Chapter 14 part 2
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(Cindy Moon)

Egypt Base
Gym
08:15 PM

Cindy was furious, and it showed as she was beating on the high-tech sandbag before her. Each time she punched at the bag, a shockwave rang and spread in the gym. One, two, one two, right, left, left, right; butterfly kick. Fortunately the sandbag could take it, she wasn’t as strong as Gwen or Patsy had become, but Cindy could easily destroy and lift a truck if she wanted.

She was pissed off because Jean had sealed her lab, ignoring everyone, even her, to do whatever; they had been having less time together as of late.

True she left a note saying that she was building armor and gear and other things for the S.H.I.E.L.D teams and her own to survive the operation, but Cindy would have preferred to be told that face to face.

As she beat up the sandbag for another ten minutes, Cindy’s anger slowly dissipated, turning into a deep introspective trance as she abandoned herself to instincts and muscle memories. Cindy realized that they were still all in danger and that petty thoughts about wanting to be together all the time with her girlfriend who was working to make it so they could go back home and return to their lives was childish. Cindy didn't want to be this petty and tried to see the bigger picture.

“Hey, what did this sandbag do to you, Cin?” The familiar voice of one of her friends interrupted her.

The asian girl turned and saw Jessica behind her, her pink hair was pulled back and firmly held by a blue hair band in a tight ponytail. She wore a skintight armor similar to Cindy’s, but with some similarity to Jean’s Phoenix costume except in white with blue gauntlets and greaves and she had a utility belt instead of a sash. To Cindy, who was amused by Jessica's attire, it was only a question of time until Jean’s best friend would enter the armor craze and want to help her with their situation; the only reason Patsy wasn’t here training was that her mother, Alisa didn’t want her to participate in the operation to take out Hydra.

“I’m letting out some stress.” Cindy finally answered, taking off her half mask.

She didn’t know how, but Jean had been steadily upgrading her costume, Cindy noticed that fact after she didn’t feel like she was wearing skin tight armor but more like a swimsuit. There was a built-in bra and panties and she could wear her Silk costume under her clothes without anyone noticing, unless she stopped wearing long sleeved t-shirts. The mask she wore usually also seemed to help her breathe better? It was a weird sensation, her utility belt was also almost invisible and with compartments for gadgets Jean hadn’t made yet.

This was what the problem was, Jean kept doing things behind their back and not telling them about it; Cindy wanted to be included and have a choice in the matter.

“Jean did something again?” Jessica guessed, she looked concerned. And she was right to be.

Nothing Jean did was ever benign, always creating a big splash; giving superpowers to her friends and family? Trivial for her. Building things out of science-fiction? Here’s your death ray pistol that you asked for. Making her parents young again? She just waved her hand. But this didn't matter to Cindy, the problem was how Jean treated those around her. Oh, she loved everyone in her family and her friends… but didn’t involve them in what she was doing, the redhead could be sneaky.

Cindy looked at her, narrowed her eyes and spoke up after making the sandbag stop moving, “You are too perceptive… How did you know?”

Jessica rolled her eyes and flipped her ponytail that was on her shoulder, back. “Yeah, I scare myself sometimes. Not.” The pink haired girl huffed. “Come on, Cin, It’s easy to guess, you only make that frown when you think Gwen is trying to steal your girlfriend or you think about something she did badly, but as that little blonde is more busy thinking about Peter and the lab...”

It heartened Cindy that her friend knew her that much, but it also appalled her that her thoughts were so transparent to her. Cindy crossed her arms and pouted. “Point made…”

Jessica chuckled and pulled Cindy toward the ring’s cage and they leaned against it. “What’s the problem this time?”

Cindy then began to tell Jessica why she was angry, that she wanted to spend more time with Jean and yet also that she stopped excluding all of them from what she was doing. That she wanted transparency! Jessica continued to listen as Cindy ranted; then the pink haired girl gave her own opinion on the matter.

“You know, she’s doing that to protect us, but I agree that we should be made aware of what she’s doing; Jean has secrets that even I don’t know about and what she does sometimes scares me. Did you know that she nuked an American base? We need to reign her in.”

“I know she did, but…” Cindy drew a blank and couldn’t come up with an excuse to defend Jean, she wanted to, desperately. Jessica then smugly looked at her, knowing she won’t find one.

Cindy averted her gaze and stomped her foot. “Fine! I think you’re right, there’s some things that she shouldn’t do.”

The two girls resolved to speak with Jean and air out their grievances; then find solutions to feel more included in what she was doing to help her. Jean kept on giving them stuff, but they wanted to give back too; because they felt compelled to give assistance. They knew that the redhead wasn’t fine mentally after her ordeal.

After their consultation, the two girls looked around them; the gym furnished with all sorts of strange machines ranging from an area with scalable gravity with adamantium dumbbells to speedster rated treadmills, aerobic and parkour training rooms and a running track. Regan, Phillipa and Steve Rogers were practicing hard.

And the intense way they worked out spurred Cindy to want to continue pushing herself. She didn’t know her limits yet and she was eager to discover them. She turned to Jessica, a taunting smile on her face and asked her, “Wanna spar?”

Jessica shook her head, “Erm… no, maybe you should ask Regan there.”

She had seen how the girl had laid out into the sandbag and didn't want to have the same fate. Then she deflected Cindy’s attention on someone she didn't normally speak to. Cindy didn't notice, but was intrigued by the blonde who was using a squat rack. The girl was lifting her exact weight, up and down; there was determination in every move she made.

Cindy looked appreciatively at the girl’s body, she looked less toned than Jean. “I never spoke to her, is she cool?”

Jessica was amused by how Cindy checked out the other girl who noticed they were speaking about her but seemed to like the attention as if to prove she was the biggest girl in the room.

“A bit angry, after all Jean forced her to join… but she’s an alright girl.” Jessica delivered the verdict but was unsure, the girl had been quite dissatisfied with Jean and her methods...

Cindy’s head turned to the woman who ran after Steve Rogers on the running track around the gym, clearly attracted to him. She looked tall, muscular but with attractive and womanly curves and she was eighteen or so and wore a grey tracksuit that clashed with her purple hair. “What about that woman? Phillipa, I think; she got rejuvenated by Jean.”

Almost everyone beside Nari Moon, Cindy’s mother and the Stacys who chose to be rejuvenated after they took their retirement were made young and fit again. Jessica’s parents were enjoying their youth again and Alisa whose fertility issues were now fixed was eager to procreate. Cindy had a smile as she thought about Nari, who was barred from the treatment as she was simply disagreeable with Jean. The purple haired woman was still faster and robust than any base human, Cindy didn't think anyone could overpower her.

Jessica smiled at the running woman trying to keep-up with a super soldier who kept saying ‘on your left’ each time he passed her. “Phillipa is a sweety!”

Cindy didn’t doubt that, but the simple fact that she was infatuated with a man already with someone irked her. “But she’s drooling on the Cap, look.” Cindy pointed her finger at Phillipa who didn’t have a bra on and tried to entice the man. “And he is already taken.”

However, Jessica turned her head and licked her lips. “Hmm… Steve.”

Cindy’s eyes widened in outrage and she slapped the pink haired girl’s right arm. “Jessica!”

Jessica rubbed her arm. “Ouch! Hey, I’m not a nun, I mean, look.” Then lifted her chin at the man wearing a muscle shirt showing off his impressive abs.

Cindy looked, but didn’t feel anything, in an objective way she could appreciate his body but the same spark she had when she looked at a woman wasn’t there. “Okay he is physically attractive, but…”

Jessica sighed. “Ah, I forgot you don’t like men.”

It was actually a big problem as Jessica was completely straight and sure that she’d been checked out by Cindy, Jean and of all people, Gwen who seemed to be bisexual; though she seemed to focus more on Peter lately.

“Huh, who is that?” Cindy asked.

Jessica lifted her head and watched as a brown haired girl with streaks of white in them appeared through the gym’s entrance and seemed to tour the place and look at the people. “Ah, that’s the new girl here, she came with Jeanie and the blue lady. I think her name is Anna.”

Cindy watched the girl move, she was awkwardly using a dumbbell but had no strength whatsoever to lift it. She cried out when it fell out of her hand with a cute cry. Cindy found her quite endearing. “She’s hot.”

Jessica coughed. “I’m sure she knows that, though I saw her being rather close to Jeanie, holding her hand and such.”

The pink haired girl didn’t know at what point she found herself pinned against the ring’s cage with Cindy looking at her in the eyes. “What?”

“There must be circumstances though.” Jessica said quickly.

Cindy watched her friend in the eyes, she saw a bit of fear in there, she let go of Jessica and said, “I will speak to her.”

The spider girl turned to go to the attractive brunette but was caught by Jessica by the arm, the pink haired girl had found her courage again and couldn’t let her friend attack the other girl, Jean wouldn’t like that at all. “Nope, you won’t; I know you, you’ll pick a fight. When Jean gets out of the lab, talk to her okay? You are too angry right now.”

Cindy turned to Jessica who didn’t let go even though she gave her a scary look. “Fine.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Lab Complex

 


Day 05

A three dimensional crystalline holo-programmable matrix processor wasn’t something easy to make, I had some ideas on how to do it, but not the tools. The Celestial AI had given me the materials list on how to make it; but none of the steps on how to build it, because of all that prime directive shit, and I had to lean on the Wakandan tech-tree rather than the mundane one. So I had to dig deep on the technological repository of Wakanda and of other alien species that Phoenix had encountered.

Five days of meditation, that’s what it took me to have an idea of what I had to do to cobble together what the Wakandan science community was thinking was still theory and Kree computer tech, a computer working with isolinear circuitry. Completely different from how the current circuit boards worked, an isolinear circuitry format employs holographic technology to store data three-dimensionally throughout the medium.

This was inspired by Star Trek: Voyager and it gave me ideas on how this new computer should look. The whiteboard room was filled with formulas and high level constructs of quantum algorithms. I didn’t come up with the Quantum Programming languages that I was using, it was Kree in origin with a smattering of Wakandan computer code. They meshed strangely well together as if they had the same origin. I narrowed my eyes at that, *Was it possible that Wakanda had found Kree artifacts and reverse engineered them?*

Everything was possible with Marvel. The difference between this reality and the others was that I couldn’t anticipate events as they seemed either in the far future or happening right now; it was a quandary, that I couldn’t rely fully on my meta-knowledge… but life was like that, full of unexpected things.

Five days to come up with a concept that will influence my personal technology over time, now it was time to come up with a prototype; however, I lacked materials. Gold, silver, palladium, and perfect diamonds and crystals; then vibranium. I didn’t have the time to transmute everything, so I turned to space.

The asteroid Belt, located roughly between the orbits of the planets Jupiter and Mars, was occupied by a great many solid, irregularly shaped bodies, of many sizes but much smaller than planets, called asteroids or minor planets. But I couldn’t exit the time dilation field; shrugging I simply opened a portal into space, deployed a forcefield around it to isolate the lab from the dangerous radiation and temperature. Looking  for multiple large objects that would satisfy my need for resources,  I scanned the southern region of the belt for over two hours and after an annoying wait, I finally found something.

It was big, with a mean diameter of 525 kilometres. Titanium, Palladium, gold and nickel-iron; as I couldn’t bring it all on base, using my TK, I disintegrated chunks of its surface and parted the mineral I wanted from silicates and rocks and turned them into ingots. I took enough to fill the vault in the lab complex. Thirty tons each. Though, I still decided to use the leftover rocks for the artificial creation of crystals.

Now, I looked for those rare vibranium asteroids after I was done with my prospecting operations. I really needed to have that drone tech from Wakanda out there to collect materials for me. *Later.*

After five long hours of scanning the belt with my awareness, I found some. “There! Orbiting those big icy ones!”

It was a cluster of vibranium meteorites, some the size of my house in Annandale-on-Hudson. I decided to mark the location of the previous Asteroid and this cluster of Vibranium and I took what I needed and pulled it to the vault.

*I can’t believe those Celestials fuckers left everything laying around in the solar system like this.* I shrugged. *Their loss, my gain.*

I resolved myself to learn more about astronomy at a later date, Earth was in dire need of defenses against invasions and visitors from afar. Often, they didn’t have the best intentions when they came to Earth. Anyway, after stocking up on material and planning my future mining endeavors, I decided to immediately create the quantum computer.

Not needing to sleep, drink or eat was important to this phase as I had to create flawless crystalline lattices connected to the Isolinear circuitry. Each crystal would be connected by an electro-magnetic field delivering the information to each ‘data crystal’ and this was where my photokinesis helped me a lot in carving the conductive tracks I needed to fill with vibranium.

I came up with the processor later, it would be socketed in a reinforced case that would be resistant to assault, absorb kinetic forces and render them null, similar to my recent armor model that needed upgrades now that I thought about it…

 

Day 07

It was a complete failure, the computer exploded and I was lucky that it was in a vibranium case as it contained the explosion. Okay, so I had to find another configuration for the computer. I found myself building a Wakandan computer and it took me most of the day to build a basic one.

 

Day 08

Coding, programming, I must confess that I cheated with my technopathy. I created my own OS based on what I knew from Windows and Linux in my original reality. Once I was done I made a comparison between it and the base computer's system. It ran smoothly, but I needed more security than Sinister had put on.

 

Day 10

“I succeeded.” I said with a tired smile as I looked at the black computer tower before me.

Now I had to turn it off and connect the CHMP externally to the computer, program a driver to make the new part compatible with it. And this time I would test the Electro-magnetic wave connecting the two devices carefully. 

 

Day 12

This time it didn't explode, the OS shutdown the computer before it could damage the components. I smiled, there was progress there, now I needed to identify the problem.  I went to practice Qi Gong for the rest of the day, after finding that I felt off center for not practicing for a month and a half.

 

Day 13

I feel so stupid… I mean not coming up with a more efficient cooling system for your own computer is a rookie mistake. I needed something to keep the processor really cold for it to not burn out, and I also had to put some limitations on it to not overheat it. At more than sixty percent capacity it caught fire.

 

Day 14

Quantum computing cooling, once again if I didn’t have vibranium I would never have been able to come up with it. After treating the sound metal I was able to turn it into a super conductor, then I came up with a model for a dilution refrigerator, which were multi-stage coolers based on pumping cryogenic liquids. I had to carve out another cave contiguous with the main fusion generator of the lab complex. I placed the computer and the CHMP inside and sealed the place with three bulkheads in proto-adamantium.

I then connected the cooling system to the CHMP, then resumed trying to connect it to my customized computer.

 

Day 15

“YES, YES, YESSSSSS!!!” I clapped my hands and raised my arms in victory.

It’s working, it’s fucking functional. Though it had taken three tries and to make different connectors. The computer was working at 10% capacity and was faster than I thought it would be. I was about to hook my new supercomputer to the lab’s network when instinct told me not to and continue to test the CHMP.

Hand hovering the connector cable, I narrowed my eyes. “Precognition?” I didn’t think I would have that power, but… I would check this later. I created a virtual copy of the base's computer network and ran it on the super computer. It failed, if I had connected the supercomputer to the lab’s network I would have lost everything.

Tssk, back to the drawing board.

 

Day 17

The answer came to me after hours of meditation the previous day, I needed to convert the entire system from Binary code to Qubits. This time, I cheated with my technopathy and my control on time and space. Using myself as a medium, it took me a day to convert everything and connect the supercomputer to the rest of the lab.

 

Day 19

Everything was running perfectly, thanks to an impromptu bout of precognition, I avoided most pitfalls. The supercomputer was fast and I had firmly locked the CHMP to run at 90% processing power. After finishing the holo-tank, I smiled at what would be the home for EVE's eventual avatar. I placed them in different sections of the lab complex.

Then I got a better idea! I decided to build hard light holoprojectors disseminated everywhere. That could help with interacting with EVE and educating her. *Huh, now that I think about it, I won’t be able to have sex in the lab anymore.*

That was bad, but the lab wasn’t made to be a sex den. As I busied myself in placing miniature holoprojectors in every wall, pillars and fixtures of the lab by drilling holes in them with my TK and inserting the wall plug connected to the Hard light device. Half a day to install them, two hours to connect them to the fusion reactor grid and the rest of the day to couple the holoprojector's system to the supercomputer.

Now that I was done, what could I do now? Oh, yeah. Power armor. I directly teleported to the design room and faced the white boards and wrote: Tetryon powered light armor.

I wasn’t going to mimic Tony, he had his own stuff and I intend to make my own.

 

Day 20

I based the chassis of the TPLPA on the MACO armor from Star Trek and the Mass Effect ones, the sketch on paper showed a sleek and compact black armor. It would marry tetryon based shielding tech, and weaponry with the inventions I already came up with or appropriated. I combined everything in one armor and built a proof of concept. At first it looked bulky and unwieldy; a black armor, and like the rest of my costumes it was able to negate and/or lessen powerful kinetic based attacks such as bullets, penetrating blades, and crushing blows.

As I looked at the armor on the mannequin, I nodded. The shell was built and now all it lacked was the systems and a way to power it.

“Back to research mode.”

 

Day 21

As I delved into the Wakandan tech repository, I made some discoveries. Those people had forcefield technology and mastery of electromagnetism and electronics, electromotive force. From what I’d seen from their society it was advanced and comfortable to live there… but how many times did the Wakandans not use technology because it didn't conform to tradition? I could see all the signs of the technology I was seeing in the virtual library, but why didn’t they apply it for war? They were blinded by religion and their warrior pride.

I shrugged, I already decided to give up on them unless they changed; it didn’t matter what I thought about them, as long as they didn’t bother me. I found interesting technology that could be useful. Carbon nanotube vibranium, portable forcefield, directed energy weapons, sound cancellers, computer microframes with holographic interfaces, a sensor pack.

An avalanche of ideas suddenly went through my head as I thought about combining a smartphone, a VR headset and scanning tech into the suit. With a pep in my walk, I left the computer and went to tinker.

 

Day 23

There were a lot of failures that paved my way, but everything changed when I came up with the tetryon particle generator. It had started with a memory of Stargate and me peeking into the Quantum Realm and suddenly getting sucked into it. That’s when I realized that I could not just peek into other universes but travel to them but I had stayed firmly tethered to my original one. It was a strange experience, it was a bit like being in the mirror dimension and the astral plane but I could see all the different layers of the multiverse at once, it took some time to get used to it.

There were places I definitely didn’t want to go and higher dimensions that looked rather empty; my instinct told me to shield myself as I reached a dimension full of emptiness and somehow not as big as my own. Tilting my head I let my Phoenix aura surround me. *Hmm, this place reminds me of hyperspace in stargate.*

The blue and white light were a dead giveaway. *Another way to go FTL.*

As I moved my hand, the cherenkov radiation around me separated into a cocktail of particles. Quarks, leptons, antiquarks, and antileptons were what were called matter particles; it wasn’t surprising to find the antimatter ones, boson and higgs-boson. Experiencing those phenomena myself seemed to unlock some instinct that helped recognize them.

There were different ones, subatomic particles that were present in fiction. Were those the tetryons Star Trek spoke about and only common to substance environments? I was heavily bombarded by them the more I stayed there. I switched to the real world and ended up back into my lab under my time dilation field again.

*Hmm, they are highly energetic.* I realized as I shifted out of the Quantum Realm and the radiation burned one of my lab tables.

Smiling, I decided to get to work, I had shit to do.

# # #

(Nick Fury)

December 25th, 1996
Communication Room
03:45 PM (Egypt time)

Nick Fury looked at the agents having taken over the communication room, some were planning the logistics of the operations or entering into contact with assets allowing them to find their targets. Some adapted incredibly fast to the technology displayed, some of it was on par with what they had at S.H.I.E.L.D and in some ways it was superior.

Sinister, the previous owner of this base had his fingers in multiple pies; his computer had back doors into the US government, other countries’ and companies all over the world. His technology that Jean Grey had appropriated was key to this. His intelligence gathering agents were having the time of their lives finding dirt on every one of their targets.

But it wasn’t all good, some of the agents in training or new to spy-life were dazzled by the tech and resources before them. The tekkies Fitz and Simmons couldn’t stop oohing and aahing at everything and had already made plans to switch allegiance to Grey, the redhead had already subordinated his best recruit Barton through his girlfriend by hiring her. Once this Hydra thing was done, he didn’t think the agent in training would stay.

Fury turned his head to Phil who had made a holographic christmas tree on the holo table; his friend felt his gaze on him and looked at him with a smile. Phil walked toward him after having finally done his job of managing everyone while Peggy was training in the gym to control her new abilities.

“Ho, ho, fucking ho.” Fury said with false cheer to his friend.

It was christmas certainly and the operation was going to be launched tomorrow, Peggy had promised them support, gear and transportation; but Fury had seen none of it yet. Sure they had those weird helicopters but he didn’t think they would be able to use them properly as he didn’t know their range or weaponry.

Fury asked, "Where's Grey? She was supposed to be here already."

Phil didn’t know what to say, his smile went downward as he straightened the blue uniform on him. "She’s in the lab."

"Still?" Fury’s brow furrowed, his one eye focused on Phil attempted to discern something in his body language.

Phil was one of the girl’s staunchest supporters, he wouldn’t be above lying to defend her; however, it didn’t seem to be the case. With a shower of blue light appearing before them, the two men’s hands went for their weapons to point them at Jean who looked smugly at them and daring them to use their weapons. “Heard someone say my name.”

She was wearing semi-tactical clothes, a red tank top and tactical pants, fingerless gloves and boots; at her belt was a futuristic black pistol with glowing blue lines of energy on its flanks.

“Grey…” Fury growled.

All their problems stemmed from her, but Fury could only say that she was a catalyst, not the cause. Nevertheless she kicked the hornet’s nest that was Hydra.

She shook her head, as if she had been reading his mind. “Huh, oh it’s you Fury, come find me in the lab; I am finally done with what I’ve been working on. Bring Fitz and Simmons with you. Leaving now.”

She feigned not having recognized him right away, then she smiled at Phil who nodded at her in greeting. The difference in their treatment was incredible, Jean Grey held grudges for a long time and she hadn’t forgiven him for trying to cut her from her powers. She waved at them with a ‘later’ wave of her hand, then disappeared by teleporting again.

Fury glared at the spot where the girl had been. “I hate it when she fucking does that.”

Phil sat on the holo table’s side, laughing. “It’s funny.”

To the black man, it wasn’t funny at all. The simple fact that she could do what she did made her a danger, someone to be controlled. “She’s the perfect assassin… we need to find a way to detect her teleportation and portal manipulation.”

Phil and Fury looked at each other for a long time before the former sighed heavily and shook his head. “You are too paranoid…”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean
Jean and Cindy’s apartment
2 minutes later

Cindy was on our bed, reading a book, she didn’t feel me teleporting; she was completely oblivious of me. With a predatory smirk I levitated toward her and placed myself behind her. “Guess who’s here.” I said as I put my hands on Cindy’s eyes and glomped her from behind and licked her ear.

I felt her tense for a microsecond before she slackened and let herself lean into me. Then all of a sudden it was me who was laying on the bed with the beautiful black haired girl straddling me.

Cindy speared me with her brown eyes, she held onto my arms. “Jean, where were you?”

I couldn’t move as she was clearly overpowering me and I was too lazy to activate my superstrength through goldie or my TK. I could feel my girlfriend’s concern for me and her ever burning love. But me getting womanhandled like this… “You already know where I was Cin.”

I said as I tried to move my arms, Cindy’s hands tightened on them once more. Looking up, I saw her eyes narrow; huh, so this was an interrogation.

She was getting angry at me for ditching her without telling her. “But I couldn’t feel you in my mind! Jessica couldn’t either. Did you go to space again?”

I chuckled. “No, honey. I was in the lab, under a time dilation field.”

Cindy frowned, letting go of me. “A time what?”

Cindy was a smart girl, but deep science such as quantum mechanics and temporal dilation must be too much for her. Still, I attempted to explain it to her; licking my lips I began to say, “Well I used my powers to create an area covering the entire lab in which time moved faster.”

Cindy gasped and worriedly looked at me. “How long? For how long were you alone.”

Sighing, I revealed, “A month.”

Even my Qi Gong and meditation sessions weren’t enough to let me stop thinking about Cindy or my sister and parents. Isolating myself for so long was bad on the psyche and I was not exactly sane either. I really needed a psychologist or something on the payroll.

“Your power is bullshit, Jeanie.” Cindy said deadpan.

I laughed. “Yeah, I know.”

Cindy stopped straddling me, and let me sit back on the white covered bed. There was an awkward silence as she looked down embarrassingly at me. “So… it’s been a month since you…”

I felt her lust targeted at me full blast. Did I forget to say that the girl was the kinkiest girlfriend I ever had? I felt lucky to have someone like her and I didn’t want to mess it up; there was this kiss Anna gave me that was souring my feeling of reconnecting with Cindy. Because I seriously liked it, deep down; I mean Anna is a great girl and if I wasn’t with Cindy I would totally have been receptive to her advances. But I wasn’t about to cheat on my Cindy, so I needed a tight leash on my hormones. That’s what I concluded after my meditation and self reflection in the temporal field.

“Yeah.” It’s been a month since I couldn’t have sex with Cin and it was all I could do to not jump her.

Suddenly, Cindy’s face was really close to mine; I could smell her minty breath, she then slid her hand on my head caressing my hair and letting it land on my cheek in affection. “You want to fuck?”

With a lusty exhalation I said, “Yeah.” And was about to push her down when something completely different happened.

Cindy let go of me, stood and stepped back away from me. “You aren’t getting any.” She said coldly and crossed her arms.

“WHY?!” I shouted, shocked. This… Did I do something? I don’t remember doing anything to make her react like that. 

Was she being controlled or something else? I was about to try to probe her mind when Cindy started to talk. “I am mad at you, Jean.”

This made me stop all attempts to probe our shared mental link. I felt her disappointment at me and anger about something, some reason that I couldn’t guess. Cindy had felt lonely while I was away. “But…” I tried to say something to defend myself but she raised her hand and interrupted me.

Her cold gaze bored into me. “And there’s something fishy going on between you and that girl, Anna.”

At this name, I clammed up and avoided looking at her. Her anger surged again as she took my silence for confirmation. Damnit, I knew things were tough in a relationship but not this way, it wasn’t like this with my previous life’s husband. Cindy was like me, domineering and I deferred to her more in our relationship, but I still took the important decisions. But it seems my experience wasn’t going to be the smooth sailing I had previously.

Cindy walked toward and climbed on the bed and placed herself next to me. “So, if you want to touch all this ever again.” Cindy lifted her shirt and showed her her belly button and naked breast.  “You better tell me what happened.”

I gulped. That little minx didn’t play fair, she knew that I loved not only her mind but her tight little body. That’s really unfair. “I intended to! I-”

Cindy lowered her shirt and covered the goods. “Then go on, speak. No, better. Show me what happened in your mindscape.”

I closed my eyes and took her naked arm in my right hand. “Fine.” I said, and brought her in my mindscape.

Not used to navigating into my mindscape, Cindy walked slowly on the bridge and sat at my side, while I was in the command chair. I waved a hand and my memories appeared on the viewscreen. I showed Cindy what happened that day starting with Anna receiving me in her house, me bringing her to the garden and glossing over the dimension spying thing but Cindy got the gist of it about Anna’s life, until I showed her the kiss and what she told me.

Cindy’s face was neutral, but deep inside she felt pity for Anna and was empathizing with her. The asian girl leaned in her seat. “So, she can’t touch anyone except you, and she’s so starved for love and companionship that she latched onto you.”

“Not my fault.” I whined.

Cindy turned her head toward me, she looked sad. “I see… um, Jean I’m sorry for being such a bitch to you, I thought…”

She clearly saw me stopping Anna stop trying to kiss me and explaining that I was with someone in my memories. That I wasn’t about to cheat on my perfect freaky girlfriend. “That I would cheat on my asian goddess?”

She flushed for a moment before slapping my arm. “Flattery will not get you anywhere, you still flirted with her.” Cindy accused.

There was no use lying, I couldn’t do it in my own mind, she would feel it. So I turned the accusation back at her. “Tell me you wouldn’t, after seeing that ass.” I poked her sternum with a finger.

Cindy stood up, looked outraged and tried to lie, but just like me, she couldn’t, I had set up the telepathic bond like this. “You… fine, yes she has a fine one.” She avoided my gaze.

I wasn’t the only one lusting after Anna it seemed, and Cindy was being a sucker because of the hard life she went through in each of the dimensions I showed her. Cindy liked strong girls, just like me. There was no more undercurrent of hostility toward Anna coming from her anymore. I had mixed feelings, her love for me burned like the sun, but it wasn’t as intense as the one between Barton and Barbara for example; Peggy and Steve were two stars orbiting each other. Cindy and I were still in that development phase of our respective feelings and we were getting there.

Sighing, I asked, “Are we going to continue to argue about Anna?” I didn’t want to, I wanted to kiss my girlfriend and forget it had happened, I was willing to just be friends with Anna, nothing more. I treasured what I already had.

There was firm determination and resolve rising through my link with Cindy. She had arrived at a decision, when she turned to me,  “Jean, I think I am not enough for you.” She said incomprehensible words.

*Is she breaking up with me?* My heart stopped, my mindscape quaked as her words registered. “Cin… what do you mean?” I stood up and took her hand in mind, she didn’t bat it away.

Cindy held onto my hand and looked directly in my eyes. “You still look at Gwen as if you want to have sex with her.”

“I do not!” I stopped doing that! We were friends and I stopped flirting with her, Gwen was one of my best friends! I continued to deny and ramble.

“At least deep down you still want to eat her up. I understand, she’s cute, I noticed that you like sciency type girls too.” Cindy remanded.

My eyes became blurry, and I couldn’t help but let tears flow down my cheeks. “Are you breaking up with me?” I said in a brittle little voice that intoned with fear, I didn’t think I could survive such a thing.

Cindy’s eyes widened and she embraced me. “What? No! NEVER” She said as she held onto me.

I breathed in relief. “I-it sounded like that to me, phew, I was getting w-worried.” I sniffled, then gradually calmed down.

After finally composing myself and letting the warmth of my girlfriend comfort me, I looked at Cindy. “So what did you mean?” I finally asked, after Cindy let go of me. However she was still holding on my hand as if afraid to make me cry again.

Cindy pulled me to the beige colored seats on the bridge and sat me down. She sat at my side, practically gluing herself to me. “I think… I think we must discuss the inevitable fact that you are going to want another girl in our couple. I can feel your attraction for Anna through our bond.”

Yeah she was hot and I felt sorry for her, but if I had to choose between Anna and Cindy, I would choose my girlfriend in a heartbeat. “But I don’t want anyone more than you.”

And I meant it, the feeling reverberated through our mental connection. Cindy smiled and smooched me, I wanted more, but it wasn’t the time, we had to air our grievances first and communicate. 

“Me too, but… I get the same urges too.” Cindy confessed.

I tried to get my head around this, I knew she looked at other girls; as much as I and I was content to just do that, look. But at some point we might meet other girls or a guy? I liked guys too. Cindy picked up on my thoughts, she was getting partially good at that telepathy thing. 

She nodded. “So instead of suffering and inevitably cheating on each other, maybe we should get real about our situation. We are going to have fun with this, maybe even have a bigger family?”

I could see it happen, caring for more people than Cindy and my family; but would they be as dedicated to me than I would be to them? I wasn’t ready for such a step, I barely had time for myself and everyone as I worked hard to keep them safe. Marvel was a fucking death world and I needed to be ready to meet its challenges.

But at the same time, surrounding myself with people too strong to take out was a defense in itself; Cindy smiled, she used my paranoia and my protective instinct against me to get what she wanted. I felt proud of her and annoyed at the same time. “So… we are going to add more girls later? Are you sure that you want this? Normally you are quite jealous...”

Cindy shook her head and put her arm around my shoulder. “The only way you are adding another girl is by me liking her too. We are in this together, we do things together, always.”

So what she wanted was polyamory. Polyamory was the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It had been described as consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. Cindy wanted us to be happy, have fun; she recognized that her jealousy could be too much sometimes.

But she was working on not being a burden and having a fulfilling life. I looked into her eyes, she felt calm and didn’t doubt what she was saying; there was also the fact that she was taking steps for our future. “I see, that’s fair.”

Cindy laughed, kissed me full on the mouth. After a minute we came for air, Cindy had a mischievous expression on her face. “Anna, she looks like a good girl.”

I glared at her, poked her boob. “I knew it, you want that cute ass!”

Cindy made an entrancing sound and I felt her nipple peek out from under her loose t-shirt. “Okay, yeah you are right, but it’s not just that! She needs care and friendship. I was about to rip into her for trying to seduce you, but after seeing what her life is? No, she needs more people that appreciate her.”

My hand slipped under her t-shirt and I groped her breast; firm and the elasticity was perfect, just like I remember one month ago.

My girlfriend slid on my knees and I began to play with her, but she really wanted to get that conversation about Anna out of the way. “About Anna, I intend to be her friend and teach her how to control her powers.”

Between pants and moan, Cindy said, “D-did y-you make anything to help her with her power?”

I gently pinched her nipples, and sucked on her uncovered neck, marking Cindy. The girl pinned my head and forced me to continue giving her hickeys. When I was done, I was finally ready to answer. “As a matter of fact I came up with a power dampener in the form of earrings.”

I went for fantasy looking ceramic-carbon fiber coated earrings, in the form of the sun and moon, I hoped Anna liked piercings. They could be activated or deactivated with her voice and her DNA. They were powered by solar radiation.

Cindy laughed, after my explanation about how they worked. “This is great, Jeanie. Don’t forget, friendship first, we help her, then…” My girlfriend was suddenly straddling me, she had pushed us out of my mindscape and we were in the same position from earlier in the real world: me holding her arm and not doing any kinky stuff. “We will see if we can add her by luring her into our bed.”

I sighed, I wanted some nookie time. “Are we going to discuss this with her at least?” I asked her. I didn’t want Raven to fucking kill us. “Her mother wouldn’t want us to corrupt the poor girl.”

Cindy took off her t-shirt, she was now topless. “I will show you corruption.”

I squealed as she tackled me to the bed and Goldie automatically absorbed my clothes to let me have my way with my girlfriend. Some heavy petting was happening and Cindy’s tongue was stuck down my throat, I felt alive more than before. But of course, someone had to spoil the moment.

“Am I interrupting?” Jessica asked out loud and stared at us as we were getting half naked.

 

# # #

 

“So Jean…” Jessica began to say as she stood over Cindy and I who were seated on my king sized bed.

The pink haired girl smiled derisively at me and Cindy, my girlfriend was avoiding looking at her as she was embarrassed. She may be kinky, but she wasn't an exhibitionist. I wasn’t bothered that my best friend had seen me at all, we were all girls here after all.

"Jess."

The pink haired girl’s brown eyes slid on Cindy and she glared. "You know… Cindy was supposed to wait for you and hold you down until I got to your bedroom. But I see that she forgot that part of the plan."

I frowned, turning to Cindy and getting her attention by touching her arm. She looked up at me with a tilt of her head. "Huh, Cin are we adding Jessica in the relationship? I thought she was straight!"

Cindy looked at me with disbelief, then she began to laugh. I glared at her, embarrassed by her reaction; it seemed I was wrong.

Jessica's expression grew impatient, Cindy’s bout of amusement didn’t sit well with her. "What are you talking about?" She demanded.

My girlfriend stopped, looked at me in silence, then began anew to laugh. I sighed and took the time to explain to Jess, "Cindy and I decided to try that polyamory thing."

There were diverse reactions that went through my best friend's head. First, surprise, second, she blushed and third, annoyance at us airing our private life like this to her. Fourth, she was touched that we could tell her things like that. But there was something lurking in her thoughts that I couldn't reach without testing her mental defense. And those were formidable, I taught her myself.

Jessica chuckled and waved her hand. "No, Jean. I am not going to be your girlfriend. You are too high maintenance, I would grow grey hair in no time, poor Cindy..."

"Hey!" How dare she?! I was awesome to be with!

The proof was that Cindy wrapped an arm around my waist in comfort, I leaned into her. 

Cough. "Anyway, Jean. I wanted to speak with you about your attitude." Jessica segued smoothly. 

I was shocked, what did she mean? Was I a bad friend? What's the matter today?  First Cindy and now Jessica? "My…?"

Jessica’s brown eyes bored into me. "All the secrets you keep, and only telling us about dangers after the fact."

I resented that, I've been protecting them from info that might not be accurate or was too dangerous for mere mortals to know. Some people or beings would rip their mind open to obtain what they knew. If Jessica or worse, her parents were harmed because they knew secrets they shouldn't… I don't know what I would do to those who dared lay a hand on them.

However, in response to my utter lack of reaction, Jessica went for broke by using a comparison that deeply hurt me, it was as if I was plunged into a vat of acid. "Jean, you have been pulling a Xavier on us all this time. Don't you trust us?"

The bed, the furniture and the room around me shook as I briefly lost control of my telekinesis, the spike of anger I felt would have killed anyone else who wasn't Jessica, my best friend. This lapse of control shook me as it showed that I had still a long way to go before I mastered my power completely without using the Phoenix Force as a crutch.

I looked at Jessica whose gaze was unwavering as she looked at me in disappointment. This, right here was why I normally didn't make friends before meeting her, by letting someone in, you also gave them ways of hurting you. But through the haze of pain, I felt that she cared about me and Jessica only acted this way to protect not only herself but the others my actions disturbed the life of.

"That’s unfair Jessica." I reined in my anger, but still glared at the pink haired girl. Cindy hugged me, her warm like a balm on my hurts.

Jessica smirked, put her fist on her hips and said, "I don't pull my punches, I was the only viable candidate to make you face your hypocrisy, if it had been Chimera or Hans talking to you right now, they would already be slammed into a wall."

 I flinched. "I would never-"

Jessica loomed over me, staring at me in the eyes. "Don’t lie."

*Fuck.* Jessica was reading me like a book, she was too sharp for her own good. But wasn’t this what attracted me to her? I wanted smart friends, not the bubbling wishy washy imbeciles that surrounded me at school. 

But I was forced to remember everything I had done of late. I had manipulated people, bought the loyalty of others and all of it in the name of a cause. At this point I was no better than Xavier or Magneto and it sickened me, how could I be better if I was using the same methods they used to gather allies or destroy their enemies.

For once it was my turn to look down and feel like a two faced bitch. "I hate that baldie, and being compared to him makes me feel dirty." I said out loud.

"Then don't act like him." Cindy whispered in my ear. <And please don't forget about me, I love you, but I don't want you to turn bad, okay?> The beautiful black haired girl said through our mental bond.

There was the threat that she’d leave me if I ever went too far; it wasn’t voiced, but it was felt through the bond. I didn’t panic or cry, but simply said, "I'm sorry."

I was sorry that it had come to this, that I couldn’t trust myself anymore. “It is a woman's own mind, not her enemy or foe, that lures her to evil ways.” I quoted Buddah, thinking deeply about it’s meaning.

Was I evil? Or was I good? Did those concepts exist? When I looked at the world around me, I found that yes, good and evil existed. They were moral values, so they were covered by the Theory of Morality. The question arised from a particular idea of what truth was. When the idea of truth was more carefully defined, it became clear that moral value was the yardstick by which truth was measured. So, to the extent there was such a thing as truth, there was such a thing as truth about moral value.

There was a moral requirement that we attempted to see things within the distinctions and categorizations that had proved, or would prove useful. Children put a lot of effort into learning from adults how to see the world in a useful way, and we put considerable effort into teaching them these skills and practices. The maintenance and improvement of all this culture was guided by moral value and the assumption that we had access to truth about such moral value.

I was agreeing with Plato's Allegory of the Cave. To live in a world where truth was accessible, we had to accept the perspective that accepted The Good as the light that enlightened us to what the truth about reality was. Consequently, to deny the existence of truth about moral value was to return to the cave where truth was impossible because all notions of what was true were subject to arbitrary manipulation with no moral limits.

I thought of myself as good, and able to do evil to right wrongs. Xavier was exactly the same, he hid the truth and manipulated the lives of those around him, controlling the information they got, not caring about innocents as he played his games. *So many lies…*

"I think it comes with being a telepath." Cindy commiserated, gently stroking my hair.

Where should I toe the line? How could I be better? Those questions circled in my mind. However, I didn’t have the time to brood, Jessica put a gloved hand on my shoulder. "Jean are you going to tell us what makes you push us aside? Everyone wants to help you, you don’t have to carry your burden alone."

As I looked at her, I felt that she meant it, she wanted to help me; but would she be able to stomach what I had to do? Jessica must have felt my doubt as she opened herself fully to me; she learned that mental shield trick rather fast after I showed her how to do it. What I read made me tear up. She’d help me kill a fool and hide the body, I turned my head to my girlfriend and realized that so would she. "Shit, okay...I will tell you everything... But you better sit down Jessica. "

She sat at my side and for the better part of an hour, I told them about me being a Phoenix avatar and the consequences of such powers. About how I died, the threats on Earth; Apocalypse, the Purifiers, Weapon plus, magic, aliens and gods, how the world would burn if we were not prepared to meet those challenges head on or surreptitiously.

It was a shocked Jessica who stood up from the bed she was sitting on previously who was the first to express herself first. "Fuck! Fuck, Jean, how could you keep all that to yourself?"

"Language." Cindy said into a chiding tone.

I smiled. "You asked, now you know." After telling them, I felt as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Now I wasn’t the only one knowing about what was going to happen.

The girls were afraid, and rightly so; this was the kind of information that couldn’t be shared with others. That they couldn’t act on recklessly. Now I had shared my burden, Jessica and Cindy… certainly didn’t want to run away but were thinking about how to help me. That was reassuring.

Jessica stopped pacing and had a funny smile on her face even though she was scared. “Jean that super hero gig, when we first met, I didn’t think it would become legit… but now? I understand why you keep handing out powers and amassing scientists. You want to get ahead of the curve.”

I stood up, with Cindy and held on to both of them. "I'm going to protect you all." 

While Jessica hugged me, she whispered, "Jean, we are going to help you, I am going to become strong and…"

I kissed her on the cheek, my eyes becoming blurry with tears. "Thank you."

 

# # #

(Phillipa Sontag aka Arclight)

 

Lab Complex
Testing room

There were a lot of spooks at her side and Phillipa didn’t trust any of them, even the ones her leader thought she could. They had been lurking everywhere, to places they shouldn’t be in. It had forced her, Hans and Chimera to seal up the other Hangars and the armories. Phillipa felt naked as they kept gazing at her, watching any movement she made. Some of those people had seen her train and use her shockwaves and lift the special weights in the gym past the forty tons range.

Since then, they had begun to avoid her and send her wary looks when she was present. Phillipa asked herself if they realized that they were guests here and not her who was part of her leader's team.

She shrugged and focused on the testing room, it looked like the inside of an empty warehouse with a really high ceiling, plastic chairs were placed for everyone to sit at. The walls and ceiling were grey stone mostly and perfectly carved. The light fixtures hung on the ceiling and  walls lighting every nook and cranny of the testing room.

Phillipa noticed that she wasn't the only one from her team present, Chimera was helping Hans lift a platform with a solid looking big table.  The young purple haired woman stood up and went to help. Chimera smiled at her in appreciation while Hans nodded at her. Once they were done installing the furniture Phillipa asked, "I guessed that we are here to show off, but what exactly are we going to test?"

"From what I saw in the main lab, some kind of armor." Chimera answered with a sigh.

The blonde then took her eight inch tablet from one of her utility belt’s pouches, powered it up and then showed Phillipa what she had seen. With their level four access to the database, they could look at some of Jean’s most successful research. Phillipa whistled. The black armor looked sleek and conformed to the 3D model body like Jean Grey's Phoenix armor.

Chimera used her fingers to turn around the holographic model and made an exploded view of the armor and a list of the systems available. The psionic was interested in it because physically she was squishy compared to Phillipa or Hans. Inside the armor was an exoskeleton amplifying its user's strength to superhuman levels. It's durability wasn’t stated but knowing their leader, it should be tremendous.

"I can't wait to see it in action, look, it's got guns too!" Chimera gushed like a fangirl.

"I won't be able to use it." Lamented Hans who would have liked to be able to.

The giant blond man flushed when Chimera put a hand on his biceps. "Don’t say that, I am sure the boss will make a custom one for you, Hans."

"But she’s the kind of person to say that it would be redundant on me." The man lamented, knowing exactly how focused Jean Grey could become and the weird logic she applied to things.

Phillipa really liked Hans, he was a dependable man, it did help that he looked simply scrumptious in that black skin-tight uniform of his,  showing off his impressive musculature.  However, it seemed that Chimera had dibs on him and Phillipa wasn't about to threaten the love life of the second in command of their team.

Chimera smiled at Hans. "Just ask her, I am sure she thought about your condition anyway."

And just at that moment something incredible happened. Phillipa noticed someone high up on the ceiling, it wasn’t obvious at first, but with her acute senses she could discern a slight blurry shape. The blurry and transparent effect simply vanished and an armored silhouette was finally completely distinct. The armor was the same one Chimera had shown Phillipa on her tablet earlier.

Phillipa narrowed her eyes when the armored person detached themselves from the ceiling and was free falling down, with a roll they activated some kind of jetpack releasing a blue stream of highly charged particles that were forced through the engine's exhaust port. The person then landed in a crouching position as his or her fall was cushioned by a white colored fixed-focus electromagnetic lensing field, projected downward activated from the armor’s boots.

As they righted themselves, Phillipa saw every spook raise their weapon and shoot. A device on the right gauntlet of the armor deployed and formed an emerald colored energy barrier around the armored figure. Phillipa and Hans covered Chimera with their bodies, as some of the ricocheting bullets ended up hitting them.

After emptying their ammunition, the spooks looked on at the black armored person. Some were loading their pistols, others stood in shock at the green forcefield.

"The test was a success." A familiar female voice sounded through some kind of loudspeakers system.

The armored woman took off her helmet and Phillipa wasn't surprised to see their redheaded leader was the assailant. Jean shook her head to free her hair, then looked tauntingly at the S.H.I.E.L.D agents.

Chimera made a shocked expression, then facepalmed.  "Boss…"

Jean Grey turned toward Chimera, checking if she was hurt after a quick inspection. As she noticed Phillipa and Hans protecting her she smiled and gave a thumbs up to them and addressed Chimera. "Aww, good job guys! And don’t worry Mera, I knew Hans and Arclight would protect you."

Hans stayed silent and hugged Chimera protectively.  The blonde basically melted in his arms but the man didn't notice as he was busy setting fire to Jean with his mind.

Phillipa glared at the teenage girl and voiced what everyone was thinking. "You are evil…"

Jean grinned. "And don't you forget it."

A masculine and commanding voice rang like a whip. "What the hell is happening here Grey?!"

Phillipa turned toward the voice and saw the bald man who had taken over the communication room lately, acting as if it was his. Fortunately, his access was restrained to level three and he wasn’t able to go through Jean’s research or base system. The man was surrounded by a cadre of six agents, moving around him as if he was to be protected.

Their redheaded leader smiled at him and waved a gauntleted hand. "And Fury is here! Welcome, welcome! Oh my, you brought Cap and aunt Peggy, good."

Just as Jean said, here was a statuesque brunette and blonde man, they commanded attention as they walked, the woman, Peggy stopped before the platform and glared at the redhead. "Jean this wasn’t safe… to do."

With a mysterious grin, Jean answered, "I knew exactly what would happen, anyway… we are all here because I have promised to support you guys to take back S.H.I.E.L.D and our country. But to give us an edge, I decided to come up with the armor I am currently wearing. But first, I want to ask you this question, is it better to be feared or respected?"

Fury was the first to answer and it wasn't even difficult that he chose the 'to be feared' option like some of the gung-ho agents at his side, while Peggy and Cap and some others chose the 'to be respected' one. Phillipa understood that this was a test from Jean and that those agents would be influenced to be in support positions rather than in teams later. Her leader was taking care of not being stabbed in the back by that Fury fellow.

Jean shook her head and stomped her right foot. "I say, is it too much to ask for both?"

"My solution to this problem was what I am currently wearing, the Achilles armor mark one." The black armor seemingly came to life as blue light spread on its surface, showing each piece such as the pauldron, segmented breastplate, gauntlets, greaves and boots. The pistols in each of Jean’s thigh holsters activated in a bright blue hue as well.

Then suddenly, dozens of stone targets appeared from the depths of the testing room, firing at high speed. With a smooth and economical movement Jean took the pistol from her thigh holster and fired. A high dispersal effect was fired from the futuristic gun muzzle in three bursts and hit all the targets successfully. Another volley came this time one by one, Jean did something with the pistol in her hand, she shook it and the line glowing along the side of it changed pattern and too fast it fired a lance of blue light and destroyed the stone pigeon.

Jean holstered the pistol and a big cannon appeared in her hand in a flash of blue light; it seemed that it was heavy and cumbersome. A Hummer materialized at the end of the testing room a good fifteen meters away.

It fired a continuous particle beam of blue light that simply speared the vehicle and made it explode. Jean then pointed her gauntlet at the explosion and fired three puck sized devices that held in mid air and generated three force fields that linked together and contained the explosion. The viridescent walls of the forcefield retracted into the devices that came flying back to Jean who let them land on slots in her gauntlet. 

The redhead turned to the people behind her and could only see people looking shocked, mesmerized or scared.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, for your consideration, the Achilles Mark-1.” The redhead said with a triumphant grin.

It chilled Phillipa’s spine down to the bone.

 

# # #

(Jemma Simmons & Leo Fitz)

Lab Complex
Testing room
20 minutes later

On the table placed on the platform, Leo was having the time of his life. Certainly, the situation with S.H.I.E.L.D was dire and problematic; but now they had access to a top of the line lab, with exotic resources and unknown technology to poke and prod at. Miss Jean was allowing him to check out the directed energy weapons she had come up with. He had the pleasure to study those from Hydra that the teenager had collected earlier and what comparaison he could make between those Hydra had and the newly constructed particle weapons built in this lab was night and day.

Hydra’s weapons were crude and prone to either break down or explode without maintenance, the fault of that was the poorly built superconductors and battery pack inside that would also overheat and make it explode as a catastrophic failure melted the energy container; Miss Jean’s design was elegant and less prone to overheating, and built into each of the weapons was a cooling system allowing it to vent excess heat.

He wasn’t allowed to look at the parts and electronics inside and he could just guess what she had done to produce a particle weapon in a handheld format. Leo sat and took on a thoughtful expression. *Super conduction and some kind of wonder metal that permit energy manipulation… The battery pack used as ammunition clips plays a big role too.*

“Fitz.”

The young man took one battery clip and connected it to the socket to charge it, the led at the bottom of the battery lit up brightly in red. *The energy is peculiar too, it’s not plasma or electricity...*

He was suddenly jabbed with something in his arm, looked right and saw his girlfriend Jemma, poke him with her gauntleted hand. “Fitz!”

“Dammit Jemma! I was working!” he shouted but it was without heat.

Jemma noticed that Leo's S.H.I.E.L.D uniform was in disarray, he had taken off the top half of it and was only in his tank top and pants. Surely to be at ease as he used to do when he worked. The young man took a swig from a water bottle and stored it back in a pouch at his belt.

The tall brunette smiled at him and tauntingly said, "You mean you were trying to understand how it works. Don’t bother, the tech is black boxed, you know it's useless to try to analyze it."

With an affronted huff the young man lifted his hand and gave her the finger. "But I can still uncover the basics!"

Leo tried but he couldn’t even guess what type of energy those particle weapons used. Jemma snorted at her boyfriend. "Right, you know... she wants to hire us. This is her way of hooking you and getting you to resign from S.H.I.E.L.D to join her." She took a seat at his side and slapped a folder on the table in frustration, not at Leo but at the situation she found herself in.

She took off the top of her uniform and found herself in her tank top as well, Leo briefly leered at her, but understood it wasn’t the time to think about her body or what he could do with it. Jemma looked to be in distress. Leo could only guess what was happening, Miss Jean had indeed offered her something.

Leo asked after some time, "What did she use to bait you then? As you are a xenobiologist the only way she could, would be with alien DNA samples, huh?"

There was a tense silence before Jemma stuttered. "Um… yeah."

Oh so slowly, Leo turned his head to the brunette, his blue eyes almost bloodshot. "Get out! Real alien DNA!?"

Jemma sighed. "There's a DNA bank here, three sections down and there's at least ten samples available." The young woman had wanted to say yes on the spot, but the fear of what Jean Grey did to Grant Ward was burning inside her. She didn’t begrudge Jean for killing the guy, in fact she was glad that she did, the guy gave her the creeps. But it seemed Jean didn’t think much about how she used her powers to kill him, as if he was inconsequential to her. Were her subordinates treated the same way? That was what made Jemma hesitate.

Leo put a hand on her shoulder. "Did she succeed?"

Jemma looked at Leo. "At what?"

"Hooking you."

Jemma couldn’t just judge the redhead with the way she dealt with her problems. She had seen her with her friends and family and she treated them decently; this was a leap of faith, but she didn’t want to work with S.H.I.E.L.D anymore if it was the type of bullshit that happened to them most of the time. "I was thinking about resigning anyway…" Jemma nodded.

Leo smiled at her. "Same… I am not a field guy, and I want to do research without being bothered by politics."

Jemma chuckled. "That’s impossible, you know it."

Leo snorted, looking at the energy pistol before him. "A man can dream."

Jemma looked at the weapons and at Jean who was talking with Peggy in front of them; the men looked on at the armor she had stepped out of, studying and asking questions. Leo had been like a little kid when she explained the collapsible plating of the armor, it allowed the user to step in and out of it at leisure. Jemma looked on at Fury who looked at Jean Grey with a calculating expression; for once he didn’t rage at her or dismiss her; Jemme didn’t think it was any good.

The brunette had a bad feeling about the circulation of the technology displayed before her. "The problem is that armor technology that Miss Jean came up with, it's going to change the way wars are waged. Did you see the calculating eye Fury had on his face? He will want to steal one."

Leo turned his head toward where he could see the bald man and indeed he looked like he was scheming something, it didn’t bode well for their stay in the lab. "I don't want to get killed. Did you see what Miss Jean did to Ward?" 

The laser beam and lightning that cooked you treatment didn’t appeal to Jemma at all. "I think we need to make a decision… an important one."

Leo nodded. "Whatever you do, I'm following." He assured her.

Jemma wanted to kiss him for this, they always did things together after all.

A blue skinned and redheaded woman wearing some kind of white bodysuit coming from the side came to speak with them. She looked like the serious and no nonsense type. "Maybe I can help you?"

“Who are you?” Asked Leo.

He became wary, she looked exotic but she moved like a cat; as for Jemma she didn’t like the way the woman had seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“I am Mystique, an associate of Jean.” The woman sounded proud of that fact, as if she had won the lottery or something.

Jemma was the first to ask, “What do you want?”

Mystique smiled and put a hand on her hips, “I couldn’t help but hear you, I understand that you would be interested in employment.”

Leo and Jemma looked at each other, and decided to take the proverbial leap of faith. Looked up in sync at Mystique and said, “Go on.”

 

# # #

Back with Jean…
Hanger Bay 2
December 26th, 1996
04:06 AM

The demonstration of the Achilles armor the previous day had been a success. Peggy was surprised that I had made enough of them for every field agent; Steve was eager to try one after I showed him how he could make a forcefield act like a Proto-adamantium shield. Fury got scared by what I created and was scheming and thinking of stealing my work and having weapons to use against me, but he would see how wrong he was to even think about it. He still thought that I had to touch people to use my telepathy, what an idiot.

Anyway, we were preparing for take-off soon, this was it; we were finally going to take the fight to Hydra and make them pay, or should I say, I would. We were all about to go decapitate their leadership with fast attacks. I was doing some preflight checks while Chimera was acting as my copilot. For once I wouldn’t be procrastinating in flight.

In the cabin, I was checking the battery indicator and the avionics; it was a lot of work, the instruments were kind of different from the Samson and took me another thirty minutes to understand what I was doing by accessing the knowledge I had drained from Sinister. I now appreciated how diligent Chimera was as she was used to doing it. We needed a dedicated pilot ASAP, but for now me in command would do.

The plane I was about to pilot was called the Raven, an experimental VTOL stealth gunship/dropship; I don’t know where Sinister stole it but it looked good. Yeah, he stole it, the schematics didn’t have the same touch that he had. This was made by a younger mind, someone who was a science or engineering geek from the 80’s or later and read a lot about spaceships and planes.

With six ion engines, the Raven could go at a maximum of mach three; I pushed a big blue button on the dashboard and ventral panels unfolded to reveal a dual railgun turret to fire on ground targets. I watched as the computer tested the mechanisms. It took me a while but the plane was finally ready to lift off.

"Are you done boss? I can take care of it if you want." Chimera said worriedly.

I looked at her, she wasn’t trusting me in my current endeavor, the piloting had always been left to her after all.

I waved her off. "I want to learn to do it myself." My eyes went back to the dashboard, and I performed checks on the right and left wings.

Chimera didn’t know how to say no to me but decided to make a token attempt. “Boss I still think that I should be the one piloting.”

“It shouldn't be as complicated as the Samsons, I got this.” I said after completing the flight check.

I pushed the button for the two way intercom in the Raven, “Is everyone strapped in tight?” I asked.

“Aye.” “We are.” “Locked and loaded.” where all the answers. For our first operation, I had taken Chimera, Jessica, Barton and Barbara. I wasn’t worried about anyone but Jessica who hadn’t killed before. She had insisted on coming and ‘supporting me’ but what I understood was that she wanted to curb my actions if I did go too far.

I shrugged and looked at the screen on the dashboard showing everything that I needed, flight controls free and correct,  altimeter set, directional gyro set; then I tested the flaps and the engines. The Hangar’s doors on the ceiling opened, the hangar lit up somewhat and I let the plane take off vertically. Slowly the valley revealed itself under us, it was still dark but I could see it with the moon’s light. Once out of the hangar, I tried to orient the plane but I somewhat missed and turned the plane toward the mountain; Chimera took control at this point and we avoided colliding with the mountain.

I felt Chimera’s eyes on me for a brief instant before she turned us to the north in the direction of Europe, the Raven gained in altitude, well over the one where civilian flights circulated.

I didn’t look in Chimera direction at all. “Err… it’s quite difficult to handle.”

Indeed it was, piloting the Raven was completely different from piloting a Samson.

Chimera jabbed her fingers on the button that would orient the engine horizontally and then we took off. She stayed silent for two minutes, fuming with anger before she addressed me, “I’m not letting you pilot anything before teaching you!”

“Welp, let’s think of this as a first lesson then?” I chirped, trying to assuage her anger.

Chimera put the Raven on autopilot and turned to me. “Jean, you won’t get away with this. We could have crashed into the mountain, I’m not going to let you do as you please anymore I think. The plane isn’t a toy.”

She was right, but I didn’t want to admit it. I believed in my capability to learn on the fly. “Huh, this was just a mistake, you-”

Chimera raised a hand, making me stop talking. “No, we will speak about all that when we are done with this Hydra shit.” The blonde woman insisted.

My eyes turned to the windshield, the sky was lighting up slowly, it was almost Dawn.  “Fine, at least let me see what you do when you pilot.” I leaned in the pilot seat and crossed my arms under my breastplate.

Finally, Chimera smiled and nodded. “Alright.”

 

# # #

 

Europe, Germany
Outskirt of Berlin
10 km away from Hydra Facility Gamma
07:21 AM

Chimera landed the Raven in a clearing. We were ten kilometers from the castle where Otto Vermis lived; the man was one of Hydra’s Supreme and he commanded their operations in Europe. I chose to go after him because I wanted to bring Jessica Drew into my team. Was I too opportunistic? Yes, or maybe I just didn’t want any of the spider-themed people I knew about in my dimension to be under the sway of some evil fucker.

I took off my seatbelt and helped Chimera with the landing checks; the Raven had taken us from Egypt to Europe in three hours. I couldn’t let it pass through one of my portals because the ion engine would have destabilized it, something about how they worked did that, I will just have to check later.

“The plane is okay but there are problems with it.” I said when we finished taking care of the plane.

The Raven was unwieldy at best, not as smooth as some ride I’ve taken in the Samson. There were instabilities in the engine, creating turbulence and causing some of the instruments pertaining to the fusion batteries to show errors when we went past 20 000 feet.

“We are not trained to handle G forces, boss. If you hadn’t shielded us with your inertia dampening field we would have had problems.” When we had gone past mach 1.5 and to mach 2, Chimera and the team in the passengers compartment had been suffering through the effect of the acceleration.

Chimera was one of the more squishy of us and was massaging part of her body. Fortunately, I had it in the bag and deployed my inertia dampening field around us. The flight had become smoother and we had gone past mach 3 without problem, but I couldn’t be here all the time to make it smooth. The Raven was a pretty dropship and gunship hybrid, but I wanted something reliable as a troop transport.

There were hidden factories all around the world that had belonged to Sinister, now they were at my disposal. I would make my own plane, the Raven would serve as a template and by the time I came up with something superior to 3D printing, I should be able to build it fast. “I will work on something.” I said with a nod.

I exited the pressurized cabin and ended up in the passenger compartment. Waiting for me was my current team. They were all sitting in their seats and checking their gear; Jessica had her Jewel costume on with a blue and white ornate domino mask, Barbara wore the Achilles armor with particle pistols at her thighs, rifle and two shock sticks on her back. As for Clint, I had chosen to give the prototype Lancelot armor designed to permit more speed and agility. The armor was different as it was black and silver in color.

It wasn’t just the color that was different but the idea behind it, it was made for infiltration, it had the same holographic and cloaking technology I had used for my Batwoman costume. Clint’s armor could become invisible for a longer time than the Achilles’ model, use the same particle weapons and other gadgets I had crammed into the armor too.

Clint was assembling the composite bow I had the time to make for him. There were a number of trick  arrows in his quiver that had taken all my skills in miniaturization to make possible; tracking arrows, explosive arrows, sonic arrows… the bow could be set up to fire said arrows with the force of an anti tank rifle. Why did I go that far? I liked Clint, he was an alright guy and I had plans for him to boost him to the level of a super soldier to keep up with his bride-to-be.

“Barton, how's the bow?” I asked.

He looked up at me, smiled and said, “I’ve barely tested it, but from what I’ve been able to do in the testing room yesterday… so far it works like a dream.”

There was some boyish exhilaration coming from him as he finished assembling the powerful mechanical bow.

I nodded to him and gave him a thumb up. “Don’t forget to conserve your arrows, use the particle rifle when you can.”

He looked at the rifle at his side. “Sure.”

Looking at my gauntlet, multiple holographic windows surrounded it; I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the Wakandan kimoyo tech, of course I had isolated my own network from the one in Wakanda, but I could still access it at will to see what they were up to. There were talks about installing little Shuri as the next Queen and the royalist and warhawk factions didn’t like it one bit. Bast appearing had shaken the religious people in Wakanda and now there was another faction wanting to follow Bast’s will.

I chuckled and locked access to Wakanda’s network and switched to mine. The others were now connected to me, I sent a check sign to everyone. Jessica’s gauntlet beeped green, she was the first to answer by poking the green window that popped up, then Barbara and Clint did the same. As Chimera exited the cockpit she touched her hologram.

“So, everyone. We are going to invade this… base.” I said as everyone’s gauntlets and local kimoyo network synchronized and combined to form a big green holographic map showing a fortified castle.

“So the mission is to take out that Otto Vermis guy, he is the Supreme Hydra of Europe. Secondary goals are to capture that girl.” A hologram of Jessica Drew, the future Spiderwoman appeared.

She was sixteen years old and 1.70 meters tall, not bad... I was a bit jealous; brown hair and green eyes, she looked athletic. But the data was one year old, she should have completed her spy and assassin training. I hoped she wasn’t brainwashed yet, if she was, deprogramming her would be a bitch.

Jessica was the first to speak as she noticed that the secondary target shared a name with her. “How dangerous is she?”

I pursed my lips as I watched each of them, Clint and Barbara in particular, they had more experience with spy and criminal underworld stuff. “Well… think of Cindy with all her powers but with the skills of the Black Widow.”

Their eyes widened in remembrance of the name of the number one assassin in the world. “FUCK.” They shouted in sync.

Yeah, Jessica Drew was awesome and compared to her, Cindy and Pete couldn’t compete with her with the skills that they possessed. Vermis trained Drew in the use of her powers and taught her espionage, martial arts, and various killing techniques. Hydra wanted to mold Jessica into the perfect assassin. She had been trained in armed and unarmed combat under The Taskmaster… wait! “Oh yeah, guys. I don’t know if he will be there, but… do any of you know who that guy Taskmaster is?”

*If I remember my lore, that guy… Tony Masters? Or something like that trains criminals in combat that could pay him to do so. He also has a really privileged relationship with that fucker Von Strucker.* I thought as a picture of the thirty year old Tony Masters appeared. 

He was a tall man, with brown eyes and hair, 1.88 meters and wearing body armor. He looked handsome but you could see that he was a hyper focused man.

“Jean who is he?” My best friend asked.

I shrugged. “An asshole who thinks himself some kind of warrior. His skills are real though, he is a master martial artist. He has enhanced physiology, like Barbara here.” I pointed an armored finger at the blonde. “He worked with S.H.I.E.L.D before and on a mission seemed to have found an experimental nazi version of the super-soldier serum.”

Barbara looked furious and I felt annoyance exude from her, she crossed her arms and asked, “Why is the super soldier serum so widespread? I mean, shouldn’t it have disappeared with Doctor Erskine?”

The Jewish scientist who came up with the supersoldier serum, a man ahead of his time. But it wasn’t  anything that the Xandarian hadn't come up with, their genetic engineering program purged bad genes from their citizens at birth. I decided to enlighten the biologist and said, “Well he worked unknowingly for Hydra at first you know that?”

Barbara nodded and frowned, not seeing where I was coming with that. “Yeah but he defected, right?”

Abraham Erskine was the reason we didn't speak German right now, to me he was more of a hero than Captain America. “He sure did, but he mustn’t have grabbed everything and left notes or records of his experiments. That’s why you can always find a fucking cache of the thing modified or not.”

The holographic window refocused on the fortified castle. I had no satellite network so we couldn't watch it in real time, but I had access to drones and with portal manipulation I could do things like spying easily. What? Did you think I would do nothing while flying in this plane? I had mapped the surroundings of the place as silently as possible through little portals.

I sat on the nearest seat and crossed my legs as I said, “I’m not good at infiltration, so I will let Barbara and Barton lead the mission.”

You wanted me to go guns blazing somewhere? I was your girl, but I wasn’t patient enough to enter silently, I had two S.H.I.E.L.D trainees with me here, they should be able to lead the operation.

Clint was the first to answer, “Uh, why us?!” He stood up looking at me as if I was setting him up.

*I kind of was.* I chuckled. “You two have more experience, and it’s a job interview at the same time…” I looked particularly at Clint, Barbara was definitely going to be my pet scientist. “At least for Barton.”

Barbara seemed to understand where I stood, and nodded at me; making me smile, then my eyes settled on the blonde man. He had thought that he would follow Barbara and do simple bodyguard work for me or something. 

“I thought that-” Clint tried to say.

But I interrupted him by standing up, walking toward him and poke his cheek. “Never assume you have it in the bag, Barton. I like you, but I want to know if you will either be dead weight or need retraining.”

I was deliberately needling him, and hoped that it worked. I knew he would rise to the challenge and show me why he was called Hawkeye.

Clint glared at me. “Challenge accepted.”

Barbara put a hand on his right arm and gave him a reassuring smile; she believed in him. Jessica and Chimera looked at me with wariness, sure that I would suggest something too much again. I didn’t disappoint them.  “Oh and I have a bomb to explode the castle at the end, I hope we can implement it in the plan.”

Chimera facepalmed. “Boss, please tell me it’s not another nuke.”

Jessica, Barbara and Clint looked at me with alarm. *Wow, there’s no trust here.*

Sigh. “Peggy made me promise to not use my brand of nukes anymore, this one isn’t a nuke I promise.”

Chimera looked visibly relieved. She shouldn’t have, I was going to use what the Wakandan scientists called a Photon bomb. It was the size of a backpack and could level three city blocks easily. It wouldn't destroy Berlin, just everything in a two kilometers radius. I shrugged, not letting the haters get to me and asked my two favorite spies, “So what are we going to do Barb? Barton?”

 

# # #

 

Castle Dietrich was a new castle commissioned by Otto Vermis by a skilled architect whose name I couldn’t even pronounce because it sounded German and Russian at the same time. There was a facility underground as big as the one under Camp Lehigh. The number of vehicles and guards around it was significant, as if they were all on guard for something.

They had good reasons to be after what I did with their experimentation facility in the USA. Through my HUD, I counted thirty guards covering the grounds and the woods around the castle. The goal was to take them all down silently. I put a finger on my gauntlet and opened the comm system. “Phoenix, in position.”

“Jewel in position.” Jessica replied.

Her position on the holographic map showed her to be at the south end of the castle.

“Mockingbird ready.” Barbara used her call sign, she was the vanguard for this operation and was charged to infiltrate the castle.

“Hawkeye in position.” Clint added, he would help Barbara by taking out the guards by sniping them with his particle rifle.

“Chimera ready.” My second in command said cheerfully.

Everyone was ready. I was ready at a moment's notice to shoot with my kinetic blast and cover everyone.

 

# # #

(Barbara Morse aka Mockingbird)

*Back into the breach.* Barbara thought as she hid behind a tree and engaged the cloaking system and became invisible.

The woods were actively patrolled, and some of the guards had guard dogs with them. But it was nothing that Barbara couldn't handle; she took a tranquilizer-gun out of her utility belt. If she remembered correctly, it was enough to put a man or animal to sleep instantly for half a day.

With a shock baton in one hand and the tranq-gun in the other, Barbara attacked the guard passing and shocked him with a hit on his temple and then fired the fast acting tranq-gun at the dog who passed her. Like a bag of potatoes, the guard fell with a grunt, the German shepherd whined and tried to bark, only to fall like its master, unconscious.

*Those tranquilizers might be a bit too strong.*

Barbara then proceeded to hide the man and the dog behind some bushes, then continued seeking another target. Twenty meters away she met a pair of roaming guards. After climbing an overhanging oak tree, she dropped in and neutralized them.

She did this four more times before being caught by a group of guards with dogs, she wasn’t ready for it and had to fight. Fortunately, Jean was there and put them all to sleep with a wave, then she threw them through a portal. Barbara was surprised to see a tropical beach with white sand on the other side.

Jean noticed her surprise and explained, "I've sent everyone and their dogs there. Those guys don't know who they are working for but they are still mercenaries."

Barbara answered by taking her rifle, the weapon unfolded, her HUD showed her the number of shots, how the capacitor was all green and that the battery was full. "No mercy?"

"No mercy, Barb." Jean nodded and teleported away.

Barbara left the cover of the woods and fired her particle rifle in three burst mode, disabling a group of guards exiting the castle through the gates in the back property. Barbara wasn’t alone, Jessica had been covering her from the sky. When she landed, she took out another group with an explosive impact. The blast from her FEMLF boots as she came down carried enough force that it knocked down the enemy agents in a ten meter radius. 

She then struck each of them with an electro laser shooting out of her blue gauntlet, knocking each of them out. Jessica wiped her brow and flew up into the sky, Barbara ignored the superhuman feat, twirled her shock batons in her hands and ran toward the main gates.

 

# # #

(Clinton Barton aka Hawkeye) 

Clint looked at his fiancee go, covering her invasion of the castle; bow in hands he looked on as the camera in his helmet focused on a window with someone pointing a sniper rifle at Chimera who was taking down guards. He took a cluster bomb arrow from his quiver, loaded it in his bow, aimed and fired it in one smooth move. His HUD zoomed in and saw the man in a sniping position being hit by the arrow in the left shoulder, he staggered back inside the room he was in and a large explosion was the result of the trick arrow Clint had shot.

Smiling, Clint stowed his bow on his back and activated the cloaking system of his custom armor and ran around toward the front of the castle pointing his gauntlet to one of its tower’s crenelations and a monomolecular wire shot from it. It was a grappling device with retractable and detachable cable or wire with a mechanized end specifically meant to grab and pull a target.

While being pulled up, Clint unfolded his rifle until it made a small electronic squeak signalling its activation. He braced himself and landed against the walls of the towers and rappelled to enter the window to his left. After a moment, he pushed the com button on his right gauntlet. “I’m in.”

The room he had ended up in was a bathroom, a well maintained one. He didn’t have the time to look for anything inside as the low and appreciative voice of Jean Grey answered him. “Very good, Hawkeye. Why don’t you try to reunite with Mockingbird and take down as many guards as you can from the top? I'll keep sending the unaffiliated away, busy, busy.”

“Chimera is alone outside.” Clint said, wanting to cover his team member.

The redhead chuckled. “She’s a big girl.”

Clint wasn’t about to argue with the scary girl. “Understood.”

Clint put his particle rifle in semiautomatic mode and exited the bathroom to be faced with two armed men who immediately pointed their FAMAS rifles at the door that had opened. Clint was still invisible but the men fired anyway. Without harming him, the bullets fell from his armor as their kinetic energy was absorbed. It was Clint’s turn and he fired two shots of the energy weapon at them creating a baseball sized hole in each.

They fell forward, dead; Clint didn’t see Jean appear to take them so they must be guilty of being Hydra. Clint double tapped them by firing at their heads, their skulls exploding into bloody chunks. This trend continued as Clint roamed the castle in quest of a certain Hydra Commander. He found little  difference between the types of guards in the castle, they were all wearing the same black skin tight outfit with only an armband to identify their affiliation, the mercenaries’ armbands were blue and the Hydra men wore red ones and shouted Hail Hydra before attacking him when he revealed himself.

Clint finally reunited with Barbara who was battling most of the Hydra guards that were defending an elevator in a ballroom. The archer folded his rifle and stored it on the slot for it behind him, took his bow and fired three arrows simultaneously at three of Barbara’s foes, targeting their vitals. One ended up with an arrow in the throat, the next with one in the sternum and the last in the head.

Barbara’s shock batons took on a purple glow, a sure sign that she had ramped up their voltage and struck the last guard who screamed as he was being electrocuted. He walked up to Barbara who looked winded and bothered by all the bodies around her.

“You okay, babe?” Clint asked as he put a hand on the pauldron of her armor.

Her helmet’s visor passed from opaque to a transparent yellow showing half her face. “I am rusty, Clint.”

Clint’s helmet cleared as well and showed his comforting blue eyes. “Well I guess that you are going to be a regular in the gym. I will help you get back in fighting form.”

“Yes, I became too soft. Thank you.” Barbara thanked him.

Clint nodded. “You’re welcome babe; let’s wait for the rest of the team?”

“Yes let’s…” Barbara stored her shock batons on the armor’s slot behind her and took her rifle.

They stood overwatch at the elevator’s doors. One pointing a rifle at it, the other at the door of the ballroom. 

But they didn’t take into account a teleporting teenage girl with a mischievous disposition. Teleporting in a shower of blue in front of Clint, Jean said, “Nice work guys, and Barb don’t worry I will work you to the bone in the future training room.”

Barbara fired at Jean who was struck by the energy bolts but her armor absorbed them. Jean dusted her breastplate and shrugged her shoulders. She was glowing with orange particles of light escaping the aura around her.

Barbara sighed, “Jean, don’t startle me like that.”

The ballroom was silent for a moment, Jean’s visor went from opaque to transparent ruby; she looked remorseful. “Sorry, anyway I’m going to go down to the bunker, I’m taking Barton with me.”

She became all business again. Clint looked at Barbara who shrugged. He looked back at his new boss and said, “Sure.”

Jean turned to Barbara. “Barb, Chimera and Jessica are going to stay put to hold up any reinforcements they might have called. Even though I have jammed communications, I’m not taking any risks.”

Looking her up and down, Barbara commented, “That’s why you are glowing orange?”

Jean threw her a thumbs up. “Indeed. Nice that you noticed.”

Jessica and Chimera arrived in the ballroom, the black armored psionic was surrounded by a literal army of green colored ectoplasmic constructs from armored females with swords and armor looking like valkyries, to dragons and winged griffins they used as mounts. It was surreal to Clint, he surmised that he didn’t want to have to fight the woman ever. Jean hugged Jessica who seemed to not feel well about what she had been doing; Clint could see how green she was, and pitied her as he understood that Jean was using this operation to bloody her friend.

“Well Barton, let’s go.” His new boss said as she wrenched open the elevator’s doors to the empty shaft.

Clint followed her and placed himself at her side. “Yes ma’am”

“Smartass.” Jean turned to him and rolled her eyes.

A red bubble of psionic energy surrounded the two of them and slowly they levitated toward the gaping entrance of the elevator shaft, then once inside it, descended at high speed down the shaft. Clint screamed a bit, heard Jean chuckle at him and he shook his head at her. He took his bow in hand, ready for anything that would happen down there.

 

# # #

(Otto Vermis/Supreme Hydra)

 

Bunker
Level C

 

“Damn them!” The white haired man slammed his hands on his Rosewood desk. 

He put his head between his hands, his grey hair in disarray because of his worries; he wore a Hydra skin-suit covering his wiry body. The Supreme Hydra had extended his lifespan through successful gene therapy treatment. It wasn’t surprising that he looked strong and athletic for a man of his advanced age. He had thought that today would start well, his plan concerning the young Jessica Drew was finally bearing fruit, her training with Taskmaster was finally complete.

He was reading updates from the US Hydra branch, then the attack had come out of nowhere. They had appeared first like ghosts in the woods, then systematically and efficiently taken out the security before being detected. Otto had ordered the mercenaries to do something but none of them were responding, the agents' contingents on the surface didn’t fare any better.

Otto was forced to call out the Berlin, Vienna and Paris bases to ask for reinforcements; but when he was about to call, communications and the phone landlines simply cut off. Then it was the cameras and security network that went out. The last thing he had seen on the cameras was one of the assailants in black armor glowing orange looking at the camera in the castle’s lobby and everything went out.

“A mutant with power over radio waves or technology? How frightening.” Otto mused.

He sighed, pushed a button from under his desk and took an energy pistol from one of his desk’s drawers and put it on his belt. Otto stood up and exited the spartan safe room. Otto was sure that these people wanted him and maybe Jessica herself as her training was finally completed; this couldn’t be a coincidence!

The armored door opened and let him out, opening on the bunker’s command center where dozens of agents tried to do something about the communication being jammed and to give him eyes on the situation. The computers were new and cutting edge, connected to the global Hydra network through the internet, a fantastic resource that the organization used with impunity.

Each agent was a skilled operator with countless degrees in computer engineering, science and networking.

“Report!” Otto barked to the nearest agent.

The black haired and blue eyed man behind the console stood up and gave a ‘Hail Hydra’ salute and spoke, “Sir! We have switched to the hardened backup circuit for the security network, we have the cameras back but it’s low resolution.”

Otto smiled. “Better than nothing, and good job.”

The man saluted, sat and went to work. Another agent interrupted the Supreme Hydra and said quite unsure of what he was seeing. “Sir… they are in the elevator shaft?”

Two people were floating down the elevator shaft, it scared Otto as he realized that those people meant business. “Damnation. Have a welcoming party take care of them!”

He had one hundred soldiers with different levels of augmentation on site. He was tempted to send Jessica, but she had barely started the brainwashing operation, it would be bad to botch this… Otto ordered everyone to be ready to fight. Even the agents on their computer took the time to check their service arms and to prepare themselves. 

A woman entered the command center, she was in Hydra body armor, she had blonde hair framing her stern but beautiful heart shaped face and deep grey eyes. She walked toward Otto who recognized her as a recently hired field agent in charge. 

She saluted Otto and put herself at attention and said, "Sir, permission to speak?"

Otto looked at her from head to toes, he had no idea of what to do, no idea of who attacked him or their number… He needed to bounce ideas off someone else. "Why the hell not? Proceed."

"Sir, we should use heavier weapons and-"

Otto turned to her with wide eyes. "In the bunker?"

He liked the fact that she had initiative, if they survived this he might promote her. Otto nodded at her to continue with a wave and to be at ease.

"Yes, sir. We have already barricaded ourselves and built choke points in the Bunker’s corridors and bulkheads."

Otto couldn’t help but smile at her. His gaze softened as he looked at her. “I like your initiative, agent…?”

She saluted again enthusiastically. “Schneider, Luise Schneider sir.”

Otto found her to be a breath of fresh air even though their situation was dire. She was the reason why he did what he did; he wanted this world to be for the new generation, a generation that thought right. That people needed guidance and oversight to be truly happy, and Hydra was happy to take the reign and make this world a paradise. “Excellent, Agent Schneider. I shall remember you.”

However, it was not to be; when Otto blinked he found the arm of Luise Schneider in his chest, and blood pouring down his mouth. “I hope so, after all it’s your last day on Earth.” Her tone was sweet and her eyes smiling.

He looked at the woman with an uncomprehending stare. The arm was covered in a rubbery golden substance. Then he noticed that the agents around him were firing their weapons at her but some kind of energy shield rendered her impervious to harm. The woman turned her head to the operators firing at her, narrowed her eyes and what Otto saw was a nightmarish and gory scene.

Each of the agents’ heads exploded in a shower of gore, bones and cerebral matter and their body caught fire immediately. The Supreme Hydra was dying and about to close his eyes when he heard a different female voice. 

When he reopened his eyes it was to see an attractive young woman with red hair and emerald green eyes in a golden and red rubbery form fitting suit covering her from neck to toes before him.

“Hey, Otto. Don’t die too fast, I have something to tell you.” The mellifluous and enchanting voice told him. At least Otto would die by the hand of an angel. 

“Here, it should tide you over for what I have to say.” She said, and he felt a soothing heat coming from his chest. His blurry vision sharpened and Otto could finally look clearly at the woman that was killing him.

The girl who was crouching over him opened her mouth, and Otto hoped that she would say something meaningful, but what he got was pure poison. “I just wanted to tell you, that when Death comes to seize your soul, that I want you to remember this moment. I want you to remember my hand crushing your heart, I want you to remember that everything you did, everything you created was for naught. That your legacy shall be ashes after I am done with all your little bases and your ridiculous cabal of evil.” Her voice gained a sinister echo.

Those words and convictions from such a young woman made Otto falter, all his life he had been manipulating others and created elaborated plots to further his own goals. But they were useless when some girl with strange powers could crush everything he had built.

Otto heard her dirge like laugh directed at him, at what he was thinking and then she was finally done with him. “Jetzt hast du meine Erlaubnis zum sterben, du Sheißkerl. (Now, you have my permission to die, you piece of shit.)”

She crushed his heart again and he felt himself being burned from the inside, screaming and dying slowly.

 

# # #

(Jessica Drew)

 

Land of dreams

 

Jess felt like an idiot. For being put in this position, to have believed that mister Otto wanted what's best for her. One moment she was eating ice cream in the castle’s kitchen and the next Jess realized that he had knocked her out with drugs in her ice cream parfait. Then she woke up to find herself in a forest under the shade of trees.

She roamed the place, and found an animal trail leading to somewhere, out of the heart of the sea of trees. Jess was careful to spread her senses around her just like her teacher taught her, focusing on smells, her hearing and vision. It was weird, there were no birds singing, no deer, no squirrels foraging. It was perfectly silent around her. Jessica touched the bark of the nearest tree and felt that her sense of touch was rather muted.

"Where am I? What did Otto do to me?" Jess asked herself, she worked out, that she had been abandoned, again. First her dad left her in a pod for years to save her life, she would have preferred to be dead because of the hardships heaped upon her.

First her parents and now Otto? She kicked a rock and sent it flying hundreds of meters away. "Why? Why does everyone abandon me?"

A rasping laugh was her answer. "Hahaha, you ask why? Really, girl?"

Jess immediately entered into a fighting stance and looked around for the person who spoke. "Who?" She looked to her right where she heard someone move around in the trees.

"You know deep down who I am, girl." This time it came from behind her.

Jess slowly turned and saw a monster behind her, someone she was used to seeing in the mirror after she woke up each day. It was herself but at the same time it wasn’t; this Jessica had spider limbs sticking out of her back, claws for fingers and mandibles at the side of her mouth. Her eyes… She had eight of them, all red with a completely black sclera.

"Say my name." The monster said in a scratching voice.

Jess turned tail and ran as fast as her muscles could make her go, faster than a car. She heard the monster pursue her. Jessica felt danger and jumped, with a somersault she landed on her feet and looked where she had been some seconds ago, a spike was there stabbed in the ground, she also looked around her and noticed the spider webs everywhere cutting her escape.

The monster wearing her skin lunged at her but Jessica stopped it by catching its fist, but she received a stabbing spike in the left shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain from her. The monster laughed.

"You cannot hide, you cannot run." The monster was upon her, approaching slowly.

Jess' anger blazed into her eyes and she blasted the monster with a bolt of green electricity coming from her hands. As it hissed in pain, Jess jumped back and sent some of her organic webs from her finger to catch the beast' limbs. She ran and jumped feet first, she kicked the head of the monster and sent it flying. 

She didn't capitalize on her advantage and chose to flee instead.

 

# # #

 

Jess couldn’t flee anymore, it had been days that she had been on the run from the monster who relentlessly hunted her. But at the same time Jess always seemed to escape her, it had started weirdly though, a rock coming loose and making the monster trip, or a tree suddenly catching fire; when Jess almost got caught, she felt herself becoming stronger and hitting the monster and sending it flying to flee once more.

From the side of her eyes Jess could see a silhouette observing her from time to time, when she looked directly all she caught in view was red hair and then nothing. Was that woman helping her an enemy or a tentative ally? Jess had the sinking suspicions that this place wasn’t what it seemed. Anyway, the situation she found herself in was getting direr by the second, she had inadvertently entered into a stone quarry and was now trapped.

Jess was cornered between a wall and the monster, she jumped and tried to climb the steep stone cliff she was under to escape, however it wasn’t to be as she felt a web thread wrap around her ankle and she was made to slam on the ground and the monster was upon her snapping its mandible at her. 

“Where are you going?” It bit a chunk of her arm, drawing blood. The monster’s mouth was dripping with Jess’s blood. “I will kill you, you hear me? I WILL KILL YOU!!” The manic gaze of the spider-like monster terrified her. It looked at her and said with a sweet voice. “Then I will eat you."

Once again, strength filled Jess as she narrowed her eyes at the monster; "I will fight!" Jess sent it bowling into the air with her two legs by kicking it away from her.

The monster caught itself and sent a stream of web-fluid to the wall of stone behind Jess and pulled to land against it, it shattered the rock with its claws and stuck to it, it looked down on the young woman. It laughed at her and at her attempt, it had been getting stronger since they first met, each time anticipating what she was going to use. "You will fight, then you'll lose. You are nothing, just a worthless pawn, a monster just like me."

Jess flinched. She had thought like this earlier, after she killed her first boyfriend and when she was run out by the enraged mob of villagers. But she knew better now, she was just a girl. "You are wrong." Jess said with a finality that cut through the bullshit induced by this monster who had been hounding her for so long.

The monster hissed at Jess who squared herself off and prepared for battle, she was tired of fleeing. Her hands sparked with green electricity and the monster jumped at her with all spidery limbs out and ready to snap her up. “DIE.”

However, something else happened, as someone jumped from the cliff and kicked the monster from the air with a vertical spinning heel kick. The monster crashed into the ground with such force that it created a one meter deep crater, the rocky surface having cracked.

The person who attacked the beast practiced a perfect hero landing in front of Jess who stood there stunned.

"Am I interrupting?" The young red haired woman said as she stood.

She was shorter than Jessica, with scarlet red hair, green eyes; she also possessed the female ideal of an hourglass figure, she was fit and beautiful and wore a black tank-top with leather pants and boots with a belt. Everything was covered by a tight black leather trench coat.

"Who are you?" Jess asked, wary.

Her training, along with everything that had been happening recently, made her suspicious of someone coming to her rescue in such a way. The stranger smiled at her, an impish smile that could mean anything. “I am…” She was about to say, but was interrupted by the monster lunging at her. The redhead raised a hand and the monster froze in the air, two meters from the young woman. She tilted her head and looked at the beast as if she was seeing something that Jess couldn’t. "Oh great, I came just in time."

The redhead mimed the gesture of throwing something and the monster was sent careening into the face of the cliff, crashing and causing a mini landslide to happen. It covered the monster, but it wasn’t enough to hurt it. It’s arms and spiderly limbs appeared out of the stone and earth covering it. It exited the mound and looked hatefully at the newcomer.

Its clothes, consisting of blue jeans and a white t-shirt were almost all gone and Jess could see more of the monster’s body. It hissed "It doesn't matter, I will devour you too."

The redhead sighed, the monster tried to use its web-fluid to capture her, but they simply burned and caught fire mid-air. "You are really annoying,you know that? I can't be surprised by that fact though. After all you aren't real. Just a foreign mental construct forced into the head of a sweet girl." She turned to Jess and looked her into her eyes.

Jess was slowly coming to trust that the redhead wasn’t her enemy, but she couldn’t be sure that she wanted to help her kill the abomination. She then looked at the monster, it seemed upset by what the newcomer said.

The monster charged. "SHUT UP YOU!!"

"Olé." The redhead sidestepped the assault and the spider monstrosity simply crashed into a big rock face first.

The redhead waved her hand and a red bubble appeared around the monster who was now floating in the air. It beat against the bubble’s walls with its limbs.

"Now, stay put while I speak to the real girl here, Pinocchio." She said with swagger, then she took something from her jacket. Jess tensed expecting her to take a weapon or something, but it was a pair of sleek sunglasses that she put on with style.

Jess couldn’t believe the other girl was serious. "You…" She could barely say anything as the ridiculous action made her giggle at the redhead.

The redhead nodded, "My name is Jean, and I am here to help you."

Then Jess realized, the red shade of Jean’s hair was familiar. Her eyes widened. “It was you! You were the one who has been helping me escape each time it cornered me.”

“Guilty as charged.” The girl mock bowed.

Jess felt that the answers she was looking for could be obtained, but she still stayed vigilant as she pointed a hand at the forest beyond the quarry. "Where are we, do you know how to get out of this forest?"

The redhead just smiled, flipped her hair back and said, "Yes, I know where you are, Jessica. But first I want to ask you something."

Jess looked at the bound monster trying like a mad woman to free itself.

"Uhm, shoot? It better not be anything personal." Jess crossed her arms and looked at Jean and at the monster imprisoned in the transparent red bubble of energy that continued to try to destroy its prison.

The world around them broke, washed out as if an artist drawing on photoshop was erasing everything with the eraser tool. The world became white and two sofas appeared, Jean sat on the black leather one and invited with a movement of her hand Jessica to do the same with the other facing Jean’s.

When Jess’s bottom was barely seated on the soft red leather sofa, Jean spoke, "Have you ever had a dream, Jessica, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"

Jess thought furiously and then remembered a dream she had about her mother serving her tea and biscuits, talking about their days. She wanted it to be real, to be back to those old days with her family and not having to train or be treated like a leper because she had powers. Looking at the redhead she said, "Yes, sometimes, I…"

The blonde frowned and replayed the scene of Jean erasing the forest and quarry around her. "Are you trying to say that I am dreaming? That the environment around me isn't real?"

Jean threw her a thumbs up. "Smart girl. You catch on fast."

Jess pinched her hand hard, eliciting a groan of pain. She looked up at the redhead and said with denial, "But I can feel… pain, touch, smells here. I can use my powers." Her hands sparked with green electricity.

The girl in the black coat looked at the other, she seemed lost. "Like a certain captain said: What is real? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

"But… it’s real." Jess insisted.

To highlight her point, Jean simply waved her hand and conjured a unicorn that put it’s horned head near the girl’s and a multicolored rabbit that jumped onto Jess’ lap. As Jess petted them she felt their fur and stroked the horn of the fantastic equine. They felt real.

Jean smiled. "Your mind makes it real."

The blonde stayed silent for a long moment as she pondered at everything Jean had revealed. But the redhead wasn’t done with her. "Jess, I'm trying to free your mind. But I can only show you the door. You're the one who has to walk through it. The world here around you blinds you from the truth."

Disturbingly raising an eyebrow, Jess asked, "What truth?"

Jean rose from her sofa and dismissed the animals, making the blonde sad at their departure. She lowered her glasses and stared in Jess’s grey eyes. "That you are a prisoner, Jessica. That man, Otto, he trained you, fed you and educated you to turn you into a weapon. And he wanted to lock your real self into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind."

A sword appeared in the redheaded girl's hands and she presented it to Jessica and looked at the monster wearing her face. "Free your mind Jessica."

Jess didn’t take the weapon, but asked a question that was relevant. “What did you do to him?”

“Otto?” Jean asked.

Jess nodded, she had trusted the man before; but now she knew better, he put that monstrosity in her mind. She didn’t want to trust Jean but it seemed that she was on the up and up so far.

“I did that to him.” Jean looked to the right, a TV screen appeared on a brown table. It lit up and showed Jess what Otto was all about, Hydra, what he did in the previous war and the unethical experiment and orders he had given throughout his life. Then Jean showed Jess his death, how she was personally responsible.

Jess threw a suspicious gaze at Jean. “How do you know all that?”

Jean shrugged. “I am a telepath, I attacked Otto’s base and now I am trying to save you from the programming. He paid some fucker that called himself Mentallo to try to brainwash you. He was working on you when I appeared and killed him.”

“You have powers? Like me?” Jessica looked at the girl with a certain awe.

Jean smiled ruefully, put a hand on her chin then nodded. “Not exactly like you, but I do have a lot of powers. But essentially, yes; you are a metahuman like me. My group is made of people with powers and normal humans, we help everyone we can." With an intense gaze targeted at people who didn’t yet realize how fucked they were, Jean said, "And Hydra has attacked my family, now I am attacking them in retaliation. I won’t settle for less than their total annihilation.” The redhead finished her rant, her eyes slightly glowed, scaring Jess somewhat.

The little blonde looked at Jean for a long moment before expressing her opinion about Jean’s explanations. “You are kind of… intense.”

But something lit in Jess’s heart, hope and the final realization that she was not alone, that she wasn't the only one with freakish powers. However, she didn’t want to give the other girl any incline … *Wait! She said that she's a telepath…* Jess realized, what was it like to be able to read people like they were an open book? How could she trust human beings after peering in their psyches? This power seemed like a curse, Jess felt for the redhead. 

Jean’s gaze softened, and Jess now knew that she was right, that the redhead knew her more than anyone by now. Jean’s smile blossomed, putting Jess at ease. “Sorry.” Jean said with a wave. “You aren’t the first person to tell me that, I can get too passionate sometimes.”

The blonde smiled back, then looked at the glimmering sword. It looked like a one-handed Jian sword, made of a glittering silver metal. "What am I to do with this weapon?" Jess asked out loud. She knew how to wield it, Taskmaster had drilled her in swordsmanship after she mastered empty-handed combat one year ago.

Jean’s warm-hearted smile disappeared to let appear a serious expression on her face. "I will free the monster, then you will fight it with that sword."

The spider-girl turned her head to the monster still beating on the red bubble's wall with freesia. "And I will be free from this place?" She asked Jean after returning her eyes to her.

"Fight and find out for yourself."

"I see." Jess said. She understood that there was nothing more to be said.

Jess rose up from the sofa and took the proffered sword, the redhead smiled and asked, "Are you ready?"

The blonde girl weighed the sword, it looked light but was heavy. But it was manageable; looking up and into the redhead’s eyes, Jess said, "Unleash the beast will you?"

The bubble exploded into a spray of tiny shards and the monster screeched in triumph, thinking that it got free thanks to its strength. It looked around, then finally found the two girls; gazed at them with hatred and charged them, ready to strike them down.

"Done." Jean simply said as she then saw Jess kick the spider monster with a roundhouse kick as it was almost about to tackle her.

Jean smiled and whispered, "Woe to him or her who offends a patient person who has just reached her limits."

The monster caught itself and rolled then stood up, only to find one of its spider legs cut by a really sharp blade when it tried to dodge the sword strike. It hissed in pain and kicked Jess who caught herself too and lunged back, deflecting one of the monster’s launched darts with her sword. The little blonde sent several of her venom blasts that caught the monster in the leg, torso and right spider leg causing it to hiss in pain; Jess served it a knuckle sandwich to the face, snapping its jaw with a loud crack and kicked the monster away from her.

It stood up, coughing blood and roared in defiance and hatred and jumped, firing a web at Jess who received it in the face. Thanks to her danger sense, the blonde avoided being skewered by jumping with a backflip and took off the sticky substance from her eyes. Jess then tightened her grip on the pommel of her sword and lunged at the creature.

After that, the fight had become an aerobatic dance of deflections and feints, for a good solid minute neither of the foes won an advantage, until the spider monster scored a hit that had came low, the sharp end of the limb caught Jess and pierced her left shoulder, but she gave back as much as she received and stabbed her monstrous opponent at the same time directly in her chin with a scream filled with anger.

Jess had noticed how the entire blade seemed to wreath with fire, the monster was suddenly burning from inside out and quickly turned to ash.

“That’s it? She wasn’t so tough.” Jess said as she lamented having had to flee from this weakling. But she couldn't deny that seeing herself in the guise of a monster had traumatized her, she had thought deep down that she was one because of her freakishness.

Jean interrupted her, “No, it wasn’t that simple.”

Jess had heard her walk, the girl walked like a martial artist and seemed to be adept at stealth operations. The blonde turned to Jean and gave her back her sword, “How so.”

Jean took back the weapon and made it disappear. “We are in your mind, Jessica." The redhead spread her arms grandly. "In this place you are Queen, you shouldn’t have had any problem dispatching this monster, but by fleeing and not fighting at first, you gave it power over you.” She reprimanded.

The blonde looked embarrassed and mortified, she knew that something was wrong, that her senses were muted and the forest had been deep and devoid of animals… What about her hunger and thirst? She hadn’t felt them either, that should have tipped her off.

“I don’t like fighting…” Jess defended weakly.

Jean laughed mockingly at her. “No, you do. Don’t lie to yourself.”

The spider-girl looked at Jean, self-conscious of her fault. She liked how Jean carried herself and felt mildly envious of not being the same, there was also the fact that she felt mildly attracted to her. Jess shook her head, this wasn’t the time to think with her ovaries, she sighed and asked, “Okay, so… what’s next?”

Jean smiled and the white void they were in suddenly changed to become the inside of a house. Jessica’s house, the one before everything had fallen apart. She recognized the furniture, the familial tapestries of the Drew family, her father's favorite sofa and her mom's scent. Jean then showed her the door, a painted white mahogany door, it looked heavy.

“Just open the door.” Jean said aloud.

Jess looked at the redhead and hugged her, tight. “Thank you, Jean. Thank you for saving me.”

The blonde felt a hand on her back, patting it. Jean stepped away from her after letting her go and said with red cheeks, “We aren’t out of the woods yet, please, wake up.”

Jessica nodded and stepped to the door, put a hand on the doorknob and opened it. Warm and white light enveloped her and she smiled.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…

Through the noise of explosions and weapon fire, I became cognizant again, looking around me, there was a reinforced chair where Jessica Drew sat, she was strapped to it by leather straps reinforced with metal fiber. On the ground was a man wearing a helmet, the style certainly ripped off from Magneto's.

Killing him had been easy, he had been busy controlling the mental construct that had been supposed to subsume Jessica’s psyche and make her more pliable to his brainwashing. Mentallo was killed with my hand going through his heart and then I had crushed it. Having a symbiote combat form was useful, I should use it more…

As I began unstrapping Jess from the chair, I received a good dose of motivation to speed up. "Jean are you done?! I am out of grenades!" Clint warned from the door of the lab we were in.

"Shit." I cursed and slapped Jessica’s right cheek. “Jess? Please wake up girl.”

Jess opened her eyes, she looked completely groggy; she stretched and wiped her eyes with her hands. Looked around and saw my helmetless head and recognized me.“J-Jean? You weren't a dream!” She put her arms around my neck and hugged me again.

I melted in her embrace. *What is it with Spider-girls and me? Damn, she smells nice. Damnit me! Remember she got those pheromones powers, calm down.*

I patted her back and then made her let go. “That’s me, girl! Come on, we have to go. Clint can't hold on any longer.”

Boom!! "Jean are you ready? This is my last trick arrow!"

Jess peered at the door, watching as flashes of blue light illuminated the entrance of the lab and weird electronic sounds rang. "What’s happening?"

I used aerokinesis to combat Jess's pheromones, I should have kept my helmet on, now look at me lusting after the girl. Shaking my head I said, "Remember, I killed Otto? "

Jess nodded. Feeling that she wasn't sad at his death, I continued speaking. "Well I still didn't kill everyone in the base, they have taken up arms and now want to kill us."

Her eyes widened and she let go of me, the pheromones she was producing suddenly stopped flowing from her. *I knew it, she can control them.*

"How are we going to get out of here?" Jess asked with  a no nonsense tone.

Smiling, I said, "Easily." Wavin my hand, a golden portal opened, Jess's eyes widened in awe as she saw the spatial tear slowly expand.

"You are like me!" She hugged me again. At this rate she was going to choke me to death at some point with her superstrength. *If she reacts like this with me, she's going to love Cindy and Peter.* I told myself. Then I remembered that Goldie also had spider powers from the frequent DNA exchanges I had with Cindy. 

"A bit, come on let's go! My friends are waiting for us." I told her and pushed her into the portal with a TK shove. She was made to fly in the portal with a squeak, I could already see Barbara helping her get up while Chimera showed me the time with a holographic window. 

I turned to the entrance of the lab and hollered, "Oi! Hawkeye! We are leaving!"

"FINALLY!! Ciao, losers." The agent shouted with relief.

As I took Mentallo's helmet from his dead body and everything he had on him, I saw Clint running, look at the portal and jump into it. The man was quick, I could give him that. I snapped my fingers in remembrance. "Oh, I almost forgot, I shouldn't leave without giving them their gift."

I focused on an item I had left in the plane, in a flash of blue light it appeared in my hands, it was a  silver sphere at least one meter in diameter, lines of light crisscrossed its surface in a fractal pattern. Pressing three places at once on the surface that were buttons that sank into the sphere, it signaled with a low electronic sound that the device was armed. I put it in the chair and leisurely entered the portal just as a dozen of Hydra agents arrived, I waved at them once I was in the ballroom where I had left my friends to guard the hidden elevator, they raised their weapon to fire into the portal but it collapsed before they could shoot.

"OK let's go now, this place is about to blow." I said to everyone and opened a new portal to the clearing where the Raven was parked.

Jessica and… Jess (fuck it's going to be hard to address them) passed through it first; Chimera was next and then Clint and Barbara left. As it was my turn I whistled and put on my helmet and landed in the clearing. It clicked shut, and my HUD deployed and synchronized with the armor’s systems. "Jess, don't look to the east and protect your ears, will you?"

The grey eyed blonde looked at me, not understanding. "Why?"

My best friend, Jessica looked between her and me. "Her name is the same as mine? Fuck, it's going to be difficult-"

KABLAM. BOOM!!! The successive explosions were deafening and powerful, I had to shield the spider-girl by enveloping her with an opaque forcefield. At the same time, I felt the earth shake and a shockwave incoming, I protected us from it with another layered forcefield created to dissipate the EM burst and impact. I looked to the east where the Castle was supposed to be, the red and yellow dome of the explosion was so beautiful, a mushroom of smoke rose into the air.

I nodded, satisfied by the extremely vigorous outward release of energy, the yield of the detonation was lower than the fusion bomb I used at Camp Lehigh, but it was less expensive than going to space to harvest Helium-3. I put my arm before me and started to take notes on the holographic computer in my gauntlet, there was a lot that could be done to make the photon bomb even more powerful, maybe a material denser than vibranium/adamantium alloy would do the trick to augment the detonation's yield-

I felt someone strike my arm, but I didn’t feel it. It was Chimera and her expression looked angry through her visor. "Jean! What was that? I thought we said no nukes!?"

My visor became transparent and I said with a reasonable tone, "That was a photon bomb. Completely different from a nuke, though the yield isn't the same as an atomic bomb… more akin to one megaton of TNT, there will be no fallout, and-"

Chimera shook me by the shoulders. "Jean, that's not the point, you can't just nuke everything that bothers you!"

*Wow, she seemed rather passionate about arguing my methods lately.* I thought.

"Erm… that was a big boom." I heard Jess say. I turned to her and saw that the spider-girl looked terrified of us for a moment, but I didn’t want her to feel like this, so I went to hug her. 

She held onto me for a longtime before letting go. "You don't have to fear anything, I only nuke bad guys."

Jess looked at me, then nodded. "Kay." The spider girl proceeded to look for debris in her hair, there was only dust though.

Smiling, I couldn't stop thinking how awesome her brain worked. She had been wary of me at first, but helping her defeat the mental programming destined to make her a loyal pet assassin evaporated any concerns she might have about me before. *She’s cute too.* No, Jean! Don't go there! *Stupid pheromones. Stupid cute blondes, they are my weakness beside asian girls.*

I looked around me as I felt my team judge me, in particular Jessica and Chimera. I decided that some introductions were in order. I coughed and put Jess at my side and held onto her waist with an arm. "So Jessica Drew, here is my best friend, Jessica Jones." I pointed to the white and blue armored Pinkett.

"Hey." Jessica waved and took off her mask to show her face.

As for Jess,  she was less intimidated, now that she could see my best friend's face. "Hello."

Wow it felt awkward, it was Clint and Barbara's turn to take off their helmet after using their gauntlet computer to open the Raven’s hatch and for the ramp to unfold. They waved at the spider-girl and went to work in the plane.

"Those two are Barton and Barb." I said to Jess who nodded.

My favorite blonde psionic walked to me and placed herself before us. "And this is my second in command, Chimera."

Chimera’s smile was beautiful and engaging. "A new foundling boss? You keep collecting them."

Jess looked between the two of us, my arm tightened around Jess. "She was in the same boat as you, Mera. That asshole Otto Vermis wanted to brainwash her and turn her into a weapon."

The spider-girl seemed to pay even more to Chimera after that comment, now knowing that someone might know how she feels. Chimera snorted, but her eyes became stormy with scorn. "It’s like bad guys all have the same fucking handbook… hey, I am Chimera and I will be taking care of you. Unless you want us to leave you alone? We are not in the business of keeping people who want to go their own way." Chimera looked at me in particular when she said that.

<Hey, I am not like that!> I sent her with telepathy.

Chimera gave me a deadpan look. <Spider-girl clearly has the hots for you boss, keeping her will complicate your love life. Anna-Marie was already a bit too much.>

<I-it's not like that! I… we have a deal, me and Cin-> I whined.

Just to prove me wrong, Jess cuddled more into me. "No please, take me with you Jean! Don't leave me."

Chimera snorted in amusement, then turned her back to us and went to enter the Raven. As she left I held on the taller blonde and reassured her. "Sure, Jess."

Jessica kept laughing at the scene and telling me I was in trouble in her thoughts; I promised vengeance later by glaring at her. All of a sudden I felt multiple vehicles coming toward us, the minds inside seemed panicked and organized like- "Let's get outta here," I said quickly, pulling my best friend and Jess to the plane with TK. "The army and the police are converging on that area."

The girls protested for the womanhandling, then once we were inside the Raven I sent the same instructions telepathically to Chimera who had been checking the engines. Chimera mock saluted me and said with a laugh, "Sure boss."

Five minutes later, we took off from Berlin with the Raven. We had not been detected by the German Air Force and decided to confuse any chase by branching off by Poland and Eastern Europe to go back to Egypt. It was a damn shame that the engines were not compatible with my portals. I helped Chimera in the cockpit, I could at least be considered a trainee pilot and my power was essential to go back to base in a timely fashion with the inertia dampening field I had spread over the Raven.

As we were travelling, I organized the knowledge and information taken from Otto Vermis before I killed him. I was now privy of the locations of every base Hydra had in Europe; I’ve also taken their main server farm and downloaded all the data to my prototype USB crystal stick, it could contain ten terabytes of data and I intended to use it.

It made me smile as I was now aware of pretty much who was in Hydra’s pocket and who was an unknowing one; the corruption in Europe was disgusting and primed for their future takeover. I needed to do something, but this time there would be no nuking, it’s going to be bloody and create mass hysteria. My decision was final and Hydra needed to go anyway. *I will ruin fifty one years of their scheming.*

“Chimera.”

The blonde’s eyes didn't leave the instruments nor the controls when she answered, “Boss?”

Frowning, my head turned to her. “When are you going to call me Jean? I thought we were friends?” I didn’t want it to make it sound like a complaint but my rebuke ended up being plaintive.

Chimera sighed, locked the controls and placed the plane on autopilot before turning to me and looking at me with sad eyes. “I’m still not used to you Bo-I mean Jean. And I am still a bit…” The blonde hesitated to finish her sentence, she didn’t want to disappoint me.

But I finished it for her, “Afraid of me?”

Chimera was good at shielding her mind and hiding her feelings, an aftereffect of having been raised by Sinister. I couldn’t blame her, I'd seen firsthand in Sinister's memories what he did to what he considered defective clones who had an opinion.

A little smile spread on Chimera’s face. “Yes, that. Don’t get me wrong, you freed me and all, I am thankful... but everything you have been doing after that is... kind of terrifying.”

No, I won't let her have that kind of opinion of me! I thought that I was treating her well… then I remembered what Jessica and Cindy had been telling me. I kept keeping secrets and not involving those I cared about, maybe I should trust Chimera more, after all, without her I would still be in Sinister's custody.

“I'm sorry Mera, I promise you that I would never intentionally hurt you."

She looked at me with hope, hope that she didn't exchange one master for another. "I like you Mera, and I will prove it to you with action rather than words… Though before that… I am trying to get our lives back to normal first."

On a more agreeable note I decided to switch the subject. "Didn’t you tell me that you wanted to see New York and go shopping with us girls?" I said wistfully, I wanted to go back to simpler times and develop my new found passion for inventing and tinkering.

My mood instantly sank. "If I don’t destroy Hydra we will never be free of them and I want to be able to stop having to look over my shoulder without worry.”

Chimera, having never had a normal life, was curious about what I was thinking was normal for me. She was a clone, raised to defend Sinister's main base, everything she was taught was downloaded into her mind. “That would be rad, Bo-Jean. Please, give me some time. And I will help you to take those squiddies out.”

“That’s fair, I guess." I shrugged.

"Anyway, now, Mera. I wanted to tell you that you’ll be in charge of the base when we get back.” I said conversationally, looking at the windshield and the landscape, consisting of mountains and lakes slowly passing under us. We were higher than the usual passenger flights but not by much.

“Why?” Chimera asked after thirty seconds of silence.

I turned my head, she looked at me with worry etched on her face. But it wasn’t for me she worried, but for the poor bastard that attracted my attention. I don’t understand why she’s not worried about me, did I make that much of a strong impression on her? I still made mistakes and I didn’t have a lot of experience dealing with the kind of shit I was up to my neck in… fine. Maybe Chimera was right to be worried. I needed to do better and use my brain more.

“I’m going to take out all of Hydra’s bases in Europe, steal their resources and take out their agents. I know about everything they have in that part of the world, it shouldn’t take me more than a day.” I answered Chimera.

“Boss, you can’t go there alone, you need back up!” Chimera raised her voice. She didn’t want me to die or do a mission all alone, it was strange, she had seen me take care of Sinister’s bases by myself. She shouldn’t worry like that, but she was right to want me to be careful, Marvel’s big hitters always died from some random shit, and it wasn’t today that I would die from anything like that.

“I’m going to take Cindy with me.” I said to attempt to assuage Chimera’s worry.

Cindy was a dependable girl, she didn’t let me do anything that might be dangerous when we were together. Chimera sighed with relief  and wiped her forehead. “Well... at least she should be able to keep you from going too far; please, please no nukes or high yield bombs, we aren’t ready enough for that kind of scrutiny.”

An eerie laugh escaped my mouth. “No, no bombs for this part of the mission. Only Power.” My words reverberated with an eerie echo in the cockpit.

“Why doesn’t that reassure me at all?” Chimera shook her head, a deprecating smile plastered on her face. Her hands and eyes went back on the controls and instruments.

I mimicked her, turning my attention back to my duty, but I added, “I’ll be out for one day and meanwhile I want you to spy on those fucking SHIELD agents in the base, they have been taking liberties as of late. You know what to do if they go too far?”

Nick Fury had taken some technical data from the base’s tablet, little things. But I wasn’t about to let him have his way; he had already been given access to my intel network. He wouldn't be getting anything more from me.

“Yes.” Chimera said in a frosty voice, she was aware of their transgressions and was eager to make one eye pay.

“Now why don’t we speak about the house I plan to buy for us in Queens?” I was already planning for a big house, I didn’t want to depend on SHIELD anymore.

Autopilot was now disengaged and she focused back on piloting and all the while Chimera and I were scheming the after action for this whole SHIELD debacle.

 

# # #

(Maria Hill)

 

Disembarking Raven 02
Washington DC’s outskirts
Peggy’s black site, Bethesda
0822 hours

Maria put the heavy suitcases on the ground and with the help of the other agents by forming a chain, stored them in the back of the transport they found in the garage of this off the books site. The Raven was parked in the hangar, the stealth system was engaged and the plane completely invisible to satellites and naked eyes even though it was covered by a roof, you never knew what one of the science monkeys from the army would come up with, so Maria took precautions.

Arclight, a tall yet strongly built young woman, one of their main ally’s teammates, was their pilot and helped Maria unload the gear they would be needing for the operation tonight. They were all in their Achilles armor, except for Director Carter and Captain Rogers who wore custom ones. Speaking of Director Carter and Captain Rogers, they were preparing the warehouse on site to receive their future captives, which they had inside dozens of temporary prison cells and interrogation rooms. The setup was impressive, for the little bit of time everyone had to install all their gear.

Once she was done, Maria found a stray table with chairs around it in the warehouse, sat and passed the time reading the user manual for her new guns. It was strange for Maria to have a pair of pistols entirely dependent on a battery pack. The new armors were powered by the same batteries, and could sustain their systems for eight hours before running dry. Lady Mastermind, Arclight's teammate had told Maria how unreliable the system was but she was given one of the generators able to replenish the batteries. It had looked cumbersome and was the size of a commercially available generator. 

Those were starter weapons, Jean Grey had told them; prototypes cobbled together in a hurry for the SHIELD loyalists’ convenience. A sure way to have tactical superiority on the local and conventional forces arrayed against them. Maria shook her head as she read through the manual about how to recharge her batteries by slotting her pistol in the integrated holster in her power armor.

Maria then pondered over the fact that a sixteen year old girl came up with technology that seemed to be centuries ahead of what the military had. She had heard of Jean Grey at the HQ, more precisely about how the intelligence department of SHIELD loved her. Fury also seemed to dislike her even though she had saved his bacon more times than she could count.

“Agent Hill?”

Maria looked up and saw the rejuvenated Director Carter in her own custom Achilles armor walking toward her. She stopped before her subordinate. “Ma’am. Do you need anything?”

Peggy primly nodded her head and said,  “As a matter of fact I do… but is everything okay?”

The brunette looked at Maria who closed the manual and put it on the case containing her pistols. Maria could easily say that she was okay, but resolved that she wasn’t and she didn’t want to be a liability later, so she sighed and stared into her superior’s eyes. “No, ma’am.”

Peggy sat at the table and meaningfully looked into Maria’s eyes. “Is it something we can help with?”

Maria took one of her pistols in hand and unslotted the battery pack from the grip, putting it on the table. At the same time she spoke, “I’ve lost faith in things ever returning to normal, Director.”

What they were about to do tonight, would be considered terrorism, and Maria didn’t think that they would ever get out unscathed from the consequences. “Even if we succeed.” Maria added.

Peggy’s face showed a bit of frustration, then turned to resignation. “I see your point, the plan hinges on bringing to light everyone in leadership positions or working for Hydra. It’s going to destabilize the government, but... we can’t keep it in house.”

Maria nodded, Hydra had the time to influence this country for fifty-one years, anything they did or might have done needed to be changed or needed to be gone. But the laws and procedures that helped run a country were delicate. “I agree with you, the country might need to revise laws and some of its practices, we will need an audit committee for… everything.”

“That’s not going to be easy.” Peggy crossed her arms, her gaze lost into the monumental task set before her.

Maria pitied her, she didn’t think that the woman would leave it alone, she would make sure that her country of adoption got through the bad situation it put itself in. Then the agent realized something, why were they bothering doing so much work when they had their own fix it all?

Maria asked, “Speaking of making things easy… why isn’t Miss Grey snapping her fingers and taking care of this problem herself?”

“What do you mean Agent Hill?” Peggy feigned not knowing what Maria was speaking of.

Maria made an unladylike snort. “I am not stupid, the girl is clearly one of those powerful mutants and a powerful mentalist, like a certain individual in Westchester county.”

The Director sighed heavily after Maria’s little rant. “You want the truth?”

Nodding, Maria answered, “Yes Ma’am, I don’t want to go in blind and commit treason.”

Peggy put the flat of her hands on the table and looked into Maria’s eyes. “Jean offered to do just that when she told me she was going to help me take back SHIELD, oust and reveal Hydra to the world.”

“You didn’t let her?” The agent looked at her superior with disbelieving eyes.

Peggy leaned into the metal chair, a far away look etched on her face. “I didn’t let her, because she’s a driven young woman with a good heart who has seen enough dead bodies. She doesn’t need that on her conscience and with the kind of power she has, it would be so easy for her to just kill everyone concerned with her mind.”

“That’s scary.” Maria said aloud as she thought idly, *She’s already a killer, Director...*

Maria remembered how she had killed Grant Ward without mercy, there was no expression on her face when she did it. It was as if he had been an ant to her and she had crushed him with a finger like a curious little kid would.

Peggy continued. “But I don’t want her to kill anymore people, such a thing would have far reaching consequences. The government would brand her a terrorist. We must do everything ourselves, those problems aren’t hers, but ours. We allowed Hydra in, it’s our job to burn the rot out.”

*She’s doing this out of pride, that’s surprising...* Maria realized.

She should have known that something like that would happen, agents tended to be stubborn about some cases. And Hydra was Director Carter's white whale.

Peggy's gaze refocused on Maria. "Anyway, Agent Hill, it's time for the mission briefing."

"Oh, I’m coming." Maria took her pistols and slotted the batteries into the grips. She holstered them in her Achilles armor. Standing up she followed Peggy who had already left.

 

# # #

 

Capitol Hill
Senator Stern’s house
2200 hours

Capitol Hill, in addition to being a metonym for the United States Congress, was the largest historic residential neighborhood in Washington, D.C., stretching easterly in front of the United States Capitol along wide avenues. The Capitol Hill neighborhood today straddled two quadrants of the city, Southeast and Northeast. A large portion of the neighborhood was now designated as the Capitol Hill Historic District. 

Their target, Reginald Stern, Senator for Pennsylvania lived here with his family. Maria and her teammate were on the facing building's roof, and had deactivated the CCTV in the entire block. The plan to get Stern was simple, the team would enter the house after checking that the senator was indeed home, then cut the power and phone line; take down the security, the senator's family would be sedated and they would leave with the man and proceed to the next target after unloading him in a cell at the black site.

Maria looked over the brick styled townhouse, she was on the roof of the house facing the target's, the Achilles armor cloaking system  was put to the test and was so far showing how effective it was. On her HUD she engaged the counter cloaking app that shifted the visible light spectrum to a higher range so she could now see the cloaked Hydra guards around the house. "Just like we thought, they are turtling up."

"After what happened at Camp Lehigh? Why wouldn't they?" Regan Wyngarde snorted in derision.

Maria didn’t bother watching the girl, she still didn't know why she was assigned to her team, she was brash and utterly annoying. She was still useful though… and an excellent infiltrator.

"What happened at camp Lehigh?" Maria asked idly as the helmet cam showed the disposition of the guards on her HUD, marking each of them.

Regan readied her tetryon sniper rifle, assembling it with dexterity. "My boss nuked it, literally."

Surprised, Maria turned her head to Regan. "On American soil?!" The visor of her helmet turning clear and letting her teammate see her face.

Regan finished assembling her energy rifle. It was matte black and didn't reflect any light. The blue line on its side glowed with energy though. Showing that it was active. "Yeah she did, she could do worse. Believe me, Hydra is fucked."

Regan put herself in position and synchronized her rifle with her armor's system to have access to the computer assisted targeting system.

"Suddenly, I understand why the director didn't want her involved…" Maria mumbled in her helmet.

If Jean Grey was the kind of girl able to nuke an area because somebody who wronged her was there, she would want to take care of her problems herself too. All those accusations about Peggy Carter being too prideful to ask for help evaporated. Instead Maria thanked her for having mitigated the heavy handed ways of the teenage nuclear power.

"Hey Hill, you ready to roll?" Regan interrupted the agent's musings.

Maria turned toward the house with their target, her visor turning opaque. "I will go in cloaked and take out the two guards at the right extreme edge. You take the two on the left?"

Regan looked at the house, then the guards. Her grip tightened on her weapon. "Okay, what about the EMP grenades? You have them right? I already plan to cut the phone lines."

Maria showed Regan her utility belt. "On the belt, I will use them when we are inside the house. It doesn't matter that we won't be in the breaker room."

Maria jumped on the metal railing bordering the roof, but before she could jump, Regan sighed and said, "I wish we had the cap with us, the guy is so sexy."

The agent rolled her eyes. "Yes, and taken. You are also jailbait, Regan."

"Hey!" Regan cried in complaint.

Maria simply activated her cloaking system and jumped, she held her arm high and fired her grapnel from her gauntlet to slow down her fall, not wanting for the FEMLF device in her boots to activate, it was highly visible. The clawed end of the grapnel went around a stone gargoyle’s neck, allowing Maria to slow down her descent. Landing with barely a sound, she recalled the grapnel’s cable, then quickly and silently crossed the street.

She waited a moment for one of the guards at the right side of the property to turn his back to his partner. She went for the isolated one first, pulled on the monomolecular cable of her grapnel-gauntlet and decapitated him; as quickly as she could, she took her pistol from her integrated thigh holster and fired at the other one who came to investigate the noise the guard’s death produced.

Zap. Zap. Maria’s shot caught the guard’s center body punching two holes in his torso. The guard fell on his back, twitching, then stopped moving at all. Maria heard two other ‘zap’ sounds coming from the other side of the street.

“Guards neutralized.”

“Targets neutralized, moving now.”

Maria saw the ion trail left by Regan’s jetpack, thanks to their tactnet, they could see each other. At least the outline of their armors. They quickly decided who would do what, Maria was in charge of taking out the electricity in the house and Regan simply fired her rifle at the telephone cables at each pillone bordering the house.

“Phone lines cut.” Regan announced.

It was Maria’s turn, for this she went cloaked to the back of the house, there were two guards posted there in the back garden. She took one of her tactical folding knives from her utility belt. Infiltrating the garden, she killed the one who was closest to the door by slipping behind him, taking hold by covering his mouth and stabbing him in the neck and pulling her hand to the right. With a smooth move she fired her energy pistol two times at the other guard who had heard his colleague thrash.

The guard fell on his knees and touched the hole created in the middle of his stomach and looked at Maria before being shot in the head. His body fell to the side headless. Maria looked around her, after seeing no one else, lifted her gauntlet and said into her communicator, "Guards at the House's back exit are neutralized."

"Check for guards inside the house, Hill." Regan advised her.

Maria did just that by selecting the X-ray vision app and she was happy to have done so when she looked at what was going on inside the house. "Two more inside, one in the living room and another upstairs guarding the corridor."

"Cut the electricity, I will kill them through the walls." Regan said.

Maria followed Regan’s instructions and smashed a hole through the wooden door and took a grenade from her utility belt. A sphere of seemingly solid metal with lines of glowing blue energy running through the patterns engraved on its surface. Maria found them so beautiful, it was a waste to use them, but she tightened her grip on it and pushed a depression on the back with her middle finger and threw the ball through the hole in the door. Immediately, her armor hardened its system against the incoming electromagnetic pulse. 

A pulse of energy produced by the device she just dropped inside the house spread and illuminated the entire house and to the neighboring ones. The lamppost outside and electrical power in the entire block died. 

"Shit, the grenade is more powerful than we thought." Maria cursed, she passed her hand through the door and unlocked it.

Entering the house, she heard Regan answer her, "File it in the beta tester report, the boss will love to have feedback."

ZAP. ZAP. Maria then heard two bodies fall; then as she advanced further and penetrated the living room, on the wooden floor tiles the body of one of the guards was there at the feet of a richly decorated Christmas tree. This one wasn't cloaked, Maria looked at the spilled coffee on the furniture and understood why. He was taking a break and didn't notice that the guards outside had been taken care of.

Regan hummed and with a smug tone told Maria, "Targets neutralized. I will get the van to load the Stern family."

Maria took the hypodermic dart gun from her utility belt and mounted it on her left gauntlet. From the pouch at her hips, she took three darts filled with a green colored drug. It didn't have a name yet, but Jean Grey's assistant, Gwendolyn assured the agents that it was a powerful tranquilizer without side effects.

After loading the dart gun, Maria walked upstairs. The agent passed her hand over the luxurious vinyl wallpaper with white and grey patterns. As she walked, the passive scanner in Maria’s suit detected movement in the master bedroom. It seemed that Stern, his wife and daughter were all gathered in a single place.

The armor’s built-in noise cancellers activated automatically and the scanner let Maria avoid the traps and the wooden floor that was deliberately designed to make squeaky noise. The agent asked herself what the hell those mechanisms were? Maria didn’t want to be slowed down and just took her rifle from the slot on her back, unfolded it and used the X-ray app to look for the mechanisms activating the traps. Maria switched her rifle into the sustained beam mode and cut through or melted the mechanisms in the walls and in the floor.

Battery at 79%. Maria’s HUD informed her. So she stopped and walked toward the master bedroom. It seemed Hydra took the protection of their important members seriously. Maria stopped at the door at the end of the corridor, the white door was closed; she didn’t open it. There was another trap deployed if she did, the explosive kind.

Maria guessed that there must be a panic room hidden inside Stern’s bedroom and he put his family inside when he heard the noise of his guards being dispatched.

“Is there a problem?” The agent heard Regan ask, she must have noticed that Maria was immobile.

From the other side of the communication, Maria could hear the noise of a car passing in the street. Maria cursed out loud, then spoke, “Yes, the bedroom they are holed up in seems to have a panic room, and the door leading to said bedroom is also booby trapped.”

There was five seconds of silence before Regan reacted. “Oh.”

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Maria added.

They had believed that this would be easy, that Stern was an easy mark. If they didn't have the power armor designed by Jean Grey this would be even more difficult. 

“Call for backup?” Regan asked.

Maria harrumphed. “No, I will take them in, but it’s going to be noisy. Be ready.”

“The engine is already on.” Regan quipped.

The agent set it up for her forcefield to activate at a moment's notice. She could have used her energy pistol to destroy the trap, but Maria simply didn't know how the explosive would interact with the energy generated by the weapon, she instead resolved to tank the damage. She put her hand on the doorknob, breathed in and out, then opened the door. Maria saw white as the foretold explosion slammed into her forcefield. The green barrier of energy stopped the kinetic energy and heat from even hitting Maria’s Achilles armor. When the light and heat dissipated, Maria who was still ensconced in her forcefield saw that half the bedroom was in shambles.

The floor was blackened by the explosion and the furniture and curtains on the window had caught fire. Maria scrambled, there was no way no one heard the explosion. Thanks to the X-ray app she quickly looked through the walls and she found the panic room. Maria looked at the door of the walk-in closet and strode toward it. Her hand reached for her utility belt and she took a long cylinder from her pouch, then attached it to the muzzle brake of her rifle.

In the cylinder there were diamond focusing lenses to let the operator use the directed energy weapon as a tool to cut through armored walls or other materials. Maria used the X-ray app to look at where the targets were positioned and choose the side of the room that she would cut up. She fired and the drywall began to burn, she was cutting through the seamless door that didn’t show on the wall. Tracing the entrance as the blue ray of tetryon energy cut through it like she was doing some soldering.

With her strength enhanced by her armor, Maria gave a kick and the door fell to the ground in a dimly lit room. Stern was before her, with two women at his side, he had a pistol in his hand that he unloaded at her. With no effect, of course.

Maria wasn’t lost in useless posturing, simply pointed her arm at them and unleashed the dart gun on her left gauntlet with rapid fire. Each of the targets was hit and the dart delivered the tranquilizers into their bloodstream. The effect was instant and everyone from the Stern family fell to the floor.

“I got them.” Maria said on the tacnet.

“Hurry, I think we are going to have company.” Regan warned.

“Roger.” Maria folded her rifle and put each of the women on her shoulders and pulled Stern by his feet.

She exited the first floor with speed, avoiding the leftover traps, and was careful not to wound the Senator as she went down the stairs. Regan waited for her at the back of the house. Maria heard the distinct noise of police vehicles on the way, so she legged it and loaded them through the opened back door of the black Toyota van. Maria quickly locked it from the inside and said into her communicator, “I got them, time to go.”

The van lurched forward, and Maria felt it turn. Then at a sedate pace, it advanced through the roads of Capitol Hill.

“We have to take another vehicle and unload the Sterns at the temporary site.” Regan said.

Meanwhile as the car swerved out of Capitol Hill, Maria smiled as they got their first target and she asked herself how Director Carter and the Captain fared.

 

# # #

(Peggy Carter & Steve Rogers)

 

Peggy’s black site, Bethesda
December 27th, 1996
1715 hours

Peggy and Steve had had a bitch of a time, they hadn’t expected the resistance to be this tough after they got their first five members of the House of Representatives and the Air Force. With the rest of their team they had gone through crazed experimental super soldiers, energy weapons and SHIELD-HYDRA agents going against them.

The Achilles Armor had been more than effective against everything Hydra had thrown at them. The teams had had time to steal evidence from each of their targets. The bodies of the dead soldiers were collected as well as samples of the weapons they had used. Computers and Hard drives were seized; the teams loyal to Peggy only left destruction behind them after raiding all the different bases.

Steve woke up with a start, looking around and finding Peggy at his side and still in armor. They were sitting on the leather sofa in the spartan barracks in the warehouse. Peggy had her head against his shoulder. He smiled as he looked at her sleeping face. He smoothed a strand of hair out of Peggy’s face and stayed like that for a while at her side. Steve couldn't believe that she was there with him, he had dreamed of it for so long. Was he in another dream? Was he really awake? He missed his friends, he had seen them in his dreams too, reliving his memories in depth.

Peggy opened her eyes, yawned and the first thing she saw was Steve smiling at her. "Hello, you."

Steve chastely kissed her, smiled and asked, "Pegs, are you hungry?" He had heard her stomach growl.

Peggy nodded, she felt rested but she had expended a lot of energy since yesterday. "What time is it?"

Steve looked at the light coming from one of the windows. "Five p.m. or so, I don't have my helmet for the exact time."

Peggy was less experienced with the control of her body's senses than Steve, she was still impressed that he could guess at the time just by observing his environment. Nevertheless, she was somewhat different from him, even though her physiology had been augmented. Having a helmet felt restrictive to her, and impaired her senses of smell and hearing. "You went with a helmet, and I, with specialized goggles. I don't really need all the gadgets in that suit."

Steve chuckled, and lightly slapped her thigh. "Full protection seemed the way to go, by the way…"

"Yes?" Peggy stood up and stretched, she slapped her cheeks to fully wake up.

Steve stood in turn. "When do you think Miss Grey is going to arrive?"

Peggy flinched, another sign that she was worried and that she didn't anticipate the question. The brunette sighed then looked at Steve who returned her gaze. "Soon I hope but… she may have taken a detour."

Steve was aware of how dangerous Jean Grey was and how utterly merciless she could become when you were branded an enemy. Peggy gave herself a mission to keep the young woman in check that she shouldn’t have taken on her shoulders. Steve felt that the girl needed help and a stern talking to. He was about to speak when they were interrupted by a shout.

"Hey listen to the news!" Someone cried from the other room in the warehouse they were bunking in.

Peggy and Steve moved fast and found themselves in the rec room with different agents who were in different states of undress. The tall form of Arclight was between them and the TV. The other agents were focused on the screen, one of them raised the TV's volume.

"A series of terrorist attacks have been perpetrated all across Europe beginning yesterday morning. It first started in Germany in the outskirts of Berlin with Castle Dietrich's bombing. The second target was in Oslo, Norway, an entire building disappeared by means unknown. The third was Italy, an underground base under a building in Rome was uncovered as a result, disturbing evidence of corruption, tax evasion, blackmail and human experimentation have been unveiled and distributed to the media in each country.

Famous politicians and rich billionaires have been assassinated as well, amongst them, former president of France and founder of the French Socialist Party, François Mitterrand, was killed. Guillermo Salvatore, a major stockholder of Roxxon energy was also killed. Following this avalanche of revelations and political upheaval, most of the countries struck will, without a doubt, be in turmoil."

Pictures of burning and wrecked buildings and prominent individuals were shown on screen one after the other. The agents began discussing those events, Arclight turned to Peggy and Steve and sighed, looking meaningfully at them.

Peggy pinched the bridge of her nose and moaned as if in pain. "Jean…"

Steve's head suddenly turned toward his lover, with narrowed eyes he asked, "Are you sure?"

With a deprecating laugh, Peggy massaged her temples. "That’s her style alright…” Her hands fell along her side as she looked at Steve. “From what I can tell from what they are reporting on the news, Jean must have seized their assets as well as evidence. To avoid them simply rebuilding or dodging justice.”

“That young Miss is somewhat… frightening.” The cap leaned against the wall behind him.

Peggy snickered as she thought of her first meeting with the redhead. “You should have seen how we met, I think she was about to kill Phil and I if we hadn’t technically surrounded her and taken her parents hostage.”

Steve looked at Peggy as if she was crazy. "With the level of power at her disposal? How are you not dead or at least wounded?"

Peggy’s face went from smiling to embarrassed, her eyes avoided looking at Steve. "Jean hasn't always been this strong, she has grown exponentially stronger after dealing with her nemesis, she told me how but I can scarcely believe her story."

The brunette had seen Jean’s memories, the blood and terror that she had spread all over the base that she now possessed. How the man she treated like a butler had been completely reprogrammed by her and that Phoenix entity who had basically fused with her and was capable of so much destruction on a planetary scale if not more. She missed those times when Jean was less of a headache. But she owed the girl, she had come to save Peggy just like she had promised if she fucked up with Hydra; and she had delivered.

Now she was helping her even further than she should. Steve stared at Peggy who seemed to be thoughtful about something; she surely had more to say about Jean Grey and was collecting her thoughts. But he was hungry and somewhat tired after their successful operation. “I see that we have more stuff to discuss.” Then his eyes fell again on the TV screen and the news. Steve pointed a finger at the device and said, “But what are you going to do when she comes here? These actions… she needs to stop.”

“We are at war Cap, I thought you knew that there’s no such thing as overkill.” A cold and low feminine voice interrupted them. The two enhanced super soldiers turned to see a redhead in a black skin-tight under armor, her green eyes looking derisively at him. It was Jean Grey and she looked the worse for wear, at her side a girl with black hair and Asian features in the same state who held onto her hand and wore a costume with spider web patterns.

"Jean." Peggy walked toward the girl and embraced her.

After Peggy let go of her, Jean simply said, “I've come to deliver and help gather evidence.”

 

# # #

 

Briefing room
10 minutes later

“On site we have a couple of Senators, ten members of the House of Representatives, two state governors, some highly placed military members and more people who work for them without knowing it's for HYDRA.” Peggy told Jean.

They were seated on metal chairs in a thirty square meters room, with concrete walls painted white and everyone was assembled bar the guards keeping an eye on their prisoners. Steve stood on the side of the room near the entrance. Arclight and Lady Mastermind had placed themselves behind Jean and Cindy while the SHIELD agents surrounded them. Peggy watched as Jean used the portable computer in the gathered Achilles armors to create a hologram display showing everyone they had taken prisoner.

The SHIELD director showed the full body representation of a tall brown haired and mustachioed older man with big glasses and a trendy business suit. He looked like a diligent man who took himself seriously. “Here we have Arnold Brown, a rich stockholder of Imperial Industries that is a front for Hydra, they are mainly financed by them in the US.”

This was an important member of Hydra, he bankrolled most of their operations. He mixed in with the likes of Hydra because of the death of his wife who had died in poverty and the desire to protect his daughter, Laura Brown. From what they had stolen from Brown’s computer the man has used his position in Imperial Industries to divert money and resources to Hydra.

Jean looked at Peggy with surprised eyes. “How did you get that guy?”

Jean was surprised because she didn’t think Hydra’s central committee would leave one of their main bank rollers undefended. Jean heard some agents chuckle at her reaction, she looked at them, smirking at her. Peggy had a grin plastered on her face. “It wasn’t easy, he was in a gathering with Gideon Malick and a woman called Colonel Hale.”

“Ah, that bitch isn’t a general yet?” Jean frowned.

That surprised Peggy, that Jean knew as much. “She is on track to become one.”

Jean sighed in relief. “Thank god she isn’t, the situation could be worse.”

Peggy tilted her head, asking herself what Jean meant, she would ask the girl later where she got her knowledge. Meanwhile, the Director proceeded to tell Jean how she captured such a guy, it all started with the Colonel going to some secret club that they had entirely reserved for the day. Inside a completely blank room with a faraday cage system, chairs and a table with some refreshments they gathered, a lot of individuals on the list were there. Gideon Malick, Baron Von Strucker, Tony Masters, SHIELD Agent Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Daniel Whitehall and others. Peggy and her team had attacked the club and taken it with superior fire power despite the defenses on site.

When Steve showed himself, most of the old members couldn't believe that he was back. Agent Allegra de Fontaine and Von Strucker had fled in a shower of light, and the other members of the Hydra council attempted either to fight or escape too. The Achilles armors and the performance of the weapons and support gadgets Jean had made helped turn the balance of the fight toward Peggy’s troops; though she had to help Arclight take out Taskmaster aka Tony Masters in CQC.

That fight had been hard for Peggy who wasn't used to her new body and abilities, but thanks to Arclight's shockwave powers they had been able to control the terrain and take Masters down. The man was strong, fast and skilled. In the end he was still human as a shockwave caught him in the face and knocked him out.

"Arclight, I will give you a raise." Jean turned to the purple haired young woman.

Arclight laughed nervously and scratched behind her head. "I wasn’t aware that we were paid."

Peggy and Steve looked at each other, then around to see that the agents were interested by the by-play and the information being exchanged. 

Jean showed two fingers. "Oh you are, 100k a year."

There was silence in the room, and in the end, it was Maria Hill who expressed what everyone thought. "Shit."

It was easily upper-middle class income. It was enough for anyone to want to jump ship, Peggy glared at Jean as she tried to subvert her people. The redhead noticed her and simply shrugged. The director knew that sooner or later some of her people would approach her to speak about joining her for work, Maria Hill seemed somewhat interested and thoughtful. 

Jean clapped, "So, we are going to finish this once and for all."

Steve didn't like the grin on Jean’s face, it gave him chills. “What do you intend to do?” The super soldier asked with his electric blue eyes on the redhead.

Jean looked at Steve innocently, but what she said was simply terrifying for everyone assembled. “Me? I’m going to gather evidence from those people's brains, steal information from their minds; proof, things you can use to unravel the whole mess, assuming that you don't want me to just...persuade a few people in the right place to make the whole thing unravel?”

Everyone fell silent, only for Steve to shake his head. “I doubt the US Government would be happy with any of that,” Steve said dryly. “Can we go with the first solution? I don’t like the mind control and brainwashing options.”

Jean leaned in her seat and passed an arm around her girlfriend seated at her side. Then with conviction in her eyes the redhead said looking directly at Peggy, “We are going to drag Hydra into the light, we send the evidence to the media and you take care of the rest with the White House, Peggy.”

The redhead froze and snapped her fingers. “Huh, now that I think about it, I have something for you.” Jean smiled at her.

“What is it?” Peggy said nervously, the young woman’s smile filled her with trepidation.

Snickering, the redhead let go of her girlfriend and stood up. “You'll see.”

 

# # #

(Cindy Moon & Peggy Carter)

 

Interrogation room
30 minutes later

Cindy didn't know what she was doing there. She had accompanied Jean all over Europe to give her some backup. They had killed, destroyed and stolen; Cindy couldn’t help but like what she did, deny assets to the guys who had attacked her home and family and tried to take her friends hostages. They deserved retribution with all the shit they had pulled.

She had her fill of killing and wanted to go home. They should have left all the legwork to Director Carter, after all everything was her fault. She didn’t like the woman, contrarily to Jean who seemed to treat her like her grandmother or something. Cindy followed Peggy Carter who didn’t look like the brunette she was when they had first met. Jean had given her some kind of holographic disguise overlaid on her body to hide her restored youth and her abilities.

She looked old, seventy or so with white hair and wrinkled skin; she wore a white pantsuit, silver rimmed glasses and white gloves. Peggy entered the room while Cindy followed, cloaked; just like the briefing room it had white walls and metal furniture. On a chair with hands bound was a brown haired woman, clearly military as she looked straight before her, she wore a red dress with a pearl necklace at her neck. If Cindy remembered correctly, they had caught her in some country club in Washington DC. 

Peggy walked to the seat in front of where the Colonel was, smiled and said, “Colonel Hale.”

The Colonel's eyes widened. “You.”

Peggy nodded. “Me, me, me.” She straightened the lapels of her vest.

The woman’s eyes narrowed and in an ice cold tone, the colonel said, “You are supposed to be dead.”

Peggy put her hands on the table and linked her fingers together. “You know what they say, never assume. I presume Pierce told you I was dead.” She said with a tight smile.

The other woman leaned in her seat, her manacled hands before her, she put on a defiant expression and growled. "I won't talk."

The Director chuckled, denying the woman even a shred of defense. Peggy didn't care about what she thought, it was with a malicious pleasure that she informed the colonel. "Actually, Colonel… we don't need you to. As of today HYDRA's operations worldwide have ceased. Your assets have been seized, your bases in Europe completely destroyed, your unknowing and willing pawns either assassinated or exposed. The South American branches simply don't exist anymore and the North American ones have been left to us to take care of."

Finally, the situation in which she found herself seemed to dawn on Colonel Hale. "If you did what you say… why am I here?"

"We just had to isolate you." Peggy said.

Hale frowned and mumbled. "I don't see the point…" Then her eyes widened. "No! You didn't!"

Peggy chuckled, while Cindy, who didn’t understand what was happening, put herself on guard. 

"Oh? Have you finally realized?" Peggy taunted with a knowing smile.

The colonel stood and shouted, "You have set your pet telepath against me!"

"I assure you that she's no pet or tamed in any ways." Peggy joked with a straight face.

Colonel Hale was about to lunge at Peggy. "I will kill you- Grrrzzk" But was stopped in time.

With a flash of blue sparks, Cindy appeared from the wall where she had been cloaked with her power, and touched Colonel Hale’s right shoulder with her hand, letting her venom blast’s bio-electricity run through the woman’s body. The Colonel fell face first against the table, then on the chair. Cindy caught her and sat her on the metal furniture, the woman’s head lolled and she finally fell unconscious.

Cindy looked up at Peggy who had a sadistic smile on her face. This was an expression that the spider-girl would have never expected to see on the woman. Something bothered Cindy though… "I am surprised that they know about Jeanie."

Peggy put on a wise yet mischievous expression on her face, then gave Cindy a dashing smile. "I am not, she’s Hydra high-command. There's a reason they tried to kidnap all of you to make Jean compliant."

In a shower of blue light, Jean appeared, looked at Hale with interest and showed a predatory smile. “You can proceed to another interrogation, either Malick or Whitehall. Here take this.” Jean handed out a folder full of papers. “Everything Hale has done is compiled here, I’ll be right back.” She kissed Cindy in passing.

Then Jean teleported out. Peggy and Cindy looked at each other, then shrugged in sync; and the two resumed their roles, Colonel Hale was returned to her cell. It was within five minutes that Jean returned through a golden portal with a pale blonde girl while Peggy was waiting for the next prisoner to be ‘interrogated’, the girl was barely twelve and wore some kind of jumpsuit with a Hydra patch on her left arm. Peggy and Cindy frowned at the spot with fresh blood over where her heart was.

Jean smiled at Peggy and waved at the new girl with a hand covered in said blood. “This is Ruby Hale, Colonel Hale’s daughter.”

The girl looked at Cindy and Peggy suspiciously. Cindy simply shook her head, she knew how Jean thought, she had already taken it upon herself to save the cute blonde. As for Peggy she was simply confused by what was happening. Ruby turned to Jean and poked her with a reproachful gaze. “You promised.”

Jean sighed. “Fine, I won’t let them kill your mother.”

Peggy narrowed her eyes at that declaration. “Jean, what’s happening here?” The older woman crossed her arms and cursed at the redhead who was making decisions for her that she had no right to make.

Jean laughed nervously. “Well... you see this is Ruby, she was destined to be one of Hydra’s super soldiers. Her powers are gravity manipulation.”

With a skeptical expression Peggy asked, “She gave herself up?”

Jean shook her head. “Oh no, we fought for one minute before she realized she was outmatched. Ruby here thought that I would kill her.”

“You almost did.” The girl said plaintively and showed the bloody soaked jumpsuit. 

Jean guiltily avoided looking at the piece of clothing. “I healed you, alright?”

Cindy knew that Jean was being made, she didn’t like killing kids. When they had attacked Hydra assets in Europe and South America, she went to extreme lengths to place every kid she found into an orphanage or deported them to another country where they would be taken care of. 

“Did you recruit her or something?” Cindy asked her girlfriend.

With a hand she held onto Ruby and the blood on her jumpsuit simply disappeared, as well as the patch with the Hydra logo. The girl looked somewhat scared and had frozen. Jean patted her cheek, then turned to Cindy. “Yeah, at the same time, I took all the Hydra’s kids prisoner and transferred them into your cells. Ruby gets to be a special snowflake because I like her and she deserves a chance to do good, know the world and she hasn’t been indoctrinated yet, unlike Colonel Hale. By the way…”

Peggy closed her eyes and sighed. “You are going to take her too?”

Jean raised her hands and said, “No, I am going to undo the brainwashing she went through, then if you could, could she get house arrest as a sentence for her crime? I promised Ruby that if she joined me, I would not let them kill her mom. The woman may have been a traitor to this country, but it seems that she was a good mom."

Jean and Peggy looked each other in the eyes, never giving an inch. Then Peggy began to think that Jean was just giving her a heads up, after all she didn’t have to ask permission. The redhead could still go behind her back and take Hale, whether Peggy wanted it or not. It was one of the downsides of working with someone as powerful as Jean was, for now they didn’t know how to contain her or have any measures that could stop her.

Peggy breathed out, briefly letting out the stress she felt even though she always felt energized. "Very well, I will see what I can do."

"Thank you, ma'am!" Ruby jumped happily at the news.

Peggy facepalmed, asking herself if this was her life now? Being swept up in the wake of Jean’s shenanigans. Fortunately for her, Steve arrived with their second prisoner of the day.

 

# # #

(Tony Masters aka Taskmaster) 

Opening his eyes, and suddenly sitting upright on the bed, Tony noticed that he was in a cell made of reinforced concrete. There were no bars to see outside, just a solid armored black door. He looked down and realized that he had been stripped of his armor and weapons. He tried to judge the time by the thin ray of the sun getting through the three apertures forming the window of his cell.

For naught as he didn't know what time it was, but he guessed that it must have been some ten hours since he was captured. He didn’t panic and forced himself into a state of calm; such was his control over his physiology. Tony had thought that he was on top of the world after fighting individuals from the Chaste, the Hand and the best assassins in the world like the Black Widow and the Winter Soldier… but this fight against a surviving Captain America had been the hardest one in his life to be honest. The man had been everything he had been lauded to be in the history books, strong, fast and skilled with his shield.

When the Captain had walked into the High-command meeting, Tony had seen the faces Allegra and the others who knew him made. Awe, and terror was there as well as disbelief. The fight between the captain and Tony had been short and brutal, made even shorter when the captain was joined by that other super soldier, she had been even faster and stronger, yet her skills hadn't been good enough, but they still won.

Tony looked at his wrists, he was manacled with heavy duty restraints. He had never seen their make before, they looked mechanical and there was red led light on each of the manacles, the chains linking them looked strong and dense. Tony frowned and then immediately tried to break them.

[Warning, cease and desist.]

Tony stopped as he heard the electronic voice warning him to stop. Frowning once more he considered it for a moment before trying again. Tony shrugged and tensed the chain, trying to break it with his enhanced strength. Sparks of blue electricity shocked him for ten seconds and the criminal seized on his bed. Despite himself, the electrocution caused him to soil his clothes and his bed.

The energy coursing through the manacles and chain stopped and an electronic voice informed him. [Second warning, next attempt will have terminal consequences.]

"These people don't mess around." Tony realized.

He sniffed the air and felt ashamed and disgusted by the state he found his lower half in. He stayed in this state for another hour before he finally heard noises coming from the other side of the door of his cell. A jangling of keys. Heavy footsteps. *Fully Armored, wearing weapons.* Tony felt from what his hearing could tell him.

The door slid into the wall with a mechanical sound, two black armored figures were visible. “Tony Masters, you’ll follow us.”

He looked at each of the men in armor and opened his hands and showed the state of his pants. “Gentlemen, you have me at a disadvantage.” 

One of the men entered and flinched. “Wow, it stinks.”

The second put a hand on his colleague’s pauldron. “We can’t have him go before the director in that state.”

The first man turned to look at him. “The showers?”

“The showers.” the second nodded.

Tony smiled and nodded in thanks. Two minutes later he was brought to communals showers where he was given leave to proceed to his ablution. Once done he dried himself and then pondered his next move; he would escape of course, but he thought about how. He looked at his restraints, then had an idea. Tony was given a new pair of pants one size too small but it would make do for what he had in mind. His warders came in to fetch him. He followed them, but as they were turning to leave he jumped behind the second one, put the chain of his restraint to the armored man’s neck and then twisted.

Sure they were protected from attacks, but they weren’t protected from the kinetic effects of certain moves targeting joints and vitals areas such as the neck. As fast as his limited super speed allowed him, Tony took one of the pistols from its holster at the thighs of the man he killed and opened fire at the remaining warder. The weapon worked like a charm, as it only took three shots to pierce the defense of the man.

It seemed that the armor wasn’t immune to the weapons paired with it; what a shame. The maker would be able to change that Tony hoped, but it was a defect he really liked right now. Tony tried at first to take the armor off of the first SHIELD agent he had downed. But strangely, it wouldn’t come off, Tony guessed that it must be some kind of security lock for fallen operators. Shrugging, he pocketed the keys from the dead bodies, and took off his manacles, appropriated a pair of pistols and utility belt that he put at his waist.

He would have preferred to blend in with the armored agents and escape unnoticed by donning the one he had access to, but it seemed that fate didn't smile upon him and that he would have to create a distraction to flee. 

This was how Tony found himself in the cell blocks, where he killed the guards and began liberating some of the prisoners. He armed some of them with the weapons of the fallen and pointed the escapees in the direction of the command center. They wanted to be led by him for maximum chances of survival, but he sent them away while telling them the excuse that he wanted to free more prisoners and that he needed a distraction.

Senator Stern was the first to accept and to leave, with a respectful salute he said, “Hail Hydra.”

The others such as Whitehall and Malick took charge and followed his instructions with some doubt. Tony laughed at their backs. He took the opposite direction and power walked to an exit. He found it at the end of the cell block, it wasn’t even guarded. He opened the metal door with the master key he had pilfered from the dead guard and with a jingle jangle he was finally free. Tony ended up outside a courtyard surrounded by a tall wall of concrete and steel fences with barbed wire.

Tony looked at the pistol in his hand then at the wall, smiled and simply fired at it repeatedly. The bolts of blue energy were simply too powerful for the wall to resist the heat and the kinetic charge and created holes in the wall that Tony took advantage of before he unfortunately completely discharged the weapon. However, the opening in the wall was large enough for him to pass. He walked nonchalantly through and was outside in a wooded area.

Smiling he holstered the pistol and walked toward the animal trail that he could see leading out of the copse of trees before him only to be stopped by an invisible wall. Tony jumped back, held onto his nose and by pinching it. "What in God's name-?"

Then Tony was hit by something on his back and was pulled brutally from behind and slammed into the wall behind him. He was momentarily seeing double when he saw a golden aperture at his side. Out of it came a young woman of asian descent in black and white skin-tight armor with a spider web like pattern.

“Taskmaster, where do you think you are going.” She said coldly.

Tony’s vision settled and he stood up, looking at his spider-themed foe. “You shouldn’t have done that girl.”

She automatically fell into a stance, Tony examined her and nodded, it was adequate. *She's clearly had some training, but there are still holes in her defenses.* The man took two shock batons from his stolen utility belt. 

At the same instant the girl lunged at him, Tony slashed right to her temple with the shock baton emitting blue light showing that it was electrified. The girl simply lowered her head and tried to punch  his face but he deflected it with the baton. The electricity did nothing to her; Tony noticed how it coursed through her but didn’t harm her. Taking advantage of his surprise the young woman landed a kick to his solar plexus projecting him once more into the wall behind him. He didn’t have the time to think and rolled to the right, just in time for the girl to create another hole in the wall.

Tony threw a baton at her that she again miraculously caught by the handle, he narrowed his eyes and decided to get serious. Her training may be less, but it seemed that she had strength, speed and instinct on her side. He charged her, with a vertical slash that was parried with the baton in her hand but Tony caught her with a jab in the stomach. He caught her hair, jumped with his right foot and slammed her face with his knee.

He let go of her, twirled his baton and attempted to drive it into her eye socket; unfortunately she dodged at the last moment and Tony received some slimy substance on his face, blinding him. At the same time Tony felt a hit to the side of his head, but caught the offending limb that slammed into him and with a mighty turn slammed his opponent into the wall.

Without letting up he tore the substance blinding him and saw that he had indeed slammed the girl into the wall, she looked at him as she wanted to kill him.

“You are not too bad, girl. Who trained you?” Tony bantered, making the girl frown.

He was recuperating, the girl was clearly on par with a super soldier in strength, speed and stamina. Tony felt that she was still holding back.

“Perfect Death.” The girl said as she took a combat stance.

Tony flinched, that was just his luck, finding the pupil of Elektra Natchios siding with the SHIELD loyalists. He chuckled, put an arm behind him and with the other signalling her to come at him. “Oh, I like that, come at me little one. Let’s dance.”

The girl made a cocky smile. “I am not alone.” She looked at the golden aperture where she had come from.

“Wha-” Tony looked as two people appeared one after the other.

A tall and powerfully blonde man with a familiar costume eliciting patriotism and freedom; a redheaded young woman that floated from the ground with golden glowing eyes. “Damnation.”

The redhead landed, looked at the black haired girl and… Tony lost sight of her for an instant before his dynamic vision caught up. She was at the black haired girl’s side. When she finished checking her friend, Tony felt the redhead’s gaze on him and he felt as if he was stared at by a bigger predator. The black haired girl held onto the redhead’s shoulder and said, “He is mine.”

“Fine, but first.” Her voice was low, an attractive contralto. “Taskmaster or should I call you Mister Masters?”

Tony looked at the shock baton at his feet, stomped at an angle on it and it flew into his hand. He looked up at the redhead. “Call me whatever you want, girl.”

She didn’t seem bothered at all by his condescension. “Hydra is done, finished.” She said. “We caught the prisoners you used as a distraction too. Even though those idiots Allegra and Strucker escaped, I took all their assets, destroyed their bases and salted the earth. They won’t be able to rebuild as Director Carter will follow them to the depths of the Earth if she must. Surrender and you won’t lose what you care about the most.”

“Nice speech girl, you must have rehearsed it a lot. Unfortunately…” In one smooth movement, Tony took the second pistol at his belt and shot it at Jean. “I’m not scared of a presumptuous upstart like you.”

Just before the bolt of energy hit the redhead, Captain America placed between himself and her, and shield-bashed the bolt to the side creating a crater in the ground.  The spider themed girl and the captain moved as one. The man was fast and hit Tony's right arm, so he transferred his shock baton to his left and slashed horizontally, but the hit was caught by his shield that rang. Tony took the hook kick destined for his solar plexus with his forearm.

The shock was almost too much and broke some bones but Tony used the kinetic energy of the strike to perform a roundhouse kick; however he had forgotten the black haired girl who body slammed him and reversed their position mid-air and slammed him into the ground, jumping into the air. Tony rolled to the side to avoid taking a shield to the face, quickly got to his feet and threw the fully charged baton at the girl who was still in mid-air, but she avoided it by firing the weird white substance from her fingers and pulling herself aside.

However, it cost him as the captain hit him multiple times with several kicks that hit him in the stomach, his ribs that he heard break. Tony pushed through the pain and slammed his elbow into Steve Rogers’ left arm. But his armor protected him. He was at a disadvantage and sought a way of egress as he avoided a flying kick from the black haired girl.

“You aren’t that skilled, Mr. Masters. You should give up.” The redhead said almost conversationally as she observed the fight.

“Shut up, girl.”

Tony was distracted enough to not see the third person pass the portal in a blur of speed and join the fight. It was a tall brunette, wearing almost the same costume as the captain. This was becoming an unfair fight, the woman had a shock baton and a pistol in each hand. The captain put his shield before him and the brunette jumped on it feet first and used the shield like a trampoline using a thrust kick that Tony avoided at the last moment.

In vain.

The woman caught him by the scruff of his neck and slammed Tony onto the ground, at the same moment the black haired girl landed feet first on his stomach, cocked a fist radiating blue sparks of electricity and repeatedly punched Tony in the face until he felt his jaw crack, his body full of electricity coursing through it, stunning him.

He lost consciousness for a brief moment, but he woke up bound and gagged. He felt weak suddenly, as if he was in another body. He tried to free himself but to no avail. He couldn’t feel the world slow down like usual, it was underwhelmingly slow. The world had lost colors and smells.

“It won’t work, Mister Masters. Welcome back to being a vanilla basic human, I took your enhanced physiology away, what the super soldier serum gave can be taken.” The same cold, feminine voice from earlier told him.

He closed his eyes strongly and almost sobbed. “No.”

When Tony reopened his eyes, he looked into verdant green eyes and hair cascading around the young woman’s head. “Yessss, you should have surrendered when I told you to. Goodbye, Mister Masters.”

She was as beautiful as she was deadly, he watched with trepidation as she looked at him as if he was so much dirt to her. She lifted her head and spoke to the brunette who had come to the fight late. “Take him away. I’ve read his mind and something urgent has come up, Peggy. Some assholes from the Military are funding another black ops lab called the Facility.”

*Peggy? Peggy Carter?* Tony looked as if she was a ghost, he didn’t know how she became younger, but it must have been some kind of experiment. *Another super soldier program? Something that actually works like a fountain of youth?*

The redhead looked at him again, and chuckled at him in ridicule. Peggy looked at Tony who squirmed against her gaze. “Go, I will handle everything.”

The redhead embraced the older woman. “Thanks!” She turned and left his field of vision, but he could still hear her speak. “Cindy, come with me, we need to go save a little girl and her mom.”

Tony heard a sigh. “Okay, but I hope we can rest after that.”

“Promise.”

The ex-enhanced super soldier looked at Peggy and said with every fiber of his being. “She’s a monster.”

Peggy put a boot against Tony’s torso. “She had given you an out, you didn’t take it.”

Someone coughed, it was the Captain. “Now, Taskmaster, you’ll be interrogated and placed in your cell.”

Tony turned his head, looking into the sky. He didn’t feel anymore drive, he felt like death, slow, like a halfwit. “Do what you want, I won’t talk, my life is over.”

Steve Rogers crouched, and looked at him meaningfully and said, “There’s worse things than death.”

Then he took Tony and loaded him like he was a sack of potatoes, back to hell.

 

# # #

(The Watcher)

 

Moon
Blue Area/Luther Crater
Period through December 26th to 28th , 1996

For billions of years, Watcher Uatu had chosen to observe Earth, a planet born upon a universal nexus. He observed the blue and green jewel from the Blue Area of the planet’s moon, Luna, in an abandoned settlement built by the alien Kree. He had been getting bored for a while after Gaea, the mother goddess had wiped out the demons from her surface, then the birth and death of the dinosaurs (some of those gigantic lizards still lived in the savage lands), since the Ancients had created man, Uatu was never quite the same. Those little apes had been developing quite fast in his books since they had been seeded on the planet.

Humans were warlike, greedy and power hungry, but they were an interesting species, capable of such wonders and selflessness when they worked together. They had chased out the false gods for a reason, since the Rings were buried they had been visited many times by conquering species, such as the Kree and the Skrulls who were hungry for the potential and the power of their flexible DNA.

Since the sinking of Atlantis though, everything had been stuck in a loop of creation and destruction. In Uatu’s opinion, the planet was fine. The people were fucked, if you could say. Uatu was surprised by the events, Earth had always been a lively place, but now it was downright terrifying. It had all started when he felt temporal interference on the planet. In 1870 to be exact, time travelers tried to change the future once more. Uatu had sighed at that time, young races always made the same mistakes. They always made things worse.

This time it was the X-men, Summers and Grey, they changed the future, made it worse in a sense. They couldn’t change Nathaniel Essex’s path, his fate was set. What happened after made Uatu doubt his sanity, changes were made, yes. But the future was completely altered. Someone key to the fate of Gaea had been tampered with. His cosmic senses were that sharp, he followed the quantum signature of the trail the one who changed this universe had left and was surprised to find Jean Grey, the future Phoenix Avatar to be the one whose fate was altered.

The difference was that she was really mature for her age, Uatu then observed her more than intended until she awakened her powers. What was supposed to happen didn’t. She didn’t fall into a coma and had struggled to get control of her abilities. Nathaniel Essex, the linchpin of her change had no idea of what was happening.

The man was unsubtle, and a brute, he had no idea who he was messing with. Uatu could feel her fledgling power and each time the scientist tried to make her his puppet he honed her, like the finest blade, she was sharp and becoming hardier and deadlier as her morals and willingness to kill for her sake and those she loved was tempered.

He was reassured when he finally saw her make friends for the first time, she was supposed to go with Xavier, but she was unwilling as she had seen through the man, he was more than the affable and peaceful person he made himself appear to be. Uatu had been baffled by the change of fate of young Jean. She chose her own path and made her own connections, and changed the fates of many others.

Uatu then understood what the being who altered the fate of this universe wanted. He hadn’t been surprised when Jean willingly accepted to take on the mantle of the Phoenix Force, what surprised him though was her splitting her consciousness and forming an avatar to stay on earth while the main consciousness had taken on its duty. The Watcher had never seen such a thing happen with one of the abstracts.

The newly minted avatar then appropriated the resources of her dead enemies and settled on a course that would pit her against the powers on the planet. Powered humans and Gods had no way to know what was going to hit them, Uatu laughed. He relished what was happening to Hydra, their bases in Europe and South America were burning, their personnel and assets were either taken or destroyed. The path of destruction the avatar was leaving was entertaining, nevertheless, Uatu focused on North America and looked for the other team.

Peggy Carter and her paramour, Steve Rogers have been reunited earlier than they should, Jean Grey interfered and gave them another chance to live their lives together. But first they had to slay the beast they previously failed to. Hydra was embedded in the fabric of their government, they had changed the laws and goals of the nations, slowly turned the land of freedom to an oligarchy that ground its population under its heels.

But in just one day, SHIELD and their loyalists struck their enemies and their assets with multiple operations whose goal was to decapitate each of Hydra's heads. Uatu had a good feeling, it was going to work, it would destabilize the country but they could rebuild it anew. Jean Grey was the nexus of change, to those events, the earth was no longer destined to tear itself apart. She had taken out the Sublime, Nathaniel Essex and Now Hydra that would have plunged the world into chaos.

Uatu couldn't wait to see what she would do next, he refocused on the Phoenix avatar and noticed that she was headed to the mountainous region of Vermont. Uatu stood with trepidation as she arrived quite late to what humans called the Facility, a place of suffering and where humans showed their ugly side without reservation.

As he watched, Uatu flinched. Jean Grey was looking back at him even though he was so far away.

<We will meet soon, Watcher.> The mental voice was clear and strong.

"Father always told me that I would get into trouble one day…" Uatu lamented.

 

# # #

(Sarah Kinney)

Location Classified
The Facility
01:04 AM

Raising a daughter wasn’t simple for Sarah Kinney; she had tried to not care, she had tried to see what she was paid to do as nothing but a job that would bring dividends for other avenues in research. But she couldn’t keep lying to herself anymore, all of this had started because of the decision to have a female clone of Subject Weapon X.

Sarah had felt so clever, so astute to have proposed to create a female clone of Subject X after the only available genetic sample they had had been damaged; she had been denied at first but she had gone behind doctor Sutter’s back and produced a female embryo. But as revenge for her insubordination, Dr. Zander Rice, her erstwhile enemy, forced her to act as the surrogate mother for the specimen.

Giving birth had been a painful and heady feeling. There was a reason they call childbirth labor. Making a healthy baby took effort: It required foresight and self-denial and courage. It was expensive and demanding and tiring. You had to learn new things, change many habits, possibly deal with complicated medical situations, make difficult decisions, and undergo stressful ordeals. Pregnant women did such things, and much harder things, all the time.

For example, they give birth, which was somewhere on the scale between painful and excruciating. Or they had a cesarean, as she had, which was major surgery. None of this was without risk of death or damage or trauma, including psychological trauma. To force girls and women to undergo all this against their will was to annihilate their humanity. When they undertook it by choice, we should all be grateful. 

This experience changed Sarah forever, the child, X-23 as she was called was always on her mind. For seven years, X-23 was being raised and trained to be a weapon; Sarah had tried to discreetly instill a semblance of normality in her life by reading her stories or being there for her. After the horrible experience of seeing the child who had half of her DNA suffer for the awakening of her X-gene, Sarah had decided to take her away from this place.

Seven years, seven long years to finally act like a mother! Did her piece of shit and child abusing father turn her into a psychopath too? She had plotted and schemed, even enlisted the skills of Tanaka sensei, X-23’s kind and yet severe martial arts tutor for their eventual escape; however, Sarah had underestimated the moral bankruptcy of Dr. Zander Rice who used some special scent trigger to have X-23 kill him because he showed kindness to the girl believing she had gone ‘soft’.

This had broken her daughter, yes she could say it now, she was her daughter. It had also broken Sarah’s professional distance with X-23. Kimura, the girl’s handler… that bitch should be fucked by magma tentacles... continued to abuse her and seek reasons to always bully her. Then everything changed December the fifteenth, Dr. Rice had died, in fact most of the staff in the facility had died, leaving only Kimura, Dr. Sutter, some scientists and a dozen genetically altered soldiers.

It was now or never, X-23 and Sarah destroyed the labs and key installations with the help of several well placed C-4 explosives throughout the facility. They were now out of the facility, ten meters from the entrance when Kimura appeared and stopped them.

X-23’s claws popped out of her fists and feet as she saw her bully and abuser make herself an obstacle. Sarah cursed. “Shit.”

The woman was a creation of the facility, an experiment, a direct counter to her daughter’s powers; it had been done deliberately to control X-23. The ugly woman approached with a deliberate happy gait in her steps. Her boots crunching the snow under her; she was alone, but it didn’t bode well to Sarah at all. The woman was as dangerous as she was ugly.

The too wide smile of Kimura stretched over her face, her tactical clothing as black as her hair. “Dr. Kinney, what a surprise. I can’t say that I didn’t expect you to resort to this. And here’s the weapon, slipped her leash, didn’t she?”

Red anger surged in Sarah, how dare that ugly thing treat her seven year old daughter like she wasn’t even human? Was causing her pain so good to her that she had to unleash her sadistic tendencies on a young girl. “She’s my daughter.” Sarah said with a cold and dangerous tone.

Kimura snorted, losing the glint of amusement in her eyes. “She’s nothing to you, Doctor. Just a thing, a weapon to be used until she breaks.”

Sarah took a pistol from her lab coat’s pocket, safety off and pointed the gun at Kimura who laughed at her.

Laughing some more as she looked at the pitiful Glock-19, Kimura said, “Really? You think that peashooter is going to do something to me?”

“It can slow you down.” Sarah said as her finger on the trigger tightened.

Kimura lost her smile and thought for a moment and said, “Point.”

BANG. BANG. Sarah emptied her gun into Kimura who stood there and let the bullets phase through her. She walked toward Sarah slowly. The geneticist threw the weapon at her but not before X-23 threw herself at her with a ‘Arrrgh’ cry and attempted to gut her with her claws. Kimura backhanded the child, then stomped on her arm, breaking it and barely eliciting a grunt from the girl. X-23 attempted to cut Kimura’s achilles heels but was kicked away.

Sarah took a frozen wooden branch from the snow covered ground and attempted to stab the point into Kimura’s ear, she almost succeeded but was slapped by the woman in black who had shifted her head slightly at the last moment. X-23 lunged at her again, Kimura caught her by the neck, but the little hellion kicked her face savagely with her foot claw. The black haired woman let go of her, cursing at X-23. The two fought for a long moment, Sarah wanted to help but was powerless to help her daughter.

Kimura won by tiring out the child, Sarah had a grenade in her banana bag but she was loath to use it in fear of wounding X-23. She knew that her daughter could heal but she hated the idea to inflict pain on her. Kimura crouched down, and lifted the young girl by the air; she struggled, still attempting to fight and looked down at Sarah Kinney.

“You’ve created a right mess here, Doctor.” Kimura stopped thinking for a moment and tapped on the headset in her left ear, grunted and sighed wearily. “That was Doctor Sutter by the way, he is telling me that you are fired. You know what that means?”

Sarah feared for her own life at this point, but also for X-23, she couldn’t die! They had a life to live together, she had so many things to teach her. Sarah attempted to stand back but Kimura did something unexpected and threw X-23 at her. The young girl automatically made her claw recede in her hands and feet to avoid wounding her mother. They fell on the ground together.

“Oh, how cute, she doesn’t want to hurt you.” Kimura said sweetly, delighting in the pain she was inflicting on a child.

X-23 quickly got back to her feet, this time she didn’t attempt to charge Kimura, she stood there growling at the black haired woman. Sarah did the same, looking around for any way of egress. She finally noticed that they weren’t alone, that some augmented soldiers were in place and pointing weapons at them.

Escape was no longer possible, Sarah didn't think she had jumped the gun per se, but maybe she moved too early. She was being protected by her daughter, she should have been doing the protecting, once again she felt like a failure.

Kimura laughed loudly. "You thought you could escape and steal the culmination of ten years of research into making the perfect assassin?" Then she stopped to think after looking Sarah in the eye, the defiance there appealed to her. Kimura wanted to break her, take away all her hopes and crush them underfoot.

Then an idea germinated into her mind. "I just thought of something great, why don't I let the thing you love kill you?" Kimura pulled a capsule from her belt pouch, opened it and threw it at Sarah, at the same moment X-23 popped her claw and cut the object in two but some of its gaseous content spilled on the geneticist.

Sarah coughed sightlessly and fanned the gas, only to see X-23 look at her with hatred, she lunged at her, claws out. Time slowed for Sarah, and understood that what was going to happen wasn’t the fault of her daughter, she was conditioned for this, she closed her eyes and the woman waited for the inevitable. She could hear Kimura’s eager roar of laughter and loathed her even more for what she was forcing her flesh and blood to do, it was sure to kill any shred of humanity left in the little girl. Sarah waited and waited, but death didn’t come, that was when she noticed that she could hear nothing but the crackling of fire, not even Kimura’s ugly laughter.

“Who are you?! Show yourself!” She heard Kimura shout.

Sarah opened her eyes, only to see X-23, claws about to reach her face, floating in the air, surrounded by a red halo effect. The geneticist looked toward the dense woods surrounding them, where Kimura seemed to be looking, the ugly woman looked tense. Red glowing eyes shone from the darkness between the trees and bushes that were surrounding the facility.

Slowly, the glowing red orbs crept closer, a silhouette was finally visible and distinct from the moon’s illumination. It was obviously feminine, and attractive. The woman stepped into the outside lights spread around the grounds of the installations. She had short red hair in a bob cut and wore a skintight golden costume with distinctive metallic pauldrons, gauntlets with sharp claws and boots. Red tribal patterns and a stylized bird symbol on her chest, giving her an elegant but fierce appearance; the mask covering her face was featureless, only the eyes rimmed with dark red were visible.

Sarah found the newcomer to be radiating an aggressive aura that suddenly permeated the very air. She didn’t speak, but her body language showed that she wasn’t amused.

“Kill her!” Kimura commanded.

Like a well oiled machine, the augmented soldiers pointed their rifles in sync and fired at the newcomer. Sarah called out and warned the woman, but the staccato of weapons fire covered her voice. The bullets didn’t even reach the golden woman who had tilted her head and the projectiles were simply held in the air, the soldiers emptied their ammunition to no avail. Suddenly, another woman in a similar black and white costume swung from some kind of white cord and kicked Kimura into a tree with enough force to break it in two. She landed on her feet and sprayed white fluid on the black haired facility agent, tying her to the broken trunk.

The red haired golden woman raised her right arm and all the bullets hanging in the air returned to the augmented soldiers, creating tiny sonic booms. The result was that nothing was left of their bodies, only parts of their body armor, blood and gory splatters. The scene was worthy of a slasher story, the golden costumed woman then approached the black and white one, putting a hand on her shoulders that she acknowledged with a nod.

Sarah was aware that mutants were dangerous, at least it was the propaganda circulating in the Facility since she started working there. X-23 and Kimura fit the bill and more, now Sarah understood that what they could do was just the tip of the iceberg. That golden costumed woman was basically untouchable, it seemed projectile weapons and even attacking her in close quarters would do nothing against her. Speaking of the devil, she turned her head toward Sarah who flinched when those solid glowing red eyes fixed on her.

As she walked up toward her, the woman stopped near X-23, put a clawed finger against her temple and Sarah saw her daughter close her eyes. Then she slowly floated to the ground. Sarah crouched and held onto her daughter. The woman then put her hand against Sarah's head as if she wanted to muss her hair. The air pressure around Sarah changed as if she was changing elevation.

“I neutralized the trigger scent that witch had thrown on you. You should be safe, now.” A young sounding female voice told her.

As she held onto her daughter, Sarah looked more in depth at the young woman, she was clearly the same size as her. She moved like a predator, exactly like her daughter; but because she couldn’t discern more of her physical characteristics, Sarah decided to ask, “Who are you?”

“Your ticket out of this place, Doctor Kinney.” The young woman answered as she looked at the installations behind Sarah.

The geneticist recognized this situation, that girl, whoever she worked for or with wanted something from her or X-23. Sarah glared at the redhead. “There’s a catch.”

The golden costumed young woman’s gaze refocused on Sarah. “There’s always a catch. I’ve come here after realizing that the Facility was up and running, so it means that the weapon plus program isn’t in this reality.”

Sarah frowned, feeling X-23 stirring in her arms. “This reality? What do you mean?” She was more concerned by her daughter than the chatter of their savior, as a mother should be.

“Do you believe in the multiverse theory, Doctor?” The unnerving solid red eyed redhead asked her.

Sarah frowned. She wasn’t that good at quantum physics, nor in pure math but she still tried to learn multiple fields of science or tried to understand what some of her colleagues spouted about. The multiverse was a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Together, these universes comprised everything that existed: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that described them. At least that’s what the man who had tried to pick her up in the cafeteria two months ago told her.

*Strange.* Sarah thought. Something about the young woman before her, nagged her.

Without Sarah having to answer, the young woman continued speaking as if she had. “I see that you are, we actually live in one of those. The grouping our universe is in is pretty messed up. In every one of them where X-23 exists, you always die, Doctor; and you leave her alone to be prey to those after her precious DNA or to induct her in their powered army.”

Sarah couldn’t believe what she was hearing, it was as if the woman had seen it happen, she refused to believe that fate could be this cruel toward a little girl, but yet again hadn't she been served the same at the hands of her own father? The same abuse that Kimura seemed to enjoy making her daughter go through… “No. It can’t be true.”

She chuckled. “Oh, but it is. Me coming here? I messed up your fates really bad, but that’s an improvement I think, compared to what was supposed to happen.”

The redhead raised a hand and wriggled her fingers, making the snow evaporate and the air around Sarah stopped being freezing. She didn’t yet notice that fact, but her daughter did as she tensed. The geneticist held onto her daughter more tightly, aware that the girl was awake and that attacking someone even more powerful than her would be suicide.

Sarah looked into the redhead’s solid eyes. “Please, stop talking and just tell me what you want!

The air suddenly stilled and became heavier. Sarah felt that she made a mistake and expected to be hurt for it at this moment. But nothing untoward seemed to happen. 

The redhead laughed, it was a pleasant bell-like laugh that she didn't expect from someone able to spread so much death with her powers. “What do I want? Okay, I will be frank with you Sarah. Can I call you Sarah?”

The geneticist glared and coldly said, “You may not.”

X-23's head was moved on Sarah’s lap, who idly caressed her daughter's hair. She was not even bothered by the current position she found herself in. The redhead snorted in amusement at Sarah’s reaction. “Very well, Doctor Kinney. What I want is a future, a future where I can take the woman behind me as my wife and not be vilified for it, or because I have powers, to not be hunted down by the people you work for.”

Sarah pursed her lips. “The government.” She then looked at the other young woman behind the golden costumed one that kept guard over Kimura, she seemed taller and had a less curvaceous body frame. Just like that she was obtaining more information about her savior than she thought possible. Sarah now knew her sexual preferences, and why she seemed to be doing what she did. *Self-preservation.* The geneticist could understand after seeing how Doctor Sutter treated mutants, like things or animals.

Like the weapon plus program, the Facility was sponsored by unsavory agencies and a secret cabal of the US government. Sarah had to know who would try to stop her from taking her daughter and escaping, her plans had always been about moving out of the country and out of their reach.

The redhead chuckled. “Delightful, you are really smart, just like one of my best friends. And yes, you are right, the government. All those bigot assholes who don’t seem to understand how genetics works.”

“And you do?” Sarah snarked.

The costumed young woman crossed her arms and answered instantly. “As a matter of fact, I do; and I know that within five or so years, the Metahuman population is going to explode and it’s going to be impossible to hide their existence. Then, plenty of shenanigans is going to happen there; you know what’s going to happen? I’m sure you do, you feel really smart to my abilities.”

*Why does she call Mutants, Metahumans?* but she decided to shelve this away for later.

Sarah wasn’t stupid, this was a test; a big one. This young woman was her ticket out of the Facility, she decided to humor her and use her to get out of here with her daughter. Reflecting on her actions for the past seven years and what she heard was happening in the labs and after meeting countless morally bankrupt big shots from the government she outlined what would happen if what the redhead said was true and that the government wasn’t able to hide the truth about mutants anymore.

Lifting her gaze to the masked young woman she said, “Something similar to what happened to the jews while world war two was in full swing, concentration camps? Experimentation-” Sarah then realized that it was already happening and that she was part of the problem. She looked down at her flesh and blood who was still pretending to still be asleep and ready to burst into action if the two of them were in danger.

The costumed redhead’s posture changed as she uncrossed her arms. “Now you get it? They have already started doing the same shit. It’s just a matter of time until they legitimize it. But the problem is that we are not another species, Metahumans are really just that, humans, but with weird abilities to tap into the fabric of reality and manipulate it. Let me tell you, the vanilla humans don’t really want to mess with those. At some point they are going to need us, they'd better not piss us off. In the end, more and more powered people will appear.”

*Now I understand, she doesn't like the M word and found a new palatable one to call her people. It also sounds more politically correct. *However, the young woman’s  speech had some familiar undercurrent. Sarah had heard that kind of speech from someone else, in the archives of the Facility, they had records of his rallies. “You sound like Magneto.”

The redhead put a hand where her mouth should be and giggled. “Dear old Erik, I like him, but no. He wants to turn unpowered people into second class citizens, just like people are treating metahumans currently. Me? I want integration and cooperation. But I am not blind to humanity’s failings like his counterpart. Honestly, if I didn’t care, I would pack up and leave the planet with all those people I like and I would leave the bad people to the bad things and aliens that have yet to come.”

Sarah didn’t like the implications that this young woman was revealing to her. *Bad events? Aliens? Why was she being so forthright?* the geneticist was scared.

“Because I need you, Doctor.” The redhead finally put her cards on the table.

Sarah froze. *Wait did she just guess what I was- A telepath!* Finally catching up that her mind was being read.

The redhead walked up to her and her daughter, then as she loomed over them, Sarah asked, “I am just changing one master for another?”

The redhead crouched and stared into Sarah's verdant gaze. “I am not forcing you into anything, just like you, I am a girl trying to survive with her family from the things that have yet to come. If you accept my offer, I promise to do everything I can to shelter you and protect you from the depredations of your former employers.”

When she heard that, Sarah felt hope welling up in her chest. However, she didn’t dare let it go to her head, if there was one thing she learned, it was that things didn’t always go like you expected them to. “You certainly are powerful… but…” The US government was powerful too, in terms of resources and control of its military and economic assets.

Sarah didn’t know who the redhead worked for, but she wasn’t sure that she could take her reassurances for guarantees.

The redhead laughed again. “Oh, no Doctor, let me reassure you on one thing. You are going to work for me, and no one else; the benefits include becoming part of the metahuman subrace.” Her hands glowed red with light and a golden hologram construct appeared before Sarah, showing a representation of her with claws popping from her hands or shooting lasers.

“You can… give me powers?” Sarah opened her eyes and exclaimed in surprise at what the redhead implied. 

She had thought herself to be one of the foremost experts in the field of genetics and that she knew everything about mutations and their consequences. But just like that? She felt excited that there might be new knowledge just waiting for her to discover. If a power existed able to manipulate biology, she hoped that she could hop onto the bandwagon; however, not at the loss of her ethics and soul. She already went through that once.

The redhead continued to speak. “Doctor… every human has the potential to become superhuman.” She pointed a red clawed finger at Sarah. With eager enthusiasm she added, “I have so many things to reveal to you, to show you, but yes I can give you powers. The very same ones your daughter possesses if you want or I could enhance your intelligence.”

It sounded attractive, and could become a common point that she could share with X-23. Sarah wanted to say yes right now, but decided to speak terms first. “How are healthcare and salary? Do I need to sign a contract?”

The geneticist didn’t know how but she knew that the redhead was smiling when she asked her, “Doctor, how much do you think you are worth?”

For five minutes straight, the two began to hash up terms and concessions. Sarah was given asylum outside the country in a secluded base, money and a new identity for her and her daughter; employment and an important position at the redhead’s table, she could veto what type of powers she got after seeing if the process to get them was safe and consulting other subjects who had been enhanced.

Sarah sighed when she was finally done, the redhead stood up and said, “Now you can tell X-23 that she can stop pretending to still be asleep.”

“Grrr.” X-23 swiftly came up to her feet and growled at the costumed woman, who didn’t look intimidated at all.

“Girl,” The redhead addressed the stabby little ball of cuteness. “Don’t act like an animal and I won’t treat you like one, capiche?”

For the first time ever, Sarah saw her daughter’s posture slacken and lower her eyes. “Okay.”

It was a strange dichotomy to the geneticist, X-23 had been guided by her instincts since the awakening of her X-gene. Seeing her become docile at the drop of a hat was frightening. Sarah asked herself if it was because of some kind of telepathic aura? Or maybe it was something more?

The redhead approached X-23 who had tensed and waited for her to strike, but all she received was a pat on the head. The costumed woman then lifted her chin after crouching to put herself face to face with the little raven haired girl and said, “I kept that Kimura bitch alive for you. But, I want to have a discussion with her first. Can you wait for me before you try to kill her?”

Sarah closed her eyes, if the telepath spoke like that to her daughter it meant that X-23 was thinking about it already. X-23, nodded and was now reveling in the woman’s caressing gesture of her hair. Sarah felt a sour feeling rise up in her heart; she was jealous that she acted this way, so she came up to her daughter and put her hands on her shoulders to make her lean against her.

The redhead let go of X-23 and looked at the tall building housing the Facility. A red aura surrounded her like a cloak, she floated up into the air.

“You still didn’t tell us what you are called.” Sarah said.

Looking down at her, the redhead said, “My name is confidential when I am on a mission. You'll be made aware of it when we are back at the base, I have things to steal from here first.”

Turning to the other woman guarding Kimura's struggling body, the redhead hollered, “Silk!” The black and white armored woman turned to her and then with a voice that brokered no misunderstanding of what she wanted, the redhead said, “Guard them,” She pointed at Sarah and X-23. “kill that bitch Kimura if she looks at your charges wrong.”

Silk nodded, raised a hand an arc of blue electricity appeared from it. “I will put her down if she tries anything.”

“Good, dear. I will be back in ten.” And the redhead disappeared in a flash of blue light.

“Mother?”

Sarah looked down at her daughter who looked at her with a serious expression, as usual.

“X-23?” Sarah raised an eyebrow.

“I want the same outfit she wore.” The little girl asked.

Sarah facepalmed.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean...

 

Appearing in what was left of the lobby, I looked around at the grey walled room. The acrid scents of smoke and burned plastic was everywhere, I didn't land on the floor tiles, they seemed to be scalding. Any decorations or plants inside had been destroyed by the explosions still wracking the installations. 

"I'm never going to piss off Sarah Kinney." The woman had completely trashed this place, it must have taken weeks of preparation to plant all those explosives at strategic locations to spread as much destruction and panic as possible. There were dead people in the corridors and other sections of the Facility as I delved inside. Most of them killed by the explosions, debris crushing them or because of the monstrous genetically engineered animals attacking them.

I was being attacked too, by some kind of preternaturally fast dogs (?) trying to get a piece of me. From the minds of the surviving scientists those were animal-mutant hybrids developed for the express purpose of hunting and killing mutants. *Wow, those fuckers are all going to die just for creating those.*

What was worse? They made them able to locate X-genes bearing individuals, so that means every human on the planet. I mean how stupid are those people? They make those dependent on mutant DNA and flesh and expect for nothing to go wrong? What if a breeding pair escaped?! I was already imagining an outbreak of mutant animals spreading through the world eating humans and causing our extinction. My mood darkened. My Phoenix Powers sang and bid me to erase this place and clean the taint created by those scientists playing god with life.

I was not some Resident Evil character so I simply willed them out of existence by finding them with telepathy and disintegrating them all. Then I proceeded to sift through the minds of every scientist in the Facility, some knew new stuff that they didn’t intend to share with the world, mostly cloning techniques, longevity or regeneration serums, material science concerning Adamantium and some sort of organic metal to be used for different military projects.

“They are giving me more and more reasons to turn this place into a smoking crater.” I said to myself as I was already plotting how to destroy this entire area.

Any surviving computers and servers I found I stored in Goldie. I killed the scientists trying to salvage their work as most of them were repugnant people. My quick trip brought me to the depths of the Facility and to the panic room of a certain Doctor Sutter. A tall amber eyed man who had surprisingly got some sense of ethics and decency. “How strange.”

In the room with him was Adam Harkins, the guy responsible for the creation of the Predator X project. He has dealings with the start up of the organization called the Purifiers and Weapon X. I didn’t lose any time and ransacked their minds then I killed them by crushing their hearts in their chests with my TK. There was nothing left to retrieve in this place, so I teleported out of the Facility only to see that Cindy was fighting with a freed Kimura.

“What the hell?” I exclaimed.

 

# # #

(X-23)

 

15 minutes earlier…

 

X-23 looked between her family unit, her ‘mother’ and the other young woman guarding them, then at Kimura who looked at them with a baleful glare that she answered with her own by slowly popping her adamantium coated claws. This had been a longtime coming, their positions had switched. After all the abuse and ignoble acts Kimura had done to her, X-23 was feeling relief for the first time and the fires of vengeance burning through her heart. She had dreamed and yearned to kill the dark haired witch since she was introduced to her. She was a bully and an ugly human being.

X-23 was pulled out of her train of thoughts by her mother who tightened her hold on her shoulders. “Mother?” the little girl asked, lifting her head to look at her mother’s face.

Sarah looked down and smiled at her. “We are free now, X-23.” She caressed her daughter’s long hair.

X-23 closed her eyes, finally able to show emotion since there was no one who could hurt her anymore and even if there was she would take care of them; the presence of her red haired ally and her associate unit was reassuring. They had taken down Kimura so fast, better than her poor past attempts. She felt that fighting the redheaded unit would be folly, that was what her instinct told her. She acted and smelled like a bigger predator, from her body language and way of talking, it was clear that anyone in the Facility wouldn’t be able to survive an encounter with her.

As for her partner, the known one (X-23 wouldn’t put it past the redhead to have more operatives) guarding her mother and herself, she didn’t seem as dangerous, but appearances could be deceiving. The little girl focused her eyes back on their guard. No one would think a seven year old could be a murderer after all. After eyeing their female guard, X-23 deduced that she was stronger than she appeared, somewhat more agile and faster.  “I know.”

X-23, for the first time initiated physical contact by putting her hands on Sarah’s. It surprised the woman who chuckled delightfully and she said, “To remember this day, I think you should be given a name.”

“What?” X-23 asked in surprise, disentangling herself from her family unit.

X-23 is your slave name, a number code that those people I worked for gave to you as they consider you a thing, because to them you aren’t a person. But you think, breathe and you can love, a weapon has no emotions. I can see that you love me.”

X-23 tightened her hand on her mother’s and considered what she just said. “A real name?”

“Yes.” Sarah nodded and waited for her daughter to arrive at some kind of conclusion.

The little girl’s eyes shone with eagerness. “I want a name.”

Sarah smiled, it was the special smile that was reserved for her and only her. The geneticist opened her mouth and said, “What about Lau-”

X-23 stopped paying attention as the smell of a flame burning, it came from the direction of Kimura who had a crazy smile on her face. She popped her claws with a ‘Snikt’ and put herself in a combat stance that surprised Sarah.

The web fluid the black haired enforcer had been covered with caught fire and their guard cursed. "Fuck!"

Kimura ripped the flaming spider web like material from her and stood up. "I'm going to fucking bury you, bitches!"

“I’d like to see you try.” Then the black haired woman took a knife from her belt and observed the costumed woman.

X-23 attempted to walk toward Kimura and help their guard but her mother kept her from going. “If our redheaded savior asked her lady friend to guard us, she must be able to deal with Kimura. Watch.”

Reluctantly, X-23 nodded but stayed alert and observed the two women fighting. The spider woman, she could only be called this because her costume was themed like that lunged toward Kimura, released a salvo of white webbing at the woman’s arm holding her combat knife. Kimura dodged right, but was caught by another salvo on her right knee, the spider woman pulled as she bounced off the tree trunk she landed on.

Kimura received a heel kick in the face at the same time, but wasn’t immediately hurt by it thanks to her durability. The enforcer caught the foot and slammed the spider woman in the ground and was about to stab her savagely with her knife, but received a shot of webbing in her face, blinding her. The spider woman rolled back, then launched herself at Kimura and hit her with a powerful jab to the ribs and jumped and kneed the black haired woman in the face making her fly and slam into the ground beside X-23 and Sarah.

Kimura stood back up, but for once her lauded durability showed a weakness and she was bleeding from the nose. It was a first for X-23, to see her bully in such a state and she couldn’t help but cheer the spider woman.

“Stand down.” The spider woman commanded Kimura.

The facility’s enforcer ripped the spider web from her face and glared hatefully at her foe, then spat on the ground. “Never.”

“Then I will no longer hold back.” Spider woman said as familiar silvery tipped nails deployed from her fingers. The clawed ends then generated some kind of blue energy field.

Kimura’s eyes popped out of their sockets. “You-”

She didn’t see the spider woman move, she received an uppercut under her jaw that sent her six meters into the air. The spider woman jumped and when she arrived at Kimura's height performed a hook kick aimed at the center of her body. Kimura went crashing down into the trees and bushes ten meters from the scene. Before Sarah and X-23’s eyes the spider woman suddenly disappeared from view. But the little girl with her superhumanly acute senses could still track down their guard by scent and the depressions of her boots she left in the ground.

“What the hell?” 

X-23 and Sarah looked up, only to see the flying golden costumed woman from earlier. She descended gracefully to their side and asked. “Why is Kimura free?”

“She had a lighter.” X-23 explained quickly.

“Ah, I should have put her to sleep before leaving, I guess. She’s going to suffer, I informed Silk of all her weaknesses before coming to save you two.

A blue field of light could be seen from afar, the smell of ozone was distinctive enough for X-23, the scream of someone could be heard from afar and the redhead laughed. “She had her chance to surrender.”

X-23 nodded at that, then she looked at her mother, retracted her claws and went to hug her; Sarah engulfed her in her embrace. Then the two of them looked behind them as they heard someone walking and dragging something toward them. It was the spider woman, the one called Silk. An apt codename, X-23 realized. Kimura was unconscious and bloody, in Silk’s hand was a severed arm.

She quickly arrived at where everyone was. “You came back early, Phoenix.” Silk said out loud.

Laughing, Phoenix answered. “I told you it wouldn’t take much time. It’s time to leave. I guess, I don’t have time to speak with Kimura, but I can at least do something like this.”

X-23 and Sarah now knew each of their codenames, and realized that they were related to the symbols on their costumes.

“Gimme her arm.” Phoenix commanded.

Something strange happened after Silk handed Kimura’s arm; Phoenix’ costume suddenly came to life and tendrils of gel like golden substances latched onto it. X-23 didn’t know what happened clearly, was it eaten or absorbed?

It seemed to frighten Sarah who held onto X-23 protectively. “Hmm, self molecular manipulation and a minor form of density control. Good powers, but with glaring weaknesses.”

X-23 felt no threats coming from Phoenix; just more curiosity. As for her mother, she just looked at their savior with suspicion. “What was that?” Sarah asked.

Phoenix turned toward her, X-23 had the impression that she smiled at her mother from her amused posture. “Ah, this is my other partner, Goldie. She’s not dangerous to my allies, I can assure you.”

Sarah seemed to slightly be reassured by this announcement. “I see.” Then X-23 saw the professional part of her mother rear its head. “Will I be able to study her more in depth?” She was used to it, it always happened when something interested her.

Phoenix’s stance instantly became more protective and guarded. “Non-invasive scans are fine with me, but nothing more.”

Sarah took X-23’s hand and walked up to Phoenix, then poked at her costume. The little girl got the impression Phoenix just rolled her eyes.

“You are wearing some kind of inorganic amorphous organism.” Sarah said aloud as she pinched at the rubbery gel like costume. Her tone was clinical and distanced.

“And she understands every word you say.” Phoenix said disapprovingly.

Sarah looked up and there was an excited lilt in her voice. “Symbiotic relationship?”

Phoenix sighed. “Yes, we will talk shop later, Doctor Kinney.”

X-23’s mother nodded, recognizing that it wasn’t the time or place for experiments. “That’s fair.”

Phoenix crouched and touched Kimura’s head. A flash of hot orange and gold flame surrounded her and for over one minute it continued to burn. Sarah asked what she was doing, and X-23 was even more respectful of Phoenix who explained that she was depowering her. Then she woke up Kimura.

“Wakey wakey.” Phoenix slapped the black haired woman.

Kimura’s eyes fluttered open, she held on the cauterized stump where her left arm should be. “Shit.”

X-23 had to hand it to Kimura, she was mentally resilient. Phoenix who had kneeled at Kimura’s side said to her, “Well yeah you’ve done and fucked up Kimura.”

The atmosphere became heavy, the little girl literally saw how the predator in Phoenix changed place with the affable and personable young woman. X-23 decided that she wouldn’t ever try to become her enemy.

Kimura’s bleeding lips pursed. “Then kill me and be done with it.”

“There’s something I want to know.” Phoenix asked with a cold tone.

“Fuck you.” The dark haired woman spat on Phoenix’ face but it didn’t reach her mask and was simply deflected.

Phoenix pointed a finger at X-23. “Was it fun to abuse X-23? To do the same shit your dad did to you?” 

The little girl felt the air become warmer. “Well, you’ve proven that you were worse than your bastard parents.”

“Shut up, you know nothing about me!” Kimura spat.

Phoenix chuckled. “Oh, I assure you I do. After all, I see your memories.” She poked at the black haired woman with her clawed finger.

Sarah held onto X-23, hugging her. The little girl watched in rapt attention as the redhead worked over the person she hated the most on the planet.

“Kimura, you are a bully.” Phoenix began. “A product of your past… after being kicked around by your alcoholic father and uncaring mother and at school by your schoolmates in your childhood you decided to make another kid as miserable as you felt. They really beat all that was good out of you, I guess; your grandma, what would she say if she saw at you now?”

Narrowing her eyes, Kimura tried to get up but it seemed she couldn’t move. “...”

Phoenix emitted a cold laugh that wasn’t at all reassuring. “She would disown you and spit on you I guess.”

“Shut up.” Kimura said, if her eyes could kill, Phoenix would be dead a hundred times over, X-23 felt.

Phoenix didn’t seem to want to stop. “You found your way to the Facility and you were given control over the life of a young girl. You became the very thing you hated and feared growing up. X-23 played the role of your victim. Like you, she didn’t deserve that horrible life, no child does, remember? But you didn’t care. Even though you knew all too well the pain she suffered, you enjoyed inflicting it. You still enjoy it. That’s why you are a bully and that I consider you a pile of shit.”

Kimura tried to get up and struggled. “I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU.” But it was as if she was paralyzed from the waist up.

Phoenix laughed. “You can’t.”

Kimura then closed her eyes and screamed. “W-what? My powers?!”

“I am also a biokinetic, I took back what the facility gave you.” The golden costumed woman stood back.

“GIVE IT BACK!! GIVE MY POWERS BACK!!” Kimura shouted at the top of her lungs.

X-23 suddenly lost all fear toward Kimura, her bully, her abuser. The woman who had made her feel like her life was hell. She looked weak and completely at the mercy of Phoenix, it was a big change in her worldview.

Phoenix crossed her arms and looked down at the Facility enforcer. “You are done Kimura. But I decided to go further and beyond, to give you what you deserve, just like a certain white queen I respect did to you in another reality. You wanted to kill Doctor Kinney, thus taking the one person that loves X-23 from her. Now I’m returning the favor.”

Phoenix snapped her fingers, then said, “And just like that, she’s gone.”

Kimura looked up at Phoenix, tears flowing from her eyes. “What… what happened?”

“I’ve taken your grandmother from you… the only person who ever showed you love and kindness… and in her place, I’ve left a deep void that will cause you pain. Do you feel it?” Phoenix said with the most cruel and indifferent tone X-23 had ever heard.

“Why?” Kimura continued to cry.

The little girl was surprised that such a monster could still cry.

Phoenix laughed. “You shouldn’t ask me that. This is obviously revenge.”

The golden costumed young woman turned to the little girl. “Now X-23, she’s yours. Be quick, we need to leave.”

X-23 tried to walk up to Kimura, but her mother held onto her. “Mother let go.” The little girl said.

Phoenix intervened. “She needs to do this Sarah.”

“She’s just a child.” Sarah Kinney tightened her hold on X-23.

Phoenix nodded. “Yes, I agree. But she was robbed of her innocence by that bitch long ago and she needs to put the Facility behind her. I know how she feels, I killed the man who made my life hell with my own hands. She might resent you if you don't let her do it.”

Sarah then looked down at her daughter who stared back at her. She must have seen the resolve in her daughter’s eyes, because the geneticist let go. X-23 strode to Kimura, and looked down at her.

The crying woman sniffled and said, “Do it kid, kill me. In the end, you and me, we aren’t that different.”

SNIKT. X-23 popped her claws. “I am nothing like you.” And she plunged her claws into the woman’s heart, eliciting a grunt of pain from her. 

The young girl then watched as blood escaped the woman’s mouth and the light gradually went out of her eyes. For five minutes X-23 didn’t move and when Kimura’s eyes went completely dead, she stood back and slashed the air with her blade, spraying the snow with red blood. “I’m done.”

“Then let’s go, enter the portal.” Phoenix said as a golden aperture simply came into being.

Silk was the first to enter after hip checking Phoenix, who waited for the two to enter. Sarah looked at her daughter and said, “You will leave the Facility behind you now.”

X-23 nodded. “Yes mother, what was the name you were going to give me?” Looking behind her, she looked at the tall white and grey building where she had grown up and then shrugged.

“Laura, your name is Laura Kinney.” Sarah kissed her daughter’s forehead.

“Thank you.” 

X-23 died and now Laura Kinney had taken her place. As for the Facility, Phoenix simply waved a hand and it started to shine with golden radiance that spread all over the buildings and the entire area around it. Sarah and Laura entered the portal and found themselves in a hangar with a lot of people running and checking vehicles looking like futuristic helicopters. They heard a great detonation coming from the portal and saw Phoenix pass through it with a pep in her steps.

“There’s always a boom.” She said as her mask disappeared.

Laura agreed with Phoenix, as she looked at her face, she couldn’t help but notice how young she looked. Phoenix walked up to her and said, “Hello, my name is Jean Grey and I welcome you to my humble base.” She held her hand to Laura.

“Laura.” The young girl took her hand and shook it. "Thank you." The young girl smiled, turned her back and ran to her mother.

Cindy immediately placed herself at Jean’s side and snaked her arm around her waist and said, "It’s over, right?"

"I am done cleaning up after SHIELD, now I want to focus on my family, my friends, and you."

"Good answer." Cindy took Jean’s hand, pulled her to herself and kissed her full on the mouth.

END OF ARC 2: HYDRA’S FALL

 

A/N: Heya guys!

I wanted to tell you that I won't be updating Raptor for a while as I promised to go back to Superhuman Princess for a while. However! I intend to release Interlude chapter for this fic, I have 8 of them prepared to advance the plot. After that I will go back to less lengthy chapter, like back to 10k words chapter and I will post them with less frequency. I have Phase 2 of SHP to write lol. So, I think you'll have a raptor chapter a month at this point.

Anyway, yeah it's back to SHP! Thanks for reading this, I love Raptor and you encourage me to continue the epic journey of Jean.

 

 

 

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