Chapter 1: Day 24, part 1: Heaven fare thee well / Somebody gotta, gotta raise a little hell
Time waits for no man. Or woman, or half-Kree, half-Eternal hybrid with confused identities. Genis and Melissa are still cuddling in their bed, basking in the afterglow, when the alarm starts blaring. Talk about coming down fast. They are both up and halfway to the door before they even realize they are still naked.
That’s where unstable molecules would have been useful – trying to put on a skintight costume over sweaty skin is not fun. At least Genis still doesn’t have a costume and can make do with sweatpants and a t-shirt. Melissa waves him off: “Go, go, it’s not like I’ll be any use out there, I’ll follow.” She’s right, so Genis runs out, towards the cockpit where Carol is waiting, fully suited up.
She looks at his bare feet and smiles. “They aren’t here yet. This is just when they can show up at the soonest.”
A few moments later, Melissa follows, and hands Genis his shoes.
Their plan has been discussed already, so Melissa sits down at the controls, activating communications with the Thunderbolts’s ship.
Norbert acknowledges the contact and starts transmitting the information from their spy drones and the various satellites in place around the solar system. There are a couple than there were during their last test run. “I found a couple more Kree eyes and ears. And hacked the Shi’ar,” he says by way of explanation. “Ready to feed them all bogus info, if things get too hot for you to handle out there. Also, live transmitting to Alpha Flight and whatever else you gave me.”
Genis takes a deep breath. “This is it, right?”
Carol nods. “Let’s go.”
Melissa blows him a pink kiss. “Good luck.”
He doesn’t know what to say, so says nothing, just follows Carol out the airlock. He forgot his shoes, too.
Their timing was quite good. They were out for less than an hour, when space rippled and something appeared. It wasn’t a Kree warship. In fact, space remained spaceship-free. It was instead a lone figure shifting into existence with a weird pulse of energy that left an acrid taste on Genis’s brain.
A giant man, blue-skinned, with flowing white hair and glowing eyes, in a dark, nondescript bodyglove. He took a moment to orient himself, before streaking towards them.
Genis’s Cosmic Awareness flickered for a moment, a warning pulse of Kree Eternal, cosmic energy before dissolving into static.
“Know who that is?” Carol asks. “Seems familiar…”
Genis shakes his head. “He makes my cosmic awareness turn to white noise. He has cosmic powers.”
“Not good.” She starts glowing as they wait for the lone figure to come closer.
He stops in front of them. He’s really huge, probably bigger than Ronan the Accuser, Genis thinks. At least, flying in space makes it impossible to loom.
“I am prepared to accept your surrender,” he says. The words appear directly in their brains.
“Funny,” Carol answers, grinning underneath her helmet. “I just wanted to tell you the same.” The giant Kree looks at them, a smirk appearing on his face. He’s not bad looking. Absurdly, Genis wonders how much conditioner he uses for the long silver hair to get it to flow this majestically in nonexistent air. It makes for a nice contrast with his blue skin too.
The black suit – from up close it’s Kree military armour with a dyejob – shows off the musculature underneath, so everyone can admire how ripped he is.
Clearly, he is not used to being defied. “Silence, wench. Spare yourself the humiliation and flee. Your world will become part of the Kree Empire, as it should have been since I first graced this insignificant mudball with my presence.”
Genis can see that this rings a bell with Carol because instead of reacting to being called ‘wench’, she keeps grinning. “Ultimus. Just where did they dig you out this time? Still getting played by your betters, aren’t you?”
“I do not have betters!” He charges at Carol who evades him easily, firing a burst of energy into his back.
With his Cosmic Awareness on the frizz, Genis can’t really try to make sense of the name or guess about weaknesses. That leaves the personal approach.
“I’ll go close, you keep firing at him,” Genis tells Carol. “I’m more durable than you.”
She nods, sending a dozen energy balls at Ultimus who shakes them off as easily as he did with the blast before.
Then the Kree Eternal makes a “come here” motion with his hand, and Genis obliges, leading in with his fist.
Ultimus dodges, of course, and then barely avoids Carol’s next energy beam. He looks in her direction, and Genis uses the opportunity. His fist is glowing with energy when he swings it, but it feels like he connects with a brick wall. And then he’s in his reach.
The Eternal grabs him in a bearhug and squeezes, but it’s not the first time it happened to Genis. Also, he’s met his dignity once and they never got along, so he bites Ultimus’s ear like any sensible person faced with an attempt of being squeezed to death.
It works too, and Ultimus looks more than a little outraged, when he pulls away. Flames wash over him as Carol tries something else and this time he seems to feel something.
There’s a glow around him as the strange power from his arrival surges around him and he chants something, though Genis can’t hear the words in the vacuum. They both try to rush him, but it’s as if time had slowed down to a standstill.
There’s a flash of colours, like the worst trip he’d ever had, and then darkness.
The telemetry data from the Sol System had arrived just moments ago. Ronan watches it in silence, focused on one thing in particular. Ard-Con is involved. Ultimus—the only surviving Kree Eternal.
Fighting a Kree fleet is one thing—as the Supreme Public Accuser, he can simply shut down their computers. But an Eternal… His Universal Weapon is running simulations already, and he in many of them, he dies.
He’d thought he’d have more time. That he’d be able to prepare for this conversation, and perhaps have a backup plan for what to do if it doesn’t go like he hopes it would.
Ronan looks at the comm console and feels a bit like he felt many years ago, when he was being tested for his suitability for the Accusers. It’s a specific kind of nervousness—a sick feeling that he’s fooling himself and that he’s not good enough. Back then, he thought he was being childish and ridiculous—but then he’d been a child back then.
Now… Now, he has to wonder. He loves Crystal. He loves her so much. But that only means he hasn’t moved on. And if she had… Well, he can’t exactly do what he’d do whenever he thought someone might think he’s inadequate, which is smash enough faces to prove them wrong.
In retrospect, it may not have been the best of coping mechanisms. For one, it does nothing to convince him when he’s the one who’s convinced he’s not good enough.
Still, it’s better if he finds out now, rather than dropping in unexpected and finding out he’s just an old man fooling himself that he’s-
He doesn’t finish the thought before he activates the console.
“Ronan,” Gorgon says, because of course it’s him who picks up the call. “My ribs healed a while ago, but I’ll accept an apology, late as it is.”
“Did I forget to send… what is customary on Earth? Baskets with fruit, was it?” Ronan replies testily.
“I believe you were busy sulking,” Gorgon says, grinning. “But I’m glad that you’re done with that. Well, then?”
Ronan breathes out slowly, and bites back a growl. “I shouldn’t have broken your ribs,” he says eventually. “You weren’t the one I was mad at, and I shouldn’t have needed restraining.” He doesn’t think he can actually force the word “sorry” out of himself.
“Amazing, you actually managed step two of an apology,” Gorgon says.
“Just how many steps are there?” Ronan asks.
“Four—you start with expressing remorse, then admit responsibility, promise not to do it again and ask for forgiveness,” Gorgon explains. “I suppose we can space out the steps, until you manage all of them. So, why exactly are you calling?”
He couldn’t have asked this earlier, of course. No, it had to be after he made Ronan feel even more wrong-footed then he’d been before. For a moment, Ronan considers if there’s anything else he could say, but the mere hesitation betrays him and Gorgon sighs.
“I’ll get Crystal,” he says.
Chapter 2: Day 24, part 2: I'm strong on the surface / Not all the way through
So far, they have followed the Kree’s trail by way of Mar-Vell checking their position with cosmic awareness. Since it has been stationary for several hours now, the kidnappers apparently reached their goal.
They have been catching up quickly. Their star charts as well as Eros’s and Mar-Vell’s encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure places make it likely that their quarry is holed up in a former mining colony on an asteroid.
That’s all both of them want to say about the subject.
Phyla still is angry with Moonstone for upsetting Eros, but in face of this opposition, both women decide that they aren’t going to be kept in the dark.
After living for years on this ship, Phyla is quite aware how to persuade the computer to yield info that is encrypted. And it turns out old Kree granny is savvy at helping with the doublespeak in military reports.
“So.” Phyla pushes the chair back and gets up from the secondary terminal in Heather’s spare bridge.
She probably could like the other woman, if she wasn’t so intelligent and wary. Never volunteering information, when the situation is dubious.
“So.” Well, she’s been living with Heather. She’s not played easily.
Stubborn blue eyes meet, then Moonstone smiles. “I’m not your enemy. And neither am I your father’s or the Eternal’s.”
“I know. Or I’d have kicked you out the airlock. And I know you are not specifically treating me like a child. You do it to everyone.” Phyla crosses her arms across her chest. “I want to hear your conclusions, before volunteering mine.”
The blonde keeps smiling, sitting down in the captain’s chair. “As you wish.”
She’s being goaded, so Phyla remains silent.
Finally, Moonstone answers. “The reports are contradictory. It was a mining station, but the mines ran dry around fifty years ago. Yet the last report of personnel being withdrawn are from around twenty years ago.”
“Go on.” Phyla isn’t as much of a tactician as the other woman, and her imagination is probably much less nasty, but she knows her father by now, and she felt Eros’s emotions when they pinpointed their goal. Fear, disgust, dread.
“So, despite the mining equipment and the miners being relocated, it was still in use. And not for something legitimate, like a strategic location or base. The reports don’t look it, but Ajes’ha is sure they were scrubbed. They did something there, and they aren’t willing to talk about it.”
Phyla nods. “Father is afraid. And Eros knows more about it. But he’s stonewalling me.”
“What about that prescience of yours? Can’t you just look it up?”
Of course. She grits her teeth. It’s either asking or looking herself. “I am scared.” The words pop out before she can think. “Of what it will do to me.”
Moonstone looks at her for a moment. Her expression is as readable as usual, which is not very. “Then you will have to hope that your father or your Eternal will enlighten you. Or we’ll find out when we’re there.”
“I guess I won’t have to worry that you will hesitate to knock me out if I start acting weird, right?”
Predictably, the other woman grins. “Don’t worry about that.”
“In that case…”
Eros is running down a corridor. Fire burns in two channels lining the elevated floor he is moving on, the smell acrid. He doesn’t breathe. There are doors on both sides, evenly spaced and quite close together. Some are open, revealing tiny spaces, others are closed.
There are tremors, that make it hard for him to keep his footing. An intersection comes up ahead and there is a tangle of bodies blocking it. He jumps over them, leaving Phyla only split seconds to recognize that two are wearing Kree uniforms and the third is large, fur-covered and misshapen. They lie in an expanding pool of blood, that’s draining into the channels, where it bursts into flame.
But Eros isn’t stopping. He continues running, occasionally changing direction at other intersections, clearly knowing where he is going. Once, he passes a Kree soldier who is lying in one of the drains, his lower half burned. His hands are still twitching feebly.
Eros hesitates, slowing, then gritting his teeth and running on. He passes through a doorway and enters a cavern. The ground is gravel here. Finally he stops, looking around. At the far end of the room, there’s a firefight going on. Dark shapes are moving through what seems to be ordered rows of something. Potted plants? He takes off again, along an elevated walkway running through the middle.
Fire rises from the ground and in its light Phyla can now see there are indeed rows and rows of plants, some in throughs, others in pots. Some are big, others little. Most of them are dried and dead. The flames devour them hungrily.
Eros jumps from the walkway, and runs along a row of flower pots, towards a dark shape on the ground. There, he finally stops. It’s a woman, wearing a bodysuit with three connected sundesigns on her chest. Blood dots the suit, and as he turns her so he can look at her face, the sight makes Phyla jump back.
It tosses her out of the vision, and she collides with the computer bank.
“I take you found out something,” Moonstone observes. She sits unperturbed, one leg crossed over the other.
“Very observant.” Phyla concentrated on quieting her breath, and not throwing up. The woman’s face was going to visit her in her nightmares. “There was a riot or something. Everything was burning. Eros was there. He looked for someone, a woman…” Now she recognises the symbol. “A Nova. I think she was dead.” Or rather, she hoped.
“And why would that be something he doesn’t want to share with you?” Moonstone asks. “Riots are hardly something that you need to be sheltered from.”
“It wasn’t just a riot. There were monsters. With blood that burned.” She remembers the furred creature. The skin underneath the fur had been blue. “Also, cells. An entire cell block. A cavern with plants. Kree soldiers. So, what was a Nova doing there?”
“I think we might want to ask again,” Moonstone says after a moment. “It’s hardly any use hiding things from us, now that we know this much.”
Phyla feels along their bond. She runs into a wall, but she knows Eros well enough that she can feel his distress. He could hardly fail to notice her shock from the vision. “No. This was so long ago. Why would it be relevant now?”
“Your father then? He seems to be better at finding out relevant information than you are,” Moonstone offers.
Crystal hadn’t expected Ronan to call her ever again. Not when the last time she’d seen him, she’d told him that they couldn’t be together and let her cousins drag him away. It wasn’t that she regretted the choice—if staying with him meant war and countless deaths, Crystal knew what the right choice was. But she hated that the Supreme Intelligence forced her to do it and she regretted that she’d caused him so much pain.
And since Ronan had made no attempts at contacting her so far, she had assumed he was holding a grudge. She loved him, but she wasn’t blind to his faults and Ronan was a champion grudge-holder.
It probably ought to have occurred to her that there was an alternative explanation and that she was dealing with a repeat performance of “I Respect Your Boundaries And Have Placed a Sword Between Us So You Can Feel Secure”, except this time around they were both doing it.
“I missed you, Ronan,” she says and sees some tension bleed out of his frame. “I’m glad you called.”
“I missed you too, beloved,” he says. “May I still call you that?”
“Of course,” she says. “My feelings haven’t changed, Ronan. But the circumstances-“
“They’ve changed,” Ronan says. “The Supreme Intelligence will let me retire. If I live to actually see my retirement, I could come to you, if you still want that.”
Crystal wonders why they’ve changed, but she doesn’t ask. It’s plain that Ronan is feeling terribly insecure right now, and if she tries to poke holes, he will take it as a rejection. Besides, there is the fact that he is still not sure that he will survive.
Crystal considers why that could be so, just as she considers what it would mean for him to return. If the Supreme Intelligence wanted Ronan dead, then they’d find an easier way to do it than letting him retire. And they can’t be planning to use him as a spy, given that Ronan’s primary loyalty is to Crystal now. Finally, she doubts they’re planning to move against Earth—it’d hardly make sense to let Ronan come with all the knowledge he has of the Kree military.
“Of course, I do,” she says instead of mentioning any of her misgivings. There will be time for that later. “I will speak with Medusa. How long until you can be with me?”
“A week or two,” Ronan replies. “I need to find a suitable successor, but I think there is someone who will do the job.”
“Hala?” Crystal asks. The Accuser was young, but dedicated and intelligent if brash and hot-headed. Which seemed to be something of a theme with Accusers.
“Hala will make exactly the same mistakes I did,” Ronan says. “Most Accusers would.”
Crystal looks at him searchingly for a moment, and wonders if the line is secure enough to ask who is it that he has in mind. Probably, she decides in the end.
“Who do you have in mind?” she asks, but Ronan shakes his head.
“I didn’t ask yet,” he says. “If it fails—then I’ll ask for your advice, beloved.”
“Please be careful,” Crystal says. “Politics can be more dangerous than war.”
Ronan smiles at her warmly than. “Of course.” He looks at her for a moment and breathes out. “There’s a Kree fleet heading for Earth. I’ll try to stop it, but they have Ultimus with them. If I die… know that I love you more than anything and that I’d always do anything you’d ever ask.”
“Then don’t go alone,” Crystal says. “Take Hala with you.”
“I can’t,” he says. “If I die, she has to make sure that my place as the Supreme Intelligence’s second in command doesn’t go to Zarek or Ultimus. I can’t ask anyone else—they will either try to backstab me or are too weak.”
“Well, if the Kree aren’t up to the challenge, I think we can find someone on Earth who is,” Crystal says.
Ronan shakes his head. “This is not Earth’s problem. It’s our mess, for us to sort out ourselves.”
“Trust me, my love,” Crystal says. “I know politics and I will find someone.”
Ronan seems to be uneasy still but makes no protest. They will have to have a talk about Ronan’s tendency to assume he must do everything on his own and cannot ever ask for help, but that will have to wait. For now, she has two people to speak with.
Chapter 3: Day 24, part 3: Ich will lieben / Auch wenn man dabei Fehler macht / Ich hab mir das nicht ausgedacht
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When Genis and Carol disappear, Melissa doesn’t worry at first. Genis can teleport, after all. But seconds pass and become minutes, and they’re not back. The Kree man speeds away towards Earth unopposed, and nothing happens. There’s no beam of light, no familiar figure appearing in his way.
“What happened?” she asks no one in particular.
“I think he teleported them somewhere they can’t get out of easily,” Moondragon says, who must have entered the bridge some time after Genis and Carol left. “At least, that’s what I’d do.”
“What do you mean?” Melissa asks.
“I mean that Genis hasn’t teleported back here because he can’t,” Moondragon replies.
Melissa stares at her in horrified silence. Genis is gone. She lost him again. Her first instinct is to scream, but she’s good at keeping that reaction down. Instead, she forces herself to look at the computer screen in the cockpit, go over the readings and see if there’s anything that she can use.
“Mel?” she hears Abe’s voice. “Mel? Are you OK?”
She doesn’t cry, because this isn’t the time for anything like that. She can do that later, when everything is over and when Genis is safe with her. She’s going to get him out somehow, but first…
“No, but I’ll live,” she says. “Abe, ‘Bert, keep on scanning for the Kree fleet. We can’t let them get past.”
“What about the big guy?” Hallie asks.
“Alpha Flight will have to deal with him without Genis or Carol,” she says. “For now. Genis will eventually find a way to teleport back, so hopefully they’ll just need to stall him.”
She can hope, right? Genis is quite good at teleporting, and had always used it to their advantage expertly. So, it’s just a matter of waiting.
“He needs to know where he is,” Erik says, “remember?”
Melissa swallows. She can’t exactly hope that whoever the Kree giant is was kind enough to teleport Genis and Carol somewhere easily recognizable. She feels like her world is slowly falling apart around her.
+One thing at a time,+ Moondragon sends. She’s hovering next to Melissa, legs crossed and appears to be completely calm and in control. +Do what Melissa said—look for the fleet. This is our job.+ She breathes out and shakes her head. +We’re going to have more company- Oh. How nice. Apparently, Ronan is on our side for now.+
“Wait, how do you know that?” Melissa asks.
“I peeked,” the bald woman replies, her lips twisting into a small smirk.
“Do you know when he’ll be here?” Melissa asks, trying to remember what she’d heard of the Kree Supreme Public Accuser, but it’s just enough to be wary.
“Shouldn’t be long,” Moondragon replies. “I think Alpha Flight can keep Ultimus occupied until he arrives. And then he can distract him—Ronan combines the charm of a brick to the face with being able to take a lot of punishment, so we can trust him to annoy Ultimus in about three minutes, and that’s me being generous.”
“What about the fleet?” Melissa asks. “Can you say when they’ll be here?”
Moondragon closes her eyes for a moment. “About the same time as Ronan, maybe a bit earlier.”
“Just how long is your reach?” Melissa asks, as something occurs to her.
“Distance isn’t much of a problem, especially if I know someone,” she says. “I was able to reach Genis in Microverse.”
“Good,” Melissa says. “Do it again. Find him, so he can teleport to you.”
Moondragon nods and closes her eyes. Melissa breathes out. This is it—she can’t help Genis any more for now. So, she needs to focus on what she can do.
“Bert, what can you do with the Kree ships?” she asks.
“What do you want me to do with them, Mel?” Norbert replies with a grin.
Medusa rests her chin on her fist, her elbow poking her leg, as she thinks over what Crystal has told her. Ronan’s usefulness to the Inhumans is more than his strength—it is his knowledge that makes him a particularly tempting resource. His love to Crystal would make him loyal and willing to aid them.
He is also a… symbol of stability for the Kree, admired in a way the Supreme Intelligence won’t be, simply because he is there. He’s been there for years, fighting along the Kree soldiers and trying to keep the Empire stable and functional when all else failed.
Then, there is the Annihilators business… It is a useful diplomatic tool, to have Ronan there next to the Majestor of the Shi’ar. Or, it is a dangerous thing, if you want to make a move he’d disagree with.
In fact, it is dangerous to have Ronan around, if you want to make any move he would disagree with. Not only because he would be very blunt about expressing his disapproval—he’d have the support of his people. Perhaps not more than the Supreme Intelligence, but probably a lot more than Ronan himself would have thought.
Killing him would cause an uproar. But giving him a way out? With Crystal, who as far as Medusa knew, was still very popular with the Kree? That’d work.
“You’re right,” Medusa says. “The Supreme Intelligence is plotting something. Something Ronan would disagree with, if he knew.”
Blackbolt nods from the floor—he’s devoting his attention to the crucial task of giving Lockjaw a belly rub.
“That’s a broad category,” Crystal points out. “But I see what you mean.” She falls silent. “I already told him I want him back, Medusa. I can’t tell him that he can’t be with me again.”
“Crystal…” Medusa says. “Ronan may love you, but that doesn’t mean you are indebted to him. If you don’t want-“
Blackbolt raises a hand and shakes his head. Crystal gives him an appreciative smile.
“That’s not it,” she confirms. “I do want him back. I love him. And I can’t break his heart again.”
Medusa is too well-versed in keeping her emotions in check to breath out in relief, but she does feel a little better knowing both that she’s once again treading the familiar grounds of Crystal Love Drama and that the whole “forced my little sister into an arranged marriage with Ronan the Accuser” worked out.
“Then we will find a way to defang the Supreme Intelligence and reunite you with your husband,” Medusa says as she takes Crystal’s hands in her own. “But first, let’s make sure that Ronan stays in one piece.”
Blackbolt gets up, and Lockjaw ambles to his feet, too. He nods towards them, and then they are gone.
Medusa smiles at her sister. “Blackbolt will take care of that. Although, depending on who gets involved from Earth, Ronan might end up a little bit dented.”
“Since his diplomatic skills involve hitting things with a hammer” Crystal says with a shaky smile.
Mar-Vell probably ought to have expected that Phyla and Moonstone won’t let the matter of the asteroid base lie. But he’d hoped they’d accept that he told them all the relevant details. Somehow, he’d managed to forget Cosmic Awareness, and that Phyla had it. He was probably still to used to it being unique to him.
“I was there only once,” he says. “After what you’ve seen had already happened. My unit was sent for clean-up there.”
“And why wouldn’t you tell us about it?” Phyla asks. Her entire body shows she is on the defence and hating it. Once more, Mar-Vell is reminded how difficult his relationship with her is and how can’t ever do anything right. Always pushing her away or making her feel like she did something wrong. Or is wrong. Things he didn’t think himself capable of.
Moonstone only watches him with clinical interest. It reminds him of some Blues and puts him on edge.
He decides to ignore her and only talks to Phyla. She shouldn’t pick up whatever hostility he might feel about being analysed. “A mixture of reasons”, he answers honestly. “I was very young when I went there. It was terrible, and I had nightmares for months. I didn’t particularly want to relive them.” He wipes his arm over his eyes, like he could make the images go away.
“But also, because what you saw, that isn’t my story. It is Eros’s and if he doesn’t want to tell it, I don’t want to break his confidence.”
“You wouldn’t have had to?” His daughter relaxes minutely. It seems like she wants to reach out to him yet doesn’t know if she can.
“And because I didn’t want to think about what the kidnappers going to this place, of all the lost bases and abandoned mines in the Kree outskirts they could have gone to, means. What they could do to Elysius there, and how it is once again because of me.” There, he said it.
“It’s not.” This is Moonstone, cold and clear and pitiless as always. “Whatever they do is their doing. Not yours.”
“Their doing, yes, but I am the reason,” Mar-Vell replies. “I can’t say it has nothing to do with me, because they’d have never done it, if I had never existed.”
“And how many people would be dead if you had never existed?” Phyla puts her hand on his arm. She’s trembling a little. “Starting with me. Or Eros, or my mother. All moments of moroseness aside, I’m quite glad to be alive.”
Mar-Vell suddenly has to blink, because his vision is blurring. “I can be a coward, too. I did not want to tell you about the worst I fear for Elysius. Not before we know.”
“We’ll rescue her,” Phyla says quite firmly, as she moves closer to embrace him. She can’t be sure, but Mar-Vell still appreciates the attempt at comfort.
Title is from "Wunder geschehen" by Nena and means: I want to love / even if one makes mistakes / it wasn't my idea
Chapter 4: Day 24, part 4: All this doubt / Is creeping in
Alpha Flight is at the ready, when the bogey appears on their screens. It’s just one lone figure, but they take an interception course anyway. Whatever it is, it got past Carol and Genis-Vell, so it has to be bad news. Brand had sent a call for help, but they don’t know who is going to arrive in time.
Their bogey is a lone Kree solider without a helmet. As threats go, Eugene had seen more intimidating ones. He thinks the Kree is saying something, but it’s hard to say from the distance. A distortion starts forming before them, colours spilling into the darkness-
Thor flies in, right-hand gripping her hammer. Blonde hair whips behind her, and her eerie all-black eyes are focused on the target. She stops for a moment, as the swirl of colors threatens to engulf her. Is this what happened to Captain Marvel? Will Thor-
And then thunder crashes against the eldritch lights, shaping itself like a white glowing tree. The Kree hovers, surprised, and the distortion fades. Thor zooms past them, swinging her hammer at the Kree.
“What is it with alien threats? Do they all take their fashion cues from bad novel covers?” she taunts, as her hammer strikes the Kree solidly on the jaw, before returning to her hand. He doesn’t seem impressed.
Eugene finally gets an update from Brand: the Kree is an Eternal. Ultimus. Cosmic level threat.
“That’s going to be fun,” he says with a grin.
“Your definition of fun leaves something to be desired,” Jeanne-Marie says sharply. She is flooding the Eternal with concussive blasts, but he doesn’t seem impressed. And since she can’t risk her suit getting damaged, she’s not able to get closer and apply her power in nastier ways.
“I love when you bicker,” Walter says, “but words won’t stop this guy. Shooting might though. Let’s get to it.”
The world depends on them, after all. They circle around the Kree Eternal, but Thor isn’t Carol and she hasn’t trained with them—she gets in their line of fire several times. A few other times, Ultimus does his best to shove her right into it.
He certainly doesn’t seem to bothered by them—though Eugene thinks that a few of Thor’s hits made him flinch and one left a picturesquely purple bruise on his jaw. But they distract him—he still turns towards the flashes, when he forgets himself, leaving himself open to Thor’s strikes a few times.
“Where is Carol?” Walter asks. “We could really use more fire power about now.”
This is the question, isn’t it? She was supposed to intercept this guy before he got anywhere close to Earth. But they can’t send anyone to search for her. Not yet.
“Is that the best you have to offer?” the Ultimus asks. Somehow, Eugene knows what he’s saying, though he can’t hear him. Must be some sort of telepathy. “Primitive fighters with barely any firepower and a woman playing at being Thor?”
Thor clearly doesn’t appreciate the last comment, given that she smashes her hammer against the Ultimus’s face. The hit sends him back flying, though he stops himself after a moment, and rushes right back at her. They clash again, thunder crackling against both—Eugene thinks he sees blisters form on the Ultimus’s face, only for them to disappear a moment later.
Healing factor, and one that’s clearly much faster acting than Wolverine’s. Which makes sense, given that he’s an Eternal.
Where is Carol? They really could use her right now.
Carol is not a fan of being teleported into dark places without being asked. Especially, if she has no idea what place this is. It doesn’t feel like there’s anything underneath her or next to her. Just empty space with no light.
And it’s cold. That’s… she should feel alarmed by this, but all she manages is being mildly unnerved. She doesn’t normally feel cold, unless she’s completely drained.
Still, it feels sort of peaceful. No, not peaceful. Empty.
Just cold dark nothingness.
That’s when she recognizes the feeling—it’s the Dark Force dimension.
Carol snarls. She doesn’t hear herself, but she can feel her face twisting and her body move into a fighting stance. Fuck cold dark nothingness.
“Genis!” she yells. Better. She can hear that, but there’s no reply. This isn’t good—she doesn’t know how much he remembers about being trapped there, but even if he doesn’t, she doubts he’ll react well.
She ignites her fist—being a living flashlight is quite useful – and sees Genis. He’s not panicking yet, but she can tell he’s close to it. His eyes are wide, and his posture is tense, like he’s ready to bolt.
“Genis, listen to me,” she says, as she flies closer and takes his hands. He feels cold already. “I know it’s terrifying, but you’re the one who can get us out of here.”
He doesn’t react, which is not a good sign, but not the worst sign.
“Genis, you’re not alone here,” she continues. “I’m with you. We can make it out of here, but I need your help, OK?”
Genis shakes his head. “I can’t. I don’t know where we are. I can’t teleport if I don’t know where I am.”
“Genis, look at me,” Carol says. As long as he’s panicking, they’re not going to get anywhere. She needs to calm him down and that’s going to take a while. Except, the longer it takes the more they will be drained. Who knows what will happen to Alpha Flight? “Genis, please. I can’t get out here, but you can.”
“It’s the Darkforce dimension,” he snaps. “Everything looks the same here—we could be anywhere and it wouldn’t matter.”
“That matters for anyone but you,” Carol says. “You’ve cosmic awareness. You can’t get lost.”
“Sorry,” Genis says after a moment. “I shouldn’t have forgotten, I-“
“Genis,” Carol interrupts him quickly, before it can spiral into something worse. In the Darkforce dimension negative emotions in particular are dangerous. “You have every reason to be afraid here and I’m with you. I’m not mad or disappointed—I understand, OK?”
Finally, he seems to be calming down. “Sorry,” he says again, but he doesn’t sound like he’s panicking or about to start beating himself up.
“Alright,” she says. “Close your eyes or whatever, and focus. Can you sense anything about where we are?”
Genis opts for whatever. It’s just a split-second, and suddenly she’s looking into glowing white eyes set in a face that’s as dark as everything else here. She can only make it out, because there are stars flickering over it—and because his hair glows white.
“Not very well,” he says after a moment. “It’s… weird. I’d need an additional point to focus on in the Solar system to teleport there, but Ultimus is doing something to block me there.”
“What about teleporting us outside of it?” Carol asks.
“That might work-“ he says and trails of, trembling. “It’s so cold. I’m freezing. I can’t, but I am.”
“I know, kid,” Carol says. “So am I. This place is doing something weird to both of us.”
“You’re calm,” Genis replies. “I can’t-“
“I’m not calm,” she says. “I’m pissed off. But see I’m good at channeling my anger into something productive. You can try something else. Just-“
“Just I need to do it fast.”
The base is about as inviting as Mar-Vell remembers, which is not very. The former landing facilities above ground were blown up after their regiment left, so they have to fly into a cavern that is big enough for their ship. Since there is a small Kree scouting vessel in here, they weren’t the only ones to use it. It’s also pressurized, with a cunningly concealed forcefield keeping the atmosphere in. “Give me a moment.”
He opens one of the maintenance hatches at the enemy ship and unplugs the powerline, forces a bit of fabric in there, and closes it again. Now the ship won’t fly, and the manipulation is only obvious for people who know what they do. Which isn’t your average pilot. “Just in case somebody thinks about sneaking out behind our back.”
Following the others, he looks for an exit from the makeshift hangar. There is only one tunnel leading out, and it has not been remodeled in any way. It looks just like it did back then. There are no corpses at least, so instead it is eerily empty. A lightstrip runs on the ceiling, but the composite lamps are dim and some of them flicker. A few are completely broken. The floor is raw stone, so they are still in the mine, not the base. The air is stale, but breathable. The machines that are recycling it have not broken down yet, then.
Occasionally there are side tunnels, but quick explorations by Moonstone or Phyla prove his cosmic intuition – they are dead ends. Only the lighted tunnel has been cleared enough of rubble to follow. How inviting.
He feels a flash of unease as they near another intersection—an armored person sneaking towards them, several others following their lead—and then catches movement out of the corner of his eye. He dives into cover before thinking, years of training taking over. Well, until he remembers he still doesn’t have a gun and he needs one again.
A moment later, Eros lands next to him and winks. Mar-Vell has a sneaking suspicion he knows very well just how put out he is feeling about being the squishy target that needs protecting.
Phyla’s sword materializes in her hands, as she flies towards the nearest figure, while Moonstone sinks into the floor. Mar-Vell knows she’s not running away—a woman in red and gold, Ajes’ha’s mask on her face rises from the floor, a flash of light and nothing—but rather going to ambush the people who were going to sneak up on them.
They’re odd, now that Mar-Vell has a moment to think about it. Not all of them, some of them feel like Kree with minds that are alive with thoughts and emotions, but there are a few that feel different. Their thoughts are there, but the emotions are more like echoes—impulses that are enough to keep them reacting with the appropriate amount of fear and anger to stay alive.
He doesn’t know what that means, yet. It’s not really the right time to try finding out either—he needs to focus on staying out of trouble, if he needs to be babysat. Though it seems that he doesn’t need to worry too much—Phyla and Moonstone are making quick work of the guards and the Mims.
Mar-Vell doesn’t really want to think that, but he can’t avoid the thought: This is going too well.
When the struggle is over, first thing he does is step out of cover and pick up a gun from one of the soldiers, as well as a long-barreled pistol from one of the ‘Mims’. It makes him feel less naked.
Moonstone tears off a Mim’s mask. Underneath is the face of a blue Kree. Eros lets out a startled gasp, pointing to another fallen foe. The mask fell off in the struggle. And it’s the same face. They all wear the same face.
Eros swallows. “Gods of Titan. They didn’t stop.”
That’s when they hear a scream.
“Mother!” Phyla rushes off down the tunnel.
Chapter 5: Day 24, part 5: I'm rising up, up from the ground / From the bottom, can't hold me down
As far as challenges go, the woman Thor isn’t a bad one. Not a match for him, just like the real Thor hadn’t been, but she’s formidable. The gnats in fighters he can ignore, but she is going to make this entertaining.
Of course, he will eventually vanquish her, because she’s still a mere godling, and he’s Eternal, but before-
Before he’s going to get a hammer smashed in his face a few times, which is not unexpected given that he’s fighting a Thor. And the hammer is the real thing—he has problems stopping it, given that he is not a Thor and cannot lift it. Which means dodging, and if he can’t dodge, he has to suffer bruises and broken bones or burns until he heals them.
Still, it takes but a moment for cosmic energy to mend all that is broken from the last hit, and then Ultimus lunges at Thor. He punches her mid-section, and ducks under the oncoming hammer swing.
He retaliates with a blast of energy, but she counters it with lightning. It pushes both of them back, and the gnats take it as a cue to start shooting at him. They can’t harm him, of course, but Ultimus finds them annoying nonetheless: it’s time to deal with them. Thor may be able to counter his teleportation spells, but those are by far not the only ones he knows. He chants the incantation, eldritch energy gathering around him, ready to strike.
He could use cosmic energy, of course, but he’d rather reserve it for a worthy foe.
Except something happens. The spell dissipates, and he feels a blow connect with his back. It sends him flying forward. It’s not Thor.
He turns around, and freezes, surprised.
The current Supreme Public Accuser is hovering in the void, smirking at him.
“Ronan,” he says haughtily, “have you come to die at the hands of one infinitely superior to you?”
“That’d require someone like that to be present here,” Ronan replies, clearly unimpressed. “Don’t worry, Ard-Con. We’ll find whoever is your thinking brain this week.”
Phyla is kind of aware that her reaction was rather stupid. Just, she doesn’t care. Hearing her mother scream made her struggles to not feel anything about her evaporate. She can’t not run to save her.
It’s not far. She passes over two more barricades manned by the masked guards and smashes them to pieces without even noticing. Return fire follows her and is either absorbed or reflected. It barely registers.
Then she’s inside the base, in one of the corridors she recognizes from her vision. There are the channels on the side, the walkway in the middle, and all the doors. They are open, and everything is dusty and unused. But not for long. She reaches an intersection to the left, where the doors are closed.
Two masked guards are walking away, a door shutting behind them. Phyla strikes them down without a second thought, then cuts the door open.
Her mother is inside, a crumpled heap on the floor. Her hair loose and tangled, wearing only a shirt. She looks up startled as the door stutters open.
Her face is bruised, and her lip split and bleeding. She has to be out of energy, or tiny injuries like that would disappear without a thought.
Phyla reaches out to her. She remembers that Genis managed to pass on some strength to Eros and her and tries the same as her mother takes her hand. “It’s alright.”
Elysius pulls her hand away as if stung and withdraws from her, scrambling away backwards.
“It’s OK. I’ll help you. They hurt you, I can help you heal. I learned how to do that.”
Hesitantly, her mother takes her hand again and then the injuries fade. “Thank you.”
Phyla feels warmer all of a sudden. She hadn’t realized how much she wanted to hear her mother say something like this—to acknowledge that she did well. That it took her mother getting kidnapped for Elysius to do it should make her angry, but it doesn’t.
“Let’s go,” she says, helping Elysius up. “I can carry you, if you need me to.”
“No, no, I can walk,” Elysius says, standing straighter. She wobbles a bit as she makes the first few steps, but after a moment, her steps grow surer.
“Is everything all right? Did they?..” Phyla trails off uncertain how to exactly ask.
“No, you got in time,” Elysius replies. She sounds… cool, but that could be just shock keeping her numb.
For all his might, Ard-Con isn’t very bright, for which Ronan is quite grateful right now. A smarter foe would have taken into account such things like Ronan and the new Thor never having fought alongside and tried to make them get into each other way. As it is, Ronan’s experience with fighting with Beta Ray Bill is sufficient for the task.
A smarter foe would have also thought to jam the communications, because now Ronan is patched into the human network. Which has far too much chatter by Kree standards, but since human standards must account for Iron Man…
Still, that doesn’t mean the fight is easy. For one, Ard-Con isn’t a complete idiot and alternates between using magic and cosmic energy, which means Ronan has to switch his Universal Weapon from one energy mode to another rapidly. It can take it, but it means he needs the resources he could otherwise use for strategic calculations.
And while Ard-Con has to divide his attention between Ronan and Thor, he’s still formidable. He’s not going to say it out loud, but this is the moment when he has to agree with Ikon—he is only an Alpha class threat. Under the armor, without the Universal Weapon and the cybernetics, he’s simply a Kree man who’s getting too old for fights like this.
His clavicle aches every time he takes a swing. It’s not bad enough to indicate the bone is broken, so he can ignore it, but-
“Ronan, can you have your Universal Weapon redirect the energy he’s using?” a familiar voice rings in his ear. Quasar seems to be also patched into the network and knows what’s going on, but he’s not in the fight.
Well, that’s something to tackle later.
“Redirect where?” Ronan asks, as he blocks Ard-Con’s punch with the haft of his hammer.
“His face looks like a good target,” one of the fighter pilots chimes in.
“It does.” Ronan has to agree—Ard-Con really looks like he needs to taste his own damn energies.
“Hold on,” a new voice cuts in—a soprano. The owner is trained in public speaking and uses it well to sound commanding. Probably a necessity since she also sounds young. “How far can you redirect it?”
“Anywhere in the Solar System,” Ronan replies. “Why?”
“Because your fleet is here, and I thought you might want to put it somewhere safe, before we have to put it out of commission permanently,” the soprano continues. “And your huge friend is creating enough of it to teleport them all somewhere nice and far away from Earth.”
“How thoughtful,” Ronan says to cover up that he is relieved. A broken fleet is not exactly easy to replace. “But that would work.”
Chapter 6: Day 24, part 6: Seven downward slopes / Seven bloodied hopes
Karla turns to Mar-Vell and Eros when Phyla rushes off and stops them from following.
“I think it’s a good moment for you to tell me what exactly this place is,” she says. “The girl can handle whatever that was on her own.”
Mar-Vell turns on his Cosmic Awareness for a moment. Once the stars fade from his skin and he turns flesh-toned again, he simply puts his hand over the gun he’d found. He makes no move to follow Phyla.
“They were conducting genetic experiments here,” Eros says after a moment. “Studying shape-shifting specifically, but also doing experiments with specific types of drugs and other methods of altering memory.”
No wonder both of them were so upset about this, then. If any of what the Kree did here was successful, they could make Elysius willing to work with them. The idea makes Karla want to set the whole place on fire.
“Once we find Elysius, I’m going to blow this place up,” she says matter-of-factly.
“Phyla just heard her, so we did find her already” Eros points out, but Mar-Vell is quiet. He knows something, but is letting the situation unfold.
A moment later, Phyla reappears, a black-haired woman in tow. The woman seems to be in shock, her eyes wide. She’s shivering slightly and her pupils are dilated.
“We need to leave,” she says. “Please, we have to leave.”
The reaction is one of the possible ones. And yet, something smells rotten, and she’s not the only one who smells the rot. Eros blinks, looking confused.
“Elysius?” he says. “What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s not Elysius,” Mar-Vell says calmly.
“W-what?” Elysius asks. It’s very convincing hurt and shock, but it’s not working. Eros is frowning now, and it’s now Phyla’s time to look confused. So, the fake Elysius acts—she lunges at Mar-Vell and grabs his neck. She picks him up easily, but he twists in a way that manages to toss her over him. She tumbles away, and when she gets up, she’s no longer Elysius.
“That was a mistake,” Phyla growls, but it’s not her who shoots.
The creature falls to the ground, a smoking hole right in the middle of their forehead, and Mar-Vell lowers his newly acquired gun.
Karla makes a note not to get on his bad side.
Finding Carol and Genis isn’t as easy as Heather had made it sound. True, her telepathic reach is almost as great as that of a telepath boosted by the Phoenix, but looking for one person without knowing where they are is like looking for a needle in haystack. If only she had a thread to follow…
And just as she thinks that, she remembers she does. Rick Jones. He’s no longer linked to Genis, true, but he was and that ought to be enough.
She lands on her feet gracefully, and marches out of the cockpit, leaving Songbird to direct everyone. Rick Jones isn’t hard to find. He’s sitting on his bed, and looking dejected.
“I need your help,” Heather says.
Rick gives her an even more dejected look.
“With what? Annoying Kree?” he asks.
“No, Ultimus teleported Genis and Carol somewhere,” Heather says irritably. “I need you to help me find them.”
“And how exactly am I supposed to do that?” Rick asks. “And no, don’t say Destiny Force. I can’t use it at all, it only works when it wants to and then I almost die, and end up needing a big strong Captain Marvel to rescue me, and Marv will probably be pretty angry if his girlfriend or daughter will need to save me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Heather says, Rick’s whining doing nothing to sooth her temper. “You were linked to Genis once. You could hear each other’s thoughts. That’s what I need—the echo of the bond you’ve once had.”
Rick seems to pout at that, but Heather really has no time for his childishness. This isn’t the time for him to feel hurt about being not special enough.
“Rick-“ she starts, but he waves her off.
“I know, I know,” he says. “It’s not the time, and Genis needs me. Never mind he’s nearly indestructible and that he can teleport.”
“If he could teleport back, he’d have done it already,” Heather snaps. Clearly, that hadn’t occurred to Rick. His eyes go wide.
“Oh.” He stares at her a moment longer. “Damn. Right, sorry,” he says, suddenly looking contrite. She senses worry from him now. “Right. What do I do?”
“Sit down and close your eyes,” Heather says. “And now breath in and out. Don’t try to think about anything special—just focus on your body. Feel the air move in and out.”
As she guides him through the meditation, she reaches out. It’s easier that way to catch the almost invisible thread that still remains between Rick and Genis. It’s too weak for anything to pass between them—neither shares the other’s thoughts and sensations, but it’s enough for Heather to follow it to the source.
She feels fear and sees darkness. The only source of light is- Carol. She’s talking to Genis, calming him down.
+Genis,+ Heather sends. +Can you hear me?+
Att-Lass would be rather working with people who have more sense than Prime Minister Zarek, but since he is he’s chance at getting Minn-Erva free, he’ll take it. He’d rather be working with someone who is not a monster like E-Vee or a pretentious idiot with delusions of grandeur like Zarek, but well. They are his only chance at freeing Minn-Erva.
Still, if he were to wish, he’d have asked for Tanalth to come out on top, rather than having to content himself with pretending he was following Ultimus. He may have been an Eternal, but he was a fool, and his only saving grace was that he was indestructible enough to survive the whole succession war.
But that brought him back to the reason why he was doing this. If he could free Minn-Erva than he’d help monsters and idiots rule the Kree Empire. And if Earth gets a bit damaged in the process… well, serves the upstarts right. They want to be galactic players, they ought to have gotten themselves an empire first.
“Maintain cloaking,” he says. “We want Earth’s defenses focused on Ultimus until the very last second.”
“Sir, telemetry says Ronan the Accuser has engaged Ultimus,” the comms operator says.
“Maintain course,” Att-Lass says. Ronan isn’t dumb—if he were, he’d be exiled along with Zarek. He’ll switch sides, once it’s no longer politically prudent to stay on Earth’s side. Att-Lass ignores the uncomfortable thought that the Inhuman princess is on Earth, and Ronan might not be reasonable if she’s hurt.
Ronan isn’t Att-Lass, and wouldn’t know true love if it hit him right in the face.
“Prepare the negabombs,” Att-Lass says. They’re not as powerful as the one’s they could have made with a set of negabands, but they’re quite enough to wreak havoc on Earth.
“Calculations ready,” the chief gunner reports. “We are targeting what passes for major cities on Earth.”
“Wait for my signal,” Att-Lass says. If they want to maintain the element of surprise they need to fire at the last moment.
There’s another pang of conscience. It’s not a fair fight, and the Avengers deserve that much. They had been worthy foes. And still… Minn-Erva’s fate wins that war in his heart too. He’s not going to back out.
Chapter 7: Day 24, part 7: November dressed in May on your face / Holding us now, the lovecropper's hand
Melissa is quite surprised that Ronan the Accuser doesn’t argue with her. He grumbles, quite loudly, but he seems quite willing to follow her directions, which is a pleasant surprise. Fixer is barking orders at Abe, as they work in tandem to prepare everything for the moment Ronan has redirected enough energy.
“Just how much punishment can this bastard take?” one of Alpha Flight asks—the one with the lowest voice. Melissa isn’t sure which one of them is.
“A lot,” Ronan snorts. His voice is even lower, and to Melissa’s surprise he speaks English with the super posh British accent. She’s not sure why that’s a surprise to her—Mar-Vell sounds generally American without anything to distinguish his accent, but he’s been around humans a lot more.
“I think the question we ought to ask is how long can you keep stalling him,” the Winter Soldier asks.
“Another hour maybe,” Ronan answers. “With the amount of energy he’s throwing around-“
His words are cut of by a grunt of pain. Clearly, Ultimus has landed a hit on him.
“We’ll have enough energy much sooner,” Norbert says.
Ronan says something in another language, which Melissa guesses is Kree—it sounds a little bit like what she remembers some of the Shoshone kids from the reservation back home sounded. Judging by the tone though, whatever he said was an insult.
And this is the moment when the Kree fleet arrives, plopping out of hyperspace on the other side of the solar system. “There’s our target,” she tells Ronan.
He grunts again, as she transmits him the coordinates. “But how…” He doesn’t finish the question, but Melissa can guess Fixer is grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Phyla looks shocked. Eros feels her shock too. It’s partially because the shape-shifter was revealed, but also partially because Mar-Vell seems so calm. Which, well…
+I know he was a soldier,+ Phyla sends. +I know how Kree soldiers act. It wasn’t really Mother, so...+
+It was a mercy,+ Eros replies. +The poor creature.+
He doesn’t really elaborate, but then she can feel what he feels through the negabands. And can’t help but shudder when he remembers the muted half-feelings, the… blankness. It wasn’t the same as sensing the blunted affect of some people with personality disorders—it was a dead brain forced to experience again but wiped of all that had once made it unique. Emotions brought down to being just basic reactions to stimuli. Enough to survive, but not enough to live.
+You’re right,+ Phyla thinks. +It was a mercy.+
They fall silent again and follow Mar-Vell, who seems to have a direction in mind. Moonstone is at the rear, guarding them against ambushes. But the tunnels are silent as they pass them, until finally Mar-Vell stops in front of a door.
He looks at it, before keying a command on a control panel. The door opens with a hiss and-
There are flowers growing in hydroponic enclosures. Artificial light is shining brightly, making the leaves appear even more vividly green. None of them are in bloom, but it doesn’t matter. Eros still knows what they are.
And then he sees Elysius. She’s lying on the floor, her hands folded over her chest. She’s dressed in a medical gown, but there are no signs of violence on her. The skin of her legs, arms and face is smooth and pale as ever.
But that’s not makes Eros’s heart stop. It’s her empty expression.
When his mind touches hers, she’s not feeling anything. Not blunted, but just not there at all. Her eyes are staring upwards, and she is not turning her head as they walk closer.
Genis doesn’t teleport himself and Carol straight into the fight. Instead, he teleports them closer to the Sun first, so they can charge up. Then he teleports them into the fight. Which apparently is a party to which everyone is invited, given that Ronan the Accuser is involved.
Genis only realizes he’s on their side when the Accuser makes an effort not to hit him accidentally with his hammer. Now that is a weird moment.
“Do you need a written invitation, Genis-Vell?” Ronan growls. “Stop getting in the way and start doing something.”
“Are you always that nice or am I special?” he replies, as he fires a blast at Ultimus and winks at Ronan.
It’s not as amusing as what happens when he does that with Earth men—Ronan’s first reaction is utter confusion rather than panic mixed with anger. He only gets angry when his brain goes from ‘I’m being flirted at’ to ‘It’s a joke at my expense, because no one will sane would want to sleep with me.’
Or well, it would have last time Genis met him. Now he just seems irritated. But this is not the time for Genis to banter: there’s the problem of a Kree Eternal, who is stubbornly not going down. His and Carol’s photonic blasts and Thor’s lightning are giving him burns, though he keeps on healing them. Ronan seems to be doing something with the energy Ultimus is throwing around and doing his darndest to smash his face in.
And there are some space fighters and a woman in a space suit doing their best to at the very least distract him.
Ultimus is still not going down. Genis really has to wonder what it will take to finally stop him, because someone really ought to deal with the Kree fleet soon.
Chapter 8: Day 24, part 8: He threw down the glove you made the mistake / Of picking it up now you're gone
Elysius lies still and watches what’s in front of her with unseeing eyes. She’s not responding to anything they say. Phyla doesn’t know what to do, other than watch uselessly at the side, as Moonstone examines her mother.
It's her mother's empty eyes, pupils narrowing as the light of Moonstone's power shines in them, but not moving. At all. It triggers the memory of an eye reacting the same way.
When she had the vision of Eros finding the Nova, what frightened her first, was the gruesome injury, claws having torn through her cheek, laying open bone and teeth, bursting her eye. But what shocked Eros, was the other eye, pupil narrowing into a catlike slit, showing the woman was alive and conscious, and yet totally empty.
It’s the same with Elysius now. Phyla’s mother, who for all intents and purposes could just be a doll right now. It’s wrong. This isn’t her mother. This isn’t how she acts. It can’t have happened. She would have-
She feels a hand on her shoulder and when she turns, she sees it’s her father.
“Breathe, Phyla,” he says.
So she does. And once she’s breathing evenly again, she can think.
“Eros,” she says. “Just what was being made here?”
Eros raises his hands. "I don't know." He is evasive, she can feel it.
"The woman you were looking for, the Nova. What happened to her? What did they do to her? When you found her, she was like mother is now." She is aware her voice is rising higher and she's getting louder.
Elysius doesn't react. Eros on the other hand flinches and looks away.
“They were growing the millennia bloom here,” Mar-Vell says. “At full potency, it can wipe out your memories completely.”
"They tried to use it on you, didn't they?" Phyla remembers her lessons, the stories about her father.
"On me, on Carol... It was something Ronan and the Supreme Intelligence liked, to get people compliant and no longer dangerous, but still useful. It seems to work differently on those who aren't Kree." Mar-Vell looks down on Elysius, his face almost as dead as hers.
“So what do we do?” Phyla asks. There has to be something they can do, surely.
Eros shakes his head. "I couldn't help Cassata. She is still alive, like this. She is in a mental institution on Bandura. I failed her. I was too late."
Phyla can feel his guilt, and his shame.
"You can self-flagellate later," Moonstone says. "Or look for ways how to help her. We still have things to do her."
Aside from fighting the Builders, Carol had rarely had positive feelings about seeing Ronan the Accuser. Usually, she felt that Ronan fitted about as much bastard as he could into himself, and given how huge he was there was a lot of bastard he could fit inside himself. Still, she had to admit that seeing him sneak up on someone else, despite being over seven feet tall and armoured like a tank, was actually pretty amusing.
She’d always suspected that he had some sort of cloaking installed in his armour, and seeing him disappear for a moment and then appear just behind Ultimus now, without any indications he’d teleported, only served to strengthen that conviction. His hammer slammed into the Kree Eternal’s back, staggering him.
Carol wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, and fired with all of her might at Ultimus. Genis joined her onslaught. With the two of them and Aurora, space lit up.
Ronan, not to be outdone, slams his hammer down again, this time on Ultimus’s head. Somehow, the Eternal isn’t knocked out and retaliates, aiming an uppercut at Ronan’s chin. The Accuser blocks it with the haft of his hammer in the last moment, and then tries to hit Ultimus’s nose with it.
But it doesn’t work—the Eternal grabs the haft and uses it to bring Ronan into Carol’s line of fire. She has to break off, but she’s not fast enough and Ronan’s armour now has a visible black patch.
Carol has to manoeuvre, look for another angle, since Ronan is on their side and probably is the key to sorting out the whole Kree mess, and that means they need him more or less intact for that. Ronan on his part doesn’t seem to be too badly damaged, but Ultimus is doing his best to remedy that. Since he does appear to have caught on that Ronan can redirect his energy attacks, that mostly involves fighting with Ronan up close.
Which is putting them all in a stale-mate. Ronan is better at hand-to-hand (or specifically hand-to-hammer combat) than Ultimus, but Ronan doesn’t regenerate, and that means that every hit Ultimus lands is adding up.
She looks at Genis and Thor, who nod. Then they just bull their way into melee and Ultimus disappears under energy-loaded fists and hammers. For a moment, it looks like they are overwhelming him, and then he explodes.
Blinking, Carol tries to make sense of what happened, and finds Ultimus streaking away towards Earth. Ronan just rights himself, having been hurled away several hundred meters, while Genis is cradling his head. Only Thor seems to have been mostly unaffected and is flying after him.
Torn between checking on Genis and pursuing, she directs Alpha Flight to pursue. “Aurora, try blinding him!”
Just as she is reaching Genis, she hears Ronan yell “Now!”
Norbert lives for moments like this, when he can make science do things that make magic look trivial. And right now, the Kree fleet gave him the last component—they fired their negabombs.
Terribly destructive things, negabombs. Terribly powerful things. But also, useful, if one wants to make cosmic energy to mix with magic and use it as fuel for teleporting a fleet.
A lesser mind would have asked Ronan to do the calculations too—the computer in that hammer of his is some kind of Kree monstrosity, which spits out calculations that’d kill most Earth computers. But Norbert isn’t a lesser mind, and also doesn’t trust the Kree not to pull something, if they rely too much on him.
It’s better if he does the maths and the physics himself, and Ronan is indebted to them.
“You ready, Abe?” he asks.
Abe flashes him a grin. “No, but let’s do this.”
The negabombs hit the magic veil around the cosmic energy. It takes some fine maneuvering with instruments not meant for handling such energy, but Norbert is reasonably sure he can manage. He just needs to nudge the veil, and make it the carrier for the direction—this is why he needs the negabombs. They act as a catalyst, tearing open space again.
Space flashes up with colour, and the cosmic energy rushes forward, engulfing the fleet. It looks quite beautiful, though Norbert doubts the Kree on the ships appreciate it.
And then, the spectacle is gone and space is dark again.
Chapter 9: Day 24, part 9: Determination that is incorruptible / From the other side, a terror to behold
Fortunately, Genis can attune himself to the wavelength of Aurora’s flash, so he still only has static in his head without the addition of after images or whatever. Ultimus wasn’t forewarned, so he’s blinking furiously, as his vision readjusts. Unfortunately, he also created some sort of force-field around himself, so none of them can attack him while he recovers.
Carol tries over-powering the shield with a photon blast, but it seems to have little effect. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, and Genis fires his own. A moment later, Thor’s thunder and Aurora’s blasts join them. Finally, Ronan fires a blast from his Universal Weapon, and after a moment, Ultimus’s force field implodes.
Ultimus looks decidedly worse for wear now, and his injuries are still healing when both Thor and Ronan charge him. Carol is close behind them, and so is Genis—rushing him before seemed to scare him, so Genis figures it ought to be effective. That still means they need to manage to actually successfully charge him.
Ronan strikes at his head while Thor goes for Ultimus’s side. He counters with another shockwave, but this time, Carol and Genis manage to avoid it, even when it pushes Thor and Ronan back. They strike at the same time, and Genis seas that some of the burns Ultimus has suffered are still healing.
Then a large hand grabs his face, and then he feels his back connect with something else painfully. He’s hurtled back and sees that Ultimus slammed him into Carol. And then the Kree Eternal uses the moment he gained and disappears again.
"She'll never be able to control me again." That is the thought that hammers in Phyla's head, but at the same time, she tells herself that she doesn't mean that. Or does she? And then she wonders if she'll ever be free of her mother--she ran to save her just like that the moment she had to... And failed. She was too late.
She grits her teeth, looking at her mother, who seems as empty as the Mims. She turns to her father. "Will you kill her too?"
Mar-Vell looks at her. He seems surprised for a moment, but only for a moment. Then, he shakes his head. “There’s a chance she will wake up,” he says. “She is still alive. The… Mim wouldn’t ever regain what was taken from them. They are animated dead bodies.”
Phyla feels chastised yet can’t fault her father for that. But she doesn’t really want to dwell on it, instead, she turns to Eros, who has been kneeling by her mother’s side. He doesn’t bother hiding his feelings from her – shock, guilt, dismay, anger, fear. He holds Elysius’s hand and looks at nothing. It’s like his brain is dead, too.
They were too late. They failed, and now everyone has to find a way to deal with it. Phyla looks at Karla. “See if you can help them. I will be back in a minute.”
It’s rather fortunate she has found a pretty effective way to exorcise her demons. At least one thing Tanalth was good for.
Some people had made the mistake of assuming that Blackbolt can’t use his powers in space. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make, after all. Blackbolt uses his powers by speaking, so it’s a simple leap of logic to assume it’s his voice that is destructive.
And so, Blackbolt can, in fact, use his powers in space. All of them.
Lockjaw teleports close enough to the target, and teleports away to safety. Blackbolt waits a moment to orient himself—he expects to have ended up in the middle of a fight, but he only sees Ultimus, breathing heavily, and looking pretty worse for the wear.
Having noted this, he flies forward, until he’s right behind Ultimus. He grabs him by the shoulders and flies in the direction he arbitrarily names as ‘up’, disorienting the Eternal enough so his resistance is limited to physically struggling.
Ultimus tries to tear out and starts turning around, but Blackbolt is ready, and aligned himself in the correct angle. He whispers one word, and Ultimus’s left ear is gone.
The Kree Eternal freezes, then slowly feels at the wound. It takes a moment, before it knits back again and he regrows his ear—it’s enough time for others to teleport to them. Black Bolt recognizes Ronan, and with him Captain Marvel, a young man in sweat pants, and Thor.
It’s Captain Marvel who is quickest on the uptake. She grins.
“So, are you feeling lucky, Ultimus?” Captain Marvel punches one glowing fist into her open hand. “Want to regrow a head next?”
“I did my part human,” Ultimus snorts. “I kept you occupied while our fleet snuck up close enough to bombard your planet. There will be nothing-“
“What fleet?” Ronan asks. “This system if entirely Kree-fleet-free.”
Ultimus looks at him and then to Captain Marvel. It finally seems to dawn on him that he is, in fact, on his own. There’s a visible change in his demeanor now—the fight is out of him.
“Well, I guess it’s time to talk jurisdiction,” Captain Marvel says.
Well. It looks like Black Bolt’s part in this fight is done. After all, he is rather useless in negotiations. Other than as the proverbial big stick.
Mar-Vell stares after Phyla. Then he looks at Elysius, Eros and Moonstone. Ajes’ha’s mask is expressionless, but then she clearly takes pity on him. “You should go after her. Unless you want her to murder whoever did this. Which I guess you won’t.” She makes a dismissive gesture. “So shoo.”
She is right of course. He starts running. As he leaps up on the walkway in the direction his awareness shows him Phyla went to, his mind starts racing. Should he do that? If it was Genis, he wouldn’t ask himself that. He knows Genis would regret committing murder in the rage of the moment. But Phyla? Once again, she makes him insecure. Does he have any right to stop her?
He turns left, knowing it’s a shortcut to the hangar, where the two people who are after this atrocity are trying to escape in their ship. Which is thwarting them by not working, as he knew it would.
Phyla is going to arrive later, being less experienced in cosmic awareness. No, not just that. They are using it differently, but he can’t think about that yet.
He enters the hangar and finds a blonde woman struggling to open a maintenance hatch on their scout vessel. He can’t see the second person, they are probably aboard the ship.
He could shoot her now. His mind goes through the motions. Drop on one knee, raise the gun to his shoulder, aligning the sight with awareness not his eyes and putting an energy bolt into her head. He doesn’t do it. He isn’t a soldier anymore. Being here, being powerless, carrying the familiar weapon, it made him rekindle his old reflexes. Just, he moved beyond them.
He fires past her head, fusing the hatch. With a startled yell, she jumps back shaking her singed fingers.
“If you want to live to stand trial, get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head”, he says calmly.
Predictably, the woman, pink and blue-eyed – she is wearing the Mim’s face, only she is not a Mim – reaches for a weapon, which he shoots out of her hand. “It’s not me you need to worry about,” he tries again. “Captain Marvel will be here any moment and you just subjected her mother to a fate worse than death.”
The woman finally complies. That leaves the other one.
“Zarek,” Mar-Vell yells, “don’t try anything.” He can’t believe that the former Prime Minister is still alive. But then, he is still sitting in the cockpit, dry-firing the engines to no avail. He is not going to come out and face two angry people with weapons or superpowers.
That doesn’t mean he will resist the opportunity to be superior, even if all he has is a comm.
“Captain,” Zarek broadcasting his voice over the external loudspeakers of his small ship. “I hoped I’d never have to see you again. But you see, this time I’m prepared. Your intervention will not thwart me, this time! I will usher in a new era for the Kree!”
He has no chance to continue his long rehearsed monologue, because a white hot line appears in the hull of the ship. Then the cockpit just breaks off and falls to the ground, making the woman jump.
In its place, Phyla hovers, holding her Quantum sword, her eyes and scar black as the starless night.
Screeching, Zarek scrambles from the wreckage of the pilot chair, his hair and backside smoking.
“Whatever future the Kree are going to have,” she says, her voice as icy as Mar-Vell remembers the Shi’ar Empress sounded, as she ordered the Chandrilar Six executed, “it is not going to be the sort you and your ilk want.”
Zarek rises and tries to run, putting the woman – Dr. E-Vee Mar-Vell understands – between himself and the terrifying vision. He runs towards Mar-Vell, who raises his gun, wondering what he is going to do.
He doesn’t have to worry. Zarek takes on step, and then another, and then he falls, screaming, cradling a foot that is smoking. Behind him, molten rock is forming a puddle.
Phyla lands, walking over that puddle which is solidifying as she reabsorbs the energy she expended to melt it. Her sword flashes, slicing away the burning boot from the former minister’s foot. Underneath the skin is red and partially blistering, but the burn is not severe. Military issue boots can withstand a lot, Mar-Vell knows from experience.
He looks at his daughter, fighting down a smile. She might be a terrifying vision when she is like this, but he finally trusts her.
The tip of her sword hovers over Zarek’s breast. He gabbles something about surrender. She makes a commanding gesture cutting him off. “I am not going to spare Ronan’s successor the task of executing you for your crimes,” she says. “But you may beg me to reconsider.”
While Zarek stares at Phyla looks in mute horror, she turns to E-Vee. “And you. If you want to escape his fate, you will have to earn that mercy. Find the cure for your victims.”
Chapter 10: Day 24, part 10: But you'll always follow the voices beneath
After making sure the asteroid base is empty of life – all of the Mims are dead, seemingly having self-destructed after E-Vee’s capture – they stow their captives in two cabins on Heather’s ship and take off.
Elysius they put in the medbay, but the instruments don’t tell them anything they didn’t know before. Her brain has been reset, all the memory engrams and connections made gone. She is breathing, and her reflexes are fine, but all the higher functions are just not responding.
While Moonstone and Phyla turn this place that saw so many atrocities into space dust, Mar-Vell watches the light of their cutting loose shine through the window and play on Elysius’s still face.
He has very mixed feelings right now. The anger about everything that Elysius had done since he’d died hasn’t faded, and there’s disappointment too. If he’s going to be truthful with himself, he has to admit that it’s not just about his children. He’s also disappointed in her, because she hadn’t lived up to his expectations.
Perhaps it’s unfair, but somehow, he can’t see how it’s unfair to expect that a woman who’d been strong enough to break free of programming like the one Elysius had been subjected to would find her own way after his death rather than cling to… He wasn’t even sure what it had been that she clung to—it wasn’t what he had wanted.
He still felt betrayed, he supposed.
And none of this changed that he hated the idea of Elysius being hurt in any way. He didn’t wish pain on her, nor suffering. There was enough of that going around without him contributing.
And now, all of this was moot. Elysius was gone. Her body remained, but there were no memories in her mind, no thoughts. Just blankness. Even if she woke up, she wouldn’t regain her memories. She’d be a new person in effect, and that meant he couldn’t hold her accountable for what she’d done before Zarek and Dr E-Vee got their hands on her.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you brood,” Eros says. He is sitting beside Elysius, holding her hand, for all the good it does. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Oh Elysius,” Mar-Vell sighs, as he looks at Elysius’s prone form. She hadn’t stirred since they’d put her in the infirmary bed. “I don’t think either of us ever expected that I’d hate meeting her again.” He sighs. “I’d have hated it even if she’d been fine.”
“I’m sorry,” Eros says after a moment. He pauses, pushing a streak of hair from the woman’s forehead and looks up at Mar-Vell again. “What happened isn’t something you could have expected.”
“No,” Mar-Vell says. “You know what I expected? That Elysius would mourn and then start adventuring on her own.”
Suddenly, Eros goes whiter than a sheet. He gasps and drops Elysius’s hand. If Mar-Vell had not caught him he would have fallen down. “Oh, all gods of Titan. Gods.”
“Eros?” Mar-Vell asks, surprised by the Eternal’s reaction. “What happened? Is something wrong?”
Eros takes a couple of deep breaths and buries his face in his hands. “Everything is wrong. Everything.”
At this point, Phyla rushes into the room, covered in space dust and radiating cold. She glares at Mar-Vell – clearly an instinctive reaction, without any intent behind it – and falls to her knees beside Eros, wrapping her arms around it. “It’s OK. It’s OK. Nobody could have known.”
Karla Sofen enters more sedately, looking at the tableau with raised eyebrows.
Mar-Vell stares at the Eternal, trying to determine if there’s something physically wrong with him. It doesn’t seem to be the case as far as he can tell…
His blood pressure dropped very far, from shock. Other than that, his health is fully intact.
Moonstone shakes her head. “Let him lie down and put his feet up.” Phyla immediately follows those instructions, which surprises Mar-Vell a little, but he stays back. Whatever happened, he’ll find out.
A few minutes later, Eros seems to have recovered mostly and sits up again. He is still pale.
“Eros? Is- What’s wrong?” Mar-Vell asks.
The Eternal takes a deep breath. He’s holding Phyla’s hand and doesn’t even seem to notice. Or maybe he does, because he is looking at her and raises his other hand, his finger following her jawline with several centimeters of air between the tip and her skin. “Do you remember? When I looked at you, I saw her. Not Elysius, but my mother. Thanos’s mother. Thanos made ISAAC create her.”
Phyla nods. “The woman who rules Paradise.”
“And destroys everyone who enters her embrace…” Mar-Vell continues. He really hates following Thanos’s reasoning—there’s just so much ugliness there. Thinking about anyone like this makes him feel dirty.
“Thanos’s mother wanted to kill him after he was born. Not because he looked different, but because she supposedly saw the monster he would become,” Phyla continues.
“Yes.” Eros shakes his head. “We should have realized this. We should have understood. But I guess even Mentor did not want to see it. How much she looks like Sui-San.”
Not that Mar-Vell had either—but then he supposes that was hardly anywhere near his mind when he’d been with Elysius.
“So, Thanos created a woman, who rules Paradise, but is actually a destroyer? And you didn’t notice he based her on his mother? Who tried to murder him?” Moonstone can sound so very smug, Mar-Vell notices. Not that it isn’t justified in this case.
Eros nods. There is a tired bitterness in his voice. “Mar-Vell, you said you expected her to adventure after you died. So, did I. And I only now realized that while she broke Thanos’s programming to be a destroyer, and helped you and saved us… We never wondered if maybe she carried a deeper influence. If maybe she was shaped on a more fundamental level by Thanos’s wishes, in ways even he didn’t intend, probably.”
“Like he did to you,” Phyla says. Her scar is dark blue now, her eyes silver. “He left his memory of his mother in her, or rather, his ideas of what a mother should be.”
“Mother is the name of god on the lips and hearts of little children,” Karla Sofen quotes sardonically. “If god lets you down, it is the most fundamental betrayal imaginable.” She is a psychologist, Mar-Vell remembers. It’s becoming more obvious by the minute – is this what Carol feared in case she came? That she will notice all the cracks in their family?
Because she clearly does. “We all take our subconscious notions on how the world works, how it should work, from our experiences. If we have children, no matter how hard we try to be different, our first way of reacting will be the one we learned from our own parents. We absorb cultural expectations, notions of gender, of family, from the society we grow in.”
“But mother didn’t.” Phyla is still using her cosmic awareness. “All those informations were implanted in her. Just as I did not.”
“It didn’t have to matter,” Karla Sofen replies. “We learn not just from experience, but from media that we consume. Children without a mother or a father will still have some expectations of them from what they’ve watched on TV or read. Your implanted memories would work in a similar way for you and your mother.”
“Yes.” Eros finally gets up, still looking sick. He has not let go of Phyla’s hand. “But Phyla’s and Genis’s memories were written by Mentor, mostly. Elysius’s came from a computer, written along parameters that came from Thanos. A mixture of what he wanted Sui-San to have been and what he thought her to be. Mother, wife. Sacrificial lamb and Betrayer. That formed the experience she drew on, subconsciously.”
“And you let her raise children.” Karla’s statement is blandly matter of fact.
Mar-Vell shivers. He would have done that too – sure, he’d have wanted to be there. Wanted to help her. But if he is honest, how much experience with raising children does he have? His parents hadn’t really done any parenting since he’d been a little boy—that had been taken over by the various instructors. He’d know how to raise a soldier, but not how to raise a child.
“But you know you don’t know”, Phyla says softly, stepping over to him. “You know you do not have all answers.” Her scar is still dark as the nightsky. “And you love us.”
“How touching,” Karla Sofen observes dryly. “But this isn’t something you should be worrying about now—you should think what you want to do with what you’ve realized.” She looks at them thoughtfully. “After all, hadn’t you been raised in a fascist empire, dear Captain? How many were there to guide you to what you are now? You know that upbringing isn’t a sentence. There’s always a choice.”
“There is.” Mar-Vell embraces Phyla who hugs him back and buries her face in his chest. “And she made her choice. To disregard her programming, to help us.”
Eros nods. “But none of us understood how deep it all went. None of us understood that looking like an adult woman and behaving like one, being kind and brave, and maybe sometimes insecure didn’t mean she would be able to deal with all the challenges of raising children. Or of finding healthy ways to deal with loss. She did her best, certainly. But we didn’t help her enough.”
“Ah, the tragedy of ‘did their best’,” Karla says. “But what if it is not enough? What if it’s just an excuse not to ask for help?”
“I’m not going to excuse her,” Phyla says softly. “But I think I understand now.” She steps back. “And I am no longer afraid. Especially not of myself.”
“So, you decided to finally become an atheist?”
Phyla’s answering smile is slightly shaky, but also showing echoes of the older woman’s sardonic aspect. “It was about time.”
Chapter 11: Day 24, part 11: The killer's breed or the Demon's seed / The glamour, the fortune and the pain
Naturally, the last place Carol will be taking Ronan the Accuser after the fight is her nice Alpha Flight station. Space stations are fragile and don’t do very well when someone super powered has a temper-tantrum inside them. Which means they end up all sitting in the Blue Area of the Moon.
That is, she is standing beside a dejected Ultimus, doing her best proud space conqueror impression. Ronan is leaning on his hammer and pretending that it’s because he’s nonchalant and not bruised and sore. It’s not entirely convincing given that one of the bruises is on his chin and decently sized. Genis is, in fact, sitting on a boulder, with Melissa standing behind him, her hands on his shoulders. Moondragon is floating cross-legged next to them. Black Bolt is also standing and looking very majestic, while Alpha Flight and assorted Thunderbolts form a mostly loose semi-circle. Lockjaw is lying behind Black Bolt and panting.
“What do they feed them?” Erik Josten asks Melissa, looking at Ronan.
Carol heroically resists pinching the bridge of her nose—of course someone would say something like that.
Ronan snorts, “Vegetables” just as Melissa answers exactly the same. Then, they look at one another for a moment, both equally surprised. That ought to keep any diplomatic incidents away for now, but Carol is going to get to business before anyone brings up the manliness of eating meat. She is not having a diplomatic incident over hamburgers.
“We can take it from here,” she says. “You have your fleet, we’ll keep Ultimus until we sorted whom extradite him to. There are a couple more candidates.”
“I will make sure that the required paperwork gets filed,” Ronan replies, looking smug. Carol thinks that clearly nothing changed and he’s still a bastard. He doesn’t make any move that’d indicate he’s leaving.
“Don’t you have some paperwork to get to, Ronan?” Heather asks pointedly.
Which, naturally, doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t. Ronan shrugs. “I already notified my office. For now, I want to know why Quasar is sitting safely somewhere and is not here?”
“What do you care?” Carol snaps. And for the matter- It’s the Annihilators thing, isn’t it? Ronan knows that Wendell was quite powerful, but he doesn’t know he’s no longer Quasar, and Carol sure as hell isn’t going to tell him that.
“Isn’t he Protector of the Universe? Because it’s looking rather unprotected,” Ronan growls.
“Or you could just tell Carol you’re worried,” Heather sighs. “Honestly, if you keep carrying on like that, nobody will be able to tell you are just a big cuddly teddy bear underneath this armor.”
Carol is glad for all the poker games with Wolverine and Coulson, because she manages to keep a straight face and avoid a change of underwear. Genis isn’t as diplomatic and collapses onto Melissa in a giggling fit. The young woman staggers and also eyes Ronan with the apprehension usually given to a charging rhinoceros. Ronan looks like he bit into a lemon, and bits of his face are turning purple. Which is when Carol’s resolve dies, and she starts snickering.
Heather managed to make Ronan the Accuser blush.
Since the ship – E-Vee does not recognise the build – is not equipped with cells, she finds herself in a cabin, that has been stripped of all useable interfaces and locked. It still has windows, so she has a front row seat to watch the two women destroy the asteroid.
What a pity, so many resources squandered, she sighs inwardly. Yet, it is also interesting to see the power harnessed by them. She can’t make sense of the woman with Ajes’ha’s mask, but in the hybrid there is an energy output that rivals the lances of a dreadnought. Such a slight frame to channel heat and force and light that normally need to be carried in coils the size of a city.
It is nothing she ever considered possible, other than in a cosmic elder or the Phoenix Force. If she had had her way to make more hybrids, none of them would have been that glorious. Whatever the Eternals did to shape her, it’s way beyond anything E-Vee could have done.
Then the lightshow suddenly ends, and Captain Marvel rushes back to the ship. The other woman takes a moment longer to finish their work of destruction and follows.
Interesting. E-Vee doesn’t know what made them return so fast, and the ship is too big for her to be able to overhear anything. It is a salient reminder though that power is only one half of the equation. The other is the mind behind it.
Attacking that mind is definitely going to be a much more prudent choice than trying to evade the power.
Black Bolt scratches Lockjaw under his chin, before deciding to step in. He did promise to bring Ronan in one piece to Crystal, and while the Accuser can survive Moondragon teasing him just fine, Black Bolt really doesn’t want to subject any Inhuman empaths in the vicinity to the emotional whiplash.
Apparently, as far as Crystal is concerned, feeling all the feelings at once at great intensity is a feature in a partner. At least Ronan is more well-behaved about it than Pietro.
Without Medusa to translate for him, he will have to improvise. Well, if he’s lucky someone here knows American Sign Language, which Charles Xavier had so thoughtfully put in Black bolt’s head at one point. If not, he can always grab Ronan and teleport with him, but that will upset Carol Danvers more than necessary, and then Medusa will have to deal with that.
Still, first he needs to get everyone’s attention. That at least is easy enough—Lockjaw barks helpfully a few times, which has the desired effect.
Does anyone know ASL? Black Bolt signs.
Songbird raises her hand.
Can you translate? Black Bolt asks and when she nods, he continues. I’m taking Ronan to Attilan now.
The young woman gives him a skeptical look, before translating.
Ronan, being Ronan, looks like he’s about to complain, probably that Black Bolt doesn’t get to order him around anymore, but Captain Marvel beats him to it.
“Excuse me?” she asks. “You can’t just up and bypass Alpha Flight like this. I’m not giving Ronan the Accuser the clearance to go to Earth and put all bulls that ever visited a china store to shame!”
Ronan is Crystal’s husband, Black Bolt replies. And that means he can visit Attilan at the leave of Queen Medusa. Which he has.
“Yeah, right,” Carol says, crossing her arms over her chest. “He’s a Kree official—you’re telling me he can have Attilan citizenship while being the Supreme Public Accuser?”
“Not while I’m Supreme Public Accuser, no,” Ronan says. “But since I’m retiring soon, there’s no reason to make this political, is there, Captain? Unless you have some private reason to keep me off Earth?”
Captain Marvel gives him a sharp look, then jabs her finger at Black Bolt’s chest. “You’re personally making sure he stays in Attilan.”
Black bolt is too polite to mention that he’s sure Crystal will take care of that without any help.
Chapter 12: Day 24, part 12: Go to war again, blood is freedom's stain Don't you pray for my soul anymore
Mar-Vell really is feeling paranoid, as he looks at Zarek. Namely, he can’t shake of the feeling that Ronan is missing. After all, if there’s a political crisis, Ronan will be right in the middle of it, likely hitting something fragile with a hammer.
“-breeding with lesser races leads to,” Zarek continues. Mar-Vell isn’t exactly listening—he’s drawing on years of experience at tuning out Blues yelling at him for doing something they didn’t like. It’s definitely easier than with most of Mar-Vell’s commanding officers, since Zarek isn’t yelling.
Still, at least all of this is over, and he can maybe consider what he wants to do next.
“-your son and now your daughter-“
He’ll have to ask Carol if there’s maybe some nice place they could visit? And there are definitely people he’d like to see. The Fantastic Four, certainly, and Captain America. Maybe check on the Inhumans?
“Are you listening to me?” Zarek asks. He sounds decidedly pouty.
“No,” Mar-Vell replies and perhaps even feels satisfaction at not adding ‘sir’ or any other indication of respect. “It didn’t sound like you have anything worthwhile to say.”
“You dare?” Zarek snaps.
“Perhaps, instead of yelling at me, you should consider your defense speech?” Mar-Vell says. “We both don’t know whom Ronan will choose as his successor, but I doubt that they will be inclined towards mercy.” He shrugs. “Or perhaps Ronan will dislike being reminded of his political blunders and reconsider retiring just for you?”
It’s not the kind thing to say, but Mar-Vell can’t find any kindness in himself at this point. Not towards this particular man.
“You’d leave me at Ronan’s mercy?” Zarek asks. “Do you know what he will do to me?”
“The same thing as he did with many others,” Mar-Vell replies, “who deserved mercy much more than you ever did.”
“I could still set him on fire,” Crystal muses, as she examines the bruise on Ronan’s jaw. There’s another much bigger one on his collarbone that looks almost black, plus a few assorted ones here and there. Overall, it’s definitely not the worst result of Ronan being in a fight, but still. She has opinions about things like that.
“I’m sure you could, just like I’m sure Captain Marvel will ask you to fill out some form to do that,” Ronan replies. “In triplicate.”
“Is this really the time for you to be talking about other women with me?” Crystal says, and kisses his cheek when he starts blushing. It is terribly sweet. Especially, when his brain catches on, and he puts his arm around her, and turns his face to kiss her.
His other hand brushes against the back of her head and stays even once they stop kissing.
“Do you plan to keep it short?” he asks, still stroking the short hair.
“Mhm,” Crystal nods and turns her head around to show off under various angles. “Do you like it?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Ronan asks, sounding puzzled. He runs his finger against her cheek. “You have a lovely face no matter what you do with your hair.” Then he makes a face. “That came out wrong.”
“No, I know what you meant,” Crystal says, as she puts her hand over his. She hesitates for a moment, wondering if it’s the right time, but they will eventually have to talk about it anyway. “You’re not certain about what comes next—about whom you want to pick for your successor.”
He doesn’t answer right away, and when he does it’s a question. “Why do you think so, beloved?”
“Because you’ve not told me who it is, and you hesitated now,” she replies. “Something’s not right, isn’t there?”
Ronan frowns—there it was, the tendency to assume he can’t ask for help and must do everything on his own again. Crystal reaches up to put her hand on his cheek, fingers brushing gently against it. “Let’s go over it together?”
“I can’t pick Hala,” Ronan says after a moment. “Or any other Accuser—we’ve similar psychological profiles and that means a tendency to act first, think later. Most heads of houses and political leaders are out too—most aristocrats would backslide us to where we were when Zarek was Prime Minister, for one.
Tanalth might have been an option in a few years,” he continues. “But there’s another option. The Supreme Intelligence-“ He stops talking for a moment. “Of course.” Another pause. “The Supreme Intelligence sensed that Captain Mar-Vell is going to come back to life. He’d make sense—he’s popular with the military and the pink part of the population. He’s going to push for change.”
“But he doesn’t have any political experience. He will have to trust those who advise him,” Crystal points out. “And when did the Supreme Intelligence mention that Mar-Vell is coming back?”
“Not exactly in the same conversation that he told me I’m retiring,” Ronan says, “but close enough in time. He wants Mar-Vell, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”
“No, but he wants you away,” Crystal observes. “You and Mar-Vell have history—how likely is he to take any warnings from you?”
“He’s very unlikely to trust anything I say,” Ronan replies. That is something they will have to address later too. “But he wouldn’t trust the Supremor either, if you think he wants Mar-Vell because he is easily influenced.”
Crystal frowns. This sounds like it’s going to be complicated. “Mar-Vell was branded a traitor, right? I do remember Black Bolt talking how the Skrulls honored him as he lay dying and the Kree did not. And he suspected that the Supreme… Intelligence might actually have been able to find a cure, but did not.”
Ronan bristles at the hint, then he relaxes. “I wouldn’t know. Yes, Mar-Vell was exiled. About a cure…” He shrugs, clearly unwilling to discuss this further. It’s also a moot point, since Mar-Vell is back now.
“Given that he was treated like that by the Kree, would he even accept your job?” That’s the more pertinent point here. Crystal doesn’t think she’d do it.
“He will,” Ronan says. He sounds quite certain. “Because it’s a chance for him to change what the Empire is. And he would see it as his duty to prevent harm to others, if given the power to do so.”
“Won’t there be pushback?” Crystal asks. When Ronan nods, she continues, “Even if he accepts, he doesn’t have the political backing you do, Ronan. He will be in a much weaker position than you had been.”
Ronan doesn’t look heartbroken about that. There are issues there, except that’s not the point right now. “That might lead to internal strife”, she continues carefully. “He might get assassinated. He is also an icon on Earth, and he has powerful friends here. Who would not allow such an event to pass without… comment.” The picture that is taking shape in front of Crystal’s eyes is an ugly one. So ugly, she doesn’t want to continue. Should her happiness be bought at the price of a war? One where Earth might be construed to be the aggressor?
Ronan gently takes her hand. There is a shrewd look in his eyes that replaces the thundercloud expression from a moment before. “You raise very good points, my love. But I don’t have to name him as my successor, do I? After all, I’ve only been ordered to find a successor.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Crystal asks.
“I think I do,” Ronan says with a smile and cups her cheek with his hand. “If you’ll consider returning to the Kree Empire and don’t mind bringing me as your advisor.”
Chapter 13: PSA
Unfortunately, due to unforseen complications, the next chapter will be delayed, hopefully until next week. Sorry for the delay, we're fine and working on it.