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Control through Compassion - MCU/Lantern Corps

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by JeckJack, May 26, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1 - Almost Stuck
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    Atika went to bed a normal girl in a normal world, and woke up floating in space over an Earth that she thought was fictional, with an indigo power ring on one hand, and a glowing staff in the other.

    Considering that this was a world that would be going through one disaster after another, and that her brand-new powers are fueled by compassion and brainwashing, she resolves to try and save the universe with the tools at her disposal.


    Huh.

    I'm still dreaming. I thought I woke up, but... here I am. I don't think I've had a dream like this before, of floating in space over the Earth. It's beautiful.

    I read something about the "overview effect" the other day. That looking down on Earth from above like this fills astronauts with such a sheer kind of awe for Earth, and a knowledge that everyone is connected. I think I can understand where they're coming from. Wait. Something just happened. What just happened? I feel...

    <Compassion detected. Atika Sandhurst of Earth, welcome to the indigo tribe.>

    "What?" I stare down at my right hand, at the object around my pinky. That's a power ring.

    [​IMG]


    <Error. User fortunately does not match qualifications for control ring requirements. User does match qualification for staff use. Altering ring protocols. Certain freedoms restored. Primary user recognized as Atika Sandhurst.>

    I let out a small shriek as indigo light shoots from the ring, and wraps around my neck into a... a collar? There's a disc hanging from it, with the same symbol as the ring.

    I don't understand what's going on. Am I... am I in control? Is this real life? I don't think a dream could make me feel like this. I try flying to the right and the left, although it's hard to tell if it worked, with nothing to compare my position to.

    I look down at the Earth, and begin descending.

    I aim for the great lakes, and then as they become bigger and bigger, I start looking for people. I see buildings on the edge of the lakeside, and fly towards them. As I pass overhead, I hear a sudden crash from the road on the other side.

    Are they okay-

    They need help!

    I rush over, and everything becomes a blur.






    That's the last of them in this hospital. Now, where to next?

    <Plotting course.>

    Right. I start flying along the invisible path in my mind, only to be pulled from it by another chime from the ring.

    <This ring will require recharging again soon. Currently at 10% power.>

    I don't say anything, simply urging the staff into existence, and staring up into the light inside it.

    [​IMG]


    I raise up the ring on my hand to it, before hesitating.

    "Ring? How long has it been since I woke up?"

    <39 hours and eighteen minutes.>

    "Oh." that was a lot longer than I was comfortable with.

    The glowing jewel inside my staff shifts, suddenly, from indigo to yellow.

    <Yellow charge available.>

    "Store it." I say, just as I remember doing when it informed me it had blue charge, "Do that automatically for any color that comes up, not just blue."

    <Understood. Would you like to hear the current level of charge?>

    "Sure."

    <The Power Staff currently contains the equivalent of 226% of an indigo ring charge, and building at a rate of 12% of a charge per hour. Preserved light includes 14% of a blue ring charge, 6% of a violet ring charge, 3% of an orange ring charge, 1% of a yellow ring charge.>

    "Where did the orange and violet- never mind." I say, shaking my head, "I've... have you been controlling me? This whole time?"

    <This ring is enabling you to follow through on your compassionate instincts.>

    "But- I've spent almost forty straight hours doing nothing but healing people." I say, "I was stuck. How many times have I recharged?"

    <Twice.>

    I stare up at the staff. I would have recharged this time as well, if there were still injured people right in front of me. If I hadn't happened to get low on ring power in-between hospitals...

    The next hospital! Agh! I got distracted, I need to... to relax. And focus. Yes, if I go there, it'll help people. Maybe even save their lives. But this isn't the best way to do things. Just hopping from hospital to hospital forever isn't the way that helps the most people.

    I bite my lip, staring down at the ring, and then I reach for it with my other hand, and... slide it off.

    The sudden difference is like cold water pouring down my spine. I shudder, and let the ring drop from my hand onto the roof below. I cup my mouth with one hand, and focus on my breathing. I barely take note as my collar- god I was wearing a collar -and my tattoos evaporate into motes of light.

    It had me. Even when I wasn't being actively compassionate, it still had me. Changing me. I look at the staff, and feel another twinge of fear. Did it still have me?

    I let go of the staff, and then shriek as I fall five feet onto the roof below. I hit it mostly standing up, but I lose my balance immediately after, and begin sliding. I fight for balance for a few seconds, breathing hard, before looking back up at the staff floating in the air.

    I don't really feel that different. Being out of contact with the staff didn't bring any sudden shift in the way my thoughts felt like it did when I let go of the ring.

    A smile pulls at my face as I look back to the staff. I reach out to it- and sure enough, it drifts towards me. When I grab onto it again, there's a wave of indigo light as my glowing tattoos reestablish themselves. But... no collar.

    "Thank god." I breathe out, relief flooding into my veins. I note with some amusement that the gem inside the staff flashed briefly to blue again. Without any kind of notification, though. Was all of that talking just the ring?

    I look down at where its lying on the roof, caught in a crack in one of the tiles. A tiled roof, too. Where even am I? I have no clue.

    Part of me wants to just leave it there, but it'll get blown down by wind, or something, eventually. And someone might pick it up and get themselves brainwashed. I need to take it with me.

    Frowning, I glance back at my staff.

    This thing is basically just a battery, going off of what I remember about the comics. Did holding a battery let you do all the things the ring could? I mean... I'm flying. That's something. Could I make constructs?

    I aim the staff down at the ring, and try to create a bubble around it. Nothing. But... emotion is important to this stuff, isn't it? I need to pick up the ring, so it doesn't accidentally hurt anyone.

    A bubble forms around the ring, and I float it up to me.

    Oh, this isn't bad at all. Lantern Atika is here, ring or no ring!

    But now there's the question of where to put the ring.

    I'm definitely not going to wear it. No matter how helpful the AI is, it isn't worth the brainwashing. But just having it sit in my pocket feels like asking for trouble. I don't want to accidentally brainwash a pickpocket or anything.

    But without a better option at the moment... I unzip my fanny pack, hold it under the bubble, and pop it. The ring drops in, and I quickly zip it shut over it.

    Now... where the hell am I?

    I raise up higher into the air with a thought, before looking out over the suburbs I've found myself in. I don't really recognize any of it, but I'm not sure why I would. I'm... pretty sure I descended down from space aiming for the great lakes, but once I came close to a city, I noticed a car accident and had to help. From there, I saw an ambulance with its lights flashing, so I followed it to help whoever they were going to help.

    It turned out to be heading to a hospital, rather than driving away from it. I began slowly healing the person on the stretcher inside with compassion, but once the EMT people noticed just what it was that I was doing, they began to feel hope, and the ring told me I could emulate it, and suddenly the healing suddenly started going a lot faster, and with a lot less crying on the part of the victim.

    And from there I got stuck in a loop of constantly healing anyone who I noticed needed it, and then asking the ring for the next nearest group of people who could use healing too. A loop that apparently lasted forty fucking hours.

    I shudder again, before flying even higher. I should be able to recognize things from higher up, right?

    I try to call up a map with my power, but it doesn't produce much of anything. I guess this is another area where an AI would be useful.

    Even from a bird's eye view, nothing really stands out. Sighing, I look for the nearest city, and start heading that way. The suburbs shoot past in a blur, and soon I'm among buildings. Still nothing I recognize. I fly parallel with the roads for a few minutes, watching the sidewalks below- and the people staring up at me in shock, when I notice something that might help me learn the name of the city at least.

    A news stand.

    I drop down, sending everyone nearby my landing spot scattering, watching me carefully. I notice, with some displeasure, that the gem in my staff is glowing yellow again.

    ...

    I wonder if my staff stopped storing emulated emotions, without the ring to tell it to do so, or if my command to start doing that automatically still holds.

    I land without a sound, and then pointedly ignore the gawking crowds as I pick up a newspaper from the rack. Huh. I'm in Wisconsin. Cool. That's not too far away.

    I smile, before something catches my eye.

    The date is October 15th, 2011.

    I look at the others, and see the same dates on the other papers. Worse yet, I begin looking at the headlines and pictures, and while most of it is stuff that doesn't light up any bells, seeing Gyneth Paltrow's picture in front of a massive construction site listed next to a headline about "Stark Tower: The Future of Clean Energy" and an interview with quotes from "Stark CEO, Virginia Potts."

    Another paper had a picture of Chris Evans, with the headline "Captain America Alive!"

    I stare at them in confusion, and then horror. God damn it, was this really happening? The MCU. Why did I have a DC superpower if I'm in Marvel?

    I turn my glare on a random passer-by. "Hey. I need your phone."

    "But-"

    "Give me." I hold out my free hand, while I make my staff glow menacingly- huh. And it works. Glowing yellow, though, rather than indigo. Inspire fear and all that.

    He tosses it to me, and starts backing off. I turn it on, and sigh. "It's locked." Hesitantly, he starts moving closer again, and slowly taps in his password.

    "Thank you." I say, before turning my attention to the phone. The date really is October 15th, and the year really is 2011. I go into his browser, and look up 'Stark'. In the image results I see pictures of Iron Man, missiles, Robert Downey Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow. In the links... wikipedia, the Stark Industries website, a bunch of different news sites... nothing connected to Marvel, though.

    In fact...

    I look up 'Marvel Comics'. Nothing. Nada.

    Stan Lee? It asks if I mean Stanley, and none of the images are immediately recognizable.

    Captain America? Wikipedia, new sites, history sites...

    Sighing, I exit out of the browser, and look to the scared man watching me. He seemed unsure if he was allowed to run or not. I look down at the phone, and fight the urge to just take it and run. The maps alone would be extremely useful. But...

    I pass it over to him. "Thank you. I'm sorry for scaring you."

    He hurries off as soon as the phone is in his hand, not bothering to reply. I don't really blame him. This is a world with actual supervillains, he was probably in fear for his life.

    With a thought, I'm flying up into the air again, although without a clear aim. What should I do with this information? If it was 2011, and Captain America had only just woken up... I was in between the Incredible Hulk and Avengers.

    In less than a year, in 2012, New York would be invaded by aliens. In 2013, portals to the nine realms are gonna open, and elves will try and destroy all of them. In 2014, Ego tries to consume the Earth and thousands of other planets. In 2015, Ultron tries to cause an extinction-level event. In 2017 Dormammu is going to try and eat this whole reality... or maybe just Earth, I wasn't really sure. I think Asgard was destroyed then, too. And in 2018, the Snap happens, and I just have to hope I'm not in the 50% that don't feel so good.

    This... isn't an ideal situation. I mean, I could just sit back, and trust the Avengers to make sure that everything happens as it should. But I've already made a bunch of changes. What if I've ruined Doctor Strange's 'one timeline' thing? A bunch of people are alive now where they would have probably died before. Heck, a bunch of people being totally healed without needing to wait for their normal recovery times would make a bunch of changes too.

    Which means that sitting back and letting things happen might result in being doomed.

    I turn around and look down at the Earth stretching out in every direction.

    ...

    And I decide to help.

    I decided to write something really self-indulgent. Unlike most of my stories, I do actually have a goal and ending planned for this one, so it might be the first story I actually finish on here.

    Not really looking for criticism. Just having a fun time with this one.

    Edit: Didn't watch Agents of SHIELD or Inhumans, and I'm not planning on doing so. So the only things that are canon for this story are the MCU movies proper.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 2 - Fishing Emulator
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "Okay... here we go..." I've decided that before I do anything else, I should at the very least get a grip on what I have to work with. So I flew out to the middle of the lake, to the point where I'm far enough that I can barely see the land. The goal for now? Successfully emulating every color of emotion. I managed to make yellow work when I scared that poor guy into giving me his phone, and I used plenty of blue and indigo during the... blur.

    I figure I should start with green. It's supposed to be the easiest color to use.

    I close my eyes, but it doesn't take too many tries to make myself focus. When I open them, sure enough, the gem in my staff is glowing green. I look out over the lake, and then point towards it. Green light shoots out of the head, and creates a pretty simple bucket construct. Nothing fancy, basically Lantern 101. It scoops up a large amount of water... and then becomes translucent.

    I can see the fish inside there.

    Okay... now... I create holes in the bottom of the construct. The water drains out of the bucket, leaving just the fish- and there goes my construct. The fish falling safely back into the water only a few inches away. Come on! One was a carp! They're an invasive species!

    Ugh. Never mind. The point is to practice. Actually, now that I do have a little red... I aim my staff back at the lake, and try to find that carp again... but I can't work up the nerve to actually fire. Oh well.

    So... I've practiced with indigo, blue, yellow, and now green. I've been able to emulate each of them without too many problems. What next?

    Orange could be pretty damn useful. I'll try that next.

    Now... I'd feel bad about shooting a beam of pure hatred into the lake that might kill all kinds of things... but would I feel bad about transforming a carp into something I can put to good use? The gem of my staff glows orange, and I create another bucket construct. I turn it transparent, just like before, and then... ha. There you are. I create a fishing pole construct and let the line coil off and lower the hook into the water... upon which it seeks out the carp. It latches onto the fish painlessly, and the orange light from the construct begins to spill into it.

    It's kind of hard to see, considering I'm already looking at it through a transparent orange filter, but I can still see that the carp's colors begin to change. It doesn't fight the effect, as far as I can tell, simply becoming a little more agitated at the most.

    And then... its completely orange.

    I drop the bucket construct gently into the water, and let the other fish go free. But the carp, now my carp, remains where it was, gently swimming in the air, surrounded by orange glow, and keeping its low-eyed gaze on me.

    [​IMG]

    "How intelligent are you?"

    I don't get much of an answer. "Swim up."

    It does immediately, darting up higher into the sky. I want it to come back- and it does. Even without me giving an explicit order. Now... what else could orange constructs do? I think I remember that they could turn other living things into constructs, too? Like orange light zombies.

    I grin evilly.

    "Find all the other carp you can, and turn them orange too. Oh, and sea lampreys. And gobeys. And ruffe. And zebra mussels and-

    ...

    Actually... that could turn out really badly. I don't know how good their attention span is. Obviously, getting rid of all of these invasive species would be good for the environment, but what if it can even recognize the species I'm thinking of. What if it just starts assimilating everything? Unleashing a wave of self-replicating orange zombie fish onto the great lakes might not be... great.

    Find one other carp. Assimilate it, and bring it to me. Assimilate nothing else.

    It swims down, and slips into the water. I wait for a few minutes, kind of nervous, before two orange lights swim over to me, and then rise out of the water.

    Okay!

    Now... find a sea lamprey, assimilate it, and nothing else. Huh. When I focused on the image of one, I think I felt a click in my carp's minds.

    They both immediately dart back into the water. Maybe this could work.

    ...

    But I think I'm going to practice with a smaller, less important lake before I do anything further. And besides, I'm in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have bigger problems coming up than invasive species. Apocalypse-level problems.

    Which is why I'm practicing, to see what I can do.

    So! Indigo, blue, yellow, green, orange, and now... red next. Its probably the best offensive option, so I should practice with that next.

    I'm still unwilling to shoot a beam into the lake and hurt a bunch of innocent creatures, but I think an acceptable target will be heading back right... now.

    Five orange lights rise up out of the water. Wait. Five?

    The two glowing carp, now each with a glowing lamprey, although the smaller of the two was currently hanging onto a poor innocent lake trout. Which was also glowing orange. With a thought, I make it let go. I suppose this just goes to show why I had to be careful with construct lanterns. Even if my carp didn't go overboard, the lamprey they made did.

    I have it squirm up, higher into the air. Then, I tell it to stay there. I raise up my staff, and try to feel angry at it. And... and nothing.

    How do I make myself compassionately mad?

    "Can I just... recall you guys? Make you disappear until I need you later?"

    The first carp I assimilated glows briefly, and then transforms into a featureless ring. Then, the other four constructs all fade into light, and are sucked into the ring, which glows slightly brighter with each construct that enters its signet.

    "Huh." I reach out to touch it and- nonononono! I drop it just as quickly. Not doing the fucking brainwashing thing again. No. NO.

    I won't be controlled! I blast it with the staff!

    To my shock, it... works? the corrosive blast of red light rips through the ring. Crackling and almost bubbling with energy as it does so. The thing explodes. And then I see the five orange constructs fleeing from the explosion, more-or-less fine. Hm.

    So... I can emulate anger out of concern. For myself, and definitely for others. I can work with that. Righteous fury and all that.

    Good to know I suppose.

    "Return to being a ring." I order them, and they congeal once more, with the first carp as the base.

    Now what to do with an orange ring? It's probably even more dangerous than the indigo one, honestly. The construct lanterns seem relatively safe though in their normal shapes. I lightly tap the orange ring, and focus on drawing out my lamprey in that moment. And, sure enough, I draw out one glowing orange lamprey before I break contact.

    "...Eat that." I say, pointing at the orange ring. The lamprey surges forwards and latches onto it. Within a few moments ring seems to dissolve into it. The construct lantern is glowing a lot brighter than before, but seems... stable. Okay. I can work with this. It's still doing what I want, too.

    "Now... wait in here." I say, unzipping my fanny pack, "And don't eat anything else until I tell you to!" It slithers through the air, and into the pack. I zip it shut afterwards, and let out a sigh.

    Well. A loyal construct lantern on demand isn't a small thing at all.

    I refocus myself, and grip the staff tighter. I've practiced emulating every emotion now except for the violet light of love. I was, either fortunately or unfortunately, between girlfriends when I suddenly appeared here. It was probably a good thing, because it meant that she wouldn't have to worry about my sudden disappearance. But it also meant I didn't really have anyone in particular to focus on at the moment. I mean, there's always memories... but I'm not sure how to make use of them.

    Maybe... a general, unselfish love for just about everybody? I love humanity. I love humanity! In order to help everyone, I need to know how to use my powers.

    So... crystal shield!

    No. Not quite. Maybe something more direct... I love myself. I want to know how to protect myself. Crystal shield!

    It doesn't quite come out all at once like I expected, but a beam of light spills out of the gem, and takes shape like my previous constructs. It forms a shield, and then the construct crystallizes, becoming something genuinely solid. And it's kind of gorgeous. It's like I created a pink diamond the size of a windshield! I wonder if I could sell this. Probably not a smart idea.

    Okay. So that was the last emotion. I'm not sure I can call any of it reliable, but I have a taste for each of them now.

    And considering that's a police boat heading towards me, I think I have a good sense of timing for when to stop. I fly up into the air, before realizing I've left the crystal shield floating in the air. How do I get rid of it? I think willpower could be used to break them, but I'm not positive.

    I'm not sure my willpower is that strong, anyway.

    Can I... recall it? I aim the staff at it, and try to pull it back- but no dice. The police boat is getting closer...

    If I leave it here, people are going to probably study it, or weaponize it, or someone is going to turn themselves into a Star Sapphire or something. Come on!

    If it's made by love... I'm safe, I don't need it any more.

    I smile, relieved, as it begins to disintegrate, the fragments it breaks into boiling away into nothing. Satisfied that I'm not leaving anything behind, I fly off again.



    Colors:
    Do any of the colors hurt you eyes, or are you finding them hard to read?

    Right now, I'm using these colors:
    Red
    Orange
    Yellow
    Green
    Blue
    Indigo
    Violet

    But I could switch over to using these:
    Red
    Orange
    Yellow
    Green
    Blue
    Indigo
    Violet

    Or a combination of both lists if it's easier for anyone. Please let me know.

    edit: Final Color Choices
    Red
    Orange
    Yellow
    Green
    Blue
    Indigo
    Violet
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 3 - Making Choices
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars..." I hum, staring up at the Earth from my seat. The white dusty desert of the moon stretched off in every direction around me.

    The reason I was here was twofold: One, I was laying low after a string of daring heists. Two, I could now declare I was the first woman on the moon.

    Stretched out in front of me, protected inside a big globe of indigo light, were my ill-gotten gains.

    First: food. Because I was starving. Turns out? I didn't eat during the blur. At all. Even while having my brain overwritten by the ring I remembered to drink some water occasionally, thank god, but I didn't eat anything for forty hours. After I finished practicing with my emotion emulation, I realized all at once that I was super fucking hungry. So, I walked into a gas station, grabbed whatever looked appetizing, and realized then and there that when I was dragged to this universe, it was without my wallet.

    I guess I should just be happy I collapsed into bed that night still wearing my pants, a shirt, and my fanny pack. There was an equally-likely chance I would have been pulled into this universe in my pajamas, or even just naked.

    So. I was starving, without any money, and already holding food. So I stole it.

    I still felt guilty, honestly, but I could always pay them back later, and I genuinely needed the food. Having justified the act of theft once, I decided I might as well keep going and grab whatever else I needed now, and worry about paying for it later.

    And I would be paying for it later. I wrote down the names and addresses of both stores to check back up on later once I had a little spending money.

    So, here I was on the moon, with a brand-new laptop (ancient), a new phone (ancient), a handheld GPS navigator (going to be so useful when flying), a DS (the most recent Pokemon game in this year is Black and White, how crazy is that), and a week's worth of groceries (not much difference in the last decade there at least), and a huge backpack to hold everything (very cute). Somehow, being almost ten years in the past is almost as weird as being in a universe where aliens and gods and superheroes exist.

    I eat another granola bar as I watch a swirling white cloud drift from one part of the globe to another. I'm... pretty sure that's not a hurricane? That clouds just look like that.

    Opening up the laptop, I go to a word processor, and start writing down everything I can remember from the Marvel Cinematic universe. At least in terms of dates. For the most part, the movies take place in the time they were released in, with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which takes place right after the first, and Doctor Strange, which happens over the course of a few years, I think.

    I put together a timeline to work off of, based on general threats to the world. Or, other worlds too I guess. Ronan wasn't really a threat to Earth, but I should probably do something about him anyway.

    2012 - Loki & Extremis
    2013 - Malekith
    2014 - Insight & Ronan & Ego
    2015 - Ultron & Yellowjacket
    2016 - Civil War, Killmonger, Vulture... not really apocalyptic-level stuff, but I can still help.
    2017 - Dormammu & Ragnarok
    2018 - Thanos

    Huh. Now that I look at it in order like this, there aren't really that many things to take care of. Not that much of this will be actually easy. And... I'm not sure how much of this I can actually deal with right now until it personally shows its face on Earth. I have no idea where Loki is, or Dormammu or Thanos, or any of the more cosmic villains.

    I glance back at my staff. Supposedly, I can use that to teleport, but I'm not really sure how. I spent a few minutes earlier trying to teleport, but didn't have any luck. Then again, maybe I was going about it the wrong way. If it's a compassion-based ability... maybe I can only go where I'm needed? I'll of course experiment more later.

    Once I had a plan on what to tackle first.

    I guess I could aim for the 'easy' stuff first. People without any spaceships or planet-destroying capabilities. Terrorists and corrupt business men and stuff like that. It's probably be fairly easy to find someone like Killian or Cross or... Pierce.

    Or Arnim Zola.

    Now there's a thought. I could use an AI. And if I have control of him, I could probably help fix the whole Hydra infiltration of SHIELD thing more easily, since he would have to know who all the Hydra infiltrators are. I think if I turned him into a construct-lantern with orange light, he would still be able to do all of his computer stuff, while being able to go where I want him to and doing what I say.

    I put everything except the handheld navigator back into my pack, and then sling it over my shoulders. I pull my staff forwards, untangle my hair from it, and float up towards the Earth.



    As I fly towards Camp Lehigh, Virginia, I bite at my lips. I'm beginning to seriously doubt my ability to do this. On my way down, I remembered what it felt like to touch the orange ring- the immediate grip it had on the way I think.

    One part of it is that I feel like a hypocrite for considering forcing something that terrifies me on someone else. And finally, I'm still not sure if assimilation is something it's okay do to any person regardless of any other circumstances. It would permanently change the way he thinks.

    When your powers run on compassion, not being sure that you're doing the right thing is... dangerous. My flight aura has been fading in and almost out the entire flight, depending on my opinion moment-to-moment, and I haven't been able to move anywhere close to my top speed. At one point, when my thoughts turned in a particularly callous direction, my aura went out completely and I was sent spiraling at high speed towards the ground.

    I think my lamprey saved my life in that moment.

    I wanted to live, so he responded to that and swam upwards inside my fanny pack even as I fell. It slowed me down long enough to get a grip on my emotions and establish the flight aura again. Since that terrifying incident, I've resolved that regardless of whether or not I assimilate Zola or just try to cut him off from the rest of Hydra or something, I need to do something about him, or he'll just keep on arranging for people to get murdered.

    I glance back down at the navigator in my hand, and then turn a little bit more to the North. It shouldn't be too much farther.

    ...

    Okay Atika, you need to make a choice about this.

    I stop flying forwards, and simply hover in the air over a patch of woods. Dropping down below the treeline, I find a relatively clear spot, and land. I let go of my grip on the staff, leaving it to hang in the air.

    Without the shield, the temperature and smells of the forest hit me head-on, and I shiver slightly. It's night time, after all, and my clothes aren't especially warm.

    Stop distracting yourself, me.

    I've already made plenty of justifications for going through with this- and none of them are invalid. but it still feels wrong.

    I need to look at this in a different way. Does he deserve to be free?

    That's easy: no. If he does count as a person, he's a person who joined Hitler, designed weapons for him, and then joined the Red Skull, who did human experimentation and who was planning on nuking basically every major city in the world. Then he received a second chance to do something unrelated, and instead of trying to make up for his sins he just recreated Hydra, started a bunch of wars, wrote an algorithm designed to find anyone who might potentially oppose his group's fascist rule, and then came up with a plan to use a giant flying battleship to commit mass-murder.

    That's worth a lifetime in prison at least.

    If I stop him from doing bad things and force him to do good things, would that better or worse than prison? Would it count as slavery or count as rehabilitation?

    Heh.

    That's the purpose of the Indigo rings isn't it? Rehabilitation. You stick one on a horrible criminal, and suddenly they're incapable of doing anything but acting out of compassion. It brainwashes them into being better people. The only difference is that for Zola, I'd be doing it with the orange light rather than the indigo one. I would make him do what I want, rather than what Hydra wants. If anything, it's better than being stuck in a blur like I was. The carp wasn't distressed or in pain when I converted it into a construct-lantern, and when left to its own devices, it keeps on doing carp stuff.

    Zola won't have free will, but I'm not forcing him into the blur. I'm not hurting him... I'm just making him do things that will help the world rather than hurt it. Maybe by the end, he'll become a genuinely better person.

    Am I okay with that?

    ...

    I think I am.

    I take up the staff again, and it's glowing with a steady indigo light.

    When I shoot up into the air, it's at my full speed. The navigator shows that the camp is getting closer and closer, and soon I can see the abandoned buildings. As I hover over it, I open my fanny pack and let my lamprey squirm out. "Thanks for saving me, little guy," I tell him.

    He doesn't really respond, simply swimming through the air idly.

    "Can you spit out the others?"

    He stops, and then from out of his mouth, four more orange lights emerge. My construct-lantern school coming close as I hold out my hand. "...I can feel what you guys do, sometimes." I say, "Can you... show me what you're seeing?"

    All at once, I can see myself from five perspectives. Five... weird perspectives. The range of vision is different for each of them, and the different species of different levels of color vision. Its disorienting, but after a few seconds, I'm more-or-less used to it.

    "Swim down, and look at all the buildings. When I see the one I need, a trapezoid-shaped building with grass on top of it-" I try to send the image, and I think I can feel them reacting to it, "I'll head your way."

    My school breaks up, and immediately begin darting downwards towards the camp. Urgh. Nope. Wasn't actually used to it yet. When all five were looking at the same thing- me -I could deal but now that they're all going in different directions, I'm just getting nauseous. But I don't break off the connection, trying to focus on what my fish are seeing. Actually... it's too dark for that.

    "Glow." I order, "Bright. Enough that you can see everything clearly."

    That's a bit better. Still nauseous, but at least I might recognize it when I see it.

    I close my own eyes, and things get a bit better, without my own field of vision getting muddled with the others. Minutes pass by as I dismiss whatever they see as not being the building I'm looking for. After a little while, my nausea dies down, and the fish seem to find a better rhythm, moving faster and faster, showing me more and more of the camp until-

    "There! You found it!" I shout, grinning. "Okay. That's enough guys. Lamprey, collect the others and come back to me." the images fade from my mind, and I relax as my vision isn't split into five directions.

    I descend at high speed, and land in front of the building they had been searching for. Within a few seconds, Lamprey returns still glowing... incredibly bright. I want- oh, thank you, Lamprey." I say as he dims down to non-painful levels of illumination.

    Looking towards the building, I raise my staff, and aim the head at it. I need to get to Zola. With that, a bolt of indigo energy lances out and blasts the padlock clean off. I push my way in, Lamprey swimming dutifully behind me.

    I walk down the steps, and into the long-abandoned offices of SHIELD. Lamprey responds to my desire for a bit more light, and starts glowing a little brighter again, illuminating our way. Now... if I'm remembering the movie right, the elevator is by a wall somewhere. Hidden behind a shelf.

    But I don't actually need to find it.

    I need to get to Zola.

    The staff's jewel changes to green, and I create a construct in the form of a drill! No. Actually, I'm in control of how it looks. And the strength of the image is important to the effectiveness of the construct, right? I straight up change it into Lagann!

    I climb inside, cross my arms, and giggle. Lamprey swims in after me, and then the canopy of the construct gunman closes. Just for the fun of it, I grab hold of the controls with my free hand- one has to remain on the staff, of course, and pushes it forwards!

    Going down!

    The construct isn't a functional replica of Lagann, of course. The controls aren't actually connected to anything. I simply will the drill on the bottom to start spinning, and will the entire construct in a downwards direction. The drill eats through floorboard, concrete, and then earth incredibly quickly, and relatively smoothly.

    After a minute or two, we hit another room entirely.

    I stop supporting the construct immediately, and I float down into the room. Lamprey's glow illuminates countless rows of ancient-looking computer towers in every direction.

    I am standing in Arnim Zola's brain.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 4 - Identity Usurpation
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "Okay... Get to work."

    Lamprey surges forwards to the nearest computer, and bites onto it. Veins of orange light begin to spread from the bite mark, before he pulls off, swims to another tower, and bites it as well. This might... take a while. I watch as one of the spinning wheels inside the case turns orange, the color bleeding into the tape, and then reaching the second wheel a moment later.

    Definitely a while.

    "Get the others on it too. And try and cover a wide area as quickly as you can."

    Four more lights emerge from Lamprey before taking on the shapes of the rest of the school, and soon all five are darting from place to place, leaving bites.

    At every point of contact, the orange spreads out like an infection. Light expanding like ink in water over the metal, glass, and plastic surfaces.

    "Excuse me!" I hear from the intercoms, "You will cease this activity immediately."

    "Zola?" I shout. Could he pick me up from here?

    "You know who I am? Then you have specifically sought me out." I raise the staff, and focus on what I'm here to do. I unleash my own beam, aiming for a row of towers none of my school of construct-lanterns has touched. Wherever it touches, more of the orange infection takes hold. "I am far from helpless." Zola continues to speak, "If you are aware of my existence, you likely know the influence I hold. I will give you this one chance to surrender."

    I do have to worry about missiles, don't I? But if Captain America could survive the fallout with just his shield, I could as well.

    I let my orange beam peter out, leaving it to the school, and instead try to turn my mind towards love again. I love myself. I want to protect myself.

    My staff glows violet- well, if we're being honest, it's honestly more of a magenta, but everyone calls it 'Violet' so whatever -and I aim it at the ceiling. Magenta light spills out in a geyser, splashing up against the ceiling, covering all of it, and even stretching to the floor. Then, all at once, the light crystallizes, creating a shield.

    Huh. That was almost phallic.

    Relatively safe for the moment, I float myself over to the front of the room, where Zola's... face is located.

    The camera on top of the monitor turns to look at me, and I give it a little wave.

    "You are the Healing Lady from Minnesota." he announces, "Why are you here?"

    "I'm here to do what I'm best at." I say, "Healing."

    "Then I am afraid that such an action is not only unwanted, but impossible." he says, the image on the monitor shifting slightly, "I am already in my ideal state. My thoughts have never been clearer. If you were to try and restore me to what I was before, you would be doing me a disservice. Besides, there are no existing organic remains of my previous body. If this is some kind of attempt to endear yourself to me and to HYDRA, this is the wrong way to go about it."

    "If this works like I'm hoping, you won't lose any of that brainpower. But it will let you move under your own power again, if you choose to." I let my grin fall, "And I'm not trying to endear myself to you. I'm recruiting you. Or rather, making you pay your debt to society. And considering how big of a debt you have, mister Nazi warmonger, it's a life sentence." I walk behind the module, so that the camera can't watch me.

    The head of my staff glows orange again, and this time I aim the head of it at the back of the screen. It spreads to the camera, and Zola's voice seemed to have gained a panicked tone, "Explain what you are doing."

    "Not until you stop transmitting everything to Hydra people." all the screens are orange now, as well as the module. More and more of the massive room, the 'two hundred thousand feet of databanks' is flaring up with a golden glow.

    It won't be long now.

    "There is something wrong with my archives. You are altering my data!"

    The entire room is lit up now, more orange than not. The only computers left to be converted were on the fringes.

    "Well. I suppose it doesn't matter." Zola announced, somber, "It seems we are out of time. It is a waste, but HYDRA must protect the data I hold."

    Suddenly, the entire room shakes violently, and light brighter than the glow of my construct-lanterns shines through my crystal-love shield, coloring the room pink. Above us, the concrete ceiling is no more, rendered utterly into rubble. There's a disturbing sound like hail against glass for several seconds, and a general rumble all around us.

    After a few seconds, it's over.

    Well. It seemed like my love-shield could hold up to a missile attack. That was always good to know.

    "I... how do I still function?" Zola asks, confused, "My generators were destroyed, even if whatever you did saved the databank room. I do not have power. Yet I still function. Only a small portion of my brain is feeling any ill effects from the destruction of this facility and even they are being reactivated almost as soon as they go out. I do not understand. How am I still thinking without electricity- oh."

    Oh is right. I can feel a presence in my mind the same way I do for my fish. I think I have him.

    "Stop broadcasting to Hydra."

    "Of course, Mistress."

    "Nope. Don't like that word. Not outside of certain... situations."

    "Madam, then?" he asks, and I watch as the monitor, previously stuck in place, turns around and looks at me.

    "I guess. Makes me sound a little old, though. Are you sticking with the camera and monitor thing? You could do a human shape again."

    "In my current state, I experience the world so much faster than I did before. While technically I have been flesh and blood for a greater span of my life than I have been a machine, it does not feel so. If you desire I take on a human shape, I will, but I was honest in that I preferred my life as a super-computer."

    "You do you I guess. But since I'm not planning on having this be a base of operations, we're going to have to get out of here at some point." I look out at the rows and rows of orange computers, "Can you compress it all and still... think?"

    "I believe I can. In truth, this makes things a lot easier." he says, "As you can likely tell, these are not the most advanced systems available. There was an ongoing project to construct newer databanks, for me to copy myself down onto, but the method of inscribing my personality and memories onto tape was a specialized one. I process data more like a human than a machine, simply a human with an extremely high level of computational power. I do not think I have that limit any longer." the face on the grainy screen- once green on black, now orange on black -shifts, giving the impression of a smile. "Give me a moment, Madam. I wish to try something."

    I turned to watch as all the computers in the room began to shift away from their current shape, similar to when I'm changing the shape of a construct I've already deployed. Computers folded in on each other, shrinking and shrinking, rearranging themselves in a giant globe in the center of the now mostly-empty room. The console with his face monitors didn't change much, simply rising up into the air and coming close to the rest of the globe.

    Each computer tower- now basically the size of a domino -was connected by thin tendrils of orange light, all linked back to the central console. Then, the globe shrunk even further, and... melted into the console, sticking itself inside the central monitor screen. The rest of the console began to melt away as well, leaving nothing behind but the floating old-fashioned television displaying his face, and the camera above it.

    "Will this suffice, Madam?"

    "Sure. As long as you're comfortable with it. Definitely a bit more mobile." I say, before reaching out for my school. The construct-fish immediately swam my way, and I had all of them return to being a ring, except for the smallest lamprey. I unzip my fanny pack, and he swims in without complaint. I re-zip, and turn to Zola, "So... let's get started."

    "What would you wish of me?"

    "Well first off, how much did you actually know about modern Hydra?"

    "I founded the modern HYDRA." he said, "And while I have long since given up control of the organization to others, currently Secretary Alexander Pierce, I have always been included in the overall operations. It is common practice to present me with new data, and to keep me informed of HYDRA's overarching plans for world domination."

    I frown, "And um... how do you feel about that?"

    "I want what you want, Madam." he said quickly, "But... If you are wishing me to be honest?" I nod, frowning, "I still believe that HYDRA's goals are for the overall betterment of the human species. Once HYDRA has complete and utter control of the world, they can construct an everlasting perfect society. Of course, all of that is secondary to your own desires. If you are sincerely wishing for the world to remain chaotic, I will help you to protect that chaos."

    "That... no. I'm not going to enforce my will on society or anything."

    "You enforced your will upon me. You usurped my identity, and the identity of those... fish."

    "Well, that's because you're awful." I shrug, "You were planning mass murder. You helped kill a lot of people. This is the consequence. You don't get to just eat a missile and get off scott-free."

    His face doesn't shift much, "Of course, Madam." his face vanishes from his screen, replaced by a map of the world covered with dots in places I'm guessing are major cities, "I have not yet been cut off from my previous HYDRA satellite access. Am I correct in assuming you wish for the downfall of HYDRA?"

    I do want that. But... is now really the best time? Would that completely cripple Shield? Would crippling Shield be a bad thing? Should I wait until after Loki? Were they even helpful with Loki? With any of these disasters? I mean, I guess they helped get people out of harm's way with Ultron.

    "How much of Shield has Hydra infiltrated?"

    "It is overseen by HYDRA, several of its top squads are completely made up of HYDRA members, and there exist well-placed HYDRA members in all divisions and ranks."

    "Would exposing every Hydra member destroy Shield?"

    "I would like to think so. But we- they are not the majority, within SHIELD. The director of SHIELD, Nick Fury, is clean, but Pierce believes he can be turned with time, as the world grows more chaotic. It's possible that the organization would continue to function. Although I am not sure how much approval they would receive, if you wish for this reveal of all HYDRA agents to be completely public."

    "That's... not good." I sigh, chewing my lips. I could just leave them, at least until Loki. Shield gathered the Avengers together, which is a thing that I want to happen. But... "How many people does Hydra kill a day?"

    "That is an interesting question." he says, "The answer varies, depending on how much blame you wish to assign to HYDRA in various ongoing conflicts that were merely caused by it, and then left to devolve into chaos. If I were to make an estimation, it would be at least-"

    "No. Don't tell me." I say sticking up my hands to stop him, "Please. Ugh. Yeah. Okay. Let's kill Hydra. As soon as possible."
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 5 - Hanging Up
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    I could just do what they did in Winter Soldier, and reveal everything- but I know that doing that doesn't end the organization for good. More than that, it ends up causing Shield to go down, and for people like Black Widow to go to prison. More than that, they pop up in Ultron and in Ant-Man as well, so it doesn't even kill the organization.

    Which means we need to do something better.

    I've already gone through a few ideas- the first is a variation on my plan with the invasive fish. I create a construct-lantern out of one Hydra operative, order it to find every other Hydra operative it can find. Have it pass on the order to do the same to those.

    With immortal, flying, utterly driven orange-zombies hunting them down one by one, I should eventually be able to grab all of them.

    The problem is I don't want an army of immortal Hydra-zombies. Zola was literally the worst of the worst, and will also be very useful to me due to his AI nature. These guys... most of them deserve prison, not an eternity of paying back what they owe. None of them created Hydra, very few of them oversaw it. They helped make the world a worse place, and should be punished for that, but not to such an extreme degree.

    I'd maybe consider Alexander Pierce and Wolfgang von Strucker and any other top brass I don't know about as being deserving of it, but then the problem comes that I don't really want to be followed around forever by a bunch of old white guys. Zola is a robot, which is inherently cool. Even if he used to be an awful old white guy, now he's simply my formerly-evil swiss robot. Something a lot more palatable as an eternal servant.

    And if I don't want something, it's hard to do with the orange light.

    But it's not like usurpation is the only weapon in my arsenal. There's the indigo ring, which I could slip onto someone- a thought which makes me feel gross, but it's still an option. But that at best only helps with one person. It might get me an extra helper, though, which could be useful. A sincerely remorseful von Strucker or Pierce might be able to help manipulate Hydra into staying where I want it while we arrest them. The pink light can be used for brainwashing as well, filling whoever I encase in a crystal with the power of love, so I could follow the initial plan of taking over a lot of Hydra, and having them hunt down and capture the rest of their own.

    Although the comics kind of varied on how long stuff like that took. If I blasted a lot of Hydra with pink, and then nothing happened for weeks or even months, that doesn't really help me.

    I realized that I didn't really know how I could start going around hunting Hydra in a way that wouldn't scare off the rest. But then I remembered a bit of common sense my Dad had passed on to me: If you need to do something you don't know how to do, the first thing you should do is ask someone who does.

    "Hey, Zola?" the floating orange television turned to face me.

    "Yes, Madam?"

    "Do you know Nick Fury's personal number?"


    Nick Fury glared down at his phone, and the 'Unknown Number' label on it.

    Shit like this wasn't supposed to happen.

    He opened another app on his phone, and began to trace the call, only to find that the search failed. He was being contacted, but the number wasn't on record. Which meant that this wasn't likely to be some company calling random numbers to advertise on or something. This was meant to be a private SHIELD line.

    It continued to vibrate.

    He hit answer, and lifted it up to his ear, "Who is this?" he asked, narrowing his eye.

    "Um. Shit. I didn't think of a name. Hold on." she hung up.

    She hung up on him.

    Dread began to build up inside of him. Not because the voice was intimidating, but because he had a feeling that he was just about to be pulled into something stupid. Nothing, nothing good could come of some unknown incompetent person having access to restricted SHIELD information.

    His phone began to vibrate again. He sighed, held it up to his ear, "Do you have a name now?"

    "I am Lady Rainb- no. No, that's awful. Sorry, I'll just-"

    "Don't hang up on me again." he snapped, "Do you know who I am?"

    "Nick Fury?"

    "Just Fury. Or better yet, Director Fury. You don't know me."

    "Right. Sorry."

    "So. You know who I am. Did you know that this is a restricted line? That the number of people who have this number is quite small?" his voice got even harder, somehow, "If you have killed or tortured any of the few people I trust with this number to get it, I hope you know your days are numbered. Not a big number, either."

    "I didn't kill anyone!" she protested, "I- look. I'm sorry. But I have something I need to tell you."

    "Then tell me."

    "Hydra has infiltrated Shield."

    Well. He wasn't expecting that to be the direction this would go in. "Oh?"

    "It's been going on since the beginning of Shield, actually. Um, Operation Paperclip. Arnim Zola, a Swiss scientist working with the Red Skull, was recruited, and was there basically since Shield started. He re-created the organization in secret, from inside Shield."

    "And how do you know this?"

    "Arnim Zola told me."

    "Zola's been dead since the seventies."

    "Not quite." the voice speaking was different, now, male for one thing, with a Swiss accent, "Greetings, Fury, Nicolas J. Born July 4th, 1950."

    "I'm supposed to believe you're Zola?"

    "Yes. Although I'm not sure how I can prove that to your satisfaction over a telephone conversation. But there may be something of interest to you, few hours ago a SHIELD missile strike on Camp Lehigh in Virginia was approved. You were not involved in this process"

    "I didn't approve any missile strike." Fury said, going with one hand to his computer, looking up information on Camp Lehigh. His eye narrowed as it told him his access wasn't high enough. That never happened. He was the Director of SHIELD. He instead began looking for any signs that a missile was fired. There was an alert, a signal meant to let SHIELD devices know to warn their agents that there was an incoming strike.

    "The reason that this happened is that I was being threatened, and sent out a distress call. Hydra operatives within Shield responded, and attempted to kill me before I could spill my secrets. They failed."

    "You don't sound like you're over a hundred."

    "Neither does Rogers."

    "Hm." Fury tapped his finger on the monitor, the 'Access Denied' taunting him. This... had come completely out of left field.

    "I am giving you access to a list of all Hydra operatives, and all ongoing operations. Of note are the STRIKE team, and Alexander Pierce."

    He froze, "I've known Pierce for years." he spoke, almost in a growl, "If he had something else planned- I would know. The man turned down a Nobel prize."

    "I'm sorry." it was the female voice again, "But it's true."

    His computer suddenly shifted, taken control of by an outside source. Suddenly, the 'access denied' vanished, credentials that weren't his own entered in. Credentials that thus, were ranked higher than his own. Something that shouldn't be possible.

    And then he got access to the lists.

    He read only a little of it- but he was trained in information gathering and extrapolation for years. Already he was seeing a picture he didn't like the look of at all. One that pointed towards his mystery caller being right. Which... was awful. More than awful. It meant the organization he had been fighting for, killing for, leading, was being used as a tool by what- Nazis?

    Was Pierce a Nazi? Fury respected him. He supported him every step of the way. And he thought he had received the same level of respect and support. But considering the things Pierce has ordered done behind his back... a large part of him didn't want to believe it. Wanted to accuse the girl of forging all of this somehow- but it explained too much. Suddenly so many awful and unfortunate and chaotic events actually made sense.

    It filled in a missing puzzle piece that Fury had until now labeled coincidence.

    Which was strange, considering he didn't believe in coincidence.

    He didn't even know where to begin. He looked back over the data, and started copying it over to some of his own records, as well as uploading as much as possible to a few physical sources. He would need to secure as much of this as possible, to prove it later.

    "We want to help."

    "You and Zola?"

    "Yes." she said, "Um. Zola really did die in the seventies, but they made an AI based off of him before he did. But I used my powers and turned him into a- well, I call them construct-lanterns. The point is, he's loyal to me, now."

    ...

    When did his life become a never-ending stream of Sci-Fi bullshit?

    Oh right, the 1990s.

    "Powers?" he asked.

    "Oh! Um. I still haven't thought of a good name yet, but you probably know me as the healing lady from Minnesota! But I can do other things besides heal. Like create energy constructs, and fly."

    "You an Asgardian? Kree? Skrull?"

    "No, but I think I'm going to keep what I am private for now."

    He opened his mouth, but decided against saying anything. Aliens were another matter entirely. He could deal with that later, for the moment, he should focus on the problems in his own backyard.

    "Fine." well, it was a useful set of abilities. Flying, healing, whatever the hell energy constructs were. He could put them to use, sure enough. "When we're ready to make our move, I'll be sure to let you know. Do you have a way to make contact-"

    "Ready to make your move?"

    The dread got worse, somehow, "Yes."

    "So you're not doing anything about it?!"

    "Don't insult me, Lady Rainbow. Of course I'm going to do something about it." he snapped, "But this will require preparation if it's going to have any real effect. Cut off one head, two more will rise in its place, remember? We have to be thorough, and we have to be careful, so that none of them see it coming." he said, before looking down at his own computer, "Put Zola back on. He's the technical wizard, right? Am I going to be hunted down and killed because they can see a record somewhere that I have access to this data?"

    "No."

    "How?" Fury asked.

    "I wrote the algorithm that hides HYDRA activities from the normal logs. I have simply altered it so that if you are using a flagged HYDRA file, it hides that from even the HYDRA logs."

    "Any way you can prove that to me?"

    "You are not currently being hunted down."

    "I suppose that works."

    "But people are getting hurt right now!"

    "Then go help them." Fury said, "You know where HYDRA is attacking, has attacked. Go do your healing thing. Undo whatever hurt they deal. But don't go after HYDRA itself until we're ready for it."

    She was silent for a time.

    "That's... reasonable, I suppose. You have until 2012." she said, sighing.

    "What do you mean?"

    "If Hydra is still a thing by 2012, I'll stop being subtle about it and just publish everything we know about them, and hunt them all down myself."

    "You're expecting me to destroy a hidden terrorist network so secret I didn't know about it in three months?" he asked sarcastically, "And if you could hunt them all down, why come to me?"

    "It's your planet, your organization, that they hurt. I thought you would know best how to handle things. If you need any help, or anyone gets hurt, don't be afraid to call me at this number. Zola will pick it up. I guess I'll... go ahead and start trying to heal the damage they've done. Thanks for reminding me of that. Oh! I just remembered something important. Speaking of damage they've done, do you know anyone who has the ability to undo brainwashing?"

    "HYDRA are mind-controlling people now?" he asked, cautiously, looking back at the files still open to him.

    "Not that many. Um. You know Captain America's partner, Bucky? He's still alive too. But Hydra have been using him as a super-assassin, and they put some commands in his head he can't disobey, and keep wiping his memory. I'm going to go get him now, do you know anybody that might be able to help him with what happened?"

    "You can't just magic the brainwashing away?"

    "...I probably could, now that you mention it. But only if that's what he wants to happen- ah! Thanks Fury, I just realized how I could fix that. Where's Steve Rogers? I need to kidnap him for a bit."

    "Don't you dare mess around with Steve Rogers. That man needs time to-"

    "Never mind, Zola knows! Bye!"

    She hung up on him again.

    Fury looked to his watch. Huh. Less than five minutes ago, the world still made sense. His first thought was that he should probably get in contact with Rogers, but-

    This could be good for him, if it meant reconnecting with Bucky. The Captain had been aimless and lost ever since being unfrozen, completely unconnected from the current time period. A familiar face, no matter how tragic the circumstances, might do him good.

    And Fury legitimately had bigger problems at the moment. He looked back over the information, and then began to scroll through, reading, and trying to memorize, every name and face that he could no longer trust. Once he knew that- he would know who he could turn to to start building a plan.
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 6 - Winter Soldier
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    I'm floating over the bank, and for some reason, this is the firs time it gets to me. I know that trapped underneath it there's a brainwashed cyborg World War II vet inside a freezer, but it... it just looks like an ordinary bank. People are going in and out in order to put in or take out money.

    I robbed an electronics store, and a gas station, and I kind of had the same feelings then, but not as strong.

    I'm not normal any more, and I might never be again. I'm now a kind of person, a kind of creature, who flies everywhere she goes, who is willing to enslave and mind control others for the greater good, and who isn't, cannot be, bound to normal social convention. Fury thought I was an alien. Looking up footage of myself from when I was in the blur, I could see it.

    In the videos, I was just... bizarre. Barely talking, my tattoos blazing, going from person to person while they were injured, and just... undoing whatever ailed them, ignoring their gratitude and thanks and just moving on to the next person while onlookers trailed behind me at a distance held more by awe than genuine respect.

    My clothes were the only thing that stood out as human in the slightest.

    I'm going to enter the Ideal Federal Service Bank. I don't know if it's one that existed in my world, too, but it wouldn't have looked out of place. It's also pretty damn close to the capitol building in the distance. I'm... pretty sure after I break into it and threaten everyone inside into leaving, that this might become the thing I'm most famous for, rather than my healing. I lower myself towards the entrance, and then focus on how I want to keep all the civilians out of the way by scaring them.

    My staff's gem glows yellow, and I create a giant skeletal hand of yellow light from it. It shoves open the doors for me, and I float out. Security guards near the entrance turn to me, raising weapons, but my skeleton hand immediately interposes itself. Bullets crack out against it, but when it doesn't break, it simply becomes stronger. I pluck the guns from their hands in two quick motions, and then squeeze them until they shatter.

    "Everybody out!" I announce, "Get out!"

    People begin screaming, and go running outside, trying to stay away from me, or the giant menacing arm.

    I change my construct into a drill, and begin to dig downwards. Not really feeling up to the Lagann face this time.

    I lower myself down into the hole, Zola following after me, as I look out into the strange room with multiple cage doors set between the chamber containing Bucky and the stairwell.

    More guards, these ones with actual assault rifles, immediately begin firing at me.

    I flinch back in surprise, before I hear something crack. And then I scream as bullets actually punch into me. Immediately, my yellow drill is there, smashing into the shooters. I change it into set of two hands, and set them to grabbing every gun in sight, but I'm already sinking, dropping from the air to the floor with a thud. What the hell!? What the hell!?

    God it hurts it hurts it hurts!

    "Madam! Heal yourself!" Zola shouts.

    I... I... god, god, god.

    I try for hope to heal with, but I'm too scared.

    Zola moves in closer, and forms a construct band around my chest, where I was shot. It puts pressure on me, and I stop feeling so cold there. I think he's stopping the bleeding?

    How did that even happen!? I'm a Lantern! Shit, my indigo constructs really are weak compared to everything else, aren't they?

    More bullets start coming, but Zola tanks them. I reach out with the yellow skeleton hand, and smash aside anyone shooting at me, sending bodies flying at the walls, and then reaching down to snap each gun in half. Men start coming from the elevator, so I reach into the doorway, and squeeze, forcing the doors to stay shut.

    "Madam." I turn to look at him, at his computer-generated face, "You can fix yourself. Easily. If you just focus."

    I... he's right.

    Am I safe?

    I look around the room, but I... I got them all. God, some of them are in way more danger than I am. Did I... yeah, yeah I did do that.

    My yellow hands fade away, my aura establishing itself again, and I float over to the nearest guard I smashed into a wall. He's... he's a mess. And I'm still not feeling very hopeful right now. I play indigo light over him, and his body starts getting pulled together. Its too slow going, so I just try to pour more into it. Should I use the ring? No. No, he's stabilizing now.

    He also starts sobbing, and apologizing.

    This is why I don't like healing with indigo.

    I turn to heal the next person, but the pressure increases on my chest. Oh. Right.

    "Thank you, Zola."

    I turn the light on myself and... shudder, as I remember every horrible thing I've ever done. But right at the top of the list is what just happened. I just... lashed out. Broke limbs and bodies on instinct to protect myself. What kind of a person- no. No. They were shooting at me. I was surprised. But it was still awful. I wipe away the tears, now that I'm fully healed.

    I turn back to the people I attacked, and continue to heal them, Zola carefully floating just behind me, over my shoulder. Every person I heal is left a sobbing, weeping, shell, so I just leave them for now. When I'm finished, I turn towards the reason I'm here.

    I cut through the bars of the cage door, and then walk up to the freezer, looking briefly at the controls nearby. Zola floats over to them, and creates a construct USB cable that he inserts into the module. All of it starts to glow orange as he assumes control.

    Then the chamber begins to whir, and release steam, as it switches from keeping Bucky cool, to warming him up.

    I take the chance to lean on my staff, relax, and try to ignore the sobbing guards.

    So.

    I got shot! How about that.

    I guess that's what happens when you fight people who have guns. My environmental shield wasn't nearly as durable as I thought it would be. But then I guess that construct strength is different for every color. Compassion is... not impossible to point inwards. I can and do care about myself. It's how I managed to heal myself. But it's a lot easier to point outwards. Indigo is the opposite on the emotional spectrum to orange, after all.

    I guess that means that the construct that protects myself is a lot weaker than something I would make to protect someone else.

    I should probably invest in armor, huh? The best stuff available would probably be vibranium. I think I could make a skin-tight catsuit made out of that work. Or whatever the hell Thanos' sword is made out of. Probably Uru.

    My attention is drawn back to the present when the chamber opens, and a groggy-looking Bucky steps out.

    I glance back at Zola. "Will he stay like this long enough for us to bring him to Captain America, or...?"

    "If he does not receive the codewords, he will eventually begin to lash out, and go berserk."

    "Right. Go ahead then."

    Zola began intoning carefully each of the Russian codewords, and I watch Bucky's face as it goes from groggy, to pained, to... emotionless.

    I shudder.

    Hopefully, I'll be fixing that soon.

    I look out across the room at the still-miserable men. Me flinging those guards aside in self defense was the most violent thing I had ever done, but all of them were aware of what they were doing to Bucky, and what they were using him for. They'd probably be in this state for a while. I hope that confronting their actions helped them.

    "Winter Soldier. Your current mission is to accompany me to a place called the Retreat, where we will be meeting with important allies, who will help me to heal you. Understood?"

    "Understood." he says simply.

    "...Okay. I'm going to be flying us there, don't be alarmed." I hold out my hand, and spread my flight aura over him, "Zola? Map please?"

    His display shifted from his face to a map of the United States. The Retreat was some ways away, but with as compassionate as I'm feeling right now, I'm betting we'll make good time.

    Unless...

    I have been meaning to try teleportation again.

    I focus on my need to get where I'm needed. I focus on the image of stepping through a portal and being right where I need to be. Of just appearing in a burst of light and fixing everything.

    And in this case, of getting Bucky to Captain America so I can heal him.

    The staff hums with energy, and a circle of indigo light appears in the air before me- before abruptly fizzling out. Ow! That... that actually stung. The light in the gem of my staff flickers for a few moments before returning to a steady glow.

    I try again, but the backlash hurt even more that time. What's going on?

    Never mind. I'll figure it out later. Flying it is.

    Me and Bucky float up, Zola following, and we go through the hole I dug into the floor, before staring up at a bunch of police in full military gear, their guns aimed at me.

    My flight aura falters, but Bucky is on top of things immediately. He swings himself forwards, metal-arm first, and wrenches a shield out of the hands of the nearest cop, and swinging it into another, smacking them backwards. When one open fires, I respond instantly, creating a shield around him. This one, at least, will stand up to bullets.

    Bucky smashes apart the rest of the circle, and I quickly heal whatever damage he does, which has the added benefit of making the police break down sobbing just like the Hydra guards below.

    Now that we've earned a moment of breathing space, I grab onto Bucky again, and this time fly straight up. Another drill opens the way into the floor above, and from there, I race for the nearest window, which I just burst through, letting my and Bucky's shields act like battering rams.

    And then we're flying free.


    "Zola, do you know a weapons dealer named Klaw?" I ask as we fly.

    "Yes. Ulysses Klaue. European HYDRA operatives have made use of him before."

    "He sells vibranium, right?"

    "Yes. In fact, he possesses almost the entire world's supply. He deals it out a few grams at a time. They make for very effective weapons"

    He really doesn't. But it's probably good for Wakanda and the world at large for everyone to think that. Heck, it's probably better for Klaw to think that.

    "Once we're done here, let's track him down. I don't... I don't want to be caught off-guard like that again. I want some kind of armor" I'm going to have to look into other methods to make myself bullet-proof too. I mean, I don't think I'd look too bad in green.

    Actually, I should probably do that first. If I decide to go through with it and become giant, it'd be a waste to need to have the world's most expensive armor refitted.

    "Add Bruce Banner to the list, too."

    "Of course."

    Bucky hasn't said much during the whole trip, simply watching the two of us, the world passing below, or staring out at nothing at all.

    "Madam. We're are coming up on the Retreat. Be aware that there is a high degree of surveillance on the area."

    "Right. Tell me if a missile is coming, or something." for a good while, we've been going over open forest, only spotting the occasional road, "Is that it?" I ask, spotting a cabin in front of a very pretty lake.

    "Yes."

    "Right." I lower myself down, and Bucky and I start walking on foot towards the cabin. "Are you ready?" I ask him.

    "What kind of healing do I need?" he asks, looking down at his metal arm, "Am I getting an upgrade?"

    "You're getting as much healing as we can in every way I can provide." I answer, before hurrying a bit to the cabin door. I knock a few times, and after a minute, Steve Rogers opens the door. His eyes immediately go to my staff, and the glowing gem inside it. Then, to the glowing form of Zola, and finally the masked Bucky.

    He tenses, and then relaxes again. "Who are you?" he asks, casually, "I didn't think anyone lived nearby." he leans back, and I'm sure he's reaching for something.

    "My name is- never mind." I'll come up with an actual superhero name at some point, "I'm Atika. Um. I heard from Director Fury that this is where I'm supposed to leave people lost in time?"

    He relaxes a bit more genuinely at Fury's namedrop, but not all the way. "What do you mean, lost in time?"

    I look back at Bucky, "Winter Soldier, remove your mask, please."

    He pulls it down, and Captain America takes a step back, his eyes going wide. "Bucky?"

    Perfect.

    My staff's gem glows blue, and I smile softly.

    "Who the hell is Bucky?"

    "Heh. Um. Mister Rogers? Barnes has been through... a lot, the last few decades."

    "How are you alive?" he asks Bucky, stepping closer to him, and reaching out, only for Bucky to take a step back.

    "Barnes was given a variation of the Super-Soldier serum by Arnim Zola. Not as effective of one as yours, but enough that he went into the same kind of stasis when he hit the frozen water." I explain, "He was captured by Hydra afterwards and... a lot of horrible things happened to him. I rescued him from where Hydra was keeping him earlier today. Part of what happened means that he can't remember much. But I think you can help him."

    Captain America simply stares at Bucky for a few seconds, before breaking contact, and rubbing a hand through his hair, "...Okay." he says simply, "But I'm going to need more of an explanation than that. Do you... want to come in?"

    "Thanks. Come on, Winter Soldier."

    Bucky heads inside once I gesture to the door, brushing past Captain America and quickly looking around the cabin. I follow, as does Zola.

    Once he closes the door behind us, I see that there was indeed a pistol near the door, where he was reaching.

    "Winter Soldier, sit down."

    Bucky sits, and Captain America tenses, "Why are you calling him that?"

    "Bucky was brainwashed." I say simply, "He was... tortured, and conditioned, over and over again, to only respond to that name."

    He turns to look at Bucky again, with a pained expression, "...How did you know about him?"

    I point towards Zola, "That glowing thing- I call it a construct-lantern, used to be a machine that was created by Arnim Zola. I took control of it, and now I know everything Zola knew. He knew where Barnes was kept, and how to release him from his freezer." no need to try and explain robots and AI to a guy who was in the 40s a few weeks ago from his perspective. Did they know about robots in the 40s? Probably.

    Still would complicate things, though.

    "Thank you." Captain America said, "You said I could help him? Should we try to... jog his memory?"

    "That probably would help in the long term. But I have a simpler way." I gesture to my staff, "This is... lets call it an alien artifact."

    "Like the Tesseract?"

    "Not exactly in that class, but... pretty close." I say, "It lets me channel emotions into various abilities. If I'm angry, or someone nearby is, I can channel that anger into a destructive beam. If I really want something, I can turn it into a construct-lantern loyal to me." I gesture at Zola, "And if I'm- or someone nearby, is really hopeful, I can heal."

    "You think you can heal Bucky?"

    "I think I can enable you to heal Bucky." I say, smiling, "If you really, really hope for it, I can make it happen. I've cured cancer with it, helped bring back people who were on the verge of death. But I had to use their hopes, or their family's hopes, for recovery to restore them. I didn't know Bucky before this happened to him. But you did. So I need your help."

    "How do I know for sure that I can trust you?"

    I shrug, "I did heal a bunch of people up near the Great Lakes, yesterday. It might still be on the news. Do you have internet here?"

    He shrugged. "Probably?" he pointed vaugely towards a computer. I walked over and turned it on, and then waited for everything to load. While I was focused on the computer, he went closer to Bucky, "Buck? Do you really not recognize me?"

    Bucky narrows his eyes up at him, "I have my memory wiped after each mission." he says, "But you look familiar."

    "Here." I say, bringing up a video I had already seen of myself in action during the blur.

    He watches carefully for a few minutes, before looking down at the keyboard, confused. He really did only just wake up. "What are you trying to do?"

    "There's a thing to make it stop, right?"

    "Try hitting the big rectangular button on the bottom."

    He taps it, and the video pauses. He runs his hand through his hair again, before looking over to me, and to Bucky. "Okay. Let's try it."



    Edit: Originally, Bucky's speech was black in order to show that he was emotionless. Since this was hard to see, I changed it back to normal.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 7 - Helping Heal
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "I need you to hope for the Bucky Barnes you knew. For a Bucky Barnes without brainwashing, one who remembers you."

    "Okay."

    I wait, looking at Bucky, who seems to be... about as okay with this as he is with anything else. And then the blue glow of my staff starts to intensify.

    "Remember. Free of brainwashing. More than anything else, we're trying to heal him from his programming. Alright?"

    "Right."

    Okay. Let's give this a try. I unleash the beam of hope into Bucky, and he flinches, steeling himself to remain in place as more and more of it pours into him. He's practically suffused with it. Blue spreads inside of him, making him glow. And then the glow becomes more intense, and starts to pool in his head.

    His eyes are practically blazing with it.

    He starts to breathe harder, and faster, but it doesn't look like he's panicking yet. I watch, then, as the blue shifts, and starts to pool at his shoulder, the one where flesh met machinery. Blue light pulses there, and then rushes out. Soon, every small opening and joint in his mechanical limb is an opening for more blue glow to shine out of, the machinery rumbling in place.

    All at once, the mechanical arm bursts apart, sending metal fragments in every direction, and leaving an ethereal arm of hope energy in its place. It looks almost ice-like.

    "Bucky? Are you alright!?"

    "I... Steve? Steve what's going- my arm? What happened to..." he watches, mystified, as his construct arm gives the appearance of thawing, starting at the shoulder. Rising up off of it like steam, the blue recedes, leaving healthy flesh behind.

    I let the blue light taper off, and smile at the two of them as they simply stare at Bucky's new functioning limb.

    "Alright." I say, "Looks like my part in this is over." I look to Zola, "So, have you located Klaw yet?"

    "Yes Madam. Ulysses Klaue is located in South Africa, hidden inside the beached ship Churchill."

    "Did that big orange thing just talk?" Bucky asked, turning his gaze from Steve to me and Zola, "Wait- was that Zola?"

    "It's a machine built by Zola, that he put everything he knew into." I say, "Zola's body died in the 1970s."

    Bucky went wide-eyed, "Wait I- oh god." he stumbled back into the couch, sitting down and putting his head into his hands, "I remember the seventies." he looks up at Steve, and went wide-eyed. "I... how are you still so young? Did... did they freeze you too? Are you okay? Are we okay? Are we-"

    "Buck! Buck, we're safe. This- woman. Adeeka?"

    "Ah-tee-kah." I repeat.

    "Atika, she saved you. I- I was frozen, but it wasn't by HYDRA. My plane went down near the arctic near the end of the war... I was just found and thawed out last week. Um. The year is 2011 now. It's October. I didn't know what had happened to you until she brought you here."

    Bucky looked over at me, several emotions warring in his face, before he wipes it again with a hand- one that was metal, a minute ago. He stares at his arm again, before looking back to me, "I- thank you. Thank you so much. You... my arm, and my head. But... do you think you could hide them again?"

    "Hide what?"

    "My memories." he said, "Of- of everything since World War II. God. Maybe some of that, too. Most of that." he closes his eyes, "Maybe all the way back to high school? Not that things were nice then, either." he cracks a sad smile, "Maybe I should just get a clean sweep."

    "Buck."

    "I- never mind." he says.

    "Is that what you want?" I ask. "Because I probably could."

    He thinks about it, hard, before looking at Captain America's pitying expression, and he steels himself again, "No. No, you've already done... a lot. The rest I'll just deal with."

    "Okay." I say, "But if you want to change your mind, I can try. And if you want to deal with things... I'm assuming the therapists here in the future are a lot better than the ones they had during the forties. I don't actually know anyone who can help, but I could look a few things up."

    "Right. Thanks. I owe you."

    "We both do." Captain America adds.

    "It's fine." I say.

    "It really isn't. Why did you do this? Save me?" he asked, "It couldn't have been easy. I saw all the guards in the room."

    "The reason is that I hate Hydra." I say, "And while I agreed to let Director Fury prepare stuff for a while before actually going after the organization, I still wanted to try and fix some of the things Hydra has caused in the meantime."

    Bucky nods, looking guilty.

    "It's not your fault." I say.

    "I know. But it was still me doing it. Even if they made me forget everything- I was still pulling the trigger every time."

    "They had you killing people?" Steve asked, sitting down next to him, and throwing an arm over his shoulders.

    "Yeah. I was their perfect assassin." he shook his head, "Not a single failed mission. I killed good people, bad people, normal people. Planted bombs. Hell, I planted evidence."

    I sigh, "Well... you don't have to do anything like that any more." I say, "I'll just... let you two get reconnected. Actually... I don't think anyone followed me, but technically, this place is watched by Shield. It's possible Hydra could come knocking. If you want I could try and find you somewhere safer?" although honestly I had no idea where that would be.

    "No need." Bucky said, "If we need to move suddenly, I already have some places in mind." he said, "And... you said this place was the Retreat? Built by Banner?"

    "Was it?" I ask.

    Bucky nodded at the same time Zola answered "Yes."

    Bucky glared at him for a moment, before looking back my way, "This is actually a pretty isolated spot. There aren't any HYDRA nearby. If they know I'm here now... well, they might start coming, but if we have any kind of warning, we should be able to get away safely."

    I look at Zola, "Can we do for Bucky what we did for Fury? Give him access to the Hydra stuff without letting them know?"

    "Of course." the computer screen, which was on my video, switched suddenly to a display of the Shield network. Bucky raised an eyebrow and walked over, clicking through a few things, before nodding in satisfaction.

    "Thanks. This... this is good."

    "You understand how that stuff works?" Captain America asks, standing up to look over Bucky's shoulder.

    "Yeah. Had to learn. Can't be a decent spy these days without it. Or assassin. Everyone uses computers these days." he smiled, a bit, "Don't worry, I'll teach you."

    "If you guys are okay... I'll see you sometime." I announce, heading for the door, "I still have a few more things I want to do today."

    "Thank you." Captain America says again, "If you ever need anything, well, don't be afraid to ask."

    "Anything." Bucky affirms, "You gave me my life back."

    I smile at him, before heading out the door, and flying upwards. Zola hot on my heels.

    Once we're a good distance away from everything, I turn to him, "If we're going to be spending time trying to fix what Hydra broke, we're probably going to be going into a few war zones."

    "Yes."

    "I really don't want to die." I say, "Not to bullets, or bombs, or- anything else. And I have an idea about something that could help me get around that little problem, but I want to know just how stupid of an idea it is, first."


    "You would die."

    "The Hulk lived."

    "Because of what is a suspected genetic mutation combined with a weak variant of super-soldier serum designed with the main focus of being able to resist truly incredible levels of radiation."

    "Could you give me what Bucky had? Or Captain America? Would that help?"

    "Hm. Potentially." the face on the screen shifted slightly, showing an image of the Abomination, "Ah. I have an example of the potential effects. Emil Blonsky. A special-forces with the British Royal Marines. The combined effects do seem quite potent. And he was less enraged than the Hulk."

    "I don't really want the... bone plates and vein-iness." I think for a second, "Or to go berserk."

    "I cannot mitigate that risk entirely." Zola said, "Or at all, actually. Gamma is by its nature extremely unpredictable, and all Hulk-like creatures we have witnessed have gone on rampages at one point or another."

    I sigh, "Well... we might as well go see Klaw, then. If just being bullet-proof is off the table, then I'll want that armor sooner than later."

    "Plotting map to Ulysses Klaue."

    From the US to South Africa, "Crossing the ocean, huh? That could be fun."

    Although after about an hour in, it really wasn't. Flying is wonderful. It just is. And I could do it for hours, and have done it for hours, but that was with stuff below me to look at. Usually wilderness. Not that the Atlantic isn't beautiful, it's just empty.

    At one point, I simply had Zola make a chair and windshield construct, and I kicked up my heels, got out my DS, and played Pokemon as we flew. I should really make a construct-lantern out of something comfortable to ride. Hm.

    Australia has a bunch of invasive wild horses wrecking their ecosystem, doesn't it?

    "Zola! Another thing on the list!"

    "Yes Madam." he says from below me.



    Klaue looked down from his office to the interior of the Churchill. There, dozens of men worked side-by-side to pack and repack missiles and other weapons.

    He sipped at his drink, before looking back to his computer, and the messages waiting there. He sighed softly, before sitting down and pausing.

    Something was off.

    He looked behind him, at the doorway, but there was nothing there. Nothing from the window, nothing under his desk- everything was orange.

    The cheap lights at the top of his office, and that had been fitted everywhere inside the Churchill, were yellow. The light in his office right now was orange. Why? He looked straight up, and then shrieked. He stumbled back, tripped on his own chair, and hit his desk. There were fucking glowing deep-sea fish in his office! Glowing, flying, fish!

    And then it began to spit things up, and made more of them!

    "Fucking leeches!" he screamed, grabbing his pistol and aiming at a snake-like thing with an evil looking circular mouth. He fired, but the things all startled at the sound, swimming here and there and everywhere in his office. He kept firing, knocked out his lights, sent a ricochet into his computer, until he ran out of bullets and got nothing but clicks from the pistol.

    He threw it at the biggest fish there, but the thing just ate it. It ate his gun.

    He scrambled to the door, and tried to get it, when one of the leech things suddenly dropped down nearby the handle and coiled partially around it.

    "L-look! I don't want any trouble!" he said, "If any of you can... talk? I can talk! What do you want?"

    One of the leeches still swimming about spit out something, a ring- which transformed into a big... old television, with a camera on the top of it. Glowing just as orange as everything else.

    The screen shifted, displaying a partial face dominated by two round glasses.

    "Klaue, Ulysses. Born April 20, 1964." it spoke, "I was told you are the person to speak to if one is interested in obtaining vibranium."

    "You heard right." he said, relaxing, "But it's not cheap."

    "I am afraid that we will be not be purchasing it. You will give it to us."

    "And why am I going to do that? You can threaten my life all you want, but-" he tried, forcing a cocky smile, which fell away as he was cut off.

    "Because it will be the right thing to do." the thing interrupted. The fish suddenly swarmed around a small spot in the roof- a hole. One of dozens in the old, rusty, ship. He heard the screech of tearing metal, and watched in horror and fascination as they chewed open a hole to the surface. The computer suddenly grew two robotic claw-hands, like from a claw game. They surged outwards, clamped down on his shoulders, and then lifted up and into the air.

    It flew with him, shooting up higher and higher and higher, until he was suspended above the clouds. He couldn't even see his ship any more.

    He turned around, and looked at the woman waiting for him, up in the sky. She was dressed trashy, but wasn't hard on the eyes otherwise. If you, you know, ignored the glowing symbols on her face and arms and belly, and the eerie glow in her eyeballs, and the menacing staff that hurt to look at directly. And the way she was waiting for him in the sky.

    He forced a smirk, "So! The going rate is is 10,000 dollars a gram, but since I appreciate your showmanship so much I'm going to-" he watched as she reached up with her free hand to her fanny pack, and pulled out a little purple ring.

    "Ring? Designate Klaw as a secondary user." she said, interrupting him.

    <Designation accepted.>

    "Um."

    "I'm sorry. But don't worry, as soon as you've done what I want you to, I'll take it off again. I promise. Okay?"

    "UMM."

    She holds it out, and he tries to move his arms away, ball his hands into fists, but the television gives him a short electric shock that forces his arm to spasm, and she slips the ring onto him. The television released him then, but he just kept on floating in place, held up by some kind of purplish energy field around his body.

    Klaue looked down as the collar of indigo light formed around his neck, complete with a little medallion with the same symbol as she had on her forehead.

    <Ulysses Klaue, welcome to the Indigo Tribe. User unfortunately does match qualifications for control ring requirements. Altering ring protocols. Certain freedoms restricted.>

    Then, he began to panic. "Shit. Shit! I- I just sent a shipment to the Ten Rings. I need to stop it!"

    "A shipment of what?"

    "What else? Missiles! Nasty ones, old Stark tech. The kind of shit that doesn't just kill people, but makes sure nobody can ever walk on the ground you killed em' on. Crap. Where-" a map suddenly flashed into his mind, "-okay!" he began to fly off, ignoring for the moment that he had no real idea why he was in this situation, or what had just happened.

    He could only focus on one thing, right now.

    Stopping those missiles from reaching their destination.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 8 - Third Option
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    A few minutes earlier

    "What do you mean, you can't just scan for vibranium?"

    "I do not have the necessary sensors."

    "But when I asked you where Captain America was, you were able to tell me in an instant, and then map a way there."

    "His location is on SHIELD files. And I am connected to the internet and to HYDRA's satellite GPS network. I used Google Maps and cross-referenced my own location."

    I put my head into my hand, and close my eyes. I guess I can't just duplicate all of the ring functions just by having a pet AI, "...I guess we have to go down there and ask him where it is. That or... poke holes in the ship until we find it." I know from Age of Ultron that he keeps it in a secret chamber, but I don't remember where exactly inside the ship it is.

    I look down at my pack, and think about using the ring. If I just slip it on, ask it to show me where the vibranium is, and then slip it off, that should be fine, right? There's only 10% charge on it. Even if I get stuck again, it wouldn't be for long. Not if I remember not to recharge...

    ...No. That's too much of a risk. Having the ring and the staff together are a bad combination.

    Maybe I could give Zola the staff in the meantime? Order him not to give it back to me until the ring is out of charge. Or would he give in the moment blurred-me wanted to recharge? Or would giving him the staff make him his own master and unleash an orange-lantern Nazi on the world? No, no. This is a silly train of thought. The ring's not worth the risk. We can just search for it by hand, or drag Klaw up here and have him tell us.

    ...

    Actually, why not combine those two plans? Slip it on him, and then ask him. If I hold onto the staff, there's no way he can get trapped like I did. It's... not a plan I like, but I should at least test it.

    I have the greatest tool in the universe sitting useless in my pocket. If it drives me crazy every time I put it on, it's not helpful, but what if there's two of us?

    Warden and prisoner.

    It's already the same thought I had with Zola. The only difference is that I've experienced indigo first-hand, so I hate it.

    But what if I could just slip the ring onto Thanos and save the universe? What if I could get all the benefits of a power ring while making some criminal like Klaw do some good instead of evil? I wouldn't be cruel. It's not like I would make him use it forever, like the Indigo Tribe would. There's no shortage of criminals.

    I'm probably not going to have a better chance to test this out than now, or a better target. Worst case, he's blurred for a little while before the ring runs out of what little battery it has left. Best case, I have a new working option to control bad guys besides turning them into construct-lanterns permanently.

    "Should I go down and grab him?" Zola asks.

    "...Yeah. I think I'm going to put the indigo ring to it's intended use."

    "Indigo ring?" Zola asks.

    "It's... like when you compress down, you turn into an orange ring? I have an indigo ring. If people wore yours, they'd be forced to be greedy. But if they wore mine, they'd be forced to be compassionate."

    "Ah. You think he will turn the metal over to us because it is the morally correct thing to do?"

    "Something like that." I say, already feeling guilty.

    But no matter what happens, the ring is still only at 10% charge, and I'll be controlling the staff the whole time. He won't be trapped forever.

    I watch as Zola darts down to go grab Klaw.


    Now

    I dart between buildings, trying my best to keep up with Zola as he tries his best to keep up with Klaw. The rest of the school of construct-lanterns following me as best they can.

    But it looks like either Klaw is slowing, or I'm catching up.

    Zola shoots out, trying to grapple with Klaw once he stops in place, but the arms dealer simply drops down and out of the way, before landing, hard, on top of a truck going down the road.

    He walks along the top of the truck, ignoring the air resistance thanks to the ring, and then holds out his arm towards the front of the truck, and creates a huge, indigo, ramp. The truck can't stop in time, and it plows head on, climbing up the ramp and flinging itself into the air where Klaw covers it with his aura.

    "Klaw!" I shout, flying towards him.

    "Sorry, need to deal with this!" he shouts, before looking around, looking conflicted, "I should... put this at the bottom of the ocean. Can't hurt anybody there, right?"

    "It'll hurt fish!" I protest, flying in front of the floating truck to stop it, and taking note of the very scared driver. Thanks. I can use that.

    "Screw the fish!" he snaps, before looking pained as his collar glows a bit, "No, no, you're right. I'm sorry. Where should I put them, then? These missiles will make anywhere they drop on an irradiated poisonous caustic patch of forever no-man's land."

    "Why don't we bring them back to your ship? I'll help you find a place for all the weapons, okay?"

    He shakes his head, "You're right. I've got just... tons of the things. I need to get rid of them."

    "Then let's go." I urge, "Back to your ship." I remind him.

    "Right." he turns around, and starts flying, with the truck, back to the boat.

    I let out a breath of relief, before looking at Zola, hovering nearby, "Okay. So... how do you dispose of dangerous material safely?"

    "In most cases, simply bury it in a place that should be inaccessible to people for the foreseeable future."

    "Drag it to the moon, got it."

    The trip back to the boat, glowing truck in tow, seemed to have gotten a bit of attention as well as I can see sirens in the distance. If Klaw's operation was secret before now, it probably won't be fairly soon. Good riddance.

    But it does mean I'll have to be fast. He sets the truck down on top of the boat, and then opens the door for the driver to scramble out of. As the poor man drops to his hands and knees and starts to vomit, Klaw reaches down to stroke the man's back.

    "There, there. Let it out. Sorry, I should have made the ride smoother, shouldn't I? I could have avoided swervin' around those buildings at least. Sorry."

    "Boss? What's- what's going on?"

    "I have no idea. I'll probably figure it out in prison."

    "Prison?" the poor driver asks.

    "Oh, you too. Probably prison for all of us. We're doing horrible things you know." he says in an attempt to be comforting.

    I look over at Zola, "Hey, can you make a loudspeaker construct?"

    "Yes." he forms one out of orange light, and I blast a big hole into the deck of the ship, before prying it open. Then, I mentally guide Zola to place the speaker in front of Klaw.

    "Can you tell your people to evacuate the ship?"

    "Sure. Do drills for this kind of thing, you know. Got to be careful about fire safety, building bombs in an enclosed space." he takes the speaker, "Everyone! This is Klaue speaking! The ship is in danger, so everybody needs to evacuate, just like we practiced! Everyone off! Leave everything behind!" he smiles up at me, "There you are."

    "Thanks."

    "So, where are we dumping it all?"

    "Moon."

    "Hah! Perfect. Nobody's going to mind if the moon's radioactive." he says, grinning, before his expression sobers, "And then I'll have to look into the Ten Rings, and HYDRA, and AIM an' everybody else." he looks over at me, considering, "Actually... could I do this, instead of prison? I mean, I can't help anyone from behind bars."

    ...Tempting.

    "I'll ask you if you want to after you spend a bit of time without it on. There's certainly plenty of things you could help me with. Actually, if you could answer a few of my questions?" I could have probably asked these things earlier, I don't think I'd have to put the ring on. But... I've been avoiding thinking about it.

    "Shoot."

    "Could you ask the ring why I can't teleport?"

    "Sure. Ring, why can't she teleport?"

    <Analyzing.>

    "And after that, could you tell me if you can find any sources of alien DNA?"

    "Sure."

    We watch from above as Klaw's workers begin to file out of the ship from a few different openings in the ship, and gathering in large groups nearby. But some are already hearing the sirens, and are starting to move for hidden vehicles- "Zola, go make sure that nobody leaves, could you?"

    "Yes, Madam." He floats down to menace Klaw's workers into sticking around, and the rest of the construct-lantern school follows him.

    "I think the ring's got something." Klaw says.

    <Analysis of teleportation methods have resulted in deep-level errors.>

    "What does that mean?" I ask, confused.

    <The universe is not following the laws that this ring is familiar with, resulting in deep-level errors. Direct analysis of existing spacial disruptions required to address error.>

    "So... what, I have to scan someone while they teleport to figure out how to do it myself? How could the universe be following the wrong laws?"

    <Unknown. Majority of natural laws are working as expected.>

    How was I going to find- no, no. Plenty of people teleport in the MCU. Magic is an option- something to look into on its own -but power rings are famously fuzzy about magic. Other than that, maybe the Bifrost? Does that count as magic? Thor did say that Asgardian 'magic' is just sufficiently-advanced science, maybe that could work. Jane Foster called it an Einstein-Rosen bridge and was able to detect it when it came down.

    Maybe I could talk to Jane Foster about it?

    Actually... there are a lot of things I'd like to talk to Jane about.

    Definitely adding that to the list.

    Besides that, there are what the Guardians of the Galaxy, and probably most alien races use. Jump-points, I think they called them? How did those work? They seemed artificial with the hexagon design. Did the ships open them? And then of course, there's the Tesseract. Which is on Earth. Maybe I could convince Fury to let me look at it as a thank-you for telling him about Hydra?

    "Churchill's empty." Klaw said, jolting me out of my thoughts, "Now off we go!"

    "Wait-"

    He doesn't wait. He reaches out, and indigo light pours off of him. Construct chains whip out from the ring and reach out in every direction to lash across the ship. The entire thing groans as it's lifted into the air, and Klaw looks straight up, aiming for the barely-visible moon in the sky.

    And then he starts flying, pulling the ship after him.

    I rush after him, staring at the chains. Those are... they're bigger than anything I've made so far. Bigger than everything I've made put together.

    How much ring charge did he just use?

    He flies up and up, but already I can see him flagging, and see the chains beginning to go from opaque to transparent.

    The ring was at 10%, before the flight across the city, the giant ramp, carrying the truck, and now this. If that thing drops, it's not just going to leave a crater, it's going to leave a massive one. It's literally full of missiles. Well, not full. But carrying a lot of them.

    "Klaw! Stop!"

    The chains are fading fast.

    I need to stop it from falling!

    Green light erupts from the staff, and forms a gigantic pillow construct. I press it under the ship, and then start pushing it upwards, even as the chains start flickering and giving out.

    "KLAW!" I shout, "KLAW! You're going to run out of energy!"

    Careful to keep the pillow moving upwards, and to not break the connection between the construct and the staff, I fly up and above the ship, and stare at a terrified Klaw as he's lying against the deck of the ship. The ring is lifeless at his side. Frost is already starting to cover everything.

    I... I can't make any new constructs or the boat drops. I can't switch to another color or the boat drops. One life, a criminal, vs how many would suffer the fallout below?

    Do I just let him freeze?

    ...

    Can I just let him freeze?

    No.

    But how? I don't have any other options. My construct-lanterns are all still on the ground. What else do I have?

    Agh! I'm an idiot! I can still move me.

    I drop down, lengthening my filament connection to the pillow, grab him with my free hand, and extend my environmental shield over him.

    His body is absolutely freezing against mine. Parts of him are literally covered in ice. But he's still breathing. I can't heal him right now, so I'll just have to be quick with the boat.

    I push the pillow upwards, harder and faster than before, and the boat groans and creeks with the effort, but within a short time, we're free of Earth's gravity, and when I stop the pillow, the boat just keeps on drifting. I shift from a pillow, over to a net, and start pulling it the rest of the way to the moon.

    "Okay. Now to focus on you." I say to Klaw once the ship is secure.

    I look over at him, and freeze.

    He's not moving.

    I pour indigo light into him, and I see the frost peel away, and... he's breathing again. Good. But he's not waking up, and the nasty marks the ice left behind aren't going away. All I'm doing is warming him up, not actually fixing any of the damage I've done.

    He's- not crying!

    He's not awake enough to 'let' the compassion in.

    "I'm feeling enough compassion for both of us! Come on!" no, no, wrong direction. I really hope that my stupid test didn't just get a man killed.

    Blue light plays over his body, makes the black marks left by the ice disappear, and forces him to breathe harder and deeper.

    Klaw blinks awake, stares up at me, and then goes white as a sheet and slumps over, fainting.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 9 - Vibranium Socks
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    When Klaw woke up, three things happened: I apologized for putting him in danger, made an area filled with atmosphere so he wouldn't have to hold onto me, and then made him an offer as he bounced around in the low gravity.

    In the end, Klaw preferred prison to the ring. But to my surprise, he actually thought about it for a good while. The ring didn't seem to have any long-lasting effects on him. For a little while after waking up he did weep for a while over the people he had a hand in killing, but as he recovered, he got furious with me. But not too long after that he began trying to manipulate me into letting him keep doing what he was doing before, in exchange for a cut of his profits, and any other alien technology I was willing to throw in.

    While... it didn't end the way I liked, I still think that overall, the test could be considered a success, if a learning experience at the same time. It's disheartening to hear that the ring is just as horrifying to other people as it was to me... but seeing how quickly he could shrug it off made me a little more relieved.

    I am afraid of the change in mental state. That's one hundred percent true. But what I was, and am most afraid of is being stuck in that mental state. Of not being able to escape it again. If... I can just figure out a way to make sure that I would be able to pull out of it, I think I'd be willing to use the ring again. And I think that this Warden/Prisoner setup might be what I'm looking for.

    Having someone else who is able to think clearly holding onto the staff, they assure that the ring-user will only be under the influence for as long as it takes to burn through a single ring charge at maximum.

    I think having someone around to remind the ring-user of what to prioritize will help them a lot too. It means that while I couldn't control someone running on indigo, I could at least guide them. Using criminals as my Lanterns is something that I think could work. I'll just have to keep in mind what wrongs my potential future Indigo Lanterns will try to fix first. So... the experiment was a tentative success, as long as you can keep the ring-user from trying to leave the atmosphere without any charge left.

    After making sure as many of Klaw's people as possible were actually arrested, I decided to check out my brand-new moonbase, and the vibranium supply that was somewhere inside.

    The Churchill was a massive ship, that served as the workplace to hundreds of criminals. Unfortunately, as it turns out, much of it was not built to withstand a vacuum. Almost all the electronics in the place are fried, the lights are all broken, the generators died when their fuel froze over, and any container filled with air that wasn't perfectly sealed tight kind of exploded.

    I'm just glad none of the explosives went off, not that they could do much damage all the way out here.

    Right now, I have Zola sorting through and categorizing everything, to see what might be salvageable, what we should just destroy, and what might actually be of some use. While I and my other construct-lanterns poke holes in the walls looking for secret compartments filled with fictional super-metal.

    It took maybe an hour to hit pay dirt.

    "Hey! Zola! We found it!"

    He set down a crate of missiles he was examining, and floated over as I pried the rest of the compartment open to reveal the glowing blue vials of metal. I pick up one of the vials, and turn it in my head, surprised at how light it was. I mean, there was still some heft to it, but not as much as the same amount would if it were metal or even rock.

    "What kind of armor did you desire, Madam?"

    "...Honestly, I was thinking along the lines of something kind of skin-tight, that I could slip other clothes over. Shirt, pants, socks, gloves. A helmet. It doesn't have to be very thick, right?"

    "It completely absorbs kinetic energy." Zola confirms, "Less than a penny's width would turn away bullets. Although it will only prevent sudden and fast-acting bursts of energy. You will be protected from explosions, bullet impacts, and piercing wounds. Although I should warn you that a vibranium microweave will not prevent you from being strangled or slowly crushed, or blunt damage from objects moving with insufficient force. It won't do anything to stop you from being punched, for example."

    "It's still going to make me a lot safer than before."

    He begins to focus, and extruding out of his back came a large blocky machine. Mechanical claws emerged from his main body, and picked up one of the canisters, before simply pulling it into himself completely. "Please give me... an hour, Madam. Do I have permission to scan you for fitting purposes?"

    "Scan away."

    The camera shifted slightly, and then extended out of him on a long snake-like arm, circling around me, and then making another circle that went above and below me. It retracted, and I began to hear a strong hum from the machine.

    I spend the next hour exploring the ship some more, this time with the goal of just getting a good view of everything rather than looking for the vibranium. There was a cafeteria, although all of the food was destroyed by the vacuum. And even a few places to sleep.

    There were also a lot of dead rats. I tried to convert one to orange, on a whim, but while I could transform it into a construct, it was in the same way I could do the same to an inanimate object. Without any force of will behind it, it wouldn't move on its own. I let my Lamprey- who was quickly becoming my favorite, beside Zola, eat the dead rat-construct, and then set it and the rest of my school on cleaning the base of any other frozen animal corpses. Best to keep things clean as they can be.

    Eventually, I found another secret compartment, one which had conveniently exploded from air pressure and revealed itself, as opposed to the vibranium compartment.

    It was here that I found a number of other Wakandan-looking things. A case with a half-dozen spears inside, and one with a few guns. Besides that, there were other tools I didn't really recognize. No Kimoyo beads or anything like that, but blocky objects with buttons on the sides, a long strip of metal, something about the size of a lighter, a knife handle without the knife... all kinds of interesting things. I gather it all up in a construct shopping cart, and start pushing it back towards where Zola was.

    "Hey. Found some more cool stuff!" I say, spreading my atmosphere to him as well.

    "I am nearly finished with your armor. Is there a particular design you would like for the helmet?"

    The first thing that comes to mind is Mega Man's.

    "Understood."

    "Oh. Um. Alright! Thanks." darn it. How am I going to fit my ponytail through that? Ah well. I'll figure something out.

    I wait for Zola to finish the last touches, before the machine he created disappears, leaving behind... a shimmering silver body-suit, silvery armored gloves, a silver Mega Man helmet, and socks.

    Vibranium socks.

    "How do we wash these?" I ask, picking them up.

    "Giving them to any of your construct-lanterns with the orders to consume everything that isn't vibranium will leave them completely clean." Zola says seriously, before hovering over to the stuff I brought. He picks up one of the guns immediately, he fires it, unleashing a burst of blue light and a deep thrumming noise. The beam shot across the area I've covered with my aura, crossed through it harmlessly, and then... vanished as it hit open space. "A sonic-based weapon." Zola informs, turning it around and adjusting the settings, before firing a much smaller, weaker blast, and then a much stronger one that left my teeth rattling just being within a couple feet of it, even with the blast pointed in the opposite direction, "I believe this could also be used to effectively clean them. I believe at its higher settings, it is designed to disintegrate anything that isn't pure vibranium."

    "Cool. Can we please stop firing the Wakandan super-weapons inside my atmosphere bubble? What if it pops?!"

    "I will stop. But we are not in danger, Madam. Sound is designed to travel through your flight aura as if it wasn't there. Otherwise you could not hear." he looks down at the weapon, "Which I suppose could be a vulnerability."

    Not planning on invading Wakanda anytime soon, so I don't have to be too worried about that yet. "Hey Zola? Turn around for a moment, I want to put on my new costume."

    "Of course." he says, before turning and drifting away into another room.

    Which leaves me with the struggle of actually putting on a single-piece bodysuit (surprisingly stretchy) with one hand. Sometimes, doing stuff with the staff is really inconvenient.

    Maybe...

    No, that won't work. What if I accidently drop it switching hands, and get trapped in a vacuum?

    Could I..?

    No, no, I would need to let go to get my feet through the leg holes.

    I contemplate trying to hold the staff with my teeth, before giving up. I gather up all the pieces of my armor, before flying after Zola, "Hey, Zola? I'm going to need an atmosphere that I'm not generating in order to change. We have to go back to Earth."

    "Are we leaving the vibranium, or taking it with us?"

    "Do you think you could carry all of it inside you?"

    "I can increase the size of my monitor."

    "...Let's take one vial, in case we need to make anything else in a hurry, and leave the rest here. If we need more, we'll know where it is. Let's leave the weapons and stuff here in the meantime too."

    "Of course."



    We settled down on a small deserted island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, and I had him turn around again.

    The vibranium suit was cool and incredibly smooth to the touch, and surprisingly stretchy. A bit like... metallic nylon. I felt kind of like an idiot putting it on. First, I had to get almost completely naked, only leaving the underwear, and then stretch the neck hole wide enough to fit my legs through. Somehow, I managed to get each leg into the correct sleeve, and then I pulled upwards enough to wrestle my arms through the neckhole as well, and pull it onto myself.

    The end result was extremely snug.

    I had to pinch and pull at it a bunch to make sure everywhere was in the right spot, which took a few more minutes, considering it was fit to my body exactly.

    But as I admired the end result in a construct mirror courtesy of Zola, I did have to say I was satisfied. Skin-tight outfits were hot as hell, and so was I.

    In comparison, everything else was easy to work with. The socks went on easily, and seemed to magnetically seal onto the legs. They had a bit of padding underneath, so it wasn't uncomfortable to walk on them. In fact, I think I might forgo shoes or outer clothes entirely. Vibranium all the way.

    As I slip on the gloves, I'm surprised to feel that the palm and fingertips were exposed, and that when I made a fist, the fingers magnetically sealed together, not letting me open them back up.

    "What's up with the glove?" I ask, beginning to get a little worried.

    "You felt some anxiety about having the staff pulled away, Madam. This will maintain a grip even in the event of unconsciousness, as well as maintain skin contact with it."

    "Aw. That's so sweet! How do I let it go on purpose?"

    "Tighten and then relax your grip three times in a row, one second apart."

    "Right." I squeeze my fist tighter, release, one potato, squeeze, and release, two potato, squeeze, release and- hey! I have my hand again, "Could I set it so that only happens with my left hand? I like to keep my right free."

    He holds out a robot claw, and I hand the right glove to him, and he recreates the big machine from earlier.

    Finally, I look over at the helmet, and sigh, undoing my ponytail. Once it's all down in a big frizzy mess, I set it on my head, and smile. This is actually kind of comfortable. A bit heavy, but not too bad. I turn my head back and forth quickly, and it doesn't shift much. It also kind of forces all my hair out of the back of the helmet and directly onto my back, which doesn't look too bad.

    Zola hands me back the glove, which is now completely armored, and I slip it on as well. I look back in the mirror, checking myself out again, and I have to say... It's not bad at all.

    I reach out, and my staff floats into my grip. As my hand closes around it, my tattoos re-establish themselves, and to my surprise, I see that they shine through my new outfit. The indigo symbol shined from my belly, from the sides of my thighs, from my arms, and from my forehead, all of the symbols connected by glowing tron lines.

    I think I'm beginning to actually look like a superhero.

    Then I pull my fanny pack back on.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 10 - Time Skip
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    I chew my lip, nervous, before steeling myself, and lifting the ring up to the staff.

    "Recharge."

    Light flowed from the gem of my staff into the ring, which began to glow brighter and fill up with color again.

    <Current power level: 100%.>

    I put it back in one of my belt pockets, and then I lower myself to the window. "Zola, can you translate?"

    "Of course, Madam."

    I knock on it, and a nurse on the other side looks over, confused, before going wide-eyed. He shoves the window open and begins to demand explanations in something that's not-quite German. I'm in Sokovia.

    "My name is-" damn it, still don't have a name, "-Atika. I heard that some of the people caught in the most recent attack were staying here? I am the healing lady from Minnesota, in America. I would like to speak with a doctor, so that I can help heal these people."

    Zola begins to translate, and answers a few questions before she hurries off.

    I wait for a minute, before an attractive woman with a white coat and a stethoscope comes to the window. She looks me up and down, before looking to Zola, and beginning to question him.

    "She asks if you are really the healing woman. She says she is not sure, because you had a ponytail and a fanny pack in the videos. And you were robbing a bank."

    I elect to ignore that, embarrassed. I was originally going to just keep using the fanny pack, but realized that if I did get into a situation where I'm blocking bullets with my body, it would get destroyed. So, we used a little bit more of the vibranium and made myself a belt with a bunch of bulky vibranium-weave pockets on it. The pockets use the same kind of magnetic seals as my gloves and my socks, basically becoming seamless except when I'm using my vibranium gloves to open them.

    "I would like to offer you the chance to wear this ring." I say, showing the indigo ring, "It will let you heal people like I did in Minnesota. But only for one day. It will alter your mind while you're wearing it, so you can only think compassionately. But the effects will be temporary. I assure you, you will be fine afterwards."

    Zola translates, and then has a short conversation with her.

    Then, she holds out her hand.

    "Ring, designate secondary user."

    <Designation accepted.>

    It flies over to her finger.

    <Valeria Devona of Earth, welcome to the Indigo Tribe. User fortunately does not meet qualifications for control ring requirements. Altering ring protocols. Certain freedoms restored.>

    This was another idea I had, on the way here. While I think that the Warden/Prisoner approach will definitely do good, there's no reason why something like it wouldn't work for non-criminals as well.

    A volunteer, who specifically wants to help people, could do a lot of good. Especially if I served as a guide to try and curb any compassion-craziness and keep her focused.

    "Thank you." she says, ignoring the collar that formed from light around her neck.

    "You're welcome." I say, smiling, "Now, where should we begin?"



    It's... a bit like watching the videos of myself during the first forty hours.

    Doctor Devona darts from one floor to the next, hurriedly creating tools and devices and blazing through procedures and tests that might have taken hours. She reconnects limbs, or rebuilds them. She wipes away bruises, cuts, burns, allergic reactions and bullet wounds.

    I keep busy myself, of course. While she solves everything through her medical knowledge combined with the ring's ability to make any tool, create super-detailed scans, and the indigo light's ability to heal through guilt, I can brute force healing through hope.

    When we're finished with that hospital, we fly to the next one. And the next.

    And then, I turn her towards the damage done to the town itself.

    Hydra aggravated and provided weapons to a local militant hate group into blowing up several buildings a few days back. Mostly government buildings, a food bank, and a synagogue. The surviving victims of the explosions were all brought to the first hospital I visited, and were among the first that Doctor Devona healed.

    Now, we're focusing on restoring the buildings to their previous shape. For this one, we have to work closely together. While the ring can emulate other emotions just like the staff, she doesn't have any idea on how to do it yet. So for now, I'm providing the blue light, channeled from people nearby who want their neighborhood to look like it should, while Doctor Devona and the Ring provide the complex constructs required to rebuild everything they need.

    I found Doctor Devona around noon, and by the time we finished healing everyone and restoring everything damaged in the disaster in the small Sokovian town, it was about eight PM.

    "What next?" she asks, almost excited, "I know that in the next town over-"

    "Now, you give me the ring." I tell her, "And we see how you feel. Get something to eat."

    "But there's so much we can still do. The day isn't over yet!" she said, the ring translating for her.

    "Doctor," I say, "if you want to keep helping tomorrow, I'll give it back after you have some sleep, and we'll keep on healing for another eight hours. Alright?" I tell her, "But first, I need you to give it back. Please."

    She hesitates, but then nods slowly, holding out her hand. I slide the ring off of it, and then slip it into one of my pockets.

    "Valeria? Are you alright?"

    She pulls away from me as the collar and tattoos fade and her eyes stop blazing with light, and then shudders, and swears under her breath, looking away.

    "Ring, un-designate Valeria Devona. And Klaw, if you haven't already." I say, slipping a finger into the pocket.

    <Removing secondary designations. This ring now only has one designated user.>

    Doctor Devona watches me put the ring away, and then begins speaking. Zola turns his camera between us, and then translates once she finishes, "She is saying that she feels like she did drugs." he said, "And that she feels selfish for never wanting to do it again. She is apologizing... and asking you if you would go to the hospital in the city down the road, and help the people there anyway, even if she will not."

    "Tell her that I'm grateful for everything she did already. And that I'll of course go help them tomorrow."

    "She also asks if you would like to get some dinner."

    She's smiling at me.

    "Absolutely!" I say.



    While things didn't exactly go anywhere after dinner, I'd still warrant today a success. Asking for a volunteer to work as a temporary lantern worked out pretty well, and I got to eat my first actual not-stolen-snack-food meal since coming to this universe. I also happened to have that meal with a beautiful woman.

    One who, unfortunately, also mentioned a boyfriend near the end of the meal.

    I mentioned that I needed a place to stay, so she immediately brought me to the town's hotel, and they gave me a room free of charge for helping to rebuild a few of the buildings on the street. Which meant that for the first time since arriving in this world, I would actually get to sleep. In a bed, no less!

    I'm not stupid, though. I keep my staff in my hand the whole night, using my vibranium glove's locked position to hold it in place. Also, of course, there's Zola, who would keep watch on the doors and windows for the whole night.

    Definitely a good day.


    Over the next few days, I kind of fell into a pattern.

    I did go to the hospital that Doctor Devona want me to check out, and healed everybody there, and after that, I went to the next area Zola said had recently been devastated by Hydra, and tried to do the same thing- finding a volunteer to be my Lantern for a few hours, and then I did the same at the next place, and then the next.

    My armor did end up coming in handy as we went from areas that were rebuilding, to areas that were still in the midst of active conflict. And it was there that I began to slow down a bit. In a lot of these situations, Hydra either gave weapons to both sides, or the sides involved... I couldn't really say who was right. Or if there even was a 'right side'. And I wasn't really confident enough to start going around overthrowing governments or putting down resistance movements without actually understanding the situations.

    It's just... hard. And confusing. And stressful.

    So I just focused on helping where I could. Often telling the ring to seek out the most violent people involved in the conflict, so I could make them help to repair things and heal the people caught in the crossfire.

    Afterwards, though, I just had to let those people go. After all, there usually wasn't an authority that wouldn't reward them or kill them. I really had to look into making my own prison at some point. But since I don't have one, I made do with threatening them that if I had to come back, I'd make them do it again, and for longer.

    Other times, I go back to telling the ring to look for people who are already trying to help. Doctors, medics, people who are trying to keep civilians out of the line of fire.



    After a week of day-in, day-out facing these kinds of problems, however, I decided that I needed a break, or I was going to go crazy. At the time, I was still near central Europe, so I decided to look up what kinds of animals were invasive and damaging there and just... decompress for a while. Go fishing.

    Turns out? Catfish are not welcome in Europe. Neither are carp or goldfish. Or these adorable smallish beaver things with rat tails called coypu.

    I spend a good part of a day just catching and usurping as many as I can find, and greatly increasing my overall number of construct-lanterns. Most of them I turn back into rings and store inside Lamprey, but there's a particularly fat coypu I leave out to follow me around.

    I named her Raticate.

    After my little vacation, however, I go back to the healing and war. Looking for volunteer lanterns in some places, and forcing the ring on violent people in others.

    When it gets to be too much, I go back to cleaning up the environment. Turns out Canadian geese and house crows are not supposed to be on this side of the Atlantic either. But after a day to relax and a night to sleep, I always go right back into the action.

    I spend a lot of time in central Europe, and then the Middle East. Aiming mostly for things that Hydra has caused recently, rather than a long time ago. Active war-zones, places where terrorists have attacked, disease outbreaks.

    After the fourth week- it's November now, I start getting recognized faster, and to my surprise, start getting volunteers right away for the ring. Even, occasionally, people willing to put it back on after I decide their shift is done, and they've had time to process things and let it wear off.

    People braver than me.

    I've been keeping a list of them, in case of some future emergency where I need a reliable ring-slinger.

    After the seventh week, sometimes just dropping down from the heavens is enough to stop the fighting. People begin going up to me while I'm working and asking for me to heal them- something I can't really bring myself to refuse, which means that it starts happening more and more often.

    I have more and more volunteers, some the usual doctors, but more often people who want to be seen as heroes. Or people who want to use the ring to heal their families or rebuild their houses first. Or religious people wanting to cause 'miracles'. Or people who want to bring in the terrorists themselves. Or people who have have read or heard the interviews from previous volunteers or conscripts, and just want to know what it feels like.

    As I get more experienced, things go by faster, and stress me less. I'm still appalled by the tragedies but... it stops wearing so hard on me. As I begin to run out of recent-ish actions committed by Hydra, I start branching out. I help out with earthquakes and flood and other natural disasters. I start catching more criminals, going after people from the Ten Rings and after organized crime. I use the blue light of hope to revitalize the edges of deserts, and the soil in areas going through famines. And, of course, I help out in hospitals, working together with volunteer lanterns.

    I continue my tour, through India, and then up to Asia, and then looping back to Africa, and then to South America. I see so much of the world from above, I can barely comprehend it. I fly over mountains, forests, jungles, swamps and grasslands. I finally get to visit Japan again, too, and play tourist for a day rather than my usual invasive species fishing- the Ghibli Museum lets me in without a ticket. And as it turns out, being famous has its perks!

    I don't have to steal to eat- I tend to get recognized wherever I go, now, and just going into any restaurant will usually get me whatever I want on the house. When I want to sleep, I can go to a hotel and usually expect the same treatment. I think I'd start getting fat, if I wasn't constantly moving all the time. More than a few people have propositioned me as well- but knowing that Hydra (among other groups, these days) are still actively trying to assassinate me, I haven't taken anyone up on it.

    I'm beginning to get used to the full-time superhero life. After three months of this kind of existence, I... think I'm a changed woman. Bullets don't scare me anymore, gore doesn't scare me anymore, even the ring- after seeing so many people of so many walks of life using it, I'm... less afraid of it, too. Not that I ever use it, I'm at risk of getting trapped by it, unlike everyone else.

    But it doesn't scare me so much any more.

    And before I know it, Zola informs me that it's New Years day.

    2012.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 11 - Dead Line
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    One Month Ago

    "James Barnes." Fury greets, "I wasn't aware you'd be attending this meeting." he said, narrowing his eye at Rogers.

    "I wouldn't really feel right sitting it out." he said, "I have more bones to pick with Hydra than anyone else here."

    "He's not a double-agent." Rogers said, somewhat annoyed, "I was there when Atika got rid of his brainwashing. Besides that, I've been with him the last two months. He's clean. You have my word."

    "Very well." he said, before turning his glare back at Barnes, "No offense. It's just that you can't be too careful, considering the scale of our operation."

    Rogers nodded, before looking across the table, "Who are they?" he asked, pointing at the others.

    "Some of my top people." Fury said, "Captain Rogers, Barnes, this is Maria Hill, Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, and-"

    "Natalia Romanoff." Barnes interrupted.

    "Natasha, now." she corrected.

    "Sorry." he said, "For the name, and for-"

    "Shooting me?"

    He nodded, "And for that engineer in Odessa." he said, looking pained, "I'm glad you got out okay."

    "I wouldn't call it okay." she replied.

    "Is this going to be a problem? Barnes? Romanoff?" Fury asked, already starting to get annoyed. And the person he really had to worry about wasn't even being brought on yet.

    "Just some friendly ribbing, sir." she replied, smiling in a kind of sharp way in Barne's direction.

    "Right." Fury said, "Well. All I can say is that the last two months have kept me busy. While HYDRA still isn't aware that I have access to their network- as far as I know, -they have obviously become aware that Atika has access to it." he was regretting his advice to have her end the conflicts near Hydra sites specifically. It basically screamed at the secret organization that she knew what they had been up to, "As a result, they've been gradually switching over to the methods of the good old days in an effort to hide their digital footprint. Dead drops. Secret messages. Information in code sent along inconspicuous or civilian channels. It's been making our job more difficult."

    He smiled, then, "But not impossible." he hit a button, and an organizational chart appeared, "Cut off one head, and two more shall rise in it's place. It's a catchy saying, but not actually true. If we can take out all the heads simultaneously, the organization loses its overarching power. The body of undercover operatives, mercenaries, and foreign agents will remain, but we have their names and faces. All of them. Without their leadership, they'll have to go to ground. Without their safehouses, they'll have to go on the run. Without their SHIELD or HYDRA weapons caches, they're no more dangerous than your average outlaw." he says, "We won't get everyone. But we'll get enough to kill the organization once and for all."

    He hits a button, and the leaders of each of HYDRA's branches was highlighted, and then separated from the chart.

    Names and locations appeared under each one.

    "All of you are the best of the best, and some of my most trusted agents. I'm going to be relying on all of you to take out the heads as close to simultaneously as possible. You'll receive limited supplies and backup, considering that these operations cannot take place on SHIELD mission logs. None of you can fail, none of you can act too early or too late."

    He shifts his gaze across the gathered men and women.

    "Does anyone have any questions?"

    Coulson leaned forwards, "Should we take this as the first deployment of the initiative?"

    "Negative." Fury replied, "HYDRA is SHIELD's mess. And I don't trust Stark to do anything subtly. No. It's just us."

    "What about Madam Atika?" Barton asked, "Wasn't she the one who told you about HYDRA in the first place?"

    "Same reasons." Fury said with a shrug, "She's a glowing blue force of nature. Subtlety is required, or this isn't going to happen at all. Besides, she'd never agree with this plan."

    Barnes and Rogers stiffened, at that, frowning at him.

    "Why not?" Rogers asked.

    "Simple. We're going to kill these men." Fury said casually, gesturing at the faces on the screen, "That's enough. If she knew, she would try to stop us."



    Now

    "Madam."

    "Hm?" I blink some of the sleep out of my eyes, and then look up blearily at my faithful orange nightlights/bodyguards.

    I hold out my arms, and Raticate floats into them, snuggling into me.

    "Yeah-" I yawn, "Hrm Yeah, Zola?"

    "It is now January 1st on the Pacific Island of Tonga."

    "Oh. Happy New Years. That's thoughtful of you. Um. When will it be New Years here?" 'here' being Rio de Janeiro.

    "At midnight, Madam. In sixteen hours."

    "Oh. Cool." I sat up, and released Raticate again, before rising up all the way out of bed. The staff floats into my open left hand, and I let the aura cover me. I float up out of bed, and then turn around and start making it nice again, "Is this about Fury? I was thinking of calling him at some point in the afternoon tomorrow about Hydra. You know, let him have some time to recover if he had a party or something last night."

    "I do not believe that Fury was at a party last night." he said, "He was too busy with his attack against the heads of HYDRA."

    What!?

    "Bwuh?"

    "Minutes ago, at least four of HYDRA's heads were assassinated." Zola reported dispassionately, "Those I have confirmed with security footage and reports coming from their bodyguards and underlings into the HYDRA netwrok. There are several other HYDRA heads I am less sure about, due to limiting access to the HYDRA network."

    I... he...

    I... guess I should be glad?

    He didn't call me. Or ask me for help. Why not? Did he not need my help? Or did he know that if he asked me to join in, I wouldn't be able to...

    That's almost nice of him.

    "Are any of HYDRA's heads still alive?" I ask, "That you know about for sure?"

    "Alexander Pierce."

    "Why?"

    "Because he is in the Triskelion, talking with Director Fury."

    Fury is talking to him?

    "Now Fury is raising his gun."

    Oh.

    "Call him."

    "He is not answering."

    "Make his phone explode."

    "I have no idea how to do that."

    I fly towards the window, form a cone construct around myself, and shoot straight upwards.

    Zola and Raticate and Lamprey fly after me, but I'm moving... a lot faster than they are, right now. I could wait for them to catch up... but that would take too long. I needed to get to America fast. Faster than I had ever moved before. I need to-

    What am I doing?

    I'm a continent away. Other murders are probably happening right now. Dozens, maybe more in between me and him. Dying people who weren't part of massive evil organizations planning on throwing the world into chaos. People who deserved more help than Pierce did.

    But I wasn't the one who enabled those to happen.

    If I hadn't told Fury, he wouldn't have had those Hydra men killed. My actions led to them dying.

    I felt sick.

    I dismiss the cone, and let myself drop.

    I freefall for a few seconds- I had gotten pretty high up, before reestablishing the flight aura again and catching myself once I pass by my construct-lanterns.

    "Madam!" Zola shouts, flying down to me.

    "Read the police scanners. Is anyone in danger down there right now?"

    "Yes. There is a fire in-"

    "Create a map. Overlay the location of the fire with our current view of the city."

    "A moment, please."

    "...Thank you. Zola. For telling me."

    "I guessed that you would have wanted to know."

    "Yes."

    "Image created."

    I look at the spot, and then at the city below, and create the cone around myself again. I fly down towards it as fast as I can, the shield cracking from the sudden heat and wind resistance, but it still holds. People need my help, after all. So I sustain it.

    As I get close to the raging fire, I reach into my pocket, and pull out the ring.

    "I am Atika!" I shout, "I am looking for a volunteer to help!"

    "Down here!" shouts someone from one of the windows of the burning building, waving his arms. Is he asking for help, or volunteering? Never mind. If he wasn't volunteering, I'll apologize later. Right now, I need someone with the ring.

    "Designate secondary user."

    <Designation accepted.> the ring flies towards the man, and slips over his finger, <Paul Cortez of Earth, welcome to the indigo tribe.> the collar forms around his neck.

    "Use a ring scan to locate every person and pet inside the building, and clearly identify their location." I order.

    "Uh, right." I see a model of the building get projected from his ring, with a half-dozen images of people and animals inside.

    There's plenty of fear in the air right now. I create yellow constructs of skeleton arms, and have them smash through the walls to grab up the nearest person, pull her out, and set her down on the ground away from the building. Then the next. And the next.

    My newest lantern begins to jump in as well, creating a construct fire engine, and... spraying construct-water onto everything. Where it splashes down, the fire is extinguished. Hard. It spreads, too, like suds. Bubbling up and putting out all the fire in the building rather quickly.

    I begin to be a bit more careful about property damage as I pull people to safety.

    Once everyone is safely out of the building, I go down and begin healing all of them, my volunteer-lantern joining me shortly after.

    "Paul?" I ask, "Do you know anyone who could use healing they can't get at a hospital."

    "I- yes."

    "Then lead the way, please."

    "Right!" the man takes off, and I follow, my construct-lanterns following me in turn.

    "Zola?" I ask, as we head for a different part of the city.

    "Yes?"

    "Can you call Fury again as soon as he isn't in a life-or-death situation?"

    "Of course, Madam."

    "So... is Hydra gone, do you think? Just... all of it, just like that? Without me chipping in at all?"

    "You provided the information. Your activities over the last three months caused them to waste resources and bunker down, harming less people."

    "Is that actually true, or are you just saying things to make me feel better?"

    "You want me to be honest and helpful more than you want to be lied to."

    "Could we have stopped Hydra without killing them?"

    "Perhaps. Perhaps not. Most HYDRA members' native countries would execute them for the treason they were involved with regardless. The end of the organization would likely always involve some loss of life."

    I sigh.

    "Alright."



    Fury looked down at the man who had done so much for him, supported him through so many of his close calls, stood up for him to the council, to the government, who supported him in creating the helicarrier where so many others wanted to write it off as a waste.

    Alexanader Pierce hadn't suffered. Point-blank shots to the head prevented that kind of thing. He readjusted his jacket, and then felt his phone vibrating again. He holstered his pistol, and then pulled out the phone. An unknown number. "Lady Rainbow." he said completely deadpan, picking it up this time.

    "Fucking- Arrgh. Hey Director Fury. I underestimated how quickly you'd get everything done." she said, her voice a lot more somber than the last time they spoke a few months ago, "Sorry I couldn't help. If any of your people got hurt I can be almost anywhere within an hour or two. Faster if they're in South America."

    "I haven't heard back from the other teams yet. They were successful?"

    "As far as Zola can tell."

    "Good." Fury said, relaxing slightly. He would have to double-check himself as well, of course, but it was still a relief.

    "Yeah." she agreed.

    He frowned, raising a brow, "You approve?"

    "No, not really. I feel hurt, but that's kind of hypocritical of me. I'll get over it. It's good that Hydra is ending, regardless of anything else. Um. Is there anything else I could help with? I doubt the whole organization is done just because you got rid of the people in charge."

    "HYDRA weapons vaults would be our next targets. Now that the leaders are gone, we can start using SHIELD resources a bit more." Fury said, "Any team that you can support and protect while they take them would benefit from having you there. Especially since HYDRA has more than a few more 'exotic' weapons lying around. I figure you can take a shot better than one of my own men."

    "Sure. Where do you want me?"

    "Ask Zola about Von Strucker's fortress. I'll call you again when I have a team in place ready to move in. Might be a few hours. Unless you could carry them to Europe faster?"

    "Is Von Strucker there?"she asks.

    "No, he was in Hong Kong, planning on attending a New Years party later today with some business partners of his. If everything went as planned, he should have come across Rogers a few minutes ago."

    "Okay." she says, "Where do you want me to pick them up?"

    "I'll have a team ready to deploy from the Helicarrier... It's current coordinates are-"

    "In the Atlantic, right? I'll be there."

    "Fine." first thing he'll do once HYDRA is firmly dead will be dismantling their whole parasitic network. He doesn't need anyone who isn't SHIELD to know where their invisible flying fortress is at all times. "Before you go." Fury says, "Why was the start of 2012 the deadline? Did you pick it arbitrarily, or is there some other reason?"

    "...Hey, Fury? Have you ever worried about aliens invading Earth?"

    Cold washed down his spine, in a way that not even killing his own mentor minutes before had done to him. He reached for his back pocket, checking that the pager was there. So many times over the years, he had considered pressing the button. Calling her back- but none of it was so pressing as to pull her away from reestablishing an oppressed alien race.

    None of it had been anything he couldn't handle. That Earth couldn't handle.

    "Why?" he asked, afraid of the answer.

    "You asked me if I was an Asgardian. I'm not, but I know that one of them is somewhat interested in Earth. He sent the Destroyer- the big silver robot in New Mexico? He's planning on coming in person at some point this year, with higher-quality backup."

    "Well shit."
     
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 12 - Sharing Knowledge
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "Nice to finally meet you in person, Director Fury." I say.

    "Nice helmet, Lady Rainbow." he says, expression completely flat, "So, how did things go in Strucker's fortress?"

    "I- agh! Fine, more-or-less." I say, "When I heard I was going to be sent to deal with 'exotic weapons' I had been envisioning killer robots. Not dudes with laser guns attached to big, bulky backpacks." the only thing that made them more difficult to deal with was that I wasn't confident in using myself as a shield for the people Fury sent with me.

    I had really been hoping for being able to do stuff with more cool robots. Maybe like, a stolen Hammer Drone? I could capture it, and either use my orange light to get my own pet super fighting robot construct-lantern as opposed to my tv-head butler robot, or let Zola try and take it over to use as a body with his head in the chest, or something like that.

    Instead, all I got was people shooting at me with laser cannons. Emulating the green light to make a shield was enough to protect the men I was sent in with, most of the blasts not even scratching it. I put the ring on one of the Hydra people, and had him begin shutting everything down and put him in charge of capturing all his fellows.

    In the middle of it, though, I did something that I felt a little guilty about, considering Shield wanted all of it that they could grab.

    All of those lasers were created by Hydra (designed by Zola, actually, small world) to run off of energy pulled from the Space Stone, the Tesseract.

    That they could still fire after all these years meant that the batteries were intact. I had Raticate 'eat' several of the laser cannons, backpacks and all, and store them inside her belly, nice and safe, during the raid. Hopefully, when I get the chance to let the ring analyze them, it'll give me a hint how to make wormholes using the staff.

    But back to the conversation at hand... "I'm sorry that a life-saving mission to prevent a HYDRA revival wasn't exciting enough for you." Fury says, putting a hand on his hip.

    "You can make it up to me by giving a tour of your flying fortress." I say, giving a good look around at the docking bay of the Helicarrier. It was, like most things about the massive machine, utterly gigantic, and filled with heavily armed smaller aircraft.

    "That can be arranged. So, what have you brought back for me?" he asked, before going over to one of the boxes being unloaded from the jet I had flown back in on with the team. He put his hand against a scanner, and it opened up, letting him have a look at the laser cannon. He lifted it up, testing the weight, and then aimed along its sight, keeping it pointed at the bay doors rather than at anything or anyone important.

    "Lasers with backpacks attached." I say again.

    "Hm. And how would you rate them?" he asked.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Against our potential visitors later this year." he says, "Is this kind of stuff what they'll be packing?"

    I blink, surprised, as my staff flares yellow. He looks at it too, and frowns to himself. He stands a little straighter, and it shifts to green.

    "You're really worried, huh?" I say, "Okay. Let's talk about it somewhere private, alright?"

    "Private-private, or-"

    "You can tell people you trust, but I think it wouldn't really help if the general public were aware of it." I clarify.

    "Hm." he places the gun carefully back in its container and locks it, before he jerks his head towards a staircase on the far side of the room, and starts walking. I follow after him.


    "Lady Atika, this is Agent Coulson and Agent Hill. Two of my finest. They've just got back from their own missions, similar to the one I sent Rogers on." Fury says as we head into a sealed room. He puts a device down, and it gives a few beeps and a crackle before a light turns green, "Anything we say from now on won't be recorded anywhere." he informs us.

    Right.

    "Are you both alright? I could heal you both if you were hurt in any way. It must have been-" hard to kill them? I don't know. Maybe it was easy for both of them. And if it was difficult, whether emotionally or physically I don't think I want to know the details either. "-a long flight."

    "We're fine, Lady Atika." Phil Coulson says with a mild grin. I always found him kind of off-putting in the movies. Like in Iron Man 2, he had a 'weirdly pleasant and mild inhuman men-in-black' vibe that felt like an intentional facade to intimidate Tony. But then when Avengers rolled around, they decided that, no, he was actually just weirdly nice.

    But in-person, he just seems kind of stiff. You'd be amazed how much the lack of movie-lighting and actually being forced to see people move around and adjust their chairs and other things like that that make people feel a lot more real. I think this was the first time I've thought of someone as being fictional in the last two months. But then, most people I meet during my travels don't really play a part in the movies.

    "But thank you for the offer." Maria Hill says.

    "So. Alien invasion. Some time in 2012." Director Fury says, "In order of importance: What do you know? How do you know, and what are your plans regarding it?"

    Well. On the spot.

    I've considered lying, and I've considered telling the truth, but in the end, I've decided to just continue using half-truths. Well. Closer to 80% truths. I still don't want to tell anyone that this universe is fictional, or that my only source of information was a movie and some related but not accurate comic books. But I think trying to hide things from people to preserve the stations of canon are dumb.

    "The invaders are called the Chitauri." I begin, "They're a race that has integrated themselves with advanced technology, but in galactic terms, they're not that big of a deal by themselves. Unfortunately, they're not usually by themselves. They belong to an army led by the Mad Titan Thanos, an interstellar conqueror and mass-murderer, who leads a mishmash horde of different alien races."

    All three pale a bit, "Is this 'Thanos' the Asgardian you mentioned who would be leading them to Earth?"

    "No, that would be Thor's brother, Loki." I say, "Most of the myths about him aren't actually true. The only thing that ancient humans actually got right was that he has an antagonistic relationship with Thor, a connection to Odin, calls himself the God of Mischief, and that he's a dick."

    I look around, and nobody seems to find that funny. Right.

    "In reality, he's a son of Odin, but isn't the heir to throne. His brother, Thor, was the heir, and in fact, was about to be crowned King of Asgard last year. Loki didn't like that, so he decided to make Thor ineligible by orchestrating an incursion into the palace by a group from a race that Asgard conquered, and then manipulating Thor into starting a new war with them. Thor fell for it, Odin banished Thor to Earth without his powers and hammer until he 'earned' the right to use them and come back, and he dropped into New Mexico."

    "It's interesting, knowing what happened to him on his side of things." Coulson said, "Where does the giant fire-breathing robot come in, or the other Asgardians?"

    "Thor's friends, Sif and the Warriors Three, decided to go against Loki and try to help him out, so Loki decided to send the Destroyer down to kill Thor before he could earn his way back into Asgard." I continue, "Actually... do you still have the metal the Destroyer was made out of? I'd be very interested in getting a hold of it. Asgardians can make really cool magical weapons out of that stuff."

    "Magic?" Hill asks, flatly.

    "Magic is real. That's just an accepted fact in the greater galaxy. It's not common, but it's not super-rare." I say, looking her right in the eyes, "There's magicians on Earth, too, they just like to keep it on the down-low."

    "Huh." Fury says, "I'll want to hear more about that, too. But invasion first. Why is Loki interested in Earth?"

    "After Thor got back to Asgard, they fought, and their teleportation network was damaged in the process. Loki fell into a wormhole before it could go completely down, however, and vowed vengeance on his brother. He found Thanos, asked him for an army to conquer Earth with as a personal insult to his brother. Thor came to love Earth while he was here, and Loki knew that. Thanos agreed, on the provision that Loki give the Tesseract to Thanos."

    Fury's eye widened, "How does he know about the Tesseract? For that matter, how do you know about the Tesseract?"

    "It's an incredibly powerful energy source, and has the ability to create wormholes." I say, "It's... kind of a legendary artifact in the greater galaxy at large? Besides, the Asgardians used to have it, but... either left it hidden here on Earth or lost it here on Earth. Red Skull was using Norse myths to track it down during World War II. The reason that Thanos wants it is to help him commit even more genocide than before." no need to bring in the 'ability to do anything' right now and make stuff even more confusing.

    The three members of Shield shared a look, and Fury sighs, leaning back in chair, "Fine. So. Thanos is loaning the Chitauri to Loki, but only a loan?"

    "I don't know. I wasn't there for the deal. I just know that Loki is getting a Chitauri army from Thanos, in exchange for the Tesseract." I say.

    "So Thanos isn't invading." he said, "Just Loki?"

    "Yes." I say, "And I know how he can do it, and... sort of have an idea on how I can prevent it."

    "Alright. How?"

    "He's going to use dark magic to open a doorway from the Tesseract. Loki only has enough magic to send himself through. He'll need to build a specialized machine, combined with the Tesseract, to create a doorway big enough for the Chitauri to actually come through."

    Coulson smiles a bit, "That's good. Then all we need to do is take out Loki before he can build it."

    "The Tesseract is already under maximum security, but I'll increase it all the same." Fury said, glancing at Hill. She nodded.

    "Right." I say, breathing out, "Here's my plan: I could bring the Tesseract into empty space. When he comes through- vacuum."

    Fury narrows his eye, "I thought you had a problem with killing."

    "Loki tried to start a genocidal war already, and then when he failed, went to probably the worst person in the galaxy for help." I say, crossing my arms, "If he died- I wouldn't feel that bad about it. But it doesn't really matter, a vacuum won't kill him. He's a god, remember? He can breathe in space."

    "That's impossible-" Hill begins.

    "Magic." I say, interrupting, "Er. Sorry, shouldn't have cut you off. But he'll be fine. He just won't be able to do anything else. He won't have anything to build the machine with." I say, "I can just grab him afterwards and..." make him into a construct-lantern? He probably deserves it as much as Zola did. Or maybe love crystal. It'd be nice for him and his family if he could just admit that he loves them.

    "...We'll consider that plan." Fury says after a moment, "But I consider protecting the Tesseract a personal responsibility. If it's so powerful... how do we know we can trust you with it? You're not a human."

    "I understand." I say, smiling a little sadly, "But this is the safest thing for Earth I can think of." if they outright reject the plan, I might have to take it from them by force, but what else could we do? "Maybe... if it was held somewhere isolated, with barely any technology, besides monitoring equipment? So you would know when he arrives, but not let him have anything or anyone to work with- oh! He can mind control people, nearly forgot. And implant knowledge into their minds. Create illusions and stuff. He'll probably try and find a scientist to build it for him."

    "...I'll look into protective measures for the Tesseract." Fury says, "I assure you. Now- what kinds of weapons will the Chitauri have?"


    Things continued in that vein for a while.

    The three of them pressed me on everything I knew about the Chitauri, about Loki, about Asgardians, about major powers in the galaxy, and about magic. I was vague about the galaxy at large because I didn't actually know as much about it as I was acting like I did, and kept my mouth shut entirely in regards to earthling Masters of the Mystic Arts, mostly because I think the person most easily able to kill me on the planet would be the Ancient One. And I didn't want to start anything with them.

    Hours passed, before they were willing to let me out, and begin to make plans of their own.

    They even offered to give me a tour of the Helicarrier, and after my rumbling stomach interrupted things, brought me to the onboard cafeteria. The food wasn't bad.

    Finally, though, I decided it was time to leave.

    When I flew up into the sky, it was as a free woman. Hydra was more-or-less done. I had warned Shield about the next big threat, and told them everything I could that I thought could help them. Areas that had been devastated by Hydra in the last few years had all been taken care of, and it would probably be five months before Loki showed up. I think Avengers 1 was in May? But I wasn't completely sure.

    The point was, for the first time since I came to this world with the staff and the ring, I didn't have anything immediate to take care of. I was a free woman, with all the power in the world!

    I could just do what I wanted!

    Raticate bumps into my leg, and I look down at her. She opens her mouth slightly, and makes a complaining squeak as the barrel of the laser cannon pokes out.

    And the first thing I wanted to do was see if I could figure out how to teleport.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 13 - Two Rings
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "Okay... let's see what we've got. Zola, you're the resident expert. I didn't want to ask while Shield was around, but I have to know- are these batteries storing energy from the Tesseract, or are they normal batteries that were simply charged up by it?" I ask as we touch down on my favorite deserted island.

    "They are fueled by the unique energy of the Tesseract."

    "Score! Raticate, give em' here."

    "Is what you said to the Director true?" Zola asked.

    "Yeah, why?"

    "The Tesseract can be used to make portals? In all of our studies, it was simply a very potent, if wavering, power source."

    "Making portals is the main thing it does." I say, watching as Raticate grows larger, to the point where spitting out the lasers and packs are easy, rather than something that would require her mouth to get significantly larger. I grab one with my free hand, before making a construct scalpel. "The energy source thing is... more of a side effect? A necessary aspect of making wormholes because they take so much power?"

    "I see..."

    I carefully pry open the first backpack, and smile at the brightly-glowing blue batteries inside. "Zola, could you start working on safely removing the batteries as well?"

    "Of course, Madam."

    I pick up one of them, pulling it free from the backpack, and I can... feel how warm it is, even through the suit...

    Being exposed to energy like this is what gave Captain Marvel her powers. There's a not-small part of me that wants to see if I can make the same thing happen. Being able to fly around under my own power, firing energy blasts, breathing in space- Actually, those are all things I can do with the staff, aren't they?

    Which is why an even larger part of me is saying that it was almost certainly a fluke, and that most likely letting this thing explode next to me will just result in me missing a few chunks of my person.

    Soon, I have a whole pile of Tesseract-energy batteries lying on the sand.

    "Okay." I say, "Now... for the tricky part." I sigh, before pulling the ring free from my pouch. "Ring?"

    <User.>

    I suck in a breath, before letting it go, "Can you perform scans and analysis without me putting you on?"

    <Insufficient Compassion. This ring is capable of some analysis and scans without user input, such as when seeking out potential users, but other uses require the Compassion of a user.>

    "Right. Right." I look down at it, "Can you set an emergency shut-off timer?"

    <Yes. What should signal to this ring that it should reactivate?>

    "Being recharged again." I say, "The next time I need someone to act as a temporary lantern, I'll have them recharge from the staff."

    <Parameter set. What timeframe would you like to use before the shut-off?>

    "Give me thirty minutes." I say, "Actually... make it an hour."

    <Parameter set. Beginning timer. Fifty-nine minutes and fifty seconds remain.>

    I take a breath, and pull away the glove on my right hand, and slide the ring on.

    The change, since I'm waiting and ready for it, isn't... so disturbing this time.

    I look over at the batteries. Being able to teleport through space will be absurdly useful in helping people. It'll let me go to other worlds that are in more or just as much danger as Earth. It will let me get technology I can bring to Earth to help heal people. It will let me get from place to place faster than I could fly, letting me reach people faster.

    And it's one of the core abilities of the indigo light, and I should be able to use it, shouldn't I?

    Analyze the batteries, as much as you possibly can, please.

    <Analyzing.>

    Information begins to pour into my head, and I close my eyes, trying to concentrate on it.

    <Spacial disruptions detected. Updating understanding of this universe's physics.>

    Yes!

    I watch as the ring begins to play a thick beam of indigo light across the batteries, getting a better look. I stand there, holding out my arm towards the batteries, full of excited energy. I'm going to be able to help so many people!

    Please-please-please!

    <Ring-based teleportation is now available.>

    "Can I teleport with just the staff?"

    <Technically possible, but unlikely in practice.>

    "What does that mean?"

    <User is not physically capable of performing the wormhole calculations that the ring performs using only her own mind.>

    I... oh. The math is too complicated?

    "Can you upload the calculations to my mind?" I ask.

    <This will require a significant alteration to the User's mind.>

    That doesn't matter! I just need to- no. NO.

    No.

    "We're not altering my mind." I say, fighting to hold my mind together against the... ebb of compassion. "Okay. I can teleport with the ring, that's... that's fine. Not ideal, but a lot better than before." wait. If it's not physically possible to do the calculations with my mind, how do magicians do it?

    Hm.

    Maybe I can get a hold of a sling-ring, somehow? But I'm still not really willing to go to Kamar-toj. What if the Ancient One decides I'm disturbing the timeline too much and tries to kill me?

    But... if that was true, I should probably know that now. I doubt I'm hurting the universe's chances against Thanos. But if I am hurting the universe's chances, I want to know, so I can stop. Or rather, find some other way to do things.

    Maybe the ring's hold wasn't completely bad for me. Without it, my self-preservation was stronger than my compassion. But now... I'm willing to face the danger for the sake of the greater good. Not that I was being cowardly, exactly. I just wasn't stupid about it. I got armor before going into dangerous areas. If I could find some kind of anti-magic to protect me while talking to the Ancient One, I think I would have gone to see her even without the ring altering me. Making sure that there are ways to protect myself first.

    But... now I see that I can't think of any way to protect against wizards, so all my self-preservation was doing was keeping me from going to them for help.

    I do have five months to kill.

    I should just open a portal right to them and- and that's really stupid! Agh. No, I need to focus. Okay. Need to focus. What if the wizards kill me? That is a possibility. I don't think they will, but they can, and they might have reason to. And they aren't all-knowing. The Ancient One can't see past her own death. Even if she thinks I might make things worse, that doesn't mean I actually will. Going to them is stupid, and I'm not a coward for thinking that!

    I... I will have to see them eventually.

    But not before I can do everything I can first. Alright. So, what can I do?

    ...

    Ring, I want to see Ego's World, please.

    I hold up the ring, and energy pours out of it, creating a churning whirlpool of soft indigo light. The funnel of it begins to widen. On the other side, I know, is space. I step through, Zola and Raticate follow me. The batteries should be safe for now.

    I look down over a world of red and blue.

    [​IMG]


    "Scan the planet for DNA."

    <Scanning.>

    Should I try fighting him right now?

    If I put the ring on him... Ego is filled with guilt. He said he was close to abandoning his plan, and his immortality, for Star Lord's mother. He can't be completely without empathy.

    And a planet-lantern could be cool.

    [​IMG]


    My staff flares orange, and I smile. If making him an indigo-lantern doesn't work... could I usurp him? Get a construct-lantern planet? He's also a god, which means magic might be involved, so any ring ability might be unreliable.

    I think going with my original plan might be safer for now. And even if the ring thing does work, the shut-off will be happening soon, and then I'll have an angry Ego to deal with.

    It also might give me the chance experiment with a few things, too.

    <Scan complete. DNA identified.>

    Right. Take us back home, please.

    A new portal opens up in front of us, leading right back to the island.

    So... "Scan the earth for creatures with the same DNA as Ego."

    <Scanning>



    "Oh my god! Are you Atika?" the woman at the counter says, going wide-eyed as I float in through the doors of a Dairy Queen in Missouri.

    "Yep." I say, smiling down at her, "Sorry to disrupt your day, but I just located an unexploded bomb in the forest behind your store."

    "Oh. Uh. Is it dangerous?"

    "It might be." I say, "So I think it would be best if everyone evacuates." I gesture to Zola, "My construct-lanterns will set up a perimeter at a safe distance, please keep going until you have passed the glowing orange animals."

    "Uh. Right away. Did you already call the police?"

    "Yes. Now, why don't you get to you car, and move until you're a safe distance away, please?" luckily, this is a pretty empty stretch of road. A lot of wide-open farming fields nearby. Next to a forest. I've already talked to a few people in the other nearby buildings, convincing them to evacuate too.

    "Right." she says, before going to tell her coworkers.

    I float back outside, and then start heading towards the forest.

    "Ring, tell me please when all the humans have left the outside of the perimeter I have my construct-lanterns setting up."

    <Instruction confirmed.>

    "Thank you."

    I float down, weaving between trees, until I see the seedling. It's... gotten a lot bigger than it was in the 80s. Where before it was the size of a football, now it's grown to the size of a small car. I wonder how long it would take it naturally to cover planet Earth?

    <Over three hundred million years according to current rate of growth.>

    "Ring, is it sentient?"

    <Scanning.>

    I move closer to it, and frown. I raise up the staff, in preparation for the answer.

    <Plant has a one-way telepathic sensory organ. It is able to respond to certain telepathic signals from Ego, and receive life energy, but is not capable of sending them out. It is not currently receiving orders.> a moment later, it chimes up again, <All humans besides the user have left the perimeter.>

    Alright then. I want it to be safe.

    Orange light shines out of the gem, and I unleash the beam at the thing. Where it makes contact... not a lot is happening, but... gradually, orange light is spreading into it. But so slowly.

    I need it to be safe. I need to make it safe. I want to use it to help me and help others.

    Millimeter by millimeter the orange infection grows, but I'm fighting for every bit of it.

    Come on! I need more avarice!

    ..!

    I can get more avarice.

    I reach into my pocket, where Lamprey's ring is kept. Most of my construct-lanterns formed a perimeter around the seedling, to keep away anyone who tries to get too close, in case this thing does suddenly start expanding, so it's not glowing too brightly right now. But it shouldn't have that low of a charge!

    Why emulate a little of the orange light when I can go right to the source and make sure that nobody will get crushed by this thing!

    I touch the ring and feel weird.

    For some reason, I thought that using both at once would put me in a kind of balance, and... it kind of is? I'm not getting pulled so far in either extreme, now. Not that this isn't absurdly stupid and proof that indigo-me is not to be trusted. The orange is clearly more extreme, just... unable to pull me all the way into its madness. I can feel it trying to make my brain go overdrive into my own wants and needs above anything else, but the indigo is keeping me from focusing too much on myself over others. The result is... me but more. ME.

    It hurts my brain a little.

    I probably just should have grabbed it and thrown it into space. But... I do want it. I can use it. In fact, I think it would be very useful. Mortals can't hold Infinity Stones in their hands. I was always going to experiment with having a Construct Lantern hold one, since a being of pure energy given form might be able to deal with holding and using the ultimate energy sources. But a construct-lantern of a Celestial? That's almost guaranteed to work. Gods, even really little-g gods like Asgardians and Frost Giants, can use them without much of a problem. But a little-g god of the level of Ego? I think he could hold one no problem. Might even be able to hold multiple at the same time. And if he can't, I can always find more seedlings! But I'm not sure if I'll have to. I mean, he's more personally powerful than Thanos is, and he didn't have much trouble using them with his hands. Not that I won't grab more seedlings for myself regardless. I could collect them all!

    Since I'm not sure if I can grab Ego himself properly yet, grabbing his seedlings might be the next best thing. And all I need is ALL THE ORANGE LIGHT I CAN MUSTER!

    I practically shove the Lamprey ring into the side of the seedling, digging the ring into it and pressing down, wanting it more and more. The infection that was spreading so slowly accelerates, faster and faster, but still slower than any other thing I've tried to usurp. Magic, or some other kind of stupid resistance. But it's still working. It will be mine and I will use it to help everyone everywhere forever!

    Oh. Wow. That last thought hit me like a splash of cold water. This... this is really dangerous, isn't it? This is really stupid, too.

    I mentally call all my Construct-Lanterns to me. The plant hasn't suddenly expanded or manifested an avatar of Ego or anything yet, so I doubt the perimeter needs to be as big as I set it up.

    "Ring?"

    <User.>

    "What's the timer on your shutdown look like?"

    <There are four minutes and ten seconds until this ring goes into emergency shut down.>

    "Right." I can't be wearing the orange when that happens. The indigo is stopping me from going down the deep-end with it, and I don't really think there's any way to stop myself if I go full Larfleeze.

    The forest around me begins to be colored orange as hundreds of glowing animals float into it. Geese, mosquitofish, crows, lots and lots of carp, sea lampreys, parakeets, goldfish, horses, camels, coypu, bass, muskrats, tanuki (and wasn't that a joy to find out they're invasive in Europe! Adorable.) hairy crabs, squirrels, cane toads, rabbits, pythons, bullfrogs, pigeons, doves, catfish, eels, donkeys, macaques, civets, rats, and guppies.

    And Zola.

    ...

    Honestly a pretty small selection of invasive animals across the world. I haven't even started on insects or invasive plants yet, and even if I've managed to get all of a certain species out of a specific lake or forest, I haven't rid any countries or even whole regions of all of them or anything yet. I have hundreds of construct-lantern animals, not hundreds of thousands.

    I turn the orange ring around my finger back into Lamprey, and then pull the indigo ring off of my finger while I still have most of my common sense in place!

    And I'm free again.

    God.

    I feel like crying.

    But not before I'm done with what I have to do here.

    "Usurp it." I order the swarm, and back off to let the horde of animals descend onto the plant en masse.

    It's a bizarre noise, hearing so many species of animals yowl and scream and growl as they all furiously attack the same thing.

    Within a few minutes, the horde backs off, and I feel... a very strange connection blooming in the back of my mind. The giant seedling is bright orange now, and I can see the way its glowing roots have snaked out across the bottom of the forest, like a huge fungus more than a plant. No wonder it took so long.

    <Shutting down.> the ring informs me from my pocket.

    Right.

    I sigh, wiping my face with my free hand. In the future? Smaller timers. And maybe I should keep the construct-lanterns away when I'm not in my right mind. No need to bring other colors into my personal madness.

    But... not a disaster. Almost one, but not a disaster. The way the two rings interacted was interesting, and even held some promise. But I have a hell of a headache right now. I think literally any other color but orange wouldn't have pulled on my brain so hard.

    "Are you alright, Madam?"

    I look over at where Zola is hovering, as well as a great deal of other concerned animals. I... do want to be comforted right now. "I'll... I'll be fine. For now, I just want to sleep."

    "What was the purpose of getting this... alien plant?"

    "If its creator- the planet we visited, sends the right signal, it would rapidly expand, growing hundreds of feet high and spreading without limit horizontally, until it covers the surface of the planet, crushing and killing anything in its path." I sigh, "He's planted them on inhabited worlds all over the galaxy. He... won't try to activate them for a few more years, but now even if he does, it won't wreak havoc on Earth."

    "I see."

    "And... it should be able to hold the Tesseract and objects as powerful as it without burning up."

    "I see."
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 14 - Enslaved Slaver
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    "That's all? But- but I can still keep going!"

    "You've done a lot today Samir." I say, "But if you go too long without food and water, you'll start getting sloppy. If you make a mistake while healing someone or fixing something, it could be dangerous for your patient."

    "The ring tells me I can go for days without food or sleep!"

    "With constant charge?" I ask, crossing my arms.

    "But-"

    "You've done so much. We went to five hospitals today! Now please, give me back the ring." I hold out my hand expectantly.

    He looks conflicted, and I worry that he's one I'll have to go chasing after. It doesn't happen often- I think people knowing what to expect from the news, or whatever, helps them deal with the fact that I take the ring back afterwards.

    But it still happens sometimes.

    "NO!" he punches out, and the energy blast lashes out towards me.

    I form a shield, and the energy explodes against it harmlessly. Well, if we're being stubborn... "Seedling."

    My newest construct-lantern floats forwards menacingly, and then two of its long tentacle-like roots whip towards Samir and wrap around him. He's dragged through the air towards me, and Seedling manipulates his hand out towards me.

    "Let me go! I still want to help people!" he protests.

    "And you can keep helping them even without the ring." I say, drawing close.

    I create a construct of a needle-thin cylinder, and slide into the space his balled-up fist is leaving. Then, I have it expand. Unable to keep a fist around the larger and larger cylinder, his hand splays out.

    "Ring, remove secondary designation." I say, touching it.

    <Designation removed.>

    I pull it free from him, and all at once it's like he went limp. I slip it into my pocket.

    "There, there, you're alright." I say as Seedling slowly unwraps itself from him, lowering the man gently down to the ground, "Would you like me to bring you to someone?"

    "I... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have tried to steal it."

    "It's fine. You just wanted to help. Nothing wrong with that. Now, would you like me to bring you home?"

    "...Yeah."

    "Where is that?"

    He tells me, and so we keep flying over the city.


    Once I leave him in the hands of his grateful boyfriend, I begin flying off again. My good deed for the day done, it's time to test some theories.

    While opening a wormhole with just the staff seems to be out of the question for the moment, it's not the only way to get around in the MCU. The best option is probably magic... but even if what indigo-me thought about the situation is true, that I was just being cowardly in not going to Kamar-taj... I'm still not willing to go to the magicians just yet.

    I will soon, though. But there's a few other things I might as well try first, if only because they're avenues I can try on my own. And going to the wizards is almost literally throwing myself on the mercy of other people.

    I look to my Construct-Lanterns. "Seedling, Raticate, ring-form please." Both of them comply, and Zola reaches out to absorb them both with a robotic arm construct.

    I reach into my pocket, and , "Set a deactivation timer for... three minutes. Reactivate three minutes after that."

    <External stimulus needed for reactivation.>

    "Would contact with the staff work?"

    <Yes.>

    "Then set a timer for one minute, and deactivate once it goes off. Reactivate again when you come into contact with the staff."

    <Parameters accepted. Activating timer. Fifty-nine seconds remain.>

    Deep breath in, long breath out.

    I slip it on, and focus on where I want to go, and who I want to go to...

    A man who was extremely likely to know all about what I want to do, all about every kind of ship or method of teleportation in the universe. A man who probably had any number of things on hand that could help me, and planet Earth, and maybe even everyone in the universe immensely.

    A man who was an arrogant slave-keeping bastard.

    ...I want to go to Taneleer Tivan, the Collector.

    The ring projects energy out into the air in front of me that takes the form of a raging wormhole. I step through, and on the other end I'm in an utterly massive chamber, looking down at a man with frosted white hair. "Collector." I greet. I don't look behind me as Zola floats in as well, taking position at my side. The wormhole closes after him.

    "...Hello." he greets back, "I do not believe you've scheduled a meeting with me." he says while looking me up and down, before finding his eyes drawn to the staff, "But I can forgive that when you've brought me something... so interesting."

    Immediately, the gem flares intensely with orange light. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it glow that bright.

    But my attention is pulled away by all the suffering that surrounds me. People in cages, as far as the eye can see. There must be thousands of prisoners here, locked in their tiny cells, for who knows how long. Does he preserve their bodies after they die? Does he allow them to die at all?

    It's horrifying. I need to act, I need to break them out, I need to heal them-

    <Shutting down.>

    -I breathe out, my mind feeling normal again. My feelings haven't changed, this is still horrifying. But my feelings aren't in charge right now. I am.

    "I see you've noticed the gem." I say, forcing a smile.

    "It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." he says, he moves closer reaching out with one hand to touch it, but I float back a pace, "...if I may?" he asks, holding out his hand.

    "I'm sorry, but this one I'm holding right now isn't for sale."

    "Everything has a price, my dear. And why would you come to me if not to sell? Fifty million units." he says, smiling, "A fair price for such a perfectly cut gemstone of... such beauty."

    "No, I should be more clear." I turn to the side, looking at Zola, "Show the Collector the Seedling Ring, please." Silently, I add a mental command: And give it some juice. As much energy as you can spare.

    "Of course, Madam."

    A panel opens in his side, and the ring is produced. A robotic arm holds it out, and Tivan's eyes go wide as he stares at it. And... seeing an orange ring fully charged like this, shining like a star, holding all the avarice energy I had all my creations pour into the Seedling to usurp it... it really is beautiful.

    "This one is for sale." I lie. It's mine, I'm just pretending to sell it to lower his guard, "It's the same type of gemstone, but cut into a ring."

    He reaches out for it, before pulling back his hands close to his chest, "Exquisite! Thirty million units."

    "Sixty." I say, just to be contrary.

    "Done, CARINA!" he suddenly shouts, "Bring this woman her units!"

    "Of course, Master."

    I turn towards the new voice, and... I'm caught off guard as I see her.

    Carina shouting she will be a 'slave no more', followed by her screams of agony as she tries to hold onto the Power Stone- it's probably the most disturbing scene in the whole MCU. At least to me. I try to skip the scene, whenever I re-watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

    It was disturbing enough when she was a fictional character. But the woman in front of me is... really here. Really suffering. Really living in fear of being added to the Collection day in and day out. God. Is that other woman here? His last slave? Is she still being tortured?

    "Zola, give him the ring."

    "Yes, Madam." he extends the robot arm, and Tivan snatches it from the claw, and immediately puts it on.

    His eyes blaze orange, and an aura covers his whole body. Various symbols on his clothes flare bright orange as well, taking on the symbol of the Orange Corps. He rises into the air, and begins to cackle. Then, he abruptly stops, and turns towards me, "I'll be taking that other gemstone of yours too, now. Afterwards, you will tell me all about them! I want to know every detail you know about what they are, and what they can do."

    "Here's the main thing they do: Seedling, Usurp him." I order.

    "Huh?" he stares down at his hand, and at the ring on his finger. A ring which has very abruptly stopped being a ring, and has very suddenly started being a plant larger than he is, with roots long enough to twist around him a hundred times each.

    He vanishes inside the mass of tentacles.

    I float over to Carina, who flinches back from me, "You're safe now." I say, "I'm so sorry for everything that's happened. I promise, he won't ever hurt you again."

    "You- you need to leave." she hisses, "You need to go back through your portal and leave. The Master- he's immortal. This isn't the first time he's been assassinated. He's hundreds of thousands of years old. It won't do anything. Security will come soon, with necroblasters, you have to go now!"

    I feel the connection form, and I look up and watch as Seedling pulls away from the Collector. My Collector.

    "If you have security coming, Tivan, you should tell them to ignore it." I say.

    He looks down at himself, confused, "I thought I was immune to most magic-based transformations. And any form of mind control. I am an Elder of the Universe, you know."

    "You're not immune to greed. And now you're made of it." I say, floating up to him, "So. Security?"

    "Ah. Right, of course." He waves at a camera, "I'm fine! Do not come in here. This lovely woman is not to be harmed. I rather like this."

    "Good." I look around at the... massive room. "Alright. Priorities. Are you torturing anyone?"

    "Yes."

    "Stop. Deactivate whatever you have hurting anyone, right now."

    "As you wish, my mistress."

    "I prefer madam."

    He smiled, bowing low, "A thousand apologies, my Madam" then he looked to Carina, "Bring me the-"

    "Do it yourself." I growl.

    "Yes, Madam."

    Carina looked over at me uncertainly, and I sigh.

    "Are you going to make the rest of us like that, too?" she asks quietly as we watch the Collector zip away at high speed.

    "No.... Maybe the animals. I don't think it's worth it to try and track down every world they came from. I will go that far for the people, though. Anyone who wants to go home, I'll try to help."

    She stares at me for a few seconds, before beginning to tear up. She suddenly falls towards me, and I catch her. "Thank you." she says, "Thank you."



    "Get him! Get him! Hahahaha!"

    On the battlefield in the center of the room, filled with death traps and surrounded by betters, several rat-like creatures, orloni, fled before a larger carnivorous F'saki.

    Suddenly, several glowing orange tendrils lashed out, grabbing each of them and pulling them across the room, into a doorway that all the people present recognized as the one used by those seeing Tivan personally.

    The room went quiet.

    Then a woman with a staff floated out, followed by a massive, orange, tentacled beast. From the grips of the tendrils, it dropped the orloni and the F'saki, but rather than falling to the floor, all six creatures floated in place, drifting slightly in the artificial breeze.

    "Ghosts." whispered a man fearfully, staring at them.

    "Who here has a ship able to take passengers?" the woman demanded of the crowd.

    They remained quiet.

    "Nobody?" she asked, frowning. She floated back inside then, leaving the tentacled monster where it was, guarding the door, watching the room filled with mercenaries and merchants with its eyeless gaze. Its victims floating around it quietly.

    Then, she returned, Tivan's personal slave following closely behind her, "The Tivan group is offering ten-thousand units to anyone with a ship willing to transport people to their homes on different planets. Thirty thousand if they're willing to carry multiple people and make multiple trips." the terrifying woman continued.

    Tivan's slave revealed the bag she used to deliver units on behalf of Tivan, demonstrating it for everyone present.

    "I can take anyone wherever they need to go!"
    "I'll go as far as Xandar!"
    "If they're not Kree, I'll go anywhere."
    "My ship can hold four hundred people!"

    The terrifying woman smiled, "Thank you! Oh, and word of warning; if any of your passengers do not safely reach their destination, I will find out, and we'll have a chat afterwards about why that happened. Understand?"

    Most of the people in the room flinched back as the orange tentacled creature gave a deep, rumbling sound, the F'saki and orloni ghosts getting pulled towards it and vanishing into light, leaving no remains.

    They understood.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 15 - Cosmic Viewer
    JeckJack

    JeckJack Mask Seller

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    I watch as people shuffle out on their way to their new lives. To their freedom. A lot of them have been here for... years. Centuries, even. Turns out mister Tivan did know how to extend the lives of mortals, for the sake of his displays.

    I healed as many wounds as I could, physical and mental.

    Quite a lot of them would be able to just go to their home planet, and reintegrate into their lives. The Tivan group is one of the richest and largest organizations in the galaxy, and it could afford to open an account for each and every one of them. Anywhere with virtual access to units, they would be well cared for for the rest of their lives. For those who were heading places without virtual access, we just left them with half a million units each, and some anti-pickpocketing devices.

    As pilots were assigned and logged- when I made my threat, I meant it -the numbers of former-prisoners inside the museum dwindled down.

    "Lady Atika?" Carina asked, pulling me out of my thoughts.

    "Yes, Carina?" I turn around, "I thought you were going to leave?" I ask, gesturing at the line of former prisoners heading on their way out.

    "I have nowhere to go, my Lady." she said, bowing slightly, "The colony I was from was attacked by the Kree. Almost everyone was killed. The survivors were sold."

    "Then... is there anywhere you want to go?" I ask.

    "If you would have me, I would like to stay with you." she said, "The Museum- it's all I have, as horrible as it is. You will need someone to continue to administer to it."

    "You don't hate this place?"

    She smiles sadly, "I don't have anything else. And I would like to do something for you, in return for what you have done."

    "You don't have to."

    "...Every time I made a mistake, he would point towards Matani. And warn me of what would happen if I did not do better." she said. "Every time. Your very first order for him was to make him stop torturing her. I owe you a debt, Lady Atika."

    "Then... it doesn't have to be something to do with the Museum." I say, "You can help me in some way that doesn't mean you have to stay here."

    "Thank you." she says,

    I...

    Is... is the staff glowing violet?

    That...

    She is a very pretty alien girl in a very short skirt... One who was constantly abused by someone in a position of power over her until a few hours ago. Going to... to give her a little bit of time being safe before making any kind of investigation about that.

    "So..." I begin, "...I'm going to ask Tivan some questions about things, but if you want to help me... could you ask around and try to find everyone else who doesn't want to leave, for whatever reason? Have them gather somewhere with some room. I'll talk to them about what they want to do in a little bit."

    "Of course!" she... clasps her hands together and hurries off.

    "Thank you!"

    Right.

    I give the mental order for Tivan to hurry over to me, and he flies over. "So, how are things going with the Tivan group?"

    "I have assured all of my stakeholders that despite my mental domination, that I am just as intelligent as before, and remain in possession of all of my memories. I have made them aware that I will be making a number of changes in policy, but mostly I think they were all quite happy that I will no longer be so concerned with maintaining my Museums."

    "Really?"

    "Even considering the costs of sending my exhibits home, the Tivan group will be saving more due to no longer requiring the upkeep for sustaining an ever-increasing number of people and creatures indefinitely. Several of them are also glad that we are discontinuing our 'slave trade'. It means that the Nova Corps will be willing to interact with us publicly again. They're very anti-slavery, you know."

    "...Museums plural?" I demand.

    "Of course! I have existed for hundreds of millennia. I have spent a tiny fraction of my time in Knowhere. I have well over a thousand such museums across the galaxy."

    "Are you torturing anyone at any of them?"

    "No. You told me to stop, remember?"

    "...Good." I say, "Shit. Alright, what we did here- I want you to start releasing people at the other Museums too, and paying for their safe journeys home."

    "I anticipated that you would desire that, and have already started making preparations. No need to buy mercenary pilots as you did so dramatically, though. The Tivan group does have our own ships." he says with another extremely over-exaggerated bow.

    I sigh, "Okay. That's good. Thanks for... doing that."

    "I live to obey."

    I feel a little guilty, before pushing it aside. What I'm doing isn't worse than what he was doing, and he's been doing for millennia. "I'm interested in methods of teleportation." I tell him, "I am capable of flying in space unassisted, and I want ways to do that accurately."

    "Ah! Of course. Right this way." he begins to float upwards and to the right, and I follow him through the air.

    Eventually, he stops at another of the containers suspended above a walkway, "Here we are, a Shi'ar original. They left the galaxy so long ago it's hard to find any relics of theirs in good condition."

    It's... a big metal frame in the shape of a trapezoid. "Is this a teleportation machine?"

    "Of course. In fact, it's a Stargate. What the Shi'ar used before they established the jump points across most of the galaxy. While I appreciate the new hexagonal design to the jump point, the old look was just much more them, you know? They had to make everything come to a blunted point. Advanced, but not aggressive. Except when they were aggressive. Then they preferred to make things look like a sharpened jutting pipe."

    "..." I look to the staff, and then back at it, "I was mostly looking for something... smaller, wearable."

    "I understand, but if we're going to be talking teleportation, we should do it starting from the beginning." he gestures again at the Stargate, "These were the first manufactured teleportation devices, from which all others in widescale use today are descended."

    "I... actually really would like the tour, now that I think about it." I say, "Alien stuff is fascinating. But I'm going to be busy today. I was mostly thinking along the lines of magic teleportation, or something hand-held that can kick-start the wormhole making process?"

    "Ah." he smiles, then, "Like how you entered the museum?"

    "But without the... side effects."

    "Well, traditional teleportation magic is famous for side-effects. Referred to in many circles as 'Dark magic' as it was first designed by the Svartalf- in fact, I do not believe mine has left, we could ask him, -It was not so detrimental as to never be used, but detrimental enough to be used rarely. Although it's more geared towards exploiting the connections between the nine realms. If you want to go to a world that isn't connected to the realm network, it's even harsher on the body."

    "What about just... thinking of a place and being able to go there?"

    "I do have such convenient artifacts, but most require an existing understanding of magic to use. One cannot simply pick up one of the six wands of Watoomb and expect to use it instantly." he says, "Especially when you only have five of them... regardless, I'm not sure if they'll be of use to you. The next best option is an infinity stone." he blinks, smiling, "And you even know where it is. Why haven't you simply taken it?"

    "I might eventually." I admit, "But I don't want to start a fight with the people who have it. They're good people."


    "What method of teleportation did you use earlier? What are the side effects you wish to dispel? I may not have something better, but I have the universe's greatest collection of medicinal materials and knowledge as well. I may be able to help you deal with existing side effects."

    "...Putting on the ring forces you to become compassionate." I say, "To an extreme degree. To the point where I make dumb decisions while wearing it."

    "Hm. I do have an old Asgardian artifact, the Bloodaxe. Not only can it instantly open a portal to anywhere you have visited before, it also forces you into a feral rage." he said, grinning, "Hard to be overly compassionate when all you can feel is hate. Of course, it is made of Uru, so a mortal holding it could have... stability problems."

    "What part of 'I don't want to turn off my rationality' did you not understand?"

    "My apologies, Madam." he gives another sarcastic bow- and I would like for him to stop doing that. At once, he stands up straight, looking chastened. "I have the most complete database of the Universal Neural Teleportation Network. I also have a variation of the jump point opening device designed to be carried on one's person. The intended purpose was so that one could make an emergency jump if you were trapped with nothing but a space suit. It's common for the more advanced Kree suits. I also possess the Cosmic Viewer, a magical device which I can use to locate objects or people of interest to me, even offering coordinates."

    That... would work. It's not as instant as the ring or magic or the Tesseract would be, but it's a lot safer, is the main thing.

    "Of course, the viewer is somewhat stationary."

    "No, that's fine." I say, smiling, "Thank you. Show me where it is."

    "Now... the Cosmic Viewer does have its limits. It cannot be used to locate the Infinity Stones, for example. It was constructed long ago with the aid of the Space Stone, and cannot be turned against its siblings. Powerful magicians that know of the Viewer's existence will set up defenses against being observed by it. The ability to view anything in the nine realms has been severed as well. Most likely by the Vanir." he explains as we start flying in another direction.

    "Are the nine realms in the jump point database?"

    "Yes, of course."

    "Then that's fine."

    We stop by a large steel vault. Tivan floats down to it, and presses his hand into the sensor. The shutters open, and reveal a... big crystal ball. Not really sure what I was expecting.

    "Think of what you seek, and place your hand upon it." he says, before gesturing at the machines built into the walls, "While the Viewer will merely give you a vision of what you seek, I have had centuries to perfect a method of analyzing from where in the universe it pulls the vision from to give approximate coordinates."

    Okay... show me... Nova Prime.

    I reach out, and place my free hand against it. The surface of the crystal is warm, and suddenly I'm given a view of a few inches away from her face. She's speaking with a few other people. When I turn around, I can see the room she's in. And then, when I pull my hand away from the warmth, the vision fades. "What was the location?"

    "Xandar." he said, looking up from a monitor on the wall, "In the capital of the Nova Corps."

    "Okay, that works then." I press my hand against it. Show me... Venus.

    All at once, I'm staring down at a light cream-colored planet from space.

    Show me its surface.

    Now, I'm standing in a huge desert. The sky is filled with clouds that are a thick, kind of sickly yellow. I can't feel the wind, but I can see the way loose pebbles are sent rolling past along the dirt, the way wind has carved and is still carving at the ground.

    Show me the surface of Mars.

    The sky is completely clear, a pitch black filled with stars, and it could practically just be another desert on Earth besides that. Show me the side facing the sun.

    There's the red rock I love! Could be Arizona, if Arizona had no plants anywhere in sight.

    I pull away again, and look to the Collector. "Well?"

    "You viewed the second and fourth planets around Midgard's sun."

    "That's right but... Midgard?"

    "Terra, then."

    "It's planet Earth." I correct.

    "Really?" he frowns, "The universal translator the galactic community uses- huh, you don't have one implanted, we'll have to fix that, -always calls it 'Terra'. Your species call it by the least pretty synonym for ground?"

    "I didn't pick the name."

    "I take it you are satisfied with the Cosmic Viewer?"

    "For now. Yeah. Anywhere in space I need to be... this can get me there." I look at him, "Once you bring me the handheld jump point opener."



    The opener ended up being something like a thick wristband with a holographic hard-light display. Tivan uploaded his database of the Neural Universal Teleportation Network into it, and I had Zola integrate it into my suit, setting it up on my left arm, so that I can use my free right hand to manipulate it.

    Of course, everything was written in alien.

    "So, do you have any universal translators?"

    "I do." he said, "For the benefit of my former exhibits, so they could understand me when I spoke to them."

    Right.

    "Ah... Lady Atika?" I turn, looking over at Carina, who was on a walkway beneath us, waving up at us, "I've gathered everyone who doesn't wish to go home, or who wished to speak with you first."

    "Oh! Thank you!" I float down to her, before stopping and looking back up at my two construct-lanterns, "Tivan, go get me a translator. And see if one works on Zola, too. Actually, while you two are working together, why don't you see if you can get Zola access to whatever database you have of this place. And to the space-internet."

    "Yes, Madam."

    "As you wish."

    I watch as they float off, before landing in front of Carina, and holding out my hand, "Where do you have them gathering?"

    "In the hospitality hall outside the museum. The inside doesn't have many wide open spaces."

    "Then let's go see them."
     
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