Chapter 6: Aftermath

Note: I just want to point out that Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man 3 was a perfect reason why Miles won't tell his dad he's Spider-Man anytime soon in my fanfic.


At Roxxon

"Smythe failed," Donald Roxxon, head of Roxxon, stated bluntly to the Roxxon Brain Trust that he had assembled now that night had fallen. Layla Miller, Nathaniel Essex, Arnim Zola III, and Samuel Sterns were all geniuses in their fields, between the four of them they had eleven doctorates, yet their performance to this point displeased him for many reasons.

"With all due respect, Sir, we never agreed that sending him after them was a good idea due to his connections to the company," Samuel Stern calmly stated, his aged body feeling the strain of time. "It was on your discretion that this occurred, rather than being patient. We simply needed more time—"

"We knew who Spider-Man was!" Roxxon pointed out. It wasn't hard before, the kid had done little to cover his tracks until recently. "I left the matter alone last year since you all said that we needed to stop following in Oaborn's footsteps that led to failure, and in that time what progress have you made? Failure after failure, and the one successful project went rogue and stole The List, forcing my hand into cleaning up your mess as well as the ones from the past. If you don't give me a decent reason why I should keep you on staff, I'll get rid of you and hire someone who can get results I can profit from myself, including Spider-Man!"

"We would strongly caution against repeating this same incident in soliciting outside help or attacking him out of costume now that he is affiliated with SHIELD," Layla Miller stated. "For starters, you would have to inform whomever it was that you ordered to capture him his identity, or they would put two and two together when he fights back. Anyone who can be bought for money is a liability since they could easily sell his identity to another faction and, while you lack substantial competition, there are still others seeking the government contracts for the creation of Super-Soldiers. One of the rising companies to do so, Alchemax, claims to be rather close themselves despite the contact we have on the inside claiming their latest experiments failed thoroughly. The more people you inform, the more who we would have to compete with to get to him first."

"Not to mention if your name comes up when the suspect is brought in, it will not help matters," Arnim Zola III added. "We should be quite glad that Smythe was incapacitated as he was rather than captured and lucid. We require more subtle and indirect means…"

"Then what are you suggesting," he demanded.

"We have some things in the works," Layla Miller assured him as she pressed buttons on her tablet to bring up a holographic display with the kids, video taken from Smythe's gear. "In the meantime we can learn from all these successes and going over past data from the experiments while laying low. While each case had some data lost due to the damage done when each subject escaped, we have auxiliary copies of the data from the last two to work from. You'll have your Super-Soldiers in due time, Mister Roxxon."

"Then get to it," Roxxon ordered as he sat back down in his chair and swiveled to face the window overlooking the city at night. "I want results as soon as possible, or all of you are out."

"Of course, Mister Roxxon." Turning her back to the CEO, Layla Miller's eyes rolled as she led her compatriots out. The man was either bipolar or insane, but for their level of work his money was a necessity. At least for the time being…


With Miles Morales

"It'll only be a minute longer, Dad," Miles told his father as he loitered over the coffee maker that was being put to work. He had gotten home shortly after the rescue mission and, after calling Kate about his sudden departure and apologizing profusely for several minutes, had told his father about the job.

Jefferson Morales sat patiently at the table of his apartment home as he awaited his son to finish making coffee so they could begin their discussion that had been put off until now. As his eyes remained close, he thought about the situation that was put in front of him. From the paperwork it looked as though Miles would be serving as an intern at a rising corporation, with a focus on science and fields towards the betterment of the general populace, and it looked both legitimate and upstanding. To be honest, was the exact sort of thing he and Rio had hoped for Miles to have an opportunity to do by sending him to the charter school, so he wouldn't fault him for showing initiative.

The sound of the ceramic cup being set on the table and the earthy aroma of the coffee snapped his eyes open as Miles took his seat across from his father and waited in silence for him to begin the dialogue. Tapping his finger against the table in a steady rhythm as if it were a metronome, Jefferson took a deep breath before he spoke. "It's good for you to learn responsibility in getting a job so soon, Son. But I just wished you would have told me ahead of time."

Miles nodded with his eyes downcast. "I know, Dad. It's was just that when Miss Carpenter contacted me I…I thought it was my chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. It was a chance to work towards the good of the people."

Julia Carpenter was the alias that SHIELD had for Jessica during her time in Roxxon. While her cover there was blown amongst the Brain Trust, it still had its uses as a representative of the shell corporation that fronted for the group.

"I can get behind that, Miles," Jefferson assured him. "I'm not saying that I'm angry about it. But if it interferes with your schoolwork you'll have to quit. That's something I'm not compromising on."

"It won't," Miles promised him, noticing that his father's tone left no room for argument. "Everything's going to be fine. I'll keep my grades up, they'll help me learn more as well, and I'm even getting paid too."

"Yeah, about that," Jefferson scratched his cheek. "You know I'll be expecting you to put most of that away for your future. Regardless of how this case with the police ends, you should store at least a third of every paycheck into an account. We should go set-up a student account before the month closes."

The young man agreed without complaint. "Sure, it's not like I was planning on doing much with it. Maybe occasionally taking Kate and Ganke out to eat or whenever a new Lego collection comes out."

Jefferson snapped his fingers at that as it reminded him of something else he had forgotten a while ago. "Speaking of going out, what was the situation at the restaurant with that blonde girl anyway? With everything that happened I had forgotten about that until now."

"Oh, that…" He trailed off as he thought to the argument not too long ago that led to his current predicament. Miles' tone dropped as he said. "She's…a friend that I met last year. She had been trying to get me to…to come to term with things."

His father raised an eyebrow at that, part in curiosity and part in concern given how Miles suddenly changed moods. "With what?"

Miles' throat felt dry all of a sudden. That argument was tied to the one thing he would never forgive himself for, the death of his mother. But his father was expecting an answer, so he swallowed and licked his lips before he said, "Mom."

Jefferson's hands tensed at that, recalling the death of his beloved Rio. She had been a good wife and loving woman, even onto her death as she helped the other hospital patients remain safe. She was too good for their sinful world, shot in the crossfire as a casualty of the conflict between that…creature that crippled him and Spider-Man.

"She had gone through something similar with the death of her father," Miles told him. "She was just trying to talk to me and I said some things that I really shouldn't have. She slapped me because I deserved it, but we've made up since then."

Looking into the earthen hue of the coffee, Jefferson thought of a way to respond. Eventually he settled on, "If you say so then I'll take your word for it."

There was a sense of tension lingering in the air afterwards that made things seem awkward for them both. Not wanting to ruin the chance to talk to his son while he was at home, rather than school, the eldest of the two changed topics towards something less bittersweet. "So, when are you going to introduce me to this other girl you keep macking with?"


With Jessica Drew

While Miles contended with his father's questioning, Jessica sat at the large screen display in the conference room of the Vanguard's base and went over the evidence of the scene of where they arrested Smythe. The Venom Blast Miles used had caused some damage that rendered the man in a coma, one which they weren't sure he would wake from, as well as having wielded the helmet onto his head to the extent it was fused to his skull. In addition, the evidence wasn't substantial enough to link the man to Roxxon beyond that it was his place of employment until recently and Donald Roxxon managed to convince the proper authorities that the equipment used was stolen and untested, washing his hands clean of the incident as there was no trace of his involvement.

So ultimately the only good thing to come of this was the good PR of stopping Shocker's drunken robbery—despite the fact that he was broken out of the transport yet again. Feeling as though there was something that she was missing, or rather that there had to be anything capable of convincing the director of launching a full-on investigation into Roxxon rather than the lackluster one of what was promised to Miles, Jessica started to go over the information once more when the hiss of the automatic door reached her ears and was followed by a familiar voice.

"You're still at it?" asked Johnny Storm, formerly of the Fantastic Four. Having sustained arguably the most injuries during the conflict prior, he sported several bruises from his encounter with Smythe that left him feeling sore around his torso. But he bore with it as he made his way into the room.

"There just has to be something that I can tie them to," Jessica said, steepling her fingers together. "If that phone hadn't self-destructed we would have them all locked away by now."

"They'll slip up eventually," Johnny assured her. "Just give it time."

She shook her head. "I don't want to be reactive, Johnny. Reacting to threats doesn't stop them from occurring. How many more kids will end up like us otherwise?"

Further research and some questioning of Lana's mother revealed she was a mutant from her mother being experimented on by Roxxon and turned into a mutate while she was pregnant, eventually escaping the facility and reconciling with her father until he learned about their powers and left them to their mother and then a life of crime. Ty and Tandy were turned into living light and all-consuming darkness that merely looked to be human. Jessica herself was a clone brought about by the man who once led their Brain Trust as well. And then there was Miles…

Letting the topic drop, as he wasn't about to win that argument and he knew it, Johnny took a deep breath before he said, "Listen, about why I came back. One of the reasons was that I wanted to ask…"

"About what?" Jessica inquired when he trailed off without finishing. "If there's something you want to ask me, go ahead."

Running his hands through his hair out of nervousness, he said, "About us?"

"Things between us ended when you left Johnny," Jessica told him. "You just left me behind without a word."

"You're absolutely right," he admitted. His tone made it clear he wasn't proud of it either, another thing in a list of regrets that he had to make up for. "But I just couldn't face you, or Gwen, or Aunt May, not any of you at the time. Not after I failed to stop Osborn from killing Peter."

Her fingers balled into a fist as her hair hid her face from view. "There was nothing we could have done. That whole incident was an unfortunate snafu that got out of hand. You and Bobby Drake did what you could…I could never blame either of you."

Johnny approached her and set his hand on her shoulder, to which she turned and faced him eye-to-eye. "You must've been hurting after what happened to Peter as well. You were both close, weren't you?"

Jessica turned her gaze from his and cast it down as she recalled he wasn't in the loop about her origins, something that needed to be shared amongst all the team members. That didn't make things easier in the end. "Right, you weren't there when I told the others, were you?"

A frown marred Johnny's face at the change in her disposition. "What wrong?"

"Johnny…I'm a genetic clone of Peter Parker," she confessed, keeping her eyes down to not meet the look on his face. "Right up until my 'birth', I had every one of his memories—his life. I'm not even a normal person, a thing grown in a tank by Otto Octavius. I've been trying to find my own way and be my own person since then, but it doesn't change facts that I am him to some level and—."

"You're not Peter," he assured her, raising her head so that their eyes met again. With a soft and bitter smile he brought the back of his hand to her cheek and slowly trailed down the side, gently caressing her skin. "You're Jessica Drew. No matter how you were born, that's who you are. It doesn't change how I feel…"

Jessica brought her own hand up to his and stopped him. Her eyes were furrowed in an uncertain arch as she lightly shook her head. "Then there's the fact that the timing is bad, Johnny. We're about to go public and I'm the Vanguards' handler, meaning I'm your superior. Mask or not, acceptance or not, if it got out somehow or reached Fury…either way, I can't afford to be anymore distracted than I already have with all of this."

"Then I can wait until I've done my time with the Vanguards," he told her. "Once everyone can handle themselves and I've proven myself…"

Her grasp on his fingers tightened as a gentle smile formed on her face. "You've matured a lot, you know that."

"I couldn't remain as I was when the world's gone upside down," Johnny stated, slowly inching his head forward. "Between what happened to Peter, Reed, the war, everything…I had to change in a lot of ways."

The Human Torch then gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead before backing away. He noted that she seemed somewhat conflicted as she bought her white-tipped gloves to her mouth and covered it as she looked down and blushed. There was still something there. "Anyway, I'm going to visit May and Gwen in the hospital and then get in touch with my sister."

Jessica's expression shifted to concern, all traces of her embarrassment and conflict gone as she registered the first part and asked, "Are they okay?"

Johnny recalled the fight before they found her and explained the incident, about some fire-user attacking them to try and get to Miles. The new information that an organization may have targeted Miles disturbed Jessica, to say the least. It certainly added to her problems on top of Roxxon and everything else. "I'll look into it personally and see what I can do, but thank you for looking after them. If you hadn't been there…"

"It was nothing," he said.

Johnny Storm then made his way out and Jessica shifted her focus to researching the connections between The Scorpion and The Salamander to see any ties they had and any other members of this organization that posed a threat to them. But before she could find anything creditable, the hiss of the door sliding open again was followed by a new voice as two sets of footsteps reached her ears.

"Miss Drew," called Artemis Raines, "you have a guest."

Jessica turned her head towards the door to bear witness to the young man standing there with blond hair, but the unmistakably similar facial structure of her genetic base. Dressed in a green and baggy long-sleeved T-shirt, and equally baggy pants, was her only surviving brother, Scorpion. She vacated her seat and made for him with haste, "I thought you were still being treated?"

"Physically speaking, he's fine now," Artemis vouched for him. "As for his mental health…well, as long as he takes his medication he'll be stable and I'm working on him for the duration of his stay. He's not cleared to be an operative of the Vanguards, but he will be staying here in the upper levels of the building."

"Even so, I would have come and gotten you from the Triskelion on my way back," Jessica told him. Since she was the group's handler she, as well as Daisy and Artemis, had rooms themselves on the upper levels. Jessica gave her brother a soft smile and then set her white-tipped gloved fingers on his hair. "They dyed your hair?"

"Not dye," he said with an uncertain shrug. "They did something to it with these machines and things, something about changing the color on a genetic level. Then they cut it off and it grew back in like this in a few minutes. "

"I see." Jessica assumed it was so that he didn't resemble Peter as much. It was expected, but still…clearing her throat she asked, "What's the name they gave you?"

"Gabriel Drew," he stated.


With Lana Baumgartner

Lana tried to ignore the ringing of her phone that had been going off for the last two hours as she laid on her bed to deal with the occasional muscle spasms in light of getting hit by the electro-cannon a few hours ago before they were released. Until it wore off she wasn't in the mood to answer the phone since she already knew who it was, her ex-boyfriend who she had affectionately named 'Poey' during their earlier moments of happiness and even showed him her powers. Things seemed to have been going well…

And then that Cloak, Dagger, and Roxxon fiasco happened. She looked at the clock on her phone and noted it was almost time to video-call her mother. The phone began to ring again, annoying her once more. Since it was clear he wouldn't stop calling until she answered, she picked up. "What do you want, Sid?"

"I was just worried about you since I saw on the News about the bank robbery earlier, as your boyfriend and—"

Lana cut him off. "You lost boyfriend privileges when you flat out abandoned me when I was being chased by Cloak and Dagger!"

"What was I supposed to do?" he asked. "I was worried, but I couldn't just—"

Lana didn't let him finish, not willing to waste the limited time she had for communicating with her mother by talking to him. "Listen, I have to go do something else. If you call again tonight, you'll get a Level 2 where the sun doesn't shine since I can legally use my powers again!"

She hung up on him then and there before tossing the phone onto her bed as she stood up. It was about time for her video call with her mother, so Lana made her way to her computer and settled down in her chair as the light spasming of her muscles continued. It made her grunt in discontent.

Honestly, Lana thought, you would think the nurse lady could have spared some damn relaxants or something? At least I paid the asshole back with a Level 10. I never get to use that normally.

Taking a moment to center her breathing as she waited for the link to the video-screen at the secured facility her mother was in, Lana thought back to before she left their fancy new hideout with orders to take the next few days off after their first big day of fighting crime. Jessica had pulled her aside to thank her, which she would admit that the satisfaction of hearing it from her was sweet since now she owed her.

If Lana had to be honest with herself, it was fun for the most part. She got to use her powers without a reprimand, rescue a damsel in distress, and there was a somewhat warm and fluttering feeling at the thought of doing something good…but then she recalled her mother's words and clamped down on that feeling.

She wasn't a hero like the others. She was coerced into heroics, into a team with people who got her and her mother arrested, into a team with a young woman who discriminated against her despite having been changed into something similar, and they made her workout more in their short time together than she had done in her life. Reminding herself so that she didn't lose herself in the illusion of being good felt good, she sat up straight when the video-call connected and her mother appeared on the screen.

"Hey Baby," Lori Baumgartner said from across the screen, still in the dull prison garments. "I see you fought that same prick again. Aren't they overdoing it with sending you into these situations so suddenly?"

"I paid him back for the last time and came out fine," Lana countered. "I even got to hit someone with a Level 10 later on, but I can't really talk about it. And besides, I was mostly fine."

"I still can't say I'm comfortable with it," Lori stated.

"Well, Dear, comfort isn't for people locked away," Lana's grandmother added as she entered the room, staring into the monitor. "Hmm, I see you're looking fairly well. The prison food must be doing wonders for your figure."

Lori gave her mother a curt greeting in response. "Well hello to you too, Mother. I see you've aged even further since the last time I saw you."

"Hmph, the last time we saw one another was before you inducted your daughter into the life of crime," the elder stated as she stood next to Lana, who was now shaking her head and getting ready to watch the fireworks that was their life when mother and grandmother met. "At least she's doing something productive with her gifts, instead of squandering them like you did on petty crime, you rebellious miscreant."

"Well, we can't all turn out the way you wanted now, can we?" Lori countered. "Those petty crimes were to support us, Mother. If I could have used my powers without taking her with me, I would have left her there with you. Did you think I wanted to bring my daughter with me during those jobs?"

The eldest of the three women closed an eye and glared at her with the other. "Pishposh. Not only did you pass on your foul tongue, but you made her a criminal just like you were before and took away her youth like you wasted yours. The poor girl hardly knew right from wrong…your father would be ashamed of how you turned out if he was still alive."

"I taught her how to survive!" Lori argued. "We were the only ones we had. Not her asshole of a father, not Dad, not anyone but us! There was no right from wrong when it came to looking out for one another and if those Spiders hadn't interfered—"

Lana had enough and stood up. "Come on, you two! This is the first time you've seen each other in so long, a short window at that, and you want to spend it fighting?"

Both of the older women let out short grumbles before sighing with an eerie synchronicity and giving half-hearted apologies. The sad thing was, Lana figured, this was normal for the both of them. They cared for one another as Mother and Daughter should, but it was so twisted with disappointment that her times at home even before she became Bombshell were stressful.

And there was nothing she could do about it for the time being, so she continued to play mediator for the pair as they spoke until their time was up.


With Tandy

Tandy Bowen let out a soft sigh as she stared at the stars above somewhat longingly. Their light shone down upon her with the silvery rays of the moon and seemed almost an arm's reach away from her. It was under the night sky that she thought back to the accident that left both her and Ty in their current conditions. It seemed like it was going to be the night of their lives, the picture perfect prom that she intended to tell her mother about when she got home…

And now they weren't even talking to one another. True enough Tandy missed her, but given how she felt about super-powered freaks it shouldn't have been a surprise she rejected her own daughter. Of course she never said it out loud, but Tandy knew that look in her eyes and recalled how she had been fairly vocal about it. Her mother would grieve for the human that was once Tandy Bowen. But, as for Dagger…there would be no acceptance, would there?

Looking down at her hands, Tandy closed her fists and knives made of solidified light appeared, illuminating her face and eyes as she stared into it. This was what she was capable of now, what she really was. She was living light pretending to be human, these daggers being the extension of her powers while keeping her closer to being a human.

Was this karma, she wondered? She hated mutants because they caused so much destruction, yet she felt so powerless in her own respect like during the Ultimatum Wave. They should have been separated from the normal people so that the normal people would be safe…

And then she was caught in an accident and turned into this.

She wasn't human anymore. She couldn't go back to the life she had before, at least not before SHIELD did something to change her back. But at the same time she felt the depths of her own power, so much more that could be achieved if she stopped pretending to be human and embraced it.

She wasn't powerless anymore, not like when she and her mother could only get themselves to safety while Spider-Man—no, Parker—went around helping everyone he could. She could do so much more now. She could help others and herself. But was she willing to do that when the cost would be the rest of her humanity?

It was then she felt the encroaching darkness that served as her opposite and turned as Tyrone appeared with a plate in his hand with waffles on it. She arched an eyebrow at the sight.

"The fridge is still under-stocked," he said, answering the unasked question. It was probably due to the kidnapping and all. He settled down next to her, allowing the darkness that composed his cloak to gently wrap her as he noticed the somber look on her face. "What's wrong?"

"It's…it's nothing," she claimed, before sweeping her hair behind her ear and asking, "Are you okay? You got hit pretty hard by that sonic attack…"

He nodded. "It just took some time to pull myself together. It's hard to account for just how…vast my existence is now. It's like there's my body and then there's a void inside that's beyond as far as I can comprehend. The illusions prior didn't help things."

She had to agree to that much. They had discussed what they saw in their fears with one another, and it was only fitting that they were opposites. If she was living light, then he was living darkness. Whereas she could be as radiant as a star, he was a vast section of space. If her brilliance was akin to a supernova, his darkness was all-consuming like a black-hole.

Would he one day swallow her whole? Or would she burn away the darkness that he was completely? The thought made her shiver and she reached for the hand that she felt settle on her shoulder.

"We've got some time off this week," Tandy told him. "Would you like to go on a date somewhere? Do something normal?"

His hand slid from her shoulder to around her abdomen as he pulled her in close. "Sure. Whatever you want…"


One Week Later

"So, what's the point of wearing this skin-tight bodysuit under our uniforms?" Lana asked as she finished dressing alongside Jessica in the room they had in the back to get changed, having arrived with the crowd along with the others and then dispersed to get ready stealthily.

They were in a conference center that could only now be described as a shark-tank, with the reporters and media representatives from all over the country having flown in for this PR stunt that was addressing the formation of the Vanguards. It was a controversial topic, given that even though their ages weren't public information it was clear they were still minors. To that end, they had Captain America giving the speech since he was considered the big good of America right now and the best person to voice the matter and quell the public.

"They're bullet-proof, stab-proof, weather-proof, insulated, etc etc etc, you get it," Jessica told her as she slipped on her mask. "It's an additional layer of protection for your safety. Since Tandy and Tyrone are living light and darkness we couldn't really give them clothing since that would hinder them, but they're pretty much immune to what the rest of us aren't. But more importantly, Lana, do you remember what we've talked about?"

With an exasperated sigh she nodded. "Yes, for the fifth time. No foul language, no rude gestures, no talking or moving at all—I just have to stand there and be prim and proper as the big speech is given with the rest of you before those Hyena's try to pick apart all of us until they rip away our souls. Between the others, why am I the only one who's being lectured more than once?"

"Because I have been tempted myself and have better self-control, so that's saying something about you," Jessica told her. "I'm just looking out for you. Now, let's catch up with the others before it begins."

The pair left the room behind and made their way down a corridor with SHIELD agents lining it to ensure nothing or no one snuck past, whether it was some opportunistic reporter looking to expose their identities for renown or a wannabe villain. Coming to an open door, they found Daisy Johnson waiting against the wall properly with her arms crossed. Giving them both a curt nod, she let them pass to join the others lined up on the stage behind a velvet curtain from which they could hear the murmuring form the audience on the other side.

Lana stood between Johnny Storm and Miles, with Jessica next to Johnny on the end. Tandy and Tyrone were after Miles, completing the line-up. With all of them assembled, the go ahead was given to Steve Rogers—Captain America, who was on the other side of the curtain, and he began as the lights went off and a spot light shone on him and his podium.

"Most of you must be curious as to why we're doing this," he started out with. "You're wondering why we are establishing a unit of youths and officially sanctioning them. A few of you have even citied them as child soldiers in the making. To be honest, such concerns had crossed my compatriots and my own mine many times."

The admission caused some light murmuring within the assembled crowd. That had been a big issue, as predicted. Especially when you consider Miles was actually on the battlefield and caught on camera doing some impressive heroics. But he was clearly young and that was really no place for children to be at the time.

Clearing his throat, he said, "That fracturing of our great nation called for desperate times and desperate measures, and many youths were forced onto battlefields. While we will work together to ensure that such a case as that never occurs again, I assure you they are not soldiers. Instead, our reason for this unit was to answer the question of what should be done with youths such as them…the only fault there was is the fact that it took us this long, and at a great cost, to realize such a simple thing.

"Young men and women have been fighting the good fight well before we became involved," he continued. "There have been mistakes made, misunderstanding left as they were, discriminations against those who were born as they were, and bad decisions that had left some astray. To that end we hold some blame for not addressing the issues sooner by accepting them and helping them. Instead we tried discouraging them; saying they weren't old enough, or experienced enough, or that they would be punished for using their powers and vigilantism.

"But they continued to act on their own, unable to ignore the desire to aid and stand up for those in need of their assistance when we couldn't be there. They acted without concern for the bickering of politics or any ulterior motives. In short, they were acting as heroes should have been. What were we supposed to do, lock them in a cell for carrying out justice and making the streets safe?"

To that there was no answer. Punishing them for doing the right thing was not only counterproductive, but it caused more harm than good. It was more likely to push those who they spurred into villainy.

"But at the same time, leaving them as they were left them improperly trained and unsuitable for the tasks they set out to do," he stated. "With no choice but to learn through experience, they continuously risked their lives with little to no support, made to scrape by through their teeth with enemies on all sides and allies few and far between. It was a miracle that the few who survived continued to do the right thing when it would be so much simpler to just throw their masks away and try to live a normal life rather than suffer the difficulties of the life of a hero…and then one of the brightest, noblest, and greatest heroes of their age was cut down before his time while defending those he loved, because when he needed support the most, we weren't there…"

The guilt in that statement was palpable coming from the Sentinel of Liberty. His gloved fingers tightened around the wood of the podium that it began to splinter as he uttered two words that resounded throughout the auditorium. "Never. Again."

And that was the crux of the matter. If they couldn't stop them, they would give them the support they needed so that whatever challenge they met it would not be alone. Their knowledge, their guidance, their resources, they would have it all so that they could live and thrive.

"Ladies and Gentlemen gathered here today, we are approaching a new age," he stated, the weight of his resolution evident and heavy. "The impending Heroic Age is upon us, and these young heroes will be the first heroes of this new age."

On some unseen signal, six spotlights shone on the curtain that slowly split apart to reveal the six young men and women standing in their full gear with their arms behind their backs and their posture rigid. Throwing his arms out so that they spread and showcased the six behind him, Captain America made his finest declaration as he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, THEY ARE THE VANGUARDS OF THE HEROIC AGE!"

The declaration was met with silence at first, only to be usurped with thunderous applause as the wheels in the background of the world began to turn.

Let the new age begin.


End Note:

I was tempted to call Scorpion Ben Reilly, but there was already one named in the comic that was responsible for the creation of the clones with Otto.

So, anyway, that's the opening arc for the series and I hope you enjoyed it. I can't wait for the new series coming out of Cataclysm, which hopefully won't be too bad. I'll get to writing the next part once I play catch up on some other fics and stuff.

Until then, Later.