FIC: A Most Marvellous Adventure Finale
Tony rose from his seat when She-Hulk strode in. “Jennifer, thank you for coming.”
“Bury a friend, take in the sights, see Stark Tower, it’s practically part of the tourist tour.”
Tony ignored the bitterness in his friend’s tone. Given what they’d all been through, not to mention the memorial service just the previous day, a little bitterness had to be expected. “I thought we needed to meet to discuss repl-, recruiting new members into the Avengers.”
Jennifer’s angry smirk revealed she’d noticed his change of words. “Moving a little quickly aren’t you? Bill and Clint are hardly cold.”
Stark’s eyes hardened. That was a jibe too far. “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare say Bill and Clint weren’t important to me,” he snapped before forcing himself to calm. “However we have to think of more than just ourselves. We have people to protect. There’s plenty of threats still out there – Apocalypse, Kang, Doom, The Presence, Loki, High Evolutionary, The Master of the World. Anyone of them could cause untold damage and casualties if we’re not there to stop them!”
“You’re right,” Jennifer nodded stiffly. “I’m sorry. Do you have anyone in mind?”
“According to Hercules, Ares aided him during the recent difficulties,” Tony replied. “We’d be fools not to take advantage of this recent change of behaviour and at least try and turn him to our side.”
“Ares is a powerful force either for good or for evil,” Jennifer agreed. “And he does have a certain code of honour that he adheres to in his own way. If he’s on my team, Hercules can keep an eye on him.”
“Agreed,” Stark nodded. “I’m thinking of offering places to Force and Devil Slayer, Walker has always been a protégée of mine, and Payne acquitted himself well on his mission to Baghdad.”
“How did Sharon Ventura do?” Jennifer queried.
Stark shrugged. “She did fine. Are you thinking of asking her?”
“As you pointed out, we can’t have too many members,” Jennifer replied. “Now is that all?”
“Not quite,” Stark hesitated before continuing. “This doesn’t impact on your team, but I’d like your input as an Avengers Team Leader.”
“I’m intrigued,” the lawyer leaned back in her seat. “Go on.”
“This time our problem came from hell dimensions,” Stark commented. “But often the problems we face come from alien sources. Kang, Galactus, Thanos, the Skrulls, and the Kree to name just a few examples. I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s time we created a team to police the cosmos, to stop these problems before they actually reach here. Not to mention any other peace-loving civilisation.”
Jennifer smiled. “A sort of Cosmic Avengers?”
“Precisely,” Stark agreed.
“And who do you have in mind?” Jennifer queried.
“I was thinking of asking Beta Ray Bill to lead the group and inviting Quasar, Noh-Varr, Gamora, and Thundra to join.”
“An interesting selection,” Jennifer commented before hesitating. “I’ve heard rumours that there’s going to be a re-organisation of our world?”
“Yes,” Stark nodded, his mood darkening. “With all the losses we’ve taken, a number of teams are recruiting, we might want to take some time to grieve those we’ve lost, but we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball.”
* * *
“Hey,” Cage nodded at him as he walked into the office. “Glad you came.” The powerfully-built black glanced at the Latina beauty sat in the office. “You know the White Tiger.”
Black Tarantula inclined his head slightly in the direction of his fellow meta. “Heard of, but never had the pleasure.”
“And this,” Cage looked towards an athletically built black man, “is Kasper Cole.”
“Hey,” the man grunted.
“You wanna take a seat?”
“Sure,” the chair creaked when he sat on it, but he guessed the chairs were all reinforced to take Cage’s weight, so he was reasonably sure it would hold.
“Well, thank you both for coming.” Cage leaned forward in his chair, hands clasped together and tree-trunk forearms resting on the desk before him. “Given recent events-.”
“He didn’t make it.” Cage interrupted him with a shake of the head, the black’s face unreadable. “Anyway, given recent events we’ve decided to expand our operations.” Cage looked from White Tiger to him and back again before continuing. “We’re expanding our operations, we’ve already asked some others, but they weren’t interested. Not that you’re second choice or anything, I was going to ask you-.” Cage shook his head. “Ah sweet Christmas, I’m making a hell of a mess of this. Heroes For Hire wants you to join us.”
“Really?” White Tiger gasped. “I’m in.”
Cole shrugged then nodded. “Count me in.”
Black Tarantula took rather longer to answer. He thought about people running towards him for help rather than away from him in fear. He thought about working with people he could trust rather than constantly wondering about when he was going to get the knife in his back. He thought about having people’s respect rather than their fearful loathing.
Then he wondered why it was taking him so long to answer. “I’m in.”
* * *
Blade crouched in the alley outside the bar, eyes narrowed as he kept part of his attention on the pub’s entrance and part on checking his armoury before he attacked the trio of vampires he’d tracked here. Suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck sprang up, instinct spinning around in a crouch to confront the figure stepping through the brick wall behind him.
“Strange,” he growled. “Whatever you want, I’m busy.”
The Sorcerer Supreme was unmoved by his tone. “I’ve come to make you an offer-.”
“Whatever it is,” he turned back towards the pub, “I’m not interested.”
“I’ve made the same offer to Gargoyle and he’s agreed,” Strange continued over him. “The Defenders want you.”
“You gonna just hunt vamps?” he queried.
“Then I ain’t interested.”
* * *
“Sorry I’m late,” Stark apologised as he strode into the secret boardroom, “Avengers business.”
“We’ve all had busy days,” Strange responded. “I’ve been recruiting for the Defenders.”
“Any luck?” Stark queried.
“More bad than good,” Strange grimaced. “Gargoyle agreed to join, but Voodoo wouldn’t leave Haiti and Blade isn’t interested in fighting anything other than vampires.”
“I assume this meeting was called for something other than gossip?” snapped Namor.
Stark glanced at the prince of Atlantis. If anyone could be relied on to raise the tension in a room, it was the ever warm and welcoming Namor. “During this most recent crisis, a number of skirmishes almost broke out between us. Black Bolt considered attacking the earth, Charles had to restrain a number of his own mutants, and Namor was considering an attack on the surface only to be talked out of it by Stephen.”
“And your point is?” Namor grunted.
“I think we should expand our numbers to improve the lines of communication. What if for example the Eternals had come under attack from the Sentinels and believing it the actions of a legitimate government declared war on us? Or if these attacks had provoked the Russian and Chinese governments into a nuclear exchange?”
The room was silent for a few seconds as Stark’s nightmare scenarios sunk in. “Who would you suggest for membership?”
Stark nodded at Xavier. “Apart from Namor and Black Bolt, we’re all Americans, we need to expand membership to include other nations. My first candidate would be Zuras.”
“As leader of the Eternals he has a considerable number of super-powered beings under his leadership,” Strange nodded. “A good choice.”
“Luke Cage?” Stark suggested.
“No,” Richards shook his head. “Cage is a good man, but one with certain beliefs. He’d never agree to keep our group secret from his team-mates.”
“I agree, he wouldn’t see our goals only compare us to secret societies of the past,” Strange said. The Sorcerer Supreme smiled bitterly. “He’s far too noble for our disreputable group.”
“What about Thor?” Namor suggested. “It would perhaps benefit us to have someone amongst our number who represents the pantheons?”
“A good idea but not Thor,” Stark shook his head. “The Thunder God is probably the finest warrior on this planet,” Namor let out a derisive snort, “but there’s no way either he or Hercules would ever keep a secret like this from Steve. They respect him too much.”
“Athena then?” Strange suggested. “She’s a cagey one.”
Richards glanced at Stark. “Could you be trusted to keep your hands to yourself?”
“Funny,” Stark grunted.
The conversation continued for some time, possible members brought up, either accepted or rejected, and possible ways of approaching them discussed. “What about Fury?” Richards queried. “He runs much of the global intelligence community.”
“And that’s also the major reason we shouldn’t invite him,” Stark said. “He’s one of the major people we should be keeping an eye on.”
“Is that all?” queried Namor. “Only I have business to attend to.”
“No,” Stark said. “There’s one more thing. During the recent unpleasantness, a number of young\inexperienced metas got involved in the fighting. Some did well, some didn’t, some,” Stark grimaced, “some died.”
“Wars usually have casualties,” Namor commented.
Stark fixed the prince with a hard stare. “Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to minimise them if at all possible.”
“And how do you propose to do that?” Richards queried.
Stark looked towards the leader of Fantastic Four. “An academy for metas, irrespective of where their powers come from and independent of government. Based in the US., but open to all, regardless of nation and purely voluntary.”
“A lofty not to mention ambitious idea,” Strange commented. “And how would you fund it?”
“A number amongst the meta community are worth a lot of money,” Stark replied. “I thought between Stark Industries, Fireheart Enterprises, Oracle Corporation,” he looked towards Namor before continuing, “Rand Corporation, and Worthington Industries we could raise ample funds.”
“A worthy goal,” Namor nodded brusquely. “Oracle Corporation will put in 20%.”
* * *
Faith glanced at Xan as the door buzzed and slid open. “It’ll be fine,” she soothed even as her own heart thudded.
“Yeah,” Xander sounded about as convinced as she felt as they strode into Fury’s office.
Fury glanced up from behind his desk as they entered. “You did good work in Baghdad,” the world war II veteran nodded towards the empty seats the other side of his desk. After a second, the duo obeyed and sat down. “But the question is what to do with you now?”
“Huh,” Xander raised an eyebrow. “Send us home.”
“Can’t do that I’m afraid.” Faith wasn’t quite sure how she felt when Fury shook his head. On the one hand, she sure didn’t like being this low on the food chain but on the other, there wasn’t much she’d miss from the old world. “According to Doctor Strange opening a portal to send you back through to your dimension would cause some sort of energy cascade that would rip open portals to multiple dimensions.”
“Huh,” Faith’s eyes narrowed. “Not sayin’ you’re lying or anythin’, but why didn’t that happen when we first came through?”
Fury smirked at Xander’s groan. “According to the Sorcerer Supreme, the First was a being of such power that all the power of the spell that brought you here was used up transporting him. So very little in the way of collateral damage.”
“Right,” Faith took a second to absorb that.
“So now you’re stuck here, we’d like to offer you a job.”
“SHIELD agents?” It was Faith’s turn to groan at Xander’s gushing. Oh god, he could be so embarrassing at times. “That is so cool!”
“Not exactly,” Fury allowed himself a tight-lipped smile. “Public opinion after the recent troubles has forced the world’s governments to look into funding a department similar to SHIELD but dealing with the supernatural.”
“And you want us to work for it?” Xander queried.
“No,” Fury smirked. “I want you to run it.”
The two of them sat in open-mouthed shock but Xander was first to manage to speak. “Huh, but don’t the Defenders deal with the supernatural?”
“That’s you Harris, always duckin’ the work,” Faith snarked.
Fury chuckled before replying to Xan’s query. “Ostensibly yes, but they deal with world-ending threats, what we want you to deal with is street level threats. A pack of vampires in Kentucky, a corrupt Voodoo priest in New Orleans, a necromancer in France, that sort of thing.”
“Right,” Faith forced herself to focus, “and what would we be doing?”
“Recruiting and training agents, setting up protocols, buying equipment, basically my job only on a smaller scale,” Fury replied.
“Toots, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Fury sighed and looked at her. “Is he always like this?”
“’Fraid so,” Faith replied. Fury shook his head and sighed. “Just wait ‘til you get to know him, you’ll be doin’ that a hell of a lot.”
* * *
“Typhon! I’m surprised you came,” Loki smiled as he greeted the tall, bearded man sat in the office’s reception area.
His guest stood an easy six eight, his custom-made black suit failing to hide either his monstrous physique and the bristling brutality within. His face was covered in a thick, dark beard while his black eyes were remorselessly pitiless. “I have to admit,” his growl rumbled out of his chest, “to a certain curiosity about your alliance.”
“You will get control of Olympus, I get Asgard.”
Typhon nodded as he rose. “It is easier to say than to do, far easier.” The titan’s face darkened. “Those who would stand against us have many allies.”
“And now so do we.” Loki smirked as he strode past his guest and opened the walnut-coloured doors behind him, revealing a room with a long table with a number of very infamous people sat around it.
Sebastian Shaw was sat nearest left. The pony-tailed leader of the Hellfire Club had been promised ascendancy over mutants.
Opposite him sat the Mandarin, the gaunt-faced, impassive Oriental having been promised rulership of the Far East.
Beside the Mandarin sat the thick-shouldered, bald-headed Kingpin. The crimelord had been promised control of the soon to be legalised gambling, in addition to loan-sharking, extortion, prostitution, and drug trades in return for his seat at the table.
Opposite the Kingpin sat the cowled menace that was Count Doom, the ruler hoping to expand his influence throughout Europe.
Loki admitted there were some missing faces. He’d hoped to bring Mr. Sinister but Shaw would never countenance sitting at a table with him and nobody trusted either the Red Skull or Selene. Still, those sat here were the elite, and one way or another they would take over the world.
Loki smiled. Yes they were the elite, and soon they’d be manipulating the likes of U-Foes, Wrecking Crew, Serpent Squad, Lethal Legion, Sinister Six, Maurders, and Reavers to do their being.
Loki’s smirk broadened. Yes it was their time now.
A\N: And next, the sequel to ‘A Most Marvellous Adventure’, what happens when gods go mad? God Wars.