Note: This is the third in a series of Avengers fanfics taking place in an alternate universe, Earth-19501927; the first, The Omega Sequence, can be read at Avengers Forever (http://www.avengersforever.org), while the second, The Legacy of Mar-Vell, can be read at both this blog and Avengers Forever.
The small aircraft, a sort of demi-quinjet, approached Hydrobase with Diane Newell in the pilot’s seat. Once it landed, the hatch opened to reveal two male passengers. The first was the Avengers’ ever-loyal manservant, Jarvis, finally recovered from the injuries he sustained during the siege, although Diane did have to help him get out. The second was the powerfully built psychiatrist and sometime superhero with the long green hair, Doctor Leonard "Doc" Samson.
Diane’s husband and fellow Hydrobase caretaker, Walter Newell, greeted them.
"Thank you both for coming. Janet is still asleep right now. I’ll show you to your destinations."
From Hydrobase’s control center, Monica Rambeau, also known as Captain Marvel, observed the arrival and was satisfied with what she saw. It was now time for the next order of business. She activated the public address system.
Over in Hydrobase’s vast exercise room, Quasar and Ant-Man sat on a bench, watching Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie playing soccer with two whole team’s worth of quantum constructs, courtesy of Quasar.
"I really appreciate this, Quasar." said Ant-Man. "I haven’t seen her having this much fun in a long time."
"My pleasure." replied Quasar softly.
Monica’s voice boomed through the P.A. system. "Quasar and Ant-Man, report to the control center."
Quasar and Ant-Man stood up. "We’ll have to stop the game for now, sweetie." said Ant-Man.
"Aw, Dad." Cassie pouted.
"Ask Mr. and Mrs. Newell to show you where the TV room is. I’ll be back with you as soon as I can, I promise." said Ant-Man.
"Okay." said Cassie as she picked up her ball and walked away.
"Kids." Ant-Man smiled. "The greatest thing in the world. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for fatherhood." He turned to Quasar as they headed together to the control center. "You got any kids of your own?"
"No." said Quasar. "I’ve been...busy."
"Busy?" laughed Ant-Man.
"I’ve witnessed things you wouldn’t believe."
"Hey, man, I’ve been to jail. Try me."
"I’ve been to outer space, other timelines, other dimensions, worlds without end, existence at its most beautiful and its most horrible..."
"Lemme guess. After all that, you’re trying to get your feet on the ground again."
"In a way."
"Well, I’m here for you, buddy. They don’t come more grounded than me. A beer, some chips, an old-time movie, and I’m satisfied. My real name’s Scott, by the way. Any time you wanna hang out, we can."
"Thank you. And I’m Wendell."
"Wendell, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
"Do you think that under this gamma-powered hide I’m just a neurotic bundle of nerves who falls apart at the touch of a feather?" demanded She-Hulk angrily of her romantic partner, the Black Knight.
"Don’t try to read my mind." said the Black Knight defensively. "It really bothers me when people do that. I just thought that, with what’s going on with Janet, you couldn’t handle any more pain right now. That’s why I tried to keep the news from you."
"Let me tell you something!" replied She-Hulk. "When you’re the Hulk’s cousin, you get used to hearing stories about him being dead. Hell, for all we know, he could be in Vegas right now working as a mob leg-breaker, or something crazy like that."
She’s in denial, thought the Black Knight to himself, and that’s normal. It’s one of the five stages. But she didn’t have to take it out on me, especially when I was trying to help.
"Whatever works for you." said the Black Knight stoically before turning around and walking out.
She-Hulk slammed the door shut. Great, she thought to herself, our first lovers quarrel. But then, it was bound to happen eventually, wasn’t it? It’ll blow over.
She put a CD on the stereo and sat down at the foot of the bed. A soothing song began playing, and She-Hulk sang along.
"Wouldn’t you give your hand to a friend, maybe it’s not the end? And I think we can make it, one more time, if we try..."
She knew the song well. It was Melissa Manchester’s "Midnight Blue," and it was her’s and the Wasp’s personal song about their friendship, and had gotten them through many a tough time. She-Hulk continued to sing along as she prepared herself to talk to Janet once Doc Samson was done with her.
At the same time, the Black Knight sought escape through work on his time-space machine, but after a few minutes, he stopped working and simply sat cross-legged on the floor wearily. He took a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and began re-reading it.
"My Dear Friend Dane,
These are dark times and they are only getting darker. The stage is being set for a terrible and potentially devastating battle between the forces of good and evil. I have had to go into hiding, both to protect myself from what lies ahead and to ready myself for when the time comes to face it. But I want you and Monica to be aware that a supernatural war is on the horizon, so that you and your team can prepare yourselves for it. Do not mistake the first strike as the be-all and end-all, for it is merely the tip of the iceberg. And be prepared for an important ally. Her name is Mary Dolan. Do not attempt to seek her out, for she is most elusive. She will find you, as long as you keep a watchful eye opened. And may the Vishanti watch over us all.
Vigilant as ever,
Dane sighed and put the letter back in his pocket. When it rains, he thought to himself, it pours.
Namor stood in a dark alley. He normally wouldn’t have been in such a place, but his friend had requested a private, low-key meeting. Namor then heard someone land behind him on their feet, and turned around, on guard, ready for anything – fortunately, it was the very person he was here to meet: Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, now known as The Captain.
"Sorry for all the cloak-and-dagger stuff, Namor, but now that I’m working deep underground, it’s necessary."
"No need to apologize. I myself have been quite shady in my time."
The two friends shared a chuckle. Then the Captain updated Namor on his new status quo, and Namor related to the Captain all that had transpired among the Avengers since the Captain had left after the Olympus battle.
"Janet...a drug addict?" asked a shocked Captain.
"I fear it is the truth." muttered Namor. "But we are in the process of seeking help for her."
"Let me know if I can help in any way." said the Captain, " I know a lot of addiction counselors through the crisis hotline that I sponsor."
"Steve," inquired Namor, "does it not seem like...things were...SIMPLER when you and I were young?"
"You’re looking at things through rose-colored glasses, my friend. Life has never been simple." the Captain then paused. "Although now that you mention it, people did used to have better manners..."
"Indeed. And I honestly do not know anymore if the surface world holds a place for me and Marrina." said Namor, avoiding eye contact. "Particularly Marrina. She is...a wild creature, I cannot deny it anymore."
"So were you at one time." said the Captain. "Maybe she just needs some friends...or more than that, a mentor."
Namor finally smiled. "Steve, you are a genius."
"Well, now, I wouldn’t go that far," laughed the Captain, "but I’m glad I could help."
"Is there anything you would like me to tell Monica and the rest of the team?" asked Namor.
"Tell Monica I’m terribly sorry to have disappeared on you like this, and I really have no idea if I’ll ever be able to return full-time." answered the Captain. "But if you need me in a pinch, now you know how to find me."
"Best of luck, Steve." said Namor, offering his hand. "And I hope justice smiles upon you and gives you back your rightful title."
"Thanks, Namor." repiled the Captain, shaking his friend’s hand. "Best of luck to you and the Avengers."
Polania the Contemplatrix observed the young Native American woman. Her name was Dani Moonstar, and she was a student at the Xavier School for Gifted Youth. At this moment, she was having lunch with the team that she was the co-leader of, the New Mutants.
"Hot sauce on a burger??" asked a lanky but handsome Caucasian boy, visibly wincing.
"You should try it, Sam. Put some hair on your chest." teased Dani.
The other adolescents laughed heartily.
"I have mine with double the hot sauce that Dani does." boasted a swarthy biracial Latin boy.
"Prove it." replied Dani with a sly smile.
"Query." said an indescribably bizarre-looking alien boy as he picked up the bottle of hot sauce. "Would red substance enhance self’s virility as well?"
"You’ll never know unless you try it straight from the bottle." said a mischevious-looking blonde Russian girl.
"Yana, no!" said Dani, suddenly serious. "Warlock, don’t do it!"
But it was too late. Warlock had downed the hot sauce in one gulp. Instantly, his eyes bulged like a cartoon character, his face turned bright red, and a whistle popped out of his head, emitting steam and making a loud noise. Then after a few tense seconds, he smiled and said, "Self likes it."
Dani looked relieved, and the whole group of kids laughed together.
A wolf entered the room. Dani immediately picked up a burger off the plate at the center of the table and tossed it to the wolf, whose true form was a rather uptight Scottish girl who was also Dani’s best friend; she went up to Dani, who stroked her wolf form; she then walked out, still wearing her wolf form. Dani’s face showed concern at her friend’s increasing preference for this.
A remarkable child, Polania thought to herself of Dani, wise and mature beyond her years; she is definitely ready for what lies ahead...
"Polania? Polania!" shouted Thor. "We hath arrived!"
Polania was jolted back into her immediate surroundings. "So we have." she replied, as she took in the splendor of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge and its surrounding cosmic vistas.
"Ho, friend Heimdall, the Thunder God hath returned at last." said Thor, addressing the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge.
"What deviltry is this?" replied a non-plussed Heimdall. "Thy voice is that of Thor, but thy appearance doth not fit."
"Tis a long story," answered a still-smiling Thor as he stepped off Polania’s magical platform, "one best told over many mugs of mead..."
Suddenly, as Thor’s feet touched the bridge, a streak of cosmic crackle spread all over the bridge and quickly extended to Asgard itself. An earthquake caused cracks in the bridge and panic among the Norse Gods.
"Tis as I feared." said Polania emotionlessly.
"What dost thou mean?" demanded Thor angrily.
"This is not the place to explain." replied Polania, and she teleported herself and Thor away.
Heimdall stared slack-jawed into the empty space where they had been a moment ago. Surely a hallucination, he thought to himself, perhaps some trickery of Loki’s...
But, unknown to Heimdall, Loki was not only not responsible, but was delighting at this turn of events.
"My hated brother’s misfortune tis most timely." cackled Loki to himself. "Asgard shall at last be mine!"
And, unknown to Loki, his daughter Hela, Norse goddess of death, had been watching him watching the recent near-disaster. "Thor shall not escape my revenge so easily," she declared icily, "and neither you, father, nor any of the living shall be spared when my Valkyries extend my realm to include ALL OF ASGARD!"
The Hydrobase control center.
"Wendell," said Monica, "I’ve been told that if it weren’t for you, I would probably be dead. I thank you for that, and on behalf of all the Avengers, I thank you for your help against the Kree."
Wendell smiled nervously. "I just did what I knew was right."
"Scott," said Monica, "Your presence was a key factor in the defeat of the Mandrill. We are all very grateful."
Scott grinned. "Aw, shucks..."
"We are also in need of new Avengers. Dr. Druid is dead, and I had my powers taken away from me by Dr. Minerva. I’m not going to let that stop me from leading this team, but we do need two field operatives, and I think you fit the bill."
"I accept." said Wendell softly.
"Wild horses and all that." said Scott. "This’ll be a great place for my daughter, too. She’s been getting in fights at school, and she’s usually been by herself at home these last couple years, and I don’t wanna raise a latchkey kid with a chip on her shoulder."
"We’ll provide home-schooling, and anything else she might need." smiled Monica. "And we’ll start making the arrangements with the government to make you two official Avengers." she then paused. "Scott, you are excused, as I have some...private matters to discuss with Wendell."
"Uh...okay." said a surprised Scott, "I oughta look in on Cassie anyway. She’s probably gotten bored watching TV by now."
A moment later, Scott poked his head in the TV room and was shocked to find it empty. He worriedly began searching for his daughter. Hydrobase is a huge place, he thought to himself, and she could easily get lost; why didn’t I think of that before? Too busy thinking about myself joining the Avengers, I guess; stupid, stupid, stupid!
Janet VanDyne awoke with a start. "Wha...oh! Good morning, Jarvis."
"And good morning to you." replied Jarvis, as he visibly struggled with a tray of food.
Janet sat up in bed. "Oh, Jarvis, you shouldn’t have."
"I especially prepared your favorites." said Jarvis, lowering the tray onto Janet’s lap. "Bon appetit. And do please call if you should need anything else."
Janet looked at Jarvis, the soul of selflessness and kindness, and felt tears welling up. But she bit back the tears and simply smiled and said, "Thank you."
And she did feel hungry, after having spent days detoxing at Hydrobase’s medical wing. Knowing she was clean and sober for the first time in weeks, maybe months, felt good...really good. And it made Jarvis’s food taste even better than usual.
But after a few blissful minutes of enjoying breakfast, Janet felt a different kind of pang – the pangs of a drug addict. The need for unnatural stimulation. Unnatural and illegal. She felt like such a hypocrite, having spent years professing to defend the law while at the same time breaking it in the sneakiest fashion. And she knew that today was the day that she would be facing her fellow Avengers and would have to admit her wrongdoing.
She felt the tears welling up again, and this time she did nothing to stop them.
TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART II