Chapter 13
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Chapter 13

Egypt Base
December 19th, 1996

I was dreaming, I knew that but reliving so many different memories, impressions and using skills I wasn’t aware I had was clearly beneficial. The Phoenix Force was one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, possessing the unlimited power to create and destroy anything and everything. I needed this knowledge to stay in control of the phoenix force.

Phoenix was helping me by giving me the memories of countless hosts who had gained control of the Phoenix Force and proceeded to help her safeguard the universe. I was learning how to go swim into a sun, generate cosmic storms, solar flares, geomagnetic storms, cosmic rays, coronal mass ejection and black holes. It was dangerous; having this level of power was a massive responsibility and I didn’t want to use those kinds of phenomena yet.

I wouldn’t shirk my duties, though. I made a deal and I planned on seeing it through. As I watched a Phoenix host use the same disintegration waves I used on Sinister and Sublime, I asked myself if there was a way to lower the power of such an ability without it consuming and removing a near infinite amount of molecules per second.

One of the most controversial abilities to date was the life-force control; a female host was taking the "life energy" from some kind of space whale, rendering it "dead"; I wasn’t surprised though, the Phoenix Force could control and manipulate life and death itself. If I were to use such an ability on an entire planet what would happen? I visualized Mars, and thought that maybe this was what had happened to it.

Phoenix continued to filter the more relevant memories and skills to me; cosmic pyrokinesis, one of my favorite skills from Phoenix. The next host generated cosmic flames; they could be created under any conditions, even the impossible ones such as the vacuum of space or underwater. These flames did not require oxygen to burn, burning so intensely that matter was wholly consumed without by-products such as ash. The host had perfect control over these flames, and they only consumed what it willed.

I had noticed that it burned everything I wanted to burn just like the wiki had said it would. Energy absorption was the next skill, I was shown that I could directly absorb, manipulate and fully control any type of energy; such as the energy of a star, a black hole or even a whole galaxy. This… was scary as hell. The next ability that another female host showed me was where she was transmigrating throughout time and space by folding its energy back into itself, causing it to collapse akin to a black hole. Then she reformed herself when she’d reached her destination in another part of the universe, much like the Phoenix of ancient myths. 

Cosmic teleportation was simply awesome, the next host teleported herself and others across vast distances such as to another planet or galaxy, or farther, even an entirely different timeline. Then the memories became more esoteric and touched on temporal manipulation, the skills Phoenix had used to show Peter what had happened to his counterpart in Earth 616, control over existence, matter transmutation, limited nigh-omnipotence and future life force tap.

I preferred the more concrete skills such as a concussive force blast powerful enough to destroy whole planetary bodies. Then Phoenix pecked me on the head again to pay attention to her more abstract skills. (It’s important.)

I was shown how everything was interlinked- that there was an ecology to everything. The movement of planets, galaxies and their clusters. How to influence a species or fight incursions from beyond the multiverse. I learned to dissociate myself from my feelings when doing those tasks and to be one with the Phoenix Force, its instrument. I was a bloody cosmic gardener, it made me laugh.

(This is what it means to be a Phoenix avatar.) Phoenix added grandly as she had a representation of the universe between her hands.

I nodded. “I understand.”

Phoenix pressed a palm against my cheek. (Do you?) 

Not totally but I was sure that, with experience, I’d perfect my understanding. “I will be ready for the role.”

She sighed, she knew me a bit too well. (Good enough.)

I stared into my hands, feeling the power that was coursing through me, the understanding of each of my abilities. I could do whatever I wanted, my power was only limited by my imagination and will on the fabric of reality. “Hmm, I can now fly unaided through the vacuum of space, and can travel interstellar distances faster than the speed of light. The possibilities.”

(Now it’s time to wake up, you have people to protect.) My cosmic counterpart slapped me back into my body.

 

# # #

 

04:35 PM (Egypt time)

Opening my eyes, I jolted upright. I remained in my bed inside my new bedroom. Feeling rested and aware of my environment, I sluggishly exited the red and white bedsheets of my bed. “That was a nice nap, what time is it?”

Taking the tablet that was charging on the nightstand on the left of the bed, the lock screen showed me that it was 04:36 PM right now, I whistled. I’d slept for half a day. That realization jolted me out of bed and made me teleport to the showers and proceed to get a cool shower. I missed my mom, dad and even Madelyn who I had left with Elektra to get to know her better.

Goldie stored my clothes and I walked naked into the showers. The ground was covered in non-slip white tiles, the shower system was kind of high-tech and reminded me of those artificial waterfalls I had seen in TV ads in my previous reality.

All of a sudden it dawned on me that my symbiote had become unnaturally silent since we retrieved Venom. Maybe she had something on her mind? “How are you doing today, Goldie? Is there anything different since we changed?”

[Uncertain: Changed something has.] Something was making Goldie feel anxious and… lost?

I pushed the water tap of the waterfall shower and it fell in a trickle on me at first, gradually getting stronger. “Like what? Can we still use the powers from the people whose DNA you assimilated?”

This was an ability I didn’t want her to lose; it was precious and a game changer. I pushed the button of the soap dispensary and took a handful, lathering it onto my skin. 

[Acquiescence: It's about the Voice of the Cosmos, we are cut off from it.]

So Goldie was unable to call for help to the nearest Klyntar hosts. I didn’t think we’d lost anything too precious; Goldie was in my body when I had gotten my rebirth, she may have gotten cut off from the Klyntar network but she must have gained new abilities. “Is it really bad? Because I don't want to think about what would happen if more Klyntar were to come on my planet.”

Goldie was silent for a moment. Then with a lot of doubt and worries, she added, [Uncertain: Different it is. What should I do?]

I hugged my Klyntar friend mentally and began to think fast. I didn’t like the fact that she seemed to hurt inside like this. Then a lightbulb lit up in my mind. “You can create your own network with your own progeny, right?”

[Pondering: Think about this I must.] Goldie then went silent, but I could still feel her thinking.

Smiling, I was pleased I’d given her something to think about. “Okay, dear. Give me your answer when you are ready.”

All I received at that was her acquiescence, meanwhile I finished my ablutions. I felt really clean after the problems of this morning. I felt good, rested but not at peace. This was becoming a problem, I needed introspection. The waterfall shower ceased to flow and I dried myself with a thought. Holding a few locks of hair, I noted that I needed a hairdresser, urgently.

I was surprised that Goldie wasn’t dressing me like she usually did; the symbiote was really busy thinking, so I did the next best thing. As I walked out of the shower room, my Phoenix costume materialized on my body. It was red and gold, still with the Phoenix Force Symbol. I hated it, it looked like a silly spandex suit; nevertheless it was simply too comfortable because it felt like I wore nothing. As I looked closer at the fabric I observed that it was made of the psionic energy! So the Phoenix costume was pure psionic energy, and capable of materializing instantly and conforming to whatever shape and structure the wearer chooses. A bit like the Green Lantern’s uniforms. Hmm, it was essentially pure energy wrapped around me, and designed to keep me comfortable, safe, and no longer needing to eat, sleep, or worry about traveling through space.

“This is handy, but I still don’t like the spandex look. Maybe I can customize it?” A thought for later.

By spreading my awareness, I felt that everyone was gathered in the kitchen. May and Ben were getting to know my subordinates and Pete was scarfing down food like a pig. I shook my head. Not wanting to see anyone, I teleported out of the base and appeared in the sky and a verdant valley was under me. It was beautiful, an oasis sheltered in the desert; and it was mine.

I smiled at this little fact and let my inner fire out, allowing it to flow through me as the Phoenix Force filled my entire being. My own personal power swelled to almost infinity. Lifting my head I decided to give myself a little treat and go on a walk throughout the solar system.

SKREEE! I blasted out into the sky and quickly reached the Thermosphere, I turned myself mid flight and looked at the blue and green globe under me. As I ascended, shooting for the stars, my planet’s size was becoming very small. As I left orbit, I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small. There was so much debris and so many satellites around it that I found it… unsanitary and not responsible.

*Maybe there was a business in recycling them for cheap, that’s a plan.* I opened my life-sight.

I hadn't had time to admire Earth the last time I had been in space since I had been busy killing Sinister and his stable of clones, but Earth was beautiful. I was born on this planet. I gazed at its blue oceans and green wilderness; its deserts and jungles, the lakes. I loved her so much. She was beauty; she was wonder; she was heaven by divine design.

My life-sight focused on the organisms all over the surface and the depths of the oceans. Earth, she was ecology; she was genetics, her lifeforms evolved and my love for her was absolute. In this wide universe there could be no finer planet for any species than their natural home. However, my sight also showed me the ugliness, the pollution spread all over my beautiful world.

The top ten sites of pollution were Chernobyl- the infamous site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. Dzerzhinsk, Russia, one of Russia's principal manufacturing sites of chemical weapons. Kabwe, Zambia, legacy of decades of lead and zinc mining had left a city poisoned by debilitating concentrations of lead dust in the soil and by metals in the water. The same for Oroya in Peru, another mining town. Linfen, in China where residents literally choked on coal dust in the evenings. Mailuu-Suu was home to nearly two  million cubic meters of radioactive mining waste that threatened the entire Ferghana valley, one of the most fertile and densely populated areas in Central Asia. Norilsk, Russia, an industrial city founded in 1935 as a slave labor camp, the Siberian city of Norilsk housed the world's largest heavy metals smelting complex. 

Then Sumgayit, in Azerbaijan where harmful emissions of industrial and agricultural chemicals were released annually. And the worst of the worst, in China, Tianying, that was one of the largest lead production bases; the lead concentrations in the air and soil made my eyes water just by looking at it. How could people live in this filth?

They needed to open their eyes and see the many gifts bestowed upon us by the planet. What more did they want? What more did they need? What could I do to fix the planet? Because I was sure as hell not leaving it like this!

It all came down to great power and great responsibilities again. My hands twitched, knowing I could fix everything with a wave of them, but- would humanity learn if I just did it myself? No, they would continue on as though nothing had changed. What I needed to do was create the tools to enable them to clean up their messes, and educate them to not repeat their mistakes.

Hmph, “Easier said than done.”

My Phoenix flames coalesced around me in the Raptor of life’s form, space debris and micro-meteorite bouncing off me. With a thought, I went to warp speed toward Jupiter. Earth became miniscule as I travelled faster than the speed of light. I travelled from Earth to the Jovian planet in one minute; just like that I covered 633.54 million km.

I stopped flying and watched as familiar stripes and swirls were now before my eyes. I felt its immense gravity; but it had no hold on me as I didn’t want it to. I passed a hand into its windy clouds. It was actually cold. The atmosphere was made of hydrogen and helium. I could smell the ammonia and see the water in the clouds. I flew backward as I saw the giant red spot bigger than Earth, it was a storm that had been raging for hundreds of years.

I passed between Io and Jupiter and went back to Warp, this time shooting for Mars, I wasn’t crazy enough to go to Titan yet. I flamed over Mars and landed on its surface with a crack, leaving a little crater. Looking left and right, I checked to see if there was anyone. Spreading my awareness all over the planet, I found… no one. With my life-sight I did discover bacteria.

Looking into the sky I saw that the sky of Mars near the Sun appeared blue, while the sky far away from the Sun appeared red. I was the first person on Mars since... ever! With my TK, I dug a bit more into the crater and enlarged it for over three kilometers in diameter and used the martian soil to cover it with a crystalyne diamond dome; then I buried deep for over ten meters and packed the soil and transmuted it to stone.

I created stairs that led up and to an exit which I opened in the dome’s lattice, that I elongated to turn into a makeshift entry lock. I levitated sixty meters up in the air, and there was a lot of space there. With a wave, I covered the base of the future martian house with another dome made of stone. “It’s going to be great, all I need are more tools and resources to develop it. A good hobby for later.”

Landing, I glanced up again. As the dome was transparent, the sky was still visible to me, the disk of the Sun appearing mostly white, with a slight bluish tinge. I would need to be careful with ionizing radiation when I brought the girls. I teleported outside the dome, it wasn’t necessary for me to take a breath but I could still analyze the atmosphere with my powers. There was not much air on Mars- the atmospheric pressure there was less than one one-hundredth of what we breathed on Earth. There was potential there.

I would need a lot of icy comets to melt and thicken the atmosphere. Mars was alive. Dying, yes, but still alive. My Phoenix powers compelled me to attempt to save her, but I lacked time and didn’t feel confident in my mastery of the Phoenix Force, yet. I walked away from my domed future residence and thought about the dreams Phoenix had led me through.

Control. I needed control and the red costume showed me how lacking I was in that domain. My heart was full of hatred for my dead enemies. Fear was what controlled my heart and guided my actions. What was there to fear anymore? Sinister? I buried his ashes in the sand.

Was I afraid because I didn’t know what the future would bring? I had lived in fear for years and now I was finally free. But I didn’t know what to do? I stared into the sky, allowing my awareness to spread all over the solar system and I focused on the Earth. “It needs my help. That's home. On it, everyone I love, everyone I know, needs to thrive and Stan Lee only knows how fucked up this universe is.”

Was I strong enough, though? Marvel had a tendency to try to strike back hard. Fear of the unknown, yes that was a problem. I couldn’t let fear control me though so I would smash through every obstacle. I put my fist before me, and fire covered my entire body. The Dune Litany Against Fear came to my mind, it portrayed exactly what I wanted.

“I will not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
I will face my fear.
I will let it pass through me.
When the fear has gone,
there shall be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

I repeated the Litany Against Fear like a mantra until I believed it, up till my mind focused on my future goals. Better the world, better myself and bring those worthy into the sun. *Nah, sounded too man-of-steely.*

“I will just make a ton of money, heal the planet and try to lead metahumans and vanilla humans into the future by cooperating like I originally wanted to.” Something strange occured when I said that, my costume changing from  red to green. The color change spread from the Phoenix Force Symbol to the entire psionic cloth-like construct covering my body.

I grinned at it. “Well that’s a big sign that I am on the right path.” 

(Congratulations, you won’t go mad with power anymore.)

I jumped in surprise, holding my hand on my chest. “Huh, thanks Phoenix…”

(Now go back home, mom needs to speak with you.)

I really didn’t like how she tried to boss me around. A no was on the tip of my tongue but mom wanting to see me was more important. “Fine, I needed to give her one of the satellite communicators anyway.” I sighed and opened a portal to my lab, not caring that I was on Mars. 

Looking behind me, I stared at the big dome and smiled. Then, I entered the portal, curious about what my mother wanted.

 

# # #

(Elaine Grey)

 

New York, Queens
Penthouse
01:37 PM

Elaine dialed her friend’s number again only to reach  the voice-mail for the third time. The Grey matriarch hung up the handset of the phone back on the desk. She looked at the time om the clock nearest to her and bit her lips. *Peggy isn't answering. Strange.*

Elaine heard the main door to the penthouse’s entrance open, and the soft footfalls and the crinking of grocery bags could be heard.”Mom, can you please come give me some help?!”

“Julia?” Elaine cried out from the living room.

The Grey Matriarch walked out of the living room to the entry hall, dressed in  a black heavy winter coat with two large grocery bags in her arms. She couldn’t see her daughter's face as the bags obscured it."I got everything you asked me on the list.”

Elaine helped her daughter, taking a bag.She looked inside, it was mainly ingredients for tonight's dinner. “Good girl, but why didn't you ask any of the nice young men guarding this place to help you?”

Julia whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “Well, I don't trust them… Jean doesn't either, so I assumed that I shouldn't ask anything.”

Elaine sighed, lamenting that her daughters were all being paranoid about SHIELD because Jean didn’t trust them and that was enough for her. The two women went to the kitchen to store the groceries, they were done in ten minutes. However the arrival of a certain younger redhead in a flash of blue light surprised them.

Jean appeared in a green skin-tight and form fitting costume with a strange bird symbol on her, her gloves, sash and thigh high boots were a golden color. She oozed maturity and sex appeal. *There’s no way my daughter will go out like this!*

“Hi there, mom.” Jean greeted, voice low.  

Julia glomped her younger sister, holding her tight. “Jean! You are back.”

Elaine's mood lightened at the display of affection between her two daughters.They had become distant when the eldest had left for university so it was great to see that blood was thicker than water and that there were no hard feelings between them.

Julia let go of Jean and Elaine seized this brief instant to ask in a disapproving tone. “Jean what are you wearing?”

The younger redhead looked down at herself, cheeks reddening and she crossed her arms under her breasts and petulantly said, “That’s my Phoenix costume.”

Jean must have felt that Elaine didn't approve of her current get up that didn’t leave anything to the imagination and opted to become defiant and ready to argue.

Julia chuckled. “It’s really corny.” 

The comment made Jean feel self conscious of her costume and in a haze of flame it slowly disappeared until the young woman wore a different outfit that covered her as the previous costume disappeared. She now wore a turquoise top with an expansive cleavage window and tactical black pants with a tasteful belt with a golden falcon shaped buckle. “Tell me about it… at least I can change clothes at the drop of a hat now.”

Julia gaped at her sister, then gushed over her, holding onto her shoulders. “That is so unfair! I want to know how to do that too!” 

Jean smiled patronizingly. “Maybe another time, sis.” And Julia looked stubborn, not letting go of her sister at all. The sisters were intransigent like that.

Elaine's youngest sighed, trying to ignore her sister by turning to her mother. “Hey, mom, I felt that you needed to see me. Is there something I can do for you?”

She nodded, taking her daughter's hand in hers. “Yes, are you down for dinner with us tonight?”

Jean was hiding for a reason that escaped Elaine, holed up in Egypt and helping people. The matriarch wanted her daughter back with her, like she used to- before all that freedom changed her and she developed bad habits. She had lived alone before meeting her husband, John, and it wasn’t a good period in her life.

Elaine put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder and looked at her in the eyes. “I invited Peggy, but there seems to be complications as she isn't answering my calls”

Jean’s mother wouldn't say that it was also a means to curb Jean’s streak of bad decisions. Peggy often had good ideas on how to handle her daughter; she could lead Jean to think it’s good for her to do certain actions, like staying with them more or returning to school. Elaine was aware that Jean wanted to test out of school and work on going to college pronto, but she wanted her daughter to not lose her way or stop interacting with people.

As Elaine schemed, Jean pondered over the current loss of contact with her mentor. “Strange, she never lets go of it. Let's give it another hour and we will call her again.”

Elaine nodded, happy her baby was distracted from her own feelings and wouldn’t guess her intentions. “If you are hungry now, I can give you something filling to help you before dinner.”

A smile slowly spread on Jean’s face, her stomach rumbling on cue. “Huh, that's fine I guess.” The younger Grey blushed as her belly continued to make a show of its hunger.Elaine smirked. Her daughter was a glutton and could easily be bribed with food, just like her elder sisters. But there was no reward without the stick. “And are you helping with the cooking, Jean?”

Jean must have seen something in the eyes of her mother as she plastered a fake smile on her face and shouted with mock enthusiasm, “Totally! I wouldn't have it any other way, mom.”

Elaine laughed and pulled her daughter toward the kitchen island. Julia whispered ‘sucker’ in the background as she giggled at Jean’s meekness toward their mother, then smiled as she trailed after them to help, leaving her winter coat on the nearest hanger. 

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
05:05 PM

I’d been roped into making dinner because I was a sucker like that where my mom was concerned. She just had to ask with those scary eyes and I kept folding like a house of cards. It made me wonder where the superpowered being that had killed Sinister and had reshaped landscapes or had gone to Mars was.  I was currently peeling potatoes, like a good daughter would for her mother.

Sighing, I continued to peel multiple potatoes with TK which was actually a good control exercise. I took my time though, not wanting to go too fast and mess up the ingredients. There was something refreshing about doing mundane tasks with my powers. It was grounding. It made me realize that I wanted things to go back to normal too, be there with my family and hang out with my friends.

As we worked, mom, Julia and I were also watching a spanish soap opera marathon. As the last episode was ending I was already done with the potatoes that I crushed into purée in a bowl for my mother. I looked at the time and frowned, Peggy should have called back already to tell us if she was coming or not. She was too responsible and conscientious to leave us hanging like this.

“Mom, I’m going to call uncle Phil. He must know what has been happening.” A feeling of foreboding filled me.

"Alright, Jean." My mom said absently as she observed as the actress proceeded to order the assassination of the love interest.

There was no way she was focusing on what I said. I shrugged and took out my GSM from Goldie's mysterious storing space. Since it was discharged it wouldn't turn on. I sighed; it’d been one month since I had bothered with it. A crafty smile blossomed upon my face as I took out the battery from the phone and slowly began charging it with a really low charge of electricity. 

The battery would be damaged after a bit of use, but I intended to build myself a smartphone anyway. I did have the tech for it. After five minutes I stopped charging the battery and slotted it back into the phone and turned it on. It was one of those old Nokia brick phones that were super solid. 

*Hmm, I am at half the bar for the battery.*

I quickly scrolled through my contact list through the tiny digital screen and found uncle Phil's number. Hitting call, I pressed the phone against my ear and listened as there was a dial tone. It went straight to voicemail.

“Hello, this is Phil. Thanks for calling. Please leave your name, number, and the reason you'd like to chat, and I'll get back to you ASAP.”

Beep.

“Fuck.” I muttered, trying again.

It gave me the same message, and I was forced to call on a number I thought I never would, I called Fury. Fifteen seconds later, it didn’t even get to the dial tone, straight up telling me this number wasn’t in service. The feeling of foreboding intensified yet again.

It was time to go check what was going on. “Mom, I will need to check on Peggy. I have a bad feeling.” I called out.

For once, the soap opera didn’t hold her rapt attention and she turned to me. “Go, we need to know if something has happened. Your dad and Sarah will be here soon enough too.”

I nodded and my current outfit disappeared in favor of my Phoenix costume. I glanced down and it was still green, perfect. I teleported out of the living room and found myself in the sky and I cloaked directly in order to not be seen. Cerberus HQ was under me, the tall building was a hive of activity even this late in the day.

Pushing my awareness, I scanned the building for Phil, Nick, Peggy and even some of my agent friends. Alice, Eve and Francesco were there, but they felt anxious about something. Phil had... disappeared? Fury had simply signed off today after trying to find Peggy. I didn’t have to look for their memories; they kept shouting the rumors in their minds.

Peggy disappearing and her most trusted agents with her? Something smells rotten in Denmark. I teleported to Astoria, in Queens. This part of Queens was a multicultural neighborhood of low-rise residences and small businesses. I had spied on Peggy going there in astral form to know where she lived. I arrived at the red brick townhouse with a big garden, there was no one here.

Floating up to the porch, I searched for the alarm that had to be here; there was already the keypad next to the door. Testing the windows, I noticed they were all bulletproof. I wouldn’t be surprised if this entire house was in fact a fortress. *This is Peggy’s house alright.*

As I peered inside, I got enough spatial information to teleport inside. The door was behind me and I could see that the place didn’t seem disturbed at all. Still, the gnawing feeling remained within me, and those instincts were more than my own. I decided to use temporal manipulation to see what happened there. 

The ability that I was about to use was somewhat like psychometry, people left imprints of their psionic energy -what an aura was made of- and I was able to tap into them to obtain historical memories or sensations concerning places, beings and objects they observed.  With a wave of my hand, everything around me gained a blue tint.

I wanted to know what had happened here today, starting with this morning. The scene began with someone entering through the door, a tall woman, with blue eyes and blond hair, dressed in a black pantsuit. I noticed that she was armed. She called out for Peggy and I was surprised to discover that she was Sharon Carter, my mentor’s niece.

Peggy exited her kitchen and entered the living room with a cup of tea in her hands. They kissed each other on the cheeks and some inane pleasantries and gossip began to be shared. I fast forwarded the scene until Sharon left the house and Peggy was left alone and went to the dining room to work on her work laptop. It looked sturdy and big- military built.

There came the call she received from her mother about dinner, and the women began to speak about her. It was heartwarming to see the eyes of the old woman filled with a fondness that was also evident in her voice, and exchanging pleasantries with Elaine Grey. Peggy then told her that she would be here for dinner. Then for hours she continued to work and saw that she must have found something disturbing because it was the first time she heard her mentor cuss.

“Bloody hell.” 

Then her phone rang, and she scowled when she saw the caller ID. “Pierce.”

I stopped the scene, and augmented my hearing to hear what the man would say. And it was nothing good when she played the scene again.

“You really shouldn’t have accessed those files,” Jean heard the posh accented man tell her. 

“You’re HYDRA.” Peggy accused.

“Obviously, you think we didn’t notice your little stunt about keeping our agents out of the East North East branch?” Jean thought she was smug, but this guy put her levels to shame. She asked herself if it was the same Pierce guy from the Winter Soldier Movie, and she hoped not; she hated the guy.

And then everything happened as if I was into a spy movie when two transparent figures immobilized Peggy on her chair. Some kind of commando guy in high-tech cloaking suits, it wasn’t as powerful as her Star Trek inspired cloaking field but the fact that Hydra had this was worrying. One of the suited men held the phone to Peggy’s ear.

“If you kill me, they’ll know it was you,” Peggy spoke, remaining cool as a cucumber. That had my utmost respect. 

Peggy continued, “There’s security cameras in this room. It’ll blow your cover and expose you.”

Jean bristled at Pierce’s strange laugh. “Except I won’t kill you; it would raise too many questions. Instead, I just need you to forget. You’ll forget everything that happened in the last three months.”

Peggy scoffed with moxie.“How do you plan on doing that?” 

I smiled until I saw the jet injector in one of the special suited men’s hands. I feared for my mentor’s life at this point.

“The memory loss serum Howard had worked on shortly before his death. It’s a shame we never got to properly test the long-term effects, but either way, we know it will work and make you forget. But just to be safe, we’ll give you slightly more than usual.” It was at this moment that I watched the short fight between Peggy and the two men and I was impressed to see she’d almost won. But there was a third hidden man who tackled her and immobilized her on the ground with a choke hold. They injected Peggy with the solution to erase her memories.

“Good night, Carter, by the time you wake up, you won’t remember any of this.” I heard Pierce on the phone.

Steadily, a feeling of rage bubbled up in me because of this presumptuous man and what he was doing to one of my heroes.

Then something else happened and Peggy’s body began to seize, the men around her panicking. They tried to hold her down. One of them took Peggy’s phone and spoke in it. “Boss we may have a problem, Miss Carter seems to react badly to the solution.”

“Crap, bring her to the facility. She must not die, is that understood?” I heard the sliver of panic in f Pierce’s voice.

The man didn’t take off his visor at all when he spoke. “Yes, boss.” He hung up the phone, and placed it into one of his belt pouches. He looked at the panicked agents and commanded, “Load her up, we need to move!”

My anger burned inside of me, my Phoenix costume flickering between green and red the whole time until I chose to channel my anger. I became rational, I decided to follow their psionic imprint and I exited the house.

 

# # #

 

It wasn’t difficult to follow them, they left by non-descript van, abandoned it to take an armored SUV, where they injected something into Peggy that stopped her seizure. She was sleeping as they were leaving Queens for somewhere in Manhattan. There they took a helicopter and I followed them to New Jersey. I followed the ghostly vehicle to Camp Lehigh.

“It’s oddly familiar… oh.” It came to me just then. 

I was pretty sure it was where Project Rebirth was happening and that Abraham Erkine proceeded to test candidates for the super soldier serum. The camp was surrounded by woods, there was still minimal activity from it. Vehicles, guards and different installations told me that this was an off the book operation going on here. I landed near the helicopter and looked as a doctor helped by soldiers loaded Peggy on a stretcher and disappeared inside the facility. I pushed my awareness and sought her out . A smile spread on my face as I found her sleeping mind.

I wanted to take her immediately but something stopped me from doing so. Pierce was both mine and Peggy’s enemy so I couldn’t leave him at my back. *Never again.*

I needed to uproot him and Hydra from SHIELD- it was certain that he would come after me if I resurfaced. I had swept away all their bugs and cameras in the penthouse but even there my parents and sisters weren’t safe. Before making a move to save Peggy, I needed to stash away dad, mom and my sisters as well as securing my friends and their families in a location unknown to Hydra and under my control.

Just in case, I created a mental link between Peggy and me. It disgusted me to do this to her without her consent but I would ask for forgiveness later. It was permanent and wherever they moved her on the planet, I would find her. I resisted my impulse of wanting to destroy everything and leave with her, but I needed to do this right.

I needed to find Phil and Nick. I levitated and left Camp Lehigh through the sky and flamed and found myself outside the atmosphere at mach seven and stayed in orbit. I didn’t need a cerebro but I still needed to focus hard to find a specific person. I pushed my awareness all over North America and looked for him.

 

# # #

(Charles Xavier)

New York, Westchester County
Xavier's school for the gifted
Underground Bunker

Charles was on Cerebro looking for new mutants having awakened their gifts. He’d found one in Wisconsin and another in Kentucky. Logan and Cyclops had already gone to recruit the boy. The screen of the super computer suddenly showed a huge psionic signature all over North America. Charles quickly put on his helmet and focused on spreading his awareness, momentarily gaining near-omnipotence of what was happening.

The psionic energy he could feel was familiar, and immediately he knew who it was. Jean Grey. He had never thought that she was so powerful and didn’t need a machine to spread her telepathic gift all over the world. He felt when she focused on him and he saw her astral form appear before him. She wore a green and gold form hugging costume with the symbol of a golden bird on her chest.

Her face was neutral as she greeted him with a nod, “Professor.”

The bald professor remembered their last conversation and how she had effortlessly sent him back into his body when he had detected her and went to look for her in that warehouse in Queens. “Jean, you look… well.” He loosened his tie as she continued to observe him.

Charles briefly remembered the memories of Peggy telling him that he was a horrible man. Jean’s eyes widened.

He barely felt the pressure on his mind, but he understood that Jean was somewhat upset. He was surprised... She had just read his mind without even trying, what about his defenses or mental shields? Her eyes glowed yellow with fire, her costume slowly turning red as he stared at her. There was a lot of fury being thrown out in the room. He watched as the young woman closed her eyes and the wrath storm slowly subsided. Her costume turning green again, when she reopened her eyes it was to see a disappointed expression on her face.

“I am sorry Jean, if I knew…” Charles started, only to be interrupted.

Jean raised a hand to stop him and spoke over him. “I will visit you again another time and we will talk again, professor. I never expected your defenses to be so light. You are no longer the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, you should train yourself more. There are things on this planet that can kill you.”

“Goodbye.” The young woman’s astral form dissipated, and Charles exhaled a sigh of relief.

He took off the Cerebro helmet and put it in its place on the super computer. The level of power the young woman clearly exhibited was well beyond what he had thought her capable of. Charles had feared for his life when her eyes had glowed and her costume changed color. He still was; she could kill him and everyone in the school with a thought and it would be his fault.

Would she do that, though? She didn’t seem to want to take his life. With a swish, the door to Cerebro’s room opened, letting Ororo Munroe appear in her full body dark blue and gold tight fitting X-men uniform walk toward the professor. She looked at the professor and put a hand on his and asked, “Is something wrong?”

A sorrowful expression appeared on Charles’ face. “Yes, I may have jeopardized the entire school.”

Ororo flinched at that. “Charles?”

He shook his head, passing a hand on his shaved head. Then he stared straight into the african beauty’s blue eyes. “You remember Miss Grey?”

Ororo frowned and tried to remember, her expression clearing when she did. “The one Logan and you went to look after.” 

Charles nodded. “She may want my life.”

Ororo stood taller when she heard this. The sclera in her eyes disappeared, now completely white. “Why?” 

The bald professor heard the tension in her voice, she was ready for action at a moment's notice. He doubted that his younger friend would be enough to stop Jean Grey if she ever came here with nefarious intentions. “Because, Ororo, I am part of why she has been living in fear for years.”

He remembered the day where they had had the chance to take down Sinister once and for all, but the mad scientist bought his life with his service. As usual, Charles had given him a chance, against Magneto’s wishes. It was ten years ago on Bar Sinister.

Ororo shook her white colored mane, having no context to judge how dire the situation is. “Could you give me more than that?”

Charles turned his chair toward the exit. “Please follow me, it’s better if we have this discussion over tea.”

The weather mistress followed him, uncertainty etched onto her face. Asking herself if it was the usual reveal of secret Charles always did that exploded in their faces and embroiled her and the students into shenanigans.

 

# # #

(Phil Coulson)

 

Tremley
Route 95
06:45 PM

Phil was in deep trouble. He’d exfiltrated from the building serving as a front for SHIELD when he saw Pierce and his goons enter his floor as if they owned it. Then they began asking questions about Peggy’s policies and went through IT to have a log of all the files she consulted. Since then, he tried to call her, but she didn’t respond- even when he texted her the code they had agreed to, she had stayed silent.

Nick was the first to leave after he saw Pierce rummage in their mentor’s office. He had never seen his friend so pissed off before. Fury had gone dark ever since. Phil would have attempted to stay in the building and investigated what was going on but he’d been called to Peggy’s office and had a conversation with Pierce asking him if he had seen Nick.

After that, he’d asked why they had stopped rotating personnel. Phil played dumb, his guts telling him to not answer. He was dismissed and then he was assaulted by one of Pierce’s agents in the elevator. Phil disabled him, took his weapon and hightailed it to the parking lot and took his personal vehicle. Since then he grabbed one of his bail out bags that he kept in a locker at his bank. He was on the way to Texas with an off the book vehicle after abandoning his previous car.

Now he was on the road, swerving between cars, aware that Pierce and his mooks must have taken control of the New York SHIELD branch. Pierce was the SHIELD director of the Washington branch, and him being there was against protocol.

As he thought about the Hydra problem, Phil felt his car lurch and then fly into the air. He looked through the door’s window as he kept gaining in altitude and the highway became a thin band under him. He didn’t panic, it would not do anything; nevertheless he took his pistol from his shoulder holster and switched the safety off.

The passenger door suddenly opened and there appeared someone he believed he’d never see- a person he felt he failed. Her hair flew widely in the winds, on her face an impish grin blossomed. “Hi uncle Phil.”

She looked different, older and more mature. The green costume didn’t hide anything of her curvy yet athletic body. “Jean?”

He disapproved of her current get up, but it wasn’t important. She wormed her way through the car and hugged him. After a moment, she released him, chuckling. “The one and only, huh… maybe not.”

Phil filed away that little lapse in her dialogue and asked the question he cared the most about.“You escaped?”

With a laugh and a hard stare, Jean flipped her hair and said, “I killed the guy and took his stuff.”

Phil smiled, turning off the engine of the car. “That’s my girl.” His smile was proud and his eyes gleamed with something malicious. Phil reengaged the safety on his pistol and stored it in his holster, Jean was observing him with a smile on her face. He couldn’t guess what she was thinking or how she’d found him but he wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Phil completely ignored the fact that he was thousands of meters into the sky, he straightened the lapel of his suit, but as he made a mental inventory of his belongings he was interrupted by Jean who said, “You are on the run.”

Phil leaned in his seat, he felt the car move, still following the highway. “What gave you that idea?” The agent asked, almost sarcastic.

There was silence for a moment before Jean dropped a bomb on him. “Pierce has Peggy. He is the Hydra high chief.” She began to play with a lock of hair, looking straight into the windshield.

Phil could only say, “Shit.”

He had hoped that just like Nick, Peggy would have escaped and avoided the net. Clearly, Pierce had come prepared for them...

“Language.” Jean interrupted his thread of thoughts.

The agent gave her a tight smile, even flushing slightly. “Sorry. But what are we going to do now?”

“Now? Now, I’m going to bring you to my base. I have to get my friends and their families too though.” Jean uncrossed her arms, and turned her head to him, gazing into his eyes.

Phil saw the hard age in the teenager that wasn’t there a month ago. Not only had she matured but he believed her when she said she killed everyone who had made her life hell. Phil’s expression turned serious. “We need to contact Fury.”

“I intend to.” Jean lifted her chin and a golden portal opened before them, Phil’s heart skipping a beat as they entered it. After passing it they entered into some kind of hanger with strange flying vehicles inside.

The portal behind them collapsed on itself and closed. Phil exited the car and looked on around him in awe. There was an honest to god blimp here, and... was that a fleet of helicopters with coaxial propellers? And there was a… yacht? 

“What’s a boat doing in a cavern?” Phil asked out loud.

Jean, who had exited the car, laughed at him while shrugging. “Beats me, old Nath was a quirky guy.”

The redhead walked toward an exit on the right side of the hangar. Phil was following her but swore deep in his heart that he would pilot one of those helicopters very soon. They ended up in a tunnel after passing the heavily armored door giving access to it.

“This is a sprawling complex.” Phil observed as the corridors and tunnels turned in irregular ways. He even guessed that they were inside a mountain and not underground thanks to the holes in the tunnel walls that were more or less part of the ventilation system.

The young woman in the too provoking green costume stopped walking, turned to Phil and gave him an especially bright smile. “Yes, the security is shody too, you should have seen how easy it was to infiltrate and subvert the computers. I need to update everything.”

Phil’s eyes narrowed, he put his hands in his pockets trying to remember anything from Jean knowing how to do sabotage work. “Since when did you have training in infiltration, Jeanie?” 

Jean raised an eyebrow at him, tilted her head and put a hand on her hips. “You want to know the truth?”

Phil had seen his girlfriend wear the same expression before and he stepped back, not wanting to fall into the trap of asking questions that might be dangerous. “You are not… obligated to do so.” He took a hand out of his jacket pocket and waved nonchalantly at her. At least he tried to.

She grinned at him, confident that she could still appear unsettling to him.“I trust you Phil, you deserve to be given information about the full scope of what I can do.” Still, Jean threw him a bone. “We will do that after I get my people to safety.”

Phil nodded. He was quickly led to what Jean had called the dormitories and was introduced to Hans her butler and her right hand called Chimera. All powered individuals. Phil and Hans stared at each other, evaluating the other man, gauging their own worth.

“Please boys, stop the dick measuring contest.” Chimera piped up.

They were in the kitchen and Jean had disappeared in the same golden portal that had brought him here to go look for her family and friends. Phil sat at the bar with a stiff drink before him. Hans and Chimera were behind said bar, fixing food for tomorrow. The agent stared at the lithe blonde before him as she busied herself into dicing vegetables.

There was something familiar about her face- someone he had seen in his files. “Miss Chimera, you seem vaguely familiar.”

She lifted her head, shooting him a sensual smile. “Woah, barely here and you are already pulling moves on me, Mister Coulson I’m not that easy.” She pointed her kitchen knife at him and then returned to work.

Phil stood gobsmacked, not understanding how she’d come to that conclusion. She was certainly attractive, but wasn’t his type at all. She seemed more childish than anything, with Jean’s mental age; a teenager in a woman’s body. Hans chuckled at his dumbfounded expression and returned to helping his colleague.

The agent was given something like a flat screen out of Star Trek that acted like a personal computer where he could consult the base’s database. Music, movies and restricted access to the hangars and facilities. Jean had access to this technology and more it seemed, he hoped after everything was settled with their Hydra infestation that his surrogate niece would be amenable to exchanging the computer technology.

He discovered a file pertaining to the number of bases connected to this one and his eyebrows climbed to his forehead when he was made aware that there was teleportation tech available here, but its status was marked as offline. Now Phil understood how Jean’s kidnappers had disappeared, he saw the potential of the technology and decided that he was going to have a conversation with Jean if she ever thought of disseminating it.

Phil took a swig of Whiskey but at the same moment another portal opened in the kitchen between the dinner tables and the bar. Out of it a person was thrown and slid to Phil’s feet. The man was african american, wore a SHIELD uniform and a black coat over it.

“Fury?” Phil put his glass on the bar, his eyes not leaving the body of the man.

Looking up, the man wore a bandage over his head and hiding his right eye, it was bleeding. “Phil?”

The agent looked inside the portal, seeing a dark place illuminated by Jean's burning body. The fire disappeared and the portal collapsed. Phil shook his head and stood up, also helping his friend up from the wooden tiles.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Fury narrowed his good eye.

Phil helped his friend to sit on one of the stools. “Just like you, I was rescued by our favorite redhead.”

“I was about to get killed by Pierce’s goon squad and then she killed them all by immolating them.”

The body of a black suited man wearing a helmet visor landed at Fury’s side. Jean passed through the portal, and closed it. Her costume became an open backed carmine dress with black tights and ankle boots. A hooded winter coat appeared over her dress.

“Stay here, don’t touch the body, I need to get my people.” Jean clipped before disappearing in a shower of blue light.

Phil and Fury looked at each other. “Totally sandbagging us.” They said in sync.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
07:15 PM

I appeared in the living room, and the first thing I could see was Sarah, my elder sister talking with someone. A SHIELD agent in a light armored uniform with tactical gear on his belt that I didn’t recognize. I tried to read his mind but my half hearted attempt was rebuffed by something cold and machine like. I narrowed my eyes; this was one of the stuff those assassins had used against me to stay undetectable.

“Fuck off.” I strongly pushed the suggestion in his mind.

The little box on his belt linked via cable to a headset, simply exploded. Sparks made the man flinch, burning the right side of his head and his eyes became glassy and he left through the door. I looked at Sarah who stared at the man doing exactly what I told him.

Sarah scowled at me. “Jean? What’s gotten into you?!”

There was a hint of fear coursing through her as she saw an example of what telepathy can do. She walked up to me and made a move to grasp my left arm. 

I batted away her hand, getting into her face and looking her dead in the eye. “Shut up, it’s not the time.”

Sarah stumbled back, afraid. “What?”

I put a hand on her shoulder and said with conviction, “We are in danger, go look for mom and the others. We are leaving.”

She scowled, not used to me giving her orders and tried to argue. “But!”

I sighed. “Sarah, I am trying to save your life. Will you listen?”

Something in my expression must have caught her attention because she lowered her eyes and looked meek. “Okay.” She gave in, her voice little. 

Sarah quickly ran to the dining room. Meanwhile I began to pack everything valuable into Goldie like our clothes, our family portrait and photos albums. I took everything that belonged to us and left the furniture that was already provided when we came to live here. Even the kitchen appliances, the pots and pans didn’t belong to us.

The first person I saw when I entered the kitchen was dad. He basically tackled me and hugged me to death. "Can't breath!"

Dad let go of me as he stepped back, but still held me by my shoulders. "Where have you been!?" 

I smiled at him, then at everyone. "Well, I am going to show you, you are all going with me."

Julia was the first to react at my declaration. "Jean?"

I didn’t want to have to explain everything again so I’d make it count this time. "Can I show you why we must all get lost fast?"

They looked at each other and then nodded. Wow, they truly trusted me.

Sarah, Julia, Mom and Dad closed their eyes and I brought them into my confidence, showing them through my memories everything I unearthed about the current modern Hydra. I even showed them what happened to Peggy. Mom and Dad's mood shifted and when I stopped, anger simmering in them; in contrast, Julia and Sarah were afraid.

I held my right hand to them. “Come with me if you want to live.” I was serious.

Julia broke the tension, laughing. My parents looked confused as she did and Sarah simply massaged the bridge of her nose and scrunched her face. “Please no movie quotes…” She said as she thought out loud that I was a big geek.

I huffed. “Fine, I already packed all our stuff. Huh, the mashed potatoes and fine steaks I’m going to take them with us.” I lifted all the food on the kitchen island in the air.

“Always thinking about what’s important huh sis?” I rolled my eyes. Julia may be afraid but she could still be snarky.

With a snap of my fingers, a portal opened to my private kitchen in Egypt base. My parents and sisters looked on in awe at the spatial phenomenon. At the same time, I felt a spike of activity at the foot of the building. I felt the same cold and machine-like protections on multiple individuals. I punted their car into the air as if I kicked them myself. Through my awareness I felt them crash on the road, I took care of protecting passersby and other cars.

I shrugged, and then ushered my family through the portal and then once they were all safely in my base I closed the aperture. “Welcome to our new home!”

I put the food on the massive kitchen island. Julia had to rain on my parade with her comments. “Hm, it’s not much…”

I turned to her, seeing that she smiled at her successful attempt at needling me. I pressed a clenched fist against my hip and said with a look around, “Well what did you expect? It’s barely decorated but… still a modern kitchen, Lia.”

My kitchen featured flat surfaces, geometric forms, and little ornaments. The dark tile floor, islands, or even butcher-block countertops could bring in the warmth of light wood. The numerous kitchen cabinets on the walls were full of kitchen appliances, table cutlery and spices. Sarah walked up to the immense fridge and oohed and ahed at the space inside. Mom and dad followed suit.

After they finished inspecting the kitchen, mom asked, “Where are our rooms?”

I stopped leaning against the island and answered her almost instantly, “I will bring you to the apartments, there are a lot of bedrooms, though the master one is for me, of course.”

Dad and Mom glanced at each other, then back at me. It was mom who nodded, saying, “Of course.”

I showed them the rooms they had access to, each of my sisters chose a room next to mine and my parents took the second biggest room. Then I immediately unloaded the stuff from the penthouse into the living room for everyone.

"You weren't kidding when you said you took all our stuff." Mom mumbled.

"I am better than a moving company!" I boasted with a superman pose.

My family laughed at me, Sarah patting my head like I was a child. "You are silly."

Hmph, they still treat me like a kid. "I guess… now follow me, I will bring you to Phil and Nick."

I took Sarah's hand and pulled her with me to the exit, dad and the rest following suit. He also asked about our two allies. "They are alive?"

"Yeah, though Nick lost an eye." I revealed.

Dad winced, mom's smile turned thin and Julia didn't sound concerned. We walked out of my apartments and took one of the tunnels leading to the dormitories. At the same time, I gave each of them a communicator if they are ever lost in the base. I think I should give them a plan of the base just in case. We quickly arrived in the common room's kitchen and dining room, only to see Hans mop the ground where I had dumped the body of that Hydra agent while Chimera was attending to Nick’s wound.

I examined the ground floor, black tiles shining under the hanging lights of the common room. “Hans, where’s the body?”

He glared at me, wearing his butler uniform and holding a mop in his hands. He looked frustrated with me. “You left a dead body in the common kitchen, do you have any idea of how unsanitary that is.”

Everyone focused their attention on me, and I could feel a  particular set of eyes behind that burned a hole behind my neck. I felt that it was maybe time for a tactical retreat. I made a show of looking at my watch and said aloud, “Oh, look at the time. I must go look for Jessica and her family.”

Hans raised his hand and tried to stop me from leaving. “No, Jean stay-”

Too late; I teleported to my best friend’s house. I found myself before the porch of the Jones’ family. I sighed in relief, Hans could be rather intense sometimes; but he was right to, I shouldn’t have left a dead body in the kitchen. Mom wasn’t happy with me either… I shrugged, I will worry about it later.

Knock. Knock. I beat on the door. The cold wind that was bearing down on me didn’t affect me at all. Then I remembered that to Alisa Jones I was still kidnapped and missing. I hoped that I wouldn’t have to explain everything that happened. It was better to get them moving and let mom and dad do it.

I called on my friend, using the mental link between us. <Jessica it’s me, come quick.>

<Jeanie?!> Jessica’s mind voice called me out.

I knocked again, I heard shuffling from behind the dark wooden door that suddenly opened to reveal my best friend. She wore a dark blue pullover with another fairy knitted on it, black jeans with tears at the knee. Her feet were bare. Inside I felt the warmth generated by the radiator. Tucking a stray lock of hair behind my ear I greeted my friend. “Hey fairy, I’ve come to get you.”

Jessica narrowed her eyes at me calling her a fairy. “Who's the fairy, birdy?”

Damn, I shouldn’t have told her about the Phoenix. I raised my hands in defeat… “Okay okay, not the bird thing please…”

A foxy grin spread on her face, too smug for me to continue to suffer it. “That’s what I thought. Huh, why did you come? We had a meeting this weekend and if Patsy sees you now she won’t let you go, you know?”

I smiled. It’d been a while since I’d seen  my number one fan but this wasn’t the moment for that. “Well that’s great, ‘cause you are all coming with me, a rogue faction from SHIELD want to take all my friends and their families hostage to control me. Go pack your stuff quickly, we are leaving for Egypt base.”

A spike of fear took root in Jessica but it subsided when she realized that I was there to protect them. Then she began to think what moving would also mean telling her adoptive mom about her powers and what they have been up to. “But Alisa and Brad won’t want to…”

I met Alisa before, but that Brad guy? Never, he was almost an absentee father. I shrugged, hugged her and murmured in her ear, “Lemme speak to them.”

She stepped out of my embrace, her voice full of determination when she said, “I will get Patsy to help.” With that, she ran back into the house. I entered through the door and walked through the all white and beige decorated living room, following Jessica. I found that it was already 08:12 PM on the clock. Alisa and her husband watched as Jessica pulled Patsy away from the dinner table to go pack their stuff. Patsy looked at me, almost stopping, but Jessica forced her to walk. Their parents looked from them to me.

“Hi, Alisa.” I waved at my friend’s mom. She looked smashing in her T-shirt, yoga pants and slippers.

Her blue eyes widened in recognition. She stood and came to pull me into a hug. “Jeanie you are back? How? Where were you?!”

Her husband leaned in his chair, looking at us. “Who is this?”

Bradley Jones had black hair, and green eyes. He was wearing a white shirt paired with some comfy pants. I didn’t know the guy and he was a naturally wary guy. A paranoid, he took time to open up to people, but once he did, he trusted strongly. A really private man who would do anything for his family. That’s what my telepathy told me.

*Jessica could have got a really worse adoptive family, but she lucked out.* I observed in my heart.

Alisa introduced us. “This is Jess’ best friend, I told you about her, do you remember?”

Bradley was thoughtful for a moment and then nodded. “Oh? Wait- wasn’t she kidnapped?”

“Mr Jones, Alisa I need to speak to you.” I said but I instantly detected people surrounding the house. SHIELD again…

“But it seems we don’t have the time. You need to follow me to safety. My parents are already safe and they will tell you everything you need to know.” I turned my back on them and walked up to exit the dinner room.

“Wait, Jean what are you saying? What do you mean we need to go to safety?” Alisa called after me, following me into the living room.

When the entrance door exploded, her question was answered. I kept the shrapnel from destroying the interior by holding it in place. The Hydra agents that were about to enter in force stood and I blasted them all with my optic blast. It wasn’t enough to end them and I walked toward the door pieces and exited the house, fixed the entrance and repaired the door.

I looked at the agents on the ground, some already recovering or exiting the armored SUVs they came in. I held my hand before me and with a lifting motion, the agents and vehicles rose ten meters in the air. Some of them found the courage to aim their rifles at me and shoot but with a thought the bullets stopped in the air matrix style one meter from me.

*Hmm, I should be faster than that, what if these were energy bolts…* I needed training.

They kept firing at me even though their positions were precarious. I huffed and as a result I sent a disintegration wave at them. The bullets, their weapons, armor and vehicles were all vaporized. I found myself with very naked Hydra scum in the air, I let them fall ten meters to the ground, not caring for their safety at all. Those were all Pierce’s agents.

I walked toward them, and approached the nearest who was still intact. I wasn’t surprised when I recognized one of them. I had seen this face in the MCU movie, the winter soldier. “As I live and breath, Brock Rumlow.”

“What? How do you..?”The confused man began freezing

He was powerfully built, his hair black and eyes grey. But he was at my feet, unharmed and vulnerable, I couldn’t take him seriously. “Oh, I know a lot of things. Now, you were sent here to take my friends, right?”

Brock scowled at me, even though he was shivering. “I will say nothing.”

Tilting my head, I couldn’t understand what he just said, wasn’t he told about me at all? “Who told you that you needed to speak? Your little toys to make me stop reading your mind don’t work on me, and I just disintegrated it.”

I felt terror spread through him. “We weren’t the only team sent out…” He tried to intimidate me and press me so I’d make a mistake and let him go.

A tight smile appeared on my face.“Oh, you sent some of them to Sensei, Gwen and… my girlfriend.”

Rumlow was gaining in confidence. “We have leverage at this point, surrender and-”

I cackled at his bravado, then stared into his eyes. “You have nothing, you really think I would leave my friends and their families without defenses?”

He kept silent at this point, his ass freezing in the snow. I didn’t intend to help any of these wahoos, their comeuppance was barely starting. “Now then, I suppose I could be cruel and torture you before I kill you, considering what you would do to my friends and their parents. But no… I guess I will just give you a message for Pierce; unfortunately for your friends behind you, I only need you.”

There was a series of cracking sounds as I broke the other agents' neck. Rumlow looked behind him and at the unmoving forms of his colleague. “I guess you only need to be able to talk too.”

In panic he turned his head to me and tried to negotiate, but I didn’t want that. “Please no… don’t-”

I crushed his legs and he screamed as the pain lanced through his body. “Don’t cry, you did worse to others.”

He was specialized in intelligence gathering and breaking people to make them talk. He had done far worse than I had. 

“Now, I want you to listen to me.”

His screaming persisted. I sighed and slapped him and numbed the pain for a moment, he stopped screaming, but the tears in his eyes and his mewling continued. “Listen to me.” I said as I crouched and took his face between my hands. He nodded.

“Tell Pierce that he better run, because I am going to destroy his house of cards, little by little. He shouldn’t have done what he did to Peggy or tried to take my girlfriend and friends. Capiche?” If Pierce ran, he would bring me to all his allies, and I planned to ferret and crush them all.

He nodded, still gazing at me in horror as though I was the devil or something. My smile was bright. “Good, now I must go do the same to your friends in the other teams. With luck I won’t have to kill them like I did to your dead colleagues.” 

I got to my feet, looking down at him. “You are a tough guy, you won’t die if I leave you in the snowed street right?” Rumlow didn’t dare whine or move now. I looked around me and stilled the mind of the witnesses. They all stopped moving, I stopped the cars too and erased the mind of every gawking witness. I walked back into the house, seeing Alisa staring at me in fear.

“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Alisa. They would have done worse to you if I didn’t intervene.”

She stayed silent, but dug deep for some strength to nod and allow me in. The house had grown cold. Bradley held a metal bat and a pistol. “It’s okay Mr Jones, I took care of the problem.”

“Alisa go take the go bag, we are leaving.” Bradley said with a commanding voice. “And you Jean, you better have an explanation for all this…”

I turned to his wife. “Go take your stuff, I will send you to safety, okay?”

They went together to their bedroom upstairs, and ten minutes later, everyone was assembled in the living room with the girls having big suitcases at their sides. I waved my hand and opened a portal, Jessica taking all the large suitcases and entering first. Patsy followed after her. Their parents were more afraid of the unknown, but Mr Jones took his wife's hand and pulled her inside. I directly sent them to the common room in the dormitories section of the base. The portal closed.

I nodded then teleported to the foot of Cindy’s apartment block. There was only one thing I could say, it was complete chaos there. Looking up I noticed that there was a big hole in the apartment's terrasse and I could hear people shooting at someone else. It was completely dark inside Cindy’s apartment but the occasional flash of rifle fire illuminated the place.

Looking down, I stared at the bodies of the mangled Hydra agents at my feet. *She’s having fun.* I levitated and entered through the hole and flamed, illuminating everything in the destroyed apartment. Weapon fire was suddenly focused on me, by controlling the magnetic force in a field the size of a basketball before me, I attracted the bullets to congregate in that single spot before me.

When the Hydra agents ran out of bullets I saw the camouflaged form of Cindy attack one of the men from behind and garoted him with web silk and broke his neck with a wrench of her hands. I sent the bullets back at the remaining shooters. They all dropped dead when I targeted their middles. I felt as their minds dissipated.

Cindy landed on the ground and tackled me; kissing me full on the mouth, I could feel her brimming with battle lust. We kissed for another one minute before we let go of each other. 

“Hydra?” My girlfriend asked, I was never going to leave her in the dark and I told her as much as I could about what happened in SHIELD since I came back.

I nodded. “Hydra.”

She wasn’t in costume yet; she fought them in the dark and unarmored. I was guessing she didn’t have the time to put on her costume. *That’s a problem.*

“I will go grab my bug out bag. Can you heal my dad? He is with mom, she fainted from shock.” I felt Cindy’s emotions, she didn’t care much for her mother, but she loved her dad and the man was still attached to the shrew. I asked myself why when she made the life of her daughter hell and piled unreasonable expectations on her shoulders.

“Okay.” I shrugged.

Cindy pecked my cheek with a kiss and headed to her room. I thought about Nari Moon and decided that I would lock up my laboratories when I get back to base; I didn’t want  that woman’s nose in my stuff. I walked toward the bedroom where they had holed themselves in. I stopped flaming and returned to normal. The door was barricaded, I rolled my eyes and moved the obstacles with my TK and opened it.

I was suddenly attacked by a seven year old boy, who was super cute in his He-man pajamas. I made him float, he began to struggle, and to avoid hurting him, I put him to sleep. I cradled the little boy, who is surely Cindy’s little brother, in my arms and walked into the bedroom. Everything was disturbed inside, the closets, the furniture, on the bed there was a petite woman with a bob cut and in a lab coat; protecting her was a taller man with black hair and brown eyes, wearing glasses and clad in Captain America pajamas.

Activating my life-sight, I looked at him. His arm was bleeding, fortunately there seemed to be no artery nicked. He began to shake as I walked toward him.

“Hi, Mr Moon. I am Cindy’s friend, I’ve come to help.” I presented him with my best smile; after all I  needed to make a good impression on my future father in law.

Albert Moon looked at me, completely tired, but he tried to stand up and take a threatening stance. “W-where’s my daughter?” 

*What a good guy, no wonder Cindy is so stubborn.*

“I am here, dad!” Cindy shouted from her room.

He crumbled back on his bed, a sigh of relief leaving him.  

With my girlfriend vouching for me, I continued to speak, nearing him. “I have to heal you, then we need to get outta here, deal?”

Albert Frowned. “Heal?” He saw no first aid kit at my side or device. 

*Ah, he is observant too.*

I walked up to the bed, put Cindy’s brother down and put a hand on Albert. He flinched as I took out the bullet. As I examined it, I noticed that it was caseless. I shrugged and encouraged Mr Moon’s body to heal his wound, my hand glowed gold for thirty seconds before the damage was undone. The man looked at me with trepidation as I casually healed him. 

Albert stared at me as I took my hand back. “You are more than friends with my daughter, aren’t you?”

Pleasantly surprised, I couldn’t help but praise him. “You are a sharp man.” I continued looking at him and felt the protective instinct of the man. “You care for her. You respect her boundaries and... she told you, she prefers girls. You never told your wife, why?”

At this point the man didn’t question how I knew all this and rolled with it. He sighed and rolled his shoulder. He noticed how it didn’t hurt anymore,  his back pain that had been killing him for a while seemed to have been healed too. “I love Nari, but if there’s something she is not, it’s that she’s not tolerant.”

Albert continued, looking me in the eyes. “She is used to forcing her opinion on everyone… I am waiting for Cindy to move out and lose our number at any moment if my wife discovers it.” He revealed as he stood up.

*If that ever happened, I would bring my girlfriend home and support her.*

I touched his arm in comfort. “Don’t worry, if that happens, I will take her in. My parents like her and support us. In the near future, we are going to be family, soon.” I patted his arm and then let go. Through my life sight I saw that he was fully recovered. “Okay, you are good now, can you go gather clothes and take your precious stuff, we are going to move.”

Albert nodded. “Okay. Please, guard them well.”

I smiled at him. “Of course.”

Cindy and her father were even faster than the Jones’, and came with at least one week's worth of clothes. Cindy was dressed in her costume, her father unable to move his eyes off her. I felt all his questions. I opened a portal to the common room and lo and behold I could see Nick and Phil from the other side, they waved at me.

“Go, Mr Moon. I will fix the apartment and-”

Cindy interrupted me as she put herself between me and her dad. “I will stay with her, dad.”

Her father who had Cindy’s mom in his arms frowned at her. “Cindy? No, you must come with us.” His tone brokered no argument, but it didn’t move his daughter at all, she was stubborn like that.

“No, I must help Jeanie.” Cindy stepped back at my side and took my hand.

They looked at each other for a moment before her father understood there was no way he could make her change her mind. “Fine, but stay safe.”

He walked through the portal and I made his son float through it, Phil making sure to catch him; then it was their go bag’s turn. Then I closed the spatial aperture. Cindy chose that moment to tackle me again and climb into my arms, holding me tight with her legs around my hips. This was her display of gratitude for  saving her family.

While I was kissing the hell out of this gorgeous girl, I repaired the place, disintegrated the dead Hydra goons. When we came up for air again, everything looked pristine. Cindy looked around her and smiled.

Then her face became serious, “Jessica?”

“Saved her and her family.” I answered with confidence.

Even though she disliked Gwen, Cindy still asked about her situation. “Gwen?”

Spreading my awareness, I felt my favorite blonde to the east. I narrowed my eyes as I discovered that she was moving. “Let’s go look for her, knowing her, she must have surrendered or something.” I spoke, Cindy in my arms. I opened a portal in the air over the area where I felt Gwen, I wasn’t surprised to find ourselves on the freeway, looking at the traffic.

I immediately zeroed-in on a SUV fleet tearing up the road at fast speed. Smirking, I covered myself and Cindy in a force bubble and flew at high speed and caught up with them. I landed on the road, one hundred meters from them and stopped the traffic and everyone beside Gwen and her parents. It seems they took them hostage to stop Gwen’s rampage. She had killed some of them when they had stormed her house.

Releasing Cindy, we neared the vehicles and when I waved my hand, they disintegrated. Gwen took advantage of this and killed the guy next to her. She was still unable to control her strength, this needed to change. Cindy took down the lead guy who was about to fire his rifle at us, by wrenching it from his hand by shooting web fluid and rider-kicked him in the head.

The loud crunch I heard evoked a chuckle from me. We killed at least half of them before one of them got smart and put a gun on Gwen’s dad temple. “Enough!”

“Surrender! Or he will get it.”

“Well, well, well. Finally a smart squid. However…” With a gaze his weapon disappeared. Gwen’s dad headbutted the Hydra goon with the back of his head, making him fall. I threw him one of my pistols and Captain Stacy caught it, took the safety off, pointed the pistol at the guy at his feet and began unloading the clip into him.

Meanwhile, Gwen was occupied taking care of her mother who looked shaken by that experience. We had no time to go to their house and take their stuff this time. I opened a portal and shouted, “Hey guys, enter the portal, I promise it's safe.”

Gwen took her mom in her arms, floated from the ground and flew into it. Captain Stacy followed them and I noticed that he didn’t care if it was dangerous. I teleported my pistol back to my hand though. Captain Stacy looked at his hands, then at me. I waved at him and pushed with a TK nudge in the portal, just like I did to Fury earlier and closed it.

“Who is left?” Cindy asked, snaking a hand around my waist and leaning into me. “Elektra Sensei.”

Cindy snorted. “As if she wouldn’t have killed all those who had come after her.”

Well… she had a point. I created a TK platform under our feet and surrounded us with a force bubble and levitated us to the north where I could feel my sensei’s mind. We didn’t take a portal this time, but flew at high speed toward the dojo. Five minutes later, we were over the Gym’s building our sensei lived in. We landed in the snow on the roof. Cindy and I looked at each other because it was too silent, we nodded and walked slowly to the Dojo’s sliding door.

We could hear arguing from the dojo and Cindy was about to open the door but I stopped her. I pressed a finger against my lips, listening. 

“Elektra, why did you kill them?” 

“They wanted to take us and I had to protect Madelyn.” The mellifluous and accented voice of Elektra rang.

I heard a male grunt. “Maybe… but- huh, wait there’s someone.”

*Of course fucking Matt Murdock is here.* The dojo grew silent and I decided to open the door. I wasn’t surprised to see a billy club flying in my face. Cindy acted faster than me and caught it mid air.

“Good evening, everyone.”

“Jean!” Elektra seemed happy to see me, because I was interrupting the rant Matt was slowly ramping up into. Cindy threw Matt's half of his club back to him, he took it from the air and then focused his attention on us.

Matt sightlessly turned toward me. “Phoenix, what are you… oh yes, you are part of the problem.”

*Fuck you too, Matt.*

I crossed my arms, leveling him with a stare. “Whatever, I’m going to have to take Sensei with us. She’s a target.”

Elektra stepped back and looked reluctant. “Jean I don’t think I can.”

*Oh no you won't be left here to be a hostage that I have to rescue if Pierce throws everything at you.*

But I didn’t say that, but expressed in a low yet reasonable voice, “Do it for Maddy, I already took all my friends and their families to my base. This is temporary, the guy after us will be…” I looked at Matt. “Dealt with.”

I uncrossed my arms to poke Matt in the biceps. “And before you argue with me, Mister devil pants. The man is so highly placed that he can and will order hits on you. You better come too.”

Cindy giggled, falling to the ground in fits of laughter. “Mister… devil pants.”

Elektra smiled too, and Matt flushed. It was cute. “More importantly, Maddy is here, right?” I needn’t ask, the door linking the dojo to Elektra’s apartment opened and a red missile in the form a girl ran at me, deftly sidestepping the dead bodies and the blood on the wooden floor to tackle me.

“Oof.” I almost fell on my ass there.

Maddy lifted her head, staring at me with glistening eyes. “Mother-”

I hear Elektra cough. Madelyn stopped speaking, and stiffened. “I mean big sister Jean.” She corrected herself. 

“Huh, that’s new.” I patted her head and hugged her back.

I looked at my sensei, discovering a gleam in her eyes that I couldn’t identify. She spoke and this was with a tone brokering no arguments. “You are too young to be a mother, Jean. Instead, I made it so that she would only call you big sister.”

I raised an eyebrow at that, looked down at the little girl in my arms, she looked chastised. *Poor little girl must have fallen afoul of Elektra’s draconian side.* I realized.

I didn’t really care what Maddy called me; we were blood. “If you say so, are you leaving with us? And is Matty coming with us?”

“Mister Murdock to you.” Matt growled.

I looked at him, my voice sweet like honey. “Don’t be like that, Matty. Did you forget how we met the first time? We exchanged fists, shouldn’t we be friends and-”

He threw his billy club at me and I caught it with my TK. "Fine, Matt."

"Men, really." Elektra rolled her eyes at him, but she was smiling.

My sensei fell silent and I felt that she was thinking. Meanwhile I decided to help a bit and disintegrated the bodies on the ground, I didn’t take any of the weapons, they were normal ones and I had no use for them. I disappeared the blood too and fixed the wooden floor. I did a lot of fixing today, but there’s no way I would leave any of my people's houses in shambles.

"Are we going back?" Maddy asked sheepishly.

I caressed her head and nodded. "Well you and I, for sure."

Elektra was still deep in her thoughts with Matt’s arms around her. He looked around not smelling the blood on the floor anymore. I needed to do something nice for the man, maybe I could give him back his vision, at least an enhanced one, I know that I can heal him.

Cindy poked me. I stared at her as she took off her half mask. "Jean, introduce us."

Maddy let go of me and turned to my girlfriend, not moving an inch and staring at her hard. I couldn’t describe what she was feeling, but Maddy had no ill will toward my Cindy.

"Ah yeah… Maddy, this is my girlfriend, Cindy." I said.

Madelyn hid behind me, shy."She's pretty."

Cindy laughed at that, her eyes shining with mirth. "Wow, even another you wants to make a move on me huh."

I glared at her. "Hey, she has good taste."

Cindy blushed at that. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her later… She’s too cute for her own good. I was interrupted again by Madelyn’s question. “What’s a girlfriend?”

Elektra intervened at this point and placed herself between me and Maddy. With a threatening gaze she whispered in my ear, “If I have to give her the birds and the bees explanation because of you, we will have some harsh sparring sessions, Jean.”

I gulped at that, but my smile remained. “So that means you want to come with us?”

Elektra sensei nodded. “Yes, I cannot leave Maddy alone, Matt will come, only for a few days.” 

I could work with that. Matt and sensei returned to the apartment to take some stuff. The blind vigilante had half of his clothes in sensei’s closet, practically living together with her. The only reason he hadn’t moved in yet was because this was supposed to be a secret place. Not so secret, since Hydra or… SHIELD had discovered it.

Elektra and Matt came back to the dojo with two suitcases. Maddy went to Elektra and helped her with a backpack that was surely full of weapons and her kunoichi outfit. I secretly wanted one, but I don’t think I could, I mean, was I even genin level in Ninjutsu? I planned to ask sensei later.

“Is everyone ready?”

There was a chorus of yes and ayes. I created a portal and once again it opened in the common room. This time Captain Stacy, Dad, Nick and Phil waited for us. Elektra passed first, followed Madelyn who helped Matt by pulling him by the arm. I noticed that he didn’t snap at her at all. Cindy grasped my hand in hers and we followed suit.

After we passed, I closed the portal and went to sit on one of the stools at the bar with Cindy following me. Jessica was there too, waiting. I noticed that there were people that were missing like my mother, Chimera and my sisters. Mrs Stacy was there too, sitting at one of the tables with a mug between her hands while Alisa Jones was leaning in a chair before her.

“Hey Jess.” 

“Jeanie, you got everyone?” She asked, taking a swig of the pepsi can in her hand.

I needed to get Hans to disappear those; I am a coca person. “Yeah.” I answered, still wanting to take the chair at her side.

Jessica flinched when she stared right behind me. “Errr, I don’t want to alarm you but there’s a clone of you behind you.”

I turned and found Madelyn following me, looking at Jessica’s pink hair. She waved at her, gave me a hug and then left. Jessica blinked, wiped her eyes and looked at her can of pepsi. “Did you roofie me?”

We looked as the young redhead ran to Elektra who was being given an explanation on what was happening by Phil and Nick whose wounds have been dressed. 

“No, she’s real. That’s my clone, Madelyn.” And a bundle of cuteness I really liked.

Jessica took another swig of pepsi, but realized the can was empty and cussed. “Shit.”

 

# # #

(Sarah Grey)

 

Dormitories

 

At the same time, Sarah Grey was having a bad time in the allotted room of the Moon family. It all happened when Cindy’s parents arrived and Nari Moon woke up. The woman was vicious and demanding. She wanted to return to their house, thinking that we had kidnapped her, even though her husband explained to her the contrary.

“Like I told you, we didn’t take you from your home. If you had stayed, you would have been made into hostages.”

“Then it’s your daughter’s fault that we are in this position, isn’t it? Where is she? I have to give her my two cents!”

“You’ll do no such thing you ingrate!” Elaine Grey scolded, interposing herself between Sarah and Cindy’s mother.

“Who are you to try to stop me?” Nari was a foot shorter than Elaine who towered over her but upon hearing her you’d believe she was a giant.

Elaine shook her head, not believing how aggravating this woman could be. “It’s my daughter you are talking about.”

The petite asian woman smiled predatorily, her voice becoming deceivingly sweet as she said, “You should have kept her on a tighter leash.”

Albert Moon, silent up until now, intervened by taking his wife by the shoulder and pulled her out toward him, then turned her to make her face him. “Nari, dear. Stop. You’re being ridiculous.” Albert continued with an ashamed expression. He couldn’t believe his wife was doing this. “We would be dead or captured without them.”

Nari lifted her hand, about to slap her husband. “Shut up Al, we-”

A strong hand caught her arm and in a low but threatening voice Jean said, “Is there a problem?”

Sarah’s eyes lit up, finally someone came to put that woman in her place. “Ah Jean and…” The older redhead looked at the costumed black haired girl in a skintight black and white costume at her side. This was Cindy, her sister’s girlfriend. She indeed looked beautiful and Sarah understood why Jean was so enthralled.

Nari found another target to her ire. “Cindy! Where the hell were you?!”

Jean released the woman’s arm, while the costumed girl rolled her eyes, not even looking her in the eyes. So, her mom was a joke to the girl too; Sarah wasn’t surprised.

“Helping my friend, mom, like I always do.” She replied. 

Nari scowled, her mom was about to slap her. “Don’t take that tone with me!”

Cindy evaded the slap, and turned and ignored her. “Whatever. Jean you don’t mind if I stash my stuff in your room?”

Sarah looked at her sister whose pose turned seductive and she purred, “My room is your room.”

Cindy nodded. “Good.” With that, she spun on her heel and left. Nari ran after her and shouted, “Stay there, Cindy! You…” With a hiss, the room's door closed and we couldn't hear the rest of the woman's sentence. 

“Damn, I knew she was bad, but not this bad. Can I send her back? It would not be a great loss.” Jean said out loud, not caring at all that the woman’s husband was still present.

“I would take umbrage at it.” Albert piped up.

“You know… you are still young and could do better than her.” Sarah spoke, leaning against the wall of the room.

Albert looked down. “She’s… not that bad.”

Sarah watched as Jean put a finger on his chin and lifted his head. “Whatever, if she causes problems I’m booting her out in the jungle, relay that to her Mr Moon, is that understood?”

Jean was channeling their mom, it was exactly the same tone she took with the Grey sisters. The man had no way of resisting and nodded. 

“Crystal.”

She smiled at him and let go of his face. “Good.”

Jean then took their mother’s hand and Sarah’s, exited the Moon’s room and continued to walk wordlessly. Two minutes later they reached Hangar number one, Sarah who couldn’t handle the silence spoke. “Hey Jeanie, what was that with Cindy’s dad?”

“He is brave but that woman has him wrapped around her finger, and I think she’s abusive too.”

“What can we do about it?” Elaine asked.

Sarah walked as they passed a row of helicopters and some kind of armored Jeep. Jean stayed silent for  a while and Sarah understood that her sister didn’t know what to do.

“Nothing, at least not yet.” 

Elaine took her youngest daughter’s arm in her hand and they stopped. “You don’t plan on killing her?”

Jean’s eyes widened, then turned to slits. “I don’t think my girlfriend would like that, this is a slippery slope. Should I kill everyone who bothers me? I cannot fall into that way of thinking. I have responsibilities and-”

Their mother put a finger on Jean’s lips to stop her from ranting. “It’s okay, I was just testing you. I am happy to see that you aren’t trigger happy.”

They hugged each other. Jean spoke aloud and attempted to reassure her family. “Never, mom. It’s okay if those people want to kill us or force us to work for them. But I won’t kill people in cold blood because it would be convenient.”

Sarah believed her; the girl might be a geek and crazy with everything happening to her but deep inside she had good within her. “I’m proud of you sis. By the way, where are we going?”

The youngest redhead let go of Elaine and smiled enigmatically. “Back to my lab, Julia and Patsy are waiting for us.”

“For?” Sarah frowned, she didn’t like that smile.

“You’ll understand when we get here.”

When they arrived two minutes later in the lab complex, Sarah was made to sit with Julia on medical chairs, their younger sister exploded into flames, then walked up between their respective chairs and she put her hands on them. “You two are going to become like me, I will activate your X-gene.”

Sarah didn’t want to, and was about to leave when she felt as if Jean was gripping the most delicate part of her body and she felt herself being infused with… something. And Sarah knew no more as her body seized and she fell into unconsciousness with the image of her younger sister's smiling face.

 

# # #

(Alexander Pierce)

 

Cerberus HQ
11:02 PM

Pierce sat on Peggy’s orthopedic office chair, it was comfortable and adequate. He swiveled it to the bay window behind him and looked at the people still gallivanting in the street and the vehicles passing by. He began to think about his hastened decision of wanting to secure leverage and get control of the Grey girl.

She’d turned up and killed his men with disconcerting ease, and there was the fact that some witnesses had come forward and explained that even her friends were as dangerous as herself. The girl disappeared with everyone she held close to her and their families  and the message she left to Brock Rumlow after destroying the man made him slightly concerned.

"Bring it on, girl. You will either work for us or be eliminated." 

Pierce swiveled the chair back toward the desk, took his glasses and put them on his nose. "We will see who will hunt who."

 

# # #

(Patricia 'Patsy' Walker-Jones)

 

 

Egypt base
December 20th, 1996
09:12 AM (Egypt time)

Patsy felt amazing as she soared through the blue sky at high speed with Jean by her side. She felt so light, the sensation of feeling the wind on her skin in such a way was novel. She flew even faster when she noticed that Jean burst into speed. Patsy pushed her internal pedal and her speed rose, it was strange as at that precise moment she felt herself cocooned in some kind of energy bubble and the friction of the air on her skin simply disappeared. 

With a big boom, Patsy went supersonic and caught up to Jean who looked at her while flying. The desert landscape stretched under them, they passed a flat rocky and arid plain, streaking at mach one under radar detection. To Patsy it was a blast till they reached a beach, it was beautiful with white sand and blue sapphire colored water.

Jean stopped in the air and looked far away; Patsy arrived at her side and looked on as her friend’s eyes and hair glowed gold and she held her hand before her. The younger redhead didn’t understand what she was doing and stood in the air like that for another five minutes. Jean finally lowered her hand and came back to normal, and exhaled a sigh of relief.

“Say, where are we?” Patsy straightened her braided hair and her current yellow and black skinsuit that grabbed places she wasn’t used to.

But Patsy didn’t protest about it as Jean was wearing a scandalous and skintight green costume herself. She didn’t look uncomfortable at least.

Jean turned to her and with a wave of her hand as if she was showcasing said, “Northern Egypt, you see all that water? This is the mediteranean sea.”

Patsy knew that their current base was in Lower Egypt in a secret valley thousands of kilometers away from there. “Wow, we must have gone really fast.”

“Yes, I now know, you’re around supersonic, but I’m sure that you could go even faster.” Jean said in a way that filled Patsy full of pride. 

She pushed her chest up and made an embarrassed smile. “I didn’t expect that.”

Jean came closer to her and put a hand on her cheek, making Patsy blush. “You should, I infused your body and soul with the two moonstones’ power, they are now part of you forever and no one can take them away from you.”

Patsy smiled at her friend, she indeed felt great, some kind of energy permeated her entire body, she was now as strong and durable as Jessica, could fly too, but faster, and she could now project some kind blinding luminescence from every inch of her body, or generate beam of light powerful enough to blow a hole in a steel plate. They had tested that earlier this morning when she woke up from last night’s operation.

 

# # #

(Flashback)

Jean took her hands off her sisters’ bodies who had fainted and were now surrounded by a glowing golden haze on the medical chairs. When she looked at Patsy, her heart skipped a beat in excitement. She had been feeling left out when she heard from Jessica that Gwen got her powers before her. Patsy knew Jean first! And what’s more, she wanted to fly in the sky too!

Jean chuckled and walked up to Patsy seated at the lab table. “Okay, okay Patsy just don't shout, I will give you what you want.”

Patsy looked surprised at this comment. “Eh?”

The older redhead poked her forehead with a manicured finger. “Did you forget? Telepath.”

Blushing, Patsy lowered her eyes in embarrassment. “Ah, oops.”

Jean patted Patsy on the head, and smiled benevolently at her. “It’s okay, darling, you are right, I should have begun with you. To apologize, I am going to give you a special package.” Jean engulfed her in a hug.

Patsy melted in her arm, then asked opportunistically, “Will I be able to fly?”

Jean let go of Patsy and grinned at her with a thumbs up. “Promise.”

Crossing her arm and putting a finger on her lower lip, Jean began to think about something, then smiled as her face brightened after coming to some conclusion.

Patsy suddenly felt cold; she was used to seeing that expression on her older friend, sometimes it’s some hair brained plan of hers. Either they worked or they got caught doing bad things by Jean’s mom and got punished. “What are you going to do?” Patsy asked with trepidation, there was a catch in her voice that made Jean turn her gaze on her and say with a crazy gleam in her eyes, “First I want you to get naked.”

There was a long silence between them, until Patsy blushed and put some distance between them. “Errr… Jean, I don’t swing that way…”

Jean rolled her eyes, got closer and flicked her on the forehead. “Ha ha, really funny. No, I need to get you naked for a good reason.” Jean slapped the lab table she was on, signalling her to strip now.

“You won’t check me out, right?” Patsy asked in a little voice, she suddenly felt self-conscious.

Jean was beautiful and confident, Patsy had sought to emulate her and try to become bolder, but it wasn’t the same thing. When her friend had gotten kidnapped she had regressed into that meek and shy girl she was before meeting her. She also had body image issues as she thought she was too lanky and her breasts were on the smallish side.

The taller redhead must have felt her emotion as she sat at Patsy's side on the table and passed an arm around her shoulder. “You are like, too young for me, and I see you like my little sister or something. Anyway, don’t worry about being compared to the older girls in our group, Patsy, you are still growing, you’ll become a knockout, I just know it.”

There was such a feeling of certainty in Jean’s comments that Patsy believed her. She smiled at her friend and nodded. “Okay.”

Jean looked at her for a long moment, smiled back and added, “But if you ever want to experiment later when you are older…”

Patsy slapped her arm in outrage. “Jean!”

The older girl laughed and raised her hands in surrender. “I was joking!”

After this bout of ribbing between friends, Patsy took off her clothes and laid on the table. Jean went to take something in the warehouse attached to the lab while Patsy looked at the arched ceiling of the cave. She could see some kind of machine floating that started digging holes and… building support for the cave.

Jean teleported with a flash of blue light at her side, making her jump, she held two pieces of pearl colored rocks that were slightly glowing.

Patsy sat up, covered her privates with her blue t-shirt that was at her side. “What are they?” She asked as her eyes stared at the rocks.

Jean made a little table float at Patsy’s side, there was a tray on it and she put the rocks reverently on it and said with eagerness, “Those are Moonstones or more colloquially called gravity stones by the Kree, an extremely militaristic alien race, they live in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that orbits ours.”

“What do they do?”

“I don’t understand yet what those two stones are used to power, but I can tell that their energy signature is really peculiar. But if there’s one thing I know about them, it’s that when they are absorbed by a human, those stones take the form of energy that permeates their nervous system and infuse them with abilities such as photokinesis, super strength, speed, stamina, durability and agility.”

“And flight?” Patsy piped up, her eyes shining with longing at the Moonstones.

Jean nodded, a smile tugging at her lips. “Yes you’ll be able to fly, darling.”

Patsy attempted to take the stones from the tray, but Jean batted her hand away. The younger girl looked at Jean with betrayal and asked, “Huh, why?”

There was a forbidding expression on Jean’s face. “Don’t touch them, there’s something you need to know before using those.”

Patsy held on her hand, it hurt a little. She glared at Jean for that. “What?”

The stone began to float from the tray and orbit around the two girls; then Jean began to explain herself as Patsy seemed to become hypnotized by the stones. “As they are now, they are dangerous for their host. If the stones are removed from your body, you’ll die in seventy hours without their support as your body would have gotten used to them.”

Patsy reeled back, looking at Jean with horror. “What the hell? Why would you give me those?”

Jean stared at Patsy. “Because I want you to have unique powers, I basically made Jessica and Gwen about the same. And I told you what might happen if they are taken, because that’s what happened to their owner in another reality.”

*Another reality?* Patsy thought, *How could Jean know that? Was she able to look in other dimensions? Like in the enterprise mirror universe in Star Trek?* Countless theories passed through the younger redhead’s mind until she dismissed them all and blindly settled on trusting her friend. “If you showed them to me,” Patsy said as she pointed at the floating stones. “... then you must have a way to make them safer?”

Jean’s smile was dazzling; with a nod she then answered her friend. “You know me so well, huh.”

Patsy shyly nodded back. “Yeah.”

Jean’s body caught on fire, it momentarily blinded Patsy who shielded her eyes with her hands. Once her eyes got used to the radiance, Patsy looked at her friend and stared in awe at her. Jean’s voice gained an echo as she explained what she was going to do. “I’m going to have to make your body able to generate a similar energy to those pieces of special rocks. Turning you into a variant of mutate, similar to what Jessica and Gwen have become. Then I will  turn the stones into pure energy and add them to your being.” Jean put a hand on Patsy who began glowing into a yellow aura. “Your essence.”

The young girl looked at her hand and the rest of her body glowing in yellow color, then back at fire clad Jean. “I don’t understand.” Patsy confessed.

Hmph. Jean decided to explain what she thought about to do. “Well, as your body will generate this energy itself no one will be able to take it from you. And if you ever die and I resurrect you, you’ll have your power again. Or in your next reincarnation, you’ll still have your powers. Do you understand?”

Patsy nodded and looked widely at Jean as she realized the implication of what her friend said. *She can resurrect the dead!?*

Jean nodded at that shouted thought. “Yes I can, but there’s a price for it. Nothing is free, in this universe.”

*Of course there’s a catch.* Patsy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her breasts. “I will take your word for it.”

There was an awkward silence between them, the crackle of fire their only companion for one minute as Patsy couldn’t take her eyes off Jean. She wished to be like her, powerful, confident, beautiful and not a burden.

Jean exhaled and a gout of fire escaped her, weirdly it didn’t burn Patsy who asked herself what those flames were made of. “Okay. Now, I will put you to sleep and when you wake, you’ll be a metahuman, just like the rest of the troupe.”

Patsy acquiesced, it was time that she fully got inducted into their little group. “I trust you, Jeanie.”

The smile Jean gave her made Patsy question her sexuality, she felt butterflies in her lower stomach. “You have no idea what having you as my friend means to me, Pats.” Jean put a hand on her cheek and said with a crack in her voice, “Thanks for your trust.”

Patsy grinned, then laid herself back on the table, looking at Jean who put herself at her side and her flaming hands on her naked belly and breasts. “You’ll be like a new girl, when I am done with you.”

The world steadily went black as Patsy lost consciousness.

 

# # #

 

Patsy raised her fist, it glowed with a white aura around it. Yes now she was able to shoot laser beams from her fist or blind people with her luminescence, she still didn’t understand how to control everything. But flying? She had that covered. Lifting her head she looked at Jean, who was waiting for her to say something.

“Thank you.”

“Your welcome, Pats. Race you to the valley?” Jean grinned, surrounded herself in red psionic energy and simply became a blur as she flew back to the south.

“Hey that’s not fair!” Patsy shouted as she followed and gave everything she had.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Egypt base
10:02 AM

After having tested Patsy's new powers, I checked on my sisters. They were awake and helping in the dormitories. Sarah passed me by and wasn’t speaking to me, as she didn’t like not having a choice in becoming a metahuman. It was different with Julia who strangely completely embraced this part of herself and was playing with a ball of plasma, making it orbit around her while manipulating gravity to stay aloft in the air.

She waved at me with a goofy smile on her face as she saw me pass by into the common room, I waved back. Julia looked between me and Sarah who was still cleaning the tables, ignoring me. She shrugged and returned to training her abilities. I huffed, fine. If she didn’t want to speak to me, I would not either.

So I went to look for Gwen and Peter, I quickly located them with my empathy. I found them in a hidden alcove whispering things to each other animatedly. Peter kneeled before her and had an imploring gaze. I hid behind the wall and spied on them. *Eh, she’s making him grovel.*

Peter held his hands together before him and pleaded. “Please, please Gweny. This will not happen again, I swear.”

There were fake tears in Gwen's big green eyes as she said plaintively, “You have been such a douche… we might have to-”

Peter took Gwen’s free hand into his own and became fearful of her continuing that sentence that he caved without a fight. “Please give us another chance, I will do anything… anything.”

There was a sly glint in Gwen’s eyes as she knew she had him now, he had taken the bait, and now it was time for her to reel in her prey. That girl is a pro in mind games… Gwen sniffled and wiped her tears and looked at Peter with an appraising gaze. “You were so bad… but, I guess I can forgive you, if you promise not to treat me like that again and if you help me train my super powers.”

Peter sprang back on his feet full of hope. “I can do that! I promise, this... this won’t happen again Gweny!” He shouted.

Gwen allowed her pouty lips to form a smile. “Good, and promise me one more thing?”

Peter’s happiness became like a lighthouse to me, this was almost blinding in intensity to my empathic sense. *Oh, Stan Lee. He looks like a puppy.*

“Anything!” Peter said, I imagined him with a dog tail eagerly beating left and right. It made me laugh silently behind the wall.

Gwen hugged him and said in his ear, “When you need help, ask us, okay? Just don’t do things yourself.”

Peter froze, then hugged Gwen back. “I don’t want to become like that guy, so you can be sure of that…”

Gwen pulled her head out of the crook of Peter’s neck and looked into his eyes.  “Who?”

“It doesn’t matter Gwen, come here.” Peter delicately pushed Gwen against the wall and kissed her as if he was a dying man.

The blonde held tight on him and kissed back. They were french kissing like professionals, the wall began to crack behind Gwen as the two became more… forceful. I frowned and decided to interrupt the two lovebirds.

Cough. “Hey guys, be careful with the real estate.” I said in a peppy voice, uncharacteristic to me.

“Aaah!” Gwen screamed as I surprised her. She let go of Peter and began to levitate. As for Peter he turned toward me with a really frustrated expression. I felt as if he was setting me on fire in his mind, even if he could I was immune to it.

“Jean, we are busy right now.” Peter tried to not get angry.

But he failed when I grinned at the two of them. “I can see that.”

He glared at me and made shooing motions. “Yes, now leave. Shoo.”

I flipped my hair behind my back, and feigned being sad. “That’s too bad, I wanted to show you two my lab with all that research in the database and maybe get you new costumes and make some gadgets for yourselves.”

Gwen looked stricken, she wanted to keep kissing with Peter, but she also wanted to look at the research of a mad scientist. “You… evil!”

I tried to avoid cackling like a witch and adopted an innocent demeanor. “Me? I am clearly the chaste and pure angel in this situation. You, kissing devils.”

Gwen landed and sniffed, not at all convinced of my sainthood. Peter looked at me with disbelief; then couldn’t help but shout, “As if you are any better, you barely take breaths when you are with Cindy! It’s as if your tongues were welded together!”

“Yeah! Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house!” Gwen looked up her nose at me.

I shrugged, “Well… I guess I will invite Jessica and Cindy if you are too busy licking tonsils.” I turned and feigned leaving only to be caught by the shoulders by Gwen who held onto me as if I was a lifebuoy.

“Wait! We didn’t say anything about refusing!” The blonde held tightly on my body, afraid that I would leave.

Peter looked at his girlfriend, feeling a tad betrayed. “Really, Gwen?” He hoped to ‘lick tonsils’ like I said earlier, I knew those two were barely at the second base.

Gwen glared at him. “Shut up Pete, let me do it!”

The poor boy stepped back, then shook his head, looked at the ceiling and mumbled, “Women, can't live with them, can't live without them.”

I chuckled. “We can say the same about guys, Pete.”

He looked like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “You heard that...”

“Duh.”

 

# # #

 

I brought them to the lab complex and gave them the combination of the keypad protecting the entrance. I really needed to buff up security because this simple measure wasn’t enough to protect my stuff. I guess I will have to update everything after I get Peggy free and return to New York. I set Peter with a manual on the 3D printer, and let Gwen access the research on bioengineering and biotech. 

She sat there, scrolling down and using the keyboard as she seemed completely enamoured by what she was doing. On my tablet I could see what she was consulting, mainly the medical scanning devices and the research primer on nanotechnology Sinister was working on. I left her to her own devices in that section of the lab.

I teleported to Peter who was gathering tools in the engineering sector with a loony smile. I didn’t bother him, just watched what he was taking, mainly materials to make circuit boards, one of the sturdy laptops and a multimeter, things to build devices with a lot of electronics inside them. Shrugging I placed myself at another table and decided to start making my own armor, but first, I need to synthetize more Vibranium.

With TK, I made the gold and iron ingots that I had refined come to me, I kept them in the air and placed one heavy bar before me. Goldie gave me one of the sound metal samples and I looked at its atomic structure before I touched the iron ingot with a finger and transmuted it into Vibranium. I smiled, it was another success!

I proceeded to do the same for half the iron ingots, five hundred kilograms of sound metal. I stood up and went to the next room to draw my new costume on the white board covering basically the entire room. Taking the black felt pen, I started drawing an outline of the layer of the armor that I would make out of vibranium tri-weave.

“First I want an impact layer, something like a layer of heat-resistant kevlar? But it’s bulky… what about designing a micro-fiber variant?” I wrote this on the whiteboard.

“Secondly I want it to be able to follow my motions and body perfectly.” I wrote ‘Musculature mobility layer’ on the board. “Hmm, maybe the chestplate for this one.

“What about something for low infrared signature and temperature control?” My mind drew a blank, I still wrote the option on the board.

I grew out a throne of the cavern’s grey stone in the middle of the room, adhering to my body’s forms, crossed my legs and looked attentively at the whiteboard. The chestpiece I had in mind needed something hard and able to distribute the kinetic energy of an impact by dissipating the force over an area larger than a bullet. Iron was no good, titanium? Yes, it might work with a mix of vibranium/Titanium alloy. “Nanotubes? No, Nano-scale!”

I stood up and began writing on the board, drawing schemas and a formula for the vibranium/titanium as I saw it in the quantum realm at the subatomic level.

Gauntlets? Segmented ones with bracers like Diana? Might work, now for the lower body, it should be the same, than for the chestpiece. Armored and particularly thick for the boots? That works. A utility belt? *Yes I need one.* It should be like Batman’s but I intend to have things for every occasion.

I was ready, now all I needed was to design the suit.

 

# # #

(Cindy)

 

Lab Complex
02:25 PM

Cindy had had enough of waiting! Jean had been holed in her lab for hours and she brought Peter and Gwen with her. She entered through their shared bedroom, and took the tunnel leading to the lab complex. Sounds of machinery echoing all the way. As she entered through the reinforced door; amongst all the structural reinforcement builder robots she saw as materials and tools floated in the air, moving to the central part of the lab, the forge.

*This is some serious Mickey apprentice sorcerer’s shit going on here.* Cindy thought as she navigated between the flying ingots bars, pliers and some kind of cutters.

She finally found Jean levitating five meters in the air and building a soft layer of circuitry that she inserted into what was looking like an armored bustier. Jean turned her head toward Cindy and smiled, she continued working for another five minutes and hollered, “Done for now!”

Jean straightened herself in the air and descended, the cuirass she was working on landed first on her workbench with a plop. As she landed, Jean wiped her forehead and walked toward Cindy, avoiding the mess on the ground. Cindy admired her for a long moment, Jean wore a tight green tank top with a cleavage window that attracted the eyes and a black skirt and brown combat boots; then head Cindy shifted her head and looked at the red and gold futuristic cuirass. “You are working on your costume?”

Pushing out her chest, Jean smiled and said proudly, “Armor actually.”

“You aren't an armor girl, Jean…” Cindy facepalmed as she couldn’t believe Jean would make that mistake. She preferred her girl in the green and gold suit that she had shown her.

Jean crossed her arms and pouted at Cindy. “I will be.”

The black haired girl shook her head and embraced her girlfriend, putting her arms around her neck, and Jean who hugged her back gave her a peck on the lips. Cindy was sure that Jean wouldn’t ever get mad at her for shooting down her armor idea. “You always make your life more difficult than it should be.”

Jean slid her hands to Cindy’s flank. “I guess… but I will make mistakes and live with them. That's what life is all about, you learn each time you stumble and fall.”

Cindy held on tighter to her lover and became thoughtful about what she said, if Jean wanted to make mistakes and learn from them, who was she to stop her? All she could do was be there when she stumbled and help her get back on her feet. She looked up and saw a smile blossoming on Jean’s face as she was reading her like a book. 

They disentangled themselves from each other and Jean pulled Cindy to a stool and sat her on her thighs. “So what brings you? It’s not that I mind your presence, sexy. But I thought we had a date tonight?”

Cindy laughed, then her pink lips curving into a smile she said, “Jean, you missed lunch and your mom was quite disappointed.”

The asian girl took delight into watching her girlfriend getting scared. Her smile dropped and she looked nervous to Cindy.

“Oh.” Jean said as there suddenly was a bit of sweat on her forehead.

Cindy grinned. “Yeah, oh.”

The redhead asked in a panicked manner, “Did she meet Maddy?”

Cindy sighed, she escaped the madhouse in the dormitories and had come looking for Jean to put order to the situation. “Your mother is fighting Elektra to spoil Madelyn. Your mini Me is quite overwhelmed by all this attention from your mother and sisters.”

Jean’s smile came back with a vengeance. Cindy was stunned by the casual cruelty she was subjecting her clone to. “I have some time then, I am almost done with the different pieces of the armor. Peter is working on communicators we will use and Gwen is cataloguing everything in the computer. Oh wait! I have something for you!” Jean stood up with Cindy still in her arms.

Cindy was carefully womanhandled and put on the ground on her feet while Jean zipped at superspeed to another workbench to grab a suitcase.

Jean put the case on the workbench at Cindy’s side, and with a clack opened it. From the inside, Jean took a long glossy bandanna with spiderweb patterns that was strangely formed like a lower half-mask. Jean handed it to Cindy who took it and began her inspection; it felt stretchy to her fingers, but she couldn’t deform it even with all her strength. “What is this?”

Jean smiled and pointed her finger at the bandanna. “This! Is a half mask filter that I embedded into a new bandanna for you. It’s a self-cleaning electrostatic precipitation system that allows for full Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Filtration.”

The redhead took out a black belt with grey pouches attached to it, there was a ‘S’ symbol on it as well as a little metallic tank. “With this compact oxygen tank that I attached to your new utility belt, it also has an eight minute compressed air capacity, which helps in underwater situations. Of course it is optional to put on.”

Cindy followed Jean’s explanation so far, it was like she was in a James Bond movie and Q was explaining how the spy gadgets worked. The dark haired girl couldn’t help but smile at Jean showing off, but it still bothered her that she was doing all this instead of working on her own stuff. “Jean… even when you do stuff for yourself, you get distracted into making things for me…”

“Well, it’s difficult to stay on target for me, I mean if I think of a thing that could allow you to survive, I am going to build it for sure.”

Cindy’s heart melted at this, she took Jean’s hand in hers. With half lidded eyes she asked. “Be a bit more selfish.”

Jean sighed, and embraced Cindy again. She smelled her hair, kissed her forehead and whispered into her ear, “I am being selfish already, I want you to be safe.”

The two looked into each other's eyes, and Cindy nodded. “Okay.”

Their lips then smashed together and time didn’t have any meaning anymore as they gave into their feelings.

 

# # #

(Gwendolyne Stacy)

 

30 minutes later…

She watched as Peter was drawing his new costume on his workbench, this time it wasn’t what she had thought, he didn’t return to his red and blue costume. It was more like a silver armor and helmet over a black suit. A spider with a solid silver shell. Peter was writing notes of what the costume should be able to do, Jean has offered to build a suit for him made of the same wonder metal fiber as Cindy’s.

As he finished his sketch and put his pen on the workbench, Gwen looked from the drawing to Peter’s face and asked, “Are you sure it’s what you want Pete?”

Peter nodded and stood from the stool, Gwen followed him to the scanning machine, he put the sheet with the sketch of the armor into it and answered his girlfriend. “Yeah, I had to think really hard about it. I kept coming back with bruises or wounds; and even if I have powerful regenerative abilities, it hurts. It forced me to lie to May, I don't want to continue on the path I've been on.”

Gwen smiled, happy that Peter wasn't simply coasting anymore and finally used that consequent intellect of his. “I see.”

Excitedly Peter continued, “I came up with another web shooter delivery device and a long range communication system that I forwarded to Jean for approval.”

*Ah so that’s why he asked me about looking for a model in the database.* Gwen’s eyes sparkled with realization. 

A smile slowly spread on her face and she put her hands on Peter’s cheek and said, “You listened to me. You know that she’s going to give it to all of us.”

Peter blushed, avoiding the intense gaze of his girlfriend. “Y-yeah… if I ever need help, I know that you girls will come now.”

“You bet we are!” Gwen then proceeded to kiss the hell out of him and Peter gave back as much as he got, and slipped a hand under Gwen’s black top and elicited a moan from her making him wanting to do more than some heavy petting.

Things were getting hot between them before Gwen stopped kissing him as she heard someone moan. She held Peter's hands down with her super strength. “Huh do you hear that?”

Peter was getting frustrated, it seemed that his girlfriend was clearly stronger than him. He didn’t like it when something was cockblocking him too. “What?”

Gwen tilted her head. “Its- come on, we will see what it is about.” She pulled her boyfriend toward the exit of the computer room and followed the noises. They were coming from the secondary room in the engineering sector adjacent to the forge.

The materials that were previously floating in the air were on the ground and it became almost impossible to navigate with it cluttering the way. Fortunately, Gwen could fly and helped Peter fly over the stuff blocking the way by holding him firmly against her body.

Peter frowned. He was clearly hearing it now. “Okay. What's this? Weird… moans?" The more he heard, the more he realized what it was and wanted to tell Gwen to not go further but it was too late. Through the door they could hear what was clearly going on.

“Cindy, yes yes yes! Don’t stop!” Jean's voice keened.

Through the little glass window in the door they could see the blurred form of the two naked girls on a workbench going at it.

Gwen looked at the blushing Peter who averted his gaze. “Gweny, we shouldn't be here…”

To his dismay, Gwen was blushing and basically pushing her face on the window, she looked excited. "A-are they having sex?" She asked, interested by what was clearly happening as she looked at Jean’s form and Cindy whose head disappeared between their friend's legs.

Peter tried to pull Gwen away but he could barely move her as she stayed unmoving. “Yes. Now let's get out of here before they notice we are here!”

“Ahn!” Peter blushed even more as he heard the passionate cries. Gwen simply couldn't understand why her boyfriend wasn't more eager to listen. She wanted to see how those cute sounds coming from their normally goofy and amusing redheaded friend were made. Somehow all of it made her blood boil and her lower body moist for… something.

*Yes it's-its for science, yes!* Gwen convinced herself. She nodded to herself. 

Gwen turned to Peter and asked him with a sly smile. “Huh-uh, don't you wanna watch?”

The blush on his face was suddenly replaced by a fearful expression. “I don't want to get killed.”

Gwen frowned, Jean would certainly get angry if they interrupted her, but she would also get away with it by simply making a cute face and apologizing. She knew that Jean had a weakness for her, some lingering... sexual attraction that the little blonde kept exploiting. “Coward.” She called Peter.

Peter whispered, “No, I have a healthy sense of preservation.” He found the strength to make Gwen pull away from the door. "We are their friends, and friends don't do shit like that to each other." Peter looked her in the eyes meaningfully.

Gwen deflated and realized that she was being a pervert. “Fine.” She floated and took Peter’s hand, then they left. 

“YESJUSTLIKETHAT!!!!” The reverberating voice of Jean was the last thing they heard from the closed room they got away from, making Gwen blush.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
December 21st, 1996
04:12 AM (Egypt time)

I opened my eyes, the first thing I see being the vaulted ceiling of my bedroom, the second was Cindy at my side sleeping on my numbed left arm. A smile spread on my face, and I hoped to wake up like this more often. We had our date last night, we went to France, while Hans and Chimera went to replenish the foodstore for the base.

We went to the Disneyland park and to a fancy Italian restaurant in Rome. Portal creation and manipulation is a seriously awesome power to have; the Earth is basically becoming a playground to me and giving me date options out of this world. Everything was worth it, last night I could literally feel that Cindy’s feelings deepened for me.

The only thing that didn’t go as planned was the situation with my family. I tried to bring Sarah and Julia to have a good time and as a show of apology but my elder sister rebuffed me, Julia didn’t go because she didn’t want to be a third wheel in Cindy’s and my date. I would fix this. I regretfully disentangled from Cindy and exited the bed. 

Looking at myself, there wasn’t even a stitch of clothing on me. I shrugged and looked at the black throne in the middle of the room covered in bags full of clothes that we bought. I walked up to the throne and placed the bags on the ground and sat on it.

“Welcome User Jean Grey.”

“Hello computer, can you show me Wakanda?” I asked politely, even if it was a shard of the main computer in Mongolia, I didn’t want to disrespect it. I crossed my leg and waited.

“Complying.”

A map of the country was displayed on the holographic map before me, contrary to the MCU version, Wakanda wasn’t protected by a holographic shield or some such. It’s not efficient enough and wasted energy. No, what was before me was a multi level underground kingdom, located next to Lake Victoria and surrounded by Mohanda, Canaan, Azania and Niganda.

Of course there were cities on the surface to show that they were still modernized, such as Birnin Azzaria the fake capital and Birnin Bashenga and the excellent subterfuge that was the network of villages and towns spread all over the territory. To the world they were a nation of farmers that are situated in the Alkama Fields, and fishers on the shores of Lake Victoria; that their economy was also supposed to depend on major resources including uranium, coal, diamonds.

What the computer was showing me was that those isolationists had a city comparable to New York State underground with an extensive Maglev network and the most powerful airforce on the planet with their ships.

“They are going to become a problem.” I had created contingencies in case I needed to bolt from the United States, and create my own country in Africa if I must. But would Wakanda not feel threatened once I really get going?

Their technology was vibranium based and their computers nigh unhackable with the technology currently available. I wanted it, desperately, I wanted their ship technology, their material science, computers and communication too. “And I need to do something while Phil and Fury are rallying the SHIELD people they trusted for the big clean up.”

As I watched my holo-screen, I completely understood that the Wakanda that the computer was showing me wasn’t the one from MCU, made to look pretty and idyllic. Those people were like normal people everywhere. Worse than American, they were pretty nationalistic and proud of their Wakadan identity and easily dismissed people from other countries as primitive and never does well. 

This once and for all proved to me that Humans were stupid, however advanced they were; I chuckled at that and continued to scroll down, looking at what the Wakandan did to their environment… for example there were more blatant and hidden technologies used by them such as the techno-organic jungle. Those people have managed to merge vibranium technology and the organics of a jungle to create a benevolent techno organic virus that allows nature and machines to live in harmony.

If I remembered correctly, T’Challa used it to fight the Fantastic Four and the Panther Goddess Bast. *This was dangerous, how could they? What if it spread beyond their valley?*

Fortunately for me, someone interrupted my musing as they turned dark.

[Decision: Network Creation.] The voice of my favorite symbiote rang in my head.

I was so happy to hear her that I hugged her mentally. “Oh, you finally answered, my Goldie. Though you are unable to breed yet…”

When she will be able to, I will have to choose a good person for her progeny’s host. Not some random dude, or Peter. My eyes fell on the sleeping Cindy. *Maybe her.* I smiled, aware that it’s going to be tough to convince my girlfriend of bonding with a Klyntar, she had seen what happened to Peter.

“How long do I have till you are ready?” I wanted a timeframe to prepare, because Goldie will have to separate from me to give birth.

[Accuracy: Three cycles around the star.] My symbiote answered, she felt anxious.

“And you will be able to do it safely, right?” I caressed her mentally, responding to her feelings. She was safe with me, nothing untoward would happen to her.

My symbiote purred in my mind. [Acquiescence: I certainly will be.]

I laughed. “Excellent, now that you are less distracted, Goldie we are going to raid somewhere, are you in?”

[Doubt: Killing?]

“I will try not to, it’s bad for us lately.” I said as I thought about how I had become rather trigger happy with my power lately.

After this tête-a-tête with my Klyntar, I used the throne again and sought out the position of a certain Vibranium thief. The man lived in defiance of the powerful nation, practically living on their doorsteps. The position of his base of operation was registered in Sinister’s computer for me to find. He was going to be my distraction and ticket to enter Wakanda.

Once done with the throne, I left a note for Cindy, telling her what I was going to do. For once I will make it fun, I won’t take him through overwhelming power but teamwork. I needed Chimera, Arclight and Regan. I teleported to the showers and proceeded to my ablutions, I was quick and at the same time instructed mentally Chimera to ready a helicopter and bring Regan and Arclight for deployment. 

 

# # #

(Regan Wyngarde)

 

Hangar 1
05:15 AM

Regan walked with trepidation into the hangar. She had been trying to avoid meeting Jean Grey as much as possible but fate kept conspiring against her. The young woman had succeeded in renewing her friendship with Philippa, it hadn't been easy. She is utterly loyal to Jean Grey, but strangely she kept a healthy fear of her.

She veered right from the second aisle and she was in sight of one of the weird helicopters with ducted fans with coaxial propellers. Chimera was readying the bird, Hans was loading the door mounted weapons with enough cans of ammunition. Regan could see that the missile pods were loaded already and on the left pedestal of the helicopter, some kind of machine gun was mounted.

Philippa turned and saw Regan walking toward them, she raised her arm and grandly said, “Ah! The princess is here!”

This made Regan stop and roll her eyes. Then Hans stopped what he was doing and narrowed his eyes at her. “You are late Regan!”

When Chimera finished checking the helicopter’s systems, she exited the cockpit, looked at her watch and said, “The boss should be arriving at any moment.” She was wearing the standard dark blue tactical armor that the clone soldiers used.

Philippa was wearing the same, they looked relaxed and prepared. As for Regan, she was a ball of anxiety; she envied their personal zen. “You… guys, how aren’t you afraid of her?” Regan asked as she tugged at the tight tactical vest she was wearing.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at her. Philippa had a sniper rifle in her hands, Hans had just finished loading the machine guns and weapon doors. Chimera was the first to answer her after looking at everyone who was hesitating. “Well… she saved me from slavery.”

Hans piped up, “She’s not that bad, she’s just another girl.”

Regan looked at them as if they were brainwashed or crazy. “Right.” She looked down and kicked an empty can.

Philippa broke the awkward moment by walking up to Regan to give her the weapon in her hand. “Here Regan, I got you one of the special rifles.”

The black and silver rifle looked fancy, and strange, the magazine was located behind the trigger group, it caused the overall length to be reduced. Regan weighed it, it was lightweight, she looked in the optical sight attachment, it had a 20x magnification, forward grips, flashlights and laser sights. Above the grip, there is a selector switch with two modes: safety and fully-automatic.

Regan looked up at Philippa with an eager expression. “.50 Cal capable?”

The purple haired amazon smiled and crossed her arms, her powerful biceps visible. “Yes, you are going to be our ace for the operation.”

Frowning, Regan asked, “What are we going to do?”

Philippa shrugged, she found herself regretting now having skipped the mission planning given by Chimera. Hans helpfully enlightened them. “Raid someone’s base. Some Belgian entrepreneur called Klaw.”

“She’s fixated on the base invasion lately…” Chimera piped up as she checked her gear now.

Hans laughed. “Her usual M.O.”

In a flash of blue light, Jean Grey appeared. “Hey guys, I’m here.”

Everyone jumped and turned behind themselves, to see Jean Grey in a peculiar gleaming red and gold cuirass that bore a gold shaped phoenix and a matching golden utility belt, reinforced black pants and knee-high armored combat boots. There was a black choker on her neck with some kind of device passing for jewelry.

“Damn, you startled me!” Regan shouted, she had almost let her rifle fall.

Jean put her fist on her hips. “Aww, sorry Reggie.” Her grin was infuriating to Regan.

“Don’t! Don’t call me that.” The blonde exploded.

The redhead tilted her head, and in a cold voice asked. “Who pissed in your wheaties this morning?”

“Argh.” Regan stomped away with her rifle and climbed inside the helicopter. Behind her Regan heard the voice of everyone saying.

“Huh what did I say?”

“Boss…” 

“What?”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Republic of Mohannda
07:12 AM

Mohannda, was located next to the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda. Ulysses Klaw had based himself there, bribing the local government to not advertise his presence to the Dogs of War, the secret police of Wakanda. His base was located literally between their borders in the jungle, the camp under his control seemed to be built inside a hill where he stored the wonder metal.

In Sinister’s note, it’s written that he defended it through local mercenaries that he outfit himself. It seemed that he also had a Wakandan contact that fed him routes of shipments coming from the Mound that he successfully seized. He sold some of the metal to everyone who could buy. Vibranium went for ten thousand dollars per gram.

The helicopter was actually silent, I liked them. I hope to find a way to commercialize them later… I was in the pressurized cockpit, in the copilot seat, I turned my head and watched as Chimera was piloting and following the route to Klaw's camp on the onboard computer.

“Hey, are we there yet?” I asked in my most annoying and whiny voice.

I’ve been trying to annoy Chimera for the two hours it had taken us to travel from lower egypt to Mohannda. The Samson helicopter was fast and silent, could bear heavy load and could fly well in thin or thick atmospheres or in extreme temperatures with minimal maintenance. It was capable of long range travel thanks to the fusion batteries feeding into the engines. I had finished reading the manual already and I was bored.

“No.” Chimera growled.

I grinned at her and was about to ask again, “Are we…” She stopped me by throwing an ectoplasmic construct in the form of a band of duct tape plastering on my mouth.

*Eww!* It felt icky!

Chimera glared at me. “I will throw you out of the copter if you finish that sentence.” She waved her hands and the green gooey band dissipated but not her gaze on me.

I looked away and shifted in my seat and said with mulishness, “Fine…”

Five minutes later we arrived at the camp, we were at five hundred meters in altitude and began observing. The hill was surrounded by a ten meter high fence with barbed wire along the top. Tall scouting towers were placed at the cardinal points of the camp. There was a well travelled road leading to the bush and to the mountains that vehicles could take.

"I'm going to have a closer look, please guard my body." I looked at my blonde subordinate who was focused on flying.

"Sure boss." Chimera answered with a mock salute and a smile. 

I nodded, leaned in my seat and exited my body with my astral form. I dived to the hill, phasing through the Samson, I noticed right off the bat that there weren't a lot of people in the camp. *A skeleton crew?*

There was barely any organization and cleanliness in the garages, the kitchen and outside armory would have made the quartermaster in SHIELD cry.

Still the people here were armed and willing to kill anyone wandering near the camp, the snipers in the towers were a sign of that. This was a mixed crew of local and hired mercenaries, some were utter scum with no training and Hammer tech assault weapons. It made me laugh for a long moment before I realized why. Klaw wanted them dead and used them as cannon fodder.

The hired foreign mercenaries had military training and way better weapons and there was even a support staff of mechanics and a doctor. As I spied in the camp, I decided to explore into the hill. As I phased through the heavy armored doors, I noticed how the state of the installations inside differed from outside. The walls were white and pristine, there was a storage space comparable to Hangar 1 in Egypt base, dormitories with all the western luxuries available and a lab!

I couldn’t access the computers but I could read the random notes and research paper that were strewn messily in the main laboratory space. The schematic showed me that this device that is being built here was basically a loudspeaker that generates sound waves from electrical energy able to convert sound waves into physical mass?

*Impossible to do without…* 

“So that’s why he needs Vibranium.” The metal is sound absorbing. Contrary to Vibranium B, the Wakandan variant absorbs vibratory or kinetic energy in its vicinity within itself. Its energy-manipulating properties were multiple. Ideas on how to adapt the technology shown here filled my mind, I could ideally turn this into a weapon, but it could also be used in the demolition sector. Even some medical tools.

I intended to kill Ulysses Klaw when I came here, but I see now that it would be a waste. The man was clearly a genius and it wouldn’t do. I looked up and returned to my body with a thought. Opening my eyes, I found myself in the Samson’s cockpit again.

“Welcome back.” The chirpy voice of my second in command rang.

I shifted in my seat and looked at her, a smile blossoming on my face as I told her, “Change of plan. I want Klaw alive. This is how we will do this…”

 

# # #

(Ulysses S. Klaw)

Returning From a successful raid on the convoy from The Mound, Klaw was satisfied and cheerful. They had been raiding those convoys for a while now thanks to their contact. He was lucky that there was a political faction in Wakanda that was against their isolationist policy. They gave him information when to attack, the routes of the lightly guarded shipments or when those shipments were a trap to get him.

Klaw whistled Flight of the Bumblebee as his driver turned right and they were finally in sight of their camp. He stopped whistling and chuckled; he finally had enough Vibranium for his project and maybe introduce it to his government. The transducer would be able to disintegrate matter at full power, he could already see how war would change with such a weapon!

His plan was simple, he intended to introduce the weapon and show everyone how it was made and reveal the wonders of Vibranium. People would want to know where he found so much of it and this is where his goal aligned with the anti-royalist faction, it would force the Wakandan government to show their hands! To negotiate, they were mighty but not invincible! And the truth about them would be laid bare to see.

*I am vindictive like that.* Klaw smiled savagely, showing teeth.

His smile was still splattered on his face when the head of his driver exploded in a shower of gore, the large old style 4x4 he was in lost control, veered to the left and crashed into the large trunk of a Baobab tree. Fortunately for him, Klaw had his safety belt on and the windshield had collapsed forward, avoiding breakage.

“Hnng.” Klaw opened his eyes, his vision blurry, he looked around himself and saw that he had crashed into a tree. When his vision cleared, he noticed that his driver was dead, that his right arm was broken and that he should be getting out of here.

His men, God bless them, circled his vehicle with the trucks and other 4x4, using them as cover and prepared for another assault. Some of them were already extracting him from the crashed 4x4; Klaw asked himself if someone inside the base was trying a powerplay and trying to take him down for the Vibranium. One of his men brought him the suitcase where he stashed his prototype sound transducer.

“Sir, what do we do?” A tall black man with a buzz cut, an up to date green flack jacket and matching armored pants, asked. He was the leader of the mercenaries, he held the nose of his rifle toward the ground and kept watching around him for the enemy, ready to burst into action at a moment’s notice. Klaw suddenly gathered everyone’s attention around him, but they still stayed wary of their surroundings. He looked at all of them, they were seemingly demoralized and skittish. The meaning of being sniped somewhere they should have an advantage wasn’t lost on them. 

Their base was a write off. Without it they were just a band of mercenaries roaming the wild. The kind that get talked about in the news raiding poor villages, raping and stealing. As he watched, Klaw could read the intentions of some of his men in their eyes. “We cannot leave! All my Vibranium is there!”

“But they will pick us off like fish in a barrel!” The man who addressed him earlier walked up to face him and shouted, only for his head to explode too and splatter everyone around in a shower of brain matter, bones and blood. He dropped to the ground like a felled tree.

The mercenaries all scattered to the woods at the same moment, some were shot and cut in two by the sniper firing at them.

“Shit!” Klaw immediately laid down on the ground and crawled under one of the trucks. He estimated that the weapon firing at them was powerful enough to do him in; he didn’t want to end up being meat for the lions. Klaw was a survivor and he will be damned if he was going to get killed like a dog! With his Sound Inducer in his good hand he slowly crawled out from under the truck and took the direction of the woods toward the river.

He would find a way to get back at those wahoos taking potshots at him! Smiling devilishly, Klaw crawled to safety until something weird happened and all the trees around him were uprooted into the air and his position as well those of his men was revealed. There was some kind of whispering sound in the air.

Klaw looked up, it was some strange helicopter with two big propellers. “What the hell is that machine?!”

The helicopter, because Klaw couldn’t call it otherwise, turned to the side and the door opened; two big mounted heavy machine guns swivelled in their direction.

Klaw’s eyes widened. “Oh fuc-”

RATATATATATATATATATATATATA. They opened fire on everyone that had been hiding.

“That’s not fair!” Klaw raised his good hand to the sky and shouted.  The man raged against the machine, even fired his sound transducer at it, but bounced off some kind of shield! Some of the leftover mercenaries fired back instead of fleeing but were swiftly disposed of by the sniper from earlier.

When everything settled and everyone around him was dead, Klaw found himself staring at the helicopter. He asked himself why they didn't kill him yet.

“Why?”

As if to answer his question the helicopter was landing vertically before him. He didn’t flee, and he didn’t see the point of trying, they could snipe him now with the clear plain that was created; the trees were still in the air. Out of the door, a redhead in red and gold armor exited, she looked young and a complete knockout. She levitated toward him, not touching the ground.

Her face was locked into a neutral expression that chilled him, her eyes glowed gold without visible sclera. But Klaw didn’t care! This was clearly the big boss that had decimated his awesome outlaw base! And she was one of those powered freaks that he sees running from time to time here. *What are they called again? Mutants?*

The neutral expression on the redhead’s face turned to a stormy one. “Ulysses Klaw.” Her voice echoed everywhere as she pronounced his name.

*That’s spooky.* She looked at him as if she could read everything he thought.

Her eyes stopped glowing and emerald green orbs appeared, with sclera and everything that makes a human eye human. “You are not what I imagined. I’d thought you’d be taller, less pathetic.”

Klaw put his good hand on his heart and feigned looking hurt. “That’s too harsh!”

A creepy smile tugged at her lips that chilled Klaw to the bone. “I guess it is time to give you the hard sell.” She said as she raised a hand and pointed it at him.

Klaw let go of his transducer and raised his arms, even the broken one. “Wait, wait sheila I call foul!”

The beauty frowned at him and lowered her hand. “Huh?”

With an eyebrow raised she stared at him as if he was ridiculous, he sure felt like it. She seemed to have powers that could shred him like toilet paper. He didn’t want to become a statistic!

“I mean, I am just back from a raid and I don’t think it’s fair that you come to raid a raider when he didn’t even get a chance to enjoy his spoils!”

“Huh, so what? Should I let you go or something? Too bad for you Klaw, I’ve come for that booty.”

Klaw nodded, standing up with difficulty while holding his broken arm. “Exactly! Errr, I am of course buying my life with the Vibranium! It’s what you want isn’t it?”

The redhead looked at him with disbelief. “Vibranium?”

Klaw pointed toward one of the overturned trucks and said, “Yes the wonder metal, if you have come to me, it’s surely for this, right?”

The Belgian scientist was known in the criminal underworld for being the ready source for Vibranium. Rich CEO, Military General, and even that Wahoo in Latveria. Everyone wanted to please him, just for-

The sound of laughing interrupted him. It was the redhead. She laughed and laughed. Then she looked at him as if he was completely pathetic. “That shit is lying around everywhere for anyone who wants to look for it. Wakanda isn’t the only source. It’s in abundance in this solar system. No, Ulysses. I didn’t come for the sound metal. I came for you.

Klaw stepped back when the eyes of the young woman glowed gold again. He placed his good arm in defense before him. “Shit, sheila. I am flattered, but you are a bit young for me, so I will have to decline.”

There was a long silence between them after that, only broken by the redhead landing on the earth before him. “Klaw, do you want to continue your life like this?” She opened her arms grandly and watched around her, the overturned vehicles and the field of death made up of his dead mercenaries.

She continued. “Do you want to wallow in the bush and pass your time raiding primitive cowards who will eventually get passed by other countries sooner rather than later?”

*Damn, the girl got a point.* Klaw had always found it weird that the Wakandans weren’t a major force in the world of today. But the more he had learned about them, how they allowed the resources of this continent to be pillaged by every big country out there in the world and treat it like their backyards and enslave its people it had made it impossible for him to respect them. He looked down on the Black Panther who prided himself to be honorable and good.

His father may have been a Nazi and a Hydra scum, but he wasn’t, everyone deserved to live and thrive. Klaw looked up and said, “I agree that it’s not optimal… but I have a plan!”

She grinned as if he was being ridiculous. “The anti-royalists? They will betray you. Do you think they don’t know where you’ve holed yourself up? All they are waiting for is the completion of their agenda to take you out.”

*How did she know?* Klaw began to sweat at the thought that his plan could have been so transparent, that his revenge against T’chaka and his brood would never be accomplished.

But still, he wanted to live to see the day he’d have the satisfaction of revenge. He stared at the girl who seemed to just see through him. Maybe it was one of her powers. “That…”

She came closer to him and whispered, “You know I’m right.” Then she floated back. “Klaw, to convince you to join me, I will let you in on a secret.”

This was it, the end of her speech. What would determine if he lived at the end of this hiring speech. He couldn’t help himself and sprouted with bravado, “It better be good, sheila.”

Her smile chilled him as her entire body wreathed into flame and the screech of a bird rang into the air. The flame took on the form of a colossal firebird, a predator, no, a raptor. “You don’t have to become a pawn in Wakanda’s political arena. If you join me, you won’t need to depend on them for Vibranium… after all, I can make it.”

The redhead stomped on the ground and a ball  of Earth at least two meters in diameter raised from the ground turned to stone, then to iron and finally it became a silver ball with a familiar sheen. Klaw stood there transfixed, until he walked up to the metal ball, took a big rock from the ground and struck it against the floating ball.

GLING. It rang in the air for a long moment, the sound metal, vibranium. He looked with wonder at the redhead, no, the Goddess. “Sign me up!!!”

“You have chosen wisely.” Her voice echoed again. Klaw wanted to bow and pray, but he understood right away when she narrowed her eyes that she wouldn’t like that. He would pray to her with one of his favorite mixtapes.

“Bahahahaha. I am a smart man, dad always told me that. Hum. Anyway, could you heal this, please.” Klaw showed his broken arm.

The flaming young woman rolled her eyes.

 

# # #

(Phoenix)

 

Heliopolis
Bast’s Palace

Gaea and Bast were laughing, pointing their fingers at the crystal balls. They were laughing at Jean having made her first believer, a fanatic who kept wanting to bow and scrape to her. I rolled my eyes, even in all my years of observing people, I found it to be a rookie mistake and it had to be my avatar, my other self who did it.

I huffed. “Ladies, it’s just a-”

Only to be interrupted by Bast slapping her thighs in laughter. “This is hilarious. She is gathering cultists without even trying!” She was a tall dark skinned woman, with richly ornate braids; she wore fancy jewelry full of magic and some kind of bikini armor.

I sighed, then watched as Jean was storing all the computers and notes of Klaw inside Goldie while he looked at her with wonder. It was embarrassing! Jean has been using her Phoenix aura all over the world to wake up the comatose people after the extermination of the sublime, since then a church about her had sprung up in Japan, Korea, France and the UK, strangely they didn’t disseminate in the USA yet.

I let go of my anger, and decided to not let the growing pain of my avatar mess with my mood, here lay danger. Instead I let the wonder of Celestial Heliopolis uplift my sense of beauty. We were in another dimension named after the city of Heliopolis on Earth, it was the size of the moon but a closed world reminding me of how bountiful and green egypt was before its climate change six thousand years ago. There was a representation of the Nile and the Mediteranean sea, Bast’s Palace was actually on the Northern coast of Lower Egypt in this dimension.

When the Ennead, the Egyptian gods themselves left Earth to live in Celestial Heliopolis, they brought with them their servants and children. It wasn’t rare to see mermaids or divine beasts running amok in this version of paradise.

“Your Avatar is amusing, but even so, her future is bright.” Death’s voice rang as she looked at Jean enacting her plan to enter Wakanda.

She was transformed into the pale skinned and black haired representation of Lady Death from the comics. Gaea or Bast had nothing but praise for her for her new fashion. The theme of today was undies or bikini armor with a good showing of their favorite weapons. If there's something I learned by hanging out with those two is that Gods have really weird priorities, such as who is the strongest or who still has the most followers. Bast was one of those who lamented the state of affairs of her current followers who worshiped her but didn't follow her will.

I had met Bast, the Panther goddess after the Sublime extermination while Jean was remodeling her base in Egypt, a brief fight had happened in the higher planes, but Gaea stopped me from killing Bast by asking really nicely. Since then we have become friends and they invited me to Celestial Heliopolis all the time when I wasn't busy.

“I am still working on her, she's still stubborn.” I replied.

Jean was difficult to stir in the direction I wanted to point her. But she was beginning to understand the clues and follow the breadcrumbs I kept leaving for her.

“Will she be able to help my granddaughter?” Gaea interjected.

She was a gorgeous woman, endowed with supernatural beauty and grace, it was kind of difficult to pin her ethnicity as she is used to changing it each time I blinked. Fortunately, her hair and physical features changed with the seasons. Right now she had dark skin, white hair and blue eyes; she was tall and really endowed. Gaea wore some kind of drapery barely hiding her body and jewelry made from raw ore like gold, silver, marble.

Gaea oozed power, she possesses great mystical powers of an undefined nature. Even for me, our domain actually overlapped and I found myself drawn to her and she knew it.

I looked her in the eyes. “We made a deal, she helps reform the Panther nation and its people and you give Jean free reign to do things around the solar system and convince your son to not interfere too much with her.”

“Yes… but he has noticed her and has become... intrigued.” Gaea’s averted her gaze, this was not normal for her. She wasn’t used to lying, but Immortals and Gods always found a way to cheat you by using semantics or omission. 

I couldn’t blame Gaea, she had no control over Amun-Ra, the sun God. “I hope it's in a friendly way…”

Gaea smiled sheepishly this time. My eyes fell on Bast who was watching with rapt attention as Jean flew in the sky with her Phoenix aura free and headed for Wakanda. The blocky form of multiple cargo containers followed her as she flew.

Bast looked at the crystal ball excitedly and her black panther ears stood at attention, as well as her tail. “Oh, it's already time! Look at that, we need to prepare for the descent. Honored grandmother would you accompany me?”

Gaea gave a patronizing gaze at her granddaughter and stood up with grace and majesty. “I certainly will, there’s a quest I wish to bestow on Phoenix' avatar.”

The two disappeared in a shower of light and stars. The laugh of Lady Death rang in the room, she was laying on the sinfully comfortable sofa in a sexy pose that made me want to take her right there. But I resisted her appeal and shouted at her with a stomp of my flaming foot, “Death don't laugh!”

Death made a plate of magical berries float to her. “Poor Jean will become an errand girl for those two if you are not careful.”

Gaea was always in search of protectors for herself, she has allied with me because I promised to offer her protection and to educate the humans into caring for her. This was clearly easy to do, the metahuman community on Earth would be in charge of such.

I nodded to my counterpart. “I will put my foot down if they push too many responsibilities on her, but she was already in the process of fixing Gaea's physical body. So, I will let those two have their fun.”

Ghostly hands touched my flame body in reassurance. “I will be there to cheer you up and rant.” Death put a berry full magic in her mouth and moaned in pleasure. “I should have come here sooner.” Lady Death mumbled with a happy grin.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Wakanda
09:55 AM

I overlooked the valley. It was beautiful, more beautiful than my own; I now understood how those housewives got competitive over their gardens. I wanted my new base to be as awesome, I may not like how Wakanda treated everyone, but they sure knew their stuff! Maybe I could learn from them? *Hmm?*

There were fast approaching aircraft coming toward me. They were fast, sleek and unmanned. Measuring at least 5.50 meters, those black and silver fightcraft -because there was no way those were civilian ones- seemed highly maneuverable combat oriented fighters. Their engine exhaust shined with blue and I guessed that it was some kind of ion reactor powering them.

With a thought I stopped them in the air, but they still fired on me, their directed energy weapons didn’t even scratch me as I absorbed it. I took out my Celestial scanner and looked at the option on the holographic screen, the boxy silver device answered my mental commands and began scanning the drones who started shooting missiles at me. I stopped them too, and deactivated them by breaking their internal mechanisms. 

BEEP. Scan complete appeared in my mind, causing me to smile. The schematics, loadouts, components and atomic structure of everything about those fighters appeared in my mind and was stored in the device, I sent a command to it to deliver a back up to the computer of the black throne.

Reactive armor, isolinear onboard computer, Twin Ion Engines, Ion cannons, close ranged sensors linked to the formidable Wakandan communication network, all of this awesome tech was fuelled by a compact Fusion reactor. I whistled, and stored the Celestial scanner inside Goldie. With only that I could have just left and come up with new technology. But I wanted more, so I unleashed my aura and flew toward Birnin Zana, the Golden City.

But I destroyed the fighters first by disintegrating them without a care, my heavy burden, containers full of Vibranium and something special followed me at a sedate pace.

 

# # #

(King T’Chaka)

 

The Golden City
10:00 AM

 

Today was supposed to be a great day! Today was supposed to be the day he passed on the mantle. The tribes had gathered, his son was ready to fight against any contender for the rule in their traditional ritual combat ceremony. But this day was marred by the attack of that despicable thief! But no, Ulysses Klaw wasn’t a common thief at all, he was a sponsored one, the Dogs of War had warned him that rebellious elements in their country were helping him.

“I didn’t believe them at first, but now I have to agree…” King T’Chaka said aloud in the throne room.

At his side was Queen Ramonda and their daughter, Shuri. Their son T’Challa was pacing furiously. T’Chaka didn’t begrudge him his ill humor, as two times the ceremonial fights were interrupted by an alert.

On the giant holographic screen, the old king watched as the mass of peculiar fire in the form of a bird arrived in the skies of the Golden City, this phenomena had been identified last week, and even with all the science and their knowhow, Wakanda’s scientist could barely guess that it was someone, an entity who was the cause.

“And it is now coming for us.” It was floating over the cities, not exactly darkening the skies, there should have been a shadow or at least extreme temperatures, but there was none of that. The chief-scientist present with them in the throne room was constantly checking his tools, Kimoyo Card and Beads to stay in contact with the scanners all over the city.

“Yes it is, husband.” Ramonda replied to his voiced internal concern.

“Father, it has destroyed our drone fighters! I say we retaliate!” T’Challa cried out, interrupting the King and Queen.

T’Challa stood topless with his pants and sandals before the throne. King T’Chaka stood and descended the dais putting his hand on the naked shoulder of his son and started to speak.“Son-”

Only to be interrupted by the impetuousness of his youngest, Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, opened her mouth and protested. “We shouldn’t do such a thing! It hasn’t attacked us so far, we were the first-”

Ramonda held onto her daughter who was struggling and wrinkled her traditional royal dress.

T’Challa looked stubbornly at his father. “Too late I already sent the order.” The young man nodded with a satisfied expression on his face.

At this moment, T’Chaka almost throttled his son. “What have you done!?” His face turned white. They didn’t know what that creature was, it was folly and his son may have doomed them all!

Before he could countermand the orders, T’Chaka watched as the City’s defense activated, Ion cannons powerful enough to take down a mountain individually deployed from hidden locations and fired after charging. The immense explosion struck the firebird and it disappeared behind a cloud of dust. The strange energy that had been detected by the scanners had completely disappeared. T’Challa smiled with satisfaction and said, “Problem solved.”

Shuri who had not stayed idle, as she took control of the scanners and came up with an algorithm that boosted their range and sensitivity. Her eyes opened wide as she noticed that the energy was still there and just on cue it flared and burned the scanner as it quadrupled and this time the Firebird was bigger, covering the whole valley.

It screeched a cry that rang inside the ears of each and every Wakandan. Their defenses were disintegrated by the same red wave of force from a week and a half ago. Throughout the country, the Ion cannon defense grid was obliterated, it shouldn’t have been possible. But King T’Chaka was a pragmatist.

<PANTHER KING, COME OUT. NOW.> A woman’s voice screeched in their mind. T’Chaka didn’t know it at the time, but everyone in Wakanda heard the firebird call him out.

“Husband.” Ramonda looked on with anguish at her man.

Shuri looked at her brother with blame, he had fired on something that even their most powerful weapons couldn’t do anything against. T’Chaka closed his eyes, the action of his son had the potential to destroy this country; he looked at T’Challa who looked simply livid.

“I will go.” The old King simply said with a movement of his hands the Dora Milaje guards appeared from behind the pylons supporting the throne room. 

T’Chaka resolved to go there without weapons or the Panther habit. An instinct that he couldn’t trace was telling him to present a humble and pious disposition before the entity. T’Challa placed himself between his son and the exit. “Don’t father. I-I will go in your stead.”

“You have done enough, my son.” T’Chaka dismissed him.

“I am coming with you.” T’Challa muscular frame tensed as he looked ashamed, he couldn’t even look his father in the eyes.

“I am coming too father!” Shuri announced.

“Absolutely not!” Ramonda’s answer was instantaneous.

The little princess turned to her mother and raised her voice. “I am a part of the Royal Family, this is my duty!” Shuri looked defiant and when her mother didn’t do anything to stop her ran to her father’s side.

T’Chaka looked on fondly at his daughter, and compared her reaction to that of her brother. One is a warrior, the other is a scholar. He loved his children, they were talented and had started relieving him of his burden to help him and their country. What more could an old man like him ask for? So that was why he accepted Shuri’s presence, the same instinct from earlier told him to.

The old King turned to his wife and loudly said, “If this entity decides to attack, wherever we are we will all die, my love.”

Ramonda gathered her robe’s layers of fabric and sniffed haughtily. “Then in that case I am coming too.”

T’Chaka closed his eyes, then nodded.

 

# # #

 

They were out of the palace and already on the path bearing the King’s name. They stopped and looked in the sky and it was simply terrifying to contemplate the size and power of such a being. He didn’t know how he guessed it, but when they came into the middle of the path the form of the firebird contracted and a column of fire descended on their position. 

The Dora Milaje that had come with them unarmed surrounded the royal family with their bodies and waited for the inevitable collision. But after a long moment, nothing happened, instead standing there ten meters from them was a woman wreathed in fire, she was of average size, a perfect balance of athletic and muscular, her facial features were asian, and her eyes glowed gold; her scarlet hair simply flew everywhere in the air. She wore a red and gold armored vibranium breast plate, armored black pants with the same shiny sheen and boots.

She looked like a warrior, her musculature let you guess at it.

Everyone stood transfixed as nature simply took a life on its own around her, as if a miracle flower sprouted from the earthen path and blossomed and grass grew green and thick. Thick trees grew at the same time forming a grove around them. T’Chaka looked around him in wonder, Shuri laughed, however, Ramonda and T’Challa were still wary.

“Igama lam nguPhoenix kwaye ndingathanda ukuthi, molo. (My name is Phoenix and I’d like to say, hello.)” The woman, no the divine being (?) said in perfect Wakandan.

She continued in their language, “However, I am not happy at all. I have come in peace, but two times I have been attacked in your land. For such a slight I should unleash my wrath upon you.” Her fiery hand raised, crackled with golden energy…

Once again the Dora Milaje covered for the royal family, while T’Chaka looked sorry, T’Challa wasn’t repentant and looked downright murderous, Ramona simply shielded her daughter with her body. Something else changed, a chilling wind struck everyone; they all looked around them again and the greenery around them took on the color of autumn and then died, the trees covered themselves in their winter bark.

“It seems that you have a stay of execution.” Phoenix said, as she lowered her hand snow slowly fell on the ground and a white pillar speared the ground at the flaming woman’s side. 

As the pillar dissipated, a giant black Panther wearing golden and jeweled armor covered in runic script appeared. It… no, she roared. T’Chaka automatically  went on his knee. “Panther Goddess.”

At this announcement, everyone around him kneeled as well. There was awe, as well as fear in the air. This was a momentous event, Bast the Panther Goddess had descended. It hadn't happened since Bashenga, the first Black Panther rose as a king.

“Stay your hand, Avatar!” Bast roared and surged between the royal family and Phoenix.

Phoenix laughed. “Princess Bast. I didn’t anticipate your intervention.”

Bast said in a purr, “You should have, your intervention on this world has been noticed by every Deity man believes in. Some are in awe of your power or others seek to test themselves against you. What has brought you to my humble abode?”

T’Chaka didn’t dare raise his head and let his better to converse between equals. He didn’t understand why this was happening today, that this… avatar person would come and their Goddess would manifest herself to save them.

“That I can tell you.” Suddenly, thirty or so containers poured out of a golden portal and stacked on the right of the T’Chaka Path.

“I have come to give this back to the Kingdom of Wakanda.” Phoenix landed on her feet, the grassy ground covered now in snow did not catch fire or evaporate.

T’Chaka and his young daughter Shuri were surprised by the blatant breaking of common sense, logic or physical laws that the two beings were casually doing. The Panther goddess shifted her head toward one of the containers stacked high, with an effort of her will it levitated to the ground and landed. With her claw she shredded the container like tissue paper and from it, bars and ingots of Vibranium spilled out.

Bast put a claw against one of the bars and it rang that peculiar sound that Vibranium made. “The sound metal. How did you come by it!” The Goddess said with surprise.

“I caught this individual who offended me.” Another portal opened and out of it a body rolled in front of King T’Chaka. 

The dead body before him was that of a bearded white man of at least 1.80m and at least eighty kilograms, he was wearing green tactical armor and clothes; his neck and right arm were bent unnaturally.

“The Thief!” T’Chaka shouted, stood up and kicked Klaw’s body.

T’Chaka then looked at his son and how rash he had been; then he thought that it wasn’t just his son, their people were antagonistic and loathed anything that came from outside the valley. This situation was a blatant reminder that all was not good in Wakanda.

“Great Phoenix, may I have your attention.” T’Chaka put as much oratious skill he could in his request.

Phoenix’ fiery eyebrow rose, she lifted her chin and stood taller and said, “You may.”

The old King put his fist against his right pectoral, a formal martial salute and said, “I, King T’Chaka, thank you for the great service you have done for the Kingdom of Wakanda.”

The flames around Phoenix rose higher. “I don’t really care.

T’Chaka lowered his head, Shuri moaned briefly, and the Dora Milaje guards all looked shocked. A scream of rage was emitted from the old King’s son who stood up and shouted, “Insolence!”

“Son don’t do it.” The old King tried to stop his son. But it was too late, T’Challa sidestepped him and lunged toward Phoenix with a dagger drawn. The hot headed T’Challa never had a chance, he simply entered a portal opening in space, toward the sun. 

Phoenix instantly closed the portal. Everyone had seen the sun and its golden flames on the black background and T’Challa simply tumbling. Ramona cried out and Shuri stood up to watch where the portal was opened.

“M-my son…” T’Chaka held onto his chest and fell on his knees.

T’Challa had died, there was no way that he could survive the void of space without protection. The King looked at Phoenix whose face was completely neutral and devoid of feelings.

“Your son is foolish, short sighted and misguided. He is in no way ready or worthy to be King.” The flaming entity revealed to him, just like his son’s actions had just proved to him.

The form of Bast shifted to reveal a dark skinned woman in cyan, barely-there bikini, armor. “Avatar, could you bring him back please?” Bast asked, her tail swishing right and left and her panther ears flattened.

Hope burned in T’Chaka and his family. But the implication that she had dominion over life scared the old King.

Phoenix tilted her head. “What is in it for me? He slighted me twice, first by attacking me with their technology… and then he attacked me while we were having Parley.”

Bast sighed and looked meaningfully at Phoenix. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

T’Chaka looked between them, it was as if they were having a secondary conversation at the same time.

The fire wreathed woman floated to the Panther Goddess and put a hand on her attractive face. It was the first time that Phoenix showed another emotion other than disdain since she landed in Wakanda. “Again, Panther Goddess, you are going out of your way for those people who have stopped listening to your will. Why would you do so?”

This comment struck a chord in everyone. That they have all strayed from the will of their Goddess. Shuri was recording everything that was being said on her Kimoyo Card, and she intended to share it on the communication network.

Phoenix continued to speak with blunt honesty and told everyone what she thought of their country and of their deeds, “They are cowards hiding in this valley, parasites that are ruining your blessing and hoarding it for themselves instead of sharing it with the people of this continent that they condemned to exploitation and slavery by doing nothing to stop it. Panther Goddess, they are starving you of spiritual energy as their belief in you dries up with each year that passes.”

“They deserve a chance to change their ways. They are still my children.” The Goddess spoke normally but it was as if she had roared this in the guards and the royal family’s heart, their faith renewed anew.

“I see, you are a fierce and honorable protector. And as I respect you, I will give him back.”

With a wave of her hand, a portal opened and the half charred and imploded body of T’Challa landed on the ground. Ramonda cried and ran toward the body of her step-son but was stopped by the nearest female guard. Phoenix wreathed the dead body in fire, a cocoon forming around it. 

Phoenix lowered her hand and looked at the Panther goddess. “It is done. You owe me, Princess Bast.”

This announcement echoed in the air like a bell, The Panther Goddess had entered into a contract with this avatar. King T’Chaka closed his eyes, he knew that later the backlash caused by this entire affair would splash on them. That his son would never be King at this point as he was a rash and warlike boy. 

Bast nodded her head. “Before you leave, I have to tell you that my esteemed grandmother, Neith, wishes to converse with you.”

T’Chaka could barely understand the affairs of the gods, the expression on Phoenix’ face became disbelieving, then she smiled and laughed. The old King felt that it was derisive in nature. “An Elder God, huh… so be it. I imagine that she will speak to me through dreams and that she has a quest for me.”

Bast lowered her head. “I cannot speak for my Esteemed grandmother.”

“Very well.” Phoenix nodded. Her gaze focused on the old King who stood straight. “King T’Chaka.”

“Yes, Avatar?” 

“I hope that your people learn from this entire debacle. Isolationism forces you to see enemies everywhere and doubt the intentions of everyone. It is good to be prudent, some beings and people shouldn’t be trusted, but I had come with an open hand, in friendship and you batted it away. I hope that the next King or Queen will be wiser.” Wings of fire spread and then she was hurtling into the sky like an arrow, disappearing.

Bast ignored the King and walked straight to Shuri, the guards and Ramonda stepped away from the two. The Goddess placed a claw on her forehead and aloud told her, “Grow little cub, I place my hopes on your shoulders. Become strong, become wise… and maybe you’ll be able to recover our tarnished honor.”

Shuri opened her eyes wide. “I shall my Goddess.” Bast smiled at the young girl and stepped back; then just like she came into their lives, she disappeared in a pillar of light.

The Dora Milaje guards then took things in stride and placed the King and his family in a defensive formation by surrounding them. They all looked at the leftovers from the shocking visit of the two divine entities. The cocoon of fire then began to dissipate as a fist then an arm appeared from it and shattered it from within.

Lo and behold, Prince T'Challa appeared, whole and healthy, he looked around himself and his eyes brightened as he saw his father. T’Chaka looked into the sky feeling that this was just the beginning…

"The age of the Gods is once again coming."

 

# # #

Back with Jean…

 

I had gone shopping in Wakanda and came back with a nation's worth of knowledge. My head was killing me! I abused Knowledge Replication too many times. But a smile still tugged at my lips; I took all forms of useful information from the Wakandans: research, current and obsolete technologies and medicine were all stored in my memory and the Celestial scanner. While I had been speaking with the Panther Goddess I was also pillaging the minds of the scientists under the Mound.

Wakanda was space capable and walked on the moon a century before the Americans. They solved the problems that Pollution and Global warming would become ahead of its time. They knew how to cure cancer and HIV, they could even clean the oceans of all the human droppings accumulated since the 20th century.

My loathing toward them intensified, as their history, complete technological database and decisions since their foundation flowed into my mind. 

*The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.* Wakanda and its people were the perfect example of why this quote was important. They were sinners, and proud of their civilization and traditions. 

I was American, and I had been raised with not giving into the sin of political and moral apathy. I had been raised by reading about true Heroes like Steve Rogers, who taught me that when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

It means that if you allow something to happen that was inherently evil when you had knowledge or experience that the event happening was wrong morally, then you would have let “evil” win and have its way and it will have “triumphed.”

The People of Wakanda may have felt they could not interfere when the european slavers had come because “it was none of their business”. Or were afraid that they would be the next target and attracted the attention of those foreign empires at the time. Or maybe, they assumed somebody else would step up and say something. Or thought they could not spare the time. Or may even think that perhaps they were misjudging the situation.

There may be a hundred ways they had rationalized this to make themselves not feel guilty and think to themselves “If only I had….?”. But the results are basically the same. They let this horrible crime happen through apathy or fear or disinterest or embarrassment or the fear of making a mistake. 

And the result of this could be an escalation of the situation beyond anyone’s control and to a greater disaster for many more than the original situation involved. *Like my arrival at Wakanda and Bast blessing Shuri and basically making her the future Queen, an event that will surely turn into a Civil War as the T’Challa of this reality was just like the comic book one, driven by lust and love for a weather Goddess, power hungry, and shortsighted.*

They could save billions with their medical science, but they don’t want any trouble; their power over the life of everyone on this planet has thus become complete. ‘Evil’ has won because no one ‘good’ had the courage to stand against this injustice.

I exhaled and let go of my hatred and disgust. I knew that the domain and mission of Phoenix pushed my feelings to an extreme, Wakanda was stagnant. And my job was to fix or destroy stagnation to let life blossom and evolve. I didn’t need my Phoenix costume to see that I was in Dark Phoenix mode still, it was the power calling me out to destroy that stain on Earth speaking and tempting me.

My feelings settled and I returned to normal, my Phoenix aura disappearing; I let my personal powers take the lead. I stopped flying and ended up floating over between the border of Mohannda and Wakanda. Then I realized that the first steps I had given myself were now complete, now it was time to safeguard my allies and rid this world of Hydra, then will come the time to comprehend, build and innovate.

“Life is good.” I told myself with a smile while I returned to Klaw’s base to rejoin my team.

 

# # #

(Nick Fury)

Egypt Base
Communication Room
10:20 AM

Nick adjusted his new eyepatch, Jean had offered it to him after putting some kind of gadget that gave him X-Ray and infrared vision linked to his brain in the form of a cybernetic eye. She had given him the choice between healing his right eye or giving him an upgrade that would give him an edge in the field. Nick had almost died in his previous bolt hole because Hydra used those special agents with cloaking suits. But with his prosthetic eye he could now see them.

A thin smile appeared on his face. If Jean Grey didn’t stop that Hydra agent from completely sticking his knife into his eye, Nick wouldn’t be here; eating the redhead’s food and enjoying the comfort of advanced technology in her new base. Nick leaned in the comfy leather chair, moved the mouse on the right side and on the screen facing him he could scroll down information about Hydra’s dark net that Jean Grey has access to. She allowed him unlimited access to it to come up with a plan to take down Hydra forever.

Nick would have found this fact alarming if Jean hadn't shown him the proof of how she had been abducted, the video recordings of her starting to kill everyone inside had scared the agent. If that had happened in the SHIELD HQ, she would have emptied the facility of life in less than one hour.

He was still wary of the young woman, there was this animosity between them born from his previous actions. But Nick was gradually overcoming his paranoia. He narrowed his eyes as he noticed the link pointing to the log of numerous numbered chat rooms. Before clicking on it, he changed the setting of the application and joined by appearing offline as the option was there.

EncryptedChatRoom #056/Date:12/20/1996

Alca: There were difficulties in retrieving the asset.
Jinta021: Should the asset’s rating be raised?
BVS: If she doesn’t join, destroy her, she’s too dangerous otherwise.
SnowPiercer: @BVS Let me have another chance to bring her in, we got leverage.
Alca: You Failed and are now asking another chance?!
SnowPiercer: I had just underestimated the asset.
Alca: She killed everyone sent after her and took samples of the cloaking suits.
BVS: Enough! @SnowPiercer I am giving you another chance, but if you fail me again…
SnowPiercer: Thank you for this opportunity sir. @Jinta021 Can I count on your assistance?
Jinta021: Of course.

Nick found it interesting that the previous owner of this base had a backdoor into Hydra. *Was he a member? Or a cautious individual keeping an eye on those degenerates?*

What was more worrying was that he was certain that the guy with the SnowPiercer handle was the source of their problems; the others he had no idea who they were, so he was going to look for more clues. After one hour passed, Nick closed his eyes; there was no way to quell the anger simmering in him as he clicked on the printing button.

While he waited for the documents to be printed, Nick looked at the roster on screen and Hydra wasn’t only in SHIELD, but in the CIA, the Secret Service, the US Congress, the very fabric of his government, embedded at all levels. He wanted a drink, something strong enough to drown his despair. “How do you fight something like that? Peggy, how did you do it the first time?” Nick asked out loud.

He respected the woman even more now. Nick remembered how Peggy had told him how she fought this organization while being discriminated against in the SSR. Nick envied her the strength of character she possessed and he asked himself if this was the indirect influence of people such as Steve Rogers who instilled such greatness in others? The noises of the printer having finished its job interrupted him. He took the stack of papers and began reading through it.

Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Alexander Pierce
Elisa Sinclair
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Count Otto Vermis
Arnold Brown
Edgar Lascombe
Tony Masters
Arnim Zola
Gideon Malick
Colonel Hale
Daniel Whitehall
Jasper Sitwell

On and on the list went, and the more depressed Nick became, it wasn’t just the USA, but Europe, Japan, South America. They are everywhere. He put the stack of papers on the desk in front of him. Slowly he began to laugh and then hysteria won over and for five minutes he didn’t stop. “Motherfucker.”

Nick's mind went into overdrive and he began to come up with a plan, something daring, something simply crazy. He opened a new document on Stark Office and began writing:

Operation
CLEAN SWEEP

or

Operation Kill the Motherfucking Infiltrators

With a satisfied nod, Nick began to write out his proposition for how to handle taking down Hydra, it’s facilities and agents with the help of Jean and some of her powered assets. He was sure that she wouldn’t refuse. *No she won’t, they took Peggy and she loves her to bits.*

At the same time Nick took out a device from his black coat, it was boxy, and with a digital screen showing the date and a number of names on them, at the end of it was a USB key that he connected to the computer. A window opened with an executable file on it and as he was still connected to the Internet he double clicked on it.

A series of dark windows with code scrolling down appeared and Nick smiled savagely. He sent an email to all the active agents he trained himself, even those fresh out of the SHIELD academy. Agent Barton, Agent Morse, Agent Hill, Agent May… and the list continued, he sent a code that only they would understand.

“I will have to speak with Grey to go assemble them.”

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Flying over Egypt Base
12:05 PM (Egypt time)

The operation was a success. My gains weren't material and Chimera was disappointed that we let go of the literal multiple tons of Vibranium. I had to sell them the idea that knowledge was more precious than material gain at this point and Vibranium wasn’t a rare commodity for us after showing them that I could literally produce tons of it by transmuting other materials into it.

“We are landing, Boss.” Chimera said out loud while I was thinking of the current events.

I nodded, and as I was looking at big gates covered in rocks to camouflage the entrance of hangar one, they opened with screeching noises. I made notes to oil them later or find another type of entrance, maybe hard-light holograms mimicking the mountain environment? Once open fully, Chimera guided the Samson into the mouth of the hangar and pushed the command to lock up again once we were far enough into the landing bay.

Chimera landed on landing pad number four, there was no one to welcome us but I sent a telepathic message to Jessica and Cindy that I was there. Gwen was busy in the lab… she made herself at home with surprising ease; so I didn’t bother calling her. The Samson landed with a thunk that made me jolt from my seat, fortunately I had my safety belt. I glared at Chimera who looked sheepishly at me and began the post flight checks.

The cockpit depressurized and the access door behind swished like a star trek door. I loved the effect, I resolved to have the same system for my personal rooms later. The interior of the Samson had some seats near the cockpits and against the wall separating from the engines. Klaw was there, in a younger body and already annoying the hell of Regan by offering to teach her about fine music. Arclight noticed my appearance and threw me a pleading gaze to intervene.

Sighing, I said with a voice cracking like a whip, “Klaw, leave her alone, she’s too young for you anyway.”

He jumped, looked at me and gulped as if I was really scary or something. “But-” I already was regretting placing his mind into a younger clone body, the body hormones and  brain chemicals were affecting him already.

I waved a hand and his safety belt unlocked. “I don’t want to hear it, come, we need to get you squared away.”

Looking at Regan I saw a bit of gratitude in her eyes but there was also resentment as I put her in this situation. Klaw massaged his clean shaven chin, he looked somewhat handsome but his crazy laugh was a deal breaker. “Girly, you run a tight ship…” Then he smiled and went to open the door of the Samson and got out after sending a kiss to Regan.

The blonde teen slammed her fist against the armrest of her seat. “I hate that guy!” I felt her fury as if it was mine, the girl might have some smidgen of projective empathy power.

I was happy that she wasn’t skittish as I approached her, Regan stared at me with stubbornness. “He isn’t really interested in you. He is doing that because he knows you are the sniper who killed all of his men, he is taunting you.”

Regan stared at me angrily then, and was about to say something truly negative but she caught herself and realized who I was and that I could presume to know what people thought or felt. “Oh.”

I took one of my loaded SPAS-12 combat shotguns from Goldie hammer space and threw it into Regan’s waiting hands. “If he continues, shoot him in the pelvis with this.”

Regan smiled predatorily as she checked the Italian weapon and fondled it. Her eyes then focused on me and she plastered a wicked smile on her face. “Attractive plan. Aren’t you afraid that I might kill him?”

I shrugged. “Even if he dies, I can bring him back.” Then I left the Samson, letting Regan ponder on what I just said.

Klaw was waiting for me and when he saw me, he saluted me with an eager and looney grin on his face. The… worshipful feelings of admiration and respect he had toward me were embarrassing and overwhelming. It was starting to bother me, but I just turned my empathy way down to tolerate the guy.

“Well girly, you still didn't tell me what you did to-”

I cut him off by pointing a finger and touching his forehead and showing him exactly what happened in Wakanda. Their reactions to my coming, their nonsensical xenophobia; my destroying of their country-wide defenses, my almost killing the royal family only to be thwarted by the panther goddess, the humiliation and loss of identity of Wakanda, the future Civil War that will tear them up from the inside. “Is this enough for you, Klaw?”

Klaw laughed, it was a full belly laugh of relief. “You girly, you don't fuck around; I've been trying to get back at them for a long time and you just waltz in and kick ass. So, yeah that is enough for me. It’s even better than killing all of them.”

I nodded as I sensed his approval; the revengeful thought inside of him quelled for good. Now Klaw was thinking more about all the free time he will have for his research and his hobbies that were all about music. No more politics, no more managing a bunch of mercenaries and worry about backstabbing. Klaw loved the fact that I was now in charge, that I seemed to respect my people, from what he has observed so far.

I didn’t smile back, but with a clank I crossed my arms under my breastplate. “At a later date we are going to discuss your employment details, the rules here in the base, the type of research that I want you to do. Though I would prefer that you focus on your sound technology.”

Klaw eyes shone with interest. “Weaponry, civilian engineering?”

I felt that it was the only field that interested him, so I nodded. “You got it. Any research you succeed in, you file the patent under yours and my name for now. When I open Grey Corporation, sixty percent of the royalties will go to you. I am not here to steal a man's work, I want you to help me better this world.”

A derisive glint replaced the interest from earlier. Klaw disapproved. “You are an idealist.”

I didn’t care what he thought of my goals for the future, but I decided to speak in terms he would understand, men like him were selfish. “No, a pragmatist. I want money, safety for me and mines, a clean world and I fucking want to go to space and meet aliens and-”

"Kill them?" Klaw unhelpfully finished my sentence… He showed teeth. What surprised me was the fact that Klaw didn’t think that I was crazy because I believed in alien life.

“No!” I cried out, but I thought about the Shi’ar and the Kree and said,  “...maybe, if they piss me off? But before we are ready for spaceflight and touring the galaxy we need to raise the level of civilization of this world. If Wakanda doesn't want to do it…” I smiled predatorily and made a fist. “Then, I will.”

Klaw's smile gradually disappeared as his thoughts echoed my opinion. <Even if they were idiots, they have the tech for it… It's really too bad she couldn't get samples of them, but the girly thinks the right way.>

I laughed, he finally thought what I wanted him to. I decided to reel him in further by asking, “Klaw, can you keep a secret?”

The old man in a young body stood straighter and nodded. “For you girly, I will!”

I produced the boxy Celestial scanner and showed it to Klaw. With a mental command it showed us in a three dimensional holo-screen the schematics of the Royal Talon Fighter that the Black Panther uses and disassembled it by components. “Their technology database and repository, I downloaded it all. What they know, now I do.” I said in a low and triumphant voice.

The holo-screen showed an exploded view of the Talon Fighter, though the language and specifications were in Celestial, Klaw could follow what was shown to him. He lifted his head and looked at me with half-lidded eyes and said, “Marry me?” 

I didn’t feel any lust coming from him, so I didn’t hit him with my optic blast power. What Klaw seemed to like was my deviousness and thief-like nature; it was flattering in a way. And it was at this moment that Cindy, with her Silk costume appeared in an upside down position hanging from a spiderweb, then landed and placed herself between us, taking a fighting stance as she glared at Klaw. “Back off or else…” her vibranium claws deployed from her hands, shining with an electric red hue.

Wow she was getting good at that ninja thing… I put a hand on her shoulder. “He didn’t mean it, don't kill him.”

Cindy relaxed but still glared at Klaw. “You are lucky.” She harrumphed and hugged me, I placed a smooch on her lips, making Cindy smile back to me contentedly. Then Cindy placed herself at my side, a hand around my waist.

Klaw looked somewhat shocked, it made me chuckle. The Celestial scanner was reabsorbed by my Symbiote and was now safe inside it. “Well, like I was saying Klaw… we are going to change the world. I would appreciate it if you could direct me to other scientists like you. But try to avoid spies and Hydra agents, I will know what they are.”

Looking a bit embarrassed by my and Cindy’s physical display of affection, Klaw nodded. “Err… I will make you a list.”

I nodded and sent a message to my Butler. <Hans we are back, will you sort out the Cargo we have and help situate our new resident scientist?>

<I will be there in five.> Hans answered back, I felt that he was busy with something but decided to let it go to do what I asked.

“Wait here, someone will come fetch you.” I said to Klaw as I put the boxes of his belongings between us. ‘I’m glad he knew exactly what he wanted from his compound when we packed it up’. I waved at him and left hangar one holding hands with Cindy.  We were met with a flying Jessica who placed herself at my side.

 

# # #

 

“Where did you find this guy?” Cindy asked, still wary of the strange man.

*Here comes the questions.* I thought we had been walking in silence for a while, heading toward the common room in the dormitories. 

My armor was subtly being replaced by normal clothes by Goldie, the cuirass by a strapless bra quickly covered by a black caged cupped bralette; my armored pants by black cargo pants with lots of pockets, my gauntlets by fingerless gloves. But I kept my armored boots on.

I sighed and began to enlighten them. “Ulysses Klaw, scientist, business entrepreneur and outlaw. He is now working for me.”

“A criminal?” Jessica piped up in astonishment. 

I stopped walking, Cindy and Jessica did the same and looked askance at me. Hoping that I was joking, but the expression on my face didn't shift from neutral. “Yes.”

Cindy frowned, locks of hair framing her face, she had a really attractive middle-parted hairstyle. “Jean… why did you bring such a guy here?”

“When I am done with Hydra, I plan to open a business. I want the smartest people in the world working for me, there’s Gwen who is my friend and first recruit, then now there’s Klaw who I wish to keep for his mind. Not his personality, he is too off putting for that. You don’t have to worry about your safety, I made sure that he wouldn't betray me or hurt anyone I love.”

<I will tell you why later, okay?> I sent into their minds.

The two of them looked at each other, there was doubt on their faces, but they decided to trust me, after all I didn't lead them astray yet and I always kept my promises.

“So, what have you been up to?” Jessica asked while I linked fingers with Cindy.

“I brought a Nation to its knees today.” I said absently while thinking that I needed to have a discussion with Cindy about her jealous outbursts.

Jessica laughed and slapped my back with her super strength, it made me almost fall and I gave her a dirty look that she ignored then she asked, “Right… no really, what did you do today?”

Huh she didn’t like the full truth? Fine, I will somewhat sanitize it. “Hmm, I went to capture Klaw and make him work for me, then I went to steal technologies from a hidden country.”

Jessica laughed nervously at my casual mention of stealing from somewhere. She could barely accept that I was a thief, after the deal with Oscorp, if she knew that I was a murderer as well… I may lose my friend over it. She was giving me an out, to lie to herself and preserve our friendship.

*But soon, Jessica you won’t be able to hide your head in the sand.* I smiled impishly at her.

Jessica punched my shoulder, I fortunately saw it coming and reinforced my body with TK. “That’s better, you shouldn’t joke like that, sometimes you sound like a comic book villain.”

I turned my head and looked at my girlfriend who shook her head at Jessica’s antics. The thing is that Cindy completely believed me and it was only Jessica who still thought I was a saint. It didn’t matter to her that I killed bad guys, at all. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. <I love you.> I sent her and she answered back with her mind not as loud as I would want but she said it.

<I love you too.> Cindy was less proficient in the mind arts than Jessica, it was a strange dichotomy.

Jessica was strong mentally, and if she had telepathic powers I am sure that she would be at least Alpha level. It’s worth cultivating, I will ask Jessica if she wants to be psychic later. As we reached the common room, we stopped before a bronze statue that I had made with my powers, it was of Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume posing with fists on her hips.

I informed my friends and lover that, “I’m going to make a new costume, then I have some really heavy stuff to tell my parents and Phil. ” I said by counting on my fingers all I had to do today. “By the way Jess, Cindy. You’ll be told too, okay?”

The two of them became wary at this point. Cindy let go of my hand and narrowed her eyes, while Jessica crossed her arms.

“How heavy?” Jessica asked.

She has always been smart, and knew me very well; when I said things in an innocuous tone that I am being serious.

“Heavier than the drama with Cindy’s mom.” I answered with a quip.

Jessica’s brown eyes widened, she stepped back and uncrossed her arms showing her shock. “That much?”

Cindy poked me with her index finger. “Hey! Since when did my family life become a ladder for drama?”

“I dunno, ask Jean.” Jessica shrugged. That traitorous bitch was throwing me under the bus.

We had a discussion with our respective family about what to do when (not if) Cindy would have to run away from home, if ever one of us could take her in. Jessica had said that Alisa would help Cindy after seeing how the woman behaved; my mom simply said yes and that was it. 

Cindy glared at me and simply said,  “No sex for you tonight.”

“No!” It was as if it was the end of the world; and I found myself simply trying to change her mind now.

The asian girl simply shook her head with an angry expression. “You are being punished…”

I sighed heavily, while Jessica, that bitch, laughed at our antics. “Girls, sometimes I think I will catch diabetes if I stay near you too much…”

After this round of banter, we went our separate ways; Cindy had to help my mother with lunch and Jessica choose to roam the base to familiarize herself with it as she was sure that it wasn’t the only time she would be here. As for me? I was already starting on a project that I had put off for long enough. I had my Phoenix armor and it was rad, but I wished for a normal costume to use since I couldn’t be Phoenix to the world.

I had already asked Pete to make the gadgets for me to my specifications, it was now time to bring the terror of the Bat into the Marvel universe. I already had a design in mind, it seemed simple at first but it would mainly be a tri-weave vibranium/umf suit. Though just as I thought about it, my new stolen knowledge was already helping me make some adjustments. 

Teleporting to the Lab Complex, I was surprised to feel that Gwen was there in the bioengineering sector and that Peter was working on his own costume design on the computer. I had teleported before the entrance of the computer room. Peter must have felt me as he looked behind him then waved at me with a smile. I smiled back and nodded at him. This was a change from his previous behavior that I find myself liking more.

I walked up to Peter. Slaloming between the desks and workbenches. “Hard at work, Pete?”

Peter wore a tight red muscle shirt with jeans ripped at the knees and combat boots. He was cute and drool worthy now that I noticed, it must be because he had stopped scowling at me. He has the body of a martial artist and a brilliant mind. Interesting to see that I was still attracted to men even with Cindy in my life. Peter did the same and checked me out, but he didn't feel attracted to me like other teenagers his age. It was more like looking at a good painting than lusting after me, I felt flattered.

Peter took his hands off the keyboard and stood up to face me. “More or less, there’s so many things I want to cram into the new armored suit...”

A quirky smile tugged on my lips and Peter made a ‘Uh oh’ expression on his face when I told him, “You are going to hate me then, I have even more updates to enter in the database.”

Peter looked shocked. “Damn…”

He had already made a lot of advancements with the current repository of tech from Sinister. Me coming back with even more tech negating his work is kind of crushing; so much so that I decided to reassure him about my intentions. “Though it will take time to implement, we will have to make do with what we have already.”

The young man sighed, then glared at me. “You scared me.”

I smiled at the face he was making, I raised my hand to his face and pinched his right cheek. He batted it away, blushing a little as he wasn’t used to me touching him.

After laughing at him, I continued to speak after he stopped glaring and rubbing his cheek. “Don’t worry about the work you have already done, but... any new costumes we make are going to wait until after I build the tools needed for the fabricator I have in mind.”

I felt that he was about to speak about Gwen’s costume when what I just said registered; his eyes brightened with interest. “Like the one in star trek?”

“No, those use matter-energy conversion. The ones I am speaking about are more about using nanotechnology to break down material and configure it into something else to the user’s specification on the nanoscale level.”

Walking up to me and taking my arms in his hand, Peter who looked astonished asked, “You can do that?!”

I nodded and used Photokinesis to show him schematics, photons bent under my will and took on the form I wished, creating box shaped constructs with complex components inside tem. “With my power? Certainly. But I also have the technology in my memory to reach such a result, but first I need the Energy generation necessary for it, the computing power and time… Pete?”

As Pete thought about the possibilities of the Wakandan Fabricator, he finally registered that I called his name. “Yeah?”

Nerd boys were easily distracted… “Did your parents tell you about our problem with SHIELD and Hydra?”

Pete stepped back from me and sat on the desk at his right, then looked at me. “Bad business, I knew those mooks you had hooked up with were trouble.”

I remembered that Peter didn’t trust any of the SHIELD agents that came to accompany us on my way to school. For a good reason, sometimes Hydra agents were amongst them. “Not all of them were bad, Peggy, Phil and I guess Nick are good people.” 

Narrowing his eyes at me, Peter who had observed me keenly spoke, “You like the first two, I hear it in your voice... but you are not sure about the last one.”

I was shocked that he was that perceptive! I looked at the boy in a new light and smiled at him. Then I decided to be a bit more forthright with him. “Well he did try to get me arrested once and also tried to have an inhibitor collar put on me.”

I showed Peter with a hologram what the collars looked like. After observing the three dimensional construct, Peter’s eyes focused on me. “What are those?” There was an edge in his voice, as he already suspected what those did.

Without blinking an eye I revealed what they could do, “They are collars that dampen the powers of Metahumans. It’s used by governments aware of powered people like us to control us or… enslave us.”

Peter closed his eyes, his hands that were in his lap tightened into fists. “Fury… I don’t like that guy.”

I chuckled, “I am on the fence about him. He means well but he is a spy, and often makes morally grey decisions or does things that no one else would; for god and country, of course.”

The man was completely different from the MCU cookie cutter version of himself, I had expected that he would be like him but he was completely different and less experienced than the one from the comics that I am aware of. His paranoia was driving him into not trusting anyone. To be frank I had expected him to be a bit like Bruce Wayne, with contingencies for everyone if they ever went rogue. But the man went beyond that and it was unhealthy. 

In a sense I wanted to be like Bruce Wayne too, this was Marvel! There’s Skrulls here, and telepathy was a thing, I needed to up my game to be ready for anything too. I wanted to be like Bruce Wayne in a good way, but I won’t do that to my friends or family and let lay around the secrets to their weaknesses for my enemies to hack for. No, I will keep everything to myself and the AI that I…

*Yes, an AI, I needed one and a Quantum Computer.* An Octahedron data core with multiple Isolinear chips housed in crystal-like motherboards were surging into my mind, the schematic coming and assembling slowly. This was a bit of the alien tech that the Wakandan people who found alien technology based their tech on, this is where the Isolinear circuitry came up and why it was so star trekish…*They have been holding that they were roaming the world for those, huh.*

Peter lifted his head from his contemplation and stared me in the eyes, his voice tight. “The greater good?” He interrupted my train of thoughts because he was dead on target. Xavier was all about the Greater Good and didn’t do shit, but Fury’s oath of protection was all about protecting the Earth and he was going to do anything for it, even steal the freedom of little ol’ me.

“Yes.” I nodded.

Peter snorted. “Countless people died for the notion of greater good that some men use. It is often not defined whose good they have in mind.”

That surprised me. “Oh Pete, you are so wise. I understand what you mean, so I should stay professional with the man but don’t get cozy with him.”

Peter glared at me for the compliment he thought was a bit demeaning, but he realized that I was serious, blushed a bit and coughed in his hand to avoid my gaze. “That’s kind of a good approach to your problem. Treat him like an ally, but stay wary. They brought everyone into their own business and we were chased from our homes and had to hide.”

It was a bit unfair to think that everything that happened was Peggy’s fault, if I hadn’t come onto the radar of the spy agency, none of this would have happened. “But it’s my fault-” I tried to explain to Pete.

Only for him to put a hand on my arm to interrupt me. “No it isn’t, they forced you to work for them, remember?”

He had a point, I didn’t set SHIELD to look for me, I was kind of doing well by myself at the time. Sighing, I nodded to Peter. “Yeah…”

 

# # #

 

14:05 PM
White board room
Lab Complex

After Peter, of all people, assuaged my fears about the level of responsibilities I had in the entire Hydra debacle, we went back to work. I found myself back in the whiteboard room, the walls were covered with whiteboard and there was still the throne that I had made from the stone ground. This time I had gathered different marker pens in different canisters.

Opening them, the black markers flew and began to take annotations of what I wanted for my costume for the next operation. It would be all about Stealth and the Phoenix Armor won’t do it as it is too flashy. I needed different alter-egos to survive in this reality to confound my enemies. I was the Phoenix avatar, I am also Jean Grey, why shouldn’t I add another mask to my collection, though I don’t want to lose myself in them like Hank Pym did.

They were just going to be part of myself. With the red Marker pen I drew a stylized bat symbol, then I began to write down what I wanted.

Prototype Vibranium Microweave Mesh: For each layer of vibranium mesh I must add this new method stolen from the mound’s scientists. The microweave robs incoming objects of their momentum; bullets do not ricochet off, but simply fall to the ground when they come in contact with the weave. It reduces the chances of being stabbed, however, if the attacker slashes along the costume’s grain it can be cut. Nevertheless it’s durability should be tremendous.

Conductivity Control: Low Infrared Signature with grey latex coating to dampen heat signature. Making the suit’s user difficult to detect with night-vision equipment.

Musculature Motility Layer: Follows occupant's motion.

Transpirable Teflon-Based Temperature Control: Controls the Internal Temperature of the Wearer. The same as my Phoenix Armor.

Proto-Adamantium clawed gauntlet: Proto-Adamantium metal gauntlets with angular fin blades on the forearms with tipped nails with dense Vibranium cores sheathed under them. Enable them to cut, rend and pierce through anything. 

Flexible Vibranium Mobile Shielding: It offers increased strength and protection through extra Vibranium plating while retaining flexibility for speed and mobility. 

I looked at the notes and the sketch of the suit, it strangely resembled the first iteration of Batgirl’s purple suit. Though I wouldn’t let it be purple but grey. It lacked a little something… *Ah!* I realized what was missing.

I erased part of the costume at the hips level and began sketching a red belt.

Utility Belt: lightweight belt with magnetized impact-resistant pouches, and canisters attached to the belt at ergonomic points for ease of reach. 

Nodding, I was satisfied to see that the base suit would be as good as my armor if not more effective. The flexible mobile shielding would be made to go over the base suit like a vest and pants. Now it was time to think about the gadgets, and the first thing I needed to make was a grapple gun, restraining equipment, non-lethal weapons such as a pistol and rifle with directed energy similar to the electro laser idea from SHIELD but pushed to eleven with several safety settings.

If I worked until tomorrow I am sure that I will be able to pull it off. Just to cheat I ignited my inner fire, my body wreathed in a shroud of fire. My Phoenix power would sustain me. I didn’t need to sleep, drink or eat when I was in this state.

 

# # #

 

December 22nd, 1996
05:56 AM

The 3D printer stopped its task, the lid opened and a pedestal raised from the grey, box shaped device.  Each piece of the suit was lovingly and neatly put on display making me coo in delight. There was even the high-tech mask I added at the last minute that will let me see in the infrared and ultraviolet portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

It was ready, but it still had to test it. I took the mask first and placed it on my face and used the special lock to keep it firmly there behind my neck. The special lenses made me see the world as if I was looking at a 4K screen, making my normal vision incredible, then I pushed a button on the right side of the  mask and activated the infrared mode. The walls were blue and the machines and computers were bright red and yellow.

Another push of the button and suddenly I could see the bones of my hands and my veins and arteries. Turning my eyes toward the 3D printer, I could see inside the different layers and components. I needed an onboard computer or an AI linked to the suit to be able to take advantage of such advances… I guess that the next version will be more high-tech.

The clawed gauntlets worked like a charm, thanks to the adamantium formula present in the database I could easily produce it with my powers. I mixed the alloy with vibranium to form proto-adamantium, it is completely indestructible. I scratched the stone ground with the claws and it gave as if it was butter. I whistled.

“Well, I will need to be careful with these.”

The next test was even simpler, I placed the base suit and the flexible mobile shielding pieces on a mannequin and fired at it with a pistol. The bullets were stopped and fell harmlessly on the ground. They didn’t flatten against it but their moment has been stolen completely. I tried with an automatic rifle and it was the same result.

I nodded. “Good job me.”

[In position: Ready to absorb.]

“Do it Goldie!”

And my symbiote latched on the suit and began to absorb it into its hammer space just like it did for all my clothes in my wardrobe some months ago. My Phoenix Armor was made part of Goldie as well, I could put my suits on instantly.

Then Goldie slowly began to clad me in grey suit, my boots and gauntlets were black and completely snug. My utility belt appeared around my hips next, as I didn’t have any mirror, I used my TK to solidify the air before me and make it into ice, a highly reflective rectangle floated before me, then I looked at myself.

I traced the crimson bat symbol on my chest, the armor was emphasizing my womanly figure. I looked good, but when I looked at my masked face, I vaguely looked demonic, it was an exact replica of Batwoman’s mask from the comics. The lenses in the eyes of the mask were completely blank, it was an anti-glare system in case someone used a blinding grenade.

The suit lacked a cape, but I saw The Incredibles in my previous life and I didn’t want to die because I wanted to look cool. Instead of a cape, I decided to come up with an add-on customized cloak. I had played enough Batman Arkham to know how powerful the mystique of the cape was; By adopting the style of a bat, Batman essentially created the myth that he was something mysterious and not just a man, We can see that after his first appearance in Batman Begins, people started to speculate whether he was just a bat, or a monster.

The cape hid his human figure and gave him a more mythical appearance. This intimidated criminals and hence gave Batman an advantage. Besides, the cape worked to his advantage. He could use it as a form of theatricality and deception. While moving, one could not find out exactly where he was since the cape had an independent motion of its own.

It was back to the building board for me and I thought that I was going to take advantage of the Hard Light technology pilfered from the Wakandan. 

Two hours later, I was back in the whiteboard room, still wearing my Batwoman suit and writing annotations for a backpack Hard Light projector. It will need hours of coding to even get it right with technology. The cloak would become intangible while in combat or movement but simulate billowing movement when I moved. 

In tangible mode it could become wings which enables me to glide on air-currents for a short time. The cloak can be elongated, shortened or eliminated with a thought, and the entire suit can be covered allowing it to pass as normal street clothes or render me completely invisible. 

*Wow, cloaking technology? Let’s make it better than the one Hydra uses.*

 

# # #

(Elaine & John Grey, Phil Coulson)

Lab Complex
06:58 PM

Elaine was worried. Jean hadn't been seen since yesterday afternoon, she had even asked Cindy while she was in their shared bedroom, seated on the bed. The girl didn't know and had looked rather lonely as she gazed at the door leading to somewhere Elaine hadn't had the pleasure to find herself in yet. Straightening her white sundress, the Grey Matriarch turned to her husband who shrugged and walked toward the door and opened it. Before Elaine could move, Cindy warned her, “You shouldn't go, she's going to brush you away as she seems to be doing something important.” The black haired girl said with a pout.

This was strange for Elaine,  Jean was more polite normally. “That’s what she told you?”

*More important than enjoying her time with you?* Elaine was already more than aware that Cindy and Jean were past kissing and petting, it was self-evident in the way that they moved or looked at each other. But Jean brushing off the love of her life? Something was afoot. 

Cindy nodded and put the tablet computer in her hands at her side. “Yes, and be careful, she will prank you with her new gadgets.”

The girl scowled in reminiscence at something and silently muttered things she will do in revenge to Jean.

Elaine was aware of the free spirited nature of her daughter, she was also a jokester with the people she loved. She could take a joke a little too far sometimes. “How bad was it?” The Grey matriarch found herself asking.

With a haunted look in her brown eyes, Cindy said, “Be careful of dark places.”

Elaine nodded, a chill coursing through her at the same time. She handed the jar full of vanilla chips cookies to Cindy. “Thank you and please take this cookie jar for yourself. I heard that your powers make you a big eater.” It was a bribe to reward the girl for snitching on her daughter.

Her eyes glittering, Cindy was pleased and took the jar from Elaine's hands."Thank you Mrs E!"

“Call me Elaine, remember?”

Cindy looked sheepish. “I will try…” The young girl opened the jar and began to devour her first cookie in earnest.

Turning back to the door, Elaine saw that her husband didn't wait for her, she frowned and entered the corridor. It was barely lit, there was space between each lamp leading the way. Elaine asked herself where her husband was and why did he leave without her. Her answer was before her when she saw the back of John as he watched something.

She came up from behind him and placed herself at his side and froze, there were countless eerie things on the cavernous space’s ceiling. *Are those bats?*

Some of the flying vermin came toward them in a big cloud, John shielded his wife by placing himself before them and braced himself. He was surprised to feel the bats pass through them. The flapping of their wings didn’t emit any sounds and that’s what clued John Grey that what they were seeing was an illusion.

“Hi, mom, dad.” A voice said from behind them.

They looked back and saw a caped figure with a demonic look with scarlet red hair, the face was pale and lips blood red.

“Aaaaaah!” John screamed and took his wife by the hand and fled, only to be stopped by Elaine from moving.

Elaine instantly recognized the voice of her daughter and any fear she felt was automatically crushed. This was what Cindy had tried to tell them, their daughter had felt them coming toward her and chose to prank them by scaring them. “Jean! Think about your father’s heart!”

As if struck, the costumed girl stepped back. “Oops.”

John held a hand on his heart and stared between his wife and daughter, unbelieving of what had just happened. He had screamed like a… girl. Jean looked even more sheepish as she without a doubt felt their emotions.

“Take off that silly mask.” Elaine ordered.

The young woman obeyed, the mask simply disappeared slowly from her face as if it melted. Jean’s face was now visible. She didn’t look happy at all suddenly.

Elaine narrowed her eyes. “What did you think you were doing?”

Fidgeting, Jean couldn’t look into the eyes of her mother and found her booted feet interesting. “I’m sorry.” She finally said.

The Grey Matriarch took her daughter’s face between her hands and made her look into her eyes and  said with cold and perfect inflections. “It’st not me who you should say you’re sorry to.”

Jean’s head shifted to the left and she said with utmost honesty. “I’m sorry, dad.”

John let go of his wife and hugged his youngest daughter. “It’s okay, I was… not ready for this.” The elder Grey held onto his chest, looking a bit pained.

Jean looked even more guilty, but this expression suddenly shifted into a determined look. “I should have thought about it before, but later I’m going to give each of you a check up and fix the little things that ail you.”

John laughed and hugged his daughter again, caressing her hair. Jean didn’t even struggle, even thought she didn’t like being treated like a little girl. “You don’t have to.” Her father said.

The redhead stepped back from him and her eyes narrowed, a sign that her decision was made. “I want you in my life for a long time, so I will do that.”

Elaine sighed, and poked her husband between the ribs, eliciting a yelp from him. “Let the girl do what she wants, John.”

Jean laughed, then frowned as she realized something. “Err, it’s not that I don’t want you here, but what brought you?” 

John noticed how the cape things on his daughter seemed to be entirely made of darkness; it weirded him out and made his eyes water. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

Elaine was the one to answer Jean. “You have been absent since yesterday afternoon, and we were worried.”

Jean froze as she was made aware of the time. “Oh, hmm what time is it?”

“7:00 PM, Jean.” John helpfully informed her.

Jean opened her eyes wide and looked horrified. “Already?! But It was barely morning when I was working on my Hard Light projector!”

Elaine looked at her daughter who was shocked by the news brought to her. She resolved to reassure her, and placed a hand on her gauntleted right arm. “Dear, you must have been too excited and not seen the time pass. So, what’s that thing you are working on?”

Jean perked up as her mother was interested in her work and excitedly began to say, “A hard light projector, in layman terms I put together a device that manipulates photons to create soft and hard hologram constructs. It’s possible through the continuous movements of the photons...”

Jean and John looked as Elaine’s eyes glazed over at her explanation that had been made simple. Elaine shook her head and chuckled, then turned to her husband. “John, what is she saying? Can you explain?”

Jean’s dad took on a thoughtful expression, passed a hand into his black hair that was greying to his temples. “I think she made those bats from earlier with holograms, that’s why they passed through us. Oh, and the cape she’s wearing? It’s not a real one.”

“Oh dad, you realized!” Jean clapped her gauntlet together, a clang sound echoed.

With a proud smile, John was happy to show off his smartness to his wife and daughter. “Your mother didn’t marry me just for my good looks, Jeanie.”

“Yeah, you are cool dad.” Jean nodded.

Elaine looked at her husband who had his ego stroked and rolled her eyes. “I understand now, but this costume you made for yourself is a tad scary. What do you intend to do with it?”

Jean’s smile melted from her face to be replaced by a sad expression. Elaine didn’t like that look on the face of her happy daughter, she had realized long ago that Jean had become different since she came back from her kidnapping and tried to not treat her child any differently than before.

The redhead looked at each of them. “Mom, dad, I have things to reveal to you today. I hope you aren’t busy… as a matter of fact, I need to have uncle Phil in that conversation too, I had promised to tell him the complete story of what happened in these walls.”

“I will go look for him.” John piped up and left the room. 

He has seen the serious look in the eyes of his daughter, she wanted to tell them something. He still asked himself if he was ready for whatever Jean was going to tell them. Was it going to be more important than her revelation that she is a metahuman like she calls herself?

 

# # #

 

Computer room
10 minutes later

Phil had followed John Grey into the room; Elaine was seated near her daughter next to a bank of empty desks put face to face. The cushioned stool was comfortable; now he asked himself what he was doing here, this was clearly something that only family should be present for, but he remembered that Jean had promised him to tell him the truth about the things she knew and the infiltration skills she seemed to have developed.

“Exactly, uncle Phil.” Jean looked at him with her usual smile.

Phil chuckled at the smug face of the young woman, it was omni-present as of late. “You are still reading me.”

“Yes, just with my empathic ability, don’t worry.” She waved him off.

She seemed to not understand how unnerving her ability to read people's intentions or emotions was. But it seemed to be a defense mechanism that the young woman has developed since her rocky childhood. Phil couldn’t blame her for that. There was a pitcher of water and plastic cups on the desks. Jean served water to everyone with her telekinesis, making the pitcher float from cup to cup, filling them with water.

After everyone received their cup, Jean began to speak. “I’ve gathered you there to tell you about some things, important things.”

Elaine interrupted her. “Does it concern your powers?”

Jean tilted her head, then nodded. “Somehow, yes they do mom. This is the proof that everything is connected, that my fate was altered.”

“Take your time Jean and tell us…” John encouraged her daughter with a reassuring 

“It all started when I was three years old…” Jean began her tale.

Phil was completely absorbed by it, Jean had someone else in her body. Another soul, that of a woman called Emily that has been taking care of her and guiding her throughout her childhood. It was in part thanks to her that Jean didn’t enter into a coma after Annie’s death and helped her control her nascent telepathic powers. Then Sinister or Nathaniel Essex happened and Jean and Emily made the decision to train their telepathy and later their telekinesis as it manifested when she got older.

“Wait.” Phil interrupted her. “Are you implying that this Emily woman was cognisant of the future?”

Jean sighed, she was being hesitant for a moment before she decided to rip the band-aid. “Emily came from another reality, she knew what was going to happen to me, we tried really hard to save Annie as she loved her too. But it was in vain.” a tear flowed from Jean’s left eye. It took a moment for her to stop, Elaine helped her with a tissue from her handbag. The young woman then drank a bit of water. “Then everything changed when Emily told me what would happen to me if Charles Xavier got his hands on me.” 

Jean’s hate for the man had never been rational to Elaine and John; she disliked him on sight. “Explain.” Elaine commanded.

“Charles Xavier isn’t the paragon of goodness he makes people believe.” Jean said, then she began to tell them about how his brand of teaching worked. The school for gifted he led certainly taught young metahumans how to use their powers, but Charles Xavier taught them in ways that limited them and brainwashed them with his -in Jean’s words- feel good bullshit about tolerance and peace between their races.

Then what would have happened to her if he had got her in her childhood, how he would have turned her into an emotionally stunted useless doll by violating her mind repeatedly. John Grey had to take a break from the story at this point as he was furious. When he came back everyone was calm and Jean began her discourse on Charles methods. “The problem is that Metahumans are human, not a separate species. Having powers doesn’t change the fact that we feel and experience things like everyone else. He separates the children from their parents and fills their head with nonsense. He surrounds himself with loyal child soldiers, something that makes him no different from Magneto.”

Phil felt that Jean was really bitter about what Charles Xavier was doing, and the way she framed his method, it was classic brainwashing in a cult. This called for an investigation, Phil filed this away for later when the situation would be less dire.

Strangely it was Elaine Grey who seemed to want to defend the man. “But Jean, it's rather sensible, his goals.”

Jean narrowed her eyes and put a hand on her mother’s forehead. She clicked her tongue as if she found something unpleasant and made a sweeping movement with her hand. Elaine flinched, shook her head and blinked. Then the Grey Matriarch looked at her daughter who made a sign that said they will talk later.

When Jean looked at the men of her life and began to speak, there was anger in her voice as she gave her final opinion on the matter of Charles Xavier. “No, it’s been thirty years. Thirty years and Charles Xavier hasn't done shit about our people, now it’s time for him to stay back in his twenty five million dollar mansion and let another person take the mantle and get the job done. But we are going off-topic.”

“Indeed, we are.” Phil said, still filing away what Jean just did to her mother, as if she had taken out some filth from her head.

Jean sighed and took a swig of water, put her cup on before her and looked at Elaine, John and Phil. “After I was captured, Jean and Emily fused, in souls and spirit.”

Phil narrowed his eyes, lost into the sudden allegory. “What do you mean exactly?”

Jean used her powers to create two holograms, one of them was her and another was a curvy black woman with a cocky smile on her face, she made the two of them hug, then they began to glow and meld into each other, creating a single person. “I am the amalgam of two souls, dad. That’s why I have greater control of my power now.”

Elaine and John watched the hologram with various degrees of disbelief. As they didn’t say anything Jean decided to focus on Phil who seemed lost in thought and pondering what major changes the girl before him had lived through.

“Uncle Phil?” The agent looked up to the redhead. “Do you remember me roaming SHIELD’s offices and floors during my stay in Cerberus HQ?” The girl smiled impishly at him.

Phil loosened his tie and put a thoughtful look on his face as he tried to remember. “Yes…” He said as he vaguely recollected the tour and wander of the young woman. “You were making a good impression on everyone at the time.”

Phil and Jean stared into each other’s eyes, until the redhead grinned and said, “My telepathy allows me to copy skills and knowledge.”

Surprise, then panic passed over Phil’s face before he calmed himself; he exhaled a deep breath before speaking. “That’s… Jean you are a security nightmare, you know that?”

She flipped her hair and showed teeth. “Yes.”

Phil rolled his eyes at her and massaged the bridge of his nose in frustration, the girl was fun to interact with but could be rather trying to his nerves.

Jean continued speaking. “By using my saboteur skills, infiltration and engineering knowledge I succeeded in eliminating Sinister and his loyal powered clones. It took everything I had, I… I even died for it.” The young woman revealed.

This made Elaine and John react, their eyes focusing on their daughter. Elaine rose from her seat and hugged her daughter. “Jean… you are here.”

As her head was being caressed by her mother, Jean continued to speak. “No mom, I really died.” Jean insisted. “I had to make a deal with a cosmic entity to come back to life and terminate the rest of Sinister’s clones all over the planet.”

Then something clicked in Phil’s mind, it has been bothering him since he had seen Jean’s green costume with the symbol of a golden firebird on a black background on her chest. Her Pyrokinesis and the fact that she could fly; the witnesses that woke up from their coma having seen a woman in the firebird that woke them up… “This… Jean are you trying to say that the events of-”

There was no mirth in Jean’s voice when she told Phil, “I knew you would put it together, Uncle. Yes, I am partially responsible for the events that caused the falling.”

Phil leaned forward, his elbow on the desk. “Jean, explain please. I don’t want to think that you killed that many people…”

Jean sighed and used holograms again to explain things. It was planet Earth, humans and the representation of a bacteria multiplying inside them. “Did you know that Humanity was being taken over by a bacteria called Sublime? It was warping everyone’s thoughts to reject super powered beings like me. It was some kind of sentient bacterial hivemind that had spread to all those people.”

She showed nukes being launched, giant robots of a pink and purple color going after humans, taking them prisoner and gathering them into camps. She showed a dwarf person with glasses and a business suit building them and other horrors happening all over the planet. John and Elaine were now terrified, this discussion was far more scary and heavy than they thought it would be.

Phil watched everything with an analytical eye, dissociating himself from his feelings to put together the clues that he had gathered. He snapped his fingers in realization. “The proteins found in the bloodstream of everyone who died, it was it, the sublime?”

“Yeah, I used the power that the cosmic being called Phoenix force, one of the elementary powers of creation, life and destruction in the universe, to destroy it. It even showed me the future of what it would have done to us all in the long term if I failed. By 2040, there would be barely one billion people left on Earth, so I made my choice and I sent those disintegrating waves all over the planet.”

Phil could barely fathom such a situation and this responsibility had fallen in Jean’s lap. He looked up at her and said with emotion, “That must have been a hard decision, people died.”

Jean nodded, standing up and helping her mother on her stool. “They died because their bodies were completely taken over and the sympathetic shock of the attack and the sublime dying killed the hosts. At least I helped reawaken the people that were in comas.”

Anyone who says Jean Grey isn’t merciful would be wrong. Phil smiled at her. “Yes, I remember that.”

The agent asked a last question before he left to muse about everything Jean just told them. “That Flaming bird was you?”

The grey costume disappeared and the green and gold costume of Jean replaced it, she became wreathed in fire, her eyes and hair glowing gold like the corona of the sun. The fire coalesced in the form of a bird, a predator, the raptor species that screeched.

“That’s me.” Jean answered Phil.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean...
Earth Orbit
02:12 AM (Egypt time)

Mom and dad needed time to digest what I’ve revealed to them, they needed to come to terms that I wasn’t just their daughter but at the same time Emily. Phil? Phil had stayed silent the entire time after I revealed my Phoenix powers and exited the computer room with a thoughtful expression. His normal impeccable hygiene, a mess; he had begun sweating like he was in the desert when I turned on my flame.

Now, I was in orbit over Egypt and looking at the seas and Africa. The landmasses are completely different from the atlas. But you could easily see where each could fit with the other, I could easily imagine what the supercontinent Pangaea looked like.

My thoughts kept shifting from my family to Hydra and the things I want to do when everything is settled. But… the report that Nick Fury had given me after my little tête-a-tête with Phil and my parents had shown me how difficult it will be to resume my normal life.

 

# # # 

(Flashback) 

I exited the Lab Complex and found myself in the tunnel leading to hangar one, the discussion having the effect of lifting the weight I had on my shoulders. But now my parents know about my situation. As I floated and advanced toward the exit I was stopped by the familiar form of Nick Fury in his borrowed clone uniform, he gave me the impression that he was waiting for me while looking at the fleet of Samson helicopters and the modern blimp in the hangar. 

I landed and walked up to him, looked at what he was watching and said, “You're finally out of the communication room.”

He wore the eyepatch well, making me smile at the familiar sight that I've seen in the cinema of my old reality. Fury had a yellow folder full of paper under his arm, he took it and slapped it on my chest. “Take this.”

I wanted to glare at him for his abruptness, but I refrained to do that; as I held the folder in my hand, I opened it. “What is it?”

The title was what strikes me at first. “Huh, Operation Clean Sweep, what a fancy name.”

Fury who had kept silent spoke again. “Hydra has infiltrated everywhere and deeper than we ever thought.”

It took me five minutes to speed read through the plan and peruse over the list of the members of the Hydra high command. It painted a sad picture of what we were up against and the plan to dislodge them was almost impossible, it was bold and unthinkable. I looked up from the folder. “Those fuckers are basically the government at this point, Fury.”

“Not for long…” The bald man smiled at me.

I hoped, truly hoped that his plan didn’t revolve around me taking them on by my little self. “I may be powerful but I cannot take them all.”

Fury was waiting for those words and he began his sell. “That is why I need you to go fetch the agents loyal to me and vet them with your telepathic ability and use your fancy portal to bring them here and later coordinate with us to take down those Motherfuckers.”

I closed the folder and looked at him, hard. “It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, I want my life back.”

He grinned. “We agree on this then?”

I nodded, hesitantly.

With a triumphant smile, Fury said, “Excellent, I will contact you as soon as I know when they will all be available for extraction.” He turned and left toward the tunnel leading to the dormitories, acting as if I was his subordinate and that he had dismissed me.

I called out, “Later, one eye.”

I wasn't surprised that he stopped and glared at me, it made me laugh.

 

(Flashback End)

# # #

 

So now I was waiting for the signal, but I didn’t think that we would be enough. We needed a game changer. Someone who could lead and keep their troops honest and used to do special ops. Where could I find someone like that who wasn’t a redheaded master spy with a spider name?

(What you need is waiting for you in the North Atlantic.) Phoenix’ voice echoed all around me, even though we were in space.

“Phoenix?”  I slowly turned behind me, but there was no sign of a flaming firebird anywhere. I couldn’t just dismiss what she said, this was just another one of her hints that I should do something and that life will be hard if I don’t do what she suggested.

I flew from my position over Egypt to the Atlantic ocean, asking myself what was there that I knew was needed. “What's in the North Atlantic? Beside Atlantean cities and… the..! Oh my God how could I forget?”

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