RISE: The Avatar of Oblivion - Part 4
Location: Titan, Years ago
It was a different time then, but many still long for those lost days. Before the Annihilation... before the Civil War... before everything fell apart. During this time, even though danger was still present, heroes stood up and fought for the good of all. Those who survived those conflicts were worshiped like gods, those who fell had their names engraved in history. But, the pain of loss was still felt by their loved ones. At this moment, none knew this more than Phyla-Vell.
“Genis… is dead?” Phyla struggled to even say the words. She shook her head in disbelief and in anger. Such a thing couldn’t have happened. “How could you say he died?! Who even are you???”
“Please, calm down. And try not to shoot the messenger, okay?” The individual was hovering high above. She had only meant to give the news and leave, but, as usual, nothing is that simple. The woman descended to meet Phyla, her blonde hair whipping in the wind. “My name’s Ms. Marvel. If you want, you can call me…”
“Yeah, for a while.” Carol was unsure of what to say beyond that. The story of that friendship was not something to bring up in the current situation. After the uncomfortable silence set in, Carol spoke again. “Honestly, I didn’t know your brother that well, so I don’t know if you’d want the details from me...”
“Please,” Phyla said with tears in her eyes. “I have to know what happened.”
Carol took a deep breathe and invited Phyla to sit with her. “Okay, we’re not sure why, but Genis came to Earth and joined a group of… heroes… called the Thunderbolts. At some point, his energy absorbing powers flared up to the point that the entire universe was at risk. The leader had to split his body into pieces and spread them all over time and space to stop him.”
“...Does my mother know?” Phyla asked.
“I spoke to her before I got here. She’s... lovely.” Carol said with a smirk.
Oddly enough, even with tears running down her face, Phyla managed a small chuckle. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her be ‘lovely.’ I always felt hell would freeze over if she bothered to laugh.”
For a moment, Carol thought that this girl’s joke was a sign of her strength in light of her loss, but her eyes told another story… Her rage and confusion radiated off her body.
“Look, Phyla… I’ve lost a brother, too. It was never something I could just live with, but I fought on like he would have. That’s the best we can do for them and ourselves.” As Carol said this, she tried to place her hand on Phyla’s shoulder, but was swatted away.
“It’s not just that! Now that he’s gone, I have to be Captain Marvel! I have the whole universe to think of now! I don’t have time to… I can’t…” Phyla could barely speak anymore. She fell to her knees trying to fight this surge of emotion, but it was a losing battle. The sheer gravity of it all was crushing her. Before she could continue, she could feel strong arms envelope her.
“I get it, kid. I do. People expect us to take the name since we were so close to Genis and Mar. But, there’s a reason why I never thought about taking that title,” Carol said as she hugged Phyla.
“Why?” Phyla said as she wiped her eyes.
“Because I’m me. Ms. Marvel was the name I chose. Just like how Mar chose to help people. Besides, the people he saved called him Captain Marvel. He let it stick for the hell of it!” Carol said with a smile.
“But… What do I do now?” Phyla asked.
“I say keep doing what you’ve been doing,” Carol said. “Be a hero, but be you own hero. If you want to be Captain Marvel, go for it. But, YOU have to want it.” It was a simple idea, but Carol could see it struck a chord in the grieving sister.
They sat there for hours, talking about whatever came to their minds. They spoke of their own goals, the friends they made, and even the other Captain Marvels. By nightfall, Phyla came to her decision. “I… I’m going to be just Phyla-Vell for a while. I could try traveling around… as long as nothing crazy happens.”
As Phyla spoke, Carol started looking around the area for something. “You got the right idea and a good heart to go with it. I wish I could go with you, kid, but Earth feels like a powderkeg right now.”
“...What’s a powderkeg?”
Carol’s jaw dropped in response until Phyla burst into laughter. “Yeah, yeah... Make fun of the Earth chick.”
Carol suddenly punched into the ground, the force of the strike seemingly shaking all of Titan. In a single motion, she pulled out a massive slab of rock.
“What are you doing?” Phyla asked.
“I heard a lot of things about your brother and I admit a lot of it wasn’t good. But, he gave his all to be a hero. We don’t have his body, but he deserve his last rites.” As she said this, she placed the stone next to Mar-Vell’s grave. They stood in a moment of silence, then slowly started carving the stone memorial.
“Carol? Do you really not want to be Captain Marvel?” Phyla asked.
“Kid…” Carol said with a heavy breath. “If I ever thought of taking the name, I’d have to be a million times more badass than I am now. And even then, it still wouldn’t be right, probably. A name like that shouldn’t be taken… It should be earned. Until then, maybe there shouldn’t be another Captain Marvel.”
As the they finished the memorial for Genis-Vell, neither of them knew what was coming. Carol Danvers had no knowledge of the coming Civil War… Phyla-Vell had no knowledge of the coming Annihilation Wave. Neither knew that one day... they would turn their fists toward each other.
Location: The Outer Void, Present Day
“Is he still at it?” Phyla asked.
They could only watch as Oblivion worked. Written in the sky, as far as the eye could see, there were calculations and names. The Annihilation Wave, the Fault, the Incursions, every war that was fought, the names of every individual with powers… Something connected them all to a single moment.
“What do you expect, little one?” Maelstrom spat back. “That guy, Reed Richards, undid almost everything that happened! That was supposed to be impossible. Now the boss is trying to figure out how he did it.”
“But, why does it matter?” she replied. “He knew the possibility of Owen Reese restoring the multiverse was always there.”
“Pay attention, kid. He didn’t restore it, he took Eternity from before the collapse and made it the whole Multiverse. Before, it was Eternity AND Infinity running things together. The boss wants to know how Richards, a human, could even know to bring back one of them and not both!”
“Again… why does it matter?” Phyla groaned.
Maelstrom sighed at the display of rudeness. “Think about it… A god watched a human break rules that the Creator put in place. Then he watched another human do it again! With nothing but their intellect and their wills, they outmaneuvered all of creation put the their random backwards universe in the center of everything!”
“Has he even noticed what’s happened in the past few months? The people of Earth-616 misused the Cosmic Cube and…” Before she could continue, Maelstrom raised his hand to cut her off.
“Trust me, he knows. He doesn’t care.” In that moment, both of them noticed.
“Maelstrom… your hand.” She watched as his arm grew dark and dry. Parts of it flaked off as the decay started to reach his body.
“Well… about time.” As he watched his body fade away before his eyes, Oblivion finally stopped his work.
“Tell me, Maelstrom,” Oblivion said without looking at him. “Do you have any regrets?”
“Me? None. It was chaotic and fun the whole way through, but now I’m just tired. Ugh... I swear my old buddy, Wendell, would laugh if he saw this...” As he laid on the ground, his arm crumbled away into dust. Watching it happen, he let out a chuckle. “Hey, kid. Got anything to say to me before I go?”
Phyla looked on as the decay reached his neck. After a pause, she gave her answer. “...It doesn't matter.”
Maelstrom smiled at response. “Right answer, kid... Try not to screw up…”
As the decay took him fully, Phyla and Oblivion watched as his body turned into the sand that surrounded them. It was as if he was never there.
“He never had a fortunate life, but at least he found some peace before his rest.” Oblivion continued his calculations even faster than before, but both he and Phyla could tell… The Void was far quieter from this point on.
“What happened to him?” she asked.
“We call it expiration. There’s only so long until a mind truly gives up on existence. In this place, doing so leads to a sleep so total that your very being dissipates and merges with the landscape.”
“Will I end up like him, my lord?” Phyla asked as she looked at the vast desert that surrounded them. She knew she should have realized it sooner… why they were always alone.
“That depends on you, my dear. Being my avatar gives you a much longer time-frame before you expire, but it can still happen. Maelstrom was the longest lasting avatar I ever had, but he must have truly wanted his rest in order for it to finally happen. It depends on your will, Phyla. But, do not mourn for him… He now sleeps forever as part of this place.”
The calculations shifted and moved about as he spoke, but he continued writing names even faster than before. The Phoenix, Logos, The Living Tribunal, The First Firmament… Even the drone he created, Antimatter, was someone to be noted. After another few moments, he stopped again.
“Have you found something, sir?” she asked.
“Almost… Recent events caused me to change my focus from solutions to comparisons,” he said as he observed his work.
Phyla looked at the completed data, trying to find some answer. “It looks like Richards didn’t just rebuild the multiverse… He evolved it.”
“Indeed. Before, everything was in the hands of both Eternity and Infinity as the seventh iteration of the multiverse. Eternity stood with her, but wasn’t meant to replace her. That was likely not part of Richards’ design. Also, the reemergence of the First Firmament, my original brother, is an event that should not have been possible occurred, yet the other Iterations also return and saw to its defeat.”
“That was caused by a series of events that was started by the Ultimates… who were brought together by... her.”
“That’s not all. Like Maelstrom said, the universe at the center of the multiverse is now that ‘616’ universe. The Negative Zone, the Superflow, even Death’s Realm has been modified to allow this. It’s as if existence is favoring that reality above all others.”
“What about on a smaller scale? People from other realities have shown up on that universe’s Earth since the multiverse returned.”
“I’m aware of that. Time and time again, this insignificant speck of a world stands out above all others, drawing in stranger occurrences as time passes. The answer as to why eludes even me.”
“But, we know they somehow bent the rules. Why not attack now?”
“There’s no way to tell how far things can be pushed until they get pushed back. Remember when they broke time? Cosmic beings and time travelers all over existence are still counting the effects. Our next move must be a calculated one or else the consequences will fall upon us.”
“...Unless they make that move themselves.”
Oblivion looked upon his avatar with an intrigued grin. “...Go on.”
Without a word, Phyla moved the calculations around like a massive puzzle. Oblivion watched as his chosen warrior solved the mystery… as he intended. She completed the tapestry of chaotic logic and arrived at the solution for what is to come… as he hoped she would.
“My lord, nearly every time the multiverse came close to ending, it was caused by people from that planet as they tried to stop something else. Doom could have brought the multiverse back immediately, but created a crumbling Battleworld instead. They broke the timeline after they tried to reverse Ultron’s rise. The heroes even gave the Chaos King the chance to gain the power needed to end them all when trying to stop the Skrulls.”
“But, what was missing?” Oblivion eagerly asked as a large smile stretched across his face.
“...Nothing… They came so close to ending themselves so many times, but managed to live on through luck and willpower. All they needed was that one, last push… and it would have been over…”
“Excellent, my avatar. Yet again, you amaze me. You hatred and focus towards that universe serves you well. Because of that… our next move will be yours.”
“What… do you mean?”
“I cannot act inside the multiverse, but you can. You understand my methods and have mastered your abilities. Even now, I sense that you kept certain useful individuals in mind… One in particular.”
“The other Reed Richards… The Maker.”
“Yes… The man that Owen Reese saw fit to spread across the multiverse. An intellect that nearly brought existence to its end not long ago. How would you use such a man?”
“His arrogance. He’ll dive head first into our hands if he thinks it's his idea.”
“Exactly right! But, what of the heroes?”
“They have the same problem as the Maker. Their arrogance will be what ends them. I’ve multiple universes where their enemies united and destroyed them. The heroes of the 616-Universe would never believe that worst case scenario could happen.”
“Ah, yes… The so-called ‘villains.’ How will you bring them together?”
“Carol Danvers. She plays the role of a savior, but that’s a lie. She’ll make the mistake that will cost existence everything and she’ll be too corrupted by her own stupidity to realize it.”
“There are others that you could use…”
“No. I feel like... I need it to be her. I need her to fight harder than she ever had before and I want to watch her fail at every turn. I need every friend she has to look at her with contempt. I need her to be stronger and weaker than anyone could stand. Then I’ll make my move… ”
“But why her?”
“You know exactly why, sir. I can feel it… Maybe I always have. Every since I first came here or maybe even before that, you knew exactly what she was and what she would become. Binary, the Alpha Flight program, the Ultimates, the Inhuman Profiler… you know exactly what made her go that far and that’s why you needed me.”
“...If you believe that much, then why continue?”
“Because I hate her. Because she stole my family’s legacy and pretends its her’s. Because she lied to me all those years ago and conveniently forgot. But most importantly, because you were right about everything… To save every man woman and child that exists, existence needs to end.”
Oblivion cackled with delight. His laughter was so loud and so powerful that it shook the stillness around them. “Wonderful! I was right when I saw you all those years ago! Maelstrom doubted my judgement, but I knew you were special! Begin your plan whenever you’d like! Use whatever method you see fit! Use ME if you have to! I welcome it!!!”
Phyla, stirred by his confidence in her, bowed before her lord. “Thank you, sir.”
“By the way...” he said as he calmed down. “Once you have free time, I’ll need you to investigate something. A presence that makes me feel… unsettled.”
“What kind of presence?”
“Something new… and different… In any case, there’s one other thing we need to discuss before you go. All of reality will try to stop you. Despite your considerable capabilities, I have no intention of sending you to the waking world alone this time.”
“What do you mean?” She watched as Oblivion approached her in silence, placing his hands on her shoulders. He was strangely tense, as if he were worried about her reaction.
“This is the last secret I was keeping from you, my blessed avatar… But, no more. Phyla… Your brother is alive.”