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

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Posts

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    The heroes are in a space beyond space. Beyond time and entropy. They are standing on what seems to be a platform. It is composed of a glassy material of some kind.

    There are three other individuals standing there with them. Three who weren’t with the rest on the beach.

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    "Strange..." Vlad says, recognizing his teacher.

    "Freedom Force, form up on me!" Miles shouts, waving his fist in the air in a "circle the wagons" gesture. Julian moves into formation.

    Elise doesn't respond - she looks dazed, staring out at oblivion. Vlad moves to her, taking a defensive stance. "What is this place?!"

    There's more.


    Across a vast void filled with glowing energy floats another platform. There are other people standing on that platform. It's difficult to make out for normal human vision, but those with enhanced senses can see them.

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    Elise's head suddenly jerks up. "Where's Crys?! And why is KRAVEN here?! I don't - I don't -"

    Crystalia is standing nearby.

    Elise exhales and stares at Kang. Whoever, whatever he is, Kang is foreign to Elise. Everything here is extra-dimensional. It reminds Elise of seeing Eternity.

    Kang floats between the two groups.

    "You are each champions chosen by the two great multiversal powers. "You...." he gestures to the heroes’ platform, "will represent the Council, and you..." he gestures to the other platform, "will represent the Parliament."

    "No, no, no, I don't - I don't consent to this shit! I didn't agree to this!" Elise shouts.

    "This will resolve the issues concerning your world without an incident," Kang continues.

    "By what right do you make such a judgement!" Vlad's voice booms out to Kang.

    "I am KANG."

    "Enough!" Vlad takes flight to attack Kang.

    Vlad stops. In time. He is reversed.

    "!hguonE"

    "You have no power here," Kang declares. "I am the uncollapsed waveform. I, Kang, am the Quantum Conqueror of Time itself."

    "Oh my god I hate people who talk like that," Miles says.

    Vlad looks at his hands, stunned, and then gazes back up to Kang.

    "L-Listen, Mister...Mister K-Kang, sir, even if I somehow stumbled into this, Crystalia is innocent, she doesn't -"

    Kang cuts off Elise’s plea with a wave. "Crystalia Amaquelin has been chosen by causal states to represent Attilan in this contest.

    "Let me make clear to you people the stakes of this contest.

    "BEHOLD!"

    "Here we go with the 'behold,'" Miles sighs.

    A glowing sphere appears over Kang's head, displaying an image.


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    "This is a world annihilated by a war between the Council and the Parliament. A fate that could very well befall your world. A fate that obliviated my existence in the 30th century. This, I do not permit."

    Elise looks at Miles and mouths: "Obliviated?"

    "The Council and the Parliament have agreed to settle the matter of Earth-1491 in this contest, and I have selected myself as final arbiter.

    "Whichever side loses the contest agrees to cease all interference in the ongoing processes of that world and its timeline, which will cease all multiversal hostilities and avoid any existential calamities, and ensure my continued existence in this timeline."

    "Wait, what contest? If we die in the game, we die for reals?" Elise looks nervously at Crystalia.

    "KANG. Who are the Council and the Parliament? If we're to fight, we should know who we're fighting for." Miles' voice is amplified, which looks weird coming out of his ordinary human throat.

    "They are beyond you. You cannot comprehend them any more than a circle could comprehend a sphere."

    "Lies!" Vladimir cries.

    Miles makes a slow jacking-off motion. Stark nods at Miles.

    "Amen," Michael chuckles.

    "Why have you not brought Doom here?!” Vlad shouts, waving a mailed fist. “Do you fear his wrath!"

    Kang ignores him. "Enough of this. Only one side may be stand the victor. Find your opponents, and defeat them. They must be slain, or rendered unable to fight, or made to submit to your will, by whatever means."

    "WHAT. HAPPENS. IF. WE. DIE. IN. THE. CONTEST?" Elise is yelling.

    Vlad places his hand on Elise's shoulder. "I believe that is the purpose of this contest. A battle to the death." Elise gives a high pitched, nervous laugh and checks her holster.

    Kang snaps his fingers, and everything goes white.

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    Along with DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, SECRET WARS is comics’ first big “event” story: the granddaddy of Inferno, Infinity Gauntlet, Zero Hour, the Death of Superman, Knightfall, Deathmate, Age of Apocalypse, Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc etc - giant stories that sprawl across a year or more of comics by many writers and artists, featuring dozens of heroes, insane stakes, and the promise that THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

    Secret Wars was one of the first and one of the most successful, both financially and, in some ways, creatively. Some critics drag it for being silly and cheesy, which it is, but a) “silly and cheesy” sure beats “incomprehensible and pointless” or “really violent and rapey,” and b) it’s silly in the exact right way: the premise is that the Beyonder, a godlike being who’s been observing Earth from afar, kidnaps a few dozen heroes and villains to a remote, artificial planet and tells them to fight each other, with the promise that the winning side will have all their wishes come true.

    If that sounds like a small child lining up his action figures to fight, congratulations, that’s exactly what it was: Secret Wars the comic tied in to a line of toys from Mattel.

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    The toys’ gimmick was that they came with “secret decoder shields” with lenticular pictures on them, which, like...even six-year-old me was too worldly to care about that. But the actual figures, which included Captain America, Doctor Doom, Iron Man, Kang, Spider-Man, and Doctor Octopus, were pretty dope.

    With no knowledge of the comics or the stories they came from I was particularly drawn to Iron Man and Cap, and the next time I saw their magazines for sale at the gas station, I pestered my folks to buy them for me. And that was that.

    So Secret Wars looms pretty large in my memory, and suddenly finding ourselves here, living it, tickled me pink.

    MsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Machine Man wakes up on on some rocks. He's not sure how long he's been asleep. It feels like it's been hours.

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    He stands up stiffly. "What the...." He looks around at the alien landscape. "Okay. So I guess that wasn't a dream. Better get a look at things." He takes off into the sky, searching the environs for others.

    He sees Namor. Who looks bewildered.

    "Namor! Up high!" Miles waves and flies over. "You alright, man? Er, Your Highness?"

    "Yes, I feel light-headed and confused, but otherwise all right. This appears to be some form of gladiatorial combat?" Namor sets his jaw. "To this, I'm accustomed."

    Machine Man nods. "Yeah, it's fu- wait, what"

    "I earned my crown, it was not bestowed. Long story. We should find the others, before our opponents find strength in numbers. This region is.... arid. I do not care for it."

    They hear a loud roar. Namor readies his trident.

    The Hulk pounces down in front of them.

    Miles holds up his hands. "Whoa! Hey, buddy! Friends!"

    Hulk roars and... stops. He looks at Miles and Namor, and grunts.

    "FIND BAD MEN. SMASH." He drops his fist into his open palm for emphasis.

    Machine Man nods. "You see any bad men yet?"

    "NO."

    "Ok. Let's go look."

    Hulk points at Miles and grunts "LEAD."

    Machine Man hovers a few feet off the ground. "Namor, hey, do you want me to call out if I see, like, water?"

    Namor starts to speak up "Actually, I'm the King of Atlant-...."

    "NO. TOO PRETTY." He points at Miles again. "LEAD."

    Miles turns and shrugs. "I mean, he's not wrong. Remind me to ask you about your regimen." He rises into the sky and surveys the territory.

    Behind him, Namor folds his arms.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    Phoenix rises up from the swamp, gasping for air and covered in swamp water.

    He hawks up as much foul water as he can, expelling it as fast as he can. He immediately digs for his flask to drown out the taste - he pulls a mouthful, swishes it around, and spits the polluted booze back into the swamp.

    He takes a deep breath to steady himself, and tries to search for any sign of people in his vicinity.

    "Don't... move...." He hears a whisper behind him. "Don't even breathe."

    It's Blade.

    Julian knocks. Hey. What's going on?

    "The fuck!"

    Easier for breath control. Sorr-

    Julian gets bitten by a snake.

    "Fuck!!" Julian's hands spark up.

    It's a weird alien snake, hanging from the tree. It's got fangs sunk deep into Julian's neck. Blade staggers backward, startled by Julian's telepathic message. Blade cuts the snake's head off.

    Julian is flailing his hands, trying to steady himself. He can feel the venom coursing through his veins.

    "The fuck was that!" Blade yells.

    Help me! "Help me! Fuck!"

    "Gah!" Blade staggers again. "The fuck out of my head!" Blade holds his sword out at Julian accusingly.

    Julian is finding it hard to breathe. His throat is closing up. He can feel your heart stopping.

    Help... I can't... speak…

    lade kicks Julian into the water. "Fuckin' telepaths." He walks away.

    Julian dies.

    The water around Julian boils away fiercely.

    "...oh fuck."

    Steam fills the air above Phoenix, and he laboriously drags himself to his hands and knees. He snarls and spits out a globular mass of something glowing and hot. It hits the ground with a hiss.

    Blade readies his sword. "Alright, back off motherfucker..."

    Julian approaches Blade. His hands go aflame. "What. The fuck."

    "I try to save your white ass and you jump inside my head is what's the fuck. Fuckin' telepaths."

    "Save my ass? You just left me to die! I died, right now. You dick!"

    "Was too late, do I look like I got alien snake anti-venom on me? If you had shut the fuck up and sat still and not jumped inside my fuckin skull I would've got that snake before it bit you."

    "Well if it was really hopeless you could have had the courtesy to run me through, even if you'd not read my file. Dick."

    He snarls, baring his fangs, "Well I didn't feel real fuckin' charitable towards a mind-fucker."

    "I have - you know what, I don't have to justify myself to you." Julian walks around and past Blade and off to find... someone, or something.

    He sees a fog rolling in over the water. It's not natural, but this whole place isn't. There're.... things. Moving around in the fog.

    Julian's hands go alight.

    Blade’s voice comes in low from behind him. "Alright, can you like, cook their brains or you just gonna cook them the old fashioned way?"

    Julian snaps off a branch somewhere, blows a gout of flame over it until it dries off enough to ignite, and then holds the makeshift torch threateningly, waving flame through the fog. "Old fashioned way works for me."

    Julian sees something out of the corner of his eye on his shoulder.

    It's a spider. A big one. He shouts and stamps his feet, flailing away at the big spider on his shoulder with his other arm. "Fuck! Fuck!"

    There are more spiders. They're crawling all over him. They're coming for his mouth. And the edge of his pants.

    "FUCK!" Blade ducks as a lightning bolt fires out of the fog at him.

    A booming voice echoes over the din of the swamp.

    "FOOLS! You will die in this blighted place at the hands of Mysterio, the Master of Sorcery!"

    An individual appears from the fog.

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    "Submit to the will of Mysterio, and you will be allowed to live! Fight on, and die!"

    "This guy is trying too hard." Blade gives a disgusted grimace and looks at Phoenix. "Some motherfuckers always gotta try to ice-skate uphill."

    Julian grumbles. "If you say so." He throws a fireball at Mysterio's cape.

    The fireball passes right through Mysterio's cape with no effect. "Fools! Your paltry powers cannot pierce my ethereal veil!"

    Julian feels around for where Mysterio actually is. There aren’t many minds near him and Blade, and he locates Mysterio easily. He's nearby, in a cave.

    ....and MODOC is closing in on him.

    MODOC, hey. You find a buddy?

    MYSTERIO CALLED MODOC FOOL. MODOC NOT FOOL. MODOC WILL HELP!

    Julian runs for the cave. "Hey! Hey!" Blade chases after him.

    Julian speaks over the comm. "Blade, keep up. MODOC's on this freak's trail."

    "...aw fuck he's gonna turn him into a fuckin' smear."

    Julian reaches out to Mysterio. Hey, Mystery Man. Having fun?

    He feels a wash of surprise and fear. ...oh no.

    Julian gets to the entrance of the cavern just as he sees MODOC floating inside.

    MODOC, go easy. We don't want to look like the bad guys, here. We'll just... put him down easy.

    He gets a reply a moment later. NEW DATA ENTERED. MODOC HELPS.

    Julian sees MODOC float in, as Mysterio yelps. He's surrounded by holographic projectors, drone deployment devices, and computers. He is not a sorcerer.

    MODOC stares at Mysterio, and his little eye twitches. All of Mysterio's equipment shuts down. Mysterio runs frantically around, flipping switches and trying to reconnect cables. "Oh no..... oh nonononononon, no, no."

    Julian grins at him. "Hi."

    Mysterio takes off his dome helmet and throws it to the side. Underneath he's just kind of a guy. "I surrender! I surrender! I lose!"

    MODOC spins around and looks at Julian. He smiles with his tiny mouth and lets out a high-pitched squeal. "MODOC SAVES!"

    Phoenix nods. "MODOC, good work! Now can you restrain him, bud?"

    MODOC looks around the room for a second, calculating.

    Blade walks up, holding out restraints. "I got this."

    MODOC flails at Blade. "NO! MODOC HELPS!"

    Blade sighs. He looks at Julian.

    Easy. Easy. You did good work, MODOC. Let Blade look cool, too. Even if he is a dick.

    MODOC backs up and makes a gracious arm gesture at Blade, allowing him to make the collar. Blade furrows his brow in confusion at the pair, and restrains Mysterio. "You motherfuckers are weird."

    "Good work, MODOC!" Julian says nothing particular to Blade.

    MODOC holds out his little fist for a bump. Julian doesn’t leave him hanging.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 5
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    Victorious comes online.

    He does a system check. All systems are nominal. He has experienced a loss in internal chronometer function and has been offline for an unknown period of time.

    Vlad slowly rises to his feet, his hand glowing with energy over the rocks beneath him, ready to strike any enemy he sees.

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    He sees some kind of long-necked creature in the distance, its head poking above the noxious gasses. He focuses his optics and realizes it's not some local fauna.

    It's Reed Richards. Reed spots Vlad.

    Vlad flies over to Richards. Reed grumbles. "Vladimir."

    "Richards."

    "You didn't happen to see Susan, did you?"

    Vlad shakes his head. "No, not yet. Did you just awaken?"

    "A few moments ago, yes."

    Vlad turns a slow circle. "As did I..." he says as he scans their surroundings. "We should look for the others."

    Vlad sees something else coming in the distance. A winged creature flapping towards them.
    Humanoid.

    As it comes through the clouds of gas, Vlad sees it's...Clay. With leathery wings. He lands next to Vlad and Richards, and retracts his wings back into his body.

    "Director." Vlad nods to Clay. "Are you alone?"

    "Vladimir. Dr. Richards. Spotted you when you were in the air, Vlad. Haven't seen anyone else yet, did a telepathic scan of the area, no signs of anyone besides us. But that's not completely reliable; this mist, it's....there's some kind of material in it, it's creating interference. There might be some kind of bio-matter in it."

    Reed is staring at Clay.

    Clay looks back at Reed. "Something on your mind, Dr. Richards, or can it wait until we're not in the midst of some kind of cosmic battle for the fate of the planet?"

    Richards shrugs. "It can wait."

    "Indeed," Vladimir says. "Let us search for our team members."

    Vlad doesn't pick up any other tech per se, but he does pick up a massive energy signature about half a kilometer away from where the trio currently are. What that is, who knows. Herelays the information to his companions.

    "Well, seems as good a destination as any. It's either a point of interest, or an opponent," Clay says. "I say we go on foot, use the mist as concealment."

    "I agree, Director," Vlad says. Reed nods.

    The three proceed on foot through the mists.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 5
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    Sensate wakes up face-down in snow.

    She pushes herself up, feeling the snow crunch between her fingers, and tries to rub some warmth into her face. "Where...?"

    She hears a laugh.

    She's heard this laugh before. It's Kraven's laugh.

    Kraven is sitting on a rock overlooking where she is, about 20 feet up. Elise reaches for her gun.

    It's gone. Kraven has it. "Looking for this?"

    "...Yeah, I kind of was."

    "I could have put you down while you were out, you know. Had myself a nice snack. I hear you've gotten even stronger since our last meeting." He sucks his teeth and giggles.

    "Jesus, dude, really?"

    He shrugs. "I wouldn't, there's no sport in it."

    "...You know what would make this really fuckin' sporting? If you gave me back my gun."

    "Nah, that's not a hunt, that's a duel.Not interested.” He shakes his head. “No, instead, we're going to have ourselves, a good ole hunt. Even got myself a nice beast to lead for me. C'mon now, Mac, say hello."

    From behind a rock, the horrifying Scorpion creature crawls out, mandibles clicking.

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    This is our version of the Scorpion, a Spider-Man villain. In the comics, Scorpion is Mac Gargan, a sleazy, unscrupulous private eye whom J. Jonah Jameson hires first to try to find Spider-Man’s identity, then when that fails, to test an experimental suit of scorpion-themed armor with a mechanical tail, presumably under the theory that since scorpions are predators of spiders in real life, a man dressed like a scorpion ought to be able to hunt a man dressed like a spider.

    This version of Scorpion is a lot weirder and more horrifying, and is apparently some kind of mutant cyborg.

    Something worth mentioning is that the "cold open" with Elise running through the snow wasn't a bit of movie magic on my part; the session really began that way and stuff happened in exactly the order you have read. We really did think we were showing up for a big beach party session and suddenly we were seeing stuff about Elise being hunted in the snow.

    Elise yelps and staggers back. "Kraven. Kraven. C'mon, let's not...let's not lower ourselves to this."

    "Mac and I worked out a deal. I promised him the majority share if he'd lead the hunt. Seems fair, yeah? Really all I need is a proper taste, anyway."

    "You don't want to eat me. I eat nothing but junk food and I smoke a lot of weed. It's going to taste fuckin' foul. You don't want that. Please."

    He stands up and holsters Elise's gun. And loads a bolt in his crossbow. "Now, Mac and I agreed to be sporting about this, give you a few minutes lead.

    “Get on now."

    Elise gives him one last incredulous look to see if he's joking. Then she turns and runs. She hears Kraven laughing behind her, and Scorpion screeching and clicking.

    She checks the pockets of her big coat as she runs. Nothing.

    "Fuck. Fuck! Chief! Clay! Vlad! Anyone?!" Her radio isn't reaching anyone. Everyone seems out of range.

    Elise runs.

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    Elise is running through the snow. It's up to her ankles, and she's plodding along. She's panting, and can see her breath in the air. She's unarmed. She is alone. Lining the walls of the canyon are baroque, alien ruins of an unfamiliar alien civilization. This is not a dream. This is real. And she is being chased....

    "Listen, buddy." Elise calls out to the clawed man. "I'm - I'm being chased. Kraven, calls himself the Hunter, he's on my trail. So, thank you. Thank you for saving me, but...I'm giving you a heads up. This isn't over."

    He nods. He smells the air.

    "Dude's rocking a crossbow. He, uh, eats Inhuman hearts."

    He lets out a low growl. "Trying to catch his scent. If he's such a big-shot 'hunter,' we'll see if he's smart enough not to stand down-wind of us."

    "Here, let me try." He tilts his head at Sensate as she opens her senses.

    She knows exactly where Kraven is. He's standing above her, in the ruins lining the canyon walls, readying a crossbow shot at Elise. Where he's standing, nobody would have smelled him coming, but Elise's senses go deeper than that. He's pulling the trigger.

    Elise leaps out of the way. "He's on the ruins, he's up there, fucking move!"

    The bolt flies at Elise and gets knocked out of the air.

    By an arrow.

    Elise would have dodged it anyway.

    Kraven's position is blown, and Elise can see him try to move as arrows fly across the canyon at him. He falls back.

    Another arrow, this one with a line attached to it, hits the ground near Elise.
    Longbow ziplines down to Elise and the man who saved her from Scorpion. "Hey."

    "Robert, thank God, dude. Hey. Uh, new friend. This is Longbow. He's an archer. I'm Elise."

    Bob nudges Elise and murmurs "codenames."

    "Sorry! Sorry. Kraven was saying he was going to split my corpse for dinner with the scorpion dude. I'm - I'm a little shaken up! I'm Sensate. Whatever! Christ."

    The other guy nods. "Wolverine. You with SHIELD?"

    "Yeah," she says.

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    Hey so uh, remember when I said back on page 1 that this campaign was like the MCU and didn’t have mutants in it and it was so much cleaner for it and really the X-Men work better in their own world and etc etc?

    Yeah. That was a, uhhhh, lie.

    It’s the same lie Matt told to us. The mention of “mutagenesis” in the Attilan report had cocked my eyebrow upward a couple of millimeters the previous week, but when that picture of Wolverine suddenly scrolled up the chat window and about four people audibly went “uhhhhhh” I suddenly realized this campaign setting had even more secrets than I’d thought.

    "All right," Wolverine nods.

    "Did you...did you kill the scorpion guy?” she asks. “I didn't see."

    Wolverine shakes his head. "I messed him up, but he's regenerating. Took the fight out of him, I think he understood that if he gets back up, he's going down messier."

    "Okay. I guess we try to find some high ground, find the others, stay alive. I am not having my heart eaten because one, holy shit, that's not a way to go, and two...Kraven with my shit would be, uh. Apocalyptic." She takes a breath. "Alright. I'll sense what I can. Longbow, back us up. Wolverine, you mind leading the way?"

    "Is that why he does it? He gets your powers?" Wolverine asks.

    "Yeah," she nods. "Also, he's a sick fuck. So."

    Wolverine nods. "Usually it's both, yeah."

    "...Also, I clowned him a while back,” she adds. “He's probably pretty mad. Hey, either of you have a gun?"

    Longbow reaches behind his back and pulls one from his waistband. "Yeah, totally."

    "ICER?" she asks.

    He hands Elise a pistol. "Pfft, no."

    Elise slowly nods. "O...Okay. Alright. Let's go."

    "I have taser arrows for non-lethal,” he explains. “The gun is for if shit goes sideways."

    "It's fine. It's fine."

    Wolverine looks at Elise. "Kid, do you really want to go non-lethal on the guy who eats hearts?"

    "I've never killed anyone before, is all! I just shot a guy in the dick once!"

    Wolverine sighs. "Alright, well, the first time is heavy. Just shoot him in the dick and I'll do the rest, okay?"

    "Nice," Elise grins. "We're going to get along famously."

    Longbow squints. "Shooting people in the dick is fucked up, Elise."

    "It's funny."

    Longbow grimaces.

    "C'mon, you'll see,” she says. “You'll laugh when Kraven's like...oh no! My dick!"

    Wolverine looks at Longbow. "He's a cannibal. It'll be a little funny, bub."

    "Dude was talkin' about eating my heart like he was writing his Tinder profile. Dude had at least half a chub while talking about chewing down on my organs."

    Bob shudders. "Okay, okay, now I just want to murder this guy, let's just go."

    Elise trudges off through the snow, pulling her coat tightly around her and keeping her senses at maximum.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    Behemoth wakes up under a waterfall, in his Destroyer armor, the water pouring over his metal frame. He sits up. "Ugh, well at least I'm not in lava."

    "Hey!" He hears a woman yelling. The voice is familiar? Not someone he knows especially well, but he's heard it before. She crawls down the rocks towards Michael. It's Scarlet Witch. "Hey!"

    "Hey, you okay?" he asks.

    "Yeah, yeah I'm good. I've met up with Stark, he's flying around looking for other people." She gives Michael the comm frequency that she and Stark are using.

    Michael programs it in his comm. "I gotta say, this is some next-level weird, even for me."

    "...yeah, I've seen some crazy stuff since joining the Ultimates but this is....this is something.” She looks around. "I don't think this is an actual planet, you know? I don't believe this is a real place, with a functioning ecosystem. I think this only exists for this reason. Nothing here makes sense."

    Michael looks around and sees the floating islands. "Yeah, this place is fucky."

    "It's like... Disneyland,” she says. “Everything is fake."

    Tony Stark lands next to them. "Hey now, I'm a primary stockholder in Disney and I won't hear anyone besmirching the fine name of Disneyland." Stark says with a smile as his visor flips open. "Hey Mike, how was the big metal nap?"

    "Michael, and it was fine. See anything from up there?"

    "Rocks and trees and rocks and trees," Stark says. "We found you like two hours ago, we just didn't have a good way to wake you up. Scarlet here figured out you weren't dead with her mind-powers but otherwise, you were gonna wake up when you did and no snooze alarm in the multiverse was changing that."

    "Well I'm glad you guys found me," Michael says.

    Stark laughs. "Buddy, we're glad we found you, the way Thor talks you up if we run into some of those bozos it's gonna be a lot of you with us clapping our hands on the side and cheering."

    Michael smirks. "Just another day at the office. We should move and be ready for some of these bozos to try ambush us."

    Stark nods. "Agreed. You can fly, right? Feel it's safe enough to give Wanda a ride? I feel a lot safer if we're all in the air."

    "Yeah, I can fly. Wanda feel free to hop on my back."

    Wanda nods. "I can slow my fall if something happens." She hops on.

    "Cool. Let's go Ducks!" Michael lifts off.

    Tony snickers and takes off after him.

    g3xuawl.png

    Victorious, Mr. Fantastic, and Clay Quartermain move through the mists of Battleworld.
    They come upon the energy pattern Vlad had detected earlier.

    FfLx5OLh.jpg

    "Fascinating," Reed says, examining the glowing energy arch.

    "Indeed." Vlad examines the artifact. It doesn't appear to be a fold-gate, at least not like the ones he has seen. But it does appear to be some kind of portal. Vlad notices that the rocks around the staircase and pillars start....floating.

    As if gravity for them has stopped functioning.

    Reed looks at the stones. "...oh no."

    9S61nOMl.png

    qlGmSdP.pngGraviton
    WR4q7EBl.jpg
    Real name: Franklin Hall
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Franklin Hall can mentally control the fundamental force of gravity itself. He is one of the most powerful and dangerous individuals on Earth.

    Dr. Franklin Hall was a scientist for Reed Richards’ Future Foundation. Working on discovery of a theoretical particle he calls “Gravitonium,” Dr. Hall’s work was going to be shut down by Richards out of concern that if truly discovered and harnessed, Gravitonium would be too dangerous to the world.

    Dr. Hall rejected this, and continued his work. He discovered what he claimed to be “Gravitonium” and subjected himself to “Gravitic Waves” to give him mastery of gravity.

    Calling himself Graviton, Dr. Hall attacked the Future Foundation and attempted to kill Richards. The Fantastic Four defeated Graviton, one of the few instances where Dr. Richards and his group openly combated an extranormal threat. He escaped afterwards, however, as Reed had no way to contain his abilities and was unwilling to terminate Dr. Hall.

    Graviton was later defeated by the combined forces of the Avengers, and is currently incarcerated by SHIELD. Analysis by SHIELD SCI-TEC has determined that the way Dr. Hall modified himself with “Gravitonium” has caused significant mental illness. Psychiatric counselling and medication has dramatically improved Dr. Hall’s rehabilitation, but he remains under the tightest possible security.

    "RICHARDS!"

    Vlad holds up his gauntleted hands. "Graviton, you must listen! You have enormous power, help us defeat Kang and these Beyonders. Richards is not your enemy here, they are! Let us not submit to their judgments!" Vlad looks to Clay and Richards for affirmation.

    "The Son of Doom!" Graviton intones, his voice echoing. "Your father said you might propose this kind of alliance. I'll agree to it, if Richards will agree."

    Vlad cocks his head at Graviton's words, but looks to Reed. "We must not play their game," he says.

    Reed looks at Vlad, his face the same impossible-to-read mask as always. "I agree."

    "He agrees!" Vlad calls upward.

    Graviton lands in front of the portal. "Follow." He steps through the portal.

    Clay looks at Vlad. "Hang on. The way he talked it was like Doom was here and he's working with them. I didn't see Doom on the platform. You didn't either. You even called Kang out on it."

    Victorious nods. "Indeed. I will question Graviton on this further, but for now we should follow. If he wanted to do battle he would have not listened to my words. He is a puppet of these beings as much as we are."

    Clay nods. "As long as we're on the same page."

    "Of course, Director. All of us," Vlad says, looking at Reed.

    Reed sighs.. "We can't beat Graviton. Not the three of us. Even if I wanted this fight, which I don't, it's a losing fight. Let's go."

    The three men step through the portal.

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

    Machine Man, Namor, and the Hulk wander through the arid steppes of Battleworld.

    While scouting the terrain, Miles hears a woman screaming for help. "Shit," Miles says to Namor and Hulk. "Watch my back. I'll go find them." He takes off in the direction of the voice.

    It's coming from down a small crevasse between two of the rocky steppes. Miles can't identify the voice. It's not someone from STRIKE.

    He stops outside the entrance to the crevasse and scans it. His infrared sensors pick up a woman; her leg is caught deep in the rocks—buried, it looks like. She's struggling to free herself.

    He doesn’t have a visual ID; it’s not one of his STRIKE teammates. Possibly Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, or Spider-Woman? Although Spider-Woman has super strength.

    "Ma'am. MA'AM," Miles' amplified voice calls out. "I'm here to help. Who are you? Where are you?" He's feigning ignorance, just in case. He saw who was on that other platform.

    A frustrated grunt comes from within. "It's Romanov. I'm stuck." She starts banging a rock. "Can you hear me?"

    "Coming!" Miles zooms toward her.

    He swings around the corner, and sees the woman with her ankle caught in the rocks.

    iDyaaD2l.jpg

    She smiles.

    "FFF -" he starts to say, raising his repulsor to fire.

    "Hello,” Lorelei says sweetly. “Stop right there."

    Miles only has an instant. He doesn’t have enough time to aim and fire at her.

    But he does have enough time to do something else.

    He points the repulsor at himself and fires. As he loses consciousness, the last thing he hears is "MOTHERFU-....!"

    g3xuawl.png

    Wolverine and Sensate are on Kraven's trail.

    Between the two of them, Kraven has basically zero hope of losing them. The two work in tandem; where one doesn't have a detail the other fills that information in. Longbow just follows, bewildered.

    Elise finds herself enjoying the partnership. Wolverine seems to be immediately respectful towards Elise, despite just meeting her. Despite calling her "kid," he takes her abilities seriously, listens to her input, and lets her take the lead.

    PHU1KZN.png
    A recurring theme of Wolverine stories for, like, 40 years has been him serving as a gruff but loveable mentor, guardian, and father figure to a succession of young women, from Kitty Pryde to Jubilee to Magma. I think lots of writers have realized over the years that pairing someone kind of taciturn and grim with someone bubbly and talkative is a good chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination.

    "Alright, Kraven..." Elise stops and presses her hand against the ground, sniffing the air. "Where are you, buddy?"

    BFsCeNqh.jpg

    The trio come into a valley, and come upon an archway crackling with energy.

    "...Well." It appears to be some kind of portal, but to Elise it doesn't feel like a fold-gate. "...This isn't the way home,” she says. “It's the way to somewhere, I know that much."

    As the group moves towards the portal, Elise instinctively motions for them to stop. She spots razor-thin wire all over the ground. Trip-lines, scattered around in a mesh, attached to mines of some kind. Kraven has set traps.

    Elise makes a sharp hissing noise. "Guess he doesn't need me in one piece, huh? ...I don't want to try to disarm these."

    "Let me." Longbow moves up slowly. "I actually have a fair bit of demolitions expertise."

    Elise nods, stepping back. She lifts her gun. "I'm watching your back."

    He nods and moves carefully up to try to disarm the mines and clear a path through the trip lines.

    Wolverine sniffs. "Hey kid, smell that?" Elise does. Kraven.

    She looks directly at him. He's lying prone on a cliff-face, lining up a crossbow shot. He's going to take a shot at Longbow. He sees Elise looking at him. She has to act quickly.

    "Longbow, MOVE!" Elise fires back. With only a moment to act, she can’t aim for anything fancy; she takes the only shot she can.

    The back of Kraven's head sprays out on the rock face.

    "...He's dead." The body goes limp. Elise stares. "Holy shit. I just. I just killed someone."

    Longbow looks up at the cliff. "Fuckin' nice."

    Elise stares at Longbow, stunned. "I wasn't. I wasn't going to, but he was going to shoot you. I... I didn't have a choice."

    Longbow stands up and looks at Elise "Elise you saved my life. That was your choice. I was going to die. It was him or me."

    Wolverine puts his hand on Elise's shoulder. "That guy was a cannibal, kid. Even if this guy was a piece of shit..." he gestures to Longbow.

    Bob goes "Hey what the fuck, man?"

    "He's not one," Elise murmurs.

    Wolverine continues "He's not a cannibal."

    "Yeah. Yeah. I... I had to do it. I know. Fuck, dude." Elise rummages in her coat for a joint and grumbles when she can't find one. "Okay. Okay. So that's two down."

    Energy bursts from the portal and blasts upward into the air.

    Elise scrambles back. "What -"

    The glow scatters outwards from the sky, forming a dome that drops down to the mountains miles away from them....a dome that begins rapidly closing in on your location.

    Longbow looks at the rapidly advancing energy wall. "Oh are you fucking kidding?"

    "I. I think it's like the Reboot cube." Elise manages. "I...Fuck it, through the portal, NOW." She scrambles up the rocks and flings herself through.

    The other two jump through the portal after her.

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

    MODOC, Blade, and Phoenix are wandering through the swamp.

    "CASTLE!" MODOC screeches.

    41qC5meh.jpg

    A ruined castle is off in the distance.

    "CASTLES ARE GOOD!"

    Julian fixes his gaze on the castle. "What the...?” He feels oddly compelled to see what the deal is.

    "Eurotrash neck-suckers live in castles," Blade grumbles. MODOC sticks out a miniscule tongue at Blade when he's not looking.

    "As opposed to what, cool, hip New York necksuckers?" Julian asks.

    "Yes," Blade says. "They get overpriced condos in the Village. And try to gentrify Harlem like assholes."

    The three move through the swamp towards the castle. They reach the dilapidated entrance of the castle. As they approach, they hear a loud blast, and see a flash of coruscating energy from deep in the castle’s interior.

    Blade puts his hand on the handle of his sword.

    Julian creeps forward, the others behind him. MODOC actually lands, disengaging his hover drive to reduce all noise and light.

    They see the supervillain Graviton...being followed by Vlad, Reed, and Clay.

    The other three don't look like prisoners?

    "This way." Graviton says to them as they continue to follow.

    Julian contacts Vlad on the comm. "Hey Vlad. Who's your buddy?"

    "Phoenix! Where are you? I'm with Clay and others."

    "I think I got visual of you. You're with...Richards and...is that Graviton?" Julian waves. MODOC waves too. "I've got MODOC, Blade, and a captive with me. Some clown, calls himself Mysterio."

    Vlad turns and catches sight of Julian and the others. "Director, our team members," Vlad says, pointing out the group. MODOC reengages his hover drive and floats over.

    Graviton spins around. "They are allies, Graviton," Vlad says.

    Phoenix strolls up. "Gentlemen." Graviton looks skeptical, but makes no move to stop him. Blade walks over too, eyeballing Graviton.

    "Follow, he is on our side. We're going to try to stop this game." Vlad gestures to Graviton, nodding to Julian and the rest. He points at Mysterio. "That's him?”

    "That is," Julian nods.

    Graviton answers. "Quentin Beck. Mysterio. One of ours. Thank you for not killing him. Mercy will go a long way towards an alliance." Graviton turns to lead the group further into the ruined castle.

    He continues. "When we were gathered up by Kang, your father immediately concealed himself so as to gain a tactical advantage. Kang told us after he dispatched you that he would be giving our side a 'head-start' of several hours, because we were fewer in number. Balancing the handicap, so to speak."

    "My Father is here, then,” Vlad says. “I knew it."

    Graviton nods. "Originally, our placement was randomized, but your father managed to figure out that there is a portal network connecting Battleworld, and made this a central base of operations so that we could coordinate our efforts and redistribute our forces more effectively.

    "We couldn't predict who would be in each region, but once we had some degree of intelligence on the subject, we sent the best people for the job. Or, the ones who wanted it the most." He looks at Richards.

    Vlad nods slowly. "And that's where you are taking us?"

    "I'm taking you to see him," Graviton says.

    Victorious nods. "Good."

    The villain opens a door to what was once a great hall, now in ruins.

    Uj4BjqQ.jpg

    "Hello, my son."

    "Father." Vlad bows. Clay's jaw tightens.

    Reed looks at Doom. "Victor."

    Doom nods at him. "Reed. I'd offer you a seat, or a drink, but this place is unfortunately lacking in any sort of proper accoutrements for receiving guests."

    "I knew you had to be here as well, Father,” Vlad says. “I raised this to Kang before the battle."

    "I saw."

    Vlad nods. "Of course."

    Doom turns to face the gathering. "We have much to discuss, about these interlopers who think that they can take my world from me and make us dance as puppets for their amusement."

    Reed clears his throat. "Our world, Victor."

    Doom tilts his head. "I'm sorry?"

    "Our world."

    Doom chuckles. "Of course it is, Reed."

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

    Behemoth and Iron Man are flying over the floating jungle, with Scarlet Witch riding on Michael’s back.

    A giant rock soars at Behemoth! Without time to dodge, he turns his armored body to put it between the boulder and Wanda.

    Except it wasn't a rock.

    It was the Juggernaut.

    Juggernaut grabs Behemoth and begins repeatedly headbutting him, denting his armor.

    Tony spins around. "Oh shit!"

    Michael opens his faceplates and lets the Odinforce boil out at full power. The blast hurls Juggernaut off him, but drains so much of his stored energy that he has to land.

    Juggernaut hits the ground with a crash, his helmet smoking but...otherwise with no visible ill effect. Which has never happened to Michael before. Usually he...destroys things.

    Wanda jumps off Behemoth's back, touching the side of her temple and staring at Juggernaut. "....nnnngh! Something's blocking me! I can't get into his mind!"

    Stark lands too. "It's his goofy helmet! It blocks psionic pow-....." He gets rammed into a rock face.

    Not by the Juggernaut, though.

    Ah8aRVR.jpg

    "......oooowwww...."

    Michael turns his attention to the big rhino-like newcomer and blasts him. Unfortunately, there’s no time to dial down the force from his assault on Juggernaut.

    The Rhino is gone.[/]i Only smoking fragments of his armor remain.

    "Holy Christ!" Tony yelps.

    PHU1KZN.png
    This is, or was, the Rhino, another Spider-Man villain - a Soviet agent who was given super-strength by Warsaw Pact scientists and fitted with a thick, rhino-like super-suit to make him incredibly tough.

    Juggernaut looks at the ashen spot that was once Rhino and turns to face Behemoth. "Well, you're not an Avenger, are ya?"

    "Nope,” Behemoth rumbles. “I don't play by their rules."

    Juggernaut makes a time-out motion with his hands.

    "Wha-?" Michael tilts his head.

    "Naw, mate. Naw. Fuck that," Juggernaut says. "I was in for a good slap and tickle but naw."

    "Huh. Not that this makes us friends or anything, but seems like we're all being played here. What's say we find these guys and put a hurt on 'em?"

    He nods. "Sounds right by me."

    Tony is doing a double-take. "Did.... did that just happen. Did you just...did you just make an ally by murdering his friend?"

    Michael nods. "It's called diplomacy."

    "It's called black ops and it's why Fury wouldn't tell me about it," Tony scowls.

    Juggernaut laughs.

    A pulse of energy blasts up into the sky from about a quarter-mile away.

    "Oh, bollocks." Juggernaut looks at the rest. "That means you won this round. We gotta get outta here, this whole place is gonna turn into a fried egg. C'mon, we'll go see the big boss."

    Tony still looks confused "We...won? Is this happening? What happened?"

    Michael looks at Juggernaut suspiciously but follows. Wanda gently takes Tony by the shoulder and leads him along. "It's easier to not think so hard about such things, Mr. Stark."

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

    Elise, Wolverine, and Bob pop through the portal.

    They're standing in the ruins of a castle. It stinks. They're in a swamp.

    "...I hate castles," Elise scowls.

    Longbow nods. "Can't say I'm a fan. Not a lot of fond memories of castles."

    "Hey, new place though. We may have some friends." Elise opens her STRIKE comm line. "Hello? This is Sensate. Is anyone out there yet?"

    "Sensate, we hear you,” Vladimir says.

    "Vlad!"

    "Phoenix here. We hear you, Sensate."

    "Where are you?" She can smell them. There's people she knows here. Vlad, Julian, Reed, Clay, Blade...MODOC.

    "In the main hall. With Clay, Richards and others...." Vlad says.

    Elise yelps in relief and excitement and sprints for the Great Hall.

    Vlad turns and begins to walk to the hall entrance. "More of our allies have arrived."

    Doom taps his finger tips together. "Hrm. I take it that means my people have lost."

    Elise rushes into the hall, followed by Wolverine and Longbow. She throws herself at Vlad for a hug. "I'm alive!"

    He catches her, hugs her back, and sets her down. "I am glad to see this."

    Doom looks at Elise.

    "Clay! Mr. Richards! And --" Elise stops and stares at Doom. "...Oh."

    "Hello."

    "Hi," she says nervously.

    "I'm Vladimir's father."

    "I know. I'm, uh. His best friend."

    "I am aware.” Doom inclines his head slightly.

    "It's... nice to meet you?" she offers.

    "It is indeed."

    Vlad turns to them. "Father, she's very important to me."

    "I am aware, Vladimir."

    Elise looks around. "Oh. Oh. I didn't know we were doing the alliance thing, I'm real sorry, I - I had to - I had to kill Kraven. I had to. It was me or him."

    "Kraven disobeyed my orders,” Doom says. “It is a good thing you killed him."

    Vlad nods "Indeed."

    "...We are doing the alliance thing?" she asks Vlad.

    He nods. "Yes but some of our people are still unaccounted for."

    "The Chief. Michael," she says.

    Doom continues. "I expressly stated that all combat was to be non-lethal. Kraven flouted my orders and pursued his own agenda out of his own personal urges. I considered it a waste of resources to pursue the matter when I learned that Mr. Childan and the individual known as the Wolverine would also be present, as I presumed he would not survive the encounter."

    "I shot him," Elise mutters. "He was trying to set up a sniper shot, I had a pistol, I... I took him out. One and done."

    Vlad looks at Longbow. Longbow shrugs. "She saved my life boss, Kraven had me dead to rights."

    Vlad nods and eyes Wolverine up and down. "Thank you for helping my friends."

    Wolverine nods "No problem, bub."

    A muffled blast heralds another portal opening elsewhere in the castle.

    "So, let me guess. We're doing the whole team up and ruin the game by taking out the puppet masters?" Elise asks.

    "Correct," Vlad says.

    Doom nods at Elise. "Very astute.”

    "Yeah, okay," she says.

    A muffled blast heralds the opening of another portal elsewhere in the castle.

    Elise jerks her head towards the source of the noise. "Uh. Might be the Chief. Might be Michael. I'm gonna go check it out?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Two newcomers stride into the great hall. One is the skull-masked man in the black cloak from earlier, with the shield and swords. He's carrying Banner's unconscious body over his shoulder.

    The other is Lorelei, who is carrying Miles’ and Namor's unconscious bodies over her shoulders.

    "The Chief!" Elise stares. "Is he okay?!"

    Lorelei gently puts them down. "He's fine. Crafty bastard knocked himself out rather than let me take control. Clever!" She smiles with...admiration?

    Elise grins. "Nice."

    "But Namor and the green monster still fell for it anyway. Hulk came looking for Miles, and even with all his rage, welll....." She giggles and winks.

    Elise’s brow furrows. "Are you...are you making an innuendo?"

    Lorelei laughs. "No, honey, I'm just saying he got suckered with my powers, relax. Then Taskmaster here took down Namor and well, that was that." Taskmaster nods.

    Lorelei looks at Doom. "Took em down with no killing, just like you asked."

    "Okay. So. I'm... not the smartest person in the room. What, exactly, is the plan." Elise looks around the room. "Besides 'win.' That's not a plan, that's an 'objective.'"

    Doom looks at Elise. "That is an important distinction, yes."

    Elise takes Miles from Lorelei and slaps him lightly on the cheeks. "Chief. Chief. Wake up."

    MODOC floats over. "MODOC HELPS!" He blasts Miles with a green beam from the energy projector in his giant forehead.

    Miles is revived. Elise leans over him. "Okay, Chief, when you wake up, you're - you're gonna see some stuff that surprises you."

    Doom claps his gauntlets together, commanding the room’s attention. "I've learned of a flaw in Battleworld's basic design. You see, this is the central hub of the portal network, and I believe it was designed to herd people here for a "final battle" against... me."

    Elise looks offended. "...Seriously? I would have gotten the shit kicked out of me. How is that even fair?"

    "It's not, honestly,” Doom admits. “It's horrendously lopsided in my favor." Vlad nods. Reed scowls.

    Elise lifts her hands at Reed in an appeasing gesture. "It's true. I'm a hundred pounds. He could just hold out one of his hands and press it against my forehead and I'd be fucked."

    There's a sound of another portal opening.

    Miles' eyes flutter and he sees a halo of pink and green hair. He begins hoisting himself up on one elbow. "Elise? Cool, you res...cued....." He stops and stares.

    A loud, boisterous Cockney accent approaches from a hallway. "Right, so, when you see the boss, don't freak out, eh? We're all good here, the whole plan was to stick it to the stupid bastards who tried to make us dance like monkeys."

    Juggernaut walks into the room with Behemoth, Scarlet Witch, and a scraped and battered Iron Man.

    "Michael!" Elise brightens, then her brow furrows. "Wait. STRIKE-1 is all here? None of you saw Crystalia?"

    "Glad to see you guys," Michael says.

    Miles scrambles to his feet and looks around. "Does someone want to tell me what's going on? Where's Ca...Captain Marvel?"

    “We do not know,” Vlad says. “This is everyone who has arrived so far.”

    Doom speaks up. "Some of your friends are still, no doubt, either wandering Battleworld or engaged in combat with their opponents from my forces. Non-lethal combat, I gave express orders."

    "Yeah, but Kraven..." Elise says.

    Doom looks at Juggernaut. "Where's Rhino?"

    Juggernaut points a thumb at Michael and pushes his hands outwards from his face while making "bwwwwwaaaaaaam!" noises.

    Doom nods slowly. "I see. Disappointing."

    Michael says nothing, not feeling like he's gotta justify his actions to fuckin' Doom.

    Doom shrugs. "Ah, well, couldn't be avoided I suppose. You had no way of knowing." Vlad nods in agreement. "As I was explaining, the intention for the design of this place seemed to be that those of you on your side who survived and succeeded in your initial encounters would use the portals to be herded towards a final confrontation with me.

    "Perhaps you were intended to rally your forces in one final pitched battle? I am uncertain. Regardless, this entire design has exposed a flaw, which is that I know how to access their portal network.

    "Kang may consider himself a master of time, but I am Doom, and in addition to being the most brilliant scientist on Earth" - everyone present can practically hear Reed and Tony simultaneously roll their eyes - "I am also a master sorcerer. I am going to rip this entire nonsensical contest asunder, and take the fight directly to Kang."

    "...So it is a contest, but you're sure that people who die here are dead?" Elise asks urgently. "Like, dead. Forever. On all planes."

    "No," Doom says.

    "Oh my god Elise are you still hung up on that?!" Miles doesn't know that Elise has killed someone.

    "I shot Kraven in the fuckin' face, Chief!"

    "Oh. Yeah, okay." Miles' bafflement softens. "We'll talk about it later, privately," he says.

    "You saw Kang's power to reverse time on a whim at the personal level,” Doom says. “I believe it is within his power to undo the deaths that have occurred within this place."

    "You did what you needed to, Sensate," Vlad says.

    Elise slowly nods. She looks...relieved? Annoyed? Worried? "Alright."

    Doom continues. "I requested that my allies not kill you not out of some false moral impetus but practical necessity. None of your deaths would be permanent anyway, but your assistance would be useful in taking the fight to Kang."

    "If I had a better mastery of the Time Arcana I could stop his powers..." Vlad muses.

    Doom looks at Vlad, whose gaze drops from him. "Where are you...learning Time....never mind,” he waves a dismissing hand. “Task at hand."

    "I don't know what you expect me to do against Kang,” Elise protests. “I have the power of good smell and gun."

    "You would be surprised how useful the capabilities of an individual who can dodge bullets is in a firefight, Ms. Arnell."

    "...You know my -" she stares.

    “Yes. I am Doom."

    Elise is starting to understand Reed Richards a lot better.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "At this point, I feel I have sufficient allies gathered for what I need to do. I could continue to wait, but then I risk...individuals showing up who would question the validity of my plan, and I can ill afford that noise."

    Reed looks at Doom. "Victor, I don't recall any of us save perhaps your son actually agreeing to this leg of your plan."

    Doom steeples his fingers. "Perhaps, Reed. But do you disagree? Do you really want to fight me, here? With say, Juggernaut, Lorelei, and Taskmaster? Because that's what you'll need to do to actually win this absurd contest. I'm offering you a chance to cut the Gordian Knot, Richards. Grab the blade."

    "If it were not for my Father’s plan perhaps fewer of us would be standing here, Richards." Vlad gestures at Iron Man and the others.

    Elise raises her hand. "Mr. Richards, I don't mean any offense, but there's still a lot of us out there. If we start shit now, there's... a very real chance that trickles down to the people who are trying to get to us. Susan. Crystalia.”

    Tony looks at everyone else. "How about a vote, yeah?"

    Vlad looks at Doom. Doom shrugs at Vlad. "They are very fond of democracy."

    Vlad shakes his head. "No. No, we have no time for this. We have a chance to strik--"

    Clay speaks up. "I agree with the plan." Elise's shoulders sag with relief; she was clearly worried about that.

    Tony stares at Clay. Scarlet Witch nods at Clay. "I agree."

    Wolverine raises his hand. "I'm in. I don't like being anybody's puppet."

    Juggernaut attempts to vote in favor of the plan, and Doom shoots him a look. Juggernaut nods and goes "Oh riiiiiight" and taps the side of his helmet.

    Bob grumbles "I abstain."

    Miles clears his throat. "What is the plan, exactly? Maybe we can take out Kang. Sure. He talks like a dickhead and says 'Behold.' That means he's overconfident. But say we deal with him - what about the powers behind him? The Council and the Parliament?"

    "Maybe don't shittalk the whole 'behold' thing, Chief, while we're in Doom's hall," Elise says. "That's kind of his thing."

    Doom looks at Miles. "Oh, I have my theories, as I'm sure Reed has his. We can sit down and have a talk about it. Perhaps a conference call with Director Fury? That was enjoyable." He leans back and laces his gauntleted fingers together..

    "You have theories,” Miles says. “Kang has their actual backing. Who's to say they won't just materialize a few hundred robot legions to deal with us? Or drop us into a star?"

    Vlad steps forward. "My Father will not betray us, Machine Man."

    Doom clicks his teeth, which is a weird sound to hear from behind his mask, "Mr. Mason, there's no guarantee they won't immediately declare war on our entire universe. But as the poet Milton once wrote, better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

    "That's..." Elise squints. "Kind of dumb of Milton, but whatever."

    "Milton?" Vlad asks. He creates a subroutine to investigate the works of Milton and where the quote comes from.

    Reed looks at Doom. "Victor, you're quoting Satan."

    "I'm quoting Milton."

    "You're quoting Milton writing dialogue for Satan."

    Miles laughs. "I think Khan or one of the Klingons in Star Trek quotes it." Clay nods solemnly at him.

    "This is awesome,” Elise says. “When Kang checks in on us and catches us plotting and puts a foot up our collective ass, he'll be like. ‘Oh, wow, Milton. That's super fascinating, I'm going to spare alla y'all.’"

    Doom grumbles. "I agree with Ms. Arnell, this is a colossal waste of time. Those who wish to proceed, follow. Those who wish to stand opposed, stand opposed." He stands up and clenches his fist.

    Elise shrugs and follows Doom.

    Tony looks around. "I'm surrounded by super-villains and black ops spooks. This is a nightmare I can't wake up from."

    Elise turns around and perks up. "You think I'm a black ops spook?"

    "You shot a guy in the face!" he says.

    "It was a moral event horizon for me! I did the thousand yard stare!" she fires back.

    "I just shot myself in the head to avoid being mind-controlled, man,” Miles adds. “We're all having a day. I was really looking forward to Ultimate, too."

    "Your teammate turned a guy to ashes right in front of me!" Tony continues.

    Elise stops. "Okay that's Michael though."

    Michael points to himself. "Yeah. Hello, Destroyer. Get your balls out of your purse, Anthony."

    Elise stares at him. "Jesus, Michael! Okay, you know what, I shot a dude in the face, but don't affiliate me with that shit."

    Elise notices that Clay had to fight hard not to laugh. He didn't. But it was a fight.

    Doom leads the group of....people into another chamber of the castle.

    He explains the plan. "I have been searching through the systems I have been able to access. Battleworld is not a world at all. This isn't a planet, it's a space station.

    "And it is powered by a device, called the Cosmic Cube."

    "...Huh. Must be pretty powerful." Elise glances at Vlad.

    "This device forms the basis of Kang's power, and it is not possible to engage Kang directly and succeed without first severing his connection to the device," Doom says. "My suggestion is to form two teams.”

    Reed narrows his eyes "Your suggestion, Victor?"

    Doom nods. "But of course, Reed. We're working together."

    "Oh my God will you two just make out," Elise hisses.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Hey, Julian?" Miles whispers sotto voce.

    "Yo."

    Miles taps his temple. "Conference call. With our team."

    Hey, Julian announces to the organic members of STRIKE.

    Machine Man begins. I've run the numbers and there is exactly a zero fucking percent chance that Doom is not going to try and grab something called a 'Cosmic Cube.'

    A strong sense of unease filters over Elise's connection to the "conference call."

    Agreed, Michael thinks.

    Elise responds. So, fun fact, did you know that there's also a zero fucking percent chance of us stepping to Doom and walking away with all our limbs attached?

    Doom continues. "I would not suggest something so vulgar and untrustworthy as separating my people and your people into separate teams. Instead, I would suggest something more... mixed."

    Not if we get it first, Miles thinks.

    This gives Elise pause. ...Hm.

    Doom continues. "There are 16 of us, so I have composed two teams of 8, with one team led by me, and the other team led by Reed."

    Sensate’s hand shoots up. "Can I lead a team?"

    Four people simultaneously say "No."

    Oh my god is this just a big dick-waving spectacle he's arranged? Julian asks. Incredible.

    Miles shakes his head softly. By pissing Reed and Stark off, he's keeping them off balance and probably wants to keep them from thinking about this. So it's up to us to grab it and play keep-away until we can give it to Reed, or Strange if he shows up. One of the grown-ups.

    Or Clay. Elise adds. Or me!

    Or Clay, yeah.

    "These are my suggested rosters...." Doom holographically displays two lists of names.

    "Should we be...beholding right now?" Miles asks.

    Doom nods.

    ATTACK TEAM DOOM
    Doctor Doom
    Sensate
    Wolverine
    Victorious
    Clay Quartermain
    Behemoth
    Graviton
    Phoenix
    Machine Man
    Lorelei
    Hulk

    ATTACK TEAM FANTASTIC
    Mr. Fantastic
    MODOC
    Blade
    Mysterio
    Scarlet Witch
    Iron Man
    Juggernaut
    Longbow
    Taskmaster
    Namor

    "Attack Team Doom will be going after the Cube, Attack Team Fantastic will be going directly after Kang."

    Elise smiles brightly at Reed. "Look, Mr. Richards! You got an actual team name! You guys are getting along!"

    Reed slowly looks at Elise. "Doctor."

    "Doctor what?"

    Doom sighs at Elise.

    Elise grins. Well, we'll have access to the Cube. she thinks.

    Doom looks at everyone. "Are we ready? Any arguments about team placement?"

    "No," Elise says.

    Machine Man gives Lorelei the side-eye. "Eh." She gives Miles a little smirk.

    Doom nods at the murmurs of assent. "I know how to open portals that go where they need, but not precisely what is on the other side. It had been my intention to send some of my people as scouting parties but....that had been difficult to compel."

    Doom, with a gesture, opens two portals.

    He looks at Reed. "Your team goes that way, and awaits...chaos. You will know Kang loses the base of his power when it happens, and that will be the signal to make your move.

    "Attack Force Doom, go." Doom leads Freedom Force and their team through the other portal.

    PDKpJsK.png

    MsAnthropy
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Wait why'd they put Vlad on the wrong team

    sig.gif
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Note how Doom stacked the deck with most of the powerhouses on his end. Vlad is absolutely where Doom wants him, not on a Suicide mission vs. Kang.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    MsAnthropy
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Matev wrote: »
    Note how Doom stacked the deck with most of the powerhouses on his end. Vlad is absolutely where Doom wants him, not on a Suicide mission vs. Kang.

    Oh I meant why is he Council and not Parliament

    sig.gif
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Kang's vetting process may leave something to be desired :razz:

    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 5
    I meant to add this to one of the commentary boxes and forgot, so I'll note it here - the "cold open" with Elise running through the snow wasn't a bit of movie magic on my part; the session really began that way and stuff happened in exactly the order you have read. We really did think we were showing up for a big beach party session and suddenly we're seeing stuff about Elise being hunted by Scorpion and meeting Wolverine.

    This got mentioned in the SE++ roleplaying games thread when it happened, a year ago or whatever, and a couple dudes there were like BWUH? BUT HOW? and it basically transpired that they thought this was sinister Railroading taking place and someone wondered why the players "would just go along with it."

    And it's like, I dunno, man, because we're not shitheads? Yeah, Cass could theoretically have had Elise pull out a gun and shoot herself in the head and that sure would have taught our GM a lesson for trying to do something interesting with the format, but...why? It's not like Elise saw her future in a Palantir or something; it's not in-character knowledge, it exists purely to create an out of game effect (make us the players go "whoa wtf :surprised: " ) and trying to stop it happening could only be for purely out of game reasons too (metagaming, and to be a dick).

    Also obviously the other reason we went along with it is because we're bought and paid for by the Narrative Gaming Conspiracy

    Jacobkosh on
    FencingsaxMatev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    "This is what happens, what do you do?" seems pretty reasonable a question for a GM to ask a player, particularly after a whole season building trust

    sig.gif
    FencingsaxJacobkoshMatev
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Matev wrote: »
    Note how Doom stacked the deck with most of the powerhouses on his end. Vlad is absolutely where Doom wants him, not on a Suicide mission vs. Kang.

    Oh I meant why is he Council and not Parliament

    Kang doesn't want to have to DM for a split party, duh. Oh, wait, he fracked that up by splitting all the party.

    "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
    JacobkoshMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "This is what happens, what do you do?" seems pretty reasonable a question for a GM to ask a player, particularly after a whole season building trust

    I think trust is the lacking element for so many gamers. They just assume that the GM is their enemy who's out to murder them, and the GM, in turn, can't trust that the players aren't going to murder each other or try to wreck his campaign for lulz.

    And it just leads to this giant arms race of rules designed to put padded gloves on everyone to minimize the amount of harm they can do to each other and it's like...you could cut 80% of this stuff by just asking people to talk to each other like adults.

    FencingsaxMsAnthropyRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    QEhXtWx.png

    OYovhYWh.jpg

    With a roiling burst of energy, a doorway opens, and two distant places briefly become one.

    dtbrvRPh.jpg

    Attack Force Doom steps through the portal into a hallway. There's a hexagonal window at the end of the hallway. There’s space on the other side. This is some kind of space station.

    Vlad turns in place, scanning everything. He senses tremendous energy flowing through the cube. Everywhere. Through the walls, the floors, everything.

    "I hate the cosmos,” Elise grouses. “I hate space. I hate the majesty of creation."

    "Space is..." Julian trails off for a moment. "I think I like the idea of it better."

    "You think space is cool cause you got high and read a Twitter post about Neil DeGrasse Tyson some time but then you look at Shuma-Gorath and G--" Elise glances at Doom and cuts herself. "Guys like Eternity and it's no bueno."

    "Yeah, no kidding," Julian says. "I mean, I would say I have more than a passing interest in space, but… Yeah. We're into some heavy shit." He trails off as he gazes outside.

    Miles is eyeing their surroundings nervously. "Keep your head on a swivel," he murmurs. "Be ready for anything."

    Doom looks around and finds a console. It's inactive, but when he taps at it, it turns on and holographically displays some kind of alien...language? Symbols? It's difficult to understand. Michael stares at the symbols, trying to see if the Allspeak will translate them, but to no avail; they defy translation.

    Doom looks at the group. "I am unfamiliar with this system. With time, I am certain I could decipher it, but time is not something we have in abundance. My son..." he nods at Vladimir and gestures to the console.

    Vlad steps over to the console. He looks at Doom and the rest, then he places his hand over the interface. Tiny bolts of energy shoot out from his fingertips into the console.

    A tidal wave of information swamps Vlad beneath it. The alien language isn't even a language, not in the sense of how any sentient organic being he's encountered communicates. It's more like code, like how a machine communicates, abstract concepts and pure ideas communicated through mathematical symbology. He's having a hard time deciphering it; it's using cryptography that is at the upper end of his ability to calculate just for what feels like simple sentences.

    But he's able to discern a great deal without necessarily understanding the language. This is, indeed, a space station. A massive one, at that, larger than anything he's seen or heard of. The Cosmic Cube isn't just an artifact; this station is the Cube, or at the very least integrated directly into it.

    The station is cube-shaped, with each side being 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers, around half the length of Manhattan. The internal structure suggests a city, although Vlad is having a hard time figuring out if it is presently inhabited or if it is abandoned, because his mastery of the language is rudimentary.

    The entire purpose of the Cube seems to be to draw and channel power from a 4-dimensional object that lies at the central core of the station. The most mathematically-analogous concept Vlad could relate it to is a Tesseract, the 4-dimensional equivalent to a cube.

    While Vlad works, Elise nudges Miles and Clay. "I think I should... go for a walk. See what I can figure out, recon-wise."

    Miles nods. "Okay. But be careful."

    Elise can feel the shapes of the Cube. They're...overwhelming. This station is huge, the shapes are strange and painful to look at. It reminds her of how it felt to look at the Council Executor. Probing deeper could be hazardous.

    Elise pushes on.

    She can feel paths, roadways, highways, skyways, buildings, things that feel familiarly like a city.... but other things. Things and angles that don't make sense. Folded space that moves in on itself. It's disorienting and strange and nauseating. She feels her knees weaken. She also feels the ebb and flow of energy inside the Cube, leading towards something... she can sense the path.

    She begins vomiting.

    Miles rushes over to Elise. "Are you okay?" Julian snaps out of his reverie for a moment to look at her with concern.

    She staggers away from the group to vomit with a little more privacy. "There's a path -"

    Vlad pulls his hand away from the console. "What is it? What is wrong?"

    "I went for a walk, y'know? Went outside myself." Elise shakes her head, trying to get her head back together. "There's a path, there's something in the middle of this place that's powering it all, and I know how to get there, just - FUCK, that's unpleasant. It's like driving drunk through a house of mirrors, shit."

    "I understand,” Vladimir says. “You must be careful, though. We do not know anything about this place yet. There is indeed a structure that lies within. The Cosmic Cube is the station itself. Perhaps I can try to learn more by entering the system further. I believe this would be less dangerous.” He looks at Doom and back to Elise.

    "Do we have time to keep trying to figure stuff out?" Elise says. "There's another team waiting for us to go."

    "I am unsure," Vlad admits.

    Doom looks at Vlad. "If Ms. Arnell knows of a path to the core, that is likely where we must go, but I would like to know what we must do once we arrive. Vladimir, see what you can find out before we proceed."

    Vlad nods and walks back over to the console.

    "I hate space so much," Elise moans.

    "Do you think there's anyone or... anything watching here? Wandering around, even?" Julian muses.

    "...Why would you say that." Elise glares at him. "Why would you say that?"

    Phoenix throws is hands up in exasperation. "Sorry that I want to be cautious about whatever fucking…entity could show up!"

    "Is this about the big G?" Elise hisses.

    "No, not exactly, but hell, who knows what else there could be fucking about in here."

    The console makes an angry noise and shuts off. "The Cube's systems have locked me out!" Vlad snarls.

    "Oh, fuck. Yeah, speaking of, uh -" Elise can feel something. She pulls her gun. "We have incoming."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Hulk growls. Phoenix's hands begin to glow. Behemoth lets the Odinforce build up behind his mask.

    "Why am I here," Elise groans. "Please tell me I'm gonna wake up on the beach with a bunch of empty bottles next to me..."

    Three entities round the corner of the hallway.

    1Ml0V5Tl.jpg

    Each of them are the size of a man. The ends of their tentacles crackling with electricity where they touch the walls.

    "Oh, this is not okay." Machine Man fires a repulsor blast at one. Beside him, Sensate begins snapping off shots.

    Her shots strike one of the entities in its glowing core. Its energy form shakes and destabilizes. The other two begin glowing red and let out a high-pitched screech that echoes down the hall, and crackle with electricity as they move to engage.

    Machine Man blasts one of them, destroying it.

    "Oh, for --" Phoenix hurls a fireball, but the entity bobs around the fireball and fires an electrical bolt at Julian, scorching him. "Agh!"

    Vlad races to the computer and attempts to regain access. It’s harder, now that the system is on high alert. He ignores the battle around him and focuses on the task.

    Behemoth steps forward and opens his faceplate to blast it, but it ducks beneath his firing arc and slashes at him. Its incorporeal tentacles begin to sink into his armor.

    "I have regained access." Victorious shuts the protocol down, and the entity vanishes.

    Michael shudders as the entity disappears. "Ewwww."

    Elise hunches over, hands on knees. "...I HATE SPACE."

    Julian gingerly nurses his wound. "I'm just surprised I didn't just..." He makes a little "Poof!" gesture.

    Victorious turns to face the group. "The Cube seems to have several failsafes and security measures in place. Gaining more information will be risky and time-consuming." Doom nods at him, and he turns back to the console.

    "Why can't the magical space cube just be easy?" Elise says.

    Holographic shapes and flickers of light play across Vlad’s steel mask as he slowly learns the higher language of the Cube. There is a chamber in the core with two functions: "Attunement" and "Solidification."

    "Solidification" apparently transitions the tesseract core from a 4-dimensional to 3-dimensional state, which allows it to be removed from the Cube and move inside three-dimensional space. This will actually deactivate the Cube and remove its power from it.

    "Attunement" directs the command of the Cube's power to a specific entity across all time and space, allowing that entity alone to use the Cube's power. This entire facility is designed to facilitate that usage and channel it, so that the user does not need to actually have the Cube in their possession to make use of it.

    Once an entity is Attuned, they can leave the Cube and use its power anywhere in the universe, at any point in space and time.

    "Are we good to go?" Elise asks, nervously.

    "I know now what must be done. We have to reach the core. There I can Attune the cube and remove its power from Kang. Then we can end this," Vlad says as he walks away from the console and back to Elise. "Can you lead us there?"

    Elise looks miserable as she glances over her shoulder. "Yeah. Walk in the front with me, Vlad? I'll...sniff us there. I got an idea."

    Elise is both miserable that she's being so publicly competent and useful in front of Doom, and that she's being forced to retrace the path that makes her nauseous.

    As she leads the way, she leans in to Vlad, subvocalizing at a frequency only those sensitive to it can hear: "You missed the conference call, right? Where we go over the plan?"

    "No? We have a plan, I thought? What is wrong?" Vlad responds back in the same frequency.

    Elise glances back. "Can he hear us?" Doom is talking to Graviton about something or another.

    “It is possible," Vlad admits.

    Elise watches them for a moment, and then pulls Vlad up ahead a few more steps. "Miles says we can't let him get the cube."

    "I agree,” Vladimir says. “I will make the correct attunements."

    Elise nods. "Okay. Remember: I got your back."

    Vlad nods. "Always. When I am able to attune to the Cube all of this will be undone. I will prevent any others from taking hold of its power."

    Elise gives Vlad a long, even look, and tilts her head slightly to the side for a moment. Then, she nods. "Yeah. Okay. I trust you." She speaks again at a normal volume: "Ugh. I feel fuckin' car sick. Cube sick?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 6
    The group reaches a massive vaulted chamber, which feels like a city inverted on top of another city. In the distance, they can see the emptiness of space, held at bay by a force-field of some kind.

    ikWsl7sh.jpg

    Glassy sky-ways intersect the space between.
    The group sees a platform floating in front of them, about 25 feet in diameter, running along one of the sky-ways nearby.

    70s9N8Zl.jpg

    It's not entirely clear how solid the sky-ways are. They might be hard light. The platform floats on the sky-way without apparent controls, but it floats sort of like an air-hockey puck. With sufficient telekinesis or gravitic control it wouldn't be difficult to control its direction.

    Elise puts a hand over her mouth and gags. "I do not want to go on that."

    "Is that the way?" Vlad asks.

    "Yeah, this is the right way, or as close to it as we can get right now. This is...like something out of a mid 2000's Sonic game and I hate it. And I don't even remember the last time I got a coupon for all of the hard work I do lately."

    Doom nods at Elise. "Then this is the way we go. Graviton, control our direction as Ms. Arnell points the path." He steps onto the platform. Julian, Michael, and a few others join him.

    Elise stands before the platform, looking hesitant. "Are you sure you guys need me."

    "Like, I can just chill here, and text you guys instructions," she offers. "I have unlimited data."

    Hulk looks at Elise and shakes his head. "NO COVERAGE."

    Elise makes a face and gingerly steps on the platform.

    Miles steps next to Julian and looks at him meaningfully, tapping his temple. Hey. Can you set up a conference call with Clay?

    Julian mentally taps on Clay. Clay. What's your read on the situation?

    Elise holds her arms out as wide as she can for balance, and then nods in a direction. "T-That way."

    The platform begins moving. Doom walks over to Elise. "Ms. Arnell, a word?"

    Elise goes white as she looks up at Doom. "Yeeeeeeeeeees?"

    "I need to make it clear that Kraven and Scorpion acted against my express orders. I had no intention of killing you, and I regret that I lacked the manpower at the time to send anyone to rectify the situation when he defied me. I could not address the matter personally, as the alliance I had formed and the plan I had gotten my side to agree to was already tenuous and I could ill-afford an impression of dissent in my ranks.

    "I had confidence in your ability to defend yourself, given what I knew of you, and when I came to understand who else would be with you, I was confident that the Wolverine and Mr. Childan would assist you. I am actually quite pleased that you killed Kraven and Scorpion, even if their deaths will not be permanent. If nothing else, the experience will be educational.

    "I want you to know that if the worst had happened and Kraven had killed you, and showed up to smugly assert his defiance, he would have been summarily executed for it. Either by myself, or I would have simply informed Vladimir that the man had killed his best friend and allowed my son to do as he wills. I would not have allowed Kraven to have survived the crime of murdering my son's best friend…

    "...or defying the will of Doom." He pats Elise on the shoulder, and nods, and walks away.

    Elise, still white in the face, manages to nod, and then looks over the edge of the platform and nervously laughs. Vlad nods to Elise.

    PHU1KZN.png
    This is the Doomiest possible way to try to comfort and reassure someone and I am dying reading it.

    Clay responds to Julian. Vlad's going to take the power of the Cube for himself. He's going to try. Elise is going to have his back because she doesn't know any better. Vlad means well, but this is very much a situation where he thinks only he can be trusted with the One Ring. I feel like there's probably other solutions to this issue that he's omitting. These machines love to lie by omission, it's kinda their thing.

    He continues. We're the ones with the scorpion on our backs, hoping it's not going to sting us. It's his nature to try to grab power. I don't even consider it his fault.

    Julian internally pushes back a thought, kinda like the internal grumble one makes at a distasteful comment. I mean... I want to argue against that.

    A feeling of assent and vindication comes from Miles. He's completely right, Julian.

    Clay, one way or another, something's going to go down. When it does, can you focus on whammying Graviton and using him to shut up Lorelei? Like, just...gravity her mouth shut, even. Doom and Vlad will be left to fight over the Cube and we'll be up a couple of guys with a Hulk on our side.


    Clay nods. Sounds like a plan, Mason.

    Sounds good. Julian thinks.

    "Wait, so Kraven is one hundred percent going to come back?" Elise suddenly manages.

    Doom looks at Elise. "Nothing is for certain, but if he does, the experience will be instructive."

    "He wants to eat my heart."

    "You could always just find and kill him again,” Julian offers. “But I feel like that presents an ethical problem."

    Doom looks at Julian. "Surely, even your 'ethics' makes allowances for lethal force on cannibal psychopaths?"

    "Oh totally. It's just like... what if he came back reformed? You don't know," Julian says. "And killing him in self-defense, totally justified. Proceeding to then hunt him down?"

    Elise stares at Julian. Doom scoffs.

    "I mean, I'd still support it in his case," Julian says.

    "...I could shove you," Elise says. "Right off this platform."

    PHU1KZN.png
    It’s become a consistent element of Julian’s characterization that he’s kind of spacey and busts out with odd remarks from left field at random intervals. There’s a line in The Venture Brothers regarding Hank Venture - “it’s like he channels dead crazy people!” - and it occurs to me this could be literally the case with Julian.

    Jacobkosh on
    MsAnthropyMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The platform continues to soar over the strange alien city.

    ncJ9TEqh.jpg

    The companions travel in uneasy silence for a time. Arms folded, Miles watches the alien cityscape roll beneath them, recording everything for future analysis. Behemoth flies in formation with the platform and slightly above, keeping an eye out for any treachery on the part of the supervillains.

    Vlad looks down at the city and across the landscape. His glance turns between Doom and his team. He knows what he must do and he knows some will try to stop him....

    Lorelei moves over to Miles and taps him on the shoulder. Julian, alert to the danger of mind control, begins watching her warily.

    Miles turns to Lorelei. "Yes?"

    She smiles. "That was mad and foolish, what you did." She looks at the floor and glances up shyly. "And brave. I've never met a man who was willing to sacrifice himself like that to deny me power."

    Miles is startled out of his suspicion for a moment. He was expecting mockery, maybe, but not this. He tilts his head thoughtfully. "I....hmm. In the war, we all wondered which of us would be the one to toss himself on a grenade to save the squad. It never came up for us, but the old guys say you never know who it'll be. There's no rhyme or reason to it. But I guess I have my answer now. So, uh. Thanks for that, I think."

    Elise looks up over Lorelei's shoulder, from behind her back, and gives Miles two thumbs up. Miles tries to keep from laughing.

    Lorelei grins at Miles and turns some of her hair with her finger. "I always thought selflessness was one of those absurd mortal traits, the kind of thing that moralizing hypocrites tell you is supposed to be good but really is worthless, but..." she looks Miles over and bites the corner of her lip. "I don't know."

    Miles goes a shade paler. "I...I used to be, ah, confused on that point too..."

    "So, are you with anyone?"

    Elise is grinning as she watches this unfold.

    Miles inhales a deep gulp of cleaning oxygen. Shouldn't Kang be showing up right about now? Couldn't the Hulk smash something? "I am. With someone, yes. A superhero, even. Her name is...anyway. How...how about you?"

    Lorelei smiles and leans into Miles, speaking with a low, purring whisper. "Do you think she'd be open to a duel for your affections? Or... perhaps the three of us could find a less violent arrangement?

    "Maybe a little violent, if you like?" She winks.

    Over Lorelei's shoulder, behind her back, Elise's smile threatens to crack her face. She makes a crude gesture with her hand at Miles, eyebrows raised.

    A piece of Miles' soul dies.

    "You...make...a...persuasive case,” he stammers. “I'll, ah. I'll ask. So," he claps his hands and bounces up on the balls of his feet and in no way thrums with nervous energy, "how, ah, how would I get in touch with you? Do I need a Palantir? Haha." Miles is not going to ask. But if he has to shut down Lorelei right here, he might take a header off the platform.

    "Oh, yes, that would be tricky. I was imprisoned in Asgard when Kang retrieved me, so there are some...issues with that. Perhaps you could talk to your friend there, see if his lady could set something up for us." She gestures to Michael over her shoulder.

    "I know Sigrun!" Elise slides in next to Miles. "I can help!"

    "Oh hi it's Elise gosh thanks Elise"

    Powerpuppies
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 6
    The platform nears a massive central chamber. Elise figures this leads into the core chamber.

    LjIflYDh.jpg

    "I think this is us," Elise says. "Why does every architect of this weird space shit have to make it, like, the dumbest shit ever. I want to puke, and then die, and then my corpse will puke -" Elise looks expectantly at Clay. "Didn't I do a good job leading us here?"

    "You want some water, Elise? You seem thirsty."

    Elise squints at Miles. "Don't worry, we'll ask Carol for some when we're back."

    "Fractal copies of yourself floating through space and time, puking, forever," Julian murmurs. After a moment, he fishes his wallet from his pocket, rummages around in a big wad of receipts, retrieves a wrinkled, barely legible coupon that looks like it has a burger on it? and hands it to Elise. "Good job." Elise looks insulted.

    Vlad scans the area as they approach. "The power grows denser here..."

    They're walking down a hallway, when Doom asks the group to stop. "Vladimir, I wish to ask for some...clarity." Vlad turns slowly to Doom.

    "When we arrive at the core, you said you will perform the necessary.... attunements. What will this entail, precisely?"

    Elise nervously fidgets. Clay turns and looks at Vlad.

    "I mean, who among us can truly say anything about anything." Elise murmurs. "I mean, in this high tech space station where I puke just looking at the walls -"

    Vlad looks at Doom and bows his head "The attunements require me to connect with the system and the Cube itself. From here in the core, I will be able to remove Kang's connection to the station. Making him vulnerable to attack, Father. Just as you laid out before at the castle."

    Doom nods, apparently satisfied. "Very good."

    "Indeed," Vladimir says.

    Elise looks at Clay and gives him a shaky smile. Clay's eyes narrow, but he doesn't say anything further.

    "Okay, well, cool! I'm still leading everyone! To the core! It's definitely this way." Elise turns and jogs ahead of the group.

    As they move through the corridors, Elise occasionally stops, sniffing the air or pressing her hands against the floor. "...I can feel it. It's, like... under my skin. I can feel the cube. C'mon, this way, Vlad."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 6
    Attack Force Doom comes to a hallway, which glows with blue energy.

    YB1gFSXh.jpg

    Two of the glowing blue "guardian" creatures from before are standing in front of the doorway. They turn to the newcomers.

    Miles steps forward. "Take me to your leader."

    "OH MY GOD. Do you never not go for that line?"

    They stare at Miles, floating for a few seconds.

    Vlad attempts to communicate in machine code. It sounds like horrifying old modem noises. Elise presses her hands to her ears, wincing.

    The two guardians look at each other, and look back at Vlad. "Reconfiguration complete." one of them intones. "We are able to intuit your language."

    Vlad looks at Miles and then back to the beings. "Who are you?"

    "We are the Caretakers."

    "And whom do you serve?" Miles asks. He looks back over his shoulder at the assembled group. "Yeah, that's right. I know how to use 'whom.' Reading is the real power cosmic."

    "I think I liked you better when you were too busy angsting about the nature of your existence to constantly 80's sitcom dad joke," Elise calls back.

    "We serve the Builders," the Caretakers say.

    "We need to access the core,” Vlad says. “Will you let us pass?"

    "No."

    "Who are the Builders?" Miles asks.

    "The Builders are."

    Vlad clenches his fist.

    "Are they the Kree?" Elise calls from in back.

    "No."

    "Are they the Celestials?" Miles asks.

    "No."

    "Is one of the Builders named Bob?" Michael asks.

    "No."

    Elise rolls her eyes and reaches for her sidearm.

    "May we speak to the Builders?" Miles asks.

    "No, they are gone."

    "You said they are. Now you say they're gone. Which is it?" Miles asks. He’s trying to Captain Kirk these things.


    "Enough of this," Vlad snarls. "We must pass!" He takes a step forward.

    "Dude, Vlad, chill out for a second," Michael says.

    Doom steps forward and puts his hand on Vlad's shoulder. "Son, we need information." Vlad stops.

    "The Builders are. The Builders of this installation were slain by the Possessor."

    "Okay, who's the Possessor?" Elise asks.

    "The Possessor is...Kang?" Miles adds.

    "The Possessor is a title for whoever is currently attuned to the power of the Cosmic Cube. The current Possessor self-identifies as Kang the Conqueror."

    Elise leans forward, squinting at the Caretakers, trying to absorb as much information as she can. She’s able to discern that the Caretakers are constructs, made of energy. Their central cores are small devices that generate their hard-light bodies. They're powerful, but fragile in a way; if something hits their core they're basically done.

    Doom tilts his head. "Attuned?"

    "Can we...unattune Kang?" Miles asks.

    Vlad looks at Doom and then back at the guardians. Time is running out, he thinks to himself. "Yes, I said this,” he says impatiently. “If these guardians would let us pass. We need to continue."

    The Caretakers answer Miles’ question. "Yes. The Possessor can be unattuned if someone else takes his place, or if the Tesseract is solidified, which would disempower the entire installation and permit removal of the core."

    "Solidified," Miles says significantly. "That sounds useful."

    Vlad attempts to freeze time.

    It doesn’t work.

    Miles whirls to face him. "I...what the hell?" Vlad has stopped moving. His cloak hangs frozen in the air, the movement of air around it not affecting it.

    Elise stares. "Vlad? Are you okay, buddy? …Vlad?"

    "What the fuck..." Michael mouths.

    Doom grunts. "Oh, son...."

    Elise looks at Phoenix and taps her temple, eyebrows raised. Conference call? What is going ON?!

    Doom looks at Graviton. "Graviton, destroy the Caretakers." Graviton nods and with a gesture, obliterates the two entities.

    "So, uh, I guess we have to wait for Vlad to unfreeze!" Elise says. "Since he's the guy who needs to handle the Core..."

    Clay looks at Doom. "He tried to make a play for it." Doom nods.

    Elise's smile becomes sickly. "What? No, ha ha."

    Miles heaves a sigh. "You knew this was coming, Elise."

    "Noooo, he wouldn't." Elise looks at Miles with an expression of panic. "No I didn't!"

    "It is as you said he would have,” Doom says to Clay. “My son is my son, after all."

    Clay nods at Doom. "So, we have an understanding, then? No trying to fuck each other over? We go with solidifying the cube, none of this attunement bullshit?" Doom nods.

    Elise looks between Clay and Doom. "Wait, neither of you are mad?"

    "Elise, it's time to stop making excuses for Vlad." Elise glares at Miles, but he is already turning to Clay and Doom. "Solidification. And we turn it over to a third party that we can all agree on to keep it safe. I'm sure one of you knows someone."

    Clay looks at Doom "Strange? Are you alright with Strange having it?"

    Doom grumbles. "Yes, yes, fine." Julian looks genuinely shocked to hear Doom express willingness to hand the power away.

    Clay looks back at Miles. "After we talked last, I had a quick 'chat' with Doom.” He taps the side of his head.

    Miles nods to Clay. "Good move."

    "Wait, did you guys have a conference call without me?" Elise yells.

    Ignoring this, Clay continues. “I let him know how things were going to go, how it wasn't going to go his way if he made a play, and we agreed that if Vlad made a move, we were just going to deal with it. And figure out a way to deal with it that involved no back-stabbing or double-crosses.”

    "And no one felt the need to talk to me?!"

    "We're talking now, Elise," he says.

    "...Wait, I guess that was technically a backstab he was planning, wasn't it," Elise says in a smaller voice.

    "Yes."

    Elise throws her hands up in the air. "Okay, fine, let's just do the thing."

    Doom looks at Vlad "Strange is a poor teacher. If Vladimir had better tutelage, he would have likely succeeded."

    Clay looks at Doom. "Is he aware of all this? Has he heard this whole conversation?" Doom nods.

    Elise turns to Vlad. "I'm sorry, bud, I trusted you to do the right thing."

    Clay looks at Vlad "Alright then. Vlad, I'm not mad. I'm not even disappointed. I'm sure you meant well and thought that attuning the Cube to yourself was the best plan. But it's not. We're not doing that, alright? We're just going to remove it. So when this spell ends, we're all on the same page here, and no further double-crosses from here on out, because those I will take personally." He looks at Doom. "When...when does the spell end?"

    Julian shrugs and tucks his hands in his pockets, somewhat uncomfortably watching time-frozen Vlad get lectured.

    Doom shrugs. "I'm uncertain. Likely whenever Vladimir intended the original spell to end, as it seems the results inverted themselves. I can end it prematurely if we all understand each other, however."

    Clay nods "Do it."

    Doom makes a mystical gesture, and Vlad is unfrozen from time, having been aware of the entire time that just passed.

    Elise gives Vlad an awkward smile.

    Vlad changes his position and looks around at the group. "I will do as you ask, I will do my duty." He is silent thereafter.

    Miles is a short distance away from the rest, regarding the scene with a sour expression. He's not surprised by Vlad, but unlike the others, he expects better of him. And he expected better of Elise.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Everything here happened exactly as you’ve read it. Jake decided that Vlad couldn’t possibly not make a play for the Cosmic Cube, and then - for basically almost the first time ever in this entire campaign - he totally beefed the roll, and Vlad pooped himself in front of everyone.

    In retrospect, it became of the most important single rolls we’ve had in the entire game.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The group proceeds through the door, and down another hallway. They come to a core chamber, which pulsates with energy.

    UI8Hwiah.jpg

    Miles whistles. "It's like the end of Tron." Clay nods.

    "What's Tron?" Elise asks. Michael and Julian groan..

    Near one of the paths leading up to the center, there is a console. Doom gestures to it. "Vladimir, can you give the command to solidify the Tesseract?"

    Vlad nods slowly and approaches the cube. He attempts to connect.

    Vladimir can give the command to solidify the Tesseract. But he realizes something.

    In order to finalize the command, he has to do so from the central platform, as it will then solidify the cube and place it on the platform. This is also the same process for attunement, which will attune the Cube to whoever is standing on that platform.

    Vlad could say he's doing one...and do the other. But it would require directly lying to everyone.

    It would require lying to his father, who believes in Vladimir and has always seen him as his true son. It would require lying to Clay, who has given him every chance and has taken him back. It would require lying to Elise, who loves him and is his best friend. It would require lying to Miles, who has always been suspicious and paranoid and would likely never trust Vladimir again. It would require lying to Michael, who has tried to be the hero and do the right thing despite all his power.

    It would require lying to Julian, who would also be upset. Probably.

    Vlad enters the command to Solidify.

    "I have begun the process. I must finalize it at the center and with the Cube itself."

    He looks at the group. Despite his need to gain the power of the Cosmic Cube, he knows if he betrays them he will never forgive himself. He knows that they are his family, those who trust him. The Cosmic Cube is not the only source of power in the universe. I will find another…

    Elise nods and gives Vlad a thumbs up.

    Vlad moves to the center of the chamber, and initiates the process. The process begins, and the entire room shudders. The blue energy pulses along the walls and ceiling and eventually forms into a small cube on the platform in front of Vlad.

    T9ZhyEwl.png

    Vlad picks it up. There's a loud dampening sound, like someone pulled the plug on an entire city all at once. The room's lights dim, but don't completely shut off.

    "So, Kang's defanged?" Elise asks.

    Michael nods. "Hopefully."

    Vlad peers into the Cube’s depths. They seem to extend forever, fractal images rushing outwards, endlessly multiplying. The power of the Cosmic Cube is contained inside this small object.

    He gazes into the cube, tilting it slightly. “This horror will grow mild, this darkness light....”

    "So, I say we go kick the shit outta Kang, collect Crys and Susan and the rest, and head home to finish up the beach party!" Elise clasps her hands together.

    Doom nods at Elise. "Richards has no doubt noticed the shift in power aboard Kang's vessel, and has begun his attack. We should join him."

    Elise looks expectantly at Doom. "You can open portals, right?"

    "Can we still use Kang's network if he doesn't have the power anymore?" Miles asks.

    Doom looks at Miles. "Kang still has his own power, and his own ship. He no longer has the near-omnipotence of the Cosmic Cube to treat time and space as a plaything, but he's still an incredibly potent individual."

    Ignoring all this, Vlad continues gazing into the light of the cube. Elise sidles over and gently tries to take it from him. "Hey, Vlad, remember that time I was really into astroglyphs?"

    Doom continues. "I recall the point in space-time I sent Richards' team to; I can replicate the destination with another portal."

    "And now that I've done everything I can by tracking, we don't need to throw me into the battle against Kang, right?” Elise says hopefully. “I can just chill here, with the Cube!"

    Doom shakes his head. "I believe this place will de-stabilize without the Cube. In time, it will lose power, life support. Eventually it will become a dead husk."

    Elise grimaces.

    "We need to leave. All of us," Doom says. "Now." He opens a portal.

    "Who knows what's waiting for us on the other side,” Miles says to the group. “Be ready for anything."

    As the portal opens, Vlad turns his gaze to Elise. He looks down at the cube and then back to her. "Here." He hands it to her. "I trust you."

    Elise takes the cube and stashes it in one of the pockets of her heavy coat, and then steps through. Vlad follows.

    The team steps through the portal.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    3OkJ5GMh.jpg

    They appear aboard Kang's Time-Ship.

    The sounds of battle rage around them. Reed's team is engaged in combat with robotic drones of some kind.

    mtUT1Mpl.jpg

    Doctor Doom looks at Machine Man. "We need to take Kang down! He has direct control of this vessel! Once he is defeated, all of this is over!"

    Miles nods. "Elise, can you sense Kang? His Kangstank?"

    Sensate lifts her nose to the air.

    Right now, there's a pitched battle going on with Richard's team (Mr. Fantastic, MODOC, Blade, Mysterio, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Juggernaut, Longbow, Taskmaster, Namor) fighting these mechanized troops with their energized staves. Reed's team is winning, but there are dozens of these things and more incoming.

    Elise manages to locate Kang through all the bizarre scents flying around. He's not far from here, through the battle. She can track him.

    "I got him!" Elise yells over the clamor of battle. "I can smell him!" She takes off running, dodging and leaping through the fray.

    "Wait!" Victorious cries, seeing a drone taking a vicious overhand swing of its electrified staff at her. Elise dives behind cover. "Shit!"

    Gauntlets crackling with arcane and electrical energy, Vlad rushes into battle. Miles charges into the fray behind him, hoping to cover his team’s advance.

    Elise hides behind a console, and realizes she’s not alone. Bob is here. Well, most of Bob. He's missing a leg and part of his upper torso, having been burned away by plasma blasts. "H-hey... Elise."

    "Oh my God -"

    "Don't...don't get shot by those things, they don't...they don't t-tickle..." He coughs and winces from pain.

    Elise, horrified, scrambles away from Bob. "I - I - I can't help you -"

    Julian rushes past. "Oh, sh-" his face blanches as he sees Longbow.

    Behemoth opens his faceplate to blast a robot, but at the last second the swirl of the fight brings Mysterio into his line of fire, and he releases the blast into the floor, missing his target but sparing Mysterio.

    Julian tries to cover him, hurling fireballs at a pack of robots. They turn to face him and scorching plasma boils out of their staves. Julian is engulfed.

    Elise starts to panic as she crawls past Julian’s ashes. "Shit, shit, shit, shit -"

    "KANG!" Vlad shouts as he tosses a broken trooper to the floor. Behind him, Miles and a second trooper trade searing blasts of energy, and the trooper falls to the floor in a smoking heap, though Miles himself is blackened and burned.
    g3xuawl.png

    Julian can feel it. The anger. The pain.

    This is wrong. He's died so many times. They've died so many times. This is wrong.

    They can't keep dying. He can't let them. No more deaths. No more dying. This has to stop.

    Julian has a choice.

    He can come back here, now, in this place at this time, and when he does he will come back with what he needs to make it stop.

    Or he can come back home, where he's safe.

    Somewhere far away, Julian nods. He feels affirmed in his decision.

    g3xuawl.png

    Miles realizes he needs to regain control of the situation. He amplies his voice to carry over the din. "BEHEMOTH! You're on point! Vlad, cover our left, I'll cover the right! Elise, stay between all of us! Hulk - SMASH!"

    Hulk grins at Miles and goes to town.

    The ship shivers and shakes.

    Out a viewport, there's a brilliant flash of light and for a moment, all combat stops as everyone looks to see what the explosion was.

    mT38oOrh.jpg

    The fire enters the ship, as if it wasn't even physical, and reforms into Julian, his body wreathed in a flaming phoenix and his eyes glowing with light.

    He holds his hand up and... snaps his fingers. And all the machines explode.

    Vlad staggers backward, looking at the steaming remains of the blasted troopers in shock.

    "J-Julian?" Elise says weakly.

    Doom stares. "...the Phoenix Force..."

    "Behold..." Vlad is awestruck by the power he can detect streaming off the Phoenix.

    Julian lands, and a voice that sounds like thousands speaking in unison say "Releasing control..." The flames recede, and Julian is in control of himself again.

    He looks at the robot detritus around him. "Ahem." He straightens his clothes out and looks around the room. "Let's continue, shall we?"

    Michael stares. "Uh...you good, dude?"

    “Good work, Julian,” Miles says. “Now’s our chance.”

    Elise pulls the cube out of her coat and kneels by Bob. "I - I gotta try to help him, we can't just leave Longbow like this -"

    "Robert?" Vlad rushes to Elise’s side.

    Clay grabs Elise by the elbow. "No!"

    Elise looks at Clay, horrified. "Clay, we have to -"

    Reed walks over and looks at the Cube. "Is that... what I think it is?"

    "This is the point of having power!” Elise is saying. “This is the point!"

    Clay looks at Elise. "Elise, we have cybernetics, we have other things we can do. And...Doom, if we take control of Kang's ship, we can undo all of this, right? That's the whole point?" Doom nods.

    Elise pockets the cube again with shaking hands. "Yeah. Okay." She looks at Reed and shrugs. "I dunno exactly what it is."

    Victorious leans down to Longbow. "My friend..."

    Bob looks up at Vlad. "H-hey boss...."

    "Kang will pay for this. You will be made well." He holds Longbow's shoulder tightly.

    Bob nods. "Kick his ass, Boss...." he passes out from the pain. Vlad sighs and rises.

    Reed looks at Miles. "We should stay and tend to the wounded. A few took some terrible hits during that fight and quite frankly many of the people here aren't cut out for a battle against Kang's technology."

    Miles rocks on the balls of his feet impatiently, but his expression softens as he gets a better look at Bob. "...You're right. Okay." With an effort, he unclenches his fists and relaxes somewhat.

    Elise stands, shakes her head, pats the Cube in her coat, and then heads over to join Miles and Reed. Vlad follows her.

    Reed looks at them. "You should take as few people with you as possible, and only the most powerful. Anthony, the Juggernaut, Hulk, Doom, Graviton, and your team.That should be enough. The rest of us will stay behind and protect everyone else."

    Elise gives a short, incredulous bark of a laugh at that list. "No pressure!" she says, towards no one in particular, and throws her hands up.

    "I will protect you, Elise," Vlad says.

    Elise wordlessly presents Vlad with her gun and magazines. He empowers them.

    Miles turns to those assembled. "Alright, everyone. You heard the man. Take a few seconds to catch your breath and get reoriented." He looks at the assembled group, taking in Stark, Doom, the Juggernaut, everyone.

    "We all do what we do for different reasons. Back home, we might be enemies. In other circumstances, we might be friends," he catches Lorelei's gaze. "But we're all here for the same reason. We were taken here, against our will, by a being who thought we were his puppets. And now it's time to show him differently. You've all been tested in battle. You all know what you can do. All you need to do now...is show him." He takes a deep breath. "Let's go."

    The team moves toward Kang, led by Sensate through the halls of the ship.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    They come upon the bridge of his strange vessel, and the Conqueror of Time faces them.

    SRzVBu4l.jpg

    "You dare."

    Machine Man nods. "We double dare." Sensate gives Miles an incredulous look.

    "Do you know what I am trying to do? What I am trying to save your world from? Our world? My past, your present? Do you comprehend the forces you trifle with?"

    "Do you?” Miles fires back. “Did you look out the window? Do you even know what's arrayed against you? We'll deal with the Council and Parliament our way. And a future ruled by you isn't worth living in."

    Vlad takes flight at Kang. "Your time is at an end!"

    "Counterpoint: Eat shit, Kang!" Elise raises her firearm and fires directly at Kang's face.

    She shoots Kang in the head. The enchanted bullet penetrates his helmet and he drops his gun immediately, collapsing to the floor. He's dead.

    "...............fuckin' nice job Elise,” Michael says.

    "...Wow," Julian breathes.

    Doom makes an impressed "...huh."

    Elise kicks his corpse experimentally. "...Huh." The body is limp. "...Well, waste not, want not. I'm taking that helmet."

    Miles grimaces. "I mean, the helmet didn't really help him..."

    "It's called aesthetic, Miles." Elise drops to one knee and starts wrestling Kang's helmet off. "I'm gonna mount it on my wall."

    Elise wrestles the helmet off. Underneath is... an android's face with a bullet-hole in the head. "Uh, guys? "Is Kang supposed to be a robot?"

    "It would seem so...?" Vlad says, confused.

    "I don't know,” Miles says. “Maybe everyone in the future is a robot...after the machine wars."

    She experimentally sticks a finger into the bullet hole. He has blue synthetic blood.

    Julian stares. "Jesus, Elise..."

    Elise sniffs the blue blood on her finger. "So, let's... hit the rewind button? We won, right? Problem solved?"

    Vlad lands. "Indeed, now we must find a way to undo all of this."

    Doom walks over to the central console. "I believe this may be the controls."

    Elise puts the helmet on and waggles her fingers at Julian. "Blah! I'm Kang!"

    ...She has to quickly pull off the helmet before she starts seeing through time. Kang's armor is, apparently, legitimately some kind of time-tech.

    "Nyagh! Fuck! Shit! Ugh! I can't put this thing on my wall! It's cursed!"

    Julian rushes over. "Oh my--! Are you okay?"

    "You know that episode of the Simpsons where Mr. Burns hires all of those baseball players? And Darryl Strawberry is falling through time? And he's surrounded by clocks and shit? And MC = E... Squared... 2?"

    Graviton raises his hand. "I do."

    Julian nods. "Yeah, I remember that episode."

    "Yeah, it was... lil like that. Ugh."

    Miles stares. "How do you know who Darryl Strawberry is?"

    "He was on the Simpsons, we just went over this."

    Vlad joins Doom at the console. "I am trying to find a way to restore the timeline, send us back to our original points," Doom says.

    Graviton clears his throat "Sir, about that....There must be a way to...in layman's terms, split the difference? Collapse the waveform in such a way that you undo some particular changes and not others, enabling for example the reversal of deaths, dismemberments, that sort of thing, while enabling neural pathway alterations and positional changes?"

    Doom looks at Graviton. "To what end, Dr. Hall?"

    Graviton shrugs. "Well, for one I'd rather not go to prison, and I'm sure these fine people would rather their comrade not be missing pieces, and we have lost other people along the way. And we'd all like to remember this happening."

    "Very much so," Miles says.

    Elise has liberated Kang's gun from his grip and is now aiming it at the walls and whispering 'ptoo' sounds.

    Doom nods at Graviton. "Hrm. A fine suggestion, and one I agree with."

    "Yeah, but we're not bringing Kraven back, yeah?" Elise asks.

    Tony speaks up. "Now, hold on, wait a second. Are we really talking about bringing back Kraven? Or letting loose people like Lorelei? Dr. Hall, no offense, but you were in prison for a reason."

    "We're not bringing Kraven back." Elise says. "That's not on the table. No one's bringing back Kraven."

    "Robert must be made whole again," Vlad says.

    Miles puts a hand on Elise’s shoulder. “Kraven's a punk, Elise. We can take him down again. I don't want Bob to go through what I went through. And we all need to remember what happened here."

    "So, bring Bob back and keep our memories, but don't bring Kraven back," she says.

    Miles turns to Graviton. "Can we do that, Dr. Hall?"

    Doom examines the console. "Well, it doesn't appear I can be incredibly selective on the subject. I can restore everyone who has died or was injured, but it's all or nothing. If I send everyone back to exactly what their states were prior to being taken, however, then they won't remember anything. It's a complete reset. So if you want memories of what transpired here, there's some other compromise that has to be made."

    Elise throws Kang's helmet into the wall and lets out an agonized cry.

    “Elise," Miles says. "It's okay. You won't be alone. And bringing back some of the dead is the right thing to do. We don't even know about half the other people who were taken...the ones who hadn't made it to the castle when we left. People we care about might be in trouble.

    “We won't let Kraven hurt you. Right, Vlad?"

    Victorious nods at Miles. "We will end him if he arises once more."

    Doom continues. "If I don't restore anyone's position, then we would have to move back to Earth.... conventionally, which Kang's ship is more than capable of doing but that requires an agreement on your parts."

    Miles turns to Doom. "What sort of agreement?"

    Doom looks over the console, "Here, let me settle the matter and figure out the status of everyone else...." He fiddles with some control surfaces. "I'm just going to scan Battleworld and the ship and teleport everyone who didn't make it to the castle to the ship's main hold and disable internal defenses.... just one moment...."

    "There are five hundred thousand Inhumans on Earth." Elise mutters at no one in particular.

    "Hrm,” Doom says. “It seems there's been a few injured and dead in the fighting on Battleworld. That is unfortunate. It explains why not everyone joined us."

    "Can you tell who?" Miles asks, voice low and urgent.

    Elise looks up. "Crystalia?"

    "Yes.... Falcon, Vulture, Electro, and Ikari are dead."

    Vlad looks up. "What of Silver Sable and Spider-Man?”

    "Crystalia, Ant-Man, and Silver Sable are critically injured."

    "No!" Elise shouts. Vlad grasps her shoulder.

    "I believe the choice is quite clear on this,” Doom says. “We should undo the damage done to our people. The question then becomes, where should everyone be sent? There is no way those who were imprisoned in SHIELD facilities or other such places will consent to going back."

    "We can't just drop them all on neutral ground. If Kraven sees a chance to go for an Inhuman like Crystalia..." Elise says.

    Doom nods. "I agree."

    "Can you...can you bring everyone here?” she asks. “We can...we can keep everything civil with the people we have on hand here, get everyone sorted and on their separate ways, maybe."

    Miles lifts his head and catches Doom’s gaze. "You're right that they won't go back. And some of them may have earned a second chance by their actions. So perhaps you'd care to be responsible for their good behavior, Doctor."

    Doom looks at Miles. "Hrm...I believe that is an excellent suggestion, yes. The others certainly already trust me, I believe remanding them to my custody will serve as an adequate compromise. Dr. Hall, would you agree to this?"

    Graviton nods, "Beats going back to the Raft."

    Tony stares at Miles. "You're...you're insane. You're going to just hand some of the world's most dangerous, most powerful super-villains over to Doctor Doom for custody? On what authority? How.... why..."

    "Mister Stark, sir." Elise manages. "My fiancee - she didn't - she didn't do anything to deserve this. That's...The people we would lose...that's not an okay cost for... Would you give up Rogers and the gang to bring these people to justice?"

    Vlad turns to Doom. "Have Kraven pay for his disobedience, please, Father."

    Doom nods to Vlad. "Oh, he will." Vlad nods to Elise.

    Tony looks at Elise and tightens his jaw. "I... I wouldn't have the right to make that call. Not...not on my own."

    "Time out." Miles makes the universal symbol. "Mr. Stark, may we speak for a moment?"

    Stark responds. "What the hell are you doing?"

    Miles sends a signal to his armor. Doom is the ruler of a sovereign nation, dude. Juggernaut can't go on a rampage without it being a diplomatic incident. He's going to have to keep them on a tight leash. That buys us time. Of course he's going to try something. Of course he's going to see them as a weapon. But you've been with us this whole time. Do you really think a mad scientist, an Asgardian sex goddess, a bank robber, and a cannibal have much in common? It's inherently unstable. They're going to start being a headache for Doom about five minutes after we land. And in the meantime, we'll know where they are. We'll have time to get ready. You copy?

    Tony shoots back a reply. I want it noted, like...somewhere officially, I protested this and I think this was a bad idea and that MY plan was just take all these guys down and win the fight. In fact, JARVIS, record that. I am noting this for Director Fury.

    Machine Man scowls. Dude, I read the file. The Avengers had trouble with Juggernaut solo. I don't know if all of us can take him on his own, much less with Graviton and Doom here. I'm trying to make the best of a bad situation. And there's a Cosmic Cube in play. When we get home, Doctor Strange will have that in his little basement arsenal or whatever and can use it if things start looking grim.

    Iron Man folds his arms. And who the hell is Doctor Strange! And why are we giving him the Cosmic Cube? Whatever, I'm done. JARVIS, note my complaints, make sure they're black-boxed so my attractive corpse can still complain about them.

    "So, uh, so Doom," Elise manages, picking Kang's helmet back up. "You're, uh, gonna kill Kraven, right? Like, that's, he defied Doom, and all that? Uh. Mister Doom. Sir."

    "Doctor."

    "Doctor Doom, sorry, Doctor."

    He nods. "Kraven's been killed once, already. We'll see if he's learned his lesson. If he hasn't, we'll see what needs to be done for him to learn. I can be quite instructive. Ask Mr. Childan."

    Elise stares at Doom. "...Oh."

    Doom looks over at Miles. "Is everything agreeable, then?"

    Tony looks away. "Yeah, we're fine. I guess."

    Miles shoots Doom a thumbs up. "Fire 'er up, doc."

    Doom nods, and presses some commands on the console. There is a bright flash of orange light.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    15diEKo.jpg

    Freedom Force appears in the main foyer of the STRIKE base. All of STRIKE is there, as well as Crystalia and Vision.

    "Crys!" Elise cries. She has the Cube in one pocket of her massive coat, and Kang's time helmet under one arm.

    An alarm goes off. SEC agents begin appearing, but stop immediately as Victoria Hand starts barking at them to stand down.

    Julian looks around, trying to make sense of the scene.

    Miles frantically looks for Carol amidst the chaos. All the STRIKE teams are there, including those who were considered dead or injured. Bob is there, and he's not hurt anymore.

    Elise and Crystalia are holding each other. "I thought...I thought I was going to die, Elise. I thought I was going to die and I was never going to see you again."

    "I wouldn't have let that happen," Elise murmurs, taking her hands. "I was looking for you, the whole time."

    Crys smiles. "You have a good friend in Peter, you know. The Spider-Man? He is a strong warrior. We fought Electro together. I tried to shoot a bolt of lightning at him because I didn't know his powers, and Electro reversed it and turned it on me, burned my body and lungs and nearly killed me. Peter crushed his skull, and carried me through Battleworld to find help."

    Elise looks at Peter, genuinely...impressed? Grateful? A little worried? "Thank you so much for being there with her, Peter.”

    Peter nods. "I just did what I could. Nobody hurts my friends." Vlad gives Peter an approving nod.

    “Now that I have this..." Elise hefts the helmet and grins. "I got an ace up my sleeve. I'm not going to let you get hurt like that again, okay, Crys?"

    Hand looks at Clay. "What the hell happened?"

    "Carol!" Miles runs up to her and gives her a big hug. "Oh my god you won't believe what happened. Oh and uh a goddess wants to maybe duel you for my affections I guess." Carol’s brow furrows and she starts to say something.

    Clay looks around. "I... I'm not sure,” he says to Victoria. He turns to Freedom Force. “I...Mason, you were with the team that went up to the bridge, explain how we got here?"

    Miles swivels his head to look at Clay, keeping Carol close. "We rewound time, boss. Enough to bring back the dead. But not all the way. We still remember what happened. And the bad guys ended up with Doom. They weren't going to go back without a fight so I made him agree to be responsible for 'em."

    Clay looks at Miles and nods with approval. "Tough call, but I'm glad you made it. I can't imagine Stark was happy."

    "He protested, loudly, but I got him to go along with it in the end."

    "He said he was going to make me a free harness so I'm a little less squishy but I don't think I'm gonna get it anymore," Elise huffs.

    Clay looks at Elise. "You know, I could probably get Niles to make you something like that. It wouldn't be as good, but it would still do the job."

    "It's kind of weird I've never actually talked to Niles," Elise muses. "I just wish we didn't live in a world where Tony Stark thinks I'm a jerk. It's a bit of a bummer, y'know?"

    "It's fine, Elise," Miles says. "He's mad at me, not you."

    Hand interrupts. "Hold on, hey, hello! Can you please explain to me what's going on? What's Battleworld? Is that where you and every other major superhero on Earth was for the past week?"

    Elise slowly starts to back out of the conversation, shooting finger guns at everyone. "Yeah, Clay, I'll let you wrap all of that up."

    Clay stares at Victoria. "Wait, a week?"

    "We've been gone that long?" Julian says.

    Elise continues to back out, giving everyone smiles and holding Kang's helmet to her side. "Lots of paperwork, I bet. Y'all'll be super busy."

    Victoria nods. "It's July 17th. We lost contact with all of you on the evening of the 9th in the Azores, at Stark's stupid beach party."

    “A week? Jesus." Miles turns to Hand. "A time-traveler from the future named Kang kidnapped all of us, and the Avengers and the Ultimates, and a bunch of supervillains, and teleported us to an artificial world to fight each other, like a Star Trek sort of thing. The winner would decide whether the Council or Parliament got to rule our timeline. Except we teamed up with Dr. Doom and took Kang down and stole his power source instead."

    At this last, Clay’s head whips around to face Elise. "Hang on there."

    Elise stops and gives Clay a lopsided grin. "Yeeees?"

    "Helmet."

    "Oh, come on, I earned it, didn't I?" she says.

    "If it was just a helmet I'd let you keep it as a trophy, but it's full of tech."

    "Yeah, I wanted to use that tech!"

    "We have no idea what it does, let the SCI-TECH guys look it over first. Don't just wing it with 30th century technology."

    "Fiiiine." Elise tosses Clay the helmet.

    Clay catches it "Thank you."

    "Okay, now I'm gonna go and, uh, look at -"

    "Elise. The Cube."

    "Oh! Silly me, I forgot."

    Clay shakes his head. "You're not going to Bilbo your way out of this conversation, c'mon now." Miles smirks at this.

    She digs it out of her coat and tosses it a couple of times. "You sure Strange needs it?"

    "I'm quite sure Strange doesn't need it, which is why he's going to hold on to it, because he'll put it in a box somewhere."

    "I never get anything nice around here." Elise tosses the cube to Clay.

    Clay catches it. "Thank you. You just earned yourself a $200 gift card to Sizzler, young lady."

    Elise squeals and claps her hands. "Crys! Get your coat! We're going to Sizzler and we're getting drinks and desserts!" Crys looks genuinely excited.

    Clay hands her the gift card with far more gravitas than she handed him the Cosmic Cube.

    Miles clears his throat. "The only Sizzler left is in Dubai."

    "Wait, what?" Elise stares. "...Kane, can I get a trip to Dubai?"

    Kane looks at Clay, who nods. She rolls her eyes and grumbles "Yes."

    Elise cackles and claps her hands. "Who needs to resolve their personal trauma when we're going to SIZZLER in DUBAI! Yesssss, yesssss, ahahahaha!"

    Clay looks at Hand. "I need to check in with Fury, check the status of everyone else, get this Cube over to Strange. Teams, you have uhhhhh....paperwork? Fill out reports on this insane nonsense, if you can."

    "Yeah, right. That'll be easy," Michael says.

    "No, sorry, I'm gonna be in Dubai," Elise says.

    "Paperwork on the plane."

    "Vlad can do my paperwork it'll take him like four seconds."

    "You have several hours to Dubai, Elise, you have time."

    "The... trauma from the last week in BattleWorld..." Elise splays a hand across her forehead. "It's just... so much... how can I do paperwork..."

    Clay narrows his eyes.

    "With Kraven on the loose... how can I focus on paperwork..." Elise is persistent.

    Clay snaps his fingers. "Get on the plane, Elise."

    "I will join Elise, Director," Vlad says.

    Clay nods at Vlad. "Go."

    "Yessssssssss!"

    Miles sighs. "My paperwork always takes forever. Just once I want a mission where I don't have to make some kind of choice that needs ten pages of justification and three debriefings."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Hand has been waiting patiently to speak, tapping her forefingers together and looking at Clay. He finally notices and raises an eyebrow. "What?"

    "Oh, nothing. Just, you know, Atlantis has been threatening us with war. You know, no big deal. But hey, send half the team to Dubai to go eat fried chicken, sure."

    “Thanks Miss Hand,” Elise says. “I knew you'd understand."

    Clay sputters. "Wait, what?"

    Julian is humming "Sizzler is the choice of the United Arab Emir-a-a-a--what?"

    Miles stares at Hand. "Oh shit, did they think we kidnapped Namor?"

    Hand sucks her teeth. "Yeah, they thought we kidnapped or murdered their king, and the more we denied it, the more they got hostile. Turned into a pretty serious international crisis. You weren't here. The Avengers weren't here. The Ultimates weren't here. It was...not great!

    "There's giant submersible ships parked off the coast, with weapons pointed at New York."

    "International crisis?” Phoenix says. “So who's the us in ‘Atlantis threatening us with war’?"

    "Everyone," she says.

    "Like, SHIELD? The US?" he asks.

    "They're being non-specific," she says. "They see 'surfacers' as one non-specific nation. We've tried explaining the distinction to them, they're not having it."

    Elise tries to chivvy Crystalia out of the room. "Well, good thing everyone's back! Anyways, Crys, have you ever tried fried shrimp?"

    "Well, I mean, Namor should be back now, right? It should be taken care of now," Miles says hopefully.

    Hand shakes her head. "Yes, but you know who thought it would be a great time to show up, diplomatically? Attilan."

    "OH." Elise and Crys stop in their tracks. "OH NO," they say in unison.

    "Ohhhhhhhhh, shit, Miss Hand, are they -"

    Hand cuts her off. "Attilan demanded answers from SHIELD as to where Princess Crystalia went, and we tried to tell them we genuinely didn't know, that many of our personnel were also abducted, etc. They weren't really happy with that, especially since right now their entire kingdom is politically unstable with the whole Maximus thing and I guess they're ending slavery?

    "So then when Atlantis made noise and went public, Attilan basically decided between that and Wundagore, they no longer bought our argument that the world wasn't "ready" for Attilan."

    Elise clasps both hands to her mouth. "They didn't."

    "So they went public, and declared themselves an asylum for all Inhumans. That's been fun."

    Crystalia starts running her fingers through her hair while muttering "This is a nightmare...."

    "This is some It's a Wonderful Life shit,” Miles breathes. “WIthout us, the world goes straight to hell in a week."

    "I mean, it kinda makes you feel important, though," Julian says. "Silver linings, right?"

    Miles nods.

    "Clay knows what I'm talking about," Julian adds.

    Clay looks at Julian. "Not the time."

    "Wait, wait, hold on." Elise makes a ‘time-out’ motion. "Hold on. Electro, Graviton, Kraven the Hunter, uhhh," she says. "Any of those fuckers, anyone who was with Doom.

    “Have they been seen?"

    Hand shakes her head. "No, and that's something that's been making SHIELD SEC shit bricks for a week."

    Elise actually looks relieved. "So they didn't get a head start! ...I'm not going to Sizzler, am I."

    "I think not, Elise," Vlad says. He plugs into the news feeds and searches events over the past week. The news is occupied by INHUMANS FROM THE MOON and ATLANTIS ATTACKS?!

    And WHERE ARE THE AVENGERS?!

    A lot of the news media is really confused on the subject, and it seems SHIELD COMMS is deliberately keeping information vague to keep the public in the dark about some of the more upsetting truths about the situation.

    For instance, despite Attilan going public, the truth of the city's origins or the real source of the Inhumans is still not in any article.

    "So this has been a valuable lesson for all of us,” Miles says, exhausted. “Next time, don't go anywhere without leaving an LMD of the important people."

    Clay rubs his temples. "Alright, people, sit tight for a moment. I'm going to call Fury."

    "If I can't go to Sizzler can I have the helmet and/or Cube back?" Elise calls after him. "Like, as a performance reward?"

    Clay doesn't answer. He goes into his office and shuts the door.

    Carol turns to Miles. "So....what was this you were saying about...a duel?"

    "Oh, is this about Lorelei hitting on you and you kind of being into it?" Elise chimes in. Hand walks up to Elise and gives her a hug. "Because that was - oh." Elise allows herself to be hugged.

    "I'm glad you're okay,” Victoria whispers to Elise. "Hug Vlad later. Don't tell him it was from me. But it was."

    "Okay." Elise hugs Victoria back. "Thank you."

    Miles turns to Carol. "Yeah, you know Lorelei the Enchantress? The mind-controlling Asgardian? She tried to whammy me but I shot myself in the face to avoid it, and I guess that kind of impressed her. She made an indecent proposal, like in that movie, Indecent Proposal. Asgardians fight duels for love. She asked me if she could fight you. I told her I'd ask you because I feel like you could take her."

    Carol is taken aback. "...why?"

    Elise grins at Miles and Carol from over Victoria's arm. "If you want to guilt Carol into something outside of her comfort zone, you gotta buy her cupcakes."

    Carol puts up a single hand to block out Elise.

    Miles continues. "Obviously I'm not going near someone who can mind-control me, but we sort of had to work together and I didn't want to say no to a superpowered alien god person just then. And - "

    Vlad pipes up. "I had thought there was a second proposal she put forward, Miles. Would it not be deceitful to not recount all of the options at your disposal?"

    Miles rubs his temple. Elise offers Vlad a high five. Vlad high fives Elise.

    Carol looks at Vlad. "What? What is he talking about?"

    "What is he talking about?" Elise muses.

    Miles is turning scarlet. "She also suggested that the three of us - you, me, and her - could, uh."

    Carol looks at Miles. "I have been gone a week. I need to check on my cat and make sure she is okay. My neighbor takes care of her when I'm gone for a while, but, I should make sure.

    "So I'm going to go do that.

    "Now."

    Julian sidles up to Miles and offers a down-low high five.

    "You have a cat?" Elise grins at Carol. "Is his name Mr. Socks?"

    "Elise," Miles says quietly.

    "Did you buy him an ascot?" Carol turns and walks away.

    "Elise."

    "Miles? Since we're just, y'know, saying names."

    "I'm going to be out fifty bucks on primo chocolate and I didn't even do anything a jury in the land would convict me of," Miles moans bleakly. "And the cat's name is Buster. I think."

    "Miles, can I offer you some advice? From a happily engaged woman? Don't tell them about the pending duel offers."

    Elise can hear Miles soundlessly counting backward from ten.

    "I mean, I never brought Sigrun up!"

    Clay walks out of his office. "Alright, teams, listen up.

    "Namor has returned to Atlantis, so, they're going to calm the hell down and go back to the ocean. Of course, that doesn't put the cat back in the bag that Atlantis is real to the public, so that's going to be fun to deal with now."

    Crys looks at Elise. "Who's Sigrun?"

    Michael looks to Elise. "You don't know when to stop, do you?"

    Elise puts her arm around Crys's shoulders. "Oh, from before we met. Don't worry about it."

    "Oh my god, did you just shoot yourself in the foot?" Julian says. "Is this like in Billy Madison when he pees himself too?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Clay makes a hiss noise through his teeth. "Hey! Attention!"

    Miles and Michael whip into an at-attention posture instantly.

    "Sorry!" Elise stands up straight. Julian clears his throat and stands up straighter. Vlad remains quietly motionless in the corner.

    "I talked to Namor briefly, he's going to be dispatching an official Atlantean ambassador to the UN and establishing an embassy. Talking to Nick, since Attilan is also out of the closet and Crystalia is already officially their ambassador and our tower was already serving as an unofficial embassy, we're going to be making some changes.

    "The main, upper part of the tower is still going to be our base.

    "However, the lower part of the building we're going to convert into an embassy complex for some of the more exotic locales that we'll require diplomatic ties to, which for the time being are Attilan and Atlantis.

    "Which means, Crystalia, you'll be living here full-time."

    Elise grins widely. "You can stay at my place! I have a whole apartment in the tower, it'll be great."

    "Also, it appears that Doom didn't jerk us around in any visible way. He didn't seem to 'head-start' us or anything like that. It also doesn't appear that he 'went missing' for a week but chances are he's got a Doombot to cover for him automatically if he goes missing. Dictatorships don't do well without continuity of government.

    "None of the people on 'his side' have appeared yet or been accounted for. None were returned to their cells, obviously, but we didn't expect them to. Fury's talked to Richards who was extremely upset about the deal we cut with Doom but he can blow it out his stretchy arse.

    "What's done is done and quite frankly, Mason, I approve of what you did and were I there I would've supported it."

    "Thank you, sir."

    "Any other solution would've involved a pitched battle with Doom and his cronies, which was the same scenario we were in on Battleworld, and it was a dumb idea then that didn't get less asinine on Kang's ship, and I don't know why Stark keeps insisting we would have won the fight. For a man who spent so much of his life being an arms dealer and bedding everything that could breathe and wink at him, he's suddenly not big on moral compromise. Worse than someone who gave up smoking, honestly."

    Elise nods piously. "It's why I've never stopped, sir."

    Miles squints. "Oh, is that why."

    Clay squints too. "The smoking or...you know what, don't answer that."

    "The smoking, obviously!"

    "Regardless, we'll consider Doom and his cronies a 'tomorrow problem' for now," Clay concludes.

    "Dibs on Kraven," Elise says. "And Electro."

    "Electro is such a lazy name. Say your power, but with a vowel at the end!” Miles points at Elise. “You'd be 'Noseo.'"

    "I'm going to give you lot some time off,” Clay says. “You've basically been working for near 48 hours without true R&R, the barbecue was supposed to be some rec time and that time-travelling arsehole ruined it."

    "Hey, I got to sleep! On the pla...Oh." Elise looks uncomfortable. "Yeah, time off."

    "Elise, Crystalia, Vlad, go to Dubai, get fried chicken, relax, try not to cause an international incident, I don't care. You all have 72 hours of R&R. Use it." He points at Spider-Man. "Parker, you're reinstated as a field agent."

    Peter does a little yes! fist pump. Elise offers Peter a high five, and he takes it. Vlad gives Peter a thumbs up. “Congrats, Parker,” Michael says.

    Miles starts for the door, waving an offhand salute at Clay. "If you need me, I'm going to be at the Starbucks near Carol's buying three of everything with pumpkin spice on the menu.”

    "She likes red velvet cupcakes," Elise calls after him. "Just get her a needlepoint kit. Or, like, a retirement plan brochure."

    Miles whirls around. "Oh my god knitting is hip now, you don't even know."

    "No!" Elise shouts. "Knitting sucks!"

    "You suck!" He starts to leave again.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Clay points at Longbow. "Childan, after your 72 hours, report back to your contact for your undercover operation."

    Bob sighs. "Yeah, okay."

    "Wait, Bob -" Elise looks at Longbow. "Hey, uh. I'm glad you're okay."

    Bob nods at Elise "Thanks! I'm glad you're okay too. We're going to find Kraven and fuck him up. We should find that Wolverine dude. He was cool."

    Miles feels abashed realizing he hasn't spoken to Bob yet. He aborts his leaving a second time and goes to offer Longbow his hand. "Go with God on that one, man. We all want a piece of Kraven."

    "Yeah, the problem is Kraven wants a piece of me, too," Elise mutters.

    Bob shakes Miles' hand. "Yeah, thanks."

    Clay squints, as if he's in thought. "On that.... Hmmm. Elise, when you're done your R&R, I think I have a mission for you."

    "Do you need me to seduce a woman in Vegas, 'cause I don't live that life any more," she says.

    "No, no,” he waves a hand. “You got along pretty well with Wolverine, yeah?"

    "Oh, yeah."

    "Hm, yeah. I think Steve might know that guy," he says. "His powers, fighting style, it reminded me of a guy Steve talked about from the war."

    "So you're absolutely sure you don't need me to go to Vegas and meet the eyes of a tragic widow from across the craps table, and work my way into her heart... and her hotel room, where it turns out she's HYDRA.

    "We wrestle over the gun, it fires into the ceiling."

    Crys looks at Elise.

    "Because I absolutely do not live that life anymore, Clay, I'm engaged."

    "No... no...." Clay taps out a text on his phone, only half paying attention to Elise. "Yeah, see, I fuckin' knew it. Same guy.

    "Elise when you get back, I'm going to have you go talk to that guy, see if we can get his help with some stuff. I'm going to have COMMS run some intel on him, see what he's up to nowadays. Steve gave me his name. James Howlett, goes by 'Logan.' He'd be a useful asset.

    "Go do your thing, you can deal with it when you get back."

    Elise gives a curtsey to Crys. "Your Majesty, would you do me the honour of coming to Dubai with me upon my glorious chariot of Kane's plane?"

    Crys giggles.

    Clay looks at Vlad, "Vlad/ make sure she doesn't insult a Sheik or something."

    Vlad nods and takes on his human form to go, but as he walks by Silver Sable, he places his hand on her shoulder. "I am glad to see you are alright, Silver." He smiles and follows Elise and Crystalia to the Zephyr.

    Miles has pulled out his phone and is busily tapping out an order for the biggest possible cupcake.

    "Go easy on the cupcakes,” Julian says. “It's already been established by Elise that cupcakes are the bribe for acts of personal compromise. Shake it up. Order some fancy cookies, maybe a cheesecake."

    Miles looks up from his phone, and gazes at Julian with new respect and a bit of confusion. "That's unexpectedly canny advice. Wait, how do you even know that? You have amnesia!"

    "More general advice, extrapolated from personal preference and just the general novelty of variety," Julian says airily. Miles squints at him, trying to decipher this. "Straight up, though - go for the cheesecake. Make it a pumpkin spice cheesecake.

    "If I were Danvers getting that cheesecake I might even go for a certain proposal - just saying."

    Miles waves this off. "Man, there's no way I was ever going to suggest that. That's a double-edged sword. What if she prefers the immortal sex goddess?"

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

    On his way to the landing pad, Vladimir receives a message over his communicator.

    A priority message from his father. Vlad stops suddenly and checks the message.

    My son, I must speak with you urgently, in private. Step away from all others and out of sight, so that you may be summoned before me for a moment of your time.

    Luckily, Elise absolutely will not notice if Vlad steps away, because she's busy engaging Crys in a tickle fight in the hallway.

    Vlad steps into a private office. I am alone, Father.

    He vanishes.

    e5qSsVyh.png

    Vlad is standing on the bridge of the Time-Ship.

    Doom is there. "Hello, my son."

    Vlad glances back and forth, his gaze matches Doom. "You kept Kang's ship, Father?"

    "I did, yes," Doom says. "I am still learning how to master its controls, and so I am being very conservative with its usage. For now."

    "Have you brought me here to show the spoils of your victory?" Vlad asks, confused.

    "I wanted to show you what you made possible."

    Vlad cocks his head. "Made possible? I don't understand."

    "When you had your unfortunate stumble in attempting to stop time with sorcery, which I fully blame on Strange's failure as a teacher, it allowed me to position myself as a figure of greater trust to your teammates and your SHIELD superior, Clay Quartermain."

    Vlad says nothing.

    "They were so concerned for your clawing leap at the Cosmic Cube's power that they had no concern or suspicion of what would become of Kang's time-ship, which was always my true goal.

    "Any fool would know that the Cube would be too enticing a fruit for one such as I to not grasp for, so obvious that I would make no effort to do so. But to make no effort, even a paltry show of one, would be suspicious.

    "Your failed effort, which again was not your fault, made it so that I did not have to fail at something I had no desire to do in the first place.

    "Now, I have all this..." he waves at their surroundings. "30th century technology. A ship that can travel anywhere in time. All because of you, my son. My gratitude will be immense.

    "I will remain here for the time being, as I master this technology and its usage. In my stead, I have left one of my drones to speak my words and enact my will in Latveria.

    "If you have need of me, you can contact me through the same secure channel I contacted you. It will relay to Latveria, and send the signal through a special device I have set up to this ship.

    "I will be there for you, my son. When the time comes, I will have an appropriate reward for you."

    Vlad stares at Doom for a long moment, the hum of the ship’s instruments the only sound in the room.

    He bows and rises. "Thank you, Father. This world belongs to Doom."

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    Doom nods. "As has always been our right." He places his hand on his son’s shoulder.
    "Now, I will return you to your place and time."

    Doom presses some buttons on the console.

    The younger Doom's internal chronometer goes haywire for a moment as it tries to reconcile conflicting information, but after a moment it adjusts. He realizes that literally not a second has passed since when he left and when he returned.

    He makes his way out of his room and back to Elise.

    Elise is still giggling with Crys, and then she holds up her finger in the 'one moment' gesture and waits for him to catch up. "Hey." she says, quietly. "Before Kang showed up, you said...you had a secret?"

    He looks at Crys and turns back to Elise. "We will talk later about that.”

    Elise nods.

    Victorious smiles. "Now, some R&R, as the Director suggested?"

    "Yeah," she says. "Let's roll out."

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    I’m not Matt so I can’t say one way or the other, but Doom’s explanation here that he was never really after the Cosmic Cube feels like some hardcore post facto rationalization to me. I think he probably wanted both the Cube and the ship but was happy to settle for the latter when the former was clearly out of reach.

    Obviously the other shoe dropping with Vlad is the big moment of this session, but I also really enjoyed playing off the range of hero and villain NPCs and the extended denouement and catching-up session with our supporting cast back home.

    Reading over this, I remember being kind of - frustrated is too strong a word, but mildly bemused - at the time by feeling like everything my character attempted this session ended in a resounding anticlimax. I wouldn’t have minded a little more action, especially against Kang - but I think we had to wrap up early for some reason so hustled past some of that stuff, though I don’t remember the specifics as it was a year ago. Whatever the reason, that’s why this session is about half the wordcount of the two previous.

    Unfortunately, no RPG is ever completely immune to real-life concerns and the best that GM and players can do sometimes is try to use their time effectively and focus on the key bits needed to move the game forward.

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    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    What was the phoenix thing where he came back with max firepower, mechanics wise?

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    What was the phoenix thing where he came back with max firepower, mechanics wise?

    He totally whiffed his roll to shoot fire at the robots, not even getting a partial success, so he just straight- up ate a consequence (death).

    While dead, the GM offered him the choice you read, more or less word for word - in effect, he could reapawn back home without I'll effect (but out of play for a while) or in the middle of the fight, with unknown, potentially sinister, potentially long-term complications.

    When Choco chose the second, the GM narrated his fiery return and the destruction of the remaining robots. So he didn't, like, get a new power on his sheet or anything, and no dice were involved past the initial roll. It was a story choice that sent his character down a new path.

  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    In retrospect, I enjoy Elise and Crys reacting in tandem to the Attilan reveal. Elise doesn't see Attilan as a police state authoritarian dystopia because she's an upper class member of nobility there, and it's not home in the same way SHIELD is, but she's genuinely trying to be a good partner to Crystalia.

    She's not doing amazing at it, because she can't stop herself from being a dick to Carol and getting under Miles' skin, but she's trying.

    We also get to see the follow-up of Elise deciding she's all-in on Team Vlad! She tries to use the Cosmic Cube to save a dude's injuries (good, but dumb) and she tries to back out of a conversation with the Cosmic Cube and Kang's Time Helmet so she can use them for... reasons.

    Elise occasionally bitches that no one takes her seriously but that's probably for the best; she's racked up a few counts of treason and people generally let her get away with it because she's small, easily stopped, and a little stupid.

    Matev
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    edited October 7
    One of the things I like most about the whole Phoenix... thing

    If I fuck that roll to come back up, it really could be bad.

    I think it's reasonable to suggest Julian will generally come back.

    What's hard to predict is how much control he will have when he does.

    For a being of basically omnicidal power, that's pretty scary!

    I also really like how Julian's gone from dying once in Season 1 with it being a huge dramatic moment to Season 2 where he bites it on the regular.

    Rear Admiral Choco on
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    JacobkoshMsAnthropyMatevFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    In retrospect, I enjoy Elise and Crys reacting in tandem to the Attilan reveal. Elise doesn't see Attilan as a police state authoritarian dystopia because she's an upper class member of nobility there, and it's not home in the same way SHIELD is, but she's genuinely trying to be a good partner to Crystalia.

    She's not doing amazing at it, because she can't stop herself from being a dick to Carol and getting under Miles' skin, but she's trying.

    We also get to see the follow-up of Elise deciding she's all-in on Team Vlad! She tries to use the Cosmic Cube to save a dude's injuries (good, but dumb) and she tries to back out of a conversation with the Cosmic Cube and Kang's Time Helmet so she can use them for... reasons.

    Elise occasionally bitches that no one takes her seriously but that's probably for the best; she's racked up a few counts of treason and people generally let her get away with it because she's small, easily stopped, and a little stupid.

    Until I was doing this, I'd forgotten that she tried to slip away with the Cube. Do you think she had anything specific in mind that she was going to do with it, or was she going to just slip it to Vlad later?

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