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The Calm into the Storm

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Stars. The shining dots that brighten our sky in the darkest of nights. No matter what the time of day is, they’re always there, always with us. They shine bright or they’re hidden from our own star’s light. There’s beauty hidden behind each of them; an unknown story that has yet to be told. From their gaseous births to their flickering deaths. The stars are wondrous things; as are the moons and planets and just about everything in this universe.

Stars. That’s all Valkyrie could see. That’s all she hoped she would see as her and the other escape pods set off towards Earth.

Her stomach was filled with emptiness and uneasiness. Her jaw clenched as she thought about what most likely happened to Thor and Loki. The ship had exploded; no one could’ve survived that. She didn’t even receive any calls from the two brothers and it’d been days.

Perhaps she should’ve told them her name, her real name. Brunnhilde. She figured they’d know who she was, that she’d be able to fight what’s-his-name and save Asgard.

“This isn’t about fighting and winning,” Thor responded to Brunhilde’s want to fight. “This is about saving the people of Asgard and ensuring their safety. I trust you to keep them safe.”

Brunnhilde shook her head at the memory. She turned around to face the people only to bump into a solid body of rocks.

“Whoop, sorry there,” Korg said. “At least I didn’t step on you, otherwise you’d be dead.” Brunnhilde rolled her eyes at the comment before walking around him. Uneasy Asgardian eyes looked up at her and something pulled at her in her chest. The amount of pain and battle these Asgardians had gone through the past few weeks have been more than any normal civilian should be going through. But they did.

“You know, I think they need a little something to be uplifting,” Korg motioned towards the people. “After their planet being blown up and their king most likely dead, they do need a new leader.”

Brunnhilde turned to face Korg with a stern look etched on her face. “But I’m not a leader. I’m a Valkyrie. All I need to do is keep them safe until we reach Midgard.” And she walked off into the crowd of people.

But something set her off when she felt a chill go through her. All the talking on the pod ceased but pained gasps and short screams replaced it. The sudden imagery of people fading into ash, it stunned Brunnhilde. Her people’s population was already at a low, how could this happen to them?

She gripped her sword on her hip and began to run towards Korg.

“Korg, what’s happening?”

***

“Pass the salt!” The teenager growled at her younger brother for the fourth time. The boy stuck his tongue out before shoving the salt into the girl’s hand. She could only roll her eyes in response but mumbled out a ‘thank you’ after. The sounds of her mother scolding Christian, her brother, filled the air.

The smells of homemade food on the table caused the family dog to dive under the table, hoping for a little snack from one of the family members. Christian glanced at the people sitting down and quickly snatched some of his dinner off his plate for his dog. The furry tail of the golden retriever smacked the legs of the table loudly.

But when the click of the front door opening and closing caused the family dog to bolt towards it, the family stopped talking to see who the newcomer was. The parents exchanged looks, they weren’t expecting anyone else at the table. With a smile, a man in his early twenties holding luggage and a few other bags entered the dining room. The family dog circled around his legs and barked.

“Michael!” The girl smiled and jumped out of her seat, the table shook and a few of the drinks in the cups spilled out. The bags fell to the floor when Michael opened up his arms.  

“Hey Amy!” Michael’s arms surrounded the young girl as he lifted her up in the air. Sounds of laughter became more apparent in that household. The dad of the house ended up preparing another meal for their newcomer and conversations between the small family brightened up.

“So, how’s life with you and your boyfriend?” Christian asked his older brother. But instead of a reply that one would expect, the clattering of silverware on the table and a veil of silence appeared. The remnants of their oldest brother were left behind by a pile of ashes. Even the sounds of their dog panting disappeared and upon looking under the table, you’d only be met with more ashes.

“Honey?” Their dad looked down at his hands in disbelief before disappearing himself. Amy gripped onto her mother’s arms the moment she felt there was something wrong.

“Mom?” She croaked out before she ended up turning into ashes. Christian and his mom were left sitting there for a few moments before she rushed over to him and hugged him as tight as she could.

“Mom? What’s... What’s going on?”

***

The monitor sounds in the operating room beeped every so often, each one signaling the heartbeat of the patient. The surgeon and nurses were decorated in the typical blue hospital attire while a few students watched from an operating theater. Nurses walking around to grab certain tools, nurses holding parts of the patient’s surgical wound open, and others holding a light made the surgeon’s job easier.

“Miss, we’ll have to hurry this up or he’ll be needing a blood transfusion soon,” one of the nurses stated. The unsoundly noises made by the bloodied gloves of the surgeon caused a few students to gag.

“Have we been given permission to do so?” The surgeon asked, never once looking away from her hands.

“Yes.”

“Then get it ready.” Immediately, other nurses flooded around to ensure that their presence didn’t clog up the room. They were to be made useful. Students in the operating theater hands flew across their papers as they observed how surgeries were done.

The sound of a clipboard falling onto the floor caused all of the students to turn towards the origin of the noise, only to be greeted by an empty chair. Brows furrowed and they looked back into the operating room, goosebumps forming on the arms of all who watched. The surgeon was nowhere to be seen and the nurses left in the room scrambled to save the patient’s life even as they faded themselves.

***

The rising sun met the joggers hazel eyes as she adjusted her earbuds, moving her curly hair out of her face. It was still really dark out and she was hoping she didn’t have to deal with any leftover muggers since it was her first time running this early. But she smiled as she saw people starting to leave their apartment buildings to head into the subways, buses, or taxis, signaling that she should be safe.

The jogger looked down at her phone on the arm and quickly changed it to a radio station to catch up on the news.

“In other news, Tony Stark is still reportedly missing. Colonel James Rhodes, or also known as War Machine, has yet to make a statement.”

“It feels like the UN is hiding something from us, I just have a bad feeling.”

“Is this why you were so against the signing of the Accords?”

“Well, yeah, but that was two years ago and now we...”

Each step the runner took was easy for her. But the ongoing argument between the two radio reporters made the woman frown. She no longer stayed focused on where she was running and who was around her. So when a man grabbed her by the arm and yanked her into an alleyway, she could only stumble and fall on her side.

She yelped and her phone fell out of her armband and slid away from her. Slowly raising her head up at her attacker, her eyes widened when seeing the gun in his hand. She could feel the stinging on the side of her leg and arm but ignored it as she watched the barrel of the gun being shoved in her face, not even realizing that his hand was shaking.

“You're gonna - you're gonna come with me,” the man stuttered out. “You’re my hostage, and you're-you're gonna help me.” The sounds of the radio filled their ears when they both realized the earbuds left the headphone jack after the fall. He scoffed. “How ironic, those heroes aren’t even here to save you.”

But then the sounds of one of the news reporters panicking about how the other person just disappeared brought the woman out of her daze. But the sound of the gun clattering to the floor caused her to scrunch up her face in confusion. Her attention was brought back to where the man once stood but she could only see ashes. Slowly standing up, unsure of what was going on, she reached for her phone. She looked down at her phone, putting the earbuds back into the headphone jack when she walked back out into the city sidewalk.

“Watch out!” She looked up only to see a bus with no driver coming towards her.

***

The ocean waves crashed onto the sandy beach. Screams of joy came out of a small teenager as she ran away from the waves alongside her friends. A scrawny boy in glasses put his arms down to the side, laughing. The pictures he was able to take for his friends ended up being meme-able, especially when they ran away from the waves.

“Don’t get wet, Violet. We’re leaving soon,” the scrawny boy called out.

“I’m already wet, Avery. Wink wonk,” Violet replied, tossing her head back in laughter.

Avery gagged in response, “Gross, tell that to literally anyone else.”

“Yeah, but Serina doesn’t like it when I flirt with her.” Violet looked over at her friend with her eyes squinting in accusation, but the girl was just busy talking to the other dark-skinned girls. “But never stops to flirt with Sam over there, or even kissing Kiara that one time. One day, Avery, one day.”

Avery could only laugh at his friend before heading towards the other males of the group, who sat in the sand. Even though he fit in more with the girls, he still wanted to take pictures with them. To put the memories in concrete; to solidify it. Avery put his hand on the one male without glasses and started to tug on him.

“Come on Tom, you need to take pictures with your girlfriend,” Avery urged. Then he promptly called over Sam a few times who jumped and looked over at the two. Her beaming smile and wavy hair caused Tom to smile back, the feeling of bubbles, like her personality, rising in his chest. Then Avery walked in front of the other two males.

“Elijah!”

The oldest of the group shook his head as if he was taken out of his thoughts “Huh?! What? What’s up?” Elijah made eye contact with Avery who only gestured towards the rest of their friends. “Oh, right, come on Harry let’s go.” Elijah set his hand on the boy’s shoulder next to him and the two promptly got up to join the rest of the group.

The shared moments between the new high school graduates was a highlight for all of them. It’d be one of their last few moments before college hit. They all knew it, and the painful thought that they’d all slowly stop being friends was etched in the back of all of their heads. But that didn’t stop them from laughing, from having fun. Especially as teenagers. Occasionally getting in trouble, getting caught up in teenage drama and angst. They couldn’t do much besides live. With all the near catastrophic events happening in almost the last decade, the teenagers made sure they could live to the best that life let them.

The last sliver of the sun began to fade into the water. The teenagers stood at the edge of the pier watching it after a few games and eating a small dinner watching the sun say its goodbyes. They were cracking jokes with one another as the ocean waves hit the legs of the pier. Once the sun disappeared and all they could see was hues of bits of yellow, orange, pink, purple, and then the night sky, they took that as a cue to head off for home.

Violet shot towards one of the two cars they drove in to get to the beach, quickly calling shotgun. Harry, Elijah, and Kiara followed behind as they entered the car. Harry being the designated driver. Next to them, they could see Avery asking Serina to drive for a bit since he was tired. It was evident that Serina’s voice was coming out rushed and high-pitched but she quickly gave in. Avery smiled, thanked her, then danced over towards the passenger seat.

Serina waited for Harry to back out first then continued to follow him from behind. Avery popped in Kpop into the stereo and Tom argued against it, claiming it’d get stuck in his head for the rest of the night. But Serina was too focused on the road to deal with them arguing for what kind of music to be played (with the few innuendos Sam kept making).

“Sam, stop!” Serina shouted jokingly. But instead of being greeted by Sam making another one of her sexual remarks, she just heard Tom freaking out.

“Tom?” Avery turned around to see what was going on. “What’s wr-...” And stillness filled the car. Serina glanced to the side and in the rearview window and her eyes widened at the fact that her friends disappeared. She wanted to freak out, she wanted to scream and figure out what was going on but her other friend’s car in front of her veered off to the side and crashed into a light pole, hard. Serina shoved her foot on the breaks and quickly looked at her side mirror to see if she could get out of the car to check on her other friends. She was lucky, it seemed as if there were no other cars on the road.

The fear that her other friends might’ve disappeared, or could be dead from the crash was all that raced in her mind as one foot went in front of the other towards the car. The windows were tinted black and she knew it’d most likely be locked but her hand reached towards the handle and it opened. But there was no one in the driver’s seat and no one in the back seats. Just Violet, with her head against the cracked window, eyes shut, and blood dripping down her head and forearms from the windshield breaking into the car.

“Holy fuck,” Serina whispered out.

***

Xandar was desolate and bleak. The planet was in mourning and the events that occurred weeks earlier would be forever etched into the history of the Xandarians. The Nova Corps that was settled on the planet was practically purged from the works of Thanos. Cries of loved ones still searching for their lost ones never stopped. There were a few good stories that were told, loved ones appear out of nowhere and some even surviving the damage done on the planet.

Irani Rael sat on the top floor of the ruins of the Nova Corps headquarters. Her eyes held emptiness as she watched the planet before her still burning. She should be thankful that she was alive. But she wasn’t. God she wished she was dead. She wished she died with the other half of the Xandarians if it meant another civilian would be alive. But that’s what Thanos left her with. That was her curse to hold, to be the one alive and to be the ones to watch her people struggle.

There was nothing to be done, no one knew what to do. How were the Xandarians supposed to get back up after the destructive force of Thanos swept through them?

Few of them ran through the ruined planet, handing out supplies and spreading the word of shelters. Others kept smiles plastered on their face, to keep the optimism they sorely needed.

Rael knew of the stories. But she was never able to leave the ruins. Even when a few Xandarians tried to convince her to join them. She just wanted to rest, take a few moments; all the moments.

In the distance, a toppled building exploded, catching the blue eyes of Rael. Her brow furrowed and she slowly rose out of the seat. Her clothes were battered. Not like she could change into anything, this part of Xandar was destroyed after the fierce battle against Thanos and his Black Order. She could only wonder what the rest of the planet looked like.

She eyed specks of people rushing over towards the building. Most likely wanting to help those who may have been hurt. A small smile grew on her face, it was in moments like these that made her proud to be Xandarian. It was home to thousands of different species. And Xandar had been that type of planet for eons so it never mattered what one was born as. It was through those differences that united them and to see them still united as one to help others, it was a sight to behold.

A female dug through a pile of concrete even though the fire raged on. But her species allowed her to withstand thousand-degree heat. So she worked through it as she found bodies, dead and alive, and handed them carefully to other helpers. Slowly, the fire began to die down and it wasn’t until hours later that they saw that the fire was gone and they rescued those who needed rescuing.

The female sat on the side of a destroyed road drinking out of a bottle, recovering from the work effort done.

It was calm, they all shared food, blankets, whatever they could.

“You know, the rest of Xandar could be in total and utter chaos,” a Krylorian said, his pink skin glowing as the fire in front of them kept them warm.

“Probably, but I’m glad I’m in this area,” a Xandarian native replied chugging another bottle of what was alcohol.

Another looked at her in disbelief, “You kidding me? After the shit Thanos did to all of us. No way, if I was in another area I’d try to help them out to bring order.”

The Xandarian shrugged, “We’re still lucky. Alive and well.” But they all took a moment and looked at their surroundings.

“At what cost?” Another asked. They stayed quiet for a few more moments, the night brought them a sort of chill.

“I just hope that the Guardians are able to stop Thanos,” a Centaurian spoke up. The others eyed the one who just talked wearily. It’s not that they were against what he suggested. Just that they wished the Guardians was there to save them in the first place. But they weren’t. And what could the small group do against him and his army? The Black Order would be able to stop them in one go.

No one else spoke, no one wanted to. The silence was comfortable. The heat radiating from the fire comforted them. The presence of those around them comforted them.

But the silence was broken by a gasp and someone wondering what was happening. The fire began to be covered up by the ashes. They all looked at one another, appalled at the sight before them. The gasps and the dreadful voices asking for help was all that was heard throughout Xandar. Each one of them scrambling for one another only to hold ashes in their hands.  

The heat-resistant female clambered over towards what was left of the group, her mouth parted in distress.

No one else spoke, no one wanted to. The silence was no longer comfortable. The fire no longer radiated heat, it was buried in the ashes. The presence of those around them was no longer there. So what was the point?

***

The universe was quiet. The very moments after the unforgiving snap was eerily tranquil. As if the moment of silence was being taken earlier for the silent screams of those taken by the snap. The silent screams were only greeted by the mute horror of a now smaller universe. A universe that was in pain. Shockwaves of the snap would﹣will﹣continue for years to come. Lives lost after the snap from those in the middle of surgery, driving a car or ship, or even those who take their own life from the heartbreak of losing loved ones.

Yes, the universe was suffering. Resources would continue to be used up, but to what extent does this help? Without suffering, one cannot know what is good. One can create a world without war, without alcohol or drugs, without hate or jealousy, but then it wouldn’t be the world one lived in. Nothing would be learned, nothing would be gained. Species would have no motivation to advance, only to devolve. [1]

And so the universe only suffered more.

 

Then, there was you. [2]