|Chapter Three||The Attack|
|Chapter Four||The Quantum Realm|
|Chapter Six||The Synod|
|Chapter Seven||The Big Reveal|
|Chapter Eight||Galaxies Far, Far Away|
|Chapter Eleven||A Plan Comes Together|
|Chapter Thirteen||The Beginning of the End|
|Chapter Fifteen||No Quarter|
Chapter One: Destabilization
Nuke has been staring at the TV screen all night. His eyes are yellow, but bloodshot. Drool slowly drips onto the rifle he continuously polishes. “Don’t Tread on Me” posters cover the walls of his apartment.
CNN: In today’s news, the former President has now called upon his followers to fight back hard in response to his perceived theft of the election. Let’s now turn to our panel to discuss this developing story…
Nuke: Fuckin Libtards….
Nuke gets up and walks to his laptop. He opens it and various pop-up windows of propaganda cover the screen. A chat box is in the middle of the screen from a messenger with only the initials, “DD”.
DD: The tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Nuke types a response.
Nuke: I know.
DD: Did you receive the package?
DD: Are you ready to fulfill your name?
Nuke: Do you support our true leader and ruler?
DD: Yes. I have spoken with him and he is supportive of you. He views you as the true patriot.
Nuke: Then I will refresh this tree.
DD: You will need help.
Another screen pops up. It is a news headline. HELL’S KITCHEN CRIMINALS CONTINUE TO BE MURDERED BY UNKNOWN GUN MAN.
DD: You will find your partner in Hell’s Kitchen.
Nuke: Just one man?
DD: This man is well trained and will make a fine general, but I have sleepers all over the country waiting on your signal as well.
Nuke: How do we start?
DD: Money is the foundation.
Frank Castle stands over the dead body of an individual in an alley at night. The barrel of his gun is still smoking. Nuke has been watching Castle hunt this individual for over an hour.
The Punisher is still.
Punisher: Are you done watching me?
Nuke steps from the shadows.
Nuke: You realize all of this is just a waste of time and energy?
Punisher: Justice is never a waste of time.
Nuke: True, but it is a waste of energy because unless you punish the source then the process has no resolution.
The Punisher doesn’t turn around.
Nuke: You have to realize that the reason these criminals are allowed to run free is because Liberals are weak on crime. They are weak in everything. In fact, your family might…
Punisher: You finish that sentence and I turn on you.
Nuke: Ok. Fair enough. But, you understand what I’m saying.
Punisher: Yes. I am tired of fighting a never-ending war, but I will never kill innocents.
Nuke: No one is innocent. You know that. Everyone is complicit. Your bravery to render judgement should not stop at the criminal. Otherwise, it is just short sighted. It must account for the big picture. Only then will you become a patriot by stopping the source of crime permanently. That alone will avenge your family’s death…and end this war.
Punisher: What do you recommend?
Nuke: Money is the foundation.
Nuke is standing over the Secretary. He is on his knees with his hands folded behind his head. Nuke’s rifle is pushing against the back of his head. Dead bodies are littered across the hallway leading to the office.
Nuke: You know what you need to do.
Secretary: But I don’t have the access to that! You’ll need multiple people for that!
Nuke: Then you’re coming with us. Punisher, is everything in place?
Punisher: Yes. We’re ready to go.
Nuke and Punisher carry the man out of the building. As they open the front door a shield flies at them knocking the gun out of the Punisher’s hands. Captain America and Daredevil are standing on the stairs in front of them blocking the way.
Captain America: It ends here, Nuke!
Nuke: Out of the way, Captain! You no longer represent this country.
Captain America: Son, I defend this country. It’s ideals. It’s freedoms and equality. It’s Democracy.
Daredevil removes his billy club from its sheath.
Daredevil: …and it’s due process.
Nuke: This has never been a Democracy! It’s a Republic! You are complicit and weak minded. I have no quarter for your type anymore.
Captain America: Then you are truly lost, Nuke!
Nuke: …and traitors to the Republic are to be imprisoned or executed.
Captain America: Only fascists, dictators…and terrorists…deal in absolutes…I will do what I must.
Nuke: You will try.
Nuke holds up a small receiver. On the other end is the voice of his hidden partner.
DD: Hello, Captain! It is so nice to hear from you again. In the interests of transparency, I would like to inform you that a nuclear bomb has been hidden in this building. Nuke and Punisher can’t turn it off. Only I control it. In addition, there are also thousands of your heavily armed troops currently being dispersed to federal reserve banks across the country. Destabilization is at hand!
Captain America: Money isn’t the foundation of this country.
DD: Well, we’re about to find out!
Chapter Two: Carnage
Cletus has been hiding in the city dump for months. While this is out not necessity, he enjoys the solitude. The smell.
Cletus knows he’s brilliant. He talks to an alien every day. An alien that selected him. Out of the billions of people on this planet, only Cletus was superior enough for selection as a host. The alien tells him this and more. But now he has a new friend as well.
A cloaked figure steps out of the shadows.
DD: Am I speaking with Cletus or the alien?
Cletus: Both. You are speaking to Carnage.
DD: Very good. You know what I want?
DD: Yes, but I need it targeted. And I need you to understand why.
Carnage: We don’t care as long as we can get close to someone.
DD: What do you mean?
Carnage: When their lights go out. You need to be close to them. While they’re in your arms they become part of you. Kinda like the alien becoming part of me. It knew me. It knew I like becoming part of them. Close to them.
DD: Can you get close to some people for me?
DD: Not just anyone. I need you to assassinate targets for me…in the personal way you just described.
Carnage: From which political party?
Carnage: But this is an assassination?
DD: Our political leaders are not the engine because America is not a democracy. It is a business. The people of this country have never directed their energies in the right place. The people I need targeted are the ones who run this country. Here.
DD throws a Manila envelope on the table. On the front are the words, “Atlas”. Carnage opens it. It contains pictures of various individuals.
DD: Those are major senior executives of Fortune 500 companies. Get close to all of them.
Carnage: And afterwards?
DD: Afterwards you will be viewed a hero. Mass murder scores of children and your a monster. But, remove the Plutocrats and you’re ahead of curve. A liberator. You’re ahead of the curve, right Carnage? That’s why the alien chose you. It knew you had a unique insight of this world. You understand the necessity of death. Of transformation. I need that insight and power to be directed to where it can make the largest impact in this world. Imagine how it will feel to watch the lights go out on those who hold everything together? The key masters. The cage owners. The Atlas. They are Power. But, powerful alignments that haven’t occurred in over 200 years are happening now. I have discovered the source these forms…archetypes. I am controlling these waves by sympathetically redirecting and channeling the inevitability of their manifestation. When the powerful die, everything is transformed. Does that sound like a suitable feast for you, Carnage?
Carnage: You have the power to make people see this?
DD: I do.
Carnage: And you are?
DD: I am reckoning. I am dread.
A large smile stretches ear to ear across Carnage’s face.
PRESENT DAY. THE FEDERAL RESERVE.
Captain America: What do you want?
DD: I want you to stand down, Captain. Let my men pass.
Captain America: Not a chance.
DD: So, you’re prepared for this bomb to go off? This is the choice you are making here?
A small voice interrupts.
Ant-Man: He doesn’t have to! The bomb is deactivated, Captain!
Captain America: You didn’t think that Daredevil and I came alone, did you?
DD: It doesn’t matter. We have the Secretary and our armies are heading to all the reserve banks as we speak. Nuke! Punisher! I am teleporting you now!
At that moment, all three individuals fade away as another figure teleports in.
It is Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange: Steve Rogers!
Captain America: Strange! Just in time. We need your help.
Doctor Strange: All in good time, but there are more pressing, immediate concerns. We can’t talk here. There is much going on that you don’t understand. Things that have been in motion for years. It is so much worse than you would ever imagine.
Captain America: Worse than destabilizing America’s economy?
Doctor Strange: That’s just a symptom. The cause has been subtle and pervasive and goes back…
Strange pauses and looks down.
Doctor Strange: …I honestly don’t know how long it has been underway. I need you to come with me, but first we need Bruce Banner and Charles Xavier.
Daredevil is touching his temples and grimacing in pain.
Daredevil: Won’t the Hulk make this worse? These opposing armies are Americans, you know.
Doctor Strange: We don’t need the Hulk. We need Dr. Banner. Bruce is one of the most powerful beings in the universe. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Captain America: Matt, what’s wrong?
Daredevil: My radar sense is going crazy. I’m seeing auras covering the images of people. There are symbols circling Strange.
Doctor Strange: You are witnessing subtle bodies and planetary glyphs. Your abilities are changing. Enhancing. I don’t have time to explain right now. We will need to speak with Enoch, but first we must find Bruce. Please. There is much to do and little time. Step inside the pentagram.
A giant pentagram materializes on the ground just below where Strange is hovering. All three individuals step inside and then fade away.
Chapter Three: The Attack
NEW YOUR CITY. FEDERAL RESERVE BANK
WB: Hello! This is Wolf Blitzer and you’re in the Situation Room. Today we are following the recent attack on the Federal Reserve building in New York City. We will turn to CNN’s reporter, Kaitlan who is on the scene of this horrific attack. Kaitlan, can you walk us through what has transpired in the last few minutes or so?
KC: Hello, Wolf. Yes, in short, it is a war zone here. It appears that supporters of the former President have launched a full-scale attack of the Federal Reserve building and managed to take control of it in the process. So far, our sources are saying that there are as many as 30 dead Federal Reserve officers so far and another 15 civilians.
WB: Kaitlan, do we know how the attack started?
KC: Yes, Wolf. It appears this group was armed with an arsenal of weapons that you would not expect to find on the open market. The attack started with a repeated succession of attacks from rocket launchers to the front of the building. The troops then invaded and quickly took over and secured the building. Most are carrying fully automatic assaults rifles, covered in kevlar and appear to be trained in this type of tactical assault. From what we have been told, the former super soldier known as Nuke led that initial wave of attacks that quickly took much of the armored doors on the first floor.
WB: Do we have any indications where they obtained this armory?
KC: That’s a great question because our sources have also informed us that the vigilante known as the Punisher is also leading an army of snipers currently housed in the windows of various apartments in the upper perimeter surrounding the building. His involvement has led many to believe that the armory currently in the hands of these supporters was supplied by the Punisher. But that theory is still being vetted because there are hundreds of fully armed troops on the ground here. It would be a surprise to learn that the Punisher had enough weapons to supply this small army.
WB: Have we been able to confirm any rationale for this attack?
KC: Yes, Wolf. From what we have observed, it is believed that the former president’s speech from a couple weeks ago has been another trigger point.
WB: We have clips of that speech, Kaitlan. We’ll play them now for our audience.
FP: The looooney left is coming after me! They want to jail me. And why?! Because I don’t believe in paying taxes to fund their government programs! Programs that were clearly designed to support inner city people. Those who don’t support the American dream. Those who free load on the backs of pure Americans! Hard working American patriots like you! I have been winning this fight for years against these thieves and now they want to imprison me for it. You and I both know that if you were to fight them as I have then they would come for you as well!
FP: They don’t believe in freedom. They are the ENEMIES of freedom! And they want to enslave us. Think about it! We can’t afford these programs so we have pay for them through loans to China. And you work to pay those loans! It’s on your backs! How are you not a slave?! And the Liberals are fully aware of this! They have been in collusion with China for years. Decades! You work for China in order to pay the tab for those who have no belief in the American dream. Basically, THEY are the traitors! This scenario is as black and white as it gets…
The former President pauses while the mob screams.
FP: … and WHERE is all of our money? It’s in the Treasury! They’re in collusion with the Federal Reserve to keep this whoooooole scheme rolling! The value of your labor is being controlled by these institutions who are entirely beholden to a foreign power….
Mob: They’re evil! Baby killers! Lock em up!
FP: I know you are disillusioned. I know that you think that we can’t resolve this through standard political processes. Hell, we can’t even get a fair election anymore, right?!
Mob: Rigged! Rigged!! Rigged!!!
FP: I feel what you are feeling, but we can’t give up! You have to be strong. Strength is the only thing that matters! So we have to continue to fight! We WILL fight this together! And I’ll be right by your side…..
The mob cheers in rage. The clip ends.
WB: Kaitlan, is this still America?
KC: Wolf, what’s interesting is that I could not find one American flag flying anywhere by this army of supporters. There are flags for the former President, some with “Don’t Tread on Me” verbiage, lots of Confederate flags, a few Nazi symbols here and there, but many with the infamous “DD” initials we have seen emblazoned across so many propaganda sites. It almost feels like America has been invaded by a foreign enemy.
WB: Have we been able to confirm what these initials represent?
KC: Not yet. On its face, many have assumed that they are the initials of the former president’s real name, but this has never been confirmed.
WB: And we have to wonder how any of this may further impact the stock market after its heavy plunge earlier this week when it was reported that CEOs across the country appear to be the target of a serial killer. The 5th gruesome murder occurred last night. Now, add this chaos to that panic….
KC: Wolf. Hold on one second, there appears to be a call coming in.
At that moment, the screen is captured by a cloaked figure in the shadows.
DD: America, we have taken the main Federal Reserve bank. We have shut down its operations. We own its gold. Also, we have taken the Secretary of the Treasury hostage. Your economy will not move again until we say so.
DD: Our demands: One, open all mints across the country and allow Americans access to the gold that is rightfully theirs. Two, take into custody every living Democrat who has served and is currently serving in Congress for immediate imprisonment. Three, reinstate the former president who was unjustly and unlawfully removed from office with your rigged election you refer to as a democracy.
The figure stops talking and quickly looks over his should to another monitor. An army of tanks from the national guard are rolling down the street towards the Federal Reserve.
DD: That is not acceptable.
The figure presses a button and lasers rain down from the sky destroying the tanks and annihilating all the troops.
KC: Wolf! Lasers are everywhere! Agh!!!
WB: Kaitlan?! Kaitlan!!
The screens goes dead and The figure returns.
DD: You have our demands. You have 24 hours to comply. If they are not met, we will execute the Secretary on TV. Any other attempts to attack our troops will be met with retaliation.
The screen goes black.
WEST CHESTER, NEW YORK. THE X-MANSION. TWO WEEKS AGO.
Professor X and Forge are in the study vigorously debating an issue.
Forge: Charles, this doesn’t sit well with me.
Prof X: I understand. To some degree, I have the same ethical reservations, but…
Forge: …but you’re still willing to go through with it! Oh wait, you don’t have to do anything. That would be on my head because I’ll be the one responsible for building the damn thing! Sigh.
Prof X: Forge, only your ability with technology can offer us the possibility to update Cerebro so….
Forge: So, you can play God and start invading everyone’s thoughts all at once. Great plan, Charles.
Prof X: I have to find out if my theory is accurate. If I’m correct, then there is another world of energy that we haven’t been probing. If I’m right, it may explain the manifestation of Onslaught.
Forge: OK. I get the ask. I’ll do it. I’ll enhance Cerebro…but only under one condition.
Prof X: Yes?
Forge: Destroy it as soon as you find what you’re looking for.
Prof X: You have my word.
Later that evening, Professor X is sitting down at Cerebro.
Prof X: I hope Forge calibrated this correctly. I don’t want someone else’s emotions contaminating me again.
Professor X puts on the helmet and turns on the machine. There is a low hum. He closes his eyes.
Usually, Professor X would be using this machine to detect mutants in hiding. To help them. Not this time. Tonight, he is hunting down emotions. Base urges. Energy signature patterns. He starts with Africa.
Prof X: Appears normal.
Then he moves to Europe.
Prof X: Same thing here.
Prof X: Hmm. There appears to be a consistent energy pattern here. Let’s move over to America.
Lights pop up everywhere and Professor X immediately recognizes that same energy pattern consistently weaving its way across the country. His blood runs cold and his eyes open wide as he realizes what is occurring.
Prof X: Oh my Lord. How did we miss this?
Chapter Four: The Quantum Realm
NEW YORK CITY. A HIGH-RISE APARTMENT IN THE EVENING.
A severed hand lies on the carpet of a luxurious, top floor penthouse. A pool of blood trails back to the hand’s owner. Carnage stands over a balding, middle-aged man desperately crawling away while trying to wrap his severed arm in a robe.
Man: Please no! I didn’t do anything! I don’t deserve this!
Carnage doesn’t move.
Man: I have money here! Just give me a second! I can open the safe and give you anything you want!
Carnage doesn’t move.
Carnage: Ok. Give us money.
The man crawls over to his bookcase and opens a cabinet below it. Inside is a safe. He begins the process of entering the combination, but his remaining hand is shaking so badly that he keeps hitting the wrong keys.
Carnage: We like lots of ones.
The man turns around and Carnage is standing right over him. The creature’s skin is a combination of red and black, constantly swirling. Alive. Carnage is staring at him. Emotionless.
Man: I don’t have ones. There’s only big bills in here, but….but…you can exchange them for wha…whatever denomination you like!
The man takes a deep breath and steadies himself. The door to the safe opens. In a panic, he starts clawing out stacks of bills. Blood is spilling all over them. He pushes them over at the feet of Carnage.
Man: There! Take it all! You can have everything.
Carnage is silently staring down at the man. He doesn’t move. The man begins to sob. Carnage’s head tilts slightly as if he is studying the man.
Man: Please spare me. Please! I have kids! A family! A wi…
Before the man can finish an axe at the end of Carnage’s hand comes down faster than could be tracked by the human eye. The man’s head rolls down the living room and under the coffee table. Carnage kicks over the table and kneels down at the head. He stares at it and then looks back at the decapitated body. He walks over to the body and kneels down next to it. His hand forms into a blade and he slices the body open and begins to stuff it with the money. He turns and walks back to head, picks it up and walks to the window. He opens it and kneels at the ledge. Everywhere below him is chaos. Cars are on fire up and down the street. People are running down the street with rifles. Rocks are being thrown through windows. The sound of gun shots is everywhere. A woman screams as a group of men drag her into an alley. A couple blocks away an explosion goes off and shakes all the buildings. Screams echo through the city. Carnage smiles.
Carnage: We are Carnage.
DEEP IN THE ADIRONDACK MOUNTAINS.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
The sound of a tree being chopped into pieces echoes through the mountains and down the valley into the forest.
Hulk: Never thought this would be so satisfying.
The Hulk karate chops another large section of the tree.
Hulk: I guess this is enough wood for the winter. I’ll start gathering it up.
The Hulk picks up three bundles on each shoulder and leaps away.
Hulk: My daily meditation is really paying off. I have just about mastered transformation. I just can’t get used to the tingling. Makes me itch so bad. Almost hate changing back and forth. Not sure why I didn’t notice this before. Guess the emotion and rage blocked the memories of this weird side-affect.
The Hulk lands with force of a tank being dropped from the sky. In front of him is a large cabin. Before he can enter, he hears a voice above him.
Doctor Strange: Dr. Banner!
The Hulk looks up and sees Doctor Strange carrying Daredevil and Captain America in a light blue sphere.
Captain America: Bruce, we need to talk.
Hulk: No, you need a favor.
Captain America: This will benefit you as well.
The Hulk chuckles.
Hulk: What do you want? And don’t step on the Violas. They’re doing really well this year.
Doctor Strange: I’ll cut to the chase because we don’t have a lot of time. Powerful forces have been slowly undermining America and corrupting emotions and thought processes for years. The tensions have reached a point where rogue armies are now attacking various institutions that form the foundation of society. Currently, they are targeting financial institutions and their collapse is almost certain to exacerbate all of the existing anger and make civil war inescapable.
Hulk: Well, that’s quite a bit. How do you know emotions and thoughts are being manipulated?
A voice echoes through all of their minds.
Prof X: Because I notified Stephen as soon as I discovered it.
Hulk: Professor X.
Prof X: Hello, Dr. Banner.
Hulk: How, what and why?
Prof X: I am one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet. My mind is equivalently as strong as you are physically. And yet, years ago Erik Lensherr’s disturbed emotional state was able to somehow slip past my mental defenses, bond with me and create a villain more powerful and horrible than anything the world had ever seen.
Hulk: You are referring to Onslaught.
Prof X: Yes.
Hulk: Well, everyone has a bad day.
Prof X: I don’t. For years it has bothered me that his rage was able to infect my subconscious and release my shadow. For someone like me who has such a strong command of his faculties as well as an almost omniscient level of awareness of any mental or telepathic abilities in the environment, this was more than just embarrassing. It was absolutely unacceptable. I began to wonder if there was another substratum of energy where emotions and urges may originate. Where thoughts may pop into consciousness. I wondered if this substratum may exist beyond my awareness or ability to monitor. I decided to test this hypothesis and asked Forge to upgrade the Cerebro. With the upgrades, I was able to track these urges as they arose out this substratum.
Hulk: Wait. You’re talking about emotions…
Prof X: Yes.
Hulk: …but you’re not an empath.
Prof X: I’m not and I don’t have the ability to literally feel people’s emotions, but emotion and thought exist within the same polarity of energy. One almost always impacts the other. An individual’s thinking is clouded if they’re overcome emotionally and someone’s emotions can be controlled through meditation. So, if someone is angry or emotional, a reflection or echo of that should show up in their thoughts. That’s what I was targeting.
Hulk: Oh boy. I think I’m following. What did you find?
Prof X: Anger shows up in different ways for everyone because everyone has a unique alignment that impacts how they express it and what triggers it. When someone is angry the thoughts change color and symbols swirl differently. But, in analyzing these energy patterns I noticed that there was a consistent signature that repeatedly showed up in certain individuals. For the majority of individuals who attacked the Federal Reserve, this signature showed up in them.
Hulk: This does sound like mind control.
Prof X: Through the emotions, yes. Specifically, through anger and rage, hurt and vengeance.
Hulk: Since there isn’t any variation in the pattern.
Hulk: Which means if it is consistent or uniform, then you are inferring that it may be intentional or targeted?
Prof X: Exactly.
Hulk: Ah. Fuck.
Prof X: Indeed.
Hulk: And you think that this is what contributed to the creation of Onslaught?
Prof X: I have no evidence to confirm this, but it is my suspicion.
The Hulk shakes his head and runs his fingers through his hair.
Hulk: Sigh. What do you want me to do about this? This sounds like a telepath battle. I won’t be much help with that. Riot control? I’m sure that will go over great with my relationship with the military.
Doctor Strange: Dr. Banner, I don’t think you have tapped into your full potential yet.
The Hulk scoffs.
Hulk: See that mountain behind you? I can bench that.
Doctor Strange: Bruce, you are infused with pure energy. When that gamma bomb went off you absorbed all of it. Do you really believe that super strength is the only potential as a result of that fusion?
Daredevil is being propped up by Captain America.
Daredevil: He might be on to something. I can see radiation emitting off you. It is almost like an energy force field covering you. It seems to respond to your emotions and communication. It pulsates around you.
Hulk: You can do that now?
Daredevil: It actually started happening within the last couple hours. Honestly, my head feels like it’s going to explode from all the information I’m taking in.
Professor X: Matthew is experiencing a type of evolution. One that might be possible for you as well.
Hulk: And you all think that an evolved Hulk will help turn the tide?
Doctor Strange: Possibly, but there’s more. While in astral form a couple weeks ago I encountered a being of pure energy. He announced himself as Enoch, warned me of the dangerous energies that Charles just described and that you would play a pivotal role in the upcoming battle. Initially, I ignored the experience, but when Charles reached out to me with his discovery I knew we had to reach out to you. Unfortunately, it was too late. The attack was already underway.
Hulk: So how do we find Enoch?
Doctor Strange: He referenced a place called the Mazzaroth, the center of the quantum realm. He said all would be explained when we arrived.
Captain America: He didn’t provide any other details?
Doctor Strange: No.
Suddenly a small voice spoke up from Captain America’s back pocket.
Ant-Man: Guys, I might know how to get there!
Hulk: Cap’s butt just talked to us.
Ant-Man: No, seriously. It’s me! It’s Ant-Man. I travel in Cap’s back pocket on missions sometimes.
Hulk: He couldn’t make a little Ant-Man pouch on his arm or something? What if it’s right after lunch…
Ant-Man: Guys, gross! Listen…Cap can you get me out?
Captain America reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a small figure with two fingers. Ant-Man quickly grows to full size.
Ant-Man: Ok, listen. I have been making trips to the quantum realm for a while now. In some of my recent visits, I noticed a signal coming from deep inside. I haven’t been able to locate the source of this signal yet, but it is distinct. This is significant because NOTHING is consistent in the Quantum Realm. It is constantly changing. Alive. It is almost impossible to map because of this. But, because of this signal I have suspected that there might actually be something in there that isn’t completely fluid or chaotic. Something permanent.
Doctor Strange: If that’s the case, then let’s track down the source. I can create an orb to protect us on the journey. Scott, can you shrink all of us?
Ant-Man: I think so. We can give it a try.
Doctor Strange: Let’s go. Dr. Banner, are you in?
Hulk: If I don’t you guys will probably just show up again when you get in over your head, won’t you?
Doctor Strange: Your powers are needed.
Doctor Strange: Charles?
Prof X: Unfortunately, Stephen, my powers are not as effective in the Quantum Realm. I think I would be more of a burden to you than anything else.
Doctor Strange: I understand, my friend. Thank you so much for help and insight.
Prof X: You’re very welcome. Please be careful all of you. I hope you find what you’re looking for and come back with something valuable that can turn the tide.
In that moment, Doctor Strange raises his two arms over his head, symbols circle around his hands and a light purple orb begins to slowly grow around the heroes.
Doctor Strange: Scott?
Ant-Man: Here we go!
Ant-Man takes out a device that projects an energy field that covers the heroes. The field grows to the size of the orb. He presses a button on his wrist and everyone instantaneously shrinks and disappears.
Chapter Five: Enoch
LATVERIA. DOOM CASTLE. EVENING.
Doctor Doom stands with his arms crossed at an open window overlooking the Carpathian Mountains.
DD: Lord Doom.
Doom: Yes, my master.
Doctor Doom turns around to his large ritual room. In the center is a large circle of candles with a perimeter containing all 12 zodiacal signs. In the middle are the glyphs of Mars and Saturn. Floating overhead is a swirling silhouette containing a shadowed face covered in the hood of a cloak.
Doom drops to one knee.
DD: Are the preparations in place?
Doom: Yes, my master.
DD: And our puppet?
Doom: He is playing his part to perfection. An oblivious fool.
DD: Have you been practicing?
Doom: With the ancient magic? Yes, my master. This is all so new to me, but I yearn to reach your level of mastery.
DD: Can you feel the hate? The wrath? The fear and panic?
Doom: Yes. It is palpable.
DD: Good. Good. That is progress. I think we are ready to realize to fruits of our labor.
DD: Precisely. The sympathies have reached apex levels of manifestation. It appears that the beast may finally be ready to hatch. Behold!
DD raises his arms and creates a rift in the air. Within this rift, the planet Mars can be seen. The view closes in on the remains of an extinct, dusty volcano. In the center, a boiling lava-like substance is spurting out of the top. Suddenly, it erupts and an explosion of blood shoots up through the atmosphere. Giant red claws grab the perimeter of the volcano. A face appears. It’s pupils are yellow, but encircled with a rim of red. They are shaking with rage. Serpents circle its head like the mane of a lion.
The beast screams and the volcano crumbles. It explodes into the atmosphere, opens it mouth and fires a beam into the planet boring all the way to the core. The beast comes crashing down with the force of a hundred nuclear bombs. The planet splits around the giant hole, exposing the core. The beast opens its wings and begins absorbing energy. The entire planet ruptures as the last bit is siphoned. Debris covers the universe like an asteroid field. The beast hovers silently with its wings wrapped around its body. It bursts out shooting through space, a trail of fire following behind it.
Doom: Algol has arisen.
DD pulls back the hood of his cloak revealing the smiling face of the dread Dormammu.
Dormammu: And we have baited the hook.
THE QUANTUM REALM
Hulk: Wow. This is really working. Feels like we’re traveling in a lava lamp.
Ant-man: I told you it would! Yeah, the quantum realm is wild. Like being immersed in a kaleidoscope.
Captain America: Scott, how will we know when we’ve arrived?
Ant-man: Oh no. You’re not gonna be the “are we there yet” guy, are you? Well, my helmet is tracking a repeating sound wave signature. It is faint, but slowly growing. I assume that when it reaches the strongest pitch then we will be close. Strange, I think we need to go left.
Doctor Strange: Got it.
As the blue orb moves across the area, large colored nebula-type energies slowly materialize and then disappear as soon as they’re noticed. Stars twinkle in the distance. Waves of energy float above and then wrap underneath the orb disappearing as quickly as they arrive.
Ant-man: Hold it. I’m getting some type of interference with the signal. Almost like white noise or something.
Captain America: Can you still hear the signal through the noise?
Ant-man: No. Strange, please stop.
The orb halts. The team is still. Ant-Man has both hands on his helmet.
Captain America: What is that red speck in the distance?
Daredevil struggles to lift his head.
Daredevil: Ugh…strange energy patterns…sensing hostility…
Captain America: Strange?
Doctor Strange: Better safe than sorry.
Doctor Strange locks back both of his elbows and energy bracelets lock into place over his wrists. He levitates out of the orb creating a second orb to travel.
Doctor Strange: I’m going to scout out ahead.
Ant-man: Don’t go too far. If we get separated, there is no guarantee that I’ll be able to find you.
Doctor Strange: Are you locked on to my subtle body alignments?
Ant-man: Gimme a break! I’m not a sorcerer supreme!
Daredevil: I can recognize your patterns, but keep it close.
Doctor Strange slowly wades out into the abstract landscape.
Doctor Strange: By Vishanti!
Captain America: What is it?
Doctor Strange: Solomon’s demons! How?! These ancient creatures were believed to be banished!
At that moment three red, eyeless imp-like demons manifest around Doctor Strange.
Captain America: Behind you!!
Each demon clasps its hands together, charging for a blast. Doctor Strange quickly crosses both arms across his chest.
Doctor Strange: Saturnian shields!
Four large black shields manifest and swirl around Doctor Strange. The beams of the demons crash against the shields creating a blinding explosion. Doctor Strange’s arms push outwards in opposite directions and the shields respond, repulsing the demons and knocking them back.
Doctor Strange: Regulus ray!
Atomic bursts ripple out of the bracelets slicing through all three. Their bodies immediately disappear and are replaced by ten new demons that swirl into view. They vomit lava onto the shields, melting them.
Doctor Strange: I summon the powers of the major arcana!
Strange carves a perfect, fiery mystic rectangle through which 22 cards fly out and swirl around him as if he were at the center of an atom. The demons are silent, confused by the mysticism. He randomly selects a card. It is The Chariot. Mystical shackles of light clasp on to their wrists and ankles. He pulls another card. It is The Magician. Strange shows the card to the demons and smiles. He raises one hand to the heavens and points the other at them. A low humming vibration is felt all around them until a piercing beam of energy explodes from above, coursing down into Strange, channeling through him and into their bodies. The energy implodes out of their skin, rupturing them in an explosion of lava and blood.
Hundreds more immediately materialize, replacing the handful that were just destroyed. Strange looks exasperated.
Doctor Strange: There’s only one way to deal with demons. I summon the knowledge of Trithemius!
An ancient grimoire appears and opens. The pages begin flipping forward, displaying lists of names. Doctor Strange’s eyes roll back. His voice booms across the quantum realm chanting demon names in every direction…but not to the desired effect.
Armies of demons materialize all around them. Thousands of them are everywhere.
Ant-Man: Strange! What the hell?!
The armies charge forward.
Doctor Strange: By Vishanti, no! I should be in control! Why isn’t this working?!
Doctor Strange quickly retrieves a baseball sized gem from his inside pocket. He holds it high above his head.
Doctor Strange: Eternity, I appeal to the sympathies! With Ficino’s sunstone, I summon the power of the Sun!
A ray of light shoots down and hits the crystal, charging the stone. It vibrates. He holds the crystal in front of him. A gust swirls around Strange, blowing back his cape and rustling through his hair. There is a calm, ruthless power in his eyes. The crystal discharges in every direction, destroying scores of demons caught in its spray. Explosions are everywhere. The quantum realm shakes with unleashed power.
For a couple seconds it is quiet and then more demons begin to materialize in the distance.
Daredevil: Strange, this isn’t working and I think I know why. The Hulk’s energy signature matches what I’m seeing in the demons. I think he is attracting them.
Hulk: That would be their mistake. Why don’t you let me out of the bubble so I can clean house for you?
Doctor Strange: Physical strength means nothing in this realm. If you step out of the orb your energies will disperse and you will cease to exist.
Captain America: Strange, think fast. They’re almost on us!
Doctor Strange surveys the area. His face looks grim and his blood runs cold. They are out grossly numbered and out of options. The roar of the demon horde is deafening. He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and crosses his legs in meditation. His hands rest on his knees forming the Gyana and Prana mudra gestures.
Doctor Strange: Enoch. I feel your energy. In the ancient tongue, I summon your presence!
Doctor Strange begins chanting incantations in Enochian. Off in the distance, a clap of thunder is heard followed by crackling electricity. The demonic horde pauses. A huge black demon tears across the sky. It is roughly three times the size of the others. Jagged lightning trails off its wings as if it was being scraped from the air. The horde screams.
The black demon spreads out his massive wings, screeches to a halt and slams both hands together. A concussive blast sends particles in every direction. An electric orb implodes outward and hits hundreds of imp-demons, exploding them immediately upon impact. Scores of imp-demons charge the black demon and they crash into him like water against stone. He rips one of them in two, tears off the head of another and shoves it through the chest of a third. He fires a chain of lightning through another group, exploding their heads. His tail catches one imp-demon trying to attack him from behind. The black demon’s grip is a vice and the imp-demon pops like a squeezed tomato. The tail then stabs forward puncturing the heads of three more that were lunging forward. Hundreds of imp-demons desperately reverse course and begin to retreat. The black demon drops his head and clinches both fists tightly. He opens them and electricity screams out of every finger, tearing through the horde as they try to escape. The bodies of the demons evaporate as quickly as they arrived. The realm is silent.
The demon extends his wings and slowly floats down in front of the orb. The heroes study the muscular, jet black, obsidian figure. It appears menacing, but regal. It has the face of a man, but horns and white eyes. On the backs of both of its hands are golden glyphs of Uranus. It is ancient and it’s stare feels eternal.
Ant-Man: Strange…if you can stop summoning demons for a minute, that would be great.
Doctor Strange: This one is a friend.
The black demon slowly turns and starts to fly away. It stops momentarily and looks back at the heroes.
Doctor Strange gestures the orb to move forward and follow the demon. Eventually they arrive at a citadel positioned atop a high peak. The demon flies through the front gates and lands at the main entrance. Massive white double doors open. It enters. It’s powerful large wings fold in place behind him. The orb follows inside and settles in the grand hallway. The demon folds it’s arms and stands to the side like a watchful guardian.
Captain America: Demon, thank you for your assistance. Are you the being known as Enoch?
Another voice echoes throughout the corridor.
Voice: His name is Baraquiel.
The team turns to see an old man standing behind them. He is bald with a braided beard. He is wearing a dark purple cloak and holding a long silver staff, glowing white. At the end of the staff is the glyph of Neptune.
Old Man: I am Enoch….the Esoteric. Welcome my friends…to the Mazzaroth.
Chapter Six: The Synod
Doctor Strange: You are the being who called us here?
Enoch: I am and you specifically, Stephen Strange.
Doctor Strange: Why?
Enoch: Because all of reality is at risk.
Doctor Strange: That’s a little fantastic. Can you be more specific?
Enoch: I can. There is much to explain and discuss. Please, follow me to the study.
Daredevil is wincing in pain. One arm is leaning on Captain America.
Captain America: Honestly, I don’t think our friend will make it down the hallway. He is in great pain.
Enoch: Ah. Matthew Murdock. His radar sense is no longer only contained to the physical realm. He is seeing the subtle energies behind the veil as well.
Doctor Strange: Behind the veil?
Enoch: Stephen, surely you are not surprised that there is a field of energy that exists behind the physical reality experienced through your five senses?
Doctor Strange: I am just a little surprised that he is able to observe it.
Enoch: He is evolving in response to the necessity of the coming battle.
Doctor Strange: But why? How?
Enoch motions to Baraquiel. Baraquiel walks over to Daredevil.
Enoch: Baraquiel is the defender of the Mazzaroth and my personal body guard. He is ancient and his knowledge is vast. He speaks in a tongue that is primordial with a visceral dialect that contains a vibration that has the potential to trigger madness. As a result, he doesn’t speak. His only means of communication is through touch. But I must warn you. He is not always able to contain the amount of information that slips through when in contact with another. As a result…this may hurt a little, Matthew.
Daredevil: I d…d…don’t care. Just make it stop. I can’t balance all the sensations coming from both realities. It feels like my brain’s being torn apart.
Enoch nods to Baraquiel. Baraquiel places the palm of his hand on Daredevil’s forehead and he immediately jerks backwards. Captain America struggles to keep him upright.
Captain America: You’re hurting him!
Enoch: It can not be avoided. Just a few more seconds.
Daredevil pushes off and lands hard on the ground. Smoke billows off his head. He is on his knees.
Doctor Strange: Matthew?
Daredevil: Just gimme a moment.
Daredevil puts one hand in his knee and slowly pushes himself to his feet. He glances around. A look of wonder is on his face.
Daredevil: My God. I can alternate back and forth between my senses now. I can hone in on the physical as well as drill down into the quantum and see the underlying energies as well. It’s not chaotic anymore. It’s…beautiful.
Enoch: That is quite a gift that has been bestowed upon you, Matthew.
Daredevil: Did you do this?
Enoch: Come. Please follow me to the study. All will be explained.
Strange looks at the heroes and raises one eyebrow.
Doctor Strange: Lead the way.
The heroes follow Enoch and Baraquiel down the long passage. It eventually ends in a large room with a dome ceiling. The room looks like a planetarium.
Ant-Man: THIS is a study??
Enoch: Well, it is where I study things. Please, sit.
Enoch walks up to a pedestal and presses a button. The ceiling begins to retract revealing the swirling overhead of the quantum realm.
Enoch: As you have already discovered, this is the quantum realm. It is the underlying field of energy that is the foundation for all life. It surrounds us and binds us. It is the connectivity for everything. All synchronicities. All archetypes. All forms. It is the bedrock for all consciousness and creativity as well as fertile ground for the emergence of emotions. It isn’t too far removed from the Noosphere, a concept developed by your philosophers.
Captain America: We share thoughts?
Enoch: Yes and no. Each living creature is a unique filter for the expression of the quantum realm. Your signatures align to this source, but attract energies sympathetically. The Mazzaroth is the center of the quantum realm and I am it’s appointed overseer to this flow of energy.
Doctor Strange: Fascinating. You manage all of this?
Enoch: Quite the opposite. Quantum energy is a living force. It is my duty to prevent it from being managed. From being manipulated.
Doctor Strange: Is magic a manipulation of the quantum field?
Enoch: Because the quantum field is not governed by physical laws, many abilities you refer to as “powers” are due to the individual’s relationship with this reality. Your “manipulations”, Stephen, have always been in the interests of protecting others and not to elevate your ego or satisfy desires. This intent aligns with the moral archetype of the quantum realm.
Doctor Strange: Does the soul exist here?
Enoch: The soul gem does, but we are veering off course with this line of questioning.
Any-Man: What?! Whoa! Back up. The soul gem is here?
Enoch: This is not the reason you are here and you are wasting time.
Doctor strange glances sternly at Ant-Man.
Doctor Strange: Who appointed you?
Enoch: Can you guess?
Doctor Strange: Eternity.
Enoch: Very good, Stephen! You are as impressive as I have observed.
Doctor Strange: Are you saying that we share consciousness with Eternity?
Enoch: Is that so difficult to accept? Since all of physical reality exists within the body of Infinity, then it is only logical that all of conscious reality also exists within Eternity. Their relationship forms the foundational cycle of existence.
Ant-Man: Holy shit.
Hulk: This is plausible. Our neurons are small enough that their firing could interface with a size and scale that’s on the level of a quantum field.
Doctor Strange: OK. So why is “all of reality at risk”? Why are we here?
Enoch: A being by the name of Dormammu has discovered a way to invade the quantum realm and pervert its energies. Specifically, he has been able to lock on to areas of extreme anger and inject horrible thoughts with the intent of escalating into wrath.
Doctor Strange: This is what Charles detected via Cerebro. Can Professor Xavier counteract this influence?
Enoch: This is worse than mind control. Because Dormammu is injecting suggestions into the consciousness of an individual if they decide to act upon it then they are, technically, using their free will. As result, there is no mind control to counter because they are freely acting upon the thought he implanted.
Captain America: But he is still manipulating their decision-making process by playing their anger against them.
Enoch: Yes. According to the ancient myths, the eternal polarity between intellect and passion is known as the Synod. Wrath, lust and greed are some of the primary dynamics that unbalance this relationship. Intense emotion clouds rational thought. This is why Dormammu has been intentionally creating imbalance with suggestions of chaos, conspiracies, paranoia, rage, violence and insurrection. Archetypal concepts such as democracy, freedom, equality are tested when imbalanced with its dysfunctional opposite polarity, wrath.
Captain America: So, Nuke and Punisher?
Captain America: …and the rest of the former President’s followers?
Enoch: They were easily persuaded because of their natural hatred of government and the opposing political party.
Captain America: And the “DD” reported on various dark sites is Dormammu?
Enoch: It represents Dormammu and Doctor Doom. Their kind always travel in pairs. As master and pupil. They represented themselves this way because it also falsely infers the initials of the former President. They hoped that his followers would interpret the messages as if they were originating from him.
Daredevil points at the Hulk.
Daredevil: See? Told you it wasn’t me.
Doctor Strange is pacing in deep thought and stroking his goatee.
Doctor Strange: This explains the danger to the United States. It doesn’t explain the danger to the quantum realm. Also, Dormammu has never displayed power at a scope and range that you have described.
Hulk: …and why do you still have a job if you allowed this to happen?
Enoch raises his hand for the group to pause.
Enoch: The answers to those questions lie in the past…
Enoch raises his silver staff off the ground and holds it out in front of him.
Enoch: This is the Syzygy. It is a mediator of quantum realm energies.
Enoch begins slowly swirling the staff in a large circle in front of him. It moves through the air as if it were wading through water. Waves of energy ripple out from the circle and then recoil back into the center. Over and over until the movement begins to blend together into one solid, mirror-like surface. Inside the mirror is an image of a king sitting upon a throne.
Enoch: Many eons ago there was wise king named Solomon. In addition to his position as ruler of a kingdom, he was also a very educated and talented magus. Solomon’s mastery of the occult led him to the study of demons. Over time his expertise in demonology became so advanced that he was able to control demons by learning their names and language according to their correct pronunciations. Solomon used this knowledge to force demons into labor. As a result, massive temples were constructed, sprawling palaces built and a glorious empire grew. But the avarice and luxury turned Solomon callous, cruel, selfish, greedy and paranoid. He refused to share his riches with anyone and when the rebellions started, Solomon returned to his study for solutions. As a practicing magus, Solomon had learned how to manipulate quantum energy and he opened a portal that connected him to the energies of one of the most evil stars in the galaxy. He bathed himself in its power not caring that the side effect of absorbing this evil star’s influence is insanity. Shortly afterwards, Solomon unleashed his demon horde upon the entire empire, killing every last man, woman and child. Sitting upon his throne, his empire in flames and death everywhere Solomon was enraged because he was still not satisfied. The star had exacerbated his wrath and lust to such a degree that he wanted the entire earth as well. He combined his powers with those of all the demons under his control and he became Algol, the demon lord. This transformation turned him into a monster roughly the size of an asteroid.
The Syzygy’s mirror reflects an image of a large red beast, half demon, half dragon.
Enoch: In the interim, Eternity had been growing increasingly concerned with the events that were transpiring and decided to approach the entity known as Galactus for assistance. After hearing Eternity’s pleas, Galactus agreed to stop this beast if Eternity would grant him jurisdiction of this solar system as well as a herald that would seek out planets for him to consume. Eternity agreed and crafted a sword powerful enough to not only cut into the physical body but also the subtle body energies as well. Ultimately, this weapon’s penetration could deal damage at a soul level. He named it the Katarche Blade.
Within the mirror, an image of a large sword appears. The width of this blade is about three times the size of a standard sword. The blade is light blue. Engraved on the hilt are glyphs of the four fixed zodiacal signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. The blade emits a low hum, almost as if it is vibrating.
Enoch: Armed with this powerful weapon, Galactus went to war with Algol and their legendary battle almost destroyed the solar system. In fact, most of the Kuiper Belt are the remains of planets destroyed in their wake. In the end, Galactus drove the Katarche blade deep into the heart of Algol, killing not only its physical body, but also completely disassembling its subtle body energies as well. Algol’s physical body was then buried deep in a volcano on Mars. But because quantum energy is never destroyed Eternity then dispersed its energies across the quantum realm. Finally, in order to prevent the Katarche blade from falling into the wrong hands, Eternity separated the blade into two objects. One of those is staff you see in front of you, the Syzygy. The other was a powerful sword named the Picatrix.
Within Enoch’s mirrored screen, the image of a jet-black sword materializes. It is covered in a smoke-like black flame with two gold lightning bolts on each side of the blade.
Enoch: The Picatrix was aligned with Baraquiel’s archetypal signatures and has the ability to cause confusion and madness in anything it touches. This sword is a part of Baraquiel and can be blended into his body. We have been the keepers of these objects, tasked with their protection and ensuring that Algol’s energies never reform.
Doctor Strange: I suspect that you have brought us here because Algol has returned…
Enoch: Your insight serves you well, Stephen. Recently we discovered that the Picatrix went missing and believe that Dormammu has been using this sword to aid the perversion that has driven much of your population mad. Otherwise, his power should not have this scope and range.
Enoch: Dormammu is aware that Algol feeds off the dark energies inflamed by unbalancing the Synod towards wrath. And over the past 40-50 years the decay of this corruption has reached such a fever pitch that it has awoken Algol from hibernation. The imp-demons you faced earlier are a part of his energies which is why you were unable to control them using Solomon’s ancient grimoires of demonology.
Doctor Strange: Has his physical body reconstituted as well?
Captain America: So, if wrath attracts it like blood in the water, then I assume it is heading for earth.
Enoch: Also correct, Steve Rogers.
Captain America: Is the former President aware of any of this?
Enoch: Your former President is a figurehead of dark side, black magic, specifically employed because he embodies an exaggerated archetypal signature of rage, greed and narcissism. His imbalance has been aggravated to monstrous proportions and this resonance with many of his followers has been, in turn, unwittingly and sympathetically reflected outwards, attracting Algol.
Doctor Strange: Like attracts like.
Enoch: At its core, Algol represents extreme emotion and ego intensified to the point of insanity.
Doctor Strange: So, the destruction and consumption of earth is Dormammu’s goal?
Enoch: Dormammu’s goals are much grander. Once Algol has destroyed earth, it will be one of the most powerful entities in the solar system. Ultimately, I believe Dormammu wants to direct this beast towards Eternity, itself.
Strange’s eyes widen and he responds under his breath.
Doctor Strange: He wants to replace Eternity….
Enoch: …and become a god.
Strange tilts his head down, places his hand on his forehead and closes his eyes.
Doctor Strange: How did Dormammu obtain knowledge of the Synod?
Enoch: He was the first human to discover it.
Chapter Seven: The Big Reveal
THE FEDERAL RESERVE BUILDING. NEW YORK CITY.
Buildings are on fire everywhere. Smoke and ash cover the air like a thick fog. Cars litter the streets, abandoned. At four-way intersections, the former President’s army has set up temporary internment camps made up of 10 foot high chain link fences containing crowds of people. Off to the side is a make shift gallows where people are randomly selected out of the fence to be immediately tried and judged. The soldiers wear black masks and their uniforms contain skulls similar to the symbol worn by the Punisher. Inside the Federal Reserve, Nuke is growing increasingly agitated.
Nuke: Last chance, Secretary. We need the codes to the vault downstairs. Comply or die.
Secretary: I don’t have them! I have told you this numerous times! I don’t control any of this and wouldn’t know who has been assigned to its security! Is that what all this is about? To steal money?!
Nuke backslaps the Secretary and she flies across the room crashing into the wall.
Nuke: You have it backwards! We’re stealing it back! Traitors like you sold out America to China. Allowed them to take possession of our money on American soil! Imagine a country allowing a foreign enemy to hold THEIR money in THEIR country! It’s unthinkable! We’re not stealing this money from any American. We’re taking it back from China!
Nuke points then barrel of his rifle downward toward the Secretary.
Nuke: Now. Give it to me!
The Secretary lowers her head and shakes in defeat. She starts to weep and quietly whimpers under her breath.
Secretary: I can’t give you something I don’t have.
Nuke grabs the Secretary by her hair and drags her to the window. He raises his rifle and fires. Glass shards spray everywhere. He then holds the Secretary out of the window, many floors above the ground. Behind Nuke, a soldier cautiously interjects.
Soldier: Mr. Nuke? I thought the President ordered us just to rough up the Secretary a bit?
Nuke stares down the soldier. His eyes are glowing yellow. A grin is on his face.
Nuke: He did and this is how we play it rough.
Nuke releases the Secretary and she plummets many floors to her death. Screams are heard on the ground as she makes impact.
Many blocks south a massive explosion is heard. A van has exploded at the base of the 30 Rockefeller building. The building trembles and starts to collapse. Smoke and dust billow out like a mushroom cloud covering the area. The muffled screams of individuals trapped inside are briefly heard before the building falls in upon itself. Nuke touches his earpiece, receiving the report of the building’s collapse. He closes his eyes and raises his head upwards.
Nuke: A moment of praise, my brothers. The satanic temple of MSNBC has just fallen. Praise the Lord.
Hovering high above the rubble of the building, a helicopter transmits the images of destruction to the Fox News channel. The camera switches over to Tucker Carlson, who is flanked by two of the former President’s soldiers standing over him. Carlson’s eyes and mouth are opened wide. It is silent for about 5-10 seconds until one of the soldiers nudges him.
TC: Okay…okay! Just gimme a second.
Carlson closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and holds out his hands in order to center himself.
TC: My fellow Americans. I don’t think anyone likes the images that we are seeing. I don’t think anyone is happy with this outcome. But, ask yourself, “Was any other outcome possible?” What we are seeing is the beginnings of a revolution…and revolutions are messy. People get hurt…sometimes people die. I have tried to communicate this reality in this show for years now. I knew this would eventually come and was hoping that the Liberals would come to their senses in order to save themselves from it. But with everything in life, you give people chances and let them make the choice as to which path they will take. Obviously, Liberals decided to continue on their path of godlessness and corruption…and this…all of this is the response to those decisions. They have brought this on their selves. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone right now in this transformational moment in our country’s history, but know this: this could have been avoided.
Tucker lowers his head and touches his ear piece.
TC: Now? Ok. Everyone, we are going to pan over to Miami, Florida where the former President is about to give a speech.
An image of the former President pops on the screen. He is standing at a podium with a small army of soldiers behind him. Below and in front of him is a sea of followers, probably a couple thousand. The former President’s trademarked grin is beaming.
FP: I know many of you are hurting right now. Some of you have questions. Some of you are confused with what you are seeing. But you are not confused with what you have experienced. What you have witnessed and observed, as have I, over the decades. This hasn’t been America in a long time. It was taken from you years ago Taken by those who don’t believe in this dream. By those who don’t understand that this is a God-fearing country founded upon the principles and values of the Bible. Today is the day we take it back!!!
The crowd erupts. Confederate flags are raised everywhere in the crowd.
FP: But let’s be clear: while I, and we, may not necessarily condone the actions currently underway in New York, we empathize with the anger. We understand WHY it is happening. And in many ways, why it MUST happen. Most of you own businesses and know that firing people is not fun. You don’t want to do it, but sometimes it must be done in order to be successful. Most of you have children and sometimes they must be punished in order to learn right from wrong. None of us enjoy what is going on right now, but we have to understand that it was unavoidable because of what the Democrats have turned this country into.
The crowd is eerily silent, almost as if they are under a trance.
FP: What happens when you take away Democracy from a people? When you tax them to the point of poverty? When you give all their hard-earned money to those who refuse to work? When you threaten to take away their guns, remove their God? Eventually those people get fed up. Eventually they get mad. Angry. And…that…anger…is…righteous!!
The crowd erupts again. Spit and saliva stream out of the mouths of followers who have become rabid listening to the former President’s words.
Follower: You are God’s prophet! He delivered you to us!
FP: They are baby killers! Child rapists! They are perverse! They are godless! They believe in nothing and hate America! They hate you…and yet, they call YOU deplorable! They call YOU racist! And why? Because they want to silence you. They want to shut you up. They don’t want to hear your opinions or questions because it forces them to confront some pretty inconvenient blind spots. And boy do they have blind spots!
Crowd: Q! Q! Q!!!
The crowd begins stomping their feet. It sounds like a stampede. Guns and rifles are raised high throughout the crowd. They are howling, screeching almost as if in a moment of catharsis. The former President raises his arms to wave the crowd down. His trademarked grin embraces them as if he is absorbing their energy. He raises his arms wide.
FP: Y’know, we can be honest now, can’t we? No more of worrying about which Liberal network is going to spin your words…because they don’t exist anymore! We can finally be honest with each other, right? So, I’m going to ask you a very common-sense question. I’m sure some of you have asked it yourself.
The former President pauses. His head tilts down slightly. He stares down into the crowd almost as if he is staring through them. His eyes have an honest seriousness about them that is calm, direct and ruthless.
FP: It has been over 150 years since the civil war ended…do you ever wonder when these people are going to get it together? What’s it gonna take? I mean, really!
The former President shrugs his shoulders as if the answer is self-evident. The crowd goes absolutely bonkers. People are hugging, weeping, throwing high fives and chest bumping. Nothing can be heard amongst their roar.
Follower: Thank you, Jesus!
FP: It’s a perfectly reasonable question, but these are the types of questions that get you black-balled! Get you canceled! And a lot of very fine people have asked this over the years. You either want freedom or you don’t. And if you free a group of people and they never take advantage of it, you have to wonder if they ever wanted it in the first place. Am I right?!
Racial epithets are heard everywhere. The former President nods in admiration.
FP: This is why you can’t reason with Democrats because they don’t believe in free speech. They prefer censorship! Ultimately, THEY’RE the racists because they want to keep those people and everyone else enslaved to their party for eternity. That’s what the Democrats want: slavery. They want everyone to be enslaved. They don’t want reasoned debate or logical questions. They want you to follow in lock step with their agenda!
The former President raises his arms again to calm down the crowd. He leans into his mic. His voice drops.
FB: They are an enemy. Traitors. Pure evil!
The crowd reacts like an angry pack of dogs. The screaming and rage have become visceral, animalistic. The former President allows the wrath to foment for about half a minute. He is stoic, unemotional amongst the chaos.
FB: Alright, alright. Settle down you deplorables!
The crowd laughs.
FB: I want you to listen closely. I know our country is hurting right now. The economy is gone. No one is working. The stock exchange has shut down. I’m feeling it too. I have lost millions. But you have to be strong. If you hear only one thing today, this is it. You have to be strong. Only strength matters. That is why every person here is a winner. It’s because you’re strong…and only the strong survive. You must be strong now in order to do what must be done and to understand why what must be done has to be done. I alone can stop this carnage, but I can’t do it without your support. We are the true Americans. THIS is the true America. God bless you and God bless the United States.
The former President walks off stage, but is greeted by three officers in his security detail. One of the officers leans over and whispers into the former President’s ear. The former President scoffs.
FB: The Moon is what? Pfft! Fake news.
The officer leans in again. The former President begins to laugh.
FB: Who told you this?
The officer leans in one last time. The former President’s face goes white.
FB: Who did this? How much time do we have?
Suddenly the day turns into night. Everything is dark. The crowd goes silent.
Follower: It must be an eclipse!
The former President looks up and sees massive flaming asteroids raining down from the sky. Their sheer volume blots out the sun. The former President angrily gets in the face of the security officer
FP: Get me on the phone to Doom immediately!
Before the officer can move an ear-piercing shriek is heard from behind the array of asteroids. The shriek is part human, part monster with a tone that is a combination of rage and insanity. It sounds uncontrollable. The former President’s mouth slowly drops as he realizes he has been played…and there is no escape.
Chapter Eight: Galaxies Far, Far Away
Behind Enoch is the swirling backdrop of the quantum realm. Waves of energy course through the atmosphere. Twinkles of light randomly sparkle and disappear. Rays of color materialize and are then swallowed into the sea. Doctor Strange is standing in front of the heroes. His arms are crossed and his face is purposeful and urgent.
Doctor Strange: How did Dormammu discover the Synod?
Enoch: Well, he discovered the quantum realm through meditation and astral projection. Eventually his explorations led him to the discovery of this eternal polarity.
Doctor Strange: How old is he? Is he from earth?
Enoch: Very old and no. He came from another galaxy far away from yours, but he is a part of the human species. His name was Vettius Valens. During his time, he was what you may have referred to as a spiritual master. Vettius would spend weeks in meditation. But despite a complete disregard of his physical needs, he was able to maintain due to a connection or what he termed, “relationship” to energies behind the physical realm. As he continued to unlock this new reality, he learned ways to use those energies similar to your sorceries, Stephen.
Doctor Strange: So he became a sorcerer?
Enoch: Not exactly. You may think of him more like a monk. He learned how to “feel” the energies around him due to this relationship with that flow of energy and how to manifest it in the physical realm.
Doctor Strange: I’m having difficulty distinguishing the difference.
Enoch: It is very subtle, but much more powerful. Vettius discovered a way to become one with the quantum realm. To merge with it. Not simply bend the energies to his will.
Doctor Strange: What could he do?
Enoch: Move objects similar to the abilities you refer to as telekinesis. He could augment his physical abilities. Jumping and running could become amplified. He could easily track and block fast moving objects. Most importantly, he learned how to “persuade” the thoughts of others just by interfering with the quantum realm.
Doctor Strange: …and this is how he learned…
Enoch: Yes. By bonding himself to the quantum realm he became sensitive to its flow. Not only could he sense when he was in the presence of those who were easily “suggestable”, but he was able to sense their feelings as well. This led him to the discovery that anger and emotion imbalance the waves that he felt flowing through him.
Doctor Strange: So, what happened?
Enoch: He used his sensitivity to the quantum realm to identify students who also shared a strong connection. He opened a school and started teaching others how to develop this relationship. But as he became older, Vettius became attached to his physical life. His ego. He was afraid of losing the knowledge he had developed so he started exploring ways to manipulate the quantum realm to extend his life. When his students discovered this, they confronted him because everything he was doing went against what he had taught them. Vettius became enraged with their interference and he attacked them. He slaughtered many of his students, but those that remained rose up against him. They killed him defending themselves and their families. When Vettius’ energies transitioned over from the physical realm I noticed it immediately because it was evident that he was able to maintain the structure of his consciousness in this reality…which should be an impossibility. I suspected that his training in the physical realm actually prepared him to prevent being assimilated back into the quantum realm. I also noticed that his energies were very dark and very angry. His death had inadvertently made him more powerful because his consciousness and anger had carried over. I was not able to disperse his energies so I did the only thing available. I banished him to a dark dimension of the quantum realm. From there, he renamed himself Dormammu. In Enochian, this translates to the “dark lord”. From that point on, he began attacking the physical realm through subversions to the quantum field. Most of those attacks have been directed towards his galaxy of origin, but that galaxy has become so adept with defending themselves against him that he began to search out other galaxies to attack. He found yours and has been steadily increasing his focus there over the last few ages.
Captain America: You and Baraquiel can’t destroy him?
Enoch: Energy can’t be destroyed, but our efforts have been directed toward keeping his consciousness and energies locked in the dark dimension. If he can escape from there and back into the physical realm…
Captain America: Got it. Ok, how do we stop him? What are our options?
Doctor Strange: And how did this other galaxy defend against him?
Enoch: Their relationship to the quantum realm was their asset.
Strange looks up as an idea just occurred to him. He slowly glances over to the Hulk.
Doctor Strange: Bruce. You mentioned Bruce Banner when you reached out to me in astral form.
Enoch walks over to the Hulk and stares up at him.
Enoch: I did.
Enoch’s gaze never breaks. The Hulk looks uncomfortably at Strange.
Hulk: I really don’t know how super strength is going to help here.
Enoch: Bruce Banner, have you ever wondered how the being known as the Silver Surfer was able to transform you back into human form?
Before Hulk can respond, Enoch lightly touches the Syzygy to the Hulk’s forehead. Immediately, the Hulk begins transforming back into Bruce Banner.
Enoch: Relax. This should not be painful.
Enoch pulls back the Syzygy. He stares at it.
Enoch: When Galactus destroyed Algol, Eternity had to uphold their bargain by giving him the means of creating a herald who could serve him. Eternity pulled some of the energy from within the Syzgy and gave it to Galactus to use as he wished. Galactus used this energy in transforming Norrin Rand into the Silver Surfer.
Doctor Strange: So how is this energy able to transform Bruce?
Enoch turns to Daredevil.
Enoch: Matthew Murdock. What do you observe in Bruce Banner?
Daredevil walks over in front of Bruce and concentrates quietly for a couple seconds.
Daredevil: He is awash in energies. They are flowing everywhere around him. It is almost as if they are part of him.
Enoch: They are.
Doctor Strange: Gamma radiation?
Enoch: Yes! When Bruce was caught in that gamma explosion, those energies merged with his subtle body. Gamma radiation is a part of the quantum realm. As a result, this accident created a permanent connection from the quantum field to Bruce. But Bruce has never been a very balanced individual, has never been taught how to develop this connection and quantum energy does not manifest effectively within imbalanced individuals.
Bruce: So super strength…the Hulk…is nothing but a dysfunction?
Enoch: It is the way that you have unconsciously manifested this power. Because anger is a perversion of quantum energies, your anger manifested accordingly and became a reflection of that. You became a monster. But if you can fully develop this connection…
Bruce: Then I can confront Dormammu.
Enoch: That is our hope. You are raw power, Bruce. We noticed this when you were bestowed with the Uni-Power years ago.
Bruce: So why didn’t you approach me then?
Enoch: Your lack of balance is dangerous. We did not want to accidentally create another entity similar to Dormammu.
Doctor Strange: But now you don’t have a choice.
Enoch: Dormammu has forced our hand.
Bruce: So how do I develop this energy? Can Strange teach me?
Enoch: Stephen actually needs a teacher himself. No, you need to journey to the galaxy where this relationship was discovered. You will need to seek out a master who is independent enough to trust his feelings about the urgency and necessity of our situation even if his assistance may contradict the dictates or protocol of his order.
Doctor Strange: How will we get there?
Enoch: The Syzygy allows transport to anywhere in the physical realm via the quantum realm. I can open a portal for you. Baraquiel will accompany you as well.
The team turns to Baraquiel. He hasn’t moved since they entered Enoch’s study. He stands over all of them, quietly casting a long shadow.
Captain America: Baraquiel is a bit ostentatious. Don’t you think he will stand out a bit?
Enoch: Not where I am sending you. This galaxy is very advanced and immersed with others races and species. But your “clothes” ARE a bit ostentatious. You will stand out wearing those. Let’s change you into something that is a bit more fitting.
Enoch raises the Syzygy and swirls it twice. The costumes on all the heroes disappear and are replaced with simple cloaked robes.
Enoch: There. Much better.
Enoch turns the staff away from the heroes and points it in front of him. Waves of energy pulse out of the tip slowly creating a tear in the quantum realm. The inside of this portal glows light blue. Enoch glances back at the heroes.
Enoch: Are you ready?
Captain America: I think so. How will we know who we are looking for?
Enoch: I think he will notice you first.
Daredevil: I should be able to recognize the energy patterns. Let’s go.
The heroes walk slowly towards the portal with Baraquiel trailing closely behind them. They enter and it seals.
When the heroes come out on the other side they are in a dark home. They are standing on a large, oriental rug. At the end of the room are large glass doors that open to a balcony over-looking a massive city. The city is technologically advanced. Spires, skyscrapers and citadels are everywhere. Cars are flying through the sky. The glow illuminates the room. Sitting on the rug is an older man with a short pony tail. He is in deep meditation.
Older Man: I thought I sensed a disturbance…but I also don’t sense you to be a threat. Hello, my friends.
Strange steps forward.
Doctor Strange: I apologize for invading your home. That was not our intention. We are searching for a teacher. A spiritual master who has obtained abilities through a connection to another realm.
Daredevil grabs Strange’s arm.
Daredevil: I’m pretty sure that’s him.
The man stands up and turns around. He has a goatee. His face is weathered, but strong and aware. His eyes display a confidence that comes from wisdom. He is calm, but his presence evokes kindness and power. He smiles.
Man: What you are referring to is the force. I am the Jedi master known as Qui-Gon Jinn…and I sense that the force has brought us together.
Chapter Nine: Awakening
It is daytime, but you wouldn’t know it. An avalanche of asteroids covers the sky.
They land hard. Everywhere.
The first one hits the bay. The chunk is about a mile in diameter. It rolls up a tidal wave the size of a sky scraper. It covers most of Miami. Thousands of bodies desperately flail to swim, but are quickly sucked under.
Then next few pieces all hit downtown. Whatever life had not drowned with the first hit are obliterated immediately. Their impact is a nuclear, destroying everything in the radius, rippling up the earth and creating a blowback that topples buildings miles into the perimeter.
Algol lands screaming, it’s head wobbling all around as if in a panic. Coming from the north, a series of missiles stream in and hit all over its body. The smoke clears and it is still standing. Its face shakes with rage. Mighty wings flap, pushing it off the ground. It opens its mouth wide and an eruption of red fiery lava explodes out cutting deep into the earth. The gash creates a fissure that splits the earth wide. The remains of the city are swallowed, removing Miami from existence.
Algol opens its wings, drawing and siphoning energy. It wraps its wings around its body like a cocoon. It’s head slowly emerges and raises to the sky. It snorts loudly as if it is trying to catch the scent of something. It’s head suddenly jerks and Algol releases with a ear splitting scream. It turns to the north while continuing to tear into the earth with lava blasts. Earthquakes crack open everywhere behind it as it heads towards New York.
Qui-Gonn stares up at Baraquiel.
Qui-Gonn: A being of the living force. I have heard of entities like you. I never thought I would encounter one. And you…
Qui-Gonn glances over at Bruce.
Qui-Gonn: You are exceptionally strong with the force.
Doctor Strange: His name is Bruce Banner. I am Stephen Strange.
Strange gestures to his team.
Doctor Strange: This is Steve Rogers, Matthew Murdock and Scott Lang. The “force being” is an entity known as Baraquiel. We are from another galaxy and have journeyed to you through a portal of energy known as the quantum realm. This “force” to which you are referring may be the energy patterns upon which this reality is comprised.
Qui-Gonn: That is possible. There are always multiple ways to communicate the same thing.
Doctor Strange: How did you know that Baraquiel and Bruce were connected to the force?
Qui-Gonn: You are as well. I can feel it. Jedi’s are trained to develop our sensitivities to the force. Eventually that connection can become so acute that it can be difficult to distinguish yourself as a separate living entity. All of life is connected through the will of the living force.
Ant-Man: This guy sounds like Enoch.
Bruce: So, by establishing this connection you can control these energies?
Qui-Gonn: No. Control is not the goal of a relationship with the force. YOU control yourself in order to flow with the force. You reach out with your feelings, but balance them with your rational mind. Balance is the goal, but this is only done by controlling yourself.
Qui-Gonn raises his eyebrows as he studies Bruce. Bruce turns away.
Qui-Gonn: I sense much fear and anger in you.
Doctor Strange: What are the Jedi?
Qui-Gonn: They are an order of peace keepers. Guardians. They have existed for thousands of years. Jedi’s are usually identified as younglings and then trained to develop their connection to the force. I am a part of their order. It is my responsibility to defend life and guard against those who would attempt to destabilize the rational ideals and democratic institutions that form the foundations of civilized society.
Captain America: Ok. He’s who we’re looking for.
Qui-Gonn glances over to Cap and then back to Strange.
Doctor Strange: Have you heard of a Jedi by the name of Vettius Valens?
Surprised, Qui-Gonn immediately looks over at the rest of the team to gauge their reactions. His head tilts down slightly.
Qui-Gonn: He was one of the first of our order to discover the force. He was very wise. Very powerful. Unfortunately, he became seduced by the dark side. Ultimately, this led to his fall.
Doctor Strange: Would you find it hard to believe that he was never destroyed?
Qui-Gonn responds instantly.
Qui-Gonn: No. Nothing is ever truly destroyed. We all return to the force. But we haven’t been able to discover how to maintain our consciousness and memories after leaving this physical form.
Doctor Strange: Vettius did.
Qui-Gonn: Ah. This is not surprising. How did you come by this information?
Doctor Strange: We have confirmed that Vettius has been manipulating our galaxy by using anger and emotion to destabilize our democracy. He almost seems to “feed” off this.
Qui-Gonn gazes upwards as if in thought. He turns and walks over to the glass doors, opens them and walks to the edge of the balcony. He places clenched fists on both of his hips while overlooking the city.
Strange gives him a minute to digest the information and then follows him out.
Doctor Strange: This city is amazing. May I ask its name?
Qui-Gonn: This is Coruscant. An entire planet covered by city. It is the center and crown jewel of the Galactic Empire and home to the Jedi.
Doctor Strange: It is truly a wonder. Nothing in our galaxy comes anywhere close to this grandeur.
Qui-Gonn smiles and chuckles slightly.
Qui-Gonn: What you have described sounds like the Sith.
Doctor Strange: The Sith?
Qui-Gonn: Yes. They are force-sensitive beings who have embraced the dark side of the force. They operate in pairs. A master and a pupil. Much of their power is derived from anger, rage, wrath…extreme passion. Hatred fuels them. Their ultimate goal is power and they achieve this through the destabilization of democratic ideals and concepts. If Vettius has discovered a way to attack other galaxies that are not as experienced as ours, then that would explain why you have been caught off-guard by this type of attack.
Qui-Gonn sighs deeply.
Qui-Gonn: I must advise my council of this information you have shared.
Doctor Strange: And you shall, but in the interim we are in dire need of urgent assistance. We have also discovered what you immediately noticed in Bruce. He is covered in force energy. We believe that if Bruce can unlock these powers, he may be the key to stopping Vettius.
Qui-Gonn: You want me to teach him.
Before Strange can respond, Qui-Gonn turns his head slightly and looks at him through the corner of his eyes.
Qui-Gonn: Who sent you to me?
Doctor Strange: A being of great power who manages the flow of energy within the quantum realm. He mentioned that your relationship with the living force would serve you in understanding the necessity of our situation.
Qui-Gonn: This being is obviously very wise. I would help you, but the timing involved with this request is impossible. I am currently teaching one padawan and the council only allows me to teach one at a time. Additionally, the commitment to learning and growing with the force is life-long…and you do not appear to have the luxury of time.
Qui-Gonn stares thoughtfully at Bruce.
Qui-Gonn: Also, we tend to avoid those who are conflicted and unbalanced. The repercussions of teaching an imbalanced individual can be disastrous…especially one as powerful as Bruce appears to be.
Baraquiel walks in front of the heroes and faces Qui-Gonn. He raises his right arm and opens the palm of his hand. He stands still for a few moments. Qui-Gonn raises his head to study the black demon. He then closes his eyes, raises his left arm and opens the palm of his hand. Behind the two of them the city shines like a paradise. Light and shadow ricochet color in every direction. Baraquiel moves his hand forward and clasps Qui-Gonn’s. Neither figure moves. Qui-Gonn inhales deeply through his nose. His chest raises.
Daredevil: How is this not hurting him?
Doctor Strange: What do you see?
Daredevil: I don’t know if I can explain it. They are a locus of energy and it is indescribably beautiful. They are attracting all the energies around us to them. It is elegant…powerful…
Qui-Gonn releases from Baraquiel, but his eyes remain closed for a few moments. He slowly opens them as if awakening.
Qui-Gonn: My, my. You ARE ancient. I must talk to my council about everything you have shown me.
He turns to the heroes.
Qui-Gonn: Matthew and Captain Rogers. It appears that your involvement is not a coincidence. You were selected because your energies represent very specific archetypal energies. One of you represents justice and due process while the other is a symbol of democracy, freedom and equality. These maintain balance within the force because they are a necessary counter to greed, wrath and hatred.
Captain America: Baraquiel revealed this to you?
Qui-Gonn: And more. Bruce, please step forward.
Doctor Strange: What are you doing?
Qui-Gonn: I’m going to help you. It will be too difficult to explain so you will have to trust me. The council would probably expel me from the order if they knew what I was doing, but this can’t be avoided. If you are not able to stop Dormammu then he will return to our galaxy…and he will be more powerful. Matthew and Captain Rogers. Please kneel by Bruce’s side. Bruce, place your hands on their shoulders.
Ant-Man: Hey! What archetype am I? I grow big and stuff. Does he need any of that?
Qui-Gonn and Strange both glare harshly at Ant-Man.
Ant-Man: Oh. Well, fuck me then.
Qui-Gonn glances up at Baraquiel.
Qui-Gonn: I think we are ready, my friend.
Baraquiel touches the palm of his hand to the center of Qui-Gonn’s chest. Then he places his other hand on the forehead of Bruce. Bruce immediately jerks backwards. His muscles start to grow. His face starts turning light green.
Daredevil: Agh! He’s turning into the Hulk. He’ll crush Steve and I!
Qui-Gonn’s eyes remain closed.
Qui-Gonn: Stephen! Your abilities are needed! Please assist with the transference!
Doctor Strange levitates off the ground. Air swirls around him. His hands carve a triangle into the air. It is pulsating and emitting sparks.
Doctor Strange: With the grand trine, I bond your essences! I bond your energies! I remove all barriers! Within a constant flow of energy…you are one!
His arms push forward and the triangle falls at the floor creating a base of energy containing the heroes inside its holographic shape. The triangle glows light blue. Bruce’s transformation into the Hulk begins to reverse. Strange holds the triangle in place until Qui-Gonn opens his eyes.
Baraquiel removes his hands from Qui-Gonn and Bruce. Bruce immediately collapses. Cap catches him.
Captain America: Bruce!
Daredevil touches him.
Daredevil: He’s unconscious.
Qui-Gonn: He will need rest. He absorbed quite a bit. I’m actually surprised this worked.
Doctor Strange: Baraquiel showed you this?
Qui-Gonn: He did. This is the only feasible option to unlocking Bruce’s connection to the force.
Daredevil: So, what now?
Qui-Gonn: It is hard to say. Bruce will need to adjust. When he awakes, I’m sure he will provide you with the clarity you need.
Qui-Gonn glances down at Bruce.
Qui-Gonn: He has an exceptionally strong heart. It is amazing that he has been able fight this long with his shadow…there is much good in him.
Strange walks over to Qui-Gonn.
Doctor Strange: Thank you.
Qui-Gonn: You are very welcome.
Doctor Strange: I hope we meet again.
Qui-Gonn: I sense that we will.
The two shake hands.
Qui-Gonn: May the force be with you, my friends.
Doctor Strange: And you as well.
Strange glances over to Baraquiel.
Doctor Strange: I think we are ready.
Baraquiel raises his arms in the air, firing two massive broken strands of electricity into the sky. A portal tears open within Qui-Gonn’s home. The heroes exit through the portal and it seals up behind then.
Qui-Gonn returns to his rug, sits down and meditates. The city shines in front of him.
As the heroes return to the Mazzaroth, Bruce begins to awaken. His body is glowing green and vibrating. He is humming with energy. Cap carefully lowers him to the ground.
Enoch is leaning on his staff.
Enoch: I see the transference was successful.
Doctor Strange: You could have provided a bit more notice on that.
Enoch: It was easier if you experienced it first-hand.
Bruce places his hands on both of his temples.
Green energy flares out of him knocking all of the heroes back. The study expands and constricts as if it were made of rubber.
Enoch: He is processing and digesting the energy. His body is adjusting to his new auras. We may be in a bit of danger.
Ant-Man: What the hell?! Seriously?
Enoch: Bruce, how do you feel?
Bruce: I…I…feel like I’m imploding. I don’t know if I can…can hold this.
Enoch: I was afraid that his body may start to reject this. The energy has become accustomed to manifesting the Hulk. It is confused. This rearrangement may be a bit difficult.
Bruce’s glow grows until it envelopes all the heroes. The hum grows louder.
Bruce: H…h…help me…
Doctor Strange: Enoch! Do something!
Enoch: There is nothing to do done. This is a natural stage in the transformation process. But if he explodes…we don’t want that to occur here.
Captain America: Explodes?!
Daredevil: Guys, this isn’t good. What I’m seeing in Bruce is insane. Strange, do you have a way to contain this or diffuse him?
Enoch shakes his head and scoffs. He raises the Syzygy, holds it horizontal and swirls it three times. The portal reopens. Enoch kneels down to Bruce and whispers under his breath.
Enoch: This portal will take you out of here so you can release safely. Find who you are…then return to us. We need you, brother. This realm needs a trinity.
Trembling, Bruce slowly raises his head. His eyes and teeth are clenched. Saliva drools onto the floor. Every ounce of strength is holding back. He struggles to open one eye. Enoch is staring directly inside of him.
Enoch: Excelsior, Guardian.
Bruce fires through the portal, a trail of green fire following behind him.
Chapter Ten: Transformation
A fiery green comet shoots across space. It is sporadically popping in and out of view as it teleports forward almost like a sputtering car, spastically backfiring back and forth.
Bruce: Agh! Ugh, no! Agh!!!!
Bruce charges away from earth as fast as he can. If he explodes anywhere near, the pent-up energy has the potential to take out many planets within light years of him.
He is hearing voices in his head.
Voice: You are a monster! You will never be accepted! Let go! Feel the hatred! The anger!
Bruce disappears out of view and then pops back into existence again. He passes by Jupiter, zig zagging around the planet before disappearing again.
He arrives at Uranus. Bruce is barely conscious.
Bruce: Keep m…moving…gotta g…get away…
The pressure of the energy is incredible. Inside, he feels like he is holding back an ocean…and the dam is ready to blow.
Bruce arrives at Pluto. He stops and curls up in a fetal position. All at once he bursts open, exploding and sending shockwaves in all directions. The released energy ripples through the Kuiper belt disintegrating the sea of asteroids. The energy continues to burst and pulsate off Bruce for almost an entire minute.
Then…everything is silent. Bruce opens his eyes. For some reason Pluto survived the explosion along with one of its Moons, Charon.
He floats peacefully, covered by a flaming green aura. He stares at the small planetary bodies. His eyes have turned jet black. He thoughtfully temples his hands together at his chin then drops them suddenly as his head tilts slightly back.
Bruce’s voice echoes, but a much louder voice from beyond the cosmos responds.
Eternity: Hello Guardian.
Bruce: It is nice to finally meet you.
Eternity: And you as well, Guardian. We have been awaiting your arrival for some time. Do you require anything?
Bruce stares down at Pluto.
It is quiet for a second.
Eternity: You want me to play music for you.
Bruce: If possible.
It is quiet for a couple more seconds.
Eternity: Nothing is impossible for Eternity. What would you like to hear?
Bruce: Forty-Six & 2 by Tool.
Eternity: Excellent choice, Guardian. What decibel level would you prefer? Across the galaxy or just this planet?
Bruce: Every inch of this planet.
Eternity: As you wish.
As the song begins, Bruce flies down within the atmosphere of Pluto. He surveys its frozen, remote surface.
Bruce: I have been so incredibly broken…for so long. My inability to process my anger allowed the Hulk to happen. Allowed the destruction he has caused. And yet, the Hulk isn’t separate. I AM him.
Bruce raises his arms and a green protective ozone layer spreads around the planet.
Bruce: At times I thought…felt…that my anger was righteous in response to anything that triggered it.
Bruce stares down at a frozen volcano. He swats back his hand and the ice instantly cracks and flies off the sides. With both hands, he directs a burst of green fire directly into the heart of it. It responds with a jet of lava shooting through the atmosphere, spurting around the edges and flowing down the side.
Bruce: How many people have I accidentally hurt? How much friendly fire have I caused? How many have been hospitalized? How many…died? How much damage am I responsible for?
Bruce’s hands come together, balling up the flowing lava. He drags it across the frozen terrain, unearthing soil and dirt. He raises one arm and trees, grass and flowers spring up from the razed ground. Jungles arise, stretching out for miles.
Bruce: I have been the problem. All this intelligence. All this brilliance. All this knowledge and I have been unable to manage my emotions. To understand how to blend them together. This inability to maintain balance has handicapped my purpose and everyone has suffered.
Bruce scorches an entire continent. He raises both hands and water shoots up through the pores of the surface. An ocean is created.
Bruce: I must take control of who I am. I must fulfill my destiny.
Bruce flies up next to a mountain and chops it down with the edge of his hand. He scoops up more lava with one hand and a basin of water with the other. He smashes the two together and smoke covers the area. He cups his hands, molding the debris from the mountain with the lava and water. Bruce shapes the material into a castle.
Bruce: Logan would appreciate this.
Bruce squeezes both fists and the castle hardens, solidifies and glistens in the darkened, distant light.
Bruce pauses and then slowly looks himself over. He extends his arms, opens his hands and spreads out his fingers. Dark green slowly grows across his body. His hair turns jet black, matching his eyes. He places one hand on his chest. It begins to glow until it catches fire. He closes his eyes and removes his hand. Across his chest is an emblazened, fiery planetary glyph for Pluto.
The song ends.
Bruce surveys his work. An entire planet is now habitable. It is gorgeous.
Bruce: This is good.
Eternity: This will be a suitable base of operations, Guardian. The fortress is quite indestructible.
Bruce stares up into space.
Bruce: Eternity, we need an energy source. A star.
Eternity: What do you suggest, Guardian?
Bruce: I want Antares.
Eternity: Guardian, Antares is much too large for this galaxy. I fear that its size would destabilize the precious alignment. Also, its archetypal essence is highly volatile.
Bruce: Ok. What would you suggest?
Eternity: Have you considered Sirius?
Bruce: Should I?
Eternity: Its size isn’t unmanageable. Also, it IS known as the Guardian star.
Eternity: I can open the portal, but you will have to bring it forth.
Bruce: Will do.
Eternity: Guardian, I hope it is understood that it is not my place to intervene like this.
Bruce: It is.
A tear in reality materializes, revealing the massive star. Bruce reaches forward and starts pulling the star through the portal. His face strains under the exertion.
Bruce: I must become a symbol. The courage to stare into our darkest parts and confront what has become toxic…monstrous. To stop allowing anger to foster insanity. If I can be reborn then everyone possesses this power.
A green crown of flame materializes over the top of Bruce’s head.
Bruce: With great transformation comes…no need for super beings.
The star is in place, it’s warm embrace watches over Pluto and Charon. The entire planet is alive…reborn. The portal closes.
Eternity: Very good, Guardian. What’s next?
Bruce: I would like to tour some of the surrounding galaxies.
Eternity: I believe Enoch is awaiting your return.
Bruce: I’ll make it quick.
Eternity: As you wish.
Bruce: Thank you for your help, Eternity.
Eternity: You are very welcome, Guardian. This galaxy needs you and I look forward to our friendship.
Bruce: As do I. Oh…
Bruce: Yes. Panopticon by the Smashing Pumpkins?
Eternity: Another excellent choice, Guardian.
Bruce explodes away from Pluto, a spiraling green trail of fire following behind him.
Enoch is pacing. The team is spread out on chairs. Ant-Man is sitting against the wall napping. Doctor Strange is at the podium staring up at the constantly shifting quantum realm.
A voice echoes into the study.
Enoch smiles. He extends the Syzygy and opens a portal. Bruce bursts through it, hovering in front of the heroes.
Strange’s eyes widen.
Doctor Strange: By Vishanti…
Enoch: Hello, Bruce Banner. I trust that your journey of self-discovery was successful?
A green circle of fire swirls underneath Bruce as he stares down upon the heroes.
Bruce: Bruce Banner is no more. I am…Gamma Guardian!
Chapter Eleven: A Plan Comes Together
THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY
A silver streak races across the cosmos. Its speed is a blur as it passes by planets in the blink of an eye.
An astral projection of Enoch appears in the horizon.
Enoch: Norrin Radd.
The Silver Surfer stops. Particles of white energy roll around him like water.
Silver Surfer: Who are you and how do you know my name?
Enoch: I am Enoch…
Silver Surfer: …the Esoteric.
Enoch: You are aware of me?
Silver Surfer: Galactus told me stories of you long ago.
Enoch: Interesting. I am reaching out to you because the earth is in grave danger.
Silver Surfer: The earth is well protected, but another planet with less protection is in dire need of my assistance.
Enoch: Algol has returned.
The Surfer tilts his head down slightly and closes his eyes. He opens them and slowly raises his head.
Silver Surfer: Can Galactus stop it?
Enoch: Not this time. Algol has become too powerful.
Surfer gazes off into the distance.
Silver Surfer: Sigh. I’m on my way.
The heroes astonishingly stare at the green figure hovering above them. All is silent. The Gamma Guardian glances at Enoch. His face is serious and urgent.
Guardian: Dormammu. Where.
Enoch: Baraquiel can guide you to the dark dimension.
Doctor Strange: I am going as well.
Doctor Strange: I am the Sorcerer Supreme. I may not be a force-being like you and Baraquiel, but I have held ground against Dormammu before. I am familiar with him.
Enoch: You may not return.
Doctor Strange: This isn’t up for discussion. I am going.
Guardian turns back to Enoch.
Guardian: How do we get in?
Enoch: I will have to remove the barriers in place around the dark dimension. Please understand, once these barriers are removed Dormammu will have the ability to escape. In other words…
Guardian: We have one shot to beat him.
Captain America: How can we help?
Enoch: Captain Rogers, I need you and your team to journey to Doom castle. We can’t allow Doom to complete his transformation into a Sith. He will surrender or be destroyed.
Captain America: What about Algol?
Enoch: I have dispatched Silver Surfer to earth. Matthew, you will assist him.
Captain America: How will they be able to beat Algol without the Katarche Blade?
Guardian: The Katarche Blade won’t work against Algol now. Not until Dormammu is removed from existence.
Captain America: Then how do we stop Algol?
Enoch: Norrin Radd and Matthew Murdock will be key to that battle. For right now, our top priority is recovering the Picatrix in order to confront Dormammu with the Katarche Blade.
Captain America: I’m not comfortable with our odds against Algol. I’ll reach out to Thor. Scott, you’ll join that team as well.
Ant-Man: Cap? Just you against Doom? Really?
Captain America: Actually, Tony and Rhodey have been itching for a crack at him as well.
A sly smile comes across Cap’s face.
Captain America: …but I have a secret weapon as well…and I suspect that she’ll be more than a match for Doom.
A look of concern suddenly comes across his face. He glances over to Enoch.
Captain America: So, Algol has arrived at earth?
Enoch raises the Syzygy and twirls it, creating a mirror displaying the devastation over Miami.
Enoch: The city known as Miami no longer exists.
Cap’s head drops.
Captain America: How many?
Enoch: Roughly 90%.
The team gasps. Cap covers his face with his hand.
Captain America: God damn it…
Enoch: Miami isn’t the only city that has been hit. Algol has destroyed the earth’s Moon. Chunks of it have landed on earth and heavily damaged many of the major cities across the world.
The image within the Syzygy expands. Smoke is billowing up everywhere across the globe.
Enoch: Within minutes Algol will arrive at New York.
Captain America: Then we are officially on the clock. Let’s move.
Enoch opens two portals. Cap and his team walk to the first portal. He turns back to the Guardian.
Captain America: Good luck, Guardian. We’re counting on you.
The Guardian nods. Cap and his team disappear into the portal. The Guardian, Baraquiel and Doctor Strange gather at the opening of their portal.
Enoch: Dormammu is near omnipotent in the dark dimension, Guardian. Do not underestimate the power he controls in that realm.
Guardian: I know. Eternity has briefed me.
Enoch: Baraquiel will signal me when you have arrived at the dark dimension and again when you have retrieved the Picatrix.
Guardian nods. Baraquiel and Doctor Strange exit. The Guardian follows behind them.
Enoch: And Guardian…
The Guardian turns around.
Enoch: May the force be with you.
The Guardian smiles.
He disappears into the portal and it seals behind him.
Chapter Twelve: Reckoning
Silver Surfer: Oh my…
Smoldering craters cover earth’s surface. Silver Surfer’s eyes widen as he hovers above and surveys the damaged planet.
Silver Surfer: I don’t even know where to begin….
A monstrous shriek echoes up from the planet. The Surfer steaks downward, following the sound. He reaches New York City and sees the demon dragon hovering over the city. It is massive. It’s shadow looms over multiple blocks. Below, bodies litter the streets.
In front of Algol is Thor. His hammer is spinning so quickly that it is a blur. He releases and the hammer thrusts outward, smashing violently against Algol’s face, expelling lightning in every direction upon impact. The hammer quickly returns to Thor’s hand. Algol wraps itself in its wings and begins siphoning a light, red-tint aura from the ground below. The aura begins the swirl and pulsate almost as if it synchronized to its heart beat.
Silver Surfer: Thor!
Algol’s head pulls back and then jerks forward, it mane of serpents all firing beams of energy while Algol vomits out a boiling spray of blood. Surfer intercedes just in time, snagging Thor as he speeds across, narrowly saving the Asgardian from destruction.
Thor: Ah! The Surfer from the stars! My friend, I have missed you! What a glorious battle this is!
Silver Surfer: Thor, have you determined any weaknesses?
Thor: Alas, nay! The beast appears to be invincible!
One of the beams cuts across the sky, quickly angling towards the Surfer and Thor. The Surfer holds out his hand and blocks the beam with an energy blast of his own. The crash of energy ricochets in every direction. With his other hand he fires a blast into the chest of Algol. The area of impact glows light red and is easily deflected.
Silver Surfer: Ok. This obviously isn’t going to work. We need a plan.
Thor: Look! Below! The blind devil!
From the rooftop, Daredevil is waving both arms. Surfer and Thor land in the rooftop. Daredevil runs over.
Daredevil: We don’t have much time. How much do either of you know of Algol?
Silver Surfer: I have only heard the legends. Galactus mentioned that it is a planet-destroying beast of wrath.
Thor: What dost thou know of it?
Daredevil: Long story short, Dormammu is controlling this beast and amplifying it’s power. Doctor Strange and Bruce Banner are currently confronting Dormammu to stop him.
Thor: Banner? The Hulk?
Daredevil: Yeah, like I said, long story. In the interim, we need to keep this beast busy in order to buy them some time.
Silver Surfer: If they take out Dormammu then the beast will be vulnerable?
Silver Surfer: Thor, can you make it angry?
Thor: By Odin’s beard, verily!
A low hum is heard. Algol directs its head downward and opens its mouth. Before it is able to erupt, the Mjolnir crashes into its mouth knocking the beast back. It begins to cough and choke. The hammer returns to Thor.
Thor: Ho, foul beast! Is this the best thou can offer?!
Algol’s eyes glow bright yellow. It screams in rage, flapping its wings and charging towards Thor.
Silver Surfer: Well, that did it. Thor, jump on! Here we go!
Thor leaps on to the back of the Surfer’s board and they disappear with a streak of light, Algol following close behind.
Cap is at the cockpit of the Avenger’a Quinjet. Iron Man and War Machine are out front and a half a mile ahead.
Captain America: Tony, how’s it look?
Iron Man: All clear ahead so far.
War Machine: Don’t get cocky, guys. We have no way of knowing when we’ll be in range of Doom’s radar. I’m betting we’ll see Doom Bots before the castle is even in range of eye sight.
Iron Man: We never get cocky.
War Machine: Yeah, so that comment was really directed at you. I added the “we” so you wouldn’t get all defensive and passive-aggressive like you always do.
Iron Man: How would I get passive-aggressive at my best friend who is wearing a billion-dollar suit of armor I invented?
War Machine: See? That’s the shit that…
Captain America: Guys! Focus!
Iron Man: Hey, look! Doom Bots! Yay!
Iron Man fires two repulsor blasts, cutting one of the bots in half.
War Machine: Tony, your nine!
Two missiles fire off Iron Man’s left shoulder, destroying the other bot.
War Machine: Shoulder missiles, huh?
Iron Man: I mean, I have to compete with that huge piece on your shoulder.
War Machine: Tony, you should really stop worrying about the size of my piece.
Iron Man: I opened door?
War Machine: Yep.
Iron Man: K.
Captain America: Guys, we have a mission here. Stay in the moment. Look. Ahead.
Doom’s Castle comes into focus.
War Machine: Ok. We’re up. Tony, let’s scout ahead. Cap, you said Doom has upgraded his powers, right?
Captain America: He’s got lightning and electricity now.
Iron Man: Oh good. We like that.
Iron man and War Machine fly out ahead, weaving in and out and swirling around each other. An array of missiles fire off from Doom’s castle. Counter measures fire out of War Machine’s back in response, detonating all of them. As the view of the castle comes into focus they notice an army of Doom Bots lining the battlements.
Iron Man: Annnnd there’s the main event.
Captain America: Keep them busy. I have Doom.
Iron Man: Would you mind telling him that you’re with Stark Industries security and here to take back all the tech he stole?
Captain America: Tony…
Iron Man: Just sayin.
Hundreds of Doom Bots launch from the castle. Iron Man and War Machine start blasting them from the sky. The Quinjet flies down to the main entrance, blows a hold and flies through it. It lands in the courtyard. Cap immediately exits, locates the main tower and climbs four floors of stairs until he arrives at a large ceremonial room.
Doom is standing at a window watching the battle outside.
Doctor Doom: It was wise of you to draw my Doom Bots away from the castle. But futile as well. None of you have the power to stop me.
Doom extends his arm and opens his hand. Cap grimaces in pain as Doom clenches it closed.
Captain America: Agh!
Cap is thrown across the room, crashing through a large wooden dining table. He lands at the foot of a stone fire place. He slowly gets up and throws his shield. Doom halts it in mid-air and forces it out the window.
Doctor Doom: Captain, is this all you have? You came all this way for this? My power has grown exponentially since we last met.
Doom opens his hand and electricity fires from his fingers hitting Cap.
Captain America: Agh!
Iron Man bursts in and lands in front of Cap. A large shield manifests out of the armor, absorbing the electricity from Doom.
Iron Man: Yeah. I put this little upgrade together after my battle with Thor.
The read out within Iron Man’s head set notifies him that his power is now at 1500%.
Iron Man: Here Doom! Got something of yours!
Iron Man sticks out his chest and pushes both arms back. A massive repulsor blast tears through the room hitting Doom and knocking him through the wall and into the main courtyard. Iron Man follows him out.
Doctor Doom: You do realize you are wearing a coffin?
Doom reaches out again and begins squeezing his hand. Iron Man’s armor begins crushing in on itself.
Iron Man: Ummm…does anyone know when Doom learned telekinesis?
Cap charges towards Doom, but is immediately stopped. Doom chokes him to the ground. Up in the sky, War Machine is holding off multiple Doom Bots.
War Machine: Tony! Cap!
Doom’s arms are suddenly pulled behind his back, releasing both of the heroes. Cap lunges forward, gasping for air. Iron Man falls over and pulls off his helmet. A female gracefully lands between them, facing Doom.
Female: NOW, this is a fair fight.
Exhausted and relieved, Cap raises his head.
Captain America: She made it…
THE DARK DIMENSION
Doctor Strange, Baraquiel and the Guardian are speeding through the quantum realm. They stop as they arrive at an area shrouded in black fog and enclosed within a white barrier of light.
Doctor Strange: I would say this is it.
Guardian: Baraquiel, you’re up.
Baraquiel raises his arms and two branches of lightning fire upwards. It is quiet for a few moments and then the white barrier begins to recede.
Guardian: Let’s go.
The heroes disappear into the fog. As they reappear on the other side all three of them stare up at a towering black mountain, it’s peak hidden inside the fog. The heroes fly towards it and as they enter, they find a cave. Strange snaps his fingers and a hovering light follows behind them, lighting their way. The cave goes deep. They feel like they are descending for miles. They reach an opening. Inside is a huge basin. At the bottom center sits a figure sitting in a large black throne. The throne is sharp and reflects the light from the dancing torches on both sides of it. The figure is wearing a cloak and holding the Picatrix.
Figure: I guess I should thank you. I have been imprisoned in this dimension for an eternity.
The figure stands and pulls back the cloak revealing a face without features. The head catches fire. It is Dormammu. He gestures his hand.
Dormammu: You will help me.
Guardian: Seriously? You’re opening with mind tricks?
Dormammu: I had to try. But I have other…tricks.
Dormammu stands the Picatrix on its hilt, blade up. He spins it and bolts of lightning shoot out in every direction. Doctor Strange expands his protective barrier covering the heroes.
Dormammu: Those foolish Jedi woke you up, didn’t they?
Guardian: Enoch knew they would do what was right.
Dormammu’s laugh echoes off the walls within the cavern. He holds out his hands, attracting the swirling energy. He pulls it back and balls it at his stomach.
Dormammu: The Jedi are lap dogs to those who hold the power…and those who hold the power understand the truth: only strength matters!
Dormammu releases the energy and it crashes against Strange’s protective barrier, shattering it to pieces. The heroes are knocked back against the wall.
Guardian: Form a triangle.
Doctor Strange flies off to Dormammu’s left while Baraquiel flies to his right.
Guardian: The Jedi’s moral code is what gives them strength. Any fool can be a bully. Real strength comes from using it to raise others up…to confront yourself.
Dormammu: I’ll remember that once I have peeled back your flesh, imprisoned your souls and delivered your heads to Enoch.
Doctor Strange rotates his arms in a circle and then points one towards Baraquiel and the other to the Guardian. Energy shoots across to each of the other heroes, creating a triangle bond of energy.
Doctor Strange: Through mutual reception our energies are connected! We bind you, Vettius!
Surprised, Dormammu jerks his head in Strange’s direction.
Dormammu: That name no longer has any meaning for me! Familiars!!
Dormammu stretches his arms above his head and an energy wave collides with the fog around the perimeter setting off a chain reaction of electricity crackling everywhere. Within moments, monsters and demons emerge from the fog, charging the heroes.
Baraquiel breaks the triangle and heads towards the ravaging hoard. The triangle disappears.
Dormammu grabs the spinning Picatrix and stabs forward. A piercing noise blasts back the Guardian. He closes his eyes and clenches his teeth. The rage wells up inside of him. He opens his eyes. They are yellow. His muscles begin to grow.
Doctor Strange: Guardian! He’s infecting you! Hold strong!
The Guardian is enveloped by the black energy of the Picatrix. He curls into a ball.
The Guardian bursts open, punching his arms outward. The cavern crumbles, splitting the mountain open. The Guardian disintegrates the collapsing avalanche.
Dormammu smashes down both fists, crushing the remains of the mountain and revealing a sea of molten energy flowing beneath.
Dormammu: This is…POWER!!!!
Massive lightning blasts explode out of his fingers covering the Guardian. The impact is blinding.
Doctor Strange: Guardian!
Dormammu closes his hands. The smoke clears. The Guardian is hovering. His eyes are closed. The last bit of lightning disappearing into his body. He smiles.
Guardian: I needed that.
Guardian balls up his hands by his hip and then directs them forward, both hands opening wide. A wide blast of green energy fires out, enveloping Dormammu and blasting him into the molten core.
Dormammu slowly raises out of the lava-like substance. It slowly flows off his body, encircling him in a bubble.
Dormammu: THIS is the source of my power. Tell me, Guardian. Did the Jedi bother to mention Cazimi to you?
The Guardian is silent. Dormmamu smiles. He conjures up a small sphere of lava-blood and stares at it.
Dormammu: That’s the thing about the Jedi. They suppress anything that doesn’t align to their narrative. Cazimi is an ancient process of transubstantiation where the blood is infused with hate, transforming it until it becomes hotter than the Sun. The fascinating thing about this process is that the body can maintain this energy without being consumed. And when it has been pumping through the heart?
The sphere of lava-blood encases Dormammu’s fist like a glove, growing up his arm until it reaches his shoulder.
Dormammu: Well, all emotion transforms accordingly. Love becomes combust. Wrath becomes the foundation for the soul. Narcissism and greed are prime targets for this process because their insatiable appetite is fertile ground for Cazimi. My connection to their energies has made me powerful here. It is the power coursing through the veins of Algol as well. Let me show you!
The lava-blood from the molten core rises like a small fountain, flowing into Dormammu’s hands. He blasts it toward to the Guardian. It eats away at the Guardian’s body, completely disintegrating his flesh until he disappears from existence.
Doctor Strange: No!
Dormammu: It is a shame that the Jedi sent you here defenseless against this. A blast of this core not only burns down the physical body, but the subtle body as well. It appears that I have erased your champion from existence
Baraquiel fires lightning in both directions frying all monsters. A portal opens behind Dormammu, displaying the insides of the Mazzaroth. Enoch reaches in and snags the Picatrix from Dormammu.
The portal then reopens nears Baraquiel. Enoch hands both the Syzygy and Picatrix to him. Dormmamu roars and the entire dark dimension shakes. With one hand he directs a massive blast of lava-blood out of the core. Before the tidal wave can hit Baraquiel a burst of blinding green light appears in front of him. The tidal wave turns light blue and then evaporates, creating a smoke cloud. As it breaks, the Gamma Guardian is hovering, staring down Dormammu.
Rising fountains swirl around Dormammu. He raises his arms, firing energy in all directions. The quantum realm shakes.
Dormammu: My hate makes me strong and I am no longer confined to the dark dimension! Let’s see if you can survive when I have destroyed this realm!
Guardian: You’ll destroy yourself too!
Dormammu: I have survived death once. I can again…and when I remake this reality. I will be…a god!!!
Doctor Strange: Guardian! His source! Go for his source!!
The Guardian looks to Strange.
Guardian: Hit me with everything you got.
Strange glances at Dormammu and then back at the Guardian. He glances one more time at Dormammu. He sighs, drops his head, closes his eyes and draws both hands over his chest.
Doctor Strange: I call upon the orders of the 8th and the 12th. I summon the Watchers of all four kingdoms. Fomalhaut, align my animus with the ancient Draconic power. Unshackle my soul!
A green gem manifests in front of Strange. He leans his head back and stretches back his arms. A white aura in the shape of an angel encases his body. A second, smaller gem materializes out of his forehead. The two gems face each other, their combined glow lights up the darkness, blinding the vicinity.
Guardian: Stephen…are you sure?
Strange’s eyes are white. His voice books across the quantum realm.
Doctor Strange: This needs to end and only you can end it. Use these energies.
Guardian: You won’t be forgotten.
Doctor Strange: Energy can’t be destroyed. No one ever truly ends.
The gems combine and Strange’s body goes limp. The Guardian holds out his arms and forms a triangle with his hands. He absorbs the energy of the gem, its essence evaporating into dust until it is completely consumed.
The Guardian turns towards Dormammu, sparks bursting from his eyes.
Guardian: Vettius, you’re a fool. The Jedi never cared for the details of your evil because they already knew you are poison. They don’t teach the dark side because they understand that it leads to suffering and civilizations built upon its perversion eventually collapse in upon itself.
Two light blue beams of energy fire out of the Guardian’s eyes. Flames spiral around the beams. They strike the center of the core and immediately begin changing the color blue. The color grows outwards from the center until it is completely transformed.
Dormammu roars and charges the Guardian. Their clash creates a ripple of energy, knocking back Baraquiel. With their hands clasped together, Dormammu and the Guardian explode upwards, chain reactions of energies reverberating throughout the quantum realm.
Dormammu: I am the power! Die!!!
Their faces are inches apart, locked in struggle. Fire erupts out of Dormammu’s mouth which is immediately blocked with beams of energy out of the Guardian’s eyes.
Guardian: I am the quantum realm. I flow with this field of energy. I am one with this force. If you destroy me, I will rise again and again and become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. I am rebirth. I am transformation. And I am going to end you. Not because of hate or vengeance…but because it is necessary.
The Guardian opens his fist and the Syzygy and Picatrix begin swirling. Faster and faster until they merge and transform into the Katarche blade. While it hovers over Dormammu, the Guardian nods to Baraquiel. Baraquiel swoops up behind Dormammu and places his hand on the back of his head. Dormammu freezes. His eyes widen.
Dormammu: Ohhh no. No, no, no. Nooooo…
Guardian: Yes. You finally understand. I am karma…and its ruthlessness. I am the end…of everything.
The sword comes down, driving into Dormammu’s head and deep into his body. He explodes and blood squirts in all directions, melting the mystical blade.
The fog surrounding the dark dimension begins to break. The remaining mountains and peaks evaporate. The remains of the molten sea as well. The Guardian glances over to Strange’s body. It slowly evaporates out of existence.
Guardian: Goodbye, my friend.
Enoch’s astral form appears in front of the heroes.
Enoch: We don’t have time. The earth is still in great danger. Thor and Silver Surfer are distracting Algol, but they are running out of time. They need your assistance.
Guardian: But the Katarche Blade…
Enoch: You won’t need it.
Guardian: How will we get there?
Enoch: I don’t have the Syzygy, so you will have travel back to the physical realm on your own.
A familiar voice is heard.
Guardian: You returned!
Ant-Man: Matt had a feeling that you might need me so he sent me back. I triangulated on your energy signatures. Let’s get you guys out of here!
The Guardian creates a bubble to shield the heroes. Ant-Man enters coordinates into his wrist and they disappear.
Chapter Thirteen: The Beginning of the End
Scarlet Witch hovers in front of Doctor Doom, an aura of red chaos energy swirling around her body.
Doctor Doom: My, my. I had no idea what it felt like to encounter another being of such immense power…and instability. I sense much emotion and conflict within you.
Scarlet Witch: And I have worked hard to gain control over my emotions.
Doctor Doom: Have you now?
Doom raises his arms, erupting the ground into the air. An earthquake of rock and dirt shoot up around them. The Scarlet Witch raises her hands and teleports Cap and Iron Man inside the castle and extends her arms, projecting forth a wave of energy that jettisons the rocks out into the sea.
Scarlet Witch: You are pulling these powers from another reality, aren’t you?
Doctor Doom: I wonder if that’s a question you should ask yourself…
Electricity fires out from Doom’s fingertips. The Scarlet Witch blasts out of barrage of Hex bolts, clashing with Doom’s electricity and sending shockwaves back through the castle. The castle begins to quake.
Iron Man: Uh…oook. Not good. Cap, grab my hand.
Iron Man grabs Cap and they fly out of the castle seconds before it crumbles. The main courtyard is almost disintegrated. Doom stands atop of a lone, remaining cliff continuing to direct a stream of electricity towards the Scarlet Witch. He moves his right arm outward and an electrical current slides with him. He clenches his fist and the current recoils like a whip. He swings his fist down and the strand of lightning follows accordingly, smashing into the Scarlet Witch.
Scarlet Witch: Agh!!
Her body shakes as the electricity hits full force. Trembling, she slowly pulls her hands close together at her stomach. A portal opens in front of her, capturing and siphoning the current of electricity.
Suddenly, Doom pauses. He tilts his head slightly.
Doctor Doom: What is that? What?! No….
Doom closes his eyes, drops his head and slowly opens his arms. Scarlet Witch unleashes of burst of red Hex energy. The blast envelopes Doom, leaving behind only his cloak and armor.
Scarlet Witch: What?!
Iron Man flies in behind her.
Iron Man: That’s a neat trick.
Scarlet Witch: I didn’t do that.
Captain America: So where is he? Did he teleport?
Scarlet Witch: I have no idea. If he teleported, I don’t think he would have left his clothes behind.
Iron Man: Or there’s a naked Doom running around somewhere right now.
Cap looks up in the sky.
Captain America: Bruce.
Iron Man: Wait. Isn’t he still in the Adirondacks getting to know himself?
Captain America: Not anymore. Honesty, he really isn’t Bruce anymore either.
War Machine flies in behind Iron Man.
War Machine: What? Do you mean the Hulk?
Captain America: It’s a long story.
Iron Man: Well, it usually is with him. What now?
Captain America: Wanda, I need you to get in touch with Professor X. Tony and Rhodey, we to need to head to New York. I pray that Thor and Surfer are keeping Algol busy.
SOMEWHERE OVER THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
Thor: The beast is gaining on you!
Silver Surfer: I know! If I go any faster, then you and Daredevil will fly off.
At the moment Algol opens its mouth and a burst of flame cuts across the sky.
Daredevil: Surfer! Bank hard left now!
The Surfer leans left, barely evading the blast of flame off his right shoulder.
Silver Surfer: Thor!
Thor loses his balance and falls off the board. He begins swirling his hammer to fly away, but is also targeted by the mane of serpents around Algol’s head.
Daredevil: Surfer, Algol is building for another blast. Thor’s not going to make it!
Numerous beams of energy slice through the sky. The Surfer’s eyes widen.
Silver surfer: No!
The Surfer opens his hands to fire a blast of energy, but nothing happens. He concentrates harder. A portal opens below Thor. He falls into it and it seals up behind him.
Silver Surfer: Thor!
Daredevil: Concentrate Surfer! We’re now the focus of Algol’s attention!
Silver Surfer: But how did I…
Algol’s sucks in a gasp of air.
Daredevil: This one’s coming in over the top of us. Dive now!
Another burst of flame is joined by multiple blasts of beams from the serpents. As Daredevil predicted, it goes high.
Silver Surfer: How are you doing this?
Daredevil: I can see its energies. They change and give away its intentions.
Silver Surfer: Nice trick. Can you read any weaknesses in its armor?
Daredevil: You won’t be able to penetrate it now. We just need to buy Bruce and Strange more time. Wait…stop!
Surfer stops immediately. They turn around and notice that Algol isn’t following them. It is about 300 yard behind, slowly flapping its wings and hovering in one spot.
A massive blast of lava-blood erupts from Algol. A circle of energy beams surrounds the blast. It cuts deep into the ocean, creating a massive tidal wave spreading out in all directions.
Silver Surfer: That’s not good.
Daredevil: Ok, plan B.
Silver Surfer: Which is?
Daredevil: Direct attack.
Silver Surfer: I thought you just said it has no weakness?!
Daredevil: If we do nothing it cuts into the earth’s core. That can’t happen. We don’t have a choice.
Silver Surfer: Here we go!
The Surfer charges hard towards Algol. The beast looks up and screams. The Surfer fires four blasts across Algol’s face. The beast ignores it, but before it can respond its body jerks spastically and begins to quiver.
Daredevil: There it is…they did it!
Silver Surfer: There what is? Who did what?
Daredevil: His energies have changed. Whatever was powering him has dissipated. We have a shot, but you need to fire exactly where I tell you.
Silver Surfer: Just tell me where!
The Surfer flies around in front Algol. It is confused. A giant whirlpool below is draining into the hole Algol drilled deep below.
Daredevil: There. Lower forehead. Directly between the eyes!
Surfer claps his hands together and a sharp, precise beam of energy fires directly into Algol’s skull. It’s head recoils from the impact. It slowly recovers and then fires another blast of lava-blood directly into the whirlpool.
Silver Surfer: Why isn’t it returning fire at us?!
Daredevil: It is more interested in the energy at the core. Hit it again!
Surfer fires two blasts and both strike Algol in the head. The beast screams in agony. It begins to retreat, but continues to scorch the water as it flies away.
Daredevil: Damn! Stay after it.
The heroes chase Algol for miles.
Silver Surfer: Its heading back to New York.
In the distance and at the edge of the city, they notice a figure hovering in the air.
Silver Surfer: Who the heck is that?
Daredevil: I knew it…
The Guardian’s arms are crossed. He is motionless.
Eternity: Guardian, must I remind you that I am the living consciousness of the universe?
The Guardian raises one eyebrow.
Guardian: And if your goal is to experience physical reality vicariously through us then you must realize that the inverse applies as well. As eternal beings trapped in these physical prisons, music is how we reconnect. So, if you wouldn’t mind, please do me this solid while I stop this demon.
Eternity: Sigh. Both Infinity and I are aware of our symbiotic relationship, but if I’m forced to choose between your endless speeches and humanity’s elementary attempts at musical composition, then I will defer to the latter. What do you want to hear?
The Guardian’s gaze of the giant rage beast charging towards him is unbroken and calm.
Guardian: Hole In The Sky. Sabbath.
Eternity: Very well.
The Guardian flies directly towards Algol. The beast screams and vomits out a massive blast of lava-blood. The Guardian halts and swirls a large circle of green flame in front of him. It spins faster and faster until its motion becomes a blur. The Guardian releases and the diameter of the circle grows, blocking out his body like a shield. Algol’s blast hits the shield, completely engulfing it and the Guardian.
Silver Surfer: No…
Inside the blast of lava is the shadow of a figure. The shield of green flame protects the Guardian, deflecting the attack, forcing the lava flow over and around him. The Guardian closes his eyes, grits his teeth and presses both hands forward. The shield begins pushing forward inside the blast. Algol unloads everything. All of its serpents direct their beams of energy on the Guardian.
The Guardian slowly continues pushing forward. The immense ricochet of energy and lava-blood are blinding. The ocean underneath the Guardian spreads out in all directions in waves.
Guardian: My will is stronger than your rage, demon!
The Guardian bursts the shield forward and it cuts through the blast like a bowling ball, hitting Algol directly in the face and knocking the beast into the ocean.
The beast emerges from the water with a surprised look on its face. It bursts out of the water, flying around the Guardian.
Guardian: Ok, Ant-Man. You’re up.
Ant-Man: Hey…it’s Giant Man!
As Algol reaches the edge of city, Ant-Man emerges from the surface below, growing over the tops of the buildings. He grabs Algol, holding him in a full Nelson.
Ant-Man: Man, its strong! I can’t hold this thing forever! Hurry!
Guardian flies in fast landing a blow on Algol’s chin. The sonic boom of the punch breaks windows in a five-block radius. Algol flies out of Giant Man’s arms, but the Guardian catches it by its wings before it lands on the buildings. Algol’s body is trembling. Vibrating.
Daredevil: Guys, there’s something wrong with it!
Giant Man: Wrong? What’s right with it?!
Guardian: What are you seeing Matt?
Daredevil: I think it’s gonna explode!
Guardian: Can I just fling it into space?
Daredevil: The energies on this thing are swirling in the same chaotic manner that I saw on you right before you went nova! I don’t think we have time to get it far enough away!
Guardian: Surfer! You once used your power to transform me from the Hulk. Can you repeat that process with Algol?
Silver Surfer: You’re Bruce Banner?
Guardian: We don’t have time, Surfer. Focus. Can you do this again?
Silver Surfer: I can try.
Guardian: Giant Man and I will hold him.
The Guardian maintains his grip on Algol’s wings while Giant Man holds him steady.
Silver Surfer: Where do I need to touch him?
Daredevil: Same place. Lower forehead. Between the eyes.
Surfer flies in slowly towards the massive head of Algol. He stares at the beast for a second. Algol’s body is pulsating. Surfer clenches both hands into a fist and begins to concentrate. He places both hands on Algol’s forehead. The beast closes its eyes.
Daredevil: It’s working! Its pulse is slowing! Waves of energy are starting to recede!
Algol begins to shrink. Surfer removes his hands. Algol changes shape as it shrinks smaller until it transforms back into a man resting in the palm of Giant Man’s hand.
The man is on all fours, but manages to raise his head. He is weary.
Solomon: …you know…my name?
Guardian: I do. I know who and why you are, Solomon…and I release you. Go…in peace.
Solomon: Thank you…
He slowly begins to crumble and disintegrate until he completely disappears out of existence.
Before the heroes can pause the earth begins to shake.
Silver Surfer: What?!
Daredevil kneels and places both hands at his temples.
Daredevil: Oh no…
Daredevil: Algol did it…it ruptured the core…
Chapter Fourteen: Collapse
NEW YORK CITY
Iron Man, War Machine and Cap land on roof of the building where Daredevil, Silver Surfer and Gamma Guardian are perched. The earth is quaking, rumbling. Buildings are randomly collapsing across the city’s landscape. Cap quickly surveys the team. He looks to the Guardian.
Captain America: Where’s Strange?
The Guardian shakes his head.
Cap’s head drops. The team is quiet.
Captain America: Dormammu?
Guardian: Gone. Stephen sacrificed himself to end the monster. The Katarche Blade was also destroyed in the process.
Captain America: We need to remember him. Memorialize his existence.
Captain America: Matt, how bad is it?
Daredevil is on one knee with one hand on his temple.
Daredevil: It’s bad, Cap. The damage is extensive. The core is cracked and ruptured. The damage has disrupted and severed all of the energies that encase and circle the planet.
Captain America: OK. What are our options?
No one speaks.
Captain America: Guardian?
Guardian: I can’t repair a damaged core, Steve, but may be able to delay it’s explosion.
Captain America: Delay it for what?!
Guardian: We can’t stop what is happening here. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe it’s necessary. In order to be reborn stronger, something usually has to end.
Captain America: Well, that’s comforting. How is humanity to be reborn from this?
The Guardian is quiet for a few moments. He thoughtfully looks to the sky.
Silver Surfer: The planet? It is one of the most remote bodies in your galaxy. It is absolutely uninhabitable.
Guardian: Not anymore.
Silver Surfer: What do you mean?
Guardian: I terraformed it shortly after transforming…into this. It is fully inhabitable now. It has a Sun as well.
Iron Man: Bruce…what the hell? You can create Suns now?!
Guardian: I didn’t create it. Eternity assisted me with transporting Sirius here.
Iron Man: Of course. Because everyone is besties with Eternity. Can HE help with this then?
Iron Man: Oh shit. Seriously? What is the gender-specific pronoun for the universal-consciousness-entity-god?
Guardian: Eternity won’t get involved here.
Silver Surfer: Guardian, Pluto is almost three billion miles away. It takes almost six hours for light to reach earth from Pluto. And there are almost eight billion humans here. How do you propose to transport that many people across such a vast distance?
A booming voice interrupts from beyond.
Enoch: He will need your help, Norrin.
Enoch’s astral projection appears before the team.
Silver Surfer: Enoch, I don’t have that kind of power.
Enoch: Norrin, are you aware that Thor is currently ON Pluto?
Silver Surfer: How?
Enoch: You sent him there.
Guardian: Enoch, we don’t have time…
A massive tremor shakes the earth. All the heroes fall to their knees. The building quivers. A lava stream shoots up from the sea.
Enoch: No. We don’t. Norrin, when your planet Zenn-La was under attack you were forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to save it.
The Surfer’s face is heavy.
Silver Surfer: I will never forget it.
Enoch: I believe you are confronting that situation again.
Silver Surfer: How?
Enoch: The Guardian has the ability to transform your power into a staff that can create portals to allow transport across great distances.
Silver Surfer: Will this turn me back into a human?
The Surfer looks at his hands.
Silver Surfer: It’s funny. I gained these powers in order to save my planet. I guess it is fitting that I lose them to save another.
Cap places his hand on Surfer’s shoulder.
Captain America: This will never be forgotten.
Silver Surfer: I don’t care. It is my duty to protect life. There really is no other choice.
The Guardian clenches his fists. They begin to glow dark green. The energy bubbles off him like water, floating into the air and disappearing. He places his hands on the Silver Surfer’s chest. The Surfer begins to glow until the light between the two beings is blinding. Cap and Iron Man shield their face with their hands. Eventually, the glare dissipates.
Norrin Radd stands before the heroes.
The Syzygy is in the hands of the Guardian.
Silver Surfer: I…am…myself again.
Tears stream down his face.
Silver Surfer: Thank you…
Enoch: Guardian, can you feel the energy within the staff?
Guardian: Yes. It is powerful…yet serene.
Enoch: Concentrate on that. Move the staff and you will feel it coursing through the energies of the quantum realm. Feel this foundation of existence.
The Guardian slowly rotates the Syzygy in a large circle in front of him.
Enoch: As it flows with the quantum realm, reach out with your feelings. Concentrate on the connections.
Guardian: I can feel it. Nothing is separate…
Enoch: Yes. Now sharpen your focus until there is nothing but that connection…the one. See the surface of Pluto… it’s distance matters not. Focus…
The Guardian’s eyes are closed. The Syzygy continues to rotate. Suddenly, a portal opens on the roof they are standing.
Iron Man: Well, I’ll be damned.
Captain America: Bruce, it’s working! Keep going!
Bubbling sounds are heard all over the horizon.
War Machine: Guys! Look!
Off to his left a massive portal, roughly the size of a large tunnel underpass has opened near the Federal Reserve building.
Daredevil: Bruce, you did it. There are literally thousands of portals opening within miles of here!
Enoch: Well done, Guardian. You may not be able to see it, but you have opened portals across the earth. These gateways will be humanity’s salvation.
Bruce stops swirling the Syzygy. He opens his eyes to see a landscape covered by a multitude of openings in the fabric of reality.
Guardian: Thank you for everything, Enoch. Will we encounter you again?
Enoch: Yes. The door has been opened. It can’t be closed now. Guard the Syzygy and know this: from this moment forward, you are now humanity’s only hope. You are its Defenders.
Enoch’s astral form fades away.
Norrin Radd: How will we instruct all of humanity to enter these portals?
Another voice interrupts their thoughts.
Prof X: I might be able to help with that.
Captain America: Professor X.
Prof X: Hello, Captain Rogers. Wanda Maximoff briefed me on recent events. Humanity is in danger, your team has created a potential escape and you need someone to mass communicate all of this quickly.
Captain America: That’s the gist of it.
Prof X: It will take some effort, but with the assistance of Cerebro it should be possible.
Before Cap can respond, another massive tremor hits and the building begins to collapse. The team flies down to the surface as the building collapses behind them.
Daredevil: Don’t worry. The building was empty.
The ground continues to shake.
Prof X: Bruce, we may not have time.
Guardian: I can buy us more.
The Guardian’s hands begin glow, but he is interrupted by the sound of gunfire in the distance.
War Machine: That came from the Federal Reserve building!
Iron Man: Yep. Sounds like a rifle. Possibly fully-auto.
War Machine: Cap, what’s the play?
Cap is staring off in the distance, almost as if he is in a trance.
Iron Man: Ca-aaaap. C’mon, big guy. The whole thousand-yard-stare thing is kinda freakin me out.
Cap responds under his breath.
Captain America: He’s not going to let them escape…
Chapter Fifteen: No Quarter
NEW YORK CITY
Cap closes his eyes and clenches his jaw. He looks at his shield and then lobs it to the Guardian.
Guardian: What do you want me to do with this?
Captain America: I need the edge razor sharp.
The Guardian stares at Cap.
Guardian: Steve…is this who you are?
Captain America: I’m a soldier…and this is war. I just…could never bring myself to accept the reality that we were at war. Maybe none of us could…because it would’ve meant we were at war with our own. But it is now clear to me that some of our citizens made the decision a long time ago that the rest of us are the enemy…which means we have been at war whether we were willing to acknowledge it or not. Right now, I need to protect Americans who are trying to save themselves and their families…from those who are standing in the way. I need to give them a fighting chance…to keep what this country stands for alive. I will do what I must.
The Guardian runs his hand around the edge of Cap’s shield. Sparks fly in all directions. He hands it back to Cap.
Guardian: This is no longer a blunt object. It is a sword. Be careful with how you handle it.
Cap straps it on to his arm.
War Machine and Iron Man glance quietly at each other.
War Machine: Well, if we’re going to war then I’m your wing man.
Iron Man: Ew, me! Pick me! I want to slap down fascists too!
Captain America: Tony, your armor is compromised. I need you on evacuation. Cover the city and rescue as many out of the buildings before everything blows. Get them to the portals as quickly as you can. Scott, do what you can to keep these buildings upright until Tony can get them all out.
Cap turns to War Machine.
Captain America: Nuke is mine.
War Machine: Ohhh, I wouldn’t dare interfere with that one. Guardian, you said something about buying time?
The Guardian raises off the ground and directs both fists downward. A massive blast explodes out of him, drilling deep into the earth.
Guardian: I’ll hold this together as long as I can! Get as many people to safety as possible!
The Guardian grimaces under the strain.
Guardian: Professor? Now’s the time.
Professor X’s voice echoes everywhere.
Prof X: Citizens of earth. My voice can be heard by every human being across the planet. I am reaching out because humanity is in imminent danger. Ancient forces have damaged our planet’s core to an extent that it is on the verge of explosion. To be clear, what we are witnessing is end of our planet…but that does not mean it is also the end of humanity. A small team of heroes have created an escape. Portals, all over the planet have been opened that will carry all who enter to a new land. This land will offer humanity a chance at rebirth. So, the choice is now yours. Stay and take the risk or save yourselves and your families.
War Machine grabs Cap and launches into the air flying toward the Federal Reserve building.
War Machine: Well, that got the point across.
Captain America: He did his job. Now we do ours. Rhodey, get me just within the perimeter of the Federal Reserve. I’ll go the rest of the way on foot and sneak in while you distract them from above.
War Machine: You got it. Is this close enough?
Captain America: Yep. Dropping now. Radio silence until we both arrive at the portal.
War Machine: See you there!
Cap lands on the nearest roof top. He leaps across fire escapes from building to building. His speed, grace and athleticism are effortless. A display of acrobats rarely seen. As he hurdles past an open window, he hears someone weeping inside. He kneels at the fire escape and can see the Federal Reserve building directly ahead. Below it, at street level, is an army of the former President’s soldiers lined up across the entrance of the portal. Cap turns his head and hears more cries coming from the room behind him. He glances at the open window briefly and then turns back to opposing army. He drops his head and sighs.
War Machine: Cap, I’m in place. Just waiting on your word.
Captain America: Hang tight, Rhodey. I have to take care of something first.
War Machine: I don’t want to be a pain here, but we don’t have a lot of time. These dudes look like they’re gonna open fire on the crowd any minute.
Captain America: I know. Just gimme five minutes.
Cap turns around and walks to the window. He climbs in through the window pane. The power is out and the room is dark. Directly inside the living room is a woman on he knees with her legs folded underneath her. She is quietly weeping.
Captain America: Ma’am? Are you ok?
He walks up and within the angle of light cutting across the shadows he sees the shape of a small boy laying in her lap. The child is motionless. The woman’s voice is barely above a whisper.
Woman: He was six years old…
Cap closes his eyes and drops his head.
Captain America: Sigh. I am sorry for your loss, ma’am.
Her voice breaks trying to force out words through the pain of tears falling on the child’s face.
Woman: We have been holed up in here ever since his armies took over the city. I told him to stay away from the windows…I told him…
Cap kneels by the woman.
Captain America: Ma’am, I mean no disrespect, but I’m sure you’re aware…the world is ending…
She glances up at him. Her face is a mixture of confusion, disgust and horror.
Woman: Mine has. I have lost everything. My happiness…hopes and dreams…my purpose. He was all I had. I have nothing now…nothing but a black hole in my chest…collapsing everything.…can’t continue on as a ghost…
Captain America: I know this is hard to hear, but eventually time heals everything. Unfortunately, it is also a luxury we don’t have because this building isn’t safe. Please. If you can come with me, I can get you to safety.
The woman doesn’t respond. She hugs the child closer to her.
Captain America: What was his name?
Woman: Jack. He was my little king. I told him that every day.
Captain America: I am so sorry…for everything…all of it…
Silence can be deafening, making grief palpable. Almost as if it can be felt across the skin, levitating a person out of their body. Cap hugs the woman and her child.
Captain America: May God bring you peace and watch over your souls.
He stands up, turns and walks back to the window.
Captain America: Yes, ma’am?
Woman: Will you do something for us?
Captain America: Anything.
Woman: Avenge us.
Cap nods and climbs out of the window. Behind him, in the shadows, they remain motionless. Two statues frozen eternally in time.
A row of armed soldiers is blocking the entrance of the portal. In front of them, a crowd is screaming.
Man # 1: Let us pass! Move! Get out of the way!
Woman #1: We’re all going to die if you don’t let us escape!
One of the soldiers leans his head towards the mic on his shoulder.
Soldier: Mr. Nuke? The crowd down here is getting rowdy. They outnumber us and I don’t they are gonna stay back much longer.
Nuke: Soldier, hook me up to the speaker.
The soldier plugs the cord into a speaker and holds it over his head.
Nuke: Liberals! Listen closely! I know it is in your nature to cower and hide, but this is our country! True patriots don’t abandon America! They fight to the end! You gave up your rights and citizenship the moment you decided to betray what the rugged freedom and independence that this country was based upon! You are now our prisoners…and we will not tolerate disobedience from traitors! If any of you try to bring harm to any of my soldiers, they will open fire on all of you! This is what happens when…
Before Nuke can finish, a gunshot fires from above, striking the speaker. It immediately goes dead.
War Machine: God DAMN, was that annoying. Imagine listening that shit 24/7.
Soldier: Soldiers! Fire on War Machine!
The entire army raises their guns to the sky and a barrage of bullets rain out towards War Machine.
War Machine: Oh, it’s like that, huh? K, bitches, I got something for your hateful asses.
War Machine opens fires, spraying the ground with an array of bullets and rockets. Numerous soldiers are cut down. The rest of the army scatters, retreating behind burning cars and into abandoned buildings.
War Machine: Look at ya now?! Now ya running!
War Machine quickly dives, but as he arrives at street level a rocket explodes across his back.
War Machine: Agh!!!!
War Machine crashes and tumbles into a burning car. The car explodes.
The soldiers gather around the car. Before they can survey the wreckage, a shield flies in, decapitating three soldiers at once. The headless bodies collapse to the ground. The shield rebounds back. Cap stands in front of the army. Captain America: This is your only chance! Stand down and retreat or put your lives at risk! We aren’t taking prisoners today…
A soldier bursts from behind a car, firing multiple rounds as he charges Cap. He yanks off his mask, revealing a shaved head and long beard.
Soldier: You liberal bastards stole the election! Stole our country!! Traitors must die!!!
Cap raises his shields and blocks the incoming fire. He leans into the soldier and backhands his shield, knocking the soldier to the ground. He brings the shield down hard into the soldier’s chest.
The soldier screams as Cap cuts him in half down the torso. He lifts one half and throws it into the bonfire to his side. Cap turns to the rest of the army. His shield and chest are splattered with blood. His head is lowered, but his eyes glare directly up at them.
Captain America: Who else wants to die for this insanity? Who else!!!
The soldiers drop their rifles and begin to retreat. War Machine emerges from the burning vehicle.
War Machine: Ok, which mother hit me with a rocket launcher! Wait. Cap…duck!
Another rocket closes in on them. War Machine aims his shoulder cannon at the rocket and blows it out of the sky. In the window above them is the Punisher.
Captain America: Are there any other signs of life in that building?
An antenna pops out of War Machine’s helmet. He pauses for a second.
War Machine: Just him.
Captain America: Take it down.
War Machine: The whole building?
Captain America: Take it down.
Cap turns to the crowd. They are staring at him, mouths agape and eyes wide.
Captain America: I am sorry you had to see this, but we don’t have time. Those of you that want to save yourselves and your families please escape through the portal as fast as you can.
Thousands of people run towards the portal. Another rocket fires off and War Machine catches this one in mid-air as well.
War Machine: I’ve analyzed the schematics and locked on to the main lode bearing foundations.
Captain America: Hit him.
War Machine leans forward to brace himself as missiles fire off of him. They hit the base of the building everywhere. The building rumbles as smoke billows out from underneath it. It begins to collapse, leaving behind a massive dust cloud.
Captain America: Any signs of life?
War Machine: Barely.
Captain America: Go. Get as many to the portals as you can, but don’t get caught in this. Get to safety before this thing goes up. Don’t get yourself killed, son.
War Machine: What about you?
Captain America: I have Nuke. When I’m done with him, I’ll meet you on the other side.
War Machine: Godspeed, Captain.
Captain America: Take care of yourself, Rhodey.
War Machine blasts off leaving Cap standing alone in a cloud of dust. Tremors shake the earth. Buildings crumble in the distance. Fires are everywhere. Screams echo out as crowds stampede toward the portal. Cap raises his head and sees the silhouette of the Federal Reserve building through the smoke and dust.
Chapter Sixteen: Sacrifice
From the view from space a planet is cracking and pulling apart, barely held together by a stream of green energy drilling into its core and wrapping back out around from the inside. At the center is a figure levitating high above the city of New York. The Gamma Guardian’s arms are aimed downwards. Green fire swirls around him. Beads of sweat roll down his temples, but he is calm and in deep meditation.
Guardian: It can’t end like this. I won’t let it. I have come too far to fail. Everything I am has led to this purpose. I am…who I was always…supposed to be. I won’t break. No matter what. Humanity depends on me.
A voice calls out.
Voice: Hello, Doctor Banner. My, how you have changed.
Guardian’s eyes open wide.
Guardian: Ohhh no. Not now. Not here…
The Federal Reserve Building.
The power to the building is out. None of the elevators are in operation. Cap is hurtling up the fire escape in the dark, clearing entire flights of stairs with each mighty leap. A door opens at one of the landings. Before the soldier can react, Cap is upon him.
Cap grabs the soldier, lifts him over his head and throws him down the escape. The soldier’s screams trail off until he lands at the bottom. Cap grabs the dropped rifle and continues upwards. He arrives at the top floor and immediately kicks in the door. Before Nuke’s guards can react he sprays the line of soldiers with a hail of bullets and they collapse to the ground. Two more doors open towards the back of the room and rows of soldiers flow out.
Soldier #1: For the true President!
Soldier #2: Where we go one, we go all!!
The soldiers open fire. Cap raises his shield, blocking the gunfire. He charges in with his shield and crashes into the group of soldiers, knocking them to the ground. Before one of the soldiers can get up, Cap reaches over and rips out his Adam’s apple. He then quickly rotates and punches another in the face. The soldier falls back, his nose crushed into his face. Two more soldiers jump towards Cap. He slashes his shield across one of them, cutting the soldier in half. The other soldier falls on top of him and frantically tries to jab his knife into the Cap’s throat. Cap slaps his hands over the blade, stopping it just inches away and knees the soldier into the gut. The soldier vomits, but Cap rolls to his side. He grabs the soldier in a headlock and smashes his head into the pool of vomit. The soldier is choking for air.
Captain America: You don’t get it, son. You gave up your citizenship when you decided to attack America. If you wanted war…you got it.
The soldier’s spasms stop as he goes limp.
Captain America: …people die in war…
Nuke is standing at the broken window looking out. His arms are behind his back.
Nuke: You are right about one thing. We are enemies now. Always have been. Funny that it took you this long to figure it out.
Captain America: You’ll be sorry that I did.
Nuke: You think this chaos scares me? Bah! America has been dead for decades. All of this was inevitable. But I guess I should have expected that liberals would try to escape after their destruction of this country is complete.
Captain America: I have no patience for your bullshit. Tell your troops to stand down and let my people pass. Now.
Nuke: You have become such a disappointment. Such a tool. You think these liberals respect your sacrifices? They kneel for you, boy! Don’t you get it?! They hate you and what you stand for!
Captain America: As a soldier, all that I have sacrificed was never FOR me. It was for an ideal. One that allows people their freedoms…their expression…their protest. You wrap yourself in patriotism, but then denigrate these freedoms. I have no interest in chasing you down the rabbit hole into whatever hatred, narcissism or selfishness twisted you into justifying violence against your own people…drove you and your followers insane. When you choose to bring war against this country…to overthrow its institutions…take its citizens hostage…murder, execute, assassinate…you became an existential threat to everything I defend. Nuke…I hunt fascists and terrorists…YOU are now my prey.
Nuke charges Cap and drives him through a wall. Cap drops his shield. Both of them are covered in drywall debris. Nuke chokes Cap.
Nuke: You’re the traitor! Die, traitor!
Cap smashes his fists into each of Nuke’s ears. Nuke falls over. Cap pushes himself to his feet and kicks Nuke into the air. Nuke flies across the room and crashes into the wall.
Nuke slowly gets to his feet, gingerly holding his ribs. He leans against the wall
Nuke: We will never stop. We will always be your enemy…now and forever…I hate all liberals and everything they stand…
Before Nuke can finish, Cap’s shield smashes into his chest, impaling him into the wall.
Captain America: Yeah, I got it.
Cap walks over, yanks the shield from his chest and Nuke’s body collapses to the ground. He kneels down staring into Nuke’s dead eyes. A voice behind Cap calls out.
Voice: Caaa-aaaaptain…we would like to talk with you…
Carnage is kneeled at the threshold of the broken window. Strewn across his chest is a band of decapitated heads.
Carnage: We heard you say that you’re a hunter. We are too! Look at our trophies!
Cap grabs Nuke’s body by his back and lifts him off the ground. He raises his shield and brings it down like guillotine. Nuke’s head falls at Cap’s feet. He picks up the head with his other hand.
Captain America: I offer you another trophy.
Carnage: For us?!
Captain America: In exchange for something.
Carnage: Yes, we like making deals.
Captain America: Allow safe passage for myself and the others.
Carnage: But we need to get close to them. How will we be able to share their energies?
Captain America: The former President’s soldiers are currently in retreat all over this city.
Carnage: We can have them?
Captain America: I will instruct my teams not to stand in your way. They’re all yours.
Carnage: Oh goodie, goodie!
Captain America: Do we have deal?
Captain America: Here.
Cap lobs Nuke’s head to Carnage. Carnage attaches it to the rest of his heads.
Carnage leaps out of the window. Cap walks to it and looks out over the city. Crowds are running toward the portal. He looks up to the sky and sees the Guardian. Energy is coursing out of him like chains holding the earth together. In front of the Guardian is a shadowy figure. Cap touches his ear.
Captain America: Guys, can you hear me?
War Machine: What’s up, Cap?
Captain America: Look up.
Iron Man: What the heck is that?
Captain America: WHO the heck is that?
War Machine: I don’t know, but he’s a bit too close to Bruce. I don’t like it. I’m going in.
Iron Man: I’m with you, buddy.
As War Machine and Iron Man close in, the shadowy figure extends both arms outward. Black lightning fires out hitting both of the heroes.
War Machine: Agh!
Iron Man: It’s Doom!!
Both heroes fall from the sky, but are caught by a giant hand.
Giant Man: Got you!
Iron Man: Rhodey, you got anything?
Iron Man: Nada. You?
Iron Man: I’m toast.
Iron Man looks up to the sky.
Iron man: Shit. Bruce…
Doom holds out his arms and opens his palms.
Doctor Doom: Doctor Banner. Give it to me.
Guardian: Doom! Just let me hold this together! Don’t do this!
Black electricity flows out from Doom and swirls around the Guardian in a helix shape.
Doctor Doom: I need what you have.
The helix constricts and the Guardian cringes.
Guardian: Agh! No!
The energies dissipate from the Guardian. The earth screams forth and begins to crater.
Doom clenches his fist and the helix constricts tighter.
The earth ruptures everywhere.
The Guardian closes his eyes and concentrates. He blocks out all consciousness of the chaos around him. He feels the air. The feels the energies of those losing their lives. He gently raises one hand to his chest. He slowly pushes forward and the helix rumbles.
Guardian: I am not a lie. This is the truth. Your darkness is not real. Only light is…and it overcomes the density of all things…
Light shines out from his palm and the helix explodes. Green energy flows from one arm, driving back into the earth, pulling together the pieces that were breaking apart. The crown above the Guardian’s head shines like a sun. Light bursts from his eyes. His voice echoes.
Guardian: Victor, you have underestimated me. Now…let this go.
Doom is silent a moment.
Doctor Doom: Bah! I’ll destroy your new world then!
Doom flies towards the portal, but is immediately stopped. A circle of green energy holds him in place from the Guardian’s other arm.
Guardian: Like I said, you underestimate me because you don’t understand the true meaning of power. I have more power than you could possibly imagine…and yet I give it all away. I sacrifice it for something greater than myself. THIS is its true purpose. To be given back. Not to rule over others, but to give them a second chance. This is my service. To give everyone a second chance.
A voice calls out to the Guardian.
Captain America: Bruce, don’t do this.
Cap stands amidst a crowd hurriedly rushing by him. He looks up at Bruce with his hand to his ear.
Guardian: Steve, I can’t hold this much longer and I can’t let Doom escape.
Captain America: There has to be another way.
Guardian: Get the team through the portal now. It is going to start collapsing.
Cap is silent for a few seconds.
Captain America: We will remember you, Bruce.
Guardian: Steve, everything changes from this moment forward, and yet, Americans will need to remember where they came from. You are that symbol that I can never be. You represent everything that our people have faith in…and in order survive…that faith will need to be rewarded. You are the leader they need.
Captain America: I’ll do my best to serve. Thank you for everything. It has been an honor knowing you.
Cap turns to the crowd.
Captain America: Now, everyone! Hurry! Go! Go! Gooo!!
The portal starts collapsing and Cap follows the crowd, diving through it as it closes behind him.
Guardian closes his eyes. The energy holding the earth together disappears. He extends both arms outwards.
The earth continues to pull apart until pieces begin to break off. Eventually, the planet explodes, casting debris across the far reaches of space. Billions of lives, snuffed out in an instant.
The Gamma Guardian is gone.
Chapter Seventeen: Home
Acres of lush jungles stretch across the horizon. Mountains adorn the skyline. Waterfalls decorate the hillside, sprouting rainbows through the crashing water billowing up into mists.
Deep within the heart of this paradise stands a silver citadel, looming over the land and shining within the sun’s embrace. Its walls spread out roughly half a mile in diameter. Inside its center is a giant tower, rising high above the castle’s walls. At its top is a grand hall with a large circular table at the center connected to the floor.
The heroes are on all fours within the large room, woozy from the journey through the portal.
Iron Man: Everybody check. Make sure you got all ten fingers and toes.
Norrin raises himself to one knee and leans on the Syzygy.
Norrin Radd: We are not on earth…
War Machine: Ok, so WHERE are we?
Captain America: Thema Mundi.
Iron Man: Thema whatey?
Cap nods, gesturing to the entrance at the other end of the room. Inscribed above its archway are the words, “Thema Mundi”.
Iron Man: Ooook.
Captain America: Tony…how many made it?
It is quiet for a couple seconds.
Iron Man: About 800 million.
Cap closes his eyes.
Captain America: …what percentage is that?
It is quiet for a couple more seconds.
Iron Man: …about…10%…
The group gasps.
Captain America: …Jesus…this is worse than Thanos…
Norrin Radd: I am so sorry. This may not bring you all comfort, but it should be noted that of all the races Algol has eradicated, yours is the only one to avoid extinction. Humanity HAS survived.
The team sits at the table in silence. War Machine removes his helmet and drops his head in his hands.
Ant Man: Soo Guys? Bruce built this place?
Daredevil: He’s the only one who could. And it appears to be made entirely of adamantium. Even this table.
A booming voice echoes through the hall.
Thor: My friends! Thou hath arrived!
Norrin Radd: Thor!
Thor: Aha! The Surfer! And thou are puny now!
Iron Man: Of course. HE made it through.
Thor: Stark! And thou are here too! I have been waiting for everyone. Look at this mighty castle! It goes on forever! And behold!
Thor raises his hammer.
War Machine: Oh shit. Thor, hold on…
The hammer comes down hard. The entire tower shakes as his mighty blow echoes throughout the hall. The heroes hold their ears.
War Machine: God damn it! Thor, stop!
Thor: But dost thou not see?! It can withstand thine blows! Not even mountains can withstand the power of Thor!
Iron Man: Uhhh boy. Yeah, big guy? The castle’s made of adamantium. We’re way ahead of you.
Thor: Ah. Well then. It is a suitable fortress for our might. Wait till thou see the room of sacred crystals! And the well of energy!
War Machine: Is this dude always like this?
Iron Man: Just wait till he’s had a couple cases of beer. He’s real fun then.
Daredevil: Steve, what do we do now? We have nothing. Everything is gone. How will people adjust without possessions? What will they do without money?
Captain America: None of that matters anymore…and maybe this is for the best. All of it. A civilization rebuilding upon unified ideals and vision is better off than an empire decaying and collapsing under hate and division. There were so many truths that were too taboo to acknowledge…or be honest about. Now…we are finally free to see these things for what they really were…and with a clear perspective…rebuild.
Cap closes his eyes and lowers his head. He whispers under his breath.
Captain America: …Bruce knew this…he knew this was coming…
Daredevil: CAN they unify?
Captain America: We don’t have a choice.
Daredevil: I sense hundreds of lives in the courtyard below.
Cap glances at the balcony at the end of the room.
Captain America: We need to find all political leaders and representatives who survived. We’ll need a gathering of engineers, farmers and scientists. As many as we can find. Also, medical and mental health professionals, teachers and historians. Finally, we need to confirm how many heroes made it. We will need them. There’s much work to be done.
Daredevil: I can help with that, but I think this new world needs to hear from you first.
Captain America: Sigh. Matt, I am not an elected leader. I am just a soldier.
Daredevil shakes his head and laughs.
Daredevil: You are so much more than that. You’re an archetype of something innate to all of us. Democracy, equality and freedom are home…and we need to know that what we are has not been lost…that these things have never disappeared. You are our reminder that they will always exist…anywhere.
Cap subtly smiles.
Captain America: You’re a gifted counselor…
Cap walks towards the entrance leading out to the balcony. The sunlight flows in, wrapping around his body as if its rays were emanating from him. He pauses and looks back.
Captain America: …and a good friend.
Cap walks out on the balcony and surveys the crowd below. Large trees spiral together across the courtyard like a network of little huts. Within one of them is Miles Morales and Peter Parker. At ground level is T’Challa and a crowd of his people. In another set of trees is the Fantastic Four. Hovering above them is the Scarlet Witch. The Human Torch and Falcon fly across the balcony. The Falcon salutes Cap. Far back by the main gate is Professor X and his teams.
Cap looks out across the floral utopian horizon sprawling beyond the castle walls and then back down at the survivors of humanity. They appear calm. In shock, but relieved. Maybe the realization of what has occurred hasn’t hit them yet. Maybe their immediate needs for survival have taken precedence. Whatever the reason, there is a certain courage…even stoic honor in their composure and strength. Cap pulls back his mask.
Here, in the endless galaxy, far past the destroyed remains of a planet and civilization whose time had passed…it begins here – a new nation – to bring sense to a species plagued by worse than greed and inequality…this will be a good life…
Captain America: People of earth! My name is Steve Rogers…and I am the man who was known as Captain America…
June 27, 2021