A New World in my View
by P.H. Wise
A Buffy Crossover Fanfic
Chapter 08: Aftermath
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. This chapter contains some dialogue from New X-Men #27. Marvel owns that, too.
To be honest, Karen hadn’t actually expected to wake up: she’d kind of figured that stepping in front of a high powered sniper round would put her down for good, super powers or not. She certainly hadn’t imagined that she’d be waking up more or less unharmed wearing her uniform plus a strange pair of goggles, and secured to a table with some sort of metal manacles. She felt... strong, actually. Very strong. Everything about her field of perception was different. She could see light everywhere. In everything. She could hear everything. The intensity of the sensation quickly grew overwhelming.
A single tear made its way down her cheek.
She lay like that for what felt like hours. She could feel the earth spinning beneath her at a thousand miles per hour, could feel it hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. Sensation built upon sensation. Karen cried out, and squeezed her eyes shut.
She didn’t know how long it was before she opened them again, but when she did, the flow of sensation was... better. More manageable. Still beyond belief, but not actively driving her mad.
She tested the manacles. When they didn’t immediately give, she raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t bother,” came a man’s voice from out of her field of view. “Those are Shi’ar gravity restraints. They’re rated for beings on par with Gladiator, so unless you can lift an entire planet...”
She tilted her head as best she could.
A … man? Stood leaning against the wall. A figure in red and gold armor.
“And I guess the goggles are a clouded diamond matrix?” she asked weakly, thinking of the device that Ultra-Humanite had once used in the Power Girl comic book in an effort to keep Power Girl captive long enough to perform a ‘Grand Theft Me’ style body swap. It hadn’t worked, but still. Same device, different origin. She shivered.
“Interesting. You’ve been a prisoner of the Shi’ar before?”
She shook her head. “Lucky guess.”
The robot, or man, or whatever it was, gave every impression of having snorted. “... Do you know why you’re here?” he asked.
Karen searched her memories. Nothing. No hint of anything that might have happened between stepping in front of that bullet and now. She felt a sense of panic rising in her, but she squashed it down, forced herself to think. If she hadn’t been moving her body, obviously someone had. … Kara? Had it been Kara? She waited for Kara to say something. To give some hint of what had happened..
Her efforts not to panic became significantly less successful. “... Look, whoever you are, I’m sure I haven’t done anything wrong, and...” she trailed off under the armored figure’s expressionless gaze. Her first instinct was to ask after Laurie, and the question was nearly out of her mouth before she bit it back: if she was a prisoner, the last thing she wanted to do was give her captives information that could be used against her, or her friends. “Am I being accused of something?” she asked.
“You and your friends caused several million dollars in property damage to the city of North Salem. More than that, six hundred people in attendance at William Stryker’s speaking engagement were injured. Two were killed. One of those killed was a young pregnant mother. And the whole thing happened on TV.”
Karen felt her hackles rise.
“Right now,” the armored figure went on, “The major networks are just breaking the news to the American people. And it’s going to play over and over and over, all over the world.”
“Right,” Karen said angrily. She still didn’t remember a damn thing about what had happened, but massive property damage? Injuries? Deaths? Assuming Kara had been in control of the body when everything went down, did that sound like something she’d do? Or like something the New X-Men would do? So. For some reason they’d gone to William Stryker’s speaking event. … She’d heard of the man. What she’d heard had not impressed her. “Right,” Karen said, her anger and her tongue getting ahead of her brain, and getting the likely series of events more or less correct mostly by accident, “Because smarmy televangelist William Joseph Simmons and his super-friends tried to do a William Boroughs, and it’s not their fault, it’s ours.”
The armored figure seemed taken aback, and actually had to take a moment to parse that out before replying with, “There’s such a thing as shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater.”
“There’s also such a thing as there being an actual fire in a crowded theater, and a group of mutants showing up to put it out only to find the ushers are packing flamethrowers, and...” She trailed off. Damn. That one had gotten away from her. “Can I start that over?”
Karen had the distinct impression that the armored figure was glaring at her.
And then Kara was there. Next to her. Standing across from the armored figure. Looking mortified. “Xander. Mouth. Talking. Make with the stoppage.”
Karen was halfway tempted to mouth off at Kara, too, but she somehow she suspected that having tall red and shiny here thinking she was crazy probably wasn’t going to help her case. She shut her mouth. ‘Nice of her to finally show up,’ she thought, still more than a little bit angry.
The armored figure strode angrily out of the room. The door slid shut with a hiss.
“Hey,” Kara said, “Trying to keep your friends alive, rescue people, and fight off Stryker’s goons, Divine, and a big glowing pink robot thing at the same with your unconscious self trying to kick me out of the driver’s seat for half the fight takes a lot out of a girl.”
Karen blinked. ‘Divine? wait... did you just respond to me thinking at you?’
“Skanky black haired clone-me. It’s a long story. And, uh, yeah? What, did you think I was talking out loud all this time?”
Karen felt like a fool. A totally furious fool, but a fool. ‘And you were going to clue me in on this when?’
Karen felt like screaming. She struggled in her bonds a bit. They didn’t budge. ‘I wish my hands were free so I could hit you,’ she thought.
“You’d be hitting yourself, too.”
‘Worth it. … Gah, you know that thing you do where you’re not there? Can you do that again?’
Kara shook her head grimly. “No chance. You need to know what happened before you get us into even more trouble than you already have.”
‘Than YOU already have.’
“Just shut up and listen already.”
She did. She thought about ignoring Kara just for spite, but self-preservation won out: she needed to know what had happened. She grit her teeth, and she listened.
“What do you think?”
The armored figure - Iron Man - shrugged almost imperceptibly. “About the girl, or about the mutants?”
“Mutants,” Captain America said.
“Their stories are consistent,” Iron Man said, his tone noncommittal. “If the damage hadn’t been so widespread, and forum so high profile, I’d be inclined to let them go. But as is, it’s going to be difficult to justify not handing them over to the police.”
On a large video screen set into the wall before the two heroes, the video recordings of the incident were playing. There had been four news crews present. Of those, two had managed to get recordings of the entire event, with the other two cutting out during the fighting.“Why have you come?” Stryker’s voice asked.
“To give you a chance,” Power Girl replied. “To stop this. To give up this hate that has poisoned you: this hate that you spread to everyone you touch.” She looked out at the crowd, “I’ve seen what human beings can do. The good and the bad. Your aggression, your blind submission to leaders, your hostility to outsiders, your compassion for others, love for your children, your great, soaring, passionate intelligence. You can be a great people; I know that you wish to be. Turn away from this madness.”
“Or I’ll stop you.”
“And the girl?” Captain America asked.
“Angry. Sarcastic. She’s got a problem with authority.” Beneath his mask, he grinned humorlessly. “You’d almost think she was a teenager.”
“It’s strange, isn’t it?”
Iron Man looked to Captain America, waiting for him to continue.
“The young woman in the video doesn’t strike me as a teenage girl. Physically, sure, but...” He gestured to Power Girl’s image on the screen. There was a young woman who had power. Who knew it. Who knew how to use it responsibly. There was an undeniable authority in her voice and in her bearing. An authority that was missing in the girl restrained in the other room. “She reminds me of...”
Captain America nodded. “Think they’re related?”
“Maybe. She did claim to be a ‘daughter of Krypton.’”
“And your scans?”
“They confirm that much,” Iron Man said. “She’s definitely a Kryptonian. Which means the other one likely is as well. The only question is, are they survivors of a version of Krypton in our world, or are they from the other universe?”
“Not the only
question,” Captain America said.
Iron Man conceded the point. An alert popped up on his HUD. “The Blackbird is inbound. Looks like Logan is on his way, and he’s not alone.” He grimaced. “This is going to be unpleasant.”
“Calm down, Logan. Going into this half-cocked is only going to make things worse.”
“I am calm,” Logan said angrily as he stalked ahead of the rest of the group. “Real calm.” They’d only just landed in the hanger at Stark Tower. Only just emerged from the Blackbird. Behind him, Emma Frost looked icy and stony-faced, Scott Summers and Kitty Pryde looked worried, Colossus looked grim, and Beast’s expression was carefully neutral. “And if Tony don’t return our kids, I’m gonna calmly shove my claws right up his...”
Logan didn’t apologize. Didn’t look apologetic. Didn’t feel apologetic. Scott took that to mean he apologized.
Ben Grimm’s face appeared on the screen. “Hey, is this thing on?”
Tony Stark blinked in surprise behind his mask. The X-Men had landed. They were on their way up from the hanger. He’d been about to go to meet them, when a call came in from the Fantastic Four. Reed he might have expected, but Ben? “I’m in the middle of something, Ben,” he said.
“Yeah, I know. Ya got Karen locked up in that tower o’ yours.”
“... You’re calling about that?”
“Actually, I’m calling to say that we’re on our way over, and that you better be treatin’ Karen like a lady, otherwise I might just have to do some Clobberin’ when I get there.”
The door opened with a hiss. His sensors registered the presence of the new arrivals, but he himself did not notice.
Johnny Storm’s voice came over the line from somewhere off screen, “Hey, can we tell him we’re on our way without threatening violence to a leader of the Avengers?”
Ben snorted, and turned to glare at someone off screen - Johnny, probably. “Shut yer trap. I said I’d make the call to the Avengers, I’m makin’ the call to the Avengers.” He looked back at the screen. “We’ll be landing in ten, Iron Man.”
“We catch ya at a bad time, Tony?” came a very angry, very familiar voice from the door.
He turned, cutting the connection to the Fantastic Four as he did so.
The X-Men were here.
“... rioting continues in the town of North Salem, New York in the wake of the mutant assassination attempt on evangelist William Stryker. Here at Fox News, we’ve received exclusive footage of that confrontation.”
Footage began to play.“You come against us with your demon fueled powers, but we come against you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!”
“Why have you come?”
“To stop you.”
Stryker seemed momentarily taken aback, but he recovered quickly. He laughed. “Just like that, you’ll stop me? You think you can stand against the will of God, girl? Who do you think you are?”
She continued her slow walk towards him. “I’m the last daughter of Krypton. I’ve seen the death of worlds, survived the death of universes. I stood against the Blackest Night, I’ve faced monsters, gods, and demons. I’m Power Girl, and I am not afraid of you, William Stryker.”
Stryker produced a pink gauntlet from behind the podium and raised it over his head. “I have the holy spirit power, girl. I intend to win the war between heaven and hell.”
She fired lasers from her eyes. She cut off his arm at the shoulder. And then she smiled at the fallen preacher. “You and what arm-y?”
The camera returned to the anchor. “As shocking as this footage is, it did not end there. Soon, this ‘Power Girl’s’ mutant allies arrived, and the ensuing battle resulted in hundreds of injuries. Here to discuss the implications of this attack and what it means for our safety is political consultant and Fox News contributor, ‘Dick Morris.’ Dick?”
“Hello, Jason. Good to be here.”
“Good to have you. So, what does this incident mean for the mutant problem?”
“Oh, I think it serves to underline the very real problem that we’ve allowed to brew in our society for years now. Mutants are out of control. They’ve been out of control for a long time, and I think the American people are finally waking up to that fact.”
“Michael Barone has a column in the Washington Examiner which explains the long history of mutation and mutant terrorism in America, and how the majority in both Democratic and Republican parties are now behind the 8-ball in their reelection campaigns because of a perceived lack of toughness on the mutant problem. How much of a factor is that really likely to be in the coming elections?”
Dick smiled grimly. “If anything, Mr. Barone is understanding the issue. The real question isn’t ‘how are these politicians going to wiggle into a more comfortable position?’ The real question is, ‘how can any politician who supports the mutant agenda hope to survive the coming election?’ and ‘When will the war on terror begin to address the problem of mutant terrorism?’ Even mutant groups like the so called ‘X-Men,’ who have long claimed to be the moderates in this debate, have engaged in brutal attacks against Americans, with this attack on Reverend Stryker’s peaceful prayer gathering being only the latest in a long list of atrocities they have carried out.”
“Do you have any reaction to what appears to be evidence of the Xavier institute training children as anti-human terrorists? And an alliance with what is either a very disturbed young mutant, or an extra-terrestrial illegal alien?”
“Only that it confirms what we’ve suspected for a long time. The alien angle is new, but we can hardly be surprised now by the depths of the depravity to which these creatures are willing to sink. These children should be receiving treatment for their mutation, not trained to use it to kill their fellow Americans in support of some radical mutant-superiority agenda.”
“Dick Morris, thank you very much for your time. Joining me now is Doctor Jensen from the Genetech corporation. Doctor, your company once offered a cure for mutation, only to have that cure and its related research destroyed in an act of mutant terrorism, is that correct?”
“Cut the bullshit, Tony,” Scott said. He’d gone with glasses and street clothes rather than spandex and visor today. They were all in street clothes, actually, save Emma, who wore a variant on her standard revealing white outfit. “We all know the outcome if this actually goes to trial: it will be a circus. The media will go into a feeding frenzy, the kids will end up in jail for the rest of their natural lives, and the mutant community will be even further alienated from the rest of humanity.”
“That’s less of a concern than it used to be,” Iron Man replied. “There’s what, two hundred of you now?”
“Actually, no,” Beast said. “Nine in ten mutants were depowered on M-Day. But that still leaves us with a world wide population numbering in the tens of thousands at the low end, hundreds of thousands at the high end.” The others were looking at him now, and he grew uncomfortable. “... Ah. But that is neither here nor there.”
Scott shook his head. “You can’t seriously want to put our students in jail for confronting a man who was in the process of starting a race riot. Who had actually started that riot before most of them even got involved!”
“That’s for the courts to decide,” Iron Man said.
“I’m not going to argue with you. We’re taking our students.”
Logan nodded in agreement. “Like it or not, bub, they’re comin’ with us.”
Colossus didn’t transform, but he did crack his knuckles, and made it quite clear with his body language that he intended to back up his team.
“Just try it,” Iron Man said.
Emma looked bored. “Much as I enjoy the sight of male posturing,” she said, her tone scornful, “I would prefer we all sat down and discussed this like civilized people.”
The others looked to her, then to Scott. When Scott relaxed, so did they. Iron Man stood down soon after.
“Not before we see the students,” Scott said.
“Of course, dear.”
“And we’re back with continuing coverage of the rioting in North Salem,” Anderson Cooper said, facing the camera, the CNN logo behind him, news ticker crawling across the bottom of the screen. “As many of you will already have heard, the riot began at 4:30 PM eastern standard time when evangelist William Stryker told a crowd of thousands, quote, ‘The time has come. Today, we take back the paradise that was lost by our inaction. Today, by your actions, we strike a blow for the Lord. By the power of the holy spirit, we shall be more than conquerors, my children. We shall be sons and daughters of the most high God.’ unquote. But that’s not where the story ends. A moment later, the rally was disrupted by the arrival of what was apparently an angry superhuman teenager, claiming she had come to give Reverend Stryker, quote ‘A chance to stop this.’ unquote. Thanks to the associated press, CNN has gained access to the local news footage of the event, which we’re going to play for you now. We must advise you that some of the footage is graphic, and that if you have small children, you may wish to have them leave the room now.”
The footage began - and mostly unedited footage this time - playing from the beginning to the arrival of the New X-Men and the beginning of the battle. When it concluded, the camera cut back to Anderson Cooper, his expression grim.
“Here to discuss both sides of the issue, we have Patricia Tilby, journalist, reporter for WNBC, and long time supporter of peaceful human-mutant coexistence, and Desmond Creed, son of the late Graydon Creed and current head of the human advocacy group, ‘Friends of Humanity.’ Trish, Desmond, thank you for appearing on the show.”
“Pleasure to be here, Anderson,” Patricia said, echoed a moment later by Desmond’s, “Thank you for having me.”
“Heya Cap,” Ben called as he hopped down from his seat in the Fantastic Four’s inexplicably open topped, compartmented private transport.
Captain America nodded. “Captain Grimm,” he replied.
Johnny laughed at that, hopping down from the plane himself.
“C’mon, Cap, yer making me blush.”
Sue and Reed disembarked next, and Captain America smiled. “Sorry, Ben.” He looked to the others. “Tony’s upstairs with the X-Men, but I thought I should come down here to meet you in person. You’ve seen the news, I take it?”
“Some of it,” Reed replied. “I don’t think they’ve decided what narrative they’re going to advance yet.”
“Well, things are serious. Anti-mutant sentiment has been on the rise for some time now, and Maria thinks that if S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an example now, it will do a lot to calm things down.”
Reed nodded at that. They whole group began to head up towards the upper levels where Tony and the X-Men waited.
“Right. But what do you
think?” Ben asked.
“... come now, our reputation is entirely undeserved, I assure you,” Desmond Creed said, looking straight into the camera, his face the very picture of sincerity. “The Friends of Humanity are not anti-mutant. We are simply pro-human. We do not and have never opposed the proposition that all men are entitled to equal rights under the law; what we oppose is this notion advanced by Ms. Tilby and others that mutants somehow deserve special rights.”
“Is the right to privacy a special right, Mr. Creed? Is our protection against unreasonable searches and seizures a special right? The right to due process? Freedom of religion, speech, and the press? The right to assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances?” Trish shook her head. “Let’s not mince words, Mr. Creed. Your organization has a long and storied history of hate crimes against mutants...”
“Unsubstantiated rumors, Ms. Tilby,” Creed interrupted.
“...and while you may think that the American people have forgotten,” Patricia said, not stopping for Desmond’s comment, “I assure you that we have not.”
“You speak of the rights guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights, which our founding fathers passed down to us, yet the fact remains that in this case, a band of mutants launched a savage attack on a peaceful gathering of individuals engaged in the exercise of their inalienable right to freedom of speech and of religion.”
“In all fairness, Mr. Creed,” Anderson broke in, “Reverend Stryker was clearly instigating his riot long before the group of mutants arrived, and based on what we could see in the recordings retrieved from local news sources and the Associated Press, he and his initiated the violence.”
“They were provoked, Anderson,” Desmond replied. “The manner of this ‘Power Girl’s’ arrival was clearly intended to elicit exactly the sort of response that it did. Reverend Stryker and his followers are the victim of a deliberate attempt by agents of the mutant agenda to provoke them into intemperate action on a national stage. But even if you set that aside, consider the abilities of those mutants seen on the tape. Can there be any doubt that these children, these... teenagers, are every bit as dangerous as any military weapon system? This once again underlines just how badly we need that piece of legislation which congress still, irresponsibly, refuses to bring to the floor of either the House or the Senate: the Mutant Registration Act. We MUST know who these people are, where they are, how far their genetic influence extends, and most importantly, what they can do. The safety of America demands no less.”
“Unfortunately,” Anderson began, looking at the time remaining for his segment, “We’ll have to leave it there...”
"Speaking of the extent of genetic influence,” Tricia said, “Should you not be on such a list yourself, Mr. Creed? Who knows what powers your children might manifest thanks to your grandfather’s genes? Individuals similar to the mutant terrorist known as ‘Sabertooth’ could prove to be quite dangerous, could they not?"
Desmond Creed’s face visibly reddened with anger. “My family’s personal history has no relevance to this debate, Ms. Tilby!” he said, maintaining his calm by a hairsbreadth. “Were you not speaking just moments ago of the right to privacy?”
Anderson shot Tricia a warning look.
Tricia, not looking contrite in the least, smiled. “Sorry, Anderson. I was just curious. If Mr. Creed is willing to advance as discredited and unpopular an idea as the old turnip-ghost Mutant Registration Act, he should be willing to consider what impact it might have on his own family. As should we all.”
“And we’ll leave it there,” Anderson said, and the camera faded out.
It’s funny how you never seem to read about just how boring it is to be strapped down on a table with your powers negated and totally helpless while other people decided your fate. Even worse, Karen kind of had to go to the bathroom, and her nose was itching like nobody’s business.
“... um... hello?” she called.
“You could always use your freezing breath to break free if it’s that bad, you know.”
Karen glanced towards Kara, whose ghostly image was standing just to the left of the table. ‘I’m trying NOT to convince them that I’m some horrible supervillain.’
Karen didn’t reply.
The door opened without warning, startling Karen on her table: she jerked against her restraints. A moment later, Emma Frost and a guy in a red and blue spider costume with a ‘web’ motif and a spider design on his chest came walking into the room. The spider guy stopped at the door.
“... Hi.” Karen managed.
Emma looked down at her. “We are not amused,” she said coldly.
“I would ask you to explain yourself,” Emma said, “But I believe I have gathered the necessary information.”
Karen felt a stab of anger at that. She was starting to really dislike telepathy. Not that she’d ever say that out loud. … not that it mattered. Emma knew. Stupid telepathy.
“Spiderman is going to release you, and then we are going to go and talk this over with the Avengers. Before that happens, I am going to put a kind of temporary mental block in place to prevent you from accidentally destroying half the building on the way to the meeting room. It will not prevent you from intentionally utilizing your strength; it will simply alter your perception of how much strength you are applying at any given time. If you object, I will induce paralysis instead. I will also cause you to vomit uncontrollably any time you hear the word ‘practicable.’ I trust you do not object?”
Karen shook her head.
Emma Frost, Karen decided, was kind of terrifying.
Ten minutes later, they were gathered around a large meeting: Captain American, Iron Man. Miss Marvel. Spider Man. Scott Summers. Emma Frost. Kitty Pryde. Piotr ‘Peter’ Rasputin. Logan. Hank McCoy. Benjamin Grimm. Reed Richards. Susan Richards. Johnny Storm. Also present was Karen Starr - the instigator - and Noriko Ashida, leader of the team of mutants who had come to Karen’s rescue.
The X-Men had met with their students. Had come to the meeting room. Had sat down with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Now they just had to work through this mess. And not let it devolve into violence.
Watching Wolverine clench and unclench his fists every few seconds, Karen was sure they were all doomed.
“I think it’s time we laid our cards out on the table,” Captain America said.
Iron Man nodded, and then turned to Karen. “We know what you are, Ms. Starr. We know that you’re a Kryptonian. We know what your kind is capable of. What we don’t know is how you got here, and how she got here.” He opened his hand, projecting a holographic image of Divine as she had looked during the battle at the amphitheater. “I see from some of your faces that this comes as a surprise to some of you.”
“Careful,” Kara said, her voice barely more than a whisper in Karen’s ear, “I don’t think you want to piss these people off.”
‘Little late for that.’
“Any more than you already have.”
“This is not the first time the Avengers have encountered a Kryptonian,” Captain America said. A handful of assistants began passing out dossiers. “The file you’re now receiving is an account of our previous encounter with a member of this species, a native to a parallel Earth who calls himself ‘Superman.’
Kara’s eyes went wide. “They know about...?” She could hardly ask the question. “Xander, if they’ve met Kal, then it’s possible that they might know a way to...” she trailed off again, her voice thick with emotion. “I could go home.”
Karen felt a stab of homesickness go through her, then. It all came rushing back all at once. Home. Willow. Giles. Buffy. … God, she even missed CORDELIA, of all people. Emma had told her in no uncertain terms that she was not to tell these people that she and Kara were distinct personalities, and that made her nervous, too. Something must have shown on her face, because a moment later, Captain America said, “So you’ve heard of him.”
Karen nodded. She hesitated, but at Kara’s approving nod, she said, “... He’s my cousin. Sort of.”
“... and our moment of Geek tonight comes with the assistance of Bill Nye, better known as Bill Nye the Science Guy. Mr. Nye, thank you so much for agreeing to appear on the show.”
Bill smiled. “Thank you, Rachel. Always happy to help.”
Rachel nodded. “In light of recent events, Mr. Nye, I thought you might address the question of alien life, and what Power Girl’s apparent claim means for the world of science.”
“It’s interesting. She’s not the first human-like alien that humanity has encountered, of course, but her claim of extraterrestrial origin, if true, would add another data point to what is in recent years become the fastest growing field of science: Xenobiology. The first thing your viewers should keep in mind is that while there’s no particular reason why an alien species would look humanoid, there is a perfectly good rationale for why a few of them might. It’s called convergence. It’s what happens when you take two creatures with body plans that are at least somewhat similar and introduce them to an environment that selects for a particular niche or function. It’s how we can end up with things like Tasmanian tigers and grey wolves - two animals that come from distinctly different branches of the genetic tree, but look reasonably similar if you don’t look too closely at the individual details, and fill the same niche within their respective ecosystems. Now, before we’d made contact with alien species, we’d never seen an example of convergent evolution between completely distinct and isolated forms of life...”
“While I might be inclined to simply return Karen to her native dimension and wash my hands of her,” Iron Man said, “The only means by which we have ever traveled to that particular world is no longer accessible to us.”
“I love you, too, Scrap Dude,” Karen said.
He was glaring at her again. She was sure of it.
“Xander!” Kara hissed warningly. And then she said, “Ask him how he knows it’s actually my native dimension, and not just one that’s closely related.”
Karen did, and Reed was the one who answered: “I could run a few tests if I had access to the dimension in question. We would need to ensure that the unique dimensional frequencies of both Karen and the reality you encountered were an exact match. This is... quite fascinating. The Avengers and this... Justice League of America ultimately worked together to defeat this cosmic entity ‘Krona’ and foil his attempt to destroy both universes...?”
“We can read it just fine ourselves,” Logan snapped irritably.
“And your means of transport to this other universe was,” Beast looked down at the page, then back up at Iron Man. “Mjollnir?”
Iron Man nodded.
“How regrettable that the weapon of the thunder god is unavailable for our use,” Beast said.
Reed Richards kept his face very carefully blank.
“Actually,” Ben said, “It’s in Oklahoma. But that don’t matter, cause none of us can even pick it up.”
Karen stared. “... Oklahoma?” she mouthed.
“Unfortunately,” Iron Man said, “none of that addresses what actually happened.” He looked at Karen. “You may not have intended it, but your actions have put us all in a very difficult position. The claim of attempted assassination you made has proven particularly controversial. People are up in arms. They’re calling you delusional, and a liar. I suppose the X-Men have no direct evidence of criminal behavior on Stryker’s part? Nothing other than the word of your telepaths?”
Every X-Man save Emma looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“Karen,” Emma began, “Where DID you leave that journal?”
All eyes went to Karen.
“What journal?” Iron Man asked.
Karen flushed. Kara spoke, and Karen repeated after her, though only Emma could hear that she was being given the words to say: “The journal of Matthew Risman, the professional assassin that works for Stryker. The one where he details his experience working for Stryker, and the jobs he’s done, and talks about how he used to feel guilty about what he did, before Stryker gave him clarity and showed him the path to the Lord. The one I hid next to the Balanced Rock before I went to confront Stryker.”
Everyone in the room save Emma stared at Karen in surprise.
Emma looked like the cat that had caught the canary. “Provided that my student can produce this journal, I trust there will be no need to allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to make an example of her?”
Iron Man grimaced behind his mask, and Karen saw it - x-ray vision was really starting to freak her out, and she didn’t dare look at Miss Frost for fear that she would immediately know that Karen could see right through her clothes, and do something about it.
‘Your fear is entirely justified, child,’ came Emma’s voice in her thoughts. Karen tried very hard not to shudder.
“I don’t know if I can...” Iron Man began.
“Tony, that’s enough,” Captain America said, with just a hint of disapproval.
Iron Man matched gazes with the Captain for a long moment. And then he looked down. “Fine.”
“What we should be discussing,” Emma continued, “Is Karen’s sister.” She gestured to the image that still floated above the table. “Divine.”
All eyes went to Karen once more, and she felt extremely awkward. ‘Little help here?’ she thought.
“Seriously? You can’t make something up?”
‘I suck at improvisation!’
“Well I suck at lying!”
‘Think of something!’
“... Ok, I think I have something...”
Karen looked down. Kara began to speak her lie, and Karen repeated it for the benefit of everyone who wasn’t Emma Frost. A lie that was mostly true. “... She wasn’t always like this,” she said. And that was true - she’d formerly been a genetic sample taken without Kara’s knowledge, not an evil clone. “A man from my world by the name of Maxwell Lord took control of her with his power. He’s what’s called a mental dominant; he’s got a very specialized form of telepathy that allows him to...”
Johnny grimaced. “Control other people’s minds?”
Karen nodded. “He’s very, very powerful. He’s able to control minds on a global scale: he forced everyone in the world to forget that he had ever existed. His control is subtle, too. He doesn’t so much force you to do something as he introduces a set of facts into the equation that completely change your behavior. He doesn’t operate you like a puppet - he pushes, and... your friends are discussing dinner options, and you hear it as a discussion of plans for conquest, and when they protest their innocence, you hear further grandiose boasts. Or someone is eating a chicken dinner, and you see them eating a baby, or...” She trailed off, shuddering. “I don’t know what his plans were for Divine, but when I was pulled through, we were fighting, and I think she must have been pulled through with me. But I didn’t know she was here until she showed up earlier today.”
Sue frowned. “Are you aware of any reliable means of detecting whether or not someone is under his influence?”
Karen shook her head. “I’m not exactly an expert on the telepathic side of things.”
“So,” Iron Man said, sounding more than a little displeased. “We have an extremely powerful, extremely lethal being who draws power from sunlight operating under the mental control of a villain from another dimension. Is that what you’re telling me?”
Karen winced. “Well, when you put it like that...”
In the end, there was little they could do but adopt an attitude of ‘wait and see.’ Aside from Karen herself, there were two people that Captain America and Iron Man were reasonably sure could deal with Divine: Thor and Sentry. …Thor was missing, and Sentry was becoming both increasingly unstable and increasingly unreliable. So it was that Karen and the New X-Men were at last returned to the grounds of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Officially, they were all under house arrest until such time as they were cleared of any wrong-doing. Unofficially, with the journal now in the hands of the Avengers, things were looking as good as could be expected.
The National Guard had come in force to the town of North Salem. A town with a population of a little over five thousand people had been completely overwhelmed by Stryker’s followers even before they started rioting, but now...
There was no movement on the streets save soldiers when the Blackbird flew over head. It looked as though half the town had been looted. National Guard blockades were a regular feature, and traffic was still being diverted around the area. Outside the gates to the Xavier mansion, a diminished but still significant crowd remained, chanting anti-mutant slogans and facing off against a line of troops from both the National Guard and the Office of National Emergency.
The road leading to the school bore signs of recent conflict.
“... you guys came to get us even though THIS was happening?” Noriko asked incredulously.
Scott nodded. “Not before recalling every available X-Man from around the world to protect the school, but yes.”
Scott met Noriko’s gaze.
Nothing more was said, save that which needed no words to express.
As she walked through the front door, Karen stretched a bit and sighed. “... be it ever so humble,” she murmured, with just a touch of bitterness and sarcasm coming through..
“There’s no place like home,” Noriko finished, and meant it.
Morning broke. A new day. A new chance. Risman’s journal hadn’t been recovered in time for the previous day’s news cycle, but it was headline news today. Divine had only just finished reading it, in fact. Huh. Son of a bitch allegedly was hiring assassins to assassinate mutants and their supporters. Risman had been arrested late last night, and the FBI was going to be taking Stryker into custody as soon as he was released from the hospital.
She set the paper down.
The police were looking for her after yesterday’s events. But so were plenty of people. About now, she was beyond caring. She’d spent the evening after the fight in space, exposing herself to the direct effects of the solar wind. If she was going to have to deal with Power Girl, she needed to be at full strength. Now she was.
She had robbed a few dozen homes at around three A.M. this morning. Not something Max would be proud of, but Divine was determined to do whatever she had to in order to get back to him. She still had a purpose to serve in the other world. Humans spent their lives in doubt and fear, often lying to themselves, inventing a purpose to their lives, desperately wanting to believe that it wasn’t all just some accident. That it all had some meaning. And unlike the majority of the stinking mass of humanity, Divine did not have to wonder, did not have to fear, did not have to make up any sort of story: she knew exactly what her purpose was.
Maxwell Lord had created her to stop the war before it could begin. The war between humanity and the metahumans. The war which was coming as surely as the sunrise. A war which she could hardly prevent while stuck in this miserable, backwards, worthless reality. That Power Girl was stuck here as well was infuriating. She’d acted irrationally. Reacted on instinct. Gone into battle against Power Girl and her allies and that surprisingly resilient robot without considering whether or not it was really in Max’s best interests.
It had taken some doing, some asking of questions, some following of leads. It wasn’t something Max had really prepared her for. It was... frustrating.
The newspaper burst into flames on the bench beside her. Damn. She needed to be more careful about that heat vision. It was so easy to let it get out of control. So very... easy.
A man in a business suit sat down on the bench next to her, newspaper in hand.
She gave him a look. For a moment, she thought about how easy it would be to tear him limb from limb. Or burn him to ash. Or freeze him. Hell, she could always lob him out into space. That trick was always good for a laugh.
… no. He was a human. Unless he gave her a reason to kill him...
“You’ve been a busy bee,” he said. “You’re in the newspaper and everything.”
She looked up. He wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at the blurry photo of her fighting Power Girl at that damned amphitheater the other day. She’d changed her clothing since then. Street clothes. Black leather pants. Red tank-top. Thin, black jacket. “Excuse me?”
“Relax. I’m here to make an offer. Nothing more.”
Her eyes narrowed. “All right. Talk.”
“Young lady like you’s got needs, am I right? Interests? Things that she wants?”
“My employer is prepared to provide those things. Wealth. Power. Men. Women, if that’s more your style. Maybe even a way home, if we both play our cards right.”
Divine’s interest began to fade the moment the man went into his list, but at the words ‘a way home,’ he had her full and undivided attention. “What do you know about me?”
“We know that you are not, as they say, ‘from around here.’ If going home is all you want, well, we’re prepared to assist you.”
“For a price.”
“Nothing’s free, kid. Not even salvation.”
“How do I know you’re not just some crazy bastard who gets off on bullshit?”
The man laughed. “You don’t.”
Divine almost put a fist through his head right then and there. Almost. “If I decide to cooperate, and I find out you’re just jerking me around? I’m going to kill you and everyone you work for, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. We clear?”
She fell silent.
He placed a business card with something hand written on it onto the park bench. “Give it some thought. If you decide you want to cooperate, go to this address. We’ll contact you within a week or two of your arrival there.”
Divine looked down at the card. An address. Some place in a city called Stamford, Connecticut. The man rose to his feet.
She watched as he walked away. New York bustled around her. The sun shone on her face.
She clenched her fist.End Chapter 08
Next: Like the song says, 'we don't need no civil war'
This time, things go more than a little differently...