Twist of Fate
By Crossroads #11004
It was a dark and stormy night. Really. Weather reports forecasted a 70% chance of thunderstorms in the New Orleans area tonight and through the morning. Luckily, it wasn’t actually raining at the moment, but the atmosphere was heavy and oppressive with the looming storm. Cars speeding down the streets threw up huge fantails of water as they went through puddles.
Dodging the water splashed up by cars as I made my way to my vehicle wasn’t necessary for me. I just created portals on each side of me that the water passed through. That kept me nice and dry...mostly. My feet and ankles, as well as my hair, did get wet because its hard to catch all the water when its moving, you’re moving, and you’re trying to keep the portals moving at the optimum angles to catch the water. Still, mostly dry is good!
I got into my car, a little VW Beetle, that I really loved driving. Ironically, I really have no need of a car. I can go anywhere in the world I want in an instant. Heck, I can even go into other dimensions! Well, theoretically, I can. I haven’t really explored that aspect of my power, yet. But nothing beats the soothing feel of driving on a country road with the top down and the wind streaming through your hair. However, with the weather tonight, the top is up and the A/C is blowing, trying to reduce the humidity the approaching storm is bringing.
Suddenly, time slows down and I feel a tingling along my skin and down my spine. The car suddenly loses power and coasts to a halt, the radio and lights dying simultaneously. The darkness of the night is shattered by a glaring blue-white glow as the air begins to ionize around my from what I assume is an imminent lightning strike. My reaction speed allows me to process this all in a moment and I create a portal to divert the strike harmlessly back into the ground 100 meters away. But it is a moment that I don’t have.
As I form the portals, in the split-second before the portals actually connect, the lightning bolt hits and shatters my precious car. Thinking I was safe from the strike because I was going to divert it, my personal protection were very low. I was in my work clothes, a white blouse and black slacks, with my super-suit on underneath but powered down and offering only basic protection from physical threats like knives and bullets, not energy attacks, like lightning bolts. Pain courses through me as I try to complete the portal and ground out the electricity.
The portals connect and the pain begins to lesson as the electricity stops flowing through my body and bleeds into the ground. But the so does my level of consciousness. I feel myself begin to blacking out and I try to dimension-skip myself to the infirmary on the BADGE Space Station. I feel myself change locations but I cannot tell where I am because I am unable to see. The lightning strike, the sudden brightness, has rendered me blind. The location feels familiar to my remaining senses, having been a frequent occupant of the infirmary after many League Wars and RAIDS. Further speculation on my location will have to wait as unconsciousness reaches up and drags me into dark waters.
Pain is the first thing I know when I awaken. My nerves are still on fire from that lightning strike. I don’t know how long I have been out, but it must not have been too long, otherwise, the infirmary robots would have put me in a bed, informed the medical staff, and begun basic first aid – including giving me a pain killer and some burn ointment! Since I can still feel I’m on the floor and I’m still hurting, I must have been out for only a few minutes. Opening my eyes, I see nothing. It’s still black as night. Either I’m blind or the lights are out, but if the lights were out, there should be emergency lighting and even lights from equipment. But there is nothing.
I feel around me in the darkness and my hand brushes a table leg. I use that to pull me up into a more-or-less standing position. Risking magnifying the headache I already have, I use my Firey power to create a ball of flame to give some light to see by. The flame glares brightly against the darkness, pushing it away and revealing that I am, in fact, in the Infirmary. Or what used to be an infirmary.
Equipment is shattered and scattered everywhere, glass, bottles, vials, syringes, bandages, and other detritus cover most of the floor. What isn’t covered is the smears of dried blood, as if something was either dragged through a puddle of blood, or was bloody mess when they were dragged away. Either way, this is not the sight I hoped would greet me.
After searching the infirmary, I found some aspirin to help with my headache. My own healing abilities have taken care of the burns and my over-electrified nerves have stopped tingling. I couldn’t raise anybody on the space stations communication panels. Either the system is broken or there’s no one to answer. It doesn’t bode well at all. I have been wandering this level of the station for about 15 minutes and all I can find id disabled and broken equipment and blood smears. Thankfully, no bodies, but that just makes me worried about what happened to them.
I finally made my way through the station to the Command Center. Her I finally found equipment that was actually operating. Lighting was limited to the emergency lighting and many of the lights on the command consoles were red or dark, but there a few stations that were green and operating. I had figured as much since there was obviously life support, gravity, and propulsion (keeping the station in orbit). All non-essential systems like lifts, robotics, infirmary, galley, lighting, etc. were offline. I found one computer station that appeared to be operational.
Moving the defunct robot out of the way, I tried to access the computer. I wasn’t sure what I could do since I wasn’t part of the BADGE command echelon, but I should have at least basic system access. As soon as the authorization credentials were entered and accepted the main monitor on the wall came to life. Commander Nova, looking angry and tired, sporting several wounds and a bloody lip stared at me for a moment and then began speaking.
“If you are watching this, then we either haven’t returned to the station yet or won’t be returning at all. I have mobilized all meta-humans and powerful beings on the planet to aid in this fight. That includes those criminals housed in Purgatory and elsewhere. The situation is the darkest that I can ever recall in all my years. Most of the world’s military was disabled overnight. Planetary communications have been disrupted to the extent that coordination between countries is virtually impossible and even using the BADGE Communication network is becoming unreliable.”
“I leave this recording in the hopes that it serves as a warning to any who may find it. The Earth is lost. We are fighting, but I have no hope of victory. The best I can hope for is the mutual destruction of our foe. He is powerful beyond belief and that power has twisted him. He was once one of my most trusted lieutenants and a friend. I mourn the loss of that friend, but that which remains is evil and must be destroyed.”
There followed a brief history of what had happened. The first thing I learned was that I was not in my own dimension, which was a relief, and that this all started almost a year ago, during the search for the Ruby Shards. It appears that up until that point in time, the histories of my home dimension and this dimension were identical, but something caused those histories to diverge.
During the collection of the Ruby Shards, the hero known as Strange Quark was found to be the receptacle for the power and being of Lady Phoenix. Krampus had him captured and tried to extract Lady Phoenix from Quark and transfer her into the reconstituted ruby. In Crossroads’ universe, the energy was then transferred to Chase who took on the form and power of Lady Phoenix. The heroes eventually defeated Lady Phoenix and Krampus, saving Chase and the other Mythics at the same time.
However, in this universe something went wrong. Instead of the energy being drawn out of Quark, it attached itself to him, melded with his own strange multi-dimensional powers. The result was a being part Strange Quark and part Lady Phoenix and wholly insane as the two personalities vied for dominance. Lady Quark, as they called themselves, then went on a rampage.
The first victim was Krampus. He tried to help Lady Phoenix separate from Quark, but instead was absorbed into the matrix, quite by accident. His power adding to the whole, but his soul was devoured and destroyed. He was only the first of the Mythics to fall to this new being. All the Mythics tried to rescue their Lady. All were absorbed. What existed now was a terrifying creature with an insane hunger for power and a warped sense of humor.
“Lady Quark is unrelenting,” Nova continued. “They have absorbed all types of energy to feed their hunger. The power grids of most of the countries on the planet have been drained and rendered inert. Nuclear, solar, geothermal...all forms of energy or stores have been drained. There are only a few pockets of “normalcy” left. I believe they only exist because Lady Quark is leaving them for a “snack” later on. They aren’t going anywhere so they can get to them whenever they feel like it.”
“I have compiled a list of heroes who have already sacrificed themselves in the battle against Lady Quark.” At this statement, a list of names began scrolling across the screen, “They aren’t all BADGE operatives, some are villains, and some are just regular people who took a stand. Nevertheless, every single one of them is a hero worthy of honor and respect. Without their sacrifice, we would not have lasted this long.”
As Allyson scanned the list of fallen, her heart clenched and her eyes teared up as she saw the names of many friends and colleagues. Agent Justin, Agent Leslie, The Wizard, Shadow Walker, The ShitShow, Kid Chaos, Macaia’s Daughter, Azure Archangel, Zen, Timebender.... The list went on and on. She didn’t see some of the big heroes like Hot Wings or Miðgarðsormr, so maybe there was hope yet. She looked very carefully and did not see another name on that list. Crossroads.
Allyson decided to try to do something she never tried before. Something she was afraid to do when she first realized she was in a different universe. She was going to contact this universe’s version of herself. Looking with herself, Allyson began calling for herself, but applying the “flavor” of this universe. The “flavor’ is the defining element of this universe. When speaking to any of her dimensional counterparts, their name and essence carried this “flavor” to differentiate them from counterparts from other universes. Allyson recognized the “flavor” of her home universe and could tell that the “flavor” that this universe carried was slightly different.
“Crossroads...Crossroads...can you hear me....please, answer!” Allyson called out with all he might focused on the interdimensional area, that space between dimensions where Allyson and her counterparts could communicate with each other.
“Who?“ A voice answered in that space. “Crossroads? From where? I don’t recognize you...” The voice replied cautiously.
“I am Allyson,” she replied, adding all the “flavor” of her home universe to her name. “And I need your help.”
“Allyson, I am Alysia,” the voice responded with her own universe’s “flavor.” “I am in no position to help anyone right now. My universe is on the brink of destruction and it all we can do to stave off the end.”
“I know, Alysia, I know. Somehow I crossed into your universe and ended up on the BADGE Space Station. I found the recording Nova left. What I don’t know is what has happened since that message was recorded and what I can do to help.”
“Standby, Allyson,” Alysia replied and went silent.
Allyson waited a few minutes, the complete silence and darkened corners of the room making her jumpy. Allyson decided to activate the viewing screen and see what the planet lloked like from orbit. That image of the white-blue marble always cheered her up. The view screen came alive and it’s harsh light threw shadows from the work stations and defunct robots across the room. Rubbing her eyes from the sudden glare, Allyson could see that the planet was laid out before her, but something was wrong. Where she expected to see city lights dotting the continents all she could see was darkness. She remembered what Nova had said about the world’s power supply and was saddened to see it visually.
Allyson gave a huge sigh and reached to turn of the viewer when a suddenly a hand fell onto her shoulder. Allyson jumped, screamed, and dimensional-skipped across the room, her heart pounding in her chest. Immediately taking up a defensive stance, hand out and ready to deliver a blast ofenergy at her attacker.
Standing by the command console was a petite, Asian-American woman in a superhero outfit very close in design to the one that Allyson normally wore – a red and black jumpsuit with a utility belt.
“Whoops! Sorry, Allyson! I didn’t mean to startle you like that. I’m Alysia, glad to meet you!”
“Oh ...hi....,” stammered Allyson, her hand on her chest trying to slow her heart rate and breathing down.
“Listen, I would love to chat with you here, but we need to get out of here before Lady Quark finds us. Believe you me, you don’t want that to happen. So saying Alysia dim-skipped over to Allyson, put her hand on her shoulder and dim-skipped to somewhere else. Before they left the station, Allyson caught a quick glimpse of a pair of glowing red eye looking at them from the darkened doorway of the commander center.
Well, not a pair. There were three glowing red eyes watching them as they disappeared.
Allyson fell to her knees as they materialized in a small unfurnished room.
“Sorry about the rough ride,” Alysia apologized. ”I had to skip us all around the world as fast as I could to make sure they couldn’t follow us.”
“They? Lady Quark?”
“Yeah, they almost caught us. I could see their eyes as we skipped, so I took a lot of detours on the way here.”
“Where is here?” asked Allyson.
“Just a little way station on the way to our final stop,” Alysia snickered.
“What’s so funny...ahhhhhhhh!”
The floor suddenly dropped away and the two Crossroads fell down a shaft. The bottom of the shaft of was gently curved and it shunted the falling heroes into a tube with a sufficient declination that they continued to slide downwards, eventually ending up in a well-appointed capsule. The capsule had comfortable seats which the heroes took after untangling themselves from their arrival. Allyson grumbled about the chute, but Alysia just smiled gleefully.
“Again, sorry, but your expression was hilarious!”
“Whatever. Where to now?”
“Nova apparently has little safe houses that no one else knows anything about throughout the entire world. He’s kind of paranoid,” Alysia answered.
“And you should be too, Alysia! Hasn’t recent event taught you that?” Nova’s voice said from a speaker overhead.
“You’re right, sir. But you’ve had these little hidey-holes long before you ever formed BADGE.”
“My life has taught me to always have a Plan B. I reasoned that if a Plan B was needed, then I should also prepare a Plan C, D E, F and so on. It has served me well over the centuries,” Nova replied sagely. “On to business. Allyson? May I call you Allyson?”
“Um, yes sir!”
“Thank you. Allyson, as things stand right now,. we aren’t going to win. I hate to be so blunt, but sugar coating it isn’t going to change it. BADGE doesn’t exist anymore. Our Leagues and headquarters have all been overran and destroyed. We lost about 90% of all our meta-humans. Of the super-powered extra-terrestrials we had, some were killed and the others decided to leave and go home, or at least elsewhere in the universe.”
“We can’t save the Earth, but, hopefully, we can save the rest of the universe.”
“How, sir?” Allyson asked as the capsule slid to a halt and the doors opened.
“Come with me and I’ll show you,” Nova said from the capsule doors.
The briefing room was eerily silent as Allyson, Alysia, and the other heroes present absorbed the plan that Nova came up with.
Chase, missing an arm and looking much sadder than the Chase that Allyson knew, fingered a piece of grey stone she kept on a chain around her neck. “Sir, that is an all-or-nothing kind of plan. You aren’t known for adopting all-or-nothing solutions. Check that, it’s a nothing-or-nothing plan. Either she they win and she destroys the Earth or we win and we destroy the Earth.”
“You’re right, Chase, of course,” answered Nova. “But this planet is already dead. Our remaining scientists have assured me that Lady Quark has drained the planet of so much energy that the core has now cooled past the point of any hope of recovery. In a few years, the magnetosphere will weaken to the point that we will no longer be protected from cosmic rays or solar winds. At that point, the first solar flare , regardless of how weak, would destroy all remaining life on this planet.”
“If we act now, we can get the remaining population of the planet and at least save enough of the human race to successfully colonize a habitable planet.”
“So that’s why you let the off-world heroes leave without a fight!” Hot Wings exclaimed. “They are scouting out planets for us!”
“As I said, I believe in a Plan B, C, D, E, etc....”
“I was going to ask how you were going to get the coordinates of a black hole, but obviously you’ve thought of that,” stated Alysia.
“Yes, the closest black hole to Earth is Sagittarius A, at the center of our galaxy. And one of our friends gave me the coordinates of the event horizon.”
“Sir,I appreciate the confidence you have in my abilities,” Alysia demurred. “But I don’t think I have near enough the range to reach the center of a galaxy with a portal!”
“You never know until you try, Crossroads,” Nova stated sternly. ”However, you won’t have to portal that far. Some of our friends have setup a series of star gates from just outside the orbit of Jupiter all the way to the event horizon. If we could connect a portal from her to the star gate, we should be able get this to work.”
“What do you want me to do, Commander?” Allyson asked.
“Miss Robicheaux, we have no right to ask for your help. You are not from this universe. You should just go home and keep yourself safe.
“With all due respect, Commander, you know I won’t do that.” Allyson stated firmly.
“I know, but I had to say it anyway. If you would like to stay to help, our first priority is getting all survivors off this planet. Sadly it won’t take long. There are enough ships waiting beyond Jupiter to handle the refugees.” Nova pressed a switch on his command gauntlet and several view screens around the briefing room activated, momentarily displaying the image of several large colony ships in space, the showing the bridge of at least eight different ships.
“We’re ready to start the evacuation, Commander Nova,” announced one of the ship commanders on the screens.
“Thank you, Captain Ortiza. Standby. We are sending and advance team to lock in the locations of the holding decks.”
“Acknowledged. Standing by.”
“Can you portal to those ships, Alysia? Allyson?” Nova asked.
“Can you have them display the holding areas we will be putting the refugees in?” Allyson asked.
“Captains, please switch display to the holding areas.” Immediately the view screens showed large empty spaces, large enough that they could hold thousands of people without being too crowded.
Allyson and Alysia looked at each other then looked at the screens. Then they both disappeared. Everyone’s eyes shot to the screens where they saw either Allyson or Alysia appear briefly then pop out and appear on another screen. They were back in the conference room in under 30 seconds.
Alysia smiled and said, “No problem, Commander.”
It took almost two days to evacuate the planet. just over ten million survivors from a population that was approaching eight billion. They heroes worked non-stop, directing the people where to go, on planet and on ship. Alysia and Allyson maintained their portals almost the entire time, alternating who slept while the other one held all eight portals open at one time. It was exhausting, rewarding, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
During this time, Lady Quark was observed by satellite. They were creating something, but it was impossible to make out what it was because they apparently knew they were being observed and obscured the sky above where they worked. What worried everyone was that they made no move to stop what the heroes were doing, even though they must have been aware of it.
Finally, the portals were almost all closed. Only one remained open in China. Most of the population were already onboard the ships, but there were a few stragglers being herded towards the last portal. Suddenly, there was a blue/red flash and Lady Quark was there.
Hot Wings immediately launched himself at them. He moved faster than the human eye could follow. A streak of yellow-white flame. He slammed into Lady Quark and was immediately flung backwards by the force of the impact. Lady Quark didn’t budge at all. Several other heroes lined up to attack Lady Quark, knowing this might be their final battle.
Lady Quark eyed the assembled heroes calmly and then spoke in a voice eerily reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West, “Get them, my pretties!”
And from behind Lady Quark, came a dark tidal wave of horror. Thousands upon thousands of horrible death threatened to crash into the heroes protecting the refugees. In only ones or twos they might have been called cute, or at least strange. But the numbers they came in made it absolutely terrifying. A horde of blue/red ducks waddled surprisingly quickly towards the heroes. The heroes were horrified and nonplussed, and that hesitation almost cost them their lives. These cute little ducks were armed with razor sharp toothed beaks and clawed webbed feet.
The heroes unleashed their own tidal wave of destruction upon that ravening horde just before being overrun. Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Lightning, Radiation, and Magic slammed into the front line of the Duckmageddon, blasting the entire front ranks away. But the ducks kept coming first one hero, ‡ Florida Man ‡, fell, his screams of rage and resistance horribly drowned out by the gentle quacking of an uncounted number of ducks that tore him apart.
The heroes began giving ground, backing up slowly towards the evacuation point, just waiting for the word that all civilians were safe. Another hero fell to the quacking mob, then another, and another. Still the heroes held on, until...
“Now!” Nova commanded.
A wave of earth threw the mass of ducks back for a moment, and in that moment, every single here dropped through a portal that was opened up right under their feet. The heroes disappeared in an instant. For a long moment, there was nothing between the evacuation staging area and the mass of ducks and the ducks surged forward towards the portal.
Suddenly a shadow blocked the weak sunlight for a moment and then the massive unfettered form of Miðgarðsormr slammed into the ground, crushing a thousand ducks at once. The other ducks swarmed the massive Serpent of Midgard, but were mostly ineffectual because his scales were too tough for the ducks’ teeth and claws to penetrate. Miðgarðsormr struck mighty blows left and right demolishing the quacking horde. But still they kept coming.
But something different was happening now, they began to pile up, on atop the other. Soon it was a pyramid of ducks that began to rival Miðgarðsormr in size. Then they started to change shape and melt together. Soon there was a single massive red/blue duck facing the great serpent. And it was pissed.
The battle between these two titans raged back and forth for several minutes without clear indication of who had an advantage. Until a second gigantic duck appeared. And then a third. A fourth. Miðgarðsormr was quickly swarmed under by a dozen giant ducks. Not all those ducks survived, but Miðgarðsormr didn’t return with the rest of the heroes when the evacuation site was shut down. No one knows what happened to him.
Nova, watching the satellite feed of the battle from the lead colony ship, gave the order. “Open the gates, open the portal."
Alysia and Allyson joined their powers to maintain the portal as a dozen star gates between them and the center of the galaxy were opened. The pressures of the gravity forces at work against their portals was tremendously overwhelming, but the two portal masters kept on.
And down on the former Planet Earth, a small portal appeared, the size of a standard closet door, but behind that door was the most powerful force in the universe. Lady Quark had a moment to realize what was happening in front of them. A moment in which they returned to lucidity and reflected upon what they had done.
As the forces of the black hole began to tear the planet apart and draw it and Lady Quark into the portal and the finality beyond, Lady Quark smiled and said, “Do you have any idea how much power there is inside a black hole, Nova? Don’t think this is the end. Quack!”
"Just think what I could accomplish if I didn't have all these 80's song lyrics in my head!"
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