Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Morden Man
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Morden Man

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Zkedia Mining Colony, Jiden-V

Salt crunched beneath Drex’s hooves. In front of him, he could hear the sobbing of J’vanna, the doctor’s son. The boy couldn’t have been more than six cycles old. Drex opened his mouth to offer a word of consolation to J’vanna but was silenced by a sudden jab in the back. The Centaurian mercenary behind him attempted to bray something to him in broken Kymellian but Drex couldn’t make sense of it. He didn’t need to understand it to know what was coming next.

For thousands of cycles, Drex’s people had called this planet their home. Though they were Kymellian, their isolation had robbed them of the abilities some of their kind possessed. The salt pits that had drawn them there had been both the making of his people and their undoing. They had grown weak, complacent. Drex understood that now as he marched to his end with what remained of his people.

Finally there came a cry from the Centaurian general that brought the entire procession to a halt beside a gorge. Once again Drex was jabbed in the back, though this time with enough force to send him down onto his hooves. His head hit the ground and revealed the blood red soil beneath it. Drex winced slightly, feeling blood trickling freely from the cut on his forehead. Beside him, the young J’vanna’s sobs grew louder with every passing moment – to the point that he was heaving. It was undignified, Drex thought, before damning himself quietly for his judgement.

The Centaurian general stepped forward. His bulging muscles were covered in deep blue scars and the shock of red hair that rose from his skull stood tallest among his men. He withdrew the golden bow from his back and slipped one of his arrows into place. All around him, Drex heard his people let out fearful cries but he remained silent. The general drew back his bowstring and following on from his lead his men did so too – creating a sound not unlike a thousand nails running along a chalkboard all at once.

The Centaurian general held his bowstring back without any sign of exertion. To Centaurians, the bow was more than a weapon, it was like another limb – the bond between them was almost sacred. Finally, in his last moments Drex turned his mind to all things sacred. Though his people had long since strayed from the old ways and few among them worshipped the gods of Kymellia, the prayers of his childhood came back to him.

“May the Mother forgive us.”

Drex’s eyes clamped shut as he heard the cracking of a thousand Centaurian bows unfurling. Time seemed to slow to a complete standstill as Drex sensed the lethal payload barrelling towards them. His eyes still shut he felt a hand clamp around his and his own hand compelled without his consent to reach out for the Kymellian beside him. His eyes opened and he realised to his disbelief that he was still alive.

“The Mother,” J’vanna smiled at him. “She saved us.”

There was a roar of confusion from among the Centaurian horde as they collectively reached into their quivers for more ammunition. Drex scanned his people’s numbers and saw among them the source of their salvation. There was a lone green figure stood with a single hand on the shoulder of a Kymellian woman. Drex shook his head in disbelief – it was a Martian.

Before the Centaurians had a chance to send forth another barrage, they found their numbers compromised. In a blur, the Martian cut through them. Each blow they sent in the Martian’s direction by way of defence, be it by bow or by first, passed through him. They were met by blows with ten times the force – some were sent skidding along the salt in a heap whilst others merely melted to the ground limply as the Martian’s limbs passed through them.

Drex climbed to his feet and with a roar sent his broken and beaten people into the fray to aid the Martian. In the melee, the Kymellian caught a glimpse of the towering shock of red hair that belonged to the Centaurian general. He cleaved a way through the carnage towards it with his hooves, smashing them down upon one foe after another to make his way towards him. Finally, the two adversaries encountered each other in the field.

“You will die here,” the Centaurian sneered as he drew his sword. “But at least you will have the honour of dying by my hand.”

Drex let out a guttural neigh as he flung himself towards the general. He parried a blow from the Centaurian’s sword away from his throat with left hoof and sent the right one towards the general’s exposed ribs. They traded blows for what seemed like hours and they appeared evenly matched for a time, but eventually Drex’s advanced years began to show, and the Centaurian gained the upper hand. He slipped through the Kymellian’s reach and managed to gain his back. The sacred forced itself over Drex’s neck and his hooves seemed powerless to stop the bowstring from cutting into his flesh.

<Enough.>

The Centaurian’s grip fell limp and the bowstring loosened. The Centaurian whimpered as he felt a hand glide into his chest and grip onto his heart. He looked over his shoulder to see the blood-covered Martian stood behind him. There was not an ounce of sympathy in the Martian’s deep red eyes – only a rage that seemed to emit a cold that chilled him to his bones. All around them the fighting continue, except for those in the near vicinity who seemed to sense the significance of the moment.

<You will command your men to stand down.>

Drex held a hand to his bleeding neck as he staggered away from them. He saw the look of defiance cross the general's face. “I will do no such thing, Martian. My men would sooner die than admit defeat to the likes of you.”

<Then die they will.>

One of the Martian’s green hands pressed against his temple and the battlefield fell silent. The Centaurian horde dropped their gilded bows to the ground and marched, as the Kymellians had, towards the waiting gorge. One by one they stepped voluntarily over the edge. Soon they were falling in their tens, hundreds even, as the confused Kymellians watched on. The exhilaration that Drex had felt turned to horror as the scale of the death dawned on him.

The defiance on the Centaurian general’s face seemed to melt and suddenly, suspended helplessly in place with the Martian’s hand clasped around his heart, he seemed to relent.

“No,” he murmured in a voice that was so defeated that it shocked Drex. “No more.”

<I offered you mercy once, Centaurian. I will not offer it again.>

More bodies tumbled over the cliff to the deaths. Drex found himself instinctively reaching out for a passing Centaurian. There was a glassy look in their eye that chilled the Kymellian to his core. No matter how hard Drex tried to restrain them, he could not stop them from marching to their death. More of his people reached out for their one-time adversaries in an effort to stop the Martian’s slaughter.

Through it all, a gentle hoof came to rest on their hulking green saviour’s forearm. J’vanna, the doctor’s son, had slipped through the crowd unnoticed. Where the others were terrified of the Martian, he was too young to know better than to approach him.

“Please,” J’vanna implored the Martian. “There’s been enough death for one day.”

The Martian stared down at the boy silently and somewhere deep inside of him something stirred. He relinquished his hold on the general’s heart and allowed him to fall to the ground with a thud. The Centaurian’s seemed to come to their senses. Drex watched on equal parts amazed by J’vanna’s courage and appalled by what had been done. The Martian lent down and placed one of his large hands over the Centaurian general’s head.

<You have felt but a fraction of the suffering my people felt. Know that I have seen into your mind, held your blackened heart in my hand, and judge you to be unworthy of this world. You will live on, but ... not without paying a price.>

The general let out a scream as billions of voices howled out in pain in his brain. He saw blood and fire, families torn apart, and a world set against itself until only the strongest remained. He began to froth at the mouth and convulse until, his mind shattered into a thousand pieces, he fell to his knees abruptly.

The surviving Centaurians watched on in shocked silence as the most capable among them was rendered a vegetable with but a fraction of the Martian’s strength.

<Leave this place.>

Without a second’s hesitation the archers scattered, scampering over the corpses of their fallen compatriots, some even dropping their bows as they made a hasty exit. Had Drex been minded to protest, the Martian’s display earned his silence and, in truth, his revulsion. Something about the scene compelled him to speak and, though he knew he ought to express gratitude, as his equine lips parted, admonishment appeared in its place.

“What gives you the right?” Drex said as he gestured to the gorge half-filled with Centaurian bodies. “You did this in our names.”

<No, Kymellian, I did it in theirs.>

For a tenth of a second, Drex felt the force of emotion that had been unleashed upon the general. It was enough to knock him to his knees. When he opened his eyes he found that tears were pouring from them without end. The Martian Manhunter was gone. Only silence remained.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Sep
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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Present Day // Asgard


"What have you done this time boy? The voice of the All-Father boomed around the hall. Sat atop his golden throne, Gugnir in his left hand. The one judging eye looking down upon him as always, the look of silent contempt upon his face. No matter what Thor had done to prove his worth, his father had always shunned him. Instead, his adoptive brother had his father's ear, had his counsel and his trust. Was it not he, Thor Odinson who had brought peace to Midgard? While the Gods of Olympus and Asgard sat silent, willing to let the other realms bring havoc.

Was it not he who year after year dove in to save the Dwarves of Nidavellir from the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim? Instead, his father listened to Loki. A trickster and a deceiver, who used politics and treaties to bring peace. A fool's game. "I did as you ordered Father. I went to Nidavellir to investigate the threat, I found this Beta-Ray-Bills people already dead when he attacked I attempted to disarm him-

Loki appeared out a back chamber while Thor spoke, whispering into the All-Fathers ear. Thor saw a spark of anger in Odins' one green eye. -And so you deigned to kill him? Rather than bring the Mortal Before me to answer questions. You are a foolish whelp."

Loki at this moment decided to speak. "In Thor's defense father, with the rage and stupor that the beast was in it was unlikely that it gave him much of a choice."

Odin turned his adoptive son. A look of scorn on his face. "Do not jump to his aid so readily- He turned his face back to his son. "Over one thousand years of life and yet he still acts as if he is a child. Acting with his fists first rather than thought. The Mortal could no more kill you than any other mortal could, you are a vain-

Thor stood up, a low rumble of thunder could be heard outside the walls of the palace. "-and you are a fool and a coward!" Frejya moved as if to speak but Odin raised his hand in her direction.

"Nay. Stay your tongue wife. Let me hear what the boy has to say about the world of men."

This just drew more ire from Thor, stepping closer to the bottom of the steps that elevated Odin's throne above the rest of the room. "You think yourself omnipotent, and all-powerful and yet you sit here in your throne doing nothing. Do you forget who brought peace to Midgard? Or the other realms? Midgard is in crisis, the seers all say it converges on Midgard. A fate worse than Ragnarok, and yet you sit here doing nothing. Forbidding travel to Midgard for the sake of avoiding the ire of the Olympians."

Loki looked to his adoptive father, in a silent request to speak. Odin merely nodded. "While it is true you lead the charge many years ago, the treaty is what has kept lasting peace-"

Thor turned, his anger directed now at his elder brother. "You call it peace, but instead there is turmoil as others begin to move against us-" He turned back to Odin. "I beg of you. Allow me to travel to Midgard. There I will discover whatever this threat is to the nine realms, and defeat it. On this, you have my word as Odinson." He bowed, allowing himself to fall to one knee Odin stood up, raising Gugnir into the air he slammed it back down. As the All-Father let go the spear remained where it was, standing straight if through nothing but the All-Fathers will.

Each step seemed to reverberate around the hall in ways that thunder never could, each step shaking him to his core. "You wish to return to the world of mortals?" Odin scoffed. "Long have your thoughts dwelt there. So be it, I shall give you till midsummer. Once Lithasblo has begun I will recall Mjolnir to Asgard. If you have not dealt with the threat by then, then I shall denounce you as my son and my heir. You will lose your title, your power, and access to this realm. Doomed to wander Midgard as an immortal among men."

Thor felt a fire brewing within him that he had not felt in him for a long time, a call that he had not answered and yet he paused. "What say you Thor Odinson?" Thor stood up again.

"Aye. I will go to Midgard, and I will return victorious." He stood up and turned around, a billow off his cape as he headed towards the door. It swished behind him as he pushed on towards the grand doors, them opening before him as he went forward. As he left the hall he was stopped almost immediately by a woman with black hair.

"Tell me that you aren't planning on actually doing this." Thor merely nodded, sidestepping Lady Sif. She grabbed him by the shoulders, forcing him to twist to face her. He could see the torture on her face. "Thor. You can not do this, not alone."

Thor shook his head. "You must stay here, someone needs to take care that Volstagg doesn't eat the food stores of Asgard empty." He let out a hearty laugh, it rang hollow. He didn't fully believe it, in truth while this was something he had to do. For better or worse, a war he had to fight. He couldn't risk Lady Sif, or anyone else on something that he had to do. "Defend Asgard in my stead, I wish to have a home to come back too."

She dropped her arms in defeat, letting him go walking away towards the Bifrost. "Just make sure you come back my prince."

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

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All The Rest Of Us
Issue Two: Companions


A DREAM
~~~~~
I am curled into a fetal ball, spinning and kicking aimlessly in a void of bright nothingness. I can’t see - my eyelids refuse to open and I have not been granted eyes for sight regardless - but all around me, on all sides pressing against my skin, colours and light flows through this shared liminal space and onwards through seams in reality. Claustrophobia settles in and only gains ground against my mind as I feel the space shrink and trap me, my muscles screaming against themselves as I push outwards against invisible walls, trying to postpone my fate but failing unquestionably. The void freezes my chest in place and I cannot draw breath into my lungs, and I am on the verge of asphyxiation when the nothingness opens up beneath me and spits me out like primordial ooze, a stain upon the carpet. I can stand, with difficulty. I am knee-high in thick black mud, and the cold mire clings to my skin. There is nothing here, just myself and the mud, a bog that spans as far as the horizon and far over.

I stand in the mud for years. As the sunless days pass me by and I gaze up at starless night skies, I strain every sense I have for any sign of life. It takes several lifetimes, but eventually I hear it: a blunt, rhythmic thudding, somewhere in the distance beyond the mud. There was no source that I could see; but the thudding was all there was, and so I moved towards it. Slowly, at first, every step demanding all my body has to give to wrench my foot from the grip of the mire and place it forwards, plunging down again into the muck and again the momentous effort to bring the other foot with me...but at the same time I glide effortlessly forwards without movement, the mud motionless around me as I sail on. I see both. I do both. The thudding gets louder as I persist.

I am at the centre of the swamp. There is a small grove of scorched trees here, little more than blackened trunks and a few branches between them. They form a circle around a singular mound of dirt, upon which rests a wooden block, stained with blood, muck, ooze and foul scum. The thudding is at its loudest, and as I listen to it I can begin to discern figures surrounding the block. They look roughly human in a crude manner - but their outlines are frayed and warping, their faces are blank and featureless but radiate hatred, and I can see each of them holds a cleaver, chopping incessantly at something upon that filthy block. They hurt to look at, but I peer closer, desperate to see the meat they are butchering. I vomit when I finally make out what lays upon their table.

It’s me. I lie on the table, every blow of the cleaver carving away at my body. They start at my feet and I cannot move as every landing of the blade bloodlessly hacks away a sliver of flesh, only for the cleavers to rise and fall again. Another figure at the end of the of the block tears away each strip and tosses it behind itself into a dark hole in the ground. I thrash and struggle and attempt to break free but I am unable to move as the cleavers move up my body and the chopping grows louder until it is all there is; I can only watch as I am portioned up into neat sections and discarded into the hole.

As the last cleaver lands across my eyes the hole behind the last figure opens up and envelopes the world. The figures, the trees, the block - it all melts away as I fall, now little more than remnants of a spirit forgotten. My fall is long and gentle, a slow sink into an inky darkness, but eventually it ceases and my ethereal feet touch solid black. In front of me is a woman, back faced to me while she quietly weeps into her hands. In front of her is a bloodied pile of viscera, the scraps of my body cut, quartered and discarded. I reach out to touch her, to console her of my death, to comfort her that I am not all gone - but my hands fall through her. She turns. She has my face. I see through her eyes as her arms raise and take a tight grasp around my neck. I can only watch as she slowly strangles what it left of me.
~~~~~


John wakes sharply with a shout and startles Francis, who swerves the car as he involuntarily pulls the steering wheel a bit. The car on the inside lane blares their horn and Francis swears out the window, before he settles himself and gets comfortable again. John quietly breathes deep and slow, and holds a hand to his chest as he calms his pulse and anchors himself on his surroundings. He is in the passenger seat of Francis’ car, and they are just outside London, travelling on the M1 towards the city proper. Maybe an hour left to go. John’s been asleep since Milton Keynes.

“Bad dream there?” Francis asks, and John frowns to himself trying to recall the details. Dread fills him as he searches his mind and he quickly tucks the emotion away in a dark corner.
“Horrendous. Can’t remember it now.” John replies. Francis nods in that wise-looking way. John shifts in his seat and fishes for the photo of Cheryl out of his pocket - his memories of his sister are fresh as ever, and he looks over the picture trying to shake the despair he feels at seeing her face. The dream eludes him, but scraps of Cheryl, of dread, and of an immutable oncoming disaster linger with him. Francis looks over John’s shoulder, curiosity trumping privacy.
“Who’ve you got there then? Old friend? Paramour?” He puts an extended, exaggerated tone on ‘paramour’ that irritates John. “That who you’re off to see?”
John pauses, wondering how best to respond. He has not shared any aspect of his personal life with anyone since Cheryl’s disappearance, and it almost feels like he has forgotten how.
“She’s my sister. Cheryl Constantine. I haven’t seen her in a long time.”
Francis nods again. “Moved away? Or fallen out of touch? Can’t say I like to spend much time with my family.”

John hesitates , and then decides to be done with it. “She disappeared. Nearly two years ago now. Coppers couldn’t find anything. Thought my father had done it for a while but...probably the only thing he’s genuinely clean on. Missing presumed dead.”
Francis swallows the confession quietly and surveys the road ahead as he digests. When he replies, he asks only one question. “Do you think she’s dead?”
John takes a long moment to search his core. He hasn’t dwelled this long on Cheryl since he got out of Ravenscar. It hurts in a way that feels cold inside. He had never considered that she may be dead after all, that closure would never come and his life would be forever defined by the hole she had left in it. But something stirs inside him and it is with a resolute and absolute confidence that he says: “No. She’s alive.”
Francis draws a deep breath. “Alright then.”

They drive for a bit longer; then Francis changes the subject, hoping to lighten the atmosphere in the car. “Who you off to see then? This old chum of yours.”
“Gary Lester.” John pauses, but Francis doesn’t respond, so John elaborates just to fill the silence. “We used to go to school together, all three of us. Weirdos, we were. Those kids who drew spells on each other in biro during class and made oujia boards on our school books. Never knew anyone else other than Gary who liked the macabre like I did, and I think Cheryl just humoured me so I didn’t feel like so much of a freak. And we were all into our punk. Used to dream that we could cast some magic to turn us into rockstars. ‘Mucous Membrane’, we would’ve called ourselves. Soon grew up, though. And then when Cheryl went missing...we were all out of our minds. Said some things I regret. Made some cruel accusations and poked at open secrets. His mum moved him to London and we haven’t spoken since. Wrote him some letters while I was…” John pauses. He’s not sure how much he should open up yet. “...away, but never got anything back. If he’s still around, I need to repair what’s left. Make my apologies. Find some closure. Un-burn the bridges.”
Francis gives John a look of respect. “That’s some very noble honesty there, Johnno. Takes a lot to allow that humility in yourself. When do you plan to go see him?”
John shrugs. “Dunno. Day’s getting on now. Guess it’ll be tomorrow.”
“You got anywhere to stay when we get to the city?”
John shakes his head, but doesn’t say anything or look at Francis.
“Got a free sofa. And I’m still off work tomorrow so I can give you a lift to the address. And to the hospital after, if needs be.”
John feels the same warm swell of gratitude again, and envisions a tether between himself and Francis. He feels an innate sense of trust in the London cabbie, and hopes that Francis feels the same in him. John nods.
“Yes, please. Thank you. You’re being...very kind.”
“It’s no bother. You seem a decent bloke.”
“All the same. Thank you, Francis.”
“You’re welcome, John. And call me Chas. All my friends do.”
“Chas.” John repeats, nodding. He smiles, for perhaps the first time since he went into Ravenscar. The smile quickly turns into a scream of fear as John is forced to brace himself against the door as Chas brakes and swerves across all three lanes of the motorway to gun down a slip road to services. He cuts off a lorry as he does so and the horn from the front cab pierces through John, although Chas only responds with more swears and gestures out the window as they accelerate away and into the carpark. John’s face is a picture of stunned fear as Chas parks up, and Chas chuckles as he pulls the handbrake up and takes a look at John as he steps out of the car.
“Sorry pal. Got distracted and nearly missed this turn off. Last whoppers before the city. Can’t be helped.”
John just blinks, and then laughs a deep, long laugh while Chas watches, puzzled but amused.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Cromica C21
Space Sector 2814

Hal settled in with a bottle of D’Bari bourbon and his reading material for the night. He propped his feet up on the jailhouse desk and cracked open the bottle. The prisoners in the cells were fast asleep. A few of them were snoring loudly, a few ripped off the occasional fart. Hal turned out the snoring and did his best to ignore the smell. He poured the whiskey into a tumbler and set the bottle on the desk. He took a sip and sighed with content when he felt the burn. He polished off half the glass before activating the HUD projection on his ring. Data scrolled past his eye. It was everything the GLC had on Korvus Melm, Cromica’s first chief constable.

Jelcs provided Hal with what he knew about his old boss earlier. So far Hal’s info was a match for what Jelcs knew. Melm served as a cop after a long career in the Shi’ar Imperial Navy. What Jecls didn’t know were the finer details. A lot of it was redacted, but Hal could see a pattern forming. Chief Petty Officer Korvus Melm serves with distinction for over thirty cycles and takes a job as a security consultant for a company known as Imperial Solutions. Innocuous sounding on paper, like all front companies were. Records with the company were as spotty as those of the Shi'ar Empire, but it showed Melm traveled around the galaxy doing work for Imperial. He was still employed by the company up until the day he died. He never officially quit before heading to the wilds of Cromica five years ago.

Five years, thought Hal. Just five years ago. Hal always assumed Melm was part of the so-called pioneer faction like Jelcs, people who were here before the dark matter discovery put the sleepy little system on the map. It looked as if he showed up just as the rest of the miners, conmen, and shady types came to town looking to make a quick buck. Something about that made the niggling feeling in the back of his mind stronger. There was something there. He just had to go deeper.

He scrolled on to the information about the night Melm died. Jelcs was the author of the incident report. It was concise, informative, and actually told a linear narrative. Jelcs mentioned something before about working in his home planet’s legal system. It seemed to Hal the clerical side of law enforcement came naturally to him. Hal checked the timestamp. Written just a few hours after the body's discovery. That made it even more impressive to sit down with it fresh in your minds and file an objective report about your boss’s murder.

Melm caught a blaster bolt to the back of the head in some gravel back alley. A drunk miner found his body in the middle of the night. Almost pissed all over it. It was a good thing he didn’t since the miner was a Crazathi. His hydrochloric based piss would have destroyed any potential evidence. Not that Jelcs recovered anything usable. He could write a good report, but the guy wasn't much of a detective. Hal examined the few pictures Jelcs took.

Shots of Melm’s body up close, close-up on the wound. His arms were splayed out like he hadn’t expected it. But with the gravel nobody could have snuck up on Melm. Not unless he were deaf. Hal swiped over to another shot of Melm’s outstretched arms. He saw a small tattoo on the skin between the thumb and forefinger. Hal zoomed in and saw what it was clearly.

“Son of a bitch,” he said softly.

He knew who killed Melm and he knew exactly why.




Hala
Space Sector Unassigned

“No mind games, no tricks. This is a simple message to you and the people of Rann. With one Lantern, we destroyed your entire fleet. With two Lanterns? Who knows what damage we could do. End transmission.”

The members of the Galactic Council stared down at the two Green Lanterns as the recorded transmission ended. The Thanagar representative was the first one to speak. She cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow.

“Senior Lantern Sinestro, do you deny this was you on the recording?”

Sinestro stood and made sure his yellow eyes did not veer from the representative's eyes as he spoke.

“No,” he said with his head held high. “That was me fulfilling my duty as an officer of the Green Lantern Corps.”

“With threats?” said the Skrull.

“A Lantern is missing,” replied Sinestro. “Has been missing for a very long time now. Her disappearance is related to the Rannian government. We have asked nicely, we have followed diplomatic protocol time and time again, only to be rebuffed.”

“We have released our report to the Council and your Corps,” said the Rannian premier.

“But is found lacking,” said Ronan. “It is heavily redacted and the missing Lantern is barely mentioned. Also missing, I might add, is what exactly your navy was doing above Bion that day.”

“That was a rogue military maneuver,” said the premier. “I would remind the Council of that, and I would also remind them that the report had to be redacted in the name of Rannian Security.”

“It’s more obfuscation,” cried Sinestro. “More games. Does the Council now see why I use threatening words? Sometimes that’s all these people understand.”

The premier stood on his feet and began to yell at Sinestro and Sinestro yelled back. The entire Council shouted enmasse and Ronan banged his gavel in a futile attempt to bring things to order. The din was cut short. The conference room fell under an eerie silence. Each person in the room had their mouth covered by a thick green film. All of them except one. Salaak quietly rose and came to the middle of the conference room.

“I apologize for my impertinence,” he said with a bow to the Council. “But I would like to ask the premier a question.”

He faced the Rannian. The Council continued to make muffle noises from behind their gags. Sinestro stayed quiet and watched.

“The Corps have reports that not only was the fleet above Bion that day sanctioned by you and the New Men, but that its purpose was not martial at all. They were on a scientific mission. Is that true?”

The film disappeared from the premier’s mouth.

“How dare you silence me, do you know what I could-- mmmppp!”

“Answer the question,” Salaak said as he made the gag appear back on his mouth.

“No!” yelled the premier when his mouth was free. “It was an unauthorized military invasion. Admiral Kaskor took it upon himself to try to expand our territory with his fleet.”

Salaak nodded. His dark eyes gave away nothing. He crossed all four of his arms and glanced towards the council before continuing on.

“But yet I had a chance to read a Corps report from our science teams," he said. "They came back to the area where the battle with Lantern Cruz occurred a few months later. Even a full Oan year removed from the incident, our team discovered high outputs of ionic energy, high outputs of quantum quarks, and a very dense blanket of hyper accelerated particles. Does any of this mean anything to you, premier?”

“No,” he said much too quickly to have even thought it over. “Why should it?”

But Sinestro saw that it meant something to members of the Council. They’d stopped their protests and watched on in silence. Salaak even removed their gags, but they had yet to notice they could now speak.

“Because,” said Salaak. “All those things I just mentioned? They are just three of the key ingredients to making a portal to the Negative Zone.”

“No!” screamed the premier. “We would never violate galactic law like that.”

“Prove it,” said Ronan. “Release the unredacted report.”

“In the name of Rannian security I cannot do that,” said the premier.

“Experimenting with any Negative Zone technology has been outlawed for a whole generation,” said Salaak. “And the consequences of breaking that law are very dire.”

“Three fifty-five,” said Sinestro. He looked at the Council before turning to look at the Rannian delegation. “That is a number the GLC will never forget. We lost three hundred and fifty-five Lanterns pushing the Annihilus Wave back into the Negative Zone. The single greatest loss of Lantern life in our history. And now thanks to the hubris of the New Men of Rann he could come back.”

More crosstalk between the group. This time, they listened as Ronan banged the gavel.

“Let us recess,” said Ronan. “The Council will discuss matters in private. Premier?”

“Yes?”

“The full report will be released to us to read over in the recess, or you and the people of Rann will suffer the consequences. Am I being clear?”

He gulped. “Yes.”

“Good.”

The Council rose and went to deliberate. The Lanterns were left alone in the room with the Rannian delegation. Sinestro looked in their direction, softly shaking his head. The revelation explained a lot about what went down above Bion and why the Rannians had the stones to go after a Lantern in combat. The fallout of attacking a Lantern were far lesser than being caught with N-Zone tech. But it raised an even bigger question.

Where exactly was Jessica Cruz?




Unknown Planet
Unknown Sector

Jess felt good to be wearing pants and shoes. They weren’t in the best condition and their previous owner had probably died in them, but it was clothing all the same. Earlier her two saviors sped her out of the camp while other women in dune buggies raided the encampment. They crossed desert for what felt like hours before finally arriving at another encampment, this one actually showing signs of vegetation and water.

The two women kindly but firmly escorted her to a mess hall for food and water. For the first time since Oa she had hot food and cold water. They brought her clothes and boots to change into once she was done. The two women who rescued her deferred to an older woman as she came into the room. She carried no rank insignia, but Jess was pretty sure she was the leader of this place.

“Did they touch you?” she asked without preamble.

“No,” Jess said after swallowing the food in her mouth.

“I just worried,” said the woman. “I mean, you’re an alien and hideous, but they don’t have much in the way of standards.”

“Hideous?” Jess asked.

“I don't meant offend.”

The woman’s eyes fell on Jess’ ring hand. She thought she was going to say something about her swollen and red knuckles, but instead she reached out and traced her fingers along the dead power ring.

“I’ve seen this symbol before,” she said. “A long time ago. I don’t know where, though. But not this place.”

“And where is this place?” Jess asked. “And what’s going on?”

“We’re currently on the edges of the Great Desert. Everything past where you were? Endless desert. So endless those that go into it, either by choice or by force, are never seen again. We’re on the edges of the war here, but the fighting is just as fierce. Let me get a map...”

The woman ordered one of the other two women to get a map. Endless desert, thought Jess. Things that went in never came out. But she had, hadn't she?

“Our land is embroiled in war, has been since long before we were born. They say the entire world is, but who knows? We barely have contact with those that are on the other side of our realm. The war is multi-sided and messy, but it boils down to two main factions: The Oligarchs and those that serve them, and the Grand Republic. Or what’s left of it.”

“Who do you serve?”

The woman looked offended.

“The Republic, of course. Those cretains we rescued you from? They serve House Doolan, just one of the many oligarchs who horde resources and material for themselves.”

One of the women came back in with a rolled up piece of parchment. She unfurled it and laid it on the table in front of them. Jess looked down. She did a double take before she jumped out of her chair and put her hands on her head.

“No... no. No. No.”

The map on the table in front of her showed over a dozen different territories across a vast land. That was new. What wasn’t new was the shape of the land. She'd seen it time and time again all through school. It was a map of North America.

She was on Earth.

Just not her Earth.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Gateway City, Rhode Island
Present Day

1.01 // Routine
𝗗𝗜𝗔𝗡𝗔 𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗡𝗖𝗘

Diana immediately awoke to the sound of her alarm going off instead of the gunshot. Her breathing was out of control for the nightmare. It was the first time in a while that she thought of Stryfe. The monster that changed her entire life. She got out of bed and rushed straight to the bathroom sink. After a few splashes of water to her face, she calmed down a little. But reliving that horrible event again was unpleasant. With a quick shower and a change of outfit, she was feeling more better. The phone went off as a reminder to take her antidepressant. New York City worsened everything that she was able to control. Her doctor and therapist recommended fifty milligrams of Zoloft along with weekly therapy visits. So far, it helped a little.

After taking it, Diana gathered her things for the day in the office and left her home. World Veterans Federation established a national headquarters in Gateway City shortly after its foundation in London. It was designed as a mixture of Greek and American architecture to make it not stand out of place. And it also reflected Wonder Woman's place of origin: Greece. However, it saw its fair share of protests after Stryfe's death and a hotbed of false threats. Recent months saw things calming down and returning to some form of normality. Diana drove to the office and entered inside, where Candy and Dominguez were waiting for her in the lobby.

"Good morning, Diana." Dominguez greeted her boss.

"Morning." Diana shook her and Candy's hands. "I assume it's going to be another busy day."

"Yeah. You got a conference call with the team in London about Transia. And the team in Egypt regarding the crisis in the Middle East." Dominguez listed off the schedule for the day as the three of them got inside the elevator. "Pete wants to talk to you about the possible interview with WHIH."

"Also, Clint is coming up for the routine checkup." Candy added.

"Well, let's get started then. Tell the team that I'm on my way."

Diana made her way to the meeting room with Dominguez, who was explaining the team's recent developments. It wasn't good news. In the aftermath of Wonder Woman's presence, Yuri Petrovich's resistance spread across the East European country. The country's government banned all foreign presence except for SHIELD to gather any necessary evidence and cleanup. Several charities and humanities organizations, including the World Veterans Federation, recently applied for entry into the country. Today was when they find out if it was approved or declined. Upon entering the room, the team was set up to showcase their progress to their boss via hologram.

"Good morning!" The team greeted Diana.

"Any progress?" Diana asked the team's leader, William.

"We're still waiting for a response along with the Red Cross." William responded and then waved his hand to bring up the hologram map of the country. "As for the revolt in Transia, its getting worse as Petrovich's militia clashed with the local military near the capital. Several dozen were reported to be injured, but that's from an unofficial report. Rural areas have been hit the hardest with both sides raiding villages to either set up camp, steal for the population, or both. The government is suppressing any information that makes them look weak to their neighbors."

Then, one of the team members whispered something to his ear. "Unfortunately, everyone's appeals were denied just moments ago. Maybe it's time to reconsider Transia-"

"We can't abandon the people yet. We just have to persuade the government with something worthwhile."

"I know that it has been hard moving on from the incident in Velinsky. But interfering isn't going to help anyone." Another member of William's team pulled up national polls from Transia, showing the population's thoughts on Wonder Woman. "Fifty-eight percent of the population still view you as a war criminal. Sixty-five think you should've been thrown in prison for life. The numbers don't lie, ma'am. It's one of the reasons why we concluded that the government keeps rejecting the appeals because of us. And if we focus on other matters in Europe, they will start accepting aid. That's why I am proposing that we reshift to the veterans' protests in France. It will be good for our organization."

Diana hesitated to accept the hard truth coming from William. She owned Transia for what she did to her people. It had been a significant reason why WVF remained determined to help out. Yet, the damage was already done. "Alright... Your team's proposal has been approved. Notify the other charities to push on without us. And send in a report before next Thursday."

"Thank you, Diana. We won't disappoint you." The hologram of the London team disappeared as the lights came back on. Dominguez heard the whole transaction and felt sorry for her friend. She understood how important making up to the people that Wonder Woman hurt was to her. After placing down her notepad, she extended a hand to her shoulder and said with remorse.

"I am sorry that happened to you. But there will be other opportunities in the future."

"I know." Diana acknowledged her friend's attempt with a weak smile. It was time to let go of her efforts to fix every mistake that she made. Even if it was painful. Then, her phone buzzed with a message from Candy.

"Clint's waiting for you in the office."



After taking the elevator, Diana entered her office to see that Clint Barton, known to the world as Hawkeye, scrutinizing her computer. He was essentially her probation officer working with SHIELD. It was part of the arrangement with the American government that she was required by law to compel with routine checkups to ensure that Wonder Woman remained retired. Hawkeye had been assigned to her as the government's first countermeasure. And with her weakness to piercing weapons, he was the perfect person to neutralize the former hero.

Clint greeted Diana while examining her schedule for the coming months. "Nice to see your foundation has bounced back. The first time that I see a month filled."

"Aren't you supposed to be only checking for anything 'suspicious' since your last visit?" Diana crossed her arms.

"That includes your schedule. And yes, I wasn't checking before because it was always empty. It made writing reports bearable. Speaking of which, thanks for ruining it for me."

Diana smiled and walked over to see what he was doing on her computer. There was a notepad next to him that contained notes for the report. And on the computer, he was finishing up with scanning through the calendar to see for anything strange. There wasn't. Next, he asked for her phone, which always bothered her. But she trusted Clint enough with it. And then came the inspection of Wonder Woman's armory, located between two bookshelves, which housed everything that the hero wore and used. It was built shortly after her retirement as a way of remembering that former life. An hour and a half later, the visit was done until the next one in a few weeks.

Clint looked around the room for the last time before biding Diana farewell. "Everything looks good."

Suddenly, he remembered their last conversation and his first date with Linda. "I forgot to mention that the date went well. Thank you for suggesting that sushi restaurant. Their maki futomaki was some of the best that I had in a while. It was..."

That was when Clint noticed that a young person was floating towards them. They appeared to look more like a man than a woman, but that didn't matter to him. What mattered was protecting Diana and himself from the possible threat. He spun around Diana and aimed his bow at the intruder. Diana was impressed at the quick response time for Hawkeye but more concerned about the person that struggled to land on the balcony. They reached the door and torn it open without a problem. Clint yelled out the first and final warning.

"Leave. Unless you want to be shot."

The stranger wasn't unable to respond and fell to their knees before going unconscious. "Please... help me."


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Mota-Tavi, Denuvi-VII

The door to Shirax’s antique store swung open and through it stepped a bearded man in a leather jacket that looked like it had seen better days. His slicked back hair was as black as the night’s sky and the white specks that dotted it like stars only strengthened that impression. Shirax could tell by the urgency of the man’s pace who had entered her store, but the sudden appearance of the Earthling they called Starman’s eyes from beneath a set of green goggles confirmed the Denuvian’s suspicions.

“What’s happening, Jack?”

Jack Knight rested his cosmic rod against the counter with a tired shrug. “You know how it is, same old, same old.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Shirax nodded by way of recognition and then lent towards Knight. “What are you after this time?”

The Denuvian’s voice had changed almost immediately. Once the pleasantries had been put aside, so too had the old woman’s butter-wouldn’t-melt act. Jack’s body language had shifted too. He could barely contain his excitement as he nosed around the store at Shirax’s wares. They were both collectors – though the old woman got her hands on treasure without ever having to step out from behind her desk. Jack hadn’t quite worked that one out yet.

“Word on the street is you’ve got your hands on something special.”

“Oh yeah? Well you have to be careful listening to word on the street. Sometimes the streets will lie to you.”

Jack frowned hard at Shirax and found her to be completely unmoved by his disapproval. Sensing it wasn’t working, he picked his elbows off the counter, leant back and reached into his leather jacket. From inside he plucked a sickly greenish-purple grub that writhed between his fingers. The Denuvian’s eyes widened at the sight of it.

“Alright, I’ll show you, but you so much as sneeze whilst it’s out of the box and you and I are going to have serious trouble, understood?”

Jack nodded and threw the grub to Shirax. One of her wrinkled yellow arms reached out for it and she immediately bit into it. It burst open with a pop that sent pink goo all along the old woman’s face. She chewed on it greedly as the high-pitch screech coming from the grub grew quieter by the second.

Once she was done, she wiped the back of her mouth with one of her hands and reached beneath her counter towards a lockbox. As she was about to enter the code, she glared up at Jack and he let out a sigh and turned his back. There followed what sounded like an endless procession of beeps but finally the lockbox opened and from it the elderly Denuvian produced a vial. She held it up to Jack with a proud smile.

Knight’s eyes widened as they locked onto the grainy black substance inside. “Holy fuck, is that what I think it is? How the hell did you get your hands on Uru?”

“You see the way the filings move around?” Shirax beamed as she titled the vial back and forwards. “That’s how you know it’s the real thing. It wants to find its way back to Asgard.”

The Denuvian tilted the vial every which way and Jack watched on in an almost trancelike state as he watched the filings react. There was something about the way they moved that was nearly hypnotic. Even if he hadn’t known that they were magical, just from watching them he would have sensed it. Here they were, Jack thought, lightyears away from home. That last syllable seemed to get caught in his throat as he thought it and he found himself muttering it under his breath.

“Home.”

With a sudden jerk, Shirax plunged the filings back into the lockbox and slammed it shut. Or at least it had felt like she had slammed it shut. It wasn’t until the second bang that it became clear that the noise had come from another source. Jack shot the scene outside of Shirax’s store a perplexed look. Through the grime of Mota-Tovi’s streets, there appeared a shock of white. It shifted and moved, as the filings had done, but when Jack focused he could see that the white mass was a group of people in pristine white tunics. In their hands were lit torches that emitted blinding fires. Occasionally, they would fire the flames from their torches into the air and they would burst, lighting up the dim sky above them and all around them for a few moments.

The old woman was busy running a stock check when Jack called her attention to the scene outside. “What’s going on out there?”

“You been living under a rock or something?” Shirax said with a perplexed smile. “Those freaks are everywhere you look these days. They reckon their “god” is going to save us all. Solaris, they call him. Fat chance. Scientists say we’ve got eighteen months until that thing goes out for good. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get on the first ship out of here.”

The nonchalance of it all shocked Jack so much he almost knocked his staff to the ground. It couldn’t have been more than a year since he’d passed through Denuvi-VII. Sure, it had gotten a little darker than he remembered it being before, but it had always been a little run-down. That was part of its charm. He was trying to get his head around the revelation when he realised how little time eighteen months was in the grand scheme of things.

“What are you still doing here? You’ve got enough treasure under this roof of yours to bribe your way into Hala, you old mountain goat.”

Shirax fired Jack a toothy smile. The pink goo along them made it slightly sinister but Jack could sense there was something different to this smile. Junk collectors, antique traders, they were sentimental people by profession, but for the first time since Jack had met her all those years ago, Shirax let the gruff mask she adorned in his company slip for but a moment.

“Heh, I’m not like you, kid, I was born on this planet. A thousand generations of my family have called this little rock home. It’ll take more than the lights going out to get me to leave it.”

Jack nodded understandingly and once more thought of his own home, Opal City, and all he had left behind there. He sensed a knot forming in his throat and swallowed hard to force it back down. He stayed for a time to talk to Shirax, showing her some of the trinkets that he had picked up since his last visit, before making his goodbyes. As he left the Denuvian’s store he found himself wondering whether he would ever see the old woman again. He hoped so. Just as he hoped that one day he might see Opal City again.

With a tug Jack pulled his goggles over his eyes and his trusty cosmic rod lifted him off of the ground. A hundred feet away from him there was a sudden bang followed by a flash of light that caused him to lose his balance slightly and he scowled in the direction of the Solaris creeps in their white tunics. He felt the eyes of one of the worshipers on him and he brandished an angry middle finger in their direction before disappearing off into the horizon.

Little did Jack Knight know that there was more than one set of eyes watching him. From a nearby rooftop, a set of binoculars trained on the Earthling as he drew further and further away from Shirax’s store. The binoculars lowered and a set of thin lips twisted into a wicked smile.
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The humid Gulf coast air flowed through her hair as she punched the bike towards where Steve ran off after the creature from the orphanage.

Rogue almost felt bad about ditching Summers almost immediately after they started back on the bikes. But she had no intention of sitting by like a child while Steve took care of whatever that thing was. Plus, Steve was right, Summers was about as charismatic as a pile of rocks. She had a better chance against the rat creature than she did against being bored to death.

More than anything, though, she had a feeling deep in her stomach that she knew what that rat creature was. Or, to put it more accurately, she knew who that thing was.

While walking the deserted hallways of the orphanage she had spent only a few months, the picture started to become clear. Maybe she hadn't seen it while she was there because she was rendered numb by her newly orphaned state, or because she had still be a stupid, scared, little girl at that point. She wasn't sure, but seeing that place as it was tonight pulled the curtain back from her eyes like a murderer confessing to their crimes.

That place wasn't an orphanage. Not in the traditional sense, of course. No, that was a halfway house for kids that someone out there wanted to perform experiments on. She had been the only one to have powers when she got there. At the very least, she had been the only one to exhibit them. The others had always seemed normal.

That rat was one of them though. She felt it.

But she still hoped she was wrong.


The thing was fast. That's all Steve could think about as he made his pursuit on foot. He was one of the fastest human beings as far as he knew, and he could barely do his best to keep up with it as it tore down the main street of town. So far it had already scrambled over half-a-dozen cars, smashing windshields and collapsing roofs as he did.

It was late, but not late enough that there weren't bars still open or people on the streets. The creature ran through a group of civilians, knocking them down like a bunch of drunk bowling pins. The rat thing raised its clawed hand at one of the bar-goers, a young woman who was screaming like she was in a horror movie. Before the razor sharp claws came down on the horrified woman, Rogers's shield slammed into its back.

The mutant was knocked from on top of the girl, and the shield flew back to Steve's hand in mid-sprint. It was still amazing to him how the shield behaved. It was like second nature to him after all these years with it. He knew it had more to do with his enhanced speed, strength, and reflexes than anything else, but it still felt like the shield obeyed his will more than anything. He and it moved in concert, one moving where the other needed them to be.

"Move! It's not gonna stay down!" he motioned to the party goers. The rat started to get back up, and he launched himself towards it before it could threaten them again. Steve collided with it in a flying tackle, the two of them rolling into the street. The rat creature thrashed wildly, attempting to scratch and bit at Nomad. Steve used the shield to deflect the blows, rolling away to give him some breathing room.

His opponent hissed at him and then lept off its powerful, furry feet towards Rogers. The super soldier absorbed the leap with the shield, and then tossed the creature behind him. A window shattered as the rat ended up in a bar. Screams and panic echoed from inside, and Steve rushed to make sure it didn't hurt anyone.

Standing in the shattered front window, the light filtering behind him as if he was a gunslinger in one of the old Westerns he and Buckky once watched on the silver screen, Steve called to the creature, "Hey you. Forget about me?"

The rat did turn to face him. It was far too focused on the innocent people cowering in front of it. Some patrons had turned over tables to put a barrier between them and the thing that was now looking at them with voracious hunger. One man had fallen over a bar stool when the window was broken, hurting himself in the process. He was attempting to crawl back away from the monster, but there was no way he'd get away in time.

With another hungry leap, the monster made its move. With a flick of Steve Rogers's wrist, the shield flew once again. It bounced off the wooden, bar floor and up towards his opponent's chest. It struck true, flinging the creature back through the kitchen of the bar. Steve scooped up the shield as he followed. He found the kitchen empty, but the back door swinging open.

Nomad took off in pursuit, finding the creature doubling back towards the orphanage. Maybe he had enough, and was retreating somewhere he believed he would be safe. Steve wasn't sure, but at least there wouldn't be any innocents it could hurt there.

When he reached the orphanage's courtyard, however, the creature was nowhere to be seen.

A hiss from beside Rogers drew his attention, but he saw nothing. Turning wildly, he searched for his aggressor, keeping his shield at the ready.

"Leave," a voice growled from the shadows. "Trap."

"Jesus," Steve whispered to himself. It could talk. He could talk. It was clear he was a male. And if he could talk, it meant that he was probably a human. But if that was the case, it was a more advanced form of mutation than Steve had ever seen in the SHIELD files. Never before had he seen a human lose their minds after a mutation. It was disturbing, and raised a lot of questions about what had really been going on in that orphanage.

"LEAVE!" the rat jumped out of a tree, teeth and claws bared towards Steve.

Before he reached Nomad, a motorcycle without a rider slammed into its side.


The rat mutant attempted to stand and lunge at Steve once again, but Rogue intercepted him. She launched herself onto it's back. As it attempted to buck her off, she held onto it with one, gloved hand. With her teeth, she pulled off the glove on the other hand before shoving the hand beneath the creature's fur and onto its skin.

The sensation she felt was all kinds of wrong. Any other time she had ever taken the life force of someone, she had felt their fear. It was tinged with other emotions, sure. Sometimes even memories. But this time all she felt was hunger and rage. She felt her heart rate rise as the anger took root.

There was more, though. She felt stronger. She could hear every cricket in the grass of the courtyard. The smell of the rat man's fur became overwhelming, and even the dark of night became a little lighter.

The anger won out, and she picked up the rat over her head. As she did, she saw the creature's face start to lose its rodent-like qualities. As it did, her suspicions were confirmed. The pointed ears and fanged visage retreated, and from behind them came the face of Eddie Whelan, one of the former kids of the orphanage. His scrawny, skull-like features returned, and the pain she was inflicting on him became clear. She put him down, and he retreated into the building.

A hand was placed on her shoulder, and the rage flared up once more. She grabbed the arm and flipped the person like a ragdoll over in front of her. It was Steve, who put his hands up in surrender, "I don't know what just happened, but you need to calm down. And we need to get out of here."

As he spoke, she felt the strength and senses she had taken from Eddie start to melt away from her. Remorse instantly welled up inside her. She had done it again. She had hurt someone, lashed out with powers she didn't understand. Except this time it was purposeful. Rogue had hurt Eddie, whether it was to defend Rogers or not. And then she used what she had taken in order to snap at the person she was trying to protect.

What was she becoming?

"Steve...I...I don't-"

Before she could finish, a whistling sound filled the air, and Steve tackled her to the ground, tenting both of them with his shield.

She began to lose consciousness just as the orphanage exploded.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by webboysurf
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I R O N M A N

Stark Mansion, Malibu, California - 7 Years Ago
Issue 1.01.03: Come Fly with Me

Interaction(s): None
Previously: Issue 1.01.02: All or Nothing at All


"Alright, this is test number thirty nine for the Battle Suit Mark II, name pending." Standing among the various tools and spare metal components was Tony in a silver, somewhat sleek suit of body armor that lacked a helmet. He stood absolutely still, calling out into the armory. "FRIDAY, can you run a flight diagnostic for me?"

"Just a moment..." The armory was filled with awkward silence for a moment, until the cheery female voice once again filled the room. "Flight systems are operational."

Tony nodded, giving a small smile as he looked down. With a small jet of energy, the suit slowly rose off the ground for a brief moment, before slowly falling back to the ground. "Alright, I haven't blown up yet." Tony took a deep breath before looking straight ahead. "Alright... one final test... let's let all the plumes out."

"Are you sure?"

"Just do it."

Tony screwed his eyes shut as whirring emerged from his suit and he extended his arms forward. The palms of the suit slowly lit up as other small weapons began to emerge around the suit. A single missile emerged from the top of the right wrist, while the muzzle of a flamethrower emerged from the left. The right shoulder revealed a miniature missile launcher, and the calves revealed flare launchers. And, to Tony's surprise, nothing exploded. The inventor smiled wildly. "I am a genius, and we are good to give this baby a test drive. FRIDAY, what are the odds of paying back Raza?"

"Corporal Rhodes did relay the intel this morning, but it is going to be a 10 hour flight. Assuming they haven't mobilized by then-"

"I don't need a lecture, FRIDAY. Just tell me the odds."

"Well, sir..."


4,500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean - Present Day


"With all due respect... this is a terrible plan." Bethany Cabe sat with her arms folded sternly. She had chosen a formal black jumpsuit for today's occasion, which happened to work perfectly with her bright red hair and the large sidearm strapped to a holster on her belt. Her expression was unimpressed, which made even Tony Stark nervous.

"I'll have your back." While Happy's resting face was rather stoic and unamused, the upturned corners of his mouth and cheery language made it clear that Stark's "bodyguard" was trying his damnedest to be the optimistic voice on the private jet.

"JARVIS will be doing a lot of the legwork once we're in there. Stick to the plan, and we should be able to get in and out with time to stop in Rome for pizza on the way home." Despite attempting to be reassuring, Tony's grip on the suitcase sitting in his lap tightened as his knuckles appeared white.

JARVIS' voice called out over the private jet's intercom in that moment. "We will be touching down on New Mideaum momentarily. Prepare for VTOL mode." As the three passengers rested back in their seats, the jet began to rapidly slow down. Within a few minutes, the jet had practically slowed to a stop and was slowly descending vertically. Tony looked out of his window and down towards the small Mediterranean island they were approaching. It had a couple sparse buildings on it and a large stretch of ground paved to form a makeshift helipad. As the jet approached the helipad, Tony could make out a couple of figures waiting below.

Once the jet touched down, Tony was the first to make his way down the stairs. Waiting just a few yards away were a woman in white wearing a golden mask and the man of the hour. Mordecai Midas was wearing a golden colored suit, shirt, and tie. The tan skinned business mogul smiled and held out his arms for an embrace. Stark internalized his eye rolling as he put on a fake smile and moved in to meet the embrace after setting his briefcase on the ground for a moment. Midas was the first to break the silence over the sounds of the dying jet engines. "It is a pleasant surprise to have you visit us, Mr. Stark. I trust your flight was pleasant?"

Tony gave a curt nod as he broke the embrace, giving Midas a brief pat on the arm. "Of course, and I do believe I owe you some introductions." Tony turned and motioned to his two compatriots, who were being carefully eyed up by the woman in the mask. "This is my personal bodyguard Happy Hogan, and this is my chief of security Bethany Cabe."

Midas held out his hand to greet each one individually. Happy's grip was firm and brief, while Bethany's held a hair longer as her gaze examined each feature on the business mogul's face. With those brief greetings out of the way, Midas paused a moment to finally address the proverbial masked mystery woman on the helipad. "Ahhh, and I almost forgot. Mr. Stark and company, this is Ms. Whitney Frost. She is the chief of security for Midas Management."

Tony held out his hand to Whitney for a handshake, but she simply stood in place with her arms folded. After what felt like an eternity of awkward silence, Stark shook his head and lowered his hand to pick up the briefcase at his feet. "Right... well, do you mind if we start the tour?"

"Of course, Mr. Stark. Please, follow me." Midas turned on his heels and began walking from the helipad out towards the shoreline. Tony tilted his head slightly as he followed and his compatriots followed. Just as the business mogul approached the shoreline, a carefully crafted rock pathway rose up from the water. At the end of it, a glass elevator was waiting with the doors open. Mordecai Midas looked back over his shoulder with a smile. "I hope no one is claustrophobic."
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Present Day // Asgard


Thor walked, leaving the halls of Asgard behind him as he walked through the streets of his people. Some bowed as he passed, others merely nodded their heads. He returned each and every greeting in kind, for he was a God of his people. Unlike his father who barely left his gilded halls and throne of stone. Mjolnir on his hip he looked wistfully towards the end of the Bifrost. Many a day he had spent on Midgard, mortals truly knew how to live. He could remember many a Viking. Even for immortals memories faded given time. He couldn't remember the face of the first woman he bedded, nor the first troll he felled.

Yet he could feel a connection to Midgard, one he could not explain. Her people were fierce, loyal, convicted. Her world one of natural beauty and wonder. Oh, he could not wait to return. Heimdall had told him over the years that the world had changed, apparently, now they built cities of steel and stone towards the skies themselves. All wonders of technology spread throughout the globe, and yet there was still so much strife and division between the peoples of Midgard, even without the meddling of the Gods. There was one truth however that would always hold true to Midgard. Thor would always return.

He walked out along the rainbow bridge, a flash of green appeared beside him. "I am in no mood for your politics Loki, so stave your silver tongue." Loki shook his head as he increased his pace in order to keep up with the long strides of his younger brother. There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance. The smallest of smiles crossing the God of Mischiefs face.

"I only came to offer my counsel on your return to Midgard. As you know I have visited many times in order to deal with the Olympians-"

There was a crack of thunder as Thor turned to face his brother. "You?! You have been to Midgard? Loki who created mischief, war, and strife between the great Viking clans? Brought me to blows with Perun and sent me straight into the lair of Gorr the God Butcher?" Thor scoffed before turning to head to the Bifrost with renewed vigor. "I suppose I should be lucky that there is a Midgard remaining to go back too."

Thor felt Lokis hand upon his shoulder and shrugged it off. "Those were different days brother. You will also recall a time where I transformed myself into a horse, seduced a giant's steed then gave birth to Sleipnir who is now Odin's mighty steed. I wouldn't do that again, and nor would I cause mischief and mayhem."

Thor turned to Loki with an accusing finger, walking closer too him. "Hear me, well brother, if I find any of your tricks or deceit on my quest I will come for your head." Walking to the edge of the bridge Heimdall swung his mighty sword opening a path to Midgard, and as the God of Thunder disappeared Loki merely looked on with a scowl.




Present Day // Oslo // Midgard


A beam of colored light appeared in the sky, slamming straight down into the middle of the crossroads in the center of Oslo. People screamed and took cover, car breaks slammed and horns honked as there was a burst of light. As the beam disappeared a lone figure stood. His golden flowing hair put to shame that of any model. Helm firmly atop his head, hammer in his hand, he raised it high in the air above him.

"Hail mortals of Midgard! The Mighty Thor has returned!" There was a moment of silence as people were unsure of how to react, several of them pointed strange devices in his direction, others held the same devices up to their ears, whispering into them. Thor paid them no mind, obviously, his appearance had startled them as they had not expected to come face to face with a God this day. He walked forward, ignoring the metal chariots that adjourned the paved walkway beneath his feet. Truly the people had come a long way, much as Heimdall had told him.

Looking up the towers stretched towards the sky, they did not hold a candlestick to that off the halls of Asgard but they were certainly making their best effort to do so. Though he could already feel something was wrong. He placed the hammer on the ground and knelt placing his hand on the ground. Midgard felt different, there was an uneasiness and pain in the air. The ground itself almost groaned under the enormous pressure it was under. No doubt the threat that the seers had predicted was closer than they realized. Thor looked up, pointing a finger at a nearby mortal. "You there! Where on Midgard am I?"

As Thor stood up the figure just turned and ran in the opposite direction. Maybe the All-Speak had failed him and he had not understood. There was a screeching sound coming closer, in the distance, several metal chariots came streaming towards him, Thor looked at them with disdain. "Odin's beard! I have heard Banshees that sound sweeter!" The metal objects stopped, and out of them jumped several mortals all in similar outfits. He recognized them for warriors immediately, reaching back into the chariots that brought them here they brought out metal objects that the held in their hands and pointed towards Thor. He did not know exactly what it was however, he had seen a Dwarven Crossbow of a similar design once.

"Hail Warriors of Midgard! I thank you for your assistance on this day, however, if you could just point me in the direction of the mystics-" He took a step forward, and the warriors all moved into readying positions, recoiling slightly.

<"Stay where you are, put your hands behind your head and kneel on the ground. Who are you, and where did you come from?"> So the All-Speak was working, and the Mortal he had spoken too had understood him. What he did not understand was the warriors before him, did they not know of Thor? It may have been true that he had not been to Midgard for several generations but surely they still told of his exploits?

"I am Thor! God of Thunder and Prince of Asgard. I have come from Asgard to fight a threat to the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil."

The warriors looked at one another, he could see the skeptical looks upon their faces. <"Okay buddy, whatever you say. We'll get you all the help you need, but first, you're going to need to come with us."> They looked at each other, shrugging. <"Odin sent us to uh, make sure you were ready for your quest?"> One of them raised an eyebrow at the other while Thor merely nodded.

Thor picked up Mjolnir and walked towards them. "Ah, and here I thought the All-Father did not wish me to succeed. Let us make haste noble warriors! Lead the way."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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The snapping jaws of the advancing horde of robots were like a chorus of angry insects behind Leo as he ran behind Alopex stride for stride. She was the faster of the two by a wide margin, but she was holding back to make sure he made an escape as well. They were following Old Hob, the mutated alley cat, who had ushered his people towards the sewer entrances while Leo and Al kept the robots at bay.

But that seemed to be a vain effort. For every robot he cut down with his sword, two more seemed to take its place. One had managed to get a bite in on his right calf. The sharp metal beak didn't manage to fully break the skin, but he had a few puncture wounds to show for it. What was even odder was what happened when the bite happened. The others seemed to ignore Al completely, swarming to Leo. He had seen that kind of behavior in things like piranhas on nature shows. But these things were mechanical. It must have been part of their programming. Take one target out when it was unable to move.

Leo wasn't sure if these things were going to kill them or not. The more sinister idea would be they were just here to incapacitate them for some nefarious means.

They turned a corner in the junkyard, and saw Hob standing by the entrance to the sewers. Next to him was Herman, the mutant hermit crab that rounded out Hob's little band. Considering what Leo and his family were, even he had to admit Herman gave him the creeps some times. The hulking mass of exoskeleton, legs, and eyestalks were all a bit too much to handle sometimes. But he was by far the most welcoming of the Mutanimals, not counting Al.

"Get down!" Hob yelled.

What happened next seemed to go in slow motion. Herman tossed the small dumpster he used for a shell off, revealing a rocket propelled grenade. From around the same corner Leonardo and Alopex emerged, another wave of the small robots. Herman fired the weapon, and the two fleeing mutants dove forward as far as they could. A great ball of fire and heat exploded behind them, wiping out the battalion of automatons.

"Direct hit! Enemy forces wiped of the map, sir!" Herman called out in triumph.

Leo stood up and looked back in amazement, then turned back to Hob, "You have rocket launchers?!"

"We don't call ourselves an army for nothin', kid," Hob growled. "Now get in the sewers before more of them show up."


Bishop felt his heart pound in his chest. More of them. There were more of them. It was a veritable army of mutants. Things in New York were far worse than anyone in SHIELD was willing to admit. Hordes of mutants hiding in the nooks and crannies of the city like an infestation of cockroaches. This is what he had warned top brass in SHIELD about. It's why they shuttled him of to SWORD. It was the place for crackpots. Who needed to worry about alien threats when there were enough of them already on the planet?

It was why they shipped him off to New York after the Turtles appeared. He wouldn't leave them alone. Said it was just the beginning, and now he finally had the proof that the city was a breeding ground for freaks. It made sense. A condensed, large population, there were bound to be more of them here.

He was going to make sure that they were counted, and observed. All of them.

"They were going underground," he said to the two scientists with them. "Will the robots be able to track them?"

"It will slow them down," Stockman admitted. "It adds interference to their intranet communications and scanning abilities. But they'll still be able to track them once they re-calibrate."

The annoyance welled up in the agent, "They might be able to escape by that time."

"Don't worry, Agent Bishop," Perry assured him. "They have their DNA sequence now. They won't get far."


"So that was," Casey looked over at Raph, breaking the silence they had shared since leaving the Purple Dragon meeting.

"The Shredder," Raph nodded.

"And he's."

"An ancient evil ninja zombie who's apparently trying to take over New York's underworld, yea," Raph grumbled to himself. His father had told them that Oroku Saki was smart, cunning, and ruthless. But Raph never would have guessed that he worked this quickly. He had already claimed the Dragons for his own, and had transformed them into a significant threat for the turtles. It had only been weeks since the Shredder's return. What would happen with even more time?

Another wave of silence passed between the two teenagers as they traveled the New York streets in the dead of night. Raph was glad that it was easier to move at this time. Less humans on the streets meant they could take their time going from alley to alley.

When they passed into one near Jones's apartment, Casey kicked a trashcan in anger, "God damn it!"

"Whoa, dude! What the hell!?" Raphael yelled back.

"The Dragons," he started to explain. "I stopped fighting them because they changed. Were no longer just a bunch of roided up losers messin' with my neighborhood. Now I now why. And now it's real hard to stay on the sidelines. Even though I need to. The good ol' Jones luck rearin' its ugly friggin' head."

As they turned the corner towards Casey's place, Raph began to ask, "Why do you feel like it's your responsibility to-"

"Casey?"

Raphael stopped in his tracks, staring directly at the red head standing in front of Casey's door. Her mouth hung open in amazement, and he could already hear Leonardo's scolding floating through his mind.

"Oh this is so bad," Raphael grumbled.

"Y-you're one of the turtles," the girl stammered out.

"Jeez, lady, what gave it away?" Raphael rolled his eyes.

"Hey...April," Casey grimaced. "What are you doing here?"

"You forgot a book...was coming to bring it back," she replied before motioning to Raphael. "What are you doing with a mutant turtle."

"Long story-Holy crap!"

A metal creature jumped over April, snapping jaws soaring through the air straight towards Raph's face. With a lightning quick uppercut, he drove a sai through the lower part of the jaw and through the robot's head. Raph looked at it with confusion before tossing it to the ground, freeing his weapon, "Casey, get her inside. Stay there. Dunno what the hell that was, but I'm guessin' it ain't good, and it ain't the last comin'."

"You sure you're gonna be okay?" Casey asked.

"Yea, time for me to go find my brothers. Somethin's up."


The sewers felt safe to Leonardo. It had always been the place where his family had hid away from the dangers of the surface world. He was happy that Splinter had finally released the family to explore the surface, but in this moment he'd be lying if he said he wasn't happy to be back below ground.

"What the hell were those things?" Hob pinned him to the side of the sewer with cat-like speed. The mutant cat's brown and gold fur stunk this close, and his breath wasn't any better with his fangs bared. His one eye glared with hatred at Leo, "And why were they after you."

Leo struggled to get air, pushing the forearm of the other mutant off his throat, "No clue! Never saw them before! Need to keep moving!"

"He's right, Hob, back off," Al added in.

"Private Leonardo's assessment is a sound tactical plan, sir," Herman agreed. "Staying here increase the enemy's chances of intercepting us."

"Fine," Hob hissed and let Leo go. "But I'm not going around with him."

Hob slunk off into the darkness, motioning for the rest of the Mutanimal Liberation Army to follow. With a apologetic look, Alopex shrugged and followed her new family. Leo wouldn't deny that it hurt.

Before he could dwell on it too long, his communicator went off. He answered, and was relieved to hear Raphael's voice, "Bro, you're not gonna believe what just happened to me."

A sinking feeling entered the pit of Leonardo's stomach.

"Let me guess," Leo sighed, "you got attacked by a robot?"

"Oh crap, you too?" Raph gasped. "Are the others alright? The Den?"

The thought hadn't even crossed his mind until now. If he had been attacked, as well as Raph, that meant these things might have the Turtles' sent or something. If that was the case, they could track it back home. Donnie, Mikey, and Splinter could be caught easily unaware by a large group of them, and even worse it would mean the Turtles would lose their safe haven in the city. Leo couldn't allow that.

He instructed Raph to rendezvous with him, and then called the Den. Luckily, Donnie picked up right away. Leo ran the situation down to the genius, who quickly formulated what Leo just head, "They'll almost certainly get here if we stay. But I'm not gonna be able to stop these things without a lab."

"Oh Donnie, no," Leo knew where this was going.

"Come on, it needs to be tested, and we need to keep moving. What better excuse!?" Donnie was way, way too excited.

"Fine," the leader of the Turtles relented. "I'll meet up with Raph, and we'll make our way to the subway tunnels. This better work, Donnie."

"Come on, when don't my inventions work?"

"You just jinxed it," Leo grumbled. "Thanks a lot, bro."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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Hala
Unassigned Sector

Sinestro and Salaak rose along with the Rannian delegation as the Galactic Council made their way back into the chambers. The group sat in deliberation for hours and, apart from the occasional raised voice, gave no indication of which way their decision might fall.

“After careful consideration, the Galactic Security Council is ready to make a ruling,” Ronan announced to the parties. “Senior Lantern Thaal Sinestro, in light of the recording we have no choice but to reprimand you for conduct unbecoming. You are hereby banned from personally overseeing any Green Lantern peacekeeping operations in Space Sector 3120 for a period of two Rannian years.”

Sinestro began to comment on wether the Council had the authority before a gentle touch from Salaak silenced him. He could almost read his fellow Lantern’s thoughts: A mere slap on the wrist, the Corps will continue to uphold order in that sector even without your involvement.

“Now, as to the actions of the New Men of Rann.”

The premier wiped sweat from his forehead as he awaited what was in store for his planet.

“Based on the unredacted report given to us, we find that you are indeed guilty of experimenting with outlawed Negative Zone technology. Your punishment will be in the form of trade sanctions on the planet Rann and economic embargoes for a period lasting a Galactic year.”

Sinestro narrowed his eyes. It was surely bad news for Rann’s economy… but was that it? No mention of Jessica Cruz, of the attack and potential murder of an active Lantern. The Negative Zone tampering was the bigger crime, but still… no justice for the Corps?

“Furthermore, the Council hereby orders that all Negative Zone research and technology be turned over to us for proper disposal. A bi-partisan group of observers will investigate the planet and oversee Starforce as it handles the technology--”

“Starforce?” Sinestro and the Rannian premier, along with the Skrull delegate, all yelled at once

“I’ll be godsdamned if I let a bunch of Kree get their paws on Negative Zone tech,” hissed the Skrull. “Things tend to go missing when you lot start handling weapons.”

“WIth all due respect,” said Salaak. “This is one of the matters the Corps was made for. Interstellar disputes like this we act as a neutral third party. We should--”

“Yes,” Ronan said tightly. “I am aware of the Green Lantern Corps’ responsibilities…” He cast an eye towards Sinestro. “Apparently better than some of its more senior Lanterns. With the matter of the missing Lantern, this subject has proven to be one the Green Lanterns are too emotionally invested in to act without bias.”

“Oh, so now you mention Lantern Cruz,” said Sinestro. “As justification to whittle more power away from us.”

“The Senior Lantern will watch his tone,” the Shi’ar representative said.

“No,” said Sinestro. “The Council will watch their tone. You all sit in your conference rooms and talk, talk, talk, talk. You chatter nonstop of politics and treaties. Without the Green Lantern Corps, you’re all nothing but bloated bags of gas--”

“Lantern Sinestro,” said the Thanagarian. “You will at once cease--”

“Your power, your safety, your entire existence rests upon the Corps. You are allowed your cushy lives because we are out there in the void, keeping the monsters at bay. When the Annihilus Wave swept through the galaxy, who heeded the call? Was it the Kree? Was it the Skrulls? How about the New Men?”

Sinsestro laughed and jerked a thumb at the symbol on his chest.

“Silence” shouted Ronan. He stood and leveled his gavel at the Lantern.

“Sinestro,” said Salaak. He placed a hand on Sinestro’s shoulder. “Calm yourself.”

“No,” Sinestro said as he shook off Salaak’s touch. “We were the ones who pushed Annihilus back into the Negative Zone.”

“Ronan to Staforce,” the Accuser said into the comm in his ear. “Place Lantern Sinestro under arrest for contempt.”

Sinestro continued. “You are right I have contempt, Accuser. When the Black Order began to wipe out the outlands of the Norma Spiral Arm, who stopped them? It wasn’t Ronan the Accuser, and it wasn’t Starforce. It was Thaal Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps. Time and time and time again we save an ungrateful and uncaring populace.”

He sneered at the group of politicians who sat on the dais above him.

“Three thousand Lanterns throughout the entirety of the galaxy. All of them at my disposal, ready to follow my orders. If we can contain the likes of Annihilus and Thanos, what chance do you stand?”

A half dozen Starforce members rushed into the chamber with their weapons at the ready. Ronan now gripped his cosmi-rod and it hummed with energy. Sinestro surveyed the Starforce officers around him with a neutral look before he glanced back up at the dais.

“You all serve at my pleasure, never forget that.”

He thrust his ring out and disappeared from the room in a flash of green light.




Cromica C21
Space Sector 2814

Hal surveyed the packed room from the back. Most of them were Cromica pioneers, the first people who made the planet their home long before any natural resources were found. A few mining executives mingled with the crowd in the meeting hall. He saw Quin Del’vin among them. A button with the Kree Empire’s jagged triangular symbol was pinned to the breast of his expensive tunic. It was pointless to try to hide his allegiance at this point. Now he wore it openly with pride.

Jelcs and his deputies worked the corners of the meeting hall and kept an eye on the crowd. They all carried blasters on their hips and a cudgel if a more hands-on version of crowd control was needed. Ergol and the other five members of the planet’s provisional government came in to applause. They each took seats at the little table as the room buzzed with conversation.

“The question has been called as to what to do with this planet’s future,” Ergol said over the noise of the crowd. “Do we remain independent, or do we take up the Kree Empire’s generous offer? As always, we will hear the thoughts of the citizens of Cromica. If you’d like to address the assembly, please form a line and we’ll take any comments you’d wish to make.”

Hal stood with his arms crossed and listened to the line of people step up and state their case for either independence or imperial annexation. Some argued that their was safety in the vast empire’s network. Others argued that the pioneers of this planet came here to break free of their old worlds and live their life in a quiet peace. Joining with the Kree would end that. Some preached that the Kree would bring a financial windfall with them. One old hermit claimed that blue skinned people were against his religion. That caused a very spirited response from a Volux who, while not a Kree, still had the same blue skin. Jelcs and his men were able to separate the pair and cooler heads prevailed as the meeting resumed.

“I'd like to ask someone who has a greater context of the galaxy,” Ergol said to the room. “Someone who might have witnessed the dangers of a truly independent star system. Lantern Jordan? Would you offer an opinion on the matter?”

Before Hal could speak Del’vin was on his feet.

“All due respect to the chairman, but I think it’s a little out of order for Lantern Jordan to comment. He is a neutral party in this matter.”

“Like a broke clock, Mr. Del’vin happens to be right this time,” said Hal. “I am here to keep the peace and enforce the laws. My opinion is… irrelevant.”

“We understand,” said another member of the government. “But you’ve become a trusted member of this community in your time here, Lantern Jordan. There are several of us who would like to hear your opinion.”

“And your protest will be duly noted, Mr. Del’vin,” said Ergol.

Members of the crowd murmured their approval. Jelcs was among those nodding. He flashed Hal a discreet thumbs up. Hal cleared his throat and walked towards the center of the room. Del’vin stared daggers at Hal as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Well… I guess the big question is this: When you all came to this planet is this what you had in mind? I know you’re all here for different reasons. You may have come here looking for something -- be it god, or peace, or a lack of nosy neighbors -- or you may have come here because you were running from something. But whatever your reasons, I can bet the Kree didn’t factor in them. I’m a Lantern and I’ve never had the pleasure of patrolling Kree space, but I do know enough about them to know that if you go with them, this place will become a Kree colony. You’ll get all the good and every bit of the bad. They won’t kick you off the planet, but I’m sure you all know how Non-Kree are looked at in the Empire. Second-class citizenship is the price for that safety and security. Jelcs and his men will be replaced by new people, probably the same guys who work for Pax now. You’ll be off-limits to my jurisdiction. Just the Starforce goonsquad. And they only serve one thing: the Empire. Never the people.”

“Enough of this,” Del’vin said as he stood. “If he is going to talk, then I should get a chance. All races and species are treated equally in the Empire. Kree controlled government and law enforcement is just part of our system. And what would you rather have? One reckless Green Lantern who enforces laws on a whim, or a trained and capable agency like Starforce protecting your planet?”

Del’vin’s appeal was met with silence mixed with a few soft snickers. Hal crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow.

“It’s funny Mr. Del’vin mentions Starforce. I imagine he’s very familiar with their reputation since he’s part of them.”

Murmurs from the crowd as Del’Vin did his best attempt to look confused.

“I don’t even know what Lantern Jordan is implying. If he has some sort of proof, then maybe he should share it.”

“He’s not the only Starforce agent who has been running around here, though. He had a precursor. Korvus Melm.”

Hal projected a photo from his ring as the meeting broke out into more murmur and raised voices. It was the crime scene photo of Melm. Hal had cropped out the gory parts and instead focused on the tattoo on Melm’s hand.

“It’s odd, really. A Shi’ar with a tattoo on his hand that appears to be in Kree script. Not everyone is versed in the tongue so we may need a translation. Mr. Del’vin, you read Kree, right? What am I saying? Of course you do. Mind telling me what that says?”

“‘Service… Duty… Honor,’” Del'vin mumbled.

“The Starforce motto,” said Hal. “Something all Non-Kree members of Starforce have to carry around for the rest of their lives. Like a brand, a way for Kree to know that they are a-okay.”

Hal saw the look of confusion and sadness on Jelcs’ face. He felt bad. It seemed that his hero had feet of clay. It was like telling a kid that Santa Clause wasn’t real.

“Why did you kill Melm, Mr. Del’vin?”

The noise of the crowd vanished. All eyes were on the Kree as he looked around.

“I didn’t kill anyone, Lantern Jordan.”

“After he left the Navy, Melm joined a security company. Records are shady, but I was able to trace it all the way back to a parent company: Pax Inc. Which, among other things, is the parent company of Pax Mining. You and your whole company are just another arm of the Empire, Del’vin. Melm was still employed by your company until the day he died, and he shows up here just after the mining operations begin. Melm was sent here to keep an eye on things and lay the groundwork... but something went wrong and you had to step in. Did you kill Melm because he went native? He took the job as chief constable and was getting too cushy? Thought he could just quietly slip away and all would be forgotten? But it never works that way, right? You cannot leave Starforce alive, doubly so if you’re an outsider. All things must serve the Empire. Anything less is treason. Punishable by death.”

Hal saw Jelcs approaching Del’vin out the corner of his eye, one hand on his blaster. “Mr. Del’vin,” Jelcs said tightly. “I need you to come with me.”

“You put one hand on me, you will regret it,” Del’vin said softly.

Jelcs ignored Del’vin’s warning and reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. Del’vin snarled and flicked his wrist. Hal saw in slow motion as a hidden mechanism strapped to Del’vin’s forearm deposited a small blaster into his palm. He growled and aimed the blaster at Jelcs’ head as he pulled the trigger.

The crowd gasped and jumped back as the blaster fire erupted. Jelcs looked on in stunned silence at the blaster bolt. It hung in mid-air, just inches from his forehead and encased in green energy. Hal whipped his fist back and the blaster energy dispersed in the air overhead.

Jecls and the rest of his deputies surrounded Del’vin with their weapons out. The Kree dropped his small blaster to the ground and raised his hands in the air. Hal walked through the crowd towards the small encirclement.

“You take one swing at me, Jordan, and you will kick off an interstellar incident,” Del’vin spat. “You have no authority over Kree. You can’t touch me. Just try and you’ll see. You have no jurisdiction over me. I am protected, I am Starforce, I am--”

Jecsc cold-cocked Del’vin and dropped him to the floor.

“You are on my planet,” said Jelcs. “And you are under arrest for attempted murder.”
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Zkedia Mining Colony, Jiden-V

The Protector of the Universe they called him and yet as he watched the clouds above Jiden-V fill with smoke, Wendell Vaughn couldn’t help but feel undeserving of the title. Drex, leader of the Kymellian outpost at Zkedia since before Wendell was born, was sitting beside him on a stool with a pink shawl thrown over his shoulders. There were red blotches over it where his wounds had bled through their dressings. The sight of it was a reminder of how recent their suffering was. The human struggled for words of comfort before settling upon a cliche.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Drex.”

Drex’s eyes remained glued to the ground but he managed a feeble, distracted response. “Thank you.”

“Had I only arrived sooner I might have been able to st-”

Something about Vaughn’s tone shook the Kymellian out of his stupor and he stood up from his stool. As he did so the shawl fell from his shoulders onto the floor of his quarters to reveal the scale of the injuries beneath it. If he were hurting, Drex didn’t let it show as he lifted one of his hooves and placed it sympathetically on the human’s shoulder.

“You must not blame yourself, Wendell. Not even the mighty Quasar can be in all places at once. My people understand that. You have done enough for us over the years.”

Wendell nodded and a pang of guilt passed through him as he realised that Drex had done a better job of liberating him from his guilt than he had done of consoling the Kymellian in the first place. Vaughn scanned the horizon from the window of Drex’s quarters at the hobbling Kymellian’s making their way across the salt. It was hard to believe that they had survived – it almost felt wrong to say that they had given all that had been lost in the process.

“There’s something I need to ask you about. I busted some Centaurians trying to escape the system on my way here. They were babbling about something the whole way to the Kyln. Something that, well, ought to be impossible and yet I’ve not been able to get it out of my head ever since.”

Vaughn felt the bands on his wrists tingle slightly as the cosmic awareness he had been gifted by Eon began to awaken. The conversation he’d had with the captured Centaurians played in his mind as clearly as if he were having it that very moment. His eyes had glazed over, replaced with a starry look that made Drex flare his nostrils with discomfort, but in a matter of seconds Wendell had returned – and Drex’s discomfort had been replaced by expectance.

“They said that their general’s mind had been melted by a Martian.”

“It’s the truth,” Drex nodded.

A heavy sigh left Quasar’s chest as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Since Eon had named him Protector of the Universe, he had seen no shortage of impossible things – and yet that a Martian would never stray from their homeworld was one of the few unshakeable rules the universe had ever produced. He found himself recounting the reasons, almost in an effort to convince himself as much as the Kymellian.

“No Martian has left Mars for millions of years, hundreds of millions of years even. Why after all this time would they break with tradition? What business would a Martian have on Jiden-V of all places? It doesn’t make any sense.”

The Kymellian brayed in frustration and strode towards the thick glass to place one of his hooves against it. For a time the men stood in silence and watched Drex’s people hobbling along, a Kymellian child or two playing amid the salt, even an elderly Kymellian feeding a wounded Centaurian that had decided to remain on Jiden-V. It was a microcosm of the world that Drex loved so dearly, what he had almost lost, and crucially, what he might lose again if he revealed the full truth to Wendell – and yet he knew he had no choice.

“Do you trust me?”

“You know I do,” Vaughn swore with a sincere nod.

“I saw it with my own eyes, Wendell,” Drex sighed heavily. “I’d be dead now had that Martian not intervened, so too would my people, and for that we are all in its debt. There’s no disputing that. But what it did to the Centaurians was… barbaric. It could have subdued them, planted them to the ground with a single thought, but instead it chose to send them to their deaths as penance for what they had done here. Those aren’t the actions of a man, they’re the actions of an angry god.”

With one of his hooves, Drex tapped against the glass at something in the distance. Wendell squinted in the direction the Kymellian had pointed in and noticed a makeshift shrine that had been erected by a fire. At its centre stood a statue of a hand holding a beating heart.

“There are some among my people that already raise icons in the Martian’s image. Perhaps I’m being impetuous, but it does not bring me comfort to know that such a force exists in the universe. That one day should its wrath might be turned upon those I love, I would be equally powerless to stop it.”

There was pain in Drex’s voice. The kind of pain that Wendell Vaughn had encountered all too many times over the past few years. Though he was ashamed to admit it, this pain he felt more keenly than the rest because of his relationship with Drex. In their hour of need, Quasar had failed Jiden-V and a lethal protector had stepped into the void to fulfil his Wendell’s for him – and now, no doubt, the Centaurians that slipped through his net would pass this horror story on when they returned to whatever hive of villainy they called home.

It would only be a matter of time, be it ten weeks or ten years, before some would-be despot rose the Centaurian banners and sought to finish what was started here. All that death and murder was for nothing – it was an indulgence that served only to perpetuate a cycle of violence that would see more dead. Wendell raised one of his fists in Drex’s direction and let his hand open gently.


“There are times when it takes everything I have to hold back the power of the Quantum bands, but I do it. Even when it means putting my own life at risk, I show restraint. And you know why? Because wearing these things does not make me a god. The power I wield doesn’t give me the right to play judge, jury, and executioner – nobody has that right. There’s nothing impetuous about standing by that whatever the costs, Drex. It’s principled.”

Once more the Kymellian gestured towards the shrines that had been erected.

“I am afraid there are many among my people that will not see things that way, old friend.”

Quasar chuckled sardonically at the suggestion. “Then I suppose it’s a good thing that justice isn’t a popularity contest.”

Drex nodded reluctantly, signalling his acceptance more so than his approval, and limped back towards the stool he had been sat on. As he reached it he perched down to pick up his shawl and let out a pained wince. Wendell knew better than to offer to assist the Kymellian, as proud as he was, so instead stood with crossed-arms and waited as Jiden-V’s leader pushed through his discomfort to grab the shawl.

The Kymellian threw the bloodied shawl over his shoulders and then looked towards Wendell Vaughn resolutely. “What are you going to do?”

Quasar's boyish features hardened into a determined scowl. “I’m going to track this ‘god’ down and make it answer for the things it did here.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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An Excerpt from
SAVED: A REFLECTION ON THE AGE OF SUPERHEROES

By Richard Jones




Martin Quinn's home is unassuming from the outside, a place one could find anywhere across the American south. It's a single rancher on a quiet, wooded street in suburban Mississippi, an Ole Miss flag flying proudly off the front porch like many others. Out front is parked an aging Ford F150, an odd sight in today's arc reactor-fueled age. Quinn takes pride in the old car, commenting to me that no matter what it costs or how hard it is to find gas, he's going to keep it just for the roar.

Inside the house is a different story. Everywhere one looks, their eye passes over some piece of memorabilia from the career of Steve Rogers, the hero of course known as both Captain America and Nomad. Posters, commemorative trading cards, and propaganda comics from World War II line the walls. Martin assures me that almost everything is authentic, and I can't help but wonder how much he spent on amassing such a collection.

"Oh, it ain't nothing," he smiles, picking up a replica of Rogers's helmet from World War II, one of the few real pieces he could never track down. "Small price to pay to pay tribute to the greatest American hero we ever seen."

He stands and walks to the mantle and stares at a newspaper clipping of the night that Rogers, under his Nomad alias, saved the man's life. On that night, a rogue mutant by the name of Ed Whelan, now known by the alias "Vermin" to the world at large, crashed through the front window the bar that Quinn had frequented in those days. In the commotion, he had been thrown from a bar stool, injuring his leg and presenting him as easy prey.

Instead, Rogers did what Rogers always does. He saved the man in a flash, before following the creature out the back door. It was a night of transformation in the life of Steve Rogers, one where he went from AWOL to an outright fugitive.

Martin has no time for the people that put a bullseye on Rogers's head however.

"Don't have no time for those bastards that framed him," Quinn almost spits on his own living room floor when the discussion of what happened to Rogers after that night is broached. "Ain't no one gonna tell me that man is anything other than a hero. He saved me that night. He saved millions during the war. Hell, he saved us all more times than we can count. All of them Leaguers did. And there's people out there that says they're the problem. Ridiculous."

Martin Quinn is not alone in those view points. While many in seats of power have often found superheroes and all that happen in their orbit to be a public menace, many of those they save believe very differently. In the heroes of our age they see the best possible versions of themselves. They see what the Greeks must have seen in Hercules, which I now realize may not be the best example as I myself have seen Hercules catch a falling plane from the sky.

Before I ramble too long, with SAVED I aim to tell the definitive story of our very strange time, all told by the people who experienced it from the ground, as gods and monsters battled around them.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Cybermaxx
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SEASON THREE Justice Rising
SUPERBOY: GODBORN #3 Serene

The Acropolis Unknown

Superboy's mind went dark and quiet, like he was sitting in a theater and the commercials had just ended. He felt an urge to turn off the cellphone he didn't own.

A flurry of light broke the darkness by piercing his retinas. A hundred lines, infinite in length and color, burrowed so deep into his skull that he wondered if he could ever get them out. Each line reverberated with its own, unique sound, brilliant in its construction and infatuating in its brilliance. He couldn't possibly explain what he was hearing to any sane person. How did one describe the sound of yellow? It was like the dull hum of a dead neon sign, or the buzzing of a congested bee.

He couldn't expect anyone else to understand. They couldn't hear a pin drop in the other room. Couldn't count the snowflakes in a blizzard. Couldn't feel a breeze brush against someone else's face. Some of the researchers he talked to marveled at it, claiming he was lucky to have such a gift- but what'd it matter if he didn't have anyone to share it with?

The mind machine's startup process ended almost as abruptly as it began, the light snuffed out and darkness allowed to creep back in to fill its place. The dark was different now, though, because Superboy could move in it. Even if he couldn't see anything, he still had control.

'Where to go this time...' He mused, mentally unfurling a picture catalog of every place he'd ever visited, seen or conjured up from the depths of his imagination. It wasn't exactly a premium selection, considering the furthest he'd ever been from his bedroom was the other side of the compound. There were a few that managed to catch his eye.

For whatever reason sound always manifested before anything visual. Less data for his noggin to load, he supposed. It meant that, for a few, short microseconds, he was able to hear a robin harmonizing with a nearby brook, and the sound of wind passing through leaves. All of it came into view shortly after. Superboy was standing beside a stream flowing down a sparsely wooded hillside, one of his feet partially submerged in the water. He didn't notice until he caught sight of it- the simulation updating to provide the sensation of water running over his boot. He didn't step out of it; instead he held it there, waiting until he felt it seep through the material. It made the inside of his shoe squish when he stepped back. It was as obnoxious as it was wonderful.

"Playing in the water, are we?" Doctor Spence asked from just behind him. She was sitting on a large rock that hadn't been there previously, one leg crossed over the other. She didn't look up from the notes she was penning in her lap when she spoke.

Superboy looked back over his shoulder with a halfhearted grin. "Not something I can do every day."

"There's a sink in your bathroom."

His smile dropped and he turned away from her. "Yeah. Guess so."

An uncomfortable silence followed, filled only by the artificial sounds of nature. If he concentrated, he could just barely make out the buzzing of the lights that formed the building blocks of everything around them. It was the only thing he could hear when he tried to focus on the brook, the trees or the birds.

He wondered if the real thing had its own background noise. Surely, if it did, it'd be a chorus of whole, new sounds. Perhaps there was no buzzing at all. What did the wind, isolated all on its own, sound like, without the imperfections of audio recording devices, or the hum of distant machinery to obscure it.

Spence was the one to speak up first, her voice cutting and authoritative even here: "How have you been feeling since the test?"

"Fine, I guess." He shrugged, "Tired. Healing's tiring."

"How tired?" She probed, a brow raised. "You tend to bounce back from these tests quickly."

"First one that's really made me sweat, if we're bein' fair."

Spence jotted something down and offered up a minute smirk. "And since our last session? Has anything changed?"

Chewing on his cheek as he chewed on the question, Superboy took a moment to answer. And when he did he spoke slowly, choosing his words with care, "Nothing too important." He could feel a spark in the back of his head, like someone was poking him with a live wire. A sound followed it, too, not unlike the popping of static electricity.

It was the machine's way of telling on him every time he lied. There was no great reaction from the doctor, but Superboy could see a slight twitch near the corner of her mouth. She was quiet, like usual. She was waiting, like every other time he'd heard that sound. He knew for a fact that nothing was going to happen until he gave her what she wanted.

"I've been...gettin' stronger, I guess. Lot stronger, lot faster, than before. Packard's been sayin' that if I keep it up-" the words caught in the back of his throat as he felt that stinging at the base of his skull again. It was a little harsher now. Not enough to be truly painful, but there was noticeable discomfort in his expression as he shifted how he stood.

And again he stopped to think.

"Y'know that was true, right?" He grunted, annoyed. "I mean, how's that thing s'posed to know when I'm lying, anyway? What even is a lie? Does it go off my subjective interpretation of the truth, or yours, or is there some sorta complex algorithm based on my heart rate and breathing that-"

"-Answer the question, Subject Thirteen." Spence stopped him, glaring at him from behind iced over glasses.

Superboy kept his back to her as he bent down by the stream, reaching into it to pluck out a stone smooth enough to skip. He gave it a toss and it sunk straight to the bottom, much to his chagrin. It looked a lot easier on paper. "Don't know how to."

No shock followed, this time. Spence shifted how she sat, uncrossing one of her legs and letting the clipboard and pen fall down onto her lap, hands resting on top of one another. "Where did you see this place? I haven't been to every part of the Acropolis but I'm fairly confident we don't have a room like this."

"Um...A magazine. Picture in a magazine."

"And where did you get that?"

His jaw tightened, and he stood back up to his full height. "It was given to me."

"By who?" Spence snapped.

"Why's that matter?" Superboy shot back. He turned halfway around to look at her, that sting in his head growing sharper and louder.

"Answer the quest-"

"Its just a stupid magazine, who cares?!" He hadn't noticed it, but his voice had been getting louder and louder as they spoke.

Doctor Spence stopped. She was staring daggers into him, a hand clutched tight 'round the board on her lap. There was an ever so slight quiver on her lip yet her voice was as icy and controlled as ever. "I need you to answer my questions, Thirteen, so that the test may continue."

"It was Tana, alright?!" Superboy was shouting now as he took a step toward the doctor. "I was bored out of my mind and I asked her to get me something to read, and she stole some...stupid tech mag from the staff lounge for me. It doesn't matter, I'll give it back if you want, but I don't see why you care-"

"-You had one of our staff steal something for you and you thought that unimportant?" Spence couldn't help herself but scoff.

Superboy returned it, throwing an arm up in the air. "She said nobody'd even notice, none of you ever pick those things up. She figured, y'know, it wasn't a big deal-"

"-whose idea was it to-"

"-and it isn't a big deal, its more ads than content, really, and even the content is basically just ads too-"

"Whose idea was it, Thirteen?" Spence repeated, unwilling to raise her voice to match his. He stopped trying to talk over her, exasperation coloring his every movement as he started to pace around beside the projected stream.

"Mine, I guess?" He rubbed the back of his head, thoroughly annoyed by the sharp, consistent pain. "Maybe ours would be more accurate." He tried to correct to dissipate the psychic feedback, to no avail.

Spence cocked her head to the side, picking up her pen once again. "How close would you say you are to miss Westfield?"

He shrugged. "What's close mean? I don't exactly have a lotta friends here."

"Ah, so she's a friend?"

"Is she? I'unno, Doc, ask her." Superboy turned away again.

Spence began to write something down. "And...when did this start? How long after our last session?"

Superboy threw up his hands. "Don't remember! We say hi when we pass each other, she talks to me like, y'know- not at me. Maybe, I'unno, I like that- sue me."

"And you think you deserve that?"

"What?" Superboy stopped, glancing back at her. "Deserve what, doc, huh?"

Spence didn't answer, pressing on through the clone's incredulous look with another question. "Do you think this relationship has anything to do with what happened in the test chamber?"

Every inch of Superboy tensed up, like someone had stretched him taut until every single muscle was near its breaking point. His head was low, eyes locked on the flowing water down at his feet and his ears tuned to the sound of a million photons of light buzzing and humming all around him. It was such a stupid question- one so stupid he wondered if it really deserved to be answered. Of course, he'd have to answer eventually. That was how this thing worked. She asked him questions, he answered. Some, growing part of him wondered what would happen if he just kept his mouth shut.

He went to speak, only to pause when he noticed Spence look up and into the horizon. Her mouth was moving yet no words were coming out, and the coolness that usually colored her expression was rapidly melting into concern. Superboy couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her look concerned, so he felt somewhat justified in the spark of panic in his chest.

"Uhh, Doctor Spence? What's going on?" He eventually deigned to ask, afraid he'd crossed a line.

"There's been an incident." She answered, glancing between him and something he couldn't see beyond the simulation.

"An incident? What kind of incident?"

Spence stood up, a wave of darkness washing over the scene as she did. "The only kind of incident that gets our attention, Thirteen. Metahumans."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Gateway City, Rhode Island
Present Day

1.02 // Revelation
𝗗𝗜𝗔𝗡𝗔 𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗡𝗖𝗘

Despite Clint's concerns about the stranger, Diana rushed over to check if the person was fine. She called out for Candy's help as she was carrying them to the nearest table. There wasn't time for the security guard to ask questions. Instead, she complied and ran to the security room since it housed a first aid kit. Clint, on the other hand, was still cautious about the mutant and approached Diana with bow at the ready. "Are you sure that caring for... them is a good idea? For all that we know, we could be in danger."

"What was I supposed to do? Leave them to die?" Diana snapped. "Besides, I am still strong enough to protect you and everyone else in this building."

Clint wasn't in the mood to argue about it, and she still had her strength. Then, Candy returned with the first aid kit and bottled water in hand, placing them on the table. Then, she looked at the broken door and turned towards Clint, clearly irritated.

"What happened?"

"The kid probably wanted an autograph." Clint responded sarcastically. Candy grunted under her breath in disgust. And Diana was still focused on the individual, hoping that they will wake up. Based on observation, however, they looked fine except for a few faded bruises and cuts. She then thought of a plan. Getting them back to their home was an obvious one. And if they were abandoned by their loved ones, there was always Professor Xavier's school in New York. For now, though, they needed care.

"It doesn't matter why they showed up. I'll make a call to my good friend. He will know what to do-"

"Please don't turn me in!" the stranger cried out loud, which caught everyone off guard. Clint quickly aimed his bow at the kid again, willing to let go if given no choice. While Candy placed her hand of the holster, ready to draw to protect her friend. However, Diana turned towards them and held her hand out to calm them. She was capable of taking on the kid with ease, but it wasn't necessary. Instead, she looked at the guest and began talking calmly.

"I only want to keep you safe. What's your name?"

"I... I can't remember..." the stranger kept on thinking as hard as they could until. "I think it's Dominic."

"Are you hurt? Can you stand up, Dominic?" Diana asked sincerely, offering to help them up. Dominic managed to get up from the table with help but collapsed when they tried to walk on their own. Candy ran towards them and, with support from Diana, carefully walked them over to the nearest chair. Meanwhile, Clint lowered his bow again and noticed something on the ground: bright pink flower petals. It wasn't the kind that you would typically see. Something was mystifying about them. Soft to the touch, but it remained intact.

Diana turned towards Clint and noticed the petals. Her eyes widen with surprise, and it left her speechless. She walked towards him and slowly picked one of them off of his hand. "Where did you get them?"

"Found them near the table."

Diana made her way to Dominic and showed them the petals. "Do you remember where you were?"

Dominic struggled to answer the question as if they couldn't remember. Yet, they kept trying to come up with some answers. Instead, they bowed their head in shame. "... I can't remember. Sorry."

"Just get some rest. Maybe you will remember later." Diana reassured them and turned to Clint, asking him to come with her. Candy stepped in to help out the kid while both of them went out of the room. And without the kid watching, Diana picked up the petals and started playing around with them in her hand. It had been so long, but she never forgot its softness and texture. Then, it clicked. There was only one place in the entire universe where the flower could have existed.

"These petals are from Themyscira."

"Are you sure, Diana?" queried Clint. "If you're positive, then that means-"

"Nothing." Diana interjected. "Zeus is many things, but he won't risk his heaven for war against mankind... I need to investigate this at once."

Diana started to head for her office to begin planning for the trip. However, Clint grabbed her arm with a look of regret. "I'm sorry, but you can't do this without approval for SHIELD. They have to be informed and decide the next step."

"But Clint-"

"No. When your Gods were discovered to be living among us, you assured SHIELD that they won't be a problem." Clint affirmed. "But with that kid's arrival and those flower petals, I am required to inform my superiors, or I risk my livelihood."

"I..." Diana looked away for Clint and then sighed. "Alright, go ahead and tell them. Just remember that it's only a theory, not fact."

Clint nodded his head and thanked her for understanding his position. He assured Diana that he will come back in a day or two. And that SHIELD will contact her in half of a day. Then, he left to report back. Diana tried to process what was going to happen, but Dominguez showed up, clearly upset for some... That was when she remembered her schedule. With Dominic's unexpected arrival and the petals, she completely forgot about it and most likely missed the meeting with the Middle East team. Thus, Dominguez wanted answers.

"Where were you?!" questioned Dominguez as her arms folded in annoyance.

Diana sighed again and turned to her secretary. "It's been a long day. Come, and I will explain everything to you."


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Rogue came to in the jet, on a bunk in the infirmary section towards the rear of the aircraft. The pad she was lying on was firm, but she didn’t have the strength or desire to get up and announce to Summers and Rogers that she was awake. Rogue wasn’t sure if it was the use of her powers at a new level, but she felt like she was hungover. At least she assumed this is what being hungover felt like. She was only fifteen, after all. Considering what her father was like, she hoped she'd never feel a hangover in her life.

She was safe alone here, bundled up in a thin blanket and cuddled up against the bulkhead. Here Rogue was allowed to wallow in her own thoughts, and that’s all she wanted, as toxic as it was to her psyche.

Eddie Whelan was that creature. She saw his face emerge from the fur and features of the rat that had taken him over. She saw the pain he was in, and not all of it had been inflicted by her, though she had done her fair share. He had been the nicest of the kids at the orphanage, or whatever it really was. The only one that offered a smile to her when she first got there. Not that they had been overly friendly with one another, but he at least seemed nice.

And someone had turned him into a scared, confused mutant who was barely had control of his own faculties. He was nothing but a tensed muscle looking to strike when she had absorbed his power and emotions. Every time before when she had made contact with someone, she had felt the fear of what she was doing to them. But it was always background noise, almost like a faint ringing in ones ears after a concert. But this was like someone had attached two speakers at max volume to the side of her head. Rogue wasn't sure if it was because Eddie was a mutant, or if his state had amplified his emotions. Whatever the reason was, though, it had overwhelmed her.

She felt the fatigue rise up again, and gave herself back to sleep, letting the rhythmic drone of the jet's engine carry her off.


The Blackbird set down in the subterranean hangar below Xavier's mansion, and as late as it was, Steve needed to talk to Xavier. After what he had seen tonight, he needed someone with his resources if he was going to track down what was going on with Rogue and the other kids from the orphanage. Especially because he had a feeling that after the explosion in Mississippi he was going to have far more people looking for him than they had been previously.

He had been AWOL ever since Montana, but that wasn't a threat to the people that wanted him to disappear. They probably figured Steve Rogers growing old in the mountains somewhere was the easy way out. At least there he would have been quiet and out of their hair. When he came back to the life, Natasha had warned him that it had ruffled some feathers. That was his goal, of course. But even putting away a sitting US senator didn't seem to shake the boat too much. SHIELD was content to let him take down enemies in a remote setting, but tearing down the main street of an American city with a science experiment gone wrong is a different story. On top of that, whoever had fired the rocket that blew up the orphanage made sure that it would be an even bigger story.

Someone was out to make sure Steve Rogers's life was as difficult as possible. They were going to find out that might be a bad decision.

He and Cyclops made their way out of the Blackbird, with Steve pausing to check on Rogue before they disembarked. She was still sleeping, or, more accurately, pretending to be asleep. It had been a hard night for the girl, and he had no desire to wake her. He'd let her have her rest and her time alone. He had a feeling it may be some of the last she would have for a while.

It was an odd sensation traveling with her. Steve had been used to feeling responsible for what happened to those he was fighting with. Whether it was the Howling Commandos in the war, or his SHIELD strike team since he was unfrozen, those under his command were under his protection. Whenever he lost a soldier it cut him deep. This was different, though. Everyone in those situations had signed up for duty. They knew the risks they were taking and what their ultimate fate was likely to be.

Rogue didn't ask for any of this, though. She was just a kid caught up in something even he didn't understand. He couldn't even imagine what was going through her mind. He felt the bile of anger rise in his throat. That someone would round up kids, harvest them, for an experiment. They turned one into a monster, and sent Rogue into a coma to harvest god knows what from her blood. It was disgusting. And she was now his charge. That much was obvious.

Rogers made sure she was covered by her blankets before deplaning. He had no idea if he was ready for that kind of responsibility, especially if she wasn't going to follow orders. He wasn't used to insubordination, but she clearly was fluent in it.

At the bottom of the ramp, Charles was trading words with Summers. When Rogers appeared at the top, the bald man nodded to his protege who made his way to the mansion proper.

"You look terrible, Steven," Charles had a wry smile on his face.

"Ran into one hell of a rat," he sighed sarcastically in return. "Big enough to bite your head off."

"So I've been told," he turned the wheelchair to head the way Cyclops had. "The girl showed her true powers as well?"

Steve nodded, "It's like she absorbed some of his power when she touched him. Not just life force, but his strength and speed as well. I've never seen anything like it."

"Yes, Scott relayed me the information," Xavier pondered. "I don't think it's a mystery as to why they wanted her for experimentation now."

Somehow Steve hadn't even thought of that part. He had been to wrapped up in the idea of a metakid farm for lab rats that he hadn't even considered what it would mean if someone could synthesize the ability to copy the powers of metahumans. It could change the balance of power in the world. Any dime store terrorist or tin pot dictator could create their own superpower-stealing soldiers. It could unleash some real chaos across the globe.

"What about that other item we sent you?"

During the fight, Steve's shield had collected some of Whelan's hairs, an invaluable clue into whatever happened to the boy in that place. Summers had put them through a simple scan in the Blackbird's infirmary and sent it back to the mansion.

"Ah yes, please, follow me," he wheeled himself down a side hallway of the underground complex towards a glass door marked "Laboratory". As he approached, the doors slid open, "Hank, our guests have returned."

Steve stepped into the lab, and Scout padded up to great his master. Rogers patted him tenderly on the head and took a look around the lab. It was spotless, gleaming white. So different from where he had been reborn all those years ago. Back then the Secret Scientific Reserve didn't have time to worry about proper regulatory procedure or total sterile environments. It was quick, dangerous science in a race to beat out Hydra and the Nazis. But this was like a science wonderland. Erskine probably would have been a kid in a candy store here.

"Welcome, Captain Rogers!" a voice said from above him, drawing Steve's gaze up. He almost jumped back as a hulking ball of blue fur unfurled. The mutant was holding onto the ceiling with his feet, a pair of bifocals hanging on his nose, defying gravity. He gave a smile friendly enough to make the fangs he possessed seem perfectly lovely, "Doctor Hank McCoy at your service. Was just writing up my report from the tests on that hair you sent."

He dropped down to the floor and shook Steve's hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you. You're a fascinating scientific story, if I do say so myself. The first artificially enhanced human. Fascinating!"

Xavier sighed softly, "You'll have to excuse Hank. He has a...way about him."

"Thank you, Charles," Hank didn't miss a beat. "Now, onto the samples you gathered from the specimen. That is also fascinating. Terrifying. But fascinating."

The three of them gathered around McCoy's computer, which displayed a bunch of numbers and graphs that Steve couldn't even begin to understand. He remembered Stark and Erskine talking shop in the lab before his transformation back in the day. He felt very similar now. The more things changed, the more things stayed the same, he guessed.

"I won't bore you with the numbers, but the boy had the metagene," McCoy started.

"I'm sorry, metagene?" Steve asked, feeling slightly foolish when he did.

"Every mutant has the meta, or 'X', gene," Xavier began to explain. "But not everyone with the x-gene is a mutant. For one reason or another, which we still don't fully understand, sometimes the gene activates, sometimes it does not."

"Right, and according to Rogue, Whelan's did not," Hank added in.

"I feel like she would have remembered sharing a building with a giant rat boy," Steve mused.

"Indeed," the blue scientist nodded. "Which made me theorize that Whelan was forced to mutate. So I did some digging into the data you sent, and with that I reconstructed Whelan's X-gene profile."

Hank clicked a key and a picture of the boy's DNA appeared on the screen. But it was off. The normal double helix was jagged, as if someone had put it through electroshock therapy.

Rogers let out a growl subconsciously, "Whoever did this is trying to create metahuman soldiers. By forcing kids to mutate. Kids whose parents these people almost certainly murdered to get to them, before rounding the kids up to pawn off to different scientists to study and torture them. It's like a sick version of what happened to me. Only I had a choice."

"This is the world we live in now, Steven," Xavier nodded. "Mutant children across the world are mistreated and misused. It's why we built our safe haven here, and why I will always take in those that need help. But this...this is something I never dreamed of."

"Don't worry, Charles," Rogers felt the resolute determination he had felt many times in the past rise up in him. "These people aren't going to get away with this. I'm going to see to that personally. There's just a few things I need from you."

"Steven," Charles smiled. "Anything I can provide is yours."
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Hexaflexagon Lost Logician

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Brooklyn, New York
Cony Island Boardwalk
5:45 PM


Jessica flicked her lighter on and off. It was a tick that she did when she was anxious, agitated, or waiting like she was now. She cupped the flame with her free hand to shield it from the sea breeze that habituated the boardwalk. Sitting there with the fur lined collar of her trucker jacket pulled up against her neck making it look like a priest’s habit, Jessica couldn't help but feel like she belonged in a Tarkovsky film. Unfortunately, the mere mention of Tarkovsky triggered a primordial gag reflex in her. She dated a film critic once and they collectively decided to do a marathon viewing of the Russian's work while slamming down several bottles of $15 Georgian vodka; she vomited for a week after that. Now the mere mention of Avant Garde Slavic filmmakers made her stomach do somersaults.

"Stomach disagreeing with you?"

Detective Zoe Kim sat down next to her. A solid streak of grey hair along her left temple made her look older than her mid-thirties. Dressed in all black with a matching leather jacket torn at the left shoulder and patched with duct tape, Zoe looked more like Lou Reed than a cop. But, the way she walked, like she owned the city, like she knew it like the back of her hand could have only been acquired by someone who had walked the beat.

"Cause you look like you're about to throw up your lunch Jones."

"Shut it Kim," Jessica croaked forcing down a rising current of bile. "it's just a psychological reaction."

"Sure looks like a psychological reaction," Kim replied with a shake of her head. "you mind if I borrow a light?"

Jessica raised the open flame of her lighter to a cigarette that Kim produced from her jacket pocket. There was a slight tremble in Kim's outreached hand that neither of them commented on. Permanent nerve damage that occurred on the pair's first outing. Kim took a bullet for her before she knew about the whole gene altering chemicals deal. The bullet luckily didn't go anywhere lethal, but it did fuck with the nerves in her left arm. After that she was shifted up the chain of command where she found detectives spend a lot more time sitting behind a desk than doing actual police work.

"You know," started Kim as she exhaled a cloud of smoke. "this was the first place I saw someone die? I was 13 down at the amusement park and this kid had just won a big stuffed polar bear to impress a girl. It was one of those big bears holding a heart, real sappy shit. Turns out though the girl's boyfriend wasn't moved by the suitor's advances and he drove a knife between the kid's ribs. The bear didn't stay too white after that."

"Love hurts." summarized Jessica with a shrug as she stashed her lighter away.

"Ain't that the truth," replied Kim with a philosopher's solemn nod. "though I suppose I didn't call you here to bitch about my childhood trauma."

"Yeah," replied Jessica. "you usually only do that when you're drunk."

"Haha," Kim answered in a dead monotone. "you know I can always offer this gig to somebody else."

"You'll be hard fucking pressed finding somebody better than me."

Silently conceding to Jessica's point, Kim withdrew a Manila folder from inside her jacket pocket and handed it over without comment. The first thing Jessica noticed was the word CONFIDENTIAL written in red permanent marker across the width of the folder. The second thing Jessica noticed was that the folder was very light which signaled to her that the case was either very old or very new, and judging by the fresh marker smell she suspected it was the latter. Jessica reached into the folder and in her digging she caught the edge of something smooth which she withdrew from the envelope.

It was a 4x12 print of a girl standing in front of the library at Bryant park. She was dressed stylishly in the latest trends and with long black hair that fell to about her waist. Young adult in her early twenties, judging by the cut of her clothes came from a wealthy family, and if Jessica had to guess probably Pakistani or Indian. She looked happy, but if she was happy then Jessica wouldn’t have to get involved.

“Who is she?” asked Jessica as she peered closer at the photo as if some hidden secrets would reveal themselves to her.

“Sahiba Chadha,” Kim stated as she ground the stub of her cigarette out into the bench they were sitting on. “senior at Columbia, studies Sociology, wants to pursue her PhD, and the daughter of the current Commissioner of Cultural Affairs - Mohsin Chadha.”

“And what’s wrong with her?”

“She’s been missing for a week now.”

“Are you and the good old boys in blue looking into it?” questioned Jessica.

“No investigation has been opened up, and I should let you know Jones,” answered Kim “this call comes straight from the Mayor’s office.”

Jessica raised a brow. She knew that soon after Kim got promoted the Mayor’s office had reached out to her to perform some consulting, but she hadn’t realized Kim had become the Mayor’s hand in the force. It was something that Jessica could never do, she hated politics with a passion and tried her best to keep a respectable distance from any governmental office. But Kim had rent to pay like anyone else and Jessica figured it helped having friends in high places.

“What’s the Mayor’s office have to do with this?” Jessica asked as she slotted the photo back into the envelope.

“Mohsin Chadha is the man that the establishment is grooming to be the next Mayor. A big enough scandal could bring down a mayoral race before it even starts. So, the powers that be want to do everything in their power to solve this problem before the press get their hands on it. So that means no NYPD, and especially no official investigations.”

“Only little old me,” finished Jessica. “I hope the “establishment” knows that I don’t come cheap.”

“Check the bottom of the bag.” replied Kim who by this point had turned her gaze away from her companion and towards the water.

Jessica reached further down and felt her hands brush up against a small bundle held together by a binder clip. Pulling the bundle out of the envelope revealed it to be a neat collection of hundred-dollar bills, and if Jessica’s quick tally was right, she was looking at about five grand. Jessica nodded approvingly before she stuffed the bundle back into the envelope and out of public eye. It was enough to pay rent and make sure she didn’t go into withdrawal this month.

“You’ll get another five thousand at the completion of the job with room for potential bonuses.” Kim replied still looking at the outgoing tide.

“Is this excursion taxpayer funded?” asked Jessica.

“That would leave a paper trail.” Kim pointed out and didn’t need to elaborate more than that.

“Last question,” Jessica asked as she ran her free hand through her hair. “when do I start?”

“You have a Nine A.M meeting with the Commissioner at the Cloisters, his people will be sending a car to pick you up.” Kim answered, she stood up performing torso rotations to loosen up her back muscles wound up tense from her brooding posture. “And please try to clean up before then? You smell like a walking distillery.”

“F&#@ you too Kim”

“First impressions are important Jess.” the detective stressed. “I’m putting my own neck on the line vouching for you like this. They had a whole gaggle of spooks lined up to take this gig.”

“Why push me forward as the preferred candidate then?”

“Because,” sighed Kim. “I don’t want some coked-up GI with a license to kill running around my city. I had enough of those dealing with the cleanup of the Mutant Liberation Front and Captain “Let’s start executing people in the street” America. I want somebody with brains even if your too drunk to use them.”

“That sounded like a compliment Kim.” teased Jessica.

“I don’t do compliments.” remarked Kim flatly as she turned to walk away. “my dad always said they were for pu%#!!s.”

And on that cheerful note Kim made her exit down the boardwalk.

“You’re somehow a bigger C&*t than me!” Jessica called after the detective, who simply flipped her off and kept on walking. She watched Kim until she vanished in the distance, her black pallet indiscernible as night quickly approach.

Once she was alone, Jessica quickly reproduced the bundle of cash from the envelope and cradled it in her hands. It was the most money she had seen in once place in a long time. Jessica Jones didn’t get involved in politics… apparently until they started offering to pay her. She was a lot of things worse than a hypocrite, and if hypocrisy kept the lights on, that was good enough for her right now.

She stashed the bundle of bills into her jacket pocket while withdrawing her lighter at the same time. A quick rule that Jessica had found out early into her Investigatory career was whenever somebody handed you something labeled CONFIDENTIAL, you better damn well get rid of the evidence, and the envelope and its contents were no different. She hovered a corner of the envelope over the lighter’s flame watching as the fire slowly began to spread. When the envelope became too hot for her to hold onto, she shoved it down a trashcan, before making her own exit.

As she walked away, Jessica produced a thin black moleskin and a pen. Jessica started writing things down obsessively soon after she awoke from her coma to realign her frayed thoughts. These days, Jessica did almost all of that writing on a note app on her phone that even came with a little mood tracker, but she still insisted on hand recording all her case information. And so, taking a pen to her little notebook, Jessica Jones scrawled out a heading.


N E W C A S E: T H E C O M M I S S I O N E R ' S D A U G H T E R
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

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C A P T A I N A M E R I C A


Frank noticed the tripwire a fraction of a second too late. As his foot crossed the almost imperceptible beam of light, he barely had time enough to shield his head with his forearms.

A concussive blast slammed into the marine from both sides, and even though his suit absorbed much of the resulting transfer of energy, being that close between the two felt like he was being squeezed in a tight vice. He sprawled onto the ground, reeling from the impact.

"Cap?"

Guess they were smart after all, Frank chastised himself for going against his gut. Of course they'd have prepared...

"Captain!"

Frank clutched his right ear as he brought himself to his knees. The constant ringing was a testament to the suit not being infallible.

Sonics? Not typical merc hardware.

Even while his head began to clear from the momentary onslaught, the buzzing in his ear continued. It took a second for Frank to realize it wasn't just a symptom of potential hearing impairment.

Distorted, Leiberman's voice called to him through the broken earpiece receiver. "Castle, I know you're not dead because I can see your damned vitals, so you better listen to me if you want to stay that way."

All humor from the civilian contractor's voice was gone as he continued, "both targets have left the hostages and are closing in on you. They're less than thirty feet from rounding the corner directly in front of you. Move!"

That got Frank on his feet in short order. He glanced straight ahead towards the hallway the men would appear from. Roughly ten meters from him, he considered. It would be enough.

The man they would call Captain America shoved aside the mild disorientation, compartmentalizing it for later, and ran. Every pump of his legs, every heavy boot fall on the tiled ground fueled him, pushing him forward faster and faster. As he neared the junction he could hear similarly booted steps rushing closer. Just before crossing the threshold, he lept off of his left leg and tucked his right up towards his chest.

The resounding crack as Frank's armored knee collided with the chest of a gun-toting mercenary was almost satisfying. The look of pained surprise on the man's face at that moment, though, was completely so.

Frank didn't give the other much time to consider this turn of events. He drove his elbow into the second mercenary's throat at the same time his other hand clutched at the man's firearm. A leg shot out, catching the combatant in the side of the shin. The would-be-assailant roughly dropped to one knee, hacking as he clawed at his own throat. The butt of the man's rifle slamming into his face silenced the coughs.

Whipping around, Frank addressed the first mercenary who was recovering from what was sure to be a few cracked ribs. Stepping on the man's hand as he fumbled for a pistol, the marine reached down and delivered a solid blow to the jaw, ending the fight before it had truly begun.

"Two hostiles secured," Frank said, unsure if his induction mic was still functioning after the earlier blast. "Moving to check on the hostages."

His words were met with that same subtle buzzing from before. Just as Frank resigned himself to being without proper radio communication for the remainder of the mission, Leiberman's voice squawked out.

"Negatory, Cap." The note of juvenile amusement had returned to the man's voice. "Heat sigs are showing the boys below are on the move. Seems your entrance spooked them. Bossman wants you apprehending them before they can skedaddle, and— Jesus fuck!"

Leiberman's outburst startled Frank. Despite his views on civilian contractors having a role in military operations, and the technician's clear issues with maintaining proper protocol, not once had Frank heard the man sound so panicked.

"What is it?"

"I, Jesus, I don't fucking know. Give me a sec."

"I need intel, Leiberman..."

"Yeah, well, I don't have any of that at the moment. External sensors just went dark!"

"What?" Now Frank sounded alarmed. "How the Hell is that even possible? Is... do you have Lieutenant Reed on comms?"

The pilot of the Blackhawk would still be hovering and circling the perimeter of the building. While Leiberman was the chief technical support and responsible for overwatch duties, it was Reed who provided all of the scans. Or, rather, the craft she flew. The UV-1X Super Blackhawk was host to an entire suite of sensors and radars, the best the U.S. government could provide. From infrared and active radar to top-of-the-line imaging technology. The DARPA engineers responsible for its design had crammed as many tools into the Blackhawk as possible. While it didn't have the immediate coverage of satellite surveillance, the sensor board on the helo was far more versatile, reliable, and secure.

The only way Leiberman would stop receiving data from the craft was if Reed had personally disengaged the sensors. Or if the bird was no longer in the skies.

"No, no. She's fine, we've still got her on radio. And telemetry is still coming in from the Blackhawk. Passives are picking up everything in the vicinity, but anything we had pointed at you is gone. It's like a bubble's been put up around Roxxon and is blocking our sensors."

"There was nothing in the briefing that indicated this group had that capability."

"No, shit," Leiberman chimed in. "I don't even know what could shield an entire building like this so suddenly. It doesn't make any sense."

Frank sighed, already approaching the stairwell leading to the lower floor. "So we're blind."

"I'm doing what I can, Cap, but..."

"Understood. Going radio silent, then. Stay off the comms."

To say he didn't like this turn of events would be an understatement. Unforeseen circumstances and aspects going awry was par for the course in this line of work, Frank knew, but for there to be such a disconnect between the gathered intel and what was being experienced was disconcerting. It meant that either he was operating with piss poor intelligence officers or this mercenary group had dramatically changed their modus operandi in the last several months. Neither of which were comfortable thoughts at this moment.

He moved carefully down the stairwell, not willing to make the same mistake as he had when first entering the building. His eyes scanned meticulously for more trip mines or other potential hazards. Without his eyes in the sky, Frank needed to be more cautious. While he was confident operating purely off of his instincts and abilities, the fact that he was going into direct confrontation without backup against what was now seeming like an unknown threat factor was always something to be wary of.

"Soyez prudent. Exposez le cœur et nous mourrons tous." A voice trailed down a long corridor as Frank reached the end of the steps.

Creeping down the hallway, Frank slowly removed the shield from his back and slotted it onto his left gauntlet. He could hear further down and to the right the shuffling of feet. As he neared, this was joined by a soft, oscillating hum.

"Nous avons perdu le contact avec Alexandre. Faut-il continuer?" A voice different from the first spoke up, this time much closer to Frank's position.

"Lui et les autres sont déjà perdus. Nous les pleurerons plus tard. Plus important encore, nous devons terminer la mission," answered the first.

The corridor ended up ahead, branching off into two separate paths to the left and right. From the latter, Frank could hear the approaching mercenaries.

If the initial scans before the sensors were lost could be trusted, there would only be four hostiles remaining on this level. Two, he at least knew, were seconds from rounding the corner. With any luck, the others would be, too, and he could catch them all off guard at once.

Two figures dressed in the now-familiar militaristic garb stepped into the main corridor. Carried between the two was a long, steel-blue cylinder. The oscillating hum emanated from it, now louder than before. They halted less than fifteen meters away as they noticed Frank blocking their path. Immediately following them were another two individuals.

One, a slight man dressed in loose fatigues but sporting no kevlar or weaponry, nearly walked into his two comrades. The last of the mercenaries shared the previous armored look but lacked a helmet, instead sporting an unusually extravagant pair of sunglasses. Taller than the rest, his lensed gaze met Frank's from across the hall.

Frank took only a split second to consider the options. One unarmed man, physically unimposing. Two unable to reach a weapon, their hands preoccupied with the task of holding their hefty loot. And one man whose face had been plastered on dozens of mission briefing papers.

In a fluid motion, Frank hurled the star-spangled disc towards his target. He aimed it chest-high, both intending to deliver a debilitating blow and draw focus away from his position. Before the shield was even halfway down the corridor, Frank was already charging forward.

The taller mercenary stepped forward and pivoted sharply, rotating and lifting his body in an impressive display. A left leg lashed out like a whip, a weighted boot connecting with Captain America's shield on the underside. The effortless move sent the metal saucer careening far over his colleague's heads and clattering against the rear wall.

He called softly over his shoulder to his compatriots, "aller. Livrez l'article. Je vais gérer celui-ci."

The three others quickly turned and began retreating down the left hallway.

Frank crouched as he approached the one who had deflected his previous attack. With the momentum that the suit had built up from his short sprint, he intended to launch himself forward in a tackle that would carry him and the mercenary into the back wall. The power of the tackle, enhanced by the vibranium weave, would be enough to at least disorient the man long enough for Frank to put him out of the fight for good. Then he could catch up with the others before they managed to escape.

Honestly, had he not already been committed to his charge, just a mere handful of meters away from his foe, Frank would have approached more cautiously. The amount of skill his target had displayed with that kick, the power needed to knock the shield off course, it was enough to tell Frank this man was a level above the other mercenaries he had dispatched moments before.

It was that initial respect that had been earned that caused Frank to size his opponent up once more at the moment before his leaping tackle. And subsequently what allowed him to spot the danger before it was too late.

He pushed off the ground with all his strength, trusting the suit to do its job and redirect the gathered kinetic energy. Instead of colliding with the mercenary, though, Frank was carried in an arc that sent him flying over the man's head. The hidden blade that had been produced from a sleeve harmlessly stabbed the air where Frank's throat would have been had he continued with the tackle.

While this rendition of the Captain America suit was surely a technical marvel and more than impressive in its defensive capabilities, the vibranium weave only absorbed the impact of kinetic energies. Piercing and slashing weapons were capable of penetrating the suit. There were, of course, sections protected by standard kevlar and plating, but they were focused mostly on the torso to not prohibit mobility. Had he not avoided it, the stiletto dagger would have punctured him with ease.

Landing aside his discarded shield, Frank struck up a defensive stance.

"Georges Batroc," the marine said. "You don't disappoint."

"Ah, you know my name. I am flattered," came the response in a thick French accent.

"You've made more than a few waves in recent years."

"It is always a pleasure to meet a fan. I must apologize, I cannot give you an autograph." As he spoke, Batroc's head panned ever so slightly to the left, confirming his fellows had gotten far enough away.

"Okay. We dance now, no?"

Before finishing his words, Georges was already moving. He feinted with the blade in one hand before throwing his leg out in a vicious kick meant to break Frank's kneecap. The latter was barely able to pivot away from the former's blow, more aware of the dagger than anything else. Then the French mercenary tried to follow up his first strike with a second jab.

Stepping in, Frank willingly took the kick knowing the suit would guard him against the impact. Even still, as Batroc's foot caught him in the hip, Frank could feel it to some degree.

Boot is weighted, he realized. Packs a punch. I wouldn't be able to take many of those without the suit.

Having closed in with the enemy, Frank quickly used the moment of impact to counterattack. Gripping Batroc's wrist, he twisted sharply. At the same time, he slammed his right palm up into the elbow of that same arm with enough well-rehearsed force to pop the joint out of place without breaking a bone. The combo assault elicited a pained grunt from the mercenary as the stiletto dropped to the ground.

Don't have to worry about that anymore, Frank told himself as he kicked the weapon away. Now I can focus.

Georges pushed through the pain, forcing both arms up into a defensive guard as he let loose a flurry of attacks. Several low shin kicks followed by a roundhouse hook that would have rocked Frank a year before. But with the suit dispersing the kinetic energy from the blows, and with the knife out of play, there was no longer any real threat.

The man was an incredible fighter, Frank could tell. His techniques, all derived from the French kickboxing of savate, was flawless. And Batroc delivered them in a way that was both ferocious and highly controlled. As the two traded strikes in their brief skirmish, the marine was amazed to witness his opponent's flexibility and agility. Despite mitigating all of the potential damage being dealt and not having to worry about serious harm, the sheer prowess the French fighter displayed was enough to prolong the bout for nearly a minute longer.

It was only inevitable, though, that Batroc would be worn down. Unable to compete against the advantages of the suit and the near-endless stamina it afforded, the savate master began to tire. It opened him up for Frank to capitalize, driving his knee into Batroc's gut before maneuvering him into a standing submission hold.

Less than two minutes since the confrontation had begun, Georges Batroc lay unconscious and cuffed. Which meant the others should still be close enough to pursue.

Breaking radio silence, Frank keyed into the mic. "Leiberman, inform Lieutenant Reed we've got three rabbits. You said the sensors still worked outside the building's radius so if they leave she should pick them up."

Flexing his left arm and triggering the recall mechanism, the shield flipped up off the ground and settled back onto its brace.

"I'm pursuing on foot."
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100 Years before the Dawn of Man // Jotunheim


Odin, Vili, and Ve worked in unison. The three Borson moved in perfect harmony as they cut through the giants before them. Vili continued pushing up on the left flank, Ve on the right. With the might of Gungnir Odin brought up the rear, firing beams of energy at the Jotuns who attempted to attack them from afar. Pushing their way into the tall caverns of the Jotun hall. Ice carved away in increasingly intricate patterns, the chill in the room cut to the bone as the three Princes of Asgard pushed back against wave after wave of defenders. There was a thunderous roar as three beasts came crashing through the walls of the room, two of them instantly careening into Odin's younger brothers pushing them through the opposing wall and taking them out of sight.

Odin roared as he and the beast charged at one another, he pushed himself to his knees then into a powerslide. The beast jumped over him, as Odin pushed his staff up towards the beast, the blade grazing the monster's skin. Drops of thick blue blood dripped onto his face. Odin could feel his skin freeze as the blood made contact. He turned to face the beast as it finished passing over him, blade in a low guard. He raised his free hand and wiped the blood from his face, Odin stared the beast down. Worry for his brothers tore at him, but yet his father had entrusted him to do a job here. His father who found them useless in his eternal war to pacify the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil, and yet he would prove his father wrong today. He would prove his worth. “ᚲᛟᛗᛖ ᚠᛁᚷᚺᛏ ᛗᛖ ᛏᚺᛖᚾ ᛗᛟᚾᛋᛏᛖᚱ!”

Odin charged the beast as darkness spread throughout the room. Unwilling to waver in his attack, he drove the spear forward as the beast charged him, the tip of the spear puncturing the beast's eye through to the skill. He found himself pushed back by the force of the assault before it fell limp. Pulling the spear from the monster's skull he turned to see him facing a group of six giants. In the middle of them was the biggest of them all, Fárbauti King of the Frost Giants, he held a sword with a hilt as large as Odin and to Fárbautis side was his Queen Laufey. In her hands a casket, from which the chill winds and snows came forth. “ᚱᛖᛚᛖᚨᛋᛖ ᛏᚺᛖ ᚲᚨᛋᚴᛖᛏ, ᛋᚢᚱᚱᛖᚾᛞᛖᚱ ᚨᚾᛞ ᚤᛟᚢ ᛗᚨᚤ ᚤᛖᛏ ᛚᛁᚡᛖ”






The Ship of Beta-Ray Bill // Nidavellir


Lady Sif and the Warriors three walked through the halls of the vessel in which Thor had fought the being that had identified itself as Beta-Ray Bill. Volstagg knelt beside the dent in the floor in which Thor had nearly pummelled the beast to death. “It was a good thing Thor had been the one to fight this beast and not Volstagg the Vigorous-”

“More like Volstagg the Vain.” If Volstagg had heard the retort from Fandral then he had chosen to annoy it.

“-I would not have entertained the beast for as long. So says the finest warrior in Asgard!” The God stood up, standing a solid two-foot higher than everyone else present and he also had significantly more volume. His considerable girth likely would have been impossible for a mortal to maintain, while also being as strong and able as he was and yet he somehow managed to live his life and boast feats he could never complete.

“We are not here to cast judgment on what happened between Thor and the beast. We are here by the command of Freyja to determine what happened to the other mortals that were aboard this ship, a threat is coming that is an endanger to all nine realms.” There was some grumbling as the two warriors spread out. Sif cast her eyes upon Hogun, the silent Vanir was busy working away at some panel near a door.

Hogun looked back over his shoulder. “I have found something.” The other warriors approached, all looking at the panel. There was a large gouge mark in the panel. “Something either wanted in here or wanted to keep something in.” Volstagg approached the door chuckling, cracking his knuckles as he approached the door.

“Not to worry, Volstagg the Weighty shall make light work of this door!”

”You can’t do anything light.”

Volstaggs mighty fists came crashing down on the door, hitting it once and the doors barely moved. Twice and it gave way just by a small margin. Giving up on the fists Volstagg roared as he charged shoulder first into the door. There was a bang, a clatter and a groan as the metal moved to give way, and yet it still did not cave under the pressure. He pushed himself harder. “This-” He hit it again “door-” and again “will-” and again “yield-” and again “so-” and again “says-” and again “Volstagg-” and again “the-” and again “FORCEFUL!”

Lady Sif sighed as she turned around and walked away. Let the foolish men use brute force to try and uncover secrets, she would use the power of her mind.




Palace of Kings // Asgard


Odin sat atop his mighty throne, his wife Freyja stood at the foot of the steps as the All-Father stood up and walked towards her. “Wife, go to the healing chamber. Discover what secrets you can learn from this Beta-Ray Bill. Something threatens all my domain and I would know what it is.” As he continued to approach her she looked up at him and for the first thing he noticed was rage and pain in her eye. “What is the matter, wife?” She looked like she might hit him as she turned toward him with a fury.

“You are going to banish our son?”

Odin rolled his eyes. “The threat of banishment shall put things into perspective, the boy is a fool and a thug.”

“I wonder where he learned that.” The hall echoed as Odin paced towards his wife, his rage insurmountable.

“You dare?”

“Yes I dare. You send him to a world of Mortals, and thugs. A world that has changed far beyond his knowledge to investigate a threat you don’t see with your apparent omnipotence.”

“You dare question who put the hounds to chase the Sun and the Moon in motion? One of the Old Gods who hung the very stars in the skies?”

Freyja sighed, a look of complete and utter disdain on her face as she turned to walk out of the room. “Too long have you sat on your throne and not ventured among the people. I shall do your bidding my King. Perhaps you should be the one to head to Midgard and find some cool for yourself.”

With that she turned and left the hall, the door slamming closed behind her. Odin sighed as he threw Gungnir into a corner, it clanged and clattered as Odin groaned and roared out of anger. She was such a bullheaded stubborn fool of a woman! It had been endearing when he first met her, battles between the Aesir and the Vanir until Freja offered peace through marriage between Odin the All-Father and his daughter. While at first, it may have been purely to end a war that showed no sign of ending, he had eventually fallen in love with the beautiful goddess. Now she questioned him, doubted him and his power. He knew what he was doing, after all, he was Odin. All-Father and the most powerful being to ever exist in all the ten realms.

Caw-Caw

Odin looked up as two black ravens entered the hall, flying straight through a window as if it was not there. One landed on the right-hand side of his throne while the other landed on the left-hand side. They spoke as one, alternating between every other word.

”He comes, he comes. From Midgard, he comes. With an ax of cold and fury. Aiming to knock the fruit of the world tree bare and start again.”

“Bah!” Odin swatted the two ravens away and they fluttered away out of the room. Odin walked back to his throne, sitting back on it. Turning to a nearby guard. “Bring me the head of Mimir!”




Mount Olympus // Midgard
Greek Pantheon portrayed by @Mao Mao


The Bifrost came shooting down from the sky atop Mount Olympus. To any mortal who happened to be looking on at that moment in time, they may have believed it to be a strange lone bolt of lightning, as a thunderous roar echoed for miles around. Loki stood in his finest Asgardian Garb, golden horned helmet upon his head. Gold embroidery on all his clothes, green and black highlighting his chiseled features. Walking forward through the mists he saw a figure approaching him. Wearing a toga and a helm, the golden-haired God came towards him raising a hand towards the Asgardian God of Mischief.

Loki bowed, till his body was at a perfect ninety degrees angle, right hand motioning forward before swirling around to the right, his other hand over his chest. “Greetings Hermes! Greeter of Olympus, runner of errands.” He looked up at God with a twinkle in his eye. The two had always had an understanding during the time where they shared Midgard, both being of a mischievous persuasion. Loki would have respected him more however had the Olympian had more stomach to follow through on some of his pranks. “I know you were not expecting an Asgardian on Midgard until several years from now, however, I come before you in need. I request an audience with your Lord Zeus.”

“Loki?!” Hermes didn’t believe his eyes to see his old friend in the flesh! He gave the mischief a strong hug before letting him go. “Oh my brother! How have you fared since your last visit?”

Loki awkwardly joined in on the hug, before pulling back away from Hermes with a smile upon his face. “I have been well. The All-Father prepares for the Odinsleep, and I stand ready to be regent in his stead. The Jotuns have been restless of late, and more scouting parties of Dark Elves have been seen in the hills of Alfheim and Nidavellir.” Loki shook his head. “Merely another year in the nine-realms, another year closer to war, though that is not why I am here. My brother has come to Midgard, and as per the treaty I must discuss matters with Lord Zeus, master of Olympus.”

Hermes’ mood suddenly changed upon hearing that an Asgardian dared to set foot on their playground. It was blasphemy. “Oh... Well, I’d expect Odin himself to defend this defiance of the sacred treaty.”

“Where is he?” questioned Hermes as he looked around for the revered God.

Loki gave a wave of his hand. “The All-Father has more important matters to deal with than the comings and goings of Midgard. He has sent me in his stead to discuss how this impacts the treaty, as Crown Prince it is my right and I speak with the full authority of the All-Father. Go now Messenger, bring me before the Gods of Olympus.”

“You’re cute when you act like a king.” Hermes lightly slapped Loki’s face in a flirty manner. “Unlike me, though, the others won’t be pleased that you’re speaking for Odin. Especially my father. But, I will do my best to smooth things over. For old times sake.”

Reaching into his satchel, Hermes took out papers and a quill and instantly wrote out a formal request to the other Gods. And then, he sealed them with a unique wax. Being the messenger for a long time enhanced his speed to be the fastest of all the Olympian Gods. However, he turned to the nearby marble Kolossi in his ancient tongue. “These guardians will keep an eye on you while I get the debate ready.”

Loki bowed once more before the Greek God. “Go do so Hermes. I will wait.”




Oslo // Midgard


Thor sat in the rear of the chariot, the wailing of a dead banshee announcing their presence to all the mortals nearby. It must have been some form of high honor, likely so that people recognized his station and the importance of his quest. It worked for the most part as other chariots moved out of the way for them, and the fine warriors escorting him seemed to ignore whatever rules that the other chariots appeared to follow. He held on, yelling with glee as they turned corners and the force of the turn cast him into one side of the chariot to the other. As he hit the side the entire vehicle shook and the two warriors cast nervous glances to one another.

“So tell me Noble Warriors! What is the name of this mystic you take me to see? I hope they are most wise indeed, I am on a quest from the All-Father Odin himself!” He elected not to tell them that the All-Father was an insufferable old fool who sat atop his throne and never did anything of consequence.

One of the mortals turned around, the one not behind the wheel that seemed to control the contraption. <“We’re taking you to see the chief, she’ll know what to do.”>

Thor let out a hearty laugh. “A mortal wench for a chief? My how times have changed on Midgard! Last I was here Women of the station were few and far between.” He held Mjolnir in his hands, as the chariot came to a stop outside a building he saw many more warriors standing there, welcoming him in a mighty reception. As the door was opened for him he stepped out and stretched his arms wide. “Lo noble warriors! A fine greeting indeed.” He turned back to the two who had brought him here. “Take me to your chief, for once we find this great threat to Yggdrasil we can ride together into glorious battle!”

One of the warriors outstretched his hand before speaking <” Sir, we’re going to need to ask you to give the hammer to us.”>

Thor merely laughed. <” We’re not joking Sir, we’re taking you in for questioning and you can’t be armed.”>

Rage built within Thor, questioning? Had this just been an elaborate trick? Lies and deceit, the likes of which he would expect from Loki, trolls or Dark Elves but not from the honorable people of Midgard. There was a crackle of Thunder overhead. “Tell me you jest, noble warrior, that you would not lie to the God of Thunder, Prince of Asgard. Not when the lives of billions are at stake.”

The warriors all looked uneasily at him, one made a move for Mjolnir. As his hand clasped it Thor let the hammer go, it fell to the ground unable to be lifted. Without so much as flinching Thor walked calmly up the steps. “I would answer the questions of your chief-” Behind him two mortals now strained to try and lift the hammer. “-Though know that no man nor woman other than Thor may lift the mighty Mjolnir.” A warrior stepped before him with one hand raised as if to stop him. Thor extended one arm and lifted him pulling him close to his chest. “Do not stand in my way. I would have words, and then I shall leave you to whatever machinations you are planning. My quarrel is not with you, nor your people.”

By now there was a gathering of mortals near the base of the stairs up to the building, some of them holding the small square things pointing at him while more and more warriors arrived. Some switched out with the ones attempting to lift the hammer but he paid them no mind. As he approached the door it opened before him.

A man in a suit stood there, flanked by two other mortals who were equally as impressively dressed. He turned to one of the people beside him. “I was told this was going to be a nice, calm assignment after the mess that went down in New York with Stryfe.” He turned to Thor, though before he could speak Thor cut him off.

“Are you this Chief I have been told wishes to speak with me?” Thor eyed him with disdain, while all these warriors appeared small this man would hardly be fit to be a toothpick for a Frost Giant.
The man raised an eyebrow as he looked at Thor. “You speak English?”

“Through the power of the All-Speak no matter what language is spoken I shall understand it, and whatever I say will always be understood. Now answer my question. I grow weary of these games.”

The man nodded, took out some form of parchment bound in leather and showed some form of signet with runes upon it to him before putting it away. “Then we can begin, I’m Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and we’d like to ask you a few questions.”
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Cromica C21
Space Sector 2814

Hal sat on the porch of Jelcs’ farmhouse and watched the fireworks display with the constable and his mate. The two men sipped the last of Hal’s D’Bari bourbon while Jelcs’ two children played in the yard. Tonight was a night of celebrating for Jelcs and Hal as well as the rest of the planet. The provisional council voted unanimously to turn Cromica into an independent star system.

“That was a pretty one,” Jelcs said as a bright red flash filled the night sky.

The crowd applauded their new official freedom, but all those attendance hadn’t been thrilled. Del’vin was dragged away hurling insults.

“A plague on you,” he shouted to the assembly. “You got no honor, go not respect. It's good you didn’t join the Empire, because we wouldn't have you. You're a lot of savages, that's what all you are. All you'll ever be. This isn’t the end of this!”

Del’vin was now in the newly renovated jail, nursing a black eye to go with his bruised forehead and awaiting trial. The Kree may have been a fool but Hal knew he was right. This wouldn’t be the end of things by a long shot. Arresting a member of Starforce would come with some consequences.

“I’m heading out tonight,” Hal announced after he finished his drink.

“Figured you might,” said Jelcs. “Like a thief in the night."

"It's not the worst idea to let people think I'm still around for a few more days," said Hal.

"Let me walk you out.”

Hal stood and nodded towards Jelcs’ partner.

“Ma’am.”

Hal said his goodbyes to the two children as he and their father walked across the farm.

“I’m probably going to have to hire a few farmhands to keep an eye on things,” said Jecls. “If I’m going to spend all my time policing Cromica, then Irrad is going to need help here on the farm.”

“So you’re going to stay on?” asked Hal.

“At least for now,” said Jelcs. “I was waiting for the first person to take it, but now I want to wait until the right person comes along to take the job… preferably someone who isn’t an undercover agent.”

“Look, Jelcs, don’t beat yourself up about it.”

“I’m not,” he said. “On the contrary, the meeting made me realize just how valuable this place is to the galaxy. The lengths Starforce went to? This is a place people are going to want to take from us. And we're going to have to fight if we want to keep it.”

Hal felt a surge of pride when he looked at Jelcs. The blood-stained tunic of his predecessor was gone. He wore the official uniform of the planet constabulary now, a golden star pinned to his chest. The meek deputy who greeted him upon his arrival here was long gone. And this lawman had taken his place.

“Are you scared?” asked Hal.

“Terrified,” Jelcs said without thought.

Hal flashed a smile and slapped Jelcs' back. “Good. It’s only a fool who feels no fear. They don’t pick Green Lanterns because they’re fearless. They pick us because we can overcome that fear. You overcome that fear, Jelcs, and you can become the stuff of legend.”

Jelcs flashed a crooked grin. They shook hands.

“And never forget," said Hal. "You’re in my space sector. I’m only one call away.”

Hal stepped away. His green aura shined brightly as he started to float off the ground.

“Good luck out there, Lantern Jordan.”

“Good luck on this planet, Chief Constable Jelcs.”

Hal blasted off into the night. As he left the upper atmosphere and prepared to jump into transluminal speed, he wondered to himself how long it would be before he came back. Del’vin’s words rang in his head.

This isn’t the end of this!




Alternate Earth
Space Designation Unknown

Jess stood on the battlements of the fort with a rifle slung over her shoulder. She was on sentry duty tonight, her first since joining the group. She hadn’t been completely pressed into service by the Savage Sisters, that’s what they called themselves, but she knew the deal. She had fighting experience and they needed help. The alternative was to find a way through this desert and strange war all on her own. According to the map she was somewhere in Colorado. At least in her world it was Colorado. Here it was the outlands of the great desert, just on the other side of the mountains. It looked as if the desert stretched across the land until it reached what she would call the Pacific.

The past few days were surreal. Sister Hellfire, the older woman who ran the show, gave Jess a bit of a crash course on what was going on in this world. Long before they had been born a great divide formed and this land was split into those who believed in the old ways of freedom and liberty, and a class of ruling elites who sought to make any and everyone serve their houses.

Sister Hellfire said that about ten years ago, things looked to be turning. The Oligarchs and their forces were being beaten back. But something changed. They’d gotten a second wind and pushed the armies of the Republic back. Now they stood on the brink of eradication. The main armies were preparing to take a stand somewhere on the other side of the mountains. The Sisters were just waiting for the call to join them for the last great battle.

“But how do I get home?” Jess asked herself.

She looked up at the stars. It was so different than anything she remembered back home. How could this be Earth and yet be so radically different?

“No,” she said again. “Not completely different.”

Sister Hellfire had recognized her Green Lantern logo. She didn’t know where or when she had seen it, but it was familiar. Maybe this version of Earth had its own Lanterns?

“Ring,” she said as she held her hand out. She prayed to... whatever it was she believed in. “Ping.”

Even with the charge dead, it could still send out an emergency ping to search for Lanterns or Oan technology in a close range. A tiny bolt of emerald energy flew out of the ring and disappeared over the horizon. A minute later it returned.

PING IDENTIFIED: GREEN LANTERN BATTERY WITHIN… 2000 KILOMETERS

Two-thousand kilometers? A little over twelve hundred miles, Jess figured. Twelve hundred miles… in what direction? She had no idea. It could be in the middle of a war zone for all she knew.

But she knew that somewhere on this war-torn and foreign version of her own home planet, was a battery. And with that battery there was hope. A chance to get home.




Kree Space
Unassigned Sector

Sinestro floated in space and watched the red giant star rage. Solar flares the size of entire planets flashed across its surface. A long tendril of energy exploded from the star and swept through the void. He was far enough to be in no danger, but he was close enough that the flares interfered with the Corps’ comms and tracking. If Salaak looked at the map, Sinestro would not appear anywhere on it. He was off the grid. As he had intended.

WARNING: OBJECT APPROACHING AT FTL SPEEDS

The Kree warship dropped out of lightspeed and started to burn towards the star. Sinestro stood in its path with his arms crossed and waiting. It came closer and closer until it was finally upon it. He was close enough to see through the protective glass, the figure standing at the bridge with his arms behind his back. He hailed the ship.

“Permission to come aboard?” he asked.

“Granted,” said Ronan the Accuser. “Meet me on the bridge.”

Ronan cast a glance at him as Sinestro entered the bridge.

“Your partner is quite the diplomat,” he said with a chuckle. “He convinced the Galactic Council that a truly balanced solution is our answer. A group of weapons inspectors will investigate and remove all Neutral Zone technology from Rann while overseen by two Lanterns. Apparently you have one officer who is a Rannian and one who is a Thanagarian?”

“Yes,” Sinestro said with a nod. “Kol and Sarn. The Lanterns watch the inspectors, and Kol and Sarn watch each other. Honesty through paranoia. Is that the idea?”

“Like I said, quite the diplomat,” said Ronan. “He also helped dismiss your contempt charge. So he deserves your thanks.”

“Salaak has his talents. Action just doesn’t happen to be one of them.”

Sinestro looked out the bridge window at the raging star as he spoke.

“Lantern Jordan has left the Cromica system without incident. It seems that your man there was arrested. Something about attempting to murder a constable. Jordan wasn’t involved in the arrest, I’m afraid. It was all locals. The one time I count on Jordan to make a mess of things he doesn’t.”

“This changes little,” said Ronan. “Those hicks imprisoning him gives the Empire justification to start flexing its muscle in the system. Your Lantern may not have set things off, but he help pack the powderkeg nice and tight.”

“Only a matter of time I suppose.”

“I forgot to commend you on a fine job acting,” Ronan said with a laugh. “That speech you gave in front of the Council? Bravo.”

Sinestro turned away from the window and looked at the Accuser.

“There was no mummery there. I meant every word that I said. Just because you and I find our goals in temporary alignment, make no mistake where my allegiance lies, Accuser. The Green Lantern Corps was once a great and powerful organization. The stories they tell about the old timers and the ancient heroes of the Corps... A single Lantern could tame an entire galactic empire. We could bring entire star systems to their knees with just the threat of our arrival. But in the centuries since, the bureaucrats and fledgling empires have robbed us of that power. The New Men attack one of our own, send her gods know where, and we are content to let the Galactic Council make a ruling? In the old days we would have watched the cities of Rann burn to the ground and we would have salted its surface so nothing could ever grow there again. Our arraignment? It’s only a small part of a larger plan. It’s been so long, the galaxy is in need of a reminder.”

“And what, pray tell, must they remember.”

“Fear,” said Sinestro. “They need to remember to fear.”
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