By Their First and Last Breath Pt. I

October 23, 2018:

A group of heroes from Earth are gathered to hunt down the killer of gods known as Gorr; tracking his presence down to the distant world of Sisyx, they instead find a planet dying for the lack of its gods… and the horrors that lie in wait within, as one of their number falls to tragedy. (GM'd by Spider-Man!)

The Fallen City-Palace of Sisyx

It was beautiful, once, before it was horrifying.

Characters

NPCs: BEN LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS (formerly known as Toothbender), Shadrak God of Sunshine and Sunflowers, Gorr the God-Butcher

Mentions: Rocket, Groot, Thor

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The Prism World of Sisyx, like many worlds, has myths related to its creation and the cradle of its civilization. And like many, these myths have varied throughout the millennia, but by far the most prevalent is this: in the beginning, there was the dark, as there always was. And when life exploded into being and the universe filled with all the colors of creation, the wordless gods beheld the splendor and strove to create something even greater. And so they took the countless colors of the celestial realms and forged them, and from the heat of their passion and love sprang forth the most beautiful of all worlds. Knowing their creation would be well-beloved and coveted, they shielded it from the rest of the universe, binding every law of creation, every fluctuation of nature, to their divine essence, proclaiming that Sisyx and its people would endure in their beauty for as long as their gods' love remained eternal.

And then there is the truth.

The truth is that the gods of Sisyx did not know how they came to be. The truth is that the first of them breathed their first breath long, long after the first glints of creation dotted the void-filled skies. The truth is, the gods of Sisyx were indifferent and lazy, seeing the teeming life on their planet as little more than frivolity… until that life made something beautiful of their world without them. And when the would-be gods of Sisyx beheld the most beautiful of all worlds, they coveted. They grew jealous. The felt fear that life might not need them after all. And, filled with an envious wrath only the divine essence could muster, they bound the natural laws of Sisyx to them and their great sky-city, exerting total dominance over the planet — the tides would only come when they called, the sun would only shine through the clouds when they allowed, their people would only know prosperity when they saw fit. And so they proclaimed:

The beauty of Sisyx would live and die by their first and last breath.

THE PRISM WORLD OF SISYX
NOW

Sisyx was a beautiful world, once. A sweeping planet of crystalline splendor, the refractions of light off its surface and atmosphere creating an array of colors that the human eye could only rightly parse a fraction of. Its people beautiful too, adapted to the splendor of their world long ago. Crystal structures float in the skies, the waters shine with a fluctuation of hues. It looked almost ethereal.

And even in the calamity that sweeps through it, it is still beautiful from a distance, and perhaps that is the most grim reality of all.

It was not long ago that the sky palace of the Gods of Sisyx fell. The city-sized structure's collapse caused devastation on untold levels, wiping out much of the surrounding landmass and cleaving a great scar into the once pristine jewel of a planet. But that was far from the only disaster. With the palace-city's collapse, so too collapsed the system of Sisyx's gods that unnecessarily supported it. And having been so forcefully dependent on its gods for countless eons, the entire planet now falls into disarray. Chaotic space-time storms ravage the surface of this world as the fundamental laws that define everything that is in this universe start to falter and fail for this planet. Up becomes down, down becomes up — time wheels backwards and forwards in random spurts, and so much more.

The only point of stability now comes from the epicenter of the fallen Sky City. Tiny, nomadic settlements have sprouted up around and within it as the people of Sisyx desperately try to live on despite it all.

And it is that very city that is the destination of those tracking Gorr the God-Butcher. Provided with a means to track down the strange, primordial signal of Gorr's constructs, Sisyx was the very closest and by far the freshest signal to be found…

… and the strongest point of all comes from within the ruined splendor of the gods' cracked citadel at the center of their fallen city, a grand, sprawling tower that served as the meeting grounds for the great gods of Sisyx, unperturbed by the madness that surrounds it.

An eerie eye in a planetary storm.


"Don't worry dear friends, he's perfectly fine to put your feet upon. Like so."

And Atli does indeed lean back in her chair, resting her ankles across the back of A GOD DAMN SPACE SHARK THAT IS TAKING UP MOST OF THE AFT COMPARTMENT. The shark makes a grumbling sound of sorts, and.. is it grinding it's teeth!? Atli seems to notice, and amends her statement. "Perhaps more towards the hindparts."

A glorious smile, god-like in every way meets her companions, her fingers laced behind her head as they approach their final destination.

"Oh, right, we should probably consult the plan. I'd almost forgotten."

The relaxed posture immediately fades, and she searches around her seat for a pile of papers, each written in perfect hand writing, with the plan at hand. Some are only half-written. Others crossed out. Finally, she finds one that's just right and holds it up.

It says, quite clearly: Fix Everything.

"Now you see, this is a fool-proof plan, which is why I brought it today, since I was certain Thor was going to be here. But it appears he may have had some sort of Lady-trouble. Which with my grandfather, is never so little. So you see he'll be a little delayed. The important thing is to stick to the plan, and make sure nothi-"

Atli stands up, staring through the windows at the beautiful world, eyes wide and fixed on that fallen, nearly destroyed city. Her papers, and her plan, falling to the floor, some of which the shark snatches in midair and eats.

Of all the things it reminds her of, it reminds her of old Asgard, a broken place at the end of time. It reminds her of home, and steals all thoughts from her mind, save one.

Gorr must be here.


Hercules, the PRINCE of POWER, was all rarin' to go! He showed up with all his gear and a beaming smile and a flask full of a coppery-smelling alcohol for the road!

Unfortunately, it was Satan Wine he'd found after beating up one of the many demons constantly taking swings at him while he tries to make his lonely way in the city. Having never actually had Satan Wine, Hercules had no way of knowing it was additionally intoxicating to gods due to its intrinsically forbidden nature.

Hercules is now tucked in a corner, just in the way enough to be noticeable, knees drawn to his chest with his thumb in his mouth. His face is a bright red, steam rising from his temples as he snores quietly.

These things happen.


For the past however-long, Jean Grey has been focused simply on the act of breathing. In and out. With that comforting basic metronome of life to ground her, the void of space spreading emptily all around her makes her want to scream just a little bit less.

Not that it is her first time back to space since the First Time. Not that she remembers, anyway — not in this particular universe, or this particular timeline. She thinks. Her life is a Gordian knot, a braidwork of too many lives all trying to crowd into one timestream. No — she's certain. This is the first time, in any meaningful way, she has been back among the stars since her first death.

Sometimes, in the vacuum silences, she can hear something singing far away. She doesn't listen — either to that, or the emptiness inside her.

Maybe it was a mistake to come here, to make this particular battleground hers. It seemed logical at the time — did she not know cosmic threats more intimately than most anyone else? — but now that she is here, the mundanities of school, of political bureaucracies, of demonic invasions, seem preferable to the yawn of the void. To the sudden sight of a destroyed world, which brings even Atli's enthusiastic explanation to dim.

"Gods fight," says Jean Grey of it, her green eyes distant with memory as she takes in the familiar sight. "And the people suffer."

Their arrival brings her eyes to close. Her head tilts back slightly as she reaches out a tentative psychic hand to whatever might emanate from that ruinous citadel. Just a bit — no sense leaving the door to her mind too widely open for the unknown.


Jackie came with Angela. These two seem like they ought to be oil and water, but yet Jackie is agreeable to following the angel into battle against the God-Butcher. He comes across one of the average Italian gangsters in the tri-state area, though he's polite enough and keeps to himself. He hasn't often been on a spaceship, though he's trying to play it cool.

Even now, Jackie Estacado does not see himself as divinity. A guy with power, sure. Maybe a mighty guy, a man who has to be respected in his community for his ability and skill. But a god? Somebody who could impose his will across an entire planet? Nah. Not him. Jackie just wants to run a hedonism island like in the really good pornos that have budgets. Maybe he'll have a nip of rum once in a while with a cigar, looking over the ocean from a balcony while women who only kind of remind him of Jenny attend to his various needs. Attainable, concrete goals.

Sisyx is almost incomprehensible to Jackie. A man who still finds interstellar travel staggering, Jackie sees the magnificent planet and is struck silent for a few minutes. Even this fallen world is more beautiful than anything Jackie had previously imagined. It is an ego-annihilating moment of awe that briefly washes away the tough-guy facade that holds The Darkness together. A boy who crawled out of a gutter to look at the shining lights of New York City relives that moment of transition. The City is great and terrible by the standards of Earth. It is not this place.

Words finally come to Jackie. His hand tracks to the window, palm resting against it as he steadies himself. He says the first thing that enters his head, much like he always does. They should have brought a poet, another man once said in a similar situation. But you've got Jackie Estacado.

"This shit makes the Lowell look like the Paramus Red Roof."


Angela exudes confidence. Her stoicism is so unassailably intact that it is difficult to find a flaw in which one can imagine things like hesitation, uncertainty, or ignorance. When she, mysterious as she is, says that the plan is to go into space to hunt down a time-traveling god-murderer who happens to have it out for all of them, perhaps she is easy to believe.

Then there is the reality of riding along on Peter Quill's spaceship while Atli speaks as if she is operating in some sort of leadership capacity in this entire ordeal. Angela's stoicism remains a lofty citadel jutting proudly from a sea of space sharks, discount Han Solos, and hindparts-obsessed Asgardians.

Angela is also notably out of place among the rigors of space. She is still dressed in earthly streetwear, which consists of a usual ensemble of a pleasantly matching button-up shirt and slacks with polished Oxfords and a tastefully matched belt. Her knowledge of terrestrial fashions has expanded her color repertoire. Still, what is she going to do when trouble happens? Punch it? Is this the right power category?

The non-specifically otherworldly woman has favored standing instead of sitting, easily weathering space turbulence when it appeared. Even now, she stands before the viewing screen, watching the ruined citadel loom ever closer as they enter the eye of a world-storm. Her gaze, like she, is hard and icy — made icier by the peculiar silvery-white cast of her irises.

If she has thoughts on the matter of divine responsibilities, she does not share them. Her silence is complete.


NICO MINORU is just glad to not be in New York City, a place with so many demons and demon accessories that you can't even chat with your co-workers. Also, she had to fight (kind of) a cosmic dragon and also Zatanna (mostly Zatanna), which led to her getting halfway exsanguinated. While she was indeed inspired by Angela's example into extorting —

But we get ahead of ourselves.

Space. What the hell do you wear into space? This was a problem for Nico Minoru, but not an insurmountable problem. Google helped. As best as Nico could figure out the option was either 'comfy casual' or 'something incredibly impressive in case you have to argue with demons or something.' Nico split the difference and turned the steel-wire frame of some kind of savage heavy dress into an improvised luggage carrier! MULTIPURPOSE.

She is not wearing the heavy dress. Right now she has a too-long shirt for a Dazzler tour that took place before she was weaned along with some comfy heat-insulated tights. She also has sneakers on. (The heavy boots are strapped into the dress/luggage carrier.)

She also has a juice box. Finally, along the way, Nico Minoru interrupts the silence with a question for Peter Quill:

"Like the cookie, right? The ones in the white bags with the little paper doilies? It does kind of look like those, huh."

Now they are here. Nico is sitting and looking out of a window in wonder. She presses one hand to the glass (?) as the glossy crystalline hues of Sisyx gleam and glitter beneath them. "Wow," she says: there is no more to be said.

Nico looks at Jackie. She says nothing. There is no more to be said.

"I was reading some of the evil shit my mother wrote in her evil journal," Nico volunteers, then: "And it said that there was some kind of a butcher on Earth, but like… a thousand years ago. They said it ended in Scandanavia." At this point she looks towards Atli, as if in prompt.

(Nico adds, "She liked to do 'this day in history.' I think she wanted to justify buying the nice journal.")


"Just so you all know, we are /not/ an interstellar taxi service," This nugget of wisdom comes from the lips of one Peter Quill. Captain of the Milano. Leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Champion of Dance Offs. His titles are ever growing…

AND NONE OF THEM INCLUDE TAXI DRIVER!

Ahem.

But really he isn't here just as a taxi service. There could be people hurt on this rock. There could be dangerous troubles. There was a definite distress beacon.

…and holy shit a /crashed/ god-city. Can you imagine the salvage!?!

There could be gems the size of your head down there!

Thoughts like this rattle around in Peter's head as he brings the Milano out of warp in high orbit of the ruined city. "Welcome to the Prism World of Sisyx, everyone." Drawls the space pirate…er…ex-space pirate as he banks into a lower orbit. "Since no one is shooting at us yet I'm going to guess we haven't pissed anyone off. Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, buckle your safety belts and look out for space-time wind storms as we start our approach."

A glance back at his motley group of crew and passangers.

"…or just stand there stoically and go for looking cool. I don't really care." He adds as he gets into the business of finding a place to land in a planet where the laws of nature are /literally/ on the fritz.

AND NO IT IS NOT LIKE THE COOKIES!


As Jean focuses, a vague aura starts to lick through her hair. Psionic flame gleams down the red strands, giving them the glow of embers. "One sign of life — so far," reports Jean. "Afraid. Erratic."

She is silent a few moments more, before she physically recoils. Her spine hits the back of her chair with a jerk, as her eyes fly open.

"And a void," she says. "Cold, inert, and dead.


"…oh yeah that isn't creepy at all," Peter adds as Jean voices more information. "Homing in on the life sign because that seems to be better than a void."


"Do you have a knife or something I can borrow?" Nico asks Peter.


Jackie begins the mission by wearing a black Armani suit. This is normal. It's an amazingly well-fitted suit that is suitable for adventuring. His concession to the dangers of space travel is that he's wearing slacks with a backup shirt stay.

Nico talks. Jackie looks over to listen. He furrows his brow as if he understood any of that, nodding. Probably bad. Jean does the psychic thing and has a startle. Jackie grimaces, rolling his shoulders. He reaches into his jacket and pops the safety straps off his pistols.

Nico is asking for weapons. Jackie glances over at her, smoothing his coat. "What kinda knife you want? Like…" Jackie seems to speak from an earnest place within himself. "Do you know how to fight with one or do you just want somethin' to feel better?" There's a difference in Jackie's mind between these two things.


It might look for all the while like Atli Wodendottir might follow along the Lady Ultraviolence (that is, Angela), into some sort of long term vow of silence, but one long look at the confidence of an Angel leeches perhaps just a small portion of it into her soul.

"It only began in Scandinavia." These are the only words she has to offer before reaching up to clap Quill on the shoulder. "Verily, could you taxi us to that point there, next to the most broken spire. Rocket! Groo-" It is only then that she sees them sleeping, and reaches up to drag a hand down over the entirety of her face. "Curse you Prince of Power and your seductive ways!!" This she says while stomping back towards the aft hold. A look to Jackie gives her pause, because she certainly does not know him, but in this she finds only mirth. Oh the heroes of Midgard, so gloriously brave as to throw their lot in with Gods and Monsters, here at the edge of nothing. It is no wonder her Grandfather loved the burnt, obliterated rock that is Midgard in the future so much he decided to repopulate it.

Is there a river named Estacado on New Midgard? Well, depending how today goes, their very well could be. She gives him just a bit of a wink.

Before long, Atli stops at Jean, seeing her flatten to her seat, Atli's fingers reach for her shoulder, hesitant perhaps to come close to this, the bearer of the Fires of Creation. A hand claps on Jean's shoulder, and she gives her a look of steely determination.

"No void can conquer your flames, Lady Firemind. Let us find the one who did this and finish what my Grandfather started! To arms! And if you see anything grey-faced and ugly moving in the darkness, strike first and ask questions later. Also, strike the darkness as well. It's likely to strike back!"


It is a rough ride. Perhaps the only great fortune of it is the simple fact that it is a mercifully brief one to reach the eerie stillness that centers around that great, fresh ruin that was once this world's heaven.

But the interim before that point s one that will be doubtless rife with the most metaphysical turbulence any (most (some)) of them have ever experienced, where space seems to just… fold on itself in slivering segments and then expand like a balloon, dragging them further away from the city-palace and suddenly inestimably closer; pockets of shuddering time where things seem to accelerate towards fractions of fractions of seconds to their perspective, and then others where everything seems to simply move like resin.

Moments where they might feel the boundaries between universes thin just enough to feel alien things lying just beyond their notice, watching them—

But as abruptly as the worldstorm of Sisyx overtakes them, it even more abruptly just abandons them the second they reach those crumbling ruins of a place once beautiful beyond all measure. Everything dies; everything grows still. And in that moment, they can get a closer look at that city, like the bloated, dessicated corpse of a beached whale crushed overtop a continent. Crystalline structures float weakly over shattered edifices, rubble literally suspended in mid-air thanks to the unusual metals and crystals that make it up. Statues of the gods — built, of course, not by them, but certainly by their demand — are now half-submerged into a shimmering slurry of ruined earth, the ridged crest of one's brow half-lifted from the muck, another only visible by the great hand that stretches from the earth as tall as a skyscraper, clasped around what looks to be a recreation of the planet Sisyx itself.

Finding a place to land is easy. There is nothing but space, after all. There are settlements, hastily prepared, here and there throughout the outskirts and fringes of the crashed city, where the people of Sisyx linger. This is the only place they are safe — and yet still, they endure.

None of them dare to try to venture into the city proper. If any are talked to, they will fearfully insist, in their own strange, lyrical language, how the ground is sacred and not to be tred by them, lest they further court their gods' wrath.

But deeper within, there are no visible signs of life to speak of. Just that single one that pulses in Jean's mind, terrified and helpless and volatile, the frenetic, incomprehensible thoughts of someone who has lost the threads of rationality. The lifesign lingers, for now, in that citadel at the center of the city.

And the closer they approach through the beautiful, winding ruins of a heaven lost, so too does the void-like sensation of nothing grow stronger too. Shifting, moving, slithering.

Like it was searching for something.


There is a lot of cursing under the breath as Peter angles the Milano down, down, down into the worldstorm. Thankfully he is actually nearly as good a pilot as he thinks he is. Angling the Milano though some of the worst of it and using micro-jumps of his own warp engines to fight against being pulled apart by the forces that seem to treat gravity as a taffy puller treats candy.

The Milano finds its resting place near that all-to-quiet cidital as Quill gets Rocket and Groot roused and sent on 'relief duty'.

I.E. grabbing what isn't nailed down to bring back and sort though.

"Knives? Yeah check that chest there…Drax keeps all his there." This of course is tossed towards Nico.

And inside is a truly inspiring collection of blades, all sort of just junked in the drawer there. At least they are clean?

"So. God-Butcher. Is that like…literal or figurative?" He asks as he checks his weapons. I mean he isn't sure what they would do to a god but they make him feel better.

And at the end of the day that's what matters.


Peter's observation on the creepiness of her statement, and resultant decision on which way to pilot, draws a nod. "Probably the best policy," she says, as she watches his piloting at work.

She smiles wanly up at Atli as the young goddess clasps her by the shoulder, a moment later. Her own hand rises to pat the back of the Girl of Thunder's. "You speak as inspiringly as your grandfather."

It is an inspiration they can perhaps all use, as a moment later they hit some intense turbulence(?), before space seems to simply… spit them into the heart of Sisyx. Here there are people — Jean can feel their small flickering presences all around, in their patchwork settlements — and her eyes pinch a little to feel their struggle and their fear.

But inevitably, her gaze always turns back in the direction of that one lost soul, a beacon of suffering that draws her on.

"I think it's literal," is Jean's distracted answer to Quill's question.


Nico's interstitial question came while she was looking at Jean with concern. She had tensed up but hadn't leapt up to her feet, because Jean seemed to be handling it.

Jackie gets in. Nico looks at him. "Oh," she says, "just like, a small one, I need it to get out my staff. Remember, like from the park? Where there was the… horrible blood rain and the dead god and everything?"

("how many knives are you carrying?")

Atli is moving to Jean anyway, so Nico feels less burdened by this topic. "So yeah," she says to Jackie even as the turbulence begins - "It'd really help me out—"

'Drax keeps all his there.' Nico's eyes, already tending towards the wide-and-astonished, look towards the chest du Drax.

"Literal," she answers Peter. Now that the frigging starship (WHICH IS REALLY COOL BUT NICO IS TRYING NOT TO BE A NERD IN FRONT OF ANGELA AND ALSO ATLI AND ALSO ALSO JEAN GREY AND ALSO ALSO ALSO JACKIE MAFIA) has parked, Nico rises from her seat. She moves towards Jackie, but if he lacks a cute appropriate knife, she goes for the Drax ones.

She doesn't immediately do anything, either way. It's going to happen when people aren't looking!


Jean's compliment is enough to put Atli up against her own wall, really. If only because her Grandfather was most inspiring. Her Grandfather in the future, that is. To be held in such regard is difficult for her to comprehend, and if she'd had a few drinks in her, or if this world weren't falling apart around her, she might just smile and be on her way. Instead, she is stricken silent, because she simply is not certain she is a hero.

Which is fine because then the storm consumes them all.

Well, this is certainly familiar. Atli distorts before them all, shifting and enlongating and scrunching down. Her armor changes at times, becoming more robust, more opulent, and then returning to it's normal, rather mundane look as they pass beyond the storm. With a shake of her head to clear the disorientation, her gaze fixes one the world below.

"What a bunch of stupid Gods. Who does that?!" Atli questions, indicating the statues. "Well, besides Odin. He did once have a wonderful statue on Asgard, of himself of course, but the only wonderful part of it was the Phoenix perched on his ar-" Neverminding about that statue now, and utterly distracted by a certain sensation trailing goosebumps up her arm, she gives a shiver. Then, she hits the aft hatch release, dragging her shark out by it's tail.

The shark weathers this abuse like a champ, SLOWJAW giving a low growl as ozone rises from it's nostrils and it's black, dead-looking eyes turn to the colorful, dead landscape all around. "Go, Slowjaw, patrol the skyways and look for Gorr from above. If you see him, blast him with your nostril-lasers."

From outside, Atli remarks to Quill and Jean. "Most literal. He once started by rending Gods from one end of the Universe to the other, but then eventually figured out he was a fool for trying because there were so many of us. Or maybe Thor just scared him a bit by fighting back like no other God had. That's when Gorr tried to build a God-Bomb, to wipe out all Gods. Of course, that didn't happen this time."

This time. Atli speaks so casually about causality, it can sometimes be confusing. She won't mention how all of this is her fault, really, since through her doing Gorr was trapped in the far past and just decided to inconveniently not die.

"Also, Drax, please stop standing around and go with Rocket and Groot. They will need you."

Atli says, to some empty point in space.


Angela communicates her intent only in the brief glances that she delivers to various subjects while the ship draws closer. Jean earns one look when her hair mingles with flame. Nico and Jackie earn another when their exchange becomes about the purpose of knives. Hercules would, but Angela saw this entire thing happen and was deadpan through the full ordeal.

(Heavenly wisdom is knowing that if you told Hercules not to drink something he'd probably drink more of it.)

Time distortion is another kind of space turbulence that Angela watches with impassivity. Her patience is vast, her tolerance for the strangeness of the cosmos is perhaps vaster still.

The ship finally lands. Angela spares only a brief explanation as she turns toward the exit ramp.

"I will lead. I am accustomed to this."

The towering woman travels with an economy of motion that at times seems brash and at times too cautious. She moves through the shattered settlements with no heed for the looks she is given. When one of the locals strays too near, perhaps too thoughtless to veer away, Angela briefly speaks in the multi-tonal lyricism that the denizen replies with in kind. She continues moving on afterward, exhaling dismissively.

"These people are broken."

The way becomes difficult. A sundered land means a sundered path — ground torn and floating apart, pieces traveling on no logical courses. Angela continues the display of her brutal economics by charting an efficient path and leaping gaps with contemptuous ease, leaving the others to cross their own ways if they choose not to follow her.

Deeper toward the journey to the inner sanctum, Angela stops upon a remarkably stable stretch of floating crystal. This is a chance for the group to gather cohesion once more. She lingers near the edge, staring into the distance. Her nostrils flare briefly.

"There was fighting here. The signs are everywhere. They took captives. Those discarded tools at the severed stairwell two minutes past — torture implements."

Angela turns up the corners of her lips in the beginning of a snarl. It never grows into anything more than a possibility.

"Corpses ahead. And the berserkers. I hear them hunting."

Angela undoes the top button on her shirt. Easier to punch things in the face with a little slack in the material.


Jackie is receptive to positive attention from ladies. It's one way to reliably get him to pay attention to something. Jackie Estacado is not a particularly complex man, which is a small mercy considering the amount of violence he can bring forth at a moment's notice. Atli winks at him, and Jackie (perhaps fatefully) gives her a rakish smile. But Atli's walking with a purpose, and Jackie doesn't know enough about what's going on to think to interrupt.

The team mobilizes out of the ship. Jackie transforms into his body armor, sealing his faceplate for atmosphere in anticipation of a difficult alien world. This far-flung crumbling world appeals to the Darkness — it sees an opportunity to break things down and build anew. Jackie is still working to get his head around it, but fortunately he knows how to handle problems: With bullets.

Nico has had a look at the Drax box. Jackie offers Nico a K-bar that he just… kind of has, just go with it, Nico, don't ask questions. It's very sharp. It hungers for blood.

"Here ya go," he says to Nico, and then starts out onto the planet with the others, glancing over at Atli. He flirts, because he must. I mean she's got a space shark, that's got to be a sign of awesomeness. "The Darkness totally strikes back," he says, "so check your fire a little."

The weird people of this world draw Jackie's attention — dazzling and impossible, complex in ways that Jackie has rarely encountered. They'll be in his dreams for years as he listens to their lyrical speech. They speak of danger, but Jackie came here for the danger. He sticks with the group. So far, Quill seems to make the most sense, so Jackie hangs out near him. Angela's leading, and that's just fine by him.

"I think it's literal," Jackie says. "I saw this dead jaguar-guy and it looked like some kind of thing at Chipotle, like the stuff on the wall? So it was probably a god, that got butchered."

Jackie sees Angela scouting, but figures he ought to hang back with the less agile folks for the moment in case something wants to jump them. He has his guns handy, but what are 9mms going to do against… whatever's out here? More than you think.

"These things suck," Jackie says to himself. "Don't let them close on you if you can."


There are so many loose things for an aspiring entrepreneur like Peter Quill to subtly pocket, if he so chooses. Metals that seem to follow their own physical laws. Jewels sculpted by divine hands within the hearts of stars. A really lascivious painting of what looks to be a space whale that would probably sell decently.

Probably best not to mention anything taken to the people residing here though. They might take exception.

Angela is, however, right to caution. The closer they grow, the tenser it feels. Like something is watching them. Like there's something there. And it feels no more profound than when the great citadel doors are opened with a sad, pathetic groan.

Once this place was the entry hall of the gods' most grand citadel. A lavish place that defied all logical descriptions of aesthetic quality.

Now, it is a chamber of horrors unlike any other.

The glimmering light of the outside world still exists within these crystalline halls; it is still beautiful, in its own way. Pillars line the entryway, each one emblazoned with glowing, alien font that dedicates that pillar to a member of the Sisyx pantheon. Above, the cracked, crumbling ceiling has been arranged to look like the swirl of the cosmos, strange paint moving and shifting like a sea of stars above them. As if those pillars, and the gods they represented, were responsible for holding up the heavens themselves. It is still bright. Colorful. Enthralling, even.

Which makes the sacrilegious carnage that it juxtaposes all the more harrowing for it.

Gods. The first thing one can tell is that gods, at least, smell just as foul after they die as any other thing. They were probably beautiful once. Now, they are barely recognizable, lacerated, beaten, and dismembered beyond all recognition. Each body is pinned to a pillar on countless spikes of cold, oozing black — each one pinned to the pillar dedicated to them as if in an intentionally ironic gesture. All of them are carved with extensive signs of torture.

Not one of them drips a single drop of godly blood onto the floor beneath them. Drained of it all. It might have been that that ultimately killed them.

The torture? Jean would be able to tell most keenly of all. The torture was simply done out of pure, unadulterated spite.

What is most curious, however, is the fact that some of those pillars seem to go without any sign of a body pinned to them. Someone with the ability, technological, magical or otherwise, to read those scripts, might be able to see what gods those are supposed to be.

"N-no! NO! Stay away, please!!"

But time might be limited, as a flash of someone, green and multi-limbed, can be seen running past deeper into the citadel…

… with the sightless, reptilian forms of Black Berserkers, composed entirely of awful, liquid shadow, bound after, silent as the grave.


"I don't use fire," says Atli, oblivious. "You see, I'm a Goddess of Thunder. So I use lightning. Which.. isn't exactly thunder." A beat. "But they're related. But not fire. Unless I set the whole of the sky on fire, which I've done once, but only by accident."

Speaking of Thunder. The whole of the world seems to rumble and shake, pillars tumbling… to float in open air. The storm that swirls around this place seems to escalate, focused more on some point to the east. No matter the sort of storm, it speaks to Atli's senses, and she lifts her spear, as if it were some sort of divining rod.

"Something is brewing from far away. Some force that seeks to control this mass and breach the meager defenses of this place. As broken as these people are, they are yet still alive, and there is one God here who would not see harm come to them! We mu-"

N-no! NO! Stay away, please!!

"Wait, I know that voice!"

Atli bounds after the shadow beasts, intent on chasing down the predators who might prey on their one solid lead. In her rush, she barely sees the strike coming, a great big axe trailing liquid shadow, one she barely throws her spear up to block.

FA-THOOOM!!!

It echoes through the hall, sends Atli flying backwards to tumble and over and, and though she manages to right herself by stabbing her spear into the ground, it leaves her on her knees and looking up…

…at a most familiar form.

No, not Gorr. In many ways, this is worse.

"Toothbend-"

"NO." Intones the being, it's voice booming and wrought with rage. Standing some twelve feet tall and weighing who knows how many tons, it is much like a minotaur. But a goat. A space goat. Fangs drip black ichor to the ground. It's hooved feet stomp forward, upright, muscular body trailing a great, black robe. The only thing that is still the same are his otherworldly, already scary goat eyes. His horns twist and twist to the sky, and his clawed hands curl around his greataxe. "TOOTHBENDER WAS MY SLAVE NAME. I AM NOW BEN, LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS."

Atli stares aghast, her face screwing up with incredulity, and as the others weigh their options, to save the thing running from the Berserkers, or to help Atli face her once-Space Goat friend, her final incredulous, almost mocking word sends Not-Toothbender into an inconsolable, whirlwinding rage.

"Ben?!"


"Literal God-Butcher. Great." Peter mutters as he draws first one gun, then the second. He's calculating price in his head even as he /totally/ does pocket a thing here or there.

I mean really. Who is gonna miss it.

It could totally be important later.

Of course then he sees the bodies.

"…yeah. That looks like living up to his name there." A beatpause. "So he's like a God-vampire or something? Do you need God-garlic to keep him away?" Yeah he noticed the lack of blood. The words just flow from the pilot without really filter or thought, but the way he sweeps his weapons around the room is at least competent enough. Checking angles and sides, that red-lensed armor of his feeding him information.

Slipping to one of the unadorned by active pillars he scans the streaming text, looking for anything he might actually take as familiar. That lasts about as long as he doesn't register movement.

"And contact," He calls out, the skittering figure running for its life going one direction. Beings black as the void itself chasing after. "I'm gonna assume we shoot those…" Peter gestures towards the Berserks as he starts to raise his guns and…

/FA-THOOM!!!//

Sudden Goat.

He stops. He stares. He can't help it. "Oh man, this is gonna make Groot cry." A longer pause. "I am gonna assume we shoot that though!"


Atli's sudden silence is familiar to Jean. She knows the nature of it. As such, the smile she turns up on the young goddess bears a gentle encouragement. It only falters, and slightly at that, when the Phoenix is mentioned.

She puts it from her mind. As they begin to disembark, Jean makes her own exit via a gentle lift into the air onto telekinetic currents, a flicker of orange light limning her briefly as her powers activate. She drifts down in the wake of Angela, who declares she shall lead and certainly looks more than competent to do so: hardy and learned in traveling unfamiliar and hostile worlds. She considers stepping back to the ground again as they emerge into the shattered landscape, though a glance ahead at the rough and torn terrain keeps her aloft for now.

Jean herself takes up a position somewhere near the middle of the group. It is the optimal position to immediately cover everyone with a shield if necessary. Anyone who seems to require assistance traversing the illogical, floating paths will find themselves nudged by telekinetic assistance, carried when necessary to cross gaps.

She does not share Angela's dismissiveness for the people. Her sad eyes turn to them when they pass. The bodies, the horrible torture implements, when they come to them, affect her more deeply… though this time the sadness mingles with the sharp sear of anger. "They did this because they could," she says. "Because they wanted to. Because they hated."

Fortunately, soon enough something on which to focus the anger appears. Dark shapes, chasing someone crying out for help.

Jean is already reaching forward, her telekinetic powers expanding, when suddenly Atli is blindsided by a horrific mockery of Toothbender… BEN, LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS. Aghast, Jean nevertheless hesitates only a moment before she makes her decision. "I'm going to try to secure whoever that is needs help," she says, cutting in that direction through the air. She lashes out telekinetically, attempting to snare some of those Berserkers and drag them into the air.


"When blood is shed, let the Staff of One emerge," Nico offers behind everybody as Angela blazes the trail. When people look Nico has already stuck her pinky finger in her mouth. The K-bar is being held in the same hand as the Staff of One, because…

… she has no pockets, she didn't put on her space travel outfit. Whatever, nobody needs pockets in space.

As she sucks on the injury, Nico explains. She is pretty articulate despite this. "That was Tepeyollotl. Aztec. He was like a day god, they had day gods for their calendars. His spots were like the stars of the cosmos. I looked him up."

And Nico looks up now. Up and around the entire realm and its paintings. This place looks sacred, obviously so. I wonder if Karolina goes to church in a place like this now, Nico thinks - before her eyes turn down to the BUTCHERED CORPSES OF HEAVEN.

She grimaces. This is not the first time she's seen death. She shifts round, passing the K-bar to her other hand. The black berserkers come and Nico tightens up and she immediately focuses herself, thinking on what to do, on how to say. She's prepared here, she's thought of synonyms and phrases, she just has to remember them. Easy peasy, she thinks, as she raises the Staff of One -

To be interrupted by BEN, LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS.

"Goat, to-" Nico begins — before coming up short with a look of horror! A crackle of magenta, half formed, grounds itself fruitlessly in the tiles of this ancient temple as Nico Minoru remembers a /second, entirely unrelated/ demonaic caprine encountered in the distant land of Gotham City!

I'm so far from home, Nico thinks.

"Okay you know that goat, what the HELL happened to it," Nico stammers out as she moves nearer to the middle as well, if on reasons more visceral than Jean's. She twists the Staff around and she says, "Yeah, good idea!" to Jean.

Who leaves. Shit, Nico thinks. Back to the Black Berserkers and Nico raises up the Staff, staring at them and saying the first thing to snap directly into her head: "Evil shadow creatures kill each other!"


Jackie has never been more grateful for the Darkness' total atmospheric sealing than when he walks into this massive charnel house. His colleagues can't see him wince and grimace at the sight of the dead. It's awful. These people weren't merely butchered but shredded. The contrast between what must have been a breathtaking hall with all of this murder is grotesque. What could this have possibly accomplished?

The Darkness chortles in Jackie's head. Jackie starts cursing the voice in his head out as the party advances closer. Something moves past — lots of things. Black Berserkers.

"I hate these Venomized Barneys so much," Jackie says to himself, running in pursuit of the Black Berserkers for several strides before diving into a shadow and… vanishing.

The Darkness briefly manifests behind one group of Black Berserkers. His guns are briefly visible before he starts sinking rounds into their backs, aiming initially for center mass before taking expert headshots once they're in a better position. He fires at an angle to avoid stray bullets striking the party, burning through an improbable number of bullets in rapid succession. His guns fire as fast as Jackie decides they will.

As the dancing brass starts to bobble off the ground, the Darkness dives through another shadow, disappearing only to screen-wrap behind a different group of Black Berserkers moving to try to pursue his comrades. His Darkness-enhanced bullets fly with armor-piercing force, easily separating meat and bone. Jackie doesn't spend more than a few moments in each position, using the shadows cast by the rubble to drive-by groups of Black Berserkers, kill as many as he can in one volley, and warp behind or to the side of another group.

Jackie does see the Space Goat during his madcap strafing runs. It looks like the Space Goat has a pre-existing fight condition with Atli, so for now he focuses on protecting the less durable combatants from the swarms of Black Berserkers.

People passing in proximity to Jackie hear music radiating out from inside of his helmet for a few seconds before he dives through another shadowy area of the abbatoir.

"Workin' on it," Jackie says to Nico as he blazes by.


Angela presses on. She sees the cathedral in the distance. Her preternaturally keen senses already tell her most of what lies within. Even if they did not, it will not be Angela's first time walking into a charnel house of a defeated people.

The statuesque redhead slows her pace when she enters the inner sanctum. Every bit of context showing who she is — even for those who have only just met her — suggests that this will not be the thing that breaks her impassiveness. It is the truth. Her slowness seems to only facilitate her attention moving methodically from pillar to pillar, interest point to interest point. Her gaze lingers on the empty pillars most of all.

Inside her mind, that most secret of places that only one other soul has ever tread, a story comes together. She would have expected the worst no matter what, but they come in stories now. It really is easier that way.

But there is no time to share this tale. The black berserkers move as one in the distance, following an outburst from their prey. Angela tenses, squaring her stance as if ready to burst into a sprint. She does not — instead assessing, as is her curse. It is this moment of assessment that leaves her to merely raise an arm in defense against the FA-THOOOM!!! of foul goat betrayal rather than be knocked over flat.

The tall woman lowers her arm, judging Atli and her new rival. Angela marks this one off as not her business for now. It is the Thunderlette's problem until it becomes everyone else's problem.

"Call if you are pinned down," says Angela as she strides by Nico. "I will hear you."

It seems like a promise.

Angela flickers and disappears. In the same moment, though perhaps unseen from the vantage point of those where she began, she reappears in the path of the hunting berserkers. She knows these things now, and knows how they break and snap. Her fists will do for now.


Slobbering, drooling, and wielding an axe with far more skill than a bipedal goat should, BEN, LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS wades in with a fury that must have been stoked deep in his soul - or otherwise put there by a certain God-Butcher.

"But how-"

CLANG! CLANG! POW!!

Two strokes of the axe blocked, and Atli eats a hoof that sends her into one of those broken columns, then onto the floor, cutting a path of destruction in her wake. BEN gives her no quarter, leaping high into the air, and arc of black sludge sailing in his wake to patter upon them all like rain. Atli draws the sword at her hip, and crosses it with her spear to block the blow. She shows her mettle, shows she is no mere brawler as she deftly handles both weapons with all the training King Thor had given her where their was nothing much to do but train and train, and also give grandfather a bath when he inevitably forgot to bathe himself for a few centuries.

It's why almost no foul smells bother her, but when ToothBENder leans in to roar in her face after a particular fury, she winces away.

"This isn't you, beast!! Verily, you were no slave! If anything, you were dragging me around! Do you not remember living atop Stark Citadel, where you often tried to use me as a pillow!! I knew that's what you were doing, even though that Jarvis ghost-person was certain you were trying to keep me warm?! Remember that time in the great land of the Unspeakable Vegas, where.. well, we aren't suppose to talk about it, you know. But you remember, don't you Toothbender?!"

FOOOM!!!

BEN headbutts Atli for daring to speak of the past, and if not for The Lord of Stars sending a hail of fire it's way, he would certainly have gone for the killing blow. Instead, he reaches to his stomach and pulls forth three black balls of ichor, tossing them in Quill's direction.

The balls unfold.

Three long-fanged, Raccoon-looking shadow creatures begin bounding towards Quill, and they all have one thing to say.

"FRICKIN' FRICKIN' FRICKIN'!!!"

Atli raises a hand, waving to the others. "No, you're right, go and save that green fool. Verily, I have thi-"

She tries to block the next blow. She kindof, sortof does.

Then she is sent flying to pancake into the wall before falling, unmoving, to the ground.


MEANWHILE

Hercules slowly tips over to lie in front of the doorway. The impact dislodges someone's spare leather jacket (a common sight on the Milano, no doubt), which gracefully drifts onto him. He nestles into it, smacking his lips in reverie, the mace on his back poking through a sleeve and stretching it out.


Whoever it is who still lives, Atli seems to recognize them. But that green, battered figure is only there for a few precious handfuls of seconds before they scramble away, the sound of claws scraping crystal filling the air as the Berserkers rush in hot pursuit. Some bound across walls, some on the ceiling, but they all seem single-minded in their pursuit of their target —

— at least, until the psychic heat of an unseen force grapples a vice-like grip upon a small group of their number before -hurling- them upwards. They collide with the ceiling violently enough that it makes several more of them pause in their tracks, eyeless maws turning to stare down Jean Grey as if they could -smell- the power rolling off her. Toothless maws open, dripping ichorous nothingness. One hurls itself forward with impossible speed. Its claw lashes. It might well strike — and if it does, Jean will feel the cold, existential bite of its sharp edge against her flesh, something primordial, something empty

Before another of the black beasts rams into it barely a second later, sending them both careening towards the ground as they attempt to madly eviscerate each other into burbling piles of goop.

It's a trend that seems to perpetuate itself throughout their ranks, as many of them turn upon each other in a violent frenzy that sees them smashing each other through walls with titanic strength, ripping apart shadow-soaked limbs, or otherwise just Delivering The Ultraviolence to every other Berserker in their path. It does not work for quite all of them: several more seem to carry on with their mission, bounding after the fleeing figure. Several others see the problem within Nico and start to turn their ire upon her.

All of them find their end in a bullet.

Or, well. Bullets. Lots of bullets.

Mowed down into an impressive amount of black sludge by the hail of shells that seem to be summoned straight out of hammerspace, Jackie's motions from shadow to shadow, group to group, herald a new explosive end to another segment of the Berserkers' pack.

And if bullets help to create an opening, fists are what ultimately capitalize on it. Between the bludgeoning force of Angela's swift might, snapping some in half and breaking others into crumpled piles of limbs. Between the physical force and the weaving of Nico's magic and Jean's telekinesis, a way is eventually opened…

… into what looks, by all accounts, to have been some sort of meeting ground for Sisyx's gods. Grand, of course, and circular, light in this place comes from a pulsing sphere — a magical representation of Sisyx itself. Judging by how the entire thing seems askew with chaotic snap-charges of distortion, it seems like this projection is monitoring the planet in real time. Where the gods watched, and controlled, their world, perhaps.

But right now? Right now, the light serves to illuminate the hiding spot of the Berserkers' target: huddled beneath an ostentatious chair, he is a small thing. Green, with several legs, two pairs of eyes, and tendrils framing eithr side of his face, he looks haggard and beaten with injuries that could have only been thanks to routine abuse. Torment.

"Pl… please, I'm really very… very terribly sorry…" he mumbles, beneath his breath. For now, the area is clear. But there is BEN, LORD OF THE BLACK BERSERKERS soon to be on the advance behind them. And above them…

… the sound of skittering claws approaching, and a faint 'thoom' heard in the distance that makes the entire foundation of the citadel tremble. Like something landed on it.

Something powerful, you could say.


Jean's hard expression does not waver or vary as the creatures hit the ceiling with violet force. She meets the eyeless stares of their compatriots calmly where she hangs in the air, her hands open and her psionic power shrouding her in something very like the shimmer of a heat haze.

Even prepared, however, her reaction time barely catches the strike of that creature when it comes. Its claw touches her half an instant, its cold nothingness clashing viscerally with her own nature, before she snaps up a barrier to block the rest. Her hand starts to push forward, to blast it back… but then Nico's spell takes hold. The creatures begin to tear one another apart.

Jean turns a glance back towards her. "Good work," she says, though she sees that some of the monstrous creatures have registered her as the problem. She flings out a hand to shield Nico with a telekinetic barrier… but within moments, in a hail of gunfire, the Berserkers targeting her are cut down.

Jean's eyes hood. Looking back forward in the direction they must go, she turns her hands palm-up, eyes flaring white-hot, and spreads that telekinetic barrier, creating a visible 'safe space' bubble that proceeds through the crowds of Berserkers. It makes a clear path for herself, Nico, and any others who require sanctuary to walk, even as the more offensive-minded of their group take care of the actual monsters on the fringes.

It brings them, soon enough, to a grand staging area of sorts: perfectly circular, with a control sphere in its center from which the gods guided their world. Jean looks on the tableau. For a moment, her eyes dim with some distant memory — one too vast to properly recall in her current state.

Her thoughts soon descend from that lofty place, even as her gaze descends from the glowing sphere to settle on the small creature hiding beneath a grand chair. Her eyes gentle to see how he has been hurt; though Jean remains aware, too, of the dangers behind them. She can only trust that the others are managing with BEN — for now.

A distant thump brings her to tighten the integrity of that shimmering telekinetic safe-zone, which she maintains in a wide radius around herself. It will encompass any who come into this amphitheatre.

"How did you come to be here?" Jean asks the little green creature. "What do you apologize for?"


There were times on the ship when Atli addressed Angela as Lady Ultraviolence. Angela, as is swiftly becoming customary between them, informed her on the first mention that her name was not Lady Ultraviolence. Following mentions were abided.

It is now that Angela offers visual instruction as to the origin of this nickname.

This has been her third brawl encounter with the berserkers. They are becoming a known quantity. It is Angela's profession to turn targets into known quantities into predictable performance. Until the berserkers show her something new, Angela will continue to swiftly pursue perfection in slaying them.

It helps that the idea of them stealing more of her blood makes her very, very angry, and anger for Angela means intense mechanical brutality.

The redhead wades through the hordes, moving with human alacrity when space allows and blurring into impossible speed when it serves her. She fights with genius in spatial awareness that only becomes apparent when she eludes being maneuvered into pincer attacks or disadvantageous corners. Her strikes make shadows burst. Her grasp tears darkness asunder.

The pitched, running battle carries them onward. Angela flits further into the cathedral when too many berserkers escape her roadblock, resetting the defense under the premise that eventually the berserkers will lose a critical number of forces. This theory holds out as they reach what seems to be the final stop — the grand control room of this world's divinity.

Angela makes herself the door. She rips. She tears. It is a big violence.

But, in the distance, 'thoom.' Angela pauses, and then slams the berserker she is choking into the ground.

Perhaps this is the 'something new.'


Jackie updates her. Angela promises to save her if she is in peril. Nico, despite herself, feels cared for - protected - even if it is a more moral protection than (say) an invincible shield of steel or having been able to put down four hours creating a circle of salt and candles and, like, goat horns.

Nico has goats on the brain.

But hey: Brass and bullets and darkness work too. Clutching her Staff and her borrowed K-bar, Nico stares in momentary horror as a raccoon creature emerges, along with his two brothers. Nico, who did not really register Rocket as 'a person who was present on the Milano' as opposed to 'some kind of rug or cheap stuffed animal stuffed in the back near Hercules,' acts on instinct in the face of vermin:

She hurls the K-Bar at one of the Shadow Rockets.

At this point Atli tells her to go help the green guy. Looking at her she says, "I - Yeah, alright, if you're su- sure -" Nico turns and is, by sheerest chance, spared the sight of Atli crumpling to the ground. She winces at the impact but she does not look back as she hastens ahead. She does not, at least, get out of breath: the benefit of doing crunches in the Titans gym, perhaps.

She runs too far to do more than catch up, although catch up indeed she does, amongst the chaos of Black Berserkers set among themselves. Maybe they'll ALL die, Nico thinks, but she doesn't really believe it.


Jackie is gunning down Black Berserkers as fast as he can spot them, but there's one of him and lots of them. It's getting severe, but the good news for everyone is that they're still on the move. Jackie doesn't slow down, using shadow-stepping to wind around the berserkers that turn on each other, dodgeroll underneath berserker bits being severed by the melee fighters, and evade other fire still rocketing around the chamber.

Jackie's excellence in combat is presently less personally gory than Angela's. The gunfire makes regular holes in whatever Jackie is targeting, focusing mainly on vital areas. Jackie focuses purely on taking down as many as he can in one volley before repositioning, making it difficult for the creatures to mass up on him. Causing confusion in the ranks helps the others pick them off using their various methods. It's just a job for him right now.

That girl partied with a goat, Jackie thinks as they make it into the meeting room. Wild A. F. An instant later, Atli gets smashed against a wall. That's bad! Maybe he ought to get involved with this fight, though those raccoons look like bad news. They ALL have diseases. The flying k-bar strikes one of the Shadow Rockets, sinking into it before evaporating in the anti-sparkle of Darkness. Jackie needs more system resources.

Another impact a moment later — something further distant. Not good. Jackie looks in toward the little fellow hiding under a chair. He knows when somebody's important: After all, if they're still alive after all of this mayhem, they must have been a priority target. Somebody WANTED them alive.

Nico's going in. Jackie moves to cover her, keeping his sight-lines open for more targets. Maybe the giant goat will want a piece of him. Hopefully not the raccoons. You can't trust woodland creatures.


The world swirls in front of Atli, and the goat moves in for the kill. Looming, menacing, it raises it's axe, ichor dripping all around and ToothBENder's eyes lighting up with an inner fire. Should any of the others try to stop the creature, they will know only his single minded fury. Certainly fire slams into it from side to side. Certainly, ToothBENder should feel pain.

He only feels victory.

Well, until there is a deep rumble, some part of the temple shatters, and a great roar echoes through the hall. Nostril-lasers firing, teeth clamp down on the side of ToothBENder's head, rocking the great goat-man from side to side with a savage roar!

Both go tumbling. Atli stirs, just a little.

Then, she rolls over and looks up, hearing the thud above.

"no…"


"Atli! Move your damn ass!" Peter Quill's motivational shout echos over the din of battle as he ignites the flames of his jet boots and raises though the cavernous room to gain distance from the Not-Rockets that are coming to try to chew his face off. At least they don't seem to have guns. That could have been awkward.

"Glad Groot isn't here to see this." He mutters as he flicks his twin guns to 'earth' and fires. The elements themselves respond, the ground under the charging shadow beasts suddenly widening and then slamming shut like a great maw to try to squish the trio of creatures into a fine black paste.

"I approve of the tunes!" He shouts towards Jackie as he listens to his own verson of a sound track, the walkman at his belt blazing out all his favorite classics.

A great thudd above echos though the palace though and the pilot tips his head upwards for a second.

"…guys! I think we are going to need bigger guns for that…whatever that is!"


Clawed, green hands cupped over his head, the strange alien has all the look of an animal that has learned that no matter what it does, it will be shocked, and has thus simply surrendered to it. His eyes are wide — they never blink, not once, not any of the four of them. One might wonder if they even can.

And it's with that trembling, unfocused gaze that he looks upon Jean as the woman approaches; her first words inspire an instinctive wince from the green alien, like a learned behavior. He scoots a bit closer against his chair as if it were the greatest hiding place in all the world.

"I-I'm not here! You can't see me!" is his first insistence, despite all obvious logic to the contrary. He hesitates — before peeking his head out, cautiously. "You're not — you're not one of them, are you?" Those wide eyes widen, just a bit. "Oh — oh, oh my goodness, no, look at you, you have all your blood and everything!"

Unstable. His thoughts are a chaotic jumble, almost impossible to grasp onto for long. Alien. Divine, even. For all he doesn't look it right now.

"Oh thank goodness, I was… I escaped. I got away! But he… he found me and my friends, you see, he found us, and he…" the little god gulps. He looks aside. "… he… he made me watch. Like art. It was like art. They all looked so beautiful on the inside. I wasn't… I ran. I don't know why he didn't kill me, maybe — maybe it was for his art, too?"

(thoom)

The green little god edges out of his chair. He looks at the others, all gripped in violence just beyond them, marked with the cold ichor of the Berserkers. And beyond -them-, the lizard-like beasts still remaining after their slaughter of their own round about, soundlessly hissing as they advance upon that staging ground.

"M-my name is Shadrak, god of… of sunshine and sunflowers. Um. Have you come to save me, or kill me?"

(THOOM)

"Because I think I would very happily welcome either, buh-but killing me might be faster, if you were feeling so inclined—"

KRAKOOOM

Have you ever heard the phrase 'bringing down the house'?

Sometimes, it is meant literally.

And sometimes, it means things much larger than any house.

The ceiling above Jean and the others caves under the impact of something tremendous. Titanic. Godly. Chunks of prismatic debris fall, some suspending beautifully in the air, some colliding with the telekinetic field that encapsulates the cadre of Earth. And between it all rapidly descends a figure. Monochrome. Large. Hairy. Bearded. Shirtless, save for the shoulder band that crosses his chest. Wielding the sculpted head of a god's statue as he descends and hits Jean Grey's telekinetic shield with force that very few things in this world are capable of rivaling. Force that moves mountains. Force that quells gods.

The force of the PRINCE of POWER.

And though the real PRINCE of POWER is currently sleeping off the devil's hangover, though this thing looks like a photonegative version of him, though he has a dead look of pitch cold anger in his eyes —

—it does not make the way he HAMMERS his entrance in any less powerful as he starts to bring the entire building down around their ears.

Shadrak, to wit, contributes a: "OH I THINK I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE THE KILLING OPTION NOW" to the situation.

So there's that.


"I'm not one of them," Jean says, her face sad. She can feel his learned helplessness, his pain, his frightened madness, and all of those things seem twice as pitiable from the mind of a god. "None of us are one of them. We've come to help you, and put a stop to him for what he's done — "

And that is about when Jean Grey is interrupted by a SMASH of something coming straight down through the ceiling.

The PRINCE of POWER collides full-force with her telekinetic barrier, and Jean physically crumples, staggering visibly under the colossal impact. The shield lights up with a vast spiderwebbing of cracks instantly, glowing brighter and hotter for half an instant as it strains against that titanic force. The cracks sear briefly, white-hot, blinding —

— and the entire thing explodes in a shower of fracturing psionic power. Jean's eyes flare white-hot before guttering out back to their normal green, and blood streams from her nose; she collapses to her hands and knees. She might need a few minutes to recover her scattered power and re-focus.


Jackie is not a fan of sunshine. He is neutral on sunflowers. He likes sunflower seed oil, as various women have made Jackie eat things aside from chicken breast on salad during his adventures in Manhattan. The green little god does not presently rate on the threat meter.

Nico talks to the little green fellow. OK, fine, Jackie thinks, waiting for more berserkers or worse, raccoons, when the ceiling starts to collapse. At first, Jackie looks up, marveling at the beauty of the collapsing ceiling. Then Jackie remembers that the ceiling is collapsing and that pain hurts.

Jackie leaps back, rolling back nearer to the strongest part of Jean's telekinetic field. The chunks refract safely away as Jackie gets into a tactical crouch, magically refilling his clips as he prepares to fight the next target.

It's Reverse Herc. At least it wasn't another Reverse Angela, though this is arguably just as bad. Jackie wordlessly transfers his 9mms behind his back and produces a pair of drum-fed shotguns from the shadows. It's going to be that kind of fight.

Jean's field slows Reverse Herc down just enough. As Shadrak screams. Jackie charges out from under Jean's collapsing barrier. To try to kite Reverse Herc away from the injured Jean, Jackie starts firing shotgun blasts at Herc's side and back. But that might not be enough!! This is some kind of clone demigod. Shotgun blasts might be how they say hello. Jackie's got to taunt Herc so hard that he'll forget all about the easy target of Jean Grey. But time is short and Jackie can only think of one thing:

"XENA WAS A BETTER SHOW!" The Darkness shouts between shotgun volleys.


Somewhere far away from them, Atli Wodendottir stirs, stumbling to her feet, her sword destroyed. Her spear stuck in the ground. She pulls it from the stone, just as the stone begins to come crashing down. SLOWJAW and BEN slug it out, finally, the shark meets his end at a crashing piece of the roof, his head and neck crushed and obliterated by the falling debris.

"Stupid shark.. I.. NO!"

And then BEN turns to face her, just as a similarly sized piece of roof come crashing down upon him. As much as he might be resilient, the shark had taken it's toll, as had Peter's hailfire.

BEN crumples in a goatly roar, and Atli staggers towards his twitching form to try and move the rock aside. It takes her moments that feel like ages, falling to her knees as the shadow recedes from her once-friend, leaving naught but a dead, crushed husk of a space goat that she reaches for as if to cradle.

"D..do not worry.. it will be alright. We will simply bury your bones as before, and then.."

The bones crumble to dust in her hands, and tears slide down freckled cheeks.

Atli stares at her blackened fingers, teeth clenched and hands shaking. Rage burns in the core of her, a dichotomy of shadow and lightning coiling around her and running over the whole of her form.

Somewhere outside, the storm all but stops, leaving only the sound of the NOT-PRINCE OF POWER slamming into Jean's force field and sundering it in a single blow. Shadow curls over her armor, horns forming from a new helmet and curling much like her Aunt Loki's, but reamed with blades and crackling with black lightning. Ichor pours over her, from some unseen well deep inside, one that's been there since she first tangled with Gorr's creations all that time ago alongside the Prince of Power and the Lady Ultraviolence.

"GORRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!"

It is not just her voice, but the voice of the trillions dead she left in her future, all the fault of Gorr, Necro-Fool. Powering through what's left of the wall, arcing through the air and towards this NOT-HERCULES, her great bladed spear drips black as ATLI, NECRO-GODDESS OF THE INFINITE STORM enters the fray, black lines of crackling power searing through the air as she aims herself like a living bomb, intent on spearing this minion of her hate enemy through his thick, seductive neck.


The numbers of the black berserkers begin to thin. Angela slows her frenzied defense, finding a more even rhythm, burning the last act of guarding the entrance down to the core fundamentals. Seize, strike, discard. Reposition. Seize, strike, discard. Reposition.

Simple. Efficient.

Another noise. Angela, free of entanglements for a brief moment, stops to look upward. That feeling — she recalls something like it. At the park. The proper insertion moment. That means, perhaps —

The ceiling develops a spiderweb of fractures. Angela narrows her eyes in displeasure, though not because of the bulging-to-collapse architecture above them. It is another surprise wave of berserkers come clambering down the hall. She runs the numbers in her mind, quickly and coldly, and divines that greater harm will be done to their overall objectives if she removes herself from this critical point. No one else is in prime position to take over for her.

Angela flicker-disappears anew, the wind howling through the shuddering building as the hallway becomes a battlefield anew. Even with her prodigious celerity, the timing will be difficult — she can gauge the building losing its structural integrity by the moment.

There will be a time, soon, when she will need to disengage and assist in evacuation.


The four eyes of the alien - god? - surprise Nico once she's able to parse them. She pants for breath as she gets closer, swallowing and them grimacing at the comment about the blood. She takes in a deep breath, lets it out, listens to the tale.

Why didn't 'he' kill them.

She grimaces at the news of something being like art. Turning her head, she thinks about something to say to soothe this man. Her teeth set -

And the distant THOOM turns into the collapsing ceiling and Nico Minoru looks up to see NEGACULES. Down he comes, and Nico is starting to get a feeling that she knows the gimmick of these horrors now. Stepping back a pace, she tightens the grip on the Staff of One.

Thank God, Jean Grey and Jackie Mafia is here to save them all… ish. It's a pretty ish-y save. Nico has no illusions about how strong Hercules is, and she says thus to Shadrak, "We can save you but you have to trust me. I'm Nico, uh -"

'gorrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!'

The eruption of Atli, the Necro-Goddess, makes Nico throw herself nearer to him. "Shit!" she declares, which is hopefully not going to be taken as part of the name. Her eyes turn, staring, wondering, at the intersection of firearms and psionics with sheer darkling might, coming in on both sides. The palpable intensity of the darkness before her is something that only she - or perhaps her colleague, Rachel - could fully visualize, in the depths and brutality of its unlight.

Oh shit, Nico thinks. We have to get through this to get to the -

Shadrak may be puzzled that this heavily pierced two-eyed hewmon is looking at her black staff with something resembling wonder.

"Hey! Star-Lord! I'mma call your ship okay!? Get ready!" Nico calls. To Shadrak Nico says, "It's gonna be fine, I promise. These people are awesome."

She takes in a deep breath and raises her staff up.

She glances at "Star-Lord" again and then she speaks:

"TO US, HIS MILANO."

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