Previously: Unforgivable Deeds
Theme Song: Waters of Babylon by Don McLean
Stepping back into the Warehouse at the end of my just under eight years in the world of Black Bullet filled me with almost overwhelming dread. This was, perhaps, to be expected, as I’d just gambled the fate of an entire world on the next jump being suitable for what I was about to inflict upon it. To do so, it would have to meet three criteria, ones that ranged from the fairly reasonable to the almost completely outlandish.
Starting with the most reasonable and working my way up, the least of these was that it would have to be somewhere better than Black Bullet… which, considering that that world was rapidly being devoured by a hyper-mutative macro-virus and hell-jungle, wasn’t much of a metric to go by. In fact, short of a few deathworlds… like Deathworld or the world of Warhammer Fantasy, it was hard to imagine a setting worse. Sure, Warhammer 40K was terrible, as was the Starcraft universe based largely on it without the Chaos Gods or Cybernetic Undead… but there were entire perfectly fine worlds hidden among the hells of nasties. I had a spaceship with FTL… I could find one.
The second requirement wasn’t much harder to meet, as all that was needed was that the destination be able to support twelve million modern humans at higher than the subsistence level. That might seem like a lot to ask, but anything post middle-ages would work in a pinch. Most renaissance settings or fantasy settings would be hard pressed to cope, but they could with some fairly standard up-teching from yours truly. Sure, if we ended up in some technophobic setting like The Forgotten Realms, that might be a problem.
I’m not kidding, by the way, about the Realms being actively hostile to technology. The tech level there was actually maintained at pre-industrial by the very gods themselves… they might get mad if I fucked with them… but then again, I’d killed gods before… and the so-called Wall of the Faithless (where those who were not claimed by one of the Realms’ gods were interred for all eternity) might be just as potent a weapon against that Realm’s chief deity, Ao, as Hell & Limbo had been against Supernatural’s Chuck.
The last requirement was a bit of a doozy however. It was pretty much pie in the sky dreaming. It had to be somewhere that wouldn’t be instantly destroyed by the arrival of two and a half million super powered adolescent girls. I wasn’t even asking for one that wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it. Such a thing just didn’t exist in fiction as far as I was aware. Even the worlds of Shonen comics didn’t have population bases that could cope with hundreds of thousands of girls capable of destroying a semi-truck with a single kick when she got angry. Sure, the protagonists and their rivals were often city-busters, but conservation of ninjutsu or whatever meant that such people were vanishingly rare, usually no more than a few dozen such individuals existed in any given world, and even the block-busters usually numbered in at less than one in a hundred-thousand. Well, to match what I was bringing in, a world like that would have to have a population of two-hundred and fifty billion. Soo… was I holding my breath on the last requirement? Bwahahaha! Not a chance! But still, a girl can hope, right?
Now, imagine my initial horror when I saw the Marvel Logo on the Vending Machines of Destiny. For a moment, I had visions of having to destroy an ever evolving wave of Sentinels (the giant mutant slaughtering robots of the X-Men sub-franchise) to protect the girls and their guardians against the anti-mutant crowds… then I realized it wasn’t the Marvel Comics Trademark but rather the Marvel Cinematic Universe logo and relaxed.
Why, you may ask, if you aren’t a fan and don’t follow such things, does that matter? See, while in the pages of the comics the X-Men, Avengers, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four all share a Universe, in the movies, 20th Century Fox owns the rights to all things X and Sony Pictures owns the rights to Spidey and the Fab Four. The MCU thus wasn’t able to use those pillars of Comic Universe… well, maybe.
See, J-Day, the date I’d become a Jumper, was February 24th, 2016 back on my world of Origin. When I’d left Origin, Phase One and Phase Two of the MCU had been released, though I hadn’t seen the final film of Phase Two, 2015’s Ant-Man for various reasons. I’d seen the three Iron Man movies, the Hulk Movie that hadn’t been Ang Lee wanking cinematically for two hours, Thor and The Dark World, Captain America and The Winter Soldier, Avengers and Age of Ultron, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d missed seeing Civil War by about seventy days and Doctor Strange by eight months or so.
But that was Origin. See, I’d been to a few Earths in years later than J-Day… not the least of which had Black Bullet itself. Many of those worlds had had the MCU in some incarnation or another. Star Trek’s Eugenics Wars might have been in 1992, with their lead up period meaning that my entire lifetime had been utterly unrecognizable… but the same could not be said for Mass Effect, Metal Gear Rising, Kill-la Kill, Railgun, Infamous, or Black Bullet itself. Indeed, aside from certain geographic differences, Infamous of 2016 had been virtually identical to Origin in cultural touchstones… excepting the existence of the Twilight novels for some reason.
That said, Mass Effect’s MCU had included the Fantastic Four and She-Hulk but not The Winter Soldier or Ant-Man. Kill la Kill’s MCU had included Wolverine and Spidey but not Thor. Supernatural (which had not lasted until 2016) hadn’t even had a Thor comic book. Infamous had seen the DC Cinema Universe being successful with a completely different Superman IV and Iron Man flopping with the absence of Robert Downy Junior in the starring role. River Phoenix just hadn’t had the same chemistry, though it had been nice to see him alive.
So yeah, there had been many versions of the MCU line up in my travels, but this would be the original as far as I was concerned (well… Original plus Me most likely). And that meant no Mutants! Just Tony Stark and HYDRA. Weeeee!
In short, it was pretty much everything on my short list. It wasn’t ideal… but no setting was going to be unless it was back to my Maegi in Civilization, and by the rules, I wasn’t allowed to take the girls to a Return, but only to the next jump. Still, I was almost looking forward to this.
Step one… spin that wheeel, right? Not quite. This was the MCU, it couldn’t be that simple. See, there were two different Wheel-o-Locations. The first was superimposed on a polar projection of Earth (like the UN uses, but without the laurel leaves). The second was on a star-speckled black background… you know, for Space! On that list were worlds that were familiar and worlds that weren’t. So, while I knew Asgard (and to a lesser extent Xandar and Knowhere) of old… I had no idea where Contraxia or Zen-Whoberia were. Sakaar was, I think, from the pages of Hulk, the planet he’d become king of? I didn’t know for certain, that wasn’t a comic I’d read. Titan was home of the Titans… I think.
Anyway… there was a lot of space there and many of those were unknowns. In fact, only Asgard was even close to being in the ‘known’ category. One out of eight that matched my needs… okay, two out of eight with the free pick. Still, I knew Earth. Even if I ended up starting in Afghanistan, I knew how to get to not Afghanistan pretty darn quickly from anywhere on Earth. The same could not be said for Zen-Whoberi… who the fuck named that place? Terrible fucking name.
Without another thought, I gave the Earth Wheel a spin. Click click click! West Virginia! Woooo. Site of the Hulk’s rampage in 2005! Wait, what was the year? 2009… ah… Tony Stark would just be breaking free of the Ten Rings cave in Afghanistan as I arrived. Interesting time! Yess… this would be funz with a capital Z! 2009 would be the year of Iron Man. 2010 would the return of the big green guy as well as the appearance of the ultra yummy Thor. 2011 would see the formation of the Avengers and 2013 would feature the Fall of SHIELD… hmmmm… busy busy busy. So much to do… and so many people to do it to.
And, presumably, Thanos would appear at some point, though the details of the Infinity Gauntlet Saga had varied from universe to universe. In Kill la Kill, the Revocs Corporation had bought Disney and made Thanos open an Infinity Disco to woo Lady Death with his moves. In Raildex, Thanos and Galactus had had a fist fight to see who could destroy the universe better. In MGR, Squirrel Girl had defeated Thanos off screen. Very odd.
Options options options. The first of which was which race I wanted to be… and there were fifteen choices. Well, that was many. They ranged from Humanoid, which was free, and Halfworlder, i.e. an animal uplifted to sapience like Rocket Raccoon, for fifty… all the way to Titan (like Thanos) at eight hundred. But most of the choices were either one hundred or three.
Sure, there were two priced in between that, but I didn’t have any idea why anyone would want to be a Chitauri (the undead lizard looking fucks who invaded New York in the Avengers) and why anyone besides Toph would want to be a Kronan. They I didn’t even recognize. It was like if the Thing from Fantastic Four had a race of grey relatives. Sure, they were tough, but being stone all the time would be rough. I made a little joke there. It was bad. I feel bad. But not bad enough to be one of them… and certainly not to have to pay for the privilege.
In fact, I had no idea why anyone would pay for the privilege of being any of the races priced under three hundred. Halfworlder was out, as Rocket had described his existence as painful and he felt alone as the only member of his race. Flora Colossi (the living treeman Groot’s race) were incredibly powerful, but limited of speech and facial expression. Being a HYDRA Sleeper Mech (Was that even in the MCU?) would be literally dehumanizing… no thanks, I don’t have a machine fetish. And apparently the people of Zen-Whoberi had an even stupider name than their planet, since they appeared to be called the Zehoberei. Ugh. Why being a member of Gamora’s race was worth as much as being a Flora Colossus I’ve no idea… Drax’s race didn’t even appear to be on offer, but that’s okay. I like understanding metaphors.
Most of the three hundred pointers were similarly weirdly priced. Three hundred to be a light-sensitive Dark Elf. Three hundred to be a Norse style Dwarf… there must be a Thor movie I haven’t seen? Three Hundred to be a gold skinned Sovereign, a blue skinned Frost Giant or Kree, or a green skinned Skrull. Sure, the Kree had impressive regen and superior stats, the Skrulls were near perfect shapeshifters, and the Dwarves had awesome beards… but really? Every description in the three hundred range mentioned the Asgardians and used them as the benchmark… and if that wasn’t a reason to be Asgardian, I didn’t know what was.
Why? Well, if the Dark Elves, Kree, Skrulls, Sovereign, Frost Giants, and Dwarves were equal to the Asgardians? How had the Asgardians managed to conquer the nine realms and put the fear of Odin into that collection of warlike, egotistical, and often brutal races. Plus, I could already shapeshift or be an elf. I was Skadi, after all… time for a return to form. I mean, if I was going to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I might as well be one of the heavy hitters. And you know who Odin’s wife was before he married Frigga? That’s right! Skadi! Well, according to the legends. Who knew with the MCU.
As soon as I locked in the choice to be Asgardian, the system offered me two additional sub-choices. The first, Vanir, was free. Makes sense. The Aesir and Vanir were cousins. I stuck with Aesir, though technically, as Skadi, I should be a Jotun… a Frost Giant. The MCU’s Frost Giants were kinda uggos, not to mention uncivilized. Even Loki didn’t exactly go around being blue all the time.
The second choice, however, was a must have. Royal Asgardian. A normal Asgardian was strong enough to lift some ten tons naturally and one who trained could get that up to twenty. Their durability, reflexes, and coordination were likewise enhanced, and they possessed not only a potent healing factor but an innate affinity for war that made them able to outclass almost every other race in the Marvel Universe on the field of battle. Royals?
Well, not only were they at the very peak of Asgardian ability, both physically and mentally, they were gorgeous, possessed of superhuman will and determination, could tank a punch from the Hulk in battle frenzy, and had an ability to soak up information even faster than that literal techno-renaissance man himself, Tony Stark. There was a reason they were often seen as gods by lesser beings. Sure, it cost me another three hundred Choice, but I mean… Say haaalooo to step-mom, Thor my boy! Would it be wrong to offer to oil his chest? Frigga might object. Note to self, don’t let Frigga die. Stupid Dark Elves.
Before I could move on, a pop-up appeared on screen, ringed with rainbows ala Bifrost, Asgard’s trans-dimensional teleportation system. It said “As you have been blessed by the Gods, your appearance and physique have been improved to pleasing effect. May you enjoy your perfect, immaculate hair that could only belong to one as grand as you. Your hair and body will only ever become just dirty enough to make you look ruggedly handsome or beautiful. Some of the other perks on offer in this Jump will synergize with your Royal Status to grant you additional abilities. Use them wisely… or don’t. It’s your Choice. Such items will be marked with the sign of Bifrost.”
Well, hey! That was cool. Power combos were always welcome. I noticed a link to a footnote. “The hair thing also works on body fur, fluffy tails, scales, or chitin.” Heh. Covering bases. Excellent. I would have to check out how I looked as Asgardian Snowjaeger.
Of course, being Skadi also set my age into the thousands. That was going to be a lot of memories to sort through. But not as many as I already had. There was even a note saying, “Due to your advanced age, you have spent much of the last thousand years in the Skadi-Sleep.” Excellent news. I’d be all topped up in beauty then.
Species decided, that left occupational identity to be chosen, and there there were four choices; Drop-In, Tech Expert, Operative, and Tac/Comm. None of those sounded particularly ‘Asgardian’ to me, but I suppose it was more politic than saying Trickster, Tinker, Soldier, and Leader… and fit more races than merely Humanity. Still, this Vending Machine was effectively a computer. It could have been programmed to change the names of things to suit the purchaser… or would that make things difficult when it came to Companions. I hoped there was a good companion import option. JumpVengers Assemble or something.
Still, before I could figure out what I wanted my companions to be, I had to figure out what I wanted to be. “So? Essjay? Skadi? Who do We want to be?” Making a mirror of Ice, I projected myself as Skadi into it, willfully giving myself a kind of dissociative identity disorder in order to have an actual conversation with myself. Hey, not like I was a model of sanity at the best of times, right?
“Well,” I said to my Skadi-self, “Drop in has a style perk, a find the plot perk, a steal the macguffin perk, and a screw things up perk… and that synergizes into Asgardian Illusion magic like Loki and Frigga use.”
“True,” Skadi-me said, “but illusion isn’t really our thing. We’re not Frigga and don’t want to be. We want to kick names and take butt.”
I snorted at that. It was a stupid line, but amusing, at least to me. “Right then… Tech Expert is the Tony Stark line, Operative the Black Widow line, and Tac/Comm the Nick Fury line. Hmmm… none of them are screaming ‘Take me! Take me!’ to me. What about to you?”
The other me frowned, then shrugged. “Maybe we should look at drawbacks first? The maximum amount is pretty high, we should be able to get two or three of those special synergizing capstones.”
I frowned. A sixteen hundred Choice cap on Drawbacks might be enough… there were a heck of a lot of things on offer and some of them were hella pricy… but it also might be overkill honestly. There were sixteen Drawbacks on offer and four of the damned things were priced at six-hundred each!
Of course, I looked those over first, since two of them would get me most of the way to the cap… but decided almost immediately that they were scary bad news. One would send Thanos aiming right for me, armed with the Infinity Stones and wanting me D-E-A-D ded. By comparison, the others were a walk in the park, but they still weren’t anything I wanted to deal with.
As in a Jump-chain empowered Jumper-Power resistant Hulk, Ultron equipped with Maegi-tech and my own powers to use against me, or a bounty on my head from Taneleer Tivan, the alien immortal known as The Collector because he was an avid (one could say obsessive and not be wrong) collector of oddities and unique curiosities. A bounty large enough to guarantee that every bounty-hunter in the Marvel Universe would come looking for me. I did not want to be stuck in a display case in Knowhere, thank you very much. So those were right out.
However, the three-hundred pointers were another matter. Sure, ‘Wrath of a God’, which would give Loki intimate knowledge of all my powers and abilities and reason to believe that I’m a threat to his plans, was a non-starter, but each of the others had potential.
‘Corpse of a Hero’ caught my eye immediately. “Phil Coulson stays dead after Loki kills him?” I commented, unable to believe I was being offered so much for so little. “That’s it? SHIELD falls apart and Coulson stays dead? Am I reading this right?”
“That’s what it reads like to me,” Skadi said. Of course, we weren’t really two different beings, which meant that we’d both read the exact same blurb and processed it with the exact same neocortex.
“Excellent!” I commented, “Bringing back Coulson always bugged me. Sorry Phil, you should have stayed dead. It was a great moment in cinema, how the sacrifice of a mere mortal could galvanize these great beings! And they wasted it… but then again, they wasted Loki’s redemption, which would have been an awesome and memorable cinema moment, an ‘Even the Bad Guy can Change’ in a comic movie… but that’s Comics for you. No one stays dead.”
“Hopefully that applies to us too,” Skadi commented.
Frowning, I huffed, “I for one would rather not die in the first place, as that would end our chain.”
“Well, I’m hoping we eventually get a power that stops a little bit of temporary death from ending our chain… wouldn’t SHIELD falling apart pretty much will derail the events of Winter Soldier?” she asked as if it hadn’t just occurred to me as well. After all, if there wasn’t a SHIELD, how could HYDRA use their infiltration of that venerable defense organization to create a fleet of Big Brother Helicarriers?
I nodded. “That might, in turn, stop Civil War… especially if we can limit Ultron’s depravations!”
“That’s all around good news in my book,” Skadi agreed. “And End of an Era? We can handle a few Chitauri, right?”
I wasn’t certain that biweekly attacks from the alien thugs even before they attacked Earth in the Avengers counted as ‘a few’ but to be honest, I wasn’t really scared of any race that could lose it’s command-ship to 21st century Earth cruise missile, nuke or not. Plus, the Chitauri would only be targeting me, not the Earth or Asgard in general… though they’d have to be out of their minds to attack Asgard. Entire races of magical monsters had tried that and failed. The Chitauri had had difficulty fighting a single Royal Asgardian even when they had one on their side.
“Sure,” I agreed, “That works. What do you think of ‘Glory of a Monster’?” I was referring to the final three-hundred point option, which significantly altered the starting date and made the departure date very much a work in progress.
My counterpart shrugged indifferently. “We’re thousands of years old. What does it matter if we arrive in this Universe in 1942 instead of 2009? Apalachia or Austria makes even less difference.”
“And the bit about being unable to leave until HYDRA is destroyed?” I asked, knowing what her answer would be, but continuing the charade… partly to annoy Zane who’d been watching me closely since I arrived back in the Warehouse. Everyone who’d been sealed out of Black Bullet had been able to watch the footage of what was happening outside the Warehouse… though for them it had only been nine and a half months, not eight years.
“We brought down a civilization,” Skadi pointed out. “We can root out one nigh omnipresent terror organization. We have a leg up on everyone else hunting them… we know they’re there and can measure when they actually are destroyed.”
That was true… plus, they actually did need to be destroyed, so it wasn’t so much a Drawback as a quest. A quest that came with Choice coins. So that was nine-hundred in the bank, bringing me back up to thirteen-hundred spendable. But there was more Choice to be had and all without any risk at all.
Most of the two-hundred point Drawbacks were crap… a reactor for a heart, an unfortunate morality reduction, or a Hulk-like anger issue… so I wasn’t having any of those… but ‘You Owe Rocket’ amused me. The idea of having to dodge el Fuzzy Racoon-boy because he was under the mistaken and unshakable belief that I had to pay him back for something was just… hilarious to me. Sure, he was guaranteed to show up and guaranteed to come back and guaranteed to be unreasonably good at hampering my plans… but it was funny! Being followed around and having my plans messed with by Rocket just because he thinks I owe him?
As for the hundred-point chump-change Drawbacks? Well, I turned down the one that would make me talk like Groot, “I Am EssJay!” and the one that would give me Drax’s ability to understand social niceities… but that left two that were just too much fun to pass up. Getting points for them was excellent, but frankly, I might have done either just to get on people’s nerves! What were these landmarks of ferretine amusement? Why, ‘Horrible Costume’ & ‘Catch Phrase’ of course! Hell, Hulk has purple pants… I? Well.. I could come up with something too corny or too edgy or both! As for a catch phrase? how about “Trust me. I am a Doctor!”
Oh. oh! That’s perfect! I could wear a medical doctor’s outfit and call myself I-Yama-Doctor! For no good reason! “What kind of doctor uses a sledge hammer!?” “Hush, I’m only testing your reflexes! Now Hold Still!” Yes! And I could play whack-a-mole with the Chitauri! I wonder if they understood humor.
So, now I had seventeen-hundred Choice, plus a three-hundred Choice Item stipend, and seventy years or so in which to make a world that was a decent place to release the Cursed Children of Black Bullet. A HYDRA Free World. Granted it would also be a world without SHIELD… maybe I could replace it with something better? Maria Hill and Nick Fury would still need jobs.
Regardless, in order to bring about my better world, I was going to need help. There was only one of me and (as of yet) I couldn’t be everywhere at once. That meant it was time for the JumpVengers to Assemble! Buying eight slots cost me two-hundred precious stash, which I took out of my Item Stipend because the system let me do so, and in exchange, each of my chosen ones would get a free background, five-hundred Choice for perks, and three-hundred Choice for items of their own.
Honestly, it was pretty damned nice; not super, but they’d make due, and I’d cope. Still, at some point I should have a word with whoever balanced these things and encourage them to make companions import for free. Eh. Maybe that would be too much. I was probably biased.
And speaking of biased, I’d been an Operative last time I’d been through this section of world history (see File: Metal Gear Rising). After a bit of consideration, and confabulation with myself in the mirror, it was decided that, this time, we were going for Tech Expert, even if that wasn’t normally Skadi’s bread and butter. I mean, Skadi was the original ski and shoot gal… but times change and innovation is good for the soul.
Being a Tech Expert came with an intelligence boost (sure, I could use a few more IQ points) and the capability to understand the greater workings of the Universe (as if I didn’t have that already). It also guaranteed that I’d pick up on information and science a lot faster than most (which was a bonus worth having) but it would be interesting to see if any of that stacked with what we got for being Asgardian Royalty, since that came with all those elements only moreso.
Thankfully, Tech Expert was free, so that was one less expense we had to worry about, leaving me free to take all three remaining synergies if I wanted to, though that would cost us fifteen-hundred Choice, leaving only two-hundred for other stuff… though I wasn’t certain what other stuff was on offer. Still, that was what research was for.
First up, the synergistic capstones; Tech-Expert’s ‘Retro-Engineer’, Operative’s ‘A Funny Thing Happened’, and Tac/Comm’s ‘Old Fashioned Asskicking’. Retro-Engineer had been a big part of why we’d gone for Texpert over T-Comm, as at base, it was entirely about adapting other people’s tech to new and novel purposes. As long as we took the time to study something and did our due diligence experiment-wise, we’d be guaranteed to eventually figure out some way of using any piece of alien technology. Considering the amount of aliens and clarketech the various incarnations of the Marvel Universe were home to, this was a savvy investment if I ever saw one. The base power even came with a bit of skill in not breaking whatever it was we were studying.
All that was worth the price of admission, as it were, of course, but the synergy with Royal Asgardian was all that and a kettle of fish besides! In addition to all the above, we’d gain insight into the underlying theories of Asgardian magic and understanding of how to integrate it into technology seamlessly. This should be enough to (given the right materials) recreate the various wonders of Asgard, such as Bifrost or even Mjolnir. Might have trouble sourcing Uru… would Vibranium work? I understand Wakanda has some… I wonder if Wakanda exists in the MCU. Latveria probably doesn’t.
Regardless of geography, Retro-Engineer was a must have, if only so I could shout “Taste the Rainbow!” in later jumps and hit my enemies with something a bit more robust than a pack of skittles. Anyway, it was only three-hundred Choice, leaving me with fourteen-hundred left to spend.
The big question was, did I want or need the remaining synergies? Each would cost six-hundred, so I could buy both… but maybe there was something better for offer?
Old Fashioned Ass-Kicking was pretty nice, as it was an all round leadership package. Not only did it boost the morale of those the Ass-Kicker fought side-by-side with, it boosted their accuracy, reflexes, and coordination… as well as making them harder to hit and easier to work with. And that was the baseline. The Royal version came with a significant charisma and intellect boost for the taker, all in the service of being a top notch and wise king… but it didn’t actually come with the Wisdom of Odin and most of the other bonuses were in the nature of making those who would serve me better at their own jobs or making other leaders more likely to negotiate with me.
It wasn’t a bad little package, but I didn’t really need it. I’d been a highly effective leader for twelve thousand years and over a hundred and fifty lifetimes. And thanks to my trip through Redwall, I did have at least one actual wisdom perk… even if I sometimes acted like I didn’t. Sometimes there is method to my madness… other times there is a tiny bit of madness to my methods.
So Asskicking wasn’t a lock… that left Funny Business. Name aside, it wasn’t particularly amusing… Asskicking would have been a better title for the perk in question, since it transformed the taker into ‘a walking bastion of skill and danger’… whatever that meant. What it definitely did was boost martial skills to the level of Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow), who could single-handedly take on groups of trained soldiers, and marksmanship to the level of Clint Barton (Hawkeye). It came with expertise in using the environment to best effect, as well as a drastic uptick in situational awareness.
As a past master of CQC and a nearly super-human sharpshooter already, the basic perk itself wasn’t worth six-hundred to me. However, the Royal synergy would take that and ramp it up to the point where even Natasha could take on a group of Asgardian warriors with little difficulty. That was a bit more attractive, but where it really shone was in that it would give me the ability to magically generate and manipulate one element of my choosing, be that fire, or lightning, or swords, or shields… and guarantee that I couldn’t be harmed by mundane versions of such.
Now, sure, I already had half-a-dozen ways of generating cold and ice, as befit Skadi, Goddess of Winter… but I had an idea that was just too evil for school. See, Skadi was not only the Asgardian Goddess of Winter, but of Archery. So if I took Funny Thing Happened (but not on the way to the Forum apparently… and if you get that reference you’re cool in my book)… and made it arrows… a blizzard of arrows. Potentially a blizzard of arrows made out of hyper-cryonic ice? Yess… that could do nicely.
Chuckling, I added that to my build… then shot a magically created arrow across the courtyard to impale Zane’s hoagie since there wasn’t an apple in sight. Yes, one of the nicest things about the VMoDs was that they let you test out bits of your build before you locked everything in place.
Zane frowned at me, more because I’d interrupted his meal than because I’d launched a deadly weapon in his general vicinity. We’d been together too long to fret over such stuff, and anyway I only missed when I wanted to or when dealing with those who could manipulate reality, see the future, or move faster than a lightning bolt… say, half the speed of light and up.
I grinned at him and said, “Apparently, I am now an arrow elemental.”
“Apparently, you are become a Pain in the Neck, Destroyer of Sandwiches,” he retorted, picking his punctured pickle off the point of my projectile.
That purchase brought me down to eight-hundred, which probably meant it was time to give the other perks, you know the freebies, the origin discounted, and the general perks (the ones not discounted to any particular origin) a look. The first of those were a pair of freebies that everyone got, ‘Soundtrack of the Galaxy’ and ‘They Call Me Star-Lord’. Universal Freebies are nice. The Boss’s way of saying, “Here, these are barely worth the bother, but we like making you feel appreciated.”
‘Soundtrack of the Galaxy’ was a BGM perk that ensured I’d have a fine selection of music that matched the moment, whatever that moment might be. Superb orchestral compositions, rock music, even a hefty dash of pop-songs from the 1980s if that’s what was called for. The perk even came with a handheld cassette player capable of functioning in deep space. See what I mean by barely worth the bother?
‘They Call Me Star-Lord’ was for those times when I really needed a codename and for people to know that codename applied to me. Apparently my real name… not that I used it and hadn’t for longer than I’d been a jumper, wasn’t intimidating or awe inspiring enough… a fact that I did not disagree with. With ‘They Call Me’ I could designate an alias and people would associate that name with me… though it didn’t guarantee they’d actually call me by it.
You know that old saw that you can’t pick your own nickname? Well, as with many things in life, that just didn’t apply to a Jumper, because, with this, I could pick my nickname. I’d just come off like a douche for mentioning it. Wooo! Even less worth the time and effort to add to memory, but it was a tool in the tool chest so I didn’t say no thanks.
The last of my freebies, and the first of the unsyngerized origin specifics, was called ‘Professor of Asskicking’. It wasn’t nearly so useless… sorry, wasn’t nearly so situation dependent. Granted, it wasn’t all that groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but it was three free PhD’s in a science or tech field. With a bit of thought, and a bit of long time wish-fulfillment, I picked Quantum Physics, Computer Engineering, and Chaos Theory. There. A science, a tech, and a math. STEM for the win! I felt nerdier already.
The two remaining Tech Expert perks ‘Unusual Specialization’ and ‘I Am Iron Man’ were things I didn’t really need, thankfully, so that was three-hundred Choice I didn’t need to worry about spending. I already was pretty scientifically skilled and I already knew how to build half of Tony’s tech… and as long as he developed it before I left, I could steal his actual specs. All’s fair in technological innovation… at least according to Thomas Alva Edison. Maybe not according to Tesla.
A quick look through the other origin specific perks told me that there wasn’t really anything I needed from them either, which only left the general ones. There were some interesting choices among that list; enhanced senses, team building, super-soldier augmentation, radiation resistance… the Hulk’s rage-fueled strength and toughness… but only one of them really spoke to me. It was called ‘Touched By Infinity’ and it was, of course, the most expensive thing in the entire JumpTree.
Well, okay, not quite. It had a three-hundred point level that wasn’t too expensive and covered the powers of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (MCU version, not X-Men version). Their powers came from HYDRA experimentation with the Mind Stone, according to the info-blurb, though I hadn’t really made that connection when I’d seen the Avengers: Age of Ultron all those millennia ago.
That cheaper version of the perk granted some unique ability tied to one of the six Infinity Gems… though when I’d left only four (the Space Stone / Tesseract, the Mind Stone in Loki’s Scepter, the Reality Stone / Aether, and the Power Stone in the Orb Star-Lord stole at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy) had appeared on screen. There had been numerous debates about which stone was which before official statements had confirmed that those four were the four I’ve listed.
Presumably, back on Origin, the Time and Soul Stones would have shown up at some point, but exactly how was a mystery to me. There had been some eleven different locations for those two Stones in the eight jumps I’d been to where the MCU had been a thing, though I was very much hoping that the Soul Stone was not in Howard the Duck’s cigar… yes, that had been a thing… as had Space Knight ROM’s visor and the heart of Ego the Living Planet. Then again, in four of those Universes, even the locations of some or all of the Infinity Gems had been different and in one, Mass Effect, the Infinity Gems hadn’t even shown up until Phase Five of the MCU.
Regardless, there were six Infinity Stones; most often Time, Space, Reality, Power, Mind & Soul… and sometimes a seventh called Ego… assuming I was remembering right. I was also leaving out the Kill la Kill Stone of Fashion, because… oy. Touched by Infinity at three-hundred would imbue me with some of one Stone’s cosmic energy and unlock some ability that would depend on me and the nature of the Stone picked.
Predicting what that would be would be all but impossible. After all, the Scarlet Witch’s mind whammy powers certainly were in keeping with the Mind Stone… but Quicksilver’s speedster powers? Hard to see the connection there.
As for Vision, who was powered entirely by the Stone… and a large dose of Thor’s lightning… well, that was another matter entirely. That fell under the larger price tag… eight-hundred Choice, everything I had left save a hundred points of my Item Stipend. ‘So,’ I hear you asking with bated breath, ‘what does such a huge sum net you, oh beautiful and wise Jumper?” To which I respond, “Oh stop, you flatter me… do it some more.”
Then I answer truthfully. Instead of merely being imbued with power through passing through the not quite metaphorical fire of contact with one of the Stones (a process that was far more often horrifically fatal than not), I’d be absolutely saturated with those cosmic energies. With absorbing that much power, I’d gain a tremendous amount of strength and power… enough to be a one person political factor. I’d gain the ability to fly and fight at lightspeed without issues, be tough enough to not only withstand the main guns of a Kree Capital Ship but plow through the hull of said ship with ease, and be strong enough to give even big-daddy Thanos pause. Effectively, I’d become the living manifestation of whichever Infinity Stone empowered me.
What that boiled down to was not so much a choice of whether to buy the perk or not… but which Stone to pick. There were three reasons for this. First, although it was potentially possible to (apparently) gain such powers in setting, attempting to do so would be the height of insanity, since (as I’ve said) most who came into contact with a Stone ended up dead. Second, since the Stones were tied to the fabric of a Mavel Universe, those powers too would (without the fiat backing of the Jumpchain’s Choice) cease to work no doubt the moment I left the MCU.
The third reason was mere practicality. There were a lot of very nasty people in the MCU and many of them needed to have their faces rearranged or their behinds spanked… or both. Thankfully, the machine assured me that, should Thanos actually get his hands on all six Stones and perform his notorious snap, wiping out half of all sapient life in the Universe, I wouldn’t be on the losing side of that coin flip… but to be honest I’d rather that event never happen in the first place.
So yes, the big question, the question pulsing at me from the screen of the VMoD, was which stone to choose. Obviously, the Purple Power Stone was the most attractive to me on two levels. First, it was Power! and POWER! is good, right? Second, it was Purple, my favorite color (except when it’s Thanos’s face). But Purple Power was the least interesting and the hardest to justify, seeing as how the Orb was canonically nowhere near Asgard.
The Soul and Time Stones were both tempting, from a potential power perspective (power not POWER! in this case) and the nebulous location each held meant that they could be fairly justifiable… but that same vagueness meant that there was a good chance that picking one of them would require the timeline to do some very weird gymnastics in order to put me and the chosen Stone at the same place at the same time. Better to play it safe.
That left the Mind Stone, Space Stone, and Reality Stone… all of which were known to have been in the vicinity of Asgard… but the Mind Stone already played a part in the backstory of three MCU characters. Thus, it was the boring choice. Also, it’s connection to Asgard was present day, and I’d be entering the setting in WWII. So it was out.
That left Tesseract and Aether… and the blue Cosmic Cube had already played out its time upon the stage, featuring in half a dozen films in some capacity or another. So that left the Aether… the Reality stone… which just so happened to be hidden in a subdimension of Asgard or something. Also, the Reality Stone seemed like the one that would have the most interesting ramifications and unpredictable qualities… even if red wasn’t really my favorite color. Although I do like redheads…
No. Bad EssJay. No making out with an Infinity Gem. Regardless, I locked in my choice and waved goodbye to all my Choice… I suspect I was going to earn every one of them… seventy years was a long time to be one person… but maybe I’m biased?
Which meant it was Equipment time!What time is it kids? Why, it’s Tactical Suit Time! Why? Because a standard bodysuit made of a polymer blend with ten layers of treated composite materials, allowing for state of the art protection, in the style of my choice, was free just for the price of admission. Why I’d wear something so practical was beyond me. Clearly scrubs were the best possible costume for a Doctor with the Powa Cosmic! Still, I plugged in something that looked good before my drawbacks made my sense of style fly out the window.
Also free (at least for Tech Experts) was a ‘Holotable’, a table-shaped device used to create holographic images of various projects under construction or in the design phase. I already had fifteen of them. They weren’t exactly hard to create. Of course, I used them mostly for games… much easier to set up and take down games when the pieces and board could be spontaneously generated and dissolved at need. I even had some tables that used paramagical sand, each grain so fine it made a dust particle look like the Willis Tower. Unfortunately, those were slightly laggy, with a frame-rate of less than ten, so they weren’t exactly ideal for anything that needed rapid shifts, though the newest generation incorporated a hybrid sand-light structure that had the frame-rate of light but the tactility andmassiness of the sand to decent effect. Eh, maybe I’d use the Holotable as a sideboard.
Slightly more unique was the formula for the chemical compound known as Nitramene, which could be used to create explosive-implosive bombs or grenades at least two orders of magnitude more powerful than common plastique. Aside from the vacuum created by such explosions, which was an interesting effect that I’d have to study to figure out how it was possible given the laws of physics, the destructive power of the substance was of no interest to me. On the other hand, Nitramene was also known for emitting low levels of Vita Radiation (the stuff that combined with the Super Soldier Serum to make Steve Rogers into Captain America). Honestly, I had no idea what I’d do with that formula, but Vita Radiation was good for stabilizing various chemicals according to the lore, so whatever.
Now I just needed a copy of the Super Soldier Serum that had died with Dr. Erskine… oh, wait, he was going to die in 1943. Bonus.
Being an Asgardian, I got one last freebie, my own shiny shiny self-repair Asgardian Armor. Exquisite and custom design work too. Hee hee. I might even have made it myself. Also available was an Asgardian Armory for a hundred Choice, a collection of pedestals and plaques that would grow ever more opulent and spiffy as I added relics and other doo-dads to it… but to be honest, I could build my own pedestals and plaques. For two-hundred Choice more, I could upgrade it so that I could summon stuff from there, but as it was part of my warehouse, I could already do that with Requip. Soo… eh. I’d settle for just the armor.
I only had a hundred Choice left anyway, so I ignored most of the expensive stuff, looking only at the stuff priced to move as it were. As it turned out, Erskine’s Serum or rather the ‘Strange Formula’ was in that category, but again, it was only the formula… and it had a tendency to amplify the personality traits of the user in the current form. I’d have to find a way to fix that fact. Experimentation would be required, as I didn’t need to exacerbate some of the crazy on my squad. I wonder what Ziggy would be like on Super S… Ferret Serum? Still, there didn’t seem to be a pressing need to buy the serum when I could just get Erskine’s notes maybe? Or maybe one of my companions would buy it out of curiosity.
See, I had a better use in mind for my remaining Choice. See, Infinite Shawarma was on the list, for the bargain price of fifty Choice. Sure, I could make damned good shawarma in my Warehouse kitchen… but this hooked my warehouse up with an infinite supply of Shawarma of all kinds, perfectly cooked to my specs, regardless of the difficulty of sourcing certain ingredients or meats. Anyone up for Emu Shawarma?
Hopefully, the Shawarma den came with the complete pickle bar and tahini on tap… if you’ve never had an authentic middle-eastern Shawarma experience, with a side plate of pickled lemons, radish, cauliflower, carrots, and or peppers, you don’t know what you’re missing. Gods, now I’m hungry… I’d probably have to source Israeli Fanta Orange myself… it’s more tart, less sweet than American Fanta and I haven’t had either in several decades. Not since Bleach. Well, that was Japanese Fanta, but it was close enough to the Israeli stuff.
Snacks taken care of for the foreseeable future (when you’re immortal you tend to go through phases of loving things and being sick of them unless you’re very careful about not over-indulging. I was not very careful, but the steady influx of new points of view and taste profiles meant I was constantly rediscovering my old favorites.
And with my final fifty Choice, I picked up SHIELD Membership. It might be arguable utility, but by purchasing it I got a legitimate position within the organization, though I had no idea if it would be as a consultant or an agent or a scientist. Or would be once it was actually formed in the post WWII Cold War Era. The reason I took it, to be absolutely honest was that, if there were other Marvel jumps later, having an in at SHIELD might be useful.
Out of Choice to spend, I retired to the kitchen to make dinner for everyone while the others discussed who was coming with me and why and what builds they wanted. “Astraea gets right of first refusal. Then Sextus. And I’m taking Zane and Reggy. Ahab, Joy, I’m going to need you to help me destroy HYDRA, so you can come too, but I don’t know if you want to import normally or what?” I said over the counter.
“What kind of world is this?” Garl Vinland — Astraea’s Knight Protector and beloved — asked, looking like a pretty boy outside of his massive silver plate armor. “Is it like the last one? All corrupt and dying like our own, and full of incomprehensible machines?”
“The Tech level is lower,” I explained. “Considerably so, though far higher than that of your native world. Especially at the point I’ll be entering it. If you come with and decide to stay you’ll probably die of old age before it gets to the level of technology seen in Black Bullet. There are entire sections of the world we’re going to where the industrial revolution is just hitting its stride. I have confidence that you’ll be able to adjust with a bit of effort.”
“And the corruption and decay?” Astrea asked.
“Right now, the world’s in the middle of the worst war in recorded history, a war against two genocidal empires… one so bad the forces of liberty and justice have allied themselves with a tyrant who rules a third fairly unpleasant empire in a pact of mutual protection. And all major ‘good’ forces have their own histories of genocidal behaviour. Even once the war ends, there will be much suffering. The situation is complex, and bad news, but the bad guys are doing the genocide now and should be stopped now. Like all worlds, there are good and bad people, but there’s a Catholic church here that worships the Son of God and the Virgin Mary which will please you if not me.”
“So the forces of darkness are here too?” Selen, Garl’s sister, asked.
“Evil will always exist,” I said with a shrug. “And the struggle against evil will always need to be renewed in every generation, but in this time and place, the great struggle of this generation will be over soon and a lot of worthy people will need help.”
Astraea ummed, “You’d be giving up a chance to improve one of your constant Companions to import me? That is the word, yes? Import?” I nodded in confirmation. “Why? I appreciate your largess, but do not understand it. We were enemies and I will not pledge myself to your cause. I even understand from conversation with your Companions that you do not favor my chosen faith and its ethos.”
I shrugged. “I could say why not. I could explain the concepts of tzedakah and mitzvot. I could wax poetic about how I owe you something for allowing me to put so many souls to rest… but all of that is beside the point.” As she looked at me with concern furrowing her spectral brow, I explained. “I make this offer because it is the right thing to do. I make it because this is the only way I know of to give you a new body, a living one. Otherwise you’ll simply remain a ghost. If I do this, you and Garl could start a family.”
“You’d do that?” she asked, still not comprehending, but no longer trying to dissuade me. “You would make a sacrifice of this caliber for someone you neither like nor approve of?”
“Sure,” I said with a shrug. “It seems like the right thing to do. And the sacrifice isn’t that great on my part. Negligible to be honest. Really, you should be thanking all those members of my team who will miss out on some seventy years of fighting nazis, spies, communists, capitalists, terrorists, madmen, and aliens.”
She looked appalled at that, glancing over at the others, but they all gave her a thumbs-up or something similar and she relaxed a little. “I… is there any other option?” she asked anyway. Ah. Martyrs. Got to… well, not love them. Refrain from shaking them until their brain went back in the right hole? A little self-sacrifice I can understand. Total martyrdom I really can’t. It’s not in me. The only way I’d ever go out in a willing way would be if I was taking my enemies with me or protecting something irreplaceable and dear to me personally.
Sighing, I offered,”I could turn you into an Arrancar if you’d rather. You’d still be a ghost, but a really dangerous one. Could hook you up with a Gigai too… but you’d outlive everyone and I don’t think you’d like that.” She shook her head slowly and I nodded, “So it’s resolved.”
Over tacos, the roster was decided. Reggy, Zane, Velma, Cirno, Kendra, Ryoga, Yoiko, and Astraea. Ahab and Joy would import themselves. Sextus had bowed out and Bao had decided he could do without living through Maoism again (not that he’d actually lived through Mao’s period. Mao had been dead for fifteen years by the time I’d come to the RanmaVerse.) Still, we promised to see if we could stop that from happening this time around, but both he and I knew that there were a lot of things that needed doing first. Cirno was coming because everyone said I was being too hard on her. I’d been outvoted in favor of the idiot. I was clearly in charge here.
I walked Astraea through the decision process for the first and almost certainly the last time. “You’ll probably want to be a human, as that’s what Garl and Selen are. If you take any origin besides Drop-In you’ll end up with another set of memories, the memories of who you were in this life, in this world.”
“And if I don’t?” she asked, frowning at my explanation but focusing on it as if it were the most important thing she’d ever done. Give her credit, she didn’t do things half-way.
“Drop-Ins are just you,” I told her. “As you are in all ways.”
Her visage darkened as she considered, then asked, “Then I would still be a ghost?”
“Naw, it always gives you an…” I began, then trailed off. “I don’t know. The only other ghost I’ve ever imported was Uriel, and there wasn’t an option for him to be a Drop-In in his first jump. So… Maybe?”
“That is alright then,” Astraea said. “I could use knowledge of this world and its peoples and so I shall be other than a Drop-In, taking on a new persona and identity. It is only fitting, since the Maiden Astraea is dead. Hopefully this new me and I will be of a mind.” I nodded. It was her choice. She read through the choices, then, after several days, announced, “I have decided.”
I was surprised it hadn’t taken her longer. Deciding who you want to be for the rest of your life is a heavy choice… even if there are only three options. She’d picked Tac/Comm, which came with a fair amount of resources and a position of authority in what would one day become SHIELD… and probably made her a wanted woman. Had to admire her gumption. She was going into a global war that would morph from active combat to a war of spies in only a few years armed with only her native magical skills and eight-hundred Choice worth of perks and items, to make a home and life for herself and her friends, and to help people she’d never heard of before.
She’d spent her Choice wisely as far as I could tell, taking the Super-Soldier-esque Augmented so that her kids were more likely to be healthy, and Enhanced Senses to make survival even more likely as well as make her tops at fieldcraft. The Enhanced Senses was clearly a reference to Daredevil, seeing as how it heightened every sense but sight, even though the keeper of Hell’s Kitchen hadn’t show up in Origin’s MCU to the best of my recollection.
On the mundane spy side of things, she’d picked up ‘Smooth Operator’ which was the ability to bring confidence and calmness to those one talks to, or to become intimidating at will (free for Tac/Comm), and ‘Put Together a Team’, which was all about, well, putting together a functional team from (potentially) a bunch of quarreling misfits. Can’t imagine what that might be based on, she said with a sarcastic twinkle in her eye.
Rounding herself out, she took ‘Professor of Asskicking, and selected Organic Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Particle Physics. I suggested she might want to swap out one of the sciences for an engineering specialization, but she sniffed and said that she was more comfortable with theory than getting her hands dirty…. which was clearly a joke considering that I’d found her at the bottom of a very dirty swamp.
Then again, she’d been spotless even there, so it was hard to say. Maybe she wasn’t joking. Of all the people I’d ever met, she was easily the least scrutable. I’d literally had conversations with faceless AIs that were easier to read at times.
On the equipment front, aside from the stuff she got for free (the Tactical Suit, SHIELD Membership, and Mouse Hole (a handheld laser cutting device that cuts through almost any material)) she’d bought a Translator Implant that offered real-time translation once it had learned the language, a Skrull ‘Memory Scanner’ the size of a small car… and Infinite Shawarma.
I asked why, not because I thought it was a bad choice, but because I was curious. She’d never struck me as all that concerned with matters gustatory.
Her response was, “Shawarma is not unenjoyable but, more important, it is a theoretically unlimited amount of food. With this, I will have a way to feed many who would otherwise go hungry.” It was a good answer.
Ryoga, Kendra, and Ahab also went the Tac/Comm path, with Ahab getting just the freebies. Ryoga picked up a planning and timing perk that made him instantly a master of preparation and scheming called ‘Tick-Tock’ and the cheaper version of Touched by Infinity (he picked the Time Stone). I was most curious to see how that turned out.
His equipment allotment he spent buying Dr. Erskine’s Strange Formula (insisting that, once I’d figured out how to make it stable that I use it on him) and on an item called ‘Emblematic Frisbee’. Yes. That’s right. It was a vibranium disc-shield. Call him Captain Carnitas or something.
I asked if he was planning on having it painted like the Japanese Imperial flag, with its red center and alternating rays of red and white, but he demurred, claiming himself as owing no allegiance to that version of his homeland, one that had vanished into the pages of history long before he’d been born. Instead he opted for a dark orange and black tiger-striped motif… but that was subject to change if a better covert identity presented itself.
Kendra decided to follow in Nick Fury’s ‘I’m a Badass with my own global spy network’ footsteps and be a Tac/Comm (did that stand for Tactics and Communications or Tactics and Command?). To that end, she picked up that good Old Fashioned Asskicking, and her very own secret organization… which (spoilsport that she is) she refused to let me help her name.
Who wouldn’t want to head up a highly competent paramilitary group called FERRET (Foundation Ending Regional Roughhousing and Eradicating Terrorism) or a rather dangerous wetwork network called STOAT (STealth Operations Advance Teams) or a covert force capable of influencing world events called WEASEL (We Embrace All Sorts Even Lawyers)? I mean, I certainly would!
Kendra just humphed and walked away, shaking her head. Ruuude!
Reggy, Zane, and Joy went down the road of the Operative, with Joy getting the freebies from what was (for her) old home week. In this case that consisted of a collapsible compound bow ala Hawkeye, a sonic stun-gun slash shock-hammer called a ‘Thunderstick’, and a perk called ‘Vehicular Manslaughter’, which made all three of them ace pilots and crack drivers… especially when trying to use said vehicle to kill people (be that with onboard weaponry or merely running them over). It even applied to alien vehicles, though there might be a bit of a learning curve figuring out the controls and all that.
Zane went into this whole thing hard, making himself into a bit of a seemingly gormless oik — you know the type, the innocent little lamb looking on in shocked slack-mouthed wonder at the weirdness unfolding before them — only to pull out an arsenal of firepower the likes of which would make some small nations envious? Yeah. That was his shtick this time round.
He accomplished this by acquisition of a perk called ‘Armed to Disarm’, i.e. how to make everyone assume you’re a sucker, as well as a piece of Asgardian tech co-opted by SHIELD called a ‘Destroyer Armor Prototype Gun’, which was dangerous enough to seriously imperil an Asgardian, as well as a copy of the Punisher’s mobile arsenal… i.e a van that was impervious to small arms fire. Zane decided that his would be painted with unicorns and flowers rather than the skull motif favored by everyone’s favorite homicidal vigilante.
He also picked up a Ravager M-Ship… you know, the eight man heavy fighter that the Guardians of the Galaxy use. Part of me wanted to complain that we already had two perfectly useful starships (The Black Jenny and Victor the Assault Shuttle), but to be honest, having a Centaurian hyperdrive would make getting around the MCU’s Milkyway a great deal easier.
Both Jenny and Victor had much larger transport capacity… the Jenny had a crew complement of seventy and could transport just under five-hundred troops in her landing bay, while Victor could carry forty… if he wasn’t loaded with bombs. And thanks to Warp Drive, both were faster in realspace, but the M-Ship’s hyperdrive meant it could jump from system to system far faster than the other two could. It would be interesting to see which was more maneuverable.
He supplemented the gormless clueless bystander routine by picking up ‘Radiation Resistance’ which seemed (initially) overpriced at three-hundred Choice. It wasn’t. If it had only covered normal radiation (which it did well enough that it would take being dressed in a suit of refined uranium in a nuclear fallout zone to even affect him… not harm, just affect) it would still have been a bit pricey.But that wasn’t all it covered. No, it handled pretty much anything from Asgardian Magic to Inhuman energy blasts. Sure, it was advisable not to be hit in the first place, but when avoidance wasn’t an option, tanking that shit would have to do.
As for Reggy, I decided to let her make her own purchases, though I set the system to require confirmation from me before she could lock in. I didn’t think there was much in the JumpTree I really needed to worry about besides (potentially) Touched by Infinity. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. She went with a fairly standard femme fatale super-spy package (Call her the Green Widow I guess) of ‘Way of the Widow’ and ‘A Funny Thing Happened’ (You know, that beat down perk I took, only she wouldn’t be getting the elemental arrows of dooooom.) It was a total stealth operative slash martial artist slash sniper package that would make her ever more dangerous… and hopefully help her understand humanity a little better from the inside out. I doubted it was possible to make her more of a sociopath than she already was… and I wasn’t at all certain it was possible to make her less of one, but she clearly wanted to learn more about what she was lacking. By my best guess, she was now about 16 years old. After this jump she’ll have experienced far more time as a human than she had as a Vord. For good or ill.
The only worrying bit was what she spent her Stipend on. It was called, rather innocently ‘The Infusion Chamber’… but what it was was the design schematics of something called ‘Project Destroy of Worlds’. And what it did was take a sample of some substance and give the test subject some quality of it. Like the density of osmium or the corrosion resistance of gold or the gravity manipulation powers of gravitonium (one of the MCU’s many forms of unobtanium.) It all sounded pretty mad-sciency to me, and part of me was convinced that she’d taken it just to be silly buggers, because technical savvy was not one of her myriad skills and proficiencies. Still, maybe I’d give a Hamster Vibranium-based powers… I wonder if I could get some Uru somewhere…
Yoiko joined me on the path to Tech Expertise, enjoying the Intelligence and learning boost, and becoming a Professor of Asskicking in Electrical Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Computer Engineering all at the same time. The Triple Threat some have called it. And in 1942, she was going to be able to get in on the ground floor of computing, for better or worse. Nice to see that someone on my team was being practical.
To that she added ‘I Am Iron Man’, making herself into a decent knock-off Tony Stark with regards to technological inventiveness, if not retro-engineering. It will be nice to have another techgirl around, finally… we were going to do very dangerous things together.
The last of her Choice went towards allowing herself to be fingered by the fickle and not-so-gentle finger of infinity. “Tonight on To Catch an Infinity Gem, Yoiko Hibiki tells all about the time she was groped by the Soul Stone in a seedy Nerima night club! What powers did she get? Tune in and find out!”
It’s a sad testament to how often I do stuff like that that none of my staff asked me who I was talking to. Good thing I mostly do this stuff to amuse myself. Then again, confusing others amuses me too.
Her equipment funds went towards picking up a Vibranium Shard of the month club and yet another highly questionable Super Soldier program’s notes… this time the Extremis Formula. I wondered if this had the Project Centipede improvements and pyrokinetic’s platelets that stabilized the Extremis Virus. Using the powers granted by Extremis otherwise tended to result in spontaneous combustion of the user… and often the carbonization of anyone mortal within a twenty foot radius.
That left Velma and Cirno who both went Drop-In, but for two very different reasons. Both of them got ‘Make This Look Good’, a perk that made one tops at coming up with code names and acronyms, as well as making (just about) any costume or emblem look stylish or creating an image that expresses exactly what the wearer wanted to express. Great, now I could get fashion tips… once I cared about fashion again. And drive them both bonkers for the entire duration by ignoring their advice. For Equipment, they both got a Taser Rod and a pair of Star-Lord’s Quad Blasters. Wee… Like I trust Cirno with anything that can be set to kill. Good thing Velma no longer actually needed the glasses she always wore or she’d be a danger to others.
Velma’s reason for being a Drop-In was that she wanted the perk called ‘Darcy Time’, which was the ability to locate all the cool alien invasions and rampaging gods and supernatural cataclysms instead of avoiding them like a sensible person, and Yondu’s ‘Yaka Arrow’, which was seriously armor piercing and could be controlled with sound… though Velma might need a piccolo to do so, since she wasn’t that good a whistler. Drop-In was the best way she could afford both, with points left over to buy herself a Kree Starforce Uniform (think hyper-tech nanofiber space-suit / battle-armor with stealth mode) and make herself a Skrull with Enhanced Senses. Shapeshifting girlfriend with a super-sniffer? Good thing I have a perk that means I never get dirty, eh?
Cirno, on the other hand, wanted to pick up all the shinies and knick-knacks that were oh-so-common in our travels, and to that end she took ‘This Looks Important’, a perk that let one track the MacGuffin and maybe even figure out what it did, even in the heart of a battle royale.
As I listened to her explanation, I was vaguely hoping someday I’d look back and think, “That was a useful choice.” but right at that moment I was mostly suspecting she’s going to bring a doomsday device into my warehouse claiming “Look What I found! Can I keep it!” This was not a happy-making thought.
She also picked up ‘Monkey Wrench’ which was the Drop-In Capstone, and designed to screw with everyone’s plans… like mine. Effectively it would give her the ability to figure out when various important plot points would occur and how to tip things in whatever manner she prefered, either overtly or covertly. Ah well. That’s Cirno for you. And that meant it was time for planning how to plan around her. Thankfully, the perk didn’t give her the skill or power to pull anything significant off nor absolute knowledge of what was going to happen… but this was Cirno we’re talking about, that lack wouldn’t stop her from trying.
I gathered my team together and began giving a speech, “And so, dear friends, once more into the… wait… this is my 42nd jump! We must make Pangalactic Gargleblasters!” That done and the party well and truly burned into our drunken memories…
Reggy was like “I do not understand the purpose of this. This substance is poisonous?” But after twelve of them she was trying, rather incoherently, to make the harmless Pseudo-Keeper (think giant waxy spider the size of a very large dog) she’s allowed as a pet dance, despite understanding the concept only poorly herself. Yes, it’s harmless. It lacked the poison production ability normally found in proper Vord Keepers and was way too big to be a Taker (think very large earwig that effectively turned anyone it could force to swallow it into a zombie) and both she and it were allowed to participate in group activities only through a transparent aluminum box on the edge of the living area. If I sound paranoid about her… I was.
I was not the only one. Sextus kept coming up to me and asking if I was sure she was safe to have around and telling me that he was certain he’d seen something sneaking around the warehouse.
I pointed out that, in addition to Ziggy and a couple dozen Pokemon, there were several hundred vermin hunting pseudo-tree-spiders (courtesy of VIvian) making sure that there weren’t any rats, roaches, silverfish, spybots, genetic abominations, or Vord scooting around anywhere in the Warehouse. I didn’t exactly trust her either, but I knew what her limitations and issues were. His too for that matter. The issue was that (in addition to her being a world ending scourge) he was still a bit traumatized even though I’d cleaned out his emotional baggage twice now.
I needed a Starfleet Counselor, preferably an Empath. Unfortunately, the closest I had was me, and while I could (in theory) mindmeld (Vulcan, remember) or genome meld (Asari too) I was far from sanguine either would be helpful in resolving this.
Honestly, I wasn’t certain that, even with all my telepathy and soul reading, I’d ever be fully able to trust the Vord Queen. Time would tell, I guess. Until then, I had to stick to the program.
Our planning was intensive for this jump. We had to strike hard and fast. No, not just to destroy HYDRA… no, for higher stakes. There were millions of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and Political Prisoners to save from Concentration Camps, millions of Russians to save from the battles of 42-45, Dresden, Berlin, and most major Japanese cities to save from massive bombing campaigns, and even a couple of atomic bombs to stop.
Sure, the modern world I’d grown up in had been hugely shaped, one could say utterly defined, by the atrocities and deaths of World War II. By reducing those to a still appalling but less Holocaustian level, I’d be making the future utterly uncetrain. Japan would not fall to occupation, The Soviets never claim most of Eastern Europe, The Communists never claim mainland China. The UN might never be formed, the word never witness the horror of nuclear weapons, and many things would be unresolved. But for once I was utterly willing to fly in the face of established future history. I was going to try and build a bit of a better world and I had seventy years to do it in Plus, maybe I could save Patton, Rommel, FDR (if they proved worthy, history was a little vague on the subject), and the lives of many of the people of Bengal and China from untimely deaths in famines and political purges… but such things weren’t top of my list.
Top of my list was giving a handful of people a very short shelf-life. Rolodex, Rolodex, I love you so much.
We dropped on the first of August, 1942, into Austria, in Tamsweg near the Murau-Leizen border on a military-train from Salzburg to Villach. I was in a box. a very small box. Technically it was a Casket about two feet across and a foot or so on the other dimensions. It was very cramped inside and I was suddenly aware that I’d been asleep for a very long time… hundreds if not thousands of years.
The last thing I-Skadi remembered was being told by my husband, Odin, that he’d take care of telling Hela, our daughter, about his new plan to bring peace to the Nine Realms. I’d been looking out the window of our throne-room in Valhalla, marvelling at the beauty of our home, and I’d heard something behind me… had it been the sound of a box or chest being opened? What had that been? Forty years after Hela was born? She was such a chubby baby.
During my-Skadi’s long slumber there had been a dream… a red dream, a dream in which I’d longed to see my daughter… and another dream in which she’d been fighting Odin’s Valkyrie? Why would she fight her battle-sisters? She looked so angry, so lost.
I-EssJay, on the other hand was going ‘What The Fuck?’ Hela was Loki’s daughter, not Odin’s. then another thought struck me… If, in the MCU, Hela was Odin’s daughter… then she, not Thor, would be the rightful heir. I-Skadi had no memory of Thor or Loki, nor even Heimdal, and the only memory I had of Frigga was my Shield-Maiden Freya saying that she might name her firstborn that if she were a girl. Holy crap… how old was I-Skadi? I searched my new memories for some date of reference, some event in Midgard to give me a frame of reference…
I remembered Skadi having coffee with David, King of Israel, as his son Jedidiah played in the garden. And that was… had been three-hundred and fifty years ago by Skadi’s reckoning? Something like that. I remembered helping a young Phoenician woman named Alyssa found a place called Qart-Hadast… New City in Punic… or Carthago in Latin. That would have been nearly two centuries later.
All that meant was that, to the best of my ability to judge, and using historical / legendary dates as a guide, Hela had been born in or around the Earthly-Midgardian year 680 BCE and I-Skadi’d been born some one-thousand one-hundred and eighty-four years earlier, give or take a few months. Oh… and apparently I was the rightful Queen of Jotunheim, having married Odin to seal a peace between the two realms. How I, an Asgardian had come to rule the Jotun people was a long and, to be honest, boring story, dating back to the reign of my grandfather Olvaldi, who was full-blood Jotun, and through him, my father, Thjazi, who was half-Jotun. Yada-Yada, lots of drama and yodeling. Who cares, moving on. Anyway, I was still stuck in a box.
I was also (to paraphrase a certain blue version of Robin Williams) getting such a crick in my neck! Oy! With a flexing of my will, I shattered the box I’d been in, the blazing cold fragments flying out in all directions, punching holes through the sides of the train, not to mention the several mooks who’d been guarding the… what the hell had I been sealed in?
At the thought, a ripple pulsed out of me, a kind of black energy, and the fragments of the box reformed where they had been a moment earlier, only without me trapped inside it. I blinked. That was new. Also, I-Essjay recognized the box. It was called the Casket of Ancient Winters. Oh ho… I guess I was the Ancient Winter.
I-Skadi also recognized the Casket. It had held my trousseau and had been made by my first husband, Njordr, a very nice Dwarf with a great beard. We’d gone our separate ways, me to be Queen of Jotunheim, him to find his true calling among the stars. He’d left me the Casket and I’d placed in it my most treasured objects, Now the only question was… why the Hel had my husband thought it was a good idea to stuff me in a box for twenty-seven centuries.
Well, Skadi’s issues were for later. Essjay’s issues were slightly more pressing, seeing as how nearly three millenia had passed since that stunning betrayal and the World War was happening right at that moment. So, for the time being, my followers (Cirno and Reggy still in the warehouse) fanned out, heading for the various operations which would, in time, allow us to map all of HYDRA, things like the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA, formed June 13, 1942), the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, precursor of the KGB, formed July 10, 1934), and MI-6 (Military Intelligence Section Six, also known as the SIS, formed July 1909)… I guess the spring is a good time to found spy agencies.
At the same time, my tech started churning out anti-Chitauri sensors, remote combat drones, and other bits and baubles to make them die rapidly… like anti-mothership homing torpedoes. If any of them got through that, I’d introduce them to Soul of Axe… sorry, Ice. I dunno why she was an Axe this time but she was. She was also feeling feisty.
I on the other hand had a few individuals to look up. Imagine a Norse Goddess sitting on a throne of ice in the middle of an Austrian forest, druming her fingers on a glowing blue casket while in the distance a train full of Nazis burned merrily. In front of her, picture disembodied hands of black ice flipping through a Rolodex, as she muttered a litany of names.
“Lavrentiy Beria… Isamu Cho… Zhu De… Oskar Dirlewanger… Adolf Eichmann… Zhou Enlai… Hans Frank… Odilo Globocnik… Joseph Goebbels… Hermann Göring… Reinhard Heydrich… Heinrich Himmler… Adolf Hitler… Shiro Ishii… Kan’in Kotohito… Iwane Matsui… Josef Mengele… Mario Roatta… Joseph Stalin… Hisao Tani… Deng Xiaoping… Mao Zedong” Twenty-two names. It wasn’t nearly enough, and I was letting others get away with crap, but these were the worst of the worst. In fact, they were so bad that I briefly reconsidered my stance on the Kiharas. If I just executed these war criminals… why was I so bent on punishing the pair of them? That made me pause, reevaluate my plans. So I changed them.
First, I had to gather them. With my list and a bunch of cryopods I installed in my Safehouse on Svalbard, I collected the butchers of WWII set. One by one I held trials for them all, summoning up their deepest secrets and desires to confront them with. Then I left them, one by one, to their victims. The chinese peasants were more than happy to take care of the Japanese commanders. Yugoslavians took care of the Italian. Poles took care of Frank and Globocnik. Dirlewanger I just staked ala Vlad the Impaler… though I did it over a fire ant nest in Mexico. The German High Command I deposited, naked, chained, and sobbing, begging for release from the terrifying apparition in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Mengele I left blind and naked in Siberia. As for the Communists… Stalin and Beria, Mao, De, and Enlai… Them I just shot… in space suits… into re-entry… of Venus.
The war in Europe ended with a stalemate as the German Military seized power (under the guidance of HYDRA) and Nazi party members began finding out what it like was to be rounded up and imprisoned. Khrushchev took over in Russia… Hirohito surrendered unilaterally after a visitation from what he believed to be Amaterasu told him too.
By July of 1944, the war was over and the face of the 20th century was changed forever. No nuked cities, no Communist revolution in China, lots of tension in Europe, but no Iron Curtain and Soviet Puppet States. Still plenty of Cold War to go around, with everyone still uncertain after the last big one, and everyone wondering who had disappeared so many heads of state.
There was also no UN and no Israeli mandate, but nevertheless, a Zionist state did rise in the region, with the help of the Demon’s Souls crew, helping settle millions of refugees and keeping peace between the tribes of the Levant as only a Saint could. Of course, the fact that they were somewhat unified in trying to force the French and British out certainly was a help. But that wasn’t my area of focus.
No, I was trying to move the world away from colonialism and more towards cooperation, and that meant going deep into political manipulation mode, trying to explain what “Let’s Getter Dun” meant to a bunch of people who were still stuck in outmoded realms of thought meant, trying to keep the twentieth century more or less ticking along as the map of HYDRA grew and grew and grew and the Chitauri kept dying like moths to a very cold flame.
Rocket of course showed up, decades before he should have been born and experimented on. And got hugged and told how cute he was and got kisses on the nose. He tried to bite and claw me, but I’m harder than I look. I couldn’t get rid of him, of course… but I could make sure he kept falling for the same transparent lies over and over again. He did, through some quirk of fate, keep joining HYDRA (or sometimes Kendra’s Sisterhood for reasons that escape me), but I kept erasing his memory of that fact.
My primary agents in tracking HYDRA were, of course, Zane (a freelancer working for the NKVD and mostly in south-east asia where the Ten Rings was prevalent), Velma (MI-6 and running around Europe dealing with the Hand.. and the occasional Kree agent), and the dynamic duo of Ryoga and Yoiko (Working with Howard Stark, father of the boy who might still become Iron-Man someday and the fledgling SHIELD.).
Kendra, on the other hand, was trying to stay off everyone’s radar as much as possible, maybe even moreso. To those who knew of the Sisterhood, she was the whispered ‘Mother’, a figure that recruited from the elements of society that most wanted change, but were willing to work for it without taking shortcuts like open acts of terror. No, the members of the Sisterhood (not all of them female) removed those they felt to be a threat in other ways, secretly, quietly, without anyone ever noticing…. except when that someone was me and I had to step in and fix whatever she’d done. Yeah, that never led to tension between us. Insert sarcasm tag here.
Yes, I said fix. As in fix people being dead. See, I was also trying very hard to stay out of the limelight (though not nearly as much as Kendra was), trying to keep the presence of an active goddess on Earth on the downlow, even as I tried to figure out the limits of my very odd new power, which seemed to mostly revolve around me being able to retcon… sorry, edit parts of recent continuity that annoyed me or fucked with my plans.
This wasn’t like Hakutaku’s gift however. This wasn’t a global history rewrite that could encompass months or even years but couldn’t bring back the dead. This wasn’t limited to once a month and there wasn’t any ritual involved. This? This was immediate, like flexing a muscle I hadn’t known was there before. It was also far more limited in scope… at least as far as I’d been able to tell. If I wanted to change something that had happened a week ago in Budapest, I had to be in Budapest… and it took a lot more effort than if I wanted to fix something that had happened a day ago. I didn’t know if there was a hard and fast time limit, but eleven days seemed to take almost everything I had in me, and the scope of the annoyance, as well as my distance from the epicenter, made a huge difference in how much juice it took. A nice quiet assassination? No trouble at all.
There only seemed to be three limitations. First, I didn’t seem to be able to retcon something that was totally random, like the quantum state of an electron. Second, I couldn’t kill someone just by wanting them dead… though I could just make an anvil fall on their head (more on that in a moment). And Third, I couldn’t apparently retcon anything that happened to me. Near me? Fine. Guns that had fired at me a moment earlier would have turned out to jam the moment I noticed being shot at… but it wouldn’t make the bullets that hit me not have hit me… even if there was no longer a reason they should have.
I have no idea why this was the case, since my power didn’t come from the Time Stone, so this wasn’t a question of Paradox. I was changing what had happened… but not in the past, but in the present. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I remembered it happening to me, and for me to change it, I wouldn’t remember it happening? Maybe it was a block of some kind. Still weird.
Of course, I also got flight, nigh-invulnerability, and some very nice power blasts… but the fun thing was that I could just make things appear. Rocks? Sure. Anvils? Not a problem. Diamonds? Gold? Small Children? Abso-fucking-lutely. The shit only lasted a few minutes once I stopped thinking about it, but it was there when it needed to be. Usually. Sometimes my attention wandered and a daydream would become real for a few minutes. The smaller the object, the realer it was, but I could make a fleet of Helicarriers that were effectively soap-bubbles or one very real Semi Truck going a hundred and twenty miles per hour. Oh, and I could make people do what I wanted them to do… if they weren’t paying attention… but I was a telepath, I could already do that.
No less fascinating to me than my own experimentation with the power of Infinity was watching my Hibikis figure out their own… and boy was my face red when I realized it had taken me almost a week to realize that they, like the Maximoffs, were siblings with TBI powers. Ryoga’s connection to the Time Stone allowed him to spin off temporal clones of himself, though each had its own timeline, so there wasn’t a way you could eliminate all the clones merely by eliminating the earliest one. Watching him do it was like watching Nick Cage in that scene from Next where one precog becomes dozens, all flowering out of the same individual…. except that Ryoga was by no means a precog. Doing it also took a lot out of him… but what didn’t take nearly as much was that he could, with an act of will, of which he has plenty, turn one punch into a dozen… or a hundred. Time baby!
Yoiko’s connection with the Soul Stone was even weirder… in that she could manifest ghost animals. As in the spirits of dead animals… ghostly but semi-solid,,, certainly solid enough to deal damage. She could manifest quiet a lot of them, and seemed to spend a good amount of time talking to ghostly animals that weren’t visibly there half the time. They could also spy for her, but (according to her) they weren’t very good at focusing on what humans thought was important. Oh, and she could become intangible at will, which was loads of fun… especially when she accidentally forgot to bring her clothing with her.
I’d like to say that Reggy and Cirno were of huge help during this difficult time, but I’d be lying. Reggy was all too willing to do dirty work, it’s true, but her difficulty understanding people’s motivations, and her tendency to resort to violence as a first resort meant I had to keep her on a short leash. Cirno was, if anything, even worse, running around the globe with her Flerkkin (that’s an alien cat with a pocket dimension full of horrific tentacles for a stomach and claws that made wounds that wouldn’t heal properly without powerful regen or my medbay… she’d bought it as well as the medbay-lite Cradle, the device used to create the Vision’s body, as her equipment allotment) stealing random ‘Guffings’ as she called them and stashing them in a secret fairy nest she’d crafted in Hyde Park… that’s London, FYI. What her metric for determining if something was a MacGuffin worth stealing or not was anyone’s guess. I’m a soul-reading telepath and even I didn’t understand.
Anyway, as I mentioned, I was trying to keep my activities as covert as I could, which is why it came as so much of a shock when Thor and his Warriors Three… and the Lady Syf… showed up to arrest me on Odin’s orders for daring to escape the cage old one-eye had stuffed me in.
Apparently Odin was well aware of how I’d done it (he’d thought it was a good idea to store the box he’d stuffed me in close to the place his father had stored the Aether… until, in one of my dreams, I’d managed to free our daughter from where he’d imprisoned her IN HEL! Then he’d moved the Casket to a village that eventually became Oslo. Oh, and he’d killed the nice puppy I gave Hela. We were going to have words once I got out of the new cell he stuffed me in.) and once he’d figured that out had had Eitri, King of Nidavellir, make a cage that the Reality Stone given powers couldn’t get me out of.
And that’s how I spent the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and most of the oughts, trapped in a cell in Asgard. Weeeeee! I have no idea of the particulars on how they managed it, but I had as much luck escaping (I couldn’t even open my warehouse.) as Loki would have in a few years… I’m pretty certain it was the same cage, to be honest. Thankfully, Frigga let me out. Eventually. Took a lot of convincing… and an emergency.
See, after my unjust incarceration (apparently a thing for Odin), things had, more or less, gotten back on track down on Midgard. The Plot seemed to be trying to reassert itself… call it the will of the Author or the force of destiny, but the players involved in the MCU of the movies were coming into existence even with the changed timeline. Gotta keep the fans happy or something.
Anyway, it turns out that Loki was running amok on Earth and stolen the Tesseract (which Odin neglected to tell me contained the Space Stone, as if I didn’t already know that but he didn’t know I knew… which was fair because I neglected to mention that Loki’s scepter contained the Mind Stone). If I promised to be very very good, they’d let me out to help hunt down the rogue prince. I gave Odin (Frigg can have him) a kiss on the cheek that must have chilled the All-Father to his toes, then asked where Thor was.
“Midgard. With some people who call themselves ‘The Avengers’ or ‘SHIELD’,” the worst father around said.
“Right. Let’s getter dun!” I snapped, then summoned my armor and sword-axe as I headed towards Bifrost. I paused, then grinned, “Oh… wait… You haven’t fixed the Bifrost yet have you?”
“How did you know it was broken?” Frigga asked.
I posed, my medical coat flapping over my purple scrub-battle armor, and proclaimed, “I am that excellent.”
“You look ridiculous,” grunted the Nordic cyclops.
“Babe,” I said, winking at him, “You don’t know that half of it. We’re going to talk as soon as I get back. Trust me… I Yama Doctor.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “that’s what your coat says. In 15 different languages… and it’s always misspelled.”
“It’s a joke,” I said dryly.
With a frown, he commented, “Not a funny one.”
“Shush you, I’m being awesome and you’re not one to judge, mister I haven’t laughed in three centuries and my butt is full of Uru.” I held up my hand to forstal his comment, and said, “Wait for it…”
With me out of my cell, calling Zane for a pickup wasn’t hard. PHS has no range limit. Boom. “Hello boys and girls, did you miss me?” I asked as I appeared aboard a damaged SHIELD Helicarrier. Most of my people looked… old. I sighed “Yeah… well… it wasn’t fun for me either. Report?”
Look, you’ve seen what Hulk can do to a Helicarrier… right? Who hasn’t. This one wasn’t in great shape. And Loki was about to bring the Chitauri down on New York City, totally bypassing my anti-Chitauri grid by use of the Tesseract. So that was great.
Part of me wanted to rush over there and help save the day, I’m not going to lie. But the rest of me was like “I have a mission. Let’s getter dun.” I opened my mouth to start giving commands, when Rocket, wearing a janitor’s costume, leapt out of a vent and pointed a gun at me.
“You owe me!”
I sighed and squirted him with Jusenkyo water, then picked up the wet raccoon with one of my Immaterial Arms. Pulling her face to face with me, I said, “It’s in a forcefield atop Stark Tower in New York city. Go get it yourself.” Then I tossed her down the corridor. “Now… HYDRA… then Hela and Odin. Priorities. I has them”
My people had not been idle during my hiatus. Rather, they’d been busy saving the world and, while doing so, they’d mapped the rise of HYDRA very carefully (and killed many Chitauri until the creeps figured out I was on Asgard and started dying to the automated defenses). The list of HYDRA agents and operatives was a long one, but I had places to start.
I reviewed the list that Zane handed me, then got distracted by the sight of all that glorious (and tragic) mayhem unfolding… oh, fine, I could spare an hour to save NYC. “Okay people, let’s getter dun! Time for I Yama Doctor to make her grand entrance!”
Laugh all you want. The Chitauri weren’t laughing as I flew up through their rift and smashed their spaceship with Meltdowner Beams. I’d had a lot of time to practice in that cell and I’d been beyond bored. Actually, I’d first tried blasting the ship with my Hyper-Reality blasts, but they clearly weren’t up to the task of defeating star-ship armor. Vision wasn’t around for me to compare my blasts to, nor was Ultron for me to use his drones as target practice… we’d have to see how I measured up on that front another time. But I could use my ability to create things ab nihilo to manufacture some very fine lenses that allowed my Meltdowner beams to slice and dice the hull of that mothership like it was styrofoam before a lightsaber.
So that was tuesday. With their primary mission to observe HYDRA done, my team went to work shoring up SHIELD and doing all the stuff Coulson would have while I tracked down every member of HYDRA I knew about and first scanned their minds to learn everything I could about the organization, then erased their memory of ever having been a part of it.
Sure, it was mind control, but my alternative was to kill over twenty-eight thousand people. Thankfully, most of them were drones who barely knew what they were doing, or who they worked for. Yeah, there were cells of Neo-Nazi’s and hate groups, but they were controlled by HYDRA, not HYDRA directly. Still, I made them go home and dedicate their lives to not being dickheads.
Some of the HYDRA heads, or senior agents with a lot of blood on thier hands,were good at shielding themselves from my mind reading… others resisted my personality editing. A couple put up a fight. It’s amazing how hard an Asgardian Super Soldier (I’d been bored and decided to upgrade myself in my prison cell… I had the formula after all) can kick. I actually managed to punt one of them across a city.
Finding Bucky and deprogramming him was actually the hardest part of the operation, but reuniting him with Steve was worth all the feels. Convincing Tony that Bucky hadn’t been in control of his own actions when he’d killed Howard and Maria Stark had been considerably harder… but being able to show Tony just how broken up Bucky was about all the murders that the Soviets had him commit certainly went a long way towards giving both of them some closure.
And speaking of some closure, it was time for me to deal with Odin. My first salvo (and scheme to keep the Asgardians distracted) was a doozy and involved a re-directed Rocket. I don’t think The All Father appreciated me sending the kleptomaniacal raccoon to Asgard via Bifrost express, but I did anyway.
In between dealing with HYDRA and putting buddies back together, I’d been working out a way to keep the Ass-Father from stuffing me back into solitary confinement for another few decades… or millenia. I did this mostly by experimenting with the Space Stone (which, I’m pretty certain was what had been used to make the cell that had confined me for half the twentieth century.) Once I was fairly certain I had my get out of jail free card, it was time for a bit of jail-breaking of my own.
Using my newly built Trifrost (the Bridge Between Worlds… mine was better… it had railings… and a Ziggy Lane), I punched a hole into the darkest parts of Niflheim, the prison citadel of Hel itself, and froze all the guards into statues.
“Hello,” I said, to the prisoner in the deepest cell. “Miss me?”
Her black eyes bored out of the darkness and she snarled. “Finally come to gloat, have you?”
Ah. He hadn’t told her. Asshole. “Dear, I was sealed in my jewelry box for most of the last three millenia. I’ve been in the Skadisleep or in a cell in Asgard for even longer than you’ve been stuck in this oh so charmless place.”
She blinked at that, surprised by the truthfulness of my words. “Have you come to free me then? I will help you get revenge upon Father and then, together, we shall conquer the Nine Realms and the galaxies beyond.”
I smiled softly as I gripped the bars of the prison and began exerting my will. “If by revenge you mean killing him? Then no.” Her snarl of frustration was lost in the scream as the metal ripped free of its posts and the Odin-Force surged to stp me. Well, well, he’d tied the strength of this prison to his own lifeforce… great. that meant this prison would have failed the moment he died,leaving a very angry elemental goddess of swords to be someone else’s problem. Way to pass the buck, All-Fathead.
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you,” I said calmly, brushing aside Odin’s Magic and allowing it to drain into the canister I’d prepared for dealing with any magical traps I might encounter. “What did you say?”
“Why won’t you help me kill him!?” she cried out like a wounded child. It wasn’t a good look for a woman of forty, let alone a woman of twenty-seven hundred and forty. “He desrves to die for what he did to me!”
“To us, you mean,” I said,cupping her chin in my fingers. “But no. He doesn’t. He wasn’t wrong that you are consumed with anger and violence. And he wasn’t wrong that as long as I was free, I’d stop him from imprisoning you. You think only of conquest and would rule without wisdom or mercy.”
“Mercy is for the weak!” she roared, thrashing against her chains, an angry tear coursing down her cheek. “and his pretty boy is a better choice than me? A hammer-head who solves all his problems by hitting them?”
“Yes, daughter-mine, Mercy is for the weak, but it can only come from the Strong. Anyone with a bit of strength can kill, can oppress, can take what is not theirs to take. only the Mighty can refrain from doing so, not out of fear, but out of compassion. As for your half-brother? He’s a thunder-head, yes, but he acts to protect others, to demonstrate his strength through deeds worthy of a warrior. You? You would destroy simply for the pleasure of destruction.”
“You dare chastise me for destruction? You’re Winter Incarnate! You exist only to freeze the universe solid!” She strained against the chains, the pressure sending spiderwebs of cracks through the black basalt of the cell. “When I break these chains I will-” she stopped suddenly as my fingers pinched her nose shut. “Whad ad yud doig?” she whined.
“Well, it was either that or slap you for being silly. I’m more than a thousand years older than you and considerably more powerful. I, in my sleep and several realms away, broke you out of the prison that you could not escape from on your own. And what did you do with your freedom? You murdered your battle-sisters who were only doing their duty!” She flinched at that but I wasn’t done. “What would you even do once you’d killed Odin? You haven’t the faintest idea how to rule wisely or well. All you’d do would be to leave chaos and tragedy in your wake. You haven’t the skills needed to be a queen.” It wasn’t an accusation, it was a lament.
Valiantly, she continued to meet my gaze, but her eyes showed that she was weakening. “I’m the rightful heir!” she protested. “The throne belongs to me!”
My laugh was bitter as I caused the frost of Filmbulwinter, the Ice Age to end all Ice Ages that was my birthright, to blossom across her chains and the rocks behind. “Do not lie to yourself, let alone to your mother. I’ve seen the truth of it. Odin proposed peace and you raised your arms against your sworn king. You tried to usurp his throne and strike down he who sired you… wait, strike that, reverse it. You atainted yourself by breaking your oaths. And bear in mind that I, your mother, still live. I would not see you on a throne of any kind until you can prove to me that you can rule anything but an empire of corpses.”
“I was born for battle. What do I have left if ther is no war for me to fight?” And there it was, the fear at the heart of her rebellion.
“No war?” I laughed, throwing my head back as the walls and chains shattered into finely drifting dust “There is always WAR! War is eternal! There is always some injustice worth fighting against, some wrong in need of righting, some petty tyrant who thinks his strength means he is entitled to claim whatever he wishes! Your brother never lacks for someone to hit with his hammer because there are a never ending tide of fuckheads needing a beat down to correct their attitude problem. If you tried to claim the throne, you’d be just another nail for him to beat down.”
“So? I should just forgive father for what he’s done?” she sneered, rising out of the rubble and cloaking herself in green and black as her power returned to her. “Fawn at his heels and beg him to take me back?” Oh, my! Was she ever full of tweenaged angst. Maybe she needed to embrace the Helanap.
Patting my daughter on her overly ornate (it was really almost ridiculous) shoulder, I said with a chuckle, “Oh no. Not at all. If he’s dead, he can’t suffer. Living well… and flaunting it in front of those who have wronged you? That really is the best revenge. Odin doesn’t like to be made to look foolish… stick with me kid and we’ll have him in a jester’s cap in no time.”
She looked at me, blinked, then said, “You’re… serious?” I nodded, grinning hugely. “Okaaay… we’ll try it your way… but if he’s not suffering enough, I’ll… what in the name of our ancestors are you wearing?”
Before I could explain that I Yama Doctor, Thor arrived and we finally got to have our Mjolnir duel. He wasn’t amused to see me wielding a copy of his hammer. He was even less amused to learn that he not only had a half-sister he’d never heard about until now, he had a stepmother who was the living incarnation of the only thing worse than Ragnarok. I sent him back to Odin with a message to expect us… soon.
That taken care of, I went back to racking up a simply huge collection of HYDRA memories for the Pensieve I’d lifted from Dumbledore’s office (I’d replaced it with the one I bought in Diagon Alley… his was nicer) when I ran out of HYDRA. That wasn’t how it was supposed to work. How could I run out of HYDRA to behead? I had been rationing them because I still had things I needed to get done. And without any HYDRA, shouldn’t I have jumped? What was keeping me here? I was supposed to leave when the last of HYDRA was gone!
None of my companions knew what was going on… until I looked around the warehouse and spotted the pink bunny box. Oh. Excellent. Apparently that was keeping me here because I couldn’t leave until it was taken care of. No, I hadn’t forgotten about them… I don’t forget anything… but there’s a lot of stuff to take care of and some events get shelved for later. It hadn’t so much slipped my mind as been religated to inactive memory like a browser tab you know you should get back to but you have a thousand other things to do… like plot a thousand ways how to make Odin regret sticking me and my daughter in boxes.
I picked up the bunny box and took it and its occupants to Detroit. “Yes.” I said, looking at the shambles of the once proud city. “This will do nicely.” And then I abused SHIELD Resources, construction robots, Asgardian technology (I’d had a lot of time to read, and no one felt it odd that I asked for tech texts… I was one of them), and even some of my own money… and rebuilt vast swaths of the city in a matter of months. Housing for 8 million, Egyptians, Russians, Japanese, and Native Detroiters. Pretty much the same ethnic blend as was already in the Detroit area.
The housing and parks weren’ luxury by any stretch of the imagination, but they were far from being projects let alone slums. They were modern, relatively spacious, and highly efficient. Cool in summer, warm in winter, hooked up to the internet with a trunkline that would rival NASA’s and supplied with its own power and waste processing center. The building permits might have been forged, and the land acquired under extremely dubious circumstances from some assholes who hadn’t the faintest idea what urban renewal meant.
Getting jobs for so many refugees would be problematic but I’d left room in the developments for shopping plazas, microfactories, restaurants, and (believe it or not) over two thousand grocery stores… not that any of them would be staffed immediately or stocked for that matter. All of it built by the newly founded Androdyne Corporation, which had suddenly just swooped in to buy up as much land as the Detroit Metro Area could supply.
Then I released the seals and watched as people started appearing. I’d staggered the releases, pulling up maintenance and production workers primarily at first, with service personnel and security to help keep the peace and make certain things ran as smoothly as possible. Experts were brought in to help resettle and create provisional social structures like neighborhood watch and chamber of commerce committees, as well as setting up schools and clinics as the medical personnel were brought out.
The process took more than two years, releasing ten thousand people a day, getting them settled and killing Chitauri. I could have done it faster, the releasing not the killing, but my ability to change history on the large scale only works once a month.
Each month I just rewrote history a little more to smooth the integration process, to add another few hundred thousand people, mostly children, to the Detroit area. Businesses that had been having problems suddenly found they were thriving… but had no memory of the problems. And the families remembered having moved here legally… and of being families… even if they hadn’t been families before. Lots of adoptions on the books. Lots of new high tech workcenters opening up as people from twenty years in the future started using their knowledge to turn the Motor City into the City of Tomorrow, and all of it was marketed under the emblem of Androdyne, a corporation owned entirely by its workers.
Detroit had been chosen because it was nearly a perfect fit for the ethnic and social groups I was bringing in. It had once had a much higher population and was ripe for urban renewal, there were dozens of factories and entire towns that could use revitalization and repopulation, and , to be honest, it didn’t exactly have the super-problems of other big cities like New York, Chicago, London, or Tokyo.
But that would all change if I just dumped two point four million Cursed Children and their guardians on an unsuspecting city. If I just released them into the general population it would have turned Detroit into Superheroine capital of the… universe. And made them targets. No. For this I sought out Odin’s help… well, his help and some payback. I brought Hela with me. This made everyone nervous. It’s the black. She really needs to work on projecting a more people person attitude. Well, the black and the floating swords.
“Yo, Big Daddy!” I cried out as I blasted open the throne-room doors of Valhalla, icing the guards who’d tried to stop me. Heimdal hadn’t even bothered.
Odin glowered at me monoptically, then motioned for the rest of his court to leave
Thor growled, “You should address him as All Father, or My Liege.”
Loki, bless his little heart, tried to stab me… I don’t even know why he was in the throne-room… he should have been locked up… maybe they were planning on using him against me now? Wouldn’t that be fun.
I turned his dagger into a rubber fish and quipped, “Yup, swat I said. Anyway. I need a place to stash four million humans and quasi-humans where they won’t starve and won’t get used as pawns or experimented on. Come on, tell me we can getter dun.”
“Quasi humans?” the lord of Asgard asked, not having seen that in any of his visions of the future. “You want to settle them somewhere in the Nine Realms?” He was more than a bit incredulous. After all, it’s not every day that your exiled megalomaniacal daughter and apocalyptic first wife show up and ask for your help in a refugee crisis. I challenge you to be nonplussed by that. Also wonder why you exiled your daughter and have an apocalyptic first wife.
“Virus mutated little girls who have superhuman strength, toughness, and speed,” I explained as Hela and her brothers shot metaphorical daggers at each other with their eyes. “Cured of the disease, but still transhuman. Two-point-four million of them.”
“Two… million… little girls?” the Monarch of the Nine Realms demanded.
“Yup.. well, many of them are young teens…” I said with a half-shrug. “Sooo? Can they move in?”
Odin choked. “To Asgard?”
“Sure!” I chirped, moving way too far into the Hall-Bother’s personal space, radiating cold that was just this side of arctic. “Think of them as Next Gen Valkyries, only instead of bringing you the spirits of the dead, they bring you stuffed animals and you get to pretend to be Santa.”
“What? Why would I-” he began, then flinched as I ran my finger lightly along the cheek under his good eye.
“Like my nail polish?” I asked. “It’s made with Flerkin venom. As for Santa? Dude. Read a book some time. Also, they’ll be nothing like you know who with the swords and the fairly justified rage issues…” I hooked a thumb over at Hela who was about twenty seconds from punching Thor. “Well, they’ll be a little like her when she was a kid… you know, murdering anyone who annoyed you just to get a pat on the head. Anyway. I’m going to be unloading them in like… a few hours, so can we Getter dun?”
His eye went wide and he tried to surge up out of his seat, but I pushed him back down. I’d just come out of a long power-sleep and he hadn’t had one in a while. His lordship of Asgard balanced against my Aether given might. And he was sitting down… he didn’t have the strength to push me away. “You do not have my permission-”
Flicking his nose, I cut him off. “Oh. Cause, see… I wasn’t actually asking, just like you didn’t ask me before you CRAMMED ME IN A BOX AND IMPRISONED OUR DAUGHTER! Before you erased her and your war crimes from history and murdered her pet!” I snarled, twisting his head sideways and whispering in his ear. “I’m going to release four million humans on the streets of Asgard in an hour’s time and you’re going to help me find a new home for them where they’ll be safe.”
“I am am I? I am ODIN!” he thundered, finally managing to surge to his feat, wreathed in power. “You do not-”
I elbowed him in the stomach and bitched, “You chide Thor for his anger, oh lord of hypocrites?” Shoving a finger against his nose I continued, “Don’t you snap at me. I’m trying to do a solid here. Show your wrath to me again Borson, and I shall bring down Fimbulwinter… you know I can… or I could tell your precious boy all about the good old days of slaughter and injustice.”
Odin slumped. “Humans, in Asgard.”
“It’s a big floating island in space,” I pointed out, smirking. “You can put them on the other side of the mountain.”
“Where will they live? There’s no cities there.”
“You’re Odin, Lord of the Nine Realms and bros with Eitri, King of the Dwarves. You’ll figure something out. Oh. This is Enju. She likes bunnies and kicking jerks in the head.” I pushed the redhead towards Odin, then backed out, signalling to Zane to unleash the flood.
It still took 200 days before the box was finally empty (and the Chitauri tried to invade Asgard twice in that period despite the last fifty attempts failing spectacularly!). Still, not only are Asgardians good at fighting, they are also much better about figuring out how to handle refugees than they thought they’d be, as it turns out. And, of course, I put Hela in change of keeping order among the new-comers… though I assigned Cirno to keep watch on her (and secretly assigned Velma to keep an eye on both of them). I may never have bought a perk for it, but trust me, I’ve had millenia of practice at driving people up the wall when I want to.
And yet… still no pillars. After a week, I figured out the only possible element. “There must be some HYDRA left somewhere.” I growled… “Fine. Let’s do this”. One ritual later, and a bit of a headache, and history changed ever so slightly so that all the remaining members of HYDRA had signed onto a website called “HYDRAnet”, registering with their own home address and full legal names two days ago. There were four names on the list. HIVE, Rocket Raccoon, Brewster Morgan, and one other.
I cursed myself for forgetting Hive, a.k.a Alveus, the Inhuman behind the cult that was HYDRA. Created by the Kree to help them control their Inhuman battle-slaves, he’d rebelled and (unable to kill him for some reason) they’d banished him to the ruined and otherwise uninhabited planet Maveth, a barren world where he’d remained for centuries, jumping from host body to host body to stay alive. Host bodies he was running out of because HYDRA cells had stopped sending him sacrifices more than two years earlier. Well, I sent him one last birthday present via Trifrost… an Asgardian planet buster, riding the Universe of his presence.
Rocket was a matter of erasing his memory… again. Brewster turned out to be a ninety-seven year old man in a coma, dying of being ninety-seven years old. He’d joined a HYDRA cell in the seventies and outlived everyone who knew he was a member. According to his minders, he’d woken up, tobbled to the nurse’s station, logged into HYDRAnet, then passed out again. Not one of them could explain why or how, as he hadn’t moved from his bed in six years.
Brewster was a raging bigot who hated everyone who was different from him. I checked his brain function and vitals. He was permanently vegetative. I eased him into darkness, which didn’t make it any less murder, but I’d done worse and would again.
Then I went to Jerusalem and met with the last name on the list; Astraea Vinland. “So? HYDRA?”
She blinked, then nodded softly. She was an old lady now, but her eyes were still bright and her body healthy thanks to the Choice induced augmentation she’d undergone. “You knew all along, I’d do whatever I needed to help others. No matter what demon’s bargain I had to strike.”
I groaned. “And I wasn’t around… what about the others?”
She sighed. “Garl and Selene are both long gone. Garl of Cancer in eighty-two, Selene in seventy-eight in a car crash. I had my children and grandchildren to keep me going… I thank you for that Sarah, Skadi, Sunny… whatever you call yourself. You gave me a life I never would have had. And my family owes you so much. More than we can ever repay.”
“But HYDRA?” I asked, still unable to fully process it and unwilling to just read her mind to find out the why.
She laughed. “Oh. I’m not really one of them, not officially. No cell recruited me, though I’m certain several tried. I just… I wanted to make sure you didn’t leave without saying goodbye. Thus, I decided I was a member of HYDRA decades ago. Never told anyone. Just myself.”
I chuckled. “You’re a real piece of work, Astraea.”
“Astrid,” she sighed softly. “I was Astraea in another life, a life I barely remember. A life full of darkness and loss. I’m Astrid in this life. This life that has been so full of light and love and… yes, tragedy. I’m Astrid… for a little bit longer at least.”
Kneeling in front of the old woman I asked, “What would you have of me, Astrid?”
She left me waiting a long time, even though I suspected she’d known what she would say for better than thirty years. “I want your guarantee that this world… that my children and my children’s children… that they’ll survive what’s coming.”
“I know you can’t promise to come back…” she began, “so I want you to stay until this Thanos has been defeated and the Universe made safe from his insanity.”
I gaped, stunned by the scope of her plea. “I… I… I don’t know how to defeat him. I mean, I’m certain he will be defeated. That’s the nature of this story, but I’m sorry. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to stop him by myself, to head off what is coming. Entire worlds full of Heroes have failed to stop the Infinity War. If I stay and fall? Nothing will have been… wait…” A thought occurred to me. “Do you trust me?”
Her smile was bright but tired as she nodded. “With my children’s lives.”
“Then let me go. Time will not pass here while I am gone. I will find the answer… somewhere out there. And then I’ll return. Then I’ll return… I pledge my word. I’ll find a way to defeat the Mad Titan before he can achieve his goal and I’ll come back and I’ll getter dun.”
“You so swear?”
I nodded solemnly. “I’ll be back in a moments… by your time.”
“Then I, Astraea, do hereby… wait… you do this on the beach, don’t you?”
“Then let’s go there.”
“How about the river?”
And we went down to the River Jordan and there Astraea washed away her membership in HYDRA and as she did so… Rocket came leaping out of the water yelling about how I owed him. I froze him in a ball of ice and said “I’ll be back,” as the pillars rose from the shore. It was May of 2016. I’d been there for just under 74 years.
Next: World 41 – Going Deep
Resources: Build, Document
If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.
AN: Yes, I added Emblematic Frisbee, because it totally should be a thing, and I created a hybrid between the original document’s capstone booster (Asgardian) and the current version’s capstone booster (Blessed by the Gods) to create ‘Royal Asgardian’. I just don’t like how the current one says ‘You’re considered part of the Royal Family.’ That didn’t fit my story, which had been written with Super Soldier’s synergy with the old Asgardian perk which made you actually part of the Royal family. And yes, I went over the CP limit for Drawbacks… and probably cheated by using my Equipment Stipend to buy Assemble. Ah well.
In case you’re wondering how Skadi’s TBI powers stack up against Captain Marvel’s, the answer is complex. Marvel can manipulate and absorb almost any energy that comes her way short of that of the Power Stone. She can use that to generate incredibly powerful attacks, go into Binary mode, and fly through Hyperspace by herself. It also means that she can effectively tank most attacks by absorbing their energy. Skadi’s power passively attenuates the effectiveness of attacks generated against her, and she cannot generate power blasts anywhere near as powerful as Marvel’s, though unlike Vision’s Mind Blasts, Skadi’s blasts are capable of modifying what they hit in non-destructive ways. Skadi also cannot use the power to teleport or utilize hyperspace, but can reshape reality in many small ways to make things easier for herself, such as make a heavy thing lighter or make some normal human survive being hit by Obsidian Maw.
This was, by far, the most comprehensive Redux that I’ve done. The original was written before Thor Ragnarok, Infinity War, or Endgame came out, and was only 7,400 words long. This is 20,800 words long. It was also, if you’re reading this once the emergency passes, rewritten and expanded during the Pandemic of 2020. The process for Redux usually takes me two or three days. This took nearly two weeks, catching time whenever I could spare it from helping my invalid mother recover from surgery and missing my home, friends, and ferrets. If you’re reading this during the emergency, I hope you are well. Wash Your Hands. Call your mother.