Dear readers, if you still are here. This is goodbye, for now. I'm sorry if I kept you in the dark for so long, But I tried to write this chapter for over a year. I tried with every storyline I could think of, but nothing wanted to came out.
Then, I realized something: I couldn't write a new chapter because I didn't want to. I don't feel so "connected" to Blackdragon any longer, like I don't love comics so much right about now. But I left it open, so, maybe, who knows. Never say never, Chris could always came back to play for a short while. Who knows, we'll see.
Until then, farewell.
It wasn't fair.
That was the only thought crossing on a loop Chris Stark's mind, as she looked at the empty coffin of one of her dearest friends.
Rhodey didn't deserve this, she kept thinking, staying in the distance, on her own. Once again she had felt the loss of a dearest on her skin, and she didn't know if she could keep handling that. Death and betrayal were becoming a constant of her life, and as much as she had known it when she had signed up to be... whatever she was... it was too much, all at the same time.
How much sufferance could she handle, in the blink of an eye? Not much more, that was for sure.
And just few months ago, she had thought that her life was a mess. Well, guess what? You were wrong. It will never get as messy as right about now.
Her eyes fell on the people she used to call family, friends, all gathered there to remember Rhody... Tony, who used to hurt her like nobody else did when he was drunk, who gave up years of sobriety when the world was coming to and a the serpent was menacing them all, Clint and Bobby... her friends.
She loved Clint, loved him like a brother, even if, at one point, she had wished there could be more between them, and had always considered Bobbi a friend, and as much as she was missing them, she just couldn't do this. They were in the process of hating each other, in the middle of a messy divorce, but she couldn't take a side. Clint was her friend, but she was on a team with Bobbi, and the Avengers were the best thing that had ever happened to her. She finally felt whole, important, appreciated. Just a couple of words from Captain America and she finally felt whole, years of self-analysis weren't needed any longer.
She just couldn't renounce to this. And she was already in a...peculiar position with her team. She knew that few of them hated her-maybe hate was a big word, but that was the feeling, she was just positive of that- like she knew that few of them pitied her. The only one who was still "normal" (as normal as they could be) around her was Logan. He didn't have an opinion on the matter. He didn't judge. Actually, Wolverine was the only one who was offering her a crying shoulder (not that she needed it, she wasn't that desperate), probably because he knew the feeling too.
She was at odds with her...people just because of a stupid, damn mistake. She was a genius acting always like the smartest one in the room, but she wasn't perfect. She could do stupid decisions, too. And apparently, she could take only stupid decisions when it was about men.
She shook her head with closed, teary eyes. It wasn't time to think about that. She was here for Rhodey... yet another person dead because of the Stark legacy. How many more friends were they going to lose, without being able to do just something about it? Why being geniuses, being heroes, shake hands with Gods, when a mother had to lose her son because of the so-called good fight? First time around, they had been able to save him, first with the cyborg implants, then with a cloned body.
Now... he was gone for good.
She looked once more at their friends, and the people who had helped them out during the whole Palmer Addley debacle, when she and Suzi Endo had joined forces, using Cerebra -and MGH, but it wasn't like there was any other choice on the matter- to connect themselves with the whole population of the world, and stop the infection from spreading. That was when her eyes fell on them, Justine Hammer, grinning behind her teeth, her daughter Sasha, busy texting, and their dear friend, the general. All there to pay their respect, to show off in front of the cameras, when everything they wanted was just laugh at them, satisfied that there's an enemy less.
Bile raised in her throat, and she clenched her fists, her eyes turning dark red, as burning fire. She could have killed them, those monsters who hide behind the facade of the Military and the industry, those monsters who claimed to protect the world, but were plotting to take all the heroes down . She could do it. She was one of the most powerful telepaths of the planet, and she had been part of X-Force for a reason.
And for that very reason, she wasn't going to kill them.
She had been part of that team because they needed an heart. She had killed, yes, but it had never been because of revenge. She had done so for protecting her life, the lives of her team-mates and of the child (that Hope who was now almost an adult and was training to become the next host of the Phoenix) and every death was a weight upon her shoulders. And there was no way that she was going to add to that weight. Charles Xavier may have taught her to be a spy, but not a monster or a killer. She still remembered when he had told her that he was proud she was an Avengers and that she had to be a model, show the world that mutants weren't any different. She was going to follow that teaching until the end, whatever it took.
And for that reason, she gave her back to the gathered heroes and left.
New York city was her home, but Chris was almost positive that it had to do only with the fact that no one saw her. She was a face between faces, and even if she could actually use her power... New York probably had the highest density of heroes of the world.
She smiled of a little, sad smile. The city was as it had used to be before Sin's attack. Science and magic had done so, but science and magic couldn't erase the mistakes and the people who had lost their lives, and when they did, there was always a cost.
She wondered if the Darkness knew that he was playing with fire, using the gathered 14 artifacts to destroy the Universe and then rebuilt it as he saw fit. Maybe The Father was right, and there was a reason she still remembered that small differences between the Universes... maybe the fact that she had been used to be in charge of the Endacrion, a weapon of The Dark, had shielded her from Escatado's actions... not that it really mattered. She wasn't in possession of her artifact any longer, and Escatado wasn't doing anything to put in danger the Balance between dark and light.
She was so lost in her own thought she didn't felt the telltale indication in her brain of someone focused on her until it was like a scream. She looked around, sure that whoever it was had to be already at her back, but there was no one. Except, she was receiving mixing signals. There was the void, and yet there was someone, running at Godspeed... slightly panicking, she started looking around, but eve for her mutant mind, it was too much for her. Too quick, and too many interferences...
They knew her. They were ready for her.
Rays of energy, suddenly appearing like from nowhere, hit her in the back, and she fell on the ground. She tried to get up, but energy kept hitting her, the jolts running through her whole being, shutting down all her powers. It was like she was... overloading. She felt like it could be a fitting term, as her powers had to do with technology as much as with mind.
Had she said that she hated stealth armors?
Self-defense and preservation kicked in, and when another jolt was ready to hit her, Chris was able to raise a kinetic shield around her body, a sphere she hoped was quite invulnerable.
Magic would have been of help in that moment.
She was already grinning half satisfied, the... whoever it was, on the verge of giving up, desperate, when her field was put down by a source she knew too well. Something so strong it could stop herm, because she had asked so, just as a safety in case something would go wrong with her...
The field was down, but she was still going to fight, wasn't going to go down that easily. Maybe a whole filed wasn't going to do enough, but she could concentrate her psy-energy in a sole, focal point, big enough to annihilate the effect of the repulsor rays.
It had to do the trick.
Of course, there still was the problem of the other stealth guy, but she was going with first pleasure first. Aka: she was going to worry about one enemy at time. Or maybe...
She was wondering if she could try to send the girl - the brand new, all evil all over Firebrand- against the other opponent, but she could see people inside the buildings, and on the road. It was too dangerous, not when she was practically going in blind.
She would have loved to be Matt in that instant.
She couldn't even risk shouting down the systems inside the Firebrand suit. She didn't know how that had been made, for all she knew, she could even detonate an atomic bomb.
It was too dangerous.
Unless... people would have called it suicidal, but there was only one thing left to do, in order to defeat the stealth guy.
SHE Turned off completely the shield, and concentrated on Firebrand, projecting a micro-filed of condensed energy just at the repulsor of her suit; she knew she couldn't stop her like that- that best she could hope for was the same result, an equation with a result equals to zero- but in doing so she left an opening for the stealthy armor.
She felt the jolts of energy hitting her back like a wimp, again and again, but she didn't gave up.
She had a general position now.
She generated her daggers, and threw them in the direction of her enemy, hitting her right in the middle of the chest, where the was the main repulsor, and for once she couldn't care any less. Everything exploded, and with one last effort, she made sure that the explosion was only limited and that no one was going to get hurt.
She came back to her senses for a section of second, and she saw no trace of the enemy. but who he saw, she wasn't expecting him to be there. not at all. not after everything that... that had happened. Not after she had refused to keep visiting him, even after he had explained himself to her.
She lost her senses once again, as his warm chest lulled her into sleep, and they vanished, a teleport spell whispered in her reddish hair.
She hadn't said a word since she had awakened in Strange's lair, she had merely acknowledged his presence. She was mad with him for everything, and she was mad with all the people there. She knew what they were doing. they were blaming her, judging her. She had trusted him and he had betrayed them. And now, here he was, out of prison.
She met Clint's gaze for a fraction of second. He seemed... ashamed (he probably thought that she had helped him escaping prison) but Tony and Charles seemed worried, Tony more than the other man... he... was that longing in his eyes, fear?
"Looks like you put Detroit Steel out of commission for a while" Tony tried to joke, but then, he remembered where he had been just few hours before, and that his rogue gallery had killed Rhodey. And that his rogue gallery had tried to kill his own sister right now. "Chris... I hate to say some, but I'm not sure it's safe any longer for you. Hammer and Stane are..."
"...not going to get the satisfaction of seeing me walk away, that's for sure." she finished, bottoming her bottom down with precise and quiet movements.
"I fear, Christine, that this may be slightly more difficult that what you assumed until now..." Strange stated, putting an hand on her abdomen, and one on her forehead. "for right now, you have to worry about 3, and not just yourself any longer." he smiled, and immediately understood what he was trying to say.
A pregnancy. And her life had been such a chaos that she hadn't even realized she was late…
She stared in shock in the void, and she couldn't stop seeing Strange's smile. he really thought she was supposed to be happy, that it was a good thing. that a pregnancy right now... that his children...
Like sensing her tribulations, Charles reached her, and did the same thing as Stephen, and then, she felt them. Two souls, two grinning and giggling beautiful minds ready to enter the world. She wondered if they were going to be lights. Where they going to take after her, or the father?
All doubts were gone, and she caressed her womb lovingly, crying.
Children. Twins. She had never really thought about being a mother, if not only when Plokta attacked inside the dream corridor, but she wasn't that person any longer. Too much had changed. She wasn't with Pete any longer.
But she couldn't be with him as well. Not any longer. Not now. And maybe... never again.
"Hammer will keep hitting until you'll be alive. She knows that you and Pepper are my Achilles' heel." Tony started.
"And it's not just that. Now that my father has learnt of the children, he'll try to take them for his own purposes. And I'll not allow him to do to us what he did to my mother and me and my sister." he said, an hand on her shoulder, and for a fraction of second, she could see the man she knew that deep down he was, the man she had fallen quick and hard for.
"What do you want me to do? Going into hiding? I'm not sure it could work. Not with the kind of forces at play here..."\
"That's why we are all here, Christine. For you and your children to live... you need to die." Charles told her, a bit sad. But she could see on his face that expression she had come to love on his face, that...serenity he irradiated.
Bobby was right,. He was like a father for all of them.
"You want to erase my mind" she told, a bit sadly, but already knowing that was no other choice.
For her family to live, she had to die.
"Strange will cast a spell on you, he'll block any trace of magic you or the children could have on you. This way, my father will not be able to try to use you to ascend.,"
She almost bit her lips. She wondered if he knew that his father couldn't ascend unless the bearer of the Rapture would decide that the Earth belonged to the forces of Dark.
"I'll not erase your mind, I'll give you another life, and when the time will be ready, you'll return to us, as Christine Stark once more. Maybe, with two more mutants...the grandchildren of the atom."
"Right now, our contact inside the SCU is processing a body. She and her boss will soon release to the press that Chris Stark was found death later this morning, due to injuries provoked by an enemy of her brother. Everything will check out. we made sure." Tony kept saying.
"So, that's it? the end?" the sadness was unbearable, for all of them, but she could barely resist crying. as much as she wanted to rise her children... saying goodbye was hard. harder then everything she had ever done in her whole life, harden than any other goodbye. Maybe, because it sounded final.
"No, this is goodbye. And I swear, one day I'll return..." he paused, knowing what she was thinking, that she was wondering if he was going to get them just to use them as his father had done with him. "...to keep you all safe."
Crying, she allowed their lips to meet for a last time, and then, the world went black... and Chris Stark ceased to exit, just to be reborn in the light, with a new present, another past and a future she could choose on her own.
As soon as she woke up in her cottage in Haven, Maine, Astrid Ravensong run her fingers through her dark curls, and caressed her womb, silently saying good morning to her twins- and her seven months belly. "You know kids, I just had the weirdest dream. I was a super-hero and your father was the son of Satan, a very sweet but strange red-headed guy called Daimon... crazy, isn't it?".