Chapter 40: "Regrouping"

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"NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!! I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they've done!"

- Captain Jean-Luc Picard

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

- Abraham Lincoln

1

Meg

She didn't know what she expected to happen, but the hammer rising effortlessly from the muck and gore had not been high on the list. Lighter than a feather in her hands yet still possessing the mass of a small mountain, Mjolnir not only bent to her will but to Meg's way of thinking, gleefully submitted to her. She swung the short-handled mallet in front of her and prepared to take flight when she heard the voice once more but, this time, clear and defined, no longer distant and cloying.

Time is short, Megan; there's still much to do and very little time to do it.

"Enough with this screwing around, who the hell are you?" Meg demanded.

There was no response. Meg opened her mouth to yell, in fact, to give the voice a piece of her mind, when a new speaker caught her off guard, and the words died unspoken.

"Meg?" Tammy coughed, stumbling toward her, "Is that you, Meg?"

"Tammy!" Meg yelled in shock.

All thoughts of the voice, the death of Thor, or the waiting confrontation at the crack banished from her mind. Tammy looked like she'd been through a crucible of pain. Burned clothing appeared to have melted into her flesh, and only a few wisps of blond hair remained, contrasted sharply against the blackened and cracked flesh of her scalp.

"Oh, gods, Tammy," Meg exclaimed, racing to her love's side and scooping her into her arms. "What happened to you, love?" Meg asked, fighting back tears and holding Tammy tight while taking pains to be as gentle as possible.

"Tried to help you and Thor," she groaned, clearly fighting to stay conscious despite her injuries and accompanying pain. "One of the tentacles knocked from the sky and into a platoon of Thorns. They thought I was down for the count; they were mistaken," she finished, burying her face in Meg's chest. "I had to find you. I had to see you one last time."

"Shut up, you're safe now, Tam-Tam," Meg said, openly weeping. "I'll get you to the healers, and you'll be okay. Then I'll beat this thing, and we'll see dinosaurs!" Her words came in gasping sobs.

"I waited three hundred years," Tammy continued, her voice growing steadily weaker. "I waited for you; it was always you."

"Please, Tammy," Meg begged, dropping to her knees and kissing the woman softly on her forehead. "Please don't leave me."

Tammy was silent in response.

High above, darkness black as night and thick as tar filled the sky.

2

Red Rock

Human and non-human, mortal and immortal, it was impossible to differentiate who was who in the chaos of Red Rock. The battle with the Thorns and the Great Beast was won, but the cost was immense. Eight in ten of all combatants had fallen in the battle, and of the fallen fully two-thirds were dead. Even with the high death toll, the healers and doctors were being pushed beyond their limits.

"The mortals carried a portion worthy of the gods," Set said as a cat-headed healer, one of Bast's Priestesses, worked on his legs both of which had shattered when the barge impacted the ground. The respect in his voice was grudging but real. "Perhaps the old ways are finally slipping past us."

"Some of us have been saying that for a very long time, Lord Set," Prometheus said while healing several dozen Olympian and Asgardian warriors at once. "Some of us paid a hefty price for believing that." The last free Titan looked every bit his eons of age. The battle was in many ways rougher on him than most of the gods. Still, with only a fraction of his strength after tens of thousands of years of imprisonment, he'd been forced to take on the role of senior advisor as opposed to front line combatant; it vexed him.

"Many have paid the final price on this day," Odin chimed in, his voice firm yet filled with sorrow. "I have lost a son and a daughter this day." The Lord of Asgard was covered with the marks of savage combat but unlike the others, he refused to allow the healers to work on him.

"You do not know for certain," Hathor said, lying still on the ground, her eyes firmly shut. The Egyptian goddess was physically unmarked, but her magical energy had been entirely drained during the battle. If not for her efforts to control the barges decent, all on board would surely have died, but it would be some time before she would be able to do more than function on a basic level. "Thor and Astrild may yet still live."

"No," Odin responded, his eyes locked on the darkness spreading from the ruins of Detroit, "I felt them die; a father knows these things. Yet I still have a son, and I am so very proud of him," Odin said, his eyes turning to Loki. The King of Jotunheim was unconscious in a magically induced coma as his healers worked to repair the damage to his physical form. "He fought like a warrior," Odin finished, a sad but proud smile on his withered face.

"It moves faster with the passage of every hour," Athena said, rising from Loki's side and entering the conversation. "The dark cloud spreads, and if the prophecies and stories are to be believed to any degree, once the sun, moon, and stars are erased, Ast-Murath will rise once more."

"That's not gonna happen."

All eyes turned upwards to see the mud and blood caked form of Megan Carson descending from the smoke filled sky. Over each of her shoulders was a humanoid form wrapped in mud darkened cloth.

"Little sister," Athena said, rushing to meet her, "My heart soars to see you alive."

"The same goes for me and you," Meg replied, her eyes locked on Odin. "Lord of Asgard," she said, walking to him, "I bring sad tidings."

"How did they die?" was his only response. Though his eyes darted to Mjolnir hanging by its leather strap from Meg's belt, he said nothing about it.

"Like warriors, All-Father," she answered, laying the forms at his feet, "They fought to the end and never gave an inch."

Odin reached out and placed a gnarled, battle-roughened hand on Meg's should, "And your beloved?" he ask gently.

"I was able to say goodbye and be with her at the end," Meg replied woodenly. Unshed tears welled and shimmered in her eyes.

"That is the best those such as we can hope for," Odin said, squeezing lightly, "Thank you, Megan Carson, for bringing my children back to me."

Meg nodded unable to speak.

Black lighting filled the sky over the ruins of Detroit followed by thunder.

"How do you intend to stop this, Megan Carson?" Prometheus asked, turning the conversation back to the matter at hand.

"I have an idea. But it's going to take everyone we have left to pull it off," Meg answered. "We're going to attack the crack, and we won't stop until we're dead, or it's closed." There would be time to grieve and honor the dead later... if they survived until morning. 


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