By Their First and Last Breath Pt. 2

November 06, 2018:

As the citadel of the dead gods of Sisyx crashes down around them and Atli wrestles with the deicidal impulses implanted in her, the heroes (and Various Others) of the Milano seek to escape with the one survivor in tow, with the God Butcher's shadowy horde nipping at their heels. (GM'd by Loki!)

The Fallen City-Palace of Sisyx

Everything falls, this one's just doing it a little faster.

Characters

NPCs: Gorr the God Butcher, Shadrak God of Unicorns and Ukuleles

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

"Gods. They'd tear the universe down if it meant protecting their precious egos."

The that voice comes from out of the billowing smoke in the aftermath of that impact event is decisively Hercules'. And yet… not. There's another voice there, flanged against the God of Strength's copied vocal chords like an echo. A rougher voice, like gravel. Emptied of everything but purpose.

"It's funny, in a macabre way. In the end, for all my hard work…"

Crunch. Crunch. CRUNCH. The massive form of Hercules' simulacrum emerges. Smiling a dead smile. Because it's funny.

"… I can barely even compare to the butchery these gods have managed."

Isn't it?

"It's time to go, Shadrak. I made you a promise, didn't I?" And as that towering form advances, Shadrak lowers himself onto the ground to scrabble behind the fallen Jean, as if he could somehow disappear behind her; "oh no oh no oh no" becomes his whispered mantra as Not Hercules advances one more step… and pauses.

Those lifeless slits of eyes rotate downward, to peer at the recovering Jean. Slowly, the thing wearing Hercules' shape crouches down next to her, brows tied into a knot of mild curiosity.

"I don't know you, do I?" he wonders. His right hand stretches towards her. Reaches with great, grasping fingers. "I've always admired you humans, though. You overcame your gods and became something greater for it. Something to aspire to."

Fingers stretch.

"But there's something different about -you-, isn't there—"

The first shotgun shells rebound off muscular, gray shoulder blades with enough force to make the simulacrum of the God of Strength lurch forward. Another shell impacts off his head, clipping off stray strands of hair as he rises up off his feet to turn those baleful black eyes upon Jackie.

"You again," notes the dual voices of the puppet and the puppeteer, almost fascinated in an ultimately empty way. He rolls his shoulder. Another shotgun blast helps him in the process, sending him staggering briefly. "I wonder. Why are you humans here? To save the gods? Do you think they're deserving of your salvation? They're not."

And then, the faux-Hercules crouches. He grips a chunk of pillar twice his size. He pauses briefly, at the Darkness' taunts.

"… Xena? Is that one of your gods?"

And then he just up and hurls that debris at Jackie. And another. And another. And another.

"Then they'll die, too."

Until he's just making it rain deified foundation upon the poor mobster after delivering threats upon the great name of the Warrior Princess.

Somehow, something in the primordial blueprints of his DNA feels insulted.

And there he might continue until he's turned the entirety of the citadel into a projectile—

GORRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

— if it were not for some timely interference.

SHUNK

~ ~ ~

Meanwhile, in the hall, things progress by a rote a hunter learns when they learn their enemy. Angela knows how to hunt the berserkers by now; but they, too, know her. And that is why they fling herself upon her in greater numbers as the pillars lining the hall just beyond begin to tremble, loosing divine dust with every shuddering CRASH of rubble just beyond her borders. They leap upon her from the ground, from the walls, from the ceiling, their strength immense, their claws capable of carving the flesh from gods. But she knows them. And they know her.

It's why she can so deftly maneuver between them and avoid the fatal thrust of morphing blades for vital parts of her, deflect and deter the lash of tails and the gnash of jaws as they clinging Berserkers are shed from her like an unwanted coat. And it's why /they/ are even here. To lock her down. To remove her from the playing field. To delay her…

"They never look much different, from the inside, do they?"

… as something else BURSTS from the ground beneath Angela's feet so subtly before that titanic explosion it was almost as if it had been moving through the earth itself. Something black and white, looking like a large, humanoid jaguar — the spots of its coat swimming across its fur like a monochrome cosmos. Tepeyollotl, god of earthquakes. His voice flanged between a snarl and a deadened intone.

"They never act much different, either, when they realize the end is coming. Always the same desperation."

His rupturing entrance inspires tremors that run deep down into the earth to compromise the integrity of this place further and further as he springs upon the great Mistress of the Hunt, the deadened roar prefacing a lunge that seeks to barrel them across the hall. The impact, a titanic one, with more than enough force to send them both driving into a nearby wall, shuddering with a long groan of protest. The remaining, dwindled numbers of Berserkers start to try to make a rush towards the grand control room, towards Shadrak, as falling rubble crushes one or two in the process. She is right. They need to evacuate soon.

A bleak, black claw rises up.

"I wonder how you'll act—"

And that opportunity might come, as the butchery that is the Jaguar god reforged comes to an abrupt pause, as do all the Berserkers. The simulacrum's head tilts, in the direction of that control chamber; distantly, the voice of Atli rings out. A split second's pause…

… but a split second is all someone like Angela needs, isn't it?

~ ~ ~

SHUNK

"… I know you."

It is somehow quiet, despite the structural damage of the citadel making it increasingly unstable. And there, in the silence of that storm's eye, stands two figures immersed in the dark: ATLI, the NECRO-GODDESS OF THE INFINITE STORM, her great spear lanced for the thick throat of her enemy…

And the tremendous figure of Hercules, yet not, standing their placidly, monochrome hand wrapped around that blade. The tip of it buried several inches into his throat, oozing a deep black ichor that brings a wet hiss to his voice.

"You're different. There's a piece of me inside you, isn't there? Interesting." A placid grin oozes across his lips, a far cry from the boisterous expressions of the true Prince of Power. "But I know you." He does not attack. He does not fall. He just stands there, empty eyes fixated upon Atli. A dead smile on his lips.

"Yes. You. The little Godling of Thunder. You know, you have my gratitude." His hand curls more tightly. Black drips from his fingers. His voice a bubbly gurgle that makes his grip no less terrifyingly mighty.

"If it weren't for you, I might not have seen the truth, past the edge of everything. I might not have realized what I have to do. Everything that has come, everything that will come… is all because of you."

And no less mighty when he -yanks- on that blade so hard his pinky is severed in the effort, to tear it free and then -use- it to try to drag Atli closer —

"I really ought to thank you for that. So…"

Until a single, ichorous finger taps her on the forehead. Reaches out, to the piece of the ALL-BLACK, the little fledgling fragment inside of her that connects them…

… to fill her heart with memories not hers. Dreams not hers. A vision not hers. Visions of the terrors and injustices of the gods. Of every petty slight, of every unbalanced act of retribution. Every civilization laid low on a whim. Every. Single. Cruelty.

And visions of how much better the universe might be without them.

Visions of a godless age.

"… a gift, for you, little Godling. A gift of the truth."

As of yet, he seems woefully distracted in his endeavor, not yet having heard the call for the Milano. It might be enough time for the others to recover. Might.

Shadrak, meanwhile, stays very bravely huddled behind Nico and Jean, hands cradled over his head.

"M-Milano? I duh-don't think he cares for cookies."

Even space gods know that's what Milano means.


Jackie keeps firing. Expending ammunition is how Jackie engages in dialogue. The impacts seem to at least stagger Inverse Herc, but it's going to take more than that to genuinely stop him. But the point is made. For a moment, as the first giant pillar goes up, Jackie feels proud of himself. He's bought the redhead time.

Then the rain of pillars starts. The Darkness begins moving into defensive mode. Jackie's hail of shotgun fire breaks as he shoot-dodges around the first pillar, tucking and rolling against the ground. He's barely slowed down before the next is upon him. Jackie blindly leaps backward to evade it, barely keeping from throwing himself through a hole in the floor. Boots skidding over the abyss, Jackie scrambles along the crumbling marble as another pillar comes his way.

The Darkness launches itself under the fourth pillar, barely making it through. Chunks of crumbling masonry ping off the armor plating along Jackie's back. Running out of room, Jackie thinks, swiveling just in time to see lucky number five power into him like a freight train.

Jackie gets smashed under the pillar. The impact hits with a meaty thud, driving Jackie into a formerly beautiful statue with sufficient force to shatter both the pillar and the statue. The Darkness isn't seen emerging beneath it as another follow-up pillar smashes into the rubble, also breaking against it. It's only the intervention of the Necro-Goddess that sees an end to Jackie's beating, at least for a moment.


"Wait you're going to what?"

That is the very intelligent and wise question of one Peter Quill towards Nico as the jet-booting /ex/-space pirate stops to glance in her direction. The flare of the rocket boots lighting up the room just as the dark as the void form of Not Herc tears the roof off. As the massive form that is the ender of deities knocks those the earth considers mighty around like they were nothing but ninepins.

Watches as he picks up Atli. Whispers words of insanity into her very soul.

"…yeah." He decides. "Summoning the Milano might be the best idea right no—NO IT IS NOT A COOKIE!"

MEANWHILE! OUTSIDE!

The Milano was sitting with the engines kept warm. Waiting for the Guardians of the Galaxy to return. Well. Its captain. The rest of them were all loading and sorting what shinnies they found. The shadows around the sleek spacecraft suddenly bulge like a maw of void and swallow the ship whole…

…only to spit it out, hovering in the middle of the rain of debris. Streaked with black gunge all over the sides and windshield right under Peter Quill's feet.

"I just had this cleaned!" He protests as he thumps down on the hatch, tearing it open to drop bonelessly into the cockpit and kick on the engines just before it seems to crash into the ground. The craft catches itself, hovering on blast waves as Quill tilts it up towards the towering form of the Not-God. One hand strokes the controls of the ship. Even as he wonders just whats happeneing to the /actual/ Herc that was passed out in the back.

"I'm just here for the party and the salvage." Quill quips as he clicks off the saftey systems of the Milano's weapons. "So I have no idea what the hell you're talking about but…I think its time to dance."

And fingers caresses trigger.

Rocket's modifications to the weapon systems make the Milano one of the best armed small craft in several different galaxies and the roar of its weapons is defining. It might might make much of a dent in a god but it makes Peter feel better.

At least he's aiming above people's heads, angled up though the holes in the ceiling and trying to take the Not-Herc out at the knees, careful to not get to close to the girl clasped in the things hand.

"EVERYONE ON BOARD!" The rear hatch starts to cycle open. "Think we've worn out our welcome!"


It rapidly becomes apparent this simulacrum of the Prince of Power has nothing to do with the real deal at all. Jean regains some of her equilibrium only to find the horrendous creature stooping down to regard her with those dead, dead eyes. Her blood freezes in her veins beneath that stare, and for a moment she can do nothing but stare back up as the God-Butcher (for it must be him) ruminates whether he knows her or not.

"Maybe you do," she finally says, her green eyes turning upwards.

The report of gunfire from Jackie staggers the simulacrum enough for Jean to finish scrambling to her feet and regaining her hold on her powers. Sparks flint off her skin, little psychic flares, as she pushes her energy back to normal levels — and then starts pushing it harder. Despite her hurry, however, she's only in time to see that final pillar slam into her erstwhile benefactor. A scream rips out of her, half dismay and half rage, and her powers click.

A psionic firestorm leaps up about her, a trailing aura of energy raking the air in a vague accipitrine shape. It wraps her like a veil. She reaches forward and pulls, telekinetically yanking at the masses of rubble obscuring Jackie Estacado, attempting to free the Darkness from the piled pillars which oppress his fallen form.

She turns afterwards. The God-Butcher's words echo in her consciousness. A speech on the futility of saving the gods. On the inevitability of their coming twilight.

Jean's eyes flare solid white, and the flames pouring off her shriek with a voice of their own.

"I am life," says Jean Grey, or something wearing Jean Grey's skin. "And I will suffer no death here."

She reaches out psychically to oppose the God-Butcher and the visions he pours into Atli's skull. Where he seeks to overwhelm her in a torrent of despair, she tries to shield Atli: hope for despair, truth for lies, mercy for cruelty, and love for injustice. With one outstretched hand and the force of her psionic power, she tries to protect the young goddess's mind…

…and with the other she reaches down, pouring a telekinetic shield into being around Shadrak, seeking to protect him from the God-Butcher's attentions.

«Someone get this little one to the ship!»


A deep slumber, in the grip of drink, often carries with it visions one may rather avoid. These visions often come… abruptly.

Thick, powerful hands slide gently into the dark red hair of a woman long lost in close embrace. Herakles sinks deeper into the red, drawing closer, yet closer. Her warmth spreads up his arms.

Too far.

Before he can stop himself, his beardless face slips into the blood rising up around him, falling, falling. He can feel it - smell it, each individual pumping vein pouring the death of wives, of children, death masks of his countless outlived get pressing all around him. Herakles swings at them in futility, their features spilling through his fingers before he drops from the gore to land in an open grave. The blood drips from his hands now, slowly filling the pit.

Ares is above him, impossibly large, cold fire lining his body as he holds a corpse in one hand, dropping it onto him. Heracles attempts to catch the body of Cycnus, certain that doing so can turn back the task that set the two of them apart forever, but his hands simply burst through the demigod's chest in a flood of black shadow. He falls yet again, feeling himself unmooring through time, reaching toward Athena on the horizon as she turns away.

Hercules passes through battlefield after battlefield, always crossing between, never choosing a side, never helping, the blood of mutual death building beneath him like a river. He speeds along, too fast to hear his own cry, until he is peeled and riven apart by Atomos, the deathgod of man, the holy atom splitting within him and radiating him apart, the leather of the red jacket upon him caught on his face, sticking to his sweat, obstructing his vision, his hearing.

Eyes unfocused, skin soaked, Hercules, the Prince of Power, grabs at the blood clotting to him, hearing it rip away as he clears his senses, casting around him to unfamiliar surroundings that tilt weirdly about, a horrific sulfurous taste mixing with copper in his throat, the air wrong, wrong. It's all wrong. Thunder bellows in his head as he tears the clotted sleeve of blood from the haft of the adamantine weapon digging into his back, hurling it down. Hercules's mind desperately strains for something familiar, still unconnected.

A hot take strains through the air as space warps itself.

—-

The rear hatch, slowly opening, suddenly grinds in protest as it mechanism is forced faster by a hand with no regard for the limitations of advanced technology.

"OF COURSE IT IS!" bellows the true Hercules, hair in wild disarray, headgear off-kilter, mace gripped tight in his other hand. "THAT CHUD SORBO'S A DISAPPOINTMENT ON A DIVINE SCALE!"

He assesses the battlefield in a single glance and a single heartbeat and moves instantly, erupting out of the back of the Milano and taking his weapon in both hands, swinging it back and above his shoulder. Gods have certain instincts, certain things they see and despise in an instant. Divinity abhors a false idol.

The golden head of Hercules's mace impacts an enormous fallen crystalline growth, brilliant, sparkling powder erupting from the point of impact and sheathing him in a rainbow mist. The adamantine and crystal connect with a beautiful, ringing, deafening chime. The air around him distorts outward, the shockwave powerful enough to rock the Milano and scatter lesser debris away in a ring.

The massive shard, meanwhile, is flung away directly toward the head of the reverse Hercules in a perfect spiral. True Herc completes the follow-through of his swing, a small crater around him except for the space immediately beneath him. He exhales, the glitter spiralling in his breath, and lets the haft of the mace land on his shoulder.

"So what'd I miss?"


It has hold of her. For all intents, all purposes divine and malign, the All-Black and Atli are as one. Perhaps not in the way it is so close to Gorr, for their can be but one Necro-Sword. But it is every part of her, trailing black robes, dripping black ichor, she is equal parts that endless abyss and foolish Asgardian. With her blade stuck in the Not-Prince of Power's thick, bulging neck she reaches skyward, and the storm outside calls to her. Even as the voice from beyond, familiar and harrowing speaks, she whispers to the storm, and because it is not a normal storm, it is odd in the way it whispers back.

Gravity begins to shift in odd ways. The hair of one's arm might stand up on end, but not from static electricity. It's the weirdness of it all, and for those few who have dealt with measures of reality manipulation might know the dangerous power that the Necro-Goddess of the Infinite Storm plays with. It lances upward, not downward, the inverse of what one might expect in a flash of terrible brilliance that leaves shimmering droplets of water and sand and flowers in it's wake. Rose petals fall in a thunderous cascade to turn to blue-white flame when they come into contact with the physical. It twists like a tendrils in her hand, and about that time, right as she thinks to unleash this gathered power upon her enemy, a great big pinky goes flying by.

BAP.

The touch sends her head rocking backwards, and her mind too. Back it goes, to a tale that began with the murdering of the Gods of Chronux, and ends with this conflict here on this planet. And the in between?

Billions of years of history Gorr would not know, if not for her deal with The Machine God to trap him in the past.

Billions of years of his position cemented in the rise of the Gods, and every terrible, childish thing they had ever done to the creatures they sought to lord over. Tears had already flooded her cheeks with the loss of her dear companion, Toothbender. Now she cries a river, and the sky opens up in tandem, raining BLOOD upon them all, the blood of those countless trillions who have died at the hands of those who would demand their worship.

Atli's eyes lose their black tint, blue staring into the gaping abyss that is the Not-Prince of Power's, and her lower lips quivers as she summons the strength to speak in the face of such overwhelming truth.

"Y… you were always rig-"

AND THEN.

The fires of creation burgeon in her mind, a miasma of hope welling up behind those infinite acts, witnessed by a being who would see it all undone. She sees then, beyond the acts of others. She sees then, the acts of her sisters, of her. Of flying sharks and four-tusked elephants, Jane and Steve, the first humans to walk the planet Earth in thousands of years untold. In Midgard reborn, where she was a good God. All of it memory, wreathed in fire, and caught between these two forces of opposition, Atli Wodendottir must make a choice. Embrace the dark. Cleanse the universe, or embrace the Light, and be a good God, like her Grandfather taught her, even if he might have ultimately failed.

A shard impacts the Not-Hercules, enough to dislodge Atli, and send her tumbling, shedding darkness like a being on fire might shed smoke, and somewhere in the fall she looks to Jean.

Somewhere in the fall, she chooses Cosmic Poultry.

That power of the Infinite Storm of probability she collected is flung not at her enemy, but at Jean Grey, because by this time, what is that power, if not but a mini-Sun?


It is a thin and deadly game that Angela plays. She is betting her ability to improve against theirs, the practiced perfection of a dedicated woman against the constructed malice of readymade murderers. There are many tales that pit craftspeople against their machined replacements. In almost every culture, things do not go well for the craftsperson.

Angela moves with both unpredictability and unmatched speed. From the outside, the brutal dance is so split-second decided that it looks like a willing choreography between both parties. The berserkers begin moving as a horde before Angela even reappears, for this is the only method keen enough to trap a woman who moves faster than lightning.

From every direction they throw themselves. From every direction she splits them apart. In the brief times-between-killings where Angela is slow enough to be studied, she is monstrous enough to be a berserker herself: soaked in red blood and black ichor, hair wild and flowing, white eyes wide and without emotion. Only intensity. Only perfection.

The berserkers finally have arranged themselves for a particularly mighty gambit. They appear to have trapped Angela in a corner through sheer weight of numbers. A swarm darts for her, and for a calamitous moment she dashes forward, exploding through several bodies through sheer force of speed — and then it is all rubble and debris.

The building shudders as if dealt a mortal wound. Berserkers are strewn in every direction, but not all of them. As the dust settles, they are already chasing the rest of the party for lack of Angela's one-woman barricade. As the dust settles, Tepeyollotl has the wounded Angela pinned to the wall where he slammed her with all his divine might.

Angela breathes hard. Blood smears her face, and a fresh rivulet streams from her mouth. Her hands move slowly but surely, readying, readying for that moment where she will make a bid for her life. Same as him.

Same as Gorr.

I wonder how you'll act —

Angela flicks her hands open, palms splayed wide. Two streams of liquid metal flow up her arms, into her palms, where they flow solid into daggers straight, thin, and sharp.

Wordlessly, Angela bursts forward with strength a wounded woman like her should not have, knocking aside Tepeyollotl's pinning arm and jamming both daggers into the sides of his skull.

She stares into his eyes. She watches consciousness leave them. Then, and only then, does she bring her leg up to kick the once-god off of her. Angela stands in mute victory, turning her head to look down the hall. The daggers dissolve and creep back up her slashed arms, disappearing beneath her red-and-black-stained shirt.

Bizarrely alone, Angela permits herself a moment of closed eyes. Another tale for her. Remember it.

Angela leaps forward, crossing the divine rending that Tepeyollotl left behind, and pushes ever onward.


The spell completes.

Nico feels her heart pulse. She looks towards the shadows for a moment, and she takes in a breath, and she clutches the Staff of One.

It is such a moment of tension that Shadrak makes her crack up and let out a horrified little giggle through clenched teeth which immediately tighten hard enough to hurt and grind. Jackie is emptying bullets but how many bullets can even he bring? There's a limit. Everything has an end.

The psychic storm brought forth by Jean Grey - the veritable Phoenix - makes Nico flinch away, turning halfway away from her and clasping her staff. For a moment she looks to her with sheer astonishment tinged with, maybe, fear. And it is at that point that the Void births forth the Milano -

"Oh my GOD," Nico says as she hears Peter complain about the shadow-caul-slime lingering on the hull. He's gone so she doesn't complain further, instead reaching out - and finding her hand resting on the sphere of telekinetic force in which Shadrak has been ensnared, enwrapped, englobed… entombed?

Nico rocks it back and forth a little as if to test an intuition. JUST in time for Hercules to erupt outwards with a bellow, stinking of passion and wine! He opened the hatch, though, so Nico brings the ancient relic of the Minoru clan round and uses it to start rolling Shadrak towards the hatch, her shoulders tightening as she anticipates abrupt death. Her mouth outraces herself as she says, "We found the shit," in response to Herc, because past that… she reasons he can figure it out.

Back over her shoulder. There is Atli sheathed in black. Is she dead now? Fuck, Nico thinks, a familiar tightening coming to her empty stomach. The sudden red streak of Angela's movement is a relief, enough of a relief to put her back on her focus of rolling the God back into the space cookie.


"Yes. You see, don't you?

"Your kind deserve so much worse than what I'm going to give them. This… this is mercy."

Inky black threads through Atli Wodendottir as her cries warp the very metaphysical storm that once only flirted at the peripheries of this place. The sound of crystal cracking somehow does not drown out the sound of the God Butcher's word, no matter how calm and soft-spoken they come. That voice is one for Atli felt as much as it is heard. Because, after all, they're her thoughts too, aren't they?

"One act of mercy they never deserved. And you'll help to make it happen—"

And that is when he sees it. Feels it. A heat that comes with the spark of change and growth and life. Like it were trying to be some core of warmth to staunch the tide of cold nothingness that seeps into the porous soul of the time-displaced god before him. It is unexpected. It is unwelcome. And that is why those black and white eyes widen with a sudden flare of emotions, something that straddles a line between surprise and fury as he wages his all-black war against the psionic flame of Jean Grey. No. Something…

White irises turn their baleful annoyance upon the flame-cocooned mutant as a void that came before everything pits itself against the spark that keeps that everything turning. The wet sound of flesh yanking from metal can scarcely be heard as the simulacrum of Hercules, Prince of Power, -tears- himself free from Atli's weapon.

"You," he breathes, a liquid burble of revelation. "I know you—"

Weaponsfire sings a beautiful song as the Milano appears from seemingly -nowhere- in a ripple of space. Dyed with red rain, the hail of Rocket Brand artillery ripples across the powerful thighs and joints of the Prince of Power's photonegative doppelganger; a snarl of annoyance ripples through the God Butcher's two-toned voice, leg muscles rippling in a way they rightly not ought to — like they were made of something much more gelatinous than the flesh and blood of their counterpart. Still. They are no less durable. No less strong. The weapons of the Milano might not stop him for long…

*ring*

… but it is long enough.

"Eh?"

The shadowy flesh puppet of the God Butcher tilts its head upward. It looks, towards the prismatic gleam of a shard loosed from the foundation of this toppling tower, carrying with it a strength that could only come from one person. A God of Strength. A Prince of Power.

And as the glimmering shadow of fallen, godly architecture looms over him like a Sword of Damocles, Hercules' double barely has the time to utter a snarl of utter disdain for everything Hercules is —

BOOOOOOOOOOOM

— it is crushed underfoot by the godly strength of its original.

The impact caves in the ground beneath the simulacrum. It falls into the cratering earth, unseen beneath the splintering mass of shattering crystal that radiates its fragmenting shards outward in strange, warping patterns amidst the storm of distorting probabilities that Atli has unleashed. It's breathtaking, if dangerous to be within the immediate radius of, but it buys them time.

… time they may not have much of if the way the rest of the building begins to crack and bend inward on the verge of collapse is any indication.

~ ~ ~

One sliver of a moment. One brief pause. And in an instant, the difference between kill or be killed, between predator and prey, is decided with the plunge of twin daggers into the ichorous skull of the thing spawned from Tepeyollotl.

"I can't… wait to see—"

That its death rattle is released with the cold certainty of a zealot's smile makes its downward slump no less lifeless in its aftermath.

The weighted impact of the duplicated Tepeyollotl's fall brings with it a dangerous shudder through the framework of the citadel, as if even in death the god's double could control the tectonic shift of the earth beneath Angela. The reason why is likely all too clear as she pushes on and sees the gaping wound that has become of that once-grand and ostentatious control room. The shard Hercules hurled half-jutting from the flooring, the Milano ready for docking, Shadrak comfortably ensconced in a bubble of brilliant telekinetic light, sort of haplessly pawing at it like he were the world's most alien of hamsters as he is rolled along by Nico, things seem almost… calm. Strangely so, even in those moments where Atli's storm redirects itself, even as the building starts to collapse in chunks of debris and shining crystal.

"This is very humi-miliating," complains Shadrak, with all due humility, as he tumbles along with scrambling limbs with each bounce of the bubble he is encased in.

"I think I-i would have preferred to be killed—"

BOOM goes a chunk of once-divinely structured pillar right beside him.

"I-I mean I'm very grateful, please roll faster, if you would, tiny gloomy thing!!"

It's really very complimentary.

But his pressing for speed is not entirely inaccurate. The building is on the verge of complete collapse. Coming down all around them, they only have a few moments longer before they are trapped in the rubble like — like—

rrrrrrrkkkkkkrrkll —

"Oh, now where are you all going?"

THOOM

And it is as they are preparing their evacuation that something EXPLODES out of the depths of that titanic crystal. Shards of it almost as large as it is embedded into its chest, it is Hercules — and it is not. Damage has taken its toll; cohesion has partially escaped the divine construct, half-formed into the image of the Prince of Power… and half a bubbling mess of metamorphic madness, twisting bleak black shadows into long, curling tendrils that have dealt unfathomable pain to countless gods. His one normal hand gripping on to a chunk of crystal as if it were a mace, the other has become a fluctuating lump of darkness, changing shapes from a hand, to a massive, sightless maw, to a gibbering mass of smaller limbs. He is damaged. Fatally so, doubtless.

And yet it never shows in the relentlessly eerie detachment of his gaze as the God Butcher's puppet lashes out, mutilated arm sprouting into an endless series of tendrils that seek to ensnare and engulf the Milano.

"I don't — I CAN'T go back! I've already — already — PLEASE ROLL VERY MUCH FASTER," Shadrak helpfully shrieks.

"Missed much? You've missed… a lot, haven't you? How many people… have you let down? Killed? Ignored? For your flights of… glory and adventure? How much… blood stains a God of Strength's hands, I… wonder?"

Tendrils coil. And Hercules' double lunges for him, club SLAMMING down with full intent to -jam- it into the God's chest with his own strength as the remaining Berserkers come scrabbling out, ravenous maws snapping as they leap for the telekinetically-protected Shadrak and the Milano. Apparently, intent to try to take all of these Earthbound heroes down with them. The way out is obvious: through the warped, injured simulacrum and its minions.

"No. Gods and… those who would blindly support them… None of you are going ANYWHERE. This is the grave you deserve."

Before they are buried under the weight of the hubris of the gods.


A part of Jackie considers that he would have instead stayed at home with the demons. At least demons can be bought off with pizza.

The rubble starts to pull itself off Jackie through telekinesis. The armored Darkness lurches up, punch drunk but not fully downed. He doesn't waste time doing anything but trying to get clear, stumbling toward the ship as his body rapidly regenerates himself. Hercules' empirically correct opinion acts as a lodestone to guide him back to relative safety.

Jackie could use a moment of safety. It's amazing to some that he's able to move, never mind jog. His armor is rent and cracked from the impacts of thousands of pounds of marble, jagged shards molting out of him with terrible darkness spatter. The Darkness is sowing Jackie back together as he moves, sealing up the armor behind each ejected foreign object. It is excruciatingly unpleasant. Jackie is biting a hole in his tongue so not to scream and show weakness behind his faceplate.

Hercules seems to have briefly downed the God Butcher. Jackie's smart enough to know it's just a quick reprieve. As his body re-congeals, Jackie's eye momentarily moves to Jean Grey. The Darkness is paying attention. The Phoenix is not so dissimilar to itself, though it's giving off much too much light for its preference.

Jackie is almost to the Milano when Gor reappears. Yeah, I've been there, Jackie thinks, seeing the messy form of Gor. He'll be collapsing soon. The Darkness takes an instant to gloat, as it often does. Then Jackie beholds the remaining Berserkers coming in for the ship.

Nico and Shadrak are ahead of Jackie by the time he turns to face the monster. He swings his arms down, grabbing at a shadow and pulling out an impossibly proportioned minigun. It's the kind of thing he shouldn't be able to pick up, with the long barrels of anti-air weapons and a drum that's too large, and then there are the spikes at the end which don't make any sense, and the glowing red eyes that all start opening across the weapon as the barrels begin to spin…

It is with the pleasure of a man who has been waiting for years to yell something that Jackie pops open his faceplate, letting it dangle off to the side. Black shadow-ick cover Jackie's jaw and teeth from the Darkness' hasty reconstitution, but Jackie Estacado has a mission. A purpose. Something he MUST do.

"SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND," Jackie shouts, and begins washing the Berserkers with torrential minigun fire.

The impossible weapon howls like a banshee, casting a heat bloom around Jackie that seems to make him abstract into a mirage within seconds. The Darkness sweeps the cannon from side to side, the bullets shredding through meat like wet cardboard as they find their targets. The only brief pauses in the baying of the weapon come from when Jackie intentionally tries to target around melee, which likely means that Gor does not receive as much fire as Jackie would like to pour into him.

Jackie makes a good effort at it anyway. He continues shouting with increasing incoherence. "YOU FUCKING WITH ME, YOU FUCKING WITH THE BEST!" is the last thing that is generally understandable before Jackie focuses on screaming on any Berserker that comes close enough to get bullet chipped into a pile of smoking meat. It may also be 'garbage day,' but it's hard to tell over the deafening report of the bottomless magazine.


There are many things to find displeasing about the berserkers. They are hideous, for one, and they do not die in any satisfying way. To those with more functional mindsets, there is always more of them, and they are always ready to exploit a vulnerability.

Nico, rolling Shadrak along with her staff, is not in a great position.

The berserkers flood, taking advantage of the split attention offered by the much more bizarre and needy target of the Gorr-Hercules. Toward Shadrak, with fangs bared — toward Nico

Earlier, Nico found familiarity in a flash of red. Again, she may know who has arrived before the action settles completely.

In a crack of displaced air and a vicious savaging of bodies, a wave of berserkers storming Nico are abruptly reduced to jumbled limbs and ichor. Angela appears standing beside her, fist clenched, eyes watchful as the shower of shattered berserkers crashes to the ground.

Angela spares a sidelong glance toward Nico as the other woman wheels Shadrak by. Her face is spattered with blood and black, highlighting the fierce lines of her features.

"I told you to call if needed."

The berserkers are without cease, though they are with pause under the withering report of Jackie's minigun. Angela narrows her eyes. She gestures toward Nico to continue, even as the redhead lunges forward to seize a berserker from midair and wield it as a club in her fight to cover the arcs of approach that Jackie isn't mowing down.

She'll be along shortly.


Atli makes her choice.

The fires limning Jean Grey burn brighter, hotter, harder — white-hot — and then all of a sudden, they burn out.

But the God Butcher was held at bay by them — void against life, heat against cold, love against hate — for just long enough.

Jean collapses back to earth as her flaming corona dissipates. She shakes on her feet, suddenly very mortal after that grand display, only just barely making the ship as it barrels into range. There is an instant of panic — she remembers being on a ship, remembers its burning around her, the screaming heat of re-entry cooking both the shuttle and her failing mind alike — but she pushes back the terrified memories. She feels eyes on her, but there is not much time for that either.

There is no time for much of anything but getting the hell out.

She helps Nico roll Shadrak into the ship — the little god is probably important — before she whirls as the ruined shape of the false Prince comes boiling back into view in all his pustulent glory.

«Everyone back on the ship!» Jean's faltering power sparks and hisses in stutters of psionic flame, but she does her best to burn away those grasping tendrils of darkness with defiant light — to keep the Milano free and maneuverable — as they try to cover the ship and drag it back down.


The true Hercules's flippant tone does not match his expression as the struck shard - though shard is only applicable relative to the architecture it was struck from - hits home with another, lower ring. He takes his left hand, bringing to his face, pausing for a moment, arm quivering. A scrap of leather remains on his fingers, a smear of blood that threatens to bubble across his palm, a burning streak -

He marshals his will and picks it off with his teeth, spitting the material away and allowing his hand to resume its journey. Hercules pulls his headgear away, shakes out his tumbling hair, flicks his head back, and resecures it. The ritual seems innocuous, but the swell of blood from his drink fades away, his eyes clearing as he stares this important task dead in the face.

The ritual seems innocuous, but it carries some profound meaning. Grease stains melt away from his raiment, spots of surface tarnish fade from the mace in his hands, his body appears firm, more chiseled, the aspect of beer and empty carbs quietly replaced with divine athleticism. The unwashed curls in Hercules's hair untangle and flow in a gentle breeze, the light shining healthily off them.

The Prince of Power, the God of Strength, Leontothymos Hercules Apotropaios called Alcide faces his labor headlong, not a thought of flight down a bottle of brown drifting into his mind. People have been hurt enough. "Go!" he calls out, stepping forward, away from the Milano. "Leave me to me." A brilliant grin spreads across his face.

As the crystal shatters, he swings his mace again, hard enough to send a gust of wind that keeps debris back from the ship behind him. He sees Atli falling, teeth gritting in his battle smile. He can't do everything… but that's why you never quest alone.

"Aye," he responds. "I have made mistakes. There are nights where I think that I am a mistake. I hide from them. I run from them. But unlike too many of my kin, I can not - do not! - live apart from them."

The puppet comes hurtling in. The naga leather-wrapped haft of the adamantine mace creaks in Hercules's white-knuckled grip as he steps forward, smacks the weapon into his other hand just behind the head, and drives it up to meet the crystal with another incredible chime.

The impact is tremendous. Floor shatters to dust under his feet. Fractures spiderweb up the bones of his arms, heal in an instant, and scatter throughout again. He bites the inside of his lip with the shock, a drop of blood beading at the corner of his mouth.

"But they push me, Butcher - and I do not try to push the pain of my failures onto others." His eyes burn despite the agony. "Will the muses tell your tale with the same song?"

The Nemean pelt flares about his shoulders like a cape as he pushes forward with a tremendous burst of strength, wrenching his double toward Jackie's fire with less regard for himself than the man seems to have for him. The power in the movement scatters the berserkers around him. Hercules just needs a moment, a single flinch in the puppet's power -

- just enough to step forward and drive their skulls together, his teeth clenched to keep from severing his own tongue.


Black ichor seeps from Atli's very skin, disrupted by the fiery intervention of Jean's telepathic power. She has all the time in the world to watch it, it seems, a raindrop of blood having hit her and split reality into a fractured timescape, that lets her think on Gorr's words and Jean's hope for the equivalent of a thousand years. In ever slow motion, she reaches for her spear, and can see the the All-Black reach for it too. It wants her back. Wants her to accept Gorr's truth and claim a place at his side, making up for her terrible sin of Godhood. It lashes around her. Drives into her mind. But she sees what it's doing, notices the way it recoils against the sound of Jackie's gunfire at first, and then the thunderous roar of the Milano.

Time snaps into place, just as Hercules' mace makes contact with something that ripples black, ichorous power away from her in a shockwave. While Atli Wodendottir is not known for being overly clever, she know enough about her enemy now. Not Gorr, but the one within. With a great leap she whirls her spear in front of her, cutting through black tendrils and diving into the hole that Faux-Hercules made, trailing the clinging, living mass that attempts to hold onto her for dear life.

Fixed on every bit of good will Jean infused her with, she moves in slow motion past Hercules' thunderous headbutt, falling into the dark, and then she reaches out to sky, to call the lightning.

"Heimdall!!!"

This time it comes downward in an arcing streak, not from this storm, but from a skew of rainbow that opens up across the sky, a bridge for Peter Quill to aim for, along with a place for Atli to get just the sort of lightning she needs.

KRA-KOW!!!!!

It impacts the puppet as much as it does her, drawing on the power of Old Asgard itself to bring crashing thunder to the black mass that would seek to consume her, and divine justice to Gorr's plaything, shattering that black ichor away from her and lighting her from the inside out as lightning strikes again and again and Atli screams to the very stars.


"Stop talking like you want to die," Nico mutters to Shadrak. "Just cut it out. Ugh, you don't even know what you're saying, I don't -care- if you think it's going to be hard, it's hard for -anybody- but we've got sunflowers on Earth /too/ -" All of this as she rolls the wheel.

There is shouting. She is pleaded with to roll faster. Even called GLOOMY. Nico grunts, and she complies with the will of the gods.

She tries not to look back but, you know, there's only so much you can avoid between the EXPLOSIONS and the hideous bubbling noise and the fact that the shadows are coming at her out of her field of vision. She flinches to the side, raising the Staff up. She already used -

Her thoughts are derailed like a bike shifting into a gear it doesn't have as gunfire rips through the air in an unnatural intensity and tempo suitable for one of those damn games they always played in the common room (which? there have been several in Nico's life) and then with another, unnatural crack, Angela is there.

Nico looks at her. "You knew anyway tho," she tells her, and she tries to smile at her, but Angela just seized a black thing from the air and Nico knows in a heart-rending moment of certainty that this isn't going fast enough

AND THUS, RATHER THAN DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT, Nico Minoru got it together.

"Super Monkey Ball," Nico said unto the sphere, eyes burning magenta. The eldritch force of the Staff of One snaps forwards, forming subtle traceries on the ball as she tells Shadrak within, "Hold still," and then gives it a swift punting kick towards the open hatch. Wobbling, propelled by the shadows of primate peril, it rolls nonetheless… up the hatch! GOAL, Nico thinks, before whirling round just in time to see two matters of legend:

Hercules faces himself, in a way more literal than most.

Atli celebrates Pride. Nico blinks once, remembers what the rainbow bridge is, and then books it to run up the ramp into the ship, praying to herself: Nobody die nobody die nobody die nobody die:

But perhaps now their fate rests in the hands of the Star-Lord!


"KEEP YOUR WEIRD TENTICLES OFF MY SHIP!"

Peter Quill is very paranoid about strange shadowy tendrils touching his things. He's had enough of strange magic things doing that to him and Kitty to last a very long time. "On the ship! Everyone get on the ship!" He calls again as hands fly across the controls. As the guns continue to chatters and scream defiance the engines begin to burn brighter and brighter.

More and more power. It sheathes the outside of the Milano with energy, Quill trying to burn some of the tendrils out before they can gain purchase.

And then comes the lightning.

Atli's summons lights up the sky as he sees the arc of rainbow bridge. "…oh great. Asgard." A longer pause. "They love there." A longer pause. "I'ma risk it."

"HOLD ON BACK THERE!"

And he shifts the Milano into travel mode. Shields begin to sheath the outside, rippling down the nose of the craft towards the wings. Just before it sheaths the weapon pods a pair of multi-missle systems click into position. They roar towards the tendrils and beserkers, brute force that isn't always the best way to go. But when dealing with the Guardians? It usually their go-to tactic.

Ripplies of explosions and fire carpet the front of the Milano's escape route as the travel shields continue to close over the craft…

…everyone better get inside…

…because the Milano is going into overdrive. Right for the Rainbrow Bridge. At frankly not-at-all-safe-speed.

…those beserkers are going to be affectionally known as 'speedbumps' now. Because he totally is not going to stop.


Once upon a time, a God Butcher met a God. He tortured that God for many days and many nights in a cave far away from man, far away from any place his screams could reach. And yet, when that God was on the cusp of breaking, as far as he was hidden, as callous as he was, his men, his mortal armies, came for him. They fought. They died. Shouting glory. And they gave the God the opportunity to do something no one else had done before: butcher the Butcher.

The God Butcher lost an arm that day, but gained something so much more valuable. One, the insight that mortals would never surrender their superstitions, no matter how many of the divine he killed. And two…

… that there is great value to be had in good help.

And so, the Black Berserkers currently barreling towards the Milano and the god they seek to protect came to be. Mindless, willing to die for their masters cause, and endlessly distracting. Gorr always thought they were amusingly fitting. And in this much, they excel like no other. Barreling towards the ship with little regard for their own safety, the Berserkers seem utterly, distressingly single-minded in their pursuit of Shadrak. Jean's theory, perhaps, pans out — even other, more pressing concerns are seemingly ignored for the sake of their master's command: get the small, be-bubbled god.

It is a good thing, then, that their enemies are equally relentless, even when battered and abused. The way Angela moves defies explanation, defies perception — it renders her unseen, much the same way certain Destroyers would claim moving very slowly might, until the very second she strikes, her appearance heralded not by her but the carnage she causes: Berserkers burst, one after the other in her wake, giblets of chilling shadowstuff splattering across the fracturing earth and the glowing bubble encasing Shadrak, currently in the midst of arguing with Nico about absolutely positively wanting to die but please if she could just hurry up in saving him that would be wonderful. The four-eyed god looks up, unblinking, at the abrupt existence of the Angel beside him and his roly-polying savior. They'd probably blink if they could, if only in surprise.

"A-ah, uh, hello," he greets, timidly, like someone might meeting a stranger at a supermarket. "I'm Shadrak, God of Icecream and —"

And just like that, Angela is gone.

" — Iodization." A second passes. Shadrak hangs his head.

"She looked much more reliable than you. Now I am worried again."

Don't take it personally, Nico.

The others? The others are waylaid by a combination of Jackie and Angela working in tandem, one weaving through the mass of monsters and bullets to use one of the creatures' own ranks against them, turning it into an ichorous mess with each progressive Berserker it bludgeons into oblivion. The rest are churned by an unending hail of artillery into so much shadowy mush; it's a little like watching cheese get shredded into indistinct scraps, except the shredded cheese carries with it fleeting, harrowing glimpses of the existential nothing that waits for everything behind the big bang of creation. But that's hardly anything to be concerned with now — not when the Darkness is creatively bringing his chaos to bear against the creatures that attempt to inflict their carnage on him. One or two get close, clawed limbs reaching for the barrel.

They all end up torn to splattering black against that very same barrel, soon knowing the true dread that is G A R B A G E D A Y.

~ ~ ~

Sonorous is the note that rings across an otherwise savage battlefield. It does not match the devastation around it, nor the devastation that it heralds, as the impact point between Hercules and his warped double brutalizes an already brutalized landscape with the crunch of ground and the crack of bones and the splinter of shadows.

Around them, rubble decorates the room with tremulous crashes, adding to the haunting melody of battle and destruction that this entire, crumbling citadel is now conducting.

And there the god puppeted by the God Butcher holds. Tentacles of icy black sprouting from his mutilated shoulder coil themselves around the Milano and begin to constrict, as if intent to compress it down to little more than a tin can. Ligaments tear and reform and tear again as the simulacrum bears down on its original, smaller tendrils like slavering maws encroaching upon Hercules slowly but surely.

Will the muses tell your tale with the same song?

"They will tell," grits out the man behind that puppet of shadowflesh, his voice distorting and cracking in fractious tones, his one working eye cold — the other, warped into something purely white with equally white irises, as the discordant shadows of half his face begin to remold themselves into something else — into the God Butcher that crafted them.

"… they will tell the story of the judgment they never foresaw in all their unending wisdom that came to their doorstep, before their voices are burned from their throat. Because you're right, God of Strength." Tendrils shift, the pointed tips dragging along Hercules cheeks, towards his eyes, like dozens of tiny, grasping, razor-sharp fingers.

"You ARE a mistake. You're THE mistake. I've seen that truth with my own eyes.

"And maybe you'll see that more clearly, too, when you can no longer see anything else—"

Two things happen in swift succession, here. One, Peter begins to slowly slough the Milano free of tendrils. It is a thing that might come to late, but one that rouses the God Butcher's notice…

… just in time for him to feel the fire of creation ignite along his tentacle-laced stump that was once an arm. The shot of something that is so opposed to everything ALL-BLACK THE NECROSWORD is races through the simulacrum like a shot.

"GRAH" is the discordant shout of the god-puppet as psionic fire and plasmic energy sheaths rip apart the constricting grasp of those multitudinous limbs.

The ones so close to Hercules' eyes catch flames mere seconds before he hurls his photonegative double straight into the path of Jackie's gun-happy insanity.

What plays out next happens between moments, like little freeze frames of eternity. Bullet fire rippling through the faux God of Strength, he is frozen in a moment of turning those fire-laced tentacles towards Jackie and the Darkness to lash him apart when Hercules barrels down. The meeting of head against head aborts any violence upon Jackie with a sickening crunch of the close proximity of what might be something masquerading as bone as that half-herculean face caves in against the contact of skull against skull. His snarled words are inarticulate as he grabs a firmer hold onto that shard of crystal, aiming to stake it through whatever piece of Hercules he can find as he tumbles backwards across the fissuring ground and raining, distorting rubble. His head is practically caved in. There is no logical way he should be alive. But gods defy logic, don't they?

And it is with that defiance that he hurls towards Hercules, apparently intent to at least drag -him- down into the cracking earth with the God Butcher's puppet…

… when a screaming lance of lightning flashes through the prism-gleaming air, to ionize flesh and shadow in godly, smiting fury.

And just as Atli is burned from the inside out, so too is the God Butcher's herculean proxy as his eyes IGNITE in blue light, as his entire body begins to crack and smoke as he struggles against the torrent.

"yOU'll SEe"

he whispers, his words a hiss that settles cold into the heart,

"VErY SOon"

And with that, the faux god-slave is blasted away, leaving only a collapsing citadel about to become a burial ground for his victims here in his wake. Boarding the Milano quickly might be wise. The journey might be rough, once more braving the world storm. But they will make it.

"W-what? I


"W-what? I said my name is Shadrak, not Super Monkey Ball! … didn't I? … is it? I -"

Especially —

PUNT

— when their guest of honor is being given an express ticket to safety.

"I DON'T CARE FOR THIS VERY MUUUUUUUCH!"


Jackie roars as he burns through enough ammunition to make that one scene in Hot Shots Part Deux look restrained. The crumbling citadel is drenched in Berserker gore in a series of fan-like arcs that radiate out in front of him. Angela's murderous stalking adds color and diversity to the otherwise uniform cones in front of Jackie. He can't help but admire her proficiency with her blades. It's good, clean work relative to Jackie's mass destruction, but sometimes you get stuck fighting a monster army under duress.

Jackie gets a good look at Inverse Hercules as the minigun starts working on him. It takes a whole lot of focused fire to drop the not Herc. That's good to know, Jackie thinks to himself, as the battle starts to wind down.

Jackie drops his minigun when it's clear the main attack is over. It doesn't make a sound, simply evaporating into motes as the Darkness turns to jump into the Milano. The ground is shifting, so it's time to leave the ground behind in favor of more cheerful climes.

Jackie smacks down inside the hold, rolling to a stop at the far end of the cargo bay. He stays down for a while, breathing as he starts recovering his strength out of the relative light of day. Today was a hard fight.

Jackie looks up toward Shadrak once he settles in. "Hey," he says. "Bein' the god of ice cream. Does that mean you can just make ice cream happen? Because I think I need some fuckin' ice cream and I prayed like a shitload of rounds out there on your behalf. If that don't mean somethin' I don't know what does."

Jackie slumps his head back so he can work up some more air to yell. He might have a concussion or maybe he's just like this all the time. "Angela! Are angels allowed to eat ice cream?! Closers get ice cream. I figure everybody else has gotta want ice cream but you're a cipher so I don't know what the fuck."


"Yeah, I want sea salt caramel," Nico votes - tiredly - for the ice cream.

"This was weirdly easier than the last time," she then says, sounding salty about it. Hence, no doubt, the caramel.


Jackie is disbelieving, clunking his head against the floor. "Fuck me. THAT was easier?"

"We better get sprinkles."


Hercules struggles with himself without.

Hercules struggles with himself within.

Hercules struggles from a place few other gods know. He is not the only one capable of tapping those deepest wells of determination, but he comes to it from a different place. A place of dirt and desperation. A place of having known defeat time and again. A place of having felt such profound pain and loss that most mortals will never know and many gods could not begin to comprehend.

For before Hercules was a god, he was a hero… and before he was a hero, he was a man. As tendrils begin to climb up his face, he jerks away from them, not in fear, not in pain, but in struggle. He stares down Gorr's simulacrum not with the detached disdain of a god but with the stubbornness of man. That rare human connection that keeps his name alive, that has kept him a legend even as Earth turns away from myth.

"Greece has already fallen. Carthage has been destroyed. Rome has burned."

Flame explodes through the puppet. "AND YET-"

Hercules twists him, stepping into his leg. Pankration. "I-"

He hammers his head home, feeling the final pulses of the battle, moving on instinct as he recognizes what Atli intends to do.

"STAND!"

He permits the crystal to pierce his side as he lifts the adamantine mace, made of the same metal as Mjolnir, and drives the haft downward into the collarbone that remains in his image. The lightning strikes, focused and directed down into the puppet.

It may have been an unnecessary step. The power of Asgard is tremendous. But Herc wants to leave nothing to chance, even as he is also a path for the lightning, thrumming through his arms as he locks the mace in place.

…and then his clone is gone. The world is breaking, becoming darker, yet darker. Smoke and evaporating blood rises from the arms of the God of Strength, the crystal shard sticking out of his body like a growth.

"Atli!" he yells out. Electricity is still popping fitfully on his golden weapon - it shines even brighter than before. "We gotta fuck along outta here!" He extends a burned hand, his vision blurring from the power he was far too close to. Skin slowly reasserts itself.


The Milano hurls though space and time, crashing though the Rainbow Bridge. The travel engines screaming as he redlines basicly every he can to get away from one angry godkiller and the fall of a world.

Of course this means he is going…very…fast…when he tears out of the rainbow light and transitions back to real space….

…and the engines were not ment to be abused like that so close to the ground.

…and the shadows and beserkers had done a bit of damage on the way out…

So the landing isn't so much a /landing/. It is more a shout of "OH SHI—HOLD ON!" Before the Milano goes /skipping/ down the Rainbow Bridge. Every skip bleeds off some speed so when it finally crashes into someone's garden it isn't /lethal/. It is just…well…destructive…

A screach of metal on stone as the Milano comes to a stop as sparks fly from almost every conceaveable pannel in the cockpit. Peter slowly lets go of the controls…slumping back in his seat.

"Rocky Road for me…" He doesn't even open his eyes. "…and someone find out if Rocket and Groot are alive?"


The lightning does not stop for far longer than it needs too, and though it is her purview, Atli smokes from head to toe with the dying remnants of the thing that lived inside her. It cleanses her, the All-Black weakened by Jean's fiery push, and then stripped clean by ionizing power. Finally, the creature falls, and Atli leaps with primal cry and her hand smacks to Hercules' forearm with a clap not unlike thunder. Feet slam into what is left of the falling simulacrum, and again she bounds, pulling the God of Strength with her and proving herself worthy of Thor's bloodline.

If anything, she is only sorry for what she is about to do to her dear friend's ship. Jarnbjorn slams into a wing, for her aim is not perfect, and she uses the spear as the best of handholds as she holds on to Hercules through the blasting speed of the Milano's acceleration, leaving the Gercian God dangling as an invitation for anyone else who yet needs a tether out of this place.

Rainbow light begins to wash over them, and a thunderous familiarity, roaring in the ears, wiping away Atli's tears, and replacing it all with a smile of clear-minded glory. As soon as they burst forth from that tunnel through space and into modern day Asgard's bright sky, Atli's eyes go wide. For all her time in this present, she had been reluctant to visit this place, and more than the sky or the golden spires, or anything beautiful, she is happy to see something most welcome:

Asgard's army.

Shadow Berserkers tumble into the atmosphere behind them, and as the Milano comes to a halt an exhausted set of Gods will be flung sidelong into a roll, and pass them rush the spears and swords and shields of Asgardian justice, falling on those shadowy beings foolish enough to hang on for the entire ride.

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