“Wait, actually?” Daisy’s jaw fell to the floor.
Mack raised an eyebrow. “You think I would joke about this?”
Daisy took a deep breath, reached out a hand . . . and picked up the bottle of fish oil pills. “I mean, no . . . it’s just . . . haven’t thought of these in a while.”
“They weren’t as wide-spread as we thought they would be.”
“Good,” Daisy murmured and stared the fish oil down, turning the bottle around in her hand.
Sousa stared over her shoulder. “Am I missing something? It’s . . . a vitamin. Right?”
Shaking his head, Mack leaned against the desk and crossed his arms. “No. It’s terrigen.”
Daisy glanced backward and met Sousa’s eyes. “We talked about this. Terrigen. Triggers terrigenesis in inhumans . . . changes our DNA. Gives us superpowers.”
He nodded, with a short “oh” of realization.
“The metal it was combined with made it deadly to non-inhumans,” Mack added, “but five—no, seven—years ago, some crystals got released into the ocean and somehow ended up back—” he gestured to the bottle, “—as fish oil. Causes terrigenesis in inhumans but is harmless to humans. We had an inhuman epidemic for a few months, but these haven’t cropped up anywhere in a long time.”
“Hunter tried taking them when we found some,” Daisy said with a smirk. Of course, he wasn’t inhuman, but she knew he had been crossing his fingers for some type of power.
Sousa raised his eyebrows and glanced up at Mack. “Did you try them?”
Mack rolled his eyes. “No, and—”
“He never will,” Daisy finished, all too familiar with this particular conversation. She set down the bottle of pills and placed her hands on her hips. Mack nodded.
“Is there any way to know before you take that stuff, if you’re already a . . .” Sousa gestured toward Daisy, then at the fish oil.
“An inhuman?” Daisy raised her eyebrows. “I mean . . . you’d probably have to trace your ancestry, or maybe there’s a DNA test . . .” She looked up at Mack for confirmation, but the director just shrugged.
“We’ve never needed it before. Probably could test for it though,” Mack said.
Daisy smirked and gave Sousa a side-eye. “What, you thinking of trying one?”
He opened his mouth, closed it again, then shrugged. “Well, I mean . . .” He crossed his arms and swept a hand toward the unassuming bottle of vitamins. “Doesn’t everyone think about having superpowers at some point?”
Mack shook his head. “Not everyone.”
“Oh, the irony,” Daisy said with a long sigh.
Sousa lowered his weapon just slightly, to turn and shoot her a confused glance. “What?”
Obviously ignoring him, Daisy frantically waved Kora over. Sousa kept his eyes and handgun fixed on the end of the hallway but watched the girls in his peripheral vision.
“Recognize these?” Daisy asked, carefully lifting the lid of what looked like a small briefcase.
Kora gasped. “Terrigen crystals?”
The word rang deep in Sousa’s mind, and he flinched away. He didn’t want to bet his life today, whether those were dangerous to humans or not.
“We were just talking about them,” Daisy explained. “And now . . .” she looked around at the suffocating walls . . . dark and open on both ends. “We chase our lead and takes us right to these. Totally ironic.”
Sousa flicked his eyes sideways and caught Daisy’s gaze. “They the deadly kind?”
She nodded, lips pursed and face pale with worry.
“Let’s get them out of here before something happens,” Kora urged, balling her hands into fists and glancing behind her every few seconds.
Daisy gave a sharp nod and reached out to close the case . . .
And of course, all hell broke loose.
“Get back,” Sousa shouted, throwing himself toward the girls as gunshots began to rain down on them from seemingly every direction.
Daisy planted her feet and sent blasts upon blasts toward the attackers. Kora stood directly beside her and sent pulses of lighting-like energy in the opposite direction . . . watching her sister’s back.
Sousa kept himself pressed up against the wall, squinting his eyes and firing off his entire clip into the group of mercenaries . . .
But the unimaginable happened.
Daisy swore she saw it in slow motion.
An enemy bullet slipped through her haphazard barrier . . . passed Kora . . . passed Sousa . . . and struck the open case of terrigen crystals squarely in the middle.
The world stopped.
All three crystals instantly shattered upon impact, and Daisy didn’t even have time to scream.
The rest of the attackers fell after Kora let out an earth-shattering blast of energy, and both girls watched in abject horror as the case of terrigen fell off the table . . . disintegrating whatever hadn’t been smashed by the bullet.
Mist rose up like an awoken leviathan.
Daisy’s eyes flew to meet Sousa’s . . . but she couldn’t move.
His mouth fell open, his eyes grew wide, his gun fell out of his hands.
It clattered onto the ground.
A sharp spike of terror almost knocked her backward and lodged itself into Daisy’s chest. A million flashes of memory flew with lighting speed through her mind, and the one that stuck—so clear she could feel it—was the vision of a man . . . squeezing through a quickly-closing stone door. A sinister, inky-smooth voice talking about fate and destiny. Metal hinges opening like flower petals.
And Tripp’s eyes . . . apologetic and accepting as they turned to stone . . . and he crumbled away.
The one thought that pounded against the front of Daisy’s mind was a mantra she was very, very familiar with.
The first thing Sousa noticed was how cold it had become.
He felt the shell cracking . . . breaking into a thousand pieces, and he could finally move his fingers. How long had it lasted?
Shouldn’t he be dead?
Time was irrelevant.
A wave of pure panic struck him square in the chest, and as the rest of the substance around him fell away, his legs gave out and he crumpled to the ground, eyes shut against the blinding light.
His hands hit the concrete. Pain shot up his arms.
“Daniel,” Daisy cried . . . but it sounded a thousand years away. He saw her through a blur, as she sank to her knees in front of him . . . caught a glimpse of Kora's shocked expression . . .
He took a breath.
And for the second time that day . . . time slowed.
He lifted his head, and Kora was frozen to the ground. Daisy’s hair fell around her face in a curtain, but . . . it wasn’t moving. She looked like a marble carving.
His eyes widened.
His mouth went dry.
The air around him was completely still; not an atom moved. He could feel it. (Or rather . . . couldn’t.)
How much time had passed?
It felt, for a moment (and infinite moments in between), like he froze. But he didn’t. He kept breathing, he kept thinking. But he couldn’t . . . He couldn’t feel the life energy around him that he normally did; that he hadn’t realized he could feel until he couldn’t anymore. The slight whisper of air at his ears. The smell of gunpowder. The shuffling of Daisy’s feet as she crouched next to him . . . They were all gone.
It was completely silent. He was in a void.
And then, like a freight train to his senses, all the movement returned to the world.
Daisy clutched his arms and dragged him to a half-sitting, half-kneeling position on the bullet-strewn concrete. “Daniel,” she gasped, looking him up and down, her eyes wide and bloodshot. “Are you okay? Oh my god you scared me.”
Sousa tried to answer her, but his mouth remained dry and unresponsive. He could only gasp desperately for air.
“You’re a—” Kora breathed from behind them. “You didn’t die. You’re . . . an inhuman.”
“I don’t know how else to describe it.” Daniel stared at his hands and willed the metallic taste in his mouth and the constant spinning in his head to go away.
Daisy sighed and leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees. She reached out and clasped one of his hands across the containment pod. “Whatever your power is . . . wasn’t dangerous. At least not obviously.” She took a breath. “We’ll get you to the Lighthouse and do some testing.”
He drew his eyebrows together and nodded solemnly. “You should have—” he cleared his throat. “You said powers are . . . explosive. Right after terrigenesis. You should have left while I was . . . you know.” He gestured at his whole body, where the casing—shell?—had been. “Just in case. I could have hurt you. Both of you.”
Daisy’s mouth fell open in shock. “Sousa, you could have died. But instead, you just went through one of the most traumatic events ever, and you’re . . .” She shook her head and sighed. How was he still so focused on his teammates? Even through this upheaval of everything? Everything about his life had just changed in an instant (again), and he still thought about her safety first.
She squeezed his hand. “We’re all okay.”
And all of a sudden, Daisy grinned. A half-snort, half-laugh escaped her, and she just . . . couldn’t push it down.
Sousa raised an eyebrow as his girlfriend dissolved into a fit of guilty laughter, clamping a hand over her mouth as she tried to force herself to stop.
“You’re an inhuman,” she said around her gasping laughter.
His eyebrows almost met his hairline. “And that’s funny to you?”
Daisy shook her head, still overcome with hilarity. It wasn’t . . . shouldn’t have been funny. But it felt almost ironic. The straight-laced square out of time was an alien. Just like her. She was supposed to be the weird one in the relationship, the super-powered wild card.
But now he was in the same boat.
Oh, how fate loved to throw curveballs at both of them. Constantly.
“I’m sorry,” she said and jumped up, moving across the containment pod to sit next to him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his middle and let her laughter finally die out. “It just struck me. It’s weird. You’re officially part of the gang.”
He snorted. “’Astro ambassadors’ has a whole new meaning now, huh?”
But as he let a reluctant smile creep onto his face . . . The world froze.
It felt like a mid-winter day, when snow had just fallen and the whole world lay sleeping.
The pounding of blood in his ears stilled.
Daisy stiffened next to him as she gripped his hand. “Something just happened,” she whispered.
Sousa took a deep breath and looked up. While they had been talking, he could see out the large window of the containment pod, through the window on the Zephyr 3, and he had been watching as clouds flew by.
But now, the clouds stood frozen in place below the plane.
His breaths felt shallow and empty.
“Let go of my hand,” he murmured. He had a theory.
Daisy shot him a confused, concerned glance, but obliged.
As she drew away—the very split second her hand left his—she, too, froze in place.
A bolt of panic shot through Daniel's chest. But his theory had been confirmed. He stood up, crossed to the opposite bench, and sat down again, a few feet away from Daisy now.
For what felt like an infinity—while his brain racked itself to form some cohesive explanation of this event—he stared straight ahead at the white wall.
And suddenly, the same as before, like a freight train struck him, movement returned to the world.
Daisy blinked. She jumped back in shock, her eyes glued to the spot Daniel had been sitting.
He had disappeared.
Her jaw dropped open, and her eyes flew around the containment pod . . . And found his gaze.
Sousa took a sharp breath of air and raised his eyebrows.
At least he knew what his power was now.
When Z-3 docked at the Lighthouse, Mack and Yoyo already stood waiting at the end of the ramp. Kora had radioed in with a short, out-of-breath update, but they had heard nothing past “terrigen crystals” and “Agent Sousa,” so when the cargo ramp lowered and Daisy caught sight of Yoyo’s pale face and Mack’s furrowed brow, she instantly opened the containment pod for Daniel to walk out . . . obviously unharmed.
“What happened?” Yoyo demanded.
Mack clapped a hand to Sousa’s shoulder and looked him up and down. “Kora said something about terrigen crystals.”
“Yeah, we uh . . .” Daisy struggled for words. “Ran into some.”
“Radcliffe’s?” Mack pressed, obviously trying to bring some clarity to this very vaguely-explained situation.
Kora decided to intervene as the group walked toward the hangar doors into the base, Sousa sticking close to Daisy. “Nope. The original kind. There was a box of them, got shot off the table, they all shattered.”
The gears turned in Mack’s head, and the team wanted to see how long it would take before he . . .
“You survived,” he said quietly.
Yoyo gasped and trotted up a few steps as the door to the base hissed open. “You went through terrigenesis, didn’t you?”
He nodded again.
Laughing in disbelief, Elena patted his shoulder. “Welcome to the club, old man.”
Daisy crossed her arms. “Most inhumans can’t control their powers at all right after terrigenesis, but yours only happened . . . twice, right?”
“That I know of,” Sousa corrected.
He felt shaken. Something was off, and even more so than he was used to. It was not as if he’d never been thrown around and uncomfortable. He had lost a leg in the war. He was pulled from his time and swept into a fight for the world, then taken to a whole new century. He knew what it felt like to be shaken up, and yet . . . This was a whole new level.
“Well, you were lucky.” Daisy smiled, then let out a long sigh and leaned sideways, snaking an arm around his back. “I sent your blood sample to Jemma, she should have results back in the morning.”
Mack shook his head, glancing at the couple from across the room. “Still unbelievable.”
“And he’s not even sure what kind of powers they are,” Kora said. “I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
Sousa raised his head. “Time, I think. I can pause time.”
When he was met with skeptical, yet interested looks from all around the Lighthouse’s lounge area, he tried to explain the intense feelings of just nothingness he’d experienced, being able to move freely while everyone was frozen like statues around him. The instant distance he’d felt as he released Daisy’s hand back in the containment pod and she had just . . . frozen, for lack of a better word.
“Can you control it?” Mack asked.
Sousa drew his eyebrows together. “I . . . don’t know.”
Daisy nudged him and encouraged him to try. “Remember how you felt right before it happened back in the pod.”
With a quick glance to her, he made sure their hands were clasped . . . and focused.
He thought of it as a jump into a void. It was a strange sensation, feeling his senses just give out. With nothing except the slight inhale and exhale of his breath and the movement beside him where Daisy sat . . .
He almost grinned, glancing around to see Kora half-sitting down into her chair, still as a statue. Mack stuck in the action of crossing his arms. Yoyo with a goofy, half-formed expression that looked like someone took a snapshot at the wrong time.
“It worked,” Daisy whispered, reiterating his thoughts. “It’s so quiet.”
“Going to take some getting used to,” he breathed.
Daisy looked down at their joined hands. “So when you let go of my hand in the pod, you stayed . . . here? And to me it was literally no time?”
“How long do you think it lasts?”
“Well,” he considered for a moment. “Yoyo’s powers last as long as a heartbeat, right?”
“Right, but if time is completely frozen, that wouldn’t make sense. Our hearts are still beating, so whose would that go off of?” Daisy’s mind spun with the possibilities of Daniel’s gift. How it worked, how he could use it, what the limitations were . . . “Maybe you just have to turn it on and off, like a switch.”
He thought for a few moments, glanced at Daisy . . . and tugged her to a standing position. He led her across the room, never letting go of her hand, weaving around their friends, until they stood against the wall at the opposite end.
“Brace yourself,” he said . . . and focused again on the feeling of a freight train crashing into his chest . . .
And just like that, Kora plopped herself into the chair. Mack crossed his arms, and Yoyo smiled.
But then, the three of them jerked with shock when they noticed Daniel and Daisy’s disappearance, almost all at the same time.
“Hey, guys,” Daisy said with a smirk.
Mack whirled to face them, his eyes bugging out hilariously. No one spoke—the shock was intense, apparently—but Kora laughed when Yoyo finally said, “Wait a second. Are you trying to one-up me?”
Daniel turned to face his girlfriend, whose hand he still grasped. “You know, I’m kind of beginning to enjoy this.”
“I didn’t call you back here just for a retrieval op,” Mack admitted.
Sousa glanced at Daisy, her knowing expression nicely mirroring his own. “Yeah, we know,” he said.
The Director raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“You want us to go back to space,” Daisy said with a firm nod.
Sousa crossed his arms, unconsciously tugging at the sleeves of his black T-shirt. It had been two weeks since that fateful day with the terrigen crystals, and . . . it had honestly been an easier transition than he’d ever thought possible. He really didn’t feel much different than before. Of course, he hadn’t realized exactly how shocked he’d been and mentally frozen until days after the event, when it really hit him and he realized exactly what had happened. That he’d never be the same, his life would forever be changed, he could never go back to how it was before . . . But that was nothing new. He’d dealt with all of that more than once in his life; he could do it again.
And he had made progress in understanding his gift. Daisy and Kora worked with him day in and day out, telling him to focus, to center himself and channel the power through concentration. He had learned that it went further than just freezing time . . . He found out that he could only stay in that empty, silent space for a few minutes before his head began to spin and his vision went blurry and dark. And he learned that he could see through time—like he was looking through a hazy, dirty window—both future and past, by half-second increments. Any more, and he would pass out cold on the ground. (He learned that the hard way.) Daisy didn’t think that it was so much seeing the future (since the distance he could see was so shallow), but rather that he had enhanced intuition. But that remained to be seen, exactly how much control over and visibility of time he had.
His gift was not earth shattering or violent . . . And neither was he. It worked out. It was a subtle yet surprisingly powerful ability, having even the tiniest control over a force so unexplainable and yet . . . It was fitting. The attempt to change and control time had brought him to Daisy. And now he had been gifted the power to influence time in the slightest of ways.
It was all very poetic, really.
“We’re ready, if you need us,” Sousa added.
Mack put down his tools and stepped away from the quinjet he’d been inspecting. The hangar echoed and engines whirred in the background. “Actually . . .” he glanced over at his friends and smiled. “You’re right. I was planning to send another mission to space. But not yet.” His grin widened. “Yoyo and I are going back to D.C. soon, and we’re going to talk with May about adding a small, specialized inhuman training course to the Academy . . . And she asked for you three to help get it started.”
Daisy’s eyes unconsciously flew toward the door to the base, where Kora stood only a few feet away, waiting impatiently for her sister and pseudo-brother to finish talking with the Director.
“Sir,” Sousa protested instantly, then gestured toward the sisters. “They should. But I . . . I’m not really the most qualified—”
Mack raised a hand. “You are. All three of you. Daisy, you’ve had experience training inhuman SHIELD agents. Kora—” he tilted his head in her direction, “—you grew up in Afterlife, around every inhuman power imaginable. And Agent Sousa . . . You might be the only inhuman I’ve met who controlled their powers in less than two days.”
Daniel met Daisy's eyes and gave a half-smile. “I had a good teacher.”
Mack nodded. “Exactly my point.” He let out a long breath. “And it wouldn’t be forever. Just a month or two. Then . . . I have a new assignment for you three. If you want to take it.”
“The astro ambassadors back at it again, huh?” Daisy smirked.
“Shut up,” Kora hissed, poking her head around the corner, her hands raised at the ready.
Daisy ignored her. “And no different than before, either. How many of these 'peace missions' have we screwed up now?”
Kora waved her arm, and Daisy and Sousa followed her into the brightly-lit, unsettlingly cheery hallway, stepping lightly to not make too much noise.
The planet of Rodnamh should have been a peaceful and easy trip, being hailed as one of the most visitor-friendly places in this particular solar system. But the one thing their friends on Saalr had failed to mention . . . (which would have been a vital piece of information) . . . was that Rodnamhians hated inhumans more than anything.
So, the peace deal was officially off. And they had been ordered to return to their ship immediately, without escort, for fear of “extermination.”
“I’m surprised Mack even wanted us to come back,” Daniel chuckled.
Daisy grinned. “I’m glad he let us, either way. It’s good to be back, right?”
As their feet echoed down the long, white hallway, Z-3 just in their sights, Sousa took a moment to assess his situation.
It had been a hell of a ride so far, just like his whole life had been. After their conversation in the hangar seven months ago, the three unofficial astro ambassadors had shipped out to Washington D.C. to help May and Yoyo set up the new inhuman training program at the Coulson Academy. But after just a month of desk work and planning and teaching, both Daisy and Daniel decided they were ready for another high-stakes, life-or-death mission to space. And Kora heartily agreed.
So, with the green light from Mack, they had said their goodbyes, even taking a week to fly across the Atlantic, to the little cottage in Scotland. Daisy had to hug her best friend and hand yet another stuffed monkey to her little niece . . . And before they knew it, another team had been assembled and they were traveling the vast stars again, for the second time in just two and a half years.
And he realized how incredibly lucky he’d been.
His life could have ended back in that cramped hallway, when the terrigen crystals fell. But instead, he’d been given a second chance at life. (Or was it a fourth chance? A fifth, maybe?)
Laughing to himself at the thought that invaded his mind, he reached over mid-stride and grabbed Daisy’s hand . . . and the world ground to a halt. Kora froze in her jog, stopping in mid-air.
“Daniel,” Daisy scolded, knowing time was of the essence. “What are you doing?”
But . . . they had all the time in the world.
With a sly grin, he pulled her close and landed a fervent kiss to her lips. She almost laughed against his mouth, but snaked her free arm up and pulled him closer . . .
“What was that?” she demanded with a smile, breathless as she pulled away.
He shrugged, knowing she would call him a dork for this. “Just thinking about all the extra time I never thought we’d have.”
Daisy opened her mouth to respond, but closed it and nodded her understanding, pulling him back in for one more quick kiss. She grinned and squeezed his hand. “Now, no more stalling, Danny boy. Let’s go before you wear yourself out.”
And with a rush of energy, they bolted forward again, toward the Zephyr.
Kora never knew the difference.