Sunday, March 20, 2011

FANFIC: The Outworlders in "Space Madness"

“Hercules,” said Utaan, “unlike many of your multiversal counterparts, you have had minimal contact with modern world. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to inform you of what lies ahead in the universes into which you will accompany your teammates.”

“Tis much appreciated.” replied Hercules. “And refreshing as well. I hath often been judged a brutish oaf by mortal historians, when in fact my thirst for knowledge nearly equals my thirst for battle.”

“Excellent.” said Utaan. “Now, then, on the great majority of the known universes, there have been teams of brave warriors like yourself and your current teammates: the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and, most importantly, the Avengers, in which many of your counterparts have served.

“Where it becomes complicated is that far too many chroniclers paint the warriors’ conflicts in terms of black and white, ignoring the gray areas that are an inescapable fact of existence. This I am certain you already know having fought so many battles yourself, but it behooves me to remind you, as you are about to enter many situations in which you will have to make difficult ethical decisions and sometimes even take sides that may seem morally dubious.”

“As you say, Utaan, gray areas art an inescapable fact of existence.” replied Hercules. “Many times over millennia hath I been confronted with such situations, and I expect no less in the millennia to come. But thy reminder be understandable.”

The other four team members entered the monitor room.

“I trust you are all well rested and prepared for battle?” asked Utaan.

“Ready, willing, and eager.” answered a grinning Olivia.

“Good, good.” said Utaan, “As before, the timeline you must repair is displayed on the central monitor. In many universes, the shape-shifting aliens known as the Skrulls have attempted to infiltrate the Earth and carry out a full-scale invasion. Their efforts have always resulted in their resounding every reality except this one. In order to prevent this catastrophe from occurring, you must journey to a point several years before the invasion, when the savage space pirate Nebula was attempting to conquer what was at the time a weak and fragmented Skrull empire.

“Your mission is to ensure that Nebula succeeds. This will mean you shall be going up against the Skrulls’ unlikely allies, the Avengers. Now, as I understand it, you, Magdalene, and you, Philip, did for a time fight alongside the Avengers of the core reality?”

“We did.” replied Magdalene. “But I assure you there will be no hesitation on my part to do what I must to fulfill the mission.”

“I’m curious,” said Philip, “who are the members of the Avengers in this reality?”

Utaan snapped his fingers, and the monitor changed to a diagram featuring names and images representing each of the Avengers of that reality: Wasp, Captain America, Black Knight, Starfox, Power Man, Spider-Woman, and Captain Marvel, the last of whom had a band across her image reading: “KILLED IN ACTION.”

“Thank you.” said Philip. “Although we fought alongside some of the core reality versions of these Avengers, we won’t let that affect our performance in the battlefield.”

“So be it.” said Utaan as he opened up a portal for his band of warriors to pass through.

Upon stepping through the portal, the warriors suddenly found themselves standing on the bridge of a massive alien starship. At the helm was Nebula herself, who instinctively pointed her powerful wrist-blaster at them, while the other crew members present also drew their weapons.

“Identify yourselves!” commanded Nebula in her shrill voice. “For if you are allies of the Skrulls, you shall die!”

“Whoa!” said a startled Olivia. “Switch to decaf!”

“We have come from across time and space,” explained Magdalene, “to ally ourselves with you.”

Nebula’s gaze wandered to her left flank, where her second-in-command, Gunthar the Rigellian, stood. “Gunthar,” she asked, “do they speak the truth?”

“Yes, Nebula.” replied the big-headed telepath.

“Lower your weapons.” Nebula ordered her crew as she did so herself. She paused and looked over the time-travelers before saying, “You have come at a most convenient time. Our shields have been shattered, and we are on the verge of being boarded by the Skrulls and their accursed allies, the Avengers.”

“We were briefed before coming here on the appearances of the Skrulls and the Avengers,” said Philip, “so we will know who to target.”

“Aye,” said Hercules, “we stand ready to join the fray.”

“What he said.” added Olivia.

“Excellent.” said Nebula, pointing at the bridge’s monitor. “This is the most likely point of entry for the boarders. I want all available hands to cluster around there and give them a most rude welcome. The rest of us shall be busy arming our secret weapon, the particle beam cannon. Now go. Speed is of the essence.”

As the outworlders came closer to the point of entry, they could hear that the fight had already started. Turning the corner, they spotted six humanoids amidst the Skrulls and the variety of aliens which made up Nebula’s crew. These could only be the Avengers, and one of them, an African-American in a yellow silk shirt and a silver headband, was fighting particularly hard.

“Outta my way, suckers!” belted Power Man. “I’m fixin’ to prove myself an Avenger by avengin’ my lady love, Captain Marvel! An’ that means Nebula’s ass is mine!”

“Power Man, wait,” said the Wasp, “something’s not right here – look who’s with them. Hercules, how did YOU get mixed up in this? And why are you on the wrong side?”

“I,” replied Hercules, “am not the Hercules who hath fought alongside thee. Tis complicated, but...”

“Course he ain’t Hercules!” interrupted Power Man, lunging at the Olympian. “It’s one o’ Nebula’s tricks!”

“Power Man, I warn thee, I have no desire to fight thee. If only thou and thy fellow Avengers would listen...”

“Listen to THIS!” snarled Power Man, landing a fierce punch on Hercules’ jaw.

“So be it!” growled Hercules. “The Lion of Olympus shall give thee no quarter!” And with those words, he returned Power Man’s punch, with interest.

Meanwhile, Philip was going toe-to-toe with the Black Knight, their blades clashing resonantly.

“You’re good, I’ll give you that.” said the Black Knight.

“I’ve fought another version of you, the core reality version of the Black Knight, and you’re not fit to lick his boots.” taunted Philip.

“Sticks and stones and all that.” replied the Black Knight.

Magdalene, for her part, was blasting away at the Skrulls, when, suddenly, she felt her mind cloud over. She turned her head to face Starfox.

“Whoever you are,” said Starfox, “you don’t really want to fight. In fact, you’d like nothing less than to get to know me better.”

Magdalene wasn’t having any of it. “GET...OUT...OF...MY...” she screamed as she swung her quarterstaff and blasted Starfox point blank, “...MIND!!”

“Starfox!” exclaimed the Wasp, who was locked in combat with Alice, her mighty bio-electric blast against Alice’s power prism beam. But the distraction caused her intensity to fade, and she was the next Avenger to fall.

“This is poetic justice!” said Olivia to Spider-Woman as she delivered the Avenger a kick in the ribs. “I got beaten up by another version of you, now I get to take it out on you!”

“You’ll find,” sneered Spider-Woman, “I’m nobody’s punching bag.” She then unleashed her venom blasts at Olivia, who flinched but then came back fighting harder.

“Ha!” laughed Olivia. “You just gave me an excuse not to hold back anymore. And in case you’re wondering, your blasts did slow me down, except my natural reflexes make Quicksilver look like the Slug.”

No sooner had Olivia finished off Spider-Woman than she felt a huge hand closing around her neck and lifting her up off the ground. “That’ll be enough of that, young lady.” said Captain America.

“Boring Old Fart says what?” snapped Olivia, landing a backward kick on Captain America’s stomach. This did little more than cause his grip to loosen, but that was all that Olivia needed to twist herself free.

Then, Olivia unleashed her fastest, most furious martial arts moves at Captain America. But he alternately blocked her with his shield and dodged her altogether. Olivia knew her only hope was to keep moving so Captain America’s punched and chops always failed to connect. By the time she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep it up, salvation came when Hercules picked up the now-unconscious Power Man and slammed him, with tremendous force, into Captain America’s back.

“Twas good sport,” barked Hercules heartily, “but, in the end, merely sport.”

“And I’ve taken care of the Knight.” gloated Philip, holding his own sword in one hand and the Ebony Blade in the other.

On the ship’s bridge, Nebula watched the attacking fleet of ships, all but one part of the Skrull armada, on the monitors as she conferred with the ship’s helmsman. “We have an opening.” she said. “Prepare to fire the particle-beam cannon at the Titanian ship.”

“Ready.” said the helmsman.

“FIRE!” commanded Nebula.

The Titanian ship, by far the most powerful of the attackers, exploded in a colossal fireball. The Skrull ships frantically broke formation, trying to avoid being consumed by the blast or shattered by the shockwave.

“Fire anti-matter torpedoes.” ordered Nebula.

Within minutes, Nebula’s ship was floating triumphantly through the debris of the enemy armada. The cheering inside the ship grew louder by the nanosecond.

“A battle well fought indeed!” remarked Hercules. “Let us partake of the celebration.”

“I’m afraid not, Herc.” said Alice, pointing at Utaan’s exit portal.

“Besides,” said Philip, “I don’t want to stick around and find out what Nebula plans to do to the Skrulls and to the Avengers.”

“I want to.” said a wickedly grinning Olivia.

“You really are a sick puppy.” opined Alice. “But it’s all for one and one for all. Now come on.”

A bit later, having finished their report to Utaan, the outworlders went their separate ways to their private quarters within Utaan’s stronghold. Hercules was downing some of the finest wine in the universe when there was a knock at his door. He opened it to find himself face-to-face with Olivia, out of costume.

“Hiya.” she said.

“Greetings, milady Olivia.” replied Hercules.

“Did I ever tell you I love the way you talk?” Olivia asked as she sashayed into the room.

“A most unusual compliment,” said a puzzled Hercules, “but nonetheless gladdening to the Prince of Power’s heart.”

Olivia posed sultrily. “I know...some other ways of gladdening your heart.”

“Say no more.” said Hercules.

After enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company, Olivia caught her breath while Hercules sat up in bed, deep in thought.

“What’s on your mind?” asked Olivia.

“This battle we fought...” he replied, “we did verily force a universe to choose the lesser of two evils. Dost that not trouble thee?”

“Nope.” she said, grinning. “All I care about is survival of the fittest.”

Hercules ruminated on this before saying, “Thou art still young. Perhaps in time, thou shall realize how complicated existence truly art.”

“Until then!” laughed Olivia, merrily hoisting a bottle of wine over her head.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

FANFIC: The Outworlders in "Mission to Olympus"

NOTE: This is my take on the same basic concept as "Exiles."

Only a moment ago, Alice and Olivia had been fighting for their lives. This had been no ordinary prison riot, and these were not ordinary women. They were better known as, respectively, Dr. Spectrum and Joystick, and they were inmates in the Negative Zone prison, which was under attack by the forces of Blastaar. Alice and Olivia knew each other from having both been servants of the Grandmaster, Alice as a member of the Squadron Sinister and Olivia as a double agent within the Thunderbolts. And in a situation like a cosmic prison riot, any familiar face was a friendly face.

But that was now all in the past. Their new lives were now unfolding before them. Alice and Olivia had decided to chance an inter-dimensional escape portal offered to them by the mysterious Untaa, and now they were in his fanciful domain, a place where time literally stood still and infinite timelines unfolded before them on an equally infinite number of monitor screens.

It was not only the two jailbirds who had been plucked from oblivion and brought to Untaa’s safe haven. There were also Philip and Magdalene, partners in adventure and partners in romance. Philip was formerly the Swordsman of his native Earth, and latterly the Swordsman of the core reality, Earth-616. Currently, however, he was simply Philip, having discarded the costume for a golden suit of lightweight but extremely durable armor. Magdalene, too, wore armor, both literally and figuratively. The destruction of her native world, and her manipulations by her former leader, the head Gatherer known as Proctor, had combined with her silver battle-wear and the considerable cosmic power she channeled through her quarterstaff to make her a force to be reckoned with by anyone who dared cross her. At this time, however, she was cool and serene while Untaa addressed his newly assembled troops.

“You come from worlds which have either rejected you or have been destroyed by forces beyond your control. I am here to offer you worlds without end on which to sate your thirst for adventure while also stabilizing the space-time continuum. Do you accept my offer, or shall I cast you back into the chaos from whence you came?”

“Hey,” said Olivia, “all that matters to me is that I get to see non-stop action. So I’m in.”

“As a scientist,” said Alice, “this is a dream come true. Count me in.”

“We have spent years searching for direction in our lives.” said Magdalene. “I am in favor of accepting your offer, but what do you say, Philip?”

“I say,” replied Philip, “bring on the worlds without end.”

“Very well.” said Untaa. “If you would turn your attention to the central monitor, you will see a timeline where the Age of Marvels was very short-lived indeed. Not long after the formation of the original Avengers, the Earth’s heroes all fell before the might of the mythical Olympian monster known as Typhon, who then conquered the world and eventually the universe. However, Typhon’s triumph was contingent upon the continued imprisonment of the Olympian gods in the Realm of Shades.

“Your mission, then, is to journey to the Realm of Shades and free the Olympian gods before Typhon can complete his rampage.”

And with those words, Untaa waved his hand and a portal appeared, through which the team passed...

...out of the frying pan and into the fire, for in the stygian setting of the Land of Shades, they immediately encountered a giant tentacled monstrosity with a gaping saber-toothed maw into which the creature intended to banish all four of the adventurers.

“I think I dated this guy in college.” quipped Olivia.

Philip’s blade sliced through any tentacle which came near it, while Olivia used her superhuman agility to distract the monster; this gave Alice the opportunity to use her power prism to create light-constructs in the form of chains in which the monster’s remaining tentacles were bound. With the creatures maw completely exposed, Magdalene fired cosmic beams directly into the monster, causing it to explode in a blinding fireball.

“Well done, my love.” said Philip to Magdalene as they embraced passionately.

“Get a room!” snarked Olivia.

“That’s enough of that.” said Alice. “We still have to find the gods and free them.”

“Rejoice, then,” said a woman’s voice from somewhere in the dark surroundings, “for thou hast encountered the huntress Artemis.”

As the strikingly beautiful and powerfully built Artemis approached the quartet, she continued, “Since our exile to the Land of Shades, I hath been restless for adventure and did intend to hunt the Erinneye which thou destroyed. However, I sense thou art honorable warriors come to this dismal land with noble intentions.” She paused and smirked. “And if I am wrong, all of thee shall fall before my might.”

“You’re one tough cookie.” remarked Olivia. “I like you.”

“I assure you, Artemis,” said Magdalene, “our intentions are the most noble. Indeed, we seek to bring freedom to you and your fellow Olympians.”

“Quite a boast for a group of mortals.” said Artemis. “However, I hath witnessed thy powers in action and do have confidence in them. Come, then, let us tarry no longer.” She turned around and begin walking back into the darkness. The quartet followed her.

After what seemed like an eternity, they came to a clearing in which all the Olympians were gathered around a fire built to combat the cold which brought a chill to even the hardiest immortal’s bones.

First to notice the approaching party was Zeus’ half-mortal son, Hercules. “Zounds!” he exclaimed. “Artemis hath returned accompanied by a quartet of warriors, three of which art women of exquisite beauty. The fortunes doth indeed smile on the Lion of Olympus.”

“Sorry, Herc,” said Philip calmly, “but Magdalene is spoken for.”

“And what of the other two?” asked Hercules hopefully.

“I was kinda hoping to get cozy with Artemis, to be honest,” said a smiling Olivia, “but if you and her would agree to a threesome...”

“Truly,” laughed Hercules, “thy heart be after mine own, fine maiden.”

“A place and time for everything.” interjected Artemis. “My fellow gods, these mortal travelers claim they can offer us the freedom to return to our beloved Mount Olympus.”

“Impossible.” declared a weary, visibly weakened Zeus. “I hath already attempted to set Hercules free, and failed.”

“Thy powers art still waning, my liege.” said Athena. “Remember Typhon and thee didst battle fiercely one-on-one not long before he returned from exile seeking revenge.”

“Thou speakest truth.” huffed Zeus resignedly. “If the mightiest of all gods cannot pierce the barrier between the Land of Shades and Olympus, what hope hath mere mortals?”

“Perhaps,” offered Magdalene, “the key lies my cosmic teleportation powers combined with your own powers, milord Zeus.”

And having said that, Magdalene began twirling her quarterstaff, gradually creating the cosmic portal known as the Slash/Way, much to the awe of the Olympian gods who thought they had seen it all.

Zeus stood up and said, “With all of my meager remaining strength, I doth cast the mightiest thunderbolt I be capable of into yon portal, and WE SHALL BE FREE!”

The bolt glided through the air and struck the Slash/Way. Suddenly, sunlight shone upon the gods and their guests. Once their eyes had adjusted to the glare, they saw the magnificent courtyard atop Mount Olympus standing before them.

“It is done.” declared Zeus before collapsing on the ground. His wife Hera was the first to run to his side, followed by Athena.

“He yet lives.” sighed Athena in relief. “With a goodly amount of relaxation, he shall return to normal.”

It fell to the ever-dour Ares to bring down the celebratory mood. “A great battle doth stand before us. Typhon must be destroyed forthwith.”

“Aye, half-brother.” said Hercules. “Let us all place our personal vendettas to one side and join together to mount an assault on Typhon.”

The other gods cheered ferverously, the lust for battle boiling in their blood.

“Death and destruction!” shrieked Olivia, joining in. “YEAH!”

Soon, the Olympians and their mortal allies were tracking Typhon by following the path of carnage which he had wrought through the world: burned-out husks of battleships and tanks, scorched grounds, fallen buildings...and fallen super-heroes, seemingly every one of them having gruesomely met their end through Typhon.

Eventually, they located Typhon in what had once been New York City’s Central Park, but was now a smoking crater where the mighty Asgardian god Thor had been the last super-hero to fall, having passed on to Valhalla after taking Typhon’s enchanted battle-axe square in the chest. All of the city’s surviving citizens had evacuated, leaving the arena free for the battle ahead.

First to strike was Olivia. She knew she was way out of her league, but that was the way she liked it.

“Insolent gnat!” boomed the voice of Typhon as he swung his axe, missing Olivia by a wide angle. “Thou seekest to disrupt the triumph I hath begun to savor?”

“Yeah, pretty much.” replied Olivia.

In truth, Olivia was but a distraction which enabled her more powerful companions to charge at Typhon. Taking point was Ares, his own battle-axe connecting forcefully with Typhon’s shoulder. Typhon roared in rage and pain as he swung his axe at Ares, who in turn blocked it with his own axe in a deafening clash and a shower of sparks.

Ares was mean, but Typhon ultimately proved meaner. Yet by the time Typhon was poised to deliver the killing blow, he found himself surrounded by the Olympians and their allies.

Magdalene saw a clear shot at Typhon and took it, one end of her quarterstaff blasting with a thousand times the power which had blown up the Erinneye. Injured by energies unfamiliar to him, Typhon howled, “By Tartarus! IT BURNS!”

Artemis added fuel to the fire by shooting a flaming arrow at Typhon, hitting him point-blank in the eye. Typhon was now having difficulty standing straight, and as he buckled, the Olympians and their allies descended on him, striking at him from every angle.

Just as it seemed like victory was at hand, Typhon rallied, shifting into his true, monstrous, form, that of a dragon with multiple heads. He shook off his enemies and, just as they had shown him no quarter, neither did he.

Hercules was the first to rise to the challenge, grabbing one of Typhon’s heads and ripping it off. “Have at thee, thou malefic monstrosity!”

Alice used her power prism to construct a giant buzzsaw out of solid light, cutting off several heads before slicing heartily into Typhon’s midsection. The Olympians and their allies attacked the gaping wound ferociously until Typhon was all but turned inside out, and the evil one finally breathed his last. The world had been saved.

Abruptly, the skies above clouded over, and in a brilliant burst of lightning, a recovered Zeus stood before his bloodied but unbowed subjects. “This is a glorious day for Olympus,” he declared, “for not only hath one of our greatest enemies fallen, but the mortals’ realm hath been rescued from doom by us.”

“Aye, father,” said Ares, “and as our just reward, we shall once again rule over the mortals as we did during the Golden Age of Olympus.”

To everyone’s shock, Hercules objected vociferously. “I say thee nay! Dost thou forget I am half-mortal? What right hath we to impose ourselves upon the evolution of mortals?”


Hercules stood his ground firmly. “I do.”

“Wherever be the evolution thou speakest of, godling?” asked Athena. “In the time since we were rightfully worshiped, mortals hath allowed the world to go to ruin. I stand by Zeus.”

“SO SAY WE ALL!” shouted the other gods in unison.

“We’d love to stick around and watch you keep squabbling,” said Olivia sarcastically, “but we have our next mission to get to. So...see ya later. Maybe.”

“Wait!” said Hercules as the outworlders began heading for Utaan’s portal. “It be clear that there art no place in this new world for I. Thus, I must quest for new challenges and new frontiers. If thou wouldst allow me to accompany thee...”

“I have no objection,” said Alice, “and I doubt Utaan will. Sure, come along with us.”

“Thou hast my eternal gratitude.” said Hercules.

“And maybe I’ll get to have you in another sense sooner or later.” said Olivia under her breath.

“Lead on, friends,” said Hercules as he followed the outworlders into the portal, “unto the next world.”


Thursday, September 16, 2010

FANFIC: The West Coast Avengers in "Burdens"

NOTE: This story takes place in the mainstream Marvel Universe, in between West Coast Avengers #39 (the end of the Steve Englehart era) and Avengers West Coast #42 (the beginning of the John Byrne era.)

Clint Barton, also known as the costumed hero Hawkeye, felt like the weight of the world was upon his shoulders. Specifically, it was the burden of leading the super-hero team known as the West Coast Avengers – a team which now found itself fragmented, unstable, and low in morale. Clint feared as if, like the mythical Atlas, the whole thing would come crashing down if he shrugged.

Because of this, Clint was currently seeking solace in his favorite sport, archery, which he had mastered at a young age and which became his stock-in-trade. Many a villain had choked on their disdainful laughter whenever Clint had shown them just how much of a true warrior he really was.

The arrow flew straight and true to the center of the target. It was a momentary spark of positive feeling for Clint, but at the moment he felt like he needed much more. A familiar voice provided some extra cheer: the rich baritone belonging to the Vision. “Great shot, Clint.” he said, smiling.

“Thanks, Vizh.” replied Hawkeye before immediately falling back into a blue feeling. “I just wish it was just as easy for me to stop feelin’ sorry for myself an’ pull this team back together.”

“All good things in time.” said Vision serenely. “You’ve been through a lot, we all have.”

Hawkeye’s moroseness began to lift again, only to fall back into place when he saw Vision’s wife, Wanda the Scarlet Witch, back from a shopping trip to the botanist, carrying an exotic flower in a pot. As Wanda walked across the front lawn of the West Coast Compound, she waved at Hawkeye and blew a kiss at Vision. Hawkeye cursed himself for feeling envious of the thriving marriage that Wanda & Vision had, while his marriage to Mockingbird was all but over.

As Hawkeye plucked another arrow, he saw Wonder Man coming in for a landing. He and Wonder Man were the last founding members remaining in the team; Iron Man had gone rogue and presumably been killed, Tigra was unraveling, and Mockingbird...Hawkeye let out a deep sigh.

“Hey, guys.” said Wonder Man as he landed on his feet in front of Hawkeye and Vision. “What’s up? I saw Wanda coming back, but where’s Jan and Hank?”

“They’re getting re-acquainted.” said the Vision tactfully, but not tactfully enough for Hawkeye to sink further into despair.

Suddenly, a scream from inside the compound put all three men on alert.

“Wanda!” exclaimed the Vision. “It came from her quarters.”

The three Avengers raced to Wanda’s quarters, Vision phasing through the door, ready for anything. What he found was...

...a fashionably dressed red-headed woman sitting on top of Wanda’s bed, arms crossed and demeanor calm even as Wanda was blasting her with hexes and yelling, “WHO ARE YOU?? HOW DARE YOU DISTURB MY SANCTUARY AND THAT OF MY BABIES??”

“Is this any way to treat a spiritual sister?” replied the woman serenely as Hawkeye and Wonder Man barged in.

“You’re a witch, too!” said the Vision.

“Yes,” she replied, “and as you can see, I came prepared for a possible attack, so you really should get yourself under control, Wanda-kins, especially since you’ll need all your power for what lies ahead.”

“Never mind that right now!” said Hawkeye. “How did you get past security?”

“Trade secret.” answered the witch with a sly smile before turning her head to look Wanda in the eye. “Tell me this, don’t you have a certain other responsibility besides your children?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” said a flustered Wanda.

“I’m talking about Holly Ladonna.”

“Holly? By all the spirits, I haven’t seen her in months! I’ve been so busy with Avengers missions and with Vision and the babies and myself moving to the West Coast...”

“Who’s Holly?” inquired Wonder Man.

“Wanda’s former protege,” replied Vision, “a young sorceress-in-training.”

“Did it occur to you,” said the witch with more than a hint of scorn, “that your neglect of her could have dreadful consequences?”

Wanda’s face turned a whiter shade of pale. “No,” she said almost pleadingly, “no, not Holly. Please tell me she’s okay.”

“That’s what I need you to help me find out. I’m a detective specializing in the supernatural, and I was hired by Holly’s parents after she mysteriously disappeared from her bedroom this past Halloween.” The witch paused. “There were candles strewn across the floor, and she’d drawn a pentagram...”

“Gaea help me!” exclaimed Wanda, covering her face with her hands.

“Gaea help poor innocent Holly, who was YOUR responsibility!” snapped the witch as she suddenly stood up and grabbed Wanda’s wrists. “Now start acting like a grown woman and let’s go rescue her.”

“Unhand my wife!” growled the Vision.

Without a word, the witch did just that.

“Who...or what...are we rescuing her from?” stammered Wanda.

“I don’t know.” replied the witch. “Even using personal effects of Holly’s, I haven’t been able to pinpoint her location across the realms. I concluded that it would take my power combined with yours, Wanda.” She reached into her large handbag. “I’ve brought the last remaining personal effects of Holly’s. Let’s get started.”

“Wait a minute,” said Hawkeye, “we don’t even know your name!”

“I don’t give my name.” said the witch plainly. “Names have power.”

“For all we know,” said Vision, “you could be a demoness like Umar or Selene, trying to lure Wanda into a trap!”

“She’s not,” said Wanda, much to the surprise of the men present, “I recognize her now. She’s Mary Clarke, a selfish little hellion and the black sheep of the magical community, but a human nonetheless.”

“I see my reputation precedes me.” quipped Mary dryly. “But whatever else I may have done in the past, I am telling you the truth at present. Holly’s parents hired me to investigate her disappearance, and I came to you for help. Whether you want to help or not is up to you.”

“I’ll help,” said Wanda decisively, “for Holly’s sake.”

“Now that,” said Mary grinning, “is the Wanda I looked up to as a little girl.”


“Uh...never mind, that’s a story for another time.”

“How can the rest of us help?” asked the Vision.

“I’m glad you asked.” said Mary, visibly relieved that the subject had been changed. “I have a feeling that Wanda and I will need all the backup we can get.”

“Lady,” said Hawkeye, “we got plenty of experience dealin’ with demons. You just hired yourself the West Coast Avengers.”


Later, as the sun was setting, all was in readiness. The circle had been drawn and the candles lit. The four West Coast Avengers and Mary Clarke stood inside the circle, hands joined, prepared for anything.

“Okay, Wanda,” said Mary, “we must open our minds to each other.”

After a pause, Wanda & Mary began the incantation.

“O ancient spirits of the light, illuminate our present journey into the darkness as we traverse to rescue an innocent girl, Holly Ladonna. Show us the way, wherever she may be, for we know that you watch over us. Show us the way, show us the way...”

The room went cold, freezing cold, and a wind came out of nowhere, despite the windows being shut. First the candles went out, and then the wind began to spin faster and faster, stronger and stronger, until the five heroes were swept up in it. In the center of the room, a portal opened, emitting poisonously colored light. Like a black hole, the portal sucked in all five heroes.


First to regain consciousness was Wanda, who woke up the others. The infernal surroundings seemed eerily familiar to both Wanda and Vision. Suddenly, Wanda realized where they were and she began screaming.

“Get a hold of yourself!” scolded Mary, grabbing Wanda by the shoulders and shaking her. “Be the strong Wanda that we need right now!”

A baritone voice even deeper than the Vision’s echoed through the hellish realm as bubbling lava gave way to colossal fires and their host revealed himself.

“Why should the Scarlet Witch, or any of you, waste time deluding herself with false courage? No, you mortal weaklings, you would do well to surrender yourselves to me...just as this young and easily corrupted soul has.”

“HOLLY!” exclaimed Wanda as she witnessed the horrifying sight of a spellbound Holly Ladonna, her eyes flooded by the recently awoken evil within her.

The voice came back, this time louder, as a tall, muscular humanoid form began to rise from the middle of the biggest fire.

“Call it poetic justice, call it what you will. But do not attempt to deny that the timing is perfect for my revenge against you, Scarlet Witch and Vision. The vengeance of...DORMAMMU!”

The Scarlet Witch and the Vision flashed back to their previous encounter with Dormammu, who had captured and dominated Wanda in a fashion all-too similar to what had now befallen Holly. But the heroes had won the day on that occasion, and now Wanda remembered how she had done it. Summoning all her powers, she cast a spell on the molten lava, turning it from burning hot to freezing cold.

This time, sadly, it did not work as expected. Instead, Dormammu laughed. “Did you truly believe you could defeat me the same way twice? I am more powerful that I ever have been. You are nothing to me but sport, in preparation for my true battle against my nemesis, Dr. Strange.”

Time seemingly stood still as the heroes digested these grim tidings, until Hawkeye broke the silence. “Y’know, fireball-face, you’re right. We shoulda thought of another maybe THIS!”

Hawkeye fired an arrow point-blank at Dormammu’s chest. In the split second it took for the arrow to reach his destination, Dormammu prepared to laugh again, only for the laugh to get caught in his throat and be replace by an agonized scream.

Hawkeye and Mary smiled at each other. Before coming to Dormammu’s realm, Hawkeye had replaced his trick arrows for traditional ones...with the arrowheads dipped in a potent potion that Mary had provided.

“AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!” exulted Hawkeye.

Vision and Wonder Man took advantage of Dormammu’s temporary vulnerability and charged at him, hitting him hard, like twin pile-drivers, and Hawkeye fired more arrows at the fallen Dormammu. As per the plan, Wanda raced toward the now-free-but-dazed Holly while Mary’s spells kept Dormammu’s cannon-fodder demons at bay. Holly took Wanda’s hand and together they ran towards the other heroes.

“ forget one thing, fools,” wheezed Dormammu, “you are still in MY REALM!”

Instantly, reality seemed to turn itself inside-out, and the heroes could no longer even tell which way was up, as if they were trapped in a waking nightmare. The men panicked while Mary, who was well acquainted with such settings, got her bearings within a few seconds...just in time to see Wanda and Holly perched at the edge of a cliff.

Dormammu, floating above the heroes in the form of a giant head, taunted the heroes. “This girl,” he said, obviously referring to Holly, “stands at the edge of oblivion, both literally and figuratively.” The ground beneath Holly and Wanda’s feet began to crumble, and Holly lost her balance. Mary raced past Wanda and grabbed Holly’s hand, but the combination of gravity and supernatural oblivion produced a strong pull. Wanda put her arms around Mary’s waist and began helping her haul Holly back to safe ground.

“The question is,” said Dormammu, “do you witches truly want to save this young soul? For a young soul is the most dangerous kind. Behold that which awaits, should she return to the mortal realm.”

Holly, Wanda and Mary’s minds were seized by images of...Holly berating Wanda for letting her fall into Dormammu’s clutches; followed by Holly embracing fundamentalist Christianity and ultra-conservative politics; followed by Holly marrying a right-wing demagogue who becomes president of America and orders the genocide of all witches...including Wanda and Mary.

“No!” screamed Holly, “I don’t want that to happen!”

“It is fated!” laughed Dormammu.

“Don’t listen to him, Holly!” said Wanda.

“He’s trying to trick you!” added Mary.

Then...and then, who can say? Did Holly deliberately let go? Did Mary intentionally slacked her grip? Did Wanda purposely lose her hold on Mary? Whatever the answer, the fact was that Holly fell into an oblivion from which she could never be rescued. Wanda’s scream echoed through Dormammu’s realm for what seemed like an eternity, until she turned around and blasted Dormammu with a hex so powerful, even Wanda herself didn’t know she had it in her.

Reality re-aligned itself, and the five heroes now faced a weakened Dormammu.

“Defiant to the last,” hissed Dormammu, “but it is all in vain. Holly is lost to us all, and that is vengeance enough for me. Your destruction shall have to wait for a future encounter.”

Before the heroes could rush him, Dormammu cast a spell with which the same wind that had brought them to his realm now returned them to where they had come from.


Mary was the last to awaken. It was the dead of night, the room’s electric light was on, and the Avengers were staring at Mary in a most unfriendly way.

“I don’t know who you are,” snarled Wanda, “how you got in here, or what you did to us, but you’re not welcome here.”

Mary was at a rare loss for words. “You don’t...none of you remember what happened??”

They didn’t need to answer out loud. Their faces said it all. It was abundantly clear that Dormammu had cast a final spell making the Avengers forget everything, while Mary, who had brought them to Dormammu’s realm and whose potion had allowed them to injure and humiliate Dormammu, would be cursed with the memory of the infernal tragedy which had transpired. And there was no way the Avengers would ever believe her – after all, the Avengers never lost.

Without a word, Mary stood up, packed her belongings, and made her exit from the Compound. Life would go on, the Avengers would have their ups and downs and save the world many times over, Dormammu would suffer many defeats thanks to Dr. Strange, and no one would remember Holly Ladonna, except for her grieving family...and the ever-burdened Mary Dolan.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

FANFIC: The Imperial Guard in "New Blood", Part 2

“You must understand,” explained Gladiator to the Imperial Task Force as their ship entered the stargate leading to Earth, “we are entering a very delicate situation. The Earth has been at war with one of our rival empires, the Troyjans, and so our activities on Earth must be stealthy and discreet so as not to drag the Shi’ar Empire into the war.”

“Unless Deathbird’s already done it ahead of us.” quipped Sicknessia.

“I beg you, child, no jesting at this most serious matter.” said Gladiator wearily.


On Chandillar, all available Imperial Guardsmen had finished gathering at the Mission Monitor Board.

“Mentor,” commanded Smasher, “we await your appraisal of the situation.”

The Imperial Guard’s Chief Scientist, Mentor had a formidable mind that the Guardsmen had always relied on to help them through a crisis. “We are facing the legendary Starship Omega, the flagship of the fleet belonging to Warlord Zorg of the planet Zogora. It would seem their intent is to destroy Chandillar and cause a chain reaction that would throw the Empire into chaos and allow Zorg to plunder it. Zorg’s army are savagely efficient warriors who are fiercely loyal to Zorg to the point where their very lives are forfeit for the glory of their kingdom.”

Nightside was unimpressed. “A mite presumptuous of Zorg, is it not, to think he can take on an Empire?”

“No enemy is ever to be underestimated.” replied Smasher soberly.

“And there’s no enemy we can’t take!” said Impulse with typical brashness.

“While morale boosting is always good,” said Smasher, “we must always proceed with caution. Remember that.” After a pause, he commanded, “To the battle-cruiser, Guardsmen.”

Smasher, Astra, Scintilla, Nightside, Impulse, Mentor, Magique, and Fang all raced to the launchpad.


“The cloaking device is working like a charm.” said Frostbite as the ship hovered a short distance above a forest in the Northeastern United States.

“You shall split into teams of two and commence the search for Deathbird. I shall monitor you from here and aid you should the need arise.” said Gladiator. “Fortunately, we are all humanoid in appearance and the citizens of Earth are accustomed to the presence of gaudily garbed super-powered people. At worst you can expect to be laughed at. But you must, I repeat, YOU MUST stay out of others’ conflicts. Is that understood? Yes? Good. Let us proceed. The teams shall be...”

Little did Gladiator and the Task Force know that they had already been tracked down, for at a discreet distance from their supposedly cloaked ship, a small futuristic aircraft was making a 180 degree turn. “Prometheus to Mount,” said the pilot, whose hard face had horrible burn scars, “I’ve tracked the Shi’ar ship and am transmitting the coordinates as we speak. My work’s done for the time being. Permission to return to Mount?”

“Good work,” came a deep-voiced reply from the aircraft’s radio, “and permission granted. Our satellites have zeroed in on the coordinates, and we shall send the rest of our top operatives to deal with this...intrusion.”

As the Task Force teams – Sickenssia & Q’ill, Frostbite & Piromanyak, Obscura & Massivus, and Prism & Flora – each departed the ship for a different destination, they had no way of knowing that they were about to learn a lesson in the strategy known as “divide and conquer.”


The Imperial Guard’s battle-cruiser had come as close to the intimidating monolith known as Starship Omega as they possibly could without being detected.

Inside, the Guardsmen were standing by, ready to charge into battle.

“Impulse,” said Smasher, “take the point.”

“Smasher,” replied Impulse, “I like your style of leadership.” He flew out of the cruiser and sped directly towards the Starship Omega. Once satisfied that he was on target, Impulse fired tremendous anti-energy blasts at the enemy vessel, overloading the vessel’s shields and blowing up a section of it.

“Guardsmen, prepare for boarding!” commanded Smasher.

As the Starship Omega’s remaining defenses of laser cannons and missiles blasted away in vain, the rest of the Guardsmen flew out of the cruiser and quickly entered the Starship Omega to find the Zogorians waiting for them, armed to the teeth and with Warlord Zorg himself, a towering, muscular half-man/half-machine with crimson flesh and a cannon where his right arm should have been, in command.

“So begins the final reckoning!” declared Zorg defiantly. He opened fire on the Guardsmen as he bellowed, “ATTACK!”


Gladiator’s attention was focused on the four windows on the ship’s monitor. Thanks to microscopic flying cameras, he was able to follow and observe all four teams as they searched for Deathbird in different parts of America. Nonetheless, his super-senses were perceiving the whistling sound being made by a speeding object outside which was closing in on the ship.

“Great Strontan!” exclaimed Gladiator, “We have been detected already!”

Bracing himself for whatever was seeking to breach the ship, he thought he was prepared for anything...

...but he was wrong. A tremendous cosmic force in the form of a humanoid woman with long golden hair burst through the hull of the ship, lunged at him at the speed of thought, blocked his best punch, and blasted Gladiator with cosmic rays from her eyes. Gladiator felt like he was burning to death as he went flying through the other side of the hull, speeding backward uncontrollably, making impact with the ground and skidding for what felt like an eternity.

Once Gladiator had come to a stop, he was seeing stars – literally and figuratively, for he was losing consciousness as the cosmic warrior woman stood looking over him and her flesh appeared to be made of shimmering star-stuff.

“If you value your life,” said the cosmic warrior woman, “you’ll surrender and come with me. Because no further alien invasions shall occur under while Earth is under the watch of...CAPTAIN MARVEL!”


Thursday, September 9, 2010

FANFIC: The Imperial Guard in "New Blood"

NOTE: This story takes place in an alternate Marvel Universe.

“Replace you as Praetor of the Imperial Guard?” an astonished Smasher asked Gladiator, “Unthinkable! You are the mighty Kallark, and I am but a soldier!”

“You are too modest, old friend,” replied Gladiator as he broke into a rare-for-him smile, “Far more than but a soldier, rather the greatest and most noble warrior of us all. Remember, too, that this is only temporary, while I take time to whip the newly formed Imperial Task Force into shape. Come, let us now enter Majestrix Lilandra’s chambers so that she may make it official.”

The magnificent colossalness of the Majestrix’s throne room always made the strapping Smasher feel very small; he comforted himself with the thought that others, even Gladiator, must feel the same upon entering.

Gladiator and Smasher kneeled at the feet of the Majestrix until she bid them to arise. She then declared, “By the power vested in me through royal birth and the will of Sharra and Ky’thiri, I anoint thee deputy Praetor of the Imperial Guard.”

“I shall continue to serve the Shi’ar Empire to the very best of my abilities.” said the ever-modest Smasher.

Gladiator offered Smasher his hand and said, “Congratulations, my friend.” The two shook hands.


A far different and, it must be said, more familiar side of Gladiator emerged in the training grounds of one of the many moons of the Imperial Throneworld of Chandillar, as he addressed the members of the Imperial Task Force: Frostbite, Obscura, Flora, Sicknessia, Massivus, Piromanyak, Prism, and Q’ill.”

“You are all young and earnest and eager to fight for the glory of the Empire.” he said before raising his voice, “I am here to tell you that you shall have all of that beaten out of you – BY ME!”

All of the Task Force members visibly flinched.

“There is no greater challenge in the Empire that I. Only by defeating me can you prove yourselves worthy of serving the Majestrix. So let us dispense with any further speeches and fight! ON GUARD!”

To no one’s surprise, it was Frostbite, the most impulsive member of the Task Force, who initiated the attack on Gladiator. Within seconds, he had Gladiator trapped in an enormous block of ice.

But with barely any effort, Gladiator burst forth from the ice and, with the speed of thought, flew up to Frostbite so that they were face-to-face, and knocked out Frostbite with one finger.

Massivus saw a window of opportunity, turned to solid rock and charged at Gladiator. But Gladiator’s super-hearing sensed Massivus’ pounding footsteps, and he sent Massivus flying backwards with the shockwave from a snap of his fingers.

Obscura, whose strength multiplied thousandfold the less exposed she was to starlight, tackled Gladiator from behind and put him in a headlock. Gladiator fought back by taking flight and speeding the two of them toward the nearest star. Obscura felt her strength ebbing away and she lost her grip on Gladiator, who sent her flying back to the surface with a blast of super-breath.

Gladiator followed her back to the surface, where, before any of the other member of the Task Force could attack him, Gladiator clapped his hands together, producing a shockwave exponentially greater than the one that had taken down Massivus alone. The entire Task Force lay semi-conscious on the ground.

“PATHETIC!” bellowed Gladiator. “Return to the barracks and lick your wounds. I shall return when you least expect it, and you had better present a greater challenge to me.” With those words he took leave and flew back to Chandillar.

Gradually, the Task Force members regained full consciousness, got back on their feet, and filed back forlornly to the barracks.

“That was a lot rougher than I expected,” pouted the beautiful, alabaster-skinned Sicknessia, “I didn’t even get to use my powers.”

“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it,” said Obscura, “so cease your whining, it makes me ill.”

“Making people ill is what comes naturally to me.” replied Sicknessia sarcastically.

“I won’t tolerate any infighting in my squad.” snapped Frostbite.

“Your squad?” sneered Piromanyak, “Who made you leader?”

“I’m the leader, because I’m the one with the plan that’s going to make it possible to defeat Gladiator when he strikes back.” asserted Frostbite. “Now, everybody listen up...”


“My lover, the Praetor!” enthused Astra. “I really like the sound of that!”

“Deputy Praetor.” corrected Smahser.

“Whatever,” said Astra, “I just know that, by proxy, it makes me more important all of sudden.”

“Our dear Astra, forever the social climber.” quipped Astra sometime friend, Nightside. Her penchant for dry observations was what kept their friendship tenuous.

“If you’d come from a place like my home planet,” snarled Astra, “you’d be a social climber, too.”

“I’ve only heard that line a trillion times.” sighed Nightside.

“Guys,” said Astra’s closest friend, Scintilla, “let’s not fight. This should be a time of celebration.”

Suddenly, the priority alarm rang.

“The celebration will have to wait!” declared Smasher as they ran to the mission control room. “Duty calls!”


Much later, Gladiator swooped towards the moon. As he entered the moon’s atmosphere and set course for the Task Force’s barracks, he never expected to be suddenly confronted by...


What appeared to be the scourge of the universe burned bright in its most familiar form as a giant bird of prey.

Gladiator may have been proud, but he was no fool. He knew that the Phoenix was a challenge even for him. He braced himself for the attack...

...when, without warning, Obscura, using her flight belt, flew up to him and gave him her most powerful punch, which sent him flying out of control towards the nearest star...

...where Prism, thanks to his flight belt, was waiting. Prism changed the color of the light being emitted by the star from yellow to red, the resulting radiation leaving Gladiator temporarily weakened. Gladiator went into free-fall.

Gladiator landed on the surface with tremendous force, creating a brand new crater for the moon. With great effort, he climbed out of the crater...

...only to be rammed from behind by Massivus, who had been waiting for him to surface. Stunned by the powerful blow and still vulnerable from the red star radiation, Gladiator was not prepared for Q’ill to fire quills point-blank at his face. Despite his formidable healing factor, Gladiator was temporarily blinded, allowing Frostbite to pour on his icy attack, leaving Gladiator once again encased by solid ice.

Gladiator, using the last of his strength, broke free from the ice as before, but while his sight was returning, his legs were failing him. He looked up from the ground to see a smiling Sicknessia standing above him. With a wave of her hand, she infected Gladiator with the deadliest microorganisms she could muster. Gladiator vomited bright-green slime before finally passing out.


Later, in the barracks’ sickbay, Gladiator regained consciousness as his healing factor finished mending his wounds and eradicating Sicknessia’s infection. He lifted himself out of bed, put on a new costume identical to the one which had been torn in battle, and went to join the Task Force in the mess hall.

“Which one of you,” he inquired, “planned that brilliant strategy?”

“I did.” replied Frostbite smugly.

“You have definite leadership potential. And which one of you created the Phoenix illusion?”

“That was me.” said Piromanyak.

“Your constructs are convincing indeed.” Gladiator then paused. “But all of you deserve credit, you surpassed my expectations.”

The Task Force whooped triumphantly.

Gladiator grinned ambiguously and said, “Now comes the difficult part, your first field assignment. I shall take command here, as we are about to head to a distant planet named Earth in order to capture the Empire’s most dangerous fugitive...DEATHBIRD!”


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FANFIC: The Black Knight in "The Choice"

This story takes place in mainstream Marvel Universe continuity, shortly after the events in Avengers v.1 #366.

Amid the vast splendor of the English countryside lay the estate of the recently deceased Victoria Bentley. Mystics and mages from all over the world had gathered to honor the memory of one they had variously called friend, patron, hostess, lover, or mistress.

Among those present was Dane Whitman, the Black Knight. Though not a practitioner of the mystic arts, his noble ancestry tied him to the myths and legends of knights in shining armor. He had also been a friend of a friend of Victoria’s. The man who had introduced them, one of Victoria’s oldest and closest friends, Dr. Stephen Strange, was noticeably absent. So was another friend of both Dane and Victoria, the young knight-in-training Sean was he who had accidentally killed Victoria when his Ebony Blade – formerly wielded by Dane before being entrusted to Sean – went awry during a battle against the mutant Deadpool of all people.

Understandably, this all weighed very heavily on Dane, who, at that moment, was wondering how Sean was dealing with it while in self-imposed exile.

“I hope you can help me come up with a good reason for me not to kill Sean Dolan.” said a familiar voice which Dane hoped did not belong to the person it reminded him of. Dane looked over his shoulder and, indeed, it was Mary Clarke.

“I hope you can give me a good reason why I shouldn’t have you forcibly ejected from here.” snapped Dane.

“Victoria was my friend.” an unfazed Mary replied softly.

“Friends don’t use each other the way that you used Victoria.”

“It is true that it didn’t end pleasantly, but she did me kindnesses that no one has done for me before or since then. I arrived in England without money, without knowing anyone, without any job qualifications, and she took me under her wing.”

“And look how you repaid her!”

“I was young and foolish. I would like to think that Victoria found it in her heart to forgive me.”

“She never talked about you after you fled to America. Does that tell you something?”

Mary’s voice then became louder and harsher. “Yes, dammit, it does! Look, Dane, I’m not pretending to be a perfect person. I wronged Victoria, and now that she’s left us before we could talk about it, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life.” She paused before spitting out the sarcastic addendum, “Does that make you feel better??”

“Hearing you take responsibility for once in your life?” said Dane, “Yeah, it does make me feel better.”

Mary’s reply had a sour coating: “I’m happy for you. Really, I am.”

Dane didn’t let the sourness faze him. Instead he pressed on. “Now, if you’d apologize for your behavior at Avengers Mansion, that would make me really happy.”

“What do I have to apologize for?” sneered Mary. “They’ve all got feet of clay and, as they say in America, I call it like I see it. You’d be better off without them...” she paused, “...although you couldn’t get away from them now if you wanted to, what with that cosmic bond you have with Sersi...”

Dane was incensed. “How do you know about that??”

Mary smiled slyly. “I know everything, Dane dearest. I know you can barely keep yourself together right now and that cow Sersi occupies your every waking thought...”

“Please stop.” choked Dane.

“As usual, you misunderstand my intentions. I want to help you. I can cure you and I can put Sersi in her place. You just have to say the word.”


To Dane’s surprise, Mary’s tone became almost pleading. “Dane, you would be so much happier without her and without the rest of those soft-centered do-gooders. This is not a dainty world to set before the swine. You were meant to wander the magical way. Come go with me.” Mary abruptly caught her breath, as if she couldn’t believe she had just said those last words.

Now it was Dane’s turn to be cruel. “You’re desperate.”

Mary snapped. “And you’re an immature little boy playing games that will lead you to nothing but confusion and unhappiness! You had your chance, and you wasted it! I don’t care if I never see you again!”

“If you try to lay a finger on Sean, you will see me again,” said Dane firmly, “and all my friends, too. It won’t be pretty.”

Mary paused and then smirked. “And what makes you think that the alternate path you’ve got lying ahead of you will be pretty? No, Dane, from this moment on I shall delight in your misfortune. It’s a pity, because we could have had something really great.” And with those words, she turned her back on him and walked away.

Dane spent the rest of the night drinking heavily, among other temporary distractions from everything that was threatening at that moment to tear him apart.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

FANFIC: The Avengers in "Something About Mary Clarke"

This story takes place in mainstream Marvel continuity, in between Avengers Volume 1 issues #344 and #345.

“Dreadfully sorry, Mistress Black Widow,” said the Avengers’ manservant, Edwin Jarvis, “but I fear there is a matter that I have been unable to effectively deal with.”

Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow, turned from the Avengers Mansion’s monitor to face Jarvis. “Of course, Jarvis,” she said, “what is it?”

“A most unpleasant young woman is at the door, demanding to see Master Black Knight.”

When Natasha reached the mansion’s door, what she was greeted by resembled a hybrid of a haute couture model and a vision out of a Celtic fairy tale. The fashionably dressed young woman had a long and fiery mane of red hair, blazing green eyes, and an exquisite peaches-and-cream complexion. She stood poised and confident, hands on her hips.

Before Natasha could say anything, the young woman blurted out, in a thick Irish brogue, “I’m so pleased to finally meet you in person – so that I can tell you that your short haircut looks awful.”

Natasha fidgeted, but as a former spy turned costumed heroine, she wasn’t about to let an insult like that get under her skin. She cleared her throat and said, “Who are you and how may I help you?”

“Mary Clarke. I’m an old friend of Dane Whitman, and I must see him now.”

“He’s busy at the moment, but I’ll tell him you stopped by.”

Mary looked Natasha in the eye. “What you’ll do is lead me to him, right now.”

Suddenly, Natasha felt dizzy and nauseous. There was some kind of supernatural influence in Mary’s stare, and, with Natasha’s lack of experience dealing with the supernatural, her normally formidable will crumbled like dry mud. Quivering, she began leading Mary to the mansion’s gymnasium.

As they walked down a corridor, the Inhuman princess turned Avenger Crystal was walking the other way, cradling her daughter Luna.

Mary smiled enigmatically at Luna, causing the toddler to start crying. Crystal scowled fiercely at Mary, the devoted mother all but daring the threatening stranger to try something unwise.

“You remind me of my sister and her daughter.” said Mary serenely before jabbing them with a verbal stinger. “That’s not a compliment.”

Natasha and Crystal both wanted to wring Mary’s neck, but, though they hated to admit it, they were both afraid of her. The parties went their separate ways.

Inside the gymnasium, Dane Whitman, Eric Masterson, and the living legend known as Hercules were merrily bonding as only men can.

“Zounds!” exclaimed Hercules upon seeing Mary. “Thou art truly a thing of beauty, fair lady. The Prince of Power would know thy name...and would invite thee to become better acquainted with the Lion of Olympus.”

“Shave your beard off, and I’ll consider it.” was Mary’s tart reply.

“Thou dost presume to give commands to Hercules??” roared the offended demi-god.

“Take it easy, Herc,” said Dane dryly, “she’s nothing but trouble, and she’s not worth getting worked up about.”

“It’s good to see you again, too, Dane.” said Mary, her voice dripping sarcasm.

“Uh-oh,” said Eric, “Herc, ol’ buddy, I think that’s our cue to leave. C’mon, I’ll treat you to a beer. A real beer. I know a place where they serve the good stuff.”

“Thou art a true friend, Eric.” said Hercules. “Let us take leave of this foul environment.”

“You’re wasting your time, Mary,” said Dane after Eric and Hercules had gone, “Stephen and Victoria warned me about you...”

“Yes, after the fact!” laughed Mary.

“You can delude yourself that what happened was anything more than you manipulating me, but that won’t make it the truth.”

“The truth is eternally elusive. If only more people would realize that, there would be less conflict in this world.”

“I don’t have time for your riddles, Mary!”

“Oh, Dane,” came a sultry voice from outside the gymnasium, “are you busy with anything?”

The stunning Sersi walked into the gymnasium. Without exchanging a word, she and Mary fell in hate at first sight.

It was Mary who broke the silence. “Well, well, you really are as remarkably well-preserved as I had heard. Shame about the stupid green bathing suit.”

Sersi’s eyes began glowing bright red. “I don’t know who you are,” she screamed at Mary, “and I don’t care! If you don’t leave right now, I’ll vaporize you where you stand.”

“No, Sersi,” said Dane as beads of sweat across his brow betrayed his nerves, “you won’t. I don’t like her any more than you, but...”

Suddenly, Dane heard Mary speaking in tongues. He turned to see her making a hand gesture at Sersi similar to that which his friend Dr. Strange made when attacking his enemies.

Sersi began to have difficulty breathing, and her knees buckled. “Great Zuras,” she gasped, “what kind of witch are you??”

Mary replied with no words, just a smirk.

“Mary!” growled Dane, “If you don’t stop this now, I’ll...I’ll...I’ll get Stephen to turn you into a hood ornament!”

Mary lowered her hand and sighed. “I knew it would go like this. You really are no fun anymore, Dane.”

“Get out.” said Dane through clenched teeth. “GET OUT!”

Mary began walking towards the exit. “Don’t fight your destiny, Dane,” she said to him, looking over her shoulder right into his eyes, “that’s always been your problem. We’ll meet again.”

“Not if I can help it.” snarled Dane.

Mary laughed heartily as she walked out of the gymnasium, her laughter echoing eerily for what seemed like an eternity.

Dane approached Sersi. “Are you okay?” he inquired.

At this point, the always-proud Sersi was more angry than hurt. “Nice friends you have.” she sneered.

“Believe me,” said Dane, “she’s not my friend and I wish I had never met her.” He looked Sersi in the eye. “If there’s anything I can do to make up for what she did...”

Suddenly, Sersi regained her composure and smiled end-to-end. “Hmmm...” she replied, “...let me think about that for a minute...”

But before she could go on, she was unintentionally interrupted by Crystal and a still-weeping Luna. “Excuse me, Dane,” said Crystal, “but Natasha says she needs to see you right now about upgrading the computers.”

“Okay,” replied Dane, “but first things first. I have to help you calm Luna down, as I’m guessing that horrible woman who came to see me is what she’s upset about.”

“Yes,” said Crystal, handing Luna to Dane, “and thank you.”

Crystal smiled and Sersi seethed as Dane tenderly comforted Luna.

Outside, Mary Clarke walked gracefully down the streets of New York City, and as the sun went down, she appeared to melt into the shadows, going back to wherever she came from...for now.