It was the worst day in Avengers history...
The Scarlet Witch, a longtime member of the Avengers, suffered a total nervous breakdown after losing control of her mutant reality-altering powers and falling prey to the pain and grief of her past. In the chaos around the breakdown beloved Avengers Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Vision all lost their lives.
Many of the other Avengers were hurt, both emotionally and physically as the Scarlet Witch's powers lashed out at their greatest weaknesses. Three months later the team reunited at Avengers Mansion, to say their farewells and to mourn together. Without the funding or drive to keep going, the rest of the team quietly disbanded.
That was a month ago.
Carol Danvers gave a professional smile as she shook the hand of the editor of the LA Herald even as she tried her best to hide her dismay. 'I can't believe I'm reduced to doing this,' the blonde thought, her business suit crisp and neat even in the wilting heat.
"You're freelance work is pretty scanty," Ron Black said to her wearily, his thinning brown hair pushed back from his face, his rumpled clothes matching the hideously messy desk, "a few articles the last few months, with the bulk of your work before that."
'That's because most of my time was occupied being an Avenger,' Carol thought, 'not to mention adventuring out in space.' Choosing her words carefully she offered, "I was trying another job for a while, but newspapers get into your blood."
"Huh," he sounded entirely unimpressed, rummaging through the layers of papers on his desk. "So you'll be covering crime and homicide," Ron sighed as he handed over the assignment sheets, "along with the superhero beat."
"Guess I'm hired," she smiled slightly.
"We're short on staff," Ron said to her honestly, "so try to produce as much content as you can." He paused, "Lots of supercrooks running around after Iron Man and Stark started concentrating back east, should keep you busy."
"Thanks," Carol said, turning away to make her way over to the desk that she had been assigned and getting herself set up. The computer was a few years old, but still good enough for word processing, and the digital camera she had brought in looked like it was going to be compatible. Oddly there even was an older police band radio that someone had scrounged up for the crime beat reporter.
"So you're the new sacrificial lamb?" the warmly amused woman's voice asked. Carol looked up to see a slightly older redhead standing by her desk, her smile gentle as she said, "Welcome to the Herald, I'm Monica Stewart."
"Nice to meet you, Monica," Carol offered her hand and they shook. "Sacrificial lamb?" she asked her curiously.
Monica looked impish, "May have been a poor choice of words, but we haven't had a crime reporter last more than a week or two."
"Sounds fun," Carol was about to say more when the radio squawked, officers reporting a super powered being incident going on downtown. "Sorry," she smiled apologetically to the other woman, "gotta go."
"Good luck," Monica waved as Carol rushed out of the newsroom.
'This is going to take some getting used to,' Carol thought as she raced to the stairs. Reaching the basement parkade she peeled out in her car, out onto streets that she had begun to memorize before even taking on the job.
Racing down the sun drenched city streets Carol mused at how different this place was compared to New York City, and how much she had missed this place. She had been based out on the Cape after her years of intelligence work for the CIA and had lived a good life out here before things got all bad and crazy.
The distant sound of breaking glass, sirens and occasional cries of alarm showed that Carol was getting closer, and she pulled over to the side of the road before climbing out and making her way forward on foot. The buildings provided some cover as she peered to see whom was out there and felt a sudden flash of annoyance and a wee bit of fear.
The four figures tore into the shops on the drive, their similar costumes looking oddly silly in the summer sun. The Wrecking Crew weren't major players, really, in all honesty they were just a group of powerful thugs. The Wrecker, Thunderball, Bulldozer and Piledriver had all been gifted with Asgardian level strength and durability by one of Thor's old foes, and normally the Avengers would be able to make short work of them.
'Problem is,' Carol thought to herself grimly as she used the compact digital camera to get shots of them tearing into a upscale jewelers to get as much loot as possible, 'I'm all alone, and these guys can more than match me strength wise in a group.'
They weren't very elegant, but the Wrecking Crew were pretty efficient at what they were doing. Thunderball swung his full sized wrecking ball to smash up the storefronts, Wrecker used his crowbar to tear open any remaining obstacles then Piledriver and Bulldozer cleared the places out. The police, quite understandably, were hanging back and it didn't look like that any of the local superheroes were available to stop them.
'Which leaves me,' Carol thought as she put her digital camera up on a exposed corner, setting it to photograph every few seconds. Hopefully, she'd get a couple of good action shots that way. Carol closed her eyes, concentrating and called up the stellar energies deep within her body. In a flash of light her stylish business wear was gone, replaced by a uniform in pure black. A simple leotard, gloves, boots, red sash and a stylized gold lightning bolt down her front, and she was Warbird.
"Looks like we got this place cleared," the Wrecker said, the purple and green clad masked crook almost gloating, "we just have to clear out two or three more and we can go!"
"And let's do this quickly," Thunderball added, the African-American former scientist added, "we've been lucky so far that no superheroes have shown up."
"I'd say that's my cue," Warbird said as she descended from where she had flown up and around to, "I'd advise giving up now, gentlemen."
"It's Ms. Marvel!" Bulldozer yelled, his metal headpiece gleaming.
"Warbird," she smiled a little wryly, a bit annoyed that she wasn't better known as she added, "I haven't called myself Marvel in years."
"Whatever," Piledriver barked as the red and whiter villain charged, "get her!"
Warbird didn't wait until they attacked, she was already soaring towards them. A burst of energy blasted Bulldozer back as she ducked to dodge Wrecker's bar, then leapt up to get over Piledriver's charge. 'Now where is...?' Warbird thought.
Thunderball struck much faster than Warbird could have expected, the heavy metal ball hammering her backwards and sending her flying into the second floor of an office building. The glass window and internal walls barely slowed her down, surprisingly it was hitting something else inside the building that stopped her cold. Snatched right out of the air by human hands Warbird and the other figure skidded a moment, then came to a stop in a heap by a inner wall.
"Are you all right?" the black haired woman asked, cradling her with a surprising degree of gentleness. Long black hair fell over her shoulders, brown eyes looking down in honest concern. She looked just like a business woman, her blue woman's suit loosely fitting her, her large bag hanging at her side, now dusty from the damage all around them.
"I think so," Warbird answered dazedly, swaying slightly as they young woman helped her stand up. The board room looked like it was set up for a presentation, architectural diagrams set up and the remaining businessmen were running for their lives. "Wait a minute!" her eyes widened as Warbird realized what this woman had done.
This unassuming woman that was helping her retrace her steps through the broken building had stopped her flight through the building, plucking Warbird right out of the air easily. "What's wrong?" she asked mildly.
"How did...?" Warbird asked. She shook her head, "Who ARE you?"
"Jackie Lukas," she answered with a faint smile as the sounds of the Wrecking crew grew louder, "the rest is a bit harder to explain." Her eyes narrowed in anger as she said, "Is that who disrupted my meeting? I nearly sold them on my designs..."
The Wrecking Crew looked up, the four men clearly surprised to see the two women. "Yes, that would be them," Warbird admitted.
"Good," Jackie reached into her bag, drawing out an unearthly looking weapon. The mace was battered, looking like it had been through the wars but somehow it still radiated pure power. Slamming it hilt first into the ground Jackie was bathed in lightning and stood transformed.
"Oh shit," the Wrecker managed weakly.
Jackie didn't look all that different, Warbird had to admit. Her face and hair were the same, though she looked subtly taller. But her earthly clothes had been reshaped into Asgardian style armor, a blue mail shirt, red cape and black pants ending in simple golden boots. The woman looked like a figure from stories, a legend brought to life,
"When I'm like this," she smiled as she hefted the mace confidently and said, "you can call me Thunderstrike."
Warbird had seen enough of Thor to recognize the costume style and worse, she recognized the name from the Avengers' files. The first Thunderstrike had been a Avenger, fighting to temporarily replace Thor only to be slain in battle, corrupted by dark magic until he became an enemy to them all. 'Is she cursed like the first Thunderstrike was?' she worried.
"Just because she looks like Thor," Thunderball yelled, "it doesn't mean we can't take them!" He pointed dramatically at Warbird and Thunderstrike, "Let's go!"
Bracing herself Warbird stopped Bulldozer's charge, grabbing the metal helmet and heaving upward even as he called out I surprise. Swinging him down she shattered the concrete sidewalk, hammering the bulky man down into the earth until he was stunned.
"Now where is..." Warbird looked around only to stop, smiling in surprise. 'No, I don't think Thunderstrike is going to need any help,' she mused.
With a swing of her mace Thunderstrike met the powerful swing of Thunderball's wrecking ball and stopped it cold with a ringing of metal on metal. Even as the man reeled back in surprise Thunderstrike followed up with a powerful blow to the head, sending him crashing to the ground. "All right," she turned to the two conscious members of the Wrecking Crew, "who's next?"
The Wrecker and Piledriver looked at each other, then bolted forward to grab their fallen comrades. Wrecker raised his wrecking bar above his head and called out, "Dread lord, return us to your keep!" Before either Warbird or Thunderstrike could react the Wrecking Crew were engulfed by a burst of power, disappearing seconds later.
"I've never heard of them doing that before," Warbird growled out, smoothly taking off to hover above the battlefield, looking around them crossly. Sadly there was no sign of the men ever having been there.
"Think they're coming back?" a frowning Thunderstrike asked, her long black hair blowing in the breeze.
Warbird settled to the pavement as she smiled, "I think they've decided to exercise the better part of valor." She looked at her thoughtfully, "Nice work."
"I'd certainly agree," the cold, almost synthesized voice added. Both Warbird and Thunderstrike jerked in surprise to see the armored figure de-cloaking, hovering above them on boot thrusters. The metal was silver and dull gray, bulky looking with weapons mounted on the top of the gauntlets and heavier cannons on the shoulders.
"War Machine," Warbird breathed out, her eyes narrowing as she wondered if this was a friend or foe. The distinctive black and silver Iron Man armor had been worn by both a hero and a criminal, and at least once it had been used to beat her badly.
"Not a friend?" Thunderstrike followed her lead automatically, hefting her mace as she prepared to back Warbird up if needed.
Warbird felt oddly gratified that Thunderstike seemed to trust her so quickly. "Not sure yet," she answered honestly.
The War Machine settled down beside them, the cannons and other arms not locked on, thankfully. "I come in peace," the voice continued coldly, then surprisingly a gauntleted hand flipped up the faceplate. The redheaded woman smiled, her voice unprocessed through electronics sounding much warmer. "My name is Jennifer Swensen," she said cheerfully, "I'd like to offer you a job."
To be continued...
Notes: This series is a rethinking of my previous series Force Works, with some of the cast being carried over. While I liked writing Force Works I did get the feeling that I was writing it mostly for myself, mostly due to modest reader feedback. I was sort of losing interest when the comics series began a new story called Avengers Disassembled, and that opened up several new ideas. I intend this to be a shorter series, at most six parts and possibly less, but we'll just have to see.
This section is nearly word for word the introduction Brian Michael Bendis wrote for the new Avengers series, with a few additional details added by me. BMB's new series is one of the best Avengers books I've read in years, and I strongly recommend it.