"We've got a location from the contact," Clarissa called through the coms, "Meet at the rendezvous point. Thanks for the distraction guys. We're in the clear."
Miracle vaulted over a toppled lamp post and rolled along the ground before ducking behind a wall. She held out her right hand, and started counting heartbeats as she raised her left wrist to her mouth.
"Ghost, Will, let's get the hell out of here!"
"I've got angels on my tail!" Ghost exclaimed, rapid breathing echoing across the channel.
"I see you," Will answered.
Miracle's count reached ten, and an enormous sword of silvery metal condensed from mist and dropped into her hand. It was light as a feather, yet sharper than any weapon she'd ever held before. It was something new they'd discovered a little while back, and so far, the mysterious 'Shardblades' were proving a very valuable find indeed.
She peeked around the corner, and watched as Will jumped off the side of a skyscraper.
He pulled a bazooka from a pocket universe, held it to his shoulder, and fired. Ghost ran across the road and dove through a window. Three figures comprised of golden dust – one of the angels native to this end of the universe, entirely unrelated to the angels Miracle knew - chased after him.
The shot from Will's bazooka slammed into them, detonating a wall of electric blue energy out like a shockwave. The three angels screamed, then exploded into non-existence.
Ghost poked his head out of the building.
"That, is one really impressive gun."
Will landed on the ground, grinning.
"It's an anti-matter canon. Excellent for blowing up beings comprised entirely of elementary particles."
The ground began to tremble, and a deep roar ripped through the sky.
"He's found us!" Wonder, Miracle's local doppelgänger, screamed into the coms. She, Shade and Clarissa were on the other side of the city, making use of this rather destructive diversion.
"Well duh," a new, chipper feminine voice said.
"Oh god," Ghost muttered, "not her. Please, anyone but her."
The wall beside them ripped open like a page being torn, and a woman in a pink and white costume stepped out. Her hair was short-cropped blonde, the tips died pink, and she had a backpack slung over her back shaped like a blue shark. Oh, and held under her arm was a pig, dressed in an identical costume.
"How did you miss that? Of course you were going to piss off the Authority. Narrative Causality literally states it. There's an overpowered god that could show up at any time to defeat you in seconds? Of course, he's going to show up the second before you escape." Then she turned towards the audience, seeing through Miracle as if she weren't there.
"Seriously. You'd think these guys would be smarter, seeing how they're writing this disclaimer right now. Hi everybody! My name is Gwen Poole, and I'm in fanfic now! Oh, and Ghost and Miracle don't own any recognisable franchises! Including me!"
Miracle groaned internally.
"Gwen, please, for the love of…" Two eyes opened in the sky.
"Maybe chew me out later?" Gwen suggested. The trio of world-hoppers looked to one another, then nodded.
"Okay." Gwen snapped her fingers, the ground vanished from under them, and they all fell into the white void of imagination itself.
Act I, Chapter 5: Cataclysm
The White House, Washington DC.
March 4th, 2004
Minutes after President Matson's Assassination.
It was midnight in America, and President Bartlet was sitting at the Resolute Desk signing a thank-you note to the King of Denmark when the end of the Wizarding World was set into motion. The King had invited Bartlet to his daughter's wedding as a courtesy. He wasn't actually expected to go. He couldn't help thinking of that poor girl. Weddings were supposed to be gorgeous, personal affairs, not international galas for the rich, famous and empowered.
He signed his name, put down the pen, and handed the paper to his personal aid, an African American man in his early twenties called Charlie Young.
"Is that it?" he begged.
"Yes sir," Charlie replied from his seat beside the desk, not even bothering to hide his amusement.
Bartlet let out a long sigh and stood up, stretching his back.
"About damn time. I'm going to the residence."
"Good night sir, see you bright and early tomorrow morning."
Bartlet froze on his way to the portico door.
"You have an intelligence briefing with the Joint-Chiefs at 6am. Should I set your wake up for five?"
"If it makes you feel any better sir, you might have to be up at five, but I have to be here to wake you up on time. So, I'll be lucky if I get more than three hours," Charlie reminded him.
Jed pondered that for a moment.
"Good. You deserve it."
He was two steps from freedom when the doors slammed open with a dozen synchronised crashes.
The Secret Service poured into the Oval Office. Two of them grabbed Jed by the arms and pulled him towards the centre of the room, into a circle of other agents. Two others grabbed Charlie and ushered him into the ring as well. Five more agents started drawing the curtains, while three drew their weapons, standing guard on each door.
Something had happened.
"Oval's secure. Bamboo shoot at the ready," one of the men said into his wrist.
The code for getting him on the move as soon as possible; he wasn't getting any sleep tonight.
The door to Leo's office swung open, and it was only the Chief of Staff's panicked face that stopped him from being shot instantly.
"Leo! What's happened?!"
"There's been an attack," Leo said as the Secret Service opened a path for him into the circle of bodies and closed the door behind. A second later, the entrance to the outer office burst open, and Ron Butterfield – the Head of the Secret Service – and Agent Phil Coulson – current SHIELD attaché – ran into the room. Ron immediately moved to the side of one of his men, while Coulson was pulled into the circle. He'd drawn a silver-plated weapon. One of the new Anti-Magic Railguns. They weren't supposed to be ready yet.
"Mr President, exactly three minutes ago President James Matson of the Federated Kingdoms was shot and killed in Alcheringa." Jed's heart skipped a beat.
"Oh God. How? Who?"
"We don't know. But we just received an urgent message from MIB," Coulson said, breath coming in gasps. "The FPA have the shooter in custody. Mr President. The gun was SHIELD issue."
"We're clear; move out now!" Ron called, and as a wave of bodies, the Secret Service ushered the President, Leo, Charlie and Coulson towards the closest exit.
Three days later…
Jed stood atop a balcony in the City of Khandaq, Capital of the Magical Caliphate of the Middle East and North Africa, overlooking a desert city.
The Magical Caliphate, he'd been briefed, was one of the oldest magical communities in the world, dating its founding back to the rise of Islam in the first millennium CE. It had transformed over time as a result of changes in the human side, but its borders had been relatively stable. Most of Saharan Africa, with the western frontier at the Carthusian Empire and the Atlantic, and the eastern reaches ending harshly with the Magical Kingdom of Persia and the Kurdish Magical Nation. The southern border was relatively arbitrary. Any Islamic Wizards in the region considered themselves subject to the Caliphate, those of other faiths mostly governed themselves. The exceptions, of course, were Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Wakanda, which all had proper Magical Governments. The further south in Africa you went, the fewer Wizards there were because of something called the Axis Magicka. It served as Earth's 'magical' pole, and in much the same way as the magnetic pole, had a positive and negative end. The negative end in Angola absorbed ambient magic from the environment, and the positive end north of Hawaii ejected it.
Khandaq was an enormous city; the single only wizarding city in the country, and the only one in the Middle East. The buildings were almost all single-story, clustered together and built from limestone or rock. To Jed's love of history, he couldn't help but imagine that this was what Alexandria, or Babylon, or the Jerusalem of old might have looked like.
The heart of the city, where Bartlet now stood, was a perfectly preserved Pyramid, which served as the seat of the Sultan's government.
Situated at intervals around the city's perimeter were enormous runestones buried in the sands, each one the size of a bus. Coulson had explained to him that the stones were built out of a material called Malleeniam, which could only be mined by the Dwarves in Australia. The export of the mineral was the Federation's primary source of wealth. The stones created an incredibly powerful magical ward that shielded the city from all prying eyes, stopped 'muggles' from entering on purpose or accidentally, and, as per a recent upgrade, we're now wholly satellite proof.
"Mr President? Director Fury and Ginny Potter are here to see you," Charlie said from the door of their apartments.
"Send them in." He turned away from the balcony, eyes darting over the rooms he'd been given. Even if he'd only be in the city for a few hours. They were lavish indeed. With incredibly expensive camel-hide couches, intricate Turkish rugs, a diamond chandelier that almost touched the floor, and shelves upon shelves of exquisite pottery from ages long past. The image was ruined by the Secret Service – each member a Wizard today – and MIB, who stood shoulder to shoulder lining every wall. Every single one of them – men and women alike – were armed to the teeth. Assault weapons, battle robes, magical grenades… you name it, these people had it. Several of them he'd been surprised to learn, had fought beside Harry and Ginny in the Battle of Hogwarts – both as Agents, and Ilvermorny students who'd gone on to become Agents.
The door swung open, and Ginny herself entered the room, deep in discussion with Director Fury. Agent Coulson, the new Secretary of Magic Simon Dodson, Agent J of MIB, two of Ginny's magical guards, and an entire troop of SHIELD Agents followed silently behind them. Fury, as always, wore his black trenchcoat, but Ginny and her guards all blatantly wore their white, black and red magical armour. Armour he'd never seen in person before.
"I swear Fury," Ginny was saying, her expression dark, "If I find out you used stolen Atlantean technology to build those weapons, I'll kill you myself."
Fury snorted. "Your people check my scientists every time they enter the City and every time they leave it, Potter. Full body scans and inspections using both the City's technology and magic. I wish I could steal something from your fucking City."
Bartlet cleared his throat, and Fury and Ginny broke off their argument. Fury stood to attention, and Bartlet waved him off, before taking Ginny's offered hand.
"Harry's still on the ground in Alcheringa with Shuri, Hermione and the FPA." She paused for a second, cocking her head to the side, and Jed realised with a start that she must be talking to her husband on the other side of the world. Through the rune on her neck in real-time. Incredible.
"He thinks he has a lead on the man's American supplier, and he's going to use the Gateway to transition to the Triskelion and meet Agent Henshaw's investigation team."
"We don't have anything new since identifying the shooter as a member of the Layqasuyu alt-right movement," Fury stated, looking very sour indeed at not having the first word, "I trust Henshaw Mr President. He'll find whoever sold our equipment to this man."
"See that he does Director. Ginny, how's Miss Isley?"
Ginny sighed, running a hand through her hair and sitting down on one of the couches. Bartlet followed suit, but Fury remained standing.
"Shaken. Panicked. Terrified. And angry. Very angry. I can't blame her. She was supposed to be groomed to take over after Matson left; not become a war-time President within days. But she didn't get where she is by being soft. She's a headstrong woman, and she knows what she's doing. She hasn't let me see her speech, and I can imagine why. She's going to piss off a lot of old men in that auditorium."
President Bartlet, Ginny, President Isley, and all the magical world's most influential leaders had gathered here in Khandaq for an emergency summit of the International Confederation of Wizards. The second such event in ten years. An unprecedented occasion. As the leader of the American Wizarding Nation, he was entitled to witness the proceedings, but because he wasn't a Wizard, he had no right to speak. He would need to talk through the Secretary, who would be reading precisely what Bartlet told him to read. Whoever said red-tape wasn't ridiculous?
As if summoned by his thoughts, Charlie – who was taking the discovery of a secret society of Witches and Wizards remarkably well all things considered – stepped into the room once more.
"Mr President, Mrs Potter; the assembly is being called."
Jed locked eyes with Ginny. She was so young. Not much older than Jed's youngest daughter Zoe. But here she was, the leader of a nation, a war hero, and the person with the most powerful weapon in the world. And Jed would bet the farm that weapon was currently pointed directly at Solitude, the Capital of Layqasuyu.
Ginny took a breath, then steeled her expression into one of calm control, and the pair stood up in sync. He held his hand out to the woman, and she gave it a firm shake.
"Whatever happens down there," Bartlet said, "Know that you'll have the support of the United States. I trust you to make the right call Mrs Potter."
"Thank you, Mr President."
Then, together, they walked out of the room and into the hallway beyond.
The first thing Jean felt upon waking, was the heat. It was a burning, scorching oppression that lay dense across her entire body like a blanket soaked in boiling water. It actually took her several minutes, at least, to get used enough to the thick and burnt air before she could even summon the will to pull her face out of the dirt.
For dirt she was lying in, wet and soft.
Groaning, she placed her palms on the ground and pushed herself into a seating position. She wiped over her face, and only then did she open her eyes.
She was certainly not in England any longer.
The sun - golden and yellow - not a single cloud to obscure it, beamed down on her skin like an orb of fire, trying to sear itself into her pale complexion.
'Fear not the heat of any fire, child. You are a Phoenix now.'
Jean shivered uncontrollably as the rasping, husky voice echoed around her. She was sitting in a patch of dirt, surrounded by tall trees with enormous and luscious green fronds sticking out in all directions. The roots too, were massive, winding all around her, with dozens of off-shoots. Trees like these, she had seen them only in pictures or heard of them in stories. Vines draped between them, tying trunks and branches, and overhead, the green fronds formed a thick canopy. Everywhere except where Jean sat. They seemed to have created a perfect circle around the hollow she'd been dumped in.
"Hello? Is anyone there?!" She called, but the only answer she received was the twittering of birds and the buzzing of cicadas. At least, she thought they were cicadas. Did they even live in jungles?
On hesitant legs, she rose to her feet, marvelling at the sheer diversity of the foliage around her. Only then did she realise that her surroundings were not the only part of her that had changed.
Her arms, which should have been lanky and thin, seemed perfectly proportioned to her body now. While certainly not bulging like a man's, her biceps were clearly defined, as were her thigh muscles and calves. The old scar from when she'd accidentally rode her bike into a drain when she was seven was gone. In fact, all her blemishes were gone, and her skin had become the kind of silken smooth only ever seen in airbrushed commercials, or on models. Her hair had lengthened down past her shoulders, and while it had always had volume – which she'd been particularly proud of – it now had an almost perfect curl to it. Finally, her chest. For one thing, she had abs. A perfectly formed six-pack. She had been lean before but… wow. Her breasts had seemingly ballooned as well. Only… they weren't some sort of unnatural enlargement one saw in comic books or in augmented photographs, where a woman's bosom was frequently larger than the rib-cage supposed to support it. These new breasts she'd apparently grown were exquisite globes perfectly matched to her body.
Oh, and she was naked. In a jungle. And she'd been sucker-punched by a giant magical fire-bird?
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!"
This time, the voice answered her.
'Rebirth, child. You burnt to death, and rose from the ashes.'
A vibrant heat blossomed across her body, a fever of bizarre and intoxicating pleasure. Radiance, even. Her skin began to smoulder, smoke billowing off her entire body. Ribbons of light, like liquid fire, licked beneath her skin, and clothes started forming around her by magic.
Red cloth seemed to grow over her body – of what material she didn't know, but it clung to her skin with an adhesiveness that carried no uncomfortableness – forming into the shape of a sleek bodysuit. She started floating off the ground, screaming in fright and disturbing several nearby birds. Golden boots built around her feet, stretching up to her ankles, and a golden sash encircled her waist, ends draping down the curve of her leg. The gloves too that appeared around her hands were gold in colour. Finally, a phoenix emblem flared across her chest, gleaming and radiating red energy.
She was dropped unceremoniously back to the dirt.
What the hell had happened to her?
She tried yelling at the voice. Screaming at it. Begging it. It didn't answer. But Jean was a smart girl, and the stories of witches and wizards were full of tales of people being possessed. She had always wanted magic. Wanted to be more than a squib. Now she had it. Whatever this… this thing inside her was, it had given her something she wanted. It would not have chosen her by accident. It would want something in return.
She just needed to know what that something was.
But she could do nothing sitting in this hollow. So, she picked a direction and started walking.
It only took her a few minutes walking to emerge from the trees on the side of a lake.
Realising instantly how thirsty she was, she ran out of the trees and down a beach of small stones and pebbles, falling to her knees by the waterside. Immediately, as if reacting simply to her presence, steam began to curl off the lake surface.
She didn't care.
She cupped the water in her hands and drank from it greedily. If the water was hot, she didn't notice, not given the fire within. Nothing could compare to that. Not even the sun shining down upon the world.
Her thirst quenched, she found herself staring at the lake as the water stopped rippling. Staring at her reflection. Unbelieving, she reached up and poked her cheek. The reflection did the same.
I… I'm gorgeous.
It was still her. She had the same cheekbones, the same chin and button nose. But the pimples that clustered around the crease of her nose, that she usually spent at least fifteen minutes hiding with foundation each morning, were gone. Her lips, which had always been slightly asymmetrical, were now perfectly pouty and possessed a natural shine of red that should only be possible with lipstick. Her eyes… they were solid gold. Not a single fleck of the green they once were. But the thing she fixed on the most, was that she looked like she was at least five years older than she should be.
"What did you do to me?" She breathed, not really expecting an answer.
'We burned away your imperfections, Jean,' the voice answered, like a breath on the wind that sent shivers down her spine. 'Is this not what you have always wished you could be?'
She couldn't deny it. She had wished to be gorgeous, to be beautiful and liked. To not be the person the boys hated because she was better than them, or the person the girls scorned because she was an aberration. What teenage girl didn't wish to fit in? To feel like she was wanted, to be perfect?
She wasn't sure how long she sat there, staring at this new her, feeling like an imposter in her own skin. But she did know what snapped her out of it. That would be the face that appeared under the water.
She eeked, jumping backwards and scooting up the beach. Only then did she look out across the lake.
A city clung to the far side of the lake, tiered not unlike a pyramid, but different, as each level was not equal in size or shape. An enormous mountain stood behind the city – alone for miles. Waterfalls cascaded between the standards, and the buildings she could see all had golden roofs.
Jean realised at once where she was.
Solitude, the hidden magical valley of the Inca. Capital of the Layqasuyu Empire.
She was in the heart of enemy territory.
Harlem, New York City, the United States
May 15th, 2006
Luke dropped the last box on the reception desk and grinned. This was it. They were finally going to do this.
The shopfront in New York City they'd purchased was not large. It was in Harlem, so at least it wasn't as tiny, or as expensive, as something on the other side of Manhattan, but it had still cost them a pretty penny. Good thing one of Luke's business partners was loaded.
"Luke! Get your ass out here!" Danny yelled, and Luke huffed to himself. Of course, the white-boy rich-kid couldn't even hang a sign himself. Guy could slay a two-thousand-year-old magical dragon and punch Voldemort in the face. But hanging a sign? That was beyond him.
Luke rolled his eyes and started walking towards the door. The store was well lit, looking towards the western horizon so they could always see the sunset. That had been non-negotiable. Sunsets were incredibly important to Luke and Danny both.
He stepped out of the door, letting it click closed behind him, and caught sight of Kamala thanking the driver of the moving van.
Luke turned towards the shopfront and frowned. Danny was standing on a ladder, tilting the rectangular sign with its stylised purple lettering on white.
"A little to the left!" he called, and Danny obliged. The truck engine puttered to life, and Kamala strolled over to them, hands in the pocket of her hoody and a smile to match Luke and Danny's on her face.
They weren't exactly the most typical of partners. A second-generation Pakistani-American half-blood witch, the son of an American billionaire who also happened to be a ninja with a glowing fist, and a black man with giant's blood who'd grown up amongst gangs and guns. But they had fought against evil incarnate, together. In the aftermath of Hogwarts' destruction, Jessica's death, and Matt's vanishing off the face of the Earth, Danny and Luke had spent a great deal of time with Miles Morales, Kitty Pryde and Kamala Khan of Ilvermorny School. They were all quite similar, and they'd become fast friends. They'd kept close since then, and two months ago, with Miles still at Columbia University, and Kitty working with Hank McCoy, they'd asked Kamala – who'd just graduated with a degree in forensic analysis – if she wanted to help Danny and Luke start their own PI business to investigate human, magical and superhuman crimes. She'd jumped on board eagerly.
The trio had spent a long time trying to decide what to call their business. For a long time, they'd been partial to 'Heroes for Hire', but it had seemed too on the nose. The Champions had also been a choice, but too gaudy. They had decided on just using their names when Danny had realised the perfect name.
"Excellent," Kamala said, placing a hand on Luke's shoulder. Danny climbed down the ladder and stepped back beside them.
"Alias Investigations, open for business."
They stood there on the street, looking up at the sign and the sun glancing off the boxes stacked high inside. Luke loved the work they'd been doing with Harry and Ginny in Atlantis. He'd seen so many incredible things, saved thousands of lives on dozens of other worlds. But this… this was all them. He could make as much of a difference here as he could in Atlantis. He and Danny and Kamala were still more than willing to jump whenever the Potters called, but they'd been part of the Defenders circle, then the Atlantean circle for so long Luke had almost forgotten who he was outside Harry and Ginny. He and Danny, they needed to find themselves, establish who they were again. This was how.
"This is gonna be awesome," Danny said, rubbing his hands together.
*veep, *veep, *veep.
Luke frowned, pulling out his phone, flipping it open and holding it to his ear.
"Luke?" It was Ginny's voice, but it wasn't as optimistic or enthusiastic as it usually was.
"Heya Gin, what's up?" He frowned and glanced to Danny and Kamala, who both looked at him in confusion.
"I'm sorry. I know you're starting up your business today. We had a surprise party planned and everything but… Luke, there's been an incident. Hermione's experiment backfired, and she's been wounded pretty bad. Claire and Peter and a dozen other people are missing, and Kitty and Dr McCoy are buried underneath several hundred feet of magic-proof rock. But the biggest thing is; she's accidentally released the Phoenix Force on Earth."
"Oh fuck," Luke whispered, stomach sinking.
"SHIELD's on my ass, I've got Fury standing in the middle of the Bridge, and Harry and I can't risk leaving Atlantis. Apparently, the bloody bird wants us."
Luke took several deep breaths, putting a hand to his forehead to wipe the sweat that had just beaded there.
"What do you need?"
"I need you and Danny to go to Kun Lun and find everything you can about how to stop this thing. Luke… hurry. I've already got the corpse of a teenage girl in London. It looks like the Phoenix tried to take her as a host and failed."
"We'll get on it right away."
She hung up the phone, and Luke took a deep breath, before looking to his friends, who were both very concerned now.
"How fast can you get us to Kun Lun?" Luke asked. A flash of panic flared behind the young-man's eyes. It was gone in a second. Replaced with steely determination.
"Five hours. You got some cold-weather gear?"
The Great Pyramid of Khandaq, the Magical Caliphate of North Africa and the Middle East
March 5th, 2004
Man, this is a big building.
Ginny slipped through the door to the alcove set aside for the Atlantis Delegation and took her seat between Daphne and Mary, overlooking the enormous auditorium where the ICW was preparing to meet. Tracey stood to one side with Astoria, Fred, George and Bill. Her brothers had insisted on coming. To 'protect her'. Usually, she would have told them to bugger off, but with the girls… It wasn't worth risking herself or her city, or her daughters to argue with them.
The Triskelion. Place is huge.
I'm on my way to meet with the Head of Research and Development right now. One Dr McKay. Henshaw is leading us, and he won't let me, Neville or Demelza out of his sight. We have a veritable army of SHIELD Agents around us, and the Carter sisters are obviously shadowing us, which means there are probably two more tags following our every move.
Hewlett or Barton most likely.
"Order! Order!" Gaeric Thansarge – the Supreme Mugwump – yelled, voice echoing around the chamber thanks to the sonorous charm. "The International Confederation of Wizards is now in session! The chair recognises the Vice President of the Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer."
Ginny didn't like Thansarge one inch. He was a vile misogynistic asshole; but he was well-liked in his country, Bulgaria, and had been elected fairly after Dumbledore was removed, so there was little she could do about it.
A few places away from the Atlantean box, Pamela stood up to her lectern. She looked exquisite. Her vibrant wine-red hair was intricately braided in the pattern used by the Mer for mourning, and she wore an elegant wrap made of two separate interweaving fabrics of white and black. Her make-up was perfect, her face like chiselled stone. She was surrounded on all sides by the FPA. They hadn't wanted her to come to the meeting at all, but she'd refused.
"Pardon Supreme Mugwump, but it's President, not Vice President." According to Federation law, the Vice-President immediately took over the President's duties should he die, and was bound to fulfil what remained of the Presidents term. Then they would need to campaign for re-election again.
"I come before you, esteemed dignitaries and leaders of the magical world, the distraught leader of a nation in both mourning and anger."
Has she started yet?
"Our President is dead; murdered by a mortal weapon, used by a foreigner. And my people demand answers. I demand answers. The Americans are cooperating fully with our investigation, but we haven't heard so much as a statement from the Layqasuyu. Our ancient enemies. On behalf of the Druids and Mer, I call upon the King of Layqasuyu to answer for the crimes of his citizens, here before this body, right now. If he refuses, I would advise his Majesty to return to Solitude post-haste, for the warships of the Federation will be soon to follow."
Hushed whispers broke out across the chamber as everyone looked across the room to the Layqasuyu delegation.
His Majesty Iago Allemandro rose to his feet, a look of righteous fury on his face.
"You dare threaten me, girl?"
Pamela gripped the lectern.
"I am the President of the most powerful magical nation south of the equator; to threaten you is not only my right but my responsibility."
She quickly sent Harry her memory of the words.
Wow, that is good. Why have I never think to use that?
Probably because most of your speeches were written beforehand because you're a lousy public speaker?
Right. That was it.
"Then it is my right to answer with a threat of my own!" the King snapped.
"For years we have sat idly by as the Federation has brought us closer and closer to ruin. On dozens of islands across the pacific, the Statute of Secrecy is a sham! Ignored at best, non-functional at worst. The merfolk are lax in hiding themselves, and interbreeding between the magical and non-magical is rampant! Signing unauthorised treaties with muggle nations without consultation or permission. Now, you plan to intervene in the muggle world, risking the exposure of us all! We will not allow it."
"You want answers? I will give you this one. I ordered the death of your President; and I commanded it done with muggle weaponry. You say we shouldn't fear them? Now you have proof of why we should."
"The change you so desperately want is a disease run rampant in your nation of half-breeds. It is an abomination that could kill us all. And we will not stand by. And neither will this body. Send your warships against us half-breeds, and we will see how you powerful you truly are."
The chamber erupted in shouts and calls, but Ginny couldn't take her eyes off Pamela. Her mask had shattered, and she was practically shaking with rage. She turned away from the screaming and spoke to the General beside her. She had to talk louder than she otherwise would have, given the noise, so Ginny could just barely hear her.
"Move the fleet to the Galapagos Shield. I want our borders impenetrable by nightfall."
"Immediately, Madame President." Came the reply, and the General vanished in a swirl of golden dust.
"His Majesty is right! We cannot risk potential exposure. Only through hiding can we survive," the Sultan exclaimed, his voice booming through the chamber.
"Muggle technology continues to evolve, how do you plan to deal with that? Eventually, they will find us," the French Minister for Magic retorted.
"Muggle technology? Pathetic. It will never be a threat."
"The Mer have a right to campaign for their own survival. They are on the frontlines of this fight!"
"You can't stop change, only by guiding it can we survive. We're stagnate; if we stay that way, the No-Majs will move past us."
"Our way of life is just that, ours. I will not let something curated over hundreds of years to be destroyed in minutes by a nation across the ocean."
"We should just destroy the muggles now before they have the chance to become a threat!"
The arguing went on and on, to the point where Ginny lost the ability to tell where each comment was coming from. The Supreme Mugwump kept calling for order, but no one was listening.
Ginny, I have something.
Oh, please give me some good news.
Opposite. These weapons were definitely made using specs taken from the City. This Dr McKay has never been to Atlantis, but he seems to know what he's talking about. I don't understand most of what he's saying, but Shuri does, and she's translating for me. These 'anti-magic' railguns? They'll bypass the Ancient Armour.
Ginny swallowed, clenching a fist. She was going to kill Fury.
I don't think it was him. Gin… I think it might have been one of our people.
"I do not think pursuing the betterment of the Wizarding race is a bad thing." a voice called through the chamber, piercing through the fog settling on Ginny's mind, "However, it is our isolation that has kept us safe for the past three hundred years. Our histories speak plainly of the horrors and persecutions our ancestors faced. We cannot be so naïve as to think they will not resume if we are discovered. The muggles have always wanted that which they cannot have, and they will kill to get it. Isolation is our shield, to give it up would be folly."
The speaker was King T'Chaka.
"Your Highness, forgive me," Pamela said, her tone laced with confusion to hide her anger, "But a shield is just that. A shield. And shields can only do so much before they are battered aside. To believe that ignoring the outside world will protect is a delusion we cannot afford. My people are on the frontlines. It is our islands that are sinking, our reefs being poisoned by the mortals and their man-made poisons. If the humans marched into Wakanda and started pouring oil into your farms and destroying your homes, can you honestly say you wouldn't take a stand?"
The chamber silenced, turning towards the King. The Wakandans usually stayed out of ICW debates; they kept to themselves and were on par with the Layqasuyu in terms of secrecy. But they were an advanced people, unafraid of change or development. It was that spirit that had led King T'Chaka to help the Defenders against Voldemort. Ginny was proud to call the King's children – Shuri and T'Challa – her friends.
"Then it would be a matter for Wakanda to deal with alone. I do not have the right to threaten the dissolution of our ways on all magical people, and neither do you."
"Aye he's right!"
Pamela closed her eyes, face taking on a look of serenity that must be at total odds with the anger within her. When she opened them again, Ginny could see nothing of the young woman she truly was. All she saw was the President of the Federation.
Harry, are there Wakandan guards around Shuri right now?
Get away from them.
"If that is your thinking, your Highness, then I respect it. But I cannot accept it for my people. I was elected to save our country from the greatest threat it's ever known. And I swear that I will do it. My parents died with their lungs flooded by oil and black death by the mortal machines. The same machines poisoning my home. I do not intend to destroy the Statute of Secrecy. But I will protect my people and my home, no matter the price, just as your people would expect of their King."
Her gaze hardened to steel, and she turned her eyes to the King of Layqasuyu.
"It is clear to me that this body has become a sham of what it was originally intended to be – a forum of debate and protection for witches and wizards across the world. For too long the ICW looked down on the Druids, the Mer, the Dwarves, Goblins, and all the peoples it sees as somehow sub-human. If the ICW will offer no solution to the deaths of Alcheringans, no help for the end of our livelihoods, then I see no reason for the Federation to continue supporting it."
Get back to Atlantis right now. Raise the city shield.
"Any nation who wishes to join me is welcome too, but this is the last session of the ICW where the Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer will deign to take part until our grievances are heard."
The chamber erupted in screams and shouts, but President Islay listened to none of them. She turned on her heel, and vanished into golden dust, her guards following her until the Federation alcove was entirely empty.
"This is not good," Daphne whispered.
"Yep," Ginny agreed, "Watch me make it even worse."
She stepped up to her lectern and used the sonorous charm to make herself heard.
"This is the second time this body has refused to help a magical nation in need in my lifetime," Ginny said, drawing attention to her, "And I am only 23 years old, so I doubt such a trend is going to stop any time soon. Until such a time that it does, and I start feeling proud to call myself a witch again, Atlantis will also be removing itself from ICW membership. I will seek, in its place, to establish a new covenant of like-minded nations, who are unafraid to see justice done, and help their fellow wizards."
She locked eyes with T'Chaka. He was looking at her with what could only be described as disappointment.
Then came the last straw. The stone that broke the camel's back as it were. President Bartlet pushed the Secretary of Magic out of the way and took a mechanical microphone handed to him by his aid, Charlie.
"I came here today as a guest, honoured to witness a gathering of such powerful and formidable peoples. Surely, I thought, these people, many of whom were twice my own age, who had seen things I could never comprehend, would have a wisdom I lacked. An understanding of the world that I could learn from to better my own knowledge.
"I confess myself disappointed. The world is changing Witches and Wizards. It's true. We have weapons that can hurt you now, just as you have weapons that can hurt us. Your precious Statute of Secrecy is already failing, you just refuse to see it, clinging to this false belief that closing your eyes will stop the bullet aimed at your heart. And even if by some miracle you dodge it. There will be another. And another. Until eventually, you will be left wondering how we beat you when you started out the stronger. I choose to align myself and my people – magical and non-magical alike – with those I can respect. Right now, the ICW does not meet such a requirement."
Bartlet turned towards Ginny and nodded his head towards her.
"Mrs Potter, I would be glad to help you construct a covenant of nations built not on fear, but on respect and friendship." He stepped away from the lectern, and the MIB agents immediately grabbed him and activated a portkey, whisking the President of the United States away.
Ginny gestured to her entourage, and they too retreated.
Behind her, men and women called out condemnations and praise alike, and soon the popping of apparation filled the air.
The End of Act I
I feel bad about this, but it's important for us to keep you all informed. My mother's surgery did not go well, so the impending hiatus will most likely be longer than we expected. Miracle and I are taking care of her, and she will recover, but we don't know how long it will take. We'll keep posting as we can, but we have little time for writing at the moment, so we can't set out any sort of reliable timeline.
We're really sorry, but family comes first.
Love, Ghost and Miracle.
Next time on Blessing of the Phoenix…
Jean Grey is stranded in Solitude, the hidden capital city of Layqasuyu, beyond the aid of Harry and Ginny. It will take all her willpower to master the Phoenix Force and find a way home, but the Phoenix has a motive of its own, and Jean may be unable to stop it. Meanwhile, Danny Rand, Kamala Khan and Luke Cage journey to Kun Lun in a desperate search for a way to defeat the Phoenix, and the fate of Mathew Murdock is finally revealed.