Howdy, all. I know it's been a while since this was updated, but hey, Happy Thanksgiving! I had gotten this chapter back from my editor, Observanc3, but I had hoped to rearrange how this chapter and the next chapter were laid out. I'm afraid the sense of timing and how some things are going on at the same time doesn't quite flow as well as I wanted them to. But that hasn't happened, so here it is as it was originally. I hope you all enjoy this!

Chapter 53: Invasion: First Strikes

While Harry had been attempting to question Loki, before ultimately deciding to get on with it and release the soul of the twisted god's wife to do what she would with him, the invasion of the Earth progressed quickly. The number of dimensional doorways was not ideal in terms of pushing through the majority of the Chitauri forces all at once, but, the Chitauri were still old hands at their preferred method of conquest, and the Black Order members were extremely adaptable as well.

Thanos himself planned to wait until the second wave before going through. This was not because he didn't wish to be involved, nor was it a sign of the Mad Titan's ego. Rather, it was a strategic decision decided instantly as the six dimensional gates opened around the monstrous, gas giant-sized, artificial planet that was the Chitauri's homeworld. "I will remain here, where I can most easily move to counter the one called Potter… or assault the Phoenix Force's Avatar," Thanos explained to his followers, a small smile tugging at his purple visage for a moment as he envisioned the painful deaths of both the one who had wounded him so severely and the servant of that which was the opposite of his Lady.

Behind Thanos, a viewing port over three hundred feet wide looked out over the Chitauri mobilization. The writhing mass of soldiers was rapidly organizing into six armies, The race's own military officers, to a one experienced with planetary assaults, were more than up to the task of taking command for the initial movement through the gates. "Remember, slaughter all who stand or cower before you, but the Avatar is mine. I must be the one to end it, the one to kill that which has been imbued with the opposite Force of My Lady Death."

As one, Gamora, Nebula and the rest of the Black Order knelt, bowing their heads, and Thanos raised a hand. The gesture was half-benediction, half gesture of dismissal. "GO! Cleanse this world in my name and for the glory of Death!"

Without pause, all but Black Dwarf—who was more enforcer than general—left quickly, making for the functioning teleportation areas. Left behind, Black Dwarf would teleport to join the Skrull Fleet, ostensibly to ensure that Len'Dok had a super powered individual to set against any such sent out to fight them. More importantly, he would insure the Skrull did not suddenly lose their courage.

And so it was that the telepath Ebony came through the main teleportation window. He was one of the best generals among the Black Order, however, unlike the others, his powers and abilities leaned to the defensive just as much as offensive actions. While Gamora or Proxima Midnight were warriors with few equals, only Ebony Maw could keep an area as well defended as he could subjugate it.

Now, as Ebony and the Wrecking Crew watched, the gash in the sky leading into the void between dimensions slowly expanded, and from the blackness came several hundred large metallic… creatures. Even from a distance they were clearly an amalgamation of flesh and metal, it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended. They looked like a type of piscine for the most part, although many appeared more eel-like in nature, having far longer bodies than their fellows. Each had their joints covered by iron plates that shifted and moved organically like scales on a fish and, regardless of size, there were six cannons embedded into their sides almost like the broadsides of a warship.

"…What are we looking at here?" Bulldozer asked, frowning in puzzlement. While obviously huge from their discernable size even from such a distance, the fish-metal-creature things looked more like aerial tanks rather than jetfighters.

His confusion was only increased as seconds later, hundreds of open-air hover vehicles flew out of the breach and began to circle the larger creatures. Each of these vehicles held a group of three aliens riders, two manning guns of some kind, which were set to the sides of a central raised area on pintle mounts, while the third 'drove.' As the various trios flew closer to ground level, an energy field of some kind flickered into existence around each flying vehicle.

Which probably means it will take a lot of firepower to knock down, cause I don't think those things have the range of missiles or rockets, Bulldozer thought to himself, scratching at his chin. They might look faster than jetfighters, but if they don't have the range… Regardless of the string of decisions that had led him to this point, he'd been a marine at one point and understood modern warfare and weaponry far better than the others who didn't care about weapons and vehicles unless they were somehow dangerous to them.

"You see before you the Army of the Displaced, the Chitauri. They are the foot soldiers of my Lord Thanos. Centuries ago, they reached the extremely logical conclusion that my Lord is a god as a species, and now worship him as he deserves to be; the final arbiter of life and death," Ebony answered, his tone making the statement seem mundane despite it's content. "You see before you our armored fist. Tremble, and be grateful that you have chosen the correct side."

The three surviving Wrecking Crew members could only nod, watching as from behind the first echelon of Chitauri came what looked like a pair of pyramids. That is, until they rotated slightly, revealing that they were not in fact pyramids, but pyramidal structures stuck to a floating sphere. As the sphere and pyramid attachments floated through the portal, the structure emitted some sort of diffuse yellow energy beam down into the ground. The beam didn't seem to do anything at first, and all three humans wondered if perhaps it was some sort of scanner.

Moments later, the strange thing touched down, and instantly, thousands of mechanical arms grew from the sides of the pyramid, each and every one reaching down. Soon the sides of the triangle opened, and out from the blackness inside came several conveyor belts of enormous size that dug down into the ground. Metallic saws the size of houses, and hundreds of other tools beside, appeared from the structure, stabbing into the ground or moving into positions all around the initial landing area. It appeared to be setting up what looked like some kind of construction site, although for what reason none of the earthers could tell immediately.

Meanwhile, different looking skimmers were now touching down, hundreds of them, each carrying large, truck-sized balls of metal, on top of which eight twin-barreled guns could be seen, sticking out of the balls back in a row. As each skimmer touched down, the metal balls started to move, revealing themselves to actually be some sort of creature with longish snouts and large mandibles, at the front, looking for all the world like cyborg stink beetle perhaps. The bugs instantly went to work digging into the ground all around the main portal, seeming not to care a bit whether they dug through dirt or stone. Soon enough, only the eight guns of each bug themselves could be seen, twisting independently as they aimed up into the sky.

"Anti-air guns. Out here, with the mountains to move through, air's the only area you're possibly vulnerable," Bulldozer muttered, his military training letting him realize what was happening.

With a wordless sneer, Ebony Maw gestured for the Wrecking Crew to step onto a series of skimmers that had just touched down in front of the trio. Each came complete with a driver, but instead of the established two gunners, there was space at the back for each of Wrecking Crew. "For now, I am to serve as commander here. You will assist me. Soon, still more portals will be activated nearby, expanding this landing zone outward by increasing orders of magnitude. As that occurs, still more of the Chitauri will come through, and once enough have gathered, we will begin offensive operations from this point."

Wrecker nodded, smiling faintly to himself. Seeing all this and knowing it was just the beginning, Wrecker felt like they really were going to be on the winning side of this. After the past few weeks, and Piledriver's death, it was a good feeling to have. And all this is without even meeting this Thanos guy. Who knows how powerful he must be if he was able to force this guy and Loki into following him? Even the Custodes won't be able to fight whole armies and superpowered opponents at the same time.

"So after all of that, you're just using this portal as your incursion point?" Thunderball demanded, still somewhat confused and very angry at how Ebony had cowed them before. "What was all the effort of setting up other portals for then?!"

"Oh no," Ebony chuckled condescendingly, a supercilious smirk twisting onto his face for a moment. "Make no mistake, we are using those as well." His following laugh was perhaps the least humorous sound that any of Wrecking Crew had ever heard.

But all of them knew by this point that the die was well and truly cast. The new overlords of the world would take over, and the three of them would live like kings above whatever remained. Or the invasion would be thwarted, and the Wrecking Crew would be remembered as the ultimate quislings, traitors to their entire race rather than merely a single nation. It was literally all or nothing for the three of them, and they knew it.


True to Ebony Maw's words, the other portals that the Wrecking Crew had set up were being used as well. Far from each other, but with disturbing synchronicity, bolts of lightning strikes launched through each just as the main gate was opened. Though singularly commanded by Thanos' Black Order, the groups who emerged from the portals all had slight differences, although that hardly mattered to the civilians of the cities in which the portals had been set up.

And although the placement of the other five portal beacons was somewhat random, that didn't mean their locations were without any merit. For example, the beacon in Paris allowed the Chitauri to target not only a huge civilian population numbering in the millions, but also the capital of a country all in one.

Nebula, the one in charge of this invasion route, was uncaring of this fact at first. It hardly mattered to her if her portal dropped her in a hamlet or a royal palace, the end result would always be the same. As she flew out of her portal, the blue-skinned cyborg shrieked at the top of her metallic lungs, "KILL them all, slaughter the humans in the name of Lord Thanos!"

At her command, her contingent of Rippers, the massive flying beast-like cyborgs that had been noted by Bulldozer, dove down into the city. Immediately, innumerable screams rose into a cacophony, the normal background noise of a big city dying as the beasts crashed into buildings in mass, smashing them to rubble and killing hundreds of civilians in a matter of seconds. Then they began to fire, firing plasma bolts the guns on their sides while larger beams blasted out from the maws of the Rippers. Fire spread quickly as civilians were gunned down, cars exploded, and carnage raged.

Above the bloodshed, Nebula smiled, finding her work done so far as good.

Yet even as the first group through the portal began the culling, Nebula knew that she had quite a large task ahead of her. She, of all of the Black Order, knew the price of failing the Mad Titan. I will not fail! Not here! Not again! Activating one of the features from a past… gift… from her Lord, she snarled as information began to flash across her eyes, pulled from the local communications structure.

As fast as thought, the blue-skinned cyborg disseminated the information thus far gleaned. Blinking as her organic neurons caught up to her superior artificial ones, Nebula now understood that she had arrived in a city called Paris, which was in a country called France.

The knowledge the invaders had gathered on the humans through captured radio signals and chasing down old light to discern what had occurred in the various space battles fought in Sol. From the radio signals they had discovered that this species was still divided into different nations, which would each individually attempt to fight off the invasion if given the opportunity. If possible, it would be best to quell that kind of thing quickly, as Lord Thanos would no doubt grow displeased if there were any delays in his plans caused by uppity insurgents. And just Nebula's luck, according to her own analysis, this nation called France appeared to have one of the larger, most professional armies on the little rock of a planet. Perhaps it might not even be a complete pushover?

Strangely, many humans didn't seem to think so highly of this France, from what she was seeing on the communications network, at least. There was an odd, illogical dysfunction in many of their beliefs regarding the country that Nebula didn't quite understand, but in all honesty she didn't need to in order to achieve her objectives. And truthfully, this positioning put her closer to the island nation called Great Britain than any of her fellows; glory ripe for the taking. Their data mining had previously discovered that the island nation had been one of the first allies of the most dangerous of the humans, Harry Potter, and his faction of superpowered individuals.

Nebula hastily sent a signal back through the portal, demanding additional troops and the Super Skrull. This particular Skrull had mastered his race's shape shifting ability to such a degree that it could mimic the aspects of the Fantastic Four, which made him extremely useful in situations such as this.

As she awaited for her orders to be carried out, Nebula dove down to join the slaughter, a wide, mad grin stretching across her face. She gunned down any of the pestilent humans she could see, of which she was quite spoiled for choice. I must show my Father that I am eager for this work, I must!

Swinging her power staff about, bolts of plasma flashed out to strike a few fleeing humans even as she physically stepped forward and smashed several more with the ends of her weapon in quick succession. So powerful were the blows that the humans she struck, a middle-aged male, a young female, and a child, just came apart, blood and viscera flying everywhere.

Astonishingly, upon seeing the young female being culled, a young male screamed and charged forward, attempting to grapple with her of all things. The foolish human died to a single punch, but it amused her nonetheless.

And that male would not the last to charge headlong into death. Three others soon followed his example, shouting in their native tongue as they came at her. Two grabbed up larger pieces of debris to use as weapons while a third hurled bricks at her. A fourth, part of a martial force perhaps, fired at her with a small kinetic projectile gun that fit into his hand.

Nebula caught the brick with ease, crushing it while laughing in glee as the bullets bounced off of her, ricocheting and killing two other humans that had been trying to flee. Quickly getting over her bout of humor, Nebula then launched herself forward, slaying the pair closing with her before firing at the other two, killing them with precise shots from her power staff. "Fools! No matter how many of you come at me, it matters not. The cleansing is here!"

Within a minute, the brave amongst the immediate crowd of Parisians surrounding Nebula were slain, along with dozens of others. Far from satisfied, , she took to stalking through the streets next, slaying any unfortunate soul she came across while around her the Chitauri did the , more and more of the Chitauri came through the portal, spreading out quickly as they received orders.

Download complete. Military data analysis commencing… complete. Actionable summaries will now be displayed. Grimacing at the sudden internal intrusion from the computer part of her brain, Nebula turned away from her task, taking to the air once more via her skimmer. As she gained altitude, she glanced down at the now burning city, staring at one of the Rippers as it smashed into and through some strange arch-like structure that had sat in the center of a transportation hub. All around, she could see evidence of hundreds of the military units within the city had gathered and summarily slaughtered. I commend their speedy response if nothing else, but not their common sense.

Shaking that errant thought away, Nebula turned her mind to the data packets her hacking software had automatically pulled from the native communication network.

Just then, the Skrull super soldier appeared. Pausing her data debrief, Nebula moved over to the soldier's skimmer, which could move faster in a straight line than the Skrull—whose name she hadn't bothered to learn—could move on his own. Wireless connecting to the skimmer's onboard computer, she downloaded the information her had discerned into it. "Take a force to this base, then move towards the nearest ocean. The next base you'll hit is naval in nature, destroy the ships there."

The Skrull Super-soldier slammed a fist into his chest in salute and raced off, immediately being followed by more than a hundred basic skimmers. With him gone, Nebula turned over control of the forces within the city to one of the Chitauri officers, ordering the Chitauri to continue the slaughter. "Kill them. Kill them all and protect the portal. Send the skimmers out to counter any response forces that crop up and use the Rippers to destroy the city. I will engage the nearest military base myself, but no doubt others will begin responding soon."

The Chitauri bowed obsequiously, and Nebula gathered her own strike force of several hundred skimmers, racing away from the city.

However, even as she flew away from the besieged city of Paris, Nebula happened to spot something in the distance. Using her enhanced vision… courtesy… of her Lord Father, she just caught a glint of metal as something crested over the horizon. Half a second later, she realized it was rockets she was seeing, flashing towards her and the skimmers escorting her. "Evade!"

But she was too late.

In an instant, four skimmers exploded, their shields unable to take more than two of the human missiles. Nebula's instinctual dodge barely saved her from one that instead shot right over her head. Unfortunately, that maneuver placed her right in the path of a second, which exploded against her skimmer's shields, collapsing them in a flare of actinic energy. "Evade! Evade! Spread out and close! Use your Over Drives you useless fucking bugs!"

The missiles, which had come from now visible jetfighters, gave the humans a very nasty edge in range, but at Nebula's command, the Skimmer's Over Drive activated and they collectively shot forward, instantly hitting Mach 3. The pilots of the French jets were stunned, one of them even spiraling into the ground after being sent out of control by one of the skimmers passing it too closely. Others reacted better, evading the initial charge, but Nebula and the Chitauri soon opened fire on them with their energy-based weaponry at close range, and the French Mirage 2000s had no shielding like the invaders did.

After a bloody scramble, the last surviving jet fighter rocketed away at a steep angle, and Nebula scowled furiously. Calling her troops back to her and radioing back to the Super Skrull. "Triple the size of your forces and add a Ripper to each. The fucking humans are reacting far too damn fast, and while their weapons are primitive, they can still pack a punch. I will continue on. I will make these fools pay for even having the temerity to believe they have a chance against us!"


In the Russian city of Severomorsk, the invasion's forces were led by Black Order member named Proxima Midnight. She was a blue-skinned alien, one who wore extremely skintight clothing of mostly black, with a white area over her chest with golden highlights, over an equally extremely svelte body. She also wore a helmet with something that looked like horns, or perhaps a strange plumage, curving upwards from its forehead.

But perhaps Proxima's most striking feature was her eyes, which glowed an eerie white. At a glance they appeared somewhat like Storm's whenever she used her mutant powers. But upon closer inspection, unlike the queenly heroine, whose eyes were always emotional even when she used her powers in battle, Proxima's eyes were simply… blank white. There were no windows to the soul to be found in those glowing orbs. There was instead… nothing; not Nebula's psychopathic joy in destruction, not Thanos' elation in death, not even a simple delight in exercising her own power. If eyes truly showed the soul of the being behind them, then Proxima Midnight's soul came from the Abyss itself.

Proxima had not been involved in the war against the Brood. She, along with her husband Corvus Glaive, were amongst the most intelligent members of the Black Order, as well as the most dangerous physically, and had thus been kept in reserve by their Lord as he burned the infection from his new Empire. That was often how it happened, one or the other managing things if their Lord were ever away. Thanos trusted them to act without his direction in as intelligent and ruthless a manner as was needed.

Whereas Nebula became personally involved with the death and destruction she wrought upon the city of Paris, Proxima was more controlled, something that began with the mix of troops she'd chosen to bring in first. Only four large Rippers for her first wave, which she'd then sent not into the city itself, but out to destroy the shipyards and the remnants of the Russian's Northern fleet, such as it was. They would then return to the city and aid the following waves. Since the city she found herself in was, according to the data networks of the natives and the severe nature of the battle below, the center of this country's local military command, it made sense to Proxima that the insects who existed here would be desperate to retain control of it. Her positioning would allow the Chitauri to take the defensive for a time instead of expend resources hunting down more vermin.

To that end, Proxima quickly brought in thousands upon thousands of skimmers of all types and makes, including the Chitauri's version of large hover-trucks and anti-air units. The hover-trucks were far slower than their smaller brethren, obviously, but they could carry quite a lot of material in return. And so, while some infantry squads descended into the streets of Severomorsk, others began to emplace anti-air artillery around their position. Those civilians who didn't fight back would make for hostages to keep the humans from using weapons of mass destruction, or even fight back at all within the city. Later waves would focus further on anti-air units.

All of this Proxima had already set up with the Chitauri officers, and thus could leave them to handle, for there was one way she and Nebula were alike; they both enjoyed getting their hands dirty. Now, even as a third wave of giant flying creatures appeared through the dimensional rift, Proxima led out nearly half of her available skimmers in a single assault force. They would head to and destroy the nearest military bases beyond the city limits while the remaining infantry on hand would enter the country's underground cave system, the existence of which Lord Thanos and the others only knew very little about thanks to the human's radio signals.

The fighting underground there would no doubt be particularly violent, but neither Proxima nor the Chitauri cared. This was a holy crusade to the Army of the Displaced, a religious act devoted to Lord Thanos—no price was too high to pay. And as for Proxima?

I will build a mountain of human skulls for my Lord Thanos. And while my troops do so en-masse, I will contribute the old-fashioned way, one slaughtered weakling at a time, Proxima thought coldly as she led her forces forward.


While Russia had been gravely battered and depleted by the Eurasian War, that didn't mean that it was entirely without protectors. As Proxima Midnight led her forces out from Severomorsk, those remaining defenders were rallying, and quickly.

It might've been true that they hadn't been able to put as many of their forces on alert as France or America had, what Russia did have was an already established industrial base hidden in the underground tunnels built during the buildup to the previous war. And not one, but two preexisting powered armor programs: the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man suits.

Neither were as easy to fabricate as the ODM suits, or as powerful as Tony Stark's Iron Man suit. Nor could they be uniquely suited for individual wearer as the suits that Carol and Wyatt, or Uzume and Coyote, used. Yet even now, the Russians could still make them, even if doing so went against agreements made with other powers after the Eurasian War. In fact, several suits of each had still been commissioned after the war, a fact that would surprise no one. After all, when had Russia ever kept to any agreement it wasn't forced to at gun point?

So it was that two Titanium Men and four Crimson Dynamos were soon flying through the air toward the invaders. As they closed, the radar that had been keeping track of the aliens pushing out from Severomorsk abruptly ceased to return any readings. "I am no longer getting any return from my radar," The leader of the squad, callsign Rasputin, stated. "Are any of you?"

"Negative," came the response from the others, and Rasputin cursed. "Is it something portable, or something to do with this strange portal specifically? Spread out, break sunward, begin basic recon."

"Should we send for mundane reinforcements?" Asked one of the Titanium Men. "If we're being ordered to reclaim a whole city we need more boots on the ground. Even with their upgrades our suits can't be in more than one place at a time."

"Reports from the Northern Joint Strategic Command have stated that enemy troops had been spotted leaving Severomorsk via their own flight units, some sort of odd hover-type devices. Those are our primary targets right now. After we destroy them, we'll spearhead a force to retake the city," Rasputin reminded everyone. "Until then, any unpowered would only dead weight."

The airwaves fell silent for a moment before one of the Crimson Dynamo's, callsign New-boy (he'd wanted it to be Lenin, but that had been vetoed most harshly by his more senior fellows. He was lucky not to be called Chernozopi or FNG) spoke. "Do you think it's the Potter? Has he finally begun his conquest of the world as we have feared?"

"Nyet, and you need to stop taking that magazine tripe you like to read as real news," The second Titanium Man, callsign Wall, growled out. "Why would the Potter need military force to take over the world? His politics and economic strongarming are doing that for his new Empire all too well already."

"Then it is aliens," murmured another member of their six-man team, callsign Sonja, for she was the only woman in the Armored Arms Corps. "Another group of aliens have decided Mother Russia makes for good target."

"Hmph. We will know when we—" Rasputin began, only to be interrupted.

"Contact! Contact, numerous small craft visible in the distance, eight o'clock."

All six of the power armor troopers turned their heads to the indicated direction, staring towards the contact the last member of the Dynamos, callsign Spinner, was frantically pointing toward.

Flying out from Severomorsk on strange floating disks were entities that were clearly alien in nature. Each disk had two gunners to the back on either side, with a pilot at the front. They were moving quite fast as well, perhaps just above Mach one, despite not appearing at all aerodynamic or even having any defense against the friction of wind pressure.

"Crimson Dynamos, I want us to get some altitude. Titanium Men, get their attention. Draw them further to the ground. Fall back slowly, if possible, to allied forces." There weren't many of those left, but some tank and infantry divisions were still out there, and all of them had anti-air capability. They'd better, as rebuilding its anti-air might had been a high priority for Russia after the Eurasian War, least any opportunistic neighbors get any ideas.

With that, the six-man team broke apart along its natural divisions. The Titanium Men dove down, leveling out closer to the ground and pushing their speed forward while the Crimson Dynamo's flew straight upward, gaining as much altitude as they could. Power suit or plane, height was life in a dogfight.

Moments later, the two Titanium Men engaged. First, from over their shoulders they pulled out large rotary cannons that looked as if they'd been cannibalized from some sort of anti-air gun from the Soviet Era. The rounds they fired were large, and not very quick, but had extremely good range.

Opening fire, they immediately downed two of the alien hovercrafts, causing energy shields to flare up around several others as they slowed down. The only exception was a blue alien woman, her form distinct from the rest of the invaders. She instead dove through the lines of fire, as if she barely felt them, as she sped towards the Russians so quickly that they had trouble adjusting their aim.

"Keep firing, I'll take her on," Wall growled out, dumping his shoulder cannon and switching to his suit's inbuilt energy guns. Without pause, he began blasting at the incoming woman.

But once more the alien woman ignored his fire as if it was nothing, and a moment later her fist crashed into Wall's hastily raised arm. The blow hurled the Titanium Man down towards the ground, where he rolled upon impact and burst back skyward, thrusters firing at full power. Snarling as he fired again, Wall charged the alien bitch while also releasing newly designed constrictive force rings to try and incapacitate her.

Snarling herself, the alien woman snatched up a thin, ovoid object from her waist, which enlarged into a spear once activated. The spear's wicked edge barely formed before it cut through the constrictive ring, the solid-state energy falling away in a screech of sparks. Whirling under Wall's punch she countered smoothly and he barely managed to block a blow that would have taken him in the chest. He still suffered from the force of the attack though.

As his partner continued to fire at the incoming aliens above the alien woman, Wall once more found himself hurled off his feet, his armor's arm dented badly and his real arm throbbing in pain despite its metal shell and inner padding. Then, his eyes widened and he roared, "Bunker, watch out!"

The warning came too late. The end of the woman's spear glowed, and a blast of blue-green energy spat out of it, cutting through the air and one of Bunker's legs just above the thigh as if a laser had hit a chunk of butter. The other Titanium Man's armor had been absolutely no defense against the superheated energy beam of the enemy, something that appalled Wall almost as much as watching his friend be maimed in such a way.

"ARGGHHHhhh!" Bunker screamed, falling out of the sky to crash to the ground. The pain of his sudden wound had knocked him unconscious for a few seconds, but then, upon crashing to the earth, he'd woken right back up and found he was in no better of a position.

At that point, the Crimson Dynamos finally arrived from above, four avenging angels dyed in red. Diving down into the aliens from above, they scattered the group, knocking more than half out of the sky at the same time.

"Attack that cunt from long-range, she has super strength and insane durability!" Wall bellowed. "The bitch got Bunker!"

Seeing this, Rasputin ordered his fellows to fire their smoke rockets. Once the battlefield had been covered in the smoke screen, he dashed forward and down, grabbing up their injured fellow. "Just how durable is she?"

"She barely noticed my cannons or the energy guns," Wall snarled back. "And her hits dented my fucking arm!"

Cursing, Rasputin could only watch as beams of energy blasted out from the woman. She was seemingly firing blindly from within the smokescreen, but even so nearly clipped Sonja and New Boy more than once. "Damn it! Retreat. We will need to work wi—"

That was as far as he was able to get before the alien woman appeared in front of him, having been drawn by the sound of his voice. Crossing the distance between where she had been and Rasputin was within an instant, the Crimson Dynamo's armor proved no defense as her spear stabbed straight through his chest. "GUUUGGQ!"

Desperately, Rasputin reached out, but the woman was already pulling her weapon back, and the shaft of the spear was too long for him to reach her. He fell out of the sky, watching as his life's blood dripped out of the gaping hole in his chest as the woman turned on his fellows. "R-Run…" he rasped. "Run…"

They didn't. They didn't get the chance.

Moments later, Proxima Midnight pulled her spear from the head of the man whose leg she'd bisected near the start of the skirmish, her lips twitching in some faint mockery of amusement. "All armor, no substance these fools. Onward! We have billions more dead to see to for our Lord Thanos!"


Perhaps the most insidious member of Thanos' Black Order was a alien name Supergiant, who was, oddly enough, also a blue-skinned alien woman. When compared to Nebula or Proxima, Supergiant's features were slightly more robotic looking than even her associate Nebula. As with Proxima, she too hadn't been a part of the military side of the campaign against the Brood but had instead been very busy behind the scenes as her phrenovore power served best in that sphere.

A human might well have thought of Nebula or Ebony Maw as a comrade in arms, or an acquaintance purely based on the fact they were both in the Black Order. That couldn't be further from the truth. Such terms had no place amongst such a group, beyond the inexplicable relationship between Proxima and Corvus. Those two were an exception to the rule. The rest of them competed against one another in hopes of proving themselves more to their Lord Thanos in any way they could, with backstabbing, sabotage and hatred towards one another being the norm.

Yet despite that overwhelming need to impress their Lord, the first few minutes of Supergiant's campaign against the country dubbed China would definitely not have pleased Thanos if he'd been watching her particular portal. And while she would never dream of making excuses before her Lord, it wouldn't have entirely been her fault. Because instead of opening within a city like the others had, the portal in China instead opened over the nearest army base to the city on Hangzhou. A military base that belonged to the 28th Attack Division.

On top of that misfortune, although they might have responded to any intelligence about a possible alien invasion passed on to them from the Avalon Empire with derision, China had not relaxed the military forces that had been put on alert from the recent battle with the Wrecking Crew. This meant constant drills, and lots of trigger-happy anti-air units prepped around any and all military bases.

"FIRREEE!" came the shouts of many an officer and noncom, and in response Type-63 anti-aircraft guns opened up into the air the instant the portal tore into existence there. These ugly, blocky, self-propelled guns fired flak into the air from two barrels, with around four companies worth of quick reaction forces responding as quick as their name suggested. The Type-63s were soon joined by the base's own larger, immobile anti-aircraft arsenal. This was an eclectic group, composed of simple flak cannons a few decades out of date and a series of weapons designed by the Prime Minister himself.

For anti-air defense the Mandarin had developed two different systems and then evenly distributed them in groups of four squads each to various important military bases across China. Since the army base currently in question served as a backup to the nearby naval base at Ningbo and protected the city of Hangzhou itself, it was one such base.

One of the systems was based on kinetic missile technology. The Dragon's Fangs were small, truck-portable missile launchers with twenty missile tubes each. One out of every six missiles would lock onto the assigned target, meanwhile the others would either follow the first's signal or explode at precisely the same distance the initial missile would reach only spread out in a sphere around them. The gunner made the decision of which setting was necessary.

Here, the local officers inevitably lost some control, as individual gunners had to hastily make these decisions for themselves in the moment. This meant that there were dozens of of the invading alien force's aerial units that were struck all at once by several missiles and smashed out of the sky immediately… and others that were merely scattered as other missiles exploded in midair, doing little real damage.

The second weapons system developed by the man once called the Mandarin was the Sparkling Spear. Say what you would about his past, and few Chinese who even knew about it would willingly say anything at all, but the Prime Minister did have a flare for nomenclature.

The Sparkling Spear was essentially a lightning gun. What it would do is fire a net of highly negatively charged particles into the air before ratcheting itself up with an equally high positive charge. The result was a bolt of man-made lightning, more or less. More anti-rocket defense than offensive weapon, the range of this new weapon had proven to be quite a bit higher than anticipated, and now it came into play, striking out and weakening the shields of hundreds of Chitauri skimmers if not altogether causing power overloads and explosions.

Riding her own skimmer, Supergiant hadn't been amongst the first groups of Chitauri through the portal. Instead, she'd planned on leading from the rear, as she felt that was the correct position for a leader. That being said, even from where she was Supergiant was able to see the carnage being caused in the air through the dimensional portal. Enraged, she snarled out orders. "Let me through! Cover me as I enter, these insects cannot be allowed to bring up any more anti-air guns!"

On the other side of the portal, reports were rapidly being sent out from the besieged base to the rest of China's military command, and jets were slowly getting airborne. Even so, enough of the skimmers were getting through the hectic defense by the anti-air units to hit other jets as they tried to take off. And neither the jets nor the attack helicopters, or even the tanks and anti-air guns had energy shields like the invaders did. Inevitably, humans began to die, their fire slowly being suppressed. But elsewhere in China, jetfighters and ballistic missiles were activated and fired towards the defenders.

One such missile arrived on the battlefield just as Supergiant was exiting the portal. In a moment of complete luck for the Chitauri, the otherwise massive payload simply passed between their ranks and kept on going until it phased through the void between dimensions, where it was easily dodged by the remaining forces arrayed around the portal.

In contrast, the arriving jets instantly began to have an impact. One of the few Rippers that Supergiant had deigned to add to her forces which had gotten out of the portal died as she watched, perishing in a ball of explosive fire as six or more missiles hit it one after another.

Though now dead, the Ripper had still managed to wipe out several of the anti-air units while slagging numerous buildings across the base. But worse for the defenders than that was that Supergiant had also gotten through the portal by this time. On her lone skimmer, the blue alien woman dove steeply, getting below the Chinese defensive envelope. There, she raised her hands with a growl, thrust them out, and sent forth her telepathic powers.

Now normally, Supergiant preferred to use her unique form of telepathy as it was meant to be used: on only one mind at a time. Such precision allowed her to utilize it as nature had intended, as a parasitic mental invasion. With it, Supergiant could find the most intelligent or driven minds among her enemies and literally eat them, absorbing everything within her meal's memories. Such indulgence left her victims as empty husks, but that was fine, she could then control them like puppets to do her bidding.

But Lord Thanos was not only a master of mechanical engineering but biotics and genetics. Over time and agonies untold, he had forced Supergiant's powers to evolve to the point that Supergiant could use a more regular form of telepathy as well, if in a far blunter manner than a true telepath. This she did now, reaching out to the minds of the insects around her with a simple command of "STOP FIGHTING!"

The mental command blasted out from the blue-skinned alien woman, erupting like an invisible bubble more than twenty miles in diameter. She even caught a few of the jetfighters.

Instantly, fighting from both sides inside her sphere of influence stopped even as more Chitauri came through above them. Seeing no active violence, the soldiers refrained from automatically attacking the Chinese on sight. Such actions would have broken Supergiant's telepathic control.

With the battle thus paused, Supergiant sent out two more commands. They were simple ones, but the strength of her will alone still overrode that of the Chinese soldiers she had caught. "Attack any humans you see beyond those with you now! Do not attack those nonhuman among you!"

Yet even as this occurred, jetfighters from outside Supergiant's range of influence fired their missiles. One such pilot was a man named Wen Shiang, who'd just seen his wing mate Bo Zhao, who'd flown ahead, halt his fire for no reason. One moment, they'd been exchanging radio calls, and Zhao had just shouted "SPLASH!" before falling silent. As he watched, Zhao began to turn his plane around, making to come back towards him. "Cobra 5, what is your status?"

There was no response and Wen hastily pulled up, flying above his comrade as maneuvered to intercept him. Anticipating that perhaps his friend had seen something coming up behind them, Wen turned to look over his shoulder but saw nothing. Instead, Cobra 5 shot between the pair of Cobra 7 and 8, who'd been behind them, and then Wen stared in shocked horror as in short order Cobra 5's missiles locked on and then shot out from under his wings towards Cobras 9 and 10.

Neither of them had a chance to evade, and 9 exploded. Immediately after, 5 moved to follow 10, coming up behind him. 10 followed after his wingman in death quickly.

Before Wen could comprehend what was going on, Cobras 1, 2, 3, and even 4 all followed suit, turning back on the rest of the ready squadron of the 71st Air Defense Brigade. For a moment, all Wen could do was duck and dodge; darting down toward the ground, going nape-of-the-earth before pulling the control stick of his J-10A back hard, zooming up through the combat of his friends turning on one another. Just as sharply, he hastily twisted down and back toward the ground again, desperately trying to throw off anyone who might've been tryting to lock onto him. What, what just happe—it must have been some sort of mental domination. My friends were loyal and would never turn traitor! I must call this in, the Party must be warned!

Unfortunately, before Wen could do so, fire from the enemies he'd actually been there to fight caught him. Having left the rest of the human-on-human skirmishing behind, his plane was easy pickings for the Chitauri skimmers who had flown away from the rest of the battle.

While this little drama was playing out in the air to one side of the previous battle, Supergiant stumbled, scrabbling at the controls of her skimmer and cursing herself for being too proud to acquire a driver for herself. As she steadied out, she desperately tried to concentrate through a now blinding migraine. Curse it, am I truly so weak? Even after Lord Thanos perfected me so that I could become a true telepath rather than a mere phrenavore,I still cannot sustain long-term, widespread use of my power… Nnngh… not without a source of food anyhow…

Scowling, Supergiant landed roughly, and moved into the insects' base, searching for its commander through half-closed eyes while a team of skimmers moving above her. Moments later she spotted an obviously decorated officer rushing out of a bunker along with several soldiers. Even as she watched, he was turning around, ordering his beguiled troops to ready themselves for an assault on the nearby city, his mind translated her simple, overpowered command into wholesale slaughter.

Seeing this, Supergiant decided to wait a moment, forcing herself to ignore the pain raging in her skull as missiles continued to streak through the sky towards her troops, blasting them out of the sky. But once the officer had finished giving his pointless orders, Supergiant gestured with a hand, ordering the Chitauri above her. "Kill his guards."

The Chitauri obediently fired down into the humans, none of which had previously seen them as threats thanks to her mental dominion. Now, those same soldiers all fell, causing him the officer to snap free from Supergiant's control. Naturally, he screamed out in fear as he realized where he was and that all the men around him were dead. Panicked, he rushed to the nearest shelter.

Of course, he was far too slow.

Supergiant reached him quickly, grabbing his head from behind. Desperately, the insect wrenched away, one hand going down to a small firearm at his hip. Supergiant's grip on his head was impossible to break, and she smiled thinly, smacking the pistol out of his hand with her other hand. Lifting him into the air, she turned him about so she could look into horrified and fearful eyes. "Don't worry, the pain will be over soon," she crooned, opening her mouth wider than a human ever could.

From Supergiant's mouth flowed out a black mist, enveloping the insect's head even as he began to scream. The mist entered the human's eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, the blue-skinned woman shuddering in delight, feeling the flow of the man's mind into her via the mist, the visible representation of her phrenovore powers. Unbidden, a low hum of ecstasy left Supergiant as the migraine she'd been dealing with left her.

Finishing her meal, she released the insect, leaving him to slump to the ground. While unmoving, the body may have still been technically alive, but the human who'd commanded the base was no more. Supergiant had eaten his mind, subsuming all the memories, personality, and will within. Now full, she could look upon those memories almost as if they were her own, like a series of books she could pull off a shelf and read at any time. She had all that the insect had been, had ever known; command codes, callsign cycles, passwords, everything.

"Ahhhhh…. Now, to cause some chaos!" Supergiant breathed, before communicating with the nearest Chitauri officers. A series of orders flashed out, and the invading forces instantly obeyed. The only other two rippers that Supergiant had brought with her landed inside the base's perimeter. Both of them would remain there, providing defensive fire for the portal, while the Skimmers would spread out, hugging the ground in order to avoid enemy radar.

Such a tactic obviously meant that the Chitauri would be much more visible to civilians, but, based on their collected data, it would take time for civilians, even hundreds of thousands of them, to get their warnings out to the government at large. Especially if I muddy the waters further, Supergiant purred to herself."You," She growled out, gesturing to the empty husk of the base's commanding officer. "Get up."

Without a mind of its own, Supergiant's orders acted almost like a spider's web inside a cave, stretching from wall to wall and creating the facsimile of life connecting all of the walls representing the body's functions together. But really, the cave was still there, still empty, and a spider's web was extremely fragile. Inevitably, it would eventually collapse, leaving nothing behind but ruin. But for the moment, Supergiant could give the living corpse that had once been human commands, and they would be carried out.

With Supergiant's orders driving him, the former officer reentered his command building, finding it empty. The blue-skinned woman's previous orders were still in effect, and any soldiers that would've normally stayed behind to take care of the base or the communication needs of its troops had already left, bewitched to eagerly attack their own kind elsewhere. Alone, the officer in charge of the base was dialing up a connection, quickly getting into contact with the nearby naval base.

Meanwhile, Supergiant herself traveled to that very same base as quickly as possible, also hugging the ground as best she could with a guard of five skimmers around her. Her destination, she had discovered, was called the Ningbo Naval Base. Abruptly, two of her guard were felled by enemy fire, detached units of the army out on what the officer who's brain she'd eaten called maneuvers, but Supergiant ignored this insignificant loss and swiftly moved on.

Upon arriving at Ningbo, Supergiant left her guard detail outside the gates. From there, she continued on, using her suit's cloaking technology to pass straight by the guards stationed outside and into the base proper, despite how on edge the insects were. Rumors had spread about what was going on elsewhere, but with no confirmation of it, paranoia would only set them on edge instead of into motion.

Once within, Supergiant headed straight for the central command building, eager to dine on her second human victim of the day. Like with any military, there were levels to the command structure, and certain things that lower ranked officers either didn't know about or couldn't command. After eating the mind of the insect from earlier, Supergiant knew her first victim was a more senior member of China's military than the officer commanding this base or even those leading the naval units that used it as their operational headquarters. That being said, she also knew that certain types of orders would nevertheless need to come from higher up in the chain of command. That was unless she just devoured several officers present in the naval base and use their husks for her designs.

Due largely in part to the cloaking technology built into her suit by Lord Thanos, Supergiant was able to pass through the base entirely undetected, entering the command center without even breaking a sweat. There, she found dozens of insects scuttling around, each and every one trying in vain to get a grip on what was going on further inland, while the main officer was shouting into a device her stolen knowledge recognized as a LAN-line phone in his hand.

Supergiant's mental powers allowed her to translate what she heard being said, and she had to hastily cover a fleeting giggle of all things at how angry the poor insect sounded. "I do not fucking care that you keep parroting the call signs back to me, dammit! I am asking you why—did the Chairman… You… Your base was under attack! I recognize that you are the man on the ground, but without the Chairman's orders… This and all these reports about aliens sound like a giant prank. I am not as low down the Party line as you—damn it! Why are you just repeating your orders like that? It's almost as if… almost…"

Feeling that was her cue, Supergiant stepped further into the room, lock it behind her for the moment. The sound of the lock being engaged, had several of the communication specialists turning in her direction, despite stilling being under cloak. Supergiant held up a hand, a telepathic command flowing out from her to envelop the room. "Silence and cease all movement!"

The commanding officer had just turned to see why his people were suddenly halting their work and caught sight of Supergiant as her cloaking tech faded. His mouth fell open, agape. "Ah, that makes this much easier."

With that, Supergiant opened her own mouth, breathing out. For the second time that day, her birth power reached out, enveloping the insect's head and seeping into his every orifice with ease. And once again, Supergiant shuddered in place as she devoured everything the human had ever been, delighting in the treat. Unlike her first victim, this insect had actually had something of an intelligence, although it had been severely constrained by his severe, near fanatical devotion to the rules of his Communist Party and the inner turmoil caused by the fact he'd quickly realized he could not rise higher within said Party without playing the patronage game.

Blissful as it was, Supergiant couldn't linger over her latest meal for as long as she would've liked. Instead, she finished quickly, and then, with a smile far too wide for one committing such acts, went to the next officer, then the next . They were truly insects at this point, like so many flies trapped in a spider's threads; none could move, none could cry out, and none could fight back as she definitely didn't skip around the room, eating their minds while they were fully conscious of what she was doing. Roughly thirty minutes later, her newest cadre of flesh puppets got to work, calling in the captains of various warships both still in port and at sea. And these puppets had specific callsigns to back their words.

The play Supergiant chose for her flesh puppets to perform was both simple and entirely made out of dreams. To those who heard the orders being passed on, all of the rumors and speculations boiled down to the Taiwanese having apparently released some sort of virus against China, one that made those exposed to it hallucinate and eventually go mad. Horribly, the entirety of the upper echelons of the Party had been caught by one such attack, and stills others were spreading throughout the country.

This was precisely the sort of doomsday scenario that the Chinese Communist Party fed its members. Such scenarios, once merely born of spite and paranoia, had grown even wilder since Taiwan had reached out to the Enemy, known as Harry Potter, and the magician had practically guaranteed the breakaway province's continued independence. Thus it was incredibly fertile soil that Supergiant's seeds of chaos were sown in and quite eagerly accepted as complete truth by the officers her puppets contacted.

If her estimations were correct, the Chinese navy would soon cascade into deciding on a retaliatory strike against the clearly aggressive Taiwan. With several last minutes' worth of effort, Supergiant programmed her new flesh puppets to such a degree that they would even seem to act like themselves for a time. Her work would fade quickly, however, especially once a real battle was joined, as there was a very hard limit to how many different scenarios she could program into their hollow minds..

But really, that was all right. By the time the lack of true life of these insects was discovered, the first shots would have long been fired. And as someone who had ignited wars and conflicts on hundreds of different planets, involving primitive and sophisticated species alike, Supergiant knew that once a war's first shots had been fired, neither side would be willing to stop anytime soon.

With the Chitauri branching out ever farther in small bands to target various infrastructure points throughout the country, Supergiant and her remaining guards moved on. There was yet still one other kind of base of operations that she wished to visit in order to cause even further disorder among the humans. I will show Lord Thanos… I will show the others of the Order. It's not about raw violence, vitriol, or brute force as Black Dwarf espouses, nor the cold cruelty and single-mindedness that Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive ahere to. All you need is deviousness, and access to the right toolset, and a world will fall at your feet.


Easily the most randomly chosen city amongst those the Wrecking Crew and Loki left beacons in was Debrecen, Hungary. Not remotely a world-class military power, the average citizen in Debrecen had next to no knowledge of potential alien threats in general, let alone any idea what the hell the giant black thing that had just appeared in the sky was.

This prong of Thanos' invasion was led by Gamora and much like Nebula and Proxima Midnight, she led her forces from the front. Like with the other locations, it was the skimmers that were the first units through the portal, spreading out quickly. Unlike the other forces however, were the orders they carried; not to engage, but to radio back everything they saw as they quickly spread out over the city and beyond.

The lack of defenses around the city she found herself in was astonishing to Gamora. She could only shake her head at the information coming in from her scouts, shocked at what she was seeing. A whole city like this, with no material defenses? Aren't these humans supposed to be warlike? Is this just local stupidity, or were the reports we received wrong or exaggerated? Gamora was leaning heavily towards the latter, but really, it didn't matter in the end.

Gamora wasn't nearly as bloodthirsty as her sister, or the other Black Order commanders, . She had no wish to mindlessly slaughter, to build pyramids of skulls for her father. Rather, she would conquer. Gamora was very much a pragmatist with an optimistic bend. She believed that Lord Thanos, her father, would be content enough with the deaths of the Phoenix Avatar, Harry Potter, and enough of the humans that their genocide would add to his glory in the eyes of his mistress, Death itself.

If such a being even exists, and it all isn't just his nihilism at play, Gamora thought, not for the first time. And like all such occurrences of said thought, she quickly buried it very deeply indeed.

And so it was her… well not hope, but more expectation, that many of the humans might well survive this invasion, to be added to Thanos' ever growing collection of empires he had begun to gather. She hoped that Lord Thanos was rational enough to not simply slaughter them all. I could be wrong, as I was with the Kylosians, but I hope I'm not. I have no desire to add still more blood to the gallons I have already spilled, Gamorathought, shaking her head slightly.

Above her, large scale hovercraft the likes of which Proxima Midnight was also using in the country called Russia appeared. These were carrying not troops, however, but mass communication devices. Basically high-tech megaphones really.

As shrieks and shouts of shock began to abound throughout the city below, these com units moved out, spreading into a formation that would cover the entire city. Once they were in position, Gamora cleared her throat and began to speak into the microphone she held in one hand, her firm voice carried throughout the city. "Humans. Do not resist. Defiance will be met with deadly force. Remain in your homes. The invading forces will not enter your homes unless fired upon. I repeat, do not resist. Stay in your homes. Remain calm. If you are discovered outside of your home, keep both hands visible by placing them on your head and continue about your business. Remain in whatever buildings you are currently in if at all possible there until a provisional government has be set up to replace any rebellious elements within your own which will reveal themselves."

Of course, Gamora wasn't so naïve as to assume her plan would work entirely. No matter how hard she tried to refrain from slaughter, their survival—for now—would still ultimately come down to these humans themselves, and some would undoubtedly resist. Their militaries would obviously do so, their governmental bodies, less so perhaps. Ironically, Gamora had found that many times those with power on a world being conquered would be too terrified of losing that power to fight for it, even against an extra-planetary invasion.

Still, this way at least Gamora would not need to kill any more than she was required to. My hands may never be clean again, but at least they will not be as black with dried blood as the others.

As Gamora repeated her warnings, more troops came through the portal, spreading out over the city and away. As they advanced like an endless tide, they dealt with a few instances of resistance from the local populace, as expected, but nothing even remotely dangerous. Between her brief words, Gamora listened intently, and after comparing what she heard against what she'd been anticipating, could tell they had all boiled down to a few kinetic projectile-type shots fired in small numbers, which was most likely examples of the city's constabulary. Their quick deaths were more than enough to get her point across to the rest of the populace.

Meanwhile more loaders came through, although this time they carried Chitauri and anti-air guns. With the portal's immediate area already secured, they would pass over the city to instead find defensible terrain in various locations and build up fortresses there; hard points that could defend against land and air units alike. Once the city was entirely cut off, its citizen pacified, and the portal thus completely protected from threats, Gamora planned to push forward as quickly as possible. Mobility and retaining the high ground is key. We will destroy any military forces that march on us, but otherwise I am content to simply retain command of the skies and spread out slowly. That is enough.


One beacon whose location Loki had chosen deliberately was the one set in the city of Washington, D.C. As the nation that could project force beyond its borders most easily of all the nations on Earth, Loki had decided the United States needed special care. Targeting its capital was an obvious choice.

The detail of their research into humans was such that within seconds of the portal opening, Thanos and his commanders could tell from that first glimpse of the opening which portal went to Washington. And since they had no idea where the Avalon Empire's capital was – they had looked for it extremely closely, but Potter's magic kept any who did not come through the runic doors from even knowing about Camelot at all, let alone attack it – Corvus Glaive, chief of the Black Order and husband of Proxima Midnight, stepped forward and went through with the first troops. He was easily the best tactician Thanos had amongst the Black Order, a living weapon honed by decades of servitude and slaughter, and for this invasion had been assigned to lead the largest army outside of the main force led by Ebony Maw.

As he appeared on the Earth-side of the portal, Corvus Glaive could already see why. In the distance, jet fighters were already moving to intercept hisair forces. Below, several hundred troopers were also racing around. He was also getting reports about anti-air guns coming online from hidden stations around the capital.

With a gesture, Corvus sent a group of Rippers towards the incoming aerial units. As they closed, anti-air cannons lining their sides and backs opened up filling the air with plasma. Those guns didn't really have enough range to fight the human's missile tech, but for now they would do the job.

Meanwhile, Chitauri soldiers dropped from their skimmers all across the city, attacking any humans they came across, soldier or civilian. Other Rippers lowered themselves into the city skyscape moving about the tall buildings, laying waste to all and sundry with their main cannons. A few nearby buildings were almost instantly vaporized, but most concentrated their gunfire into the streets, slaying thousands.

Yet even this, and the still distant engagement between jet fighters and skimmers, was a side-show. This was the seat of the American government, not just literally, but symbolically. The more carnage they could create here, the more they could break the city and its people, the better. To maximize that impact, Corvus himself led the assault against the so-called White House, a specific target in mind from the start. By the time I am through with it, it will forever be called the Crimson House, the alien commander thought to himself,grinning cruelly even while knowing his words weren't so much a, but rather prophesy.

As his Chitauri troopers broke off and engaged human defenders, Corvus charged forward.

Human soldiers wearing strange uniforms of black pants and black jackets with white shirts underneath attempted to stop him, but he knocked them all aside as if they were Tx'le pins. Their tiny kinetic ballistics bounced off of his highly durable skin and the ragged cloak he wore as a uniform to no effect, and even when two of them brought out larger, rifle-like weaponry rather than the paltry handguns previously used, there was no hope of them defending against his might.

Corvus stormed through the White House's front door without much issue, carrying the bloody corpse of one of the guards that had been in his way still speared onto his scythe. Hurling it to one side, the body smashed into two soldiers hard enough that he heard their legs break at the collision. Twisting in the oppostie direction, Corvus lashed out with his scythe and a wave of force energy shot out, bisecting four guards who had been racing towards him.

Marching forward without missing a step, Corvus smashed through any door he came to, immediately slashing out once he'd entered a new room, slaughtering those within, guard and civilian alike. Directly above the massacre, a Ripper positioned itself directly over the White House while another moved into what had once been called Congressional Hall. Ceaselessly, more and more Chitauri troopers hit the ground, rushing into nearby buildings from there.

Corvus's orders had been very, very clear. Anyone found within those buildings was to be slain. No exceptions. It was to be the barest frothing of the wave of sacrifices he planned to create for his Lord Thanos.

Glancing out a window for a brief second, Corvus took a moment to stare out to the area immediately surrounding the White House, nodding in some approval. Native resistance had arrived to combat his troops, as expected, and were now trying to force their way into the cordon the Chitauri had thrown up around their government's buildings. It could've been a viable tactic, but they lacked the advanced weaponry required to fight his forces on an even footing.

Glaive's musings were interrupted by a spattering of bullet fire hitting his back, though no damage was done of course. He turned, flipping the staff of his scythe around before shooting out more bolts of energy at his latest victims. Once those were rightfully put down, he marched down the now destroyed hall, leaving three more dead as he did so. Another eight guards dead later, Corvus found himself in front of the so-called Oval Office. Kicking down the door, he growled at the sight that met his eyes. The office was not, in fact, ovular in shape, but more importantly, there was no President within to slay. "Blast, so much for this being a quick hunt."

As he turned around, his communications device went off. "Lord Glaive, we have assaulted the so-called Senate and House buildings. To tally, we have ended at least eight hundred humans between the two buildings so far, and more will come. Several are hiding, and others fortified positions in small groups, but we foresee no issues with getting through them all quickly. I do not have enough data to tell you the total number we should have found here, but there are signs that some may have escaped. We found an entrance to a secret tunnel underneath the building. I have already sent troopers down to begin searching."

There was a momentary pause, the Chitauri officer hesitating. Corvus frowned; that only happened when there was… distasteful news to relate.

The officer picked up again before he could consider this for long. "We are taking losses. Though primitive, their kinetic projectile weaponry is not without merit if they hit in unarmored places. Their incendiary rocketry is also proving dangerous once shields are down. Two Rippers along the eastern assault zone have been destroyed. We are encountering heavy aerial resistance everywhere."

"Call in a further fifty Rippers, then signal the anti-air units to start coming through. Continue the cleansing," Corvus ordered, dispassionate as always. His command would prove themselves worthy to Lord Thanos once more. What did a few dozen, a few hundred, a few hundred thousand losses matter when compared to that? "We will lead the cleansing of this pitiful planet. Release divisions five through twelve to continue clearing out the city. Have you hacked into the local data-net yet?"

Instantly, a line of text and a map appeared in the iris of one of his eyes, even as he came under fire as still another cadre of the strangely garbed soldiers rushed him to defend the white house he'd turned red.

Three of them went down in quick succession, although their current fire was notably precise, an oddity for such a primitive world. These special service people evidently come with various levels of training.

The next instant, however, Corvus rounded the next corner and bolts of plasma immediately shot towards him, yellow in hue and brighter than the energy weapons of his soldiers. A lucky bolt struck him in the thigh before he realized he was facing upgraded weaponry, the force of it hitting with enough impetus to knock him sideways into the far wall.

Five more guards appeared from behind, and he hissed as he realized was caught in a crossfire. Then plasma rained down from both sides. The maelstrom of fire burned through his clothing in places and actually caused a slight bit of injury. The plasma weapons still weren't quite hot enough to burn through his skin, but they were certainly going to leave him with a few burns.

"You useless vixtac (gnats)!" With a roar of affronted fury, Corvus yanked himself out of the wall, turned, and charged towards the five humans who'd seemingly appeared from nowhere. Once within reach, his scythe lashed out, bisecting one man as he kicked out at another, crushing his chest like foil. A third fell to the staff of his scythe sweeping his leg, almost tearing the limb off. The other end of his scythe came up, delivering a crushing blow that burst the fourth human's head like an overipe fruit.

Throughout the brief massacre, the guards who'd previously been in front of Corvus never stopped firing, ignoring their allies well-being. In fact, one of the wounded humans Corvus hadn't yet slain died from a plasma bolt through the chest. and yet the continued shots to his back caused Glaive some actual pain now as they hit already sore points. Enraged at the nearly forgotten feeling, Corvus turned forward once more and charged the humans who'd dared cause him such a disgrace. They didn't last long.

Seconds later, last man standing hastily pulled out a dagger, thrusting it out in an instinctive, last-ditch effort for survival. Corvus caught the blade on his forearm with a sneer of contempt… only to stare in shock as it pierced into his skin. He absently noted that he would need to examine that weapon later as his hand, now bleeding slightly, smacked the last human aside, his scythe coming up and slicing down. The last guard fell, and Corvus turned, sending out a blast of energy that seared two new guards who'd just rounded the bend in the hallway into so much char.

Kneeling down, Corvus reached for the dagger that had succeeded in injuring him, although his clothing was already mending itself, flowing over the injury in a facsimile of skin until his low-grade healing factor could kick in and heal him. Feeling the lightness of the blade, despite the fact that it looked almost like kit should be a short sword he scowled in irritation. Wherever it had come from, it had hurt him, and the implications of finding such a weapon here, even if only the one was something he needed to pass on.

Reaching to his belt, he switched com channels for a moment, connecting to the secure line the rest of the Black Order used to speak amongst themselves. "Black Order, the humans have developed an alloy that was able to penetrate my skin. So far it seems to be exceedingly rare, perhaps given to their best warriors? Regardless, it is a worrisome sign. Stay vigilant in your service to our Lord."

With that, Corvus cut off the communication, amused as he had heard his wife about to go on a tirade. Oh dear. His darkest moon was without a doubt infuriated that someone other than herself had caused him harm.

Strapping the dagger to his hip, Corvus stood and activated one of the neural implants his Lord had blessed him with, connecting with the information database his command had gleaned from the native digital network once more, searching for the relevant information, and swiftly barked out commands, sending others segments of his troops toward different areas. The aptly named Pentagon would fall swiftly to his forces, along with the accompanying military base and any others within the surrounding twenty miles. However, going over the information he'd gleaned, Corvus decided to order one massive assault launched at a specific naval base, the one called Hampton Roads. There were rumors on the human's Internet of strange experiments possibly going on there, and after the dagger he wanted no further complications or unexpected developments.

Hearing reports of their losses in the air and how many squadrons of local air superiority fighters were already in play, Corvus also ordered a doubling of the amount of antiaircraft guns being drawn through the portal from the original he had anticipated. This America was indeed a real superpower in terms of this piddling little world, which meant airpower. Worse, in a way, was that he'd learned that the original assault on the nearest naval base had been completely wiped out. Whatever ships docked there would be put to sea before the next wave caught them. It was infuriating. That said, Corvus took grim solace in the fact he knew that any Earth fleet would forever pale in comparison to the numbers the Chitauri could field.

Finishing the organization of his forces for the next phase of combat, Corvus continued on his way, assured by quick mental query that nothing had left the White House since his arrival. Unfortunately, his search for his original target was in vain. No one seemed to be around, beyond the security guards he'd already dealt with some of whom had been knocked out rather than slain.

Scowling in annoyance, Glaive wound his way back toward the entranceway. Finding two more unconscious guards there, he grabbed them both and dragged the two until they lay against the wall of the building they'd been supposed to protect shoulder to shoulder. Once the pair were at least sitting up and in position, he slapped across their faces. Lightly, so as to not kill either too soon.

The force of the slap, still incredibly strong for a human, woke them up and after staring at Corvus's glorious visage, both tried to reach for their non-existent sidearms. Snorting in disdain at the scrambling, Corvus put the blade of his scythe against their throats, the sharp edge more than long enough to reach both at once. "You will answer my questions, or you will die. Do not posture, do not lie. I have seen and heard such before and both ceased to be amusing several hundred years ago."

Neither human answered, simply clamming up. The sight caused Corvus to smile, if slightly. Whatever else these humans were, and there was a lot of negative things he could say about them, they did not seem to lack courage. Still he had his questions.

Still smiling, Corvus reached down and, without any effort, tore off one of the humans' legs, tossing the limb aside as if it were the leg of a tiny mammal.

"ARGGHHHH!" The human screamed, grabbing at where his leg had been only seconds ago.

Snorting with a role of his eyes, Corvus removed his scythe from the humans' necks, pressing its blade against the gushing wound, searing it shut with a hiss and plume of acrid fumes.

"GRAAAHHHHAGHH!" The human's screaming increased dramatically at this kindness, rising in volume until he swiftly fell unconscious.

This left Corvus looking over to the remaining human, whose other leg he had held in place with one hand while he used his scythe with the other. "That one got off lightly. You will not, should you not answer my questions satisfactorily. Disappoint me, and I will remove your arms and legs. Continue to do so, and I will remove that which makes you a man., always being careful the pain itself does not kill you. If you still refuse, I will flay your skin, starting from that point outward. Eventually, you will talk. That is inevitable. What condition you are in as you speak the truth is the only choice before you."

The human continued to glare at him, but now there was more than a fair bit of fear in his gaze. Glaive couldn't help but grin when he saw it. Still smiling, he began to make good on his boast.

The human lasted until he was down to a single working limb before he broke. "Wait! Wait! Wa-agh—wait! I—I'll talk!"

"Of course you will. Now then, where is your leader, the one you call President?" Corvus asked with a snarl. Although this hunt had been amusing at first, it had taken overlong. Every instinct he'd honed over the centuries was telling him that the human's real defenders, Potter and his ilk, would be on the move soon. They needed to be prepared before then.

"I—I don't know where! He's been going around in Air Force One, ever since—" At that, most astonishing to Glaive, the human clamped up. But it had been enough.

Moments later, Corvus was walking away from a now quite dead pair of humans, moving over to a fountain set in the open green space behind the White House. Calmly, he plunged his hands inside, washing them clean of the crimson coating they'd gained during his interrogation. His slight smile grew ever so slightly at the sight of the red staining the formerly pristine water.

Once clean, he turned his attention to the overall battle over the city. Just in time, it seemed, as he caught sight of several dozen shadows as they blocked out the sun above him as they moved through the sky. These figures were larger even than the Rippers, and far, far wider, looking almost like flying manta rays to the humans. Once the flying rays had all arrived, they began to fire long, greenish beams of energy from their front orifices, collectively aimed at targets far off in the distance.

Seeing this, Corvus' smile widened and he stalked forward. Despite not having caught the President, he now knew that the locals had been ready for them, to some small degree. That meant he too would have to prepare a warm reception for their true enemies, Potter and his followers, when they arrived.


Moments before the portal in the mountains of Afghanistan had opened, Nick Fury had been leaning back in his chair in his office in Washington, DC, ignoring the man on the other side of his desk for a moment as he instead stared up at the ceiling in seeming contemplation. In reality, it was more idle musing than anything else. After all, the guy had just repeated himself again for the third time running.

It had taken a while, and favors and threats and strings he'd long held close to the chest, but Nick simply knew where too many skeletons were buried for him to be completely pushed out to pasture despite how badly SHIELD had failed. Eventually, the Powers That Be, which in his case had meant the American president and his cabinet, had decided that he could still be of use to them in terms of homeland security. As such, they had actually created a new office for him, along with a new agency. The Investigative Agency Oversight Committee. It hadn't taken him long before he'd managed to rope in many of his former agents, and friends, into working with , few of his spying type field agents had done the same.

Some days, Nick was a little angry at that. The fact that Natasha, along with several others, had switched their allegiances to Harry Potter and his Custodes, and then the Earth Defense Force and the Avalon Empire as a whole, somewhat annoyed him. After all, he'd been the one to think up the idea of a worldwide defense initiative first, pushed for it to actually be created, and had seen to their training, or at least polished their training in Natasha's case. And then they'd just dropped him for the bigger fish.

But most of the time, Fury was able to understand that Harry had simply become the source of the kind of stability he'd been aiming such a long time for. And when it came to it, at least the people who'd once been a part of SHIELD were still doing good in the world. Nick could be happy about that, at least.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but if I could hand this particular job off to someone else, I'd love to see if I could convince Potter to recruit me too. I know he's got Sir Dennis, and that he, for all that he was railroaded by the internal politics of the British intelligence community, lives up to his codename spectacularly. Still, there's being a consummate professional, and then there's being the best in the game, and I was one of the best in the game for a long time. Despite how SHIELD turned out, that is still true. The fact that working for Potter would mean I wouldn't have to deal with these idiots is a major bonus.

Shaking his head, Nick turned his attention back to the Director of the CIA, finally deciding the man had talked to his ear off enough for one day. "I understand your concerns about the budget. I also understand that the President's decision to cut down on several operations overseas, including a number in the Middle East, bothers you tremendously. Frankly, I also don't care. The President was very clear about this to me. The CIA's reach and mandate both were to be pulled back, and all of you were to be on your best motherfucking behavior internationally. These Operations, Peach and Green Dagger, no! Absolutely not. I'm not going to reverse my decision on this one, and neither will I stand for you trying to keep on pushing forward. I know where the money is going George, and I am not going to let it continue. Try to go around me on this, and I will bury you."

George Oppenheim, current Director for the CIA, glared back at Nick, snarling as he spit out, "Dammit Nick! You and I both know Potter is too soft! In all this time, he's done fuck all about the terrorists in the Middle East unless they impinge on mutant rights! He's done nothing to topple the tyrannical regime in Iraq or the Mullahs in Iran, and everyone knows they're both still powder kegs waiting to explode. And that's not even counting the various issues in China, some of them his own damn fault too."

His tone turned more wheedling. "Come on, Nick. We know the Mandarin's hold on China isn't as concrete as he might want the world to think; far too many party members know he's a former criminal. That kind of thing is too disingenuous, even for their yellow bellies. We can—"

"—Add more fuel to an already burning building? A building, by the way, that to the international community appears to more resemble something from a cartoon, you know the ones that are always ready to explode at a moment's notice, than anything in real life? I'll admit that China is a problem. It is. And I'll agree that Potter hasn't done anyone any favors with his moves in Asia, which, given the fact that Sir Dennis is working for him, I still find very surprising."

Nick preemptively held up a hand as Oppenheim tried to interrupt. "But what you're talking about? If anything can get traced back to us, it will ream us in the ass so hard we'll be looking around for the god damn elephant that did it! And don't give me that old saw about how you've taken every precaution. I know how little that actually matters sometimes! There's always goddamn loose ends, something that can be traced back. I've been in your shoes more times over more years than you've been working at the CIA, trust me, I know what I'm talking about. That being said, I'm not a bleeding heart, and I'm not saying this plan of yours doesn't sound good when you think about it," he said, somewhat more commiserating at the end. "But now is most decidedly not the time for that kind of thing. It just isn't."

Oppenheim grumbled a bit, but that was why Nick had been chosen for the position. He really had been practically everywhere and done every job within the intelligence society; offense, defense, diplomatic, even bureaucratic. At one dark point in his life, he'd even worked in records for fuck's sake. He understood why a plan like Operations Peach and Green Dagger had been thought up, and at one point he knew he'd have given it the green light. But if he said it wasn't the proper time to even start putting something like that in motion, then Oppenheim would just have to grin and bear it.

The director of the CIA didn't have to like it, but if he tried to go around Nick's back like he could the Senate Oversight Committee, or even the President if asked about something like this, he'd know. And take… steps. The old director of the FBI had found that out the hard way, not to mention the NSA, which was now but a pale shadow of what it had once been. The only reason Oppenheim even still had his job was because he knew both how to play ball and not to underestimate the man behind this desk. "Fine, I'll redirect the money from those two ops to Operation Redbeard."

Nick frowned for a moment, thinking, reviewing his encyclopedic knowledge of all black ops being run by the CIA, then nodded slowly. "Send me the dossiers on the agents involved. There was one who's proclivity for violence rang a few warnings in my mind. But other than that I—"

Suddenly, there was a booming noise outside, followed by screams, more booming, the sound of the men and women out on the streets running, and underneath it all, the distinctive "fzzGRK!" of energy weapons of some kind being fired en masse.

"What the fucking hell?" Turning rapidly Nick moved to his window, fingering an opening in the blinds to stare out through the bulletproof glass out onto the streets. Below, dozens of people were staring up in the sky, pointing, while others were shrieking and running for cover. The sources of the other noises weren't visible from where he was, but Nick had been in enough firefights within cities to be able to figure out that the worst of the sounds were coming from Capitol Hill. His remaining eye widened in dawning understanding just as a giant fucking metal-clad whale-fish of some kind dove down into the streets, its sides blasting out with numerous grafted-on gun emplacements.

Both Nick and Oppenheim, who'd joined him at the window, immediately hurled themselves away from it, not trusting the bulletproof glass to stand up against energy weaponry. This proved to be very much the case, and Nick had rolled away the window shattered, the impact of multiple energy bolts bursting through and sending molten glass everywhere. Oppenheim gasped as his back, arm, and leg were hit by small droplets of the flying slag. Fortunately, his clothing had blocked the bits just enough that he could still move under his own power, and he crawled on his hands and knees to get farther away.

Not wasting a second, both men jumped up as soon as the last bit of debris had settled, wordlessly racing out of the room. Right as he reached the doorway, Nick paused, pulling down a lever there before exiting. Outside his office, the two passed Nick's secretary, who was staring wide-eyed out her own window, even as her desk began to shift. A series of small lockers appeared as the desk unfolded, and the secretary jumped into action, hastily opening one of the lockers. Pulling out several rifles, she tossed one to both men, taking one herself. "What's going on and what's the plan, Sir?"

"Agent Leo," Oppenheim murmured, fighting back the urge to nudge Nick in the side at the actions of the cute-as-a-button but thoroughly professional young woman. "You poached her from Travis over at the FBI, right?"

"As well as a few others. After all, there are secretaries, and then there are fucking secretaries," Nick replied with a snort. Taking point, he gestured for Agent Leo to follow him. "Let's get down to the basement pronto. The not-so secret tunnel there can get us to the Hoover building, and then from there, we can push to Capitol Hill. George, do you think you can make it to the precinct?"

Oppenheim nodded, staring down his side with a grimace where he could see a few of the burn marks caused by the molten glass eating through his suit jacket, already feeling the pain from them and others on his back. "I probably won't be of much use with my arm and leg anyway, but I can damn well hobble along."

For a moment, they were interrupted, the noises outside growing to a fevered pitch. The cacophony of blaster discharges cut through the tumult of screaming, people running, cars honking, and even the sound of buildings being smashed to pieces outside. "Of course, I make no promises that I'll be able to actually get there through all that…" Oppenheim mumbled, staring out the window as a number of smaller flying vehicles of some kind flew through the streets, each carrying a trio of what were undoubtedly aliens as they proceeded.

"Fuck! This isn't just a mission to cut off the government's head, it's a whole goddamn motherfucking invasion, just like Potter warned us about!" Nick hissed, staring out the window as well. Shaking his head, he moved to follow Agent Leo towards the door, and the hallway beyond. "Change of plans then. We'll all head to the precinct, and then I'll double back to Capitol Hill. We need to get some kind of motherfucking organization going pronto, evacuation, defense, both if we can."

The other two both nodded, and together the three raced on, none realizing the true depth of the conflict that had suddenly exploded into being around them.


As the militaries of Earth began to mobilize against the Chitauri, the Skrull fleet popped into existence along the outer edge of the Sol system, half a light-year from Pluto. Some of the information they had about the defenses of this solar system showed the impact of some kind of gravity weapon that appeared able to pull ships out of hyperspace and divert their route towards the fortress on the fourth planet from the central star, designation Mars by the locals.

Since one of the most foolish things a commander could do was to fight on the battlefield of his enemy's choosing, Len'Dok had decided to do the smart thing and jump into real space well out of the inner system and move to encircle the human's home planet via his ships' much slower impulse drives. That this allowed his fleet's sensors to reach out ahead and begin creating an up-to-date picture of the system of their own was also part of his thinking. Radio waves and even captured old light was often not accurate, after all.

At first, Thanos had argued with Len'Dok, or rather, demanded an explanation as to why his first steps into the Sol system would be so cautious. But eventually the experienced fleet officer had convinced the Mad Titan that being cautious would be the better overall strategy, regardless of their numbers and superior technology.

"Shock and awe can come in two different forms, My Lord," Len'Dok had said. "There is the more often utilized form of precise, swift, and ruthless action; the application of force onto an area or areas where one's enemy is vulnerable. That is the way your Chitauri know how to wage a war. Then there is the other way. Slow, methodical, the unstoppable approach of an overwhelming force, one that grinds away at the will of the enemy until it breaks. That is what my fleet will provide. After all, if we break the morale of the humans, or even merely draw away the majority of their non-powered space-going military, you will have a much easier time dealing with their superpowered elements."

Thanos had paused at that, and considered. Shortly after, he'd acquiesced to Len'Dok's points, although not with a warning that in the future, he may not be so merciful to a dissenting voice. "The humans will most likely surprise you with their tenacity, no matter how you believe yourself prepared. And if the Phoenix Avatar or Potter decide to ignore the Chitauri, you fill find your fleet burnt to cinders like the feathers of an avian caught in a bonfire. Still, it is your command. Do what you will."

Unfortunately, even with the minor capitulation, Thanos hadn't taken Len'Dok's opinion on what sort of fleet the Skrull needed for their operation as kindly. Thus, the fleet was a bit too top-heavy for the commander's tastes. It was the kind of fleet he would've taken against an equivalent opponent, such as the Kree, an enemy Len'Dok knew how to fight, knew what to expect from.

The humans, for all the information they had managed to glean on them, still held a LOT of unanswered questions. Especially in regards to their space-worthiness. Thus Len'Dok would have preferred more ships with lighter armaments and speed rather than heavier units.

Yet to his chagrin, his fleet's current composition would actually work better in terms of the shock and awe that Lord Thanos wished for rather than his own preference. It wasn't quite as flexible, nor, admittedly, did the various different aspects of the 'fleet' work together in a manner that was fit to be called such. Len'Dok had been utterly appalled by the number of flag officers Thanos had seen fit to cull, seemingly uncaring that destroyed the fleet's efficiency.

wo hundred and thirty-one Equalizers, the super-dreadnought class of the Skrull Fleet. These were not like Kree Doom Bringers or Worlds Breakers; the Skrull didn't do specialized designs like that. Instead, Equalizers were able to do the tasks of both Kree dreadnaughts almost as well as their counterparts.

Or at least, it was supposed to work out like that. It didn't quite succeed in doing so, but the Skrull made up for any lack by having better shielding tech overall than their enemies, and somewhat better onboard repair resources. Alas, in contemporary space warfare such advantages didn't really matter much under a normal commander, however the best officers could manage to rotate their ships out of a battle, and the Skrull damage control teams could get to work and return those self same ships to the battlefield in a useable condition quickly enough to still impact the fighting.

Three hundred seventy-seven battleships. Normally, such units would be split off to attack in flanking actions, to peel off enemy defenders from the sides, and thus weaken the enemy for a main attack. But now, with a gravity trap Lord Thanos' information had told Len'Dok that was on the fourth planet out from the sun, that wasn't advisable.

Nonetheless, these ships were still the second largest ships in the fleet. They bristled with the same kind of energy weapons as the Equalizers, if in smaller overall number. Much like their eternal enemies, the Skrull had long since moved away from kinetic missile-based weaponry.

Seven hundred and fifty-one cruisers. Unlike their opponents, or the Shi'ar who somewhat specialized in the midrange class of combatants and therefore relied more heavily on their far better specialized units, the Skrull barely used cruisers at all save for missions focused on commerce protection or raiding. By design they were most useful for flanking enemy battlelines; destroying strategic targets when defenders had been pulled away. However, that also meant they couldn't take much of a beating in comparison to their larger brethren.

Nine hundred and seven destroyers. Normally, ships such as these would be sent ahead of a main fleet to engage any soft targets available, investigate anything or anywhere a fleet's sensors could not discern enough information for the commanding officer, or attack already weakened targets prior to the main engagement. Here, despite their hyper-expensive dual-hyperdrive engines, their ability to strike fast and hard had been rendered useless. They were, however, still well armed, each equipped with only a few weapons but all of a larger type, than their size would indicate.

For now, the Len'Dok had decided to keep them close, but he anticipated sending them forward to deal with any orbital defenses that the humans might've possibly cobbled together. Meanwhile, he would use the rest of the fleet as a massive hammer, and destroy whatever space-based mobile units the humans had captured from the Kree. If it came to it, he'd even be able to deal with any space-based or spacefaring superpowered elements that dared to face his fleet.

We know that there are objects in orbit over the planet, but we failed to discern their capabilities. We also know how many Kree ships Potter has somehow brought back to fighting trim, but somehow nothing concrete about their actual armaments. We even know that they have found or designed a large number of strange, shuttle-sized ships, but not what their purpose is. And unlike some others, I refuse to believe that the humans merely use those shuttles as part of their, admittedly, growing infrastructure.

That was the problem facing Len'Dok, really. The information on the humans they were operating under was mostly based on two sources: radio waves captured from around 'Fortress Mars' and their home world and captured old light recorded by Lord Thanos' spy ships well outside of the system. Both means of intelligence gathering had issues, and contrary to previous records, the humans didn't seem to send important military information via radio waves anymore. Not the Avalon Empire, and not between the third and fourth planets, anyway.

Worse was how patchy the information truly was. Even Lord Thanos had only maintained precious few ships that were capable of going into the long dark between systems and tracking down the specific old light that would give them any idea of what they would be facing. This led to the current situation where, while Len'Dok knew that the humans had managed to beat a Kree fleet by pulling them into range of Fortress Mars, and knew that the humans had also beaten off a flotilla of Badoon, he had no idea how that second battle had commenced while conversely there was a near play-by-play recording of the battles against the Kree.

And so it was that as the fleet began to pass through the encompassing Nalve Sphere—which the humans had stupidly named the Oort Cloud of all things—to where it shifted into the Nolj Circle—the human's designated Hills Cloud—Len'Dok's found his concerns growing.

"What do you mean you don't know where their fleet is? Either they are out on maneuvers and we should be picking them up on sensors, or they are stationed near their Fortress Mars. Regardless, we should be able to at least figure out where they are there. Or are you telling me that they just happen to be on the other side of the star from us?"

To be honest, they could be on maneuvers on the other side of the star, but that would be rather… suspicious timing. Len'Dok thought, glaring at his sensor specialist as his thoughts whirled. Could the humans have known we were coming? If so, just what are they using as scanners and communication devices over inter-planetary ranges? There are just too many blasted questions. I know Lord Thanos and his ilk are powerful, but it is the Skrull who will die in the thousands if this goes poorly.

Beside the specialist, the flag bridge's senior sensor analyst shrugged his shoulders, at a loss. Thankfully, the Fleet Overlord wasn't the type to shoot the messenger. Well, so long as the messenger was competent at least, and the man would not be on his flagstaff if there were any questions on that score.

"There are no starship-sized energy readings within our sensor range, sir. And, while we can't get much detail, we can see into the inner planetary zone. We have pinged several dozen space stations orbiting around the gas giants, a few of what we assume to be satellites both there and also scattered across other inner system worlds, particularly the primary target. Small scale, we have located fourteen individual energy signals moving at speed. Not a one is large enough to be, at most, a handful of those oversized shuttles we were informed about clumped together."

The senior officer then waited as two nearby technicians finally got more detailed readings back and began to fill in more information on their findings. As he'd just announced, some could instantly be designated as HE3 refineries, while others were clearly defensive installations. The information on Fortress Mars solidified as well, although at their present range nothing was still anywhere near as detailed as anyone would prefer. The energy readings coming from the fourth planet were impressive to say the least, and there were signs that the overall gravity of the solar system had changed significantly, and recently, signaling that offworld mining and supply had been going on there.

As for the primary target, from their current position, they had just begun to get a reading on the native energy infrastructure, but nothing else specific about the third planet. Or at least, where their sensors said the planet was, anyway. Some of the information that they'd gleaned from old light that had come from the system had hinted at past battles where the Badoon had been either woefully inaccurate with their artillery or had been tricked into attacking an empty segment of space with their long range bombardment arsenal. The same had happened to the Kree fleet that had come; that battle they had been able to watch from beginning to end before the Kree fleet had been destroyed in orbit over fortress Mars. The fleet had launched planetary bombardment missiles towards the third planet, only for most to detonate or just… disappear before they corrected.

When the staff officer began to see that they had reached the point where they would need to get closer—as in past the seventh planet at least—to get any more useful information, he continued. "I can send out more probes, but that will take time as we can already tell that the Fortress Mars gravity trap has been activated. Anything we'd send would be pulled out of hyperspace just as easily as we would be."

"Could they be hiding within one of the Jovians?" Len'Dok asked. "Using gas giants to hide from invaders is a time-honored tactic because it works."

"Perhaps the innermost gas giant, sir, but not the outer. And even if they are, sir, we have enough ships to interdict said planet and still continue with our primary objectives."

Len'Dok grunted at that but said nothing. "Order the fleet forward then. I want the destroyers split into four units, two to port and starboard each, and then one to stern to merge into the cruiser divisions. Another will be below us. From what information we have, the humans are by all accounts new to space warfare. Based on our experience with such, we should be expecting them to attack from below in fleet engagements such as this if possible. The rest of the fleet will take Formation Puncture. Tactical, I want you to keep an eye on our inter-fleet communications network. Our firing arcs and interlocked defensive network needs to be perfect."

At his order Len'Dok's officers leapt to obey. Moments later, the Skrull fleet lumbered forward, the heavier ships forming into what looked like the head of an Phillips screwdriver. Each of the four prongs was a division, and slowly the Equalizers were surrounded by their smaller brethren. No matter how fast or slow the individuals ships could go, every one kept within the defensive firing envelop of at least its division-mates and two other divisions. Around the center portion of the fleet, the destroyers had positioned to provid almost wall-like formations to either side and below, the cruisers and a breakaway group of destroyers providing the shaft of the 'screwdriver'.

The mystery of where the human fleet was fell to the wayside, however, as alarms began to blare a second later. Another sensor specialist shouted out, "We have incoming! I'm reading a growing number of small incoming vessels from our right and left flanks. Numbers aren't solid, they're too interspersed for a clean return. Readings all point to them either being or being like the oversized shuttles from our war book."

"Hmm… disposable scout ships perhaps? Or something similar?" the senior sensor specialist mused. "If they could send back targeting data… but then, there are still no human ships in sight. Do they have some sort of interplanetary weapons system?"

"Unknown," Len'Dok grunted. "But you're thinking too small. If those are probes, then they don't need to be limited to simply sending back information. What if their purpose is to block our own sensors and scramble communications?"

"Their power readings are quite large for such small craft, sirs," the specialist who had been watching the scanners said. "But the scans indicate their straight ahead speed can't be too good based on current data. Maneuverability might make even the Shi'ar ships look slow, but anything else I can't tell yet. But…"

"But?" Len'Dok growled, standing from his command chair. "That is not a term I like to hear at any time soldier, let alone when going into battle."

"Sorry sir. It's just… I'm not getting readings that would indicate there's anyplace that could have been a base or launch platform for them from the direction the humans' ships are coming from."

At the grunt from his senior officer, the sensor analyst quickly took over the main holo-projector, the display warping to show the area where the signals would begin to appear. Between one section of space and the next, the red rash of icons would appear, so suddenly it was beyond startling to those with any experience with space combat.

"Do the humans have cloaking technology on par with our own?" the senior specialist asked in a murmur, squinting at the projections.

"Unknown, but I doubt it, sir. From the many angles provided by the fleet, it would have been almost impossible for anything to hide from us. Even so, the incoming crafts appeared just outside of the range of all of the destroyers' weapons.

"Look at how they're moving," the tactical specialist spoke up, claiming the floor after a brief pause. "Slight deviations before corrections in no discernable pattern. It's as if each is flying under its own power, being individually operated instead of flying on a straight line or even AI driven. But why would they send their people to their deaths on what is obviously some kind of suicide mission? The only answer is that they have to be weapons of some kind."

"Perhaps. Regardless, bring the fleet to battle stations," Fleet Overlord Len'Dok ordered. He was unwilling to assume that anything his enemies did was not purposeful in some manner. Underestimating your foe was one of the quickest ways to die in war.

Yet even as unfazed as he forced himself to appear, even he was astonished when the human vessels entered the range of his weapons and immediately broke away from their spear-like straight charge and began to evade fire. They really had been manned devices of some kind "Suicide craft?" The tactical officer murmured.

"They could be, aiming to crash into our fleet units, but our information on the humans seems to indicate that such an act would be anathema to the majority of them," the intelligence officer argued.

"We will know what they are shortly. Observe, and be prepared to give me your opinions after the battle," Len'Dok ordered, cutting through the argument before it could begin.

"The numbers of the enemy have continued to increase at a steady rate… they could possibly be using highly advanced decoys to inflate their numbers over scans?" Skrull ships used similar devices, and even as the officer manning the sensors position said this, such decoys began to appear, ghost like around each ship.


Colonel Jack Marshall, callsign Reaper Man, was clenching his control stick with both hands so tightly his knuckles had long since turned white. As he dodged incoming fire, while behind him, his fellow Ravens attempted to keep formation. Well, calling it a formation would've been something of a misnomer. They weren't really flying in any such organized manner, rather they were keeping just close enough so that each squadron's tac-net could remain in constant contact.

As they ducked and wove through laser and plasma fire, Marshall's crew of three went about their business quickly.

"Activating decoys! Slaving to our systems. Decoys online."

"Gravity cannon and particle beam are both online, we are good to go," fellow veteran, Oscar Harper, announced from the weapons officer's position.

"Random walk, you useless shower!" Jack announced into his mic before putting action to word. He bounced his plane in various ways to throw off the enemy's targeting systems, dodging fire so close he could see it through the viewscreen at the front of his craft. "Hesitation gets you killed!"

Thankfully, the hellish training they'd gone through seemed to be enough, and all of the Ravens were dodging wildly enough to survive as they zoomed in toward the first segment of the invading fleet. Few of Marshall's troops had actually been combat veterans, and while they weren't exactly in a dogfight like they'd been showed from World War II, the sheer firepower coming towards then was far greater than in any battle the old-timers would've ever faced.

Luckily for them, this enemy, like the Badoon, didn't appear to believe in weapons that could home in on targets, most likely due to the amount of defensive fire that their ships could put out. There was a glaring hole in such thinking however. In tests against the captured Kree vessels, the Raven's had proven time and again that the range of their onboard weapons could easily keep them out of the most dangerous defensive zones the otherwise uncontested space behemoths could muster. Obviously, the closer you got to a ship, the deadlier its fire became, but then there was what the Raven pilots and their crews called the sweet spot. This special area was wherever the majority of the main anti-capital ship batteries of an alien capital ship wouldn't be able to target you while you were also just barely out of the range of their secondary systems. Well, it was with most of the vessels we tested anyway. The truly massive ships are still able to get range on us with their secondaries, Jack thought grimly.

Closing to the alien fleet's shared sweet spot ended up costing Marshall at least twenty souls from his attack force—the squads attacking the from the right flank—along with the vast majority of their decoys. His ECM officer's repetitious, "Activating decoys, decoys online," became a mantra, one where the rapidly changing numbers slid by his conscious mind, unable to sink in.

But those decoys were their lifeline, Gods help them, and Marshall swallowed down a growing fear that once they all started to run out of them, the Ravens would be torn apart. We are goddamn eggs armed with nukes. But!… We're gonna show these fuckers the nuke side of that equation. "Activate ECM!"

At his orders, across the battlefield all Ravens activated their ECM payloads in sync. Designed to disrupt the computer network linking an enemy ship to another, these devices would play hell on any fleet's ability to operate as a cohesive unit. Within seconds, the crews of the Ravens saw such an impact. The fire from the smaller ships shielding the nearer flank of the enemy fleet suddenly began to flounder! Likewise, the efficacy of their remaining decoys abruptly shot through the roof.

"About fucking time!" Marshall's electronics engineer grunted. "We're down to six outta ten decoy pairs, boss."

"Noted. Let me know when we're down to our last two pairs," Marshall ordered, grimacing. Maybe we should have waited until the enemy fleet was right on top of one of the rings before attacking?

It was an honest question. The teleportation rings themselves couldn't be seen, and maybe waiting to be within their firing range would've given their forces more of a chance to get all of the way into the enemy fleet's formation all their own? Or is the necessity of firing off decoys on this side of the portals too essential to our survival?" While the ECM suite could be used during a portal jump, the connection to the decoys was always lost during the trip, and according to all reports it was quite the awful bitch to regain afterward.

As Marshall watched, another hundred decoys disappeared off the map, this time coupled with seven actual Ravens blinking out across the combat group. God, we are taking so many casualties already. He took a moment to pray that the magical teleportation arrays on their suits were working as they normally did. If not, there was going to be a lot of empty bunks back at the Nests after all of this was over.

And then they were finally close enough to the enemy fleet to start their own culling. "Blue Squadron, fire on my signal! Fire!"

Almost as one, a bundle of gravity beams struck out, crunching into the shielding of an enemy capital ship. After only two strikes from Blue Squadron members the target's shields gave away. With practiced ease, Marshall's weapons officer sent out the signal to switch to their secondary weapon, the particle beams. With a single command, twin beams of silver light burst into existence and lanced into the enemy craft. The beams did they jobs and tore apart the bindings of solid matter on the atomic level, turning the density of their target's own armor against it. From one moment to the next, the invading ship exploded into with an eruption of atomic fire.

"Hell yeah, take that you assholes!" Harper shouted. "Get some!"

"Secondary target coming up," Marshall warned, his friend quieting down quickly. The next ship was a destroyer, one that was already futilely trying to roll away from the Ravens, taking their fire on different sides of their shields.

Ultimately, its actions couldn't save it. Another Raven, this time from Marshall's own squadron, went dark, but at the same time the destroyer exploded. A single pause, and then they were on to the next ship, one so close to the cloud of debris caused by the second ship's death the wreckage was actually able to shield them for a second. The minute respite allowed them to reposition all of their decoys before hitting their third target.

When that ship fell, Marshall and the remaining groups and squadrons of the wing on their side of the battlefield were passed the destroyers and straight into the fire of the enemy's larger vessels. "Get those decoys out, keep the ECM up!" Marshall ground out, appalled as whole waves of decoys and ten more Ravens winked out of existence on his screen.

Still more went dark, but then the Ravens were truly within the enemy formation. The shields on the ships they found there took far longer to knock down than the destroyer-class craft, several passes for the battleship-sized ones, and far more for the larger Doom Bringer-esque ships. And in so doing, still more of the Ravens went down, although the ECM jammers performed wonderfully the entire time. Twice Jack saw the invaders shoot one another, so badly was their interlinked network compromised. Then, from the other side of the enemy fleet, Marshall witnessed a minor miracle appear on his screen. The other wing of the assault had made it.

When the idea of a two-pronged assault was explained to him, Colonel Marshall, like many others, had argued that it would be too complicated. Many of the older, historically inclined pilots had shouted on about Leyte Gulf and other disasters. But here, it seemed to have worked so far. The simultaneous attacks coming from opposite directions seemed to be pulling the enemy ships in either direction, as if they were uncertain where to fire. The Ravens were still taking losses, but nowhere near what they should have when up against such odds.

"Boss, we're down to our last four decoys!"

At that, Marshall gave a single, firm nod. He knew it was time. Without missing a beat, he shouted, "Bug out, bug out!"

With that order, the tattered remnants of his personal squadron broke away to join others, continuing to push on through the battlespace. Thankfully, they had no need to turn around or decelerate to flee back along the route they had followed. Attempting such a thing would have been near suicidal, as even Ravens couldn't bleed off inertia well enough to turn on a dime, and the arches they'd be forced to make would've made them easy pickings. Additionally, the decoys that had spelled life up to this point were nearly depleted across the entire force. Worse, with the loses they'd suffered so far, the ECM jammers were having a harder and harder time disrupting the enemy's network. Even a blind soldier could tell that over the course of the skirmish, defensive fire had steadily risen, and gotten more accurate, as the fighting went on. Now, for every five decoys destroyed, an actual Raven went with them.

So instead of a conventional retreat, Marshall and his wing sped through the enemy fleet's formation and out the other side, which they discovered had been smashed into equal disarray by the other wing. This did save them from a certain amount of fire from the ships of the line, but the destroyers had already had enough time to reform, and it looked like cruiser-class vessels and more of their brethren from the back of the enemy formation were pulling up to bolster their counterattack.

The wave of fire was withering from the moment the wing left the main enemy formation behind them and it was here that Marshall and his crew's collective luck ran out. The pilot had barely a second to register his ECM officer's shout of, "The last decoy just went—!" when the enemy's next salvo crashed into them. In a blink, his senses exploded, feelings of intense, debilitating disorientation going through every one of them his mind could register.

When the world could finally make sense once more, Jack Marshall and his people found themselves laid out in the receiving area of their Nest, once again in orbit over the fake Earth.

Groaning, Jack pushed himself to his feet, his stomach growling something fierce, as waves of weakness and exhaustion wracked through him as if he hadn't had any food or drink for weeks. Having learned this feeling well from training, he knew that if he looked at himself in the mirror, his appearance would more than reflect his current feelings. Any excess fat he might've had? Gone. Any larger than average muscle mass? Gone. Anything at all in his stomach? Gone. Everything extra he'd had in him had just been burned away in an instant to pay for the emergency runic array.

But Jack was still alive. Hastily, he grabbed at some of the protein drinks and energy bars that were scattered around the room in small mounds, the bars already unwrapped and the drinks open. Around him, his crew all did the same, each and every one scarfing down the food like ravenous wolves.

Fifteen minutes later Jack had enough energy to think of moving. Groaning again, he made his slow, shambling way over to the nearby doorway, avoiding the medical officers already seeing to the wounded. He needed to get a tally of how many people they'd lost, and how much damage they'd done. And even after he learned that, he also knew that the campaign as over for him for the foreseeable future. There was no way his body would be able to fuel another emergency teleportation for a long, long time.


"Well?" Len'Dok growled out, the flag bridge a scene of frenetic activity around him as the officers tried to reorganize the fleet. "What, by the genitalia of your matriarchs, did the humans hit us with?"

"Sir!" the tactical officer stiffened, voice quivering. "The—the strange shuttles we'd noted in our espionage package were very obviously not shuttles. I would almost call them gunboats, maybe… although small ones. They were highly maneuverable, as well as kept a significant stock of scanner decoys. Their ECM suite was also incredible, and while we can filter out the decoys on our sensors now that we've encountered them, the ECM suite was too difficult to decrypt during the short exchange and will continue to impact our defensive network in any future skirmishes. We'll need to concentrate on shooting the gunboats down the instant they start interpolating with us. I would recommend pulling the destroyers into the center of the formation, use them to counter these unorthodox ships."

"We… we detected two different types of energy beams, sir. One was a kind of gravity-based energy destabilizer. That is about all I can say about it," the sensor specialist said, taking up the analysis. "The weapon seemed to create a wide beam, visible due to its frequency on the electro-spec, that was mid-range, matching our secondary systems on the Equalizers. Speed was somewhat slower, but still hard to dodge due to the…gunboats… themselves being so quick. The second weapon system, of which each shuttle seemed to have two, was of an entirely different kind of energy. It was even shorter ranged… maybe. That's not totally a known as the humans only fired when close, but that could've been preference just as much as a requirement. What it can do against shielding is also unknown as it was used only against targets once their shields were down. And after that, they kill. No armor we've got could stop those beams. The thickness of plating didn't matter at all either. Once our shields fell, every ship struck by those secondary beams was either badly damaged or destroyed outright in a matter of seconds."

"And how many ships did we lose?" Len'Dok ground out, turning his glare onto one of this other officers.

That worthy was the Damage Control and SAR (Search and Rescue) coordinator for the fleet, and of all the officers he looked the most shocked. "Sir, only four of the Equalizers attacked were able to survive being struck by those silver beams, and even they are now dead in the water. It's almost as if someone set of nuclear devices inside of the hulls. Multiple nukes." He shivered, his eyes going unfocused for a moment before he managed to pull himself together. "One battleship survived as well… somehow… but we've had to evacuate the surviving crews from all five ships. Beyond that…"

"It was very much an if this, then that, type of battle sir. If our shields went down, then the ship was destroyed," another tactical officers added, shivering a bit. The flagship Silence had lost some of its shielding during the battle, but thanks to the efforts of the bridge crew at its helm had not been struck by the silver beams in turn. "We lost twenty Equalizers outright, seventy-two battleships, three hundred destroyers, and one hundred and eighty-four cruisers; nearly a full third of our complement."

"But we destroyed nearly nine-tenths of the attackers!" the first tactical officer jumped in, voice cracking with stress. "If these were the human's main space defense forces, then they have shot their bolt."

"That kind of supposition is what kills fleets, you Jro'toc!" Len'Dok roared, leaping to his feet. For a moment it looked as if he would add injury to the insulting curse he'd just addressed the man with, a curse that, if translated to English, would read as someone who was so moronic that they'd eat their own clutch's eggs. This was a grave insult to the Skrull as, in their natural body-forms, laid eggs. Luckily for the tactical officer, Len'Dok gathered his self-control and simply continued to upbraid the man verbally, his tone withering. "Assumptions allowed them to strike us such a blow, and I will never allow them to do so again!"

Suitably chastened, his officers all bowed their heads, and Len'Dok continued on even more coldly, looking over at the sensor specialists. "Tell me you have something to report?"

The Skrull had obviously sent out destroyers to try and run down the last of the fleeing attackers. This had worked in the main from all reports, but from the shaking of the sensor team's collective heads, it evidently hadn't worked as well as he'd hoped. "We… we don't know where the attackers went, sir. It—it's like they disappeared. And there is no chance they could have activated any kind of cloaking system with our ships so close. I… I am at a loss, Sir."

"They seemed to congregate around a single point, as if they were, well, exactly the shuttles we thought they were, waiting to enter a space-station's hanger bay. But then… nothing," another analyst added.

Growling in fury, Len'Dok strode over to the holo tactical plot, watching the rest of the system for a moment, nearly ignoring the efforts of his fleet to reform. In total, the assault hadn't done enough damage to cause him to rethink his plans, but if the humans could attack like that again… "Leave sensor probes behind where those ships disappeared. Then I want the destroyers broken up and spread out around the rest of the fleet in division-sized viddirwolf packs. Half the cruisers will back them up. Together they are to push out to the edge of our secondary sensors."

Those were the scanners the Skrull ships used to actually fight with, rather than survey a system. This tactic would remove the destroyers from any hope of being aided by the artilleries of their larger brethren, but Len'Dok was willing to sacrifice those ships for the majority. That was, after all, what they were for.

"The remaining cruisers will form a spherical formation around the battleships and Equalizers, which will assume Formation Zed." This Skrull space war formation was much like the previous one, except it had no depth to it. The ships involved basically assumed the shape of a giant X shape, three ships thick in most places bar the center of the X, with no trailing tail.

For a moment the tactical officers frowned, but then understood. With the larger ships just as susceptible to the strange silver beams as their smaller brethren, they had to be defended from any kind of contact with them. And let us hope that the repaired Kree ships the humans pilfered don't have the capital grade equivalent of that hell weapon. "The fleet will advance thus. And I want every eye on our scanners as we do. We cannot afford to be caught in a battle against the human's super-powered troops if they have more of those attack craft."


Due to extensive use of the time dilation chambers and the sheer amount of Doom-designed repair droids that the Avalon Empire had slowly amassed, the Empire had indeed built up a surplus of Ravens. They'd had to shift a lot of their priorities around, and even doing that would have ultimately failed to meet their goal without Harry's newest trading partners, the so-called Inhumans, getting involved. However, thanks to said involvement, the Empire had around three thousand Ravens. As of that moment, eight hundred of these, those who had been a part of the ready CAP (Combat Air Patrol), had already been practically wiped out.

Yet while that might've been true, the human cost had thankfully been far lower, something that brought a wry, wary grin to Whitaker's face as he reported, "We only lost forty-two crewmen by the end. Forty-two casualties scattered across eight hundred Ravens. The emergency teleport function still worked wonderfully even in a battle like this. We've still got a lot more injured, but even there, we're doing far better than I'd anticipated. The survivability of our ships was also an unexpectedly positive major factor."

"However, I highly doubt we can hope our next strikes will be as effective. Assuming an opponent is stupid is a great way to get dead." Whitaker then highlighted the new enemy formation on the main strategic hologram in front of them, watching as it cut a course to intercept the fake earth. "We… could be a little sneaky here. By all reports, the teleportation rings seem to be invisible to them, so there's a chance we might be able to jump to their fleet central command, but to do that we'd need to wait until they reach the mid-system range. Personally, I think leaving them to their own devices for that long isn't the best idea. Powers?"

"I'm reluctant to take my fleet in against them alone sirs. However, I might be willing to try if we could somehow convince them to hyper after us," Admiral Powers replied. He was the fleet admiral currently operating as the field officer, while Whitaker had switched over to the role of overall commander. Murphy, not to be left out, had taken charge of Fortress Mars and it's defenses.

"We could maybe shut down the hyperspace trap, make them think we can only hold it in readiness for a short amount of time before we run out of energy?" Murphy mused.

"Again, I don't know if they'd fall for that bait even if we set it out for them. That in mind I think splitting up our Ravens will be the plan then. Load up half of them, get the crews back into fighting shape, and prepare them to strike just in case when our fleet goes in. That won't happen though until we get some Custodes type help out up here," Whitaker decided.

"The Human Torch is already here on Fortress Mars, along with Polaris. I've been assured that others should be on their way soon," Murphy assured. "Powers, prepare your fleet to jump in once the rest of our supers arrive. We'll let you do that and get fully engaged with their destroyer screens before my people shut down the hyperspace trap and you retreat, the timing of which I will leave up to you."


While Pinoptes' warning had grabbed the attention of those gathered around Loki's cell, it couldn't hold it for long. Events much closer to hand took precedence.

For a brief second, nearly missed by Harry and the others as Pinoptes spoke, Dani stared unblinking at the world around her, her body frozen. Then, she felt a vast… pulling sensation, if she'd had to describe it. Pulling, tugging, sucking, regardless of the term used—and none of those were quite accurate—some kind of pressure was suddenly building up inside of her. As it did, a power, or perhaps a weight across her entire being, thrust itself out from within her blood, crossing that vague connection between her life's essence and the internal dimension where Sigyn's soul resided—or had been made of Sigyn's soul. It was magic on a level Dani had never even heard described before, let alone felt and could do nothing as the feeling washed over her, gasping. She nearly slumped to her knees, only held upright by Fenrir's bulk pressing into her from the side.

The gasp, light as it was, drew everyone's eyes back to her, and Harry wasted no time in tearing the door to the jail open rushing to her side as Skadi and Hela crowded in. The younger goddess wormed her way around Harry to wrap a supportive arm around her lover's waist. "Dani beloved, what is going on, is the Trickster's blood somehow attacking you or…?"

"GU—UgHhh…" Dani could only slur, her eyes rolling back into her sockets as the strange sensation continued.

Harry stared between Dani and Loki, the bound god looking equally as poleaxed, if not more so than the young Cheyenne girl. The God of Mischief was swaying on his feet, his legs very obviously losing their strength as his entire mind was pulled elsewhere. Harry quickly cast a spell to hold the Asgardian in place, fearing what would happen if he fell and broke the connection that had undoubtedly formed between him and Dani for the moment. "Bloody damn it, this is some bad timing! I think it's happening. Sigyn's soul is pushing itself into Loki through their blood… Soul magic at this level is…"

Hela stared as well, using her divine equivalent of mage-sight for a moment before cancelling the spell and looking away, blinking rapidly behind her mask. "GAH! That, that is the soul of a goddess!? It reminds me very strongly of the souls of the children within Eylandəvbarnœska, but many times greater, more varied and experienced, with none of their innocence but all of their goodness."

"And in terms of what it actually looked like? For those of us with no magical ability?" Skadi questioned, mind only half pulled away from her still addled lover, watching Hela raise hand to rub at her eyes.

"It was like someone had taken the sun and shone all of its radiance through a prism," Hela groused, unamused. "Blinding does not do it justice."

Despite Hela's warnings, Harry attempted to look as well, but not before ordering Skadi to keep the pair's hands connected as he did so. He held out for a bare second longer than Hela, mostly because his mage sight worked differently than the goddess's, before looking away. "Wow. Yeah, okay, keep them connected. Whatever is going on is still building up, and it's taking a toll on both of them. But I think it should be over soon."

Roughly five minutes later, a blazingly bright rainbow of colors burst out of the immaterial into the material. All those present, four-legged and two legged alike, gasped and shouted, scrambling to cover their eyes through howls of pain bar the two participants, neither of whom were seeing anything at that point. Yet even as the rest writhed in eye-searing pain, at the same time a feeling of love, of motherly delight washed over them, causing them to smile.

As they were all looking away, none saw the center of the blazing light shift in midair, though they did notice when its radiance disappeared into Loki's body, a bright glow left behind in the god's chest that slowly receding within. For a moment after the light vanished the pressure the magic users had felt still rested upon them. Then with a snap, it too disappeared, and Loki slumped as much as Harry's spell would allow, his mind most decidedly offline for the moment. A second later, Dani followed, and Skadi and Fenrir gently guided their lover and friend away, nearly carrying her between them.

"Well… that was… something," Hela murmured, causing Harry to give her a deadpan stare.

Abruptly, Jean's voice arrived in their heads, her telepathic voice a furious snarl. "HELLO!? Apocalyptic World Invasion going on here, you two! Get your sexy asses moving!"

Shaking his head at the jarring whiplash back to the here and now, Harry wordlessly raced away, Hela and Garm at his heels. Hela flushing faintly for a second at Jean's flirtatious term. Moments later as they fully remembered what had been going on, her expression hardened to Harry's own as they burst through the runic doorways to Camelot, Harry immediately shouting out, "Sitrep, Pinoptes! Dennis!"

By the time Whitaker, Powers, and Murphy were preparing their second assault on the slowly advancing alien fleet, Harry and Hela were once more in the loop. Gathering his various officers took some time, but eventually the Custodes, the X-men, and their other allies had gathered in Camelot, ready to respond to the worldwide threat.

Meanwhile, Dennis and Pinoptes had continued to compile information on what was happening around the planet, contacting local commanding forces in various places, not only within the Empire, but in allied countries as well. This ended up including a few that they weren't formally allied with but still had good relations toward, or a mutual defense treaty at least, such as with Taiwan, just to make certain that they were all on the same page moving forward.

"First things worst," Dennis began, standing at the front of the packed hall. "There is no easy way to say this. Somehow, someway, the alien invaders have convinced or otherwise coerced the Chinese military to go crazy."

At his words the holo-globe, hovering in the air to one side, rotated and zoomed in on China. Once it had the country center stage, Pinoptes began updating the display with real-time information. The crowd watched stone-faced as Chinese military units began to move every which way. Most worryingly, this included naval units gathering at what were obviously assault forces.

"Their air force and naval units are both on the move, attacking all and sundry barring, for whatever reason, North Korea of all places. Thankfully, North Korea doesn't seem to have been infested with the same madness, and they are hunkering down, shouting out about how it is some kind of direct threat to them, but doing nothing," Dennis reported. "That's all that we can ask for right now, and the local American forces were already responding as well when Pinoptes and I began to put together this report."

"And let me guess, the Mandarin is saying that this is an internal matter and that they'll handle it?" Harry growled, mentally snarling at his past self once more for trying to work with that man.

"Yes, he is, but he's also openly calling the naval forces that have bombarded Taiwan and fired missiles at units of the Japanese and American Pacific Fleets operating in those waters 'rogue elements that are no longer associated with the Party'," Dennis answered. Seeing the raised brow in response, he continued. "In CCP terms, that means that the defenders can deal with their attackers as they wish without repercussions. Why he did so we don't know, although I will say that our sensors haven't detected any communication between the rogue fleet and China proper. There will no doubt be issues later, but right now, again, that might be the best we can get since the Americans have already started firing back."

Sage took the stage then, gesturing at the holo-globe hovering in the center of the hall, which again changed, zooming in still further. "Meanwhile in China itself, we have Chinese units fighting one another, Chinese units fighting the invaders, and Chinese units sitting on their hands. Mandarin has personally taken command of the military bases surrounding Nanjing and seems to be directing some kind of response against the invaders from there."

Dennis stepped forward again, being both an ex-military man and knowledgeable of the Chinese nomenclature, understanding what they were being told better than Sage despite her vastly better technical and analytical skills. "From what we can discern he's doing an alright job, but he's also moving all over the place, or at least, his commands are coming out that way. He seems to believe, and I would agree, that the aliens somehow headhunted officers from around the portal they opened there and took any and all intelligence they could. From this they gained access to various codes and phrases to give out seemingly legitimate orders and used those to cause the chaos we're seeing."

"Mandarin's even gone so far as to have ordered all of the nuclear-capable sites to be shut down. For now, only an in-person command from him will be allowed to reopen them. According to open radio signals we've intercepted, there is a verified order on repeat that states that any officer suggesting otherwise is to be shot on sight. That being said, I don't know how effective that will be," Mystique interjected. A consummate spy with decades of experience, Dennis had utilized her skills to help parse the captured radio signals from China. "This is the kind of operation I would only be able to pull off if I had both my own powers and that of a telepath. Quite a deadly combination."

"China is just one ton of the multiple tons of mountain scree currently falling on us. What of the rest of the globe?" Hela demanded.

"The largest attack so far, or at least the one that has the most units already enter our world, has been the one on Washington. Enemy forces are spreading out quickly, but they're also coming under heavy fire from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and National Guard. Of course, they've struck back just as hard. Nearly every base within a hundred miles of the US Capital is either no longer responding or has sent out an SOS stating they are under heavy pressure," Sir Dennis answered, looking over to Enterprise. "On top of that, they pushed out a massive force toward Hampton Roads. But there they were stonewalled, badly."

The cybernetic worthy stood up, smiling slightly. "My little side project, Black Dragon, has been going forward at an appreciable pace. Her accompanying AI hadn't been brought online last I checked, but I have no doubt that she is active now. I'm sure that the various anti-air defenses we sold to the U.S. Navy no doubt came as a supreme surprise to the invaders."

"Our rockets and missiles give us more range than their strictly energy-type weapons, but even their small skimmers seem to have shielding. On average it takes two missiles to knock them out of the sky. And according to this, while we've downed several hundred of those, we've only shot down eighteen of the larger eel-like creatures so far," Steve reported. "And they are still bringing in more and more troops. Thousands of skimmers, infantry the large eels and these strange manta ray things are pouring in all the time. Thankfully, The president is safe under Mount Cheyenne at the NORAD headquarters. Local military commanders are handling this about as well as can be expected. We've war-gamed things like this before, someone attacking Washington in force. It, after all, has happened in the past," he finished drolly, looking at his very British girlfriend and his nominally British friend. Harry couldn't help but snort at the look, despite the serious atmosphere.

Sage, however, burst the brief moment of levity with all the subtly and tact of an orbital bombardment. "The Pentagon, Congress, and the Supreme Court were not as lucky as the president. The Pentagon was a bloodbath by what few reports we got. They fought hard but went down within minutes. Whichever congressmen and senators were at Capitol Hill when everything started, they're gone now. That includes the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and President pro tempore of the Senate. The Secretary of State is also missing. The President is the only one who wasn't there. The enemy tried to decapitate the US government, and only failed because of the warnings the Custodes have been giving everyone."

"Nearly the same occurred in France, although the French were not as willing to thank us as the Americans were for those warnings. Of course, now they're screaming for help to reclaim Paris. The city is entirely under the command of the invaders by this point," Ororo murmured, sighing slightly. She'd been handling that line of communication, and it had been frustrating from day one. "The aliens also began destroying the city almost immediately upon arrival, whereas in Washington that was a side effect of the attack on Capital Hill for a bit."

Harry nodded, staring at the images on the holo-map for a moment as Steve cut in again, saying that Nick Fury was reportedly on the ground in Washington leading a group of police, special forces, CIA, and other operatives through a guerilla campaign try and cause as much damage to the invaders as they could within Washington. Currently, however, that wasn't much beyond ambushing any the Chitauri infantry they could who'd strayed from air cover. Air superiority over the city was definitely in the hands of the aliens.

That said, considering that the invaders, the Chitauri as they'd been confirmed to be, didn't seem to be after anything more than killing as many people as they could find, any little bit helped. Harry shuddered to think of the number of dead already, a feeling of deep guilt pooling in his gut.

"All right. It's clear we need to address each front, and that means we need to split up our forces, unfortunately. I wish we could concentrate on each incursion point in detail, but if we do that, we're going to lose thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands more civilians in every other theater. And we've lost too many already," Harry said aloud, clenching his fists as he stood up. "We should've anticipated this kind of shotgun approach to an invasion the moment we learned about the Chitauri."

"And what could we have accomplished then, my Seidr Man?" Hela interjected firmly but not unkindly, laying a hand on Harry's shoulder. "We had no way of accurately tracking Loki, no way of knowing where he had been unless we arrived on his heels quickly enough to discover his magical signature. Until they activated them, the beacons were also invisible to our magic and science. Nor did we have any idea the Chitauri would be so wildly violent in their approach, deliberately targeting civilian targets. After all, Freya was our only source on the Chitauri themselves, and attacking Asgard is nothing like attacking Earth. Even if we had information of their campaign against my folk, we would not have known the Chitauri would assault civilians like this. So I will hear no self-recriminations on your part."

Harry smiled wanly in return, taking Hela's hand and squeezing it briefly, trying not to look over at Emma who he could tell was also glaring at him for the guilt she probably could feel rolling off of him. Collecting himself, he turned back to the matter at hand. "Jean, we're not going to send too large a force to China without being invited; the last thing we need is to add even more fuel to that powder keg. Do you think you could head in and deal with them? On your own I mean?"

Of all of Harry's people, only Jean had both the ability to counter something that could apparently take people over and the raw telekinetic power to work on a countrywide scale. Indeed, before the issue in China had been fully explained, Harry had been tempted to send her after the rogue fleet attacking the country's neighbors. Released from moral restrictions like taking prisoners or avoiding nearby civilians, Jean would've been able to wipe out the whole fleet in short order.

Harry could've as well, obviously, but he was going to be busy elsewhere. The Chitauri obviously aren't our only enemy here, and if the communications of their leaders Pinoptes told me about while we waited for everyone to arrive are any indication… well, it seems like it's time to bite the bullet and fight Titan with Titan.

"If Emma and Charles are willing to back me up if I need it, then yes," Jean answered firmly. This was exactly the kind of mission she had rushed to get back into shape after giving birth to the twins for, this was why she was part of the World Guard in the first place. Even while thinking of that, Jean had to force down the small twinge of fear for her two little ones. Mentally, she knew they were safe, hidden away in Camelot, up in the headmaster's tower in fact. And they were also under so many magical defenses it would take an orbital bombardment fit to crack the planet several times over to get through to them. And even then, no one looking to do so would be able to find Camelot in the first place.

Harry gazed into Jean's eyes for a few seconds, then slowly nodded. Worry was clear in his emerald gaze, but he couldn't address it now. He had orders to give. Looking around, he breathed in once, then nodded, making certain to meet every individual's eyes as he continued, his words firm. This is one of those times where I need to make a decision as a hero rather than a king.

"That's China, then. As for the rest of the world… I am somewhat reminded of a quote from Sun Tzu. 'He who defends everything defends nothing'. But… there are civilians dying all over the place, and as much as it would make good military sense to concentrate our forces and overwhelm each portal's forces en masse, our allies and their people would pay for such a tactic in blood; the blood of their soldiers, and the blood of their innocent. I cannot allow that."

He waited for the objections, the sensible thing to be reiterated by those with harder hearts, but even Hela and Emma remained silent. Whether that was because they agreed that it was the right thing to do or thought it made good long-term strategic sense—after all, if they didn't start pushing back against all of the Chitauri beach heads simultaneously, the invading forces wherever they didn't strike would continue to grow and thus make it hard to stop them in the long run. Ultimately it would put their own people in a lot of danger, but that was a price they would have to pay.

"Hear, hear!" came a dry agreement from the doors that led into the main hall.

The others all turned in shock at the speaker, Skadi leaping to her feet. "Danielle! But—"

"I'm fine. The uh… transfer, I suppose was a bit… yeah…" Dani shook herself, not wanting to think about the sensations, the weirdness that had involved, The grateful 'thank you' that had railroaded through her mind like a runaway train in a canyon also bore ignoring for the moment. Instead , she focused on concentrating on the here and now, hugging her girlfriend before looking over at Harry. "Ghigau reporting to duty, my Jarl."

"I see that someone has studied the book of too gung-ho for their own good as well," Harry said in response, snorting but nodding his acceptance. "Good. Skadi, I will be writing up a formal request for aid from Asgard. No doubt Odin will want it in writing. Emma, you'll transfer to Babylon and coordinate the Asgardian's response as they come in."

Skadi and Emma both nodded and Harry turned to the others while Dani and Skadi took a moment to cuddle a bit at the back of the room. How the embarrassed but happy look on Skadi's face as she wrapped around Dani transformed her normally fierce visage into one somewhat cute was amazing, Harry reflected before turning to more important matters.

"Scott, I'm sending you and all of the X-men to Washington. Steve, go with them. You're in overall command of that battle. We'll send in one of the battalions of ODMs as well. Beyond that, I will leave that battle entirely up to you and the surviving locals." Harry smiled a small, wintry smile. "Just don't let me hear about tanks entering urban environments without accompanying infantry please, or anything else equally stupid? That would hurt my heart."

Steve snorted, but Sage interjected before the soldier out of time could respond. "Tony Stark has announced he would also appreciate the opportunity to help sir," she said, bringing up a static image of the inventor on a holo-screen. "He and the president are already in talks about getting his house arrest officially lifted, rather than merely working around it by using his runic doorway."

Harry nodded, then turned to Colossus. "Severomorsk is yours. You'll lead the majority of the World Guard there, bar Ororo, Cannonball, Dani, and Amara. Another battalion of ODMs will go in with you as well, commanded by Sean McIntyre or Jeff Blaze. The two of them are our most senior ODM field officers. I imagine that you will want to be with Steve in America, Sam?"

But the Falcon shook his head, gesturing to the map. "Russia. They'll need my help there more than Washington will with how far the Chitauri have already spread. Whoever, or whatever, is in charge there is pushing hard. The attack in France isn't nearly as well organized or as large. Speaking of, who all were you thinking of sending to Paris?"

"Thunderbird, Cortez, Mystique, Thing, and Thundra. Along with another company of ODMs that will drop directly into the City of Lights."

"We might need to light a fire under the British Admiralty too by the looks of it. The Home Fleet still hasn't moved a knot despite skimmers having already been spotted out over the English Channel," Dennis added.

Sage shook her head at that. "King Duncan's already on that actually. He just called his War Room to order. We will still need to watch the French Front closely though. It's… the phrase, 'wildly all over the place' fits best, at least in comparison to the others. It's almost as if whoever was in charge has just stopped controlling their troops."

The Fantastic Four looked at one another, a silent conversation taking moments, before they nodded as one, indicating without words that they understood why Harry was willing to break the team up as he had. While Reed was a decent fighter, he was an academic before he was a hero, and not at all a soldier. Killing an enemy might not come as easily to him on a true wartime battlefield. Johnny, in contrast, would have a much easier time dehumanizing his opponents in space, and had already proven he could be ruthless when using his powers in that setting. Thundra and Ben, wouldn't care one way or another what they faced. And lastly. while Sue had somewhat recovered from her pregnancy, there was a far cry between being able to suit up, and being combat ready.

"I'm good with that. Hell, maybe when all this is over, Thundra and I can stop over in Paris and have a bit of a date, eh? It's supposed to be super romantic, right?" Thing questioned, causing Thundra herself to scoff. Fighting a raging horde of aliens wasn't romantic enough?

"Hopefully it will be again after this war. They haven't knocked over the Eiffel Tower… yet… but the Arc de Triumph did get smashed by one of the giant fish things," Dennis answered, shaking his head sadly at what he saw as something near to sacrilege.

With a short growl, Harry brought everyone back on target to the then and now, pointing over to Laynia, the late Nikolai's sister, next. She had agreed to help once more, to help end the unasked for war as quickly as possible. "Dark Star, I want you up in space alongside the Human Torch and Polaris. Stephen, Clea, please help them up there too. Once she's dealt with whatever the invaders have that can control other people's minds, Jean will help you if you need backup. Don't overstay your welcome in China, Jean."

He then smiled mischievously. "That being said, if you happen to discover that the Chitauri or the telepathic whatever are attempting to take over any of the country's nuclear sites well then, feel free to… neutralize the threat in any way you deem necessary."

Jean smirked right back at him, nodding in agreement.

"Ororo, Hela, Danielle. You three, Fenrir, and Garm will have to hold the main enemy force in Afghanistan," Harry went on, turning to look at the two goddesses that were his mocha-skinned wife and his hopefully soon-to-be pale as Death wife. "But first—"

"—I will head to the US, then France, Hungary if need be, and then Russia. The teleportation spells I learned from my Lady Gaia will be invaluable in removing civilians from the combat zone," Ororo interrupted, smiling faintly as she too stood up.

"Thank you love," Harry responded, watching as she left the room ahead of the rest. Turning back to the others, he thought for a moment, pondering over the various forces involved. He would have preferred to send Fenrir or Garm in with Jean, but knew that they couldn't really be of any use anyplace with a civilian population. Both monstrously sized wolves exuded auras of fear to those who did not know them, and with everything already so chaotic in China, more fear was one thing that they didn't really need. It's quite ironic. Garm actually plays well with others, especially kids, and Fenris is surprisingly gentle as long as you don't get him angry. At least they can go wild in the mountains of Afghanistan as much as they like.

Catching his eye and breaking him from his thoughts, Hela smiled grimly, rubbing between Garm's ears. "We will do aught we can, my love. But if the Mad Titan does appear, even ones so doughty as we may be overmatched."

"You're only to hold the Chitauri until help arrives. Either me, Ororo, Jean, or one of the other Asgardians like Thor," Harry reminded her fiercely. "If Thanos himself shows up before we do, retreat as best you can. Immediately."

Skadi had already left at that point, silently as the Huntress she was. Harry would bet she'd already made it through the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard to request her people's aid as well. This kind of otherworldly assault was precisely the type that the alliance between himself and Lord Odin had been created to meet after all.

"Wait, if you're sending all of them to the main invasion point—and I'm not arguing with that—and the rest of us to Paris, Severomorsk, and Washington, doesn't that mean there's no one left for the city in the Balkans?" Scott asked, confusion at the seeming hole in Harry's stratagem.

Harry and Jean exchanged glances before looking over to Reed, who winced, knowing exactly what they were about to say. "Doctor Doom has created mutual defense treaties with many of his neighbors, including Hungary. He's already on the move. He must've been in the middle of something important when the reports of the invasion first came in, because he bluntly ordered us not to stick our noses in."

"Ah damn. I almost feel sorry for 'em. I mean, Doom's been acting all nice lately, so stands to reason that the guy has a lot of nasty saved up…" Ben murmured, then shook his head. "Wait. No, no. I don't feel sorry for the bastards at all."

Harry snorted at that, and the meeting continued, now turning to the nuts and bolts. Through it all, no one dared ask where Harry would be. Everyone knew that if Thanos was behind the invasion, the entire thing his Round Two as it were, Harry would finally be taking the Titan plunge himself, and facing his hardest battle yet.


As Dennis had reported, not all of the personnel from the various militaries that had allied with the Avalon Empire—or Harry Potter, the difference was slight but there—had been on board with actually working with the wizard or had taken the warnings the Empire had passed on seriously. As it happened, some of the French base commanders fell into this category; worse, one such was the base commander of Châteaudun Air Base, one of the many bases near Paris. Had he taken the warnings seriously, he would've had his people ready to react at a moment's notice to an occurrence such as the invasion. Instead, General Huntziger II hadn't even bothered sharing the warnings that had been passed to him from on high to his officers. As far as the soldiers of the base knew, whatever had been going on with the Wrecking Crew and their ally had no connection to any larger issue, and they had no need to worry once the nuisance had left their country.

Thankfully, the commanders at the Évreux-Fauville Air Base did not fall into the non-believer category. So while Châteaudun nearly drowned under the attack that came as a surprise to them, squadrons of French jet fighters and helicopters from Évreux-Fauville had risen to defend their nation in record time. The Rippers and Skimmers around Paris were met with unexpected force, leading Nebula's orders for the Skimmers to keep pressing outward from the city foolish in the extreme. Instead, the Super-Skrull had ordered them to destroy bridges and any military force they came upon in order to slow any land based military response.

Admiral Terrance Brighton, who had rotated into the command of the British Home Fleet, the largest British naval fleet and certainly the single largest naval force in the European theatre was also one such officer who looked down his nose at not just foreigners in general, but also amateurs like Harry Potter. He had gone along with the idea of working together with Potter and other nations up to that point because the King had agreed to do so, but now, when actual orders came down that would force him to sortie in support of the French fleet to guard the coastline across the Channel, he felt the need to misquote the words of a rather ridiculous and idiotic English World War I British officer.

"Bah, the French are not the sort I want to fight alongside, regardless of the circumstances, which all seem rather spurious to me anyway. This report about some terrorist attack in Paris is, no doubt, simply hogwash. I have yet to see any actual news of any attack coming out of the city. And regardless, I'm certain the French Armed Forces can at least defend their own borders," the man said with a sneer on his face, his overly-educated British drawal grating to the ears.

"Sir, there are no signals coming out of Paris. Nothing on the Internet, no phone calls, no nothing for the last fifteen minutes. While there are no reports per se, the lack of anything coming out of Paris and the fact that the French military have gone on red alert all across the board is telling enough that something is going on," Admiral Brighton's aide, a Captain Dwain Sawyer, shot back, tone stiff but respectful. Admiral Brighton had been Sawyer's mentor for years and was well worth his salt… even if he did have his head up his arse regarding anything even relating to working with any foreign powers.

"That's precisely the kind of thing local terrorists could've done," Brighton waved off Sawyer's words, the importance of them unable to penetrate the man's deep-seated biases. "No, I will not allow what could potentially be a non-issue to drive us into some kind of civil war over in France. There is no doubt some kind of rational explanation for the blackout. And besides, the problem's in Paris, Dwain! What in the world would the Royal Navy do if we did get involved beyond sit around with our thumbs up our arses?"

"But sir, we do have verified reports of alien aircraft sightings along the French coast. Reports, I might add, that stretch from Caen to the Port of Calais. From there it's only a short few minutes flight across to Dover," the very-much put-upon Sawyer protested. "That very much makes it an issue of self-defense too, correct?"

"And just where did these so-called aliens come from, hmm? If aliens could invade the capital of France so easily, why haven't they invaded London then? Or the rest of the world? And where would they have even come from? The Avalon Empire's been gobbling up large amounts of the industrial goods on the market and has heavily recruited among our personnel and the general population for a reason. If those arseholes still can't bloody well give us a heads up before the nasties have their boots on the ground, then what's the goddamn point of Potter and his so-called empire?"

Brighton snorted, very much wanting to continue on his well worn diatribe about how the Avalon Empire was a flash in the pan, and that Potter should've done the right thing and subsumed his holdings to that of the United Kingdom. He was one of those individuals who truly believed that the British Empire would rise again, and secretly loathed Potter almost as much as he detested the surrender-monkeys and Bosch. Brighton had just been better at hiding such beliefs than many others.

Fortunately, he hadn't done so perfectly, and his current direct superior, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had realized something was going on when the capital ships still in port hadn't set out within half an hour of the first reports coming in. As the general plan to defend the Isles and their allies had called upon. A plan that Brighton had signed off on and agreed to follow.

Thus, before the admiral could wax lyrical about his pet peeves once more to a truly captive audience, someone else decided to make their presence known. The door to the rest of the Admiralty House opened without fanfare and in walked the First Lord, Chester Blunderbuss, himself. He was a rail thin, elderly gentleman of Brighton's age who walked with a cane, his leg having taken some shrapnel when he was a mere yeoman on a frigate during WW2. It did nothing to lessen the weight of his bearing.

As he walked in, the First Lord was speaking over his shoulder to someone behind him, not even looking at Brighton as he entered the office without even announcing himself. "So as you can see, Admiral Brighton has become something of an obstruction. Still, I wanted you to hear his words for yourself."

Brighton scowled at his long-time rival among the Admiralty, and rose to his feet, ready to launch into angry tirade at the cocky man. However, whatever words he'd have said died on his lips as King Duncan walked in behind the older man. "We made promises Chester. We assured the French that our Home Fleet would be able to support them with long-range fire, that our troops stood ready to be delivered wherever they were needed. Is that not the case?"

While Sawyer tried to act the part of an unassuming piece of furniture, Brighton paled as Duncan stalked towards him. While he was new to the throne and hadn't quite pulled of a glare yet that could be called kingly, Duncan had been in the SAS for several years, and had the attitude, and medals, to show for it. The eyes of such a soldier were now locked onto Brighton as if the admiral was an enemy, and Duncan was deciding exactly which way to tear him apart. "You were informed of Emperor Potter's warning, Admiral. You were told to have the Home Fleet ready, in its entirety, and to start working on stratagems based on a need to defend other European countries as well as ourselves. Did you, in fact, write up such plans?"

"I—ye—yes my lord, but I…" Brighton stammered, paling as the seconds ticked by.

"Good. They will no doubt help now that we are faced with such a scenario. And has the Home Fleet been made ready to act?"

"M—my Lord, the expense of that…"

Glaring at his normally bombastic opponent, the First Lord spoke up, his words and tone a scalpel. "That would be a no, my Lord. We have two destroyer squadrons active in the Channel right now on maneuvers; each of four destroyers and ten frigates. The rest of the Home Fleet, however, is still docked in Scapa Flow. And none of our heavier capital ships have been made ready to set to sea at all. They can be made ready quickly, but not instantly."

"So, the readiness report that reached me over the past week or so have been falsified." Gone was any veneer of civility in Duncan's tone, his face having gone from stone to steel. Now, his voice was almost venomous as his glare pinned Brighton in place. "That, Admiral, would be treason in a time of war."

"I wouldn't go that far my Lord," the First Lord cautioned, smiling internally as Brighton, his rival for political power within the Admiralty, was most decidedly set up to lost his position. Whatever anyone said, militaries did have a certain political structure within them. People had to be willing to grease palms, scratch backs, and generally get along to go along—or whatever other euphemism anyone would care use—to truly gain rank. The two of them had been dueling it out for leadership in the Admiralty for some time, but now Brighton would be gone, and his Britain First policies completely demolished. "But I would say it is grounds for… dismissal."

"True enough, I suppose now isn't exactly the best time to truly make an example of this kind of foolishness "The important thing is that I want the Home Fleet, in full, sitting within the Channel as close to the French coast as we can get it. I don't care how we do it, I want us to either begin interdicting the invader's lines of reinforcement or, barring that, start drawing any of their forces we can out to sea. We cannot just let them dig in further or spread deeper inland."

Duncan pointed the finger of death—at least of careers—at Brighton, his face twisting into a snarl. "I expect your resignation on my desk within the hour, and you and all of your personal belongings out of this office within two." As Brighton stared at the finger like it was a rattlesnake that had just bitten him, Duncan addressed the other elderly man in the room. "Chester, you take command here. There's already reports of small flying vehicles moving across the Channel, and I will be damned if idiots like Brighton allow us to both be attacked on our own turf and turn our back on our allies at the same time. For now, the Air Force will need to provide our offensive punch."

The First Lord of the Admiralty made a huffing noise under his breath at that. "Your Majesty, you know that their proposal was to keep at least two-thirds of the fighter squadrons rotating above our own airspace for home defense, just in case we came under attack in a second wa—"

Duncan waved him to silence with an abrupt, almost violent slash of his hand through the air. "I told Harry Potter that the British military would be ready to both defend ourselves and support our allies in France. I told him we would be able to do so, come what may. If you and the Air Force make liars out of me I will have all of your heads! And we'll have to see if I mean that literally or figuratively later."

The First Lord grimaced, before nodding, gesturing for the heretofore silent Captain Sawyer over to him as Duncan, his demand made, turned for the door. "We'll get it done then, sire."


Thankfully, not everyone in the British military had their heads up their rear ends. Commodore Drew Nacey, of Destroyer Division Two of the Home Fleet stood to one side of the radar plot on his flagship, the Sheffield class Coventry, shaking his head. "They are how small?"

"Barely fifteen feet across sir, about a fourth of the size of our jets. But they're moving fast, pushing out from the French shoreline quickly… estimate Mach two maybe? It's really hard to tell."

"Numbers? And is there any chance that you're reading missiles or something similar?" the ship's captain, Ian Morgan, asked from the other side of the commodore.

"They're moving so fast and so wildly… and sir, there are more pushing out from the coast every minute. I… there's three hundred, maybe more within radar range right now? More outside of it…" In fact, to the radar specialist, his screen almost appeared like it was developing slow moving rash there were so many red icons marching across its. "Um… way more outside of it."

"And we can't hail anyone in Le Havre?" Commodore Nacey asked, looking over at the communications officer.

"No sir. The aliens seem to be carrying some kind of scrambler device with them. The more their flyers spread out, the worse it gets. I haven't had any luck punching through their net."

"Radar's going too!" the radar specialist shouted, getting a slight glare from the captain for speaking out of turn. Luckily for him, the older man's heart wasn't in it.

"Call the division to battle stations. Prepare to repel an aerial assault," Commodore Nacey ordered. Instantly, Captain Morgan had other things to worry about.

Across the Coventry, men rushed to their battle stations. The guns around the destroyerbegan to rotate in their mounts until they were pointing into the sky above the Channel.

Striding to the foremost windows of the bridge, Captain Morgan observed the horizon through his binoculars, waiting for the aliens to come into sight, thanking God that the aliens seemingly were just pushing out randomly in every direction from Paris rather than moving to Calais or Dunkirk to across at the Straits of Dover. Instead, they had followed the Seine into the Paris Basin of all things. It was bad news for the various cities located there, in particular Le Havre, but good news for the rest of France and the United Kingdom.

If they had first concentrated on France, and then moved across from Dunkirk or Calais after their sphere of control had swallowed them whole, at the speeds they'd displayed so far, the destroyers would have never been able to do much to stop them from reaching the Isles in numbers enough to swamp the defenders. AA would have done what they could, but I—

Morgan's thoughts broke off as the radio operator cursed. "Sir, we're losing long range! The field is just—just hashing out."

"Can our systems still lock onto individual targets?"

"Yes sir… but I'd recommend firing now sir, I can't say how badly that jamming of theirs is going to mess with targeting the closer it gets."

Nodding at the young officer's suggestion and reasoning, Morgan raised his voice and ordered, "Lock and load people, I want us through at least half of our Sea Darts before they get close."

The commodore, agreeing with this course of action, sent out an order to the other three destroyers in their formation to likewise begin firing their missiles. "Fire at will, but ceasefire when you can't auto-lock anymore. Once we each have five salvos between us, I want the whole formation to come about. We'll pull them further out to the Atlantic if we can. Keep the formation in AA mode."

This meant to keep the ships in closer to one another than normal, so each one could cover at least two of their fellows with their Oerlikon AA guns. This was not a normal battle formation for them, but the Commodore had been a captain during the Falklands War and knew that having multiple ships locked into the same anti-air umbrella was still as important in modern times as it had been back in WW2. Actually, this might be more like the battles in the Pacific than anything else if those things have to keep closing with us to reach their engagement range.

The Commodore's orders into the pickup were punctuated by the roar of missiles firing off towards the veritable swarm of enemy units barreling towards them. He watched from the Coventry'sbridge's as the first salvo soared into the sky and almost out of sight before hitting something that he couldn't see from his position.

"Hit! Splash one!" the tactical officer shouted.

"Split fire, let's see if we can knock these things down with single missiles," Morgan ordered, only to regret it moments later as the next salvo of single Sea Darts failed to take out a single one of their enemies. With a scowl he ordered the ship to go back to double tapping them, but by then it was too late. The enemy had gotten close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

While the commodore turned his focus to making certain that all of the ships in the formation stayed in position relative to the flagship—despite no longer having radar—Morgan raised his binoculars once more. Through them, he stared in consternation as the gathering dots in the distance grew in size.

The alien vehicles looked nothing so much like small, strange plates, with built-up areas at their bows, the center of their port and starboards, and possibly their sterns as well. It almost reminds me of a ready meal plate, or no… a children's plate. At the front of the built up segment at the bow of the 'plate' was the pilot, while in both flat zones along either wing was a gunner standing behind a futuristic gun on a pintle mount.

And they were fast! By the time Morgan had lowered his binoculars the distant plates he'd been watching were already within range of the ship's 4.5' Mark 8 naval guns. The destroyer's main guns opened up, blasting their might into the air. Manually aimed fire would've probably be next to useless at that point, given how fast the plates could move, but thanks to the dispersal rounds, which filled the sky with small ball bearings and flechettes, they still took something of a toll, knocking a few of the aliens out of the sky to crash with bone shattering force into the water below.

As the invaders closed, the defensive fire of the destroyers began to come into play, joining the offensive. Rotary cannons, the Oerlikons of the United Kingdom, whirred to life and began filling the air with bullets. These hailstorms of lead smashed into shields without mercy, eventually bringing them down through sheer overload.

"Can we use the Sea Darts at all at this range?" Morgan asked his tactical officer.

"Risky, sir. We can fire them sure, but this close, it's going to be a technicality away from blind firing," his weapons officer answered instead. "We might be able to program them to explode when they reach a certain height instead of impact, but again that would be a big 'might'."

Morgan grunted, then turned to his sensor specialist. "Exactly how many contacts were out there?"

"Um… before the radar went out entirely, I counted around eight hundred individual targets sir… more still to come," the younger officer answered weakly.

Without a word, the tactical officer stood up and left the room, rushing out to flag down the nearest seamen assigned to one of the missile launchers.

More of the strange alien craft, which almost looked to be skimming through the air the closer they got, went down, but then the first of the wave entered their own weapons' range, the distance of which both Nacey and Morgan noted. It was evident that they had a range advantage, although with how insanely mobile the skimmers were, it wasn't much of one. Worse, the alien weaponry as definitely energy based, something that caused both ranked officers to grimace.

Greenish bolts of energy flashed out from the skimmers toward the front of the formation. By the rate of fire, the alien weaponry seemed to operate on the same speed as a machine gun would, hammering out in a ceaseless deluge of automatic fire. There was no time to evade the rain of energy bolts. For all of their naval maneuverability, the destroyers and their frigate companions couldn't move laterally.

"All ships take evasive action—but keep in formation. Morgan, open up the speed, I want the whole command moving faster," Nacey ordered.

Just then, a gunny manning a machine gun on the Coventry's forward deck screamed as he was riddled with energy bolts. Then one of the Oerlikons exploded on the prow. Another explosion, this one at the rear deck, rocked the Justiniannearby, nearly hurling people on the bridge off their feet. Fire and debris choked the air. "Damage control get those flames under control!" Morgan shouted.

"Turn us about, we need to open the range more. All ships, make best efforts to open range however you may while remaining in formation," Commodore Nacey growled. More of the skimmers were falling now, the rate of fire if not its deadliness on the human's side.

But then the Hampshire, the Justinian's sister ship, lost forward momentum and began to list to the side; its bridge had been riddled by energy blasts. Like a group of vultures descending on a fresh kill, skimmers broke off from attacking other destroyers and frigates in the formation and focused on finishing off the Hampshire, silencing its guns one after another.

More than a dozen of their own were lost doing so, but soon, the Hampshire was completely dead in the water. And still worse, the aliens kept at it, immediately shifting targets to the horror of every officer who witnessed it. "Damn it, they're gunning down the crew trying to abandon ship!"

"All ships keep the fire hot! If they're going to kill defenseless men, make them pay for it!" Nacey ordered, his voice trenchant with fury and grief. "Fire by eye, blast it!"

More skimmers went down and for a few moments, the Hampshire was the center of the battle. Then, one of the skimmers dove down to just above water level, riddling the hull of the ship with energy blasts before swooping back up. Despite being far thicker than the armor protecting the weapon systems on the deck, the bolts still punched through the hull along the waterline, letting in water, and the ship quickly began to sink, joining its already butchered crew in the depths.

Grimacing, Commodore Nacey ordered the rest of the formation to begin a tactical retreat while still firing into the mass of skimmers above them. As more began to peel away from the sinking vessel, the fleet did its best to pull the destroyers away from the ever worsening disaster.

The destroyers had taken their toll at range, but once the skimmers had closed, the battle had turned against them. It's like fighting wasps with shields! No matter how hard we smack at them, we can only knock down so many at a time! And while we do, the others just swarm over us! I was wrong. This isn't like WW2 at all! Even when the IJN was at its strongest they couldn't throw around several thousand planes just to sink one destroyer division! Nacey had been counting as best he could amongst the chaos and knew that the enemy had completely refilled their numbers several times over. Worse, there were more coming in even now.

Thankfully, help was on its way. Even before William had begun to browbeat his officers into doing what they should've been the entire time, several squadrons of F-4K Phantoms had been ordered into the air. Now, as the destroyers continued to try and pull away from the endless waves of skimmers, the first Phantoms flashed towards them at Mach speed, locking on to the enemy.

"Now then, remember what our French counterparts found out the hard way. Two missiles per skimmer, and if we see any of the big uglies, we'll have to nail them with at least five if they have their shields up. Do not try to dogfight with those things, ladies. Gain altitude, pick a target area, and come down in strafing runs; but only when you can spot a target out of position for the others to render it aid. Now, weapons free, and let's send these arseholes to whatever hell will take 'em."

As the calm, commanding voice of the senior-most squadron commander finished speaking, almost on his heels came a far more boisterous shout from one of the younger pilots as he rocketed out of formation, pushing his plane well beyond the cruising speed the Phantoms had been flying at. "Tally Ho chaps! I have a lock! Firing!"

If the younger man hadn't already fired as fast as he had, the commander might well have chewed his ass out so hard it became legendary. Since he had, the older commander would let his young pilot get away with it. Boisterousness before the fight is better than grimness, I suppose. As if to follow the intrepid pilot's brazenness, several dozen missiles flashed out, heading out into the distance towards still more skimmers over the horizon.

When their ordinance began to strike, the Phantoms instantly began to turn the battle against the invaders once more. Seventeen of the advancing skimmers were knocked out instantly while others flailed, smashed backwards by the kinetic force erupting against their shields even if those shields had allowed them to survive.. Of course, then they still had to deal with fire coming up from the destroyers below.

The main 4.5 inchers in particular, firing at ridiculously point-blank range, were deadly. While the shields of the skimmers could probably have withstood thousands of Oerlikon rounds throughout a battle, a single shot from a destroyer's main gun was enough to knock them out of the sky in one blast.

And yet more missiles came streaking forward, knocking down still more skimmers. Amongst another round of explosions and dropping shrapnel and debris, the jet fighters reached within visual range of the destroyers. As they did, several of the men crewing the destroyers, who were on deck wielding machine guns, whooped and hollered as they saw their compatriots arrive.

Unfortunately, so too did more skimmers, as a shouted report informed Commodore Nacey. "Sir! Captain Jeffries of the Speedy reports more skimmers incoming, along with something much larger!"

Nacey scowled at the news, shaking his head as he scanned the damage reports coming in from his surviving ships. One of the frigates, the Daring, had stopped signaling a moment before, and even as he read its last communications, skimmers that had so far avoided being downed were descending on it to finish off its crew. Despite his rage at their losses, Nacey knew they couldn't stay in contact like this—they had to break away.

Just then, three of the jet fighters above them went down, coming too close to the writhing mass of skimmers, which had filled the air with green energy bolts. The power behind those bolts seared through fuselage, wing, and cockpit canopy with equal ease, all three pilots losing their lives, their planes exploding in midair.

"Commodore we are getting a hail. It's Commodore Blanche of the French First-rate frigate division five, on the Sorbonne."

Commodore Nacey took a moment to recall, and then recognized both the name of the other commodore and the name of the destroyer division as those that had been on patrol earlier that day near the entrance to the Channel. They only had four ships, rather than a full flotilla like he had, but those four were all destroyers,. Reaching forward, he grabbed the transceiver, speaking into it quickly. He relayed all the information his people had garnered throughout their battle. As he did, a series of explosions rippled across the destroyer Intrepid, and it instantly began to lose speed.

Even as more fire from portside came in over the horizon and hammered into the skimmers all around the destroyers, the Commodore knew that the battle was ultimately turning against them. He prepared to give the order for the rest of the formation to away, to abandon the Intrepid, when yet more help appeared.

Superpowered help.

From out of the sky zoomed in a man wearing an unidentifiable uniform. Never dropping his insane speeds, he crisscrossed through the battle sphere, smashing into—and then through—shields and skimmers alike. For as long as he kept moving, it seemed the man, a mutant perhaps, was nigh on invulnerable, and that invulnerability was allowing him to punch through the enemy like they weren't even there.

Reaching up to his helmet with one hand, the sudden interloper activated a comm of some sort, coming in over the radio. "This is Cannonball of the Custodes. I can help keep these things off of you for a bit, but they've got some bigger bruisers coming over from the shoreline. I recommend ya'll keep your distance."

"Roger that, Custodes Cannonball. Do you have any more information for us?"

"Ya'll fighting out here done pulled 'em in like a dog on ticks," Cannonball replied immediately. As was standard issue amongst the Custodes, Cannonball was constantly connected to their own communications network, one that was fed to-the-second information updates from Pinoptes as well as being more than capable of punching through the Chitauri jamming technology.

"The Chitauri—that's the name o' these nasties—have begun tah ignore targetin' civilie population centers around 'ere and'r concentratin' instead on military bases now thanks to ya'll and the Frenchies who're more inlan' when this shindig started. The Frenchies are not havin' a good time of it, for sure, but you and yours damn near pulled almost all the skimmers around, and even most of those big bruisers, away 'fore they could really start attackin' the cities 'long the coast."

"Good. Good… at least our men haven't been dying for nothing," Nacey muttered, suddenly feeling the weight of his dead landing on his shoulders.

"Don't never think that Commodore," Cannonball answered, trying hard to get his accent under control but failing as he continued to move through the battlefield, smashing into a skimmer every few seconds like a runaway… well… Cannonball. "Your actions out here have saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. Probably more."

Frankly, that would probably still be underselling it. While the Chitauri might well have had millions upon millions of troopers under arms, an entire species dedicated to being the army of an insane space psychopath, beyond having the basic necessary training necessary to keep funneling themselves through their various dimensional doorways, they rather lacked any real organization. Technological level aside, they were basically scavengers, a swarm of locusts, one whose entire philosophy was to kill as many of the enemy as possible, damn their own losses. Any location putting up an actual fight inevitably drew more Chitauri down on them than was strictly necessary or tactically sound. The only exceptions to this were the cities over which the doorways had been opened.

With the aided aerial firepower of Cannonball on their side, the French destroyers began to fire their main guns in force. The combination of the two, along with the arrival of the French reinforcements, finally started to turn the tide. The surviving skimmers, which had pressed forward out from the defensive envelope of the larger, fish-like creatures, retreated back towards them now.

What the bigger guns inlaid upon the Rippers would do to a destroyer didn't bear thinking about, and for the moment, they weren't. The destroyers still had missiles, and thanks to having retreated from the destroyers, the jamming equipment the Chitauri had been using had begun to lose power. Rippers began to be struck by salvos of Sea Darts, which served to batter down their shields, followed closely by ordinance that could knock them out of the sky. Perhaps they weren't always killed after being dropped from the air, but the might of the firepower being unleashed upon them certainly was enough to knock them into the ocean.

And the British and French forces, to their shocked delight, soon learned that despite the fact that they looked like fish, the giant Rippers could not swim. Whatever electronics had been graphed into them didn't seem to fare very well in seawater.

More destroyer groups arrived as time went on, having set sail from the British Isles in slowly increasing force. Within an hour, along with Cannonball for aerial support, they'd managed to create a defensive bulwark that they slowly spread out in every direction. Several hours after the Channel had been secured up to and beyond the Straits of Dover, the rest of the Home Fleet finally arrived along with several more Air Force squadrons. With the guns of the bigger ships, including the flagship of Home Fleet and Britain's sole remaining battleship, the King Henry IV, the humans began pushing in towards the French Coast.


Within thirty minutes of the planning session wrapping up, in carefully chosen and preserved secure sites on military bases within the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Norway, specially prepared weapons caches began to be opened. These had all been magically sealed, but Harry had asked Kitty and Dr. Druid to see to the European caches. Wanda likewise would see to the ones in the United States, since Canada's native goddess would see to her country's caches, before joining the X-men as they attacked the Chitauri assaulting Washington, DC.

Many of the weapons in the sealed caches had been taken from the armories aboard the captured Kree vessels from the last time attempt to assault Earth. Others, the majority in fact, had been created by Hephaestus (2) in an effort to build up a surplus of infantry-style weapons during and after the Eurasian War. At that point, the belief had been that infantry-style weapons, no matter how high tech, were not nearly as dangerous as powered armor technology—which admittedly, several countries already had access to—or larger weapons systems. The magical locks had also kept the weapons from being repurposed' (stolen) unless accessed the locks were removed by magic. And while there were still a few around who hadn't allied with Harry by that point, he did have a monopoly on those skilled individuals willing to work with non-magical authorities.

Once the caches were unlocked, military men from Fortress Mars would arrive at the special sites and take over. They handed out the advanced weaponry to the local militaries, and then in many places, turned around and sent those same forces through the runic portals to doorways closer to the action. The Norwegian and Swedish forces, for example, were moved into Finland before being debriefed and directed to push across the eastern borders. Of course, this was only after the Russians on the other side of those said borders gave them the go ahead. Given the recent Eurasian War, a lot of bad blood still remained across the region. However, with the Chitauri pressing out hard from Severomorsk, and that advancement making headlines and news across their country, the Russians could ill afford to let their bitterness, pride, or arrogance make their decisions for them.

Similarly, the French weren't about to turn down help from the United Kingdom or Germany, not that they were ever as prickly about such things as the Russians. While the French and British naval forces battled the invaders to a vicious draw across the Channel, German fighter jets set out to cross their western border as well. They quickly ran into a kind of expeditionary force.

Here, the previous deaths of the French fighter pilots who had run into the enemy skimmers earlier served those who attacked now in good stead: they closed into missile range, locked on targets, fired, and then kept their distance The second wave of pilots preformed this set of moves until they were out of missiles and then retreated back to base to rearm. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, they didn't think to use more than one missile at a time, and didn't knock out as many skimmers as they could have. And they were still losing planes from pilots who got a little too close to the enemy.

Meanwhile on the mainland, Belgium and Germany had mobilized their motorized battalions and moved them into France, causing some momentary and very nasty flashbacks from older civilians or military men as they saw this. Most of the incoming units were anti-air divisions, which would be worth their weight in gold in time. But there was a lot of distance to cover between Paris and the French border with Germany, or even Belgium, and the divisions' vehicles were too big to get through the runic doorways. It would take time for them to arrive in any location where they'd be useful.

By the time they would, all involved hoped the war would already be over. If not, there probably wouldn't be much of the City of Lights left to save.

In the south of France, infantry divisions of the country's military were being reinforced by portal-transferred brigades of the British army, who brought with them the more advanced weaponry of the Avalon Empire. By this time, other divisions, both infantry and tank-based, had already set out towards Paris from other military bases within the 1st Military Region. Due to the collapse of the local networks, there was no communications or coordination between them at all though.

To make matters worse, they were also taking horrendous fire from the Chitauri skimmers. The sheer numbers the invaders had were proving a real detriment toward any force moving to stem the tide within the 1st Military Region. The other regions were also responding of course, but they were by definition further away, making any assistance they could offer moot for the time being.

Others, however, would find their way into battle much more quickly.

"What do you mean magic carpets?" An SAS Major asked, staring down at the frizzy-headed youth in front of him. While her youthful looks reminded the older man of his own daughter, what she had just said threw him for a loop despite having been briefed both on magic in general and Harry Potter in particular.

"I mean sir, that magic carpets are how the Custodes sometimes travel around. Especially our retrieval teams, the groups that go into countries to rescue young mutants from abusive families or local citizens," Kitty explained, showing no concern for the older man's gruff tone as she stared back at him, instead smiling whimsically. "The Orbital Drop Marines have their own way of getting into the fight, and the Custodes will be taking a larger magic carpet meant for group transport, which leaves us with a few here. Don't worry sir, Dr. Druid and I will be doing the driving."

Harry and his officers had decided to only use the magic carpets in Europe rather than in Russia or America as well for a few reasons. First, even magic carpets, fast as they were, took time to get somewhere. Even if they flew down from orbit to the nearest base that still answered to the chain of command, it would then take a long time for them to get to Severomorsk. Worse, the city was already almost entirely under alien control by last reports, as well as defended by an ever-widening AA umbrella.

With America, the problem was entirely the opposite. There, the military forces had done a much better job of holding off the Chitauri's attempts to push out from Washington. Additionally, the Custodes had also already assigned a large amount of their resources into the fight in Washington, much like they had to the fight in Russia. With the X-men having their own jet, and the Custodes using a special dropship like they'd used during the Eurasian War, this left the magic carpets to be used by their allies.

"Say I believe you miss. Even then, aren't magic carpets supposedly really fragile? Not to mention, I don't know about you, but I think anyone with eyes would be able to see something so large and flat flying through the air pretty easily right?"

"The fact no one has openly reported such a thing so far should tell you we've already thought of that," Kitty countered, snickering as she gestured for the man to follow her. He did so, though grumbling and nonplussed at her general blasé attitude towards his concerns. As they walked, Kitty explained that multiple different spells protected the magic carpets, and even showed some of them by hopping onto the nearest one and raising it into the air for a few moments.

After a minute passed staring up at the sky where the magic carpet was supposed to be hovering, the Major slowly nodded. "All right, you've convinced me, little miss. Let's get this show on the road. He who dares, wins."

Moments later, the first company of SAS were in the air and headed south towards the Channel, then on to Paris, skirting around the naval-aerial battle there and moving on.


At pretty much the same time the SAS were shipping out from Britain, the Orbital Drop Marines and the Custodes arrived to join the battle for Paris.

Although admittedly, calling it a battle would not really have been accurate by that point. Whatever defense the French police might've offered had long been crushed by the Chitauri's aerial superiority and by this point only the invaders were doing any firing. None of the responding French forces had been able to push into the city, let alone contest its airspace.

Inside the city limits, Rippers were still smashing down buildings, crashing into them bodily, their mouths gaping wide as they belched out massive beams of greenish energy. From their sides the smaller guns opened fire on anything that moved below, slaughtering any civilian who dared to show themselves. Above, skimmers hovered in constant patrols, providing overwatch. Perhaps against missiles? Thunderbird, who'd been observing it all as they closed, didn't know. Others dove down into the city like stooping vultures, firing at any civilians they saw just like the Rippers did with their secondary weapons.

And all the while, more skimmers and Rippers came through the portal above, a never-ending wave. Even as the aliens became aware of the plummeting ODMs above them, more of the invaders arrived every second: thousands of skimmers and a dozen Rippers, only one of which dove down to the city. The others moved off, hovering for a few moments in a loose ring before they were joined by still more, all of which turned their attention skyward to the plummeting fireballs headed toward them.

Almost like a hive mind, the Rippers and nearest skimmers turned their attention away from the burning, gutted city below and began to open fire at the ODMs. Fortunately, the small, spherical shields the ODMs used as protection against the heat of atmospheric reentry worked just as well against the energy-based weaponry of the Chitauri as high levels of air friction. Only six of the ODMs were mission-killed due to lucky strikes from a Ripper's main beams as they descended. Four of the six were teleported out by the medevac array, while the other two literally lost their heads to the energy beams before the runes even had a chance to activate.

Ironically, the Chitauri should perhaps have been concentrating their fire not on a widespread group of incoming targets, but instead against the one object falling towards them that was magically shielded against the heat of reentry. Why? Because a second after they started firing at the human reinforcements, the falling object—a slab of metal that Thunderbird and his team had decided to ride down on—smashed into the body of a Ripper. The monstrous amalgamation of metal and alien flesh screamed in pure agony as its body was pulped at the site of impact and it smashed down onto a mound of rubble.

As he'd been falling, Thunderbird had been bellowing out orders, the entire time fighting back the urge to just screech out an Apache warcry. That would come later. "You all know what to do! Mystique, get to the ground. The rest of us, let's make some noise! Be on the lookout for anyone or anything among these bastards that even look like they're giving out orders! Sean, the Oh Damns are yours."

With that, the slab had impacted, and Thunderbird raised his hatchet above his head before leaping at another Ripper. The weapon, an upgrade to the one he'd originally used, was of Asgardian make, the smiths there forging it for him as a token of thanks for his efforts during the Shadow War. Slamming it down, the raw cutting force of the hatchet split the giant creature's head in twain with ease.

Quickly pulling out his magic broom, Thunderbird flew off towards yet another Ripper and hacked into its neck from below, wasted no time before flying up higher. Behind him, Ben was in fine Thing form, roaring out, "It's clobbering time!" before following his example and jumping at another Ripper. He landed on the creature's back, grabbed a fin with one hand for stabilization, and then began to rain down blows with his other. Unlike Thunderbird, the Thing had refused any weapon, still preferring to use his fists, but he soon burst through the alien monster's armor through sheer strength alone. Having broken through, he started to pulp the flesh beneath even as the Ripper bucked and heaved in an effort to throw him off.

For her part, Anne Marie Cortez didn't target the larger alien cyborg beasts. Instead, she landed on a nearby roof that had somehow escaped destruction, one of few in that area of the city, and began to lash out at any skimmer she could see with her energy blasts. Each blast by itself was enough to destroy a skimmer shield and all, although they seemed to barely bother a Ripper, leading to her decision to ignore them. "Thundra, you okay?"

Grumbling, Thundra, who had botched her landing to avoid the corpse of some uniformed man that had somehow gotten onto the same roof she'd aimed for, pushed herself to her feet and jumped up to join the other woman. Neither had worked together before this battle, though they had occasionally trained together in the Room of Requirement at Camelot. "Damn it all, I think I need to get better at remembering my broom." With that, she immediately whirled the chain portion of her weapon above her head, smashing into a skimmer that came too close without even looking.

Meanwhile, Banshee was having a time of it as he screeched his head off while nimbly flying through enemy fire. Of course, there were a few times he couldn't dodge even with his skill, but thankfully his suit had long since been fully replaced with a non-powered version of the same type of armor Coyote and Uzume wore. The upgraded model could absorb a lot more punishment before it started to give way.

In contrast, both the Rippers and Chitauri seemed highly susceptible to his sonic screams, many of the bipedal aliens even grabbing at where their ears must be under their helmets. Often times, this caused the Chitauri affected to lose control of their skimmers and crash into a compatriot if not the cityscape below. Likewise, the Rippers twitched about in agony, almost like fish when pulled onto dry land as they flopped about in midair. As they writhed in agony, their weapons often fired in every direction at random, an unconscious reaction due to the pain that caused still more chaos among the invading forces.

Despite these positive signs, the entrenched forces above the city continued to close against the human intruders from all sides, almost like a gigantic fist trying to crush them. Rippers turned in their direction. Skimmers began to open fire in more concentrated bursts. Last but not least, the Super-Skrull finally blasted his way out of a wrecked building, turning to glare up at what was going on. Oddly, he seemed able to ignore the distant Banshee's howling.

A soldier to his core, born and bred for one purpose, the Super-Skrull didn't bother with any sort of battle cry or announcement of his presence before he chose his target and bodily crashed into Cortez, hurling her off the building she'd been scouting from with a cry of surprise and pain. Quickly gathering herself, she managed to pull out her magic broom, while still relatively high in the air, before righting herself just in time to keep a few feet away from the ground. As she tried to shake off the daze from the sudden attack, she kept close to the ground, dodging wildly as skimmers rushed to close her in from all sides. Realizing she was about to be trapped, she made a snap decision and doglegged to shelter in a wrecked building, flying through a smashed window and into its interior.

Landing, she returned her broom to its expanded pouch, hastily stepping over a corpse near the window she'd entered through. Turning, Cortez fired off an energy blast on instinct, catching the first of the Chitauri that had followed her through the window in the chest, hurling it back outside. Several others then burst through other windows all around her, quickly moving to surround her once again. Seeing the writing on the wall, she ducked away to avoid return fire, rolling over another corpse with a grimace. As she picked herself up to run through the ruined interior of the building, completely pulling away from her teammates' location, she fired back with everything she had. "Damn it! This is Cortez. There's too many on me, I'm pulling back and to the… southwest, according to my GPS. I'll link up with the ODMs as they land and rejoin you all later."

There was no reply, then… a terse acknowledgment from Thunderbird. The others couldn't reply, they were too busy.

Back on the roof where Cortez had been bulldozed by the Super-Skrull, Thundra roared as she brought her weapon across, crashing it into the giant bastard's shoulder and side, hurling him away. The follow up, however, was blocked, and fire erupted from the Super-Skrull's arm into Thundra's face in response. That initial blow had only served to knock the supersoldier off his feet, causing no actual damage.

Luckily, Thundra was almost as immune to heat in general as the Thing was, and although she stumbled back from the flames enveloping her head and upper body, it was more because she was unable to see rather than it actually hurting. Warrior instincts flaring, she managed to duck to one side just as the Super-Skrull charged forward, his other fist enlarging and swinging towards her just as a blow from Richards would have.

Quick to counter, Thundra's return strike did seemingly nothing, simply deforming the alien a little as his rubbery body took the blow with ease. The hand that had been on fire snapped out, grabbing onto her outstretched wrist hard enough to shatter a normal person's bones to dust. Before she could react, she was pulled into a punch that rivaled some of the ones she had taken from her lover rocky.

Just then, both the Thing and Thunderbird arrived on the scene. Above, the Orbital Drop Marines had finally entered their range, smoke flares firing from the Heavy Gunners, while they opened up with rockets and decoys. The sudden shock of the brutal assault, right on the heels of the Custodes' abrupt appearance, meant that during that opening salvo only two more Orbital Drop Marines were shot out of the sky, and of those, only one was taken out permanently. An unlucky energy strike to his visor would burn into his face, searing through to his brain before his emergency array could activate and teleport him back to orbit.

"You know what to do ladies. First priority is to defend the remaining civilians, second is to utterly destroy these fuckers who think they can come into our house and take it from us!" Sean McIntyre, previously of the US Marine Corps, barked out, activating his jumpjets. Several small drones instantly began to pop out of the backpack-like section of his armor, which had been enlarged in his version of the ODM armor. These drones relayed their sensory data into McIntyre's helmet, giving his HUD a full three hundred and sixty degree view as if he weren't helmeted at all. As soon as his screens came online, he began to lay down fire on a series of Chitauri that had begun to crawl along the walls of a few nearby ruined buildings, lighting them and anything that moved up with vengeance.

Of those minced Chitauri, two were able to react quickly enough to take McIntyre under fire in turn, but by then he was already gone, having used his jump jets to fly sideways and into the ruins nearby for cover. As soon as he landed, he instantly turned, using the rubble to hide for a second. "Command squad, sound off and regroup on me."

As twenty infantry-style Chitauri began to concentrate on McIntyre's position, his command squad opened fire from nearby, regrouping quickly as they moved through shattered buildings and across broken streets at speed. The Heavy Gunners also began to make their presence known to an increased degree. With two assigned to every four-man fire team, the Heavies were armed with mortars, Gatling guns, or rockets as opposed to rifles and automatics. As Sean peeked out from his cover, a mortar round wiped a cluster of eight Chitauri off the map while another four rockets shot up into a nearby Ripper's stomach. By the time the last one hit, the creature exploded in a wave of fire and gore.

McIntyre's eyes flicked to his HUD; similar strikes hit home in two more of the big uglies nearby, killing both within seconds.

For several long minutes, the Oh Damns lived up to their name, striking, moving, killing. It would've almost seemed like a cake walk, if not for the number of civilian bodies they could see strewn about nearly everywhere. It was very clear that these Chitauri did not discern soldier from civilian. To them, all of humanity was simply a sacrifice their species wished to offer to Thanos at his command.

All too soon, however, the Chitauri began to get their act together. Skimmers that had once flown about haphazardly began to pull back into the sky, gaining distance from the reigning fire of the Oh Damns, while the infantry types used their faster agility and speed to take the fight the newly arrived humans directly.

Strangely, this didn't equate to all situations. The Chitauri didn't seem inclined to enter buildings, whole or shattered, as often as the ODM's were, although they also didn't care about civilian casualties and mowed down anything in their way regardless. More than once, the ODMs entering a building simply brought down the wrath of the Chitauri on the civilians huddling within, forcing the soldiers into sharp defensive actions.

Yet even on the defensive, the drones the Orbital Drop Marines had so recently added to their load outs soon proved a great equalizer. More than one Chitauri was slain when rocket-propelled bullets came from around corners to pierce through their shields or bodies from seemingly nowhere, guided to them by the small machines that flitted around the rapidly expanding battlefield like hummingbirds tripping balls.

This didn't mean that the Chitauri were pushovers, however. They most decidedly were not. The alien invaders seemed to understand just as well as their human opponents did that the name of the game in an urban environment such as the one they found themselves in was Cover, Cover, and more Cover, with a large helping of giving and taking firing from as many different angles as you could with as much firepower as you could. There, the unending numbers of the Chitauri were a distinct advantage. More infantry were ferried through the dimensional doorway every minute, dropped off by convoys en masse to join the battle in the besieged city. More Rippers also arrived, replacing their earlier losses without issue. Inevitably, they began to spread out over the city, providing covering fire at levels that the ODMs just couldn't quite match. The newcomers still died to Heavy Gunner rocket fire, but as always they took a lot to kill.

The disproportionate odds began to take a toll on the Orbital Drop Marines after awhile, despite their better armor, use of tactics, and means of overcoming the Chitauri shielding technology. An energy strike hitting an elbow actuator would put it of action, leaving that soldier handicapped. A strike to a jetpack would destroy it, not only leaving that soldier with extremely diminished maneuverability, but often times burn and shrapnel wounds. Worst, a hit to the faceplate would punch right through, leading to array activation or death.

The Chitauri also turned out to be far stronger physically than normal humans, even those augmented by normal ODM power armor. One trooper discovered this fact, to his cost, in a somewhat dramatic fashion.

Trooper Kermit Laszlo, formerly of the Australian Marines, had just pulled away from a window right as return fire began to punish his former position. Falling back, he raced deeper into the partially wrecked high-rise he'd found himself in, hopping up and over a hole in the floor and under a loose girder. "This is Laszlo, I'm pulling back. I'll meet you all down on the second floor."

Hearing an acknowledgement from his sergeant, Laszlo had sent out one drone ahead of him, leaving another behind to watch the window. Seeing none of the Chitauri—which the troopers were calling Chitters for the moment until a better nickname could be voted on—coming after him, he'd moved out from the main room of the unit in the high-rise he'd been taking cover in. Moving through at a steady pace, he'd paused at the doorway leading out into the hall and opened the door slowly to let his drone out. Outside, the sounds of battle had continued, a distant cacophony contrasting quite disturbingly against the seemingly empty quiet of the apartment complex.

As the drone watched one way and he the other, Laszlo had moved out into the hallway, grateful that he hadn't been running into any bodies for once. He'd caught sight of the stairs and he raced towards them, eager to meet up with the rest of his team who'd already egressed from the battle-lines with the intention of making their way across to another building. The plan had been to draw fire to them and lead a group of Chitauri into the sights of their heavies, who'd already set up in that building. Now if we can get across without a Ripper spotting us that is a question. He'd thought.

As Laszlo had reached the stairs, the elevator door to one side chimed as it opened, shattering the silence. He'd skidded to a halt, raising his gun on instinct.

Before he'd been able to get a bead, the doors had burst open as a Chitauri trooper dove through, shoulder checking him into the ground. Laszlo had dropped his gun from the impact, and had reached for his assigned Asgardian dagger. He'd whipped it out and stabbed out, deep into the creature's chest.

Or at least, that had been the plan. Instead, the creature had grabbed his reaching arm just before his blade tip would've pricked its chest, twisted and turned to the side, and held the dagger-wielding hand against the ground as its other hand grabbed Laszlo around the neck and began to squeeze.

Instantly, emergency warnings had appeared on Laszlo's Heads-Up Display; the creature's grip strength alone threatened to warp the metal of his suit's neck plating.

Laszlo had tried to kick out, to struggle, only to discover his legs were out of position. Thinking quickly, he'd tried bucking the monster off, the Chitauri obligingly going over his head to crash spine-first on to the floor. Laszlo had then activated his jets, popping up off the ground and twirling in midair, hours of training paying off. He'd brought his leg around for a kick to the side of the alien's head, and the Chitauri had been sent sideways into a wall. Yet even that hadn't put it down, or seemingly phased it, as it had scrambled to its feet and raised a backup pistol of some kind. Laszlo hadn't been able to dodge, and several shots impacted his chest armor, slagging several segments.

A single shot had then rung out. A bolter round had flashed between Laszlo's legs to impact the alien in the lower abdomen, hurling it backwards with a cry of agony through its strange facemask.

Turning around, Laszlo had found another trooper kneeling at the top of the stairs. The man had nodding his head laconically to the previously embattled Laszlo. "Took a detour, did you?"

Small skirmishes such as that occurred throughout the combat zone, and they didn't always go the way of the ODMs. While their Asgardian-made weaponry gave them an edge, the sheer strength of the aliens made them a threat to regular troopers with only the Heavy Gunners being nearly immune to that threat. Worse, at times they were forced to defend civilians, of which there were still thousands having survived the initial slaughtering having hunkered down. These men, women, and children would do their best to hide, or try to get into the subway system, which could double as a bunker, but any move outside they made gave the Chitauri easy targets. The Subway wasn't one hundred percent safe either, as Rippers could easily be called upon to bomb an area heavily enough to breach down to the underground passages.

Through it all, Thunderbird and the other superpowered defenders were pretty much stuck out in the open the entire time, taking fire from the Rippers and skimmers at every turn. At the very least, their presence kept the Super-Skrull from headhunting the Orbital Drop Marines for easy sport.

However, Cortez had not made it back to the team. Instead, the former mutant-supremacist terrorist had been forced to completely retreat, her emergency medical array activating and pulling her back to Babylon in orbit. A stray Ripper blast had caught her in the hip and burned her arm and leg on that side before the emergency medical array had activated.

Thundra too was a little battered around the edges by now. While she did have about as much durability as Ben did when it came to kinetic and concussive forces, she lacked her paramour's ability to withstand intense heat, like the kind the energy bolts that the Chitauri's weapons generated. Thankfully, her armor, a stylized work of scale mail, had been forged by the Asgardians as a gift and had so far passed the test of battle against the aliens.

The Thing grunted as his ribs took another hit by a fist that looked as if it had come from Reed. He crashed into the wall opposite the building whose burning roof he'd just been sent through, then tumbled down a long slope of rubble to the ground. Once he'd come to a stop, he growled and immediately leapt upward, grabbing the lower jaw of a passing Ripper that had just been about to fire on his previous position. With a grunt of effort, he lifted his lower body up and kicked out hard with his feet, breaking the Ripper's jaw and causing the cyborg-monster to howl in agony and writhe around in midair.

The shaking and quivering still allowed the Thing to kick off the dying Ripper though, and back into the fight; Thunderbird and the Super-Skrull having been left alone for the moment. As he flew through the air, the Thing could make out the Apache warrior stumbling back, his face a mask of burns as the Skrull super soldier had just launched a bolt of extremely hot fire at him.

Before the Super-Skrull could finish his target off, the Thing crashed into his back, taking him to the ground. Knowing that trying to get the bastard into a chokehold would've been completely useless given his stretching powers, the Thing instead settled on pummeling his head as hard as possible from different angles. He and Reed had talked about such a thing at one point, and he knew from that discussion that the rubber-like durability of the Super-Skrull, if based on the brainiac's own powers, could be overcome if met with sufficient force often enough in quick succession. The concussive shocks, especially to a brain, would eventually do damage despite any sort of enhanced durability.

However, thanks to his flexibility, the Super-Skrull was still able to get a foot in between the two and kick the Thing off him.

The alien super soldier then nearly lost that leg when Thunderbird's hatchet came down. The Super-Skrull's reflexes saved the limb, but the strike still sliced a deep gash in his lower leg despite that. He continued the recoil into a roll, dodging another slash from the hatchet. After blocking another swing with his Thing-like arm, his face sets into a strange mix of supercilious sneer and pain. "You will never beat me primitive! I am the finest example of the Skrull shape-shifting ability in the universe. I have been trained by the finest warriors of—"

"—Shut yer trap!" The Thing snarled, bringing around a chunk of debris into the alien's side with enough power to force him to use his stretching powers. His body elongated immensely under the weight of the impact, and in that moment the Thing charged forward, grabbing him around the middle and hopping up off the wall down to the streets below. "You arrogant pricks think you can just come over here and walk all over us! Think we'll just roll over? You better think again!"

With a roar of fury, the Super-Skrull tossed Ben into a nearby wall while still in mid-air, then raised his Thing-like hand to grab the hatchet from Thunderbird as it came at him the moment he hit the ground. The cement beneath them cracked, then shattered, as did many of the walls around them for several dozen blocks in every direction, any remaining windows exploding from sonic boom caused by the two opposing forces crashing into one another.

The Super-Skrull might've ultimately been stronger than Thunderbird, but he'd in a disadvantageous position and was only able to use one hand to block the incoming strike hatchet. Said hatchet, like Thundra's armor, had been forged in Asgard, and while it couldn't quite break through his arm's stone-like skin, it certainly stung like all blazes.

Speaking of Thundra, in blocking Thunderbird, the Super-Skrull left himself completely open to the interdimensional traveler's strike. Her weapon's chain wrapped around his neck from behind, tugging him away from the flagging Thunderbird if not able to choke him. Then, the Thing was on him again as well, pummeling his head once more over and over and over. Teeth grit near to cracking, the Super-Skrull roared as he pulled his head and neck out from under Thundra's weapon, punching back, lashing out all in all directions with an enlarged fist at the end of a whip-like arm. This smashed Thundra into the building behind the group while knocking Thunderbird off his feet and skidding down the road to crash into a car that had since become nearly flattened.

For a moment, the Apache warrior could only blink, dazed. Shaking his head to clear away the dancing stars filling his vision, he felt one of his hands become wet.

Looking down, to his horror, Thunderbird realized his hand had sunk into the chest of a corpse as he'd tried to right himself. The body was that of a young boy, seemingly thrown loose from the smashed car, the back of his head caved in and his neck bent at an unnatural angle. The dead, empty expression on the boy's face, he couldn't have been more than twelve, stared into Thunderbird's soul, and John Proudstar absolutely lost it.

Pulling back his non-bloodsoaked hand, Thunderbird hurled his Asgardian-forged hatchet down the street towards the Super-Skrull. As the alien super soldier batted that weapon aside, the mutant warrior pulled a second hatchet from its sheath behind his back, charging forward with an Apache warcry on his lips. "GRAAAAAAA!"

The Super-Skrull barely had time to punch the Thing out of the way for the umpteenth time before Thunderbird's hatchet was coming at him again. This time he didn't have the speed necessary to interpose his shifted Thing-like arm between them, and the strike caught him in the chest. His last ditch effort to evade the attack, shifting his torso to rubber to bend it away, allowed him to survive with a shallow cut, but it more than enough to cause the Super-Skrull to fall back in shock, blood oozing from the wound.

An equally deadly slice to the throat followed, one the Super-Skrull just barely got his neck out of the way of in time, stretching upper torso back and away from the strike. The next instant, the Super-Skrull whipped his head forward in a massive headbutt, forcing Thunderbird to block with the side of his hatchet. To the Super-Skrull's shock, the weapon didn't break, and instead of breaking through and killing his opponent his attack simply sent the axe-wielding human backward a few yards. The headbutt hitting the hatchet had also caused the alien soldier's head to ring, the internal damage helped along by the numerous blows he'd already been taking from the Thing.

Reaching to the side, the Super-Skrull grabbed up a car, lifted it up, and smashed it lengthwise into Thunderbird right as he'd been racing back for more. The improvised bat slammed the man into a building on the far end of the street. At the same time, a Ripper swooshed down from on high and fired, bombarding the same three story house that Thunderbird had been knocked into. The entire thing collapsed onto the Apache warrior, who could only cry out, enraged, as he found himself buried under rubble too heavy for him to lift alone.

Before Thundra or the Thing could attempt to step in and continue the fight, the Super-Skrull twisted his body around to an extreme degree, winding it just like a spring, and then released the tension, rocketing away out into the city. As he flew through the air, the alien could only shake his head at the encounter he'd just experienced. These humans definitely play for keeps. Even so, with their leader now dead, this battle will surely turn against them, no matter how slowly. That being said, we still haven't even seen a trace of the Potter man or the avatar of the Phoenix Force that we had been ordered to keep watch for…

Back with the Thing and Thundra, the rocky member of the Fantastic Four finally managed to push himself out of the roof he'd smashed into. He took a moment to be thankful that at least his landing hadn't caused a collapse all around him like the building that Thunderbird was currently buried under. "You all right under there kid?"

"I am not a child, you hulking stone monument!" Thunderbird grumbled from where he was buried, having come back to himself from his moment of berserker fury. Thanks to the wonderful duo of his natural high durability paired with his armor, the Apache warrior hadn't been all that badly hurt, although he did now sport a cut to one cheek that had come from some bit of shrapnel that had astonishingly been traveling fast enough to cut into his skin. "Get me out of here!"

"Thundra, would you get him out of there? If we don't keep that asshole in play, he's going to go around wiping out our Oh Damns like fish in a barrel," the Thing ordered more than asked, causing his girlfriend to scowl, but nod.

Of course, she then had to suddenly dodge away as another Ripper moved into position directly above them for a moment and unleashed a barrage just as dozens of skimmers fired at both her and the Thing at the same time. "Dammit!"

Still more skimmers appeared, and then a second Ripper, each and every one laying down unending fire with their green energy bolts. "I second that! Sorry Thunderbird, you're gonna to have to get yourself out there pal!"

With that, the Thing leaped skyward, a punch taking one of the Rippers in the underside of the stomach, sending it even higher into the air, and not under its own power either. Coming down, the Thing landed as lightly as he was able on a still standing building nearby, leaping away right as it started to topple. Reaching out, he grabbed onto the edge of a passing skimmer, the vehicle immediately beginning to roll as it was thrown off entirely by the sudden addition of his weight. A moment later, all three of the skimmer's occupants were hurled clear, and the Thing scrambled up the wing he'd grabbed until his hands could reach the center of the thing, where he was able to haul himself forward and grab the controls.

Wrapping his hands around what appeared to be two joysticks, he zoomed through the swarm above where Thundra and Thunderbird still were, looking more to disrupt them than anything else. Putting his piloting skills to good use, he took a moment to link up to the Oh Damns' combat net. "Yo Sean, I don't wanna jog your elbow or nothin', but how are things going on your end? And do any of your troops have eyes on that Super-Fucker?"

"We're holding our own Ben, for the moment. Our Heavy Gunners being so maneuverable and able to fit into some of the destroyed buildings helps a lot against the Rippers. They're laying down a massive amount of fire though, and I mean, a-fucking-lot," Sean reported brusquely. ". Some of the civilians have been scared out of their hidey-holes too, and I've got men trying their damnedest to protect them. But that makes us even more vulnerable. I'm losing troopers, even in the best case scenarios. We're down fifteen men already. Nine mission killed, six dead."

The Thing nodded gravely. Maybe Potter had slightly underestimated things here? The numbers those Chitauri fucks are bringing through those damn portals is insane.

But then, a much-appreciated voice came in over the same command line. "This is Storm. I have arrived at a nearby base. There is a large private airport in the vicinity where we have set up an aid station. I will begin teleporting civilians out of Paris now."

Thanks to the spells that she now had access to thanks to more recent lessons with Gaia, Storm was now able to sense people living within a targeted area so long as that area was on Earth. After affixing her dominion over said areas, she could then teleport living beings within those zones of control to others. At first, she'd only been able to manage teleporting people within a single zone around herself, and that was if she'd gone with them, but since those early days she'd learned and mastered the art. Thanks to all her training, and the monstrous power boost she'd been gifted with when Gaia blessed her union with Harry, her area of control had expanded from a few miles to a little under a hundred at last tally.

Storm had just finished doing the same thing over in Washington actually, although it had taken quite a lot out of her and she'd had to down several Pepper Up Potions at the end. Of course, that would just be the start of it though, as none of them were foolish enough to believe that simply teleporting civilians away from a combat zone would be enough to make certain that they were all safe. But she had felt confident that she could leave the rest in the hands of the local authorities.

"Roger that ma'am! Please start from the southernmost districts of the city. My troops haven't spread out that way yet so we'll try to keep to the north for now and then move over into the empty zone once you're done. Hopefully the Chitters will follow us and ignore the remaining civilians while you work. I will say I believe a lot of civvies escaped down into the subway tunnels before we even got here," Sean advised.

The Thing was forced to turn his attention away from the conversation for a few moments as several skimmers opened fire at him. His ride was struck several times and soon enough the appropriated skimmer began to lose altitude. This forced Ben to leap off the wreck before it could get too low, right into the side of a Ripper.

Having miraculously landed on a part of the cyborg creature that wasn't covered by armor, the Thing's fists immediately plunged into its hide with vengeance, tearing away. As the Ripper floundered in midair, fruitlessly trying to keep itself afloat while dislodging whatever was causing it so much pain, the rocky member of the Fantastic Four only put his back into his efforts.

Meanwhile, Thunderbird found himself still underneath the rubble. He could move its arms thanks to how the rubble had fallen, but he'd discovered his legs were completely pinned and he couldn't move around enough to get the leverage needed to free himself. Growling in anger, he radioed Storm asking for her to teleport him out along with the civilians.

After confirming his request, and ignoring the wry grin he could hear through the comslink, the elder Proudstar brother literally disappeared from underneath . He appeared in an open field next to Storm, along with several thousand dazed, confused, and terrified civilians who now found themselves elsewhere from where they'd been hiding or taking cover. Nearby, on the backs of a few military trucks, uniformed officers were shouting at the top of their lungs into megaphones to be heard, directing the rescued Parisians this way and that.

Parisians, however, historically did not do too well when being told what to do, and as a result quite a bit of chaos was developing. Indeed, several hundred of those just rescued had begun to shout back, looking almost as if they were going to riot. As if anywhere near a warzone was the perfect time and place to do so.

Seeing the rapidly worsening discontent, Thunderbird felt the need to ask, "Are you going to be all right here?" He wiped at the dried blood on his face from where his cheek had been cut during the fight with the Super-Skrull. Really, he only smudged it worse.

"I will be perfectly fine, never you worry. By all means, get back in the fight Thunderbird," Storm ordered, not even looking up from where she'd been kneeling on the ground with her hands outstretched and pressed flat against to the earth. Magic flowed from her into the ground, through every bit of dirt, dust, and rock she could reach, and then focused up to exact coordinates of that made up the outer city limits Paris. Once that was done, she started teleport away anyone who wasn't actively fighting in groups several blocks wide.

Thunderbird wasn't quite so certain, despite the assurance. He knew that massive undertakings like what Storm was attempting, especially over such distances, would take a lot of concentration, not to mention power and stamina. And this is the second warzone that Storm's seeing to. Still, the man didn't argue, instead pulling out his magic broom and taking off into the sky. Getting his mind back into the fight, he easily ignored the shouts of consternation and shock from those below who were in a fit enough state to notice such things.

He was almost out of sight when a feeling made him look back. His sharp sight quickly noticed a group of Parisians were now trying to charge Storm's position, only to be rebounded back by something unseen. Thunderbird didn't even try to fight his smirk, realizing that Storm had foreseen the problem brewing before he had and had set up some sort of defensive spell around herself.

Satisfied, Thunderbird turned back forward and sped through the air back toward Paris, determined to get back into the fight as quickly as he could.


While the others immediately set to work drawing the attention of the Super-Skrull and the invading Chitauri down on them, Mystique instead moved away quietly, heading into the burning, ruined city without firing a shot, wincing at the carnage all around her. She did snipe one Chitauri off a wall, but only because she feared she'd been spotted, before she ducked sideways through a hole into the burnt out husk of another structure. Taking a moment to press herself against a wall, she put away her broomstick, shaking her head with a wry, somewhat forced chuckle. "Magic. Honestly, I doubt I'll ever get used to it…" Then, her scant humor faded as she took in the sight of the burnt, half-buried corpses around her and heard the fighting in the distance even over the nearer creakings and groanings of a building barely staying upright.

Slowly and carefully, Mystique made her way down to street level, the device Reed had created to try and locate the Beacons the aliens had used to open their dimensional doorways in her hand. Luckily for them, the devices were something the genius had already been working on prior to the invasion actually beginning. It was believed that if they could find all of the beacons and shut them down, then the dimensional doorways they anchored would be forced closed. With their unending reinforcements canceled, then between the Custodes, the Oh Damns, and the local militaries everyone would be able to eventually overwhelm the invaders.

As a precaution, Mystique took on the form of a Chitauri, right as the sounds of violence around her rose to a crescendo at the arrival of the Oh Damns. However, Mystique could've cared less about that. Fighting the aliens head-to-head wasn't her specialty, nor her mission.

That didn't mean, however, that Mystique, one of the oldest living mutants and one of the most experienced hand-to-hand fighters in the world, couldn't throw down with the best of them, though. An unlucky Chitauri, which barged through a wall to one side and leveled a rifle at her found this out, to its cost.

The sight of another of its kind where there shouldn't have been one caused the Chitauri soldier to hesitate. In that brief moment, Mystique closed the distance, grabbing the alien's rifle with one hand while the other morphed into a claw. Before the Chitauri could even react, she'd stabbed her clawed hand through its throat.

Unfortunately, it hadn't been alone. Several more Chitauri had been in the same room that one had been in previously. Now alerted to her presence, they fired at her from the doorway as one, ignoring the corpse of their fellow between them. Briefly using it as a shield to block the first wave of blaster fire, she soon tossed it aside, changing her body into that of the Thing as she charged forward.

While she couldn't make her body quite as strong as the real Ben Grimm, or take on any other super individual's special abilities, she could make her body almost as immune to damage by taking their forms. Thus, Mystique was able to ignore the blaster bolts that continuously impacted her as she got closer to her foes. A sudden kick caught one of the Chitauri on the side of the knee, shattering it. A follow up forearm, shot to the side of another's head sent it stumbling. A knee to the head threw the one with the shattered knee into a third.

With what was revealed to be all three reeling, Mystique pulled out one of her plasma pistols. Without pausing, she fired, one shot each, straight through the head. Whirling, she snorted in derision, the noise sounding somewhat odd coming from behind the near-skintight mask she had formed out of her body to take on the shape of the mask the Chitauri all wore. "Idiots. You never pile up like that in a doorway," she muttered to the dead, then moved on.

That is, until the floor caved in from under her. The building had been weakened structurally by the damage it had sustained, and now Mystique would face the consequences. The shape-shifter crashed onto the floor down, her world spinning. Groaning in pain, she was half buried under the rubble that fell with her. Two Chitauri there stared at her for a second before they began to fire at her. Somehow despite looking like one of them, the Chitauri seemed able to tell she wasn't one of them after only a brief examination.

This fact was something Mystique made a note of as she pushed through the pain, firing back with her pistol and downing one of her latest attackers. Now with only one firing at her, she decided that it was smarter to concentrate on pulling herself out of the rubble she found herself in, not wanting to be pinned there if more of the aliens showed up.

It turned out it was well that she did so, as a grenade—one that reminded her very strongly of a similar item from that Star Wars series—landed where she'd been stuck a moment later. "Oh come on!" Mystique flung herself forward just as the explosive went off. However, the Chitauri version of a grenade wasn't like one from Earth though. It turned out they acted almost like thermal weapon, creating an area of intense heat and blinding light for a second which melted everything around it like a tiny nova.

Tactically rolling through a doorway into what looked like what used to be an office of some kind, Mystique took a moment set the wounds that now littered her body to slowly start healing while she pulled out her rifle and lined up a shot back the way she'd come. As the Chitauri trooper appeared there, she shot it through the foot, then through the side and then the head as it fell. But behind its corpse she could hear noises that clued her in that several more of the invaders had come to reinforce the two she'd nearly died fighting only moments before.

Scrambling away, Mystique settled into a better position, to one side of the door, and wondered if she should chance trying the 'little lost child' routine. In the past, whenever soldiers or police had chased her into a corner she'd assume a nonthreatening appearance for a few seconds—just to throw them off—in order to close with them so she could use her superior CQC skills. Here though, I doubt it would do me any favors, she thought, her eyes straying to one side. Strewn across one side of the room was what looked to be what had once been a young family, the four having been gunned down in the open door to a bathroom.

"Right then, the old-fashioned way it is!" Mystique growled, surprising anger rising within her at the needless slaughter eagerly fired back at the Chitauri as they charged in. Unfortunately for her, as those slowed down, more appeared, clinging to the outside of the building. These played it smarter, firing through the already shattered windows at her. The spy was caught in an enfilade, with no way out.

Stuck in place like that, the Chitauri might've eventually been able to do enough damage to her body to overwhelm even Mystique's special healing factor… if not for the Oh Damns. Two suddenly pushed out of a nearby wrecked building, firing on all cylinders at the Chitauri outside. The mad dash succeeded in dragging some of their attention in that direction. A moment later, a Heavy trooper poked his way out from a window a few floors above them across the street, closely followed by his Gatling gun. He opened fire into the mass of Chitauri in the doorway. Things just began to look up when a Ripper smashed down into the building the Heavy was in. Even as Mystique pulled herself out of the rubble, she heard, "Trooper Jeffries just ported out," from the squads noncom over the shared coms net.

As the Chitauri on the wall outside the apartment building were now concentrating on the two troopers quickly retreating into the distant building, Mystique raced forward, leaving the battle behind. Once she was fairly sure she'd broken contact with any Chitauri, she snuck out into yet another building nearby, deli that had half-collapsed. Its storefront had been entirely destroyed, exploded inward by some tremendous shock or other, perhaps by a car, like the one that had been hurled down the street outside?

Regardless of what had caused the damage to the building, inside Mystique found still more bodies. Several dead bakers and more than a few customers were strewn out, two clearly killed by a window exploding, as pieces of glass had sliced into their faces, throats, and upper arms and the others by Chitauri weaponry.

Mystique gingerly moved through the dead, unable to help grimacing. I thought I had left my last slaughterhouse like this behind in World War II, and now here I am again. I hope Paris can rebuild after this, Irene and I used to love coming to the city.

Pushing still aching thoughts of her late lover to one side, Mystique stepped around the remains of the cash register and display case, grabbing at some of the bread still there and munching on it quickly. She could feel her energy reserves in desperate need of replenishing after having pushed her body so hard. Repairing the damage she'd been taking was no easy feat.

Once she was certain she'd rebuilt as much of her reserves as she could with slightly charred bread and cold salami, Mystique moved back out the broken window, immediately discovering dead Chitauri. The battle against the team of Oh Damns had moved away, leaving seven Chitauri dead and scattered across the rubble-strewn road outside, along with the corpse of one of the giant fish things.

Examining the dead aliens one after another, Mystique slowly transformed her body to match that of a wounded Chitauri, one that had taken some damage to the side of its head and back. She picked up one of their blasters at the same time. They seem to be able to tell that I'm not one of them. If that's because of some kind of communication tech they share between their cyborg-like parts, maybe if I look wounded they'll assume the parts I need to contact them are broken?

It was a long shot, but Mystique hoped it would work. If it didn't, then she'd only be able to slip through the city by either killing any Chitauri that saw her or going to ground entirely, by, say, taking the form of a dead body, every time she ran into a Chitauri. Whatever she did, it would slow her infiltration to a crawl.

Soon enough, Mystique was done with her new disguise. As she pushed her way deeper into the city, following the signal on the scanner hidden on the interior of her wrist, it was quickly put to the test. Seeing the incoming Chitauri, she fired into an empty building, hoping that they would, at best, ignore her.

Thankfully, the wounds Mystique's form appeared to suffer from seemed to be enough, and the Chitauri who spotted her ended up ignoring her. Instead, they focused on gunning down any surviving humans they could find, which they must have assumed she was doing as well, or firing at the Oh Damns.

Good. Thank fuck that worked. Now maybe I can make some progress in finding this damned beacon thing. The French better be grateful for all this… like pay for us all to have some time off down on the Riviera grateful. That sounds like a nice reward for saving the world. With that, the ageless shape changer steadily moved through the ruined capital of France, ignoring the ever more violent battle around her as more and more Chitauri came through the portal above the city.


As Mystique moved away from the main area of conflict, Thunderbird was notified of the arrival of the SAS, the first group having been dropped off and already desperately at work defending the locals. They wouldn't last very long against the Chitauri, lacking the body armor of the ODM's nor did they have the same mobility, although they would be able to take cover more easily. Still, they would take some of the pressure, and pull the invaders in different directions from within the city, something the Oh Damns had only been able to do in small ways given the disparity in numbers.

Other military forces were also inbound from multiple directions around France, and more and more of the country's own Air Force was also getting involved, although there, as with the first responders from Châteaudun Air Base, their losses were ruinous.

Even so, hopefully all of it meant that the tide was starting to turn in this particular battlefield. We can only pray it is.

Moments later, Thunderbird saw his quarry battling it out with two Heavy Troopers. The two armored men bounced every which way they could, raining down mortar rounds, Gatling fire, and even rockets onto the Super Skrull who in turn either batted them away or didn't even seem to notice them.

As he took in the sight, the memory of that little boy lying dead the street came to Thunderbird again, and he glanced down at his still bloodied hand, gripping the shaft of his hatchet tightly.

Silently, he leaned forward and down, the position they'd all been told would direct the magic brooms to fly faster. How and why they worked that way, he didn't know but it did, and soon Thunderbird was a blur through the air. Not quite at Mach speed, but certainly fast.

The Super-Skrull finally closed with one of the eavies, punching his head clean off his shoulders with a single blow before the man's body blinked out of existence. Out of the corner of his eye saw something flashing towards him from a different direction and turned, but too slow as Thunderbird's hatchet drove itself deep into his chest. "ARRGHHH!" he cried out in pain, the cutting edge of that weapon bypassing his stretching powers entirely, almost chopping deep enough to hit his heart.

He fell back, and Thunderbird whirled around his collapsing form, striking at the back of his head. The Super-Skrull barely dodged, taking a cut to his shoulder instead, and managed to throw out a blow that snapped Thunderbird's broom in two, sending him tumbling to the ground below. The Apache warrior landed in a bit of rubble and roared as he leaped back upward, reaching out to grab onto the Super-Skrull's still flaming legs.

The super soldier dodged again, only to eat a chect full of mortar , the shell's blast spread enough to impact the wound Thunderbird had just caused. "Damn you, you barely evolved apes! Your tenacity will avail you nothing! The Lord Thanos, with the mighty Skrull and Chitauri armies, will slay you all!"

"Really? Because from where we're standing, our tenacity is kicking your ass!" One of the Heavy Gunners shouted, using his exterior speakers to taunt the alien prick.

Before the Super-Skrull could retort, a Ripper fell out of the sky and slammed into the ground nearby. From the dust plume, the Thing came flying out, hurling himself through the air towards him. But the Thing couldn't really control himself once airborne, just fall with style, so the Super-Skrull was able to dodge away from him before he landed, putting several blocks of the ruined city between him and his previous position.

As he did though, he spotted movement to the side. A group of humans had come rushing out from a collapsing building just as a Ripper smashed into it, only to blink as they disappeared between one step and the next. It was as if they had somehow hidden themselves under a cloaking device or been teleported away somehow without using any visible technology to perform either act. "What—what was that?"

There was no time to think on that however, as just then artillery began to rain down onto the city from a distance. Many of those munitions were airburst shells, which went off midair in the Parisian sky, tearing into skimmers and Rippers there, forcing their shields to activate. Many failed, dozens of skimmers blonw out of the sky in moments. Others, even the massive skimmers, also took damage.

Other artillery shells, driven by rockets, flashed into the Chitauri portal, along with several ICBMs fired from the French fleet using data from the Orbital Drop Marines. While it was true that the Chitauri were still able to suppress the normal types of human communications and radar, the highly advanced system that Reed, Tony, and Forge had devised for the Orbital Drop Marines connected to the equally advanced scanning equipment of the satellites in orbit. Thus, they were able to punch straight through the jamming field.

Firing ICBMs at and into their own capital city was not a decision the French High Command, or what remained of it after the assault on Paris, had taken lightly. But it was one that they had decided upon once Storm had begun teleporting the surviving civilians out of the city. The enemy was simply bringing in too many troops without pause. Every minute the portal remained active, skimmers, infantry transports, and Rippers emerged out of the dimensional doorway to join the horde infesting the city, relentlessly pressing outward.

Even if those reinforcements were mainly concentrating on military targets for now, the flow had to be stopped.

Alas, shooting through the portal was one thing, hitting something on the other side was another. The ICBMs in questions flashed through the portal, missing a Ripper crossing the other way by inches, only to disappear into the blackness beyond. Several more followed, only for the same thing to occur, and the battle, and the influx of reinforcements, continued unabated.


On the other side of the various dimensional portals, Thanos waited, sitting in his hover throne gazing from one portal to the other, watching for his target to appear. The Mad Titan knew he was prepared, had strengthened himself in various ways, both physically and technologically, to fight and defeat magic users like Potter or the raw strength of an Avatar of the Phoenix.

That being said, it would be beneath him to show his own advancements against lesser opponents. Until his two targets showed themselves, his Black Order, the Skrull, and the Chitauri would serve to soften up the humans.

Watching through the various portals, Thanos was somewhat amused to note that the humans didn't seem to have realized the main portal was the most important one. There were only a few locals attacking the forwardmost scouts of the main force so far, pathetic bandits slain instantly when they appeared. Instead, the humans were busy scrambling whatever forces they could muster to defend the scattered cities in which the other portals had opened. Well, bar that one territory, but it seems to have been completely thrown into disarray thanks to Supergiant. Perhaps I should command her to change her name at some point. Supergiant just makes absolutely no sense. I realize she is quite tall for her people but…

The Mad Titan's idle musings abruptly cut off as artillery shells and first one, then multiple giant missiles came through one of the portals. Lazily, he turned his thrown in that direction and waved one of his hands. Upon that wrist, a small band of metal began to hum, and a gravitational field empowered from the engine of his throne lashed out under his direction. The field grabbed the missiles and twisted them away from the gathered forces of the Chitauri they had been headed toward.

The artillery kept on going through the void until they was well out of sight, by which time Thanos had already turned his gaze away, now staring into that one portal. He watched as several more missiles appeared, only to use the same defensive measure against each in turn, shaking his head sadly as he did so. "And so it seems that Nebula has once more proven herself the lesser of my daughters. How frustrating."

Tapping on the controls of his throne for a few seconds, Thanos quickly programmed the throne room to emit the same gravitational sphere as his wrist device. Moments of more tapping later, and bubbles of the same energy appeared around each portal. These would redirect or halt any kinetic missiles coming through from Earth to be disposed of quickly.

With that defense now in place, Thanos turned his attention back to the portal where the missiles had come from, pondering if he would need to step in. But even as he had acted against the miniscule threat of the missiles, still more of the Chitauri had moved through the offending portal. Now even more joined them, pulling themselves out of the columns meant for Supergiant's breach. These forces included several larger troop transports, thousands more skimmers, and over a dozen Rippers and Dreadwyngs, the slow moving aerial denial systems of the Chitauri.

Thanos couldn't quite tell from where he was sitting, but regardless, it was obvious to him that whatever human forces were on the other side of that particular portal, they hadn't been able to bring enough firepower to bear to stop further reinforcements from arriving. Seeing the retaliatory response already on its way, Thanos leaned back in his throne, crossing his arms as he continued to wait patiently.

The show was, after all, still quite amusing. Fight, kill, die gloriously, take hundreds of Chitauri with you into the Wheel, humans. All of it serves my aims to gain My Lady's favor. Potter and the Avatar's deaths will then serve as the main course, and then I will at last have her affections!


While she was no goddess in need worship, or even seek such, the ENDLESS had long since been well aware of her would-be paramour. At first, hundreds of years ago, Death had been… amused, perhaps, or maybe intrigued by the idea of a living being, a sentient of immense power of a Titan no less, being romantically enamored of her. And perhaps Death might have, in some fashion, shown enough understanding of Thanos's actions to come across the Titan's limited perspective as encouragement. But since that one instance, that interest had faded. Death was the ENDLESS, and for her there was nothing as important to her as her duty, her knowledge that eventually, all things ended but her and her opposite, her 'sister', the Phoenix Force, the power of rebirth and life. And the One Above All, of course, but like the Phoenix Force, the Endless preferred not to think of him.

Now, watching events on Earth with a larger portion of her attention than might be appropriate, Death acknowledged her past mistake with Thanos, while also recognizing that her remaining interest in Thanos had faded almost instantly upon meeting Harry Potter as he crossed from the Forbidden Zone into this dimension. A being infused equally with Life and Death energies, one not afraid of her but still respectful, who was a defender of Life and Dealer of Death in equal measure, had grabbed her attention like no other. Not to the point where Death would consider looking upon him as Thanos did her, as a possible paramour, but simply as an object of fascination.

A fascination that had been well rewarded since. Not just with his services to her, killing fools and even entities that had thought themselves removed from her touch, removed from the Wheel as she so hated, but the Traveler also saved one of her favored servants from eternal, slavery. A fate she'd been forbidden to interfere with. Hela's freedom pleased Death greatly.


Death's glowing, cold blue eyes flared a bit in amusement at that thought, before she turned her attention from Thanos alone to the overall feel of the Material Plane around Earth, feeling it beginning to clench almost, like a man tensing for a blow, or a muscle tensing prior to performing some great dead of strength. Regardless, Death knew what that meant.

Nor was she alone in her recognition. Within the heart of the Mkraan crystal, the Phoenix Force looked on as well, eager to see how this spark would alight anew, while closer to hand, Gaia smiled, feeling Harry's presence in the weave of the universe begin to change. "SO IT HAS BEGUN…"


Despite being nominally in charge of the portal in Paris, Nebula wasn't even anywhere close to Paris at the moment that artillery began to fire on the portal. Instead, she had finished leveling Châteaudun Air Base, the base that had launched the fighters that had attacked her assault force previously. That done, she'd decided to move on to another one nearby, further southward. But even as she and her now diminished force of skimmers had arrived above the base, the Super-Skrull had gotten in touch with her, his voice blaring into her head thanks to one of the pieces of technology that Thanos had forced upon her as a reward for one of her losses to Gamora in training.

"Nebula! Return to point of source as soon as you can! Humans are pushing forward hard on the portal in force, and I am being cornered into fighting some of their superpowered soldiers. They have the range on the Chitauri and are using it toeffect. I can't fight these supers and guarantee the safety of the beacon from their regular units at the same time!"

Scowling, Nebula said nothing as she immediately turned back towards the city, ordering her skimmers to attack the base without her. "That portal must remain open! Get the infantry to form a series of defensive rings on the ground. I will arrive soon, and we will begin moving it around at random. That portal must hold, damn it, I will not face Father's fury for another loss, not again!"

So concerned was she at avoiding punishment, that Nebula didn't see the tornado that kicked up and reached out for all the skimmers she'd left behind, nor the shield of magic that covered the second base from one end to the other. In fact, she was already well away by the time the last of the skimmers crashed to the ground, torn asunder by the ravening wins that Storm had conjured. Another area was now clear to receive refugees.


By the time the battle in France had devolved into tumultuous battles out at sea, over the countryside, and most importantly in and above the streets of Paris, Colossus and his team of Custodes had gotten ready to go themselves into battle. But in Russia, they realized they'd be facing entirely different problems. The French theatre was dominated by the two fronts, Paris and out to sea, with several smaller battles inland as the Chitauri reacted to continued aggression from the defenders almost piecemeal.

In contrast, the battles in Russia were, to this point were very different. They were located far away from the city above which the portal had opened.

Proxima Midnight was not only a better general than Nebula, but she also wasn't one to get tunnel vision to the point that she neglected to consider what her enemies could do against her. To that end, the majority of the Chitauri units she'd organized to follow through after the first wave had been anti-air units.

These came in two different types. One was the sort that the Wrecking Crew had observed taking position around the main portal, the cyborg creatures that looked somewhat like Earth dung beetles. Though short in range, they were incredibly fast, able to lock onto multiple targets with each of the six guns mounted onto their backs, and would dig into the ground to defend themselves from return fire. The second system were series of floating batteries like that which had shown up over Washington D.C. after Corvus had finished slaughtering everyone in the White House.

These floating manta ray-like creatures had four energy turrets, which each had far longer range than the normal variety of Chitauri weaponry. The slowness inherent in their movement was the reason why neither Nebula nor Gamora had decided to use them for their own forces. But Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive both used them. However, in Washington those defenses were still stuck in place due to facing off against the might of the American Air Force alongside the missile launchers of local army units. , here in Russia, that was not an issue. Russia had never had as strong an air force presence as America or France, and hadn't even rebuilt it to its pre-Eurasian War point.

This led to the state of things now; the manta ray-like flying batteries, designated Dreadwyngs among the Chitauri, were making their slow way away from above Severomorsk to provide constant overwatch against human air units while below them skimmers and infantry moved out just as slowly. These creatures proceeded to make mincemeat of the first groups of Russian planes to run into them. The same occurred a little later when the first allied planes arrived, as the Russians had declined to mention how effective the anti-air fire was to their allies. The squadrons from Finland, Sweden, and the US forces posted there—holdovers from the Eurasian War that had not yet been pulled out—suffered heavily.

On the ground however, was a slightly different story. Thanks to the numerous tunnel systems that the Dire Wraiths and their pawns had burrowed throughout Russia, Russian forces had been able to rebuild the majority of their material losses out of sight. Their troops were nowhere close to as well-trained as those they'd lost in the Eurasian War, but they were just as fiercely patriotic. Additionally, the Russian units responsible for defending those tunnels had long thought of how to do so.

Thus, a maintenance tunnel had been wide left open on purpose just so the Russians could trick the invaders to enter close combat with them. While Russia would probably never be a great producer of electronics, textiles, or freedoms, they produced two things in great abundance. Raw materials such as titanium and steel, and men willing—perhaps with liberal use of liquid courage—to fight for Russia.

Sergeant Goromovo held up a hand, signaling his troops to slow as they raced along the tunnel offshoot leading from the main underground network to Severomorsk. It was technically the maintenance tunnel for the main vein east, the one that actually transported goods to the rest of the network from underground factories separate from the rest. That tunnel had been collapsed in a response to the invasion in multiple places to deter any flanking maneuvers.

The tunnel was three-men wide and the Russians took advantage of this by creating special units called Tunnel Shields. Ahead of Goromovo, two such men stood, troopers wearing heavy titanium armor and wielding enormous tower shields, though they had none of the mechanical muscles needed to move like a Titanium Man. These men had one purpose, to hold the line ahead of the regular troopers, their titanium shields their only benefit to the force.

Ahead of the two Shield Guards, only one over-enthusiastic trooper still remained on his feet, the others having fallen to the energy weapons that the aliens were using. Looking through the legs of that man, Goromovo could see the mangled bodies of several of his men interspersed with more than a dozen alien corpses. Glaring, Goromovo snarled, shouting out, "For Mother Russia!" and fired his grenade launcher up over the heads of the two Shield Guards.

The grenade went off as it landed in amongst several charging aliens. Their armor seemed to shrug off everything but the concussive blast as they kept on firing even as they were flung around the tunnel. Still, that fire was noticeably less effective for a few seconds and Goromovo and the remaining troopers with him took the chance to move up directly behind the Shield Guards, sticking their guns through prepared slits in the giant titanium slabs.

They let loose, downing two of the still firing aliens, then pulled back behind the shields as return fire lanced through the slits in turn. Whatever else, it was incredibly clear that the aliens were excellent marksmen, even on the fly. Or perhaps they had some type of autotargeting feature?

Regardless, the rifle of one of Goromovo's troopers exploded as it took an energy round to the muzzle. The soldier moved away from the others at once, trying to find a gun that was still intact.

"Heavy machine gun coming up!" A shout came from behind, and with a grunt, the two Shield Guards began to lift their massive shield. As they did, Goromovo and his troopers pressed against the sides of the tunnel, allowing the machine gunner to open fire with his heavy, crew-served weapon from under the tower shields as the Shield Guards raised them to stomach height. Several of the aliens were quickly mowed down.

But enough of them were able to move to either side of the tunnel and shot back. Another one of Goromovo's men went down, screaming as an energy round struck his leg, searing straight through.

Back and forth the battle went, with nearly a hundred aliens dying per couple of troopers. Unfortunately, the invaders' numbers hardly seemed to fall, and eventually the tower shields began to glow red from repeated hits. One of the Shield Guards shouted, "Retreat, the shields are being overloaded!"

Goromovo and his men, only two of which remained on their feet, did so and retreated back down the tunnel, passing by two fresh Shield Guards. As soon as they were through, the two hastily moved forward into position.

The two Shield Guards that previously had been defending Goromovo waited until their shields were literally melting, and then with bellowing roars charged forwards. Their advance was ponderous, as their armor lacked any powered synthetic muscles, but both had been chosen for their roles because they were large, powerfully built men. When they reached the enemy, for once the Chitauri found that they couldn't just overpower a human in hand-to-hand combat. Worse, thanks to the narrowness of the tunnel and how many of the aliens had pressed forward, they couldn't dodge very well either.

Punches pulped alien heads and armored feet crushed bones; the two Shield Guards still holding the line even as Goromovo and their replacements came marching back into the fight. Unmindful of the two men in front, Goromovo and the rest resumed fire, and once more the aliens began to die in droves.

This continued until one alien physically climbed onto one of the Shield Guards that had charged, clinging to him with their legs. Using its hands, the alien tore the man's helmet off. In response, the soldier dropped his melted shield and crushed the alien in a bear hug. "RAGGHHHH! Feel the fury of Mother Russia!" A second later, several blaster bolts zeroed in on the man's suddenly exposed face.

The other Shield Guard fared better, for a moment, as reinforcements reached him. Aliens continued to die all around him as they'd crammed into the small space of the tunnel to the point that those in the back could barely fire forward, meanwhile the humans could fire away freely. Finally, two other aliens followed the earlier one's example, one holding the Shield Guard's attention while the other tore the man's helmet off of his head. Such an exploitable weakness in the design would surely be going in Goromovo's After Action Report.

But when the second Shield Guard, Timochenko, fell, behind him the two fresh Guards stepped into place, their shields slamming down, blocking the majority of the tunnel save for the small slits built in the shields. Behind Goromovo and his men, still more arrived, slowly coming to the fore from elsewhere in the near-nationwide underground tunnel network via tram or truck. From that point on, switching places the maintenance tunnel made for much harder going for the Shield Guards, moving them up around the shooting troopers was tough at that point since more fire teams had also arrived.

Even so, the aliens were not going to be getting anywhere in the tunnels anytime soon. There in the tunnels, they were forced to fight face to face, where they had few, if any, real advantages over the humans. Indeed, the defenders just might've had the advantage thanks to their Shield Guards.

But on the surface, that situation was entirely reversed, and not only in the air.


With the destruction of the majority of Russia's reconstituted Winter Guard, Proxima Midnight had continued on her way, closing with the nearest military base at the equivalent of Mach speed and began her assault even as its troops were just beginning to move to assist Severomorsk. Although the base's AA brigade of ZSU-23-4 Shilkas and their four autocannons took a toll on her skimmers, in return she and her forces laid down an equally withering rain of fire. Proxima Midnight herself destroyed anything that she came across, targeting the anti-air batteries, getting close and smashing them into pieces.

The Russian forces were routed quickly there, and she moved on, keeping a tight rein on her troops. Thanks to the humans lacking the ability to interdict her communications, unlike how the Chitauri could so effectively interdict their own, there were still a few nearby bases that had yet to learn about the invasion, despite a runner having gotten away through the underground tunnels. Even better for Proxima Midnight, the toll of the Eurasian War had yet to be made good in any real fashion. The tunnel guards might've been brought up to strength, along with the Winter Guard somewhat, but the majority of the Russian military was showing that it was still a shadow of what it once had been.

Yet, despite the massive successes she'd had in the first two hours, Proxima Midnight's desire to lead her attack force personally had taken her away from the portal.

That, and Pinoptes being able to follow her progress, had allowed Colossus to come up with a somewhat similar plan to what Thunderbird was attempting to do, with admittedly scant success so far, in Paris.

However, instead of attacking the city, Colossus felt that they would be better served to strike the head off this particular snake. "The blue skinned woman in France is barely in control of her troops. There, the portal itself is a much more important a target. But here, this blue-skinned woman is dangerous, and she needs to be removed." Colossus had pointed out to his team when they'd been given the information Pinoptes had gathered about what was going on in Russia.

The rest had agreed with him. So while most of the Custodes assigned to the Russian theatre would look to eliminate the blue-skinned spear wielder, Morph alone would head for the portal.

Now, they were close enough to the ground to make out actual terrain features and with the heat of reentry fading, Colossus nodded over to Morph. "You have your GPS?"

"Yep, yep, I have the nifty little tracker that Mister Fantastic made for me. The egghead might be a little too quick to lecture on emission spectrums, energy analysis, and multi-radiation theory or whatever it was he started going on about, but he does good work," Morph answered with a smile.

"You speak truth." Colossus nodded, exchanging a grin and a handclasp with the shape changer. The others joined in, giving him slaps on the back and well wishes. Morph had become a firm friend to everyone on the team thanks to his irrepressible good humor and quick wit, and everyone trusted that he'd get the job done. They just hoped he would come back in one piece. "Good luck Tovarish."

"Luck? I don't need luck, just a bit of skill and timing," Morph quipped back with a snicker, hopping onto a magic broom. With that, he headed away from the rest of the team.

Once Morph was out of sight, Colossus guided the dropship to the ground, then used one of the magic carpets to fly into the air. With Pinoptes guiding them, the group flashed over the countryside with all the speed of a jet fighter, quickly coming to where the blue-skinned woman and her forces had just finished demolishing another Russian military base. As it had been a simple infantry base for trainees, it had fallen within minutes.

As they got closer, the Custodes could see smoke rising from the ruins, as well as a single large fire, most likely from the base's gasoline storage tanks. Soon, they were close enough to start seeing the wreckage of numerous stationary anti-air weapons littered the ground. Then came the bodies, each and every one scattered around the base seemingly at random where the infantry had tried to disperse, and Colossus was somewhat proud of the fact that here, at least, most of the dead had died with guns in their hand.

Even so, there was no doubt that the fight had been horrendously uneven. Ground troops with machine guns against energy weapon-carrying flying skimmers with shields? There was only one way that would've ever ended. Hundreds of bodies littered the ground as, with some of them having been cut in half, others simply riddled with holes, the energy bolts having burned through them entirely. Tellingly, there was not a single Chitauri body among the mass of dead. This had not been a fight, it had been a massacre, the courage of the defenders notwithstanding, and Colossus felt his anger rising.

The Custodes flew on over the remnants of the base, still in search of the commander of this assault. Unfortunately for Colossus and his team, their quarry turned out to have a surprise waiting for them…

Down below, Proxima Midnight looked up from where she had just tossed aside the eviscerated carcass of the last human left alive from the pathetic excuse of a base she'd just wiped out, her thin smile of a job well done turning downward as her highly advanced senses told her some strange energy was closing with her position. She wondered what it was, glaring around her unable to pinpoint where the feeling was coming from until she looked into the sky and, for some reason, felt her eyes trying to obscure or ignore the area.

It is as if my mind is not allowing me concentrate there. My eyes skitter away from it like some of these pathetic humans I've slaughtered have done when faced with their certain death. As if their pathetic existence could have had any higher calling than dying in the name of Lord Thanos. But more importantly, the more I think about that area of the airspace, the more I don't want to. Bah, that must mean there is something there, something that is trying to push my mind awa., Hmm… a telepathic trick then? Like the rest of the Black Order, Proxima had dealt with telepaths numerous times before this, and had seen many of their tricks. And if I am supposed to not notice that area of space, then that is where I must strike!

Even as her eyes were once more forced away, Proxima Midnight raised her spear and blindly fired an energy bolt in the direction of the spot. The energy blast punched through some kind of strange thin flying thing? She wasn't certain what it was, it looked almost like a carpet. But that could be right, carpets couldn't—

"Magic!" She hissed, concern going through her for a moment as she observed the five beings on the carpet that she could now see. All of them wore different types of armor, it seemed, with two of them appearing to be metal-skinned ferorganics while two others merely wore power armor. "Is this going to be Potter then? Or one of the other magic users that Lord Thanos warned us about?"

Proxima was almost relieved to see that the first-person off the strange magic object was one of the metal-skinned warriors. That is one I have seen in the information I've gleaned from the local data network. His name is Colossus I think but regardless of his name, he is no magic user. Her concern seemingly unfounded, she raised her spear and shouted, "Close and engage! The enemy is upon us once more!"

Many of the skimmers had set down as they breached the human's base, the Chitauri upon them leaving their transports behind to hunt through the various buildings for their prey. Now those who had left them behind raced out, firing at the newly arrived humans while those who'd remained above quickly directed their fire to the same. The Rippers present also turned in place, their maws gaping. Greenish energy coalesced there as they powered up their main battery.

"Husk, Warpath, with me, we'll try to take out the leader. Coyote, Uzume, spread out and target all fliers. Take out those big ones first though," Colossus ordered.

Before Colossus had even finished speaking, Uzume was already firing at one of the four Rippers, having lined up on the monster as the magic carpet had snuck them into the middle of the attack force otggling the enlarging runic array as she fired. The normal-sized gauss rifle shot that zipped out of the barrel grew to the size of a boulder instantly and crashed into the Ripper's shields, piercing through and hammering into the creature, tearing away a large chunk from its side and sending it flailing to crash into the ground.

Another of the Rippers dropped just as quickly, a similar shot from Coyote. The former triathlete targeted the center of the beast's head, his shot tearing it apart. A second later, the two snipers used their inbuilt teleportation devices to pop away, landing nearby where they both moved into cover, firing at the skimmers in the air.

Unfortunately, one of the remaining two Rippers got a lucky shot in on Warpath, its oversized blast catching him in the side just as he leaped off the magic carpet. The large Apache warrior cried out, more in annoyance than pain, as the impact flung him sideways through the air to crash down onto a wrecked anti-air gun well away from the others.

Down to two, Husk followed Colossus off the pierced magic carpet, leaping for the alien, blue-skinned woman with a lashing kick.

In response, the woman laughed, her energy staff coming up in a quick riposte that snapped up against Husk's leg, smacking her away to crash nearby. "Ah come on!"

"Hah! You think to challenge me in hand to hand, worms?!" the alien woman shouted with a derisive sneer.

Colossus did indeed think to do so, and barreled into her, dodging a similar swing from the staff, and lashed out with a quick punch. To his surprise, the blue woman didn't even bother dodging, openly taking the haymaker on her chin instead. "What the…"

"Hmmm… not bad." Proxima worked her jaw for a second, then ducked under a follow punch, before leaping around a kick, which Colossus turned into a spinning kick that nearly caught her. But she ducked under it and watched with surprise as the metal-skinned worm seamlessly lifted his pillar leg up into the air as well, performing a mule kick. Not having properly set herself, Proxima found herself stumbling back from the force of the blow, despite her last second block.

By that point Husk had regained her feet, and now charged forwards now, completely undamaged by the previous blow. When the woman twisted around and stabbed her spear at Husk's face, Husk reared her head back and headbutted the weapon full force, cracking it and nearly caused it to break. The momentum of her charge sent the spear's head skyward, up above her head, with a squeal of metal on metal and Husk grabbed its shaft with both hands. Heaving, she hauled the blue woman into a knee to the gut that broke her grip on her weapon. "Take that ya alien bitch! Teach you tah throw this gal!"

A retaliatory blow in response caught Husk in the chest, causing her to gasp. The next blow struck her across the cheek, sending her stumbling although doing no real damage. Damn! This bitch is throwing me around like ah paperweight, despite how heavy mah metal form. Still, I'm damn glad I evolved it after the campaign in Asgard.

Paige Guthrie's power was a kind of metamorphosis power that allowed her to shed her skin and take on the form of various materials, such as wood, metal, or stone. She had evolved her metal form, her main combat form, slightly after events in Asgard by studying the metal that the Asgardians used in their weapons and armor. Where before she had looked almost like Colossus in terms of her silver coloration, now her silvery form had a distinct greenish tinge to it.

And already Husk knew that was going to save her. The alien woman was powerful, easily on the scale of one of the upper-tier Asgardians in terms of raw power for sure. Hopefully, that mean she also wasn't able to tear through inches thick armor plating made to defend those selfsame Asgardians from equally strong foes.

Similarly, Colossus wore his Juggernaut armor chestplate, vambrace, and greaves, which all protected him a second later from a snap kick from the blue woman. The impetus of the blow still sent him stumbling though, and their foe use the impact to launch herself into the air, lashing out with slicing kick to Husk's face that sent the teen tumbling to the ground. Again. "Gah, fuck!"

Before Husk could recover for a second time, the woman stomped on her head, nearly embedding Husk's head into the ground with the force of the blow. Fuck she is fast! And good. This is not gonna be easy!

"You fools might have some interesting armor, but you have nowhere near the experience of one such as me when it comes to war."

Uzume just could not let that slide, her Air Force infused ego acting up. From where she was crouching at that moment, having teleported around the battlefield innumerable times, she twisted around, lining up a shot with her gauss rifle, which caught the woman in the back. Even the insanely fast, high-impact round only managed to push the woman to her knees, but that was enough to work with the blonde woman's taunt. "We're fast learners, blue-bitch!"

Roaring in fury, Proxima Midnight launched to her feet, grabbing Colossus's foot as it came towards her face, twisting and pulling the man down into an uppercut that sent him flying. Turning around and barely grabbing the blow meant for the back of her head from metal-clad woman. She grunted as the child threw a fist next, cracking it against her chest, but still grabbed that arm in turn, turned, and flipped the woman onto her back, whereupon Proxima stomped on her head once more.

"Dammit, shtop doing that!" Husk barked, somewhat muffled from the foot grinding down on her face. Reaching up, she grabbed at the foot with both hands.

Unfortunately, this didn't help much, as the alien woman's foot continued to lift up, pulling Husk off the ground with it for a second. Now raised, Proxima Midnight brought her other foot sweeping in. The resultant kick bent Husk in two, sending her sprawling away and breaking her grip on the alien woman's leg, but also forced the woman to twist a bit awkwardly.

And then, Warpath finally arrived. He had sacrificed one of his hatchets, hurling it up into a passing Ripper's chest, only to see it halted by the Ripper's shields falling away without doing anything, which put him in quite the bad mood on top of having been smashed away so easily a moment ago. "RAAHH!" He roared, and body checked the woman away from Husk, grabbing her in a bear hug, then twisting around and smashing her into the ground with him on top of her.

Stunned somewhat by the sudden attack Proxima Midnight couldn't react quickly enough. But now she broke the grip while on the ground, reaching up and grabbing at the warrior's face, her fingers digging in for his eyes, she hissed at the imbecile with sudden rage. "You are unworthy to touch me, worm!"

Instinctually, Warpath reared back, away from the alien woman's hands, but this allowed her to punch him in the chest, twice, with so much force that the attacks rattled his ribs and caused him to wheeze for breath. This was followed by another punch, this one to the side of his jaw, that sent the Apache warrior sprawling to one side. Rolling away, Proxima Midnight managed to stand up just in time to block a strike from Colossus. Grabbing his outstretched hand so fast it almost reminded Colossus of Shiang Chi, the alien woman hurled him into Warpath, snarling out, "No matter how many of you there are, it will not matter! I am Proxima Midnight, of the Black Order, and you will never overcome me!"

Nearby Coyote dodged incoming fire by the skin of her teeth, his teleporter having been used so much it needed time to recover its energy. Rolling out of the away of incoming fire from on high and from the ground, he fired back up at the numerous skimmers as they tried to box him in. Inevitably, he finally missed a shot attack from behind, which hit his armor, melting away a portion of the powered armor.

Simultaneously, Uzume also made a mistake. Her teleportation device, for whatever reason, failed to carry her far enough forward to land in the ruins of one of the military base's structures as she had wanted to. Instead, she materialized completely out in the open between two wrecked trucks… exactly where the Ripper she had just downed with an enlarged gauss round was crashing. "OH SHI—!"

The beast, a cyborg creation whose higher brain functions had been almost entirely superseded by the near-suicidal instincts programmed into it by its masters, blasted one final energy bolt the size of a battleship's main cannon round as it fell. Right onto Uzume's prone form. The attack smashed into her with vengeance, melting her body armor in numerous places. The heat alone caused her to cry out in agony, but while damaged her armor did manage to see her through, although not without cost. Status updates filled her HUD, breaking down just how screwed she had become. "My teleporter's shot!"

"Pull back," Colossus ordered without looking back to her, grunting as a blow from Proxima Midnight dented his shoulder badly. "You too, Coyote. Keep the bastards busy and keep your distance. This will not be a quick battle."

Proxima chuckled coldly at that even as she crashed into Warpath, slowly pushing the Apache back. All the Custodes realized the truth of their leader's words and shared roughly the same thought. Morph better be having an easier time of things than us!


Elsewhere, Morph was in fact cursing up a storm as he zoomed across the landscape, taking fire from the strange manta ray-like things from above. It had taken him an entire hour to get where he was now from where he had left the others, but his approach to Severomorsk had quickly run into a major problem. Not only had the combined forces of the flying units of the Chitauri pushed several hundred miles out from the city, but worse, the manta ray floating battery things somehow saw him coming, despite how low to the ground he'd been flying. "So much for all that effort dodging around large trees and shit!"

Sickly green beams of energy flashed all around, burning into the ground below as they missed the shapechanger, igniting trees or simply turning them to ash. Thankfully, the large beasties seemed unable to deal with his on-a-dime evasive maneuvers, but Morph knew he still had a long way to go. And of course, the continued bombardment made it so he wouldn't even be able to get into the city without being noticed.

"I'd fake my death to throw them off, but there isn't enough topography around here to hide my presence afterward; fucking Russia and its wide open spaces," Morph bemoaned to himself, his voice snatched away by the speed of his flight to the point he barely heard his own voice. "I suppose I could shift into some kind of camouflage form, blend into the landscape like a chameleon? Nah, that never works out well in the end. Course, if those manta ray things were robots maybe, but—"

Morph's musings were cut off as the telepathic voice of Emma Frost—telepathic sending suddenly invaded his mind with no prior warning. "Morph, prepare to go to ground. Jean seems to be closing in on the alien leader of the attack in China, and she might need backup. I won't be able to ride along with you after all that starts, but Pinoptes and I have prepared a bit of a distraction for you."

At that moment, there were a series of sonic booms, and suddenly, the manta rays discovered that they had a lot more to worry about than him. The distant Baltic Fleet, finally getting itself in order, had opened fire with their long-range missiles. The ordinance came in by the hundreds over Russian airspace towards the city. After the first attempt by the United Air Forces to push the aliens back, Pinoptes had linked into their radar systems and was now providing them real time data.

But there were so many manta rays in the air by that point that the barrage had no chance of actually getting through even the outer defensive zone, let alone actually hitting any of them. But spending those missiles stopped the manta rays from targeting Morph, and he took the chance to dive down to the ground, entering a bit of a forested area.

"Er… how long can they keep this up, miss?" Morph asked mentally, always on his best behavior when one of the telepaths contacted him like this. He always hoped that Mrs. Frost-Potter never delved too deeply into his thoughts whenever she made a connection. Oh that would be so bad… Fuck it's like not thinking about pink elephants!

"Don't worry about your little perverted fantasies Morph, I of all people know how men always harbor some perversions inside. As to your question, the fleet will keep firing their missiles until they run out. I would, however, still suggest getting a move on," Emma ordered, her mental tone both deadpan and holding a bit of warning. "Succeed and I just might not tell my husband about your little fantasy involving myself, Carol, and Mystique in a bathtub…"

"YES Ma'am!" Morph mentally squeaked, hastily racing forward on his broomstick, his body shifting into the mottled green and browns of the forest around him as he went. For several moments after that, he flashed over the ground at around a hundred feet off the ground, then banked away, zipping through another series of trees, looking down at his GPS as he burst back out into the open. In this manner Morph slowly crossed the distance towards Severomorsk, wishing all the while that his team had been able to get deeper into the enemy's defensive envelope before separating. I still have another thirty minutes or more before I even get there!

Despite his best efforts, Morph ended up still being well away from Severomorsk when the Baltic Fleet ran out of missiles. Once they did, his earlier concerns regarding the limits of his chameleon skill were proven accurate as the manta rays somehow once more spotted him almost instantly. They resumed fire at once and forced Morph back into evading rather than focusing on racing forward. "Damn it, I was so close!"

Grumbling, Morph directed his broomstick to land, going to ground. Hiding among the snow near an empty road, Morph waited against the white backdrop, changing his body to match. There he waited until the manta rays ceased firing, the beams of energy burrowing into the ground around him slowly dying off. "Either they lost track of me, or those things can't target enemies on the ground. That'd be ironic."

Slowly pushing himself through the melting snow, Morph sighed, looking down at his GPS only to realize he still had at least twenty more miles to go. "Fuck. Here's to hoping they don't have foot patrols. Or anything else really, damn it. Fuck. Well, guess there's nothing for it…" With that, Morph put his broomstick into his expanded pouch, unable to keep from snickering as always whenever he saw the shaft disappear into the bottomless pouch. His voice turned falsetto for a moment before deepening further than his normal tone. "No, no that shouldn't fit at all… Oh don't you worry darling it'll fit, I'm sure of it."

After his brief moment of levity, Morph sighed once more when the broomstick had disappeared into the pouch. With a resigned look, he put one foot in front of the other, picking up speed as he jogged toward the distant, overrun city.


As other Custodes descended into the war, Dani, the Valkyrie Brunhilde, Garm, and Fenrir were also heading in. They wouldn't be attacking the center of the single Chitauri force spreading out from the only portals that was well away from a population center though. In the time it had taken Harry and his officers to gather, decide on a plan, and organize their response, the Chitauri there had already rolled out so many anti-air guns that doing so on their own would have been horrendously difficult. Pinoptes had also reported that the apparent leader of this assault use telekinetic powers, and the foursome were very leery of going up against such since telekinetic users so often also had access to telepathy.

While Fenrir's mind was animalistic in nature and powerful enough a normal telepath would've struggled to control him, Garm was somewhat less so. And Dani and Brunhilde had no such defense. And although Hela did have her magic to defend her from such, she knew that kind of defense was not the best against a telepath. Such would always have a bit of an edge against someone using mind magics, regardless of the type. And due to her history with assaults upon the mind, Hela was keen to avoid any such confrontations unprepared if she could help it.

So they would instead hit and run, striking at the outer edge of the enemy's forward-most defenses, keeping the true strength of the two wolves a secret for now until Storm joined them to help Hela offset the alien leader's powers. They were also to keep their eyes open, to see if there was a reason why this particular dimensional rift was so far away from the nearest city when all of the others had been opened in cities the world over. None were happy about their course of action, but they all well remembered Harry's warnings about how thinly they were spread right now.

Worse, unlike those sent into Paris or Washington, there was no local force strong enough to truly help here, not given how the nations in the Middle East viewed both the Empire and one another. India would be the closest allied nation, and there would be no way they could send troops in time, not even aerial units. They would well and truly be on their own.

As they flew over the mountains of Afghanistan, the fivesome were quiet. Garm, shrunken down as Fenrir often was to the size of a large wolfhound, was silent, his ancient eyes smoldering with battle lust as he rested beside his mistress. Hela rested a hand upon his head, the other glowing with fell magics as she readied herself. Fenrir, again shrunken to a more manageable size, similarly rested beside Dani, his face set in a bamused, somewhat eager expression, or the wolfish equivalent anyway.

Off to the side, Brunhilde was bent over in prayer, supplications to her Lady Freya for courage and Lord Odin for foresight in the coming battle silently spilling from her liips. Dani was in much the same position, in her own way. Her prayers to Skadi were extremely personal in nature, not even a whisper under her breath as she raised the dagger her lover had gifted her, kissing the handle before raising it to her forehead. She finally murmured a prayer to Lady Freya. "Let my courage not falter, let my strength not flag. Watch over me, oh Freya, and find my acts worthy of one who has stood beneath your gaze afore."

Then, Hela moved, directing the magic carpet ahead of them, shouted, "'Ware, we come upon their outriders!"

Instantly, Dani jumped to her feet, dagger slipping into her pouch as she pulled out her sniper rifle. A moment later, an enlarged gauss round shot out and crashed into an oncoming skimmer, overloading its shield and pulping vehicle and its riders in one go. "Let's do this!"

Hela snorted, black lightning flaring out around her. The fell magic lashed out, crashing into more incoming skimmers as the magic carpet flew into the center of the rapidly expanding group of flyers. Brunhilde also moved to engage, shouting out, "Have at them sister! For Midgard and Asgard united!" She let fly with enchanted arrows at an incalculable speed, the shimmering bolts striking with all the power of a punch from Balder himself.

Below them, infantry units, including one of the traitorous Wrecking Crew, had been moving through the mountains. The aliens had made the climbing up and down sheer cliff faces look as easy as spiders; the easily discernable Bulldozer had been far slower. Recognizing this, Garm led the way off the magic carpet, growing to half his normal size as his paws hit dirt and stone, Fenrir doing the same. The twin howls of the wolves, their very presence, caused the Chitauri to feel something their species hadn't since they'd first begun to worship lord Thanos.


In the face of the unfamiliar emotion, skimmers and infantry alike quailed. This did nothing to save them, as they and Bulldozer, who had come out to help the Chitauri build up a forward defensive position away from the main dimensional doorway, found themselves facing the guard of Hel and the beast of Ragnarök utterly unprepared.

Despite not feeling the near unknown emotion of fear that gripped the aliens, Bulldozer was almost as stuck as a cow in a slaughterhouse. His main offensive skill was to charge forward and build up speed. His strength alone wasn't much to someone like Garm or Fenrir. Worse, he belatedly realized he wouldn't even be able to dodge the creatures, stuck on a small mountain trail with rocks to one side and a very precipitous drop on the other. "OH fuck me!"

"No. Eat you, yes. Mate, no," Fenrir growled tauntingly from where he'd landed on a ledge above him, before lunging forward. "I need more iron in my diet anyway!"

Bulldozer's screams rose to agonized shrieks, and for a few moments, the invading defenders were held at a major advantage in terms of force strength. Unfortunately for Hela and her group, as they'd expected, a smaller portal opened up two mountain peaks over and more skimmers and Rippers spilled out in a flood of reinforcement. Hela, seeing the incoming wave, called a retreat, her tone brooking no argument. "I will hear none of it brother, get up thee here now! We shall not sacrifice ourselves fighting on this molehill for no purpose. For now, we are away. Fear not, for we shall be back."

Biting back a snarl at his sister, Fenrir begrudgingly turned aside from his latest meal, leaping upward to be caught by Hela's magics. As he shrank down he floated back onto the magic carpet they'd arrived on. Once he and Garm were aboard, the five raced away, disappearing under a multitude of magical spells once more. The horde of skimmers chasing after them suddenly floundered, slowly turning back once it became clear there was no opponent to hunt down.

And so they retreated, Bulldozer having been mauled within a few moments of their first skirmish. One of the traitors to Earth and humanity itself had been dealt with, caught completely flatfooted and unable to fight back at all.

Hela, who'd witnessed her brother devouring his latest meal as she'd turned a Ripper into floating charcoal, laughed as they raced away. "Thus always to traitors, fools!"


As the Custodes were finally joining the fight, Skadi was in Australia, waiting. She had arrived ten minutes before Thunderbird and the others were set to arrive in Paris and… was still there. She stood, almost as still as stone, in the center of the undesignated airfield in Australia that had become the designated contact point for the Rainbow Bridge. Around her, workers moved around in force, smashing down the few buildings on the old WW2 airbase that had previously been left standing. It had been an ongoing activity, as they'd need to have the area ready for the Arc Reactor Jarl Potter had agreed to fund and lease out to the Australian government in return for using the land.

There had been some talk regarding moving the Rainbow Bridge's connection point with Midgard to a better location, but Odin, for whatever reason, had vetoed the discussion when it had come up. He apparently did have a place up in Norway he wanted it to be and refused to move it until the Norwegian government had agreed to his terms.

None of that mattered to Skadi though, as she waited for Heimdall to activate the Bridge from his end, another thing the King of the Asgardians had been very clear on. The Rainbow Bridge, and any further interaction between the two realms, would be completely facilitated and directed by Lord Odin and his court. Even any Asgardians on Earth, such as Skadi who currently lived there with Dani, could not simply travel back and forth as they pleased.

Finally, in front of the Huntress, the air rippled, curving around itself in a spiral pattern like water around a vortex. The walls of the vortex widened, solidified, and the floor of the tunnel thus created between dimensions shifted from gray air and bands of nothingness into the multicolored bridge of legend. A voice boomed out, "Come through, Huntress."

Instantly, Skadi moved forward, swift as a deer all the way to the end of the bridge where it ended in front of Heimdall's post of Himinbjörg. The All-Seeing One nodded his head, his unblinking eyes fixed beyond her. "Best you hurry, Skadi. The foul Chitauri are moving quickly, and their forces outnumber that of all humanity by many times over. All that stops them is the physical limitations to how many they can force through those doorways of theirs at a time."

Skadi nodded and raced on her way, only getting to the archway leading into Asgard proper when Heimdall spoke once more, calling over his shoulder to her. "The lone door in the mountains, away from brick and soul. It bares a weight unlike its brethren. Remember that for when you return."

With a faint frown and a hasty, 'My thanks,' Skadi resumed her task, racing through the city.

Passing through Asgard went quickly thankfully, as all but a few families of karls had left months back for various reasons, yet at the entrance to Valhalla, Skadi was forced to wait once more. This, though, was a pure power play, one that Lord Odin had set up several months back simply to further distance the Asgardians, most specifically himself and his position, with that of humanity. Anyone coming through the portal would need to wait for a time before being seen by his court, other Asgardians included. Hmph, that Lord Odin still persists in playing this game when he knows I am here as an envoy to formally request our people come to the aid of those our treaty dictates just goes to prove that All-Seeing doesn't mean All-Knowing. Then again, that aspect of my King is one of the least consistency, so perhaps I should not be surprised.

By the watch on her wrist that Dani had bought her, forty minutes would pass before one of Lord Odin's Alfar servants eventually allowed her entry, announcing her presence in grand form. "My Lords and Ladies, Skadi the Huntress, as envoy of the Avalon Empire and Midgard!"

Skadi marched forward, absently noticing that the grand hall was full. Completely. Mead and meat were also plentiful, clearly a mid-afternoon meal hosted by the king himself that involved almost all of Asgard. So, he knows what this might be about, and has already brought the war host together. He just wants to play to the audience. Ugh, politics and posturing!

Skadi shifted her pace from one of haste to one of grim formality as she strode forward, locking eyes with Lord Odin's one. The Sky Father looked back at her, his face, previously laughing and boisterous, shifting into an equally grim visage. Something in his one eye, a gleam there, told Skadi she was right, that he knew what this was about, but also enjoyed the panoply. Old ass, Skadi grumbled internally, growing furious at this delay.

In contrast to her husband, Lady Freya made no effort to appear calm at all. She was staring at Skadi as a bird of prey would a mouse. Gone was any teasing amusement at Skadi's expense, hidden was her joy at the love that had come upon the previously virgin goddess that Skadi had been. Instead, now Freya's eyes were narrowed slits, her hands clenching onto the arms of her throne like talons. It was clear to the Huntress that her warrior goddess aspect was slowly coming to the fore overriding her goddess of love aspect for some reason.

Seeing such a rare sight, Skadi's already pounding heart began to throb in her chest. Somehow, she just knew that seeing such a look from Lady Freya meant that Danielle had joined the fray somewhere back on Earth. The young Moonstar's raw courage, determination, and faith had called to her and Freya from the start, and Skadi knew no matter how much she grumbled, the connection between Danielle and her Queen was a very real thing, although she also acknowledged it was not the same kind of connection as Skadi and Dani shared.

My sister in the Hunt, my Heart, is in battle, and I have been kept waiting here like a useless heifer! Damn politics and the prides of kings! Skadi snarled internally. With an effort of will that was almost foreign to her outside of battle and when stalking the most dangerous of prey she managed to keep her inner feelings off her face.

Luckily for Skadi's blood pressure, it appeared that several of the Asgardians gathered were also well aware of something going on thanks to Freya's attitude, despite Odin's nonchalant acting. Balder was looking now between Skadi and her mother with wild surmise, Sif was already on her feet, and Dour Hogun was nodding his head, as if his dire predictions for the future were all about to come true. All of that was good, as it somewhat helped calm Skadi down enough to realize that despite Odin's love of panoply, her people would be ready.

Odin slammed the butt of Gungnir onto the ground, a concussive wave of sound and noise rippling throughout the hall in a boom fit to silence any war drum. Every other noise in the hall, all conversation, all music, all jokes, everything grew silent as those present turned their attention to their king and the young Huntress stalking her way toward him. The All-father stood up from his throne and waved his hand in the air before of him, shouting out, "Make way for the Huntress! She comes as envoy to our allies upon Midgard with word of import."

Wordlessly, the Huntress finished passing through the now expectant crowd, ignoring the murmurs that resumed as she walked by, not letting her gaze stray from Lord Odin or Lady Freya. When Skadi reached the dais leading up to the two thrones, she knelt on one knee, holding up a formal missive from Jarl Potter, which he had written out on magical parchment.

"Your majesties, Earth, Midgard stands invaded. The Army of the Displaced, the Chitauri, and another race known as the Skrull, have come at them in force, led by the Mad Titan Thanos and those he has gathered to his nihilistic banner. They come to Midgard through multiple angles of attack. They could perhaps withstand one avenue of invasion, be it from the stars or the doorways the Chitauri prefer, could perhaps match the raw power of the Mad Titan with Jarl Potter and his Custodes. But they cannot match the might of all of these, all together… not alone. Therefore, Jarl Potter calls upon Asgard to aid him, to aid Humanity in this time of strife as dictated by the treaties signed between him, his Empire, and our Lord Odin, King of Asgard."

Odin took the missive, opening it quickly and reading through it, After a second of seeming thought, he held the parchment high above his head. "Midgard calls for aid my warriors. Those who came to us, unasked for and unsought in our time of need, have themselves been beset by forces most dire. What say you, my people? Shall Asgard answer their call?"

The answer was a roar to shake the heavens as Thor, Sif, Balder, and every other Asgardian there raised their weapons as one. "AYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEE!"


Harry stared at the three-dimensional magical array, then breathed in cracking his neck explosively before gently stepping forward into the central position across from the steel-gray gem. There he breathed in again, then cut his palms with a ritual athame. He let his blood drip down into the rubies that made up part of the array, then smeared still more blood into specific runes etched into the metal bars around him, reaching out to his magic at the same time.

Pulsing out his magic in the way he'd learned since coming to this dimension—formless, without intent behind it—Harry felt the stirrings around him. Now as mentally prepared as he'd be, he began the verbal portion of the ritual, directing the magic around him further into the runes around him. The various bits of metal woven into the array began to heat up, as did the rubies, as he murmured, "Acknowledged by the Eternal Pair, I declare my challenges overcome, and my fate my own. With this blood and magic, I signify my death and rebirth. By heart and soul and mind, I leave my humanity willingly, but never shall forget it."

Harry repeated the cutting ritual several times, placing his blood at very distinct different points in the ritual array. By the time both palms had been cut seven times, the energy of the array was crackling all around him. The runes given to him by Death and the Phoenix Force, all of it throbbed with his magical power, turning inward as he continued the ritual. "Let my bone become as stone, let my strength become as mountains. Let my magical might change the reality of my merely human self as I become more than I was, but the same, my mind my own, my emotions my own, but my soul and body empowered further! Let the shackle of humanity fall entire, as I rise, reborn a Titan!"

With that, Harry placed one hand on Krakkan's gem, and the other on the runes given to him by Death and the Phoenix Force, his hand creating a circuit between them even as his magic continued to flow out into the array. And as he did, he could feel the magic within the gem being dragged out, his soul being dragged the other way by the god within. Here… we go… Harry thought, before the pain hit whitening out his world in agony.

End Chapter