[NOTE: This story follows directly from events in AVENGERS # 3-5, that you might want to read first]
A wasteland is all around her, the scattered remains of Satannish's Realm, soon to be contended among the other infernal lords: Hellstorm, Hades, Hela, Seth, and whoever is ruling over Mephisto's Hell. He should thank he's not Mephisto, for in that case he would have been next in her book ...
-This was amusing!- the being now calling herself Nexus thinks -I should have guessed it the first few times around. When Chthon possessed me, when Immortus empowered me beyond belief ... even in the Morganverse! This is what I was born for!-
She stands in a twisted version of her gypsy outfit, the last she wore as an Avenger, and prepares to leave ... but then she pauses for a moment, conjuring a magic mirror in front of her with the mystic might she has absorbed from Satannish, and contemplates her appearance.
-I look like a hag in this! I must find something more appropriate ... mmm ... the only outfit I wore when I was almost as confident as I am now, before Onslaught, my so-called Crossing outfit- she gestures again, combining her stolen magic and her amplified hex powers, and suddenly she wears the suit she was thinking of -There! The universe is now ready to behold Nexus for what she really is!-
Casting a last glance at the tortured form of Satannish, imprisoned in spells that will cause him eternal punishment, she reaches out with her nexus powers, shredding the continuum with her bare hands, ripping a dimensional rift in space, to bring her back to her homeworld. She knows she could have done this with a snap of her fingers, but the feeling of shredding is so much more pleasurable. Violence is intoxicating for sure ...
-This Realm's been depleted, all its magic is mine and I can come back or conquer more of these petty dimensions whenever I choose to. But first ... there is someone else who failed me all my life that will experience my wrath. Daddy dear, you won't believe what your daughter is going to do with you!- with these thoughts she enters the rift, appearing suddenly high above the Indian Ocean, a tiny island in her sight.
#1 - Questions and Answers
“She's back! I can sense her through my Chaos Sensor!” Jocasta suddenly awakes from her artificial slumber.
“Who's back? Are you well?” Sersi asks as her fellow Eternal Phastos checks the automaton's systems for any malfunctioning.
“Nexus is back!” Jocasta answers, instinctively cowering back from Sersi's stretched arm, as if she was a threat to her ... like she was in her home dimension. “I need to talk to the Vision!”
“He's out there, staring at the sea” Sersi explains, noticing Jocasta's revulsion “He needed time to think, he said. I'll go and warn him”
Sersi turns and leaves the room, soon followed by Phastos, leaving the golden form of Jocasta alone. The woman who is at her core an alternate version of Wanda, slumps back in her bed with a metallic thud, while her internal systems frantically search for Nexus' location. -We must retrieve the others- she thinks -Only they can really help stop Nexus and her madness!-
Above the Mediterranean Sea at night.
-Tenth complete system check and still no dysfunctional process registered- the synthezoid known as the Vision is not contemplating the wonderful sight, since his focus is concentrated in the inner turmoil he's trying to sort out. -The reason why I'm suddenly sensing an increased tendency toward human feelings is still eluding my mind. Confusion is an emotion alien to me, not even in my most human-like period, during my marriage with Wanda, I've recorded a similar amount of conflicting emotions.-
He relishes in the cool air, a sensation he had scarcely noticed until now, while under his floating translucent form the waves of the crystal clear Italian sea adds to the deep rumbling of the magma boiling under the ancient volcano, creating a natural symphony of chaos.
-Chaos! For all the logic the human mind has been able to conceptualize, still chaos is the basic truth of existence!- he thinks, suddenly struck by the irony of all this -I order my knowledge, but I'm perfectly aware of the chaos underlying the quantum fields, the probability fields which constitutes the reality of what we call matter ... my intangibility powers work directly on that aspect of probability to allow me through what we perceive as solid objects. How could it be I never noticed how much Chaos IS the scientific answer ...?-
-And now chaos is engulfing the only being who has always been the most ordered thing in my life. Wanda has always threaded on chaos, with her hex powers, but never at such a level, dangerously corrupting her own self- he pauses, letting his artificial memory recall the moments of the transformation of his former lover into the Nexus creature -By Gyrich's soulless decision* I was spared the pain of seeing her form corrupted by Chthon, and I was mostly emotionless when she was presented with the truth about our 'children' **, but this time I can't stand aside while her own Nexus nature consumes her!-
(* Gyrich, at the time Government liaison for the Avengers, forbade the Vision to join the Avengers in their battle with Chthon to save Wanda in AVENGERS # 185-187, Alex)
(** this happened in AVENGERS WEST COAST # 50-52, Alex)
He lets his eyes wander, finally drawing in the sense of peace the sea emanates, with the contradicting notion that peace is just the surface of a physical world that could know destruction in moments, were Vulcano to resume its activities.
-And Jocasta ... this Wanda from another universe. So much like my Wanda, like the old Wanda I know and ... love? I can't deny how much she resembles the woman she's been patterned after. I see the similarities beyond her physical difference, in the inflections of her mechanical voice, in small little gestures the human eye wouldn't notice, in her incredible ability for ... compassion! Is she going to mesmerize me, turning me away from the real Wanda? Am I trying to find in her a fitting replacement, with the added bonus of a partnership our artificial nature could grant us?-
-I can't answer to these questions, as much as my logical processes scream at the mere thought. I only know one thing for sure: my priority is to do everything in my power to help Wanda ... Nexus ... regain her self-control. When she's once again her own self I'll wait and see what's in store for the two of us ...-
“Life is harder than it is expected, Vision” the ancient voice of Sersi interrupts the synthezoid's brooding.
“I should remember that, despite your apparent behavior, your long-lived existence has taught you more than my logical mainframe could ever dream of” the Vision faces the Eternal, noticing with a hint of worry she is donning once again the red and black costume that almost brought her demise.
“I know what you're thinking” she says “I am a telepath, after all! But do not fear, this change in attire is just ... a woman's whim of the moment. I must warn you that Jocasta has woken up, affirming she has sensed Nexus entering our reality!”
“I must go to her, then!” the Vision simply states, repressing the impulse of asking this ancient being for advice in matters, such as love, where even the immortals act as fools.
“Vision!” she calls him “Why is Jocasta afraid of me? Why are you afraid of my power, too?”
“I thought you were a telepath, Sersi, as you just said. You should know ...”
“Artificial brains are harder to read in depth” she explains.
“On her world your alternate killed the woman she was before her artificial life started. And you killed her husband, which was my alternate” the Vision answers Sersi's question, his concern already totally shifting toward the problem of finding Nexus.
“Still Proctor's ghost haunting my life ...” the beautiful Eternal murmurs “Then I see it's better I do not join with you. I don't want to cause her the same pain this knowledge would bring to me every time our eyes would cross”.
“I think it's for the best, indeed.” the Vision concludes, phasing through the volcano.
“I can't pinpoint her!” Jocasta shakes her head “I sense her on Earth, but nothing more! Judging from her Nexus aura she's more powerful than she was ... then I was ... on my world, so my systems can't fully attune to her”
“Do you know of something that could improve your scanning abilities?” the Vision asks, with a coldness that contradicts his internal emotions toward this golden beauty.
“I know ... more than that. I know of beings whose help is needed to save Nexus. At least if the similarities between our two worlds can be extrapolated with a certain degree of confidence” she answers.
“That is a dangerous course of action. We can't be sure our worlds are so closely attuned” the Vision objects.
“I know you are still dubious about me, Vision. And it pains me a lot, for the resemblance you ... bear with my lost love” Jocasta states “But we can find two answers to these doubts in the same place. A chance to boost my Chaos Scanner and to ascertain if we can support at least a portion of my predictions”
“And that place would be ...?”
“Come with me and you'll know!” she says, while her form starts shimmering.
“What are you doing?” the Vision asks, noticing the phenomenon and not knowing its causes.
“A side effect of my internal Chaos Circuitry is that I can effectively teleport on a planetary scale. I had lost that ability before Proctor recruited me in the Gatherers, but Phastos' incredible skills in repair have given that gift back to me. If you will stay closer ...” Jocasta explains.
The Vision knows his quest is starting for real, and he realizes his decision can't be but one. Without regret he steps into Jocasta's teleportation field, only to re-emerge in ...
Vietnam. The Temple of the Priests of Pama.
“This place ... so dead! Like Force Works reported during the Crossing affair! What is it you're looking for here?” the Vision asks, unable to prevent one single memory to form in his brain: his wedding with Wanda took place in this very garden, now in ruin.
“First I need a Kree device that can be found inside these ruins ... hopefully. That would amplify my Chaos Scanner, when installed properly within my frame. And even with a limited interface it could still allow me to track Nexus' current location”.
“But you said you could test your predictions here, as well” the Vision reminds her.
“Yes, I'm sorry ... I was being distracted ... I'm not sure if that's also the case in your world, but here is where I married my Vision” she says, without noticing the stillness in the synthezoid's jaws. “Let's enter the Temple ...”
“I never knew of an underground complex” the Vision states as Jocasta reveals a secret passage in one of the walls, opening into a dark tunnel below.
“In our world I got to know this place very well, Vision ... it was our home together ...! No, I'm sorry, not ours. Mine, with my Vision” she corrects herself. “We stayed here after the wedding for various reasons that maybe some day I will tell you”
“Are these all Kree artifacts?” he asks.
“Part of them. The rest is of Eternal making, coming from the Titan colony. The reason why Sersi attacked us and killed my Vision, actually” Jocasta answers, while letting her own eyes illuminate the tunnel until they reach a sealed chamber.
“It doesn't respond to my password” Jocasta is taken aback “This little portion of truth is different from my world”
“I could phase in ...” the Vision suggests.
“It's dangerous. There are sophisticated security systems inside ... at least there were on my world!” Jocasta warns him.
“Then, I think it's time you uncover a few of your mysteries, if we want to proceed” the Vision says, calmly. “Who are these being you think we should look for? What was the password you were trying to use? How they tie in with Wanda, Nexus and us?”
“The answer to all those questions is mostly the same: the Celestial Madonna!” Jocasta replies.
“Mantis!?” the Vision says, surprised.
Genosha. Near dawn.
“Still sleeping alone, brother?” Nexus hovers above the half-naked form of Pietro Maximoff, in his bed.
“What ... who? WANDA!!” he's on his feet in less than half a second, contemplating the malevolent figure of the sister he loves so much.
“Not Wanda, dear Pietro. Just NEXUS, remember?” she touches the ground in front of him.
“Wanda, let me help you. I can call the Avengers, we can't find a way ...” Quicksilver tries to reason.
“Shut up, Pietro! I don't need your help, or everyone's!” her eyes glare “I came to you just to give you a last chance! Leave this place! You and Crystal! I sense her elemental signature in this same building. I don't want to hurt you both, if possible.”
“Hurt? Leave? What do you mean, Wanda?” Pietro feels a chill on his back, pondering if he has the slightest chance with his speed to catch her off-guard and punch her to oblivion ...
“I'm doing some little payback, Pietro” she laughs, hysterically, “And Dad is going to have some of it, for failing me, us, for his stupid schemes!”
“You can't go against our father! He's too powerful for you!” Quicksilver now perceives the full horror of the situation.
“He's nothing more than a fly to me, Pietro!” she smiles maliciously “It'd be nothing to you as well, were you to explore the full extent of your powers! So leave now, while you still can!”
“I can't leave! I can't let you do this!” Pietro shakes his head.
“Then be prepared to pay the price, brother! You and your lovely estranged wife! If you side with Magneto I'll show you the same mercy I've planned for him ... that is none!” she charges up, preparing to blast, and Quicksilver realizes his speed is his only salvation at present.
In the mere seconds that Nexus needs to release a blast capable of incinerating everything in its path, the mutant speedster has gathered his uniform, left the room, reached Crystal's chamber and taken her a mile away. When he stops, his wife in her nightgown awakening in his trembling arms, they both stare in horror as half of Genoshan's Presidential Palace is blown to nothingness, while a crimson clad figure challenges one of the most powerful mutants on Earth into battle.
“Mantis?? Who is Mantis?” Jocasta asks, puzzled.
“The Celestial Madonna! She fought in the Avengers until she was revealed as such a being. She married a Cotati and achieved her full status in the same ceremony where Wanda and I got married” the Vision explains.
“Then that's what is missing! I was using my universe's Madonna's name ...” she turns toward the door, broadcasting the right name ... and the door shifts open. “There it is!”
-- Designate Jocasta from Earth-808 and designate Vision from current timeline entering restricted area. Password acknowledged. Chaos systems activating. Sleep mode dismissed until further notice. Oracle 5.0 waiting for query! --
“What is this?” the Vision is marveling at the complex machinery walling the big chamber ahead, humming to life.
“It's Oracle. A trans-dimensional monitoring system for transcendental activities. It exists in all the universes, much like the Nexus of All Realities or the Nexus Beings. It is usually placed where the Celestial Madonna achieves full status. It monitors events like the Celestial Madonna ascension, the Nexus being's shifts in power, the Celestials' activities, Galactus' whereabouts and so on”
“I guess you and your Vision had been charged with its maintenance in your world”
“You guess correctly” Jocasta answers “After our Celestial Madonna married we were given this task by Earth's Watcher, but it wasn't enough to stop Sersi”.
“So what are we looking for?” the Vision asks, still studying the complex structure that is Oracle.
“There is a Chaos Scanner somewhere, at least there was one on my world, far more advanced than mine. But we didn't implement that in my system since Nexus had been already killed in my universe. I wonder what happened to this chamber in my world. My last memory is that of destruction after the battle with Sersi ended ... here's where Proctor retrieved me, half-destroyed”
-- Oracle 7.3 of Earth-808 is completely functional again. Designate Mar-Vell of the Kree and designate Moondragon of Earth-808 relocated it on Titan after Earth was destroyed as a consequence of Sersi's rise to power -- the Oracle answers.
“He answered your question ... but he doesn't seem to respond to my voice” the Vision notices.
“Easy guess, I have used the password, you haven't, speak the Celestial Madonna's name and he'll probably answer you as well” Jocasta answers, while scanning around for the Chaos device.
“Mantis!” the Vision states as he notices a monitor showing his face.
-- Designate Vision allowed to consult this version of Oracle -- is the immediate reply.
“Who was the Celestial Madonna in your world?” the synthezoid asks to his ally, but before she can answer, the Oracle has already done that.
-- Designate Heather Douglas, also codenamed Moondragon, was the Celestial Madonna of Earth-808. She married the aforementioned designate Mar-Vell of the Kree, Protector of the Universe.--
“Are you really aware of everything going on in every reality?”
-- As far as the Oracle system is functional in that reality. There are occasionally a few universes where it is destroyed or incapacitated, like the one of Earth-808. But it soon gets back online through the intervention of one of the appointed cosmic beings--
“Who is normally in charge of the Oracle facility?” the Vision asks, absorbing all the info.
-- The Celestial Madonna is the first being to be contacted by one of the higher powers. If she's unavailable it's her consort. The priority list then includes, in descending order: the Protector of the Universe, the Sorcerer Supreme, the Nexus being, the Phoenix avatar, the controller of the Infinity Gems, the being known as the Stranger, the Time-Keepers and the Living Tribunal. So far the intervention of the last two items in the list has never been required --
“Then why were you dormant? Even though the Celestial Madonna is unavailable and her consort is incapacitated we still have the Protector and the Sorcerer Supreme active ...”
-- Dormant doesn't mean inactive. I was still retrieving data and sharing them with my alternates. And your assumption about the Celestial Madonna is wrong. She's alive and in this universe --
“Where were you father, when I needed you?” Nexus unleashes a powerful blast of her hex powers, distorting the magnetic field around the location her father occupies at the moment. Shots of pain course Magneto's body. Around them there is only devastation.
“Wanda, you know ... I ... wasn't even aware of your existence ... until recently” Magneto tries to regain control of his magnetic field, reinforcing his protection and flying higher on the ground to divert Nexus from the terrified population of Hammer Bay, the Genoshan capitol city.
“But you had all the time in the world to know so many other things, father! Building bases in Antarctica, on Asteroid M, playing your games of conquest around the world” Nexus replies with anger and fury, using now her Satannish-stolen magical powers to lash at Magneto with the Fangs of Faralloh.
-I can't reason with her and I can't even figure what her powers are capable of doing now- Magnus thinks -But can I force myself to strike at her with the full brunt of my abilities? Can I hurt my own daughter I've wronged so many times in the past?-
“What's this, daddy? You're not fighting back, as if this could convince me that you care for me even a little in your dark heart!! Well, I don't have these moral restraints anymore. I'll do away with you just like I did with Satannish! Depriving you of your power ... and of your life, eventually!”
Tendrils of energy shoot from Nexus' hands, eyes, chest, circling Magneto and starting to suck away his energy. Magneto screams in agony, while the need for self-defense overrides in his brain any resistance to retaliate against his daughter. He lashes out with a tremendous magnetic pulse, whose consequences can be heard worldwide, engulfing Nexus in a cascade of energy.
“No! What have I done?” Magneto regains his bearing, but the sight he beholds chills his blood.
“If that was your best, daddy, you're toast!!” Nexus, apparently barely fazed by the blast, hits him with a powerful blast of magnetic energy, absorbed by his own attack, propelling him like a broken doll onto the island below.
“Magnus!” Quicksilver, carrying Crystal, approaches his father's crash site, fearing for the worst.
“Let me move the debris, Pietro” Crystal uses her mastery over Earth to reveal the stunned body of the Master of Magnetism.
“Dear God! Wanda, what have you done?” Pietro stares, astonished.
“Revenge, dear brother!” is the answer as Nexus swoops down ready to strike again.
Back at the Temple of Pama.
“I think I found the Chaos thing, but it's different from the one on my world. I can't interface with it as long as it's not included in my system. A task I cannot perform alone” Jocasta warns.
“I suppose the Oracle knows Wanda's location. At least we can catch up with her for now” the Vision states, forgetting for a moment the Celestial Madonna, then he asks: “Where is Nexus?”
-- The Nexus being is currently engaged in a battle with designate Magneto on the location known as Genosha. Her power level is off-scale. This is one of the most powerful incarnations in the whole multiverse. The Nexus being of Earth-808, whose consciousness now inhabits subject designate Jocasta, had 35% of this one's power.--
“That's a scary thought, considering how powerful our Nexus being was” Jocasta states “We must teleport there at once! Oracle, seal the entrance and proceed with Security Protocol N-Omega!”
“I know you're more experienced with the Oracle than I am, Jocasta, but I'd like for you to consult me before activating its security measures” the Vision comments, while joining her teleportation field.
“You're right, Vision. It's still hard not to think of you as the husband who worked with me on the Oracle. But the Protocol N-Omega is simply a request for help directed at a selected group of beings ...”
“I'm still missing a few pieces, especially regarding the Celestial Madonna ...” are the Vision's last words, before they re-emerge in the middle of one of the worst battle-zones the Vision has ever seen.
On a side of the battlefield Quicksilver is trying to revive his unconscious father, while Crystal desperately tries to stave off Nexus' attacks, in the middle of the ruins that once were an advanced modern city.
“The Celestial Madonna? Already thinking of replacing me with that whore, husband of mine?” Nexus turns, glaring, having caught the last words of the Vision as he was materializing, while she's still forcing Crystal back toward Quicksilver and Magneto. “And you're with Jocasta, too ... another one you find more appealing than me, I'm sure!”
“Wanda, you know those words speak nonsense!” the Vision rises in the air.
“I am nonsense, Vizh! But let's dispose of my ... relatives, before I dismember that golden harlot in front of your eyes” she turns, engulfing the location where Pietro, Crystal and Magnus are still gathered with a discharge of her awesome powers ...
“They're disappeared! She must have vaporized them!” Jocasta shouts.
“Wanda! What is happening to you? You must be stopped at all costs!” the Vision darts forward, in his diamond-hard state, shutting out those portions of his brains that scream at the mere thought of inflicting her any physical pain, cause he knows that he can't let that divert his attention from the horror in front of him.
Nexus laughs as the Vision's hard body comes closer ...
In another galaxy ...
“What's this?” Wendell Vaughn's mind goes on fire as a piercing mental wail is broadcast through his Quantum Bands.
-- I'm not responsible for this, Quasar -- Epoch speaks in his mind, calming the pain -- I'm being overridden by a priority distress call from Earth. The Protector of the Universe is needed. --
“Why do I have the feeling this must be really serious?” Quasar says, clearing his mind and breathing deeply, before preparing for a quantum jump.
-- Because you instinctively knows the truth, Wendell Vaughn. This call pertains your former ally in the Avengers. The mad goddess now called Nexus! -- is Epoch's answer.
“Great ...!” Quasar sighs, while disappearing.
Next: The Vision vs. Nexus!! Can Jocasta help him overcome the mad goddess? And has Wanda really killed her whole family or have Magneto, Quicksilver and Crystal somehow survived? Plus, what other secrets Jocasta and the Oracle hold that could be essential to our story? Is Mantis really alive and what can she do to help Nexus? What will be the role of Quasar in all this? You'll find the answers to some of these questions as well as even more questions than you could think of in AVENGERS: VISION QUEST #2!!!