"Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me," Ghost hummed as he and Miracle ran down the giant open-air courtyard at the top of the 'ships keel' of rock that speared through the ringed city of Minas Tirith, Knights of the White Tree racing after them. Secure in Miracle's hand was the severed head of an ornate looking marble statue that looked suspiciously like Viggo Mortensen.
"Remind me why we're doing this again?" Ghost asked, leaping over an arrow shot from behind.
"Because we were bored?" Miracle provided.
"No, that wasn't it."
"STOP IN THE NAME OF THE KING!"
Miracle pulled out a shotgun and aimed it randomly behind her. She pulled the trigger, and the crack of the barrel elicited several cries from behind them. Miracle, frowning, pulled the gun back around.
"Bugger. Forgot the bullets," she muttered to herself.
"I thought it was because we're insomniacs?" Ghost asked, before pulling out a grenade and throwing it behind him.
"No. It was because we're geeks. Duh."
"Ahh! Yes, that was it," he agreed. They skidded to a halt at the edge of the cliff.
"No, but why did we do this?" Ghost said, gesturing to the head.
"Oh! It was that bet we made with Oracle remember. That night when we got really blind drunk and sang a karaoke duet of Taylor Swift's 'Me!'"
"No. I don't remember that. I was blind drunk. That's kind of the point," Ghost said pointedly, and Miracle shrugged her shoulders. "What I do remember, is that there are a whole BUCKET LOAD OF SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN, AND WE'RE ASSUMING YOU READ GEMINI CURSE!"
The guardsmen formed a loose circle around them, swords out, black steel shining in the sunlight.
"Well lads, it's been fun," Miracle called, winking and grabbing her husband's hand. "But we've got better places to be!" She leaning back over the cliff, pulling Ghost after her into freefall with a yelp.
As the ground hurtled towards them, Miracle turned back to the guards, who were staring at them in horror, and placed her arms behind her head.
"We don't own any of the franchises pictured herein! Especially not Harry Potter or Marvel Comics!" She paused, brow furrowed, "Or the Lord of the Rings for that matter. But Alcheringa and its magical community were created by us! So, sit back, relax, and keep your arms and legs within your seat at all times!"
"Heimdall! I'm really sorry about breaking your helmet, I promise I won't do it again!" Ghost shrieked as they plummeted to their demise. The duo vanished in a tunnel of rainbow light, and two of the guards fainted. Not that Miracle could really blame them. Her awesomeness truly was unparalleled.
Act I, Chapter 2: A Cold War
The City of Alcheringa, a series of hidden islands in the Coral Sea; The Kingdom of Alcheringa, The Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer.
March 12th, 2004
James Matson stood at a lectern bearing the sigil of the Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer – a green palm-tree over a field of gold, with white stars in the shape of a cross in the sky – staring out over a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people. He was on an elevated platform so he could look out across the sea of people, and behind him were two giant projector screens both broadcasting a close-up of him, so the people standing almost a kilometre away could see and hear his words. He certainly wanted them heard after all. This was his third inauguration as President of the Federation, the most powerful magical nation in the Southern Hemisphere. The entire Wizarding World would be watching him. And this would be his last inauguration. His last chance to effect change before he reached his term limit of fifteen years. It had been one epic ride. He'd negotiated a peaceful de-escalation of tensions with China, and he'd forced the Japanese to stop hunting endangered whale species in Federation waters – which included most of the Pacific these days. He had been a key player in putting down the terrorist cult known as the Death Eaters and stopping their megalomaniac leader, Lord Voldemort, from destroying the world. His administration had all but eradicated the greatest predators of the Mer from their seas – the Leviathan; helped ease starvation in Indonesia; even secured an alliance with a power from beyond the stars.
No one would ever say that James Matson had been a lightweight. His name would go down in history. Had already been noted as one of the most famous magical leaders since the Statute of Secrecy had been founded. He'd won the last election with almost seventy per cent of the popular vote, a figure only ever seen once before in Federation history. But before he left office, before he took a well-deserved retirement, he wanted to solve – or at least get the workings of a solution – to the biggest threat facing his people. Extinction.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Merfolk of the sea and Dwarves of the stones! I come before you today as a man indebted to each and every one of you. Without your support, I would not, could not, be standing here for the third and last time."
Screams echoed across the island, regardless of whether they could see the President or not. The lectern was on a raised wooden platform just outside the central tower of the island of Alcheringa – the capital city of the Federation. The first rows of the crowd sat on coral seats; their feet submerged in water. For the Tower – the seat of Federation Government – perched on an island in the centre of the large, bottomless river that cut through Alcheringa, leaving an easy route for the sea folk to travel between the land city and the inverted aquatic one beneath. The Druids and Mer. A people that existed in harmony and symbiosis with one another. A rare quality in the modern-day.
Further back, those who stood – the vast majority – either treaded water or held rank along the banks of the river. There were easily 20,000 people in that crowd. For a nation of only 80,000 people, that was unprecedented.
"I do not wish to stand before you now as a proud man, though I have every right to do so. For what person would not feel incredible pride to know that his country supported him and his decisions strongly enough to elect them to the most powerful position within it?
"I do not wish to stand before you as a victor, though there is no definition that could say I am not one. I do not see elections as a battle to be fought. Instead, I see them as a debate between points of view, all of which must be heard!"
"Instead, I wish to stand before you simply as a man who wants to do what he believes is right for his people."
The crowd launched into hysteric cheering once again, and the President took a step back and breathed in and out several times before carrying on.
"My friends, we face great danger. Our homes, our very way of life, is under threat. Our reefs are dying! Life bleaching away from the very corals that have protected us and sheltered us for thousands of years. Our islands are flooding! The ocean rises up to claim the sand and bring it back beneath the waves, uncaring as to how many perish in the process. The mortals flood our seas with their garbage and waste, and because of the ICW, we can do nothing! Well, I will not stand by and let our seas be poisoned or wait for our islands to sink."
More shouting, this time, violent.
"But it is not the fault of all mortals. I will not place blame on the many for the uncaring and selfish acts of the few, as ICW policy mandates I should. Our society remains hidden out of necessity, but that does not mean we cannot defend ourselves! We have magic! We have power! We must use them against those who would dump their oil and their plastics into our homes and wash their hands of it. That is why, my next act as President, as mandated by you, will be to direct the Federal Protection Authority to immediately destroy what the Mortals have taken to calling, "the Great Pacific Garbage Patch."
Thunderous applause erupted all around. This campaign had been hard-fought. Harder than his last, though nowhere near as complicated as his first. The environmental issues beginning to plague the Pacific were being keenly felt by all those who lived near the surface. Coral bleaching had destroyed kilometres of reef along the Australian coast – the lands known to the Mer as the Alcheri'kira, 'The Land of the Dreamers' – and the damage was beginning to spread across the Melanesian kingdoms and Aotearoa as well. Islands across the Samoan, Fijian and Tahitian Kingdoms were witnessing record levels of ocean rising, and the north-western Kingdom of Mariana was reporting the mass death of several schools of fish species. As a result, a new power had risen up while he'd been preoccupied with British terrorists and the subsequent arrival of Earth's first extra-terrestrial refugees. They called themselves the Rainbow Front.
When James had won his second term, they had been merely an environmental activist group. Well-funded and well-intentioned, but ultimately not powerful enough to affect the political landscape in any significant way. All that had changed after one hundred and thirty-three Merfolk were killed the previous year when a Chinese oil tanker ran aground 50km south of the protective barrier surrounding Alcheringa. The deaths had galvanised the nation, and the Front had gained significant influence and power as a result, much of which had come from James' own party. The issue had threatened to divide the left-wing vote, leaving an almost clear pathway for James' biggest opponents to snatch a victory – despite his personal popularity. As such, James had made a deal with the Front. Back him in the election, and he'd make sure their issues were heard (which he'd planned on doing anyway), and he'd give them the Vice-Presidency. His new Vice-President, Miss Pamela Islay, stood to his right. She was a short woman, with green vine tattoos traced across her typical olive-Alcheringan skin, and she was young. Younger than he would have liked in a deputy, but James had picked wisely. She would be fine with his advisors, and himself, to guide her.
"We must adapt to the changes being forced upon us. The world is changing, and we cannot, will not let it ride by us. We will not stick our heads in the sand like the rest of the Wizarding World, or it will be our lives on the line!"
Most of the member states of the ICW did not like President Matson. One doesn't struggle to imagine why.
The Druids and Mer had always been considered second rate in the magical community, though how that came about had always been confusing to James. The Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer – a collection of twenty-two semi-autonomous kingdoms bound together in a coalition – was one of the oldest wizarding nations in the world. In fact, it was one of the few countries that was completely independent of any mortal government. And yet, they had been the last nation to ratify the Statute of Secrecy – refusing to do so until the Mer were considered 'beings' instead of 'beasts' under the new International Confederation of Wizards bylaw. They had been considered subhuman, or bestial, by the so-called 'Pureblood' witches and wizards of Europe. But at the same time, their economy was the fifth strongest in the Magical realm behind the Goblin Nation, the Dwarven territories, the United States and the Magical Caliphate (though if growth in China continued, he supposed they would be in sixth place by the end of the decade).
What the President planned to do now would make them hate him even more.
"The mortals have developed a means of instant communication and information capture called the 'Internet'. I propose that we must build our own version. I have spoken with our top scientists and theorists, and they already have an idea of how it can be done – using magic, not mortal machinery. We must begin countering the pollution they have pumped into our oceans and skies, regardless of whether we are detected or not. And we must also turn our gaze towards the stars. We know we are not alone. Atlantis and the refugees from Tamaran prove that. We must have a way of defending ourselves against the mortals should our protections fail, and against anyone else out there that seeks to do us harm."
James knew that there were aliens out there searching for Earth right now, because of what Harry and Ginny had done, and what they continued to do.
When the crowd quietened down once more, he continued.
"For hundreds of years, we have been stagnant. Unchanging. Too focussed on hiding to risk exploring and discovering. Of advancing as a species. I say…"
A crack echoed through the air, barely heard above the President's address or the cheering of the crowd, but it was there to be noticed by those trained in such things. A dozen men and women in khaki uniforms and feathered hats on the platform all tensed. A Maori woman pulled the President behind her, and a Hawaiian pushed the Vice-President to the ground. The soldiers of the Federal Protection Authority were experts at their jobs, but they could not have known the danger they put their charges in at that moment. To magical people, a sudden 'cracking' noise means only one thing. Apparation. To a mortal, it means something drastically different. Protection spells were in the air in an instant, and the spectators began screaming in panic rather than cheer. Hundreds of people burst asunder into clouds of golden dust, using the Druidic method of teleportation – Entanglement – to vanish, the FPA agents among the first.
They brought their charges into the heart of the Tower, and only once the room was secure and they were confident of safety did they allow the President and Vice-President to stand. Miss Islay stood up with shaky breaths, gripping onto the soldier who had rescued her. President Matson slumped to the ground, blood pooling around a hole in his smart shirt.
They laid the President on the flooring and began desperately searching for what possible spell could have hit him, but they could find nothing. For President Matson had not been killed by magic. He had been killed by a sniper bullet, shot from almost 500meters away.
"NO ONE LEAVES THE ISLAND!"
2 years later. The day of Hermione's experiment.
Fortress G4, The Galapagos Shield; Galapagos Islands Province, The Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer.
May 15th, 2006
Harry Potter stood on cold black stone, staring eastward out past crenulations at the dark expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It was quiet tonight. No wind, barely a cloud in the sky. Though the light from the torches held in brackets along the obsidian walls weakened his night-vision, he could still see more stars in the sky here than he'd ever been able to in Britain.
Around him stood a group of people representing magical nations from across the world.
Directly beside him stood the Captain-General of the Federal Protection Authority – the largest Magical Military in the World – Lucas Hobbs. He was an intimidating man to be sure. Thick-skinned, heavily muscled, and covered in dozens of tattoos – some traditional, some not. The Samoan man had risen to the position only recently, replacing his predecessor, who had died in the assassination of Federation President James Matson two years ago. The person standing slightly behind him had also been appointed to her position following that horrific day.
President Pamela Islay was a petite woman with green vine shaped tattoos traced across her olive Alcheringan-skin and vibrant red hair. Harry wasn't entirely sure what he thought of the woman yet. She was commanding to be sure, and unyielding in pursuit of her ideals, which he both admired and felt a kinship with. Nor was it hard to sense the potential she had. However, she was unready for all the responsibility that had been thrust on her shoulders, making mistakes (though not large or catastrophic ones as of yet), that most leaders Harry had known would immediately notice and avoid (including, he begrudgingly admitted, himself). She was not supposed to be President. President Matson, whom Harry was glad to say had been a good friend, had intended to groom the young leader of the Federation's Environmental movement as a potential successor. She had spirit and a desire to change the world – something most people lacked. But vision could only get one so far when there were wars to fight. All that being said, she was learning quickly, and if she kept up all the effort Harry could tell she was investing by the bags under her eyes and the decreasing rate at which she slipped up, she could be a great leader. One James Matson would be proud of.
To Harry's left stood American President Josiah Bartlet. The President was in his last year of office, his hair gone grey, and he now carried a cane to help him walk. Secret Service Members – all of them trained wizards given the current climate – stood a short distance away, hands held behind their backs. They quite blatantly carried SHIELD's new silver metal weapons at their sides. They called them Anti-Wizarding-Railguns – or AWRG-1's. Wizards had taken to calling them 'Wargs' after the ancestral canine creatures. Weapons designed to be impervious to magic by emitting a low-grade electromagnetic resonance that prevented disarmament, transfiguration or any other means of magical manipulation. The bullets they emitted had the same properties – rendering protection spells and magical armour useless. Including the Ancient Armour Harry and the Defenders had used to defeat Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Fortunately, they couldn't penetrate wards. Harry also imagined they were wearing SHIELD's new body-armour, which was resistant to most lesser forms of spellfire – though not transfiguration or curses.
It was one of those weapons that had killed James Matson.
Behind them, the new American Secretary of Magic Simon Dodson – whom Harry vehemently did not like – was whispering quietly to the French Minister of Magic Jean-Pierre Vasseur. Both countries had aided the Defenders in their victory against Voldemort, though neither of the two men had actually been involved; coming to power only later. Harry still felt a pang at the absence of a representative from Wakanda, the other country that had played a significant hand in the Dark Lord's defeat.
Beside and behind them were perhaps six or seven other foreign leaders, the only one who's name Harry could remember being Catalan President Caterina Bosch – a staunch ally and one of Ginny's friends.
This type of thing, meeting with Presidents and Ministers was usually Ginny's job as the Atlantean Head of State. But Jessica – one of Harry and Ginny's seven-year-old twin daughters – had contracted Dragon-pox, and Ginny refused to leave her side. Harry wanted desperately to be there as well, but this was not a meeting one sent a simple emissary to.
"There," General Hobbs said in his rough, deep-chested voice. The assembled leaders followed the General's gaze, staring out at sea. Sure enough, in the distance, Harry spotted a small craft, shaped like a stingray, gliding through the water. It was an old model he thought, from World War Two. It would aid in deniability.
No alarm was raised within the fortress, and so the ship grew closer, before coming to a halt about a hundred metres from the obsidian outer wall. Then, with no warning, two sharp 'booms!' echoed through the air, and two balls of convulsing purple magic shot from cannons on the underside of the ship. They soared through the air, leaving no trail save for an acrid smell, before impacting the walls with a muted 'thud'. The obsidian shimmered with soft blue light, before returning to normal – the fortress Wards.
Harry glanced at General Hobbs, who nodded slightly. Good. Harry would take it from here.
He jumped over the wall.
A smile splitting his face as the stingray craft fired two more shots, Harry let himself freefall for a few seconds, before disapparating above the water. Reappearing a second later directly above the ship, he snapped his wand into his hand, raising it overhead. He slammed it into the metal, the shaft sinking through the hull and the associated wards. Wizards, Harry found, tended to focus on defending against magic, and not enough against good old-fashioned types of attack.
"Confringo." The tip of his wand, now buried within the ship, released a blasting curse that tore away the roof in an explosion of light and sound. Harry shot backwards, apparating again to reorientate himself above the hole he'd just made. He dropped inside, and, as he'd imagined, found himself in a space far larger within than out: a large corridor, walls and floor charmed to appear as if made from stone instead of metal. He advanced down the hall as two guards opened a door directly ahead of him. The looks of shock on their faces were priceless. They wore black vests, decorated in gold with the symbol of a sword – point down – surrounded by magical lights. The symbol of the Layqasuyu Imperial Guard. Just as Harry – and the fortress garrison – had expected when they detected the ship heading for Federation waters two days previously. Two quick stunners dropped the men, and Harry continued deeper into the ship.
The charmwork was good, obviously intended to disguise how old the vessel was, and it appeared there were very few passengers – Harry only had to stun three more people as he made his way to the bridge.
Once he did arrive; however, he had a fight on his hands. He didn't get the chance to fight many people wand to wand anymore. This would be a nice change of pace. He wrenched the locked door open with a simple banishing hex, and then – grinning – he dove into a roll. Five spells soared over his head as Harry completed the manoeuvre, closing his eyes as he rose to a crouch.
"Lumos Maxima!" A bright burst of light emitted from his wand, flooding the room with glare. He heard one-person trip over a chair, and another walk into a desk. The light extinguished, and Harry dove again, opening his eyes and sliding behind a desk for cover as two more spells were sent his way.
Both impacted the desk, and Harry slid out from the other side, wand drawn.
"Ventus! Fulgur Expulso!" A shockwave of air blasted outwards from Harry's wand, and the two men lurched from their feet, soaring into the air – directly into the path of the lightning curse. Static electricity danced along their skin and clothes as their bodies spasmed. They hit the wall, and the light on the roof above them exploded in a shower of sparks.
A sharp stinging sensation rippled through Harry's right forearm, and he jumped in the air, flipping as he did so. Not a second later, a silent stunner soared through the space he'd occupied. Harry bit off a silent spell of his own – a binding spell – striking his opponent and wrapping him in enchanted ropes. Harry dropped back to the ground; wand outstretched.
"Expelliarmus!" A final man – whom Harry assumed was the Captain based on the epilates adorning his shoulders – raised his hands in surrender. His wand ripped away from his grasp, flying across the room. For a brief moment, a tattoo rippled across Harry's right forearm. Black ink in the shape of a dragon with a red coloured phoenix, wreathed in flame, issuing from its mouth — the Firebrand of the Council of Fire. Harry had been marked with it almost fourteen years ago now. A lifetime ago.
Harry returned his wand to the holster on his wrist and moved towards the captain, who still had his hands over his head. Then he punched the man in the face.
The man groaned in shock as he tripped backwards, falling to his knees. Harry ignored him, raising his hand to the back of his ear, where a transparent disk was embedded in his skin.
"Atlantis, this is Harry, respond."
"Bridge to General. We read you, Harry. How goes the demonstration?" The voice belonged to an old friend.
"About as well as can be expected, Lavender. Care to take over?"
"Ready General." Harry had tried to stop his people from using the old nickname, but those few Defenders Army members who remained in Atlantis, Lavender Brown amongst them, refused to give it up. Harry rolled his eyes, then placed his hand on a large console at the front of the Bridge. A large wheel – like one might expect from a sixteenth-century pirate ship – was affixed to the top, and it was in pride of position in front of the window that dominated the room. Like the rest of the ship, the walls had been charmed to look like stone, as if he were inside a comfortable house, and not a magical warship.
The sleeve of Harry's robes transformed into a white, lightweight metal substance. It consumed his hand, clothing it in a glove – red piping along the fingertips. Then the white metal leaked out of his fingers and into the steering panel.
Ancient Armour – a relic of the first magic users to inhabit the Earth. They had died out ten thousand years ago, and all that remained of them was their great metropolis – Atlantis – left buried in the ice of Antarctica. Lost. Forgotten. Until Harry and Ginny had found it, reawakening its secrets.
The steering wheel began to move on its own, and the warship jolted back to life. With his other hand, he reached into his robes and drew out a palm-sized sphere of glass. Trapped within it was a cloud of smoke. He threw the sphere up in the air, and it began to levitate on its own. Within a few moments, the smoke cleared, revealing the face of General Hobbs back on the fortress ramparts.
"Ship secure. What do you want me to do with it?"
"I'll send some men to round up the prisoners and search the place. Then we'll blow it up," Hobbs replied. These balls really were a good idea. Much more efficient than Patronus messaging, even if they were clunky and prone to breaking. He supposed Hermione had shaped them like Crystal Balls as a subtle jab at the field of Divination. She'd actually been condemned by the International Organisation of Seers a few years back for her paper on the origins of magic if he recalled. A paper that won her an Order of Merlin – on top of the two she already had. Speaking of which, her latest experiment should be starting sometime soon if he remembered correctly.
"Ship's wards are down General. You're in the clear." Lavender's voice echoed in his ear.
"Just doing my job."
Harry removed his hand, and the white metal transformed back into his black robes. Within moments, a dozen FPA agents had materialised on the deck, appearing from within clouds of golden dust. Entanglement – a druidic art. Harry had never been able to master it. Apparation was far easier.
The other world leaders, with General Hobbs, appeared shortly after, escorted by the Secret Service and the Federal Protection Authority's Elite Garrison.
"How many times is this now?" the French Minister asked.
"Since the beginning of the year? 13. Since the war began? 274," Hobbs answered, grabbing the Captain by the throat and shoving him into the floor. He made an odd weeping sound as his head hit charmed metal.
President Pamela, the French Minister, President Bosch of Catalonia, Secretary Dodson of the US, and the other wizarding leaders all flinched. President Bartlet – the only person there without a drop of magical blood – did not.
War. It was an ugly word in the magical world. Wars did not happen often between wizards. Historically, their population had been too low to even consider them. They were also tough to hide from muggles – even with the Statute of Secrecy in place. That being said, the number of magical wars fought across the world in the 20th century was double the amount of battles fought in the two centuries prior. It was an unsettling trend. First, it was Grindelwald, then World War II, then Vietnam, the American Magical Revolution, Voldemort's first rise, the Tibetan Crisis, Voldemort again. Now… now the entire wizarding world was holding its breath. Waiting to see how this current conflict would end. A cold war in name only.
Two years ago, President James Matson of the Federation had been assassinated by a wizard from the South American magical kingdom of Layqasuyu, using a muggle weapon designed by an American intelligence agency.
To say it was a shitstorm, would be the biggest understatement of the century.
Harry! Get back to Atlantis NOW!