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

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Posts

  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    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?

    Between the helmet and the cube she planned to try to divine into the future to see if she could anticipate and stop the ever-present threats in the campaign so far, starting with Maximus to protect Crystalia and working her way up to Galactus.

    JacobkoshFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Report: July 18th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Section compiled by STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    As those who are reading this report likely already know, on July 9th, 2017, all the high-level field operatives present in the Azores as well as a variety of other individuals from across the globe suddenly vanished.

    STRIKE field team members know what happened to those individuals during that time, but over a week passed in their absence and this report is intended to bring you up to speed on the events of the past week that you may have missed.

    Atlantis Attacks
    Believing that their king, Namor, had been abducted or assassinated, the undersea nation of Atlantis emerged and began making public declarations demanding his return or recompense for his assassination, or the surface world would face dire consequences.

    SHIELD was not able to control the narrative on this event, as Atlantean ships appeared along the coastlines of nearly every major nation with an Atlantic coast, and Atlantis communicated their demands openly over a variety of different communication methods.

    Intel on Atlantis is extremely limited. Prior to this event, their existence was only rumored, or dismissed as myth confused with the very real existence of Attilan. The only SHIELD personnel who knew anything about Atlantis were also the individuals who know King Namor personally, and were also missing at the same time for the same reason.

    Since King Namor’s return, Atlantis’ ships have retreated and their threats have discontinued. Namor has agreed to formal diplomatic ties with the surface world, with SHIELD serving as an intermediary. A portion of the Avengers Tower facility’s lower floors will be converted into a permanent embassy for a diplomatic contingent that Atlantis is stating they will send going forward.

    Attilan Goes Public
    Having recently dealt with a serious internal crisis that STRIKE agents had ameliorated and resolved, Attilan nonetheless decided to ignore SHIELD’s express advice and went public essentially in response to Atlantis doing the same. Because Ambassador Crystalia was also among the missing, the situation was difficult to negotiate with Attilan.

    Attilan has gone public as a “homeland for all Inhumans”, although SHIELD was partially able to control the narrative on this information. Their true location is not publicly known or confirmed, and while they have made an open offer of asylum to all Inhumans on Earth, they have no current way to meaningfully back that up.

    The main fold-gate to Attilan is SWORD’s Azores base (The Getaway), and SWORD is not going to open the covert site to refugees. The Azores is also an autonomous region of Portugal, and SHIELD/SWORD are on the site by the Portuguese government’s permission.

    COMMS’ misinformation campaign is currently in full swing, attempting to obfuscate Attilan’s true nature, location, and the real origin of the Inhuman genome. At this time, with Atlantis appearing at roughly the same, the popular opinion is that Attilan is some kind of hoax capitalizing on the very real existence of Atlantis and the general Inhuman panic.

    While Attilan has formally established an embassy to their nation in Avengers Tower, at this time this decision of misinformation was considered the most prudent by SHIELD Director Fury given all ongoing factors.

    Action Pack to Debut Soon
    Roxxon Industries made a startling new announcement on July 14th; their new CEO Daniel Whitehall went public with a plan for Roxxon to not only make its own privately-run and operated superhero team, they also plan to stream and broadcast this team’s missions live as a form of reality television. The name of the team and the upcoming program is the same: Action Pack.

    SHIELD does not, at this time, have any intel on what the prospective roster for Action Pack may be, but with so many new Inhumans out there looking to potentially take advantage of their abilities for fame or wealth, it will not be hard for Roxxon to find volunteers. It is also possible the entire endeavor is a staged promotional venture on Roxxon’s part.

    The situation is rapidly developing and more intel will be forthcoming as it becomes available.

    It's been three days since the team got back from Battleworld, and they have had the time off to recuperate.

    They've been called back in for a briefing, and are now meeting back up in the main conference room in the HQ. Clay is there, as is Carol Danvers, Niles Nordstrom, and Olivia Hook. Elise is not there.

    Clay gestures for the team to take a seat. "Alright folks, we've got a big mission coming up in a few days, and I need to go over some things.

    "In seven days, we're returning to Earth-462 for what is being named Operation Scalpel."

    Miles' eyebrows raise at that name. It sounds promising. Or foreboding.

    "Since we have promised the denizens of Earth-462 our assistance and, arguably, we have some sort of moral obligation to assist in their...circumstance, we're going to move on a joint operation between STRIKE, ARMOR, and WHISPER.

    "All the STRIKE teams, as well as the Ultimates and the Fantastic Four, are going to be involved."

    Victorious nods. "Good, we shall end these Skrulls once and for all."

    Clay looks at Vlad, eyes narrowed. "We have some prep work to do, upfront.

    "I've dispatched Elise and Agent Munroe to try to recruit an additional asset. The individual we encountered in Battleworld who went by 'Wolverine.' Steve knows the guy, or knew him during the War, anyway. Steve speaks highly of him, and Elise and Childan worked well with him.

    "COMMS did some looking up on the guy. Apparently he's a teacher? He works at a boarding school upstate."

    Miles' head cocks. "That guy? What does he teach, JV truckstop arm wrestling?"

    "Yeah, it's a little suspicious. The school itself is a bit of a question mark. The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. On the surface is supposed to be a boarding school for 'special' kids, but…

    "Professor Charles Xavier, the headmaster, is also an evolutionary biologist and geneticist who taught at Oxford. So that's...questionable."

    Miles leans forward, interested. "What, so do we think it's some kind of genetics factory or something? Making little supersoldier clones or something?"

    "We're all talking about the same person, right? The guy with the crazy claw-hands? A teacher?" Phoenix says.

    Clay nods. "The whole thing is shifty. I talked to Steve about Wolverine, apparently he was an agent of the Canadian government during the war. He definitely has powers, regeneration, claws, super-senses, that sort of thing. The regeneration is likely why he was a contemporary of Steve and I and is still around, regeneration usually means you don't age on the same time-scale as humans.

    "Steve and Logan, that's what he goes by, they freed the Auschwitz camp together. Among all the fucked up shit everyone knows the Nazis were doing there, they were doing a bunch of super-soldier experiments there.

    "How he became a teacher at an upstate New York boarding school run by an English geneticist? That's...that's a complicated story. Has to be. So I want Elise and Munroe to find out what's going on there. They're not just going to recruit Logan.

    "They're already on their way. Elise insisted on driving her car, so I've already given them their brief and sent them off."

    "He could be a useful asset," Vlad says.

    "The rest of you have other assignments as we do some prep work for Scalpel," Clay says. "Vladimir, we need you to head to the Baxter Building to work with Susan on refining our portal technology. We've all agreed to be grown-ups about the Holepunch and...technology... acquisition in the past."

    Vlad nods.

    "As it stands, the Holepunch is good for exploration, but it's not great for making a big offensive, only one person can jump through at a time. I want you to help her refine it, possibly integrate your spatial sorcery if possible, make a larger and more stable aperture for when we move on the other Earth.

    "Reed's in the Negative Zone right now, working on some other ideas. That's...for the best, really. If he does stop by the building, just...don't start shit. That's an order."

    "Understood, Director."

    "Michael, this is completely unrelated to our mission, Sigrun showed up and demanded your help," he says. "Apparently, Lorelei escaped her prison in Asgard. Somehow. We don't know how that possibly could have happened and nor are we going to postulate any theories why."

    "Understood,” Michael winks.

    "She's very concerned, as that was her collar and it seems that makes it her responsibility to re-apprehend her. She wants your help. I'm not interested in pressing the argument for a variety of reasons. She's agreed to wait in the lobby, thankfully.

    "Julian, you are going to join Olivia and I on a training exercise."

    "A training exercise?"

    Clay nods. "Your telepathy is powerful but unrefined, we need to fix that."

    "Mm." Julian drums his fingers on the table. "Yeah, agreed."

    Clay turns to Machine Man. "Mason, you and Danvers are going to be working on combat strategies, as team leaders. Ideally, I'd have all the team leaders working together on this, but Munroe is off with Elise."

    "Sounds good, sir," Miles says briskly. "What are we focusing on?"

    "I have no idea, it was Danvers' idea, she'll go over it with you."

    "At your disposal, Captain," Miles smiles warmly across the table at Danvers.

    "Alright, you have your assignments, get going. None of these things should be combat-heavy, but if you do need to gear up for any reason, talk to Niles." Clay pauses. "Unless there's any questions."

    "No sir," Miles says, loosening his collar. "I'm ready to go."

    "All of your assignments are local, so requisition from the motor pool as needed. Julian, stick around with Olivia and me."

    Behemoth raises a hand. "Actually Director, I was wondering if you could like, put up a psychic block in my mind or something so Lorelei doesn't whammy me again. I really hate getting mind-controlled."

    "Hrm.... tricky to do." Clay frowns. "Lorelei is an Asgardian sorceress, not a conventional telepath..." He snaps his fingers with a sudden idea. "Actually, this would be a good test of Julian's abilities. In theory, Julian could put a shield up around your mind, temporarily, to prevent mind control from another party," Clay says. "But it would be temporary.

    Julian, give it a try."

    "All I need is a second or 5," Michael says to Julian. "If this doesn't work, I'll just knock her out before she whammies me by tossing a bus at her or something."

    Phoenix nods. "Alright. Prepare yourself, man."

    Michael relaxes, calming his mind. Julian carefully tries to construct a psychic defense over Michael's mind. It’s time-consuming, but it works.

    With that done, the team prepares to roll out. Julian sticks around with Clay and Olivia. Michael heads down to the lobby, Miles and Carol take the elevator down to the motor pool, as does Vlad.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 8
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    Elise and Jenny are in Elise's convertible, driving upstate.

    Jenny is going over the mission brief with Elise. "So, yeah, this guy, Wolverine. You've met him already. I'm reading what COMMS was able to dig up on him. Goes by 'Logan', real name is James Howlett, Canadian national, been alive since at least the 1940s.

    "Regeneration, retractable claws, superhuman senses.

    "Worked, at one time at least, for Department H, Canada's black op for dealing with enhanced circumstances. Might be ex-Alpha Flight? Unclear."

    "Really? Department H? That's the name they went with for their black ops unit? Fuckin' boring."

    Jenny nods. "Hard agree."

    Elise drums her hands on the wheel of the convertible as she drives, clearly in good spirits.

    "Now, get this, the guy is a teacher," Flashback says. "He's gotta be at least a hundred years old, literally, he's a former black ops super-spy who fought with Captain America in World War II, and now he's a teacher? Doesn't add up.

    "School's shifty as hell, too. Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Looked up the website, seems like a place they send super-smart kids. But the guy who owns and runs the place is a British geneticist? That's sketchy.

    "Best case scenario, this place is a Hogwarts for super-kids. Worst case..." She shudders. "Let's hope it's a best case."

    Elise's eyes light up at "Hogwarts". "Do you think I'd be a good professor to super youth, Jenny?"

    "If they needed classes on joint-rolling and card-counting, maybe."

    "Both valuable skills in today's world," Elise says.

    "You think Logan's a good guy, right? Bob said he was a good guy. I don't imagine he'd be working at a place that was fucked up."

    "He was cool. Good to work with, nice, not condescending, saved my life. Didn't say anything weird about the Jews or nothin'."

    "He's got that up on Bob, then," Jenny says.

    "Oh, Christ."

    "Yeah, don't... don't ask Bob about 'Big Questions' or how his world 'solved' them."

    Elise looks at Jenny, then turns the radio up.

    Jenny points. "Oh, this is our exit, turn here." Elise turns, and follows a side-road down a forested path.

    After a bit, they eventually come round a corner to a huge mansion.

    8sMqz55h.jpg


    “Jesus, that is a hell of a school." Elise parks and opens the glove compartment, pulling out a pack of gum. She shoves three pieces in her mouth. "Trying to quit smoking." she grouses, and offers Jenny a piece, who takes one out of politeness. Elise opens the car, giving the convertible a fond pat.

    As you arrive at the front door, before they even knock, the door opens. It's Logan. He's not wearing his costume, or his mask. In fact, he's wearing jeans, a tanktop, and a leather jacket. But Elise can recognize him immediately.

    "Hey, dude. Remember me?"

    "Yep." He points at Flashback. "Remember her too, from the thing. Didn't get to talk much."

    "Sure was a fuckin' thing, wasn't it? SHIELD wanted me to follow up, say hi. Hope that's cool?"

    "Sure," he says. "Professor will want to talk to you." He waves them in.

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    Periodically, young kids run past, wearing school uniforms. Logan barks "No running in the halls!" and they immediately slow down.

    "Nice place," Elise says.

    "Thank you very much, Ms. Arnell," a man with an English accent says as he pulls up in his wheelchair.

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    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "I wasn't aware we, uh, had been introduced?" Elise offers a hand to the man.

    He shakes her hand "Ah, yes, I should clarify. I'm Professor Charles Xavier, I'm quite aware of your activities with SHIELD, and I know a fair bit about yourself and Ms. Munroe here."

    Clay is going to love that, Elise thinks, grimacing briefly. "So, let's get this out of the way - on a scale of Hogwarts to Soylent Green, what's the deal here?"

    Logan looks at Charles, who smiles. "Definitely on the Hogwarts end of the scale, my dear."

    Elise grins. "I mean, to be clear, we're not here to be, like, a dick or nothin'? We just, like... My bosses wanted me to talk to Logan, we're not here to try to big dick y'all and shut anything down or nothin'." Elise glances at Jenny.

    Jenny nods, and turns to Charles. "Can I ask…how you know who we are, and our activities? If you do, then you know that you shouldn't know those things."

    Charles steeples his fingers. "I'll be quite honest with you both. You're here, and I feel that will be the most expedient policy.

    “I'm a telepath. I've worked with SHIELD numerous times in the past, not that they'd remember."

    Logan looks at him. "Charles... should we..."

    "No, it's fine, Logan, they deserve to know. They're one of us. Ms. Munroe is a mutant, and Ms. Arnell is... a close cousin." Charles turns in his chair. "Please, follow me."

    PHU1KZN.png
    When we were playing this last year, the rumors about Fox/Disney had started to swirl, and part of what this sequence is doing is exploring how the X-Men and mutantkind could be folded into the regular MCU without any time shenanigans or reboots.

    Essentially, they’ve been here all along, but Xavier has been concealing them. Partly by mindwiping any government officials, or SHIELD agents, who learn the truth. But now that Attilan and Atlantis are public knowledge, Xavier has decided it’s time for mutants to step out of the shadows.

    He leads them through the mansion, with Logan trailing alongside.

    "Y'know," Elise mutters to Jenny. "It's always a little weird to be welcomed to places as kin based off this stuff. Like, when Alchemax said participating in drug trials could 'open doors', I didn't think it'd work out like this."

    Jenny nods to Elise. "...yeah."

    Elise opens her senses slightly as she follows the Professor - not enough to leave her body, but enough to be aware of everything around her. She can sense that this definitely a genuine school. There are kids in classes, being taught a myriad of mundane subjects.

    But there's... more going on here. There's a whole area beneath the school, reinforced superstructures, rooms built with advanced technology, an entire concealed hangar built under the basketball court on the grounds. Beyond that? Who knows. But there's more going on here than is obvious.

    "I created this school in the 1980's, to protect, teach, and study mutantkind," Xavier begins. "We find young mutants, teach them to harness and control their abilities, and protect them from those who would harm or exploit them.

    "Many of our teachers and senior staff are my first students."

    Jenny interrupts. "I'm... I'm a mutant. I've never heard of this place."

    Xavier sighs. "Yes, well, unfortunately, your abilities manifested before I had truly started my efforts in earnest, and SHIELD got to you before me. I could have chosen to take you from SHIELD, but...you chose to stay."

    "...SHIELD really isn't a bad place for people like us," Elise says, glancing at Jenny. "I mean, they saved my life, they took me in, y'know? Miss Hand's like a mom."

    Charles shrugs. "I don't begrudge Nicholas and his efforts entirely. We have our philosophical differences but he means well. We mostly try to stay out of each other's way, so to speak."

    "So, uh, you knew my name and stuff? How much do you know about, like...me. In general." And the rest of STRIKE? Elise thinks, uneasy.

    "I know that you're not a mutant, but rather, an Inhuman. I know what Alchemax did to you, and that you've been to Attilan to undergo a proper Terrigenesis. I don't know a great deal about the rest of STRIKE, as I said, I try to stay out of SHIELD's way."

    Elise involuntarily makes a sharp noise between her teeth. "...Okay."

    Jenny holds up a hand. "Hang on, hang on. How do you know these things? What's your security clearance? You're name dropping Director Fury like you know the man."

    Xavier sighs. "An unfortunate reality is that for decades, the world simply wasn't ready to know mutants existed. It was too dangerous for anyone to know. Even Nicholas, who I do consider an old friend. So, I've taken steps over the years to make sure that has stayed the case. And, through Nicholas I have made sure to keep myself abreast of things that I need to know that may be a threat to mutantkind, or any mutants in SHIELD's employ.

    "Inhumans are... adjacent to mutants in a way. Cousins, so to speak, so Inhumans are also individuals I keep my eye on."

    "Christ, I hope you didn't keep your eye on me too close, 'cause The Van days could get pretty fuckin' gross." Elise pulls out another piece of gum and pops it into her mouth.

    He chuckles. "I stay out of people's personal lives, Ms. Arnell. I only know what I need to know, and I only take the knowledge from others that needs to be taken to keep our people safe."

    "So, speaking of that, that's kind of why SHIELD sent me. So, uh, about Logan." If this dude's throwing around 'Ms. Arnell', Elise can use Wolverine's real name. "We kind of need his help. I mean, if he's willing to help."

    Logan nods. "What's up, kid?"

    "Okay, so, this is a long story, but, uh, my team leader attacked a Skrull invention and it kind of created an alternate dimension ruled by Skrulls." Elise is under the impression that that’s what happened, and is still sour at Miles about it. "Then, he kind of promised we'd help the denizens of that hellscape?

    "Since you've worked with some people at SHIELD, my boss suggested I ask you to, like, y'know... help."

    Logan grumbles "Ugh, hate that alternate timeline shit."

    "I know, right?!"

    Logan looks at Charles. "I wanna do this, Charles. She's a good kid, they're good people. I want to take Blue Team with me."

    Charles taps his fingertips together. "Well, you'll have to clear that with Ororo, I don't make decisions over the tactical teams, Logan."

    Elise shifts uncomfortably. "Since we're being so friendly, there's other stuff I gotta tell you. Some of it is like, technically confidential, but... If there are kids here, I don't want them to get hurt, y'know? Kraven, and the whole...Sentinel thing."

    Logan nods. "Go ahead."

    "So, first of all, there're these things called Sentinels. I've never seen one yet..." Elise plucks the massive wad of gum out of her mouth and tosses it as the group passes by a trash can. "But they're basically Inhuman Murdering Bots by the government. I imagine that uh, mutants might be vulnerable to that, since we're cousins and all.

    "Second, there's this guy called Kraven. Dude, uh, eats Inhuman hearts to gain their strength. He's been gunning for me, and I clown him every time, but...he's down to eat any kind of heart he can get his hands on, y'know? Not like the guy has ethics. He's currently with Doctor Doom, so maybe it's a non issue, but..."

    Charles nods. "Thank you, Ms. Arnell. We're aware of the Sentinel problem, it's definitely a concern for us as well. We don't believe the government is going to make a distinction between Inhumans and Mutants especially when they realize there are many more Mutants than there are Inhumans.

    "As for Kraven...is Kraven himself an Inhuman?"

    "Maybe? We haven't had much in the way of conversation."

    Charles nods slowly. "Hrm... perhaps I can locate him with Cerebro. I've been able to locate Inhumans in the past, with difficulty. Far more difficult than Mutants, but it's possible."

    Elise's ears perk up. "If you wouldn't mind, I can, I'd owe you a big one. Kraven...is dangerous. And if he finds this school, if one kid wanders too far out..."

    Logan looks at Charles. "We definitely gotta take this guy out, Charles. He's a psychopath. He defied Doctor Doom to play psycho-cannibal hunter. He's a lunatic. He'd eat one of your kids without a second thought."

    Charles nods grimly. "Follow me, please."

    Elise checks her now empty pack of gum, sighs, and follows Charles.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 8
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    Vlad and Niles pull into the garage of the Baxter Building.

    A HERBIE unit steps forward.

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    It waves them into a parking space, and then directs the pair to an elevator, which leads them up to the lab. Susan is there waiting when they arrive. For once, she doesn't do some kind of elaborate invisibility-based entrance. "Hey you two."

    "Susan," Vlad says warmly as he approaches.

    Niles nods and smiles. "So, where is it?" he says, rubbing his hands together with glee. Susan rolls her eyes and gestures to a workstation, which is connected to a large portal device that looks similar to the Holepunch.

    Niles gleefully walks over the workstation and gets started.

    Vlad turns, taking in the lab and all its works. "These are Reed's creations?"

    "They're our creations."

    Vlad nods. "Of course."

    "Some are Reed's, some are mine, most are things we both worked on."

    "Ah, I see. Did you make the Quiet Room?"

    She shakes her head. "No, that was all Reed."

    Vlad nods. "So how may I assist in the task at hand?"

    "I actually need to check on a few things before we get started. Do me a favor, Vlad, and look over the math I've inputted for some of the extra-dimensional spatial calculations? I need Niles to go with me and run the console as I use my fields to calibrate the generator for the portal.”

    “Of course,” Vlad says.

    "Niles, if you don't mind..." Niles manages to pull himself away from the console and joins her at the elevator. "We'll be downstairs one level."

    "Very good.” Vlad walks over to the console and begins to work.

    Vlad looks over the math. It takes him 27 seconds to calculate and triple-check it. Susan has made a 0.0027 increment error, which is insubstantial but easily corrected.

    While Vlad is working, he hears a small voice. "Hi!" It's Franklin.

    "Hello, Franklin. It is good to see you."

    "Hi, Vladimir. Whatcha doin?"

    "I am currently recalculating and correcting mathematical formulas your mother has asked me to review. What are you doing?"

    "Oh! Those were my calculations. Did I make any mistakes?"

    This is highest level math on the interposition of trans-dimensional space to create a non-relativistic hyper-manifold. Franklin made ab inconsequential error.

    "Only a small, insubstantial one. An increment error of 0.0027." Vlad displays the math and the correction. "You do very good work, Franklin." Vlad offers a high five. Franklin jumps and hits it.

    Vlad pauses a moment in thought. "Franklin, your mother asked you to do this?"

    "Yeah, she said the math was too big for her. She asks me to do that stuff sometimes, when the math is too big. Dad does too, but when he does he says 'don't tell mom,' but I do anyway."
    ,
    Vlad smiles. He looks back and forth, checking to see if anyone is in earshot. There is a HERBIE doing manual labor, but nobody else around.

    Vlad looks at Franklin. "Do you want to help me with something, Franklin? I can't ask anyone else for help with it and you might be able to assist me in this.”

    "Sure!"

    Vlad displays the Kree satellite network via his holoprojector. "Behold, Franklin..."

    "Oh, neat!"

    "Indeed."

    "That's the Kree satellite network, right? Mom says we can't fly the Messenger too high because it'll get shot down by that."

    "Yes, Franklin. Though I have made a connection to it. I can impose control over it at will. I just don't know the extent of its abilities yet. Currently, I'm just making sure no one else can activate it."

    Franklin’s eyes widen. "Oh wow. So, if you can control it, you could make it so it couldn't blow up Mom's ship, right? Like it couldn't hurt her?"

    "That is my hope, yes. It is a powerful tool, but Attlian is in chaos right now and should not have control over it."

    He nods. "Yeah, mom says Attilan is awful."

    Vlad shrugs. "It is a place."

    "This is what you need help with? Understanding its code and programming and stuff?"

    "Yes. I would have gone to SHIELD or STRIKE but they have shown distrust of my actions time and time again. I try to help as much as I can, I try to save this world, yet they fear me because I don't fear them anymore." Vlad's tone is sad and mournful. "The people I protect do not trust me."

    Franklin looks empathetic at Vlad. "Yeah, I get that. Mom and Dad don't always let me help when I know I can, too.

    "Okay..." He steeples his fingers, tapping his index fingers together in front of his chin in thought. It occurs to Vlad he's seen this exact same mannerism before, but not from Reed or Susan. It's something his father does when contemplating. "Well, I can do the math, but not on these computers. They're not powerful enough. I'll have to use Dad's central computer core. C'mon."

    Franklin leads Vlad into the central computer core. Nine foot tall server towers flank the room.

    In the center of the room, on a dais, a helmet sits in a circle of light.

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    "This is your father's helmet? Your mother has mentioned it before." Vlad gestures to the dais.

    "...oh, yeah." Franklin gets kinda quiet. "Dad doesn't put the helmet on anymore. Mom made him promise not to. He gets mean. He gets...ideas. Mom doesn't like to talk about it."

    Vlad narrows his eyes at it. "Then why does he keep it?"

    "Um...I think...I think maybe he thinks one day Mom will change her mind. Or like, bad stuff will happen and he'll need to use it."

    Vlad nods slowly. "Interesting..."

    "Dad doesn't like to throw stuff away when he makes it. He says 'there's no bad ideas, Franklin, only bad users."

    "Perhaps," Vlad says. "Perhaps not."

    "I dunno, I don't think I agree. I've read a lot of history. There's some bad ideas in history, y'know?"

    "Yes, sometimes," Vlad agrees.

    "Anyway, let's do some math...." Franklin walks to a console and logs on.

    "I will need to connect," Vlad says.

    "Use this console here. Don't uh... don't go exploring. Dad's computer can get really vicious. And you're a computer so it would be bad."

    Vlad nods. "I am aware of your father's works." He walks up to the console and places his hand over it. Bolts of energy fly from his fingers and into the console. He connects and allows Franklin access to the network through him.

    "That's so cool..." Franklin remarks.

    "Indeed."

    Franklin begins to access the network. "Oh wow, this is crazy. These things, the satellites, they're mass drivers. Every one of them is basically a great big particle cannon, they fire tiny particles of dense elements, tungsten and stuff, at fractions of the speed of light.

    "It's like, many times the biggest nuclear bombs.

    "I could tweak it, though. Tinier particles, slower speeds. Make it so it doesn't, y'know, wipe out a city? Because that would be so bad. There's no reason for that, gosh." He taps on some more keys. "Yeah, there we go. Oh! Oh, I can make it so the targeting is more manual, and doesn't auto-blow-up every Skrull ship, so it doesn't kill my mom...."

    "Of course, Franklin," Vlad says.

    "What the hell are you doing in here?!" Vlad hears a yell. It's Susan, at the door. Vlad snaps to attention and stares at her.

    Franklin looks at his mother. "Oh, uh, hi! We're making things safe! You can fly the Messenger into sub-orbit now without getting blown up, Mom! And now Attilan can't blow up all human civilization!"

    Susan looks at Franklin, and then stares at Vlad.

    "Franklin is correct," Vlad says.

    There is a disturbance.



    It's in the air.

    In space.

    In time.

    Vlad can feel it, his internal sensors going haywire. He's felt it before.

    "Something is wrong," he starts to say.

    The air itself rips asunder, as two forms emerge from the hole in space and time.

    LlrOw6Ul.jpg

    Vlad steps in front of Franklin and shifts forms in to Victorious.

    PHU1KZN.png
    You’ll recall that Susan has told Vladimir that the Council has had an interest in her family for a while. They appeared when the Four traveled to another dimension, on her wedding night, and at Franklin’s birth. Presumably this is because the Council is a multiversal power and the Fantastic Four were the first people on Earth-1491 to break the reality barrier, when they traveled to the Negative Zone and got their powers.

    I love the creepy track Matt found for the Executors. He makes excellent use of leitmotifs in this game; you may have noticed that Hyperion is always presaged by Johnny Cash. That’s definitely one advantage of a game set in the real-ish world, instead of in space or a fantasy kingdom. There’s so much richness to play with.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 8
    g3xuawl.png

    Michael greets Sigrun in the lobby, who scoops him up off the ground.

    Michael grunts "Hup, hi!"

    "Michael, thank the All-Father, I was so worried!"

    "How come?" he asks.

    "You were gone for a week, from space and time! I asked Heimdall to find you, and you were beyond his sight! So was Lorelei, it was terrifying."

    "Oh, yeah. I can take care of myself, but I'm sorry to make you worry. I should've called when I got back."

    "It's alright. I need your help, however," she says. "To re-capture Lorelei."

    He nods. "Should be a piece of cake."

    "Indeed, especially because I now have this..." She gestures to a golden necklace she is now wearing, and hands one to Michael. "This will protect you from Lorelei's power. So long as you are wearing it. I am uncertain if it will work if you assume the form of the Destroyer, however."

    "We'll certainly find out. Thank you, Sigrun, I appreciate this. I really dislike being mind-controlled."

    "As do I," she nods emphatically. "Lorelei is here, in New York. Heimdall has pointed the way. Come, let us be done with this quickly, and perhaps we can spend the rest of my trip to Midgard pursuing happier matters."

    Michael smirks. "Let's get this done quick then."

    They get on Sigrun's motorcycle, and take off onto the Manhattan streets.

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

    Carol and Miles are flying above New York together. Carol is leading the way.

    "Soooo...what do you have in mind?" Miles asks.

    "30 Rockefeller Plaza, c'mon."

    "I'm coming!" Miles speeds up a bit to keep up with her.

    They soar through the New York skyline toward the famous building.

    6sIywQwl.jpg

    Pulling up just shy of the building, she looks over at Miles. "No need to do civvies here, I booked the whole place."

    He brakes next to her. "You...booked all of 30 Rockefeller Plaza?" Miles’ eyes widen..

    "No, just the Rainbow Room."

    "Are you sure I'm not underdressed for this?” he asks, suddenly nervous. He jabs a thumb over his shoulder. “My place isn't that far, I could go snag a dinner jacket. I have these great cufflinks I picked up in Bahrain...."

    "Naw, it's cool, honestly, it's funnier this way."

    They land on the balcony of the Rainbow Room, where a hostess meets them. Carol says "Danvers, party of 2" and she nods.

    Miles alights somewhat less gracefully and dusts himself off a bit. He stands up and looks around.

    E96kxeoh.png

    "Okay, yeah," he murmurs. "This was a good idea."

    "I am... I am pretty sure Clay knew exactly what I was doing and didn't get in my way so... that's nice," she says. "If we talk actual strategy once then the whole thing is legit, so we have to remember to do that at some point."

    Miles grins fondly. "Clay's a big soft touch under all that...life that got crusted over. And we're definitely talking strategy at some point. I'm curious to hear more about your guys - and I think I need a double-check, after everything that's happened the last few weeks."

    She nods and smiles.

    PHU1KZN.png
    I have a lot of fun with Miles/Carol. He doesn’t really have a confidant on the team - he actively mistrusts Vlad, Elise just wants to get his goat and can’t keep secrets, and Julian is just sort of there. Michael and Clay are the two people in STRIKE he’s actually got to share a bit with, but I wouldn’t call either of those relationships close.

    So in the real world, from a game point of view, Carol’s function is as someone Miles can vent to and draw motivation from. Everything kind of clicked into place for me when Carol entered the story and I realized that this person with a military background and an idealistic outlook would loom very large in his mind’s eye as someone whom he has things in common with but is also, in some ways, the kind of person he wants to be.

    From that point onward, whenever there was a question about what Miles would think or do in a situation, I could take Carol as a starting point and the rest would be easy. She is to him what power is to Vlad or Attilan was to Elise; a pole star, a fixed point of reference.

    But in the world of the game, I really like how earnest and wholesome they are together. Maybe a bit basic, a bit pumpkin spice and DVR’ing everything on HGTV, but sweet.

    The writer who - didn’t create, but revived and updated Carol for the 2000s, Kelly Sue DeConnick, has described her as “a leather jacket over a kitten sweatshirt,” and I think Matt has captured that quality well.

    The hostess leads them to a table, and says "Your other guest has already arrived, ma'am."

    Miles stops short. "O...other guest?" He looks at Carol.

    Carol looks at the hostess. "Wait...what? No. I...I booked the whole..."

    But there is another guest.

    iDyaaD2.jpg

    Carol stares at her. "No."

    Miles slams his hands over his ears and SPEAKS VERY LOUDLY. "WHAT'S GOING ON, LORELEI?"

    She smiles. "Oh, Miles, I won't be doing that, not tonight, that's no fun.” She waves airily at their table. "Please have a seat, both of you, I'm asking. I could choose to not ask, although I don't know if Carol here would listen if I spoke very firmly. She doesn't seem like that kind of girl, which is a shame."

    Carol stares daggers at Lorelei.

    Miles sets a signal to broadcast to SHIELD in five minutes unless he cancels it. He lowers his hands guardedly.

    Lorelei smiles coquettishly. "I have talked to most of the staff here, who will be very upset if you aren't nice to me. So upset, they might want to leave the building immediately."

    Carol's jaw drops. "You monster."

    Lorelei grins.

    Miles' face twists into a scowl. "That was....really uncalled-for, Lorelei."

    "Well, it won't be necessary if we all sit down and have a nice chat."

    Carol and Miles sit. He keeps his eyes on Lorelei the whole time. "We're capable of having a nice civil chat, Lorelei. But you should know - if anyone gets hurt - I'll regard that as your responsibility. Not ours."

    "Sure, sure." She turns, folds her hands, and smiles at Carol. "Alright, sweetheart, here's how it is.

    "I want him.

    "He's yours. For now. And you seem to be doing a really good job of it. Booking the whole restaurant? Such classic romance.

    "I'm issuing a traditional Asgardian duel for his affections."

    Carol's jaw tightens "And if I say no?"

    Lorelei smiles. "One restaurant employee gets very upset, I give you another ten minutes, and ask again."

    "And what happens when Carol wins?" Miles says.

    Lorelei laughs. "If.

    "If
    she wins, then the matter is settled. I walk away, I never trouble you again. But if I win, then he's mine. Until such time someone else defeats me, if that ever happens."

    Miles regards her with an ironic smile. "Wouldn't you get tired of me long before that? You don't seem like the settling-down type. I think I'd probably be pretty boring to an immortal superbeing."

    She shrugs. "I'm willing to take that chance. Plus, I hear you're functionally immortal, and that seems fascinating. I kind of want to put that whole 'Machine Man' name through its paces," she says with a leer.

    "Hrm." He frowns. Betrayed by technology!

    Carol scowls, then slams her fist on the table. "I accept."

    Miles holds up a hand. "Lorelei, may Carol and I have a moment? Privately? She's accepted, I'm not going to talk her out of it or anything."

    Lorelei claps her hands and cackles. "Sure! Why not!"

    Miles takes Carol's hand and leads her away. He leans in close and speaks sotto voce. "Carol, I am really, really, sorry that you're in this position with my...alien stalker. Jesus. But I have absolutely no doubt that you've got this. And I," he whispers extra quietly, "have made a call. I'm going to try and secure the hostages before Behemoth crashes the party. Ok? You just focus on beating the tar out of this chick.

    "I'm not going to let her hurt anyone. Least of all us."

    Carol nods, and kisses Miles on the cheek. "We got this."

    Miles kisses the top of her head. "Always."

    Lorelei makes a childish and disaffected sigh.

    Miles rolls his eyes at her from behind Carol’s shoulder. "Don't even pretend you're not into this.” Lorelei is taken aback and looks away.

    Carol walks back to the Enchantress. "Alright you creepy stalker weirdo, let's dance."

    Lorelei smiles. "Rooftop, no sense making a mess of this lovely establishment, I might want to eat dinner here with Miles when I win."

    The three head up to the rooftop, accompanied by an "audience" of the restaurant staff. "Just in case you try to be clever," Lorelei explains with a wink.

    Miles sends a burst transmission to Clay, figuring that Michael and Sigrun might be in some other dimension without reception. Clay. We're in the Rainbow Room at 30 Rock. Lorelei crashed the party. She's uh, dueling Carol for my affections. She's also whammied half the staff to suicide if she doesn't get her way. Tell Michael and Sigrun. And if you've got a good way to un-mojo these folks, I'd appreciate it…!

    PHU1KZN.png
    This is, of course, Miles’ nightmare. He’s kind of lowkey motivated by sex - it was a big part of his angst about being Myrmidon, and his incentive for seeking out an alternative - and now a supernaturally attractive woman thinks he’s pretty keen and he can’t do anything about it. Part of him really, really secretly wishes (and believes) this could all be settled with a big civilized threeway or lesbian makeout session, the way God and BangBus intended.

    But he’s canny enough to know that this is a terrible idea and a thought he can never, ever, ever vocalize or even think too loud lest Julian or Clay hear, or Elise sees it in his face and announces it from the rafters.

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

    Elise and Jenny are following Logan and the Professor into the lower sub-levels of the mansion.

    gHS5py9h.png

    The architecture here is completely different from the rest of the structure. It's all metallic walls and floors, large circular hallways. It reminds her of a SHIELD facility.

    "So, Fury's down with all of... this?" Elise asks, craning her head around as she walks.

    Charles shrugs. "Yes and no. Nicholas accepts there are things outside his control and things he doesn't need to know, so he doesn't know about them."

    Elise makes a quiet, mental note to bring this up to Clay later.

    "Don't trouble Director Quartermain with that information, Ms. Arnell."

    "Oh, God damnit, you're in my head."

    "It's more accurate to say, I listen and you broadcast."

    "I've thought about girls at least four times since I've got here." Elise rubs her face and digs out a new pack of gum. "Okay. Okay. Whatever. No harm, no foul, right?"

    They come to a large, circular door. Xavier leans forward and the door's center sensor reads his eyes, and opens.

    It opens up to a massive, spherical room.

    JXoSYWF.jpg

    Elise gingerly steps onto the walkway.

    Xavier gestures widely, taking in the whole room. "This is Cerebro. It's a super-computer I use to augment my abilities, and I can use it to detect and locate any mutant on the planet. With some difficulty, I can also use it for inhumans as well." He moves towards the controls, placing a helmet on his head. "Ms. Arnell, please imagine Kraven in your mind, so I can get an accurate image of who it is I am looking for."

    "...Yeah, okay." Elise fumbles with a packet of gum. She thinks about the hard lines of Kraven's face, the smell of sweat and blood and fur. She thinks about the whistle of an arrow, his vest, his heavy gait.

    Xavier engages Cerebro, and closes his eyes.

    He winces, and grits his teeth. "Hrm...no....no....I can...sense him but....it's not...it's not enough....."

    He takes off the helmet. "I'm sorry, my dear. Inhumans and mutants aren't identical, their psionic signature isn't the same. I can sense Kraven's presence, somewhere out there in the world. Where? I can't tell."

    Logan looks at him. "You think Jean could find him?"

    Charles grimaces. "Logan, we talked about this. Jean isn't using Cerebro, not after..."

    Logan puts his hands up. "Alright, alright, forget it. It just puts us in a spot, is all. This guy should get taken down, we can't have him floatin' around out there, hunting people. He's too dangerous, Charles."

    "I know a guy." Elise suddenly says. "He's, uh, a super powerful psychic. Like, best in class."

    Xavier’s eyebrow quirks up. "Is he a mutant?"

    "...No, he's definitely not a mutant."

    Xavier shakes his head. "Then it won't work. Cerebro is DNA-triggered, it will only work with a mutant, or possibly an Inhuman, I've never tested it."

    "...Can I try?" she asks.

    Xavier looks at her skeptically. "You're not a telepath. Your abilities are sensory, you couldn't, it wouldn't do anything...."

    "Charles," Logan interrupts. "This kid sniffed out the Cosmic Cube."

    "I've looked Eternity in the eye!" Elise adds in.

    Charles extends his hand to Elise. "Show me. From your memory."

    Elise takes Charles' hand and thinks back to waking up in the caverns of Attilan.

    Charles jolts in his chair. And groans. "Ungh...that....incredible...."

    Elise stares. "Shit, shit, I'm real sorry -"

    "No, it's fine.... it's not just Eternity.... your memories bled through...." he steadies himself. "Shuma-Gorath... Galactus.... You've stared cosmic horrors in the eye....how have you not gone completely mad?"

    "...I have some good friends, I guess," she shrugs. "Also, a healthy dose of self-medication."

    Charles hands her the Cerebro helmet gingerly. "I'm... I'm not certain what will happen, but if there is anyone who is a non-telepath that could use Cerebro, then it is likely you."

    She takes it. "Just, uh, if I start to stumble, don't let me fall off the catwalk." Elise puts on the helmet and opens her senses.

    The images of every Inhuman on Earth wash over her.

    Om5om0oh.jpg

    She can see Kraven. He's....

    He's in the United States. He's in Colorado.

    El Paso County. Cheyenne Mountain.

    Elise tries to go closer, to see exactly where he is, if he has any new.. trophies.

    He's... snapping a man's neck. It's a soldier. Guarding the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain. Kraven is sneaking in.

    Elise pulls off the helmet, suddenly feeling lightheaded. "NO!"

    Logan grabs her by the shoulders. "Hey, kid, what'd you see?"

    "He's not in Latveria! He's in America! He's in Colorado, he's sneaking into a military..something, he's - he's off the leash, he's going to find me, he's going to get stronger -" Elise is rambling now, panicking.

    "Hey, hey, relax, calm down. You're safe here, kid. Safer than any place you can be. He can't get you here, but we can sure as hell get him. What base in Colorado? Where?"

    "Cheyenne Mountain," she breathes.

    "...fuck." Logan looks at Xavier. "Charles, this is bad."

    "What's in Cheyenne Mountain?"

    "NORAD Central Command. Central controls for the US nuclear arsenal."

    Logan looks at Jenny. "You're the big spy, right? What's a psycho cannibal want with the main control for the nuclear arsenal? He can't eat nukes." Logan looks back at Elise. "...can he?"

    "He can fuckin' drop 'em, probably," Elise says.

    "Why though, that doesn't make sense," Jenny says.

    "I don't know!"

    Xavier looks at Elise. "You said Kraven was in Latveria? Why?"

    "It's a really long story. Basically, intergalactic cops tried to do a battle for... something by taking a bunch of champions from Earth. It included Logan and me and my team on one side. On the other side was...Kraven.

    "The teams allied, under the suggestion of Doctor Fuckin' Doom, who happens to be my best friend's dad. I know, this is wild, but you can ask Logan, it happened. We took out the games master, and Doom said he'd take responsibility for Kraven and all the bad guys on that team.

    "Then he used Kang's time ship to -" Elise suddenly stops and puts her hands in her hair, pacing up the catwalk. "I don't know."

    Logan looks at Xavier. "Kraven could be working for Doom. This sounds like a very fuckin' Doctor Doom thing to do."

    "I should call Vlad," Elise says.

    Xavier shakes his head "No time. SHIELD would complicate matters. They'd ask how you know. Too many questions."

    "Logan, we'll send Gold and Blue teams on this. You two," Xavier gestures to Elise and Jenny, "You're willing to help take Kraven down, yes?"

    "Is my name Elise Arnell? Does a bear shit in the woods? Did I get suspended for borrowing the anatomy textbook full of titties in high school?"

    Jenny sighs. "She means yes. Yes we will."

    Xavier nods, and looks at Logan. "Tell Hank to get the Blackbird ready."

    Elise laughs. "You sure you aren't in cahoots with Clay? Old man loves that song."

    He looks at both of them. "Follow Logan."

    He puts two fingers to his temple and mutters to himself "To me, my X-Men..."

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

    Julian, Clay, and Olivia are in the lounge of the Avengers tower.

    Clay looks at Julian. "Alright, so, now that it's just us, here's the situation, Julian. You lost control up there. On Kang's ship, you lost it.

    "You let the Phoenix take the driver's seat, and you obliterated the machines attacking us. To be fair, they killed you first, so it's not like the overkill was unwarranted.

    "What troubles me is you giving up the helm. That can't happen anymore, mate. No matter how bad it gets, you can't let the Phoenix take control like that."

    Julian nods. “Yeah. Yeah, that was... that was something else."

    "I think you did it because you were desperate. Because it was a scary situation, because your friends were in danger, because you died and you needed to do whatever it took to get the job done.

    "And while I haven't died, not really, I certainly know what it's like to do things because you're desperate and scared.

    "So, here's what we're going to establish… That you don't have to do that. That you're powerful enough to not. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to try to turn Olivia here into a vegetable.

    "And you're going to stop me, telepathically. No fire. no telekinesis."

    Julian stares. "...What?! Like, just theoretically, if this goes south, she's not actually going to be a vegetable."

    "That's why she's also a telepath. And we're not doing this with just anyone. She has her own safety net if you fail. But I'm firing with the safety off, mate. Just think of her as wearing a bulletproof vest."

    Julian lets a little concerned grumble out. "Alright... And you're cool with this?" He looks to Olivia.

    Olivia looks at him and and smiles. "It's alright, Julian. I believe in you, and I trust Clay. You guys already saved my life once, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you."

    "Alright," he says uncertainly.

    She sits down and breathes deeply. "Okay, I'm ready."

    Clay looks at Julian. "Alright, Julian, you gotta figure this out on the fly. Intercede."

    Julian narrows his eyes, watching Clay. When the attack comes, he deflects it.

    Clay nods. "Good. Alright, next thing. Mind-probing. You're garbage at this."

    Julian frowns.

    "It requires subtlety, not power. You need to use a sewing needle, and you use a butcher knife. We are going to...." Clay is interrupted by a burst transmission from Miles. "...huh. New plan."

    Julian perks up ."Mm?"

    "Miles has got into some shit. Lorelei is holding people hostage with compulsion. Fly over to 30 Rock and see if you can pull them out of it before any of them take a header, Michael's already en route to do the heavy lifting on Lorelei herself. How's your telekinetic flight going?"

    "I can handle that," Julian says.

    "Alright, quick time it. Go."

    Julian rushes for the landing pad, and Phoenix takes flight.

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

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    Two Council Executors step out from a rift, which closes behind them.



    Susan looks terrified.

    "Who are you?" Franklin asks, confused.

    Child: identified. The Executors do not speak. They are understood.

    Susan walks over and stands next to Vlad, throwing a force field over all three of them. "You stay the hell away from my son!"

    "You cannot have the child," Vladimir says.

    Opposition: Irrelevant. Decision: rendered.

    Vlad shakes his head. "I ask you one last time, leave here." His eyes begin to glow blue.

    Susan stares at him. "They're not taking my son, Vlad. They are not taking my son."

    Franklin says. "I don't want to go with them...they're scary..."

    Vlad steps forward "Go, now."

    One of the Executors points at Franklin. Removal: begins.

    "No!" Vlad cries.

    60mUqbPl.jpg

    Blue fire rips from his hands and eyes as he blasts the Executor with the Power Arcana, blowing one of the Executors apart at the molecular level.

    The other lets out a loud, screeching noise that shakes the walls.

    Susan grits her teeth, extends a clenched fist at the Executor, and then....opens her hand.
    A force-field extends inside the Executor. She creates several sub-fields that rapidly expand and contract, ripping it apart from the inside.

    It makes a horrifying, popcorn-like noise. The fragments fall to the ground.

    "We...we need to take Franklin away from here. Somewhere safe," she says. "Somewhere they can't follow."

    Vlad scan the area. "Agreed. The Quiet Room, maybe?"

    She nods. She grabs Franklin up in her arms and runs.

    Just before they reach the door of the Quiet Room reality rends asunder again. Worse this time than before.

    PL9oNy6.jpg

    Vlad staggers back, waving Susan and Franklin behind him.

    The machine is halfway between the size of a bear and a pickup truck, taking up the entire hallway. It doesn't roar. It doesn't make a noise. But they feel a wrongness as if it has made a deathly sound at them all the same.

    It's a Quaestor, one of the Council's combat units. The Ultimates have never successfully defeated one of these; they were forced to retreat.

    Vlad looks at Susan and Franklin, then back at the Quaestor. He narrows his eyes at the beast. Stepping forward, he raises both arms above his head. "BEGONE FROM HERE! THIS WORLD IS NOT YOURS!"

    He snaps his arms down while he beams a signal skyward.

    In space, the Kree satellite responds to the Requiem Protocol, and fires.

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

    Carol and Lorelei are in a fistfight on the roof of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

    It's a hell of a fistfight. Carol could literally punch a hole in most people and is not pulling her punches. But Lorelei can take it, it seems. Regardless of her powers, she is Asgardian.
    Unbeknownst to all parties involved in the duel, Michael and Sigrun are taking the elevator upstairs, and Julian is flying across town from the Avengers Tower.

    Machine Man does a quick headcount. There's a dozen hostages, almost entirely men but also two women. They're standing near the edge of the building in a tightly packed group, watching and politely golf-clapping when Lorelei has the upper hand, and booing any time Carol does anything.

    The elevator opens, and Michael and Sigrun see Lorelei and Carol in a grapple, slugging each other in the head. No blocking, just hockey-style punches.

    Michael stares. "The fuck?"

    "Be very careful, Michael," Miles says, gesturing to the people. "They've been whammied."

    Sigrun grumbles "It's like her to use hostages. Dishonorable wench. What's this about?" She gestures to the fighting.

    "She says it's an Asgardian duel. For, uh. Me."

    "...oh." Sigrun looks Miles up and down. "...not bad. It would be a great honor if there weren't hostages involved.”

    Miles scowls. "So this is a real thing? It's not something she made up to torment us with?"

    "Oh, no, aside from the hostages,” Sigrun says. “That's her."

    Michael nods. “Sigurn said Elise and I should duel but that'd be hilariously one-sided."

    Sigrun shrugs. "Elise is quite crafty and swift, I would not entirely discount her."

    Miles’ mind races. "Are there any legalisms, any, like, ways that this isn't kosher that we could get her to call it off, or...?" Carol takes Lorelei to the ground starts driving elbows into her head. "Oh hell yes!" Miles cheers. "That's going in the highlight reel!"

    It is, too.

    Sigrun shakes her head. "Oh, no, the duel is on now. One of them could yield but that's all." She looks at the men. "We should be prepared for Lorelei to try to kill the hostages. She has no honor and I do not expect her to be a fair loser."

    Miles nods. "I was kind of figuring that. Julian's on his way, but if he can't do anything," Miles' tone indicates they should be prepared for this possibility, "we may need to just stop them jumping the old-fashioned way."

    Lorelei manages to grab Carol's arm, and tries to shift her into some kind of armbar. Lorelei is not prepared for the idea of Carol flying upwards and repeatedly bombing her into the concrete.

    "Michael, get ready to catch some people," Miles says grimly. "I have a feeling we're going to have some jumpers." He calculates a trajectory for his extending arm - a way to shoot it along the edge of the building as a sort of improvised fence.

    Julian flies up as Lorelei is forced to release the attempted armbar. Carol lands and the two are back to exchanging blows.

    Michael assumes the form of the Destroyer, ready to catch some jumpers.

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    This causes Lorelei to look over and yelp "Oh FU-!" Which lets Carol suckerpunch Lorelei in the liver, causing her to collapse to the ground.

    "GO," Miles shouts, firing his arm around the crowd!

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    Behemoth launches himself into the air to catch any jumpers who get past Miles, as Julian extends his awareness and tries to release Lorelei's hold on the crowd!

    His practice pays off; the crowd are freed. Some race for the stairs down, while others stand back and cheer as Carol pounds Lorelei to the ground.

    Lorelei staggers to her feet. "I... I yield." She sniffs, wiping a tear from her eye. She looks over at the crowd. "I release you."

    “Already done, thanks," Julian grins.

    Lorelei looks at Behemoth and Sigrun. "...you're here to take me Asgard, aren't you?"

    Miles steps over to Lorelei and whispers in a low voice. "You know, if you could have just not put innocent people in jeopardy - maybe I would've thought about it. But now we'll never know. Sigrun?" he says in a louder voice. "Your prisoner."

    Lorelei looks at him. He's not sure if she's hurt, or way more turned on. He turns away then goes to join Carol.

    Lorelei faces Sigrun and Behemoth, holding her wrists upwards plantatively. "Go ahead. This world is dark and loveless."

    She sighs. It's incredibly performative.

    Sigrun shakes her head and takes out metal restraints.

    Miles gingerly helps Carol to her feet, although she doesn’t look bad at all. Mostly winded.

    "Hey." He catches her eye, speaking just for the two of them. "You were fucking badass."

    She smiles.

    Suddenly

    A blinding flash of light erupts from the sky.

    A particle beam streaks down from above and rips into the Baxter Building, where the team knows Vlad and Niles are supposed to be.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    Elise and Jenny are aboard the Blackbird, with the Gold and Blue Teams of the X-Men.

    Elise gets the brief explanation that the Gold Team are the original X-Men, who were Professor Xavier's first students at the school, led by Cyclops.

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    The Blue Team is the second X-Men team, who were recruited during "an incident" that they're non-specific about where the Gold Team went missing. Storm's their leader.

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    We don’t have Briefings on these folks, because...we wouldn’t, in-game, but I’ll rattle them off for those of you who don’t know your X-Men.

    Gold team is Angel, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, and the Beast. I think you can match the names to the pictures pretty easily. These are the original X-Men who appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #1 in 1963 and continued until the title was cancelled around issue #80 due to low sales.

    The Blue Team are Storm (who controls weather), Wolverine, Colossus (who can turn from human form into a big metal man), Nightcrawler (who teleports), and uhhh someone I don’t recognize, to be honest. It’s a woman with a headband - I think - so maybe Psylocke?

    Anyway, the first four of these characters appeared in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, the comic that revived the X-Men with an all-new team of original characters (aside from Wolverine, who had appeared in one issue of The Incredible Hulk). This team was a group of international mutants (Marvel’s original plan was to try to use an internationally-themed team to sell comics overseas) assembled by Professor X in a hurry to rescue the original X-Men, who had disappeared on a mission.

    For whatever reason, where the original X-Men title has kind of languished at the bottom of Marvel’s sales for most of the 1960s, Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (it’s called that because it was like 90 pages, not because the X-Men are giant in it...which is, tbh, disappointing) sold like fucking gangbusters and its writer, Chris Claremont, began one of the longest continuous runs in mainstream superhero comics, writing the adventures of the X-Men as a long, endlessly unspooling soap opera for the next nearly twenty years.

    Elise has mowed through all six packs of gum. "Does anyone have anything stronger?" she finally asks, miserable.

    Everyone slowly looks at Wolverine. Who sighs and offers Elise a cigar.

    Elise claps her hands in delight, lights up, takes a long draw, and then coughs for a few solid minutes. "Anyways, hi, I'm Elise from SHIELD. Uh, Sensate." Jenny also introduces herself.

    Cyclops goes over the plan. "All right, so, it looks like it's not just Kraven there. Hank got in touch with a DoD contact, and it looks like Cheyenne is under siege by six individuals."

    "Do we know who?" Elise asks.

    Cyclops looks at Beast "Hank?"

    Beast nods. "Trying to get information. Definitely Kraven, plus a man who controls electricity, someone in power armor who rams through walls, an illusionist, a scorpion-creature, and a fellow with a flying harness."

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    So along with Kraven and Scorpion, the others are Rhino, Electro, Mysterio, and the Vulture. These are all Spider-Man villains, and they sometimes work together (in various combinations, or with other members, like Hobgoblin or Doctor Octopus) as the villainous superteam the Sinister Six.

    One fun thing about the STRIKE format is that it lets us do things like this - pit SHIELD agents and X-Men against a team of Spider-Man foes - that normally almost never happen in the comics. Typically, despite being a shared world, comics heroes and villains tend to stay in their respective lanes. X-Men villains like Magneto don’t often show up to rob a bank in an issue of Daredevil, or whatever.

    But here, the sky’s the limit.

    "Oh no," Elise says. "No, no, no, no..."

    Wolverine grumbles "I've fought these idiots, on Battleworld."

    "That's Doom," Elise says. "Doom's team. FUCK!"

    Wolverine nods at Elise. She pulls out her phone and begins to custom create a beautiful e-card for Vlad. "Doom is going to be so mad at me," she whines nervously.

    Elise hits send, so Vlad's phone will ping with an e-card where thousands of swans swim away to reveal the message: SORRY IM THWARTING YOUR DAD'S AMBITIONS :(

    The Blackbird flies over Cheyenne, and Hank continues "The government's given us the OK to go in there and deal with these guys, we've got 30 minutes before they send in Sentinels."

    "You get the easy mission, Elise," Elise says in a nasal mockery of Clay's voice. "Get out of the city, get some fresh air, Elise." She also sends Clay an e-card where the text field is just filled with 'AAAAAA' repeatedly to represent panicked screaming.

    Wolverine pats her on the shoulder. "Eh, milk runs are never the fun ones, kid."

    "Fair enough." Elise sighs.

    Cyclops looks at everyone. "Alright, Flashback, you're with Blue Team, Sensate, you're with Gold Team, so each team has a tracker that has Kraven's scent.

    "Gold Team is dropping first, we're coming up on the drop zone now. Sensate, you're good with a HALO drop?"

    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man. "I'll be good."

    He nods. "Alright, people, go!"

    Gold Team drops, with Sensate. Elise never learned to like air drops, but she manages to execute it perfectly thanks to training and experience.

    As soon as she hits the ground, she opens up her senses as far as they'll go to push inside the compound and see what awaits her.

    She can sense Kraven and Scorpion. They're here. She knows where they are, and can track them. There's the others, too. Rhino, Electro, Mysterio, Vulture, but Elise doesn't know them as well. She saw them in Battleworld briefly. She knows and hates Kraven and Scorpion.

    "I'm hunting you now, shitstains." she hisses, unholsters her ICER, and takes off in a sprint. The rest of the X-Men follow her.

    She runs down the hallways of the Cheyenne Mountain complex. The guards are dead. Some of them died... messily.

    Massive doors have been ripped away from their hinges. This place was designed to survive a conventional military assault and siege, not six super-villains on a mission.

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    Iceman catches up with her, sliding on ice pathways he's creating in front of him. "Hey... uh... what's with the gun? Are you just gonna start cappin' fools? That's not...that's not how we do things usually... We're not SHIELD."

    She slows down enough to show him the ICER. "Non-lethal stun shots, dude, just in a gun-shaped package."

    "Oh! Carry on. The guys were just weirded out, that's all." He shoots a thumbs up back at the rest of the group.

    Elise suddenly thinks of Kraven's head splattered against the rock behind him. "Yeah, Christ, no - I - I don't do that. We're good."

    He nods. "Good. Because Logan does that kind of thing and uh...it's not...it's not okay, man." He continues following.

    Elise falls silent, stopping only to sniff and re-orient herself before continuing on. She doesn't want to talk to Iceman anymore.

    She can hear him. Shouting. He's demanding "the codes" from someone. Some hapless person here, who is terrified. So terrified he's peed a little; Elise can smell it. Scorpion is also there, his mandibles clicking.

    Something in that innocent person's terror lights a fire in Elise, and she runs even faster, pulling ahead of the group and skidding around the corner with her ICER drawn and ready to fire.

    They’re standing far apart. She can fire on one, but not both.

    She unloads on Scorpion, and he crashes to the ground. Kraven drops the guy he was tormenting, and dodges into cover.

    He sees Elise, and yelps in terror. "No! Not you! How? Anyone but you! Not you! Can't be you! He said...he said...no...I'm not...I'm not thinking about....

    “Ah......ahhhhhhhhhhhhh............" Kraven starts grabbing the sides of his head. He squeezes his eyes tightly and recoils away from Elise.

    Elise stops and stares, dumbfounded. She's so startled she doesn't even reload her ICER. "What are you -?"

    "No! Don't talk! Don't want to hear you! Can't! Can't think about you! Can't...not thinking about...He said... if I did I'd... nooooo...." His nose starts bleeding. "NO!"

    The rest of the X-Men catch up.

    Elise reloads with shaking hands and silently empties a clip into Kraven.

    "Doom... put a bomb in him." she says, stunned. "He... he was scared of me."

    Hank stares at them. "Why would he...never mind. Doesn't matter now."

    Cyclops calls in to a wrist communicator. "Blue Team, status?"

    Storm's voice comes through. "We're fighting back four of the malcontents, and we will win. I will show this one who is the master of lightning...." They hear a crackle over the comm.

    Elise checks Scorpion and Kraven for communicators. "Uh, you, Cyclops, can you talk to the guard, make sure he knows he's safe?"

    Cyclops walks over to the man who Kraven was interrogating, and quietly speaks to him. Elise can hear that Cyclops is trying to be reassuring. The man explains that Kraven was trying to get him to give up nuclear launch codes, although it's not clear why. The man doesn't even have the codes. That's not how it works.

    Cyclops looks at Elise. "How long will they be KO'd for?"

    "An hour, minimum. I have more ammo, but we should be out of here before they show up."

    Cyclops nods. "Alright, let's move. Blue Team, check in...."

    Elise can't find any kind of communicator on the stunned villains, beyond a short-range radio they'd use to communicate with each other. Nothing they could use to call back to Latveria, certainly. They don't even have phones on them.

    She opens her SHIELD comm. "Vision? Are you there?"

    "Yes, Elise. How can I help you?"

    "I need you to get me in touch with Doom."

    "Please hold."

    She stares at her communicator. "Holy shit, that worked?"

    There is a voice on the other end. Elise recognizes it. "Who is this?"

    Elise swallows and grits her teeth. "This is Ms. Arnell. What the hell do you think you're doing?"

    "I am doing many things. Specificity, Ms. Arnell."

    "Yeah? How many of them need nuclear launch codes? Did you put a bomb in Kraven's brain?" Everything is spilling out of her in a torrent of frustration. She moves out of earshot of the X-Men. "What happened to Kang's ship?"

    "That is an array of questions, Ms. Arnell. Yes, I placed a form of compliance inside Kraven. It was designed to guarantee he did not trouble you further. I take your safety seriously.

    "Exactly zero of my intentions require obtaining nuclear weapons. Quite frankly, I find nuclear weapons morally abhorrent.

    “I have traced this call. You are in Cheyenne Mountain? What a curious place."

    "Of course you traced the call! Of course you did! Fine. You know what's really curious about it? I got Scorpion and Kraven knocked out at my feet. Four other of your Battleworld buddies are here too."

    "Have they been stopped?"

    "Probably." Elise is pretty confident that the assorted mutants around can stop four jokers.

    "That sounds like a good thing to me, Ms. Arnell. It sounds like you and your allies have averted a nuclear disaster. You should be quite proud. If I may ask, is there any physical evidence that links Kraven and his associates to me? Very obviously, you know that they were under my care due to the Battleworld incident, but that's not something you are in the position of being able to publicly disclose."

    "Uh..." she says.

    "In fact, I actually released Kraven and his five associates, as I found them to be petty thugs unworthy of my employ. That is my official statement on the matter. I did make sure to secure Kraven's compliance in terms of making sure he was no further threat to you personally. You are my son's best friend, after all.

    "If they decided to engage in some form of nuclear terrorism on US soil, that was done purely of their accord."

    "Oh," she says. "And, the uh...the time ship?"

    "I found I was not able to fully control the time-ship as I lacked the full assembly of Kang's body armor, and it turns out that is a necessary component of its usage. This is unfortunate, but such is the way of things, I suppose."

    Elise wonders where Clay took the helmet to. "Uh... okay. Good... talk?"

    "Indeed.

    "It is very curious how SHIELD is repeatedly able to call my private cell phone when they so choose, however. I should investigate this.

    "Good evening, Ms. Arnell." He hangs up.


    "No no no no no!" Elise starts. “Oh, fuck me. Vision, send a recording of that call to Clay so that when I get back Clay can ream me out for being the biggest fucking idiot on the planet."

    "I am sorry, Ms. Arnell, Doom has... done something. I was unable to record the call. I am also under some form of cyber-attack. But I believe this is a formality."

    “OH MY GOD." Elise turns and flips the nearest piece of furniture.

    Cyclops looks at her. "Blue Team's checked in. The other four are down. We need to go. Sentinels will be here soon, let them take care of this."

    She throws up her hands and storms back towards the entrance, yelling at the top of her lungs. "FUCK THIS STUPID FUCKING GOD DAMN BITCH OF A -"

    The X-Men stare at her. Iceman coughs awkwardly. She ignores them in favour of seething.

    The two teams load up into the Blackbird, and head back for the mansion.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 8
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    An explosive particle beam rips through the Baxter Building. Susan puts a force-field over Vlad, herself, and Franklin.

    "AARRRAHHHHHH!!!!" Vlad cries at the beast as white light engulfs them.

    The Quaestor is gone in a flash. So is an area of the Baxter Building the size of the Quaestor in every level above. Forming a perfectly round hole.

    Vlad looks back at the two Richards.

    "H-how did...." Susan stammers.

    "It worked!" Franklin yells. He high-fives Vlad.

    “Indeed,” Vlad says.

    Susan looks back and forth between the two of them. She grabs Vlad by the shoulders. "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY SON?!"

    Vlad stares at at Susan and cocks his head. "Franklin assisted me in gaining greater control over the Kree satellite network. I had intended to use this programming less offensively but I had to act. The skies are now safe for The Messenger.

    "He's a smart boy, Susan."

    She looks at Franklin, and he nods, confirming Vlad's story. She sighs. She hugs Franklin tight and kisses his forehead. "None of that matters now."

    "What does the Council want with your family, Susan?"

    "I don't... I don't know. I hate them so much. I want them to just leave me alone."

    He stares at her. "Susan, you must tell me if you know anything. Even if Reed has told you not to. They tried to take Franklin and will most likely will try again."

    Susan tears up, and looks at Vlad. She looks at Franklin again. She picks Franklin up. "Okay, come with me."

    Vlad follows, briefly looking back at the hole.

    Susan goes and gets Niles, who is scared out of his mind by the explosion that rocked the building. She tells him to go wait with Franklin in the Quiet Room, and he does.

    "Fear not, Niles," Vlad says, putting a hand on the quartermaster’s shoulder. Niles nods uncertainly and follows Franklin.

    After ascertaining that they are safely in the Quiet Room, Susan goes back to the central computer core with Vlad.

    "The Council... I know good god damn well who they are.

    "I figured it out when Reed started using this horrible thing." She points at the helmet.

    "The Helmet lets Reed expand his mind. Literally. Reed learned a long time ago he could physically expand his brain, and when he does he actually gains physically more neurological capability. He's already the smartest man on Earth, and he is able to make his brain bigger and denser.

    "He uses the helmet as a man-machine interface. It turns him into a super-computer. He stops...he stops being a person, Vlad."

    "’He gets mean’..." Vlad stares at the helmet.

    "He loses morality. He sees everything in game theory, in risk-reward, in payoff-matrices. He thinks like a machine. And I don't mean that like a slur against someone like you, Vlad. He's less than you when he puts that thing on.

    "But when he put that on, the last time, he said something."

    Vlad cock his head.

    "He's the smartest man in the world. On every world. On every Earth that there's a Reed Richards, it's probable that Reed Richards is the smartest man on Earth. Why not...why not find allies?

    "I argued with him not to. It was an ugly argument. It's when he promised not to use the helmet anymore."

    Vlad narrows his eyes. "No… This can't be..."

    She nods. "I believe the Council is...the Council of Reeds. I think that's why they keep messing with my family."

    "Of course."

    "I think that's why they outed me at my wedding, because I'm not the real Susan Storm, I'm a Skrull. The fucking bastards."

    "And now our world is in their war," Vlad says.

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    The Council is a real thing from the comics, but from the past ten or fifteen years, so it was a genuine surprise reveal to me when this came out. The last time I bought a Fantastic Four comic was Grant Morrison’s Fantastic Four 1-2-3-4 miniseries in like, 1999.

    But even not having read the comics, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

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    Yes. I am pretty sure that Council Executors are reality-warping, sanity-blasting HERBIEs.

    "Now they want my son," she says. "Probably because he's so smart. Or maybe it's because he's half-Skrull. Or maybe it's because of his powers, I don't know."

    "Powers?"

    "He... he can do things." Susan realizes she said too much. She's upset. "I think it's because he was conceived after Reed and I went through the Negative Zone and were changed. He can... he can do things."

    Vlad shakes his head. "It doesn't matter now, I believe they want him because he is the 1491 Reed's son. A war is coming and they are trying to get him out before it starts."

    She nods. "We can't let that happen, Vlad. Victor's his godfather, he won't let this happen."

    "I will not let them take Franklin, Susan. The Council will not have this world, or your..." Vlad pauses a moment at Susan's statement. "...our family. I swear it."

    She actually smiles for the first time. Weakly. "Thank you."

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    One of the things I love about the Fantastic Four, and I suspect a big reason why the movies have been so terrible, is the relationship between Reed and Victor. They used to be best friends! And even now they’re not so much mortal enemies as rivals, each wanting the other to acknowledge him as being in the right.

    So they can spend all this time intriguing against one another through time and space, and yet Victor is the man Reed trusts to look after his son if something were to happen to him. And Doom gets exasperated on Reed’s behalf when Elise keeps referring to him as “Mister” rather than “Doctor.”

    It’s a wonderful, operatic relationship, and I think it’s the sort of thing that tends to be beyond the grasp of the sort of be-ponytailed dude who gets tapped to write a superhero movie for Fox.

    Jacobkosh on
    Fencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The rest of the team, who were over at 30 Rock, including Carol, fly over to the top of the Baxter Building and see the perfect hole that goes down eight stories. It terminates in an ashen spot.

    The team sees Vlad staring up at them. There are also HERBIEs on various floors immediately repairing the damage.

    Machine Man stares. "What the...what happened?"

    Michael smirks. "Guess Vlad finally killed Dickards, I mean Richards."

    "The Council attacked us," Vlad says.

    Susan speaks up. "The Council tried to kidnap my son. Vlad stopped them."

    Vlad looks at Susan, he nods. "I have much to discuss with you...where is Elise? Still on mission?"

    Miles is still staring at the hole. "The Council fired a, a laser into the building? Could it fire again? We should evacuate the streets."

    Miles gets a message from Clay over his comm. "Mason! SWORD just confirmed the Kree Sat-Net went live and fired a shot at the Baxter Building. I just saw it, all of New York should be a crater but it looked surgical. Figure out what the hell Vlad did."

    "Wait. The Kree...." Miles' lips move silently. Is he counting backward from 10?

    "I fired the beam, Miles," Vlad says.

    Miles stares at him. "Vlad. How are you firing the Kree satellite network? I mean, I can guess. And when were you going to tell us about it? Though I feel like I can guess that too."

    Michael is staring too. "Dude....you fired the Kree Weapon in the city?!?!"

    "Oh, but it's okay, it was just the Baxter Building full of HERBIES!" Julian's voice drips with sarcasm.

    "Hooray," Michael says flatly.

    Vlad sighs.

    Miles beeps Clay. Vlad says he was defending Franklin Richards from the Council, who were trying to take him. I'm currently ascertaining where he got control of the network and why we weren't told. Though as I told him, I feel like I can guess.

    Clay comms back ....return to base. We'll debrief. Confirm with Susan that Franklin is safe.

    Miles turns to Susan. "Mrs. Richards. Are you and your son okay? Can we help at all?"

    A low-tone alarm goes off, and there's a sound like the Holepunch opening. It's definitely a portal, but not like the rips in space the Council uses.

    It's Reed's N-Zone portal.

    Reed emerges through the portal, chucking off his protective gear and bellowing "Susan?! Franklin?!" He sounds both afraid and angry. He's got an energy weapon of some kind drawn in his right hand.

    He stops and looks at Vlad. "Oh. You. What have you done?" He isn't pointing his weapon, but his tone is accusatory.

    Vlad sighs again.

    Susan steps between Vlad and Reed. "He saved our son, Reed. While you were off fucking around in the Negative Zone. So why don't you step back, and shut up."

    Reed quiets. Vlad folds his arms.

    "You and your people should go. I'll handle this." Susan puts her hand on Vlad's shoulder. "And thank you."

    Vlad nods. "I assume the Director will want to hear my explanation as well.”

    The team heads out, and as they depart hear Reed and Susan getting into a loud argument.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
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    STRIKE-1, minus Elise and Jenny, arrive back at the tower.

    Clay calls a meeting. He is sitting down, his hands folded. Never a good sign.

    "Vladimir."

    "Director.”

    "I want to be clear about something," Clay begins. "I'm not upset you took control of the Kree Satellite Network. I believe the device we installed has compromised functionality, as Maximus was in some way involved in its design.

    "I'm absolutely fucking livid that you once again decided to do so and told no-one after the fact.

    "You then decided to, what exactly? Test fire it in the middle of New York City? One of the most densely populated cities on the planet? I understand your rebuttal is going to be, the Council attacked us, and my hand was forced. Was it? Was it truly? You have the ability to go anywhere on Earth, you couldn't have taken the Richards boy somewhere else on the planet and made the Council follow in case you were wrong about taking the shot?

    "What if you missed? Oh, there goes... millions of people." He looks at Vlad.

    "Yes, I ensured our planned mission in Attilan was successful and did not inform the team due to the compromised outcome of the mission,” Vlad says. “After which point Battleworld happened and everyone showed me distrust for my actions or my power.

    “So from there, yes, I chose to keep it from the team because I wanted to investigate it further. I knew you would do nothing but try to stop me. You trust me with nothing. So, yes..." Vlad turns to Machine Manm "I am glad I did this, Miles."

    He turns back to Clay once more, "I have saved Franklin and found out who the Council truly are. I have control of the Kree Network and I used it in defense of this world. Is that not my job? My duty?!" Vlad's voice raises in frustration. "I acted, Clay, and in my action I only gained and lost nothing. I grow tired of this same argument. We are caught in a multiversal war! Can't you see?!"

    Clay leans back in his chair. "Who are they?" he asks flatly.

    "Richards," Vlad spits.

    "Hrm," Clay says. "That follows."

    "A Council of Reeds, to be more precise," Vlad adds.

    "Explains why they keep fussing about with Susan's life. And why they're insufferable pricks in general."

    Miles nods slowly. "That might be the secret of that one parallel. The Richards utopia."

    "Why we first encountered them on Earth-44, a utopian world where Reed Richards has essentially made a perfect world," Clay nods at Miles. "It's the only world where the Council has told us in no uncertain terms to get the fuck out of there.

    "Might even be one of the major bases of operations, or otherwise important to them. This is major intelligence. Did you tell...our Reed this?"

    "No," Vlad says.

    Clay nods. "Good. Don't."

    "I don't plan on any conversations with Reed," Vlad adds.

    "That's for the best."

    "Indeed," Vlad agrees.

    "So what did you kill, exactly, an Executor?"

    Vlad shakes his head. "No, a Quaestor."

    "...by the Shaper," Clay murmurs. "Alright, well, fine. Fine.

    "Fine.

    "I stand by the opinion you could've picked that fight in the Gobi Desert or something. But, whatever. You can't uncrack the egg."

    "And risk the boy's life? No, Clay."

    "Yes, I'm sure that's the stance Susan would take, too," Clay says. "Regardless, I'm not going to belabor the issue."

    Vlad nods.

    "Going forward, I don't want any further usage of the Kree Sat-Net until we do further study," Clay says. "I understand this was an emergency, but... don't. If for no other reason than the questions this shit is going to raise.

    "This is going to be everywhere. A beam from fucking space punched a hole in the Baxter Building. We're going to blame Graviton or something."

    "Forget what normal people think - by this point, Attilan has to be wondering who fired one of their guns," Miles points out.

    Clay grimaces. "Yes, well, let me worry about that."

    Vlad sighs once again. "Are we done with this? I have the augmented calculations that Susan needed and I wish to send those to her. I should return to preparing for Operation Scalpel."

    "We're not done. Not by a longshot. I'm not reprimanding you, not formally, Vladimir. A formal reprimand means I have to explain why."

    "But let me be absolutely clear. No. More. Secrets. You tried to steal the god damn Cosmic Cube from right in front of us and I let it fucking slide. I think I earned your god damn trust, mate."

    Watching this exchange, Miles holds his arms tightly folded and rocks back and forth on his heels. He feels like he's trapped in a nightmare. This cycle of letting Vlad near dangerous things and then being shocked when he steals them keeps happening over and over and over again and it doesn't seem like it's ever going to stop.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles IRL. This got posted in the group Discord about every other week there for a while.



    Julian sucks his teeth. He is watching a friend get reamed out by a superior with no real way to defend him. It's very awkward.

    Vlad's eyes narrow and he shakes his head. "You speak as though the Cube is SHIELD's by right." He raises his voice. "I let you have the Cube. I chose that. There was no attempt at theft. You insult my journey, as you always have. It is your people’s way. I try to forgive this. For would it have been such a horrible thing?!

    "You frustrate me at every chance. I prove my power as an ally time and time again yet you mistrust me because I associate with my creator. Am I not STRIKE?! I have sworn no arcane oath to old gods!" Vlad points at Michael.

    "You treat my sacrifice to Hyperion as an act of malice or distrust. I GAVE MY LIFE FOR YOU PEOPLE!" Vlad’s finger stabs at the team and then back at Clay. "Check your other 'children' for lies, Clay, none of us are saints here."

    Clay stands up.

    He walks over, calmly. He looks Vlad in the eyes directly. "No more secrets. Is that too much an ask? We can make what's past, past. Forward, no more secrets."

    "No. It is too much to ask, Z'Reg, you should know this." Vlad begins to walk away.

    Clay changes form to his true face. His Skrull face. He walks in front of Vlad, cutting him off. "You want to make this about that, then?" His voice echoes. "You feel stifled, child? Walk this Earth a century among primitives!"

    Miles catches Michael's gaze, signalling to be ready the instant this turns ugly.

    Primitives?! Julian broadcasts to Miles and Michael.

    Calling us primitives would have more force from a guy who doesn't read Harry Potter. Miles thinks.

    I'm restraining myself not to fuckin' paste Vladimir on the spot, Michael sends to them. Normally so contained, anger is boiling off him in waves.

    Julian gives Michael a sidelong glance. Little much, I think.

    Michael scowls and shakes his head. I'm sick of always forgiving his secret grabs for power like you would a child snatching up some cookies. We need to show him his actions have consequences.

    Z’Reg stabs a finger into Victorious’ chest. "You feel inhibited? You don't know what inhibition is. Tell me of frustration as you watch two worlds die around you and are powerless to do nothing.

    "Tell me of the burden you carry when your every moment, your every breath, is an adaptation to a world that isn't your own but you've had to learn to love.

    "Tell me how hard it is, makinya, to keep secrets from people who put every faith and every trust in you when they have no logical reason to keep doing so, because you betray their trust repeatedly because it's your nature.

    "What a burden it is for you.

    "To do this small thing, to quit lying."

    He shifts back to being Clay.

    "Secrets are my armor and secrets the sword I protect the people I care about with. My life has shown me this. You show me now your true self. Call me Makinya? Machine-Daemon?" Vlad looks Clay up and down. "I call you Fool."

    Clay looks at him. "That's sad. There was a time in my life I saw secrets as my armor, too, Vlad. It was a sad, lonely existence. One where I had to destroy the minds of people who loved me.

    "And maybe, with life and years behind you, you'll come to realize that too." He steps aside. "Go. Keep the secrets you want. See where it gets you. You're dismissed, Agent."

    Vlad looks at Clay and then the team. He says nothing and walks out of the room.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    When Vlad is out of earshot, Clay speaks up. "Vision, electronically secure the room."

    "The room is secure, Director."

    Clay sighs. "That... didn't go well." He looks at the three men. "I meant about half of that. Not the bits about calling you primitives, or calling him a slur."

    "I figured," Michael says, unclenching his fists.

    Miles waves this away. "There's no good way it could have gone. The truth is, he doesn't respect us and he doesn't even know what we want. He wants to be taken so seriously and yet after all this time I think the concept of trust is just foreign to him."

    Miles' voice turns graver. "But some of this is on you, Clay. You're the one who kept sending the fat kid on missions to the candy factory. When's the last time Vlad's been on a job where we haven't seen him try to twist something or someone to his own personal advantage? That's a serious question. I think the man who sacrificed himself to Hyperion maybe really did die that day."

    Clay grumbles. "I think you're right, Miles.”

    He puts his head in his hands. “Ugh. I didn't want it to come to this. Vision."

    Vision intones "Yes, Director?"

    "Enact WATCHTOWER."

    "Confirm, Director?"

    "Confirmation: Quartermain, Clay, Director of STRIKE."

    "Confirmation acquired. Enacting WATCHTOWER."

    Clay looks at Miles. "I tried. I genuinely did. At first, I thought a lot of it was my own biases against his kind but... no.

    "It's why Monica and I developed...insurance."

    Miles' voice goes soft. "I was wondering what we'd do if....it came to this."

    Clay nods. "In the spirit of not keeping secrets, we've developed a VI, which we've code-named WATCHTOWER."

    "What does it do?”

    "It's basically piggy-backed onto Vlad's systems. MODOC installed it in Vlad after we got back from the Inhuman Empire Earth.

    "MODOC...likes to help."

    Miles shudders slightly. "Yes...yes he does."

    "It's not a bomb. It's not a virus, it's a VI. It's running in the background on his consciousness, and it can't hurt him. But it will give you the ability to stop him if he gets out of line," Clay says. "Think of it as a leash.

    "I'm going to give you three the code phrases to shut Vlad down if need be. It's why I didn't try to take the Kree satellites from him. I don't need to. We can stop him if it comes to it.

    "You're his team, you need to know these things. But... here's the tricky part..." He draws a breath. "Which is... Elise."

    Miles nods.

    "I don't want to keep this from her. I don't want to keep secrets. But their relationship is what it is, I have no faith she will understand. She was not here for this conversation, just now. The way he just blew up and called us fools.

    "I think she will tell him about WATCHTOWER and if he knows it's there, he can defeat it. It only works if he doesn't know about it until it's used.

    "So, I'm going to order you to keep this from her. And that's awful. But until Vlad changes his stance on keeping secrets from the team, until we figure out another solution, that's how it has to be."

    Miles nods. "It's how it has to be. I kept hoping that Elise would be Vlad's lifeline to getting back to normal. But instead, I think he's dragging her down. We're going to have to address that, too. Talk to the people she listens to. Maybe if we could speak to Crystalia - but anyway, yeah. Mum's the word."

    "Even though Vlad is being an enormous pain in the ass, I think forcibly taking away a sentient being's consciousness is wrong,” Michael says. “I will not use it unless there is absolutely no other alternative."

    Julian nods grimly. "Agreed."

    Clay nods at Michael. "That's fine. This is designed for if he tries some bullshit like trying to, as Miles put it, put his hand in a cookie jar. There's no way to avoid putting you guys in the way of high-security, high power situations. That's your job. If he makes a play for this kind of thing, you guys need a non-violent, non-damaging way to shut him down, and Julian's telepathy doesn't work on him. This is the equivalent.

    "Alright, as long as we're on the same page. Elise has been downstairs in the lobby for ten minutes and I've been sending Munroe telepathic messages to delay her with dumb bullshit.

    "Apparently their mission was eventful."

    "Sure, just one more quick thing before we call her up," Miles says, holding up a hand. "As long as we're talking about AIs and VIs and stuff....

    "If I'm going to be rolling with people I can't entirely rely on, I need an ace of my own. I've been thinking about it: this body's a synthetic human, but it's got firmware built in to handle all the machine parts. It was going to house a machine consciousness, after all. What if...."

    Miles purses his lips. "What if we put one in? A VI. Something to...improve the efficiency of the systems."

    Clay nods slowly. "Hrm. Vision?"

    Vision intones. "Sir, Agent Mason is correct. The synthezoid firmware would absolutely house a support VI that would greatly enhance his capabilities.

    "The X-51 VI that is used by ARMOR requires extensive server architecture for its normative function, but the power crystal that Agent Mason utilizes would more than adequately house the entire VI with functional room to expand."

    Miles nods enthusiastically. "Now we're cooking. This would mean that - for once - we aren't on the back foot. We'll have the initiative."

    Clay looks at Miles. "Alright, I'll go over Jones' head to Fury and see what I can do."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles has learned one thing from Vlad: he needs to level up. He needs more power. He’s deathly afraid of being hacked - specifically but not exclusively by Vlad - the same way Michael has learned to absolutely fear mind control, and he wants something that can do the job.

    X-51 is the given name of the android computer that calls itself Aaron Stack, Machine Man, in the regular Marvel universe. On Earth-1491, Aaron Stack is a regular human scientist and X-51 is the computer he built for SWORD. As soon as I decided that Miles would become Machine Man, I knew that he would have to be united with X-51 at some point. He just needed a reason, in-story, to make that push.

    "Cool." Miles looks up at the ceiling. "Oh, and Vision, I know today must be weird with your...situation. Your relationship with Vladimir. I want you to know that if you have any concerns, I'd be happy to talk about them."

    "I am quite alright, Miles,” Vision says. “I have decided that Vladimir has made for a poor moral compass. I have reoriented myself accordingly." A pause. "Sir, Agent Arnell and Agent Munroe are approaching."

    Clay nods. "Alright, apparently Elise has some shit to share."

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

    Elise and Jenny get into the elevator to go upstairs to the main part of STRIKE HQ.

    At some point during the drive back, Elise folded her attempt to quit smoking of all kinds and is now working her way through another joint.

    Jenny hasn't given her any shit for it. They've had a day.

    And, as they enter the briefing room, neither does Clay.

    Elise sits, takes another draw, digs a flask out of her pocket, unscrews the top, sniffs the contents, takes a gulp, and then scans the room. "Where's Vlad?"

    Clay looks at Elise. "He's working on portal stuff." He's not lying.

    "He's gonna want to hear this. Today was a fucking day. As I'm sure you can tell by the fact that my jaunt to talk to a guy for five minutes turned into..Christ, what time is it?"

    "It's late," Clay says.

    "And you're smoking,” Miles says. “Does that mean it was bad?"

    "Mixed bag," she shrugs. "Let's start with the good news. No one new is joining SHIELD. The school isn't a Soylent Green situation. It's a Hogwarts for mutants. The headmaster's a psychic who's..." Elise makes a gesture with her hand. "95% benevolent, 5% tactical mindwipey?"

    Clay grumbles "What kind of asshole does that."

    Elise takes a long draw of her joint. "I know, right?

    "Anyways, they have grownup mutants as professors, folks like Flashback, and they... keep to themselves until they don't have to. They have an understanding with Fury.

    "They're going to help with Scalpel, and they're friends to SHIELD, but they are going to continue to do their own thing."

    Clay raises an eyebrow. "How come I don't know about this understanding with Fury? Seems like it'd be inside my damn clearance level."

    "I'm assuming it has something to do with the five percent mindwipey. Also, they have a small army," she says.

    Clay is taken aback. "Wait... this guy mindwipes Fury?"

    "I mean, they didn't exactly dish. Charles Xavier, the head prof, suggested I didn't tell you any of this. The Xavier dude is insane. Like I said, psychic, but I think he could go toe to toe with Julian in terms of raw power, and come close to you in experience. And he has a machine that amps that all up to eleven, lets him find mutants from all over the world."

    Clay stares. "Did he also have the mutant power of giant brass balls?"

    "He's a really nice guy, actually," she says. "Like I said, he is giving us a small army of like ten to twelve solidified super badasses to help with Scalpel. That's huge. That's more active, benevolent help in a day than we've gotten from Attilan."

    Clay nods firmly. "That's a solid win."

    "...Don't tell Crys I said that about Attilan," she adds.

    "Good job, Elise. I won't."

    "Yeah, well, like I said, good news first." Elise's hands shake as she takes another draw from her flask. "I found Kraven."

    Clay takes a sharp inhale.

    "Did you punk him again?" Miles asks.

    "No. Doom punked him first." Elise explains everything that happened. She repeats her phone call with Doom, word for word, parroting his exact intonations.

    "...he patsied them," Clay says. "Doom used them to start shit."

    "If I didn't take Kang's helmet, Doom would be rolling around with a fully functional time ship."

    "Christ," Clay exhales.

    "Seriously, shouldn't Vlad be hearing this? This is his dad. I sent him an e-card."

    "He's busy," CLay says. "I'll talk to him later."

    "I sent you an e-card, too."

    Miles sucks his teeth. There was so much going on, he hadn't even considered the time ship. "That's a big....that's a loose thread we need to tie off soon. We can't have spare time-ships flying around."

    "Yeah, no shit," she agrees. "And I just, I don't know how to talk to Doom! What the fuck do I say to that shit? I don't got any proof, I'm not smart, I -"

    "It's okay, Elise," Clay says. "It's fine. You're lucky. Doom likes you."

    "How is that lucky?! He put a bomb in Kraven's head so that Kraven can't even THINK about -" she pauses in horror. "Oh, fuck, I left Kraven behind. FUCK!"

    "It's fine," Clay says. "Let the Sentinels deal with him. He's one guy I don't feel bad about getting' Gitmo'd."

    "I didn't want to just murder him again!" she says.

    Clay shakes his head. "You won't, and you didn't. The US government will likely stick him in a dark hole somewhere. And quite frankly, good."

    "Is Vision okay?" Elise asks.

    Vision chimes in. "I'm quite all right, Ms. Arnell. As I said, I believe Doom's counter-attack was something of a formality. If I was a simple VI or a conventional computer system I would have been utterly destroyed, however.

    "More about sending a message to not do that sort of thing on the regular, I believe."

    Elise nods, shoulders sagged. "...Okay."

    Clay squints, deep in thought. "Where's the gain in this for Doom? What's the end-game in running a false-flag nuclear terrorist attack on the US?"

    "There wouldn't be for Doom.” Miles’ eyes narrow. “But there's a big gain for ONE.”

    Miles starts drumming his fingers on the table. “It's every jerk-off fantasy about rogue superhumans come true. Attacking a nuclear base. Getting stopped by the Sentinels. What if Doom just kind of...let the Sinister Six fall into ONE's hands? Or made some separate deal? It gets the villains out of his hair and keeps our resources tied up."

    "Ugh,” Clay rubs the bridge of his nose. “I'm kicking this upstairs and making it Nick's problem.

    "Good job, Elise, you secured quality allies, got us good intel, and stopped a terrorist attack. It's a net win."

    "There's one more thing. Might be useful to STRIKE, I guess. Or SHIELD. Both. Whichever," she says. "I can uh, track Inhumans. Using Cerebro."

    "I don't... I don't suppose Xavier will let us have a copy of that, huh?" Clay asks. "Doesn't seem like the sort."

    "It takes up an entire underground facility," she says. "I don't think you can 3D print it.”

    "Alright, well, we'll just keep a friendly relationship and see if we can use it as needed," Clay says.

    Elise pauses. “...He thinks I should have gone mad based off everything I've seen. Funny, huh?"

    Clay’s face is grim. "Yes. Funny. Not like, ha ha funny. Anything further?"

    "No," she says.

    "Alright. Elise, piece of advice? Give Vlad a bit of space. He's had a rough day. Me and him got into an argument and he's in a sour mood about it." This is not a lie.

    "Is... everything okay?" she asks.

    "Yes, it's fine, in terms of the team and everything, but Vlad and I said some shitty things to each other and neither party has apologized. So, some cool off time is needed.

    "I might have called him a racial slur in response to him throwing my Skrull name at me. We weren't mature." This is also not a lie.

    "...Okay." Elise is clearly uncomfortable and unwilling to pursue the topic further.

    Clay turns to the rest of the group. "Anything further, anyone?"

    "Nope," Michael says. “No,” Julian adds.

    "I have a date with this flask,” Elise says, “so nope."

    Miles raises a hand. "Can I be not on call for the rest of tonight, boss? I've uh. Got an actual date to keep."

    "Gay." Elise says, shaking her head.

    Miles puts a hand over his heart piously. "No, Elise. It's beautifully straight."

    "Oh, really?” Julian pulls a face. "Straight is inherently more beautiful, now?"

    Michael tilts his head. "It doesn't, like, curve to the left?"

    Grinning, Miles shrugs at Michael. "I mean, I haven't held a level up to it or anything. In years."

    Clay grumbles "Are you guys quite done."

    "Seems like someone's curves to the right," Michael continues.

    "Oh snap." Miles gets up. "Good work today, Elise. And the rest of you. Thank you all so much for your help today. It...meant a lot."

    "Dismissed," Clay growls.

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

    wTEp2GIh.png

    Irani Rael, Nova-Prime, is sitting at her desk in her office.

    Rhomann Dey, her second-in-command, enters. "Ma'am, reports coming in from the Thanos event."

    "And?"

    "It's done. Thanos is dead."

    She leans back in her chair and folds her hands. "For now, anyway."

    "One loose end, ma'am," Rhomann adds. "His so-called 'daughter,' Nebula. She's unaccounted for."

    Irani rolls her eyes. "Ugh, of course. Why can't anything be simple? What're her last-knowns?"

    "She hijacked a hyperspace transport, and her last traceable coordinates place her heading for..." Dey looks at info on his datapad. "The Sol system."

    Rael grumbles. "Earth. Awful. Terrible. I hate this. I hate this, Rhomann, I do."

    Rhomann Dey nods automatically. "I know, ma'am." He’s heard this many times.

    "All right, well, we've let this go on for long enough, it's time we bring Earth in as a Protectorate and dispatch an official contingent there," she says.

    Rhomann squints. "You're thinking, what, a full battalion? You know Earth is..."

    She holds up a quelling hand. "Yes, I know, Earth is weird. Full of living Eternals and god-like 'super-heroes.' What a shit-show.

    "No, sending regular Nova Corpsmen isn't going to be enough.

    "Send a Supernova."

    PHU1KZN.png
    WAIT

    SPACE

    WHAT?

    Is basically what everyone was shouting as this scene played out. This is one shift in scale that none of us saw coming.

    PDKpJsK.png

  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    edited October 8
    The 5th X-Man on Blue Team was Thunderbird, btw. He’s a slightly deep cut X-Men-wise. (Hell, I mixed him up with his brother at first blush)

    Matev on
    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Jacobkosh
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man.

    V on brand for Elise not to get along with Cyclops

    ...

    Did you guys wish Elise had been there for the argument? How do you think that would have gone?

    sig.gif
    MsAnthropy
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Elise would’ve backed Vlad and made everyone feel even more like shit for doing the right thing.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    JacobkoshMsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 8
    That is 100% what would have happened, with a...I'll say 60% chance that instead of actually defending Vlad as such, she just starts loudly airing every petty, totally unrelated grievance. "Michael stole Sigrun from me! Miles broke op sec once!", etc. I could even see it going to a place where she gets so bad that Vlad and Clay have to set aside their whole deal to try and talk her down from the tree.

    Which, tbf, would be hilarious. But as a player I was really into the long-awaited Vlad/Clay throwdown and I wanted to see it play out uninterrupted (which is the actual real life reason why Miles is mostly an observer of the scene even though he's as emotionally invested as anyone in its outcome). The in-story reason is that he doesn't want to step on Clay's dick when Clay is mostly saying the same stuff Miles would have said anyway, and also he wants to be ready in case the situation turns actually violent.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Yah, I could see Miles stepping back to let the proper superior do the chewing out and be on standby in case Vlad made a poor decision (I wouldn’t have expected in this case, but he’s been chafing under STRIKE all season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke off again soon in a face/heel turn.)

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Jacobkosh
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Oh and that is totally Thunderbird, but with my terrible eyes the picture looks like a lady to me. I always think of him as built like a linebacker, though that might be influenced by how Liefeld and Silvestri drew Warhawk.

    Matev
  • FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    Yeah, I assumed it was the two original teams

    torchlight-sig-80.jpg
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man.

    V on brand for Elise not to get along with Cyclops

    ...

    Did you guys wish Elise had been there for the argument? How do you think that would have gone?

    No kidding. She wouldn't be the only one to dislike him. Though, everyone slags on Cyclops for being a stick in the mud, but unlike, say, Wolverine, he's dude who would literally blow up a mountain if he absentmindedly took his glasses off. He might not be that fun to be around, but you have to appreciate that he is responsible enough to maintain the excruciating level of self-control to not accidentally open his eyes at the wrong moment.

    "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
    JacobkoshFencingsaxMatev
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    That is 100% what would have happened, with a...I'll say 60% chance that instead of actually defending Vlad as such, she just starts loudly airing every petty, totally unrelated grievance. "Michael stole Sigrun from me! Miles broke op sec once!", etc. I could even see it going to a place where she gets so bad that Vlad and Clay have to set aside their whole deal to try and talk her down from the tree.

    Which, tbf, would be hilarious. But as a player I was really into the long-awaited Vlad/Clay throwdown and I wanted to see it play out uninterrupted (which is the actual real life reason why Miles is mostly an observer of the scene even though he's as emotionally invested as anyone in its outcome). The in-story reason is that he doesn't want to step on Clay's dick when Clay is mostly saying the same stuff Miles would have said anyway, and also he wants to be ready in case the situation turns actually violent.

    Honestly, on some level, it often feels like both Vlad and Elise are characters from a different TV series than Miles, Michael, and Julian. I could see those two in their own vigilante / anti-hero program, while the others feel more like (mostly) professional operators.

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man.

    V on brand for Elise not to get along with Cyclops

    ...

    Did you guys wish Elise had been there for the argument? How do you think that would have gone?

    No kidding. She wouldn't be the only one to dislike him. Though, everyone slags on Cyclops for being a stick in the mud, but unlike, say, Wolverine, he's dude who would literally blow up a mountain if he absentmindedly took his glasses off. He might not be that fun to be around, but you have to appreciate that he is responsible enough to maintain the excruciating level of self-control to not accidentally open his eyes at the wrong moment.

    I've been a lifelong Cyclops fan for this very reason, honestly. Having had an occasionally unstable childhood situation I can very much relate to the sensation of feeling like you need to be the responsible one in the room when everyone around you seems to be wallowing in melodrama, as well as, less self-flatteringly, how having a sense of powerlessness in one area can translate to being kind of control-freaky in other areas. I feel like Cyclops is the kind of dude who's a bit lonely even in a crowd, but he also has a few relationships that are really important to him and that he will go to any length to maintain. Those are feelings I have definitely had at one tiime or another and it irks me when I see writers reduce him to "lol, what a dick," because I feel like I get him and they don't.

    I am also just kind of instinctively sympathetic to the uncool and the not-with-it and Cyclops is definitely that.

    MsAnthropyFencingsax
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man.

    V on brand for Elise not to get along with Cyclops

    ...

    Did you guys wish Elise had been there for the argument? How do you think that would have gone?

    No kidding. She wouldn't be the only one to dislike him. Though, everyone slags on Cyclops for being a stick in the mud, but unlike, say, Wolverine, he's dude who would literally blow up a mountain if he absentmindedly took his glasses off. He might not be that fun to be around, but you have to appreciate that he is responsible enough to maintain the excruciating level of self-control to not accidentally open his eyes at the wrong moment.

    I've been a lifelong Cyclops fan for this very reason, honestly. Having had an occasionally unstable childhood situation I can very much relate to the sensation of feeling like you need to be the responsible one in the room when everyone around you seems to be wallowing in melodrama, as well as, less self-flatteringly, how having a sense of powerlessness in one area can translate to being kind of control-freaky in other areas. I feel like Cyclops is the kind of dude who's a bit lonely even in a crowd, but he also has a few relationships that are really important to him and that he will go to any length to maintain. Those are feelings I have definitely had at one tiime or another and it irks me when I see writers reduce him to "lol, what a dick," because I feel like I get him and they don't.

    I am also just kind of instinctively sympathetic to the uncool and the not-with-it and Cyclops is definitely that.

    complicated, i think, by his portrayal in the Singer X men movies, which was my first introduction to the character. He kind of is just a stick in the mud in those films?

    sig.gif
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    He's barely a character in those movies. He gets, like, a couple of lines. But yeah, they're very Meme Cyclops, lol what a dick sort of lines.

    The movies are very much the Patrick Stewart and Wolverine show, which is part of why, although they have good parts (like the aforementioned Patrick Stewart and Wolverine), and I'm legitimately grateful for how they opened the door for everything that's come since, I'm not super huge on them as X-Men movies.

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  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Elise feels a sudden, irrational dislike for this man.

    V on brand for Elise not to get along with Cyclops

    ...

    Did you guys wish Elise had been there for the argument? How do you think that would have gone?

    No kidding. She wouldn't be the only one to dislike him. Though, everyone slags on Cyclops for being a stick in the mud, but unlike, say, Wolverine, he's dude who would literally blow up a mountain if he absentmindedly took his glasses off. He might not be that fun to be around, but you have to appreciate that he is responsible enough to maintain the excruciating level of self-control to not accidentally open his eyes at the wrong moment.

    I've been a lifelong Cyclops fan for this very reason, honestly. Having had an occasionally unstable childhood situation I can very much relate to the sensation of feeling like you need to be the responsible one in the room when everyone around you seems to be wallowing in melodrama, as well as, less self-flatteringly, how having a sense of powerlessness in one area can translate to being kind of control-freaky in other areas. I feel like Cyclops is the kind of dude who's a bit lonely even in a crowd, but he also has a few relationships that are really important to him and that he will go to any length to maintain. Those are feelings I have definitely had at one tiime or another and it irks me when I see writers reduce him to "lol, what a dick," because I feel like I get him and they don't.

    I am also just kind of instinctively sympathetic to the uncool and the not-with-it and Cyclops is definitely that.

    By the time I was a teenager, I was the oldest child in a family with only one parent, so I strongly relate to his his sense of duty. I even did so when I was full on into the whole goth / punk kid thing.

    Like ppups pointed out, the movies did him no favors since he never really got to show that he is supposed to be both a martial arts master, and one of the top five tacticians in the Marvel Universe, on top of having laser eyes.

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
    Jacobkosh
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    edited October 9
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    It's been a week since the incident at the Baxter Building. The entire STRIKE division has been sent to the Helicarrier for a briefing ahead of Operation Scalpel.

    They're not the only ones there. The Ultimates, all the STRIKE teams and Clay Quartermain, two teams of X-Men, and the Fantastic Four are there. Longbow is missing from the Invincibles, as he is still on an undercover operation. For this mission he's being replaced by Vision.

    Elise waves enthusiastically at the Fantastic Four. Susan, Ben, and Johnny wave back. Reed does not. Miles nods and smiles warmly at Vision, and stands with Carol between Freedom Force and the Warriors, unobtrusively holding hands.

    "We having another party?" Julian asks, craning his neck to survey the crowd.

    "Hopefully we don't get kidnapped at this one," Michael says.

    "I don't know about y'all, but I'd love to never think or talk about Battleworld ever again," Elise says firmly.

    Vladimir is standing silently off to the side, arms folded, his cloak and hood concealing his form.

    All the heroes are on the bridge, assembled for a briefing from Nick Fury.

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    "Alright people, listen up.

    "We're going to be heading to another world for this. Earth-462, what we've code-named 'Skrull Earth'. That's a code name we intend to change.

    "Thanks to the work of of the Richards family, one of our STRIKE agents, and ARMOR's scientists, we've upgraded the fold-gate device aboard the Ultimates’ quincarrier, the Chariot.

    "The Chariot is now able to open its own interdimensional gateway, large enough for the whole ship to fit through. That's going to be your transport. The Chariot can carry a quinjet, an APC, and a dozen sky-cycles for transport on the other side."

    Elise's eyes light up. "No fucking way."

    Miles grins widely. "Nice."

    "Once we're on the other side, STRIKE-1 and the Fantastic Four are going to fly over to the Bulwark, the SHIELD base in Chicago where my counter-part is waiting for you. They're going to act as my counterparts escort and work on his part of the plan. He's got something in mind.

    "STRIKE-2 and the X-Men Blue Team will be heading to New York City with the Chariot's quinjet, essentially as a distraction. You're heavy-hitters, and can stand and fight with the Skrulls.

    "STRIKE-3 and the X-Men Gold Team will be heading to the Triskelion, which is apparently where the Skrulls have their central network control for all of their computer systems on Earth. Makes sense. MODOC and Vision will be working to over-take and shut down their communications and computer network, really create havoc.

    "The Chariot will be dropping them by APC, and drawing fire from the Triskelion. The Ultimates will be providing fire support for the Chariot. Once all the teams are in position, the Chariot will move into a support position, to deploy as needed to pick teams up as they complete objectives.

    Any questions?"

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Triskelion
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    Built in Washington DC in the 1990s, the Triskelion is SHIELD’s official headquarters. It is a functional SHIELD facility and does house research labs and training schools for field agents, but for the most part exists to draw attention away from other, more important and secret SHIELD facilities.

    Executive Director Nick Fury technically has an office at the Triskelion, but he is almost never present there.

    Elise looks disappointed that she won't be raining fire from above. Julian wonders why it "makes sense" that Triskelion serves as the central network for the Skrulls' global network, but leaves the question unasked.

    Machine Man raises a hand. "Do you have any idea what it is your counterpart's going to have Freedom Force doing?"

    Fury nods. "The plan is to decapitate the Skrull central leadership. Paibok, Morrat, the so-called 'Blacksmith', the people at the top.

    "Possibly literally.

    "We know where they are based. Manhattan, in what was once the Avengers Tower. The Tower is also where the Blacksmith is working on some kind of secret project, some kind of weapon that will turn the tide in the war between the Skrulls and Attilan. We need to destroy that weapon."

    Susan shifts uncomfortably.

    Miles nods. "Do we think they know that we might be coming for them? For them, it's been a hundred years or something since they bailed on our world. That's enough time to forget about us or write us off. It'd be nice if we caught them with their pants down."

    “Fools...” Vladimir mutters to himself.

    "We have no reason to believe they would expect us,” Fury says. “The Skrulls didn't know about ARMOR, about our ability to travel to alternate dimensions, and they didn't know that you made contact with Earth-462."

    Miles nods. "Good. I wouldn't miss the look on their faces for the world."

    "One other thing that is important to mention. Some of you here know this already, those of you who have already ventured to alternate Earths, but it bears repeating.

    "I've hand-picked these teams based on people who are not likely to run into alternates of themselves over there. If you've got an alternate universe version of you over there, they're probably dead, or were nobody of consequence.

    "So you're not going to run into them.... Probably. It's why I'm not going. Two Nick Furys in one universe is one too many."

    Michael remembers himself as a guard over there. Probably just got sent on another assignment.

    Elise grimaces. "I am never going to get to meet myself and it fuckin' sucks."

    Fury continues. "If you do happen to run into your alternate, or an alternate universe version of someone you do know, like a friend or a loved one or even an enemy... remember that they are not who you think you know. They are not you. They are not the person you think. They are someone else."

    Elise perks up. "Can we stop by the Crypt? For..reasons?" Julian gives Elise a sidelong glance.

    "No, the Crypt is compromised."

    "If there's nothing further, the Chariot has pulled up alongside us, so your ride's here and we're ready to move people over." Fury dismisses those assembled. The teams fall out and moves toward the Chariot, which has docked with the Helicarrier.

    Julian and Michael hustle along with the rest of the crowd. Miles and Carol share a quick good-luck kiss, then he jogs up to join them. Vlad stands silently for a moment, then wordlessly turns and begins to walk to the Chariot. Elise nervously glances after him, then follows in his wake.

    The X-Men make a point of introducing themselves to the others, since they haven't met everyone else.

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    Everyone gets aboard and situated.

    Once aboard, Michael Korvac, ARMOR's Deputy Director and the commanding officer of the Chariot, introduces himself.

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    "Alright people, this...might get weird. We haven't actually tested this thing, not for real with the whole ship. So...hang onto your butts!"

    "My butt is augmented," Miles deadpans.

    "Miles, I didn't know you got a butt-lift!" Michael says in mock-shock.

    Miles nods sagely. "It's the butt of the future." Technically true!

    MODOC sees what STRIKE-1 is doing, realizes they're taking the advice literally, and looks down at his tiny hands and his eyebrows sag pathetically.

    Miles catches his gaze. "Don't worry, little buddy. We've got you." He smiles with his very small mouth at Miles.

    Elise doesn't have much a butt, but she holds onto a handguard and grits her teeth.

    The quincarrier shudders and shakes as an energy blast fires from the front of the Chariot, ripping open a hole in space-time that is large enough for the vessel.

    "Alright, here we go..." Korvac says as he pulls forward on the throttle, manually steering the quincarrier.

    The Chariot enters the portal. There's no sensation of going through an interdimensional gate, something STRIKE-1, the Fantastic Four, and ARMOR have all done several times. It doesn't feel strange at all. They’ve had more unpleasant turbulence.

    The quincarrier pops out on the other side.

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    Wolverine looks out the window at the view. "...well, this place sucks."

    "Hey, at least we're cleaning up," Julian says. "At some point we can take this place from a hellscape to merely a shithole!"

    "We could have left it to suck all on its own, but SOMEONE -" Elise looks pointedly at Miles.

    Miles meets Elise's gaze. "These people need our help and I gave them my word. You've told everyone often enough about almost being an Avenger. You gonna balk when you get a chance to do an Avenger's job?"

    Elise grimaces at Miles, but doesn't have a response.

    Clay speaks up. "We should get to the hangar. The Four are there, grabbing sky-cycles, which you all won't need."

    The team follows him, and Clay stops on the way to grab a metal briefcase with the Stark Industries logo on it.

    The Fantastic Four are waiting in the hangar, and Johnny is trying to justify to Reed that he should use a sky-cycle instead of flying, which he is revving. Reed, on the other hand, is arguing that the Chariot has a limited quantity of sky-cycles and only people who cannot fly should use them.

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    "Johnny totally has a point though,” Julian says. “These are badass."

    Miles grins widely. "Sky-cycles! Holy shit. This is a dream come true."

    "I CAN'T FLY," Elise butts in.

    Clay puts his hand on Elise's shoulder and says "Not so fast." He then taps the metal briefcase.

    "Clay, I don't know what's in there, but I doubt it'll be cooler than a sky-cycle."

    "We'll see," Clay shrugs. He opens the case. Inside is a four-strap chest harness attached to a small arc reactor. "Courtesy of Tony."

    She holds it before her, eyes wide. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

    "According to Stark, it will let you fly, and provides you with a 'kinetic force barrier' that will stop most high-speed projectiles and energy bolts, or at the very least slow them down to being non-lethal. You can still get shot, but it might slow down to the point of hurting a bit instead of killing you. If someone with super-strength slugs you, it'll still hurt, but it won't collapse you like wet tissue.

    "It has an Achilles heel, though, something Stark can't design around. The slow knife passes.

    "Oh shit,” Miles snaps his fingers as he realizes what this means. “The gom jabbar!"

    Clay nods at Miles. "Thank you, Mason." He explains to Elise. “Sharp, stabbing attacks that take their time and aren't delivered with a lot of kinetic speed and force absolutely will kill you.

    "It's not armor. It's a force field. Plus, fire, acid, gas, all of that stuff is still dangerous."

    "Sure, sure,” Elise says, “but all of that was true before. And now I can fly!" She has already shed her heavy Attilan coat and top and is busy strapping the harness on excitedly.

    "The anti-grav flight is has a neuro-kinetic interface that reads off your spinal column, so it should be as natural as moving. That's Stark's opinion, anyway."

    "Uh huh." Elise says, barely listening as she gets dressed again. The arc reactor glows under her shitty band shirt and she grins and attempts a flip.

    It totally works.

    The harness actually synergizes really well with Elise's naturally enhanced reflexes and proprioception. A normal person might struggle to adapt, but because Elise's sense of balance is super-human, it's easy for her to use.

    She dissolves into giggles as she floats about a foot above the ground, zooming around the Carrier. Michael holds up his hand for Elise to fly-by high-five, and she does not leave him hanging.

    Johnny looks at Elise. "Oh man, okay, okay, new plan, instead of the cool bike, you and I are gonna race."

    "YES."

    Reed, Susan, Clay, and Ben take sky-cycles and the rest of the teams are expected to fly, as the Chariot flies over Chicago and the hangar opens.

    Before Elise launches, she offers Vlad a high five. Vlad just takes off.

    Seeing this, Johnny hits that high five to not leave Elise hanging, before shouting "Flame on!" It's not the same, but she appreciates the effort.

    Johnny tries to race Elise through the ruins of Chicago to the SHIELD base. Elise will have to be quick to catch up.

    Elise realizes that she can catch Johnny and even beat him...but she'd have to cheat by kicking off Reed's sky-cycle and sending it towards Johnny and forcing Johnny to veer off. She knows they won't crash into each other, she can do the mental math instinctively, but it's a dick move.

    Elise takes the dick move. She boots Reed's sky-cycle, causing him to yell. The sky-cycle moves in front of Johnny, who veers off, avoiding Reed and causing him to yell "What the heck is wrong with you people?!"

    Elise lands first at the Bulwark, followed by Johnny who is laughing with his hands on his thighs. "Oh... oh my god did you see his face..."

    "Worth it." Elise does a victory lap of the Bulwark.

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    Julian touches down smoothly on the ground before the Bulwark, takes a comb from his pocket and smooths over his hair. Miles, Vlad, and Michael land behind him.

    The guards lead them inside, where Earth-462's Fury is waiting..

    Elise produces a gift bag from her heavy coat. "Delivery from non-fucked Earth, for Nick Fury? It's a shit-ton of cigars."

    Fury is struggling hard to keep his bad-ass composure and not get Christmas morning face. But Elise knows. "Thank you."

    He takes one out and lights it, and gets a primal level of satisfaction. "...my god." A pause as he puffs. "I want to kill every Skrull."

    Clay and Susan look awkward. Vlad nods.

    "Slow down there, chief," Elise mutters.

    Fury looks at the group. "Alright people, I assume my counterpart has given you a bit of a brief of what I want to do.

    "Which is blow up Stark Tower. Kill the Skrull leadership. Destroy whatever it is they're cooking up in there.

    "So we're going in to do that. I also need you to act as my bodyguards for a meet and greet with some potential allies. The Avengers. What's left of them, anyway."

    "I'll ask the obvious question,” Miles says. “Do we know they're not Skrulls?"

    "Yeah. Skrulls don't...do what they do to Skrulls.

    “I'll explain.

    "When it all went down, when Leviathan went public and the Skrulls came out in force, one of our own turned on us. Romanov. Turns out, she was a sleeper agent the whole time, the whole Black Widow program was a bunch of half-Skrull hybrid assassins. She killed Barton and Stark.

    "Rogers, Banner, and Thor survived, took her down.

    "After that, things weren't the same. The Avengers... went their own way. They wanted to do things differently than we did. Rogers became...paranoid. Romanov's betrayal messed him up. I don't think Banner ever went back to being...Banner. He's been the Hulk for years, non-stop.

    "And Thor has just full blown become a berserker. The three of them just wage non-stop war on the Skrulls. They're not about protecting people, they're about killing Skrulls."

    Elise shifts uncomfortably. "...Huh."

    "But they're powerful, and they know some ways to sneak behind enemy lines. They've been waging a three-man guerilla war for years. I want to meet with them... but I want back up in case it gets ugly. Rogers and I aren't on good terms."

    Elise checks her ICER and turns it over, then nods.

    "I'll take STRIKE with me, Dr. Richards, your people stay here in the Bulwark and work with my scientists on a device I'm cooking up. A little...something-something that will help us knock on the door of the Tower."

    Richards nods.

    Clay looks at Fury. "I'll stay with Richards' team, coordinate with STRIKE remotely. Our Fury's briefed you on...who I am?"

    Fury nods grimly.

    Clay sighs. "Okay, good then. For the best I not meet the Avengers."

    Fury looks at STRIKE. "You people need to do anything before we head out?"

    Miles shakes his head. "I think I've got what I need."

    Julian nods at Miles. "I think we're good."

    The team loads up with Fury in a SHIELD APC, to head to a meeting point between Fury and this Earth's... Avengers.

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    They move through the ruins of Chicago. Fury's driving the APC. While he is driving, he calls back to the rest of them. "I want to thank you all for honoring the promise you made. You really didn't need to. The first people from your Earth who came here, the Ultimates? They came in like tourists. Looked around, took some scans, came here to do 'research' on the Skrulls. Weren't interested in helping us.

    "You could have just fucked off, wasn't like we could have done much. We were years out from figuring out how your portal tech worked, and even years still from replicating it, and by then we'd probably be dead.

    "You're good people. I was beginning to think you were from Asshole Earth, where everyone was assholes, but turns out it's just some of you, like everywhere else."

    Vlad speaks for the first time. "This was our mistake to correct, so we shall."

    "I dunno,” Elise says. “I'm kind of an asshole."

    Fury takes a drag from his cigar and grins at Elise. "Nah, you're alright kid."

    Miles clears his throat. "I know it's hard for you to feel objective about this, but you can't judge the Ultimates too hard. There are a lot of fucked-up Earths out there. It's like, imagine spending all day watching those Sarah McLach - er, imagine watching nothing but Sally Struthers commercials about feeding kids in Africa. There are so many problems and so few ways to help. And we didn't used to have a way to get over here in force. The Ultimates alone could never have done what we're doing now."

    Fury nods. "Guess that's true. Not like they took the time to explain that, though. They just quoted a bunch of bullshit regs at me, like I fuckin care about some Prime Directive bullshit when I have people dying every day.”

    They approach a crashed Skrull ship.

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    "Alright, folks,” Fury begins. “Listen, this is important. They don't know about all this alternate Earth bullshit. And telling them would complicate shit. It's why I left the Fantastic Four behind.

    "They won't know who you people are, and let's just...keep it that way. You're here to help, that's enough. Obviously, we'll have to let them in on it eventually, but for right now, this conversation, let's not pull them too far out of Plato's cave, yeah?"

    "Sure thing, boss," Miles nods.

    "Good thing other Elise is a total nobody who got blown the fuck up early on," Elise sighs. "That'll help."

    "Alright, this is the spot, I've sent the signal, they'll be here soon. Let's go."

    The team and Fury get out of the APC. After a few minutes, a man approaches that they somewhat recognize.

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    He's not carrying the shield.

    "Fury," he says curtly.

    "Rogers," Fury says back.

    Rogers frowns at the team. "This is your help? This is it?"

    Fury sighs. "No, this is not it. I've got more. This is just the people I could fit in a truck."

    Two other figures emerge.

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    Fury looks nervous. That is not something those present have ever seen before. Ever.

    Elise shifts, trying to read the three Avengers in front of her for a sign of their intent. Hulk is...unusually calm. He's like a hurricane of anger contained in a shell. His veins pulsate with green energy from time to time. Thor has the hollow, vacant look of a combat veteran just waiting for the next attack.

    Fury tries to explain to Rogers that they have a plan. Numbers. Weapons.

    Rogers isn't having it. He's heard this before from Fury. He's not interested.

    "I'm starting to think you don't want this war to end," Elise butts in.

    Rogers stares at Elise. "Excuse me?"

    "We have a plan, we have an army, and we have everything we need to take care of it. Having you along would help, but at this point, I don't think you're prepared for the idea of this war ending. You're too on board.

    "Like, hell..." Elise pulls up her top to show the arc reactor strapped to her chest. "I am the babiest member of everyone we brought on board, and I'm rolling around with Stark Tech. What do you have that makes you think you have a better read of what we can do?"

    He looks at the arc reactor. "T-Tony made that..."

    "Yeah, he did," she nods.

    "When did..."

    "Don't worry about the details. That's on us," she says. "We just need you to show up and do your job."

    Rogers looks shaken.

    "Can you do that, soldier?" Elise says, nostrils flaring.

    "...yes ma'am."

    Elise nods. Then she turns and strides away from the group to tremble and whisper "Holy shit."

    Miles nods approvingly. "Good work," he says in a very quiet voice that he knows she can hear.

    "Any one of them could have put me in the fuckin' ground." Elise whispers. "Christ."

    Rogers turns away from the group and talks to the other two Avengers. After a few moments, he looks back over his shoulder. "Fury, we'll get our gear and meet you at your base in 25."

    Fury nods, and directs Freedom Force to get aboard the APC.

    Once the Avengers depart, Fury looks at Elise "That was fucking amazing, kid."

    Elise lets out a high, nervous laugh. "Hoo boy, I think I have an adrenaline rush."

    Fury nods. "I'll be honest, I was pretty sure there was a chance we were gonna die there." Vlad shakes his head at this.

    "A few months ago I would've agreed,” Miles says, looking at his team. “But now? I think we could take the crazy Avengers."

    Elise sighs. "Well, if we died, at least I would have gone out immediately after showing Steve Rogers my tits. There's...worse ways to go."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 9
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    The APC pulls back into base after a bit of driving.

    Reed greets the team as they arrive and disembark. "I have figured out how to work the device, Fury."

    Fury nods at Reed, and Reed explains to Freedom Force what it is. "It's a communication device and signal buoy to make contact with Attilan. It will allow us to contact Attilan, and use their technology to transport troops directly to where the buoy is.

    "Apparently they have something called an 'Eldrac' that isn't reliant on fold-gates."

    Elise winces.

    Miles raises a finger. "Eldrac is an Inhuman that turned into a door. Like, that's his power. I'm not even kidding."

    "Miles, come on," Elise glares at Miles.

    Reed raises an eyebrow. "...huh. Fascinating. Well, I've already made contact with Attilan. I've spoken with Princess Crystalia, who is Attilan's diplomat."

    "Oh, no," Elise breathes.

    "They've agreed to send in a team of their commandos when we're ready. We have to get the comm-buoy in position inside the tower, and they'll back us up. They also decided to share an...important bit of intelligence.

    "The tower is heavily guarded, not just by Skrulls and the most powerful of the Blacksmith's Chitauri cyborgs, but also...Hyperion."

    "OH, COME ON." Elise flings up her hands in frustration, then lights a joint. Vlad makes an inhuman, metallic noise - of rage?

    "Jesus,” Miles breathes. “Did they brainwash him again?"

    Reed looks at Miles. "No, from what we can tell, this is the Marcus Milton of this Earth. The one who went to Chernobyl in the 1980's and wash brainwashed the first time. He's been the Skrulls' agent the entire time."

    Clay speaks up. "I need to go on this mission. I can deal with Hyperion."

    Vlad narrows his eyes at Clay. I will deal with Hyperion, he thinks.

    "I'm gonna get cooked," Elise says bleakly. "I just learned how to make a chicken and I'm gonna die here."

    "No, you will not," Vlad says.

    "I hope not. It's not a good chicken. It was still kinda pink."

    Reed continues. "The Marcus Milton of our Earth... we don't know what happened to him. He disappeared when you damaged their time machine and if he did travel back with them...he certainly never re-appeared."

    Miles frowns. "Hm. Okay. Well, hopefully we can deal with this Earth's Hyperion the way we did the last time." Clay nods at Miles.

    "The way we dealt with him last time involved me getting cooked." Elise is increasingly alarmed.

    Miles looks at Clay. "These are the same Skrulls, though. If they know what you did to our Hyperion, could they do anything to make it harder this time?"

    Clay thinks about it. "...maybe? It's possible. But only if they expected to run into me again. And why would they? I'm dead on this Earth."

    “Why does anything happen on this Earth,” Elise mutters miserably, stubbing out her joint and replacing it with four pieces of gum.

    Clay looks at Miles. "We need a plan of attack here. We have the Four, the three Avengers, your team, and once we get inside, whatever Attilan is willing to commit. How do you want to call the ball, Mason?

    "We need to get into the tower."

    Elise plucks the massive wad of gum from her mouth. "Can I go for a walk and check the layout?"

    "Can you do it safely?" Miles asks. "If so, absolutely."

    "Advanced recon is a lot of commitment,” Clay says. “It's in New York, it's something you'd have to do once we're already in the field."

    "...Too far. Air's too weird here. Probably not safe," she says. "Maybe we could have a distraction force, act like we're storming the tower. Send in a couple of sneaky folks to check the actual machinery?"

    Miles considers. "You know how this whole op has a three-prong approach? Let's do that again. Heavy hitters knock on the front door. Fliers come in from above. And then Vlad or Susan gets a third team in - the shank between the ribs."

    Clay nods.

    That's like my plan, but better," Elise says.

    "The Avengers could do the knocking,” Clay says. “They're heavy-hitters and a known quantity. They'll definitely get a response."

    "I should go with Vlad and Susan,” Elise says. “I'm recon, Miles, you know I'm suited for it."

    Miles nods to Elise. "Yes. Your powers absolutely belong on the inside."

    "Flight team should be Torch, Behemoth, Mason, Phoenix," Clay says. "Infil team should be the Richards, Vlad, myself, and Elise."

    Elise grins and shoves the wad of gum back in her mouth. "Fanks."

    Ben Grimm looks at Clay. "What am I? Chopped liver?"

    Clay shakes his head. "No, you're excellent at knocking down doors, go with the Avengers and clobber."

    Miles turns to the Thing. "Grimm, the Avengers are, uh, very motivated. They may not pay 100% attention to other people's safety. Keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to pull back if they start trying to make it a suicide job. They can make that call for themselves if they want, but we want you coming home."

    Ben nods at Miles. "Gotcha."

    Clay continues. "The infil team will have the comm-buoy with us, once we're in we'll signal for Attilan's people. That will also be our way out if things get hairy."

    He looks at Miles. "We good?"

    "Yeah," Miles says. He shoots Clay a significant look and gives his temple a tap. "I think we're ready." Man, don't let anyone try and run off with the superweapon. Or if someone has to, let it be Reed. He hopes Clay picks it up.

    Clay scratches his nose absently and nods.

    "Hey, Clay?" Elise spits out a massive wad of gum into one of her pockets.

    "Mhm?"

    "Do you have any gum?"

    "No," he says.

    Reed looks at Elise. "Are you trying to quit smoking, Elise?"

    "Yeah," Elise grumbles.

    "You know I've been working on something to help with that. When we get back to our world, if you'd like to try it, it might be more pleasant than just gobbling chewing gum all the time."

    Elise perks up. "Yeah! Aw, that's great, thank you, Dr. Richards!"

    Reed smiles warmly.

    PHU1KZN.png
    You know, it’s been previously established that Reed has no involuntary muscle movements. So that warm smile is 100% something he chose to put there. Why? Who knows.

    There's a silence in the base as the Avengers enter.

    Fury explains the plan to Rogers, who looks over at the Fantastic Four. "Is that... wait... that's Reed fucking Richards."

    Elise gasps. Steve Rogers dropping an f-bomb is, by far, the weirdest part of Skrull Earth.

    "What game are you playing at here, Fury? Reed Richards is dead! You working with Skrulls now?"

    Sensing the tension, Elise suddenly steps behind Vladimir, disappearing behind his cape. Susan also shifts uncomfortably and stands behind Ben.

    Fury puts his hands up. "No! They're not Skrulls!" He sighs. "They're... from an alternate Earth."

    Miles holds up a hand. "Dr. Banner's seen Star Trek. He knows it's possible."

    The Hulk grumbles. "Banner gone." His hands ball up into fists.

    Rogers puts his arm across in front of Hulk. "Whoa, slow down, big guy. Let these people explain themselves."

    Reed tries to explain. He does it in the most Reed way possible, which exacerbates the situation until Susan interrupts and explains like a person.

    Susan was also there at Fermilab, and explains how this was an alternate timeline created due to the Skrulls interfering. She leaves out some details, like Miles damaging the time machine or the fact that she is a Skrull.

    Rogers has a hard time with this, and repeatedly asks if there's a way to change this back so none of this happened. He has to be told a few times that isn't how things work, this is just how this world is now, but that the visitors are here to help get rid of the Skrulls now. Eventually, he accepts it.

    The situation calms, and the Avengers accept the role they have to play in the plan. Rogers explains that there's a path to the tower, through old subway tunnels that are mostly (but not entirely) collapsed, that they could drive a few SHIELD APCs through. Going by air is too risky, the Skrulls will see them coming.

    Once they get close, then they can make their move.

    They'll still have to make the three-pronged attack that Miles envisioned, but the Avengers can lead all three prongs close enough to the tower that they don't get intercepted on the way.

    With all this said, Clay mentions he has to check in with Korvac, and see how the rest of the attack is going.

    After a few minutes, Clay comes back and tells them they have to move as soon as possible. The other teams are getting a lot of resistance, but they're accomplishing their goals. This is the best possible time to move, and if they time it right, they can potentially get back-up during the attack from the quincarrier, the Warriors, and the X-Men.

    “This is it," Miles says to everyone. "The end of the road we started on all the way back when we first met. Hard to believe. Let's close the book on these fuckers."

    "Let's saddle up. Each set to its own APC," clay says.

    Everyone loads up and moves out.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 9
    It takes a few hours to get to their destination. During that time, the drive is awkward. The teams are mixed, and some of the APCs have people in them with some bad blood with each other.

    Elise, sitting with Susan, Reed, Vlad, and Clay, feels wildly uncomfortable. "So, uh, Susan, I'm actually getting married for real this time?"

    "That's wonderful," Susan says. "I'm incredibly happy for you, Elise."

    Elise beams. "Thank you! Vlad, you're my best man, obviously." When Vlad just nods, Elise wilts a little.

    Miles introduces himself to Johnny. "Good to meet you, man. I don't think we've actually been introduced. Miles Mason - Machine Man. These here are my guys, Behemoth and Phoenix."

    Johnny nods. "Yeah, we fought together in Russia and stuff but didn't get to like, talk much. Lot was going on."

    Julian reaches over for a fistbump. "Yeah, no kidding. Good to see you again."

    "Just another day at the office," Michael deadpans.

    "I'm hoping today will be less of a fuck fiesta than Russia was,” Miles says. “I didn't get to plan that one. We just reacted constantly. It's nice to be the one giving the surprises for a change."

    Johnny bumps Julian’s fist. He makes it explode with a little burst of flame, and looks expectantly at Julian to do the same. Julian does so.

    “Aw yeah,” Johnny says. Miles nods approvingly.

    The APCs pull into the subway tunnels under New York, with the Avengers leading.

    The lead APC stops and pulls to the side, and Rogers calls back on the radio. "Alright, here we go, people. The infiltration team will have to ditch their truck here and proceed on foot. They'll find a tunnel a half-klik ahead, guarded, you can either take out the guards or stealth past, your call. The other two teams are going to surface here in our APCs. My team is going to rush the tower, sky team is going to ditch their truck and take to the air."

    "Copy that." Miles looks at Julian, Johnny, and Michael. "Y'all ready for this?"

    "Ready," Michael says.

    "Ready, Freddy," Julian nods.

    Johnny continues to do the rest of 2 Unlimited's 'Y'all Ready For This' vocally after Miles asks. He then realizes that was an actual question.

    He then nods and salutes.

    Miles nods approvingly. "Not bad. We'll have to do a team Rock Band night sometime."

    "Oh shit yes!" Julian says. "I am all about music based team-building."

    "I get dibs on singing 'Rebel Yell,' though," Miles says.

    As the infiltration team climbs out of their APC and starts down the ruined subway tunnel, Elise quickly leaves her body in an attempt to find the best path through the tunnel, up the tower, and to their target.

    She finds herself struggling with the extra-dimensional strangeness of this place. She can feel...a presence. Something...something tingling her senses. Something that could sense her if she pushes farther.

    Elise pushes farther.

    She senses the path Rogers suggested, guarded by two Chitauri cyborgs. But she senses another way, a ventilation shaft that is large enough for people that isn't guarded. It would be a lot more stealthy. It might be alarmed? Vlad could hack it. Probably.

    Elise opens her eyes. "We got a ventilation shaft. No guards. Silent. Might be triggered to an alarm?"

    "The tunnel Rogers suggested has two cyborgs, it's gonna be rough. And there's...something else?"

    Susan nods. "I'm confident Vlad can hack their security. Let’s go with the vents."

    Elise furrows her brow. "I felt something. I don't know. Something. Here, watching, maybe?" she murmurs to Clay and Susan.

    The stealth team moves forward beneath Susan’s invisibility field.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 9
    g3xuawl.png

    The two assault teams surface in their APCs.

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    The Avengers APC rushes the base of stark Tower.

    The sky team takes off from their vehicle. In the air, they finally get to see the tower itself. It has been...modified.

    ZBmSOxtl.jpg


    "That's obscene," Miles says through gritted teeth. He puts both fists ahead of him and blasts forward through the sky at top velocity.

    It looks... twisted. Julian accelerates after Miles, with Michael behind him.

    Miles has shared the team communicator frequency with Johnny on the way here. He radios everyone. "Here come the defenses. Go in hard and heavy. If you ever wanted to cut loose, now's the time."

    The massive cannon atop the tower moves and begins firing massive blasts of energy. Behemoth gets hit dead-center and is blasted backward, hurtling through four office buildings, sending them crumbling. The Destroyer armor is pitted and searing-hot.

    Machine Man swoops up beneath the cannon, firing his repulsors at it full-bore, but his blasts are absorbed by a force field. The turret swivels down and tracks this new target, sending a stream of plasma roaring towards him. Synthetic flesh peels away from the armor beneath his arm and chest, and Miles tumbles groundward, smoking.

    Julian speeds forward, attempting to super-heat the cannon’s critical components.

    The cannon roars again. Julian vanishes in a wave of searing fire.

    g3xuawl.png

    From somewhere in the Astral Plane, the voices scream at Julian.

    THEY'RE DYING JULIAN.
    THEY WILL ALL DIE
    YOU HAVE TO LET US DO WHAT MUST BE DONE


    Julian has a choice.

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    "NO!" Regaining themselves, Machine Man and Behemoth fly at the cannon.

    There’s a flash of light.

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    The Phoenix rises and destroys the cannon.

    A squadron of Skrull ships takes flight and attacks. Phoenix begins destroying them.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited October 9
    g3xuawl.png

    The stealth team reaches the vent.

    "Vlad, check for alarms?” Sensate says. “I don't want to get the entire tower on us when we're stuck."

    Victorious waves a hand. "It is done."

    The shaft ascends high into the tower, allowing the team to bypass much of the Skrulls’ defenses.

    Elise feels like has the easiest time in the vent, sliding on her elbows. It's actually pretty roomy for her. Until she realizes everyone else in the shaft is a shapeshifter. "This is bullshit," she mutters. "Being small is one of the only things I have going for me."

    The stealth team exits the vent system inside the tower.

    2vaP8G6h.jpg


    Susan walks over to one of the consoles "All right...let's see if they still use the same kind of systems on this Earth..."

    Elise slowly reaches out with her senses, trying to see if the...presence she sensed is around, osr what it even is.

    Something is reaching out for her, something trying to find the team. Something in the walls. An AI? No...it's alive...and it's in pain.

    Susan grunts in frustration "I can't... I mean it's the same kind of OS but it's not like I have a login or something... I don't... Vlad?" Vlad places his hand over the console.

    Elise presses her hands against the walls. She's ignoring the rest of the team, focused on whatever this is. She decides to go for a walk outside her body in an attempt to find whatever's in pain. She wants to help. That's what heroes do.

    Elise can feel something...connected to the tower. A living thing. Angry. In pain. Held against its will. Vlad can feel it too... as it attacks him.

    "Where are you connected?" Elise asks the walls, trying to sense this thing, trying to find a path. "C'mon, talk to me..."

    Vlad staggers back. "No...there is some form of security system. An A.I., perhaps."

    "No!" Elise cries. "It's alive, it's in pain."

    "Oh..." Vlad tilts his head.

    Elise's brow is furrowed, hands against the floor, trying to find a path. "C'mon, talk to me, buddy, I'm listening..."

    Elise can hear something approaching. Someone. She can smell them. A Skrull.

    It won’t see the team; they’re still close enough to Susan to be in her invisibility field. The individual is hurriedly moving along the pathway. They're not dressed like a soldier. They're wearing what looks like a Skrull...lab coat? A scientist, possibly?

    Elise steps out to intercept, ICER drawn and ready to fire. "Don't move."

    The Skrull freezes, and Susan throws a field around him, immobilizing him.

    Elise gives Susan an appreciative nod. "See? I contribute."

    The captive looks at Elise. "Wh-who...who are...how did..." That line isn't directed towards Susan, who is still invisible. He looks terrified.

    "What are you keeping in this tower?"

    "I don't... I don't know what you are talking about!" Yes he does.

    Elise puts the ICER under his chin. He doesn't know the difference between it and a gun, and he's terrified. “Want to try again?"

    "Kill me if you wish, human. I have nothing to say to you. Nothing."

    This stops Elise short. "Uh.”

    Stepping out of the invisibility field, Vlad raises a hand and blasts his Skull.

    "Oh my god!" Elise jumps back.

    Clay grabs Vlad. "Vladimir! I could have interrogated him telepathically! What the hell is wrong with you?"

    Elise stumbles back, hands to her mouth. "Oh God, oh God, I can smell it -"

    "He was of no more use. I shall find the information without his lies. This is war." Vlad steps back to the console.

    Susan walks over to Vlad, putting her hand gently on his arm. "Vladimir, what's going on?"

    Vlad pulls his arm out from under her hand. "I am ending what I started. I am doing my duty." Vlad hacks to console

    Elise stares at him. "Vlad, you're scaring me." He says nothing, fully absorbed in the contents of the network.

    He learns some important information. Paibok and Morrat are here. The Blacksmith is here. Hyperion is here, and has been dispatched to the ground to deal with the Avengers.

    But there's more.

    He's learned about something that translates from the Skrull language simply as “The Project.” When he investigates further, he learns that the Project runs on an entirely separate, isolated system. There are no files to be found on it here.

    But something calls to him. Not an AI. It doesn't communicate in digital signals like an AI does. It speaks to Vlad. In ancient Egyptian, as it turns out, which Vlad auto-translates.
    Find me.

    I will. Vlad knows where to go.

    Vladimir relays the information to the rest of the team.

    Reed nods. "I think it's time to bring Attilan's people in." He activates the comm-buoy.

    A portal opens. A group of heavily armed and armored Inhuman warriors step out of the portal.

    Qpjq8T9l.jpgThjmhwpl.jpg
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    Reed explains to them what's going on, and their apparent leader, who is called Ghaidor, offers to "make some noise" so that the team can stealthily do their thing. Reed nods, and they set off.

    The rest of the team follows Vlad towards the signal he received from...the Project.

    Jacobkosh on
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