10000/Heroes Assemble Anniversary: The Watchers

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Heroes Assemble Anniversary: The Watchers
Date of Scene: 05 February 2022
Location: A small near Earth asteroid
Synopsis: The two year anniversary of Heroes Assemble Mush sees Uatu the Watcher showing three of his colleagues various moments from the last two years of Earth's history.
Cast of Characters: Kitty Pryde, Thor, Monet St. Croix, Steve Rogers, Pepper Potts, Gwendolyn Poole, Leopold Fitz, Hal Jordan, James Barnes, Diana Prince, Harley Quinn, Felicity Smoak, Booster Gold, Blake Riviere, Morgan Finn, Victor Von Doom, Jason Todd, Stephanie Brown, Donna Troy, Cassie Sandsmark, Jean Grey, Cassandra Cain, April O'Neil, Colette O'Connail, Rogue, Gwen Stacy, Daisy Johnson, Elektra Natchios, Thea Queen, James Proudstar, Austin Reese, Reed Richards, Janet van Dyne, Nadia Pym-van Dyne, Kaida Connolly, Morrigan MacIntyre, Terry O'Neil




Kitty Pryde has posed:


From the asteroid, Earth was just a tiny blue ball against a star-strewn backdrop, the Moon barely visible in its orbit. First one being and then another shimmers into existing, having journeyed across Space and Time to the unlikely meeting place.

Each being stands taller than a man, bodies mostly hidden in dark blue cloaks, and raised cowls providing a backdrop for a bald head with eyes that manage to be piercing even though they are unrelieved white.

So gather the Watchers, members of one of the earliest races in existence. After a well-meaning attempt to share technology with a developing race led to that race's extension, the Watchers have spent the billions of years since with a strict policy of non-interference, devoted to observing and compiling knowledge of all that passes in the Universe.

The last to appear has a different appearance in the moment, though their powers of illusion make their appearance a choice. Uatu, the Watcher assigned to the small planet known as Earth appears looking like a human. Wearing an orange spacesuit that bears the NASA logo, with a helmet, and dark-lensed glasses on his face. His white hair, with matching bristly moustache, floats about him somewhat in the near-zero gravity of the asteroid. But it does not stop Uatu from sitting down on an outcrop, as if resting the bones that appear old.

https://i.imgur.com/W7YMn1B.jpg


Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers greet each other, the void of space not preventing the first from speaking. "Uatu. It has been two orbits of the planet Terra since last we heard from you. It is time to share with us what you have observed in your time on that small planet."

Uatu's lips pull back in a smile, an expression native to Humans rather than to Watchers, but it goes with his appearance. "There have been many great, and terrible things I have seen in my time among the humans," he tells them. "Moments of heroism. Of loss. Those who died untimely and young, and the grief left behind. The dawning of love. Self-sacrifice in service of their fellows," he replies to the other Watchers.

"These humans can often show a lack of wisdom. But they also have a great capacity for empathy and caring. Their humor has been a pleasure to witness. I have selected a number of moments from the last two years that I would have you view. From as serious as alien invasions, to as small as the interaction of two people together," Uatu tells them.

He rises to his feet, a hand going to his back affecting the effects of age that match his illusion. "Come," he tells the other. "Let us start with moments that were both terrible and wonderful to behold. First, we are going to Genosha."

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The group of Watchers shimmer out of existence, and reappear on the shore of a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. The spires of buildings gleam as they rise into the air in the distance. The calls of seagulls overhead add to the soft crash of the waves on the beach as the Watchers turn their eyes towards the rest of the island of Genosha.

Out of the water, three gigantic forms rise up. Wild Sentinels as they would later get named by the press, machines in a vaguely human shape, they dwarf even the tallest skyscraper. They wade ashore, already sowing death in the form of gigantic blasts of lasers that hit with megatons of force, though the island's inhabitants battle back. The other-worldly observers can hear the screams and thoughts of the citizens of Genosha as the attacking machines exterminate them. Another dozen Sentinels, these only three stories tall each, surround the island, nullifying powers of flying mutants who try to escape the destruction, and ending them.

The cloaking that hides the immense spacecraft that descends over the island does not fool the eyes of the Watchers. Brainiac's ship hovers overhead, a ray firing from it to shrink sections of the city. The Wild Sentinels glass those areas so there is no evidence left of their capture.

By the time the attack is over, millions have been lost. A scant ten thousand or so manage to escape via use of their powers, teleporting or other powers that evade the Sentinel ring. Perhaps another hundred thousand taken aboard Brainiac's ship and held in their shrunken state, including Magneto. Two of the Wild Sentinels depart, while the third has been damaged badly and is left behind, rising up over the ruins of Hammer Bay like some horrific statue.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The old, white-haired man turns to the others and says, "Now, follow me to Wakanda, two days from now." The Watchers and Uatu shimmer and disappear, reappearing on a grassy plain on the African continent, inland from the coast off which Genosha lies.

The plain is covered with tents and other temporary facilities. Refugees are huddled beneath the tents, some receiving medical treatment. A portal shimmers into existence as Clarice Ferguson aids the quick transport of more Genoshans who have been dug out of the wreckage by the crews of heroes and others that have descended on the island to help.

King T'Challa of Wakanda walks along the rows of tents, accompanied by Lorna Dane and Wanda Maximoff. "We have our best doctors helping them," he tells the members of the Genoshan royal family. "And the UN has more medical staff and supplies on the way. We have not been able to spare the teleporters to transport them though, as those few that are left are being used to get the injured off the island."

Wanda Maximoff turns to her sister. "I'll take care of them," she says. "You need to be here with our people." Wanda turns and walks away from the others, a swirl of scarlet energy surrounding her and carrying her away to the United Nations to arrange matters.

Leaving Lorna in charge, with the King, known to most as Magneto, missing. "Thannk you, King T'Challa," she says, struggling to keep a grip on her emotions as they step into a medical tent. A little girl covered with burns looks up as someone draws attention to the entrance of the two royals. "Why... why did they do this?" she asks Lorna Dane.

Lorna crouches by the girl. "I don't know," Lorna tells her. "But we're going to take care of everyone. And we're going to rebuild. Genosha will live again," she says, directing the words to all of her people in the tent. Words that will spread among the refugees being hosted by Wakanda. Words that will filter out to the rest of the world.

Uatu motions, and the Watcher's forms shimmer and disappear, reappearing atop the Brooklyn Bridge. "They saved many lives," Uatu tells the others. "And true to their word, they have been rebuilding what was destroyed. But first, they had to deal with this," Uatu says, motioning towards the sky, and Brainiac's ship descending towards New York City.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Heroes rise up from the city to meet the attacking craft. Brainiac releases hordes of drones, many of them armed with powers developed from experimenting with the shrunken, captured mutants from Genosha.

Teams of heroes represent every major hero team on the planet, plus many, many others. Avengers, X-men, Justice League and Titans lead many of the major teams into battle. There is a gaping hole noticeable in the city where Bushwick once stood. The neighborhood of Brooklyn is gone, having been shrunk in an earlier attack on the city by Brainiac.

Outside the ship, the heroes hunt down the army of drones, felling them in large numbers. Military units assist the heroes, fighting from jets, helicopters, tanks, and even firing hand guns and rifles.

A team of heroes fly up in the Titan's vehicle and invade the ship, while Kryptonians attack the outside of the ship and rip the shrink ray apparatus. The battle lasts all day, but the armies are destroyed and turned back. The Watchers watch the infiltration team capture the shrunken bits of Genosha, and Illyana Rasputin teleports the internal parts of the shrink ray off the ship, before the entire space craft is knocked from the sky, crashing into the Atlantic Ocean and sinking deep into the murky depths.

"The humans, led by Dr. Reed Richards, Victor von Doom, and other scientific luminaries, were able to restore the shrunken sections of Genosha, and of Bushwick as well," Uatu explains before the Watchers shimmer out of existence, returning to the Asteroid. "Genosha was a time of great suffering. But it also was a time the world banded together as one to repel a threat. Mutantkind suffered greatly, and still does, though there was a growth in empathy towards them, afterwards," he tells the other Watchers.

The others nod at what they have seen. "Thank you Uatu. What do you have to show us next?" one asks.

Thor has posed:
"This next scene is one of conflict and comraderie all rolled into one vision of triumph and libations!"The grey-haired older gentlemen waves to the other Watchers as the scene shifts to what humans call "Superbowl Sunday"! It is a bar, similar to many on the East Coast of the United States, filled with humans and two very distinct Asgardians. "Impossible! The Ferocious Cats of Bengal..."

"...of Cinncinati, Thor." The obsidian skinned Valkyrie grins while raising a mug of beer to her lips. "Cinncinati Bengals, Thor."

Not missing a beat, Thor says, "These Lost Angels seem to have taken advantage of that loss of downs and scored! Forsooth, these beings are mighty indeed!" Emptying his glass he claps a nearby human on the back, nearly forcing him out of his seat!

"Did you see that! The contest is over, and I believe that the Cats have lost! A round on me to celebrate a ferocious challenge indeed! The gladiatorial contest is over for this year, and I look forward to the next one!"

The crowd drunkenly cheers as Thor pays for another round of drinks. "Brunnhilde! This was incredible fun! Thank you!"

Monet St. Croix has posed:
Not all scenes are of glory. Not all scenes are of heroism. Some scenes are personal. In their nature. Of their experiences. Not all things are of grandness. Some things are a personal hell.

Some things are just prisons.

Monet St. Croix is in one of them. Her body is of rough edges. Forged of diamond sharp blades all over. As if an insect. Every edge of her sharp. Shining red. Dull pupilless eyes that stare back at the world. Hair composed of feather-like blades going down her back. And she wears an outfit like a black leather straightjacket. She is in the void. The infinitness. Staring endlessly into the red that is everywhere. Floating. Standing. Time has no real meaning. Not that it does not happen. But merely there is no way to tell. Minutes. Hours. days. She does not sleep. She does not eat. The features are the same no matter where she is. She cannot blink. She cannot speak. No matter how far she might walk, nothing changes. The terrain is featureless. All she can do is simply stare to nothingness and wait.

Every now and then there is a change. Something that disrupts the eternal isolation and her prison.

It is worse than the prison>

A small, almost gnomish looking thing wearing a wrinkled tuxedo and with a hat that reads 'DoA' would pop intoe xistence. If M could shudder in this form she would. She would cry. She would move to lash. She would go to defend hereslf.

Instead, she is just still. Unmoving. Unblinking.

There is another portal. Of a being that looks rotting. More wretched than she is wearing a facemask as if with a breathing tube. And she is spoken to.

"Come on dear sister, feeding time.." And Emplate approaches the body that Monet is in. She would try to struggle backwards, to defend herself.

She cannot. Whether out of fear and conditioning, her brother's control over her.. Or just her sense of total helplessness and conditioning.

She sits. And waits. And her brother comes to her. And he feeds. And she is in her own personal hell of agony.

Then later there is freedom. How does not matter.

All she can so after so long; whether it be months, years.. HOwever long it is. She is with her parents. Her sisters. Those that tutored her. Monet St. Croix does not have friends. Her family beyond her sisters can't be bothered.>

To have noticed she was missing, even with her sisters trying to take her place.

And for Monet St. Croix this is her Penance. When she hides curled up in her bed each night sobbing, when she wakens each day wanting to kill herself and hides behind those fragments of her psyche, of her perfection. It is all that gives her a protective layer of armor to save herself in the world and keep on going.

This is her Penance.

And things have not changed that much. She is still Alone.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers return to the Asteroid after watching the revelry within the bar. "The Humans have acclimated others into their world. For a race that struggles to get along with one another, it is curious that they accept others at all," one of them says.

Uatu gestures with his hands. "They are a varied people. And those you saw, Thor and Brunnhilde, have proven themselves many times over to be friends of that which they call Midgard," the Watcher in the guise of an older gentleman says.

They depart to another time and place, watching part of Monet St. Croix's life play out. Again returning to the Asteroid. "Such suffering they endure," another says. A third offers, "It is the same everywhere that I have Watched. It is the nature of existence."

One looks to Uatu. "And what happens to girl?" Uatu pauses thoughtfully. "I have not looked into her future. But in the time we are presently at, she has found others. What they will become to her, remains to be seen," he says of the mutant, glancing towards the Earth, where she can be found at a small school in Westchester.

Steve Rogers has posed:
There are tales of glory to be told, but also compassion. The Watcher in his guise waves a hand. "This planet is full of so much. This was recent. I like this guy."

The backdrop shifts to Manhattan. The end of January.

Captain America has been trying so hard to bring someone back, to stop them from aiding in ending the world. Compassion and faith, a hand extended.

Caitlin just keeps shaking her head, and the fingers around Cap's wrist clench a little in frustration. Not enough to break bones, but definitely enough to convey the frustration wracking her conscience.

Fingers crossed she doesn't sneeze, though.

"They're not dabbling Steve, they're /consorting/. They're willfully working with monsters." She looks down at him, lips pressed thin and her brows furrowed in consternation. "You've told us yourself, what happens when we tolerate evil among us. You -lived- that history of what happens when people 'consort' with evil. Rationalizing it. They--" she shakes her head, looking at the fighting. The violence unfolding all around her.

"You are -distracting- me," she breathes, and gives Cap a wounded, hurt look. "All this, you're just-- this--"

She grimaces, and a pent up burst of anger and hurt shakes loose from her throat in a groan of anguish. Caitlin grabs Cap by his belt and the back of his armor, spins in the air, and hurls him laterally a solid fifty feet towards a low rooftop nearby. It's a hell of a throw, trajectory flat so there's no long ungainly arc for him to endure. Just a rough landing. The redhead pivots in the air and shoots towards Sara, Cael, and Barachiel's melee, leaving a blue-hued trail of cosmic energy in her wake.
----
He's starting to get through to her. He knows he is, Cap can feel it. In her grip, in her pained expression. His is equally hurt, but for different reasons. He just shakes his head sadly. Is she right? Sort of. Is it his job to judge them? No. That belongs to someone else. It's his job to love and lead by example.

As Caitlin alters her grip, Steve looks at her one more time, looking wounded at her comparing what his allies are doing to what he fought for all those years ago.

She releases him, and he hits the roof hard, plowing through a ventilation pipe and into a brick wall. Luckily it stops him. Unluckily, it buries him.

His last thought before unconsciousness takes him is that she has it backwards. She's fighting for fascists. She just won't realize it willingly.

The backdrop fades back to the asteroid. "She got some good distance on that throw. I didn't know Cap was that aerodynamic!"

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers observe the interactions between Steve Rogers and Caitlin Fairchild from a spot in the air above them. "These two stand out to me," one of them sends his thoughts to the other, rather than speaking aloud.

Uatu gives a nod of his head. He pauses a moment and his orange space suit turns into a nicely tailored suit, with a cane in his hand. More suitable for their location, though they are floating in the sky above the action. "They have been two of the more interesting for me to observe. The man has endured much, yet he possesses such strength of character as to inspire millions of Humans, and has altered the course of their history for the better. Another time I will show you events they term 'World War Two' which he took part in," Uatu says.

Pepper Potts has posed:
Ms Virginia "Pepper" Potts is almost always on the sidelines; it's where she's safest and the most secure. That said, she's also rarely far from her employer on the formal openings and galas so she can keep an eye on him. She's been by his side through thick and thin, and this opening of a new Avengers Display at a museum was no different. It proves, as well, that she can defend herself, should the time come that it's needed.

Or moreso, she can defend the one she loves.

A Whiplash mimic had broken out of their display, shattering glass, metal and wood supports. Of course, his cruel eye was on Tony.

As the glass shatters, Pepper is standing there, bringing her arms up in order to shield herself from the shards. Her wineglass is dropped, adding to the spray of glass now on the floor. A scream escapes her, and she takes one, two steps backwards, keeping her hands up, her clutch in front of her face. Around the sequined purse, however, she can see Tony's mask drop down, and the whip twirl around his wrist, which brings out a different sort of scream.

"Tony!"

Pepper can't help but see the struggle now, as she calls out to him again, her voice hoarse in fear and anger. "Tony!"

She's not frozen in her spot for long, however. Immediately after, she goes looking for something, anything that she can use as a weapon. It's a super hero museum, for crying out loud! There has to be something- and she grabs a piece of wood that had blown off one of the displays. Picking it up, hefting it, checking its weight, she turns around to advance on the display that has Tony and Whiplash.. and she takes a swing to hit it squarely. One, two..

And there's help!

The battle rages, with Dr Pym in attendence, Captain America, Batman, Reed Richards.. and now, the redhead has truly joined the fray.

Pepper still holds the piece of board, her clutch pretty much forgotten now. Her dress is torn in places, the shards of glass that flew cutting into the fabric. There are cuts on the redhead, but nothing that looks as if it's going to stop her now.

Moving forward, one of the only 'normals' in the fight, she's not really caring who she may be up against. Once again, the board is raised and she follows the trio of Tony, Doc Oc and Whiplash out.. ready to take another full swing at one of them. "Get off!!"

Kitty Pryde has posed:
When the Watchers are done viewing Captain America being dropped, they shimmer and are taken away to the American Museum of Natural History. They watch as a gala opening of an exhibit focusing on heroes and villains turns to havok as many of the costumes come to life and attack.

"Even the least powerful among them risks herself for the rest," another observes, getting a nod from Uatu. "She is connected to that one, a leader of one of the hero groups known as the Avengers. Tony Stank. She enables them, though, in ways that many of them will never fully realize," Uatu comments.

Gwendolyn Poole has posed:
Gwenpool is a relative newcomer. On SO many levels. So she looks around as the various people and go, talking of their past stories. She sneaks over towards the Watcher and patiently waits her turn for his attention, and then leans over, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I know who you really are, Mr. Lee. And I just wanted to say thank you." She looks at him, her eyes brimming with tears. "What you helped bring to life means so much to me, and everyone else." She offers a smile, and then starts to step back. Then, impulsively, she darts back and gives the Watcher a big hug. "You're secret is safe with me." And then she skips away, before any of the real superheroes can see her crying.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
As someone approaches the Watchers while they are observing the Museum fight, they all get a somewhat curious look, first given to each other, then to Uatu for an explanation. "Most cannot see us right now, yes. But there are some. This one, and... well, maybe I'll show you something of Wade Wilson though it may color your impressions of Earth. But, anyway, it is difficult to explain," he tells them.

Instead, Uatu turns towards Gwendolyn Poole. "Thank you, Miss Poole. I look forward to seeing more of your adventures. And thank you for keeping my secret," he tells her gratefully before she skips away.

Leopold Fitz has posed:
Flick.

Again the scene shifts for those unseen, unknowable observers of all.

There are no grand events here. No epic battles, or titanic struggles. Unless one counts those that a man goes through within himself at least.

The lab is dark, all but deserted. The hour late, with any sensible, reasonable person having long since taken to his bed. But not, of course, Agent Leo Fitz of SHIELD. No, in that oasis of dark within the Triskelion, the glow from his computer screens are the sole illumination in the lab.

He sits at his desk, bathed in the artificial glow of those monitors around him, a steady stream of data flowing past on those screens. Not that Fitz is paying the slightest bit of attention to them at the moment. His gaze is intent, locked on the little robotic 'toys' in front of him, more then a dozen different scale models that range from the most primitive right up to the latest of his projects, an example that looks very much like a living, breathing human being in 1/6th scale.

One of SHIELD's many geniuses carefully hooks up the diagnositic machine to his latest creation -- the work having gone from a simple distraction to something decidedly more advanced in a matter of weeks -- and as those leads are fitting in place a whole new stream of data begins to role across those monitors, a stream of numbers that might mean virtually nothing to most of the world's population. But a stream that completely entrances the young scientist.

The lab is deserted. Only the glow of the monitor gives any proof that the lab is in use at all, muted as it is in the far corner of the room. But as Fitz's eyes dance over that screen and the flow of data rolling across it he still hears it. That voice. That cold, emotionless voice that still haunts his nightmares, no matter what he might tell anyone else.

"We are doing excellent work Leopold. Continue to make progress here and it will not be long until we can start Phase II."

It is a voice he fears above all. His voice.

The heat of the building might keep the chill of the winter's storm beyond the walls of the Triskellion far away. But that doesn't keep a cold sweat from suddenly breaking out over Fitz's forehead, a shiver running through his lanky frame.

But he does not pull that feverish gaze away from the monitors before him...


Kitty Pryde has posed:
Uatu lets out a soft sigh as he watches the SHIELD scientist in his lab. "For all of the battles, the fights, the heroic moments. The titanic shifts of the world? Sometimes it is the moments like this that stay with me the longest," he says as he removes his glasses for a moment, human-looking eyes showing a sadness as he views Fitz at his computer.

"The struggle that wages inside of the humans is something that we have moved past and forgotten so long ago," he says. The other Watchers can sense everything Leopold Fitz is feeling and thinking, and the intensity of it hits home on them in the same way it did for Uatu when he first witnessed those events.

"What happens next?" one of the Watchers asks. Uatu starts to answer and then pauses. "That may be worth its own visit entirely," he tells them. "But until then, come, there is more to see," he says, motioning to them as they disappear from the SHIELD lab.

Monet St. Croix has posed:
There is nothingness. There is darkness. There is brightness. There is darkness. There is blue.

There is a -plink- in not only another world, another dimension, but of something that never should have been forged from what never was. Nothingness made paramount, perhaps as one might look at it. And then a place of horrors forged from the remnants of nothingness. Made of horrors and uncaring monsters. But even within there is heroism amongst it.

There is Singularity in this world made up of islands taken from other places of existence. Of isolated pockets of surviving reality. Made by the uncaring Leige given supreme power over existence.

There is God-Emperor Doom. Sitting in his castle, seeming to not care of things. His legion of Thors that do his will. And yet they are heroes. Made of metals to help others. In many worlds those whom would never have been given such a duty. Here they are heres.

There is Arcadia. Shining and protected. By her friends. Friends she had met. Friends that were not of this world. And they are her friends. They taught her. They gave her happiness. They gave her purpose and protected her the same way they did Arcadia.

There is the SHIELD. Where the endless hordes of monsters were thrown at heroes, the exiled, the condemned, the useless. Put in eternal warfare against the endless legions that threw themself against the SHIELD, against the wall. Growing more powerful by the day. Where great heroes made great sacrifices for friends, to protect others, to fight with comrades. Meaningless for Doom did not care.

But amongst great darkness there were heroes in this BattleWorld.

Arcadia. The Thors. The SHIELD. Thsoe whom rose up against God-Emperor Doom despite his endless power and sought freedom because they felt it was their obligation. No matter their origin. No matter the realm. No matter what Doom had taken them from and made them out of.

Then there was no Battleworld. Only nothingness.

Then everything.

Singularity was here! Singularity was HERE!

There were her friends. But not her friends. Those of this world. Those that had inspired her. Friends not-yet, but that woudl be. She would find them and help protect them. they were her friends. They were heroes here. THey were inspirations.

Some things were multi-versal. Heroes. Good people. Inspirations. No matter the world or the universe. There were heroes.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers glance to Uatu as they are taken to an empty point in space. "Why-" one asks, but before another word can be uttered, they observe the emergence of Singularity into their reality. The moment she appears, her memories become known to the Watchers, and in their heads they relive her memories of the place she came from.

"Are there many on Earth that have come from outside our realm?" one Watcher asks.

"There are some. But not many," Uatu concedes. "There was a large crossing in the last two orbits of Terra from a realm that a creature named ZZGU dominated, infecting the minds of the inhabitants. But the people of Earth stopped them from doing harm, sometimes at great cost."

Uatu motions towards Singularity. "This one faces an interesting time ahead. Not a human, yet endeared of humans. Will they accept her? Will she find their differences from those she's known a sadness that outweighs their similarities? Or forge new friendships? The humans are not always accepting. Of their own, as you have seen in Genosha, let alone of others from the Outside."

Monet St. Croix has posed:
There she sat. Alone. In a penthouse. Several large bottles of potent, old alcohol in front of her. Emma Frost, White Queen of the Hellfire Club, of the Inner Circle sat. As she often did, wavering between two worlds. That of hedonism but with a purpose, to dance around the world and to put reins upon it, to guide it.. And that of teaching. Of tutoring. Of helping. Dipping her stilettos into each. Finding hereslf not trusted in either for her back and forth.

Finding herself tired of the eternal corruption of the Club but it was a part of her entire life. Abandoned dreams long since stomped out of her. Of teaching, of being a hero.. Finding herself not trusted. Finding herself eternally questioning thier methods and their back and forth. Finding them naive and never to break the cycle, and to eternally suffer.

Heroes and villains on either side. Good and bad. And Emma Frost drank. The world in a state of war.

Things which would obliterate it, kill all those within. Horrors of Genosha, of Brainiac. Of Aliens, of the Shi'Ar. Of so many things which would eliminate mutants.

Xavier eternally naive and trusting. to Shaw's kind.. Well.. To control those things of the world meant they could never happen. Of the rich and powerful taking things in with their hands in everything. Could they not play the wires of them in puppetry?

And what did corruption do, however, but bring down more of it? Emma saw the games of the club in playing and manipulating and perhaps not caring. And well aware that corruption seeped into herself from it and she did no favors, falling for the darkness. But she had some control.

And so Emma Frost drank. To the wreteched state of things as things went on and continued to spiral. And to her own failures and inabilities to figure out where her loyalties laid and how to go about them. And unable to commit or to do anything at all beyond sitting and staring and drinking.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers stand, invisibly, as they watch the quiet contemplation of Emma Frost over her libation intended to dull the world. "Do the humans turn to these sort of mood-altering substances? I have Watched a world that was ultimately undone by their ever-increasing desire for such escapes. Until they brought about the downfall of their civilization, putting them back millennia," one Watcher asks.

Uatu considers the question. "It is a problem for some. Lives ruined. Others seem to find success in using it to... lubricate the rougher times of their lives. Though it seems to be a very fine line that is easy for them to cross into it being a problem," he agrees.

There is a faint smile. "The Asgardian we saw earlier, had a rather potent... well, that is a tale for another time."

Hal Jordan has posed:
Flick.

The scene is almost innocuous at first. Viewed from afar, a dozen or so cages of gold hang from the ceiling above, great, old chandaliers burn with dozens of candles flooding the room with their flickering glow. Slowly those cages come into view and it becomes increasingly clear that they are not filled with birds -- or not just only. Instead dozens upon dozens of people fill them, not in miniature, but full-fledged people. Perspective shifts, and suddenly it becomes clear just how large that room truly is.

Of course it is not only people that fill those gilded cages. Spotted among them are three not so little pigs, or perhaps the eye is drawn to three bears how mutter in a corner with a young woman with golden locks. Or perhaps the beautiful woman who rests a hand on the shoulder of a truly beastly monster. All so familiar, characters ripped out of tale.

And of course a quartet of others who have perhaps inspired their own stories, if not quite so timeless. An emerald warrior from the stars, though his customary ring is gone, replaced instead by a blue cloak and a sword at his waist. His fellow Leaguer and ally, that top hat for one and bat motif for the other making them stand out in stark contrast. And of course the one they came her seeking. The Golden Helm of Nabu returned at last, even if the Lord of Order remains every bit as much a captive as them.

The view shifts again, drawing back, and for a moment the whole of that great, giant-sized room flickers into view before it goes swirling away, spinning rapidly as a thousand of stars dance and flicker before resolving once more. And when it does finally resolve a fearsome host soars through the sky. Not great in number, power and evil nevertheless seems to radiate from them. The most noticable of them is a towering figure, more than fifty feet in height, long black hair flowing freely in the wind. Power practically dances around this Lord of Chaos. He is flanked on the sides by a trio of large, purple demons, complex, eye-twisting patterns marking their skin, two big eyes gleaming as they peer ahead at their destination. Behind, a disk of pure darkness soars through the darkening skies, a figure in purple and black, one half of his body shaded in shadow, standing at the center of the disk. He plays with the black diamond in his hand, energy flowing from it to keep him, and the two companions with him -- what appears to be a tree carved into the general semblance of a man and a rotund fellow in robes of white -- aloft. And at their head? The mad sorcerer in his blue robes and turban, a red jar, green bell and silver wheel floating around his head like moons orbitting their planet.

"That arrogant fool will regret refusing to join with us. Bring his armies low. Tear down the walls of his castle if you must. And when we reorder existence, his people will be the first to bow," comes the mad words of Felix Faust as he and his allies drop out of the dark sky towards the formidable fortifications of the Doomstadt, flashes of lightning illuminating them in their wake.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Standing on the treetops of Doomstadt as if the leaves were enough to support them, the Watchers focus on the sight of Felix Faust and his minions, and the distant Hal Jordan locked within the cage. Uatu shakes his head. "There is a great thirst for power among some humans. Even to reaching out to the most infernal sources to obtain it. That one," he says, motioning to Faust, "Worked long to bring these events to pass."

The other Watchers stand silently as they watch events play out. "How have they not destroyed themselves already?" he asks.

This time Uatu does not need a pause to find an answer. "For every greedy soul among them, for every villain, there seems to be a hero. Someone who rises above not just the rest, but above who they might have been if they were not needed. It has been a close thing at times. The humans to not even realize how close, or perhaps it might have led them to change their ways," he says.

The other Watchers turn their gaze to Uatu. Perhaps the fact he is still in the guise of a silver-haired man in dark glasses contributes to the question in their thoughts. He holds up his hands. "No, I have no intentionsl or breaking our vows and interfering. But, they do not know how closely they have courted doom sometimes."

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers appear this time floating in the air outside a second-story window of a mansion in Starling City. The Queen estate is quiet at the late hour, cloaked in the darkness of night of new moon. Relieved only where pools of light come from lights about the sprawling, wooded state.

Within the room a man is asleep beneath the covers. Sitting beside the slumbering Oliver Queen is a young woman with dark hair. She leans against the bed's headboard, her knees pulled up against her chest and her arms around them.

Vanessa Carlysle's thoughts are from earlier that day. A visit to the lab at SHIELD, arranged by Clint Barton, a good friend of Oliver's. There Gemma Simmons conducted a number of tests, mostly on Vanessa, but some on Oliver as well. MRIs and genetic scans, a number of devices Vanessa could only guess what they did.

In the end, Gemma had answers that Vanessa had badly wanted. Answers to why Vanessa knew things she shouldn't. Knew the story of how Oliver's mother had acquired her favorite china while on a trip to Asia. Knew the name of people Oliver banked with.

Knew how to use a bo staff when they were jumped by men trying to keep her from testifying against a drug smuggler. Knew how to shoot a bow so well that she split the wins in an archery contest equally with Oliver and Clint.

Gemma had revealed that Vanessa had an active mutant gene. That she was likely copying Oliver's skills and memories. And possibly had the ability to copy more than that, for Gemma had found healed fractures in Vanessa's bones that matched those of Oliver. Bones that Vanessa had never broken.

Now Vanessa looks over at the slumbering Oliver Queen. She reaches over to softly rest her hand on his shoulder. Concentrating. Thinking. Unsure how her power works, but for the first time, willing herself to be like him, to intentionally know what he knows.

The Watchers float in the air quietly, able to sense better than Vanessa as her brain reorganizes itself to copy Oliver Queen's, down to his oldest memories and skills. But she reaches that moment that she's copied enough to sense it all.

She senses then, for the first time, just how truly, deeply Oliver Queen loves her. The tears that follow are the happiest she has ever shed.

Uatu smiles, and leads the Watchers away to the next time and place.

James Barnes has posed:
It's a quiet moment; introspection often is.

James Buchanan Barnes sits quietly in a room that is not his, speaking to a man he knows too well, but who doesn't really know him.

His tone is gentle even if his words are not. He doesn't give the other man the details; that would be cruel and unnecessary. But, all-seeing, the Watchers split the present, viewing the past:

The Winter Soldier's eyes are a steely, cold blue as he dispatches them: one, two, three with a suppressed firearm; a fourth with a thrown knife; a fifth by simply putting his metallic, super-strong arm through the man's spine and out through his thorax. The sixth man, his target, is self-indulgent, fear leading him to offer the Hydra-sent assassin _anything_. But the Winter Soldier is incorruptible; a dark shadow of the man that houses the monster.

He puts two bullets in the minister and turns to leave.

Seven people. This one, unexpected: a young cultural attache who shouldn't have been here, but met a woman and is coming home far later than usual. But the Winter Soldier knows his directives; they've been ingrained into him by force.

The attache runs. The Winter Soldier walks. The Watchers close the past off to the present, needing less and less to see the handiwork of the man known now as Bucky Barnes.

Anger. Denial. Fear. Sorrow. All these emotions course through the other man as James confesses his crime. He mentions the brainwashing; says he never would have if under his own devices. But the words are no excuse, and he doesn't use them as such. He's here to express his guilt, not seek cursory forgiveness.

He departs, eventually, leaving the man with his sorrow knowing that a friend is the one who took away his father. But he leaves behind a card: a number and no name. Because if this man ever needs anything at all, The Winter Soldier is on the side of the angels now, a brother he never asked for, but will always have.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers stand together after James Barnes has departed. "The world I currently watch, the beings there are not capable of such change. Of remorse," one of the Watchers states, still sensing the thoughts of the Winter Soldier though he has left the room.

Another shakes his head. "If that were the case with those I observe. They are ruled by emotions which swing wildly. Their star may expand to take the planet before they change at the rate they are going," he says.

Uatu stays silent this time. Not wanting to reveal the level of empathy he has developed for the humans, perhaps. Or perhaps thinking of what he knows of the future still awaiting one James Barnes.

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana's sword slashes through the arm of the creature! It pulls back its stubbed arm and raises it up to see its hand gone. The massive troll-like beast then roars in anger at the Amazon as it slams its other hand in to her shield, sending her flying back across the battlefield. The undead monster charges at the Princess then before she lowers her shield and charges back at it, sword out!

When the two collide, a powerful upflow of dirt surrounds them, and when it settles, Diana stands atop the beasts body, and holds her sword through its chin, up through its skull. She yanks it back, and sweeps her sword out to the side. She breathes a sigh as she stands upon armored boots, staring down at the creature that lays unmoving upon the ground....

Suddenly, all around Diana, more Amazons charge past, some on horseback, others on foot, their weapons up as the engage a army of undead, upon the soil of the mystical island of Themyscira.

Diana turns to face the incoming horde of undead, her dark hair flowing out behind her bare shoulders, as she draws in a breath, and shoots in to the sky, on a downward arc that will take her right in to the army of ghouls pouring out of the perilous Doomgate doorways!

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers stand amidst the thunder of hooves and the din of battle as the Amazonians and the undead army smash into one another. "The woman stands among a race considered to be gods by some humans," Uatu explains. "She is one of the brightest of souls I have found during my time here. At first unknown among the rest of the world, both she and her people. They have finally revealed themselves, though most of humanity do not know the debt they owe to her island nation."

Diana makes her swooping flight, diving down from on high. "Fearless," one of the Watchers observes, and all of them seem impressed by what they sense and feel from the woman's mind and heart. "Perhaps now I begin to understand how they have survived the threats to their planet that they have," another says.

Harley Quinn has posed:
"Life on Earth can be exciting. It can be wild. Humans live vibrantly in the short lifespans they have. But it can also be sweet and redeeming." Uatu gestures and an image of a certain Harley Quinn appears.

Harley Quinn, the clown princess of crime. The terror of Gotham. Or at least she was for years under the Joker's thumb. Sanity broken over and over she became a shell of herself. A wild woman running ahead of her own faults, afraid that they will catch up to her and have her have to face what she did and what she has lost.

The image fades again and a sequence of images begin to show. Harley climbing up the side of a building in some 'orange is the new black' outfit impersonation right outta prison, sliding in through a window and flopping onto the ground of a bathroom to the terrified look of an April O'Neil. The beginning of a beautiful friendship!

The image shifts to show Harley running after a customed man flying on a kite, Poison Ivy running next to her, "Did ya show him the bounty huntin' pass?! He was supposed ta surrender!" she huffs and puffs as the duo continues their pursuit through the streets of Gotham, then she whispers in a low voice, "Toss me..." a moment later and Harley is flying through the hair thrown by one of Ivy's plant vines. The image fades right before impact...

More images come, of she and Terry O'Neil stomping on creepy animated dolls with feet and baseball bats. Of Harley and a four-armed mutant called Spiral doing a dance-off in a nightclub which prompts a fast friendship. Of a sequence of Karaoke nights with old and new friends and ending with Harley uproariously laughing as a flailing April attempts to dodge incoming tackles during roller derby nights. Of Halloween, Harley dressed as twi'lek while leading a slave Leia April by the hand with non-stop laughing!

The crescendo of images eventually come to an end into a last image. Of Harley lying on a couch against April. They are laughing at something that is on TV and the clownette has a look of absolute peace in those eyes, just simply enjoying the moment, surrounded by a pair of hyenas who are trying to doze off at the foot of the couch.

Uatu gestures to the last image just as it's fading, "They are creatures of hope, of connection. For all their faults they can see the best in someone. They can treat someone who's broken in a way that they can feel whole again."

Felicity Smoak has posed:
There are few things that are more maddening than watching a television show, being invested in a television show, and not being able to get past a medical scene, a tech scene, something that is just so eggregious that the entire feeling of 'suspension of disbelief' is gone and the program is ruined. Felicity Smoak has a cure for that; hack in and rewrite the scene so it actually makes sense and has some form of realism to it.

Felicity and Thea become a writing, dynamic duo!

...This television episode, however, really is all important, all consuming of her time. Thus is the 'slow period' of vigilantism. "So, I was passing a store window in SoHo. Don't even get me started as to WHY I was in SoHo, of all places to be in the City. At night. During the holiday. And in the window, they were replaying the episode from last week. After a few words with someone else on the street, I came up with the conclusion that I really don't have to suffer through it any more." Of course, she's smart enough that it's not that she covers her trail- she leaves no trail to begin with!

Brows rise at the X-Files joke.. it is a joke, right? Yes, and Felicity laughs, "Yeaaah, no. Though Mulder? Guh.. I would not throw him out of bed for eating crackers.." is murmured as she spins back to the screen.

Ahem.

Thea brings up one of the former adventures where they'd set up a camera loop; easy and very much a 'go to'.

Pointing at Thea, blue eyes widen behind those glasses of hers, and she nods definitively and points, "Yes, exactly. Like, we had control of the lights, the sound, the security feed..."

They really never did know what hit them when Team Arrow came to call. And they never had a chance.

"After this, what show do you want to look at? Maybe put in a suggestion for a new character? One with grace, charm, wit.. and a really good shot with a bow?"

Thea is in total agreement, even suggesting that the main character, Amber, gets a bow for infiltration, and has to shoot a bad guy. Or, a mysterious stranger drops in?

..."Bow? Nah.." and Felicity is back to the show's script. "Not everyone is good at it. I don't want to give the impression that anyone can pick it up and be good. A mysterious stranger, though.." Where did that pencil come from? The one so chewed up, it looks like someone was raising a puppy. Felicity is clicking the wood against her teeth, ready to chew on it again before she starts to furiously type. "There.. a mysterious agent that was looking at the same mark, with a bow. Interrupts the mission, and they work on it together, even if they don't know it."

With a little prompting, however, the 'mysterious agent becomes a 'she'.

Then, back to the storyline as she considers. "Or she?" Felicity raises her brows as she glances towards her friend. "Could always be a she." If it is, the uninvited guest writer does need to change a few things, which is easily done with a few quick taps of the keyboard. Within a few minutes of silence, the final *thwack* of the enter key, along with the removing of her ghostly presence from the other computer signals the end of that particular 'mission'...

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The invisible presence of the Watchers goes unnoticed by the two members of Team Arrow as they make some improvements to the Hollywood script. "Such expertise," one of the Watchers says. "Each of them, in different areas. The physical," he says, gesturing to Thea, "And the technological," he adds, gesturing to Felicia.

Uatu's clothing has changed from the suit and cane, to a comfortable looking track suit as he maintains the appearance of a smiling older human man. "Yes, and while most of the public are aware of the physical, and those with powers beyond the normal remit of men? Those with that enable and support them often have as much of a role in their success," he says.

Uatu gestures towards Felicity. "This group would have been lost without her on numerous occasions. She is, to coin a phrase, the person in the chair that keeps them safe."

Al three of the other Watchers turn their attention back to Uatu for a moment, all raising one eyebrow slightly. Apparently their means of telepathic communication doesn't lend itself well to little exaggerations. "Well, perhaps I heard the phrase somewhere," Uatu allows.

Monet St. Croix has posed:
She no longer fights. She no longer remembers. Everything is a lie. Everything is a lie. Sarah Rainmaker is stuck upon a chair. Restraints upon her wrists and legs. Spread and vulnerable. Body exposed. The coldness means every sensation is magnified. Small pincers holding her eyes open. Unable to blink. Lights flashing consistently around her, leaving her dazed. Only able to stare helplessly as images would flash constantly. Her life was a lie. Constructed. Hidden.

***

She does not know how much later. There are sounds. Explosions. She is numb just over in a cell staring at the wall. Body sore and raw from the coldness. The injections, the training, the conditioning. She is unresponsive to anything going on her, in a state of fugue.

***

Then the explosions reach her cell. There are others coming in. Men and women with scars and pain on their faces, carrying weapons. The guards are slain and each of the doors carrying a disoriented teenagers are opened. Someone with too many scars and too old a face for someone that is clearly not as old quips. "We're not a little short for stormtroopers. We're here to rescue you." And for the first time in the last two years, or however long it has been..

Sarah Rainmaker has hope.

***

She has a place to stay. It is not a home. It could be one. She has an identity of her own. Protection. Safety. A promise to be able to do what she wishes and go her own way. Life will be as hard as she wishes. She can stay hidden and do what she wishes. She can make her own life.

A friend, someone she wishes more of that has helped her move in and cook has just left.

And Sarah Rainmaker can only look at a picture of someone big, strong, with flaming red hair braver than she could ever be. She looks at it.

"I love you." She would whisper. "But I know you can't love me back. I'll always look at you that way. I'll never have it. I.. I can't stay around. I'll hurt both of us."

And so, soon after having her own life, her own place.. Sarah Rainmaker leaves. To wander. With no real intents of coming back. Because feelings do not lend themselves to longevity. Not when they cannot be shed. Not when they cannot be ignored. And when she knows it in all her heart they will never be returned. And that she will always feel them and never move beyond. So for both their sakes.. But mostly for her own.

She loves. She will not be loved back.

So she leaves.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers not only know the thoughts of those they watch, but they can feel what is being felt. The understand Sarah Rainmaker like few humans would ever be able to. They look one to another, communicating with feelings that words would struggle to express as they react.

"Perhaps two orbits of Terra is too long to go between these visits," one of the Watchers says. He garners nods of agreement from the others. "I would like to see more of what befalls this one," he says to Uatu as he gestures towards the retreating figure of Sarah Rainmaker, before the Watchers vanish, moving to the next point in space and time.

Monet St. Croix has posed:
Not everyone seen is a hero. Not everyone has motives of truth and justice. Not everyone has motives of darkness. Not everyone has motives of conquest. Some have things far pettier. Of revenge. Vengeance. Motivated by hate.

She is Barbara-Ann Minerva. Genius. Brilliant. Foremost expert of the Amazons in the world.

Until the Amazons themselves came to Man's world. And all of her painstaking research shown false. And so she is exiled. And desperation for some semblance of proof that she was right leads to loathing and hatred.

She finds those that will give her hatred and a purpose. But in return.. She gives up much of herself to another to that she is but a pawn of.

She does not care. They give her the ability for revenge.

And so Barbara-Ann Minerva, whatever her knowledge, her genius, her purpose.. All of it is abandoned under the blood-fury of revenge. Of vengeance. Years spent watching the Amazons, looking for a weakness, of hiding herself..

All is thrown away as a hunter's patience turns to bloodlust and she goes for her first kill. She has failed. Spectactularly.

It merely makes her hate stronger. She will find a way to take from them everything. Their purpose. Their strength. Their history. She will tear it all down and burn it to nothingness. And she will make the Princess watch every bit of it knowing that everything she fights for is nothingness, cast to the void.

And so Cheetah imagines herself standing on a pile of Amazon corpses over a burning island in victory. And at peace with herself.

For she has taken everything from them.

As they did her.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers jump through several points in time, not just the last two years, to witness the events in Barbara-Ann Minerva's history. They settled back into the present, finding her there sitting in a chair and looking out the window, plotting her revenge.

She might as well be speaking aloud, or drawing diagrams on a whiteboard for how easily they are able to follow those thoughts. "Such nobility we saw in Diana of Themyscira. Yet that only fuels the hatred within this one," a Watcher says.

"She seems an implaccable foe," another opines.

Uatu lets out a soft sigh. "She had the potential to be so much, did this one. Now she is consumed. I do not know if it is possible for others to get through to her anymore," he says.

The Watchers stand, listening to her thoughts for awhile longer. In mute witness, to the depths to which a person of Earth can fall, before finally they disappear, leaving her to stew.

Booster Gold has posed:
It has been some time since Booster Gold was out and about. Things to do, businesses to start and then fail. There was that brief tour of malls in the Mid-west doing autograph sessions. The life of a celebrity super-hero. He had come back to New York and found that Ted was gone. And this made him sad, for one really large reason - that meant he had no couch to crash on.

Sure, going to the administrator of KordCo, the billion dollar company he owned and ran would probably have been an easy way to do it. But easy was never Booster Gold's style! Lazy was, though. In truth, it had never really occurred to Booster. And so he hatched his plan to summon Ted back. Because without the Blue Beetle, there is no Blue and Gold!

A tweet threatens a heart injury to a member of the Justice League. He giggled at the meta-accuracy of that little muffin. A bunch of folks show up, including Discount Spider-man. Booster flies around, chatting with them all, recording a word here, a word there.

He chortles in delight as he hovers over Times Square at the time of the impending heartbreak. All of the monitors shut off, and suddenly there is a vision of Booster. His mouth moves along with his moving narrative about how much he misses Ted. And then the music plays, and the words start. Various members of the Justice League community, thrown together in a fast edit.

"Never gonna give you up
        "Never gonna let you down


Booster smiles glorious as the Justice League rick rolls the entirety of New York City. "Come on, Ted baby. Come back to me."

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Someone who isn't a Watcher might not understand why Uatu chose Booster Gold to to show his brethren. But they exist now to record all knowledge and happenings.

And Booster Gold? He happens.

Uatu and the other Watchers watch events play out. "He goes to great lengths to regain his friend," one says. "Though his thoughts are... chaotic at best, compared to the other humans we have seen," one says. A third makes the equivalent of a soft grunt. "If maybe less so than Harleen Quin."

All of the Watchers nod at that.

When the Rick Astley video comes on, the Watchers turn to Uatu with questioning looks. "That... will take another visit," he says, before guiding them onwards to another place and time.

Diana Prince has posed:
Diana, Cassie, and Donna stand in the center of a busy New York City street, with the afternoon sun shining down upon them, all three of them locked in a tight embrace with each other. It's an emotional reunion after months of believing that Donna had been 'lost in space'. She appeared, seemingly out of no where, as Diana and Cassie had left a colorful ice cream shop together. The sudden reappearance had the women all crying as they held on to each other, making a bit of a public show of it as cars, and pedestrians walked by them, some even stopping to watch, or record the event with their phones.

A short time later, and Diana is once more in an embrace with Cassie Sandsmark... only this time, they are in the sky, Cassie is donning a brilliantly flamboyant suit of spiked armor, and she's hugging Diana right in to the spikes...

Blood floes from the Princess as Cassie grins with a sinister satisfaction...

The Invisible Jet, however, opens fire on the back of the armored 'Wonder Girl' and sends her fleeing from a stream of relentless blue plasma blasts, leaving Diana of Themyscira to fall lifelessly toward a copse of trees below...

Some time later, and Diana lies in a medical bed at the Hall of Justice, with massive amounts of flowers, and gifts all surrounding her as she gently breathes, peacefully, a serene look upon her face.

Trapped inside a coma...

Kitty Pryde has posed:
After watching the events that led to her hospitalization, the Watchers stand in a group around the bed of Diana Prince. "The people's outpouring for her injury is notable," one comments.

Uatu motions towards the hallway. "This is only the meagest portion. It would not all fit. Her friends had the rest distributes among the rooms of other patients. Figuring it is what she would have wanted," he explains.

They look back to Uatu. "She will need her own section in our archives." Another Watcher gestures, not just in a direction, but towards a time in a way only the other Watchers can sense. "I hope we have time to view this voyage that Donna Troy undertook as well."

Uatu nods. "I hope to, if there is time." They move on.

Blake Riviere has posed:
A small moment, one that the woman herself might consider insignificant in her centuries of living compared to the night she lost her mortality or that when she grasped the dying woman that would become her first and only 'daughter', but a moment that perhaps changed Blake Riviere's life from one lurking in the shadows observing humanity with only the simplest of interactions when mood strikes her to something more...meaningful.

Long ago she'd been a slave, a century as a 'bride' feeding on the lives of innocent victims for food and sport at the behest of her 'master', drowning in blood and wickedness under his thrall till the night she'd finally broken free and removed his wickedness from the world with her own fangs.

So long ago that even his castle had turned to rubble and a note on only the most obscure history books and yet the memories still hung on Blake's mind as she had moved among humanity, serving as a nurse in wars, returning to fight in the French Resistance when her country had been invaded by some of the greatest wickeness she'd seen from the hands of humans.

It still hung on her mind the first time she'd descended upon would-be muggers who had attacked a woman leaving a nightclub when she had been seeking a meal herself and happened by.

Even those many times more when she'd fought zombies, aliens, serial killers and other creatures of the night, the memory still nipped at her heels.

Then there had been one night, a conversation on a rooftop with an earnest soul, a mortal and a hero who had simply asked her 'why not?'

Sure enough, she'd eventually come to think just that, that she would 'try the hero thing'. And from the first moment she swept into action since as a creature of fangs and fear when the streets had filled with murderous invaders from beyond to defend fleeing civillians?

Blake had felt more like a hero than monster. And it had felt damn good!

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers view the history of Blake Riviere through a combination of visiting different times, and from examining her memories. There is something about witnessing the events themselves when possible. Though even with their ability to travel through time, the Watchers have to pick the moments to visit personally.

"A story of redemption," one Watcher says. "Particularly difficult for one who depends on feeding upon her felly man," another posits, getting nods of agreement from the others.

"The condition that she was afflicted with, vampirism, often drags people down. Some humans might say they lose their humanity. Yet I have seen those who fight to retain it. And who, perhaps, hold onto more humanity than those not so afflited," Uatu tells them.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers find themselves outside of a hotel, where a gathering of SHIELD agents are preparing to go inside after one of the Hydra leaders they have uncovered. They recognize a human they have seen before as Steve Rogers climbs out of a van once the security cameras have been eliminated in the alley.

Steve retrieves a large sticker from an inside pocket of the lightweight jacket and slaps it on the top of his shield bag. The sticker reads: "Mongo's Pizza - Best 'za in town!" With the shape and size of the bag, it is at least passable as a pizza warming bag.

Another, smaller sticker is pulled out and slapped on his shirt, announcing: "Hi my name is Chet" with a similar little logo beneath as the pizza bag has. Finally he dons the baseball cap and the jacket, and pulls out some glasses with thick, dark horn-rimmed frames. He slips them on and walks over to the door with the others. "I know, I know. Not like a pair of glasses will make anyone not recognize you," he says as he follows inside, holding his shield bag flat like there were pizza boxes inside.

As events play out, the Watchers follow through the hotel as Steve Rogers, Daisy Johnson, Melinda May, Peggy Carter, and Lance Hunter take down Hydra security. Though the leader gets wind of their presence and flees while other Hydra goons cover for him. After dealing with them, Steve Rogers runs to the elevators, prying the doors open so he can slide down the cable to a car far below.

Steve pries open the access hatch and drops into the car as it is beeping, going past the 9th floor. He immediately hits the button for 8.

Inside the elevator with Steve is a nice couple who look about 22, and they stare over at him after he drops in from above. Steve turns to them and smiles, saying, "Don't forget Sunday is $10 unlimited toppings at Mongo's."

As he reaches his destination floor and runs off, the Watchers turn to Uatu. In the guise of an older human man, Uatu just holds up his hands. "It seemed like a good moment to show you."

Diana Prince has posed:
Through the genius efforts of those supporters of Diana, the Princess eventually fought her way back to consciousness. She there-after suited up, and went with the 'real' Cassie Sandsmark to fight against the doppleganger that put her in that deep, deep slumber...

The battle was won, the doppleganger sent back to her own realm, where she was put in to the care of the Themysciran people of that reality... and Diana went back to her routine.

That routine involving both being a figurehead of the Justice League, an Ambassador to her people, and an inspiration to many others... (if not to one fuzzy Cheetah).

At her desk in her office, Diana looks at a box of old photos and memories of her 100+ years of being away from her homeland. She sifts through the memories of places she'd been, people she'd known throughout that lifetime, and more. So many smiles, standing beside so many faces that have long left this Earth. It causes the Princess to feel a swell of emotions, for the memories in those photos are so fresh in her mind that she can remember the actual events, places, and people, as though they just happened. She sees an image of Etta Candy, and herself, at a roller coaster at Coney Island, upon their first trip to New York City. A little laugh escapes from the Princess before she sifts to another photo. This one of a friend named Sameer. She smiles at the sight of him, with his wife and many children.

One last photo sits at the bottom of the box, and Diana spends a lingering moment staring at it.

The door to her office is knocked upon then, and both Donna, and Cassie stride inside it. Diana turns away for a moment to reach for a tissue before she dabs at her eyes and stands up. The box of photos is closed up as she walks it to a drawer on a nearby cabinet, before slipping it back away. When she turns to face the two young women, she smiles at them.

"I am ready, if you are. Let's go, yes?" She says to them, reaching for her jacket and pulling it on as the trio makes for the exit of the office...

Kitty Pryde has posed:
From the SHIELD excursion, the Watchers jump back ahead to another point in the life of Diana Prince. "This is after she recovered," Uatu explains.

Though the Watchers need not physically move to see the items she is looking at, they do, standing around her, unseen as she reminisces through the items.

"She is unlike the others in another way," one of the Watchers comments. "The others, their memories fade with time. Even if they are sharp to our minds. But this Diana, this Wonder Woman, she remembers these events as clearly as we do."

The expression on Uatu's human guise saddens. "Yes. For her both a boon, and a curse, it can be," he agrees.

Morgan Finn has posed:
It's Saturday morning and Morgan Finn's mother, Jenny, was making pancakes from a Shurfine mix she got from a food pantry box. Pancakes were Morgan's favorite. The boy was fast asleep in his bed despite the fact that it's almost 9:00 am. He hadn't been sleeping well lately. He had been wracked by dreams that woke him up screaming and Jenny didn't know what to do about them.

Unbeknownst to Jenny, two different parties with two very different agendas were racing toward her shitty little Hell's Kitchen apartment. One was a snatch-and-grab team from the League of Assassins. They had learned through mystical channels that a young boy demigod lived in Hell's Kitchen with incredible powers to invade someone's mind! They wanted him and they didn't care what they had to destroy or who they had to kill to get him.

The second party was Diana Prince, Wonder Woman herself. Asclepius, Morgan's Olympian father, had learned he was betrayed and that his son's identity and abilities were leaked to the League of Assassins. Forbidden from directly interfering himself, he instead got word a certain powerful Amazon Princess that a boy was in mortal danger. The invisible jet raced with all due haste.

But it was moments too late. There was an explosion as the wall leading into the apartment was destroyed with military-grade explosives. Jenny Finn was killed instantly in the blast. Six assassins from the League poured into the apartment to grab Morgan. They planned to bring him back to their base of operations where he would be brainwashed and tortured until he served their cause. They easily grabbed up the child and were heading out. All too easy. That's when they saw Wonder Woman, tall and regal, decked out in her battle armor, standing at the hole they made in the wall. Standing over the dead body of Morgan's mother.

Ninety seconds later not one of the assassins was left standing and Diana carried the boy, screaming and crying for his dead mother, out of the apartment and into the jet. The course of his young life would be forever changed.

Morgan Finn has posed:
It was the beginning of Christmas break at Happy Harbor High School. Diana Prince had enrolled the young Morgan Finn in the academy. She checked on him from time to time, but she largely kept her distance in the hope that maybe he could find some sense of normalcy in his life. But reports from the school kept coming back to her that Morgan was becoming a behavior problem. All the reports said that Morgan was a good kid with a heart of gold, but that he seemed to deal with some inner conflict that nobody on the faculty could penetrate. Diana decided that maybe it was time for a more hands-on approach.

Lying on his bunk in a very messy dorm room, Morgan was watching the Rams game on his phone, an iPhone that Diana gave him. There was an unexpected knock on the door. "It's open," Morgan called out. The door opened and the very last person in the world that he expected to show up on this lonely night in a nearly empty dormitory passed over the threshold. It was Diana! He jumped up, smacking his head on the bunk above his. "Shit," he murmured rubbing his head. He hit it hard enough to break the skin and make a goose egg. But by the time that Diana entered fully into the room and shut the door, the wound was completely healed. "Diana!" Morgan said, looking self-consciously around the untidy room. He started to quickly pick up clothes and other clutter.

"It is okay, Morgan," Diana said in her smoky voice, with a smile on her lips.

"I wasn't...I wasn't expecting anyone," the teen said self-consciously.

Putting her hand on his shoulder, Diana said gently, "You've been alone here too much. I want you to come to the Embassy for Christmas break. There is a room prepared for you."

Half an hour later, with stuff packed up in a duffel bag, Morgan once again left a place with Diana Prince, but this time moving with his own steam. But once again, his life would be forever changed by this transition.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers draw into focus, at least the focus of each other, for human eyes slide past them, unseeing. They sense the location is back in New York City, and the date as they look to the happy scene of the boy with his mother.

"Humans form quite strong familial bonds, if not quite as strong as some races," one Watcher observes. Another nods. "Even enduring into maturity and adulthood."

As the happy moment is spoiled though, they watch impassively as the now familiar-to-them figure of Wonder Woman arrives to save the boy. "Indeed, her impact is not just on the order of cities or nations, but of individual lives," one notes.

"That is the case for many of Earth's heroes," Uatu tells them. "There are humans who are driven by fame. Or for whom only the greatest logical gain deserves their time. But the greatest of them seem to have a code that compels them in moments like this," he shares.

As the boy is taken away in the Invisible Jet, the Watchers similarly fade from sight.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Flicker

A great hall of stone sits starkly, the construction solid rather then graceful, powerful columns and arches lacking the fine, intricate touches that might be seen in more decorative halls. Banners of a dark, forest green are draped about, hanging from those arches, still now, unmoved by the faint drafts that creep in from outside. Almost as if afraid to draw the attention of the lord of this place.

He sits there at one end of the hall, atop that tiered dias. Atop that imposing throne that lets his look down over any who would approach. His subjects. His supplicants. But none of those fill this hall, not today. Outside the sky is illuminated by a crack of lightning, the light muted by the intricate stained glass windows that seemingly show off the many triumphs of Victor von Doom, unquestioned ruler of Latveria. But none sing his praises, or beg his indulgance or forgiveness. Not now.

As is so often the case, Doom stands alone.

Or sits along at the very least. In one gauntleted fist he clutches a simple piece of parchment. Simple, except of course the fact that it glows faintly, an undeniable tinge of red seeming to radiate from the paper. Perhaps it has something to do with the odd signature at the bottom of the page. A signature that, to all appearances at least, appears to have been signed in blood.

There is no echoing boom, no blaring of trumpets or flash of some unearthly light. No portal spews open to spill out the legions of Hell. One moment Victor von Doom is alone with his thoughts and his ill-gotten prize -- taken with the unwitting help of the Justice League itself. And then next he is no longer alone.

Standing there, at the foot of those steps that lead up to the throne and the monarch who sits in it is a rare figure who might cut an even more intimidating profile then the infamous Dr. Doom. He simply appears, red all over and further wrapped in a red cape that drapes over him. Lean and muscled, with hair black as night the Devil Lord regards the ruler of Latveria with clear contempt in his gaze. Contempt and a burning rage.

"Did you really think that stealing what is mine would make it yours, insect?" Mephisto asks, clawed fingers clenched at his sides as he stares so fixedly at Dr. Doom it is a miracle that the armored figure is not set aflame. "Did you think tricking those fool heroes into aiding you would somehow tip the balance?" he asks, biting out those words. "She is mine! She will always be mine! And nothing you do can change that. The contract shall never be broken," the devil hisses.

In his throne, confronting the potential source of evil itself, Doom does not so much as shift, that iron face plate concealling any emotion away in turn. Except for those eyes. Eyes that match Mephisto hate for hate. "I know your secret Mephisto. You have no power here. Begone. You shall hold the soul of my mother no longer," he says flatly.

"Don't I? Don't I indeed, petty king," comes the soft, almost silibant answer from the Lord of Hell's Ninth Circle. "We shall see about that. Oh yes, we will," he says. And then, just as if he was never there, Mephisto, Lord of Evil vanishes.

Outside in the storm that begins to rage an alarm sound. An army of robots goes to answer the call. And Felix Faust and his collected allies descend on the Doomstadt.

Jason Todd has posed:
The Watchers change scenes again. The seated one in human guise smiles slightly. "These Humans are so resilient. Sometimes they cheat death. Sometimes they can even heal from their trauma. This guy isn't perfect, but I think he's a good example..."

EARTH

Currently, Jason Todd, known as the Red Hood, is taking an evening off. He's lounging in his hideout, watching the Gotham Guardsman play the Metropolis Monarchs. There's enough going on in a basketball game that Jason can focus on it, but it's largely rote enough that he can just tune out and shut his brain off. It's taken Jason some time to be able to relax like this.

YEARS AGO

Blood splatters on the floor as the Joker backhands Jason Todd, the second Robin, with a crowbar, laughing his fool head off. "You've been a bad boy, you must be punished! Prepare yourself for a severe spanking, young man. But let me tell you right from the start..." The Joker's grin is manic, wild eyed and inhuman.

"This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me!"

The crowbar swings and swings. The clown laughing the whole time.

WEEKS LATER

Wrapped in a shroud, Jason's body is lowered into a Lazarus Pit. The horrible vat poils blasphemously, and Jason, restored, howls like a madman out of it.

LATER

Jason lowers the featureless red helmet on. "...I'll get you, Bruce. I'm coming."

Time passed. Further events shaped what was to come. Fighting the Joker and the Bat. Struggling to find balance and peace. Deciding that, maybe, the only one deserving to be a target for his vengeance is the Joker. That Jason is allowed to, maybe, be a person.

NOW

Church, the huge Maine Coon that shares Jason's space, jumps up onto the couch, letting loose a mighty kitty roar right in his face, knocking the Red Hood back to reality.

Fine, fine. I'll feed you, you old sourpuss. Jeez..."

Back on the asteroid, Utau gestures. "He's becoming more of a person every day, less of ... a conduit of vengeance. Maybe his dad should learn that lesson."

Stephanie Brown has posed:
The view out of the Clocktower in Gotham is pretty spectacular by human standards. Though the Watchers give it no attention as they appear inside the structure, into the sanctum of one Barbara Gordon. A nearby computer identifies the date as Jan 26, 2022.

The Birds of Prey have gathered. Not to plan the downfall of a villain, or plot the saving of people of need. No, this is for something far more important.

A birthday cake is carried into the room by Stephanie Brown, a few candles lit as Barbara and Helena Bertinelli join the blond girl as the cake is set down in front of Cassandra Cain.

Uatu looks to the other Watchers, knowing they have already read from Cassandra's thoughts and memories that the girl was never taught to understand the spoken or written word by her parents. Instead trained just to read body language in order to make her the most formidable of fighters.

The Watchers understand, even more than her friends who are throwing Cassandra the party, that the young Asian woman goes along with it for their sake. Because she understand that it makes THEM happy to do this for her.

Cass looks at them all, then she remembers. Birthdays. Parties. There's a tradition, and it hasn't been met. She gathers them around the cake, lit with candles, and then, she blows out her candles. All of them, all five. It's her first time, and she did it well.

Then she sings, because she knows that there's singing involved, and if it causes the Birds to develop a new Birthday tradition, well...that's for them to decide. Because Cassandra Cain only knows one song, and it isn't the one she's supposed to...

Deep breath, and sing along. Over her first birthday cake:

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G..."

Shut up, it's her first try, and you probably didn't do as well on your first birthday.

Though when she says 'Wobblea-you' it's just..perfect.

Uatu doesn't try to hide his human guise's smile as he and the Watchers depart.

Donna Troy has posed:
    The vast War World space station hangs in space high over Earth orbit. Across its surface a hundred pin-points of fire are erupting in fighter bays, where Warzoon fighter craft have been rigged to blow at a critical moment. The space station's shields are down, and its computer systems are collapsing, infected with a virus engineered from Brainiac's self-replicating code. In the foreground a small ship streaks away, returning to Earth -- the Titan's T-Jet, carrying a group of Titans and a few allies who are responsible for the straits War World finds itself in, following a two-pronged attack by an infiltration team delivering the virus and an assault team bringing down surface shields.

    As the T-Jet retreats, it is passed by a vessel dwarfing it, a mighty Warzoon dreadnought captured a couple of days earlier, putting into motion the third part of the plan. On board the Dreadnought are Donna Troy, Terry O'Neil, Caitlin Fairchild and Victor Stone, and they are driving the Dreadnought on a collision course with the space station. The four frantically man the Dreadnought's point defenses as War World attempts to blow the ship up before the collision, but it's soon clear that they are not going to be able to stop giant collision, and War World spins up its warp drives, attempting to open a hyperspace gateway and escape. On board the Dreadnought, the four Titans attempt to escape via one of Terry's Rabbit Holes, but the huge distortions caused by War World's struggling warp drives disrupt the Rabbit Hole, causing it to open onto vacuum. There's no time to try again.

    The viewpoint shifts, following the Dreadnought inside the horizon of the hyperspace gateway as space-time ruptures and a powerful shockwave expands outwards, obscuring the view of what is happening to all eyes but those of the Watchers. They see the interior of the Wormhole mouth undergoing a slow collapse.The damaged War World systems being incapable of locating and avoiding gravitic disruptions to hyperspace, the mouth of the wormhole has been opened close to where an artificial singularity drifts through hyperspace, warping the matrix around it as it passes. Enormous gravitic waves pull at the two ships. The Dreadnought is dragged around in its path, and the shear forces slowly tear the ship in two. The front half scrapes across the surface of the space station, but the rear half ploughs into it, gouging a great would in the battle station's sides.

    Slowly, agonizingly, War World's engines drag it free of the singularity's distortion, and it is sent hurtling through hyperspace on an uncontrolled vector. The front half of the Dreadnought, without power to limp away, is dragged closer and closer to the anomalous singularity -- until it vanishes.

    On the bridge of the ruined Dreadnought, illuminated only by emergency lighting and countless damage control alerts, sirens blare loudly. The figures of the four Titans lie scattered around the floor, slowly returning to consciousness. First Caitlin, untwisting herself from the uncomfortable position she had been thrown in, crawling away from the bulkhead to a console where she activates emergency oxygen. "All's shipshfape, Cap'n," she slurs, very inaccurately. "More power to the... dilithium crystals."

    Terry wakes up next, gasping as the refreshed air hits his lungs. "Cait!" He calls out, hearing his team-mate's voice. "Cait... you okay? Donna? Vic?"

    Victor Stone's consciousness returns with a jerk as his power systems reboot. "I'm alive... I think," he responds, tears in his eyes from the memory of the strange dreams that had assailed the minds of all four in those moments of unconsciousness.

Donna Troy has posed:
    Last to return to consciousness is Donna Troy. The armor she had worn since the Titans had started, her iconic costume, is battered and melted from blaster fire, and she doesn't in much better state. It's the last time she'll wear that armor. "We're alive," she says. "Somehow." Painfully she sheds her ruined armor, gets up from the console she'd been manning, and takes a look through the viewscreen.

    Outside is a vision of fire. A tornado of red and orange plasma frozen in a single moment fills the view, curving in and on itself in an impossible arch across heavens that are empty of stars. Great nebulae of dust float in the sky in a gorgeous spray of greens, yellows and vivid purples.

    Seven worlds hang in the bizarre sky, each a visible orb, far too close together to be remotely natural. The closest - so close the ship must be in orbit - fills much of the lower part of the screen in a vision of blue. A single small island visible amid the world-encircling ocean.

    Donna blinks at the physics-defying view outside, but however hard she blinks, the view remains just as clear, and after a few moments it becomes clear to her that it's real. She makes the only comment that seems suited to the situation the four Titans find themselves in: "Wut?"

    The other three join her at the viewscreen, standing side-by-side to take in the impossible sight of the tiny pocket universe hidden inside the artificial singularity. After a few moment's silence, Terry speaks up. "For the record... this wouldn't even make sense in /Wonderland./"

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers do not need their keen perceptions to be able to tell the titanic struggle that is underway in this place and time. "They are so young for their species," one notes. "Their bravery is not limited to adults," another agrees.

Uatu looks down towards the Earth from where the Watchers observe, floating in space. "The destruction would have been catastrophic," he says. "Though all the threats that have come from other worlds, the humans have rivaled with those of their own making."

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
Where the prior visions of extra-spikey Evil Cassie Sandsmark were shared, one of the Watchers approaches. Time is nothing to them anyway, and it seems interested in examining some other part of the story. With a gesture, the image of the Amazons embracing flies apart, leaving Cassie by herself.

And then her image flickers, shifting. Every moment is like a frame, of a film on rewind.

The Watcher finds the start. A younger girl, watching a the battle against Doomsday on TV. She gets up, goes to her dresser, and starts pulling out some clothes, including a pair of skateboard kneepads...

Now it speeds up, dashing ahead!

A donut shop, full of Titans. Donna is visibly in charge, even of snacks! Gar and Terry. Kate Bishop. Damian Wayne, even MORE adorably smol than he is now. Cassie is being introduced to the others. She fangirls a little over Gar's role in Space Trek, wonders if the newest Robin is as cool as the previous one. Kate is eager to meet the Amazons, as Cassie speaks of their distant island...

A flicker later, and she's sitting on a couch as she, Tim, and Conner all watch TV. Except she's watching Conner, more than the show.

A second later, Tim is talking to Cassie. She ends up crying, and runs off to her room, but not before angrily taking out a chunk of the wall on her way.

Another instant (and also many months) later, and Cassie is standing amidst a field of alien wreckage, again with the Titans, Kate and Dawn. Wonder Woman has sent them on an MMO fetch quest, recovering salvage from the recent battle with the Warzoon. But criminals are loading the goodies on a ship! Cassie does a heroic job punching out the HIVE brute Mammoth, only to suddenly collapse in a gagging fit as his sister Shimmer turns the air around her to poison. She's quickly saved...

By an incendiary arrow from Kate. It happens to set all the gas ablaze and leave Cassie looking like a recently-exploded Wile E Coyote, but she's grateful all the same.

CHANGE! Cassie and Diana are out in party clothes, singing karaoke. That's all!

Another flash, and she's in a hottub on the roof of Titans Tower with various team members. Di shows up, tells her to go down and see her Christmas present. Cassie zooms off, and the image soon follows her as she tears down the street in a little red sports car.

... which segues nicely to her being let out of the TRUNK of said sports car, tied up in her underwear. She looks up with gratitude toward Caitlin Fairchild, her rescuer!

Cut! Now, a mini-montage. Cassie piloting the Invisible Jet, carrying a band of lady heroes: Kate Bishop (completing the prophecy!), Supergirl, Mary Marvel, Waspette, Raven, Viv Vision, and Toni Monetti. Also her mom. Next, the Jet has landed atop a great plateau, and the passengers unload, met by an Amazon delegation led by Queen Hippolyta. A skip, to the courtyard of a Greek-looking structure, Cassie sparring with Amazon warrior while a handful of others look on, some of them yawning and bleery-eyed, as if just roused awake!

Next, the young women prowl through the enchanted Themysciran forest. Soon, they come upon a dread MANTICORE, and leap into combat formation. Kate delivers arrows from behind a shield wall, until the creature charges. It is stopped by a silver, shimmering bubble, courtesy of Toni... then the bubble pops, and the creature falls onto a spear that Cassie has planted. The hunt is complete, and the Amazons cheer!

Well, until another creature of once-myth comes lumbering along and they all run away. SKIP. The Themysciran Vacation Montage (tm) ultimately ends not in violence, but with the whole crew sprawled on the beach, sipping drinks and enjoying the sun.

THE END.

Wait, post credit scene: Cassie and Diana are at the Themysciran arts center, now, standing in front of a huge collection of heroes, young and old, there to learn fighting tips from Wonder Woman. And from their number, Cassie leads aside two young women, Molly Hayes and Monet St. Croix, perhaps the start of another journey...

Jean Grey has posed:
"They lack perspective on the larger universe."

"They will learn. Observe."

Space. A view of the Earth 'below,' cast beneath the shadow of the moon. A small ship comes into view, and not long after, several much larger ones. First is the Milano, piloted by the Guardians of the Galaxy. Aboard the ship is Lilandra Neramani, future Majestrix Shi'ar. In the instant, she is legally a traitor and fugitive, pursued by her brother, wicked ruler of the Shi'ar Empire. It is their ships that follow, three cross-finned battlecruisers of immense size. On Earth below, they are tracked by NASA, SWORD, and a dozen other agencies. Aboard the Milano, an intelligent Raccoon sends a message...

...received by a gathering of some of Earth's very mightiest heroes, led by none other than Kal-El of Krypton, Superman himself. Their gathering stands aboard the Justice League Watchtower on Earth's Moon. But they have received a second message, delivered by Praetor Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, on behalf of their Ambassador. Earth must surrender the criminal Lilandra, as well as a human by the name of Jean Grey, the host of a cosmic being of unimaginable destructive power.

A meeting is arranged, with the Shi'ar Ambassador Shakari. But the Shi'ar are not here to negotiate. When their jurisdictional rights are questioned, the Imperial Guard - a diverse squadron of alien warriors with powers not unlike Earth's own heroes - is dispatched against the Justice League and its allies, provoking a massive brawl. It is fought both inside the station and without, hand to hand, Lantern versus space cruiser, and Superman versus Gladiator.

The latter shakes the moon, even cracks its surface. And Kal-El will not risk the safety of his adopted world for the pride of victory. The Justice League retreats, welcomed, among all places, to Asteroid M, home of the Brotherhood of Mutants.

---

On Earth, Shi'ar commandos representing a half-dozen alien races assault Xavier's School for the Gifted, and a small home in Annandale-on-Hudson. In the former, mutant students fight through the hallways. Gabby Kinney unsheathes her claws and duels a sword-wielding many-armed bug person. Her clone sister Laura leaps from the roof to tear a winged alien from the sky. On the lawn, SHIELD agent Jessica Drew and Shi'ar defector Michael Erickson trade fire with Shi'ar troopers. In the back yard, a rock monster and a robot battle Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Dazzler, who win the day but not before Kitty is ambushed by a strange alien shapeshifter with an energy weapon that can harm even her. Tabitha Smith and James Proudstar lead students through the woods away from danger, only to discover what seems to be his own clone fighting, stabbing Talia Wagner...

The battle ends not around the school, but beneath it, where Jean has led some students into the school basement, pursued by more of the alien attackers. Her friends reach her as she telekinetically holds one at bay, and the battle seemingly ends as the fearsome Black Cloak is beheaded by Laura... only in time to realize that the other attack, on that little home upstate, is underway. The Shi'ar seek to purge the Grey line.

Shakari seeks more than that, to draw out the Phoenix and deliver its power to his Majestor.

And he succeeds.

The image skips ahead, concluding on a single scene: a full manifestation of the Phoenix over a burning suburban home, members of the X-Men and Titans (and many Shi'ar troops) scattered in various states of injury, with an unfamiliar mutant holding out his hand, drawing power, until the firebird -- and Jean herself -- completely vanish.

One of the Watchers comments. "They did not know him, at this time. But they will."

Donna Troy has posed:
    The scene shifts and the attention of the Watchers moves to a gloomy staircase, stretching far above and far below. On the staircase are nine figures, trudging ever upwards. At the front is Caitlin Fairchild, followed by Nadia Pym-van-Dyne, Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, Terry O'Neil, Kian T'Kaeh, Garfield Logan, and Troia. They are tied together with Donna's lasso, glowing faintly gold in the darkness.

    The ninth figure is a slender woman Grecian robes, a flickering lamp held in her hand. She walks alongside Troia, the hushed conversation between the two the only words being spoken. The rest move almost mechanically, step after step, in silence, as if each were unaware of the others.

    "I don't understand why we are seeing this," one of the Watchers, Xecu, says to Uatu. "They appear to be climbing a very tall staircase."

    Uatu shakes his head. "No, nothing will happen, until they reach the top of the stairs." He continues watching the nine on their interminable journey.

    Another of the Watchers shifts uncomfortably. "That does not answer the question of why we are watching this. Is something going to happen?"

    "Not all acts of heroism or bravery are apparent," Uatu says. "These Titans climb this staircase to bring warning to Themyscira of an invasion. They have been told that they will not be allowed to visit Themyscira, but they make this journey anyway. They face the prospect of reaching the top, turning around, and crossing Tartarus -- one of the Hells -- to take this message to a people who they have never met, who they believe will not welcome them, but they do it anyway."

    "An act of noble sacrifice then," Xecu comments. "But still rather dull."

    "Because you're expecting action," Uatu replies. "Drama. Fighting. Moments of daring. What you are witnessing is far more psychological. Each one of them is fighting in their own minds. The one at the front -- Caitlin Fairchild. She believes she is speaking to her dead father, and that she is pursued by the monster she perceives herself to be, because she was created to be a weapon and fears nothing more than the danger that weapon could be to her friends if she were ever to lose control. Before she reaches the top, she will leap off the stairs to protect her team mates."

    "Behind her, Nadia Pym-van-Dyne faces her doubts and fears, one after the other. She is seeing the mother she barely knew. The powerful magic of these stairs is trying to trick her to turn back and go down again, as it does to all of them. But she is finding in this spell an opportunity to say a goodbye to her mother that she never truly had the opportunity to say. To have the chance to tell her mother that she loves her. For her this is a moment of growth, and in a few hours time that will become a literal thing. Her career as a hero has involved using technology to become very small. After this experience, she will for the first time have the courage to use that same technology to become very large."

Donna Troy has posed:
    "Damian Wayne speaks to his grandfather. The boy is split between two families, the Al-Ghuls and the Waynes. Though they represent very different paths, they are both great planners, and Damian Wayne has the choice of being a pawn in the plans of one or the other, or finding his own path. This vision of Ra's Al-Ghul will try to involve him in another scheme, but this is a moment of growth for him too. He chooses the path of the Bat, yet now he learns that this does not mean rejecting a part of himself. He can admit that he loves and misses his other family, and yet he still refuses to walk the path they set for him."

    "The Akiar is an alien stranded on Earth. In his mind he has woken up on his own world to be told that the previous year and a half had been a hallucination, and he had in fact never been to such a world as 'Earth'. He will see the flaws in this vision, and he will come to realize that for all that the world he has found himself stranded on is strange and alien to him, it has become his true home. He has given up all that he knew to defend the Earth alongside the friends he has made, and at last he does so gladly."

    "Terry O'Neil fights voices inside his head. As a child he was constantly told not to reach too high, that he was not worthwhile, that he was sinful and wrong. Although he has become a superhero, although he has risked his life on numerous occasions and has helped to save the entire planet more than once, he finds it hard to believe that he is not an impostor standing beside 'real' heroes. This ascent of a staircase to him is a battle against his own self-doubts, and it will teach him at last to start to believe in himself the way his friends already do. After this his actions will become less reactive and more proactive. He has a creative mind, capable of finding unconventional solutions to great problems. Winning this battle is a major step for him, in defeating the voices in his mind that constantly try to hold him back."

    "Each one of them is fighting a similar battle in their own minds, a fight against themselves. Today we see many overt acts of bravery and heroism, but behold this as a reminder that each of these acts you see -- not just in these eight, but in all of them -- they should not be seen in isolation. The greater bravery and the greater heroism comes from the battles they all fight against their own natures and their own inner pains to be able to perform those acts when they are needed."

    The nine figures continue their interminable ascent, and the Watchers observing nod sagely at Uatu's wisdom.

    Finally Xecu speaks up again. "We should watch the next bit though. They do fight an army of zombie centaurs alongside the Themyscirans after this. I feel we should watch that part too. It would be more uh... it would be... informative.

Jean Grey has posed:
In the aftermath of the Phoenix manifestation and Jean's apparent death, the X-Men gather in their home. They are tending wounded. They are evaluating repairs. And Princess Lilandra is teaching Illyana Rasputina how to do something inconceivable, to travel a billion-odd lightyears to a distant world. It is where D'Ken will complete his plan, she explains, use the power he has stolen to defeat his foes, the Kree and Skrull, and eventually rule the universe.

Distance is no obstacle to Illyana, but knowledge is. She must study the star charts Lilandra provides, so she does not make an error. Even 1% of a billion light years, after all...

Yet the journey is made. Illyana summons her disc, drags her friends through Limbo, and appears with the team: Rogue, James Proudstar, Tabitha Smith, Xi'an Coy Mah, Kitty Pryde... and the Green Lantern John Stewart, whose ring registered the Phoenix's appearance as a new and unfamiliar kind of energy.

They step foot upon an alien world, covered by a massive city and a powerful shield... and yet long dead.

"The Shi'ar call it M'Kraan. But even they do not fully grasp the history of the Maltusians," a Watcher narrates. "This was where Krona did his work. And even his people could not fully grasp the power of the crystal. It was their doom."

The group of heroes travels through the dead city. It is lifeless, yet perfectly intact. While John Stewart's ring /refuses/ him knowledge of the planet, through her magic, Illyana reveals the alien writing. A science city, she calls it. "Very Soviet."

Finally, they reach a facility at the center of the place, a huge transparent dome over an observation arena, with a massive crystal at its center, held on a raised platform, surrounded by unused alien technology. When they attempt to enter, towers bombard them with energy.

"They perceive malice, but it is only a safety feature. The Maltusians, the few who survived the event... they did not wish anyone to repeat their error."

The image changes, to display something never seen by the heroes: D'Ken's arrival, in the company of Shakari and the unknown mutant, who easily the same defensive blasts that later troubled the X-Men (if not before it kills several of the small party of soldiers behind them).

The three approach the crystal, the young mutant touches its surface. Briefly, he manifests an aura of fire and light, and the crystal reacts, its surface flashing white, and then transparent, showing a sort of city within. They step inside.

"He thought he could control it. Yet had he not been stopped, this version of the universe..."

----

"Let us return to the others," the Watcher narrates. "They enter, and what happens next, happens largely in their minds. Let us..."

The Watcher waves its hand, moving through scenes, as if skipping ahead. Some are strange, surreal. The twisted memories of the X-Men. A seemingly infinite tower, under construction, where they are interrogated by a kindly worker.

"They had no idea with whom they spoke," the Watcher comments. It almost smiles.

Finally, the X-men reach what seems a throne room. Jean -- her body? her mind? her spirit? -- hangs on the wall. D'Ken stands triumphant, wielding a crystal scepter, and Shakari, in huge, red armor, stands in their way. Yet Tabitha and Illyana defeat the armored figure, and X'ian uses her power to puppet the mind of their mutant servant, and turns his powers against D'Ken. The scepter's crystl shatters, and the walls around them start to shatter with it.

Meanwhile, Rogue finds Jean chained in the room, and carries her out, to where James stands before...

The image shows the Phoenix in its full glory, wings outstretched. Even the Watchers seem curious of the display.

Rogue offers up her friend's body, to be grasped in the firebird's talons, and embraced. There is another flash of light....

"And thus, one disaster averted," declares one of the Watchers. "And another set in motion. We will continue to watch as this unfolds."

Cassandra Cain has posed:
"This one is a bit different. It is an example of a choice made which is worth mention. Not all moments are the ones you expect them to be. Two heroes were having one of their ephemeral mating relationships, as it happens. And as it happens it ended badly. One expects such things to be riotous, even to cause waves through the entire life, and yet to in the end be minor."

"It is perhaps more momentous the battle that occurred afterward though. Let us monitor it, for there is much of note in this event. We have seen the participants before. It matters not, though context is often crucial. Observe."

Within a simple apartment, cluttered as they tend to be, the singer from earlier named Cassandra plays with toys, and one who sang with her named Stephanie returns. Her relationship with another has just ended, and there are many emotions. Strong, deep. There is potential for great tragedy in the air.

Cassandra rises to the door. Her ability with others tells her that there is pain, and she reacts. She steps forward, her hands balling into fists. It takes a great effort from her to stay with Stephanie, in her need. Which is when this silent event changes, and Cassandra raises the hand from a doll to touch Stephanie's face, and brush away one of the tears.

Anger is there, but transformed through power of a will that will not allow a friend to be alone. Someone that she loves, dearly, on a level that this lost lover may have never touched.

And the detail slows down, to see what really happened then. With a chest of toys, and a pain that must be brought down. To not be alone.

Cassandra Cain has posed:
"This one is a bit different. It is an example of a choice made which is worth mention. Not all moments are the ones you expect them to be. Two heroes were having one of their ephemeral mating relationships, as it happens. And as it happens it ended badly. One expects such things to be riotous, even to cause waves through the entire life, and yet to in the end be minor."

"It is perhaps more momentous the battle that occurred afterward though. Let us monitor it, for there is much of note in this event. We have seen the participants before. It matters not, though context is often crucial. Observe."

Within a simple apartment, cluttered as they tend to be, the singer from earlier named Cassandra plays with toys, and one who sang with her named Stephanie returns. Her relationship with another has just ended, and there are many emotions. Strong, deep. There is potential for great tragedy in the air.

Cassandra rises to the door. Her ability with others tells her that there is pain, and she reacts. She steps forward, her hands balling into fists. It takes a great effort from her to stay with Stephanie, in her need. Which is when this silent event changes, and Cassandra raises the hand from a doll to touch Stephanie's face, and brush away one of the tears.

Anger is there, but transformed through power of a will that will not allow a friend to be alone. Someone that she loves, dearly, on a level that this lost lover may have never touched.

And the detail slows down, to see what really happened then. With a chest of toys, and a pain that must be brought down. To not be alone.

Cassandra Cain has posed:
See, there are times when Cassandra understands just fine. But she may not necessarily agree. She stands, letting Stephanie have freedom of the hand (not the Hand, that's a different conversation for another time). And then she hunches down by the toys.

She reaches into the toy chest, then comes up with a My Little Pony.

The pony walks along the edge of the toy chest, then starts to fall. It adjusts itself, then leaps into the air, as Cassandra's other hand pulls out something..is that Rainbow Brite?

She sits there, with a toy in each hand, and looks up at Stephanie. She looks young, and so beyond the pain that is causing Stephanie to hurt, so ...human. She just wants to play.

There might be room for someone to join her, and it would ease the longing in those darkling eyes.

The late September day in Gotham was cool enough that some would call it cold. Leaves were changing and falling, their blowing forms adding to the normal layer of human-originated detritus that one can find in the less-cared for parts of Gotham.

A light was on in an 8th floor apartment of University Apartments, sharing it's meager light with the night via the sliding glass door to the balcony.

And within, ponies and dinosaurs and dolls - with one arm, or two - were given life again. One person taken back to old memories that help ease pains of today. Another finding enjoyment in a playtime she'd never known.

"And they did it together." Uatu nods firmly. "Pain brought low by something so simple. A decision that would change them forever. And the battle fought was without loss of life, and ...rather enjoyable." He looks up, then nods quietly.

Cassandra Cain has posed:
There is another, and even Uatu isn't certain where it came from. An image, still and perhaps uncertain, but somehow alive in itself. It appears to be a moment when people at a mansion, large and lavish, are awakened. The night is deep outside, but a sound has brought them forth.

The sound, investigated, is a simple thing, but which causes some of the people in the single frame to stare, to laugh, and to fall over. As a werewolf, a girl, young, is barking with all the pride and fierceness she can manage.

It appears that she has been forced to establish her dominance against the Roomba, and is taking it VERY SERIOUSLY. The outcome of the barking match is not yet decided, but Roombas are not known for backing down. And Rahne Sinclair has yet to win dominance against anything!

There is no outcome, no finish to this one. It leaves the viewers as uncertain as the Roomba, whose mechanical heart may just have been moved, that day. Or not; it's a robot after all.

April O'Neil has posed:
April throws her bedroom door open, wearing a yellow and black football jersey with a pair of short white shorts on. She is barefoot, and starts scurrying out of her bedroom. "Harley!" April shouts, seeing the living room is a complete, and total, disaster zone. The Hyenas are laying on the floor between two pizza boxes, there is bottles of empty booze laying all over the place, and the television is blaring 'Tank Girl' at full volume!

"Uuuuuuuuugh!" April says, starting to march out in to the living room. "Harley where the hell are you!?" She shouts, gathering up a grocery bag before stuffing trash in to the plastic container. Cups, bottles, a Funko POP box for 'Jack the Ripper' with no sign of the POP toy anywhere to be seen. "Great, it's probably ALIVE, and hiding somewhere..." April mutters as she steps over one of the Hyenas that doesn't even look at her.

"Haaaarleeeeee!" April shouts again, gathering up two pizza boxes with holes in the bottoms. "Did you two lick through the boxes?" She asks Bud and Lou, neither of them even looking up at her, though Lou makes a grunt noise.

April SIGHS, and keeps picking up more trash. Six bags later and she's opening the door downstairs to throw the garbage in to the dumpster behind her Antique Store and Apartment building.

She drops the lid on the dumpster, and then turns around to see a Food Truck parked behind her building in the alley, and a line of people standing waiting for meals.

"What, the, hell..." April says, walking toward the line, and peering over them.

Inside the Food Truck is Harley Quin, wearing a paper hat and a shirt decorated with all kinds of 'flare'.

"Harley?" April asks, causing people in line to look back at her. "Get in line, ya mook!" Someone shouts at April, who protests. "But she's my roommate."

"I don't care if she's your long lost grandfather! Get in line like the rest of us, if you want some'a these tacos!"

April raises her eyebrows at this, then starts to shuffle to the back of the line on bare feet, her hands going up to rub at the back of her arms. She gets behind a old chubby guy and whispers to him. "Are these good tacos?"

The chubby guy looks back at April, his eyes going up and down her body, before he looks forward again. "Lady, you got no idea..." He says in a thick Brooklyn accent, before taking a swig from his Bud Light.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Harley Quinn rollerskates backwards down a busy Brooklyn street, facing Colette, who is walking forwards, due to being slightly more sensible. From time to time Colette yells at people to get out of the way, though only when she's not too busy talking about other things.

     "You're a psychiatrist, right?" Colette asks the psychoclown. "I mean instead of listening to what other people say, maybe you should listen to yourself. I mean you're the expert, right? Maybe you should do sessions with yourself." Advice from Colette does not necessary approximate other people's view of 'a good idea.'

     Colette looks thoughtful. "Actually I bet if you streamed that on Twitch you'd make a fortune. Especially if you took exception to your own analysis and got in a fight with yourself. Instant viral superstar."

    Harley considers the suggestion, before responding "I unno about recordin' it though. Doctah patient confidentiality is a big deal foah tha quack." Yes, she's referring to herself as a quack.

    The conversation veers back onto a previous topic of t-shirts -- the two women are on a quest to get themselves t-shirts printed up. T-shirts intended to bridge a fine line between being both highly offensive and hard to take offense to, yet ideal for getting yourself into a bar fight with. Or, as Harley puts it, "Now I jus' gotta think up an appropriately flatterin' design foah this shirt... Not to risque, don't wanna offend people, but risque enough tha' they definitely /start/ ta get offend't, but then realize how much work I put inna not offendin' em an' foahgive me."

     "You know," Colette remarks, smirking a little. "The simple way to ensure that they start to get offended by your shirt is just to get the shop to print 'f..."

    The vision suddenly vanishes. "You know, perhaps that little vingette is a reminder that there are some things perhaps we shouldn't watch /too/ closley," Uatu remarks.

Rogue has posed:
The winter olympics were over at Xaviers School. Now the competition had moved out to the frozen-over lake of Breakstone, amongst the trees of the forest of the same name... Here is where it really heats up!

A pair of ice skates touch down on to the cold smooth surface of the lake's solidified water. The laces are tightened and secured, before the wearer gives a quick testing of forward, and backward sweeps of their feet.

Steamy hot breath escapes between a pair of dusky hued lips, followed be a pair of sport sunglasses being put on over a pair of deep green eyes. A french beret is turned around backward on her head, as the two-toned haired mutant woman skates out on to the ice...

From the shore, the student known as 'Hambone' presses a button on a state of the art bluetooth stereo system, and a song plays...

'I need a Hero!'

As it starts to build up, Rogue starts to skate around, keeping her edges crisp and her motions fluid, graceful, but most of all... skillful!

Far more skillful than Jean Grey is capable of!

Just as the song lunges in to a crescendo, Rogue rips her dark forest green hoodie sweater off, revealing a black and green sports bra, bedazzled in golden glittering gems!

Her black lycra pants also adorned with green and gold gems that go down the outside of her hips that they cling tightly to, and further down to her thighs!

She skates quickly past the edge of the lake, leaving a burst of wind to blow Jean's red hair back, along with the students gathered up to watch!

Then with her arms swinging right, and left, she rushes out on to the frozen ice surface to put on the greatest show of ice dancing that has ever been seen!

That was the day that Jean died... of shame, at her lackluster skating skills...

Jean Grey has posed:
a-HEM.

After being doused in snow spray, Jean mysteriously vanishes...

There is time enough for the students watching to begin murmuring, looking around in doubt. Where is she?! Was Rogue too intimidating? Has the Headmistress abandonned her school spirit?

No!

The murmurs shift to excitement. She's here!

Coming around a bend in the lakeshore for maximum dramatics, Jean skates into view. As of yet, she's still dressed as she was for the earlier Snowlympics, her comfy green sweater, red skirt and flesh tights. Her hair is tucked beneath a wool pom hat. A very classic skating outfit. Very CUTE.

Gracefully, elegantly, she skates out into view, drifting side to side, shifting from one skate to the other with each long step. There is no urgency, just a smooth, calm arrival...

...until she brings herself to a halt with her own hard skid stop. She means business! This is also the signal for Hambone the DJ. For Hambone knows no political allegiance beyond his XBox...

As the music starts, Rogue may find it familiar from her own, carefully hidden GOTH phase. The gentle, yet melancholy piano and soulful lyrics: 'How can you see into my eyes...'

Jean lifts her arms above her head... and then drops them as she skates ahead. Her movements are ARTFUL in a way the athletic, perhaps BEEFY Rogue lacks. Her performance soulful. Every step is like part of a dance, a ballet upon the ice. In time with the lyrics, she gestures in tempo, reaching out to the crowd.

And then the music really hits, and Jean is truly BROUGHT TO LIFE.

Clutching her chest, and then throwing her arms wide, she explodes in brilliant light, outstretched arms echoed by insubstansial burning wings for a brief instant. In the same motion, her outfit burns away, crackling energy transfiguring into half a superhero costume, half a skater's compettion dress: red leotard, gold skirt with a sash-like waist, and similar long gold gloves, boots, and sparkly details.

The hat is gone. Her hair is FREE.

From here, Jean skates with burning and fiery PASSION. There are even JUMPS now, even if they're amateur level stuff: a waltz jump, reversing skating direction. And everywhere she goes, there is a gentle sparkling left in her wake, like embers falling off her fiery mane.

The performance ends with a layback spin, and when she is finally upright again, her clothing has returned to its prior version. Her eyes seek Rogue on the lake shore. Take that!

Meanwhile, Utatu gestures. "I am not sure the meaning of these events. Let us continue..."

Gwen Stacy has posed:
This wasn't how Gwen expected this night to go. Not at all. Just some good ol' criminals going 120 on a 50 street while trying to escape the police. I mean, that's how most vigilantes spend their nights, right? Hanging upside down from a building, listening to the police sirens in pursuit and waiting for the best moment to jump onto the moving car.

"Maybe I should get a life."

That's what goes through her head when she jumps from the building to go land right on top of that moving car. But who needs a life when she is pumped with adrenaline and listening to Garbage through her earbuds?

"Alright, everyone. Put your guns down, pull over and--" Criminals can be amazingly receptive when they have someone dropping in on their car like this. Or they start shooting out. Heh, it's about 50-50 really. Doesn't mean she won't try it. But that's right when her night gets hit sideways with a rather larger figure dropping in atop the car, all in black. Venom.

She imagines the odds of those criminals giving up just went down from 50-50 to maybe like ..., 10%. Heh, she is being generous. Specially when Venom speaks about wanting one for himself. And Ghost Spider can keep the others? Great, this just went down to a 0% chance of going well.

A fight ensues. Venom runs off with the driver in his hands while she stays back to deal with the others. "What happened to chivalry? Leaving a lady to fend off by herself?" now she might just be poking at Venom. Not that he listens. But she also can't let Venom go and ..., do whatever he wants to do with that man. Eat him? Most likely. He *was* asking about whether he had washed his feet or not which ..., urgh.., she hates feet people. She has to save him though so she gets in pursuit..

"This may be a bad idea..." Oh, who is she kidding. She lives for this. The adrenaline of being out there on the streets, being a hero. Helping people, and no matter how much of a criminal someone may be doesn't mean they deserve to be eaten. Not that Venom is accepting of her rather logical arguments. Really, she makes some great points! (At least in her head), but then he has to go all King Kong and jump up to the top of a building to eat the man..

"You did not choose .., wisely." Is Gwen's reply. Who though? Venom or Gwen? Maybe both. Because then an aerial combat ensues with that poor gangster in the middle of it. One trying to eat him, the other trying to save him. Gwen feels the wind rushing against her face as she dives in after the man once he begins falling. Webs stop the fall but Venom comes in after and kicks her away and snatch his prize. He throws him up into his waiting maw and Ghost Spider saves the man again with a dropkick on Venom! Newspaper stands are then thrown around. Quips about Venom needing a diet (He does!) It's a chaotic mess of a fight with the criminal screaming his way through it.

It all comes to an end when Ghost Spider starts swinging across buildings, away from Venom, the anti-hero hot in pursuit and angry at his meal being snatched from him.

"Say, you more of an Hammer or an Anvil?" Ghost Spider then asks over a shoulder when a web shot 'misses' Venom, "Maybe you need to work on your aim and--" there's a smirk under Ghost Spider's mask as she yanks hard at the neon sign she latched onto and it flies squarely in Venom's direction. It's enough to send Venom sprawling down to the asphalt. And then a truck hits him hard. She winces.

"Sorry about that! That's what you get for wearing only black at night!" See? Maybe there's a reason she dresses in white. Not as much danger of getting hit by oncoming traffic!

It's enough to get away. To save the criminal. No, to save a life. She had failed before when her best friend had died in her arms, she wouldn't let it happen again. And sometimes that's all we need to be a hero.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
A quinjet flies up above the Atlantic. Inside? A group of SHIELD and Inhumans, together for a common goal.

All her life has brought her to this moment. All the struggle. The losses, the wins. To think that she would now be here to lead her own SHIELD team? It's certainly not something that the young Daisy Johnson imagined things would go when she was living out in her van and looking for the truth about her family.

Her mind goes back to those times. The uncertainty. Being taken by SHIELD and then becoming an Agent. The mingle of fates between her and one Matthew Murdock. How the choices they took together shaped what their future would be. Him as the hero known as Daredevil and she as Quake.

Her thoughts swirl again, showing her Melinda May and Bobbi Morse. Her drill sergeants with a heart of gold (not that any would ever acknowledge so!), the man that gave her hope, Phil Coulson. The father she needed.

She remembers the duo Fitz-Simmons, their help with keeping her powers in check, the long nights at the lab where she bribed them with food and chocolate. At first because she needed one thing or another. And then because she genuinely enjoyed their company. It was a 'gang' that expanded when Jane Foster got into their lives as well, another good friend. A friendship that flourished into them making the Furiae. That brings a smile to the young Inhuman...

Finding her real mother, the Inhuman Jiaying made her realize that maybe dreams could come true. Even if at a great sacrifice and pain. It also made her figure out her own path, her destiny, what she was meant to be and do. She was an Inhuman, and she was meant to lead and protect them. It was her way. And now that they knew about an actual Inhuman city on the Moon? With a King? Who knew what could next?

Her thoughts snap back to reality as May's voice sounds on the intercomms. "Arriving in Madeira in 10 minutes." Daisy re-opens her eyes to look at the assembled team on the back of the quinjet. Her team, her family. The first steps into a future she couldn't help but embrace.

"Suit up, Secret Warriors. It's time to assemble."

Elektra Natchios has posed:
It had been a while since Elektra had this kind of genuine smile to her lips. Preparing a New Year's escapade. Did she deserve this? She wasn't sure. She was a killer, and some even said she was supposed to be the Black Sky, the weapon of the Hand. Would she embrace this destiny? She wasn't sure...

She wasn't sure why she had come to New York after all those years. Revenge? Because of Matt? Perhaps at start but it had become something more, something better. She had found some measure of hope, some purpose beyond the killing, the blood. She could still feel it though, dripping down her fingertips every time she closed her eyes but now it wasn't all there was.

She had Colleen now. The young dojo owner who often acted as her conscience. She had June. A daughter? Well, more like a brat she took care of. Yet it all gave her a purpose.

But now that she was atop that skyscraper's rooftop, the wind on her face and she sitting on the edge of the building she knew this was where she belonged. The first pops of fireworks begin to be heard across the city, the new year finally arriving.

"Happy New Year, Selene." She watches the other woman's unnaturally blue eyes, lost in them.

Yes, this is where she belonged.

Thea Queen has posed:
"Thank you for your support." Oliver's voice breaks Thea out of her thoughts, "Back on the ship."

They are on Lian Yu again. The island that broke both herself and Oliver. Or did it strengthen who they were now? These days Thea wasn't sure. Oliver had come out a different man from the island. Broken in some ways. Strong in others. Was he still her brother? She had no doubt about it. In the same way that his absence, along with the loss of Robert, their father, had broken her. Sent her down a spiralling path where she had only been able to claw back out due to the influence of her family.

The Queen family.

"I will always be your sister, Ollie. I just ..., I want to understand. Like others do." They are walking down some jungle pathways on Lian Yu. Ollie has a goal in mind, one that she isn't certain yet where it leads to. Even if she dreads the destination but also looks forward to it. Can someone be scared and at the same time drawn to something? To answers?

Oliver's blue eyes turn to watch Thea. So kind. So like she remembers them from back then. Before all this. But they also told her he was ready to share the burden. He was ready to let her in. His sister had grown, and he knew it now. They stop near a tombstone. It has a simple name there. "Queen" but Thea knows who is buried there. Robert. Their father who had died in this island.

The truth comes out. That their father hadn't died at sea. He had been there, on the island. He had suffered and Oliver hadn't been able to save him. It was one of his greatest defeats, perhaps the greatest. It was a truth he had kept to himself in order to spare his sister. Errant tears fall down Thea's face now. She touches the tombstone, the letters engraved there. It meant something, their blood had been spilled here. It was a truth she hadn't been aware of for years. A secret she had blamed Oliver for but in truth he had been looking out for her.

She feels it then, the burden being lifted from the siblings. One that finally understands he can share the burdens. Another that knows she will always be a Queen. No matter what. Thea feels her brother's arms around her then, large and protective, "I think this is what he would have wanted. He hated when we fought. Our family was important to him. We were." she says, which, is to say, a big personal breakthrough for her, finally repeating what she'd been told but maybe never truly believed before this visit to the island.

"He loved us both with all his strength. That much I know." Oliver says, and he does agree with her. Surprised that she'd say so? Maybe. But his expression stays stoic. "It's how we can honor his life." being a family. A real one.

"As long as you don't expect me to listen to you all the time." Thea rubs some of the tears from her eyes, that mischievous look of a little sister visible on her eyes.

An hearty laugh comes out of Ollie, the man then shaking his head. "You wouldn't be Thea Queen if you did."

Closure.

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar , the younger one, is chased from the mansion, you all know which one, he made some new friends and uncovered a ring of 1%ers trafficking in mutant children. They were kept in cages ready to be sold off as pets or worse. It was to happen at their annual bachanal, away from prying eyes on an island in the Mediterranean. Well, Warpath bore no grudges, he rallied the guys, they mastered the element of surprise and infiltrated what amounted to an island wide rave. The battle is quite spectacular, ninjas, soldiers, giant mechs and dark magicians all felled by the mutant assaulters. The children were rescued and returned to their parents, some have since returned as students. Oh and the authorities even managed to arrest the 1%ers, it seems they served endangered great white shark in addition to the trafficking, and weapons charges.

Austin Reese has posed:
It was a snowy day in Gotham when the package had arrived on the doorstep of the small apartment Austin Reese had been staying in. He hadn't ordered anything, and the package wasn't marked. Never the less he had taken it inside and opened it carefully.

It hadn't exploded, which was a good sign. Instead it was a grey and black body suit, with ceramic plates and seemingly designed to fit him. The thing that really caught his eye was the digitized bat logo, and the note.

'Keep Gotham Safe'.

"What in the hell.." He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Austin had to take some time in order to process this, that Batman himself had seen something in him. After that though, he put it on. His mind drifted to Phoebe, or Balm as he had met her initially, who had warned him to use a mask if he followed this path. He didn't have a mask, but he did have a pair of goggles and a hoodie to help. It wasn't much, but a start.

All dressed in the outfit, he went out of the window onto the fire escape, and then up onto the roof. He had no idea what that step onto the roof would lead him to down the way, it was the first step on what was to be a very weird journey.

Reed Richards has posed:
Old Man Richards stands in his lab with pride looking at his creation. A cupcake, the perfect cupcake. The cupcake Sue has been raving about since that evening in 2017, but is it... too pefect. Reed frowns as the cupcake fractalates in a most un pastry like fashion. It ripples with possibility. That is when Susan and Val enter.

Reed Richards has posed:
Old Man Richards sees the delight in his wife's eyes, the critical evaluation in his daughter's snd that is when it all goes wrong. The cupcake explodes into a cacophony of buttercream, cake and possibility.

Reed Richards has posed:
Sue puts up a shield to hold the expanding baked good in place, holding her own but only just as Reed and Val race against time and entropy to stop the expanding pastry from consuming the building, the world and possibly the universe itself. In the end they prevail and only the three know how close they came to a delicious, fluffy sugary end. Herbie cleans up.

Janet van Dyne has posed:
"What? Just here, talk into this?" The image resolves itself into an image of Janet van Dyne taking her seat on a low sofa. A moment later, Nadia leaps into frame, landing in a seated position and jostling Janet a little. Janet startles briefly and laughs it off, hugging Nadia with one arm. She's dressed in a smart grey-green skirtsuit, with a blaze yellow blouse under the jacket.

"Uh, biggest thing that's happened to me," Janet says to the camera. "I got tricked into adopting this miscreant," she says with a beaming smile, and tousles Nadia's hair (carefully making sure not to put it into real disarray). "She played us all pretty good, but I think she's worth keeping around," she declares. "And the Waspette will be all the rage in a few years. Y'know, after I retire the Wasp. Pass on the mantle, etc. etc." she declares with an airy wave of her hand.

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
"Wait what? What's going on? Hi!" Nadia waves an emphatic greeting as she leaps into the frame landing seated next to Janet and leaning against her. She's dressed in a red and black plaid skirt, big stompy boots, and a deep red Prussian Hussar-esque top with a vertical line of small round silver buttons on each side. The garment is missing the sleeves though, which have been replaced by a pair of black fingerless opera gloves starting at her elbows. And over it all a white lab coat is allowed to hang open, worn more like a cape than for actual protection, with a nameplate reading 'Pym-Van Dyne' on it.

"The biggest thing that's happened to me?" Nadia stops and thinks, placing her right index finger on the side of her chin. "I mean there's so much, but if I had to pick just one.." She makes a subtle pointing gesture towards Janet with her other hand. "It's getting a Mom, a really amazing one, that's alive, and putting to rest the ghost of the one that's dead. More than anything else she taught me how to value myself, how to live."

Janet van Dyne has posed:
Janet tries to roll her eyes like Nadia's just told a corny joke, but it's mostly to hide the emotions welling up there. "Well, I can confirm I am completely alive, and good at staying that way." A little levity eases up the moment, but she hugs Nadia fiercely with that one arm all the same.

Janet beams a smile at Nadia, then looks back at the camera. "I think-- I /know/," she amends, and gives Nadia a faux-apologetic glance, "that I've got the coolest, smartest kid in a cape, in the world," she declares with that peerless self-confidence. "Everyone loves her, you're rostered with like-- what, four? Five teams?" she hazards at Nadia. "You're almost as bad as Steve. He went to the office to get boots one day, then three days later he texts me 'oh hey I'm in Afghanistan, home Friday'."

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
Nadia flails a bit as she is drawn into the fierce hug! Only to turn and hug Janet tightly with both her arms. It just wouldn't be a video record of Nadia if she wasn't hugging someone.

"What me? No.. I'm only really on the Titans. Officially anyway, I just have lots of friends and I wouldn't be a very good friend if I didn't help them out when they're in trouble! Oh and GIRL, but that's more of a SCIENCE! club. I mean I guess we did save those unicorn kitties from the Raiders on the Planet Rann, and repel an AIM attack, but the SCIENCE! is the important part!" It is not the most convincing of protests.

Janet van Dyne has posed:
"-And- the Avengers," Janet corrects Nadia. "You're on the auxiliary roster with us." She turns a beaming smile on Nadia, then flashes the winsome expression at the camera. "So yeah, that's the story of the best thing in my life," she informs the watchers. "I never would have guessed it'd happen like this. In fact I probably would have run the other direction on principle a few years back. But the way it unfolded, y'know, she made me realize what I was missing in my life, and now I wouldn't go back to my old life for anything," she says with firm emphasis. "Money can buy a lot of stuff, but it can't buy the things that make us really happy."

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
"And the Avengers." Nadia agrees with Janet with a big smile. "But that's more like family than a team. They're the closest thing to a family that I've really had. I mean Dad is there and you're there and Captain Step-Dad is there and Uncle Thundergod and Tony." For some reason, to this day, Tony Stark remains the only storied Science Genius she will only address casually.

When Japan has heart heartwarming moment about what money can't buy, Nadia can't help but pipe up, "But it can buy pizza!" She chimes in, "And oh wow, if you haven't tried pizza you are missing out! It is the absolute best! It even has an infinitely configurable array of toppings! Nobody told me about the toppings at first, but now you know." She asides the last bit like a conspiratorial secret.

Kaida Connolly has posed:
It was an exciting month! Kaida had met new friends, joined a bunch of new people at a certain T-Shaped tower. She had a home! Honestly, few even in the Titans probably had any idea that the mouse girl had been basically homeless for going on four years when they took her in. It wasn't as bad for her as it was, say, for a human to be homeless. Mice have the size advantage when it comes to finding food and shelter.

It was still nice to have a home.

Be that as it may be, she had made many friends over the years. There were some homeless areas in Metropolis and New York City where some criminals knew to be extra wary. Many had no idea what it was that would defend the homeless but they knew that it was small, fast, and frankly sharp. The reason it was sharp? Well, a man named Rueben had made a very tiny little katana like sword for a certain mouse.

Rarely was it that Kaida walked anywhere but when she got to the place where Reuben stayed, she was happily whistling, keeping her sword to her shoulder with a smile. She liked carrying it like this when she visited him because she knew he liked to see his handy work. It brought the poor man a bit of joy to know he'd helped someone. He was like her. A helper.

"Reuben!" Kaida called out in her larger than life voice, projecting in a way that one might not expect. When she walked in though, she blinked, she could already smell something wrong. Hear how the place sounded. Wrong. Things were wrong.

"Reuben?" She called out quieter and then she suddenly was a blur and was in the living space Reuben had made for himself. The older man was in his favorite chair. Sitting like he always did. The small dirty, partially boarded up window beside him. His head fallen to one side, one hand hanging limply off the chair. His chest still.

The clatter of a tiny sword was audible on the dirty tile floor even as small tears followed behind it.

Morrigan MacIntyre has posed:
The heart wants what the heart wants.

Morrigan had awoken in a bit of a dazed state. It was still in the early hours before she'd need to wake herself up and travel to her parents for Thanksgiving. But this year she'd not be going alone. She'd asked Marc along, which was going to be a study in trying to have a bit of normalcy with the man given his other 'hobbies'.

She'd rolled over in bed, trying to shift to where it wouldn't wake the man that was asleep. To her amusement Occam had wiggled his way up onto the other side of the sleeping man and had woken up to look at her, a tiny 'mew' of protest given, as if in warning to not wake his bedmate.

She'd become chopped liver. Honestly, she didn't blame Occam for not wanting to share.

He didn't sleep so peacefully most nights and he slept here rarely, but she was hoping that he'd continue to. His activities as Moon Knight had left her a bit on the fence, but it was something that she'd either have to accept or she'd have to let him go. Which was a bit painful to think on really.

He had thankfully never woke up to her staring at him like she was a loon. This might have scared him, or he'd have made some smartass remark about it and rolled back over. He was a balance that she didn't know that she had needed. And he at least understood the other part of her that she didn't like to bring up. Even if she wished she could get rid of the urges, it was going to be there for life.

She could stay up and stare at him the rest of the night or she could snuggle into him and sleep for a few more hours. She went with the latter, carefully scooting under the cover until she curled up to his side and laid her head on his shoulder. Occam then snaked his way around to lump himself onto her pillow, pinning her in the middle of the bed.

Hopefully Marc wouldn't wake up and try to snap her neck thinking she was an assassin.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"I unno if people appreciate how difficult it is for a woman like Ha'lee Quinn ta change.. what they gonna do? Shock her inta sanity?" Leaning forward, neck snapping slightly. "Medicine? Is tha' the solution?" The psychologist in her knows the answer. Pharmacuticals are a finger in a broken dam of that kind of insanity. "There's gonna be hiccups along the road... meanwhile, she's bein' judged harshly by the poster child of shitty parentin'? Who the /fuck/ lets their pre-teen run aroun' alone after midnight shootin' bows an' arrows at Russian Mobsters?"

"We have seen her before," one of the Watchers points out. Harley Quinn seems to be one of those recurring leitmotifs. But it's hard to argue with it- like all the best leitmotifs, she's immediately identifiable, and she has a hook.
She is standing in April's apartment, drinking coffee straight from a coffeepot, her eyes fixated suspiciously on a young red-headed man in his late teens.

"The young man is Terry O'Neil, whom you remember was climbing the stairs with the others, Xecu. Although not in a guise seen before in prior recollections," Uatu points out, "This is prior to the events that caused him to acquire his powers."

The redhead frowns, and looks visibly nervous, as if he suddenly realizes who is it that he's speaking to. "If she reaches out.... well. There are peple who won't turn her aside. I bet my money that he could talk to Wonder Woman about what she's going through. If Superman were alive..." he sighs, "Yeah. He would've been good, too. Batman-" he takes a swig of his milk "N-nn-ooo. You know, I don't know if there is a service like that for people who want to change life in the community. I think it'd be a great thing..." He dissembles for a moment, before coming back into focus.

".... yeah. Wonder Woman is probably the most compassionate person on earth. That being said, I hope Harley can do it. If she manages to stop killing people and jut, you know, beats them up and bags them up, it may show enough people that she's being earnest." the way he speaks seems to be a very tentative game, one where he pretends he doesn't know who the woman really is, while trying to very deliberately deliver a message.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"Why is he speaking so obliquely?" Xecu inquires.
"Because he is in fear of his life. She is a known killer."
"Then why-"
Uatu gestures. The scene blurs and is replaced by a golden glow. A golden length of rope suddenly dangles down, briefly obscuring the image with its light. Then, a husky, gentle voice is heard.

"Place your wrist inside of the loop and tell me the truth as you see it inside of your heart, Harley Quinn." The Lasso of Truth slowly sways back and forth as it dangles from Diana's hand.

Glancing up sheepishly when the golden length of rope descends from Diana's hands with a loop through which she can place her hands. She holds both hands out, together, which isn't what she was told to do.. but is much symbology as it is necessity. She's keenly aware of those gathered around recording and her usual flare for dramatics is dimmed significantly next to the radiance of Wonder Woman's personae.

"I wanna do right fer myself.. I don't wanna be nobodies puppet no moah. Whatevah decisions I make, I wan'em to be mine wit'out coercion or manipulatin' from others." It's not exactly what she thought she'd say, and it doesn't necessarily speak to being the upright citizen she claims she wants to be, but it's what her heart wants.

Diana crouches down in front of Harley - the lasso glowing brightly around her wrists and quite warm to the touch as well, but not harming Harley so long as she tells the truth. "I will try to help you." Diana tells the young woman. "But you will have to help me, by cooperating."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
There is a brief succession of images. Harley in South America with the Suicide Squad. Then, the wiping of her record- and her walking back into the world as a free woman, making her life as bounty hunter. She's never walking the /straight/ and narrow, she's too chaotic for that, but there is a definite change.

Then an image of the Dreadnought vanishing into the singularity. Newsflashes declaring the Titans in question Presumed Dead. There are tears.

There's Harley and Kian, drinking.

Kian sighs, and flits up to perch on the back of a chair. "Easy to be op-timis'. Har' to have to accep' them gone. I do not wan' them gone. An' me bein' here iss only reason I haf to belief they are may-be still out there." He waves in a vaguely all-encompassing way, as though a simple hand gesture can take in the entire multiverse. And then he smiles very slightly. "I am not cer-tain bein' har-ves-ted iss better than bein' in the wron' after-life."

As the talk goes back to mention optimism and acceptance she grows a touch more sober, watching the bird-man with a more clear gaze on those usually wild blue eyes. "Sometimes all it takes is foh us to have that optimism foh the miracle ta happen." she murmurs. "They will know we awhe heah hopin' fiercely foh them to return. It will lend them strength to come back." she nodding as if to confirm her words.

"Vorps was one oh the very few that believed in me. So I am heah doin' the same foh him now. It's what we can do, believe and make suwah to act when we find a way ta help bring 'em back."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
Then there's Vorpal, on a rooftop, talking to Harley while sitting on a lawn chair. "Harl. I don't care. I really don't. If someone is going to snub me because I'm your friend, it's their fucking loss." The cat takes another sip from his hard lemonade. "I know it's not sunshine and rainbows. I know you've got your demons. So do I. I accept you as you are, and I believe in you. Even Gar has come around, and he was terrified of you." Whether this was via a true turnaround or just getting accustomed to it like a long-term exposure therapy, who knew? "And Kian adores you. We're misfits, you and I. And our songs are better, so we're sticking together."

Brief images of Vorpal and Harley Quinn working for charity, delivering toys to the children's hospital as Uatu says, "Sometimes humans provide very surprising creatures when one of their number is willing to extend some faith. Harley Quinn was considered a lost cause to many, abandoned. Terry O'Neil let the worst opinions of others define him and constrain him. Belief seems to be a powerful fuel in that, when present in others, it seems to drive humans to find things in themselves that were already there."


And then there is Vorpal, reading from a book to some kids in one of the Metropolis libraries.

"I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'"

"That's silly!" says a little girl, grinning at the Cheshire cat reading from the storybook.

"Right you are," he agrees with her, placing a finger in between the pages to mark his place. The grin he gives her is a match for hers, and more besides, "And sometimes that's the only thing that makes sense."

Kitty Pryde has posed:
The Watchers jump from one time to another. Witnessing battles between those who do not know they are lovers. Others in more tender moments. The pain of loss. The importance of family. The struggle for good by those who cannot just stand by and see harm done. The fall into despair and evil. And the attempts at redemption from the same.

Eventually they return to the Asteroid. Uatu lowers himself back onto his rock and lets out a sigh. He removes his helmet, never having needed it, then his glasses, to wipe at his eyes before cleaning the glasses with a handkerchief.

"I see why you are so drawn to this assignment, Uatu," one of the Watchers says to his brethren. "The humans have many failings. Many, many failings. Yet despite them, they struggle to redeem themselves. Many races have I watched spiral down into oblivion, only accelerating their pace, never fighting it."

Another Watcher quietly nods his agreement. "This has been enlightening. Continue your good work. Perhaps two Earth years was too long to wait. We shall visit you again after another orbit of Terra," he says. And then three Watchers are gone, leaving Uatu alone to look down on the small blue orb in the distance.