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To Stem the Tide of Death

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The map was not made of paper. Rather, it was stored on this small, smooth, round stone. As Gamora activated it, the two sides split apart, allowing the array of star charts to be projected into the air of the dark alley above her hand.

Gamora fingered a small silver cylinder with her right hand, knowing the danger of this map existing. The glittering stars showed blue against the hodge-podge of building materials that made up the two structures she stood between.

Garbage was heaped around the sides of the alley, making it difficult for prying eyes from the market beyond to see what happened there. This was something that Gamora would be dearly thankful for in future days, weeks, months, years.

Her brown eyes rested somberly upon a glimmering red point on the star chart—Vormir. Her thumb brushed the silver cylinder again. She raised her forearm nearer to the cursed map, halting only for the sensation that passed through her in that instant. She froze entirely.

Not for the first time that day, the hair on the back of Gamora's neck raised and a chill passed down her spine. She tore her eyes away from the representation of Vormir and glanced quickly to the left—right—left—and turned around.

There, a glowing figure floated inches above the ground. He looked to be maybe early thrities, his dark hair and goatee combed immaculately, his hard blue eyes staring at her quietly. If he had been solid, the red of his cloak would have been quite striking, and the amulet resting on his chest would have gleamed golden and green thanks to gem it held.

Gamora pursed her lips and returned the man's stare, raising one eyebrow in expectation.

“Gamora, listen carefully” the voice came at last, sounding as ghostly as the appearance of the man it came from. “You are faced with a decision that will forge the universe to come.” The man, she saw, certainly wasted no time.

She maintained her straight face, pondering the idea of a response. “And what should I choose?” She asked coolly. Her thoughts, however, flicked through dozens of decisions regarding this map. She should burn it, and never reveal the place, never let it fall into Thanos' hands...

“It is a thing that has only brushed your thoughts,” he said levelly, still staring intently at Gamora. “Go to Vormir. It is the only way you can change what is to come.”

How he knew of Vormir, she was unsure, but she knew better than to argue. She would make her own choice.

The man faded away in a haze of green light.

Gamora clenched her left fist, shutting the map down. She shoved her hands into her pockets and stalked out of the alley, making her way to her spacecraft.