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higher, further, faster

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Shuri hasn't slept since half the universe turned to ash.

It's sort of like what happened after Baba died, when she'd locked herself in her lab, spending days poring over every chink in the Black Panther's armour. She'd replayed the security footage of the explosion over and over until her brother's blurred image was permanently etched under her eyelids.

When she gave T'Challa the upgraded suit, she thought she'd never lose him again.

Then he'd been swept away by the waterfall. For once, Shuri was at a loss of what to do. "There's nothing you could've done," Nakia told her. Rules were rules. T'Challa couldn't wear the suit.

"But we can do something now," the spy had added, when Shuri had asked what next?  "Instead of locking yourself away. You don't have to accept him as King, not like Okoye."

It's those words that run through her mind now, now that her brother has disappeared. Her mother's been busy with stabilizing the throne in the aftermath, Okoye and Nakia both away on missions Shuri doesn't have the clearance to know about. There's a bit of pride that thrums within her when she thinks of Wakanda and its unwavering people. Thanos' creatures had done some damage - but hadn't even broken through the forcefield-  and they'd lost half their population like every other nation, but Wakanda always bounced back.

There were successes to work from, indeed, but Shuri's interests lie elsewhere. 

You don't have to accept this, she reminds herself.

T'Challa and half the universe weren't dead. They couldn't be. They hadn't died, really, just disappeared from this dimension.

The rest of the world is still in the early stages of dealing without half the population. Electricity is still out in most countries. Shuri spent the early days doing her best to make sure the most vulnerable weren't put at further risk, sending aid to her outreach locations across the world. 

She hasn't gotten touch with Banner, and Stark is still missing. Besides, while she values the Avenger's input, their minds were still limited to Western knowledge constructs she'd mastered long ago.

She reaches out to her colleagues across the globe, but most of them are working on solutions to more pressing problems. Energy. Food. Data. Security.

Shuri is alone in her pursuit of a solution. 

You don't have to accept this. She'd done her duty, as princess to her people, made sure they would be secure for decades to come. But Shuri wasn't going to sit around and wait for others to decide to change things. She will do this alone, if she has to.

She reads. Reads everything, anything about the Soul Stones. Even manages to talk to Thor long enough that even in his grief he imparts some wisdom.

"Remember," he says, remarkably human, "magic is just science you don't understand." She takes his advice seriously, adding mythology and folklore to her piles of readings. Anything that might give her a clue, might spark an idea. 

That's how Danvers finds her - head in hands, reader in her lap. 

"I hear," the captain says, "you're the finest scientist Earth can offer." 

She raises her chin, and in the other woman's eyes sees the warm defiance she recognizes from the mirror.

"I am." 

Chapter Text

The rest of the universe has one of two luxuries: a swift, painless disintegration; or the pain of surviving in the aftermath.

As usual, Ava is caught between the two existences. For a few short weeks, she'd finally had the stability she so desperately needed. Scott joked that with her life free from the fog that'd suffocated her for years, she might just become an Avenger. 

She'd laughed, an airy sound unlike the pained snarl she donned for so long, and reminded him it was SHIELD that had ruined her life. 

It seems like they'd done it again. 

By the time she comes out of hiding and realized Scott and the Van Dynes had been wiped out by the snap, her supply of quantum energy was already dangerously low. She'd started rationing what she had left.

Today, there's only one dose remaining.

She takes it.

The quantum energy's healing action lasts a few days - it was how she'd managed to survive this long on such low supplies - but after that... Ava shudders.

She'd gotten used to unthinkable levels of pain, and one would think the prospect of taking on that burden once again wouldn't be so daunting. But her angst now is far greater than those terrible months before she'd heard of the Van Dyne's new machine, now that she's tasted freedom. 

She can't go through this again. The pain of being torn apart and stitched together on a daily basis is something she wouldn't wish on her worst enemies. 

The trouble with the tunnel to the quantum realm is that she needs another person on the outside. But she's lost her father, too - the only one who's been with her since the beginning, turned to dust.

Still, she tries, and trying at least keeps her mind away from what appears to be the inevitable. Nobody's ever attempted to use the tunnel without guidance, but what else does Ava have left to fear? 


She initiates the tunnel's activation sequence.

Her face assumes that familiar snarl, but this time it's a smirk in defiance of her fate. Whatever it may be - it will be at her own hands, for once.

There is brilliant, swirling light, and then - 

she's face to face with a woman, if such a being can be framed by simple terms - from personal experience, Ava would say yes - who glows a bright white that ebbs into gold.

Her hair falls back down around her shoulders, framing a suit of brilliant red and blue. A suit not too unlike her own. 

Ava falls back into a fighting stance but doesn't raise her hands.

"Who are you?" 

The woman raises her hands in a gesture of peace. It's almost human, and something tingles at the back of Ava's consciousness. Recognition, perhaps, but she's never seen anyone appear out of midair like that before, and she's living in an era of aliens and alternate dimensions.

The woman's hands, she realizes, are glowing.

"You're like me," Ava says, her eyes widening. "But I sense no pain." She's fixed in place, firmly in this dimension, free from any of the glitching that's befallen Ava.

Carol Danvers nods.