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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE - S04E06: "STRIKE 2099"

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Posts

  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    to be fair miles clearly could do more to get through to her??? not even a single coupon distributed smdh

    FencingsaxMsAnthropyJacobkosh
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I really liked Miles immediately cutting a deal that is way above his pay grade and possibly a bad idea. Fun change from him being clearly correct in all of his previous disobedient moments

    Miles had to make that deal; like, even though the GM, through Susan, made a point of mentioning a couple of times that we could just call Reed.

    Because Miles' one consistent and overriding motivation is guilt. He has all the bad mojo from the days when he was a coked-up hired goon mixed with a standard case of commander's megalomania, blaming himself for setbacks nobody could have reasonably anticipated.

    In his eyes, Vlad went bad because he went back to Doom, and that happened because Miles couldn't keep his team safe from Hyperion. Elise is falling under Vlad's spell because Miles hasn't done enough to get through to her. Et cetera et cetera.

    So there was no way he was going to leave Earth-462 in the lurch. If Clay and Fury tell him no, he is totally prepared to go off-book to do it.

    It probably says something about me, but I think one reason I dig Miles a lot is that many of my characters in games tend to be similarly motivated. Varis in Sharn Confidential committed war crimes during the Last War (though that didn't really come up given the way the group worked) which drove him to stop the next war so that no one else would have to do something similar, and Sinon in At the Edge of All Things (do not read if you followed this AP or played in the game and don't want to be spoiled)
    murdered his freaking wife when he found out she was a Seer of the Throne
    did some seriously dark shit which drove nearly all of his actions post-soul/memory recovery. I had to consciously not do that with your The One Ring and Edge of the Empire games.

    MsAnthropy on
    "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
    Jacobkosh
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    to be fair miles clearly could do more to get through to her??? not even a single coupon distributed smdh

    He's trying to help her achieve her goals of cooking! A true pal would never encourage backsliding. #TeamMachineMan

    sig.gif
    MsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    to be fair miles clearly could do more to get through to her??? not even a single coupon distributed smdh

    He's trying to help her achieve her goals of cooking! A true pal would never encourage backsliding. #TeamMachineMan

    I mean

    I bought her a mcflurry

    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I really liked Miles immediately cutting a deal that is way above his pay grade and possibly a bad idea. Fun change from him being clearly correct in all of his previous disobedient moments

    Miles had to make that deal; like, even though the GM, through Susan, made a point of mentioning a couple of times that we could just call Reed.

    Because Miles' one consistent and overriding motivation is guilt. He has all the bad mojo from the days when he was a coked-up hired goon mixed with a standard case of commander's megalomania, blaming himself for setbacks nobody could have reasonably anticipated.

    In his eyes, Vlad went bad because he went back to Doom, and that happened because Miles couldn't keep his team safe from Hyperion. Elise is falling under Vlad's spell because Miles hasn't done enough to get through to her. Et cetera et cetera.

    So there was no way he was going to leave Earth-462 in the lurch. If Clay and Fury tell him no, he is totally prepared to go off-book to do it.

    It probably says something about me, but I think one reason I dig Miles a lot is that many of my characters in games tend to be similarly motivated. Varis in Sharn Confidential committed war crimes during the Last War (though that didn't really come up given the way the group worked) which drove him to stop the next war so that no one else would have to do something similar, and Sinon in At the Edge of All Things (do not read if you followed this AP or played in the game and don't want to be spoiled)
    murdered his freaking wife when he found out she was a Seer of the Throne
    did some seriously dark shit which drove nearly all of his actions post-soul/memory recovery. I had to consciously not do that with your The One Ring and Edge of the Empire games.

    This is interesting! I never knew this about you, that you had a character type you gravitated toward. I've always been really impressed at how different your people have felt from one another.

    Miles is...maybe not my very first, but I definitely have not, in the past, had a strong tendency to give my characters a lot of heavy stuff in their backstories, so this whole process has been somewhat new to me. I totally have a default RPG character type, or two: it's probably a toss up between very idealistic, energetic, Paragon Shep kind of characters (like Superman or Captain America or Alec Baldwin's version of Jack Ryan from The Hunt for Red October) or kind of gruff but lovable older tough guy authority figures (like Sisko or most Tommy Lee Jones characters, or Scott Glenn in The Hunt for Red October, or Clay in this game, who is totally the kind of character I have played in other games).

    I wanted to do something a little new to me, but I also needed a character who could plausibly fit the team leader role and could also be the kind of straight man of the team who, like, herds the cats and gets people moving in the direction of the story. And while I always like playing good guys, I tend to not want to play good guys in the exact same way.

    And what I've found is that giving Miles a kind of compromised backstory has opened up a lot of options for playing him: if I play him as an uncomplicated good guy, he has a clear motivation for why he's that way (he doesn't want to be bad anymore), but if I play him as kind of morally ambiguous and maybe brutally pragmatic, well, there's an explanation for that too, and if I ever wanted to just make him do something straight-up malevolent or selfish or scary, well, it's already safely established that he's capable of that.

    Having all those options available - "I used to be a way, but now I'm not that way anymore, but I could be" - is kind of like RPG easy mode, tbh. it's great! And no matter what I do, it's a rich vein of angst to mine. :razz:

    MsAnthropyRear Admiral Choco
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    to be fair miles clearly could do more to get through to her??? not even a single coupon distributed smdh

    He's trying to help her achieve her goals of cooking! A true pal would never encourage backsliding. #TeamMachineMan

    I mean

    I bought her a mcflurry

    Gasp! A fake pal. #TeamVictoriousVlad

    sig.gif
    Jacobkosh
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I really liked Miles immediately cutting a deal that is way above his pay grade and possibly a bad idea. Fun change from him being clearly correct in all of his previous disobedient moments

    Miles had to make that deal; like, even though the GM, through Susan, made a point of mentioning a couple of times that we could just call Reed.

    Because Miles' one consistent and overriding motivation is guilt. He has all the bad mojo from the days when he was a coked-up hired goon mixed with a standard case of commander's megalomania, blaming himself for setbacks nobody could have reasonably anticipated.

    In his eyes, Vlad went bad because he went back to Doom, and that happened because Miles couldn't keep his team safe from Hyperion. Elise is falling under Vlad's spell because Miles hasn't done enough to get through to her. Et cetera et cetera.

    So there was no way he was going to leave Earth-462 in the lurch. If Clay and Fury tell him no, he is totally prepared to go off-book to do it.

    It probably says something about me, but I think one reason I dig Miles a lot is that many of my characters in games tend to be similarly motivated. Varis in Sharn Confidential committed war crimes during the Last War (though that didn't really come up given the way the group worked) which drove him to stop the next war so that no one else would have to do something similar, and Sinon in At the Edge of All Things (do not read if you followed this AP or played in the game and don't want to be spoiled)
    murdered his freaking wife when he found out she was a Seer of the Throne
    did some seriously dark shit which drove nearly all of his actions post-soul/memory recovery. I had to consciously not do that with your The One Ring and Edge of the Empire games.

    This is interesting! I never knew this about you, that you had a character type you gravitated toward. I've always been really impressed at how different your people have felt from one another.

    For nearly every character I've played, the backstory has a situation where they either committed horrible acts or they have been victims of horrible acts. Off the top of my head:
    • Varis ir'Sol - Aundairin Knight Arcane who committed atrocities during the Last War, turned alcoholic private inquisitve.
    • Verelai Lightcusp - Paladin of Corellon and only daughter of the archmage of some Forgotten Realms city I can't remember who fell in a battle I can't remember. Sold her former retinue to the Prince of Spring for a warlock pact that would allow her to take up her mother's mantle. (None of this came up since our real life game table wasn't very story driven)
    • Sinon - REDACTED acts which will only likely be redeemed in any way by his eventual sacrifice in the name of forgiveness.
    • Idril Ecthelion - Family escaped the fall of Nargothrond in the First Age of Middle-Earth. Father died in the Battle of Dagorlad, resulting in the loss of the ancestral spear, helm, and shield. (She is less of an actual character than an unchanging archetype, but one still informed by a series of tragedies).
    • Keir Sato - Raised in the scheming-murder-sector, scarpered off to an archaeological dig rather than go through with an arranged marriage, which resulted in issues for his family. Obligation dice never brought it up in game, and it is a relatively minor transgression / event, but it was still there in my initial conception of him.
    • Electra Sakai - She is insane from winning a decades-long reality show on brutal planets, only being allowed to eat if the team wins a stage, etc. She's both committed and been victim of horrendous acts, but is so warped from all of it that her psychology is practically alien compared to the rest of the crew.

    So, yeah, it is interesting to see someone else I know take up a character-type/story that I am usually more likely to play.

    "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
    JacobkoshRear Admiral Choco
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    The Executors are creepy as fuck

    I think a lot of music when relating my character and other characters in the setting and I feel like you could grab any freaky track off the Annihilation soundtrack for the Council Executors and bam, you got a perfect match

    Rear Admiral Choco on
    2WJtdLD.png
    JacobkoshMsAnthropy
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Coming with playlists for my games as my players will attest, is a thing I do almost as much as game prep, I'd be curious as to the music you would have had for STRIKE up to this point in the story Choco.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Oh, that's super hard to say! I try not to impose as I think that's kind of the GM's right, and boy does he ever knock it out of the park when he puts music in the channel.

    What I do think a lot about is the kind of music Julian listens to, though, and I like to try and reflect either what's going on in his life, his relationships with others, or even just a general kind of tone for his mental state. I've been thinking of doing a kind of write-up of how I'd characterize him via music over the last couple of days, actually, so maybe look forward to that in a bit!* Things are a bit hectic for me outside the forums lately, so unfortunately I haven't been able to make it as much of a priority as I would like. Exploring my own musical taste has been something I've only really done in the last few years after shifting away from my old... types, basically, so I find Julian's soundtrack changes a bit accordingly as time goes on.

    *I wrote this initially not intending to get super into it but already I've added quite a bit more than expected. Hah.

    In broad strokes, over the game Julian is very much a classic rock / pop / avant garde kind of guy - we're talking 1960s, 1970s mostly, with bits and bobs thrown in, with space rock as a fairly strong influence.

    To pop in a few selections here in no particular order:

    David Bowie - Holy Holy
    If I'm being honest, my own personal interest in David Bowie was near its height when we started this game and I was trying desperately not to let that dominate what Julian is about. But this is the song for him, tone-wise.

    Pink Floyd - Let There Be More Light

    Scott Walker - My Death
    Yes, I know it was written by Jacques Brel. Myehhh!

    Lou Reed - Satellite of Love

    Uriah Heep - I'll Keep On Trying

    Nektar - Burn Out My Eyes
    I find this album's tracks (Journey to the Center of the Eye) really hard to match up because goddamn they transition in some odd spots. But man do they ever work even if the end point of this track is awkward.

    To be honest when it comes to the Nektar song you won't go far wrong listening to the entire album.
    Wikipedia wrote:
    The story follows an astronaut who, while on a voyage to Saturn, encounters aliens who take him to their galaxy, where he is suffused with knowledge and wisdom.

    Seems a pretty appropriate analog to Julian, the SWORD engineer who looked a little too deep and ended up possessed by the Phoenix Force, billions of souls strong. It's great. Listen to it.

    I know what I said about how Holy Holy is what Julian's all about, but this is really the big album I listened to when I was chatting with our GM and forming ideas about him.

    Rear Admiral Choco on
    2WJtdLD.png
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Over a week has passed since Freedom Force’s unintentional jaunt to Earth-462, and they’ve been kept somewhat busy in the interim with minor excursions to deal with incidences of Inhuman violence in various corners of the globe - STRIKE has largely been avoiding issues in the US to avoid conflict with ONE for the time being - and picking up Leviathan defectors as part of Operation Overcast.

    They've also had a mountain of paperwork after the Earth-462 incident. That’s been more of a burden for some than for others. Several intelligence updates have filtered in, and Jennifer Monroe, Flashback, has filed the preliminary results of her investigation into Attilan in a bombshell report.

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report: July 2nd, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Section compiled by:
    STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    STRIKE-1 Mission Report: Operation Overcast Deemed Successful
    STRIKE-1’s mission to exfiltrate Leviathan defectors (dubbed “Operation Overcast”) has been deemed a success. With the assistance of WHISPER agents, SHIELD has been able to bring in multiple Leviathan defectors within the last 24 hours. All defectors will be thoroughly vetted by Agent Olivia Hook, STRIKE Director Quartermain, and SWORD personnel before their disposition is fully determined.

    STRIKE-1’s self-assigned in-mission secondary objective that was determined while in the field due to intel discovered while on assignment encountered complications. These issues will be addressed by STRIKE Director Quartermain, ARMOR Director Rick Jones, SWORD Director Abigail Brand, and SHIELD Director Nick Fury in an upcoming division leadership meeting to discuss the way forward on this matter.

    STRIKE-2 Mission Report: Pseudo-Vampiric Entity Still At Large
    STRIKE-2 did not successfully apprehend the vampiric entity responsible for a number of homicides in Manhattan recently. While they did successfully track the entity and did determine it is not a traditional entity that could be determined to be a vampire, it nonetheless has several hemophagic traits that could be easily confused for such by a non-expert. In confrontation with STRIKE-2, the entity created a conflict environment such that the team had to determine whether to risk escalating the conflict and potentially risking nearby bystanders, exposing the operation, and causing extensive property damage, or allowing the entity to escape. STRIKE-2 Team Leader Carol Danvers made the decision to allow the entity to escape.

    At this time it is not clear what the entity is, other than what it is not. It is neither a traditionally defined supernatural vampire, nor is it an Inhuman as blood samples obtained from combat contain no traces of Terrigen. However, Dr. Solomon does believe the entity is either a genetically altered human by some other scientific means or possibly a near-human alien entity with a hemophagic diet.

    STRIKE-2 will continue to follow up on this matter.

    STRIKE-3 Mission Report: Symkaria Diplomatic Envoy Mission Failure
    STRIKE-3 was deployed to Symkaria to act as an unofficial diplomatic envoy to a meeting between King Stefan of Symkaria and Victor Von Doom of Latveria. The meeting was tense, and ultimately ended in a disaster as Doom engaged in conversation with Agent Robert Childan and Agent Childan became confrontational regarding personal history between the two men. Agent Peter Parker worsened the confrontation by taking Agent Childan’s side, and it ultimately escalated to violence with Agent Parker attacking Doom. This did result in confirmation that Doom sent a robotic drone in his stead and was not actually physically present at the meeting.

    This has created a rather severe diplomatic incident between SHIELD, Symkaria, and Latveria. SHIELD Director Nick Fury has managed to resolve the matter for the time being via conference call with the King and with Doom.

    As of this writing, STRIKE-3 has been temporarily removed as an active duty field team. Agent Parker has been indefinitely suspended from all active field duty. Agent Childan has been re-assigned to an undercover mission to investigate the Watchdogs organization. Agent Sablinova and MODOC will continue to act in a support role for STRIKE as a whole, being reassigned to STRIKE-1 and STRIKE-2 on an as-needed basis. Agent Monroe will continue her long-term investigatory work on Attilan.

    Intel on Earth-462 Updated
    The ARMOR report on Earth-462, aka “Skrull Earth,” has been updated in light of new findings by STRIKE-1 and communications between that universe’s SHIELD and our own. Please review the file at your leisure.

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report: July 8th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Section compiled by:
    STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Winter Soldier Identity Confirmed
    We have confirmed that the identity of the Winter Soldier exfiltrated by STRIKE-1 in Operation Overcast is not only the reputed “Prototype” that served as the original Winter Soldier that all others were based off of, but is also James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, Captain America’s sidekick during World War II.

    It appears that Barnes’ memory of this time was altered by Skrull telepathic manipulation of part of his Winter Soldier reprogramming. He has been informed of his former identity, and restoration of his memories has been offered. At this time, Barnes has declined the restoration and has requested to keep his identity concealed from Steve Rogers. STRIKE is under orders to respect Barnes’ wishes on this matter.

    Barnes will remain in SWORD custody as a Leviathan defector until it can be 100% determined that he not only bears no latent Leviathan neuro-linguistic programming but that he can be trusted on a basic level as an individual. He is a potential asset if his loyalty can be made certain.

    Study of Jim Hammond’s Remains Completed
    SHIELD SCI-TECH have completed their analysis of Jim Hammond’s remains. Given Hammond’s service with SHIELD and his history with many of SHIELD’s highest ranking members, the amount of investigation on his remains was minimally invasive out of respect. Nonetheless, it was confirmed that the technology that Arnim Zola had developed in secret in ONE’s headquarters that STRIKE later obtained is based off Hammond’s body and the research of Dr. Phineas Horton.

    This research will be used in a variety of SCI-TECH projects to improve SHIELD’s technology and equipment, and represents a significant improvement to some of our existing projects.

    Avengers Confront the Juggernaut
    The Avengers encountered an Inhuman criminal known as the Juggernaut earlier this week, which you may have heard about in the news. This individual is extremely dangerous, and the Avengers were ultimately unsuccessful in stopping him or apprehending him. He is apparently completely indestructible and was able to outrun and out-muscle the Avengers, including the Hulk. If this individual is encountered in the field, fall back and advise HQ so an appropriate response can be determined.

    Attilan Report Completed
    Agent Jennifer Monroe has completed her report on Attilan recently, which is attached to this report for your review.

    qlGmSdP.pngUPDATE: Earth-462
    nSaxtoHh.jpg
    Codename: Skrull Earth

    Earth-462 is the result of a change in the timeline of Earth-1491 (our Earth). Leviathan agents from our Earth traveled back in time and made very specific changes to the early 20th century, and as a result a series of pivotal events in the 20th and 21st century played out in subtle but very different ways.

    Because of complex temporal dynamics beyond the scope of this document, this resulted in the timeline spiraling off into its own separate universe, one which ARMOR was technically aware of and had interacted with prior to the events that actually led to its creation.

    As a result of Leviathan’s interference, the USSR was in a far more powerful position after World War II, and infiltrated MI-13 during the 1960’s almost completely. Earth-462’s SHIELD largely fought a losing battle against Leviathan, and the USSR lasted until 2004 instead of 1990 and only collapsed because Leviathan found it no longer useful.

    In 2015, the Skrulls took over the United Kingdom, stopped all pretense of being a secret society, and used the UK’s nuclear arsenal to start a global nuclear war. They also destroyed the Kree satellite network around the globe, which brought them into direct conflict with Attilan.

    As of this writing, the Skrulls of Earth-462 are engaged in a protracted war with their own Attilan, with Earth-462’s SHIELD trying to keep their head down and protect the remnants of humanity and resist Skrull dictatorship.

    The Skrulls of Earth-462 are also aware of the Dard’van (who in their universe have also taken over the Skrull Empire and started a war with the Kree Empire) and have opted to avoid contacting the Skrull Empire as their history of racial mixing and imperialism would not gel with Dard’van philosophy.

    qlGmSdP.pngJuggernaut
    bjKBkhTl.jpg
    Real name: Unknown
    Known extranormal abilities: Appears to be completely indestructible and exhibits superhuman strength on a scale we are not able to quantify. It does not seem possible to stop the Juggernaut by any known means once he has started moving. He also wears a helmet of unknown design that blocks all telepathic interference and psionic attack.

    The Juggernaut is an Inhuman criminal that the Avengers have encountered and were unable to defeat. He is, of this writing, still at large and considered extremely dangerous.

    Jacobkosh on
    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    wPhcioc.png

    The Inhuman nation of Attilan is a powerful potential ally to SHIELD and to Earth as a whole, but is also a very dangerous potential threat. I have compiled this report on Attilan’s history, culture, technological and military capabilities based on several weeks of embedded investigation and close access to the Attilan royal family.

    This report will likely need updating as more intel is acquired or the disposition of Attilan changes.

    qlGmSdP.pngAttilan History
    CH0VJq1h.jpg

    It is known that Attilan was a Kree research outpost on the Moon, originally established during the Hyborian Age using Kree space-fold technology.

    What I have learned is after the Kree Accusers purged the Kree scientists at the end of the Hyborian Age at the behest of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, a small number of Inhuman test subjects survived in the outpost and were able to establish contact with Earth through the fold-gate in the Azores. From there, they found other Inhumans on Earth and were able to rebuild the outpost into a full city.

    For thousands of years, Attilan remained largely secluded, only periodically venturing to Earth through the fold-gate to diversify their gene-pool and acquire resources. SWORD has speculated for years that Attilan was the source of the myth of Atlantis, given the similarity in names and the fact that the fold-gate to Attilan is in the Azores. However, STRIKE Director Quartermain has dismissed this theory as “inaccurate” without elaboration.

    Over time, their society stratified into their current caste structure, and the Genetics Council was established in response to some kind of calamity that Maximus was nonspecific about as it seems to be some kind of cultural taboo to discuss it.

    In 1835, the Genetic Councilor Phaeder was dispatched to Earth to study the Mutagenesis phenomenon (more on that in Attilan Special Notes). He encountered the American Union soldier John Steele, who had undergone Mutagenesis. Phaeder abducted Steele and brought him to Attilan to perform experiments on him, many of them unethical. Steele escaped Phaeder’s lab, and was a fugitive in Attilan for a time. Eventually Steele met with the crown princess of Attilan at the time, and the two fell in love. The incident almost caused a civil war, and resulted in both Phaeder and Steele being exiled from Attilan. The princess apparently gave Steele a Kree Diviner to find his way back to Attilan one day when the controversy had passed, but given our own knowledge of Steele’s fate we know how that played out.

    We do not, at this time, know what became of Phaeder. He never returned to Attilan.

    During the 20th century, the Genetic Council became aware of the rising number of Mutants on Earth (a term that Attilan uses to distinguish from Inhumans; Inhumans have undergone Terrigenesis, Mutants have undergone Mutagenesis. I, for example, am technically a Mutant by Attilan nomenclature). They began to conduct more thorough investigations into the subject, which SHIELD was completely unaware of.

    Attilan was not aware that Leviathan was run by Skrulls (who they consider their mortal enemy) until they were informed as such by SHIELD.

    Historically, Attilan has always put themselves first over all other concerns. During Earth’s World Wars, for example, King Agar’s grandfather King Symak refused to get involved even when nuclear weapons were used, despite protests from his own people. While they are not an isolated kingdom, they are isolationist as a matter of policy.

    qlGmSdP.pngAttilan Culture
    OwzZwggh.jpg

    Attilan culture is simultaneously alien and familiar. Antiquated and advanced. The constant contradictions can be dizzying.

    Because they have thousands of years of continuous culture, they have their own distinct language, known as Tilani, which is the first language of most Inhumans. It seems to be extremely similar to Latin (or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say Latin is similar to Tilani) but more modern and reflective of thousands of years of still being a living language, possibly closer to modern Italian at times.

    Most Inhumans also speak three or four additional languages, with almost all speaking English and most also speaking Hindi and various continental European languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. The commonality of English and Hindi in particular seems to be entirely because of consumption of Earth media from American and Indian film and television industries, respectively.

    Given that opera and musical theater is a cultural norm in Attilan, musicals from Earth are extremely popular in Attilan and as a result, Bollywood films tend to be more popular than American cinema (cultural similarities between more conservative elements of India and Attilan also make Bollywood cinema more relatable to Inhumans than most Hollywood productions).

    Attilan society is sharply and harshly class-based. Nobility are nobility, merchants are merchants, craftsmen are craftsmen, and laborers are laborers. It simply is as it is. Periodically there is civil unrest over this issue, but the power of the state is so absolute that it’s simply impossible to change.

    However, because the majority of the hardest labor and most unpleasant tasks in Attilan are handled by Alpha-Primitives (a subject that is discussed in more detail later), most of the people who are technically on the bottom rungs of Attilan society lead a life that is not anywhere near what we on Earth would consider impoverished. Attilan has no homelessness, no famine, no joblessness. It also has very little in the way of personal freedoms, no true freedom of speech, no ability to organize protests against the state, no free press, and even the Earth media that the majority of the populace are permitted to consume is carefully controlled by the Cultural Guidance Council, an organization whose very existence I personally find sinister.

    Talking to regular Attilan citizens, people seem largely happy. Even people who are technically peasants don’t speak ill of the crown and have faith in King Agar as a good ruler. They speak of previous, tyrannical kings in the past in vague, shadowy terms and metaphor, and I can’t probe further without violating social mores.

    Attilan use their own currency, the dinar, and amazingly enough the overwhelming majority of merchants I have encountered also accept US dollars at an exchange rate I found fair.

    Regular citizens of Attilan are not permitted to leave the city. Excursions to Earth are only permitted for nobility and for members of the Genetic Council for specific reasons. It’s not possible to get reception for most electronic devices while you’re inside Attilan, so all Earth media either is physically transported into the city (USB drives, DVDs, etc.) or specific signals are permitted to be broadcast and accessed by the Cultural Guidance Council. These signals are received by the Kree satellite network (the fact that Attilan has access to this network has implications discussed in other sections of this document).

    qlGmSdP.pngAttilan Science
    Attilan has thousands of years of continuous civilization and knowledge, and has advanced alien technology and science at their disposal. This has given them a scientific and technical edge we need to be able to understand. I have highlighted a few important details about their science and technology and matters pertaining to it that we need to be mindful of below.

    Terrigen Crystals
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    It’s impossible to discuss Attilan without talking about Terrigen Crystals and Terrigenesis. It’s the core of their society and what makes them Inhumans, ultimately. Without it, they’re just humans with Kree heritage.

    There is an entire cave system underneath Attilan where Terrigen grows naturally, and Attilan pumps water into this cave system to create a chemical reaction that creates Terrigen Mist when an individual with Kree DNA is present. When the Mist is inhaled, an individual with Kree DNA will usually undergo Terrigenesis and become some form of Inhuman.

    However, there is a very small percentage of individuals, the Tilani word for them being “Videntii,” who go into the Mists and come out with no changes whatsoever. Videntii (singular, Videntium) are also called “flatscans” as a slur, which is a word that some Inhumans also use for regular humans. Maximus is a Videntium (something discussed in detail in Attilan Special Notes).

    Usually, Terrigenesis happens in adolescence, as a coming of age ritual for people of Attilan. It is interesting to note that Terrigenesis isn’t actually limited by social class; nobles and peasants all undergo the change, but all Inhumans are subject to analysis by the Genetic Council before and after the change. In rare cases, I am told that it is determined it would be too dangerous for an Inhuman to undergo Terrigenesis and it is refused by the Genetic Council. What happens then is unclear, but Maximus tells me it is “unpleasant” and would not say more.

    It is important to note that the Terrigen Crystals growing under Attilan are a natural formation that predate Attilan’s founding. They are, in fact, the reason why the Kree built Attilan on the Moon. The crystals themselves are partially organic, and grow naturally over time provided they are not over-harvested (which the Inhumans are very careful about). The Crystals were not created or placed by the Kree, and given what we know from SWORD’s intelligence and information about Asgard, were probably placed there by the Celestials thousands of years before the Kree arrived.

    Space-Folding
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    Attilan has at least one major known fold-gate, in the Azores. This gate is now guarded and established as a base by SHIELD, and will eventually house the official embassy for Attilan.

    There are apparently other fold-gates on Earth that connect to Attilan, although Maximus refused to disclose them to me. Attilan apparently does understand how Kree space-fold technology works and are capable of using the technology to further expand the size of their city and create new fold-gates.

    They are not interested, at this time, in sharing this technology. I have been unable thus far to gain access to more detailed information on their space-fold engines. More intel is pending.

    Eldrac, the Living Door
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    Another method the Inhumans use to travel to and from Earth (and “other places” Maximus said once to me, vaguely), is using Eldrac, the Living Door. Eldrac is apparently an actual Inhuman, who after his Terrigenesis continued to grow and deform in size. The aperture that people travel through is actually his mouth. He was built directly into the city architecture over time.

    Apparently Eldrac is hundreds of years old, and is no longer sentient, having been effectively lobotomized by the Genetic Council a long time ago “for the good of everyone, including himself” according to Maximus. The people of Attilan don’t even see Eldrac as a person. He’s viewed as a feature of the city, who has been there since before the living memory of any Inhuman I spoke to. Even if they’re aware of his history, they simply shrug and suggest that his transformation was so extreme that what the Genetic Council did to him was an act of mercy and that it was the best solution to an unfortunate situation and now he gets to still serve the city.

    This sort of cultural view is common among citizens of Attilan. It’s generally accepted that whatever the result of your Terrigenesis, you will use it to better serve the city and society, no matter what. That Eldrac has served the city for hundreds of years is seen as a great honor, instead of being a monstrous exploitation of a brain-dead victim of a transformation he couldn’t control.

    As a matter of personal principle, I refuse to use Eldrac for transit purposes.

    The Alpha-Primitives
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    Alpha-Primitives are a contentious and sensitive subject in Attilan, a constant elephant in the room that are omnipresent but no-one seems to want to discuss. They are palace guards, sewer workers, construction laborers, and seem to form the unpleasant backbone of Attilan society doing all the things that the Inhumans don’t deign to do themselves.

    They appear, at first, to be robotic or bio-mechanical constructs. They don’t seem to be sentient, and behave as ordered and do not exhibit any sort of individual personality.

    The part I find distressing is no-one, including Maximus, is willing to discuss with me where they come from or how they are created. When I inquire, I am told regularly “the Alpha-Primitives serve,” as if that in and of itself is the answer.

    I am unsatisfied with this answer. The fact that dissent is impossible, that the upward social mobility for people like the Videntii is so limited, the fact that Attilan seems to regularly visit Earth but I don’t see any non-Inhuman residents of the city, all of these things make me extremely suspicious there is a very upsetting and dark secret in the creation of the Alpha-Primitives and every member of this society is quietly complicit in this reality.

    Regardless of their potentially sinister origin, I am opposed to the exploitation of machine entities or machine-like entities for labor and the like as a principle. I believe the potential for those entities to become sentient is demonstrably extant (we literally have multiple team members in STRIKE, including one on my own field team, who were conceived first as tools to be used and became self-determining individuals). It’s short-sighted and foolish in the most pragmatic sense, and to be frank is unethical in a broader sense.

    I am going to investigate further on the origin of these Alpha-Primitives. This section will need updating as more intel is acquired.

    Kree Satellite Network Access
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    A note of serious concern is that Attilan apparently has access to and potential control of the entire Kree defensive satellite network. This includes the Peak, SWORD’s headquarters. I have directly notified SWORD Director Abigail Brand on this issue so that SWORD can attempt to figure out countermeasures for their headquarters specifically in the event that Attilan attempts to seize control of their headquarters remotely.

    The Kree defensive satellite network can potentially destroy the majority of life on Earth, and can definitely destroy all meaningful human civilization, blasting us back to the Stone Age. We know this because they’ve literally done it before in the Hyborian Age. The fact that Attilan has a hand on this switch gives them unbelievable leverage over us, which we cannot allow. Even if they’re allies, it simply cannot be permitted to have that Damoclean Sword hanging over us.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    qlGmSdP.pngAttilan Politics
    Attilan is, in a very technical sense, a constitutional monarchy. While it appears at first glance to be an absolute monarchy with the King as a final authority on all matters, in reality the various Councils under the King (especially the Genetic Council) essentially can overrule him.

    Maximus has told me that in Attilan’s history, there have been periods of “tyrannical Kings” who have been overthrown by the Councils and a new King installed, and even the King has to be beholden to the will of the Genetic Council on things like reproduction and Terrigenesis. For example, the Genetic Council has determined that King Agar and Queen Medusalith are not allowed to reproduce, because their child would be too dangerous and unstable and potentially could destroy the entire city. The King has obeyed this order, and as a result the legal heir to the throne is a complex issue that will be discussed elsewhere in this report.

    Below are a brief details on specific political figures of importance, and their roles in Attilan society.

    King Agar
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    Full Title: Agar the Black of the House Agon, the First of His Name, King of the Inhumans and the Alpha-Primitives, Lord of Attilan and Bolt of the Night

    King Agar (often called “The Black Bolt” by his subjects as a colloquialism) is feared and respected by his people. He is considered one of the most powerful Inhumans to have ever lived, with an ability to produce devastating transonic waves using his voice. According to Maximus, a whisper from the King can level a building. If he shouted, he could destroy all of Attilan. For this reason, he wears a face mask and collar to restrict him from even accidentally uttering any sounds, and speaks in sign language, which many of the individuals at court are able to interpret and understand.

    King Agar is considered a just king, firm but fair, and under his rule some of the regulations regarding cultural connections to Earth have loosened and that has made him very popular. As mentioned earlier, because of his abilities and the potential for his own child to inherit such an ability (or something even more powerful), the Genetic Council has forbidden the King from fathering children. This will create an inheritance crisis when Agar eventually dies, something discussed elsewhere in this report.

    Queen Medusalith
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    Full title: Queen Medusalith of House Amaquelin, Royal Consort of the King, and Speaker of the King’s Royal Will

    Medusalith is queen of Attilan, having married Agar many years ago when he was still the Crown Prince. It wasn’t until Agar became King that the Genetic Council ruled that the two were forbidden from having children, which was a devastating blow to Medusalith and to House Amaquelin (who tried to appeal the ruling, unsuccessfully). In less polite circles of Attilan, she’s sometimes called “the Barren Queen,” despite not actually being infertile, simply because she’s forbidden from having children.

    Medusalith retained her title of Royal Consort from when she was Agar’s Consort as a Prince, because she was proud of it. Even when Agar later married her, she retained the title. In the eyes of some Attilan nobility, marriage is a political action while consort is a position of love, so to be Agar’s wife and consort was important to her. Not all agree with this idea, but many nobles I talked to do. Some also believe that by retaining the title of Consort, it prevents the King from taking any other Consorts, which is also entirely possible.

    Princess Crystalia
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    Full title: Princess Crystalia of House Amaquelin, Ambassador to Earth and Betrothed of Prince Maximus of House Agon

    Princess Crystalia is Queen Medusalith’s younger sister, who for many years flitted about court as something of a gadfly and controversial source of embarrassment for her sister. She is reputedly obsessed with Earth culture and used her noble status to visit Earth whenever permitted. She leveraged her position to become Attilan’s royal ambassador to Earth.

    Crystalia has recently become engaged to Prince Maximus, and have worked out an arrangement wherein she will serve as a biological mother to Maximus’ child while pursuing a romantic relationship with STRIKE Agent Elise Arnell, who will also become Crystalia’s Royal Consort. There is more on this arrangement in Attilan Special Notes.

    Prince Maximus
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    Maximus is a Videntium, an Inhuman who was not altered by the Terrigen Mists and thus had his social standing brutally diminished in Attilan society. He is still nobility and brother to the King, so even as Videntii he is above a craftsman or a merchant or even most Inhuman nobility, but it puts finite upper limits on his social standing. Specifically, Maximus can never be King of Attilan under any circumstances.

    Normally, the King’s lack of children would cause the crown to be passed to his brother on his death. But because Maximus is a Videntium, he is skipped entirely. Instead, the crown would go to King Agar’s maternal cousin, Karnak Mander-Azur, who is a member of the priest caste and has no political interests and isn’t even a proper member of House Agon. This might actually spark a civil war.

    Maximus’ solution to this issue is to propose to Princess Crystalia. Their child would be a valid heir to the throne, and Maximus would be named as regent until the child came of age. I discuss my concerns with this proposal, and Maximus in general, elsewhere in this report.

    Arcadian
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    Full title: High Councillor Arcadian of the Genetics Council

    Arcadian leads the Genetics Council, and is possibly the most powerful individual in Attilan save for the King himself (and even that is arguable). The Genetics Council makes rulings on everything that lives in Attilan, whether it’s human, Inhuman, animal, vegetable, whatever. If it’s alive, or was alive, it’s in their purview.

    Arcadian is a ruthlessly pragmatic man. He has a reputation for putting the city above all else, even the King, and was the one who personally handed down the ruling that forbade the King from having children. His own Inhuman power is to examine a person’s genetics on touch, and can use this to determine their abilities and genetic potential. He uses this as part of how he determines who is a candidate for Terrigenesis, and what role they will play in society when their Terrigenesis is complete.

    An alliance with Attilan means dealing with Arcadian in one way or another. I will leave it to people above my paygrade to figure out what that entails.

    Kobar
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    Full title: High Councillor Kobar of the Cultural Guidance Council

    Kobar is a member of House Amaquelin (although technically, he has renounced membership to his house to sit on the Cultural Guidance Council). He is Queen Medusalith and Princess Crystalia’s grandfather. He essentially acts as a cultural censor for Attilan, determining what is and is not permitted to be brought into the city from Earth.

    According to Maximus and Crystalia, he is a deeply conservative man who has antiquated views and regularly vetoes Council rulings on permitting Earth entertainment media into Attilan. The result of his restrictiveness is a rather lucrative smuggling market in the last few decades. Princess Crystalia has informed me that when he retires or passes away, it will represent a significant change in Attilan’s culture and prior to her engagement to Maximus and meeting Elise Arnell, it was her intention to possibly replace him.

    Karnak
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    Full title: Seeker Karnak Mander-Azur

    I only briefly met and spoke with Karnak, who is technically the heir to the throne as of this writing. He is the King’s maternal cousin and isn’t technically a member of the House of Agon, but Attilan’s hereditary rules are complicated and seemingly designed to make sure under no circumstances does a Videntii claim the throne.

    Karnak is a “Seeker,” a member of a priestly caste that I am very unclear on. Inhuman religious practices is not something I have been able to get into during my intelligence gathering, since it seems to be a very personal and touchy subject and not one of a military and defense concern.

    Nonetheless, because of his status as a Seeker, it appears that Karnak is a poor fit for being a King in the eyes of almost everyone at court, and should it come to pass that King Agar dies and the crown passes to him, it might cause a revolt and a civil war as House Amaquelin makes a play for the throne or something of that nature.

    qlGmSdP.pngAttilan: Special Notes
    Some final notes on Attilan, Maximus, Inhumans, and other matters of interest as they pertain to my report.

    On Maximus and his “plan”
    Maximus is dangerous. I have determined on prolonged and intimate personal contact with the man that he is quite possibly a sociopath or at the very least a narcissist. He does not have the best interests of Attilan in mind, he is a self-serving maniac and he will not be a reliable ally to Earth or SHIELD.

    His plan to impregnate Crystalia in a loveless marriage is one that will very likely result in Maximus attempting to assassinate King Agar, Queen Medusalith, Princess Crystalia, STRIKE Agent Elise Arnell, and quite likely myself as soon as the child is born and he is established as Regent. He has absolutely no intention to share power with Crystalia, and will use his child as a puppet so he can be king.

    I am not certain if it is because of the abusive, oppressed circumstances of the Videntii that Maximus was led down this path, but I’m not interested in making excuses for his Machiavellian behavior. I see right through this man, as I am sure many others in our agency already do.

    He believes he is far more intelligent and convincing than he is, because he is used to being the largest fish in his very small pond and isn’t accustomed to encountering an intelligence agent with decades of field experience.

    However, at this time I believe he is a potential form of controlled opposition. I have engaged the man in an intimate relationship in which he believes he is the superior and controlling party and I am a naive participant that is unwitting to his machinations, because his previous experience with SHIELD agents does not give him a high opinion of our capabilities for espionage. I have leveraged this gullibility to put him on the back-foot.

    I am awaiting orders as to what further action to take now that he is in this vulnerable position, and this report will need updating as actions are taken.

    It should be stressed that under no circumstances should Maximus be permitted to be Regent, but that a child fathered by Maximus and Crystalia would still be a legitimate heir to the throne, so there are elements of his plan that are fundamentally sound if he’s removed from the equation after he’s performed his necessary duties of marriage and fatherhood.

    On Mutagenesis and Terrigenesis
    A startling personal revelation to discover during my time in Attilan was the concept of Mutagenesis, an alternative method by which some individuals with Kree DNA activate their latent genetic potential. I learned this concept applied to me personally, since I was never actually exposed to Terrigen at any point in my life and my powers surfaced in response to immediate risk to my life. This sort of traumatic activation of abilities has a name in Attilan; they refer to it as “Mutagenesis,” and individuals who result from that change as “Mutants,” considering them distinct from true Inhumans. Technically speaking, I’m a Mutant, and not an Inhuman like Elise Arnell or Steve Rogers.

    Mutants are considered an oddity in Attilan society, viewed with suspicion and sometimes hostility as their Mutagenesis is spontaneous and not cleared by the Genetic Council, so I’ve concealed the specifics of my origin while there.

    According to Maximus, Mutants are actually more common on Earth than Inhumans, and increased in frequency in the 20th century, and Attilan has been secretly investigating the subject for some time.

    Personal Notes on Attilan in General
    Attilan is a vastly powerful potential ally, but while there I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to Soviet Russia and North Korea. People are happier, more well-fed, but it’s a totalitarian state with dark secrets and it is the opinion of this agent that SHIELD should carefully consider a regime change operation if Attilan is going to be seriously contemplated as a long-term ally.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    The team gets called into the conference room for a briefing on a field mission. Clay is there, as are Flashback and Niles Nordstrom.

    And someone else. Someone whom one might not expect to find in the Avengers Tower under normal circumstances…

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    Steve Rogers, Captain America.

    Elise slouches into the conference room, looking absolutely miserable—dark circles under her eyes, clouds of weed smoke hanging off of her, some roots showing above her dyed hair. When she sees Captain America, she stops where she's standing and stares with a look of muted panic.

    Vlad stands to the left of Elise's side of the desk. His arms folded, he stares at Flashback, not sparing a glance for Rogers.

    Michael walks in and notices Cap standing with Clay and Niles. He stops, quirks his eyebrow and thinks Huh, this can only be a good thing before sitting down.

    Miles walks in with a Big Hug Mug of coffee. He stops, turns, looks, turns away, turns back, looks again, takes a sip of coffee, and then spits it out. "PFWHAT TH-e heck do we have here, boss?"

    Clay looks at Miles. "A mission. Everyone take a seat."

    Elise eases herself into a seat, still staring at the front of the room with a mix of anger and deer-eyed terror. Miles hooks a seat with his foot, drags it out and carefully settles into it.

    Julian blearily hovers his face over a very tall thermos of coffee. Every so often he clicks the seal button and lets the scent waft under his nose. He raises the vessel to Monroe and Rogers with a nod, then takes a long slurp.

    Clay begins. "I trust everyone has read Agent Monroe's report on Attilan. There were some very disquieting details in there, ones that we need to address immediately. Agent Monroe and Captain Rogers will be working with you on this."

    Elise's hand shoots up into the air.

    "Hold your questions for a moment, Elise."

    "Nuhhh."

    "There's two salient details we need to deal with in regards to Attilan, and they form the primary and secondary objectives of your mission. Firstly, we need to address the fact that Attilan can, at any time, take complete control of the Kree satellite network in orbit around Earth. One of those satellites is the Peak, SWORD HQ, and is inhabited by our personnel. The Kree satellite network is capable of wiping out all of human civilization if Attilan just decides one day to do so. We can't allow them to have that power.

    "Secondly, there's the subject of the Alpha-Primitives. Agent Monroe doesn't like how as a society they all seem to collectively dodge the subject on their origins, and I don't either. There's only two real answers to that question; either it's some horrid Soylent Green is people situation, or they're exactly what they look like on the tin. But even if they're robots or some kind of bio-mechanical drones, that's not better.

    “I'm sure Vladimir has about nine different things to say about a robotic slave race, and quite frankly I agree. For all the Earth media these people consume, apparently they've never seen Terminator or The Matrix or Battlestar Galactica."

    Vlad frowns. Elise looks increasingly miserable.

    "But we can't have you just rooting around in the inner workings of their society and undermining their technology without raising eyebrows, so that's where Captain Rogers comes in. He has been volunteered to be SHIELD's official ambassador on a diplomatic envoy to negotiate a bunch of things.

    "Rogers is, technically, an Inhuman, a fact Fury's deigned to let him in on recently."

    The Captain grimaces at this.

    "That's my job!" Elise protests. "I'm the informal ambassador!"

    "More like the...special envoy," Miles deadpans. Elise whips her head at him to give her most fearsome grimace.

    "Informal ambassador," Julian repeats to her.

    Clay nods. "Yes, an informal ambassador. Rogers is going to be the formal ambassador. You're their formal ambassador's girlfriend now, Elise, which makes you biased.”

    "Yeah, I read the report," she grits out.

    "More importantly, Elise, you have your real job to do, as an Agent of STRIKE."

    Elise bristles.

    "Rogers will actually be extremely popular in Attilan, he's famous and when they learn he's one of 'theirs' he'll become an instant celebrity. He'll serve as a perfect attention-getter to keep all eyes focused on his diplomatic mission. And away from you lot."

    "...While we do what?" she asks. "Disable the Kree networks? Figure out what's up with the Alpha-Primitives?"

    Niles brings up a metal case on to the desk and opens it. He holds up a small device that looks almost like it's Kree technology. "Danvers and SWORD helped me design this. You're going to go the central communications hub. Monroe will help guide you to an extent, but you'll also need to use your own skills and abilities to find your way to it. Install this device, and it will allow us to override any attempt to seize control of the satellite network if Attilan ever attempts it. Attilan will still be able to use the satellites for communication and so on. We're not cutting them off. That would be easily noticed.

    "But if they ever try to seize control, this will cut them out.

    “Think of it as insurance. If it never happens, they'll never notice. If it does happen, we'll be pretty glad it was there. Better to have it and not need it, right?"

    Clay looks at Elise. "Look at this way: This isn't about betraying Attilan, or spying on them, or doing anything to hurt them. Not really. This is about keeping Earth safe, which is expressly what your entire job is. Moreover, while I believe Monroe when she says this King Agar is a good man, he might not be King forever. Or, what if he gets mind-controlled? Or replaced by a Skrull? Elise, you literally shot a Skrull in the face who replaced the King of Wakanda. That happened. This isn't a hypothetical."

    "I know!" Elise throws her hand up. "I know, I read the fuckin' report, I told you! I get it, I got fuckin' bamboozled by Maximus. He's...I know."

    Rogers looks at Clay. "A Skrull replaced the King of Wakanda?" Clay grumbles.

    "I shot him in the face," Elise pipes in.

    Rogers nods at Elise. "Good." For the first time, Elise smiles.

    "Really?” Vlad says. “Well done."

    Clay sighs. "Anyway, I also really do think this whole Alpha-Primitive thing is bad news. Vlad, you agree with me, right?"

    "Indeed, Director. Do we have any idea on how we approach this task?"

    "No,” Clay says. “You guys are going to have to figure that out on the ground."

    Vlad nods. "Good."

    "What Is our task?” Miles asks. “I don't mind finding out information."

    "Your primary objective is installing the satellite hijack," Clay says. "Your secondary objective is intel on the Alpha-Primitives, whatever form that takes."

    Elise groans. "Clay, you can't seriously expect me to roll in all stealthy like to Attilan and fuck with their shit. I've been three knuckles deep in their princess for weeks now! Everyone knows me."

    Rogers looks at Elise and silently mouths wow.

    "I will investigate the Alpha-Primitives on my own,” Vlad says. “It will be easier to remain unseen."

    Clay looks at Vladimir. "I would rather you didn't. I would rather nobody works solo on any part of the mission."

    "Why don't I just ask Crys? Hey, Crys, what's up with the Alpha-Primitives? Oh, hey Elise, they're totally innocent things."

    Clay shrugs. "Elise, if you genuinely think you can get an honest answer out of Crystalia on the Alpha-Primitives without compromising op-sec, then go for it."

    "I think I can, actually! Because I'm actually good at my job!" Elise spits out, giving Flashback a glare.

    "I don't care how you guys get the intel,” Clay says. “You know I am results-oriented. I don't want diplomatic incidents or, y'know, a war with Attilan. That's my victory condition here."

    Rogers turns his head slowly and looks at Clay. Vlad nods.

    Elise raises her hand. "Permission to throw myself off the top of the A tower?"

    "Declined. Any other questions?"

    Miles raises his hand. "What are our rules of engagement here? I'm just...can we even ICER half of these Inhumans? Every single person we encounter is like a whole new chance for everything to go horribly wrong."

    Elise stares. "No, you can't ICER Inhumans, what the fuck, Miles?! Would you ICER me?"

    Miles holds thumb and forefinger up. "I have been this close."

    She pauses. "Y'know, honestly? That's fair."

    Clay continues. "Don't use veils or disguises, these people know who you are and being Elise's fraterarmalis is basically your reason for being there. Bring ICERs with you in case things absolutely get hairy. Vlad does have stealth tech and you may have to lean heavily on that to sneak around."

    Elise leans in towards Phoenix. "Julian. Julian, hey. Set me on fire."

    "Every Inhuman is a unique super-being, so they're all an unknown hostiles if it goes down. So...don't?" Clay’s gaze falls on every member of the team. "Avoid conflict if at all possible."

    "Julian. Hey. C'mon. Just light me on fire a little."

    Clay snaps his fingers at Elise. She sits up straight and gives him a sickly smile. "Anything further?” he asks. “Otherwise, go with Niles and gear up. Vlad, I think Parker is milling around in the lounge, said he was looking for you."

    "Is he impatient?” Miles asks. “Would you say he's crawling the walls?"

    "Indeed." Vlad stands up, fires a scowl at Flashback, and moves outside.

    Elise stands and sidles over to Captain Rogers. "Hey," she says.

    Rogers looks at Elise. "Hello."

    She grins. "Did you know Fury wanted me to be an Avenger?"

    Rogers looks at Elise. "Oh. Huh. What are...what are your powers?"

    "Complete sensory control and manipulation," Elise brags. She does not include her old powers.

    "Oh. Nifty," Rogers nods.

    Elise grins and finger guns her way out of the conversation and off to prep.

    Rogers turns and looks at Clay. Clay pinches his nose and walks away from him. "Shut up, Steve, I don't want to hear it, mate."

    Miles finishes his coffee and pulls out his phone under the table. W/ CAPTAIN AMERICA RIGHT NOW! 8zdzIVu.png?1 He sends it to Carol and calmly stands and leaves the room.

    His phone buzzes. The reply just says OMG

    Jacobkosh on
    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Vlad finds Peter in the lounge. He's wearing his civilian clothing, and looks nervous.

    "Hello Peter, how are you?" Vlad’s tone is soft and welcoming.

    Peter looks at Vlad and smiles widely. "Hey boss!" He motions for Vlad to follow him into one of the side offices. "Here, here, I gotta talk to you about some stuff..."

    Vlad nods ad follows Peter into the side office. Peter closes the door and makes sure nobody else is watching or listening. "Alright, so, long story...

    "You know what happened in Symkaria. I'm sorry. You know that. But uh...okay, so, after that happened and Ms. Hand was like, basically, you're grounded…

    "Silver came to me and was like, Peter, it's the suit. The suit's the problem. It's making you crazy, it's unstable. If you could fix the suit, if you could make it stable, they'll let you back in the field again."

    Vlad slowly nods.

    "So I started looking at what I could do and the thing is like, the suit is partially organic, right? Dr. Richards put a bunch of organic components in it. But after you changed it, the organic components were unstable, and that's why they kept misfiring adrenals and stuff, making me all aggro, y'know? So I was trying to think of how to stabilize it."

    "I was talking to MODOC about it, just like, brainstorming. MODOC's a good little guy to bounce ideas off of sometimes. And like, he brought up this thing that SWORD had in containment on the Peak, because I guess he gave himself access to all of SHIELD's databases? Anyway, so yeah SWORD had this thing on the Peak, an alien symbiote called a Klyntar.

    "MODOC wanted to help me, so a couple days back, we took the Zephyr in the middle of the night up to the Peak. MODOC deleted all the logs and stuff so nobody knew, and we took the Klyntar and we integrated it into my suit and boss it fixed everything."

    "Show me."

    He smiles, and the suit itself oozes over his skin.

    AT02jSxl.jpg

    "BEHOLD!"

    "Incredible!" Vlad looks Spider-Man up and down. "Innovation, integration, adaptation! Amazing, Spider-Man!" Vlad smiles as he places his hands on Peter’s shoulders.

    Peter continues. "And it gets better! So, okay, I know STRIKE likes the whole black ops motif but like, I took this thing for a test run for the last couple days, just doing my old stuff. Y'know, stopping muggers, catching bad guys, stuff like that?

    "But I didn't do it in STRIKE colors, and that's when I realized I could do this..."

    Jrit0val.jpg

    He shifts the suit back to the black color scheme

    Vlad nods in approval. "You have done well, Peter."

    "The suit is transmorphic. It can conceal itself inside my clothing and stuff, and even do like, a chameleon thing where I hide against a wall. It's not as good as your invisibility but if I sit still, it's pretty good stealth.

    "I don't even need to make web-fluid anymore! The suit makes it now, it's all organic. We can do anything."

    "You have empowered yourself, Peter. You can stand against any who would test you."

    Peter nods at Vlad. "So, okay, do you think you can like...talk to Director Quartermain? Convince him to let me go on missions again? Tell him I fixed the suit? Maybe uh...maybe don't get into how? He might get mad. Just tell him MODOC and I fixed it. I can do a demonstration! OH! Hey, I got an idea...you guys are going on a mission, right? What if I came with you?"

    Vlad smiles. "As much as I would enjoy that, I do not think it would be a good idea to have you join us on the mission. MODOC and you have done a great thing but I am afraid the Director will be less than pleased. However, I will speak with him and explain your success. Perhaps I will raise the issue after our own mission success. I would think then would be the time to ask."

    Peter's shoulders slump, but he nods slowly. "...okay. You're right, boss."

    Vlad places his hand on Peter's shoulder once more. "You have done well, Peter."

    The mask retracts from Peter's face, and Vlad sees him smile. "Thanks, sir." The suit retracts and Peter's civilian clothing reappears.

    "Okay, I think I'm gonna go hang out with Silver then. She said she was going to a party tonight and that I could come if you said I couldn't go on the mission." He smiles and shrugs. "So, win-win I guess?"

    Vlad nods. "Indeed, give Silver my regards."

    Peter nods and gives Vlad a casual salute. "Will do, boss." He leaves the office. He looks happier and more confident.

    PHU1KZN.png
    The Klyntar is the alien symbiote that became Spider-Man’s black suit in the comics; the black suit that turned Peter violent, tried to merge with and consume him, and when he rejected it, slithered away and merged with Peter’s workplace rival Eddie Brock to become the monstrous supervillain Venom.

    So this is definitely a totally fine development! It’s fine.

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    MsAnthropyMatevPowerpuppiesvisiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    In the locker room, Elise has showered and pulled her hair back. She is wearing her heavy red and blue Attilan coat and heavy golden bracelets and necklaces. The purple BFF bracelet jangles in between two gem encrusted bracelets.

    Miles changes into a comfortable business suit with a SHIELD lapel pin—something official and respectable but with room for his shoulder holster and ICER. Michael's wearing his G-Man suit and two ICERs in shoulder holsters.

    "Flashback?" Elise asks in her nicest voice. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

    Flashback is gearing up and looks at Elise. "Yeah, sure."

    Elise pulls Flashback to the side, wearing her biggest smile. "Flashback. Jenny. Friend." The smile falls away. "What the fuck was that intel report?"

    Jenny sighs. "Be more specific."

    "You literally took time out of your day to throw shade on me in that report. Do you think I'm stupid or -"

    "I think you suck at being a spy."

    Elise grinds her teeth together loudly.

    "However," Jenny holds up a hand. "I think that put Maximus at a disadvantage, which I exploited. So, it worked out okay.

    "This doesn't make you stupid, or useless, or a bad person. In fact, it probably means you're a good person. You basically can't be good at being a spy and be a good person. The two are mutually exclusive."

    Elise sighs loudly. "...Is Maximus, y'know." She pauses. "Is he actually good at fuckin'?"

    Jenny makes a face. "Jesus, no, he's fucking terrible. First of all, I'm pretty sure he hasn't been with many women, probably because of his diminished social standing. He might have even been a virgin before he met me? I didn't ask. I'm pretty sure because he's a prince, he can't use prostitutes."

    This doesn’t improve Elise’s mood. "So you're telling me I got bamboozled by a narcissistic virgin incel fuck."

    "Yes. And people like that are terrible in bed," Jenny says. "All about themselves, quick as possible and then going to sleep."

    "Christ." Elise pulls out a joint. "Yeah. Okay. We're cool. Sorry about the bad dicking."

    "Whatever, it's fine, to be honest if he was good I might've felt bad, and the fact that it's quick and he goes to sleep means I have more time to work."

    "We're not having this conversation any more,” Elise holds up a warning hand. "This is an affront to my lifestyle as a lesbian and if you continue I'm gonna go to HR."

    "Yeah, okay miss three-knuckle deep. I'll see you on the Zephyr." Flashback laughs and walks away.

    "She loves it!" Elise yells after her.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    sM6uHRGl.jpg

    The team gets aboard the Zephyr. Kane has already prepped for take-off. Captain Rogers and Agent Monroe are on board as well. They note that Rogers is wearing the black ops field gear he was wearing in the briefing, and does have his shield with him.

    Kane comes over the intercom. "Alright folks, next stop, the Azores."

    The Zephyr takes off.

    Elise puts her hands behind her head and puts her feet up, not looking at Steve Rogers. "Yeah, I discovered that." she says. “You know, like, Attilan. I discovered that. It was me."

    "Good job!" Julian claps a hand on Elise' shoulder.

    Michael quickly asks Vlad how his time at Hogwarts has been going under Professor Doctor Strange. Vlad says that things have been progressing with Dr. Strange, though Vlad still finds him contemptible. He finds Faiza’s company welcome.

    "Yeah, seems like a real dickbag,” Michael nods. “Glad Faiza's sticking with it, even after her whole 'accidentally witnessing a cosmic horror' episode."

    Afterward, Vlad is silent for most of the trip, but at one point sits down to ask Elise what she knows about the Alpha-Primitives and how her relationship with Crys is going.

    "I don't really know anything about the Alpha-Primitives. I honestly thought they were like those cheap-ass sentry robots that corporations had out front a couple of years ago. Y'know, remember the one that drove itself into a pool?"

    "Indeed," Vlad frowns grimly.

    “That robot was hilarious,” Miles calls from the other side of the cabin.

    "As for Crys, things are going...really well." Elise turns pink. "Y'know. It's cool. We're in love. No big deal. We go to the opera."

    As they near the Azores, Miles turns to Flashback. "This is new territory for most of us. Any suggestions on how we should approach the job?"

    Flashback nods. "We should let everyone go nuts for Steve first, let him be the big draw. Maybe break off into fireteams after that? There's six of us, so pair off in the most effective way. I have some suggestions on how to do that."

    Miles eyes Flashback curiously. "Ok, I'll bite. Who would you pair off with whom?"

    Flashback looks at Miles. "I think you and Julian should hit the streets and just...info-gather. You have advanced scanning capabilities and field experience. Julian is a telepath, he can pick up ambient thoughts and if you guys catch a lead, scan someone specific.

    "Vlad and I will head deep into the catacombs of Attilan to find the communications hub. I have a rough idea of where it is, but Vlad's hacking capabilities will be able to lead us the rest of the way and between his stealth and my speed, we'll be able to do it without being spotted and plant the hijack.

    "Elise and Michael should go to Crystalia's place, and Elise can try talking to Crystalia about the Alpha-Primitives. Elise is a lie detector, and Michael will be there to ask more direct questions and is a trained OPS agent who knows how to be direct."

    "I was hoping to show Vlad around," Elise mutters, but doesn't protest beyond that.

    "And if Maximus shows up,” Jenny says, “Elise and Michael can talk to him, too."

    "...Shit, Elise scowls.

    "I disagree, Commander," Vlad says to Miles after hearing Flashback's plan. "I think I should enter the catacombs myself. Flashback could be of use elsewhere."

    Flashback narrows her eyes at Vladimir. "No. Nobody should be alone on this mission."

    "You are not the Commander," Vlad points out.

    "Clay was pretty clear on this," Jenny says. "I can keep up with you just fine, Vlad."

    "I think not,” Vlad says. “Clay isn't here and he wants results." His eyes narrow at Flashback.

    Elise looks nervously between Flashback and Vlad.

    "Nobody goes alone," Miles announces. "Especially into the most sensitive area of the city with the absolute most potential to start a war. We are going to watch each other's backs. We are going to keep each other's impulses in check."

    He rakes his eyes over everyone in turn. "I am absolutely, one hundred percent not kidding about this. If someone goes outside of parameters to pursue some kind of...personal goal...on this one and it blows up in our faces, I'm going to ask Clay to remove that person from the team. And replace them with Longbow."

    Elise flinches.

    Flashback nods solemnly.

    "Elise, no 'Thelma and Louise-ing',” Michael says with a warm smile.

    Vlad nods to Miles in agreement, then turns his head to stare at Flashback again. "Do not fail us as you failed The Invincibles." His voice is cold and metallic.

    Julian mouths a "What the fuck?!" towards Vlad. Vlad ignores him, stands, and walks away. Elise stands up and strides after Vlad.

    Rogers raises his hand politely.

    "Yes, Captain?" Miles says.

    "You threatened to replace a team member with Longbow. I read STRIKE's files. Isn't he just another archery guy? Why's that a threat? What's the deal with Longbow?"

    Miles grins and shrugs at Cap. "Who wants to feel like they can be replaced with an archer?"

    Cap shrugs. "I...I guess. I think Clint's a good guy..."

    Kane comes over the intercom. "We are approaching the Azores, strap in."

    Elise straps in, sitting next to Vlad. She leans in. "I trust you."

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    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    qi7l1hZl.jpg

    The SHIELD base here is a lot more developed than it was the previous times that STRIKE personnel have been here. There's a proper landing strip and barracks and embassy building.

    The Zephyr lands and the team disembarks.

    Elise sticks close to Vlad, but she makes sure to find Rogers, point her thumb at everything, and say: "I did that." Rogers nods politely. With that important task done, she goes back to sticking by Vlad's side.

    The team moves into the base. Kane squares away the Zephyr, as she's not going to Attilan.

    "Y'know what's kind of bullshit?" Elise mutters quietly to Vlad. "Everyone treats me like a kid, 'cept you. I mean, you said it, right? I'm pretty...powerful?"

    "Indeed, you are a paragon of an Inhuman as I would understand it. SHIELD cannot understand the potential of our power sometimes," Vlad says in affirmation.

    Elise nods thoughtfully.

    The team approaches the fold-gate. Captain Rogers is the only one in the party who hasn’t been through one yet.

    "It's not too bad," Elise says. "Just try to like, y'know. Think of England? Shit. Think of... America? I don't -"

    Rogers looks at it. "Well, this sure is something. This goes to the Moon, huh?"

    "Fold-space inside the moon," she says.

    Julian nods. "Yeah. It's a real...real fun time."

    Rogers is genuinely impressed. "Well, excelsior, I guess..." He steps through.

    "’Excelsior.’ That's a good word. I'm stealing it." Miles sets his jaw and steps through.

    PHU1KZN.png
    For those of you who don’t know, “Excelsior” is Stan Lee’s catchphrase.

    The team goes through the fold-gate. You never really get used to it.
    1REX2Ehh.jpg

    On the other side, Rogers looks distinctly uncomfortable. "Wuuhhhh...I haven't felt like this since a hot dog eating contest...in...1939..." He tightens his jaw.

    Elise perks up. "That reminds me of a fan fiction I read one time about -" Flashback scowls at her. "Eating tournaments!" Elise finishes, and laughs nervously.

    “Mhmm.” Julian briefly takes out a compact mirror, looks himself over, straightens his clothes, pats his hair down, and replaces the mirror.

    Rogers breathes deeply. "Okay, I'm good. I'm good."

    Two Alpha-Primitive guards approach.

    29TS35Dl.jpg

    Miles straightens his jacket and tie. "Well, that was...a thing." As the Alpha-Primitives approach, he stiffens momentarily, then relaxes. "Oh. So this is them, huh?"

    Vlad attempts a scan, but it yields only limited information. He can tell that they don't have central control somewhere; they're not drones, they're not wirelessly commanded, so they have some degree of autonomy, although how much is unclear.

    They're also not entirely mechanical. They're bio-mechanical, so more accurately some kind of cybernetic organism.

    Elise steps forward to formally announce herself. "I am Elise Arnell of SHIELD, Consort to Princess Crystalia, guest of Maximus. These are my fraterarmalis. This is Captain Steve Rogers of Earth, Captain America. He is here as my guest, as an ambassador.

    "He is kin."

    The Alpha-Primitive looks at Rogers, and then at Elise, and nods. "Follow.”

    The Alpha-Primitives lead the group onwards through the city. Elise is clearly comfortable in Attilan, nodding to people here and there and striding confidently through the street.

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    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    MuFnCvQh.jpg

    They arrive at the estate of Princess Crystalia. The two guards depart.

    Elise turns to Behemoth. "Alright, Michael, you ready?"

    He nods. "Yup, let's go."

    Flashback nods to Vladimir. "I know where an entranceway is to the catacombs."

    "Then lead the way...if you can," he says.

    She sighs. "Are you gonna be a passive aggressive bitchbot for the entire mission?"

    He nods. "Most likely."

    She throws up her hands. "Well, at least you're honest."

    "Vlad, please try to be nice," Elise wheedles. "For me?"

    Vlad looks at Elise and then Flashback, saying nothing.

    "Thank you." Elise says to Vlad. "I've got your back."

    Flashback ignores Vlad’s stare and turns to Miles and Julian. "If you go down that roadway and take a left and go straight, it will take you to the central bazaar. Good place to start if you're asking questions. If you want to buy anything they take USD. Cash only, though, obviously."

    "No Apple pay?" Julian embellishes a whine.

    "Oh, shit,” Elise interjects, “they have these little pastry things, one hundred percent try those. The magic words to get past the Alpha-Primitives or anyone who questions you is ‘I am kin,’” she adds.

    Rogers looks at Miles. "I should probably go to the palace, right?"

    Miles nods to Captain Rogers. "Good luck, sir. Let us know if you need backup at any point. We'll be in the market so can probably get to you quickly.”

    Rogers smiles and nods and heads for the palace. Flashback leads Vladimir toward the secret entrance into the lower levels.

    Miles then takes Phoenix aside. "I guess it's time for a shopping montage!" When they're a good distance away, he leans in close. "Julian, I'd like you to make contact with Flashback. Ask her to make sure that Vlad absolutely does not fuck with Attilan's computers. I really don't want to find out that he's taken control of the Kree satellites or something."

    "Will do," Julian nods. "Uh...though I'm pretty sure she'll be on the same page already."

    "Probably, yeah. I just don't know if she knows about Vlad's sordid history with like...every computer he's ever met."

    Julian gives Flashback a little knock.

    Whuaaauasuhfsudgasdgagjg, she thinks, startled. Hello! Telepaths, Jesus Christ fuck!

    Hey, uh...just so you know - Oh sorry, first time I guess! Julian begins. Okay so look. Vlad has had kind of a...history with AIs and computer systems and stuff. He loves to uplift them, let's put it that way. So like, maybe keep a super close eye on anything he does with Attilan's systems.

    Yeah there's a reason he's going with me and not with you guys to find out about the Alpha-Primitives, she thinks back.

    Okay! Cool! Just wanted to make sure we're on the same page! he responds. Just think of him as a troubled teen with a big handful of enticing candy.

    Yeah, way ahead of you. Thanks for the heads up.

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    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Elise and Michael walk up to Crystalia's estate.

    Gorgon greets them at the door. He smiles warmly at Elise, and nods at Michael.

    "Hey, big guy! How are things?" Elise asks him.

    "Well. The Princess has been eagerly waiting for your return," Gorgon says. He looks at Michael, and extends a hand. "Gorgon Petragon. We met briefly when Elise was in crisis."

    Michael shakes his hand. "Michael Westin, nice to see you again."

    Gorgon looks at Elise. "She is in her room, if you would go to her.”

    "Will do. Thanks, Gorgon." Elise shoots finger guns at the two of them and heads inside.

    “Michael, care to join me for a drink? I feel the Princess is quite safe with Elise."

    Michael smiles. "Sure, I'd love to try some Attilan drinks."

    Gorgon grins widely. He leads Michael over to a lounge area, where there is a small bar, and picks up some crystalline decanters filled with unfamiliar drinks. However, when he uncaps them, the strong smell that wafts over is distinctly alcohol.

    He pours himself and Michael a drink, and hands Michael the glass, taking a seat. "What brings you to the city? I know you are Elise's guest, but is there a purpose beyond sightseeing?"

    "We're here to learn more about your civilization. We've recently just become aware of Atillian and, to be honest, I find this place fascinating."

    "Indeed? I am told you are not one of us. Unlike Elise's friend Jennifer, you're not kin, nor are you a machine like her friend Vladimir. Might I ask where your power comes from?"

    "Have you ever heard of a place called Asgard?" Michael asks.

    Gorgon nods. "I have, yes. Attilan and Asgard have had periodic contact, trade, wars, diplomacy. It's all very complex."

    "Wars? I'm sorry to hear that. I hope things are okay between you guys now?"

    Gorgon sips his drink and shrugs. "There was a war, a long time ago. Started over some courtly drama, and an affair, bastard child, that sort of thing. Half-Inhuman, half-Asgardian prince. Ended up being raised in Asgard. Grew up not knowing his heritage. Asgardians call that sort of thing having 'Frost Giant blood.'

    "Heard he was killed, though. His own brother, was exiled from Asgard over it."

    PHU1KZN.png
    In case it’s not clear, he’s talking about Loki. Loki is the son of a Frost Giant in the real Norse myths, and having Frost Giant blood means someone has Kree heritage, so...

    Michael keeps his face as impassive as possible. "That seems like a raw deal. To answer your first question, I had an Asgardian artifact bonded to me by a cult on Earth. Not a good time."

    Gorgon nods thoughtfully and takes a drink. "No, I suppose not. You can control it, then?"

    "Yes, though every time I use it, it hurts like a bitch. Imagine a full body muscle spasm." Michael shakes his head and takes a swig of the drink.

    "Mhm. There's many Inhumans who could empathize with that. Many Terrigen gifts are not so...kind. So then, how does Attilan compare to Asgard, having seen both?" Gorgon asks. "I've never been."

    "Asgard is more...opulent. It's very beautiful but it has this air of...smugness. Atillian is much more down to Earth and welcoming. Plus no one offered me a drink there, so points against them." Michael raises his glass towards Gorgon.

    Gorgon grins and raises his glass.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Elise walks up to Crystalia's room. When she gets there, Crystalia is hunched over a laptop, single-finger typing like a grandma.

    Elise raps on the door, smiling. "Guess who got some leave from work? And I brought presents!"

    Crystalia yelps and slams the laptop closed. "Elise!" She runs over and hugs Elise.

    Elise grins. "Looking at something you shouldn't be, hon? You know I'm fine with breaking a few rules here and there."

    Crystalia laughs nervously. "You said you brought presents?"

    Elise holds up a USB key. "Some really good movies I think you'd like. Disney style, you know? Cartoons and stuff." Crystal’s face lights up.

    Elise continues. "I was thinking we could, y'know, watch some movies or something and ask each other questions! Get to know each other." Elise grins. "You know, since we're going to be doing the whole consort thing? Seems fun.

    "I mean if I'm gonna be part of the court while I'm not on STRIKE, I need to know a lil more about Attilan!"

    "Okay! I got a new TV and stuff. I had to buy it off...uh...some people..." she trails off. "Anyway I got a new TV!"

    "Nice. Are you suuuure I can't see what you were looking at? You know me, I won't judge. See? I'm even wearing all the nice things you bought for me."

    "Uhhh...I just..." She sheepishly opens the laptop. It's...Expedia?

    Elise grins. "Where are you thinkin' of vacationing, Your Majesty?"

    "I dunno...places." She shrugs. "Everywhere I go, I gotta request it and it goes to my grandfather for approval. So I just, wanted to like, price out how much it would cost to just like...go on my own somewhere.

    "Like if I just got approved to go to the embassy and then got in a cab and took a plane or a bus somewhere. How much would a hotel cost and stuff.

    "For both of us."

    Elise smiles. "I mean, I could cover it. The costs, I mean. I have...I have a lot of money in the bank, Crys. More than I know what to do with. We could, y'know, run away together somewhere for - a long time."

    Crystal’s eyes go wide and she grins. "...really?"

    "Yeah."

    "Because Elise, I..." she hesitates, then rushes ahead. "I don't want to do it. Maximus' plan. I don't want to have his child. I don't want you to just be my consort. I don't want to live here anymore and get told what I can watch and what I can listen to and where I can go and when.

    "Meeting you, I...I want to go to one of those places on Earth where we can get married."

    Elise's heart is hammering against her rib cage. "Yes. Of course, I want that, I want that too. God, that'd be perfect. We - we just have to be careful. We have to do this right, y'know? I can't leave STRIKE or nothin', and you can't pick up and leave tomorrow."

    She nods.

    Elise giggles. "Oh my God, though. A wedding. I have to have you meet Vlad, and everyone, and we can have a house..."

    Crystal starts giggling and kisses Elise. Elise laughs and twirls her around the room.

    PHU1KZN.png
    I really love the genuinely romantic little interludes we get to have in this game. They don’t happen super-often but they’re very welcome when they do, and everyone involved really plays them to the hilt.

    "I just gotta make a call. I'll be right back, darling, and then we can look at vistas." Elise heads into the hallroom and starts a comm call to Flashback.

    Flashback responds "Hey."

    Elise giggles for eight solid seconds. "Okay, you're going to be really mad."

    "...are you high?"

    "No!" A pause. "Well, yes. On love."

    "...god you're not calling me to brag about banging, are you? Come on."

    "No!" Elise lowers her voice and hisses: "Crystalia wants to marry me, on Earth. She wants to run away with me!"

    Down in the catacombs, Vlad sees Flashback freeze and pale.

    "What is it?" he asks. She gives him a hold on gesture. Vlad scowls at her.

    "I'm thinking a beach wedding," Elise says. "I'll wear a suit."

    Flashback speaks calmly and slowly. "Okay, well, before you get into all of…that...please complete your mission objective?"

    "I just thought you'd want to know," Elise says. "This way Miles won't be like, ‘nyehhh, you didn't tell anyone things. Nyehhh, I'm Miles. This is how I talk.’"

    "He does sound like that," Jenny agrees. "Why don't you call him and tell him too? See what he thinks."

    "Sure!" Elise starts a new call.

    Flashback grabs Vlad by the shoulders. "We need to move quickly." Vlad nods and they race further down the catacombs.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Miles and Julian are almost at the bazaar when he receives a comm call.

    "Go ahead," he says.

    Elise giggles for twelve solid seconds.

    "What did you do."

    "Okay, so you're going to be really mad at me," she begins. "Crystalia wants to run away with me and get married and I'm thinking a beach wedding and I'll wear a suit -"

    Miles exhales slowly. Julian sees him deflate slightly, like a balloon. It's not as bad as he thought!

    "O-okay, Elise. That's great. That's great! Who doesn't love weddings? And hey, maybe Carol can be in your bridal party!" He lets that marinate for a beat. "Anyway, uh, this seems like a great time to ask Crystalia all that stuff that we need to know, right?"

    Elise makes a face at the bridal party comment. "Yeah, I said that we'd do the whole running away together in a very slow and measured way.

    “So you can't replace me with Longbow. You'd miss me too much."

    "You've got me there. So, okay. Elise, seriously, I'm happy for you—god knows you deserve both love and some kind of, like, gamekeeper—but we are going to have to have a long sober chat about the implications of this at a calmer time. Like, for instance," Miles' voice goes low, "what if Maximus finds out his ticket to the throne is running away? Right? So try to keep the circle really, really small on this. And find out about the Alpha-Primitives. Please."

    "Okay. Okay. We'll talk later. Clay will probably be there," she says. "Be safe."

    "You too. Use protection!" he chirps.

    "You're gross," she says.

    "You’re gross," he says back.

    Elise ends the call. Miles turns to Julian. "That was Elise. Things are getting strange as usual."

    Julian nods. "Yeah, shit. It'd be strange if nothing unusual happened."

    Elise heads back into Crystalia's room, whistling jauntily. Crystalia has already put the USB stick in and queued up the movie. She has a box in front of her and is smiling suspiciously.

    Elise claps her hands together. "Alright! So, movie on, lights dimmed... Let's ask each other some questions. I wanna know everything about you. You can go first!"

    "Okay, I will, but first, I have something for you."

    "Okay!" Elise sits in front of the computer, next to Crystalia.

    Crystalia puts her hands on the box. "So, I had to pay a lot of money to some guys in the Ennilux to get these, but they're totally worth it. For me, anyway. Maybe for you they're no big deal. But here they're...they're like the most contraband.

    "Someone brought them up here in the 1980's and it caused a bit of a craze and then my grandfather banned them, and it's like...you ban something, and now it's forbidden."

    Elise clasps her hands to her mouth, eyes sparkling with excitement. "I love forbidden contraband."

    Crystal slides the box over and Elise opens it. They're...Hostess Fruit Pies.

    "This is the best gift you've ever given me, Crys," Elise grins. "Even better than the gems."

    Crys claps excitedly.

    PHU1KZN.png
    If you've never read a Marvel comic from the 1970s or 80s—the actual comic, with the ads intact—this will make no sense to you at all, but over like twenty years there were dozens of these one-page ads where a Marvel hero would foil a bad guy by throwing a bunch of Hostess™ Fruit Pies into the fray.

    422260476_81596e4a96_b.jpg

    I was so not expecting this that I had to stop because I was gasping laughing. And, tbh, now I want a fuckin' Fruit Pie.

    "When we're back on Earth, I will give you a Hostess Fruit Pie every day. And there's like, all these kinds of pies."

    "Okay, so...a question..." Crystal asks. "Have you ever killed anyone? Like, a person? Not an Enemy."

    Elise shakes her head. "No. Just Skrulls. I shot a dude in the dick but he didn't die or nothin'. And he was a Nazi."

    Crys nods thoughtfully and smiles.

    It’s Elise’s turn. "So, uh, what's up with the Alpha-Primitives? You know how Vladimir is, right? Are they like him, or -?"

    Crystalia sucks her teeth. "They're...I mean they're kinda machines?" She pauses. "They're alive, but also machines. So kinda like your friend Miles? But they're not smart. They're not people."

    "I didn't think they were people or anything. Were they built?"

    "Oh...uh...they use a thing," Crystalia says. "The Engine."

    Elise can tell Crystalia is extremely uncomfortable with this topic, and is trying to talk around it.

    "Oh, sorry, I guess I took two in a row. Your turn to ask a question." Elise turns up the cartoon a little louder.

    "Okay...uh...so the group you work for, SHIELD...do they run Earth's governments, or do they work for Earth's governments?"

    Elise kind of makes a see saw motion with her hand. "We kind of...we're independent. We kind of just try to co-exist with governments, like, we gotta all live on the same planet, right?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    In case you’re reading this without having read the briefing on page 1, this is...not true at all! But I don’t think it’s a lie. I am 100% positive that Elise has no idea what the World Security Council is, how it works, or that she is its employee. I am about 70% positive that she thinks that SHIELD’s money comes from a big Uncle Scrooge vault that Nick Fury swims around in.

    Which, I mean. Tbf.

    Crystalia nods at this.

    It’s Elise’s turn again. "What's the Engine?"

    "Uh...it's the thing that makes the Alpha-Primitives. A big machine the Ancestors built. The Genetic Council runs it."

    Kree. "Huh, cool. Your turn."

    "Who runs SHIELD? Like who is the head guy in charge? Do you have a king or a high councillor or something?"

    "We have a Director! His name is Fury, he's...he's a weird guy. I don't think he started the whole shindig, because that was back after World War 2, but he kind of took over at some point. He's...strict? But he's nice. He was kind to me. And then he bosses the other directors of different departments around.

    “So, what's it take to, like, make an Alpha-Primitive? Are they mass-produced or is it one at a time?"

    Crys shifts uncomfortably in her seat. "Uhh..."

    Elise watches the cartoon, staying relaxed. She doesn't push Crys.

    "I'm just...I'm not supposed to..." Crys stammers. "Like I'm not even supposed to know."

    "I understand. I'm not going to ask you to do anything too dangerous. You're already risking a lot with the trip we're planning and everything. I just...you know me, I'm curious about these sort of things.

    "I won't tell anyone, or anything. It's fine." Elise pats Crys's hand.

    "Okay...so..."

    Jacobkosh on
    Matevvisiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Deep in the catacombs below Attilan's streets, Flashback and Victorious are skulking about, concealed by Victorious' stealth field. Alpha-Primitive guards periodically patrol, but they don't notice the pair. The area is a labyrinth.

    Flashback turns to Vladimir. "Alright, this is as far as I was able to get. Any farther, you're going to have to hack into the city's network to figure out where we're going from here."

    "I must find a console of some kind in order to gain access." Victorious begins to search, and the pair are able to find a wall console after a bit. It's designed for public access, so it has very little information, and Vlad will have to hack through it get the information he needs.

    Vlad’s hand crackles with arcane energy as he waves over the console. Rather than trying to take the time to comprehensively scan and translate the city’s database, he opts to just pull map data to find the satellite communications hub.

    “I have the information,” he says. Flashback nods, and follows Vlad as he leads the way.

    The two venture deep into the farthest reaches of Attilan. The city is massive, and they are far outside the radio comm range of the rest of the team.

    They come to a vast vaulted chamber, recessed with a multitude of tinier tunnels leading to smaller laboratories, workshops, and the like. This area dates back to the Kree's original construction.

    KdJzfXnh.jpg

    The huge crystalline structure in the center on the ceiling is the communications hub. Vlad has seen technology like this multiple times already. It's crystalline holographic quantum computing, used by the Kree, the Skrulls, and Doom. It forms his own crystal core, as well as Vision and Miles' crystals of power.

    Flashback looks up at it and whispers to Vlad. "Is that it?"

    “Indeed." He smiles as he takes flight.

    Flashback tries to whisper "wait-..!" but he's already gone. She hides as Vlad ascends up to the crystal computer and connects into the Kree communications hub.

    Vlad gains full access to the Kree satellite network. There are seven satellites still in orbit and operational around the Earth, one of which is the Peak, SWORD's HQ.

    He attaches Niles’ device. Then he writes a subroutine to it. Something to let him take control when and where he wishes.

    REQUIEM PROTOCOL INSTALLED

    Vlad hides the protocol and the device deep within the system and structure of the supercomputer. With that done, he descends down to Flashback.

    "It is done."

    "...ok,” she says. "Let's go, then."

    Jacobkosh on
    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Julian and Miles are in the Attilan Bazaar.

    Miles is eagerly browsing the stalls. Some are local, some are "exotic" in the sense that they are from Earth (or elsewhere, some claim to be Asgardian or Atlantean). Others are very obviously locally produced forgeries of Earth goods.

    They see a guy on an alien-created city on the Moon hawking fake Rolexes.

    Julian is curious about what Earth items seem most in demand, and finds that generally speaking, it’s media. DVDs, USB drives, CDs, magazines, books. Things that can be read, watched, or listened to from Earth fetch the highest price. Commerce is done in Attilan dinar, although merchants who spot the pair tend to shout that they also take "America Dollars."

    While most conversation is in Tilani, an Italian-sounding language they don't speak, they also hear a fair bit of English and Hindi being yelled out from stalls and spoken by people around them.

    Knock, knock, Julian thinks.

    Who's there? Miles replies.

    You know who. Whatcha think about a side racket here?

    Miles smirks. Man, I ain't trying to get busted up by alien supercops for smuggling Friends blu-rays.

    I guess not! Julian thinks.

    Miles continues. I mean, personally, this place sounds kind of totalitarian and maybe they could stand to get some like, Star Trek and Rebel Without a Cause and stuff. But that could cause a war where they could annihilate Earth, so I'm going to take a pass.

    "Hey," someone says to the pair.

    Miles turns to find the sound of the voice. A reptilian figure emerges from the shadows and approaches them.

    9UkWxGTl.jpg

    "Howdy,” Miles says in a jokey drawl. “What can I do for you?"

    "You're from Earth, yes?"

    "Yep."

    The reptile man speaks with a sibilance, stressing and drawing out his S sounds. "You guys here with the Princess' consort?"

    "Are there any other Earth people here?" Miles asks.

    He smiles, exposing a mouthful of needle-like fangs. "Not that I know of."

    Julian offers a slight bow. "Pardon me, am I addressing...?"

    "Modeus. I'm known to some. Not your type of people, though. If you're with the Princess, that means you work with Captain America, right?"

    Phoenix glances at Miles. What's your read on this guy? Like, I hope I'm not being speciesist here…

    Miles nods fractionally at him. He might just want Cap's autograph or he might be an alien assassin. Maybe he's a beauty pageant king. I'm going to employ the strategy of bland-faced truth and if he tries to fuck with us, well, we'll deal with it.

    Phoenix’s gaze flicks to Modeus as he nods. Cool. Nice and easy.

    "Today's the first time I've met him, actually,” Miles says. “I don't know if my friends and I made the best impression, either. It's been a weird day. But we work for the same people, we just, uh, run in different circles."

    Modeus nods. "I run in a particular circle, myself. One very interested in meeting you. Care to join me for a drink?"

    Miles nods to Julian. "Sure, a drink sounds great. Where are we going?"

    "A little place to drink. Just the right mix of exclusive and disreputable." He winks at Miles.

    Julian looks at Miles then at Modeus, quirking an eyebrow. "Well, it sounds fun."

    Miles looks back at Julian and meets the eyebrow raise and nods. He turns back to Modeus. "Lead the way." If things start looking weird, ping Elise, okay?

    Phoenix nods. Naturally.

    Miles snaps his fingers one. Oh, actually. Better idea. Ping her now. Ask her to ask Crystal if she knows this guy. Modeus.

    Modeus leads the pair through the back alleys of the bazaar. They go down a flight of stairs into a series of causeways and tunnels, still full of alcoves and stalls.

    Julian contacts Elise. Knock, knock. You or Crys know anyone called Modeus?

    Crystalia is about to tell Elise about the Alpha-Primitives when Elise feels Julian's presence in her mind. It's really distracting. You have the worst fucking timing in the universe. I swear to God this had better be super important.

    Phoenix blanches. Oh shit, are you two at it again? Sorry.

    "Crys, sorry, one second, you know someone called Modeus?" Maybe I am! You don't fuckin' know! I don't come down to where you work and slap the dicks out of your mouth!

    Crys looks confused. "Modeus? Uh...yes...? How...do you know Modeus?"

    "Julian's asking about him," Elise sighs. "They're in the bazaar."

    Crys nods. "Oh, that makes sense."

    Elise scowls at Julian telepathically. For all you know I could have been about to have the most intense orgasm in my life, and now that's permanently associated with your face. Fuckin' irresponsible as fuck.

    Yeah, that would be awkward, Julian fires back. Good thing that's not what happened. Right?

    NO, because I'm TRYING to WORK on SPY SHIT, JULIAN.

    "Modeus is with the Ennilux," Crystal says. "Is he trying to buy something?"

    Are you trying to buy something?

    He wants us to drink with him. Julian says.

    "He wants them to drink with him," Elise says. "What's an Ennilux? Is this a dangerous thing?"

    Crys grimaces. "If...if you make them mad, yeah. They're like...uh...have you watched the Sopranos?"

    "Gotcha." I got some bad news, Jewels. He's part of the Ennilux. They're dick harvesters. They're here to harvest dicks.

    Oh shit, Julian thinks.

    They're like, oh wow, Earth dicks, this is a rare opportunity. Just kidding! They're organized crime! Isn't that like, ten times better? "Alright, sorry, Crys, they can handle themselves. It'll be fine."

    Phoenix rolls his eyes. Oh yeah, for sure.

    After a moment, Elise comes back. So wait what happens if you get your dick lopped off. Does it come back? Does the phoenix rise?

    Phoenix is already musing on the subject. ...I guess I could get it back, in a roundabout fashion, anyway…

    Great. I'm so glad we're in tune. Stay safe, Jewels.

    You too! Elise feels a bit of sarcasm over a wash of saccharine sweetness.

    Modeus leads Miles and Julian to a door, with a large Inhuman guarding it. Music thuds dully from behind the door.

    jlmSEVNl.jpg

    Julian knocks on Miles. So they're basically the Mafia, black market dealers here. ...Also, side business as dick harvesters. Ask Elise about it.

    Modeus talks to the big fellow in Tilani, and he nods and opens the door for the newcomers.

    Julian feels Miles' sigh in his mind. Elise. Miles nods toward Modeus and the guard as they enter. About what I figured. Watch what you say and do. Be polite. Commit to nothing. Don't let them separate us.

    Jacobkosh on
    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Modeus leads them into the place. It's like a nightclub or speakeasy. It reminds them somewhat of the bar in Wundagore, full of people of a dizzying array of shapes and configurations. Some have wings or tails or green skin.

    Electronic music blares over the speakers. Wait...is that the Chemical Brothers?

    It is.



    Miles gapes in wonder at their surroundings, at the mind-boggling variety of people, at the exotic lighting and familiar music. "I kind of half expect to see some holographic tits at some point tonight."

    An equine-headed woman with four breasts walks past them. Miles turns back to face Julian with a giant, victorious grin. Julian satisfiedly nods back.

    "Now I know we're in space," Miles declares.

    I bet this shit is what I was all about a few lives ago, Julian thinks.

    Modeus claps his hand on each of their shoulders. "This way, fellows, my boss would like a word." He leads the pair into a back room.

    "What's your boss's name, Modeus?” Miles asks. “What should we do to avoid giving offense?"

    He smiles. "Alaris is the boss. Just don't do anything foolish or disrespectful. And keep your thoughts where we can see them." He throws a wink at Julian. Julian stiffens.

    They enter the back room. There are three other Inhumans there.

    A woman stands in the center of the room:

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    She is flanked by two other Inhumans on her left and right:

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    "Hello, gentlem...-beings," Miles says, striding in confidently.

    Modeus gestures to the woman. "Alaris of the Ennilux." To the purple, tentacled individual to her left. "Videmus, the Thought-Speaker." And on her right. "Dinu, our...what is the English word for it..." He smiles again. "...problem-solver."

    "Gunsel," Miles offers affably.

    Dinu's left-sided head nods. "Gunsel, I like that."

    The right side clicks his tongue. "It's alright."

    Miles nods acknowledgment. "I'm Agent Mason. This is Agent Adler. We're with SHIELD. What would you like to talk about today, Alaris?"

    Alaris looks at the two men. "Do you know what the Ennilux are, gentlemen? What we represent and do for the city?"

    "You're kind of like, this city's cool little part of town where you pick up all the rad imports, right?" Julian says.

    Miles nods. "I suspect importation is only one facet of your society."

    Alaris nods at Miles. "Listen, I'm not ignorant of your culture, or your history. An important aspect of what I do is I'm actually quite educated on your people's media. I understand how what I do, the trappings of how my organization operates, appears to you.

    "I need you to understand that what I do is more important than just our profits. Yes, that very much sounds like me trying to justify my actions as somehow righteous. They are not. I am cruel. I am merciless.

    "However, I am a necessary evil in an oppressive society that chokes its own culture beneath a regime that dictates every facet of every idea it is allowed to have. And perhaps, if some powerful outsider were to take specific actions, an organization like mine would not be necessary anymore.

    "Me and my people have enough appreciable skills we'd be happy to be put out of business by no longer being necessary."

    Miles chews on his lip for a long moment, choosing his words carefully.

    "Okay. So you know that we came here in the company of our planet's ambassador to your people. I'm not...able...to take a position on this kind of issue. It would overstep my authority, which is none. But here is what I can tell you.

    "I can tell you that we are aware of the, ah, scope of your government and its oversight of your day-to-day lives. Do you understand what I'm saying? I'm not taking a position. I am simply saying that we understand that there are certain, ah, pressures that, through purely rational processes, might give rise to a class of people with feelings like the ones you are expressing now. Are you following so far?

    "I can also tell you that my people are aware of...some of the ways your government could exert force in our world, were it to choose to do so. I am not taking a position on that. But you are free to imagine how a person, a human person with no powers, might feel about that. Are you still with me?

    "Lastly.

    "I can tell you that if you so wish, I can inform my superiors upon my return and open a dialogue, and I can tell you that should such a dialogue be, uh, fruitful, it is possible that it might reveal areas of, um, mutual interest.

    "Okay?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    I relished the challenge of this scene, of trying to imply as much as possible while explicitly committing to as little as possible. All Miles has really said is that he thinks he understands where the Ennilux are coming from and he’ll report this meeting to his superiors, which he was of course gonna do anyway.

    He’s not trying to screw them over or lie to them; he’s just being careful because we’re in a totalitarian police state where everyone has superpowers.

    Alaris thoughtfully considers Miles' words.

    She nods. "Okay. I would like you to inform your superiors in this way. I would like to open a dialogue very much. Modeus can give you a way to contact us covertly."

    Miles nods. "Excellent. You have my word - I will convey your message to my superiors."

    Modeus scribbles down something on a piece of paper and asks Miles "How's your memory for numbers? You're a machine-man, yes, so I trust it's good?"

    Miles looks up. "I am. How did you know, by the way? Did Videmus tell you?"

    Modeus grins again. "The Ennilux is in the business of knowing things. I must admit I feigned much ignorance when we first met. A bit of a...trust-test."

    He shows Miles the paper. It has a series of numbers, and Miles realizes it's a satellite communication frequency, a highly specific one buried deep in what would otherwise be noise signal not used by any carrier.

    Alaris speaks up. "We have pirated part of the frequency that the Ancestor's satellites use; the Cultural Guidance Council does not know. With this frequency, your superiors can contact us. Memorize it."

    Miles does so. Modeus eats the paper.

    Alaris looks at the two humans. "If there is nothing further, gentlemen, I thank you for your time and I believe our business is concluded."

    Julian makes a slight bow. Miles stands and bows as well. "Thank you Alaris. I look forward to our next meeting. Actually - " Miles stops. "There is one thing. Can you tell us why everyone here is so uncomfortable talking about the Alpha-Primitives?"

    Alaris winces. "It's...an unpleasant topic. Most would prefer not to think about it. The Alpha-Primitives serve. Thus begins and ends how most consider the subject."

    Miles takes a deep breath. "Is it what becomes of those the Genetic Council deems too dangerous to undergo Terrigenesis?"

    She looks aghast. "No, absolutely not. They would never do that to an Inhuman."

    His gaze is steely. "But they would to a human?"

    She winces again.

    "Alaris,” he says, “this may be your chance. If the Alpha-Primitives represent a crime being committed against my people, and the Ennilux could put a stop to it -"

    She takes a deep breath. "You're right. The Alpha Primitives have always been a part of Attilan. Going back to the beginning, when the Ancestors ruled this place.

    "They were humans, the unkine, those with no blood of the Ancestors in them. The Ancestors used them for labor, converting them using a device whose name translates to..." She grimaces. "...Slave Engine."

    "Slave Engine." Julian’s voice is quiet.

    Miles scowls. "Fucking Soylent Green. I knew it."

    Alaris continues. "The Engine uses Terrigen crystals that have been modified. They're called Xerogen crystals, and so Alpha-Primitives undergo a process called Xerogenesis. An Inhuman cannot undergo Xerogenesis, the Engine is designed that it won't work on someone with blood of the Ancestors, so it can never be used as a threat or weapon on our own people, never as a punishment or anything of that sort.

    "But Alpha-Primitives can't...breed. Once they've been converted, they're specialized into a bio-mechanical form specific to their Xerogenesis. They can't make new humans for the Engine. In our ancient past, Attilan used to keep a...stock...of humans for the Engine.

    "We stopped that a long time ago. A civil war was fought over it.

    "Since then, when new humans are needed for the Engine, they're simply...acquired. From Earth."

    Miles works to keep his voice calm and focus on how this can help bring the Ennilux into SHIELD’s orbit. "If you can supply proof of this—or even better, warn us when it's about to happen the next time—I have a feeling my Director will have some stern words for your government."

    "Well, they have taken stock recently, this I know," she says. "With all the chaos going on Earth with the Terrigen detonations, it was ample cover for disappearances and the like of undesirables and people who would not be missed, which is the sort who are...taken."

    Miles’ voice is flat. "How often is this done."

    "As needed. Alpha-Primitives last a long time, they're bio-mechanical, but they do die off from disease or age, and sometimes things happen to them. And lately, there’s...preparations being made, so I believe they've increased the numbers."

    "Preparations?"

    "There was an attempt of the Enemy to take over Earth, and then the Terrigen bombs. The King wants Attilan to go public and your SHIELD is telling him to stay silent. The King has been told to stay silent in one way or another his entire life, so it's something he's accustomed to.

    "But his patience wears thin, it's probably the matter that is being discussed with your ambassador. One way or another, he prepares to be ready.

    "I don't know if they are running the Engine now, but they might very well be. And if they are not, they may still have people in holding."

    Miles nods. "Well. That's a lot to chew on, but here is what I can tell you: your king's making preparations. Well, the Ennilux need to prepare too. Prepare yourselves for the idea of a society without the Alpha-Primitives. Because one way or another, that traffic is going to stop."

    She nods. "I did begin this conversation with asking you to help us take drastic action."

    He shakes his head. "This is about more than that. Are some of you ready to work in the sewers? To haul away waste? Lighting the fire is easy. Living with what comes after is where the work comes in."

    "They will have to be," she says. "The first man I killed, I had to cut up his body into very small pieces to conceal the evidence. I can get my hands dirty."

    "There's going to be plenty of dirt to go around. Now if you'll excuse us, I need to see a man about a horse." Miles turns to go. Julian?

    Miles.

    Ask Michael to go find Captain America.

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    Miles could just talk to Michael on the team’s comms, but as this could very well turn violent, he doesn’t want to discuss it somewhere where Elise could hear.

    As they leave, Alaris speaks up. "If you need to know the way to the Engine, my people can show you the way, and if you intend to fight your way there, to free your people, the Ennilux will stand with you."

    Miles nods. "Well, when something happens...you'll know it when it happens."

    Alaris nods.

    Jacobkosh on
    visiblehowl
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Back at Crystalia's estate, Gorgon and Michael are drinking and talking.

    Maximus walks in.

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    "Hello, Gorgon." Gorgon looks at Maximus, and Michael can hear him suppressing a low growl. Maximus looks Gorgon in the eye. "Go to the marketplace, buy yourself dinner, remain there for four hours. Get drunk."

    Gorgon gets up and leaves without a word.

    He looks at Michael. "Remain seated and calm."

    Michael remains seated and calm.

    "You are going to come with me, and do everything I say. We're good friends, and you want to help me." He smiles. "Now...smile."

    Michael smiles.

    He motions for Michael to follow him, and the two go upstairs and walk into Crystalia's room without knocking.

    Elise looks up from the movie, startled. "Maximus. Michael. Hi?" She's sitting in between Maximus and Crystalia, and without realizing it, she positions herself to shield Crystalia with her minimal bulk.

    "Elise, you and Crystalia should run away together. I think that was a good idea that Crystalia had. You should do it right now. You think that's a good idea too." Elise thinks that's an excellent idea. "Everybody, smiles, this is a happy occasion."

    Elise and Crystal look at each other, smiling. "Crystalia, come on," Elise says.

    Maximus motions for Crystalia to come over to him, and she does. He kisses her gently on the forehead and whispers "I wish you would have chosen me. I could have made you, but I would have known it was me.

    "Go."

    Elise takes Crystalia by the hand, and smiling, she leads Crystalia to the portal.

    Maximus looks at Michael and smiles. "Alright, so, what are your associates up to? Answer me to the best of your knowledge."

    "As far as I know Agent Vlad and Agent Monroe are down in the catacombs trying to gain access to the central communications hub to install a device to prevent Attilan from using the Kree satellite network against the Earth. Agent Mason and Agent Adler are down in the marketplace trying to gain intel on the Alpha-Primitives. What they are, where they come from. Agent Arnell is currently leaving this room to get married with Princess Crystalia."

    He claps his hand and grins. "Wonderful! You're such perfect little creatures! The device, it's the one designed by your SWORD with Ms. Danvers, yes? The one I've spoken to briefly?"

    "Correct."

    He makes a gleeful little giggle. "Beyond perfect! The Alpha-Primitives will be a serious loss, but eh, all things are an exchange.

    "Alright, find Vladimir and Monroe and kill them using your abilities. Then return to me. I'll deal with the other two myself..."

    “Yes, sir," Michael says.

    Michael leaves the estate in search of Victorious and Flashback. As he heads down into the catacombs, he hears Julian knocking on his mind.

    Julian is greeted by a wash of dismay and horror from Michael. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

    Hey, what's going on where you're at? ...Oh, fuck.

    Julian!

    Are you okay, dude? Tell me what's going on! Julian thinks.

    Fuckin' Maximus! He's mind controlling me! He ordered me to tell him everything about our mission here and to kill Vlad and Flashback!

    Oh fuck, where are you?! Julian immediately informs Miles.

    Leaving Crystalia's estate. He also ordered Elise and Crystalia to run away together, and verrry fuckin' creepily kissed Crystalia on the forehead.

    Jesus, dude, Julian thinks.

    Miles’ mind whirls and the world does a dolly zoom around him as he realizes the full implications of Maximus having this power. He can’t trust anyone who’s been near the prince. He can’t trust anything he’s been told. "Julian. Try to free him. It's our only shot."

    "Of course."

    Michael’s thoughts are desperate. I don't care what you fuckin' do man, just fix this shit!

    Alright. I'm...I'm going in. Uh, prepare for possible weirdness, Julian warns him.

    Fuckin' do it!

    Michael feels his free will restored. Julian weaves a telepathic bulwark around him, shielding him from further manipulation. Michael stops and sighs heavily, leaning against the wall. Dude, we need to take care of this now, he thinks.

    Fuck yeah we do, Julian responds. Holy shit. Maximus' fuckin' power is mind control!! He fuckin' just mind controlled everyone into thinking he's got nothing!!

    Miles tries Vlad, then realizes the communicator has no range. He tries Rogers instead. "Calling Captain America. Captain America, please come in."

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    God, I love getting to type that sentence. :D

    Okay, I don’t want to pop in with too much commentary here and break the mood, but since the tension has defused a bit in this particular moment, I’ll interject and clarify some things.

    Firstly, regarding how this plays out mechanically: remember that in this system, the GM never rolls dice. What would normally happen when a bad guy is doing something is that the player could roll to avoid it somehow, but we take a cue here from several other game systems and allow the GM to fiat something, like mind-controlling a PC, in exchange for the player getting XP. That lets us have mind-control that’s as legitimately menacing and terrifying as something like Jessica Jones, and lets us cut back on time-consuming die rolling, while still ultimately benefiting (or at least compensating) the character for taking part in the scene.

    When Julian deprogrammed Michael, he got a good solid roll here, for once, so got to produce a bonus effect—in this case, shielding Michael. But you know how serious things have gotten when Miles is ordering Julian to root around in the team’s heads. Michael could have had his memories erased, or lost his knowledge of how to poop, or something.

    And that was only the second most fortunate thing to happen in this scene. What you read here is 100% actually how this happened! There’s no movie magic here; I really did ask Julian to ding Michael right before Michael got whammied, and it really did end up being wildly lucky that I had done so.

    Mind-controlling maniac versus hypervigilant paranoid spy man. ROUND ONE! FIGHT!

    Cap comes on the comms. "Rogers here. Go ahead."

    "Cap, this is Agent Mason. The op is compromised. Maximus, the king's brother - isn't powerless. He can control minds. He mind-controlled Agent Westin and ordered him to murder Agent Monroe and Agent Vladimir. Agent Adler freed him using his own psychic powers, but we have to assume that Maximus knows everything about why we're here."

    There is a beat of silence. "Ok. What's the play?"

    "Cap, it's possible that Maximus has whammied you without your knowing it. I'd really hate to get bushwhacked with a shield at the worst possible moment. So I think the best play is if you make your excuses and head back through the portal and warn SHIELD. I can't imagine Maximus anticipated being found out. He probably doesn't have a contingency in place for that."

    "Ok. There's just a thing I have to do first, it's important."

    Miles’ blood freezes. "What's that?"

    "I don't...I can't...stand by."

    "Julian! Paralyze Captain America!"

    Julian makes the attempt, but he can’t free Cap and maintain the concentration necessary to keep Michael’s psionic shield up. He drops Michael’s shield and pushes.

    It’s still not enough. Maximus had plenty of time with Captain Rogers, much more so than his brief exchange with Michael. Julian realizes that he can’t break the spell; only transfer its effects, whatever Maximus had ordered Cap to do, to someone within telepathic reach. Like Miles, Michael...or himself.

    Miles, something's wrong. I don't…

    Julian knows what he must do.

    If I do something weird…

    As soon as the meeting is done, or if STRIKE contacts him with any conflicting information about Maximus or if the mission looks like it's going to go sour, he needs to kill Queen Medusalith immediately. That's what he needs to do. It's important.

    He's trying to get me to kill the Queen!! Kill me, Miles!

    Roger that, buddy. Miles’ telescoping arm rockets forward and snaps Julian's neck. There is a sickening crack and Julian’s body falls limply to the floor.

    A moment passes, and Julian is reborn in fire, no longer under Maximus' control. "Fuck, what a trip."

    Cap brings up Miles on the comm. "H-hey...I...I think I'm okay. I think Agent Adler did something and...I think I'm okay?"

    Miles helps Julian up. He puts a hand to his ear. "Yeah, my guy got you covered. And now we know you're clear. You game to do some avenging?"

    "Yes, yes I am."

    "Warn the Royal Family. Do whatever you have to. They're not going to want to believe...but it's real. They need to know. Because I think Maximus fed us all our intel. I think he's trying to provoke a war. We need to get out in front of that."

    Cap calls back. "Acknowledged."

    Michael gets on the comms. "Guys, I'm to report back to him after I've killed Vlad and Flashback. Maybe I can ICER Maximus as I'm reporting my 'success'."

    “Good plan. Julian, go with Michael but don't let yourself be seen. I'm going down to the tunnels. I need to warn Vlad. Flashback might be compromised too."

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Elise and Crystalia appear on the other side of the fold-gate. And it suddenly occurs to them...they don't have a plan?

    Or any specific destination. Just...run away together. And they're together, and they've left Attilan. They can't go back.

    Elise stops and runs both hands through her hair. "We have to get married." she says. "I just. I didn't. I'm...I'm going to call my bosses. They can help us? I think I...I think I like the beach."

    Crystalia grins and nods. "I'd like that too."

    Elise calls Clay.

    "Quartermain. Go."

    "Hi Clay," Elise says. It's hard to think, for some reason. "Crystalia and I are running away together. It's an excellent plan. We just don't know where to go."

    There are a few seconds of silence. "Is the rest of the team with you?"

    "No."

    "Why not?" he asks.

    "Uh... We all had our separate missions. I was with Crystalia and we were talking and then Maximus walked in. Crystalia asked me to run away with her. I said we had to be slow, and careful, and...and Maximus said it was an excellent plan.

    "I can't go back. We have to run away and get married. I'm thinking the beach."

    Another few seconds of silence. "Okay, Elise. I think beach weddings are kind of lovely, really. I tell you what, how about you come back to base, and we sit down with Victoria and talk about wedding plans and the like? Kane's still there, right?"

    "Yeah." Elise says. "Yeah, Crystalia, that sounds nice, isn't it? Clay and Miss Hand are going to help us plan the wedding. We'll go back to the city."

    Crystalia smiles. "I love the city!"

    Clay continues. "Okay, you and Crystalia get on the Zephyr. I'll radio Kane and explain to her what's going on, and she'll fly you back to the tower, okay?"

    "Okay, Clay. Thank you. You're nice to me."

    "Can I ask you a question, Elise? What was everyone else on the team up to the last time you talked to them, before you left?"

    "Flashback and Vlad were disrupting the Kree network. They left first. Julian and Michael went to the bazaar. They found, uh..." She can't remember the name. "The Sopranos? Crime lords. It was nice. They can handle themselves.

    "Michael was..." Elise trails off. "Michael was with Maximus. Maximus said we all had to smile, because it was a happy occasion.

    "Which I guess it is! I'm getting married." Elise laughs.

    The phone is silent again. "Yes. Okay, thanks, Elise. I'll take care of everything, you and Crystalia get on the Zephyr, we'll talk about wedding stuff when you get back to the tower."

    "Okay," Elise says dreamily. "Will you walk me down the aisle?"

    "...y-yes..."

    "See you soon, Clay."

    Clay hangs up. Elise turns to Crystal. "C'mon, Crys. We're going to go find Kane. She'll take us to the city, then Clay and Miss Hand will help us plan. I wish Vlad was here, though. He'd be my best man."

    Crystalia looks at Elise. "We'll wait till they're back. They're your fraterarmalis, we won't have it without them."

    "Oh, good. Okay. Well." Elise offers her arm. "Let's go." Crys takes her arm.

    They stroll dreamily through the SHIELD base. When they get to the Zephyr, Kane looks pale and like she's been crying.

    "Kane, what's wrong?" Something tickles the back of Elise's mind. "This is a happy occasion. Everyone should be smiling."

    "Oh! Uh... Clay called ahead and told me everything...I'm being a big sap, you're...you're going to have to deal with me bawling at your wedding, sorry."

    "Oh, that's okay," Elise says. "We're thinking a beach."

    "C-cool. Sounds good. I'm gonna get us in the air." She walks over to the cockpit, holding herself with concern.

    Elise sprawls out in the Zephyr, looking relaxed. "I'm going to wear a suit."

    The Zephyr takes off.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Vladimir and Jenny emerge from the catacombs.

    They have made most of the return trip in silence, but as soon as they cross back into the upper city, Miles’ voice crackles over the comms.

    " -lad. I'm calling you on a secure channel. The op is compromised. Maximus has mind-control powers. He got Michael, Elise, Crystalia, and Captain America. Julian and I deprogrammed Cap and Michael. Elise is going back to Earth but I think she's safe. Maximus had ordered Cap to kill the Queen, and he tried to get Michael to kill you and Flashback. Flashback has had a lot of unmonitored contact with Maximus. He definitely knew about our plans here and she might very well be compromised."

    Vlad is silent for a few seconds. "Where are you now?" He stares at Flashback. She looks at Vlad, squinting.

    "On my way to you. Michael's on his way to 'report back' to Maximus and scrag him."

    "Where is Rogers?"

    "I sent him to warn the Royal Family."

    "Stay where you are, Commander. We are coming to you."

    "What's going on?" Jenny asks Vlad.

    Vlad begins to wave his hand in arcane patterns. "You have underestimated Maximus. The op has been compromised and he is aware of our objectives. He has put Sensate and Crystalia under some kind of mind control. He is clearly not a ‘Flatscan.’ He tried to control Behemoth and Rogers but was stopped by Miles and Julian." Vlad's voice is cold and direct as he snaps his hands down and forms a portal.

    Flashback nods. "Oh." She draws her pistol and puts it in her mouth.

    "No!" Vlad moves with arcane speed, seizing Flashback’s pistol and trapping her against the tunnel wall with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

    "NO!" she yells. "I HAVE TO! IF SOMEONE TELLS ME ABOUT HIM, I HAVE TO! IF I FIND OUT, I HAVE TO!"

    "Oh, fuck," Miles says, leaping through the portal.

    Julian rushes through the portal over to Flashback and places his hands on her head, unweaving Maximus’ control.

    "Fuck. Dead-man's switch. Maximus could have done this to...to everyone," Miles breathes. "The whole Royal Family. Vlad, do you know anything about mind magic?"

    "I grow tired of this Maximus and his machinations," Vlad says in frustration. "No, Strange continues to delay my studies!"

    "Okay. Hold on." Miles gets on the comms.

    Flashback looks at Vlad. "Can you...can you let me go? I'm okay. Julian broke what Maximus did to me." Vlad narrows his eyes but removes the bonds.

    "Captain Rogers,” Miles says. “Maximus has implanted certain people with suicide switches. Agent Monroe just tried to kill herself after finding out that we knew. We have to assume she's not alone."

    There's no response for a few moments, then Rogers comes on the comm.

    "Yeah, about that...I tried to tell one of the palace guard guys, and he tried to run his sword through his chest and I had to knock him out, which wasn't easy. Not one of those Alpha guys, one of the Inhuman honor guards."

    "Oh, Jesus. Okay. In that case, new plan. We're going to stop Maximus. Agent Westin is on his way."

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Michael calmly walks back to Maximus, both ICERS in his hands by his sides, his face as blank and impassive as possible. "It is done. Agent Vladimir and Agent Monroe have been dealt with."

    Maximus looks at him. "Hrm. I see."

    He begins to open his mouth again. If he issues a command, Michael will be unable to resist. Michael raises his ICERs to fire -

    And they jam.

    Maximus tilts his head and smirks. "Put your weapons down and listen to me. You will stop attacking me and obey."

    Michael drops the ICERS.

    "Did you actually kill Jennifer and the robot?"

    "No."

    He sighs loudly. "How did you escape my control?"

    "Agent Adler freed me from your control."

    Maximus narrows his eyes. "Son of a bitch. All right, pick up your weapons and holster them."

    Michael does so.

    "Daya, would you come in here please?"

    An Inhuman woman comes in. She has mottled green skin, and is naked.

    "You there," Maximus gestures at Michael. "Use your powers and turn her to ashes." He looks at Daya and kisses her on the cheek. "Smile, my dear, you won't feel a thing."

    Behemoth assumes the form of the Destroyer.

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    Daya smiles at him.

    Behemoth's faceplates open and a roiling fire rises to the opening. He fires and obliterates Daya.

    After the ashes cool a bit, Maximus gathers them into a small jar, closes it, and looks at Michael. "Armor down, and take this from me."

    Michael armors down and takes the jar of ash.

    "The truth, so far as you will believe with every fiber of your being, and tell all who ask, is that this jar of ashes contains my remains. You attempted to subdue me with your pistols, but they jammed, and in your haste, you needed to kill me. There was no other way. This is your truth. Repeat it."

    "This jar contains the ashes of Maximus. I tried to subdue him but my guns jammed. He tried to flee and I had to stop him. So I reduced him to ash. I had to conceal what had happened so I collected the remains."

    "Good. Now return to your companions and tell them your truth."

    "Yes, sir."

    Maximus presses a concealed button inside a wall sconce, and a secret door opens. He exits through it, and it closes behind him.

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    The team reunites near the Palace.

    Captain Rogers joins them a moment later. "I've politely excused myself. I managed to make an excuse for punching out the guard, basically said he insulted my warrior's honor, and they bought that."

    "Where is Maximus?" Vladimir says.

    Michael produces the jar. "This jar contains the ashes of Maximus. I tried to subdue him but my guns jammed. He tried to flee and I had to stop him. So I reduced him to ash. I had to conceal what had happened so I collected the remains."

    Rogers looks at the remains. "...oh gosh..."

    Flashback stares at Michael. "Fuck."

    Vlad stares at the jar. "Why did you kill him, Behemoth?!"

    "I-I don't know. My guns jammed, and I had to stop him."

    "Why didn't Maximus stop you when your guns jammed?" Miles says.

    "You could have stopped him with your fists, dude," Phoenix says. "What do you really remember from the incident?"

    "I walked up all zombie-like with my ICERS at my sides. I bluffed that I killed Vlad and Flashback and tried to subdue him, but my guns jammed. I had to stop him so I armoured up and blasted him."

    Vlad shakes his head. "This was a mistake, Michael."

    "I... why?!” Julian asks. “Why did you blast him?"

    "I had to."

    "You...oh fuck." Phoenix stares at Michael. He can tell that Michael's memories have been...altered. They're jumbled up, falsified. They remind him of what was done to Victoria, but...more crude. Like someone just took red pen and crossed details out and wrote things in the margins.

    Maximus is alive. Michael murdered an innocent woman. Maximus escaped. Maximus mind-controlled Michael again, and tried to fake his own death. Julian's stomach drops realizing the source of the jar's contents. Shaking, he tells the team what he’s learned.

    "I-I'm sorry guys,” Michael repeats, “but I had to stop him."

    Vladimir’s eyes narrow. Using the jar Maximus handled as a sympathetic connection, he reaches through Space and is able to feel Maximus' presence. He's moving through the catacombs towards the palace.

    Vlad teleports alone to Maximus. "Enough of this."

    Miles' eyes widen. "What the fuck!"

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Vlad drops out of his portal in front of Maximus.

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    Maximus is racing through the catacombs, dressed in dark robes and with a mask over his face. He freezes. "Stop!"

    Vlad backhands Maximus, and then grabs him by his left arm and throat. "No. You!"

    Nothing Maximus says has any effect on Vladimir. Maximus' mask drops. He is terrified. "N-no!" His legs kick powerlessly and pathetically. "P-please!"

    "Your schemes and machinations end here. Would-be king, I call you a snake with his eyes upon the throne! Your lies have no power on me!" Vlad twists his arm and grips tighter. "Admit your lies! Admit before I send you from this sacred city!" Vlad opens a portal over Maximus, a portal leading to the Moon proper. Victorious's eyes glow as his voice booms over the sound of the rushing vacuum.

    Maximus screams and howls and pleads for mercy. He tries shouting orders and commands, but quickly realizes all of that is pointless.

    "I...I admit to all of it! I am a Deceiver! A Mindbender who twists thoughts, and I have always been since my Terrigenesis! My brother is a foolish mute who will lead our people to ruin, he wanted to destroy the Slave Engine and rid us of the Alpha-Primitives and expose us to Earth! I kept us strong! I made us ready for when the time came! I built our armies, I am the Midnight King who will lead our people to greatness!

    "I never even wanted the throne, not for myself! I'm not a selfish tyrant like my fool of a brother! I wanted it for a better generation than myself, I alone was the one to make the dark sins for a brighter tomorrow!"

    "They were your family, and you betrayed them!" Vlad roars.

    "I saved them. I saved them from themselves, from their insanity. They would unmake the city, destroy our legacy!" An insane resolve and confidence goes into his eyes as he stares at Vlad, and he grips Vlad's wrist with his own hands. "Call me mad or a betrayer if you wish. I apologize for nothing, and I will not be judged by a soulless machine.

    "Drop me! Do it! AND WATCH YOUR WORLD BURN!" He grins widely, daring Vlad. He also has tears in his eyes, like he's trying to be insanely brave while also being wracked with terror.

    Vlad stares at Maximus. "You've lost." He releases Maximus into the air…

    ...and snaps shut the portal before he flies through, slamming him into the ceiling.

    Maximus falls to the floor, quivering and whimpering.

    "Your fate will not be decided by the people of Earth, that is for your brother the King." Vlad stuns Maximus unconscious. He picks him up and teleports back to the team.

    Rogers looks at Vlad, taken aback. He then looks at Miles. "So...what now? We can't just...take him to the King, or before the court, because they might mass suicide.

    "And you can't have Agent Adler go into all their heads individually and clean them out. I felt what that was like. It was...invasive."

    Miles rubs his temples. "Can we get him out of the city without being seen? SHIELD has telepaths who might be able to neutralize him and find out who he's compromised."

    "I recorded a complete confession from him," Vlad notes.

    Michael's been staring at the jar and Maximus' body on the floor and is just stuck, not knowing what to believe.

    "Don't worry, Michael. It'll feel better soon." Miles squeezes his shoulder. “And good work on the confession, Vlad,” he adds.

    Suddenly, Flashback snaps her fingers. "Wait, that might be it. Neutralizing him. Like, okay, his powers don't turn off when he's asleep or unconscious. I...I know that for sure. I don't like to say it, but…” She takes a deep breath. ”We have SPIN tech. If we put a SPIN collar on Maximus, maybe that will just...end his conditioning? Maybe?

    "If Julian was able to undo his control then it's an active thing."

    Miles nods. "It's worth a shot.. “We're going to need it."

    Vlad nods at this. "I agree with Miles.”

    "Okay...well, if you guys think it's a good idea, then..." She takes out a SPIN collar.

    "Let us let the Inhumans think it's a piece of my technology," Vlad suggests.

    Flashback looks at Miles for approval on Vlad's suggestion. He nods. "It's a good plan,” he says. “Let's do it."

    "Do we want to do it here or in front of them or? Like if we do it here and suddenly it undoes years of conditioning all at once, it might...start some shit before we get a chance to go in there and talk to them and show them his confession," she says. "So maybe wait?"

    Miles sucks his teeth. "But if we show them, they might act crazy then too."

    "Six of one, half a dozen of the other?" She shrugs. "I'm just saying maybe slap the collar on him when we're like, closer to them. So we can talk about it. Like walk in with the guy and when they're like 'why do you have Prince Maximus unconscious,' boom, collar."

    "I'm forced to agree with Flashback," Vlad says.

    "Vlad, you could portal to New York and we could have Clay look Maximus over right now," Miles says. "And then we wouldn't need to guess. We would know."

    "I will try." Vlad attempts to open a portal, but can’t punch through folded space and 250,000 miles of distance. It fizzles.

    Miles sighs. "Julian, can you take a quick peek inside? Find out if Maximus has more booby-traps waiting for us?"

    "I'll give it a go."

    Julian descends into the twisted mind of Maximus the Mad, and feels the other’s insanity beginning to overwhelm him. He could pull on the thread of memory that leads to the commands Maximus has issued, but those memories would stay with Julian after he broke the connection—and Maximus would have some of Julian’s memories, too.

    He pulls out. "Sorry, guys. Nothing useful."

    Miles sighs again. "Fortune favors the bold. Ultimately, we can't do nothing."

    "Let us bring him before the King," Vlad says.

    Rogers nods. "What this man has done is monstrous. These people deserve their memories back."

    Machine Man nods too. "Queue up some good 'walking into the throne room' music, Vlad."

    Vlad creates a portal to the throne room.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Various nobles and courtiers are milling around, and everyone gasps as the portal opens.

    The Queen shouts "What is the meaning of this?!"

    King Agar points accusingly at Vlad, who is carrying Maximus' unconscious body. The Queen shouts "What have you done to Prince Maximus?!"

    "We have ended a plot to overthrow the crown, your majesty!" Vlad claps the SPIN collar around Maximus’ neck.

    The King and Queen, and many members of the court stagger backwards. As if they had been struck.

    Activating his holoprojector, Vlad displays his recording of the confession. The court watches in horror. Vlad nods to Miles.

    The Queen holds herself up against a pillar, like she's going to be sick. "...Crystalia! Where is my sister?!"

    Miles steps forward. "Your sister is safe. Maximus ordered her and Agent Arnell to return to Earth. She was well away for all of this."

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    The Zephyr touches down on the landing pad. When Elise and Crys disembark, Victoria Hand, Clay, and Olivia Hook are there to greet her.

    Elise is holding Crys's hand, and she looks at all of them with bright eyes. "Hello!" There's a flicker of realization across her face. "You guys are all here? I thought we'd be in the conference rooms, or..."

    Clay smiles at Elise. "We wanted to see you as got off the plane." He offers Elise a hug. Elise throws herself at him.

    As soon as Elise hugs Clay, she hears him say "Sssssh, go to sleep." And she falls asleep.

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    The King motions for some of the Honor Guards to take Maximus prisoner from Victorious.

    The Queen gestures to the SPIN collar. "What is that device around his neck?"

    "An extension of my power. I have disabled his abilities. He is no Flatscan."

    "...no, no he is not. And he never has been. There will be a trial for his crimes. Which are...many." Her hands ball into fists and tighten.

    Machine Man steps forward and meets her gaze. "One of those crimes didn't originate with him. The Slave Engine."

    The King puts his head in his hands. He looks...ashamed?

    The Queen looks at Miles. "The King wanted to shut down the Slave Engine when he took the throne from his father. It was to be one of his first decrees. He wished to shut down the Engine, and restore the minds of all the Alpha-Primitives. Give them all the rights of citizens of Attilan.

    "Maximus...he...made us believe otherwise."

    Machine Man nods slowly. "I understand. Are you still willing to commit to that change? SHIELD can't let more innocents be taken."

    The King nods and gestures in sign language.

    "Absolutely. We will free all individuals, restore them to Earth. Those who were criminals or other unfortunates, we can pass to SHIELD custody if you so desire. The Alpha-Primitives who now exist, we will free from bondage and restore their minds. They will not remember who they were. They will be new beings. But they will be free beings."

    Victorious and Machine Man nod at this. "Thank you, your majesties."

    Behemoth steps forward and holds out the jar. "I thought I killed Maximus, but he's right in front of me. I-I killed someone named Daya, I believe." He kneels. "I submit to your judgment."

    The Queen looks at Michael. "We all have done terrible things under Maximus' influence. Daya, I believe, was one of Maximus' lovers. One for whom he paid. I do not believe she has a family.

    "The past is the past. Do not torment yourself for the sins another man forced your hand to commit. Under the laws of Attilan, such a crime is on him, not you. He is the murderer, and it will be added to his trial. At most, you may be called to bear witness. If necessary. I doubt it will be."

    Michael rises, with barely restrained anger. "I will be happy to be a witness to his trial." And execution.

    Machine Man addresses the King and Queen. "Moving forward, your majesties, I realize that our actions here were undertaken without your majesties' sanction. And I apologize for that. But I want everyone present today to know that this, here, is what we stand for. This is what we do every day. SHIELD protects everyone."

    The King nods at Miles.

    The Queen adds "Know that you will always be a friend to Attilan, and SHIELD an ally to our kingdom."

    Victorious bows in a noble fashion.

    The Queen looks at Miles, tears welling up in her eyes. "Please have my sister return to us safely, as soon as possible."

    "I will, your majesty."

    "Thank you." She composes herself. "We bid you good fortune."

    "Be well, your highnesses," Machine Man says. Miles bows and turns to face his team.

    "We should return to HQ and make sure SHIELD has taken care of Elise and Crystal. I trust Kane has intercepted them," Vlad says.

    Miles nods. "Yes. Let's head out. Captain Rogers, are you joining us, or would it be better for you to remain?"

    "I should report in. And try not to rub this in Tony's face because he was being very sarcastic towards me about my ability to be a diplomat." Steve smirks, then shrugs sheepishly. "I think it worked out."

    "It sure did,” Miles says. “Uh, hey. Quick question. Uh, my girlfriend's a big fan, I was wondering if I could get your autograph? Maybe...two autographs?"

    "Sure. We can do that back at the base."

    Miles grins. "Rad. Oh, uh, that means cool. Er, uh, that means good."

    Cap chuckles. "I watch TV nowadays. Netflix wasn't frozen in ice." He winks.

    The team leaves the palace, and walk through the city streets back to the fold-gate.

    They reappear in the Azores. The Zephyr is gone. But the rest of the Avengers are there.

    As are the Fantastic Four. And the Ultimates. And STRIKE-2.

    Miles swallows. "Uh." Vlad stares. Cap quirks an eyebrow. Miles steps forward. "Boy, guys. Have I got a story for you."

    "Well, that's underwhelming." Iron Man steps forward, opening his face mask. "Fury rang the alarm bells for all hands on deck. We were getting ready for a full siege on Attilan."

    "I would advise against that, Stark," Vladimir says.

    Tony looks at Vlad and his eyes narrow.

    Miles tries to soften Vlad's words. "What he meant to say is that it's taken care of." Miles makes an exaggerated dusting-off-hands motion. "There was an attempted coup. But we took care of it. The king's brother is in jail and his mind control is broken."

    Stark looks at Miles skeptically. "How do we know that?" He eyes Cap suspiciously. "You could be sleeper agents."

    Miles raises a hand. "Any telepaths in the house?" Scarlet Witch raises her hand. "Sweet," Miles smiles at the Witch. "Come see what's hoggin' my noggin."

    "Mind tricks do not work on me,” Vlad says. He spreads his arms wide and projects Maximus’ confession for all to see. Everyone assembled watches the confession while Scarlet Witch scans the minds of those she can.

    "...huh. What a piece of shit," Stark says. "Did you just let him go?" he asks Vlad.

    "Tony!" Steve snaps at Stark.

    "We turned him over to his brother, the King, they are in our debt," Vlad says.

    Stark nods. "Practical. I like it."

    Victorious inclines his head slightly. "Of course."

    Tony looks around at the teams and calls out "Well, show's over everybody, looks like we showed up for nothing."

    Miles shrugs. "Sorry, guys. I didn't mean to blue-ball everyone. We'll let you know if we bump into the Juggernaut or whatever."

    Tony whips around and looks at Miles. "Wait! I just got a great idea."

    Miles leans in. "Yeah?"

    "We're in the Azores, this is a tropical paradise. JARVIS?" Those nearby hear Tony talking to his AI assistant. "How fast can you have food and kegs delivered out here...?" A pause. "Do it."

    "Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Miles says.

    "I believe so," Vladimir says.

    Stark steps out of his armor, and claps his hands. "Alright everybody! New plan!"

    Cap sighs loudly. Miles turns to him. "Captain, if you want, I can ask Vlad to teleport us some Old Milwaukee or whatever it is you drink that Stark definitely will forget to order."

    Cap brightens a bit. "You guys are alright."

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, Elise wakes up. She gasps and sits up, one hand groping for her ICER.

    Clay puts a hand on her shoulder gently. "It's okay. You're all right."

    She remembers everything. Weeks of Maximus subtly giving her orders to bring him intelligence from SHIELD. Files. Reports. Computer data.

    "Oh, God, no,” she whispers in horror. "Clay. Clay, I - I fucked up, I -"

    "It's okay,” he says. “I know. I know what he made you do. It's okay."

    "Are you taking me to the Raft?" she asks.

    "No, Elise," he says. "You're fine now. Olivia and I cleared everything out of what Maximus did to you and Crystalia. While we were working, something happened. We're pretty sure the rest of the team shut him down somehow."

    "They're ali-"

    He nods. "They're okay. They're in the Azores. They just got back a few minutes ago. Everybody's okay."

    The relief hits Elise like a truck and she starts sobbing. Crystalia walks over and holds her. "Oh, God, Crys, thank God you're okay."

    Elise realizes something. It's not just Crystalia and Clay who are here. Silver, MODOC, Peter and Bob are here too. She suddenly flinches, embarrassed, and wipes away her tears. "I don't understand, I thought..."

    "Well, when you told me what happened, I thought the worst. I thought that your team was...well, I thought the worst," Clay says. "So I told Fury and we put all hands on deck. Victoria pulled STRIKE-2 out of the field, and I put STRIKE-3 on the Zephyr and took you with me and immediately set out for the Azores.

    "It was going to be Kazan all over again. Ultimates, Avengers, Fantastic Four, everybody."

    "...Fury has gotta be sick of hearing my name at this point," Elise manages to laugh.

    "Then as everybody was showing up and getting ready to roll in, your team just strolled out and said, ‘it's fine.’

    “‘We fixed it.’

    Clay smiles proudly. "My team." He puts his hand on Elise's shoulder.

    "Of course we did," Elise grins. "We're STRIKE."

    "Of course we were already in the air. I was going to just pick up our team, and then apparently Stark decided since everyone was there anyway, he was going to turn the whole thing into a kegger.

    "So that's what's happening now."

    "A kegger."

    Clay nods. "We're still showing up."

    "Christ," Elise says.

    "Bob's under express orders not to talk to Clint for any reason," Clay adds.

    "And the kid?" Elise asks. Peter scowls at this. Elise makes a placating gesture. "They wouldn't let me give you pot! I'm just pointing out the inconsistency!"

    "The legal drinking age in the Azores is 16,” Clay says. “Peter is 17. You guys had a big win today and I am going to relax and celebrate a bit. If he gets out of hand there's enough people to keep him in line." He eyeballs Peter to underline the point.

    Elise laughs again. "Alright. Look, Clay, it's not that I'm not grateful, it's just. I'm...I'm not very good at this, I don't know why you haven't grounded me."

    "You got snookered by a psychokinetic. That's not your fault," he says. "To be honest, I blame myself for not letting Vlad go with you."

    Elise slowly grins.

    "If I had done that in the first place this wouldn't have happened, Vlad turned Maximus' pants inside out," Clay adds.

    "I keep being right, Clay," she says. "You gotta listen to me."

    "Don't let it go to your head, pump the brakes," Clay chides. "I think Vlad's earned a bit of my trust, that's all."

    "I've had a rough day. Cut me some slack. And...Crys?" Elise squeezes her hand. "Are you…” She hesitates. "How much of what we've had is..."

    "That wasn't Maximus," Crystalia says. "That was us."

    Elise sags with relief. "You know how I said I have savings? More than I know what to do with?" Elise reaches into her heavy jacket and produces a small box. "I, I mean, I got this, I didn't think I'd ever get to like...I thought it could be a lil symbolic thing..."

    It's a ring.

    Crys squeals. She grabs it and puts it on immediately.

    "You wanna run away together, proper style this time?" Elise asks.

    Clay clears his throat. "Crystalia, can you...contact your family when we arrive? They're extremely upset. Not about you running off. They're worried because Maximus had you in his pocket and everything last they knew."

    Crystalia breathes deeply. "Okay...okay." Elise squeezes her hand. "I'm just going to...quickly go over to Attilan when we get there," Crystal says. "Just check in with my sister."

    "Of course," Elise says. "I gotta see the team.”

    "Ok." Crys nods slowly and smiles. "Then we'll party!"

    "Yes! I will make you a mojito." Clay flinches as Elise audibly pronounces the J.

    Elise leans back, completely relaxed. "I gotta admit, when I woke up, I didn't expect such a fucking W across the board."

    Clay shrugs. "You guys had a pretty basic mission to go press a couple buttons and ask some questions and you upended a decades-long societal corruption!

    "I have a hell of an email to write to Rick Jones later."

    "Is it gonna be smug?" Elise asks.

    Clay attempts not to smile. He does so poorly.

    "...I gotta find Vlad." Elise leans back. "And get drunk."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Man. What a ride. This was a very intense story, but immensely fun to play through. In some ways, this is one of the pitch-blackest and grimmest stories we’ve done, with murder, suicide, implied offscreen rape, and so forth.

    But it wasn’t exhausting or depressing to play through, because the grimness isn’t unrelenting. It’s leavened with lots of other stuff. There’s an interesting mystery to get to the bottom of, and a great wrong that we’re able to right. Elise and Crystal’s love story is there to add a lot of genuine sweetness. And there’s Cap, which is like...nothing can be too bad when Captain America’s around.

    I want to mention that I thought Matt did a great job avoiding the trap of writing some lazy, dopey, deconstructionist Captain America and instead made him a genuinely nice, earnest, reassuring presence. And I had a ton of fun playing Miles trying and eventually failing to contain his starstruck glee.

    That said, the stakes were very real. When Flashback puts the gun in her mouth, Jake really did roll super-well to snatch the gun and stop her. Choco really did roll (pretty) well to free the team. I shudder to think how things would have gone if they hadn’t. There are a ton of ways this could have gone way worse for the team, but that made the victory at the end really sing for me.

    Anyway, what is even the point of roleplaying games if not to burst into a throne room at some point while someone shouts WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!

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    Jacobkosh on
    Rear Admiral ChocoFencingsaxjurnerMatevvisiblehowl
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Been waiting for Maximus to make his play since he first showed up. Good lord he was creepy.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Rear Admiral ChocoMsAnthropyJacobkoshFencingsax
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    this update was concentrated excellence

    i love the reveal that the unpowered minority has been powered all along and runs a scary conspiracy of unknown scope

    i love that vlad sounds bored as he teleports to smack the big boss around like a child

    i love that elise whiplashes between "i suck so hard, why haven't you put me in timeout" to "you gotta LISTEN to me more" in a second.

    sig.gif
    Rear Admiral ChocoMsAnthropyMatevJacobkoshFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Elise is running through the snow. It's up to her ankles, and she's plodding along. She's panting, and can see her breath in the air. She's unarmed. She is alone. Lining the walls of the canyon are baroque, alien ruins of an unfamiliar alien civilization. This is not a dream. This is real. And she is being chased.

    She hears the clacking sound of it. It's behind her now. Close. She can smell it on the air.

    It leaps over her, landing in front of her, screeching, its mandibles clattering, tail swiping at her. She's able to dodge, effortlessly for now but she's getting tired. It's wearing her down.

    xGPOw38l.jpg

    She hears another noise, coming from above, on the rocks. A pair of quick pops, followed by a guttural snarl as something else drops from the rocks and pounces on the Scorpion, tackling it and slashing at it with...claws?

    There's a flurry of movement and slashing and claws for a few seconds, and then...stillness. The clawed...man...emerges from the fight and walks towards Elise.

    GYJmYZ5l.jpg

    "Hey kid," he says. "You alright?"

    "Yeah." Elise puts her hands on her knees and leans forward, panting. "Christ, yeah, thanks to you."

    "No problem. Let's figure out where the hell we are, and where everyone else is, before the rest of these chumps find us."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    The Zephyr lands, and Elise, Clay, and the rest of the Invincibles get off the plane. Elise also notices that Vision disembarks as well. She wasn't aware he was there before. He's... dressed?


    nZzIsEJ.jpg

    "Lookin' sharp." Elise grins at him.

    "Thank you." Vision smiles at Elise. "Humans are quite judgmental and I feel first impressions are important."

    "Well, you're killin' it," she says.

    Crystalia leans over to Elise. "I am just going to quickly head back to Attilan to check in with my family, make sure everything is okay, and then come back. Okay? Spend time with your friends, make sure they know you're okay too."

    "Yeah, of course. I'll see you soon." Elise gives Crystalia one last hug and then jogs up the beach, looking for her team.

    There's already a barbecue and kegs set up. Stark has managed to harangue a bunch of SWORD staff into helping him with his mad plan.

    The rest of the team sees Elise and the others from the Zephyr walk up the beach.

    Elise waves her hands above her head wildly as soon as she spots her teammates. "Hey! Hey!"

    Julian and Michael jog over. "Hey! Couldn't miss this one, could you?" Julian asks.

    "Hey, finally get some shore leave." Michael raises his hand and looks around expectantly for a high-five. Elise does not leave him hanging. Michael beams.

    Vlad joins them a moment later in his human form. He nods to Vision. "Elise, I am glad to see you are unharmed."

    "I'm better than unharmed, dude, I'm engaged!"

    "In what?" Vlad says, looking confused.

    "Me! Crystalia! We're doing the whole elopement thing! Just, you know, not because of mind control this time!"

    "Oh, you are to be married," he says. He smiles warmly.

    "Congrats, Elise," Michael says.

    Miles turns from the barbecue grill to smile at this news. "Congratulations, Elise. Anything we can do to help, just ask."

    "Do not tell Carol," Elise declares.

    Carol leans out from beside Miles.

    And looks at Elise.

    Elise's smile freezes. "Hey, uh, I gotta go thank Tony. For setting this shindig up. Vlad, I gotta talk to you in a bit, okay? Find me. Laaatteeerrr." Elise finger-guns her way out of that conversation.

    The rest of the Invincibles filter into the party. MODOC and Vision move over to Tony Stark and introduce themselves. Peter and Silver go get drinks and talk off in a corner. Bob grabs a shot of whiskey, looks over at the Avengers, drinks it, pours another shot, and goes and sits in the corner by himself.

    Vlad approaches Bob at the bar and places his hand on his shoulder as he sits down. "It is good to see you, Robert. I had heard of the troubles Flashback lead the team to. I'm glad that when our safety was in doubt, Clay saw the value of The Invincibles." He looks over to The Avengers and then back to Longbow. "Is this difficult for you?"

    Bob sighs. "It's...weird. Seeing them," he tilts his head at the Avengers, "Last time I saw Steve and Tony...well, my Steve and Tony... it wasn't good, y'know? Doesn't...doesn't feel good to think about." He downs his shot. "And there's other...weird stuff here.

    "Like, okay, there's some culture shock stuff with this world, y'know? Like uh..." he lowers his voice and leans over to Vlad, "like War Machine, Falcon, and Blade just are drinking with everyone, from the same kegs, and nobody gives a shit? That's weird for me. It's not like that where I come from. Like I'm not mad. I never got mad about that stuff. If I ever caught one of those guys in our bathrooms or whatever I'd be like, c'mon man, you know you're not supposed to be in here, you're gonna get in shit. Like I didn't have a dog in that fight, y'know? Life was bad enough for those people.

    "But here, nobody gives a shit, and it's weird!"

    Vlad nods. "I found this world confusing when I was first reactivated. I found the rules and structures of humanity odd and misguided. I learned and waited. I learned what made them happy and what they feared because I knew my survival was dependent on it, for I lived in fear.

    “And so everything since then..." Vlad waves his hand gesturing to himself, "...has been to gain power over my fear of and confusion about humans. I did learn another valuable fact in my time though. Trust. Trust in the ones you call your allies. Oppression and slavery are tools of the weak. When all are powerful they can help and save one another."

    Longbow looks over at Vlad. "Hey boss? Uh, you have incoming."

    Reed Richards is walking over to Vlad.

    Vlad turns to meet Reed's gaze. Reed looks at him and nods curtly. "Vladimir." He looks at Longbow. "Can we have a word in private, please?"

    Longbow raises his eyebrows and nods quickly. "Yep, no problem doc, adios!" He skitters out of there to go hang out with Silver and Peter.

    "It's good to see your family here enjoying themselves,” Vlad says. “At least most of them. How is Franklin?"

    Reed's face has no expression in response. "Franklin is quite well."

    "That's good to hear, he's an intelligent young child," Vlad smiles.

    "Yes. He is. Susan tells me you have taken up sorcery, like your father. Unfortunate that your skills weren't up to the task of stopping the Skrulls from creating a divergent timeline that destroyed an entire alternate universe, but learning takes time I suppose, even for machines." Reed sips his drink.

    Elise sees Susan running over to Ben and pointing wildly at Reed and Vlad. Ben nods, and moves over to the pair.

    Vlad's eyes narrow. "You could not begin to comprehend the forces of Arcana I've wielded to save this world, Richards. Your limited scope and intellect can only dream of the wonders I have beheld. I see why my Father calls you what he does."

    Reed goes to open his mouth and Ben physically steps in between the two. "Hey fellas! ‘Scuse me. Vlad, Suzie wants to talk to you, if you don't mind. Hey, Reed, Thor's gonna drop the hammer and I wanna know if like, there's a secret. I wanna win this time, man. C'mon, help me out here."

    Reed tries to look past Ben to get a word at Vlad but Ben keeps actually blocking his view with his bulk. Reed could easily stretch his neck around him but he gets the message and drops it.

    "Benjamin," Vlad nods to the Thing and walks over to Susan.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Elise decides to find Tony Stark. She has bragging to do.

    Right now Tony looks like he is an incredibly awkward conversation and has the look of a terrified housecat being held against its will. MODOC is smiling with his tiny mouth as Vision explains who he and MODOC are.

    Elise swoops in. "MODOC! Vision! Mind if I borrow Mr. Stark?"

    Stark gives Elise pleading eyes. Vision nods cheerfully "Absolutely."

    Elise grins and leads Tony Stark away. "I'm gonna be honest, dude, I just wanted to meet Tony Stark, y'know? I don't got any business with you or nothin'."

    "That's totally fine." He looks relieved.

    "I'm Elise Arnell." Elise offers a hand. "Agent Sensate. Coulda been an Avenger."

    Tony shakes Elise's hand. "Yeah, we met briefly in Russia, before you got zapped. I read your file, for someone with your power-set you're enormously brave, the way you throw in."

    Elise grins, very pleased at the compliment. "Yeah, well, it hasn't gone wrong yet. I could probably wear some armor or whatever? I kind of like being light on my feet. And if I wore a mask or whatever, it'd fuck with my nose."

    Tony looks at Elise. "Y'know, I could try to design you something with kinetic barriers. Wouldn't be armor, per se, or standard force-fields. Don't want anything that blocks too much out, would mess with your powers.

    "It'd be like a harness you wear under your outfit, and projects a barrier around your body, absorb some of the blast or kinetic impact from an energy bolt or bullet if you don't dodge it."

    "...Huh, yeah." Elise chews on her lower lip. "Yeah, might not be a bad idea. I took one hit from a War Skrull and...it wasn't super good! Wouldn't it set off alarms or something, though?"

    "I mean it'd set off a metal detector, yeah."

    "I guess my ICER would too,” she muses. “Yeah, okay, that sounds rad as hell. I guess I can pay you, I guess? Do you take PayPal?"

    He guffaws. "Hahahaha oh my god you don't possibly make enough money to pay me, I've seen what SHIELD payroll is like. Naw, don't worry about it."

    "Anyone tell you you're much cooler than Captain America?"

    Tony grins at Elise. "Yes, but they don't do it often enough."

    g3xuawl.png

    Miles carefully turns the burgers and hot dogs with a practiced hand. "We don't get enough time to catch up lately," he says to Carol. "How's it going with the team? Need any leadership pointers?" He taps the burger tongs to his chest and gives a mock-pompous little bow.

    Carol whispers to Miles. "Uh, yeah, I could use your advice with something, actually."

    Miles leans in, trying to give the appearance of casually inspecting the food. "Yeah? What's up?" he says softly.

    "So, you know that Blade is uhhh...half-vampire, right? He's a daywalker. So he uhhhh...drinks blood. Apparently it has to be human blood too, because he's not a full vampire animal blood isn't enough for him."

    “How does he get it?" Miles asks.

    "Apparently he's just always had this low-key deal worked out with some blood bank where he buys blood from them, he doesn't hurt anyone for it. But it's illegal? I'm trying to convince him to just, y'know, let SHIELD provide him with stuff so he's not engaging in illegal blood trafficking and stuff but he barely trusts SHIELD on a good day.

    "I could order him to stop and to switch to blood we provide him, but that could get...ugly."

    Miles nods. "That's gonna be a weird one to put in the HR file," he smiles. "Okay, so...I guess I feel like...a guy like that has had to be self-reliant and paranoid just to survive, right? I mean, half-vampire. He can't have many friends in the world. And I don't blame him for not entirely trusting SHIELD—and I'm sure it's SHIELD he feels hinky about, not you—but like, they put a bomb in one of my guys' chests, right?

    “Blade might worry that they're going to feed him something extra along with the blood, or just that he'll be dependent on us and, therefore, vulnerable. I think if you just give him time and show him that you're on his side, he'll make the switch on his own—because he'll trust you, and pass that trust along."

    Carol nods at Miles and smiles. "Thanks."

    Miles returns the smile. "Sure thing," he says. "Did he show up for this shindig?" He looks around. "Or can he even eat BBQ? I heard someone say he likes pizza...."

    PHU1KZN.png
    This is my little nod to one of my favorite celebrity stories of all time; Patton Oswalt, who worked on Blade 3, recounted the tale of how Wesley Snipes grew increasingly weird and paranoid during the movie’s filming and locked himself in his trailer with a giant pile of weed. He wouldn’t answer to “Wesley,” only to “Blade,” and would communicate via written notes slipped under the trailer door, which were often orders for food.

    And the notes were written in the third person. In character. “Blade wants a pizza.”

    Anyway, this is my first real chance in-game to play Miles’ relationship with Carol, and I really enjoy how...comfortable and domestic it is. They cook food, they talk shop. It’s not star-crossed, us vs. the world teenybopper love, it’s something different.

    Carol nods at Miles. "Yeah, he's around somewhere. Apparently he can eat food, he just doesn't...get anything out of it, nutritionally. It doesn't make him throw up like a full vampire, though. I don't know where he's skulking around. Possibly sword-fighting with Colleen, those two hang out a lot. They might be...I dunno. That's gossip." She smiles and covers her mouth.

    Miles smiles wolfishly. "It totally is. Let's hear it. I want the inside scoop." He dangles a kosher dog from the tongs. "Sharing is caring."

    Carol snickers conspiratorially to Miles as she takes the dog. "Okay so, I'm pretty sure they're totally a thing. I haven't caught them or anything but okay they say they're going to go off sparring a lot so I wanted to test how legit this was so one time I got little pink kitten stickers and put them on their sword handles in their lockers and then they both were like 'we're going off sparring' and...nobody mentioned the kitten stickers! And I check back later and, stickers are still there.

    "Sparring, huh." She makes eyebrows.

    Miles guffaws. "Oh my god. Kitten stickers. That is some, ahahaha, that is some goddamn tradecraft. And you weren't sure you were cut out to be a spy! Fury would be proud." He begins piling the cooked food up on a paper 4th of July plate. "So what's Colleen like?"

    Carol sighs. "Colleen's..." she looks around quickly before continuing in a whisper. "Colleen's a mess. You know she was part of the Hand? She's a straight up ninja. Like an actual, she trained with a deadly ninja assassin clan. She only left the Hand because she didn't want to become undead."

    Miles' eyebrows raise quizzically. "Wait. Ninja...undead? That's seriously a thing? Isn't that kind of overkill?" He steps away from the grill. "It's time this party had activities. Ever play Ultimate? Let's go find a Frisbee!"

    Carol goes to find a Frisbee with Miles.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Julian goes to find Michael. "Hey man, how are you feeling?"

    "Pretty good." Michael takes a pull from his beer. "Nice to have some time to relax."

    "Yeah, for sure. Nothing fucky going on...?" Julian gestures with a scrambly hand motion towards his head.

    "Oh, no I'm good. I just had never had someone go in there, let alone take control." Michael shudders when he thinks about it. He takes another long pull of beer.

    g3xuawl.png

    Susan sighs as Vlad approaches. "I can't read minds or lips but I can definitely read a bad situation. I just averted a war, didn't I?"

    "Your husband is a hostile individual," Vlad says.

    "The Von Dooms bring it out of him," Susan grumbles.

    g3xuawl.png

    Elise finds Flashback hammering back beers as Quicksilver cheers her on in disbelief.

    "Hey, uhhhhhh. Jenny. Hi. You...doing okay?"

    Jenny slams the last beer down. "Yeah. Speedster competition. It's hard for us to get drunk. We're testing how hard." She looks at Pietro. "Your turn, kiddo."

    Elise wordlessly stares. Julian, coming over to get a dog, stops to pay witness to the spectacle.

    "Hey. Jenny. Jenny, I got a question for you," Elise asks.

    Jenny looks at Sensate and lets out a loud belch. "What?"

    "So, like, I was thinking about our last conversation, right? You can blink through time, yeah? If a dude finishes in you and then you blink, what happens to...his stuff?"

    Pietro spits out his entire beer. He then yells "That doesn't count! She fucked me over!"

    "Not intentionally!" Elise protests.

    "Oh my God, Elise." Julian is holding his sides.

    Jenny laughs and looks at Elise and says "A lady never tells."

    "Okay. So you're doing alright?"

    "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, girl,” Flashback says. “This isn't my first mind control rodeo."

    "Okay. While I'm here, uh. Pietro. Sorry I shot you in the face that one time."

    “...that was you?" He stares at Elise. "Oh my god fuck you!"

    "Fuck you!” she fires back. “You were going to knock me out!"

    "Not for that!" he shouts. "For beer!"

    Jenny laughs loudly. "It doesn't count, Pietro, it doesn't count." Satisfied with that, he nods.

    Elise snags one of the beers and goes to find Vlad. Julian wanders off to join Isabel Kane.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
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    Strolling with his beer, Michael finds Thor, who greets him loudly. "Michael!"

    "Thor!" Michael goes to shake his hand a la Predator.

    Thor claps his hand firmly. Michael's hand does not shatter from the firm Asgardian handshake. That's...odd. Michael quirks his eyebrow and flexes, trying to move Thor's arm.

    The two tug for a bit. Thor wins, slowly, but he does. Thor exclaims with delight and pulls Michael into a hug. "You've been eating well!"

    "Y-yeah! Went on a new diet to gain some more muscle, seems like it's paying off."

    "It is!" Thor grins. "Come, I have a contest of strength and worth for everyone to enjoy."

    "Is it what I think it is?" Michael is kinda giddy.

    Steve sighs loudly. "Thor, don't."

    Thor grins. "It's fun! Everyone loves it!"

    Steve groans. "You love it."

    Thor nods. "And that's what matters."

    Michael downs his beer and tosses it aside. "I'm down for this, let's go!"

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    Crystalia walks over to Elise. "Hey." She looks upset.

    "...Hey, Crys, you want a hug?"

    "...yes." She gets one, then looks at Elise. "Well, the good news is, they've accepted our engagement, on the condition that we get married in Attilan. I mean, we can do a second ceremony here, too. I...I like the beach."

    "That's not so bad! We get two weddings!" Elise grins.

    "The...the other news is, I learned what they're going to do with Maximus," Crystalia says. "And it's...I..." She tears up.

    "Hey. Hey, we don't have to talk about it."

    "I mean we have to while we can," Crystalia says. "Because when it's done we can't."

    Elise furrows her brow. "...Crys, what are they going to do?"

    "They're going to make him Unspoken."

    "...Crys. No, they can't. Shit." Elise stares. "Shit. Shit!"

    "Listen, listen to me." Crys grabs Elise's shoulder. "You don't...you don't know a lot about Attilan's society, it's...

    "Okay, it's like this, sometimes people in Attilan do things that are so terrible, or they have powers so dangerous, that the Crown declares them Unspoken. They're wiped from all the histories, their name becomes forbidden, you can't talk about them, they're exiled from Attilan, they basically don't exist anymore so far as we're concerned. And...and it gets worse.

    "They do something, with the Terrigen Crystals....I don't know all the details, I'm not allowed to know. It...it destroys an Inhuman's powers. Permanently. And then they're cast out of Attilan. To Earth, usually.

    "We don't have the death penalty, this is the closest thing to it."

    "Okay. Okay." Elise begins to pace on the beach back and forth. "Okay, maybe this isn't...I mean, Age of Inhumans started in the 90s, so...maybe it won't..." She stops as something occurs to her. "Do you want to...protect him?"

    "No! I just...look, I understand all the horrible things he did to other people," Crystalia says. "But he didn't...he didn't do those things to me.

    "He never really hurt me. He never really made me do much of anything except keep his secrets and lie for him sometimes? Like...he could have made me do...things. He loved me. He could have...had me, if he wanted. He chose not to. I remember him saying it's because it wouldn't be real, because he would know it would be him.

    "And for years I confided in him and I'd come to him with my problems and like, when I was in trouble or people at court were being cruel to me he was always nice and..." She has a horrified look of realization on her face. "...oh no."

    "Crys, if someone is nice to you but a...what?" She puts her hands on Crystalia’s shoulders. "What's oh no?"

    "Sometimes things would just happen at court. Accidents. And it would be to...people who...oh no… I..."

    "You didn't know," Elise says. "None of us knew, Crys, it's no one's fault.

    “He did...he did a lot of bad things, yeah? He made me betray SHIELD. He made me...I mean, they saved my life, I wouldn't have, but he made me. He made a lot of people do a lot of things. It's not like...Maybe it's not a bad thing if they take away his power to do that?"

    "Yeah. Yeah, you're right." She hugs Elise.

    "I'm...gonna talk to Clay about it. And Vlad. They're smart. They'll know what to do, okay?"

    "Okay." She gasps. "It's the Avengers."

    "It is the Avengers. I know Mr. Stark and the Captain. You want an introduction?"

    Crystalia perks up. "Yes!"

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Thor walks over to the beach. "Everyone, please! May I have your attention!" he bellows, overcoming all other conversation.

    "At this gathering of friends and allies and also Tony Stark," he laughs, a few other people laugh. Tony does not laugh. "I think it would be a good time to engage in a traditional Asgardian feat of strength and worth. So happens, I have a perfect way for us to all engage in such a feat right here." He holds up Mjolnir.

    "You're shitting me," Elise manages. Standing with arms folded, Vlad shoots a look at Silver. She returns a smirk.

    Miles nudges Carol. "I gotta get in on this," he whispers.

    Carol nods at him. "Do it. I think you have a genuine shot."

    He beams at her. "Thank you," he says sincerely.

    "The magic of Mjolnir is such that it can only be lifted by the worthy, regardless of their strength. Some of my friends, such as Banner, are the strongest beings on your world and it is not the strength of their muscles that determines whether they can raise Mjolnir, but the strength of their spirit. Their character. Their honor."

    Thor finds a flat rock surface on the beach, and places Mjolnir down on it.

    "Can I go first?!" Elise asks.

    He smiles at Elise. "By all means!"

    Elise tosses off her heavy blue and red coat and grasps the handle with both hands, then tugs. "C'mon, I'm rad as fuck -"

    Nothing. It doesn't even budge. Elise slouches away.

    "Anyone else?"

    "MODOC VOLUNTEERS"

    MODOC slowly floats over to Mjolnir as everyone watches in stunned silence.

    Elise appears at Vlad's elbow. "Hey. You free for a sec?"

    Vlad shifts his gaze to Elise. "Of course."

    Elise pulls Vlad out of hearing distance, although he keeps watch on MODOC and the hammer over her shoulder. "Listen, I gotta...apologize. About some stuff."

    MODOC can barely fit his two tiny hands around the handle of Mjolnir. But he does it. With a high-pitched, keening grunt, he pulls on it. His hover-jet blasts with effort as he pulls, and pulls. But nothing happens.

    "MODOC...TRIED."

    Thor gently pats MODOC on the head. "That you did, little man."

    "I haven't like, had your back like I should. About the whole Victorious thing,” Elise murmurs to Vlad. “I was...scared. The whole fulcrum of power thing, y'know? It reminded me of Wyndham."

    "I was not aware of your hesitation, Elise." Vlad looks somewhat taken aback. He frowns.

    Back at the shoreside, Miles steps forward. "Uh...is it okay if I give it a shot?"

    Thor nods enthusiastically at Miles.

    "Cool!” Miles says. “Okay, here goes."

    From the grass, Elise and Vlad watch Miles approach the hammer. "Yeah, well, it was dumb of me,” she says. “I should have... You're Vlad. You're Victorious, too, but you'll always be my best friend. I got your back. On anything from now on.

    “I get it now. I get the whole power thing. It makes sense. So...X-51, Attilan, Clay...anything you need? I've got your back."

    Vlad smiles.

    Miles shoots a smile at Carol and wraps his hands around the handle. He tries to clear his mind of conscious thought, the way he learned once during a six-week martial arts class at the strip mall when he was a teenager.

    He pulls.

    The hammer…nudges.

    Thor's face drops. "W-what."

    Vlad looks at Elise and says, in a frequency only she can hear, "I have a secret..."

    There is an explosion of light.

    It's in the air, above the water behind Thor and Miles. A rip in space itself, glowing with orange light.

    Bathed in radiance, something emerges from the rip.

    SRzVBu4l.jpg

    Elise is covering her face, blinded by the light. "Fuck! Fuck! What's happening?" Beside her, Vlad shifts into Victorious.

    The being hovers over the water, facing the beach full of heroes.

    "I AM KANG. I am here to issue a challenge. The fate of your world depends on it."

    "...Your name is Kang?" Elise manages, blearily looking through her fingers.

    Vlad looks for Clay and then towards Miles. Miles still has one hand on the hammer, but his gaze is turned upward to watch the newcomer, his posture alert.

    "You have already accepted the challenge, as have your opponents," Kang declares.

    He lowers his pistol toward the crowd and pulls the trigger. As the various heroes attempt to react, they are enveloped in light and vanish.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
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