Previously: The team defeated Carrion but their reluctant guest, Llyron, was attacked by his “father” Namor on the grounds of the Avengers West Compound. Meanwhile Marianne Rodgers began to describe her psychotic episodes to psychiatrist Leonard Samson. Elsewhere, unknown to the team, the reassembled Gatherers reactivated the Vision’s duplicate to rejoin their ranks.
#13 - A Father's Love
Shouting his world famous battle cry, the King of Atlantis struck his so-called son with all of his strength. Llyron, one time monarch of Atlantis and now the uneasy guest of the Avengers, was hurled into the air away from the seas that enhanced his superhuman gifts.
Firebird pressed the emergency alarm in her communicard and hoped that the other Avengers would arrive before anyone was seriously hurt. “Stop it, Namor!” she shouted in vain as she flew into the air surrounded by a corona of flame. “We were just talking! He’s done nothing wrong!”
“Nothing wrong?” Namor repeated incredulously as Llyron crashed to the top of the cliffs where and Firebird had been having a picnic. “I saw this creature threaten you. He is his mother’s son in all of the worst ways. He can not be trusted.”
“And you can be?” Llyron asked, coughing blood as he staggered to his feet. “Forgive me, oh great monarch! How are the people who threw you out and gave your throne to me? Do they know that you kept me a prisoner for three long years?”
“Over half of Atlantis died under your leadership!” Namor shouted at Llyron. “Your name is despised as one of the foulest traitors ever to claim lineage to the Royal family!”
“That wasn’t my fault!” Llyron screamed, picking up a large boulder and throwing it at Namor.
Namor effortlessly avoided it and stared down at Llyron with contempt. “Tell that to your dead.”
Llyron became consumed with rage. He flew at Namor and the two of them fell down to the rocks at the base of the cliff. Water splashed against them and both men felt their strength increasing.
“You should never have come back for me!” Llyron cried out. “I deserve to be free!”
“You have not earned freedom!” Namor retorted, shoving Llyron into the base of the cliff and pulling back his fist to deliver a blow that would knock Llyron unconscious.
A burst of flame hit the ground between them and both recoiled away from it and by default each other.
“I told you both to stop,” Firebird warned them.
“This does not concern you, woman!” Namor angrily told her. “The Monarch of Atlantis does not need to give explanations!”
“And what about old friends? Do they dare ask for explanations?” Namor looked up to see Hercules staring down at them from the top of the cliff. Hank Pym, Mockingbird and Tigra stood behind him while Firebird floated in the air nearby. “This god once fought beside you as a brother. Does the great King Namor now consider himself too far above the Avengers to deign to explain his actions?”
“It was like I was living another life, and this world was a dream…”
Marianne sat on a chair in Doc Samson’s office in the Alexander Psychiatric Research and Recovery Centre, and tried to make sense of the confusion that had become her life. She wanted to talk about the visions that had consumed her for five long years while she had been institutionalised, but she was afraid of what might happen if she let him know that the visions had started again.
“I call them dreams, but they were as vivid as any thing I have experienced in this world. They started when I was in my early twenties and had got involved with Tony Stark. I had always had my powers, but I had tried not to use them. I was afraid that I would not be able to live a normal life, I guess. Then when I was with Tony I found myself in… situations where I had no choice but to use them.”
“How did that make you feel?” Doc Samson asked in a neutral tone of voice.
“I was a little worried, but I loved Tony. I liked helping him with his… work.” She tried to be vague without seeming like she was hiding something. She was choosing to trust Samson with some of her secrets, but she had no right to share Tony’s life as Iron Man with him. “One day though, my powers suddenly were stronger. I don’t know what happened, but my telepathy and telekinesis doubled in power! I was terrified, but it was secretly intoxicating! That’s when the visions started.”
“Describe them to me.”
“As I said, I was a girl called Guinevere. I was in another land, less technologically developed than this one. There was almost a medieval culture there, although it was not in medieval times. There was magic in the air – creatures that have never existed in this world were common there. I married a King called Arthur and joined his team of Knights. We were heroes of the realm and fought amazing threats such as then Enchantling and Ultimax. In a way… it was wonderful. But then I lost myself. I stopped being Marianne completely for five years. I was completely unaware of anything that was happening here, until I woke up one morning and suddenly I was Marianne again and Guinevere was gone. A few months later I escaped from the Institute I was in and eventually ended up with the Triune Understanding.” *
* As depicted during the Crossing and in AV2000’s Cybermancer.
“I see…” Samson replied, making notes on an A4 pad on his desk. “And the visions have not returned?”
“No,” Marianne lied. She could not tolerate the thought of being sent back to a mental hospital again. “Never.”
“That’s an interesting story, Marianne. Are you aware of any reason why the visions stopped so suddenly? Are you aware of anything happening that – Marianne? Are you okay?”
To Marianne’s horror, she felt herself begin to shake as another vision started to occur. This was different than her other recent visions – it was as though a thousand visions were occurring at once. Years of Guinevere’s life flooded through her mind.
Arthur and her making love…
Fighting the Time Traveler with her fellow Knights…
Sir Percy and his beautiful, powerful wife…
Sir Percy betraying the Knights to King Doom…
Percy’s wife stabbing Arthur with Percy’s ebony blade…
“Arthur!” she screamed, collapsing to the ground. "Arthur, what have they done to you?”
The Avengers were gathered in their main conference room where a defensive Llyron and an angry Namor had agreed to explain their actions.
“I do not remember much before the fall of Atlantis,” Llyron began, “After that I was brought to a small dwelling thousands of miles from New Atlantis. There I was constantly guarded by dozens of the fiercest soldiers of the realm while witch doctors meddled with my brain. I was a prisoner for three long years, until the Sirens possessed me and sent me against the Avengers. I should have left you once my injuries were healed, but I was lulled into a false sense of belonging here.” Llyron glared at Firebird with his last comment, but she refused to look away. Her only sign of discomfort was the way she was fidgeting with the cross she wore over her costume. “I will not return there. I would rather be dead than be a prisoner again.”
“You are lucky not to be dead!” Namor snapped. “I agreed to allow you to speak, but I have no tears to shed over the woes of a man whose actions led to thousands of deaths.”
“Calm down, old friend,” Hercules told Namor, placing a hand on the King of Atlantis’ shoulder. “You are among friends here.”
“This man you have been harboring was bred to steal my throne!” Namor continued. “His mother is Llyra, a Lemurian witch who murdered both my father and my first wife. She conceived him with a descendent of my father and tried to pass him as my son. He betrayed her as he would betray my people. Seventy percent of my people died while he was king, and at least ten percent through his actions.”
“But they were not his actions, were they?”
Hank Pym pressed a button on the console by his seat and a holographic image of the Black Widow appeared in the center of the room. She had been listening to their entire conversation. “That’s why you did not have Llyron executed, Namor. He was not responsible for his behavior.”
“What is the meaning of this outrage?” Namor demanded, smashing his fist down on the table, shattering it into pieces.
“I asked Natasha to investigate Llyron’s background while he was being treated for his injuries,*” Hank explained. “I thought it prudent to have her input in this discussion.”
* Back in AWC #9
Mockingbird stared at the Black Widow despite herself. The Black Widow had supposedly designed a large portion of her training program but they had never met.
“You have not been completely honest, Namor,” the Widow continued. “You do not want to send Llyron back to a prison. You want him to return to a rehabilitation center.”
“Never has the son of Atlantis been more insulted!” Namor shouted at the Widow and the Avengers. “I am the monarch of Atlantis! I have responsibilities you can not possibly comprehend!”
“Which is why Llyron was secretly hidden for the past three years,” the Widow continued. “You had the wisdom not to blame an innocent child for the crimes of others, despite the legion of wrongs his mother had inflicted on you.”
“Child?” Firebird asked, looking at Llyron who for the first time in his life was too startled to speak.
Namor sat back in his chair and sighed. He realized he had no choice but to reveal the greatest secret of his reign. “Dr. Pym… Hercules… Even Llyron. You may stay. The rest must leave. What I am to reveal is of too much importance to reveal to strangers.”
Tigra and Firebird reluctantly went to leave, but Llyron stopped Firebird. He hesitated before speaking, having realized that he had behaved badly in recent hours. “You are the only one here I would call friend… Please stay.”
Firebird smiled, and placed her hand over his. “I would be honored.”
“Well, I am the security liaison for this team,” Mockingbird told all present. “I have a duty to remain here.”
“Baby Bird,” the Widow smiled condescendingly. “This does not concern you. I think you will find that I outrank you in terms of security clearance. Go away and play.”
Tigra burst out laughing and ushered Mockingbird out of the conference room. “Come on, ‘Baby Bird’. God, it was worth coming here just to hear that…”
Namor waited until they had left, and then stared at Llyron. “You committed great crimes. Morgan Le Fay caused Atlantis to rise to the surface world during your reign and sixty per cent of Atlantis died. You led the survivors to safety, but rather then help them rebuild you insisted on a mad scheme to clone an army to attack the surface world. Only when a third of the surviving Atlantean women had died through failed cloning attempts were you deposed and my throne returned to me.”
Llyron bowed his head in shame. “I did… what I thought best.”
“No. You did what Llyra and Vyrra thought best. They grew you to adulthood within hours of your birth. Your body was fully grown but your mind was still that of a newborn, so the insane geneticist Vyrra imprinted both Llyra and his brain patterns over your mind. Forming an army was Llyra’s influence. Doing it through cloning was all Vyrra. You were an innocent. My people called for you to be executed for the deaths under your reign, but I do not murder children.”
“So you sent him to be rehabilitated…” Firebird realized.
“The guards were primarily for your protection. Those who you called witch doctors were charged with discovering the true Llyron beneath the poison of Vyrra and your mother.”
“I… find this hard to comprehend,” Llyron whispered as he struggled with the information Namor had shared.
“Then comprehend this. Despite the matter of your conception, you are still the next in line for the throne should I die. I am incapable of producing an heir so you are my closest living relative. Yet every day you stay here you risk the news of your survival reaching Atlantis or an enemy of Atlantis. There would be anarchy and a revolution if our people knew you still lived. They are only beginning to recover from the trauma of your reign. If any part of the true Llyron who has surfaced in the three years is the man I think you could be then answer me truthfully. Is your so-called freedom worth the suffering of the people you were born to rule?”
Elsewhere, any illusion that the Vision who was a member of the Gatherers was human had been well and truly discarded. The synthezoid lay on a table in one of Proctor's citadels, his outershell open to reveal the patchwork of circuitry and wires that formed his nervous system. At every junction of his body, wires connected him to the machinery that Proctor had left behind. In every way that mattered, the citadel was now as much a part of him as his body was.
"Vision, report!" the Asian woman known as Sliver demanded. She wore a golden reinforced mid-riff top and black trousers, and her long black hair hung loose behind her. In Proctor's absence, there was no doubt to any one there that she now led the Gatherers.
The Vision opened his mouth to speak, but his words came from speakers through out the citadel.
"I have achieved full synergy. We are *SCREEEECH* ready to proceed."
"Very good." Sliver turned to the shriveled form of Mother Cassandra. The elderly woman was only able to stand due to the exo-skeleton she covered in a green cloak, but there was determination in her that belied her years. "Are you ready, Mother Cassandra?"
"Do not ask stupid questions, child. I have been ready for this for over five years."
Sliver nodded, and then indicated the reptilian monstrosity known as Torq to stand beside her. "Very well. Begin."
Cassandra concentrated, and focused the psychic energies she controlled through the ruby glasses she wore at all times. The glasses glowed briefly and energy exploded from them into the equipment that the Vision had readied for it. A hole appeared in the air itself, and a portal to another world opened.
"We've done it!" Torq shouted. "We've opened a portal without Proctor! It's going to work!"
Sliver motioned him to calm, and then stepped through the portal. Torq quickly followed.
Torq's elation faded when they stepped into the Earth of another timeline. The two Gatherers were clearly in New York, but the skies were black and devastation surrounded them. Wisps of energies could be seen in the very air itself. Every one in sight was dead.
"We're too late..." Torq whispered. "Sersi has destroyed another world."
Sliver began to walk silently and Torq followed her. There was no sign of any life remaining. They were literally stepping over the bodies of the dead. The scariest thing to Torq was the silence. He had never heard New York so quiet. Apart from the noise of fires and explosions as petrol stations caught fire, it was as if there was no one left to make any noise.
"Where are we going, Sliver?" Torq asked nervously. "We've proven that the portals work. Now we just have to work on getting to each world earlier. There is nothing we can do here!"
"We are weak in number," Sliver told him, as he realized that she had led him to Avengers Mansion. "There may be some survivors in the Mansion."
"You want to do a Gathering?!? Sliver - there's no one left!"
"We shall see." Sliver activated a device in her belt given to her by the Vision and any remaining security devices in the Mansion were deactivated. The android had its uses.
She pushed open the door and saw the Avengers butler Jarvis slumped on the floor, obviously dead for hours. She thought it was fitting that he died there in this world - greeting visitors in death as he did in life.
"Oh god..." Torq muttered. "Jarv..."
They continued to walk, passing by dead teammates everywhere they went.
The Scarlet Witch...
They were all dead. When Proctor had driven Sersi insane in this reality, she had transformed the lungs of her fellow Avengers to extract oxygen from water as opposed to the air. They had all died within minutes.
"Sliver!" A vision of Mother Cassandra appeared before them. "We can not keep the portal open much longer! You must return!"
"In a moment," Sliver replied. "There is some one alive here."
"Uh... Sliver..." Torq told her. "Don't you think we should listen to Cassandra?"
Sliver ignored him. Her senses were heightened through years of intensive training. As impossible as it seemed, there was someone alive here. Someone she was prepared to kill a world to see again. She would not leave him.
"Sliver!" Cassandra shouted. "If you do not return now, we might not be able to bring you back!"
Sliver pushed open the doors of the main conference room. She stepped over the lifeless She-Thing of this world, and felt her heart jump when she saw her quarry slumped in the corner of the room. She rushed over to the costumed man. His body worked differently from normal humans, but he was definitely alive.
"Imperion...” she whispered in recognition. “Cassandra! Open the portal!"
There was a gush of air into the room as it rushed through the portal from Proctor's citadel. Torq picked up Imperion and the Gatherers ran through the portal seconds before it slammed close.
"It's too much..." Cassandra muttered, exhausted from her efforts. "The Oracle is blocking me. I can't do what we need without full power!"
"Then we will get you your full power," Sliver smiled, staring at Imperion. "Nothing will stop us now. Prepare yourself. Whether you like it or not, the Oracle’s days are numbered..."
Firebird walked up to where Llyron stood near the cliffs on the Avengers Compound. “You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
Llyron nodded without turning to Firebird. “I have no choice. What Namor said was true. My mind is clearer than it has ever been, yet I still have vile thoughts that I know belong to Vyrra or my mother. I must be rid of them. And by doing something they never could – by putting the needs of my people in front of my own – I will know that I am getting closer to just being Llyron, whoever he may be…”
Firebird cautiously put her arms around him. “I understand. I think you’re very brave. I will miss you though.”
Llyron finally looked at her and smiled. “And I you. You are a… remarkable woman.”
Firebird felt herself blush and changed the subject. “I brought you some thing.”
She handed him a large book, which he recognized at once. “This is the tome of your religion that you spoke of?”
“The New Testament. I had Hank treat it so it won’t fall apart once you go home. It’s about a man who put the needs of his people in front of his own, whatever the consequences.”
Llyron stared at the book. Firebird had the used the Avengers database of known languages to have a copy translated into Atlantean. “I will treasure it. But I have nothing to give you.”
“It doesn’t matter. I have an Avengers communicard for you too. I realize you probably won’t be able to have much contact with the outside world, but if you ever need us…”
Llyron took Firebird’s hand and kissed it gently. “I will never forget you, Bonita.”
He walked away to where Namor was waiting for him. Firebird watch them submerge into the sea. It was long after nightfall before the girl who controlled all forms of heat left the spot where she saw the once and future King of Atlantis for probably the last time.
Marianne Rodgers was too numb to cry. Her visions had lasted hours and were more traumatic then anything she had ever known. She had spent so much of her life as Guinevere that seeing her husband die was like losing her own spouse. And it had happened in Samson’s office! They had not needed to cart her off to a psychiatric hospital – she was already in one!
The attack had happened yesterday. She had regained consciousness in a room in the Institute. Hank Pym had dropped by to visit her a few hours previously. He had been very supportive and had encouraged her to follow Samson’s recommendation. He had advised that she voluntarily stay in the Institute for observation. Hank did not mention her probationary Avenger status, but she could tell that the odds of her becoming an Avenger was slim.
She had spent the entire day answering questions from doctors and participating in their scans. Now it was nightfall, and all she wanted to do was sleep and pray that she would wake up somewhere else.
She turned on her side to go to sleep, but suddenly was aware of a presence nearby.
“Who’s there?” She asked the empty room, when suddenly the door was kicked inwards and Torq of the Gatherers was standing in front of her.
She did not allow him to speak. She used her telekinesis to mentally shove him backwards and hold him pressed against a wall.
“What do you want?” she demanded, floating in the air in front of him.
“Do not be so impudent, Child.”
Marianne turned to see who could mask themselves so utterly from her telepathy only to face an old woman wearing an exo-skeleton and a green cloak. Mother Cassandra smiled, and Marianne felt her powers disappear. She fell to the ground while her grip on Torq disappeared.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Oracle,” Mother Cassandra told her, telekinetically binding Marianne to the ground. “I have long wondered if this moment would ever come.”
“Who are you?” Marianne asked, stunned at the complete theft of her power as she struggled to free herself.
“You know who I am, Child. How could you not?”
Marianne stared at Cassandra, and realised that she did. It was impossible, but she knew her as well as she knew her own reflection in a mirror.
“So he’s gone?”
Tigra and Hank were sitting in her bungalow on the grounds of Avengers Compound having dinner. The former lovers were in the early stages of a new relationship, a development that was surprising them both. Tigra had invited Hank around earlier for something to eat but he had been surprised by the effort she had gone to. They had just eaten steaks with Creole sauce and were now sitting on the couch having strawberries and ice cream with glasses of red wine. She was in her human form, and wearing a classy but sexy black dress that left little to the imagination.
“Llyron left with Namor yesterday,” Hank confirmed, filling Tigra in on what he felt he could tell her without breaking Namor’s confidence. “I think Bonita was actually a little upset when he left. They had become friends.”
“Is that what they’re calling it now?” Tigra smiled.
“They were just friends, Greer,” Hank said, surprised at her implication.
Tigra laughed. “You can be so dense at times for one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. They so wanted each other.”
“I… really don’t think so.”
Tigra sat back on the couch. “Hey, I’m not knocking Bonita. I know you and her had a thing at one stage. Bonita and I are too different to ever be best buddies, but I’m over any problems I had with her. However she’s not the saint you think she is either. This is one area where I am far more of an expert than you, and I guarantee you that something would have happened if he had stuck around.”
Hank shrugged, finding it difficult to imagine Bonita and Llyron together. “I’ll take your word for it… Do you think I should talk to her tomorrow then?”
Tigra grinned and kissed him. “You do realise that you’re a sweetheart, right?”
“Oh stop,” Hank blushed, but he kissed her back. Part of his brain was wondering what he was doing here. He thought he had dealt with his feelings for Tigra when she had broken up with him years ago. But another part told him to stop over-analysing things for once in his life and to just enjoy the moment. They weren’t doing any thing wrong. Jan had finished with him so he was a free agent, right?
After a few minutes Tigra stopped kissing him and looked alert. “Did you… hear something?”
“No, but I don’t have your feline senses,” Hank answered, having long ago learned to trust Tigra’s instincts. He was going to ask her what she had sensed when he realised he was being paged on his communicard.
“Hank here,” he answered, watching Tigra transform back into her cat-form and scan the room for anything unusual.
“It’s Mockingbird. Marianne Rodgers was kidnapped two hours ago at the Alexander Psychiatric Research and Recovery Centre.”
“What? Assemble the team and – Greer?” Hank paused when he saw Tigra examine a lamp in the corner of the living room and suddenly throw it against a wall. He expected it to smash on impact, but instead it shimmered and morphed into a skinny bald male with no nose and alabaster white skin wearing a blue costume with a yellow cloak and boots.
“Okay, can we say ow, people?” he muttered, rubbing his head. “And just when we were getting to the good part! I was enjoying the show, you know? It’s not often I get too watch some grade A love action.”
“Who the hell are you?” Tigra demanded. “What are you doing in my home?”
There was a small noise and suddenly five others were standing in the room. A purple girl dressed in a green dress addressed Hank and Tigra. “His name is Morph. We’re the Exiles, and the omniverse is doomed unless the Avengers do what we say!”
Next: “The Gatherers Crisis” Part One: Who are the Exiles? Blink, Morph and their team-mates have arrived to stop the Gatherers, but are they too late? As the Avengers learn about the Gatherers and their plans, is it too late to save Marianne Rodgers?
Hi. Next issue is the start of a three-part storyline that will resolve most of the outstanding sub-plots of my run to date. What are the Gatherers after? Who is Sliver? What is the truth behind Marianne Rodgers’ visions? It will hopefully be an exciting roller-coaster, particularly with the Exiles thrown into the mix. By the end of the storyline an Avenger will have left the team, and there will be at least one new member.
Llyron leaves the regular cast for the moment with this issue. He was a character I was totally unfamiliar with when I took over this title, but I saw a lot of potential when I did some research on him. Hopefully people like what I did with him. The relationship that developed between him and Firebird was totally unexpected but a joy to write. I had planned to keep him in the title for the duration of my run, but I thought the conclusion of this issue makes for more interesting future storylines. Let me know if you would like to see him back here.
The following site was invaluable in finding out more about Llyron, so point your mouse here if you want a bit more background on him: http://leaderslair.crosswinds.net/marvelvillains/llyron.html