AoA: The Last Battle

October 29, 2017:

The American army launches a desperate attack to recover Washington from the Heirs of Apocalypse. The newly formed Avengers lead the charge. Meet Captain America (Bucky Barnes), Thor (Darcy Lewis), Captain Marvel (Jessica Jones), Black Widow (Natasha Romanova) and Iron Man (Tony Stark) in their first battle as a team. (Emits by Nate Grey).

The Ruins of Washington DC


NPCs: AoA Iron Man, AoA Sebastian Shaw/Famine, AoA Cannonball, AoA Icarus


Mood Music: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner

Fade In…

When Bolivar Trask and Moira Kinross were designing the Sentinels they argued long and hard about which should be the robots prime directive. Trask wanted it to be 'destroy all mutants' while Lady Kinross wanted it to be 'protect all humans'.

Moira won the argument. And Bolivar married her, so maybe they both won something.

But that prime directive meant when the air fleets of the Human High Council flew to America with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the continent three times over, the Sentinels were not notified. They could not be part of an offensive that would have killed millions of normal humans still surviving as slaves under Apocalypse's tyranny.

Instead the three hundred of so Sentinels operative by 1996 stayed in Eurasia, protecting the last nations of humankind. And when the nukes came flying from Apocalypse's Atlantic Seawall, they did the only thing they could: they flew up to try to stop them. It was an impossible task, and almost all the robots were destroyed.

In five years the American's agents roaming the ruins of old Europe and North Africa were able to find half a dozen still operative Sentinels, some very damaged. They have repaired them, and now they have just been deployed. They hit Washington fifteen minutes before the air fleet arrives. The robots powerful mutant-detection sensors quickly find and map-up the positions of the Infinites and report back to the fleet. Then they attack the anti-air battery emplacements. It is a suicidal attack, but it allows the airships to reach the ground with minimum casualties.

22 troop transports deploy over 2000 soldiers, humans and mutants, including some X-Men, on top of the Apocalypse Empire army. A dozen quinjets armed with savaged plasma cannons provide some air cover.

The Apocalypse army is formed by hundreds of low-power mutants and genetic constructs in Infinite power armor. Eight feet tall, bulletproof, with enhanced strength and carrying large plasma riffles.

Each squad of the American army has a rocket launcher or plasma gun, each soldier has grenades able to damage the Infinite armor, but it is still a rather uneven fight. Make even worse by the presence of a large number of powerful mutants among the Infinites, as well as cyborg troops.

The plan was to use superior mobility to try to take out the mapped troop contingent one after another. The plan dies the first minute of the battle as portals being to appear all over the battlefield bringing in more Empire troops from all over the world. This is the power of the enslaved Eden Fesi, the mutant Manifold.

The battle about to turn against the American soldiers, General Ross plays his last card: The Avengers.

The Avengers quinjet has been heavily modified by Tony Stark to be radar-invisible and telepathically shielded. So the engineer is at the controls, clad into a golden armor he calls Iron Man Mk. 2. "Time to save the day, folks," he announces cheerily when General Ross gives the order to move in. "And a little music," he adds.

Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, he mounted loudspeakers outside the quinjet just for it. Because Apocalypse Now in 1979 was one of the last movies ever made in the old USA before the fall. And Tony Stark sense of humor is, at best, questionable. "Good for you, Dar… Thor?" He adds. Like Stark ever asks permission for anything, ever.

"Indeed, Metal Man," rumbles Thor, lips quirking up. "This will suffice for battle music… Unless thou hast 'Fat Bottomed Girls'?" asks the short statured God of Thunder.. Goddess of Thunder. Mjolnir rests on her shoulder, as easily and casually as anything.

At times like this, James Barnes still can't help but think of Steve Rogers. If Steve had lived, would he be here? Would he be the one leading the offensive? Would he be way less freaked the hell out than Bucky Barnes feels right now? Would he have handled all this — this great leap from solitary killing to leading an elite team at the head of some futuristic army — with much more aplomb?

He'd be able to tell me if he were here, Bucky thinks, but he had to go and die on me instead. You were always fucking things up for me, Steve Rogers.

Logistically, the objective is extremely simple. As the armies engage, the Avengers will drop in to remove the leadership and thereby relieve the beleaguered human forces. Geared up in a 'tactical' variant of the iconic Captain America outfit mixed with a heavy array of weaponry and equipment that screams a clear callback to his Winter Soldier days, James stands just behind Tony's shoulder, doing a last-minute scan of the information popping up on the HUD. The shield rests securely on his back. It feels out of place — or maybe it's him, out of place on the shield.

He rolls his eyes when Tony cues up music.

"There's enough Valkyries in this quinjet for it," he says, looking around at the others. "We're outnumbered, Stark."

He hasn't quite made the shift yet to The Cap Persona, but he's close. As it was for Steve, for him it's a bit of a switch to flip. "All right, kids. Cut off the head, and… eh, you know the rest."

Jessica Jones tugs at the collar of her own tactical armor.

In red, blue, and gold, with a single gold star on the front. Captain Marvel's old gear. Cleaned and refurbished, armored and bullet proof.

She had been quite uncertain about taking it on. On one hand, the other Avengers stood as symbols. Captain America. Thor. The Black Widow, too. Jessica Jones, being just Jessica Jones, isn't anyone who is going to rally the troops.

On the other hand, those were awfully big shoes to fill. She'd known Carol, before she'd died. She'd liked Carol. Carol had been one of the ones to help liberate her. She had a long list of heroic deeds behind her, and Jess feels like an imposter wearing it.

But ultimately, the needs of the mission outweighed the fears of the individual, and, coaxed by William Stryker, she had finally agreed to take it up.

The armor had fit perfectly, without adjustments, and she wonders at that.

She listens closely to Bucky's orders, mouth set in a tight line, trying not to betray any nerves. She puts her helmet on, because she likes her brains in her skull where they belong. She carries an automatic rifle despite being far more comfortable just using her fists, as well as an array of melee weapons; it would be dumb to go in underarmed, and at the very least, Captain Jones…Captain Marvel now, she supposes, is not dumb.

A deep breath. "Got it," she says, in response to Bucky's truncated and basic briefing. Get in there, kick some ass, make sure it's the productive ass to kick. It's not exactly rocket science, so she shouldn't be as plagued by fears she'll mess up as she is.

But hey, in a few moments people will be trying to kill her, so that oughta clear up that bullshit real quick.

"I know, Cap, I already love this team," replies Stark, voice suddenly going atonal when he seals the armor and switches to speakers. The quinjet dives into the thickest of the battle, taking some blasts, which he is happy to return with wing-mounted auto-canons. A few Infinites blow up as he slows down a few yards from the ground, raising a huge cloud of dust at the jet vtol turbines.

The side of the quinjet retracts, allowing the others to jump into the ground, just ten feet down.

But although most of the infinites dived for cover into the ruined building and heaps of rusting cars (70s models, of course) not all the enemies are ducking, and one of them is a living cannonball aimed for the quinjet.

"Ah hell, I couldn't even give it a patriotic paint job," comments Iron Man. "Everyone ooooout!" The impact of Prelate Cannonball with the quinjet pretty much blows the jet into a hundred pieces. Fortunately arc-reactor powered planes do not carry fuel to add to the explosions. Stark has no time to jump out, but he really thinks his armor can handle it.

Thor leaps but does not land. She remains, hovering a foot from the ground so tat she's more or less eye level to Cap. The cannonball is noted but with no time to react before the jet is smashed into, Thor let Tony's armor deal with it… or else let Tony have a Warrior's Death.

Thunder crashes overhead and Thor flings herself - hammer first - toward the largest and most obvious pocket of infinites. It's a battle cry that leaves her lips as she barrels through the air toward them, hammer impacting one. Momentum arrested, Thor shows that no matter the size of the form the powers inhabit, the fierce warrior spirit remains as large and strong as always.

Was there a plan of attack? Thor stole Tony's plan: attack. Unapologetic Darcy is unapologetic.

Stark makes no secret how much he loves this team. All girls, all the time. "I'm pretty good with it myself," Barnes says blithely, giving Natasha a good eyeing up and down and a fingergun as he does. All Caps certainly aren't created equal, and Bucky Barnes is certainly no Steve Rogers in certain arenas.

As the quinjet settles, it's swiftly targeted: what appears to be a mutant, barreling through the air towards them at top speed, dead-on the nose of the quinjet. There's no diverting or blocking that, so Cap does the next best thing and starts herding everyone towards the doors. Tony's not in a good position to get out, but he'll probably be fine. Probably. He's still quipping about paint jobs, after all.

"It's fine, I'm the patriotic paint job," he yells back, even as he hops clear of the jet and uses the shield to deflect any pieces of scrap that come his way.

He takes stock of the situation as the dust clears. Thor has already engaged the masses, keeping them off the others' backs. "Looks like we got our first dance partner already," he observes, glancing over the edge of the shield at the mess Cannonball just made of the jet. "Stark, if you're not dead, which you better not be — with Thor on keeping the army culled."

He's already moving to engage Cannonball. "Romanova, Jones, with me on this one." He makes a quiet aside to Natasha as he passes, in Russian, which probably isn't very Captain Americaish, but you can't take the Winter Soldier fully out of the Bucky Barnes.

The blast flings Jones forward, and she rolls over and over much like Snoopy. But she catches herself midair, zooming to a backwards stop, eyes a bit wide. But there are orders, and they steady her; she barrels through the air to fly above and to the left of Bucky Barnes.

He moves to engage the Cannonball, and when they get there she sweeps a bit higher in the air, aiming to whip past him and slam an elbow into the small of his back in passing. She doesn't unsling the gun because she's really not that great a shot; spray-n'-pray while she's got teammates moving to engage the same target doesn't seem like the best move she could make today.

But trying to break bits of him at full strength and speed in a way that might slam him down towards the more ground-bound Barnes and Romanova, a sort of set him up so they can take him down maneuver. If she pulls it off, that is.

Whoever the mysterious Black Widow is, she's not much of a people-person.

A wraith here and there among the forming Avengers the last while, she's been no more than a shadow on the wall, a here-and-there haunt of few words and even less patience to deal with others. Decades of solitary life in a gutted-out, post-apocalyptic landscape will do that to a person.

Sitting somewhat away from the rest of the Avengers, and silent the entire ride in, Natalia foregoes the armor others wear: nothing protective on her, no helmet wanted. She's not used to being weighed down, and she'll trust her body — her agility — far more than she would anything else.

Slinging a long-barrelled rifle to her back — scoped for one purpose only — Natalia catches Captain America's fingergun. Her eyes roll right up to the ceiling of the Quinjet.

Silent as ever, a blink of her eyes communicates understanding of that murmured Russian, and she too leaps from the jet, landing soundlessly, moving out of the debris field of the exploding jet.

Her mouth quirks up in momentary amusement to see Jones mosquitoing off, and she pulls her rifle free, taking position at Captain America's left shoulder, moving after. Here to provide his cover.

A group of half a dozen Infinites was charging bravely behind Cannonball, hoping to finish whoever survived the soon-to-explode quinjet. They have the bad luck to be in Thor's way, and they are scattered like pins to a bowling ball. Except the armors are shattered like glass, and most will have a large number of broken bones.

That… definitely gives a pause to the two scores of Infinites and mutants that saw it, but definitely there is cheering coming from the human forces.

Then a portal opens and a large man in gold and red armor steps in, followed by a handful Infinites. "So. You are the humans' new god, little woman?" A cultured, deep voice, although the face of the man is hidden behind a helmet. "You don't seem much. I am Horseman Famine. Come, and lets see who is worthy of survival."

Quinjet pieces everywhere, and one of them is golden and landing flat on his back. "Ow… I am fine. I am fine," Iron Man stands up, raises his right arm and fires a blast from the gauntlet at the speeding Cannonball. Missed wide. "Damnit. Targeting computer crashed. Need to restart it. I got a magnetic field generator, though. Mags was actually helpful for once. Watch!" Half a dozen car carcasses rise from the ground and are sent flying towards the infinites, a couple are hit and buried under the junk. Technobabble explanation of how it works follows. Tony is one of those guys that talks endlessly when he is nervous.

Cannonball laughs at Jessica's first punch. "I'm invulnerable when blasting, you human cow," he points out. Then he dives to smash Bucky, but then Jess barrels on him at top speed, altering his path visibly. Instead of ramming against Captain America, he crashes a few yards of him, the impact sending half a ton of concrete and dirt into the air.

The mutant stands up quickly, but for a second his blast field is off and he is vulnerable.

There's pieces of jet everyone, and one of them looks like a soup can that fell in a vat of molten gold. "At least you're not hard to see, Stark," Barnes observes dryly. "Wait — is that a skirt?" He didn't have a chance to get a good look while Iron Man was in the pilot seat. At least Thor's flashy arrival restored some morale to their army, and Captain America himself scales onto a ruined car so he can be more easily seen. It increases his danger, but it needs to be shown to the forces that the cavalry has arrived.

His attention reroutes, however, to more important matters at hand: the arrival of a Horseman through a portal, for one, and Jessica's maneuverings with Cannonball in the air for another. The mutant seems eminently dismissive of blows when moving, to which Barnes rolls his eyes. "Cow?" he repeats. "Hit him harder, Jess," he says. "Right in the — "

The explosion of Tony flinging cars in the background censors some Cap-inappropriate speech.

The mutant turns his attention to trying to cannon into Bucky, who makes a pretty good target with that shiny shield. Said shield starts to come up, but Jessica crashes into the incoming mutant hard enough to send him plowing into the dirt several yards short. He's dazed, obviously vulnerable. This would be when Captain America would throw his mighty shield, and all, and et cetera.

Well, Captain America does get around to that, but what this Captain America does first is quickdraw his souped-up heavy pistol, and fire dead towards the temporarily-vulnerable mutant's center mass. Clean shot through the heart, should it hit true.

Then he throws the shield, with an eye towards clocking the mutant in the anticipated direction of any dodges, trying to keep him off his game enough for Natasha or Jessica to follow up.

Jessica might well take that suggestion on where to hit Cannonball, if it's needed, because she doesn't take too kindly to being called a cow herself, a sentiment she voices when she says, dryly, "I will if you don't blow 'em off for me first, Cap."

But she stays clear of the shot and shield; unslinging her rifle with about the same idea as Nat; just providing a bit of cover fire from other forces which might be closing in. She's pretty confident Bucky will finish this asshole off.

But hey, if he doesn't, and takes to the air again, she is now at an angle where she can shoot at him for sure. Spray n' pray and all.

Maybe in another place, another time, another universe — Natalia Romanova would be a bit more quippy and snarky about it all.

This one however, with her blue eyes reflecting decades of horror and death, is eerily silent.

The only sound out of her is the rattle of her rifle as she pulls it into her arms, taking aim in the trajectory of that thrown shield. Natalia takes the moment she needs to line up the single shot she aims between Cannonball's eyes. Her rifle kicks with the report of the single shot she takes — only ever needs to take.

"One less mutant," are the first words out of Romanova. Ray of sunshine, that Black Widow.

The Infinites serving as Famine's retainers are all veterans of a dozen battles, so they do slow down Thor a little before they are smashed aside. The mutant does not seem worried at all, though, and braces himself to receive Thor's charge. Seeing this Iron Man moves to flank the Horseman. His armor does not grant him the strength to match Thor's, but he can easily lift a large, loaded truck.

Meanwhile Cannonball takes Bucky's bullet on the chest. And it breaks a couple ribs even through the Prelate armor he wears. The blonde man was falling down when the Black Widow shoots pretty much takes his head off. One mutant less, indeed.

"Sam!" Someone cries, and a mutant with metal wings dives down on the Avengers, metal feathers bursting from the wings towards Cap and the Widow. "You killed my brother, bastards. Now you dieeee!" He has a clear Kentuckian accent.

Infinites scattered, Thor draws herself up as Faminine snarks at her, then ignores her to throw cars at Tony.

"Oh…. Pony boy…. Sweet brony. Thou hast.. fucked up." The words, the cadence and pacing of her words are a weird mix between the formality of Asgard's Prince and Darcy's sass. And it's the only warning Faminine has for what comes next.

In another life, here from another world, before her time with SHIELD, Darcy only know how to use one weapon. It is a small weapon. A shocking weapon. It is a tiny mote of what she can summon now.

Darcy Lewis as THOR is quite literally a Tazer Queen.

Mjolnir brandished up high, a crack of thunder rattles windows and teeth alike as a bolt of white hot lightning streaks from the sky, to Mjolnir, and then is flung by Thor at Faminine.

"I'm not small. I'm fun sized. Now, shut up and dance," she adds as she chagrges in after the lightning bolt. Thor might have once 'fought fair' and given opponents time to compose themselves. Darcy? Not so much.

In another place, another time, another universe, perhaps the methods used by another team of Avengers would not have been so brutal and so execution-swift. Maybe they would have fought fair. But in this universe, when they called this group the 'Avengers,' they really meant it.

The worst has already happened. The land is already blasted and ruined, the people hardened and jaded by years of nuclear destruction and war. It is a bleak place, a dark place. A place inhabited by a people who want vengeance. A perfect place for the kind of Avengers that result when you put Winter Soldier in the lead.

The kind that instantly blows open their opposition with bullets. Barnes doesn't even flick a lash when he gives Romanova a short nod, and retrieves his shield on the ricochet-back. "One less. And here's another — "

He skids in front of Natasha as the feathers arrow down, swinging up the shield so the vibranium can kill their momentum off dead. Another flier. "You're up again, Jess," he says, sparing half a glance to how Thor and Tony are faring wtih Famine. "Natasha — in position to support her with fire."

The Wicked Asshole of the East is dead; apparently, here comes the Wicked Asshole of the West. Bucky tells her she's up, and she's already in motion. "On it," she promises. Jones lets her gun fall to her side on its strap again, and goes taking off after the fellow, zipping towards the Chicken-Fried-Dickhead at full speed. Natasha stays silent in the face of all this horror…

Jessica runs her mouth pretty much just to cope.

"Oh, metal wings, that's real cute."

She's smiling almost grimly as she reaches out to try to snag one and rip it right off of his suit. That'll be fun to throw at some enemies, for one thing, and spoil his dive, she hopes, for another. She doesn't spare the force, hoping to shoot him into one hell of a spin while she's about it, just screw him right up royally.

Playing air support for her little team is starting to come naturally to her, all this zipping, zooming, and hovering. Granted. She'll look a Hell of a lot less cool when it's time to land, as she still hasn't mastered that even after all these years of having her powers, but hey, right now she doesn't have to.

The famous shield comes in to block that incoming barrage, and Natalia ducks under its shadow, eyes shut for a moment in mental preparation.

No metal flaying into her. No problem. Under cover of that shield, she glances up, stealing a moment to impart Bucky Barnes a brief, dry look. Natalia's blue eyes communicate the thought clearly: seriously, how in the hell did we end up here?

She obeys seamlessly a moment later, her rifle raised the moment the shield goes back down. With Jessica Jones in the air providing distraction, it gives Romanova time and opportunity to line a sniper's shot. She follows the dogfight between the two fliers with the silent patience of falling snow. It's a moment of trust on Captain Marvel's part too: trusting the Black Widow won't just shrug and take them both out with the same bullet.

Opportunity comes as Jones goes for the wings — a spot among all that armor.

"Taking it," she murmurs, voice calm, dead, over the comms. Natalia aims for the mutant's throat in a shot so perilously close it whistles past Jessica.

Famine's eyes widen with surprise when Thor calls down lightning from the sky. The mutant is hit with enough current to fry a small army and screams in pain. But that he screams means he survived, of course, and when Thor charges, he actually manages to straighten up, gritting his teeth, and stops the falling hammer with the palm of his hand!

Then punches Thor with a blur of super-speed. The impact of the punch is like a sonic boom. Glass shatters, a couple infinites standing close are tossed on their backs. Ears will ring. Thor goes flying and crashes on a semi-ruined building nearby, bringing it down. No one had hit Darcy this hard since she found the Mjolnir.

Famine holds the hammer now in his hand. For about a tenth of a second, then it goes down. Almost making him fall. He struggles to lift it, though. Such powerful weapon should be his!

Alas. NOT worthy!

Meanwhile Icarus, that is the winged mutant, is not so easy to catch. Those are his real wings, turned to metal by Apocalypse's enhancements, and they are hard as the best steel and extremely sharp. When Jessica comes to grab him, he tries to cut her with them, and avoid her grip. He might have won the flying battle, had not Natalia being such a crack shoot. A bullet through the neck takes out his will to fight. He may survive thanks to his healing factor, but for now Josh Guthrie is unconscious and crashing on the ground.

And at the same time Tony is left alone a few yards of Famine. And fortunately he is not the kind of man that goes shooting without thinking. Instead he runs a scan on Famine and compares it with the Sentinel database. Then magnetically shoves a couple car wrecks on the Horseman. To gain time. "Bad news, folks. That guy is Sebastian Shaw. He absorbs energy, even kinetic energy, and transforms it in strength and speed. We need a plan and quickly!"

Darcy comes to under the rubble, hand empty, ears ringing, a few heartbeats after the building crashed down on her.

"Fuck me," she exhales quietly, sneering as powdered cement stung her eyes as she opened them. The discomfort lasted just long enough for her eyes to electricify and she hauled herself up out of the ruined building. She hung in the air above the building, an Avenging Angel, eyes bright as the lightning dancing over her skin and leaping from cloud to cloud over head.

Thor lifts a hand and wipes a trickle of blood at the corner of her mouth. She'd bit herself when Shaw punched her.

"How about we see how well he doth splat on the street?" Darcy asks, voice growlly and thunderous. Her right hand reaches out, summoning her weapon back to her hand. With a Shaw in tow? That would make things easier, for Darcy fully plans to summon a tornado to suck Shaw's sorry self up into the sky before unraveling the storm and just letting him free fall.

How in the hell did we end up here? Natalia's eyes ask. Bucky Barnes, in his best friend's getup with his best friend's shield leveled overhead, shrugs back eloquently. "End of the world," he provides in answer.

It gives her enough cover to make that pinpoint shot, assisted by Captain Marvel's distracting maneuvers. Winged mutant down, Cap turns his attention back to the Horseman called Famine, a frown crossing his features as Tony reports on who exactly the mutant is. Absorbs any form of energy and converts it? "Why does he get to be a better, walking version of my shield?" he complains under his breath.

His eyes track to Natasha. "Gonna give you an overwatch position. Keep shit off us from there," he says, and braces down, lifting the shield to a horizontal. It's a cue for her to step up onto its surface — and once she's secure, he flings the shield, Natasha and all, straight up towards the top of a nearby building that hasn't yet collapsed. It ricochets back off the wall of the building upon offloading its passenger, returning unerringly.

Straightening up, he checks one of the pouches of his LBV, finds whatever he was looking for, and nods. "I've got half an idea," he muses over the comms as he starts to close the distance, "if those are the only powers he has. Find a way to restrain him in place without feeding him too much energy — I gotta get in close for this."

Jessica Jones feels that shot pass right by her seconds after the soft, dead voice of Natalia warns her that she's taking a shot, and in the comms there's a startled yelp of: "Shit!" But she doesn't say anything about it other than that. She doesn't know Natalia well enough to trust her specifically, wasn't exactly personable or easy or anything other than taciturn herself, after all…

But she does trust Barnes, and she trusts Barnes would not either put her on a team with or give orders which might result in her head getting blown off by 'friendly fire.'

She's also real glad for her armored gloves, which keep her hands from being sliced to ribbons. She can see score marks across them from her tangle with Icarus. He's down, anyway, and he looks dead from where she's zooming about, so she doesn't pursue him.

Then she hears Iron Man's report, and Thor's response. "No, don'—" she begins, but it's too late, the tornado is already unleashed.

A swallow. "Uh. Guys? How much kinetic energy does a tornado have?"

Or being slammed into the ground?

But then Bucky's order is coming down the pike, and she takes a deep breath. "I think I can do it."

If he's down on the ground…

Speaking of landings.

Well she's just going to have to stick this one. And since she's not trying to land on her feet, she actually manages.

She swoops down, intending to just pin Shaw down by virtue of slamming all her body weight on him, grabbing at his wrists, trying to twist them painfully in their sockets, and trying to keep a knee in his back, trying to use leverage, and not just her strength, because she doesn't know how strong he is right this second. If he can now lift 40 tons to her 5 or something then she's kind of fucked unless she plays it smart, so she tries to. Besides, leverage offers less kinetic energy than raw strength. She only has to hold him for a moment, right?

And offered the Vibranium Shield Express as a quick route up in a sniper point, Natalia pauses briefly.

There is part of her that doesn't want to leave James Barnes's side, but even she knows her eye behind a scope is no worse or less deadly than being six inches away from his person. She exhales, and in one last movement, unlatches a familiar, braceleted weapon off her wrist to latch over his — on his right arm. Her Widow's Bite, for good luck.

Natalia turns off her comm long enough to tell this of Captain America, because God forfend anyone overhear her: "You get yourself killed, and I'll murder you myself."

You don't need logic in the post-apocalypse.

Slinging her rifle to her back, she steps up lightly onto the shield, bent there in a perfect, three-point crouch, she takes in a deep breath — and slingshots straight into the air.

The Widow flips free at its pinnacle point, up on the parapets of a half-gutted out tower. Rifle rearranged, she shoulders it steeily and turns an eye through the scope, her patient, pinpoint shots allowing Captain America direct route in.

Shaw does not try to keep the hammer when Thor calls for it, though. Besides, he needs to get rid of the two car wrecks on top of him. It takes him half a second. Then he blurs forward and punches Iron Man, sending him flying a score yards and denting his helmet. A mighty punch, but nothing compared with the one he gave Thor which obviously took a good deal of his absorbed energy.

Then Jessica comes flying, but… unfortunately she was right. He is still considerably stronger than her, and pushes the woman away fairly easy. "Fools. You fight with courage but no planning. You will all die here… hmph." The sudden tornado threatens to lift him off his feet, armor and all, but he grabs one of the car wrecks as anchor and turns to Thor, walking decisively towards the woman while dragging a ton of junk behind him.

Mjolnir settles into Darcy's hand. It's a Leviosa type flick to summon the tornado, Thor watching as Shaw stalks toward her.

Find some way to subdue him.

How, though? Darcy frowns, keeping the winds whipping about Shaw as she takes a heartbeat to THINK. In her field of vision, she spies Mjolnir… and the runes.

Whomsoever holds this hammer, if she be worthy, shall possess the power of…

Darcy starts cackling.

Smiling with her Great Idea (TM), Thor launches herself from her hovering place, letting the tornado unravel as she looks like she's just about to charge in at Shaw recklessly again.

Oh, but this time, she has an inkling of a plan. All thanks to one Captain Bucky Barnes.

Find some way to subdue him.
Whomsoever holds this hammer, if she be worthy…

Thor aims to slam into Shaw, yes, to bowl him over, and to leave a lovely little present upon his chest.

He wanted the hammer, right? So, he can have it. On his chest. Where he's welcomed to try to pry it off himself. Darcy lets her charge's momentum flip her up and over Shaw where she comes up to hover next to that ton of junk.

The weight of a bracelet settling over his right wrist gives Barnes pause. The Soviet assassin version of a goodbye kiss. He looks at Natasha, in time to catch her dire warning.

"I'll make sure not to die then," he answers dryly. "It's very unpleasant to be murdered by you."

He sends Natasha off a moment later, reclaiming his shield on the rebound. Captain America lapses, and blends back into the Winter Soldier. Where before he moved to draw attention and inspire the human forces around him, now he moves to avoid notice, wraithing through the massed fighting, using the Widow's Bite to clear away opposition that isn't taken out by Natasha from her perch.

Jessica comes rocketing down to try to restrain Shaw. He's collected enough energy to push her off, though the act of it gives Thor enough time to come up with A Plan. She lunges forward with full intent to leave the hammer right on his chest. Mjolnir and all its worthiness settles, an immovable weight.

A moment later, the Winter Soldier is there, peeking briefly through the mantle of Captain America.

"I always plan ahead," he says, a needle flicking into his right hand, and with a deft gesture he goes straight for the carotid artery with 200 milligrams of potassium chloride. Double the usual lethal dose given.

A "shove" from someone even stronger than her isn't exactly a little event if he's using enough strength to throw her off at all when she's trying to employ all her own.

Jessica Jones goes flying, but this time it isn't under her own power. She hits a wall with her back, and cracks spider out from every angle behind her. Some rubble from the shaky building falls; and she's forced to grapple with that for a moment.

She's alive though, as all the cursing in the comms indicates, flinging stuff off her in preparation to try to get somewhere to make herself useful again. It will take up a moment of her time though, keeping her out of the fray for just a second. But the Mjolnir plan strikes her as a good one.

While Jessica Jones takes minutes for that landing, a few close-by Apocalypse Agent mutants attempt to capitalize —

— and are immediately tagged by quick, lethal shots from the Avengers' trusty sniper.

Natalia murmurs to herself in Russian. Counting the dead at her own hands. It's a habit she's started since the Soviet Union fell: a count on all the kills she made of her own will, and no masters left to guide her.

Her barrel trains back on Captain America, and behind the scope, Natalia keeps sentry on his back, taking aim at anyone or anything that gets too close. At each report of her rifle, she never breathes, never blinks.

Shaw is more surprised than angry at being tackled by Thor, and easily shoves the woman away. Only to find himself pinned under the mystical hammer enchantment. "What… is this?" He writhes tentatively, his hands digging into the concrete to try to tilt his body off the hammer.

If he had a minute, it would have worked. But then he is injected the poison, and a minute is all he had left of life.

Famine's death is a serious blow for the mutant army, as he was their battlefield general, but they could still retreat and regroup. They are still numerous and then outgun the American army by a good deal. Most of the quinjets have been shot down. Many of the human troops are out of explosives and other heavy weapons able to get through the Infinite armor.

But due to the actions of the X-Men they also lost the telepathic communication. And they also lost their teleporting engine. Without leadership, without guidance and without a way out, they break ranks and follow the tyrant doctrine in the most pure estate. Just fight to survive.

And that is why they lose the battle.

Fighting together, rallying behind their heroes, the American army advances as one, overrunning small groups of uncoordinated enemies one after another, until all of them are dead or surrender.

Many decades later historians will consider the battle for Washington the true end to the war with Apocalypse. No one would ever again manage to rally the scattered surviving Prelates again. Although many mutant supremacists kept fighting for years afterwards against America, they would never be called an army, or a nation. They would be called just terrorists and super-villains.

With Famine dead, Thor summons her hammer to her and then rises into the sky. From there, as the human army advances, the Goddess of Thunder and Lightning and Storm seeks to ensure victory is secured by littering the fleeing forces with lightning strikes. And when all is said and done, she gives her teammates a nod. If any ever have nee of Thor again, they need only pray.

Cut off the head and the body dies, indeed. Perhaps Apocalypse's forces could have regrouped regardless, but — as Barnes soon receives, in a private communication from the General — the X-Men have successfully shut down telepathic lines of communication, leaving the enemy disorganized.

Rising back up, suddenly tired, Captain America drops the emptied needle in the dust.

Crossing over to Jessica, he offers her a hand up. His gaze turns next to Natasha, checking she is all right, and with a nod he beckons her back down. He lifts his right arm: he has a bracelet to return.

"Mop-up operations, kids," he says, hefting the shield back to its place on his back. With Thor in the air as a vanguard, he has only to follow on the ground, the worn shield still leading soldiers forward decades after its forging.

Jones takes that hand up with gratitude. "Thanks Nat," she also says into her comm. She noticed her ass being saved.

Mop up operations. She gets on it, right to work.

When it's done, she returns the nod to Thor. She gives Tony a high five. She follows that worn shield into battle, and the man who carries it, a man she'll gladly follow until the day she finally dies. She learns trust in the Black Widow.

Jessica Jones never set out to be a hero. She never thought she had it in her. She set out to atone. To make herself useful. And to help.

Humanity gains surcease from violence and war. History gains its ability to…well. Continue.

Jessica Jones gains confidence. Peace.

She went into battle a lonely alcoholic playing small.

She comes out of it as Captain Marvel in truth. She emerges as an Avenger.

When the tide changes, Natalia Romanova finally looks up from the scope of her sniper rifle, allowing herself to see the world again with her own eyes.

From her high perch, she is granted a view of the war awarded to few others, and she has survived far enough of them — lived with her fingers on the pulse of combat — to know a victory may be at hand.

Distantly, she looks down, eyes on the shield of Captain America. Romanova's face is a field of ice, so long dead, so long cold… until something of a smile comes like long forgotten sun. It's been so long… so long since she let herself hope.

Rifle to her back, the Black Widow laughs to herself, lightly, briefly, before she vaults the edge of the tower and falls, back down to join her Avengers.

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