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Tear Through Reality

Chapter Text

David walked along the surfaced submarine, the ocean waves gently lapping along the sides. Anyone else would look upon the glittering red waters under the setting sun and be taken by the beautiful sight.

However, David was not moved at all. He only had one thought in mind, the same thought that plagued his mind for so many years. His eyes flitted from the waters to the radar sensors flashing in his HUD. He scowled a little when his scanners returned nothing he was looking for. Just slow moving marine animals and the heat signatures behind him.

David turned around, scowling malevolently as he faced the real core component of his plan. He stepped towards the vital key, kneeling down in front of one of them. David cradled their chin in his gauntleted hand, tilting their face up while focusing the big glowing red eyes of his visor on them. David pursed his lower lip, unsheathing one of his long knives from the side of his boot and pressing the tip of the blade against the neck. He heard panicked, muffled pleas from the owner of the neck and David tightened his grip on the knife’s handle, very tempted to shut the racket up. Then again… There was no point, his target hadn’t arrived yet. There was no point if the target wasn’t around to witness the death.

David turned his head to look down along the line of sailors he had tied up, twirling his knife in hand. He still had a few to wear his target down, he could spare one. Walking towards the hostages, they began to beg and cry out, though the gags made it all noise. Still, even if those gags were removed, their words would still be noise; at least with those gags, it made their noises bearable. However, with the lack of progress in this plan, David sheathed his blade, switching to infrared vision while looking out to the shallow depths of the surrounding waters. He unlatched the gun from his back, taking brief aim at a slow-moving sea turtle before pulling the trigger and firing a harpoon. The projectile flew into the waters, a black leather cord trailing behind it. David felt the gun buck a bit in his hands before flipping a switch beside the trigger to reel the harpoon in.

A man breached the waters, leaping out from the surface while tossing aside the black cord he had in his hand. Throwing away his harpoon gun, David instinctively pulled out a longknife and was stopped mid-swipe when the Aquaman grabbed David’s forearm and smashed his fist into David’s gut. Sucking in his stomach with a grunt and quickly shaking off the momentary daze, David exchanged a few blows, scoring a few unsatisfactory nicks on Aquaman before David powered up his visor, the big beady eyes glowing red. Aquaman uppercutted the helmet, a loud echoing clang sounding from the impact. David grinded his teeth as a burning plasma beam fired from his visor and harmlessly into the sky before headbutting Aquaman and kicking him away. Taking out his other longknife, David spun the knives in his hands before holding them in reverse grips and readying himself.

“Manta, we’ve been playing this game for far too long. It ends tonight ,” Aquaman said curtly.

“As long as I’m breathing, it will never end until you’re dead! ” David retorted before lunging forwards and slashing at him. Just seeing Aquaman made everything else blurry and seem insignificant. For the time being, it was just him and Aquaman on this submarine.

Aquaman brought the trident tied to his back forwards, blocking David’s knives with the trident’s shaft. Each unsuccessful blow made David more and more frustrated, but he quickly tempered himself; he learned from experience to not let his anger overwhelm him. David thrust one of his long knives forwards, which was knocked out of his hand. David then went on the defensive, dodging and deflecting any swipes from the trident. David feigned a stumble, which prompted Aquaman to thrust his trident forwards.

David quickly sidestepped and clashed his remaining long knife in between two of the trident arms, twisting the knife upwards to force the trident head up. Letting go of the knife, David looped his arm around the staff, immediately tightening around it before shooting out a blade from his wrist to stab it towards Aquaman’s accursed face. His target quickly raised one half of the trident’s staff, clashing with David’s forearm and veering his blade up. The tip sliced across Aquaman’s brow, opening up a shallow cut.

“Just… die…” David growled, pushing his forearm down on the trident shaft. Aquaman tightened his lips, pushing back.

“Cease this struggle, Manta… It will only end in one way…” Aquaman grunted, opening his lips to show his gritted teeth. David tilted his head slightly down, powering up his visor once more.

“You’re right, only one way,” David snarled. When Aquaman attempted to pull away, David jerked his arms in, his blade grazing Aquaman’s forehead.

Seeing him trapped, David pressed the advantage, powering up his visor. David felt a knee hit his stomach, causing him to double over. He used the momentum to headbutt Aquaman with his heavy helmet. David heard a strained grunt as the glowing red eyes burned against Aquaman’s forehead.

“This ends today!” David roared.

Suddenly, the submarine bucked a bit, stumbling David. Aquaman suddenly twisted his trident clockwise, straining David’s elbows and forcing him to loosen his hold. In the span of a quick second, David felt the trident’s shaft knock into his stomach before it pulled up abruptly to catch him under the chin. The plasma beam fired skywards once again before he stumbled to the side as the blunt end of the trident smashed into the side of his helmet.

Falling onto his stomach, David let out a frustrated scream, stabbing his armblade into the submarine’s surface before pulling it back out and rolling away to avoid a trident swipe. Getting to his feet and moving a short distance away, a flashing red icon in his HUD indicated a damaged left thruster for his jetpack. David dismissed it, eyeing the tied up sailors before spreading his feet a little further apart to keep his balance as the submarine shook again. He tightened his fists, his arms shaking in barely contained anger as he stared at Aquaman.

“Manta, surrender now. You’ve tried and you’ve failed many times. End it,” Aquaman ordered, raising his trident and pointing it at David.

“That’s one difference between you and me, Aquaman,” David said in a dangerously calm voice, pursing his lower lip as he slid his arm blade back into his gauntlet. “Collateral damage.”

David activated the thrusters in his legs and jumped off the submarine, crossing his arms over his chest and straightening his legs to pencil-dive into the waters. He boosted through the waters, running an X-ray scan and infrared scan. He honed in on the generator room, two turrets unfolding from his shoulders before seeing the outline of a whale slowly bringing its head away from the submarine.

You’ve ruined my chance, you stupid fish! ’ David thought scathingly, unsheathing both of his arm blades while redirecting both of the turrets to the animal.

Then, David dipped to one side as one of the turrets was wrenched from his shoulders while something dug in between his shoulder blades. David quickly fired a low-powered shot from his visor, bucking his head back to hit Aquaman and knock him away. David turned around, aiming his remaining turret at Aquaman. His ever elusive target held his trident in front of him, effortlessly hovering in the waters.

The turret suddenly swivelled towards the submarine and fired a torpedo.

“NO!” Aquaman cried out, zooming forwards towards the vessel.

Quickly folding his turret back into his shoulder, David boosted through the water with the jets in his legs, intercepting Aquaman and tackling him into the side of the submarine. David threw a punch towards Aquaman’s face, but only met metal as his foe veered his head to the side to avoid the blow. However, David shot the blade out, stabbing into the hull and moving his arm towards his enemy’s head.

Aquaman kicked his legs out, causing a strong current that shot him to the side. David felt the current pull at him and he nearly lost his grip on Aquaman, but he activated his leg thrusters, the embedded blade slicing across the length of the submarine. Why won’t this goddamn Atlantean just die already?

David was suddenly pulled away as something exploded from inside the submarine, blasting both him and Aquaman away from each other. David was thrown further into the depths. Through his spinning world, he saw the submarine crumbling, indicating that the torpedo had made its mark. Then, the sight was ripped away as David was thrown around like a ragdoll. If his jetpack had been fully functional, he might’ve been able to escape… But thanks to that Atlantean bastard, David’s jetpack was damaged and his functioning leg thrusters weren’t enough, leaving him to the elements.

David curled up and coughed out when his back slammed against a rocky wall, receiving a red warning that his leg thrusters were now damaged beyond use. His limbs flailed around as he was helpless to the strong currents. David forced himself to focus on his GPS locator on his HUD, seeing through his blurred vision that he was travelling further and further into the oceans and away from any mainlands.

Then David’s world came to a halt, freeing him from the violent spinning as he slammed against a soft surface. Regaining his breath, he assessed his vitals and suit status. Miraculously, he was bruised and quite beaten, but no major injuries were present. Every  thruster on his suit was destroyed, one shoulder turret was still operational, power supply was still intact, and both arm blades were present. His suit was holding and wasn’t too damaged, just some missing armour plating and chips dotted around.

David struggled to his feet, looking at his surroundings. He had crashed into a seabed near a rock crevice. Several strands of seaweed were swaying slightly. Some crabs were scuttling around the ground and small schools of fish were swimming at a safe distance away from him. David narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of a faint, pulsating light in the crevice. He slid out an armblade and cautiously entered the opening, shuffling through the narrow passage before his eyes widened upon reaching the other side.

Skyscrapers were towering from the ocean floor, flickering lights shining through the dark depths of the ocean. Glass passages trailed between buildings along different floors. Flashing neon signs glowed brightly, seeming to advertise anything imaginable: food, furniture, pleasure, even hospital and firefighter services. David checked his location; according to his GPS, he was approximately 433 kilometres west of Reykjavik. He was nowhere near any logged cities of Atlantis, so this must’ve be an abandoned city. However, the architecture of the buildings didn’t match Atlantis’s structures, not even remotely.

David narrowed his eyes, looking over the cliff and spotting what looked like the entrance to a glass passage that led into a building. The sign hanging off from the side had a neon clown head dancing side to side with the words ‘CIRCUS OF VALUES’ flickering. David pressed on, jumping off the cliff and sliding along the side of the rock face before coming to a stop in front of the heavy metal door. He held onto two of the spokes protruding from the metal wheel, attempting to turn it counterclockwise. It held firm, to which he made one abrupt pull and managed to get the wheel spinning.

A bright red light shone as he pulled the door open slowly, letting water flow into the short passage before he stepped inside. David shut the door behind him and a loud blare sounded in the small room. He looked up as the water level receded and he glanced over his shoulder to see the water being vented back out into the ocean. Then the room went from a bright red to a bright green as the door ahead of him opened automatically, admitting him into the building.

David slowly stepped into the building, his turret unfolding from his shoulder and swivelling around. For all intents and purposes, it seemed that this building was abandoned. It sure as hell looked like it. Puddles and small areas were already flooded with water, trash and junk was littered everywhere, not a soul was in sight. He ran infrared scans, but it returned no heat signatures near his location.

Now that he looked even closer, David noticed that there weren’t even any rats or bugs. Sliding out both swords from his gauntlets, David was not reassured in the slightest by the lack of any life here. That usually meant something worse was around.

Chapter Text

“1655, status report? Anything you’ve found on your patrol?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, command. Just some smugglers passing by Jupiter,” John replied, hovering his glowing green ring near his lips. “I’ve disabled their engines and tied them up, they’re ready for pick-up at the following coordinates.”

“Copy that, continue your patrol. We’re sending another unit to retrieve them,” the ring replied back.

John glanced over his shoulder at the drifting ship, trailing smoke behind its broken thrusters. He then transmitted his current coordinates back to Oa before raising his clenched fist above his head, causing the ring to glow brighter as he sent over the ship’s location back to high command.

“I’m going to be running another patrol before moving onto the next sector. I’ll report in if I ever find anythi-” John continued before his green ring started beeping and flashing frantically. “Hold on, ring’s picked up on something. Energy anomaly, located near Ysmault. I’m on my way to investigate.”

“Affirmative, 1655, but stay on your guard,”

“Acknowledged and understood, command,” John replied before conjuring a large compass construct that swivelled around once before firmly pointing towards a specific direction. John brought both of his fists forwards and flew through space, maintaining the compass and following the arrow. He approached the reddened and dusty planet of Ysmault, stopping mid-flight when the compass arrow suddenly veered 180 degrees.

John furrowed his brow, hovering in place and glancing over his shoulder to assess the area. According to the compass, he had overshot the anomaly, but he was seeing nothing. The compass faded away and John reconfigured the ring to simple energy detection. It was flashing and beeping quickly the same as before.

“Command, I’ve reached the location of the energy anomaly, but I got no visuals,” John reported, taking another look around and shaking his head when he saw nothing. “I’m going to have to move onto the next sec-”

John paused mid-sentence as he spotted what looked like a white shimmering light that suddenly appeared at the approximate location of the anomaly.

“Scratch that, anomaly’s been spotted. If I don’t report in five minutes, send backup to my location,” John said, slowly flying towards the glowing light.

“We’ll have them on standby, 1655. Take caution,” the ring advised. John nodded a little and turned his attention back to the anomaly.

John circled around the light, keeping his distance and studying it. He definitely wasn’t an amateur to bizarre things and with that experience, he knew that when it came to unknown things, it had to be observed very carefully. John tilted his head slightly to the side after hearing something peculiar emitting from the light. John took a risk by approaching the light, creating an assault rifle construct and aiming it towards the anomaly while listening intently. Voices, sounding as if they were coming from an old school radio… 50s? 60s?

You… have betrayed me… Now, you will kill him! Or I will destroy you both, ” a raspy voice ordered. Hardly 50s or 60s talk, when has anyone ever said ‘I will destroy you’? Alongside the voice, John heard a mechanical breathing that repeated over and over again. “ Do it now, Lord Vader… Strike him down and prove your loyalty to me!

Then, John heard a pained scream as something smashed hard against something metallic. And then, it happened again. A cackle echoed from the light, clearly relishing in what was happening.

“Command, I’m reading someone being tortured inside the light, I’m moving in!” John said to his ring before he sped towards the energy anomaly.

“Negative, 1655! Hold position and wait for support!” the ring ordered.

Hahaha! Yes~! Kill him, Lord Vader! Hehehe! ” the voice exclaimed with a malevolent joy. Orders be damned, John had to intervene now .

However, he heard a high-pitched wind howl that John recognized all too well to be the vacuum of space. John stopped mid-flight as the light suddenly grew bigger, forming into a shimmering white circle with mist flowing out from the edge. Something flew out through the circle and John dropped the assault rifle, quickly making a parachute construct to catch the ‘something’ before turning the parachute into a sphere to contain what he just caught.

He looked back at the anomaly to see it shrink down to a glowing dot and then fade away. Then, he turned his attention to what he had grabbed… No, it was who he had grabbed. John studied the unmoving body; it was a young man with shaved black hair, dressed in a dark brown and grey tunic and matching pants. Faded, dirtied wraps were around his lower legs and arms, while leather belts were strapped around his torso.

What was more concerning was the burning hole through the man’s stomach that was still slightly smoking and bruises on his visible skin. This must’ve been the man that was being tortured. John saw to his astonishment that the man was still alive and taking ragged breaths. Considering his injuries, this man was one tough son of a bitch...

“Command, I have a person in near critical!” John exclaimed to his ring, looking back and sliding into the protective bubble to study the injury. It was a wound that was straight through the body. Judging from the location, it likely grazed the heart, which meant his lung was punctured too. “I’m keeping him stable for now, but his lung’s punctured and blood flow’s slowed down. I’m going to need medics ASAP at my location.”

“We’re sending in our closest unit to your location,” the ring ordered.

“ETA?”

“15 minutes. Keep him stable until then,”

That’s too long… The man’s going to suffer irreversible brain damage if this wasn’t fixed soon. John eyed the red planet of Ysmault before looking back at the man floating inside the bubble. Guy Gardner was leading the Red Lanterns on the planet. The Red Lantern ring replaced the heart and flooded the wearer’s veins with burning plasma… Not exactly the best way of fixing this guy’s injury, but they could get a Blue Lantern to reverse the corruption afterwards.

John flew down towards the planet and broke its atmosphere while changing the bubble construct into a kind of pod construct to carry the injured man. John was taking a lot of chances with this plan. There was hoping that Guy was on planet and not some other random Red Lantern mook that’ll throw punches and ask questions later… or just throw punches. There was the clear issue of whether this man was even capable of wielding a red ring of power and if his body would hold up to the initial blood frenzy. Even then… There was still that chance that this man could be saved. Waiting for backup would guarantee brain damage.

John emerged from underneath the clouds, spotting a few individuals gathered at the edge of the Blood Ocean. Narrowing his eyes, he found to his relief that one of them was Guy Gardner, likely in a meeting with his Red Lantern Corps. John hovered down onto the ground, setting the pod down slowly while holding his ringed fist up to the side.

“What do you want, Stewart?” Guy grunted, looking quite annoyed at having been interrupted.

“I got a new recruit,” John replied, opening up the top of the pod construct to reveal the unconscious man inside. Guy exchanged looks with the other Red Lanterns before rolling his eyes and walking over.

“I’m not going to recruit a fucking stranger. Besides, where in the hell did you even get this guy?” Guy said curtly before his eyes widened as he saw the injury.

“Long story. More importantly, medical backup is 10 minutes out. He’s going to get permanent brain damage if we wait that long,” John explained.

“How do you even know he’s even eligible?” a Red Lantern pointed out, eyeing the Blood Ocean.

“We are a little undermanned,” a second noted.

“It’s a risk we’ll have to take,” John replied before shaking his head slightly as he looked at the leader of the Red Lanterns while bringing the pod closer to the Blood Ocean. “It’s a chance we’ll have to take, Guy.”

Guy crossed his arms, grimacing a little as he bowed his head, looking down at the ground thoughtfully. The Red Lantern then grunted and nodded to John. John was already hovering the pod above the blood ocean; he hoped to hell that this would work.

“No time to waste then. Fuck it,” Guy said, nodding.  “Dunk him.”

Chapter Text

Peter was hanging from the ceiling of his room, tinkering with the web shooter on his right wrist. The poor thing took a pretty bad hit in the last mission and who knew when the next villainous, diabolical act will happen? He heard his stomach growl and he rubbed it, grimacing.

“Gugh… Could do with some food…” Peter grumbled before he remembered to keep working away at the device. As much as he wanted to eat something , he would rest a lot easier if he went to grab some food after making sure he was at the ready in case something popped up.

Peter tossed the small screwdriver onto his desk before aiming his wrist forwards and closing one eye while looking down his forearm. He fired a few webshots into the target nailed to the wall by the door, hitting a bullseye shot and a few on the inner ring around it.

“Spider-Man’s ready to go…” Peter murmured under his breath as he flipped down to land onto the ground. Pulling down his mask over his face, he reloaded the web canisters in both web shooters with full capsules before he stepped around the clothes and notes strewn around to make his way to his door. “And Spider-Man’s ready to eat~”

Peter walked out into the hallway, moving a few paces when his stomach growled again. Ugh, the main lobby seemed so far away in his hungry mind. Settling into a brief sprint, he brought both of his wrists up, shooting web strings out to stick to the walls quite far ahead. Peter then pulled himself forwards, straightening his legs and bringing his arms flat against his body as he zoomed along the hallway and slowly spun in the air.

Then, someone stepped out of their room from the side of the hallway far ahead, though with how fast Peter was going, he quickly approached them. The person glanced to the side and immediately turned into a green pigeon that squawked in panic and barely flew out of Peter’s way. Peter sped right past the bird before he slowed down and did a somersault upon landing onto the ground as he came to a stop right before the door into the lobby.

“Pete, come on, dude!” a voice exclaimed from behind Peter.

“Sorry, Gar! Hungry!” Peter replied quickly as he continued on his way into the main lobby.

Peter walked to the open kitchen and opened up the fridge, feeling the cool breeze blow on his face. Before he could get a proper look, the lights in the lobby dimmed as a red light started flashing throughout the entire room and a loud alarm blared.

“Aaaw, come on! Can’t a guy get his stomach filled in peace?” Peter groaned, closing the fridge as he jumped up onto the ceiling before slowly lowering himself on a web and hanging upside down in front of the massive computer monitor that booted up.

Glancing over his shoulder, Peter saw Garfield running into the room with Kori flying in shortly afterwards. There was a cloud of purple smoke that emerged before it dissipated as Kurt stepped out from the smoke. A yellow blur zoomed into the room before it slowed down to show Wally standing behind the couch. Kitty phased through the floor and waited by Wally, waving up at Peter when she looked up.

“What’s the sit, K.?” Wally asked, looking over at Kori who floated down to the ground to type at the console. Video footage of what looked like a warehouse came on screen, showing several masked thugs hauling crates onto a truck. A massive and muscular luchador-looking guy was shouting orders, green tubes trailing from his back along his body..

“Bane’s back, huh?” Peter remarked, lowering himself and then hopping off the webstring. He landed beside Kitty, crossing his arms as he looked at the large monitor.

“He’s finishing up on raiding a cargo ship that docked just an hour ago. Likely more Venom formula,” Kori explained, nodding to Peter before turning around with her hands on her hips. “We got no time to waste. Let’s go, Titans!”

“Okay… Everyone come close…” Kurt said, his tail curling up as he held both of his hands out. Peter joined the rest of his team congregating around Kurt, linking hands. “Ready? Three, two, one…”

Spider-Man closed his eyes and sucked in his gut, feeling a rush of heat as Kurt teleported them out of the Titans tower. Hearing a loud puffing sound, Peter immediately opened up his eyes and flipped in the air over a barrel thrown at him before shooting a web at the biggest guy he saw.

¡Mierde!” Bane exclaimed as his arms were pinned against his body from the sticky web. Peter was forced to twist in the air to avoid a punch when Bane broke out of the hold just as quickly. Spider-Man straightened his body as he slid across the ground through the legs of a thug before shooting a web behind into the wall to slingshot himself back and kick the thug down to the ground.

“Get the Venom onto the trucks!” Bane shouted at his henchmen before he pounded his chest with his fist, causing the green fluids in the tubes to flow into his body. He roared and thrust his chest out, green veins glowing through his skin. Peter came swooping in from behind, landing on Bane’s shoulders and covering his face with a few webshots.   

“You know, green’s a good colour on you!” Spider-Man remarked, quickly leaning back while keeping his feet firm against Bane’s shoulders.

Kid Flash came in, rapidly throwing a flurry of straight punches with his right fist into Bane’s stomach before the man ditched trying to pull off the webbing and slammed his fists onto the ground in front of him. Kid Flash had already dashed out of the way while Spider-Man used Bane’s forward momentum to flip over him. Twisting around in the air, Spider-Man brought both of his wrists forward, shooting web strings into Bane’s shoulders to reel in and bring both feet in to smash the luchador in the face to knock him down.

Spider-Man took a second to look around and saw his teammates dealing with the thugs rather efficiently before his Spider-Sense tingled and he quickly jumped off Bane’s shoulders. However, Bane grabbed Spider-Man’s ankle and slammed him onto the ground. Spider-Man felt his breath driven out of him before another hand grabbed the back of his neck as he was lifted up over Bane’s head. A cloud of purple smoke surrounded Spider-Man as he was pulled down by Bane’s hands. Then the hands disappeared and Spider-Man was free, a safe distance away with Nightcrawler’s hand on his shoulder.

“Thanks for the save, Kurt. Wasn’t keen on being a human bendy straw,” Spider-Man acknowledged, high-fiving his teammate before looking back at Bane.

The villain was getting to his feet before bending over slightly and covering his head with his large forearms. Bane was tanking every blow that Kid Flash was throwing his way, the young Titan zooming around and needling Bane with super quick, but practically superficial blows. However, he served as distraction as Shadowcat dove forwards, grabbing onto Bane’s ankles and going through the floor while also slowly pulling him into the ground. He stopped sinking at about waist deep.

“This will not stop me, puta!” Bane growled, the muscles in his arms bulging as he planted his fists onto the ground and cracked the ground around him as he tried to pull himself up.  

“Let’s go!” Nightcrawler urged, nudging the end of his tail against the back of Spider-Man’s head. Spider-Man shook his head slightly and nodded.

“Alright, sleep time for Mr. Macho!” Spider-Man replied, giving a thumbs up to his teammate as the tail wrapped around his wrist.

Nightcrawler leapt off from the shelf, pulling Spider-Man behind him before Spider-Man’s vision was briefly obscured by purple smoke. Then it quickly went away as the tail threw him towards the pinned Bane.

“Bamf with a kick!” Spider-Man exclaimed as his heel connected with the side of Bane’s face before rolling forwards and skidding along the ground.

Nightcrawler appeared beside Spider-Man and wrapped his tail around his teammate’s waist as he slid past. Then Spider-Man was teleported by his teammate in a cloud of smoke once more to reappear by Bane’s left. Nightcrawler threw Spider-Man forwards again, prompting the latter to pull his fist back.

“Bamf with a punch!” Spider-Man remarked as he socked Bane’s jaw, rewarding him with a grunt from the large man before Nightcrawler emerged from blue smoke to bring his tail around his teammate’s waist again. “Third time’s a charm~”

Spider-Man was tossed once again, this time at Bane’s back. This’ll be a double kick, that’ll really knock this big guy out.

“Bamf with a-” Spider-Man started before his Spidey senses tingled at imminent danger and his perception of the world slowed to a crawl as he looked around. There were thugs armed with rifles scattered all around the warehouse all aiming towards Spider-Man flying at Bane..

“FIRE!” Bane bellowed, raising both of his fists.

“Oh god!” Spider-Man exclaimed, his eyes widening before he was enveloped in purple smoke yet again and reemerged on the top shelf of an aisle. “Phew, okay. Way too close! Thanks N.C!”

“We’re not in the clear just yet,” Nightcrawler replied, shaking his head as he pointed down below.

Spider-Man looked down to see Bane’s arms shaking as he flexed them, roaring as his muscles seemed to enlarge and the green tubes glowed brighter. The ground around him tore apart as he pulled himself out. Oh no. Those thugs weren’t aiming at him . Spider-Man’s eyes widened as he caught sight of a dozen darts sticking out of Bane’s exposed skin, their glass capsules empty.

Bane smashed his fist into the ground, sending the entire vicinity shaking. Cracks spread along the ground. Spider-Man quickly jumped off the shelf, swinging down upon seeing Kid Flash stumble mid-sprint. A green bird came soaring in below Spider-Man before turning into a rhino that charged into Bane from behind as Spider-Man smashed both of his heels into the back of Bane’s head before he could throw a punch at the young speedster.

Spider-Man then bounced off Bane’s shoulder and rapidly fired webshots at the faces of any thugs he saw, causing them to drop their guns to pry at the sticky webs covering their heads. Nightcrawler teleported between each of these thugs, knocking them down and out with his limbs and tail. Spider-Man kicked at a thug in the stomach, slamming him into the wall before perching on the balcony railing. Starfire flew into Bane at full speed, but he brought both of his fists up to clash with hers, sending a shockwave through the warehouse. Spider-Man reeled back before swinging down and vaulting over Starfire to shoot multiple webs over Bane’s face to obscure his vision.

Starfire’s eyes glowed green and she fired two beams of green energy into Bane’s chest, sending him sliding back. Spider-Man jumped up to the ceiling to hang from it as a green elephant charged past underneath him, prompting Spider-Man to swing down to follow up behind it. Then, Bane grabbed onto the tusks and lifted the animal up, causing it to trumpet loudly in surprise. With a roar, Bane threw the elephant forwards.

“Oof!” Spider-Man exclaimed as the elephant slammed into him. Starfire managed to dodge the flying elephant before continuing forwards to trade punches with Bane.

The elephant quickly morphed back into Beast Boy while Spider-Man made a web net behind them to fall into and cushion them.

“Try bigger ears if you want to fly, Beast Boy,” Spider-Man grunted, patting his teammate on the shoulder.

“I’ll remember that for next time…” Beast Boy mumbled as he turned into a small hummingbird and fluttered its wings rapidly towards the combating Starfire and Bane. Kid Flash was running circles around the two, throwing rapid bursts of punches whenever there was an opening.  

Spider-Man leapt off the web net and swung across to veer towards the pair. Starfire hit her fists against Bane’s hands, knocking them down. The hummingbird turned into a large snake that wrapped around Bane’s forearms to pin them against his body. Spider-Man shot a string into Bane’s ankle before using the forward momentum to slide circles around the villain, wrapping the web string around Bane’s legs. The villain lifted his arms up from the side, forcing the green snake to loosen its hold before Spider-Man continued circling around Bane, tying his arms to the sides. Spider-Man laid on an extra layer of webbing after seeing the glowing green veins on Bane’s exposed arms.

Nightcrawler then reappeared behind Bane with a hand on Shadowcat’s shoulder before Nightcrawler put his other hand on Bane’s shoulder to teleport away with the villain. Spider-Man looked up to see Bane falling down before he sank into the ground up to his neck. Rising up from the ground, Shadowcat came back to the surface and backed up.

“You think these will hold m-” Bane spat before Starfire flew down and knocked him out with a glowing green fist. Shadowcat pulled him out of the ground and laid the unconscious Bane down onto his back. Hearing sirens blaring from outside of the warehouse, Spider-Man decided, just to be safe, to shoot some more web restraints on the big guy.

“Well done, team…” Starfire praised, smiling and seeming a little out of breath.

“Tough guy…” Kid Flash remarked, his hands on his hips as he stared down at the unconscious Bane.

“Hopefully that’ll hold him till he gets behind a cell,” Shadowcat remarked, looking at the abundance of webs covering Bane’s body.

“Hey, have a little faith. Green juice or not, he’s not getting out of that easy,” Spider-Man replied, pouting his lip behind his mask and crossing his arms before tapping his chin. “Hm… He’s still missing something.”

“What’s that?” Starfire asked curiously. Spider-Man took out a stack of sticky notes and a sharpie marker, scribbling down something and then pasting a sticky note onto Bane’s forehead.

Early Christmas Present to the JCPD. Love, The Teen Titans <3’

“Pfft… Dork,” Shadowcat remarked, laughing. Spider-Man gave her a thumbs up before looking down upon hearing his stomach growling. Oh right, he hadn’t even had the chance of eating something right before they left.

“Hey, guys~” Spider-Man started. The other members of his team turned their heads towards Spider-Man. “Who’s up for pizza?”

Chapter Text

“I sense someone far more powerful nearby. Where is your master?”

“The dark side has clouded your mind… You killed my master years ago!”

“Then now, you will share his fate,”

Galen reached his hand out, pulling the red glowing lightsaber from the man clad in black armour and flowing black cape. His master… former master Vader turned around abruptly, towering over him. Galen felt seething rage upon seeing his traitorous master, but could not control his actions. In fact, his body moved of its own accord, still clutching the lightsaber but not daring to move against Vader. The Jedi Knight held aloft through the Force was clutching at his throat.

“A son…?”

“RUN!”

Galen flinched when Vader clenched his fist, causing the Jedi Knight’s head to twist sharply to the side with an audible crack. Galen gritted his teeth inwardly and tried to will his body into attacking Vader, but it still remained unyielding to his demands.

Then, Galen’s surroundings changed to that of the training room he had often used in the presence of his master. Galen managed to gain control of his body, but with the multiple spheres floating around him and firing blaster bolts, he had to focus on deflecting the shots with the two red lightsabers he had in hand. Galen let out a strained grunt as a bolt sank into his leg and another went into his arm. Despite the hazy feeling that came with being in a dream, the pain from the blaster burns felt real, much too real. Galen let out a frustrated scream, thrusting both of his hands out to the sides and unleashing a Force shockwave that blasted all the floating spheres away to crash against the walls of the training room.

His body shaking as he fought against the burning pain from the blaster shots, Galen straightened himself shakily, gritting his teeth. Then, more spheres emerged and flew towards him, firing at him. His knees buckled as the bolts sank into his body, forcing him to bite his lip to stop himself from crying out. He wasn’t going to show weakness, he wasn’t going to give Vader the satisfaction. Galen let out a roar, raising both of his hands and shooting out blue crackling lightning from the fingertips of both hands. The sparks short-circuited the spheres, but then they exploded, shrapnel flying in every which way and then cutting into or embedding into his body. The pain coursing through his body was enhanced tenfold and Galen screamed out, writhing on the ground. He then rolled onto his side, curling up before looking up when a shadow fell over him.

Galen’s surroundings changed once more to the meeting room where Vader had betrayed him. Galen let out a choked cry as a white-hot pain seared through his stomach and he clawed at it with his hands, looking down to see a burning lightsaber wound that was straight through his body.

“You… have betrayed me… Now, you will kill him! Or I will destroy you both,” the Emperor croaked. It was here that Galen remembered begging to his master to help him defeat the Emperor. However, after knowing what had happened. Galen could only scowl malevolently at Vader looking down at him.

Do it, kill me again like you did before…’ Galen thought scathingly. However, to his surprise, Vader knelt down and wrapped his cold, gloved hand around Galen’s neck, lifting him up. What the hell was going on? This wasn’t how he had remembered the turn of events on the ship.

Galen Marek of Kashyyyk, you have great rage in your heart… With blood and rage of crimson red, ripped from a corpse so freshly dead. Together with our hellish hate, we’ll burn you all--that is your FATE! ” Darth Vader said, the black visor of his helmet suddenly glowing red.

Galen’s surroundings flashed to a crimson shade, bubbles flooding into the corners of his vision. He felt liquid fill his lungs and it burned up inside of him. Excruciating, hot pain surrounded his body and Galen screamed out hoarsely, sitting up and breaking the surface of the boiling waters. He started coughing violently before he felt a burning pain in his throat and he threw up burning hot plasma out of his mouth, his hands rising out of the water and clawing at the air. He could feel the Force building up inside of him and then finally releasing it all at once, emitting a strong shockwave that blasted the boiling waters around him away.

It felt like hours before Galen finally dipped back forwards, breathing quickly as blood dripped from his lips and his body shook from the aftershock of the entire encounter. That was far worse than anything he encountered during his Sith training under Vader. Galen brought his shaking hands up to his face and blinked upon seeing a glowing red ring on his right index finger. He stared at this ring, wondering how or what it was. He motioned to take it off.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice advised. “Well, unless you want to die, of course.”

Turning towards the source of the voice, Galen stood up quickly, reaching for his lightsabers at his hips only to find nothing there.

“If you’re looking for your lil dildos, I got ‘em right here,” an orange-haired man remarked. He was dressed in some kind of red leather bodysuit with a glowing red ring of his own. A small beam was emitting from the ring, leading to a sphere with both of his lightsabers floating inside of it.

Walking along the shallow pool of blood, Galen motioned towards the man, clenching his fists. He didn’t need his lightsabers to fight this man.

“This is a real nice ‘thank you’. So glad I decided to help him,” the man said, rolling his eyes while glancing to the side. Galen followed the man’s gaze to a man dressed in a similar bodysuit and wearing a glowing ring, but in green colours instead.

“You alright?” the second man asked, holding his hand out to him. “John Stewart, Green Lantern 1655.”

Galen stared at the hand before ignoring it and narrowing his eyes at the man. What was a Green Lantern? Nothing in the Imperial archives ever made a mention of them. Sounded like some kind of mercenary group and in Galen’s experience, mercenaries weren’t so easily trusted unless you paid them. Even then, many were known to turn on employers for a better deal.

“Charming,” the red-clad man remarked.

“Not now, Guy,” John said sternly before bringing his hand back in. “You took a bad hit when I first found you, we had to put you in there to save you.”

Galen looked behind him at the pool of boiling blood before glancing down at his stomach, finding to his surprise that there was no lightsaber stab wound. So that pool had patched him up somehow… However, the red ring he had on his finger was cause for concern.

“What do you mean I shouldn’t take this off?” Galen demanded, raising his clenched fist and holding out the glowing red ring.

“That ring replaced your heart, it was the only way. It was either this or wait and have you suffer brain damage,” John explained. “Medical assistance was 15 minutes out, way too long to wait for when you were practically in critical.”

Galen considered these words before bowing his head. He owed these two for saving his life… Especially since he had unfinished business with Vader.

“Thanks,” Galen acknowledged, raising his head and nodding curtly to the two before holding his hand out towards his lightsabers in the red bubble. The lightsabers flew out of the bubble and into his hand. Strapping both lightsabers to his hips, Galen scowled a little as he brought his hand to his stomach where his master had stabbed him. “Where is Vader?”

“No idea who that is,” Guy replied, crossing his arms. That was impossible, his master’s name was infamous across the galaxy.

“Hold on…” John said, raising his hand and furrowing his brow. “You came through some kind of light. If I had to make a guess, it’s possible you went through a portal into another dimension, our universe.”

“... Not really far-fetched, to be honest,” Guy admitted, nodding in agreement. Galen furrowed his brow, thinking on this. So he travelled into another universe, one where Darth Vader didn’t exist.

Galen clenched his fists, grimacing. That was unacceptable, he had to make Vader pay .

“Where is this light?” Galen demanded, glaring at Guy and John.

“It disappeared right after you went through it,” John replied.

“Take me to it,” Galen ordered.

“You deaf, tough guy? It disappeared ,” Guy pointed out, raising an eyebrow.

Galen had no time to deal with this. He stormed towards Guy before John raised his arm to stop Galen. Galen turned abruptly, gritting his teeth and feeling his vein pulse. The red ring glowed brighter. He then stopped when Galen doubled over slightly, coughing dryly. Blood plasma spilled out from the corners of his mouth, the liquid sizzling when it dripped onto the ground. Galen’s irritation went away as he brought his forearm up to wipe his mouth.

“You done making an ass of yourself?” Guy asked.

“You’re certainly one to talk,” John piped in, prompting Guy to form a large glowing red hand that raised the middle finger at him.

“What is this?” Galen said hoarsely, looking between the two while raising the red ring on his hand.

“It’s a ring of power. It’s fueled by your rage and through some focus, you’ll be able to use it like the two of us,” John explained as he raised his green ring on his hand, creating a starship of some kind above their heads. “My green ring is powered by willpower, but seeing that your head survived the blood ocean, you’re more suited for the red ring.”

“Guy Gardner, Red Lantern 11. You’re going to be puking up a lot of hot blood in the future, so get used to it,” Guy explained before raising his clenched fist, a large glowing red fist emerging from the ring. “Being angry as fuck can be powerful if you keep your head.”

Galen was no stranger to harnessing his anger and pain to fuel his own power; it was one of the most important lessons in his Sith training, but since his master’s betrayal, Galen was left with only one goal in mind and that was to take revenge on Vader for his attempt to kill him. He studied the red ring thoughtfully. If this ring was so powerful, Galen would use it to its fullest potential. Galen didn’t care that this ring replaced his heart and that removing it would be a death sentence. He was already condemned to death in that regard, so Galen did not fear Vader in the slightest.  

“This might interest you,” John noted, which snapped Galen from his thoughts. “I’ve run a long range scan and picked up an energy anomaly on another planet in Sector 2544, the Andromeda Galaxy. The same anomaly that brought you here.”

Galen’s nostrils flared and he tightened his curled fingers, nodding a little. If Vader happened to head through that portal or it opened up back to his own world, Galen would be waiting.

“I’m going with you,” Galen said flatly, raising his fist. The ring shone brightly, the light pulsating like a heartbeat. John exchanged looks with Guy, the latter of which shrugged.  

“I’ll have to tag along and make sure the new guy doesn’t go crazy,” Guy noted.

Galen scowled at his fellow Red Lantern before nodding once. As much as he didn’t like his supposed leader, he seemed the most knowledgeable about this red ring and Galen needed to learn everything he could about it.

“Alright, I’m taking point. Follow up behind me,” John ordered, nodding as he floated up into the air, his green ring glowing brighter.

Galen closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. If this ring was powered by rage… Galen focused on the image of his master, already feeling anger building up inside of him. His body seemed to heat up from the inside before Galen opened his eyes, the red ring maintaining a steady red light. Galen felt a surge of heat surround him before he honed in on that power, reaching out with his mind and grasping at the energy. He then eyed John hovering above him and Galen imagined taking flight in his mind’s eye, feeling his feet leave the ground. Galen floated up into the air, fueled by his hatred towards the very thought of Vader.

“Guy’s a natural,” Guy remarked, sounding… impressed? Galen didn’t pay much heed to this praise for very long, following after John when the Green Lantern flew up higher.

“Alright, let’s get you home then,” John said, nodding as he looked at Galen. Home. Vader had already thrown him out of his home. No, Galen was coming back to a prison, but it will be a prison that he’ll tear apart, Vader alongside it.

Chapter Text

Lying on his side and curled up, T’Challa slowly opened his eyes at the crack of dawn, seeing the orange sun break through the horizon and shine through the curtains of the wall-sized windows. Slowly straightening his body, T’Challa motioned to sit up before an arm wrapped around his torso and pulled him back down.

“I have duties, Elizabeth…” T’Challa said, feeling someone press against him from behind to hug him closely.

“Sun just got up…” she whispered behind him. He felt lips kiss softly at the nape of his neck and something rub against his back.

“Elizabeth…” T’Challa sighed.

“Kingdom can wait for one more hour…” Elizabeth mumbled. Moving his hand down, he gently pulled her arm away before T’Challa rolled over to face her, shuffling closer to her. He cradled her cheek, brushing aside her dark purple locks and kissing her gently. Elizabeth returned his lips, closing her eyes. “Mm… Think we could spare some time~?”

“You spared no time asking as soon as I woke up,” T’Challa replied, pulling away and giving her an amused smile. As he rolled onto his back, Elizabeth sat up, the sheets falling away before she straddled over him and sat down on him, brushing her hair away to let it fall along her back.

Elizabeth leaned down, rubbing her body against his and kissing him more deeply as she pulled his shirt up to expose his midriff. She stopped when there was a knock at his door. T’Challa reached his hands up and grabbed her shoulders to roll her over onto her side. T’Challa flung some of the sheets over her before he swung his legs over to the side of the bed, sitting on the edge while eyeing the doors into his room.

“My king?” a voice called out from behind the door.

T’Challa glanced over his shoulder to make sure Elizabeth was well-hidden before putting on a black robe from the dresser by his bed. He walked to the door and opened it widely to address the newcomer, a Dora Milaje guard.

“Mbawe?” T’Challa prompted, nodding to the warrior.

“Our scouts have reported an unknown ship that came through the clouds and crashed beyond our northeastern borders. Scouts we’ve sent to investigate have not reported back,” Mbawe reported, standing stiffly. “We’ve doubled our guard along the posts closest to the crash site.”

“I will go investigate. In the meantime, contact the Masters and Galactics,” T’Challa ordered, nodding.

“Yes, my king,” Mbawe replied dutifully, resting her fist against her shoulder and bowing to him. “Would you like me to awaken Ms. Braddock as well?”

“No need. You know Ms. Braddock, she’s likely already on her way there,” T’Challa said, shaking his head.

“Of course,” Mbawe replied, bowing once again to him before taking her leave. Closing the door after her, T’Challa turned around, walking to the wardrobe and opening up both doors.

“I’m sorry for suddenly throwing you down like that, Elizabeth,” T’Challa said, glancing over his shoulder. Elizabeth was standing up from the bed, arching her back slightly as she stretched her arms towards the ceiling before she flashed him a sultry smile.

“If only you were so rough last night. I might’ve actually enjoyed myself~” Elizabeth remarked.

“If you had maybe begged for it, I would’ve given it to you,” T’Challa replied with a chuckle as he shuffled through the hangars of clothes before brushing his fingers in a specific pattern along the back of the wardrobe. The panel opened up to reveal a polished white room with his Black Panther suit on display.

“And when have you ever done anything you should’ve ?” Elizabeth scoffed, smirking at him nonetheless.

“The kingdom hasn’t fallen apart just yet, I think I’ve done quite a bit,” T’Challa pointed out as he started putting on his vibranium-woven suit. “You are certainly one to talk. You should be anywhere but here for the time being.”

“And yet here I am~ You just couldn’t sleep one night without me~” Elizabeth teased, pursing her lower lip at him.

T’Challa sighed, but still kept up his smile nonetheless. Elizabeth was somewhat insistent to spend time with him and T’Challa admitted that he would take time off his responsibilities to return her wanting in kind. T’Challa couldn’t deny that it was a happy relationship… But it was a relationship with a foreigner that would bring quite a bit of uproar with his country… T’Challa had been keeping them secret for quite a while, but it was only a matter of time until someone found out about the two of them and the truth would spread like wildfire throughout Wakanda.

“Might I suggest we leave my room right now before suspicions arise?” T’Challa suggested, holding his helmet in his hands while turning around to face her. “Discreetly?”

“Kicking me out? How rude,” Elizabeth said with a huff, walking over and nudging him back with her finger on his chest.

“We would be leaving together, Elizabeth. Unless you'd rather wait and I face protests from my people, risk being deposed?” T’Challa pointed out.

“It would certainly leave you more time to spend with me~” Elizabeth replied with a smirk before looking through the wardrobe. She then looked over her shoulder and waved her hand at him. “Can a lady have some privacy?”  

T’Challa shook his head slightly with a small half-smile before he turned around, tucking his helmet underneath his arm. Walking towards the door, he waited until Elizabeth walked up to stand beside him, wearing her own Vibranium weave suit. Opening the door, he stepped out while glancing to the sides to see both of his guards standing stiffly; they didn’t seem to acknowledge Elizabeth as she walked out of the room. T’Challa caught glimpses of purple lights around their heads before they faded away as Elizabeth waved her hand to the side.

“My king,” one of them said, bowing her head to him as he passed by, to which he nodded in acknowledgement.

Tucking his helmet underneath his arm, T’Challa led Elizabeth out of the Royal Palace. At the courtyard in front of the palace gates were three hovercrafts idling on the ground with two royal guards standing guard and three Rhino Tribe warriors on each vehicle.

T’Challa stepped onto the middle hovercraft while Elizabeth took her place across from him, leaning back against the railing with her straightened arms. He spared a glance at her exposed shoulders and thighs before T’Challa looked back forwards, reminding himself that he was supposed to be discreet.

“Take us to the crash site,” T’Challa ordered to the warrior at the hovercraft controls.

“Yes, my King,” the pilot replied, nodding as the hovercraft hummed to life and started gliding along the ground, escorted by the other two hovercrafts. T’Challa held onto the railing as the vehicles left the palace grounds and veered to the right, zooming towards the mountains in the distance.

Even at a considerable distance away, T’Challa could see a few smoke stacks already reaching the clouds. T’Challa put on his helmet, adjusting it to let the seals link the helmet to his suit. The sun emerging from just above the mountains, T’Challa glanced over at Elizabeth across from him and his lips parted slightly. Exposed skin be damned, the rising sun made her look absolutely radiant with her long hair waving behind her and the light shining upon her face.

“My king, we are here,” the pilot reported as the hovercraft came to a gradual stop, snapping T’Challa out of his trance. T’Challa was fortunate that he was wearing his helmet, otherwise he would’ve been caught staring at Elizabeth.

He turned his head more fully towards the front, walking a bit forwards on the hovercraft as he eyed the ship before him. It was rectangular with flat square ends, jagged spikes lined along the length. A sickly green light was faintly glowing from the centers of the ends. As he had seen before, black smoke was trailing from the ship’s surface.

T’Challa looked up to see a few Wakandan jets floating in place, observing the wreckage. He nodded a little before stepping down from the hovercraft and onto the grass.

The guards remained where they were as he had expected; he was the Black Panther, it was his duty to act as Wakanda’s protector. Others have already come to investigate this vessel and have not returned… It was possible that this crashed ship were merely lost colonists or spacefarers, but if there was the chance that they had killed the scouts sent in… T’Challa unsheathed his claws from the ends of his fingers. If they had killed the scouts, they would know the wrath of the Black Panther firsthand. T’Challa motioned towards the wrecked ship before he stopped upon seeing Elizabeth walking up to his side.

“This is a matter I must deal with alone,” T’Challa said sternly.

“And I’m not going to have you be killed because you were too proud,” Elizabeth replied, glaring at him.

“If my people’s lives are threatened, it is my duty to protect them. Stay back and come should I need assistance,” T’Challa shot back. While his conviction with the former sentence goes unquestioned, the conviction behind the latter sentence wasn’t as strong, perhaps afraid of sounding too harsh. Admittedly, T’Challa had deliberately argued with Elizabeth to ward off any suspicion of the two of them being involved. While it seemed like she was playing along, Elizabeth hesitated for a moment, her concern seeping through the facade before she nodded once.

“Fine,” Elizabeth said, her brow furrowing worriedly for a moment before it went away as she turned around to walk back to the hovercrafts.

T’Challa turned his attention back forwards, approaching the wreckage. While the structure was still holding, the ship looked much too ruined to be spaceworthy again. He cut open a space for him to climb through, peering inside to find a very worrying sight.

The open room was covered in some kind of sickish brown shell with layers peeling off, the walls pulsating as if the vessel was alive. T’Challa moved inside, the ground crinkling underneath his feet as if he were walking on dry leaves. Narrowing his eyes as the light pouring in from the wall started to fade away the further he went in, T’Challa kept his ears trained while readying himself for anything that might leap out of the darkness. He crept forwards slowly before stopping dead when he heard a crack to his right. Glancing from the corner of his eye, T’Challa saw a bit of the wall’s crust crumple to the ground with dust falling after it. He stayed where he was, taking deep, quiet breaths. He didn’t dare move or even turn his head towards the wall, hearing some scratches and low growls. He shifted his back foot slightly, his lips tightening when the movement made several very audible crinkles.

When there were several sharp, high-pitched grunts and the cracking sounds from the walls started to pile up. T’Challa turned and pushed off, sprinting towards the opening he had made earlier. Almost immediately, there was a symphony of distorted screams and tearing at the walls as many ‘somethings’ started rampaging and moving closer.

Something jumped down from the ceiling and landed in front of him. A humanoid creature with white skin made out of some kind of crusted armour bared its fangs and claws, shrieking at him. T’Challa leapt off the ground, vaulting over the creature while slicing his claws across its domed head. He saw a sickly green gas spill out from the wounds when he spared a glance over his shoulder. Dozens of the same creatures started stampeding after him, bumping into and climbing over each other in their undeniable bloodlust. When T’Challa turned his head to face forwards again, he quickly buckled his knees to avoid a massive cleaver, swung by a large, more heavily armoured humanoid with a crest of broad horns. T’Challa swiped his claws across its ankles before quickly getting up to his feet and reaching the outside.

“LUNGELA!” T’Challa barked out, waving his hand out to the warriors standing by the hovercrafts ahead of him. The Dora Milaje tapped their spears against the grass twice before raising them, aiming the ends of their spears towards him. “UMLILO!”

Energy bolts sped past him, flying into the horde giving chase behind him. T’Challa turned around abruptly, ducking under a claw and slashing at the attacker’s face. He twisted into the air, kicking away one of the creatures and digging his claws into the head of a second to slam it into the ground. T’Challa vaulted over a creature lunging at him before swiping at two of them and swinging his leg to kick down a third. He quickly finished it off with a quick straight-fingered jab into its temple. He spotted two of the giant humanoid beasts, tearing through the side of the ship. They raised shields that looked to be made out of the same material as their armour, absorbing the shots and advancing.

T’Challa charged forwards, leaping up high to do a spinning kick towards the head of the one in front. The mutated knight blocked the kick with its shield before T’Challa quickly twisted in the air to stumble it back with two more successive kicks. Then, the creature swung its sword and T’Challa felt the blade slam into his stomach, the Vibranium managing to turn the hit into a blunt force. Nonetheless, the blow was enough to drive the wind out of him and T’Challa was sent sailing back, tumbling along the grass. Disoriented from the blow, he rolled onto his back and saw the creature about to bring its sword down, prompting him to raise his forearms over his face and bracing himself.

The creature stopped mid-swing and stumbled back when two purple blades flew into it, one in its chest and the other in its forehead. Elizabeth soared over T’Challa, smashing her heels into the blade embedded in the creature’s chest to sink it deeper. She then pushed off, landing a short distance away. She brought her arms to the sides, blades made out of burning purple energy emerging from her clenched fists. T’Challa was pulled up to his feet by a Dora Milaje as the other Wakandan warriors ran past and set themselves amongst the aliens, dispatching the smaller ones.

T’Challa witnessed the knight swing its sword through a blanket barrier conjured by a Rhino Tribe warrior, batting aside him and a Dora Milaje that tried to exploit its daze. Furious, T’Challa sprinted towards the offending knight and leapt up to latch his claws onto one of its shoulders. Letting out a roar, T’Challa sank his Vibranium claws into its head, feeling the blades puncture the shell. As the knight fell onto its back, T’Challa pried off its face, finding a grim satisfaction to see green gas spilling out from the opening. He rolled forwards and sliced across the throat of a lunging creature before sinking his claws into the body of a pouncing second and using the momentum to spin around and throw it at the other large knight that was currently fighting Elizabeth. She flipped back to avoid a cleaver slamming down into the ground when the knight stumbled back from its smaller brethren flying into it, prompting her to dash forwards and cut through its ankles. The alien warrior fell onto its front, its body and weapons fading into green dust as Elizabeth stabbed into the back of its head.

T’Challa sidestepped around a shrieker to avoid its lashing claws, catching its neck and swiftly swiping his claws across its throat before jerking its head back to snap its neck. Throwing aside the limp body, he looked around to see the last of the aliens being finished off. T’Challa despaired a little upon seeing a few lifeless bodies of Wakandan warriors scattered around the grass amongst the dead creatures.

T’Challa?

Hearing the worried voice echo in his mind, he tore his gaze away from the bodies and looked around to meet Elizabeth’s gaze.

I am fine, Elizabeth, ’ T’Challa thought as he nodded a little towards her before he made his way over to the hovercrafts, still feeling a little shaken. A Dora Milaje saluted him.

“Orders, my king?” she prompted. T’Challa took a few deep breaths, composing himself and standing up straighter.

“... Take our fallen away. We will hold a ceremony for them tonight. Maintain guard on that ship,” T’Challa finally said, pointing towards the wreckage.

“And the invaders?” the Dora Milaje asked.

“Leave their bodies. Keep your distance until the Masters and Galactics arrive and provide more answers,” T’Challa replied. When the warrior saluted him and walked away to follow his orders, T’Challa let out a long, tired sigh as he crossed his arms and bowed his head before reminding himself to compose himself. He had to remain strong in the face of his soldiers and people.

T’Challa, I’m here if you need me…

T’Challa felt the corners of his lips lift a little before it fell away as he raised his head and looked over at Elizabeth, nodding curtly to her to maintain the cover. He was grateful that there was someone who he could find solace with.

Chapter Text

Walking slowly past the smoking wrecked cars strewn across the street, Genos carried himself with a silent, burning anger that only intensified as more and more of the carnage came to prominence. So much destruction and death, and for what? There were no demands, no terms being set; it was always malicious attacks with no precedence or reason. It was the case for his town and it was the same for the dozens of other attacks that Genos had been intercepting.

This particular attack was no exception. Genos clenched his fists, listening intently and hearing explosions and screaming from the end of the street around the corner. Whatever the threat was, he would terminate it with extreme prejudice. He had promised to himself and Dr. Kuseno that he would fight for justice and seek revenge against the villain that destroyed his town and killed his family. Genos ran forwards to clear the remaining distance before rounding the corner and scanning the area rapidly with his eyes. He honed in on the man laughing maniacally in front of a burning truck. Wearing black pants and a dark red t-shirt, he was large and quite muscled, having spiky blonde hair. Genos kept his distance and decided to gauge the man’s abilities from a distance.

“Target acquired…” Genos murmured, raising his palm to fire a stream of flames towards the man. The man turned abruptly and shielded his face with his forearms. His exposed biceps seemed to grow in size before the man disappeared behind the torrent of fire.

Genos narrowed his eyes, lowering his hand and waiting for the flames and smoke to clear away. He quickly dived to the side when a large shape charged through the fire, tearing through the ground underneath its feet. Genos slid to a halt and raised his arm, firing a concentrated fire ball from the palm of his hand. The man’s body grew larger, his arms morphing into fleshy exposed sinews of muscle.

“AHAHAHA! Another one??” the man cackled, tightening his fists.

Genos raised both of his palms before the man pushed off from the ground, sinking a crater beneath his feet as he lunged towards Genos with surprising speed. Genos quickly brought his hands to the side, blasting out of the way. Backflipping and skidding back across the street, the cyborg fired two shots out of his palms at the charging man. The flames licked at the exposed muscles, but the attacker kept up his momentum and threw a massive fist at the cyborg.

Genos raised a forearm just in time to absorb some of the blow, but the force was so great that the fist pushed against the forearm and connected into the side of his head. The cyborg was sent flying into a building, collapsing the wall and sending the whole building rumbling. He ran quick diagnostics; his left arm was damaged and part of his face plating was cracked and chipping off from the villain’s punch. It didn’t matter, this wasn’t the first injury he sustained. While that man was alive, Genos had every reason to ignore any damages and keep fighting.

Genos’s scanners suddenly warned him of something quickly approaching him and he pried himself from the wall just in time to duck under another punch thrown by the villain. Genos cursed himself for underestimating his opponent, having not expected such speed from such a brawny opponent. The large fist sent the entire wall crumbling down and rubble started to fall from the ceiling. Genos opened up his fingers and swung his right arm up in an uppercut, grabbing onto the man’s chin.

“Incinerate,” Genos growled, firing a burst of concentrated heat from his palm to envelop the man’s face in the intense beam. The man started to scream out in agonizing pain, but Genos felt nothing but pure hatred. No mercy was going to be spared.

Suddenly, Genos’s arm was enveloped by tendrils of muscle fibers that pulled him into a writhing mass of more fibers. The man’s face emerged from within the fleshy sinews, his face twisted in a gleeful smile.

“Just kidding!” the man exclaimed. Genos saw a red exclamation mark flashing as the tendrils tightened their grip to twist his arm, cracking the metal plating and tearing up the circuitry. Genos quickly redirected power from his caught arm to his free, but still-damaged arm. The villain’s smile quickly disappeared to be replaced with a malevolent scowl. “No pain, no screams, nothing ???”

Genos raised his damaged arm, blasting the man’s face with heat. However, in the fraction of a second before the beam made contact, he saw the villain’s face shrank back behind a tangle of muscle tendrils. Genos raised both of his legs, planting his feet onto the mass and pushing out while continuing to fire the beam. His trapped left arm tore off, trailing sparks as Genos jumped clear and slid across the ground out of the shaking building. Turning around quickly, he quickly scanned the surrounding area and found it was all clear. Genos fired a projectile of concentrated heat into the building, causing it to collapse onto the villain and bury him underneath five stories of rubble.

Not quite reassured yet, Genos analyzed the pile of debris, raising his remaining arm and crouching slightly. He wasn’t surprised when some of the wreckage was thrown aside to reveal a wriggling mass of tendrils that unravelled and shrank back down to reveal the villain, who seemed completely unharmed and rolled his shoulders with a taunting smirk.

“Is that all you got? You’re even weaker than the last hero!” the villain said, raising his right arm and clenching his fingers while cracking his neck side to side. Genos said nothing, raising his one functional arm to unleash a heat beam from the palm at the man. The cyborg scowled in annoyance when muscle sinews emerged once again, forming a protective layer over the villain’s body. The man laughed crazily as he charged, tearing up the ground underneath his feet. “You’v been fun! Cuz you’re so useless!”

Quickly analyzing the approaching mass for any vulnerabilities, Genos crouched slightly, honing in on the man’s twisted face. Calculating the estimated time of impact, Genos pulled his right hand back and struck the palm into the vulnerable area at the very last moment, unleashing a blast at full force. The fleshy tendrils vibrated against the intense heat, but didn’t seem to shrink away; in fact, they seemed to be pushing down harder. Genos was driven down on one knee, struggling to hold against the large man bearing down on him.

However, the large weight was suddenly ripped away as the villain was thrown to the side and through several buildings. Genos felt a hand on his back and he quickly redistributed power throughout his body as he turned his head to see the newcomer.

It was a young, dark-tanned girl with medium blonde hair and red eyes. Genos looked at her attire: black romper, black detached sleeves, golden rings wrapping along her body, black and gold heels… Another hero? Genos didn’t recognize her from chance encounters with other heroes in the past or from news reports.

“Are you okay?” she asked, helping him up to his feet. Genos shrugged her hand off and turned towards the hallway of holes that the villain had been thrown through, taking a few steps forward before gritting his teeth and falling down onto one knee as his body spasmed and crackled with electricity.

“Hey, easy! It’s okay, got this handled!” the girl advised. Genos felt a strong wind suddenly blow on them and he saw the boots of the villain standing in front of him before a large fist smashed into his head and sent him flying up into the air.

However, Genos stopped abruptly and floated upside down in the air, suspended in place and feeling a sense of weightlessness. He looked down to see the girl surrounded by a crimson glow, one hand out towards him and the other towards the villain who was being suspended in the air. Then, there was a shockwave that emitted from her outstretched hands and the large man was slammed down, caving in the ground. An esper?

The girl then held both of her hands out towards Genos and he slowly descended towards the ground. Genos zoomed his eye in and honed in on what looked like a heart-like object pulsating and glowing visibly from inside her chest.

Suddenly, the girl was punched away across the street and Genos went into a freefall. Propelling himself forward with a backblast from his palm, Genos then clenched his fingers as he soared through the air towards the man standing up from the crater, pulling a fist back and landing a punch right into the man’s cheek. Genos felt his fist cave into the man’s face, breaking off a few teeth before the fist was pushed out as the tendrils returned to cover the man’s face and then envelop Genos’s remaining arm.

“You little bastard!” the man screamed from inside the writhing bundle of tendrils, his voice sounding strained from pain. Genos prepared to fire another blast before his arm went offline as the tendrils tightened their hold and crushed the limb.

The man was suddenly slammed down into the ground, bringing Genos with him. The cyborg gritted his teeth when his head smashed into the ground, taking out his right eye and most of the face plating on the right side of his face. Genos felt wiring snap and metal screech when he tried to pull his arm out; he would have to sacrifice his other arm in order to escape this villain’s hold.

Genos tugged hard and his forearm tore off, freeing him from the tendrils. He skidded away and backed up a few more steps away from the man.

“S-Sorry!” a voice called out quickly. Genos turned to see the girl with that red aura around her with that glowing pulsating light in her chest, seeming to struggle as her hands started to shake a little.

Genos swayed a bit when the earth rumbled and looked over to see the man starting to pry himself from the ground, the exposed muscle tissues rippling. The man let out an inhuman scream of frustration, the sinewy tendrils curling out and seeming to ‘spit’ out the remains of Genos’s mangled robot arms.

“I need blood! Not this shitty metal, blood !” the man screamed before he was slammed back down onto the ground as the girl jerked her hands down, sinking a crater underneath the villain. Genos scowled a little at her, annoyed that she had come to interfere with this battle. The girl flinched and stumbled back as the red glow faded away.

Feeling the ground shake, Genos turned back towards the crater before he was batted aside as the villain charged towards the girl, his body enlarging from the exposed muscles wrapping over his skin. The girl held her hands out quickly, the red glow returning as the villain’s feet suddenly lifted up from the ground and he started flailing in the air.

“You annoying bitch!” the man cried out, floating higher up.

The right outer edge of Genos’s eyesight flickered and darkened as he scanned the area once again, grimacing at his lowered field of view. He picked up an energy signature approaching their position, turning his head when he saw on his radar it was speeding towards the girl. Genos pushed off from the ground, lunging towards her. The girl turned and reared back upon seeing him fly towards her.

“Wha-” the girl started before ducking as Genos kicked his foot up over her to intercept a massive blade that swung towards her. There was a loud, resounding clang as Genos felt the vibration of the impact ring throughout his body.

Seeing the girl run clear, Genos shifted his foot on the ground and slid back slightly as the sword pushed back, buckling his knee and rolling to the side as the blade stabbed into the ground. Genos turned to face the newcomer; it was a massive robot that towered over Genos by a few feet, covered in heavy dark grey and gold armour plating. The robot pulled its sword out from the ground and pointed it towards Genos.

“You are heavily damaged. Stand aside, you are at insufficient strength to provide data or a suitable fight,” the robot said in a mechanized drone. Genos scowled at the notion of being called weak. Stand aside while they wreak havoc? Not a chance.

The young cyborg dashed forwards and jumped up from the ground, aiming a kick at the robot’s head. Genos’s opponent raised a hand to intercept the kick before closing its fingers over Genos’s foot and crushing it. Genos grimaced as he was thrown onto his back.

“Stop or you will suffer more damage. I intend on facing you in the future when you are fully repaired,” the robot warned before a crater sank underneath its feet and it turned over its shoulder. Genos followed its gaze to see the girl looking bemused while holding a hand out to the robot.

“Mmf!” the girl suddenly cried out as a massive hand wrapped around her mouth and lifted her up. The first villain’s muscley tendrils on his body wriggled and then sank back into his skin, leaving only the tendrils on the arm holding up the girl.

“Finally, I’ll have your blood!” the villain cackled, the tendrils on his hand wrapping around the girl’s head and neck. The girl punched at the man’s arm before her body was once again covered by a red glow. The man’s body dipped down just a little and the ground sank down beneath his feet while a few cars screeched along the road and then lifted up to fly towards the large man.

“That is the hero you seem so incapable of fighting, Muscular?” the robot asked, batting aside some of the cars with minimal effort before stabbing the last car into the ground to stop its flight.

“I’ll make up for it by squeezing every drop of blood from her!” Muscular exclaimed, his face twisting in sadistic glee. Genos tried to stand up, but due to only having one functioning leg, he collapsed down onto his stomach, craning his neck to look up. The girl’s struggles seemed to be weakening, her eyes shut tightly as the red light around her began to flicker and fade away.

Damn it… ’ Genos thought, gritting his teeth as he tried to pull himself up on his stump arms before failing. His main weapons were gone and one of his legs was destroyed, but that girl needed help and Genos wasn’t going to lie down while he was still able to fight.

Before he fell back down, he managed to plant the foot of his remaining leg on the ground and launched himself towards the villain dubbed ‘Muscular’. The robot turned and grabbed Genos around his waist, slamming him down onto the ground. Genos felt the back of his head crack against the ground, causing his entire vision to flicker in and out of blackness.

“I said to stay back. Final warning,” the robot said, looking down at Genos. Genos struggled against the robot’s hold, scuffing up the ground with his heel and trying to squirm out of the tight grip.

Genos’s scanners suddenly picked up something. One heat signature incoming. It was coming fast, even faster than-

“SMAAASH!” a voice cried out. The robot’s hand tore away with metal and sparks scattering from the robot’s chest as it flew back down the street. Now freed, Genos rolled onto his side and quickly turned towards the girl just in time to see a man suddenly appear seemingly out of thin air in front of Muscular, pulling his fist back.

“Detroit Smash!” the newcomer exclaimed, thrusting his fist forwards before stopping it short of Muscular’s face. The villain’s head jerked back and all the exposed tendrils around the girl’s face and neck rippled violently and tore away from the strong winds that blew from the fist.

Genos squinted his eyes and raised his stump forearms in front of his face as the winds blasted at him before the newcomer appeared right in front of him, holding the girl over his shoulder. Craning his head up with some struggle, Genos saw Muscular just a few metres back, his face embedded in the ground and unmoving. Then, the injured cyborg turned slowly to the person standing over him. He recognized the bright, shining smile of the newly arrived hero; it was the man’s most defining feature.

The hero went down on one knee, resting his hand on Genos’s shoulder.

“Have no fear. You can rest, young man!” All Might reassured with a jovial voice. “I am here !”

With quite a bit of effort, Genos turned his head to eye the girl slung over All Might’s shoulder.

“The… girl…” Genos managed to say, struggling to stay conscious on emergency power with most of his energy spent on maintaining his life support systems. All Might chuckled and gave a thumbs up to Genos.

“Don’t worry, she’s alright!” All Might replied. Genos’s lips curled upwards with some struggle before his head dipped down to rest back against the floor. If All Might was here… Genos could afford to rest for the time being.

Chapter Text

David jerked his head to the side as a shotgun blast sank into his helmet, the pellets deflecting off the metal. His visor powered up and he blasted a plasma beam from his visor, shooting down the gun-wielder. The attacker screamed as the beam burned his mutated skin before David stomped onto the man’s head to cut his screams short. 

The turret on his shoulder swivelled and fired several rockets at the other attackers firing down from the balcony. As the balcony crumbled from the explosions and sent the shooters falling down to the ground, David grabbed a stray pistol while sliding along the ground to take cover behind a leaking pipe. He quickly stood up and took aim briefly, firing at the survivors getting up to their feet. When the pistol clicked and stopped firing bullets, David threw the gun aside and vaulted over the pipe, sliding out a forearm blade and charging towards a woman that just managed to recover to her feet and raise her rifle towards him. 

Suddenly, David was smacked away across the room, sending him sailing into the wall. He collapsed onto the ground and a shoe kicked into his helmet, rolling him onto his stomach. Suddenly, two large hands clamped down onto his shoulders and lifted him up. David looked at the culprit, seeing an extremely stocky and heavily muscled man with his arms and body covered in swellings and blisters. 

David quickly charged up his visor and fired a low-powered shot into the attacker’s face that caused the large man to release his grip. David fell back down to land onto the ground before unsheathing his other armblade. He uppercutted both arms, stabbing both blades underneath the big guy’s chin. Pushing the large man to stumble him back and using his body as a shield, David leaned forwards while his visor powered up once more, sheathing his blades and vaulting over the body as it fell onto its back. He then fired a fully charged shot, turning his head to sweep the beam across the room to singe through the remaining enemies. 

Standing up straight and rolling his shoulders, David walked across the room, bending down to grab a rifle and checking the rounds. Four shots… He rolled over the dead body beside the gun, rifling through the pockets. There were no spare clips in her pockets. Typical. 

Holding the rifle by the middle of its barrel, David pushed forwards, turning the corner into a glass hallway. Puddles were strewn along the path while marine creatures swam around the passageway in the waters outside. This was a strange city; David didn’t recall any records or mention of it at all in his research on Atlantis. It was definitely old, considering all the 50s and 60s aesthetics. Whatever this city was, it definitely saw better days. 

David ran an infrared scan as he approached the end of the hallway, picking up several heat signatures up ahead. 

Unfolding the turret from his shoulder, David raised the rifle, preemptively powering up his visor as he finally turned the corner. He quickly examined all of the individuals in the room, seeing all of them being just as mutated as the attackers he fought earlier. Without hesitation soon afterwards, David launched a red plasma beam at full power into the biggest guy he saw before firing off two shots from the rifle into two scavengers that were holding rusted pipes. 

Then, David jerked his head down as something flew into his chest, flames enveloping his body. While his suit was fireproof, the fire obstructed his vision for a brief moment, causing him to fire his third shot blindly. A metallic clang sounded, signifying that he had missed his mark. Bullets flew at his right arm, deflecting off his armour. As soon as the fire cleared away, David swivelled his shoulder turret to the right, firing two rockets to explode the shooters into a grisly firework of blood and flesh. David dodged to the side to avoid another fireball and then raised his rifle to the direction of its source, spotting a man with his forearms wreathed in flames. David fired the rifle’s last shot, but the man disappeared in an implosion of red light and smoke. David grimaced, taking the rifle in both hands and snapping it over his knee before throwing aside the now useless weapon. He ran another infrared scan, observing the room. 

A signature with a particularly high temperature was retreating through the open doorway at the corner of the room. David ran after the man, picking up a drum-magazine submachine gun along the way. As soon as he ran into the room, he ducked under a fireball launched at his face and then raised the submachine gun, opening fire at the fire-wielding man before he was punched onto the ground. Landing hard onto his back, David looked up to see another muscled man raising both of his meaty arms to bring them down. David tried to take aim before the gun was smashed against his chest, bending the metal barrel and cracking one of the wooden handles. He unsheathed both blades from his wrists and held them up when the attacker tried smashing him again. 

His wrist-blades sank into the man’s flesh, but the arms still kept falling, slamming into David’s chest. The force of the blow actually drove the wind out of him and David’s head snapped back against the ground before a second slam caused him to cough out. He quickly began to power up his visor. 

A third slam prompted a red exclamation mark to flash on his crackling HUD. His HUD said that the structural integrity of his chestplate was compromised. Damn it, this bastard must’ve caved in his armour. He’ll have to retaliate before more damage was done.

David immediately fired his visor at full power right when the large man smashed David’s chest a fourth time. The beam melted the man’s skin and then burnt it into a crisp. As the large body fell back, David felt himself almost slip away and pass out, but forced himself to stay conscious. 

After a brief moment, he finally got to his feet and observed the room. David blinked upon seeing what looked like a… vending machine? It looked beaten up to hell and back, but its contents seemed to be unharmed behind a tall and thin glass wall. This looked like it sold some kind of glowing red soft drink in rather large containers. In the middle of the machine at the front was a small, cracked screen. Approaching the contraption, he flinched back upon hearing a joyful tune play from it. The small screen crackled to life to display an image of a hand shooting out lightning bolts along with the caption ‘ PLASMIDS BY RYAN INDUSTRIES ’. 

Stun your foes with a thousand volts! Shock them in water to deal damage! ” the vending machine said happily, showing several images of cartoon men illustrating the words before concluding with the words ‘ EVOLVE TODAY! ’. 

David saw what looked like a syringe with a short and thick barrel resting in the product dispenser of the machine. He narrowed his eyes, taking it and pulling off his gauntlet before hovering the needle near his forearm. So not a soft drink, but some kind of genetic enhancement. 

However, he glanced behind him at the body of the large man he had incinerated earlier as well as the small bits of flame still crackling. These people clearly seemed deranged; chances are, they took stuff like this and mutated, going insane.

For the first time since coming here hours ago, David was reminded of his nemesis, Aquaman. More importantly, he was reminded of his last fight with Aquaman and how damn close he was to killing the Atlantean… several times . To be so near his goal and have it torn away from him by mere chance every time…

David gritted his teeth, letting out a frustrated growl before plunging the syringe into his left forearm and injecting all of the red fluid into his bloodstream. Almost immediately, his entire body tensed up and he dropped the syringe, his hands clenching into fists. His vision blurred and then red lights pulsed around the edges of his vision as he heard his heart slowing down and beating loudly as if it was right next to his ear. His blood felt like it caught on fire inside of him, burning throughout his entire body. 

Letting out a pained scream, David was driven to his knees, his arms spasming uncontrollably as he saw bright blue sparks winding around his forearms before the pain went away all at once. David fell onto his hands as the last traces of the blue sparks fizzled away, coughing hoarsely. That was unlike anything he had ever encountered. He took a few seconds to collect himself. He was still conscious and self-aware, so he wasn’t going to go crazy like those scavengers. If he made sure not to be overzealous with the fluid, he’d be able to stay sane. 

Now, the real moment of truth… David raised his left arm, but before he could test out his supposed newfound power, he looked to the side and backed up a step to avoid a fireball. 

That annoying bastard was back again, huh? David charged up his visor while something stirred underneath the skin of his arm. He bent his fingers into claws, focusing on the energy gathering inside of his hand before bringing it forth. Lightning crackled between his fingertips and David found himself smiling slightly as the sparks surged forth and surrounded his arm. 

His eyes flitted around the room and he waited until he saw a burst of red smoke, thrusting his hand out and spreading his fingers apart. A bolt of lightning shot out and hit the man emerging from the red cloud, causing him to spasm in place. David fired a plasma beam from his helmet to incinerate the fire-wielding man into a burning crisp. 

When the sizzling body crumpled to the ground, David clenched his fists to send away the sparks crackling at his fingertips. He eyed the corpse with a savage satisfaction. This’ll fry that Atlantean on his feet.

Then, David grabbed his gauntlet he pulled off earlier, sliding it back on before he turned his gaze to the last of the flames dying away before walking over to more closely examine the burnt body, parts of the mutated skin now releasing some kind of bubbling pus. David unsheathed a blade from his forearm and scraped off a bit of the fluid leaking out, running a scan on it. His HUD pulled up a list of the liquid’s composition; an unidentified chemical made up a significant percentage. David looked over at the vending machine. The liquid David injected, or some variation of it, was most likely that unidentified chemical. 

David lifted his left hand, opening up his fingers as lightning sparked on his palm. He made a mental note to himself not to become crazed as these mutated scavengers. They likely went insane from continued use of whatever David pumped into his arm. 

Suddenly, David heard a tink of metal against metal and he whipped his head down. He saw a little girl, wearing a dirty purple dress that fell to her knees. Her dark brunette hair was tied back with a ribbon. Her glowing, completely yellow eyes was staring at his thigh, poking the plate armour with some kind of needle gun that had a large capsule filled with the same red liquid from the canisters in the vending machine. 

“You’re a funny angel,” the little girl remarked. Her voice had an echoey growl to it, which somewhat unnerved David.

Sliding the blade back into his gauntlet, David stared at the girl before grunting and walking forwards. When the little girl circled around to stand in front and stare up at him, David nudged her away as gently as he could.  He didn’t have time to deal with a kid. He had to find a way to get the hell out of this city. However, he heard the patter of feet rushing up behind him and the girl continued to tap the tip of the needle against his back. 

“Hey! You’re a meanie angel!” the girl exclaimed. David felt something kicking at the back of his leg and he scowled a little to himself before he turned around abruptly, planting a hand on the girl’s forehead to shove her onto the ground. 

“Get lost, ki-” David growled before he stopped and flinched a little when the girl let out a scream that rang throughout the room. Damn it, that was going to attract every single person walking around nearby. Great, the last thing he needed was an alarm clock following him around. 

David unsheathed the wrist-blade on his right gauntlet, ready to stab this noisy brat. He was here to survive and get the hell out of here. If this kid wasn’t going to shut it… 

“Help me, Daddy! Please!” the girl exclaimed, dropping her needle gun and cradling her face in her hands as she doubled over.

Suddenly, David’s body locked up as his entire body was enveloped in a shell of ice. A chill rode up his spine as he was frozen in place. He only had a few seconds to process what was going on before he heard a whirring sound blare out. A blinding white pain flashed as the ice shell was shattered and something smashed into his side, sending him flying fast into the wall. He peeled away from the small crater, receiving a notification on his HUD that the armor plating on the left side of his abdomen was punctured. David looked down to see an opening with minced flesh and metal meshed together. Any movement he made sent waves of pain throughout his body.

“X his eyes! X his eyes!” the girl chanted. David heard a stomping sound slowly approaching him and he turned his head in time to have a massive hand wrap its fingers around his neck and then slowly lift him up. David managed to get a good luck of his attacker; a massive, hulking man in a heavy, rusted diver’s suit with an oval visor and thick limbs was staring back at him, letting out a low, drawn out groan. 

David powered up his visor, a whine increasing in pitch before the large man suddenly headbutted him. David’s HUD notified him that the left eye has been cracked and rendered useless. He could feel heat building up too quickly on the left side of his face. Shit!

David attempted to redirect power away from his helmet, but it was too late. His half-broken visor fired a beam of energy into the man and forced him to let go, but half of the beam turned into thick globules of glowing red plasma that dripped down and singed David’s armour. David collapsed onto the ground, letting out a roar of pain as the pain from the hole in his abdomen flared up once he landed. David cupped his wound, looking up to see the man advancing already. David raised his only free arm to shoot a bolt of lightning at the large man. The man let out a distorted roar of pain as the lightning crackled along his body before doubling over as David unsheathed the blade from his forearm to stab it into the larger man’s gut. 

Suddenly, the hulking man grabbed David’s forearm and pulled it away, relinquishing the embedded blade before David was headbutted once again, falling flat on his back. He attempted to sit up, but was met with a heavy boot that stomped into David’s broken helmet. It caved in and crumbled under the weight, the sole pushing splinters of metal into David’s head and face. David’s scream was abruptly cut off as the back of his head smashed against the ground and he instantly blacked out.

Chapter Text

T’Challa had his arms crossed, watching the large glowing blue orb hovering in the center of the room. He tightened his jaw as he looked upon the lifeless creature floating inside the orb, his hands clutching tightly at his forearms in restrained anger from just seeing the creature. T’Challa felt a gentle hand rest on his lower back. 

“T’Challa…?” a soft voice murmured. T’Challa’s little scowl faded and his clawed fingers relaxed a little as he turned to look at Elizabeth. Her brow was slightly furrowed in concern. “You’ve been quiet for the past hour. You know you can talk to me.” 

“... They attacked and killed with no provocation. We had no hostile intentions towards them and yet, they did not hesitate to set themselves among my people,” T’Challa growled, looking away to glare up at the creature suspended in the magical prison. Memories of the dead Wakandans who fought against the creatures from the ship flooded his mind, bringing another wave of anger. He wrung his hands, taking a step towards the orb. “People died in a fight that should not have been necessary.” 

“Ssh… The Masters and Galactics will have answers and we’ll be prepared for next time,” Elizabeth said soothingly, pressing a hand on his chest. He stepped back, taking a deep breath to calm down.

T’Challa nodded a little, raising his hand to rest on top of hers while turning his head to look at her. 

“Thank you, Elizabeth,” T’Challa whispered, bowing his head to her. 

“Someone has to keep the King from making irrational decisions,” Elizabeth replied with a half-smirk. 

“Yes, you are truly a wonderful advisor,” T’Challa murmured, leaning in while shaking his head in exasperation and half-smiling. 

“I am quite amazing, aren’t I~?” Elizabeth acknowledged in a rather pleased tone, meeting his lips halfway. Her gloved hand shifted up along his side to cup his cheek to pull him in for a deeper kiss. 

“We can come back later if you’re busy,” 

T’Challa and Elizabeth pulled away from each other, but T’Challa still remained close to her. Doctor Strange had entered the room while a ring of orange energy opened up beside him. A man in heavy metal armour and a horned helmet with a horn snapped off walked through the glowing circle alongside another man with pointed, curved ears and dressed in a dark grey leather bodysuit. Behind the both of them on the inside of the circle looked to be some kind of space station, but the portal closed before T’Challa could observe any further. 

“For a man responsible for a country, you demonstrate a worrying lack of tact,” the curve-eared man remarked, clasping his hands behind his back. 

“You cannot fault a passionate man for expressing the very passion that burns in his heart, Advisor Spock,” the armoured man remarked, raising his clenched fist. 

“Perhaps not. But such passion will have to be dampened for the present situation, Lord Shaxx,” Spock replied, tilting his head slightly to the side. “Dr. Strange, I presume that creature there is the topic for this meeting.” 

“King T’Challa called the Masters and Galactics for answers regarding this,” Dr. Strange asked, looking at T’Challa expectantly. 

“Yes, a ship crashed down on the borders of Wakanda. A forward group was killed when they went to investigate…” T’Challa said, his voice trailing off. Elizabeth’s hand rested on his lower back. “Many of these creatures swarmed out of the ship, along with larger ones with swords and shields. We killed all of them, but not without lives lost.” 

“I see… I’m sorry, Your Highness,” Dr. Strange said solemnly, bowing his head. T’Challa acknowledged the wizard’s courtesy with a curt nod. In the meantime, Spock was pacing around the containment sphere, studying the creature closely. 

“Lord Shaxx, it would seem that this matches the creatures our Guardians have faced in Sector 4922,” Spock said, glancing over at the horned Guardian. 

“Is that so? That makes this especially worrying if they have wandered so far from that sector,” Lord Shaxx added grimly, crossing his arms as he looked at the creature. 

“Wandered? Or travelled?” Dr. Strange suggested. 

“That remains to be seen. Your Highness, did you happen to extract any information from the ship?” Spock asked, looking at T’Challa.

“Yes, but my scientists and technicians have yet to find anything,” T’Challa replied as he turned his forearm, palm up. He tapped a few times along his forearm and brought up a holographic display showing the information from his science division. Alien text typed across the window, still yet to be interpreted. “I would guess that you have the translation?” 

“Yes… Sector 4922, a scout ship led by… Knight Zutrek,” Spock said slowly, his eyes reading along the text. “They call themselves the Hive. They worship ‘the Darkness’. I can deduce that the Darkness is truly interdimensional portals harnessed to transport their ships as well as creatures from other realities. However, this particular scout ship made a fatal calculation, which made it crash into your borders, Your Highness.” 

“Wait… That usage of ‘The Darkness’ sounds strangely like your Guardians’ usage of ‘The Light’,” Elizabeth piped up, her eyes widening. 

Spock and Lord Shaxx exchanged looks with each other. 

“It would seem we are dealing with a far larger threat than anticipated,” Lord Shaxx remarked.

“Lord Shaxx, it is highly likely that ‘the Light’ the Guardians use is the very same ‘Darkness’ the Hive utilizes,” Spock said, looking over at the Guardian before turning his gaze to Dr. Strange. “Perhaps with closer investigation?”  

“Of course,” Dr. Strange acknowledged, nodding as he waved his hand towards the sphere. The containment field faded away, leaving behind a rectangular blue surface on the ground. The ‘Hive’ alien body slowly lowered to lay on the glowing blue surface. 

T’Challa watched as Lord Shaxx and Spock crouched down by the body’s sides, examining it. Lord Shaxx opened up his palm, a strangely shaped little drone emerging from a burst of white glowing particles. The drone emitted a horizontal beam of light that scanned along the body before it turned back to the Guardian. 

“Shaxx, I’m detecting trace elements of Light on the body. As Advisor Spock suggested, it’s very possible that the Hive found a way to use the Light as well,” the drone explained. 

“If that’s true, we have a lot to worry about,” Dr. Strange said grimly. 

T’Challa furrowed his brow, walking forwards to kneel down to glare at the dead Hive creature. If it was a scout ship that crashed down, and it crashed because it went through the portal incorrectly… 

 “It’s possible they were sent here to examine Earth.” T’Challa suddenly said, frowning. Understandably, he felt very uneasy at this possibility. If that first encounter on his country’s borders was to say anything, the Hive would not have peaceful intentions for Earth. The others looked at him and then at each other. 

“I will have my Guardians scour Sector 4922 and surrounding areas,” Lord Shaxx vowed, nodding to T’Challa. “I will also deploy one or two to Wakanda, King T’Challa.” 

“I would also recommend contacting the Guardians of the Universe, cooperate with the Lantern Corps and expand our scouting operations,” Spock added, looking at Lord Shaxx.

“I’ll go between the different Sanctums and tell my Masters to start doubling perception and proximity spells,” Dr. Strange promised, bowing his head to T’Challa. “If it is alright, I can send a Master to you.”

T’Challa hesitated, wondering how his people would view even more outsiders coming into the Royal Palace. They did not take very kindly to foreigners; it took quite some time for them to accept Elizabeth as an ‘advisor’.

If he could explain the threat of this so-called ‘Hive’, they might be more receptive to new advisors. However… T’Challa had a duty to his people and Wakanda. 

“In any case, we’ll be at the ready,” Dr. Strange declared, clenching his fingers. Burning orange symbols inside matching circles glowed in front of his fists before the body on the magical bed twitched before dissolving into green mist that quickly faded away.

“King T’Challa, I am truly sorry you had to suffer this attack. I vow to you, no more. The Guardians I will send will serve you well,” Lord Shaxx promised, raising his clenched fist.

T’Challa was a little uncertain accepting that help, remembering his role as the Black Panther. If the people could not depend on him to protect them from outside threats… If he could not defend the very country he was sworn to protect, then what kind of King and Black Panther was he?

T’Challa, set aside that family pride for your people. You need their help ,’ Elizabeth advised in his mind. T’Challa glanced over to see her smiling reassuringly at him. He then bowed his head courteously to the Guardian and the Master.

“Thank you, Lord Shaxx and Dr. Strange,” T’Challa acknowledged solemnly, grateful that Elizabeth was here and that the other members of the League were so willing to help him. “I will let my people know of their arrival.”

Chapter Text

A cling rang as skilled fingers flicked a coin horizontally across the air to the other hand before the coin was flipped over the knuckles and then flicked up into the air. 

Connor caught the coin as it fell down, pocketing it and turning around. Crouching down to duck under the police tape, he made his way towards the warehouse. Inside was a few police officers and SWAT officers investigating evidence labelled with numbers across the area. 

Connor had received an assignment regarding a shipyard warehouse that was being used by the notorious criminal Bane, who was apprehended by the Teen Titans just two hours ago. While the Titans had dealt with the criminal and his associates, the police department wanted to find possible connections to black market dealers and shippers. 

Connor eyed about a dozen barrels gathered at the corner of the warehouse, making his way over. However, he slowed down and paused midway, blinking rapidly as he received a phone call. 

“Hey, Con. I’m… almost there, just give me about two minutes!” the caller exclaimed, sounding like she was going through some strong winds. Her voice was strained and a little out of breath. 

“There’s no need to worry, Gwen. I just began looking into the scene,” Connor replied, speaking out loud (though not too loudly).

“Aw, without me?” Gwen said in a rather wounded tone. “The Titans invited me over for some pizza and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for free food. I’m sure you understand.”

“I don’t. Androids have no need for food or nutrients,” Connor pointed out, adjusting his tie. “My orders are to begin the investigation right now, but I can wait for you.”

“Noooo, don’t do that! Just… I don’t know, pretend to work until I come!” Gwen insisted.

Pretend… to work? Connor furrowed his brow as he headed over to the barrels. A rather portly and grey-haired police officer was writing on a notepad. 

“Officer Collins, what have you found?” Connor asked. 

“Hey, Connor,” the officer greeted, raising a hand before gesturing to the barrels with a sigh. “Well, it’s definitely the Venom formula that Bane usually uses, but there’s something about it that kinda rubs me the wrong way.” 

“How so?” Connor asked, tilting his head slightly to the side while looking at the closed barrels. “Is it the scent? The colour?”

“I don’t know. Just… something about it is giving off different vibes. Think you can figure it out?” Officer Collins asked, pointing the blunt end of his pen towards Connor.

“Of course,” Connor replied, pulling open the barrel’s lid. The container was almost filled to the brim with a green fluid that was slightly bubbling. He dipped two of his fingers into the liquid and then brushed them against his tongue. 

“Forgot that was one of your gimmicks,” Officer Collins commented, grimacing a little. “Find anything?” 

Connor had already processed the chemical composition and compared it to the previous Venom formulas on their police records. Venom 43, the last known liquid taken under custody, was the closest with a 78% match. However, the remaining composition was an unknown artificial stimulant. He reviewed over the effects of this particular stimulant on the human body in a simulation; it bolstered the physiological processes across the human body to near fatal levels, along with heightened dopamine releases and amplification of cell processes to convert more energy.

Connor turned towards Officer Collins, about to describe his findings before remembering that he was supposed to be… pretending to work? 

“So…?” the officer asked, his pen resting on his notepad. 

Connor then looked back at the open barrel, staring at it. Pretend to work… What did that necessarily mean…? Delaying, perhaps?

“Nothing yet. I’m still analyzing the chemical,” Connor said. It wasn’t… a complete lie. Officer Collins pursed his lower lip and then resumed writing on his notepad. 

“Must be one hell of a chemical if you’re still looking at it… I’m gonna go get some air,” the officer murmured. Connor watched as Officer Collins made his way towards the large open doorway into the warehouse.

Connor then turned more fully towards the warehouse entrance upon hearing a loud ‘thwip’ sound. A young woman, dressed in a black, pink, and white hooded bodysuit, swung in on a white string. 

“Hello, Spider-Woman,” Connor greeted courteously as she landed softly onto the ground beside him and jumped up to her feet, fist-bumping against his shoulder. 

“Hey, Con. Got here as fast as I could. You didn’t go too far without me, did you?” Gwen replied, hands on her hips while tilting her head slightly to the side. 

“No. I merely examined this Venom formula. That’s as far as I went,” Connor explained, gesturing to the green liquid. 

“Alright, cool. Plenty of chances for me to chip in then,” Gwen remarked, nodding as she looked around the large crime scene. “Got anything? 

“78% of the formula matches the last Venom formula police apprehended,” Connor explained. “The remaining 22% is an unidentified artificial stimulant.” 

“That so, huh? What are the effects?” Gwen asked. 

“Dopamine releases are enhanced and cell processes are amplified. To summarize, it boosts the average human body to near fatal levels,” Connor continued.

“Except Bane’s not your average guy,” Gwen pointed out. 

“Exactly. From my examination of his medical records from previous incarcerations, he would be able to utilize this chemical with little to no immediate repercussions, though he will suffer psychological deterioration with extended use,”  Connor acknowledged. 

“As if he hadn’t gone bonkers a long while ago,” Gwen remarked, a grin clearly heard in her tone of voice. The corners of Connor’s lips twitched upwards very slightly before he turned around to scan across the warehouse, reviewing over the different bits of evidence scattered around. “Hm… Something this big is usually part of a bigger sting,”

“Agreed. Some of the chemicals present in the stimulant are not normally found in this Jump City. According to live updates from undercover officers, it’s not even present in the black market here in the city,”

“So Bane’s got himself an outsourcer, huh?” 

“Maybe… With further examination of the other evidence here in this crime scene, we might be able to reach a more conclusive answer,” 

“Well, let’s get right down to it then, Con,” 

 Gwen shot a web out from her wrist to reel herself up to the balcony to examine some of the evidence up there. Connor went towards a piece of evidence labelled ‘#7’, a used syringe. Kneeling down, he picked it up gently in his fingers and scanned the traces of liquid still present inside the small glass barrel and on the needle itself. It was the very same Venom formula in the barrels. Connor then diverted his scanners to the syringe itself. 

The hypodermic needle was made out of an artificial, reinforced carbon steel; this made sense, Bane’s continued use of his Venom formula made his skin durable and difficult to puncture. The glass capsule itself was shaped like a bullet, wider in diameter than conventional syringes, and the flatter end was concave. So these were modified syringes with high-grade material, something a criminal like Bane wouldn’t have easy access to. 

Connor then eyed a fallen rifle labelled ‘#4’ on the ground not too far from the syringe, shuffling over to it and scanning it. He then glanced over to scan the fallen syringe and linked up with the gun: an M4A1 assault rifle, fitted with a special barrel to store and fire a maximum of seven syringe barrels. The overall make of the gun was heavily modified to be able to switch quickly between ballistic rounds and syringe rounds. Connor then went over to a more obscure piece of evidence… It looked like just a regular block of metal. Connor examined it, detecting a 80% composition of steel alloy and an electronic encrypted code that he solved in a few seconds, somewhat bothered by the time it took to decipher it. All that read out was just a random stream of numbers and letters. Connor gave the block a closer analysis and detected a radio transmitter inside. So this block was a secret communications device. Whoever Bane was working for, there was a high possibility this device would connect to whoever that was.  Connor considered accessing the transmitter to broadcast a signal, but there was the possibility of alerting whoever was in charge. He’ll need to find more information.

“Spider-Woman!” Connor called out, looking at the balcony. Gwen was studying some marks on the walls of the warehouse before she glanced over and then jumped down, doing a side flip before landing and jogging to him. 

“Yeah, what’s up?” Gwen prompted.

“I might have found something,” Connor replied, holding up the rifle in both hands. 

“Yeah, same here,” Gwen said, pointing her thumb over her shoulder. “What’d you find?”

“This rifle was custom-made to fire those syringes over there. Both modifications aren’t possible for a man like Bane alone,” Connor explained, brushing his fingers along the gun’s barrel. 

“Think he’s working with Fisk?” Gwen suggested. Connor shook his head. 

“No, Wilson Fisk wouldn’t spend his funds and time on these. He specializes in buying and selling contraband, not modifying them midway through,” Connor replied, laying the rifle down and raising the block of metal. “In addition, this block here had an encrypted code that took too long for me to decipher. Something Wilson Fisk wouldn’t have the resources or capabilities of creating.” 

“No lie, I kinda hoped it would be Fisk. Simpler answer, was planning to get a break now and then,” Gwen sighed, bowing her head and shaking it. 

“You can go now if you want to, I can handle the rest of the investigation here,” Connor suggested, tilting his head slightly to the side as he looked at her. 

“Nah, I’d feel way worse not helping you out here,” Gwen decided, waving her hand dismissively before pointing to the balcony and walking towards it. “Got something interesting up here though.” 

“What did you find?” Connor asked, setting down the metal block and following after her. He made his way to the stairs and headed up to the higher level while Gwen pulled herself up with a web shot. She was tapping her finger towards two faint white scrape marks that were parallel to each other on the wall. 

“Seems too straight and parallel, doncha think?” Gwen mused. Connor scanned the markings, detecting trace amounts of steel alloy. He then looked down at the metal block he set down earlier. 

“Gwen, can you get that block there for me?” Connor asked, pointing towards the object. 

“Think I know what you’re gonna do…” Gwen remarked as she shot a string from her wrist that stuck onto the metal block and then brought it to them. Connor took the metal block and then pressed it between the two white lines. It was a perfect fit. Sliding the block along the markings, Connor was met with glowing letters that spelled out ‘ Connection Established’ before it was replaced with a single horizontal green line.

Well done, as expected from JCPD’s finest and his partner, ” the block remarked amidst the sound of slow clapping, jagged lines spiking up and down along the green line to match the sounds. “ However, you’ve learned nothing and you will learn nothing. Bane will never give information. ” 

“We’ve captured some of his goons. One of them will talk,” Gwen pointed out. 

They will reveal nothing. Their loyalties are guaranteed and well-rewarded, ” the voice replied. 

“Those criminals are currently being questioned by the JCPD and the League of Heroes. Interrogation sessions conducted through such a joint effort have proven to be 81% successful,” Connor explained. He was already analyzing the active transmitter and tracing the call. However, it seemed there were hundreds of locations across the world, providing false leads to slow him down.

“And we got a lot of chances here,” Gwen added. “We’ve worked with way less info in the past.” 

Perhaps. But you’ve only ever dealt with small-time criminals. Fisk is mere prelude to myself. What you’re dealing with here is far larger than you could comprehend, ” the voice replied. “ I’ll grant you this one chance to step away. Forget about this call and dismiss this entire incident to be a Fisk matter. You do so, I will call off my operations in your city.

“You are asking us to call off the investigation. I can’t do that,” Connor said, shaking his head. He narrowed down the source to somewhere in Asia. 

Unfortunate, ” the voice simply said before the side of the metal block split open, spilling out sparks and smoke. The transmission went offline before Connor could pinpoint the exact location. 

“Dang it… Did you get anything, Con?” Gwen asked. 

“... Not exactly. The connection was cut off before I could fully trace the call,” Connor replied, shaking his head before analyzing the world map he had laid out with red dots marking along possible locations for the call. “I managed to narrow it down to eastern Asia.” 

“Well, that’s something. We can send that info over to the League, see if they find anything,” Gwen suggested before sighing. “Wish I could do more, but we gotta stay here in this city, you know?” 

“Understandable. This case will be better handled in the League’s hands,” Connor agreed, nodding before tilting his head slightly to the side. “Though… He mentioned operations in this city. It’s likely we might uncover more behind this unknown caller from other crimes that may occur in the near future.” 

“Hey, here’s hoping,”

Chapter Text

Samus reached the summit of the rough mountain, reconfiguring her visor to infrared as the sandstorm stirred up dust across the landscape. She scanned the hilly region in the small valley below from the top of the cliff. However, she couldn’t find any lifeforms in sight… Not even a notable heat signature that could be investigated. For this area at least, it was a barren wasteland. 

Switching her visor back to default, Samus glanced behind at her landed gunship before connecting to its internal systems and commanding it to run a wider scan. When it turned up nothing, she shook her head slightly and began walking back towards her ship. She swore she tracked Ridley down to this planet. After scouring the galaxy for the past month, Samus finally got a solid lead. She even saw the pirate spaceship flying down into this planet’s atmosphere before losing it through the dust storm. Samus stopped at the foot of the ramp leading up into her ship, waiting for some kind of sign that maybe her scans were wrong and something would come up. 

She raised her head when she received a notification. The scanners picked up activity about two hundred metres to the northwest from her position… and about twenty metres deep. Samus raised the ramp and remotely put her ship into lockdown before curling up into a ball. She selected the morphball configuration on her HUD and sucked in her gut, bracing herself. A ring of white light formed around her and she felt a warm sensation ride up her spine as she closed her eyes. When Samus opened her eyes again, she had gone into her morphball form. Samus checked her ship systems and established a waypoint on her HUD. The heat signature was 204 metres away, bearing 347. She moved forwards and off the cliff, rolling down the hill face and then using the momentum to continue rolling across the small valley. The distance to the signature quickly decreased as she approached the waypoint. 

This was going to be her first fight with him and Samus honestly could not wait to blast that bastard’s head off. She was looking forward to meeting Ridley face-to-face. 

Samus rolled to a halt when she came upon a cave entrance. Deactivating her morphball, Samus narrowed her eyes slightly when the white ring enveloped her once again. She twitched her limbs experimentally before she stood up from her curled position when she was confident she could fully move, checking over her weapons systems. Her missile supply was fully loaded and both her beam settings were ready and operational. 

She raised her arm cannon as she slowly made her way into the darkness of the cave. When she turned around the corner, there were no traces of light to at least dimly illuminate the way. She switched to infrared vision. 

The waypoint was marked about thirty three meters away and five meters down. Samus was starting to become uneasy as she pushed forward. Why was she nervous? Her scanners weren’t picking up anything… It can’t be the prospect of facing Ridley that made her anxious; in fact, meeting Ridley was the deciding factor that kept her moving further in. 

It was the unfamiliarity and implications of these tunnels that was making her nervous. That must’ve been it. There was still considerable space around Samus as she walked through. While her infrared scanners picked up no heat signatures in the surrounding area, she remembered that she didn’t see any signs of civilization on the planet. Whatever made these tunnels was indigenous and wild… And chances are, it could be even more dangerous than Ridley. Nevertheless, with this confined space, Ridley would have little room to maneuver around when she would encounter him. 

Samus was starting to become more and more anxious when her scans still remained clear. She would’ve figured that there would at least be space pirates on guard and patrolling around. She reached a downward slope and then readied her cannon when she saw something at the foot of the slope. Samus double-checked her infrared scanner and studied the ‘something’ more closely, kneeling down beside it.

It was a Space Pirate, an insectoid variation… What was left of him, anyways. She only really recognized him from the metal armour, which was punctured in several places with dried green blood staining the metal. The body itself had its limbs and head twisted at awkward angles. Its hard shell carapace body was cracked open in several places with remnants of sinewy muscles spilling out of the openings. Her infrared picked up faint traces of orange and yellow amongst the cold blue. Whatever killed this pirate wasn’t too far away from here. Samus swallowed nervously. She wasn’t nervous about Ridley, just whatever killed this Space Pirate…

Samus checked her waypoint. She was now at the same level of it, only twenty meters down the tunnel. She switched her arm cannon to the charged beam configuration when she picked up something on her infrared scanner. Priming a charged shot in her gun, she slowly made her way towards the heat signature. She forced herself to steady her breathing when she came across more lifeless Space Pirates, their bodies mutilated in the same way. 

Despite her hesitation in continuing, Samus’s eyes widened when she saw a rather large red and orange heat signature coming into range of her scanner about eleven meters ahead. Samus quickly turned off all the lights on her suit before examining the signature more closely. 

The signature was vaguely reptilian shaped with two winglike protrusions sticking out of its back. It was staying still as if lying in wait.

Smirking, Samus reached a turn and hugged her back against the corner. This was it. She was finally going to face the monster that killed her home colony. Samus took a deep breath, closing her eyes and resting the back of her head against the cave wall before she quickly fired a fully charged shot down the tunnel. Without wasting any time, she dashed down the tunnel towards where she had seen the heat signature, switching to her power beam and unloading a series of shots. However, Samus slowed down and her mind cleared up when she realized she was shooting at… flames? She scanned the object of interest after some of the fire cleared away, backing up a step and widening her eyes when it turned out to be a collection of boulders and burning branches stacked on top of each other in a clumsy arrangement that was vaguely shaped like Ridley. 

She was suddenly slammed onto the ground, a powerful clawed hand wrapping around her torso. Her HUD emitted a flashing red exclamation mark, signalling her that suit integrity had taken damage and was at 91%. Another slam dropped that number to 85%. Samus heard sparks flying when the claws started to dig into the metal plating and the hand tightened its grip. A rapid beeping sounded from inside of her helmet as the 85% began to quickly decrease. Samus coughed out when the chestplate started to cave in, squeezing her torso while the percentage fell below 60%. 

Samus was lifted up to find herself face to face with Ridley himself. Her HUD began to flicker and emit several flashing icons that were all just blurs to her. Her breath started to quicken as she looked upon the rows of razor sharp teeth laughing maniacally before her. 

“Did you actually think it’d be that easy?” Ridley cackled gleefully, loosening his grip a little in his mirth. She bit her lip tightly when Ridley brought his eye up to her visor. “Hmm… Got nothing to say? Come on, don’t you want to pay your respects to your mother, Samus?” 

Ridley then opened up his jaw, forcing Samus to look into the depths of his mouth. 

“Well, she’s in here! Come on, be respectful to your mother!” Ridley exclaimed. 

Samus seemed to snap out of her trance and let out an enraged scream as she quickly raised her arm cannon and fired a missile right into the creature’s face, bucking his head back and causing him to let go. She fell onto one knee and planted a hand on the ground to steady herself, sparks crackling across her body as it began to redistribute power across her power suit. She backed up a couple meters away, winding up a charging shot before she somersaulted to the side to avoid a massive fireball that flew towards her. Her suit was holding at 47%; that was plenty for her to stomp this pirate down for good.

Her vision blurred, except for Ridley who was the point of focus. After his taunt, nothing else mattered. As she suspected, Ridley had his wings furled in a bit and he was on all fours; the cave was big, but it was still small enough to restrict the creature’s movements. She ran forwards, peppering him with shots from her power beam. Ridley raised his forearm to tank the shots while fire began to crackle in his beak. 

“Nice peashooter, let me show you my ‘gun’!” Ridley taunted. 

Come on… Open wide, you bastard…’ Samus thought scathingly as she momentarily forgot her fear and continued pressing her advance. 

When he began to open his mouth, Samus quickly fired two more missiles, which flew right into Ridley’s open mouth and exploded inside. Smoke billowing from his mouth and the embers flickering away, the Space Pirate stumbled back, pulling his head away and inadvertently backing up into the wall of the tunnel. The tunnel shook heavily as pebbles and dust crumbled from the ceiling. Samus stumbled as she sprinted towards him, resuming the charged shot she was powering up earlier. Ridley was busy coughing to fully prepare or even notice her. Samus slid along the ground between his hands and feet, firing her charged shot into his nether regions. 

Ridley arched his back while letting out a pained roar. Preparing another charged shot, Samus grabbed onto the lip of one of his armour plates, vaulting onto his lower back and then pushing off. She grabbed onto the boney crest sticking out of the back of his skull, stuffing her arm cannon into his mouth and blasting the charged beam down his throat. Samus heard a muffled boom from inside his neck and Ridley collapsed onto his knees and elbows, clutching at his throat. Then his other hand reached up and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her off and slamming her face-first onto the ground. 

Samus let out a choked cry from sharp flashes of pain as her chestplate caved in some more, pressing against her ribs. The pain lingered, which meant her ribs were bruised at least. Suit integrity at 39%. She was lifted up and slammed against the ceiling, nearly causing her to black out. Suit integrity at 31%. Samus fired two rockets directly underneath her, one connecting into Ridley’s shoulder while the other exploded by his other hand on the ground. However, Ridley’s grip still remained, piercing through her armour with his talons. She felt the sharp points dig into her skin and she bit her lower lip to stop herself from screaming out. Fear came creeping in once again as she lost the upper hand. Suit integrity at 22%. 

Samus started to feel her power suit coming apart and she turned away a little when Ridley leaned his head in, fogging up her visor with his hot breath. She motioned her arm to aim her cannon at his face, but her forearm was grabbed by Ridley’s other hand and she let out a strained scream through her gritted teeth as the creature tore her arm cannon off. Suit integrity at 14%. 

“You’re every bit the same little girl who tried to be my friend all those years ago,” Ridley said with a hoarse chuckle as smoke billowed from the sides of his beak. 

Samus thought quickly on what to do. She had to do something . Her arm cannon was out of commission and she couldn’t curl up into morphball form. Her suit was at 14% integrity, but all of her suit’s power was focused on life support. Her mind became more clouded and her heart beat rapidly as less and less options became available to her.

“I wonder if you taste as good as your mother…” Ridley mused. Samus’s anger flared up and she lashed a fist out towards Ridley’s eye. However, he tilted his head down slightly to have her fist connect with his boney crest, which sent a jolt of pain that rang throughout her body. Ridley started laughing loudly. “Couldn’t do anything then and you can’t do anything now!” 

Samus started repeatedly punching at Ridley’s head, trying to hide any semblance of fear before she stopped when Ridley pried off her helmet. With her head exposed, Samus’s body froze and she didn’t dare move anymore in case that triggered something. She tightened her lips to prevent them from quivering and glared at her opponent malevolently. Begging him for mercy wasn’t going to get her out of the situation. What was going to get her out of the situation was… Nothing. Samus couldn’t figure out a solution; she wasn’t able to form any coherent thought as she found herself staring at Ridley’s rows of sharp teeth. She was going to die here the same way as her mother. What did it feel like to be eaten alive? She began hyperventilating as Ridley drew his mouth closer, feeling his hot breath on her bare face. 

“Hmm… I have quite a lot of time to spare with you unlike with your mother…” Ridley said as he brought out his large tongue and pressed it against her cheek. Flinching, Samus let out an involuntary whimper and closed her eyes tightly. “Oh ho~! What was that? You really didn’t change from the scared little girl back then!” 

Samus couldn’t even muster the defiance to open her eyes and glare back at him. He was right; Samus felt like a helpless child with her power suit out of commission and trapped in Ridley’s grasp. She should’ve trained more or bided her time, be better prepared before confronting Ridley and now she was going to pay the biggest price for her hastiness. 

“Hm… Maybe I’ll keep you alive… Take an arm now as a snack,” Ridley remarked, letting out a chuckle as he opened his jaws and bit down on Samus’s arm, earning him a scream from her as the teeth pierced into her flesh and almost made her black out from the blinding pain. 

Suddenly, Ridley’s jaw loosened and he let out a gurgled choke as Samus felt her arm jerk forwards, her hand becoming incredibly cold. The pain surging throughout her body slowly ebbed away to be replaced by the cold sensation that spread from her hand. Slowing down her breathing, Samus opened her eyes slowly to look down at her hand. 

A black goo was enveloping her arm with its sticky tendrils. Ridley had his jaw forced open with a massive steel blade lodged through his mouth and sticking out the back of his head. Samus mustered whatever strength she had to try and pull her arm out, but the black substance was spreading across her skin, inching towards her head. Samus didn’t know what was going on, but whatever this thing was, she had to get it off fast. She tilted her head away as the black goo latched onto the base of her neck and continued spreading. Samus let out a gasp when she felt something pull at her ribs and bitten arm. She tightened her lips as the goo reached her chin before her mouth was forced open as the mass covered her lips. Samus felt the coldness enclose over her eyes, leaving her in complete darkness. 

Then her world came into being, but she felt different… It was a very strange sensation; while she could see everything that was going on, she felt like she was floating in cold space, not feeling any of the sensations her body should be feeling. As Ripley collapsed onto the ground, Samus glanced to the side to see her body move her arms to pry open Ridley’s fingers to let her go. 

Samus Aran… ’ a raspy voice purred in her mind. 

Samus didn’t say anything, still shaken by the whole ordeal with Ridley. She was doing her best to calm down, but being caught in this sort of limbo was unfamiliar and made her anxious.

Not even a thank you…? I just saved your life, ’ the voice remarked.

Samus had to say something or else this thing will do something to her, likely rip her apart considering it had taken over her physical body. 

Thanks... ’ Samus finally thought. 

You’re welcome, ’ the voice mused. ‘ Proper introductions are in order. We… are Venom. ’ 

If she were in control, Samus would’ve done a quick bioscan and classify whatever this organism was… Or run a scan in the Federation archives… 

And who are you exactly? ’ Samus thought. 

I am a symbiote, native to this planet… And quite possibly the last of my kind ,’ Venom explained. ‘ You and I are quite alike, you know...

What do you mean? ’ Samus asked in her mind. 

You and I lived through a great calamity. And are lost,

You don’t know me. I’m not lost, ’ Samus snapped, though she felt unnerved by the implications that Venom knew something so personal.

Oh…? Well, now that Ridley is dead, what do you intend on doing now? ’ 

Samus hesitated. She honestly only became a bounty hunter to hunt down Ridley, scouring the galaxies for personal reasons rather than monetary reward. Samus looked at the lifeless corpse of Ridley, watching the blood pooling around his open jaw. 

I… don’t know ,’ Samus admitted. There was a hoarse chuckle that sent chills down her spine. 

The way I see it, Samus… We can do whatever we want ,’ Venom mused. Samus furrowed her brow, not liking the tone Venom employed. 

What do you mean…? ’ 

First off, I’m hungry. I helped myself to those pirates earlier, but there was so little meat, mostly crunchy shell,” Venom growled, sounding unsatisfied. Samus watched as a long tongue snaked out from where her mouth was, licking along razor sharp teeth with saliva dripping down onto the ground.

The only thing you’re going to eat is those pirates,’ Samus thought, not particularly keen on letting this thing eat innocent people. Suddenly, Venom’s mass peeled away from the front of her body, causing Samus to gasp in air as if she were being suffocated. She fell onto her hands and knees, coughing for only a short moment before she was suddenly pulled upwards to be pinned against the ceiling. 

You don’t seem to have a choice in this matter, Samus… ’ Venom purred. Samus’s eyes widened as the black substance began surging back towards her face. She opened her mouth to scream before the black goo seeped into her mouth and silenced her. 

Venom took back control over Samus’s body, darting his tongue out again to flick at the air. ‘ Hmm… I smell three incoming visitors… Good…

If they’re not pirates, don’t attack them. Do you hear me? ’ Samus ordered. There was an annoyed grunt. 

No choice, ’ Venom reminded as Samus helplessly watched as Venom led her body back through the tunnels.. ‘ Hm… Brains, hearts, pancreas… So many options…

Samus attempted to will back control of her body. A ripple rang along her body and Samus felt the coldness of the tunnel against the skin of her face as the black tendrils peeled off. She felt her hands touch the open air and she quickly brought them to her chest, digging her nails into the black substance. 

Closing up her fingers to get a grip on the black ‘skin’, she attempted to pry Venom off of her, but it felt like she was peeling her own skin off. The burning pain made her scream out into the darkness of the tunnel she was in, being driven down to her knees. It hurt so much, but she couldn’t stop now. She had to get herself away from this thing. Samus doubled over, slowly and painfully working her way down the sparking remnants of her power suit before suddenly, a thick tendril emerged from the black folds she held tightly in her fist, white marks fading in as its eyes and long, sharp white teeth forming at the end of the blob. It lunged right at her, biting down on her head. Samus cried out upon feeling the fangs sink into her scalp before the tendril’s teeth faded away and the black substance started spreading across her head.

“NO!” Samus exclaimed, raising her hands and attempting to pull off the black mass. However, it sent out small tendrils that stuck to her fingers and started spreading there as well. 

“It was in here!” a voice called out from further down the tunnel. 

Samus’s eyes widened. No, she had to get away! Samus started to stumble away from where the voice came from, hoping to put some distance between herself and whoever was coming. Samus brought her hands to her head in a last ditch effort to pry Venom off her face. 

“Hold it!” a curt voice ordered. The voice sounded authoritative and she glanced over her shoulder. When Venom spread over her eyes, she could only see very faint green and red lights. Then, Samus felt a familiar floating sensation and she blinked hard a few times before she found herself in the ‘spectator’ seat, forced to watch what Venom had in store. 

The newcomers were a group of three, as Venom mentioned earlier: a black man with shaved black hair wearing a glowing green ring and dressed in some kind of space suit of matching green and black, an ginger-haired man with tanned skin wearing a glowing red ring and dressed in a glowing red leather jacket and pants, and a man with cropped black hair and the same red ring alongside a glowing red tunic and pants. 

The third man pulled out two thin cylinders from his hips, pressing buttons on the sides. The cylinders shot out glowing red blades that illuminated the close vicinity. 

“Galen, wait! It’s a symbiote, we can’t hurt the host! She has no control over it!” the black man called out, holding his hand out to the third man. 

“Then it’ll have to be the old fashioned way,” the ginger man snapped, clenching his fist. The red ring on his finger glowed and a large holographic-looking red fist manifested in the air. 

Hm… I wonder how you’ll all taste… ’ Venom growled. ‘ Hopefully not too tough, seeing your muscles there…

“Yeah yeah, buy me dinner first,” the ginger-haired man said dismissively as he swung his fist, the large red fist flying through the air. Venom leapt onto the ceiling to dodge it and started crawling at rapid speeds towards the three. 

“Laying out covering fire! Get in close and get that symbiote off her, you two!” the black man shouted, conjuring a green assault rifle in his hands to open fire. Venom shifted from side to side in his advance to avoid the projectiles. 

“Galen, you’re up! Use your mumbo jumbo to pull that thing off!” Guy exclaimed, lunging his fist forwards to send a red fist flying towards Venom. However, the creature easily dodged it. Samus felt a glimmer of hope; if these newcomers had a way to pull Venom away from her… 

Galen returned his dual laser swords to his hips before holding his clawed hands out towards Venom. The symbiote suddenly froze in place, shrinking its head down as the black skin over Samus’s body bubbled slightly. Samus’s own body locked up while floating in limbo, every single inch of her body going rigid. 

Venom opened up his jaw, stretching it open and letting out a warped roar. All of a sudden, Samus felt as though an invisible force pulled each of her limbs in a different direction. On top of this, her head felt as if it was going to split open, unable to focus or form any coherent thought through the pain. Closing her eyes, Samus longed to curl up from the pain, but her limbs were held hostage by an unseen force.  

Then, the pain and force all went away at once and Samus returned to her physical body once more, collapsing onto the ground and feeling the rough rock underneath her palms. Everything she had been through for the past few hours was too much for both her body and mind to handle. At least she couldn’t hear Venom anymore… It was dealt with for the time being.

“Hey! Stay with us!” 

Samus chuckled dryly, finding that notion a little funny given the circumstances. Her vision blurring, she tried to pull herself up before she fell onto her side, letting out a tired breath and blacking out.

Chapter Text

Lifting the lower half of his mask up, Peter kicked his feet up on the table, crossing one ankle over the other as he took a bite from his pizza slice. As expected, the cheese was melted just right, pizza sauce was hot and steamy, the toppings were freshly cooked, and the crust had the right amount of crispiness to it. 

“Gotta say, I really needed this,” Peter remarked, giving a thumbs up and nodding in approval. 

“Yes, we all did very well, team. Keep up the good work,” Kori acknowledged, nodding as she started spraying mustard over her own pizza slice. A lot of mustard. Apparently it tasted really good, according to Kori. He’ll just take her word for it; Peter loved mustard, but not that much. 

“Yeah, we totally kicked Bane’s butt,” Garfield remarked, flexing an arm that had morphed into a green hairy gorilla arm. 

“Um, I think you mean Kori kicked Bane’s butt. I remember you getting tossed away by Bane,” Kitty pointed out with a grin, looking up from her phone and then setting it down. Garfield hunched his shoulders sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. 

“Come on, Kitty. I helped out…” Garfield murmured. 

“Kitty… We all contributed to that fight. Some more than others, yes, but what matters is that we all worked as a team,” Kori pointed out after wolfing down half of her slice before smiling and nodding to Peter and Kurt. “Especially you two. The teamwork you two showed was excellent.” 

“It wasn’t as effective as I hoped,” Kurt remarked, his tail drooping down over the edge of the chair.

“Hey, don’t worry about it, Kurt. We managed to score some pretty nice hits on the big guy,” Peter reassured, clapping his hand on Kurt’s shoulder. 

“Yeah. Besides, Bane’s behind bars and we’re all here eating pizza. I call that a win in my book,” Wally pointed out, giving a thumbs up as he took a bite out of his slice. 

“Yep. All up to the JCPD to handle things from here,” Kitty added, nodding. “We’ll probably get a call from them soon anyways. Connor and Gwen are pretty good at digging something up.”

“Hope that call comes up after we finish up eating this pizza,” Peter noted, shooting out a webstring to reel in another pizza slice. He glanced over upon seeing someone familiar walk into the restaurant in his peripheral vision. 

“Hey Titans!” Gwen greeted, raising her hand and waving at them. She had her Spider-Mask on, though she pulled up on it to expose the lower half of her face. 

“Hello, Gwen!” Kori greeted brightly, smiling and waving at her. “What brings you here?” 

“Oh, I got a text saying you guys were buying pizza,” Gwen replied before walking over to Kitty and leaning down to peck her on the forehead. “Hey, babe~ Thanks for the notification!” 

“Any time~ I know how much you love pizza and free food. Free pizza? That’s a match made in heaven,” Kitty replied, shuffling over on the bench and patting at a space beside her. 

“Oh, I actually don’t got much time to hang around and chat. I got a case to work at with Connor over at the docks,” Gwen replied, pointing her thumb over her shoulder before glancing down at the pizza. “Oooh, pepperoni!” 

“Guessing our handy work?” Peter guessed as Gwen took two slices and stacked them together, their tops facing each other. He taught her that, he was glad he followed up on his advice. Pizza sandwich~

“Yep! According to the police, you guys did some fine work keeping damage to a minimum. Ground should be easy to pave over, repainting’s simple, et cetera, et cetera,” Gwen explained, holding a thumbs up to them. 

“Us Titans do our best, Gwen,” Kori said proudly, smiling at her. 

“Keep up the good work,” Gwen remarked before taking out her phone from a hidden pocket and looking at it. “Woop, gotta swing, guys. CSI time~” 

“Go get ‘em, tiger~” Kitty replied, waving at her girlfriend goodbye. 

“See ya later, Titans!” Gwen called out as she chomped on her pizza sandwich to hold it in her mouth and jogged out of the restaurant. 

“So, we got about an hour before they get anything, give or take?” Wally guessed. 

“Could be any minute or any second, to be honest,” Kurt replied, his tail balancing a pizza slice on its end. 

“Which is why we need to be ready at all times,” Kori agreed, nodding as she finished up on her slice. “In the meantime, let’s relax as best we can.” 

“Say, Kori? How’s Dick doing?” Garfield asked, looking over. 

“Oh, he’s doing wonderful~” Kori said happily, smiling. “All Might has said that he’s a wonderful student and is learning very quickly.” 

“Man, that’s crazy,” Peter remarked, shaking his head a little and whistling. “Imagine being an apprentice to the Japanese Superman.” 

“Guy just radiates positivity, doesn’t he?” Kitty added fondly. “Plus, that smile All Might has… That damned smile…” 

“Hm, someone has a crush,” Kurt teased, taking the slice off from his tail and poking the end against Kitty’s back. 

“Hey, All Might’s on my list, already talked to Gwen about it,” Kitty replied with a grin. 

“That’s totally not weird at all,” Wally commented. 

“List? What list?” Kori asked, furrowing her brow. 

“Kitty, don’t,” Peter said quickly after catching Kitty’s devious smile. 

“Well~ The list is basically a list of people that Gwen says I’m allowed to sleep with,” Kitty explained. Kori seemed rather incredulous at the explanation. “Kori, it’s mostly a joke, it’s not actually real.”  

“That’s a very strange joke,” Kori finally said, staring at Kitty before narrowing her eyes. “None of us are on either of your lists, are we?” 

“No! Of course not!” Kitty protested before glancing to the side and rubbing the back of her neck. “That’d be just… weird.” 

“Oh, she totally has us on her list! Or Gwen does!” Wally exclaimed, standing up from the booth and straightening his arms with his hands on the table. “Who is it? Now you gotta tell us!” 

“No she doesn’t! It would be awkward!” Kurt cut in, his tail curling up anxiously. 

“I’m kinda… morbidly curious,” Garfield admitted. 

“She’s clearly uncomfortable about this… and so am I. You don’t need to tell anything, Kitty,” Kori said, looking at Wally disapprovingly. 

Peter had to admit that he shared that sort of feeling. It wasn’t that weird, was it? I mean, they were all amongst friends here… Gagh, of course it was weird! He was interested in finding out the lists of two of his exes! That was just bordering on creepy stalker boyfriend level! 

“Hey Pete, come on. Back us up here,” Wally called out, tapping the back of his hand against Peter’s upper arm. Oooof course… 

“Uh…” Peter began, looking at Kitty who seemed to be avoiding his gaze while scratching her shoulder. “It’s really up to Kitty, to be honest.” 

Wally and Garfield looked over at Kitty expectantly, waiting. Even Kurt and Kori seemed a little curious. Peter decided to spare his teammate just a little bit and stared down at the pizza slice in his hand, taking a slow bite out of it. 

“W-Well… On my list… Amongst the team here, just… Peter, to be honest,” Kitty mumbled. “Same with Gwen…”

Peter reared up and coughed out mid-swallow, pounding on his chest with the side of his fist. He looked up, staring at Kitty who was completely red in the face with her shoulders hunched. He felt the eyes of the rest of the team converged on him. 

“W-What?” Peter said in a hoarse voice, his eyes slightly watering. 

“Really? Wow, Peter. You just leave your girls still wanting, huh?” Wally said, laughing a little. 

“Okay, so I have my ex and my girlfriend’s ex on my list!” Kitty exclaimed, throwing up her hands. “Can you really blame me though?” 

Peter wasn’t sure how to process this, staring at his teammate. Kurt coughed out loud in response to the awkward silence to Kitty’s question. 

“You two seemed quite happy, even after breaking up,” Kori admitted. 

“He’s got Dick’s superpower,” Garfield said with a toothy grin. 

“Big Dick energy,” Wally chimed in. Okay, Peter had to snicker at that , however immature it was. It was a pretty good one. 

“I’m this close to just phasing out of here, guys,” Kitty mumbled, sinking down on the booth. 

“Damage is already done,” Wally pointed out before his smile went away as Kori glared at him. “... Sorry, Kit and Pete.” 

“Yeah, total mood killer, Wally,” Peter murmured, rubbing the back of his head while moving his eyes back down to the table. 

Peter immediately stood up along with the other Titans when they heard screaming from outside of the restaurant joint. Wally had already sped out of the restaurant while the rest of the Titans got up from their booth. 

“Titans, go!” Starfire ordered, pointing towards the doors. 

Peter pulled his mask down to fully cover his face before following after his team leader taking flight towards the doors. When he reached the outside, he stumbled back a step as a group of civilians rushed past him. When he looked over to see what they were running from, Peter felt time slow to a crawl as his Spidey sense tingled. Then he coughed out as something slammed into his stomach before he could properly react. Then something uppercutted him under the chin, sending him up into the air. 

Spider-Man righted himself and shot a web to the top of a light post, zipping to it. 

“Kid Flash, what-” Starfire exclaimed before she grunted as Kid Flash unleashed a flurry of rapid punches to her gut. Starfire held both of her hands together to emit a burst of green light that blasted Kid Flash back. “Something’s wrong with him!” 

“Calm down, mein freund!” Nightcrawler exclaimed, teleporting quickly whenever Wally lunged at him and stumbling him with a whack of his tail. Beast Boy had transformed into a green boa constrictor, wrapping around Kid Flash to bind his arms and legs together after Nightcrawler swept his tail across Kid Flash’s legs to knock him down. 

From his perch on top of the light post, Spider-Man’s eyes widened when he got a better look at the surrounding area. Needless to say, it was a mess. And that was an understatement. 

The whole plaza was all wrapped up in a crazy street brawl; civilians were screaming and throwing punches at each other. Oh god, even worse! Spider-Man quickly shot a web out to stop a knife-wielding woman from stabbing someone in the back. 

“Nightcrawler, Spider-Man!” Starfire called out, breaking up a brawl between two college looking boys and hoisting them up by the collars of their jackets to hold them away from each other. 

“On it! Come on!” Nightcrawler called out, leaping towards a group of three tussling children. 

After webbing up a group of high school students together, Spider-Man watched as his teammate pulled the three kids apart and teleported away, shooting a wide net that spanned across the street after Nightcrawler reemerged in the air, dropping the three children into the large web.

Spider-Man then zipped to another light post that was closer to the brawl, glancing around the melee. Shadowcat was using her powers to phase any blows thrown to be inconsequential before knocking out the crazed attackers. Starfire was grabbing and tossing assailants safely into the web. Nightcrawler was doing the same, his teleportation proving to be real handy. It wasn’t long before Spider-Man’s web was full of writhing people.

Beast Boy was still restraining Kid Flash, who wriggled in the green snake’s tight hold. Spider-Man fired another large web underneath the packed one for extra cushioning and a second large web a little further down the street before swinging down to Beast Boy and Kid Flash. 

The snake then hissed sharply as Kid Flash started to vibrate rapidly, causing the snake to recoil and loosen its grip. The Spidey Sense went off again, but Kid Flash moved too quick for Spider-Man to react. Spider-Man was launched back from a shoulder tackle by the speedster, rolling across the street. 

“Ow…” Spider-Man mumbled, rubbing the side of his head as he stopped on his stomach. A pair of shoes stepped into his peripheral; they were scuffed up brown dress shoes. “Hey, buddy. If you’re there, can you lay off the punches? I’d hate to web you u-”

Spider-Man stopped mid-quip as he looked up. It was a man in light brown dress pants, a white collared button-up, and a lab coat. There was a noose hanging loosely around his neck with a rough burlap sack wrapped around his head, the man raised a sprayer, spewing a sickly green gas in Spider-Man’s face. 

Gasping in surprise, the young hero stumbled back, coughing out as he inhaled some of the gas. He squinted his eyes and quickly fired a pair of webs in retaliation; however, the strings just shot through the gas, hitting nothing as the fog cleared away to black space. Spider-Man straightened himself as he slowly lowered his hands, staring at where the man was. The gasser had completely disappeared without a trace. 

Spider-Man slowly turned around, seeing only darkness around him. His heart was beating rather loudly and it was the only sound he could hear around him. 

“Hello?” he said, his voice echoing as if he were in a long hallway. “Hey! Star? N.C? B.B? Shadowcat? Kid Flash?” 

However, he only heard his own voice bouncing back. After a moment of tense silence, his Spidey Sense went off and he looked around quickly, searching for the imminent danger. Suddenly, Spider-Man dodged to the side to avoid something large and hairy stabbing into the ground where he was. He then leapt forwards and somersaulted to avoid another ‘something’. Spider-Man’s eyes followed up the large thing and then jumped back as two more spikes plunged down. He raised both of his wrists to shoot some webs towards where the things were coming from, but the strings just disappeared into the blackness. 

Spider-Man finally resorted to just running through the blackness, his Spidey Sense going haywire as it sensed danger all around him. Given the gas he was doused with earlier, it was likely this wasn’t real… But he had to trust his Spidey Sense; he wasn’t willing to take chances. 

Dancing left to right to avoid being crushed, he tried firing a few webs at a few angles, but they just kept going, leading to nowhere. He had to get out of here fast; he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep dodging these, especially since they were coming down more often. 

“Hey! I prefer not to be squashed, please and thank you!” Spider-Man called out, looking up from where the pointed ‘pillars’ were coming down from. 

Suddenly, eight pillars came crashing down, surrounding him. Spider-Man flinched, raising his arms defensively before glancing around. 

“Uh, thanks. Now, would it be too much to ask for a light at the end of the tunnel?” he suggested. As if on cue, a bright light began to glow above his head. “Huh… Totally not convenient at all.” 

The light seemed to get brighter before another light suddenly faded in. Then a third. Fourth… Soon, eight lights emerged, flashing on and off simultaneously and rhythmically. His Spidey Sense was still tingling, which prompted Spider-Man to shoot webstrings from his wrists towards the lights. 

The strings lit up in flames upon contact with the lights. The lights shifted from yellow to bright red, illuminating upon him like a spotlight. A high-pitched screech sounded, which prompted him to duck and cover his ears as the scream pierced into his eardrums. 

“Ow ow ow ow!” Spider-Man said, narrowing his eyes a little as his ears rang painfully. 

He glanced up and gasped, stumbling onto his back as a massive spider head emerged from the dark fog. It clicked its massive, spiked mandibles before opening them up to reveal multiple layers of teeth. Spider-Man launched another pair of webs at the giant spider’s face, but they merely burnt into ash. 

“Okay… Okay, it’s not real. Not real,” Spider-Man said quickly, glancing around quickly for any sign of escape. 

However, all he could see was blackness… and the giant spider legs that were caging him in. Still, even he couldn’t fully convince himself, cuz his Spidey Sense was still going off. It was being fooled, that’s all it was. Except he remembered his spiderwebs going on fire. That was just a fluke, right? This was all just a hallucination from the gas. 

Suddenly, the spider spat out a thick web that stuck Spider-Man into the floor. 

“AH! Okay, not real! Totally not fake!” Spider-Man remarked a tad unnecessarily, squirming underneath the sticky trap. However, whatever was covering him, it was strong stuff; he could barely move his body, let alone try to get out. If he weren’t so terrified of the giant spider looming over him, he probably would’ve found this funny; Spider-Man trapped in a web. Hilarious.

His Spidey Sense flared up when the spider snapped its mandibles together and then lunged down towards him. Spider-Man shut his eyes tightly and hoped that being a spider’s lunch wasn’t as painful as it sounded. 

But the pain didn’t come. Not even a flash of it. Instead, a green light was shining brightly through his eyelids and he cracked one eye open. Standing in front of him was a caped man holding his hands out to maintain a green barrier around them, holding back the spider’s bites and legs. The shield pulsated and flashed whenever an impact was made. The light shone on a glass orb where the man’s head was supposed to be. 

Then, the man traced one of his hands in the air, forming a green glowing triangle that rotated slowly. The hand thrust forward, causing a green eye to form within the triangle. A burning green fireball blasted out from the eye when it blinked, knocking the spider back. The man brought his hands out to the sides, causing the barrier to expand and push the spider legs away. At the same time, the webs covering Spider-Man disintegrated into smoke that faded into the air.

It wasn’t Dr. Strange, but there was no denying that this newcomer used the same magic. Who was this guy? Spider-Man had never seen him before. 

Before he could inquire about anything, the man emitted a blinding light that prompted Spider-Man to raise his forearms to shield his eyes. He lowered his arms slowly, blinking hard a few times to clear up the brightness from his vision. 

“Hey! Hey ! Pe- Spider-Man!” a voice said quickly as they shook him by the shoulders like crazy. Spider-Man found himself looking down at the pavement of the city street and looked up to see Shadowcat’s hands on his shoulders. He felt incredibly dizzy and the shaking didn’t really help at all. “Oh thank god!”

“Shadowcat…? C-Cut the earthquake,” Spider-Man groaned, holding the side of his head to keep it steady. She immediately stopped, looking up as someone walked into his peripheral. 

“Spider-Man, are you uninjured?” Starfire asked, resting a hand on his shoulder. 

“Got one wicked headache and feeling a lil’ freaked out, but that’s it…” Spider-Man muttered as he looked around. “What about the others?” 

“Well…” Shadowcat began, hesitating as she turned towards the streets. 

Citizens were shaking their heads, seeming to come out of a daze and all looking very confused. Paramedics had arrived on scene and were helping the citizens to their feet and any injuries they had. Spider-Man looked to his webs; the trapped citizens all looked quite bewildered at finding themselves webbed up. He looked around for the others and saw Nightcrawler and Beast Boy beside Kid Flash, who was shaking his head and rubbing his forehead.

“Hey, is Kid Flash okay?” Spider-Man said, looking at his teammate. 

“Yeah… Yeah, he’s shaken up bad, but he’s alright. He just suddenly… snapped out of it like you. In fact, it seemed like everyone just went sane again all at once,” Shadowcat explained, nodding. Spider-Man’s eyes widened.

“I-I… I didn’t hurt anyone, did I?” he asked quickly. Shadowcat smiled and shook her head, rubbing his upper arm. 

“Don’t worry, you didn’t hurt anyone,” Starfire reassured. Spider-Man let out a small sigh of relief, nodding a little. 

“Okay, thank God…” he breathed before he scanned his environment again. “Say… Did you catch anyone weird-looking somewhere ‘round here? A guy with a potato sack over his head, noose around his neck, holding a weed sprayer? Or a magician looking guy with a glass ball for a head?” 

“Uh… Your head still spinning there?” Shadowcat asked reluctantly, staring at him. 

“We need to get you back to the Tower,” Starfire added, looking at him worriedly. 

“Never mind…” Spider-Man muttered as his head started to clear up a little, enough for him to be able to walk straight towards his team. “How are the others holding up?” 

“Everyone’s fine. We were real lucky there weren’t any serious injuries, given the craziness that went on,” Shadowcat said, walking alongside him.

“Mr. Potato Sack shot some kind of green gas at my face,” Spider-Man grunted, squinting his eyes a little and rubbing his forehead as he looked to the relief workers. “I could use a bit of emergency service myself.”

“Maybe Kid Flash might have something to say since he was the only other one of the team that started throwing punches at us,” Shadowcat suggested as they reached the others. 

“Hey, you remember getting some green gas treatment?” Spider-Man asked, looking at Kid Flash.

“That… sounds a little familiar…” Kid Flash said slowly, furrowing his brow before grimacing as he rubbed his forehead. “I remember seeing some weird guy before I started freaking out and seeing some real scary stuff.” 

“Uh… Potato bag mask?” Spider-Man guessed, miming out slipping something onto his head. 

“Noose around his neck, lab coat?” Kid Flash replied. Spider-Man couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. He wasn’t crazy. 

“Yep. What about rescued by a fishbowl helmet magician?” Spider-Man continued. 

“Yeah. No idea who he was. Anyone catch anyone looking like who we’re talking about?” Kid Flash asked, looking around the team. 

“Uh, no?” Nightcrawler replied. 

“Already said no to Spider-Man,” Shadowcat added. 

“Caught no one looking like that,” Beast Boy said, shaking his head. 

“No, we didn’t see anyone like that,” Starfire chimed in before nodding a little. “Chances are, we have another villain on our hands.”

“Great, just what this city needs,” Spider-Man groaned before looking at Kid Flash. “Giant spider for me, you?”

“Uh… A guy wearing the same gear as me, but black. And he had a skull face,” Kid Flash replied, shuddering a little. “Yeah, that’s gonna be in my nightmares for a while.”

“I’m kinda glad you guys didn’t get gassed,” Spider-Man commented, looking at the rest of his team. He wouldn’t wish those realistic nightmares on even the worst of villains, let alone his teammates. “Cuz the giant spider I saw… Super terrifying.” 

“We’ll get you two checked up back at the Tower,” Starfire promised, nodding a little before she looked around at the scene. “Connor and Spider-Woman will find something from this.” 

“Right, yeah…” Spider-Man murmured, still a little shaken from what he had seen despite having had time to calm down. 

“Here’s hoping something turns up soon… What I saw felt way too real,” Kid Flash murmured, shuddering a little before shrugging his shoulders a few times and hopping in place. “I can zoom around town to find him.” 

“No, Kid Flash, you need to rest. Especially after what you went through,” Starfire advised, resting a hand on his shoulder. Spider-Man glanced over upon hearing ambulance sirens wailing. “We’ll have to just stay on our guard, let Spider-Woman and Connor handle the investigations. They’ll find something. They always do.” 

Spider-Man nodded along with the rest of his teammates. Their encounters usually ended like this and most often, he was satisfied with just that. While stopping villains one after the other was a regular thing every day, Spider-Man couldn’t shake off the feeling that something about this new guy was part of something bigger. 

Then again, that green gas was probably spooking him out, making him blow this way out of proportion. Maybe an hour or two in the Tower’s infirmary will sort this all out.