Loki Odinson – Asgard
Loki had always loved the hidden paths of Asgard, and those between the realms, exploring the ancient, forgotten mysteries as if he was still a child. For despite his being of age and married most still persisted in thinking of him as a boy, even if Thor had been called a grown man and fathered sons younger. Now, as Thor’s coronation approached, exploration was an escape where Loki could think about the conflict raging in his mind. Thor wasn’t ready, he was volatile and arrogant, not yet fit for power even if he may well be a better king than Odin. That would certainly cause tension with the All-Father’s council and throughout the Court, and tension in Court always spread.
The transfer of power was a tenuous time, this one might be peaceable but could so easily go wrong.
Loki had spoken with his mother and she shared his concerns, his father ignored them and speaking to Thor would be an exercise in futility. Loki had considered a trick of some kind to postpone the coronation but that would simply be foolish and cause more problems.
There was no solution other than to wait it out, try and influence Thor down better paths and hope. At least once the coronation feast was over Loki could disappear with Sigyn for at least a week
Loki could not envy his brother, he knew well how difficult a business ruling was and had privately celebrated when Magni and Modi were born and the line of succession passed him by. Unless there were some great tragedy Loki would never be king or even regent, even if Thor was to die prematurely it would be Sif who held the throne for their son.
Shaking his head Loki forced his thoughts from such dark paths. He rarely wandered as far as this, but the coronation was tomorrow, he had to collect himself, think.
Then Loki felt it, a strange, powerful feeling he had never felt before in any realm or even his few forays outside Yggdrasil. He could not move, his magic was trapped.
A figure appeared, one all Aesir children had heard stories of. Thanos. The Mad Titan. Banished millennia ago.
“Oh, this will be perfect.” The being crowed to no one, touching Loki’s forehead with a huge purple finger. Loki could not resist as he felt his consciousness pushed to a far back corner of his mind and an irresistible compunction to obey Thanos fill the rest.
And he tried to scream in horror when his possessor searched through his thoughts, landing on his silly plans to stop Thor becoming king.
Sif Tyrsdottir – Asgard
Sif turned and stormed from the throne room before she either punched Loki in the face or strode into Odin’s chamber, reminding herself that wouldn’t achieve anything. The Warriors Three had held her back before and followed now, bad things were coming and they had best stay together.
Loki was not acting like Loki, not the trickster predictable in his unpredictability. He would never conspire to have Thor banished then be sat on Hlidskjalf not even two days later. He was not following Odin’s orders, he was following something else, dark magic surrounded him.
And Sif had magic of her own, from both her mother and her father, Frigga had taught her some tricks centuries ago. She could sense the darkness and know she wasn’t wrong. The only question was how the Queen herself did not sense it.
Questions and possible answers flew through Sif’s mind as she strode towards her chambers, her children must be her next concern, any evil controlling Loki to take the throne would dispose of any legitimate heirs. She had to hope they had stayed within like she told them to when she dismissed the nurse. And where was Sigyn?
“Mother. What is going on? Where have you been? Where’s Father?” Ullr had a thousand questions as soon as Sif opened the door, both Magni and Modi at his heels.
“Many things my son. I have been aiding your uncle Loki with court affairs. Your father has been sent to carry out a mission for your grandfather, he must go alone.” That was all true, technically.
“People were saying Father has been banished?” Ullr continued and Sif bit back a curse, children always found out more than they should.
“A misunderstanding, the mission is secret so Grandfather and Uncle Loki needed to give another reason.” Sif explained, her sons wouldn’t argue with that.
“When will Father return?” Modi pulled at Sif’s tunic, the children could sense that something was wrong despite her words, of that Sif was certain.
“When his mission is complete. Now if you would all prepare for bed quickly I need to talk to your uncles and tend to your sister.” At least Thrud slept.
Persuading her sons to go to bed wasn’t as difficult as Sif had feared, perhaps they could sense the mood of the adults.
“Something’s wrong, isn’t it Mother?” Ullr asked quietly, he was cleverer than his brothers, on occasion Sif would consider the mortal myths that Loki was his father. Even if it was untrue she knew why they had thought it. The idea worried her more than usual.
“Yes, but your brother’s cannot know. They don’t know how to keep secrets.” Sif pulled the shutters over the window and turned the latch. She took no chances with the safety of her children.
“Father is in trouble?” Ullr rolled over under the blankets to stare almost accusingly.
“Only a little, we’re going to have to help him, not for long though. The King has his sleep, the Queen worries and uncle Loki is not himself. You must stay here until I come back.” Maybe not the best advice, still the best Sif could think of.
“Alright Mother, good luck.” Ullr yawned and Sif slipped out, locking the door.
Then she was face to face with her friends, the damn spies.
“Don’t look accusing, we all know what it’s like when he starts to question. Give him an answer or he’ll never stop looking for the truth.” Sif strode to the cradle in the main chamber and picked up Thrud, still asleep so ignorant of all, she envied her daughter.
The Warriors Three watched her, at a loss.
“Let us convene on what we must do next.” Sif gestured for them to sit, obviously she needed to take charge, the others had been drinking.
Thrud awoke and Sif nursed her without shame as they talked and enjoyed the meal she had called for. Planning treason, against her own family.
“We must go to Midgard and retrieve Thor. If Heimdall cannot be persuaded you have your sword.” Fandral said too loudly. Sif only murmured a reply, staring down at her daughter. Such a quiet, sweet babe, very likely the last she would ever have. If they went to Midgard perhaps she would never see her again.
It was a sobering thought and Sif pushed it from her mind. They always came back, from worse odds than this. Little was different than so many times before.
A guard swept straight into the chamber and did not bow. That was not a good sign.
“Heimdall requests your presence.” He announced then left.
“We’re doomed.” Volstagg said. Sif glared at him and moved to place Thrud in her cradle. Her brother was honour bound to follow all commands Odin, and now Loki, gave him. He would want to help her, yet he could not.
“You plot to commit treason against the throne of Asgard, break every oath you ever took as warriors and defenders of this realm? Good.” Heimdall surveyed them, armed and armoured for battle. “I cannot open the Bifrost for you.” He finished and left, well, he was like that.
“Complicated isn’t he?” Fandral joked as the gatekeeper’s sword began to shoot lightning.
Before they could do anything they were transported to Midgard, landing in a desert with a town not too far off. It had to be where Thor had been sent.
Loki Odinson – Asgard
The small part of Loki’s mind that he still controlled was pleased with what he saw from his throne. Sif had figured out what was happening to him, sensed the magic, so left with the Three to retrieve Thor and end this madness. Heimdall had allowed them without breaking his vows.
The real, trapped, Loki was horrified as his puppet-self tortured and lied to Thor, then sent The Destroyer after his brother and the ‘traitors’ that were now more truly loyal than anyone else.
In controlling him Thanos played a good part. Loki was truly horrified to learn that he was Laufey’s son, an infant taken to be a political pawn. He could be angry at Odin for that, but not Frigga, she would have had no part. Thor and the others he loved as he always had. Yet he was unwillingly destroying them.
Logan (doesn’t yet know his name so I’m playing pronouns) – Canada
The infant was crying, again, had been non-stop for over half an hour. He had no idea why, still no idea about anything. He knew how the world worked well enough, how to drive a car and bike, use money, how to fight.
It had been more than a month now, weeks with no memory or any self-knowledge. Resorting to fighting and a little theft to feed himself and the baby.
His mind was empty of everything except what came to him as he dreamed, being pulled apart and metal poured onto his bones. That almost definitely had something to do with the claws he had discovered when he escaped.
He had discovered the baby then too, in a clear crib in a room not far from where he had been imprisoned. The lone nurse had fled when she saw him coming.
The chart had designated the girl X-23, bred from samples taken from Weapon X, born only a few hours before he had stumbled across her. He was Weapon X, and Wolverine according to the dog tags that hung around his neck, he had adopted the latter name but had not named the baby. He was trying hard to forget that 23 implied there had been another 22.
It had been unthinkable to leave a new-born in that place. Regardless of what awful methods had been used to bring her into the world she was innocent, so he had picked her up and taken her with him when he ran.
He did not know how to care for a child, but some people had been kind enough to help. All assuming that she was his daughter, which he supposed she was.
The crying was grating with super senses, but there was no smell requiring action, and he had fed her some of the stuff the woman at the last truck stop said you fed to infants.
No, he was wrong, there was a smell, but it didn’t come from the girl. It came from the trailer. The smell of a person, young and female. Either someone had been snooping around in his things or was hiding in them.
He stopped the engine and got out, leaving the baby to cry. Sure enough there was a girl huddled under the tarp that covered his (stolen) bike, shivering.
“Get out.” He demanded of her and she did, stumbling to stand by the side of the road.
“Are ya just gonna leave me here? I only need to get to the next town.” She was only perhaps seventeen and didn’t look like a threat but he wasn’t taking chances or running a taxi service. No one hitched a ride without his permission.
“That’s your problem, not mine.” He walked away from her and got back into the camper, the baby was still screaming in her basket on the front seat. Practice told him to just let her cry herself out. He had no clue how to be a father or properly care for her. It might be best to find somewhere he could leave her and people could find her. The kid was cute enough that someone would snatch her up.
He drove off, but the look on the girl’s face, the terror at being left on the side of the cold road, made him stop. Maybe she could at least stop the crying. He sighed and stopped again, opening the door.
“Get in!” He shouted to the girl and she did, looking with surprise at the baby. Everyone he had yet met reacted the same way that he had a child with him.
“If you can make her shut up I’ll drive you wherever you want.” He told the girl. She nodded and slid into the camper, holding the basket on her lap. He really needed to get a child seat.
Looking at a new, more friendly face seemed to catch the infant’s attention and the squalling stopped entirely when the girl started to rock her.
It had been that easy the whole damned time?
“I’m Rogue.” The girl offered as if he was going to care. “Who are you?”
“Wolverine,” he replied, soon he would have to create a real fake identity, but that might allow those people to find him again. For now what was on the dog tags did fine. “What sort of a name is Rogue?”
“What sort of a name is Wolverine?” She shot back and he snorted in surprise and amusement. This girl – Rogue – was completely unafraid of him, he’d give her that. She looked like she’d been on the run a long time, likely involving rides from shadier people.
“Does she have a name?” Rogue asked, indicating the baby who was now smiling up at her. It was a better question than accusatory ‘Is she yours?’ or ‘Where’s her mother?’
“No, but she needs one. If it makes you feel better you can call her something.” Several people had suggested names for the girl, but none had seemed to fit. He didn’t know why he said it, but he could smell that this ‘Rogue’ was a mutant, just like himself and the baby. He had read about mutants on a coffee shop computer a week since, learning that they were different from regular humans in many ways excluding the obvious, they were said to have a draw to each other, but no one knew if that was chemical or psychological.
He felt that draw towards Rogue, and she fit the bill, even if there was no mutation visible. He wondered what she could do, she had to know what she was, what he was.
“Hmmm. I think she looks like a Laura.” Rogue said. “What do you think of that?”
He was about to say that that did sound decent, rather than the silly common names like Olivia or Jessica everyone kept suggesting.
Then a huge tree fell into the road, and the car smashed right into it.
Not wearing a seatbelt, he flew straight out of the windshield, tumbling onto the road. Wasn’t that just wonderful?
He pulled himself to his feet and began to walk back towards the camper, deep gashes healing shut instantly. Rogue was staring at him, shocked that he was still alive. The girl looked fine holding the, once again screaming, baby tight to her chest.
She couldn’t be hurt if she was screaming that loud.
He moved to look at the tree, some way to move it off the road. It had to have fallen off the cliff due to the heavy snow.
Rogue – Canada
Her leg was trapped under the dashboard, freeing it was going to be very difficult. Near impossible as she was holding the baby and had nowhere to put her down.
She was glad of her thick gloves as she tried to move, her touch could almost kill adults, so would be deadly to a small baby. Rogue was about to yell for the man to come and help her when a snow covered monster appeared and lunged for him.
No, not a monster, a man wearing animal hides, the ugliest she had ever seen.
The two men began to fight as Rogue struggled to free her leg, the baby screaming loud enough that her ears hurt.
Then she smelt the smoke, heard crackling and turned. The camper was on fire, and she was trapped in it.
The monster-man picked up the one who had been helping her, who called himself Wolverine, and threw him back at the vehicle, smashing what was left of the windshield. This time he was completely unconscious, and the monster-man began to walk towards the camper.
Two other people appeared, and Rogue wondered if the smoke was making her hallucinate. A young man and woman in tight leather, the man shooting red beams from his eyes and the woman making the snow part for her.
They must be like me, like the Wolverine. Rogue thought. Strange powers. Mutants. Were they here to help them or the monster?
One beam from the new man’s eyes threw the monster into the trees. So they were here to help them. Both of the newcomers ran over to where Rogue was trapped, pulling the door open.
“Don’t touch me.” She warned the woman when she reached out to her and handed the baby over.
A blast from the man’s eyes dislodged the seat behind Rogue and she quickly clambered out. The woman pulled the Wolverine free and a sudden wind blasted them away from the camper seconds before it exploded.
“Thanks.” Rogue breathed, trying to process just how close she had come to death. The woman, who had completely white hair but looked young, passed Laura back to her. Helping her partner to pull the unconscious man upright.
“I’m Storm, this is Cyclops. You’ll come with us, but don’t worry, we’re only gonna help, and no one will make you stay.” The woman said. "We're from a safe place for mutants."
“Okay.” Rogue was still reeling from the last few minutes. She’d been in a car crash, nearly died in a fire, apparently now had to deal with a baby and was to accompany these strange people. Somehow, however, she did feel that she could trust them.
They were mutants, so of course there was that odd draw, she had felt it towards the Wolverine and it was even present in Laura. Although, it could also be a dangerous thing. She would feel that draw towards any mutant, even one with a knife to her throat.
The man led them all to a small plane, black metal without paint or symbols anywhere. The sort of craft used by people who did not want to be detected. Not belonging to any government organisation, to one that had to be secretive.
Rogue let the pair lead her onto the jet and sat on a bench, automatically doing the straps. She’d already learned one lesson about seatbelts and safety. It was either go with them or freeze to death in the snow.
Laura was quiet again in her lap. It was odd to process that she had named the child and had to care for her for now. Storm and Cyclops had dragged the man aboard and strapped him to a seat, then started a take-off procedure.
Neither of them were older than their early-twenties, Rogue had noticed, but how long did mutants last? How long could anyone last when the world hated them just for daring to exist.
The jet rose into the air, a feeling very different to the few times she had been on a normal airplane.
“Okay back there? You’d best go to sleep, it’s a long flight to the mansion.” Storm called. Rogue decided to obey.
Time skip to the battle with the Destroyer in Thor. There’s going to be a lot of time skips.
Jane Foster – Puente Antiguo
Dealing with a guy who claimed to be the ancient Norse god of thunder was the strangest thing Jane Foster had ever experienced in her twenty six years of life. Considering that she was an astrophysicist who shared living space with Darcy Lewis, that said a lot.
After Erik somehow had ‘apparently Thor’ released from 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' custody and they all recovered from the previous day and night they tried to return to work. It was as if nothing had happened although so many things had. Thor had made a delicious breakfast for them all, calling it something Norse and unpronounceable.
Then there was a knocking at the doors. Jane turned to see four people Thor’s age dressed and armed like Vikings straight out of a fantasy movie. Three men and a beautiful woman all smiling at Thor. Thor’s face lit up like a child’s at Christmas and he rushed to let them in, embracing each man in turn. Without preamble he then kissed the woman on the lips. A deep kiss that she happily reciprocated.
Darcy dropped her mug that smashed on the floor.
“Excuse me, the Princess Sif and the Warriors Three.” The largest man gestured courteously, with his huge axe.
Jane looked at the new woman, trying to be discrete. Thor had put an arm around her and she leant into him comfortably easily. The Princess Sif, and Thor had declared himself a prince.
If Jane’s deduction skills were worth anything this Sif was Thor’s wife. Wasn’t that a kick in the teeth? Not that she should be thinking that way.
“My friends, my lady, I have never been happier to see anyone. But you should not have come.” Thor sighed, letting go of the woman who stared at him with confusion like the rest.
“We’ve come to take you home. Loki is not himself, we fear some fell creature has ensnared his will.” The warrior in green explained as if it should be blatantly obvious.
“You know I can’t go home, my father is…dead, because of me.” Thor continued. “I am sure Loki makes his judgements well. I must remain in exile.” He was saddened and repentant, believing his words.
“Thor, your father still lives. Loki is not himself, he abandoned you to Midgard and scorned our counsel.” Sif pressed.
Outside a tornado seemed to take form rapidly, like the anomaly that had deposited Thor. People coming out of buildings to stare. It was right where Thor had appeared.
“Was somebody else coming?” Darcy asked as the people outside began to run back inside.
Thor said that they needed to get everyone to leave the area, and that he would stay with his friends but not fight as he was only an unarmed mortal.
“If you’re staying so am I.” Jane protested. She wanted to see what all this was, and maybe she could help in some form.
The thing that had come was a huge robot shooting fire from its face. Thor’s friends strode toward it without hesitation. They were either very stupid or very brave. Likely the latter.
Red warrior flew at the robot-thing and was thrown back, the assailant encroaching on him. Then Sif landed on its back and impaled it through the head with her sword.
That seemed to have stopped the thing.
Then the robot turned on itself, as if its metal body were liquid. Sif threw herself off seconds before she would have been burnt to a crisp.
“Run!” Thor shouted to them, as his friends attempted to fall back but got thoroughly beaten by the robot.
In the chaos Thor persuaded the warriors to leave, striding towards the enemy.
“What’s he doing?” Jane asked no one, hoping it wasn’t what she thought.
“Being a self-sacrificing idiot.” Sif answered, sounding angry at something, it might have been Thor or the monster.
Thor said something to the creature and the fire in its eyes died, turning from him. Then it suddenly slapped Thor away with great force, his body tumbling to the ground with the sound of bones breaking.
Jane ran forward to Thor, the robot leaving for good. By the time she reached him he was unmoving, blood spreading across his chest. Dead.
There were sounds of thunder, something hurtling through the air. Jane hardly registered Erik pulling her away, back to the rest of their group all staring.
Why were Thor’s friends smiling?
Whatever it was flew directly to Thor and he caught it in his hand as lightning struck. A hammer. Thor’s legendary hammer.
A tornado began to form and Thor and the robot were lifted into it. Fire flashed inside the maelstrom. The robot, finally dead, fell to the ground as light and heat exploded leaving a cloud of dust. Thor walked out of the dust smiling, wearing armour and a wide smile.
“We must return to the Bifrost site, I would have words with my brother.” Thor told his friends.
“Wait. Donald. I’m afraid you haven’t been completely honest with me.” It was the Agent from the day before. Jane remembered. The one who had stolen her equipment and research.
“Know this, Son of Coul. You and I fight for the same cause, the protection of this realm. From this day forth you can count me as your ally, if, you return the items you took from Jane.” Thor informed the man, who did not seem fazed by a god at all.
“Yes, you can have your equipment back, you’ll need it to continue your research. I will need to speak with the three of you about how you would feel working for S.H.I.E.L.D.” Agent smiled at them. As long as Jane got her stuff back she did not particularly care.
“We should go, Thor, we can always return.” Sif interrupted, holding her sword in a way that made Jane take a step back. The thing had gone through metal so it would be able to go through her.
But rather than attacking anyone, Sif raised her sword and sliced downwards. The empty air cutting as she did so.
Jane could only stare, the Bifrost bridge as an energy tunnel made some sense. A sword that could cut the fabric of reality did not. The cut in the air grew to show a portal to a golden palace.
“My friends, I hope we meet again.” Thor took Jane’s hand and kissed it, then he disappeared through the portal.
“Wait. I need to debrief you.” Agent tried to call them back but gave up.
“We shall return, my husband will apologise for the damage and consternation he has caused you.” Sif pushed Red, Green and Blue through the portal and bowed. “Farewell.” She stepped through and the portal closed behind her.
“I like that lady.” Darcy said, turning to Agent. “You’d best give me my IPOD back too.”
Rogue – X Mansion
The room she woke in was some kind of cross between a hospital room and a guest’s bedroom. White walls and floor but a normal bed with floral sheets. Everything looked like it had been pieced together on short notice for Rogue to inhabit. The quilt was bunched in its cover, the clothes on the chair were not folded and the bare lightbulb was on in the middle of the day.
Rogue didn’t miss the gloves set out, leather, as if for riding a bike. They knew what she was here. She sat up as a red-haired woman entered, the same age as Storm and Cyclops from before and definitely a mutant. It was easy enough to tell with practice.
Someone had dressed her in a white nightgown that didn’t quite fit while she slept and washed her body and hair. Improbable considering they knew about her skin. Not that Rogue knew a great deal about mutants.
“Good to see you awake. Do you remember what happened?” The unknown woman shut the door and came to the side of the bed. “I’m Dr. Jean Grey, sometimes called Phoenix. What’s your name?”
The name Rogue had picked for herself was less embarrassing around people calling themselves Cyclops, Storm and Phoenix. She could sense that wherever she was was full of mutants.
“Rogue.” She wasn’t quite ready to surrender her real name, she had buried Anna-Marie Carlyle deep in her mind when she first left home.
“I’ve heard worse. One boy here calls himself ‘Iceman’ and one girl is ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead.’ You’ll want to get dressed, then come meet the Professor, he’ll tell you everything.” Jean told her, leaving, the door shut behind her without being touched. That was an odd exchange.
Despite it Rogue slid out of the bed and dressed in the clothes that had been left for her. All her size. These people either actually did care or were good pretenders.
The woman called Jean returned as soon as she had pulled the gloves onto her hands. So close that it was a little creepy.
Jean walked Rogue through the building, a mansion, it seemed to be, judging by size. There were a lot of people here, most of them young, all of them mutants. She didn’t see any sign of the man from before, or Laura.
“The Wolverine is down in our medical area, the baby as well, we thought it best.” Jean said and Rogue turned to her in surprise. She had answered her thoughts, not anything she had spoken aloud.
That meant this Jean was probably a mind-reader, or telepath to be technical, and if she had closed the bedroom door without touching it she was also telekinetic.
Rogue found herself led into an old fashioned style office with huge windows facing perfect gardens, Jean excused herself before Rogue had taken in the room.
There were already three people there. Rogue guessed that the older, bald man in the wheelchair behind the desk was the ‘Professor’ Jean had referred to. His companions looked to be her own age, a boy and girl.
“Hello, Rogue, please take a seat.” The man gestured to the empty chair in front of his desk, next to the girl and she obliged. “My name is Professor Charles Xavier, often called Professor X. I am a telepath. I see you have met Jean, she is also a telepath, and telekinetic.” That answered that question. “These are two of my older students, Katherine Pryde and Piotr Rasputin, usually called Kitty and Peter. Occasionally they are known as Shadowcat and Colossus.” He introduced.
“Nice to meet you.” Rogue was beginning to think that this was a set-up thing. A pleasant young woman when she woke up, then a kindly old man and two teens her age who didn’t look threatening even if the boy was six foot of muscle. It was clever, but even seeing the manipulation Rogue didn’t feel threatened. Not yet anyway.
“Now, this must be strange. So I will do my best to explain. This building was my family home. Some years ago I repurposed it into a school for mutant children like you, to help them safely develop their abilities and live freely. We also run an operation known as the X-Men. We work ‘behind the law’ if you will to increase acceptance and safety for mutants worldwide and protect humanity from the worst of our kind.” The Professor explained.
“You are welcome to stay here for as long as you need, and to enrol in the school and join the X-Men if you wish. Please understand you are under no obligation to do either. As you know your mutation is that your touch is dangerous, it absorbs life energy, can make people comatose or kill them. While you were unconscious we discovered that when affecting mutants it temporarily transfers their powers to you.”
What exactly had they done when she was out?
“I have Kitty and Peter here because their mutations are also limited to their physical bodies and took some difficulty to gain control over. So they are the most suitable to aid you with yours for the time being. I will let them show you their skills.”
Rogue did not know how to react to this. They knew what her touch could do. One of them had experienced it, yet they were so willing to help her. It was unreal, too good to be true almost.
“I think that might be enough Professor.” Kitty smiled at Rogue. “The adults here tend to do that, give way too much info too fast. Do you wanna see what we do?”
Rogue did, yet she was afraid of seeming too eager. “Yeah, go ahead.”
The boy and girl both stood. Kitty walked to the wall, then stepped backwards straight through it, and forward back into the room. It shouldn’t have been possible.
‘Girl who can walk through walls,’ ‘some who can control minds.’ Rogue was surrounded by the mutants everyone was so afraid of. She almost laughed. The girl in front of her couldn’t be the one she’d heard of on the news. Or maybe she could, and those fearmongers had no idea what they were talking about.
“Yes, you might have heard of Kitty. Our opponents do seem to think they have found a sticking point with her. If I were them I’d worry more about any of my other ‘X-Women.’” The Professor said. Rogue didn’t reply, because the boy Peter had just turned to metal.
As soon as he saw she had noticed he smiled at her and his flesh returned to normal. Both students resumed their seats, as if they regularly broke most of the laws of biology and physics, Rogue supposed they might.
Out of the corner of her eye Rogue saw the Professor turn his head strangely, as if reacting to a sound that wasn’t actually present.
“Rogue, you do not have to make a decision to stay or not, but I will ask Peter and Kitty to watch you for the rest of today.” He said. Rogue decided she was not going to react to all this strangeness and go along with it till she got her bearings.
“Looks like we’d better go. Stuff’s about to turn weird.” Kitty beckoned Rogue to follow her and Peter to the door.
The guest floor was not the one Rogue had woken up in, that she now realised had been in the upper basement.
“The ground floor is classrooms and study areas. The second floor is general living space. Third floor guest rooms. Fourth floor bedrooms. The basement is for X-Men stuff, medical and the danger room. Don’t go down there. Don’t go in the attic either, that’s storage, the boxes piled up to the ceiling have been known to fall on people.” Peter explained, he had a thick Russian accent so Rogue struggled a little to hear the words.
“What do you two do here?” Rogue asked. The two called Storm and Cyclops who had picked up her and the Wolverine must have been X-Men. The names Colossus and Shadowcat implied that these might be too, yet they were no older than she was.
“We’re students and occasionally X-Men. We live here permanently. The Professor’s planning to have us teach once we’re eighteen.” Kitty answered as they walked down a long corridor. “Been here since we were twelve. I came as a student but I live here because I had quite a falling out with my parents. Peter doesn’t have any family so he’s been here permanently from the first, his sister does too but she’s too young for anything much.”
“Wait, are you the same age?” Rogue blurted, that didn’t seem right, Kitty looked about her age but she would have guessed Peter was older.
“Yeah, I’m actually two months older. No one believes it because he’s six foot two and looks like a career weightlifter while I’m a hundred pounds and five foot nothing.” Kitty laughed. “We’re both sixteen.” Sixteen, Rogue thought, that was younger than she was. And they’d been offered jobs when they graduated?
Rogue wondered why Kitty was revealing so much having just met her. She wanted to tell the pair about her father and aunt, how she’d run away and didn’t know if they would accept her if she went back.
Rogue had been aware of time slipping through her fingers for a while, she was seventeen, her eighteenth birthday fast approaching. No prospects at all, considering she’d ran away before finishing high school. Even less as a mutant with a deadly touch. How long could she stay in a school anyway? When summer came around she’d have to leave and be alone all over again. Maybe she could join the ‘X-Men,’ but would she be of any use to them?
She was still considering that when a blur ran towards them.
“Petya! Katya!” The blur squealed and Rogue saw that it was a young girl, maybe three or four. “Where’ve you been, you said we could play!”
“Yes, but we had to go see the Professor. What were you told about running in the house Ilyana?” Peter was stern but smiling. Rogue guessed this girl was his sister, even though she was blonde and tiny she did resemble him.
“Not to. Who’s this?” Ilyana looked up at Rogue with curiosity. Childishly trying to avoid further chastisement.
“This is Rogue. She might be staying here, we don’t know yet.” Kitty lifted the girl into her arms. “Who have you escaped this time?”
“Bobby told me to stay with him, because you were talking to the Professor. He’s boring so I came to find you.” Ilyana said, looking at her brother. “You said we could play.” She repeated.
“Sometimes plans have to change. Go back down to the nursery and do what the grown-ups say. We’ll play later if there’s time.” Peter took his sister from Kitty and put her down as a bell rung, students seeming to appear from everywhere the little girl was lost in the crowd.
“Come with me, you can sit in on a class.” Kitty held a door open and Rogue followed her into a classroom.
Inside several teenagers had taken seats facing a blackboard. The woman called Storm was writing something on it about math. Rogue didn’t even take math any more, but she might not even be staying so what did it matter?
The work wasn’t difficult. Storm gave Rogue a worksheet and kindly told her to try her best. Rogue was glad no attention was called to her.
A boy on the row in front made a fireball on his hand behind his chair, then the boy next to Rogue reached out and turned it to ice. The ice fell and shattered on the ground causing Storm to turn around.
“John and Bobby please pay attention.”
Both offenders apologised, the boy next to Rogue looked annoyed to have been caught.
“You’ve done that a million times Iceman, of course she caught you.” Teased a girl sat by Kitty. The boy didn’t respond, reaching out a hand to Rogue’s desk. When he lifted it away there was a rose made of ice.
“I’m Bobby,” he grinned at her “welcome to Mutant High.”
Jane Foster – Puente Antiguo
After Thor and the others had left Jane stared at the destruction left behind for several minutes. Agent Coulson and his team were already securing the area and beginning to study, taking photographs and samples of ash.
“Can we help?” Jane tried to ask one of the guys in suits and was curtly told to go and collect any surviving belongings of hers then drive down to their HQ within two hours. As luck would have it their van had survived, and because most of their equipment had been taken they hadn’t lost much even if the building where they had been working was now a glorified shell. A little was salvageable.
“You know about S.H.I.E.L.D. don’t you. They just let you waltz into that place and leave with Thor because he was a steroid nut. Even I can see that ID is fake.” Darcy was saying to Erik, shoving all her clothes into her suitcase without folding anything.
Jane hadn’t realised that but Darcy was right, it did not add up.
“I have worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the past. They’re a secretive international organisation, keeping the world safe. It’s existed since WWII. They only employ you if you show a lot of promise or know about something classified. Then they just turn up and offer you a job you can’t refuse.” Erik explained. Jane wasn’t angry, he’d probably been sworn to silence.
“Do they pay well?” Darcy asked. There was something to be said about priorities.
“Very well, if you prove useful. If not they swear you to silence and you leave.”
“Don’t worry Darcy, if they want me and Erik, they’ll have to take you too.” Jane promised. “Erik, was there a Warriors Three in the myths?” Having grown up in Norway he did know all about them. Jane had heard of Thor like anyone, and now she considered it the name Sif rang a bell somewhere deep in her memory, from where she had no clue.
“No. But there is a Thor, and a Sif. Thor is the God of Thunder as we’ve seen. Sif is Goddess of Harvest, wife to Thor. The Norse myths were not well recorded but the Eddas would be a good source.”
So Sif was definitely Thor’s wife, the myths said so, she had said so, not to mention that Thor had kissed her and called her his lady. Yet now the idea didn’t bother Jane at all. Goddess of Harvest didn’t seem right.
“So they’re married for sure. Girl hit the jackpot there, I’m almost jealous.” Darcy used the entirety of her weight to get her suitcase shut. Jane folded her own clothes. Working for S.H.I.E.L.D. would likely involve living somewhere other than an RV.
Unexpectedly becoming employed by a government agency she hadn’t known existed before two days ago would cause Jane a few small problems. She would have to quit her job at the university, find somewhere else to live, although maybe the job would come with accommodation. There were a lot of questions to ask Agent Coulson.
Their RV was very out of place next to all of the pristine black cars and vans. Just like they were out of place with all the black suits and sunglasses. The S.H.I.E.L.D. people had already packed up most of their equipment and buildings.
“Ah, you’ve made good time. Dr. Selvig, Dr. Foster, Miss…” Coulson turned to Darcy, realising he did not know her name to continue his greeting.
“Darcy Lewis, not a doctor.”
“Miss Lewis. Was your vehicle a rental?” He asked, holding out an IPOD and headphones that Darcy enthusiastically grabbed.
“No. But I was going to trade it in after I went back home. It’s kind of falling apart.” Jane pulled her suitcase out of the back and wondered which ‘god’ she should thank that it hadn’t come open.
“We will be able to sort that out for you. You’ll be riding with Agent Barton. Once everything has been decided we will allow you to return to your homes temporarily to collect your belongings.” Coulson gestured to a black Jeep that smelt so strongly of coffee Jane thought if she knew more about the drink she could have identified the brand.
Agent Barton was a man in his early thirties with hearing aids and a large bow and quiver he kept in the shotgun footwell, they weren’t for recreational use either, judging by the points. He introduced himself as Clint and told them to make themselves comfortable, it was a long drive. Jane climbed into the spacious backseat with Erik and Darcy after they had shoved their bags into the trunk. Struggling for space with a coffee machine, one large duffel bag, at least a dozen jars of instant coffee, several pizzas and what looked like a portable archery range. None of them wanted to sit with weapons.
“You Phil’s new recruits?” Clint asked once he had started the car to join the procession through the desert. The tent city/science base was packed up as soon as it had appeared, leaving behind marks on the ground and a few feet of wire fence.
“Apparently so. What’s it like to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Jane inquired, thrown back in her seat as the van bounced in a pothole.
“I’m a field agent, that’s a lot different from being one of the science geeks. I know a lady called Betty that joined up in a similar way to you, she’ll be where we’re going and can give you the low down. Although she does biology and that’s far away from physics.” Field agent made sense with all the archery equipment, not what a scientist would carry.
“Is that Betty Ross by any chance?” Erik knew a lot more about these people than Jane thought he could have. “Who used to work with Bruce Banner and the Gamma radiation?”
“The very same. That whole thing’s classified, like this’ll be. Don’t tell anyone who doesn’t ask you directly. Be vague with Betty, she’ll understand.” Clint swerved again to avoid a disturbingly large tumbleweed. “I can’t wait till we get onto proper roads.”
“There are proper roads, right over there.” Darcy pointed, tangling her arm in her headphones.
“We can’t travel on them. All this lot going down Route 66. Everyone and their grandmother’s cousin would be filming it and talking about it. Before long we’ll all split off, they give us routes through that.” Clint tapped a very high-tech sat-nav on the dashboard. “Couldn’t claim to know how it works.”
Jane sat back and decided to enjoy what she could of the ride, wondering how Thor and his fellows had fared on Asgard.
Loki Odinson – Asgard
Loki had all but killed his brother. He had opened the Bifrost to the Frost Giants, and he had killed Laufey. Killed his own blood mother. Even if he had never met her before today he felt sick. Only he could not control his own body to vomit.
Thanos still controlled him with an iron fist, a string-less puppet. To Loki the alien’s plan was obvious. To make him seem desperate to impress his father and appear mad. Although why he could not decipher.
His possessed mouth claimed he did as he did to prove he was a worthy son, worthier than Thor, to gain the throne. Loki had never believed that. What did Thanos have to gain from such claims? Why did he wish to destabilise Asgard, he was a murderer, not a ruler or conqueror.
Loki had never desired the throne, that accursed uncomfortable seat originally intended for Hela, the ‘sister’ he had never known, then for Baldur, the ‘brother’ he could hardly remember. Now it was to be Thor’s, one day Magni’s. When the line of succession had passed Loki by he had silently celebrated.
“I never wanted the throne, only to be your equal!” Thanos shouted through Loki’s lips. Loki was Thor’s equal in enough ways, not in fighting skill or birth, but in intelligence and skill he would always prevail.
Thor’s time on Midgard had changed him. Days ago he would have allowed Jotunheim to be destroyed, called it justice.
Thanos told Thor they had never been brothers. But Baldur had only ever been Thor’s half-brother, and that had never mattered.
Much of ‘his’ fight with his brother was lost on Loki, who only regained a sense of himself when he was lying on the Bifrost, watching Thor destroy it to save Jotunheim. Externally he yelled at him to stop, and inwardly he urged him to continue.
Loki ran to impale Thor as the bridge shattered in an explosion of light and sound. He windmilled through the air until he was holding his spear held by Thor, hanging off the bridge by Odin’s grip.
He called to Odin that he could have done it, but was glad he had not. Then Loki felt his hand slip from the spear, Thor and Odin both begging him not to let go.
But Loki was not controlling the hand, Thanos was, somewhere far away.
Loki fell into the abyss of the void, silently screaming.
Logan – X Mansion
(still playing pronouns until partway through this chapter, why did I decide to do this)
He woke on a hospital bed in a strange medical facility. Medical facility, where the people in his dreams tore him open and poured metal on his bones.
Luckily there was no one around when he awoke, he might have killed them for putting IVs in his arms. The last thing he could remember was the hideous man throwing him into the windshield of his truck and losing consciousness.
Across the room Laura was sleeping soundly in a nest of blankets, peaceful and innocent. He would keep the name Rogue had given her, he decided. Wait. Where was Rogue?
She is perfectly safe. You can see her if you like. A man’s voice reverberated in his skull. He picked Laura up and started to run. Just like the very first night, in the first lab.
We are not going to hurt you, or your daughter, we only want to help you. The voice again. He didn’t encounter anyone as he ran up and down the corridors, trapped in a labyrinth. Underground, judging by the lack of windows.
In one room there were odd suits, like circus costumes. A trench coat over a black and pink bodysuit with a long staff. A black and gold leotard and leggings with a cape and headdress made for a woman.
People wore these? They were adult sized.
There were hoodies folded on shelves by the monkey suits so he grabbed one and put it on, better than being shirtless.
He continued to wander, the voice chasing him almost. He got into an elevator that went up to a wooden panelled corridor, completely at odds with the stark grey labyrinth beneath.
Children were running around and he hid from them. In his arms Laura was beginning to wake.
Do not worry about the children. They have seen stranger things.
That goddamn voice again. Where was it coming from? He couldn’t run from it because it was inside his head.
He stopped, leaning against a wall that swung inward, turning out to be a door, he would have fallen if not somehow caught, except nothing was touching him.
“Are you alright?” A man asked. He turned around and saw the room was an office full of strange people.
A dark-skinned young woman with blue eyes and white hair, a man with strange red sunglasses, a beautiful woman with impossibly red hair and a man older than the rest who looked normal other than the scar across his throat.
Behind them a very old man and woman sat behind a desk, the man bald and in a wheelchair. Instantly he recognised the owner of the voice that had echoed in his head.
Mutants, they had to be.
“Do not worry, we only intend to explain. Why don’t you sit down?” Wheelchair man gestured to in front of the desk.
Not going to happen.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” wheelchair-man ignored the rebuff, “my name is Professor Charles Xavier. You are at my school for gifted youngsters in Westchester, New York state. My people brought you here for medical attention.” A long way from Canada. “Unofficially we are a school and training facility for mutants, also running an organisation known as the X-Men. It was that which rescued you from Sabretooth.”
What was a Sabretooth?
“The man you were fighting, he is working with Magneto, a very powerful mutant enemy of ours who wants you for reasons we do not know. I forget myself, allow me to introduce my colleagues.” ‘Professor Xavier’ began to point them all out to him without waiting for an answer.
"My colleague, Doctor Moira Kinross." The very old woman, they both had to be at least eighty, and they ran a mutant militia? Suddenly he got the uneasy idea that the four strange mutants were there to protect the elderly pair from him.
"Sean Cassidy, also called Banshee," the scarred man smiled in greeting. "Jean Grey, also called Phoenix," impossible red-head beauty queen. "Scott Summers, also called Cyclops," the man with the visor. "And Ororo Munroe, also called Storm." The white-haired woman as impossible as the other.
“You do not know your own name, am I correct?” The Professor asked. None of his ‘colleagues’ had yet said a word.
How did the man know that, was he a mind reader?
“You would like to know wouldn’t you?” This was becoming very creepy, he held Laura tighter and scanned the room.
“Allow me Professor.” Jean/Phoenix offered, moving forward. “May I?” She addressed him directly.
“Go ahead.” Because he did want to know. The woman had to be some kind of telepath.
“Careful Jean.” Scott/Cyclops warned, she didn’t respond to him. That was needless, he decided, he wasn’t going to like this guy. His anger at being attacked, brought here against his will and losing his possessions suddenly finding a focus. It was irrational, but he did not care.
Jean/Phoenix raised her hands around the side of his head and closed her eyes, face scrunching up. She stood very close to him but he hardly noticed, feeling something both tangible and intangible sifting through his memories. They were hidden from him, but not from this woman.
“Logan.” Jean/Phoenix said after what might have been seconds or several minutes. “Your name is Logan, that’s all I could find without looking in depth. The Professor is better for that.” She backed away to where she had stood with Scott/Cyclops.
Logan, the name did sound right when he considered it, many times better than the stupid name ‘Wolverine’ that had been on his dog tags. Unlike these weirdos he wasn’t taking some strange stage name.
“Thank you.” Logan did mean it. Having a name meant far more than he would have thought it could. An identity those people from the lab had had no part in creating.
“I think we are safe now. Please sit down." The old woman spoke for the first time, again indicating the chair in front of her. This time Logan accepted.
A squad of mutant superheroes, the stupidest thing Logan had ever heard of, by far. He did not want to stay in this strange, stupid place.
“Thanks for the ride. Now can I go?” Logan hated having to ask permission.
“Not yet. Magneto wants you, and that puts you and your daughter in danger. If you give me and my associates forty-eight hours to find out why he wants you, then you will be free to go.” The Professor bargained. Logan thought he could handle that, forty-eight hours. Two days.
Rogue – X Mansion
By the end of the day Rogue decided that she wanted to stay, here nobody flinched away from her, even when she told them her power. The Professor told her that would be fine, asking Kitty to find her a bed in the girls’ dorm, but to maybe visit Hank in his lab first.
Hank’s lab had more high-tech technology than Rogue had ever seen outside a space movie. Machines absolutely everywhere. Kitty explained that Hank was their main doctor, and that he was also called Beast, which made sense with the fur.
Hank showed Rogue collars, they looked disturbingly like the slave collars she had been shown pictures of in school. They were designed to suppress mutant powers. She could have one until she gained control of her ability, but for dignity he would work on making one into a bracelet for her. Rogue thanked him profusely, saying she would love a bracelet. A collar would be too much, she hated things around her neck.
She could be careful for a few days at least.
The other teens quickly incorporated her into their group, which involved listening to music by a mutant artist called Dazzler then watching Game of Thrones when they were supposed to be studying. She could like it here, Rogue decided.
The teenage students between fourteen and eighteen lived on the second floor, one dormitory for girls and one for boys, about a dozen crammed into each.
Rogue was given the bed next to Kitty, who warned her that sometimes in the night Ilyana would come in asking for her.
“It’s weird, but I’m really the only mother she’s ever known, so she comes to me a lot. She always wants me more than Peter at night. Apparently boys snore too loudly.” The other girl explained, shooing a cat from her pillow to its own bed. “Lockheed is not permitted on beds other than mine, and he knows it, feel free to remind him.” The cat was dark grey and beautiful. Rogue wanted to pet it but knew she could not, what her touch did to animals was unknown, likely the same as humans.
It was strange that Kitty was the only mother Ilyana knew. Yet Rogue decided not to comment. The other girl seemed so lucky, everyone liked her, she had control of an incredible gift, a best friend, a lovely pet. Rogue almost wanted to envy her.
“It gets better. At first I couldn’t control it, I’d fall through the floor, the walls. It terrified me. They thought I might never be fully solid again. They’re usually wrong when they say that. Give it time.” Kitty whispered, throwing Rogue a black nightdress. “That should fit you. Now if I don’t find Ilyana she’ll never shut up about it.”
The other girls were nice, it would take time to remember all the names; Jubilee, Paige, Xi’an, Theresa, Danielle and more. So much was happening so quickly.
Having decided to stay she’d been given some extra clean clothes and promised a trip to the mall for anything else she needed. The Professor was very generous but Rogue wasn’t going to entirely let her guard down.
She hadn’t seen the Wolverine since he had woken up, though Jubilee told her she’d heard Jean give him a room nearby. Oddly she wanted to see him.
Late that night Rogue could not sleep, somewhere down the hall Laura was screaming loudly, distressed for one reason or another. Rogue could not ignore the noise.
Everyone else was able to somehow sleep through that.
The crying got louder and louder and Rogue couldn’t stand it anymore. She moved to get up, Laura had calmed for her before in a worse scenario.
“Stay here. When things like this happen we have to stay in bed.” Kitty urged, woken by the noise.
Rogue ignored her and moved out into the corridor, no one tried to stop her again even if she could feel their watching eyes.
Inside the Wolverine’s room Laura was screaming loud enough to wake the dead. Her ‘father’ tossing and turning, deep in some kind of nightmare.
“Shh,” Rogue tried to soothe her without success, wondering if she should go and get someone. If she went to an adult and said none of them could sleep for the noise they might do something.
Yet she didn’t trust these people, her aunt had always said you should wake someone if they were having a nightmare that could be dangerous.
“Wake up.” She didn’t want to touch the man, having taken her gloves off to sleep. Rogue moved closer and said it again louder.
Laura’s screams reached a crescendo, then Rogue felt something, several somethings, impale her through the chest.
She looked down and saw the Wolverine’s claws stuck deep into her, felt that they had gone through ribs, heart and lungs. Vaguely she could hear footsteps and doors.
“Everyone get back to bed.” A man was hissing. The sounds were far away. Some woman was hushing Laura successfully.
Rogue could feel herself struggling to breathe, the claws were no longer in her chest but the damage had been done. A fatal wound. The Wolverine was staring at her, shocked at what he had done.
Her touch absorbed other mutant’s powers. Rogue remembered, and the Wolverine could heal exponentially.
Without considering consequences she placed a bare hand on his bare arm.
The reaction was immediate. Pain fading she could almost feel her skin knitting back together and regained the ability to breathe.
As soon as she had healed Rogue removed her hand, looking down at the Wolverine who now had veins spreading across his skin, unmoving. Just like the boy back home. She thought she could feel him in her head too.
With the pain gone she saw the adults and her roommates all staring at her.
“It was an accident.” Rogue looked to Storm, praying she would understand, she couldn’t recognise everyone she had roused.
“Hey, come on.” Kitty took her arm but Rogue pulled away even though it was covered. “Don’t touch me.”
Not knowing where else to go she walked back to her room and burrowed under the covers like a child. The others were all awake but saying nothing.
“All of you in here, go to sleep, and don’t go talking about this tomorrow.” An unknown woman with a British accent told them, switching off the light.
Rogue just could not believe what she had done, although she could imagine what the consequences would be. Despite that, sleep came like an unstoppable wave, she drowned in it.
Thor Odinson – Asgard
He could not believe Loki was gone. That he had let himself fall from the Bifrost into the Void.
Sif and the Three had been right, that Loki had been being controlled, Thor had sensed the magic, yet he had been unable to save his brother.
And Odin was holding a feast to celebrate his recovery from his sleep, and Thor’s ‘victorious return.’ A damned feast.
When they had mentioned Loki being possessed Thor’s father had refused to listen, believing they were blinded by shock and affection, almost as if he was glad to be rid of Loki.
Thinking hard, Thor could believe that. Loki had always been Odin’s least favourite child. Belittled for his preference for feminine arts of magic and fighting with tricks rather than strength.
With that in mind that Loki had acted of a crazed jealousy would be believable, to anyone else who did not know him so well.
As soon as the battle was over Sif had physically dragged Thor and the Three to explain to Frigga what they knew, that Odin would not listen to. Thor’s mother had listened of course, and she would remember it if Loki reappeared.
Thor was sure he would, whatever was controlling him would not kill him having achieved nothing. What state Loki would return in was another matter.
Currently Thor’s mother was preoccupied with Sigyn, she had been mainly unaware of all that had occurred. The controlled Loki had confined her to her chambers for the duration of his short reign. The Warriors Three and Sif had left her there, thinking she could also have been controlled, and although a skilled sorceress she was no fighter.
Now Sigyn had left to her family on Vanaheim, for the foreseeable future. Odin had let her go too easily.
Thor knew his sister-in-law would stay there until Loki returned, if he did not, she would never return. At least that was a better ending than Baldur’s wife had had.
The feast was a sham, but Thor had to pretend to enjoy it. He sat at his father’s right hand on the highest table, Sif by his side, talking animatedly with their sons. The children were clever, enough to know that when their mother said to leave their father alone to obey. He would have to thank Sif later for that, among other things.
Thor again refilled his flagon of mead, if he got incredibly drunk this would be bearable, and at this stage of the night almost everyone was drunk or close.
“No. Go outside if you need to, but do not drink that much in front of the children. You will need a clear head tomorrow.” Sif snatched the drink and handed it to a servant. “The Prince Thor is to have no more mead.” She instructed. Thor did outrank her, but servants rarely remembered.
“Ullr, Magni, Modi. I believe it is time that we retired.” Sif called, herding the boys from the table as Thor stood himself, intending to get some air. He had a clever wife, that was certain.
Outside Heimdall stood resolute at the edge of the rainbow bridge.
The Bifrost had been shattered, Jotunheim saved, Earth lost to them.
That did not mean it was over, more was coming. It was certain that whatever had controlled Loki would try again. Thor knew that the peaceful, ignorant life he had known was gone, maybe not yet, but soon.
Jane Foster – New Mexico S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
The S.H.I.E.L.D. base was massive, and this was only the New Mexico installation, they had one in every state, at least one in every country and territory around the world.
The reach of the organisation was unimaginable, and it was organised. The first thing they faced was metal detectors and security like an airport, actually stricter. Nothing was confiscated but everything was well examined. It would be days before all their equipment was returned. If they stayed.
“Dr. Foster, you and your colleagues are to meet with Deputy Director Hill.” A besuited man handed Jane a slip of paper with a room and floor number.
Deputy Director Hill was not like most S.H.I.E.L.D. people Jane had so far encountered. She was a surprisingly young woman who offered coffee and sat them down in their private office, urging them to call her Maria. In her t-shirt and jeans Jane still felt out of place but had had no time to change.
“I believe you were informed your background checks came back clean.” The woman got straight to business. “Dr. Selvig, I hope that you remember procedure having worked for us at S.H.I.E.L.D. before. Dr. Foster, considering your research we will be more than happy to have you join our team of physicists, you are obviously more than capable.” Jane tried not to blush at the woman’s words, she hated overt compliments. “However, we had some concerns about Miss Lewis, she has no particular qualifications or skills that would compel us to hire her.”
Jane had been afraid of this, and planned for it mentally on the long drive in that van that stank of coffee. Agent Barton had to be one hell of a caffeine addict.
“Miss Lewis is my assistant. She is one of few people to understand my research and her presence at Puente Antiguo was invaluable to us.” That was a slight white lie but still. “If you want me, you’ll have to take her as well.”
“I tasered the god of thunder, knocked him out. If that helps.” Darcy offered. Maria smiled.
“In that case, Dr. Foster, Miss Lewis is welcome to stay as your assistant. We receive many such requests and they rarely prove to be mistakes.” The Director conceded. Jane was pleased with that outcome, Darcy was her best friend, actually her only friend really. She guessed that not hiring Darcy straightaway was only a formality.
“Your current employments will of course be terminated. Dr. Foster, Miss Lewis. Do you agree to become employees of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Maria asked more directly this time. Erik wouldn’t need to agree to anything if he had done this before.
“I agree.” Jane took the papers and began to read.
“Me too. Have you got a pen?” Darcy grabbed one off the desk and straightaway started to scribble.
Jane read through instead, with something this complicated and secretive there would be many clauses and twisted words.
The first two pages were for personal details and area of expertise. Those were simple to fill out and in no way objectionable. Next she had to sign several times stating that she would never disclose any details of her employment and lie to her family if prompted. Being a S.H.I.E.L.D. employee would restrict the boundaries of her life, that much was clear.
Jane signed anyway, the opportunities outweighed any negatives. Her only family was her father, he lived in London and she only saw him every few years. So it would not change much, she already lied to him sometimes. If she did this she could meet Thor again, make history in Physics even if she could not publish research outside of the organisation.
“Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D.” Maria said once Jane and Darcy had both signed all the papers. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Rogue – X Mansion
The next day everyone seemed to be avoiding her. Kitty woke her at 6AM and dragged her to the showers, then breakfast, then to see Mr Summers for a full orientation.
There were two ‘Mr Summers’; Alex called Havok, who was thirty four and taught Physical Education, and Scott called Cyclops who was ten years younger and taught Mechanics and Engineering when he wasn’t running the X-Men with Storm.
Rogue met with Alex, significantly more laid back than his younger brother. He gave her a list of rules and helped her complete a timetable of lessons. Being a senior she only had to take four and decided to keep her old favourite classes from High School.
That was the easy part.
“You are old enough for Danger Room sessions, but I have to ask you if you’ll be interested in them. They don’t mean you will necessarily join the X-Men once you graduate, you’ll make that choice then.” Alex said. Rogue had to consider that. Being an X-Woman, as the Professor had put it, would mean she had a permanent place here, according to Kitty at least.
“Yes, I would, but I’m afraid I would hurt someone else again.” Rogue answered after at least two minutes of contemplation.
“Don’t be too scared. I used to be, signed up for solitary confinement so I wouldn’t hurt anyone. There’s no reason you won’t be able to learn to control your ability. We know how to train that. Sessions are every day, four till five thirty after lessons. You’ll need a suit made, see Hank about that. He does everything science.” Alex, like everyone else, kept repeating that it would be alright. Rogue desperately wanted to believe them. “And don’t worry about last night. We’ve had worse. Ororo took the roof off, Bobby froze all the pipes, me, Scott and Jean have started lots and lots of fires, and Sean broke every window because a spider scared him.”
That did add a bit of perspective, but none of them had hurt anyone or Alex would have mentioned it.
“Thank you.” Rogue meant it sincerely, leaving for her first class.
The morning passed without incident, most people ignored her. Kitty, Bobby and Peter were still quite willing to talk, Bobby even telling her to come for lunch with him. It just didn’t feel right.
Morning break Rogue sat in a corner of the gardens, watching some younger kids point and laugh at a man swooping on his wings. Why couldn’t her mutation have been like that? Maybe she should leave before she hurt someone else.
“Bonjour, Rogue is it?” She didn’t recognise the man who spoke. He had black and red eyes and was maybe eighteen years old, wearing a huge trench-coat.
“Who wants to know?”
“Remy LeBeau, also known as Gambit, training to be French teacher at this magnificent institution and lover of card games.”
Rogue wanted to laugh at his flamboyancy.
“Do you know what I can do chere?” This was going to be another of these reassuring conversations, although Rogue thought this Remy might stray from the script she had gotten from Alex and others.
“No, I’ve not seen many powers yet.”
“Watch closely.” Remy took a packet of playing cards from his coat pocket and flicked one out of his hand. It glowed pink as it flew through the air, exploding itself and a bush. The children watching the man flying stopped and clapped. Remy half-bowed to them.
“I was eleven when I first did that. Couldn’t make it stop, everything I touched. I was on the streets then. One boy attacked me, I’ll never forget the mess. Then Professor Xavier came and found me.” He explained, talking of the incident like it was from a past life.
“You killed someone?” Rogue found it hard to believe. Was this supposed to make her feel better?
“Yes, I hated myself for it, for years. He was just like me. Poor, alone, scared. I couldn’t stop it. It is instinct to protect oneself. What you did was instinct, here there is no blame.”
Now Rogue felt less like running.
“Thank you Remy.” She meant it.
“Any time mon amie.”
Mystique – X Mansion
Erik wanted Charles’s newest acquisition, the girl calling herself Rogue. He thought she could even be persuaded to really join them.
Only Erik intended to kill her, to further their cause. Mystique stood behind him still, what was the death of one girl if it would bring acceptance for their kind.
Kidnap Rogue or lure her away from the mansion. Poison Cerebro so Charles would be incapacitated when he tried to look for her. His telepath women didn't use the machine well enough to track them quickly, Erik was quite sure.
Now, how did she get Rogue. In the guise of a young student she had watched the one called Gambit reassure her, the girl wasn’t about to bolt on her own, especially when she joined up with that stupid boy who called himself Iceman.
Mystique had always found it helpful to know the names of all Charles’s X-Men, or those training to be X-Men. Impersonating them was easy. She disguised herself as the woman Psylocke, who’d left to see about something for her brother. Not many would be aware she had left and she could say she had returned.
This was far too easy, Charles and his pet X-Men should have come up with some security against her, or at least tried. It had been twenty years and Beast was a genius with samples of her DNA.
“Hello Betsy. Your errand for Brian went well I trust?” Even Charles could not recognise her. The stupid man, so trusting he didn’t try to read her mind.
“Yes, thank you. I wanted to talk to Hank.”
Beast was always in his lab, giving Mystique an excuse to go to the lower levels, where she would find Cerebro.
Rogue would come next, she could always straight up kidnap her if need be but if the X-Men were none the wiser things would be easier for them.
The poison flooded the liquid of Cerebro, it would not kill, yet was potent enough to make an old man like Charles very ill.
Too easy, it almost felt like a trap, only it was always this easy for Mystique.
Now for Rogue.
Who should she pretend to be? Gambit, that should work, he had been speaking with Rogue and she had looked happy, less tense. Besides, he was always leaving the mansion to gamble.
The only complication was that the real Gambit was in the mansion, and he was a notorious opponent.
“Scott, Jean. Where’s Remy, I need to talk to him?” This time Mystique effortlessly took the form of Storm.
“In his room.” Phoenix replied, hardly paying attention.
Phoenix, of course, was right, Gambit was in his room, sat on the bed, playing with his stupid cards.
He turned around when Mystique entered, still wearing Storm’s face.
“Hello Ororo, you after something?” He asked, so damn trusting, all of them.
He didn’t have time to react before Mystique knocked him out cold and took his form.
“Rogue.” Mystique called in the boy’s stupid Cajun accent. “The Professor wanted me to take you to get some books.”
“Alright.” The idiotic girl didn’t question it at all. “You plan to blow them up too?”
“Non chere, that’s only cards. Come on.”
They didn’t meet anyone leaving the mansion. Security would increase after this, but for now it didn’t matter.
Sabretooth was impatient as they turned the corner, he’d had to wait longer than planned.
“Got her, eh, Mystique. Didn’t think you’d see me again did ya?” He sneered at the girl who stared in shock. She tried to run but Sabretooth caught her gloved arms.
Rogue stared as Mystique assumed her natural form, shedding that stinking skin.
“You’ll come with us my dear. It’s for the best.”
Rogue tried to run, the kick Mystique gave had her unconscious immediately.
Jane Foster – New Mexico S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s science facilities were the most hi-tech Jane had ever seen, and she had been a guest at several top universities. According to the head of the Physics Research department they would be continuing to work with what they knew of the Bifrost and its possible applications for inter-dimensional travel.
“This is amazing. I don’t even know what half this stuff is.” Darcy looked around at all the equipment. Jane could name most of it, but to her surprise not all. Some of this stuff must be so advanced, or secret, that it did not exist anywhere else in the world outside S.H.I.E.L.D..
S.H.I.E.L.D., a sign on the wall said it stood for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. It made for a great anagram.
Intervention, they certainly did do that.
Unfortunately, there was little work they could do before their own unique equipment passed security. Erik left to find some of his old colleagues.
“Maybe we ought to find that Ross lady Barton recommended.” Darcy suggested. “You can’t stare at these gadgets forever.”
Jane blushed dark red, realising that was exactly what she had been doing and allowed her friend to lead her out of the room.
“Biology department, floors 1 and 2.” Darcy read from a building plan, pulling Jane into a glass lift behind her. It moved so fast Jane almost got vertigo, which she almost never did.
This place would take a lot of getting used to.
“Excuse me sir, where would I find a Dr. Betty Ross?” Jane inquired of a man, the black suits must be the uniform.
“Room 65, are you new here?”
“Yes, thank you, we just got contracted to work in the Physics department.” Jane answered vaguely, remembering what she had been instructed. “We were told she’s a good person to speak too when you’re new.”
“Possibly, can’t say I know her that well. Go down the hall as far as it goes, then turn left and the same again.”
The halls had to be a quarter of a mile long, Jane was glad of the powerful air conditioning by the time she and Darcy got down to Room 65. It had to be the right one because the plaque read ‘Dr. Elizabeth Ross, Cellular Biology.’
“Just a minute.” A woman called from inside, followed by the sounds of machines powering down. The door swung open. “Yes.”
“We’re sorry to bother you, Dr. Ross. I’m Dr. Jane Foster and this is my assistant Darcy Lewis, we’re new here and an Agent Barton told us you’re good at giving advice about that. We weren’t expecting to be offered work here.”
From the look on the woman’s face Jane knew that she understood immediately. She was in her mid-thirties with long, dark hair pulled back.
“I see, your research took a leap forward and caught the interests of S.H.I.E.L.D..” It was like this was a secret code.
“Yes, we were studying Einstein-Rosen events in New Mexico.” Jane explained, wondering how much else she could say.
“She means wormholes.” Darcy offered. “Can we take this inside?”
The corridor was rather exposed for secretive conversations.
“Of course, just don’t touch any of my samples.” Dr. Ross let them inside and pushed the door shut.
Jane looked around, several of the samples were obviously blood. Then there were others that looked the same consistency yet were a bright unnatural green.
"We have visitors?" A young man looked at Dr. Ross, searching for explanation.
"Clint sent us some newbies Rick. Go take the newest research to Hill, then take an hour off."
"Won't argue with that?" Rick grabbed some vials and papers then left.
"My assistant, so if Clint sent you to me and your research leapt forward you got drafted. What did you find out?” Now Betty got straight to the point. “There aren’t any bugs in here.”
Even if they were, they hadn’t been forbidden from discussing it within S.H.I.E.L.D. There was nothing to lose in trusting this woman, even if it was some sort of test it would help them figure this place out.
“I was studying wormholes, like Darcy said.” Jane began. “It’s unbelievable, but it happened.” She launched into the story of Thor, his companions, The Destroyer, the Bifrost and how they thought they could harness its power. Betty listened to both Jane’s explanation and Darcy’s interruptions.
“That is incredible. The Norse Gods as real alien beings who can travel here. The high-ups must be in shambles. Do you want to know how I got here?” Betty offered, Jane did, wondering if the story was as unbelievable as her own.
It was, how her ‘boyfriend’ Bruce Banner and her had been studying Gamma radiation, how he had turned into a monstrous green creature known as the Hulk. How a year ago he had fought someone else turned into a similar creature, only more insane.
No one knew where Bruce Banner was, as he hadn’t harmed anyone since they were leaving him in peace for now.
The green samples were the Hulk’s blood. Betty wasn’t working to cure it but to stabilise it, find out possible medical applications.
“There are a lot of stories like that here, ask around. It’s worth it. And one last thing. If you’re ever contacted by a man called Thaddeus Ross, he might go by General or Thunderbolt, you’ve never even heard my name.” Betty finished, Jane got up to leave, wanting to see Erik and start some research.
“The General who tried to kill the Hulk?” Darcy asked bluntly.
“Yes, and my father.”
Returning to their lab Jane saw that some of their equipment had already been returned. Erik was waiting for them.
“You going somewhere?” Darcy asked him, finding the suitcase she had dumped on the floor and re-carpeting with clothes until she found her phone.
“Yes, I’m sorry, they want me to help them work on an artefact they’ve discovered. It potentially has limitless energy capabilities. They want you to keep working on the Bifrost here.” Erik explained. “Spread us both out to cover more ground.”
Jane attempted to hide her disappointment, she had hoped the three of them could stay and work here together. She loved Darcy but if she was her only company one of these very expensive S.H.I.E.L.D. machines might end up outside on the pristine lawn.
“Will we be able to keep in touch?” She asked instead.
“We will, I wish you all the best with your work.”
Jane hugged her friend goodbye, promising to send over anything she found out or wrote. S.H.I.E.L.D. had to have an impenetrable email or file-sharing system or, in Jane’s humble opinion, they were running a secret scientific organisation wrong.
“Now let’s go unpack.” Darcy grabbed her suitcase after shoving everything back into it. Jane picked up her own luggage and followed.
Their living space was a floor up from the labs, lots of bedrooms arranged around a huge common area.
Jane would not be sharing a room with Darcy. Thank God. However, they would be sharing a bathroom.
“I’m gonna like this place, what about you?” Darcy sauntered into Jane’s room where she was attempting to unpack in peace.
“We’ll have to see how it works out. I mean it’s a great opportunity, but we need to stay on our toes.” Jane folded a pair of pants into a draw and rummaged for clean socks. She would have to find where they did the laundry here. Maybe find a paper map.
“I know that. There’s no way out.”
Jane knew that underneath the humour Darcy understood such things as well as she did. At least she wouldn’t be alone here.
Logan – X Mansion
When he woke he asked where Rogue was, according to Storm/Ororo no one could find her. He needed to figure out which names to use for these people, he needed to learn most of their names.
And there were a lot more of them than he had first thought, the Professor and Doctor had a host of former students/mutant colleagues.
“No one has any idea where Rogue went?” The Professor had brought Ororo/Storm and Scott/Cyclops into his office, along with one of his students Bobby/Iceman and two new adults Betsy/Psylocke and Remy/Gambit.
“It must have been Mystique who took her. Betsy asked where Hank was, then she came back an hour later. Ororo was looking for Remy whilst she was teaching a class. Then Remy left with Rogue when he was knocked out in his room.” Cyclops summarised.
What was a Mystique?
“Mystique is, like Magneto, a former ally of ours who went down a darker path. This is the first direct action they have taken against us. We may have to fight them soon,” the Professor explained. “If we show no action to their kidnapping of a student they will take more extreme action if they think we will not retaliate.”
“Don’t read my mind!” Logan hissed, he was tired of it. So tired of these creepy people and it hadn’t yet been a full day. Rogue had disappeared and it had to be half his fault for stabbing her when she was only trying to help him.
According to the girls Rogue had been rooming with, they had been woken by Laura’s screaming and Rogue went to see why it was happening. Laura had been screaming because Logan had been writhing and shouting in his sleep. Rogue had sensibly tried to wake him and he stabbed her, taking his power to save her life.
It had been decided for safety that Laura would sleep somewhere else and Logan had agreed. When he left he might decide to leave the baby here, she would be in good hands and far safer than she was with him.
Right now, Laura’s care had been handed over to some teenage girl, at least according to Phoenix.
Logan still struggled to think of Laura as his, he hadn’t exactly had any knowing or active part in her creation that he could remember.
“You ought to use Cerebro to try and find her, Professor.” Psylocke suggested. “That might show us Magneto’s base too.”
“I will, the rest of you, be on your guard. No one enters or leaves the mansion and we do not take any outside communication. I am not expecting any so assume it is a trap. No matter who.” The Professor started to wheel himself away.
No way Logan was just going to wait around for some telepath super machine to try and find Rogue. It was half his fault she was missing. If he hadn’t stabbed her she wouldn’t have gotten talking with Gambit so wouldn’t have trusted him to leave.
“You cannot leave Logan. Magneto will find you, he’ll be able to track the metal on your bones, control you with it.” The Professor turned, sounding gently reproachful in a way that likely worked on the rest of these idiots.
Since when did they know about the metal bones?
“Stop reading my mind. I’m gonna find her.” Logan stormed out of the room, nearly knocking the stupid kid Iceman over.
“And how are you going to do that? You don’t know around here.” Cyclops was trying to be helpful. Logan wanted to punch him. He wasn’t an idiot.
“The traditional way. Look.” He stormed out past the Professor. Everyone in the corridors got out of his way as he raced to the garage.
It was full of cars and motorbikes that did not look cheap. Logan selected a bike, not caring who it belonged to, and sped off.
Jean Grey – X Mansion
Jean knew all about what had happened between the Professor and Magneto and Mystique. Once Hank, Alex and Sean had told her, Scott, Ororo and Warren the whole story. She was quite sure everyone knew it by now.
The rest were aware of fragments, that they had once worked together and then split up due to ideological differences. That was one way of putting it at least.
Before now there had been no real physical conflict between the groups. They had even collaborated on occasion. Now Mystique had kidnapped a student and their uneasy truce was over. They would have to actually fight.
Jean could certainly do that, the only one who would be hesitant was Hank, the problem would be Charles. They could not reason with their enemies after this, but he might think they should, and try.
Logan had stormed off to look for Rogue, according to Scott. Those two did not like each other. Jean was reminded of Hank and Alex years ago, now the pair were best friends.
“Jean. Come with me.” The Professor called, wheeling himself towards the basement lift. Jean wondered why he wanted her, she was the most powerful telepath other than Charles himself but her power was too hard to control. He should have chosen Emma.
“No. I would rather have you." No further explanation was given, Jean was used to her mind being read so didn't comment. She was powerful enough to use Cerebro, and the Professor was always nagging her to practice.
“I want you to help me. Erik and Raven are good at hiding. Let me start it." The Professor said, placing a helmet over his head. Jean took hold of the other then waited.
The machine activated, then a viscous greenish-brown fluid came through the tubes to the helmet rather than the usual clear blue. The walls of the room flashed red then back to silver.
Charles cried out and slumped forward, almost falling out of his chair. Jean pushed the helmet off his head. The changed fluid must have affected his brain. Mystique, it had to be, no one else could have sneaked past their defenses, although it begged the question of how they had not sensed her.
The Brotherhood really had declared war.
“Someone help!” Jean shouted, Hank was in his lab not far off but never heard anything engrossed in work. It was school hours so who could hear her?
“Jean. What’re you screaming about?” Alex ran in looking at the Professor and Jean holding him up. “What happened?”
“Mystique, she sneaked in and changed the fluid. I don’t know what it’s done.” Jean explained, Alex nodded and ran back out, going to fetch someone else.
Jean tried telepathically to feel for her mentor’s presence, something buried deep, like when someone was in a coma. She’d have to ask Emma and Betsy to try too.
Alex sprinted back with Hank, who examined the fluid.
“Some neural poison, I’ve never seen it before. It must have been Mystique, no one else could get in here. Alex help me.”
The two men slowly wheeled Charles out of the room. Jean stayed, the helmet was still there, enticing, and she knew how to fix the machine.
The Professor had spread his knowledge throughout all of them. Jean knew her share.
Jean Elaine Grey don’t even think about it. Get back up here. Meeting. Now. Emma must have entered Jean’s mind. Not the worst thing. If she had actually tried to fix Cerebro and ended up in a coma herself.
Well that might have ended very badly.
Alright, I’ll be there.
Invisible Woman – Baxter Building
Susan Storm would always remember the day she had become the Invisible Woman. How could she forget? Reed still blamed himself, although the solar storm could not have been predicted until it was upon them, not even by Mr. Fantastic.
Mr. Fantastic, according to Ben the nickname came from when they had been in school together, when Reed had won every contest and aced every test with his intellect.
Sue didn’t know if it was really true, she’d only met them in college.
College was how it had started, Reed had won a contest for a small trip to space funded by some billionaire. Ben was already a pilot and a space shuttle was enough like a plane for him to fly it, there’d been no better choice.
Bringing guests had not been out of the question. As soon as Johnny had heard about it he had clamoured to go with all the excitement of any sixteen year old boy.
Sue had gone with them, ostensibly to protect her brother, but who would pass up an opportunity to go into space?
The flight had been the fun it was supposed to be before Reed saw something on the sensors. Solar radiation, unpredictable, deadly, the atmosphere would protect the Earth but their small shuttle was not equipped to handle it.
By all rights the radiation should have killed them.
Afterwards even Ben hadn’t known how he had landed the shuttle without killing them all, how they had staggered out and lay on the ground in some farmer’s field. They should never have survived, the radiation was lethal. Sue could remember thinking.
Then her brother had spontaneously caught on fire.
Sue had screamed as much as anyone, then more when she began to turn invisible.
A domino effect, Reed’s body stretching uncontrollably and him struggling to recoil it, his limbs like that of a child’s rubber toy. Ben moaning in horror as his skin became hard like a rock, it’d never changed back.
That was three years ago. Now they had become the Fantastic Four.
Which had been a long and complicated ride in itself.
Once they had recovered from the crash and dragged themselves to civilisation they had almost immediately been apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ben had nearly broken a few limbs, not knowing his newfound strength and hating to be ordered around.
At S.H.I.E.L.D. they met with a man named Agent Coulson, quite high up in the organisation. He had explained to them the basics of what they were. Mutates. Humans who were not quite mutants, they had the same latent genetic potential but at a weaker level. It could not be triggered without some external influence.
Such as solar radiation.
The radiation, a lethal dose, had altered them at a molecular level, creating their incredible powers.
S.H.I.E.L.D. had contracted them as field agents, allowing them to work somewhat autonomously from the organisation as long as they carried out ‘errands’ for them.
They had their own small S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in New York City, the tower of the Baxter Building. Reed had paid for most of it with money from his father and the technologies he helped invent. They effectively worked as freelance superheroes, calling themselves the Fantastic Four. For the others it was almost perfect.
Reed could continue scientific research to his heart’s content.
Ben was a pilot, of course he was, allowed to fly the most high-tech planes and jets out there. He might try to hide it but he was never happier than when he was in the air, or with Alicia.
Johnny had had the rest of his education governmentally funded, although he hadn’t been a fan of S.H.I.E.L.D. high school or of online college courses rather than the real thing. But he was famous, girls were all over him. Even if he was angry he would be the last of the boys to get a steady girlfriend.
Sue herself did not have much of a role other than as the Invisible Woman, she had no special talent and her power had few non-mission applications. She wasn’t a scientist, she’d majored in English, aiming to be a teacher or publisher. That was well off the cards now even if she had earnt her degree. She couldn’t be a pilot, she could hardly drive on a freeway.
It was easy to feel useless, just Reed’s girlfriend and Johnny’s sister. Then again, Sue knew she was invaluable to the Fantastic Four and S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Invisible Woman. And she was the only one who could stop negotiations (and who gets the last cookie) turning into gladiatorial fights.
Overall, their lives were good. Minus Victor von Doom, now calling himself Doctor Doom. He didn’t have a doctorate.
The man was insane, but he was the ruler of Latveria and hadn’t committed any international crimes anyone could prove.
Apparently regularly attacking the Fantastic Four did not count. Always wearing the stupid metal armour to cover up what he had done to himself when trying to summon demons. No one knew if it had worked.
Sue would rather remain ignorant about that. If Doom had demonic helpers she’d find out eventually anyway. Maybe when he next turned up, he was due within the next three weeks.
Perhaps this time they would get enough evidence to have his diplomatic ‘I am the King of Latveria’ immunity revoked. How the man had ended up running a country Sue would never know, you never heard of it other than when Doom was shouting ‘I am the King of Latveria.’
Reed had no answers there. Nor did S.H.I.E.L.D., the organisation considered him a minor irritant.
To Sue the psychopathic genius with unlimited funds you couldn’t get arrested who tried to kill you at least five times a year was not a minor irritant.
And then there was Namor, the most arrogant person on the planet and probably several others who had wanted Sue to be his concubine at one stage.
There had been other villains, of the common ‘garden-variety’ according to S.H.I.E.L.D. Mostly men with slightly above average intelligence who had gotten a hold of or created some, usually radioactive, powerful object and decided to use it to become a criminal mastermind or take-over the world.
It did help that none of them had any planning skills.
The public called them ‘superheroes.’ Like Captain America had been, or the vigilantes like ‘Daredevil’ and the mutant ‘X-Men.’
Honestly, they were only trying to do their best. Sue often wondered if the world’s other superheroes had been cajoled into working for S.H.I.E.L.D. or some similar organisation.
S.H.I.E.L.D. meant well, only the organisation regularly seemed to be lacking. Some of its members and committees on all levels doing very questionable things.
Sue did not trust the organisation, she only trusted Johnny, Reed and Ben.
Timeline: Everything so far is happening relatively concurrently in MCU 2011.
Loki – Somewhere in the cosmos, trapped by Thanos
Loki could not remember what happened after he fell from the Bifrost. Only when he awoke he was in a cell, in full control of his own mind and body once more with Thanos on the other side of the bars.
The evil creature had had no words for Loki. Telling his hideous guards to treat him as ‘befit his station’ before striding away.
‘As befit his station’ meant torture, prodded with electric spears and beaten as his gaolers pleased. Otherwise left to starve and fester in his own filth in his freezing cell. Loki hated being dirty.
The worst part was the empty time. Time to ruminate on all he had done and how he could have stopped it. He was weak and his magic was trapped so escape was out of the question.
All Loki could try to do was focus on his better memories.
The first thing he could recall had been when he was only a very young child, practically still an infant. Being rocked and sang to by a woman with dark hair.
Not his mother, not Grandmother Bestla, not Nanna, not Sif. Hela, his lost, ‘evil’ sister. Otherwise Loki had no memory of her, but he doubted she had been as bad as all had claimed.
His parents and other adults would not give answers regarding Hela, or Baldur. Thor and the others would, only they knew little.
Over time Loki had gleaned the hard facts by listening and badgering with questions. Soon after his birth Hela had rebelled against Odin and his authority, and she had been banished from Asgard. Her rebellion had caused the death of the Valkyrior who had never been recreated.
One of Baldur’s companions had been a Valkyrie, Brunnhilde she had been named, from an Aesir family that lived on Muspelheim. They’d never found her body. Hela’s uprising had destabilised the realms. Baldur and Hod had been dispatched to put down insurgents and Hod had killed Baldur with a friendly arrow, blinded by smoke.
Hod had killed himself in shame. Baldur’s wife Nanna had died not long after, they had named the cause grief.
Loki remembered hardly any of it. Thor had told him a lot, what he had watched from distances and windows with Fandral, Volstagg and Sif. Hogun had joined them later.
Loki had grown up in a family trying to destroy the past, to ignore that it had happened. So quickly had the people gone along with it, forgot Odin had ever had a daughter. Forgotten that before Thor Asgard had had another golden prince, with another golden bride. Odin had tried to make Thor and Sif replacements for Baldur and Nanna.
Of course he had failed, they were not reincarnations. Thor had made a good enough warrior son and was Aesir so Odin favoured him.
Loki had only ever been a worthless pawn.
Ororo Munroe – X Mansion
According to Sean they were in deep trouble, Ororo hadn’t heard that term before but she agreed. They were fathoms deep.
The Professor was in a coma due to Mystique’s sabotage of Cerebro. Rogue had been kidnapped, Remy attacked, although he was fine. The Brotherhood had declared war, and the X-Men could no longer sit on the sidelines. They had to do something. The question was what.
“We have to get Rogue back, find out what Magneto wants. Is Cerebro out of the question?” Scott asked Jean and Emma.
“Not until we find out what Mystique did to it. Until then no one touch the thing." Moira used her 'don't argue with me tone' and Scott knew no one would.
“Should I call Peter and Wanda?" Lorna asked, her siblings would be useful, but Magneto was their father too and they were busy with their mother.
"No, we can fix this ourselves." Scott said, deep in thought and unfocussed.
That was probably for the best, considering Peter’s complicated ideas regarding his father. Wanda was more sensible, but no one could stop Peter when he ran. He’d once broken the sound barrier, and left everyone partially deaf for a day.
If they let Lorna near Magneto they might annihilate each other with their similar powers.
“Once we find out where Magneto is, who’s going to handle him?” Betsy might have been reading Ororo’s mind.
"Lorna can't go. Angel and Emma shouldn't. Not Betsy because we only need one telepath and I pick Jean... Me, Jean, Hank to fly, Kurt, Alex and Ororo." Scott decided, all good choices.
Logan – X Mansion
The X-Men had a plan, somehow Logan had gotten himself caught up in it. He hadn’t found any sign of Rogue so had crawled back to the mansion, tail between his legs and wondering why he bothered. Cyclops had been very angry to find it was his bike that had been ‘borrowed.’
It was simple enough. Have their telepaths use something called Cerebro to find Rogue, Magneto and Mystique, then go and stop them from whatever they were planning to do.
Cyclops got to work telling them all the plan. Logan tried to listen but couldn’t identify half of the things the man referred to. He still wasn’t clear on what Cerebro was supposed to be, some telepathic control centre? And what was the Blackbird?
“What am I doing in all of this?” Logan finally decided to say something. His two days weren’t up and he was not being trapped in a house full of children. If half these weirdos were going to fight Magneto he would go with them. Rogue getting taken was still his fault.
“You can come with us. If you can keep up.”
Logan did not like this Cyclops guy, even if he didn’t know why. Whenever he looked at him the back of his mind tickled, like a memory was trying to break free. It was the same with Gambit and a woman called White Queen. Perhaps a touch with Psylocke.
He didn’t like it, so he didn’t like them, regardless of rationality. Such methods had got him this far.
“I’m sure I can do that.” Logan said as evenly as he could. Antagonising these people would be a very bad idea. He might be formidable with his claws but he was more than outnumbered even if half of them left.
“If you say so. Emma, try to use Cerebro to get into Magneto’s head. Or Mystique’s if he’s using his helmet. Find out where they’re going, what they’re planning and why they took Rogue.” Cyclops instructed. "Everyone I called suit up."
Cyclops had chosen Storm, Phoenix, himself, Beast, Havok and Nightcrawler. Beast and Nightcrawler were both blue and Nightcrawler had a tail.
The suits were the ones Logan had seen when he first woke up. Most were left on their mannequins so he could only guess who they belonged to. Each had an ‘X’ emblazoned somewhere.
Logan was examining the yellow and black thing he had been handed by Havok, apparently a spare suit. He could not believe he was even considering considering wearing something so ridiculous.
Before he could decide to abase himself or not an about fourteen year old girl ran into the room.
“Dad. You need to come to the door. It’s that Senator guy who was bothering Jean, he looks like he’s melting.” She addressed Banshee. Logan was surprised he had a teenage kid, he must have had her at nineteen or so.
“Alright, Theresa, thank you for getting me. Go up to your room.” Banshee told her and she ran back out.
“I’ll get it.” Storm followed her.
Logan looked again at the suit, wondering if things could get any stranger.
Nick Fury – New York S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
Nicholas J. Fury was having the worst week of his life, and he had known some.
First Stark went rather crazy because Palladium poisoning. He had cured himself and stopped the villain the press were calling Whiplash. And he had agreed to possibly work with S.H.I.E.L.D. Although Romanoff was dealing with most of that after Coulson had been sent to investigate the ‘meteor’ in New Mexico. Stark’s own people; Rhodes, Potts and Hogan could also handle him rather competently.
Then Nick had gotten a call from Agent Kinross about the X-Men, they had an incident with Magneto who was going to try and mutate the world leaders at the summit on Ellis Island. They would ‘keep S.H.I.E.L.D. posted if possible.’
Nick had counted to ten backwards, contemplated screaming, then remembered dealing with the X-Men was exactly what Kinross was supposed to do, although the woman was ancient she could do her job better than most. Nick just had to make sure no world leaders got killed.
When the X-Men fought with Magneto and his Brotherhood there was always so much to fix, damages, lawsuits and cover ups. There would be that from Stark too, after all those drones had caused a lot of damage and injuries, thankfully no fatalities.
Then there was New Mexico. Nick Fury had never suspected he would have to set staff to researching Norse mythology, particularly Thor and Loki. Thor had come down to Earth and proven to three physicists that Asgard was another dimension where these near immortal aliens lived that could access Earth. Thor had talked about Loki and then broken into the pop-up base S.H.I.E.L.D. had set up around his hammer. An Asgardian robot had arrived with four other ‘Asgardians,’ nearly killed Thor, been destroyed, then all the aliens had disappeared.
Coulson had brought the three scientists and their research under S.H.I.E.L.D. jurisdiction. One of them had worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. before, he was currently helping them figure out the Tesseract.
The Tesseract, a relic of Howard Stark’s, from when he had tried fruitlessly to find the body of Captain America.
Now they had found the body. The block of ice found in the plane had been frozen for nearly seventy years. The man inside hadn’t aged a day, and he was still alive.
Coulson was geeking out so much Nick thought he might have an aneurysm.
You couldn’t make it up.
And Nick Fury was the motherfucker who had to deal with it. He had put the Fantastic Four and Ant-Man and the Wasp on standby. They might well be needed.
- Deal with the fallout of all that with Stark.
- Figure out what the X-Motherfuckers are doing, via Kinross, stop it being too destructive.
- Find out what in blazing hell happened in New Mexico, make some secretaries research Norse mythology.
- Defrost Captain America like a chicken from the freezer.
- Have the scientists get the Tesseract to work.
- Locate Bruce Banner and get him back on US soil.
All next to impossible, even if you were Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. And it needed to have been done by last Tuesday.
Fuck his life, with a poisoned barbed spear.
Logan – X Mansion
Senator Kelly had been mutated by a machine created by Magneto. According to Psylocke after she had looked through his mind. It had given him the ability to move through cracks like water only now he was literally melting.
No one knew how to stop it. The man was going to die. It was also delaying their leaving so Logan was becoming very agitated.
Magneto was planning to use this on the world leaders at the Ellis Island summit. The X-Men were the unfortunates who would have to go stop him, and whoever his cronies were other than Mystique and Sabretooth.
Logan would be going too, having finally decided to wear the suit he was glaring at anyone who looked at him twice.
White Queen had managed to gather some information from the minds of Mystique, Sabretooth and another associate of theirs called Toad. How did people come up with these names?
“So we have to stop Magneto at Liberty Island before he kills Rogue by transferring her his power and using her to power that machine. He’s gonna do it tonight.” Cyclops briefed after Phoenix had telepathically herded everyone into one room again. This was the messiest planning Logan had ever known, even if it was the only one he could remember participating in.
“If he needs someone with his power to work the machine why didn’t he abduct Lorna?” Gambit asked, shuffling his playing cards between his hands.
“Because he raised Lorna as his daughter, he might have felt betrayed that she stayed with us but he wouldn’t directly move to hurt her, Peter or Wanda. Did you forget?” White Queen was not pleased. Why did they choose to deal with her, she seemed awful.
“There’s a lot to remember.”
Well that wasn’t wrong.
The Blackbird Jet was a stealth plane. The ‘X-Men’ had built it themselves. With Beast’s technological expertise, Phoenix’s telekinesis and Polaris’s power over metal.
Polaris would not accompany them. Her fighting her father with their similar powers would lead to mutual destruction and devastation of the surrounding area.
Angel sounded like he spoke from experience.
Rogue – Liberty Island
Magneto was going to kill her, he was going to use her to power his machine to mutate the world leaders and kill her.
“You think they’ll come to save you. Those X-Men. They might try, but they won’t succeed.” The disgusting man called Toad taunted. Magneto only had three helpers; Toad, Sabretooth and Mystique. If the X-Men did come Rogue knew they would have the advantage of numbers.
Only would they come? She had only been there a day and a half, so why would they come and save her. If they did their priority would be to stop Magneto, she would be an afterthought.
So she was going to die.
Sabretooth had tied her to the machine, she hated the way that he touched her. He reminded her of Wolverine, if Wolverine was completely evil and savage which he wasn’t.
“They will come to try stop us, the stupid heroes. They can’t win.” Mystique said derisively. She hated them more than Magneto.
Rogue thought of what she had watched on television a few years ago. The evil mutant Apocalypse in Egypt. The X-Men had stopped that, she knew now.
So chances were, they could stop Magneto.
She might be going to die, but she could slow it down, buy the X-Men some time if they did show up.
“You scared little lady? You’re going to die so our kind will be victorious. We won’t forget.” Sabretooth put a hand under her chin.
Rogue bit it hard, tasting blood.
The man roared and slashed at her, cutting the bonds constraining one hand.
“Now Victor. Do not damage our guest, she needs all her strength.” Magneto chided his follower who moved away angrily. The old man surveyed Rogue, it was less predatory, yet still she wanted to hide from his gaze.
His eyes landed on the tattered ropes around one arm, he knew her ploy.
“Mystique. Please put the girl to sleep again. I want this to go perfectly. We can’t have her getting away.”
The blow to Rogue’s head was as sudden as before, only now from a fist, calculated and practiced.
Before the world disappeared there was a woman’s voice, trapped inside her head. Rogue thought she imagined it.
We’re coming. Be ready.
Wanda Maximoff – Her Mother’s
(Worst location tag ever)
Wanda took the call from Alex, and had to tell him that they wouldn’t be able to join them in fighting Magneto, their father. They had to care for their Mom.
It likely wasn’t a bad thing. Peter always thought their father could be redeemed, like Charles did. Even if Magneto did show some glimpses of possibly changing his path Wanda had given up hope. So had Lorna and the others who had known him as Erik Lehnsherr.
So often they had to care for their mother. She was an alcoholic and after falling down stairs and breaking several bones that stubbornly refused to heal she needed constant care.
The Professor, Warren, Sean, Betsy and even Emma had offered to front the bills for that. They all had a lot of family money, but in Wanda’s opinion used it well enough.
Wanda and Peter had accepted, only their mother refused to accept any kind of charity. She didn’t like the Professor or the rest of them either, even with telepathy Wanda could not understand the reasons.
Although anyone could think why she particularly hated Lorna, even if she was nine years older than the twins.
Wanda had been helping to look after her mother since she was eighteen. It was her life, either at home with Peter and Mom or the mansion with the rest of her family.
Even if her mother would hate her saying something like that.
Yet they were her family, the Professor had been more of a father than any of the men their mother had been with over the years. They’d never known their real father.
The Professor had turned up at their door when they were ten. Magda Maximoff had been happy enough to pack them off to an all-expenses-paid elite boarding school states away. Not even questioning why they were offered such having only ever been home-schooled.
The Professor hadn’t influenced her, Wanda had known, the same way she saw through his lies.
Still, she had gone, and never once regretted it.
The school had been smaller then. A huge house with less than a dozen people living in it. Only five permanently.
It had been quite wonderful, she’d never needed to be around anyone but her brother. The Professor was a decent teacher, and when Moira or Hank was around they stopped his crazier ideas. One of them always was, back then they’d had a rota.
Alex and Sean were fun, lots of fun, teaching them games they should never have known at that age. Armando was as well, if more reserved.
The odd one had been Lorna, the green haired woman whose face Wanda saw when she looked in the mirror. And Wanda looked little like her brother or mother.
After a year the Professor had told them about their father. Magneto, his old friend who wasn’t quite an enemy but no longer an ally. The greater shock had been learning that Lorna was their half-sister.
Wanda had always wanted a sister, yet finding she had one had been difficult.
Now Lorna was her second favourite person after Peter.
Years had passed, they had grown up and so had the Institute (as they were supposed to call it). Over a hundred students.
The core team was the X-Men, and the children who would never leave.
With the Professor’s unique tactics of persuasion, and if that failed Emma’s, most mutant parents would keep their children, at least during holidays. Only a few wouldn’t, or some children could not be sent home. Or didn’t have one. Most of them had been there a long time.
It was only in the last three years that the school had begun to enroll large amounts of students, a result of more and more mutants being born and more that needed help because of the mass hysteria the ‘mutant epidemic’ was creating.
Before that the school had never had more than fifteen students at once. Now it had several times that. Chaos had descended on their once proportionately peaceful lives.
Wanda and Peter were teachers, when they weren’t helping their mother. There were a lot of teachers at Xavier’s, many without defined jobs and only three with actual qualifications. Telepathy was very helpful when inspectors appeared.
Now, she could only hope that her friends would be alright fighting their father. Alex, of course, had told them everything straight. A new, mysterious mutant called Logan or Wolverine had been rescued from Sabretooth, Magneto’s acolyte, with a mutant girl. The only name they had got from her was Rogue.
The man had metal claws and could heal, the girl absorbed the powers and life force of others by touch.
And there was a child, only a few weeks old, purportedly the daughter of the Wolverine.
Rogue had been kidnapped from the mansion by Mystique posing as Remy. She had also sabotaged Cerebro and the Professor was in a coma from trying to use it unknowingly. Magneto intended to use Rogue to power a machine to mutate the world leaders at Ellis Island.
AKA the worst plan for mutant equality ever. The X-Men were going to stop him.
Wanda hated being stuck here, doing laundry of all things. Yet she knew it was for the best. Luckily Peter did too.
They needed no repeats of the Trask Incident, or the Apocalypse Incident.
The front bell rang, that obnoxious ringing Mom had bought from the door salesman just so he would go away.
“Someone’s at the door Wanda!” Peter called from the basement, probably playing his old Pac-Man game. Wanda had known many twelve year olds more mature than her twenty-four year old brother.
“I’m not deaf!” Wanda sighed and went to answer it. Who would come calling, their mother had no friends and all the local busybody ladies had given up on ‘poor Magda’ years ago.
Three men, dressed in green and yellow suits that did not match any public, government or maintenance agency Wanda had ever seen.
“Miss Maximoff, we would like to speak to you and your brother about some local disturbances.” The obvious leader began. Wanda didn’t need her telepathy to sense the danger.
They knew her and Peter were here, officially no one but Mom had ever lived in this house. They didn’t even have official records, their identities absolutely secret.
And these men were not from S.H.I.E.L.D.
“PETER!!” Wanda screamed, lashing out with her mind. Somehow she couldn’t touch the men, like she hadn’t sensed them coming.
“Now Miss Maximoff, or are you sometimes known as the Scarlet Witch? We do not wish to harm you, we…”
Leader never finished before he suddenly fell with his companions. Peter appearing in a silver blur.
“Wanda, come on.” Her brother pulled her into his arms and sped off, only to suddenly be stopped.
Nothing could ever stop Peter when he ran. He had frozen mid-stride.
“Where were we. Oh yes, we were offering you a proposition. I hoped this could go better but I am afraid I have been instructed to bring you back to my superior regardless.” The speaker was an ordinary looking man in a black suit. Wanda tried to use her power but something was blocking it. Blocking them.
“I do not believe you can understand yet, but you will in time. For now. Hail Hydra.”
It had to be a signal, because then Wanda felt her mind and senses go completely blank.
Tony Stark – Malibu
Now Tony had cured himself of Palladium and got rid of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Whiplash he could try to put his life back together. Starting with his home.
The contractors would have all damage fixed within two months, quite good considering. Until then Tony was staying in a hotel, trying to figure out how to have an actual relationship he planned to last longer than 72 hours and dread S.H.I.E.L.D.’s next call.
When the phone did ring it wasn’t Nick Fury, or Coulson or Rushman/Romanoff. It was both far better and far worse.
“Mrs. Margaret Carter to speak with you sir, she was quite insistent.” Jarvis spoke from the box he was temporarily installed in.
That made Pepper, Rhodey and Happy all turn their heads, Tony cursed inviting them over for a thank-you-for-dealing-with-my-crap lunch.
They had all met his ‘Aunt Peggy.’
“Put her through.” Tony took a large swallow of his, maybe slightly Irish, coffee and turned to the wall-screen. It always took her at least two minutes to figure it out.
Aunt Peggy was the main reason Tony had known about S.H.I.E.L.D. even before becoming Iron Man. He had known what the agency did and that he helped to fund it, before Afghanistan he’d never cared much. When he was a child he had overheard plenty on the occasion that he was allowed to visit his Aunt.
Those visits, much rarer than Tony would have liked because of her falling out with his father, were the joy of his childhood. He got to spend time with his Aunt Peggy, her niece Sharon (who he really needed to get back in touch with), her husband ‘Uncle Daniel,’ their friend who grudgingly submitted to being called ‘Uncle Jack’ and the retired Howling Commandos who had once fought with Captain America.
He had learnt about S.H.I.E.L.D., heard stories of war and espionage, seen Jarvis much more relaxed.
His father had stopped the visits after twelve-year-old Tony had stupidly chattered to his mother about Dum Dum teaching him to throw cherry bombs and dynamite sticks. With apples and leek stalks the slugs had gotten at.
Tony had only gotten back in touch with his ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncles’ when he was nineteen, by then only Peggy had still been alive. He’d never known or asked why.
“Anthony Edward Stark, you’re as bad as your father, why can’t you just install a normal telephone. I’ve not got the eyes to work this thing anymore.” Peggy had gotten through, Tony reminded himself of the need to programme an automatic sequence when he next visited her. He had been neglecting that duty as of late, he’d have to bring Pepper too.
The face of a disgruntled, very old woman had appeared on the screen, yet with more life in her eyes than Tony had seen in many more than seventy years younger.
“Hello Auntie, seen the news and called to admonish me?” Tony took another long drink.
“No, I’m not pleased but I’ve called to speak to you. I’ve also spoken to Nick Fury about how abhorrently he handled the situation with you. He won’t do it again.”
Tony laughed, Pepper and Rhodey tried to suppress smiles, Happy failed and snorted into his drink.
Peggy Carter shouting down Nick Fury over the phone was probable enough to those who knew her, nevertheless, it made for an amusing image.
“He says he will apologise once his hearing returns.” Peggy smiled roguishly, Tony wished she was really there so he could hug her.
“Good to know you’re still in my corner Aunt Peg.”
“As long as I’m still here, and while there are still ignoramuses like that in power I think I’ll have to stay a while yet.”
That made the others laugh again but sobered Tony. The thought of his ‘Aunt’ dying was one that haunted him. He’d lost his mother, Uncle Edwin and Aunt Ana, his other ‘Uncles,’ hell he’d never even got to say goodbye to them. His father too, he had to acknowledge.
He might be a grown man, but who was ever ready to have their parents/parental figures die?
All he had left of the rest were memories and pictures that he cherished.
“Several other things before the nurse comes and says I’m overexerting myself. You need to watch the news, pay attention to New York and New Mexico. And don’t trust anyone from S.H.I.E.L.D. until you’ve checked it with Sharon. She works there. They very much want you to join their band of on-call superheroes and it’s hard to tell them no.” Peggy instructed. Tony listened carefully, she always gave good advice.
“Mrs. Carter. You do know that it’s only 8AM, there’s that charity group coming. Who are you talking to.” A nurse began on the other side of the line. Tony saw the look on Peggy Carter’s face and pitied the poor woman.
“I’ll come see you soon Auntie. I promise, and first thing when they call me I’ll talk to Sharon.” Tony blew a kiss towards the screen and shut it off, turning back to his companions.
“We should remember everything she said.” Pepper wasn’t asking a question.
“Definitely. Jarvis, I want the contact details for Sharon Carter. Feel free to hack. Set me and Pepper an appointment to go see my Aunt ten ‘o’clock Wednesday. It’s been far too long.”
Wanda Maximoff – Location Unknown
(Character and location tags are based on the character’s own current knowledge and perception)
Everything was black, a black that was impenetrable yet glowed both red and silver.
Which was not possible.
She’d had to listen to enough physics lectures and tangents to know that.
Her powers had returned so Wanda tried to reach out, Peter was beside her, still sleeping, wherever they were. No other minds.
Professor! Jean! Betsy! Emma! Can anyone hear me! Wanda screamed, using every iota of her telepathic power. She would let her brother sleep, attempting to wake him had always been an exercise in futility.
She felt nothing.
She could reach beyond the cell, only the outer building was empty in an impossible way. She could reach, but not contact.
Far far away she could ‘feel’ the other telepaths she knew, only she couldn’t speak to them, they wouldn’t know she was trying.
It was a torture of some kind, Wanda supposed, like keeping a man dying of thirst next to a saltwater lake.
Wanda wondered if their father was behind this, but no, their father had been elsewhere and this wasn’t his style at all. Magneto would not hurt his own children, and he’d had many prime opportunities through the years.
There were many ‘supervillains’ in the world, but none Wanda knew of with the power to affect her telepathy like this, capture them the way they had been caught, and she had access to the full database.
Wanda stopped thinking about telepathy and thought of her sister. When Lorna found out what had happened she would come to them, you could figuratively say she would move heaven and earth, but she literally could.
And Lorna would enlist Alex at least, more likely most of the team.
With all their powers; telekinesis, telepathy, energy blasts, teleportation, flight, controlling the weather, not much stopped the X-Men.
They would try to find them, but how could they? Wanda couldn’t reach them, Peter would be unable to escape them both.
For now, all she could do was give in and see what their captors had in store for them.
Logan – Liberty Island
The jet was taking them to Liberty Island, with Cyclops and Beast flying in a fashion that had to break every single law about flying private aircraft.
Logan held tight to his seat, and contemplated prayer. He hated this.
Storm said the cloaking devices would hide them from authorities or she would, Logan couldn’t say he was convinced.
But with so many powerful mutants, he liked their chances once they arrived.
Nightcrawler's teleportation had to be useful, telekinesis, telepathy, energy blasts, flight, he’d put his money on these X-Men, if he had any.
When he left after this Logan intended to make sure he never ended up fighting against them.
“I can reach Rogue…” Phoenix had been concentrating hard. “No, they just knocked her out, but they’ve got her on top of the statue, and the machine. They’re ready for us.”
Beast landed the plane on the dock, either he didn't have much practice or always flew like a maniac.
“He never goes easy on the theatrics.” Phoenix remarked, levitating herself out of the jet and down to the ground, glancing up at the Statue of Liberty towering above them. Logan tried to see Rogue, or Magneto, but he couldn’t.
“They’ve put the machine in the torch.” Nightcrawler BAMFed back into existence with a small cloud of sulphurous smoke. “I had to be quick, that Sabretooth can smell me, I’m sure.”
Bodies of the unfortunate men guarding the statue had been unceremoniously dumped on the ground, ran through with claws, strangled with their own metal collars, necks broken or chests crushed.
Four different ways of killing, one with metal. Logan guessed that meant Magneto only had three associates.
“He’s got Toad, Mystique and Sabretooth with him. At least Mastermind’s gone.” Storm told everyone, looking at her Logan saw a flash of a white-haired girl and staggered.
That memory hadn’t been there before.
Being around these people was doing something with his head he didn’t like.
“I’ll scout ahead, I can smell them and they can’t hurt me much.” Logan didn’t wait for any replies, he just pushed past.
“Okay then, Storm keep some clouds over us. Everyone else spread out, they’ll be expecting us, but we’ve got their plan.” Cyclops’s instructions at least made sense. Logan might not like him but he wasn’t an idiot.
The voices and footsteps of the X-Men died away as Logan moved through the statue museum. He could smell traces of Sabretooth and other mutants he had no names for.
Then Gambit was in front of him, a memory of a boy in an alley and cards swirling in the air in the front of his mind. But the scent was wrong and the staff missing, not to mention Gambit wasn't even with them, and Logan was sure something had been said about Mystique being a shapeshifter.
He released his claws and moved to strike.
“You’re a smart one, smarter than that girl.” Gambit’s form rippled and was replaced by a blue-skinned woman with short red hair and impractical white clothes. Mystique, at least seeing her didn’t bring up any other memories.
Far away Logan heard screaming, sounds of fighting, somewhere lightning crackled.
The woman was a fighting expert, but she didn’t have claws. Nor did she have any experience fighting the Wolverine.
They fought until he knocked her out, his claws had left deep slashes on her stomach certain to scar.
She wasn’t dead, and oddly Logan didn’t feel the need to kill her, she wouldn’t wake up soon enough to impersonate any of his allies and a bleeding wound was a decent giveaway.
Giving mercy felt strange, before today he was sure he hadn’t possessed the virtue. Maybe those X-Weirdos were rubbing off on him.
He left to find one of them.
“Toad’s dead.” Storm said, flying down next to him. The lightning must have been her.
“Mystique’s out of the way. Anyone with slashes on their stomach’s her.” Logan informed, Phoenix should pick up on that.
Thinking of Phoenix brought another flash of memory, her, Cyclops and Nightcrawler, younger than they were now, staring at him through bars.
What was going on in his head?
Betty Ross – New Mexico S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
The incident in Puente Antiguo was a headache for all S.H.I.E.L.D. physicists and many other personnel. Betty was glad that she worked in Biology, the Asgardians hadn’t left behind any DNA to analyse and that wouldn’t have been given to her anyway.
The story she’d gotten from the two ladies brought to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. afterwards had been enlightening. Betty knew Clint had sent them, her own story about the Hulk was edited but true enough, what was available within S.H.I.E.L.D. with normal security clearance because the Hulk was a threat all agents should be aware of.
She worked with Gamma rays and secretly with some of Bruce’s, and the Hulk’s, blood that she had procured.
Only herself, Rick and Nick Fury knew about that.
The Hulk was something whispered about, the facts known to few and true understanding only to three people in the world.
Betty herself – a biologist only employed out of pity in the minds of many, Rick Jones – her young assistant who never even finished High School and Bruce Banner himself – hidden away somewhere S.H.I.E.L.D. was now trying to find.
It had all been an accident, what had turned Bruce into the Hulk. Sometimes Betty wondered if those rays had done anything to Rick or herself. Bruce might have been stood in front of the machine when it exploded, but the room had been small and they’d worn no protective clothing.
She’d never found the courage to test their blood, no effects had been found but Betty had seen what Gamma rays could do.
They called the creature Blonsky had become Abomination, and him and Bruce weren’t the only examples of gamma ray mutates. There was a man called the Leader, he was behind bars so Betty would enjoy her ignorance.
It was likely that Betty and Rick were mutates at some level, or the rays would have been lethal. That was how mutation worked, something S.H.I.E.L.D. took great pains to hide from the public. If it became common knowledge every F-Grade criminal would go diving for plutonium to try and gain superpowers, and with at least 60% of humans being potential mutates it many would succeed. It was happening enough accidentally.
Betty rather hoped S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t find Bruce, of course she wanted to see him again but she’d considered the pros and cons of that. If he came, or was brought, back to America, it would most likely be as a convicted murderer or a lab rat. Which was what she and Rick tried to prevent both times they lied to the police, army and federal intelligence after Bruce escaped.
She was rather sure S.H.I.E.L.D. knew that, Nick Fury himself had come to speak with her, separated her from her father and taken her and Rick to a S.H.I.E.L.D. installation. According to the little information Betty could acquire on the subject her father was angry that they had left, as he believed. Betty didn’t care what he thought, he had done so much damage she never wanted to see him again and dreaded if he ever found out where she was.
Thaddeus Ross had been a good father once, a decent man, then her mother had died and he had become so obsessed with the Hulk that it went beyond reason. He had tried to protect her but treated her like property, like a child even in her late-twenties.
Betty was glad she’d gotten away from him, no matter how it had happened. He had tried to make her marry several military men, hated her relationship with Bruce. When she had gone to live with Bruce and Rick, an orphaned then-sixteen year old Bruce had all but adopted he had almost had an aneurysm.
After the Hulk happened Betty told her father that Rick was going to stay living with her and didn’t have to join the army. Thaddeus Ross had to hold the world record for ‘most purple face’ if there was such a thing.
Only now her father was gone from her life, and good riddance.
Rogue – Liberty Island
Magneto sent Toad and Mystique to deal with the X-Men, then started the machine. It would take a while to warm up enough, Rogue knew Magneto could only stall the X-Men with his cronies until then.
One of the telepaths, Rogue thought it was the woman Phoenix, slid into and out of her mind. Telling her that Toad and Mystique were easily tackled, only they eluded them, and that the way to the torch blocked by Magneto.
Their enemy had some defence against all of their powers, well prepared, and he had Sabretooth. Rogue wondered just how long something like this had been planned for.
Many things indicated it had been planned for a long time, but if Rogue herself was integral to the plan how could that be, unless in Canada Sabretooth had been after her rather than Wolverine.
Only why wait until she had another mutant with her to snatch her, Rogue couldn’t make sense of it.
And now was not the time for theorising. Her new bonds were solid metal, moulded to her hands, only Magneto would be able to remove them, and chances were when he disposed of her corpse he wouldn’t bother.
Feet on the stairs, Toad and Mystique had certainly failed. Then Magneto concentrated and Rogue heard people shouting and metal banging, followed by a massive crash.
“We’re cut off!” Someone yelled. “Where is Kurt when you need him?”
“You’re the one who had him to go back to the jet, and said don’t bring Lorna.” Someone else replied, Rogue tried to focus enough to identify the voices. Havok and Cyclops if she had to guess.
Magneto turned and serenely floated down, Sabretooth followed with far less grace.
“You’re going to fail, the machine melted Senator Kelly. Some might survive, but none of them will follow you.” Havok definitely. “Most people have crazy exes or something, I get a genocidal father-in-law.”
Another metallic bang indicated Havok’s mouth had been covered with metal.
Magneto floated back upwards. “A shame indeed, I would like my children to have seen my triumph.”
“Please don’t.” Rogue tried to beg as the old man approached her, knowing it was hopeless.
He didn’t respond, only bent down and pressed his bare hands to her cheeks.
The life of Magneto, his knowledge, his memories, every experience, flooded into Rogue’s mind. The rings of the machine began to spin.
The X-Men trapped below could not help her, even if she could hear their struggling. Magneto had control of everything, the machine was in his control, she was merely a conduit so he could survive this.
Her energy flowed into the machine and Rogue felt herself becoming weaker, the only solace was that Magneto’s mind seemed to flow away too.
It hurt more than anything she had ever known, including being stabbed through the chest.
Logan – Liberty Island
Once Magneto ascended the X-Men acted. Five of them were trapped with him, bound to the metal walls with metal bands. Cyclops’s visor thrown just out of reach.
Havok’s anger at having been gagged was almost amusing.
The massive fall of metal Magneto had created meant the others wouldn’t be able to get to them any time soon, and as Havok had been shouting Cyclops had been idiotic enough to send Nightcrawler back to the jet to mess with radio signals.
Sabretooth surveyed them. The monster of a man made so many images flash through Logan’s mind he couldn’t pinpoint one to see it.
Phoenix and Cyclops were the flash of a corridor, feeling of freedom, a young girl reaching through his mind but finding only tangles.
If they got out of this Logan was demanding answers, he sure hadn’t made those memories up himself.
Above them Rogue was screaming, Magneto’s machine whirred and spun so fast the rings were invisible.
They couldn’t free themselves, bound so tightly to the wall. Phoenix’s telekinesis was proving unhelpful.
Logan’s fists were bound so tightly to himself that to extend his claws was to stab himself, but he healed instantaneously, and Rogue’s screams were almost his fault.
Fuck it. Logan thought and unsheathed the claws, cutting the metal that held him to ribbons and bursting free.
Then Sabretooth was on him. Logan was strong but this creature was stronger, until he was held in the air above Logan’s head and thrown out of the window and into the water outside by invisible hands.
That had to have been Phoenix, Logan hadn’t thought she was that strong.
Rather than dwell on it he turned and cut Storm, Havok, Beast, Phoenix and Cyclops free with his claws, remembering to return the visor to Cyclops.
Logan had no wish to be blasted into oblivion.
“Thank you.” Beast shook the stiffness from his arms. “Now who’s going up there to stop Magneto?”
“I am.” Logan did not hesitate. He was going to end this now.
A cloud of white light emanated from the torch of the statue. It passed through Logan and the others but he felt nothing and none of them reacted. Whatever it was did not affect born mutants.
“Then get ready. Jean.” Storm’s eyes turned white and wind blew like a hurricane. Logan went with it. One moment he was floating, then he was just inside the spinning rings.
The two women must have had a lot of practice with that trick.
The rings spun, and Logan sheared through one with his claws as he crawled over to Rogue. Somehow he had to get her out of the machine to stop it and save her, but she was already weak and there wasn’t a way down unless you could fly.
So he had to break the machine.
A second ring exploded when it hit his claws. The machine now running wild out of any control, tearing itself apart with a blast of red light from either Havok or Cyclops.
Moments later the machine exploded and the light was gone.
Rogue slumped forward, barely breathing. The machine had to have taken most of her life force.
Logan remembered the night he had stabbed her and pressed his hands to her face.
For a painful moment nothing happened, then as before he felt himself become weaker, his power moving from him into the girl.
Rogue’s eyes flashed open and Logan took his hands away from her skin, only then realising that the others who had been below had somehow got up to join them.
“We just destroyed the Statue of Liberty and caused an international incident. I am not telling Charles when he wakes up.” Havok had skewed priorities.
Beast gently took Rogue from Logan, who noticed he was bleeding in several places. Not far off Cyclops and Phoenix were dealing with Magneto, ironically knocked out with a piece of flying metal.
“We need to go before authorities appear.” Beast looked around. “Jean, send everyone to the jet and tell Kurt to pick us up.”
That took several minutes. Logan ached to take Rogue back from Beast but his own wounds prevented it. The girl was strengthening, looking around and finding her own feet. When the jet arrived Storm actually had to help Logan onto it so he could collapse on a seat.
Steve Rogers – New York S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
The 21st century was a confusing place, especially because for Steve it had been 1945 only last week.
S.H.I.E.L.D. was even more confusing. What even was it? Nick Fury kept complaining about the Statue of Liberty and mutants and Steve was sure he had seen a man made of orange rocks stomping down a corridor.
People mentioned Stark, only they didn’t mean Howard, they meant his son Tony who had built a suit of weaponized armour and was known as Iron Man. Howard had died years ago with his wife Maria.
The Howard Steve had known would never have married, it was unimaginable.
Fury had given him information about the Howlers, in the last decade they had all died except for Peggy, who he would have to find the strength to go and see eventually.
Steve knew that for that eventually would likely be a long time in coming.
But there was something else he could do. Steve had persuaded the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents ‘supervising’ him to let him out and used the internet to find directions to the cemetery where the Howlers had been buried.
All the graves were in the same place in a line, ten of them. When he saw the picture Steve had to take a few moments to compose himself.
Ten graves, including two for Steven Grant Rogers and James Buchanan Barnes. No bodies in them, yet they were covered in flowers like the rest.
Some of the headstones had been in place for years, but the marble was as well polished as if they were set there only days ago. At least half of the flowers had logos on the bundles: Stark Industries. So Howard’s son had known them all, and made sure their resting places were maintained.
Immediately Steve decided he might well like the man if he ever got to meet him.
Steve’s ‘handler’ was a blonde woman in her twenties known as Agent 13, the same one who’d been there when he woke, she had given her name as Sharon Carter and Steve wondered. She didn’t look like Peggy but had to be at least a granddaughter so it was possible. Although Carter was a very common surname.
Sharon, as she had told Steve to call her, drove him to the cemetery herself, stopping to buy nine bunches of flowers from a florist. She paid for them and told Steve not to worry, Steve resolved to pay her back when he found some modern money.
Twenty minutes later Steve Rogers was staring at his own grave.
Steven Grant Rogers
Soldier, leader, friend
May he rest in peace.
Bucky’s grave was next to his, the inscription almost identical. Steve wondered who had arranged them but suspected it had been Peggy with Howard’s money.
The thought made him smile.
Logan – X Mansion
Waking up was a decidedly unpleasant experience. More body parts distinctly hurt than Logan thought he could name. Healing Rogue had taken almost all of his power it seemed.
If you’re awake come upstairs. The Professor’s voice in his mind. My office.
When Logan found his way there the room was almost empty, although he had expected it to be full of X-Men there was only the Professor and the Doctor.
“Good to see that you have recovered Logan, you were out for a couple of days.” The Professor looked and sounded exhausted. He must have woken up some time between Liberty Island and now.
“Same to you. What’s happened?” Logan found a chair.
“I talked to S.H.I.E.L.D., they say they’ll cover up but they’re not happy, as always. Magneto’s imprisoned, Mystique escaped, no one can find Sabretooth. Mystique’s impersonating Senator Kelly but we warned S.H.I.E.L.D. Now all goes back to normal.” The woman explained. “I’ll drive up there later. Hand over the paperwork. I’ll have to tell them about you.”
“And Rogue is perfectly well, you must talk to her before you leave Logan. But first I need to speak with you.” The Professor said. “Betsy informed me of something she saw in your mind.”
It took Logan a moment to remember that Betsy was Psylocke, when had she been in his head?
“It was an incident when she was younger. She was captured by Stryker, a government agent who works against and experiments on mutants. I took the liberty of glancing into your mind to understand. You met Remy there too. Stryker ran a program known as Weapon X, which you were an unwilling part of until recently. He had captured several mutant children to study their abilities. You broke out and freed them before being recaptured. Betsy and Remy tell me you were like a terrifying monster, but one acting to defend itself. They were two of the children Stryker had detained.”
So the memory triggered by seeing Mystique disguised as Gambit had been something real, and when he next saw Psylocke he could expect more of the same.
Logan did not like the old man’s speech one bit, but knew he had to sit it out. His past was so blank.
“Your recollection of Kurt, Scott and Jean is from a while later, but also definitely occurred. When we were fighting Apocalypse a few years ago Stryker had caught several of us and they were working to free his prisoners. Scott freed you inadvertently and Jean slipped into your mind so you wouldn’t harm them.” The Professor concluded.
Hearing all of that the flashes of memory made more sense, opening more mental doors that would have to be examined at a later date. Those five X-Men had remembered him then, but had the grace not to bring it up.
Not that Logan was angry, looking again at those memories they were children, scared children cowering from threats they could hardly comprehend.
It was more disturbing than anything else.
“You intend to leave don’t you?” The Professor asked directly, he must have read Logan’s surface thoughts. “That is perfectly reasonable, you are welcome back here whenever you like. Although I must ask you about Laura.”
Logan had almost forgotten her, but he still intended to leave the baby here, he couldn’t take care of her and surely one of the women he had met could.
“I wanted to leave her here with you. I can’t provide for a kid, it’s a miracle I kept her alive before you found me.” He said. I do love her but this is best. He didn’t add.
“Of course, Rogue has been taking care of her. I do believe she will continue to do so.” The old man continued in his genial fashion, perfectly understanding, Logan wasn’t sure he liked it yet.
“Ok, thanks for the advice.” Logan got up and left, he wanted to find Rogue and he’d already learnt plenty from those two, who in his humble opinion were rather too old to be running an operation like this.
The first X-Man he ran into was Nightcrawler, literally, the blue guy popped into existence in front of him and Logan almost knocked him down.
“Watch it elf. I’m looking for Rogue.”
“Sorry, I always teleport here, she’s in the break room, end of the hall.” Then the guy disappeared with another puff of smoke, which smelt awful.
Strange people, but not a bad sort of strange.
The break room was full of teenagers, students, and Banshee and Havok playing pool. Rogue sat in a corner holding Laura talking to a girl with a little kid on her lap.
“It’s not that hard, really, if you’re ever too tired go to Jean or Ororo, they both love kids. I’m surprised Jean doesn’t have one of her own yet.” The other girl told Rogue then looked up. “You’ve got a visitor, I’ll leave you to it. Come on Ilyana.” She rose and pulled the kid after her.
“Thanks for the advice Kitty. Hello Logan.” Rogue turned, shifting Laura who was awake but peaceful, the way she looked at Logan made him want to hold her and not let go.
But he had to, so he didn’t reach out, instead sitting next to Rogue.
“You’re leaving.” So she could see right through him. Logan noticed two white streaks in the front of her hair that hadn’t been there before.
“I am, but I’m saying goodbye first and it ain’t forever. The Prof and his doctor buddy gave me some answers I wanna investigate.” A nice way of saying he now planned to find that Stryker guy and possibly gut him and all his cronies, after punching answers out of them.
“I thought that’d be it. Thank you.” Rogue didn’t elaborate, yet the force of her gratitude was overwhelming.
“Any time kid.” Logan felt a strange urge to hug the girl. He felt an odd affection for her, some bond they’d forged in the Canadian snow then again on the head of the Statue of Liberty. Not inappropriate, more fatherly if that was the word. “I’ve a favour to ask you. I’m not sure I’d trust anyone else with it.”
“What’s that?” That’d piqued her interest.
“Two things actually.” He reached up to his dog tags and pulled them off, handing them to Rogue. She wore thick gloves and long sleeves he noticed. “I want you to keep these safe, and I want you to look after Laura. Just till I come back, and I will.”
Rogue’s mouth opened slightly in surprise. “You want me to look after your daughter, you’ve not known me a week.”
“That’s longer than I’ve known anyone else. I’m sure you can do it.” Logan reassured. “I’ll see you soon.” He hugged her gently, surprised at himself, then he left, swearing to himself to be back before long.
Hank Pym – Maine S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
Hank must have read the email from Director Fury seven times before he really understood it. It was called the ‘Avengers Initiative,’ a plan to gather the world’s superpowered individuals and have them work as a line of defense towards any alien attacks on earth. Or anything as severe as what had happened at Stark Industries’ fair or Liberty Island. Aliens were real, S.H.I.E.L.D. knew now, after the Norse God Thor had landed in New Mexico and destroyed a small town.
Unbelievable, only with S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance Level 7, Hank was very sure it was actually true.
Fury wanted Hank and Jan to join this ‘Avengers Initiative.’ Be Ant-Man and the Wasp, costumed heroes. There was something about enlisting Bill as Goliath too.
They already did that, only not so visibly. Compared to the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Iron Man who everyone had heard of at least. Ant-Man and Wasp did exist in public channels, they were hidden, like the X-Men, Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow, who appeared out of the woodwork every few months very visibly then crawled right back in without a trace.
Hank wondered if this was a declinable request, sometimes a request was a cleverly worded order and he wasn’t as good at telling one from the other as he wanted to be. He and Jan could do it, they had been Ant-Man and Wasp for eleven years now, and it still had the thrill.
They’d been S.H.I.E.L.D. biochemists before discovering the Pym-Dyne particles, almost by accident. In hindsight Hank shrinking to the size of an ant after accidentally spilling an experimental serum on himself and having to stay in a jar for several hours until Jan found out how to counteract it was amusing. At the time it had been terrifying.
After reporting the incident and clearing it up they had tried to forget it, then when their team was held hostage by terrorists they had become Ant-Man and the Wasp for the first time. Then Fury had ordered them to find some way to use their technology to create superhero identities, it was much later they had come to use them themselves.
Hank could communicate with ants and Jan with wasps, their suits made the change far easier and it could be done by thought, Jan had the wings and antennae that allowed her to fly and communicate without a helmet. She’d got the newer model rather than the prototype Hank was still stuck with.
And now Fury wanted them to join what would become a very public team of superheroes, planning to use figures with less known vigilante activity. Or that was his explanation, appealing to the Fantastic Four and X-Men had most likely resulted in Fury being told to put his ‘Avenger’s Initiative’ in a certain uncomfortable place. Hank himself hated the idea.
Only it wasn’t exactly an offer, so he and Jan would have to resign themselves to it. Fury was reasonable, if they complained he would change his ideas, and if they got Black Widow on their side of the argument he wouldn’t be able to do it fast enough.
Natasha Romanoff – California S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
When Clint finally returned from his trip to New Mexico, having driven all the way from the desert there to the east end of California he was understandably tired. Natasha sensed he had just as much story to tell of the last few days as she did.
Stark had been a challenge, but she could sympathise with the man. All signs pointed to him having tried his best despite significant traumas throughout his life. A distant, borderline emotionally abusive father more concerned with nostalgia than his son. For Tony that role had been filled by several ‘uncles’ who had all died without him being able to say any goodbyes. His mother had been ripped away suddenly when he was seventeen, then his only guiding influence had been Obadiah Stane’s toxic manipulations.
It was a wonder the man wasn’t worse, almost certainly due to Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and James Rhodes who Natasha respected for being able to see the good buried in such a man.
Like how Clint and Bobbi had once seen the good in her.
Natasha didn’t like to think back to how confused she had been then, layers of past and memory that didn’t add up. No one could determine when she had been born but she had to be older than the 22 years she appeared to have lived. Old enough to have a vague recollection of caretakers speaking of Stalin in the present tense, and Stalin died in 1953. Some of the biologists theorised she had been injected with a Soviet version of the super soldier serum to decelerate or even stop her aging.
Which had merit, Natasha had been with S.H.I.E.L.D. nearly twelve years and not aged a day. But she liked to try not to think of that, as well as how there had been prototype ‘black widow’ agents in action in 1946.
Attempting to confuse her Clint had shouted questions during the fight, after she asserted that she was sure of herself and her mission. When she couldn’t tell him her birthdate or age and was convinced the year was 1968 he had stopped the fight, somehow persuaded her to come with him for answers.
There were still no real answers, only Natasha didn’t regret it. At S.H.I.E.L.D. there was no target practice with real people or strange freezing beds that made you sleep for so long you thought you’d died.
Had that been real? The ballet dancing? The strange trainers brought in who talked like Americans? It was all too confusing.
Compared to that, Stark was a toddler’s jigsaw puzzle.
Especially because he wasn’t even S.H.I.E.L.D.’s largest current problem, the coverup for the Vanko incident delegated to lesser offices.
Fury would have been tearing his hair out if he still had any.
“Carter’s on my back. The X-Motherfuckers have destroyed Liberty Island. Stark’s wreaking havoc. Thor falling from the sky. Someone call Richards and tell him to keep Storm and Grimm inside, and put a watch on Dr. Doom!” Fury yelled at an unfortunate underling. Natasha shared a glance with Clint, finding Coulson for debriefing was a good idea right about now.
“Don’t you two go anywhere!”
Fury had seen them, goddammit.
“Yessir.” Clint straightened, not looking their boss in the eye. He was a good man, could even be pleasant, but when he was in this mood even Hill recommended a ‘vacate the premises immediately’ strategy.
“Go find Coulson. Tell him to find the info on the ‘Avenger’s Initiative’ and get it sent round the heroes. You’re gonna be in it.” Fury instructed. Clint and Natasha didn’t hesitate to comply.
The Avenger’s Initiative was a good idea, although in practice it would be a nightmare. If Stark joined that would be easy, and a defrosted Captain America. Daredevil who would not reveal his identity so could not become a larger public figure, the same with Ant-Man and Wasp.
Natasha wouldn’t even consider the X-Men and Fantastic Four, keeping them all in one room for a meeting, and the room in one piece, was a challenge set for academy students for their Tactics and Planning class.
She sincerely hoped whoever sat the kid Pyro next to the Human Torch had had to help with the clean-up operation.
The Avenger’s Initiative could be the best thing ever or a complete disaster. Natasha would make sure no one even considered bringing in Deadpool. That would be an extinction level disaster. The man was a menace.
Coulson was meticulously examining some Captain America training cards, he was very much obsessed with Captain America and really needed to try and hide it better.
“Phil.” Clint said, managing to severely startle their supervisor. “Fury sent us.”
“Oh yes, the ‘Avengers Initiative,’ what about it?” Coulson tried and failed to hide his cards.
“He wants you to send the information around the heroes, so you’ll be the communication point, because you’ve met them all.” Natasha explained. Many junior members of the agency thought Coulson was as unshakeable as Fury. The look on his face would have proved them all wrong.
“Alright. Fury wants me to send that to the Fantastic Four and to the X-Men. Lord help me.”
“Send the info directly to the Invisible Woman and Professor Xavier. Delegate the problem.” Clint suggested. Not a bad idea, the Invisible Woman kept the rest of the Fantastic Four in line and Professor X ruled the X-Men.
“And have them reply to someone lower in the ranks, I’m sure May could handle that.” Natasha suggested. Coulson turned three shades paler.
“I’ll deal with the replies myself.” He reached for his computer and started to type. Natasha knew she had hit a small nerve, as had been her intention. Whatever meant she got to stay out of this ‘Avengers’ mess for as long as possible.
Susan Storm – Baxter Building
Fury called it the Avenger’s Initiative, Susan called it the cause of a horrific mess she now had to clean up.
They had debated for three hours, Ben had thrown a table through a window, Johnny had burnt a chair, the carpet and a set of curtains and Reed had shouted so much Susan mentally reminded herself to buy lozenges. And a new fire extinguisher, curtains, chair and table and call the contractors. Again. Was she their partner or their babysitter, she’d never know.
But they had agreed to it. Susan had sent her reply then gone out for shopping and drinks with Alicia. Girl’s therapy night, they sure needed one. The message from S.H.I.E.L.D. had also commanded Reed and Sue to keep Johnny and Ben inside and under control because there was just too much going on for the organisation to handle. Did they not understand that would cause a bigger problem? Of course not. Although they had promised to keep watches on Doctor Doom and Namor.
Whatever, Sue needed a break from her family’s craziness, and had taken Alicia with her, that was just for the best. Ben would never, ever hurt her, but when riled up enough there could be collateral, and although Alicia could hear and move so well many were surprised to learn she was blind, she was at more risk in those situations.
More than anything Sue wanted to be able to talk to someone who could understand. She adored Reed but he was tone deaf to all but his beloved science most of the time and Ben and Johnny were the problem.
A problem which would have been smaller if Reed, Ben and Sue hadn’t been almost bereft of parental influence by the time they had all turned sixteen. By then Reed had been in college, Ben in pilot’s training and Sue still in school. Johnny had been twelve and they’d done their best to look after him. They hadn’t done well in some respects, Sue often wondered where exactly social services had been.
The important thing was that they’d come out of it. So many people in such places couldn’t. It was part of why they’d made themselves heroes, to help those who had little chance of helping themselves, even if they worked on a much larger scale than such as Daredevil.
“Oh, an art exhibit where you can feel the shapes of famous paintings. It’s coming to New York next month. Won’t that be lovely Sue.” Alicia snapped Sue out of her thoughts, running her hands over the braille beneath an advertisement.
“It will be, I’m sure Ben would love to take you.” Sue knew that Ben would, he had proven many times he would do anything for Alicia, despite his silly insecurities about how she could love The Thing. Alicia did love him very much, and for all the right reasons, for who he was inside, when not being tough outside to protect himself and the rest of them.
That was also why Susan loved Ben herself, she had two brothers, and no one was telling her different. Sue knew how to talk and carry herself so people did not question her, it was an invaluable skill. Especially when dealing with those she had to.
Doctor Doom was a psychopathic genius obsessed with destroying them, Namor was likely the most arrogant man in the universe and might still want Sue to be his concubine. And who knew when Mole Man or the Puppet Master might reappear, or the Frightful Four, any old enemy really.
“I think it’s time we headed to a club.” Sue took Alicia by the arm, she needed to clear her head and find some way to mitigate the coming disasters. There was no sign of them yet to anyone else but if Fury was making a team of superheroes there would be something.
Sue was going to order a very strong drink.
Matt Murdock – Nelson and Murdock Law Offices
“You need to change your main email address Matt.” Karen dumped three Starbuck’s coffees on the table and dropped her bag in the corner. Matt reached straight for his and took a drink. Things were so much easier now Foggy and Karen knew about his enhanced senses and identity as Daredevil, he didn’t have to pretend.
“Because you gave the office email to S.H.I.E.L.D. Before you say only the three of us can get on there I don’t think our Gmail is secure enough to receive messages from them about a top secret initiative for superheroes.” Matt sensed Karen looking at him with fond exasperation.
“I did it before I’d told you about being Daredevil.” Matt defended himself, when you were blind computers were hard, even the ones that spoke to you. All the electrical humming confused his radar sense and unlike books he couldn’t run his fingers over the screen to read it.
Foggy was no good with technology either, so Karen did everything related to it.
“That’s much worse. I’m going to make you a new personal account, and you will tell S.H.I.E.L.D. about it. And don’t tell me S.H.I.E.L.D. probably made it safe.” Karen pulled her laptop towards her and started clicking and typing. “Where’s Foggy this morning?”
“Sleeping in, almost definitely.” Matt finished his coffee. He knew no supervillains or criminals had come for his friend. He had forced Foggy and Karen to wear S.H.I.E.L.D.-made wristbands that would alert him automatically if they were attacked, and he was alerted if anyone unknown entered their homes. The band he himself wore had not vibrated or buzzed so Foggy was fine.
You could call it paranoia, they did not. Even if Daredevil had once accosted Karen’s plumber.
“What was the email about anyway? I know you read it.”
“Something Director Fury calls the ‘Avengers Initiative,’ they want you and the rest of the Defenders. S.H.I.E.L.D. is creating a team of superheroes to defend the world from massive threats. Doesn’t sound like you’ve got a real choice.” Karen summarised.
It wouldn’t be a real choice, of course, you figured that out working with S.H.I.E.L.D., very quickly if you wanted to survive doing so.
“It say who else they’ve contacted?” Matt knew this would be interesting, interesting like working with the Thing.
“It doesn’t say but I’d guess Black Widow, Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Wasp. They’re on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s payroll. They’ll have tried the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the rest of the Defenders, possibly Iron Man.”
“Heaven help them.” Matt meant it honestly, the other superheroes mentioned who did not belong to S.H.I.E.L.D. would hate this idea, and they would be vocal about it. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agent heroes wouldn’t like it either, and being in a room with Hawkeye, Black Widow and Mockingbird who were all sleep deprived and angry had been one of the most terrifying experiences of Matt’s life.
Well done for thoroughly pissing off the most dangerous people in the world who don’t like authority and don’t like you. Matt thought of the organisation. He didn’t think much of S.H.I.E.L.D. either, its intentions were noble and many of its people seemed genuinely good. Yet far too many didn’t for him to really trust any of them as far as he could throw them.
Granted that was pretty far.
“They don’t mention Spider-Man, maybe they couldn’t find him.” Karen continued after a moment. Matt wasn’t sure what to think of that, he liked Spider-Man but he was very young and very volatile, and no one knew his identity.
“Probably for the best, they’d need an expert to bring him in. It doesn’t mention Frank does it?” Matt ran names through his mind, he’d have to meet with Luke, Jessica and Danny about this. Would the Defenders join the Avengers?
It would be a very interesting meeting to say one thing.
“No, and I don’t blame them, there’s a footnote about Cloak and Dagger. Like they’re unsure.”
That was good, Frank Castle AKA the Punisher was not a bad man, but a team player he was not.
“I’ll tell them to leave C and D out, they’re difficult and they’re far too young.” Matt didn’t know how old they were, but he was very sure they were still minors. S.H.I.E.L.D. would work with minors, several of the X-Men were, it didn’t mean Daredevil would be complicit.
He hadn’t seen either the pair or Spider-Man for several weeks, oddly enough that coincided with the end of college spring break.
Teen superheroes might be a thing, but Matt had never liked it, he was waiting for Daredevil to be cordially invited to the funeral of some sixteen year old trying to make the world a better place.
Which was why he had helped Spider-Man and the Human Torch whenever he could, even if the Fantastic Four had literally shouted their identities from the rooftops since their day one.
“Surprising they didn’t call on Alpha Flight.” Foggy said walking in, Matt wasn’t surprised but Karen turned with a jolt, almost spilling coffee on her blouse. Their friend must have also seen the email, Karen was right.
Not that that was rare.
“Not really, Canada won’t like that, and there’re enough heroes on US soil for an initial try.” Karen finished typing and started scrolling down what was most likely her Facebook.
“Whatever it’ll be fun.” Matt wasn’t lying, although it might also be very painful and end up with him helping the city of New York sue some of his acquaintances.
That would be its own kind of fun.
Bobbi Morse – California S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
“Coulson wants to talk to you Bobbi.” Natasha silently slipped into the breakroom booth Bobbi was hiding in to drink a lethal dose of coffee, followed by a far less graceful Clint.
“What about?” Bobbi asked her best friend. Clint stared at her cup so desperately she passed it over to him and he drank from it without hesitation.
Was there a caffeine version of Alcoholics Anonymous? If so he needed it.
“About the Avengers Initiative. We’ve all been drafted, Fury’s getting every hero who’ll pick up a call from S.H.I.E.L.D.” Natasha explained. That wasn’t too many. Most had their doubts about the organisation, Bobbi wasn’t unsympathetic.
“At least we’ll be able to work together, and they won’t draft Hunter.” Clint finally spoke, having drunk all of Bobbi’s coffee.
That was a silver lining in one very dark cloud. Right now Bobbi didn’t want to see her currently-estranged unofficial husband after their last argument. They did love each other but couldn’t be around one another all the time.
Somehow that was more complicated than the fact that Bobbi had two husbands. She’d officially married Clint when they were nineteen for next-of-kin reasons, theirs had never been an exactly romantic relationship and Clint had been together with Natasha for years.
Whereas Bobbi had thought a love marriage was a good idea, not that it was anything she couldn’t handle.
And she didn’t have to handle Hunter right now anyway, so she wouldn’t think about it.
Official for-official-reasons marriages were common within S.H.I.E.L.D. Often between partner field agents. It allowed for someone to make the important decisions if you were compromised, Bobbi had never regretted hers.
Nor did she regret her second marriage, even if right now she wanted to hit Hunter with her batons, where it would prevent possible reproduction. That would be a service to the future of humanity.
“We will.” Bobbi realised she’d been drifting away into space. She had to start getting more sleep. “Where’s Coulson?”
“His office, agonizing about how to contact other ‘heroes’ about this or playing with Captain America memorabilia.” Natasha was automatically scanning the room. “Fury wants the Defenders, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, together. I’m going to start a betting pool.”
“For fatalities, injuries, property damage or mental breakdowns?” The caffeine had perked Clint up. Bobbi was making him buy her more coffee before she left.
“All. Ten dollars that Fury loses it with someone innocent within a week.” Natasha refocused.
“Done. How did you find Stark?” Bobbi asked. Both Clint and Nat had recently had big missions, so Bobbi would be getting one next.
“Not too bad, he’s a lot different than the press make out. Make Clint tell you about New Mexico, you missed debrief.”
“Thor fell out of the sky, the Norse god Thor. Broke into our base for his hammer. Got joined by some friends from Asgard, which they claim is real. They got attacked by a giant robot that shoots fire from its face. Thor killed it then they went home. It levelled a whole town.” Clint summarised, professional style.
“So you had an interesting week.” Bobbi smiled at her husband. “Now go replace my coffee, I need a lot more if I have to go be an Avenger.”
Clint pouted but got out his wallet and went to the counter. Like always.
Five minutes later Bobbi was making her way to Coulson’s office, Clint had bought her expensive coffee, so he would want a favour later.
But later was later, not now.
“Come in Morse.” Coulson called when Bobbi knocked. The man had incredibly keen hearing.
“How’re the emails going?” Bobbi walked in and sat down. Coulson had been her, Clint and Natasha’s handler for years. They did not do pleasantries.
“Terrible. Kinross says she’s coming to the New York installation anyway and will discuss it there, so I’ll have to drive there.” Coulson complained. They both knew he could have rejected the woman’s demand, and also that Moira Kinross was quite possibly the most commanding and terrifying octogenarian woman on the planet now former Director Carter had turned ninety. “Susan Storm says we’re paying her therapy bills. Pym and Van Dyne say maybe. Daredevil’s been quite receptive but the rest of his Defenders are not.”
“I wish you luck. Clint and Natasha said you wanted me for this.” Bobbi glanced at the papers strewn all over the senior agent’s desk.
“Fury wants you for this. He wants Black Widow, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, so dust off your theatrical costume, he wants this to be high-profile. And you have a mission.”
“What?” Bobbi wondered if Fury had ever had the ‘I want doesn’t get’ talk as a child, or if he hadn’t spawned from the ground fully formed as some recruits thought.
“We sent Natasha to scout out Stark. Clint ended up helping with Thor. So you’re going to go find Bruce Banner, you know about him?” Coulson didn’t want to be saying what he was saying.
“Where?” Bobbi forced her tired brain into mission-mode.
“Somewhere in India. Fury was going to assign Natasha but I said we’d better send you, so you’re all known to possible Initiative recruits. Sorry about that.” Coulson handed Bobbi a file. “That’s all we have on him so far, you’re to bring him back to U.S. soil and any S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Go as Mockingbird rather than Agent Morse, earn his trust. If he becomes the Hulk use any force necessary but do not harm Banner. You are authorised to invoke the names of Rick Jones and Betty Ross. They work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and they’re safe, say we’ll help him and he can see them again, they’re the only people who mean anything to him.”
“Ok.” Bobbi mentally filed the information and pulled on her compartmentalized ‘Mockingbird’ façade. “When do I leave?”
Peter Parker – Forest Hills, New York City
“Peter wake up! You’ll be late for college!” Aunt May shouted from downstairs. Peter groaned and slid out of bed, he’d had to tackle another gang during the night and even if Aunt May knew he was Spider-Man, she didn’t have to know all the ins and outs.
Because if any villains got the idea that she knew too much they would come for her, and Peter couldn’t lose Aunt May like he lost Uncle Ben.
Don’t go there Peter. He reminded himself. What do you have to do after classes?
You have to go sell those photos from Wednesday to JJJ and then you’re meeting up with Johnny, Tandy and Tyrone for coffee, maybe invite Mary Jane. Peter remembered. College and visiting the Bugle would suck but seeing his friends would be fun.
“PETER!” Aunt May yelled again.
“Coming!” Peter jumped out of bed, pulled on his suit and then his regular clothes.
His phone beeped, he had an email from S.H.I.E.L.D. to his secret account, one from Daredevil to his not-so-secret account and a text from ‘Flaming Idiot’ AKA Johnny Storm the Human Torch.
Peter would deal with those later. First he was going to make sure he didn’t fail biochemistry for this semester.
College hadn’t been all that bad, and Jameson had been on the phone to his son when Peter went to sell the pictures of him fighting Sandman and Hydro-Man simultaneously down at the docks for the Bugle to make into another Anti-Spider-Man editorial so his ears weren’t ringing too badly.
Even if Mary Jane hadn’t been in class today, things were looking up.
But Peter wasn’t an idiot, with his luck this was unlikely to last until the end of the day. He could only enjoy it while it lasted.
Finding the small and shady coffee shop he and his friends usually frequented was automatic. You didn’t get real criminals there, mostly just addicts and petty thieves.
Johnny looked like he had had an awful day, Tandy and Tyrone lounged close together on a battered sofa, whatever had bothered Johnny couldn’t be that universal in the business then.
“You’re late.” Johnny even sounded like he was having a bad day. “Can I stay over at your place tonight, home’s chaos right now?”
“Sure, Aunt May shouldn’t mind.” Aunt May never did, she liked Johnny, she let him Gwen and Mary Jane stay over whenever and Tandy and Tyrone were generally welcome too. She’d even put Iceman and Shadowcat, two of the youngest X-Men, up for a few nights.
How his home had become a halfway house for teenage to early twenties superheroes Peter didn’t know.
“Thanks man, Ben’s in a rage, Reed’s locked in his lab and Sue’s about to snap. Has S.H.I.E.L.D. contacted you about it yet?” Johnny sighed.
“About what?” This had to be what the ignored messages from the morning were about.
“The Avenger’s Initiative. Nick Fury wants to make a collection of superheroes to protect the world from terrestrial and extra-terrestrial threats. Think of it like being drafted, but into a secret army for a secret war.” Johnny explained. That was a lot to take in. Peter would mull it over later when swinging about the city.
“We’ve not heard anything about that.” Tyrone looked pleased about that. Peter wouldn’t exactly blame him.
“Count yourselves lucky. From what Sue found out Daredevil vouched for you to be kept out of it, says you’re too young. He tried to do the same for Peter but Fury really wants Spider-Man.”
Peter had to start reading his emails.
“Good, because we are not working with S.H.I.E.L.D. full time till we’ve graduated. If ever, those guys are creepy” Tandy said, looking up from her phone. The pair were still desperately trying to graduate high school, although with normal lives they’d be in college.
Peter didn’t know much more than that. They still had parents, worked as independent vigilantes, had come from New Orleans and been deep into all the chaos that had happened there two years ago. He only had to know they were trustworthy allies, decent friends and waged a personal war on racism, police brutality, sex trafficking and drugs. Every gang from here to Nevada knew them and hated them.
Peter didn’t agree with some of their methods, but that was his personal code, they were forces for good.
They weren’t like the Punisher at least, and he wasn’t completely unreasonable, once you got to know him, if you survived the experience.
Joining a team of superheroes wouldn’t be too terrible, as long as they let Peter keep his secret identity and accepted that he lived a dual life.
Fury would do that, Peter had met him before. Peter had met almost everyone in the ‘hero business’ as Spider-Man in the nearly four years he’d been Spider-Man. It was nice to know that S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t be handling him with the kiddie gloves.
And if it came from S.H.I.E.L.D. by order of Fury it was unlikely to be optional.
Besides, it’d be some kind of fun.
Phil Coulson – New York S.H.I.E.L.D. Installation
The meeting with old Agent Kinross hadn’t been as hard as Phil had feared, which he supposed had been a little irrational. The woman had an incredible amount of experience and understood things so well he did wonder if she hadn’t picked up a little telepathy from Xavier over the years, even if that was supposed to be impossible.
And like many people, she could tell bad things were coming, for the X-Men, for S.H.I.E.L.D., for humanity in general.
“We can all tell, Fury’s preparing for something. No one knows what, but it’ll be big.” Had been her exact words, and the X-Men could sense danger very reliably, with five powerful telepaths, two of which were also clairvoyant.
Her other warning had been concerning. That Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch had been kidnapped from their mother’s home and they could find no trace of them, especially because Scarlet Witch was one of those pre-cognitive telepaths.
Besides, Coulson could sense it himself, so could Hill, Hand, Fury, Bobbi, Clint and Natasha. There was an undercurrent of it, and so many omens; Thor falling from the sky, Stark nearly dying and creating a new element, finding Captain America alive. You couldn’t ignore it.
It was why Fury had given the order to Phil to put together an elite team, he was sure, and given him the authorisation to enlist the best sci-tech academy graduates in a decade there was practically a waiting list for. A twenty-four year old two-person team known as Fitzsimmons who were joined at the hip almost literally. It had taken Phil an embarrassingly long time to figure out they were two people. Fury said it had cost him an arm and a leg to persuade Weaver to hand them over.
Garrett had agreed to donate Ward, one of his specialists and, ‘one of the best I’ve ever known, even if he can be a bit cold-blooded.’
But they were second on the list, Phil usually chose to put the hardest first, and the hardest was going to be May, without a doubt.
She was retired from fieldwork and sat at a desk now but somehow Phil knew she would accept, she’d be able to sense it too. Besides, she couldn’t spend the rest of her working life in a cubicle wading through virtual red-tape. If big-bad was inevitably coming, Phil would want Melinda on his team rather than anywhere else.
When Phil entered the otherwise empty offices Melinda ignored him, it was lunchbreak so anyone else was gone, a good time for a friendly confrontation.
“Nice setup you got here, thought about adding a moat?” Phil joked to no response. “You know why I’m here, even if Fury didn’t tell you, you can sense it, all these omens, harbingers of the greatest threat the earth’s ever known.”
“I know Phil.” Melinda finally responded, although not looking up from her typing. “I know Fury’s gathering superpowered individuals for his Avenger’s Initiative put on ice in ’96, I know he’s told you to make a team to assist them, and I know you want me to be part of it. No.”
“It’s not combat, I just need you to drive the Bus. We’ll be running ourselves, working with all the superheroes, no red-tape, we always wanted to do something like this.” Phil sounded desperate, he knew it, but he wanted May.
“Maybe we did, but that was then.” Never had typing seemed so ominous.
“Please Melinda, you don’t have to fight, just come try, for a week or so.” Phil wheedled, she knew as well as he did once he got her on that nice shiny plane Fury had got them she would be in for good. Nothing like Bahrain would ever happen again.
“A week, and you let me drive Lola at least once.” There was some of the old May.
“Alright.” Phil cringed internally at the thought of anyone but himself driving Lola but May had done it before and not even scratched it. He knew she wouldn’t have been able to resist.
I’m introducing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team before The Avengers just because I can and want to, this might not be the best but I couldn’t find the putlocker to watch the adapted scene again.
Moira Kinross – X Mansion
“We’ve had a week haven’t we?” Charles sighed, no longer trying to look strong after his ordeal. Damn Raven. “I’m starting to worry about Jean again, there’s so much we could do, if only…”
“Don’t think of that, think of how much we have done.” Moira sat beside her old friend, knowing exactly where his thoughts were going. “How old are we both Charles?”
“Eighty now.” He smiled at her, he didn’t even have to read her mind.
“And how long have we been doing this?”
“Since we were twenty-two.”
“Yes, fifty-eight years we’ve been working to make the world better for mutants in every way we can. We’ve trained two generations to follow us, created this school, changed laws, saved lives. What more should we have ever done?”
Moira knew the answer to that of course, they could have started the school sooner, working more generally rather than on individual cases, persuaded Raven and Erik away from their radical ideas. Still, they had done so much and when they were gone it would continue.
She hoped Charles wasn’t going to start on the idea of transferring their consciousnesses into younger clone bodies, sure they could do it but ethics were a thing and Moira had always tried to be content with the life she had been given, despite the hardships.
You had to look at positives, maybe she had lost her son all those years ago but she had pulled Lorna, Emma, Warren and more back from much worse. They had all managed to pull Jean back from what the whole world thought was the point of no return. They ran a school, a hospital, had started various programmes to help mutants all over the world, advanced the understanding of the X-Gene to ten times what it had been. Moira knew she could die happy with all she had achieved.
Only she knew Charles couldn’t, he’d never be able to, and he wouldn’t let her go before he did.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. has it all covered.” Moira tried to change the subject tactfully.
“They always do. S.H.I.E.L.D. knows what’s coming, everyone knows, but no one knows what.” Charles just had to be cryptic.
“We’ll find out when it comes.” Was Charles searching her mind for possible answers? No he couldn’t do that, long ago he had placed barriers in her mind that no telepath could breach, even he couldn’t break them. It had turned her into a repository of knowledge, another reason Charles would give for putting her consciousness into someone or something else eventually. Maybe she’d be a computer they could carry around.
“Could it be Jean? You locked the Phoenix force down.” Moira wondered, she could remember that, several years ago. Proteus, Cuba, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix. So far the worst mutant menaces she had ever experienced, the worse that had ever happened.
“No, it’s something alien, it’s going to change everything.” Charles sighed. “Jean always worries me. I visited Erik when you were gone, he’s very much himself. I would estimate six months at most before Raven breaks him out and they cause more trouble for us.”
That was not at all surprising. Raven and Erik were the counterparts to Moira and Charles, anyone could see that, everyone had always seen that, even when they all worked together. Shaw had dragged them apart.
Or maybe it had started earlier, when humans killed Erik’s first wife and daughter, when Charles had killed Moira’s son to stop the damage he could have done. Raven and Erik had called them murderers for a long time after that and Moira had shouted at them in an anger she still regretted, asking Raven what she knew about being a mother and the sacrifices of it.
She had claimed to know more than any of them suspected, then disappeared for half a year, it wasn’t until they’d found Kurt that they had figured out why.
So that was probably Moira’s fault, that Raven had changed sides, or decided to help Erik create their side.
Erik turning had been all Charles’s fault, and Moira hadn’t let him forget it. His stupidity that day in Cuba had almost cost them everything. Don’t let the revenge-crazed man go after the object of his revenge when you’re trying to keep things peaceful, there’s a nuclear bomb thirty feet away, the entire US navy has guns trained on you, you have five minors in firing line under your protection and your sister is ten seconds from mass murder. Basic logic.
Then again, that had all been a horrendous mess and Moira would never understand how she’d kept them all out of jail.
She’d never understand a lot of things, it was better not to try.
A vague background to the X-Men I can elaborate on at any time, no I will not be subtle.
Tony Stark – Malibu
His home was mostly rebuilt way ahead of schedule, that was the only good thing to have happened this week.
Tony had gotten in touch with Sharon who had warned him that Fury was dead set on forming the Avengers Initiative, and told him it would most likely include Romanoff as Black Widow and her current ‘responsibility’ who was certainly a person and she spoke of in a cryptic way Tony just couldn’t figure out.
Okay, getting back in touch with Sharon was another good thing, as was her giving him Antoine’s phone number with instructions to call it soon. Tony remembered Antoine as Gabe Jones’s grandson and a childhood friend, like Sharon he’d never reached out to him. Now he was regretting that.
Right now he was hacking, trying to find out about other superheroes that would be part of this Initiative. S.H.I.E.L.D. was incredibly difficult to hack but he was Tony Stark.
Tony found the files on the Initiative but couldn’t access them, he’d have JARVIS make a program to handle it, for now he would read the names;
- Fantastic Four
- Black Widow
Well everyone had heard of them, and Tony knew about Romanoff.
- Ant-Man and Wasp
- Captain America
- Iron Man
Wait a second, Captain America, he was dead, and the Hulk was meant to be a menace, the rest Tony knew nothing about.
The phone rang, Sharon, as soon as he got back in touch with her she kept calling.
“Hello Agent Unlucky.” Tony greeted, having decided that was Sharon’s new nickname considering her designation was Agent 13, just like Peggy.
“You need to stop hacking our files. I can send you the info you want.” How did she know he was hacking?
“You work computers too much like your Dad did, Aunt Peggy put in a few safeguards against him and you set off the twenty year old software.” Sharon explained without prompting. That made Tony feel great about his skills.
“Alright, send me the stuff on Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Ant-Man, Wasp and Hulk. And what’s this about Captain America?” Tony requested.
“I can’t tell you over the phone.” Sharon said tersely, so spy secrecy struck again. “Don’t try hack the FF or the X-Men, they’ll get some creative revenge.”
“I will keep that in mind.” Tony actually meant it, you didn’t want them as enemies, not if you watched the news ever. He’d seen what happened at the Statue of Liberty a week ago and that had been seven X-Men versus Magneto and Co. “When can you send me the stuff?”
“Sometime next week, it’ll have to be in person. If we go see Aunty then for lunch it’ll look normal.”
“I visited her a few days ago.” Tony said, not that he minded seeing his Aunt.
“That won’t be a problem, just promise to behave.”
“Why?” That piqued Tony’s interest.
“I’ll be bringing my Responsibility. And no I can’t tell you anything, I shouldn’t even be telling you this.” What was Sharon trying to tell him?
Wait a minute. She couldn’t tell him why Captain America was on the Initiative list over the phone, they’d never found the man’s body after the war and there were theories the serum could have made him immortal, and she couldn’t talk about her Responsibility on the phone either. A Responsibility that was a person, that had of all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents been assigned to Agent 13, Sharon Carter, a designation she shared with her great-aunt Peggy Carter who had been Captain America’s lady love during the war, a Responsibility she was bringing to see Peggy Carter.
No, that couldn’t be possible.
Only, Tony remembered, they lived in a world where Norse gods fell from the sky, where Atlantis was real, where a scientist could turn into a huge green monster.
What did impossible mean any more?
An excuse for me to have Iron Man and Captain America meet earlier than in canon, we’ll see how that goes.
Mockingbird – Kolkata
Bruce Banner wasn’t a hard man to find, not considering he now used his biologist skills to work as an affordable doctor for the locals.
Bobbi could respect that, far too many people used any special skill they had to be a criminal, if Banner used it to be a doctor he’d be far more persuadable. She’d read all the files about him, and the Hulk. Even if the Hulk was a rampaging green rage monster Banner was quite harmless, and Bobbi hadn’t forgotten what Coulson had said about bringing up Rick Jones and Betty Ross to him, the files said he only gave a damn about four people; Ross, Jones, a cousin and the aunt who’d raised him.
Overall, S.H.I.E.L.D. info said Banner was a great guy, Bobbi felt almost sorry she’d be dragging him into this mess.
Her black and white Mockingbird costume got the attention it was supposed to, she was meant to be visible with that and her batons. Still less so than Clint in his blue and purple with a bow and quiver. It might have been better to send Natasha, she was the best spy of the three of them and even her theatrical costume was only black with a flashy belt.
But Bobbi had been given the mission, and she would carry it out.
Intelligence was right that Banner wouldn’t be able to resist coming to see her, to warn her away.
“Who are you?” The man really was nothing special, and completely unarmed, if you could turn into the Hulk you wouldn’t need any kind of weapon.
“Mockingbird, I’m with S.H.I.E.L.D.; Strategic, Homeland, Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Top secret counter-intelligence.” Bobbi knew the drill well, don’t give your real name until they ask for it.
“Mockingbird, huh, that’s fake. Why does S.H.I.E.L.D. want me, or why do they want the Other Guy?” Banner caught on quick.
“Something’s coming, a threat to this world, we aren’t alone in the universe and the earth needs protectors. The most powerful people, and you’re one of them.” Straight from the script.
“I’m one of the most dangerous people, they’d want me to work in a team, to save and help people. How could I stop the Other Guy taking them all out?”
“You can’t, not on your own,” now Bobbi had to make the emotional appeal. “A Dr. Ross has made great strides working with samples of your blood and the reports of Hulk Incidents. She believes you could learn to control it, and you’ve been cleared of all charges.”
“Dr. Ross.” That hadn’t quite got the reaction Bobbi had been hoping for. “You mean you’ve got Betty somewhere and if I keep refusing you’ll threaten her. Or you’ll say she’s safe because she’s useful so you’ll talk about Rick, he’s still with her isn’t he?”
It was almost fun to be working on someone so resistant to manipulation.
“No harm will come to either of them no matter what you say or do, ever, and that’s a promise. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t use civilian hostages.” Bobbi wasn’t lying, that was in the rulebook. Break it and you got a court martial.
“I don’t get a choice do I. And you have this place surrounded.” Banner stated, already knowing the answers.
“No, and things will be much easier if you come with me now.” Bobbi wanted this over with, it was giving her the creeps that the Hulk could appear and tear her in half any second.
“Considering I don’t get to say no, at least let me ask why.” Banner sighed. Bobbi knew she had won, mentioning Ross and Jones had made a specific longing come into the man’s eyes, one he failed to entirely suppress.
“A potential global catastrophe, an alien artefact called the Tesseract with the energy to wipe out the planet. It emits a gamma signature and you’re our best bet to cracking it.” Bobbi explained, more elaborately this time.
“I’m the only one who could crack it? Ha. Betty knows everything I do, probably more because I’ve been away from labs and research for nearly four years. We were training Rick and I bet she’s still keeping that up, he’s one smart kid. You want the Hulk.” The longing was in Banner’s eyes again. Bobbi remembered that Ross and Banner had found the Jones boy trying to sabotage their base for a bet to get money for his next meal.
They’d taken him in and treated him like their own son, Ross had refused to come to S.H.I.E.L.D. without him.
“That is true, we need both of you.”
“You know I’m sold, on condition that I get to see both of them and check they’re okay.” Banner threw his hands up and Bobbi discretely pressed the button on her wrist that would tell the team stationed outside to stand down.
“Sure thing, now come on, Nick Fury doesn’t like to be kept waiting.” Bobbi turned to leave, knowing full well Banner would follow her.