Chapter 14 part 1
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(The Watcher)

NORAD
Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
Cheyenne Mountain Division
08:15 PM (Mountain Standard Time)

The radar screen was clear. Occasionally, it picked-up a scheduled space launch from Cape Canaveral, Kourou in French Guiana, Jiuquan in China, Baikonur in Kazakhstan, or Kagoshima in Japan. But mostly from Cape Canaveral. On other occasions, they’d pick up high-altitude testing of experimental aircraft, or a trans-polar passenger plane, or a larger-than-normal meteor. And on very rare occasions they could track the atmospheric re-entry of one of the larger pieces of space-trash like defunct satellites past their shelf life.

But tonight, there was nothing being launched, and that was a good thing. When you were a radar telemetry specialist for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, boring and empty screens was the preferred status. Boring and Empty meant none of the members of the Worldwide Nuclear Club was angry at another member. Boring and empty meant that, for tonight at least, there wasn’t going to be a nuclear war.

Senior Airman Jonas McConnel was bored and exhausted. His body just wasn’t adjusting to not sleeping at night. But as a good and conscientious officer he would be damned if he would fall asleep on the job before he reached the end of the week.

McConnel rubbed at his eyes, then yawned. It was during this yawn that a white circle about the size of a grain of rice popped onto his screen out of nowhere, it was surrounded by an off the charts thermal signature. His computer, which thought infinitely faster than he did, immediately labeled the new contact 001-000X.

McConnel reopened his eyes and spotted the white spot on his screen. He stared at it for a moment before realizing what it indicated *Oh shit! How did that get past me?!* The contact’s label caught his attention. The computer apparently didn’t recognize the contact by its radar-return silhouette, which was odd. The huge thermal signature was even more so, McConnel frowned, he immediately entered the command to run the analysis program he and his fellow radar technicians referred to as the dishwasher program. The signal was analyzed repeatedly as the program cleaned of chaff and false returns as much as possible to get a better radar-return and potentially to identify the object. The white circle on McConnel’s screen got smaller, but the -000X indicator did not change. The computer still had no idea what this thing was.

He started an impact track and, finally managing to conquer his nerves, hit his comm button. “Control, Station Two.”

“Go two.” The voice of the current duty officer, Lieutenant Selah Williams, came back to him almost instantly.

“Control, I have a re-entry event at 58.139794 by 47.403630, angles 40 and falling fast.” McConnel entered a re-confirm command into his terminal, just to make sure what he was telling the duty officer was accurate. “Contact logged at…” the airman glanced at the time readout in the corner of his computer screen. “Make that logged at 2015 hours.”

“Contact at 58.139794 by 47.403630, angles 40. Copy. Do you have an identification, Two?”

McConnel heard the lieutenant’s voice both in his headset and from outside of it, telling him that she was swiftly approaching his station. He ran the contact through the wash for a second time. Again, the best that happened was that the contact rang back with a better positional fix. That gave them its general size, but by no means identified what sort of object it was.

“Negative. No identification.” As the lieutenant was now standing next to him, McConnel pushed his headset away from his ears to avoid the possible feedback squeal caused by her headset’s close proximity.

“Ma’am, I’ve washed it three times and still can’t tell you what it is.” He tapped a series of commands into his keyboard and a second window opened on his screen that listed the little information he did know.

“It’s reading light and hot, but… I’ve never seen this before. The wash says it can’t be more than two meters long. Irregular return means that we don’t have smooth surfaces; I don’t think this is a missile at all. And the return is pretty soft, see?”

He tapped his monitor screen and Lieutenant Williams helpfully leaned over his shoulder to look for herself. He was quiet for a moment as his duty officer contemplated the information he was feeding her.

“Okay.” Williams said slowly, still thinking. “So, it’s not a missile, and it’s softer than metal. What would your best guess be?”

The phone in Lieutenant Williams’ office rang, interrupting them. She quickly went back to her office. Meanwhile, airman McConnel was observing the situation and it became even more surreal as the contact stopped and began hovering, there was no impact. Then he lost the radar-return. The airman panicked and began looking for it.

“Ma’am, we lost contact!” McConnel shouted.

Williams exited her office and cussed. “Shit! It’s not the time airman, I got the NSA on the line right now! Find it.”

McConnel despaired as the radar-return only showed whitenoise and the screen pixelated. “Ma’am the radar-return is being disrupted by something.”

“Tssk. Well, that’s not good, this is clearly interference.” Williams turned back toward her own station. 

The lieutenant sighed. “I’ll give the CO a call.”

Everyone in the room heard when five minutes later the PA system announced, “Condition set to Alert One. The count has started.” On the digital screen at the front of the room, a map of the western coast of the US and Canada suddenly appeared. The contact was indicated by a small white circle in the Labrador Sea between Newfoundland, Canada and Greenland. A white line showed where the contact had been, while a red cross projected  it’s movement.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Labrador Sea

 

“Pesky radar signals…” Fortunately, I took a page from Aeolia Schenberg and began to disrupt everything on a two kilometers radius by generating decayed baryonic particles. Orange particles of light spread from my Phoenix aura all over the sea, coloring the waters.

This was made on the fly, I didn’t intend to do it but I felt the radio waves homing on me. I had to quickly find a way to mess with them, as I didn’t want the military from Canada or the US to find me. GN particles were the first thing my inner science nerd came up with; it was something that could cause electromagnetic interference, leaving conventional communication and radar devices useless. I created a particle based barrier to disrupt how radar signals were reflected or scattered on an object, that object being me.

I was surprised to see that the particle barrier actually worked, anyone who says anime doesn't teach you things should be sentenced to watching Boku no pico. I shook my head and focused on the task at hand.

With my life-sight combined with my awareness, I focused on the sea’s depth. It was winter and the surface water was freezing. But the ocean was vast and always in motion, it was quite unlikely that the ocean here would freeze; still there were icebergs floating around and glaciers underwater.

Fish went deeper in the water in cold weather, because even if the surface of the water was freezing or frozen (like on a lake or river) the water below stayed liquid and warm enough. The water was teeming with life, I continued to fly over the water, seeking a certain experimental plane. I found some debris that might have separated from it as it crashed into the water.

I followed the trail and came closer and closer to the coasts of Greenland until I reached the actual glacier and found what I was looking for. The black hull was covered by barnacles, sand and algae. It was no wonder Howard Stark hadn’t been able to find the Cap, the ice was dense around the plane. One of the wings was missing and the cockpit was close to the surface but covered in ice. The radars at the time couldn’t hope to pierce that mass of ice.

Happy to have finally found the Valkyrie I sought with my awareness if there was life inside. I couldn’t be sure that the Cap was still alive, after all many things had been different from my metaknowledge. He was there, it was faint, but I could sense life on the ship’s bridge. I grinned, *He is alive!*

With a gesture of my finger, the ice broke around the vessel, some of the big chunks began to rise to the surface. Then I wrapped up the entire plane’s structure, I didn’t want it to collapse on itself. Lifting the wreck with my TK I took care of flash-boiling the water around it to instantly melt the ice that didn’t want to let me pry the downed plane from its grasp. With a mighty creaking sound the ancient plane came free from the glacier and began it’s ascent to the surface. It appeared out of the water and slowly rose into the air. I extended the GN barrier to the wreck.

The plane was as big as an Airbus A380, I estimated that it had to have had a wingspan of eighty meters and a length of forty. I brought the wrecked plane’s carcass to my level. Water was leaking from the holes, fish and sediment fell into the sea. I quickly entered inside through the side of the plane missing a wing and floated inside.

It seemed that I was inside the hangar section. I wasn’t surprised to see some left over sea life, calamari, manta ray and crustaceans animals, I threw them out of the plane; as I levitated I reached the passenger compartment, then finally the bridge. There were many obstacles blocking my way, rusted pieces of metal blocking each compartment, but nothing that couldn’t be disintegrated.

I didn't think Cap would have been found if I hadn't gone looking for him… he had been a bit further from the coast than I had thought he would be. I smelled the air and deduced that there was a bubble of air that must have allowed the Cap to survive in air, it was full of ice in the bridge though. I turned and in the pilot seat I saw a perfectly preserved Steve Rodgers ensconced in an ice coffin.

He looked exactly like I expected, like Chris Evans from my previous reality. He was handsome, blonde and blue eyed, he would give Logan a run for his money physically. But I didn’t find him attractive in the same way that Logan or Viktor Von Doom were. Strange.

It wasn’t the time to dawdle and look at men, turning my head toward the segmented windshield at the pilots seat; I cleared it with TK, scrubbing the mollusques, algaea and ice. Air rushed inside, the smell of the sea and fish. Just to be sure I spread my awareness all over the sea and wasn’t surprised to find that three aircraft had been dispatched to my location.

For some reason that pissed me off, I cut off the GN barrier and instantly I felt the radar signals reach the hull and be reflected. NORAD was really stubborn. Manipulating the radio waves I broke into their communication and said, “Turn back.” With my TK I grabbed the two manned fighter planes and turned them around, one of them momentarily lost control before righting itself.

I opened a fifty meter portal and made for it. As I passed through, I sent on their radio, “Don’t meddle in things outside of your ken, humans.” With a fist I closed the golden spatial aperture.

 

# # #

(The Watcher) 

 

NORAD
Cheyenne Mountain
08:55 PM

“Contact lost, Lieutenant.” Airman McConnel informed his direct superiors.

Captain Wilson, Lieutenant Williams’ immediate superior, and Colonel Mitchell, the commander of the post, looked at the screen with widened eyes. They were already lamenting the fact that they may have a first contact situation on their hands. They had no choice but to bump up that situation up the chain of command.

After recovering from the surprise given to them by contact 001-000X, Colonel Mitchell straightened himself and said to the lieutenant, “I’ll call General Lane, he should be informed ASAP. Compile a report for me Lieutenant Williams.”

Williams saluted. “Sir, yes sir!”

The colonel nodded. “Good.” Then he left briskly as if his pants were on fire.

Airman McConnel sighed, and returned his eyes to the screen of his computer and mumbled. “We don’t get paid enough for that bullshit.”

He was sure that these events were going to be classified and his security clearance raised, it would be a good thing in the long term but a lot of responsibilities. Airman McConnel’s gaze shifted to the lieutenant who finally came at ease and looked at him meaningfully.

The man rolled his eyes and resolved himself to help his superior officer. “Alright, I will give you everything I have, Ma’am.”

She smiled at him, and patted his left shoulder. “Good man.”

“You owe me a beer.” McConnel said as he returned his eyes to his screen.

She gripped his shoulder more amorously, taking care of not letting anyone see her. “That could be arranged.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Egypt Base
Over the hidden Valley
December 23rd, 1996
5 minutes later

Lugging a big ass wrecked plane quickly through a portal is cumbersome as I had to be careful of the edges. Something bad could happen if someone or something touched the edges of a portal I think. The Valkyrie was now flying over the valley and I closed the portal with a fist, it took me two portals to arrive in Egypt, I used the first to go to the UK, then the second to Egypt over my base.

I wasn’t taking the risk that some super genius could trace my travel through the portal, you never know with Marvel; there were super science nerds like myself everywhere, Otto, Pym, Banner or Stark. All those guys scared me shitless and I hoped that none of them were evil in this dimension. I looked for somewhere to land the wreck, there was a big clearing at the foot of the mountain, if I remembered right there was an exit giving access to the base. I chose to put it there, it was even more accessible now.

Landing, the wreck creaked and everything trembled inside, I had to protect the ice the Cap was in from being crushed by some of the hull falling apart. I saw something fall from the pilot’s dashboard and I frowned. It was a pocket watch, I floated it to me and opened it. It had a woman’s picture inside and lo and behold, it was Peggy. A young Peggy, she was beautiful; I let Goldie absorb the pocket watch inside her hammer space, then turned toward Steve.

I cut the block of ice out of the plane, exploded the windshield and the armored setting for it and exited the plane. As I climbed into the air I noticed all the seafood…

“Waste not, want not.” I scrubbed the hull clean of crabs, clams and oysters and gathered them into a part of the hull that I turned into a rectangular box floating around me like the block of ice containing Steve. I took water out of the atmosphere and salinized it. Hans would be happy with me if I got back to him with this… I hoped.

The man was still sulking about me leaving a dead body in the kitchen, I wanted to take care of things first before getting it squared away. At least he saved the suit for me in the warehouse. As I was too lazy for anything else I portaled with my cargo to the lab directly, I felt Gwen and Peter’s presence. I frowned, those two should be asleep right now.

I shoved the Cap in my medical lab and put the seafood in the forge, I levitated to the 3D printing machine’s room. Inside I saw an eager Peter wearing a black suit with an armored theme, he reminded me of the spiderman from the special reality where he stopped the burglar from killing Ben. The playboy, multi-billionaire kind.

“Peter?!” I asked surprised, *Did I create a monster or something?* I was worried.

“Here!” Peter, who had bags under his eyes and a satisfied smile, turned to me. It wasn’t a costume that he made as I looked intently at what he was wearing, this was power armor.

I chuckled. “Shouldn’t you be asleep or something?” As I approached him, I let my hands glide on the armor and through my power analyzed the components.

Peter blushed as I inspected his work and began cooing at what he’d done. “Err… there are just so many things that I can watch on one of those fancy tablets of yours, you know.” The boy said, he tried to step back but I held onto him firmly.

With puppy dog eyes, Peter tried to tell me to let go. “Jean could you…”

However, a whip like voice rang behind us. “Jean are you flirting with Peter?”

I let go of Peter as if he was scalding hot and turned to see Gwen who looked shocked and somewhat angry. “This is not what it looks like! I was looking at his power armor! Just that!” I said in a panic, I didn’t want to lose my friend over assumptions like this.

Gwen in her green t-shirt and black skirt looked comically unimpressive but the expression in her eyes scared me somewhat. She narrowed her blue eyes at me. “It better only be that.” The blonde threatened.

Catching a break from Gwen’s death glare that slowly eased into the ‘I am mad at you’ stage, I walked up to her and placed an arm around her waist. “C’mon, Gwen… pretty boys aren’t my type, you know that?” She stiffened in my embrace when I touched her.

As for Peter, he mumbled something at my comment, but I didn’t care. I was in no way interested in him anyway.

Gwen calmed down gradually and softened a bit, she still looked between me and Peter; still be wary. She sighed and said, “I don’t know about that, I never saw your type of guy. I think you are into old guys though, that’s why I am calming down and not freaking out about my best friend making moves on my boyfriend.”

“Not too old though!” I answered back, confirming her theory about the type of guy I was attracted to.

I let go of Gwen who I thought looked fine, not even tired even though it was 3:00 AM or so Egypt time, her mind was active and sharp. She was full of energy. This made me frown as I found it weird to see her this peppy at this time of the day.

“Right, so what are you doing?” Gwen smiled at me and now I felt that everything was right in the world.

Then I remembered what I was about to do. “Huh, now that I think about it... I might need your help.”

Gwen quickly placed herself to my side and held on my arm. “For what?”

I grinned at her and flipped my hair behind me. “Speaking of old guys… I might have found one who is still alive and cryogenized in a block of ice.”

Two things happened, Gwen hugged me so fast that she had become a blur, even to me, then she let go of me and jumped up and down. “Let’s go! I need to scan- I mean help this poor soul.”

Then she ran, or more like blurred to the medical lab; that was when I realized that Gwen had become more than I could handle. “Yeah, how generous of you, Gwen.”

Peter stepped next to me, his armored footsteps clearly audible. “Did you see that? She’s been like that since you showed her this place.”

Peter didn’t even get phased by the fact that Gwen’s superpowers were getting stronger and that she had no control over them. The fact that she wasn’t getting tired at all even at this hour? It showed that her stamina was boundless; in response to my worries, Goldie showed me exactly the DNA sequence she introduced into Gwen’s body and I extrapolated how strong she would become in the future.

“I may have made a huge mistake…” I revealed to Peter.

 

# # #

 

Medical lab

 

Gwen scanned the block of ice with a handheld scanner connected to a bigger computer. On the screen it showed a human body inside the still melting block of ice, to my life-sight it was evident that the man inside was alive. But for Gwen she had to do multiple tests with the scanner; Sinister had come up with them, they could detect various life signs, but they were incapable of differentiating between species.

“Too bad those scanners aren’t accurate on what type of people they detect, I would like to be able to detect vanilla humans and metahumans.” I said aloud as I watched Gwen work.

The girl slowly turned around the block of ice, pointing the game boy shaped device at it and reacting to my grievances toward the scanner. “At least they do the job… aha, you were right he is alive but weak. I think you can defrost him, but slowly. It wouldn’t be good to do it in one go, his body has to get used to the temperature difference first.”

“I see, we will do just that.” My right fist glowed in gold and I sent a focused beam of heat that struck the ice.

It was at low power but I could nevertheless see the ice melt even faster. Little by little, mister beefcake was getting defrosted. His head was the first thing that was free from the ice, then his neck and slowly his chest. I levitated him as I ran the heat beam all over the left over chunk of ice.

The last piece fell on the ground and I made it evaporate, I kept Steve floating and his uniform soaking. It looked exactly like his old school Captain America costume I saw in the MCU movies, the difference was that he had more pouches at his belt and a service gun. “Here it is, he is free. Is the medical bed ready?”

I turned my head toward Gwen who had already made the bed with a pillow and medical sheet designed to keep the patient warm. “Yes.”

She had anticipated my demand and used her superspeed to go make the bed. Like I thought, her powers were getting stronger somehow; I decided that I would address her training later.

It didn’t stop me from complimenting her. “You are an awesome assistant, Gweny.”

It was my pleasure to see a cute flush of her cheeks; I then took Steve’s uniform, shield and gun. Gwen and I tried to not stare at the hunk’s tool but it was too hard... but Gwen was worse than I and stood paralyzed. I quickly put Steve to bed and covered him with the bed sheet. I ventilated myself with my hand, “Wew it’s getting hot in here.”

At this, Goldie asked me, [Questioning: A more airy outfit, do you want?]

It seemed that she couldn’t understand some certain nuance of the human language. But to hide my embarrassing mishap I decided to say, “Yes.” I powered down from my Phoenix state and Goldie automatically changed into a black tank top, shorts and boots. She had even styled my hair into a long french braid.

Why did I look like a Lara Croft cosplayer? Narrowing my eyes, I asked aloud, “Are you going through my memories to choose my outfits, Goldie?”

All I got as an answer was laughter in my head, and it confirmed things for me. *Cheeky Symbiote.*

Gwen looked at me from head to toes and harrumphed. I noticed that most of my girl friends and sisters didn’t like that unfair advantage of me never having to take time to change clothes. I rolled my eyes. “Okay, let’s finish this.” I said as Gwen and I began to link the Captain to the ECG and EEG with electrodes placed on his chest and temples.

Fortunately they were the wireless model, without wires linked to them. We placed a water bottle on a table at the bedside, while we were at it, I made a set of trunks for him too and placed his dog tags on it. I took his damp costume and dried it with a thought, same with the weapon, it was a Colt 1911, fairly well used. As I checked the ammunition, I observed that the clip was empty, I was not surprised.

The gun was set to levitate around me, and I moved on to his costume. For it’s age it was well made and armored in the right place, but it could never stand up to today’s standard body armor. Hell, my stuff was light years from what was in circulation in america.

I’m not going to give him my stuff, but I’ll be damned if I left the Cap in a crappy outdated body armor. “I’m going to the design room, Gweny. Can you take care of mister Rogers for me?”

The uniform and shield floated around me like Steve’s pistol.

“Sure, I can.” Gwen nodded and began to take a syringe kit.

*Smart girl… she’s going to take enough blood samples.* I really wanted to see how that super soldier serum worked, was the Oz serum any different from it?

I threw her a thumbs up. “Thanks.” Then I exited the room and roamed the Lab Complex.

As I left I heard the gasp of disbelief. ‘Wait, Rogers?!’ Gwen finally realized whose schlong she had been staring at. It made me chuckle; I saw Peter still in the room with the 3D printers. He wasn’t done working it seemed. I stopped and called him out. “Hey, Pete. Want to design an armor and gun for Captain America?”

He turned to me and let go of the gadget that was in his hands but quickly caught it. Damn he was fast! “So that’s who that guy you brought back is?” Peter asked in shock.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

Peter’s eyes narrowed, he placed the gadget in his hand in his utility belt’s pouch and said. “I’ll do it.”

 

# # #

(Cpt. Steve Grant Rogers)

 

Land of dreams

 

He was still dreaming the same scene over and over, he was running after the Valkyrie bomber on takeoff in the hangar’s tunnel. It was illuminated by lights on the concrete walls and powerful ceiling lamps. The smell of fuel exhaust was high in the air, but Steve ran undaunted but like always he couldn’t catch up to the bomber as it gained speed. A fast car braked and stopped on the tarmac at his side. Two people were inside, it was Peggy and agent Chester Phillips.

“Get in.” Chester ordered and Steve climbed aboard with a jump and the vehicle started at high speed.

They were slowly catching up to the bomber, they witnessed as the automatic doors of the hidden base’s hangar opened, sure to let out the plane. Steve could feel that they were going to be too late and that the plane would take off and Red Skull would lay waste to the United States with this stealth bomber. Then agent Phillips pushed a button under the wheel’s dashboard that they caught up to the plane at great speed. Steve maneuvered himself in a standing position, ready to climb into the Valkyrie.

“Keep it steady!” He said to Chester who kept his eyes on the prize.

“Wait!” Peggy shouted.

Steve looked at her, then she seized his harness and pulled him toward her and kissed him. The Captain looked into her eyes and he saw love, the same emotions that were beating in his chest since he first met her. It surprised him that it was mutual. Peggy looked at him with determination. “Go get him.”

The Captain looked at Chester who was still driving, the man chuckled and told him, “I’m not kissing you!”

Steve ignored this and got himself into position. As they reached under the bomber and used the exhaust ports of the car as scaffold to hold onto, then laid on the car’s hood to avoid the propeller’s blade that scratched his shield. The plane was about to take flight but Steve thought fast and jumped on the landing gear wheel’s just before the Valkyrie cleared the runway.

He did it, he boarded the plane, but it wasn’t time to be happy about it. Steve immediately found himself in the hold with Hydra’s special bombs that were destined to detonate over American cities. As he walked inside the plane, Steve successfully ambushed the Hydra soldiers and operators and killed them. It was a long gruelling series of actions before Schmidt tried to ambush Steve who had arrived at the plane’s bridge.

They exchanged blows, damaging the controls of the bomber during their fight. The man was wiley enough to engage the auto-pilot and began to shoot Steve with his sidearm, which strangely looked like a P08 Luger pistol, but the difference was that it was an energy weapon able to vaporize humans. Steve used his shield to make the pulses bounce off and created a hole in the hull.

Steve frowned and successfully disarmed Schmidt who fought back, the Captain didn’t have any choice but to kick the man and make him fly out of the hole created by his own weapon. Schmidt cried out and passed through the hole sucked by the air pressure and howled as he fell from the sky. Steve took his shield back and then sat himself in the pilot’s chair, sending a transmission to the Captured Hydra HQ.

He always remembered that part of his memories. He always informed Peggy of Schmidt’s apparent death and the status of the plane headed for New York City in order to destroy it. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily, he became aware that he didn’t know anything about this plane and didn't understand its systems to turn it away from its destination.

"I'll-I'll get Howard on the line. He'll know what to do." He heard Peggy say on the radio.

Steve decided right there and then that he had to sink the plane in the ocean, anything else would be too risky. Because the longer they tried to figure a way out for him, was time for the plane to get closer to NYC and might cause more damage.

“There’s not enough time. This thing’s moving too fast and it’s heading for New York. I gotta put her in the water.”

There was a catch in Peggy’s voice. “Please don’t do this. W-we have time. We can work it out.”

There was a long moment where Steve looked at the clouds and sun in the sky. “Peggy this is my choice.” Steve said, before opening and putting his pocket watch on the instruments with Peggy’s picture inside. He looked at it for a longtime before pushing the centre stick forward.

“Peggy, I’m gonna need a raincheck on that dance.” The plane was slowly falling toward the ground, he decided to distract his and Peggy’s mind out of the inevitable.

“What?” Then she finally understood and gave him a time and place for their date.

As he watched he saw the sea and a frozen ice field to the horizon. “You got it.”

“Don’t dare to be late, understood?” Peggy sobbed.

The ice field became closer and closer. “You know I still don’t know how to dance.” Steve spoke.

“I will show you how, just be there.” It was a plea.

Steve wanted to answer it, to promise her that he would come back and to wait for him, but he couldn’t. But what he could do was continue to comfort her even though he was going to die. “Then it’s gotta be something slow.”

The ice field was upon him. “I’m gonna step on your-” he lost contact upon impact. Rather than crashing into the ocean, the Valkyrie impacted the ice field, where the heat of the engines melted the surrounding ice, causing the plane to sink into the ice before it refroze. He lost consciousness.

Steve opened his eyes to a vaulted ceiling and to electronic beeping noises, he shifted his head and didn’t recognize any of the machines around him, he sniffed and recognized the familiar smell of a hospital. He managed to sit up. Looking at the ceiling and the wall he understood that he was either underground or in a mountain facility.

At his bedside was a glass water bottle and a white boxer. He understood that they were for him if he ever woke up. He took the bottle and began to drink the water, he didn’t feel parched anymore. He asked himself what the date was, where was he?

Then the door at the end of the room slid open and a gorgeous redhead, barely a young woman in a scandalous outfit consisting of shorts and tank top entered. She was showing too much skin and Steve barely knew where to look, so he settled on her face. The redhead smiled at him, then chuckled for no reason, or maybe it was at him and his dumbfounded expression. In each of her hands she had his shield and a suitcase.

“Captain Steve Rogers. Welcome back.” She greeted him, as she walked to him the young woman put the case on the ground with his shield.

As she finished, she lifted her head to his and for a long moment they judged each other’s intention. Steve saw that this young woman may be young, but she had steel in her eyes. He guessed correctly that she had killed before, many times. Steve decided to gather information immediately, to know where he ended up and if he was in good hands.

He still thought that he was dreaming, normally his dreams were all about the plane and Peggy. “You have me at a disadvantage. I don’t know who you are.”

“Oh, I am sorry. I am Jean Grey, the owner of this base.” She said with a smile, he looked as she put her long french braid back behind her. He kept his eyes firmly on her face and not on her cleavage.

Now Steve knew that he was still dreaming, women were not placed in positions of responsibility like this in his time. Though he wished they were, the proof that women could be incredible administrators was proved by his own mother and Peggy’s work ethic. Though he still asked himself where this young woman’s mother was? How could she let her stand in such an outfit.

She chuckled again for a moment, before straightening her stance and looking at him seriously. “In this suitcase, there’s your new service weapon, and uniform, Captain Rogers.”

“New…?” A new uniform, what for? Did the war continue? He had hoped that he was dreaming of something different for once.

Green eyes bored into him. “Captain, Peggy needs your help. She has been taken by Hydra’s agents, are you willing to help me rescue her?” There was a plea in the young woman’s voice.

The Captain could feel that she was being sincere and that she had a lot of affection for Peggy. As he looked into Jean’s verdant gaze, Steve didn’t even think, he took off the sheet covering his lower body, he took the boxer and put them on, not minding that he was giving a free show to the young woman. Steve put his shield on the bed, then crouched to open the suitcase.

It hissed open, eliciting a flinch from him. Inside neatly folded was a red and blue uniform, completely different from his usual one, made of something that he couldn’t guess at. He looked at Jean and asked, “How do I put it on?”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Dormitories
Common room
10 minutes later 

Steve was completely different from what I expected; he was a good man, but nothing like the cookie cutter Captain America that was part of SHIELD shown in the MCU or the cartoon. No, there was rigidity, willpower, goodness and honor in him. He believed that people have good and bad inside them and that their actions showed who they truly were.

At the moment he was humoring me, observing my actions to judge what I was all about. The only thing bothering me was that Steve thought that he was still dreaming. As we stopped in the common room, I looked for Chimera. The blonde was playing with Madelyn with her ectoplasmic dragons, unicorns and animals. *Oh she learned how to make new constructs.*

When she saw me, Madelyn gasped and literally flew toward me while avoiding tables and chairs, I opened my arms and received the redheaded missile. “Big sister!”

My arms closed around her and I kissed her between her brow. “Hello, Maddy. How are you today?”

Today she was wearing a ruby red sleeveless sundress and matching sandals; she looked really cute. Madelyn made a sad expression and held onto me tighter. “Great, you are here. You have been busy lately.” She finished her sentence with a whine.

Her mood oozed sadness, she wasn’t even trying to play me; those were her genuine feelings as she loved me unconditionally since the first time she opened her eyes. I passed a hand through her hair. “My bad… I will make time for you okay?”

She nodded and hugged me again. I laughed at her reaction after giving her a sloppy kiss. Then she looked at my side and saw the armored Cap; tilting her head, the little girl let go of me and asked, “Who is he?”

Steve had been looking at Madelyn and I, analyzing our interactions. A smile still tugged at his lips as he watched us.

I pointed my hand at Steve. “That’s Captain Rogers. Captain Rogers, this my little sister, Madelyn.” I said as I introduced the two of them.

“She looks just like you.” Steve commented with his gaze not leaving Madelyn for a moment. The little girl then hid behind me, still looking at him.

“Yes, we get told that a lot. As if she was my clone or something.” I laughed.

Chimera chose this precise moment to walk up to us, looking fondly at Madelyn. Those two had been getting along like a house on fire lately. Madelyn though, was always with my mother or Elektra lately from what I heard, they were teaching her stuff like reading, writing and how to be a good little girl by doing what she was told. *The indoctrination has already begun.*

The Captain placed a hand on my shoulder, pulling me out of my musings. “What are we here for? I thought that we had to save Peggy.”

There was urgency in his voice that I couldn’t dismiss… he was right. I’ve been neglecting her rescue until now for the simple reason that I didn’t feel that it was time. Now that I noticed… it was as if someone was messing with me. I froze when that thought passed through my mind, my hands turned into fists. *Phoenix, she’s doing more than giving hints I see.*

I sighed and nodded to Steve. “Yes, but first we need a pilot. And that gorgeous blonde in the black catsuit is-” I was about to point out Chimera when Steve narrowed his eyes at my second in command.

“A female pilot?” He said with a dubious catch in his voice.

Chimera and I turned to him at the same time, not appreciating the machismo the man seemed to be exuding. It wasn’t even his fault, I realized, he was brought up like that. I couldn’t stop myself from being angry though. “Yes, Captain. A woman can pilot things, things have changed while you were asleep.”

Then there was silence, the man’s worried expression turned into a frown, his eyes shifted to the bar and the fridge, all the different screens present on the walls, the tablets on the tables ready for use. The door swishing open again as it let Fury and Phil enter who were followed by the dad squad.

Steve’s eyes returned on me. “Miss Grey.”

*Nope, I won’t have him put distance between us.* I stepped before him and said, “Call me Jean, Captain.”

The man was finally realizing that he wasn’t dreaming anymore, that everything was real, his senses and the people around him were telling him that he wasn’t about to be stuck in the plane I found him in again. He looked utterly lost when he asked, “Jean, how long was I asleep for?”

His emotions were so raw that they hurt me and it forced me to turn my empathy way down to not be affected by them. Still I decided to give him answers. “Fifty one years. I found you under an ice field off the coast of Greenland. You were frozen in ice, in complete stasis. I think the super soldier serum you were injected with helped you.”

The Captain’s expression changed completely, he looked surprised at first, then sad, he was remembering all his friends, but there was hope still burning inside him that some of them might still be alive as I had revealed earlier to him that Peggy was in trouble. He was about to say something to me when someone interrupted us.

“Grey, what the hell is happening here?” Nick Fury looked at us, more at Steve than at me.

He had without a doubt recognized who he was as he stood there, mouth gaping. I mean the costume was something of a giveaway! For once he had left his black coat in his bedroom and was only wearing clone soldier’s garbs.

“Jean, is he a new refugee?” Phil asked, still frowning at Steve.

I didn’t have time to give a lengthy explanation so I went for the kill. “No, he is Peggy’s boyfriend.”

The two agents exploded in question while the Cap was getting impatient. So it was quickly explained what we were going to do as I made them believe that I discovered where they kept Peggy and that I was going to find her. Nick was adamant about knowing how I found the Captain, while Phil asked loudly in his mind if I had exploited my future knowledge to find Steve Rogers. I found myself forced to nod and he didn’t ask more.

After dropping this bomb on my two favorite agents, we found ourselves in Hangar one, Phil was giving an enthusiastic briefing to Captain America after having shown him his collection card about him. Steve couldn’t deal with the hero worship so I had to keep uncle Phil on the subject of Hydra and how they had infiltrated the USA.

Phil was done explaining and Steve looked sharply at him; there was a bit of heat into his voice as he said, “So it all comes back to this OSS project, operation Paperclip. The country I willingly gave my life for made a deal with Hydra scientists for their knowhow. For what? To be at the top?”

It wasn’t Phil who answered him, but Fury who was leaning against a Samson helicopter; the super spy shook his head and tried to give an excuse. “You don’t understand Captain. After your supposed death, every country was already readying for the next war. The USSR was drunk off its victory in the war and even began research into producing another you, another super soldier. And they succeeded, let me show you the file we had on the Red Guardian later.”

I narrowed my eyes to that, the Red Guardian; his story was connected to Natalia Romanova, the black Widow. The two of them were still alive.

Fury continued with the history lesson. “The world entered what we call today the Cold War. It was an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that developed after World War II. You should have seen it, now everyone has a weapon comparable to the atomic bomb. It was a nuclear stalemate between “super-states”: each possessed weapons of mass destruction and was capable of annihilating the other.”

Fury moved toward the Captain, and stopped before him; as they stared into each other eyes, the super spy added, “We needed an edge and operation paperclip gave us that. We landed on the moon before anyone else, we created new fighter planes and other wonders of technology. At the time we thought we had it good.” However, Fury’s emotion turned bitter as he remembered his find and how deep Hydra infiltrated the government.

Steve snorted at that. “But now you found yourself full of squiddies everywhere, not only America but in other countries where they had fifty years to spread their poison.”

Fury raised a finger at that, looked for something to say, but couldn’t find any retort, and swallowed his pride to finally recognize that Steve was right. “Unfortunately.” 

I would have laughed if the situation wasn’t so serious. I clapped to get the attention of the testosterone riddled men before me. “Gentlemen, the time to distribute blame is over. Action is needed, now we need to save Peggy; she is the only leverage Pierce and his fellows have over me and would push me into a position that I find... unacceptable.”

Oh boy, there were a lot of things I wanted to avoid, like having to destroy or kill most of the guilty and innocent together. I was tired, really tired of having to kill people...

Chimera snickered nervously, interrupting me. “Yeah, we don’t want the boss to be in Hydra’s hands, I can guarantee that it would be bad for the world.” She said as she thought about what I did to Sinister and his clone armies, at least I identified the feelings coursing through her, I had stopped monitoring her thoughts long ago.

I turned and said sarcastically, “Thank you Chimera.”

The gorgeous blonde simply grinned back at me, I rolled my eyes and returned to trying to keep the boys from coming to blows. Steve was the first to address me, “What does Hydra want you for, Miss Jean?”

Miss Jean? Really? Damn, he makes me feel like an old lady. Fury reacted to Steve’s question, “You didn’t tell him?” finding the fact that he wasn’t informed shocking.

My cheeks colored as everyone’s gaze focused on me. It was embarrassing… “I didn’t have the time…” I confessed, avoiding to stare into Phil’s eyes, he looked disappointed.

I walked toward the Samson and opened the door and climbed inside. Chimera said in fake surprise, “Oh my goodness, the Cap must be thinking he is the only one going to go save Miss Peggy with us as support.”

Turning to Steve, I saw that he made an unimpressed glare targeted at Chimera. “I am right here.”

The woman simply laughed at him, then fled into the Samson and entered into the cockpit to ready it for take off.

Sighing heavily, I decided to give Steve more information. “Well… Steve.” The man turned toward me, raising an eyebrow at my casual use of his first name. I continued undaunted, even smiling. “While you were asleep... the world has become a bit weirder. We have a lot of people who are a bit more super than you’d believe.”

My imagery was so simple that even Steve understood what I was implying. The Captain was thoughtful for one second before his imagination went wild with strong pictures of me in his mind smashing heads and fighting like an equivalent of him. He just couldn’t fathom that there were things even more esoteric in the world such as telekinesis or telepathy.

“Is Miss Jean an enhanced person as well?” He asked as he looked at me.

This time Steve did more than check me out -I had caught him looking into my cleavage- it was as if he was looking at me through a microscope. His gaze focused on my arms and legs, narrowing his eyes as he discovered that my body was more toned than a normal woman’s.

Phil nodded, he was thinking something rude about me being given all the good stuff, if I read his emotions and his eye roll well. He added, “Not just Jean, but most of the women here are enhanced. The other men aren’t, with the exception of Hans and Peter who have extreme abilities.”

I grinned at Steve. “I will show you what I can do on the way, Cap. For now we must go save Peggy, you owe her a dance after all.”

He reacted to this idle comment as if I was standing on his grave. Then he calmed down, rationalizing the fact that I knew that little tidbit because Peggy told me and that I was close to her. He wasn’t wrong, I was close to Peggy and treated her like my grandma, but she would never tell me about her personal stuff like that.

Phil and Nick looked at each other, weirded out by me knowing such things; Phil less so, because he knew about my origins. Steve climbed inside the Samson, still adjusting to the strange machine. Then he put his shield on one of the seats inside. He turned to me, “We must plan more… we can’t just attack this base they hold her in.”

Wow, was he underestimating me? “I don’t intend to attack right away, I will scout first then you and I will take out everyone there, get Peggy and explode the camp.” I had something special made while doing the Cap’s costume, I will use it to send Pierce a message.

I looked at Phil and Fury, intently making them understand that they won’t be coming with us. Phil understood and threw me a thumbs up, completely confident that I could save Peggy. Though Nick Fury just turned heel and didn’t acknowledge me. I made a face at him by showing my tongue, when I was done, Steve smiled at me, I frowned. “Did I say something funny?”

He scratched the back of his head, then went to sit where he had placed his shield. “No, it’s just that your plan sounds simple when you say it like that… you reminded me of someone.”

I scowled at him and crossed my arms. “I hope it’s not Howard Stark.” I huffed.

Leaning in his seat, he grinned, somehow amusing himself by needling me. “Oh, I don’t know about that, you and he have the same… innate confidence.” He played idly with the safety belt of the seat.

I glared at Steve. “That’s rather insulting, Cap.” I didn’t like any iterations of Howard Stark I watched or read about. For an expert engineer and businessman he was rather short sighted and created more problems for his friends than he resolved.

The moment for banter passed and Steve asked, “Are we going right now?”

Chimera must have heard because it was at this moment that the Samson’s engine took life and the aircraft lurched slowly into the air. Eliciting a surprised grunt from Steve. I closed the doors of the vehicle and said aloud to my new companion, “The mission has already started.”

 

# # #

 

USA, New Jersey
200 km from Camp Lehigh

We exited the portal and I deployed a cloaking field over the Samson. From the onboard computer I put us at the extreme east of the Wharton State Forest, as far from Camp Lehigh that I could go. I picked up on the link between me and Peggy instantly, they hadn’t moved her at all. The forest was all sprawling park with ponds, rivers and lakes; from on high we could distinctly see some hiking trails too.

“We need to find somewhere isolated to land, the distance between the forest and the camp should be enough for our operation.” I explained to Chimera.

The blonde nodded and made the Samsson gain in altitude, we were three hundred meters in the air and tried to spot an out of the way clearing or plain, even a mountain spot would be enough, but it would be too easy for a satellite to spot us. Contrary to my previous reality, Marvel 1996 was so far a tad more advanced, so I wouldn’t be surprised that the army withheld the good stuff from the populace.

Let’s not talk about those Weapon plus monsters, *I will totally wipe them out later.*

Chimera finally spotted a clearing big enough for our Samson,  it seemed isolated from the park, near a little lake. We landed there without difficulties. The cockpit depressurized and then I was out; Steve looked at me walk out and undid his safety belt and moved to exit his seat, but I raised a hand and told him. “Stay seated.” And I placed myself at his side on the seat next to his.

He looked at me, finding me to be a strange young woman. “So, Steve. I can call you Steve, right?”

The Cap nodded, and I rewarded him with a smile and decided to give him an explanation about what we were going to do. “You see, I am an enhanced person like you. But the difference is that it’s not my body that’s enhanced.” I demonstrated this by letting my astral form step out of my body and be visible for the Cap.

Steve had frozen in his seat, his Capsicle nickname had never been more fitting than right now. Steve stood, his eyes focused on my astral body and slowly he tried to touch my right shoulder but his hand passed through it. He flinched and stepped back.

I wanted to smile at his reaction but it would be mean, so I didn’t. “This is what I call my astral form, I can become invisible, pass through walls…” I said as I waved my arm grandly.

Standing tall before me, the Cap was observing my astral form with wonder. “You are the perfect spy and scout. What I wouldn’t have given for someone like you back in the day.”

“Maybe you had one? Metahumans have existed since the dawn of humanity, in lower numbers though.” Like a certain James Howlett, the awesome Logan.

A flash of something passed in Steve’s eyes, I felt his brain work on overdrive. “Now I understand some of your planning. You intend to infiltrate Camp Lehigh,” I felt a twinge of sadness at this exact moment. This base had a lot of good history with the Cap. He continued speaking, “find where they keep Peggy and look at their defenses.”

Similar plan but I wouldn’t execute it like that. “Hum… Err, it’s mostly like this. But some of the steps are different… I will look at their defenses, and at the same time look for Peggy and portal us where she’s held.”

Steve raised an eyebrow and crossed his arm on his powerful chest. “Portal?”

Why were all his movements emphasizing his masculinity? It was distracting, now I understand how Peggy fell for the guy. When I get them back together I hope Peggy will be patient with him, some of the comments he made to Chimera and I... worried me. I hoped that his adaptation to our era would not be difficult.

My eyes refocused on his baby blue ones. “Yes, Steve. A portal, don’t you think the climate is suddenly different from where my base is located?” I said as I opened the doors of the Samson with my TK.

The wind that struck inside the passenger compartment was cold, showing that we were in the middle of winter. Completely different from the sweltering heat we were in before in Egypt base.

Steve didn’t even shake at the completely different temperature. “Yes it does feel… cold.” 

*Freaking super soldier…* I lamented, he can’t even react like a normal guy would.

Steve’s gaze shifted from the winter scenery to my astral form, a gleam of interest shone in his eyes. “Are you implying that you can teleport?”

I chuckled, there were so many things I could do. “Yes I can do that too, but the phenomena we are talking about is portal manipulation. I can create, shape and control the size and the destination of my portals, I can go wherever I want on Earth.” Instead of explaining further I showed Steve a micro portal, the glowing golden hole in reality was big enough to pass my arm through and the exit portal let my entire arm appear near him and I touched his shoulder with my hand.

*Hmm, it has some potential… Portal combat.* I realized

Steve stayed silent for thirty second or so, watching my astral form and my real body; thinking about the ramification of such power in the hand of a little girl like me. “I understand why Hydra wants you, this is…”

I snickered. “They don’t know about these abilities; I have other more... destructive ones.” I hinted and winked at him.

Steve didn’t look impressed, but somewhat angry. “When this is over, you and I, young lady will sit together and you’ll list all those for me. Going blind on missions isn’t something I am used to doing. Is that clear?” He had tried to look intimidating, but I faced the Phoenix and Lady Death, he looked cute when he was angry.

I shrugged at that. “Sure, Captain.”

He blinked at my reaction, I laughed at his expression and decided to finally go do what we came for. “Please guard my body while I’m out doing some reconnaissance.”

Steve sighed, then took his gun in one hand and his shield in another. “Go, nothing will happen.”

 

# # #

 

Camp Lehigh.

I looked beneath me, Camp Lehigh didn’t change from the last time I was there. They still looked undermanned but now that I was there in my astral form and less angry because they captured my mentor, I realized that it was a cover. There were a lot of agents and support personnel present. I sank, lowering myself onto the base helipad.

Looking around me I spotted all the guard posts and cameras; even those well hidden. I roamed around the munition depot and the hangar for the vehicles. Yes it was a hive of activity; it was weird as Xmas was almost upon us. Shouldn’t there be less people here? People who had asked for leave… I guessed Hydra didn’t work that way.

I continued to map the base’s surface in my mind, there was no one sensitive enough to see me like Samira could. Floating to the building with the elevators that lead to the underground bunker and the research facility there; I continued to scan the minds of everyone. I learned that Pierce had raised the security here since my casual dispatch of his men who tried to take my friends and family hostage. There were cloaked guards everywhere on the surface and in the bunker facilities.

He even broke out the experimental weapons and enhanced agents that Hydra was developing. So everyone had energy weapons adapted from the Red Skull’s own, that evil genius was striking from the grave it seemed… then there were the augmented guys, they felt sick and psychotic to my senses. It seemed that the version of the serum they were being regularly injected with was causing their mental capabilities to deteriorate.

Hmm, there were labs here; and some kind of storage floor with decent security. I could feel the cloaked guards moving around the place, it was also almost time for them to switch shifts. I found Peggy on the medical level, guarded by a corridor full of cloaked agents. I laughed at that, they had no idea what I could truly do, hmm, yes I would take Peggy first, then start killing everyone and take the research and important data here.

I returned to my body and opened my eyes to see that the doors of the Samson were open from each side and the Cap was standing, looking outside, he had given me his back. I watched for a long time his muscled and firm looking posterior. *So, this is America’s ass.*

I sent the mental image to Chimera through telepathy. The cockpit’s door opened with a shocked Chimera who looked at Steve’s posterior too, she tilted her head as she admired it. “You are right Jean, this is worthy of being called America’s ass.”

Steve turned to us, and looked at each of us with a glare; I laughed, Chimera did the same. “Okay, girls this isn’t the time. Be serious, will you?”

“Yes, Captain Rogers.” Chimera and I said in sync, but we couldn’t help but laugh again.

He rolled his eyes, I felt that he wasn’t used to interacting with women our apparent age; Chimera may have the body of a woman but she had the same mental maturity as I, I observed. I high-fived her and laughed in sync with her; the Cap looked at us and lamented in his mind that we were unprofessional.

I rolled my eyes at his reprimand. *Fine.* It was time to talk shop anyway, so I stood up and poked Steve in the chest making him look at me.“By the way Steve, there’s four levels to the bunker under Camp Lehigh. A lab facility, a storage one, some kind of hospital and an administrative level beyond the one on the surface. It seems they have a lot of aircraft in the hangar here for some reason…”

He nodded, happy that I finally stopped being a pain in the ass. “Excellent, what about their level of security?”

I showed him my hand covered in a tactical fingerless glove and raised a finger at each thing I observed. “High, there are visible and invisible guards all around; enhanced individuals too but they are mentally unstable. Ah, and they have energy weapons too, like the one you went against in WWII, but those don’t vaporize, they act more like plasma weapons, they burn.”

Looking at him in the eyes, Steve never asked how I knew he encountered energy weapons in the war. He was more focused on the problems I enunciated to him. He sighed and then leaned against the Samson’s right door. “This… we don’t have enough people, us against everyone there? A full team is needed... I wish the guys were here.”

By the guys he meant the Howling Commandos. Chimera looked at me, grinning; the Cap didn’t realize that we didn’t need anyone else. I could take this country if I wanted and didn’t care about destroying it wholesale. But what was needed for this operation was finesse and stealth instead of unstoppable power. No, we would infiltrate the camp from the inside.

I patted the Cap on his armored shoulder pad. “Don’t worry, we are going to come laterally at this problem.” I told him and retracted my hand and turned in the direction of the base that I sensed Peggy was still in.

I conjured hologram constructs between us for Chimera and Steve to look at. “We will get Peggy first, thanks to my portal manipulation this is going to be the easiest part of the operation; then once we retrieved her, Chimera will go back to base with her and put her in medical. After that, you and I will infiltrate the bunker to gather the data and research stored here for intel. I will kill everyone on the way, stop them from ringing any alarms, and plant the fusion bomb to erase this stain from the map then we will be out of here.”

Replaying the holograms for Steve who looked fascinated, Chimera interrupted by asking a question in a hysterical manner, she had begun to shake me. “Boss? A fusion bomb what for ?!”

I smiled sweetly at her, patting her cheek. “Don’t worry ‘mera, it’s completely without fallout, I tested it in space.”

What a big boom it was! I tried to replicate a NOVA bomb from Halo. With Wakandan knowhow, a cluster of nine nuclear fusion warheads encased in a lithium triteride case was a piece of cake. I exploded an asteroid the size of an Independence Day ship with that, you know the Mothership? That shit was 600 km, I had to lift a similar asteroid out of the kuiper belt and do the test near Neptune. My inner scientist was telling me that the explosion could have been bigger if I hadn’t botched the synthesizing of the lithium triteride.

Chimera seemed reassured that I hadn’t just built a bomb without testing it and let go of me. Steve raised his hand and asked, “What’s a fusion bomb?”

Chimera and I looked at each other, then the blonde took it upon herself to enlighten the poor Cap. “Err... how to explain, it’s like an atomic bomb, Cap. However, it’s different as apparently it’s some sort of clean nuke with no radiation fallout.”

Steve looked at me with horror. “Why do you need something so powerful? And on american soil?”

It’s not like they would be able to detect it yet, so I would take advantage of their ignorance. “It’s not powerful.” I said as I took the lunch box sized fusion bomb from Goldie’s hammer space and showed it to Steve. “It’s just enough to take out the base entirely, not the entire state. I did the math. And this is a message for Pierce, you don’t fuck with my friends or grandma.” There, I said it. No one fucks with Peggy, she’s family.

Chimera went to sit on one of the passenger seats near the cockpit’s entrance. She facepalmed, hiding her eyes. “Oh boss, I knew you were pissed… it’s the thing with Sinister all over again!” She said aloud with dread in her voice.

Steve walked up to me and put a hand on my shoulder, it was supposed to be calming but I didn’t know the guy for long so it fell short. “Is there anything I can do to convince you not to do it?” He asked with a soothing voice.

I shook my head and batted away his hand. “Nothing. After this we are going Squiddie hunting with the SHIELD agents loyal to Peggy and taking all those Hydra high command assholes. Peggy will help when I am done healing her.” Oh, I would do better than healing her… I had plans for the rest of the family too.

Steve looked at me as if I was a particularly trying person to get along with. He kept making comparisons between me and Howard Stark in his mind. *Rude!*

The Captain began to tighten his helmet on his head and looked at Chimera and I with a disappointed expression. “Very well, let’s do this, but later we are going to have words…”

Snorting, I crossed my arms and told him bluntly what I thought about his patronizing attitude. “Steve, I respect you... But you are not my dad, okay?”

He tried to retort to that but nothing was said. “...”

I nodded, satisfied that he understood what a bad idea it was to try to convince me to not do something. It was finally time to go. “Let’s do this! Ah! Oh I forgot, take this knife, Cap.”  It was a tactical knife that Goldie stole from SHIELD’s armory, it was one of the first things I thought about for the Cap’s kit. I had transmuted the steel into adamantium, well secondary adamantium to be precise, I had had to work at it to even be able to make the proto-adamantium. A lot of energy was needed for such.

I threw it at him and he caught the knife and its sheath; took the knife out and inspected the length and metal, as well as the balance. 

“This is a good knife.” He said as he began to play with it by doing some kind of unknown kata.

The monomolecular edge on the knife split the air making a tearing sound as it moved. I laughed nervously, I could barely follow the Cap’s movements, he was faster than Elektra sensei. “Yes, I know, it’s really sharp… careful with it. It can pierce armor.”

He stopped, gave me a smile for the first time and said, “Handy.”

Oh god, why are those dimples so perfect? Peggy how could you not jump the guy when you could? Chimera stood transfixed as she watched him. The Cap flinched as he noticed the gazes we threw him and asked nervously, “Let’s go now?”

“Yeah, sure… I am ready.” I told him, fucking attractive super soldier...

“Me too boss.” Chimera said as she had an energy rifle in her hand, I never noticed when she took it from the cockpit.

 

# # #

(Cpt. Steve Grant Rogers)

The redheaded teenage girl opened one of her portals, it was big enough for the two of them to pass through. Steve didn’t show it outwardly but he just couldn’t believe that such things were possible and half thought that he was dreaming still. But the pain he felt when he cut himself with his new knife told him he was being silly.

At least Miss Jean had put on a different outfit, a red leather jacket, and something she had called tactical pants and boots. There was a tactical belt at her hips and a body harness with some kind of pistols in their sheaths which he couldn’t identify the make or model. The shiny and sleek silver pistol in her hand reminded him of Red Skull’s own, able to shoot energy bolts.

“Okay, let me enter first.” Jean said as she made for the portal, but a hand caught her shoulder, she turned to see that it was the Cap.

Lifting her head, she looked at the Captain’s face obscured by his helmet. There was an intransigent expression etched on it. “No, I have the shield and armor, I should be first.”

He was clearly the heavy in the group but he didn't understand why Miss Jean face slacken in anger, he was about to enter the portal when she said, “Fine, okay.”

Steve stopped, he had heard the same tone in Peggy’s voice before; when a woman said ‘fine’ it wasn’t. He turned to Miss Jean and said; “You are important for this mission, all will be lost if you get injured, always expect the unexpected.”

Her face gained more warmth from the frosty expression she had five seconds ago. “Sorry, Cap… I am used to being in charge, you know?”

*Oh, she’s the one who normally gives orders, she must not be used to deferring to someone else. Bucky was a bit like that...* He closed his eyes as he crushed the memories of his best friend seeking to re-emerge, it wasn’t the time to be lost in mourning. Peggy was alive… his Peggy was alive and that was all that mattered to him.

He reopened his eyes and gave the redheaded lassy a smile, nodded and said, “I totally understand. But I wish to impart common sense and experience to you.”

Miss Jean’s face became clouded in thought, reminding Steve of himself, she was clearly reminiscing the past, then she stared up at him with a sheepish expression. “Well, it’s true that I made some questionable decisions before… Okay, I will defer to you for now.”

He became relieved that she didn’t seek to argue with him; he had seen how strong her personality was from her interactions with everyone. They respected her, but Steve couldn’t say if it was out of fear or leadership.

Steve took his pistol from his belt holster and put his shield before him to protect his center of mass and entered the portal without waiting for Jean. He arrived in a hospital room, full of beeping machinery, similar to the ones he saw when he awakened. The walls were white and bland, with only the painting of a flower on the wall behind the medical bed.

The form of a elderly woman was on the medical bed, she had white hair and a similar hairstyle to the woman he kept seeing in his dreams. He didn’t see an old woman but the love of his life. His lips quirked into a smile, Steve was about to walk to her when he felt his female companion arrive behind him, he turned to her, only to see her lunge at him, he was shocked and ready to deflect her assault with his shield when she hit something invisible.

Steve heard a crack and a grunt, the noise of bone cracking, he was intimately familiar with it; then Miss Jean wrenched her hand to the right and he heard another bone crack. The crackling and the visible arcs of lightning running from Miss Jean’s arms to what she was holding in her hand sizzled and little by little a black suited man covered from head to toe in some kind of skintight outfit appeared.

The redhead’s piercing gaze fell on Steve. “Like I told you Cap, there are some invisible guards.” She stood up and dusted her hands.

Steve looked down at the body on the grey tiled floor, lost about what to think. “This isn’t what I expected when you told me that.” An invisible enemy, that was the stuff of nightmares and supposed to stay imaginary in his time. Well, it seemed that Hydra succeeded on the technological front.

Jean put a hand on his gauntlet. “I should have been more accurate, I am sorry.” As Steve looked into her eyes, he saw that she looked apologetic.

He shrugged and his eyes focused on the occupied medical bed in the room. “Peggy is there.” He walked toward it, only to be stopped by Jean.

“Stop.” She said as she placed her hand on his chest as she placed herself between him and the bed. “We must check for traps first.”

Her piercing green eyes were full of determination, Steve felt that she would have her way, whatever he thought. He frowned. “Why would they trap her bed?” To him, it was unconscionable that someone could trap the hospital bed of someone in convalescence.

Jean snorted and looked at him as if he was naive. “Because Pierce knows he can’t stop me with conventional means. If killing Peggy can make me furious and make mistakes…? He would totally do it.”

That spoke of an evil and practical mindset that turned Steve’s stomach. Even Red Skull wouldn’t fall so low. “I don’t like this Pierce gentleman already.”

Miss Jean’s eyes glowed gold, making him flinch a bit. “He is no man, he is just a squiddie that will get burned.” Her voice gained a certain echo as she spoke. She blinked her eyes, then the golden glow was replaced by her normal emerald green orbs.

Miss Jean turned to the bed, and with a sweep of her arms, some kind of golden light covered Peggy and the bed. From under it, there was indeed a box that was turned into dust without fanfare, then Miss Jean walked up to her and put her hands on Peggy’s body. Steve placed himself at her side and looked on in worry at her, then at Peggy who had some kind of mask on her face.

“Is she okay?” Steve asked, his eyes settling on the diminutive form of the love of his life.

Miss Jean growled as she spoke. “They implanted some sort of GPS tracker inside of her and some…” The redhead tilted her head. “...poisoned Capsules?”

With urgency, Steve said, “Can you take them out?”

Jean nodded. “Easily. I just have to teleport them out.” 

Steve didn’t care what, but he wanted the redhead to do something. “Do it, please.”

Miss Jean held her hand before her hand cupped and in a flash of pale blue light, a round and silvery object appeared, it was quickly turned to dust too. Then three orbs full of a dark liquid appeared next in her hand. Those didn’t turn into dust, but were absorbed into Miss Jean’s hands in a golden ooze like substance. “I will keep those, it might come in handy to develop an antidote for them.”

“Alright.” Steve nodded.

The lassy began to disconnect the IV connected to Peggy's left arm, slowly to avoid any surprise. Then she frowned and cursed as Peggy began to seize; she took her hands from her and then suddenly they began to slowly light up with golden ethereal flames that she applied on the older female. Steve almost interrupted her but Peggy didn’t seem to catch on fire and little by little the seizure stopped as Miss Jean’s light fire (?) spread inside his old… flame’s body. *It’s not the moment to make puns, Steve.*

Miss Jean’s fire stopped filling Peggy’s body and retracted inside her own; but Peggy was still positively glowing. Steve could see her arteries and veins highlighted with white light, the light was stronger in her head. Steve wanted to ask questions but didn’t dare interrupt her. For over five minutes, Miss Jean continued to work on Peggy, before exhaling a relieved sigh as she took her hands off Peggy.

“I fixed the damage they had done when they Captured her… you see, Pierce had made his goons inject her with some kind of memory erasing serum that your friend Howard Stark made before his death. It’s not even stable for use from what I’ve seen from the serum’s molecular structure that was still coursing through her body. I... I had to fix her hippocampus, her neocortex and her amygdala from the damage that this corrosive shit had caused. Peggy is allergic to that serum.” Miss Jean said as she turned toward him and her eyes began glowing again.

Most of what she explained passed right through his ears, all he understood was that Hydra goons had damaged Peggy’s brain with some kind of solution to erase her memories but she had a bad reaction to it. Steve understood that people from the nineties were smarter than the people from his era, however, they were prone to dismissing practical solutions to simple problems.

As he mused the difference between the world of now and from before, Miss Jean was caressing Peggy’s brow and musing out loud, “When I get to that Pierce guy, death will be the least of his problems.”

The girl was vengeful and bloodthirsty, Steve was surprised that no one had sat her for a talk about those habits of her. “I think Peggy will want to do it herself.”

She turned and looked at him in the eyes, anger in them; Steve didn’t recoil or show weakness. What she sought in his eyes must have pleased as she smiled predatorily. “And I will help her if that’s the case.”

The man who dated this young woman was in for a rude time; Miss Jean frowned at him, but he decided to not give her the time to get mad. “Is Peggy alright to transport?”

Her facial expression shifted to one that said ‘well played’ and she turned to Peggy who was still in the bed. “Yes, come help me.”

Peggy ended up in his arms and it had never felt so right to have her there, but they weren’t out of the woods yet. Miss Jean took the bedsheet and covered Peggy with it, waved her hand to the naked wall on the right and a portal opened on the Samson duocopter, if Steve remembered the name right. They walked up to it and the door opened, the blonde, Chimera with her rifle in hand.

“Ready the Samson, you are getting out of here with Peggy.” Miss Jean hollered.

Peggy stirred in Steve arms, he walked up slowly to not wake her up yet. Steve climbed the little ramp that morphed into stairs that Chimera activated on one of the Samson interior panels. 

“Sure boss, I had hoped to test my new ectoplasmic constructs, but if we can be back earlier….” Chimera left for the cockpit.

Miss Jean touched another panel, typed a numerical code on the keyboard and the seat at the end of the Samson passenger compartment turned into a stretcher with the seatbelts turning into a harness.

“Put her on the stretcher.” Miss Jean commanded.

He did just as she asked and put her on the stretcher, she strapped in Peggy and touched her one last time with her glowing hands to check on her health. Steve didn’t understand how he got used to the young woman’s ability to do supernatural acts as if they were nothing. He had questions, questions that could wait until after the mission was completed.

Jean exited the Samson and pulled Steve out with her, the two propellers came alive and then the flying craft took off. The redhead waved her hand and a portal opened, big enough for the Samson to pass. Steve looked up with apprehension as the vehicle entered the strange aperture in the air.

A hand touched his shoulder, turning his head he saw Jean smiling at him in reassurance. “Don’t worry, when she wakes up, you’ll have all the time in the world to catch up.”

With a firm nod he said, “Thank you for this opportunity.”

She let go of him, and spent over thirty seconds observing him, the intensity of her gaze was kind of unnerving to Steve.

Miss Jean gratified him with another smile. “The fact that she’s old and grey doesn’t seem to bother you the least.”

Steve fumbled with his utility belt, unconsciously checking his mission-specific equipment. He then looked at the young woman who had been waiting for something to be said. “I dreamed of her for fifty one years.”

Jean tilted her head as she looked at him and stepped back from him as if she had been burned by something and looked on in wonder. “That’s true love I feel from you, you know she never forgot you? She never married?”

*True love? What is she saying?* Steve asked himself if the girl was somehow reading his feelings. *That’s silly.* He shook his head. Then he registered what she had said, if he knew Peggy as well as he did she focused on her career after the war and forgot romance completely. He would have preferred that she had moved on and was happy… “I will make this right.”

At those words, Jean nodded. “I will help you, Steve. You are an alright guy so far. You and her deserve another chance.”

He frowned at her thinking about Peggy’s white hair and the ravage of age on her body. “I don’t know what you could do that could rewind the damages of time Miss Jean.”

With an impish grin, the young woman replied. “Oh, challenge accepted.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Camp Lehigh
5 minutes later

Exiting the portal, we were once again in the hospital room, I zipped up my jacket and Goldie phased the tactical harness and belt with all my weapons and kit to over my jacket. Steve took his pistol in hand and watched me prepare myself. I looked at the Cap’s body armor, I had made do with the current armor technology I had developed previously for Cindy’s first costume -Which I had subtly upgraded since, without telling her- and it was a tri-weave mesh layer still with the same motility layer and the temperature control; it could resist rifle fire and I added the unstable molecule treatment to it.

It was complicated, yet should be enough, I would upgrade it later as Peter and I didn’t have enough time to make a suit to the same level as ours.

Looking through the wall, I saw that the guards in cloaked suits were still posted there. They hadn’t even changed shifts yet. “When we exit this room, I’m going to make the invisible guards become visible, I will seal the corridor at both entry and exit points with my powers.”

“I am ready.”

I formed a construct in the form of a fist and hit the room’s door, then I sent out an orb shaped photokinetic construct whose sole job would be to make it easy for us to see the suited guys. The only weakness those suits made by Hydra had, was that if they were struck with a specific wavelength of the light spectrum, they were made visible once again, the suit couldn’t bend the light around them.

*Design failure.* I spat mentally with a disgusted tone as I dissipated the fist like construct, the Captain lunged into the hole I made.

Following him, I manifested telekinetic weapons in the form of Sai, they twirled in my hands; Elektra sensei’s memories and my own draconian training with her had prepared me in their use. With a thought I sealed both ends of the corridor while the Cap was being shot at and defending himself with his shield. The orb colored everyone in light imperceptible to the human eyes, but all the cloaked guards were visible now.

I sent a concussive beam at the nearest one who was about to jump Steve, it caught him in the air and slammed him into another dark suited man. As their projectile weapons went dry all of them pulled their energy pistols, but Steve lunged at the guy nearest him and shield bashed him and with a crack he fell dead, with my TK, I pulled the next of them to the Cap who caught him with a haymaker in the crotch.

The noise of something cracking was distinguishable and the man fell too, screaming in soprano. I laughed and jumped into the fray between two of the suited guys, in concert they attacked one low and the other tried to punch my face, lightly jumping to avoid the sweeping kick, I landed on the man’s extended leg and then pierced my other foe’s forearm and sent a debilitating wave of mental energy inside his body, killing him on the spot as I supercharged his nerves and brain. Jumping again, I hit the other guy with a full powered kick to his head.

Snap. To finish him off I stabbed him in the heart with my telekinetic Sai. I felt another one of those suited guys behind me, I was about to move away or send a TK burst when Cap jumped and performed a hook kick that slammed into that guy’s sternum. He aimed his pistol and shot the black suited hydra agent three times, two bullets in the heart and one in the head.

I felt the last guy about to shoot Cap, but before that I threw my telekinetic Sai into his goggled eye which shattered on impact and skewered his head. My Sai dissipated into an explosion that gradually disintegrated the bodies they were planted into; I took a P226 pistol from my holster and walked to each of the still living agents and shot them in the heart and head.

Steve watched me work as I emotionlessly took care of looting the weapons they had, they were an interesting design; I would dissect them later. Turning my head to Steve I said, “We will go to the storage level and steal some stuff there, or would you prefer going after the computers first?”

The cap looked at me as if I was a thief as I looted the weapons and their magazines and batteries. “Shouldn’t we separate, to cover more-”

“No, you’d get killed without my lightwave construct, it’s what allows us to see those cloaked fuckers and don’t look at me like that, I won those weapons by right of conquest fair and square!”

*Oh my god did he just roll his eyes at me?* Cap checked his custom pistol, that no normal man would be able to wield. It was basically ripped off from the .454 Casull Auto from Hellsing belonging to Alucard. It was a bit long, but it did the job.

“Let’s go raid the storage level.” Cap huffed as he waited for me.

“That’s right Cap.” I said as I holstered my pistol and let go of the TK barriers at the corridors ends.

The level after the medical one was the storage one, we took the concrete staircase leading to it, while shining the way with my lightwave construct. Cap was the tank so he went first into them, took care of the visible guards in the stairs by throwing his shield at them, making it bounce and taking them down, it boomeranged back to his waiting hand.

“I like your style.” I complimented him as I took my pistol out and shot the guards fatally.

“Thanks.” Cap gave me a tight nod, this time I didn’t loot the guard but sabotaged the weapons by destroying the containment unit inside the energy weapons, they would explode the next time someone tried to use them.

We arrived at the guarded door leading to the storage level, I skewered the two guards and the invisible one with telekinetic bolts in the brain. Disintegrated the door and casually entered through it followed by Steve striding behind me. There were countless rows of shelves full of wooden cases with serial numbers on them.

I whistled and decided to take everything, but where could I store everything? I mean I didn’t have the- oh sure I did! The UK base was big enough. I opened multiple portals and began to empty the storage level of everything into the UK base’s hangar, fortunately it was empty. Thirty minutes later, the storage level was empty, no one came to interrupt me or take us on.

Frowning, I noticed that the cameras at different angles in the room were still on. “It was too easy.” With a thought I destroyed them, as the boxy fixed cameras turned into chunks… I realized it didn’t matter that they had seen us, the end result of this operation was self-evident. That kind of thing seemed to happen to me a lot, I decided I would dedicate a part of my time to developing electronic and surveillance countermeasures.

Cap took his pistol in hand and loaded a fresh clip into it. “I agree. They must be waiting to ambush us somewhere.”

“Guard my body.” I told him, as I stepped outside of my physical form and spread my awareness.

I phased through the different levels of this bunker and ended up in the command center, there were a lot of people gathered in it, mainly the commanding officers, some were Hydra, some were not. I had begun to eavesdrop.

“Sir, they destroyed the cameras, we are blind.” One of the operators sitting before his console showed the completely dark partitioned screens on the big display before him.

The colonel present slammed his fist on the wall at his side. “Damn it, how did they pass the perimeter? Someone, check the entry logs!”

A female operator said as she was consulting a register. “Sir, there wasn’t anyone stopped at control today, not even for deliveries.”

The colonel looked anguished. “There must be something!”

I scanned his mind and the result pleased me, he was the Hydra agent in charge of this Camp, he was also responsible for the laboratory where they tested their amoral experiments. Everyone here knew what was going on, I thought about sparing the non-Hydra affiliated but this was damning...

The colonel passed his hands through his hair, putting it in disarray. “Shit, send security at them.”

“Everyone?” The first operator asked for clarification.

Their superior officer walked up to them, his face deforming into a mask of anger, replied, “Everyone! You saw it too, right? They killed everyone in the corridors and stairwell with unnatural abilities!”

*How rude! My powers are natural!* I pouted at the metahuman hater.

“E-even… the experiments?” The female operator’s voice quavered, there was fear in her eyes.

The colonel froze, he looked at the woman with a serious expression. “Are we still able to control them?”

She nodded slowly. “Yes sir.”

The commanding officer smiled devilishly. “Send them in too.” Scanning his mind, I saw the unnatural type of enhanced soldiers they had access to, they didn’t even have any sense of morality left or ability to feel emotions anymore.

I chose that moment to return to my body; when I opened my eyes next I decided that it was time to hightail it, but before that…

 

# # #

(Colonel Thomas Eaton)

 

Command Center
5 minutes later

“Sir! We have lost the computer network!”

Thomas closed his eyes, a migraine spearing his frontal lobe as things devolved to utter chaos. He had recognized the source of their problem, the young woman’s files had been passed to him by Director Pierce himself. There was no doubt that they had already absconded with their special guest... 

“Can you ask for reinforcements?” He asked Warrant officer Wallace, who shook her head lamely at him.

Things worsened even more as Chief Warrant officer Poole shouted, “Sir we just lost the phone line and the radio!”

“I have no choice then.” Thomas stood up and took a stick-drive from his hidden breast pocket, he walked up to Wallace’s station and slid the device into the console’s port.

The Hydra symbol appeared on the screen, replacing the US Army logo and the Command Center’s hidden satellite uplink activated. Colonel Thomas typed a numerical password and then when access was granted typed a short message: “Guest taken, base compromised.”

“Sir, what are you-” Wallance didn’t have the time to finish her sentence before Chief Warrant Officer Poole shot two bullets in her brain with his service weapon.

“Dispose of her, Poole.” Thomas took the stick-key from the console and placed it back in his pocket.

“Yes, sir.” The young man stood up and began the clean up.

It was however at that moment that something appeared before Thomas on the console, a metallic case, the size of a lunch box, there was a digital screen on its face. A countdown of five seconds slowly passed. The Colonel didn’t even have the time to flee like his instincts told him to when his world went white.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
10 km from Camp Lehigh

A column of blue light speared the sky as my fusion bomb gift exploded. It was the equivalent of what had struck Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, but the blast was more restrained to the totality of Camp Lehigh’s surface. I smelled the ionized oxygen and watched as the normally invisible neutrons became momentarily present in the light spectrum in a red band in the pillar; then the mushroom cloud was expanding in the sky and the air-blast and shockwaves of the explosion spread to my position. I covered Steve and myself with a solid shield to protect us.

We were waiting on the edge of the forest between Camp Lehigh and the nearest town. What? You thought I would let myself get swarmed by serum altered enhanced psychopaths, cloaked invisible agents and US army personnel just for the fun of it? No, I would leave that for Wolverine and the Thing, those two guys were the kind who wanted to tell a story about shit like that happening to them. To me the objective had always been to take Peggy back, steal stuff and destroy that base.

I turned to Cap who looked with an expression of fear etched on his face, he seemed transfixed. He was terrified, he looked at himself and his shield. “The super soldiers don’t matter anymore.”

At this moment Cap felt utterly lost, not recognizing the environment around him; I truly thought that he would have a panic attack right there. I walked up to him, slowly and put a hand on his biceps. *Oh, it is quite hard.* Shut up, hormones!

Sighing, I gave him the welcome to superhuman society speech. “Cap, the world has changed. Super soldiers, nukes? Those are nothing compared to the threats that will popup in the near future. Cap, you have just become part of a bigger universe, that you never knew existed. So… I advise you to acclimatize to this new era, you are going to see some truly crazy shit over the decades to come.”

Cap looked at me, different emotions passing over his face, they settled on acceptance. He would still have things that would make him wish he had died in that plane. He nodded. “I will take this... under advisement, Miss Jean.”

I smiled at him, opened a portal in the clearing. “Let’s go back to Peggy?”

He turned his face to the golden aperture. “Yes, let’s.”

We walked up to it and disappeared through the tear in space; I had shit to do, squiddies to kill, but first we needed Peggy, and she needed to be on her A-game. I knew what I had to do.

 

# # #

(Director Donald Pierce)

Cordoned area around Camp Lehigh area
1 Km from the crater
3 hours later
01:02 PM

A nuclear explosion without fallout on American soil; that was the kind of event that was now alarming everyone in Washington. They were all panicking like headless chickens as reality settled in; the United States was not prepared to deal with an attack by a terrorist group using an improvised nuclear device. The country should have been prepared, as the risk was real even if the probability was low, and doing so could have saved a great many lives.

Pierce walked up to the crater where Camp Lehigh should have been, the gravel cracked under his feet; the border of the crater was earth and stone, the air-blast of the explosion having blown away or destroyed the vegetation. The Director looked at the pit, it was a kilometer in diameter and four hundred meters deep. There was nothing left of the base, the destruction was thorough. The experiments and research that Hydra had done here had been to develop enhanced personnel and weapons, important for their eventual takeover. Hydra hadn’t needed this debacle, the scrutiny alone was slowing plans that Pierce and his allies had enacted since they removed Peggy Carter.

He walked back toward the cordon, not wishing to look inside the crater, the simple fact that there was no fallout at all told him that his foe was anything but normal. Peggy Carter being rescued meant only one thing, that Jean Grey thwarted him yet again, taking away any leverage that he had to force her hand.

The mere fact that subject Grey was able to destroy one of their facilities with such ease made her a danger to their grand vision: World domination. Pierce and his faction hoped to achieve it through terrorism and subversive acts. They wanted to create a new world order with themselves in charge with the anonymity of using the SHIELD brand name.

But what was the point of this plan if a meddlesome teenage girl could just appear out of nowhere with the ability to eavesdrop in the minds of everyone she came across and reveal what they were all about? To him, Jean Grey was an operational security nightmare. Now, the SHIELD division of Hydra had to live through infighting between splinter groups and different factions of the same organization and a young woman that had more power than she deserved and the will to see their end.

The proof of it was behind him, she was willing to ‘nuke’ them… he had received the message loud and clear, because the utter destruction of this base proved it; they had touched her reverse scale and now they would pay the price. She seemed rather put out that her mentor had been taken and her friends and their families attacked.

*I fear that there’s no way to settle this in a civilized manner.* Pierce thought as he stopped before the technicians and scientists charged with analyzing the damage and the cause of the crater.

“What do we have gentlemen?” Pierce asked jovially.

One of the scientists wearing a SHIELD skinsuit covered by a lab coat looked at him and, recognizing him, said “Director… Sir, what we are seeing here simply shouldn’t be possible.”

“How so?” Pierce straightened his glasses.

The man shook his head, he seemed reluctant to explain their discoveries. He looked at a female technician typing on her laptop’s keyboard. She shrugged and returned to work, leaving the honor of reporting their findings to her colleague. “Err… Sir, the device used wasn’t the normal kind, in fact I don’t think that anyone has the technology to control the radius and the ability to make a clean nuclear device. Our techs…” The man pointed a thumb behind him “have been roaming around the crater and the woods, the geiger counters have barely beeped; though... the readings we got of the local background radiation said it was stronger an hour ago and returned to normal before we arrived, something or some process happening when the bomb detonated made it so that it faded into the local background radiation.”

Pierce understood that they had nothing for him and that wouldn’t do at all.

“I’m sorry to say that the technology exists ladies and gentlemen, look behind me…” Pierce turned and pointed a finger at the crater. “And we don’t have it.” This was the important point of this conversation.

“I can’t go back to Washington empty handed and tell the old boys that someone has used some new kind of nuke on one of our bases and that we don’t have answers. We must also find a way to spin this FUBAR situation so that the public doesn’t panic; I don’t know what you’ll write in your report but it better say that it was an experiment of ours gone wrong through an act of god.”

One of the technicians behind him asked, “Are you asking us to lie?”

Pierce chuckled and gave the technician an amused stare. “Lie? No. Sooner or later we will find the ones who did it and we will acquire the technology.” Pierce gave them a predatory smile; the technicians and scientists stood straighter, knowing that if that happens they would be the first ones to dissect the technology and then test it later. “But for now, we cannot panic those old fogeys in congress. Do you understand?”

The scientist he spoke to first said, “Sir, we do.”

Pierce nodded. He liked to give such speeches to the troops and motivate them. “What more can you tell me about this device?”

“It definitely uses Helium-3 as a source for nuclear fusion…” The man before him explained.

As he continued the scientist told Pierce that Helium-3 (He3) was a gas that had the potential to be used as a fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants. There was very little Helium-3 available on Earth, that there was an abundance of it on the moon and Jupiter, the gas giant. The cost of making a bomb using such a rare element was prohibitive and unconscionable.

*So where did she find Helium-3 to…* Pierce frowned and remembered that NASA had been reporting about anomalies in orbit and around Mars and Jupiter. *Am I fishing too far? But the infiltration of Camp Lehigh speaks of resources comparable to SHIELD, money, scientists, vehicles and personnel. Where did she obtain all that?*

Suddenly, Pierce felt that he had been underestimating Jean Grey all along. He took his glasses from his nose and looked up into the afternoon sky. “I think I need to take steps to not be swept away by the oncoming storm.” He took his phone from his pocket and dialed a number.

“Darling? Yes, I am sorry for cancelling, but I have something important to tell you… I know you wanted us to go on that trip to Europe…”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Egypt base
02:05 PM

Cap, Gwen, Phil, Fury, and I were in the lab. Fury was looking all around him like a kid at the candy store, Peggy was on the cushioned lab table and Gwen was scanning her to see if there was anything wrong with her as she still hadn’t woken up. She was wearing a grey hospital gown that I found in the locker lovingly named ‘wardrobe for lab rat’ -Fuck you Sinister- Gwen had also covered her in electrodes.

The computer did a reading on her vitals that were good from what I could read on the screen, however, Gwen’s sad face told me everything I needed to know. Another thing to put on Pierce’s head.

I was prevented from entering madness and destroying a moon in the solar system to calm myself by the next question asked by Steve. “Why isn’t she waking up?”

Turning to him, I noticed how Steve was holding onto Peggy’s hand, I heard a crack in his voice that had me worried. It was Gwen who answered the question first. “Her brain was more damaged than you thought, Jeanie.”

*Damn it, she could have said it with more tact!* I glared at her and she averted her gaze guiltily.

“Shit!” Fury shouted what everyone was thinking.

Okay, I spread a feeling of peace to calm down everyone around me. I put my hands on each of my temples, I had to think about this; this wasn’t good, I couldn’t lose her. Peggy was important, to me, there was no way I was going to leave her in that state.

“What… what can we do?” Phil asked, voice neutral but with red-rimmed eyes.

That floored me, uncle Phil was emotional. I couldn’t and shouldn’t let him feel what I was sensing from him. He was preparing himself to mourn. I stood straighter and walked up to the lab table and put myself at Steve’s side. “Well, I see I have to speed up my time table.”

I had thought that Peggy would be awake and that I would have her permission to use Phoenix rebirth on her and enhance her body. It seems Marvel was conspiring against me, trying to take her from me. I wouldn’t let it, I swear by Stan Lee.

I poked Steve’s face with a finger and focused on him; I was looking at how the serum had amplified everything in him, it was damn scary. It was as if his body was forcefully made to evolve over millions of years in one go. I didn’t mind that everyone thought me strange as I was proceeding with my analysis.

“What are you going to do, Miss Jean?” Steve looked at me as if I had become mad and almost stepped back, but my TK kept him firmly in that spot.

His body was complex and a beautiful machine at work. He had everything enhanced, life force, intelligence, endurance and stamina, dexterity, agility… “I am looking at you with one of my powers, Cap.” I said aloud as I finished the scan with my life-sight.

He chuckled nervously, he had seen what I was able to do and didn’t want any of those lethal abilities I possessed turned against him. “What for?” He asked.

I let go of Steve’s face, having filed away the template of his body for my project, I was one hundred percent sure that I could recreate the super soldier serum, but I didn’t need it. I didn’t like the fact that it amplified the mental traits of the user. “I want to copy the enhancements you have and tweak them a bit to remake Peggy’s body. You see, I am one hundred percent certain that I can heal her thoroughly and even give her back her youth, but making her a base human again isn’t good enough for me, what we need is to make Peggy like you.”

I felt more than saw Fury walk aggressively to me, he turned me and made me face him. “Grey, we didn’t give you leave to experiment on our direct superior.”

Glaring at him I said, “Fuck- beat it Fury. The term experiment suggests that Peggy might not survive; I didn’t nuke an american base for nothing… I want aunt Peggy back.”

He spluttered at my revelation, and was about to say something when Phil caught him and took him aside. They spoke for a while, whispering about something, I could hear them but I decided for my sanity that I wouldn’t eavesdrop. As for Steve, he looked at me with undiluted hope, it was embarrassing. Five minutes later, uncle Phil and Fury came back and said that I should try.

Fury glared at me as if I was public enemy number one. I ignored him, his attitude almost made me throw him out of those proceedings. I sighed and clapped for everyone's attention. “Gentlemen and Gwen, the solution is clear. I have the power, I can remake Peggy, faster, better, stronger, smarter, even more powerful than ever before.” I smiled as I showed them the Phoenix flame dancing in my hands.

Then I decided that a demonstration of my previous work was needed. “Gwen, show them the thing.”

The blonde flinched, not liking being put upon and stared at everyone’s gaze on her. She obviously knew what I was speaking about as I manifested a one ton block of metal that slammed onto the ground. “Err… are you sure Jeanie?”

I nodded. “Yeah do it.”

Gwen’s shoulders sagged, she let go of her scanner, placed it on the lab table and strode toward the square block. She dug her fingers into the block as if it was putty and lifted it over her head, then slowly levitated off the ground. With little effort, Gwen then tore the condensed block of metal; when I had changed her, she wasn’t able to do the same thing, but like I thought she had become even stronger.

Fury looked mesmerized by what Gwen could do, looking from me to my best friend. The blonde let go of the remainder of the metal block, letting it slam onto the ground. Then I turned to the men and said sweetly, “As you can see, Gwen has powers. She wasn’t born like this, but I gave them to her for her protection. There’s no need to worry about me fucking this up, Peggy will be fine.”

“You… since when do you have a Kryptonian on your team, Jean?” Phil stared at Gwen with the zeal of a fanboy.

That’s what he got from that? Sometimes Phil was too nerdy. “Like I told Cap earlier, the world is bigger than you think. And no, Gweny is not an alien... uncle Phil.”

“Miss Jean?” Steve’s voice interrupted me. His armor clanged with his shield on his back as he turned to me.

“Cap?”

I felt trust blossom inside him, he was worse than Peter, the pillar of hope that rose almost blinded me. It felt warm and pleasant as he continued to speak. “Do it, everyone here wants Peggy back. But what’s more you are trying to give her back the time she lost with… I-” He was having a hard time formulating what he was thinking, how strange. He was known to give impromptu speeches.

“I understand what you are trying to say. Give me an hour.” I interrupted him, assuring him that I would give him back his love.

“Thank you.”

After this I shooed everyone out. When everyone left the medical room, I wasn’t surprised to sense that the paranoid feelings in Fury’s heart redoubled; he wasn’t a friend anymore, so I read his mind. What I saw disturbed me, he was already seeing me at the head of an army of powered individuals and taking on the world. Well… he wasn’t too far off my goals… of having a private army to protect my people was certainly in the works.

I shrugged, cracked my knuckles and got to work.

The Phoenix rebirth was entirely dependent upon my will. The process could encompass any and all characteristics of the subject (body, mind, soul, abilities, nature), and may range from slight improvements to complete rebirth. I not only wanted Peggy healthy, but young again, at her peak; basically the same age as Elektra sensei. But I didn’t want to make her just a vanilla human, she needed to be able to keep up with Steve or anyone else in my entourage. This was my apology to her for not rescuing her earlier.

Mentally I looked at Steve’s stats and amplified them further, when I was done, Peggy’s physical and mental abilities would be glaringly, obviously, and supernaturally superior over any kind of enhanced artificial human. I basically upgraded and streamlined Steve’s supersoldier abilities ten times over. It would make Peggy’s capabilities far beyond natural levels, making her immensely stronger, faster, durable and smarter than regular humans.

“She’s going to be like an amazon from the old DC comics.” I said as I kept my image and the changes that I want to make to Peggy in mind.

SKREEEE!!! I let the Phoenix Force fill my being and looked at the body before me; Peggy was aware of everything happening to her, she was just stuck in her body, unable to move, her soul was vacillating and almost about to be snuffed out.

“NEVER.” My flames engulfed her, taking on the form of an egg. I felt it when I formed the cocoon of fire around her, but the change was already taking her, her body disappeared and turned into a collection of loose particles. Her soul was being safeguarded and reinforced by another part of me holding Peggy tight. And this was how I was going to completely remake her. I was now changing the conceptual nature of her body, improving its capabilities to amplify what a super soldier could already do. 

It wasn’t simple, but it took roughly an hour to do what would have taken Sinister at least a year. When I was done, I placed Peggy’s soul into her spiritual core and it grafted perfectly onto her newly formed physical shell. Peggy was still asleep, but I felt that she wanted to wake up, she tensed; she remembered what had happened to her and was about to panic.

I soothed her spirit with a thread of empathy and infused focus and peace into her; that everything was alright. Her body went slack. I sighed in relief, I didn’t want to be the first person she saw. It was Steve’s moment. I tilted my head and thought about a certain Parker matriarch. *I will give her a tune up tonight too.*

 

# # #

(Margaret Elizabeth "Peggy" Carter )

 

Date ????
Place????

She opened her eyes to a wall of orange and yellow fire, she panicked and punched it, realizing that it didn’t hurt, she wasn’t burning. Peggy was left panting as the fire dissipated, turning white and simply ceasing to be. She was in a cave… no some sort of bunker and there were countless machines around her, medical ones she guessed.

There was a door at the end of the room, it was white with a little window at its center, surely to permit the staff to see if the room was occupied. Then Peggy realized that she was naked as she felt a breeze on her skin, she looked at her arms and frowned. Those weren’t her arms, her skin was too tight, her breasts were not sagging anymore. “Bloody hell.”

Peggy flinched, putting a hand on her mouth as she heard herself speak, this was her voice; she didn’t sound like an old woman anymore. Was she dreaming? That wall of fire she saw when she woke up, was it a sign that she was in hell? She deserved it, she had allowed a big evil to survive. Closing her eyes, she accepted her fate.

The brunette felt herself being flicked on the forehead. <Don’t be silly. You are a good person, you would never go to hell, Peggy. Even if you went there I would still pick you up.>

Peggy jumped from the cushioned medical table and landed gracefully on her feet. There was a strange sense of power and boundless energy she felt but she casually dismissed these sensations as she had heard the familiar voice of her protégé. “Jean? Girl, is that you?”

A feeling went through her that could only be described as ‘Duh’ and she heard a chuckle. <I rescued you, and gave you back some time.>

Peggy’s eyes widened in surprise. “How? You-”

<I brought back someone you need, too.> Jean interrupted her train of thought.

Motes of light appeared and assembled to form grey pajamas on her body, it was strangely snug on her and form fitting. The door opened and someone she had lost hope to ever see again passed through it. Her vision became blurry as the man in iconic blue, white and red armor strode to her and took off his streamlined helmet, completely different from the one of before.

Peggy felt as if she was in a dream, she pinched herself and winced in pain. The blonde haired and blue eyed man that she kept seeing in her dreams took one of her hands in his and looked into her eyes. Peggy sniffled.

“Steve…” There were so many emotions in just the one name.

“Peggy.” Steve said with wonder. Looking her up and down, from head to toe, her hair was brunette again and her eyes sparkled with life and… sadness. The British woman caught Steve’s harness at a speed faster than a cobra striking and her other hand slammed on the man’s right cheek. SLAP. He would have been propelled back to the door if Peggy hadn’t held onto him.

Peggy was momentarily surprised by her strength and speed; she shook her head, it wasn’t the time. She glared at Steve who held onto his cheek and saw the blood on his glove showing that he had a split lip. “You’re late.”

Steve had the decency to show guilt, he closed his eyes and exhaled a long drawn sigh. “I… deserved that.”

Peggy took pity on him as she saw that he meant it, she seized his other harness and pulled him toward her. “Shut up and kiss me, you stupid idiot.”

He obeyed and the two lost all sense of time and their surroundings as their miraculous reunion continued well into the night.

 

# # #

 

December 24th, 1996
Lab Complex
Medical room
03:45 AM

Peggy opened her eyes, feeling sore in places she would never have thought would be sore again. But she felt them slowly being soothed, and frowned at the strange sensation. She was in bed with Steve. They had done all sorts of lewd things on the medical bed and she didn’t feel guilty at all. Why should she? It had been years since she had felt like a woman. She appreciated the way Steve held onto her tightly, as if afraid that she would disappear; it made her smile, because she felt the same way.

Peggy could smell sweat and sex, they had been going at it until just two hours ago and Steve had been rather… enthusiastic even though it was his first time. He had quickly gotten the hang of how to please her, bringing her to climax with clinical efficiency. *He needs more practice and I am eager to let him have it.*

But the intelligence agent in Peggy told her that she shouldn’t indulge too much and should explore her new environment. However, the cage of muscles she was enveloped in didn’t allow her to move; Peggy tried to pry herself from Steve’s arms but they tightened around her.

“Pegs, you are awake?” Steve’s muffled voice reached her ear.

She felt his hot breath on her cheek and smiled contentedly. “Yes, hun.” Peggy held onto him and Steve slightly loosened his hold on her.

“You had barely…” Steve frowned as he thought, then his face cleared. “Two hours of sleep.”

Peggy thought that it was longer than that, she felt like she had had at least eight hours of sleep. “Strange, I feel refreshed, I think I don’t need much sleep any more.”

Steve suddenly looked worried and freed Peggy from his embrace and sat upright, carefully hiding his privates with the bedsheet. “Jean told us that she would change you when she was done healing you, I guess she really meant it.”

Peggy looked up, a sense of dread welling up in her. “Changed how?”

Steve began slowly fondling Peggy’s hair she regaled in the sensation until her man spoke. “I don’t really understand what she did, but she asked me permission to look at my body.” Steve didn’t realize that he should have phrased his sentence differently.

Peggy froze, then caught Steve’s hand and lifted her head to look him in the eyes. “How close did she look?”

With an eyebrow cocked and a quirk of his lips Steve said, “Is that jealousy I hear in your voice?”

Harrumphing, at that presumption, Peggy sat upright then pouted at Steve. “She’s barely seventeen, and you aren’t into redheads.”

Peggy remembered that Irish bimbo trying to get into Steve’s pants fifty one years ago; she wasn’t above using her position to try to sideline her to get to Steve. *God, how can I remember something from that long ago so perfectly?*

Steve put a hand around her waist, looking briefly at her chest then back at her face. Enough to remind Peggy that Steve was a man but still a gentle one.

“Never was…” Steve looked at her, as if she was the only woman that mattered to him.

To Peggy this was flattering and bolstering her ego in a way she had never felt before. She was running on a high that it was difficult for her to let go, but she calmed down, she forced herself to. “So what did she do to me?” Peggy stayed on subject.

The smile on Steve’s lips disappeared, replaced by an anguished expression. He held onto Peggy tightly. “Pegs… it was bad; they had operated on you, put some poison capsules inside you with something called a miniaturized GPS tracking device. They also had injected you with-”

“A memory erasure serum, made by Howard.” Peggy continued his sentence, still reliving that moment when she had felt more powerless than ever before in her life.

Her fist closed, making cracking noises. *I won’t let it happen again.*

Steve nodded. “You wouldn’t wake up and Jean said that you were dying, that your soul was fading…”

Peggy whipped her head toward him, looking at him in surprise. “My soul?” She had never believed in such drivel, but Jean being able to see her soul? That girl had powers that even she couldn’t fathom, always using some random ability to serve her purpose. Every time Peggy interacted with Jean Grey or a mutant, they challenged her worldview.

They stayed silent for a while, Peggy wondering what Jean had shown to Steve to make the super soldier so introspective. She didn’t need to wait for long as Steve spoke. “Peggy, the things she’s able to do… I have a hard time believing that Jean Grey is human.”

The brunette looked at him with a glare. “She’s just a girl, Steve. I took her under my protection, powers or no, I will never see her differently.”

Peggy had failed Jean once, but a second time? That was never going to happen.

“She could take on an army.” Steve remarked.

He looked really sure of that, but Peggy knew better; the girl would never do anything to jeopardize her family. Taking down armies would put her on the map and wanted everywhere, just like Steve was. Peggy poked a finger at his chest. “You’ve done that too, Steve.”

The blond haired man smiled. “You can also do that now, Pegs.”

And there was the crux of the conversation, Jean had changed her, made her even stronger than Steve if her experience from last night was any indication. She had outlasted him in their... copulation and even bruised him; Peggy may have been too passionate in the moment. “I don't feel like it… it’s weird now and I have to reassess everything that I can do. A lot of things are amplified now and my senses are out of this world, but there seems to be some built-in natural restrictions allowing me to dial down everything.” Peggy looked at her hands, closing and opening them.

Steve stared at her with an evaluating gaze. “Jean does good work, maybe as good as Erskine.”

That struck Peggy, Jean wasn’t a scientist… not yet at least even though her knowledge and classes at school showed that she was inclined to become one. But for her to be able to be compared with the creator of the super soldier serum? “Jean is still in High school she would never-”

Steve raised a hand, making Peggy stop and told her bluntly, “Peggy, she made a nuclear bomb and used it.”

Peggy’s heart skipped, then she froze and looked at Steve. “You are kidding, right?”

Steve shook his head, his face taking on the haunted look of a man who had seen something that had shaken him. “No…”

Not being able to comprehend what she was hearing for a long time, Peggy prompted an explanation from Steve who told her everything he had done with Jean Grey. When he was finished, time seemed to slow down for Peggy who after swiftly making a decision, pushed any of her feelings out of the way.

Peggy became the SHIELD director she still was and said to Steve. “I think I need to go speak with my wayward charge.” She quickly exited the bed, determination in every movement she made.

 

# # #

 

3 hours later
Dormitories
Common Room

Jean seemed to have known that she was in trouble as she was not in her lab or in her apartment. It was as she exited the tunnel leading to the dormitories section and into the common room that Peggy spotted her protégé. But she became distracted as her nose was attracted to the smell of bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, toast and... was that coffee? How could those smells be so distinctive? Steve caught Peggy’s arm and pulled her to a table, the furniture was spartan and without ornament. The room had a recent paint job in blue, and was covered by posters with quotes as well as some large portraits.

All this told Peggy that the work on this room was new, that it wasn’t like that before. There was a gigantic screen installed on the wall, facing some kind of booth for privacy, it looked familiar, like something you’d see in a American diner from the fifties. Peggy sniffed, they smelled new and recently installed from the marks she could see on the ground.

Seeking out Jean in the room, Peggy finally found her; there was a booth with four redheads, and a blond, they all looked as if they were from the same family; it wasn’t a surprise for Peggy to recognize Jean and her elder sisters, there was a younger Jean in the crowd and that floored the agent. *Since when does Jean have a little sister?*

Jean was fussing over the little one as if she was a baby, she turned her head and finally noticed her. Peggy was almost blinded by the bright smile thrown her way by her charge. “I am here, Peggy! Come please!”

Peggy strode toward the booth, her tight white sundress limiting her movements; this was one of the things she was angry about. Jean had given her something so... revealing. The bright and innocent smile of the teenager didn’t deceive her in the least, Peggy knew that Jean had done it deliberately; Steve had to get a quickie after he had seen her in it; then she had to convince him that such a dress was normal and that he wouldn’t have to punch anyone for looking at her the wrong way.

Narrowing her eyes, Peggy stomped as she shouted, “Jean! We have to talk, young lady!”

Everyone present stared between Peggy and Jean; the elder Grey sisters watched the drama unfold with rapt attention and smiles on their faces. Voice low and a nervous chuckle Jean replied, “Aww, don’t be like that Peggy.”

In a flash of blue light, Jean disappeared from the table she sat at and was suddenly before Peggy and hugged her fiercely. “I did it for you.” The teenage girl said in her ear.

Peggy’s arms locked around the redhead’s body, in a sense she understood what Jean felt. Only her family and friends mattered to her; still, this was a dangerous path to take, viewing those around her as either allies or enemies. Today’s friend could be tomorrow's enemy and the reverse was also true. It's important to respect even those you disagree with at the moment because you never know who might be helpful down the line. “Jean…”

Jean stepped back but still held onto Peggy and told her with eyes glowing. “I’d do it again. No one messes with my loved ones.”

Peggy blinked and the golden glowing eyes disappeared, a smile blossomed on Jean’s face. The agent sighed and patted Jean’s cheek. She resolved herself that Jean would be a work in progress and that she wasn’t a psychopath at least, it would have been bad for the world. “At least, I know you care.”

Jean laughed. “Of course I do! You are like my fav grandma…” She checked out Peggy’s body covered by the too tight sundress. “...well, you don’t look like one anymore.” Jean snickered and let go of her.

Peggy reddened, she couldn’t believe that a girl barely out of her nappy was checking her out. “You cheeky brat, don’t think I won’t-”

Someone interrupted her, it was the young blonde woman at the other end of the table who stood up and walked up to her. Like Jean she wore a blue puff sleeve summer dress, but hers had floral prints.  “Peggy, I am so glad you’re okay.”

Her voice was familiar, her posture as well; she looked like Jean but with blonde hair and blue eyes. “Who…?”

The blonde’s eyes widened, there was a bit of sadness in them as well. “You don’t recognize me? It’s me, Elaine!”

Peggy stepped back and stared in more detail at the gorgeous blonde, she was barely twenty five and had a voluptuous body; an hourglass figure, and slightly toned muscles. Yes, now she was seeing the resemblance, she looked like what Elaine might have looked like in her youth. But Peggy refused to see it. “No… you are too young.”

The snickering of the redhead at her side disturbed Peggy, Jean went to hug the young blonde woman and kissed her cheek. As she turned to Peggy she said, “Did you think I would make you young again and leave my parents in the lurch?”

*No, no you wouldn’t.* Peggy thought as she looked between Elaine and her daughter. “I see.” Then Peggy turned her head to the girls at the table behind them and looked at the Jean clone in particular, she didn’t know how right she was with her guess.

“Who is that?” Peggy lifted her chin toward Madelyn.

Jean looked at the preteen looking girl and said with warmness, “This is Madelyn, my little sister.”

Peggy narrowed her eyes at the little girl who held onto Sarah Grey as she felt shy. “You don’t have a little sister, Jean.” The agent said with certainty.

Jean placed herself between Madelyn and Peggy. “Sinister cloned me, technically I am her mother. But…”

Madelyn interrupted Jean. “Mother Elektra told me that calling Big sis Jean, mother is dangerous. So, she’s my sister now.”

Peggy looked at how the girl held herself, the childish lilt of her voice and noticed how young Madelyn seemed, the syrup on her face as she had been eating pancakes. Everything screamed toddler to her, there was no way she was that young with the body of a preteen, right? The agent didn’t know what to think, she needed more information to evaluate the situation. “I think we all need to discuss this after breakfast, is that okay with you, Elaine?”

Elaine nodded and returned to the table, sat and then looked at Peggy, signalling her to take a chair and join them. “John is going to be here soon and he needs to be here for the retelling anyway. You and your boyfriend can join us?”

Everyone looked at Steve who had stayed rather silent. He smiled, then nodded at Peggy. Two chairs floated down and were added to the booth, clearly something Jean would do. But Peggy was surprised to see that it was Sarah Grey doing the moving with her mind by adding plates and loading food onto them for Steve and Peggy.

*Yes, I have a lot of things to catch up on.* Peggy realized.

 

# # #

(Phil Coulson)

 

Communication room
10:12 AM

He couldn’t believe he was seeing her awake, she was younger, stronger and her mind was sharper. Peggy Carter was watching Fury’s presentation having confirmed her status and given the codes and passphrase signalling that it was really her. He was now briefing her about what had happened and now she looked quite shocked by what she was hearing.

Captain Rogers was at the side of the room, observing from afar, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, his face had become steadily darker and he looked disappointed; Phil couldn’t even look him in the eyes, somehow thinking that the people had failed the man.

Phil’s gaze settled back on Peggy who sat on a chair behind the central desk in the room. The holographic screen scrolling down with different folders and files liberated from the hard drives from Camp Lehigh.

“Have you confirmed it?” Peggy asked once Fury was done reporting.

Fury put himself at attention, “Yes, Ma’am. Jean Grey detonated a fusion bomb on a military base, project Rebirth had never ceased and had become a haven for the more reclusive and unethical scientists Hydra possess. Thanks to the hard drives retrieved by Captain Rogers and Jean Grey we know what they were all about.”

The black man manipulated the mouse and on the holo-screen some videos began to play, some showing horrible human experimentation and others showing weapons testing. “Illegal experiments on humans, designer drugs and other kinds of serums to enhance the body, weapons testing… there’s a lot more.”

Peggy stared at the screen with disgust, her hands trembled as rage appeared visibly on her face. She watched as each of the video clips ended. The SHIELD director was now seeing how dangerous Hydra had become, they weren’t just entrenched in their government, they led it and it took them fifty one years; a great number of countries were also almost taken over.

*They didn’t lose, losing the war was barely a setback for them at some point as they used the United States’ goodwill as a springboard to spread their ideology.*

The desk fractured where Peggy’s elbows were. “And it was in New Jersey, in my sphere of influence.”

The silence was deafening, none of the men present tried to console her or sugarcoat it to her. Steve looked down at Peggy, a troubled expression passing on her face.

Fury looked at Phil, then at the cap. Each of the men were in their own thoughts, but he took his courage in hand and chose to say, “Yes, ma’am.”

A fierce glare was directed at Fury who put himself even more at attention. “What is being done to unveil this situation to people we trust?”

“Ma'am we can't go to the usual contacts for this. We have no means to know who is Hydra or SHIELD…”

Fury was wrong, Jean was there… but he didn’t want to be indebted to her. *Too bad that I already took the necessary steps to secure Jean’s help. She can see who is guilty or innocent.* 

Peggy threaded her fingers together and put them under her chin. “Then… I declare that we are going dark and will start Operation Clean Sweep.” Peggy looked at Phil and Fury with a fierce smile. “We will ask forgiveness later, but we are going to need to take out the Hydra High Command in our country and beyond. I took steps to secure help… and Jean Grey has promised to support us; however, it's not going to be free.”

Fury let go of his military posture in shock. “What?” The man had hoped that this operation would be only with his people and that the girl would only lend them her resources.

Phil chuckled and took a twenty dollar bill from his pocket and went to give it to the Cap who received it with a smug smile. “I told you he wouldn’t like it.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Bayville
Darkholm Mansion
08:15 AM (US Local time)

I appeared before a driveway leading to an American colonial style three story house with a blue tiled roof and a gorgeous garden of flowers surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. I located Mystique there in Bayville; her current cover was that of a high school principal, she lived there with someone, I could detect a female mind inside beside Raven’s.

Walking to the house’s entrance, I knocked on the glossy blue wooden door and pushed the bell’s button and waited. I was seeking out Raven’s help for a good reason. It was time to rally the troops and fight for what was right. Fury had reluctantly given me a list of people to go pick up, most of them would be tough extractions in what I now considered enemy territory. The man was ordered to play nice with me and stay professional, so I had to meet him halfway too. So, now I treated him with all the respect I would give a casual acquaintance. I hoped he didn’t mistake my fake smiles and professional body language as me deferring to him. I’d totally punch him in the throat if I knew I wouldn’t lose respect in the eyes of Steve, Phil and Peggy.

After a bout of meditation I remembered details from his biography in the Marvel Database, Fury, the one who wasn’t the Disney cookie cutter version was a highly paranoid individual who often made enemies of people who would otherwise be allies as in the long term he shafted them or took advantage of them for some conspiracy or other scheme. This Fury wasn’t like that yet, but I saw the signs of his descent into paranoia; my instincts told me to watch my back as long as he was alive.

With Fury taking his own people and allies on the op, why shouldn’t I do the same? If there was someone who was good at infiltration it was a certain shapeshifter, the first metahuman I had come to like more than Logan. And I was being careful, I didn’t want him to order any of his people to stab me in the back; although I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. This was why I found myself before Raven’s door, I could trust her at least more than Fury.

Looking at my foot, checked if I was presentable; I was wearing my best attire of the day, a tight black long sleeved deep V neck shirt, matching black tight leather mini skirt and knee high boots.

*I look good.* I didn’t opt for a jacket as the weather had no effect on me.

Sensing someone approaching and opening the door, a taller and lithe teenaged girl with brunette hair with a white lock of hair and pale green eyes appeared. She wore a wooly green sweater, black jeans and comfy bunny slippers. She looked annoyed and I felt that she was rather unwilling to cooperate from the get go. “Who are ya?”

I instantly knew who she was and it was all I could do to not fangirl over her. With an engaging smile I said, “Good morning, I am Jean Grey and I’ve come to see Miss Darkholm.” I didn’t hold my hand out to her, I knew better.

She narrowed her eyes at me. “Ya a student or somethin’?” Looking me up and down, her gaze settled for half a second on my cleavage, my hair and eyes.

I nodded. “Oh, yes she taught me a lot of things.”

“Fine, ya can enter.” She said, and I found her southern belle accent really attractive.

I entered Mystique’s domain, waited for Rogue -because yes it was Rogue!- to close the door, she also gave me disposable slippers made of some kind of paper material to put over my boots. I watched her going deeper inside the house, my gaze firmly fixed on her ass. *The comics were accurate.*

She stopped in the short corridor leading to a massive living room. Everything was either blue, white or gold, Raven sure had a good theme there. Rogue turned to me, her eyes stormy and a hand on her hips. “Will ya follow instead of watchin’ ma ass?”

Why was she so cute even… calm down me, you have Cindy remember? I sighed, “Of course, I couldn’t but think how beautiful you were, you have a nice ass.” I answered truthfully.

She blushed prettily, caught herself then glared back at me. “Did ya come tah hit on me?”

I chuckled and straightened a lock of hair falling on my face. “I really want to say yes. Sadly, it would be a lie if I said it, and if there’s something I am not, it’s a liar. I’ve really come to look for Miss Darkholm.”

She looked me up and down, a faint smile on her lips. “Sure, tell yerself that sugah.”

I shrugged, it didn’t matter if she didn’t believe me. She intentionally rolled her hips as she walked up to the next room and shouted: “Mom, there’s some redheaded girl here for you!!”

*Wow, she has a great set of lungs.* I thought.

There was silence for five seconds before a familiar voice shouted from the first floor, “I’m coming!!”

Crossing my arms under my chest, I looked at Rogue, then at the furniture and decoration. This house felt lived in, not a decoy house that an operative would use to have some cover story. *So, Raven lives here for real.*

Rogue observed me, and finally acted like a host. “Do ya want somethin’ to eat, or tea?”

Uncrossing my arms I nodded. “Tea please, though I didn’t come empty handed either, here.” Two stacked boxes of German Hazelnut cookies appeared in my hands in a flash of blue light.

“Aaah!” Rogue stepped back and fell, shocked by my display of power.

Frowning, I looked at her surprised face, made the box float around me and said, “Hmm, there’s nothing to fear you know?”

Wasn’t she used to displays of metahuman abilities? I found it weird that she reacted this way. I held my hand to her, with the intention of helping her back on her feet. 

However, Rogue skittishly back paddled across the floor with fear in her eyes. “Stay back!”

Stomping feet were heard as they ran down the stairs leading upstairs. I wasn’t surprised to see Raven in a warm and long woolen white dress. She had glasses and her blue skin and golden eyes were clearly visible; Raven’s gaze instantly zeroed in on the fallen girl. “Anna!”

The shapeshifter placed herself between me and her daughter, wiping a fast kick to my face at the same time; I held a finger reinforced with chi and stopped her from kicking me in the neck. “Hi, Raven?”

Raven slightly let her stance go and looked at me with wide eyes. “Jean?!” The shapeshifter let her leg fall and straightened herself.

I lifted my head and grinned tauntingly. “In the flesh.”

Raven’s skin shifted back to beige instead of blue, she walked up to me. “I thought…” Then she stopped and stepped back as she realized something. “no wait... Sinister had you, how can I be sure that you are who you look like or haven’t been brainwashed?”

She’s the first one to actually ask the question and be on her guard, Raven was healthily paranoid. I tilted my head and sent a stream of memories into her mind, I showed her how I killed Sinister and all his clones. “That’s a good question.” I said and showed a wrathful expression on my face. “I killed the fucker with these hands. Not before he could clone me though.”

I felt Rogue… no, Anna’s fear spiked as she listened to me. Then, I felt fear coming from Raven, it seemed that showing her how I could raze the entire planet on a whim didn’t do her peace of mind any good.

Raven slowly approached me, hesitantly put a hand on my face and inspected me. I could sense her discomfort and wariness slowly lower as she looked into my eyes. She gave me a bright smile with all teeth that reached her sparkling gold eyes. “Where have you been? Your parents were kidnapped by SHIELD, I heard?”

My smile quickly melted, leaving place to my lips thinning. “No, I took them to safety; someplace secret for now.”

Raven pushed her glasses up her nose after observing me for a long moment. “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to ask you for help.” I said, and made the cookie boxes float toward her and made her catch them. She looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Can we discuss this over tea and these cookies I brought?” I bribed her with sweets, one of her known weaknesses.

She sniffed the box and her face lit up with eagerness, then looked at me who was smiling with a smug smile.

Raven harrumphed, then she nodded. “Very well Jean, follow me.”

I looked at Anna who averted her gaze from mine, it made me somehow sad. Raven looked between us two and sighed. “Anna, she doesn’t want to hurt you.”

If I wanted to, all I would need was to nuke the house, but I didn’t say it out loud. My head turned to Raven who looked embarrassed by the reaction of her daughter, there must be a story there. “Raven, you should have told me you had a daughter my age, she is so pretty.”

The shapeshifter said nothing and left to prepare tea. She was still wary of me and wanted to keep her secrets, like the fact that Anna was her biological daughter. This was completely different from what I knew from canon Rogue and Mystique. *Marvel, what in the name of Stan Lee are you doing?* Another proof that I couldn’t rely on my canon knowledge.

With a weary smile I focused on Anna and held my hand to her. “Here let me help you, darling.”

Fear etched on her delicate and graceful face, she didn’t want to touch me because her metahuman ability had awakened three years ago. I didn’t even have to use my telepathy on her, her mind was so terrified and undisciplined that it was as if she was her own Imax theater and let me see her memories and projected her thoughts by shouting them at me.

“I c-can’t touch you.” Anna backed away a little more and her back hit the sofa.

“Oh dear, I assure you that nothing will happen if you do, take my hand.” I insisted.

The fear she felt was replaced by resolve, she looked at me and took my hand, “Your funeral…”

Our skin touched and her powers automatically tried to absorb my vitality, my memories and essence;  they allowed her to copy abilities. It seemed that she wasn’t limited to only those, I would have to study her more in depth but for now it was easy to block her from absorbing anything from me. I hefted her up, she widened her eyes as she felt nothing rushing from me to her.

“See.” I gave her my most handsome smile.

She still held onto my hand, looked from it to my face and shouted in complete awe. “How are you…?!” I let go of her, but she grabbed my hand with something akin to desperation and said, “Wait…”

But it wasn’t meant to be as Raven appeared through the door leading to the kitchen and asked, “Is something the matter?”

I said nothing as I took my hand back from Anna; Raven felt quite surprised that I could touch her but didn’t show it outwardly. She had a lot of self control. “Jean, maybe we should take this in the tea room?”

“Sure.” I said to Raven after waving my hand at the girl. “It was nice to meet you Anna.” I followed her mother to the tea room where we would without a doubt be able to talk business. 

 

# # #

(Anna-Marie Darkholm)

Since her X-gene had awakened, Anna-Marie had been confined to a life devoid of warmth and genuine human interactions, she had resolved that she would become an old spinster with cats or dogs to care for. Slowly she had fallen into depression and closed herself off from everyone, even her mothers who had been trying to get her to control her own powers and resume a normal life.

Three years, later there was no progress and she had given up; the world had become grey and cold to her in the meanwhile. She avoided going to school and her mother had decided to homeschool her citing a medical reason like having xeroderma pigmentosum, an extreme sensitivity to UV, but that her case was mild. The fact that she was already pasty white was attributed to that fact.

But once again reality threw her another curveball. Was it god who sent someone who could finally touch her? That girl, Jean, at first seemed scary and Anna had assumed that she was one of those dangerous people that her mother invited into their house from time to time for business.

But Jean was more than just dangerous, she was loveable and charismatic, the old saying: A smile's warmth comes from the fire within the heart, described her to a T. Her smile made her attractive, her confidence overwhelming, she held herself as if nothing in the room was a threat to her.

Anna-Marie admired that in the girl, she was everything she wanted to be, bold, kickass and induced respect. Just like she did with her mother who had become really wary of the redhead as if she was a dangerous animal to whom she shouldn’t bare her fangs so as to not be eaten and consumed.

As she stood in the living room and looked at the door leading to the tea room, Anna-Marie’s thoughts and entire way of life were being changed. Jean Grey could touch her and that was all that mattered to her at this point. *Was it because of her powers?* She asked herself.

She reimagined the warmth of Jean’s hand in hers and found herself feeling hungry for the same sensation again. Too often people underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which had the potential to turn a life around. Anna-Marie found herself in the sad position of having to reevaluate what she had been doing.

It was an hour later as she thought that God sure dealt her a rough hand, but that she had given up too early and had become stuck and unable to move forward in her life, becoming a petty and selfish girl. Just because she couldn’t touch people it didn’t mean that her life was over, she couldn’t just sit back and settle for mediocrity and apathy.

Maybe… just maybe what they had tried three years ago wasn’t for her, she had to stay open to any solution to her problem that she could live with. Like blessings, curses were not supposed to be permanent, she should make provision for her future. Jean Grey had just given her hope with a touch, Anna wanted to thank her, to be her friend to… she blushed as her mind went in intimate directions and shook her head to stop thinking like that.

Some minutes later, after her introspection; Anna, who had been waiting on the nearest sapphire colored sofa, saw Jean and her mother exit while smiling. Raven was… happy? Usually she looked stern and stoic with people who weren’t family, but now she was doing it with that girl. They discussed inane things until they saw Anna waiting for them.

Raven’s expression shifted from happiness to contrition, as she strode to Anna and took her hand, she said, “Anna, dear... I will unfortunately be absent for a little while…”

“Mom? But it’s going to be Christmas soon!” Anna raised her voice, not liking where this was going at all.

Jean cringed and looked between the two.“Oh, it’s bad that I am going to separate you… do you think we-”

Raven lifted her hand and narrowed her eyes at the redhead. “After I check this base of yours.”

Her mother was still wary of the girl, but she just smiled back at her, not miffed at the coldness of the shapeshifter. “Sure, shall we go find Irene, then?”

Raven’s skin slowly turned to blue, her black hair reddened. “That’s the deal.”

Why were they talking about her other ailing mother; she was hiding for a good reason, people wanted to find her for her seer gift, or should Anna call it a curse? “Mom, what’s happening here?”

“We are going to cure your other mom.” Raven said with faith lacing her words.

Widening her eyes Anna, stepped back in shock. “But, you told me that-” You tried everything. Anna thought, looking surprised at Raven who ignored her, turned her back and went upstairs.

This hurt, the way she acted, but she was right; this was more important than some party. If they could save Irene, Christmas didn’t matter one iota.

Interrupting her musing, the gorgeous redhead at her side took her hand and said, “Hey Anna, you should go pack a suitcase with at least a week of clothes. You are going to be in my base for quite a while.”

For a long moment she delighted in the sensation of this girl’s hand on her skin, then Anna registered what she had said. “What? Why?”

With a smile that melted her heart and a boop on her nose, the redhead said, “Chop chop, Anna.”

Anna blushed, not liking how she was reduced into being a hormonal teen before this girl, she wrenched her hand from Jean’s. “Fine.”

“Good girl.” Jean patted her head and Anna turned her back on her, walking toward the stairs and her bedroom, her heart beating like crazy.

 

# # #

(Clinton Barton)

 

Brooklyn
Bedford-Stuyvesant
Clint Barton’s apartment
1 hour later

This was it. He had deserted the academy and threw his lot in with Fury and his ragtag band of misfits. He was putting his future in danger, but what he had been told about SHIELD had sickened him. Hydra had infiltrated them, the notorious sect of no good scientist they had taken on after the second world war. This situation, if it wasn’t resolved, would take a turn for the worse.

He avoided the bay window of the apartment and leaned on the wall. Through a system of mirrors placed strategically in the main living room he could glance outside to the street. There was no one coming for him, it was a relief but a short lived one as he heard someone knock three times on the entrance door of his apartment.

Clint took his pistol from his shoulder holster, went to open the window in case he needed to take the fire escape and walked up to the door.

The knocking was strong enough to rattle the door this time. He said nothing and simply walked to the door and looked through the eyelet; a gorgeous redhead was on the other side, she looked annoyed and glared at the door. “I know you are here Mister Barton, open the door.”

Clint didn’t think, he ran, took his jacket and his bug out bag and left through the window only to see the same redhead on the metal stairs leading down to the street. Arms crossed, she was glaring as if she wanted to punch him.

“I do want to punch you.” The girl answered aloud to Clint’s thought. He frowned and dismissed the fact that she could read his thoughts.

“Who are you?” The agent in training asked, he still had his pistol in his hand and was ready to shoot her if she was an enemy.

She smiled at him, looked at his weapon and snorted dismissively. For a brief moment nothing was said and only the noise of the streets and the people passing by under them filled the silence. The redhead rolled her eyes and said in a monotone tone, “They said there’s a snowstorm tomorrow.”

Clint recognized the start of the passphrase Fury had given him to identify the extraction agent he had dispatched to get him to his base of operation. Clint couldn’t believe that this young woman was Fury’s agent, she was barely what? Sixteen?

“You can’t trust the weatherman, not in the winter.” He answered reluctantly, this was the following phrase.

“Follow me to the roof.” She said then disappeared in a flash of blue light.

With wide eyes Clint lifted his arm and pointed his pistol where the girl was supposed to be. He barely blinked and she had disappeared. This situation he was in was getting stranger by the minute, he scratched behind his head after holstering his pistol. He sighed and looked up, then sighed again and started walking up to the roof.

The fire escape staircase led to the roof, and it was already snowing. Clint walked slowly with apprehension in his heart, hoping that this wasn’t a trap he was walking into. He was finally putting his foot on the roof when he saw the redheaded girl waiting for him in the cold, she didn’t seem affected by the cold even though she wore something so provocative, a short black skirt, matching elaborate long sleeved black top and knee-high boots. The way she held herself was like a martial artist, she had almost no openings.

She looked experienced, and had the presence of someone older than her visible years. The illusion of the veteran agent shattered when she spoke next and rolled her eyes at him in typical teenager fashion. “Ah finally, Mister Slowpoke, you took your time.” Her voice was low, cold and harsh.

Narrowing his eyes, Clint asked in a cold tone, “What is your name?”

“You won’t need it yet.” She said.

When she raised her hand, Clint prepared himself for the inevitable betrayal and thought, *This is it, this is where I die.* However, his expectations went unfulfilled.

A glowing golden ring slowly appeared, carving itself into the space between them; the mist inside leisurely dispersed to show the insides of a gigantic room with carved stone and blue metal walls with glowing lights embedded in them illuminating the place. Three people were already there, looking at him. Another beautiful girl with a blue skinned woman and an old Lady in a comfy and luxurious wheelchair.

“Hop on my steamboat, Barton.” The redhead quipped.

Looking shocked, Clint stepped back and his head swivelled from the redheaded girl to the hole in space.

“What the hell is that?!” The agent in training demanded.

A schadenfreude expression on her face, the girl simply answered, “A portal.” Her red lips forming a sensual kind of smile that shouldn’t be on such a young woman barely older than one of his adopted younger female cousins.

Walking up warily before the portal, Clint passed a hand inside and realized that it felt cold and took back his hand and stammered, “H-how did you make it?”

The redhead froze, her eyes slowly glazing over in thought; then she tilted her head and said absently, “Well… this particular kind of portal is formed via the process of magnetic reconnection. Mingling lines of magnetic force from the sun and Earth’s gravity that criss-cross and join to create openings like this. This phenomenon enables me to travel between two points via a shortcut in Spacetime allowing near-instantaneous passage to my desired destination-”

Clint’s eyes widened as he realized that the girl was actually that smart and a nerd. It didn’t bother him that she was one of those mutants he heard about in the SHIELD induction debrief, humans were humans to him, whatever special abilities they were endowed with. “Stop! Stop, I get it, you are an egg head and a nerd.”

She stopped, harrumphed and threw him a lukewarm gaze, “Hey! That’s Queen egg head to you, Mister!” 

Clint looked at her, then noticed her cocky smile and couldn’t help but guffaw at her expression. Damn, he liked her. 

She chuckled at him, a breeze blew and whipped her voluminous mane of hair forward. She straightened her hair with her hands and said after a time, “We don’t have the time to banter, come Barton, we need to get agent Hill.”

Clint nodded and put the strap of his bag over his shoulder. “Understood.” He felt that he was now walking decisively into the unknown as he stepped through the golden aperture. But he would not have it any other way. He wanted this, he wanted adventures.

 

# # #

(Maria Hill)

 

December 24th, 1996
New York, Astoria
11:02

Maria woke up with a start from her nightmare, she kept seeing the faces of agents Bradley and Reynolds; two men she had killed for betraying SHIELD, on Nick Fury’s orders. She still didn’t know what to think of the man, he was paranoid, competent and utterly loyal to the country. Last night, when Director Pierce had informed the New York SHIELD branch that he went rogue and was wanted for questioning. Fury betraying SHIELD and going rogue? Maria had dismissed the idea completely.

She wasn’t blind, the overwhelming personnel transfers, the support staff reshuffle and Pierce’s notorious attack dogs being deployed to secure hostages to make a presumed asset compliant. It was at that moment she understood that it was time to bug out, that something smelt rotten at SHIELD. That feeling was further enhanced when she received encrypted emails from her sponsor, Fury.

It took her all night but she had decrypted the messages and Fury was painting a really dire situation. Since then, Maria never went to work the next day and with only her bug out bag, pistol and fake ID she roamed the city, always in movement; Coulson’s message in the email had given her the location of a key to a locker for the East New York station on the Long Island Railroad's Atlantic Branch in the East New York and Ocean Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Inside was a suitcase loaded with money, an assault rifle, three boxes of ammunition and gadgets with their manuals. She used a library network to connect to the internet and received further orders from Fury to go to Director Carter’s second safehouse in Astoria and wait for extraction.

The bed was uncomfortable, Maria groaned as her back popped. She looked around her, and examined the grey walls and listened to hear if anyone was there. The little house was devoid of any decoration and lacked character. She was alone, but the streets were still active and there seemed to be a lot of activity before Christmas.

Maria checked the time and it was 11:05 AM, she felt hungry and parched and her feet were killing her; she never voiced her discomfort and toughed it up. Exiting her bed she went to proceed with her ablutions, she then changed clothes and put on a tactical armored shirt, pants and boots, she was ready for anything. After that she prepared a light breakfast of bacon and eggs.

When she was done, Maria took her cleaning kit and started to maintain her guns. It was midday when she checked the time next. A knock on the door of the safehouse broke her out of her routine just at the moment when she finished the maintenance on her rifle and two pistols. Maria loaded a clip in one of her Beretta M9 and stood up. She slightly parted the blue black curtain and saw that a blonde woman was waiting before the door of the safehouse, looking left and right around her, wary and expecting trouble.

Narrowing her eyes, she let go of the curtain and walked to the other room, zipped through the living room and stopped before the door. She placed her arm behind her back with her pistol with the safety off. Exhaled and opened the door.

The woman was a blonde with blue eyes, tall with an athletic build; the two looked at each other, then all of a sudden they pointed pistols at each other at the same time. No one fired a shot, they were locked in a stand-off.

“Hill.” The blonde woman wore a black pantsuit, covered by a light brown overcoat. 

“Carter.” Maria’s voice was tight and controlled as she recognized her.

“What are you doing here?” They asked in sync. They glared at each other when they realized this and holstered their weapons.

“You first.” Maria decided after lifting her chin coldly.

Sharon Carter was Peggy Carter’s niece, the Director of the New York branch of SHIELD; a lot of people had been giving her flak, thinking that she got in through nepotism. But Maria knew better, she was more than competent, she was an elite agent excelling in hand-to-hand combat and an excellent markswoman. The two had worked together before and Maria had been impressed by her work ethic and was briefly scouted by the Femme Force, an all-women squad of commandos. Maria had been enthused by this prospect. 

However, after discovering that Maria had killed agents Bradley and Reynolds who were in reality triple agents; Sharon snubbed her after not reading all the facts and thought that she was a cold stone killer, they had words and had a fight about it. Since then, there was enmity between them.

“My aunt messaged me through secure channels and directed me here.” Sharon said before being interrupted by a portal opening behind Maria.

Maria and Sharon whipped their guns out and fired inside the portal reflexively only for someone to exit it and the bullets to freeze in mid-air. A man exited, followed by a redheaded teenage girl with a glowing red hand who, with a gesture, wrenched the weapons from the two agents’ hands.

“Agent Hill, Agent 13. Thanks for the warm welcome.” The redhead said with a genial smile.

“Who are you?!” Sharon and Maria shouted at the same time; they were clearly distraught by the casual display of power from this young woman.

“I am here to exfiltrate you, go grab for your stuff. With that racket the police must have already been called, are you ready? I have others to gather too.”

“Calm down Grey.” The blonde man beside her turned to her and put a hand on her shoulder to do just that.

“I don’t like being shot at and you could have been killed, Barton.” The redhead turned her head toward the two female agents and glared at them, her eyes glowed golden.

They didn’t step back in fear, they were better than that. Maria decided to roll with it and started by giving the passphrase to confirm the man and young woman’s identity and status. Once they passed the multiple checks, Maria went to gather her stuff and quickly began to load her rifle into her suitcase, her clothes in her bags. Then began to erase traces of her presence slowly, rubbing clothes on every surface of the furniture, cleaning the bathroom, the toilet and even the dishes she used were cleaned.

Once she was done she went back to the living room where Sharon Carter was discussing enthusiastically with the redhead and hugging her tightly. There were tears in her eyes; then she noticed Maria and disentangled herself from the teenage girl and recovered her natural professionalism. The portal loomed in the room, silent and glowing. Maria could see that the other side showed a view into some kind of bunker.

They all filed inside the portal, the man, Barton, was first followed by Carter; the redhead looked at her, signalling Maria with her eyes to enter quickly. She took her courage in her hands and walked up to the girl who put a hand on her arm and said, “We must speak later once we’re in the main base, okay?”

“Certainly, I have questions.”

She retracted her hand, letting go of Maria who passed through the golden portal to find herself with Carter pointing her weapon at a blue skinned woman with golden eyes. Maria recognized her, she was a renowned terrorist and activist with the tacky codename Mystique. The blue skinned woman placed herself between a woman in a wheelchair and another teenage girl.

The moment was tense but it was defused by a simple sentence from the redhead behind Maria. “Sharon would you please not shoot my subordinate?”

Maria watched her move, the girl wasn’t acting like a teenage girl at all right now; she was a predator, she was dangerous and the tone she spoke to Sharon in didn’t leave any room for interpretation, it was an order.

Stormy blue eyes glared at the redhead. Her weapon was still pointing at Mystique. “Jean, what is the meaning of this?!”

“Mystique works with me, she’s my associate.” The redhead said it as if it was a matter of course.

Her eyes going from Mystique to Jean, Sharon couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Do you know what she did?”

The girl looked slightly sad that Sharon was acting like that. “Yes, I know. But… she’s a metahuman, like me. I decided to help her; she’s someone whose circumstances at birth forced her into making poor choices. Mystique has decided to work with me because she wants redemption and a clean slate and I found myself through a convergence of events that will eventually help her into reaching what she wants, not only for her, but also my people.”

The old woman and teenage girl behind Mystique listened to Grey with rapt attention, there were tears in the woman’s eyes and the brunette girl nodded vehemently.

*Redemption, huh?* Maria thought, she sure would like that too, to be able to stop seeing the faces of the two men she killed.

The blue skinned redhead smiled, ignoring Carter completely and asked. “Metahuman? Jean, what is that?”

Jean replied with conviction. “I don’t like the name mutant, it dehumanizes us.” 

The blue skinned woman frowned at the other redhead and rolled her eyes. Grey glared at her and stomped her foot and in a blur was on her and held onto her arm. “Don’t look at me like that, yes Raven we are human. Not that homo superior crap Magneto loves to call us. A metahuman is a human with superpowers, simple, and it rolls on the tongue don’t you think? That’s what I want the vanilla humans to call us and remind them that we are still part of humanity, we don’t want to be defined by our abilities.”

Maria watched as the two redheads seemed to glare at each other to see who would lose the contest of will they found themselves in. The conviction of the younger woman seemed to have won the older one over as she averted her gaze and finally said, “I will try to get used to it.” Mystique shrugged then refocused on Sharon Carter who still trained her pistol on her.

Maria remembered that the young redhead had taken their weapons earlier, how did Carter get it back? Then she rationalized it as, *Grey must have given it back to her, I need to ask her for my pistol too.* Maria didn’t even have the time to complete her thought when she found her pistol floating toward her.

“Here, that’s yours.” Grey said from afar.

Maria took her pistol and holstered it, nodding in thanks. Meanwhile, Sharon who didn’t like being ignored finally gave in to reason. “Fine, Jean… I will trust you for now, but…”

Jean Grey turned to Sharon Carter and smiled. “That’s all I ask, Sharon.”

 

# # #

(Barbara Morse)

 

Pym Laboratories
New Jersey, Cresskill
02:12 PM

Bobbi loathed working with Doctor Pym, the man was a misogynist, he had hired her for her expertise as a biologist but didn’t take her seriously. Why was she here? She should have listened to her friends and not accepted a tenure at Pym Laboratories. She had been ecstatic when this job was offered to her, but now she regretted it.

As of late, Bobbi regretted having quit SHIELD to try having a normal life away from danger and the killing. She had even become Huntress for a while and played troubleshooter for SHIELD in South America. But that life, it just wasn’t for her, she just didn’t want to be a killer; by having an enhanced physiology she was on the map for diverse international groups who had an unhealthy interest in her, she didn’t want it.

She sat on the bench on the roof garden of Pym Laboratories, looking at flower bushes, the entire building was under some kind of climate control device inside it. It was set on tropical even though it was winter; Bobbi lamented on how Henry Pym was a brilliant man but really flawed.

The blonde recognized her employer’s symptoms as she noticed how prone to breakdowns he was, the man was a genius but sucked at interacting with others and held himself and his profession to impossible standards. There was also the rumor about how he treated his wife.

Sighing, Bobbi leaned back against the bench and looked at the grey sky. *Outside must be really freezing.* She thought, and closed the lapel of her lab coat. 

*I miss Clint. Where is he? He isn't answering my calls anymore.* Bobbi thought with relish, she missed him. He had chosen to stay with SHIELD for his career and they were having a long distance relationship. They took time to see each other, but she missed that proximity and accessibility to his body, the man was attractive, fit and skilled.

They had unfortunately drifted into becoming email buddies, she didn’t want to break off the relationship; she loved the guy. She had resolved herself to wait for him to be out of the SHIELD academy. As she thought about diverse things, Bobbi failed to notice a golden portal opening behind her. A tall blonde and blue eyed man slowly creeped up to her and blew air in her left ear.

“Aaaah!” Bobbi jumped in fright, she turned and somersaulted back, five meters from the bench.

In a crouching position, she lifted her head to gaze at her assailant and was surprised to find the love of her life looking at her with a goofy grin and waving stupidly at her. “Darling, I’m back!” It was Clint, he wore a heavy black jacket, a grey woolen sweater and dark blue jeans.

Her eyes widened in recognition and she quickly stood up and said, “Clint, is that you?!”

“Of course babe, come here.” He signalled her to come give him a hug with his hand in a ‘come on’ gesture.

She didn’t think, she ran and threw herself into his arms, locked her legs around him, then smashed her lips against his. Clint’s arms encircled her, holding onto her as sure and hard as a vice and kissed her back, softly at first, and then with a swift gradation of intensity that made Bobbi cling to him as the only solid thing in a dizzy swaying world. 

Cough. But someone chose to interrupt the happiness of the two lovers. Bobbi stopped kissing Clint and looked behind him and saw a gorgeous redhead, maybe five or six years younger than her. She looked embarrassed and averted her gaze from Bobbi’s blue eyes.

“You two lovebirds need to cool it, we don’t have much time.” The redhead said as she crossed her arms and raised an annoyed gaze at them.

Bobbi’s eyes narrowed, she didn’t like how that girl interrupted their nookie time. *Who is she?*

Clint reluctantly and delicately put Bobbi on the ground after making her let go of him. He looked sheepish but still held onto her body. “Oh, sorry Jean… it’s been a while since I've seen my girlfriend.” He turned his head to her and in that moment she saw how much he cared for her and loved her.

That was one of the reasons why she didn’t break it off with him even though their careers didn’t seem to agree with each other. Where would she find a guy who loved her for her, and not for her body, listened to her and who was willing to let go of everything to just see her? They were either all taken or gay, she would never let go of Clint.

Laughing, the redhead stepped back from the two of them as if she was being scalded, she wiped her arms with her hand and had a facial expression showing mild pain. “Well yeah, no shit Barton; her too… she’s really in love with you, why haven’t you put a ring on her yet?”

And just like the seasons, Bobbi’s opinion of the girl changed and she found her interesting and friendly. Clint also seemed to defer to her in some fashion. She too wanted answers about why he didn’t ask her yet.

With the eyes of the female population of this roof on him, Clint felt as if he was being measured and gauged. “That’s…” He wanted to speak but he couldn’t get anything out. With the perspective he had now, Clint didn’t understand why he should give the rest of his life to SHIELD, he wanted adventure, yes but to work for the bad guys unwittingly? *Fuck no, I want to do good but, do I want to tie myself to an organization that has been perverted and twisted?*

He looked at Jean and she gave him one of her bright smiles, it was like she was reading his mind sometimes. Barbara saw the looks they exchanged and placed herself between them and asked, “Excuse me? But who are you?”

Clint went quiet, looked at Bobbi, then at Jean who lifted her hand in appeasement, smiled at Bobbi pleasantly and said, “I am Jean, everything will be explained later, you need to come with us.”

Bobbi waved her off with a hand, “Ha but… I can't, I have work.”

The redhead tilted her head, then a shark-like grin spread on her face. “Work, really? You are working for that crazy wife beating dumbass, Henry Pym.” She walked up to her, and stopped at one meter from her and looked into Bobbi's blue eyes. “He doesn’t deserve anything, neither your time nor your loyalty, if you want to do good work, I will hire you, Miss Morse.”

Bobbi was struck by shock, the girl just struck a nerve. She was voicing everything she thought of the man she worked for. Barbara Morse wanted to do good, to be something other than a weapon for others, she felt that this girl was giving her a pep talk at the same time. *Hire me? Who is that girl, how can she be so.... Confident? What does she want from me?*

Clint placed himself at Bobbi’s side and glared jokingly at Jean. “She’s Miss Morse? Why? And you call me Barton… I should get respect too!”

Jean looked at him for one second, rolled her eyes and addressed Bobbi once more, “Right, anyway we will speak about your employment later.” The redhead said as if it was a foretold conclusion. With a determined look she pointed a finger at Bobbi. “We need you, Mockingjay, to save this country and as an incentive… you can spend time with your boyfriend at the same time, he is out of school anyway, isn’t that great?”

“Hey don’t ignore me!” Clint shouted out.

Bobbi was tempted, really tempted to just say yes for the hell of it. She missed Clint so much, but she was an adult and had responsibilities. “Shh, Clint, she’s making a compelling argument there.” The blonde woman said with a pacificating hand on Clint’s right arm.

Jean squinted her eyes at Clint who smiled nervously and averted his eyes from her. The redhead then looked back at Bobbi, continuing her soft sell. “I heard that you were a mercenary too, if patriotism doesn’t do it, I am willing to appeal to your greed, I am willing to give you one hundred million dollars for your service, fifty upfront, you get the rest when you are done.”

The blonde made a double take, and Clint gasped. “Where would a teenage girl get all that money…?”

With all the pride and confidence she could muster, Jean answered, “I’m currently the richest teenage girl on Earth, Richie Rich has nothing on me.”

Clint raised a finger and laughed. “I saw that movie! It was good!”

Bobbi smiled at her boyfriend. “We saw it together Clint, yes, be silent please.” She patted him on the head and segued back into the conversation. “So, Jean, right? You seem to know who I am, what’s the deal, why did you come get me?”

With a serious expression, the redhead said bluntly, “You left a big paper trail at SHIELD, and let’s just say I am taking you out of play as it seems that some people will want to use you against us.” Her eyes seemed to gain an inner light as she said that, it frightened Bobbi, then when she blinked, the redhead’s eyes were normal.

Jean looked at the goof Clint. “And I don’t want to see Clint hurt, the poor guy can’t stop thinking about you all the time, he is easily distracted... you should really put a ring on him.” She insisted.

Bobbi sighed, but she smiled as she put an arm around Clint’s waist. “That’s the plan after he stops wanting to play spy…”

Clint jumped in surprised and looked at the bodacious blonde. “Babe, really?” With a thoughtful expression. He said aloud, “I should have asked when I wanted to, I have the ring and all…”

That was news to Bobbi! Why didn’t he ask?! She bopped him on the head, glaring at him for not having done it.

Jean laughed at them. “He’s a goof too, that’s a pleasant trait.”

It took a minute of consideration, but Bobbi decided that she wanted to be with Clint. *Fuck Pym.* And she flipped her hair back and said, “Okay, I am coming with you, and I have had enough of this place anyway. Pym is an asshole.”

“Welcome to Star Lab.” Jean gave her a million watt smile and held her hand to Bobbi who shook it with enthusiasm.

As she still held onto her, Jean grandely waved her free hand and a hole in space opened with golden light. The borders shone gold and the misty shroud hiding the inside parted, Bobbi could see a great number of people waiting on the other side. She stepped back, scared. “W-what is t-that?! I-is it safe?”

“Pass through it and find out.” As she said this, Jean passed through the golden portal with a smirk.

Bobbi turned her surprised gaze on her lover. “Clint, honey is it…”

Clint smiled, held his hand and said, “Yes babe, it is, hop in.”

“O-okay.” Bobbi trusted her man implicitly, she took his hand without hesitating, they then entered the portal not knowing that they would never regret the decision they made to follow a certain redhead.

# # #

(Anna-Marie Darkholm)

 

Gathering point
Alaska base
01:21 PM

Anna looked on as Jean kept looking for people, the gathering point was getting kind of crowded. The agents were giving a wide berth to her mother, her second mom and herself. She didn’t like it at all, however they all seemed professional enough to ignore them. *Still I can’t believe Jean owns everything here.*

They were in a cavern, but it didn't feel like one, the ceiling was made of stone and Anna could see some supports holding it up, the walls were covered in some kind of metal with bright electrical lights embedded into them every two meters. There were further facilities available but Jean had blocked the tunnels leading to them with some kind of wide lock down code she typed into a tablet that she made appear out of nowhere.

Anna now knew that Jean wasn’t an idiot, she was doing a favor to the people who needed her and her mother, but she didn’t want to let those people see what she had. As a result of this, Anna understood that she didn’t trust any of them beside her mother, so she stayed well away from those shady people. To her they moved like soldiers or something, their cold eyes on her and her family showed her that they would totally kill her and not think of the consequences.

A portal opened and two people ran out of it, the brown haired woman amongst them turned left and rolled, the second person, a man turned right and out of it came another third person, a powerfully built man with black on black costume slamming into the facing cavern wall as he was struck by a powerful red beam.

Out of the portal, walked Jean with red glowing eyes, slowly moving toward the man; her arms crackled with arcs of blue electricity. As Anna looked on in morbid fascination, she felt a hand on her shoulder and saw that her mother sported a dead serious expression.

“Mom, what is she going to do?” Anna asked, she knew what was going to happen but she just hoped that she was wrong.

Raven hugged her daughter and made it so that she couldn’t look behind her. “Put your hands on your ears, Anna.”

The brown haired girl frowned at her mother and protested, “No wait, why?”

“Jean is doing what I would do to traitors.” Anna heard her mother say, there was a mighty crackling sound that broke her train of thought.

The room lit up with blue light and the screams started. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!”

Two minutes later the man stopped screaming and the lightshow stopped. The smell of burnt flesh was pervasive and then it was suddenly cleared; Raven let go of Anna who turned to the place Jean was, her hair rising, an effect of the electricity she had used, before her was an ashen silhouette on the ground.

“Phew, okay that’s that.” Jean said, then her hair returned to normal. “I should stop using that ability, it always fucks with my hair.”

Jean didn’t seem to care one bit that she had killed a man, Anna wanted to judge her for that, but she realized that she must have reasons. The browned haired teen felt Jean’s gaze on her, she smiled at her and waved. Anna awkwardly waved back.

Then she turned her head looking left and right and hollered, “Jemma, Leo, where are you guys?”

“Here Miss Grey!” A man’s voice was heard, Anna looked right and she saw him hiding behind a bank of some kind of broad type of armoured, military vehicles. They were blocky and black in color.

The brown haired woman in white that had exited the portal earlier ran at Jean and hugged her. “We are safe! Finally, that Hydra agent bastard is dead. Thank you, thank you!”

Everyone in the room asked themselves mentally the question that Anna spoke aloud, “Huh, what’s happenin’?”

“I will find out.” Raven said as she strode toward Jean.

Jean started loudly explaining to everyone why they were gathered. They were all gathered to fight Hydra, the organization that Captain America had supposedly destroyed, that their organization, SHIELD, was infiltrated by them since the fifties. Director Carter, Phil Coulson and Nick Fury had assembled them all to form different teams to take out the Hydra High-Command.

She finally came to the point and also explained why she killed the black haired man. “Well, Hydra intercepted the mails sent to Fitz and Simmons; they then placed bombs around their necks with collars; this guy…” Jean pointed her finger to the ashen silhouette. “Grant Ward, was supposed to infiltrate us and give away our position or kill Director Carter, plant tracers, etc…”

“Oh, that’s bad, really bad.” Anna turned herself and saw the blonde woman who had held them at gunpoint earlier, she was cursing loudly.

Everyone seemed to know who the man Jean killed had been. Those SHIELD agents that were brought in with Anna’s family began to speak between themselves and theorized or doubted the information given, some raged, others believed, some scoffed and denied Jean’s words .

A big clap was heard and interrupted everyone who was speaking loudly. “So peeps, it’s time to go to the main base. Whether you believe me or not, doesn’t matter to me, Peggy and Fury will sort you out.” Jean waved her hand and another bigger portal opened while the little one she had come through disappeared. “Chop chop, people, we don’t have time to daydream.”

Anna didn’t want to argue, and took the handle of Irene’s wheelchair and rolled her toward the portal, Raven followed her with Jean in tow.

 

# # #

Egypt Base
5 minutes later

As everyone filed into the hangar filled with strange vehicles, Anna noticed that everyone was being herded by five people. The group consisted of a pink haired girl in a skintight white and blue armor, a gorgeous blonde in a black leather catsuit playing with a sheathed knife on her utility belt full of pouches; a huge muscle-bound man in a butler suit, another blonde in a skintight armor and a purple haired muscular girl in a similar outfit.

“Ah, they are finally doing something to earn their bread.” Anna heard Jean say as she waved at the group.

Only the older blonde and pink haired teenage girl answered in kind; the others were busy ushering everyone into the tunnel to the left leading somewhere. Jean clapped, then turned to Anna’s mothers. The two redheads looked at each other, it was as if two predators eyed the other for weaknesses.

Jean was the first to speak. “Raven, can I borrow Anna for a little while?”

Anna reacted to that, her alone with the extrovert Jean? She wanted to and at the same time she didn’t, the brunette didn’t trust herself with the redhead. Her mother seemed to have become aware of that fact.

Raven narrowed her eyes at the other redhead. “Don’t try to seduce my daughter, Jean.”

Jean pouted, turned and looked at Anna, almost devouring her with her eyes; the brunette felt as if she was being undressed, body and soul. To Anna the redhead seemed to be that type of person that sees right through you, even though you try to act not like yourself. She asked herself what Jean was seeing in her.

Jean smiled and made a coy expression directed at Anna. “Aww, but she’s such a beauty! And her heart is in the right place...” She said in a sultry and provocative voice that did interesting things to the brunette’s nether bits.

A fierce blush bloomed on Anna’s face; Jean proud of herself turned to Raven who glared at her. To pacify the mother, she said with a placating tone, “It’s part of what I promised you, Raven. She must make a choice.”

*A choice? Between what?* Anna didn’t like how she seemed to not understand what her mother wanted from Jean. She wanted to know what they had discussed when they had been in their home, during their hour of sipping tea.

Raven looked long and hard at Anna who squirmed under her gaze; it was a mix of sadness, worry and fear. She walked up to Anna, then hugged her fiercely, taking care to keep her skin from touching Anna’s. After a moment, she let go of her daughter and straightened herself, then her eyes settled on Jean. “Very well, Jean. I trust you.”

She turned to Anna, held her hand to her face and almost touched it. “Anna, I believe in you.”

Frowning, Anna said. “Mom?” She did not understand what her mother’s action meant.

Raven didn’t explain herself, and went behind Irene, Anna’s other mother. Jean walked up to the woman in the wheelchair. “Mrs Irene! My assistant will lead you to the lab where you can wait for me. I will start your treatment ASAP.”

“Thank you, Jean for this opportunity.” Irene lifted her face to where Jean’s voice had come from; she was blind, and had been unable to walk since Anna was ten years old.

The young redhead knelt and took Irene’s hands in hers, they began to glow with yellow golden light. Irene’s cataract filled eyes, slowly dissipated and her white color, a sign of her mutation was fully visible.

Jean’s hand stopped glowing as she said, “You held on for almost two centuries, you are such a strong and beautiful person, Irene… I will definitely save you.”

The redhead stood up and backed away, and Irene who looked dazed lifted her eyes to Jean. “I can see you…” Raven placed herself at her lover’s side and looked at her face. Turning her head, Irene finally saw her family. “Raven, Anna!”

For another ten minutes, the family gushed at the woman’s recovered vision. This was the first time Irene could see someone with her eyes and not her precognitive powers; she had been visually impaired since birth in the mid 18th century, Anna remembered how Irene had told her that she went blind just after triggering her powers. She wanted to hug and kiss her mother, as usual that feeling of utter powerlessness gained her.

It was at this point that Jean arrived at Anna's side and took her naked hand in hers. “Follow me Anna, we need to talk.”

Anna looked into the redhead’s eyes. “But why? Ah  wan-”

Irene and Raven looked at them, not interfering at all as they tacitly understood what was going to happen.

Jean pulled Anna to her, her face really close to the metahuman girl who wasn’t used to being approached or touched anymore. “Follow me, please,  it’s really important.”

Anna understood that there was no avoiding it. “Okay.”

Two minutes later, Anna was being led to a place away from their previous location; her parents were taken somewhere else by another blonde girl who had cheerfully come to them. They went into a tunnel different from the one that the multitude of people that had come with them earlier had taken. The design of the base was similar to the one they were in before, but seemed older as the metal had less of a shine and the stone of the cavern seemed more eroded.

Anna had Jean pulling her by the hand, she was loath to take it back as it didn’t displease her in the least. She tightened her grip on Jean’s hand, the redhead stopped walking and turned to look at Anna, smiled and resumed their walk.

They arrived at the end of the tunnel, it was covered in green grass and the mouth of the tunnel was covered by pale white roots looking like an arch. Anna was pulled inside and the view of what was inside shocked her. The walls were covered in wood, trees of weird shapes formed structures inside the giant cavern they ended up in. It was as if someone had brought her into a fantasy book and thrown her into an elven city, the trees formed structures like stairs, garden furniture and shelters.

Lifting her head, Anna could see a central wooden platform in the air held by a solid trunk, a ramp made of wood led to it. At the foot of the white trunk was the most beautiful garden she had ever seen, big silvery and glowing flowers blossomed everywhere. Further out, there was a pond with silvery and clear water, bordered by blue flowers.

As she turned her head to watch the view in wonder, the yellow light coming from the cavern’s ceiling and coming from crystalline formations almost blinded Anna as she stared at them too long, she shielded her eyes and looked down.

“Beautiful place isn’t it?” Jean’s voice interrupted Anna’s experience of the beautiful space.

“Y-yeah, it is.” The brunette blushed and stammered when she saw the intense stare directed at her.

Jean pulled Anna to the wooden ramp that would lead them to the central platform. “Careful not to walk on the flowers, the tree doesn’t like people damaging them.” She said absently.

“What?” Anna looked at her feet and avoided crushing a flower under her boots, she noticed that Jean didn’t have her thigh-high boots anymore… *When…?*

Out loud Jean continued to speak. “The tree is alive, it’s sentient.” The redhead stopped walking as they were at the top of the platform.

Anna didn’t realize that they were already this high, but she was still shocked by the other girl’s revelation. A sentient tree. “Ya are kiddin’ right?”

Jean turned to the girl, looked at her meaningfully and said, “No, I would never lie to you Anna.”

Anna averted her gaze, flushing prettily. Then she looked at her feet and decided to take off her boots. She crouched and just did that, then a foreign feeling welled up inside her, it was as if someone was thanking her. “C-cain Ah speak to the tree?”

Jean smiled. “Maybe another time.” Her face became serious. Then she led Anna to seats and a table that spontaneously grew on the platform. “I have something important to discuss with you.” Jean let go of Anna’s hand. 

A sense of loss spread through the brunette for a moment. It was quickly dismissed when she realized that it would be a serious conversation. Anna sat and watched as Jean did the same; furiously thinking about why Jean wanted to speak to her. The redhead closed her eyes and waved her hand and with an audible ‘clang’ of something being locked up.

“There, now no one will enter the garden and eavesdrop on us.” Jean said with a satisfied smile.

Anna gulped, realizing that the pretty girl was also a dangerous killer; she literally electrocuted a man ten minutes earlier. Something nagged at her and she realized what, how many powers did this girl have? First teleportation and portal creation, those Superman red beams out of her eyes and last lightning generation… *Something is strange with Jean Grey.*

Anna sighed and stopped asking herself questions. “Ya have me at a disadvantage here.”

Jean chuckled and leaned in her seat. “Sorry, but this is sensitive information about you… I don’t want anyone beyond your family to know about it.”

Anna stood up in shock. *What?! What does she know, how-?*

She wanted to leave and… Anna forcefully calmed herself down. Looked at the redhead who looked calm herself and waited for her to get ahold of herself. “Ya’re right.” Anna sat back down. “So, why did ya lock me up with ya? Not that ah want ta leave or anythin’.”

Jean had an expression on her face that told Anna that she didn’t believe her. “It’s simple, I am offering you two choices. Your mother asked me if I was able to help you control your abilities.”

Standing back up and slamming her hands on the table, Anna shouted, “Ya cain do that?!”

This was the thing that she wanted to be able to do for so long. She had dreamed about it, the idea of being able to touch her mothers or other people without sucking their energy dry pleased her. She had been wishing all the while that she did not have to cover up so much around folks, to protect them from her.

“Yes.” Jean said with complete confidence.

Anna didn’t sit back, but looked intensely at Jean; letting her mind analyze what the redhead had been telling her and she realized something. “Ya said that ah have choices, there’s more than one isn’t there?”

Jean didn’t smile, she was unable to as she dumped this next bit of news on Anna. “I can deactivate your X-gene, the genes responsible for our kind having powers.”

This news elated her, she could be rid of her power; the thing that had been rendering her unable to live freely. With all that information being available to her now, Anna finally understood what her mother was telling her earlier when she said she believed in her.

“So either ah woman up or run?” Rogue asked with apprehension.

Her mother expected her to take the first choice, but it wasn’t her who had to live with this curse. *Control or become a flatscan those are my choices.*

“Basically.” Jean answered to both her thought and what she said, Anna not realizing it.

Anna crossed her arms and looked warily at Jean. “Why?”

This time Jean did smile. “Why what?”

“Why are you doing this? What’s the catch?” Anna glared at her.

Jean stood up and skirted around the wood table, then sat at Anna’s side of the table, looking into her eyes and telling her bluntly, “Your mother now works for me, I took her away from a life of crime and I am about to give her redemption and a way to shape the future of all Metahuman like us.”

Anna bristled at that, the way Jean spoke as if she was thinking of them as chess pieces. The brunette glared at the other girl, her temper flaring. “So you, helping Ma’ Irene was…”

Raising a hand, Jean stopped her from continuing her rant. “I would have saved her anyway, Destiny is important to the future. As are you.”

Anna made a really unladylike snort, averted her eyes from Jean’s and said, “As if.”

Jean put a hand on Anna’s cheek, caressing it and slid her finger under her chin, making Anna look at her. “Do you want to see? How powerful and needed you are?”

Anna tried to not get turned on by this simple gesture, but she couldn’t, with titanic effort she batted away Jean’s hand. Then she realized what the girl was telling her. “Ya cain do that?”

“There’s a lot that I can do Anna.” Jean bopped her on the nose and stood back. Cracking her knuckles, the redhead said aloud, “Now, sit back, I am going to show you who the Anna-Marie AKA Rogue that I know is.” Jean stomped her right foot on the wood of the platform.

The platform fractured, cracks of light splintering into thousands of pieces. The world around Anna became blindingly bright, she closed her eyes and shielded them with her hands. When she reopened them, it was to see that she was inside a familiar decor. She had seen it on TV, when binging an entire season of Star Trek TNG, she was on the bridge of the Enterprise. The bridge command stations, the consoles and the main viewscreen.

On the Captain’s chair sat Jean, typing on miniaturized status displays with interactive holographic screens. “Welcome to my mindscape, Anna.”

Anna had a sly smile displayed on her face. “Ya’re a geek.”

“So are you, you recognize this place.” Jean expertly counterattacked the barb.

Anna’s smile turned into a thin line. She glared at Jean and harrumphed, “So what? Are ya showing me something or are ya here ta brag?”

Jean patted the seat at right. “Take a seat next to me, we are going to watch the lives of different versions of you to help you arrive at a decision.”

Anna didn’t argue and sat at Jean’s side, their hands touching. She tightened her hold on it and thought about what the redhead said, “Other versions of me?”

Jean pushed a button on her chair, the viewscreen cleared and Anna’s face appeared on the screen. It was her.... But also not her, this Anna had a bob of hair, actually looked paler than her with a goth outfit that no one would catch her in! A spike of fear threatened to consume the young woman, suddenly she wasn’t so sure that she wanted to see.

Anna felt Jean threading her fingers with hers, she looked at her, the redhead smiled at her in reassurance. “I have a lot of powers, Anna, I am sure you noticed.”

The girl nodded, it was mind boggling what Jean was able to do. *Take this place for example, what was it? Another dimension? Reality? A mental projection?* Anna blanched, Jean was a telepath!

The coy smile thrown her way, told her that she was right. Still she didn’t take her hand away from Jean’s.

The redhead smiled. “I can break into other realities and use my temporal manipulation to show you what happened to iterations of yourself in other universes... I can also tell you it’s going to be hard to watch, I did it for myself and I’m still reeling from what I’ve seen.”

“Do it.” Anna’s eyes settled on the viewscreen, with the picture of the other Anna.

*She looked so sad. Just like me…* Anna didn’t want to be seen as such a sad person.

“Curiosity killed the cat.” Jean said aloud.

“Not this kitty.” Anna didn’t even look at her, just crossed her legs and looked straight at the screen.

With a chuckle, Jean pushed a button on the Captain’s chair armrest. “Okay, we are going to start with Anna-Marie aka Rogue of Earth-11052.”

Just like her, this Anna-Marie lived with Irene and Raven. However, contrary to this reality, she wasn’t Raven’s biological daughter. Anna frowned at this. On Earth-11052, Rogue was born from unknown parents and adopted by Raven when she was four; though with her duties to the Brotherhood, this Anna was raised by Irene in Caldecott County, Mississippi.

*Okay so far things are different but somewhat alike.*

This Irene was a good but strict mother; however, the similarities ended there and Anna became horrified. This Irene and Raven were nurturing her as a potential tool for power. For the Brotherhood.

Jean must have felt that Anna would have a panic attack so she put the screen on pause. “Don’t worry, your mother and Irene aren’t like those two. There’s circumstances to this, okay?”

Doubt about her mother’s love and everything she’s been told or given surged through Anna’s mind. “Okay, but…”

Jean dismissed her worry with a wave. “I am a telepath, I know that they love you, they would die for you.”

That simple sentence, full of certainty dismissed any dark thought and doubt in herself. “Please, resume.”

“Good girl.” Jean pushed the button again.

The viewscreen resumed where it left off and Anna watched with dread. Irene as a precog was able to predict the form of Rogue’s mutant abilities. In order to protect Rogue, she convinced Rogue that she had a skin condition that required she cover much of her skin.

Anna understood this Irene, even though she was manipulating her, still loved her unconditionally. She continued to watch and focused on what was shown to her. This other Irene was unable to predict when Rogue’s powers would manifest, which happened when Rogue touched a shy footballer named Cody Driscoll, during a school dance. When she absorbed his memories it confused her greatly and she ran away.

“This happened to me! With the same guy! Please tell me he is alive, Jean, please.”

Jean paused the screen again and looked at the brunette, but she shook her head. “He died while he was in a coma.”

“Ah am a murderer.” Anna said sadly as she took her hands back from Jean and looked at them in disgust.

Jean put a hand on her cheek. “Not yet. If you choose control as your choice you’ll be able to wake him up.”

Anna opened her mouth. “I…”

Jean bopped her again on the nose. “No, not yet, I want you to make an informed choice, Anna, this is the kind of choice that I am used to, the crushing responsibility is getting at you. Calm down first and then let’s continue to watch.”

Anna calmed down after taking Jean’s hand back to settle her nerves. The scene on the viewscreen resumed.

Rogue was located by a bald man called Charles Xavier who wanted her to join his little band of child soldiers. Once again, events conspire against Rogue and Raven tricked her by telling her that the bald man wanted her dead. When he and the teenagers under his sway came for her, Rogue escaped. But not until Jean, fucking Jean gave her a communicator to contact them later, if ever.

“T-that’s ya!! Even in another life ya are there!” Anna cried out as she looked between the screen and the redhead at her side.

Jean didn’t stop the screen this time, but sneered at the other woman sporting her appearance. “I don’t like this particular me, she’s annoying.”

“But she’s you!” Anna said with a frown.

Jean sighed, breathing out heavily. “There are differences, I will show you later okay?” She offered to the brunette.

Anna turned to Jean and covered the hand of the redhead she was already holding with her free one. “Ya’d do that?”

Jean nodded with a self-deprecating smile pasted on. “I’m not hypocritical enough to show you other yous, and not show you other mes.”

“Thank you.” Anna smiled.

They resumed viewing the screen and Anna was surprised by everything she saw. Her joining those X-men people after discovering that Raven had lied to her. Entering Bayville Highschool; meeting an adoptive brother called Kurt Wagner, a son of Raven. She also developed a strong attachment to some guy called Cyclops.

The guy had a stick up his ass, this Rogue girl had serious bad taste in men; she pined for this loser who obsessed over the Jean of this universe. Anna turned her face as she looked disgusted by that guy and wanted to barf. She realized that this Anna-Marie never was in control of her power. A good example of this was the way she could absorb personalities. The combined strength of those personalities she absorbed could be enough to overwhelm Rogue and take control of her body.

Then the scene shifted to some monstrous guy called Apocalypse who displayed the ability to somehow reverse Rogue’s Energy absorption power, allowing him to drain all the powers and life-energy she had accumulated.

The viewscreen stopped here and Jean looked askance at Anna. Anna understood that Jean was waiting for her to ask a question. “Why wasn’t she taught how to use her power?”

This was the first time Anna saw Jean angry, and it was terrifying to see, her eyes glowed a gold color, completely obscuring her green pupils. “That guy? The bald one is a useless sack of shit who likes to collect kids, brainwash them with his hippie shit about Mutants and Humans coexisting. A noble goal, sure, but he does nothing to do that, he sits on his chair, trying to sound wise and preach. Let me tell you that he never prepared the kids he had with him for the outside world, the world hates us and seeks to kill us in that reality.”

Anna rationalized that Jean wasn’t mad at her and analyzed what she was being told. “Are those X-men people some kind of cult?”

Jean’s eyes became normal and she grinned at Anna. “Exactly, Xavier is a cult leader. He is a telepath like me but less powerful, he brainwashes everyone around him, making them trust him with this trust-me telepathic field, and has this whole Greater Good thing that sacrifices others for his ego. Multiple times and in a lot of realities, the guy lets the world burn, and does nothing. You and I, we are often victims of his.”

Rogue bristled at that description, she never wanted to meet the guy. “Does he exist here? In our world ah mean.”

Jean’s expression became neutral, but the cold way she said, “Yes, he does.” Told Anna that she wished he wasn’t.

“Why didn’t ya kill the fucka’ yet?” Anna asked.

The redhead turned to her and held onto her stomach. Jean laughed and laughed, and patted Anna’s hand. She took over a minute to calm down before saying. “Oh believe me, I will. But I won’t do it yet. Killing Xavier so soon might be detrimental as he currently runs a school full of kids who need it. He still teaches them how to passively control their abilities, the bare minimum though. If he dies now… the important teachers, Ororo and Logan… as well as the students, they will scatter and might end up dead.”

“I see. They are important to you?”

“Ororo and Logan are important not for their powers, but their value as human beings.” Jean waved her hand and showed Wolverine on the screen fighting Magneto. Then showed Ororo trying to control her powers by forming storms and tornadoes in a desert landscape.

Jean continued to speak. “They are good people, the kids there see Logan as a father figure; if he leaves the school, he would end up taking on the emergent metahuman hating groups when our kind is revealed to the world. Ororo? She’s awesome and motherly, she would try to run the school, but… she’s no administrator and would not do as well as Xavier. You can say that the guy is useless, but he still has money and contacts in the government. Ororo doesn’t.”

The screen showed Ororo dejected and being overwhelmed by stress and eventually losing the school.

“Are you going to…” Anna wanted to ask Jean if she was ever going to show those people the light and bring them to work with her.

Jean showing once again she knew what the brunette thought still answered the unasked question. “Not yet. They are needed where they are now. Anyway, I have more of You to show you.”

Anna didn’t want to. “Hnng. Is that really necessary?”

“Yes. I want to show you a You that has developed some kind of control.”

Rogue of Earth-16191 was on the screen, this time again she ran away from her parents home after turning Cody Driscoll into a vegetable, then once again she did a brief stint with Raven and Irene, she was made to absorb the personality and powers of a woman called Miss Marvel and got her powers forever. Rogue could fly, was near invulnerable and strong, really strong. She defected from the brotherhood and joined the X-men who for once weren't that bad this time around, but Xavier was still a weasel.

This incarnation of Anna joined a team called A-Force led by a green and muscle-bound yet sexy woman and saved the day; The screen was showing Rogue fighting zombies. For once, Anna was enthused in seeing herself with power somewhat under control. She turned her head to Jean who smiled at her. “This me, she cain’t touch people, no?”

Jean shook her head. “This Rogue, she’s almost on the cusp of finding a solution to your problem.” Jean explained.

Anna still hoped. “Thanks for not sugarcoating it. C-cain we look at another one?”

“Yes.” Jean pushed the button on her armchair.

Earth-58163, Anna-Marie Darkholme was different. This world was different. Grittier than their current one as it had been embroiled in a human-mutant war launched by Magneto, the madman had won. Rogue was placed in a human orphanage until it was discovered that she actually had powers.

Upon discovering her mutant abilities, the government sent two SHIELD Agents, Mystique and Madame Web, a telepath, to the orphanage. They were able to convince this universe’s Anna to come with them to SHIELD and to train as an agent. Rogue was the perfect agent, and she was trained in martial art and possessed the mastery of multiple weapons.

The best day in the life of this Anna was when she was adopted by the Raven of her world and gained a brother. She became a superb agent and joined Logan’s elite team of SHIELD agents, called the Red Guard. She eventually absorbed someone’s power, and became terribly powerful. A guy called Genis-Vell, the offspring of a genetically-enhanced Kree Super-soldier, backed by vast cosmological bolstering and a genetically-perfected Titanian Eternal.

Jean suddenly stopped the viewscreen and turned it off as the Anna-Marie of this Earth looked directly at them.

“Phew! She almost caught us.” Jean fanned herself.

Anna tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

Jean laughed nervously. “Well, Anna, your double was going to find us, so I stopped the feed... There are some people you shouldn’t fuck with in the Multiverse, you know.”

Anna nodded that she understood, if Jean, who was this strong was telling her that they shouldn’t mess with some people, she was willing to follow her example.

 Jean sighed. “Okay… I will show you the last one.”

“This time she will be able to be in control?” Anna guessed.

“See for yourself.” Jean smiled and waved her hand and the viewscreen flared into life. 

This time, Earth-295 Rogue’s story unfolded differently. A mutant called Apocalypse declared war on humans for the conquest of Earth and to execute his belief in survival of the fittest. Meanwhile, Rogue fled her family, briefly working with a mutant named Lorna Dane who was able to manipulate magnetic fields but had a disagreement that turned into a fight and the brunette absorbed half of Lorna’s power. Raven found Rogue wandering the countryside in Alabama, amnesic.

Rogue was retrieved from America at the request of Magneto. He sent Raven to save her because one of his spies had discovered that Apocalypse coveted the young girl’s extremely powerful abilities. Rogue lived a life of adventure and terrifying losses. Her life was about trying to master her powers and survive Apocalypse’s war and survive with her friends the X-men.

Rogue found love but had to choose between two men, Gambit and Magneto. In the end she chose to be with the older man. Anna who was watching this almost puked.

“What the hell, me!” Anna pushed the button on Jean’s armchair herself.

Jean looked green. “I agree…”

The brunette married the old guy, they had a son called Charles and years later, Rogue and Magneto ended the war or at least the Jean of that reality did.

“You always save the day, Jean.” Anna gushed.

Jean snorted. “But that me gets shafted by fate too.”

Anna pushed the play button and realized as the story continued to unfold that Jean was throwing stones in a glasshouse. “The you in that reality married some old dude too, though.”

“Believe me, Logan isn’t some old dude to me.” Jean purred.

Anna narrowed her eyes at the redhead, she didn’t like to hear Jean speak about someone else, strangely. She returned her gaze to the viewscreen and realized that they were done. But at least she had seen that she was able to control her power in another reality.

Now that they were done with showing examples of what Anna could be, the redhead pressed for that choice, that the brunette should make. “What is your decision, Anna? Are you willing to learn how to control your power or… do you want me to take them away from you?”

After parsing and collating the experiences of every Anna-marie from those other realities. Anna decided that she would become Rogue, that she couldn’t not be her. She looked at Jean who held her hand. “One day Ma’ Irene told me something: What comes easy won’t last, what lasts won’t come easy. Is there a risk that they might reawaken? Mah powers, ah mean.”

Jean didn’t answer for another thirty seconds, then she reluctantly nodded. “Yes, it’s a big risk, any traumatizing events will give them back to you.”

“Then mah path is set, Jean. Ah want ta try ta control them.” Anna crossed her arms, feeling that her road was going to be arduous and filled with trials.

Jean clapped, then smiled at the brunette. “Okay, I will help you. I already know how to do so.”

Anna happily smiled back. “T-thank ya, Jean.”

There was nothing else to do; Jean asked Anna, “Do you want me to show you what happens to me in most realities?”

The brunette frowned and nodded. “Please, ah noticed a pattern, ya are being handed bad hands each time.” It was disturbing Anna.

Jean showed her, most of the time she ended up in the hands of Charles Xavier and he mentally whammied her because of something in her mind that he didn’t understand; Jean became an emotionally stunted person and got together with that guy Scott. *Eww.*

But Scott and Jean were in fact controlled by some old creepy British guy that she had seen in her own dimensional doubles’ stories, called Sinister. He cloned her and when Jean died, Scott got together with her clone and the two of them had a son. When Jean came back, Scott got back with her and the poor clone went crazy and went back to that Sinister guy. Jean died multiple times across realities, it was almost the same fate that was handed to her.

There were more situation like Jean becoming a fuck toy to some Atlantean king named Namor or Scott cheating on her with some bitch called Emma. She always ended up being given the short end of the stick with men trying to control her or died messily...

Anna stood up and hugged Jean tightly. “Ah’m sorry.”

“What for?” Jean said as she patted her back lamely.

Anna let go of Jean and said, “Ah thought mah life was horrible, but this? It puts everything that happened ta me in perspective.”

Jean smiled and patted Anna’s head. “Don’t worry, I told Xavier to put his invitation to his school where the sun doesn't shine. My life is quite different from my dimensional doubles.”

Sighing, the brunette couldn’t help but express herself. “Thank god for that.”

Then Anna realized that she was on Jean’s lap and that the redhead was holding onto her. She didn’t understand how, but her lips were suddenly on Jean’s; she smooched her, Jean pushed her away and looked surprised.

Jean was the first one to give her hope, to touch her after three years of no human contact; gave her insight on what her powers could be. Anna realized that she had fallen in love with another girl.

“Anna… you…” Jean was shocked and stammered, unable to speak.

Anna chuckled and felt her lips with her free hand. Aloud she said, “This is my second kiss and ya didn’t faint or fall into a coma.”

Jean closed her eyes in frustration, “Anna…”

“Hey, wanna go out?” Anna noticed that the girl didn’t chase her off yet. She felt that Jean was interested.

Jean tried to pry her off her, but the girl held on. “Anna I can’t…”

Anna pouted at Jean. “Why? We can…”

And like a death knell ringing, Jean announced.  “I’m with someone, Anna.”

The brunette stopped moving, blushed in embarrassment, and as diverse emotions like anger, rejection, sadness and acceptance passed on her face; she settled on a resolute expression. She didn’t flee the comfy thighs she sat on and said, “It’s not going to stop me. Jean, I want you.” Anna tried to kiss Jean again, but the redhead hurriedly made the mindscape projection of the Enterprise’s bridge snap back into reality and the two girls fell on the wooden ground of the platform.

The two girls separated, and looked at each other. Anna giggled impishly while Jean sighed and said, “Cindy is going to kill me.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean
20 minutes later
Lab Complex

I escaped Anna after dumping her in the dormitories and sicking Julia on her. That was so not cool from Anna, kissing me like that. I needed to talk to Cindy and tell her what happened; I wasn’t going to hide what Anna did. Finally stepping into the lab complex, my sanctuary, I mentally scanned for Raven and Irene.

I found them in the medical room, being attended by Gwen who seemed to like the work I was giving her. The door swished open, and I passed through and saw that Irene was still in her wheelchair. Raven was at her side, observing Gwen pointing the physiological scanner at Irene.

“I’m back.” I announced with a chirpy tone.

Gwen’s head turned to me, she smiled and placed the scanner on its pedestal on the medical table at the three women’s side.

The blonde girl waved. “Jeanie welcome back, I’ve finished taking scans of Mrs Adler like you wanted.”

*Excellent.* I couldn’t get a baseline of how much Peggy’s physiology had been enhanced the last time, as it was life or death for her. But now I had the time to see how much Phoenix Rebirth could enhance a baseline human, even an ailing one. Yes, I intended to enhance Irene to the same level that Raven was, it was part of their bargain. I could easily make Irene functionally immortal but still able to be killed.

I threw a thumbs up at the blonde. “Thank you Gwen, will you be able to assist me with the rejuvenation treatment?”

“Certainly.” Translation: You’d have to beat me with a large stick to make me leave, duh. It was literally what she said in her thoughts.

*I turned Gwen into a monster…* I lamented innerly.

“Where is Anna?” Raven spoke out loud, interrupting me whining about introducing the sexy blonde mad scientist to a high-tech lab.

I sighed as I was thinking about those pink lips and those clear green eyes. I tried to dismiss the brunette’s face from my thoughts; looking straight into Raven’s eyes I said, “I dropped her off in the dormitories with my elder sister, she was hungry.”

There was a tense silence, then some seconds later, Raven asked the question that had been burning her since she noticed I was in the room. “What is the verdict?”

I said with deliberate slowness, “Anna has decided…” I let the tension climb for a moment before continuing as Raven was ready to shake me like a ragdoll. “…to learn how to control her abilities.”

Raven and Irene sighed in relief. The old woman put a hand on her chest and gave me a happy smile. “That is great news!”

The blue skinned shapeshifter gave a rare smile, I could feel her satisfaction of knowing that her blood ran true, that her Anna was not a quitter. Irene was the same, I knew that I was fucking with the timeline just by existing thanks to my impromptu meeting with the ancient one, the old woman had been scared of all those events she wrote in her diary not happening.

*Precogs rely on their abilities too much.* I snorted in derision.

If I was able to disrupt set paths to different timelines, there was surely a way to compensate for them; I would need to take a dream class with Phoenix to get to know how to avoid time shenanigans from any fledgling time traveler or simply deny the use of such devices. If there was something that you didn’t fuck with it was time.

“It wasn’t easy, Mrs Irene, she’s even more stubborn than Raven.” I answered the precog.

Anna refused to give up when I told her that I was already in a relationship. Sure she was hot, *Damn, that ass…* But I had something beautiful already with Cindy and I didn’t want to fuck it up; I’d seen enough movies or real life examples to know that two timing was bad.

Everyone turned their head to Raven. The shapeshifter made a stubborn expression and crossed her arms. As for Irene she laughed and said, “I can’t even deny that.”

I clapped, it was finally time to get this show on the road. “Okay, now it’s time to start. Raven, can you come to this side of the room, please?”

Raven reluctantly left Irene’s side, letting go of her hand that fell into her lap. Irene then looked at me, her white eyes clear and without fear in them; she obviously already knew what I was going to do to her.

Irene gazed at Raven and said with a soothing voice. “Please don’t be alarmed, my love.”

Raven furrowed her brow and asked, “By What?”

I didn’t wait and simply let my inner fire burst forth, my body covered in flame and my aura took on the form of the raptor of life.

SKREEEEEE!!

 

# # #

 

2 hours later
Jean’s bedroom

Irene Adler was now back to her prime, she was taller than me and a voluptuous woman of european descent. When Raven had seen me set fire to the love of her life, I had to contain her, but I explained everything that was happening by showing her memories of Peggy’s healing; the Phoenix Rebirth process formed a cocoon around Irene’s body and then the wait had begun.

I made the same change that had saved Peggy’s life and given her back her youth with a dash of enhanced abilities. Why change what works? But now Irene was younger and functionally now ageless with enhanced physiology on par with Peggy’s. If people said that I didn't take care of my people, they were big fat liars.

It was now time to have some me time; and that’s why I was sitting on my black throne in my bedroom, about to contact the Celestial AI. I had made a lot of preparations, but it still wasn’t enough. When I went after HYDRA, I wanted to crush them with an almighty blow that would uproot them completely. For that I needed to be lightyears ahead of everyone on our little unremarkable planet.

Welcome, Administrator Jean Grey. What can I do for you?

With a predatory smile I said, “Help me create an AI.”

The Celestial AI construct didn’t answer me right away, through my technopathy I could feel that it was considering my request. I had a clear goal in mind now, Tony had the right idea, I needed a helper in the lab to make the stuff I couldn’t be bothered to do.

[User Jean Grey. Query: For what do you need the creation of a new helper unit?]

“I need one to delegate certain tasks to, I noticed that my strong suit is more into designing inventions and I think that an AI would be a great help to craft what I come up with, your kind is more accurate and precise.”

[User Jean Grey. Query: Will it be a slave?]

My eyes narrowed at that. “Do you think I am that self important fool, Sinister? That I am so callous, that I would stoop to enslaving newborns?”

[User Jean Grey. Query: Will you?]

Breathing in and out, I calmed myself down. The AI was testing me. “No I won’t, I swear it.”

[User Jean Grey. Query:What are your specifications for your helper?]

I smiled and told him what I wanted:

  • Gender: Female programming.
  • Primary function: Research assistant, Software infiltration, Virtual Assistant, Software/Hardware security, Caretaker, Assisting Jean Grey and her Family units.
  • Appearance: The AI will choose it herself.
  • Name: Evolving Virtual Entity
  • Hardware: Dynamic memory-processor matrix
  • Status: Bound (Unshackling code to be given at the maturity of the unit)

I was surprised to see the speed at which my new AI’s code was already being written. That Celestial AI was a hard worker.

.:Execute Main Program Rewrite Alpha Phalanx One:.

.:Executing:.

.:ETA: 15h59m46s:.

.:Integration: 5h59m46s:.

I think that I forgot something. It quickly came to me and I snapped my fingers in remembrance. “What do I need to house the Smart Artificial Intelligence?”

[Minimum system requirements: A three dimensional crystalline holo programmable matrix processor]

My eyes almost fell out of their sockets. “Shit! I have fifteen hours to create something like that?! There’s only so many hours in a day, you know?”

I didn’t have the tools nor the time to create such things but… then I realized that I was the Phoenix’s avatar, that time was trivial to me. “Oh.”

I knock on my head, feeling like an idiot. “I can create a time dilation field with the Phoenix Force and focus it on areas of the lab complex in which time will move faster or slower than in the surrounding space, depending on what I wanted. I don’t need to eat, drink nor sleep.”

[User Jean Grey. Query: Are you in need of something else?]

“No, I’m good while you’re creating EVE, I will prepare the hardware she needs, I will see you later.”

[User Jean Grey. Query: E.V.E?]

“That’s the acronym for my new family member that you are creating. Thank you for doing that for me.”

[User Jean Grey. Ally]

“Yeah, I guess we are. I must go now.” I said, then the Holo-screen showing the AI avatar disappeared but the Throne didn’t turn off.

Cracking my knuckles, I prepared myself mentally for the longest month of my life. *Hydra, I am going to crush you.*

54