A New World in my View
by P.H. Wise
A New X-Men Crossover Fanfic
Chapter 11: Storm Front
Disclaimer: The DC Universe and its associated characters is the property of DC comics. The Marvel Universe and its associated characters is the property of Marvel Entertainment LLC. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Joss Whedon's baby.
"Yesterday,” Piers said, “A young woman shocked the world when she murdered three of the four members of superhero team and reality television stars, 'The New Warriors.'" A clip played on the monitors, showing footage of the New Warriors during the better days of their reality show.
"But this was not the first time this young woman has been in the spotlight, even if only peripherally. It was only a few weeks ago that she and what appears to be her identical twin fought on opposite sides in the event which led up to Reverend William Stryker's 'journal-gate’." A second clip began, this one showing Divine fighting Nimrod fighting Power Girl and the New X-Men. This was followed by still shot shows Power Girl and Divine split screened in close up, showing them to be completely identical except for hair colour.
"Tonight we interview Power Girl, X-Man and apparent twin sister of the alleged murderer."
Piers Morgan turned towards his guest. "So, Karen Starr. It's not your real name, I take it?"
Karen shook her head. “No, it really isn’t.”
"Are you willing to share your real name with us here tonight?"
“Power Girl,” she replied. “Karen Starr is the costume.”
Piers raised an eyebrow. “Your parents called you Power Girl?”
Karen looked down. “That’s... a long story.”
“Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about yourself,” Piers said.
“Well, I never knew my parents. Not really.” Karen was growing uncomfortable. This was too close to the truth. Tony and Jessica Harris were strangers to her. Had always been strangers to her. Her mother a nervous wreck, her father a drunk. Her heart ached at the thought of them. It was funny. She’d been so angry for so long, but now, stuck in Kara’s body, all she felt was sadness.
‘Kara, you want to... field this one?’
“I’m with you, Xander,” Kara whispered into her thoughts. “I can give you the words if you need me to.”
She opened her eyes. “I guess you know by now that I’m not a mutant.” Her lips quirked into a smile. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” In the background, Scott looked embarrassed by that comment. “I was born on the planet Krypton. My father was a scientist. He and his brother discovered that a disaster was coming, and they...” she trailed off. “They couldn’t convince our government. I was just a baby. They saved me, but Krypton tore itself apart.” She fell silent once more. “I spent years in stasis.” It was weirdly easy, talking about Kara’s life as if it were her own. It was funny - she could almost remember the virtual environment she’d grown up in. The virtual parents. Growing up with the knowledge that nobody she interacted with was real. She could almost feel what it had been like. “I grew up in a virtual environment. A simulation of home. I only reached Earth recently.”
Piers nodded. “You seem remarkably well adapted to our culture,” he commented.
Karen nodded. “Earth isn’t exactly unknown in the galaxy. Didn’t you guys get put under quarantine a few years back? … My parents did their research. Included plenty of what I’d need to know in the program.”
“You don’t mention your twin,” Piers commented. “As our viewers have all heard by now, yesterday, your twin murdered three heroes and put a third in the hospital. Good people. People kids looked up to. Surely some mention of her should be made? What would you say to those kids now? Or to the families of the dead?”
“She’s not my twin,” Karen said. “She was created on Earth by a man named Maxwell Lord. I don’t know why, but I doubt it involves puppies and kittens.”
Piers looked surprised. “Maxwell Lord?” he asked.
"He's this guy who took my DNA and cloned me without my consent. Then he stuffed a bunch of fake memories in her head and sent her after me. It's this whole thing."
Piers looked shocked. “I see,” he managed. “Considering the power she’s displayed, if your world was advanced enough to send you here, is there... some sort of technology from your world that could contain her?”
Karen immediately thought of kryptonite. “There’s this thing that’s like the kryptonite to her Superman...” she trailed off a moment, realizing exactly what she’d just said, “And it is shaped, sir, like itself,” she said, her embarrassment clear in her tone. “Can we edit that part out? … Right. There’s this substance that would handle her, but it doesn’t exist on this planet.”
Piers seemed amused, but he remained professional. “I see. We’re going to ask a few questions of your teachers at the Xavier Academy in a moment, but for now, I’ve got a few more questions for you, Ms. Starr. First, what has it been like for you as a non-mutant to study at the school for mutants, the grounds of which now house the largest single concentration of mutants in the world?”
“It’d be better if we didn’t have that whole ‘paranoia brigade’ sitting on our front porch.”
“You’re referring to the forces deployed by the Office of National Emergency?”
Karen nodded. “Nothing like an armed military presence to add that special touch of awkward to your high school experience.”
“Then you disagree with the policy of the Office of National Emergency?” Piers asked.
Karen gave him a look. “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that rounding up a minority all in one place and putting armed guards out front is a thing which rarely leads to greater tolerance and understanding.” She frowned. “What’s your issue with mutants, anyways? You’ve got a world full of people with superpowers. Super heroes have been part of your society since, what, World War 2? And nobody’s got a problem with the Avengers, nobody’s out protesting against the Fantastic Four as being ‘a danger to our kids,’ and nobody who doesn’t work for the Daily Bugle has a problem with Spider-Man. So I gotta wonder, what’s going on here?”
Piers didn’t have an answer.
Karen pressed on, “I mean, if I was genetically compatible with humanity, at that point in my life, and having kids? I'd be thrilled to have a mutant son or daughter. My kid could be the next superhero… grow up and be someone important. Instead, everyone treats them like they're diseased. And now they’re all being shipped off to a little school with armed guards so they don't have to be seen or heard from except for when it's convenient. Sounds like a recipe for some really powerful, really bitter kids that are going to be looking forward to paying back that 'kindness' someday. Do you want more Magnetos or more Cyclopses? Or is that Cyclopsii?"
“Are you suggesting that the current batch of students consists of potential Magnetos?” Piers asked.
“Are you suggesting that you can justify oppression by the fact that people resent being oppressed?” Karen asked right back. “We can’t stop now, we’ve already gone too far, we might as well keep right on doing it? Something like that?”
“Of course not.” Piers shook his head. “... Just one more question for you, Ms. Starr.”
“I’m all ears,” Karen said.
“Do you have a message for the people of Earth?”
Karen gave Piers a dubious look. “A message?”
“Is there anything you’d like to tell us? Some wisdom from your culture? A quote from one of your famous philosophers, perhaps?”
“Er...” Karen tried to think of something. Wracked her brain for something better than the equivalent of ‘have a nice summer.’ ‘We find, Buffy slays, we party?’ Maybe not. She could feel the heat of the lights. Sweat dripped down the inside of her shirt. The moment stretched out. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to move in slow motion, and as she had when the assassin had fired upon Laurie, in the space between heartbeats, she had time to think.
… and then she knew. And she felt a deep, awful sadness. “You will travel far, my little one,” she said, “but we will never leave you. Even in the face of our death. The richness of our lives shall be yours. All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything I feel... all this, and more, I bequeath you, my daughter. You will carry us inside you all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The daughter becomes the mother. The mother becomes the daughter. This is all I can send you.”
“What was that?”
Karen looked up, and her voice cracked with not unfeigned emotion: she could REMEMBER these things, the variant spoken to Kara of the same words which Jor-El had spoken over Kal, and it shook her to the core. “The last words my mother ever spoke to me.”
“Why are you running away?” Divine asked, staring at the fleeing form of Coldheart in civilian garb. The others were gone. Nitro. Speedfreek. Cobalt Man. They’d all run away. She’d followed. It was easy enough to track them. Well, to track the ones that weren’t Nitro. He was being... difficult. But every time she showed herself to her friends, they’d fled her presence. Run away. Just like Coldheart was doing now.
The sun was warm but not uncomfortable. Divine stood on the sidewalk that ran along side a long plank-board fence. Power lines buzzed overhead, going from pole to pole. A narrow strip of grass was between the sidewalk and the busy street. Trees stood on the other side of the fence. The far side of the street was more open. More like a park. Trees and grass and paths and open sky.
Her friend was running away.
All at once, she was in front of Coldheart, and the woman stopped short. Divine could hear her heartbeat. See her heartbeat. See the blood surging through her veins. See the air filling her lungs with each breath. “I fought for you,” she said. “I defended you when they came for you. Why... why did you all run away?”
Coldheart turned her back. Divine shot around her to face her once again.
“You killed a superhero team,” Coldheart replied at last. “The law is going to come down, and it’s going to come down hard. No offense, girl, but at your side is a hell of a dangerous place to be. I can’t be seen with you, and I especially can’t be seen TALKING to you, got it?”
Divine stared. “But...”
Frustration was evident in Coldheart’s expression, and she finally snapped. “God,” she said, “What are you, nine? What part of ‘go to ground and wait for the heat to die down’ do you not understand?”
“... but we’re friends... aren’t we?”
Coldheart grit her teeth. “Yes, we’re friends. Sometimes, friends have to avoid each other for their own safety, understand?”
“No. … yes. I guess.” Divine felt her heart sink. This time, when Coldheart walked away, she didn’t follow.
Yesterday. Had it only been yesterday? She’d defended these people. No sign of the man who’d had her come to the safe house. She’d seen her own image being broadcast via radio-waves, along with people calling her a monster, calling her actions unprecedented, savage, debased. She’d only been defending her friends, hadn’t she?
She wished that Max were here.
“Well done, Karen,” Scott said, and meant it. They hadn’t said a word in the studio. Hadn’t said anything on the walk back to the car. Only now, in the car, on the way back to the school, did either of them speak.
Kara voiced her agreement a moment later. “You did good, Xander,” she said.
“It was nothing,” Karen replied, blushing from the compliment.
“You told the truth on national television,” Scott went on. “That’s not a thing that happens very often.”
“Pundits are already twisting your words,” Emma said. “They’re trying to portray you as a sanctimonious brat who has no right to judge them. Perhaps one who has been ‘dangerously influenced by powerful mutants’.”
Karen felt a stab of anger. “I didn’t mean it that way,” she said.
“I know,” Emma said. “And so will many of those who watch.”
“But not all of them. Maybe not even most of them.”
Scott glanced Karen’s way, smiling faintly, “Welcome to our lives,” he said.
“You can’t control how other people are going to act,” Kara said, “But you can control how you'll respond. You can choose to be the better person. Or you can choose to respond in kind.”
Scott nodded in agreement.
“So,” Emma said, raising an eyebrow, “You don’t think that mutants should aspire to be like me, Miss Starr?”
Karen felt a moment of panic. “Urk...”
Emma’s expression darkened.
“I... uh, with all due respect, I don’t think the world could handle two of you, Miss Frost,” Karen managed.
Scott grinned, and Emma held her displeased expression a moment longer before relaxing into an amused smile.
Karen watched in silence for half an hour after that as the car slowly made its way from New York city back towards the Xavier mansion. Traffic wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. The going was slow, but not as slow as it might have been. Eventually, she shook her head. ‘Emma?’ she thought.
Emma glanced her way.
‘Back in the studio, I...’*You experienced fragments of Kara’s memories,* Emma’s mental voice replied.
Kara looked down.*There was a reason why Kara and I decided not to broach the subject of copying the ability to control your powers from one mind to another.*
‘... so this is going to happen again?’*Probably. Particularly with memories that center around her learning how to control her powers. And there may be... bleed-over between those and your own memories. You’ve got fragments of Kara’s memories inside you. Your mind will incorporate them into your own, eventually. Some through confabulation of new memories to resolve the dissonance. Some by writing over existing memories that are similar in nature.*
‘Can’t you reverse it? Undo the damage somehow?’ *The mind is a delicate thing. I can erase the memories, but I can’t restore whatever it is they’ve overwritten. The process might damage you.
Karen shivered. ‘... If I don’t do anything, will I still be me?’ *Do you want to be?*
Karen didn’t have an answer for that at first. But Kara believed in her. And Irma believed in her. Resolution grew within her heart. ‘Yeah,’ she thought, ‘I do.’
The car drove on.
North Salem was beginning to recover. The riots were ended now, driven back by the forces of the Office of National Emergency, and the streets had been clear of protesters for days now. It was... better. Karen actually saw a few ordinary pedestrians as the car approached the mansion. The presence of an armed military force put a damper on any sense of homecoming she might have had, of course, but even so, she felt better once the car had pulled into the driveway. Better still after opening the door and spending a few moments standing in the moonlight. Emma and Scott went on ahead of her, soon disappearing into the mansion. The stars were bright, the moon brighter still, and she couldn’t help but think of...
“So, Irma, huh?” Kara asked.
Karen stumbled over the first step leading up to the mansion. ‘What about her?’ she thought.
“You’re not really going to deny it to the girl whose head-space you’re sharing, are you?”
Karen sighed. ‘... It doesn’t matter. I’m a girl. She’s a girl. There’s no way she’s a lesbian. I’m not that lucky.’
“It doesn’t actually work that way,” Kara replied. “Human sexuality, I mean. It’s a spectrum, not two binary categories.”
Karen was entirely unconvinced.
“OK,” Kara said, “Think of it this way: she’s a telepath. She probably knew before you did. If you haven’t scared her off already, you probably aren’t going to.”
Karen frowned, and took a moment to brush her increasingly shaggy blonde hair out of her eyes: she really needed to find a way to get a haircut at some point. ‘Was I that obvious?’ she wondered. ‘I hope I wasn’t that obvious.’
“My body, remember? Anything you feel, I feel. It’s kind of annoying, actually. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep track of which emotions are mine and which are yours when I’m the one who’s feeling them either way?”
Karen giggled. ‘So not only am I hijacking your body, I’m also making you feel your first lesbian crush?’
Kara blushed, and Karen’s eyes widened in response. “OK, spill, Kara,” Karen said aloud. A pair of O*N*E soldiers patrolling the school grounds glanced her way, and Karen switched back to mental communication. ‘Was it... it can’t have been Atlee? Isn’t she jailbait?’
Kara’s blush deepened. “She’s eighteen,” she said. “Almost nineteen. And I’m twenty five.”
‘Actually,’ Karen mentally replied, ‘Right now? You’re seventeen.’
“And she’s like a sister to me...” Kara protested.
Karen grinned. ‘Oh, sure. Like a sister. Except for the whole wanting to jump her bones thing.’ She could almost see it now: Power Girl, Atlee, kissing, fondling, clothes coming off, skin against skin, breasts pressing against...
“Hey, cut that out! I can feel that too, you know.”
Karen gave Kara a look. ‘I notice you’re not actually denying anything.’
Kara would have ground her teeth had she been able to.
‘It’s funny, I never would have figured the writers would make the short haired, ripped, busty superheroine into a lesbian. Seems kind of like pandering. Not that I’m complaining.’
“Categories,” Kara muttered. And then, “There aren’t actually a group of writers dictating my life, Karen.”
Laughing, Karen walked into the mansion, and the door shut behind her.
Morning. The second day after Stamford. The Watchtower glittered in the morning sun like a great, black spider perched atop Stark Tower. From this place, The Sentry, Golden Guardian of Good, departed. To this place he returned. The man with the power of a million exploding suns stood atop the tower, listening to the world. He could hear... everything. A butterfly’s heartbeat in Africa. The sound of a swarm of bees building its hive in an old Volkswagen’s engine block in the parking lot at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The battle cries of a band of pirates assaulting a cruise ship just west of the Philippines.
“Twenty three seconds,” CLOC - the AI who governed the Watchtower - announced.
He opened his eyes. Something about today seemed different. He could feel... a storm approaching. It had been gathering for some time. He was familiar with Complexity. The patterns in the randomness and chaos of complex systems. The butterfly effect was its most simplistic expression: a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and in Central Park there is rain instead of sunshine. This... was something more. Something vast. The very air felt oppressive. Claustrophobic. The whole Earth felt stuffy and close.
“Thirteen seconds,” CLOC announced.
He was already gone by the time the last syllable reached the place where he had been standing only moments before.
Seven seconds later, the battlecries of the pirates off the coast of the Philippines turned to screams of terror as The Sentry blasted them into their component atoms. He felt no remorse for his actions. He might have, once. But he had learned not to be too good, too compassionate. The Void - his equal, his opposite, his other half - was gone, cast into the sun and destroyed, but it would be back. And when it returned, it would respond in kind for every good thing he had done in its absence. An act of depraved evil for every good. A death for every life saved. So he fought fire with fire. Overcame violence through greater violence. Perhaps the situation called for that response. But he no longer argued it with himself. There were times when he could not bring himself to get out of bed for fear of what the Void would do to balance the scales when it returned. But not today.
Six seconds later, he had bypassed a pregnant woman trapped in a burning car on the streets of Cairo in order to save a school bus full of screaming children in the process of plummeting into the ocean in southern Spain. Prioritize. Reassess. His were the responsibilities of a god, and he bore the weight of it easily, as one long accustomed to such a burden.
“Suicide bomber on the streets of Bagdad,” CLOC announced, and The Sentry’s super-senses focused in upon the man. “Twelve seconds until detonation.”
He vanished from Spain, arriving just in time to kill the man in Bagdad before he could detonate, and then gone again just as quickly.
A storm was coming. The Sentry had work to do.
Morning. Dappled sunlight filtered down through the leaves of the trees to where Divine walked along the banks of the Mianus River. Here, for two and a half miles along the river, was an escape from the harsh reality of this new world. An escape from a world in which she … lacked a purpose. It was beautiful. Oh, she could wipe it all out in the space of a second if she wanted, but listening to the sound of the river, and the wind in the trees, and feeling the dappled sunlight on her skin, watching the shadows shift all around in time to the breeze, she didn’t want to. She felt... at peace.
A tiny furry creature skittered down the tree, and she looked up at it, curious. What were those called again? Grey fur. White fur on the stomach. Long bushy tail. Big black eyes. Sort of like a rat, but not quite.
Divine let her eyes drift shut.
A tiny creature jumped onto her stomach. She opened her eyes. The furry thing The... squirrel. Right. These were called squirrels. It sat on her stomach now, looking at her interestedly.
“Hello, little thing,” Divine said, reaching out to pet it.
It bit her finger. It didn’t pierce the skin, but it surprised her. She batted the creature away, and it went flying out into the river.
A second squirrel - or was it the same one? - came out from behind the tree.
Divine sat up.
A third squirrel. A fourth. A fifth. A sixth. Then a dozen. Then two dozen. Then five dozen. Some brown, some grey.
“Okay,” she said, “What gives?”
Every single one of them stared directly at her, large black eyes fixed upon her form. She began to grow uncomfortable. The sunlight didn’t feel quite so warm anymore. “I don’t have to take this from you!” she yelled, letting loose with a blast of heat vision that wiped out half of the swarm.
Twice as many squirrels popped out of the bushes to take their place.
They charged her. Hundreds of squirrels. Thousands. An all-consuming, suffocating mass of wriggling, awful, vicious, biting things. She tried to fly, but their weight bore her down. They were piercing her skin now, and she screamed in agony. She felt like she’d been exposed to kryptonite and then doused in molten rock. Agony upon agony upon agony, her screams rising ever higher, more and more squirrels, more and more of the little demons, and then the great vast bulk of them seemed to take on a humanoid shape. A woman with a squirrel’s tail, brown hair, and a squirrel’s buck teeth.
“YOU KILLED HIM!” the woman screamed, her cry shaking the Earth itself, knocking down trees, even. The riverbed cracked open and a great fountain of squirrels billowed up from underneath it to rise up into the air and blot out the sun. “YOU KILLED SPEEDBALL! NOW I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
The squirrels descended.
Divine woke up with a scream rising in the back of her throat that she only barely repressed. She was still lying in the shade of the tree. Still at the riverbank. Oh God. She must have fallen asleep. She must have...
She rose to her feet, shivering despite the warmth of the day.
A squirrel looked down at her from the branch of the tree she’d been sleeping under. A quick blast of heat vision turned it to ash.
“Hate squirrels,” she muttered.
Morning. Morning, and the day was bright and glorious. Reverend William Stryker had been allowed to post bail, and it felt... good. Like the renewal of God’s promise. His arm was still a stump, the legacy of his confrontation with the spawn of Satan, but he had been allowed to change clothes at last. To dress himself as befit his station as a man of the cloth. His suit was immaculate. His face clean shaven. His eyes filled with the conviction of one whose cause was just. The press were waiting for him at the entrance to the jail, and he smiled as the cameras began to flash.
“Reverend Stryker, do you have any comment to make regarding the charges against you?” “Reverend, is it true? Did you really plot the assassination of mutant children?” “Reverend, do you have a statement to make?”
“At this time,” he announced, and all fell silent, “I am prepared only to say that I am, and have ever been, God’s servant. His will, not mine, be done. Thank you.”
He continued down the steps to where the car waited for him. Everyone seemed to speak at once, but he paid them no more mind than an elephant would pay a speck of dust. The man waiting at his car opened the door for him, and closed it behind him after he’d gotten into the back seat.
It was good. Leather seats. Drinks - non-alchoholic, of course. Blessed air conditioning. And all the amenities of home.
“I’d ask what you were doing in my car,” Stryker said, “But I suppose you were about to get to that.” The car pulled away from the curb. Merged into city traffic.
The business-suit clad man seated across from him nodded. “I come bearing a message,” he said. “A message from the Lord Most High.”
Stryker raised an eyebrow. “Plenty of people think they hear the Lord. Most of them are crazy. I am not, but most are. Why should I believe you?”
The man picked up the oversized case which had lay next to his feet. He opened it, and turned it, revealing what lay within: the gauntlet. The severed arm of Nimrod. Stryker’s own severed arm was no longer within, but he recognized the device when he saw it. And it was... restored. No longer damaged the way it had been when William had first found it.
William Stryker’s eyes widened. “How? How did you get this?”
The man smiled. “The Lord works in mysterious ways. I have a task for you. A task which will bring about the final fall of mutantkind. Are amenable to the Lord’s will?”
“I am His humble servant,” Stryker replied.
Morning. Morning, and for the first time since she’d arrived here, Karen allowed herself to hope that maybe, just maybe, she might be able to go home soon. “It’ll be ready tomorrow?” she asked for the fifth time.
Stephen Strange smiled patiently. “Tomorrow. The preparations for the ritual will take some time, but tomorrow, at noon, I believe I can open a portal to the place where your true body resides. I was unable to determine much about the location, save that it is still alive and intact, and the environment on the other side is survivable. Beyond that, I can not say.”
“How will I, er, get back into it?” Karen asked.
Stephen produced a strange, clockwork device which would rest on the palm of the hand, with rings into which a thumb, index, and ring finger could be pressed. “This is... an artifact. It is very old, very valuable. It allows for the transfer, mind and soul, between one body and another.”
“Won’t that stick Kara back in my old body?” Karen asked.
“I have modified its function extensively. It will allow for a one way transfer: you to your old body. To activate it, press your hand into the hand of your old body.” He looked Karen in the eye. “Do not put it on until you are ready to return to your original self. The magic is indiscriminate, and quite easy to trigger accidentally. All that is required is palm to palm contact.”
Karen swallowed. “... Right. Ending up in the wrong body is bad.”
Stephen nodded. “Indeed.”
“Doctor Strange, I don’t think I’ve had a chance to thank you for... everything.”
Stephen smiled. “You are quite welcome. Now, if I’m not mistaken, you were to be returned before your morning classes began.”
“Yeah. Those.” Karen rose to her feet. To be honest, the last thing she cared about right now was classes. She wasn’t going to have these powers for much longer, and the coursework she’d need to learn at Sunnydale High was way less advanced than what they’d had her studying here. All she really needed to do was figure out what she was going to tell the friends she’d made in this world.
Funny how life is. How the little things can affect the big things, and vice versa. Maria Hill had been pushing for the superhuman registration act for some time now. Stark had been fighting it. Captain America didn’t like the idea, either. Maria saw its necessity. Then along came Stamford. If those kids in the New Warriors had been properly trained and supported, none of this would have happened. But since it had, she and her people had gone in and they’d pushed hard, and one day later, the superhero registration act was passed. The President had vetoed it. They’d expected that. Today, two days after Stamford, congress had overridden the presidential veto. It was law, due to take effect midnight tonight. She already had her capebuster units trained. She was on her way to have a little chat with Captain America about it. Or would have been, if things had gone differently.
No sooner had the vote gone through than the ACLU had filed suit in partnership with the Fantastic Four to challenge the law in court. And then that damned activist, liberal judge had gone and ordered a stay on enforcement. Of all the possible outcomes, this one was the one she hadn’t planned for. The court was due to hear the case sometime in March. In MARCH. It was September, and they weren’t even going to hear the case until fucking March. Legal limbo.
Maria found herself grinding her teeth. So it was that when an anonymous tip came through claiming that Divine had been sighted in Greenwich, she hadn’t particularly felt like sharing the information with the Avengers. “Deploy the capebusters,” she ordered. “We’re going to take this bitch down, and we’re going to take her down hard.”
It was a mistake. One she never should have made. She saw that later. When it was too late.
They knew what they were going into. Or they thought they did. Maria had seen to it that the briefing on the powers and abilities of Kryptonians was made available to the men planning the strike. Agents were on the ground in search of the target. When they gave the signal, the strike teams would move in. Supposedly, Divine had a high degree of invulnerability. Tranq darts tipped with adamantium were issued. Flight packs. Plasma rifles. Heat-resistant armor. Two humvees equipped with the Active Denial System. Multiple snipers equipped with M107 .50 caliber long range sniper rifles packing two adamantium slugs a piece plus more conventional depleted uranium ammunition. Everything was ready.
In the helicarrier’s CIC, a voice announced that the target had been sighted on the grounds of a state park north of Greenwich. In Stamford, no less, on the opposite side of town from where she’d killed the New Warriors, but in the same fucking town.
She gave the order.
‘Incoming transmission,’ the wall display read. A moment later, Tony Stark’s face appeared on the screen. “Maria, what are you doing?”
“My job,” she replied.
“You’ll never bring down a fully powered Kryptonian, Maria. Did you read the briefing I sent over?”
“I read it. We’ve taken adequate precautions.”
“Damnit, don’t DO this. I’m assembling the Avengers. We’ll be on our way as soon as they’re all here, but you need either psychic or magical support for this...”
“We don’t need the help of superpowered beings to do our jobs,” Maria said. “We’ve got the tools, we’ve got the technology, and we’ve got the manpower. When this is over, you’ll be congratulating me.” Before he had a chance to reply, Maria terminated the connection.
The banks of the Mianus River became a living hell.
Sergeant James Johnson led his squad in from the air, making full use of the S.H.I.E.L.D. issued flight packs. The target had been sighted below, her location pinged on everyone’s HUD. Divine was below, walking along the banks of the Mianus. Wading in it. Up to her ankles.
The ‘go’ order came through.
“Move into engagement range,” he ordered, “Fire as soon as you have a shot.” They were the first squad in, their guns equipped with adamantium tipped tranquilizer needles, each loaded with a 20mg dose of atropine. The six-man squad descended, opening fire before they even reached the ground.
The target reacted too quickly. Far too quickly. No one had that kind of reaction time. Six tranquilizer rounds went straight and true, but she was already out of the way. They thudded into the dirt. In the time it took for his eyes to widen, one of Sergeant Johnson’s men was dead - thrown headfirst into a tree and his body splattered over a three meter radius surrounding it.
Too slow. Too damned slow. “Take... her... down...” the words seemed to take an eternity to form, a second eternity to say. A wave of incredible heat accompanied twin beams of coherent energy emitted from her eyes, and three more of his men died, their bodies reduced to charred skeletons in an instant.
She was in front of him. He brought his gun around. Too slow. She put her fist through Corporal Jensen’s face. It came out the back of his skull, heralded by a spray of brains and blood.
James Johnson, his gun leveled at the woman, pulled the trigger.
In the time it took for the release of compressed gas to propel the dart out the front of his rifle, she was already behind him. He felt something grab him by both arms, and then agony, and then darkness.
“First team is down! Attack! All forces, attack!”
The world became a storm of bullets and fire. Helicopters made strafing runs, unleashing their rocket pods on the girl as explosion after explosion lit up the area where she had stood a second earlier. An adamantium round fired from a 50 caliber sniper rifle grazed her shoulder, and THAT actually hurt, leaving a gash half an inch deep.
Divine took to the air, and a humvee was melted to slag after six seconds of focus from her heat vision. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents followed her up, swarming through the air like angry bees, plasma rifles discharging again and again into the place she had just been. Some found their mark to negligible effect.
Divine clapped her hands together, and the ensuing sonic boom knocked six agents unconscious in midair. Their landings were neither safe nor pleasant.
“Sir, the battle’s gone pear-shaped. Recommend immediate withdrawal!”
The S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in charge on the ground had not time to voice his order before the wreckage of a helicopter crashed down on top of him.
The engagement lasted thirty seconds from start to finish. Six attack helicopters, two humvees, two hundred men, destroyed.
Corporal Frank Riley, the two hundred and first man and army ranger, stood before Divine, alone. Her eyes fixed on his, and he met her gaze, a soldier to the end, proud and unafraid. He knew that he couldn’t hope to harm her. Knew he was going to die. Knew this was the end. He could hear the sound of an approaching plane. Reinforcements, perhaps. It wouldn't matter. They had made a mistake. They were all going to die.
She walked towards him almost lazily, both arms drenched in gore, the rest of her blood-splattered, looking like nothing so much as the promise of doom. She flashed forward.
The Sentry was there.
Divine had time to look surprised. He was as fast as she was. And he was strong. And he had just caught her arm in a grip as immovable as a kryptonite mountain. She strained against him, and he against her, and each shook from the effort, but he proved the stronger. “No more,” he said. “No more will fall to you this day.”
Others descended from the plane. From the Avengers’ quinjet. Iron Man. Spider-Man. Captain America. Spider-Woman. Wolverine.
The Sentry seized her other arm and lifted off into the sky, taking her with him. They ascended into orbit, fighting every step of the way. And then he threw her into the sun. Faster than light. It took ten seconds to cross the intervening space. She plunged into the star and vanished without a trace.
The Sentry descended, landed in the park once more. “She won’t be bothering us again,” he said.
“What did you do to her?” Captain America asked, his expression grim.
“I sent her on an all expense paid vacation to the photosphere,” Sentry replied.
Spider-Man stared. "You threw her… into the sun."
The Sentry smirked, trying and failing not to look smug. "Yes."
Wolverine sheathed his claws, looking annoyed. He often looked annoyed when their fights involved the Sentry.
"She's solar-powered," Spider-Man said.
‘Fifteen seconds, Sentry,’ CLOC said.
"Solar,” Spider-Man said, “As in the sun."
Sentry’s smirk faded as he thought about it. "There's a difference between getting your power from the sun and being able to survive being thrown INTO the sun," he said. He looked around. “I’ve got something to take care of in Cairo. You can handle it from here.” He lifted into the air.
Spider-Man reacted, leaping into the air and swinging out of the way, responding to a danger only he could sense.
And then a black and pink blur trailing a plume of plasma that stretched from the upper atmosphere all the way down to the surface of the earth slammed into The Sentry from above. There was an horrific, sickening crack that was almost lost beneath the accompanying sonic boom. Dirt and grass and trees and sections of concrete pathways went flying.
‘Sentry?’ CLOC asked. ‘Sentry, can you hear me? Your vital signs have spiked dangerously. Sentry, respond! Three seconds. Two. One. Reassessing. Reprioritizing.’
The Sentry lay at the bottom of a crater fifty meters across, his left arm twisted at an unnatural angle, shards of bone visibly sticking up through broken flesh, staring mutely at his mangled limb. Iron Man still hovered over the scene. Spider-Man had gotten clear. Captain America and Spider-Woman lay unconscious halfway up the side of the crater, each of them half-buried in dirt. Wolverine was better off - he’d been further away, and had only been knocked prone by the impact, and was even now getting back on his feet and rubbing his head.
Divine floated overhead like an angry goddess. Like an angry naked goddess, her clothing burned away by her trip to the sun, but otherwise completely unharmed. “And then there were three,” she said.
Spider-Man swallowed audibly.
Sentry rose back to his feet. “I’m... not... done yet,” he ground out, and then unleashed a cataclysmic blast of yellow light from his uninjured hand, unleashing the power of a million exploding suns in its purest, most raw form. For a moment, Spider-Man thought he could see Divine’s form in the flare. Then it was gone.
The light faded.
Divine floated exactly where she had before, except now her eyes seemed to shine with golden light. “Oh my God,” she said, and giggled. “Do that again. I’ve NEVER felt so... I feel like I could do ANYTHING!”
Sentry clenched his fist.
Battle was joined.
The two struck each other with blows that sent shockwaves through the surrounding area, and for a few seconds, they seemed evenly matched. And then Divine gained the upper hand, and the battle became less of a battle and more of a curbstomp.
“I can't help but notice that she's thrashing him now," Spider-Man said. Divine landed a particularly savage blow, kicking Sentry in the balls at near full super-charged strength, and Spider-Man found himself cringing in sympathetic reaction. “... wow, that one actually hurt to watch."
Iron Man stared.
"What's plan B?" Spider-Man asked.
"Deploy our psychic resources and overwhelm her mind," Iron Man replied.
"The psychic resources we’re borrowing from Xavier’s?” Spider-Man asked. “The psychic resources that are still five minutes out?"
"Yes, those ones."
Spider-Man paused a moment. "... What's plan C?"
Sentry’s body hit the ground with an earthshaking roar. For a moment it seemed he would rise to continue the fight... but then he collapsed, and didn’t get back up.
Divine turned her attention to the remaining Avengers. “Now, where where we?”
“Tony?” Spider-Man asked, feeling a little panicked. “Plan C?”
“Don’t die,” Tony replied. Divine shot towards him, and he managed to evade her blow by luck more than anything else, firing off his repulsors into her back as she zoomed overhead. Supercharged as she was by Sentry’s attempts to destroy her, she didn’t particularly notice.
Wolverine went next, charging, leaping, roaring with animalistic fury. She let him get in a few swipes, an amused expression on her face, confident that there was nothing he could do that could hurt her. … and then he stabbed her in the chest with two sets of adamantium claws, and the blades come out her back with a spray of blood, and her eyes went wide.
“Oh...” Divine said.
Wolverine grinned savagely, twisting his claws. “Not so tough now, are ya?”
She pushed him away, and his claws pulled free of her body with the sickening wet sound of tearing flesh. But even as her life’s blood flowed out through the holes he’d made, the holes healed before their eyes, sealing shut in a matter of seconds. “... nice... try,” she said, and then rose back to her full height. “But it will take more than that to kill me.” But it was clear that it had taken something out of her to regenerate from that. Her eyes weren't glowing any longer.
Iron Man bombarded her from above with blasts from his armor. Wolverine charged again, this time to meet a blast of full strength heat vision which burned off hair, skin and muscle alike and cooked his brain inside his skull. He fell to the ground, momentarily dead. Iron Man weaved to avoid a second blast, but this was a calculated shot: he dodged directly into the path of her physical attack, seized him by the leg, and slammed him into the ground three times. The armor had the means to dampen kinetic impact to ensure that it didn’t affect Tony, but this was more than it had been designed to handle.
He passed out on the second hit.
Divine turned to face Spider-Man. “And then there was one,” she said.
His spider-sense screamed a warning, and even so, he barely avoided her charge, leaping up and over. Spider-Man’s mind raced. ‘Don’t die,’ Tony had said. ‘Don’t die.’ He was superhuman, but she was on another level all together. He needed to... not die. The X-Men were on their way. He needed to... not get distracted by the unbelievably gorgeous naked girl who was trying to murder him.
Spider-sense. He twisted in mid-air, shot a line of webbing to latch onto the side of the crater Divine had made when she’d plowed into Sentry from above, and yanked hard to alter his trajectory just in time to avoid taking a blast of her heat vision full on. One minute. He needed to last one minute. He could do this.
Spider-Sense. He ducked underneath her haymaker blow. he began. Spider-Sense, and he sprang backwards into the air in a breathtaking acrobatic leap, doing a full flip even as he shot two streams of web-fluid, one at her eyes, the second at a tree beyond the zone of destruction. She evaded the the shot at her eyes, but it bought him another second. Spider-sense. He pivoted in mid-air to evade her fist. He landed on the tree feet first. Spider-Sense, and he grabbed her arm in mid-punch, working with her momentum and not against it, redirecting her. Divine plowed into the ground. He took the opportunity to fire off two quick blasts of web-fluid onto her prone form in the hopes of delaying her for another few seconds.
‘Not too shabby,’ he congratulated himself.
She rose to her feet, strands of webbing ripping and tearing free as she did so.
"OK," Spider-Man said, "Now turn around so I can get your backside."
Divine gave him a look. The sort of look that asked, 'the hell you say?'
"What? We're trying to keep this family friendly."
"OK," Divine conceded, "So I'm a little bigger than average." she gestured to her ample bust with both hands, "Do you really have to make a big deal of it when I'm squashing you like the bug that you are?"
Spider-sense. He sprang off the tree just in time to not get cooked alive by another blast of heat-vision. "Spiders are arachnids, actually," he said helpfully.
And then he wasn’t quick enough. She clipped him with a blow, cutting off his words, and Spider-Man went flying through the trunk of a fully grown tree and into the trunk of a second, which cracked under the impact. And he knew pain.
She stalked towards him, taking her time, savoring the experience.
A scream of rage came from her left. Wolverine was on his feet, and charging. She side-stepped his swipes and kicked him in the chest. He went flying, plowing through tree after tree after tree until he finally tumbled to a stop out of Spider-Man’s line of sight.
“You’re slippery, and your friend is hard to kill, but I think this is over, now.”
“You’re not wrong,” came an unexpected voice: the voice of Emma Frost.
Spider-Man looked up, and Divine whirled to face the new threat. The Kryptonian got as far as looking into Emma's glowing eyes before her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed, hitting the ground with a disproportionately loud thump.
The X-Men had arrived.
“Glad you could... make it...” Spider-Man wheezed.
“You know us,” Cyclops replied, “We never like to miss a party.”
Spider-Man’s vision was beginning to blur. He tried to stand, but a wave of dizziness sent him to his knees.
Oh, right. He was bleeding. And hurting. And probably had a concussion. And might have broken a few bones. And...
The world went dim.
The Sentry came back to awareness in a hospital bed, and hurting everywhere. This was a first. What had...? The events at the park came rushing back. Shame overwhelmed him. Worse than the physical pain. Worse than the pain in his arm.
“Bob?” His wife’s voice. “Bob, are you ok? I was so scared...!”
He didn’t look at her. Couldn’t look at her.
“He needs time to recover.” Tony. Tony Stark was here.
“I’ve never seem him so...” There was pity in her tone, and his shame burned all the brighter.
He tried to sit up. “I... she... HURT me.”
And for the first time since he’d thrown the creature into the sun, he heard an echo, a voice like the Void’s in his thoughts but... different. “Yes,” it said, its laughter loud and mocking, “Isn’t it precious?”
He clenched his eyes shut.
“Bob, I’m here,” his wife - Lindy - said. “I’m here for you. You just rest now. You have to get better.”
He tried to sit up, tried to pull out the IV with its adamantium needle feeding nutrients into his arm. Tried to... he fumbled at it for a few moments. “I have to... I have to stop her,” he said. I’m the only one powerful enough to...”
“It’s under control, Sentry,” Tony said. “The X-Men took care of it.”
He met Tony’s gaze. “I have to... she’s... nobody’s ever... I’m the only one who can...”
“No, you aren’t. She’s a Kryptonian, Sentry. Against her, you’re a liability.”
Sentry sat up in shock, ignoring the pain that roared through his body at the movement. “WHAT?!”
“You’ve got the power of a million exploding suns,” Tony said, trying to be as gentle as he could, “She draws power from the sun. Do the math.”
The Sentry clenched his one still functional fist. “Impossible...” he muttered.
Tony sighed. “The X-Men have her under control, Sentry. She’s dealt with. Don’t get involved.”
The sound of footsteps. Tony was leaving. The door opened. The door shut.
“Bob?” Lindy asked. “Bob, look at me, please.”
He sank back down onto his bed, unable or unwilling to meet his wife’s gaze. She took a deep breath. He’d upset her. He knew that. But he couldn’t... he couldn’t... he...
The sound of footsteps. The door opened. The door shut. His wife had left.
Robert Reynolds stared blankly at the ceiling, left alone with himself, and the laughter of the Void rang loudly in his mind.End Chapter 11
Author’s note: Many thanks to joehundredaire for his assistance with this and other chapters