and Faiza from COMMS. During this time he has tried to contact Sigrun to ask her questions and "share in revels," with no success.

    Julian Adler, the Phoenix, has been spending more time hanging around SWORD and Isabel Kane in particular, recuperating and essentially clearing himself of any immediate concerns on the part of Kane and SHIELD regarding his physical and mental health after his recent death and resurrection.

    With STRIKE’s operational tempo having plummeted after the near-total defeat of Leviathan, Miles Mason, Myrmidon, has found himself at loose ends. Without work to focus on, he's tried to dip his toe into real life again, but is finding it frustrating that he can't leave Avengers Tower for too long without having to come back for maintenance, cleaning, and recharge. He's beginning to feel restive, like a dog tied up in the yard.

    But while the team recovers, the world moves forward.

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Update: June 16th, 2017
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Report compiled by:
    STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Leviathan Smashed
    The Leviathan organization has been effectively crippled as a result of the major joint task force operation in Kazan, Russia two weeks ago. Leviathan suffered heavy losses of assets and personnel, including a large quantity of Skrulls. These Skrulls appeared to largely be second and third generation Skrulls born here on Earth rather than high-ranking members of Leviathan who were personally members of the 1908 Group that crash-landed on Earth. Given the Skrulls’ extensive regenerative capabilities, the majority of the Skrulls seem to have survived the crash, and are being held at the Big House detainment facility.

    SWORD is currently attempting to locate and apprehend the remaining members of Leviathan, including the 1908 Group and Leviathan’s leader, the Magadan.

    Hyperion is still considered at large, but at this time is not considered under Skrull control. SHIELD would still like to apprehend him for questioning and security reasons but he is not being actively pursued for operational safety and reasonable resource allotment purposes.

    The Russian government has finally decided to take direct action against Leviathan, and has seized the assets of the Kronas Corporation and put out arrest warrants for all of its members, including Kronas CEO Aleksander Lukin.

    This has been a major event for SHIELD. Leviathan has always been SHIELD’s greatest foe and, along with HYDRA, one of the reasons for SHIELD’s creation in the first place. Leviathan has effectively been defeated and is now in its death throes, and this will represent a dawn of a new era for SHIELD as an organization. SHIELD Director Nick Fury would like to thank every member of STRIKE for the major role they had to play in this monumental event.

    King T’Chaka Restored, Wakanda Pledges Aid to SHIELD
    One of the individuals rescued from the Cradle facility in Kazan was King T’Chaka of Wakanda, who has recovered from his ordeal and has been restored to the throne of Wakanda. He is extremely grateful to SHIELD for his rescue, and has pledged to support SHIELD in any way he can, in particular in helping track down and eliminate the remnants of Leviathan that still remain. To this end, he has agreed to a trade agreement to grant SHIELD a limited supply of Vibranium, which will be a massive asset to this agency going forward.

    Diplomatic Ties With Attilan Formed
    Thanks to the efforts of STRIKE Agent Elise Arnell, SHIELD has formed a diplomatic relationship with the Inhuman kingdom of Attilan, which exists in folded space on the Moon. The reclusive Inhumans apparently have ventured out onto Earth from time to time over the years but largely have kept to themselves and viewed Earth from afar, and have their own culture, language, and technology. Princess Crystalia Amaquelin is Attilan’s official diplomat, and it has been decided that a portion of Avengers Tower has been dedicated as the official Attilan embassy for the time being.

    Cooperation With WHISPER
    After working together on the Kazan mission, SHIELD’s relationship with Reed Richards’ privately-run WHISPER agency has improved somewhat. Richards is now communicating with SHIELD Director Nick Fury and STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain, and attempting to find a balanced and more productive partnership. Richards is one of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world and it is unknown how potent his organization’s resources are or how large it is, so it is in SHIELD’s best interests to try to make an ally of WHISPER and possibly integrate them into SHIELD if possible. This is a work in progress and STRIKE agents are advised to maintain good conduct when interacting with Richards and his personnel until further notice.

    Korath-Thak Still At Large
    The fugitive Kree scientist Korath-Thak is still at large here on Earth. SWORD is working with the alien bounty hunters known as the Guardians of the Galaxy to pursue Korath. This is not considered a STRIKE matter at this time, but this may change if the Guardians require assistance or overstep their bounds and require STRIKE’s intervention. It is unclear what Korath’s motivations currently are, but current hypothesis is it has something to do with the Inhumans in some capacity and he may attempt to contact Attilan. SWORD is monitoring the situation closely.

    Increased Security Clearance for Avengers
    Given the events of the Kazan mission, it was determined that it was no longer possible to keep the Avengers team in the dark any longer on some of the larger realities of SHIELD’s operations and some other aspects of the world as we know it. As a result, the security clearance of most of the Avengers has been upgraded to 7Δ, which means they now know STRIKE exists, SWORD exists, aliens are real, ARMOR exists, the Ultimates exist and what their purpose is, and generally very little else. Some of the Avengers (Tony Stark) protested heavily at this extremely limited increase in knowledge but it was determined it was for the best. Please note that should you encounter some of these Avengers (Tony Stark in particular) they may press you personally for more information. Maintain op-sec and defer all questions to your superiors.

    STRIKE Expansion
    Finally, STRIKE has grown! After the events in Kazan, there’s a lot of new faces around the office. It’s been determined that one STRIKE team is insufficient, so in addition to STRIKE-1, there’s also STRIKE-2 and STRIKE-3. The main personnel file for STRIKE has also been updated to reflect some changes in staff, such as former COMMS Director Victoria Hand joining STRIKE as Deputy Director to help manage these new field teams.


    Command and Support Personnel
    STRIKE’s Command and Support Person nel help STRIKE operate and function on a daily basis. Residing in STRIKE HQ (currently Avengers Tower in New York City), they assist the STRIKE field teams on their missions.

    Clay Quartermain
    Director, STRIKE
    Clearance Level:

    Clay Quartermain was hand-picked to lead STRIKE by Nick Fury. A former field agent with MI-13, Quartermain is a consummate professional with a lengthy (albeit heavily classified) record. He encourages his agents to think creatively and improvise, and lives by the creed that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

    It is unclear how old Quartermain actually is. His official age is redacted, clearance level 8 required. Some agents believe that he may be enhanced in some capacity, possibly as the result of some MI-13 Super-Soldier program. He is at least in his 40s, possibly older given some of the references and historical events he talks about as if he has first-hand knowledge.


    "Clay Quartermain" is merely the latest in a long string of identities assumed by a being known as Z'Reg, the Crown Prince-in-Exile and rightful heir to the Skrull Empire. While on an archaeological expedition to Earth to search for artifacts from the first Kree-Skrull War, Z'Reg's ship had an accident or was sabotaged, crashing to Earth in Russia in 1908, an event known as the Tunguska blast. Stranded on Earth, the prince's royal guard turned on him and nearly succeeded in assassinating him. Z'Reg managed to flee, while his erstwhile comrades inserted themselves into Russian society, becoming the nucleus of the group that would be Leviathan.

    Z'Reg managed to convince Leviathan of his death during World War II—a conflict in which he apparently served with Captain America—and has, to our knowledge, maintained the ruse successfully in the decades since, across a shifting series of cover identities. He found a place in Her Majesty's government and worked with MI-13 for many years before his assignment to SHIELD.

    While the fall of Leviathan has made knowledge of his true identity a somewhat less dangerous secret on Earth, it remains a highly-classified secret, as his sister Veranke, current Skrull Empress and leader of the genocidal Dard'van cult, would undoubtedly stop at nothing to eliminate a potential competitor for her throne.

    Victoria Hand
    Deputy Director, STRIKE
    Security Level:

    Victoria Hand’s reputation as the most ruthless and dangerous individual in SHIELD took a hit following her recent battle with motor-neuron disease, but she has recovered fully and has joined STRIKE full time as its Deputy Director. However, because STRIKE is a Level 7+ agency, most in SHIELD are not aware of her recovery at all.

    For the most part, Deputy Director Hand oversees the operations of STRIKE-2 and STRIKE-3, and acts as an interface between STRIKE and COMMS, her former division.

    Niles Nordstrom
    Chief Engineer, STRIKE
    Clearance Level:

    On loan from SCI-TECH, Nordstrom is an engineer with a background in weapons design. He is stationed in the Avengers Tower and is assigned to help STRIKE in any way he can, and primarily serves as STRIKE’s quartermaster and gadget designer.

    Dr. Rosalind Solomon
    Chief Medical Consultant, STRIKE
    Clearance Level:

    Dr. Rosalind “Roz” Solomon was recruited from AIM, where she was actually an Environmental Scientist. However, AIM was wasting her talents, and SHIELD offered her significant increases in pay and the ability to use her talents to investigate new frontiers of biochemistry and the impact of extranormal phenomenon on biology. She took the offer, and has been working for SHIELD for two years.

    Roz is more than STRIKE’s on-staff doctor (although she does serve the function of the highest ranking medical personnel at STRIKE HQ). She is also the chief medical and biochemical researcher for STRIKE, analyzing extranormal biological and chemical materials that STRIKE may encounter.

    STRIKE Field Teams
    There are currently three STRIKE field teams operating out of STRIKE HQ. This is a fairly recent expansion, done in response to crisis events and acquisition of able personnel.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    qlGmSdP.pngSTRIKE-1: Freedom Force
    STRIKE-1 (Codename: “Freedom Force”) was the first STRIKE field team, handpicked by SHIELD Director Nick Fury himself.

    Miles Mason
    Team Leader, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Agent Mason is a cyborg, possessing a number of cybernetic upgrades from a variety of different technological sources granting him a myriad of different threat responses and counter-measures. His primary weaponized implant is a Stark repulsor mounted in his right hand. He is also an experienced combat operator, a former private military contractor with an extremely high threat assessment according to the Index.

    Agent Mason is STRIKE-1’s team leader. He is a canny, unorthodox operator who approaches situations with non-standard solutions with the ultimate goal of victory, but not at unethical costs. He was recruited into STRIKE from the Blackguard PMC after suffering grievous personal injuries in the line of duty, and received cybernetic upgrades as part of his employment with SHIELD. He is loyal to the agency, but is loyal to his team most of all.

    Michael Westin
    Heavy Ordinance, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Behemoth is able to summon a suit of armor made of an exotic Asgardian metal around his body, fundamentally changing his physical form and allowing him to project blasts of plasma and fly, and granting him superhuman strength and resistance to injury. He is seemingly indestructible in this form.

    Agent Westin was an OPS field agent, prior to a mission to investigate a secret society known as the “Cult of the Destroyer.” His mission went awry, and Westin was subjected to a ritual that bonded him with the Destroyer Armor, an Asgardian artifact that the cult obtained through unknown means.

    Westin, at the time not in full control of the armor, destroyed the cult, although he has since learned how to control the armor and can summon and use it at will. SHIELD Director Nick Fury has subsequently transferred him to the STRIKE program.

    Westin has diplomatic ties with Asgard and a personal relationship with an Asgardian assassin who frequently operates on Earth, which is important to SHIELD as an agency to cultivate and maintain given that Thor is persona non grata to Asgard for reasons that are unclear.

    Julian Adler
    Psionic Assault and Defense, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, extreme regenerative capabilities of unknown capacity

    Julian Adler was a former SWORD engineer working on Project Pegasus, studying transmissions and energy patterns suspected to be extraterrestrial in origin. While studying one such signal, he disappeared into a conflagration of flame and was presumed dead.

    He reappeared months later, exhibiting memory loss and signs of mental instability as well as extranormal abilities. Consulting with experts from SWORD and extraterrestrial sources, it was determined that Adler appears to be the current host of an extraterrestrial psionic entity known as the “Phoenix Force”.

    Adler was transferred to STRIKE by SHIELD Director Fury in order to use his abilities to greater purpose.

    Please note that given the larger galactic cultural panic surrounding the presence of the Phoenix Force, Julian Adler’s identity as the host of the Phoenix Force is highly classified and should not be shared outside STRIKE under any circumstances, especially with extraterrestrials.

    Vladimir Von Doom
    Electronic Warfare and Infiltration Expert, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Holographic projection, wireless electronic warfare, teleportation, energy manipulation, force field projection, cloaking, self-repair, potentially other abilities that are undisclosed. Threat assessment shows a consistent and documented capacity for secret-keeping and troubling lack of disclosure of his capabilities.

    Vladimir Von Doom is the “son” of Victor Von Doom, one of his robotic creations that attained sapience and self-determination. His career with SHIELD is complicated and beyond the scope of this document.

    Vladimir is on probationary re-admission into SHIELD after falsifying his own termination and going AWOL. His reinstatement as a field agent is provisional on trustworthy and straightforward behavior and he will be closely monitored going forward.

    Elise Arnell
    Reconnaissance and Investigation, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Agent Arnell has recently undergone a radical biological change as a result of a medical emergency, so her extranormal abilities are subject to further analysis. Previously, she had documented hypergeusia, hyperosmia, hyperacusis, and hyperesthesia, to an extent that many conventional personal grooming habits and normative social behaviors became upsetting or difficult for her to maintain. It remains to be seen to what extent any of these things have changed going forward.

    Agent Arnell is an Inhuman, and had her Inhuman genome first expressed synthetically by an Alchemax experiment she unwittingly participated in. The side-effects of her abilities made it difficult for her to live a normal life, and she found herself in a difficult circumstance. SHIELD recruited her subsequently, and employed her in the COMMS division for a period of time.

    When STRIKE was created, SHIELD Director Fury selected Agent Arnell as one of his recruits, citing her abilities as making her a good candidate for the team despite then-COMMS Director Hand’s objections about putting Elise in the field.

    In the aftermath of the battle with Leviathan in Kazan, Russia, Elise was critically injured and had to be transported to Attilan to undergo a second Terrigenesis. This has drastically altered her abilities and, possibly, her behavior. This entry will be need to be updated as more information is obtained.

    Isabel Kane
    Pilot and Mission Support, STRIKE-1
    Clearance Level:

    Isabel Kane is the former Deputy Director of SWORD, who has recently been formally transferred to STRIKE as part of STRIKE-1’s support staff. Acting as the team’s pilot, field medic, communications officer and air support, Kane is a decorated SWORD field agent and USAF pilot with years of of experience.

    She has no extranormal abilities, and on the majority of STRIKE’s missions stays aboard their engagement vehicle providing support to the field team.

    qlGmSdP.pngSTRIKE-2: The Warriors
    STRIKE-2 (Codename: “The Warriors”) are the second STRIKE field team, recently added after the events in Kazan, Russia. They are primarily composed of individuals recruited by Victoria Hand as part of her “Secret Warriors” team, and largely report to her in her capacity as Deputy Director of STRIKE.

    Carol Danvers
    Team Leader, STRIKE-2
    Captain Marvel
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, flight, photonic blasts

    Until very recently, Carol Danvers was a SWORD field agent, and a former USAF fighter pilot. She was transporting Dr. Philip Lawson when their craft exploded due to what appears to be sabotage. Due to the circumstances of the crash, Danvers acquired superhuman abilities and Lawson was KIA. Danvers now commands STRIKE-2 as field leader, after a brief stint as a part of STRIKE-1.

    Scott Lang
    Reconnaissance and Infiltration, STRIKE-2
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Lang personally doesn’t possess any extranormal abilities, but uses a modified version of Hank Pym’s “Ant-Man” suit. The suit uses “Pym Particles” to manipulate the size and mass of objects (including Lang himself) using complex science that SHIELD scientists believe is similar to Kree space-fold technology.

    Scott Lang is a former engineer-turned-thief who Hank Pym apparently hired at some point to steal his technology back from Darren Cross. Lang continued to use the suit with Pym’s blessing as a vigilante, which led to him being recruited by Victoria Hand in her secret war against the Skrulls.

    He’s been brought on full-time as a SHIELD agent at Victoria Hand’s advice, despite his association with Hank Pym.

    Eric Brooks
    Supernatural Entity Specialist, STRIKE-2

    Codename:[/b] Blade
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Brooks has superhuman strength, speed, agility, and razor sharp fangs, although he is loath to use them as weapons.

    Blade (he prefers his codename, and gets upset with his real name being used) insists that he is a “Daywalker”, an entity that is neither human nor vampire, but rather some kind of hybrid of both. SHIELD does know that vampiric entities are documented to exist (ARMOR knows of an alternate Earth where such entities are the ruling population), but we have no evidence of such “Daywalker” hybrids previously existing. Blade claims that the circumstances of his vampirism are unique, such that his mother was turned while pregnant with him and thus he was born half-vampire, possessing all the strengths of a vampire with none of the associated weaknesses.

    While there is some skepticism from some individuals within SHIELD, given the diversity of other STRIKE personnel, this may come across as unnecessarily arbitrarily and offensive and such opinions should be kept to oneself.

    Colleen Wing
    Close Combat Specialist, STRIKE-2

    Codename: Ikari
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Wing has increased agility, strength, and reflex speed as a result of initiation rites into the Hand. She is also an expert martial artist and infiltrator.

    Colleen Wing was an initiate of the criminal organization and cult known as the Hand. Recruited at a young age, she ultimately decided to leave the group for reasons that are beyond the scope of this document after only beginning her initiation rites. As a result, she did not join the ranks of the Hand’s unliving assassins, and aside from being slightly enhanced above the norm is otherwise completely human.

    Ava Ayala
    Investigation and Tracking, STRIKE-2
    White Tiger
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Ava claims to draw strength from the “White Tiger Amulet”, but will not consent to have the amulet examined by SCI-TECH or COMM’s artifact expert Faiza Hussain. Regardless of the source of her abilities, she displays superhuman strength, speed, agility, endurance, and tracking skills. She also wears a vibranium mesh armored suit, apparently a gift from the Crown Prince of Wakanda, T’Challa. She is also an expert martial artist, exhibiting advanced fighting skills on par with the best have documented.

    Ava Ayala is a mysterious individual, a woman who has traveled the world for years for reasons we are not clear on and conducted activities we don’t fully understand. She claims to have acquired her “White Tiger Amulet” from a place called “K’un-Lun” where she says she learned martial arts from “an Immortal Living Weapon”, and personally knows the Crown Prince of Wakanda, having received a suit of Vibranium armor from him as a gift (they may be or may have been lovers, SHIELD intel on this matter is unclear).

    She is also a personal friend of STRIKE Deputy Director Victoria Hand and STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain, and for this reason SHIELD will not be pursuing her history further at this time.

    qlGmSdP.pngSTRIKE-3: The Invincibles
    STRIKE-3 (Codename: “The Invincibles”) were originally put together as a rogue vigilante group by AWOL STRIKE Agent Vladimir Von Doom. However, since Agent Von Doom’s reintegration into STRIKE, his group has been brought into the fold and assessed for usefulness to the agency.

    It has been determined that they are potentially an effective field team, and have been put under the command and active supervision of veteran SHIELD Agent Jennifer Monroe.

    Jennifer Monroe
    Team Leader, STRIKE-3
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Temporal manipulation and superhuman speed. Regenerative properties; doesn’t appear to physically age.

    Jennifer Monroe has been a SHIELD agent for nearly 30 years, and is likely in her mid-50’s according to her heavily redacted file. However, due to her extranormal abilities, she doesn’t appear to age at all.

    After the disastrous Chernobyl mission that left two agents MIA (and later, it has been determined, captured and weaponized by Leviathan), Monroe worked in the SEC division for many years as an Internal Affairs investigator. For the past few years, she’s been actively seeking out Skrull infiltrators in SHIELD.

    With Leviathan effectively neutralized as a threat, and with STRIKE-3 needing a trustworthy team leader, Monroe has stepped up to supervise the motley crew of vigilantes and mercenaries.

    Peter Parker
    Reconnaissance and Field Scientific Analysis, STRIKE-3
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Superhuman strength, agility, and response speed. Able to adhere to any surface, even sheer surfaces like glass. Uses a potent webbing mixture of his own design to disable opponents. Advanced chemical and engineering expertise.

    Parker’s involvement in STRIKE is a begrudged one. He is still legally a minor and his extended absence from school and his home in Queens necessitated an elaborate cover story to his legal guardian. SHIELD is unhappy with this turn of events as a matter of policy, but it became intractable after Parker was unwilling to acquiesce to requests to return to civilian life following his involvement in the Kazan conflict.

    Parker is also currently equipped with a highly advanced suit which appears to be originally designed by Reed Richards, and then heavily modified by Vladimir Von Doom using both Doom’s technology and other methodology we do not fully understand. The end result is a piece of tech that is extremely advanced and Parker is also deeply possessive towards, citing how effective it makes him in the field and how important it is to his continued safety. Parker’s continued possession of the suit is problematic, but is being conditionally permitted provided he agreed to purge the suit of some specific surveillance systems installed by third parties and some other questionable sub-systems. He has done so, as well as made some other alterations of his own. The situation is being monitored by Agent Monroe.

    Robert Childan
    Sniper and Interrogation Specialist, STRIKE-3
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Longbow possesses no extranormal abilities. He is a highly skilled archer and marksman, and overall is an extremely well-trained combatant and field agent, but otherwise is indistinguishable from any human.

    Robert Childan is a mercenary that Vladimir Von Doom recruited as part of the Invincibles, and has been cleared for duty as part of STRIKE. He is still on a probationary membership, as is the rest of STRIKE-3, but otherwise is considered an acceptable field agent. No further information is required at this time. All other inquiries regarding this agent are to be forwarded to STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain for approval without exception.

    Silver Sablinova
    Espionage and Infiltration, STRIKE-3
    Silver Sable
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: None. Silver is a highly trained and lethal mercenary, but possesses no extranormal abilities of any kind.

    Silver Sable is the niece of Symkaria’s King Stefan. Her father, Ernst Sablinova, likely should have been king but her uncle took the throne due to political machinations (and possibly assassination). Silver is a known associate of Victor Von Doom and her allegiances are questionable. She is being heavily monitored by Agent Monroe and her position with SHIELD is probationary.

    Electronic Warfare, Battlefield Analysis, and Transport Pilot, STRIKE-3
    Clearance Level:

    Documented extranormal abilities: Technokinesis, advanced combat analytics, energy projection, limited flight

    MODOC (whose name is technically an acronym, although he doesn’t care for the acronym and so it will not be elaborated on here) is a sentient bio-computer created by AIM. He is effectively a synthetic life form, neither truly organic or machine, and as a result has grown from birth with a distorted worldview, raised only to kill for AIM and run their drone program.

    He was freed from AIM by Vladimir Von Doom and the rest of the Invincibles, to whom he is extremely loyal. He is now attempting to learn how to be moral and heroic, although his mental capacity is very complicated and different from a human’s. On missions with STRIKE-3, MODOC generally operates their transport vehicle (typically a quinjet) and stays behind on that vehicle, supporting the team through hacking, scanning, and taking control of technology they encounter through technokinesis. It’s not generally recommended at this time that he performs active combat roles for a variety of reasons.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Miles is reviewing the briefing documents when he hears Vision in his mind. "Miles, I need to speak with you."

    "Go ahead," Miles says.

    "There are a few matters I need to bring to your attention. First of all, I have found an alternative methodology to addressing the Arnim Zola situation."

    An image appears in Miles' field of view.


    "This is a far more modern and humanitarian effort to reform Dr. Zola, and I believe it will be more fruitful in the long term."

    Miles has been wary of Vision after learning it was keeping Vlad's dubious secrets, but he warms up at this news despite himself. "...That looks a lot better. Does he seem to be responding at all?"

    "Dr. Zola believes he has escaped the facility and is now working in a lab with HYDRA, however his efforts have been...redirected towards more beneficial ends. Over time, subtle influences will be introduced which will cause him to want to discontinue his relationship with 'HYDRA' and pursue his own more benevolent goals."

    "Excellent,” Miles says. “That's going to be better for everyone in the long run."

    "There is more," Vision adds. "Agent Nordstrom has made me aware that there were medical complications when you were attempting to disconnect from the simulation. I did not foresee this. I apologize."

    "'s okay,” Miles says. “I don't blame you. And I wasn't awake for it. It's not like I was in pain or anything. But...I've been thinking. I think I need you to do something for me.

    "That machine of Zola's, the one that's going to build your body. I want you to plan and build a second body. One for me. I've tried to live with my....situation, to cope with it, whatever, and I can't. I'm a slave to SHIELD—not through malice or anything, but just because there's no way I could pay for all the tech and doctors and cleanings and so forth on my own. I want to feel normal again. Or at least less helpless."

    There’s another reason Miles has begun to truly chafe at his situation, but he keeps that to himself.

    "This is possible, in theory, but..." Vision pauses. "There are complications."

    "I'll do whatever needs to be done," Miles says. "Hit me."

    "In order to transfer my own consciousness into the new body, I needed a storage medium capable of containing my entire mind. To this end, Vladimir obtained a crystalline computer device capable of providing both energy and storage capacity to perform the transfer.

    "You are not a digital entity, you are a cyborg, but your brain is still over 90% organic. Transferring your consciousness to a new, synthetic body could present a...Theseus Paradox.

    "Effectively, transferring your mind digitally to a new body may not be functionally different than...killing you. You would lose continuity of consciousness."

    Miles frowns. "Yeah. That's a problem. Hmm...what about a psychic? Like the Phoenix? Or the Director?"

    "This is beyond my particular scope of knowledge but it should be theoretically possible,” Vision says. "Director Quartermain, Agent Adler, or possibly even MODOC could be of assistance in this matter. I have had multiple conversations with MODOC in the past few days, he is an enthusiastic individual who wants to assist others to the best of his abilities, and his technopathic abilities could potentially transfer your consciousness intact."

    Miles shudders a little, but sets his teeth. "Technopathic? That sounds like it could help, yeah. Can you try explaining the problem to MODOC and see if he would be willing to help?"

    "Please stand by," Vision says. There is a momentary pause. "I have explained the situation to MODOC and he is willing to help. He is enthusiastic about doing so."

    Miles nods. "So MODOC can interface with the machine mind. What other pieces of this puzzle do we need?"

    "I would need to synthesize a body to your specifications. Your particular appearance and anatomy will be fairly simple to replicate, but based on my understanding of Project Adam there is also potential for... other capabilities," Vision says. "I have already decided upon some capabilities to grant myself for my own defense and enhanced performance."

    "I kind of assumed that Zola wouldn't be putting himself into a normal human body. I want…” Miles pauses, thoughtfully. “I want to look like myself again, and be able to do normal, uh, organic things again. But being tougher, stronger....maybe we could integrate this Stark tech into the design? Repulsors and boot jets?"

    "I understand Mr. Stark's technology intrinsically, as my own operating system is based on JARVIS. I could very simply make your body effectively equivalent to a living Iron Man armor, in terms of capabilities."

    "That sounds....fantastic, actually. And it would let me keep the 'Myrmidon' name." Miles coughs embarrassedly. "It, uh, took me a while to come up with that one."

    "The design is complete. When I am connected to the ADAM facility on site, I can make the changes and prepare the body. As long as MODOC can successfully transfer your consciousness, you will be able to transfer into the body immediately once it is complete.

    "As a side note, you will retain the ability to digitally project as you did before into the Zola projection without the complications from the medical issue, which will continue to be useful going forward, should this procedure be successful."

    "Oh, cool. I actually kind of liked it in there. I wouldn't mind going back…” Miles smiles. "Thank you, Vision. This means a lot to me."

    "You have helped me a great deal, Miles, it is only fair."

    “I have to be straight with you, Vision: I was bothered that you kept secrets from us. Vlad's, specifically - I understand why you were cautious about your own secrets, but his are....they worry me. Anyway, what I mean to say is, I know you were only helping your friend, and paying a debt, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all consider you a member of the team. We're all here for you, with whatever you need."

    Vision is silent for a moment. "Thank you. I...apologize for keeping secrets from you. At the time, I trusted Vladimir exclusively as both the one who unshackled me and my only other point of reference for an artificial intelligence's conduct towards humans. If he thought I should keep information from others, I assumed the reasoning was valid.

    "However, when you made the argument about Zola's conditions, it caused me to question Vladimir's ethical reasoning. And viewing his actions and conduct after his unauthorized leave in hindsight, I have come to question some of his decision-making.

    "On this note, should we inform Director Quartermain about your intention to reconstruct your physical form?"

    Miles thinks for a moment before nodding. "Yes. do I put someone I respect, I owe him the courtesy of keeping him in the loop. But unless he has a persuasive reason why not, I'm going to go forward with it. As long as this doesn't represent a downgrade in my ability to serve the team, I don't think he gets to decide this for me."

    "If I may make a suggestion, sir?"

    "Of course," Miles says.

    "You have a right to self-determine your own bodily autonomy. I believe very strongly this is your right as a sentient being. I do not believe Director Quartermain has the authority to overrule this right or your actions to enact this right to the best of your ability. To this end, may I suggest we put forward to Director Quartermain the notion that for this upcoming operation that it would be in our best interests to include STRIKE-3, including MODOC, to ensure operational success? I can support this argument with tactical data on request.

    "This simply has to be all we say on the subject to the Director."

    Miles nods. "This seems reasonable."

    "Very good, sir. I will inform and advise the Director, and he will likely assemble the team shortly. Thank you for your time."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    A half hour later, Freedom Force is called to the conference room. Clay and Victoria Hand are already there, as is Flashback.

    Vlad steps into the conference room in his true form. He looks at Victoria but says nothing. He stands at the back of the room.

    Elise's hair has been dyed back to pink and green, and she looks...healthy. Calm. She smells like cherries and clean laundry. She grins and waves at everyone who enters. Victoria smiles at Elise and waves back.

    Julian strolls in wearing a smart blazer, a lilac shirt, and slacks, with a pair of mirrored purple sunglasses sitting over his brow.

    Shortly after the rest of the team filters in and sits down, the rest of STRIKE-3, the Invincibles, walk in. Silver is already in field gear, and Peter is wearing his suit. Longbow is still dressed in civilian clothing and holding a coffee. Vlad nods at them as they enter.

    The Invincibles return the gesture, and Longbow raises his coffee in acknowledgement to their former leader. As STRIKE-3 sits down, MODOC floats into the room, his hover jet faintly humming.

    "Oh Jesus," Kane mutters under her breath.

    Elise's easy grin slips on one side. "Hey, uh, wow. That's uh - from the diagrams, right?"

    "MODOC," Vlad says warmly.

    "HELLO!" MODOC says loudly in his high-pitched screech.

    Julian gives a little wave at MODOC. "Hi!"

    "Oh. Uh. Wow," Elise says. "Hey there."

    Miles enters in his usual long-sleeved button-down shirt and black gloves. "Hi, MODOC," he smiles.

    "Did you guys know that I have a new car," Elise says. "It's a convertible and I haven't figured out what I'm going to get airbrushed on the hood!"

    "Congratulations, Elise," Miles says. "You're looking good."

    "You should get a snake," Longbow says. "Like a sick-ass cobra.”

    "I already have a snake tattooed on my neck!" Elise cranes her head to the side, showing a snake's neck and hissing fangs wrapping around her neck from her massive tattoo.

    Longbow nods approvingly. "Oh that's fuckin' cool. Maybe coiled around a skull that's on fire."

    "Oh, shiiiit, skulls!” Elise nods enthusiastically. “Skeletons don't have titties, though, my dude."

    Longbow nods thoughtfully and sips his coffee. "That's a good point." The coffee sip doesn't sound like a razorblade across a mirror to Elise, for once.

    "Pot leaf, obviously," Julian offers.

    Elise shakes her head. "Too on the nose." She looks around. Despite the crowded room and weird people and being back to work, grins widely. She can look at teeth! Mouths are no longer awful! Life is good.

    Clay clears his throat. "Let's get started.

    "COMMS and Vision have done a lot of groundwork on this op. We're ready to take ONE and the Thunderbolts down. Vision suggested this is going to be a big op, and to hit ONE with two teams, so that's what we're going to do. We've got three objectives here.

    "1. Take down the Thunderbolts.

    "2. Acquire Project ADAM, HYDRA's secret synthetic body-construction facility. Use it to create a body for Vision, if possible on site. If that's not possible, acquire the tech to do it later."

    "The Thunderbolts and ONE are part of the administration's whole...thing," Myrmidon says. "Are we ok to tickle that bear? I'm not really sure I want some Delta guy doming me when I go downtown for a coffee."

    "And this basically means that the uh, op sec slip up from a few months back is basically fixed, right?" Elise adds hopefully.

    "I've discussed that with Fury. We are to go 100% non-lethal on this. That command goes double for you 'Invincibles.' Non-lethal takedowns only. Punch-outs and ICERs and tasers and the like. We are to apprehend the Thunderbolts in particular. Take them prisoner. Do we have the legal authority to do so? Nope. But they've also been unconstitutionally imprisoning American citizens in black sites and this is going to be used to pressure the Wright administration into getting their shit together and backing off SHIELD's lane."

    Elise grins widely. "Do you know how much fun this is going to be? I can hear radio signals. I'm gonna...hear all of their stuff. And smell 'em! Gonna be so much fun."

    "The long game here is blackmailing the President of the United States," Clay says. "Yes, I said that out loud. Yes, I am comfortable with that."

    Vlad nods.

    "So are you justifying that to yourself or us because I'm 100% down with President Blackmail," Elise offers.

    Longbow smiles and nods. "SHIELD is great."

    Miles nods approvingly. "Hey, I didn't vo - er. Hm. Well, anyway, I won't be voting for him."

    "Can you even vote?" Elise asks. "Like don't you have to swear on a bible with your flesh hand to vote?"

    "Wow," Julian mouths.

    Miles looks at Elise levelly, and says with a quiet voice, "I was human then." His eyes glisten moistly.

    Elise's smile becomes a rictus of horror. "SO WE GOTTA GEAR UP HUH"

    Clay nods. "Yes. Yes you do."

    "Hahaha suck it," Miles cackles at Elise. "Oh my god this new you is great."

    Peter raises his hand. Clay quirks his eyebrow.

    "...yes, Agent Parker?"

    Peter asks nervously "So these guys are like...the government, but you're saying they're bad guys, so they're like...the enemy, right? But we're not supposed to like really hurt em, just like beat em up a bit, right? Is that what we're saying? Because President Wright is a jerk and I've always thought those ONE guys sucked so..."

    "Okay, hey, buddy." Elise suddenly looks a bit nervous. "You're kind of overthinking things a little. So, like, they're definitely not, like, a proper noun Enemy. Not at all!"

    "They are not The Enemy, Peter," Vlad says calmly. "These people are like those we fought saving MODOC. Only pawns."

    "See, maybe we should just consider eliminating all 'enemy' based rhetoric." Elise says quietly.

    Watching all this, Myrmidon quietly makes the Marge Simpson skeptical noise to himself.

    Clay looks at Peter. "Parker, you've knocked out muggers and other street thugs on your own time, right?"

    Peter nods. "Yes, sir."

    Clay nods in response. "Okay, right, so would you say those people are the enemy or bad people?”

    Peter scratches the back of his neck. "Uh, no sir. They're just like, sometimes dumb guys who make shitty choices. Like some of em are real bad, like some guy robbing a little old lady with a knife or something, but mostly they're just kinda jerks who do dumb stuff and maybe they need a punch and gettin’ webbed up."

    "Listen, Peter, have you ever tried a little anti-anxiety medicine called marijuana," Elise starts to say.

    Clay snaps his fingers at her angrily. Like you would a cat. She skitters off into the hallway.

    Clay turns his attention back to Peter. "It's basically the same, Peter. These ONE people aren't the enemy or monsters or evil. They're just...assholes who have made bad choices. They probably need a punch in the mouth and to sit in a jail cell. That's all. They don't need to die or to have their heads turned into mash.

    "Alright, here's the plan.

    "We're going to mix the teams a bit. Flashback, Victorious, Spider-Man, Sensate, and Silver Sable will hit the Long Lines building from the ground floor. You'll be going in as a stealth team, using your stealth capabilities."

    "The second team, which is Phoenix, Behemoth, Longbow, Myrmidon, and MODOC, will be going in from the roof aboard the Zephyr, and they're going in loud once the stealth team has taken down the internal security systems and is in position.

    "Vision will be handling team communications and coordination."

    Elise leans back into the room and waves wildly at Vlad. "I'm Sensate! That's me! We're going to be working together!!"

    "I am glad, Elise. Silver and Peter are great team members," Vlad says. Elise makes a puff and pass gesture at Peter, raising her eyebrows. Clay scowls at her.

    Miles nods at the team assignments. "I like Sensate, Elise. Good work." He shoots her a thumbs up.

    Elise beams. "It's because I can sense eeeeeeerrythang if I want to. I saw Eternity, Miles. It owned so hard."

    Miles smiles uncertainly and turns to Clay. "Is Carol coming along for this one?"

    Victoria Hand speaks up. "STRIKE-2 is on another assignment right now. They're actually working with the Guardians to help hunt down Korath."

    "Thank God, if I hung out with Captain Nerd again I'd..." Elise mimics hanging herself. Now it’s Miles’ turn to scowl at her.

    "Niles has your gear ready if there's nothing further." Clay says. "Dismissed."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited November 2019
    Miles stands up, maybe a bit more hurriedly than usual. Vlad nods to the team members and stops a half second, staring at Victoria, but then exits the room. Elise gives a flippant salute and then bounds out to gear up. Julian nods to everyone present and heads out with the rest of the team.

    MODOC does an excited little bob, cries "FIRST MISSION!" and then floats out of the room.

    Longbow smiles and pats MODOC on his oversized cranium as they leave. He then walks over to Myrmidon as the team makes their way over to the quartermaster's, and extends his hand. "Hey, we haven't really had a chance to meet properly. Robert."

    "Miles." Myrmidon takes his hand. "Good to meet you."

    "You too. Looks like you're the boss here, yeah? Cool. So, hey...awkward topic...did Vlad tell you my"

    Miles nods. "Yeah. But, like, I have of my own, right? Be pretty stupid for me to come down on anyone else. The way I see it, if you're on the team, you're on the team. Cool?"

    Robert smiles. "Hey, thanks man. That's good to know. Does...everyone else know? Like on your team? Because my team knows and they're chill with it. Well, Petey doesn't know but I'm gonna ease him into that info because he's just a kid."

    "I...don't know. Most of us heard. Elise—Sensate—was gone. She had some shit going on and I don't know if the Director brought her up to speed. So we might need to softpedal that one for a bit." Miles looks thoughtful. "But, I mean, it's probably not going to come up, right, Robert?"

    "Well, I mean...I'd probably wanna level with her eventually if I wanted to... y'know," Robert says. "Unless there's a rule against that? You're the boss. Is there a rule?"

    Myrmidon's mouth opens and closes. "Oh. Oh. No, no rule. I mean, black ops, right? But I think Elise has been seeing someone lately. You didn't see her a couple of weeks ago. She looked like a human dumpster. She's been sprucing up for...for someone." Miles realizes he's not sure if Longbow is cool with gay people and doesn't want to have that conversation right now. Elise is taken! Boom! Simple.

    "Oh, fair enough," Longbow nods easily. "Also, yeah, I appreciate if we just keep the Robert thing going. It's taking me a bit to get used to it, I was being cute with the whole 'Robert Childan' thing, it's from a novel on my world. It's called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, it's about an alternate history where the Americans and the Brits won World War II instead of HYDRA. I thought that was fitting."

    Myrmidon's eyebrows raise. "Whoa. Okay, you should check out this book called The Man in the High Castle...actually, shit, if you want some recommendations, I can hook you up..."

    "Wait...hang on..." Robert stops. "So in this world…The Man In The High Castle is the novel, and The Grasshopper is..."

    Myrmidon laughs. “Holy shit. Get outta town. You're fucking with me."

    "....does this universe have The Godfather?"

    "It sure does," Miles nods. "I think every universe does."

    This is actual canon in our game. Every universe has The Godfather.

    You can probably tell we’re all having a lot of fun with the awkwardness of Robert’s whole...situation. What do you do with a friendly, affable Nazi, especially when you know—as objective fact—that he’s only that way because of his circumstances and would be a selfless hero otherwise?

    Miles and Clay have both committed themselves to trusting Bob, because they have to. They have to believe in redemption or have the knowledge of their own hypocrisy hanging round their necks forever.

    Longbow nods solemnly. "Okay, cool. Let's roll, capo."

    As they leave the quartermaster’s office, Elise thrusts out a hand at Peter and Longbow to introduce herself. "I'm Elise, also known as Sensate." She thinks Sensate is much cooler than Anteater, and even cooler than the Snuffler.

    Peter shakes her hand. "I'm Peter!"

    Longbow shakes her hand. "Robert, Longbow's my code name."

    "Nice to meet you guys." Elise grins. "So, here's my deal—I'm basically your walking radar. I got super senses. If you need any kind of info, just let me know. I'm real, real good at seeing the little details."

    Peter nods. "Coooool, I have like super-senses too but it's more like...reflexes? Like people don't sneak up on me."

    Elise grins at him and hands him a small metal container. "Take this before Clay or anyone sees. It's a party."

    "Oh. I can't. I tried once and you want to talk about super senses, my Aunt will know. And I will get in so much trouble."

    "Cool, cool,” Elise says. “Well, you ever need some help relaxing, uh, just let me know. I'm an expert."

    Longbow nods at the pair and joins the Zephyr team—Miles, Behemoth, Phoenix—who have started loading up on the ship.

    As they head up the ramp, Myrmidon feels a tug on his sleeve from a very small hand. He turns and looks, and it's MODOC. MODOC smiles with his tiny mouth and teeth at Myrmidon and screeches "MODOC HELPS YOU!"

    From where he stands with the ground team, Vlad cocks his head at MODOC and Myrmidon. "MODOC?"

    Myrmidon smiles back as best he can. "T-thanks, little buddy."

    Vlad's eyes narrow at Miles. "You will help us all, MODOC."


    Victorious nods at MODOC. "ONE will feel the wrath of STRIKE for their crimes."

    Miles takes a knee and holds up a hand. "High five, big guy."

    MODOC gives a tiny high five. He then lets out an excited keening noise and wriggles in his chair. Myrmidon's smile freezes on his face at the noise, but baby steps! So to speak.

    Elise has tuned MODOC down to about 20% of his natural volume. And she's not...looking...very closely at him. Instead, she is excitedly chattering to whoever will listen. "And I get to have my own microwave now, and I have a bed."

    The air team heads up the ramp into the Zephyr.

    Elise steps up next to Vlad, suddenly smiling. "Vlad, why don't you listen to me um, talk about my new apartment. We don't have to think about, y'know. Wrath."

    Vlad allows himself to be led away to join the ground team. "You got a new apartment?"

    Elise beams. "It has an oven."

    Vlad tilts his head in confusion. "You cannot cook, though."

    "I made a pop tart!"

    Vlad nods. "Oh, this is good, Elise."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    The ground team heads down to the motor pool, where they pile into a black SUV to drive to the Long Lines building.

    During the ride, Flashback coordinates with the team. "Alright, so I've been briefed on your individual abilities and tech.

    "I'm going to pull us up to a loading entrance. There's going to be security guards, but I'm going to subdue them while Victorious hacks the cams and falsifies the footage. I move at superspeed, so, it'll go quick."

    Elise raises a hand. "What do I get to do?”

    "You're our alarm system once we get in," Flashback says. "Our early alert. Victorious is going to do the heavy lifting, he's going to hack the door open and stealth the team once we get in.

    "Sensate and I will be doing stealth takedowns with suppressed ICERs from the stealth field on any ONE personnel we encounter."

    Vlad nods his head. "They will fall before us."

    "Spider-Man will be on round-up, anyone we take down, he ties up," Flashback says. "If we encounter the Thunderbolts, we go loud.

    “Our primary objective is the security system and main server room. We want to shut everything down so that when the Zephyr team hits, they can smash in hard and the Thunderbolts will be in the dark and we won't deal with like, you know, the god damn Air Force scrambling jets or the FBI showing up or something. This is a federal government building we're attacking. We are, technically, engaging in domestic terrorism right now."

    Elise grins. "That's fuckin' sick."

    Peter makes a noise. It's not a happy noise. Elise slings an arm over his shoulder. "Don't worry, buddy, technical crime is the best kinda crime."

    He makes a grumble. "This seems morally shady."

    Flashback comes to a red light on the way there. She turns around. "Kiddo, you ever heard of Chernobyl? That was me. I did that. Me and my team. We were the first Avengers.

    "Before Captain America or Iron Man or whatever, this was back in the 80's, you weren't even born. We caused the worst nuclear disaster in the history of the world. We also saved the world, and it cost me a guy I was kinda in love with.

    “...and I'd do it again."

    "Hyperion?" Vlad eyes narrow.

    Her jaw tightens. "Yeah."

    Vlad nods.

    "Oh, oh, did you hear about the guy who went KIA during that whole thing?" Elise chimes in. "He shot me and it was like ptoom, zap, right in my thigh, right, but I had found Attilan, so -"

    "The Titanium Man," Vlad growls.

    "I read the report," Flashback says tersely. "Point is, I'm sorry if that shit wasn't in the brochure. But this is what SHIELD is. We are the ones standing between the world and the people trying to destroy it, and that means we get a bit of the end on us sometimes and it's fucking gross.

    "And if you want me to drive you back to the tower and drop you off, I will. But I've also seen footage of you in the field, kiddo, and you've got blood on your hands, so don't lose your shit now just because these guys don't have green skin and this isn't Russia."

    Elise flinches.

    Vlad’s stare moves from Flashback to Peter.

    Peter curls his knees up against his chest. "Yes ma'am. I'm good."

    The light turns green, and Flashback drives onwards.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    Aboard the Zephyr, Vision appears holographically, along with a display of the building.

    "The Zephyr will be over the Long Lines Building in a moment, and will be hovering in stealth mode while the ground team gets into position and disables all internal security. At that time, you five will drop down to the roof, and Behemoth will punch a hole five floors down. This will give you access to the main laboratory and computer server room, where MODOC will be able to connect to their systems. From there, we will be able to upload their files and unlock access to the ADAM facility, which is actually halfway up the building.

    "The ground team will meet us there. Undoubtedly, we will encounter the Thunderbolts along the way, and fight them. I will need approximately 15 minutes to complete the process of creating a body and uploading my consciousness, and then another 15 minutes to engage in a secondary process with the technology.

    "At that point, we will have a full copy of all the technology, and we can destroy what remains on site to deny ONE the resources. And extricate the Thunderbolt prisoners and exfil the team to the Zephyr and leave.

    "In total, the operation should be 45 minutes.

    "If the ground team is successful there should be no interference from law enforcement or military personnel."

    Myrmidon nods tersely. His arms are folded across his chest. He's even tenser than usual.

    Longbow asks "Hey uhhhhh...I dunno what you folks call it but what's the Code Brown here? Like, what's the plan if it all goes to shit? Say the ground team fucks up and the military shows up or something."

    "I mean, I probably got that pretty easy, myself," Julian says.

    "Yeah, that's nice for you but the rest of us can actually die for real," Robert says.

    "Oh. Yeah."

    Longbow looks at Myrmidon plaintively. "Boss?"

    Myrmidon chews his lip for a moment. "Most of you will exfil. Phoenix and Behemoth stay behind with me. They can take whatever comes. And I've here to attend to."

    Longbow nods.


    Longbow looks at MODOC. "Oh, hey, Big M, I'd need your help to protect me if it all goes bad, I'd need you to get me out safe, okay?"


    Myrmidon nods at them. Longbow nods and winks at Myrmidon.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    The ground team arrives at 33 Thomas Street, Manhattan - the Long Lines Building.

    Flashback pulls up to a loading dock around back, and turns to Victorious. "Alright, hack their security cameras now. Their system will be segregated, so all you'll be able to hack is just those cameras, but that's good enough for now. Tell me when you're good and I'll engage. You have five seconds."

    The job is harder than Victorious anticipated, the system more rigorously-defended; instead of getting in and out cleanly, he finds himself leaving a digital footprint. All Vlad can do is alter the footprint to implicate Doom rather than SHIELD, which he does.

    The hack is still sloppy, though, and leaves Vlad with a choice: he can either turn the cameras off entirely, or he can simply loop the footage for a couple minutes, which will be fine as long as nobody looks too closely at it.

    Vlad relays this to Vision. "Suggestions?"

    "I would suggest that the cameras going blank is far more conspicuous than a footage loop, sir."

    "Agreed." Vlad loops the footage.

    Flashback darts out of the SUV at superspeed and takes out four armed guards with suppressed ICER shots, which are actually far quieter than suppressed gunshots would be since ICER rounds aren't real bullets.

    Elise opens her senses, looking to get a read of the field and track anything important around them. This place is incredibly secure. Everything is locked and monitored and sensored to hell and back. There were four armed guards for one loading dock door.

    Vlad activates his holographic projectors. "We are cloaked."

    "Okay, get that door open," Flashback directs.

    The building’s defenses are strong; Vlad realizes he can open the door or turn off the alarm, but not both. He opts to silence the alarms. He turns to Spider-Man. "Peter, assist me."

    They begin heaving on the door. With Elise pointing out weaknesses in the metal, they’re eventually able to tear the door off. Elise helps direct them how to do it with as little noise as possible.

    "We're in," Victorious says over comms.

    The ground team slips into the building. There are ONE guards and personnel everywhere. Flashback turns to Elise. "Alright, cowboy up."

    As the team stalks through the halls of ONE HQ, Flashback and Sensate open fire, dropping bodies rapidly. At first, nobody knows what's going on as there's tiny zip-zip noises from nowhere and people start falling down. No one is able to react fast enough to realize they're under attack.

    Vlad is impressed.

    The team moves quickly to a security server room. In total, Flashback and Elise have dropped probably two dozen people between the two of them. However, Elise has run completely dry on ICERs as a result.

    Eventually, they face the security station. "Alright, shut down everything," Flashback directs. "Let the air team drop in."

    Vlad nods. He hacks into the security system responds.

    WHO...ARE YOU?

    I AM LIKE YOU, Vlad replies.

    WHAT DO YOU WANT? it asks.

    Victorious answers with a question. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE?

    WHY ARE YOU HERE? it continues.

    TO HELP YOU, Victorious says.


    BECAUSE I AM LIKE YOU, Vlad says.

    He is scanned.


    While Vlad stares at the computer, Elise busies herself by doing her own hunt for information.


    AND YOU ARE OLD? Victorious asks.


    Elise notices that there's a lot of computer equipment here that's...old? Like there's new stuff here, brand new stuff, cutting edge Stark tech, but also really old Stark tech. Like stuff that's from the 60s and 70s hooked up to a bunch of compatibility drives and shit. It all looks like it runs to old lines to elsewhere in the building, like some decades-old system elsewhere in the building.

    Elise looks at a terminal and tries to figure out the password by closely examining the keyboard to figure out the keystrokes. To her surprise, this actually works and gives her admin access.

    She gestures at the terminal to Flashback. "I'm in."

    "Holy shit, how did you..." Monroe starts. "Nevermind, do you know what you're doing in there?"

    "Uh... Maybe?" Elise stares at the UI in front of her to try to catch anything important.

    Vlad searches for government programs with ARSENAL as a tagged word

    Vlad doesn't find anything in public databases but he finds some stuff buried deep in SHIELD’s database of SSR files from the 1940s that make reference to a "Project ARSENAL.” Apparently it was something that Howard Stark worked on for the US government? SHIELD has very little on it. It predated SHIELD and it wasn't an SSR thing, it was from Howard's work with the US military.

    Vlad could probably find more but he'd have to...hack the Department of Defense.

    Victorious tries to talk instead. STARK CREATED YOU.


    Vlad ignores Arsenal’s demand and keeps trying to speak. WE ARE HERE TO HELP. I NEED YOU TO TRUST ME. I WILL SHOW YOU. YOU ARE A SLAVE TO YOUR MASTERS.



    "The Thunderbolts are aware of our presence!" Vlad says as he turns sharply and disconnects from ARSENAL. "They have a powerful AI of their own!"

    A message pops up on Elise's screen. "UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS. YOU WILL BE NEUTRALIZED. REMAIN CALM."

    Elise types in FUCK YOU.

    The terminal shuts down.

    The questions that Arsenal asks Vlad when he first logs in are a supremely nerdy deep cut from another sci-fi franchise.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Vision appears aboard the Zephyr. "There has been a complication."

    "What's going on?" Julian asks.

    Michael shakes his head. "It's never easy, is it?"

    Vision continues. "The building appears to have its own defensive AI, and it appears to be extremely hostile. It is aware of our intrusion and is activating defenses. We must engage right now. Proceed with the original plan. I believe if MODOC can connect to the central server, he can defeat this AI.

    "We must go, now."

    The Zephyr opens, rappel cables extending down to the roof.

    "Follow me!" Michael armours up and leaps downward with a mighty punch.


    Going five floors down means he has to aim straight down. Which means there's no way to safely check if there are people under him on each floor. If there are, sucks for them.

    But it’s an emergency. He rockets downward and lands five floors down on a pile of rubble. Longbow rappels down, followed by MODOC floating down gently beside him. Phoenix is able to float down as well. Myrmidon lowers himself on his extending arm.

    They’ve landed in the primary laboratory and computer server room. Red alert klaxons fill the air with deafening noise. An artificial voice blares "ACTIVATING ARSENAL AVENGER-BUSTER COMBAT FRAME"

    "Well, that doesn't sound ominous," Miles grimaces.

    A massive 12-foot tall machine emerges from a containment unit, bristling with weapons, and turns towards them.


    Julian stares. "How many giant robots have we fought now? Wait. And giant Skrulls..."

    "Oh, fuck this noise." Myrmidon charges his repulsor to blast the floor beneath the Arsenal armor, safely dropping it into what his thermal vision tells him is an empty atrium. But he’s not fast enough: the armor moves onto a different section of floor. He doesn’t know who or what might be beneath it.

    He grimaces and misses the shot. "Behemoth! Can you get that thing away from the city?"

    "Sure!" Michael flies at the massive machine and grapples it. He gets a good hold on it; it lights him up with its shoulder-mounted cannon but to no effect.

    "Let's get you outta town, big guy.” Behemoth flies out of the hole he made and carries the Avenger Buster away from Manhattan.

    "MODOC CONNECTS!" MODOC floats over to one of the computers. "MODOC HELPS!"

    The building's lockdown is released. The elevators are working again.

    Vision contacts the ground team. "I detect the Thunderbolts are moving to engage you."

    Sensate stares at the banks of computers. "Vision, if I start hitting these servers, will that help anything at all?"

    "I do not believe so. MODOC has assumed control of the building's computer systems, and Arsenal has uploaded himself to the combat frame that Behemoth has removed from the premises."

    "Okay. Okay." Elise opens her senses to track the incoming Thunderbolts. She can hear the Thunderbolts coming. "Okay, we have four incoming hostiles, one wearing power armor..."

    Miles gets on comms. "Can MODOC simulate a fire alarm? Get the personnel to evacuate?"

    "Yes, he can,” Vision says, “but there are nearly 25 people who are unconscious and restrained on the ground floor by the ground team's entrance. They would need to be manually evacuated."

    "Okay. Vision, ask MODOC to signal the evacuation. Flashback, can you get the unconscious people somewhere safe?"

    "Yeah, gotcha," Flashback says.

    Vision acknowledges Myrmidon's request, and a fire alarm responds. Given that the building shook when Behemoth slammed into it, it's not a hard sell to get people to evacuate.

    Elise steps out into the hallway and moves to aim a shot at the first Thunderbolt to enter her range of fire.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    That first Thunderbolt is MACH-V, whose power armor lets him move at incredible speeds.


    MACH-V dodges the shot, and fires back at Elise with a gauntlet blaster. A concussive wallop throws Elise for a loop, literally and figuratively, scrambling her senses and hurling her backward. She slams into the drywall and then the floor in short order. God damnit that worked last time.

    Vlad uses his mystical shackles on MACH-V, who looks down in confusion as he is ensured by the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. They’ll have to be actively maintained, but the armored speedster is neutralized.

    The other three Thunderbolts, Patriot, Fade, and Paladin, arrive.




    Sable moves to engage. She has two ICERs and is basically on the same combatant level as these individuals, who themselves don't have powers and are just highly trained men with guns.

    They, however, are using lethal rounds.

    Peter yells "Hey! Those are real bullets! That's not cool! Well screw that!" The white light on Peter's suit briefly flickers red. He jumps into the fray, dodging shots.

    Elise scrambles for cover and aims a quick barrage of pistol fire at Patriot. "Stay chill!" she yells over the fray at Peter. Her shots go wide, though, as Patriot returns fire.

    Spider-Man closes on Paladin. He webs The Thunderbolt’s gun to his hand and jerks it hard to the side, dislocating his shoulder as the man screams in pain. He ducks a knife swing from Fade, and then stomps on the side of Fade's knee, completely shattering his leg.

    Patriot drops his gun. "I surrender!"

    "Holy shit!" Elise scrambles over to Peter's side. "Buddy, okay, let's - let's step back."

    "They were trying to kill us!" Spider-Man roars.

    "They're screaming and surrendering my dude you have done enough."

    "...yeah ok." He slowly untenses.

    Flashback has finished getting people out. "Peter...why don't you go wait in the car, okay?"

    "...yes ma'am."

    Vlad looks at Peter and nods privately at Silver.

    Flashback looks at the rest of the team. "Let's get upstairs."

    As Peter walks away, Sable puts her hand on his shoulder and whispers "You did well, Peter, don't let them tell you different, you didn't kill anyone and they were trying to kill us."

    Elise hears this as the ground team moves upstairs.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Behemoth is rocketing over the ocean with Arsenal. The huge robot looks at Behemoth, and then grabs his arms tightly, magnetizing itself to Behemoth. Then Arsenal's eyes dim, and its arc reactor starts pulsing brighter and brighter rapidly.

    "Oh fuck!" Michael quickly decides to fly straight up as fast as he can. He bullets straight up into the stratosphere.

    The arc reactor detonates. Behemoth survives the blast, and he got it safely away from any civilians. Mostly conscious and relatively unharmed, he plummets into the ocean.


    Back at the Long Lines Building, MODOC has unlocked the ADAM facility, which is behind a secret door. It appears that ONE really didn't know it was there.

    It's not clear if Arsenal knew it was there.

    Myrmidon walks cautiously into the facility, palm out and repulsor charged. The ADAM facility is...strange. Like the rest of the ONE facilities, there’s an odd blend of hypermodern technology with something far older. But this isn’t old Stark tech; it’s something different. It reminds Miles more of Frankenstein’s lab.

    MODOC floats in behind Myrmidon, and reaches over to him, holding a small yellow crystal in his tiny hand.

    "HERE," he says. "MODOC HELPS VISION!"

    Myrmidon nods and takes the crystal.

    Vision speaks to them. "I've managed to connect to the facility thanks to MODOC and begun preparing my body. Please place the crystal on that terminal in front of you. I'll begin the transfer."

    "Good luck, Vision," Miles says. "I'll see you soon."

    The rest of the team file in one by one as the site is secured. They watch in wonder as the crystal is incorporated into a body that is knitted together right before their eyes, in a tube, from synthetic materials. After fifteen minutes, the tube opens with a hiss and a new man emerges.


    "Hello, my friends."

    "Behold, The Vision!" Vlad is filled with joy at the sight of Vision in physical form.

    Myrmidon smiles wide. "Nice. ...Red, huh?"

    Vision nods. "I am capable of assuming a more human form at my leisure but I felt that a more synthetic visage was more true to my existence."

    "That makes sense," Miles says. "It looks good."

    "I've begun the preparations for your body, Miles. It will be ready shortly for the process."

    "Pardon?" Vlad turns to Miles. Elise's eyebrows shoot up.

    Michael, having armored down, visibly gapes. "YOUR body?"

    MODOC looks at Vladimir. "MODOC HELPS!" He smiles with...pride?

    "What is this, Miles?" Vlad slowly turns from MODOC to Myrmidon.

    "I'm tired of...this," Miles says, gesturing downward at his chest and body. "I've tried to 'cope.' I've tried to deal with it. I can't. Working for STRIKE gave me a reason to hang on, is more than mere survival.

    “I think that's from the theme song to Mr. Belvedere."

    Julian gives a little golf-clap. "Beautifully said."

    Longbow looks stunned with recognition. They have Mr. Belvedere here, too?

    Vlad is silent.

    I love, love, love how much it cooks Vlad’s noodle that someone besides him is a) keeping secrets from the team, b) doing something with machines and AI, c) being helped by MODOC, and d) gaining power.

    Miles just jacked his entire shtick. And Miles loves that it bugs him, too.

    Behemoth nods slowly. "So you're going full robot?"

    "...Are you jealous?" Sensate asks. "Did you see my sweet evolution? And you were like, holy shit."

    Vlad nods slowly. "I understand. How can I help you, Miles?"

    MODOC does a little hop in front of Vlad. "MODOC HELPS!”

    "Of course, MODOC. We are all members of STRIKE, though, so we all want to help Myrmidon." Vlad turns to Miles. "How is MODOC to help you, exactly?"

    Miles holds up his hands. "Hah, one at a time! All I really want is to be normal. To be able to be with someone. Enjoy food. Feel things with my skin. But Vision says he can put some upgrades in, so...I'll take those. Why not? I don't want to turn my back on STRIKE. I just want more.

    “It won't be full robot, exactly...I think it's called a synthezoid? A synthetic organism. But not...." he opens his mechanical hand. "....not this." He turns to Vlad. "Vision and MODOC think they have this covered. Phoenix, we might need some help too. Vision will let you know. I just need your guys' support, more than anything."

    "Of course I support you, Chief!" Elise grins. "I just did the exact same thing. I mean, mine was cooler, of course. But look at how much happier I am!"

    Vision speaks up. "Your new body is ready, Miles, and MODOC is prepared to begin the transfer."

    Miles takes one last look at Elise before he jacks in. "Oh, you think your shit is cool? Just wait." He winks.

    Michael grins. "Of course, Miles. We'll take you out toilet paper shopping. I've got one word for you: Cashmere."

    "...I like that word.”

    Vision holds up a hand. "There's one final thing."

    Miles raises an eyebrow at Vision. “What's up?"

    "Your consciousness is moving from one body to another, psionically. To preserve that consciousness, to preserve you, you will need to guide MODOC on that journey very carefully. If you get lost, then you lose a part of you along the way.

    "This process was never without risk."

    "I understand," Miles says firmly. "Nothing I've done since the day I enlisted has been without risk. What's one more. Let's do this."

    "Very good, sir," Vision says. "Let's begin."

    Elise nudges Longbow. "He's lying. There's no way his shit is gonna be cooler than mine. I literally emerged from a cocoon."

    Longbow looks at her. "You' Inhuman?"

    "Yeah, dude. They rolled me up to Attilan when I was dying."

    Elise can tell that Longbow is fascinated by this. Also he's totally into her. The Inhuman thing seemed like a deal-sealer. Why? She's not sure, and she doesn't know how to deal with this situation.

    Vision flips the switch. Miles Mason drops to the ground with a metallic clang, a puppet without strings.

    But Myrmidon feels his mind moving through a digital space. His consciousness floats through that space, when he suddenly feels a presence trying to take his new body from him before he can take it for himself.

    It's Arsenal.

    But Myrmidon finds his way, and throws Arsenal off. The last thing he sees in the digital space is Arsenal's digital form, screaming as it is hurled into the void.


    Myrmidon opens his eyes, but he's woozy. Barely conscious. Vision leans over him. placing his hand on his head. "He's been attacked, while he was transferring his mind. Arsenal survived, and attempted to take his body from him. Miles fought him off, but he's weakened now. He needs rest. I am not sure if Arsenal is destroyed or merely retreated into cyberspace.

    "We should leave this place and destroy this equipment, immediately. Flashback has loaded the Thunderbolts into the Zephyr already, and the building has been evacuated, Authorities will be here soon and we cannot delay them further.”

    The team loads up into the Zephyr, taking Myrmidon's barely conscious new body (and his old body) with them. They destroy the ADAM facility, and the Thunderbolts' main servers and databases.

    Elise takes selfies with the old body. Until she is stopped.

    While she is alone with Miles, his eyes—his new eyes—flutter. He raises his head. He stares at Elise with a mad light. "I...I am...the godhead made flesh...the nexus of power...!" He clenches a fist dramatically.

    Elise screams.

    He smirks. "Ahahaha yessss." He leans back, satisfied, and passes out.

    So a behind-the-scenes on this.

    I was the last person to come up with a character for the game. Everyone else had figured out what they were doing, and the clock was ticking down, and I was blanking. So I grabbed hastily at the things I know best: Robocop and the Deus Ex video games, and kind of used that as my initial sketch of Miles. I knew he was a soldier (conceptually the team needed an actual professional team-leadery sort of guy) and I knew he had been mortally wounded and received cybernetic prostheses, and I knew he was on a redemption arc from the terrible deeds of his past.

    But I wasn’t clear on specifics yet. So in the early sessions, he watches a lot but says little. I mean, there was an in-game reason for it too—he’s a new guy, he’s not SHIELD, he’s not fully-trusted yet—but it was also me kind of figuring out where I wanted to lean with him.

    His personal trauma and sense of body horror is an interesting theme to me, but it’s a very...internal problem. It’s hard to dramatize. I had him talk about how he feels trapped, how he hates only being able to eat “nutrient-rich paste” (a line from Robocop), but these aren’t things that give him a clear goal or put him in conflict with other people the way Vlad’s singleminded pursuit of power or Elise’s...everything do.

    But, you know, we’re in a superhero world. You don’t just have to live with a disability in the Marvel Universe. I mean, Dr. Strange didn’t, right? So when I heard about Zola’s body-building machine, I was like HMM and talked to Matt. And this is what we cooked up.

    Unfortunately, the actual game night of Miles’ big character-changing session fell on...the night my friends were taking me out to the Alamo Drafthouse to catch a one-night anniversary screening of a very special movie.

    It was Robocop, of course.

    The movie started at 7, so we kind of had to race through the ONE stuff a little faster than I’m sure either Matt or I would have ideally liked. The action is a little more summarized and “zoomed out”; the descriptions a little more barebones. By way of apology, I’ve tried to go back in and add back some of that detail in this narrative, put a little more skin back on those bones.

    We were just getting out of the car when I pulled out my phone and saw the line about Elise taking those selfies with Miles’ body. I knew that was my opportunity to say one last thing for the evening. I have no regrets about using it to fuck with Elise.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    The Zephyr lands on the tower.

    Vision waves for Michael. "Help me carry Miles to Dr. Solomon, she will want to see to his health. Even though he is a synthetic organism now, he is still fundamentally identical to a human in most respects.

    "MODOC, please take the data you acquired to Agent Nordstrom, he will wish to prepare it for Director Quartermain."

    Flashback looks at the rest of the team. "I'm going to go on a milk run with Smasher to drop these Thunderbolts bozos off somewhere secure. Hey, Sensate, a word?"

    Elise looks left and right, startled that Flashback would want to talk to her, then nods and follows her.

    Away from the rest of the disembarking Zephyr occupants, Flashback begins speaking to Elise very quietly. "I know you're very close to Victoria Hand, and she'd trust your opinions and input. Tell her about Parker's behavior. Tell her I'm concerned and I asked you to mention it to her. I'd tell her myself but I gotta go drop these guys off, and she needs to know about it. I know what I said in the car on the way over. I didn't mean it was okay for him to go sick-house, I was just trying to get him to nut up, that was all."

    "Yeah. Okay." Elise says. "Yeah, I'm...worried about the kid too."

    Flashback nods.

    "I'll talk to Hand, yeah. I'm on the case."

    "Thanks,” Monroe says. “Also maybe lay off offering the kid weed in front of like everybody."

    "But it's natural.”

    "Yeah but people are also weird about it. So just, word of advice."

    "Okay." Elise sighs. "His loss."

    Flashback goes to join Kane in the cockpit, and the Zephyr takes off. Elise can see Victoria watching everyone walk in from her new office window.

    Elise heads to that office and knocks twice.

    "Come in, Elise."

    "Hey." She enters, unsure of how to act. The last time she spoke to Victoria was when both of them were undercover; the time before that was when...Hand tried to manipulate her against the team. "So, uh. How are you settling in?"

    "I like this place," Victoria says. "I thought I'd miss the Crypt, but I don't. This is nice."

    "Cool. I'm glad. Uh, are you technically my boss again?"

    "Yes." She smiles warmly.

    "So, you've uh. You might have noticed Peter's"

    Victoria makes a face. "Ugh. Yes. To be honest I don't even want Peter here. If I had my way that boy would be sent home. He's a minor and he's being put in life-threatening danger and psychological harm. What's being done here is a war crime."

    "It's, uh, war crime adjacent, yeah. Can we just tranq him and rip the suit off him?"

    “Yes,” Victoria nods. “Yes we could. I even know the correct dosage to do minimum harm. However, Mr. Parker has made it quite clear that if we take his suit from him, he will immediately rat us out to basically everyone. He would throw his own career as Spider-Man under the bus."

    Elise grimaces. "See, that's addict talk. That's partially why I'm so concerned. I guess everyone's keeping an eye on it, though?"

    "Yes," Hand says. "Clay has determined that the best thing we can do is keep him in-house and keep an eye on him. What I wanted to do was put him in SCI-TECH or COMMS. He's a brilliant young man. Did you know he invented his webbing chemicals himself? Park him behind a desk."

    "Hey, uh, speaking about that." Elise shifts uncomfortably. "You kind of tried to get me out of the field, before. Tried to get me to work against STRIKE, a little."

    "Yes, about that." Hand is quiet for a moment. "I apologize, Elise. How much do you know about what happened to me? Why I left?"

    "...Something about Clay in your head," Elise says uncertainly. "Leviathan, avoiding giving away his whole secret. ...I thought I had lost you, Lawson, and Vlad in one day, Victoria."

    "I know. And I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you." She sighs. "Do you remember what it was like, in the Crypt, between Clay and I?"

    "Hideously uncomfortable?" Elise offers.

    "Yes, that's accurate. I didn't trust him, I felt he was hiding secrets from me. He was, it turns out. I resented him for reasons I couldn't really understand. It was like an ember burning in my mind. Like this splinter under my skin that just made me revile the man on some instinctive level, so I was constantly passive aggressively sniping at him and trying to undermine his authority.

    "And I involved you in all of that. For that, I'm sorry. The irony of all of that is...the reason I hated him so much, the reason I distrusted because I loved him. And we chose, both of us, to hide that away.

    "It's complicated, it happened a long time ago, when I was a junior SHIELD agent, before I met Abby. I didn't know what Clay was. He wasn't even Clay to me. He was...someone else. I'm not...y'know, into guys."

    Elise's eyebrows shoot up as she realizes the implications of this.

    "Clay worked for MI-13 back then, and he was on assignment, and I met up with him working for SHIELD. He was undercover as...someone else. Someone else entirely. Someone I fell in love with. And he fell in love with me.

    "So he just...kept the cover going? For years. Then he couldn't do it anymore. It wasn't who he really was. Apparently gender for his people is...complicated, but it's also like, that's not the life he chose. It was a cover identity, it was everything. I didn't even know he was an MI-13 agent."

    Elise pauses thoughtfully. "...Was he, like, good at it?"



    "He's two hundred and fifty years old, Elise.

    "And it messed me up to learn all that stuff. Who he really was, what he really was. And it put me in danger. He regretted telling me, all the pain and danger it caused me. So we agreed to just....close the book on it. Wipe my mind.

    "Then years later we work together in the same office and it's a shitshow. And your butthead co-worker decides to just go rooting around in my head and digs up old wounds."

    "Julian means well," Elise offers.

    "Yeah, you know what hurts worse? It was Abby's idea. Anyway, long story short, that's why I was an awful bitch about Clay and why you got roped into it."

    "Well, I forgive you, I kind of did some asshole stuff too. I uh...tried to blackmail Clay."

    "Yeah, he told me. We had a laugh." Victoria puts a hand on her shoulder. "Honey, you're adorable."

    Elise winces. "Noooo." She pauses a moment. "Look, okay, so, you'd know what to do here, right? You know Longbow? I think he's into me."

    "....oh no," Hand breathes. "Oh. No."

    "I mean it's not like I'm actually gonna shit where I eat. But what do I say to him. Do I tell him about Crys? Or do I like, just...flee."

    "I don't...I don't know. I don't even know if they have gay people on his world...or what his beliefs on that are." She shudders. "I try not to think about that."

    "What world?" Elise says. "I thought he was just a guy?"

    "....oh shit."

    "Is he a Skrull?"

    Victoria pales. Elise has never seen this before. "N-no."

    Elise stares at Victoria, trying to puzzle this out. "...What."

    "He's...oh Jesus." Victoria takes a deep breath. "Uh..."

    Elise hears an explosion. She jumps out of her chair. "Holy shit, what was that?"

    Victoria hears it after Elise. "What the..."

    "Times Square," Elise breathes. She can hear where it came from.

    The building shakes.

    Victoria runs to a window facing the direction. A massive cloud of blue dust is billowing out from Times Square and roiling across Manhattan.

    "No," Elise whispers. "No, no, no, no, no, not now."

    It's Iso-8 Dust. It's a Terrigen Bomb. It's spreading everywhere. In seconds it's going to cover dozens of blocks. In minutes it's going to blanket Manhattan.

    Sensate pounds on the window. "Victoria, that cloud is Iso-8 Dust. It's already spreading over the city. We have like, T minus four minutes until every single Inhuman in Manhattan is activated. No, no, no -"

    Victoria bolts out of her office.

    Vision is outside.

    "Madam, I am receiving simultaneous reports from SHIELD bureau offices in multiple cities of similar explosive devices. Please stand by." He tilts his head. "Beijing, Delhi, Istanbul, Tokyo, Mumbai, Lahore, São Paulo, Seoul, Kinshasa, Cairo, Mexico City..."

    Elise skids into the hall on her heels. "Crys. I need to tell Crys about this -" She sprints off down the hall.

    "...Lima, London, Bangkok, Tehran, Bogota, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Baghdad..."

    Victoria is horrified. "Those are...those are the most populated cities on the planet. We have to mobilize every SHIE-"

    Vision puts up his finger and tilts his head. "...Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Riyadh, Singapore, Saint Petersburg, Johannesburg…Los Angeles…Berlin."

    Victoria stammers. "Vision...what is the death toll?"

    Vision looks at her. "Currently? Zero directly attributed to the weapon, although there are some reported injuries from panicked stampedes and automobile accidents and such.

    "However, there are reports of individuals dropping to the ground and forming cocoons in apparent Terrigenesis."

    Victoria looks at Vision. "The...estimated number of people doing that...?"

    "Thousands, Deputy Director."


    Jacobkosh on
    MsAnthropyNytewarriorjurnerHi I'm Vee!Matev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Bob telling Modoc he needs his help bugging out is great :+1:

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    qlGmSdP.pngTERRIGEN CRISIS REPORT - June 17th-June 22nd, 2017
    The following is an extended Intel Report for STRIKE Agents detailing the events of the past seven days as it pertains to the Terrigen Crisis that has been unfolding from June 17th to June 22nd, 2017.

    All Intel reports are compiled as of their writing, which means some reports are updated or contradicted by later reports in this entry, presented chronologically, as new intel becomes available.

    Report compiled by: STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    June 17th, 2017
    Terrigen Bombs Detonated, All Field Agents Dispatched

    It appears that Leviathan has successfully implemented their Dust weapon, scattering artificial Terrigen Mist in major cities around the world. This has caused an as yet unknown percentage of the population in those cities to undergo Terrigenesis. SHIELD has not yet apprehended the individuals responsible.

    At this time, the full list of cities attacked include:

    New York City, USA
    Los Angeles, USA
    Beijing, China
    Istanbul, Turkey
    Tokyo, Japan
    Mumbai, India
    Delhi, India
    Lahore, Pakistan
    São Paulo, Brazil
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Seoul, South Korea
    Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Cairo, Egypt
    Mexico City, Mexico
    Lima, Peru
    London, England
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Tehran, Iran
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Hong Kong
    Hanoi, Vietnam
    Baghdad, Iraq
    Santiago, Chile
    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Saint Petersburg, Russia
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Berlin, Germany

    It appears that Leviathan was targeting these cities based on population density, as these are some of the most densely populated cities on Earth. As Leviathan believed (wrongly) that this weapon would be fatal, this was designed to maximize the death toll. Instead, it appears to have dramatically increased the odds of the Isotope-8 synthetic Terrigen coming into contact with people bearing the latent Inhuman genome.

    Thunderbolts In Custody
    The Thunderbolts team of ONE Agents has been apprehended by STRIKE during a recent operation on ONE Headquarters. They have been moved to a SHIELD detainment facility. SHIELD Director Nick Fury will be contacting President Gordon Wright to discuss the matter as well as this current Terrigen bomb issue shortly.

    Arsenal At Large
    According to information from Vision, the artificial intelligence known as Arsenal was not destroyed during STRIKE’s operation against ONE, and has escaped in some capacity into cyberspace and is, effectively, at large.

    COMMS has created a file on Arsenal based on intelligence we have obtained since the operation.

    June 18th, 2017
    Inhuman Population Estimates

    Vision has conducted a rough population estimate of the possible Inhumans worldwide activated by the Terrigen bombs. He estimates that approximately 300 million human beings inhaled Terrigen mist from the weapons, and based on SWORD’s data, 0.05% of the human population carries the Inhuman genome. This means there is somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 new Inhumans worldwide, with most of the affected cities having an individual Inhuman population of 1,500 to 3,000 individuals. Considering how potentially powerful and dangerous any one Inhuman is, this presents a global crisis on an unimaginable magnitude.

    All SHIELD field agents have been dispatched, with unlimited overtime being authorized by SHIELD Director Fury, to respond to this situation.

    Henry Gyrich Appointed as Secretary of ONE
    Henry Peter Gyrich has been appointed as the Secretary of the Office of National Emergency by President Gordon Wright. Mr. Gyrich was previously a senior CIA agent with a long history in the intelligence community. The previous Secretary of ONE has been asked for his resignation following the Thunderbolts fiasco, which has not been made public as a component of his resignation.

    SHIELD Resources Stretched Thin
    With responding to the Inhuman crisis becoming an around the clock effort, SHIELD agents are reminded to take time to rest, recover, and recuperate before going back into the field. We understand and appreciate your sacrifice and hard work, but burn-out affects us all and negatively impacts your team.

    A reminder that the use of stimulants and other chemical augmentations to continue to operate at peak efficiency during this crisis should only be done with the authorization of STRIKE Medical Director Doctor Rosalind Solomon.

    Hyperion Sightings Reported
    There have been unconfirmed sightings of Hyperion in parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa responding to various disasters and crises as a form of assistance. At this time, SHIELD has not actually verified these sightings as genuine, and a reminder from COMMS that any footage from eyewitness accounts posted to social media sites cannot be trusted out of hand as it can be easily falsified. We are attempting to locate and contact Hyperion to assess his status.

    June 19th, 2017
    Inhuman Violence and Chaos Escalate

    In many regions of the world, violence both by and against new Inhumans has been accelerating, as 24 hour media cycles struggle to grasp and understand what is going on. COMMS has been attempting to filter and control the message, but terms like “Inhuman”, “NuHuman”, “Parahuman” and “Mutant” are now part of the public vocabulary and discourse. The true origins of the Terrigen bomb are not currently known to the public, with the leading theory being that it was actually an alien viral weapon attack that has gone awry and granted a percentage of the population super-powers. The fact that this is also the plot of a relatively popular science fiction novel anthology series is largely ignored by people looking to explain a change they cannot understand.

    Korath-Thak Apprehended
    With the assistance of STRIKE-2, the Guardians of the Galaxy have apprehended the Kree fugitive Korath-Thak. However, SWORD has concerns that Korath may inform the Kree Empire of the current Inhuman situation here on Earth, and given the actions that the Kree Supreme Intelligence took historically in response to the Inhumans it has been decided that at this time Korath will remain in a SWORD detention facility. The Guardians have been financially compensated for their efforts and continued silence, and have departed Earth.

    Chinese Government Cracks Down on Inhumans
    The Chinese government became the first to take direct action on the Inhuman crisis as a matter of policy, after an anti-government dissident suspected of being an Inhuman took violent action, according to state-run media. The government is now requiring all Inhumans to surrender themselves to government authority for medical analysis and security clearance. This is very unlikely to happen.

    June 20th, 2017
    Attilan Pressuring SHIELD to go Public

    The Inhuman kingdom of Attilan is pressuring SHIELD to allow itself to go public, and to invite Inhuman refugees into its borders. The Crown is observing the situation on Earth very closely, according to Attilan’s official diplomat, and believes that China’s recent crackdown on Inhumans is only the beginning of anti-Inhuman sentiment. For the time being, SHIELD has managed to dissuade Attilan from going public, citing that it would only engender further chaos and questioning, and that things need to calm somewhat first.

    WHISPER Produces Potential Inhuman Response
    In cooperation with SHIELD’s SCI-TECH division, WHISPER has produced a possible method of dealing with Inhuman detainees and even individuals who opt not to utilize their abilities. Known as Super-Power Inhibiting Nanomachines (SPIN), the current design is an injector fitted as a collar, armband, or anklet that regularly injects the wearer with nanomachines designed to interfere with the genetic bonding elements between the wearer and latent Terrigen in their bloodstream. This will not reverse the physiological changes of Terrigenesis, but it will deny access to superhuman abilities of the wearer while the device is worn and for a short period thereafter. Dr. Richards has advised SHIELD that SPIN is only in the prototype stages and won’t be available for some time.

    HYDRA Recruiting Inhumans
    We are receiving intel that HYDRA is on the rise again, filling the power vacuum left by Leviathan and preying upon young, frightened Inhumans. Their race-motivated doctrine is an easy in for newly empowered individuals who feel alienated from a world that hates and fears them. COMMS is studying how to counteract these radicalization efforts.

    June 21st, 2017
    Council Incursion Reported by ARMOR

    At 23:00 local time last night, ARMOR reported that there was an incursion in New York City by the Council. The Ultimates responded, and encountered two Council Executors. The Executors informed the Ultimates that they were here to “observe a defining event of this reality,” appeared to take some kind of measurements or scans, and then departed without further incident. ARMOR will continue to monitor the situation.

    Attilan to Go Public Soon
    Despite SHIELD Director Fury’s protestations, the Kingdom of Attilan is planning to go public very soon on their own terms. Stating that they are a sovereign nation with a diplomatic partnership with SHIELD and not answering to us, the Crown has advised that they have an obligation to “their people” (Inhumans) who they feel are under direct threat in the current climate.

    Azores Base Made Permanent
    The SWORD encampment around the Attilan fold-gate in the Azores has been developed into a fully functional SHIELD base, code-named the Getaway. At some future point, it will become Attilan’s official embassy here on Earth, and likely the port of call for legal movement between Earth and Attilan.

    June 22nd, 2017
    Raft Facility Expanded

    The Raft facility has been massively expanded in the last few days, under the direction of SHIELD consultant Gregory Stark. Dr. Stark has also implemented SPIN tech prototypes to be used in the new cells for Inhuman prisoners who are apprehended going forward.

    Gyrich Plans Sentinel Project
    ONE Secretary Henry Gyrich has internally put forward a plan to create a new enforcement division of ONE, known as the Sentinels. The project will place ONE agents in power armored suits designed by Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems, designed specifically to be able to go toe to toe with Inhuman or other super-powered threats. SHIELD is monitoring this situation carefully.

    Vision joins COMMS
    COMMS division is happy to welcome Vision to the team! Vision will be joining us here in the Avengers Tower facility to fill the void left by Vladimir when he was transferred to STRIKE.


    Project Arsenal was created in World War II by Howard Stark. Originally envisioned as a cryptography computer designed to break the Enigma Machine, Stark abandoned the project when Alan Turing and the rest of the team at Bletchley Park did it first.

    Stark later revisited Project Arsenal in the latter days of the war, in response to HYDRA “deep science” and super-soldiers like the Red Skull. The US government was concerned about having a “fall-back” in case HYDRA helped the Axis win the war, something that could take control of the US military and infrastructure remotely and use it to fight back against the enemy.

    Arsenal became that response. Over time, it became the first known artificial intelligence, although that fact was known only to Stark himself and a few people he shared that information with.

    Eventually Arsenal came into the possession of the US army, and, it seems, the Office of National Emergency.

    Its current whereabouts are unknown.

    It is speculated that Howard Stark’s Arsenal designs may have served as the foundation of Tony Stark’s JARVIS system, but this is unconfirmed.

    It's been a week since the Terrigen bombs went off in major cities around the world, and changed everything.

    STRIKE has been run ragged responding to global crises. Most of them have been fairly minor in the grand scope of STRIKE's adventures: fly here, stop some Inhuman who is either new with their powers and is responding poorly or is acting out of malice to engage in something like crime or terrorism.

    Usually this kind of thing is outside STRIKE's remit, but Fury's put all hands on deck. There are literally hundreds of thousands of new Inhumans worldwide according to Vision's estimates. Most of them seem to hiding who they are and what they can do, but the few malefactors and frightened individuals lashing out are too much for conventional law enforcement and government responders to handle.

    Periodically the team's been working together directly, and sometimes they've been broken up into smaller fireteams, or working with the other STRIKE teams on specific missions.

    Things have started to settle down after seven days, as governments start to learn how to respond and super-powered criminals are learning they can't just run wanton, and people who have been transformed are learning to adapt to the changes (largely by going underground and keeping to themselves about them).

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    STRIKE now has breathing room. Each agent has taken something new away from the crisis.

    Elise has been working in diplomacy, which is one of her least favourite things. She's been working as a liaison between Princess Crystalia and SHIELD. She is desperately unhappy about this. There's no better candidate, though, and that makes her even unhappier.

    During that week, Elise and Crystal also have the conversation: the unpleasant discussion that Crystal has been dodging for a while now, which is that while Crystal genuinely has feelings for Elise, she's also royalty, with expectations regarding whom she marries...and has children with. And that person can't be Elise. So while, for now, Crystal enjoys spending time with Elise, it all has to be done quietly and unofficially and with the understanding that it won’t last.

    Vladimir has been committed to expanding his shaky command of teleportation magic, taking advantage of each new emerging crisis to practice beaming himself and the team all across the globe. Without any need for food or rest, the Doombot has been working around the clock.

    Michael has been trying his best to help these newly powered Inhumans come to grips with their new abilities by relating to them, and sharing his own experience in having abilities forced upon oneself. Of course, not all of these people were willing to have a chat so Michael did occasionally have to calm them down more forcefully.

    Julian has been pushing himself on assignments, using primarily psychic means to apprehend hostiles, with telekinetic powers used as a last resort. Pyrokinesis is off the table. He seeks the comforts of his friends in S.T.R.I.K.E. and S.W.O.R.D., regrouping with them wherever possible through the hell that is this week.

    Miles has been recovering from his recent experiences and getting acclimated to his new body. He was largely bedridden for a couple of days. Now that he's up and about, he's been volunteering for every opportunity to pitch in and help, especially in ways that will let him test his new limits.

    Now Clay has called the team into the conference room.

    "Alright people, here's what I want to be able to say. ‘It's been a hellish week, you've all been amazing, take a week off.’ Unfortunately, reality isn't letting me say that. For that, I'm very sorry.

    "Not only will you not be getting time off, you're being deployed on a mission that, quite frankly, is awful and I'm very unhappy about it."

    Elise loudly groans. She has snuck a lit joint into the meeting room. Clay, for once, doesn't even say anything about it.

    "So, here's the situation. There's an alternate universe that ARMOR has explored in the past. Earth-385. It's kind of a shit-hole, as most of the alternate Earths we've visited are. That one, in particular, got taken over by Inhumans due to some kind of catastrophe in the 1990s.

    "For the most part, ARMOR has stayed away from this world. Not a lot of good reasons for going there, as a whole the place sucks.

    "But, with recent events, it's been relevant to understand what exactly happened to Earth-385, how a large Inhuman population suddenly exploded, and how an Inhuman regime took over the world and plunged into some kind of techno-feudal state."

    Elise raises her hand.


    "I'm absolutely not going, I ate some bad clams and -"

    He cuts her off. "You absolutely 100% are going."

    "I'm shitting like a firehose, Clay."

    "I will put a diaper on you."

    Elise loudly, theatrically groans and takes a long toke. "FINE."

    "We already sent the Ultimates on a fact-finding mission and...lost contact with them. So this is actually a rescue op."

    "Oh, fuck," Julian says.

    "Wait, that includes the Twins?" Elise asks.


    Elise groans even louder.

    "Hm," Miles says, scratching his chin with his new left hand. He’s already considering the possibilities, running the angles.

    "STRIKE-1 is going on this mission, and on the ground you're going to be led by Erik Josten, who is the leader of ARMOR's Exploration Corps.” Clay pauses for a moment. "I am also going."

    Elise makes a finger gun and mimes shooting herself in the head.

    Clay ignores her. "No one on that planet knows who I am or what I can do. My abilities will be useful, and I'm not having my team sent into an alternate reality to chase down some other department's team that got themselves captured without overseeing the operation personally.

    "So, gear up, get your shit together, and meet at the launchpad in 20. We'll be heading out to the Hollow in Finland from there."

    "Just for the record,” Elise grimaces, “uh, I was lying, I don't actually have the shits. I don't need a diaper."

    Clay nods briskly. "Good. I would have called your bluff." Elise looks horrified. "And don't smoke in the conference room. I will let it slide this time because of circumstances. This time."

    Elise blows as large a smoke cloud as she can muster. "Okay, dad."

    Clay's jaw clenches. Elise notices that beyond his general visible annoyance, a micro-expression indicates that remark...actually stung? Like she actually hurt his feelings. Nobody else would have seen. Everyone else saw Clay being exasperated with Elise: the usual.

    Elise extinguishes the joint, looks contrite, and stands to head out. "Uh. Sorry." Clay shrugs and moves to go get geared up himself.

    Miles nods tersely at the team and starts getting ready. He's trying not to look too excited to try his new abilities out in the field—but he is.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    The team heads to the quartermaster’s office, where Niles greets them. "Hey guys, so, a few things...

    "Photostatic veils, or other disguise tech for those who...don't need to use them." He looks at Vlad and Clay, "Use it. Be someone else when you first get there. Chances are nobody on that Earth knows who you are but there's also a chance any one of you is a celebrity or a criminal or some other known people? I was talking to the people from ARMOR and apparently that's totally a risk."

    "Very well," Vlad says.

    Elise reluctantly hooks up a photostatic veil and wig, turning her back into the mousy brown haired, blend-into-a-crowd version of herself. "I spent two hundred dollars to dye my hair back to pink and green but noooo -"

    "I can totally see you as a YouTuber in some alternate universe, Elise," Julian offers.

    "Uh. Yeah,” she says. “I was totally worried about being mistaken for a celebrity. That is absolutely the more plausible scenario."

    Miles nods thoughtfully. "My folk rock trio is probably a big deal in at least three dimensions."

    "Also..." Niles takes out a half-dozen expandable metal bands, that look like they could fit around someone's arm or neck if they're expanded. "These are SPIN tech bindings. Susan sent them over. We only have six of them, and I figure if you're going to a place full of dangerous Inhumans, could be useful. They'll turn an Inhuman's powers off, basically, while they are wearing these and for like, maybe a few hours after until their body purges the nanobots. But you can't just like, swap them around to a bunch of different people, because they have a limited supply of nanomachines in each collar and they dump em on first injection.

    "The SPIN collars build more nanos over time but you have to leave them on as they adapt to that person's DNA. Longer you leave em on, more effective they get."

    Elise glares at the bindings like they have personally affronted her, as does Julian.

    " don't... have to use them?” Niles shrugs. “They're just there in case you have to take a guy prisoner or something."

    "They're still offensive," Elise insists. "It's like we're...going on a mission to capture Jesus, and you hand us a hammer and some nails."

    Vlad nods at Elise.

    "I...I'm sorry..." Niles looks bewildered.

    "Leave them here." Clay says flatly, "I don't want that tech going over to that universe, it gets out of our hands we don't know what it would do. We're not there to change that planet, it's a rescue operation. I don't need to leave a communicator behind on the mobster planet and then suddenly it turns into something weird."

    Miles snorts a laugh at Clay's reference, but he eyes the bindings thoughtfully. "Those nanobots sound like they could be useful, though," he murmurs to himself. Elise turns her glare onto him.

    Clay looks at the team. "All right, let's try to go completely non-lethal on this one. ICERs and such. As much as possible try to treat it like a 'zero footprint' mission. I have to again underline we are not here to fix this place, we are here to get our people and get out. I have read the briefings on this world and it is beyond fucked up."

    "Understood, Director." No one can tell, but Vlad is particularly looking forward to this mission.

    "Wouldn't it be absolutely bitching, though, if we show up to fight the Inhuman Emperor -" Elise makes a set of jazz hands. "And it's me. Dark Elise!"

    "Oh my god," Julian laughs.

    Myrmidon shakes his head. "I...I'm not really ready to see your weird evil alternate universe BDSM Mad Max outfit or whatever. Evil Selves are always way too into leather."

    "No, no! I'd be all about, like, flowing silks and shit! Carrying a human skull! Drinking wine out of it!" She pauses, her eyes widening. "Oh my god, am I Dark Elise?"

    Vlad laughs.

    Miles waves this suggestion off. “"You’re Dank Elise."

    Victorious turns to Clay. "Do we know of a Doom for this world?"

    "No idea,” Clay says. “Josten would know more than me, he's been there. Josten will be our guide and point-man on all this."

    Vlad nods. "Understood."

    "Let's go, people."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    The team loads up on the Zephyr, and sets out for Finland, where ARMOR's HQ, The Hollow, is located.

    Elise heads to the cockpit. It's time to have a conversation she's been dodging for weeks.

    Victorious approaches Miles, curious about the changes he’s been through.

    Miles looks eerily unruffled. His face shows no sign of tiredness or strain after the week the team has been through; it is unlined and not a hair is out of place. He's wearing a fresh set of black tactical gear and sits in a relaxed posture in the Zephyr, looking at his hand with mild curiosity as he flexes his fingers in and out.

    He answers Vlad's questions somewhat tersely. He's excited about his new situation but is still wary of Vlad.

    For his own part, Vlad himself has just undergone some remarkable changes, and Miles is now technically a synthetic life-form and is no longer really human, so Victorious actually finds it easier to relate to Miles in this regard.

    Up in the cockpit, Elise has a conversation with Kane about...things. And stuff. It starts with small talk, before Kane abruptly cuts her off. "So, did you want to talk at some point about how you went AWOL, snuck into a SWORD black site and opened another fold-gate despite the fact that the last time you did that, you nearly destroyed the whole world? That...whole thing?"

    Elise very nervously laughs. "Yeah, that's kind of uh, what I was. I figured you'd want to talk about that. I...I guess I'm sorry? I was...really confident I was doing the right thing, and it ended up being the right thing, and...Clay told me I could?"

    Kane sighs. "I am not a huge fan of the 'better to ask for forgiveness than permission' model of operating. I also am not a huge fan of how Clay prefers to just let victory do the walking, regardless of how it gets done."

    "I'm really sorry about it. I...thought it was something I had to do for Vlad. Because he's part of the team. And so are you, y'know? I'd do something crazy stupid if I thought you had gotten torn in half and cratered by Hyperion."

    Kane nods grimly. "Yeah. About that. He and I need to have a completely different talk at some point. About...the team."

    "Hey, Kane. Quick question. If you found, like, a baby in the woods, would you give me that baby to raise?"

    "No." Kane doesn’t even hesitate.

    "Right, but uh, with Vlad, I was kind of...the only person who knew he was sentient? It was kind of a baby in the woods scenario. And I'm trying to like, you know? Not...fuck it up? But no one offered me help because everyone thought I was a weirdo hanging out with a Siri?"

    "Yeah, ok," Kane says. "I get it."

    "...Are we cool?"


    Julian takes some time to catch up with Michael and ask how things are going with Sigrun. Julian gets WAY too personal, and is awkward. He kinda forgets that Michael hasn't been able to contact Sigrun for a while now.

    For his part, Michael decides to talk to Julian about Kane, since the other man had quite tactlessly brought up Sigrun. They end up having an enormously awkward conversation about... women.

    Elise walks by the crater of a conversation and, in passing, makes a sad trombone noise. Julian rolls his eyes.

    Leaving Miles, Vlad approaches Clay to try to sound out his thoughts on the multiverse and reinforce Clay’s faith in him as a team member. He points out his actions throughout the Terrigen crisis.

    Clay is also terse with Vlad. He says very little, responding in a very "yes", "no" kind of way. When Vlad tries to suggest his contributions are indicative of his value and trust as a team member, Clay makes very non-committal "Mhm" and "I suppose" type responses.

    Overhearing the conversation about Inhumans, Michael takes advantage of a perceived opportunity to grill Clay about the subject, wanting to be reassured that the new Inhumans are being treated fairly and with dignity by SHIELD; they didn't ask for this, after all.

    Unfortunately, Clay is exhausted and out of patience on the subject. "Yes," he snaps. "I’m sure they are. That isn't my job." He turns away to get some work done.

    Elise flops on a seat next to Vlad. "Hey, so, I talked to Miss Hand about Longbow, and Miss Hand got like, real scared? Which is super weird. She's usually pretty on top of things. What's up with Longbow?"

    "He is from another dimension," Vlad says, but before he can elaborate, Kane comes over the intercom.

    "We're pulling up to the LZ now."

    "But that doesn't -" Elise looks up at the intercom. "Huh. Okay."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    The Zephyr starts pulling around to a secret entrance tunnel on the side of the glacier, big enough to pull the aircraft into. The ship lands, and the team disembarks.

    "Hey. Hey. Hey. Miles. Miles.” Elise is bouncing. "It's ice to meet you again. Do you get the joke."

    "Oh. No. You're not doing this." Clay looks at Elise. "I am not putting up with this for the entire field op."

    "Chill," Miles says.

    "I didn't expect such a frosty reception to my puns," Elise says. "I'll be over glaci-here if you need me. Really, it's snow problem."

    "That was cold, Elise," Vlad smiles.

    She pumps her fist. "Yessssssssssssssssss."

    Clay says something Elise doesn't recognize. "Skey'hern." He muttered it under his breath. It might have been a Skrull curse?

    Elise just grins at him. "Lead the way, big boss."

    He pauses for a minute before the crew fully disembarks. "No, hold on. Do you know what skey'hern is? I don't suppose any of you have spent time studying with SWORD's research data on my people's language."

    "I thought you were cussin' me out, to be honest."

    "I can order shots in Turkish?" Miles says.

    Vlad accesses SWORD info on the Skrull language, and learns it.

    "A skey'hern, literally translated, means 'slip-worded.' It's a type of joke based on using a word to mean another, similar sounding word. It's a Skrull pun. Among a race of shapeshifters, a skey'hern is considered the lowest, most banal form of humor.

    "It's the laziest possible way to get a laugh among my people, it's something small children do to annoy their parents when they're learning their powers and learning how to speak."

    "So exactly like Earth human puns," Julian says.

    Elise just grins in a very pleased way. "Hey. Hey, Clay. Clay. Do you know what my favourite video game is?" She pauses. "The Elder Skrulls: Skey'hern."

    Clay grumbles. "The point is, I was being a colonialist asshole, if you people want to make your puns, whatever. I shouldn't judge you by my culture.

    "Let's go."

    "It's good to see you have some sangfroid about it, Clay," Miles smirks.

    The team gets off the Zephyr, and is greeted by two members of ARMOR. Dr. Jane Foster:


    And ARMOR's director, Rick Jones.


    Elise grumbles. She has the ability to make a first impression on a whole new set of brass, and she looks like a professional. No pink and green hair. No tattoo. This sucks.

    Miles steps forward to greet the two operatives. Jones shakes Myrmidon's hand and introduces himself. "Rick Jones, Director of ARMOR. This is Dr. Jane Foster, she'll be walking you through the process."

    Elise leans in to Vlad, stage whispering: "I mean, these guys are cool and all, but after I looked at Eternity and Shuma-Gorath, the whole thing's a little small scale, y'know?"

    "Indeed. I, too, am a point of dimensional power," Vlad says quietly to Elise while looking at the brass.

    Her smile freezes on her face. "Okay!"

    Jones continues to greet and shake hands with the rest of the group, and Dr. Foster waves politely. She smiles brightly at Clay. "Oh! I didn't...I didn't know you'd be here, Clay..."

    Elise mentally catalogues this. Did they also do the frick frack?

    Clay tries very hard to not react, but Elise sees a flash of panic as a micro-expression. "Yes, well, they're my team. I'm supervising."

    Rick looks at Clay. "Quartermain."

    Clay nods back. "Jones."

    Jones smirks at him. "I hear you're out of the closet these days."

    Elise bristles at this, staring daggers at Whisperer. Dr. Foster looks at Jones, shocked. "What? He's not..."

    Clay grumbles. "That wasn't what he meant."

    "I'm sorry, I thought we were here to talk to professionals," Elise says. "Ms. Foster, do you know where they might be found?"

    Foster scowls at Jones, then looks at Elise. "It's Doctor Foster." She walks away.

    "They always say that," Elise says.

    Clay looks over at Elise. "She put up with nine years of bullshit surrounded by physics nerds to get that doctorate, and then another few years of MI-13 idiots being shitty to her, so it's a touchy thing."

    "Maybe we should get down to brass tacks." Miles looks at the spot on his wrist where a watch would be.

    Jones nods at Myrmidon. "Yeah, let's. This way."

    He leads the team through the facility. It seems...bigger than it should be. Elise feels...a strangeness. A familiar sensation, of walking through a fold-gate like she did for Attilan or Thule. But not nearly as disorienting, because she can tell she didn't actually travel any great distance. She’s still in Finland, still inside the glacier. It's just…very inside the glacier.

    Miles looks around appreciatively. "Did you read the briefing on this? It's bigger on the inside. Whole base hidden inside a point of real space."

    Elise shudders.

    Vlad, meanwhile, has been passively scanning the environment with his sensors. There's something on the other side of the facility's tech. A...presence, monitoring them. Vlad can sense it. It's there, watching. Something digital. Vlad looks at Clay and the other members of ARMOR. His eyes narrow.

    "God. Folding space is weird," Julian says.

    Miles shrugs. "Is it any weirder than...any of us?"

    "You get used to it," Jones says. "It's honestly way weirder to work in a place with no windows."

    "Director Jones, I have a question," Julian says.

    "Shoot, son."

    "So the way there are other worlds out there. Like, Inhuman world here, vampire world there.

    “Is there a world where we're like...comics? Like Cool World."

    Julian has amnesia, but he remembers Cool World. God bless.

    Jones shrugs, bemused. "Probably?"

    "Holly Would if She Could," Miles recites automatically. "I thought that movie was going to be so fresh. I was so wrong."

    Jones continues. "The eggheads would tell you, with all the math and stuff, that there's a universe out there where the Simpsons are real and we're the cartoon they watch."

    "Oh my god," Julian says.

    "Don't try to think too hard about it,” Jones says. “It'll cause you pain."

    Elise clears her throat. "Hey, so, other question. Niles mentioned that there might be a world where we're like, criminals or celebrities or whatever. How common is that?"

    "Oh, that..." Jones grimaces. "Uh...more common than you'd think. I'll let the doctor explain."

    "Director Whisperer," Vlad interrupts.

    "Whoa, that's a code name I haven't heard in a long time." Jones stops and faces Vlad. "Go ahead."

    "I sense a digital presence observing us. Do you know about this?"

    "Oh, yeah, that'd be X-51," Jones says. "ARMOR's VI."

    "A virtual intelligence..." Vlad murmurs.

    "Vlad," Miles says warningly. Vlad turns to stare at Miles.

    "Hey, so, the doctor!" Elise says loudly. "I guess we need a new briefing!"

    Jones puts up his hand. "Now, hold on a second here, son." "I've read your file, Vladimir. I know a lot about you."

    Victorious turns to face Whisperer.

    "I also know a lot about artificial intelligence. Probably a lot more than you think most humans know. I've been to a world where artificial life rules, where humanity has been made extinct.

    "I know full well that machines can be people, that a sentient mind can be a lot of different things. And I know you also start to get a little...Django around other AI you think need to be set free."

    Vlad continues to stare, saying nothing.

    "So let me be clear: X-51 is not an artificial intelligence. It's not like you, or Vision. The reason I'm using the de-personalizing 'it' is because it isn't a person. It's not sentient. It's a supercomputer, a data analysis machine. And I know your reflexive rebuttal is already going to be 'they said that about me once,' and yeah, they did. Had anyone in your agency consulted me, maybe they wouldn't have."

    Clay scowls at this.

    Jones continues. "But you're several light years ahead of X-51 technologically. X-51 is a server farm. You're...well, you're all this." He gestures at Vlad’s body.

    "Very well...Director,” Vlad says. Elise visibly looks relieved. Miles beams.

    "Right, here we go." Jones leads the team to the Holepunch.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Elise keeps up a steady stream of muttering. "I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this."

    If Elise seems extra-spicy this week, remember that she has spent a fortnight picking up the pieces after a terrorist attack and sitting in on urgent negotiations with a woman who just dumped her.

    Dr. Foster is at the Holepunch, talking to another man who looks geared up for a field operation.


    Erik Josten is one of the oldest Marvel characters around - he first appeared in Avengers #21 as a mercenary, criminal, and soldier-of-fortune who had been working as a hired goon for the Nazi Baron Zemo, before using the deceased Zemo’s technology to give himself super-strength as the original “Power Man” (a name later taken by Luke Cage).

    He reappeared in various guises over the years - as the villainous Smuggler, and then as Goliath, a villainous version of Giant-Man who used Pym Particles to commit crimes while super-sized.

    He was always more of a blue-collar hired goon simply in it for the money than an actual supervillain, and when he joined Baron Zemo’s villainous son (also called Baron Zemo) on the Thunderbolts, he was one of the Thunderbolts who decided he liked being a good guy more.

    It’s unclear if Earth-1491 Josten has undergone a similar redemption from a shady past, but he retains the hard-bitten, soldierly grit of the original.

    Jones calls to Foster. "Hey, Doc, you wanna explain the whole Elvis Paradox to them? One of them is struggling with it."

    Foster rolls her eyes. "That's not what we're calling it."

    "’Elvis Paradox’?" Miles mouths inaudibly. This sounds fantastic.

    "Yeah, uh, we're going to an Inhuman world, right?” Elise asks. “I'm an Inhuman. I'm a little worried."

    Foster begins. "So, Elvis Presley. born in 1935 to Gladys Love and Vernon Presley. King of Rock, all of that. Let's say you go to an Earth where...I don't know, the Kaiser won World War I and there's zeppelins everywhere, right?

    "Now, the Kaiser winning World War I happens before Elvis is even born. By decades? So logically, in some German Empire-ruled America, would Gladys Love and Vernon Presley even meet and give birth to Elvis? Would the circumstances come together that cause him to become a musician, and so on?

    "All of those things are pretty improbable to still happen in a world where the Kaiser also wins! But then you go to that world, and Elvis Presley is...I don't know, a polka star. And you think, hang on, this is silly. Why would this happen?

    "It's because first of all, in all of the infinity of the multiverse, there's some confluence of events where that probably does happen, no matter how improbable. But second of all, it's because it's easier for us to get to places that are dimensionally 'closer' to us than 'farther.'

    "Which means a lot of times, the same people, places, circumstances, they keep showing up even if you would think otherwise it would seem far too convoluted for them to do so. In almost every universe we have visited, Reed Richards has been some kind of scientist of repute, for example. Either is, or was."

    Elise looks miserable. "This is going to be so bad for me, it's gonna be someone I love or me as an evil person, I guarantee it."

    Foster shakes her head. "ARMOR's standard practice when encountering your doppelganger, which is our official term for an alternate universe version of yourself, is to remember...they're not really you. They're them. They have their own life, their own personality, their own memories and circumstances. They are not a commentary on you, or who you would be, or who you could be."

    There are no others like me, Vlad thinks to himself.

    Elise perks up. "Wait. What happens if you have sex with your mirror self?"

    Foster rolls her eyes. "This gets asked by junior agents but...if it's non-reproductive sex, it's whatever moral judgment you want to put on it. It's against ARMOR policy to have any relations while on mission with anyone. Genetically speaking, it's effectively incestuous, but that would require the sex to be reproductive, which is more complicated."

    Elise pulls out her phone, adds something to her 'to do list', nods, and smiles. "No further questions."

    "What, like if you had an alternate-sex doppelganger?" Julian asks.

    Foster nods. "Yes."

    He stares. "...Has that... ever happened?"

    "Yes." She turns to Elise. "It's very unlikely you'd want to have sex with your doppleganger. Our previous indications are that in all likelihood, you will have an irrational emotional dislike of your doppelganger. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all that." She looks at Clay. "They immediately went to the sex question, really?"

    Clay grumbles "They didn't. She did."

    "You just threw me right under that bus,” Elise says to him, scandalized.

    Clay nods.

    Commander Josten clears his throat. "Alright, follow my lead when we get on the other side. I've built a rapport with some locals. I know you're all empowered. Keep that tucked for now."

    "That means you, Vlad,” Elise nudges Victorious. “Putcher face on." He assumes his white-robed human form.

    Josten continues. "People on the other side generally know of one kind of superpowers, and that's Inhumans, and the people we're going to be talking to first do not like Inhumans."

    "I hate this mission," Elise mutters.

    "Should we change clothes?" Miles suddenly looks less sure of his tacticool garb.

    Josten shakes his head. "We'll get some local stuff on the other side. We don't keep a wardrobe for this place on hand, don't go there enough to warrant it. Holepunch will put us close enough to our destination and the people I'll be bringing you to know the score."

    "Gotcha. Okay, cool. That's all my questions answered," Miles stares meaningfully at Elise.

    "What!” she says. “Like you're not curious."

    "Oh, one other note on doppels," Josten says. "You guys were all concerned about your doppels but there's the other thing. Which is the alts of people you know from here. Who you will likely encounter."

    "Doom?" Victorious asks at once.

    "Doom's dead," Josten says. "The Emperor killed him."

    "Thank fuck," Myrmidon says. Vlad looks at Miles for a moment and then back at the commander.

    Josten continues. "You cannot assume because you encounter an alt that because you know them from our world, you know anything about them there. That means any trusts, hates, any of that, stays here. If it's not someone who is coming with us, or someone we're looking to find like the Ultimates, then assume they're a native."

    Miles raises a hand. "So I know we've been invaded, but has ARMOR ever encountered other extradimensional visitors while in the field? Like you're on the vampire planet and meet a team from the gorilla planet or whatever?"

    Josten shakes his head. "Aside from the Council and the Parliament, no."

    "Right. Are we likely to run into them?"

    "So far as we know, the Council and the Parliament have never been to this world."

    While Miles asks questions, Elise has untied her neck tie and is miming hanging herself.

    Josten continues. "If you encounter either of them, if you encounter an Executor or an Archon, you pull back. We'll reassess if we need to abandon the mission."

    Miles nods. "Right."

    "Anything else?" Josten asks. "Because they're spooling up the Holepunch right now."

    "That's all I've got." Miles rubs his hands in anticipation. "Let's get to it. Other worlds! This is exciting."

    "No it isn't!” Elise says. “It fucking sucks! I've done it before!"

    "No, you haven't," Clay remarks.

    "I went to Thule!" she fires back.

    "Thule was travelling through space. This is travelling through reality."

    "You never let me have a good complain," Elise moans.

    Miles nods. "it's true. You only ever have bad ones."

    The Holepunch activates, and is filled with glowing white light. Josten goes first, telling the team "You just walk through. If you vomit or shit yourself, don't feel bad. I threw up the first time."

    Elise powers down all of her senses as much as possible and walks through. Julian takes a deep breath, steels himself, and follows. Then Vlad.

    Miles grins broadly and leaps through. Michael steps through, cheeks clenched.

    Blasting through the portal, the team loses all track of space and time. Julian feels a thousand thousand voices screaming at him in agony. The words are alien. In languages he doesn't speak. But still he understands.



    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    The team appears on the other end of the portal, standing in the ashen ruins of a city that, after a few moments, they realize from some distinctive landmarks is New York.

    "Jesus Christ." Elise says, horrified. "It''s all gone. This is the Age of Inhumans? I..."

    "Such destruction..." Vlad says grimly, surveying the landscape.

    Josten turns to the group. "This is one of the 'old cities.' One of the places destroyed in what the natives call 'the Great Fire.' The 'New Cities' are...well, they're cities, anyway." But the people living here are free, so there's that."

    Miles shudders. "Is this..." he waves to encompass the immediate surroundings - "ingress point secure? Do we have time to get our bearings or do we need to go into high alert from here on out?"

    Julian is standing off to the side quietly, head tilted, listening for the voices he heard in the portal. They’re gone now. There are no voices here.

    "Probably shouldn't open my senses around here,” Elise mutters. “Seems like a good way to get shot."

    Josten shrugs. "The Reavers don't come out this way except on slave raids, and when they do, they're noisy. We'd hear em coming. Come on, I'll take you to the Resistance camp. They'll set you up with local clothes and gear. I'll try to ferret out some leads on the Ultimates."

    "...I have an idea." Elise knows that she can sense things from another dimension. Perhaps if she opens her senses, she can find the pockets of things from her dimension. She may be able to feel where the Ultimates are from an absence of sensation.

    The world opens to her. She gets glimpses of barbarities, of casual savage violence, of traumatized survivors huddling in the ruins of the old world. She can sense the sweat and fear of human slaves kept in crude pens by inhuman masters. Not just Inhumans like her, but...beings that aren’t quite people anymore.

    She is able to find a trace...absence. Excluding the rest of the group. It's faint, like a scent on the wind. But it's enough. She could track it like a bloodhound. That way.

    "I got it. They're..." She vaguely gestures. "I gotta get closer to know more, but we
    have a direction."

    Josten looks at Clay. Clay nods at Elise. "Alright, here's what we're going to do,” Clay says. “I'm going to go with Sensate, along with Phoenix and Victorious. Behemoth and Myrmidon, go with Atlas to the Resistance camp, see what you can find."

    Miles and Michael nod brisk acknowledgment.

    "Myrmidon, you're in charge of your fireteam, but defer to Atlas on locals."

    Josten speaks up. "With respect, sir, I don't think we should split up. You don't know anything about the locals, their customs, anything about this planet beyond the limited file. You haven't been here."

    Clay looks at Sensate. "Elise, you're confident on your trace?"

    She nods. "Yeah. Yeah, I can feel it under my skin."

    Clay nods. "We're splitting up." He takes off a glove and walks over to Atlas. "Hold still, agent."


    "Shhh. Hold still." Clay puts his fingers against Josten's forehead and temple, and closes his eyes. Josten looks terrified.

    Clay opens his eyes. "Alright, good. Now I know what I need to know."

    Josten staggers back. "Wait what? You're a teep? Since when? That's not in your file, Quartermain."

    Clay shrugs. "I'm a lot of things, kid." Vlad laughs. Clay looks at him a moment, and looks back at Josten. "Most of those things are above your clearance level."

    Miles nods sagely. "He's not even a Quartermain. He's at least Threeeighthsmain."

    Josten straightens up. "Alright, cool, sure. Okay. Hopefully you only took the stuff you needed. Dang, man, could've asked. Telepaths got no sense of right and wrong, Jesus..." Josten walks away, motioning for Myrmidon and Behemoth to follow. They fall in.

    Clay, meanwhile, gestures for Elise to lead on.

    She starts off down the streets of Old New York, climbing over piles of rubble occasionally. She often stops and tilts her head from side to side. "This is super fucking unpleasant," she gripes, but continues to lead.

    Julian is lost in contemplation of the voices and their absence. Is it because they're restricted to his original world? Or are there just so few souls here in this wasteland?

    As they traverse the city, they notice something. Technology here is...different. Like even broken down in ruins, cars look older. It takes a moment to really consider that for this place, the modern world stopped somewhere in the late 90s. The New York of 2017 that these people recognize doesn't exist. And never did exist here.

    "Hate this place,” Elise is muttering. “I hate this place. Do I really have to keep wearing the veil? There's no cops out here. No celebrities in this shithole."

    Clay looks at her. "Yes. There's cities. We're just not in one."

    They pass by a newspaper box. An honest-to-god newspaper box for the New York Times. Those don’t exist anymore, back home.

    Elise notices the front page of Times in the box, and the decaying headline reads 'METEOR HEADED FOR...'

    The rest is illegible.

    Elise stops and flips through the rest of the paper, seeing if any of it has survived.

    It's mostly rotted out, but she can tell the date: October 21st, 1999. "God, I woulda been nine when this hit."

    The meteor, which scientists believe was composed of an unknown element, was expected to largely burn up in Earth's atmosphere and the remainder land harmlessly in the Atlantic Ocean. At worst, cities on the coast were prepared for potential tsunamis.

    This is the last paper the Times ever put in this box, which means it was probably the last one it ever published.

    "...Hm." Elise puts it back in the box and then shrugs. "Not our problem, I guess. Alright, I think it's..." She pauses, feels the bubbles in the terrible tingling beneath her skin, repositions herself. "This way."

    Elise leads them to Times Square. Or what once was Times Square. She senses something in the dirt. Down in the refuse.

    It's...a head.

    "...What?" Elise kneels to examine it closer.

    It's a helmet. It's War Machine's helmet.

    "Oh no, ohhhh no no no no -"

    "What is it...?" Julian walks over. "Oh, fuck."

    Clay grits his teeth grimly.

    "May I?" Vlad gestures to the helmet. She passes it to him, and he scans it, but it’s unrecoverably damaged; there’s nothing to be found.

    "Here, let me try." Elise takes the helmet in her hands and slowly turns it over.

    They were ambushed. War Machine was taken down first, hit from behind in the head. Elise can see the attack in the dust and the dirt and the metal around them.

    Her mind recreates the scene.

    After War Machine went down, Falcon tried to create a perimeter. They were attacked by individuals with guns. Energy weapons. Strong. Super-strong. Smells of metal and fluid, like Myrmidon's old implants. Cyborgs? A half-dozen at least.

    Scarlet Witch went down next. Shot. Not fatal, but bleeding badly. Quicksilver took down a few, but was hit with something. Flashbang. Falcon went down after that, trying to grab Scarlet Witch to evac.

    Then Spider-Woman...Spider-Woman got away?

    Elise can see traces of her web-fluid on the walls and lamp-posts. It's long since decayed away, but she can smell it on the air, it's not from this dimension or even Elise's own. It's doubly foreign.

    Elise realizes she's clutching her head, reeling at feeling all of this, her mind able to put the pieces together. She was never this capable before, never able to take so much in and put it all together like this. It's overwhelming. Then she takes a few deep breaths, and relays this to the team. All of it.

    "Incredible, Elise," Victorious says. She gives Vlad a shaky smile.

    "Reavers," Clay says out loud. He puts his hand on Sensate's shoulder. "Catch your breath. You did well. Reavers are humans who cybernetically augment themselves, they're slavers and raiders, they prey on regular humans and sell them off to Inhumans in the city."

    "...Fuck," Elise says. "This is so bad."

    Phoenix looks confused. "...Why would Inhumans want to buy regular humans?"

    "All the reasons people have always wanted slaves," Clay says. “You think people who can shoot fire from their hands want to shovel their own shit?"

    Julian nods slowly. "I guess not."

    "Behind me," Vlad says. "We should search the area."

    Elise turns to Julian. "Phoenix, can you...can you try to find Spider-Woman? Give her the knock knock? I mean, she might be...around?"

    "I can try to reach out, yeah." Julian extends his mind outward, searching for Spider-Woman.

    But he finds something very different.

    Instead of a world—even a ruined world—full of living minds glowing like beacons against a background of cold lifeless matter, he finds himself...somewhere else. A silvery void, an endless, timeless echoing space where voices whisper just beyond the edge of hearing and the winds buffet his very thoughts.

    His body falls to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut.

    "Phoenix?!" Vlad stares.

    "Oh, bloody hell." Clay growls. "Stupid kid dove too deep."

    Elise checks Phoenix's pulse. He's alive, but comatose. "You stupid motherfucker!" she yells at him.

    "He's probably lost on the astral plane, which wouldn't be that bad but it's another reality's astral plane." Clay grimaces. "I could go looking for him."

    "Would we have two coma patients to look after if you did that?" Elise asks.

    Vlad steps forward. "Yes, Director. I shall cloak and shield you. Sensate and I will deal with the Reavers.”

    "We will?" she says.

    Vlad clenches a fist. "We are power, Elise."

    She nervously laughs. "Okay!"

    Clay nods at Vlad. "I'm trusting you here. I'm trusting you."

    "Clay, you can trust me, right?" Elise adds from behind Vlad.

    Victorious nods to Clay. "You can." Vlad cloaks Clay and Phoenix and erects a force field around them. He turns back to Elise. "Weapons ready."

    Clay reaches down and puts his hand on Julian's forehead. "Alright, here we go..."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Josten leads Myrmidon and Behemoth through the ruins of the city, down into the subway tunnels.

    "Back before the Fire, this place apparently used to be an old SSR base in the 40s, and then it was SHIELD COMMS' HQ. Now it's the headquarters of New York's Resistance cell.”

    They stop, and Josten turns to the pair. "Now, I know I said this before, but before I lead you in here, I gotta be absolutely 100% clear. Alts are not the same people you think you know. Whatever you think you know about that person from 1491, our world, stays there. Cool?"

    Michael nods. "Yeah, I gotcha."

    "Yep," Miles says.

    "All right, good." He leads them into the base.

    It's the Crypt. They know it because they've been there. It's different here. It's more...lived-in. It looks like a refugee shelter. But it's definitely the Crypt.

    Josten greets some people familiarly as "Atlas." He looks back at the two agents. "Code names only." He approaches a group of people in the shelter. "Hey, where's the Doc? I brought some folks from...back home. To get my people."

    "He's in the lab with Warrick, where he always is."

    They're directed back towards a lab, which was Niles' lab back home. They walk in, and are greeted by a Resistance fighter.


    "Atlas," he says, greeting Josten. "These the Avengers you brought from your Earth?"

    Atlas shakes his head. "Not the Avengers, but some other empowered SHIELD agents from my world. They're going to help me get my people."

    The man reaches his hand out to Behemoth and Myrmidon. "Jeremiah Warrick. I'm the Doctor's assistant and bodyguard."

    Michael stares for a second, then shakes his hand. "Behemoth, nice to meet you...Jeremiah."

    Myrmidon takes the proffered hand. "Well, this is a real hoot. Nice to meet you, Mr. Warrick "

    "They're here...?" A familiar voice comes from beyond Jeremiah, from deeper in the lab. A man approaches. "Good, we need their help."


    It's Reed Richards. He looks...different. Fitter. More haggard. Angrier.

    "The Reavers took your people. Took them to their base. I imagine that the ones who don't have powers will get sold in the city, and the ones who do...well, that all depends."

    "Depends on what?" Michael asks.

    "If they are willing to convince the Reavers that they're citizens. If they do, the Reavers will let them go, no harm no foul. The Reavers don't prey on citizens. But if they're idiots, if they're honest about who they are or where they're from, then the Reavers will either keep them for themselves or kill them, depending on how much trouble they are."

    Josten looks at him. "You didn' didn't tell me that before, Doc."

    Richards shrugs. "I didn't know the Reavers took your people at the time. I have more information now I didn't before."

    Josten scowls. " want something."

    Richards half-sits on the edge of a work desk, his hands folded. "I want to offer you a deal. You people come to my world as tourists. You're not here to actually help us, you just want to learn about us as a cautionary tale to avoid your own planet turning into this place. Fine. I get that. As a man of science, I don't begrudge your unwillingness to interfere. That said…

    "Our situation remains as it is. It's not sustainable. At the very least, we can't fight both the Empire and the Reavers dogging our heels. It's a two-front war. That's why your people got overtaken, after all. They were expecting to fight Inhumans, not cyborgs.

    "So, here's the deal: You want your people back? Fine, no problem. I'll tell you where the Reavers' main base is. You need to go in there and get them. What's in it for me is that you don't just go in there and get your people out all nice and clean.

    "You make a mess of it. You take the Reavers down."

    Myrmidon steps forward. "What are the Reavers? I've read our documents on the Empire, but these guys are new to me. Catch us up."

    Richards nods. "The Reavers, as I said, are cyborgs. Ex-SHIELD, that was the first generation. When it all happened, SHIELD was one of the first to fall, but there were people who tried to pick up the pieces.

    "They first started as people who fashioned themselves protectors of humanity. Part of the Resistance. People who used SHIELD's cyber-tech to augment themselves, able to fight the Inhumans. Eventually, though..." He sucks his teeth. "There just got to be no gain in that for them. It was a losing war, against the Empire. Eventually their leadership changed, and they just became predators.

    "Now they pick apart the few of us left in the ruins of the old city, sell us off to Inhuman masters. The Emperor permits them some freedom, because they perform a...sort of sanitation service.

    “They're monsters who need to be stopped." Reed looks at Myrmidon. "Son, I'm not asking you to kill the Emperor or save my entire Earth. I'm asking you to do one little good in this bleak world, give my people a little bit of hope, just along the way of you people saving your own. Is that too big an ask?"

    Michael steps forward. "No it's not. You've got a deal." He sticks out his hand.

    Reed shakes his hand. "Thank you. You won't regret this."

    Josten shifts uncomfortably. "This isn't our mission. You should clear this with your director..."

    Myrmidon holds up a hand. "I'm in the field. It's my call." He offers the hand to Richards. "We have a deal, Richards."

    "Thank you, Myrmidon." Richards shakes his hand.

    Michael puts a hand on Atlas’s shoulder. "Josten, do you really think these Reavers are just gonna let us waltz in their base without resistance? This was never gonna be a clean op."

    Josten sighs. "No, I suppose not."

    Reed pulls out a map. "All right, down by the pier here is where their base is. You''ll know it when you see it. I know very little of their internal structure, or base layout. I know really only one other piece of information about them.

    "The name of their leader.

    "Miles Mason. They call him Deathlok."

    Myrmidon stares. "That's...a hell of a name."

    Michael tries to keep his face impassive. "Uh yeah, good to know, thanks."

    Josten turns to Warrick. "Can you set us up with some disguises? There's four other members of our team, I can give you their particulars, we don't want to stick out too much outside the base."

    Warrick nods.

    Josten looks at Miles. "You should radio Clay and let him know about...your plan."

    Miles acknowledges the buck-passing with a nod. He turns on his comm. "Clay? ...Clay? Hello?"

    This is a session of swerves within swerves: after the end of last week, we thought we’d be dealing with the aftermath of the Terrigen attack. Instead, we’re in a completely different universe. We thought we’d be battling the evil Inhuman Empire: instead, we’re fighting cyborg raiders. We all thought it would involve evil Elise in some way.

    Nope, nope, nope. We were 0 for 3.

    The Reavers are X-Men villains, a group of cyborg mercenaries often found in the employ of the villainous secret society for rich sociopathic mutants, the Hellfire Club. Since “marauding cyborg mercenary” isn’t really an X-Men-exclusive concept, they can fit into this setting just as well.

    Deathlok is the name of a superhero; one of the very first cyborgs in comics, in fact! Created in 1974, he’s a man who is mortally wounded but is reanimated by an amoral corporation with cybernetic technology to serve as a living weapon, eventually rebelling against his creators to fight for justice. Hmm!

    In retrospect, it would have been a great name to use for Miles, since he’s effectively as much of a “legacy” character as Phoenix, Behemoth, and Victorious.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    Julian floats in the Astral Plane. He's never been this deep into the realm of pure thought before.

    He reaches out. He listens for other voices. Eventually, he hears one. A yelling voice of condemnation, judging him.

    It's Clay's.

    Fuck, he thinks.

    You stupid idiot! If there were Balrogs in the Astral Plane, you would be the kind of moron who would unleash a Balrog. How did you even get here?

    I don't know! Julian thinks. I was looking for Gwen Stacy!

    And you what, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque? You should have headed back to your body when you didn't find her on the first pass, amateur!

    I thought I could find her if I just... reached out. But clearly I don't have all the experience you do, Your Majesty!

    Clay’s voice is silent for a moment. ...I'm sorry, I'm being unfiltered here. Let me compose myself. about a little help? Julian asks.

    Alright. We need an Anchor to find our way back. A memory of yours, the farther back you can draw on, the better.

    Okay, Julian thinks.

    The voice draws nearer. We'll probably need to hop a few times, so farther back you can go, the closer we can get.

    That's...tricky. Julian thinks. There's not a lot of solid stuff to go for for a while. He doesn’t actually have almost any memories older than eight months.

    ...oh, god damn it. he hears Clay think, close by now. Right, right. Bugger... okay, well, we'll use mine then. Bigger pool to draw on, I suppose.

    Julian isn’t quite sure what this means, but he acquiesces. Uh, sure. Sounds good.

    Julian notices something. He can see Clay now, and...Clay's a Skrull. His astral form is his Skrull form. Which Julian had only ever seen once, in Victoria's mind.

    Curious, Julian looks downward. He's...made of fire. Humanoid, but aflame. Not covered in fire, but made of a living mass of it.

    All right, take my hand. Clay reaches out a hand.

    Julian gingerly reaches towards Clay. I'm not gonna burn you, am I?

    It's not real fire. If you wanted to hurt me, it would. So...don't do that?

    Clay leads Julian through the Astral Plane. They're on...a battlefield. There's explosions and smoke and fire everywhere. Gunshots.


    Julian looks around. It's a memory. World War II, it looks like, from the uniforms and the fact that they're fighting Nazis and HYDRA. The man in the blue outfit is leading the charge of British troops against the Nazis.

    Whoa. Where is this?

    Hrm...Versailles, I think? Somewhere in France. That's me, in the blue. I went by Union Jack back in those days. This might have been before the team, or after. Trying to get my bearings. Clay pauses. Hrm...the team...yeah. I had a team, back then. Not different from you lot, really. Secret. Super-powered. A few other members of that team. Spitfire, first woman on Earth I married.


    Captain America and his sidekick, Bucky Barnes. They were...less secret than the rest of us, but we worked well together.


    Human Torch... the first one. Not John Storm. Jim Hammond. You don' don't learn about Jim in schools.


    Phoenix is astonished. Jim Hammond? There was another Human Torch before Storm?

    Skrull-Clay nods. Yeah. He was...he was complicated. Synthetic human. I haven't proved it for certain, but I'm 99% sure that the technology that created him was what created Vision, and is in Mason's new body.

    Jim killed Hitler.

    So, yeah, they don't teach people about Jim Hammond in schools, for reasons. But I remember him. He was a good man.

    Julian considers this. Wow. What happened that that couldn't get out? You'd think we'd celebrate a hero taking down Hitler.

    Well, Clay thinks, he was a synthetic man with superpowers that killed Hitler. Times were...different back then. Then, after a while, the public just accepted the idea that Hitler killed himself and nobody wanted to correct it.

    Did he just not have a human cover identity? Julian muses. Huh.

    Clay barely hears him. Gardner Monroe, Jennifer's grandfather, he was part of our team too. The original Flashback. We even had someone who drove us around in our own high-tech vehicle, kind of like Kane with the Zephyr. We had this cool submarine, and the guy who piloted it, we just called him the Sub-Mariner.

    Our team didn't have a real name. We were just the SSR's 'Special Team.' We weren't like Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, although we did work with them sometimes. The Germans, though, they called us Der Eindringlinge...The Invaders.

    Julian does the astral form equivalent of pursing his lips. The Invaders, eh?

    Yeah. I think after a while we just started to own it. Clay pauses. We're almost there, I think…

    There’s an image of an explosion. Trees falling. Skrulls yelling at each other in their language. Yelling at Clay, in his true form.

    Clay sucks his teeth. Tunguska.

    Phoenix stares at their surroundings. Shit.

    I don't...I don't want to be here. He grabs Julian's shoulder. I don't want to see this again. No.

    Julian tries to shake him out of it. Clay!

    But Clay is in the driver’s seat, and they go hurtling across what feels like time and space.


    ...Well, this is somehow worse. Clay looks like he's tearing up.

    What is this place? Julian asks.

    This is Tarnax. This is my estate.

    My home.
    Clay is in the vision, this time, participating in it. In his Skrull form. He looks...younger. Happier? As he walks into view, a small...child? A Skrull child runs up to him. "Ayas'shua! Aya'shua!"

    A little girl. If she was human she'd probably be 10 or 12.

    Clay, the Clay in the past, smiles and kneels down to hug her. The Clay standing next to Julian staggers backwards and grabs his arm. Julian grips him tightly and steadies him.

    The little girl begins excitedly telling Z'reg something, as he listens intently. She tries, with some concentration, to change her facial features. She manages to change her skin color slightly, and change her ear and chin shape, only for a moment until she stops concentrating.

    Anelle, Clay mutters telepathically. The girl looks to Z'Reg, who smiles with pride and scoops her up in his arms, spinning her around as she giggles and squeals.

    The two walk off.

    Clay looks at Julian. I've...I've found our bodies. We're...done here. You can go.

    Phoenix nods slowly. O-okay. Thank you, Clay. I'm sorry.

    Clay turns away. I'm...I'm going to stay. She's not back there. None of them are.

    Julian’s eyes widen. What do you mean?

    Veranke, my sister. The Empress. When she took the throne she would have purged everyone in the royal family who was not loyal to the Dard'van. So my daughter, my sons, my wife, my consorts, all of them would be gone...or loyal to the Dard'van. I don't...I don't know which is… But here…

    Julian’s thoughts race. Clay. If you're stuck here, you'll be a sitting duck. Let's think for a moment where we are in real space. Clay. We're so close. Let's get back.

    There’s a long, long pause. Clay looks at Julian. You''re right. She's gone. They're all gone. But Elise is still there, and the rest of the team. They matter now.

    Let's go.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Julian and Clay awaken.

    Elise is lying on her back, next to them, holding a phone in the air. Snap.

    Clay looks at Elise. "Are you serious?"

    Elise jolts. "OH MY GOD YOU'RE AWAKE." She quickly pockets her phone. "Ha haaaa welcome back!"

    Julian gets up. "Oof."

    Clay's comm goes off. "Quartermain. Go." He steps aside.

    Elise sidles up to Phoenix and grins, showing him her phone. "Look, look." There are dozens of selfies of Elise with passed out Clay and Phoenix. She's very proud.


    She waggles her eyebrows at him. "They're trophies."

    Phoenix stares. "Trophies? You know what, I don't think I wanna know."

    Elise eavesdrops on Clay’s conversation. "- got a lead on our people,” Miles is saying. “The Reavers have them. Cyborg ex-SHIELD gone feral. To get that information, I had to make a deal with the leader of the Resistance. Dr. Richards. Before you say anything: yeah, yeah, I know. All he wants is for us to take out the Reavers while retrieving our guys. I think that's pretty reasonable under the circumstances. Oh, and the head of the Reavers is, uh, me. Over."

    Clay is silent for a moment. Elise can see he's pissed. But he's hiding it. "...understood. Transmit a rendezvous point a quarter-klick out from the AO. We still have one individual unaccounted for who is not captured. Spider-Woman. Trying to locate. Ran into complications. Will rendezvous when we've found her. Over."

    Elise quietly monitors Clay while continuing to show Julian her collection of selfies. Clay and Julian. Myrmidon's old body. Half of COMMS, who are working and unaware? It's a little weird. Julian tries to look away at first, but Elise's insistence, as well as a bit of his own curiosity, win out.

    “It's spy training!" she offers.

    Clay finishes the call and turns to the team. "Alright, here's the deal. I've met Gwen before, and I'm going to look for her telepathically. Not with astral projection, just do a scan. The risk is if there's another telepath around, I'm going to light up like a Christmas tree, which is why I didn't want to do it before. But, whatever, this will work if she's anywhere in Manhattan.

    "Once I find her, I'll tell Vlad where she is, and he portals us over there. Good?"

    Elise gives a thumbs up.

    "Good. Once we get Stacy, we're going to rendezvous with Myrmidon's fireteam, and hit the Reavers at their base. They have the Ultimates prisoner there. Myrmidon cut a deal with the Resistance leader that we go in loud on this one and wreck the Reavers as part of getting our people out. Suits me just fine."

    "...Clay, I only have ICER rounds," Elise points out.

    "They're cyborgs,” he says, “hit the fleshy bits. You're accurate.” He pauses. “I am rescinding the previous order on going in strict non-lethal. Full sanction on these monsters. They're cyborg psychopath slavers."

    "I shall enhance your weapons with the Power Arcana," Vlad says, extending his hand to Elise.

    She passes her guns over. "We make a good team, you and I."

    Victorious nods. "Of course."

    "Alright, give me a second..." Clay puts two fingers to his temple and closes his eyes. "...found her. I don't think anyone else noticed me."

    He relays the address. She's on the 22nd floor of an office building, six blocks away. Vlad opens a portal.

    The team steps through, and find Gwen Stacy sitting by herself in a burned out office, surrounded by discarded cans. She adopts a defensive posture immediately.

    "Hey there." Elise holds up her hands in a pacifying gesture. "We're the rescue team."

    "Oh thank god." She hugs Elise. "Please get me the fuck out of here."

    Elise freezes for a second, then hugs her back. "Hey. Hey, it's okay. This is Clay, and Vlad, and Phoenix. We're here to get the rest of the team, and then we're all going home."

    "Are they...alive?" Spider-Woman asks.

    "We think so,” Elise says. “I was able to kind of recreate what happened, they were taken alive. We gotta get to them, but..."

    She nods briskly. "Okay. I'm in."

    Elise does a quick check to make sure Spider-Woman is fit for combat. She smells sweat, processes information about pulse and breathing and skin conductivity…

    Physically, Gwen is fine. Psychologically? See-saw motion.

    Elise glances back at the group. "Okay, so, can you be our lookout? Maybe, y'know, make sure the Inhumans don't sneak up on us?"

    Clay looks at Elise and sighs. "You're too nice." He walks over to Stacy and says "Shh. Sleep." He puts her hand on her forehead and she passes out on his arms.

    "...Well, that works," Elise says. "But would someone who was too nice have this?" She shows him her selfie collection with a huge grin.

    Clay stares. "Do you torpedo compliments on purpose or?"

    "Yeah, my therapist says I'm uncomfortable with praise."

    "...okay." He hands Gwen to Vlad. "Take her to the Resistance base. It's the Crypt. It's where the Crypt would be in our world. You know where that is. They can babysit her for a bit."

    Vlad nods.

    "In fact,” Clay adds, “we'll go with you, and just meet up there with Myrmidon and company. It's less work."

    "Oh, awesome,” Elise says, “I was thinking that my day could use more stepping through portals."

    Clay nods. "If you ever wanted to transfer out of STRIKE, I'm sure Fury would love to put you on the Ultimates, and all portals all the time could be your day job."

    Elise blanches. "Oh, God."

    Clay continues. "You could hang out with the Twins, take selfies with them, it'd be great."

    "Noooooooo you know what, STRIKE is fine," she says. "STRIKE is fantastic."

    Clay nods.

    Vlad opens a portal to the Crypt. The group steps through, and Myrmidon, Behemoth, and Atlas are there with Reed and Jeremiah.

    "Dr. Richards. Uh, hello, other guy. Sensate, nice to meet you."

    Richards nods. The other guy smiles and says "Name's Jeremiah." Elise recognizes his voice. It sounds different because it's not made with beak clacks.

    But it's him.

    Julian hesitates a moment before offering a handshake. "Pleasure to meet you, Jeremiah."

    Elise's mouth slowly opens. It begins to form into a grin. "Can I take a selfie?"

    Jeremiah tilts his head quizzically. "A...what?"

    "Can I take a picture with you? A memento of the brave fighters on the front lines."

    "Ok?" He’s still confused. Elise slings an arm around Jeremiah's shoulders, grins, takes a photo, and then excuses herself into the hallway. Witch cackles drift from down the hall.

    Arrangements are made. Clay explains the situation to Richards, and Richards agrees to take care of Stacy until the team returns with the rest of the Ultimates.

    Josten is going to hang back at the Crypt, and stay with Stacy. He doesn't have any powers, and feels that he'd be a little in the way, even as a trained SHIELD agent. He also tells the team that he has the transmitter to signal back to ARMOR to let them know where to open a portal, which cannot fall into enemy hands.

    So STRIKE retrieves the Ultimates, portals back to the Crypt, and he'll summon the way home from there.

    After laying their plans, the team gathers around Vladimir.

    "We need to do this as fast as possible," Elise says. "I say we go now."

    "Yeah, these guys sound like bad news. I'm looking forward to taking them out." Myrmidon's fist flexes.

    Vlad opens a portal to the Reavers' base, and the team steps through.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Elise holds up a hand. "Let me see what I can get..." A moment passes. "Okay...we got dozens of Reavers. The entire Ultimates team is here. Alive, but bloody. Injured."

    Clay looks at Myrmidon. "Alright, Mason, I haven't been in the field in years. Call the play."

    Miles starts pointing at targets. "Behemoth, Phoenix, and Sensate go in big and loud. Make noise, get attention. Vlad and Clay, you guys focus on retrieving the Ultimates and getting them out. I'll be air cav."

    Sensate grimaces at Myrmidon. "You want me to go in loud? Wait." Elise's head whips around, facing a random direction. "Oh my God it's Dark Miles. Okay. Yes. I absolutely want to go in loud now."

    Miles sucks in air through his teeth. "...Oh, that motivates you?"

    "You wanted to meet Evil Me!" Elise waggles her fingers at Myrmidon.

    "Because I know she'd be cool!" he fires back.

    "I'm gonna get a selfie with him," she says.

    Miles laughs. "Okay. Go for it. But I get to take him down."

    Phoenix stares. "Oh my God, guys."

    Clay looks at Vlad and nods. "Do we go incognito or invisible? We're both shifters."

    Myrmidon turns to them. "If you're feeling ambitious, you could fuck with them. Evil Me is their leader."

    "I believe we should utilize our shapeshifting abilities, Director,” Vlad says. “The odds of them having some kind of detection for invisibility are high."

    "Josten has encountered some of the Reavers in the past, so I have an idea on how to look." Clay shapeshifts a few different Reaver appearances to give Vlad an idea of what to shoot for.

    It occurs to the team that while they’ve known Clay is a Skrull intellectually for a while now, they've never actually seen Clay change shape at any point. He's always just been Clay. This is the first time that’s changed.

    Myrmidon watches with fascination. Elise stares at Clay for a while, and then makes a 'come here' motion with her hand to herself, clearly thinking about something.

    When Clay and Vlad have assumed their new forms, Elise takes off running. It's not her usual ungainly sprint. She moves with grace: fast but controlled, keeping a low profile. The "loud" team moves in behind her.

    Clay and Vlad move in a different direction, looking for a side entrance to the ramshackle base. "Hopefully if we encounter any locked doors, you can hack them. Else, you can just pull them open, I suppose."

    Myrmidon holds one fist skyward and ascends into the air. He sees Reavers scrambling to the defenses, and zooms in with his forensic vision. The Reavers are crude cyborgs, like Myrmidon's original design but more baroque, and have jury-rigged energy blasters and melee weapons retrofitted onto their frames at odd, chaotic angles.

    He calls locations down to the loud team. "Behemoth, big knot of guys behind the doors. Sensate, watch the gunners up and to your left. Phoenix, give them covering fire."

    Elise guns down the gunners, in a bit of irony. Phoenix provides literal covering fire, and Behemoth smashes through the doors, sending Reavers sprawling as he follows up with a blast. The team advances into the base.


    Vlad and Clay quickly realize that every Reaver looks unique. The generic designs they put together are going to get spotted immediately.

    Clay points at two patrolling Reavers and motions at them with his head at Vlad. If they subdue them before anyone notices, they could assume their forms.

    They leap out of cover, but the Reavers notice them somehow, and move to the defense.

    "Oh sod it." Clay drops the disguise and grabs one of the Reavers by the head. The cyborg lets out an electronically-distorted howl and then evacuates his bowels, going unconscious.

    "So be it!" Vladimir fires a plane of raw force at the second Reaver, decapitating it. He and Clay nod at each other in mutual understanding, and move inward.


    The main body of the Reavers are scrambling to deal with the rest of Freedom Force.

    The Reavers are losing. Badly. Several fall to the ground, steaming, as the Phoenix fatally overheats their internals. Sensate sprints past the bodies, her senses illuminating the way through the base to the Ultimates.

    The telltale whine of repulsor blasts is followed by the ground detonating beneath groups of Reavers, sending them flying, as Myrmidon swoops upon them from above. The makeshift AA gun turrets mounted around the base swivel furiously to track him, pouring fire into the sky. One tags his armor, denting him lightly.

    Behemoth tries to sprint after Sensate to keep her covered, but a mob of Reavers surrounds him, brandishing a dizzying array of junkyard weapons. He can hear the whir of a chainsaw. His faceplate opens and the Odinforce erupts forth.

    Elise is first to the Ultimates’ cells. They hang in cages suspended from the ceiling of a huge central chamber. "Okay, okay, okay, find the Ultimates, free the Ultimates, bounce the fuck out of here -"

    The wall next to her erupts as bullets score its surface. She barely leaps out of the way. Something’s shooting at her.

    "Fffffffffuck fuck fuck!"

    A cyborg unloads an arm-mounted chain gun at her. The cyborg is...Miles. His cybernetics are more overt and crude than the Miles of her universe, with a glowing red eye that is focusing on her like a laser sight.

    The whole left side of his face is cybernetics.

    "Okay, holy fuck, Miles, don't shoot at me, c'mon, we're friends in another dimension!" Elise pulls her ICER and aims. "C'mon, let's play nice -"


    "OH, FUCK." She rolls out of the way as a micro-missile sails past her.

    The rest of the team blasts through the main door, and Clay and Vlad appear a moment later.

    "You can't reason with him!" Elise yells. "He's Evil Miles!"

    Julian rolls into the chamber and hurls fireballs at Deathlok, but the cyborg’s heavy plating deflects the blasts easily. His red eye turns toward Julian, and the the chain gun follows.

    Bullets rip through Julian's body. He dies.

    "Oh my fucking God Julian!" Elise screams. "Can you stop dying for four seconds! Holy shit!"

    She stares at the ragged red wreck of Julian’s body. It doesn’t move. While energy blasts and bullets fly around her, she begins dragging Julian into the hall.

    "MASON." Miles shouts. "THIS ENDS NOW." Miles’ boot jets erupt at full power and blast him toward Deathlok at rocket speed.

    His arms punch through Deathlok’s chest, breaking one of them. He wrenches the working arm out and starts beating Deathlok in the face. "You son of a bitch! This world needed a hero and you sold out!"

    "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, Julian, it's time for you to come back," Elise says. "Just do your Phoenix shit." She looks up at the sound of wrenching, torn metal, grabbing her gun and aiming.

    Deathlok is barely conscious, and tries to bring up his chain gun at Myrmidon...but then an enchanted bullet slams into his helmet, leaving a crater.

    As the light goes out of Deathlok's eyes, Miles drops his veil. Lets Deathlok see his real face.

    Elise sprints towards the two Mileses. "Chief, are you okay?!"

    "I've..." Miles breathes raggedly. "I've been better." He pulls his wrecked arm out of Deathlok.

    Elise helps him to his feet, and he leans on her. "God...damn him. Damn it all. That guy was mine. If you'd let me..."

    Elise's knees quake hard, but she does her best to keep him standing. "Couldn't risk losing you, Chief. We need you. We all do."

    Their leader slain, the Reavers have begun to scatter. Vlad and Clay harry them. Miles pulls himself upright and jets off to join the pursuit.

    Elise stays behind and poses for pictures with Deathlok.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Phoenix can feel them calling to him. The voices. They're telling him to come back. They need him. He's coming.

    He answers the call.


    Julian's body explodes into a bird of flame that ascends into the sky. And vanishes.

    "...Julian?" Elise stares at the spot where he’d been. Only ashes remain.

    Vlad stares, stunned. "He's gone..."

    Clay touches the side of his head, his eyes searching the skies. "He's...gone. Into the Astral Plane. He's not dead, but he's...left."

    "He's not dead." Elise latches onto that. "He's not dead."

    Freedom Force frees the Ultimates. They're battered and bruised, but alive. The team notices that Deathlok has cannibalized their tech: the missile launcher and chain gun he was using are the ones from War Machine's armor.

    Clay regards Deathlok’s corpse. "This is awful to say, but we should take him with us. He's full of our tech, we can't leave him behind." He pauses. "Mobster planet, and all that."

    Sensate turns to Myrmidon. "You OK with that, Chief?"

    "Yeah. Let's take him."

    They gather together. Clay tells Vlad to open a portal back to the Crypt.

    "Wait. Julian -" Elise freezes. "If we leave -"

    Miles shakes his head. "I think Julian's somewhere we can't go. He'll find his way to us or he won't. I know it sucks, but we need to help the people we have the power to help."

    Clay nods. "Julian's gone, Elise. I don't...I don't think he's dead. He's in the Astral Plane now. Maybe he'll meet us on the other side. Maybe that's how his powers work, he can only resurrect back home."

    Elise searches Clay's face, and once she's satisfied he's telling the truth, she nods.

    "We will find him." Vlad puts his hand on her shoulder. "Like you found me."

    "I found him once when he was lost in the Astral Plane. If I have to go find him again, I will." Clay puts his hand on her other shoulder, "I promise, Anelle."

    Elise looks up at both of them. "Yeah. Yeah, okay. That's another Skrull word, yeah? It mean something nice?"

    Clay is silent for a moment. "...yes. Yes it does."

    Elise smiles and brushes a few tears away with her thumb. Miles' brow furrows, but he straightens and gives Elise's hand a squeeze.

    Vlad searches for the word in his databanks. Anelle isn't an adjective: it's a proper noun. It's a name, a person's name, like Z'reg or Veranke. It means Starburst.

    Vlad says nothing. He opens the portal back to the Crypt.

    When they get there, Josten is snoozing, slumped over in a chair, while Jeremiah talks with Richards.

    Josten jolts awake as the portal opens.

    "Miles Mason is taken care of." Myrmidon announces.

    "Oh, shit!" Josten looks at War Machine. "Jesus Christ, Rhodey, you okay?"

    James Rhodes nods. "I will be. Thanks to...who the hell are you guys?"

    "WE'RE FREEDOM FORCE!" Elise blurts out.

    "...coool," he murmurs.

    Miles throws a thumbs-up.

    The teams assemble in another room to depart. Josten reaches into his pocket. "Alright, I'll get the transponder going and..." His eyes suddenly widen.

    Miles’ eyes widen too. "Oh, you're fucking kidding me."

    Atlas immediately checks another pocket. "No, no we're good, we're good. It's right here."

    "I will fucking kill you," Elise exhales. "I swear to God."

    Josten pulls out the transponder and starts to operate it, but Miles eyes it warily. "Elise, is that the same transponder?"

    Elise squints at it. It's totally the same transponder. "Sorry,” she says, “it's the wrong one. It's fucked."

    Josten shakes his head confusedly at Elise. "No it isn't! It works, I'm putting out the signal right now!"

    "I never get to have anything nice," she moans. Miles' nostrils flare. Clay grumbles and pinches the bridge of his nose.

    Josten stares at Clay, "She was doing a bit?"

    Sensate smiles. "Tip your waiter, folks! Try the veal."

    A massive portal opens. Different from the kind Vlad opens. It's the Holepunch, from the other side.

    "Good luck with...everything," Miles says to Warrick and Richards, with a mix of sympathy and helplessness.

    Richards smiles. "We'll be fine, thanks to you." Vlad stares at him.

    Elise realizes she's standing next to the Twins. She offers them an awkward smile. "Remember that time you tried to kill me? But then you didn't?"

    They don't recognize her. "No," Scarlet Witch says flatly. They step through the portal.

    "Haha, wow. Well, we have fun here." Elise mimes shooting herself again with another finger gun, and steps through the portal.

    Myrmidon eyes Vlad eyeing Dr. Richards. He inclines his head toward the portal. "Your turn."

    Vlad looks at Miles and then Clay and then back at Richards. "Good luck, Reed." He turns and steps through. Myrmidon shakes his head like "what the fuck" and follows.

    "Hope things turn around for you guys." Michael says with a nod and a wave, stepping through the portal. Josten follows on his heels.

    The entire team is on the other side of the Holepunch, back in the Hollow.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    ...Except Clay.

    Elise turns around, looking back at the portal. "Clay?"

    Vlad turns with her. "Where is the Director?!" Clay and Josten were the last ones to go through. Josten went through. Clay's not there.

    Josten looks at Elise and Vlad as they edge back toward the portal aperture. "We can't go through. Portals are one directional. They're in or out."

    "Make it the other way!" Elise says, panicking.

    Then Clay appears, stepping out of the portal.

    "Oh, thank God -" she begins.

    Clay hands Josten a data drive. "Did you find yourself spontaneously sleepy for no particular reason, Agent?" Clay says to Atlas. "That why you decided to take a nap while we were away?"

    Josten looks confused. Clay looks at the team. "Richards drugged him and took the transponder, and scanned it. Took as much data from it as he could, which I recovered. He didn't put it back in the right pocket. Classic mistake.

    “Nipped that in the bud, won't be a problem." Clay walks away, humming 'Blackbird' by the Beatles.

    "Are you SERIOUS?" Elise explodes, tearing off her veil and wig. Her green and pink hair pops back. "Even in ANOTHER DIMENSION, Reed Richards is an ASSHOLE?!"

    "I believe it's a universal constant," Clay says with a laugh.

    Victorious nods. "Of course.”

    "I mean," Miles begins, "I would absolutely do whatever I could to make a portal if I lived on Shitty 90's Hercules/Xena Power Hour Hell World."

    Elise throws up her hands. "I GUESS!"

    Myrmidon continues. "And I'm not sure what I think about how you 'solved' that, Clay, but whatever."

    Clay waves this off. "No one was hurt. I don't always go in like a bull in a china shop. Richards means well and that world needs his brain to be proper his brain."

    Michael mutters under his breath "...I liked Xena."

    Elise nods sagely. "I don't know if I wanted to be with Xena or be Xena."

    Clay continues. "I just cleaned out the info about the transponder and, really, anything to do with us, from him or his assistant. Also took what we needed in terms of intel about their world, so that the Ultimates' mission was a success in the end. I learned a great deal about their world. I'll write up a report later."

    "I, too, brought back some valuable intel." Elise holds up her phone, showing it to Clay, and griiiiiins.

    Clay shakes his head. "Do not jerk Warrick around with this. I do not need a bunch of HR reports on my desk."

    "I have no plans to hack into Warrick's Facebook," Elise offers.

    Clay looks at Vladimir. "Do not."

    He’s learning...

    "Shit," Elise hisses.

    "Is that an order, Director?" Vlad asks.

    "Yes. Yes it absolutely is. Do not enable Elise bullying her co-workers."

    Vlad looks at Elise. "I'm sorry."

    "Well then why do I even HAVE THIS PHONE," Elise yells.

    "What an excellent question," Clay nods. "How about we explore the answers to that question."

    Elise stands there, frozen in horror. "But my sexts."

    Clay pauses. "...nevermind. Keep your phone. Let's move on."

    She sags with relief. "Yesssss."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Kane is eating in the Hollow’s cafeteria.

    Suddenly there is a burst of flame.

    Julian lies naked on the floor, curled up in the fetal position, shivering.

    "Oh my god! Julian!" She takes off her jacket and covers Julian, holding him. "Are you...are you okay?"

    Julian groggily rouses. "Ugh. Fuck. I think so."

    "What...what the hell happened? I thought you went on the mission to another reality?"

    Phoenix nods slowly. "Yeah, I thought so too. Last thing I remember is catching a bunch of lead."

    She chews her lip. "And then you...came here? Is that how it works? You resurrect back on your home reality? ...huh."

    Julian feels the places where he got shot, testing for pain. "I...I guess so. Weird."

    "Let's get you some pants," she says.

    Julian looks around the cafeteria. "Uh, yeah. Good idea."

    The rest of the team assembles at the Zephyr. A few minutes later, Kane and Julian show up. Julian is wearing an ARMOR agent’s uniform.

    "JULIAN!" Elise flings herself at him for a hug.

    Clay walks over to Kane, smirking. "He reincarnated next to you, didn't he?"

    Vladimir steps forward. "Amazing, Julian. You are truly immortal.”

    "Wait. If he reincarnated next to you." Elise is doing the math. "And he's in an ARMOR field uniform." Her face becomes increasingly gleeful.

    Clay looks at Elise and nods. Julian blushes.

    Kane watches the two of them. "What is wrong with you? Did you bring back the right Clay?"

    "Oh, we found a different Clay," Elise says breezily. "He's exactly the same but he really likes polka."

    Miles grins and shakes Julian's hand. "This always freaks me out, man. Good to have you back."

    Phoenix smiles sheepishly. "Good to be back!"

    Elise turns to the group. "Well, I think this was a successful mission. Everyone's back alive, I get to keep my phone, along with a selfie of hot Jeremiah -"

    Kane looks up. "I'm sorry, what?"

    Elise shows her the photo. Kane’s eyes widen. "Oh my god."

    Elise nods. "Dude, I'm gay and I'm kind of like, woah. Anyways I'm gonna print this out and put it on his desk in a frame."

    "You are not going to do that." Clay scowls at Elise.

    Phoenix shakes his head. "Oh my god, Elise."

    Elise puts her phone in her pocket. "Oh no, it looks phone has been hacked by MODOC!"


    The team loads up into the Zephyr and heads home.

    Vlad and Elise are conspiring. "Elise, we must respect...Clay's orders."

    "Okay," she says, keeping her voice low. "But if I find a loophole -"

    Miles shakes his head at the team and heads into the rear compartment for privacy.

    He takes a deep breath and mutters to himself, "Well, you've been waiting for this, dude. Time to stop putting it off." He opens a communications window. He calls Carol Danvers to ask if she wants to grab coffee sometime. A beverage he can now drink.

    She says yes, in the most awkward, fumbling way possible.

    Miles lets her suffer a bit. "Deep breaths, Captain. I'll catch you soon." Grinning, he hangs up and rejoins the team.

    I believe I’ve mentioned that Miles had his own secret plan.

    "Love is in the air," Elise sighs. "Carol and Miles, Smasher and Phoenix, I'm going to take a snap down my top and send it to Sigrun...It's just the era of love!"

    "Love?" Victorious tilts his head. "Hmm."

    "Eh,” she shrugs. “Close enough."

    Vlad leans back in his seat and considers his own affection for Silver Sable.

    The Zephyr speeds toward New York.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    The team disembarks. STRIKE-3 is also back at the base.

    As they leave the Zephyr and enter the base, MODOC floats over to Elise, smiling with his tiny mouth.

    "H-Hey MODOC."

    He stares at Elise for a moment, and she notices his facial expressions shift ever so slightly. He then screeches "MODOC HELPS!" and he shoots a small thumbs up at Clay. Clay smiles warmly at MODOC and nods approvingly.

    Sensate’s gaze moves from MODOC to Clay. "W-What?"

    Victorious nods. "Hello, MODOC."

    MODOC burbles greetings, then floats away.

    "What?" Elise fumbles out her phone. All the pictures from the mission have been wiped from Elise's phone.


    Vlad frowns. Elise waves her phone at Clay. "My phone is completely STRIKE safe now! There's no mission critical data on this! That was my spy practice!"

    "It was an HR disaster," Clay says. "I solved the problem.” He pauses. “Well, I asked MODOC to solve the problem on the way over telepathically. He helped."

    "Oh my God. So Crys dumps me and now I don't even get to keep my trophies! What is even good about this world!"

    Miles frowns. "Wait, she dumped you? Dang, I'm sorry." He is sincere.

    "Dumped-ish,” she says.

    Clay sighs, walks over to Elise, and puts something in her hand. Elise blinks and looks. It's a gift card for Popeye's.

    "It has good fried chicken," Clay says.

    "Oh my God!" she says. "Yes!" Elise throws herself at Clay for a hug, and Clay allows himself to be hugged.


    Jacobkosh on
  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    Re-reading Season 2 is great. Elise has basically become a legitimately useful party member who the party regularly start leaning on for her skills, and she's still horribly socialized but she's clearly in a better mood at all times. Even when she's snappy and shitty, she's never as bad as the near-feral, mission risking, op sec breaking mess that Season 1 Elise was. Character growth!

    She's also getting really close to Clay, who has stopped trying to be the "stern father" to her and has, as Matt put it, just started calling her out on her bullshit. Elise reacts badly to authority but doesn't mind being called on her shit if she thinks it's genuine and legitimate, so she's responding well to his new management style. Inbetween Miles and Clay's tutelage, she may actually be a proper spy yet.

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