Breed Book 3, Part 18

“I just wanted to say thanks, to all of you,” Irene said, folding her hands in her lap from her seat in the middle of the courtroom bench. “I know this trial is about all of us- and protecting all of us- but it still feels really nice you’re all here. Like you’re supporting me being here.”

“We’re supporting each other,” Mikaela said gently. They were seated on the side where the prosecutor’s table was. Students and faculty made up the bulk of that side of the room.

“Yeah,” Irene said. “I like that better. I may have to run things by you, to remove some of the narcissism.”

“Judge is coming back,” Tucker said, a moment before the judge pushed his way through a door behind his seat.

“All rise,” the bailiff said.

Irene was the first to stand, and the others followed suit, before they all abruptly sat back down with the rest of the gallery. Irene glanced nervously at Tucker, whose face was conspicuously expressionless. They locked eyes, and Tucker pantomimed locking his mouth, and tossed the imaginary key over his shoulder. “You know, don’t you?” Irene mouthed, and Tucker was surprised an instant later to hear the words clearly in his ear, like she’d whispered it while they were cheek to cheek.

Tucker nodded once, then nodded back in the direction of the judge. “Madame Foreperson, have you reached a verdict?” the judge asked.

She handed the bailiff a folded piece of paper. “We have, your honor.”

“And were the verdicts unanimous?” he asked, as the bailiff handed the paper to him.

“Yes, your honor.”

“Very well,” he said, and began unfolding the paper. The judge’s breath caught in his throat a moment, before he said, “I’ll end the suspense now. The defendants have been found guilty on all charges.” The gallery erupted, half in shock and horror, and the other half in celebration. The judge banged his gavel. “I’m going to need you all to remain quiet. I’ll read an enumerated list of the charges aloud, along with the verdict for each. Anybody who can’t hold it in, whatever your ‘it’ might be, is invited to take it outside into the hallway.” One of the defendants rose from the table, and started towards the door. “Nice try, Mr. Batts; take your seat.” He shrugged, and went back to his chair.

“Think I need to go,” Irene said, standing. Tucker followed her, and sat on a bench beside her just outside the courtroom.

“I told the others to stay,” he said. “I can still watch the verdict through Mikaela’s eyes. I can patch you in, if you want.”

“No,” Irene said, shivering. “I lived through it; I mean, we all did, but… I don’t need to hear the highlights now.”

“Understandable,” Tucker said.

“I tried reading all the charges, when they first asked me to testify. And it was… overwhelming. It was almost more than I could take, just what they did to me, but it was a literal army of bigots running roughshod over the campus. We all could have died that day, and what’s probably most terrifying is fully half of people would have celebrated it.”

“And the other half will celebrate what happened here today.”

“Right. How the hell do you handle that? I guess, we could feel lucky, that the world isn’t completely bigoted and homicidal- but I feel like that’s still way too much.”

“It’s a glass half full of watery diarrhea.”

“I’ve never liked that analogy. The glass, unless it’s in a vacuum, is always full. It’s just half-full of air as well as liquid. I don’t know if the liquid being diarrhea makes anything any clearer.”

“I’ve never seen it clear,” Tucker frowned, “I’m not sure if that’s a sign of clean, healthy living or something being truly wrong.”

“Just this moment I believe you and Iago are related by blood.”

“Everyone has one of those revelations eventually. I like to think it’s because there’s something unbelievably impressive about us.”

“I know you’re trying to distract me, and not just repulse me… but I think I’m going to be okay. It’s over. We won. Good triumphed. The bad guys will see honest, actual consequences. It’s not as good as there never being an armed insurgency at our school… but if this is normal? I could live with it, is what I’m saying.”

“That’s good, because my distractions were going to get a lot less subtle and a lot more graphic from this point forward.”

“Glad we didn’t do that, then,” Irene said. “And thanks. For driving me here to testify. For today. For just this second.” She pecked him on the cheek. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this without you.” “It probably would have been Iago making diarrhea jokes. The kiss would have been more awkward, though. He’d have made sure of it.”

Breed Book 3, Part 17

Ben could feel the grinding of the clock’s gears in his head, or was he grinding his teeth in time with it? It had been too long since they’d seen Cris, and Ben didn’t know what he’d do if he encountered even one more loss.

It seemed like a perfect gig, when Sonya asked him to take over listening to the radio. It gave him an excuse to be quiet, and spend time away from his friends. The quiet was hard, but it was worse, feeling isolated in a room full of friends.

Because every broadcast would sap Cris’ battery, they were waiting for him to make the first move. But it was taking too long. They all, idly, speculated about having to burst through the walls of the compound; Ben was the only one of them, though he knew better than to say anything, who knew a rescue wasn’t a chance to play the hero; they’d only find more death there.

“Ben,” Anita said, her voice softer than he could ever remember hearing it; lighter still was her hand on his shoulder. “I should take over.”

“Why?” he asked. “It’s not like I’ve got some place to be.”

“No, but you’ve got more than enough to deal with.” His eyebrows shot up. “You should let me take it from here.”

“You know,” he said, sounding defeated.

“If your goal was to keep it a secret, you’re doing kind of a lousy job. They all know something’s wrong. They don’t know what. I’ve kept your secret, and I will; it’s yours to tell, when you’re ready.”

“I don’t know how.”

“You’ve suffered an… unimaginable loss. It doesn’t need to be the right way or the right time. They love you. And they want to be there for you.”

“They need me to be strong. Especially while Cris is in harm’s way.”

“They need you to be present. Not a zombie. And not up your own ass with grief. And if I’ve learned anything with all of you, it’s that the world never really goes back to sanity. The next crazy thing comes at you before you can find your footing. One of us, maybe most of us, will always been in harm’s way. And… we’re all going to experience loss. I can’t say how, for sure, but I know there isn’t a one of us who won’t be right where you are eventually. And if we don’t figure out how to handle our loss while the world keeps on spinning, eventually our little world will break, or we will, into a thousand little pieces.”

She pulled him out of his chair and to his feet, then yanked him to her shoulder. The motion pushed most of the air from his lungs, and he exhaled raggedly against her neck. She put her arms around him and he enveloped her in a giant bear hug, before setting her down. “Fuck,” he said, “I needed that.”

“I know. And you’ll need a whole lot more before this is through. Trust me, as someone who has been a lone wolf most of her adult life, let people in. They want to be here for you just as desperately as you need them to be here for you. Just let them in.”    

“And what about you?” he asked. “You’ve been with us a long time. And… this is the most of the real you I think I’ve ever seen. Not that I don’t get playing the clown. Or understand your anger- I think we all do. But you’ve been with us for a long time. You’re one of us. You don’t have to keep… playing at being someone else.”

“I wish that were true. I wish I were just another classmate, another kid caught up in a world that isn’t ready for the change that’s coming to it; I’ve been on the other side of that fight, trying for all the world to keep things like they are. I don’t like me very much; moment to moment, I can be fun, but… to say I’m not proud of who I’ve been really doesn’t cover it. If I thought I could get away with just… stepping out of frame, I would. But somehow things get even worse if I’m not here. Which given my track record of monumentally making things worse is impressive.”

“Who cares?” Ben asked. “We might all of us be considered terrorists for the rest of our days, but we know that, when push finally came to shove, we fought back. For ourselves, for people who couldn’t. I don’t know what sins you think you’ve committed, but that kind of sacrifice compensates for a lot of mistakes.”

“Who cares?” Anita asked, pondering the question, a furtive little smile crossing her lips. She closed her eyes, and after a few seconds, she frowned, and sighed. “You will. I imagine most of you will. And that truth will out. Some days I feel like I’m… holding in a breath, but I can’t hold it in forever. The attempt is killing me; I’m pretty sure the failure will, too.”

“I think you think too much,” Ben said. “And should heed your own advice. I think people might surprise you.”

“They usually don’t,” she said. “But I’ll think about it.”

“No,” Ben said, “don’t think about it. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’ve done something so wrong, so unforgiveable, that I will be angry with you when it finally comes out. But that’s not the end of the story, either- and you’re not giving us enough credit by pretending it is. You think if Mira showed up tomorrow we wouldn’t greet her with smiles, hugs and a baffling amount of affection? We protect the people we care about. From the world. From themselves. From the things they can’t forgive themselves for. Because you might not ever forgive yourself, but I can.”

“But will you?” “Honestly? I seriously doubt anything you’ve actually done could be worse than what we’ve all been picturing. And even if it is… that’s just further proof of what it must have taken for you to crawl out of that hole. None of us are the worst thing we’ve ever done. But if we’re going to honor those who aren’t here to continue pushing for change, we have a duty to be better, to do better, every day. You have. I think you’ll keep doing that. So when I say, ‘Who cares?’ I say it because no one should care who you used to be, because what matters is who you are, and who you’re going to try to be tomorrow. And you get to decide who that’s going to be. And I think you’re going to be fine.”

Breed Book 3, Part 16

“So I confronted mom,” Tucker said, absently drying a dish beside Iago, who finished rinsing the next dish and handed it to him.

“It’s about time,” Iago said. “She is way too old to pull off floral prints like that. And especially that tight.” He shuddered. “I may be asexual for a bit.”

“Unless we’re counting your hand, you may be asexual forever. And you’re not wrong about mom’s floral dresses, but that was not the confrontation I had.”

Oh,” Iago said. “You mean about how she definitely voted for the bigoted train wreck currently threatening all of our lives and freedom from the White House. And how did that go?”

“Bout like you’d expect,” Tucker said noncommittally.

“So, soul-crushingly bad, then?”

“Yeah,” Tucker said, with tears in his eyes.

Iago was already there, moving Tucker’s head to his shoulder. “It’s okay,” he soothed. He stroked his brother’s back. “You should have told me. I could’ve,” he paused, “I would-‘ve…”

“You would have kept the peace,” Tucker said. “But we’ve been doing that for years. She’s not interested in peace; nobody like her is. They’re after conquest. They want to force us to live under Christian sharia, where people like me would be put to death, and people like I used to be would be forced to carry our rapist’s baby.”

“Jesus,” Iago said, a shiver of understanding running through him. “You could have told me that. I’d have been there.”

“And I’d have been sticking a wedge between you and mom. I didn’t want to make you choose… and I was afraid,” his breath caught, “I was afraid that she wouldn’t choose me. That she would care more about a baby I did not consent to making over me.”

“I’m not hurt,” Iago said. “And you’re probably right. But… I missed a lot of chances to be a better brother. I was thick enough I didn’t- I wasn’t supportive when you started to transition.”

“I know,” Tucker said. “You couldn’t see the difference between me becoming more masculine and just… slacking on my hygiene. But I also know you… it would have been better, if you weren’t so thick, but I could see what you thought, what you knew, what you understood. And your big, dumb heart always loved me, even when you were four steps behind literally everyone else in understanding who that was. Even mom figured it all out before you did; it took a while before she’d actually admit it to herself, but…”

“Yeah,” Iago winced, “that stings a bit. But I’m sorry I wasn’t more supportive.”

“Sometimes the most important thing isn’t that you’re there- but knowing that you would be if I called.”

“That feels more gracious than I probably deserve,” Iago said. But his brow wouldn’t unknit. “Do you think I was wrong, trying to keep the peace?”

“We both did,” Tucker replied. “We all did, really. I remember the knock-down drag-out her and I had over abortion. And we pretty much agreed to disagree. Things went largely back to normal. I think it’s human instinct to peace-keep, because without that, it’s hard to have ‘family’ in any sense of the word. Even with our friends now- we do little things to sand off our own edges. I know you don’t like dealing with your wet towels after a shower, but you do, out of consideration for the rest of us.”

“But what if doing that let her become who she is?” Iago asked. “What if we let her down, by not helping her be a better person?”

“No,” Tucker said, gravel in his voice, “she let us down. We’re her fucking children, and she has thrown in with our oppressors, our tormentors, with men who stormed our fucking campus to hold us at gunpoint, who confront us in the streets with hate and threats. It was her job to evolve, to be better, to help sculpt a better world for us. She didn’t just fail at that, she’s actively working to make things worse, for us specifically. She’s practically an anti-mom, at this point. And that is not on you, and it is not on me. She could have been better. She should have. She failed us. But that’s okay. Because she gave us each other. And she can’t fail that away.”

“I’m getting a real weird Luke and Leia vibe out of this kitchen right now,” Drake said from the opening into the living room. An instant later, Tucker’s towel hit him in the face.

“You’re right,” Tucker said, making a point to shoulder-check Drake as he passed. “Solo out.”

Breed Book 3, Part 15

“Anything?’ Rox asked, sitting opposite Anita. The rest of the house was dark, and silent. In the middle of the table was a walkie. Anita’s hand hovered near it, even as she tried desperately not to look at it.

“Can’t sleep?” Anita asked.

“No. You?”

“The stress has my nerves a tangled mess. It’s messing with my foresight; I can’t see anything clearly, but seeing fever-dreams of Cris torn literally limb from limb in a concentration camp is a tough thing to pretend you didn’t see.”

“Any idea on the likelihood?”

“I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it. I mean, I have had cause to tear someone’s limb off. It’s not a simple task. Even cutting away a lot of the skin, there’s a whole lot of meat and sinew and… unless we assume it’s another Breed, or some very determined bigots, it’s probably a long shot. But I’ve seen a fair few of those come true in my day; your crummy President being exhibit A.”

“Yeah,” Rox said, giving a depressive chuckle. “I have to assume there’s someone else out there with an ability like mine, but in reverse- only they cursed the whole fricking country, maybe the planet.”

“That’d be kind of nice, actually,” Anita said. “There being some rhyme or reason to the world. Sadly, in my experience, there really isn’t. There are bigots, the congenitally cruel, the greedy beyond all understanding… but shit doesn’t happen for a reason. We suffer, pointlessly, until one day we stop.”

“Okay, we are switching you to decaf, and whatever the opposite of hard liquor is.”

“40 beers?”

“1 beer, if you promise to be less maudlin.” Anita glared. “Hear this with all due affection: I am a teenaged girl, on the run from my country, fighting against forces that would rather we stop existing, whose available romantic prospects are two dudes more interested in not showering than in me, and guaranteed friendship-ruining lesbian trysts. With all of that, you’re depressing me.”

“Fair enough. 1 beer.” Anita held out her hand.

“I’m not getting it for your lazy ass.”

Anita sighed, and kicked out of her seat. “Then what’s to stop me from drinking all the beer?”

“That somehow you have the second tiniest bladder among us, after Tso, and that if you try, I’ll focus my powers on you and you will have a hilarious accident. Or 39.”

“You’re a tyrant,” Anita said, dropping back in her seat with a beer, and handing one across the table to Rox.

“I’m just trying to keep us all sane in an insane world,” they clinked bottles.  

“I don’t know. It’s a noble pursuit… but I’ve usually found there’s wisdom in embracing the insanity.”

“Yeah, well, most of us can’t see the future to avoid the worst mistakes that would come out of that.”

You can, functionally,” Anita said. “And I’ve been nuts, off and on. I don’t think you go through what I did- what we did- completely whole. Sometimes you’ve just got let yourself be crazy. Not all the time, but… sometimes the most damaging thing you can do to yourself and those around you is deny how… utterly broken you are.”

“Isn’t that your whole thing, though?” Rox asked.

“You’d think, right?” Anita asked, and took a swig. “But no. Most days I’m on the same wavelength as Tso; the world, generally speaking, needs to relax, and not take itself so fucking seriously. Of course, the last few days he’s been more on my other wavelength.”

“He has been… distant. I figured he was just worried about Cris.”

Right,” Anita said. “You don’t know yet.”

“Know what?”

“Ben’s having a really hard time. More than that, it isn’t my place to say. But he’ll tell you, when he’s ready. Until then, be extra gentle with him.”

“You know this is fucked up, right? He’s one of my closest friends.” She closed her eyes and sighed angrily. “Can you tell me anything?”

“It’s going to be a really long time before Ben’s world feels sane again. And in the interim, we really need to take extra care of each other.”

“Is that why you’re hovering over the radio?” Rox asked.

“The uncertainty kicked into high gear once we chose to use a walkie.”

“We knew they’d take his phone. And they have; he’s not responding to texts or calls- but we expected that. It was both gross and cool, your idea of implanting a gutted radio in his wrist.”

“We can only use it for Morse code, but that’s something. Of course, he’s only got enough battery to last a few days, even using it sparingly. And there’s always the possibility it broke when they kicked him half to death.”

“I meant it when I said less maudlin,” Rox said with a grin, taking a sip, “or I’m taking your beer away.”

“I’d like to see you try. I will bite your hand.”

Rox’s eyes narrowed.

“I mean, I’d lose a tooth doing it, but that sounds worth it to me.” Rox cocked her head to the side. “Yeah, that I could see clear. So, as long as it’s within the next ten seconds, and within five feet of me, my foresight is sharp as ever.” Rox took another swig, then gave the remaining half of it to Anita.

“Finish the beers, then get some rest. Maybe that will jog you. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll do you good to sleep. I’ll watch the radio.”

“What about you?”

“I always figured we’d take shifts; I figured I’d take the first one, but you’ve been guarding that radio like it was your only cub to survive the litter. I promise, the first yahoo who wakes up I will fill full of coffee and make take the next shift. Like you said. We’ve got to take care of one another, and to do that, we also have to take care of ourselves.”

Anita finished off both beers, then belched loudly. “I will take you up on it, but only because I’m seeing double, and I don’t think it’s the alcohol doing that.”

“Go to bed. And I better not catch you up there playing Nintendo.”

“You’re not my real mom.”

“It’s… and don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s hard to picture you having a mom. Like… I’m sure you did, but you feel more like you popped out of a factory fully formed.”

“Well, the me you know and… grudgingly tolerate, was born in a lab. Hardly recognize the girl I was, or the woman who stubbornly refused to raise me in any conventional meaning of the word.”

“That sucks,” Rox said. “Eh,” Anita said with a shrug. “It was another lifetime ago. And I don’t think we have enough liquor in the house to cover that conversation, so I’m going to bed.”

Breed Book 3, Part 14

“I’m telling you, we’re fine, mom,” Tucker said, adjusting the cushion on the sofa. “You didn’t have to come all the way here; you could have called or something.”

“Really?” she asked. “Because it looks like a stampede came through here.”

“Just a few friends over, and we just had a few drinks.” Her mother led her eyes to a cemetery of dead soldiers on the counter. “One of those ‘few’ might have been an understatement.”

“And are you using protection?”

“I tried. I put a condom on a beer, but it kept me from being able to drink it. Kind of spoiled the fun.”

“You know what I mean.” She picked up one of the bottles and turned it over in her hand thoughtfully, before setting it back down. “I think you and Iago should come home.”

“Why?” Tucker asked, annoyance showing in his voice.

“Because you’re not safe here.”

“And we would be at home?”

“I know you and Iago are good kids. But the rest of these Breed…”

“You think my fellow students are the threat? As opposed to the bigot gun-humping militia all but sicced on us by your President, with the sycophantic backing of your party.”

“That’s not fair. I don’t support the hateful rhetoric they spout about your… kind.”

“And what form does your lack of support take? Because if it’s quiet disapproval, a glare and a wagged finger at the dining room TV, they don’t care. They don’t even know about it. In fact, they take your silence as approval; the rest of us see it as complicity.”

“You’re not being fair to me.”

Tucker sighed. “Fairness really doesn’t enter into it. You’re tacitly supporting a lot of really bad things. And it really doesn’t matter if you personally approve of those bad things or not. You might not personally feel disproportionately disenfranchising people of color is right, but your party does, and you support them, which they take as approval. You might not personally agree with a travel ban on ‘certain kinds’ of people of color, but your party does. You might not support all the hate spilled on LGBT people, the assault on our rights or our dignity, but you support the party that does.”

“I’m not a bigot, Tucker.”

“Mom… I know what’s in your heart, and in your head. But what you need to understand is that doesn’t matter. You support a bigot. A racist. A homophobe. A transphobe. You support a political party that wants to strip me and everyone I care about of rights. Right now, if they had their way, people like me, like Iago, we would be in cages, mom, just because we’re different. If you think you can support something like that without becoming a monster yourself, you’re wrong. And I have to believe the person you are would want to stop being wrong.”

“I’m not a bigot,” she repeated bitterly.

“And what you refuse to hear is it doesn’t matter. If you do bigoted things, if you enable bigoted outcomes, if you have thrown in with bigots, you are marching with a bigoted army. Not every Nazi was an anti-Semite, homophobe or racist; that didn’t do anyone who they killed in the Holocaust a lick of good. I’m begging you- do better, mom. Because someone I care about is going to get hurt, and I will blame you for it- I will never forgive you for it.”

“I should go. Before one of us says something we can’t take back.”

“You already have,” Tucker said, as his mother shut the apartment door, the screen door clattering noisily in her wake.

Breed Book 3, Part 13

CW: Cris is let into the general detention facility among the other children. Most are sleeping, a few are weeping, one is despondently punching the floor. I struggled with adding a warning to this one. It was a hard chapter to write, and it’s just as hard to read, but it kind of should be read for that reason. Because we did this. And maybe aren’t doing it on the same scale, but we still are, and we need to understand that ugly truth.

Cris was still uneasy on his feet; most of the healing was done, but his knees buckled with every step he took. He was glad to see a friendly face waiting at the gate when the guard unlocked it, and closed him inside. “I was worried, when I woke up and you were gone,” he said.

“I’m about halfway through my EMT training, so they let me help out in the infirmary. But I don’t stay there all day. A girl needs to get her vitamin D.” Angela gestured at the ceiling, and the sickly-looking fluorescent lights fifty feet overhead.

“This used to be a warehouse,” Cris said.

“Still is. Only the ‘wares’ it houses now are people.”  

Fully half of the kids on this side of the fence were curled up under flimsy foil sheets, the kind that came packed in emergency kits. “They don’t turn off the lights?”

“That little twinge of humanity you’re feeling? They don’t have that. You’re just lucky it’s late. Come the morning, this place will be a chorus of crying children, whimpering for their parents. You’ll have to hear it eventually, but this way, maybe you get one good night’s sleep before it haunts you for the rest of your life.”

That was when Cris heard it, the slap of meat against something that didn’t give. There was a moment’s silence, before it was filled with a half-choked off sob, and another crack. This time he followed the sound with his eyes, to a toddler, alone, near the corner of the enclosure, sobbing and pounding her fists on a mat.

“Not sure that’s the,” Angela stopped, as Cris started across the room at a brisk pace, “crap.” She rushed after him. He was kneeled beside the toddler before she caught up to him.

“Hi,” he said. “Hey.” She bashed the mat again, neither seeing nor hearing him through her tears. Her tiny fists were cracked and bloody, and he couldn’t help but wonder how long she’d been at this. “Hey,” he said, gently touching her shoulder. She leapt back, scurrying across the floor in a crabwalk. “It’s okay,” Cris said, holding out his hand. “I know it’s scary. I know you feel alone right now. But I’m here to help.” Her tiny face contorted with anguish, as her fragile mind tried to understand if he really was safe, but even the possibility was too much, and she ran at him, hitting him hard enough she knocked him onto his back. She stared at him, terrified he might react angrily. He laughed. “I think you have a bright future as a tackle.” She grabbed onto his leg. “Is that a position, or just a thing you do?”

“Yeah, something told me you weren’t much the football type,” Angela said.

“Can I see your hands?” Cris asked. The toddler wouldn’t let go of his leg, so he balled his hands around her and the fabric she was clutching.

“Wait,” Angela did her best to block what he was doing from view, as his hands started to glow.

“See?” Cris asked, wiping the toddler’s hands off on his pants, to reveal that her hands were healed. She stared down at her hand for an instant, before jumping at this neck and latching on.

Cris stood, lifting the toddler with him because she wasn’t about to let go of him. Already, he could hear another child nearby weeping, muffled very slightly by a foil sheet. “What the hell happened to this country?” Cris asked, the words shuddering out of his mouth.

“You’re not from around here, right?”

“You are?”

“Born in Texas. They burned my documentation in front of me, then took me into custody; I have duplicates, but no way to get to them. But I asked the question because it’s been fucked up here. My grand dad got beaten nearly to death after 9/11, because apparently bigots can’t tell the difference between a Guatemalan and a Saudi Arabian- most of whom weren’t in on the terror attacks, by the way. Dad got deported a few years ago, because he had a name similar to a cartel smuggler. It wasn’t worth the hassle to come back, so I haven’t seen him since. So you ask what happened? America took the mask off. I guess I always knew she wasn’t a looker, but I’ll admit some shock as to just how ugly she really is.”

“Jesus,” Cris whispered.

“That’s a lot of the problem. American Jesus doesn’t give a shit; his followers, even less so. They’ve got a new messiah now. A cruel fucking orange one.”

Pitchmas 2019, Part 12: Young Avengers

Okay, so there’s a degree of supposition and guesswork with this one, given that Kate Bishop is getting created for the Disney+ Hawkeye show. I’m going to presume it roughly follows the Fraction Hawkeye series, that she’s more ancillary and it’s about him trying to handle being a regular dude (though possibly with a big bankroll to let him get into deeper doodoo). But her back-story in the books is, roughly, a socialite who wants to make good- that she wanted to make the world a better place so she put on a purple suit and picked up a bow to fill in for the recently exploded Hawkeye.  

Patriot narrates over clips from Captain America: The First Avenger, then a new montage. “After Captain America went into the ice, the US Army tried to recreate the Super Soldier Serum without Dr. Erskine.” Show a military graveyard. “They tested the serum on one of the Army’s black companies. Only one soldier survived: Isiah Bradley.” Show Isiah in in his makeshift uniform, then cut to him, elderly, in a nursing home, “My grandfather. The serum left him with brain damage, but it let him be a hero. My hero.” We have a sweet scene of Elijah (Patriot) spending time with his grandfather, maybe reading him the paper.

I’m operating under the assumption that we’re fighting not to let this become a 3 hour monster, so more quick cuts as Patriot narrates. “Lately, heroes have been in short supply. Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision and Captain America died stopping Thanos. Thor and Hawkeye haven’t been seen in months; with his injuries, Hulk might never fight again. But the world needs Avengers.” Cut to Elijah, climbing out of his bedroom window into a tree, wearing his Patriot uniform (which should harken more to Isaiah’s costume than Cap’s.). “That’s a good costume. Sew it yourself?” Patriot nearly falls out of the tree, spooked by the conversation. Iron Lad is behind him; it’s basically a sleek Iron Man armor tailored to a 16 year old. “I ask because there aren’t a lot of places to get that kind of custom work done.” Patriot does a back flip, landing gracefully beside him. “You make yours?” “More or less,” Iron Lad says.

“Should I be concerned you know who I am, behind all this?” Patriot gestures to his mask. “Where I’m from, everyone knows who you are, Elijah. And your grandfather. You do him quite proud.” “Now I really am concerned.” “Yeah, time travel will make you nuts.” “So you’re from the future, then?” “Makes more sense than me being from the past, though in a way, aren’t we all?” “How about you cut to the point, before I report you to Tony Stark’s intellectual property lawyer?” “There’s trouble, an Avengers-level threat, only, most of the Avengers are dead, retired, or hiding- and those that aren’t have already been caught by Kang.” “Okay, the reject Star Trek villain name has me thinking you’re just a crank in your Iron Man cosplay.” “Lad. It’s Iron Lad.” “And I’m Captain America’s Chum.” “Too retro? I was going for like a classic kind of feel, timeless.” “We can workshop it. Now who’s Kang?”

“Kang is to the timestream what Alexander the Great was to the known world in his day. He doesn’t just conquer tomorrow, but yesterday, today, and every day in between. He’s a bad man, and I know that because… one day I’m going to become him.” “I’m back around to being concerned, but also really confused.” “Yep. Time travel will make you nuts. But I’m also the only chance you have of stopping Kang.” “So I just snap your neck, right?” “If only it were that easy. No. Kang doesn’t just travel backwards and forwards in time. So the Kang you’re worried about, he isn’t me me. He’s a parallel me. So, while you could try to snap my neck, it wouldn’t do any good. In fact, it would make it a lot harder for you to beat him. Probably impossible.” “Then what’s the plan?” “Same reason I came here for you. We’re going to need help. And I’ve got some ideas about that.”

We cut to older Cassie (Stature), wearing something close to the original Wasp costume shown at the end of Ant Man 1, combing through strands of carpet with an army of ants. She’s barking orders at them, panicked, because she hasn’t seen her father; he’s disappeared, without a trace. Iron Lad calls out to her, telling her he’d appreciate if she could grow and speak to him. She grows, bringing a pair of ants with her to act as guard dogs. She sicks them on Patriot, while Iron Lad exposes his face and explains that they can help her find her father, which makes her still more suspicious, but in the end she’s curious enough to go along to find out what they know.

Hawkeye, who has befriended Viv since the end of West Coast Avengers, is their next stop. She’s upset because the rest of the West Coast Avengers are missing. They all stop, and demand Iron Lad explain what the hell is going on, why all of the older heroes are disappearing. He explains that there’s a brief window where there aren’t records of new heroes, where Iron Lad was able to delete records of all heroes past a certain point, letting the Young Avengers exist in a blind spot for Kang, who is eliminating all of the threats to him throughout time.

The final set is the Scarlet Witch’s twins, and Wiccan’s boyfriend, Teddy (Hulkling). They’ve been looking for their mother, their sort-of father (Vision) and Wonder Man (kind of a surrogate father), with no luck; they actually run into them as they’re both trying to track down Scarlet Witch’s whereabouts, and briefly fight while the boys believe they might be responsible for her disappearance.

They proceed to Avengers’ Tower, where Kang portals in. Iron Lad confronts him with what he’s doing, and Kang, bemused, confirms it all. He doesn’t understand why he can’t see them, and Iron Lad tells him that when he stole his armor, he deleted the existence of the Young Avengers from Kang’s files. Kang tries to flee to recon and fix what Iron Lad broke, but at Iron Lad’s direction they damage his time travel interface to strand him there temporarily. They proceed to fight, and while Kang is formidable, the element of surprise in someone who previously couldn’t be surprised at all, is difficult to overcome. At a crucial point in the fight, when Kang is close to having learned enough of them to turn the tide, Kate gets off a shot that goes through his heart, killing him instantly.

Iron Lad is stricken. “I thought you said that wasn’t you,” Patriot says. “I did. And it was the truth. But what I maybe should have said, too, is that Kang can’t die. One of his alter egos ruled over parts of Egypt for hundreds of years. Another becomes a hero, to prevent a different end of the world a thousand years in the future; he lives a hundred lives, some of them indispensable to history. Kang dying now… it dooms the past, the present, and the future. Unless…” “Unless what?” Patriot asks. “Unless I take his place. I guess… I guess the answer was always staring me in the face. Reforming Kang? Impossible. Stopping him, even temporarily? Doable, but his present circumstance notwithstanding, Kang is a temporal cockroach.” Stature: “It’s weird that he keeps referring to Kang in the third person, rather than saying ‘I.’” “That’s because I spent my whole life trying not to be him. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe I was always meant to be- maybe I always had to be. But maybe I can be a version of Kang that’s the good without all the bad.” He opens a temporal portal. “Wait, will we ever see you again?” He retracts his helmet. “If things go to plan, no. You might see some other Kang, but if I do this right… then I’ll be busy living a better version of his life.”

Iron Lad walks through the portal, and a moment later, to swirling music, other Avengers emerge. Whichever Avengers have some extra space on their contracts, but also Captain Marvel, lay down the law, telling the Young Avengers they need training, and to wait until they’re older, to fight crime. Thematically it’s probably best if it’s Captain America, also, original flavor, but it can work with just about anybody. The young Avengers are defiant, without stating as much.

Mid-Credits Scene: Captain Marvel floats in the same spot: “You kids did a great thing. And I agree with the other Avengers that you’re too young and untrained to keep doing it. Unlike the others, I’m not naïve enough to think that will make you quit. So I’d like you to take on someone who’s been learning from me, training with me. Someone I trust implicitly. I’d like you to meet Ms. Marvel.” Her protégé steps out of the shadows.

End Credits Scene: An unseen person opens a personnel file written in Russian, showing shots of a blonde, teenaged Black Widow. The same woman is sitting in a relatively dark and sparse cell, obviously a prisoner. The POV person speaks with a thick Russian accent. “Yelena Bolova, are you prepared to redeem yourself?” They turn the page, and there’s a blurry photo of the Young Avengers. “We have a new group we’d like you to infiltrate.” They close the folder, which has the name “Black Widow, mk 2” written on the tab. Cut to black. 

Breed Book 3, Part 12

Drake popped the top off a hard lemonade with the bottle-opener built into the fridge. “I’ve heard, through the grapevine, that this is your drink.”

Irene was coy, “I’m not technically old enough to drink that,” she said.

“And I’m not technically offering it to you.” He set it down on the counter, and took the beer he was nursing to the couch.

“Yeah, he didn’t technically offer me one, either,” Iago said, brushing past her to get into the fridge. He used the same opener to pop the top, then took a swig. “You really should drink it while it’s cold, cause as a wise girl once said, you can’t possibly have more if you hadn’t had any.”

Irene frowned, then picked up the bottle. Iago clinked with her, then took another swig.

He nodded towards the front room, then took a running leap over the back of the couch, landing next to a nonplussed Drake. “Now normally,” Tucker started, plodding down the stairs, “a young woman such as yourself drinking with a pair of older college bros like this I might warn. But I’m honestly not sure either of them would know what to do with a woman if one fell in their laps. They’re probably more dangerous to each others’ hymens- and I mean that in literally every sense of the word.”

Drake raised a middle finger to him without leaving the couch. “What he gestured,” Iago said.

Tucker stopped in the kitchen and ducked his head in the fridge. “Mind if I grab one?” he asked.

“Go ahead,” Iago said. “But I’m not getting the next pack.”

“I mean, I don’t think any of us should be driving after drinking. I’m not sure the same prohibitions apply to teleportation.”

“I- provided I can walk straight- I can grab it. But I’m not paying for the whole thing.”

“Oh. Yeah. Of course I’ll chip in.”

“Uh,” Iago said.

“And of course I’ll chip in for my brother, who somehow never seems to have any money whatsoever.”

“Have I told you lately how pretty you are?” Iago asked, batting his eyes at Tucker.

“Not… really the vibe I’m going for these days.”

“I meant macho,” he said, thrusting out his chest, “Manly. Strapping.” With every new word his chest got wider.

“I really hope he said ‘ping,’” Drake whispered loudly.

“I did; don’t be a dick.”

“Thanks,” Irene said, sitting in a lounger opposite the couch, “for the lemonade.”

“It was our pleasure,” Drake said. “We watched you, on TV. I’m not typically a believer…”

“In like, God?”

“God. Humanity. Good having any shot at not getting its pelvis kicked in by evil.”

“You made his shriveled, black, cold little unfeeling lump of coal of a heart feel something, if only for one fleeting, solitary moment, is what he’s trying to say,” Iago said.

“But I was hoping to say it with a tiny bit more dignity.”

“And I wanted to rob you of that. Because it’s funny.”

“Somehow we’re still friends.”

“Because drinking alone is sad.”

“I didn’t use to drink, either.”

“Yeah. But then being sober in this world became sadder.”

“That’s fair,” Drake said, and polished off his beer. “So fair I think I need a drink.”

“Admitting it is the first step.”

Drake groaned while standing up. “Is your plan really to make me really want to drink, then make me feel really bad for wanting to drink?”

“I think assuming he has a plan is giving him too much credit,” Irene said.

“Yeah,” Tucker agreed. “he’s an agent of chaos.”

“The bonding equivalent of a loving wedgie.”

“Loving?” Drake and Iago asked together.

“I think that’s between the two of you, your butts, and your underpants. I promise I won’t ask, and I’m hoping you don’t tell.”

“I like her,” Tucker said. “Because she can call you out on things that would be too weird coming from a blood relative.”

“I’ll have you know I’ve spoken to multiple girls in my classes,” Iago said.

“I don’t think that’s the strong defense you think it is,” Drake said from the kitchen.

“Just because my brother’s pathetic, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook,” Tucker called into the kitchen.

“I would mostly raise the objection that between school, the world being on fire, holding down a part time job and occasionally being called on to break and enter or otherwise use my skills to help people, I’ve got a full dance card.”

“And fully half of those dances are happening across a fricking table from Demi,” Tucker said, “who it doesn’t take a mind-reader to know would ride you like the last pony on Earth.”

“Is that the kind of thing a guy is supposed to want?” Irene asked.

“No,” Tucker said, stopping Iago. “Don’t corrupt her.”

“I wasn’t going to; I was going to say Demi’s got kind of,” Iago puffed out his cheeks.

“Really?” Tucker asked, frowning, jabbing him in the beer gut with an accusatory finger. “My brother obviously emerged from the shallow end of the gene pool; I got all the good stuff, and left mom’s bits parched, so it’s only somewhat his fault. But I expected better of you.”

“What?” Drake asked. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Exactly. In that you didn’t refute any of the dipshit dribbling out of Iago’s mouth. Demi is a beautiful, smart, fun, funny, aggressively sexual person. If she just wasn’t your type, that might have been one thing, but because she put on a little weight…”

“He’s, like, Mr. Fitness,” Iago said. “Runs constantly. Even the beer he buys is light beer.”

“That at least explains the taste,” Tucker said, making a face. “Though clearly your lack of taste extends beyond beer.”

“Seems harsh,” Iago said.

“And sort of beside the point,” Drake said. “We’re here to raise a glass to Irene.”

“Crap. He’s right,” Tucker said. “Sorry,” he said directly to Irene. They raised bottles, and clinked over the coffee table in the middle of the room.