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Twist Ties

Chapter Text

*Record Scratch*

You're probably wondering how we got here.

The Tie that Binds - The Avengers find out Phil Coulson is alive, reunite and rescue the Agents, just in time to keep the Watchdogs, Anton Ivanov and Thaddeus Ross from permanently destroying the reputations of the Inhumans and Agents. Phil (and Thor) are rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Phil is returned home just in time for...

The Infinity Knot - Infinity War + Agents of SHIELD. While the Avengers are living through the events of Civil War, our Agents foil the plots of General Katherine Hale and her daughter Ruby to trade the earth's Inhumans for HYDRA domination of the world. Oh, and Phil sacrifices himself at Vormir, which allows him to gain control of the Soul Stone (not that he or Melinda May knew that at the time...), which ultimately allows the defeat of Thanos (the SNAP didn't work). Melinda May, with the help of Robbie Reyes, brings Phil back to life and cancels out his deal with the Rider. The world is safe again, our heroes are either planning weddings or figuring out what to do now Thanos has been dealt with.

Except that Inhuman Lincoln Campbell urgently needs to talk to Phil...enough to kidnap him and May from Tahiti. (Wasn't he blown up?)

And the Fantastic Four have appeared on the streets of New York City. (Err..don't they belong in another universe?)

Something is not. Quite. Right.

Ready? Hit the next chapter button and let's find out just how one escapes a nuclear bomb.

(Hint. It's not in a fridge...)

Chapter Text

Hawaii

"You owe me one, Director." a vaguely familiar voice replied. "I'm calling it in."

He moved his hood back, revealing his face.

Phil's jaw dropped, and he heard May gasp in surprise.

"You..." he whispered.

"Me."

Lincoln Campbell gazed soberly at the pair.

"Everything has a price, SHIELD. Even the lives of half the Universe."


Somewhere on Earth

There was always an unsettling feeling traveling by Lockjaw, Lincoln Campbell thought, as headquarters took shape around him. The air was drier, the scent familiar.

He sensed, rather than saw, another flash behind him. That was Crystal and her cohort heading off to confront the Inhuman Council.

She might have said good-bye...

Lincoln might be Inhuman, but his American side was definitely annoyed by the...high-handedness...of the royal members sometimes. He mentally snickered as he remembered how Phil Coulson had used his usual snark on the Lady Crystal, then sobered as he recalled why she had paled.

"I’m Director Phil Coulson, with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Can we talk for a moment?"

Every life form in the Universe had heard Coulson snark those words at Thanos, even if only a few truly understood what they meant.

Speaking of whom...

"Woah...A little green here. Does that happen every time?" Phil Coulson asked Melinda May.

She shook her head.

"Side effects of being recently dead," she quipped, steadying her lover. "You want a cast iron stomach again, try staying alive for a while."

"Sounds like you've had an interesting couple of days." Lincoln commented, entering a code on the keypad beside the door.

"You're one to talk." Phil shot back. "Just where have you been for the past couple of years?"

Lincoln shrugged as the door opened.

"Here and there..."

The three stepped through the doorway into a common area. Uniformed people talked with those in civilian clothes. Groups of people huddled over computers. Several sat at desks filling out paperwork. It was a scene very familiar to the Agents, at least in the days before HYDRA.

The buzz in the room stopped as Lincoln led them in, and all eyes tracked their entrance. A younger Asian woman in a plain black suit split off from the group huddled around the computer and met them, nodding at Lincoln.

"Director Coulson...Agent May." she said with a slight accent.

She gave a slight smile.

"Campbell told us never to call you the..."

"He was right." interrupted May.

"And I'm really not..." started Coulson.

Lincoln snorted, and the new Agent gave Coulson a withering look.

"Please, Director. You think any of us thought that bloody American shit show was really the SHIELD of Carter and Fury? You Yanks might have bought it...but none of the rest of us did."

May favored her with a slight grin.

"I'm Agent Jubes Lee. Welcome to SHIELD Pacifica."

Agent Lee continued her briefing as Coulson and May were ushered into a conference room. She carefully placed water bottles in front of them.

"When SHIELD fell, many of the Asian outposts that were uncovered were quickly taken over by the local governments. To sort out the HYDRA mess, of course.”

She gave a rueful smile.

"Seems everyone wanted to get their hands on our secrets and our tech. But out here we were pretty far flung, not like the Americas or Europe. When HYDRA came to light, it usually was on a one on one battle. You either won and called for evac...or you lost, and no one ever heard from you again."

As everyone took their seats, they were joined by two others in civilian clothes, who took their seats by Lincoln.

"SHIELD Melbourne was able to beat HYDRA back...but the Aussie military was right on their heels." Lee continued. "We had barely enough time to evac and wipe the servers before we were overrun. We went dark until the Hub reestablished contact. Our priority was to regroup the assets in the region, stay under the government's radar. And we were doing pretty good at consolidating...and then the Inhumans."

One of the newcomers took up the thread.

"Agent Lewis" he said in a thick accent. "Director, the South Pacific region was pretty hard hit with terragenesis. Makes sense with all the water. But at the time, no one knew where it was coming from, the hows and the whys of it. And we had our own...Watchdogs. The Australian government decided a policy of containment."

"So they rounded up all the Inhumans they could find?" asked May.

Lewis nodded.

"There was a..." he glanced quickly over at his partner, who glared back at him, "...concern that this was transferable. Several of the...more stable...Inhumans were transferred into a separate unit."

Coulson looked over at May.

"I remember reading something about that...oh...that Chinese mess with Talbot and Malick. Bobbi took point on that.”

Lewis nodded.

"When we got the orders from Agent Morse, a SHIELD team went in, pulled as many Inhumans as we could out. For some we were...too late. But before we could alert anyone to the illegal experimentation, the ADMA delegate came back and convinced the government that we were all HYDRA."

"I remember." said Phil grimly.

"And we fell back again. To here, actually. We had help this time, not everyone in the government were idiots. And some of our Inhuman allies stayed with us."

"Some of us," said his partner, "felt we had a debt to pay to SHIELD."

He fell silent again.

Lewis shrugged and picked the thread back up.

"We monitored the American situation as best as we could, but when Morse and Hunter left, we lost our primary contacts. Then everything went crazy."

"Special Forces were ripping out the last HYDRA spots, the ones we could never find." Lee picked up. "We were quietly being asked to...consult....the pressure was easing off, we thought we could make contact again. But then..."


 SHIELD Pacifica HQ, 2016.

"Do you have anything?" Agent Lee asked.

For the third time.

The Inhuman at her side snorted. She wasn't quite certain why he was here...but then again she wasn't certain why any of the Inhumans stayed. This one had...hunches...that tended to work out.

He viewed the situation sardonically. Agent Lee got a chill. She wondered, not for the first time, who was using who here. She shook her head. She'd deal with it later.

The Agent at the coms frowned.

"Nothing but static."

She leaned forward.

"What can you see on the outside video?"

"Just a shipment going in...an ordinary one."

The Agent looked up.

"Should we contact Morse?"

Agent Lee shook her head.

"Nah, they're out of it. Nothing they could do even if they were in the area."

"Ma'am...wait."

The hangar doors opened, and a Zephyr One shot into the sky.

"Raise them!" Lee ordered.

"Wait..." came from the Inhuman. "Something...someone on board..."

His voice trailed off, and he joined to watch. A couple of hours later, a Quinjet took off, speeding towards the city.

"Track them." ordered Lee.

"Ma'am...the Zephyr is in a low orbit..just at the space barrier."

"What the hell?" muttered Lee. "Is the Director trying to become a Jedi for real?"

"What the hell indeed..." came from the Inhuman, who stood up abruptly.

"I need to go get Fesi."

A few moments later, he returned, a yawning Eden Fesi pacing behind him. They watched as the Quinjet shimmered into existence above the Zephyr, a line descending and locking onto its side.

"What in the world are they doing?" Fesi asked, watching several figures climb carefully down the side of the Zephyr.

He looked at Lee.

"Are we sure they're SHIELD?"

She nodded.

"Director's call sign. Red 5."

The Inhuman snorted.

"And he's our only hope..."

Lee chuckled in return, which quickly died as the figures entered the ship.

"Can you get a Tac team up there?"

Fesi shook his head.

"Over that distance? One, maybe two people."

Lee nodded briskly.

"I'll go suit..."

"Wait."

The Inhuman put a hand on her shoulder.

"Has to be the right time...go too early, and all is lost."

He looked at the group assembled around him.

"Trust me."

Fesi nodded and relaxed. Lee huffed in annoyance.

They watched as the ship remained motionless for several moment. Then sharply, the QuinJet peeled off the Zephyr, and shot into space.


 Quinjet, Outer Space.

Lincoln Campbell let Yo-Yo's cross go. It floated gently in the room, and he let go of the chair, allowing himself to float up beside Hive. The red numbers on the nuclear bomb continued to tick down, inexorably.

The two Inhumans floated together, side by side. Lincoln almost cherished the pain that lanced through his side. It would be the last thing he felt in this lifetime.

"Well," he ground out. "I got to see the world."

He gazed at the globe below. Would anyone care that he was gone? Daisy might...but Coulson and the rest would take care of her. She'd be all right in time.

"It's beautiful."


SHIELD Pacifica

The Inhuman's gaze snapped to Fesi.

"Now!" he ordered. "Just you, just the one that bleeds."

Lee's eyes narrowed, and she hit the intercom.

"Meds team, com room...NOW!"

Fesi concentrated, and a small portal formed. He stepped across.


Space

Fesi momentarily became disoriented in the lack of gravity.

Two men, one hurt badly, floating together. Everything dark except the red flashing numbers.

Numbers?

0:03

The other man's eyes widened, and he began to lift his hand.

0:02

Fesi quickly grabbed the hurt man and pulled him through the portal.

0:01


SHIELD Pacifica 

The portal quickly shut behind them as the Quinjet disappeared from view.

"What the hell..." Lee gasped, then looked down.

"That's Lincoln Campbell...the American Inhuman with the Director." she said, quickly getting out of way of the medical team who swarmed in.

"Hopefully he lives long enough to talk..." muttered the other Agent.

"Agreed." said the Inhuman, who stalked off.


SHIELD Pacifica, Present Day

"Three days later," finished Agent Lee, "All of the Inhumans were gone. Including Campbell from the medic bay. They only reappeared about a month or so ago."

"Yeah, well, I didn't exactly have a say in leaving." snarked Lincoln.

"And neither did I," said Fesi. "Not that staying here was any great shakes..."

Lincoln looked at Phil.

"Director, do you know anything about the Inhuman colony on the moon?"

About an hour later, Phil almost wished he was back in the Soul Stone.

Almost.

"So..." he started, rubbing his head. "You're telling me that there was a parent colony of Inhumans living on the moon."

"Yes, sir."

"And that they were going around, collecting Inhumans to go live with them."

"Yes, sir."

"And they...kidnapped you and the other Inhumans, and you've been on the moon this whole time."

"Well..."

The two Inhumans looked at each other. May smirked.

"Given what we've been through, Coulson, it sounds more plausible than the Framework or you and the Black Order ship..."

"We've been back for a bit." Campbell admitted. "There was a civil war...we had to evac everyone to the surface, then help set things up there."

"Where on the Earth?" demanded Phil.

"Umm...Hawaii?"

"OK. Did you get in touch with anyone?"

At their silence, Phil leaned forward and glared at Lincoln.

"Who's side are you on, Mr. Campbell?"

"I told you I was leaving SHIELD, seeing the world. I assumed you were going to take care of Daisy...didn't do such a great job of that." Lincoln snarked.

As May caught her breath, Coulson responded, "No, because she thought you were dead. And she was responsible! It took us almost two years to get her back, and even still.."

Phil got out of his chair, and Lincoln rose to meet him.

"You couldn't have dropped her a note? Hi, I'm alive..."

"Really?" Lincoln's hands began to crackle. "And when were you going to talk to Clint Barton and the rest?"

"GUYS!" Lee and May yelled in tandem.

Two heads swiveled in unison. Phil snorted and pushed away. Lincoln dropped back in his seat.

"Anyways..." Lincoln continued. "I was the main source of knowledge about SHIELD. I thought maybe if I told them all about you...what you tried to do for us before Sokavia...they'd be inclined to contact you. Then I could talk to Daisy. Except..."

"Except what?" scowled May.

"I didn't know about the Terragenesis crystals. It was a religon up there. You were either worthy or you weren't. And they got to control the process."

"The terragenesis getting into the water..." continued Fesi, "well...it contaminated the process. The zealots think so, anyways. And then Black Bolt's idea to bring them all up to the moon..."

"How would they all fit?" asked Lewis.

"That's the point, they wouldn't. So there's a group that blames the humans for that as well. They don't like humans very much. And they don't like the organization that caused the crystals to get into the water."

"That was Jai-Ying!" Phil protested.

"Yeah, but most of that faction sided with her." pointed out Lincoln. "So the real villains are SHIELD. And, most specifically, the one giving the orders."

"Me." Phil concluded. "Only one problem."

He held up his robotic arm.

"Mack was busy chopping this off and making sure I didn't bleed out while Daisy and Cal were fighting her off."

Lincoln shook his head.

"I KNOW that. I TOLD them that. But it doesn't matter...they have their human scapegoat."

He swallowed hard.

"Or at least they did until three days ago. When your voice entered everyone's head. When Thanos was defeated."

"Yeah, where were you guys for that?" demanded May.

Fesi shook his head.

"They had a prophecy," he said quietly, "That if Thanos was defeated, the Inhumans would cease to exist."

"But if Thanos won," objected Phil, "half of the universe would die."

Fesi shrugged.

"Better half than all?" he observed.

As the others glared at him, he raised his hands.

"Didn't say I agreed with it." he finished.

"But another reason why a group of Inhumans wants Phil's head." May commented. "It is just a group, correct?"

Lincoln nodded.

"Everyone is still getting used to being on Earth. The group is small...but has a loud voice. Others are finding out that what they were told...wasn't what was true. It's harder for some than others."

"That's always the way." Phil sighed.

"Lady Crystal's group, they're coming around quicker. Want SHIELD's help, not start another war. But they have to deal with the Council. Who wants to figure out this prophecy. And for that they need..."

"Me." Phil looked at May. "We got how long in Tahiti?"

May sighed in resignation.

The room was silent for a while.

"Coulson...May. How is Daisy?" asked Lincoln.

"She’s fine..." started Phil, but May shook her head.

"WHAT?" snapped Phil.

"She was hurt against Thanos. Full Quake Force without her gauntlets."

"WHAT??"

"At the time...it was our last stand, very last chance against Thanos."

"Melinda...you could have..."

"When, Phil? Last night? She was stabilized when I left. They said there was nothing we could do. And I was expecting to go back to Wakanda...."

Phil glared at her for a moment, then swung his gaze towards the Inhumans.

"I appreciate the Inhuman situation, but we need to get back to Wakanda and check in on Daisy first."

"Yes," said Lincoln "We do. I'm coming with you. I've learned a few things from the Inhumans, I should be able to help."

"Good."

Fesi stood up.

"I can get you there...then I should get back to Crystal and the rest."

He bowed in Agent Lee's direction.

"We will be in touch."

Coulson nodded, as the two Agents headed towards the Inhumans.

"We'll get you patched back into the network when we contact our crew in the States." he told Lee.

"We'd appreciate it, Director." she responded.

Fesi concentrated, and a portal opened.

"We find my way to be a little bit easier than Lockjaw." he observed.

Coulson sighed, and the three disappeared through the portal.


CODA

Washington, DC.

The young woman sat quietly at the back table in the crowded restaurant, nervously fiddling with her shoulder strap to her bag.

"This seat taken?"

Her contact was about a decade older than her, graying hair in a artful dishelvement.

"No."

He sat down, arranging his limbs to get comfortable. As he started to speak, she shook her head.

"Not until you both are here."

He nodded, and sat back.

A few moments later, a woman, about the same age as the first joined them. His eyes lifted in surprise.

"Hello, Red."

She scowled at him.

"Mark."

She took the other seat without any further preliminaries.

"First," the young woman said, "I was never here. You did not get this from me."

"Of course..."

"Not of course," she hissed. "This will land me on the Raft, and that's if I'm lucky."

"We understand." said Red, glaring at Mark. "Not a word."

She nodded, and drew out a StarkPad from her purse.

"I taped this at work three days ago." she said quietly. "It was real time. The world needs to see this."

As she loaded up the video, the other two leaned in. After a few moments, Red leaned back and whistled.

"I can understand why they're keeping us in the dark."

"Shit..." muttered Mark. "I think..."

He leaned back.

"...I think that's Steve Rogers in there with King T'Challa. Is that...War Machine flying up there?"

Scarlet "Red" Johansson (Producer, NBC News) and Mark Ruffalo (Washington Post) sat back and watched the StarkPad as aliens poured into Wakanda.

Chapter Text

Sanctum Sanctorum, NYC
3 days after the Battle of Wakanda

Dr. Stephen Strange was many things - healer, defender, master of the arts arcane.

The one thing he still was most emphatically not was an inter-galactic babysitter. Although the universe still seemed to want to cast him in that role. First the bickering Odinson brothers. Then that whole off-world mess with Phil Coulson and the Darkhold. (He really should figure out how that got out of Kamar-Taj to begin with). And then Tony Stark, his kid-protege, and that man-child "Star Lord" and his gang of "Guardians".

It was a wonder how they all survived at the end. He still couldn't figure that out. Not that he was complaining...

Now, it was over. He was home. He was done shuttling around SHIELD and the Avengers from place to place. It was time for a nice cup of tea, put his feet up, and contemplate the universe for a spell.

A knock at the front door. Then insistently again.

No. This is how it all started the last time. He didn't care if the world was going to end, he was not answering that...

KNOCK KNOCK THUD .

He cast his gaze over to his cloak. It hovered impatiently.

"Wong? Can you..." he called.

Wait. Wong was at Kamar-Taj, getting Wanda Maximoff settled for a round of training. Keep her mind off her inactive robotic boyfriend for a bit. So he was alone. And the only one available to answer the damned door.

Maybe they'd just go away.

THUD THUD THUD.

The knocking was growing increasingly louder...even his cape now looked...nervous?

FINE.

Strange pushed himself out of his chair, and, grabbing his cloak, stalked down the hallway. As he approached the doorway, he mentally seethed against whoever was out there.

Preparing a teleportation spell, he prepared to send whoever was now trying their best to break down his door (which was shuddering under the blows) for a swim in the Hudson.

Flinging open the door, he barely dodged a blocky orange hand sweep down through the empty space.

Orange?

"You took your sweet time, Strange." the hulking man growled.

"Ben..."

The man behind him moved to the front of the little group.

Strange, for one of the few times in his life, was stunned speechless.

"You are Dr. Stephen Strange, are you not?" the older man asked.

Strange's throat worked, but he could not get any of the words out.

"Please tell me that you are still the Sorcerer Supreme?"

Strange finally found his voice.

"You..." he whispered. "You don't belong here."

Reed Richards nodded in affirmation.

"We know...and you're our best hope to get home."

Strange pulled himself together.

"Everyone inside, quickly."

As the members of the Fantastic Four entered the Sanctum, Strange quickly closed the door behind them.

"The doorways...I assume they would be the same in your dimension as they would be in ours?" Reed asked politely.

"Yes..."

"Maamaaa...I'm hunnngrry..." whined the toddler.

"Shh, Franklin...we'll be home in a moment." Sue told the child.

Strange's eyebrows rose.

"You brought the children."

"We didn't exactly have a choice." growled Johnny Storm.

Reed looked around the lobby.

"The others...have they been in contact?"

Strange's head snapped around.

"What others?" he barked.

The five adults looked at each other.

"Oh, dear..." murmured Reed...


Kananaskis Country (100 km west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
2 days ago (BoW +1)

Sirens sounded in the field headquarters of Alpha Flight. Heather Hudson (Vindicator) sighed.

"We just got home...now what?"

James Hudson (Guardian), leader of the team looked up from his briefing.

"You think whatever that was followed us home?" he asked his wife.

Narya, the Snowbird shook her head.   

"No," she said decidedly. "Whatever that was was destroyed. I felt it pass."

A shrill bird call, and the door to the briefing room was flung open by a small whirlwind, which manifested into a teen Inhuman.

"Come quick!" he cried. "The new guy...he's flipped out..."

The older members of Alpha Flight looked at each other in alarm, and hurried after him.

Vindicator pulled up the man's file on her StarkPhone.

"Ok, this was the new intake, came in right before we left, right?"

The whirlwind nodded.

"He's been in standard isolation for the past four days..."

"He was having issues getting his powers under control," Dr. Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) added, meeting them halfway. "The manifestations were still emerging from his hands."

He nodded at the younger teen.

"Dean, get with the others to the gathering room...put the other units on lockdown."

"Is it that bad?" Guardian asked, as Dean fled to the others. "I mean, there was the guy with the sonic scream, the one who would randomly spit fireballs, and then the one who insisted he was in a work of fan fiction...I can't remember anyone with powers this strong..."

They kept up with the doctor's furry body as he led them to the containment units.

Snowbird narrowed her eyes in thought.

"You did tell them this wasn't forever, right Walt? That containment would only last a week or two at most until we helped them stabilize?"

Sasquatch snorted.

"Would I ever forget?"

"Some of them do have slight memory lapses..." noted Guardian as they came into view of the unit doors.

Behind him, Vindicator gasped as she saw the long diagonal scratches across the doors.

"That's Vibranium!"

"And that's within the last 10 minutes." Sasquatch observed grimly.

"What happened?" asked Guardian sharply.

"Let me show you instead. Dean was on monitor duty down here..."

Keeping a close eye on the scratched door, they turned to the wall screen. As the playback started, a middle aged man, a little short and stocky, moaned slightly in his sleep, his hands swelling slightly, then subsiding as he dreamed. The AC to the unit pulsed a little, and a cloud rose to cover the figure.

Vindicator cocked an eyebrow.

"Do we need to get the guys from Banff in again to look at the system?" she asked.

Sasquatch shook his head.

"I thought so at first, get those idiots blackballed with the Minister. But then it settles..."

The cloud on the screen dissipated, and the man's eyes snapped open. He quickly rolled into a defensive crouch, surveying the room.

"Soldier...Special Ops." noted Guardian immediately watching the figure take stock of his surrounding.

"There's NOTHING in his file that indicated that," objected Vindicator. "This guy was a rancher....got bad smoked salmon from the coast. And if he ever was JTF, Minister Sajjan would have snapped him up before he was out of his cocoon."

"Hey..." Dean's voice came from the video. "You OK in there, man?"

"Where am I?" he growled.

"Uh...still in the containment unit..."

"Stupid kid..." the man muttered. "WHERE am I?"

"Uhh..." Dean's voice was flustered.

"Let's try again." said the man, moving closer to the door, obviously reaching for patience. "Where in New York am I?"

"Try Alberta, dude...sometimes you guys get crazy dreams during the transition..."

As soon as Dean said the word Alberta, the man's whole body tensed.

"CANADA? Oh, hell no..."

He shot his arms out to his sides, and the bone spurs that were on his file shot out of his knuckles.

Except these were covered in metal.

"Run, kid." he warned as he advanced on the door. "Tell whoever's in charge of Weapon X these days, they'd better be getting their plane warmed up now."

Guardian turned to Snowbird.

"What's Weapon X?"

She shrugged.

"Never heard of it."

The man made an initial slice at the door. He raised his eyebrows as the blade made a small indentation.

"Huh. Interesting. Gonna take me a little longer than I thought."

His eyes met Dean's.

"Get moving...If you're wise, you'd get someone to put a call through to New York now..."

He got to work on the door as (presumably) Dean fled to get help.

Suddenly, the door behind them burst outward, causing Alpha Flight to fling themselves out of the shrapnel's path. The Inhuman strolled through the jagged edges of the hold, his metal claws extended.

"James...Heather." he greeted them casually.

The Hudsons looked at each other. Prior to his intake, they had never seen this man before.

"Now, seeing that you two are here, you wanna tell me what Harper boy is up to, and let me call up the Professor? I got a History 12 exam to proctor, and he gets...annoyed...when you take off without any coverage."

"He's a TEACHER?" Sasquatch exclaimed.

The man's eyes flickered over him, dismissing him.

"Professor? Sir...I think you're a little confused." Guardian said carefully. "You are a rancher from the Bar None. Your name is.."

The man's eyes narrowed.

"The name is Wolverine."

At the evident non-recognition in the Canadian faces, Wolverine retracted his claws sharply.

"And I could use a beer."


United Kingdom
Yesterday (BoW +1)

Brian Braddock stood looking at the doorway to the multi-verse, frowning. His wife Meggan touched his arm, and he spared her a glance.

"Love, nothing has come through that. There's been no warning anything has even tried. You can let it rest for a bit."

He shook his head.

"Just before that...stimulating conversation...in our heads...something passed through here. I could sense it."

"Well...you're the only one who did..." huffed Meggan.

"Not the only one." said a figure, materializing from the darkness.

Brian smiled in greeting.

"Merlyn!"

Merlyn unfolded himself from the shadows, and clasped Brian's hand in greeting. He gave Meggan a quick hug.

"So there is something..." Brian continued.

Merlyn frowned, examining the doorway.

"Something passed through the realities," Merlyn noted, running his hand up the doorframe. "too fast to track, too fast to stop. I'm not sure what it did."

"Perhaps it was what stopped Thanos," Meggan suggested. "Maybe it was a good thing...maybe we'd all be dead if it hadn't."

"Or worse." mused Brian.

Merlyn shook his head.

"If I've told you once, I've told you a number of times," he began to scold, "that anything that disturbs the order of the universes is not a good thing. It's not the same thing as Strange's dimension travelling. Even that's bad enough."

"So this isn't Strange?" asked Brian. "How about Wanda?"

"Neither of them. This seemed to come from somewhere internal, somewhere between what is, what was, and what might yet be."

"Cryptic..." muttered Peter Wisdom, coming down the stairs. "You planning on eating, Braddock? And is he staying for lunch?"

Brian looked at Merlyn.

"I felt something yesterday, as if something had shifted a little."

Merlyn scowled.

"So did I. It's why I'm here. And if it was strong enough for even you to feel it, then we are all in a lot of trouble."

Meggan sighed and looked up at Wisdom.

"Maybe you'd better bring the plates down here."

Peter Wisdom clomped down the steps several minutes later, followed by Betsy Braddock and Dane Whitman, each loaded with their own portions of lunch.

Merlyn raised an eyebrow.

"Oh I don't think..."

"If something is meddling with the edges of reality, wizard," declaimed Dane, making himself a sandwich, "then you had better believe the Black Knight and the rest of Captain Britain's team will be ready to face it with him."

Betsy took a swig of tea.

"Besides, maybe the lot of us can get a better idea of what it is together."

Merlyn huffed as he accepted the plate Brian passed him. Brian carefully hid a smile. If there was anything good that had come out of that debacle in Wakanda it was that the world would see what the Enhanced, Gifted and, well, the Determined, could do when working together. Whenever T'Challa and Rogers decided to release it to the public, of course.

Mid-way through the meal, Merlyn rose abruptly to his feet.

"It comes."

Brian narrowed his eyes in concentration.

"I don't feel..."

Then he did. It was if the world had slightly shifted to the side. Everyone, everything seemed to be overlaid with other, fainter images, stronger ones over Wisdom and his sister. Then everything shifted back, and a cloud of dust arose in the room. As everyone recoiled, Dane pulled his sword and Wisdom generated his fire knives.

"Everyone, stay where you are!" Merlyn commanded.

As the dust faded, Brian snapped his head around, meeting each of his teammate's eyes, assessing them for injuries. Behind him, he heard Merlyn mutter a sharp oath.

In front of the doorway were two new individuals, an ordinary young woman, and what seemed to be an Inhuman male...but one with the usual bodily changes, this time with blue skin and a tail.

He'd need some help before going out in public out here, Brian thought, the good people of the parish would run screaming to their church looking for an exorcism.

"Katya..." the blue man started carefully, looking at the members of Excalibur, "I do not think we are in Kansas anymore."

"Or on the Island." Katya agreed, taking up a defensive posture beside him.

She narrowed her eyes at the others.

"Are you the guys that kidnapped Logan yesterday? We'd love to know how you managed that."

"There are more of you?" Merlyn snapped.

"More of us?" Katya repeated. "No, Logan is the only one..."

"...that we know of." finished her companion.

"Then we can send you back, and quickly." Merlyn stated, striding to the door.

"Wait, where are we?"

"At the doorways to the crossroads..."

"Ok, I've hit my head somewhere, Kurt. We've run into Gandalf."

"Merlyn." supplied Wisdom.

"Not much better." she scowled.

"We just have to..." Merlyn put his hand on the door handle and twisted it.

He looked at it, and Brian came quickly over to join him.

"It...won't...open." Merlyn said in disbelief.

"Let me try." Brian responded.

He put his hand on the door to the Paths of the Universe and twisted the handle. It didn't move. 

"No. It won't." he agreed.

"Let me try to get through." said Katya.

"No, Katya, wait..." protested Kurt.

The woman turned incorporeal and attempted to walk through the door. She stopped right in front of it, and turned solid again.

"I can't get through either." she said. "It's like some sort of squishy mass is on the other side."

"You are lucky, young lady," said Merlyn. "You could have been lost forever amongst the various realities."

Everyone looked at each other for a moment. Finally Wisdom stepped forward.

"Want a sandwich? I find that saving the Universe goes better on a full stomach."

Kitty Pryde and Kurt Wagner sighed and looked at each other.

"Might as well..."


Sanctum Sanctorum, NYC
BoW + 3

"Up these steps..." Strange led the group through the house. He noted with bemusement that all of them kept carefully behind him. Even the children.

They were trained better than some of those SHIELD Agents, he thought.

"We need to get back quickly," Reed said. Again. "We were coordinating with Xavier and Hank on these disappearances...the fact that we ALL disappeared will cause some consternation."

"And you know Doom will move quickly once he realizes we're not in the picture." Johnny added, carrying his niece.

"Doom? What a name..." Strange commented idly as he shifted the house to open the hallway section.

"You're one to talk, Strange." Ben Grimm snarked back.

Strange let the point pass. They'd be gone soon enough.

He took two steps into the hallway, and stared. As the Richards moved up behind him, he heard Reed mutter "What the hell..."

"Language, Daddy..." his son piped up.

Each doorway in the hallway looked like someone had melted a crayon and smeared it over the door. Then sprayed Jello over the whole thing. Colours shifted and blobbed menacingly, shimmering sharply, fading in and out. It looked like something from the 60's.

One thing remained consistent on each of them. The door handles had disappeared.

"This is...impossible." muttered Strange.

"No, just improbable." replied Reed.

As they moved back into the hallway, Reed rubbed his forehead.

"I'm afraid I'm going to ask that we impose on you for the night, Doctor."

"Can we get a pizza?" piped up one young voice

"I wanna hamburger..." objected the other

Dr. Strange sighed.  

Here we go again...


CODA
Inhuman Compound, Hawaii
BoW + 3

Crystal stood at loose attention in the council of Elders. After reporting on her interactions with the humans, all eyes had turned to their leader, who sat in deep thought at the front. She absentmindely scratched at Lockjaw's ears as he lounged by her side, serious for a moment. 

He looked at her sister, his Queen. Her hand flicked to her side.

Later, Crystal mentally translated. She grimaced, knowing what was to come.

At least Blackagar would meet her later after he had made his...public...proclamation.

He signed at Medusalith, her hair waving around her shoulders restlessly. That was a good sign for her, Crystal thought. It meant that Medusa wasn't in full agreement with whatever was coming up.

The Queen sighed, and turned to Crystal.

"My Lord wants to know if you are sure, Crystal. If the voice we all heard in our heads actually belonged to the Director of SHIELD." 

Crystal bowed her head.

"There can be no doubt, my Queen, I heard his voice in the open air. It was the human known as Phil Coulson."

Another of the Inhumans stirred. One of the newer ones, a survivor from something called...Sanctuary.

"It does not matter," he objected. "Director Coulson is directly responsible for the spread of terragenesis on Earth. He must be held accountable."

"Not according to Dr. Campbell," objected Crystal. "It was the Inhuman woman who had brought the crystals on board..."

"And how did SHE get them in the first place?" rejoined the other. "Campbell has been tainted through his association with the humans..."

"Really, and what would that make the rest of us who were exiled here?" Crystal snapped back.

The King made a gesture, and she fell silent. As the Inhuman continued to move to speak, Blackagar glared at him.

"You forget your place." Medusa snarled. 

He finally got the hint, and sat back.

As Blackagar signed, Medusa translated, "It does not matter that this man is also the Holder foretold. However, we also recognize that our knowledge was lost to those of Earth for millennium. We must work together to avoid our prophesied fate."

He nodded at a third member of the Council, who gazed back at him with an impassive gaze. The Sanctuary Inhuman scowled.

"My sister," Medusa continued, "You must bring Phil Coulson to us. Only then can we move forward in finding the Inhuman place here on Earth."

"He and his would work with us, Medusa. Coulson is not our enemy." Crystal noted.

Blackagar gave her a small smile.

"So you say, my Lady. But I must see the Holder face to face and hear him for myself."

Crystal sighed.

"You have your orders...and time grows short."

"The intrusions have begun, my Lady." said the third member. "It is only a matter of time before they make their way here."

"Crystal...neither Blackagar or myself can be spared from here. You must succeed before we are forced to send others."

Crystal caught the implicit warning, but hesitated.

"Medusa...he is with his allies now. The Avengers, their Inhuman friends. He will not let himself be caught alone again."

Medusa gestured impatiently.

"Then persuade him...I look forward to meeting the Holder of Souls"

The Sanctuary Inhuman sat back as Crystal exited the chamber with her dog.

As do we, he thought, idly running his fingers over his ring.

As do we...

Chapter Text

WI DWakanda
BoW + 3

Shuri stretched the kinks out of her back. She had been hovering over the monitors all morning, and now it was time for a break. After all, she had promised to keep an eye on the Avengers while her brother was off doing his Kingly business in New York.

The fact that he hadn't, technically, asked for that promise didn't mean anything. She had been working with Sergeant Barnes to counter the Winter Soldier progamming, and she took her duties very seriously. She should go see what they were up to. T'Challa would want to know...

As she left the Wakanda Science Centre, she mentally sighed as a couple of Dora Milaje fell in casually behind her. T’Challa knew she could take care of herself in a fight. And she had, saving the necks of Vision and Agents Fitz and Simmons. No, this was the Council again, a little paranoid about outsiders these days. She supposed she couldn't blame them, the last group of outsiders let into Wakanda nearly killed them all. She just wished some of them could differentiate between the Avengers and aliens.

Looking over at the airfield, she noted the absence of the Royal jet, one a little less lethal than the ones T'Challa normally piloted, but more likely to blend in. Given that he, Dr. Banner, Col. Rhodes and Thor had headed to America to finally brief the world on the Wakandan battle, they had deemed it...diplomatic...to try not to rub their technical superiority in the world's face. After all, it really was their word alone that Thanos had tried to wipe out half of the universe's population.

Well...not just their word. That Director Coulson in her head...now that had been spooky.

She wondered why the other governments hadn't released their satellite imagery yet. Maybe they had all decided that it was some sort of internal Wakandan thing. If that was the case, they were in for a shock. And T'Challa was the best to handle that. Not that she'd ever admit her big brother was better than her at anything.

Going down to the edges of the city, she waved in greeting.

"Captain Rogers, Sergeant Barnes!" she called.

The two men looked up from their repairs and grinned at the younger woman heading their way.

"Shuri!" responded Steve. "Anything wrong?"

"No, just taking a break from the screens." she responded. "How's it going here?"

"Well," responded Bucky, "All things considered, there really wasn't much damage to the city, other than around the Science Centre. Having the others around really sped things up."

"Gave Wanda something to do other than to bug Fitz..." Shuri grinned. "He's working on the Vision files as fast as he can, but I think he's gotten to the point where the SI servers in America need to come back up so that they can forward him Vision's backups."

"Which frustrated Wanda to no end." finished Natasha Romanoff, fitting the last of the boards in place for the Wakandans to hammer in. "Wong's idea to take her to Kamar-Taj for some training was brilliant."

Shuri frowned a little. Wanda and her powers made her brother a little uneasy...which meant she was someone to keep an eye on.

"Any word on the Asgardians?" she asked.

Natasha grinned evilly.

"Clint sprung that on Randolph as soon as he got home. Seems he wasn't too keen on keeping company with his King."

She turned serious, all traces of levity gone from her face in an instant.

"However, given that the majority of Asgardians are now dead, either to Ragnarok or to Thanos, he's sending out the call. There are pockets of Asgardians among the nine realms that he knows of, plus those not on world when Hela descended."

"Whether they still want to be ruled by an Odinson...." mused Sharon Carter, pulling out water bottles.

Steve shook his head.

"I don't think being King matters that much to Thor anymore." he observed. "But he still has a ruler's sense of duty. He'll want to make sure that the Asgardians have a place to come home to...if they want. It's just the question of location."

Natasha took a swig of water.

"Well, Thor has a standing offer of citizenship from Norway...they'd probably be thrilled to host the rest of the race." she observed.

"Over Sweden's dead body..." chuckled Sharon. "One Asgardian was ok. But all of them Norwegian? Oh man..."

"I think it will come down to who will let them be Asgardian in their country." commented Steve. "And that is going to depend on what T'Challa and the rest can do about the Sokavia Accords."

"Oh, to get a chance to be home to the Norse gods," responded Sharon, "the Scandinavian countries would chuck the Accords in a heartbeat...even if it meant taking in some Inhumans with them."

"What do you think?" asked Bucky, "Move the Avengers quarters to Oslo?"

Steve shivered.

"I'm not too fond of the cold."

"Neither am I, Captain."

Everyone whirled around. The Dora shoved Shuri behind them and raised their spears. Nat and Sharon pulled out their weapons, and Bucky grabbed a chunk of concrete.

Phil Coulson spread his hands out placatingly, Melinda May and another man at his side. A portal closed shut behind them.

"Sorry...you all seem to be a bit on edge." Phil continued. "Is everything all right?"

The Dora looked at him in disbelief, never dropping their spears. Shuri moved first, gently pushing past them, and looking him up and down.

"So you're Phil Coulson. Recognized your voice." she said.

May rolled her eyes.

"Here we go again..." she muttered.

Shuri nodded to herself, then frowned.

"I was hoping you'd be cooler."

There was a moment of silence then everyone burst out in laughter. Phil rubbed his forehead.

"I like her!" pronounced May.

Phil sent her a half-hearted glare.

Steve was next, and Phil wilted a little under his gaze. Steve softened it a little.

"Director Coulson...good to have you home."

He offered Phil his hand, and perking back up, Phil took it.

"Good to be here, Captain."

"Steve."

Phil flushed a little, and Sharon snorted.

"Then Phil."

He swung his gaze over to Sharon.

"Good to see you too, Agent Carter."

"Nice outfit, Coulson..." she commented. "You too, May."

"Shut up, Carter..." growled May, as Phil looked at the both of them, only just realizing they were in the same matching t-shirt and short set that they had picked up in Tahiti that morning.

Bright, floral printed T-shirt set.

A click caught his attention, and he swung his gaze towards the sound. Bucky studied the Wakandan phone carefully.

"Now, how do I send pictures again?" he asked Shuri, who reached over and took the phone.

"To who?" she asked cheerfully, as Phil groaned, and May's eyes narrowed.

"Stark and Barton first..." suggested Bucky and Phil took a step.

"No...absolutely not!" he cried. "Not Stark..."

"Too lat..." started Shuri, then yelped as May swatted the phone from her hands.

"Got it." she proclaimed, studying the phone. Then she pressed a button. The send notification beeped.

"Melinda..."

"You owe them, Phil..."

"Yes, Phil, you do."

Natasha appeared at Phil's side. Phil turned to face her, dead sober.

"You are all right?" she asked. "Alive?"

"And Riderless." Phil confirmed.

Natasha considered him for a moment, then slapped his face sharply. Coulson winced, but made no other move.

"Don't you ever...EVER...do that again, Coulson."

Rubbing his cheek, Coulson glanced over at May.

"I'll...try. I can't promise...but I'll try, Nat."

Natasha nodded, then pulled him into a fierce hug.

"You'd better. You nearly killed us the last time...and the time before that."

She released him, then scowled.

"And this does not let you off the hook. We are still having that...discussion."

"As am I, Nat." confirmed May.

Bucky and Steve winced in sympathy.

"Besides," May continued, "Now he's some sort of Holder..."

Nat glared at Phil who stood his ground.

"Not my fault..."

"A Holder of Souls." confirmed the newcomer.

Phil's gaze shifted, as May glared at him.

"OK...probably a little..." he confessed.

Nat took a step closer.

"You are going to tell us ALL, Phil." she snarled.

Phil nodded.

"As soon as I find out, Nat, you'll be the first to know. Besides May, that is." he amended quickly.

"As soon as he tells us..." May finished, pointing at the newcomer.

Nat shifted her glare to him.

"And you are?"

The other man met her gaze with amusement.

"I'm Lincoln Campbell."

The Avengers looked at each other for a moment. Steve gazed at him, puzzled.

"A strange question...but aren't you dead?" he asked.

Lincoln shrugged.

"I got better..."

May rolled her eyes.

"Speaking of which," continued Phil, "Where's Daisy?"


"COULSON!!"

Phil staggered backwards as Jemma Simmons flung herself at him, embracing him in a fierce hug.

"I thought...they told us..." she sniffled into his shoulder.

As Phil took a moment, patting his friend's back, he looked over at her partner Leo Fitz, watching the reunion with a set expression on his face. Phil remembered that the last time he had seen the two scientists was way back in the Diner as they were all carted off to their respective imprisonments by Thanos's scum. He met Fitz's eyes, hoping that he could see the apology in his face and stretched out his hand. Fitz looked at him for a moment, then gave him a half smile and, walking over, took it in his own. 

"Hey Jems..." Fitz said softly. "Not to break this up...but the Director probably wants to see..."

"Oh!" replied Simmons, swiftly pulling away, dabbing at her eyes. "Of course, you'll want to see Daisy."

"How is she?" asked May, coming up alongside them, nodding at the curtained hospital room.

Simmons frowned. 

"Not as far along as we hoped," she replied quietly. "Her unchecked Quake force might have caused more harm than we thought at the beginning."

Phil quickly moved to the door of the room, May right behind him. Entering it, he gently pushed the curtains aside, and held back his gasp as he looked the still form in the bed over.

"Daisy..." he whispered. "Has she woken up at all?"

May's frown increased as she looked over the charts, and Simmons shook her head.

"No. We've been expecting her for a day or so now, but nothing."

"Damn it." Phil said with remorse. "I would've had Robbie bring us right back from Vormir if I had known..."

"I know." said May quietly. "Like I said, there wasn't much time to debrief when we got back."

The two shared a quick glance. Simmons noted a faint flush on Phil's cheeks, but decided to let it pass.

"I would have told you in the morning. Before you went parasailing."

"Parasailing?" asked Fitz dubiously. "Really?"

"Long story." responded Phil, taking Daisy's hand.

As the three other Agents gathered around Daisy's charts, a third figure slipped in and took up the space on the other side of the bed. Fitz looked up at the movement and let out a large gasp. Simmons looked up sharply, and clapped her hands over her mouth, muffling her surprised scream.

Lincoln looked up sheepishly.

"Hi, guys."

Fitz pointed at him accusingly.

"You're dead!" he demanded, Simmons nodding beside him.

Lincoln shrugged.

"Rescued in the nick of time, kidnapped, held incommunicado for a few years, you know how it goes."

"Yes...we certainly do..." muttered Fitz.

Lincoln's eyebrows rose.

"I really wasn't expecting you to agree to that...more snarkiness like Director Coulson here."

"Hey!" protested Phil absent-mindely, still focused on Daisy.

Lincoln joined the agents.

"Can I see her charts?" he asked.

Handing them over, Simmons asked, "What are you doing back here?"

Flipping through them, Lincoln frowned in concentration.

"Here to help Daisy."

"About three years too late for that, mate..." muttered Fitz.

"Now THAT'S more like it..." responded Lincoln, never lifting his gaze from the papers. He finally looked up at May.

"Who did this to her?" he asked.

"Thanos."

"He's dead?"

"Yep."

"Too bad."

Lincoln tucked the files under his arm and rejoined Phil at Daisy's side.

Phil turned over Daisy's hand.

"Come on..." he urged. "Need you to wake up. You can't leave us hanging here, Daisy. Not when we fought so hard to get everything back...we can't lose you now."

Simmons swallowed hard. She knew that with each passing day, Daisy slipped further away from them.

She reached out and took Fitz's hand.

Phil gripped Daisy’s hand a little tighter. It warmed slightly under his touch.

"Come on...you're the only one who can save me from May and Nat..."

"Not likely..." muttered May.

"Fine, then, you need to get back here and help them kick my ass, Daisy."

The lights flickered, barely noticeable. If anything, the light around Daisy...increased?

May's eyes widened. She stepped forward, but Lincoln met her gaze and urgently motioned her to stay still.

The agents watched as Phil and Daisy's joined hands glowed briefly. Phil didn't seem to notice, his head bent, eyes closed in despair.

"Please, Skye...I love you..." he whispered desperately to the daughter of his heart, tears threatening to fall from his shut eyes.

The glow faded and the room was silent.

"Dammit...AC..." came a whisper.

The monitors began to beep and chirp, bringing every single monitor up. Lincoln and Simmons rushed to them, tapping away rapidly, confirming what they were seeing. May stepped forward and gripped the end of the bed.

"Won't you ever get it right?" the voice continued.

The patient raised her eyelids groggily, and gave Phil a weak glare.

"My name is DAISY..."

The Agents all stared at each other, then at Phil.

"Holder of Souls, Phil? REALLY?" groaned May.

Lincoln's eyes had widened, and he carefully stepped away from the side of the bed, towards the wall.

"What happened to you, Director?" breathed Simmons.

Phil let go of Daisy's hand, and brought his up to eye level. It was pale, scarred from too many battles, slightly wrinkling with age.

In other words...normal.

He lifted his gaze towards May.

"I have no idea."


Back at the Science Centre, Sharon joined Shuri at her monitors.

"You said you had something?" she asked the younger woman. 

Shuri shook her head. 

"I don't know what I have. I'm about to call Agent Fitz down, but Coulson is upstairs with them and Daisy now."

She walked over to another set of monitors, and the Wakandan scientist in front of them bowed her head and gave way.

"Maybe...when Stark gets SI back online...." she mused, scrolling over the data.

Sharon lifted an eyebrow.

"Sorry, just a plain old Agent here. What exactly am I looking at?"

"Wakanda was prepared for another ending for the battle against Thanos. If he had..." she paused, swallowing hard, "won...then the Earth needed to be prepared for a second wave. We enabled our satellites to monitor for anything unusual.”

Natasha joined the two women at the station, and Shuri acknowledged her with a nod. 

"See here?" 

Shuri zoomed the image until the borders of Wakanda filled the screen, and hit the resume button.

"This is yesterday."

A green dot pulsed and expanded for a moment, then died down.

"That is Wong and Wanda bringing the others home from Titan. It has its own energy signature. I'm filtering it out... now."

She expanded the globe, letting the time run. A purple dot pulsed quickly in the South Pacific. 

"And I believe that to be Robbie Reyes dropping off Coulson and May in Tahiti....so I can filter those out."

She turned to the others.

"The Kamar-Taj people and Reyes are the only ones I know of who could make pulses like this. It's the bending of energies to allow transport from one location to another. We're studying it here, but nothing practical yet."

Shuri tapped on the keyboard, and the globe began to quickly reverse itself.

"I'm taking this back to just after Thanos was defeated. I've filtered out the known...but..."

A small reddish-orange blip in Western Canada. Sharon frowned. 

"Zoom in, Shuri?"

As she did, Sharon shrugged.

"That's the Canadian Inhuman base in Alberta. Maybe that's a new one?" 

Shuri shook her head. 

"Keep watching."

A day or so later, according the the computer, a slightly larger blip, on the East Coast of the UK.

Natasha's eyes rose.

"That's Excalibur's location...is the Commonwealth up to something?"

"One might ask why," observed Steve, who had joined them. "Brian was quite specific that he was guarding something while we were fighting Thanos."

"I don't like the sound of that." said Sam, peering over Sharon's shoulder. "Anything else, Princess?"

"Now that you mention it...this is today."

The globe spun and the Eastern United States came up. An even larger blip glowed on the screen.

"Aww...Manhattan?" groaned Sam. "Maybe we got lucky, it hit Jameson."

"I think we should get Tony on the line." Steve observed.

"Might be a little late." 

Nakia moved to join them, the Wakandan holding a phone to her ear.

"I have the Canadian Foreign Minister on the line. They're looking for Tony, seems that their Prime Minister is sending out urgent messages everywhere to get in contact with him."

"Which Tony is probably ignoring..." muttered Steve. 

Steve's phone rang. Pulling it out, his eyebrows raised at the number, and he stabbed at the phone icon. 

"Steve here...Brian?"

"That's two," muttered Sharon. "Coincidence?"

"Not in my world." snarked Natasha. "Which means..."

"Wait!" Shuri's eyes widened. "There's another one...different. Coming from inside the hospital wing!"

Without waiting, she dashed towards the exit, her bodyguards right behind.

"Bucky!" snapped Natasha into her com, hot on Shuri's heels. "Need you at the hospital. NOW!"

"On my way." his voice echoed, and the group disappeared around the corner.

Sharon and Sam looked at each other grimly, loosening their weapons.

"All right, what does Meryln advise?" Steve snapped into the phone, joining the rest. "Well, we think there are more...there are. Great. And the Door is stuck?"

Sam lifted an eyebrow.

"Merlin?" he whispered? "As in King Arthur, Lancelot, Round Table..."

Steve looked up at Sam.

"Brian says that Betsy thinks it's more like something called Monty Python at times. She calls him Tim...what is she talking about?"

 Sharon snorted.

"Leave it for now." she advised as Sam choked back his laughter.

Suddenly, in the middle of the room, a familiar portal opened. Instinctively, Steve placed himself in front of Sharon and Sam, both of whom had their weapons out and trained on the opening.

"I'm gonna need to put you on hold." Steve told the phone, setting it carefully down beside him.

The portal flared, and Stephen Strange crossed into the room, followed closely behind by another man and woman. As the portal shut behind them, the woman's eyes widened and the air shimmered in front of them.

"We come in peace, Steve." she said, her hand stretched out in front of her. "You mind putting the guns away?"

Steve blinked in confusion.

"O..kay?" he responded.

The older man shook his head.

"They don't know who we are, Sue. Remember?"

Her face saddened for a moment.

"Too bad..."

Strange walked over and picked up the phone on the floor.

"Merlyn? I'll be over in a moment. Perhaps you and the Braddocks would like to join this conversation?"

He paused, listening, then sighed.

"Fine...Yes, I can head out to the Kananaskis. We should probably round everyone up in one or two places for the time being."

He disconnected the call abruptly.

"I'll be back shortly."

Another flare, and he was gone.

Everyone blinked at the fading light. Sam sighed.

"He still needs to work on his people skills."

"In that," the man replied, "he's very much like our Dr. Strange."

"Your Dr. Strange?" repeated Sharon, holstering her gun.

He sighed.

"I do hate repeating myself..."

Sharon glared at him. The other woman gave him a sharp nudge in his ribs.

"Oh, do stop being an ass, dear. We haven't even run into Tony yet."

"Good."

She sighed and turned back to the others, dropping her hand.

"I'm Sue Richards, this is my husband Reed. Make a long story short, we're from a different Earth."

Steve dropped his stance and he stared at them in shock.

"Oh boy..."

Sharon's com crackled.

"Carter..."

"Yeah, Nat?"

"We found that different blip. I’m moving up that discussion...”

“Great.” Sharon sighed. “What has Phil gotten himself into now?”


 CODA

Thangza Mana, very junior attache to the Wakandan International Public Relations department sighed loudly. As far as he was concerned, what happened in Wakanda was none of the outside world's concern. And he certainly didn't appreciate the tone that this caller was taking.

"I am VERY sorry," he continued over the phone, "But King T'Challa is currently on a diplomatic mission to the United Nations, and is certainly not available for comment, especially to the...who did you say you were with?"

He paused, listening, and gave an audible sniff.

"Huh. Interesting. No...no...we are certainly not going to comment on any international criminals you say you've seen on Wakandan soil."

He tuned the fellow out, as his gaze travelled the room. Why the King felt this department needed to exist, he didn't know. And why he was stuck here on menial phone duty? The rest of his team were off with the Princess and the outsiders or Nakia and the Council. Why did HE have to...

His ear twigged on a phrase, and he turned his mind back to the converation..

"Aliens, sir? Outer Space? You must be joking...no, you cannot quote me on that. We have the standard 'No Comment' on any internal Wakandan event...real or imaginary."

He huffed at the reply.

"Have a good day, sir..."

Hanging up, he returned to his planning charts. Really, this duty was a waste of his time. Whoever it was from the Washington...something or other...Times, Post, all the same. Not important. Not like this...

Washington, DC

In the Washington Post's headquarters, investigative reporter Mark Ruffalo walked into his editor's office and shut the door. He put a $20 on the table.

"Official 'No Comment' from their International desk. Wouldn't even give up the Avengers on the field."

His editor grinned and swiped the money from the table.

Ruffalo sighed.

"T'Challa's in New York to talk to the UN. Now we know why."

He paused, rubbing his eyes.

"Boss...maybe we should try to get ahold of Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, with who we saw on the field, maybe they can fill us in a little more?"

"No time. Red Johansson says NBC's breaking it tomorrow morning. You bought us a little time to get a head of the pack..."

The editor lifted an eyebrow and Ruffalo flushed, but kept his mouth shut.

"So we gotta act on it."

"What about Col. Rhodes, sir? War Machine was identified as being on the field. That implies US Air Force involvement. But my sources there don't know anything."

The editor sighed.

"If you can find him, and get an additional quote, we'll add it. Otherwise, this goes out on schedule, Mark. It has to...this story has the power to change everything."

"Which is why the government was sitting on it." Ruffalo agreed.

"Strong words, Mark. You ready to back those up?"

"I don't know." he sighed. "It was an alien invasion of Earth. And no one is saying anything. And the ones I see defending us from it...the government would have them back on the Raft in a heartbeat. Wakandans excepted, of course."

The editor inclined his head.

"You don't think that's grounds for a coverup?" Ruffalo finished.

"Never said they weren't. But as soon as this breaks, they'll be coming for us. From both sides. I just want to know if you're ready."

Ruffalo got up and opened the door.

"Absolutely. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I've got 3 hours to track down James Rhodes."

Chapter Text

Stark Towers, New York City

BoW + 3

Stark Tower was quiet.

Almost too quiet, thought T'Challa, making his way into the heart of the server room. Even though it was close to midnight, he would have expected more of the hum and background noise he had grown used to in Shuri's labs in Wakanda. This quiet, however, was unnatural to him, and it set off every internal alarm bell he had inside him.

He turned the corner, and cocked his head in bemusement.

"Evening, your Highness," snarked Tony from the floor, where he was lying, tapping frantically at the holo-keyboard, his head resting on James Rhodes's knee as the colonel carefully assembled colourful puzzle pieces together, reassembling a sphere as they generated in front of him.

"Guest quarters not to your liking?" he continued, never looking up from his task.

Rhodey caught his eye and grimaced in apology.

"No, they're fine." T'Challa responded politely. "I came to see if you needed any assistance, since you haven't been seen since we landed."

He raised an elegant eyebrow.

"You do remember that our meeting is tomorrow, Mr. Stark?" he asked.

"Well, you see, your Worship," continued Tony, "the thing about only being a billionaire businessman is that to keep the money flowing into this organization, which includes the Avengers, by the way, I have to meet certain standards. My product line, to be specific."

He hummed as another section flowed from his fingertips to scatter around Rhodey.

"And the fact that the SI network of servers have been down since I've been off world...nearly four days...well, there are organizations who are screaming about service down times and contracts, and the next round of two bit hustlers swarming around some of our largest accounts trying to siphon them off....and that is just not acceptable. At least my CEO would tell me that's not acceptable, except for she has more pressing priorities. Ones I think you could appreciate since you assisted Barnes with something similar."

T'Challa winced internally. He knew that Pepper Potts was undergoing deprogramming from her HYDRA brainwashing. Obviously this was still a very raw subject with Tony. He took a seat beside Rhodey.

"Hey now," joked Rhodey, "get any closer, and we'll need you to sign the standard NDA."

T'Challa shook his head.

"I don't think that Wakandan technology has anything to fear from Stark Industries."

"I'm hurt, that was low, catman."

Tony flexed his fingers and the sphere shot up from in front of them, rotating, a bright blue in the middle of the room.

"I thought your people would have had backups, nothing was physically damaged." observed T'Challa, watching with interest. "It should have taken a day to bring back up."

"Except Pepper couldn't find this loophole." observed Rhodey. "General Hale infiltrated almost every portion of the SI servers to get what HYDRA needed on the Inhumans, then to take things over after we lost and her daughter won. We needed to clear out HYDRA almost on a line by line basis, but keep the rest of the information intact."

T'Challa whistled softly.

"That is indeed a large undertaking."

"It helps to have a few friends."

Rhodey nodded over at the corner. Sprawled out on a cot was another dusky man, gently snoring on his side.

"Vijay was kind enough to come down and get the process started, once he had his school back underway." Rhodey explained as Tony got to his feet. "His powers over electronics allowed him to go through and highlight the hacked coding. But it took a lot from him, he's been out since we took over."

"I recognize Mr. Nadeer. A good friend to have, considering what he's been through."

T'Challa quietly filed the information about the Inhuman's power away to share with Nakia and Shuri later. They would need to plan for all contingencies, after all.

"And that should do it." Tony announced with a flourish, putting the keyboard on the table.

The sphere spun faster, changing colours to Tony's signature red and gold. A chord sounded, and it disappeared.

Tony paused.

"FRIDAY...you with us?"

T'Challa got up, offering Rhodey a hand. He noted that Tony looked uncharacteristically nervous. This went beyond a profit sheet, T'Challa realized, it was deeply personal. And that too was interesting.

"I am...online, Mr. Stark." came a feminine voice through the speakers.

Tony sagged slightly in relief.

"Online...God, it's good to hear you." Tony said quietly. Then, quickly, his bluster returned. "What is the meaning of this, abandoning your post in this manner? I should have your circuits recalibrated and pop you in the water reclamation project in the Sahara."

"It is good to hear from you too sir...but I am unaware of what would have taken me offline for so long."

"No, you wouldn't, would you?" Tony responded gently.

"I do apologize, Sir..."

"Well...don't do it again!"

Tony thought for a moment.

"FRIDAY, I need you to run full scans, across all sectors, world-wide. Anything not SI install, isolate and destroy. Start with yourself."

"Myself? Have I been compromised, Mr. Stark?"

"I think we all have." Tony noted wryly. "Once everything has been scanned, send the last backups of Vision to the Wakandans. Shuri will get them to Fitz."

He grinned evilly at T'Challa.

"Use the backdoor."

T'Challa rolled his eyes.

"Please, Mr. Stark. We've known that was there since you installed it last year. Shuri uses it to send you cat videos. She thinks it's funny."

"You realize that whatever Wakandan bugs are in my system will be toast." Tony observed.

T'Challa return grin was sharkish.

"If you can find them, Mr. Stark."

The three men quietly exited the lab and made their way to the elevator. A simultaneous buzzing sound came from either side of T'Challa, and he watched in amusement as both men tilted their head slightly, narrowing their eyes at the readout in their glasses.

Tony sighed and shook his head. Rhodey quirked an eyebrow.

"You've gotta talk to him sometime, Tones."

"Maybe in a bit." Tony sagged against the elevator. "I gotta hand it to his people, though. That's the third personal cell number that CSIS has been able to hand off to dear Justin. Now, though..."

He looked up.

"FRIDAY? Block all calls coming from Canada for the foreseeable future to all Stark devices in the Tower."

"Got it boss. Canadian calls are now iced."

T'Challa and Rhodey winced, but Tony perked up at his AI's pun.

T'Challa looked over at Rhodey.

"And you?"

Rhodey shrugged, and ran his hand tiredly through his hair.

"Some reporter out of Washington...says he's with the Post. Low priority. Not that I would be allowed to speak to him anyways. Chain of command, and all that."

"I keep telling you, Rhodester," Tony continued as the elevator opened onto the common area, "tell the Air Force where to shove it and come work for me. I can always use another consultant on my payroll, good for tax breaks."

Rhodey laughed and ambled over to the bar.

"They'd never let me, Tony. I'm supposed to be the military's eye on the Avengers."

T'Challa accepted a glass.

"And how well does that work out for them?" he asked, taking a sip.

Tony grinned, accepting his soda.

"They get stuff..." he acknowledged. "Just not the good stuff."

Rhodes chuckled, making his way from behind the bar and lowering himself onto the couch. T'Challa and Tony followed suit, and the three remained lost in thought for a moment. T'Challa snuck a look at his watch. It read just before one.

"There are times," Tony noted, "when it's just too late to go to sleep. Might as well stay up and see what the day brings."

T'Challa rolled his eyes.

"I'll be turning in shortly." he responded. "We'll be facing a lot of questions tomorrow, and someone needs to be diplomatic about it."

Tony mimed being struck in the heart as Rhodes laughed.

"My dear King..." he exclaimed, "I am the soul of diplomacy."

"Klingon diplomacy...." muttered Rhodey, and Tony gave him a mock glare as he continued to sip at his water.

"Besides, I'm still the face of the Avengers here. Not to mention the whole Inhuman inclusion thing..." Tony shook his head. "Man...that seems so long ago. The concert, the Watchdogs. But now that Thanos has been dealt with, we need to pick it back up. There's too many assholes from HumansFirst and the like still lurking around, waiting for everyone to forget."

"Well, with Thaddeus Ross and Anton Ivanov permanently out of the picture," observed T'Challa, "You should have more room to revamp the Sokavia Accords, move for greater acceptance for the Inhumans."

"It's just a start," noted Tony. "Now that One World has put the Inhumans back on the road to respectability, it's time that we do the same for the other players."

He looked T'Challa straight in the eyes.

"We came so close to losing to Thanos, T'Challa. And his Black Order minions?  Facing them one on one, or even split up like we were after Siberia? If another group like that banded together and came down now, we'd be toast. One of the only things that saved us was the advanced warning Bruce and Agent brought us."

"And the fact that you had started coming back together behind the scenes." added Rhodey.

T'Challa leaned forward.

"What are you thinking of, Tony?"

Tony gave him a long look, then nodded.

"We can't afford to turn our eyes from the stars, not anymore. And, even if they're friendly, like Quill and his team...or even the Asgardians....Earth needs to stand together, present a united front. Whether it be someone ordinary like us..."

Rhodes gave a snort.

"Inhuman...or Enhanced, like Rogers. Like you."

T’Challa narrowed his eyes.

“I have no idea what you are talking about, Mr. Stark.”

Tony waved his hand.

“Oh, please, King T’Challa. We’re not idiots. There’s more to you than your sister’s gadgets. Although they are very good ones, don’t get me wrong. I’d love to scoop her up with that Fitzsimmons and maybe toss Parker into the mix….”

“You’re rambling, Tony.”  observed Rhodes.

“Sorry. Anyways, you’re Enhanced. Somehow. I don’t particularly care…as long as we can count on you to stand with us. Or are you going to go back to that short-sighted insular policy and simply prowl around Wakanada?”

T’Challa sipped at his drink.

“Like you, Mr. Stark, I have my own priorities. Being a leader of a nation means that I must put my people’s needs first.”

As Tony opened his mouth to interrupt, T’Challa lifted a finger.

“However, I agree with you that Wakanda must become part of the…wider…community. But in our own time. Although I suspect that recent events may hasten the process. And I agree with you that we must stand united. I’ve spoken with Thor at length.”

Tony looked surprised.

“I didn’t have time.”

T’Challa nodded.

“He sought me out, ruler to ruler. We have…much…in common that way. He fears that with the fall of Asgard to Ragnarok, Earth has lost a buffer. And with his people’s deaths at the hands of Thanos…there are those out in space who stayed away rather than face them over the nine realms. That deterrent no longer exists.”

“And so there could be more Black Orders, waiting to swoop in.” said Rhodey grimly.

“With Earth and our resources as the prize.” T’Challa agreed. “I also had several conversations with Agent Melinda May about the origins of Inhumans. That they were weaponized humans by an alien race known as the Kree. They’ve already returned once, several years ago. So, yes, Tony. Earth must have some unified force to greet those that would come to call. The question, as always, is under whose leadership? And how?” 

“We have some ideas. I think we can start moving some resources into Phase Two of the One World Foundation.” noted Tony, finishing his drink. “But one thing at a time. First, let’s settle up this whole Thanos business with the UN tomorrow. That might shock a few people into our camp. Then we’ll have some time to breathe, call for a team meeting. See if we can get this moving before the next wave of problems start.”

“Speaking of which,” Rhodey noted, “You really should get some sleep…we don’t need the problems you could cause the UN tomorrow on no sleep, Tony.”

As T’Challa’s phone buzzed, Tony glared at Rhodey.

“I know that tone of voice, James. Did Pepper put you on Tony Duty?”

“Damn straight…”

T’Challa shook his head as he answered the call.

“We have a situation. Well…several situations.”

“Mr. Stark…” interjected FRIDAY. “Someone is overriding the elevator controls. I don’t recognize…”

“I’ll call you back.” T’Challa snapped.

“But...”

Tony activated his Iron Man armour, and T’Challa followed suit with his Black Panther. Rhodes pulled out his service weapon, and took cover, training it on the elevator door.

“What floor, FRIDAY?”

“Yours, Sir.”

As the elevator doors opened, Tony and T’Challa took a defensive stance, readying themselves for anything.

A blue, furry being collapsed onto the floor in front of them.

“Tony…” it gasped.

Tony looked at T’Challa.

“You recognize Cookie Monster here?” he asked.

T’Challa shook his head.

It looked up.

“T’Challa...good…you’re here too…we’ll need you.”

Rhodey stood up.

“Tony, he’s hurt.”

“I’ve…felt better.” it replied. Propping itself…himself, Tony noted…up, he staggered towards the others. Tony and T’Challa instinctively caught him and lowered him on the couch.

“FRIDAY, get me medical up here, now!”

“Just a flesh wound…really. No…Holy Grail…references.”

“How did you know…” Tony asked, choking back the Monty Python quip. “Who are you?”

The blue eyes opened, confused.

“Hank…McCoy…have the others been in touch?”

“What others?”

“Ahh…”

Hank’s eyes began to close.

“Oh no...stay with me, hairball…”

Hank’s lips twitched.

“You’re…just like him…”

The eyes shut.

“FRIDAY?”

“They’re on the way, Sir.”

“Hurry…”

T’Challa stood up, and redialed the number on his phone. As the other end picked up, his eyes narrowed.

“Tell me about these….situations…”


 

CODA

Las Vegas

The young assassin sighed as she resheathed her blades. She ran her hand through her closely cropped hair, and took a picture of the bodies as proof.

Some crime bosses would do anything to get out of paying.

As she stepped into the early morning sky, she felt a mist swirl around her feet.

Mist? In the desert?

She pulled her blades back out as the mist swirled higher around her, tugging at her, pulling her somewhere.

She opened her mouth to scream, and the mist poured inside, choking her, obscuring her vision.

An orangish-reddish pulse contracted around her…then everything went white.

As the mist faded away, a young woman stood there, a pair of guns in her hands. She gazed, bemusedly around her.

This isn’t Vancouver.

She ran her hand through her afro, and a glint of something shiny caught her eye. Holstering the guns, she bent down to pick it up.

Vegas?

Well…time to get some funds. Then a drink. Then figure out what the hell was going on.

As she strolled towards the strip, she knew everything would work out.

She was…lucky…that way.

As she moved pass the shops, the channel flashed BREAKING NEWS, and the KSNV announcer muttered something about going live to Washington.

“Hello, I’m Olivia Tyler, and we have breaking news this morning. Here with me now is Washington Post reporter, Mark Ruffalo.”

“Hello, Liv…”

Chapter Text

BoW + 4

Washington, DC
9:00 AM (EST)

When Secretary of State Clark Gregg got angry, he didn't scream. Didn't yell. Didn't throw things, didn't upend tables. He got quiet. Intensely quiet.

The people sitting around his boardroom table could barely hear him. He leaned forward, bracing himself on the table.

The rest of the room reflexively leaned back.

"How. The. HELL. Did THIS get out?" he snarled.


New York City 

6:30 AM (EST)

"Tony?"

"Mmph. Go 'way, James."

"I'm being called back to DC."

Tony snapped his head up.

"We need you here at the UN," he groaned "...any way?"

James Rhodes shook his head.

"Shit's really hit the fan, Tones. I might need that consulting job. That is, if they keep me off the Raft."

He tossed a newspaper on the bed.

"Washington Post?" Tony asked asked he unfolded it. "Come on Rhodey...oh."

He stared, stunned at the front page, then up at his friend.

"Oh, shit..."


6:15 AM (EST)

T'Challa snapped open his phone, and punched in a number.

They did NOT need this. He cursed himself for a fool, then Rhodes for not picking up the damn phone, then himself again.

"Nakia, are you seeing this?"

"I am. I am finding that ignorant son of a..."

"Gather everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. Our UN meeting just got postponed."


6:00 AM (EST)

Every NBC Station

The early morning news team looked puzzled, resigned or annoyed, depending on what local story they were breaking.

"Everyone, we're gonna have to stop it here, we've got live, breaking news from our DC affiliate, WRC. We're taking you there now."

The picture fuzzed, then sharpened on a striking brunette sitting at the news desk, who was usually seen in front of the White House.

“Hello, I’m Olivia Tyler, and we have breaking news this morning. Here with me now is Washington Post investigative reporter, Mark Ruffalo.”

The camera went to a split screen, with a stylishly disheveled older man, looking somewhat tired, framed in the second window.

“Hello, Liv…”

"Mark, we have a story so unbelievable...if I hadn't heard that voice that we all did, I couldn't have credited it. Can you set us up?"

"Be happy to. Four days ago the world heard the voice a a person claiming to be Director Phil Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, speaking to another being identified only as Thanos, claiming that half of all known life in the universe had almost been killed. Two days ago, I and a producer at NBC News was given access to classified footage of events which lead us to believe that those claims could be correct."

The screen went dark, as NASA footage appeared on the screen, showing several ships descending from space through the atmosphere.

"Mark, what are we seeing here?" said Liv on voiceover.

"Liv, these ships, not of any identifiable Earthly origin, appeared in our system 4 days ago." replied the reporter.

They watched as the ships moved pass the monitors.

"Those are...fBLEEPg big." Liv said in a shaky voice. "Where were they headed?"

As the monitors turned, the African continent came into view.

"Those ships landed in Wakanada, a country which only recently began to interact with the wider global community. At first, we could only theorize that they landed close to the capital city, as the region looked deserted, with limited structures. But if we speed the time frame up just a little..."

The satellite imagery zoomed in on the surface, as the ships landed. Or attempted to land.

"It seems like the Wakandans were putting up a fight." Liv noted, as several ships were hit by weapons fire and disintegrated.

"It does. This level of response indicates that they were awaiting an attack like this."

As the footage rolled, black dots rolled out of the ship, and massed at a gathering point.

"Mark, is this an ALIEN invasion of Wakanda? Of EARTH??"

"It certainly seems like that, Liv. Watch as a splinter group starts to move to the north here, taking a circular path towards the west."

"But there's nothing there...forested area..."

The the landscape fuzzed, as the NASA satellite seemed to re-calibrate. Then it changed, and the primitive huts became much, much more complex. In front of it stood an army, with others hovering over the sky.

"Oh my...those weren't there before."

"Our sources noted that this was highly classified and experimental technology designed break through heavy shielding."

All of a sudden a patch winked out of existence, and the black dots began to pour into Wakandan territory.

"Oh, my GOD!" Liv gasped.

Two figures sprinted in front of the charging defenders, and met the aliens head on.

"Who are those?"

The image zoomed closer, to the point where individuals could be pinpointed. One figure held a triangular block above its head, then smashed it down. A star was barely visible.

"Mark...is that...Steve Rogers? Captain America?"

"We believe that it is. And he is fighting alongside King T'Challa, also known as the Black Panther."

"But...he's wanted...internationally. What is he doing in Wakanada?"

"He's not alone."

Two figures swooped down, picking off aliens on the ground.

"Now this one, with the glider, we know is probably Sam Wilson, also wanted. But this other..."

A familiar figure made a path through the landscape, giving the defenders some room.

"That looks like War Machine, which is normally piloted by Col. James Rhodes, of the US Air Force."

"The US military is taking part in this battle?"

"Well, Col. Rhodes is the only one we could identify. And over here..."

The image panned, and a large armoured figure lumbered clumsily around the field, barreling into aliens.

"We haven't seen that in several years, but our sources say that is the Hulkbuster armour, last seen in South Africa when Tony Stark had to stop a rampaging Hulk."

"So is that Tony Stark?"

"We don't know, Liv. Tony Stark and several others disappeared from New York's Central Park the previous day, fighting yet another group of what was described to be other aliens."

All of a sudden the picture went white, and offline.

"Mark?"

"We have to do some more fast forwarding, Liv, but I think you'll understand why once the picture comes back on...now."

The picture snapped back up, and the black dots were now joined by circular vehicles, which seemed to have the defenders back on their heels. However, in the front was a new figure, shooting lightening bolts across the field.

"Lightening...is that Thor?"

"It certainly looks like it."

"Mark, this may sound stupid, but Captain America, Falcon, War Machine, Thor, maybe Iron Man...are those the Avengers?"

A red bolt shot out of one of the trenches, smashing several of the machines together.

"Liv, to make a long story short, after several reviews of this footage, we believe that we can identify just about every past member of the Avengers on the field. Plus a couple of extras."

The camera zoomed in on a tree like being and a smaller...animal...with a LARGE gun.

"These for example. We have not been able to identify them. And over here, taking off about...now..."

A figure burst from the ground, her arms thrust behind her, pushing her towards the buildings.

"That...power...we've been able to link it to the SHIELD Inhuman, Agent Daisy Johnson, known as Quake."

"So SHIELD again."

"That's right."

They watched as the alien forces were slowly beaten back, their leaders on the field defeated.

"The battle seems to be won, Mark."

"It does Liv, but watch. The figures we're identifying as Avengers are hurrying off the field, towards this area in the northwest. Again, there seems to be only trees, a mountain area. The Avengers disappear."

On the field, the human dots began to clean up the field. As the time sped up, the picture pulsed, and the numbers scrolling across the bottom of the picture went haywire.

"Ok, something is happening here...those numbers..."

"We can't tell what they are either, Liv. But, as you can see, there is no concern on the field. This happens a second time."

As the numbers jumped, the feed shut off, and the anchor and reporter returned to the screen.

"Liv, the timing of the second is important. By our calculations, it happens immediately prior to Coulson's speech."

"So you think this Thanos was behind this?" Liv asked.

Mark hesitated, then removed his glasses for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Replacing them, he looked back up the camera.

"There's no way to be certain, but the timing certainly supports the statement. Shortly thereafter, the Wakandan field snaps back up, obscuring the country."

The two sat in silence, the anchor stunned, the reporter taking a sip of water.

"And this was four days ago? Why..."

"Haven't we heard? Well, the first question is, what did the rest of the world know? The Wakandans knew. The Avengers certainly knew. SHIELD, which was supposed to be dismantled after Director Jeffrey Mace's murder, seems to be back, and they knew. What did our government know?"

"Secondly," Mark continued, "We have to ask about the connection between Wakanda and the group of Avengers wanted under the Sokavia Accords. Rogers, Wilson, Natasha Romanoff, Wanda Maximoff, they were all identified, fighting, side by side with the King of Wakanda and his forces. They are all still wanted for numerous violations of the Accords...what are they doing in Wakanda of all places?"

"And while we're at it, Liv, let's talk about the flip side of this whole thing. What would have happened if the Accords had worked as written? There is no way that the Avengers would have taken the field at Wakanda. It would have had to have been an approved mission, ratified by the UN committee, which has yet to authorize any action by an Enhanced or Inhuman signatory."

"Other than Iron Man."

"Other than him...and we are not 100% certain that was him on the field - it looked at times as if a child was in control. The Wakandan forces...they did not look strong enough to defeat these beings on their own. The Enhanced and Inhumans, fighting, again in direct violation of the Sokavia Accords, turned the tide in this battle."

He paused, then leaned forward.

"What would have happened if they weren't there?"

Liv had been passed some papers during Mark's speech, and she looked up, a serious look on her face.

"Mark, this is just in. The BBC has obtained, from an internal government source, that a spaceship attacked a town in the Eastern UK, about the same time as the attack in Central Park. They are theorizing that the two attacks were connected...do you think that these would be connected to the invasion of Wakanda?"

Mark's eyes narrowed, listening to the additional information. He glanced to the side. Red Johansson stood smirking in the background. He swung his attention back to the camera.

"Without having read the document, it really would be irresponsible of me to speculate."

Liv's face fell a little as Mark's return shot hit home.

"But three separate attacks in two days? Are these the opening shots in a larger war, or was this Coulson right? Did it end with Thanos' defeat?" she pressed.

"I think that the best answer lies with the people that were there at the time. We reached out to the Wakandan government, specifically telling them what we wanted to talk about, and were met with a "Standard No Comment."

Mark huffed a little.

"And we also tried reaching out to Col. Rhodes, but no reply. Our other sources in Stark Industries and the UN overseeing committee for the Accords said they had no idea what we were talking about, and referred comment to Tony Stark. When he became available."

"When...so that implies that he is back on Earth."

Mark shrugged.

"Mark, let's also not forget about this Coulson person..."

"Well, that's interesting, because we at the Post did some digging."

He shot a quick glance at Red, who was now scowling.

"In his message, Phil Coulson also mentioned a Melinda May. We paired her name with Daisy Johnson, and looked through recent White House announcements. We found that both Agents May and Johnson were among those recently given full pardons by the President for their actions undertaken on behalf of SHIELD. And that occurred around the same time as the arrest of the former Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross."

He quirked an eyebrow.

"Now, according to the New York City Health Department, Phil Coulson is still officially dead, one of many killed during the Battle of New York. However, a pardon was issued for one Pablo Jimenez, and when you take a look at his picture, the resemblance is...striking. We were able to reach Lian May, Agent May's mother for comment. I'm afraid it was...unprintable."

"So...where do we go from here?" Liv asked.

"King T'Challa is scheduled to meet with the UN committee on Enhanced and Inhuman persons this morning on a unspecified matter. My sources within the UN note that his entourage is scheduled to include James Rhodes, Bruce Banner and Thor Odinson. We can only surmise what they were going to talk about, but I would hope it would include the events that took place in Wakanda four days ago."

"Has there been any sign of the Avengers since that battle? How about Phil Coulson or his SHIELD Agents?"

Mark shook his head.

"No, no sign of any of the Enhanced connected to the Avengers or SHIELD. Excuse me, that's not quite correct. SHIELD Inhuman Asset Elena Rodriguez was admitted to hospital just prior to the events which we have been describing. She and her partner, Agent Alphonso Mackenzie have been seen in the hospital, but have been unavailable for comment. I note that they also received pardons."

"Well, there are millions of questions which need to be asked this morning of a lot of people." Liv started to wrap up.

"I agree, and I will be one of the first to be asking them." agreed Mark. "But one of my first, Liv, will be one that I've asked this morning. What would have happened to the world if the Sokavia Accords had kept the Avengers off the field in Wakanda? And does that mean that Steve Rogers had a point when he refused to sign?"

"Those are both good ones. I'm sure we'll be talking further about them in the days to come."

"I'm sure that we will be."

"Thank you. That was Mark Ruffalo, investigative reporter with the Washington Post. For NBC News, I'm Olivia Tyler. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming."