The phantasmal figure of Dark Phoenix appeared in the lab, not particularly startling the scientists.
On the right side of the hall, a four-legged green creature turned away from a screen, to her projection.
"Welcome your majesty," Karno greeted in Hordanian. "It is wonderful to see you."
"Let us skip the formalities," Dark Phoenix instructed. "What have you to show me?"
Karno gestured towards the screen. "We've made a device to view the multiverse with, milady, and begun compiling a database of alternate realities for your future conquest."
Dark Phoenix smirked. She would gladly admit that the notion of expanding her empire into other universes appealed.
"Now, we've made a somewhat fascinating discovery," Karno continued, eager to share. "Every universe seems to contain a number of subspaces within themselves. A different Realm of Death in each, for example."
Dark Phoenix supposed that was fascinating. "Yes, yes, now show me these alternate realities."
Karno turned, walked over to the keyboard by the screen. The projection turned that way, curiously watching the screen.
"The first one is a reality very similar to yours," Karno exposited. "It has you to rule it, but you don't do it alone."
A picture of a planet came onto the screen. A number of fiery pits, big enough to register despite the sheer scale of the image, littered it. Dark Phoenix inspected it, noting the precise two-ring arrangement of the six infernos. Whoever had designed that world, she thought, had a preference for structure.
An image of a burly man replaced it. His skin was like stone, while his garments were all dark-blue. His face was set in an inscrutable frown.
"His name appears to be Darkseid," Karno informed her. "We haven't tried to identify much about him beyond that he is the other Phoenix's fellow ruler of the cosmos because we didn't think you would be interested."
"You presume correctly," Dark Phoenix answered. "Continue."
Karno clicked an arrow-button. The image slid to the left, replaced by one of a spiral galaxy, where more littered the background.
"This reality is very similar to this one," she told her queen. "It is under the rule of that Dark Phoenix, who bears the Infinity Gems." Dark Phoenix scrunched over in shock at that. She had thought they were but legend. "With their power, she has made this galaxy into her throne-realm."
Dark Phoenix couldn't help but gasp at that, her projection flickering. An entire galaxy? It was almost surreal to contemplate - countless stars and worlds, all devoted to her. Such work should have taken millennia at the least. What foe could possibly stand against all that power?
A grin broke out on her face. With a bit of concentration, the projection stabilized. "Continue."
"The third universe is the most divergent that we've observed," Karno said. "In that reality, you seemingly took your own life on Earth's moon."
Phoenix's smirk dimmed, the memory of a slaughter returning to her. "Pitiful."
"Indeed, Lady Phoenix," Karno agreed, earning more of the same from the other scientists. "Anyway, while we determined the existence of another eleven universes, we haven't yet observed anything relevant in them."
Dark Phoenix looked indifferent. "I see." A moment later, she faded away. On the other side of the lab, one of the scientists released a breath.
Far away, up and north, a predominantly-green planet drifted in the third galaxy from theirs. Deep within that world's most temperate continent laid a tower, across a square mile of the area. It was built of an immaculate white material, five floors tall and capped by a dome roof. Nothing but crimson grass and the occasional lake surrounded the building.
On the ground floor, in the kitchen hall, almost six dozen cooks were running maintenance. A Shi'ar was tending to the eighth meat fridge, and the narration didn't care about anyone else.
In the ground floor bedroom, a certain redhead laid half-covered, a smile gracing her face. A lean-figured blond sat on her left, curious anticipation on his face. On her right, a brown-haired man was soundly sleeping.
"Can I be of further service?" he asked matter-of-factly. Dark Phoenix didn't look at her concubine while mulling it over.
"Perhaps in an hour, or two," she replied, getting out of bed. Her suit floated to her hand, and she got dressed.
Without warning, space parted open. Nobody in the throne room reacted to that particularly much. The woman on the throne grinned at the familiar sight.
Through it stepped Dark Phoenix, the aperture sealing behind her. Dark Phoenix glanced to the throne and saw a red giant of a woman, almost five meters tall, six-armed and horned, dressed in a green shirt and loincloth.
"Greetings, your majesty," Hoct said, calmly. "How can I be of service?"
"I am simply taking a survey of matters," Dark Phoenix informed her.
"Well then, I'm pleased to announce that there're no worries here," Hoct said, grinning. "The system's been real quiet. Exactly zero percent foreign activity."
Good," Dark Phoenix said. "Now, how many soldiers have you to spare? Abretus has recently had an unfortunate encounter with a fleet of miscreants." The annoyance in her voice was unmissable to Hoct.
"Just give a number, I'll look into it," Hoct replied. "Anyway, I kinda have a request of my own. I've got maybe thirty-thousand ships and eight million soldiers, and you see the problem, right?"
Phoenix did. "I will transfer the raw materials from Karno's operation and two million of your troops to Abretus, then. Have you any objections?" Hoct wondered why she bothered asking. What they all thought was her decision. Dark Phoenix smiled at the thought.
"None, your majesty," Hoct replied humorlessly. "I'll need a month to assemble them." The mental image of bones ripped from their flesh accompanied the sentence. Hoct had no desire to fail. Dark Phoenix smiled at that thought.
After a moment, she turned to leave. With no more than a thought expended on it, she opened another stargate, a street and dark skies on the other side.
Two galaxies west-ward and down, on a yellow planet in the upper-northern region of that one, in its capital city, one of Qerta's servants spotted the portal and broke into a run. Dark Phoenix emerged from it.
"Your majesty," the servant murmured in Arlosian, awed at the sight of her, and bowed. She shot him an amused look. "I know for whom you have come, but she is currently not present in this city. Lady Qerta has journeyed to the ice land, and will not return for some time."
"So be it," Dark Phoenix replied promptly. The thought occurred to simply contact Qerta, but she decided against it. Phoenix knew well how she liked her solitudes on her training journeys.
He looked up, everything else suddenly forgotten. A beautiful woman, slender and shapely, dressed in a figure-hugging suit of crimson and gold, hovered silently above the street. Blazing wings spread wide at her back, her hair almost as bright as the flame. Her eyes gleamed gold, her lips curled in a smirk as she scrutinized the stone being.
"What have we here?" Sirg heard her commune, in his mind. He couldn't help but feel an urge to bow, kneel to her. "Ah. A Kronan who is nothing. Just a simple scavenger without a home, without friends or allies, without means to better his situation. Even without aspirations beyond his next meal."
She certainly had him figured out, he thought wryly, leveling a glare at her. If even a fraction of the stories about her were true, he knew that her presence meant nothing good.
"No need to be suspicious," she communed, openly amused. "I will gladly tell you my intent. I simply seek a new minion. Why not you?" Sirg looked quizzical. "Picture yourself as ruler of this world, living a life where everything you want is given to you when you want it."
Sirg couldn't deny, it was the best job offer he had ever gotten. Closing his eyes, he imagined himself a king, lord over this entire planet and the mightiest warrior on it. He didn't even have to give her anything but his service, he thought eagerly, a smirk breaking out on his face. How could he say no?
Sirg's smirk dimmed at that thought. He couldn't say no. If he did, she would just make him or choose somebody else.
"Quite true," Phoenix agreed, "But I can plainly see that your choice is made." Silently, a wormhole opened before him. On the other side, he saw a room. Barely aware of it, he walked forward.
Swiveling around, he took in the sight of the chamber. Almost everywhere Sirg looked, weapons and devices met his eyes, lying scattered about. The collection seemed capable of everything.
"What to choose for you?" Sirg heard her in his mind.
"Does it matter?" Sirg wondered.
"It matters greatly," Phoenix communed. "Making monsters is one of my favored hobbies, and I like them distinctive. There are so many possibilities to explore." Sirg supposed that was good enough. He didn't see a point, but he didn't care.
"Perhaps a vicious tyrant, who rapes and butchers because he revels in vile acts?" Dark Phoenix suggested. An image appeared in his mind - himself laughing to the heavens, surrounded by blood and corpses strewn on the battlefield - his enemies and allies both, Sirg speculated. The sound was so pure that it almost made him sick. Sirg smiled, unconsciously. "I believe this will be adequate."
Dark Phoenix leaned against a lone tree, around a patch of orange grass. Her physical and mind's eyes were closed, a content smile on her face.
A park whose grass and trees came in all the rainbow's colors extended around her in all the cardinal directions, underneath a deep-blue sky. A mild breeze ruffled the blades and the tree-tops, almost silent. A long way to her left laid a pristine lake, shimmering in the sunlight.
"What next?" she pondered. Dozens of worlds across the universe had fallen to her, and more would follow in the centuries to come. What could she do to meaningfully expand her power? Conquering the galaxy seemed almost mundane, at this point. That would merely be more space to make hers.
Perhaps it was time to begin the war with the Shi'Ar. They, the Kree, the Skrulls, and the Abstract Ones were the only ones standing in the way of absolute conquest, at least to her current knowledge.
Perhaps find the Infinity Gems? Time was still decisively beyond her control, and their other powers would scarcely hurt to have.
Even in the event that some metaphysical nonsense stopped her from using them, having them meant nobody could use them against her.
Her smile dimmed as a thought occurred - perhaps it was better not. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that some schemer out there was expecting her to gather them so they could be easily stolen. Thanos, perhaps.
She dismissed the thought, her eyes opening. An aura of psionic fire erupted spontaneously from her, taking the shape of wings, enveloping her hands. The light of her eyes intensified at that. Phoenix took flight.
In the meadow she passed, an animal equally like a lizard and a horse spotted the trail of flame she left across the sky, as did the park-keepers. Two packs, one of birds, one of wolves the size of elephants, were startled by her passage. Soon reaching the mansion, she descended towards her bedroom terrace. She began walking inside, glass doors sliding aside.
In the library on the fourth floor, a blond man received a command to join her. Respectively in the pool hall and the dining hall, a ginger man and a Shi'ar man received the same command. All three immediately heeded the order.
All in all, this was a good day, Dark Phoenix thought while disrobing.