The Start of Something New
Title: The Start of Something NewAuthor:
With a myriad of writers, artists, and editors - and directors, now that we're getting decent movie and television renditions - actual rights are a nightmare when you go near a comic book universe. Suffice it to say that Marvel Entertainment LLC owns all of the property printed in their comics, along with the television and movie adaptations of said same property. Not mine, don't sue, and so forth and so on.Summary:
In a world where Cassie Lang goes straight for the Avengers Mansion instead of trying to track down Kate Bishop, things unfold… very differently.Joe's Note:
Woah, what? First person? First person present, even? Is this actually Joe's shit or did he get replaced by a pod person? No, this is mine. I had to do an assignment for Creative Writing that featured first person perspective using a member of the opposite gender. Being the dork that I am, I decided to write some fanfiction. The teacher was so impressed by it that I was given full credit for not one or even two, but three full assignments on the syllabus. Wise
took a gander at it before I handed it in and liked it enough that when I hit him up for a fanfic Christmas wish, he asked me to expand it further. So here we go.
Debris crunches beneath my feet as I walk.
The last time I walked these halls was a week before that fateful day. Before the previous team of Avengers went their separate ways and abandoned their mansion. Before Tony Stark brought his hand-picked few back together with the superhero community's most famous rallying cry, living and working out of his gleaming tower as if nothing had happened. As if my dad wasn't dead, his body so thoroughly destroyed by an explosion that there was quite literally nothing left of him to return to the earth.
Not that anyone else seemed to notice or care either.
Ask people who the Avengers are, and you'll see some trends in the answers you receive. Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are far and away the most common. Spider-Man comes up pretty often too, despite not having been an Avenger for too long in the grand scheme of things. Probably because he's been seen with more people than Taylor Swift and so we just expect him to be a part of THE team based in Manhattan. Others will provide you with their personal favorites that they identify with for one reason or another; the assorted new age types at school all know who Wanda is and the geeks love Vision and what he represents, while most of the girls in the GSA at my school have a thing for Miss Marvel. Is she still Miss Marvel these days? Even I have a hard time keeping up; I've known her as Binary, Warbird, Miss Marvel... and Carol.
At the end of the day, though, few people will be able to tell you that Ant-Man was one of the founding Avengers alongside his girlfriend Wasp. Fewer still know that while Hank Pym did have his share of identity issues, he hasn't been alternating between two different costumes for the past few years. The Ant-Man who's existed alongside Yellowjacket... that was my dad. He stole the Ant-Man gear from Doctor Pym to save me. Became a hero with Pym's blessing to try and save others. Died a hero, according to the official story. I question it, since nobody can seem to tell me what that heroism was, despite my clearance level.
And so here I am, climbing fences and skulking around in the dead of night like a criminal, looking for the truth. Among other things.
Looking down, I rub my thumb over the track marks on the inside of my left elbow. If my dad had known that I was stealing from his supply of Pym Particles, he would have... scolded me publicly before hustling me off to discuss costume designs and the like. He never did find out, though, and so there's nobody to vouch for me with the other Avengers. Nobody to help me secure a supply of those precious chemicals for myself. Nobody to help me make a costume, or any of the other tools I would have needed to become his apprentice, then teammate, and finally successor. And since I doubt anyone else will step up to take his place? This is what I'm reduced to.
With so much of the mansion damaged, making my way up to the third floor is a bit of a trial. But I push on; if I can't even get to my costume, then I'm certainly not worthy of being a superhero. And then I'm there. His room. The guest room that I'd stayed in on the weekends when he had custody is completely gone, as is the shared wall with his room... but fate - or perhaps providence - has left the rest of his domain untouched. I make my way over to his closet with bated breath, slowly opening the door... and then let it out with a slightly hysterical chuckle.
It's all there.
My first target is the gleaming silver Ant-Man helmet, the most important - and irreplaceable - part of my dad's identity. Pulling it on, I thumb the activation switch... and then immediately yank the helmet right back off as I'm bombarded with a holographic HUD that flashes a dizzying array of information before my eyes. Right then. I'll be going with Plan B - the simple black domino mask - for the near future, until I can spend some serious time learning how the helmet works.
Placing it back on the mannequin head my dad had used for storage, my attention turns to the neat row of catsuits hanging from a rod in the closet. Given that my clothes are already a bit worse for wear after making my way up here, I decide that changing into one and bagging up the rest is my best bet. The unstable molecules will make the costume shrink to fit my body just the way it did when my dad underwent a height reduction. The question is... which one? I'm hardly one of the clothing-obsessed girls from my school, but at the same time I can't help but find myself analyzing the options before me. I immediately discard the costume that my dad wore most often; that will go straight into the back of my closet, to be brought out for emergencies only. There's the original design he inherited from Doctor Pym; I'm not personally a fan of the look, and so that one will likely go right in front of my dad's primary costume in terms of 'emergency use only'. Then I spot one that I don't remember seeing my dad ever wear: the same design as his primary costume but with the colors reversed, so it's mostly black with some red in the torso along with a bit of red in the gloves. And... there's a note on it? You're not as sneaky as you think you are, kid. First rule of being a thief: if you don't take it with you, make sure you put it back exactly where it came from. And never steal part of a bottle of anything. Even if you put it back in the right spot, it's pretty obvious what happened.
On one hand, I'm terrified for you. For us. Your mother is going to shit bricks when she finds out what you've done to yourself, and I probably won't see you again until you're an adult. But on the other hand, I am so incredibly proud of you. I know I haven't always been the best influence on you... I haven't always been there to be an influence, thanks to some of the decisions I've made. If you're reading this, though, then I guess my best actually was good enough.
Promise me one thing, though: when you put this costume on, don't ask yourself what I'd do. Ask yourself what you think you should do. Because I was no saint, Cassie. You of all people know that. Don't try to be me. Be better than me. Make me proud.
As a tear slowly rolls down my cheek, there's a soft hum from behind me and my entire body goes still. "Wow. That is really sweet. I would kill to have my dad pay that much atte... fuck. That was a really poor choice of words, wasn't it?"
Whirling around, it takes me a fraction of a second to plot the general location of my opponent's limbs and then I'm reaching out, grabbing the person's arm and yanking as I twist, dragging them across my hip and throwing them to the floor. Planting my boot on the girl's chest, I allow myself a brief smile; all that time on the mats with Carol was finally paying off. Then, after sparing a few seconds to analyze and quantify what I'm dealing with - roughly my age, long black hair, bright blue eyes, tan skin, and wearing a truly excessive amount of purple - I offer an answer to her rhetorical question. "Kinda, yeah. Which means I totally had the right to do that to you. Now... who are you? And why do you look like a Rule 63 Mister Barton cosplayer?"
"A who what now?"
I sigh; sometimes it's hard being a nerd among normals. "Seriously? Mister Barton was one of the few Avengers who didn't hide their identity. Hawkeye. You know, the guy you're dressed up like? And Rule 63 is an Internet thing: 'for every fictional character, there exists an opposite-gender counterpart'." Granted Mister Barton was a real person, but I figure it still applies in this situation. And now that I think about it... do I count as a Rule 63 version of my own dad? Or would calling myself 'Ant-Girl' or 'Ant-Woman' be enough to shake that, the way that being a defined character in her own right meant that Supergirl technically wasn't a Rule 63 Superman or Superboy? I'd have to hop online when I got home and ask. "Questions stand, though. Who? Why?"
Reaching up, the girl grabs my foot and pushes upward, only to let out a grunt as I lean forward to apply more pressure. "Son of a... stop trying to crush my ribs and I'll answer!" I eye her uncertainly for a moment before lifting my foot, taking a few steps back so she can sit up, rubbing at her chest. "I'm Kate Bishop. Maybe you've heard of my father, Derek Bishop?" I nod; okay, so, I'm dealing with a spoiled rich girl who's taken up B&E. Awesome. "I don't know if you heard, but my sister's wedding was taken hostage the other week. Some teenage superheroes showed up to try and rescue us, and almost got us all killed! They set the cathedral on fire, I ended up getting used as a human shield... it was ridiculous! And so I said to myself 'Kate, you can do a better job than all of these idiots put together'. We're not like, Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark rich, but my family can finance a street-level superhero. Maybe two or three." She pauses there, shooting a pointed look at me. Wait, what? She wants to- "Thing is, it's not like you can walk into a store and go 'Hi, where's the superhero toy department? Aisle 3? Thanks!'. So I... well, I'm betting you had the same idea. This mansion is full of a bunch of stuff that nobody's using. Why not take it and put it to good use?"
"Why not take it?" I stalk over to the closet, pulling out the black and red catsuit that my dad had made for me. Returning, I lean down and wave it in Kate's face. "Because I have a right to this. I'm Scott fucking Lang's daughter. This is my inheritance. This is all mine. Who the fuck are you?" Dropping the catsuit next to the girl, I lean down and begin tearing away the various items I recognize from my years in the mansion: a sword, two metal rods, a belt made of golden discs, a quiver, and then I finish off by prying the bow out of her right hand and hurling it off into the darkness beyond the remains of the missing wall. "Who are you to Mister Duquesne? To Miss Morse? Or Miss Romanova? Or Mister Barton? What gives you the right to rob their graves?!"
Kate stares up at me with wide eyes, mouth working soundlessly for several seconds, before finally coming up with an answer. "I wanted to help people. Do some good in this world. Isn't that why you're here? Or are you going to try and tell me that your plan is to take all of this stuff and shove it in a box in your attic?"
Backing away, I try to get my breathing - and temper - under control as my mind races. Of course I'm not. I'm going to succeed my dad. Help people. Save the world. But at the same time... the only reason I'm resorting to this is because 'I want my daughter to inherit my superstuff' evidently wasn't something my dad felt comfortable putting down in his will. Or maybe he had, and the executor had been blocked by Stark or something. At the end of the day, though, I'm taking things that my dad obviously wanted me to have. This is my birthright. Kate has no excuse.
Or does she? My dad wouldn't have been a hero in the first place if he hadn't stolen from Doctor Pym. Was it hypocritical of me to condemn her theft when my dad was guilty of the exact same thing? Wait. His note. I realize... this is exactly what he's talking about. I know exactly what my dad would do in this situation based on his history. But... what would I do in this situation? What should I let Kate do in this situation?
What she's doing is wrong, I decide. That's how I feel. That's my decision. Or rather, I feel she's going about it wrong. Not everyone can be descended from a superhero, and so that shouldn't be a requirement to become one. At the same time, there are plenty of ways to become one that don't involve theft. Or theft from the dead, at the very least. "I... are you still interested in a superhero team-up?" Kate eyes me cautiously, probably not quite sure what to make of the apparent non-sequitur, and then nods slowly. "Go put all that stuff back where you found it. Including the bow I threw out the, err, wall."
Rising to her feet, Kate slowly gathers all of her ill-gotten loot into her arms and then pauses. "Wait. How's this team-up of ours going to work if you're not going to let me be a superheroine?"
"I'm going to let you be a superheroine. Just not like that. Most of the people who lived here are still alive. If they were too lazy to come back and clean up after themselves when they moved out, then it's their own damn fault if it ends up in our hands." I'm already thinking of whose personal space we should invade first. Obviously we won't get anything out of looting people like Miss Maximoff or Miss Danvers or Vision or any other hero who relied on internalized powers rather than equipment. But... "I'm hoping we get lucky with the Pyms' quarters and Doctor Pym's lab." Kate raises an eyebrow at that and I grin before nodding in the direction of my dad's closet. "There's Ant-Man. Where's my Wasp?"
Kate's other eyebrow slowly rises as well. "I guess it could be worse. Being able to fly would be pretty cool. How's the relationship going to work, though? I mean, I'm totally with Ellen on the 'asking which lesbian is the man is like asking which chopstick is the fork' thing, but I do tend to be the more dominant personality in-"
Holding my hands up in surrender, I shake my head rapidly. "Woah. No no no. Like I said, I'm thinking Ant-Man and Wasp. Not Yellowjacket and Wasp." Or at least I was before she said that. Now? Well, Kate is kinda cute for a rich brat with an entitlement complex…
The next words out of her mouth make my jaw drop. "Maybe you'll change your mind after you get to know me. After all, you're kinda cute when you're not tossing me around or threatening me." Tossing me a wink, she turns and walks out of the room.
Shaking my head in disbelief, I lean down to pick up my catsuit of choice as I walk back over to the closet. Throwing the black and red garment over my shoulder, I reach out and rest my hands on the sides of my dad's helmet, staring at my reflection in the gleaming metal surface. "Hear that, Dad? Sure, a pair of teenage girls isn't going to impress many people... but the Pyms started out as just two people. Then they became five, and those five changed the world. It's real now. I'm going to do it. I'm going to make you proud."
I'd come in search of my past. With it, I'd discovered my future.
"Are you seriously going to interrupt our first date to-"
"Kate, being a superhero is kinda like being a doctor. They don't walk past a person having a heart attack on the sidewalk, and we don't ignore crime in progress." Setting my fork down next to the four forks I still didn't get the purpose of, I dab at the corner of my mouth with my napkin before rising to my feet. After nearly two months, I would have thought that Kate had a decent grasp on Superheroes 101 but evidently not. Not to mention… "Besides, if we don't step in, the Young Avengers might show up and burn the damn restaurant down around us."
Much to my surprise, Kate just offers me a dismissive wave before carving another piece off of her ridiculously expensive steak. Then again, everything here is ridiculously expensive. Ten dollars each to get sides with your steak? No wonder most of the women here are so skinny! "What's this 'we' shit, white girl? Unlike you, I don't pick my date night clothes based on whether or not I can hide my costume under them. You're on your own until I can get home and change." Popping the morsel of steak into her mouth, she chews and swallows before continuing. "Can you at least be quick about it? The more you pay attention to someone else on our date, the smaller your chances of getting some by the end of it."
I ponder that one as I unbutton my blouse, black by necessity to hide the bright red and black catsuit hidden beneath. "Considering we haven't even kissed yet, who says I'm hoping to 'get some'?"
"Cassie, you let me order American Kobe for dinner on your dime." Kate smirks at me before letting her tongue flick out to lap some juices off her fork in a way that's entirely too sensual to be an accident. "You're either hoping to get some tonight, or you've got something mind-blowing planned for our second date."
"Or I have no idea how dating works and so I set the bar a bit too high for myself going forward?" Sliding my shirt off, I drape it over the back of my chair and then kick off the black pumps that - judging by the lack of angry voicemails - my mom still hasn't discovered I've stolen from her closet. Those absolutely, positively cannot get wrecked tonight, or my ass is grass and she's the truck full of herbicide. "I'm leaning towards that. It sounds like the kind of mistake a rookie would make, and this is my first date ever. Hmm. Do you think I should ditch my pants too, or would that be weird?"
Pausing with a spear of roasted asparagus halfway to her mouth, Kate's eyes widen in disbelief. "This is your first… so I'm your first…" I nod. "Wow. Okay. Totally going to cut you some slack now that I know that. Holy… I mean, I knew you were a few years younger than me, but…" Trailing off, she shakes her head. "And just wreck the pants. We can buy new ones on the way home."
Awesome! I get to be Doctor Banner! Ambling my way over to where the pair of armed men have been too busy shaking down another table for anything even remotely valuable, I do my best not to giggle at the sound of my slacks tearing apart as I slowly increase my height until I'd be able to give Yao Ming a run for his money on the basketball court. Times like this make me glad that I stole Pym Particles from my dad on a regular basis; Kate still needs to expose herself each and every time she wants to change size. Clearing my throat, I offer the surprised men a sheepish smile. "I'd love to make this into a Spidey-ish moment where we exchange some quips or something, but I kinda wanna get back to my date. So…" Leaning back, I deliver a snap kick to one man's chest with a Shaq-sized foot, sending him flying clear across the room to hit the wall hard. He doesn't get back up.
His partner drops his gun on the floor, kicking it away as he stares up at me. "I surrender."
"Good idea, cuz I was thinking of mixing things up and kicking you in the crotch." Pulling out a pair of the FlexiCuffs we've been using out in the field, I look around as I wait for the man to turn and present his hands to me. "…just out of curiosity, is anyone here grateful enough for the rescue to pick up my check? Because I’m pretty sure my girlfriend alone broke the hundred dollar mark, and while The Pulse
gave me an advance for the interview series that we're doing, that's still a lot of money."
I can hear Kate's face hit her hands from a good fifty feet away.
Now that I'm on the other side of the divide, it's a bit surreal being at New York Comic Con. I used to just another 'us', that great mob of people who were dressing up as their favorite fictional or real world hero for a few days. Rule 63 Ant-Man in 2010 and 2011, and then Wasp last year because I'd been angry at my dad for not wanting to help me make a helmet and Janet had found it hilarious to help dress me up as herself. Now I'm part of 'them', the people being glorified. Sorta. They don't hold panels about Z-list superheroines and nobody cosplays them, but I hear 'Ant-Girl' and 'Hornet' on enough lips inside the Javits Center to be happy with my lot in life.
As we make our way onto the showroom floor and begin to wind our way between the booths for various vendors, artists, and other important people, I actually find myself thankful that my dad is evidently about as popular as Kate and I. Seeing someone pretending to be him would have been… difficult. There are a few different Hanks on the floor, split fairly evenly between his original Ant-Man costume and his modern Yellowjacket look. Giant-Man and Goliath get no love at all. The Ant-Men tend to send jealous looks at the helmet I have tucked under my left arm, when they're not eyeing up the girl my right arm is wrapped around. The Yellowjackets go straight to the latter.
Much like her inspiration, Kate seems to go through costumes faster than I go through hair ties. Although I'm not sure today's outfit - a black minidress with yellow chevrons down the front, black gloves, and knee-high black boots - is meant to be used for anything other than convention appearances. Although it's not too far removed from what cheerleaders wear, I realize, so Kate could be planning to wear it out into the field. Sliding my hand up her back, my fingers brush over the telltale lumps of one of the antigrav rigs we scavenged from Hank's abandoned Yellowjacket costumes. So… it's field capable at the very least.
Turning a corner, I come to abrupt halt and tilt my head to the side. There's a cute girl version of Captain America getting her chest grabbed by a blonde in street clothes who - at least based on the posters hung up behind her - appears to be the owner of the booth they're at. Loitering nearby is a Hispanic girl cosplaying as Natasha with a tomato soup-y wig that does nothing for her complexion. She doesn't look pleased. Girlfriend, maybe? And wow, now I'm noticing when skin tones and hair colors don't mesh well? Evidently Kate's been rubbing off on me in more way than one. I ponder going over to investigate, but when I turn to Kate and receive The Look, I decide… maybe not. Or at least not until I've managed to ditch my own girlfriend at another booth.
I only make it two booths further down the row before coming to a halt once more. Firstly, because I have no idea how to pronounce a numeral, or why you'd add one to your name. Kinda like Ke$ha and her dollar sign. If it's supposed to be an 'S', why not just use an 'S'? And then secondly, beyond an explanation for this girl's naming quirks, I really want to know… "Why is there armor on your costume?"
The girl calling herself 'Riddle' - or at least I'm assuming that she's using the generally accepted chatspeak translation and 'R1ddle' is supposed to be 'Riddle' - shoots a glance down at the gold plates adorning the front of her black catsuit before frowning at me. "It's an interpretation of the Wa-"
No, really? I roll my eyes, partly out of exasperation and partly to prove to this girl that they do in fact work. "Yeah, but Janet's a fashion designer. Armor's not really her thing."
"Like you'd know. Now, as I was saying, this is my interpretation of the Wasp's current costume." Riddle's eyes wander up and down me slowly and then she offers a snort of disdain before waving her hand in my direction. "Key word being 'interpretation'. Kinda like what you're doing with that odd, color-swapped Ant-Man costume you're wearing. I mean, is there even a point to that? It's not canon, it's not original…"
Ah yes, the cattiness. This is why I've cosplayed only sparingly in the past, despite having access to Janet and most of the superheroes in New York. Some people just take themselves too damn seriously, and seem to want nothing more than to suck the fun out of it for the rest of us. But hey. Since she's attacked first? It's all self-defense from here on out. I quickly settled on a two-prong attack, starting with painting her as the bitch that she likely is. "Actually, it's not. A color-swapped Ant-Man costume, that is. My dad knew that I was developing powers like his and made this specifically for me before he died." And now quick, while she's gaping and trying to figure out what she's walked herself into… "Sorry, I don't think we've been properly introduced. My name's Cassie. Cassie Lang." Putting on a few extra feet in height, I offer my enlarged hand for Riddle to shake. "You might know me better as Ant-Girl? I'm a bit new to the hero world, but I'm kinda a big deal."
From beside me, Kate just offers one of the long-suffering sighs I earn every time I make a joke like that. "…I swear to God, Cassie, you're lucky there are no cute girls in the Young Avengers or you'd be looking at a solo career."