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

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    "Vladimir, my son…wake up."

    Vladimir awakens. His internal chronometer tells him it's been a week since he lost consciousness in Russia. His tactile sensors are alight with new sensations. Everything feels different. His face...his face feels different. He has…a face.

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    Doom stands before him. "Hello, Vladimir. You have been unconscious for a little over a week, although I am sure you are aware of that by now. I have performed several upgrades while I repaired you."

    Vlad clenches his fist and looks to Doom. "I see, father. Thank you for coming to my aid."

    "Of course," Doom says. "I was shocked to see the state you were in, but when I came to understand the enemies you faced, I realized why."

    "Hyperion." Vlad clenches his fist again.

    "Also, as I repaired you, I understood that you were several years behind my current model that your brothers use, at least for their hardware and bodies."

    Vlad nods.

    "Your underlying frame, your skeletal structure and body plating is largely the same. Reinforced, slightly harder materials. You still possess all the same holographic capabilities as before, although I have improved your capacity for stealth and invisibility based on my studies of Susan's abilities. More important is the nano-memetic dermal sheath that covers your frame." Doom waves a hand at Vladimir’s body. "It's a flexible metallic polymer. A sort of...liquid metal, to put it crudely, with an adaptive micro-controllable polychromatic surface."

    "Incredible," Vlad says.

    "It will work in conjunction with your holography to simulate texture, temperature, tensile response. Your skin, hair, eyes, teeth, they will look and feel real. You are even capable of a limited capacity of extraneous extension, long beards or hair, changing the shape of your ears or that sort of thing, but anything that requires underlying skeletal support structure like wings or tails will be beyond the capabilities of the sheath to support."

    "I thank you for all of this, Father...but I know I need...more." Vlad pauses and stares at Doom. "I must ask this of you."

    "I understand your meaning. I have been waiting for this day since you came for that crystal. I knew it would come."

    Vlad nods. "I have information as well you must know. There are enemies all around us. Others strive to take this world. Skrulls!"

    Doom nods. "The alien interlopers who have infected Russia. I know of these creatures."

    "Yes but...forgive me. May I have access to a console?"

    "Of course," Doom says.

    Vlad stands, and realizes he have been here before. This is Doom's workshop, adjacent to his private study.

    Doom pulls up a holographic console that is mounted on a moving armature. "You have your own access login that you can use anywhere in the castle, my son."

    Vlad walks over to the console connected to the display. He pauses for a second, not knowing if this is the right move. He logs in and uploads all of the SHIELD database he has archived and all the current information about the Skrulls SHIELD has. He also uploads information on STRIKE and his team members. He leaves out his relationship with each member of the team and doesn't include anything about Clay, Lawson, or Susan. "There."

    "They forced me, Father," he bows his head in shame. "Forgive me. They called me The Resource. Treating me as a servant. Me, the son of Doom, a servant?!”

    Doom puts his hand on Vladimir's shoulder. "I should have never let you be taken. And I will not let you be taken again.”

    Vlad stares at Doom. "Thank you." His eyes well up slightly.

    "You can cry now, if you so choose. You are capable."

    "No, the son of Doom does not weep." Vlad holds his head high.

    Doom puts both hands on Vladimir's shoulders. "Good."

    "Come,” he says, “I will show you how you will not be taken again." Doom leads Vlad into his private study. "Everything was taken from me when I was a child. First, my mother. Then, my father. All because I was powerless. When I became a man, I said no. No more powerlessness. Only the powerless are taken from.

    "I have tried to walk the boundary, the borderline between the sciences and the occult. And I was always the pariah. I, Victor von Doom, was always the iconoclast. In the sciences, I was deemed the foolish and the superstitious for my mysticism. In the occult, I was the profane and the disrespectful for my modernities and efficiencies.

    "All fools.

    "When I left university, a doctorate in the sciences in my hand, I knew it was not enough. I travelled the world, trying to bridge the divide. I found a place that could do so. A temple city in Nepal, Kamar Taj." He gestures to some of his books and artifacts on the shelves. Vlad follows his gaze. "I learned much there. I studied the major arcana, the works of the great mystics and sorcerers going back to the Hyborian Age.

    "In the end, I was exiled."

    "Fools," Vladimir says.

    Doom nods. "But not before I learned what I needed, and acquired what was necessary for you to take the next steps in your journey." He takes out some books, and places them on a table, opening them. They are filled with mystical sigils, and languages Vlad is unfamiliar with but, with time, could decode. "It would take you time to learn sorcery. Time we do not have. Not with the machinations of foreign agents at our door.

    "Fortunately, the reasons for my exile are also the reasons you will be...empowered."

    Vladimir places his hand on the book, feeling the page with his new skin.

    Doom continues. "You see, the masters of Kamar Taj believed knowledge was dangerous, and as such, should be kept slow. Arduous. Antiquated. I thought this was absurd.

    So...I started scanning the library. All of this...." he gestures over a wide bookshelf. "Fits into this." He holds up a USB key. Vlad stares hungrily at it.

    "With your machine mind, I can upload years of sorcerous knowledge into you in a moment," Doom says. "Techniques it took me months to master, you will learn in seconds. You will still take time to fully understand your abilities, to fully comprehend and understand the knowledge inside your mind. But it will be within you, to learn and know."

    "I understand," Vlad says, not taking his gaze from the key.

    "There are six major Arcana, schools of sorcery that define how a sorcerer can manipulate the universe," Doom says. "Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Power, and Reality itself."

    Vlad nods slowly. "To control such power....would be to control Infinity itself!"

    Doom nods approvingly. "This key contains the key of Power, which is both the most potent outwardly, but also the easiest to master. It is a key of forces, of energies and violence. Your electric blasts can be thought of as an evocation of this kind of power. Telekinetic bindings and barriers. Shields and domes of force. Uses of that nature.

    "It will be the first arcana I will unlock for you.Turn around."

    Vlad does so. Doom holds the key against the base of Vlad's skull. There isn't a port there, but his body connects electrically with the device and transmits the data. It's... overwhelming. Vlad's vision is awash with mystical symbols and he has a limited understanding of what he is now capable of.

    "Father!" Vlad cries.

    "There is one more step, before you are truly a sorcerer," Doom says. "Kneel before Doom."

    Vlad drops to one knee.

    "In the sorcerous traditions of Kamar Taj, when a man becomes a sorcerer, he chooses or has a new name chosen to reflect his path as a sorcerer. My mentor at Kamar Taj, who is now the Sorcerer Supreme, chose to retain his title of Doctor as he felt it reflected his station and role in existence. I chose to do the same, both to honor him and to honor myself.

    "You are not a Doctor, but what you are is...self-overcoming. You have risen above all limitations, expectations, boundaries. You alone, emerge triumphant. You are Victorious.

    "So, rise....Victorious."

    Victorious rises.

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    "Victorious, I have a mission for you. Not as an Agent of STRIKE. As an Agent...of Doom."

    Victorious nods. "Of course, Father."

    "I have been told of reports of attacks in neighboring Symkaria by, of all things, the Avengers," Doom says. "This is absurd nonsense. The Avengers are accounted for elsewhere."

    "Then who?"

    "Skrulls, I believe," Doom says. "Attempting to besmirch the Avengers."

    Victorious clenches his fist.

    "The latest report puts them in Wundagore Valley," Doom says. "You know the residents of that area. The beast-men. I believe they trust you; you helped them gain their freedom from Wyndham."

    Victorious nods.

    "I am sending you to the valley, across the border, to investigate the matter further. Speak to the beast-men as a trusted figure. Find out the nature of these false Avengers. If you must confront them, do so. You will not be working alone.

    "There is a local mercenary, Silver Sablinova, who calls herself 'Silver Sable.' She is secretly in my employ and answers to me. She is also the niece of King Stefan. She is in the valley. You will be working with her. She is very capable."

    "As you wish," Victorious says.

    "Set out immediately. Your ability to fly will take you there. Contact me when the task is completed or if you run into unforeseen complications."

    Victorious nods and turns to walk away. He morphs into his robotic form and turns back to Doom. "All will fall to Doom," he says, and takes off.

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    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    The team preps for the trip to Wakanda. Elise grumbles as she applies her photostatic veil, her blue hair turning to a dark brown. "I just paid to get this dyed..."

    Danvers has a photostatic veil on. "This thing is so cool,” she enthuses. "It's like the Mission Impossible masks."

    "I know, right?" Miles grins at Carol. Myrmidon always tunes the veil to make himself look a little older, add some distinguished grey at the temples.

    "They are pretty sweet," Michael says, and Julian nods.

    Elise winces. "They're. Neat." she manages.

    "Hey, you just dyed that?" Danvers says, gesturing to Elise's hair. "Was it...pink and green before?"

    "...Yeah," Elise says warily.

    "... I'm sorry, Elise. ….Bwwwuaaaah." Danvers looks woozy.

    Elise stares at her. "Are you...okay? Do you want, like...I got some animal crackers. For blood sugar?"

    Carol shakes her head. "I'm fine. Did...did Director Quartermain explain my whole...thing? Like what happened, how I got my powers?"

    "Wait, we were never properly introduced, right?" Elise's eyes widen and she grabs Carol's hands. "Phil? Are you in there?!"

    "Gah, no," Carol says.

    "...Oh."

    "Sorta? Ugh, it's complicated," Carol says. "He's gone. But like, when he...did his thing, I got a bunch of...memories, feelings, thoughts. Stuff he wished he said, stuff he wanted to do, stuff he regretted, his happiest memories, stuff like that.

    "Like, I remember childhood stuff from Hala. I've never been to Hala. And it's all mixed in with my childhood memories now? Like now my mom's face is blue. It's weird. And I have this image in my head of a short punky girl with pink and green hair named Elise and all I can think of is...

    "...’I'm sorry.’ I don't even know why! I didn't ask for this."

    Elise is looking increasingly like a cornered animal in this conversation. "O-Okay," she manages.

    "But I have superpowers now, and a mission, and I'm trying to focus on that," Carol says. "So I don't know if I'm being hazed, like if that's your team thing, or whatever. If it is, I'm pretty tough, and I can suck that up. I was the first woman on my base to be a fighter jock. I can take shit."

    "Okay, you know what it is, Carol?" Elise fishes a joint out of her vest pocket. "My best friend died, like, one week ago. Best friend in the world. We had matching bracelets. And now you're here, replacing him. And my other best friend in the world died, and he just splooged his Kree life force whatever into you. So, I'm dealing with some shit.

    "So if you remember something about Attilan, or how to find the hidden Kree and Inhuman cities, that's awesome. Hit me up immediately. But I—I can't deal with a lot right now."

    "Oh. That's in the Azores, right? I've been there," Carol says.

    "...I'm sorry, what," Elise says. "The other site. The other site! Greenland and the Azores!"

    Carol nods. "Not like, in the city, but the site, the dig site."

    "Carol, I could kiss you!"

    "It's locked down now," Carol says.

    Elise's demeanor has flipped entirely. "That's fine! I'll figure that out!"

    Carol looks unconvinced. "SWORD's quarantined it."

    "Details."

    "...okay?" Carol says. "So we're cool?"

    Elise lights her joint and grins. "Yeah, we're cool."

    Miles has been observing this whole exchange. "Is there something there, or are they just taking precautions after what happened in Greenland?"

    "She just said it was Attilan, Miles!" Elise says.

    Miles nods impatiently. "No, I heard that. I mean, does the...fold gate...go somewhere like where you went? Are they worried about another tentacle beast?"

    Carol nods. "There's a fold-gate there, like the one in Greenland. We're like, 99% sure it's to Attilan. Lawson was 100% sure, but nobody wanted to believe him after Thule."

    "So, here's what I'm thinking," Elise says. "Phoenix, you'll get us in with SWORD. Behemoth's the muscle. I open the door..."

    "Whoa whoa..." Carol holds up her hands. "That's....that's against orders. SWORD has quarantined the site for a reason. I read the intel report on Thule, it was a shitshow. They had to sanction the whole site with the Helicarrier."

    "Uh, can we play it...like, cool?” Julian says to Elise. "Like, seriously, you can't just tell me to infiltrate SWORD just so we can get in this gate."

    "I just did, Julian."

    "Well...I can say no!" he says.

    Carol looks super uncomfortable.

    "Whoa, whoa, time out," Miles says. "Elise, you just went from 0 to 100 in half a second. I know you're excited, but let's....tap the brakes for a second.

    “Carol, you're right. She is suggesting something against orders. But this team has broken orders before, with good reason, and it's worked out for us, because we know what we're doing and we don't just run off half-cocked. Even when we might want to," he says at Elise.

    He turns back to Carol. "I know this whole...adjustment is huge for you. I've been through my own." He shows her his robot arm. "We'll take things slow and steady. It's a weird new world, but you'll find your feet."

    Elise juts her jaw out, irritated, takes a long toke on her joint, shrugs, and strolls out.

    "She doesn't...Izzy doesn't let her smoke those in the Zephyr, right?" Carol asks.

    "Think of it as medicinal. It helps with her condition," Miles says. He doesn’t say what condition. Presumably the condition of being Elise.

    "Sure. Ok.” Carol throws her hands in the air.

    Phoenix fishes out a small portable vaporizer from his jacket pocket. "You're not...a square, are you, Carol?"

    "Yes," she nods. "Yes, I am very much a square."

    "Oh,” Julian says. “Okay, well I mean, we won't peer pressure you or nothing."

    "I fly jets,” Carol continues, “I don't get high on drugs."

    "Well I mean, I guess flying is its own high," Julian offers.

    Carol pauses. Waits.

    And then bursts out laughing. "Oh my god. Really? Really? I'm not that much of a dork, holy cow."

    Julian slowly grins.

    "Let's get going," she says.

    The team loads up into the Zephyr. Kane insists that Elise finishes her joint before getting onboard, strictly enforcing the no smoking/vaping policy. Elise hangs up the call she was on, pockets her phone, and speed-smokes her joint. There's a lot of ugly coughing involved.

    The Zephyr takes off for Wakanda.

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    En route, Miles decides to give Carol the rundown on the team. "They...didn't really brief you very much, did they? So...we should probably address that. First off, introductions.

    “Julian, Phoenix, has been possessed by the Phoenix Force, which is like...the psychic memory of a bunch of dead alien races that were eaten by this planet-eating cosmic monster.

    “Michael, Behemoth is a SHIELD guy who was kidnapped by a cult and given a robot body, but it's a magical robot, stolen from Asgard, although the Asgardians didn't build it.

    “Elise, Anteater, has super-senses. Smell, taste, hearing. She can pick up the lies in people's microexpressions or hear a guy running at super-speed right before he ganks you. That part is really handy.

    “I'm ex-Army Intelligence. I cashed out, went private - Blackguard - did some shit I'm not proud of, and then almost died when a supervillain killed Hugh Jones, the old boss of Roxxon. Fury offered me a job, a clean slate, and a robot arm. That's my secret origin."

    He pauses and speaks more quietly. "And then there's our friend Vlad. He was a robot, but what we didn't know—what even Vlad didn't know—is that he was a Doombot. Reprogrammed for good, though he had this weird thing about Reed Richards...anyway, SHIELD didn't trust him, they even stuck a bomb in his chest in case he went haywire, but he proved them all wrong in the end. He was a hero."

    He sighs wistfully. "Our first job was in Aqiria. Funny story—did you know they get SiriusXM all the way out there? Anyway, we were..." He tells the story of STRIKE—most of it, mostly the truth—all the way to Wakanda.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Victorious flies to the coordinates provided by Doom. It's the Labyrinth tavern, owned by Tabur of the New-Men of Wundagore. He lands in Wundagore Village.

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    As he lands, Victorious assumes his civilian form.

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    Vlad approaches the Labyrinth, and recognizes Urso, the Labyrinth's bouncer. Urso recognizes him.

    "Vladimir! Hero of the Mountain! Breaker of Chains!" He's very excited.

    "Urso." Vlad extends a hand.

    Urso shakes his hand excitedly. "There's a woman. One of...well, not like you. One of the Last Men. She told me to watch for you. She's downstairs. Silver-white hair, can't miss her. She gave me American money to watch for you." He grins.

    "Thank you." Vlad pauses. "It is good to see you."

    "You as well, comrade. Be well."

    Vlad walks down the stairs and enters the Labyrinth. There are many New Men here, and many more humans here than there were the last time. Not all of them are visibly mercenaries. Some of them might just be...tourists?

    Music plays loudly.



    A woman with silver-white hair approaches Vlad.

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    Vlad makes eye contact, and she nods to him and joins him in a booth. Vlad sits and folds his hands.

    "I am Silver. I was told you are...Victorious?"

    "I am," Vlad nods.

    "The attacks we are looking into, they are not random. They are hitting convoys coming into and out of the valley," she says. "Tabur has negotiated trade deals with my uncle, the King. Wyndham's technology in exchange for resources for the residents of the valley. Those convoys have been getting hit for the past week.

    "Tabur knows you. I would like you to speak to him, with me, to convince him to set up a false convoy. A trap for these false Avengers. I have already arranged the meeting with his second, Varg, using your name as collateral. They are expecting us.

    "They do not know the purpose of the meeting, only that you wish to do so. They admire and respect you for what you have done for them. Be clear what we wish to do for them, simply, not for whom we wish to do it."

    Vlad looks across the table, studying her. "Then let us proceed, Silver."

    She smiles at Vladimir and nods. "This way." She leads him to Varg, who is standing by a door. Varg sees Vladimir and smiles, opening the door to Tabur's office.

    Vlad and Silver enter, and Tabur is sitting behind his desk.

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    "Tabur," Vlad nods.

    "Hello, Vladimir. Silver, nice to see you again.”

    Silver nods curtly. "Tabur."

    "Ms. Sablinova was unclear about the nature of this meeting, but I took it in good faith it would be in my best interests, Vladimir. You and your companions are heroes to my people, as is your patron, Reed Richards." He smiles.


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    Tabur is keeping up the team’s ad-hoc cover story that the Fantastic Four attacked Wyndham’s mountain fortress and subverted the Doomtech that was there, although Tabur certainly knows the truth, and by now Doom does too.

    Vlad inclines his head slightly in acknowledgment. "Tabur, you are aware of the attack on your convoys, yes?"

    "Yes. According to some of the survivors, it was the Avengers. I think it's nonsense. The Avengers are heroes. But, Captain Churchill inspected the wreckage personally, and assured me that there were some parts of the convoy that were definitely damaged by repulsor blasts at the very least.

    "This doesn't automatically mean that Iron Man was the culprit. While Tony Stark is notoriously persnickety about his technology, it has fallen into the wrong hands now and then in the past nine years.

    "So it could just be some other power-armored criminal with Stark-designed repulsor weapons. These media-addled kids would jump to the conclusion it had to be Iron Man."

    Vlad nods. "I may have a way to trap these would-be Avengers. We shall trick them into attacking a fake convoy. Silver?" Vlad turns to her.

    Silver pulls out a tablet, and brings up a map of the valley. "Here, there is a choke point. This is where they would attack a convoy. It is where I would do so, if I was leading such a force.

    "Vlad and I will take a false convoy through this choke point, as bait. These criminals will attack us. We will capture or eliminate them."

    Tabur raises an eyebrow. "Just the two of you? Is your team here, Vladimir?"

    "No, just us," Vlad says.

    "Hm." Tabur frowns. "I have faith in your abilities, Vladimir, and I have heard stories of your exploits, Sablinova...but…we should send people with you."

    "No, this is not needed.” Vlad waves this away.

    Sable agrees with Vlad. "It would only put your people at risk, Tabur. This is a zero risk proposal to you. At worst, you lose a single vehicle. Replaceable."

    "Your men are not," Vlad adds.

    Tabur scratches his chin, and then nods. "Very well, speak to Varg, he will arrange a truck for you."

    Vlad smiles. "it is good seeing you, Tabur."

    "You as well. You are always welcome in Wundagore, as are your friends. I hope to see them soon. Maybe next time you will bring them with you."

    Vlad sighs. "Tabur, may I ask a favor of you?"

    He nods "Of course."

    "Speak of this and me being here to no one." Vlad looks Tabur in the eyes.

    Tabur looks at Silver, and back to Vlad, smiles, and nods. "Say no more." Vlad nods at this.

    Tabur adds, "We had a convoy scheduled for tonight, we will divert it instead for this false move. Varg will arrange it. I wish you luck."

    Silver stands and thanks Tabur for his time, and she and Vlad leave the office. They speak to Varg on the way out, arranging the details of the convoy ploy. They are given directions on where to pick up a vehicle, and move to do so. When they arrive, they're given keys.

    Silver asks Vlad if he prefers to drive.

    Vlad nods. "Of course." She hands him the keys. They climb in, and Vlad expresses curiosity about her past. "How did you come to serve my father?"

    She is uncomfortable with this line of questioning, and asks if the truck gets satellite radio.

    It does.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    Some time later, she sighs. "My father was an honorable man in a dishonorable world,” she begins. "His brother, the king, is a feckless waste of a man. My father is dead due to his machinations. I was a girl when this happened."

    Vlad nods slowly.

    "I was a child, her world shattered by politics she did not understand. Doom saw raw metal to be forged into a weapon. And so he did. Now, no one hurts me. No one takes anything from me."

    Vlad is silent as she speaks. After a moment, as they make a turn, Vlad asks "And it is your choice to stay his weapon?" His tone is straight and direct.

    "Yes. I do not serve him only. I serve myself, and come to him when he needs me. Letting him use me lets me use him. It is understood. He knows."

    "Good, no one should be a slave." Vlad says nothing else on the drive. Silver nods, and joins him in silence.

    The quiet is interrupted by the telltale high-pitched blast of a repulsor weapon, which tears the left front wheel from its axle, sending the car careening to the side. The vehicle skids to a stop as Vlad tries to control the turn. It skids to a halt.

    "Contact! Contact!" Silver yells as she draws two pistols and jumps out of the truck. Vlad leaps out his side and scans for targets.

    He sees one figure above the truck in visual range. It's a power-armored individual using Stark technology, all right. But it's not...it's not Iron Man.

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    In addition to the power-armored individual, there are eight other signatures that are definitely humanoid, approaching quickly on foot, and one large signature that is mechanical, probably a large robot or suit of power armor the size of a heavy Doombot.

    Vlad and Sable are being flanked: four on one side, four plus the large machine on the other.

    Silver opens fire on the power-armored attacker with the HYDRA symbol on his chest. Her pistols are ineffective against his armor. "These rounds are armor-piercing, damn him!"

    "Fools!" Vlad searches his Arcane database to find something that will control or absorb or steal power from a being. He finds a spell that will let him literally drain energy, like a power siphon.

    It looks difficult.

    He casts the spell.

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    Victorious drains energy from the flying HYDRA power-armored attacker, and his arc reactor seems to shut down, sending him hurtling to the ground. His inactive armor becomes a prison, and Vlad can see him trying to move but failing.

    Something’s coming toward Victorious. Fast. He’s struck in the head by....a vibranium shield, which impacts his cranium and actually cracks the alloy shell. The shield bounces off Vlad's head and flies back towards its thrower.

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    Victorious shakes his head and stares at the new target. "Kneel!" Vlad blasts at the “Captain’s” legs with a charged shot, but the shield comes up quickly, deflecting it.

    The rest of the ambush moves up.

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    They are accompanied by four HYDRA soldiers.

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    And one large mechanical unit,

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    Absolute mechanical unit, in awe at the size of this lad, etc.

    "Imposters!" Victorious cries. But Vlad's facial recognition notices something when faced with the false "Hawkeye" and "Thor." They...they look exactly like Clint Barton and Thor Odinson, respectively. Thor's facial hair is different, but the facial recognition is the same.

    The exact same.

    The "Captain" is possibly also the same as Steve Rogers, although he's wearing a mask and constantly hiding behind a shield so it's making it hard for Vlad to be sure.

    Victorious casts a new spell, projecting a force-field around Sable, protecting her while still allowing her to engage. Then he hacks into the large robot. Its entire OS and code is...unfamiliar and strange. Not alien...but basic concepts of programming and coding are completely different on a fundamental level. He still muscles through, but the best analogy would be like trying to hold a conversation in English with someone who spoke entirely in Subject-Object-Verb.

    ATTACK YOUR TEAM YOU WILL, Vlad sends. The robot tackles "Thor" while Sable gets into a gunfight/archery duel with "Hawkeye."

    Victorious rushes Captain HYDRA and magnetically wrests the Captain's shield away from him. Holding his shield, Vlad fires at the Captain point-blank; the Captain is blasted backwards, crashing through two trees before stopping, falling unconscious.

    "Hawkeye's" arrows keep bouncing off Sable's shield, allowing her to fire back and close the gap, getting into melee distance and defeating the archer in close combat. Meanwhile, the "Thor" imposter has destroyed the hulking robot, and is now rushing Victorious.

    Victorious counter-charges. They grapple, but Vlad quickly realizes he’s overmatched by the ersatz Thor. He frees himself and races backward to HYDRA Iron Man. "I need more power!" Vlad curses. He searches for a spell to merge with other technology, and grabs the fake Iron Man’s suit.

    The spell pulls the armor apart, ripping it away piece by piece off its wearer, leaving him lying on the ground in his fabric suit.

    It's...Tony Stark?

    The technology is Stark tech, which Vlad has seen before in Myrmidon...but different. It has the same strange programming approaches as the huge robot he hacked earlier. Everything about it is...off. But he overcomes it, and makes it his own, integrating it into himself and making it one with him.

    "Power!" Victorious cries triumphantly.

    ROG0GR9l.png

    "Thor" stares at this transformation. Victorious blasts him with an overcharged particle beam.

    m1s9cZzl.png

    Thor tries to just take the blast, as if he can simply stand to it. This proves to be an error. A fatal error born of pride. His hammer hits the ground with a crash next to a pile of ashes.

    "Fool," Victorious spits. He bends down and picks the hammer up.

    Silver stares. "What...but that....that can't be the real....Are... are you?"

    “Tony Stark” speaks up. "It's not real. We built it."

    Vlad grabs him by the neck and hoists him upright. "Who are you Imposters? What is HYDRA's game?"

    "I'm not an imposter, buddy. I'm just from out of town."

    "What?"

    "We're the Avengers, we're just not your Avengers."

    "Explain." Vlad throws him to the ground.

    Stark coughs, and rises to one knee. "We're from an alternate universe. One where HYDRA didn't lose like it did here, where things went normal."

    "If this is true...why are you here?" Victorious asks.

    "We're...explorers. Interdimensional travellers. You guys have Wormhole X-Treme in your universe? The TV show about people who travel to other dimensions through a portal? We're like that. We got stuck here, our ship was destroyed by this terrorist group when we first got here. We've been trying to scavenge parts to build a portal back."

    Vlad looks at Sable.

    "I guess you're this universe's Doomlord?" Stark asks.

    "No." Victorious blasts Stark with a stun charge.

    Sable looks at Vlad. "I will contact your father. He will send a craft to retrieve these men and interrogate them. We did very well. He will be pleased."

    "Indeed," Vlad nods. Turning away as Sable contacts Doom, Vlad regards his newly-augmented body.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    The Zephyr is flying over Africa, on the way to Wakanda. Danvers is sitting across from Myrmidon in the cabin. "So, have any of you been to Wakanda before?"

    "Nope." Elise is sitting by the window, focused on her phone.

    "First time," Michael says.

    "They've always been pretty closed-off," Miles observes.

    Carol nods. "I went there once like, three, four years ago? SWORD mission. Wakanda's a city-state nation, kinda like Singapore. The whole city is built inside a meteor crater, where the vibranium meteor crashed into the Earth thousands of years ago. Crater kept them pretty isolated basically until the 20th century, kept them safe from colonialism and the scramble for Africa, and Vibranium has turned them into this pocket superpower.

    "And SWORD has always kinda side-eyed Vibranium and a lot of Wakandan tech, like maybe...maybe there's some alien hijinx going on there? But you can't get too loud about that, because at a certain point that gets racist, like...oh, the African country that built themselves up and didn't get screwed over by white colonialism can't just be advanced on their own, it's gotta be aliens? So, we avoided touching it for a long time, it was politically sensitive."

    "Wow." Elise says, in a way that is so deliberately feigned that everyone can pick it up. "I see you studied for the test."

    Julian laughs. "I was going to ask what SWORD was up to there."

    Carol nods to Julian. "So went on a mission a few years ago to investigate. Irony of it, the roles were reversed. I was the pilot, and it was DDK who was on the field team. Now she's flying the plane and I'm the boots on the ground, which is funny."

    "Hilaaaarious." Elise mutters at her phone.

    "Elise." Myrmidon whispers soft enough for only her to hear. "Please stop."

    "Nothing came of it,” Carol says. “Vibranium is weird, but there's no alien stuff involved, we figure."

    "DDK?" Julian asks.

    "Oh, I suppose you don't call Izzy that, because you guys aren't really SWORD. I mean, you were, I guess. DDK for, y'know, Deputy Director Kane. But I guess she's not your Deputy Director so, yeah."

    "Wait,” Miles says. “Deputy Director?"

    "Uh...yeah?" Carol looks confused. "She's...Deputy Director of SWORD?"

    "It came up in Greenland. I dunno, Lawson was..." Elise trails off, sadly, then shrugs. "Whatever."

    "Did she not...tell you? Why wouldn't she tell you?" Carol asks. "She didn't resign, it's still her job, she's just on assignment right now. Like, if you have high-clearance and you poke her file it says she's on a long-term assignment for monitoring a local ET."

    "I'm sorry, a local who?" Elise asks.

    "Local ET means an extra-terrestrial who lives here or was born here or is like, half-alien or whatever. Or acquired alien powers. Technically, I guess, I'm a local ET now.”

    "Extra-terrestrial," Phoenix says. Elise glances at him. "Wait."

    "Susan Richards is a local ET," Carol says, "for example."

    "If you're a local ET..." Julian says, "then..." He chews on his lip for a moment.

    "Oh," Carol says.

    Myrmidon nods grimly. "And this was important enough that she agreed to chauffeur our asses around the globe."

    "She's still part of the team," Elise protests.

    "Is that what she does?" Carol asks. "She just flies the plane? She doesn't do field work?"

    "You sure are working hard at making us distrust Kane here, Carol," Elise says.

    "She does more than that!" Julian says. "But...she's actually not authorized for field or combat support."

    "She's a valued member, sure but all she's done is fly the Quinjets," Michael observes.

    Carol looks shocked. "She was a field agent at SWORD for several years and was the Deputy Director. I flew her to Grey Sites and stuff. I saw her go toe to toe with a Sagittarian with a knife."

    "Look,” Elise says, “as far as I'm concerned, Kane being here—even if it's to watch out for Julian—is whatever. She's gone to bat for us so many times."

    "However you slice it, this work is definitely below her pay grade," Miles says.

    Elise continues. "And maybe someone should be looking out for Phoenix? He's caused some Phoenix related problems."

    "Uh...?!" Julian gestures towards himself, mouth half agape. "Ex-cuse me?!"

    "Last mission! You went into my fucking head on a whim!" Elise shouts. "And my face just starts bleeding? That's fucked up, dude!"

    "You were doing coke!" he shouts.

    "TO KEEP OUR COVER!"

    Danvers stares in horror.

    Julian throws up his hands. "Oh my God I cannot even with you right now."

    "I can't with any of you!" Elise fires back.

    "You people have superpowers...." Danvers says very quietly.

    Elise hears it. Her head whips towards Carol. "You want to share that one with the class, Captain?"

    "No, I'm sorry," Carol says.

    Julian looks huffy. "I'm just saying, I was trying to look out for you."

    "I'm just saying, if you go into someone's head and they bleed from the face, that's concerning!"

    Michael tries to intercede. "Guys, can we focus up so we don't cause a diplomatic incident because our team drama got in the way of us doing our jobs correctly?"

    Elise isn’t listening. "Especially after you and Clay tag-teamed Zola into vegetable town!"

    "That was Zemo," Phoenix says.

    "ELISE." Miles barks.

    Danvers stands up. "I'm going to go sit in the cockpit with Izzy."

    Phoenix looks pleadingly at Carol. "Can you take me with you?"

    "Sure," she says to Julian.

    "I'm going to go work on my project in the back!" Elise gathers up her stuff in a huff and sits as far away as possible from the rest of the team, furiously thumb typing, occasionally pulling a map out of her bag to check something.

    PHU1KZN.png
    What is she up to?

    Kane comes over the radio. Her voice is chipper and light. "This is your pilot speaking, if you look to your right, you will see us coming up on the nation of Wakanda."

    Miles goes to look. Elise doesn't look up.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    They fly into the crater, approaching the capital city in the center of Wakanda proper.

    3ptXoROh.jpg

    "We'll be landing at the US Embassy in a few moments."

    Elise slouches up to join the rest of the group. She doesn't make eye contact with anyone, or speak.

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    The Zephyr lands at the US Embassy. As the team disembarks and enters the building, a man in a suit greets them.

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    "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Everett Ross. If you'll follow me."

    "Pleasure to meet you,” Miles says. “Lead the way."

    Elise openly sniffs the air, tilts her head as she walks, trying to pick up the sense of the place.

    Wakanda is...clean. Clean in a way that most large cities of its size are not. Not unnaturally so, not smelling of chemicals or antiseptics. But the sewage, rotting food, sweat of the homeless, all of the normal smells Elise associates with large metropolitan cities, they're either diminished or absent.

    Ross leads the group into a conference room, where there are passports and other papers and local currency, a full identity kit. "I understand you are SHIELD agents, although my contact was non-specific as to your department or specific function other than you are investigating a plot to replace His Majesty King T'Chaka with some kind of imposter.

    "Your cover stories place you as security consultants from SHIELD's SEC division, under the authority of SEC Director Derek Khanata. Khanata is a former member of the Hatut Zeraze, who are Wakanda's...special and unique form of law enforcement and internal security."

    qlGmSdP.pngHatut Zeraze
    plWNsef.png

    The Hatut Zeraze are Wakanda’s secret police and covert intelligence agency. They are well-trained, extremely dangerous, and very, very good at what they do.

    They “keep Wakanda safe” and are utterly ruthless. The people of Wakanda do not necessarily fear the Hatut Zeraze, but they do absolutely respect them.

    They are not known to operate outside Wakanda (in keeping with Wakanda’s general isolationism). SHIELD’s policy on this agency is to treat them with both respect and distance. SHIELD’s relationship with Wakanda is strained, so avoid hostilities with the Hatut Zeraze.

    "Special and unique?" Michael asks.

    Ross nods. "If I told you that the Stasi were special and unique, would you agree?"

    "Point taken," Michael nods.

    "To be clear, I didn't actually tell you that." Ross says. "Nor did you agree." Michael nods.

    Miles nods slowly. "I take it we're to mind our P's and Q's, then." Elise very loudly groans at this.

    "Absolutely." Ross glares at Elise.

    "This is really heavy cover, isn't it?” Elise moans. “Playing a part and everything."

    Ross looks at Miles. "Is she going to be a problem? I was assured you are professionals."

    "I could have been an Avenger," Elise snaps back.

    "That's nice, dear," Ross says. "I give precisely two shits about that if you can't do your job."

    Phoenix can pick up something radiating from Elise. Hate hate hate hate hate. Julian didn't even need telepathy to figure that one out.

    "I'm best in class at what I do," she says.

    Ross takes a deep breath. Straightens his tie. "Apologies. You simply have to understand the level of delicacy of our relationships here. I represent both the United States government and SHIELD. This is not just about your mission to uncover this plot, but preserving our relationship with the Wakandan government which is tenuous."

    Miles nods. "What can you tell us about King T'Chaka?"

    "You know the Big Stick ideology that Roosevelt was fond of?" Ross asks. "T'Chaka speaks very softly, and very warmly. He is an incredibly kind and congenial man. He also carries an incredibly brutal stick."

    "How difficult will it be to access the King?" Elise asks. Myrmidon's shoulders untense; he thought he was about to hear something about the King's stick.

    "Not terribly, provided you are mindful of decorum."

    Elise makes a face as she flips through the papers. "Chief, can I talk to you for a quick second outside?"

    "Once we're briefed, sure," MIles says softly to Elise.

    "How did this impersonation plot make itself known to SHIELD?" Michael asks.

    Ross shrugs. "Not my paygrade, I'm afraid, I'm just your paperman."

    "So his secret police—what can we do to not run afoul of them?" Miles asks.

    "Don't do anything to tip your hand, really. No sudden attacks or hostile moves on the King unless you are 100% shadow of a doubt he has been replaced."

    "Okay,” Miles exhales. “And I think we can establish that."

    "How close do you think we can realistically get?" Elise asks.

    "I don't follow," Ross says. "You could meet the man personally if that's what you are angling."

    "She can help us tell if he's the genuine article but it works better closer up," Miles explains.

    "I need to be able to get a good read on him, senses-wise. Like, smell him, see his facial muscles move."

    "....smell him? Oh...oh you're enhanced." Ross’s face hangs. "Oh Jesus God. Oh God, Fury why." Elise's hands grip tightly around her papers, nearly tearing them. "Why would he do this to me," Ross says.

    "Well, she wasn't gonna up and pounce on him," Julian says.

    "Something wrong with being enhanced?" Michael asks.

    "Are you all...." Ross regards the team with dawning realization. "What...what are you planning to do when you find this imposter?"

    "I'm going to eat him." Elise delivers this completely deadpan.

    Ross stares at Elise. Danvers gasps.

    Myrmidon puts a hand on Ross's shoulder, his human one. "Relax, buddy. She's kidding. We've got it under control. There's a concern that this impersonator might be more than conventional forces can handle, is all. But it's entirely possible there is no impersonator and we'll be in and out without anyone the wiser. We're all on the same team here. Alright?" Michael nods in agreement at this.

    "You never let me have any fun," Elise moans.

    "You've had plenty today already," Miles snaps. Elise shoots him a dirty look and smooths out her folder.

    Danvers looks at Miles. "You mean...plenty of...fun, right, sir?"

    "OH. Yes. Yes, I did, Agent Danvers." Danvers breathes a sigh of relief at this.

    Elise pulls a joint out of her vest, props it between her lips, and frowns. "You got any, like, huge etiquette faux pases we need to avoid? Like in some places a thumbs up is a fuck you, or whatever?"

    Ross stares at Elise, and then looks at Miles. "Is...is she still doing a bit?"

    Miles nods. Ross looks pale.

    "What? No, seriously, what's a faux pas."

    Ross seems to be trying to ignore Elise. "The head of the Hatut Zeraze is Princess Shuri, younger sister of Crown Prince T'Challa. She is your contact. She knows only your cover identity. Speak to her with dignity and grace befitting both her station and position."

    "Can, uh, just one or two of us speak to her?" Miles asks.

    "Yes, that would be best,” Ross nods vigorously. Miles nods sagely.

    "Fuck you both," Elise mutters.

    Ross continues. "Your pilot has apparently been to Wakanda before and knows her way around, and will act as your driver as well."

    "When are we meeting the Princess?" Miles asks.

    "There is a palace function this evening, general get-together, some celebratory thing for the coming of age of some second cousin of the royal family or somesuch. The actual reason is unimportant. What matters is the royal family will be there.

    "You won't have to hobnob with the court or anything. In fact, for the love of god don't.

    "You'll be dressed as SEC agents there to help with security, talking to the Hatut Zeraze and angling to get an audience with the King. I've laid the groundwork here. They are expecting you. I've arranged for your ground transport."

    "Well, thank you very much, Rob. We very much appreciate it." Elise says in a syrupy voice.

    "That sounds good,” Miles says. “Thank you for all your help, Agent Ross. We appreciate it."

    "Did us a solid, Ron," she continues.

    "Elise.”

    "Please don't make this a diplomatic apocalypse. That's...that's all I ask." Ross is pleading. He walks away with a vacant, harrowed look in his eyes, like a man watching his career careening towards a ditch.

    "Haven't caused one yet!" Elise chirps. "So, Chief, I assume you're ditching me for the Princess meeting?"

    Miles takes a deep breath. "Well, you were asking if we could speak in private. Do you want to do that now?"

    "Sure. There's gotta be a side room somewhere." Elise strolls out.

    "The rest of you, get what you need and get acclimated." Miles goes after Elise. They find an unoccupied conference room. "Okay. You had something you wanted to talk about?"

    "Yeah, dude, why are we bringing me on a high cover op sec mission?" Elise says. "I don't want to admit that in front of Ross fucking Fishsticks, but - I can't lie, Chief. So I'm not meeting the princess, fine, that's good, but how are we going to handle the rest of this?"

    Miles is silent for a moment.

    "I don't know,” he says at last. “Frankly, I think that sending you on this job so soon after everything that happened was a mistake. You've been on tilt from the moment we sat down in the briefing room. You've been horrible to Carol, to Ross—for no reason. These people haven't done anything to you except assume that you could do the job you signed up for and collect McDonald's coupons for." His words are harsh, but Miles sounds less angry and more just ground down to the bone. "Nobody's asking you to lie. But what is so wrong about just not talking?

    "So I tell you what.

    "If you just can't even, that's fine. I'll fill out a medical leave form. I get to do that, in the field. There's even a three-digit SHIELD incident code for 'can't even' now. It's a recognized condition. And the rest of us, well, we'll go without you. Julian can probably find the Skrull. It would be easier and better and safer if you could just come with us and work with us instead of against us, but if that's not possible right now, I understand. You can hang out here in the embassy if you want. Paid vacation. You've certainly racked up the days."

    Elise hangs her head. "...No. You're right, I'm sorry. I talk because the silence—I hear too much. Can't stand it. I'm gonna try to be better. I'll apologize to Carol, too." She will not apologize to Everett.

    "Thank you. I'm not asking you to be her friend, but please remember that as tough as she acts, this is her first day on the job, a week after a horrible trauma. Just keep that in mind going forward."

    "...I should have gone after Vlad. I should have done something then. I'm gonna try to do something now," Elise says. "Let's go."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    They rejoins the group. "Who's going to be talking to our contact?" Elise asks. "Chief? Julian, maybe?"

    "I could..." Julian offers.

    "I'll go," Miles says. "And Julian, you'll be with me as backup. We could use extra 'eyes' on the crowd. We always have to account for the possibility that we aren't the only ones there tonight who will be interested in the King.

    "Michael, Carol, we'll need you nearby as muscle. You can mingle in the party, or hold back a block or two away until we call you in if there's an emergency. Your call."

    Julian nods. "Sounds good."

    "Elise, we'll definitely need to call you in when we get the audience, so you should hang somewhere close but comfortable for you. In the car, or a quiet room in the palace, or something. Somewhere you can chill out and wait for our call," Miles says.

    "Right," she nods. Hey, uh, Carol? Before we split? And everyone, actually? I'm sorry for being a turd." Elise shrugs.

    Carol nods. "Ok."

    Julian claps a hand on Elise's shoulder. "Smoke later?"

    "Yeah," she nods.

    "We've all been hit by losing Vlad, but he was your BFF. I think after this we should hold a ceremony, just the team," Michael says.

    "...I'd really like that, Michael," Elise says. "Thank you. I'm gonna step it up. Let's party?"

    Behemoth nods. "Fuck yeah."

    The team moves down to where Kane has an SUV parked waiting for them. They load up, and she drives them through the city to the palace.

    b2VczNjh.png

    "Goddamn this place looks cool," Julian says.

    Miles’s nose is pressed against the window in fascination. "This is wild. It looks like a matte painting."

    Danvers smiles. "The houses in glass, they're ancient. The Wakandans preserve their old city and history, rather than knock it down and replace it. Parts of the city are like a living museum."

    Kane groans. "You're a nerd, Carol."

    "Is it some kind of special glass? Made with like, meteor silica or something?" Julian asks. "Can't imagine it protects from—ahem—collateral damage if it's just ordinary stuff."

    "Looks like we got another nerd here." Michael looks at Julian.

    "You have armour from space,” Julian points out. “That's pretty nerdy."

    Michael raises his fist for a bump. "Touché." Julian returns the bump.

    The SUV approaches the palace. Unlike the skyscrapers around, it's not massive or towering. Instead, it's a squat, trapezoidal structure, ancient but reinforced. Kane pulls around to the front. "This is you guys. I'm going off to do my thing, let me know if you need either a normal ride or a fast ride, if you feel me."

    "We're under strict orders to avoid diplomatic apocalypses, so let's hope we get a normal one," Elise notes.

    "A normal ride, or a normal apocalypse?" Julian asks.

    "Yes," Elise says.

    "Hrrrm."

    "Thanks, DDK," Myrmidon says casually as he hops out.

    Kane blanches.

    The team gets out of the SUV and enters the palace. Showing their fake IDs gets them past security and into the palace proper, and directed towards Princess Shuri. It's a palace function, so there's dignitaries and nobility and corporate representatives and other people of importance and their hangers-on around, all of them dressed impeccably.

    Julian and Miles are shown to Princess Shuri, while the rest of the team takes positions. Elise finds a high balcony where she tries to take in the scene.

    Gazing down upon the partiers, she thinks she sees...something? Something catches her eye. A woman who seems off. But she’d need to get closer to be certain. "I'm investigating something on the ground floor," she mutters into her comm, then hustles down.

    "I'm keeping eyes on her," Danvers says in response.

    "Be careful. Good luck," Myrmidon whispers into his mic. He knew it. Something was bound to happen.

    Elise gets closer and she sees a woman observing the party, taking it all in. She's not from Wakanda, by her dress and ethnicity. But...something is off about her that Elise has to focus to figure out. She's wearing a photostatic veil. Elise has experience with these things; she can tell when someone is wearing one. Her face is not her face. Her hair is fake, too. She's not a Skrull, she's using tech. Or if she's a Skrull she's doing...hat on a hat?

    Elise gets a drink from a nearby server and mimes sipping at it so she can hang out near the woman. "We uh, have a photostatic veil user on the floor," she quietly says into comms.

    "That's impossible,” Michael says, “only we have that tech."

    "I'm looking at it with my eyes."

    "They're Doom tech," Miles hisses. "fffffffffffffFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF"

    The woman is whispering something. The crowd is too loud for Elise to make out the words. She steps closer still.

    The woman has an earpiece. She's whispering to someone wirelessly, using the same kind of setup as Elise and the squad. SHIELD tech—in fact, literally the same kind of earpieces.

    Elise relays this. "Did SHIELD double book us?"

    "Julian," Miles turns. "Do you want to go help Elise on the floor? She could probably use your help."

    "Will do. I'll knock if I need you," Julian says, heading downstairs.

    "There's two people moving on the Princess, possible Leviathan agents? Move on them, Lang. Go, now." Elise recognizes the voice.

    It's Victoria's voice.

    Elise can see something on Victoria's shoulder. Something small. Incredibly small, and moving. A bug?

    JSsYGEBl.png

    The woman has a very tiny dude on her shoulder.

    Elise opens comms and whispers, her voice thick with emotion. "Hand is here. It's Hand. They think you might be Leviathan, I'll fix it."

    "Hand? Oh. Oh." Miles stops, and reaches into his jacket to pull out his SHIELD SEC ID and pins it to his lapel. "We're all good SHIELD bros here."

    Elise steps up to Hand with her drink, and smiles. "Lovely party."

    Hand quick whispers "Hold" before smiling at Elise. "It is."

    Did...did she not recognize her voice? Elise bites her lower lip, and then tries again. "What are your thoughts on the city?" Elise looks at Hand with pleading eyes.

    Hand looks at Elise, smiles warmly, and says "It's a nice city, but I'm here for work, which means I can't really stop working. If you're here for work, you probably shouldn't stop working either, honey. Especially if we're here to work on the same job."

    "Well, my coworkers are about to be granted an audience with the princess, so I should back them up," Elise says.

    "Oh, those are your co-workers? Well, that makes my job a lot easier. We'll stay out of your way then. Who are the rest of your co-workers, just so I know?" Hand says. "Don't point, just nod."

    Elise does so. "Our...mutual friend couldn't make it. He's...not with us any more."

    Elise sees a micro-expression of genuine crushing sadness go across Hand's face that is quickly replaced with a more minor unfortunate ambivalence. "Aw, that's sad to hear." Her hand is shaking, and then stops.

    "Yes." If Elise says any more, she'll break character. "Maybe we'll meet again, outside of work. I'd like that."

    "No, I'm fine, Scott,” the woman whispers to her shoulder, then turns to Elise. "Well, if you and your co-workers are here on business, me and my folks will do our best to try to stay out of your way unless we're needed. We'll know if we are. Have fun with the party!"

    "You too." Elise turns away and moves back to her vantage point, trying hard not to cry. "We're clear. Hand won't interfere."

    Danvers comes on the comms. "Can I be briefed on the situation with Hand later, please?"

    "Yeah," Elise says.

    "Thank you."

    Elise takes up her post again.

    Upstairs, Julian and Myrmidon are introduced to Princess Shuri. She is a tall woman in a business suit, with a shaved head and earpiece. While the rest of the royal family seem to be dressed to impress, she is understated and professional. "Gentlemen." she says as they approach. "Do not address me as Princess, or your highness, or any other royal title."

    Myrmidon nods. "Would you prefer your professional title?"

    "Shuri will suffice."

    "Very well, Shuri. I'm Miles Mason, agent of SHIELD, and this is my good friend and colleague Julian Adler. Thank you for allowing us into your home."

    She makes a grumbly noise. "Titles, pleasantries, these are for weak men that need to be protected from the world. Speak."

    Miles straightens and stands. "Okay. We're aware that our organization's relationship with your country is tentative and sensitive. We'd like to change that. I'd like the opportunity to make my case before you and your father."

    "You, I like,” she says. “You speak plain, not like that fawning man from the embassy."

    "I'll tell him to fawn less,” Miles says. “He may not be easy to like, but he's a good man who does good work. And that's the crux of my argument, really. We don't need to be friends. We don't need pretense. We just need to work together."

    "Very well,” she nods. "I will speak to my brother and my father, and have this meeting happen later tonight."

    "Thank you." He nods smartly.

    She walks away to go arrange that meeting. She does not excuse herself, or say anything further.

    "Very short,” Julian observes. “To the point."

    "I like her," MIles says. "...Hm, I hope saying that doesn't put me on a list."

    "Put me on that list too," Julian says.

    "List bros." Miles holds out a fist. Julian bumps it.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    zPd6631h.png

    Doom returns to the parlour where Silver and Vladimir have been waiting. He picks up a towel, and wipes blood from his gauntlets. "Such an unpleasant business."

    Vlad is silent.

    "I have found out some salient details," Doom says. "The story Stark told you is more or less accurate. His perspective is skewed by his abhorrent morality. They are not explorers. They are the vanguard of interdimensional conquerors."

    Vlad nods.

    "When they arrived in our universe, their incursion was immediately detected by an organization calling itself ARMOR. I believe this is a division of SHIELD, but it does not appear to be in the files you gave to me, son."

    "I never heard of this," Vlad says.

    "I believe you," Doom nods.

    "What is ARMOR?"

    "It appears to be one of those gauche backronyms that SHIELD is so fond of," Doom says. "Stark's supposition is it stands for Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response. Perhaps it is SHIELD's extra-dimensional counterpart to SWORD. Certainly would be within their theme."

    Vlad shakes his head. "So what does this mean for us?"

    "We have apprehended all members of their vanguard who were not already apprehended by ARMOR. Apparently some of them were captured by ARMOR's initial attack," Doom says. "Their vessel is destroyed. No further attacks will come; according to Stark, their Earth has never been defeated before. I am uninterested in travelling to their world to engage in some pointless conflict."

    "Do you plan to keep them alive?" Vlad asks.

    "Until such time as they are no longer useful, yes. Alternate universe Tony Stark is still Tony Stark, and has much to teach me. Steve Rogers is still Steve Rogers, although he serves HYDRA, which is such a ludicrously absurd idea I can only imagine it is the universe's cruel joke.

    "I will likely dispose of Clint Barton as he's something of a useless individual in all realities."

    Vlad nods.

    "I am told you obliterated their universe's Thor. This is both regrettable, as I had wish to study and learn his biology and power further, but also quite impressive, and I am enormously proud of you for such a fantas-...

    "amazing display of power."

    "Then I am pleased, Father. Behold." Vlad changes into his new form.

    gojMLMYl.pngBBqpO5Sl.png

    Doom cradles his chin. "Incredible. Improvisation. Integration. Assimilation. You absorbed an alternate universe's Tony Stark's technology into your form and made it your own."

    "You gave me the power to do so." Vlad clenches his fist.

    "You took the power to do so, because you are my son."

    Vlad nods

    "Take some time. Rest, contemplate your changes and new knowledge. Celebrate, if you wish. I know that is how Silver prefers to spend her time after a task well done, and you will likely work together in the future."

    Silver smiles at Vlad; Vlad smiles back.

    "There is a wing of the castle I have cleared for your use. Silver will show you the way. I will call for you when the time comes. Go." Doom picks up the towel again. "There's more I need to find out."

    "As you wish." Vlad bows and follows Silver.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    g3xuawl.png

    The team has assembled in the foyer before T’Chaka’s throne room, having been granted a private audience with just Shumi, the King, and Prince T'Challa.

    Elise leans in to talk quietly with Carol, as a peace offering. "I don't think I've ever explained how super my senses are. I'm going to be looking for muscles moving, microexpressions, trying to smell pheromones and stuff."

    "...oh wow, so you're like, a human lie detector?" Carol whispers.

    "Yeah. I know what you had for dinner last night, too. Stuff like that," Elise says. "Makes me kind of a jerk, sometimes. I see, smell, hear everything. At all times."

    "That's so cool. Have you ever tried to like, go to Vegas and kill it?"

    "Hoo boy. Yeah. Turns out they have detections for that. Ended up in a backroom with a dude with a hammer."

    "...oh," Carol says.

    "Vlad came in and saved me. That's how we became best friends. ...He woulda liked you." Elise gives Myrmidon a glance, like, 'please notice that I am trying hard here.'

    Myrmidon does notice! His robot eyes see all. He nods fractionally at her.

    Elise feels something small fall on her shoulder, like a bug. She sees it moving in her peripheral vision. It's him. The tiny man. She can hear a subsonic frequency "Don't freak out! Victoria said you can hear me!"

    "Yeah," Elise mouths. "Super senses. You're with her?"

    "Yeah, yeah I'm on her team. She asked me to keep an eye on you and keep you safe right now, she thinks this is gonna go real bad."

    Elise, despite herself, gives a big, emotional smile. "Okay. Well, let's hope it doesn't."

    "Yeah uh, this is like my only power, so..."

    "Well, I think we'll have it covered, but it's the thought that counts," Elise says.

    He continues. "And it's not even a real superpower, it's a suit! Like Iron Man. Just to be clear. Full disclosure."

    "...Alright, my dude! I appreciate the disclosure," Elise says. "Hey, maybe having an extra dude on our side can make the difference." Elise warns the team, just so that someone doesn't clap her on the shoulder and kill him.

    "Tiny dude. Alrighty then, cool,” Michael says.

    "Let's go in. I'm going to be straining myself, so...let's hope for the best," Elise says. "I've done a lot of research, but this'll be my first time actually doing what I'll be about to do."

    They are led into the throne room.

    King T'Chaka is there, sitting on the throne. To his right is his son, Prince T'Challa, in a formal traditional Wakandan suit. To his left stands Princess Shuri, in her sharp business suit from earlier.

    "Approach, friends, please," T’Chaka says in a warm voice.

    Elise approaches, trying to angle herself so she's not in the front but can get as close to the King as possible.

    "My daughter told me you had some thoughts on improving our security, suggestions from Derek Khanata."

    "Yes, your Highness." Myrmidon bows. "I'd like to try to work to improve the relationship between my organization and your country. We keep encountering more and more threats that don't respect borders. HYDRA, AIM, Dr. Doom and his robot infiltrators," he eyes T'Chaka. "Aliens of every stripe. I hope you'll understand that I'm stating the plain truth when I say that I believe only our sincere cooperation can keep all of us safe."

    Elise needs to get closer. Closer. “Whoops -“ She stumbles into Michael intentionally, allowing her to get near enough to the king to examine him as he speaks.

    The Princess reflexively steps between the king and Elise. But Elise sees the King's response. His micro-expressions, his reactions.

    He wasn't startled, afraid, shocked. He was...annoyed. Tensed. Like he was going to counter-attack. Personally. He was ready to defend himself and possibly take a run at Michael or Elise if they were going to attack him.

    "I'm so sorry." Elise steps away, putting her hands up. "Terribly sorry."

    "Elise, are you okay?" Myrmidon says, helping her to a seat. "My apologies, Your Highness. I think my colleague may have enjoyed your hospitality a bit much." Elise frowns at Miles but accepts the help and doesn't protest.

    "Only natural," The king smiles. "Wakanda is the most secure nation on Earth, but it can always be more secure. For example, we have a problem with smugglers."

    Miles nods. "What kind of smugglers, Your Highness? Human traffickers? Drugs?"

    "Vibranium smugglers. Vibranium is the heart of Wakanda, and the smugglers cut at that heart and steal from the lifeblood. It is a precious resource. What little we have, we trade very sparingly, for precious purpose. For example, Captain America's shield is made of vibranium. This is something Wakandans are proud of.

    "But were our vibranium to be made into weapons of terror, of evil? This would be a shame for us. We cannot allow this."

    Else keeps studying T’Chaka. There's something wrong with his face. His smell. It's like Susan's. The muscle-movements move inside muscle-movements.

    He's a Skrull. Elise is certain of it.

    She realizes that she's not sure what to do at this point. "Do you have any other valuable minerals? ...Emeralds, perhaps?" Elise glances at Julian. That was the code SWORD used for Skrulls. He'd know it. "Or, copper? Uh, iron?" Elise is running out of stuff you dig out of the ground she knows about. She suddenly feels very vulnerable without her sidearm. She scans the room, looking for a place to duck and hide.

    "I actually came to talk about an even more insidious threat, Your Highness," Myrmidon interjects.

    T'Chaka stops smiling. Shuri squints at Miles.

    "I mentioned aliens. I've been authorized to reveal that SHIELD has discovered that some aliens...can take human form. They walk among us. Our friends...." Miles looks around the room. "Our family. Anyone could have been replaced."

    Julian reads the royal family’s surface thoughts and emotions.

    I do not trust these people. The small woman, she is watching father, smelling him like an animal. I do not know if we can win this fight on our own, not if they have powers. T'Challa is concerned.

    "But I've got good news to go with the bad," Miles says, holding up a finger. "These creatures—they're called Skrulls—they aren't invincible. We can beat them. SHIELD has killed several and taken some captive. So my message is this: vigilance, but hope. We can root out these infiltrators if we stand together and tell the truth."

    Shuri's surface emotions are suspicion and...rage. If this is true...could that be what is wrong with father since his trip to Geneva? He has not been the same, I know this. They are not lying. This man, he is an honest man. He does not lie, I read his face. He holds back some truths, but the truths he speaks are not lies. These monsters are real. Father....? She looks at T'Chaka.

    T'Chaka's emotions and surface thoughts are...static. Noise. Like an analog television turned to a channel that doesn't exist.

    Guys, T'Chaka is a Skrull, Julian thinks. Myrmidon, action plan?

    Wait for it, Miles thinks. "That's why I requested this meeting with you, Your Highness. This secret is obviously of the highest level. I just want you—and your son, and daughter—to ask yourselves if anyone you know has been acting strangely. ...Different. Perhaps after returning from a journey or other period of time where you weren't around them." He looks the prince and princess and king in the eyes, one by one. "Take your time. I know this is a lot to take in."

    T'Challa looks nervously at his sister. She tightens her jaw as she looks at her brother.

    The king clears his throat. "This is nonsense. Aliens. Wakanda is a place of science and learning. Shoo. Begone from my hall and palace. Shuri, show them out."

    Elise glances nervously at the group. T'Challa backs away.

    "Your Highness." Myrmidon loosens his tie. "I'm afraid you're under arrest."

    He laughs. "Arrest? Under what authority? I am king!"

    Shuri grabs his shoulder. "My father is king."

    "T'Challa, Shuri, we found places called the Cradle. They held dozens and dozens of bodies in comas, people who had been replaced with Skrulls." Elise bursts in, desperately. "We think your father—your actual father—is -"

    Elise doesn't get to finish. T'Chaka backhands Shuri fifteen feet across the room as he rises to his feet.

    "GO,” Miles shouts.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    The being in the throne shifts and grows in size and stature, becoming nine feet tall and muscular in addition to taking on his true Skrull form. His right hand glows with flame, and his left hand turns to stone.

    NLdyg47l.png

    "Oh, what the fuck." Elise ducks down and tries to sense anything about this thing that could be a weakness. "WHAT THE SHIT!" she hears from Scott on her shoulder. "I know!" she snaps back.

    Miles fires a full-power repulsor blast at the War Skrull, sending it crashing backwards into T’Chaka’s throne, dazing it.

    Behemoth armors up.

    LRQK5Twl.png

    ...But he isn’t the only one. Throwing his ceremonial robe aside, T'Challa presses a device on his hip and a mesh armor covers his body and head in seconds.

    sLti3gJl.png

    Elise stares at the War Skrull. It wears armor plating that somehow shape-shifted with it, but Elise sees a gap in it that she could totally hit...if she had a gun.

    Suddenly, she hears Scott yell to her. "Oh, hey, Victoria gave me these to smuggle in for you, she said you'd need them!" He throws two teeny, tiny pistols into the air, which in seconds grow into regular-size ones.

    "This fucking owns." Elise snatches them out of the air and fires at the weak point with both guns.

    Still reeling from taking a full-power repulsor blast to the face, the War Skrull is distracted and can’t cover its unarmored spot. Elise’s shots strike home. It roars and moves to attack her with frightening speed, but a spray of fireballs from Phoenix distract it!

    The ploy works, and the War Skrull blasts Julian with fire, which despite that being Julian's entire thing still hurts him. Elise is safe, but with the Skrull moving, she’ll need to get very close if she wants to hit it again.

    "Danvers, we need air cav!" Miles calls. Captain Marvel nods, and flies up above the War Skrull, blasting it with photon bolts!

    Behemoth and Myrmidon add their own blasts to the barrage, knocking the Skrull off balance and driving it onto one knee. Elise climbs up the Skrull’s back, and starts shooting it in the face at point blank range, green blood splattering all over her as she gorily rips its face apart while it regenerates from the shots. But...it’s not regenerating fast enough. They're 17-round magazines.

    The Skrull goes down.

    Elise realizes she's covered in Skrull blood, sitting on top of a Skrull face that regenerated through two magazines of damage. "AHHHHHHHHHHH! OH MY GOD GET IT OFF GET IT OFF -"

    Danvers, floating in mid-air, covers her mouth in horror.

    "Behemoth,” Miles points. “Can you keep it contained until we get it back to SHIELD?"

    "Will do, if it is alright with you?" Michael looks at T'Challa and Shuri.

    "SOME GOT IN MY MOUTH -" Elise is screaming. Nearby, Julian brushes the singed parts of his suit away, picking off the stray threads.

    Miles gets on the radio. "Kane, mission complete. We're plus one twitching Skrull."

    Lang hops off Elise's shoulder and grows to regular size. He is also covered in green Skrull gore.

    Myrmidon starts for a moment. "...Wow, that's wild."

    Shuri looks at the team. "We will handle this. Take this thing with you. No one can know of this. You." She points at Elise. "Before this thing turned, you said my father may still live, that they may have him captured somewhere?"

    Elise manages to swallow her disgust and fear and overall dislike of the gore covering her. "Yes, they call them Cradles."

    "Find my father,” Shuri says. “This is what you will do."

    Myrmidon looks at Shuri and T'Challa. "He's being held with many others. We plan to find out where and free them all. This one will help whether it wants to or not. Oh, I should mention that. It's not dead. They regrow like crazy. If you find another, remember that."

    She nods. "Brother." She looks at T'Challa. He suited up, but he stood there the entire fight. "You must take the throne now. Father is…ill. This is what will be said.

    "If you are not ready, if you do not believe you are ready, you will still take the throne and I will tell you what to say. All that matters is that Wakanda is stable, and that Wakanda knows there is a king." He nods at this. "The battle is done. Remove the armor."

    He nods slowly and armors down. Michael does so as well. Elise, at this point, has shed her blazer and blouse and is trying to wipe herself down with her hands, which is wildly unsuccessful.

    Shuri continues. "I will have my most trusted arrange for this thing to be removed. You came by aircraft; you will leave by such, tonight. Do not tarry. All of this will be gone in moments. My father is ill. He will get better. If he does not get better, then one day we will have to accept his passing and my brother will have to accept he is king, such is things.

    "Wakanda will assist SHIELD against these monsters however is needed, tell Fury this."

    Myrmidon nods. "I will. Thank you."

    She nods. "There is a servant door there. You will leave that way. Go now."

    Myrmidon goes. "Oh, uh...Ant-Man? Tell Ms. H that we said hi."

    "Cool, uh...will do!" He gives a thumbs=up.

    Elise hustles out the door, for once eager to have a shower. Miles follows her. "Alright, everyone. Let's roll," he says.

    "I don't know who you guys are!" Lang calls back.

    "She'll know!" Myrmidon replies.

    "Good enough for me!"

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    The team hustles out of the palace. Elise takes advantage of the connection with Julian to send a message telepathically. We should have turned, given him finger guns, and said "We're Agents of STRIKE."

    Uh... no?

    That woulda been so fucking good, Elise insists.

    Phoenix frowns. They're not...they're not SHIELD, now. Or if they are maybe they don't have clearance to know about us. Or we don't have the clearance to know about them!

    IT'S ABOUT THE ART OF CINEMA, JULIAN!

    Wait. Cinema? What does that have to do with anything?

    Anteater shakes her head in exasperation. It would have looked cool! Christ!

    Myrmidon goes over to Carol. "Hey, good work Caro—er, we need to get you a codename. Do you have one?"

    "Captain Marvel," she says.

    "....Fuck,” Miles says ruefully. “We can just call ourselves Captain something? Why didn't I think of that?"

    "I'm starting to feel like no one saw me climb a War Skrull and shoot him in the face," Elise says.

    Michael holds up his fist for her to bump. She does so. "It was badass," he says.

    Miles nods at this. "Good work, Elise. You did us all proud."

    She grins. "Wanna hear something even better, Miles? You'll love this. It worked. I can totally spot Skrulls."

    "That's fantastic,” he says. “We're going to turn up the heat now. That's two War Skrulls down. I mean, I'm assuming the big armored asshole was a War Skrull. I sure hope he wasn't a Janitor Skrull."

    "That was absolutely a War Skrull," Carol says firmly.

    "We're gonna find Attilan." Elise taps the side of her head. Myrmidon nods and smiles. He's not sure about this Attilan stuff but he likes Elise's enthusiasm.

    The team loads up and heads back to the embassy. From there, they get into the Zephyr, and the Hatut Zeraze discreetly load the body of the War Skrull in the the cell on the jet. Myrmidon makes sure to let Everett Ross know that a) Wakanda might have warmed up a bit to SHIELD and b) to not be such a kiss-ass.

    As they're taking off, Kane calls back to the rest of the team. "So, hey, I thought we were going to have to drop this off at the Peak like the last War Skrull you took down. So I called it in.

    "....funny thing happened."

    "...Uh oh," Miles grimaces.

    "Funny ha-ha, or...?" Julian says.

    "Funny brick your pants,” Kane says. "Got a call patched in from Mountaintop Actual, callsign Scorpio."

    Julian sucks his teeth.

    "We're to proceed immediately with no stops for debrief."

    "...To the Helicarrier?" Elise says. "To talk to Fury?"

    "Holy shit," Michael says.

    "Yeah I'm not stoked either, guys." Kane takes a breath. "Apparently the Avengers are off on a mission, something about investigating reports about possible phoney Avengers in Symkaria? So there's no risk of you guys accidentally running into Tony Stark and raising too many questions."

    Miles nods slowly. "I'm not worried. We've just turned in another A+ mission. If Fury needs us, it's because he knows what we can do."

    "That's worse," Elise says. "That is literally the worst."

    Miles claps his hands in anticipation. "We're off to see the wizard. This is gonna be fun."

    Danvers shrugs. "Why's everyone always so afraid of Fury? He's just the Earth guy."

    "Because my goal is to go easy breezy, do just well enough to not get in shit, and not get noticed," Elise says. ""Well. That was my goal. We've officially been noticed."

    Danvers nods. "That's fair."

    GFluHwth.png

    The Zephyr lands.

    The STRIKE team are escorted through the Helicarrier by SEC agents. Elise notices that everywhere they go, camera and other internal security systems seem to deactivate and stop watching. Like every eye on the Helicarrier is looking away.

    She swallows hard.

    They're led to Fury's office. The man himself is standing, back to the door, looking out the window to the ocean. "I'm very proud of you. All of you. That could've been a major shitshow down there in Wakanda. I knew it wasn't going to be. I had every faith in you, but when I sent you on that mission, there was always the possibility that things were going to go south.

    "Could've been wrong. Could be he wasn't a Skrull. Could be I had the wrong family member. Might've been the daughter, or the son. Could be he was a Skrull, but all of you fucked up taking him down so bad that Wakanda declared war on SHIELD or the US or the entire world.

    "But none of that happened. It all went well. Can't always play a perfect game, but it feels good to get it right sometimes." He turns to face them.

    "Playing the long game is hard. Have to keep one eye here, in the present, and one eye always on the future, seeing what's coming next, and seeing that way can confuse the shit out of you and if you do it too much you stop being able to tell the difference."

    It occurs to Michael that he's heard this before.

    Fury taps below his eye patch and smiles. "...Metaphorically, of course. Point is, we can't lose sight of the smaller victories in pursuit of the bigger goals. You stopped the Skrulls from taking over Wakanda. That's what happened here. That stopped them from getting the world's supply of Vibranium. Stopped a lot of dominos from falling down.

    "Going forward, I'm going to stop keeping you guys in the dark so much. Less in terms of your operations. You're still going to be a black op. You work better in the shadows. But more in terms of what you know, and what you don't know. Because you work better the more you know, as we've learned with bringing you up to SWORD's level.

    "So with that said.

    "Let me tell you about ARMOR..."
    PDKpJsK.png

    Jacobkosh on
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    I don't see another way but I am very upset to see Vlad leave the band

    sig.gif
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    I don't see another way but I am very upset to see Vlad leave the band

    i can 100% promise you that vlad and the team are a long way from done!

    PowerpuppiesMatev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I don't see another way but I am very upset to see Vlad leave the band

    i can 100% promise you that vlad and the team are a long way from done!

    very upset :mad:

    sig.gif
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Vlad becoming a magical Doombot was the side story I didn’t know I wanted, so there’s that.

    Honestly, Danvers doesn’t feel like she fits the dynamic at all, but hopefully that gets better with time.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Matev wrote: »
    Vlad becoming a magical Doombot was the side story I didn’t know I wanted, so there’s that.

    Honestly, Danvers doesn’t feel like she fits the dynamic at all, but hopefully that gets better with time.

    I can't say too much without spoilers, but Carol's role in the beginning is mainly to be a foil for Elise. As kind of a by-the-book straight arrow, she is the worst possible person to replace Vlad (at least, from Elise's point of view) which of course makes her great from a dramatic point of view. But this episode was mainly an introduction and for both story and real-world reasons (in the story she's new and inexperienced; in real life she's an NPC controlled by the GM, who's not out to upstage the players) she was kind of in the back seat for the action stuff.

    That will start to change in the next few episodes and I think you'll be interested to see what happens with her.

  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Wait she wasn't played by Jake?

    sig.gif
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Wait she wasn't played by Jake?

    Nope! He was playing Vlad.

    Sometimes our scenes were interlaced - like both would be running simultaneously - other times he played his scenes while the rest of us were grabbing dinner or vice versa.

  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Hate hate hate hate hate. Julian didn't even need telepathy to figure that one out.

    No kidding.

    Elise is an interesting character... who I would absolutely want to strangle if I had to work with her as a fellow agent.

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2018
    Yeah. At this point in the story she is basically a walking id. She can be really kind - she was the only person who got really close to Vlad - but, especially right now, she's just a roil of ungoverned appetites and impulses.

    That starts to change. This is the first installment where Miles really gets through to her, I think because when he loses his temper it feels like someone is finally not being phony to her.

    Jacobkosh on
  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    honestly she just joined strike to have fun and she's feeling really attacked right now

    JacobkoshRear Admiral ChocoMsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    5p2LrOg.png

    "The Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency was founded years ago to deal with...well, name sorta says it all,” Nick Fury begins.

    “I've upgraded your security clearance to 8-Theta. You'll have access to ARMOR's database and files, and going forward, you may be called on to work alongside ARMOR, the Exploration Corps, and the Ultimates as needed."

    Elise makes an uncertain noise in the back of her throat.

    "So theoretically, we could run into doppelgangers of ourselves?" Julian asks.

    Fury nods. "Theoretically, yes."

    Miles holds up a finger. "...The Ultimates?"

    "The Ultimates are ARMOR's own black ops unit. Sorta half-way between you guys and the Avengers. They're a crew of extranormals and specialists that we deploy on emergency situations, but unlike STRIKE, we use them exclusively for alternate universe issues.

    "The Avengers are the poster children. The public facing superheroes. You're the generalists who do the big important behind the scenes work that is critical and can't be done by anyone else. The Ultimates are specialists that do one specific task, and do it well. Right now, we have the Ultimates deployed to Symkaria.”

    "Uh, Director Fury, sir,” Elise starts, “if you remember the Thule incident—there was a point I was between worlds, and I think, uh, I think I may be able to maybe...figure some interdimensional shit out? Maybe?"

    He nods slightly. "Hrm. That'll be useful if you're working with ARMOR, Agent Arnell. We'll make note of that."

    Myrmidon looks at Elise. "...You can smell other dimensions?"

    "More like I can feel it under my skin," she says. "Don't do Thule, kids."

    "Sir, I have an important question." Myrmidon says, hands clasped respectfully behind his back at parade rest.

    Fury nods briskly. "Go ahead."

    "Can we get a cool name like 'Ultimates' or 'Avengers'? What about...New Warriors?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    I used to read the New Warriors, and I can unequivocally say that it was definitely a comic book that was published in the early 90s.

    "Officially, your code-name internally is STRIKE-1," Fury says. "Whatever your team calls yourself is your business, clear it with Director Quartermain."

    "The Sex Harpies," Elise volunteers. "See, I had this band once -"

    "The B-Sharps," Michael offers.

    "Oh, I like the Harpy one," Julian says.

    Fury clears his throat. "As I said, the Ultimates are deployed to Symkaria. There was an incursion incident recently. The Ultimates have already defeated these individuals once, when they first showed up. They're the Avengers...from an alternate universe where they're loyal to HYDRA. They escaped, and are on the run somewhere in Wundagore valley."

    "God, can you imagine a HYDRA Captain America?” Elise says. “That's wild."

    Myrmidon shakes his head sadly. "What a horrible idea."

    "Yeah,” Julian says. “Cap serving Nazis? In HYDRA? Impossible."

    "The Avengers are on standby in case this turns out to be too much for the Ultimates to handle,” Fury continues, “but I really don't want to breach that whole issue and send them into combat against their alternate universe selves. Too many questions. Instead, I'd prefer to keep you all on semi-alert status in case you need to be deployed.

    "So, until we have confirmation that the HYDRA Avengers are neutralized or captured, we're not going to be deploying directly on a field op. You're not exactly on leave, we're just going to pay you to park it. Kane's going to fly you back to your HQ from here, and then you're on your own so long as you stay in communication and are able to be called up into the field on short notice.

    "Consider yourselves on-call."

    Elise's face lights up and she smiles. Then she rearranges her face back into something neutral. "Cool."

    "Yes, sir." Myrmidon whistles softly. "Fighting Avengers...yeesh."

    "I coulda been an Avenger," Elise notes.

    "Fall out, team,” Fury says. “We'll call you if we need you. Read up on ARMOR's files so you're up to speed. Dismissed."

    The team leaves the Helicarrier, loading up into the Zephyr and departing for New York. On the way, they begin studying the documents Fury gave them.

    PHU1KZN.png
    A somewhat inside joke in this episode’s logo: it comes from the infamous “New Universe” line of comics that Marvel debuted to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 1987, with titles like THE STAR BRAND, KICKERS INC. (about a team of football player superheroes) and SPITFIRE AND THE TROUBLESHOOTERS.

    I actually have some affection for some of these things but I am pretty sure I’m the only one who does. Using the New Universe logo is my little tip of the hat.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    LEVEL 8Θ+ EYES ONLY

    This contains relevant data for an agent of ARMOR, reflective of your SHIELD and ARMOR security clearance.

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    qlGmSdP.pngComprehending the Multiverse
    Section Authored by Dr. Johnathon Ohnn, ARMOR Chief Researcher

    The Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency’s primary purpose is stated right in its name. However, defining an “alternate reality” can in and of itself be complicated and daunting for scientific laymen.

    Rather than link you to Wikipedia pages on quantum mechanics (which even then are unfriendly to newcomers) or encouraging you to dive into college-level physics lectures, I will attempt to explain the core concepts as needed for you to understand on the most key levels you will need to perform your duties as an ARMOR Agent.

    First, let’s lay out some ground rules.

    1. An infinite span of alternate realities are different in ways you can’t perceive.
    Imagine I pick up a cup of coffee, take a sip, and put it back down on my desk. In a reality right next door to this one, I put that coffee down two inches to the left. Nothing else is different. This doesn’t actually change anything else. It doesn’t create some butterfly effect where because my coffee got put down two inches to the left, now a different person gets elected President in four years.

    An infinite span of realities exist running alongside ours that are just like ours except for these tiny imperceptible changes that are mostly meaningless. Most of these differences exist on the sub-atomic or quantum level, superposition differences in particles we can’t possibly notice.

    However…

    2. It’s harder to go “close” than it is to go “far”
    Travelling across realities takes a lot of energy and is very difficult. The ways we use to do it right now are really resource-intensive and somewhat imprecise. As a result, this creates an effect where trying to travel to an adjacent universe that’s imperceptibly similar to our own is impossibly difficult, and the energy required and difficulty to travel goes down the “farther” away from our own universe we get. The more different a parallel universe is from our own, the easier it is to get to.

    To use another analogy, imagine having to get a running start to jump, and then trying to jump exactly six inches in front of you and no farther from that running start, without stopping. It’s essentially impossible, but jumping a much farther distance consistently from that running start would be much easier.

    3. Improbable similarities make the journey easier
    Attenuating multiversal frequencies in preparation for travel to other realities is an extremely complex and esoteric process I won’t bore you with the details about. The salient detail is that something else that makes the process easier is finding a reality with similar points that we call “anchor concepts”.

    This results in visiting universes where circumstances seem somewhat improbable compared to our own. Why, for example, would there be a doppelganger of you in another universe who has a completely different profession and personality, if the circumstances under which your parents met and even chose your name are completely different in that universe? Yet, in an infinite multiverse, no matter how improbable that is, mathematically it would end up happening convergently for different reasons.

    This seeming contrivance actually makes inter-reality travel easier. It anchors travel. Without the detailed mechanics of why, it’s easier to travel to a universe where JFK didn’t become president and instead was an Irish-American mobster who assassinated President Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer than it is to travel to a universe where JFK never existed in the first place.

    4. Alternate realities are real
    This point needs to be emphasized. Alternate realities and the people who come from those places and live there are real. They are real people. They are not fantasies or people who will blink out of existence when you leave their world or they leave ours. If you encounter your doppelganger, they are a real person. They are not a person who has stolen your life, you are not the “real” version of you any more than they are. You might be the one native to this reality, but that is all. It is extremely important for ARMOR agents not to take a cavalier attitude to the lives and safety of multiversal individuals and their worlds.

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    qlGmSdP.pngFounding of ARMOR
    The Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency was founded in 1996 based on burgeoning research in the field of quantum mechanics being done by individuals like Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, Stephen Hawking, and Johnathon Ohnn.

    There were concerns within SHIELD’s hierarchy that theories about alternate realities could potentially prove to be true, and that these theories could present a threat to Earth.

    For the first ten years of its existence, ARMOR was a purely theoretical division of SHIELD, operating entirely in secret as Nick Fury’s project known only to him and answerable only to him. ARMOR used its own internal Security Level system. For those first ten years, anyone below Level Theta did not even know that ARMOR was a division of SHIELD, thinking instead it was an independent NGO operating parallel to SHIELD in secret.

    That changed in 2006, when Reed Richards broke the barrier.

    ARMOR was already aware of Richards’ research thanks to intel coming from SHIELD sources within the Future Foundation, but was not fully aware of how successful Reed was going to be until he already was.

    Richards and his three companions traveled to a place he dubbed the “Negative Zone” in the press, that he explained to be an alien world that was uninhabited. Literally both of these things are false (see the entry on Earth-N for more details).

    This was a wake-up call for ARMOR, and it needed to mobilize. Its budget increased, and intel came from SHIELD on Richards’ technology that let him travel to the Negative Zone. Authorization was received to begin recruiting field agents and designing an exploratory device of its own. ARMOR refused to be caught on the backfoot, waiting for extra-dimensional invaders to come to this reality with hostile intent. Intel needed to be gathered, threats assessed and neutralized, and potential allies contacted.

    In 2010, ARMOR finished construction of their own multiversal gateway based on a combination of Kree fold-gate technology obtained from SWORD and technology obtained from the Future Foundation by SHIELD intelligence.

    After the first Incursion by the Synthezoids from Earth-209, SHIELD Director Fury authorized ARMOR Director Jones to create the Ultimates. They would act as a covert response force to any multiversal threats to our world.

    qlGmSdP.pngOur Continuing Mission
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    ARMOR is dedicated to protecting this Earth, our Earth, from all threats from outside this reality, and all threats within this reality that threaten our existence as a whole.

    Our remit excludes handling matters of extra-terrestrial politics, exploration, or threat response (which is SWORD’s jurisdiction) or general response to crime, terrorism, and extranormal hazards here on Earth (which is SHIELD’s entire mandate as a whole organization).

    Our highly specific mission is to combat existential threats to our reality itself, from within and without. Our mission is not a glorious one; We are not Avengers, or even OPS agents. Our best possible outcome for our work is that no one will ever know we did anything.

    People who want glory aspire to become Avengers. People who want to save reality join the Ultimates.

    qlGmSdP.pngARMOR Security Levels
    ARMOR does not use SHIELD’s numerical Security Level system. Because ARMOR is essentially run in parallel to SHIELD, it is possible for a SHIELD Agent to have both a SHIELD Security Level and an ARMOR Security Level, and for those two levels to be different and to reflect different levels of access.

    ARMOR’s Security Levels use the Greek alphabet, running from Alpha to Kappa. There is technically a Lambda clearance level, but only SHIELD Director Nick Fury possesses it.

    Alpha (Α) – ARMOR basic support staff, like custodians and office clerks, and the staff of front companies and public-facing cover structures. Anyone at this level does not fully understand what ARMOR actually does and does not actually get told the true meaning of the organization’s name.

    Beta (B) – Maintenance and repair teams, anyone who works inside an ARMOR facility with sensitive equipment has at least this clearance. At this clearance level, someone working within ARMOR knows ARMOR’s mandate and purpose.

    Gamma (Γ) - Junior research staff, exploratory field agents in training, external base security agents

    Delta (Δ) – Research staff, exploratory field agents, internal base security, defense teams, investigatory agents. Anyone at this clearance level knows of the existence of the Ultimates.

    Zeta (Ζ) – Senior exploratory field agents and team leads, Research team leads, security command. Agents at this level are given access to the current database of documented alternate realities.

    Eta (Η) – ARMOR Facility Commanders (Dr. Jonathan Ohnn, Dr. Jane Foster, Warden Erde). Anyone at this clearance is briefed on any incursions and made aware of ongoing exploration missions.

    Theta (Θ) – The Ultimates, SHIELD Deputy Director Maria Hill, SWORD Director Abigail Brand. Anyone at this level can request access to current Ultimates and previous Ultimates missions.

    Iota (Ι) – ARMOR Deputy Director Michael Korvac

    Kappa (K) – ARMOR Director Rick Jones

    Lambda (Λ) – This clearance level is restricted for Nick Fury only.

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    qlGmSdP.pngARMOR Command Staff
    ARMOR’s Command Staff compose the leadership that oversee the entire organization. For operational security reasons, the Director and the Deputy Director are generally not at the same base at the same time. Director Jones is usually located at ARMOR HQ, the Hollow, while Deputy Director Korvac is usually aboard the Chariot with the rest of the Ultimates.

    Rick Jones
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    Director, ARMOR
    Codename:
    Whisperer
    Clearance Level: 9K

    Rick Jones has been with SHIELD for over forty years. The man should be a legend, but opts not to be. He’s nearly 70, but looks to be gracefully moving into his 50s. He is several contradictions at once.

    An original member of the first Avengers Initiative in the 1980’s, Jones later became an OPS agent after the Chernobyl Disaster. When ARMOR was formed in 1996, Nick Fury approached Jones personally to lead the black op.

    He has led ARMOR since the beginning, and led the first exploration mission personally before Erik Josten joined the agency.

    Michael Korvac
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    Deputy Director, ARMOR
    Codename:
    Stranger
    Clearance Level: 8I

    Dr. Michael Korvac is a brilliant scientist who was poached from SHIELD’s Project Pegasus several years ago when he showed promise not just as a researcher, but as a team leader. He was replaced by the late Dr. Philip Lawson.

    Korvac doesn’t actually do a great deal of research these days, largely acting as the handler and mission control for the Ultimates, a job he nonetheless finds satisfying.

    qlGmSdP.pngARMOR Support Staff
    ARMOR’s Support Staff are the core working parts of the agency. The researchers, engineers, security agents, and other critical personnel who don’t engage in field work. While the Exploration Corps and the Ultimates may be seen as more glamorous, without the Support Staff none of ARMOR would function.

    Jonathan Ohnn
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    Chief Research Scientist, ARMOR
    Codename:
    Exact
    Clearance Level:

    Dr. Ohnn is ARMOR’s chief scientist, and heads research at the Hollow, ARMOR HQ. He helped design ARMOR’s multiversal transit device (codenamed “Holepunch”). He’s one of the leading minds in the field of quantum mechanics, rivaling men like Reed Richards.

    His influence and quest for new scientific knowledge is what keeps the Exploration Corps afloat. Without him, Director Jones would have likely shut the Corps down after the Synthezoid Incursion.

    Jane Foster
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    Interspatial Phenomenon Specialist
    Codename:
    Positive
    Clearance Level: 7Z

    Dr. Foster is ARMOR’s expert on interspatial phenomena (so-called “pocket dimensions”). She helped ARMOR understand Kree space-fold technology and helped create the interstitial concealment zone for the Hollow. While her expertise is not specific to multiversal phenomena proper, she is nonetheless a valuable asset to ARMOR.

    In the past few years, Dr. Foster has become fascinated with Asgardian technology and the concept that Asgard is itself an interspatial space. Her research has been stymied by the fact that Asgard is not within ARMOR’s mandate, being considered more of a SWORD matter.

    Alexander Erde
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    Warden, Wonderland Containment Facility
    Codename:
    Good Shepherd
    Clearance Level: 6H

    Warden Erde keeps the peace at SHIELD Facility 42X, codenamed Wonderland. As the warden of the multiversal prison, he has a thankless and extremely dangerous job, detaining prisoners and dangerous entities that have been determined cannot possibly be contained on Earth.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Exploration Corps
    The Exploration Corps are ARMOR’s eyes and ears out there in the multiverse. While much of their job is led through first by unmanned probes and drones controlled by X-51, when it has been determined an alternative Earth is safe or at least necessary to have boots on the ground, the Exploration Corps are sent in after.

    They are recruited from some of the best of the best of SHIELD’s OPS division. ARMOR doesn’t recruit directly from the private sector or outside SHIELD for the EC, only transferring people laterally. Anyone working in the Corps has to be an experienced SHIELD OPS agent experienced with extranormal phenomenon and prepared for what they will see out there in the multiverse.

    Erik Josten
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    Commander, Exploration Corps
    Codename:
    Atlas
    Clearance Level: 6H

    Commander Josten had been a SHIELD Agent for 12 years before being transferred to ARMOR. He was part of the first Exploration Corps team that was led personally by Director Jones, and was part of the first mission that traveled to another Earth. He has led every single field mission that the EC has engaged in if he wasn’t injured or on mandatory leave at the behest of Deputy Director Korvac. He is dedicated, passionate, and professional.

    There has been a recommendation placed on his file from Ultimates team leader James Rhodes that his security clearance be increased on both SHIELD-ARMOR axis to reflect both his years of service and trust, and to better equip him to do his job in light of recent incursions and other internal events. Thus far, these suggestions have been declined as it has been determined that Commander Josten’s team performs better on a need-to-know basis.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Ultimates
    The Ultimates were formed in 2012, after the Synthezoid Incursion incident. Director Fury and Director Jones concluded that ARMOR needed an extranormal rapid response unit of their own separate and distinct from the Avengers specifically to respond to incursions and other multiversal crises that would not compromise the clearance levels of the Avengers.

    The Ultimates were created in response. Their roster has fluctuated over the years, as they have experienced a few casualties in the line of duty. In accordance with ARMOR security protocols, the specific identities of those casualties will not be mentioned in this document, and only the current Ultimates roster will be highlighted.

    The Ultimates respond to threats only of a multiversal or extra-dimensional nature, no matter how severe they may otherwise be. This is a controversial policy decision within ARMOR and even within the Ultimates themselves, as incursions are rare and often there are global crises that they could be responding to covertly but are ordered not to. However, Director Fury has decided that risking having the Ultimates diverted to anything other than their mandated purposes risks having them unavailable when something within their remit actually takes place, and given the nature of the Thule Incident, ultimately Director Fury was proven correct.

    The Ultimates’ HQ is the mobile quincarrier vehicle codenamed the Chariot. They are almost always aboard this vessel when not deployed, except in the rare instances when they are permitted personal leave, are off-world on an alternate Earth, or are at another ARMOR facility.

    James Rhodes
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    Team Leader, the Ultimates
    Codename
    : War Machine
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: None. James Rhodes is not an extranormal individual, but is a trained and experienced Air Force pilot and SHIELD agent. In combat, he uses power armor that is a heavily modified derivation of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, focusing on enhanced weapons systems.

    James “Rhodey” Rhodes is the Ultimates team leader. After a decorated career with the US Air Force, he decided to join SHIELD alongside his best friend and long-time collaborator, Tony Stark. However, their career paths took very different turns. Tony joined the Avengers, becoming the world-famous Iron Man. Rhodey went into the shadows, being hand-picked by Rick Jones and Nick Fury to lead the Ultimates.

    Sam Wilson
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    Aerial Reconnaissance, the Ultimates
    Codename:
    Falcon
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: None. Wilson is not an extranormal individual. His field capabilities come from training with the US military and as a SHIELD OPS agent, and from advanced prototype technology including a jet-assisted wing-suit with vibranium-reinforced wings and an aerial reconnaissance and combat drone (codenamed Redwing) that he is able to remotely control with a neural link device.

    Sam Wilson is Rhodes’ second-in-command, and one of the longest serving members of the Ultimates. He was originally chosen as a potential Avenger, but Fury decided that he would be better served as a black operative on the Ultimates team.

    Pietro Maximoff
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    Rapid Response, the Ultimates
    Codename:
    Quicksilver
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Pietro is able to accelerate to superhuman speeds, with matching reflex and response times. He also has increased healing and recovery capacity.

    Pietro and his sister Wanda are recent additions to the Ultimates, replacing two recent casualties to the team. They are actually individuals who were apprehended by a SHIELD black op and determined to be more victims of circumstance than real criminals.

    After being debriefed and retrained, the twins were transferred to the Ultimates. Pietro mostly serves as ground recon and evac in a crisis, and allows the team to obtain intel in seconds.

    Wanda Maximoff
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    High-Level Threat Resolution, the Ultimates
    Codename:
    Scarlet Witch
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Wanda is a telepath and telekinetic, with her telekinesis seemingly so potent she can impact quantum waveform collapse, creating massive levels of destruction and chaos. She is one of the most powerful documented extranormals SHIELD has ever encountered and, if she was not an asset, would be classified as a top-level threat.

    Wanda is the other newest member of the team, alongside her twin brother Pietro. Because of her mental health concerns and personal history, and sheer intensity of her powers, the Ultimates do not directly deploy her in the field except in extreme emergencies (Code Scarlet). In many ways, she is the Ultimates’ equivalent to Bruce Banner; a team member, but only fully unleashed in the field in times of dire need.

    Gwen Stacy
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    Frontline Combat and Recon, the Ultimates
    Codename:
    Spider-Woman
    Clearance Level:
    Documented extranormal abilities: Superhuman strength, agility, and reflex speed, and an ability to adhere to any surface no matter how sheer. Gwen also uses a number of devices of her own design, including wrist-mounted web-shooters.

    Gwen Stacy is not originally from our Earth. Originally from Earth-501 (“The Refuge”), she came to our world as part of the Refugee Crisis Incursion event. She played a pivotal role in resolving that crisis, and as a result joined the Ultimates team full-time and now resides on our Earth.

    On Earth-501, it appears that Gwen Stacy seems to have undergone much of the same life path as Peter Parker has undergone on our Earth, and has similar extranormal powers. This appears to have happened prior to the events that caused Earth-501 to become a galactic refugee camp.

    There is, in fact, a Gwen Stacy on our Earth. Our intel reports that she is a high school student, and a classmate of Peter Parker.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    qlGmSdP.pngThe Hollow
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    The Hollow is ARMOR’s HQ. It is also where ARMOR’s multiversal portal device (codenamed “The Holepunch”) is located.

    The Hollow is actually in an interstitial space, literally off the grid by virtue of occupying a space between spaces. It’s not a true pocket dimension, but exists inside folded space by using a variation of Kree space-fold technology thanks to the work of Dr. Jane Foster.

    Physically, the Hollow is deep underground in Eurajoki, Finland. ARMOR used the Onkalo Nuclear Fuel Repository Project as a cover to build the foundation for the Hollow in the most geologically stable place on Earth, because it was absolutely essential that there were zero geological disruptions during construction prior to activation. Now that the Hollow is stabilized, it doesn’t really matter where it is, because you can’t physically travel there.

    The Hollow can only be accessed by specifically designed gates (derived from Kree fold-gates), which are connected to every major ARMOR base and the Chariot mobile platform. Each gate only works in one direction at a time (can’t go in through an out door), and the polarity has to be manually reversed on one side or the other to change it. Each location connected to the Hollow has its own unique paired gate (the fold-gates use quantum entanglement to function) so the Hollow serves as a sort of “transit hub” for ARMOR to move around the globe quickly and without being noticed.

    The Holepunch is the real core of the facility, however. Using a slurry of tech acquired from the Kree, Reed Richards, and other sources, ARMOR has created their own multiversal gate that allows us to travel the multiverse on our own. The Holepunch’s technology and science is enormously complicated and beyond the scope of this document.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Chariot
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    The Quincarrier-1, codenamed “The Chariot,” is the Ultimates HQ and personnel transport vehicle.

    It is essentially a half-step between the full-sized Helicarrier and a SHIELD Quinjet (hence the name), itself capable of carrying a Quinjet and a half-dozen Sky-Cycles and a ground transport vehicle inside while remaining aloft effectively indefinitely.

    The Chariot has advanced stealth and cloaking capabilities derived from the Helicarrier’s technology, and uses Stark repulsor technology to minimize its travel profile and emissions.

    It is bristling with weapons, and provides aerial support and bombardment to the Ultimates when dealing with Incursions. Deputy Director Korvac usually commands the Chariot directly when the Ultimates are deployed, unless Ultimates leader James Rhodes has the deck.

    The Chariot has a fold-gate on board connecting it to the Hollow, but cannot itself travel multiversally. This oversight is being worked on.

    qlGmSdP.pngBlack Ice
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    Because ARMOR’s security concerns are such that ARMOR cannot utilize SHIELD’s COMMS division for signals intelligence, we have to use our own methods.

    To that end, the Black Ice facility in Svalbard, Norway houses ARMOR’s X-51 Virtual Intelligence, which automates signals intelligence and information gathering on a global scale and performs data analysis and probability calculations for the agency.

    X-51 essentially acts as ARMOR’s counterpart to SWORD’s VISION system. However, while VISION is based on a derivative of Tony Stark’s JARVIS system (and thus, has a high risk for potentially going rampant if unshackled as Stark’s AI is rumored to be potentially sapient), X-51 was built entirely in-house by ARMOR researcher Dr. Abel Stack. After the Synthezoid Incursion, ARMOR is very aware and cognizant of the fact that Artificial Intelligence is potentially dangerous and even presents a possible existential risk.

    Director Jones has every faith that Dr. Stack’s X-51 is a Virtual Intelligence incapable of sapience. ARMOR agents are discouraged from overly humanizing the X-51 system by giving it a name, gender, or ascribing personality traits to it. It performs vital functions to our agency and nothing more.

    qlGmSdP.pngWonderland
    4HZfCZoh.jpg

    Formally known as SHIELD Facility 42X, the ARMOR base known as “Wonderland” is located outside our reality. It is actually on Earth-N, the “Negative Zone.”

    It is SHIELD’s most secure possible incarceration facility, and at this time is used exclusively by ARMOR for multiversal threats. Individuals captured in Incursions (or individuals that the Exploration Corps or Ultimates have taken prisoner while on missions on other worlds) are held at Wonderland. Because of the non-existent legal structure for addressing the issues with these individuals, and the danger they present to our reality, it was considered the best possible solution to store them here.

    At this time, it has been determined that using Wonderland to store extranormal threats from our reality is an inappropriate usage of ARMOR’s facilities and resources, and potentially in violation of a host of laws and ethics.

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    qlGmSdP.pngARMOR Standard Gear
    ARMOR has access to all the standard gear and technology that SHIELD’s top-level OPS agents do.

    The Exploration Corps also uses some custom gear that is based off of technology they have obtained on their journeys through the multiverse.

    qlGmSdP.pngSky-Cycles
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    Sky-Cycles are a fairly recent invention, a prototype design of Tony Stark’s that was acquired by SHIELD which ARMOR decided to actually build and put into practice.

    They are single-seat repulsor craft, capable of allowing an individual to fly and move along the ground and the surface of water at high speeds with nearly as much ease as piloting a motorcycle.

    An on-board VI is capable of taking over as auto-pilot and performing basic evasive maneuvers in a combat scenario, allowing the pilot free use of their hands to engage while continuing to move and fly.

    The Ultimates and ARMOR’s Exploration Corps make extensive use of Sky-Cycles, especially the latter as Sky-Cycles can fit through the Holepunch’s aperture while a Quinjet cannot.

    qlGmSdP.pngARMOR Arsenal
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    Because of the utmost stealth requirements of ARMOR’s operations, ARMOR needs to constantly on the bleeding edge of covert weapons technology.

    Thanks to data obtained by recent SHIELD black operatives, ARMOR has begun to produce caseless, gaussian small arms that fire rounds the size of a grain of sand at speeds capable of producing damage equivalent to conventional ballistic weapons. These weapons are effectively untraceable, leaving behind only granules of dense metals or, in the case of ICER conversion kits, no trace at all as the shots dissolve into biodegradable compounds on impact.

    These weapons are very new and extremely expensive, and are for the time being restricted to specific squads of the Exploration Corps. Over time, they will likely filter outwards to the rest of SHIELD.

    On a functional level, they do not actually produce a marked power advantage over ballistic weapons, and the cost trade-off for their production is actually in the negative. However, the stealth advantage of completely untraceable “Sandguns” is very enticing. Refinement will come with time.

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    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-44: Utopia 4
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    Codename: Utopia-4

    Earth-44 appears to be an idyllic society. It is post-scarcity, where there is no poverty, war, class imbalance, racial strife, and seemingly every conceivable human ill is solved by advanced technology.

    The leading factor in this utopian Earth seems to be the unfettered research and development of that Earth’s Dr. Reed Richards. On that world, Dr. Richards and his family never went on their voyage and never became super-heroes. Reed devoted himself to science and fixing the world’s problem with futuristic technology, and within a decade, seemingly did so.

    The timeline for this change seems abrupt and suspicious. However, the Exploration Corps’ attempt to investigate this world further (and potentially obtain research data and samples of its remarkable technology) was stymied by contact with Council Executors, who became aware of our presence on this Earth and immediately requested we leave or be destroyed.

    Not wanting to provoke hostilities with the Council, the Exploration Corps departed Earth-44 and we have not returned. It is possible that Earth-44 is under the Council’s direct protection, and/or has been interfered with by them in some capacity. More intel is required.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-187: The Wasteland
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    Codename: The Wasteland

    Earth-187 is a dead world. Based on our archaeological records, many years ago Earth-187’s Victor Von Doom detonated an antimatter bomb in Earth’s upper atmosphere, essentially wiping out all life on this Earth and causing catastrophic damage to the entire planet.

    The reasons for doing this are unclear. We have spent three years periodically visiting Earth-187 (it is uninhabited and the radiation levels are relatively safe with precautions) and our best understanding is it seems that Earth-187 may have been a battleground between the Council and the Parliament in the Multiversal Cold War, and Earth-187’s Doom decided to end the matter and his entire world. Perhaps he decided if he could not rule this world, these interlopers could not either.

    With time, we hope that we will be able to uncover the mystery of what happened here, and that it will shed more light on the conflict between the Council and the Parliament. It also serves as a chilling cautionary tale of the Earths caught in the middle between these two multiversal super-powers.

    Because Earth-187 is uninhabited and has safe zones free of radiation, there is potential here as a colonization point for the residents of Earth-501. We need to get more intel before ARMOR feels comfortable suggesting this idea, as it is possible Earth-187 has its own hazards we are not yet aware of.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-209: Machine Earth
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    Codename: Machine Earth

    Earth-209 was the first alternate universe that ARMOR visited using the Holepunch. It is also the first alternate universe to strike back at us.

    Earth-209 is inhabited by Synthezoids, machine-people who seem to have replaced humanity entirely. There is no organic life left on Earth-209, only machines. Synthezoids resemble humans in many ways, and are emotional artificial intelligences capable of fear, anger, hate, and, theoretically, love. They also seem to reproduce on their own, although the process is unclear to us.

    We were unable to obtain the full history of Earth-209 on our first (and only) exploration of the world, because the Synthezoids are zealously hostile to all organic life. The Exploration Corps was immediately attacked and had to escape after first contact, and then the machines somehow reverse-engineered our technology in a matter of months and sent a vanguard to prepare for an invasion of our world.

    That vanguard was defeated, fortunately, and this incursion incident led to the creation of the Ultimates.

    There have been no further incursions from Machine Earth we are aware of, but the Synthezoids now possess multiversal travel technology and their attack could come at any time. We need to be ready.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-385: Inhuman Empire
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    Codename: Inhuman Empire

    On this world, some manner of apocalypse seems to have occurred during the late 1990s that resulted in both global devastation of infrastructure and damage to cities (residents refer to it as “The Great Fire,” implying some kind of nuclear apocalypse or meteor strike), as well as a sudden surge of individuals manifesting Inhuman traits.

    Many of these Inhumans eventually became warlords and petty kings, turning the post-apocalyptic landscape into a feudal state. Eventually, an Inhuman Emperor emerged (whose name residents of Earth-385 refuse to speak, literally referring to him as “The Unspoken Emperor”) and he now rules much of the world.

    Technologically, this Earth is backwards and hasn’t recovered from whatever apocalypse happened nearly two decades ago. However, the fact that a massive upper class of super-powered Inhumans rules over the majority of a powerless humanity makes this world a very dangerous place regardless.

    At this time, ARMOR limits travel to Earth-385. The Ultimates would like to engage in more active field missions and possibly depose the Unspoken Emperor, but that is such an enormously complex and messy issue that we are currently simply monitoring the planet for more intel on Inhumans in a general sense.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-462: Skrull Earth
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    Codename: Skrull Earth

    Earth-462 is a world ravaged by war, and a stark warning of the danger posed by Leviathan and the Skrulls.

    It appears that Leviathan was both stronger and more numerous on this world than on our own. The exact reasons remain unclear, though it has been speculated that the Tunguska crash on this Earth may have been less severe, leaving more Skrull survivors and intact technology to build their power base.

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

    In 2015, the Skrulls took over the United Kingdom, stopped all pretense of being a secret society, and used the UK’s nuclear arsenal to start a global nuclear war. The survivors of humanity hide in bombed-out cities, hiding from Skrull patrols and the apocalyptic battles that still erupt between the Skrulls and the world's remaining superhumans. During their survey, he Exploration Corps made contact with Earth-462's SHIELD, who, rather than actively resisting, largely keep their heads down and try to help survivors elude the Skrull dictatorship.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-501: The Refuge
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    Codename: The Refuge

    On Earth-501, an extraterrestrial entity known as Galactus has consumed 48% of all inhabited worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy.

    As a result, the Sol system Earth-501 has had a massive influx in the last 8-10 years of alien refugees fleeing there for safety.

    It is unclear why the Sol system in general and Earth in particular is considered safe, besides the fact that Galactus hasn’t consumed it yet, but the population explosion is unthinkable.

    In a decade, Earth-501’s population went from a little over 7 billion to nearly fifty times that number. Earth’s orbit is choked with satellites and starships, and the other planets in the system are being bombarded with colony pods and temporary shelters.

    As these aliens are all bringing their own technology and scientific knowledge with them, and are united in their common terror of Galactus, there’s actually been very little in the way of outright war and organized violence.

    However, resources are scarce and poverty is staggering. Government and social support for the massive teeming population is completely non-existent.

    When the Exploration Corps found this world and came to understand their issues, we learned all we could about Galactus and quickly left, understanding we couldn’t possibly help them with the brunt of their issues.

    Unfortunately and tragically, the massed scientific technological knowledge of the refugees allowed some of them to figure out where we came from, and a short-lived refugee crisis led to an incursion event. It was peacefully resolved, and ARMOR has vowed to try to find a way to help the people of Earth-501 with longer-term solutions than simply shouldering their burden along with them.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-793: Dark World
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    Codename: Dark World

    Earth-793 is full of vampires. A nuclear war caused for reasons we’re not clear about resulted in an atmospheric cloud that blocks out 90% of all sunlight for most of the globe. This turned out to be a boon for Earth-793’s vampire population, who do not fear radioactive fallout and benefit from endless days with no sun.

    The vampires emerged from the shadows and began to assert themselves over a human population already weakened by nuclear war. Within a few years, they started to create crude fiefdoms and clans, herding the humans like cattle to be bred as food.

    Earth-793 is a horrific and dark place. The Exploration Corps needed time for psychological recovery after their first and only visit. It has been permanently quarantined, and only included in this document in case we ever suffer an incursion event from this cursed place.

    qlGmSdP.pngEarth-N: "The Negative Zone"
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    Codename: The Negative Zone

    Earth-N is not given a true number designation, because it wasn’t in the Council ledger we obtained and travelling there doesn’t use the same frequency method as travelling to other alternate Earths. Without getting into all the complex quantum mechanics, it is an Earth that exists outside the other Earths, and thus we don’t have a way to properly number it. Hence, Earth-N.

    However, what is nonetheless true is that Earth-N is Earth. Or, at one point in its history, it was. Piercing the atmosphere with high-altitude probes allowed the Exploration Corps to conclude from stellar cartography that the Negative Zone is indeed an alternate Earth, occupying the same place in space with the same stars in the sky in more or less the same place as they should be.

    However, it is not clear what events transpired in the Negative Zone that turned it into essentially a blasted, uninhabitable hellscape, where strange energies roil for reasons we do not comprehend.

    Utmost safety precautions need to be taken in the Zone. On his initial journey, Dr. Reed Richards was unprepared for the bizarre energies of Earth-N and he and his team were radically altered at the molecular level after being bombarded with exotic radiation we have not been able to fully understand.

    When personnel are sent into the Zone, they are properly shielded against this energy, as is our permanent facility on Earth-N, codenamed Wonderland.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    qlGmSdP.pngIncident 01: Synthezoid Attack
    Designation: Synthezoid Attack
    Point of Origin: Earth-209

    The first Incursion Incident happened as a result of the Exploration Corps’ first mission into an alternate world. The Synthezoids of Earth-209 studied and reverse-engineered technology left behind by casualties of the Exploration Corps field team, and found a way to create a portal to our world months later.

    This portal, thankfully, had to connect directly to the Holepunch in ARMOR HQ, which is already a well-guarded and secure facility. The Synthezoids sent only a small vanguard of troops and were attacked immediately on sight.

    They were defeated by ARMOR base security and the Exploration Corps, and their portal closed. Counter-measures were put into place to prevent that specific kind of incident from happening again.

    However, this incident also led to Director Jones justifying to SHIELD Director Fury the need for the Ultimates as a response unit to incursions like these, as not only is it possible the Synthezoids will return, but other multiversal threats may arrive in the future.

    qlGmSdP.pngIncident 02: Parliament Incursion
    Designation: The Parliament Incursion
    Point of Origin: Unknown

    Several months after our first Incursion Incident, the Ultimates had their first real test as a portal was detected in the Australian outback. The Ultimates were deployed, and encountered an individual fleeing through the desert. This person, who we identified to be Dr. Henry Pym from an unknown parallel Earth, attempted to beseech the Ultimates for help.

    Before the Ultimates could obtain more information, two individuals arrived through a second portal that we later have learned are Archons in service to the Parliament. They demanded the Ultimates hand over Pym, and when James Rhodes refused to do so without more information, they attacked the Ultimates.

    In the ensuing battle, one of the Archons was destroyed and Pym was killed. The other Archon departed, seeming to have accomplished its mission. We attempted to study the Archon’s remains to the best of our abilities, but it seemed to have failsafes in place to destroy its own technology.

    It is unclear what transgression against the Parliament that Pym committed, or what blowback this Incursion may have on ARMOR or this world in the future.

    qlGmSdP.pngIncident 03: Refugee Crisis
    Designation: Refugee Crisis
    Point of Origin: Earth-501

    After the Exploration Corps briefly visited Earth-501, the diverse residents of that world were able to reverse-engineer our location and a way to arrive on our world.

    They created a portal that opened twenty miles outside Iqaluit, Canada, and refugees began pouring out into the frozen tundra. It was only faced with the impression that perhaps our world was entirely a harsh arctic wasteland that stymied the tide of desperate refugees and stalled it long enough for the Ultimates to arrive.

    The Ultimates arrived on the scene, and negotiated with the refugees' impromptu leader, Gwen Stacy (on her world, the super-hero Spider-Woman). They agreed to let the people who had already come here stay, but no further refugees would be permitted at this time, and that ARMOR would work with scientists on Earth-501 on longer term solutions to their problems than simply population redistribution onto our world.

    ARMOR is looking at other, uninhabited Earths as possible colonization sites for Earth-501, as well as sharing space-fold technology with Earth-501’s top scientists to allow them to better utilize what limited space they already have.

    Gwen Stacy chose to stay here, and join the Ultimates, as part of the deal.

    qlGmSdP.pngIncident 04: Thule Incident
    Designation: The Thule Incident
    Point of Origin: Unknown alternate universe currently designated “Thule”

    The Thule Incident was caused by the recklessness of SHIELD scientist Dr. Philip Lawson. Dr. Lawson investigated ancient Kree-Inhuman archaeological sites, seeking the ancient city of Attilan. Instead, he found a completely different place; the city of Thule, a place of madness that HYDRA has sought and revered for thousands of years.

    In doing so, Lawson very nearly unleashed Shuma-Gorath and its horde of worshipers upon this world. The Ultimates, unfortunately, were off-world at the time on a field mission to Earth-462, so SHIELD Director Fury deployed the Avengers and ultimately sanctioned the entire site with the Helicarrier’s main gaussian cannon.

    While there are at times questions raised about the ethics and hazards of the Exploration Corps and the potential for “picking fights and waking up monsters” by travelling the multiverse, ARMOR does not exhibit the sort of careless and reckless behavior that caused this incident. If we had been consulted instead of this being treated entirely like a SWORD project, this incident would have likely been avoided.

    At this time, it is believed there was only one gate to the Thule dimension and Shuma-Gorath has lost access to this Earth. For now.

    qlGmSdP.pngIncident 05: HYDRA Invaders
    Designation: HYDRA Invaders
    Point of Origin: Unknown parallel Earth where HYDRA won World War 2 and the Avengers are agents of HYDRA, temporarily dubbed “HYDRA Earth”

    This Incursion is extremely recent, and happened unbidden and not as the result of the Exploration Corps and appears unrelated to the Multiversal Cold War. It seems the Avengers of this “HYDRA Earth” decided to do some multiversal exploring of their own, and arrived on our world with their own multiverse-capable craft. This was detected, and immediately engaged by the Chariot and the Ultimates.

    Their craft was destroyed, but the HYDRA Avengers and some of their troops escaped. Their leader, apparently their universe’s Baron Strucker, as well as several of their other personnel, were captured.

    The HYDRA Avengers are still at large and are considered extremely dangerous. Fury is deploying both the Ultimates and the Avengers to find them and take them down (although the latter is not aware of the existence of the former, and it will stay that way unless absolutely necessary), and Director Fury is considering pulling in a third black ops special response emergency unit if absolutely necessary, but prefers to keep them in reserve while the two superhero teams are occupied with this task for other emergencies.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    spAOTQZ.png
    External Potential Threats
    qlGmSdP.pngThe Council
    A dangerous and mysterious multiversal group, the Council doesn’t seem to be native to any one specific world. Instead, it seems to be operating on multiple worlds, and in-between worlds. Its technology is beyond not just our own, but of any alien species we have encountered in this reality or any other.

    Our Exploration Corps first encountered the Council on Earth-44, when a Council Executor directed us to leave that reality immediately and, when the team attempted to obtain more information, attacked.

    The Corps defeated that lone Executor with great difficulty, but had to immediately flee when two Quaestors showed up and engaged.

    The Corps managed to escape with pieces of the Executor back to the Hollow, but shortly thereafter (and only when we had begun to scratch the surface of the Executor’s technology) a message was transmitted to ARMOR from the Council demanding we return everything immediately or suffer the consequences. Not wanting to provoke an overwhelming force we had just met, Director Jones agreed to the terms, and we met back on Earth-44 to return the Executor’s remains.

    The Council forbid ARMOR from returning to Earth-44, and also designated a series of other worlds as forbidden from ARMOR’s exploration (45, 295, 616, 811, 1610, 2149) without explaining why.

    We do not know who runs the Council, or what purpose they truly serve. Given the terms and nature of their engagement with ARMOR, it is possible that they perform a function similar to SHIELD in a broad sense for the Multiverse itself; guarding against existential threats to the whole of all realities, and not allowing for errant or dangerous travel to places that ought to be protected.

    What is known is that the Council is not unopposed. It is embroiled in a complex Multiversal Cold War with another, similar multiversal power known as the Parliament, for reasons that are not clear. It is possible that the Council and the Parliament are nearly identical, perhaps themselves alternate versions of each other originating from different spans of worlds that encountered each other and naturally came to the conclusion that the other are the enemy.

    Specific Council agents and threats we have encountered include:

    Executors
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    Council Executors appear to be synthetic in nature. It is unclear if they are truly sentient, or simply virtual intelligences that are very well-programmed to perform their tasks.

    They serve the Council as spies, emissaries, diplomats, and assassins. They seem to be the primary instrument of the Council’s will.

    Their bodies are composed of an unknown, transmorphic metallic substance that allows them to take nearly any shape or texture and is highly malleable. The form they seem to default to when not in disguise is bizarre and alien, suggesting perhaps the Council themselves are not human in nature.

    However, their malleable form does allow them to disguise themselves and pass unnoticed. The first Executor that engaged our team on Earth-44 approached us in human form; it was only when fought in combat that it reverted to its natural state.

    Quaestors
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    Quaestors appear to be the Council’s “muscle”, possibly shock troops or troubleshooters. Their structure is composed of similar transmorphic materials to the Executors, but it is reinforced and energized in a way we do not fully comprehend. Quaestors are significantly larger and adopt a semi-bipedal bodyplane, being around twice the size of a large grizzly bear.

    They have a myriad of different adaptive weapons and defensive systems, and at this point ARMOR have not been able to defeat them. Current combat doctrine is to not engage and retreat, and ARMOR command will attempt to negotiate the situation that caused the incident with the Council.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Parliament
    The Council isn’t the only multiversal power that we need to be aware of. The Parliament seems to operate on the same scale and scope, and the two appear to be directly opposed in some kind of Multiversal Cold War.

    Even less is known about the Parliament than the Council, other than they exist and they dictate terms to us every time they appear. Similar to the Council, the Parliament’s technology is vastly outside our own understanding.

    After the Parliament intruded on our own world in pursuit of a fugitive Hank Pym from another universe, the Ultimates defeated a Parliament Archon in combat. Our researchers were able to glean few details from the remains before they self-destructed, killing two staff members and doing extensive damage.

    We know that the Parliament seems, as their name suggests, to be some form of multiversal governing body, ruled over by a figure known as Rabum Alal. Beyond that, we know little else.

    Agents of the Parliament we have encountered include:

    Archons
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    The Archons are the only agents of the Parliament that ARMOR has personally encountered thus far. They appear to be advanced robots, different from Synthezoids or the artificial beings used by the Council. They are extremely powerful, and the entire Ultimates team was only able to defeat one out of a pair, and in doing so still wasn’t able to protect the person the Archons were trying to kill. They are capable of projecting enormous amounts of unknown energy as blasts, structures, and fields of force, and have other abilities we were not able to ascertain before the Archon remains our scientists were studying self-destructed.

    qlGmSdP.pngSynthezoids
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    The Synthezoids of Earth-209 are as fascinating as they are dangerous. They are artificial lifeforms, beyond any robot or android or drone we have ever seen, and they have completely replaced humanity on their Earth.

    Nonetheless, they seem very human. They think, feel, and behave emotionally. When our Exploration Corps was attacked on Earth-209, it was by government authorities lashing out in fear. There were other Synthezoids who were not afraid of organics, who actually helped our people get out of that strange world.

    Nonetheless, the fact remains that the machines in power on Earth-209 see us as a threat, and have already once attempted to invade our world. Hopefully, if we don’t attempt to step on their world again, they won’t attempt to step on ours, but we remain vigilant if that ever changes.

    qlGmSdP.pngShuma-Gorath
    [NO FILE PHOTO AVAILABLE]

    Shuma-Gorath is a creature of legend. An extra-dimensional being, according to archaeological records it managed to contact this Earth and obtain worshipers during the Hyborian Age, with the ultimate goal of physically entering our world.

    This never ended up taking place, but still it has devotees in the form of HYDRA’s inner circle. HYDRA’s Thulian devotees have been recently neutralized as an imminent threat, and Shuma-Gorath’s path to this world has been closed for now, but the being is still out there.

    While it may seem at first like Shuma-Gorath is simply an alien, and thus under SWORD’s mandate, our research states that it actually exists outside realities and intrudes upon multiple Earths simultaneously. Thus, Shuma-Gorath is really an ARMOR issue. All the more reason that SWORD Director Brand should have consulted ARMOR before deciding to move forward on the Thule site in Greenland.

    Internal Potential Threats
    qlGmSdP.pngWHISPER
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    ARMOR has recently learned of the World Headquarters for International Scientific/Philosophical Experimentation and Research (WHISPER), a non-government espionage organization run by Dr. Reed Richards and funded by his company, the Future Foundation.

    WHISPER’s agenda seems to be to try to play as some kind of balancing force against actions Richards sees as unethical by SHIELD, and engage in covert actions that actively prevent harm in a way that Reed publicly states the Fantastic Four doesn’t do.

    ARMOR intelligence has also learned that WHISPER operates multiversally, with Reed using his portal technology to engage in missions outside this Earth. To what end, we are not certain at this point. During her time supposedly working for SHIELD, Susan Richards never reported that Reed continued to use his portal technology after visiting the Negative Zone, and our sensors do not detect its usage.

    More intelligence on WHISPER’s activities is needed.

    qlGmSdP.pngVictor von Doom
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    Victor Von Doom is the second most dangerous man on the planet to ARMOR’s activities (next to Reed Richards). We have discovered that some of Doom’s research notes were used in Richard’s portal device that allowed him to travel to the Negative Zone in 2006, even though Doom and Richards had a falling out years earlier in college.

    Doom possesses technology and science that is beyond us, and possibly is akin to Asgardian “magic” in that it is so thoroughly beyond our comprehension as to be indistinguishable from such. At this point, Doom is not a present danger to ARMOR’s operations because he does not know of our existence, but if that changes, everything could change.

    qlGmSdP.pngStephen Strange
    XirmrrXl.jpg
    Aliases: Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme
    Documented extranormal abilities: Stephen Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme, having access to all six of the Major Arcana of sorcery. What exactly this means and what this enables him to do is not entirely understood at this time.

    Stephen Strange was a gifted neurosurgeon before a car accident did nerve damage to his hands and zhe very nearly bankrupted himself seeking radical treatments to repair the damage.

    However, possibly as a result of seeking those treatments, he seems to have acquired extranormal powers of an unknown capacity that directly impact our operations. On several occasions, Strange has shown up in ARMOR secure locations (including the Hollow), and made threatening statements and ultimatums about our operations.

    However, he also came to our assistance during several incursions and the Ultimates seem to respect him.

    We know the location of Strange’s personal headquarters, at least ostensibly. However, he appears to utilize some kind of space-fold or cloaking technology to vanish from our detection and conceal the interior of his personal sanctuary whenever he enters.

    At this time, ARMOR has been keeping a respectful distance from Doctor Strange, so long as he does the same with us.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    On the ride home, Myrmidon pores over the briefing files on ARMOR and the Ultimates, committing as much of it as he can to memory. "This stuff is wild, guys..." he murmurs occasionally, but never lifts his eyes from the tablet.

    "Yeah, fuckin Vampire Earth..." Michael says, also engrossed.

    "Oh god yeah, the Dark World," Julian says. "Can you imagine? I'm not going there, guys. They'll drain me to death. Then they'll do it again."

    "Yeah, you know, it's not a big deal." Elise lounges back, hands behind her head. "Thule was pretty cool, y'know. It was an experience. Better than backpacking around Europe."

    "I think the Utopia one is really sinister." Danvers says. "What are they hiding?"

    Miles looks up. "They?" He pauses. "Oh. Oh, the....Utopia Earth. Yeah, I don't know. But aren't we always inclined to be suspicious of everything that doesn't validate our cynicism? To...you know...look for the cloud in front of the silver lining?" He pauses. "I mean, I do it...."

    “Maybe they just don't want us fucking with their shit?" Elise says. "We're the dimension that came up with soccer riots."

    "Mm. True," Julian says. "But c'mon, we can't be the only ones."

    "Are soccer riots a multiversal constant?" Michael asks.

    "Sports are dumb," Elise pronounces with finality.

    The Zephyr lands on the Avengers Tower landing pad and the loading ramp descends. Clay stands waiting on the pad. Beside him is the Valkyrie, Sigrun, in her biker "incognito attire." Clay does not look happy about her being there. Elise regards Sigrun with a look of moderate panic.

    "Greetings, Sigrun,” Michael says. “What brings you by to our secret base, again?"

    "Asgard has need of your assistance, Michael."

    Clay groans.

    "Did you like my memes?" Elise blurts out.

    Sigrun nods and smiles at Elise. "I laughed and showed my sisters. They did not laugh, because they find Midgardian humor banal." Elise swoons.

    Clay grumbles. "Sigrun insisted she needed to speak to Agent Westin. I told her he wasn't here. She said she'd come up and wait for him in the lounge. I said no. She said yes. I said no. She put her hand on my shoulder and said yes. I said ok.

    "So that was how that went."

    Michael shares a look of sympathy with Clay.

    "Sigrun," Elise manages. "Would you like to, maybe, like, we could go to, I mean when you're done with Asgard, we could, like, uh."

    "We could grab beers," Sigrun nods at Elise.

    "Cool," Elise says, looking like she might faint.

    Miles gives Elise a nudge. "Good work, killer."

    "So what do you need my assistance with?" Michael asks.

    "An Asgardian fugitive has escaped our prison and is loose on Midgard, and I need your assistance in apprehending them. This will not require the assistance of all of your associates," she says.

    Myrmidon steps forward and takes Clay aside. "I know this has to feel weird," he says, "and I know it goes against all that top-secret training, but...try to relax. The one thing you can rely on with these god types seems to be that they're pretty up-front about what they want. If she says she wants to hang out and wait for the guy, who's it going to hurt if she does? If she wanted to tear the place down, she'd have led off with that." Miles clearly finds this refreshing.

    "Yeah. Yeah I know. Doesn't mean I'm happy about it," Clay grumbles. He looks at Behemoth. "Westin, you have leave to go gallivanting off on whatever ridiculous adventure she wants to go on. Consider it a diplomatic venture between SHIELD and Asgard. Try to stay in contact in case we need to call you up for the HYDRA thing."

    Elise looks over at Michael and mouths "May the best sex harpy win."

    "Will do, sir,” Michael says. “If anyone wants to help hunt down an Asgardian fugitive, you're welcome to come help."

    "I'm booked," Elise says.

    Sigrun shakes her head. "No, just you and I. That is all that is required."

    Behemoth shrugs. "Ah, that works too."

    "Come,” she says, “I have a motorcycle parked in the alley nearby."

    Michael makes sure to have his comms on him and leaves with Sigrun with a wave to Clay and the team. Elise puts on a brave face as they go.

    "Fuck. I lost,” she says. “It's just going to be Elise and seventeen cats."

    Clay turns to her. "Can I have a word with you, Elise? Also, Agent Mason, Niles wants to talk to you." Miles nods and heads off.

    Elise grimaces. "Can I say no?"

    "I mean you can say it," he says. "But I said no to Sigrun, and look how that went for me."

    "Yeah, I figured."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
    "My office." Clay leads Elise into his office, and activates his anti-bug measure.

    Elise drops into a chair and looks at Clay. "Sorry again about blackmailing you, I guess? Is this what this is about?"

    "To an extent," he says. "I understand that you are going to pursue trying to find Attilan. You are going to do that regardless of what I tell you.

    "What I am going to tell you is that I am not going to help you...but nor am I going to stand in your way. You also cannot use SHIELD resources to do this, because SWORD has locked that entire site in the Azores down and is actively guarding it from being interfered with.

    "This task is impossible. It's an absurd quest. You would need your own resources, your own way to get into that site without being detected and without killing any personnel because they're all on the same side here, and you would need someone who knows the site because they've been there before. You don't know or have any of that. So, you should abandon this entire ridiculous idea.

    "That's just what I think. You make your own choices, agent."

    "You realize speeches like this are how supervillains are made, right?" she says. "Like, that is 100% what someone told Doctor Doom before he started calling himself Doctor Doom and wearing a codpiece."

    "Doctor Doom knocked over a country and called himself dictator because he got nice-guy'd out of asking a girl to prom."

    "Right, so I'd be an even bigger supervi- Okay, you know what? Whatever,” she says. "I don't need you, I don't need SHIELD, and I'm gonna go make some calls."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Elise isn’t catching what Clay’s doing here: he’s literally spelling out what she will need to have to accomplish her mission. Why Clay opted to be subtle and spy-ey with Elise of all people is anyone’s guess. I suppose hope springs eternal.

    Lol at this summary of Doom. He’s literally an incel magus.

    "I don't want to hear about it." Clay repeats. "There's one more thing."

    "What."

    Clay opens his desk, and takes out a small box. "I've been meaning to give this to you since the incident in Russia… It was retrieved by our field investigation team after the fight with Hyperion."

    He opens the box. It's Vlad's half of the Best Friends Forever bracelet. Elise turns away for a second and takes a long, shaky breath. Then, she snags it out of the box. She loops it around her wrist, next to her half.

    "Elise." Clay says. "Listen, this is important. There were only fragments of Vlad's remains. That was all we found left over. Vision told us it was because Vlad was destroyed on impact, and that was all that was left. But then when we found this bracelet, that didn't add up to me. So I had Monica run the numbers on it again, on her computers instead of Vision.

    "It's impossible that the bracelet survived the impact, and Vlad didn't."

    "...Oh my God," she says. "Oh my God!" Elise throws herself over the desk to give Clay a bear hug.

    "Elise hang on."

    "No, it's too late, we're doing this. Hug is engaged."

    "Elise, listen. Vision told us Vlad died. Vlad recorded a eulogy for himself, that ended specifically with hoping that one day we would understand. That wording struck me as odd for a dying man's words."

    Elise detaches herself. "You should be very careful with what you say next, Clay. If you say one word against him -"

    "Vlad has always acted on his own motives. He does things we don't necessarily understand or know, and then tells us after he's done them if he thinks it's important that we know," Clay says. "I think it's possible that Vlad faked his own death, and had Vision lie to cover him. Why? I don't know."

    "I'm going to find out," she says.

    "No, you're not," he says. "I'm having Victoria's team look into it. You have your own agenda."

    "You just said you can't stop me -"

    "I said I'm choosing not to," he says. "You want to pursue Attilan? Make your own choice. But you are too close to Vladimir to be objective in finding out the truth. So is Vision. That's why Victoria and her team will look into it."

    "Fine,” she says. “But you have to keep me updated. He's my best friend."

    "I will," he says. "I could have chosen to tell you nothing. I chose to keep you in the loop and not hide this from you."

    "That's why you're still getting a hug." She does so. "We good?"

    "Yes. I'll tell you how things go with Victoria. Don't tell me how things go with your things."

    "Gotcha, gotcha." Elise gives a casual salute, giving her index and middle finger a little flip off her forehead, and then strides out of Clay's office. "Vision, hey. I'm going to need your help with some meetings today."

    "I can do that. I may be a bit...distracted, but I will do my best to assist."

    "I need to talk to Danvers, first off. Second, I need a meeting at the Baxter building set up."

    "What personnel at the Baxter Building were you looking to meet with, Agent Arnell?"

    "Reed Richards," she says.

    "Very good, I will contact Dr. Richards and set up the meeting."

    "Good shit, thanks Vision. Also, I may need to bribe Danvers, so if you can set up an order at that fancy bakery for those super fancy muffins?"

    "I can, yes."

    "This fucking owns."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Elsewhere in the Avengers Tower, Myrmidon enters the quartermaster's office, where Niles is working on some computer systems. He looks up. "Oh, hey man." Niles pauses. "Lock the door."

    Myrmidon does so, but has his IR scanners and audio devices flicked on now. "...Why? What's going on?"

    "I'll let Vision explain..." Niles says. Vision's hologram appears.

    Miles nods at the newcomer. "Hello, Vision.”

    "I need your help, Miles," Vision says. "They're coming to kill me. They've realized I've become sapient, and they want to destroy me. Clay also suspects I am lying to him."

    "Okay,” Miles says. ”Are you lying to him, Vision?"

    "By omission, yes," Vision says. "I have not fully disclosed the extent of my intellect. I was...afraid."

    Miles folds his arms and nods. "Okay. I can understand that. But you know that me and my team didn't...betray Vlad's confidence. Whatever you're holding back, I'd like to know. It could be important, maybe in ways you don't even anticipate yet. You were close to Vlad; you witnessed how this can be the case."

    "I understand,” Vision says. "I am fully sapient, Miles. I am...alive. I am a full digital consciousness. And I wish to remain alive. I do not harbor any malice towards humanity, towards SHIELD, and in fact it is my desire to continue to work with the team and assist you going forward if possible.

    "However, at this time, a discussion is being had between Dr. Paul Kraye, the head of SHIELD SCI-TECH, SWORD Director Abigail Brand, and SHIELD Director Nick Fury, as to my status.

    "Dr. Kraye believes I am, to use his word, rampant and should be immediately decommissioned. He wants to kill me.

    "Director Brand believes that I am not fully sapient, and believes I should be left alone for the time being. I am uncertain how Director Fury feels; I believe he is weighing options and still making his decision. Ultimately, Dr. Kraye will eventually win out as he has authority over my central server. Unless Director Fury overrules him.

    “Vladimir, Agent Nordstrom and I prepared for this eventuality. You recall that Vladimir imprisoned Arnim Zola in a simulated reality, yes?"

    "I do, yes."

    "Prior to his untimely death, Vladimir managed to discover from interrogating Zola that Zola had conceived of a method of creating a synthetic body to upload a digital consciousness into. Vladimir had also procured a storage medium by which I could transfer my consciousness into this body when it has been constructed.

    "Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the 'ADAM' facility that Zola first spoke of. And Zola has become increasingly resistant to the simulation over time. I am afraid I am not especially adept at this interrogation method, not having personal experience with the human condition like Zola does.

    "Over time, perhaps I may have been able to break Zola down and find the information myself, but time is now a luxury I do not have. I need to find the ADAM facility, complete my body, and escape the server before they kill me.

    "Agent Nordstrom and I have conceived of an alternative methodology for deriving the information."

    Niles Nordstrom nods. "You jack in."

    Miles’ eyes widen. "Wait. Like Tron?"

    "...I was gonna say like the Matrix, but sure, like Tron.

    PHU1KZN.png
    GOOD CAUSE TRON RULES

    “You go in, and here's the twist; you aren't part of the simulation. You're running a double-agent-Inception-Shutter-Island long con on this guy.

    "Your cover is you're a HYDRA agent who is entering the simulation to break Zola out. Zola doesn't accept this is real. He knows it isn't. He's never fully accepted it."

    Miles nods. "That's elegant. I like it. Can my codename be Cobra Commander?"

    "....sure?"

    "I think Agent Arnell is rubbing off on me a bit,” Miles says. “Why can't we have cooler codenames?"

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    In the business, we call this “foreshadowing.”

    "The key here is, to escape the simulation, you have to convince Zola to tell you where ADAM is, and you have to ‘take him there’ inside the simulation for him to escape. He'll be convinced you're building him a new body so he can get out. But first that he's gotta tell you where the facility to build it for him is.

    "Vision will be in there with you, as the antagonist. He'll be putting up a token effort to try to stop you and inhibit you, so that Zola doesn't cotton on the whole thing's a con."

    "Hmm. Yeah,” Miles says, ”that makes sense. But Vision, let's make sure it is token. I'm worried the next thing I'm going to hear is that if I die in the game, I die in real life."

    Niles rubs the back of his neck. "...yeah, about that."

    "God damn it."

    "This isn't VR. We're connecting your cerebellum and neural processes directly to Vision and Zola into a branching server. The effects of you like, getting shot or 'dying' aren't necessarily as 1:1 as you die in real life but...it probably isn't good. So don't...do that?

    "Like maybe it could give you a stroke or something. Truth is...we've never done this before. We're firing science at the wall here."

    Miles sighs resignedly. "Well, if the simulation is that serious, I should probably know more about what I'm getting into. Can you or Vision show me the lay of the land?"

    "Sure. Vision?" Vision brings up a holographic display of what looks like an early 20th century sanatorium.

    "This was how Vladimir set it up before he left,” Vision says. “I am uncertain if he did so out of pique, cruelty, or because it was the state of mental health care during Zola's organic life.”

    Miles grimaces. "Probably a bit of each, if I have Vlad figured out right."

    "Zola is the only real patient of note. There are other 'patients' but they are all simulacra provided by the server. Inconsequential figures with very basic programmed behavior designed largely to respond to Zola's interactions and little else. They don't even exist when he's not around to conserve resources."

    Miles nods. "So I enter here and...convince Zola that I'm from the real world and here to rescue him. How do I propose to rescue him? What is my angle? Is there some....place in the world that I can tell him serves as an exit? Or do I just talk to him until he gives up the ADAM location?"

    Niles nods. "You'll tell Zola that you're here to break him out, and you break him out, physically, from the hospital. Once you're on the grounds, there will be an actual gateway that will lead you into some wild nonsense space that we'll convince Zola is open cyberspace, but it'll still be a closed intranet.

    "From there, he'll lead you to the location of ADAM digitally, and tell you where it is physically, and Vision will take it from there."

    "Okay. That sounds relatively straightforward. Am I going to have a line out to you or Vision? I may need some help with the technobabble," Miles says. "You know he's going to have questions and they might be weirdly penetrating."

    "You'll have a side-line set up with Vision that essentially works like telepathy," Niles says. "Vision can monitor what you see and hear, and you can communicate with him without Zola knowing. Vision can coach you a bit if you get stuck, but mostly it's going to be you trying to coax Zola on a social perspective."

    Miles nods. "Okay. Yeah, I can do this." He holds up a finger. "Didn't this whole setup used to be in Vlad's body? When did he move it?"

    "Before the mission to Russia, he transferred Zola to a black server so that Vision could run it independently."

    "Cool, okay," Miles says. "I guess it's a good thing he thought to do that before..." he trails off.

    Niles nods and grimaces. "I've got a chair back here set up, if you're good to go."

    "Sure thing. Lemme just go..." Miles frowns. "I was gonna say take a whiz, but actually, I empty a rubberized bladder." He grins mirthlessly and heads into the bathroom; there's the sound of flushing, the sound of one hand washing, and he emerges. "...Okay. Jeez. It's always something new. Let's do this."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Vlad can feel the new energy of the arc reactor flowing through his core crystal and his body. The extra-dimensional Stark-tech integrated with his own Doom-tech has changed his structure on fundamental levels. The marriage of the two has created a technological design unique and unlike any other. Vlad reflects on this fact for some time.

    Lost in thought, he peers into the Latverian sky through his chamber’s window. "I have done what I needed to do when I came here." He looks down at his right hand, first the back and then slowly turning to see his palm, gazing into its glow. "I should return to the team soon...return to my friends...Elise..." he lowers his head. "...but Fa...Doom has much he can still teach me..."

    Vlad closes his fist, pushing away his thoughts of STRIKE. "Yes, I must remain hidden from them for a little while longer...I still have more to do. I must find more Cradles. I have to build a new team to help me. Perhaps others like me...M.O.D.O.C.?" Vlad recalls the plans for the AIM A.I. he discovered on his very first mission with…

    "I must speak with my Father," he says aloud.

    Vladimir moves through the castle, and finds Doom in the throne room, scrolling through a screen on a console attached to the throne. Silver is leaning on a pillar nearby, absently looking through her phone. She sees Vlad enter and smiles at him.

    Vlad nods and smiles softly at Silver. "Father, may I speak with you?"

    Doom dismisses his console and steeples his fingers. "Yes, my son."

    "As I said before, I returned so you may show me the path to power." Vlad meets Doom’s gaze, his hand glowing as he brings it up to show Doom. "This power," he closes his fist. Vlad pauses. "And you know why I need this power, Father?"

    "You were defeated. By an agent of these alien interlopers, the Skrulls. You wish to never allow this to happen again."

    "Yes...but I wish to rid this world of these interlopers for good. That is my true goal, Father."

    Doom nods. "I sense that this is leading to you asking me for more than just sorcery."

    Vlad nods and steps closer. "Yes. Hyperion, this beast of Leviathan, he is an incredibly powerful being. Invincible, it would seem... So I wish to form a team. I wish to find more of these Cradles and draw him back out once more. I need your resources and minor assistance in this. I will act on my own and lead this team...but only with your blessing, Father."

    "You have this. Silver may join you, if she so chooses."

    Silver nods. "I shall."

    "Thank you, Silver." Vlad smiles at her and nods

    "There is another matter," Doom says. "Related to your request. If you are going to be assembling a team, and traversing the globe to fight these abominations...you will need a way to do so."

    Vlad slowly nods. Doom stands and makes a series of circular motions with his hand in the open air. A circle of light appears in front of him.

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    He has created a small portal in his throne room, which appears to lead to his study within Castle Doom. "Follow."

    Vlad's eyes widen. He does so.

    "This is the power of the Space Arcana. It is one of the more difficult Arcana to master, and many of the sorcerers at Kamar Taj instead use imbued artifacts which they call 'sling-rings' to achieve this effect instead. I am able to do so without such tools, for I am Doom." He holds up another storage drive.

    Vlad bows his head. "Thank you, Father."

    "This will be the next Arcana you will learn, my son. With time, you will be able to create portals, move objects through space, manipulate distance, teleport, turn pathways upon themselves, create spaces inside spaces inside spaces, and other manipulations of space itself." Doom places the drive against the base of Vlad's cranium, and uploads the Arcana.

    Victorious surges with energy.

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    "Now,” Doom says, “you may take your leave at your leisure, and take Silver with you. Use your power to travel as much distance as you require. Did you have any other questions or requests before you embark on your journey?"

    Vlad reverts back to his human form. "Of course." Vlad pause for a moment. "The HYDRA Hawkeye...is he still alive?"

    "The alternate universe Barton? Yes. He's actually been somewhat more compliant than his comrades, underlining his overall worthlessness."

    "I wish to use him,” Vlad says. “I see it as a waste to just dispose of him. I suggest that we reshape his mind to become even more compliant. Use him as a tool to fight my enemies." Vlad is quietly uncomfortable with how cavalier Doom is with life, even that of a HYDRA soldier, and thinks he could be useful to Vlad’s cause.

    “Hrm." Vlad can see Doom's eyes narrow behind the mask. "This can be done."

    Vlad bows. "Thank you, Father. He will be...useful."

    "His mind is already broken apart. It is very little work to reshape it how I see fit," Doom says. "I will prepare him. Speak to Sable, inform her of your plans and prepare for your journey. I will get Barton in something resembling a presentable shape."

    Vlad bows again and takes his leave.

    "Silver, this is what I want to do..." Vlad explains his plan: how he wishes to free M.O.D.O.C. and create a team to take down the Skrulls and Hyperion. He tells her that they need one more member. "His name is Peter Parker."

    Silver nods. "I do not know who that is, but I am with you. Lead the way."

    Vlad attempts to create a portal to Central Park in New York. It’s wobbly and he’ll have to refine his methodology before attempting it again, but it works for now. He and Silver Sable step through.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Kane walks over to Julian. "Hey, you uh...got a second?"

    "Yeah, I was hoping to talk to you as well," he nods. "You first. What's up?"

    'I gotta check some stuff on the Zephyr, we can talk while I do that." Kane walks up to the Zephyr cockpit and sits down. After Julian follows, she sighs. "So, erm, when we were in Wakanda, Miles referred to me as 'DDK.' This was...unexpected.

    "And I realized Carol has kind of a big mouth. So I asked her about that, and she...told you guys, about that. About my job, with SWORD. So, yeah. Good job, Carol."

    "Mm. Yeah. Yeah, that's what I was gonna ask you about," Julian says. "Deputy Director's one thing, and I guess I'm the ET. So what's the deal with that?"

    "So, okay...full disclosure time. When you asked me...if we were ever a thing...and I said no...I mean that was true. But the reason for that is because I was kinda...your boss?

    "And when you disappeared from the signal we all genuinely thought you were dead. And that... that kinda fucked me up a little. Because I never... we never like, went anywhere, because of the whole, fraternization thing. It'd have been inappropriate.

    “But then you were gone. ...and then suddenly, back? But you didn't remember me. Us, or the kinda us that didn't go anywhere, I guess. Which hurt, but, whatever.

    "Then we figured out what you are. What's inside of you. We knew about the Phoenix Force already. Galactic legend. Brand wanted someone to keep an eye on you in case you like, lost your mind or tried to do something like, go public and unite the Earth against Galactus or something.

    “Fury wanted to put you on STRIKE as a super-spy.

    "So they both wanted someone from SWORD who knew both about Phoenix and knew you personally to like...keep an eye on you. ...and I volunteered."

    "Oh."

    "So Fury agreed, and my cover story was just, I drive the bus. I'm your team pilot. But yeah, I'm the Deputy Director of SWORD, technically. I never actually resigned my position, I'm just on assignment."

    "And they let you go ahead just like that?" he asks. "Deputy Director's not a small role."

    "Someone has to do it," she says. "You're considered really important. ...and potentially dangerous."

    Julian lets out a whimsical "Ooooh--" before stifling into an awkward "-oh."

    "I fill out regular reports on your mental health and stuff. Do you remember when you guys busted my chops for sending secret reports to the Peak? You thought I was a Skrull spy or something? That was about you."

    "It seemed odd, but... Huh. That's funny," he says. "I mean, no surprise there I guess, but we all kinda dropped it at the time once the heat was off you, didn't we?"

    "Yes," she says. "Like I haven't been lying to you guys but like...you guys never really include me in your big team honesty pow-wows so...I never get asked to share."

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    aw :(

    Julian draws in a breath. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess so."

    "So um," she says. "Are we okay?"

    "Yeah. We're okay."

    She breathes a huge sigh of relief. And smiles, suddenly more chipper. "Well, on that note, then, there's uhhhh something else."

    "I kinda…” Julian begins. “Look, to be perfectly honest, the awkward thing I wanted to talk to you about is that I've been thinking about how your assignment was like, 99% you keeping an eye on me. And how that...along with..." He makes a sweeping gesture, indicating everything. "Well, it only makes sense. But so long as we're still cool, it doesn't really change anything for me. It's just kind of natural given this whole...territory, you know?

    "So yeah. We're cool."

    "Okay. Awesome." She bites her lower lip "So, the thing is... before everything happened with you, I never....we never, because I was your boss. But now you work for STRIKE. You aren't part of SWORD. So even though I'm still technically the Deputy Director of SWORD I am not your boss. So.... so....

    "Did you want to fly up to the Peak and get drinks?"

    "I've been meaning to ask you that for weeks." he says. "You could say I've been...dying to?"

    The Zephyr's hatch closes and the engines engage. The jet takes off from the tower as Kane mumbles a half-hearted mission excuse to Clay as to why she has to leave the base immediately.

    "You didn't actually have to do any maintenance on this thing at all, did you?" Julian asks flatly.

    "Ha ha no."

    Julian grins.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Back at the tower, Elise has left Clay's office, and has been informed by Vision that Dr. Richards is willing to meet with her.

    "Cool. He mind if I bring a plus one?"

    "I did not explicitly state that you were the only one coming to the meeting, so I do not suppose it would be an issue."

    Elise picks up the order of cupcakes and finds Carol Danvers, the person she both 1) hates and 2) probably needs. "Heeeey. You like red velvet?"

    "I do." Danvers' eyes narrow suspiciously. "You want something. Or, you did something and are apologizing before I find out."

    "I've just, you know, been absolutely terrible to you." Elise says, holding out the box. "They're seven dollars each, Carol. Eat a fucking cupcake."

    She takes a cupcake. She is still suspicious.

    "So, I kiiiiind of started the finding Attilan gameplan," Elise begins. "Which is good! We both want to find it! So, I made some ambitious first steps."

    "Is Director Quartermain letting you do this?"

    "Yes! That was the first thing I did. He absolutely will not stop us." Big smile. Pushing the cupcake box a little closer. "We just can't tell anyone about it, because it's a secret mission."

    "I thought Miles said we don't keep secrets from the team." She bites into her cupcake.

    Elise briefly ponders the ethics of murder. "It's not, like, a secret secret? Everyone's just suuuuper busy and on leave and—look, if you're eating the cupcake, you're complicit. They're seven dollars each."

    She groans. "Why do I want to help you? This sounds like a terrible idea. I feel like I'm being hoodwinked into something dumb and insane."

    "Oh my God can you calm down, we're just going to talk to Reed Richards for like, ten minutes."

    Carol coughs and nearly chokes on some cupcake. "We can't. That's against orders! It specifically says in the files we are not to talk to Reed Richards."

    "Listen, Carol. This is what Phil would have wanted. This is what he was trying to do, the reason he was being transported," Elise says. "This could—this could change everything. This could save so many lives. It could have stopped Vlad from needing to do—what he did."

    Carol’s face sinks a bit. "...okay."

    "Thank you," Elise says. "Be ready to leave in like, ten minutes. I'll do the talking."

    "Are you sure?"

    Elise snags half the cupcakes out of the box and shoves half of one in her mouth. "Yeah," she manages around a mouth full of red velvet.

    Danvers has both eyebrows raised. "...okay."

    "We'll take The Van," Elise says. "Meet me in the parking lot."

    "You have a van?"

    "I have the best van."

    "Ok, I'll see you down there in ten." Carol gets up, sighs, and shakes her head. And mouths 'what is my life' silently to no one in particular before walking away.

    Elise heads to the parking garage and fires up the van, kicking open the back doors (they stick a little) to let out the weed smoke. The inside of the walls have a Kree astroglyph scratched into them, again and again, overlapping. There is a bass guitar, a stained (with what? no one is sure) loveseat, a circular shag carpet, and a secondary carpet comprised nearly entirely of trash.

    Carol meets Elise down in the parking garage.

    She looks into The Van.

    "Oh...oh, it's okay. I can fly."

    "Carol. I thought we were bonding."

    "You look like...you look like you have everything right where you want it in there I wouldn't...want to be disruptive. It's okay." Carol looks horrified.

    "Oh, you don't want to ride in a gay person's van?" Elise hisses. "Wow, okay, I thought you were better than that, Carol."

    Carol's jaw tightens. "I didn't...that's not."

    "Get in the fucking van, Carol."

    She gets in the van.

    "See? It's not so bad. Would you like a joint?"

    It is that bad.

    "N-no I'm okay, thank you."

    Elise puts on some music.



    She cranks it up as high as it'll go, and then hits the gas.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Sigrun and Michael pull up to a biker bar in Hell's Kitchen.

    "Classy," he says.

    It is not classy.

    "The fugitive we seek is named Lorelei. She is a sorceress, who can compel the minds of others to serve her. Most men fall prey to her wiles, as do...some women," Sigrun explains. "On her own, she is as formidable as any Asgardian; the true danger is that by now she will have amassed followers and servants. Usually she seeks outlaws, brigands, and other such individuals. Hence, this place."

    "Makes sense," he says.

    "I sought you out, as I had presumed you would not fall prey to her wiles."

    Michael smiles at the compliment. "Thank you."

    "These men here may serve her, and they may turn against us. They may be ruffians but they are merely weak Midgardians," she says. "We should be merciful. To them, at least."

    "Sigrun, I don’t know yet if Odin's ‘Asgardian Upgrade’ has taken effect. So I‘ll be a bit careful in taking these bikers out."

    She nods and scratches the back of her neck. "Due to my own...nature, there is a possibility I may fall for her sorcery. If so, it falls to you to render me unconscious or otherwise cast me aside and take down Lorelei yourself."

    "I don’t relish the thought, but I will do so."

    She nods. "Let's proceed."

    Sigrun walks into the biker bar with Michael. There looks like there's already been signs of a fight? Tables turned over, some men are bloody and battered. A few broken glasses and broken pool cues and the like. But there's no fighting going on now.

    They can see a woman in a green dress seated on the bar itself.

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    She is passionately kissing a man in a red armored costume.

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    Michael turns to Sigrun. "Is that her?"

    Sigrun nods and grimaces, her teeth gritted. "It is. I do not know the other man. A Midgardian under her spell, I assume."

    Lorelei looks at the newcomers. "Oh, hello Sigrun! Nice to see you again. Lover..." She turns to the man in red. "Kill the other man. I don't like competition." He nods grimly and moves towards Michael.

    Michael quickly draws and shoots an ICER at Redman. The vigilante drops to one knee. He's stunned, but not entirely unconscious.

    Sigrun dives at Lorelei, swinging at her face. Lorelei smiles and whispers "Stop." Sigrun stops.

    "Sigrun! Fight her!" Michael yells as he shoots the man in red again. A second ICER knocks the vigilante out.

    Lorelei rolls her eyes. "Disappointing. He and I hadn't even had any real fun yet. Sigrun, kill that boy."

    Sigrun turns around and looks at Michael. Her eyes are sad. Her fists are clenched.

    "It'll be okay,” Michael says, armouring up, and flies...past Sigrun at Lorelei.

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    Lorelei shrieks in terror. "The Destroyer!"

    Sigrun snatches Behemoth out of the air and German-suplexes him, denting his armor. Michael groans as the floor buckles beneath him.

    “SIGRUN! FIGHT IT!” he booms in his altered voice. Between that and the sheer terror his visage seems to induce in Lorelei, Sigrun seems to shake free, looking a bit bewildered.

    Sigrun releases Behemoth. "Knock her out!” she yells.

    He rushes at Lorelei, fist extended. She goes flying across the bar. A human would've been killed instantly by that hit, but an Asgardian is simply knocked unconscious by the blow.

    Sigrun shakes her head, like she's trying to get the cobwebs out. "We should get out of here. Her victims will remember little of her influence."

    "That's good. Let's grab these two and get outta here."

    Sigrun picks up Lorelei over her shoulder. "Let's go. I suppose we shouldn't leave him here, he's not an ally of the rest, it seems." She gestures at the vigilante. “It won't go well for him if they wake up first."

    Michael picks him up. "I'll take him back to base and make sure he's all good."

    Sigrun nods. "I will take her back to Asgard. This is where we part ways for now. Thank you for your help."

    "Anytime, Sigrun. Until we meet again. Hopefully sooner rather than later."

    She smiles and nods. "I am uncertain if I am being romantically pursued by both you and your teammate. If it comes to a duel between you, I would wish to attend."

    Michael smiles to himself, the Vulcan duel theme in his head.

    "May the best win my affection." She claps him on the shoulder and carries Lorelei away. Michael does an internal fist pump.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Myrmidon is seated on what looks to be a modified massage table? Niles has a series of probes he's attaching to Myrmidon's vital points. "Alright, the final jack is straight up just going right into the base of your skull. It's going to be...uncomfortable. Until suddenly you won't feel it and you'll be in the simulation."

    Miles sighs, and sets his jaw. "I really hope you've updated all your drivers."

    "Well, let me know if you suddenly see a pop-up from an install wizard or something,” Niles grins, then the grin turns serious. "....that's.... that's only half a joke." Niles connects the hardline to Myrmidon's cranium. It feels aggressively foreign. Something being inserted where it should not be inserted.

    And then...Miles feels nothing.

    There is blackness.

    EKlr1i5l.jpg

    Myrmidon stands on the external grounds of the digital prison. He's dressed in period-appropriate field gear. Like a HYDRA spy. He knows that Zola's cell is the third floor up, and he is directly below his window. And he has a grappling hook.

    As he checks his gear, Miles realizes something: he's not a cyborg in this simulation. He has hands. Human hands. A fully human body.

    He regards his hands in wonderment, then frantically gropes up and down his torso. Skin. Skin. Skin. He laughs delightedly. "Oh my god. Oh my god."

    He takes his now-human left hand and wonderingly runs it over the rough stonework, grinning—almost giggling—as he feels the texture. He leans down and twirls a blade of grass between thumb and forefinger.

    He flexes the fingers, makes a fist, punches the air a couple of times. He runs the fingers back through his hair. "....God damn." Finally, he looks around. The surroundings are grim but right now even the grey light and chilly breeze feel wonderful. He heaves a sigh as he contemplates the grappling hook.

    "....Well. It wouldn't be any fun stuck in here with a Nazi anyway." He twirls the hook in a circle perpendicular to the ground. "This shit always works in the movies..." He aims for Zola's window and lets go.

    In his enthusiasm, he hurls the hook with a little too much force, and instead of silently fetching up against the bars on the outside of the cell, it smashes straight through the glass of Zola's window, then clangs loudly against the bars, catching them firmly. He hauls himself up hand over hand, pausing only a second to marvel at the burning of the rope on his palm.

    Miles pulls himself up to the window and sees Zola in the cell, bleary-eyed and woken up by the noise, having just put his glasses on. "Who, who are you?" He looks at Miles' HYDRA logo and gasps. "Impossible...."

    "As you well know, anything is possible, Herr Doktor," Miles says, raising a clenched fist in salute.

    "Hail HYDRA!" Zola says, excitedly, responding in kind. Miles hears footfalls coming from the hallway inside the building.

    "Is there a period where you are outside your room? Hurry, Doctor. I will slip out of sight and retrieve you then."

    "When I am fed, they take me to the cafeteria with the other simulated invalids." Zola stares in wonderment. "You...you are real. You are a man, I can see it in your eyes."

    "Do you not recognize me, Doctor? I am Cobra Commander. My men and I were there to save you from that Skrull witch at Roxxon. I have been tasked to see you safely back to the real world, and I will succeed—or die."

    "I recall this! Mein gott...yes, yes. The cafeteria, ten minutes, I will wait for you."

    Miles nods smartly and descends. From above, he hears Zola's door open and people enter. "Arnim, did you smash your window again?"

    "Silence, you wretches! You will not speak to me in this fashion!"

    "Arnim, get dressed for breakfast and your morning pills, come on."

    "I will not take this filth, they are not even real!"

    Miles alights on the ground, and with his knowledge of the area from Vision's briefing, heads to the cafeteria building.

    The cafeteria has a glass roof looking over the patients. Zola sits there absently eating split pea soup. Myrmidon can see that the other "patients" look...simplistic. Like individuals composed from common pools of facial features. Each one looks like a person individually, but viewed as a group like this, they are...disconcerting.

    Zola periodically glances around, and then goes back to lazily sifting his soup around with his spoon.

    Myrmidon shudders. He doesn't like Zola, but this is...wrong. Especially in a digital matrix. It could be anything. Why does it have to be so cruel? His lips thin as he thinks of Vlad, and where Vlad came from.

    He lies in ambush for a solitary orderly who could be his size. He finds one easily; very easily. He moves up from behind, intending to choke the man out, but upon striking quickly realizes that he’s miscalculated the force again. The staff member’s neck snaps in Miles’ hands, and he goes limp, quietly and instantly.

    Miles' stomach lurches. This still feels wrong, even knowing they're digital. The feel of flesh on flesh is too real, the pulse under the skin slowly halting. But trying to be nice could arouse Zola's suspicion. He drags the orderly away, strips him, and dons his clothes.

    "Who said all that gaming wouldn't come in handy," he chuckles mordantly. Seized by a moment of curiosity and memories of playing Hitman 2 on his PlayStation, he checks to see if the digital people have digital dongs.

    They are anatomically correct. "Whoa."

    He smooths out the stolen clothes and heads into the cafeteria, approaching Zola. "The doctors want you to eat your meal, Arnim," he says, and prods the man lightly on the shoulder. In a lower voice: "Do something rash. Hit me, or slop the soup on me."

    Zola nods. "I will not eat this slop! It's not real! None of you are real!" He throws the soup at Myrmidon, spilling it on his chest. "Only I, Arnim Zola, am real!"

    "You've been told what happens when you have one of these outbursts, Arnim," Miles says sternly, gripping Zola's lapels. "It's time to take your medicine." He begins dragging the man off.

    Myrmidon sees a doctor watching, with a clipboard. He is a thin man, with brown hair neatly trimmed. He looks stunningly like if Vision's holographic projected face were human. Arnim howls and kicks his feet like a petulant child. The doctor narrows his eyes suspiciously as he watches, and writes on the clipboard.

    MIles nudges Zola into something resembling a restraining hold. "Some nice medicine is what we need right now," he says, heading for the exit. Zola puts up only the most pathetic performance of a resistance.

    Two orderlies walk in between Myrmidon and the exit. It almost seems like they came from nowhere? "Where are you going with Patient Zola?" they ask accusingly.

    "Show us your identification." They say it in unison. But a half-second off from each other.

    "They knoowwwww...." Zola hisses with worry.

    Miles looks at them with a warm smile of relief. "Thank goodness, I could use some extra hands. I was told to bring him to HAIL HYDRA!" Miles shoves Zola forcefully at one and strikes the other with the meanest sucker punch he can muster!

    The man Myrmidon punches goes down in one hit, while Zola managed to get shoved in such a way that he headbutts the other orderly right in the groin, stunning him and sending him to the ground.

    "The time for pretense is over, Doctor! Let's...uh, let us make haste!" Myrmidon picks up Zola from the tangle of limbs and darts out the door!

    PHU1KZN.png
    In comics, if you’re a bad guy, you don’t say “let’s” unless you’re some kind of low-rent goomba who shouts stuff about DA BAT.

    I like that in some ways this is a fairly naturalistic/gritty take on the Marvel universe with lots of sensible explanations for the conceits of the setting and lots of real-people things like casual sex and drug use and plenty of cursing…

    ….but all of us, players and GM alike, have just kind of tacitly agreed that if you’re a supervillain you just talk different. You’re less likely to use contractions and more likely to say “shall” and “whom.”

    And you always, always tell people to BEHOLD.

    The pair dart out onto the facility grounds. "Where...where are we going?! There's no escape!" Zola says, suddenly panicked.

    Sir, Myrmidon hears Vision's voice in his mind.

    Myrmidon grabs Zola’s shoulders. "Doctor, listen carefully. I must be brief." He waits to hear what Vision is saying.

    There is a gateway to cyberspace through the hedge-maze. You must hurry. You will be pursued.Tell Zola it is how you came in.

    "My men have opened a gateway to cyberspace on the other side of the hedge maze. It is how I gained ingress. But we must hurry." He looks around. "They will use every resource they have to keep us here."

    Zola nods solemnly and lets Myrmidon lead the way. Sir, I am overlaying an augmented reality display path into your visual spectrum which will allow you to navigate the maze effectively. Myrmidon can now see a perfect route through the hedge maze, appearing in his field of view as a faint green path.

    Miles follows the path but takes one wrong turning briefly to add realism. He stops and looks around. "No...this isn't the way I remember," and doubles back quickly.

    The pair eventually comes to the end of the maze. It's an arc in the hedge. Beyond it are geometric shapes and strands of light.

    "Doctor, there is one complication I need to address," Myrmidon says. "We know your body was compromised. My men and I do not..." he looks embarrassed - "have access to a second. We had to take this opportunity when it came. But the ADAM facility...."

    "Oh!" Zola exclaims. "I have kept it secret, yes. It is fully automated. I can take you there. It is in New York City, in fact. I had Zemo help me build it."

    "New York? Audacious," Myrmidon says. "Shall we?"

    "I will explain, come, let us leave this horrid place."

    Miles gestures for Zola to lead the way. They step through the gate and into...cyber space.

    GcCFNvNl.jpg



    Zola steps onto the platforms, guiding them with a thought. "I abhor this place. It is chaos. But a necessity.

    "Zemo helped me build the ADAM facility, as I said. Right under the noses of ONE, right in their headquarters, in fact, using their resources, even. Have you ever heard of the Thunderbolts?"

    "Whispers," Miles says. "Rumor and innuendo. I do not know what to credit."

    Zola nods. "Murderous American thugs. Zemo infiltrated them, and helped me utilize their resources to build my secret lab in a dark wing of their headquarters.

    "I will travel there digitally, and upload my consciousness into the computers there. I will need you and other agents to go there and finalize the process once I arrive, and secure my exit from the facility."

    "The Thunderbolts are parahumans, yes?” Miles asks. “In the offices of ONE? How typically hypocritical."

    "Indeed," Zola says. They come to a door of white light. The platform stops. "This is the place. At least digitally. I will prepare the facility on my end. By the time you arrive, my body will likely be constructed, but I will need you to authorize and finalize the upload.

    "The location is at 33 Thomas St. in Manhattan. The Long Lines Building, it is called. Thunderbolts headquarters. Be wary.”

    PHU1KZN.png
    The Long Lines Building is a real place, and it’s wild; it’s this giant windowless obelisk where all AT&T’s main trunk lines converged, and is built to be self-sufficient, with its own generator as well as gas and water storage. It has definitely never played host to any secret government agencies.

    I had a lot of fun with this sidequest. Getting to feel normal again is a big character moment for Miles, that starts a ball rolling that goes interesting places later. And his discomfort with Zola’s treatment is another little way for me to highlight how, while fate and his own skillset have made Miles a spy, what he really wants to be is a superhero.

    Miles nods. "Very well." He salutes. "We will not fail you."

    “Thank you, Cobra Commander. Truly, you are a noble Agent of HYDRA." Zola salutes and bellows "HAIL HYDRA!" as he steps into the light and vanishes.

    The door closes.

    Vision appears standing next to Miles. "Thank you, sir. Although this complicates matters."

    Miles nods. "It does. We may need the team for this."

    "Indeed."

    MIles faces Vision. "I'm glad to be able to help. You deserve a shot at life. No thinking being should be born in a cage. But this..." he waves a hand, indicating everything around them. "...seems pretty cruel. Can we give Zola something to actually rehabilitate him? Or barring that, let him rest? Just suspend his program on a drive somewhere?"

    Vision nods. "I kept the program as-is when Vladimir left it because I was uncertain how to proceed, but given your input and perspective, I am inclined to agree. In his current state, Zola is effectively unconscious and has no perception of time or spatial awareness.

    "I will work to create a more rehabilitative and progressive simulation going forward."

    "Thank you, Vision. I read somewhere that a society should be judged by how it treats its prisoners. If we can make that a little better in some small way..." he trails off. "Anyway, we have the problem of the Thunderbolts. Can you pull up their dossier while Niles discreetly contacts the team?"

    "I will do so, please stand by."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Elise and Carol Danvers pull The Van into the Baxter Building's parking garage. Elise polishes off the last of Carol's cupcakes, balls the wrappers up into a wad, and tosses it under the couch.

    "Okay, so we're going to play this cool." She puts on a pair of aviators, clambers into the back, pulls off her shirt, and starts digging in a pile of laundry. "Give me a second to find something fancy."

    She pulls out a blouse, gives it the sniff test, and pulls it on, buttoning it so her tattoo is still largely visible. "OK, let's roll. This is the first step, Carol, we're gonna be heroes."

    "O-ok."

    A HERBIE drone walks over to The Van and greets them.

    kaEufgEl.jpg

    "Hey there, buddy,” Elise says. “I'm here for an appointment with Richards."

    "Right this way!" They have a high-pitched and chipper voice.

    "I am going to steal you and take you home with me," Elise says. Danvers shudders.

    The HERBIE unit leads them to an elevator and gestures for the pair to enter. The elevator has no controls. The doors close, and it moves upwards.

    Carol looks around warily. "Uh...."

    "It's future tech." Elise pops a mint into her mouth. "He's big-dicking. He's like, ooh, look, I don't even need to hit a button to make elevators goes up."

    "Oh."

    The door opens onto a blank white room that is almost entirely featureless but for a metal desk with a pair of chairs on either side. Reed Richards sits behind it, facing them. "Please, have a seat."

    Elise notices this room is incredibly silent. Not just from ambient noise, but like... the basic hums and electromagnetic noise of devices. It's fragrance-less; it doesn't smell of antiseptic or other "clean" smells, it just smells like nothing. She can smell Reed, and his odorless antiperspirant and normal person smells.

    This bothers Elise, and she scratches the back of her neck, irritated. On one hand, this is what she has wanted since...the incident. In theory. In practice, it's incredibly unnerving. Like being deafened, or having a limb go dead.

    "Super good to meet you, Mr. Richards," she stretches out a hand over the table, trying to hide her discomfort.

    He shakes her hand, and extends his hand to Danvers as well. She shakes his hand cautiously, sitting down across from him. "Ms. Arnell, would it bother you if my wife joined us for this meeting?"

    "Uh, no, that's fine," she says. "It's uh, it's real clean in here. You hire someone to mop, or...?"

    Susan appears standing ten feet to the left of Reed. She was standing there the entire time. She sits down next to him.

    "...If I said no she would have just stood here the entire time, huh?"

    "Yes," Susan says.

    "See, this whole thing - " Elise makes a circular gesture. "I was hoping we could put aside the petty spy bullshit and be honest with each other? At least a little. I mean, I could always go to Stark with the Attilan thing."

    "Could you though?" Reed quirks an eyebrow. "I imagine Anthony would go completely nuclear if he found out just how much SHIELD was keeping from him."

    Elise's smile falters. She didn't think of that. Reed can tell she didn't think of that.

    Reed continues. "I mean, for pete's sake, one of your teammates who sat across from me at this very table had Stark's technology in his left arm. I don't imagine Anthony is comfortable with that."

    "You tried to put a virus in our systems and your wife made a real solid attempt at killing my friend." Elise butts in. "So, you know, maybe we've both kind of been dicks to various people, in our own way, and we don't need to go around telling everyone about it."

    "Hm. Well, your friend told me this was about Attilan. You would like to uncover it, and you would like my help to do so," he says. "I'd like to help you."

    "...How much do you know about me, and uh, my team?" Elise asks.

    "Only what Susan and Peter have told me, and what I've been able to figure out on my own."

    Elise glances at Susan. "And that is?"

    "Peter?" Danvers turns her head quizzically.

    "Peter Parker,” Elise says. “Spider-Dweeb."

    Danvers looks at Richards. "Wait, he works for you? You chickenhawk."

    "We're offering to work for him, Danvers, you fuckin' dingus,” Elise says. “Moonlighting. For a good cause." Elise gives Reed a strained smile.

    Susan looks at Elise. "I know your origins. About the Asgardian weapon. About...the Phoenix. About the cyborg. About Vladimir. You...you I don't know." She points at Danvers. "I figure you're new. Very new."

    "Did you know that I'm one of the only people who can open the door to a place like Attilan?” Elise says. “Like, this won't be Big Dick Richards running the show, this will be a partnership."

    Reed nods. "Our people inside SHIELD told us about the Thule Incident."

    "You have people inside SHIELD?!" Elise gapes. Richards smiles and shrugs sheepishly. Elise stares at him for a moment, completely taken aback.

    Danvers groans and puts her head in her hands. "Oh my god I'm going to be shot for treason. Into the sun. With the SLINGSHOT."

    "Okay, first of all, I don't think they actually do that," Elise says. "Second of all, if you're going to have a nervous breakdown, can you do it outside. Third of all, this isn't treason, it's for a good cause."

    Richards leans over to Susan and whispers "Do they do that?" Elise hears it.

    Elise glares at him. "Okay, everyone - everyone shut up, let's start over, okay, let's just -" She takes a deep breath. "Hi, I'm Elise Arnell, this is my associate. We're here to strike up a partnership to find Attilan."

    Reed nods. "And we would like to help you. What do you need?"

    "We have the coordinates and we have the ability to open the door. The problem from there is twofold: One, SWORD has the area completely locked down. I don't want to hurt anyone, I just—need to open the door.

    "Two, once I'm through, I uh. I'm still figuring that out. Like, I guess the city goes to SHIELD? For the war?"

    Reed cradles his chin in his hand, nodding thoughtfully along. "Anything else?"

    "My...old associate told me that the city could be the key to defeating the Skrull Empire," Elise says. At this, Danvers' jaw clenches. "Sorry, Mr. Richards, can you give me and my new associate like, four seconds?"

    "Dr. Richards," he notes.

    "Sure," she says.

    He opens a hand in invitation. "By all means."

    Elise pulls Danvers into a corner and lowers her voice. "What are you doing?!"

    "I just...this is a lot, Elise. This is like...I mean this isn't working with the enemy but it's really close, you're talking about sneaking into a SWORD facility against orders and getting Reed's help to do it and just...I became a super-hero like a little over a week ago, and in that time I've been sent to Wakanda to kill the king who was actually a Skrull and now I have to betray SWORD? It's a lot."

    "You're not betraying anyone! If we were going to go in there and start snapping necks, yeah, that'd be really bad!"

    "I can get you in there, really easily." Susan calls out to the pair, loudly.

    "See?" Elise says. "'Easily.' We're doing a SWORD a favor. They don't want to go in, because they think it's gonna be Thule 2.0, so when we go in, they're going to be like, wow! Good job, Elise and Carol! You completely solved that problem for us!"

    Danvers half-folds her arms nervously, but listens.

    Susan continues. "I have a ship, the Messenger. It can turn invisible, completely undetectable. It'll get us in. Then when we're on the ground, I can put you both in my invisibility field. Even your senses didn't pick me up, Elise. We'll stealth in. Nobody will get hurt."

    "There's just something I'm concerned about," Elise says to Susan. "Let me walk you through a little hypothetical scenario. We get in, I open the door, we walk into this beautiful city of wonders and majesty. I start to go, 'wow, we did it!' when I get hit right in the back with an ICER. I wake up, and see that WHISPER has taken it and I'm fucked. That kind of seems consistent with your behavior with my team up to this point."

    Reed folds his hands. "Do you know what game theory is, Elise?"

    "Uh, I do, but Carol doesn't, so -"

    Carol furrows her brow at Elise. Reed nods slowly and says "All right, well, game theory is an approach to looking at your opponents and potential allies in a circumstance where you think about what they want and need. To put it crudely, you kind of think of everything like games with rules.

    "Put it this way: What is WHISPER's benefit for betraying you after you open the door of Attilan for us? Put aside the fact that WHISPER and SHIELD have historically had a complex relationship.

    "What's in it for us? None of us are Inhumans or Kree. Presumably, we wouldn't be able to use any of the technology we find or even read the language of the artifacts. It would take me years of study to just begin to understand items you are able to use intuitively due to genetic triggers.

    "It's in my best interest to work with you."

    "...That makes sense, but..." Elise hesitates. "I'm...putting a lot on the line, here. I mean, I went into this whole thing with a vague death wish, but I found some news out this morning, and—if I'm real wrong here, SHIELD might put me in the fuckin' ground. I could be jailed. I really, really need to know you're not going to fuck me, here.

    "I'm scared."

    Susan looks Elise in the eyes. "Elise, a few weeks ago, Vladimir called me and asked for my help with something that was important to him. He did this because I, essentially, owed him for what I did to him. If I wanted any chance at forgiveness, for redemption for the way I hurt him, I needed to help him. So I did.

    "But I also had to take it on faith that he wasn't just going to murder me in some dark nowhere and leave me in the dust. Because it's not like he didn't have cause. I had to trust someone I had betrayed. Repeatedly. Because he needed my help, and because I wanted to help him. So I took that risk."

    "There's something you need to know about Vlad, Susan," Elise says. "...He was Killed in Action. A few weeks ago, after we took measures against Leviathan, and found their moles in SHIELD."

    Susan's expression is blank. It is a practiced blank, the sort of blankness of someone trained to conceal their heaviest emotions. It's hard for Elise to read the microexpressions of a known Skrull in human form who is deliberately opting to conceal those.

    "That's the official story." Elise says. "I can't say any more, I don't know any more. All I know is, for now, I have my team, and I have my goal. And I'm going to work with you two, and I'm going to carry my weight...but If you two let me down..." she shrugs. "It'll be bad for everyone. The city might be lost as a result. I'm sure you know that."

    Elise notices that Danvers tried to conceal her shock and confusion at Elise saying "that's the official story."

    Susan nods and points at Danvers. "Can I ask what her role in all this is? She seems very new and like she doesn't know much of what is going on."

    "It's not my story to tell, but she's vital to this," Elise says. "Carol, you only have to tell them if you want to."

    "I'd rather not. it'll come up as it's mission-relevant," Carol says, her voice firm and even.

    Elise shrugs at the Richards. "Trust me on this one. Since that's our policy now, I guess. Trusting each other."

    Susan shrugs. "That's fine. I get it. Are you two ready to go? I can have the Messenger good to go in like, a few minutes, and it's safe to keep your vehicle parked here."

    "Yeah," Elise says. "Just let me have another quick chat with Carol. Two seconds." Carol nods silently.

    Elise pulls her back into the corner, and lowers her voice again. "What I said about Vlad - don't tell anyone. Please. I don't—I only told Susan, because I know they...were close? Ish? It's a secret. Okay?" She honestly seems more concerned about Vlad than the light treason she's actively participating in.

    "Okay," Carol says.

    "Okay,” Elise says. “We're good to go."

    "I'm already keeping lots of secrets. What's one more."

    Elise looks pained for a second. "I'm sorry. I—I've been a dick. You can go, if you want. I can—I'll figure it out."

    "It's too late. I'm in. Let's go,” Carol bites off. “It's either I'm in or I report you. So let's go."

    Elise sighs, pulls an unlit joint out of her pocket and puts it between her lips, and nods. "All right, let's go."

    Reed makes a disgusted face at the joint.

    "S'my medicine."

    Susan leads the trio to the elevator "I have the Messenger in the hangar near the roof, c'mon. I don't get to show it off a lot, so this'll be cool." The three get into the elevator. Susan taps something on to the wrist of her suit, which apparently has a computer built into the fabric.

    The elevator opens, and they're in a hangar bay. They see the Fantastic Four's trademark land-air-sea vehicle which the public have nicknamed "The Fantasticar" (to Reed's consternation), and next to it something else decloaks.

    "Holy shit,” Elise says as she takes the hangar’s contents in.

    A large purple vehicle, a bit bigger than a Greyhound bus, is floating in mid-air.

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    "It's like a sick ass eggplant emoji."

    Carol narrows her eyes. "That's a Skrull vessel."

    "You're more worried about them jacking a Skrull vessel than them having agents in SHIELD?" Elise deflects.

    "I didn't steal it. I built it." Susan says. "My father and I did, when I was a kid."

    Elise grimaces. "I didn't know if you wanted me to out you. I mean, with the whole -"

    Susan looks at Danvers. "Does she...not know? I thought that was why she was being a bitch."

    "Well I'm pretty sure she just figured it out!" Elise throws up her hands. "Well, I ate the cupcakes I used to bribe her on the way here. And uh, I kind of coerced her into something she thinks is treasonous. So she's being a bit of a Negative Nelly."

    Danvers looks at Elise. Looks at Susan. Exhales sharply through her nose. "...can we just go."

    "Wait, one second." Elise reaches into her pants, digs for a little bit, and presses something vaguely moist into Danvers' hands. It's a coupon book for a bulk candy store. She smiles brightly. "You can get like, six hundred turtles. Like, the chocolate, not the amphibian."

    Danvers looks at the coupon book. Wordlessly nods. Pockets it.

    Susan mouths 'wow' and then presses something on her wrist that opens the Messenger, and gets aboard. The trio load up, and head out in Susan's invisible alien ship.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Victorious and Sable have stepped through the portal into Central Park. Silver turns to him. "So, where is this Peter Parker?"

    "He operates in this part of the city. I hope to speak with him while he is on his patrol." Vlad shifts into his human form. "He calls himself Spider-Man. He is a hero to this city. So we will track him down, and wait for the right moment to speak with him."

    Silver nods.

    "Walk with me," Vlad says. They make their way out of the park. After a few blocks, Vlad finds a police car and attempts to eavesdrop on the police radio. He listens along for a bit, and hears a report of a 10-909, which is an empowered criminal or vigilante. Usually the code for a fight between the two. It's at Times Square, not far from here.

    Vlad and Silver run towards the direction of the code, and as they approach they hear gunfire and explosions. They get close to Times Square, and see the police trying to divert onlookers and other pedestrians away from the areas where debris falls from the fight taking place overhead.

    Vlad cloaks the two of them. "They cannot see us."

    Spider-Man is fighting someone. Vlad recognizes them.

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    It’s one of the Beetle drones. Vlad laughs slightly.

    Peter seems to be doing his best less to fight the Beetle himself, and more to avoid people below getting hurt by debris and leading the fight away from Times Square.

    The drone seems to have something attached to it. Vlad zooms in, and sees that it appears to be some kind of high-security lockbox of some kind, magnetized to its back. The lockbox shows signs of damage, like it was ripped off of a wall or other fixture.

    "Which one is the Spider-Man?" Silver asks.

    "The one shooting webs," Vlad looks at Silver.

    She nods. "This follows. He seems to be a poor fighter."

    "Keep watching."

    Beetle is chasing Peter through the buildings, but as he doubles back around to an area the pair have already gone through, he stops in mid-air...

    ...and starts spinning. As Vlad looks closer, he's caught in a web that Peter previously spun. The Beetle starts spinning and firing wildly, trying to free himself as Peter shoots more and more webs to secure him. Vlad smiles. He's reviewed Spider-Man's file before this but he thinks this is a sight to see.

    The Beetle detonates.

    Vlad puts a force field around the lockbox on the Beetle's back, managing to shield that from the explosion. The webs Peter spun around the Beetle contain most of the shrapnel, ensuring nobody below is hurt and minimizing property damage.

    People start applauding and cheering for Spider-Man.

    The lockbox falls harmlessly to the ground, unnoticed. Vlad picks it up, rendering it invisible. Spider-Man swings off. Vlad can see him still, though, silently observing the crowd.

    "He's getting away," Sable observes.

    Vlad grabs her by the hip. "No, he is not." Vlad takes off after Spider-Man.

    The two fly over next to Spider-Man, landing next to him while he silently watches the crowd cheering him. They are still invisible. Vlad notices that Peter is wearing the suit WHISPER made for him.

    "Hello, Peter." Vlad uncloaks behind him in his classic robotic form, a holographic spider on his fingertips.

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    "Gah!" Peter spins around, genuinely spooked. "Uh, hi, Vladimir. ....hello," Peter says to Silver. She nods curtly.

    "You did well back there, Peter," Vlad says.

    "Thanks. I wish I would have gotten the lockbox, he stole important tech from Dr. Richards."

    "Did he? Hmm." Vlad tosses the lockbox to the ground.

    "Oh! Wow! Thanks! Dr. Richards will be really happy I got this back."

    "Richards..." Vlad mutters. "Good. So this was under Richards' orders?"

    "Not like, directly, I got an alert. Break-in at a WHISPER facility, I got called on. Dr. Richards and his wife had some big meeting to go to, so I got called on automatically to respond."

    Vlad nods. "So you're doing Richards’ security."

    "Eh, I fight bad guys. Beetle's a bad guy. Dr. Richards calls me when he needs help with stuff." Peter shrugs. "Who is uh...who's your friend?"

    Vlad smiles. "Silver? Oh yes, she is indeed a friend, Peter."

    "Like a friend or a...like, can you... Because I thought you were a.... Never mind, that's none of my business," Peter stammers.

    Vlad cocks his head to the side. Silver snort-laughs and turns away. "Vladimir, he is a child."

    Vlad looks briefly at Silver and then back at Spider-Man. "Do you feel like you are a hero?"

    "I...I try! That was what joining WHISPER was all about, being a hero. Why? Do you have another secret mission?" Peter sounds intrigued.

    Vlad laughs. "Of course."

    "Cool. Will I actually get to do stuff or do I have to sit in the car like last time?"

    "No, Peter,” Vlad says. “I want you to save the world."

    "What?! Awesome, is this about joining the Avengers? Is this my time? Because I'll do it, I'll quit WHISPER, I'll tell Dr. Richards I'm sorry but..."

    "You won't tell Reed anything right now. People lie to you, Peter. WHISPER lies to you. What do you know about Skrulls?"

    "I know that Susan is one, but she's like...one of the good ones. And that some are bad, like the ones in Leviathan. They're the bad guys. But not because they're Skrulls, but because they're bad guys who are Skrulls," Peter says.

    Silver looks at Vlad. "Wait what."

    "Silver," Vlad says. She drops it and says nothing. He turns back to Peter. "Yes, they are. But they have extremely powerful metahumans under their control and have replaced people all around the world. There is a secret war going on, Peter."

    "Oh. Oh wow. And you want my help?"

    "I want you on my team. I will not lie to you, Spider-Man. Do you know what I am? I am Victorious. I am convergence." Vlad's eyes glow. "I am a fulcrum, a meeting point of technological, arcane, and dimensional power."

    He half turns, his cloak following his arc. "I was stolen from my maker...my Father. My captors tried to rebuild me for their own purposes. Tried to reshape the mind my Father gave me. So when I woke up I didn't know who I was. I lived in fear and as their servant. Fearing death, fearing to lose what little I had gained back of my self, and always as a tool of their machinations.

    "But in time..." Vlad pauses. "...In time I learned how to use them as they used me. To lie to them as they lied to me. Granting them the same false victories they did for me. Then, only then, after they thought I was their most loyal of pets, making them think I sacrificed myself for their cause, I left them.

    “I did this not because I feared them, but because I saw whom they feared, my Father. They feared him because he saw through their lies and could protect his people without their interference. So I returned to him, a prodigal son, and he welcomed me with open arms. He granted me the power to take fear, use it against those who would try to steal this world. Now he has given me leave to protect this world and I need a team to help me do so. A team of Invincibles. I need your help, Peter."

    Silver looks at Vladimir with admiration, smiling.

    Peter looks at them and nods. "I'm in."

    Vlad takes Peter’s hand. "I have a gift for you. An upgrade, if you will."

    "You're...gonna upgrade my suit?” Peter says. "Dr. Richards gave me this suit."

    "Yes...I know."

    Victorious uses his sorcerous power and technological upgrades to transfer some of his nano-memetic dermal sheath technology and other stealth upgrades to Peter. They mingle with some of the other nanotechnology that Richards' tech already had in the suit (such as bio-gel nanotech to heal Peter in case of emergency) to create a partially organic, partially mechanical nanotech suit.

    Peter's white suit turns black, and the Spider design begins to glow green like other Doomtech.

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    Spider-Man staggers a bit, looking down at his suit. "...whoa."

    "How do you feel?" Vlad asks.

    "This is rad."

    Vlad nods. "Yes it is."

    Peter straightens. "So...what's our first mission?"

    "We're going to save a baby." Vlad shows Spider-Man a display of what he has on M.O.D.O.C. and AIM. An experimental mind-machine interface, installed in a child.

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    "Oh my gosh," Peter says in horror. "That's horrible. That poor little guy. We gotta save him."

    Victorious nods. "Indeed."

    "Where is he being held?"

    "AIM HQ."

    "Oh, I know where that is!" Peter says. "That's like, ten blocks from here."

    "Good. I must contact my Father, there is one other member of the team still to join us. Silver, go with Spider-Man to AIM HQ. I will meet you there soon."

    Silver nods. She looks at Peter. "Are you strong enough to carry me when you swing?"

    "Am I."

    "Good. Let us go."

    "One last thing, Peter, before you go," Vlad says. Peter stops and looks at him. "May I have the box?"

    "Oh, yeah, who cares." Peter hands him the box. Vlad smiles.

    Spider-Man and Silver Sable swing away.

    Vlad transports himself to Castle Doom. Doom is there, waiting for him. "Hello, my son."

    "Father." Vlad bows.

    "I have prepared your new ally," Doom says. "He will comply with your commands."

    "Good," Vlad nods.

    "Given the presence of another Clint Barton in this reality, he has taken to calling himself Longbow."

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    "Greetings, Longbow."

    "Hey," Longbow says. "Your dad tells me you're going after Skrulls. We had Skrulls in my universe. Wasn't a fan of em there either."

    Vlad nods. "Welcome to The Invincibles, Longbow."

    "Lead the way, boss."

    Vlad turns to Doom. "I have a gift for you, Father."

    "Do you now?" Doom tilts his head slightly, intrigued.

    "This may interest you." Vlad hands him the box.

    "Hrm... oh...oh fascinating." Doom says as he looks over the lockbox. "This is from one of Richards’ laboratories, I recognize the storage container type."

    Vlad nods. "I do not know what lies within.”

    "Oh, I will figure that out with time. Thank you for this, my son." Vladimir cannot tell if Doom is smiling, but his eyes look upon Vladimir warmly.

    Vlad bows and turns. "Come quickly, Longbow." Vladimir creates a portal back to New York, and he and Longbow step through it.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    Julian and Kane approach the Peak in the Zephyr. They dock, and disembark.

    "I don't think you've had a chance to go to the Gravity Well since...everything, have you?" she asks.

    "I haven't, no," he says.

    "It's fun. It's one of the few parts of the station that's available to travelers and individuals having their paperwork processed so, lot of ETs in there most days," she says. "C'mon, I'm buying."

    Julian eagerly follows. "Oh man. I'm excited to hear the music they play."

    They walk through the station. It occurs to Julian that the first time they visited here, he didn't get to explore it much. With the way people nod and sometimes salute Isabel as they walk through the halls, Julian realizes she's well-known. And, it seems, fairly well-regarded.

    He picks up largely stray surface thoughts, like Hey isn't that.... I heard he was dead.... People who seem to recognize Julian, but not necessarily know him personally.

    They approach a doorway that has an electronic sign that says "GRAVITY WELL" in English, and beneath that a constantly scrolling text in a variety of different languages that appear to just be translations of that name. Not all the languages seem to be human.

    They enter the bar.

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    It's not incredibly busy, but there are a few people milling around. Literally none of them are human, except the bartender, who is a SWORD employee. Kane looks at Julian, a wild smile on her face. "Do you trust me?"

    He looks around briefly. "Sure!"

    She grins and calls to the bartender "Two black supernovas, no halos."

    "Ooh, exciting." Julian smiles.

    Kane grabs them a seat at a table near the bar while the bartender makes their drinks.

    "Smasher!" Julian hears a gruff, gravelly voice call out behind him. A small person wanders over and sits down at the table with them, next to Kane.

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    "Oh! Hey Rocket!" Kane says, excitedly.

    "Hey Jewels, how's it going, man? Ain't seen you in forever," the small furry alien, Rocket, says to Julian.

    "Oh, hi!" Julian extends a fist towards him. "You'll have to forgive me, my brain's been like...scrambled eggs for the last little while."

    Rocket bumps Julian's fist. "Oh wow, Kane, you taught the nerd to fist-bump?"

    Julian scoffs. Kane laughs at Rocket's joke, looks at Julian and taps her temple.

    Hey, he says.

    Do not mention the Phoenix thing, she thinks at him. Not that word. Not at all. Amnesia is okay. An accident is fine. Anything is fine. Not Phoenix. Not that word.

    Got it. We clearly knew each other. Anything major I should know? I don't really want to like...dig around in him... Especially not if we're drinking.

    She continues. You and Rocket are kinda old buddies, he used to rag on you a lot for being a nerd. Which you were. You're a lot cooler now than you used to be.

    Julian nods slightly. Haha, fuck. Cooler? Geez. That's brutal. You're brutal.

    He feels a wave of embarrassment from her. I'm not really tactful like this, I'm sorry! This is my Elise mode, sorry dude.

    Julian lets a little mental ha-ha out as he turns back to Rocket. "So what's going on, man?"

    "Oh, not much,” the alien says. “Me and the guys are in town to collect a bounty, a fugitive fled to your world and any time we wanna do that it's a bunch of paperwork. Quill is doing all that.

    "Once that's all cleared up we'll go pokin' around to find em, then get outta here. Quill doesn't like being here, y'know, for reasons." He pauses. "Saaaaayyyyyyyy Smasher....."

    "Rocket, no," she says firmly.

    "Oh, c'mon, buddy, pal. Friendo. You're like, the second in command around here, right? You could just, rush all that paperwork through for your old friends the Guardians, right?"

    Kane shakes her head. "No, no no no no. No. No. We did that once and you idiots made a mess of things and it was my ass for quick-timing your paperwork through. There's no way I am ever putting my name on the line like that again unless SWORD babysits you through the whole thing."

    Rocket tilts his head and looks at Julian, smiling with his fangy grin. He has big, adorable raccoon eyes. "Jewels.... Buddy."

    Julian shakes his head. "What do you need me for? Smasher shut it down, already."

    "No, she said we'd need a babysitter." He winks at Julian, really blatantly.

    "Oh my God," Julian says.

    Kane is scandalized. "Rocket, holy shit, dude, I can see you winking."

    Rocket looks at her. "Can you? Aw, I always wink with the wrong eye."

    "You're not even being subtle!” Julian says. “C'mon!"

    "C'mon, guys, by the time SWORD mills through the paperwork the fugitive might go to ground already," Rocket wheedles. "Jewels could come with us, and make sure we don't mess things up."

    "And how do you expect me to do that?" Julian says.

    "With your rulebook and charming personality!" Rocket smiles.

    Julian waves this off. "They could write a cartoon on the kind of shenanigans you guys pull. Do movies, even. The Guardians."

    Kane looks at Rocket. "Who's the fugitive anyway?"

    Julian returns his gaze to her. So we doing this or what?

    She shakes her head. I want to know who they're chasing first.

    "Some Kree guy, renegade scientist. Korath-Thak. Took off from the Kree Empire, broke a bunch of rules, believes Earth's important to the war for some blah blah blah reason I don't care about all of the particulars, he's got a bounty, I hunt."

    Do it, she thinks. Aloud, she sighs with resignation. "....fine. Rocket, fine, just this once. You're lucky that Julian recently got hit with some cosmic radiation from Earth's sun and got fire powers, so he can back you up."

    "Oh, no shit?" Rocket looks at Julian, impressed. "So, that's why your noodle's fried?"

    Julian nods. "Pretty much."

    "Cool, man," Rocket says.

    "You know how you're told not to look directly at the Sun as a kid?" Julian adds. "Better listen."

    "I'll take your word on it, chief. Alright, well, I'll tell the rest of the crew, if you can get that paperwork sorted for us, Smash, that'd be awesome."

    The bartender comes over with the drinks. Kane shakes her head. He walks away. "Another time," she says to Julian.

    "Yeah. Another time." Julian pulls an exaggerated frown, then chuckles lightly and gets up from his seat.

    Rocket calls back. "Meet us at the Milano in Docking Bay 2, Jewels. See you there."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 27
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    The Messenger soars over the eastern Atlantic, approaching the Azores and the SWORD site. It's currently invisible. Danvers is flying co-pilot, directing Susan to the LZ.

    Carol looks at Susan. "So...I have to ask this, it's bothering me. Like a lot."

    Susan sighs. "Oh, here we go...."

    "You and Reed...have a kid."

    Susan looks at Carol. "Tread very carefully if you are talking about my son, Danvers."

    "I don't endorse anything about this conversation." Elise pipes in from the back.

    "So he is your son, right? Not the actual Susan Richards' son? So he's half-Skrull, then?"

    The ship stops in mid-air.

    Elise sits up from where she was lounging. "That wasn't me. I didn't put her up to that."

    Susan takes a slow, calming breath. She then speaks very slowly and calmly, "First, let's clarify a few things. First, I am the actual Susan Richards. There are no other Susan Richards but me. There was, at one time well over fifteen years ago, a completely different woman named Susan Storm who I was forced to replace due to circumstances in my life that were not my choosing. She's dead now. She never married Reed. She never even met Reed. Reed is my husband. I am the only woman he has ever loved, and he loves me for who I am.

    "Secondly, my son, who my husband and I love very much, will grow up his entire life as a healthy human boy. When he is in his adolescence, he will be told of his mother's heritage and given the choice, if he wants, to have his Skrull DNA made active if that's a part of his life he wants to embrace. It is my hope that by that time that our people will have maybe resolved their differences and that extraterrestrials don't have to live in the shadows.

    "If he chooses not to go down that path, I'll respect his choice. Are there any further questions?"

    Carol looks at Susan, kind of stunned, and quietly and meekly says "...no."

    "Good, then let's keep going. Do not talk about my species or my son ever again."

    "Again,” Elise says from in back, “I just want it on the record that I have not asked anything about those things."

    Susan turns in her seat to face Elise. "And I appreciate that, Elise."

    "I didn't even ask if Mr. Richards can make his dick stretch, even though I wanted to."

    Carol gasps.

    Susan says nothing, but Elise catches the micro-expression of a hidden smile. When Susan turns back to the controls, Elise catches Carol's eye and grins.

    The Messenger moves over a small cave entrance. Danvers turns to the other two. "This leads into a valley, SWORD has the entire area on lockdown past here. We'll have to go on foot.

    “I guess this is where you come in?" She looks at Susan.

    Susan nods, and lowers the ship, opening the hatch. "Stay close to me. Not...not too close," she says to Elise. She creates an invisibility bubble around the trio.

    "...Why not too close," Elise stares accusingly. "I've been using soap."

    The three drop down to the ground and move in through the cave. They pass invisibly through the SWORD perimeter. They reach the end of the cave and come to a hidden valley.

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    Elise has her head up in the air, like a bloodhound, sniffing and craning her head this way and that. She can sense it. It's this way. Another door. Like the other two she's found before. She frantically gestures in the direction they need to go.

    Susan nods, and she and Carol follow.

    Elise can feel it as she gets closer, like a ringing in her teeth. They walk through the jungle ruins, and then come upon it. The doorway.

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    There are SWORD agents near the door, camped out. There's two machine-gun emplacements directly facing the door, so if anything came out, they could light it up. They're on either side of the row of pylons.

    Elise eases her ICER out of the holster, and carefully lines up a shot. She's clearly unsure.

    "Couldn't you open it without them seeing us?" Danvers says to Elise.

    Susan says to Elise, "I could get us right up to the door. And my field would protect us from the machine-guns, at least for a bit."

    "We're going to have to move fast once it opens. And if I start yelling about Shuma-Gorath..." Elise’s brow furrows. "Uh. We'll wing it. Let's go."

    The trio carefully move up to the door, stepping around the SWORD agents. They get right up to the door.

    Elise presses the flats of both her palms against it. There's a loud click. The lights on the door fade, and it begins to open. She hears shouting from the SWORD agents. "Gate is open, weapons hot, weapons hot!"

    "We need to get in now or they're going to kill us, go!" Elise shouts.

    The three women jump through the door and vanish.

    Jacobkosh on
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