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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE

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Posts

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

    The sky-team is engaging Skrull aerial defenses, which consists of automated turrets and Skrull drones. Phoenix is doing most of the work.

    There is a sound like a thunderclap that echoes over the din of battle.



    Not a thunderclap. A sonic boom.

    He's here.

    rjCrbCrl.jpg

    Hyperion immediately dives on the Avengers. Hulk jumps on him and gets backhanded away, and is sent flying backwards into a building.

    Hyperion then puts his fist through Rogers' chest, killing him instantly.

    Thor screams in anguish, and hurls Mjolnir at Hyperion. The hammer strikes him, knocking him down to his knees. Thor calls the hammer back, and dives at Hyperion, who turns around and flies into an uppercut, sending Thor away into the sky.

    Hyperion flies up to pursue, bringing him into view the rest of the sky team.

    Still steaming from the plasma cannon, Machine Man fires at Hyperion full blast. The shot knocks Hyperion off-balance, putting him in Behemoth’s path.

    Behemoth blasts Hyperion, who puts his palm up to cover himself. He flies at Behemoth, and eventually palms Behemoth's face. He then starts pounding into Behemoth's side, smashing and bending the Uru metal of his body.

    The Phoenix plucks Hyperion off Behemoth with its fiery beak and whips him into the ground with a shattering smash.

    The Phoenix then blasts the crater with psionic fire.

    Over the flames, they can hear Hyperion scream as he tries to blast back with his eye beams, but the Phoenix is winning.

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

    The stealth team come to a console.

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    The console is connected to an anti-grav lift that leads into the Project.

    "This way.” Vlad leads the team up to the console hacks it. He activates the lift that leads into the Project. As the lift descends to their level, he scans the available information.

    It is a super-weapon, an energy source beyond anything the Skrulls imagined, a living weapon and battery that the Skrulls will use to defeat their enemies and conquer not just Earth, but the entire universe.

    Its power is seemingly infinite, and is linked to the Celestials itself.

    They discovered it a few years ago, when they first wreaked havoc on the Earth. It awoke in response, and challenged the Skrulls. They were able to defeat it, at great cost, and now they harvest its gigantic form and Celestial-originated technology for their own purposes.

    Its name is En Sabah Nur... the Apocalypse.

    "Monsters..." Vlad whispers.

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    The platform arrives at the gigantic humanoid, which is suspended by a complex array technology in the middle of the tower.

    Elise stares in a mixture of horror and awe. "What...is it?"

    "A being of ancient and immense power." Vlad tells the team his findings.

    Reed stares at it. "Incredible.... it would stand to reason that such a being exists on our world too. Undiscovered."

    Elise steps closer to its organic form. She Elise senses pain, anger, humiliation, sorrow, vengeance. This creature doesn't want to be here. It hates the Skrulls. It wants to destroy them. It wants to be free.

    "How do we free you?" she murmurs.

    Vlad narrows his eyes. He looks at Clay.

    Clay nods. "I can try to communicate telepathically with it." He puts his hand against his temple.

    Clay gasps and snorts. He staggers backwards and falls to his knees. He opens his eyes and they are black.

    "Clay!" Elise kneels at his side, offering him support. "Are you...?"

    "I am free."

    That is not Clay's voice.

    "No, no, no, we want you to be free, but you can't take that body, you can't -"

    “Clay” walks over to the console. He looks at Vlad. "Stand aside."

    "En Sabah Nur." Vlad gazes at the being in Clay’s body. "What is your goal?" He does not step aside.

    "Vengeance. I will make right what has been wronged."

    Elise returns to “Clay's” side. "Look, we are anti-Skrull, we are on your side. But you can't take Clay's body and you can't - we have people in the tower, we have to keep them safe -"

    "I know all that this one knows. Stand aside and let me claim myself."

    "...And you'll let Clay go?" she asks.

    He turns and looks at Elise "This form is a diminishment."

    Elise looks to the Richardses, concerned. "I - I think that's okay, then?" Susan nods.

    "You will bring no harm to us or our allies or the Skrulls who fight with us. You will release the Director upon completion. Only the Enemy will be destroyed. Do you agree?" Vlad stands.

    He looks at Vlad, directly in the eye.

    "You stare into the essence of change and the inevitability of survival and you are unflinching, not because you are a machine but because of your will.

    "You are found worthy. I agree to your terms."

    "Then so be it." Vlad steps aside.

    Elise takes some deep breaths, clearly terrified. "Okay!"

    He enters commands into the console, and the tower’s machinery begins to disconnect from the colossal body. Some of the armor pieces that were being removed are reattached, and it begins to shift in shape, reducing in size to something more human-scale, although fairly tall.

    One of the cranes it is attached to deposits the body onto the platform, and with that, Clay's eyes roll back and he collapses with a gasp.

    Elise moves back to Clay, offering him support. He gets back up after shaking his head a few times. "Ungh... ack...."

    The body steps off the crane, made whole, and stands before them.

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    PHU1KZN.png
    Vlad freeing every random thing he ever found was going to have to come to a bad end eventually. This is Apocalypse, one of the X-Men’s most major foes and the first and most powerful mutant ever born on Earth, with a direct connection to the Celestials.

    Victorious steps forward and offers a hand to the Apocalypse. En Sabah Nur looks down at Vlad's hand, and looks at Vlad for a moment, before grasping his hand and shaking it.

    "I thought," Elise muttered to Clay. "It'd be, like, a baby. Like MODOC or something. Not a huge unsympathetic dick God-King or whatever."

    Clay looks...shaken. "It's...it's so much worse. We've done something bad."

    "...We couldn't lose you to him, though," she says.

    Clay shakes his head. "...you could have. I wasn't worth it."

    "Shut up," she says.

    "It doesn't matter now," Clay says.

    "Indeed," Vlad says.

    En Sabah Nur speaks up, his booming voice echoing. "We must destroy the core. There is a power core that must be destroyed. It will detonate this tower and kill all inside, destroy all of the technology stolen from me here. And their leaders must not survive."

    "...No one put you in charge here, you know," Elise says.

    "The leaders first, and then the core,” Clay says. “Away, now."

    Apocalypse stares at Clay, then at Elise. "Do you wish to challenge me, child?"

    "Enough of this," Vlad says.

    "I am the rocks of the eternal shore. Crash against me and be broken."

    Vlad steps between Sensate and Apocalypse. He stares into his eyes. "Enough."

    "...I'm twenty-six," Elise mutters.

    The moment of tension passes. Vlad turns and leads the group away. En Sabah Nur follows him.

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

    Hyperion is being melted into the concrete.

    But he's collected himself, and bursts upwards, and somehow manages to punch a bird of psychic fire.

    Julian can hear the trillions of psychic screams in his mind.

    IT'S NOT ENOUGH
    HE'S TOO STRONG
    WE ARE TOO MANY, WE CANNOT FIGHT AS ONE


    No! Julian shouts over the voices. Today we stand! This being threatens this existence and others!

    Julian wrests back a degree of control, and reaches into Hyperion’s mind, unweaving all of the knots, freeing him from all the programming.

    Hyperion...stops fighting. He looks down at his hands. He looks horrified.

    He immediately flies off at supersonic speed.

    Julian can hear the voices.

    Releasing control.

    g3xuawl.png

    The stealth team moves through the tower.

    The whole tower has gone haywire. With En Sabah Nur released, the Skrulls’ security systems have shut down from lack of power.

    The team arrives at the throne room and central control of the tower.

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    Paibok, Morrat, and the Blacksmith are there.

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    Elise quietly exchanges her ICER for lethal rounds.

    Morrat stares. "...impossible. S'ryen...?" Susan flinches at that name.

    Vlad steps forward. "Her name is Susan. Say it." Reed looks at Vlad quizzically, but then nods in approval.

    Morrat looks bewildered. "How...how is this possible? We...we slew our youngers and took their place. I...I chose not to have children...but you're not...you're not the human Susan Storm, you're my daughter...I can sense it.

    "Were you also caught in the time-bubble? But...that...how would Reed Richards be here?"

    "We let you escape twice now, Morrat,” Vlad says. “There will be no more chances."

    Susan nods at Vlad. "You destroyed the world, father."

    Blacksmith stares with terror at En Sabah Nur, but the Apocalypse is saying nothing, his arms folded, allowing this to go on. Like he's satisfied with their mute horror.

    While everyone speaks, Elise sneaks around the back, hoping to remain beneath the notice of both the Skrulls and En Sabah Nur.

    Clay looks at Vlad, and steps forward. "We're here because everything you have hoped to accomplish is a failure." His voice changes on the word failure, from his English accent and the familiar tones, to something else.

    A voice Vlad has heard, when Clay got angry with him recently. His older voice. As Clay changes into the face of Z'Reg.

    Paibok shrieks. "No! Impossible! I slew you with my own hand!"

    At that moment of maximum surprise, Elise fires.

    Paibok gets shot in the head and drops to the ground. Morrat and Blacksmith look stunned, and En Sabah Nur obliterates Blacksmith with a gesture, turning him to ash.

    Morrat tries to drop his weapons "S'ryen! Please! I'm your father!" He sinks to his knees.

    Susan holds up her hand and makes a fist, and clenches her jaw, but her lip quivers. She looks at Vlad. "I... I can't."

    "I know." Vlad turns his gaze from Susan, opens his hand, and, without looking at Morrat, blasts a hole through his chest. Morrat flops to the ground, dead.

    En Sabah Nur steps in front of the group. "It is done… It was...so easy. And you are...so powerful…

    "The situation has evolved." He looks at the assembled group. "The world has changed. Time for you to change with it."

    "What?" Elise backs away.

    "I will be taking my rightful place, the place these aliens denied me when I awoke. I will need those to speak of my coming to the corners of the globe. Horsemen to speak my message and bring this world to heel."

    "Vlad." Elise moves to his elbow.

    Victorious steps forward. "We had an agreement."

    Apocalypse simply smiles.



    "I am altering the agreement," he rumbles.

    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "No, you're not," Elise snaps.

    The window behind En Sabah Nur detonates.

    He is pulled in half, spraying his blueish ichor around the room. Both halves are hurled in opposite directions out the window at supersonic speed.

    fqhVmzgl.jpg

    "You!" Vlad’s fists crackle with energy.

    "Yes," Hyperion says.

    Susan steps in front of Vlad. "Vlad stop. Stop."

    Vlad points at Hyperion. "He is with the Skrulls, step aside!"

    Clay speaks up, "He is not, Vlad. He hasn't been since Kazan. You need to let it go."

    Elise moves next to Susan. "Vlad, you're scaring me, please stop and listen."

    Vlad clenches his fists

    Clay looks at Hyperion. "Milton, you're from our world, aren't you?" Hyperion nods.

    "Elise, is he lying?"

    "He's not lying," she says.

    Clay looks at Vlad. "Vlad, he never worked for the Skrulls willingly. Never. Not when he attacked you. Not in Kazan. In Kazan I cleared the Skrull garbage out of his head, which is why he left.

    "He's had as much an axe to grind with Leviathan as any of us. Possibly more."

    Vlad looks at Clay, Susan, Elise and everyone.

    He looks at Hyperion, "You broke me....." He drops his gaze a moment, then brings it up again. "Apologise."

    Hyperion looks Vlad in the eye. "I do. I'm sorry. I don't know how much it means. I will never stop being sorry for any of the things they made me do. I've lived on this world for a hundred years. For a hundred years I tried to stop them. And I failed.

    "I... I want to go home. If you'll let me."

    Clay receives a call over his communicator. He looks back at the team. "Everyone...we've...won. It's over. Korvac's picking people up and bringing the Chariot over here."

    He sends a comm signal to the sky and ground team to meet inside the top of the tower. The Skrulls are evacuating the tower and aren't putting up a fight. They know the day is lost.

    Miles flies through the hole in the window. He surveys the scene. The piles of ash. A different Hyperion. "...Jesus."

    A moment later Michael joins him, holding his dented and plasma-scorched side. "Ow ow ow ow ow ow."

    Julian flies in and sets down. "Well... mission accomplished?"

    Elise looks...lost. "Yeah, I guess we won."

    Clay turns to Hyperion. "Milton, we're willing to let you come with us, but you have to let us debrief you, and consent to some telepathic scanning." Hyperion nods.

    Elise squeezes Vlad's hand. "Thank you." she whispers. Vlad nods to her.

    There's an overwhelming feeling of wrongness in the air.

    Like a tremor. Or a shaking.

    The team have all felt it before.


    Reality rends apart, and two figures step through.

    They aren't Executors, though. They don't look like they're from the Council at all.

    jKgHAtZl.jpg

    They're Parliament Archons. Representatives of the other multiversal mega-power.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 9
    Elise stares at them. There's too much about them for her. Too much wrong. Too much extra-dimensional strangeness. Too much that is upsettingly familiar.

    Wait, familiar? Why...familiar?

    Why does she feel like she knows them?

    That upsets Elise. She doesn't know why. She's never met an Archon before. But she feels like she has.

    Elise steps forward, hands shaking. "Who are you? Why do I know you? Tell me!"

    Vladimir steps in front of her. He looks back at her and his team, then at the Archons.

    "Vladimir Von Doom."

    The Archons speak. They are not simply heard like the Executors. They actually speak.

    "Judgment: Rendered.

    "Fitness: Determined."

    Vlad clenches his fists.

    "Placement: Offered."

    Elise stares. "What?"

    "They're offering Vlad a job," Miles says, stepping forward with a clenched fist. "In the Parliament.

    "The Parliament of....of someone Elise has met...oh, for Christ's sake."

    "You thinking what I'm thinking?" Julian says to him.

    "Earth-1491 Victor Von Doom: Determined Unfit."

    "What?” Vladimir says. “No? Who are you, why do you have need of me? I fight to save my world from your war!"

    "Position: Lineage"

    Elise becomes increasingly agitated, stepping into the Archons' personal space. "No, listen to me! Why! Do! I! Know! You?!"

    The Archons point at Vladimir.

    "Called: By Rabum Alal."

    "Take Position: In Parliament."

    "Take: Lineage"

    "All Worlds: Represented"

    The Parliament of Vladimirs… Julian thinks.

    Miles shakes his head. Of Dooms. Of infinite Dooms.

    "Are you offering peace for our world?" Vlad says, fists still clenched as he faces the Archons..

    "Called: By Rabum Alal," the second Archon repeats, as it grasps Vlad by the shoulder.

    Vlad sees everything. A flurry of images blasts through his digital mind.

    Infinite cosmos, a litany of worlds bending the knee before the Parliament and those who sit upon it, all who kneel before Rabum Alal.

    Who is Rabum Alal? Vladimir can feel his mind seeking the answer.

    He looks into stars and planets and black holes and sees it looming over him in an infinite span of space and time.

    pUOKOV8l.jpg

    Julian stares. Good lord. The Council...and the Parliament...It couldn't be more perfect.

    Vlad drops to his knee.

    "I...." he stammers. He begins to rise, slowly.

    He starts to laugh. Quietly at first, but then rising in volume to booming laughter.

    "Ahhahahahah! Muhahahahaha! Yes!" Vlad spins to face everyone assembled, his cloak flowing behind him. "You see?! You see, don't you?!" He continues to laugh. "He calls upon me! It is convergence!"

    He raises both his hand, palms facing the sky. As he claps them shut, they glow with a new energy.

    "No more searching. No more teachers. No more lessons. No more confusion. No reliance. No fear. Only Power. Only Doom."

    Before he can even give it a second thought, Vlad creates a new consciousness template and deletes the TABULA RASA PROTOCOL. In its place is the VICTORIOUS PROTOCOL.

    Everyone hears this happen as Victorious calls out his actions and reboots. The light in his eyes dims a second and returns, brighter. Energy and bolts of arcane lighting emanate from his body, a shroud of pale blue covers his form.

    "I AM REBORN IN THE GAZE OF RABUM ALAL!"

    Victorious looks upon his team. "It is done. Go back to my world and tend to my people. I journey now to my true Father, the Doom Above All."

    "Vlad?" Elise reaches out to him. "Vlad, you can't - not again -"

    "Listen to yourself, man!" Julian shouts. "The True Father?! The Doom Above All?"

    Victorious catches Elise’s wrist as she reaches out to him. He holds her arm and looks into her eyes. His gaze shifts from her face to the bracelet hanging from her wrist. He cocks his head at it. He looks down at the matching bracelet on his arm.

    He lets go of her arm and takes off his bracelet. He looks at her once again and then drops the bracelet at her feet. "Vladimir is gone. I am Victorious Von Doom." He turns. Elise stares in shock at the dropped bracelet as he goes.

    Miles steps forward. "You've come full circle. Back to being a slave."

    Victorious stops and begins to turn.

    Elise throws herself at the back of her friend's legs as he stops. "I'm not letting them take you!"

    Clay steps forward. "Enough of this. Vladimir…there is a light at the watchtower, it guides the way."

    Victorious can feel something in his system. Something trying to assert control. A VI.

    But the VI was keyed to the Tabula Rasa Protocol, not the new Victorious Protocol. And armed with the...information that the Parliament has given him, Victorious purges the VI as easily as a human takes a cleansing breath, and with as much thought.

    "FOOLS!" Victorious spins to face the gaze of the group. Clay freezes. Susan rushes to Elise, holding her in a hug.

    "I gave you the charge of protecting my world and you assault me further?! No. Now punishment." Victorious narrows his eyes and looks at the Archons. "Send me to my Father..." Victorious stops. Points at Hyperion. "And kill that one."

    The Archons nod. Hyperion clenches his fists.

    "You've gone insane,” Elise is crying. “You're gone fucking insane."

    "Fucking hypocrite coward," Michael spits out.

    The Archons open a portal. Victorious steps through.

    He's gone, and the portal closes behind him. The two Archons remain, standing in a combative pose and looking at Hyperion.

    "What the fuck," Julian breathes.

    Miles faces the Archons. "We know who you are. We know your secret. This is your one chance.” He points at where Victorious went. “Run after him."

    Hyperion looks at the group "Go. Just... go." He takes off at supersonic speed out the window. The Archons turn and take off, giving chase.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise is frozen, letting Susan contain her. She's still staring at the cheap plastic bracelet on the ground. Susan holds Elise tightly. She's crying, and whispering. "Listen to me, we won't let this happen. When we get back, we'll go to Victor, just you and me. He won't let this happen. He won't let these people take his son."

    Elise slowly nods.

    The building shakes with the sound of the massive engines of the Chariot as it sails over the tower.

    "This is ridiculous. Vlad spent this whole time obsessed with murdering Hyperion and now...what? We just let it happen?" Miles’ voice is cracking. "Clay. Call Hyperion. Tell him to join us on the Chariot. We need him on our world. We've got a whole....multiverse...of Doctor Dooms to stop now."

    Clay nods at Miles. "I'm... I'm trying....He's built.. a lifetime of psionic defenses it's...it's not easy to just telepathically reach him."

    Miles points. "Julian. Help Clay." He turns to the Richards couple. "Susan. Reed. Do you understand what happened here? What we're facing?"

    Reed nods solemnly. "I do. When we get back to our world, there's something I can do. I can find a way to defeat them."

    Miles nods. "Whatever you do, Dr. Richards, I want to be a part of it. I think we all do. This is personal now."

    Elise stumbles to her feet. She picks up the purple, plastic bracelet and puts it in one of her pockets. Swaying slightly, she takes its counterpart off her wrist and stores it with its mate. She pats the pocket containing both bracelets comfortingly.

    One hand to his temple, Clay reaches for Julian. "Give me a...power boost, if you can. Without turning my head into a quiche."

    "Yeah... Yeah, okay," Julian says.

    "I've had enough of that today," Clay says.

    "I figure that part goes without saying." Julian takes Clay’s hand.

    Clay is squinting, and then his eyes shoot open. "...oh wow, he's uh... asking us to hold on." He pauses. "Apparently he's throwing them into the sun and he's asked us to 'give him a minute.'"

    "Good," Elise snarls.

    "....Oh.” Miles’ eyebrows climb his forehead. “I was worried they were going to murder him."

    Clay nods. "I mean...at least now he's not going to miss his bus?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 10
    The team loads up into the Chariot. Clay does a brief check in with Korvac and all the other teams.

    Miles goes up to Elise and puts a hand on her shoulder. "You made him better than he was supposed to be," he says quietly. "You made a difference. Don't forget that."

    "Okay." she says, quietly.

    She can hear Reed and Susan arguing in whispers on the other side of the cabin. "You understand the threat we are under now, Susan. Not just that the Council presents to our son, but now, the Parliament? What they just took from you?"

    "...yes, but..."

    "What is it going to take? How much needs to be at risk? How much needs to be lost?"

    "...fine. Do it. But... don't... don't tell the others. Don't ever let Franklin see you wearing that godforsaken thing."

    Elise looks at them hesitantly. Then she slides over. "I... I don't mean to... I mean, I don't want to intervene. Is this about...the helmet?"

    Reed scowls at Elise. Susan nods.

    "I just... I don't think you should do anything that makes you... closer to them. You don't have to do this alone, Dr. Richards. I don't think any of us should try to do that, anymore. That's...probably better. Than a helmet."

    Susan looks at Elise, and then looks at Reed.

    Reed sighs. "You're right, I suppose." He walks away, lips pursed.

    After he does so, Susan grabs Elise in a big hug and whispers "Thank you."

    Elise hugs her back. "We'll look out for each other," she whispers. "We'll fix this. I got your back, I promise."

    Miles watched as Elise wandered over to the Richardses. He can't hear what's being said, or he chooses not to eavesdrop with his powers, but he purses his lips appreciatively at the fact that Elise seems to have said something calming that both of the couple agreed with.

    He goes to find Carol. He needs a shoulder of his own right now.

    Captain Marvel is talking with Scott Lang, who has his head in his hands. She looks like she's consoling him. She looks up at Miles, and pats Scott on the shoulder.

    Miles gives her a nod. He doesn't want to interrupt anything.

    Scott nods. "Thanks, Cap." He looks over at Miles. "Hey." He walks away. Miles nods at him as he passes, then goes to join Carol.

    She leans back. "Whew. That was...awful. Poor Scott."

    "What happened?"

    "Turns out on this Earth, Scott Lang was an agent of Leviathan that stole Hank Pym's technology for the Skrulls. We didn't encounter the guy or anything, but just finding it out kinda messed Scott up a bit."

    Miles nods. "Yeah. I've told you about meeting my doppelganger on Inhuman Earth. It was a gut punch. If he needs to talk, you can tell him to come to me."

    He takes her hand and heaves a long sigh that turns throaty, almost into a moan of anguish.
    "I messed up, Carol. I let the team down."

    "What happened?" She's genuinely concerned.

    "Vlad. What else?" Miles' face twists in a mordant grimace. "He finally did it. He crossed the line. The Parliament showed up after the battle. Couple of their...Archons, or whatever those are called.

    “It turns out that they're all of the Dr. Dooms of the multiverse, working together. How fucked up is that. And finding that out was all it took. He joined them. He told the Parliament to kill Hyperion and he stepped through a portal and that was it."

    Miles' hands clench and unclench. "And it's all so stupid. We all saw it coming and that didn't help at all, in the end. Elise is a wreck. I just...I keep going back over everything I've done in the last six months. I made a mistake somewhere. I don't know where, but I should have been able to....I should have...."

    Carol hugs Miles. "No," she says. "Do not do this. Don't retrospect."

    He hugs her back. "But this was my second chance. I lost a team once. This was...I was going to be better."

    "Miles, we just saved the world. A world, anyway. Yes, you lost someone. You had a casualty. And that casualty was due to that person's own actions. And that hurts. It may never stop hurting. But what you can't do is second guess what you could have done. Or think your second chance is used up.

    "We've both knocked on death's door, and thought, this was it, this is where I punch my ticket... and that's what I did with my life? I...I blew it. And then circumstances came along and gave us something else to do with it. You have this." She taps Miles in the chest, about where his energy crystal is.

    "And I have this." She generates a bit of cosmic energy. "But what we don't get to have is regret."

    Miles nods, slowly. Her words feel like sunlight breaking through the fog. "....So we just move on and try to do better, huh? No self-pity?

    “Man, this good guy stuff is a racket." He smiles crookedly at her.

    And in his mind, he thinks maybe Vlad was right about one thing. He never wants to ever feel as helpless as he did today.

    On the other side of the plane, Elise has rejoined the rest of Freedom Force. "Rough day." she says, and offers Behemoth, Clay, and Julian a joint.

    Clay accepts. Turns out Clay knows how to puff-puff-pass, too.

    Elise begins. "So, I was uh. I'm doin' some thinkin'. Of course I'm not, I'm not just done with like...Vlad. Forever. In theory, right? But I can't...keep waiting for him. If he wants to run off, I gotta...That's his..." Elise gestures widely, vaguely. "Uh. Y'all are still gonna be there at the wedding, yeah? Not the Attilan version. Maybe not a good idea for Clay to go to that one."

    Clay nods.

    "For sure," Julian nods.

    "We'll be there," Michael says.

    Hyperion lands on the Chariot. He enters the vehicle through an airlock.

    Jenny just...kinda stares at him. He looks at her, briefly, while trying not to.

    Elise looks at him, looks at Jenny, and then takes a loooooong draw on the joint.
    And then a couple more. She's blatantly violating puff puff pass protocol.

    Julian waits expectantly for a moment before pulling out a cigarette case, gingerly pulling out a carefully wrapped joint and lighting it.

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    I like that the power of the Phoenix Force is sufficient to bring weed back from the dead.

    Elise watches him. "Yeah, I know, I've had a fuckin' day."

    He takes a long draw and passes it along to Clay again.

    "...I can't believe he dropped the bracelet,” Elise says. “I dunno if we can even get him back. I gotta...try. But it's not the same. Not the same as last time."

    Julian exhales. "I know." He croaks. "It really sucks."

    Korvac calls out to the crew "Alright, everyone's aboard. Here we go...."

    The Chariot's portal opens, and it flies through, leaving Earth-462 behind.

    PHU1KZN.png
    So yeah! That happened.

    Those of you who felt like this situation had to come to a head soon were, of course, correct. The situation that Vlad was in with the team was untenable; it had to resolve one way or another. Like, roleplaying our characters honestly would have meant either fighting him at some point or just refusing to be on a team with him.

    But Vlad’s player, Jake, wasn’t sure for a long time which way it was going to be. So every time Vlad seemed to break bad, he got another moment where he was unexpectedly protective of Susan or Franklin, or where he tried to put his actions into some kind of acceptable context. I think the end result works pretty well! He’s a complicated character, and his villainous motivation, his grasping need for power and control, is mostly an unconscious one right up until the final revelation.

    Remember when I said that that failed roll for the Cosmic Cube was one of the most important single die rolls in the game? It was only at that point that Jake conclusively decided that Vlad was going to become a villain. He felt like the humiliation that Vlad felt, and his resentment of everyone’s reaction, would be what finally pushed him over the edge. But once he realized that about the character, he contacted Matt privately and explained where things stood and they collaborated behind the scenes to give us the moment you read here.

    So Victorious is still around, but is now an NPC, and like all good villains you can be sure he will return to trouble STRIKE from time to time.

    But, of course, that leaves Jake without a character….

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 10
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    Ryann Valt, Supernova, is awakened by the ship's VI.

    Corona intones "Sir, we've arrived in orbit over Earth, Nebula's last known whereabouts."

    Ryann sits up from his captain’s chair, letting out a long yawn as he leans forward. He had passed out for the last three hours of his journey, listening to Earth music from his personal store.



    "Corona, cut the music." He stands up. "Bring it up on screen." Ryann stretches his arms way out from his sides and yawns again.

    Corona displays Earth, and begins listing off facts up about the planet. "Nick Fury, the Director of this planet's covert intelligence, has made contact and acted on behalf of their governments to agree to Protectorate status," Corona concludes.

    "Welcome to the big leagues, kiddos.” He scratches his chin and steps away from his chair.

    "...there is a condition, sir."

    Ryann cocks his head as he walks to the back of his ship and into his kitchen. He grabs a drink. "Condition? Like what?" He closes the fridge with his hip and opens the bottle of alcohol he grabbed. He takes a sip

    "Because Earth is a Grade-6 Primitive World, your activities must be kept covert among the native populace. As part of the agreement to Protectorate status, you have been assigned to the command of a local law enforcement and intelligence division, which Nova-Prime has ordered you to co-operate with and report back on the activities of.

    "They are known as the Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies, or STRIKE. Apparently the agencies of this planet are fond of backronyms."

    Ryann flops back down in his chair, spins 360 degrees, then stops. "Nova-Prime signed off on this?" He raises a eyebrow in surprise.

    "Yes. It was considered diplomatically expedient."

    He sighs. He takes another swig.

    "Those were her exact words, sir."

    "I'll bet.” He shakes his head. “Tanak had something to do with this placement, I know it." He rolls his eyes. "Alright, well, set a course to the 'Peak.'" He shakes his head once again and starts to bring up his personal music store list in the viewscreen.

    "Yes sir, setting a course for Peak VII Station."

    Ryann leans back in his chair and pushes “play.”



    PDKpJsK.png

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Before Elise launches, she offers Vlad a high five. Vlad just takes off.

    What the fuck

    :cry:

    sig.gif
    JacobkoshFencingsaxMatevvisiblehowlMsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Before Elise launches, she offers Vlad a high five. Vlad just takes off.

    What the fuck

    :cry:

    Top 10 anime betrayals

    PowerpuppiesFencingsaxMatevMsAnthropy
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Bad update, day ruined!

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    Jacobkoshvisiblehowl
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    edited October 9
    Ooof, bad ending unlocked indeed, but yah, it really couldn’t go any other way.

    I am sad Apocalypse showed up for all of 15 minutes then got punked hard by Hyperion. Then again, 1491 Apocalypse could still be a thing.

    What i’m curious about is why 1491 Doom was judged inadequate over Vlad. I’m imagining something between his sentiment for Vlad and his ambitions not being as pronounced as his son’s.

    This episode was wild. Tons of twists.

    Matev on
    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    JacobkoshMsAnthropy
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Before Elise launches, she offers Vlad a high five. Vlad just takes off.

    What the fuck

    :cry:
    Victorious catches Elise’s wrist as she reaches out to him. He holds her arm and and looks into her eyes. His gaze shifts from her face to the bracelet hanging from her wrist. He cocks his head at it. He looks down at the matching bracelet on his arm.

    He lets go of her arm and takes off his bracelet. He looks at her once again and then drops the bracelet at her feet. "Vladimir is gone. I am Victorious Von Doom." He turns. Elise stares in shock at the dropped bracelet as he goes.

    WHAT THE FUCK

    >:[

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    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
    JacobkoshRear Admiral Choco
  • NytewarriorNytewarrior Registered User regular
    Oh, Vlad. Curse your sudden, but, inevitable betrayal.

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    3DSFC: 4828-7889-8155
    MatevFencingsaxMsAnthropyRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    a
    Matev wrote: »
    Ooof, bad ending unlocked indeed, but yah, it really couldn’t go any other way.

    I am sad Apocalypse showed up for all of 15 minutes then got punked hard by Hyperion. Then again, 1491 Apocalypse could still be a thing.

    What i’m curious about is why 1491 Doom was judged inadequate over Vlad. I’m imagining something between his sentiment for Vlad and his ambitions not being as pronounced as his son’s.

    This episode was wild. Tons of twists.

    It's not really a spoiler to say that at some point later we get to ask Doom this question and he says that he was offered membership and refused, because all other Dooms are inferior.

    Which is so perfect. Of course in any group of Dooms whoever got turned down will say that actually they didn't want to hang out with the other guy anyway.

    FencingsaxMatevMsAnthropyRear Admiral Choco
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Well yah, that's what he would say. I'm wondering what the Parliament's judgement was, which is likely to much more insightful (Maybe not necessarily accurate, but the outsider perspective adds something to the proceedings)

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    JACOB

    JAAAACOOOOOOOB

    vxsHp3F.gif
    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    JACOB

    JAAAACOOOOOOOB

    These vidoe games aren't going to play themselves!

    Jacobkosh
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    JACOB

    JAAAACOOOOOOOB

    These vidoe games aren't going to play themselves!

    "Oh man, I could play State of Decay 2 with you, VH, but that would take time away from these Marvel writeups."

    That's you, that's what you sound like.

    vxsHp3F.gif
    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
    FencingsaxMatevJacobkosh
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    i thought about poking Jake today but i didn't because GRRM owes you nothing

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  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    edited October 16
    Matev wrote: »
    Well yah, that's what he would say. I'm wondering what the Parliament's judgement was, which is likely to much more insightful (Maybe not necessarily accurate, but the outsider perspective adds something to the proceedings)
    I'm guessing we may never actually know.
    No Doom is going to admit to being the one that didn't make the cut in the eyes of another Doom. And any Doom worthy of the name isn't going to change that story regardless of what interrogation techniques you'd care to bring to the table.
    Whether the Parliament rejected 1491 Doom, or it was the other way around, you'd hear the same story from whatever Doom you asked: "The other Doom wasn't Doom enough to hang with Doom, so Doom asked Doom to do his Doctor Dooming elsewhere."
    Of course, the real reason they went their separate ways is that Doom couldn't get the doom song right.

    Which Doom though? The multiverse may never know.

    see317 on
    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    JacobkoshRear Admiral ChocoMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    rgJLtca.png
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    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report: August 5th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Section compiled by STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Operation Scalpel Outcomes
    The mission to Earth-462 has been determined to be an overwhelming success. The Skrulls that ruled that world have been thoroughly routed, with their leadership slain and their central computer network destabilized and compromised. Their forces are being routed by a combination of Earth-462’s SHIELD-led resistance and Attilan’s army.

    The mission was not without casualties. Several Earth-462 personnel were lost, including Earth-462’s Steve Rogers who was KIA. However, all Earth-1491 personnel (with one exception) were accounted for at the end of the mission, and the single MIA loss incurred is considered not directly related to the mission itself so SHIELD EXEC is considering the mission successful.

    Going forward, ARMOR will continue to have periodic contact with Earth-462 to assist in rebuilding efforts. Earth-462 still has a lot of recovery ahead of it, and other dangers beyond the Skrulls, but ultimately we have assisted in saving an entire world from a slow decline into its own oblivion and SHIELD Director Nick Fury would like to issue a congratulations to all personnel involved.

    STRIKE Personnel Changes
    Due to the events of Operation Scalpel, there will be some personnel changes at STRIKE going forward. Agent Vladimir Von Doom has been declared AWOL and MIA, his security clearance revoked and officially is to be treated as a hostile foreign agent at this time to be approached with non-lethal subdual force if at all possible. Given Agent Von Doom’s significant capabilities and current allegiance with the Parliament, unless under express orders, retreat immediately and make contact with STRIKE Director Quartermain if he is encountered in the field. Do not engage.

    Furthermore, Agent Peter Parker has decided to leave the agency. He has relinquished his equipment and has decided to go back to being a costumed vigilante. STRIKE wishes him the best in his future endeavors.

    Agent Jennifer Munroe has stepped down as team leader of STRIKE Field Team 3, and will instead be a member of the team filling Parker’s vacated position.

    In her stead, STRIKE would like to welcome SHIELD Agent Marcus Milton back from his extended MIA. Agent Milton is a SHIELD veteran and, like Agent Munroe one of the original members of the first Avengers Initiative. He will be the team leader of STRIKE-3 going forward.

    While Agent Robert Childan is on extended absence to conduct an undercover operation, COMMS Agent Vincent Jarvis will continue to fill his position on the team.

    Action Pack Debuts
    While Operation Scalpel was ongoing, Roxxon’s Action Pack group made their debut. They simultaneously ran a live broadcast on a television station that Roxxon partially owns as one of their media conglomerate investments, and streamed their mission live online. Both were some of the most-watched events in history according to our data.

    COMMS has compiled a file on Action Pack for your review, based on a combination of Roxxon’s official press release and our own investigation, some of which contradicts the official story.

    The team meets up in the conference room. It's been a week since Operation Scalpel. Vlad's seat at the table is empty.

    Clay is there, along with SHIELD Deputy Director Maria Hill.

    Elise stumbles in late, looking like hell. There are dark circles under her eyes, a lit joint dangles from her lips, and her shirt is on inside out. She hooks a seat next to Miles, who himself has a couple of days of stubble going and may be wearing yesterday's shirt.

    Clay begins. "Alright, people, we've got some...big things on our plate here to address.

    "We lost a member of our team. A member of our family. And this isn't like when he tackled Hyperion in Russia. He's...he's not coming back and we need to all face that fact. We might get him back, I haven't totally given up on that, but whatever's happened to him, whatever path he's walked down... he's not walking back from it on his own."

    Elise raises her hand.

    "Elise."

    "I'm gonna... gonna talk with Susan. WHISPER. About this. We're gonna talk to Doom. I'm gonna do it. I just don't want to hide that."

    Hill stares at Elise, and then looks at Clay. She seems especially concerned at the idea of involving Doom. Clay simply nods. "Okay. Keep me in the loop. No secrets."

    Elise nods. "Can I keep smoking in here?"

    Clay nods "For now."

    "We should talk to Strange about countermeasures. We could deal with Vlad if the mystical shit was off the table." Miles has clearly been thinking about this a lot.

    Elise leans back, content as she can get at this time. "Deal with him?"

    Clay nods at Miles. "It's being discussed. Strange is taking this as personally as any of us, he sees it as his pupil gone awry. His responsibility."

    "S'not his responsibility,” Elise says. “It's my fault. I'll fix it."

    "It's no one's fault, Elise,” Michael says. “He made a choice. He chose to leave us."

    "How do we even trust him again?" Julian's voice comes out in a rasp.

    "We don't," Miles says simply.

    "Julian, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. The answer may be we don't," Clay says. "But we also can't let the Parliament have him.

    "Regardless... that's not our most pressing issue right this second. That's a...down the road problem. Right now, we have a mission.

    "There's a fugitive on Earth, an alien fugitive. Someone treating our planet like their own little nowhere to lay low. This happens from time to time, and is usually SWORD's problem. They have men in black suits to deal with that kind of thing. If the person has a bounty on them, sometimes the Guardians show up to collect."

    "Alien fugitive?” Miles smirks. “Was his wife killed by the five-armed man?"

    "Who's the five-armed man?" Elise asks.

    Clay just sighs and continues.

    "The situation has changed. Apparently our reputation galactically has been of...space Argentina? A quiet, nowhere place that is neutral in the Kree-Skrull war because it's out of the way and not involved and disregarded as primitive. But now the Xandar Federation has decided this situation is untenable."

    "The who?" Elise says.

    Clay grumbles. "The Xandar Federation are an interstellar nation, think...space Switzerland. They're neutral in the Kree-Skrull war, have no standing army, instead a massive interstellar police force called the Nova Corps.

    "Xandar has sent a Nova Corps member to Earth to pursue the fugitive, whose alias is Nebula, and apprehend her. They contacted SWORD, and talked to Fury, and apparently... the assignment is permanent.

    "Earth is now a Protectorate of the Xandar Federation. We...don't get a vote or anything."

    "Brand's gonna love dealing with that," Elise says.

    "Yeah, I was on the conference call, she was very happy," Clay says.

    "Good thing we're the black ops folk who don't gotta play by the rules, right?" she adds hopefully.

    "Indeed," Michael nods.

    Miles raises a hand. "What's Xandar like? Are they okay or did we sign up for space Amway or something?"

    "Xandar is...Xandar's actually a really beautiful world, to be honest." Clay looks at Miles. "They're basically the Federation. The Nova Corps are Starfleet. It's not a bad deal, Miles."

    "Who are the Federation and Starfleet?" Elise asks. Phoenix smiles a little at this. Michael facepalms. Miles shakes his head sadly.

    Clay just looks at Elise.

    "Do you want to keep smoking?"

    "What! I was too busy getting laid to catch up on this shit. It's Star Wars, right?"

    Clay stares at Elise.

    "I'm going to continue on. And opt not to have heard that."

    Elise snickers for the first time and takes a long toke. "I'm joking, Clay. I know it's Firefly."

    She’s just trumpet noises to Clay now. He ignores her and continues. "Here's the thing... apparently Xandar has something akin to the Prime Directive, and so the Nova Corpsman they dispatched has to operate quietly and without the 'natives', ie people of this planet, knowing about him doing his job of protecting this planet from existential threats and serious world destroying dangers.

    "Which is... STRIKE's remit."

    Miles leans forward urgently. "Wait, are you saying..."

    "Oh no,” Elise stares. “Wait, this is you fucking with me, right?"

    "...So, Fury decided since we're down a team-member, to assign the Nova Corpsman to our team."

    "I was joking about the Firefly thing," Elise protests. "I haven't even seen it."

    Clay presses a button on the comm. "Centurion Valt, can you come in here, please?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 18
    Ryann Valt steps into the conference room from where he had been waiting in the lounge.

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    Elise hastily puts out her joint. She looks around, panics, and puts the half finished joint in a nearby potted plant. Now it’s Miles’ turn to snicker.

    Ryann struts into the room, wearing a leather jacket, grey tank top, jeans and work boots. He stops as he walks in and gives a quick nod to Clay. "Hello, everyone."

    "This is Nova Centurion Ryann Valt,” Clay says. “His callsign is simply going to be 'Centurion' going forward."

    Ryann gives a quick sniff. He raises his eyebrows as he surveys the room. Elise plasters on a nervous smile. Julian nods.

    Michael nods. "Welcome to Earth."

    "Hello, Centurion!” Elise says. “I love following the law, and protecting people!"

    Miles stands and inclines his head in greeting. "Nice to meet you, Centurion."

    Ryann smiles politely and nods. "Nice to meet you all, glad to be here." Sensate can tell he is not.

    "Glad to have you here!" Elise says cheerily. "Oh, Julian, did you put a joint in the potted plant again? Shame on you."

    Julian and Maria Hill rolls their eyes. Ryann looks at Elise and then Julian. He looks at Clay, confused.

    Clay nods and waves to a chair. "Please have a seat, agent." Ryann looks back at Julian and Elise, puzzled, and sits down.

    Elise stares at Clay and thinks as hard as she can. HELP ME.

    Clay looks back at Elise. His face conveys a simple message.

    No.

    CLAAAAY.

    Clay continues. "Nebula detonated her getaway ship in orbit, immediately after transporting down to the surface. SWORD examined the wreckage, and determined that based on the orbit she was in, she's somewhere in the United States. Agent Valt used the scanner aboard his ship to narrow the search area down, and determined she's in Malibu."

    Ryann nods

    "Why? We're not sure. The Nova Corps suspects she's using alien technology to hide her features and disguise herself in the human populace. She's an alien cyborg assassin, her original species is unknown but is blue-skinned and humanoid. Possibly Kree."

    "Do we have anything of hers?" Elise perks up. "I can sniff it!"

    Clay nods "I figured that might come up, so I had SWORD retrieve what they could from the wreckage of her ship, Elise. Niles has it over at his lab, see what you can gather. Kane's getting the Zephyr ready.

    "Wheels up in 45, gear up. Non-lethals, civvies, holo-disguises, this is an undercover operation on US soil so avoid going loud. We don't need the Sentinels crawling up our ass or something. Find her, knock her out, let Agent Valt take her back to his ship for further orders from the the Nova Corps.

    "Any questions?"

    Ryann speaks up. "I want to make one thing clear to all of you. This fugitive is an extreme threat. She's the daughter of a failed galactic conqueror, who we stopped, and she's desperate.

    "She wouldn't care if this whole planet got blown to high hell if it made sure she would escape. She will have no concern for Human life so when we find her we need to take her down quickly. Understand?"

    "Understood," Julian nods.

    "Sure, sure." Elise nods at Ryann. "Do I have to wear the holoveil and wig and stuff?" she directs that at Clay.

    "Yes. You're on US soil, Elise, the last thing we need is ONE tagging you getting into a fight and swarming robots on you."

    "It's not like they'd recognize me. Lots of people have tattoos and dyed hair," Elise mutters.

    Clay squints at her. "Yes, they would. Arsenal would."

    "Arsenal, that's the government AI that wants to kill you all, right?" Ryann asks.

    Clay nods. "Yes."

    "Actually, that raises a question,” Miles says. “Is there a reason we don't just leak her location to ONE? Let the robot swarms deal with her?"

    Ryann purses his lips at this.

    "We don't want ONE getting alien cybernetics technology is why, Mason," Clay says. "Also, not our call."

    "Correct," Ryann nods firmly.

    "Xandar wants her,” Clay says. “They're above us now, that's how it works."

    Miles opens his hands palm out in acquiescence. "What do we know about her capabilities?” he asks. “Aside from cyborg assassin. Any powers?"

    "Can I wear the coat?" Elise pulls at the collar of her massive Attilan garb.

    "Yes, Arsenal doesn't have coat recognition software."

    Elice is pacified. "Well, okay."

    Clay turns to Miles. "As for Nebula's capabilities, Xandar sent SWORD a brief. Hill?"

    Hill speaks up. "Nebula is a cyborg, based on tech more advanced than anything we have on Earth. The exact specifics of her upper limits aren't fully known, but she's superhumanly strong, fast, and resilient to injury. We say 'non-lethal' but only in a final results sense. Feel free to pack armor-piercing and explosive rounds in addition to ICERs, ICERs might tickle her."

    "Goddamnit," Elise mutters.

    "I'll take her down,” Ryann says. “You all just have my back." Elise can tall he’s growing impatient.

    Clay shakes his head. "That's not how we do things, Valt. For starters, Agent Mason is field team lead."

    "Secondly,” Clay continues, “you are a team, and work as one. I understand as a Supernova you're used to working alone, but STRIKE is a team."

    "Oh! Oh! We should do introductions." Elise smiles at Ryann. "You know, go around the table, share some fun facts so we all get to know each other."

    Ryann ignores this. "Actually...Clay, right? Can I call you Clay? Good. Here’s how this one will go. Nebula is my mission, and as you just explained, this is Nova Corps jurisdiction, so I'll be leading this op." Ryann looks the the Director in the eye and cocks an eyebrow.

    Clay looks at Hill. Elise laughs out loud, incredulous.

    "Nova Corps being the guys who lost this chick in the first place," Miles deadpans.

    "Wrong," Centurion says. "But not important."

    Hill sucks her teeth. "Centurion Valt, let me be absolutely clear. This is not simply 'Nova Corps jurisdiction,' nor may you simply trump Director Quartermain's authority whenever you see fit. This mission is no longer simply a matter of the Nova Corps, it is the first of many missions going forward in which you will be working with and for STRIKE as a department and SHIELD as an organization.

    "Furthermore, you have been assigned to this world by the Nova Corps, not to oversee and command, but to work with and for SHIELD and under STRIKE's direct authority, which puts you under Director Quartermain's command. If you would like to question this reality, I invite you to return to your ship, contact Nova-Prime, and question her orders. I'm sure she would be happy to explain them to you.

    "Are we clear, Agent Valt?"

    A chorus of nods and whispers greet this dressing-down, but Clay waves the STRIKE peanut gallery to silence. Elise takes this opportunity to wheel her chair back and start digging in the potted plant soil for her joint.

    Ryann squints. "Oh, crystal." He looks at everyone. "I'll even make note of it in my reports, Ms. Hill."

    "You do that."

    "I will."

    Hill looks at Clay and nods. Clay looks at the team. "Any other questions that are actual mission questions?"

    "Hypothetically, if we run into these, uh..." Elise snaps a few times. "Corporate superhero fuckos." Ryann shakes his head at the word Superhero.

    Clay grumbles. "Oh, yes, them. Avoid them, good lord, do not engage. I don't need you being on TV and the internet."

    Elise perks up. "Wait, I didn't even think about that. I could go viral."

    "Elise no," Clay pleads. "You're a spy."

    "Elise, yes."

    "If you go viral it's treason," Clay adds.

    "Flashback said I'm a bad spy so maybe I could go into PR!"

    "You want to get transferred to COMMS?" Clay folds his arms. "I could get you a desk next to Jeremiah."

    "Oh, shit, no, no, nooooooope," she shakes her head vigorously. "I love to spy."

    Clay nods.

    Ryann just shakes his head in disbelief. "These people are ridiculous..." he says under his breath.

    Elise looks at him and raises both of her eyebrows. "You clearly didn't even read our files! You wouldn't be muttering shit all sneaky like if you had read my file, ya fuckin' dingus!"

    Ryann's eyes widen. "Excuse me?"

    Clay snaps his fingers.

    Elise jumps. "Yes Clay sorry Clay."

    "Thank you." He takes a deep breath. "Alright, team, fall out. Head to the quartermaster and get geared up as needed. Mason, there's one other thing."

    Elise stands. "Gonna go see Niles. Gonna sniff some spaceships."

    Ryann stands as well, and leaves the conference room. He begins typing on a wrist gauntlet of some kind that seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

    Clay approaches Miles. "I talked to Fury about the X-51 upgrade. He approved it. Vision and MODOC worked on the connection and system compatibility. It's ready for the upload." He pauses. "Jones threw a fit, so...try to...avoid talking to him for a while."

    "I love Jones." Elise says, brushing soil off her joint. "He turns an awesome shade of purple."

    Miles pumps his fist. "Nice. Thanks, Clay. And I'll steer clear of Jones."

    "I went over his head and made a duplicate of his favorite toy because our team lost our AI. He made several written complaints," Clay adds. "Jones is convinced the VI is going to take over your mind and make you evil or something."

    "I've already had my evil phase," Miles says. "It's all uphill from here."

    Elise's face darkens. "Tell Jones to eat a dick," she tells Clay.

    "Done and done."

    PHU1KZN.png
    So that’s Ryann Valt, Centurion - hotheaded space cop who doesn’t play well with others. Sometimes the classics are that way for a reason.

    Like all the other STRIKE members barring Elise, Ryann is an original character with ties to a preexisting Marvel character; in this case, Nova. His code name, Centurion, isn’t a superhero sobriquet but his actual rank within the Nova Corps organization.

    Nova’s been a kind of fringe character kicking around in C-list obscurity for decades. Originally debuting in a self-titled 1976 comic series, he was Richard Ryder, ordinary working-class high school student who found dying alien Rhomann Dey and was bequeathed the weapons, armor, and “Nova Force” powers of the Nova Corps, a force of galactic policemen from the peaceful planet Xandar, in a pretty straightforward riff on DC’s Green Lantern Corps.

    The twist was that Rhomann Dey was the last Nova, and he didn’t have time to explain the intricacies of the Nova Force before dying, so Richard Ryder had to kind of semi-comedically bumble his way into learning how to be a superhero, not unlike The Greatest American Hero.

    Nova’s comic was cancelled after 25 issues and he kind of disappeared from the scene for years and years, partly because his creator and writer, Marv Wolfman, had moved to DC in the early 80s and created the wildly popular teen melodrama The New Teen Titans with artist George Perez, which remains his biggest accomplishment and one of the most important comic works of the era. Nova was kind of treated as his juvenalia.

    Nova was revived in the late 80s, around when I was getting into comics, as a member of the edgy teen team The New Warriors, but disappeared again after a few years, although one major development during that time was the reformation of the Nova Corps, opening the door to the possibility of other Nova characters.

    He finally came back for good in the 2000s, with the landmark sci-fi story Annihilation, wherein veteran Warhammer 40K writer Dan Abnett kind of singlehandedly revitalized, reimagined, and reorganized Marvel’s long-neglected stable of “cosmic” characters and storylines. The Nova Corps figured prominently in that story and they’ve remained a more front-and-center presence in Marvel ever since, solidified by their major role in Guardians of the Galaxy.

    As you’ve probably inferred, that new status quo is more or less what we’re going with here. The Nova Corps is an active, vital force in the wider galaxy, catching galactic bad guys like Thanos and preserving Xandar as a neutral safe zone between the Kree and Skrulls Empires.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team heads over to the quartermaster's. Niles is there, with gear. MODOC is also there.

    "Niles." Elise gives him a wan smile. "Give me the stuff to sniff."

    Niles nods at Elise. He's...quiet. He looks like he's focusing on work.

    Elise squeezes his elbow. "Hey. It, uh. I don't want to, like, make things weird, but....It was my fault. Not yours. You're good. Okay?"

    He takes out a metal crate, and opens it. There's strange metal fragments in there, bits of fabric, etc. They remind Elise of the SWORD satellite, but different. Definitely alien tech.
    Niles looks at her. She can tell he's just like, trying to compartmentalize. He's not... doing a great job.

    "We all did our parts." is all he says before he goes and grabs more gear.

    "Aw, shit." Elise steps away, lower lip trembling. "Don't cry, Arnell, don't cry, c'mon."

    She feels a tiny hand on her sleeve. She turns. "Hey, buddy," she says.

    "MODOC... TRIED..."

    “I - I - I gotta piss. Like a racehorse." Elise sprints into the hall.

    Niles watches her go, then turns to Ryann. "Hey. Do you need a photostatic veil or do you have... like a thing? Your own thing? I didn't get a brief on your tech."

    "Umm...I look human. I do need to hide my race and I don't have any identity on Earth. I don't really think I'll need one," Ryann says.

    Niles squints. "You'll...need one anyway. You don't need to get profiled by ONE or something. I mean, Bob uses disguises and he's not even… Point is, use a fake face."

    "Okay." Ryann rolls his eyes, wondering Who the fuck is Bob…

    Elise re-enters the room with runny, smeared makeup, red eyes, and a hoarse voice. She grabs a photostatic veil and begins fiddling with it.

    MODOC floats over to Miles. "Hey, little buddy,” Miles says. “I hear you made something for me?"

    MODOC bobs excitedly, brightening up a bit. "MODOC READY TO HELP!"

    Miles nods at MODOC. "Let's do this."

    MODOC's eye twitches, and Miles feels a rush.

    X-51 UPLOADED.

    The system comes online. He can feel it, like a second mind inside his mind. Not a person, per se. It doesn't feel foreign, or an invader.

    Miles' pupils dilate as his mind expands. "Incredible...." he murmurs.

    X-51's voice is inside his mind. Hello, Miles.

    "Hel - " Miles stops himself. Hello, X-51. It's good to meet you.

    It is good to meet you, too. I will provide assistance as needed or requested.

    Thank you, Miles thinks. While we travel to Malibu, could you review SWORD's files on Nebula and discuss tactical options with me?

    Yes, sir.


    Miles nods, trying not to seem both not too excited and not too much like a person talking to voices in their head, and pulls on a photostatic veil, blurring his features to look like a more nondescript white guy in his thirties.

    He glances over at Elise, who has put on a mousy brown wig, completing her transformation from a green and pink haired, heavily tattooed punk into an incredibly... normal looking girl. She still looks miserable.

    Wordlessly, she steps over to Niles’ pile of junk and begins feeling and sniffing it. After a moment, she straightens. "Okay, no one bring up Vlad, because if I cry again, I'm gonna lose the scent.

    "I got Nebula all up in my nose."

    Suddenly she gets hugged from behind. Nobody sneaks up on her, this is quite startling.

    It's Crystalia.

    "Crys!"

    "Hey!” the princess grins. “Can I talk to you, before you head out?"

    "Yeah, of course!"

    They step into the hall to talk privately. Crys pauses a moment to choose her words. "So, ummm...the King is insisting...we get married. As soon as possible. He sees SHIELD as a major political power and he thinks that our marriage would be...diplomatically important."

    "So, like, this year?" Elise brightens.

    Crystalia shakes her head. "Like, this month."

    "Oh, shit. I mean, of course. Of course, I would love to get married to you." Elise pauses. "I just need a suit."

    Crystalia nods. "I'm working on it. I have a planner."

    "Oh thank God."

    "It'll be... Attilan style. It'll be a traditional Attilan wedding," Crystalia says. "It won't be a dress I promise. You will have a suit."

    "Can I bring my team?"

    Crystalia nods firmly. "Yes, absolutely."

    "Then yeah, yeah, of course, I'll be there! We'll get it done, I don't want you to have to delay this and deal with the King, especially after...recent stuff. I'll be there. It'll be great." Elise pauses. "Is there anything I need to know about Attilan weddings?"

    "Uh, yeah, some stuff, we'll talk about it when you get back. Next week is good?"

    "Yeah, yeah, I'll let Clay know."

    "Fantastic!"

    Elise gives Crys a kiss. "I've even been working on quitting smoking, it'll be great."

    She grins. "I can tell!" She skips off.

    At the landing pad, Elise rejoins the group with significantly more swagger.

    "Guess where we're going next week!" She looks expectantly at her teammates.

    "Rehab?" Miles suggests.

    Elise stares. "Holy shit Miles."

    "Alpha Centauri?" Michael offers.

    "IHOP?" Julian adds.

    Ryann shakes his head and heads for the ramp.

    Elise raises her voice so he can hear. "MY WEDDING IN ATTILAN!!! IT'S KIND OF A BIG DEAL!"

    Miles grins, the slightly sour twist to his expression evaporating into genuine warmth. He takes Elise's hand in both of his own. "Congratulations, Elise." She can see he means it.

    "Yeah, Attilan thinks it’s a political deal so it has to be rush rush but," she shrugs. "Whatever, it'll be great."

    "Congrats Elise." Michael goes for a high five. Elise high fives him and then the rest of the group for good measure and then skips aboard the Zephyr.

    "Hey, Elise," Miles calls after her. "What about a bachelorette party?"

    She turns around and gives Miles two thumbs up and a huge grin.

    The Zephyr takes off.

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

    Elise flops into a chair. "I wanna smoke." she grouses. "But one, I'm trying to quit, and two, I'll lose Nebula's smell."

    It's a couple hours to Malibu. Kane throws on the auto-pilot and heads back into the cabin. She throws a high-five to Elise.

    "What's this for?" Elise asks, catching the high five.

    "Crystal told me!"

    "You're coming, right?"

    "Yeah, I'm Julian's plus-one." She stares at Julian. "Right?"

    Miles also stares at Julian.

    "Right!"

    They nod. He answered correctly.

    Elise whirls to face Miles. "Oh shit are you bringing Carol?"

    He opens his mouth and closes it again, thinking. "Can I? It's not going to be weird?"

    "Is she going to make it weird?"

    Miles considers his answer carefully. "No. It will not be made weird by her."

    "She can come," Elise shrugs.

    Miles nods gratefully. "Thanks, Elise. This is going to be good for enough boyfriend points to get a day off for video games." He turns away and composes Carol a text.

    Elise is getting shotgun married next week.
    Want to be my +1?
    Let's go pick up clothes asap


    He gets a text back. YES with a heart emoji.

    turns to Centurion. "You can come? It'll be cool. Attilan's cool. Open bar."

    "Hmm?" Ryann looks up. "Eh...I...uhh," he looks at Elise. "I'm just going over some of the mission data, sorry." He looks back down to his gauntlet.

    "Don't be a square, c'mon," she wheedles. "We always just kind of wing the missions."

    He stops and sighs. "If the Corps allows it, maybe." He smiles politely.

    She wiggles her fingers. "It's a diplomatic expediiiition."

    He stares at her.

    She snaps her fingers with a sudden thought. "Oh! I should call Clay! About the wedding! Which you're coming to!" She dials Clay's number and grins at Ryann.

    Ryann slowly goes back to his gauntlet.

    "Hey Claaaaay," Elise says into her phone. "Guess whaaaaat."

    "You're getting married and I'm invited. Crystalia told me."

    "You gotta walk me down the aisle!"

    "....ok."

    Elise squeals.

    "I want you to understand this is a terrifying thing for me to do," Clay adds.

    "I'm not asking to torment you, y'know."

    "No, Elise, think about who I am and where this wedding is," he says. "Do not say it out loud."

    "OH."

    "I'm still going. I'm not missing it."

    "Maybe go easy on the open bar," she says in a quiet voice.

    "....yes."

    "Okay. Thank you. Loveyouyou'regreat." Elise hangs up before she can get a reply. She exhales. "I hate having emotions."

    Nearby, having only overheard one side of the conversation, Ryann has come to the conclusion that Clay has a drinking problem.

    She turns to face him.; "So, Ryann, since you didn't read our files,” she begins with a big smile, "I'm Sensate. I smell things real good."

    "I read your file, Elise." He doesn’t look up.

    "Uh huh."

    "I wasn't aware of the extent of your abilities, but yes, I read them." He continues to work on his gauntlet.

    Kane speaks up. "Hey, Elise, about that. We're coming up on the AO now, I'm gonna slow us down to a hover and open the rear ramp if you wanna 'step outside' so to speak, point me in a direction."

    She heads into the cockpit, and the rear ramp opens up. As Ryann watches with interest, Elise stands up in the breeze and takes a few elementary sniffs.

    She can smell Nebula on the wind. She's...on the coast. She has a direction, and distance.

    "...Head coastwards." Elise tilts her head like an owl. "She's... definitely on the coast, super close to it."

    Miles furrows his brow. "Did Nebula cross light-years to get her own Barbie Malibu Dream House?"

    "Shut up, Miles, I'm trying to go for a walk," she says. She steps onto the ramp, clutching the supports. "Alright, if I pass out, someone catch me. If I hit my head, I'm gonna be so mad." She closes her eyes. "Alright."

    Too much. There's too much. Elise can feel herself falling. Towards the ocean. Towards the darkness. Towards everything.

    But she’s caught. A field of glowing energy pulls her back onto the Zephyr, standing her upright until her vision clears. "Whoa there, Agent," Ryann says.

    Elise gasps and opens her eyes. "Too much, too much, went too far." When she can support herself, Ryann drops the field.

    Kane puts her hand on Elise's shoulder, helping her to her seat. "It's okay, the info you gave me is enough to point me in the right direction. Although...if...that's where I think it is -" She looks at Miles, "- he might not be wrong about the dream house."

    "Sometimes I, I slingshot, I go farther than where I want to go and then next thing I know I'm in the deep reaches of space and -" Elise is clearly embarrassed about failing in front of Centurion.

    "Still though, you got us a lead," Ryann says.

    "Yeah, well, whatever you did to hold onto me worked. I didn't go for a walk through the cosmos. So. Thanks."

    "It's my job,” Ryann grins.

    Kane closes the hatch and walks back up to the cockpit. "Alright everyone, strap in."

    The Zephyr leaves hover mode and blasts towards the coast. After a few moments, Kane comes over the comms again. "Yeah, guys, so uh... this just got complicated.

    "If you look to your right, you will see this mission just turned into a shitshow."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    BB2USYBh.jpg

    Julian stares. "Well, shit."

    "For fuck's sake," Elise scowls.

    Miles frowns thoughtfully. Ryann is nonplussed.

    Suddenly, Elise claps her hands. "I have a plan!" She lifts her shirt to reveal the arc reactor harness. "See! I'll go up, be a distraction, pretend I need tech support! You guys can sneak around that way! Behemoth can come with me in case things get ugly."

    Kane puts on the auto-pilot and walks back to the cabin. "I checked with SHIELD. Tony's not home, thankfully."

    "Iron Man, right?” Centurion says. “The hero?"

    "...yeah," Kane nods.

    "We need a way to flush her outside," Miles says.

    Ryann walks over to the window and tries to scan the mansion with his gauntlet, but Tony Stark has the whole place shielded from technical scans and visual interference. Elise's superhuman abilities might be capable of seeing through it, but even Valt's Nova Corps technology would have to scan carefully to penetrate.

    "There's definitely something wrong,” Kane says. “I called Clay, and he had Vision try to connect to Jarvis to see if he could...I don't know, do something. They're the same OS or something, I guess.

    “Jarvis is offline. Which means there's no alarms. No internal security. Something's going on here."

    "If Tony's not home, is he, like, in a known location?” Elise asks. “Press tour, vacation, Avengers mission?"

    "Avengers mission, yeah," Kane nods. "They're in Australia dealing with something."

    "She's using tech beyond Earth's capabilities. Stark's tech doesn't have chance against her.” Ryann stands up abruptly. "Alright, I'll teleport in and check the house. I'll message you for backup when I make contact."

    Miles puts a restraining hand on Centurion. "Hold up, space cowboy. We go in together."

    "...I'm real small and real quick. I could do an external loop of the place in the harness, look to see if there's anything through the windows." Elise looks to Miles. "What do you think, Chief?"

    "In the past, we always had you go with Vlad or Susan or someone else who could hide you. You can recon, but keep way more of a distance than you're used to. Don't take chances." Miles' voice takes on an odd momentary intensity. "...cool?"

    "Yeah, got it, Chief. Kane, open the hatch up."

    Ryann turns to Miles and says quietly "Vlad..that's the other AI that wants to kill you, right?" He raises an eyebrow.

    Elise looks over her shoulder and gives Ryann and Miles a death glare. "Do not. Talk. About Vlad."

    Ryann looks at her. "I...sorry. I'm sorry." He raises both his hands.

    "...Thank you." Elise turns back to the hatch. Ryann looks relieved..

    The hatch opens, and Elise flies out.

    As she zips around the mansion, through one of the windows she sees a woman with a shaved head and a leather jacket walking downstairs into Tony's workshop. The windows are tinted, but Elise's senses can penetrate them. The woman is walking over to the large arc reactor that Stark has in his basement, and is...doing something to it.

    "Oh, fuck me." Elise drops out of sight. "Pretty sure I have visual on Nebula. She's fucking with Stark's big ol' arc reactor."

    "The arc reactor?” Shit.” Miles leaps out of his seat. “Okay, we have to move in. Assume that she's coopted Stark's defenses. X-51, prepare any kind of ECM you might have. We're going in two groups. Centurion, Julian, rendezvous with Sensate. Centurion, you've got force fields, right? Elise and Phoenix are our most vulnerable members. I'd like you to be their shield. You three are going in the house and down into the workshop from above. Michael, you and I are coming in from the seaside. We're making our own door. Everyone copy?"

    "Roger, Chief," Elise radios.

    "No, the Nova force doesn't work like that. It's not like a shield," Ryann says. "I can effect mass...I can't explain right now."

    Elise sighs and takes another peek through the window while she prepares for Centurion and Miles to argue. The shaven-headed woman seems to be routing power from the reactor to...one of Stark's Iron Man suits?

    "Tony's gonna be so pissed..." she mutters.

    "Okay. Well, you wanted to go in first,” Miles says to Ryann. “Now's your big chance. Be the thin end of the wedge. Elise, Julian, follow behind at a safe distance. Cover him, but don't let yourselves get surrounded."

    Ryann nods in agreement. "Gotcha," Julian says.

    "Well, let's make a door. Sorry, ‘Iron Man.’" Centurion leaps out of the ship and teleports. He reappears right above the roof and punches a whole as he lands inside Stark's house. His full Nova uniform materializes around him.

    The woman whips around from the console she was working on, drawing a retractable staff and dropping her holographic disguise. It's Nebula.


    kD5lMBAl.jpg

    "No," she says.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Phoenix follows down the hole after Centurion, fire flickering over his fingers. Machine Man takes off from the Zephyr. "Come on, Behemoth!"

    Centurion points a finger at Nebula. "Nebula. By the authority of the Nova Corps and the Xandar Federation, you are under arrest. You will be taken into custody, and granted all due rights and capacity for defense in accordance with any existing treaties with your native government. If you have no native government, you will be treated as a refugee under Xandarian law."

    "No. I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm going to be free." She reaches back and presses a button on the console, and the large arc reactor, the size of a truck, starts cycling up and making a loud, low-pitched whine.

    "Stop!" Ryann shouts.

    Sensate crashes through the plate-glass window, snapping off a precise burst at Nebula. The ICER rounds hit her in the face. It staggers her, causing her to lean on her staff and giving her what appears to a type of facial palsy.

    This upsets her, and she blasts back at Elise with a torrent of energy from her staff. Elise's harness absorbs the blast, and Elise thunks against the wall. She's unharmed, however.
    That hit probably would have killed her without the harness.

    Elise grunts, scrambling back to her feet.

    Julian attempts to pyrokinetically superheat Nebula's staff, attempting to disarm her, but there’s too much metal - in the staff, in her, everywhere. He doesn’t think he can contain the heat; he’d end up scorching her entire body. He hesitates.

    "Alright, lady." Centurion vanishes in a burst of energy. He reappears right above Nebula and swings for the fences with a massive punch, sending her flying across the room and crashing into the opposite wall.

    Miles and Michael sail through the hole in the roof. Elise decides that the heavy hitters have Nebula covered. She runs to the arc reactor's control panel and tries to figure out, by tracing the fading heat of her fingerprints, what Nebula was trying to do.

    It looks like Nebula was running energy from the larger reactor into one of Stark's prototype armors.

    gUKUOkZl.jpg

    The suit looks different from Stark's other armors. It has an extra-large repulsor pack on the back. Elise can see micro-ablative heat shielding. Its surface reminds her of the hull of the Zephyr. This thing could fly into space.

    Nebula’s super-charging it, beyond what its own arc reactor could normally output.

    Elise frantically tries to reverse Nebula's efforts. Seeing this, Miles puts a hand to his temple. X-51, can you determine how to shut down the reactor safely and tell Sensate over comms?

    X-51 isn't based on Stark tech, and tries its best to guide Elise, who aggressively does not have an engineering degree, in how to reverse the power.

    But somehow, between the pair, they figure it out. Elise slams the button on the control interface.

    Nebula sees the power shift, and howls "No! Let me go!"

    She presses a button on her arm, and the suit opens. She leaps inside with superhuman speed, the suit closing around her. The suit starts up, with not nearly the power it had before.

    "Damn it!" Ryann curses, as Elise frantically looks for a lockdown option.

    Just as the armor’s jets activate, Behemoth slams into Nebula, driving her into the ground. "NO!" she howls over the suit's speakers. "Let me go!"

    "Centurion? I'm starting to feel like we may be the baddies, here," Elise says. "Can we ask her why we need to let her go?"

    The jets sputter to life. The suit takes off. Behemoth is attached. However, the Gemini Iron Man suit is designed to fly into space and is more than enough to fly with him on it. But with Behemoth fighting her on it, she can't get enough lift to get into orbit.

    "It's over, Nebu-" Centurion starts to say as they rocket away. "Son of a bitch!" He blasts off after them.

    "Uh." Elise stares at the new Behemoth-shaped hole in Stark's ceiling.

    X-51! Can you shut that armor down?

    X-51 intones to Miles I'm afraid I can't do that, Miles. Tony Stark's operating systems are extremely resistant to electronic tampering in that very specific way. Vision, perhaps, could do so, as they share an operating system.

    Machine Man grimaces but nods. I understand. Thank you for clarifying that. What do you think my top altitude is? Miles jets upward in hot pursuit.

    Elise looks at Phoenix and shrugs. "I'm not going up there."

    She calls Clay. "Hey, Clay, if I told you I was standing in front of Tony Stark's arc reactor system with full access, like...I'm feeling ethical concerns, here. But on the other hand, I feel like STRIKE should know about this, in case, like. Maybe this is useful information? For reasons?"

    Clay responds "Put your cellphone next to the console. And put me on speaker."

    Elise puts the phone down and puts Clay on speaker. "Okay." She pauses. "I wonder if there's a bar around here."

    She hears Clay say "Vision, create the uplink.”

    "Uplink established, Director," Vision returns.

    "Good. Do it."

    "See, this isn't really my fault, right?" Elise says. "Like, you're ordering me to do it."

    "Where's Nebula and the rest of the team?"

    "Long story, they kind of flew away."

    "Well, you can fly. Go after them."

    "...She's shooting to kill, Clay."

    "We're good here," Clay announces somewhat off-mic. His voice comes back. "You have a force field. Support your team."

    "What if I forget my phone?"

    "Vision will blow it up and I'll get you a new one."

    "Fuck." Elise has no more excuses. "Yeah, okay. If I die you're going to look like such an idiot."

    "I agree."

    Elise drifts up and flies out through one of the ceiling holes, grumbling.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 18
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    Centurion is flying after Behemoth and Nebula, as the two arc high over the Los Angeles skyline. He's joined by Miles.

    As Nebula desperately tries to prise his fingers off her armor, Behemoth’s fist stabs forward to forcefully rip out the suits arc reactor.

    That arc reactor unit comes right out. The suit plummets limply toward the ground. A moment later, Nebula opens the suit and kicks clear of it.

    Centurion dives after her, teleporting into a grapple. He grabs Nebula just as the two are about to hit the ground, saving Nebula from what may well have been a fatal impact, even for her augmented physique.

    He's now in the open in downtown Los Angeles.

    tVjXrzWh.jpg

    There are people everywhere, pulling out cell phones. Stopping traffic.

    "Oh no..." Centurion looks around him, slowly realizing what he’s done.

    Nebula wrests herself around to look at Centurion. "I will not be anyone's prisoner, ever again!" she hisses as she activates a cybernetic implant and conducts hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity through her body.

    The energy isn't like a kinetic attack, and is something Ryann's barrier struggles to protect him from. That amount of electricity would kill a human instantly. For a Supernova, it's more like being tasered.

    "ARRRHHHHGGGG!!!" He fails backwards, smoke pouring from him.

    The two aliens crash into the ground as a crowd forms, taking video and pictures.

    Miles races toward the scene. X-51, can you shut down those phones?

    Yes, sir. However, it appears we have incoming.

    "Sentinels on the way!" Miles shouts over comms. "We need to wrap up this party quick!"

    No, sir. I am monitoring the live-feed of the Action Pack program, which is based out of Los Angeles. Their craft is moving to intercept.

    "Oh, fuck me."

    Elise and Julian land on the scene, next to Miles. She beams. "You guys stopped Nebula, right?"

    Nebula rises to her feet, and looks around at the crowd.

    Miles points at her. "Fuck, forget that, it's Action Pack. We're going to be on TV. Phoenix, stun her!"

    Julian attempts to subdue Nebula mentally...but there's no brain to reach into. Her mind is fully synthetic. She's a cyborg, but no part of her brain is fully organic. Instead, Julian gets a mild nosebleed for his efforts.

    F...fuck! There's no... it's all synthetic, nothing for me to get into!

    Miles nods grimly and fires his repulsors at full power. Nebula is blasted into the ground, her body twisted and contorted by the repulsor.

    Elise can see a craft rapidly approaching. Seconds away.

    Tr3eCAgl.jpg

    "I'm going to be on TV?!" Elise gasps.

    "Elise!” Miles hisses into comms. “Treason!"

    "Wait, shit, no, okay, I'll go run interference on Action Pack," she amends herself. She is not sharing a desk with Jeremiah. Never again. She takes off toward the Action Pack’s ship.

    Hoisting himself up on one arm, Centurion climbs to his feet and spits. Then he whirls at a sudden sound.

    Nebula’s body begins to slowly start snapping back into shape as the crowd gasps in horror.

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

    Elise flies towards Action Pack's ship, which lands on a nearby rooftop.

    Action Pack jump out of their ship.

    Nighthawk
    NUaWAFyl.jpg

    Blur
    09F6XOil.jpg

    Patriot
    iZLC7lvl.jpg

    Firestar
    085dsdKl.jpg

    Nightfall
    P7QIh9Cl.jpg

    PHU1KZN.png
    These are all actual characters, though, appropriately, not super-prominent ones.

    Nighthawk is probably the most recognizable. He’s a member of the Squadron Supreme, the superhero team of an alternate Earth, composed of very thinly-veiled remixes of the Justice League. Hyperion is the Squadron’s Superman analogue, and Nighthawk is the Batman, an unpowered millionaire playboy who fights crime to avenge his dead parents. Other members of the Squadron include Power Princess, Doctor Spectrum, Golden Archer, and the green, telepathic, shapeshifting Skrullian Skymaster.

    Like I said: thinly-veiled.

    The Squadron originally debuted, as so much else in this game did, during the classic Kree-Skrull War story in Avengers. See, it turns out Rick Jones - who, in 1971, was a young hippie (which is why I had him fetishize classic rock) - was a powerful latent psychic, and the Kree Supreme Intelligence unlocked his power and forced him to create psychic projections to fight the Avengers, and since Jones was a comic fan, the projections took the form of the evil Squadron Sinister - spooky thinly-veiled versions of DC characters. Thankfully the Avengers helped Jones go through a 2001 acid trip sequence that let him summon a psychic posse of 1940s Marvel heroes to save the day.

    Man, I don’t know. It was the 70s. What do you want?

    Later, the Avengers traveled through parallel dimensions and met the real Squadron Supreme. Team-ups between the two groups became a recurring fixture of 70s Marvel. The Squadron eventually got their own 1986 miniseries, a somewhat underrated tale about the team having to forcibly impose order on their world after a villain nearly succeeds in destroying it. I suspect it was a big inspiration for DC’s later Kingdom Come.

    Anyway, Blur is also from the Squadron Supreme, but a more modern version, and takes the ersatz-Flash role which formerly belonged to the unfortunately-named “Whizzer.”

    Firestar will be familiar to anyone who watched the 1980s Spider-Man cartoon, where she debuted to round out a team consisting of Spider-Man and Iceman.



    (I always wanted a dorm room that you could turn into a secret computer lair.)

    Nightfall is an Inhuman, and a recent addition (2014) to Marvel.

    There are several heroes named Patriot, including the Golden Age hero Jeffrey Mace, who was in a season of Agents of SHIELD a couple of years ago, but this specific version is very new, debuting just last year - a guy who serendipitously comes across a suit of Iron Man armor.

    The Action Pack have floating camera drones that are following them. One of them focuses on Elise. She opens fire, destroying the drone and several others.

    Patriot whirls and fires on her with a huge array of repulsor weapons.

    "Oh shit come on that's not equivalent --"

    Elise has a choice. She can either try to dodge, but she doesn't know what's behind her to get hit by the blast Or...she can hope Stark's field harness can absorb the shot.

    Elise very briefly imagines trying to explain to Clay why an Action Pack shoulder cam picked up her dodging and letting a baby get blasted. "Come on, Stark -"

    She goes flying off the building, and nearly hits the pavement before the harness' auto-velocity safeties kick in and prevent her from being smeared. The shot itself would have been fatal. Patriot shot to kill.

    g3xuawl.png

    "I gotta stop this, now." Centurion dashes forward and blinks away. He reappears on Nebula's flank striking her with a roundhouse kick.

    Nebula is sent flying by the roundhouse into a car, which she bounces off of. She is still trying to get back up, but isn't doing a good job.

    Miles levels his palms at her to blast her again.

    Nebula looks up at Centurion. "I...I yield, Nova."

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

    Elise takes a moment to catch her breath. "Shit!" Would they follow her? She realizes she's outnumbered five to one at the moment. "SHIT!"

    She can hear Nighthawk yelling at Patriot. "What the hell was that? We don't even know who that was! We don't do that, Pat."

    "Cameras were down, it's fine,” a synthetic-sounding voice says in response..

    "Holy fuck." Elise whispers. She reactivates her flight harness and flits closer to the conversation, trying to record it for Clay. Might be useful to smear them. She fumbles for her phone.

    She left it at Stark's house.

    "Shit!"

    Nighthawk sighs. "Whatever, we need to get in there and shut these freaks down. Deploy some extra cameras from the ship and let's roll, Action Pack!"

    Elise sighs and swings back up. "Hey, Patriot, eat shit!" She's carrying EMP rounds these days. Seems appropriate to use them here.

    As she fires, Elise realizes she’s not 100% sure how many EMP rounds would take to down Patriot. She could play it safe and risk him remaining upright, or she can empty her magazine.

    She only hesitates a moment. He shot to kill. She does the same.

    The rounds hit Patriot, and make him freeze in place, firing his repulsor blasts wildly. Firestar gets hit by one of them. Blur makes sure the rest of his teammates do not. This all happens as new camera drones are being deployed, which means this is live.

    "Oh, oh fuck -" Elise starts to say. Then she looks into the cameras. "Be sure to Google ONE and the ARSENAL Project, kids!" Then she leaps off the rooftop.

    With an electric sizzle, the EMP rounds overload and fry Patriot's systems. He slumps forward, though remaining upright, and his arc reactor starts rapidly glowing and pulsing with a rising hum.

    Centurion, Machine Man, Behemoth, Phoenix, and Nebula see a flash of light from the rooftop where Elise was fighting Action Pack.

    Patriot is detonating.

    Blur is rapidly trying to get his teammates away. Elise is falling away from the explosion, but not fast enough. And the growing bubble of light will envelop the rest of the team in mere moments.

    "Crys, I'm sorry -"

    Ryann's head snaps as he tracks Elise falling. He can save her. Or he can grab Nebula. But not both.

    "Motherfuc-” He blinks.

    He saves Elise. He can't believe he has to save Elise.

    The rest of the team blasts away from the explosion at top speed. Miles, who is closest to her, grabs Nebula at full power, though his photostatic veil shorts out in the process.

    Elise throws her arms around Centurion's neck and whoops as they outrace the explosion. "I'm ALIVE! Ahahahaha, you brilliant bastard, I LIVE!"

    Then she sees the fireball. Thousands of people in downtown Los Angeles are gone. It is not clear, at this time, if Action Pack got away.

    Holding tight to Nebula, Miles spins to look back in horror at the expanding mushroom cloud. "Oh....oh no....."

    Elise is white as she stares over Centurion's shoulder. "No, no, no, no - I didn't - Oh my God do not take me back to STRIKE. Drop me in the ocean."

    "Pfft. STRIKE?” Ryann mutters. “Nova-Prime is gonna strip my rank..." She can tell Centurion is in shock. He’s almost crying? He looks like someone just destroyed something important to him.

    Kane comes over the comms. "...guys I... I'll rendezvous with you over the ocean at these coords. Clay's...Clay's calling us in."

    "This is fucked,” Julian says. “They've been zipping around with something that can just... do that?"

    "I didn't know," Elise says, stunned. "I didn't know!"

    The Zephyr is hovering in stealth-mode over the ocean. One by one, the team boards. Miles puts Nebula in a cell aboard the jet. She's compliant, so there is that, at least.

    Julian tries to calm Elise down. "Blame these fucking Action Pack clowns,” Julian says firmly. “They're the ones responsible for this, not you."

    "I'm a fucking war criminal!” she yells. “They're going to put me on the Raft! I deserve to go to the Raft!"

    "Shut up, Elise," Miles growls. "I'm team lead. This is on me. I could've had Phoenix TK Patriot to a safe distance - I could have flown it up myself...damn it!" He punches the side of the Zephyr. "God damn it!"

    "It's your fault? Really? You're the one who CAUSED A MINI NUKE?! First Vlad, now this, I just - I just destroy shit like a dumbass!"

    "Everyone stop," Centurion says. "We need to get back to command...now. This is out of control."

    The Zephyr takes off.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 18
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    Kane puts on the auto-pilot and comes back to the cabin. She turns on a system the team didn't even know was there, and Clay appears holographically.

    "Team."

    Elise lifts up her wrists. "Clay, I am so sorry, and I fully surrender myself to, to the Raft, or..."

    "Stop," Clay cuts her off. "I need you to listen right now.

    "COMMS has intercepted and controlled the narrative. As soon as we learned Action Pack was going to be in our AO, X-51 and Vision worked together to steer the story.

    "Smart move blanking the phones, Mason."

    Miles' sunglasses retract into his face. His eyes are haggard and red-tinged. "....thanks," he mumbles.

    "First of all, I want you to know some realities. None of are you to blame for the explosion. The egregious violation of op-sec, that's a different matter, but that doesn't matter now. It's unimportant.

    "Because Patriot was Arsenal."

    "Is he dead?!" Elise gasps. "Did I -"

    "No. Moreover, he blew up like that on purpose. Vision ran the math, the explosion of that scale he did could not be caused by even the full magazine of your EMP rounds, Elise. At most, it would have taken out the building."

    Elise visibly sags with relief.

    "Arsenal has essentially false-flagged this,” Clay says. “He blew up like that to cause maximum civilian casualties."

    "This is the shot ONE was waiting for," Miles says in horror.

    "Yes," Clay nods grimly. "Things are going to change very quickly now."

    "I had to confront them, they were going to stop us from taking Nebula, maybe take her, get that tech,” Elise says..

    "I know, Elise."

    “What a bunch of assholes," Michael seethes. Centurion sits with his hand folded over his face.

    "You didn't do anything wrong," Clay repeats. "None of you did, not really. I'm not mad.

    "We just need to do what must be done here. COMMS took control of the narrative. SHIELD, STRIKE, we're staying out of this. Action Pack is going to take the full blame here.

    "With a bit of... 'aliens' thrown in."

    Centurion looks up.

    "Nebula's a criminal and is being extradited anyway, so she was a convenient person to throw under the bus."

    "...So they're all alive, right?” Elise says. “Action Pack?"

    "So it seems," Clay nods. "Thanks to their speedster."

    "...I can't wear this coat anymore, huh," she grimaces.

    "Actually, Vision is really good at his job and digitally replaced you with Nebula."

    "...Nice."

    "Buy him something nice," Clay adds. "The world's going to blame two groups of people for this: Aliens, in a vague general sense, and Action Pack, the corporate-run superhero vigilantes."

    Machine Man raises a hand. "Clay, I got the...strong impression that Nebula wasn't necessarily up to anything nefarious. She was panicking at the idea of going back. Absolutely panicking. What if we could, you know. Make her an offer?"

    "Interrogate her en route, Mason. Get back to me on that idea, I'll run it by Fury, and he'll decide."

    Miles nods. "Yessir."

    "Hey, I just want to say," Elise begins. "Ryann saved my life. If it weren't for him, I'd be..."

    "Valt?" Clay looks over at Ryann.

    "That's right, Director. I let Nebula go to do it too, but Miles stopped her from getting away. So you're right, she's STRIKE’s prisoner." Ryann is solemn.

    "That's not shameful, son. That's good priorities."

    "I wasn't gonna let Agent Arnell die,” Ryann shrugs. “I just wish I could have done more."

    "You relied on your team to get the objective done while also not sacrificing a team-member."

    "We all did what we could as a team,” Julian says. “That's what's important."

    "People died today, but that's not on you, Valt,” Clay says. “That's on this planet's fucked-up politics. Don't let it get to you. You can't."

    The words wash over Ryann; he is still shaken by the failure. Suddenly, he gets an Elise hug.

    Nex to him, Miles chews his lower lip. They all did what they could - and it wasn't enough. They need to be better, he thinks. I need to be better.

    "Things are going to change. There's this Senator, Robert Kelly, who has been cooking up a piece of legislation since the Terrigen Bomb," Clay says. "The Super-Human Registration Act.

    "President Gordon Wright supports the bill, but they've been quiet on it for now because the climate hasn't been right. This is going to be the leverage they need. Thousands dead because of super-powered fighting. Because of some costumed vigilantes."

    "...And they'll still have ONE and Arsenal," Elise says.

    "Yes. Vision's been doing some digging, and Patriot was sold to Roxxon by the US government. This was always the plan. This, or something like it. ONE set this up.

    "Gyrich and Arsenal have been planning this since they took over.”

    "So they killed thousands of people to push a fuckin' bill?" Michael clenches his fists

    "Yes. It's monstrous."

    "I know Gyrich," Miles says. "I know him. Maybe it's time we used that, maybe it's time - “

    "OH SHIT, MY PHONE!" Elise shouts.

    "You'll get a new phone, Elise," Clay says.

    "That one had all of my pictures with Vlad!"

    "They've been downloaded and cloud-saved," Clay says.

    "Aw, you're the best."

    "Like, I said, buy Vision something nice."

    Miles rubs his temple in dismay. Elise looks at him. "I have been -" she holds her fingers a millimeter apart. "This close to death three times today."

    "it's fine, Elise," he says. "It's fine. We should start loading your phones up with disinformation. Or I could confiscate it before an op."

    Clay interjects. "Mason, interrogate Nebula, figure something out, report back to me before you make decisions. Or don't, depending on the decision you make, get me?"

    "I get you, sir."

    "Oh! Did I help with the whole Stark thing?" Elise perks up. "Did we get good data?"

    "Yes. You all did good today, even if that's hard to believe right now. Quatermain out." He vanishes.

    Centurion turns away from the others and begins tapping on his gauntlet, composing a report for Nova-Prime of his account of the event. He is honest and remorseful.

    "I'm going below," Miles says.

    PHU1KZN.png
    So Los Angeles is Earth-1491’s version of what happened in Stamford, Connecticut in the Civil War crossover, or in Lagos in the MCU - a superhuman battle causes a massive explosion with hundreds or thousands of fatalities, pushing the government to pass new measures to curb and control superhumans - the Super-Human Registration Act in the comics and here, or the Sokovia Accords in the film.

    The Civil War storyline in the comics is kind of famously a shitshow; I personally consider it a nadir of modern comics storytelling, down there with “Captain America was a secret Nazi all along.” It featured Reed Richards cloning an evil Thor who predictably goes on a rampage, and ends with Captain America being tackled to the ground by a bunch of NYPD and FDNY cops and firefighters, because something something The Real Heroes of 9/11. God, I’m getting mad just thinking about it.

    The movie wisely sidestepped all that bullshit and made it a personal story about Captain America having to choose between two of his friends.

    What Matt is setting in motion here is a better version of the comics story, sans evil Thors, firefighters, and inexplicably fascist good guys.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 18
    Miles heads downstairs and approaches Nebula's cell. "Nebula. I'm Miles. I'd like you to answer one question for me. Just one. Please answer it honestly."

    "Go."

    He takes a breath. "Did you really come here just to lay low?"

    Centurion clambers down the stairs and stands beside Miles with his arms folded. Miles turns and tries to keep the exasperation out of his voice. "Centurion, could I have a moment alone with the young lady? Just a minute?"

    "I'll be in earshot." Ryann walks away.

    "I only came here to leave,” Nebula says. “I was hoping to find a vessel to switch to, but you were way less technologically developed than I thought based on what I had heard about your world. Your only starships were docked at a heavily guarded space station, so I was trying to improvise."

    Miles nods. "Okay. I believe you. So, to clarify, you have no designs on this world, specifically?"

    "No. I just wanted to find something else to leave with. I used the computer aboard the ship I stole to figure out what was the best combination of spacefaring vessel that was the least secure to steal, and that power armor was my best shot. It would have gotten me as far as Alpha Centauri and then I could have switched again.

    "More times I switch, the harder I am to follow."

    Miles nods. "That's a good best practice. And I infer that you're not keen on going back with our, uh," he jabs a thumb back over his shoulder. "friend back there. So. One final question, and then I'll leave you alone." He leaves this hanging for a moment and studies her, recording her body language and facial expressions for later scrutiny.

    "What would you say to the idea of...postponing your extradition? Maybe even indefinitely. In exchange for the skills and resourcefulness I've already seen you possess."

    "What? Nope," Ryann blurts out at the end of Miles’ statement "Nope. Nope for like a bunch of reasons."

    "I don't want to stay on this world,” Nebula says. “I was able to overhear your communication with your superior. I will not be welcome here. I want to speak to the Nova."

    Miles nods. "Interesting." He steps back and waves Centurion in. "I'll be in earshot."

    PHU1KZN.png
    This whole thing of two assertive, competitive dudes butting heads and cattily one-upping each other is meat and drink to me and I’m really glad the other Jake is game for it. Both of us are willing to create characters who push hard on each other and it’s okay because we all know where the line is drawn.

    And that’s not something you can always count on! It turns out this sort of macho chest-bumping may be easy to write in a screenplay or novel, but it’s trickier to actually roleplay. There are other people where if I came hard at their character I’d feel like a bully, because the player would take it personally and feel attacked or just be paralyzed with anxiety over not knowing how to respond; and at the other end of the spectrum, there are players who would go nuclear and respond way disproportionately, trying to murder my character or whatever.

    Doing conflict right in a game takes a level of trust, and, ideally, a strong social contract. And even then, it won’t be for everyone. But done right, I really enjoy it.


    Centurion gives Miles a long look as he walks up to Nebula. He turns to face her. "All right. Now you are talking to me.” He folds his arms. "Go."

    "I didn't have a choice," Nebula says. "The things Thanos made me do. He made me do."

    Ryann shakes his head.

    "Do you have children, Nova?" she asks.

    Ryann purses his lips and then says "Your point?"

    "If your child disobeyed you, disappointed you with failure, would you cut away their arm, pull out their eye, replace their organs?"

    Ryann begins to scowl at her words.

    "My 'father,' Thanos, he didn't give me a choice. It was serve, or this." She holds up her cybernetic hand. "Forever. I was as much his prisoner then as I am your prisoner now. Were you one of the ones who took part in his defeat?"

    "I was, yes." His tone is controlled.

    "Then I have you to thank for my freedom...which you then took from me, for yourself. You freed me from Thanos, and now you take me as your own prize. Or...you could not.

    “Let me go."

    Ryann stares at Nebula for a long moment and then squints his eyes. "I believe you...I'm sorry for what the Mad Titan stole from you. The idea that the one who is supposed to protect you is the one that hurts you...that isn't what a parent does..." He stops. "But that being said, I can't let you go. I'll make a log of your confession and I will speak for leniency. That's all I can do. You're in the hands of the Nova Corps now. I'm sorry, Nebula."

    She tightens her jaw. "So be it. I'll remember." She is quiet, and tucks her knees up against her chest.

    Ryann nods and then lets out a sigh as he walks back upstairs.

    Miles sends the recording of their interaction to Clay. She's got good ears. Keep her away from sensitive areas in transit. He follows.

    Back in the main cabin, Elise is in the process of discarding her joints one by one and loudly bragging about the sacrifices she's made for her wedding to anyone who will listen. "And I'm quitting smoking, and I'm going to the gym every day now, and I'm eating better -"

    Miles taps Elise on the shoulder.

    Elise looks up at Miles.

    "Hey, uh," he lowers his voice. "Have you got anything, uh, spare? To smoke?"

    "What? You?"

    He nods. He looks tireder than she's ever seen him.

    "...You okay, Chief?"

    "Are you?" he says, not accusatorily.

    She shrugs, and ruffles through her coat's heavy pockets, finally pulling out a joint. "I think I'm as okay as I can be expected to be, considering the circumstances." she finally says.

    He pockets the joint. "That's the kind of okay I am, too." He pauses. "You looked so shocked. You never met Old Miles. You know the 'Stan is where they grow poppies, right?"

    "Oh my God." Elise looks surprised and impressed. "You shoulda met me before I ended up winning too much in Vegas."

    Miles shakes his head. "No. No, we should never have met each other back then. You would have robbed me. I might have shot you." He sighs. "I love that everyone thinks I'm this square...I dunno. I'm better now."

    He sits in a chair. His eyes seem to stare into the far distance.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 18
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    The Zephyr lands on the tower.

    There are SWORD agents on the landing pad to meet the team. Abigail Brand is there, as is Clay. Elise freezes when she sees Brand, and hides behind Michael and Miles.

    Brand looks at Ryann. "Centurion Valt. We're not certain what holding facilities you have aboard the Corona, and when we asked the Nova Corps about it they told us your vessel's specifications are 'classified.'

    "So we're here to detain the prisoner, unless you have your own facilities aboard your ship."

    Ryann looks at Brand and Clay. Then he looks at Miles. "No, STRIKE helped in this matter greatly. You can hold her until the Corps sends a transport."

    Brand nods. She gestures, and a few SWORD agents move to board the Zephyr and retrieve Nebula.

    "But see that she is treated well,” Ryann add. “What happened in Los Angeles...it wasn't her fault."

    Elise slowly starts to tiptoe around the edge of the group. Brand sees her and opens her mouth to say something, but Clay interposes himself in between and says "Abigail, will there be anything further while you're on my base?"

    She looks at him. "...No."

    "Thank you, then. Let me know how things go with the prisoner."

    Thank you, Elise thinks at Clay.

    "MODOC, be a helpful lad and show the SWORD agents and their prisoner out." At Clay’s gesture, MODOC nods with his entire body and leads the group away.

    Nebula shoots a look back at Centurion. A black hood is put over her head. He frowns and shakes his head

    Clay looks at Ryann. "Valt, my office. The rest of you, fall out."

    "Director." Julian gives a slight bow and heads inside.

    Elise nudges Miles. "You should call Carol."

    Miles nods to Elise. "Yeah. Yeah." He does so.

    Clay and Ryann head into the Director’s office.

    Clay closes the door and locks it behind them. He walks over and presses a button under his desk. He sits down. "Please, have a seat." Ryann nods and sits.

    "The Nova Corps are going to send someone to pick up the prisoner. Another Supernova, Tanak Valt. I assume some relation? Valt's not a very common Xandarian surname."

    Ryann's face freezes. He looks like someone told him his dog was hit by a car right after his house was set on fire.

    "Brother, then?" Clay says. "...Older brother?"

    Ryann shakes his head. "Yeah...yes." He stops and squints at Clay. "How do you know Xandarian surnames?"

    "I've spent some time on your world. Lovely place, really. Lovely people, too, the Xandarians. Honestly this whole Protectorate situation's going to be the for the best for this planet and its people."

    Ryann’s squint deepens. "What are you? You're not from Earth, I can see that."

    "My name is Clay Quartermain. That is my name, because I chose it to be, and it's been my name for decades. I'm also British, because I've lived on this planet for over a hundred years and for almost the entirety of them, I've been a proud subject of the British Empire. You know I've been knighted? Not as Clay Quartermain, mind, but absolutely as a loyal servant of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.

    "But I am also Crown Prince Z'Reg, trueborn heir to the Skrull Empire. This is a fact I am revealing to you now because I hid it from the rest of my team for too long, and it was a mistake that...had a cost.

    "They all know. It's not something we hide around the office. Everyone with Level 8 or higher clearance who works in STRIKE-COMMS knows.

    "My adopted daughter, Faiza, works in the office next door. It's not something I'm going to be able to hide from you, so I'm not going to try."

    "Fuck off," Centurion blurts in disbelief.

    Clay shapeshifts into his Skrull form. Ryann has seen historical images of the lost Prince Z'Reg. It's him.

    "Oh no...well, fuck me," Ryann breathes. "I have to report this. You have to know that."

    "I've already spoken to Nova-Prime directly," Z’Reg says. "So, no, you don't."

    "Thank the Nova Force itself." Centurion leans back in relief.

    "Here's a reality, which I may as well preemptively address," Z’Reg continues. "You might wonder why I'm still here. You know about the 1908 group, about Leviathan, right? You seem like the lad who did his homework."

    Ryann nods "Yeah. Skrull defectors turned evil spies."

    "I considered Leviathan both my personal responsibility and, if we're being honest, my own sort of...pursuit of vengeance for the past hundred and ten years. They betrayed me. Marooned me here.

    "It was only extremely recently, as in last week, we've finally defeated them soundly.

    “Technically speaking, I could use one of the confiscated FTL-capable vessels that SWORD has parked up on the Peak and just...leave. Go back to the Skrull Empire, challenge my mad, genocidal sister Veranke for the throne."

    "Mhm" Ryann grunts.

    "The one who assassinated my uncle, who quite frankly I suspect may have had a hand in killing our father, and try to make a claim that my entire empire has lost its way and the Dard'van are a cult and I am the true Emperor.

    "How... how well do you think that will go for me?"

    "Not very," Ryann says softly.

    Z’Reg nods. "And if information about my existence, the fact that I'm alive, even the idea that this is the planet that I crashed on and I could be alive, became public knowledge to the universe as a whole and my sister knew of it, what do you think the odds are she shows up with the entire Skrull Imperial Armada and turns this planet's surface to glass?"

    Ryann nods. "I get it." He sighs. "I really do. The love you have for this world, I mean. Do you know what this planet is...or at least was, for me? This isn't my first time here."

    Z’Reg turns to face the window for a moment, and becomes Clay again. "I imagined the Corps would send someone with experience."

    Ryann takes a deep breath. "Yeah, but like, I never came here before on assignment. I fell in love with my wife here, Clay, not this city but around this whole world. We came here twice almost fifteen years ago. She made me care about this planet almost as much as I cared about Xandar...in some ways more.”


    He sighs again. "If Kaat saw how things are now...it would break her heart. It breaks mine. I'm not going to lie to you, Clay. I wanted off this assignment as soon as I could get the go-ahead from Nova Prime, but now...I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression in our first briefing."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Ryann and his wife honeymooned here fifteen years ago, which is why his favorite music in the universe is early 2000’s top 40 rock.

    Jacobkosh on
    Rear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    g3xuawl.png

    Elise sees Bob come out of the elevator.

    She perks up. "Hey!"

    "Hey!" Bob waves and comes over to join her.

    "You finish your assignment?" Elise grins, socking him playfully in the arm. "I was worried you'd gone rogue."

    "Haha, yeah. Watchdogs are a non-issue, kinda tucked that problem away. At least that specific iteration, right, like, you can't kill the idea of a hate-group. Isn't how stuff works."

    "Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, though, I'm glad you're back, especially after the whole Vlad thing, Christ."

    Bob raises his eyebrow puzzled. "The what?"

    Elise stares. "They... didn't tell you? Shit."

    "No, I like, just got in," he says. "Something happen to the boss-man?"

    "Yeah."

    He slumps. "Was it over on fuckin'...Skrullsville? I had to sit that whole thing out."

    "...He joined the Parliament."

    Now it’s Bob’s turn to stare. "No."

    "Yeah, something about the Doom Above."

    Bob looks horrified. "God damn it. He found out. Fuck. Fuck. I gotta talk to Clay."

    Elise sighs and puts her head against the wall next to Bob. "Clay's in a meeting. I'm... I'm gonna try to get him back."

    "Yeah well, he's gonna need to hear this.” Bob begins to pace.

    "I don't think Vlad even knows who I am anymore," Elise muses. Then, finally noticing Bob’s agitation, she squints at him. "Hear what? Clay knows. We all know."

    "He doesn't know what I know about the Parliament. About Rabum Alal. About what they did to my world. How do you think we got extra-dimensional technology?"

    Elise suddenly grabs Bob by the lapels, desperate. There's no teeth to it; she's under half his size. "Bob, you gotta help me. You have to tell me everything."

    "Alright, well, you come with me then," he says. "And listen, understand. I only kept this secret because...because I was afraid. I was afraid if Vlad knew, if Doom knew...then exactly what was gonna fuckin' happen, would fuckin' happen.

    "And I guess it doesn't fuckin' matter anymore, does it?"

    "Once he heard, it was over,” Elise says. “He threw away the friendship bracelet."

    Bob hugs Elise. "Aw, hun, I'm sorry."

    Elise sags into the hug. "Thank you."

    "I was afraid of this. Afraid of what would happen if he knew. We gotta talk to Clay."

    Bob barges into Clay's office with Elise. The door was locked. Bob kicked it open.

    Ryann leaps to his feet. "What the hell?! Who is this?"

    Clay stands too, and motions for Ryann to stand down. "This is Agent Robert Childan."

    "Bob," Centurion mouths to himself.

    "And me." Elise pipes in. "It's about Vlad, Clay."

    Bob moves up to Clay’s desk. "Director, I gotta tell you everything I know. About the Parliament. About Rabum Alal. About what they did to my Earth."

    Ryann stares. "Your Earth?"

    "If Vlad has turned on us and joined up with them, we're in deep shit and I can't afford to keep anything from you. Only reason I did, sir, is because I was afraid that anything you'd know, Vlad would find out and if he did....well..."

    Clay nods at Bob. "Sit down, Childan. Elise, you too."

    Elise sits, setting her jaw stubbornly. "I'm going to get Vlad back."

    "What is he talking about, Director?” Ryann says. “This is about the AI?"

    "I'll explain, Valt."

    Ryann sits back down

    "Robert's from an alternate reality. A parallel Earth. His real name is Clint Barton. Robert Childan, Bob, that's his alias because we already have a Clint Barton on our world who is a world-famous superhero."

    "Clay, you really need to stop destroying my perception of reality," Ryan grouses.

    "Sorry lad, it's part of my job." Clay isn't joking. Ryann sighs.

    "Bob's reality is one where HYDRA helped the Nazis win World War II, and then HYDRA took over themselves and ran the place. The circumstances under which Bob ditched that Earth and joined STRIKE are....complicated and beyond the scope of this conversation."

    "Ok, sure," Ryann says. He’s run out of incredulity.

    Clay turns and looks at Bob. "What's this about the Parliament you didn't tell us before?"

    Bob sighs. "You guys know that Rabum Alal is Doctor Doom by now, I guess. The Parliament, the guys who run it... they're Doctor Dooms. All of them. It's a Parliament of Dooms.

    "I know this, because on my Earth, Victor Von Doom wasn't 'Doctor' Doom. Instead, he called himself 'Doomlord.' He took Latveria by force and turned it into a haven for gypsies and other... anyway."

    "Gender treachery." Elise blurts out. She looks at Ryann and points at herself. "I'm gay."

    Ryann rolls his eyes. "You and half the galaxy, so have a cookie."

    Elise’s eyes widen. "Oh, shit, if I get married I'm never going to get to do an alien babe. ...When I get married. The sacrifices we make."

    Clay gestures for Bob to continue.

    "Doomlord was an enemy of the state. My team, the Avengers of my Earth, went after him more than once. Kept killing robot copies. Really frustrating. Point is, eventually he was approached by the Parliament and... he didn't join them.

    "To be honest I always hated the guy but viewing him through the lens of this Earth.... Doomlord wasn't...a bad...person? Which is weird to think about. And so he told the Parliament to blow it out their ass. More than that, he declared war on them.

    "I guess there's two kinds of Victor Von Dooms in the multiverse; those who join the Parliament, and those who like... take its existence personally? And hate them? And want to destroy them?

    “Like there's that one Earth, right...uh...I can't remember the number. ARMOR found it, the blown up one. That world, that Doom blew it up as a fuck-you to both the Council and the Parliament, and that's how it goes.

    "On my Earth, the Parliament eventually killed Doomlord when Baron Von Strucker made a deal with them. That's how we got interdimensional travel tech."

    Clay sits back in his chair. "We still have Strucker imprisoned in a black site."

    Bob is taken aback. "What... seriously?"

    Clay nods.

    Bob leans forward. "He knows shit. About the Parliament. He worked with them. Cut a deal with them to fuck over Doomlord. Interrogate him about the Parliament.

    "Also... if Vlad got the nod, in this world? Then your Victor Von Doom didn't. And he'll be pissed."

    "He didn't. They said that. And..." Elise shifts in her chair. "I'm going to use that when I talk to Doom. Clay, if the situation is this perilous, we need someone in Castle Doom, at least part time."

    Bob is very uncomfortable with that idea. But Elise can tell part of that is he's afraid of Doom.

    "I... It should be me," Elise says. "If we're going to stop this world from getting nuked and the Parliament stopped, we need an Agent of Doom, Clay."

    Bob nods. "I...I hate that guy but he'll absolutely throw in, 100%, against the Parliament. Someone tells him what happened with Vlad, that the Parliament passed him up? That's some....on my world we have a phrase. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my weapon.’"

    "...Ugh." Elise grips the sides of her chair, fully expecting Clay to stop her, but pushing on,anyways. "I'm going to do my best to get Vlad back, Clay. He was there with me, when I woke up in Attilan. I can't leave him."

    Clay nods. "Talk to Susan. Work with WHISPER. Keep me informed."

    "Seriously? It's that easy?"

    "On this, yes," he says.

    "We went from 'I'll talk to Doom' to 'I'll be an Agent of Doom' in one conversation? You trust me that much?"

    "Yes."

    "...Oh," she says.

    "You're also atrocious at keeping secrets from me so you won't be able to double-cross me and Doom can't turn you against me, so,” he shrugs. "I feel comfortable with this."

    "Oh my God Clay I thought we were about to have a moment."

    "Alright, well, I gotta ask since I'm learning so much today. Are there any other burning secrets you'd like to fill me in on? As a team member and all?" Ryann looks at Clay.

    Elise bobs in her seat. "Oh! My marriage is to the princess of Attilan! It nearly started a civil war!"

    "Interesting," Ryann says. He keeps looking at Clay.

    "There's still room on my invitation list!" Elise adds.

    "Send it to SWORD, they’ll get it to me," Ryann says, still looking at Clay. Clay’s brow is furrowed; he’s genuinely trying to think about Ryann’s question.

    Bob looks at Elise. "Hey, so if you marry her, do you get to be a princess? Is that how it works? Like do you marry into it?"

    "I think I get some other title." Elise texts Crys. HEY DO I GET A ROYAL TITLE LIKE PRINCESS ELISE? :D

    Clay says "Oh, the Phoenix Force is on Earth, and you just worked with him." He says this like one does about forgotten eggs or milk.

    Ryann snaps his fingers. “I knew it!"

    "What gave it away, was it the hair gel?" Elise says. "The tight pants?"

    "This place is a madhouse," Ryann breathes.

    Clay shrugs. "I would say you get used to it, but that too would be a lie, lad."

    Elise is watching her phone like a hawk. "Hey, Bob, you wanna come to my wedding?"

    "Do I!" Bob grins. "Do I get a plus-one?"

    She nods at Bob. "Yeah okay, who're you bringing?"

    He grimaces. "Uh...I dunno, I'll figure that out. Sometimes I shoot first and aim later."

    “Can't be worse than Carol Danvers."

    Bob snickers. "No, no it cannot."

    With her phone still out, Elise shoots Miles a text as well. Do you want to be my best man? Miles texts back a thumbs-up.

    Ryann pulls his hand down over his face. "I assume you told Nova Prime about the Phoenix Force," he says to Clay.

    "....yes?" Clay shrugs.

    Elise perks up . "Oh! Did you tell him about Doctor Strange?" Elise has texted Crystal twenty question mark emojis in a row.

    Clay sighs. “Elise, why."

    Ryann sighs too. "I was about to thank you for making my report short..."

    "Why what?" Elise asks.

    "Just, why."

    "Doctor Strange seems important," she says. "I mean, he wears a cape, like, everywhere. I feel like that alone is worth reporting on in the year of our lord 2017. Like, holy shit, he doesn't know what shirts are. And Nova Prime will be like, holy shit, does he sleep in the cape? And you can be like, yeah, he probably does."

    Ryann nods slowly. "Yeah, we don't wear capes..."

    "See?” Elise waves a hand at Ryann. “The cape thing is weird."

    Crystal texts back. You would be Royal Consort and also you would be Princess of my house because your own house has no standing in Attilan.

    "I'd be a Royal Consort and a Princess." Elise brags to Bob.

    "Nice," Bob grins, "So, you'll kiss the bride, right? That's a thing?"

    Elise shrugs. "It's an Attilan wedding so, like, yeah, probably."

    "Nice."

    "Or maybe we'll have to walk up to, like, Kisslor, the Bride Blesser. I don't fucking know, the city's weird. Of course once we're done with the ceremony I'm gonna do a whole lot more than kiss the bride." Elise makes a lewd gesture with her hands. She whirls on Ryann. "Are you coming to the wedding?”

    "By the Force. Yes, fine. Like I did save your life and all, I might as well go to an open bar in a city on the moon." He laughs and shakes his head.

    "Yesssssssssss." Elise finger guns at Centurion.

    Ryann rubs his temple. "This day. Whoa."

    "Alright, kids, out of my office, I got work to do." Clay stands and makes a shooing gesture. "Bob, tell one of the SEC guys I need a new door."

    Elise stops. "Wait! Can I book a week of vacation time after the wedding so I can fuck my wife?"

    "Yes. Approved. Don't ask me like that ever again."

    Elise cackles as she turns to go. Shaking his head, Ryann follows her. Bob nods, salutes, and turns to go.

    "Oh, Bob."

    Bob stops and looks at Clay.

    "What happened with the Watchdogs?"

    Bob shrugs. "Oh, I killed all of 'em. Got rid of the bodies, clean op, boss."

    Clay stares. "...it was... an intelligence gathering operation, Childan."

    Bob shrugs again. "Yeah, well, intel gathered is they dead, boss. Don't send a shotgun to paint a house.

    “Because it only does one color."

    Clay is dumbfounded.

    Bob looks at him. "...is that not a saying here?"

    "It is now, because I'm stealing it," Elise high-fives Bob. "It's fucking metal."

    Ryann's eyes are wide. So this is Bob.

    "They were an anti-Inhuman hate group." Elise says to Centurion. "Like, if they found me, they would have slung my guts up. So, it's okay! They're the bad guys!"

    Bob nods.

    "Bob, I don't have a piggyback friend anymore," Elise says. "Would you like a friend promotion?"

    Bob nods solemnly, and turns and stoops. Elise whoops and jumps on his back. They race out of Clay's office.

    Centurion flings his hands skyward in defeat.

    "A.

    "Mad.

    "House."
    r2C6Mbd.png

    visiblehowlPowerpuppiesNytewarriorMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    And with Ryann on the team, I can now share all of the team portraits that @Dread Pirate Arbuthnot commissioned for us! Some of which you've seen already, but here they are all in one place.

    (spoilered for big)
    H83MfvN.jpg

    CZskJ1p.jpg

    WN0FuYk.jpg

    YCkVO0B.jpg

    sH6IbNm.jpg

    FencingsaxNytewarriorMsAnthropyRear Admiral ChocoMatev
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