Chapter Two: Cleaning House
Day one of the Skrull invasion
Spencer rolled onto his side and coughed: a thick haze of dust filled the air, and his ears were still ringing. He slowly opened his eyes to discover that the main lights were out, and the room was illuminated by by the red glow of the emergency backups. Grabbing hold of the upturned bed, he pulled himself to his feet and stood somewhat shakily.
"WHAT HELL WAS THAT?" He asked the universe in general.
"Not what I expected." Guptah pushed away the mattress that had fallen on top of her, a gash above her right eye showing where she hadn't been so lucky, "Is he still a live?"
"Just a second." Spencer lent against the wall and looked out into the corridor, "Well I'll be damned..."
Drake stood amid a scene of near total destruction: the once white walls were burnt and cracked, sections of re-enforced concrete clearly visible in places. The light fitting hung useless from the celling, sparks jumping between loose wires. The only sign of the Skrull was the a faint outline of one seared into the wall, while the heavy blast door was laying on the floor, the hinges melted. Drake seemed to be as shocked as anyone, and stood looking at his hands, shaking slightly.
"I am beginning to understand why they had you tucked away down here." Spencer shook his head, "Can you do me a favour in future, and not do that when I'm standing next to you?"
"Stop being such an asshole, and try and remember what it was like when your powers first manifested." Guptah snapped at him, then gently rested a hand on Drake's shoulder, "You did good, Nathan, better than I'd ever expected. But we still need to go help anyone else left alive here, then secure the prison: given the kind of people we hold here, we can't risk any escapes."
"Can I suggest that he uses this for the time being?" Spencer hander over the Skrull rifle he had acquired, "You're a Marine aren't you? Shouldn't be that hard for you to figure out how this thing works. Point at bad-guys and pull the trigger has been working for me so far."
"I think I'll be able to pick it up as we go." Drake looked at lot more comfortable with the weapon in his hands then he had with the thought of using his own powers again.
"Okay, let's do this." Guptah nodded, "We head back up to ground level, and kill any Skrull we find on the way."
"I'm still inclined to hide until the real superheroes show up." Spencer cocked his head to one side, "But I somehow doubt that you're offering to put this to a vote."
"Just cover our backs." Guptah sighed, "I wouldn't want you to break a nail or something, Mr Rock Star."
"Bitch..." Spencer muttered under his breath as he followed the other two back towards the stairs. He stopped and grabbed the wall for support as a wave of nausea and grief overwhelmed him. He struggled to breath, tears welling up in his eyes.
"Do you guys..." He struggled to find the words, "Do you guys feel that?"
"I do." Drake nodded, his knees almost giving way as he slumped against the wall, "Go, I haven't felt this bad since I was a kid, when my parents died."
"What is it?" Guptah asked, seemingly unaffected, "Some kind of psychic attack?"
"Something has happened, something big." Drake shook his head, trying to regain control over his emotions, "I can't quite place it, but it's almost as if I just lost someone I love."
"You can grieve later." Guptah pulled him to his feat, "Right now, we have work to do."
Airspace near Crossmoor Prison
Day two of the Skrull invasion
The flames were visible for miles around, illuminating the night sky, acting as a beacon for the solitary figure who flew across the sky. Dressed in a blue and gold uniform, her shoulder length blond hair flowed out behind her head as she came into land amid the wreckage that had been the prisons administration building. Guptah, Drake and Spencer sat huddled around a fire, and eyed her suspiciously as she walked over to themselves
"Relax boys; she's human." Guptah stood, brushing dust off of the tattered remains of her lab coat, "So, you're the reinforces? Hate to tell you this, but all the Skrull around here are dead: vaporised by some form of scarlet-red fire."
"I know." The stranger nodded, "If you don't mind me asking, who are you people?"
"Dr Kaywinnit Guptah; I was on the medical staff here." The psychiatrist handed over her official ID, "Mr Spencer over there was an inmate in the low-security wing, while Corporal Drake was here for ongoing medical treatment and observation. To tell you the truth, I didn't know what was going to happen when I woke him."
"Very good." The other woman nodded, "Do you know who I am?"
"You're that Lionheart, right? Used to be an Avenger?" Spencer nodded, "That is, until you helped that Albion bloke when he tried to take over the country a year or so back. I'm surprised the Doc hasn't tried to cut you in two for that."
"Yes, well, I've managed to avoid killing you, haven't I?" Guptah looked over her shoulder and asked rhetorical, then turned back to face the superhero, "We all have powers, although mine aren't listed in my file. And I'm not a mutant, before you ask. Truth is, I don't know what I am, other than what ever happened to me is liked to M-Day, and what happened to Corporal Drake."
"A Paradigm Shift, but God only knows what that means." Drake sat staring into the fire, "This isn't what I joined the Marines for, and the last thing I would have expected when we shipped back out to Afghanistan."
"We're all a little shaken by what happened." Guptah nodded in agreement, "The fighting was, bad, here. We were lucky that whatever happened happened when it did."
"Well, I can tell you that there are no Skrull left alive within the British Isles." Lionheart folded her arms, "Outside of that, they either don't know or they're not telling me. All I know is that this is, was, a world wide event, but that the main fight seems to be shaping up in America. The Skrull came to this country looking for magic, and I'd bet that it's magic that stopped them."
"Hurray for our side." Spencer smirked.
"There's something else." Drake looked up, "During the fighting, not long after the Doc woke me, we felt something, like a punch to the gut, this feeling of great loss..."
"Yes, Captain Britain was killed, but he got better." Lionheart nodded her head, "Ended up standing down a small army on Westminster bridge. "
"What is it about you Capes?" Spencer asked, shaking his head in disbelief, "You guys are harder to kill than a Hammersmith cockroach. And then when you do die, you don't stay dead."
"Believe me, a lot of people are looking into that particular phenomenon." Guptah tossed another stick onto the fire, "So, to what do we owe the pleasure of your company?"
"I was sent to see how badly the prison was damaged during the attack, and to see if anyone dangerous got out." Lionheart looked at Drake and Spencer, "Are we going to have a problem?"
"These men helped protect this facility from the Skrull and saved dozens of lives." Guptah positioned herself between the superhero and her two companions, "And as the senior surviving member of staff here, I have taken it upon myself to grant them status as Trusties. So unless you've been appointed our new warden, then I suggest you back off."
Drake and Spencer looked at each other, then started to move their hands towards the Skrull weapons they had captured.
"I have neither the authority or inclination to intercede." Lionheart shook her head, wishing she could remove her mask and rub her eyes, "The prison is secure and the Skrull are gone; that's all that really matters. Oh, and by the way, the three of you now work for MI-13. All British superheroes do, for the duration anyway."
"Well, Mr Spencer has made it clear that he doesn't consider himself to be a hero of any description, while I believe that Corporal Drake is still technically a Marine." Guptah folded her arms across her chest, "And as for me, I'm not a British citizen: I'm an Indian national."
"Semantics that can be worked out later." Lionheart turned and walked away as a pair of large helicopters came in to land, the wash from their rotors kicking up a dust storm, "Welcome to my world."
An hour later and the army had arrived, setting up tents for medical treatment and to house the influx of new guards and warders. Lionheart moved among them like a ghost, feeling more than a little out of place. She had been moved from department to department since entering government service after Avalon's defeat by Excalibur, and it was clear that no one really trusted her. Yes, they had reunited her with her children, but there was the unspoken threat that any disobedience on her part would see them taken away again. After months of being sent from one office to another, she had been ordered to report to a small office building set amid the backstreet of Whitehall. The plaque on the door had proclaimed that it was the home of the Royal Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Buildings, but it had been clear from the moment she stepped inside that it was something else entirely. It was on that day that she started work for The Ministry, a clandestine agency within the intelligence community but out side of direct governmental control. As the woman who had handled her orientation has explained, politicians and governments serve at the whim of the voting public, and as such there were some things that they just could not be trusted with. The work was interesting if somewhat erratic, but it did mean that she had more time to spend with her family. Unfortunately, her mobile phone had just gone off, and the nameless voice at the other end had informed her of a new mission that suited someone of her experience.
Looking round, she spotted Guptah, Drake and Spencer sitting round a table in the mess-tent, drinking tea.
"You remember I told you that you now work for MI-13?" She lent on the table and looked at the three of them, "Well, congratulations; you've just be placed under my command for your first mission. So I do hope your passports are all in order, because we're going on a little trip. It seems the Skrull are getting a bit out of hand down-under, and the Australian government has requested help. And we're it."
To Be Continued...