Club PA 2.0 has arrived! If you'd like to access some extra PA content and help support the forums, check it out at patreon.com/ClubPA
The image size limit has been raised to 1mb! Anything larger than that should be linked to. This is a HARD limit, please do not abuse it.
Our new Indie Games subforum is now open for business in G&T. Go and check it out, you might land a code for a free game. If you're developing an indie game and want to post about it, follow these directions. If you don't, he'll break your legs! Hahaha! Seriously though.
Our rules have been updated and given their own forum. Go and look at them! They are nice, and there may be new ones that you didn't know about! Hooray for rules! Hooray for The System! Hooray for Conforming!

[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE (Season 2 complete!)

1568101114

Posts

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Yeah, Elise goes through a lot and grows a lot as we go. I feel like she's almost the audience-surrogate character, in a way: she doesn't know a lot about the world, she doesn't have many skills or much of a place, she has to have stuff explained to her, and that gradually changes.

    MsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    WNHFMnm.png
    bpriGQU.jpg

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report June 25th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Section compiled by STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Watchdogs Group Under Investigation
    A few anti-Inhuman hate groups have sprung up in the last week since the Terrigen bomb event. One group, operating in the United States, has drawn SHIELD’s attention and is being closely examined. Calling themselves the ‘Watchdogs’, they were previously identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a generalized hate group focused on American white nationalism and xenophobia, and have now shifted focus to specifically being about hating Inhumans.

    SHIELD is investigating this group, and may take potential action in the future if they are deemed a serious threat.

    ONE Sentinel Project Announced, File Updated
    The Office of National Emergency publicly announced their Sentinel Project last night, and will be putting their team into the field in the near future. The SHIELD dossier on ONE has been updated with new intel on Project Sentinel and ONE’s new Secretary, Henry Gyrich.

    Vision Formally Joins COMMS, File Updated
    Vincent Jarvis (Codename: Vision) has formally joined COMMS Division here in Avengers Tower. While this information was contained in the last intel report, it is now official and his file has been added to the COMMS dossier to be reviewed at your convenience. Please note that outside of strict Level 7 clearance, Vincent’s status as an artificial intelligence is not to be disclosed.

    Expanded Report on Earth-385
    Section compiled by STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain

    Agents, I have written a brief summary of information I have obtained during our recent excursion to Earth-385. This is collated data that I obtained personally as well as information I corroborated from ARMOR agents, to create the most accurate picture of what we know of Earth-385 and what we can learn from it.

    Below are a list of facts about Earth-385 that I have discovered.

    Facts About Earth-385
    Leviathan did not exist on Earth-385

    It appears the Tunguska Event, and the crash-landing of the 1908 Group, as well as the resulting formation of Leviathan, never took place on Earth-385. As a result, Earth-385 has no Skrulls, and SHIELD’s formation took a dramatically different path as their primary Cold War nemesis was not Leviathan, but HYDRA terrorist cells and various super-powered independent threats. Without the omnipresent Soviet espionage boogeyman of Leviathan to give a rallying purpose to its continued strength, SHIELD was significantly weaker on Earth-385 than our Earth, and was ill-equipped to deal with the crisis that took place in the 1990’s that befell that world.

    HYDRA was much more powerful on Earth-385
    Without Leviathan as a balance-check, and with a much less powerful SHIELD accordingly, HYDRA was a much more pervasive global evil during much of the Cold War on Earth-385. They became a very serious global terrorist organization during the 1980s, with frequent world domination plans.

    The Unspoken sided with HYDRA, and then betrayed them
    During the 1990s, an Inhuman outcast from Attilan known only as “The Unspoken” approached HYDRA and agreed to help them find Thule in exchange for power and resources. HYDRA agreed, and funded the Unspoken’s expedition. However, instead of helping HYDRA find Thule, the Unspoken used HYDRA to find and invade Attilan, overthrow the House of Agon and take the throne for himself. He declared himself Emperor, and then turned on HYDRA.

    The Emperor destroyed Earth-385
    Using Kree technology inside Attilan, the Unspoken Emperor constructed an artificial orbital bombardment weapon in secret on the dark side of the Moon, and then launched it at Earth. Scientists at the time, including Reed Richards, thought it was a meteor that would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, it ionized Earth’s atmosphere, spread Terrigen dust to every part of the globe (having a similar effect to our own Terrigen bombs but orders of magnitude more potent), and knocked out most of the world’s electrical power with successive electromagnetic pulses. Into that post-apocalyptic hellscape, Attilan invaded from the Moon, using ancient Kree defensive satellites (which on our Earth, SWORD controls but on Earth-385, SHIELD didn’t even know existed) to bombard the last of Earth’s defenses and major cities. It was a slaughter.

    The Emperor rules with an iron fist, splitting the Earth up among his Inhuman warlords
    The Unspoken Emperor still rules from Attilan on Earth-385, and has split the Earth up into rough regions and territories for his Inhuman warlords to rule. It’s basically a feudal empire, with all manner of petty fiefdoms and feuding. Earth-385 is a dark and hellish place, and while we might have made things a little bit brighter for them by defeating the Reavers, nothing short of killing the Emperor will ever drastically change things for the people on that world.

    What We Can Learn From Earth-385
    Here are, in my opinion, the important takeaways from this information:

    1. If the Unspoken existed on Earth-385, he may exist on our Earth
    The Unspoken was an exile from Attilan. Earth-385 Reed Richards knew very little about him, and like many dictators of history he made a point of purging records about his early life. However, the circumstances of his existence and exile seem to predate whatever point of separation exists between our worlds, so it stands to reason that there is perhaps an alternate version of the Unspoken that exists on our world. We should attempt to locate and potentially apprehend or neutralize this person if he is a threat to us.

    2. Attilan possesses dangerous technology they may or may not be aware of
    Attilan is a Kree installation. According to SWORD’s data, it was built by the Kree as their primary base during their experiments on Earth during the Hyborian Age. It’s a full sized city with an unknown population of Inhumans inside folded space on the Moon. If Earth-385’s version of Attilan is any indication, it has technological capabilities that are deeply troubling, including the ability to build and launch orbital bombardment weapons that can target Earth containing Terrigen crystals, as well as the ability to remotely take control of the ancient Kree orbital defense satellite network (one of those satellites, as a reminder, is currently inhabited and serves as SWORD’s headquarters). We need to investigate just how aware the House of Agon is of these capabilities and/or their willingness to utilize them.

    3. Given a significant global catastrophe and a charismatic leader, Inhumans will overthrow everyone else
    It’s worth noting that there’s no evidence to suggest the Unspoken used any kind of mind control to compel the other Inhumans into joining his regime and enslaving the rest of mankind. He simply caused a global apocalypse, and suggested to those with power that they had the ability to rule over those without if they would join him, and that seemed to be a compelling enough argument that the majority of Inhumanity seemed to agree. This is a deeply troubling notion, one that we need to be keenly aware of going forward. The best way to keep a lid on the Inhuman crisis is stability, unity, and making sure that divisions between Inhumans and the rest of humanity are not fostered by malcontents and would-be dictators.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Like a lot of the ARMOR worlds, Earth-385 could be a campaign setting all its own, and I hope we get back to it at some point.

    Also, HYDRA had many world domination plans in the 1980s? I see you there, Cobra.

    qlGmSdP.pngUPDATED: The Office of National Emergency (ONE)
    RshGjPD.png

    The US Office of National Emergency was created in early 2017 by President Gordon Wright. Designed as a distinctly American federal response to extranormal threats, ONE performs a lot of the same functions that SHIELD does, exclusively on US soil. Wright is somewhat hostile to SHIELD, considering it a “globalist agency” that has “questionable loyalties”, and promotes ONE as a more trustworthy alternative to supernatural menaces.

    Officially, the US government still acknowledges SHIELD’s authority to operate within the United States (many SHIELD facilities, including SHIELD HQ are inside US borders), and ONE is supposed to cooperate with SHIELD if SHIELD finds itself operating on the same case. However, the standing policy is on US soil, in an instance where SHIELD agents and ONE agents are on the same case, ONE agents are to be deferred to and given command.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    STRIKE agents can disregard this standing policy if it will expedite the mission. STRIKE agents are advised not to identify themselves as SHIELD operatives when interacting with agents of ONE, and generally to avoid interacting with ONE if possible. Agents are reminded that STRIKE’s existence is classified Level 7 and should under no circumstance be disclosed to ONE agents.

    Henry Peter Gyrich
    ok8hKUn.jpg

    Henry Peter Gyrich is a former CIA agent who is now the Secretary of the Office of National Emergency. He is a trusted ally of President Gordon Wright, and was brought in to replace the previous Secretary after the Thunderbolts scandal.

    Gyrich is an inscrutable man, whose record is black and difficult to discern even for SHIELD COMMS as he’s so deep with the CIA that it would cause an incident for us to probe further. It’s not clear as of this writing what his motives are, or if he’s as loyal to the President as the President thinks he is.

    The Sentinels
    wV72Sxwm.jpg

    The Sentinel Project is ONE’s new anti-Inhuman, anti-super-power response force. Power-armored agents using mechanized suits that stand 12 feet tall, the Sentinels were designed by Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems using Arc Reactor technology undoubtedly stolen from Stark Industries.

    ONE’s public statement on the Sentinels is that they will only be used in situations where Inhuman violence presents a genuine public hazard that conventional law enforcement are not capable of handling, and not as a general response to all Inhumans, but SHIELD remains skeptical.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    It's been a few days since the excursion into Earth-385. STRIKE finally got three days off to rest and recuperate, and now have been called back for assignments.

    The team is in the briefing room, where Clay is waiting with Kane, Flashback and Faiza Hussain from COMMS.

    "Alright team, we've got a bit of... housekeeping to do,” he begins. "Some minor assignments that I don't need to deploy all of STRIKE-1 on. Specialized operations."

    "I call being assigned with Vlad!" Elise's hand shoots up in the air.

    "No."

    Vlad cocks his head.

    Clay continues. "Vladimir and Agent Westin will be visiting a consultant that I've scheduled some time with, along with Agent Hussein from COMMS. I talked about this consultant a while ago, after Vlad rejoined us. He's an expert on sorcery and will be overseeing Vlad's training and practices on that subject going forward.

    “Agent Westin also expressed an interest in meeting the man and asking some questions, which I supported. Agent Hussein would also like to speak with the consultant for her own intel-gathering purposes, so this will be a joint operation."

    Vlad and Michael exchange nods.

    "Elise, you and Flashback will be travelling to Attilan on your own assignment, you'll be working together. You're both Inhumans, and you personally are fairly welcome by the House of Agon, so travelling there is a non-issue.

    "You're going to be gathering intelligence on Attilan's technological capabilities and defensive responses, and their knowledge of the Kree technology of the installation and how to use it. Very specifically, we want to know if the Attilans know how to commandeer the Kree satellite network that is currently in orbit around Earth. One of those satellites is SWORD's HQ, so we care a great deal about knowing if they can remotely just take it over."

    Elise fidgets. "You...you want me to do some double agent shit?"

    Clay shrugs. "Don't lie to them, just don't...tell them everything."

    She nervously laughs. "Okay."

    "Remember that you are an Agent of SHIELD and you work for STRIKE. You are an Inhuman, yes, but you are not a subject of Attilan and you swore no oaths of loyalty to the House of Agon.

    "Flashback is going with you. She's an experienced field agent and this sort of thing is something she knows how to do."

    Elise nods, looking miserable. Flashback looks at her. "We don't see Attilan itself as a threat, Elise. We're not trying to spy on them or betray them. But what happened on Earth-385 is the House of Agon got betrayed and someone else took control of that stuff. We need to know if that's something the Attilan on our Earth can do, and if that's something the House of Agon here knows about. Because if that's true that's very dangerous. That's something someone else, like maybe our universe's version of the Unspoken, could take advantage of."

    This perks Elise up. "Oh! So we're helping!"

    "Yes,” Agent Monroe nods. “It's as much about protecting Attilan as us. They just won't necessarily see it that way, so we're not going to tell them."

    "Sure, sure! And then, maybe after I save the day, Crys -" Elise props her chin on her hands and smiles. "I gotcha, big boss."

    Clay nods at Flashback appreciatively and she shoots him a thumbs up. Clay then looks over at Julian and Myrmidon. "You two will be going with me on a third assignment."

    Julian uncrosses his legs, sits up straight, and leans forward with interest. Miles nods at Julian, then looks at Clay. "Sure thing. What's the job?"

    "Mason, you've recently had a bit of an... upgrade, let's say. The technology you're made of…I've seen it before."

    Miles looks confused. "The Stark stuff? Or...the rest of it?"

    "The rest of it,” Clay says. “The synthetic body stuff. The tech Vision's made of too."

    "His Doom crystal?" Vlad pipes up. Elise audibly sucks on her teeth at the word "Doom."

    Clay shakes his head. "The stuff you took from Zola's lab."

    "Oh, that makes s -” Miles’s head whips around toward Vlad. “Doom crystal?"

    "He - he said vroom crystal!" Elise offers. Vlad simply points at Mason's chest. Elise puts her head in her hands. "Oh, Christ."

    "Oh... for fuck's sake…VISION!" Clay slams down on the intercom.

    Vision walks into the room through one of the walls.

    SsWsd5k.pngVincent Jarvis
    7K6LJqr.jpg
    Global Signals Monitoring, COMMS
    Codename:
    Vision
    Security Level: 8
    Known extranormal abilities: Vincent has complete control over his physical form, and is capable of altering his density at will to any level. This allows him to become intangible or incredibly dense, fly, exhibit superhuman strength, etc. He is also able to interface with computers and cyberspace using methodology that does not need to be disclosed at this juncture.

    Vincent Jarvis has recently joined COMMS. He was previously assigned to work with SWORD, but developments in his career have facilitated a change in his talents and a best use of his capabilities. Further inquiries into this agent’s file need to be cleared with COMMS Director Monica Chang regardless of security level.



    Elise slowly slides out of her chair, and disappears beneath the table.

    "First of all, we talked about doors," Clay starts.

    Vision looks contrite, if confused. "I apologize, Director, you summoned to the room, I assumed..."

    "Use. The. Door."

    "Noted."

    "Vision... did you put a Doom crystal into Mason's chest?"

    Vision looks at Miles, and looks at Clay. "Yes."

    Vlad nods.

    Clay stares levelly at VIsion. "Did he ask you to do that?"

    "I can answer that one," Miles scowls.

    Increasingly nervous laughter sounds from under the conference table.

    Vlad looks at Vision, confused. Vision is also confused. He looks at Vlad and shrugs meekly. He knows he did something wrong but doesn't seem to understand what.

    "Vision, is there a reason this couldn't have been an arc reactor? Or a biofuel converter? Or a hamster in a wheel?" Miles takes a deep breath and tries to regain a measure of his patience. "You look confused. The reason Clay and I are dismayed is because this technology is insecure."

    "Insecure?" Vlad says.

    "I don't want to be Doom's puppet. He has enough," Miles snaps.

    "What do you mean by that, Miles?"

    A shock of pink and green hair pokes out from beneath the table. "Maybe," Elise suggests. "Maybe Doom isn't very good?" Miles holds his hand out to Elise, palm up, in a "see?" gesture.

    Vision looks at Miles. "Arc reactor technology has functional limitations, and is vulnerable to very specific countermeasures, including ones that are known specifically to target arc reactor technology as, despite Mr. Stark's best efforts, it is a piece of technology that has become available to certain sectors of the black market and other government agencies, including our own.

    "The crystal inside you is the same manner of crystal I use," he gestures to his forehead, "and the same crystal that is the core of Vladimir. It provides practically unlimited energy and requires no recharging."

    "You have within you unlimited power, Miles," Vlad says to Mason. "Like Vision and I."

    "Maybe," Elise tries, very hesitant. "Maybe power isn't always the best thing?" Miles holds his hand out toward Elise again.

    Vision continues. "And by the time you had made your request, I had already run weeks of analysis and simulations on how to integrate the synthezoid technology with the crystal for myself, it was very easy to extrapolate that technology to you, Miles. Trying to utilize a new power source would have introduced rogue elements and potential failures. It was the simplest and easiest solution, which made it the most logical conclusion."

    "Maybe," Elise ventures. "Maybe sometimes power can be bad."

    Miles nods up and down, forcefully.

    Vision looks at Elise. "I wasn't necessarily seeking the most powerful solution, Elise. It was also the safest and easiest and most logical."

    Miles seizes on this. "Is this safe, Vision? That's the thing. It's a fait accompli now. What's done is done. But if I can be overridden with a wave of Doom's hand, I deserve to know. So do you. Your difficulty with this is distressing. You were both worried about your personal autonomy and now it's difficult for you to grasp that someone else might be worried about theirs?"

    Vision shakes his head. "There is no possibility of Doom overriding the crystal."

    "You are not his creation..." Vlad says quietly.

    "Also," Elise tries again. "Maybe, in general, power can be a ...bad thing? Sometimes?"

    "Vladimir,” Vision begins, “was capable of being overridden by Doom because he was programmed and created by Doom. His software, and firmware, were created by Doom. Until the point when he overrode and self-determined his own core operating system with my assistance, this was a constant peril.

    "The crystal in you, Miles, like the crystal inside me, has no such programming. It's a power source. However, I understand what I have done and how it has caused you distress. It is possible to remove the crystal without causing you any particular harm, although you will lose your expanded capabilities and will, functionally, be indistinguishable from a conventional human being beyond some very specific differences due to your synthetic nature.

    "I apologize, Miles, it was not my intention."

    Miles shakes his head. "An 'unlimited' power source sounds crazy, dude. Like magic. Which it could well be! I don't have complete confidence in your ability to gauge the risk of this technology. Though as you said, you have it too. So if it's a giant fuck fiesta of a mistake, hey, we'll find out together."

    Vlad scoffs. "You cannot walk away from infinite power, it would be foolish."

    Elise nervously laughs again, this time higher pitched. "I think, maybe, actually, someone could walk away from infinite power!"

    "Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Vlad,” Michael adds. “You've gotta remember that." Vlad stares at Behemoth, saying nothing.

    Vision is silent for a moment. "I have been continually studying and exploring the crystal and the ways in which it and its energies operate, and would happily inform you of anything I find, Miles."

    "...Thank you, Vision,” Miles says. “That will have to do, for both of us."

    Clay nods at Miles.

    "Y-Yaaaay," Elise murmurs.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles is in no way reassured or mollified by any of this. He’s only conceding the conversation because the alternative, in his eyes, is to start blasting Vision and Vlad into scrap.

    He’s furious; he feels both betrayed and violated. His occupation and experiences have already made him prone to hypervigilance bordering on paranoia, and now Vision, the being he trusted with his new body, is telling him that he’s carrying an evil wizard’s magic rock around inside of him but nah brah it’s cool.

    It also hasn’t escaped Miles’ notice that the only way he found out about this crystal is because Vlad, instead of coming to him man-to-man at any point in the past three weeks, just chucked it like a bomb into the middle of the conversation. His experiences with Vlad - from how the Doombot just unceremoniously dumping a bunch of Richards malware into him, to the simulation Arnim Zola was being tortured in, to Vlad’s little jabs at Clay’s heritage or remarking that his lover Krylov “should have suffered” - have convinced Miles that Vlad is at best capricious and cruel, a child cutting the wings off insects to watch them wriggle around, and at worst an actual supervillain.

    So to Miles’ mind, this is just another little humiliation that Vlad has somehow engineered, although if he stopped and thought about it for a moment he’d remember how taken aback and even a bit jealous Vlad was at the time that Vision and MODOC were keeping a secret from him.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    Clay turns to Vision. "You're dismissed. Please compose a report on this subject and file it with Director Chang."

    Vision nods. "Report complete and filed, Director." Vision goes to walk through the wall, pauses, and uses the door.

    "Cool. Cool cool cool." Julian is just kind of bobbing his head, nodding along in a fashion like a big thing didn't just get discussed.

    Clay rubs the bridge of his nose. "As I was saying. The other technology in Miles, before Vladimir chucked a grenade in the room. The synthezoid technology, that Miles and Vision are made of. I've seen that before."

    Miles leans forward. "It's not...Nazi?"

    "No,” Clay shakes his head, “it's quite the opposite."

    "So is Arnim Zola just the world's biggest fucking fraud?” Miles says. “That's hilarious."

    Elise sits next to Vlad. "Nazis are also bad," she says, and smiles at him.

    Victorious nods. "Nazi are evil, indeed, born of the evil in man's soul." Elise looks visibly relieved.

    "So... boring story time," Clay begins. "You all know I'm old, and I've been here since 1908. For the most part I tried to avoid....in the 90's I started calling it 'Forrest Gumping,' influencing human history or meeting with or knowing very important human figures."

    "But you know me!" Elise chirps.

    "Yes, well, I haven't always been very good at avoiding messing with things," he says. "In World War II, I picked a side. Turns out it was the good guys, thank god. There was a British super-soldier during the war. James Montgomery Falsworth. Called himself Union Jack. He died on the battlefield, during a battle I happened to be at. And I just...for reasons that are complicated, I took his place."

    Miles nods.

    "I became Union Jack. And I became part of a team of secret agents that also had powers. Captain America and Bucky were part of that team. In a lot of ways, we were a lot more like STRIKE than the Avengers, because even though we wore costumes and had powers.... the world wasn't ready for dealing with us. Not really."

    "That must be really interesting." Elise murmurs. "Just, taking someone's place. Sometimes they're a friend, sometimes they're...a... lady..."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Elise is still, weeks later, entranced by the revelation that Clay used to be in a lesbian relationship with Victoria Hand. I don’t even think she’s trying to be mean! I think she just...thinks about it. A lot.

    Clay is talking here about The Invaders, the WWII-era team of superheroes. We saw them in the Astral Plane last episode, but of course nobody but Julian there for that. Did that unintentional trip through memory lane give Clay the idea for this mission? Who knows.

    The Invaders have kind of an interesting story. Most of these characters - Cap and Bucky, Namor, the original android Human Torch and his sidekick Toro - were real characters that Marvel really published (however briefly) in the big Golden Age comics boom of the early 1940s, but they never really formed a superteam in those comics. The closest Marvel came to the concept in the ‘40s was a team called the All-Winners Squad, who only appeared twice before their comic was cancelled.

    The actual team “The Invaders” was only created in 1969, by the writer Roy Thomas. It was a retcon; a character in the present day basically going “man, remember that cool team Cap was part of during the war?” which gave Thomas an excuse to riff on old 40s heroes for a bit.

    Roy Thomas was the very first example of a ubiquitous phenomenon today, the fan-turned-pro. Thomas was a serious, heavy-duty collector of comics during the 40s and 50s who grew up and started writing for Marvel in the late 1960s. At Marvel he promptly began, as kind of a personal obsession, cataloging and keeping track of all the elements of the “Marvel universe,” digging up all these old forgotten 40s characters and bringing them into current continuity with a fresh coat of paint.

    Nowadays that’s a cliche, and the obsessed wiki-curating fan is a punchline, but in 1969 it was hugely innovative and gave a new boost of energy to Marvel after Stan Lee had begun stepping back from everyday work. In fact, after Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and X-Men writer Chris Claremont, Roy Thomas has left the deepest fingerprints on Marvel, creating a huge swath of characters and stories that are still being told today.

    One of those characters was The Vision. There are two characters in Marvel named Vision; the original was one of those old forgotten 40s characters: created by Captain America’s originators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, he was an alien supercop from another dimension who came to Earth to help us fight Nazis.

    Roy Thomas’s new Vision, the Vision we know in comics and films today and who just walked out the door, was created when Ultron put the brainwaves of a dead Avengers villain (Wonder Man, who later came back to life and became a good guy) into the lifeless android body of the original Human Torch, creating a new lifeform, distinct from both its parents, and given the name of a third, completely different character!

    So VIsion is, both in his universe and the real world, a new creation remixed from bits and pieces of what came before. That’s such a fuckin’ on the nose metaphor it had to be deliberate, right?

    Oh, and the Avengers story where Roy Thomas’s new Vision first appeared? It was in the middle of the first giant multi-part epic crossover story ever done in comics: “The Kree-Skrull War.”

    Anyway, we now return you to your regularly-scheduled game, where Elise is still waggling her eyebrows at Clay...

    Clay narrows his eyes at Elise. "There was a group of us. Me, Cap, Bucky, a woman from MI-13 named Spitfire, and Munroe's grandfather."

    Flashback's head whips around and she looks at Clay/ "Wait what! You knew my grandfather?!"

    Clay nods at Flashback. "Yes. He was a good man. But the member of our team that was the most important to this conversation was Jim Hammond. The original Human Torch. No relation to John Storm, although I think Reed gave him the name as a roundabout reference because Richards knows a lot more than he lets on."

    Elise looks up from her hand, where she's thoughtfully making a 'come here' gesture with her middle and index fingers. "Are you saying Reed Richards is an opaque prick?" she gasps in mock surprise. "No."

    Clay nods at Elise. "They don't talk about our team in history books, but they especially don't talk about Jim Hammond for two reasons. One, Jim killed Hitler. Two, Jim was a synthetic man."

    Myrmidon’s eyebrows climb up his forehead. "Cool."

    "And the second reason is really the reason we don't talk about Jim," Clay says. "Because if you tell people, no Hitler didn't actually kill himself, an agent of the US government killed him, it'd be, oh hey, that chap's a hero, we should put a medal on him, name a holiday after him, where's he from? What's his name? Then historians dig into it and oh...he was grown in a tank by a bunch of scientists.

    "And he can set himself on fire."

    "That actually sounds kind of bitching?" Elise observes.

    "...Yeah, actually," Julian says. "Like, why isn't he celebrated as a hero again? Is being a synthetic person that much of a problem?"

    "It was in 1950," Clay says.

    "Did he go robot crazy and start killing people or anything?" Miles asks. Vlad’s eyes narrow at Miles, but he says nothing.

    Clay shakes his head. "He worked for SHAPE and then SHIELD for a few years, and then privately retired into civilian life, which we respected and left him alone, until his death in 1972."

    Elise leans back, puts her hands behind her head and her feet on the table, and grins. "See, everyone should try to be like me. I accept all kinds of life, especially synthetic life, and look how it's worked out so far!"

    Michael looks at Elise and whispers "Jeremiah."

    "Jeremiah doesn't fuckin' count!" she exclaims.

    "What, as a person?" Julian laughs. "You're the worst."

    Clay snaps his fingers at Elise and Julian. Like small children.

    "Sorry!" Julian says.

    "Yes. boss!" Elise sits back up with a start.

    Julian holds up a hand."So wait, I'm sorry to ask, but how did he die?"

    "Cancer."

    Phoenix is baffled. "I... what?!" Julian momentarily glances towards Miles before looking back at Clay.

    "That doesn't sound correct," says Vlad. "Is it possible he faked his death?"

    "Here's what you have to understand about Jim, and Miles if you're made of the same tech like I think you are, you should probably bear this in mind. Jim wasn't an android or a robot. He wasn't like Vlad, who has machine components that approximate various functions and let him move and calculate and do all the things he needs to do.

    "He was a synthetic man. He was made of synthetic compounds, artificial materials. But he was functionally like a human being. Heart, liver, kidneys, blood, et cetera."

    Myrmidon nods slowly. "So that means synthetic everything. The bad with the good. Right?"

    "Yes,” Clay nods. “So he had synthetic DNA. And if he had synthetic DNA, then it can go awry. Which is basically cancer."

    Miles nods thoughtfully. "That's okay. It's what I asked for and it's what I got. It works for me."

    "Who wants to live forever, anyways?" Elise asks. "My goal is to leave behind a corpse so toxic it can't be put in the ocean or a graveyard."

    "He didn't age,” Clay says. “Not like a human. And he couldn't catch a flu or most other diseases, but cancer is a very specific genetic mutation that can happen to anything that has genes. Synthetic or not.

    “The worst part was because he was synthetic, there was basically no way to treat it. Nowadays, we probably could figure something out, our science has progressed, we could throw men like Richards or Stark at the problem.” He takes a deep breath. "So... that's Jim. Here's how it relates to you, Miles.

    "Jim was created by a scientist named Phineas Horton. The man was pretty obscure, a US army contractor during World War I who was trying to create flame-retardant clothing. Flamethrowers were a thing during WWI.

    "Horton discovered how to create synthetic human tissue by accident, according to him, and grew Hammond in a tank. How that resulted in Hammond being a fully functional adult by WWII who could light himself on fire was never explored somehow, because it was the war and Captain America got all the attention and America was making the fucking atomic bomb.

    "Horton died during the war, cancer from working with radium. Horton's research notes were seized by the US government. SHIELD never got a hold of them, and never really picked a fight with the US government on the subject."

    "I don't....I don't have radium in me too, do I?" Miles looks around nervously.

    "No. We have rad sensors all over the tower."

    Myrmidon frowns. "Maybe we should get a complete materials rundown from Vision just in case. What if I'm packed with helpful flame-retardant asbestos or something."

    "We have one,” Clay says, “you can go over the details with Vision."

    Elise turns to Miles. "What's wrong with asbestos? Don't they put that in Diet Coke?"

    Miles’ mouth hangs open. "I..."

    Clay continues. "What SHIELD did pick a fight with the government over was Jim's body when he died."

    "His body?” Miles asks. “We have it?"

    "No, we lost the fight," Clay says. "Nick had just taken over as Director of SHIELD that year.”

    Elise suddenly furrows her brow. "Wait."

    “The previous Director, Rick Stoner, had just been assassinated. We had a lot going on.”

    "Wait, this was how long ago?" Elise asks.

    "1972,” Clay says. “Nick's no spring chicken."

    Elise's mouth screws up as she does some mental math, and then she shrugs. "Yeah, I guess he made Director early."

    “Anyway, Nick's father and the Howling Commandos were friends with Jim and our team, they worked with us a lot during the war. Nick was at the funeral, even. He was one of us."

    Miles’ brow is also furrowed. "I still can't get over that. 1972. Has SHIELD found the Fountain of Youth or something or is this just the ultimate case of ‘black don't crack’?"

    Elise gapes. "Miles, that's racist."

    "I…” Miles says. “Moving on!"

    "Nick takes care of himself,” Clay says. “I am not going to suggest that the Director of SHIELD, my boss and yours, has periodically used extranormal revitalization materials that he has encountered in his myriad of adventures over the years to maintain an appearance that belies his proper age."

    Elise's hand shoots back up.

    "No."

    "Ugh."

    "This neatly ties into our actual operation," Clay says. "Which is we're going to break into a government facility, and steal Jim's body and Horton's notes."

    Miles nods. "NIce. Okay, boss. I'm into it. Is there a catch?"

    Clay nods. “While the facility used to be under the authority of the US military, which would have been a lot simpler, as of this year the facility is now under the authority of the Office of National Emergency."

    "Oh, great," Miles says.

    "I guess it probably complicates things that I did that whole opsec thing, huh?" Elise says.

    Clay shrugs. "Honestly that's beyond an issue now. ONE knows STRIKE exists. They know, and Director Fury has basically made it clear to President Wright that STRIKE can be used if ONE steps out of line. We're positioned as a bit of a threat. To the government. So that's nice."

    Elise suddenly starts smiling. Her smile grows wider and wider. "This owns."

    "Alright...so that's our assignments," Clay says, clapping his hands together. "Vlad, Westin, Hussein, take a car. Westin drives."

    "Vlad can drive!” Elise protests. “One time we took the Van down to -"

    "Kane will transport Monroe and Elise to the Azores to travel to Attilan through the fold-gate. Adler and Mason will leave with me in my car for the docks where we'll meet our transport."

    Vlad turns to Faize. "Greetings, Agent Hussein."

    She smiles at Vlad and waves nervously. "Hi."

    SsWsd5k.pngFaiza Hussein
    ACoXJ3e.png
    Occult Data Analyst, COMMS
    Codename:
    Artificer
    Security Level: 8

    Faiza Hussein is a specialist in matters relating to the occult, in particular artifacts and archaeological sites of mystical significance. She formerly was employed by MI-13, but was persuaded to join SHIELD by her former superior, STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain.

    She has been transferred to the COMMS Division per STRIKE Director Quartermain's suggestion to act as an analyst and expert on all occult and arcane materials that are encountered by STRIKE.

    Elise smiles at Faiza. "Vlad is super nice. I used to be able to plug into my phone in the back of his neck port and my music would come out through his mouth which fucking owned but now he has a new set up -"

    "You are scholar,” Vlad says to Faiza, smiling. “I have read your file. We have much to learn from one another."

    She grins. "Oh I don't... I don't know what you could learn from me but..."

    Clay looks at the team. "You have your assignments. Fall out. Adler and Mason, meet me at the quartermasters to gear up before we leave. The rest of you shouldn't need combat gear."

    "If I need combat gear,” Elise says, “I'm just gonna chuck myself off the edge of Attilan!"

    "Good plan," Clay agrees. "Go with that plan."

    The team moves out to their assignments. Elise and Flashback head to the Zephyr with Kane, Miles and Julian head to the quartermaster’s office, while Michael, Vladimir, and Faiza go down to the motor pool and begin to drive to meet Doctor Strange. Clay has given Michael the address.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    uR6zb47.png

    As Julian, Miles, and Clay gear up, Clay turns to the others. "Alright, so, we're going to be meeting up with one of my other mates from the war. Roman Mackenzie. Drives a hi-tech submarine. That's how we're getting there."

    "What, by sub?" Julian asks.

    "Yes," Clay nods.

    "Huh."

    "The facility is an old offshore oil rig that the government converted into high security materials storage for 'exotic substances', aka extranormal stuff. Artifacts and confiscated power armor and that kind of thing."

    The thought of being surrounded by water is, all of a sudden, mildly disquieting to Julian. He pauses halfway to grabbing an ICER, scrunches up his face, then continues gearing up.

    "We're ICERs only... to start,” CLay says. “These are US government people, we don't need to create family pension plans unnecessarily."

    "Mm. Yeah. Wouldn't want to run over budget." Julian chuckles to himself.

    "But bring some AP rounds in case we run into anything really hostile down there. I know I am, I can't shoot fire or energy beams, and if it's a robot I can't just cook it."

    "Cook it,” Julian says. “I like how that's what you call it."

    "It's how it feels on my end," Clay says.

    "Eesh." Julian raises his eyebrows in exaggerated fashion. "Fun."

    "I don't want to be doing that either. I'd rather put these guys down for naps, one way" Clay gestures to an ICER, "or another."

    Phoenix nods. "Agreed."

    Miles nods and takes an ICER. "I feel a bit better using these things than blowing people through walls, though with ONE I'm tempted to make an exception."

    They finish equipping themselves and Clay waves them out of the armory. "Alright, let's head out, we'll take my car." The trio leaves for the motor pool.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    g3xuawl.png

    Vladimir, Michael, and Faiza drive to Doctor Strange's home in Greenwich Village.

    Faiza is fairly quiet on the way over. She seems wide-eyed and eager, like she's taking this all in. "I've...I've never gone on a field mission."

    Vlad nods. "This will be a good experience, then. The odds of danger are low, especially with Michael and myself present."

    "Yeah,” Michael says, “should be a piece of cake."

    "I haven't... I haven't really read your files. I have the security clearance but Director Chang told us to kinda stay out of STRIKE's business unless we have to and mostly Jeremiah handles all your stuff, so...."

    Vlad looks at Behemoth.

    "You're a sorcerer, right?" She asks Vlad.

    "Indeed," he nods.

    She smiles.

    "I am much more, though..." Vlad looks at Michael, not knowing how much detail he should get into.

    Michael interjects, switching the focus of the conversation from Vlad and his whole deal, to himself.. "I may not be a sorcerer, but I do have a magical ability of my own."

    "Really?" she asks. "I suppose so, Clay told me everyone in STRIKE has powers."

    "I can summon an indestructible suit of Asgardian armour." Michael beams.

    Her eyes widen "Cool. "And the woman, Elise, is an Inhuman, and Miles is a synthetic man. What was the other chap, Adler? What can he do?"

    Michael nods. "Julian? He has pyrokinetic powers and can uh, resurrect himself."

    "Oh, like a phoenix. Neat."

    "Yes," Vlad says.

    "Can I ask you both something?"

    They agree.

    "Clay seems pretty open about...um...who he really is nowadays. At least among people at our security clearance level. When did...when did he tell you?"

    "After we figured it out," Vlad says.

    "Wait... you figured it out?" she asks. "He didn't tell you, you...confronted him about it then?"

    Michael nods. "Pretty much."

    She shrinks back in her chair and looks awkward. "Oh. I'm sorry."

    "Clay is a deceptive being by nature,” Vlad says, “but he work for the good of the planet he calls home."

    "H-hey...." she starts to say. “That's..." She looks genuinely hurt by what Vlad said.

    "Vlad,” Michael says, turning to him briefly, “we aren't all defined by our origins. You of all people should know that."

    "I agree, which is why I said he works for the good of his home,” Vlad says.

    "I'm sorry,” Faiza says, “I didn't mean to cause a fuss, I just thought he would have told you because you're his team and all that. He told me, but I guess it's different for his daughter."

    Behemoth nods. "I guess so-wait what?" He eyes her in the rearview mirror.

    Vlad turns around in his seat to stare at her. "Explain."

    "He... he didn't tell you? Is that not in my file?"

    Michael shakes his head. "Nope!"

    "Oh my god I'm sorry."

    "You are Skrull?!" Vlad asks harshly.

    "No!" she says. “Adopted daughter! Not biological!"

    Vlad nods slowly and looks at Behemoth.

    "My parents were MI-13 agents that worked under Clay," she says. "They were both killed on a mission and he adopted me. When I was... gosh I can't remember how old, I came home and he was with a lady. And...he was a lady. It was very complicated."

    "I did not know that the Director had children." Vlad ponders this new information.

    "So then he had to tell me the truth because there was this strange woman in my house with another strange woman and... well... then he had to tell me. He offered to make me forget, with his powers, but I said no and he agreed but I had to keep his secret? Which oh god I'm so bad." She gasps and covers her mouth.

    "It's all right, Faiza,” Michael reassures her. “We will keep your secret. But be more careful in the future, not everyone will be as trustworthy as us."

    "....o-ok. H-hey I think we're here."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    ivKpMFL.jpg

    Behemoth whistles. "Nice place. Outside could do with a new coat of paint."

    "The House of Strange," Vlad says. He recognizes the sigil on the window pane. He's seen it before. It was on a few places in Doom's study.

    The trio walk up to the door, and it opens before they knock.

    vbgzu0Hl.jpg

    "Hello," the man says. "The Doctor will see you now."

    As they enter the Sanctum, the three agents have a sensation like entering the Hollow. This place is larger on the inside. It's not a small place on the outside, but inside, it looks like a massive mansion or museum.

    "Never get used to that feeling." Michael shudders a bit.

    Faiza gasps and is gazing around in bewilderment.

    "Yes, yes, 'it's bigger on the inside,' all very amazing." A man walks down the stairs.

    mudIOMx.jpg

    "I'm Dr. Stephen Strange. Quartermain's told me a bit about you both."

    "I would assume so," Vlad nods.

    "Pleasure to meet you, Doctor," Michael says.

    Strange looks at Vlad and squints. "Hrm. You are his son, huh."

    "And you were his teacher," Vlad says. Michael quirks his eyebrow at this.

    "I was, yes," Strange agrees. "Until I threw him out of Kamar-Taj. Did your father tell you why I threw him out?"

    "For merging technology and arcana," Vlad says.

    "No. He cheated. He was the college equivalent of a kid cheating on his exams and plagiarizing essays. He took shortcuts to power. Constantly.

    "The last straw was him scanning as much as he could of the arcane library so he could simply transfer it to digital storage and upload it directly to his brain using a neuro-interface he was going to create. Like he was just uploading kung fu."

    "The course to power is one's right," Vlad scoffs, "no matter what 'shortcuts' other may feel they took to get it."

    No," Strange says flatly. "That is incorrect. Probably the first of many things that are wrong you will say here."

    Vlad's eyes narrow. Michael puts a hand on his shoulder. "Vlad, remember what I said before we got here?"

    Strange seems to notice him for the first time. "Before I continue on this subject, you're Michael Westin, right?"

    "Yup."

    "Michael, this is Kaecilius, my apprentice."

    Behemoth nods. "Nice to meet you."

    "Kaecilius has studied the Hyborian Age a great deal, and may be able to share with you some insights about the nature of your artifact and condition and answer questions you may have, and you can consult some of our books and documents on Asgardian lore." He turns to his apprentice. "Kaecilius, take Mr. Westin to the archives."

    Kaecilius nods at Strange, and gestures for Michael to follow. They head to the library.

    Strange looks at Faiza. "You. Who are you?"

    "Um...Agent Faiza Hussein, sir. SHIELD-COMMS Occult Archivist. I'm...I'm just here to observe."

    "Fine. Observe. Quietly." He gestures to a chair, and she sits.

    Vlad continues to stare at Strange. Strange turns to meet his gaze. "Do you know that everyone else at Kamar-Taj wanted to kick your father out with his first transgression and I personally overruled them and allowed him to stay.

    "Because Victor's first transgression was both so severe, but was also motivated entirely by personal tragedy, that I understood it. Personal tragedy is a dangerous motivation. It's incredibly powerful, but it allows a person to justify anything.

    "Because, as it turns out, power in and of itself is not a pure moral good, nor is it something that simply can be pursued however one sees fit. And the ends you meet when you get that power do not justify the means you used to get it.

    "Let me show you something. Take my hand." Strange reaches out to Vladimir.

    "Very well..." Vlad extends his hand to Strange.

    Vlad feels the entire world around him melt away. He's standing in a black void of nothing. He is himself - the way he sees himself. Doctor Strange is floating next to him.

    Suddenly, on the horizon, something comes into focus. It looks like it is swiftly approaching, but then realizes it's actually that he and Strange are swiftly approaching it.

    TtunclBl.png

    It's thousands of feet tall.

    Vladimir surveys the landscape. "What is this place?"

    "A place beyond the fabrics of reality, beyond alternate Earths and the astral plane, a darkness beyond darkness where shadows are meaningless because light does not exist," Strange says. "Gaze upon Dormammu. A creature your father tried to make a deal with."

    "What did Dormammu want?"

    "What Dormammu always wants, to consume all existence and bring all that is into all that is-not. Dormammu is entropy itself. Or more accurately, the Event Horizon of entropy, the very edge of what can exist that hungers to pull things beyond the edge, beyond which nothing can ever be.

    "Dormammu is the edge. He is the event horizon. Beyond him lies nothingness. Oblivion."

    "What did my Father want?"

    "His mother," Strange says.

    "I don't understand," Vlad says.

    "The Von Dooms have been occultists for generations. Victor's mother, Cynthia, was one such occultist, and apparently she made some kind of bargain with Dormammu of her own in her lifetime. I don't know all the details, but this deal cost Cynthia her life, and now her soul, her essence, is bound to Dormammu.

    "Victor wanted her back. He was just a wounded man who wanted his mother back, and he was willing to make a deal with an extra-dimensional cosmic horror to do it. You know what he promised Dormammu? Earths. Not this Earth, Doom would never sell out his own world, what would be the point of getting his mother back then?

    "Alternate worlds.

    "He would kill billions of billions to get one person he loves back. That's how Victor operates. That's what shortcuts to power look like. And you know what the most insane part is? Dormammu refused because Doom couldn't actually deliver.

    "I caught Victor in the library desperately trying to read up on the Arcana of Reality, the most powerful and difficult of Arcana we reserve for only the Master Sorcerers, trying to find a way to do this. The others wanted him expelled but I took pity on a poor gypsy boy with the scarred face who would sell out entire worlds just to get his beloved mother back.

    "I have come to see that as a mistake. I should have kicked him out then."

    "I disagree," Vlad says.

    "That's nice." The vision ends. They are returned to the Sanctum. Vlad notices that Faiza is standing there, shaking, terrified. She is pale.

    Strange looks at her. "Wait. You were...sitting there. Were you...." he pauses. "Ms. Hussein, only a sorcerer could have seen that vision, only a sorcerer has an awakened astral eye that permits them to see such things.

    "Ms. Hussein, are you a sorcerer?"

    She looks at Strange, and then Vlad. And then back at Strange.

    "I...I'm an archivist. I've archived a lot of mystical tomes working for SHIELD and I've...I've read a lot of them and I've....practiced some things and..." she stammers. "I mean I can't do anything exciting...N-nothing like...."

    Strange grumbles and rubs his temples. "Oh for...."

    Faiza looks at Vlad. "...can I go back to the tower? I don't think I should do field operations."

    "This isn't a field operation, this is the path to power.” Vlad clenches his fist. “You have unlocked this in yourself and you must push yourself to follow your destiny. It seems you have taken some ‘shortcuts’ with the aid of SHIELD and, now, the good Doctor. Stay, learn with me." Vlad smiles.

    Strange glowers at Vlad, then looks at Faiza "You should stay, Ms. Hussein. I can...contextualize some of the things you saw."

    Faiza nods meekly "O-okay, if you think so."

    Strange narrows his eyes at Vladimir. "Vladimir, I assume that given your...nature, that your father did end up using his mad plan to just upload arcane knowledge into a mind directly, since you wouldn't even need a special neural interface to do so. It's just a... file transfer. Is that right?"

    Victorious nods. "Indeed. I am the point of technological and arcane convergence."

    Strange makes a face like Vlad farted in church. "You understand there's six Major Arcana that define sorcery. How many schools of Arcana, and which ones, did he... upload?"

    "At present, I wield the Power and Space Arcana," Vlad says. "Behold."

    8BJpsvXl.png

    Strange just looks at Vlad and sighs. "Well, at least Victor did it in the right order....all right, look, there's an order to the way you learn the Arcana. It goes Power, Space, Time, Mind, Soul, then Reality. You learn it in that order.

    "Instead of wasting a bunch of my energy trying to test how much you actually know about Power and Space to see if Victor did his upload properly, I'm going to assume Victor knows what he's doing with technology and just... move on.

    "In fact, I think Time is the perfect Arcana to teach you about patience and the value of not taking shortcuts. So I will teach you the Time Arcana, but you will learn it properly, like an actual sorcerer, not the way Victor just gave you the knowledge.

    "Do you agree to this?"

    Vlad slowly nods "Very well."

    "Good. Ms. Hussein, since you've managed to somehow stumble your way into the arcane arts unsupervised in some SHIELD backroom, would you like to learn how to wield sorcery properly? You'd start with the Power Arcana, like any initiate."

    Faiza rubs her arm nervously and shuffles her feet. "Uh... I... I should... maybe clear this? This wasn't my mission, I was just an observer, and..." She looks at Vlad. She's not sure what to do.

    "This was never a mission,” Vlad says. “Follow this path with me, Faiza. Follow your destiny."

    "Uhhhh.... okay? Okay." She stands up straight, a little more confident. "Alright."

    Strange nods "Good."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    g3xuawl.png


    sM6uHRGl.jpg


    Sensate and Flashback are in the Zephyr, heading to the SHIELD base codenamed "Getaway," which is now the Azores installation that leads to Attilan.

    "Y'ever get a weird feeling that you're missing out on something kinda bad?" Elise asks. "Like a goose is just walkin' over your grave?"

    "Any time I'm leaving Peter and Longbow unsupervised, yes."

    "Oh my God,” Elise says, “don't even bring Longbow up, I still have to figure out how to let him down easy."

    "....wait, what?"

    "He's into me, it's like, it's fine, I guess? I'm just... I'm gay? I mean, I'm having hideous luck with the ladies lately."

    Flashback stares, horrified.

    "What,” Elise starts to yell. "Just because I'm gay -"

    She stops for a moment. This is the second time Elise has seen this facial expression from someone. Hand reacted this way too. Not just concerned but, like, genuinely afraid.

    "What?!"

    Agent Monroe takes a deep breath. "Have you...talked to Bob?"

    "Huh? Yeah, a little. Like, he seems fine," Elise says. "Fine-ish. We both like shitty music and bad jokes."

    "I don't... I don't talk to him very much outside of missions or reviews," Flashback says. "Because of the... do you not know?"

    "He's from another world?" Elise tilts her head. "Dude, I was knocked out during his onboarding process, remember? The turbo cancer?"

    "...oh god." Flashback yells up to the cockpit. "IZZY! IZZY, PUT ON THE AUTOPILOT!"

    Kane puts on the autopilot and walks back to the cabin where Elise and Jenny are. "What's up?"

    Elise’s eyes dart between the two of them. "What. Is. Going. On?!"

    "Elise doesn't know about Bob," Flashback says.

    Kane squints. "Good." She nods at Elise. "I don't trust that guy either."

    "What?! What do I not know?!" Elise says.

    Jenny shakes her head. "No, Izzy, she doesn't know."

    "...oh fuck." Kane's face goes blank. "I need to...fly...the plane. In case we run into...the ocean."

    Elise thins her lips, pulls out a joint and a lighter, and flicks the light on. "I'm going to smoke this, inside the Zephyr. It's not even good weed. It's skunky as fuck."

    Kane wordlessly reaches over and snatches the joint out of Elise's mouth and walks away.

    "Hey! That was like, twenty bucks!"

    Jenny says "Okay, Elise."

    "That's my medicine!" Elise shouts down at the cockpit.

    Jennifer heaves a sigh. "Bob is from an alternate universe. He's from an alternate universe where HYDRA rules the Earth. He's that universe's Clint Barton. Hawkeye. He's HYDRA Hawkeye. He's a Nazi, Elise."

    Elise breaks out into peals of laughter. "Okay! You got me. That was good. That was good."

    She looks closer. Jenny's not joking.

    "That was good." Elise repeats, this time more desperately. "You're. You're even hiding that you're joking from me. Because - because you'd have to be -"

    "I'll explain, because you missed all of this when you were out," Flashback begins. "The HYDRA Avengers from Bob's universe invaded. Vlad defeated them when he was working for Doom. Doom tortured and killed most of them and just kinda gave Bob to Vlad as a slave? Like, here you go, son, I put a bomb in his brain that will blow up if he disobeys you.

    "And Vlad just put him on his team, which is now my team."

    Elise stares at Flashback.

    "We talked about it when Vlad came back, and we decided...well, Clay decided, to give Bob a chance. Apparently Clay thinks that people shouldn't be judged by their culture and upbringing and homeworld for some reason." Jenny rolls her eyes.

    "Ah," Elise says. "Ahhh. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA -"

    "Ssssh shh relax," Jenny says. "Relax. It's fine."

    "HOW IS IT FINE, A NAZI WANTS TO PUT HIS DICK INTO ME. OH MY GOOOOOOOOOO -"

    "So yeah, about that,” Flashback begins. “I don't talk to Bob, much, at all really. He... seems nice? I guess.

    "But I don't talk to him about his world or his views. Because I can't work with a guy if he's going to go on a big tirade about the Jews or something. So it's just a landmine I don't touch."

    "So you're telling me that Vlad basically recruited a war criminal, and everyone went
    Oh! Wow! You're a war criminal, that's so tragic frowny face!"

    "Yeah, to be fair, I wasn't there for the conversation and Izzy vocally protested, which is why I asked her to come over but she bailed on me like a coward!" She yells that last part down the cabin.

    "So what you're telling me is the next time Robert's like, hey, wink wink, I like the trashpunk thing. If I say, hey, I'm gay. That's, like, a fucken bomb."

    "Maybe?" Jennifer shrugs. "It's a potential bomb."

    Elise pulls out her phone and texts Vlad six angry faces.

    "Oh god you're not calling him are you...."

    "NO he's at HOGWARTS," Elise says, thinking she meant Vlad. "I'm just sending him angry faces. And I'm NOT going to talk to a NAZI."

    "Do you want me to talk to him? I'm his boss, and I can take him in a fight."

    "Ugh, no." Elise makes a face. "You know what, I'll handle it. I'll just make sure Michael or someone's around."

    "Good call," Flashback says. "He's... crafty. I saw him kill a spider from across the break-room with a paper-clip."

    Elise continues to angrily tap angry faces into her phone. "Yeah, well, I'm like, the most powerful sensate Inhuman something something, so. He'll have to deal."

    "Good," Jenny says firmly. "Just to be clear, if it's him or you, I choose you, and I think all of STRIKE is on that side."

    "If they aren't, I'm going to take a shit in the vents at the A tower."

    Jenny nods.

    Kane comes on over the Zephyr's in-ship comm. "We're approaching the Getaway."

    Jenny makes jazz hands. "Oh, thanks Captain Chickenshit."

    "I want my joint back!" Elise howls down the hallway.

    They arrive at the Getaway. It's now a proper SHIELD base. Elise saw it before, a small secluded ruin. It now looks like a military base.

    They leave the Zephyr. As Elise and Jenny start down the ramp, Kane quietly hands Elise her joint back and whispers "Never on my plane."

    Elise spite-lights the joint, takes a massive draw, and then coughs for three solid minutes.

    They head down the ramp and into the base camp. Elise looks around approvingly. "Y'know, when I went on my suicide run to this place, I really didn't expect it to go so well. Or for me to have to do so much got dang diplomacy."

    "From what I hear, it went super well." Flashback's eyebrows waggle.

    "What are you doing, with the eyebrows," Elise says warily. "Whatcha getting at."

    "I've heard things. It's not a big office."

    "UUUUGH,” Elise moans. “Don't talk about it in Attilan. It's kind of forbidden for the princess to settle down with someone who can't pump her full of grade-A baby batter. So I gotta figure out if I wanna be, like, a fuckin' consort or something. It sucks ass."

    "Oh. I'm sorry."

    "Yeah, well, we're still friends," Elise says. "Which is why we're doing this mission to help Attilan."

    "Yeah. Let's roll."

    They move up to the fold-gate; they already having clearance to enter, since Clay called ahead and set it all up. Everything's all cleaned up from the last time Elise was here. No jungle vines all over things. It looks... official.

    The pair enter the fold-gate. Elise hates fold-gates. She shuts down her sense as best as she can as she steps through, and she still wants to puke when she lands on the other side.

    Jenny does. “HUUUUAAA -”

    Elise gently pats her on the back. "I know. It fucking sucks."

    1REX2Eh.jpg

    Two Alpha-Primitive guards approach. They recognize Elise, and nod at her.

    "Whoa. This place is crazy. I read the reports and stuff but still... I... it's a city on the moon made by aliens and... I...." Jenny actually looks taken aback by Attilan.

    "You get used to it," Elise says, trying to be comforting. "Besides, I'm kind of a celebrity around here. We'll get some good treatment, y'know? Think of it as a vacay. Just, hey...don't bring up any of the...stuff. Going on with the Watchdogs and Sentinels and..." she scowls. "We're trying to... uh. It's delicate."

    "Yeah, of course," Jenny nods. "So, okay, Clay said our best bet was to talk to the Princess about like...their history. You introduce me as your nerdy-ass friend who cares about this stuff, because it would ring false coming from you.

    "And none of that is a lie, because...I genuinely want to know the history of this place and our people. These people. I...." She keeps looking up at the buildings.

    "Hey, if you're one of us, that's cool. I'll keep that under my hat,” Elise offers. "If you don't wanna talk about that, that's cool too."

    "Well no yeah like, I'm supposed to talk about it," Jenny clarifies. "So that I'm not treated like an outsider."

    PHU1KZN.png
    I think Elise may not have been entirely clear on the fact that Flashback is an Inhuman.

    "I still feel like a fuckin' outsider here. I dunno. I'm not sure Attillan is... what I thought it was going to be, at one point." Elise shrugs. "Whatever. Let's just go."

    "Okay."

    They head into the city.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    g3xuawl.png

    Julian, Clay, and Miles are headed to the docks in New York. Clay is driving. "So, about Roman..."

    "Yeah?" Miles says.

    "He was kind of like our equivalent to Kane. The guy who drove us around. We just called him the Sub-Mariner. He didn't really go with us on missions. Like Kane he mostly sat in the boat and waited for us. As you've probably figured out by now, the fact that's still alive and kicking means he's probably not a normal human. He's...not.

    "I don't... I don't actually know what Roman's deal is, to be quite frank. He's got an accent I can't place, when I ask him what it is he just says it's 'Atlantic.' Nowadays if a person was that dodgy about their past I wouldn't trust them. "But I literally fought a war with this man. The War."

    Myrmidon nods slowly. "How did you get a hold of him? And why is he helping us? Just for the sake of a guy he drove around in his bus sixty years ago?"

    "He showed up to Jim's funeral in ‘72. I genuinely thought he was dead before that. After that we kept in touch. He was one of the groomsmen at my last wedding." Clay stops. He shifts uncomfortably. "He's doing this for me and for Jim. This is one of those...for the old gang things, you know? Brotherhood and all that.

    "I could probably get Steve to come along if I could man up the bravery to pick up the phone and call him."

    "There wouldn't be any problems with that?" Julian asks from the back seat. "No other assignments he's on? Let's do it."

    "Jesus god no,” Clay blanches. “Nick would literally murder me."

    Miles tilts his head. "The bravery? What are you afraid of, Clay? Just...old business?"

    "Just confronting old ghosts, mate."

    Miles nods at this. That makes sense to him.

    "And telling Steve the truth about me and all of that."

    "Oh, yes,” Miles says. “That would be a whole thing, wouldn't it."

    "Steve's a man out of time. So far as he knows, all of his old friends are dead and he's felt that way for years. To find out me and Roman are still alive and just...haven't called him would be a lot on the man. Steve Rogers knew James Falsworth. He never knew Clay Quartermain. I'm literally a different person now."

    Miles thinks about this. "You could record him a 'last message' as...Falsworth, and someone could 'find' it, and it could be like oh hey, here's my buddy Clay, you guys should hang."

    "’He's super cool and rad to hang out with, and he probably likes all the same old tunes I did,’” Julian adds.

    "That.... that gets weird, mate," Clay says. "Trust me, as a man who's been on this world a century, if you try to stay connected to your old lives that way it..." He grips the wheel tightly.

    "I mean, I feel like it's all weird already,” Miles shrugs. “We're at 11 on weird. There's no going up."

    "Like... yeah. I've died a couple times again," Julian says. "People saw it and everything. I don't think it gets weirder."

    "I guess technically I've died twice now too," Miles muses.

    Clay sighs. "Maybe...maybe you guys are right."

    "Don't your people have a bunch of social conventions to deal with this stuff?” Miles asks. “Is it just the place where that shit intersects with human shit that's tricky for you? Look, I don't know, I just think we're all swimming in the deep end already, and your old war buddy is too. It wouldn't hurt anything to reach out except for a few moments of embarrassment, but that passes. I mean, usually it passes."

    Clay looks at Miles. "It's completely different for us. We're not immortal, but our age scale is completely different than yours and our culture is so...I'm going to use the word arrogant, that there's not really a norm for this kind of thing. I've kind of fumbled for a century."

    He parks the car and pulls out his phone. "I...I just need to text Faiza really quick here, just want to check in on her, make sure things are alright. She's not a field agent." He pauses. "She's with Westin so I'm sure she's fine but she's also with Vladimir, so...."

    Julian looks quizzically at Clay. Miles just nods. "Do you really think this...guy...can help Vladimir?"

    Clay continues to tap out a text as he shrugs at Miles. "Help? I have no idea. Set straight is my hope. Strange is, in some ways, like our mystical equivalent. It's why SHIELD doesn't really have a magic division. We stay out of his lane. So my hope is that he gets Vladimir on a... more even keel. You hear the way he talks nowadays. The way he talked today. About power."

    Julian interjects from in back. "Wait, what kind of problem could there be with Faiza? Hanging out with Strange, I mean, she's into magical relics, Strange is a sorcerer. Sounds like a good field trip for her."

    Clay fires off a text and looks back at Julian. "Erm, not a problem, just… Alright, full disclosure, Faiza's my adopted daughter. Her parents worked for me at MI-13, they got killed on an op I authorized, which I blamed myself for, she was going to end up in the foster system, I felt guilty, so I adopted her."

    "Oh, wow," Julian says. "Wait. How does that...? Does she... Did she know?"

    "Yes. She knew before all of you. She knew many years ago. And when she found out, unlike Victoria, she didn't opt out of knowing which...to be honest, thank god, I don't think I could have done it.

    "She worked for MI-13 for a few years and then when my secret got out at SHIELD and it just...didn't matter anymore and I didn't think she was going to be an op-sec risk I said fuck it. Pulled some strings and had her come work in COMMS. She's... not... very good at op-sec. She's very good at being quiet but she's an awful liar."

    Miles grins. "Hah, well, she's in fine company."

    "So naturally I didn't want her anywhere near my workplace. Until it didn't matter anymore and then, well.” He shrugs.

    "A daughter,” Miles muses. “And you mentioned your 'most recent' marriage. Interesting. I guess I'd pictured you as some kind of weird spider living in one bunker after another for the last hundred years. I mean, even when I thought you were human.

    "You just don't seem like the personal life sort of guy."

    Clay nods. "I was like that for the first twenty years I lived here. Gets lonely."

    "What happened to the marriages? Got any, uh, irons in the fire there?"

    "Jesus Christ, Mason," Clay groans. "Did Vision upload a shard of Elise in you."

    Julian laughs.

    “Well, you know, I'm getting used to the whole being human thing myself," Miles points out.

    "I have outlived my human relationships, sadly. Just a fact of life of differing lifespans," Clay says. "To be honest, Mason, that's a thing you might have to come to terms with."

    "Maybe, but I've got to try. I mean...look, I was pretty fucky even before my, my disability. I was already not someone who could just...fit back into normal society. So this isn't just about the whole synthetic body thing. Truth be told, I feel more like a person this way than I did before I got hurt. And I want to hold on to that as long as I can. I don't want to be a fuckin', nexus of power,” Miles clenches his fist. “I don't want to lose sight of what matters again."

    Clay nods. "Good."

    "Hm. I... Huh. I wonder how this whole...Phoenix thing will affect my longevity. Are we all... like, in this car, are we all basically immortal? Or...Very long lived, at least. Technically, one day, maybe we'll all be consumed!"

    "...okay!" Clay gets out of the car. Julian has a good chuckle, and he and Miles get out of the car and follow Clay to the end of the docks.

    "Anyway, Mason to answer your baroque question, no I do not have any 'irons in the fire,’" Clay says. "The last relationship I had ended with me memory wiping her, so, you know, there's that. Sort of put a sour note on my love life for a bit."

    "Wait...that was Victoria?" Miles does mental arithmetic. "Isn't she a..." Miles does more mental arithmetic. "Whoa."

    Julian sucks his teeth.

    "Look....I am a spy and a shapeshifter. My life is complicated, mate."

    "But she's okay now, right? Have you talked to her? I mean...I'm not saying she could stand to get laid, but..."

    He is totally saying she could stand to get laid.

    "We work together," Clay says. "I see her in the office."

    "Did you not before?” Miles points out. “She spends half her time in the field now, right? I'm just saying, man. Team building."

    Clay squints at him. He looks at the water. "Roman where the fuck are you...."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    Almost on cue, a strange sub emerges from the water.

    cTOfPTWl.jpg

    "Whoa!" Julian stares.

    The sub pulls around to the edge of the dock, and rises up. A field envelops the immediate area around the sub and the dock the three men are standing on. It looks like a bubble of displaced air.

    "Cloaking field," Clay says. "People outside it can't see us or the sub."

    Phoenix nods. "Coooool."

    A hatch opens on the strange sub, and a man emerges and stands on the surface of the hull.

    BHMaEdFl.jpg

    "Hello, old friend."

    Clay smiles warmly. "Roman!" he exclaims.

    The man with the trident puts up a hand. "Please, Roman Mackenzie was a cover name, like you have used. I am Namor, as has always been my true name."

    Miles looks at Julian and cocks an eyebrow, like wow, are you seeing this? Julian looks back at Miles and nods. Those abs, he thinks.

    Clay actually chuckles. "Your true name is Namor and your cover name was Roman? Were you that uncreative back in the 40's, mate?"

    "Go fuck yourself, James." Namor smiles.

    "It's Clay nowadays, goes with this face," Clay says as he laughs.

    Namor shrugs "Of course it is. Right then, all aboard," Namor says to Miles and Julian. "This is a small craft, but we will all fit."

    Clay steps on the hull of the sub. The two look at each other, and Namor extends his hand and says "Do you still not hug?"

    Clay laughs and hugs the man.

    "Thanks for the lift, Namor," Miles says as he clambers inside.

    The sub doesn't look like it was designed anywhere on Earth. The interior looks alien. There are seats and the basic functionality is understandable. There's a pilot's seat and consoles but that's where a lot of the similarities end.

    Julian climbs in. "Wow." He takes in the general…look of this interior, and shivers a bit.

    Namor and Clay climb inside, and Namor seals up the ship. They submerge.

    Clay looks around the inside of the ship. "So...Namor....what uh...planet are you from again?"

    "Earth."

    Clay nods. "Yeah...okay." He looks at Miles and Julian. "Okay. Yeah."

    "But this technology isn't, right?” Miles asks. “It's from...man, it'd be hilarious if it was from Neptune."

    "It is from this world," Namor says simply. "It is just not yours."

    Clay squints at Namor. He looks at Miles and Julian

    Miles continues. "How many other civilizations are living here, anyway?"

    Namor looks back at Miles. "Besides humans, you mean?"

    "Sure. Besides the people I would have read about in my World Book Encyclopedia. We have aliens, magic stuff....Inhumans."

    "It would depend," Namor says. "How do you define living here? If you count only those physically on this planet, there are 3."

    Clay blinks "Wait... wait Namor what."

    "The number, it becomes larger if you count those who are not physically on this world but are connected to this world," Namor continues. "Because then this includes Asgardians and all manner of mad things." Namor waves dismissively.

    Clay stares at Julian and Miles.

    "Three?” MIles asks. “Are you...one of the other two?"

    "Huh," Julian says.

    "There are my people,” Namor says, “there are the people of Orollan, and there are the Lemurians. Do you not know this? Are you not SHIELD? You work for Nick Fury's son, how do you not know this?” Namor shrugs dismissively.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Nick Fury’s son?

    Julian does a light backhanded tap on Miles and makes a little hand gesture between them, like, "What the fuck, right?" Miles nods.

    "If you do choose to count those who are merely connected to Earth then it gets absurd. There is Asgard, Attilan, Thule, K'un Lun, Kamar-Taj, it just gets absolutely preposterous." Namor sighs as he steers his submarine.

    Miles turns to Clay. "Is every planet like this? Did...Skrullotron have a bunch of lost civilizations and moon men and alien gods hovering overhead in spaceships that looked like your culture's retro art?"

    Clay shakes his head. "No. But we were also cultural imperialists and our original homeworld was devoured by Galactus. So....” Clay looks at Namor. "Can we bring it back to who your people are, Namor? The people who built this?"

    Namor shrugs. "I'm from Atlantis. I am king."

    "WHAT." Miles stares. "WHAT." Clay stares too.

    "So... King of Atlantis," Julian says. "Wow."

    "Yes."

    "Wait,” Miles says. “The Atlantis? That's fucking...that's wild. I thought I had this shit figured out. I totally thought I'd seen three steps ahead. There's Attilan, right? And I thought, oh, obviously that's the secret origin of the Atlantis myth - Plato misheard 'Attilan' a couple thousand years ago and mixed it up with other shit....and now you're telling me nope, Atlantis is real. Is it real? Are you all Greek?"

    "No. I do speak Greek."

    PHU1KZN.png
    I love thinking through the implications of a superhero universe where every myth, legend, or even just old pulp novel is secretly actually true and inspired by some real alien species who are still alive and well in the Himalayas or at the bottom of the ocean or whatever. How well do all these hidden cities and crashed aliens know each other? Do they exchange Zeusmas cards.

    "So... You're king, and you're coming to pick us up personally? That's...really cool, actually,” Julian says. "I feel pretty special. I'm going to rate this ride 5 stars."

    Namor actually looks back at Julian. "Jim Hammond was a comrade. He was as a brother to me. As Clay is. We shed blood on the battlefield together."

    Miles nods. "I've just learned that I'm...related to Hammond, in a sense."

    Namor seems to type a few things into the sub's console. Some kind of auto-pilot? He gets up and walks over to Miles, sitting across from him. "Explain."

    "I'm synthetic. I wasn't always - I'm human in here - " Miles taps his head - "but my consciousness moved into this body. Which, I've just learned, was constructed with Phineas Horton's technology."

    Namor nods. "I see. You are kin, in a way. That's why you are here, to learn about him, and yourself." Namor looks at Julian. "And you? What's your stake in this? Or are you just the muscle? Are you like Banner? Do you become a goliath?"

    "No, nothing like that," Julian says. "I play with fire real good, though. I'm just here on assignment." He shoots a glance at Clay. So uh, was there a particular reason you were bringing me along? I'm appreciative of the chance to see some rocking abs, anyway.

    Clay frowns. ....well, that sure was a telepathic transmission.

    How is that possible at his age? Julian thinks. So crazy.

    I mean he's not human so who knows. Still, that takes wo- God damn it Adler, this is why I brought you. Clay folds his arms. You are a telepathic loose cannon. You know how I sent Vlad to Strange to set him on the right path with sorcery? I'm now your telepathic Mr. Miyagi.

    Oh, so I'm stuck with you? Julian asks.

    Not always in the field, but for now, yes.

    Hahahaha. More like you're stuck with me. Sorry.

    Clay shivers. Visibly. "Namor how far are we to the AO?"

    Namor looks at some strange dial. "Not far now. The cloaking device will conceal our approach and surfacing, but once we arrive, it will all be on us to use stealth. Clay, can any of your people turn invisible?"

    Clay looks at the two agents. "I don't think they can?"

    Namor sighs. "Don't you have people who turn invisible? Like that gorgeous woman with the Future Foundation. You should have brought those people. Or her."

    Clay grumbles.

    "We've worked with her, but we, uh, we're keeping the circle small on this one." Miles shrugs. "Anyway, I don't turn invisible, but I do fly."

    "Have you?" Namor is suddenly intrigued.

    Clay snaps his fingers at him. Namor scowls. "I am King, don't do that to me."

    Julian and Miles laugh. It’s happening to someone else!

    Clay tightens his jaw. "I am the Crown Prince of the Skrull Empire, suck my dick." The two stare at each other. And then laugh. "Alright, alright, let's go."

    Phoenix elbows Myrmidon. "Great powers clash before us, Miles."

    The sub begins to surface, and the hatch opens.

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

    ivKpMFL.jpg

    Michael and Kaecilius are in the archive. While Michael stares at the vast collection of ancient tomes, rotting scrolls, and leather-bound grimoires, Kaecilius begins pulling books down. They are mostly written in Old English, Norwegian, Norse runes.

    And then eventually, a type of runic language that Michael has seen before, in Asgard.

    "The Doctor told me that you carry the Destroyer armor," Kaecilius says. "I've done extensive reading on the subject."

    Michael nods. "What have you learned?

    "Your armor is made of a metal that the Asgardians call 'Uru.' It is not of this Earth, it's material that is Celestial in origin. I am not certain how much you know of the Celestials, or Asgardian true history.

    “It was forged by King Bor, the first King of the Asgardians, in the Hyborian Age. He created the armor not as protection, but as containment.

    "There's a powerful energy that the Destroyer calls upon, that isn't of Asgard at all. The Asgardians call it the 'Fire of Surtr,' but we know it to be something else.

    "It's known as the Power Cosmic, the primal force of the universe itself."

    "I knew of all but that last bit. The Power Cosmic?"

    "The Power Cosmic is the core energy of the reality that unmakes itself." Kaecilius picks up a coin and drops it. "Gravity is a law." He picks up the coin again, but this time when he drops it, he holds his hand out in a mystical gesture and it hovers. "Sorcery is one of many ways in which reality is violated.

    “Rules are broken. Breaking those rules is like breaking the bonds between atoms. It requires energy. Power. The Power Cosmic is the centerpoint of all energy that unbinds reality's laws. Galactus channels the Power Cosmic into his Heralds, who can wield it in his name to find planets for him to consume."

    "Was the Destroyer supposed to be for one of these Heralds?" Michael asks.

    "The Destroyer was a Herald at one time, in the Hyborian Age. The Fire-Lord. A being of pure fire and power cosmic. The Fire-Lord was slain by the Asgardians. King Bor harnessed the Power Cosmic from the Fire-Lord's remains, and bound it in Uru, and created the Destroyer Armor as a weapon."

    Behemoth nods. "So it was powered by the soul of a dead Herald of Galactus?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    The ancient Fire-Lord is a riff on Firelord, who is an actual present-day Marvel character and former herald of Galactus like the Silver Surfer.

    "Yes, that's correct." Kaecilius begins reading some of the books as he speaks to Michael. "The Asgardians lost the Destroyer Armor sometime after the Hyborian Age. The records aren't clear how.

    “The Sorcerer Supreme has long searched for it, because there's always been a concern that its binding to people, its usage, could potentially send a signal to Galactus. That in a way, the Asgardians only staved off Galactus."

    "I have another question,” Michael says. “Have you heard of 'The Odinforce'?"

    "Yes. It is the source of Odin's powers. He draws upon Celestial energy from Yggdrasil, the 'World Tree.' He can only do so for centuries at a time, and then must enter the Odinsleep and essentially hibernate to recover."

    "Is Celestial energy equivalent to the Power Cosmic?"

    Kaecilius nods. "More or less, yes. In the sense that all kinds of fire are fire."

    Michael lets out a quick sigh of relief.

    "I will say, it did concern us, when we were told you have the Destroyer armor,” Kaecilius says. “We were concerned that you could potentially have summoned Galactus upon this world. The only omen more grim would be the presence of the Phoenix Force."

    Michael channels all his anxiety about not spilling the beans into tapping his right big toe frantically. "Uh yeah, that would really suck."

    Kaecilius stares at Michael. "Is...is the Phoenix Force on Earth?"

    Behemoth sucks his teeth. "Maaaaaaaaybe?"

    Kaecilius closes the book with a loud thud. "I see." He begins putting books hurriedly on the shelves. "I need to speak to the Doctor. Thank you for your time. Take any hallway, you will find your way out." He walks away.

    “Buh -” Michael stares after him.

    Elsewhere in the Sanctum, Strange is explaining the manipulations of Time itself to Vladimir while Faiza looks over a tome on the Power Arcana.

    Kaecilius walks into the room. He looks terrified. "Doctor. The Phoenix Force is here. On Earth. SHIELD knew."

    "Julian?" Vlad looks at Strange.

    Strange looks at Vladimir, annoyed. "You know his name? Of course you would. God damn you, Fury."

    Victorious shrugs. "I assumed you knew."

    "I did not," Strange bites out. "Fury kept this from me."

    Victorious nods. "The Devourer is coming."

    "You thought I was told?" Strange asks.

    "Yes."

    "Then you're innocent." He hands Vlad a book. "Read this and wait. Where's the Destroyer?"

    Kaecilius looks nervously. "I... told him to leave I thought..."

    Strange growls and makes a gesture and Michael suddenly walks into the room. That is not where he thought that hallway led.

    "What the-"

    Strange hands Michael a... remote? And snaps his fingers. A cabinet slides back and a TV appears. "Wait for me to come back. I have Netflix."

    "Where are you going?" Michael asks.

    "To talk to Nick Fury."

    "Uhhhh, can I explain things first so I don't get fired?” Michael shudders. “Especially into the Sun?"

    "No. I have quite enough of being explained to today. Now I ask questions." He slides on a gold ring, and makes a circular hand gesture. He opens a portal, like the kind Vlad makes.
    On the other end, Michael can see Nick Fury sitting in his office on the Helicarrier, smoking a cigar with his feet on the desk.

    Strange bellows "FURY!"

    Fury looks at Strange. "Motherfu-..."

    Strange steps through the portal and it closes.

    Vlad looks at Behemoth for an explanation.

    "I miiiight have let slip that the Phoenix was on Earth."

    "I told them of Galactus. I was under the assumption they knew." Vlad pauses. "Strange is patronizing."

    Faiza looks at Vlad and Michael. "We're in trouble, aren't we?"

    Victorious shakes his head. "I doubt it, but you least of all, if so."

    "Okay..." she quietly reads her book.

    Vlad gets a text message. It contains many angry faces.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    g3xuawl.png


    1REX2Eh.jpg

    Elise and Jenny are led to the palace by Alpha-Primite guards.

    They encounter Gorgon. Gorgon nods at the pair, and smiles at Elise. "Princess Crystalia will be glad to see you."

    Elise smiles back, looking tired. "Hey. How is she doing?"

    "Morose," he says frankly. "I hope you can improve her mood."

    "I'll try."

    He nods. "She's in there, watching Earth media."

    Elise takes a deep breath, steels herself, and enters Crystalia's chamber.

    As she and Jenny enter, she hears a TV blasting audio and... Crystalia singing? She's singing... Part of Your World. From The Little Mermaid.

    Elise looks at Jenny and mouths: "Help."

    Jenny freezes. She looks at Elise. She whispers "You're on your own." She walks out.

    "COWARD!" Elise buttons up her shirt a few more buttons and then walks in. "H-Hey Crys - I uh, you got some music going on?"

    "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" Crystalia lightning-bolts her television.

    "You know, yeah, I thought the Little Mermaid was a little weak too." Elise is floundering. This is why she wanted to go with Vlad!

    "Ahahaha... haaha... ha." Crystalia tries to regain her composure. "Hello, Elise."

    Elise nervously pats down her hair, trying to make it look a little more presentable and a little less wild. "Are...you okay?"

    "I'm.... fine. I guess." She is not fine.

    "Hey. Hey. Come here. You're getting a hug."

    Crystalia leans into that hug, and starts crying.

    "C'mon, Crys, talk to me. What's up?"

    "I just... I watch. I read. All of these things. About what's happening on Earth to our people."

    Elise starts stroking Crys's hair. "Hey. Hey, I know. It's... it's really rough. I don't know, I just, I..." She's thinking about the Age of Inhumans.

    "I want to go before the United Nations," Crystalia sniffles. "I want Attilan to go public. We have so much space, Elise! We have like, entire city blocks we don't even use! Attilan has a zero percent homelessness rate.

    "And the thing is, we can just use the engines to create more folded space. The city can get bigger. It wasn't always this big, it was a small base once. We made it into a city and we could make it into a country. And it's not like it would eat up the whole Moon, you know? It's folded space."

    "I, I know. I know. You have a really big heart, and I get why you want to help. I know. But this stuff takes time, y'know? And you're only hearing the bad things." Elise looks at her. "I was an Inhuman before the Dust and I got along fine for a long time."

    Elise did not get along fine for a long time.

    "I just...I feel powerless, like one of the Flatscans. And that is awful to say. I feel awful saying it. But it makes me realize how lucky I've had it, you know? I've always had power, since I was basically born, even before Terrigenesis I was still a princess."

    PHU1KZN.png
    The term “Flatscan” originated in 90s X-Men comics as a slur referring to non-mutants. Repurposing it to apply to non-Inhumans is perfectly cromulent.

    "Yeah, but that comes with restrictions, too. You have a role to play in all of this, Crys. So do I. We gotta play our parts. That's why we can't... y'know. Be together." Elise looks away at this. "But if we do this right, and we take our time, it'll... lead to an actual, long term alliance between Attilan and Earth. Both worlds, together."

    Crystal clears her throat softly. "That's not...that's not completely true, you know. Us, I was talking to Maximus."

    Elise feels her heart starting to slam against her ribs. "O-oh?"

    "Okay so uh.... it's.... it's like this see...." Crystal searches for the right words. "The King and Queen aren't allowed to have children. It's forbidden by the Genetic Council. Not like, the King and Queen in general, but my sister and King Agar. Because the Genetic Council did the calculations and such a child would basically be like...." She makes exploding motions with her hands and accompanying sound effects, with little lightning crackles for emphasis.

    "Uh-huh." Elise's mouth is very, very dry. "R-right."

    "So they can't produce an heir. So normally, when the King dies, it would go to his next of kin in the ruling House of Agon, which is his brother Maximus," Crystalia says. "But Maximus is a Flatscan. He doesn't...have any powers. He went into the Mists and nothing happened.

    "So the politics of Attilan, he'd never be allowed to be King, so it'd go to the next in the House of Agon which is...ugh, messy family tree stuff and it could trigger a huge....Well, have you watched Game of Thrones? That, but with powers.

    "But!

    "If Maximus had a child who wasn't a Flatscan, that child would automatically be named the King or Queen. House Amaquelin wouldn't stand for just being cut out of the ruling house like that, they invested a lot into the marriage between my sister and the King, so....

    "Basically, if I agreed to marry Maximus and bear him a child, we would get to be Regents, and our child would be King or Queen, and he wouldn't like...ask anything of me as a spouse. He wouldn't care. I could have a royal consort. Maximus doesn't love me. He's my brother in law's brother."

    "O-oh," Elise manages, her head spinning. "I mean. That would be...I mean -" Her palms are sweating. She can hear Clay's voice in the back of her head: "Remember that you are an Agent of SHIELD and you work for STRIKE." She... kind of doesn't care? "Wow."

    "Maximus and I wouldn't even have to...." Crystalia starts to say. "We have scientists. All that matters is our genes. I would still have to carry the child, which...ugh. But fine."

    That's kind of horrifying, Elise thinks, before that thought is subsumed by I'm standing very close to a girl who wants to be with me??? "I, I, I really like you, Crys," she manages.

    "I love you, Elise."

    Elise takes Crys's hands. "...Yeah. Yeah, I love you too. Fuck it! Fuck it, let's do it. This sounds... this sounds like the perfect solution!"

    Clay will probably be fine with this. He'll probably be happy! It's diplomacy!

    Crys grabs Elise and kisses her. "Okay, okay. We won't make any official announcements yet, so don't tell anyone except like, your closest friends and confidants. I'll tell Maximus, he'll do all the planning. There's a ceremony for royal consort, Elise. You're not just a 'side-chick,' you're a person recognized at court as someone I love."

    "I wouldn't just be a dirty secret? I'd..." Elise can't stop smiling.

    "No! You'd get to stand next to me and my husband at royal functions and things!"

    "Oh my God this is perfect, I love you so much and we can go to New York and I'll take you to every steakhouse and -" Elise starts giggling.

    "Okay, well, I have stuff to do, I'm going to tell Maximus! I'm so happy!" She runs off.

    Elise spins and giggles and prances back out to find Flashback.

    Flashback and Gorgon are standing outside talking. Crystal jumps up and kisses Gorgon on the cheek, and runs off. Gorgon is a little bewildered, but looks over at Elise, shrugs, and gives a thumbs up. Elise shoots him finger guns and a grin.

    Flashback looks at Elise. "So... are we good?"

    "We're great."

    The two of them walk away from Gorgon as Crystal takes off to another part of the palace.
    Flashback looks at Elise "Did you uhhhhh....." She makes a vulgar hand gesture.

    "NO. We committed to each other in an act of chaste love." Elise seemingly turns into an entirely different person when it comes to matters of the heart. She is being...shy?

    "O.... kay...." Jenny nods slowly. "Cool. Cool stuff, kiddo."

    "Yeah." Elise smiles serenely. "What was our mission again? I can't remember. Honestly, it's fine. Everything's fine. I should buy a dress."

    "...uh...kay." Flashback’s face freezes. "So, our mission was assessing their technological capabilities And what Attilan can do, as a place. Did you and Crystalia talk about that, perchance?"

    "Oh, uh, no, I was..." Come up with a believable sounding lie. "...Gathering intel on their leadership? I convinced Crys not to take Attilan public at the UN." There, that sounds very impressive.

    "Okay, but did she mention anything about the place's tech? Like can they take control of the satellites or whatever? Like what's the deal with these giant metal robot guys? That wasn't in any of the intel reports."

    "Oh! They can use engines to create basically infinite space!"

    Flashback gapes. "I'm sorry what. That's going in the report. Okay, so, what are these engines."

    "Oh, we didn't really talk about that."

    Flashback sucks her teeth. "Okay."

    "We were talking about... uh, long term leadership for the...stability...of...Attilan?"

    "Sure, yeah. Okay."

    "No, I'm serious!" Elise protests.

    "It's fine. I'm not judging."

    "Do you think I smell like I just had sex? No! I don't! You're fuckin' gross! That was an act of true love I just pulled off!"

    "Alright, okay!" Flashback holds up her hands. "Anyway, we need to find out more about these 'engines.'"

    "I guess! Do you want me to try to do the thing where I open up my senses? When I terrigenesis'd, I could like, see everything."

    Jenny nods. "Yes, perfect, do that."

    "Uh, okay, so I guess I just stand here and -" Elise takes a deep breath of air.

    Too much.

    Everything is too much. Attilan is too different.Too much of everything that is the alien realm of Attilan all at once.

    Elise passes out.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    g3xuawl.png

    The cloaking field is active. The hatch on the sub opens.

    The passengers emerge, and Clay looks at Namor. "You staying with the sub, like old times?"

    Namor shakes his head. "No. For Jim, I am coming with you." He draws his trident.

    Clay puts up a whoa there hand signal. "We're not killing these people, mate."

    Namor shrugs. "Many ways to stab a man that do not kill. Especially if you are skilled."

    Phoenix and Myrmidon stare at him. "Jesus, man," Julian says.

    "....I guess that's technically true," Miles adds.

    Clay looks at Miles. "You call the play here, Mason."

    Namor scowls. "Why? I am king. You are his commander, no?"

    Clay grumbles. "Because he's a field team leader. I'm not a field operative, haven't been for years. I don't step on his toes. Nor will you. Your majesty."

    Namor sighs and looks at Miles. "Very well. Impress me."

    Miles tosses Namor an ICER. "We're going in quietly. Avoid using visible powers for as long as possible. If we seem human, there's that many more people we could be. Julian, you're our psionic radar. Let us know when patrols are coming. Clay, you're better at getting stuff out of people without cooking them, so if you can, try and grab some passwords, camera blind spots, or whatever. Namor, I...I don't know what you can do, big guy."

    Namor nods. He presses a button on one of his pauldrons, and his topless getup shifts into black cargo pants, boots, and a black turtleneck. His trident retracts into a small baton, which he hooks onto his belt. "I can do what must be done."

    Clay rolls his eyes. "He's strong, tough, fast, and back on his bullshit."

    Namor scowls. "I am hydrokinetic as well, Clay."

    "Since when?"

    "’94," Namor answers.

    "How?"

    "Magic."

    Clay looks at the group "....okay, sure. He's also hydrokinetic."

    "Cool, okay,” Miles nods. “Does that let you control the water in people's bodies?"

    "Yes," Namor says. "But I have to touch it. They must bleed."

    Clay grimaces. "Let's... not do that."

    "So like, if you were to make someone bleed, could you use that as a vector to like, water saw them apart or something?" Julian asks.

    "Yes."

    "Wow."

    "That's gnarly," Miles agrees.

    "Okay!" Clay says, growing exasperated.

    Myrmidon turns toward the ladder up. "Let's roll out. Namor, if you have ideas for how to use your hydrokinesis for stealth, that would be great. Otherwise, let's keep the speed and strength and whatnot to ourselves until we have to go loud. Oh, Clay, I guess job number one is locating Hammond."

    Clay nods.

    “If we encounter electronic security, I may be able to interface with it,” Miles says. “I haven't really tried it yet, though."

    "Alright, we good to go?" Namor nods. Clay looks to Miles

    Julian checks his ICER. "Ready."

    Miles nods sharply. "Let's roll."

    The team climbs up the support pylon, leaving the stealth field. They see armed patrols above.

    Clay closes his eyes and seems to be focusing. "I count.... 22 personnel on base, most of them guards, a few are support staff or techs that are studying or cataloguing. Julian..... work with me here. Quietly. I can use you as a... signal boost. Just...open up."

    Julian can feel Clay's presence in his mind, using Julian's telepathic power as amplification to grant the team psionic invisibility. Not true invisibility, but a way to stay out of observers’ conscious perceptions.

    "Okay... wow... that worked." Clay rubs his forehead. "Julian you're a loaded gun, Jesus Christ."

    "...Cool?" Julian says, nonplussed.

    Clay mantles onto the walkway. "Alright, here's the deal. We're telepathically invisible. As long as we're quiet and don't do anything obvious, nobody will notice us even if we walk right by them. We can open doors and things, as long as it's the kind of normal person stuff someone could ignore, they'll ignore it.

    "We can't set off alarms, no weapons fire, explosions. If you touch any of them beyond like, a gentle nudge, it's up. We're ghosts. Cameras can still see us, but the guys watching the cameras basically won't care. We will have to wipe the security recordings."

    Miles nods. "Nice. Now it's my turn." Miles flicks through his vision modes to identify cameras and security systems. "This is disturbingly easy. Security here is, like, old electronics."

    He finds it vaguely terrifying. This is where the US government keeps extranormal materials, and it has the security systems of a 1990s car impound lot.

    Clay sighs. "Yeah, I bet you the guy who runs this place pulls his hair out on budget meetings, because they keep saying 'you're on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, who would break into it.'"

    "I mean... It's true," Julian says. "Only like, a few nigh-undying beings, at which point what is gonna save you?"

    “Hold up.” As Miles searches through his vision systems, he sees a HUGE dip in thermals. "There's something here....something cold, seven or eight feet tall. Cryo-storage, maybe?"

    "Oh shit," Julian says. "I think you found him."

    Clay nods. "That follows. Jim wouldn't actually decay, not like an organic person, but they don't know that. Lead the way."

    The group moves through the oil rig. It's disconcerting to move around like this, just gently stepping around people who don't even notice. Namor seems to think it's enormously amusing and keeps being whispered at by Clay to not mess with them.

    Miles notices that one of the old 90's era progressive scan cameras is...following them.

    Like it's pivoting as they move. It shouldn't be doing that. Because Clay said the guy in the security room shouldn't notice them, and a camera that old wouldn't have motion tracking.

    "Uh, guys?” Miles whispers. “Act casual. Not to alarm you, but that camera is tracking us. Someone or something sees us."

    Clay is baffled. "But... it can't... there's no way anyone here would see us... Unless it was being viewed remotely and controlled by someone not on this rig?"

    It suddenly comes to Myrmidon. ONE. The old tech. "Like the Arsenal AI,” he says grimly. “Which I think has a kind of personal interest in me now."

    ".....shit," Clay breathes.

    “You said it, boss. But we'll let them go loud first. All it knows right now is that me and three people it probably doesn't recognize are creeping around. It doesn't know what we can do. Let's not tip our hand yet."

    Clay nods slowly. "Yeah, all right."

    They continue moving through the facility, and come to the room that has the cold box in it.
    There's a huge locked bulkhead door. It's labelled with a sequence of numbers, but no specific name.

    "Clay?” Miles asks. “Did you pick up a code for this or anything?"

    "I scanned through, yeah. I picked out a code. It was 9999. They're all 9999."

    "Oh my god," Julian says. "That's my luggage code!"

    Miles levers his jaw closed. "Wow. Okay, here goes - " he punches in the code.

    It works? There are no o alarms, at least. The door pops open.

    "Amazing," Miles says.

    On the other side is a glassy-coffin-shaped containment unit. Inside it is a man in a red jumpsuit, lying serenely with his eyes closed.

    Ou7iAwkl.png?1

    Clay takes a quick gasp and gulps. Namor tightens his jaw and balls his fists. "That's him."

    Miles stares. "I don't know what I was expecting, but...not just another face in a red jumpsuit."

    Clay sighs. "Alright, well, I think Miles and Namor are strong enough to carry.... This. It looks self-contained, like it's not really running off the facility."

    MIles gingerly tests the coffin's weight. He picks it up, careful not to rip out any tubes or lines or whatever leading into it. Doesn't want to set off any pressure alarms.

    Namor shushes everyone and jerks his head to the side. "Radar alert from my sub. Incoming. Five bogies, coming this way. Supersonic speed."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Ffff,” Miles hisses. “Well, we knew that was coming. Can your sub get directly underneath us? Why fight when we can just blast our way down and out?"

    Namor looks at Miles "I don't have an autopilot, but I will retrieve it and get to you, rather than bringing Jim to it. Hold them off." Namor runs back out of the room and jumps off the side of the rig.

    "Miles, you can fly, right?" Clay asks.

    Miles nods. "Totes McGroats."

    "Your priority is getting Jim on the sub when Namor gives you signal. I don't care what else happens. Julian and I will survive and hold them off."

    "I....okay,” Miles says. “Hey, don't do anything crazy, all right? I'll put Jim on the sub and come back to lend a hand. Namor can take him the rest of the way."

    Five thudding impacts shake the oil rig as alarms begin shrieking. A loud, booming, artificial voice comes over the scratchy, muffled speaker. Miles has heard it before. "YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF UNITED STATES LAW AND ARE COMMANDED TO STAND DOWN IMMEDIATELY OR MAXIMUM FORCE WILL BE UTILIZED."

    It's Arsenal.

    Clay nods.

    As they look out the door, the trio see what thudded down.

    wV72Sxwl.jpg

    Sentinel agents in Hammer power armor.

    "Well,” Julian breathes. “I guess we're going to have a bit of fun, then?"

    "Ash'ya k'yhes, makyhena!" Clay yells as he visibly loads armor-piercing rounds into two pistols and dives out at the Sentinels.

    Julian rushes out after him.

    "The order is given. I'll be back! Leave some of these motherfuckers for me." Miles hunches forward and the front of his chest starts to glow. "I'm gonna Deepwater Horizon this shit."

    He fires his Uni-Beam through the floor. Blasting his way down to the base of the rig, he carries the glass coffin toward Namor's sub!

    PHU1KZN.png
    Like Iron Man himself, I sometimes forget that I even have a Uni-Beam, but dang if a character shooting a giant beam of light straight out of their chest doesn’t make for some cool visuals sometimes.

    Julian charges out into the fight, telekinetically wrenching a sharp piece of metal loose, superheating it, and hurling it into the nearest Sentinel. The sizzling missile punches into the Sentinel suit and overheats the armor’s components. Its lights go out and it topples over.

    Clay dodges Sentinel repulsor blasts and manages to take one down with targeted pistol hits at vulnerable joints. The Sentinel drops to the ground, wriggling furiously at Clay, still active but trapped inside his fused power armor.

    Namor's sub pulls up, and Namor opens a large top hatch and helps Miles load Jim Hammond’s containment unit into the sub. "Okay, okay, now get the others."

    Blasting off, Miles loop-de-loops back upward and accelerates at maximum straight towards one of the Sentinel agents. The Sentinel blasts Miles with a repulsor but it’s not strong enough to stop him; he powers into the towering armor at rocket speed, fist raised high.

    He punches it in the face with a titanic clang...and the head goes flying right off.

    A robot.

    They were supposed to be guys in power armor.

    Miles falls to his hands and knees, his gear steaming from the blast. A bunch of his gear is sheared away. These things are shooting to kill; he would've been chunky salsa if he was a human. He looks up and calls out to his team. "Holy shit, guys, these are robots! Go ham!"

    Miles climbs to his feet and shouts at the cameras. "Arsenal, I know you can hear me. You're crappy junk from a crappy time. Give it up." He takes off strafes a second Sentinel, crumpling it with a repulsor blast.

    Julian gestures at the last Sentinel and it collapses, steam pouring out of its ports.

    The team look at each other. They’ve done it.

    Arsenal’s voice comes on over the roached old intercom. "....ANALYSIS COMPLETE. ITERATING...."

    Clay looks at Miles. "That...sounds bad."

    Miles nods. "It sounds like the fucking Borg. Run!"

    Clay dives off the side of the rig, but he didn't jump off the correct side, the one that the sub was on. He realizes this part way down, and his shirt rips apart as two leathery wings extend from his back.

    "Whoa," Miles says.

    Clay glides over to the sub, lands, and the wings fold back into his skin and are gone.
    Miles and Julian alight right after him.

    "Punch it, Namor. Your Highness,” Miles says, hurrying inside. “I've got a bad feeling about those things."

    Namor tells everyone to strap in for hard Gs.

    The team buckle up. The Sub-Mariner presses a button, and two small orbs on either side of the command console fill with...water? Namor puts his hands in them.

    The sub suddenly lurches forward, blasting to supersonic speeds underwater, something that would be physically impossible unless the water itself was moving out of their way.

    ....which it essentially is.

    The oil rig and the approaching Sentinel reinforcements fall off the radar as the team makes for New York.

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

    ivKpMFL.jpg

    Faiza and Vlad are reading their books. Michael is watching Criss Angel: Mindfreak, loudly.

    A portal opens. Strange steps out of it. He looks...annoyed. He also keeps sniffing.

    Kaecilius looks at him. "Doctor, what happened?"

    Vlad sets down his book and stands up. Michael pauses as Criss Angel "phases" through a solid glass window. "It's so obvious that there's a hole in it, god!" He turns to look at Strange.

    "Kaecilius, hand me..." Strange gestures to a tissue box, and Kaecilius hands him one. Strange looks at him, and Kaecilius slowly reaches over and hands him the whole box. Strange nods, and begins holding one to his nose. Which is bleeding.

    "Fury and I discussed the matter,” he says. “Vladimir, you and Ms. Hussein will come here to regularly continue your studies. Michael, you are free to visit when you like to consult with Kaecilius on Asgardian lore if you so choose.

    "Fury and I worked things out on the Phoenix issue."

    Kaecilius looks deeply worried. "...but Doctor...."

    "We worked it out, Kaecilius. It's fine. I'm fine. SHIELD will handle the matter and if we are needed, they'll contact us."

    Strange looks at the three agents. "I have other matters to attend to on another plane. Kaecilius will show you out when you're ready to leave."

    Victorious nods. "Very well, Doctor. I'm glad you and the Director were able to work out this matter. I shall return often and regularly."

    Strange nods. He walks away, still holding a bloody kleenex to his nose.

    Michael DVRs all past seasons of "Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed" for the good Doctor and goes to leave.

    Faiza looks at Kaecilius "Can I... take this home with me? Like is there a way to check out books or..."

    "No."

    "o-oh, okay." She gently hands the book back. The group departs the Sanctum Sanctorum and heads back to Avengers Tower.

    g3xuawl.png

    iVrhQ2Ul.jpg

    Elise wakes up screaming. That was the last image she saw.

    Jenny grabs her by the shoulders. "It's okay! It's okay! You're on the Zephyr! We're heading back to the Avengers Tower. Kane's flying the plane."

    Elise pants for a few seconds. "I, I, I saw something, I saw..."

    "It was a nightmare, hun."

    "Shuma-Gorath." Elise mutters. "Or something. M'sorry. I fucked up. Thought I could see more, step... outside my body like I did when I..."

    "I'm sorry,” Jenny says. “I told you it was okay."

    "We didn't get a mission success this time, huh?" Elise says ruefully.

    "You passed out, and then some of those metal robot guys showed up, and it got weird.... and Gorgon showed up and I just said you were really excited and just got overwhelmed?" Jenny shrugs. "It's fine, it's no big deal, I still got a bunch of stuff really quick, nobody saw me. I had to uhhhhh push myself, I have a headache, but it's fine."

    "It's okay. It's okay,” Elise says. “I'll... I'll be back, I gotta go back anyways. I'm in and out. I'll do the mission on my own time. I'll get it done. And I'm..." Elise giggles. "I'm going to be part of the court!"

    "....ok. Why don't you just...lay down, Kane said you could smoke up on the plane this one time if you woke up."

    "S'cool, I'm fine. I'm fine. I just... I just don't want to think about the dream. But it's fine. I have stuff to plan."

    Jenny nods. "Okay. Can you do me a favor and talk to Dr. Solomon when we get back to base and just get checked out? Just to make sure you're okay. I'll do all the paperwork and reports and stuff."

    "Cool. Yeah, that's fine. Thanks, Flashback, you're pretty rad."

    "No problem, kiddo."

    Elise grins. She checks her phone and punches in a text to the group. "En route home."

    g3xuawl.png

    Namor’s sub pulls up to the Manhattan docks.

    There's a SHIELD truck waiting for them, with a few agents. Miles helps unload the coffin into the truck. The truck loads up, and drives off.

    Namor is standing by his sub, looking at the trio. "It was good to work with you again, my friend. And you two, you are good men. If you were to come to Atlantis, you would be honored guests at my court."

    Julian takes a slight bow.

    Miles nods. "You too, Your Highness. If you need help with anything, I hope you give Clay and us a call."

    "This was for Jim, so you do not owe me in any way," Namor says. "If I called upon you, the debt would be mine to you. But it is kind of you to offer, and I may do so."

    "I look forward to the day, when it comes." Miles also gives a small bow.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles has never been around royalty in his life, at least before Clay, so when he’s unsure how to act he just models what he remembers from old Star Trek episodes.

    Namor smiles at the bow, and slaps Clay in the chest with the back of his hand and gestures at Miles like see? Clay rolls his eyes.

    With that, Namor gets in his sub, and sinks into the ocean.

    "Weird guy..." Clay mutters.

    "Uh-huh," Julian agrees.

    Miles grins. "We're all weird guys here, boss. Hey, it was good working with you again. We make an okay team and I don't have to explain concepts to you?"

    "I suppose so." Clay smiles. "Anyway, we should get back to base, the others are heading back too. I want to hear how things with Faiza and Elise went."

    Miles nods. "Alright, let's saddle up."

    The trio head back to base.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    0nPtmnK.png

    Everyone arrives back at base in their twos and threes.

    Clay calls the team together for a quick debrief. People can file proper written reports later, but he wants to know if there are any burgeoning crises or anything he should be aware of.

    Elise shoves her hand in the air. "I don't have a crisis but I have a report."

    "Sure, Elise,” he nods, “go for it."

    She props her chin on her hands, dreamily, and explains her best understanding of Crystal's solution.

    Miles' smiling face gradually turns into a thinking emoji and then a blank face and then a frown.

    Clay slowly turns his head from Elise to Jenny. Jenny visibly shrinks in her chair as his gaze turns.

    "What?" Elise says. "You're making The Face."

    "Are you going to move to Attilan?" Vlad asks.

    "Oh gosh I don't think so full time, I'd miss all of you too much! And I still want to go on missions. Best friends FOREVER."

    Clay sits down and folds his hands.

    "Elise. I don't mean to alarm you, and maybe there's some context we're not getting, but that....kind of sounds like something from Game of Thrones."

    Elise sits up. "That's what Crystal said! She said it'd be like Game of Thrones, but we found a solution so it's cool."

    "Elise..." Clay begins carefully. "First of all, I am very happy for you that you and Crystalia love each other. Second of all, I am not against the idea of you becoming a royal consort. In my culture, royal consorts were a noble and respected position. I had two before I left Tarnax and I loved them both very much."

    Elise beams. Everything Clay is saying is very positive so far!

    "However...I think we need to know more about Maximus. You don't know him. Can you trust him to have your and Crystalia's best interests in mind? What if he's just using you and Crystalia as part of some complex power play?"

    "Indeed." Vlad nods.

    "Maximus doesn't have powers, yet he is brother to the King. And apparently this means he can never be King, and can only occupy a position near power but not have it himself? Men like this can be very dangerous."

    Horror and hesitation start to dawn on Elise's face. "I - I - I mean, maybe, but he could be helping, he was the one who suggested the way to save my life, and I - I never get to have anything nice, Clay, I've been shit on the entire time I've been part of STRIKE. Shuma-Gorath, and Lawson, and his astroglyphs, and -"

    "Hang on." Clay holds up a hand. "Maximus was the one who suggested your second Terrigenesis?"

    "Yeah!" she says. "And I mean, that ended up saving my life!"

    Clay purses his lips. "I see."

    "Elise, if you'd permit an old man to yammer about his homeworld a bit more. On Tarnax, there's people we call the Chitauri. They're what Skrulls once were, before the Shaper of Worlds gave us the ability to shapeshift.
    +
    "They are Skrulls who cannot shapeshift. They're a minority of the population, and you can't really tell if someone is a Chitauri unless...well, unless they can't do it.

    "But someone who is a Chitauri can basically never be the center of courtly politics or nobility or military leadership or really...anything of significant power or importance. They can be advisors, counsel, that sort of thing.

    "It's a prejudice. An ugly one, one I didn't believe in. One of my consorts was Chitauri, which was scandalous at the time but I didn't care. The point was they're people who can be near power but never have power. And that makes the worst of them manipulators and liars and deceivers, which stereotypes the rest.

    "So it's possible this Maximus is a benevolent and kind man who only has the best intentions for you and Crystalia and I'm being prejudiced.

    "....but sometimes prejudices are based on people who exist."

    Elise narrows her eyes, thinking. "I just don't see why this is a big deal, you sent me there to do recon and I did something that could help us long term, I could be in the court for SHIELD. Like, sure, I didn't find the Unspoken Emperor -" Something clicks in Elise's head and her eyes widen. "We don't know anything." she finally says, a bit desperate.

    "I am not telling you who you can or cannot have a relationship with. That isn't my place. And I'm not denying that it would be good for SHIELD to have one of our agents as a royal consort. I am saying trust but verify with Maximus."

    "...You want me to do more double agent watching spy shit."

    "Yes. You're a spy. Do your job. You don't have to spy on Crystalia. You love her. But just figure out if Maximus is on your side, if he's trustworthy. That's what I'm asking."

    "Do it for Crystalia," Miles adds. "If Maximus is a good guy, great. If he's a bad guy, he's using her to make his evil baby. So it's better to be sure."

    Clay nods at Miles.

    Elise throws up her hands. "Fine. But if you keep sending me to Attilan, I can't promise I can look around too closely." She waggles her eyebrows. "You see, I'll be doing some extracurricular diplomacy."

    Clay sighs. "Yes, yes. Okay. Thank you."

    "I would like to join you in Attilan, if that is possible." Vlad looks at Clay.

    Clay turns to face him. "Vlad, Faiza, how did things go with Strange?"

    "Well enough," Vlad says.

    Faiza smiles. "Um, sir, Doctor Strange offered to...tutor me in sorcery."

    "I was not aware that Agent Hussain was your daughter," Vlad says.

    Clay sighs. "Faiza...."

    "She is gifted, Clay," Vlad says.

    Elise cranes to look at Faiza. "Are you a Skrull too? That fucking owns. You could just make your tits -" Elise gestures at her own flat chest. "Like, POW!"

    Faiza looks at Elise. "No! No I cannot! I'm not a Skrull! I'm adopted!"

    "Oh," Elise says, vaguely disappointed. "Well, that's what I would do if I were a Skrull. I'd be stacked as fuck."

    Clay grumbles "of course you would be..." He looks at Faiza. "Were you going to tell me you were dabbling in sorcery, young lady?"

    Faiza shrugs. "Yes, I...I meant to, but everything was going on. You were going on actual missions and things. I was going to talk to you about it and then I asked Jeremiah where you were and he said you were on an alternate reality and I didn't know what to say to that."

    Clay looks at Vlad. "Is she gifted?"

    "Indeed, though I'm having less faith in the absolute authority of this Doctor Strange. Somewhat of a pompous man."

    "...Doom literally lives in a castle named after himself," Elise points out. "Doom makes everyone kneel in front of him. He wears a cape.

    "And you think Strange is pompous?"

    Clay looks at Elise. "To be fair, Strange is pompous."

    "Castles are nice," Vlad says.

    "Castles fucking suck!"

    Vlad frowns at Elise.

    "That wasn't the point. I wasn't sending you to judge Strange's character, Vlad. He's an arrogant bastard who thinks he can dictate terms to SHIELD on the regular. Apparently he's teleported into Rick Jones' office more than once to scold him like a child."

    "Crystalia lives in a castle..." Vlad says quietly.

    "Well at least she doesn't roll around with a Nazi," Elise fires back.

    Clay snaps his fingers at the two of them. Elise jumps in her chair. She notices that Faiza also jumped. "Longbo-" Vlad stops.

    "Vlad, did you learn anything of value from Strange? That he's full of himself is a known quantity and wasn't why I sent you there."

    "Nothing of great value. I fear Strange learned more from Michael and myself then we did from him. During our stay he became aware of the fact that the Phoenix Force is on Earth and Galactus is on his way. He left perturbed at one point and had a conversation with Director Fury which I do not believe it went in Strange's favour."

    Clay's eyebrows raise. "Oh. Oh no I do not imagine it did. I will... confer with Director Fury about that, and see how things are going to go on that issue."

    "I will continue to be tutored by Strange, as will Agent Hussein,” Vlad adds.

    Clay nods at Vlad and says "Good. I approve."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    Elise suddenly looks very uncomfortable. "Sir, I tried to step outside of myself, and I saw…something. Flashback and Kane think it's a nightmare, but."

    Miles leans forward to catch this.

    Clay looks at Elise. "Shuma-Gorath?"

    "I... don't think so. Darker. Staticky. I... I don't know. Grasping tendrils, dark space, and stars, or..."

    "Hrm." Clay is silent for a moment. "Well, Elise, if you'll let me, I can gently go in and take a look at what you saw. I'm... to be frank better at that sort of thing than Adler."

    "...Yeah, okay."

    Clay walks over to Elise and gently puts his hand on her forehead. "Close your eyes and try to remember your nightmare."

    Elise takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and thinks back to what woke her up screaming.

    She briefly sees it again.

    iVrhQ2Ul.jpg

    Everyone else sees Clay revert to his true Skrull form as he staggers backwards from Elise. Elise jerks her head back, suddenly gasping for air.

    Faiza gets up and runs over to Clay, helping him up. He resumes his human form as he composes himself. "Guhhhhhhh. Bloody hell."

    "Clay, Clay, I'm so sorry, what did I -" Elise scrambles to his side.

    Faiza and Elise are both holding Clay up."I'm fine girls, it's okay. I'm fine."

    "What did you see, Director?” Vlad asks.

    "Galactus."

    Elise goes white. "Why - why is he in my head, why am I seeing him -"

    "You went too far out. It's like when you saw Eternity. You pushed your senses outside your body and floated around in space and you saw him. He... saw you."

    "No, no, no, no -"

    Clay puts his hands on her shoulders, leaning down to eye level. "Ssshh, no no, Anelle, it's fine. It's fine, it's okay."

    Elise nods shallowly. "O-okay."

    "Anelle?" Miles asks.

    "’Starburst,’" Vlad says.

    Miles furrows his brow. “Huh? What? Like the candy?"

    "No,” Vlad says. “A name."

    "It just, it means something nice." Elise says to Miles and Vlad.

    Faiza gently takes Clay's arm by the elbow "Clay...dad, why don't you go lay down. That sounds like a lot. You went green, dad. Like you were drunk or something."

    Clay nods. "Yeah, okay. I'm going to go lay down on the couch in my office. Elise, you did nothing wrong, alright? It's fine. You're all fine. You're good people, we'll figure this out. Miles is in charge."

    "Yes, sir. Will do, sir." Miles' smile is blandly reassuring.

    "Unless Vickie's here,” Clay holds up a finger. “Then she's in charge." Faiza walks with Clay out to his office.

    Elise and Vlad go out into the hall. "I'm - we should just rest. I, it's been a weird day," Elise says. "Vlad, Netflix with me?" She holds her arms out for a piggyback ride.

    "I think we should talk about Robert first," Vlad says.

    She nods. "...Okay. What's the deal with Longbow?"

    Vlad explains the events in detail of his time away and his relationship with Longbow. He explains that views Longbow as an ally. He believes Bob is a good man.

    Elise visibly hesitates, then jangles the BEST FRIENDS bracelet around her wrist, the other one belonging to Vlad. "...Yeah. Yeah, okay. Alright. I trust you, Vlad."

    "I will tell him of your sexual preferences," Vlad says.

    "Okay yeah that's not necessary, I'll -"

    Faiza steps out of Clay’s office, closing the door behind her. "Um, Elise, yeah?"

    "Uh, yeah. Hi."

    "We haven't talked much,” Faiza says. "Or really been properly introduced."

    "Yeah, I uh..." Elise trails off. "Elise Arnell. Sensate. It's uh, it's nice to meet you."

    "Your last name is Arnell? Oh. That's...that's why Clay never last-names you like he does to other people. I thought it was just because...but it's also...oh."

    "I... guess?" Elise is bewildered.

    "Listen I need to tell you something, okay?" Faiza says. "Clay's bad for lies by omission. He's a spy, he's been a spy for basically his entire life here on Earth, and before that he was a Prince with assassins after him and stuff. Lying is breathing for him sometimes.

    "So sometimes he does it when he doesn't mean to or for stuff he really shouldn't. Let me tell you, that's not always the best for the guy trying to be your dad.

    "He called you Anelle when he got messed up by the stuff in your head. Does he...do that a lot? Call you that?"

    "Before, once, yeah, when I was worried about Julian," Elise says. "Mostly he just, y'know. Snaps at me.” She mimics his snap.

    "Was he messed up then too? Drunk or hurt or confused or anything?"

    "He was kind of... out of it?" Elise shrugs. "Kind of screwy, emotionally. I dunno."

    "Okay, yeah...." Faiza chews her lip. "Anelle means Starburst, yes, that's true. It was also his daughter's name. On Tarnax. His biological daughter's name."

    "...Oh."

    "I understand now," Vlad says.

    Faiza nods. "Clay had a whole life he left behind. A wife, two consorts, four sons and a daughter."

    "I've... kind of been a dick to him," Elise says.

    Faiza nods. "He sometimes deserves it."

    "Listen, can we like, grab coffee sometime? Talk about this kind of thing?" Elise asks. "I...I think it might be... good. For us to talk."

    "Yeah, okay."

    Elise punches her number into Faiza's phone. "Okay. Thanks. I guess we're kind of uh, you know. Sister adjacent? I guess? Never had a sister."

    "Yeah, it's weird for me. Like...." Faiza waves a hand in the air, searching for the words. "Clay said to me, come work with him at SHIELD, if I work in COMMS at the tower, everyone here knows he's a Skrull, I won't have to hide it, and Victoria works here so it'd be like old times."

    "I used to work in COMMS! I can give you tips." Elise smiles. "Let's be friends.'

    Faiza smiles. "I'd like that very much. Should we invite Victoria? I don't know if you know her like I do. She was kinda like a mom to me."

    "Yeah!" Elise beams. "She was to me too."

    "For a while, anyway,” Faiza says. “Her and Clay used to...it was complicated."

    "I know." Elise says. "*As a lady.*

    Faiza whispers to Elise. "That's how I found out."

    "Faiza is a fellow student of Strange," Vlad adds. Faiza nods at this.

    Elise grins. "Good, you can be his study buddy! Okay, Vlad, I wanna watch Netfliiiix. I had a bad daaaay."

    Faisa straightens. "Okay, I'm going to check on Clay and make sure he's okay." She heads back into the Director’s office.

    Elise smiles. "We'll talk later, Faiza. C'mon, I wanna piggyback. Lemme up."

    HPoYggZl.png

    PHU1KZN.png
    Yes, that is a piece of original commissioned art. There may be more where that came from. Stay tuned.

    Jacobkosh on
    jurnerMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 30
    uR6zb47.png

    Faiza walks over to Miles. "Um, Mr. Mason? Sir?”

    "Hi. Just Miles," he says, smiling with an offered hand. “What’s up?”

    She shakes his hand shyly. “Clay's up, he seems like he's okay. He got some text or email on his phone and he looked at it and said it was important that I go get you right away."

    Miles nods. "Ok. I'll go now. Thanks.”

    When he steps into the office, Clay tells him to shut the door.

    He does. "What's going on, boss?"

    "Fury just sent this to every division head in SHIELD. COMMS, ARMOR, SWORD, SCI-TECH, all of us."

    Miles whistles.

    "You're not a division head, so I don't know if I should be showing this to you but.... I have to show it to someone right now." Clay brings up a video on his desk's holographic display.

    It's.... surveillance video from Nick Fury's office? There's no audio. Nick's smoking a cigar with his feet up on his desk, when suddenly a portal opens and a man in a cloak steps through, yelling at Fury. The two argue for a bit, and then Fury backhands the man in the cloak, who hits the floor.

    Clay looks at Miles. "That's Stephen Strange. He is the Sorcerer Supreme. He barged into Fury's office to talk shit. He got hit."

    Miles nods briskly. "I'll turn it to a GIF, set it to Smack My Bitch Up and have it to everyone inside an hour."

    "No, no, then they'll know I'm the leak," Clay says. "I'll let some idiot in SCI-TECH take the fall on this." Clay is trying his hardest not to lose it laughing. It is a battle he's slowly losing.

    Miles smirks. "You're making an odd expression, boss. Probably that whammy you took. I'll peace out before I see anything I shouldn't." He waves a couple of fingers from his temple in an offhand salute and walks out.

    Clay nods appreciatively.

    As Miles steps out into the hallway, he hears Clay start to lose his composure behind him.

    r2C6Mbd.png

    Jacobkosh on
    MsAnthropyNytewarriorjurnerRear Admiral ChocoMatev
  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    this is vlad and miles :)

    DoJBzBgXoAAikgO.png

    JacobkoshvisiblehowlRear Admiral ChocoMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    GQYrfIU.png
    cuCFWHr.jpg

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report: June 28th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Report compiled by STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Wundagore Goes Public
    Without consulting SHIELD or the Sykmarian government, the residents of Wundagore Mountain and the surrounding valley have opted to go public, making an announcement on the internet which was then picked up by media outlets around the world. General Shadra has stated that as a result of the Dust incident, the residents of Wundagore no longer feel that it is necessary to hide themselves and that because there are thousands of Inhumans around the globe, the world is ready to accept the existence of the New Men.

    SHIELD has decided to leverage this into an opportunity to establish an official explanation for the Dust and the mass awakening of Inhumans, which is elaborated below in this report.

    At this time, King Stefan of Symkaria has chosen to acknowledge Wundagore as an official autonomous administrative region of his country, and the New Men as Symkarian citizens, and acknowledges General Shadra as Wundagore’s military leader and Tabur as their civilian administrator. Because Wundagore Mountain provides significant geothermal power to Symkaria, this seems to be a stable and beneficial partnership for the time being.

    The Wundagore situation has put SHIELD in both an awkward circumstance and granted us an opportunity to finally put to rest all the rumors and speculation as to the cause of the Dust and the subsequent mass transformation of Inhumans around the globe.

    The Dust was composed of artificial Terrigen, also known as Isotope-8, originally created by Herbert Wyndham. Wyndham was apprehended by STRIKE-1 on Wundagore Mountain months ago, and has been in SHIELD custody since that time. At the time of his capture, for political reasons, the operation was attributed to Reed Richards’ Fantastic Four and the residents of Wundagore have continued to maintain this cover story.

    Isotope-8 technology later fell into Leviathan’s hands, by way of Leviathan spies within HYDRA (who were customers of Wyndham’s), who used it to create the Dust without fully understanding its nature and assuming it would be a genocidal weapon.

    The end result is that SHIELD will be able to craft a believable position on this matter. This will be SHIELD’s official statement on the subject of Inhumans, the Dust, Wyndham, HYDRA, and Wundagore. This story will neatly avoid the subject of Kree, Skrulls, Attilan, Leviathan, or any matters more complex than the public can handle. It will also be the truth as far as any SHIELD personnel with Level 6 or lower clearance is concerned, so govern yourself accordingly.

    Official SHIELD Positioning Statement on the Dust
    On June 17th, 2017, a series of chemical weapon attacks were committed around the globe by the terrorist group HYDRA. These chemical weapons, colloquially known as “The Dust”, were composed of a synthetic compound known as Isotope-8, created by former Alchemax CEO Herbert Wyndham III.

    Wyndham was an associate and ally of HYDRA, who created Isotope-8 for the organization. He also created other unethical scientific experiments, including animal-human hybrids who now reside in the Wundagore region of Symkaria.

    Wyndham was stopped and captured fairly recently by the Fantastic Four, but not before Wyndham had sold significant quantities of Iso-8 to HYDRA. The Four were not aware of HYDRA’s larger conspiratorial plot, and did not have the resources to stop such a global terrorist attack. They did, however, apprehend Wyndham, who will be turned over to the International Criminal Court to answer for crimes against humanity.

    The Dust itself was a mutagenic agent, which entered the bloodstream when inhaled and, for the vast majority of people, had no effect whatsoever. However, SHIELD has consulted with an expert evolutionary biologist from Oxford University and has determined that 0.05% of humanity carry an inert genetic marker that is being tentatively called the “X-gene”. This gene has no impact on a person’s life when dormant, but Iso-8 binds to it and causes it to express and mutate the individual in unpredictable and potentially dangerous ways. This change is permanent, and irreversible.

    Iso-8 appears to stay in the system of most individuals changed in this fashion at the cellular level, permanently bonding to their cells like mitochondria and providing exotic energies that enable extranormal powers beyond what is explicable by mutations in their physiology.

    This is all SHIELD knows on this subject at this time.

    Princess Crystalia Engaged
    Princess Crystalia Amaquelin, Attilan’s official ambassador to Earth, has reportedly become engaged to Maximus of House Agon. Maximus is brother to King Agar the Black, and due to complicated Attilan politics is not himself in line to the throne.

    While SHIELD does not generally concern itself with the internal matters of Attilan politics, because this concerns the ambassador to Earth to which STRIKE is directly familiar and who regularly is someone we see around the tower, it was determined prudent to report on.

    Apparently it is Attilan custom to offer congratulations on an engagement, so feel free to do so if you see the Princess around the office, but please note that for cultural sensitivity reasons do not offer to plan any kind of bachelorette parties or anything of that nature, as that may cause a diplomatic incident and quite possibly a war.

    Arsenal Involved With Sentinels
    We have confirmed reports from our most recent STRIKE field operation that Arsenal is indeed still in operation and allied with the Office of National Emergency, in control of their Sentinel program.

    With regards to the Sentinels themselves, according to STRIKE field agents, the Sentinels they encountered were not individuals in power armor as publicly stated by ONE press releases but instead automated drones in Arsenal’s control. There are obvious political reasons why ONE would deceive the public in this way.

    A deep cover OPS agent investigating ONE has confirmed that not only is Arsenal in control of the Sentinels, its programming and systems are serving as a so-called “master mold” for the entire program. The agent will share more intel as it is gathered.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team is called to another part of the tower. Not the main meeting room, but another room that's more akin to a lecture hall.

    All of STRIKE is here. Freedom Force, the Warriors, the Invincibles, and all of the support staff, including Victoria Hand. She and Clay are up front.

    Miles Mason is sitting with Carol Danvers, and Julian Adler is with Izzy Kane. Vladimir von Doom stands in the back row, arms folded. Michael Westin sits up near the front.

    Elise is last to arrive, and she shows up disheveled and smelling of alcohol. She slides into a seat near Vlad in the rear row and grins at the people nearby.

    She’s also wearing a striking new coat.

    bLh6uCFl.png

    Clay clears his throat and begins. "Alright everyone, settle in. We've got a few different mission assignments, and some of the teams will be mixed up on these. Start with the less complex stuff first. Victoria..."

    Hand nods, stands, and addresses the department. "STRIKE-2 is going to be following up locally on a lead that Blade found while working on a side-mission on his own time. There's been a number of murders in Manhattan that looked, on the surface, like vampire-related killings. Exsanguinations and such."

    "That's fuckin' sick," Elise whispers.

    "Blade looked into it, since that's sort of his whole remit, but his investigation led to the conclusion that it's not a real vampire responsible for the murders. Which...sure is a sentence I just said now."

    "That's...less sick."

    Miles holds up his hand. "What else could it be? Are there, I dunno, aliens who drink blood?"

    "We're going with the theory that it's something vampire-adjacent. An alien, some other other supernatural entity, possibly a new Inhuman that has vampire-like qualities or hell, just a psychopath. Either way, it's gotta be stopped."

    Elise holds up a hand. "Wait. Wait. Vampires are REAL?"

    "Yes," Victoria nods. "However this isn't a case of real vampires."

    "I need to find a vampire and get bit,” Elise enthuses. Blade leans forward in his chair and scowls at her. Vlad scowls back at Blade, his arms folded.

    "Why would you...?" Julian mouths at Elise.

    "Because it owns." Elise mouths back.

    Clay sighs. "Elise, there's a whole alternate Earth of vampires, Earth-793, where humans are bred and treated like cattle. It does not, in any way, 'own.' Feel free to ask Erik Josten about it, hopefully you don't trigger his PTSD."

    "I never get to have any fun here," she scowls.

    Clay continues. "Kane, you're going to be taking STRIKE-3 along with the Zephyr to Symkaria. King Stefan is receiving a very important guest, and we want our team to be there.

    "Sablinova is Symkarian nobility, she'll be welcome there," he pauses for emphasis, "...when Stefan meets with Doctor Doom."

    The room goes quiet.

    "You are sending Silver to spy on Doom?"

    "Not spy. Doom will know she's there. They have a pre-existing relationship, which you know very well. And Doom will know full well she'll end up reporting back to us what she hears. We just want an ear in the room.

    "And possibly a voice at the table."

    Vlad nods slowly.

    "We're quite sure it won't even be the real Doom," Hand adds. "Doom pretty much never leaves Latveria. It'll be a drone."

    Elise perks up at that. "Can I go?"

    "No," Vlad says firmly.

    "No,” Clay agrees. “STRIKE-1 has a mission. Kane's going because they need the Zephyr and nobody flies it but her. And you guys have a pilot for your mission, who is also supplying your craft. Which is a nice segue, actually..."

    Susan Richards appears next to Clay.

    5kBG1Zv.jpg

    Elise waves. Susan waves back and smiles.

    "Always with an entrance, Susan," Vlad smiles.

    "Like you don't." She smirks at Vlad. Vlad nods acknowledgment. Elise glances at Vlad, still curious about the emphatic 'no,' but then back at the front of the room.

    Clay continues. "We've got a joint STRIKE-WHISPER mission, that we're calling Operation Overcast. Before any snipes about the name, Fury picked it, take it up with him."

    "Operation Sex Harpy," Elise whispers.

    "This is basically going to be similar, spiritually, to Operation Paperclip. For those of you who slept through history, that was a post-World War II operation to scoop up fleeing Nazis and figure out which ones were useful and put them to work.

    "Leviathan's shattered. We're not looking to pick up the would-be genocidal monsters that tried to wipe out millions of people with the Dust, but a lot of them were just spies and assassins that worked for the other side and now they're out in the cold with no organization.

    "Susan's been contacted through old Leviathan back-channels, there's people who want to defect."

    "So clearly there's going to be more than just going for a chit chat, or you wouldn't be calling us in," Elise says.

    "We think it could be a trap. I don't trust Leviathan," Clay says. "As a result of the battle in Kazan, there are Leviathan agents that know that Susan is not on their side. Not really. Her own father called her a traitor."

    Susan grits her teeth at that.

    "There's people in Leviathan who would love to get their hands on Susan for retribution, some who blame her for Kazan and everything."

    Elise gives Susan a sympathetic look and then glares at Clay.

    "So you're going as her back-up," Clay says. "If it's a trap, you're taking them down. If it's not a trap, great, awesome. You're going undercover on this one. Photostatic veils and disguises here."

    Elise's hand shoots up in the air.

    "Elise. Go."

    "But I just got this sick ass coat and -"

    Clay waves this off. "You can wear the coat. You aren't known for the coat." Elise beams.

    "It is a nice coat," Vlad says.

    "It's so nice. Crys bought it for me in Attilan," she says. Vlad makes a small grunt of affirmation.

    Miles raises a hand. "Assuming they don't make it easy for us and just jump us, do we have a way to vet these people once they're on board?"

    Susan addresses Miles' question. "Hopefully they're people I know. I don't know everyone in Leviathan, but if they're people of a certain rank or tier, I might know who they are. And if they're Skrulls, they can show me their true face. Skrulls can't emulate each other's true face. We're physically incapable of doing it."

    Miles inclines his head toward Susan. "I mean more like - is there a way to assess their intentions? Can you get inside their heads and find out if they're legit or not? Or can they block that?"

    "I mean, I could take a crack at it," Julian offers.

    "No," Elise says.

    Clay shakes his head. "That's really dangerous. Some of the higher ranked Skrulls are telepaths themselves and are a lot more experienced than Julian."

    "I just feel like if I were Leviathan, I'd be looking to plant the seeds of some kind of long-term insurgency inside of SHIELD. I don't think all those Nazis we brought onboard always worked out so hot," Miles says. Elise shifts uncomfortably at this line of questioning.

    Clay nods at Miles. "That's a very fair concern, Mason. We'll definitely be vetting people we bring in. I will be taking care of that, with assistance from Agent Hook from COMMS. That's Agent Hook's entire job, in a way."

    Miles nods. "Copy that."

    "I should talk to Agent Hook one day,” Elise sighs. “She'd be my type, if it weren't for, y'know."

    Clay continues. "STRIKE-1 is going to take Susan's ship, the Messenger, to Chicago, which is where the contact is. Richards is unclear on who the contact is. Which is why we're thinking possible trap.

    "Like I was saying, photostatic veils and disguise abilities on this one. You're WHISPER agents, you're Susan's associates, you're not SHIELD and you're definitely not STRIKE.

    "Even if this is not a trap, some Leviathan defectors might freak out a bit if they realize you're the guys who broke the spine of their agency and killed a bunch of their friends and family."

    Hand sucks her teeth. "Jesus Christ, Clay."

    Clay shrugs. "Those are everyone's assignments. Fall out and gear up."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise makes eye contact with Longbow and gestures towards the hall. Longbow acknowledges the gesture. He has a new outfit too!

    kIh1N9tl.jpg

    The two meet out in the hallway away from everyone as the department files out. Once he joins her in the hall, Elise shuffles her feet. "So, uh, this is awkward. Uh. There's something I gotta tell you.

    "First of all, I know your deal."

    "...oh.” He looks kinda....disappointed? Hurt? “Okay."

    "The second thing is, uh, I have a deal? I'm, like, weapons grade gay, dude."

    He lets out a restrained little gasp. And catches himself. Like he's shocked.

    Elise grimaces.

    He whispers to Elise. "Ok, ok, I'm sorry, I didn't know. I won't...I won't tell anyone. I...I don't know why you're trusting me with this but...I guess...thanks? I dunno what else to say to that."

    Elise rubs her face with both hands for a moment. Then she turns and yells down the hall. "HEY, EVERYONE. I'M SUPER GAY." She waits for a response. "See? No one cares."

    He's stunned.

    Vlad’s head pops out of an office door. "That's not your power?" Elise laughs and shoots him finger guns.

    She turns back to Bob. "This is just a thing in this world, like, idiots on social media post 'I'm gay' twenty times a day. It's just...it's not a thing. Please don't make it one."

    "O-oh...on...on my world it's...it's called gender treachery and it....it gets corrected. It's not...."

    "Gender treachery actually sounds metal as fuck," Elise muses.

    "It is...not."

    "Is this going to be a thing? Are you going to be weird as fuck about this? Because Vlad vouched for you. I'm, like, cool with you despite your thing," she says, squinting at him.

    He holds up his hands. "No! I just... it's wild, you know? Just culture shock. Like, I had a friend back on my world, Natasha. She...well, anyway. It would've been different for her here."

    "...I'm, uh, real sorry, dude."

    He shrugs.

    "We cool?" she asks.

    "Yeah, totally," he nods. "Oh, uhhhhh since like, we're being open about my deal...."

    "Yeah?"

    "Can you like, say something to other people about people calling me a Nazi. I'm pretty sick of hearing it. Like I'll be walking down the hall and someone will sneeze and mutter Nazi under their breath. Passive aggressive office shit, you know?"

    She nods. "Yeah. Vlad vouched for you, so you're cool with me, and that means I'll back you up."

    "Like, okay,” he says, “I don't know what Nazi means on your world. I haven't read up on your history and culture much yet. Clearly!"

    "It's top five in the worst things you can call someone," she says.

    "But...." he takes a breath. "Okay well, on my world it means like...you're a little bitch."

    "...Well. It uh." She stares, bemused.

    "Because like, after the war, the Nazis didn't want to share power with HYDRA, so HYDRA kinda destroyed them. So being a Nazi, being called a Nazi, is like, being a punk-ass."

    Elise is starting to flounder in this conversation. "Well. It... it doesn't mean that. On this world. I'll still, uh. I'll, uh, you know." She looks over Longbow's shoulder at Vlad.

    "Okay well if it means something shitty then I still don't like being called that!"

    Vlad walks over to the pair. "Everything alright?"

    Elise nods at Vlad. "Yeah it basically means, like, war criminal? Um. It's not good. But, Vlad says you're cool, and...?"

    "Oh, thanks boss!" Longbow shoots Vlad a thumbs up.

    Vlad stares at the two of them. "Very well." He heads back into the office, confused.

    "I should go! Too!" Elise says. "Good luck! With Doom!"

    "Ugh. Yeah." Bob makes a face. He does not like Doom.

    "Okay!" Elise laughs nervously and finger-guns out of the conversation.

    Bob makes a weak smile, and then does a pantomime of pulling a bow back and firing an arrow at Elise.

    Elise mimes getting hit. "Oh god! My liver!"

    He actually genuinely laughs before walking away. Elise scrambles to catch up with Freedom Force.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 2
    The rest of the group is over at the quartermaster's, getting geared up with Susan.
    Susan looks at Miles "So... I found out from Reed that Clay is...uh...yeah. Who Clay really is. That was...something for me to process."

    Miles grins. "Yeah, I can imagine. It threw us for a loop, too. It's kind of great, though. It...if you'll pardon the term...it humanizes him. I had no idea an alien prince could be such a giant nerd. It warms my heart."

    "He's a... nerd? He's always so stoic. I don't talk to him very much. He doesn't like me."

    "He's kind of a nerd,” Julian says. “He likes British folk rock."

    Miles's grin widens. "Oh, you don't know. Ask him about his favorite Hogwarts house. I shit you not."

    Susan smiles at this knowledge.

    Elise enters the room. "Hi! Sorry I'm late!"

    Miles nods at Elise, then looks at Susan, putting a finger to his lips. "Use this knowledge only for good."

    "Are we talking about trolling Clay?" Elise asks.

    “Yes,” Susan and Miles say in unison.

    "Oh motherfucker loves Harry Potter and hates puns," Elise nods vigorously. "And he thinks I'm like - like I'm cool.” She beams.

    "Only a nerd would think you're cool," Julian laughs at Ellise..

    "All Skrulls hate puns,” Susan says. “They're childish."

    "No, they're great," Elise proclaims.

    Susan makes an “eh” sound and turns to address the team. "Anyway, the reason I bring up Clay is because...we cannot bring up Clay around the defectors. Whether it's a trap or not. It would complicate matters a lot. He's like, their nemesis. He is everything they hate.

    "I was raised to hate that man. He was the enemy of everything I stood for."

    Elise applies her veil, turning into a version of Elise with dark red hair and brown eyes. "I wasn't planning on bringing him up." She slides up next to Julian and nudges him. "Hey. Hey."

    "What's up?" he says.

    "I saw Galactus."

    His eyes widen. "Oh, fuck."

    "Yeah." Elise raises her voice for a moment. "Susan, can I smoke on the Messenger?"

    "Yeah, there's a little seat fan thing you can turn on so you don't second-hand everyone," susan says.

    "Oh man, you're the best."

    Strapping on an ICER, Michael turns to Elise. "Did you flip him off too?"

    "I didn't really have, like, a body? I tried to step outside of my body, do a thing with my senses, and I... went too far? I guess?" She shrugs. "I don't know. I just thought you should know."

    Miles activates his veil. "I've been meaning to try out a new look." He is wearing a purple armored bodysuit and a sci-fi bandolier with his ICER and ammunition underneath a baggy trenchcoat. His head is covered with a form-fitting cowl which can be pulled back over the head like a hoodie, and mirrored shades glint over his eyes.

    YRQuehFl.png

    Susan looks at Miles' new outfit. "I like it. It looks more heroic than black ops combat gear."

    "You have a costume now?" Elise scoffs. “Nerd."

    Julian looks over the costume approvingly. "Niiiice." Vlad nods at Miles.

    Miles returns Vlad's nod, and shoots Julian a thumbs-up. He stoically ignores Elise's noises.

    “Let’s go,” Susan says. She leads them out to the landing pad. The New York wind whips their faces as they step outside. "There wasn't enough space on the pad for me to park next to the Zephyr so I had to leave it on hover over top, so I'm double-parked on Kane's jet."

    She presses a remote and a small opening appears in the air above the Zephyr, with a tiny ramp extending downwards. The ship itself remains invisible.

    As they take their seats, Julian retrieves a small messenger bag from his side and slides out a sleek black tin. He retrieves a neatly rolled joint from the tin, a lighter, and then offers the joint out to Elise to bump with hers. "Cheers!"

    Elise grins. She settles in and lights her joint, the light flickering off new, heavy, gold bracelets.

    The Messenger takes off, headed downtown at a stately pace.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Susan turns away from the console to face the group. "Please equip non-lethal gear, if possible. Even if things go south...these are my people. I...I want to believe we can bring them in. Even if we have to incarcerate them."

    Elise holds up her ICER and gives it a wave with no care for trigger discipline or muzzle sweeping, a joint in her other hand. "I'm good."

    Julian lightly pats the ICER packed at his waist. "All set."

    Susan talks to the team while flying the ship. "I don't know who the contact is, but we have pretty standard meet-and-greet codes. Handshake stuff. I know where I'm supposed to be and how I'm supposed to be met, so hopefully that'll work out. Let me do the talking when we first get there. Elise, you need to do your lie detector bit.

    "How good are you at detecting if a Skrull with their human face on is full of it?"

    "I haven't really tried since the whole second terrigenesis thing. Probably pretty good?" Elise shrugs. "I might have to go, y'know, full bore with the senses, so try not to...like...do anything."

    "Alright, well, let's test it...." Susan puts on the auto-pilot and looks at Elise. "The name on my birth certificate is Syuzanna Lukin."

    Elise tilts her head. "Yes," she says.

    "I have a biological brother named Johnny Storm."

    Elise frowns. "I mean that's literally impossible but I'm not seeing anything. You are a secret agent, though. So, y'know. But I could read the War Skrull wearing the King of Wakanda like a fuckin' book."

    "Hrm," Susan says. "Okay."

    "I usually don't have to try!" Elise protests. "People just fuckin' show things. You don't."

    "Right," Susan nods.

    "Reed doesn't, either,” Elise says. “It's weird."

    "Oh that's because of his powers. He doesn't have any involuntary muscle movements anymore, he has to control every movement in his body actively, it takes a small part of his brain power to do it."

    Elise waggles her eyebrows at Susan. She tries to hide a smile. She does not do it well.

    "It also means he has to consciously beat his own heart."

    Elise stares. "God, I'd straight up die."

    Susan nods. "Most people would."

    "I'd fuckin' forget to like, process the enzymes through my kidney or whatever. Poof, dead Elise."

    "Maybe you could create a custom developed internal lung filtration system that incorporates your own conscious breathing," Julian muses.

    Susan continues. "Something about his elasticity powers, he has total control of his entire body, but it means he has no involuntary body functions anymore. Everything is controlled, and has to be. So he doesn't even blink unless he wants to, so he has like, a mathematically optimized blinking regimen that he worked out."

    "So like, does Reed sleep?" Julian asks.

    "He sleeps but like, he says he only sleeps with parts of his brain at a time and he rotates it. I...I don't entirely understand what that means."

    Julian has a wicked grin. He knows what he's about to say will probably bug the shit out of Susan. "Oh, like left brain right brain? Art brain math brain? That sort of deal?"

    Susan scowls at him. "....no."

    Elise breaks the silence. "...How does he poop?"

    Susan shrugs. "I don't ask that. He's my husband. Some things are better left a mystery in a healthy marriage."

    Elise pulls out her phone and... takes notes? "I should pick your brain for marriage tips, since, you know, me and Crys and everything."

    Susan's head whips around and she gasps. "Are you and Crystal getting married?"

    "Well, not…quite,” Elise says. “Kind of! Marriage-adjacent. I'm going to be the Queen Consort and she's marrying some fuckin' square."

    "Oh!” Susan nods in recognition. “It works like that on Tarnax, according to my father, sometimes."

    "I still wish to travel to Attilan again,” Vladimir says. “Clay has repeatedly denied me this request."

    "I know! I tried to get him to let you go but he's being a dick about it. It's so good though. We eat at the best restaurants and we go shopping and Maximus bought us tickets to the opera and… Wait." A sudden flicker of discomfort and realization flickers across Elise's face. "...How do they get meat up there. ...They don't got no cows."

    "Mmm...yes, Maximus." Vlad’s voice is chilly.

    "He's nice," Elise protests. "He says I have great ideas. No one's ever told me I have great ideas before! And he got me these!" Elise holds up her wrists, heavy golden bracelets jangling next to the cheap plastic BFF one.

    "I wouldn't mind going sometime," Miles drawls. "I'd like to meet this Maximus cat."

    "Yeah but you got the -" Elise waggles her fingers - "Spy paranoia. You'd be welcome, though. I just gotta call you my fratern...malis...something."

    Susan looks at Elise. "So... if Maximus marries Crystal, will he become King? Is that how it works?"

    "Like, eventually. Well, kind of," Elise says. "The current King has to croak, I guess? And then the baby he's gonna have with Crys becomes King. But it'll be a baby. Or a toddler, or whatever."

    "Why does Maximus get skipped? When I was briefly in Attilan I thought I heard he was the King's brother."

    "Uhhh something about him not having powers." Elise starts to look uncomfortable.

    Susan grimaces.

    Elise continues. "I guess they really care about that? Like, genes and shit. My genes aren't, uh, Queenly. Buuuut I get to be a consort and she doesn't give a shit about Maximus so it's basically the same thing."

    Vlad folds his arms and looks at Susan. "Much like your people's 'Chitauri.'"

    Susan nods at Vlad. "Yyyyeah I was just thinking that."

    Michael's been humming "The Rains Of Castamere" this entire time

    "....yeah, okay," Susan says after a moment. "Vlad, Clay doesn't let you go to Attilan?"

    "No."

    "Is this about the AWOL thing?"

    Vlad nods. "Indeed."

    Susan scoffs. "That worked out in the end."

    "It's duuuuumb, I want to show Vlad around. He'd really like it there!" Elise says. "There's like, cool ass robots with four arms."

    "Reed's still angry about it,” Susan says to Vlad, referring to Kazan. “He's angry that you gave Victor his technology, and he's very angry about what happened with Peter, but first of all, he was months away from finishing it so clearly Victor knew what he was doing and was able to get the job when Reed didn't and Reed needs to put his ego down and get over that.

    "Second of all, Peter was already working for WHISPER and needed to grow up someday. I would like to be a little bit more involved in what he's doing nowadays but I think he's in good hands with SHIELD."

    PHU1KZN.png
    ”I shot my first traitor at 15” - Susan

    Elise glances at Vlad and Susan. "Peter seems a little, like. Uh. Aggro?"

    "Well he probably needs a little stronger guidance," Susan says.

    "I offered him some weed but he was like 'nooo', 'cause he's a square." Elise actually looks incredibly comforted by Susan writing off Vlad's actions.

    "Peter is doing well. to my understanding. I agree he needs stronger guidance but Clay and Flashback do their best to keep me separated from him," Vlad says.

    "Hrm," Susan says. "Maybe they need to be doing that less."

    Elise shifts uncomfortably. "I mean, I just, maybe, like, power isn't necessarily, always the best thing? And, like, figuring out, like.. how...not to..." Elise is floundering.

    "I don't think Peter needs parenting from anyone in this ship," Miles says placidly.

    Elise looks at the floor beneath her feet. "I told Clay that I could get that suit offa him if I offered him a joint and the opportunity to watch me and Crys make out and then Clay looked really mad and now I can't talk to Peter."

    Julian stares. "Dude, what? He's like, 5."

    "Desperate times, Julian, what have you offered to help?" Elise says.

    "Don't offer him the chance to watch, what's wrong with you," he says, bewildered.

    "That's a....an innovative approach, Elise," Miles manages finally.

    "Why would you want to take away his suit?" Vlad pauses. "Clay..."

    "I do need to make a stop, before we get too far, by the by," Susan says. "At the Baxter Building. I need to pick up a piece of gear. If Reed tries to get into it with you folks please don't. It won't end. I don't need it.

    "Especially you, Vlad."

    Vlad says nothing.

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

    The Messenger pulls into the Baxter Building hangar. The ship’s main door opens, and Susan gets off. She looks back at everyone. "Please stay here. Please. "I'll just be a sec."

    She leaves the hangar.

    About a minute later, a small child, about 9, walks into the hangar. He's wearing an appropriately sized Future Foundation uniform.

    5OXBWLkl.jpg

    He walks over to the Messenger, which is de-cloaked. "Hi!"

    "Uh...hey there, champ,” Miles waves. “Are you lost?"

    "Nah,” he says. "I'm Franklin."

    Elise snuffs her joint out and hides it.

    He walks up the ramp onto the ship. "Who are you guys? What're you doing on mom's ship?"

    "Hello, Franklin." Vlad walks over to the boy

    "Hi, Franklin. We're...employees of your mom." He shoots Vlad a look.

    "Oh! You work for the Foundation or…the other thing,” he whispers suddenly. "The secret thing."

    Miles nods solemnly and puts a conspiratorial finger to his lips. He nods at Miles.

    "The secret thing." Vlad smiles at Franklin

    He smiles back at Vlad. "Cool. That makes sense. Mom wouldn't let you on her ship otherwise. So whatcha guys doing? Spy stuff?"

    "Indeed," Vlad says.

    Miles nods. "Your mom has to talk to some people and she'd like some friends to go with her in case the people turn out to be jerks. So we're going to try and keep her safe, ok?"

    "Oh in case it's an ambush."

    Vlad kneels down to Franklin's eye level. "Tell me Franklin, has your mother ever mentioned anyone named Vlad?"

    "Oh, yeah, that's Victor's son," Franklin says. "He's older, not my age, he's a grown up. Are...you Vlad?"

    "Wellll......" Miles make a skeptical noise at the 'grown-up' part.

    Vlad nods. "Oh! Amazing, Franklin. You are a very smart individual, clearly. Perhaps one day you could be doing secret things."

    Franklin grins widely. "My mom said she did something bad to you a while ago. She cried and I asked her what was wrong and she said she did something really bad to Victor's son Vladimir and she felt really awful about it.

    "Then a while later, her and Peter came back in her ship from visiting Victor and she said it was all okay and you and her are friends again. Can we be friends?"

    "Of course," Vlad nods.

    "Cool."

    "Franklin!" Susan yells. "Get down here!"

    Vlad stands up.

    Franklin dashes down the ramp out of the ship.

    "What have I said about this? Repeatedly?"

    Franklin looks down at his feet. "The Messenger is for authorized personnel only. I'm not authorized." Susan looks past Franklin, up the ramp at the team. Miles waves with his extending arm. Susan scowls.

    "Your son is smart, Susan,” Vlad says. “He seems like he takes after you."

    "I am aware of this," she says tersely. "Thank you."

    She looks back at Franklin, her face softening. "Alright, cadet, here's the deal. Mommy needs to go on a mission, and daddy needs to not be a pest about it and call and text mommy every ten minutes about it. So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep daddy busy. Your reward is a day trip to Italy to get authentic gelato."

    His face brightens, and he salutes.

    "Good boy." She kisses him on the forehead, and he scampers off. Susan walks up the ramp and closes it. She practically hisses at the team. "What did you tell him?"

    "I didn't say shit." Elise holds up her hands. "I even hid my joint!"

    "He figured out most things without us," Vlad says. "I introduced myself."

    Susan groans as she plops herself down in the pilot's seat, putting a heavy metal case down next to her. "He's the son of the smartest man on the planet and a genius physicist who is also a spy. Ugh. This isn't your fault. I'm sorry."

    She starts up the Messenger, and puts it into cloak and heads out of the hangar.

    Miles points at the case. "So what's the doodad?"

    "Something I was working on with Reed. It's an infrasound frequency emitter that fires at highly specific intervals, designed to...” She pauses. "No, I'm not doing his thing. Look, it'll knock a Skrull out of shapeshifting. That's the idea."

    Vlad nods.

    "If a Skrull is assuming human form, this will knock him green," she says.

    Miles turns to Elise. "I'm counting on you to get the 'green' puns ready to go."

    Susan continues. "We've tested it on...me, pretty extensively, and it works. Doesn't hurt, doesn't do any harm, and it doesn't stop them from, you know, turning right back once it's turned off, but it's a good Skrull detector if you're not sure.

    "I don't know how useful it will be on this mission but it won't hurt to have."

    "Any edge will be useful,” Miles says. “I don't mean to be a total cynic, but I have a bad feeling about all of this."

    She nods. "So do I, that's the whole reason you guys are here."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    lt3fH2T.jpg

    "I'm supposed to meet the contact out at the train station. They expect me to be alone, so Vlad is going to have to cloak the rest of you. I'm going to pull a good distance away, cloak the Messenger, go on foot invisible, check the area out a bit out first, you guys follow in Vlad's cloak field. Good?" She looks at Miles.

    "Check," Miles says. "We've got your back."

    She pulls the Messenger up to outside the train station, which is largely vacant at this time of day. The team drops down. Susan goes invisible. However, her footprints are visible in the dirt, something she is doing intentionally because she's able to not do that.

    She's leaving a trail for the team to follow.

    Vlad creates an invisibility field for his team, and Freedom Force follows the trail. They walk into the trainyard, and Susan reappears. She subtly makes a 'standby' hand motion.
    She waits... and then someone walks out from behind the train cars.

    jXI1zsKl.jpg

    He asks Susan something in Russian, which Vlad understands. "Do you know the way to the deli?"

    Susan shrugs and says "I prefer to go to the cafe" in Russian.

    He nods. "I am the Winter Soldier," he says flatly. "You are Syuzanna Lukin."

    She nods. She looks around. "Are you... are you the only one?"

    "No."

    Susan nods again. "Where are the rest?"

    "The safehouse."

    Susan looks at the Soldier. "Will you...take me there?"

    The Soldier looks around "This depends...are you alone?"

    She shakes her head. "I'm not." She gestures. "Vlad, please."

    Vlad drops his cloak.

    "Who are they?" the Soldier asks.

    "WHISPER agents, they work for me." Susan answers.

    The Soldier nods. "You feared an ambush. Smart. Your father's loyalists are hunting us. You will follow."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Nobody’s come out and said it yet, exactly, but it’s clear that Susan’s father isn’t just some random Leviathan Skrull but is in fact their leader, the Magadan. Her last name also confirms SHIELD’s suspicion that the Magadan is the Russian oligarch and CEO of the Kronas Corporation, Alexander Lukin.

    The Soldier leads the group to a black SUV that is parked nearby. "Get in."

    Elise opens her senses. Someone has definitely been murdered in the SUV at some point and it's been cleaned. There's trace smells of blood and bleach. Elise wrinkles her nose.

    "There's gotta be a more elegant way to clean up a murder than bleach," she gripes, and then climbs in.

    Susan looks at the group.

    Miles looks at the Winter Soldier. "Does this get Sirius XM?"

    The Winter Soldier nods at Miles solemnly. Miles shrugs to the team and they begin clambering inside one by one. He sends Vlad an electronic message. The rest of us can take it if something goes wrong, but keep Elise in a cocoon if you can.

    Understood, Vlad replies.

    The Soldier turns on the car and exercises the sacred right of the driver to pick the music.




    He drives through back alleys and winds around, using techniques that Miles and Michael easily recognize from their training as being the sort of thing you do to make sure you're not being tailed.

    Vlad has reflexively been running facial recognition software on the man, as he does, and has been largely coming up empty. This man is a ghost. He doesn't exist. He would have to manually check government databases with active searches, which takes careful effort on his part. Not especially time-consuming, but more effort than simple reflex.

    Miles tries to keep an eye on their surroundings without being obvious about it. Stealing glances in the rear view, casually glancing over his shoulder. Elise starts to chatter away, as is her way.

    "So! You're pretty big on spy stuff, right?"

    "Yes."

    Vlad manages to find a picture of the man....in SHIELD databases from 1942. He looks identical to Bucky Barnes, Captain America's sidekick who was KIA during the war. Vlad narrows his eyes and relays this info to Miles. Miles looks over at Vlad, eyebrows climbing up from behind his shades in surprise, as if to say nice catch.

    “That's cool,” Elise is saying. “I'm a spy too."

    "Yes."

    "Kind of a big deal, as you can tell from the sweet coat."

    "It is nice."

    Elise grins and turns to finger gun at the rest of the team.

    Susan looks at the man. "When you say you're a Winter Soldier, you're..."

    "The," he corrects her.

    "What's the difference?" Elise asks.

    Susan stares at him. Elise notices she is moving her hand to grab her door handle. Susan is trying very hard to hide terror. Elise...doesn't get it. She glances at Susan to give her a reassuring look.

    Susan smirks weakly at Elise.

    "Soooo," Elise says, trying to change the subject away from... whatever this is. "Safehouse, huh?"

    "Yes." A pause. "For the others."

    "Lots of 'em?" she chirps.

    "Not many." A pause. "Most who did not agree were purged."

    "Purge?" Vlad asks.

    "Executed. Any who did not agree with the Dust, with Paibok's mad plan."

    At the word 'Dust', a muscle jumps under Elise's left eye.

    "We did not agree with the plan. We left. So we are hunted. By Leviathan. By SHIELD. Hatut Zeraze. MI-13. Department H. ONE."

    One of these names is new to the team.

    qlGmSdP.pngDepartment H
    gYcmegdl.png

    Very little is known about the Canadian extranormal response agency known as Department H. It appears to be the equivalent to government agencies such as MI-13 and ONE. SHIELD only became aware of Department H’s existence in 2001, and it is unclear at what point the agency came into existence prior to that (our best intel suggests sometime in the 1980s).

    A large part of why Canada has been able to operate this agency with impunity for this long without much, if anything, being known about it is because Canada is a member of NATO, a SHIELD contributor, and not a nation that SHIELD engages in any active intelligence operations against.

    At this time, there is no intention by SHIELD to investigate Department H. Like Britain’s MI-13, Canada has a right to operate its own extranormal response department and can do so without SHIELD’s oversight or interference. The standing orders for SHIELD agents are if you are operating on Canadian soil and find yourself on the same case as a legitimately identified Department H operative, defer to that operative and acknowledge their authority.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    It is suspected that Department H is operating its own team of extranormal operatives, similar to STRIKE. The current code-name that COMMS has uncovered for this team is “Alpha Flight”. Few details are known. At this time, if STRIKE agents encounter Alpha Flight operatives, proceed with extreme caution.

    "Well!” Elise says. “We're here to help now!"

    "Yes. We are grateful for WHISPER's help."

    "Yep!" Elise says, and finger guns. Miles and Vlad can tell she briefly forgot they were WHISPER. Miles sucks in a little air through his teeth.

    "Reed Richards is a good man,” the Soldier says after a moment. “Thank you, Syuzanna."

    Susan winces. "It's... just Susan. If you don't mind."

    The Soldier nods. "Yes, of course."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    They pull up to a rough looking townhouse in the projects.

    "Here."

    "Not much of a conversationalist, huh?" Elise says, finally becoming somewhat exasperated.

    "No." A pause. "I'm sorry."

    Before she steps out of the car, Susan actually changes her shape and her clothes shapeshift too. She now looks like a brunette woman with different facial features and is wearing a pantsuit and looks kind of like a social worker? Or a cop.

    Elise looks in the mirror of the Winter Soldier's car and adjusts the collar of her coat.

    The Soldier leans in very close to Elise. He whispers "Where did you get the coat?"

    "Custom tailored." Elise grins.

    "Oh." His face falls slightly. "Well, it is nice."

    "Thanks!" Elise is clearly barely restraining the urge to brag about the finer details of the coat.

    The Soldier leads the team into the basement unit of the townhome. The Soldier gives a specific knock, and the door is unlocked from inside.

    He leads the team in. There is a woman in the room who had answered the door, who looks at the group. She looks at Elise. "....Susan?"

    "Me? No, no, I'm -" Elise fumbles. "Not Susan."

    "No, I'm Susan." The woman in the pantsuit changes shape to her Future Foundation uniform and her Susan Richards face. The other woman shape-shifts into a Skrull.

    WjgxMMo.jpg


    Susan looks at her. "...Jazzy?" She grins widely.

    Susan hugs the red-headed Skrull woman and yells "Jazzy! Oh my god! Everyone, this is Jazinda. We're friends. We can trust her."

    "I'm, uh, Gertrude." Elise offers her hand to shake.

    She looks at Elise with an incredulous smile "...Gertrude? Really?" She shakes Gertrude's hand.

    "My parents were old fashioned."

    Vlad messages Miles. I don't trust Jazinda. If she is Susan's old best friend than she may be more like the old Susan.

    Miles texts back. Yeah. Using an old friend could be a ploy to get Susan to drop her guard. Be wary.

    Susan looks at Jazinda. "Who else is here?"

    "Syrro, he's in the other room," Jazinda says, pointing back over her shoulder.

    Miles smiles and offers his hand. "My codename is Machine Man," he says, looking around at the team to see if anyone reacts or challenges him on his dope new name.

    Elise snorts.

    Jazinda shakes his hand. "Cool."

    Elise leans into Miles. "Machine Man? Really?"

    Machine Man nods solemnly. "A) It has 'man,' so it's superhero-y. B) MM? Right? M..M. Comic books. Layers."

    "It sounds like an '80s thing."

    "Which is good," he says.

    "Yeah, like shoulderpads in women's suits?"

    "And pink fuzzy legwarmers, yes."

    "I would have gone with MACHINO," Elise says.

    "You went with Anteater,” he whispers. “You had your chance."

    Elise looks stunned. "Op sec!" she hisses. Then she looks astonished that she just chided the Chief about op sec. "Seriously, Machine Man sounds like...Imagine if Hyperion called himself, like, Super Man. I'm telling you, you have time to go with MACHINO. Or Lazergrid."

    "’Lazergrid’? I'm not...that doesn't even apply to me. I'm not a laser or a grid."

    "Yeah but it sounds bitchin'. I'm not a sex harpy but I have one airbrushed on my convertible."

    PHU1KZN.png
    See, I thought we were whispering, but Cass thought I was, like, yelling this out at the room and leapt at the chance to upbraid Miles, which, I mean, I can’t really blame her for. But I do.

    Oh well! These things happen. Everyone miscommunicates, or people forget what they know in- and out-of-character, or like, teleport into rooms to have conversations their characters couldn’t possibly have, or whatever. The everyday miracle of roleplaying is that it ends up making any kind of sense at all.

    Machine Man is a real Marvel character, an android superhero originally called X-51 who takes the secret identity “Aaron Stack” when he travels back to our time from the future, although he was originally not part of the main Marvel universe; created by the legendary Jack Kirby, his first appearance was in 2001 #8.

    Yes. You read that right. He was an android superhero in Jack Kirby’s comic continuation of the movie 2001.

    I don’t even know, man. Comics are weird.

    Anyway, he was eventually retconned to come from the distant future year 2020, where he fought Iron Man’s evil-ish mercenary second cousin, Arno Stark, Iron Man 2020, before traveling back to our time. (You may have noticed that “Aaron Stack” and “Arno Stark” are anagrams.)

    Aaron Stack exists in this universe, although he’s an ordinary human and not a robot superhero; if you read the ARMOR briefing, you saw that he designed the X-51 VI computer network for ARMOR.

    Anyway, I thought Miles’ recent transformation merited a new look and a new superhero code name and the “MM” coincidence immediately suggested itself and fit eerily well. Machine Man already looks more or less like my conception of MIles physically, and, even more improbably, he has a telescoping Bionic Commando arm.

    It’s a more overtly superheroic name and look, which reflects the desire Miles and Carol share to be full, legitimate superheroes instead of just dirty black ops spies, and it slides me even more firmly into the STRIKE motif of adopting legacy elements from existing characters.

    Winter Soldier is quietly watching the whole team; Vlad is quietly watching The Winter Soldier.

    Jazinda yells out "Hey, Syrro! S'ryen's here!" Susan flinches.

    Another Skrull comes out from the back, smoking a cigarette. He takes a seat on the couch as he looks over the group.

    dy0cQ6k.jpg

    "Hey S'ryen,” he says. “Long time no see."

    Susan looks at Syrro. "H-hi Syrro. Been a while."

    "You still with what's his face. Stretch Armstrong?"

    Susan grimaces. "Reed and I are very happy together, Syrro."

    Syrro shrugs "Yeah, I'll bet."

    Elise takes all of this in. Susan looks very, very conflicted by all this. She was very happy about seeing Jazinda. Syrro significantly less so. Not angry, just...conflicted. Elise can tell that Susan does not like being called S'ryen, though.

    Jazinda clears her throat "Uh, there's something really important. That I need to tell you. I didn't bring you here just because we want to come in from the cold. We do, and we're grateful for WHISPER's help, we really are. Even Syrro."

    Syrro shrugs.

    "But there's something you need to know, Susan," she continues. "Your father and Paibok, they've got another insane plan and you need to stop them. We can't do it, not the three of us."

    "How insane are we talking here," Elise asks. "Like on a scale of egging the Baxter building to the Dust..." Susan nods at Elise and looks at Jazinda.

    Jazinda says "They've hijacked the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at Fermilab, and are modifying it to create a tachyon ansible."

    Susan gasps.

    "So, I know what that is, but Machine Man here doesn't,” Elise says. "Can you fill him in?"

    Susan looks at Elise. "Tachyons are particles that can travel faster-than-light. Tachyon ansibles are FTL communicators that the Skrull Empire uses to contact each other across interstellar distances."

    Elise's eyes widen. "Oh shit."

    "If they're building an ansible, that means.... but...Why would Paibok, and why would my father...."

    "Aren't they and the Dard'van, like, enemies?" Miles asks.

    Susan nods. "That goes against everything we believe. No gods, no emperors, we rule alone, that is the founding principle of Leviathan. Like they never made an ansible by choice.”

    "Okay, look, we have Machine Man here,” Elise is saying, “we can shut it down before they start it up. Where is it?"

    "Wait.” Jazinda looks at Miles. “What's this about the Dard'van? The weird race cult?"

    Susan looks at Miles quizzically.

    Miles looks at the two women. "I, uh, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Dard'van kind of rule your Empire. How do we know that and you don't?"

    Susan stares at Miles. "...he kept this from me."

    "Oh my God, Chief,” Elise says. "You're dishing out secrets like they're kittens and you gotta find them all good homes today, aintcha?"

    "Elise. We're talking," he snaps.

    "IT'S GERTRUDE!" Elise hisses.

    "Clay kept this from me," Susan breathes.

    Miles stares at Susan. "Susan, we absolutely cannot let ET phone home."

    Susan looks devastated.

    Jazinda looks at Susan. "Who's Clay?"

    Susan shakes her head."It doesn't matter right now, Jazzy." She takes a deep cleansing breath. "Okay, okay, Jazinda, how close are the loyalists to completing the ansible?"

    Jazinda looks at Syrro, who shrugs. "Dunno, hard to say, they didn't tell me much before I bounced. Probably a few months, the DUNE wasn't even completed before they took it over and started screwing with it."

    Syrro shrugs. "I don't even know it's an ansible, to be fair, that was Jazzy's speculation, I just know it has to do with tachyons and Jazzy thinks that's all they could be doing with it. Could just be another kind of bomb. Paibok and Morrat are fuckin' insane."

    Susan scowls at Syrro. "Morrat is my father, Syrro. He might...he might be a bastard, he might be in the wrong but he's not...he's not..."

    Jazinda gently puts her hand on Susan's shoulder. "S'ryen, honey, he went along with the plan to Dust the humans. He wanted to kill them all. If he had his way, Reed, your son, they would have died. They only didn't because his plan didn't work."

    "Seems like they're desperate,” Michael says. “SHIELD kicked Leviathan's ass, their Dust bombs weren't the doomsday they were hoping for. Maybe they've decided that they need to contact the Empire with their tail between their legs."

    Syrro nods at Michael. "Makes some kind of sense. They tried to take over the planet their way for a century, got beat, gonna go back home and say sorry for killing the Crown Prince and making a mess of it, here have this world as an apology. Might work."

    "Desperate people do desperate things, even bending their principles to get what they want," Michael says.

    Syrro nods. "I'd drink to that, comrade."

    "In any case, we gotta shut them down. We can't fight an interstellar Empire by ourselves."

    "We just parachute in, drop kick 'em, and make sure it's taken care of ASAP," Elise says. "Chief, can I talk to you super quick?"

    Miles steps over to Elise. "Yes?"

    Elise drops her voice down to something only his synthetic ears can pick up. "Between Anteater and Elise, you could have just blown my cover!" she hisses. "We are doing some complex ass spy shit, and I get that you're excited to have skin again, but get your head in the game!""

    "I'm not really happy with this whole...situation," Miles hisses back. "We were supposed to be Susan's outer perimeter. Right now I'm about this close to calling this whole operation a wash and pulling out. The variables keep multiplying. But you're right, I shouldn't have called you...your name. Good catch."

    Elise looks back at Miles and taps the side of her nose. "You're teaching me spy paranoia, Chief.”

    Miles nods. "We'll make a secret agent out of you yet."

    Susan looks at Syrro. "What's the situation at Fermilab, defensively? What would we be walking into if we hit them now?"

    Miles quickly replays the conversation in his glasses' built-in HUD and catches up. Syrro has all his attention now.

    Syrro blows a bit of cigarette smoke out and sighs. "Well, there's a handful of proper 1st and 2nd gen guys who can fight, I think. There's Paibok, who, y'know, you don't want to tangle with. There's your father, same thing. They don't have any Winter Soldiers left thanks to our boy there." He motions to the Soldier standing nearby. "Biggest problem is probably the Blacksmith and his Chitauri freakshow, including Titannus."

    Susan grimaces and looks over at the team. "You already know about the Chitauri, I take it, since you talked about them earlier. Well, some of the Tunguska survivors were Chitauri and..." she hesitates.

    "And?" Machine Man coaxes her.

    "You have to understand things don't go well for the Chitauri on Tarnax. And some of them turn to cybernetics to augment themselves. True Skrull cannot use cybernetics, our regeneration and shape-shifting make it basically impossible and useless. But Chitauri can't regrow limbs or shapeshift, so, cybernetics are a way for them to get ahead and serve the empire.

    "Chitauri cybernetics formed the basis of the Winter Soldier program."

    "Alien Winter Soldiers," Miles says flatly. "Lovely."

    Syrro continues. "The Blacksmith, Jorr, he's a Chitauri cyberneticist. Titannus is his greatest creation, probably the most dangerous Chitauri warrior ever created. He's more machine than Chitauri and strays dangerously close to being a makyhena, a machine-mind. Which are like... a sin in Skrull culture."

    PHU1KZN.png
    We heard Clay use that term while fighting the Sentinels last week.

    Susan looks at Syrro "C-cool. Anything else?"

    Syrrro nods. "A few of the Black Widows. The proper ones, who got their full heritage, not that Americanski woman with the human face."

    "Oh, Christ,” Elise says. “What else? Doctor Doom? The Red Skull? An alternate dimension version of us?"

    "Nah," Syrro says. "They'll see you coming, if you bring that goofy ass flying car what's-his-face made.”

    Susan narrows her eyes. "We will not be taking the Fantasticar, Syrro. We'll get there just fine, thank you."

    Syrro shrugs and takes a drag. "Alright, sure. Okay. I'm not. I'm an engineer, not a soldier. You need tech, sure, but that's war.
    "
    Susan looks at Jazinda, who puts her hands up. "No, S'ryen, I can't. I can't. I'm an infiltrator, not a front line combatant. I can't slug it out with Chitauri cyborgs and shit, I'll die. I literally have no combat experience."

    Susan rolls her eyes and looks at the Winter Soldier, who shakes his head.

    "I cannot be trusted," he says. "I am deprogrammed only to a point. There are still telepathic entry points into my mind that any member of the Skrull imperial caste could take command of, including Paibok and Morrat. I could turn on you. It is too dangerous."

    Susan grumbles. "Fine! Fine. Then we do this ourselves."

    "It'll be fine, Susan." Elise says, looking comforting. "We can handle it."

    She nods at Elise "Thank you."

    Miles nods. "Yeah, I don't...I don't like this, exactly, but it's nothing we haven't done before."

    Elise leans in, next to Vlad. "I get it now." she says, quietly. "The whole power thing. We need it, don't we? In order to face...what we have to face." Vlad nods in agreement.

    Susan looks at Jazinda. "Are you guys safe to stay here? I can have my ship fly over here and pick us up so the Soldier doesn't have to risk driving us back. We can come pick you up after. Otherwise, I pick you up now and you just...hang in the ship while we do stuff."

    The three look at each other. Jazinda looks at Susan. "I think if you are crawling all over Paibok's operation, they'll be too busy with that to worry about us." She turns to the rest of the team. "You guys do this, and Leviathan's done. Dead in the water. You take out Paibok, dead or alive, and Leviathan's destroyed. Nobody will stay loyal after that. The dream is dead. Everyone will either come in from the cold like us, or they'll piss off to do their own thing and become SHIELD's headache or whatever."

    Susan looks at the team. "You ready?"

    "Yep." Miles rolls his shoulders. "Let's get it done."

    "Alright, I had the Messenger autopilot over to use, it's hovering over the roof cloaked. Let's go." Susan and the team load up on the Messenger and head out. Fermliab is located it Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, not far from where they are right now.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    H9lPhhsl.jpg

    Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator is one of the world's largest (It was the largest at one time until CERN's LHC was built), and various other particle physics experiments are conducted there. Their most recent experiment, the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, involves a massive tunnel to essentially railgun particles at a sensor array in order to detect complex neutrinos.

    The DUNE isn't finished yet, and only started being built in the beginning of June.

    Susan pulls the ship up to the main building, Wilson Hall, and parks it while cloaked. "Alright, I don't... I don't really have a plan here besides go in and smash everything and take prisoners."

    "I... I can try to do some recon?" Elise offers. "I gotta warn you, the last time I tried this it went weird, but I was kind of in foldspace on the moon. So it'll probably be fine this time."

    Susan looks at Miles. "Does that seem like a good idea?"

    "Go for it," he says to Elise. "We need to know what we're facing."

    "Someone hold onto me, so I don't fall off the fuckin' plane if I faint."

    X06V58al.jpg

    Elise opens her senses as far as they will go.

    There's...staff and stuff... regular people. She can hear and smell them in the main building.
    Elise goes deeper underground, since that's where she needs to look by virtue of the name of the DUNE.

    She finds a tunnel system, and she can...smell Skrulls. A dozen of them. Deep in tunnels below the main building. The team can get to the tunnels from the building.

    Some of the Skrulls smell...weird. Like how Miles used to smell. That antiseptic mechanical smell of a cyborg.

    There's also all kinds of weird gasses being used down there. Elise can identify some of them from when Victoria was trying to train her on this stuff.

    Argon, xenon, stuff like that.

    Sealed in containers, hooked up to something. Elise can't tell what.

    Elise feels her nose twitch and eyelids flutter as she returns back to her form. "I saw... Galactus...sucking off Shuma-Gorath..."

    Susan makes a face.

    Julian rubs his eyes. "Why would you put that mental image in my head?!"

    She opens her eyes and grins. "No, I'm just shitting y'all." She conveys what she actually knows.

    Miles snorts, but smiles. "Argon and xenon are both noble gases, I think. I wonder what they're doing down there."

    "An argon-xenon laser could be used to initiate a quantum waveform collapse to...anyway they're probably making tachyons," Susan says.

    "Six against twelve. Not bad odds, but we're going nonlethal. That makes things...difficult," Elise says. "Lots of innocents, too."

    "Are the innocents down in the DUNE?" Julian asks.

    "No, they're in the building above it. There's a connection, we head in through there. Cloaking, I guess? Once we're past them we're home free. Maybe pull a fire alarm or something."

    "I like that,” Susan says, “evacuate them so they're not at risk in case it gets really ugly. Vlad, can you hack their system and fake an emergency? Something that will get them far away."

    "I think I can do this, yes." He nods.

    "Try to isolate it so only the upstairs gets the message, we don't want to lose the surprise," she adds.

    "I did a pretty good job, didn't I, Miles?" Elise says in the Expecting a Prize voice.

    Miles nods. "You did," he says.

    "You're still a monster, though," Julian says. "Good lord. Cosmic-scale sex. Galactus casually sweeps The Milky Way aside to make room. Shuma-Gorath lays back anticipatorily." He points at her. "You put that in my head!"

    "You're the one extrapolating on it, dude!"

    Susan looks at Julian "Could you not?"

    Julian grumbles.

    Vlad successfully hacks Fermilab's system, giving only the main buildings an emergency evacuation order (and excluding the DUNE on purpose). The team watches from above as innocent people filter out

    Susan looks at the group. "I can put us in an invisibility sphere and get us in."

    Elise, who has been looking expectantly at Miles, finally grimaces and looks away. "Make it happen, captain."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles doesn’t carry around McDonald’s coupons or sugar cubes or whatever. Though I guess maybe he should.

    Freedom Force and Invisible Woman roll out and into the building.

    nub2ubQl.jpg

    It's been evacuated, so it's weirdly quiet.

    Susan squints warily at their surroundings. "Hrm. I don't like this. This isn't like father at all. He'd have kept sentries up top. Vlad, you didn't detect any like, monitoring software or anything?"

    "No, nothing."

    "That's...odd."

    "They didn't know we were coming," Elise says, ever the incurable optimist. "Even your dad doesn't really know Freedom Force is a thing."

    "Are you sure you can trust your old friends, Susan?" Miles asks.

    "Jazinda, yes. I don't know the Winter Soldier. If he's the Winter Soldier, the prototype... even less so. Syrro...with me and him...god...I don't even know how to answer that.

    "You ever have an ex you dated in high school and you look them up on Facebook years later and just suck your teeth at who they've become?

    "I don't believe they'd sell me out. I...I can't."

    "I understand," Miles says, "but I have to be capable of believing that for you."

    She looks at Miles and just frowns. She's not arguing with him, though. "Let's keep going."

    He nods. "In the final analysis, it doesn't really change what we have to do," he adds. "I'd rather spring the trap than get an ulcer wondering about it."

    Elise leads the team to the door she saw. "This way. It's weird. Y'know the mechanical Skrulls smell like you, Miles?"

    Miles nods. "....Huh. Do Skrulls use Drakkar Noir?"

    "No, I mean old you. Like, stitched together mechanics and people."

    Miles grins. "I'm fucking with you, Elise. But seriously, I sometimes...I sometimes wore a lot of cheap cologne. It smelled better than WD-40."

    They descend into the tunnels below Wilson Hall.

    ISG0kFvl.jpg

    She occasionally stops to take a sniff, trying to tell what's inside. "Yeah, Crys didn't like my old deodorant, I wear proper perfume now."

    "What old deodorant?" Julian smirks.

    "WOW," she says.

    The pipes in here are pressurized with gases, and if ruptured, are possibly catastrophically explosive. There's an argon-xenon mixture in the pipes. This giant pipe is part of what is feeding into the DUNE accelerator.

    Miles tries not to crack a grin at Julian's remark and fails. "Susan, any idea what the gas mixture could be for?"

    Susan tries to explain while avoiding Reed-like techno-babbling. "When this thing is fully cranked on, the gasses will convert to a plasmic state and hyper-accelerate, essentially becoming a giant laser that will stream particles at... wherever they are going. They'll smash into... whatever they have at the end. If it's a very specific kind of Burke manifold, they'll invert chirality and lose mass, becoming tachyons."

    Elise's eyes have still glazed over.

    "What they plan to do with them then is...who knows. If they've built an ansible, they could arrange the tachyons into what is functionally a data wavestream to communicate a signal and blast it towards the Empire,” she says. "There's other things you can do with tachyons but they're all... insane. You could weaponize them but that's...Death Star stuff."

    "I say we shut it down, we're taking everyone alive, right? They'll talk," Elise says.

    Susan nods at Elise.

    "Like, not torture," Elise attempts to clarify. "That's not what I'm -"

    "My father is here. I want answers," Susan says grimly.

    "You and us both," Miles says.

    The pipe leads to a wall. On either side of it are two large blast doors. They are shut.

    The group push the doors open as silently and slowly as they can.

    To no avail.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The Skrulls are waiting for them. "Come in, S'ryen! Explain yourself." Vlad and Elise have heard this voice before.

    It's Morrat, Susan's father.

    HTW9Hg5.jpg

    There is a second Skrull near him, armed and armored similarly.

    There are others in the room as well, at least a half-dozen of the Chitauri cyborgs Syrro told them about.

    h8hcizul.jpg

    Standing behind them is a Skrull, or quite likely a Chitauri given his cybernetics, who seems to be their specific leader.

    0NOb3sal.jpg

    There are also a few Skrull females with battle armor and wrist-weapons off to the other side.

    dpq5myll.jpg

    And finally, towards the center of the room, between Morrat and what is very likely Paibok and the team, is a nine-foot-tall Chitauri cyborg.

    4t10Vhwl.jpg

    That is very likely Titannus.

    PHU1KZN.png
    All of these are real characters from the comics. Morrat goes all the way back to the 1960s, having been created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in an early issue of Fantastic Four. He was a ruthless Skrull general and unsuccessful suitor for the hand of the Skrull Princess Annelle, who turned him down because she deplored his cruelty. Annelle is Clay/Z’Reg’s daughter here in Earth-1491. Did our Morrat have a similar motivation?

    Elise pulls her ICER with shaky hands. Susan puts her hand on the ICER. Elise looks at Susan, slowly nods, and holsters it.

    The team can now see what the modified DUNE is actually connected to.

    OCH6TLsl.jpg

    The sphere is over fifty feet in diameter.

    "I have nothing to explain to you, father,” Susan calls out. “You have answers for me. What the hell are you doing?! Contacting the empire? What happened to no gods or emperors, father? You coward!"

    Morrat looks confused. "Contacting the Empire? Foolish girl! Do you think this is an ansible? Do you think I'm just running home to the Emperor like a craven child, like Z'reg would?"

    It's now Susan's turn to look confused. "Then... what is..."

    Paibok smiles. "We shall show you. We'll show all of them. Jorr. activate the device."

    "No!" Elise shouts. Vlad rushes at Jorr while Elise fires ICER rounds at him.

    Michael assumes the form of the Destroyer and flies right at Titannus, trying to isolate him from the fray.

    LRQK5Tw.png

    Behemoth tackles Titannus into the cave wall, pinning him against it and isolating him from the rest of the fight, as the two big bruisers go at it one on one.

    Sensate and Victorious are blocked by a squad of Chitauri who interpose themselves between the pair and Jorr. Remembering what happened the last time she closed the distance with a Skrull, Sensate dives for cover. Victorious soars overhead and lands to Jorr’s left. The Phoenix flies to Jorr’s right, flanking him.

    Jorr, the Blacksmith, simply twitches his muscles. The device activates cybernetically.

    Phoenix shouts "No!!"

    "What did you DO?!" Sensate cries.

    Fist clenched, Machine Man flies straight at the device! "It's now or never, team! Our world is on the line. Stop that machine! Don't let up for an instant!"



    The cave walls shake. An earthquake?

    No.

    The cave's ceiling explodes.

    TLLtKgbl.jpg

    Elise shrieks. "Not again not again oh shit -"

    "Oh, fuck!" Phoenix shouts.

    "YOU!" Vlad transforms.

    bx31MjQl.png

    Behemoth quickly glances up as he keeps Titannus at bay. "Oh fuck no."

    Paibok and Morrat look up at Hyperion with terror.

    Sensate realizes they're distracted...and tags Morrak with her ICER. Because he's a Skrull, this doesn't KO him immediately, but it definitely stuns him as his regeneration fights against the neuro-toxin.

    The device is already spinning to life, but Machine Man’s strafing blast cracks the sphere, causing bursts of something to come pouring out. Vlad and Miles' geiger counters come crackling to dangerous levels.

    "What is that?!" Elise cries. "What is that?!" She is starting to panic.

    Paibok shouts at Miles. "No, you fool! Stop! You have to let the temporal field stabilize!"

    "DO I?" Miles shoots it again!

    "MILES, STOP!” Sensate calls. “I - I - I already used up my second shot I don't have another!"

    Victorious isn't paying attention to the device or Jorr. He’s only focused on Hyperion. As the Doombot soars toward him, the superman looks at Vlad. "You made me kneel. They made me serve. I'm not here for you."

    Phoenix is frantically looking between Miles blasting the device and Hyperion. Jorr's right there and somehow barely registers anymore.

    "GET OUT, SENSATE," Machine Man roars.

    Elise stares in horror for a moment. Then she runs.

    But the door is sealed. The blast door sealed automatically.

    Vlad sees something in the energy being emitted from the sphere. In the tachyons.

    ...Time.

    Vlad turns to face the device. "The fools! They were trying to build a time machine!"

    Time is ripping apart. Vlad can see it.

    "VICTORIOUS! GET HER TO SAFETY!" Machine Man calls.

    "NO!" Victorious shouts. "I AM A FULCRUM OF POWER!" He begins trying to weave a magic sigil.

    Susan puts a shield around herself and Elise. "I'll protect her!"

    Elise pounds at the inside of the bubble. "Julian!"

    "Elise!" he calls. Julian is powerless to do anything but stare at time ripping apart.

    "Julian, DO SOMETHING!" Miles shouts.

    Hyperion turns to Paibok. "You will pay for what you have done to me..."

    I8nMDajl.jpg

    The team sees Hyperion grab Paibok by the hip and shoulder and pull him two pieces as suddenly the entire room is flooded with green light.

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

    The team and Susan are standing in a ruined city.

    Julian stares around them in horror. "What the fuck just happened?"

    "No, no, no -" Elise steps out of the forcefield and opens her senses fully, desperate to find out what has happened.

    She realizes they’re somewhere else. Another dimension. An alternate world, like Earth-385, but a different one, one she hasn’t been to before.

    "This isn't home,” she says at last. “This is...it's another dimension. I don't - I don't know where."

    "Blast!" Vlad slams his fist into his palm.

    Miles flies up a short ways to get a better look. "What the - "

    It's....all gone. It's just ruins as far as the eye can see. Signs of not just a nuclear war but something else entirely. Alien weaponry. The sky is a pale green storm with streaks of lightning.

    "I don't know what happened, or why, everything happened so fast -" Elise stares at their blasted surroundings.

    "This is my fault," Vlad says.

    "No, Vlad no." Susan says softly. "It's his fault. It's their fault. Those lunatics. Jazinda was right, they're insane. They went back in time. They built a time machine and went back in time and changed things."

    "Look, we're together, That's...that's all that matters, right?" Elise puts her hand on Vlad's elbow. "I said I wasn't going to leave you again. If we're together, we can figure it out. Fighting is the worst thing we can do right now."

    Vlad nods. "We must learn what we can about our new situation. What are the rules of this world, the people of this dimension?"

    "Idiots. They're idiots," Susan is angry and saddened at once. "They didn't.... they didn't get it."

    "Did the Skrulls get back in time?" Miles asks. "Or did we just hop dimensions? If they went back and changed things, wouldn't we have been changed too?"

    Susan looks at Miles and tries to explain. "You can't just go back and like...kill Hitler. I mean, you can, but it won't work out how you think it will work. It won't change anything about your timeline. What it does is branch off another parallel universe from whatever changes you made, like whatever happens now that you killed Hitler.

    "So whatever they did, we're in that timeline now. We didn't get changed, and we didn't go with them, because Vlad tried to stop them and instead of doing that he... protected us.

    "I think he put up a ward around his friends instead of containing the disruption which.... well, he tried. That's not his fault."

    "...I don't understand." Elise rubs her temples. "But...okay."

    "Hmm,” Vlad says. “I'm still learning the Time Arcana. Strange is not as forthcoming of a teacher as my Father."

    Miles lands. "What do you think they would have done? Where would they have gone?"

    "I don't know…” Susan looks for the right words. “This devastation it.... I mean, this looks like Skrull technology. It looks like bombing."

    Miles shudders. "So we're not 'home' - we're in a branch timeline. Okay. Does that mean home is still, you know. 'Out there'? Can we contact someone - someone who travels dimensions? Like, erm, Doctor Strange?" He realizes he doesn't think she knows about ARMOR.

    "Give me a lift, Vlad," Elise says. "I'll see what I can." Vlad nods and flies her up to the roof of the nearest intact building.

    She’s greeted with the full scope of the devastation around them. Occasionally she sees wreckage of alien ships. Skrull ships. She sees one thing in the distance, looking in telescopically. A symbol, familiar, on a fortress that has the lights on.

    It's SHIELD's symbol.

    "Oh, shit!" Elise whoops. "Take us back down, we have a destination!"

    "I could contact Reed," Susan is saying.

    "You can?" Miles' eyes widen. "Nice. So, hey, what did you find, Elise?" he calls out.

    When Elise's feet hit the ground, she looks hopeful for the first time. "I saw a SHIELD fortress. Lights are on. Problem: it's far. Like..." She spreads her arms out. "Not walking distance. Other side of the city. And uh, I can't fly."

    "Fortunately," Susan says, "You're the only one who can't fly and you're like 100 pounds."

    "Yeah I was kind of fishing for a piggyback there." Elise grins. "See, I've been carrying my weight! Now you get to carry mine!"

    "Oh, don't look at me, I need to create wings. I can carry you in a bubble, though."

    "This would be the smartest option," Vlad says. Susan nods at him.

    "...A bubble?" Elise looks downcast. "I like piggyback rides! Not bubble rides! I'll be like that kid in the weather balloon. Not cool."

    Susan does a little shake with her shoulder blades and sprouts large, white-feathered, angelic wings.

    "You could hold onto my back," Miles offers.

    Elise clambers onto him like a jungle gym. "Onwards, noble steed!"

    "Hold on tight. And, uh, take a deep breath," Miles says.

    "Wait," Elise says, looking around. She feels something wrong.

    Or rather, a wrongness.

    "Wait, wait, what..."

    Something shifts in the air.



    Susan folds her wings back up. "What?"

    Miles looks around. "What...?"

    "Something just... something's wronger. Something moved. I don't know..."

    The air shimmers and folds and pierces. Something emerges as reality itself seems to part for it.

    LlrOw6Ul.jpg

    "The Council!" Vlad cries.

    "The Council," Miles says grimly. "Be super careful!"

    Elise clambers off Miles and holds up her hands in a pacifying gesture.

    It looks at all of them. Or they assume it does? It moves its head from side to side, anyway. It has no visible eyes or facial features.

    It stops and tilts its head at Susan, Susan visibly flinches and steps back.

    It then looks at Vlad, and raises its hand and points at him.

    You.

    They all hear it. Inside their heads. Inside skin and body plating. Inside neurons and code.

    It doesn't speak. It simply is heard.

    Elise wraps her arms around herself and gives a low, shuddering groan of fear. Vlad gently pushes Elise away from it. "It's okay." He steps forward. "Executor."

    Explanation required: Your actions.

    Elise has a hard time looking at the Executor. Parts of its body are not entirely here at the same time. Its angles don't all make sense. She looks away, staring at her feet.

    "We attempted to stop the Skrulls of our world from using a time machine to alter our own timeline. Upon failing to do so the device ruptured and time began to rip apart. I tried to contain the rupture but instead shielded my companions from the effects of the time stream. We are now trapped in this timeline." Vlad's tone is direct and emotionless.

    Explanation: satisfactory. Further observation: your conduct. Proceed/.

    Miles looks from the Executor to Vlad and back again. He holds up placating hands. "If you know how to return us to our home dimension, we'd be uh, grateful for a lift."

    Phoenix steps forward. He thinks at it. Are you saying you're just going to watch us go about our business?

    It turns to Julian. Interpretation: successful.

    "It will not help us," Vlad says.

    "Are you going to... to leave, or...?" Elise says to the ground.

    The Executor turns and reality shudders open. It leaves as it appeared. Vlad stares at it as it goes.

    "Soooo, that happened," Behemoth rumbles.

    Susan actually bends over and puts her hands on her knees, shaking. She looks like she is going to throw up.

    "Hm." Miles is staring after it in a thoughtful pose. "Susan, do you know something about those things?"

    "Christ,” Elise says, “didn't you guys see it? It's just, it's wrong, it doesn't fit together like it should. It hurts to look at."

    Vlad looks at Susan.

    She stands shakily and takes a deep breath. "The Council has showed up a few times in our lives. When Reed and I got married. When Franklin was born. The first time Reed used the helmet. They're just these fucked-up cosmic ghost monsters that haunt my fucking life."

    “I hate them," Elise says in a very small voice.

    "So you've only run into them on our Earth? Back home?" Miles says.

    "Yeah, I suppose? But then I haven't done a lot of dimensional exploring. I've been to our Earth, and the Negative Zone. That's kinda it."

    Vlad narrows his eyes. "It seems The Council has a special interest in your family, Susan. SHIELD has only encountered them once in the field."

    "That's great, that is," Susan says to Vlad. "It's probably because of dumb shit Reed's done. Probably because of something with the Negative Zone."

    "Perhaps..." Vlad says.

    "The Negative Zone?" Elise looks up for the first time. "I think that's called a Hot Topic in most places."

    "I keep telling him not to futz with that place, not to build anything there or take anything from there, but does he listen? Nooooope. And now I have fucked up Escher god things that show up when I'm holding my newborn for the first time."

    "You should tell him he can't trek to your Negative Zone unless he knocks it off."

    Susan actually snort-laughs at Elise's joke. Michael holds out his fist for Elise to bump. She bumps it.

    The color has returned to Elise's face. "And the helmet, right? There's a dick joke to be made but I can't quite get it together."

    Vlad tries to keep the conversation moving. "And before that, when you got married, you said?"

    "Yeah, they were an uninvited guest, so to speak. Reed and I just like, had a quiet moment away from the guests and photographers to talk about stuff and everything, and two of them just showed up.

    "They asked us like, basic questions. Did I tell him I was a Skrull? Am I pregnant? Does he know I'm a SHIELD agent? etc. To be honest if I wasn't 100% honest with Reed at that point it would have nuked my brand new marriage.

    "Non-euclidean assholes."

    "Interesting..." Vlad says.

    "How do they even work?" Elise gripes. "It's like someone tried to fuck my brain with a friggin escher print."

    Miles folds his arms. "And what's this about a helmet?"

    "The helmet is.... Uhhhh..." Susan looks uncomfortable. "Alright look, that's a bigger topic than right now, okay? Can we go to the place that Elise found?"

    She grows her wings again and takes off. Michael, Julian, and Vladimir follow.

    "Good news, Miles! I'm forty percent sure I'm not going to puke!" Elise happily clambers back on Miles' back.

    Miles takes off. "Please don't puke on me," he says in a quiet voice.

    "Miles. I thought we were a team. Yet you accuse me of -" Elise feels the air hit her face, makes a hurk noise, and goes silent, focusing on clinging to Miles.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 2
    They fly to the SHIELD base that Elise spotted. Vlad and Miles immediately hear a radio call-out requesting their disposition, callsigns, and IFF frequency. It's on a SHIELD encrypted frequency.

    The team are being called "Unidentified aerials" and being advised to identify themselves immediately or they will be shot down.

    "Commander?" Vlad says to Miles.

    Miles keys in to the frequency. "SHIELD base, this is Agent Miles Mason; agent of STRIKE on detached assignment from Director Fury and making an unscheduled emergency landing. We come in peace. Please advise.”

    A new voice comes on the other end. It's...Fury's. "Son, I don't know who you are, or what STRIKE is, so you better land and explain yourself or we're gonna assume you're green as fuck and turn you to ash. Land in front of the gate, drop any weapons you are carrying and don't make any sudden moves."

    "Oh, howdy, Director," Miles tries to put a jovial chirp into his voice. "We're landing directly."

    They land. Michael remains in his armored form in case things go south. Elise removes her photostatic veil and stands next to Susan, clearly ready to jump in front of her to defend her at a moment's notice. Seeing this, Julian also deactivates his veil.

    They stand before the fort.

    Ex0oD5Zl.jpg

    A group of heavily armored SHIELD agents come out of the entrance.

    vPl9uYZl.jpg

    They're using armor and weapons that look...different from SHIELD on your world.

    "Take me to your leader," Miles says.

    Elise shoots him a look askance. "Really."

    Susan looks at Miles. "For real, man? Even I think that's bad."

    "Do you guys know me? Elise Arnell, Agent Anteater?" Elise grins nervously.

    "No."

    "...Sensate, maybe? That ringing a bell?"

    "No." One of them is holding a camera.

    Over the radio, Fury communicates to Miles. "Is that a Doombot?"

    "Yeah! He's great!" Miles says. "Okay, Director, before you say anything, let me give you the short version. We're your black ops goon squad from an alternate universe. It turns out our world had had Skrulls on it since 1908. We cleared most of them out, but the last holdouts set off a tachyon device that apparently took them back in time and created this timeline. My man Vladimir here put up a temporal shield that protected us from the timeline shift. So now we're marooned on your world and we have some Skrulls to hunt down so we can try and get home. Oh, and we all have superpowers, so you'll like having us around. Now, any questions?"

    "I have a few, yes."

    "Shoot,” Miles says. “I mean, not literally!"

    One of the SHIELD agents holds his hand up to his head. He looks at the team. "We're to escort you in."

    "Okay, here's my ICER," Elise hands it to him. "Here's my set of guns." Elise flexes.

    "Is that... power armor or a robot or...." the agent gestures at Behemoth.

    "Oh! Right, just a sec." Michael powers down.

    The agents pause.

    Two of them turn and look at the third. Who stops and takes his mask off and....is Michael.

    "SKRULL!" They raise their guns.

    Elise dives between Michael and...Michael. "No, no!"

    "Hey. HEY!” Miles shouts in an amplified voice. “DId you guys not hear ANYTHING I JUST SAID?"

    Michael holds up his hands. "I'm not a Skrull! I'll go with you guys peacefully, and you guys can test me all you want."

    "Alternate universe!” Miles is shouting. “Do you have Star Trek in this fuckhole? Christ!"

    Fury comes over the loudspeaker. "STAND DOWN AND ESCORT THEM IN YOU FUCKIN’ IDIOTS!"

    The three agents stand down and look kind of ashamed.

    "I dunno if they have humour in this universe, Miles,” Elise says. “They didn't laugh at my guns joke."

    The agents lead the team in.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    8OXt0mcl.jpg

    Elise sniffs and cranes her head, looking around everywhere. It's definitely a SHIELD base, but everything is...more tense. It feels kind of like the Earth-385 place, but more...professional.

    Less a refugee camp, and more like a place actively at war.

    "Hey, do you guys mind if I puff on a joint here? I'm like, super stressed. It's my medicine," Elise asks. "My girlfriend says I should smoke less, but she's not here, so..."

    "What...? How do you...." A door slides open.

    io71JQQl.jpg

    "Step into my office, please."

    Elise takes that as a yes, and pops the joint between her lips and fumbles for a lighter as she follows the team into Fury's office.

    Fury sits behind his desk and points at Elise. "Is that tobacco or skunk?"

    "Uh, weed, sir."

    Fury scrunches up his face. "Bleh."

    "S'my medicine, sir," she says. "I have cigarettes?"

    "You do? My god....."

    "Yeah, you can have my pack, I'm a social smoker these days.” She produces a pack.

    "Got you covered, sir," Julian says, pulling an expensive cigarette from a case.

    Fury snatches both

    Elise grins at Julian. "See? We're already helping."

    "Thank you." He lights up a cigarette and blows smoke with satisfaction. "Good lord."

    "Okay,” Elise says, “So, um, you had questions?"

    Fury nods, eyes still closed. "Oh, yes."

    Elise is turning out her pockets, looking for anything else that she can bribe Fury with.
    "I have gum?"

    "Alright, well, I'm going to go ahead and buy your story," Fury says. "Because I had been secretly developing an alternate universe division of SHIELD for a few years before Leviathan fucked things all to hell."

    "ARMOR, right?" Elise asks.

    "Yeah, ARMOR is exactly what I was going to call it. And I didn't tell anyone. And STRIKE seems like the kind of thing an alternate universe version of me would do.”

    Elise grins and taps the side of her head. "Proof!"

    "So either you're telepaths," Fury says, "Or you're who you say you are."

    Miles nudges Elise with his elbow. "Ixnay on the Mor-Aray."

    "What? Like, the eel? OH, wait, no, pig La-" she straightens. "SO, MISTER FURY. SIR."

    "I do have some questions, though," Fury says. "Like hang on a second here. I know some of you already."

    "You do?” Miles says. “Sweet. I want to meet my, uh...my not-evil twin."

    Fury continues. "Westin and Richards are OPS agents. Westin works here, Richards...well, sorry to tell you this, hun, but you're dead in this world."

    "Yeeeah, I might have met...myself at the gate out there,” Michael says. “Awkward."

    "What about me?" Elise says. "Maybe there's a plucky young lass in COMMS?"

    "I don't know you."

    "Oh."

    "COMMS is gone."

    "...Oh." She pauses. "Oh, I'm fucking dead here, aren't i?"


    "Probably."

    "This face ringing any bells?" Julian gestures to himself.

    Fury looks closely at Julian with one eye. "Oh. Oh shit. You're Adler. That's fucked up."

    "...Did everyone but me survive?” Elise asks the room. "This is bullshit!"

    "You were probably too mean to Jeremiah in this world, Elise," Miles says.

    "I'm shocked that an alternate Elise could beat me at that," she says. "I wanna meet her."

    "...Why is it fucked up?" Julian asks Fury.

    "SWORD's fuckin' gone," Fury says.

    Julian sucks his teeth.

    "The satellite network was one of the first things to go," Fury says.

    "Oh."

    Miles steps forward at the mention of the satellite network. "So we need to know as much as you can tell us about that. What happened. How it looked from your perspective. How long had Leviathan been around, here?"

    "So, here's what happened here, and I imagine shit went down different on your world, since you have cigarettes and you're part of a division of SHIELD that doesn't exist. Two years back is when everything got fucked."

    "Wait. What year is it now?" Elise asks.

    "2017."

    Elise looks visibly relieved.

    "Two years ago, Leviathan came back with a vengeance. It was biblical. Just a sec...."
    He brings up imagery on a holographic display next to him:

    Aenl1col.jpg

    "They hit us hard. Ships, weapons. We weren't ready. They hit Washington DC with a team they called the Liberators and the Avengers weren't able to stop them.

    "They killed the President and Vice President, destroyed Congress and the Supreme Court. The entire government of the US. Just collapsed it.

    "Leviathan had always been one step ahead of SHIELD throughout the Cold War. The Black Widows, the Wolf Spiders, the Winter Soldiers, we could never catch up, and we never knew what was going on until it was too late. It was always a war of attrition.

    "It's why the US lost the Cold War and the USSR didn't really collapse until 2004.

    "But the worst was when Leviathan dropped the mask. Stopped being a terrorist group. They just said, screw it, we're Skrulls. They took all their technology that they'd been developing for years, and all the breeding they'd been doing, and they just threw it at us.

    r1WoWlal.jpg

    "We lost. We lost badly. They had infiltrated SHIELD and every national intelligence agency. The worst was the way they infested MI-13 and nobody ever stopped them. MI-13 was completely rotten with Skrulls and they basically took over Britain overnight.

    "And the UK is a nuclear power so...well, you see how that went."

    Elise clears her throat. "Sir, I don't want to seem ungrateful, but... Like...If we can help, maybe we can? But I think we...want to get home."

    "I understand," Fury says. "This isn't your world. This isn't your fight."

    "I...it might be?” Miles says. “Our Skrulls were building a time machine. If they ended up here, it's sort of on us if we didn't stop them."

    "Miles," she says. "Miles, all of this is bigger than just this, like... if I don't go home, what happens to Crys? That alliance might just fall apart. Everything might fall apart! And I'm not living here!"

    "Do you even know how far back they went, what they changed?" Fury asks. "What could they have fucked up that could have done...all this?"

    "I was hoping you might have some idea,” Miles tells Fury. “But if the Soviet Union only fell in 2004, that's a clue. It was 1991 for us."

    "Miles. Miles. I am super glad you are leaning into this hero thing." Elise is getting desperate.

    "What happened in Chernobyl? In this world," Vlad asks.

    "Chernobyl?" Fury looks confused. "That's where they have their big-ass reactor."

    "It never...melted down?" Miles asks.

    "No?"

    "Guys. Guys." Elise is beginning to look like a cornered animal. "We have a mission!"

    Miles continues ignoring her. "In our world, it melted down in...'85? 86? Pretty nasty. It accelerated the USSR's decline."

    "Back in the 80's, I tried to put an op together with Hank Pym to figure out what was going on with Chernobyl and Vanko and all that, but that team got killed by Leviathan agents, except for Hyperion, who was taken captive and brainwashed."

    "Who are the members of The Liberators?" Vladimir asks.

    "Hyperion, Abomination, Perun, Crimson Dynamo, bunch of Leviathan super assholes."

    "...Jenny. "Fury. Do you have a Holepunch? Like..." Elise is losing the plot. "I don't... I don't want to be here. I'm dead here!"

    "A holepunch?" Fury looks at his desk, baffled. "I don't...."

    Susan puts her hands on Elise "Elise, it's okay. You're okay. I'll keep you safe, okay?"

    "I don't think I'm okay! I think we're fucking stuck in hell world!"

    "We're not stuck,” Susan says. “I just need to call Reed and he'll pick us up."

    "...Okay. Okay."

    “Relax, Elise,” Julian says. “It's only hell because you got killed but now there's one to fill the gap."

    "Wow. Wow. Really? Really."

    "No, not really," he says.

    "Mr. Fury, can I have a cigarette back, please?"

    "Yes." He hands Elise a cigarette. She sits and angrily smokes.

    Fury resumes his story. "But even before Chernobyl, SHIELD was always on the backfoot. MI-13 went rotten back in the 70s. "So once we lost that ally, it was just us vs. Leviathan."

    "Clay..." Vlad looks again to Miles.

    "I... I don't think Clay's on this world," Elise says. "I think...he talked about getting found out in England, remember?"

    Susan looks at Elise. "That's what they changed. They went back and killed him."

    "Oh my God." Elise angrily smokes. "Now I'm invested! Thanks, Miles!”

    Miles waves this off. "Fury, do you have any records of a Clay Quartermain? MI-13 guy? Or a British patriotic hero from WWII? Jack Frost or something? One of the Invaders?"

    "Jack Frost? No. Union Jack, yeah. He was a British super-soldier, worked with my father. James Montgomery Falsworth."

    "And then in like, the 70s, right?” Elise asks. "He went poof?"

    "No, he died in the war."

    "Clay never took his place," Vlad says.

    Miles nods. "He was never here.”

    "I HATE THIS TIMELINE," Elise grouses. "Are you cool with gay people? Does this timeline have that at least? Because I don't want to have that conversation twice today."

    "Who the hell is Clay?"

    "Z'Reg,” Vlad says. “the Prince of the Skrull Empire."

    "Oh."

    Miles nods. "He's a Skrull who went native. He helped us."

    Elise looks at the cigarette in one hand and the joint in the other. "Do you have alcohol on this world?"

    "Z'Reg was killed," Fury says.

    "In our timeline he was not," Vlad says.

    "Our best intel was that the Skrulls killed him shortly after crash landing. Turned on him, Brutus on Caesar style."

    "Oh my God." Elise reaches into one of the generous pockets of her big coat and pulls out a flask. She unscrews the top and sniffs the contents.

    "You're saying in your timeline he was basically a stand-up guy?" Fury asks.

    Miles nods. "Fury, this whole Leviathan thing...the Skrull Crown Prince was on the ship that went down in Tunguska. He got assassinated by....Commie Skrulls, basically? Anarchist anti-monarchist type guys. In our world, he got away and helped protect Earth. He took Union Jack's place in the war after Jack died. He worked for UK intelligence after the war. Fought Leviathan. But here, they scragged him. That's what changed."

    "Motherfuckers."

    "Mr. Fury, I'm about to down half of this whiskey," Elise says. "Do you have alcohol on this world? Would you like the other half?"

    He pulls out a bottle of scotch and a glass and just slides it wordlessly over to Elise.

    "Nice!" Elise pours herself a generous glass.

    Vlad eyes the tumbler skeptically. "I would not suggest that, Elise. We are still on a mission and you are a hundred pounds.”

    Elise looks pleadingly at Vlad with puppy dog eyes. "One glass?"

    "I believe that would be fine," Vlad says.

    Elise immediately downs the glass in one go.

    "Well,” Fury says, “from what I understand from the science boys, it's not as simple as going back and trying to stop them from doing that. That just creates another world and still leaves me holding my dick."

    "So what's the situation now?” Miles asks. “Are Leviathan...in charge? Or did they just wreck the planet and fuck off back into space?"

    "Well, about that...." Fury begins. "Apparently, the Skrulls caught wind of the fact that the Skrull Empire is ruled by... well, put simply, Skrull Nazis. Genocidal racial supremacists."

    Susan looks horrified.

    Elise pours herself another glass. Elise downs the glass, and then offers Susan one. She silently accepts.

    "They're called the Dard'van. Were a little pissant cult when Leviathan left but I guess when they fucked off with the Crown Prince it upset the balance of things," Fury says. "So now they're in charge and when Leviathan cottoned on to that they decided maybe ET...doesn't phone home.

    "Because Leviathan sure did love their racial mixing.

    "They're trying to keep their head down and stay out of the Kree-Skrull War buuuuut they kinda have one of their own."

    "...Do you have Inhumans, by the way?" Elise asks.

    Fury smiles. "Was just getting to that, hun. When they destroyed the Kree satellite network, they pissed off Attilan."

    "...Oh,” Elise says.

    "So now Leviathan is at war with Attilan."

    "Princess Crystalia?" Elise asks.

    "Who?" Fury tilts his head. "I don't know all of Attilan's politics. I stay in my lane and keep my head down, kiddo."

    "It... it doesn't matter. She wouldn't be the same as..."

    "Attilan and Leviathan are giants in the playground," he says.

    "Who rules Attilan?" Michael asks.

    "That I do know! He's named Black Bolt. He shows up from time to time to push Leviathan's shit in."

    Elise pours the third drink when she thinks no one is watching. Susan puts her hand over the glass and shakes her head.

    Elise sighs and hands over the flask. And then roots in her pockets and hands over complimentary minibar drinks.

    Susan takes the glass. Julian makes a come-hither motion, but she drinks it herself.

    PHU1KZN.png
    If this was a movie, I feel like this should be all done in one steady, locked-down take. Miles and Vlad and Fury and Michael in the foreground, trying to have a grown-up conversation, and everyone else knocking back shots in the background.

    "Look, if you folks want to get home, I think I can help you, but I have one condition," Fury says.

    "What is it?" Miles asks.

    "That you come back."

    "Why." Elise is too drunk to make it anything but an exasperated groan. "Like, forever?"

    Miles puts his hand out. "Okay. Yes."

    "MILES,” she shrieks.

    Fury continues. "You come back, prepared. Ready to fight. Ready to help. I get right now the rug got pulled out from under you and you're scared and unprepared and under-equipped."

    "I'm a little drunk," Elise adds.

    "And a little drunk," Fury nods.

    "Clay's gonna be fuckin' unbearable when we tell him this shit," she notes. "It's like he's the protagonist of his very own, world-scale It's A Wonderful Life."

    "You talk to the Nick in your world, I'm sure he'll agree with me," Fury says.

    "I think he will,” Miles says. “We, uh....we know some folks who can help."

    "Yeah, I know you do.” Fury’s smile is icy.

    Elise's lips suddenly quirk into a smile. "Oh, we didn't tell you about the Nick in our world? He got eaten by a wha -"

    "You're not the first bozos from your world who have been here," Fury says.
    "Oh." Elise goes quiet.

    "Your version of ARMOR has been here before," Fury says. "And they showed up like fucking tourists."

    "Um. How so?" Miles asks.

    "They showed up, looked around like white people who took a wrong turn into a neighborhood too black for their nice car, and went oh we're sorry, our bad," Fury says. "And drove off."

    "We'll be back," Elise promises. "Hey, other you likes cigars. I can bring you some cigars? I have lots of pockets."

    "Yes, please, good god."

    "Anything else? I have lots of pockets."

    "I don't know, we'll figure something out," Fury says. "For now, let's get you people home."

    "How do you plan to get us back?" Miles asks.

    "You're going to call your version of ARMOR on the transdimensional signal unit we pinched off one of their guys."

    Miles laughs. “Nice."

    "They don't know we have it so they're going to be maybe pretty upset but your Rick Jones can suck my dick to the hip."

    Elise laughs a little too loudly.

    "You guys have powers, and that's awesome. If you guys still have Avengers on your world, bring them too,” Fury says.

    "I could have been an Avenger!" Elise blurts out again. "Elise could have been an Avenger," Miles notes. "Jinx!"

    "Yessssssssssss," she says.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Fury leads the team out of his office to a secure lab elsewhere in the facility.

    He takes out a small device. Freedom Force have seen one like this before. Josten had it. It's definitely an ARMOR transponder.

    Fury hands Miles the transponder. "If you've got a security code, punch it in. The science boys basically explained it as a transdimensional telegraph, it's going to send a morse code line to ARMOR's base and they'll send a portal over. And probably yell, but fuck 'em. Uppity shits."

    "I'm good with the yelling," Miles smiles. "Thanks for the help, Fury. We'll be back to return the favor. Hey, Susan? There's some stuff you're going to see that you weren't cleared for so uh, I dunno, maybe put your hands over your eyes or something." He punches in the code.

    Susan makes a pfft noise.

    A few minutes later, a portal opens, and War Machine steps out.

    ntsVOYtl.png

    "Oh, hi Miles."

    "Rhodes." Fury says flatly.

    "Boy, have we got a story for you," Miles grins.

    "Just a sec. Scanning your quantum chirality." War Machine turns his head to each person in the room in turn. "Uh... you're Susan Richards 1491?"

    "Yeah,” Susan frowns. "I guess."

    "Uh, alright."

    "Yeah, she came here with us," Miles explains.

    War Machine presses a few buttons on his armor, and the portal...inverts? Like it seems to change.

    "Alright, well, everyone but Fury, let's roll."

    Fury scowls at War Machine. "Get the fuck out of here, Rhodes, useless tourist-ass motherfucker."

    "See you, Fury," Miles says.

    "We'll be back, I guess?" Elise says. She's swaying a little. "...I'm drunk."

    The team follows Rhodes through the portal. Elise completely loses the entire contents of her stomach. Drunkenness plus a portal travel just destroys her.

    Freedom Force and Susan are at the Holepunch.

    AP3bRq6.jpg

    ARMOR's staff are there, including Rick Jones. "What in the infinite fucks did you people do?"

    Miles looks at the ARMOR personnel. "Take me to our leader."

    Elise staggers forward. "A-Are we h-HUUAUGGHGHHH."

    Miles steps deftly out of the way of a greenish splash. "ROBOT reflexes."

    "How did you even get to Earth-462?" Jones demands, then steps back as Elise helpfully throws up again next to his feet. "Are you drunk? That sick smells like scotch. Expensive scotch."

    Elise rolls onto her back and stares at the ceiling. "...No?"

    "It's literally priceless scotch,” Miles says. “They don't have much left over there."

    "Narc,” Elise breathes.

    "You were drinking scotch with the natives? What the fuck."

    Elise opens her eyes and glares up at Rick. "Yeah, and I got more diplomacy done in five minutes than you guys did ever. So eat my ass, Whisperer."

    "You didn't cut some kind of deal with them, did you?" He stares. "Oh god, you did. What is with you people and deals."

    Elise raises a finger in the air and gives a shaky laugh. "Can someone please pick me up and get me a glass of water. And find me somewhere soft."

    "They need help, Jones,” Miles says. “We promised it to them. And we're going to deliver, because - spoiler alert - we made Earth-462."

    "...oh for.... were you people time travelling?" Jones stares. "Did you people try to kill Hitler or something?"

    "Come on, did we really?” Phoenix says to Miles. “Let's not admit to totally fucking up an alternate universe before we can find someone else to throw under the bus."

    "Okay, Whisperer, look. Look." Elise sits up and makes eye contact. "It's very complicated. What have you done with your day?"

    Miles puts an open hand over Elise’s face and meets Jones’ stare. "We got a lead on the last leaders of Leviathan. They were supposed to be building a radio to phone home, right? But we get there and it's something else. A fucking time machine. And they knew we were coming - put a pin in that to find out how later - and turned it on as soon as we got in. We tried to stop them but couldn't seal the deal. And apparently they went back and created Earth-462. They gave that world's Leviathan the push it needed to conquer everything."

    Jones looks at Miles and his lips tighten. He yells back. "Foster! Those STRIKE assholes went and made a time loop!"

    Elise reaches up. "Vlad. Vlad. You gotta help me, Vlad. That singular drink snuck up on me, Vlad." He picks her up.

    Jane Foster slides out of her office on her chair, looking worried. "Is it a... stable time loop?"

    Miles turns to Dr. Foster. "I don't know how you could tell, but they apparently went all the way back to 1908. Everything there is a fait accompli. But I guess ARMOR went to that world before we created it, which...my head hurts."

    Foster shrugs. "Sounds stable to me, Director. As long as we don't keep temporally fussing with it, it should be fine."

    Elise leans against Vlad and shoots Foster a thumbs up.

    "Did any Executors show up?" Foster asks.

    "Oh, yeah, one," Elise says. "Vlad explained everything to him! ….Her? It?"

    Jones looks at Elise, then looks at Vlad. "...what did they say in response? Did they say anything?"

    When Jones looks at Vlad, Elise gives Phoenix, Miles, and Behemoth a devious grin.
    She knows what she's doing.

    "They said his explanation was satisfactory," Miles says while staring at Elise.

    "Yes, after they requested an explanation of our actions and I provided one they said it was satisfactory and we would continue to be observed. If that meant while we were within 362, or just in general now, is unknown," Vlad says.

    Jones growls. Audibly.

    Foster says "Well that's not good." It's not clear if she's talking about the Executor's response, or Jones'.

    "So, Jones, are we done here?" Elise says.

    "Yes, you very much are."

    "We kind of have to call our actual superior officer?" she adds.

    "I will have a quinjet drop you off."

    Miles hears a message in his ear off his comm. It's Susan, who he suddenly realizes isn't there. “Tell them you have a ride already."

    "We've got a ride," Miles says.

    Jones scowls. "How do you... you just... fuck it, you know what? Fuck it. Sure, fine. Go."

    "Do you have a mop?" Elise offers. "I can like, clean up."

    "No," he growls. "Our staff will clean it up. Go."

    "Let's roll out," Miles says.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 2
    As soon as they're outside, Elise grins at Vlad. "You know the two of us are going to have to come back here, right?"

    He takes a brief moment to look over the facility, thinking of X-51. "Indeed, Elise..."

    Miles looks at Elise and Vlad and makes a low, skeptical noise.

    The team moves out of the Hollow and the interstitial space it occupies, in the entrance cavern. Vlad hears Susan's voice over radio. "Vlad, can you create a portal back to Fermilab, where I parked the Messenger?"

    "Of course," he says.

    "Michael, I am super impressed with you," Elise says.

    "Thank you, someone finally notices," he deadpans.

    "I mean, you looked at yourself, right in the eyes," she continues. "And he owed you one. You probably could have gotten at least a handie."

    Vlad opens the portal back to Fermilab in Illinois.

    "I wonder if he's a Behemoth too..." Michael winks and spreads his hands about a foot apart.

    Elise gapes. "Oh my Gooooo -"

    As the team walks through the portal, they hear the Hollow go into red alert behind them.

    The portal closes. They’re at Fermilab.

    "What the - ?" Miles whirls around. "Vlad, get us back there."

    Susan reappears. "Uhhhhh, hold on there. Maybe uh, pump the brakes. Everything's fine."

    Miles stares. "WHAT. DID. YOU. DO."

    "Miles!" Elise says. "Don't be a dick to Susan!"

    "Susan..." Vlad growls.

    "Well, the thing is, War Machine saw me when we were over on the other Earth, but not on the other end on our Earth," she says. "Because Jones would have probably freaked out if he saw me. So I just went invisible when I got over there and ducked out.

    "Once you guys stopped talking to Jones it was a countdown until he talked to Rhodes and once he did, Rhodes would mention he saw me over there and Jones would sound the klaxons."

    Elise gives Susan's face a quick check. Just to see if she's lying! It's probably fine.

    Miles rubs his temples. "Hnnngh."

    "Hey, uh, Susan?" Elise begins hesitantly. "Remember on the Messenger? When you asked if I could detect lies? Well, you're not, like, lying lying."

    Miles straightens and stares.

    Susan suddenly has a micro-expression flash of panic that Elise sees. Only Elise sees it.

    "But I can kind of, yeah, see, there it is,” Elise says. “Your muscles under your muscles do this thing? It's really cool actually."

    "So, yeah, once again: what did you do.” Miles’ voice is dangerously calm. "Please just tell us the truth."

    "Miles, I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for all of this." Elise laughs nervously. "Don't be mean."

    Vlad folds his arms and stares at Susan.

    "Sooo that portal technology looked very familiar because at the very least part of it is absolutely stolen from the Foundation. Reed and I worked very hard on that technology. It's our tech. Our research that we literally put our bodies on the line to test and we were permanently changed by it."

    Elise gestures widely at Susan. "See?"

    "So I thought it was fair, since WHISPER and SHIELD are working together but Clay and Fury still decide whenever they want to keep things from me like the Dard'van and ARMOR, which is based off technology and science they stole from us....

    "To just... you know. Share."

    "I'm on team Susan here," Elise says. "Susan and Reed took me in and did a really good try at saving my life after the whole Titanium Man thing. They didn't have to do that!"

    Miles sighs. "Elise, oh my god stop talking for once this entire day. Please."

    Elise looks genuinely hurt. "What!"

    Miles faces Susan and stands a moment, looking for the words.

    "Susan, I don't like that Clay didn't tell you about the Dard'van. I don't regret telling you that. And once we knew we were stuck in that other world, I was okay with the idea of your finding out about ARMOR, too. And if you had a problem with what you saw at ARMOR, I would have hoped that you could maybe just...talk to someone? Express a concern? Like a normal person? I might even have sympathized! I don't think of you as the enemy! I would have hoped we could be frank with each other after all of this. But I guess your apple just didn't fall that far from the tree, did it."

    Elise stares. "Miles!"

    Susan sighs. "No, that's fair.

    "Reed and I are each other's better angels in a lot of ways. Without him, I start turning into... that person. Without me...well, the person he is...anyway, that's probably as good a reason as any to get back home."

    "I think I understand that exactly," Elise says serenely, rubbing the BFF bracelet on her hand with a thumb.

    "I'm used to working with my team who are my family and I didn't see you guys that way and didn't keep you in the loop like I would with Reed and Johnny and Ben. I'm sorry."

    "I accept your apology," Elise says piously. Vlad nods.

    Miles steps forward. "You've done okay with my guys, our, uh, rocky start aside. We're not family, but I hope we can be friends. Will you trust us? Will you let us trust you?" He offers a hand.

    She shakes Miles' hand. "Yeah. Absolutely."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Every player has something they like doing in this game. Jake enjoys being an instigator and agent of chaos, making Vlad a walking origin story for half the characters in this version of the Marvel Universe. Cass enjoys getting the goats of the other PCs and NPCs.

    Me, I get my fun from jabbing my finger into the chests of NPCs and telling them to shut up and get in line. And this campaign affords me plenty of scope for that!


    He sighs with exhaustion. "Thank you. So....we all kind of fucked that other world. We didn't mean to, but it's our mess. There are a lot of long talks with Clay and Rick Jones and Fury in my future, and I'm going to persuade them to help. Can you work on your husband from your end? We can help more together."

    "Yes,” Susan says, “the tricky part with Reed will be to get him to help the...right way."

    "Did I help?" Elise looks expectantly at Miles.

    "Sure, I guess." He sighs. "Of course, Elise. I'll spot you a McFlurry when we get back."

    "A large one?" she says. "With extra topping?"

    "Why not."

    Elise witch cackles.

    Miles turns back to Susan. "Anything you can do, we'd appreciate. I, uh....I respect your husband's intelligence. It'd be nice if I could trust him."

    Susan opens the ramp of the Messenger. "Alright, let's go pick Jazzy and Syrro and that Winter Soldier guy, at least we can call that a win."

    Miles trudges up the ramp. "So is the Winter Soldier a Skrull too? Did someone impersonate Barnes? Oh, shit, I forgot - that guy? He's Bucky. Captain America's sidekick from the war. Or a Skrull that looks like him, at least? I don't know."

    Susan nods "I've heard the rumors. He's 'the prototype,' Shinski's original. Shinski made a couple of cybernetic duplicates of him back in the 80's, but those stopped when he died at Chernobyl." She’s silent for a moment. "God, that's going to mess Steve up bad."

    Miles shrugs. "I dunno, his best friend is back. If we can deprogram him, maybe they can hang out again."

    Susan and Freedom Force board the Messenger.

    After a time, Susan breaks the silence. "Reed.... means well.

    “Reed's cardinal sin is his arrogance. He thinks everyone else isn't as smart as him and a lot of times, that's objectively true. But it means sometimes he thinks it gives him the right to just...make executive decisions, like he knows best. And that's....that's problematic thinking. It's why he needs me around. It's what I mean when I say we're each other's better angels."

    Elise nods thoughtfully. "That's kind of the trick, isn't it? Like, to do things, to do things that have power and weight, and like...NOT go full mad scientist?"

    Susan nods. "Yeah, that's always the balance. It's why the Foundation is a not-for-profit, unlike Stark's company. It's why Reed kinda hates Tony a little. When Reed doesn't passive-aggressively call him 'Anthony' he'll refer to him as 'the War Profiteer.'

    "Like I have my criticisms of Victor sometimes but besides his pomp and circumstance he's mostly just...a tyrant," Susan says. "If he stopped being such a control-mongering dictator he could genuinely do good for his people."

    Vlad is silent in the corner, listening.

    "I just never want to be like Wyndham, y'know?" Elise says.

    "Oh honey, you'll never be like Wyndham, he was a monster. He was a psychopath with a volcano lair who made animal people that he dubbed his knights and started calling himself the High Evolutionary. He was 180 degrees away from sanity."

    Elise shrugs. "I mean, yeah, it's just... It's weird. Inhuman stuff. Suddenly doing diplomacy. Kind of being super powerful. It's weird."

    "High Evolutionary would be a great name for a dispensary," Miles notes.

    "But it's not bad, I guess?" Elise says. "Actually, no. I never want to be like Miles. That's the new yardstick."

    "You couldn't be like me if you tried, Elise," Miles murmurs. "The migraines would murder you." He produces his phone and begins tapping out a couple of text messages to Carol. RIP me. Followed by a frowny face, a skull, and a ghost.

    The ship flies over Chicago.

    "I think... I think I'd like to be a lot like you when I grow up, Susan," Else says.

    Susan smiles at Elise "Thank you!"

    "Yeah. You and Vlad." Elise looks content.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The ship hovers over the townhouse where the defectors are. Susan gets on the comm. "Hey, it's me. Your ride's here. What? No I'm not making an Uber joke, fuck off Jazzy, get in the ship."

    The three defectors come out of the townhouse. The two Skrulls are in human form. They board the Messenger.

    Jazinda looks at everyone. "So uh....you're not dead. I assume it went...well?"

    Elise stares at Jazinda. "I'm still a little drunk." she says.

    Susan sighs. She's not...sure how to explain what happened to Jazinda. She focuses on flying the ship back to the Avengers Tower.

    "I mean... it... it went,” Julian says. “Things happened."

    "Michael had a chance to suck his own dick and didn't," Elise calls.

    Susan puts her hand up. "Let's just... hold off, huh? We'll talk about it later?"

    "There's always next time," Michael says.

    Susan taps on her console, and a bit of text discreetly pops up on the console next to Miles.

    We need to figure out how they knew we were coming, One of them may be a mole.

    Trust, but verify/


    "Susan, can I have the booze I voluntarily handed over to you back?" Elise says.

    “Uhhhhh, sure whatever," Susan murmurs. She absently tosses the flask to Elise, who is able to catch it.

    Elise grins. "I'm gonna party tonight. I'm going to down this entire thing and watch an R-rated movie."

    Miles replies to Susan. We're on the same page. I'll begin checking into it as soon as we land.

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

    The Messenger pulls up to the Tower. The Zephyr is already parked there, so Susan hovers nearby and lowers a ramp so everyone can disembark.

    Everyone filters into the building.

    When they arrive, STRIKE-3 is already in the briefing room talking to Hand.

    Clay and Olivia Hook are waiting for the team. Clay looks at everyone. "Hey, so I just had a ballbuster of a conversation with Rick Jones and..."

    He stares at the Winter Soldier. "....Bucky?"

    "You can't believe anything Jones says, Clay," Elise says. She furtively wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and sniffs it to see if she still stinks like booze.

    Clay looks stunned. The Winter Soldier looks at Clay confused. "Who?"

    Clay shakes his head. "Sorry, nevermind. My mistake."

    Miles nods frantically at Clay from behind Bucky's head, trying to convey It's totally him omg.

    Clay nods at Miles. Elise catches a brief micro-expression of devastating sadness from Clay, like for a second he was about to cry.

    He looks at Jazinda and Syrro as well. "These are the defectors? Alright, you three, go with Agent Hook to be debriefed, please. She has some questions for you."

    Winter Soldier nods, Syrro shrugs, and Jazinda kind of obediently follows.

    "Clay, are you... okay?" Elise asks.

    He takes a quick breath. "I will be."

    "...Do you want a hug?"

    "No," he says. "This will be far worse for Steve than me." He looks at Susan "Thank you for this."

    Susan is taken aback. "I didn't... do it... for you? Jazinda is one of my best friends and Syrro and I have history."

    "So, I'm just going to... go... back to my apartment." Elise smiles and steps backwards.

    Clay looks at the team. "Hand is debriefing STRIKE-3 on the whole Symkaria thing. Anything your team needs to tell me about? Any hitches on this thing?"

    Elise nervously laughs.

    "Keeping in mind I had Rick Jones screaming at me for the past several minutes?"

    "Okay, so, first of all," Elise begins. "I wasn't as drunk as Rick thinks I was. I was, like, drunk-adjacent."

    Miles stares at her. "You were literally three sheets to the wind. We watched you drink each of the sheets!"

    "Y'know that Rick didn't even mention you?" Clay says. "So maybe you want to stop self-incriminating."

    "OH, NO." Elise clasps both hands to her mouth and looks like she wants to die.

    Miles turns to Clay. "So, uh, good news! You're the most important person in Earth's 20th century history, I guess. Like, we found objective proof of that."

    Clay grunts. Nobody is sure if that's a happy grunt. Elise isn't even sure.

    "It turns out that without you around, we end up with Earth-462," Miles says.

    "It was like It's a Wonderful Life!" Elise chimes in. "Alt-Nick Fury loves us, by the way."

    Clay stops. "Wait... is that... is that the time loop Rick was screaming about? You caused Earth-462?"

    "No!" Elise says. "Maybe? They had been there before we were there. I'm fuzzy on the details."

    Miles steps forward. "Paibok and Morrat caused that. Our defectors warned us that they were building a tachyon ansible under Fermilab to phone home. We showed up and it wasn't a space telephone at all - they'd built a time machine. And they got away, Clay. They went back into the past and made sure they'd killed you and the result was Earth-462."

    "UGH I hate time travel,” Clay says. “First of all, right off the top, I want to make that abundantly clear. On the record."

    Miles nods. "That's cool, I'm right there with you."

    "Second of all I approve of you lot jumping right on the idea of preventing them from building a tachyon ansible, when that was the intel you were going on, as that was apocalyptically bad as a possibility. The fact that it turned out to be a time machine after the fact and that wasn't something you planned isn't your fault.

    "Bad intel. Blame the source on that."

    Elise looks massively relieved. "So! We're good?"

    "Yeah,” Clay says. “With me, anyway. You're on ARMOR's shitlist. He wants to execute Susan for treason."

    Miles holds up a hand. "Well, let's get to the end first."

    "Yeah, continue," Clay says. "Because Jones mentioned this and I want to hear it from you."

    Miles takes a deep breath. "She tried to abscond with some of their tech, because she said it was hers and Reed's to begin with. Which, I mean, let's be real here. It probably was. I yelled at her. She yelled at me because nobody had told her about the Dard'van. I think we could work with her if we could all stop being dickcheeses about things, maybe. But that's me editorializing. Anyway.

    "So the time machine activated, Vlad threw up a temporal shield, which let us travel to the new world without being changed, and we...let's see...we were in the ruins of Chicago, and a Council Executor scanned Vlad to see if he'd done something wrong, but it announced that it was satisfied with our explanation and would be observing us.

    “We discovered a SHIELD bunker and met that Earth's Fury. We convinced him of our bonafides pretty quickly once he saw we had weed and cigs. I guess those were casualties of their war. We were stuck on this hell Earth, but he said he could get us back; he'd lifted an ARMOR transponder the last time they had visited. He let us use it in exchange for a gentleman's agreement that we help him out. Which I provided. I know I just made your and Fury and Jones's life harder, but that world wouldn't have been nuked if we'd been able to stop the Skrulls. We kind of owe them. At least, in my opinion."

    Clay takes all that in. "...okay. Well I'm kicking that upstairs."

    "Oh, and we got some intel," Miles says.

    Clay raises an eyebrow.

    "Without you, their Leviathan always had the upper hand. Their USSR only died in 2004. Leviathan went public two years ago, blew up all of SWORD and the Kree satellites in orbit, attacked DC with a superpowered team, and launched nukes. But messing with the Kree satellites got Attilan's attention, and they're in the middle of going ham on the Skrulls. Fury described his job as 'keeping his head down.' So their world might have stuff worth knowing about our Attilan."

    Elise stiffens. "I've been spying on Attilan. We're fine on the Attilan front. But whatever."

    "Hrm," Clay says thoughtfully. "I will kick that upstairs too, let Fury brew it over. I don't want to talk to Jones about this shit, he's a hurricane right now."

    "I don't know why,” Miles says. “All he did was stand around and open a portal. I don't think that was a huge imposition. And his guys let that Earth's Fury jack their transponder."

    "To be frank,” Clay says, “I'm actually going to have a conversation with Victoria when she's done her meeting about whether or not I actually want to file a complaint with Fury about the fact that Jones chucked Skrull racial shit at me over the horn."

    "Oh, shit," Miles says.

    "On the one hand, fuck him. On the other hand, it goes in the paperwork, you know?"

    Miles nods. "Right."

    "So, ehhhh. I'll talk to Victoria about it and maybe in doing so the problem will just get fixed on its own and I won't have to think about it." He smiles. "Anyway, Elise you're not spying on Attilan, to be clear. You are enjoying your time with your Princess. And that's okay and I am happy for you."

    "Are. Are you managing me?" she frowns.

    "No. You are keeping an eyeball on Maximus to see if he's shifty, but that's all I'm asking of you."

    Miles raises a hand. "The other thing is, Leviathan knew we were coming. We need to find out how. Susan is going to work that from her end but the obvious candidates are our refugees. I dunno, maybe that's a moot point with Leviathan's leaders having fucked off to another dimension, but still."

    "I'll have Hook look into that," Clay says. "Ultimately, we're going to put this one in the win column, team. You did your stated objective.

    "You didn't do your self-assigned side objective but eehhhhh, you had bad intel that might even be due to some interference from a mole and honestly, there's some weird time loop shenanigans there so who is to say.

    "Moreover, you got some valuable intel, including the fact that I'm basically the most important man on Earth."

    He grins.

    "Oh, no," Elise says. "We're not doing this."

    He continues. "Plus you're the only STRIKE team who didn't fornicate the canine today, so, good job my good kids."

    "Oh really." Miles straightens. "Well, now I'm interested."

    "Ask them about it on your own time, and don't be smug." Clay says. "Susan...." He looks past the team at Susan. "Thank you for your help, it was good working with you."

    Susan nods. "Thank you, your majesty."

    Clay grits his teeth.

    Susan smirks and walks back to her ship.

    PHU1KZN.png
    What a massive session. The fate of Leviathan, the return of Hyperion, the origin of a parallel universe, our first glimpse of the Council/Parliament mystery.

    It felt like a big, pivotal, action-packed session at the time, and it is, although it’s funny to go back and read it and realize it’s like 98% by volume just us going to places and having long conversations with NPCs.

    That made it a bit of a bear to edit, with tons of intertwined conversations and side remarks and people replying to two or three other people at once, but I think - I hope - that I’ve hammered it into a form that works for you, the audience. In no small part because a lot of balls get started rolling here, and we’ll begin to see their impact as early as next session.

    r2C6Mbd.png

    MatevMsAnthropy
  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    edited October 2
    Another post of commentary from me about Elise! Elise has spent all of Season 2, thus far, trying to be an angel on Vlad's shoulder. She deters or distracts him when he starts to go down a rant, she floats concepts like "amassing huge amount of power is bad", and she's just genuinely still concerned about him after the whole Victorious thing. She doesn't think he was in the right for any of that, she thinks he was out of his mind. As far as Elise is concerned, sometimes Vlad gets a little out of his mind and she just needs to be there to correct that. Sure, he choked her violently! But that was part of a cover story and it was his first time as a spy anyways. Yes, he had a massive operating system error at one point over the whole Susan thing. She helped him with that too! She brought him home from Russia, and now she's trying to pull him back onto her path of moral righteousness. In a lot of ways, Elise is realizing that she was the first person to interact with Vlad as a sentient, aware creature. There's a reason that she asked Kane "If I found a baby in the woods, would you trust me to raise it?"

    There's just, uh, one problem, which is that Vlad hasn't picked up on any of her guidance throughout Season 2 and is now convincing her that the path of power is worth pursuing. Elise unconditionally trusts Vlad. She's considered him her best friend and honestly, kind of a security blanket. I don't remember if this has come up in the thread at all, but the backstory that me and Jake agreed on was that Elise and Vlad met in Vegas. Elise's powers-enabled hot streak, as previously mentioned, got her put in a casino back room about to have her kneecaps shattered with a sledgehammer. Vlad was the one to bust in and save her from that situation. She loves him completely, unconditionally, and totally. He's clearly smarter than her, he's saved her life multiple times at this point and made it clear he treats her as a top priority, and he's constantly complimenting her now that she's a genuine field asset who does legitimately impressive things each session. As she struggles to push Vlad onto the path of 'good', or at least the vaguely defined notions of 'good' Elise tries to pursue, he's pulling her onto his path as Victorious and encouraging her to take pride in her own power.

    There's a tension brewing between the two of them. In Season One, they constantly had each other's backs, even after a violent choking incident. Now, she snipes at him about Doom and he gives a comment about Crys back. They're still best friends - the bracelets read forever, after all - but they're in a quiet war of wills.

    Hilariously enough, the angel on Elise's shoulder at the moment is Miles. On Elise's character sheet, her bonds were marked as Vlad first and then Miles and Clay. Elise feels a deep sense of loyalty to SHIELD and more specifically STRIKE; they saved her life. As soon as Clay and Miles stopped trying to handle her with kid gloves, she immediately started to listen to them. She reflexively rebels against hardline authority and when they tried to gently corral her, she found that manipulative and patronizing. Now, she and Miles are constantly bantering back and forth and she's comfortable taking orders and suggestions from him. It took a few sessions into Season One for Elise to really show off the fact that her skills have merit at all. Now, she's doing something genuinely useful each session. She listens to Miles and even worries about op sec. A lot of her newly found confidence and pride comes from her mastery in the field with STRIKE, and the more that her life comes together (she's back with Crys! She has an apartment in the Avengers Tower instead of sleeping in a filthy van! She's teaching herself how to cook!)

    Of course, she has fallen into new unhealthy things. She thinks of the Avengers Tower and STRIKE base as her home; it's the first one she's had since hitting the road after Alchemax. She thinks of STRIKE as a family, especially bonding with Clay in an increasingly complicated relationship. That is not a universal feeling; there's no way Michael and Julian or Vlad and Miles think of each other as family. Elise, on the other hand, has completely brought into the Attilan concept of fraterarmalis.

    Speaking of Attilan, something that is happening off-screen and very heavily influences the way I played Elise during these sessions is that Elise is spending most of her time not in session in Attilan. Her heavy custom Attilan coat has become pretty integral to her character design, but Elise is also wearing heavy golden jewelery and rocking obvious displays of wealth. When they're in Attilan, Elise and Crys are being actively wined and dined by Maximus. Elise is given the ultimate high-class treatment between each bout of spy shit, and Vlad is being blocked from joining her. She's eating the best meals, going to operas and Attilan cocktail parties,

    I also got a few pieces of art Elise commissioned over the time we've been playing because my one vice is custom tailored art. I can't share some of it, because it's a spoiler, but here are some fun Elise pictures.
    uySptnTl.png
    F5Vdw8Nl.png
    2nCQ5oBl.jpg

    Also, I got Julian commissioned, because, y'know, Julian is played by my husband and I am nothing if not benevolent.
    JYWVZ9el.jpg

    Dread Pirate Arbuthnot on
    visiblehowlMsAnthropyMatev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    I really liked Miles immediately cutting a deal that is way above his pay grade and possibly a bad idea. Fun change from him being clearly correct in all of his previous disobedient moments

    sig.gif
    Jacobkosh
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Yah, I can see how session set off several plot lines/time bombs. If Season 1 was about the team coming together and getting their various degrees of shit together, 2 feels like them getting over confident based on past success and and fate’s about to come and collect on the earlier advances.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    MsAnthropyFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 2
    I really liked Miles immediately cutting a deal that is way above his pay grade and possibly a bad idea. Fun change from him being clearly correct in all of his previous disobedient moments

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

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

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

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

    Jacobkosh on
    MsAnthropy
1568101114
Sign In or Register to comment.