Ghost faceplanted into a snowdrift as Gwenpool dropped them out of the void.
"I hate you."
"No you don't," Gwen stated, dropping to the ground and doing a twirl.
"I'm pretty sure I do."
Miracle pulled her head out of the snow next to him, scowling at the woman in the unitard.
"I'll second that."
"I just saved your fucking lives, and that's the thanks I get."
Next came Shade and Wonder, who crashed into their doppelgängers with as little decorum as falling from the sky allows. Their daemons had more grace at least. Valkyrik, Wonder's Owl daemon, grabbed Melindralena, Shade's fox daemon, in his talons, flying to the side of the snow and landing on wet grass.
The final arrivals, Will and Clarissa, fell from the sky, and Clarissa grabbed her husband by the arm and disapparated before they crashed into the others. They reappeared next to the drift, looking exceedingly smug.
"That's what you get for not owning any of the franchises depicted in your stories," Clarissa said haughtily, arms folded beneath her breasts.
Gwen rolled her eyes.
"Did you at least find out where the Typewriter is?"
Miracle poked her head above the snow again, scowling.
"And my daughter."
"Yes, yes. Stop worrying. This story only has a T rating, no kids are going to be hurt and you damn well know it."
Valkyrik hooted in annoyance.
"Yes, we know who took them."
Shade exploded out from the side of the snowdrift, spitting powder out of his mouth.
"Lucifer," Wonder said, falling out after Shade. "They're in Hell."
Ghost finally pulled himself out of the snow.
Act II, Chapter 2: Devils in the Dark
Solitude, Pilón Lajas, Layqasuyu, South America
May 16th, 2006
Jean sat at the bar, staring at the drink the bartender – Madame Decari – had placed in front of her. A Cuba Libre. It was the only alcoholic drink she could remember by name, and she'd only recognised that because of a TV show. She hadn't known the names of any wines or beers, and she'd seen enough to know that you didn't just ask for 'wine'. If she was supposed to be an adult, she should at least act the part.
She couldn't bring herself to take a sip.
There was certainly coke in it; she could smell that. And the lime wedge was cute. But she didn't know what alcohol was inside, and she'd never so much as tried a drink before. She wasn't that type of person. Did she dare? In a way, it would be like accepting… everything… that had happened to her.
Of course, that was kind of ridiculous, as she was halfway across the world in a body that wasn't hers, and there was a phantom voice in her head.
"Excuse me, pretty lady," a voice said, belonging to a burly looking man with thick black hair, "but you don't look like you belong here." Jean turned her gaze towards the newcomer as he sat down on the bench beside her. He was shorter than her, very hairy, with long side-burns and bulging muscles. His face had a kind of predator's smirk; like something a rogue might wear in the movies. He was quite good looking, she decided, though how she came to that conclusion she wasn't sure. Was it her deciding that? This new, older body? Or the thing inside her?
"I'm not interested," Jean said, repressing the urge to swallow as fear bubbled up within.
Do not fear, Jean Grey. You are reborn. Nothing can harm you unless you let it.
The burly man chuckled softly, calling for Madame Decari to slide him a beer.
"Sorry. That was rude."
Jean looked him in the eye, and… and she instantly knew that he was telling the truth. Just by glancing at him.
Do not fear, Jean Grey.
God… did she… had she read his mind?!
He took a swig of beer before holding out his hand to her.
"Name's Logan. You?"
Jean hesitated for a moment, then took the man's hand and shook it.
"You aren't from around here, Miss Jean. Ain't hard to see, which definitely means I'm not the only one to have noticed; because as my friends frequently tell me, I'm a terrible judge of character."
"Now that's the truth," another voice said, one with a dead obvious British accent. Jean spun around and found herself face to face with a wiry man with dusty brown hair wearing red-tinted glasses. Unlike 'Logan' who wore only a singlet and khaki pants, this man wore trousers, a button shirt, and a jacket over the top. He carried himself better, and in his hand was a white cane, like one a blind man would use.
And Jean knew him.
"Matt?!" She hissed in absolute shock.
Mathew Murdock. A wizard from Jean's own country. Not only that but one of Harry Potter's Defenders. Jean knew his sister Maisie; they'd gone on playdates when they were little, though they'd lost contact when Maisie and her father had moved to Atlantis. And Matt had gone missing.
"Do I know you?"
She took his hand and pressed it to her face, hoping that it was similar enough for him to maybe recognise.
"It's Jean! Jean Grey! Maisie's friend!"
Logan whistled behind her, but she couldn't bring herself to care. She was fixated on Matt, begging for him to feel some recognition.
"That's… You should be fifteen, fourteen?" he muttered. "But the voice is right, and the face…"
"It's me! I swear! You have to help me!"
Because Jean's hopes had just soared into the stratosphere. Matt could get her out of here. Back home! Maybe he could even take her to Atlantis! They'd know how to help.
The Voice in her mind practically purred at the idea.
"Daredevil? You know this girl?" Logan asked hesitantly.
"I… Yes, I do. But what happened to you? And what the hell are you doing here?"
Jean breathed her first sigh of relief in a long while, launching into a desperate and rushed retelling of everything that had happened to her over the past days.
When she finished, Matt and Logan both sat back in a sort of daze.
"The Phoenix… I saw the news, but I didn't think…" Matt muttered.
"Phoenix?" Jean asked, "You know what this thing is? What it did to me?"
Matt furrowed his brow, grabbing Jean's untouched drink and taking a sip.
"Sort of. It's one of the Enigma Forces; the powers that govern the Universe. Voldemort used one of them to almost destroy the world; another one powers Atlantis. But I don't know why it would do this to you."
"Phoenix…" Logan whispered, rubbing his head as if in pain. His beer bottle was drained.
"I… I've… I know that word…"
Matt swallowed, then fished inside his pocket for some money. He paid for the drinks and stood up, offering a hand to help her. Jean, unthinking, took it gladly.
"Can you get me home?"
"Yes," Matt said, nodding to himself. "But, I think you need to go to Atlantis. If anyone can help you with this, it's Harry and Ginny."
He didn't look anywhere near as pleased with this as Jean was. The Voice loved the idea, sending rhythms of ticking heat through Jean's entire body.
Logan shook himself and stood up as well.
"You sure about this? The Imperial Police are looking for her; entering Solitude the way she did, if our spy caught her, theirs certainly did. Bringing her in could jeopardise our whole operation."
Jean almost panicked. Bring her into what? For the first time, she thought to wonder about why Mathew Murdock was in Solitude at all.
"We take her in. No question. She's telling the truth; and even if we weren't in the business of helping people, there's no way in hell I'm letting the Imperial Police get their hands on an Enigma Force."
Jean bit the questions that bubbled up on her tongue. She was getting what she wanted, and she had a feeling this was her only chance.
"Alright, bub. Your call," Logan said. Gently, Matt and Logan led her towards the door, but all Jean could focus on was the pleased thrumming of the Voice… the Phoenix… in the back of her mind.
Why did she have the feeling the creature had just gotten exactly what it wanted?
Atlantis, the North Atlantic Ocean
May 17th, 2006
Harry apparated into Hermione's lab in Atlantis with a thunderous crack and a murderous gaze.
"Hermione Jean Granger what the hell do you think you're doing!?"
His oldest friend was sitting crouched over her desk in a lab-coat, writing frantically on a ruler lined notebook.
"Not now, Harry, I'm working," she said in an automatic response. Two flip-phones were sitting open on the desk beside her, and a voice echoed through one of them.
"The math checks out," answered a man with a haughty and clipped tone Harry didn't know, "though the energy output is off the charts. You'd never be able to build a device capable of containing the overflow… at least, not without a Neutron Star to power it."
"I know that Dr Cooper," Hermione answered shortly, "it's a thought experiment."
"Well, in that case, congratulations. You have indeed determined a potential theoretical apparatus for testing the validity of potential extra dimensions of space-time. Of course, you'll never be able to test it, so your discovery is ultimately pointless. Have a nice day."
Then he hung up.
"Hermione…" Harry began again, but Hermione made a shushing motion with her hand as she turned to the other phone.
"You hear that, Pete?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I heard. I'm glad your math is right. Maybe a ZPM could do what you're suggesting but… you have to be careful, Mione. I've just come from a universe where someone tried to build a device like the one you're describing. It didn't work out well for him."
The conversation fell awkwardly silent for a few moments before Peter spoke up again.
"Hermione, I have to go. Yuri just called me. Her people are moving on Fisk Tower right now. If I don't move, he'll get away again."
"Go, Pete," she whispered. "Go save the day."
The line went blank, and Harry stepped up to Hermione's side, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Hermione, you shouldn't be out of bed. The docs didn't clear you."
She groaned and leaned into Harry's shoulder, bushy brown hair flaring out around her.
"I can't figure out what happened to Claire and the other missing SHIELD agents," she said softly, looking down at her notebook, which was covered in equations.
"They must have been sucked through the Window like Peter, but he was lucky to find a way back on the other side. The Window closed behind him. I don't know what that means for the others. The data suggests we created some sort of Perpendicularity leading out across the Multiverse; they could be anywhere. But with the door closed… I don't think they can come back until we open it again. I've been pouring over the data, trying to figure out what went wrong… I thought maybe my math was wrong, but Dr Cooper, he's a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies string theory, confirmed my hypothesis. Reopening the Window would require enough energy to power a star."
Harry gritted his teeth and started rubbing her shoulder.
"Hermione… you almost blasted your soul out of your body, completely depleted your magic. You have to go back to the infirmary."
"Don't you get it, Harry?" she asked, though there was no anger in her voice. Just… tiredness.
"Claire is out there somewhere. Thrown gods know how far into the Orrery of Worlds, and I can't bring her back. Can't even open the door for her. Just another life Hermione Granger has ruined."
"You haven't ruined any lives, Hermione…"
"Tell that to little Jean Grey. She's gods knows where now; possessed by an Enigma Force we barely understand. Tell it to Luna, who left because I turned her into some sort of eldritch monster. Tell it to my parents Harry, who want nothing to do with me and wish I'd never woke them from the illusion life I created after I wiped their memories."
She looked up at him with then, and Harry finally saw the red puffy skin around her eyes and the tear stains on her cheeks. He tried to think of something to say, something to assure her none of this was her fault. That the blame lay on Voldemort, and Voldemort alone. But he still woke up from his own nightmares; memories of the things he'd done and the people he'd killed. Directly and indirectly. It was in those moments, when the dead eyes of Susan Bones looked back at him, when he remembered the laughter of Remus and Sirius, or when Jessica's image burned itself into the backs of his eyes, that he felt like the biggest hypocrite in existence.
"Mione… you need to go back to the infirmary."
She took a long breath as if to protest again, but eventually gave in, letting Harry guide her towards the door.
"Okay. But if the Phoenix resurfaces, I'm going to be there, Harry. I owe Claire and Reed and the others that much. Luna used the Source to reseal the Great Destroyer into the Dark Multiverse. I'm strong enough to sucker punch a giant firebird."
Peter, MJ and Miles storylines continue in Marvel's Spider-Man and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales; both available now on PlayStation 4 and 5. Just assume Peter and Miles already know each other ;)
Harry skid to a stop in his rooms in Atlantis, taking a few deep breathes to absorb the comforting smell of pinewood and disperse his adrenaline. Though in reality, the walls were all the same coppery red as the other rooms in the City, Mrs Weasley had worked with Percy, Bill and the twins to transfigure the walls to resemble the ramshackle wooden style of the Burrow. It was her wedding present, and Harry and Ginny loved it. The furniture was likewise a mixture of the Burrow's aesthetic, and things from the Home – the refuge Lily and the Marauders had left behind. They didn't use it much anymore since the secret had been discovered. Instead, it functioned more as a refuge or halfway house. Or a place to get away from everything. Ginny liked to take time off from her role as the de facto ruler of the City by retreating to the Home on her own and just flying around the Quidditch pitch.
Harry followed the sound of crying through the living room and past the large open window looking out over the churning ocean. A storm raged beyond the city shield tonight. It fit Harry's mood to a tee.
The cries led him down the side hall and into the girls' bedroom. Ginny was sitting on Jessica's bed, cradling her back and forth as she sobbed into her shirt. Jessica's little sister Lily sat beside them, desperately gripping Jessica's hand.
That picture alone threatened to shatter him to pieces.
Lily and Jessica were perfectly identical twins. Both had Harry's green eyes, Ginny's golden-red hair and body, and the combined intelligence of both parents. They seemed far too smart for their ages, and they'd already started playing tricks on people by switching identities. They'd yet to fool Harry, though not for lack of trying. The secret was that Lily had developed a habit of crinkling her eyes when she lied, while Jessica was better at keeping a straight face.
Right now, Jess wasn't playing any tricks. Her tiny, pale arms were covered in small blotches like scale marks, and her eyes and nose were bright red.
"Daddy!" Lily exclaimed, jumping off the bed and rushing over to him. He bent down just in time to catch her as she leapt into his arms, burying teary eyes in his shirt.
"Is Jessy going to be okay?"
"She'll be okay, firecracker," Harry whispered, running a hand through her hair as Ginny continued to cradle Jessica as she broke into a fit of coughing. Thank the gods beyond, but that was a good sign. All the nurses said that the coughing was the last phase, and that the swelling should go down in a few hours.
But those hours were by far the most painful. Harry was just grateful it wasn't contagious.
Ginny sent him a tired smile as Harry sat down on the bed beside her and pressed a kiss to Jessica's head. Lily, red-rings around her own eyes, reached out and took her sister's hand in her own, squeezing for all she was worth.
"Daddy please," Lily begged, though she didn't lift her head from his shirt, so the words came out muffled. "Please help. I'll… I'll do anything. I'll stop pulling Jessy's hair, and hiding her unicorn. I promise! Just… just make the bad pain go away."
Harry swallowed. Hard.
"Jess will be okay, sweetheart. It's almost over now. We just have to wait."
He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream at the heavens. Wanted to resurrect Voldemort's god-damned corpse and rip him to shreds or go off-world and blast a Goa'uld Ha'tak to scrap.
He did none of that.
Everyone said that Dragonpox was not fatal, and was something most wizarding children suffered at some point. What everyone said provided little comfort as he watched his little girl cry.
But he could do nothing but sit there with his girls and hold them. Until, several hours later, when Lily finally fell asleep, still holding her sister's hand, and Jessica's cries faded to a soft weeping.
Exciting news, guys. We're in talks with someone who wants to do Gemini Curse as a podfic/audiobook (final format to be determined). We'll keep you guys up to date on developments. As a result, we're thinking about putting together a Twitter page for updates, questions and scheduling purposes. Would any of you guys be interested in that kind of thing, or should we just keep to FF and archive? We've never done anything like a social media presence before, so any advice our fantastic audience could give would be greatly appreciated.
Apologies for the lack of updates this last week. Exams suck, and 2020 is the year that just keeps on giving, as Miracle has just had an emergency root canal. Fun. Fortunately, my mother is mostly on the mend after her surgery, and beta reads on our original novel are finishing up.
Betas on our original novel will be back mid-December, so January will be the final revision for that book and maybe starting on the next one.
Post Blessing Act II and the next A Song of Snows and Waters by the end of November.
Finish writing Blessing Act III and Lost Daughter by mid-December for a Christmas to New Years publication window.
Start Red Daughter storyline for Crisis at the end of November for a pre-Christmas release.
Updates for Tales from the Shadowed Abyss and A Song of Snows and Waters will be more sporadic but should be one every two to three weeks.
Revision. Maybe, if a Gemini Podfic/audio does happen, we'll take the time to go back through the earlier chapters of Gemini Curse and revise them for spelling, grammar, speech and plot consistency. Don't expect it soon though, and its contingent on 2021 not sucking as much as 2020.
Love, Ghost and Miracle.