Ghost and Miracle stood on a cliffside, looking out over a city of tall white marble buildings nestled within a valley. They were in the Himalayas. Or at least what passed for the Himalayas on this Earth.
"You sure she's down there?" Ghost asked, directing the comment to the man kneeling in front of him, a telescope raised to his eye. The man was identical to Ghost in almost every way. Same dark hair and eyes. Same bearing and mannerisms. They even had the same taste in clothes – leather jackets and cargo pants. However, you could instantly tell the two apart. The kneeling man, whom we will call Shade for the sake of simplicity as his assumed name was also Ghost, had an arctic fox clinging to his back. The claws of the small white furred animal clung to the jacket, holding firmly and allowing it to raise its head over the man's shoulder, providing a commanding view over the valley. Standing beside him was a woman with long blonde hair, streaked with orange. She was shorter than Miracle, but they too had identical faces and identical figures. Perched on her shoulder was an owl with grey and white feathers, of a species neither Ghost nor Miracle knew. This woman too was named Miracle, so we will call her Wonder.
"Our contact is trustworthy. The girl is down there," the fox said. The fox, whose name was Melindralena – or just Mel – did not like Ghost very much. He thought it was because he did not have a daemon of his own.
"We need to move. If she is down there, she won't be for long. The Authority will find us soon." The voice belonged to the third doppelgänger of Ghost standing on the cliff. This one's name was William O'Neill, and of the three of them, he was by far the most imposing of the three. He had a long scar across his face, and wore a dark cloak of basilisk hide over his shoulders. His Miracle, Clarissa O'Neill, had no highlights in her hair. She was the youngest of the six.
"Between the six of us," Miracle said, clenching her fist and trying not to stare at her double's daemon, "we can keep hidden from the Authority long enough…"
"Ha!" Wonder exclaimed, "There is no hiding from the Authority! You come to our end of the Multiverse, beyond your cute little Orrery of Worlds, and start trying to tell me what the Authority can and can't do? Even Lucifer is scared of coming here."
Miracle stepped up to her other self, and the owl narrowed his eyes at her.
"I don't care. I'm going to find my daughter. And I do not care what the Authority does to me or to you. You can stay or you can leave. But I am going down into that city, and I will tear apart the walls of reality to get her back." Then Miracle and Ghost ran towards the cliff edge and jumped off. And after a moment, their other selves followed after them.
"We don't own any recognisable franchises! The expansions to the magical world such as Alcheringa, Layqasuyu and the other magical nations were created by us!"
Act I, Chapter 4: Jean
Atlantis, the North Atlantic Ocean; 35° 21'28.5 "N 38° 29'53.4 "W.
Nick Fury stared at the city of Atlantis and, to his eternal shame, couldn't help his jaw slackening at the sight of the alien city. It was gorgeous. Walls of a turquoise blue-green and a floor of coppery red, the room he found himself in was incredibly grand. Staggered across three levels, Fury was in the centre of the lowest floor, standing on a raised platform before a giant grey metal ring, etched with runic symbols that glowed blue. Spaced equally around the ring were seven triangular chevrons that also glowed. From this side, the portal looked far calmer, like water rippling in a soft breeze instead of a tumultuous whirlpool. In front of him was a wide staircase leading upwards, writing in the Ancient language across the steps. Above the stairs was a giant stained-glass window depicting figures holding wands aloft, and on either side was an open room with a balcony overlooking the Gateway room below. On the right was a control room, with desks, screens and consoles. The left-hand room only had one visible object within. A silver metal and glass chair – almost a throne – sitting dormant and unoccupied.
A small team of SHIELD scientists, led by Drs Richards and Storm, had been working with the Atlantean wizards for six years now as per the deal President Bartlet had signed with Ginny Potter. In exchange for help in understanding and repairing the city, the Atlanteans would share the intelligence they gained on their excursions to other worlds – primarily, weapons technology. Fury was perfectly happy to admit he'd tried to twist the deal in his favour several times. Thanks to Dr Storm, SHIELD had reverse-engineered the technology that created the powerful shield that protected the city. They couldn't protect anything as large as Atlantis, but they had used it to create their rudimentary anti-magic body armour. It was also thanks to their studies of Atlantis that SHIELD had learned to convert CO2 back into breathable Oxygen without any waste of energy for their bases; how to create workable hard light holographic projections; and, (most importantly to Fury's mind) how to bypass those suits of magical nanite armour they all wore.
It was all a part of the game he and Ginny Potter played. And she gave as good as she got too. Their deal had no provisions for access to the Stargate – the name Fury's scientists used for the ancient portal device – nor did it give him any right to demand access to Atlantis's weaponry, or the magical defences the wizards had put in place themselves. She also took great pleasure in limiting the amount of Alien technology he could get his hands on.
He hated to admit it, but he respected the girl. More than Fury respected most people for sure. She and her husband – whom Fury was slightly less impressed by – genuinely cared about protecting the world, no matter the cost. Furthermore, both Potters had blood on their hands. Fury wouldn't have trusted them an inch if they didn't.
But that didn't mean he wouldn't use this opportunity. There was a reason he hadn't been allowed into the city himself.
He tried to capture everything about the device he could so he could report back to his scientists. He'd been unable to get even a single person into this room in seven years. Seven years of trying to devise a defence against this city and its portal technology, and this was the first time anyone in SHIELD employ had even seen the device. Fury was a smart man. Smarter than many gave him credit for. With any luck, he would be able to have a sketch artist create a realistic enough drawing of the Stargate and the room it sat in. Maybe then his scientists could come up with a vague idea of how the thing worked. He was just so blind when it came to Atlantis and the wizards who inhabited it. He didn't even know what powered the place.
Unfortunately, learning more about the Wizards would have to take a back-seat to his current problem. A hole in reality, dozens of missing agents, and a giant magical bird of fire. That… creature. Whatever it had been… it was not something he could fight on his own, and the Avengers Initiative wasn't ready yet.
A dozen wizards – all in that armour – ran out of side passages, wands drawn. Everyone in the room was staring at him. Good. Let them look.
"Lavender! Status report!" Ginny exclaimed, rushing up the stairs. Harry and Fury followed behind her, and the soldiers stood, confused, in the debarkation room, wands pointed at his back.
"Stand down," Harry said begrudgingly, and the wizards did as instructed.
"We have the… thing… on the City sensors," A woman called out, "As soon as you left, it pivoted away from Hogwarts… It's heading straight for us."
They reached the top of the staircase, and Ginny and Harry looked into each other's eyes for a few seconds. Telepathy. Just one of their unusual abilities. Fury couldn't help but stare at the tattoo on the back of the girl's neck. Oh, what he wouldn't give to know how that worked!
Instead, he ground his teeth and scanned the control room. Everyone within was staring at him with thinly veiled hostility. He resisted the urge to smirk, and instead counted as many people as he could recognise. He had read the personnel files on every one of the former 'Defenders'. Lavender Brown, a thin girl with wavy brown hair, sat at a desk with a holographic globe hovering above it. Eloise Midgen sat beside her, hand hovering over a console shaped like a diamond, with dozens of glass keys across it in a specific formation. He couldn't see the letters. Dennis Creevey sat at the same station, but he had a map of Atlantis in front of him. Damn, if only he could get a good look at it. SHIELD only had elementary floor plans for the city – the thing was as big as Manhattan – and the few satellite pictures they had were even worse. At a station behind them, slightly raised, sat three more people – Michael Corner, Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass. Fury had met both Slytherin girls before. Greengrass acted as a shadow to Atlantis's political liaison, Mary Breckensfield, and was quite obviously being groomed to take the woman's place. Fury had been forced to work with her before and would admit she was quite intelligent and discerning for one so young. She almost reminded Fury of himself. Davis was the media director of Atlantis, she ran the city's news network and monitored the Atlanteans internal and external political images. She was good at her job, but that didn't mean Fury liked her.
The Potters finally ended their conversation, and they stepped into the Control Room.
"The people on the ground?" Harry asked.
A holographic screen appeared, showing the half-goblin Wizard scientist – Flitwick – Coulson and Maggie.
"The thing just vanished, sir. As if it was never here. The Window is still releasing those lights, though the pace has decreased significantly."
Another screen materialised, revealing the face of King T'Chaka of Wakanda. Ginny visibly winced at the sight of the king.
"Mrs Potter, tell me your researchers have not just torn another hole in the Space-time continuum."
"My researchers," Ginny said tersely, "have done no such thing. Furthermore, I do not see how the matter concerns you, Your Highness. The incident occurred on British soil, and the British Ministry of Magic is allied with the Covenant, not the Alliance. Therefore, you have no jurisdiction or authority in this instance." Ginny dismissed the king's transmission before sighing in frustration. Harry placed a hand on her shoulder, and she put hers atop his and smiled.
Deciding that now would be a good time to strike, he took a step forward, uncaring of the stares he received.
"Talk Potters. Who was that woman? How do you know that bird thing?"
Ginny opened her mouth to answer but was cut off by an alarm erupting through invisible loud-speakers.
"ALERT! ALERT! COSMIC THREAT DETECTED!"
"Shit!" Dennis exclaimed. Fury's gaze locked onto his screen, which showed an image of Atlantis and the surrounding ocean. A red blip was rocketing straight for them.
"Raise the shield," Ginny commanded, and Lavender immediately slapped a large silver button on her console. Fury followed Ginny's eyes to the nearest window and watched in fascination as a transparent dome of energy enveloped the tower.
"500km, impact in 12 seconds!" Colin called. Ginny moved to Astoria's screen and looked over the girl's shoulder.
"Gin… the output… it's the exact same as the…"
All eyes spun towards the large window that overlooked the exterior balcony. The red light shot towards the city, then collided with the shield with a 'BANG!' like thunder.
The sky bled to red as the force surrounded the transparent dome on all sides. Alarms blared, sparks burst from Colin's console, but the shield held.
"The shield is under incredible strain," Lavender said eventually, "and the Dragon Force Reactor is fluctuating, but otherwise…"
Ginny swallowed, then walked out onto the balcony, Harry trailing behind her. Fury followed them.
Atlantis… it truly was as massive as the photos depicted. And as incredible. A metropolis of silver towers shaped like a six-armed snowflake. It was so alien, yet so beautiful… it was hard to not admire it. The city shield – which formed a dome shape around the city – was covered in dancing flames of red and gold, creating intricate patterns in the shadows they cast over the silver towers. And in those flames, he could see a face. Two eyes of solid gold, staring directly back at them.
Though he didn't show it. Didn't even flinch. Internally, he was shiting himself.
"Everything in the Multiverse – all matter, all energy, all magic – comes from the Source. The True Source," Ginny whispered as they stared out at the face in the flames. "What it actually is? Well, we have no idea. To be honest, I don't think we're meant to understand it. It's just beyond us. But the point is, the Creator used the Source to bring our Multiverse into existence."
"Creator?" Fury asked, raising an eyebrow. Of all people, he hadn't thought she would be superstitious, but looking into those eyes, seeing the burning flames, though he couldn't feel or hear them, and standing atop the tower looking out over something from a fairy-tale, he could understand.
"It's known by more names than you or I could possibly comprehend. I've heard it called the Monitor, God, the Presence, the One Above All, the Divine Firmament, Chaos, and a whole assortment of pronouns. And it very much exists. People I trust have felt that power, and all of them have said something looked back at them when they did." Fury suppressed a shiver.
"Let's say I believe that," he said, "what does 'the Creator' have to do with… that?"
Daphne, Lavender, and several of the other wizards stepped out onto the balcony with them.
"The shield has stabilised. Just like it did against the Nether Force," Lavender whispered.
Ginny continued as if Lavender hadn't spoken. "The Source has no purpose other than to exist. It's a fuel tank with no engine. So, to ensure the Multiverse functions correctly, there are powers called Enigma Forces – the Fundamental Forces of the Cosmos. Think of them as reservoirs of cosmic energy, each with a specific purpose and its own rules to follow."
"One of them is called the Phoenix Force," Harry said grimly, "the force of cosmic rebirth."
The flames receded in an instant, revealing the image of a giant firebird. Then, just as Coulson described, it vanished as if it were never there. The sky returned to blue, and all he could see was a calm ocean.
"The Phoenix Force is responsible for bringing about the death of universes at their appropriate time. It manifests as a giant cosmic firebird and draws power from destruction to be used in creation. Every universe has its own echo of the Phoenix Force, and when it's time for that universe to die, the Phoenix destroys it, then uses all the power created by the death to trigger a new Big-Bang. Will and Clarissa O'Neill – former hosts of the Dragon Force – witnessed the avatar of another universe's Phoenix destroy an entire solar system without breaking a sweat." Fury swallowed hard.
"So, this thing is going to destroy the world?"
"Not on its own," Harry said, arms folded, "As we learned with Voldemort – who used the Nether Force to try and take over the world – Enigma Forces like the Phoenix can't act on their own. They have to bind themselves to an avatar – or host – to function. The Phoenix is going to seek out someone here on Earth to bond too, and Luna thinks that someone is us. We're safe in here. The Forces can't attack each other directly, and the shield is powered by the Dragon Force."
"So long as we stay here, it can't get us," Ginny finished.
Fury took a deep breath. This just got worse and worse by the second. "How do we find it?"
"We're just going to have to wait for the destruction to begin, then pray to the gods we can help before it's too late."
Ealing, West London, The United Kingdom
May 15th, 2006
"Grandpa Erik?" Jean called, sticking her head out of her bedroom, "Have you seen my football shoes?"
"They're in the Laundry Jean."
"Thanks!" Jean closed the door and grabbed her jersey off the dresser. Striped blue and white, Jean was proud of her position as the centre forward for the Ealing High School Fourth Form Football team. She'd spent all year practising so she could move from the B team to the A team, and she'd done it. She'd won her place in trials, and now she'd prove to all the other kids that she deserved the spot, that she hadn't just gotten it because her Grandpa Charles was a teacher.
She pulled the jersey over her head and checked her hair in the cracked mirror.
Grandpa Erik and Grandpa Charles apartment in Ealing was nothing special. Two bedrooms (it was really one bedroom, with the study converted into Jean's bedroom), one bathroom, a kitchen and lounge, with a tiny laundry. It had a grand total of one window, kept clear at all times so Grandpa Charles could put his wheelchair in front of it. The furniture was old, the leather couch cracked in several places, and three beer coasters had been propped under one of the chair legs. But to Jean, it was just home.
Satisfied her auburn hair was sufficiently tied back, she opened the door once more, grabbed a pair of socks, and moved down the cramped hallway to the laundry. Sure enough, her shoes were sitting beside the metal basin. She grabbed them and made her way towards the front of the house.
Grandpa Charles was reading a book in his chair by the window, making notes on a clipboard.
Jean tied to sneak past him to get to the door, but as she gripped the handle, Grandpa Charles looked up at her, raising an eyebrow. With his bald head, kind eyes and love of tweed jackets, not to mention his paralysis, Jean's friends thought Professor Charles Xavier looked about as threatening as a kitten.
They hadn't been in the same room as him when the ICW split two years ago.
The usually calm, thoughtful history professor had gone berserk. A good half dozen things had been thrown across the room, one even putting a hole in the window. He had been so furious at the nations that had spurned the idea of moving forward, of evolving, that Jean almost thought she might have sensed a bit of magic in him after all.
Both of Jean's grandparents were muggles, though that didn't mean they didn't have just as much to teach her as her parents might have. More so perhaps, given that Jean had no magical talent either. She was a squib, and her parents had gone and gotten themselves killed when the terrorist Voldemort had been reborn ten years ago. Jean had been left on her own. Her magical relatives hadn't wanted her. All she'd had was her mother's muggle father: Jean's Grandpa Erik.
Grandpa Erik… Jean couldn't imagine how hard it had been for him. He had survived the Holocaust, an orphaned child, only for his daughter to die at the hands of another terrorist touting so-called blood-purity over forty years later. Maybe that was part of the reason he'd taken in a little squib, Jean Grey.
"You be good young lady," Grandpa Charles said as Jean winced.
"I always am," Jean shot back, rolling her eyes.
"I know you are," Grandpa Charles said, "That doesn't stop me from worrying about you."
"I'm turning 15 in a few months, Grandpa," Jean reminded him. "I can protect myself."
"Doesn't stop us from worrying," Grandpa Erik said, appearing in the door to the hallway with a mug of coffee, wearing that horrid purple and red dressing gown he loved. Jean had actually tried to burn the thing when she was ten. It still had a burn mark on the hem. Not one of her finest moments.
"Yeah, I know. I promise I'll be good."
"Good girl," Grandpa Charles said, and Jean bolted out the door.
As usual, she arrived at the field fifteen minutes early. Most of her friends thought the idea of early morning Saturday training to be ludicrous. It was cold, windy, and more likely than not to rain on you, regardless of the season. It was, after all, London. But she enjoyed the crisp air – it helped her concentration.
She dropped her bag beside the long and squat brick building that served as the school's locker room and sat down on the yellowing grass to begin her stretches. The coach arrived soon after, nodding in her direction before entering the office at the end of the building. After ten minutes, she started running laps of the oval, watching as the rest of the team started trickling in.
Jean… was not very well-liked by most of her team-mates. Actually, Jean wasn't very well-liked by most people, period. Most girls avoided her because of her grandfather – she supposed it was because they didn't want to risk her dobbing them in for secrets they might accidentally slip. Jean was just fine with that. She didn't have time for their bitching and complaining anyway. The boys, on the other hand… they tended to fall into two camps. The sporty boys didn't like her because she was one of only two girls in the A level football team. Supposedly, she was taking a 'spot' meant for them. Well, she was better than them, so maybe if they tried harder, they could have their 'spot' back. The other group, the nerdy types – oh, sorry, the 'academic' boys, pha! – tended to idolise her because; a) she had no fear what-so-ever of so-called 'jocks', and b) she wore sports shorts.
She didn't need people to like her. She had her grandpas, she had earned her place on this team, and she had a few friends she could count on. That was enough.
The coach emerged from his office and set the new arrivals to running, and Jean slowed down to allow Hope and Bobby to catch up to her.
"Excited for tomorrow?" Hope asked, elbowing her in the side.
"Duh. First game of the season, who wouldn't be excited?"
"True. You think we can win?" Hope asked.
Jean shrugged, looking around the oval at the rest of the team.
"Can we win? Sure. Whether we will or not depends on if Trent can pull his head out of his ass."
Bobby snorted. "That's true. He's a striker and a half, but if he doesn't put aside his ego and pass when he can't score, we'll be screwed." Jean opened her mouth to say more, but Hope elbowed her again, and pointed to the fence line.
"Your stalker's back."
Jean groaned. Sitting on the metal temp seats was a boy with shaggy brown hair with a textbook. He was not so subtly watching their every move.
"What's it going to take to get him to leave me alone?" She hissed, pulling her eyes away from one Scott Summers and focussing on taking one step after the other.
"I think it's kind of cute," Hope said, giggling.
"It's creepy," Bobby said, shaking his head, "at least most guys are subtle when they stalk a girl."
"No, they aren't," Hope and Jean said in unison. "You just think you are." Bobby laughed.
"That sounds about right."
The coach blew his whistle, and they turned away from the stands and began running back to the locker rooms. Halfway across, an ear-shattering screech ripped through the air, and Jean, Bobby and Hope all ground to a halt, hands flying to their ears. The sound died away, and they looked to the sky, searching for some clue as to the origin of the terrible scream.
"Probably some big-shot grinding his tires," Hope said, shaking her head. "Come on." She turned away, but Jean's gaze was locked on something to the west.
"Um… guys… is it just me, or are there two suns?" She pointed to the west, where sure enough, a red glow was visible against the stark blue of the sky. And it was growing larger by the second.
"Is that a fire?" Bobby asked.
"There's no smoke," Hope said. Jean stepped in front of her friends and placed a hand over her eyes to shield them.
"Whatever it is, it's coming closer."
Another horrific screech echoed through the air as the light shot towards them, and as it came, Jean realised it wasn't a light at all. It had some sort of shape… like…
"Is it a nuke?"
"It's a bird."
A tingling sensation ran up Jean's back, a sensation she only ever felt when she went to Diagon Alley or was in the presence of someone using magic. Oh, shit.
It was a creature. A bird wreathed in flame. And it was heading straight for them.
She shoved Bobby and Hope aside, then dove the other way. The air around them turned from brisk to burning in seconds, and as she hit the grass, the creature hit them.
It swallowed her, blocking out the sky and sweeping her off the ground. She screamed at the blistering heat, at the smell of pure ash that flooded her nose. The grass vanished, and Jean was pulled up into a storm of red and purple magic, surging and writhing amongst itself like water in a turbine. The screeching reverberated all around her, blocking out any other sound. All she could see was the storm. And she was caught, flying and falling in its grasp.
Magic. It had to be magic. But why? She was a squib. Without a drop of magic in her veins. There were still hundreds of witches and wizards in Britain. Why was this creature here? Why not Diagon Alley? Or somewhere else with more magic?
'Because You are here.'
Jean screamed in utter terror as she was pulled into the storm-wall. Tentacles of flaming red magic lanced towards her, grabbing her arms and legs and pulling her into the fire.
It swallowed her, and her body was consumed in an agony she couldn't explain. It was as if her body were burning from outside and in at the same time. She closed her eyes, desperately trying to ignore the screeching, but that only let her concentrate on the pain.
The last thing she remembered before passing out was falling into a void of pure white.
Hey everybody! So sorry this chapter is late, but, we've been really busy over the last month, and we haven't had a lot of time to dedicate to any of our Fanfictions. I mean, there's been Hamilton to sing, Covid to avoid, lockdown to depress, surprise Taylor Swift albums to binge, emergency surgeries to prep for, and hangovers to struggle through.
Oh, and one other thing;
WE HAVE A PUBLISHER!
*fireworks explode! *trumpets proclaim our awesomeness! *sirens call out in praise! *fans screaming our names!
*cough, cough. Uhhh sorry. 😐 But seriously, we have secured a publisher for our first original novel for a pretty decent advance as well. So go us! Now, the final draft of our first book - which we're working on closely with our editor, because we have an editor now (*eeeeek!) - is due in September and after that we're going to be busy organising other related things, as well as University starting back up once more and Ghost's mother going in for surgery. So we've decided to go on a temporary hiatus of sorts until everything calms down a bit. We'll still update, but posts will be irregular, and will occur more when we have the time or a brief bit of un-restrainable imagination to leak out. Lost Daughter still has about three chapters in the tank, so we'll post those bi-weekly, and Blessing has one chapter to go before we hit the end of act one and go on a planned break anyway (as we did between Acts with Gemini Curse). We've only got first draft versions of the rest of the Okaran Civil War, and a couple of scattered sections written for Crisis, so that will take longer to get back up and running.
Thanks so much guys, and sorry for the inconvenience,
Love, Ghost and Miracle.