A VERY MIGHTY CHRISTMAS
featuring the Mighty Avengers
Luke Cage looked out upon New York City. He was in an expensively-furnished hotel room in a five-star establishment. It was Christmas Eve. He had gotten what few presents he had reason to buy, and had them all poorly-rapped and sent to their intended recipients. The four-foot tree in the corner of his spacious room had nothing under it. He had expected as much, but it was still slightly depressing to think there was no one in the world who cared enough to get him a Christmas gift. Other than S.H.I.E.L.D., that is, who had sent him, along with all of their other employees a twenty-five dollar gift card to Starbucks. He barely even drank coffee.
He looked around the room. The over-head light was off, leaving only the two dim lams on either side of the king-size bed to light his surroundings. The wall he now faced was completely made of glass. It made him self-conscious to change in front of it, even though he knew no one on the outside could see through it. Still, he always faced the other way when he dressed himself each morning. He could barely wait till his personal suite in whatever government building T’Challa had chosen was ready.
There was a knock on the door. Though he was wearing ankle-length pajama pants, he closed his white robe for posterity’s sake and walked towards the door. He looked through the peephole. Whoever was standing there, however, had leaned all the way in to the hole, so all Luke saw was a watery blue eye.
He swung the door opened, not knowing who to expect, and saw a beautiful blonde woman standing there.
“Well,” he said, “the ad said attractive, but that was an understatement.”
“Very funny,” said his teammate Carol Danvers. “I was in the neighborhood-“
“Aren’t you right in the room right below me?”
“-and I just thought I’d bring this by.” She held out a small package rapped flawlessly in green rapping paper with a big red bow on it. “It’s not much, but I wanted to get you something.”
“Oh…thanks.” Luke was now mentally berating himself for not thinking to get Carol a gift. “I…umm, I didn’t uh-“
“It’s fine. We haven’t known each other that long….Really, it’s fine.”
They stood there rather awkwardly, until Luke said, “Do you wanna come in?”
“Sure,” said Carol, walking in.
“Can I open it?” Luke asked her.
“That’s the idea.”
Luke laughed and sat down on the bed. He took the bow off, and was about to peel the corner back when Carol’s phone rang.
“Oh she had, fun, fun, fun till her daddy took her T-bird away-ay…” the phone sang.
“That’s my ring for T’Challa,” Carol explained.
“Hello?” she answered. “You’re kidding…I’m at Luke’s…Yes he’s here…Why would I do that?…Whatever. What’s up?…Oh god…Yeah, we’ll be right there.”
“What’s up?” asked Luke.
“Look out the window,” she said.
Luke turned to the window. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but it sure wasn’t what he saw. There seemed to be an extremely concentrated stream of light blue energy streaming from the center of the city.
Later, the UN building
“So why aren’t we meeting at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters?” Carol asked T’Challa.
“Because,” said the African King in his traditional Black Panther outfit. “Director Fury and I have recently had some…disagreements. We’re still working things out.”
“Fine,” said Amazon, “but screw them if they think they’re getting the Starbucks card back.”
“No one is looking to take you off their gift list, Jennifer, I assure you. But onto more pressing matters. There seems to be a man in the streets releasing tremendous amounts of energy from his body. There are three people in critical condition. One dead. At last count, twenty-six others with minor to serious injuries.”
“So lets go,” said Luke.
“It’s not that simple. There’s a dome around his general area. Thank god there’s a hospital there, but so far none of our agents have gotten through. And the energy is completely foreign to all of our analysts. The only thing we know is that it seems to be at least partially magical in nature.”
Groans were heard all around the table.
“Isn’t there a guy that’s supposed to deal with this?” asked Jennifer.
“Stephen Sanders, or Stephen Strange as he prefers, is otherwise occupied,” T’Challa said as if it slightly annoyed him. “This is our turf and we need to start owning it.”
“Slacker,” said the green woman.
“Don’t knock Strange,” said Carol. “He’s like the classiest superhero out there. Plus he’s very well-written.”
“You mean well-read?”
“You said he was well-written. That doesn’t make any sense. You meant well-read, right?”
“Oh. Yeah, well-read, I meant.”
“Anyway,” said T’Challa, “I want you all to go ahead and get out there. We can’t let this situation escalate any further. I know we don’t have an official leader yet, but Carol, I’m putting you in charge.”
“Fine,” said the blonde woman, “but if you all make so much as one Christmas pun about my name…” She left the threat open-ended, but the other three understood the tone.
Thor, who had been mostly silent up till now, finally spoke up. “In my world, we have no Christmas. My people need no savior.”
“You might not want to go shouting that, hun,” Jenn recommended. “We’re supposed to appeal to the masses, and knocking a major religious holiday isn’t going to-“
“Enough with the endless banter,” said T’Challa. He then pointed to each of his Avengers in turn. “Warbird, please keep them all alive. Luke, no flirting on the field. Amazon, same as Luke. Thor, it’s probably best if you don’t talk at all.”
“But I hath been working on my popular culture references, as Lady Walters suggested,” protested the self-proclaimed god.
“Uh, that’s okay then…I suppose…”
“I shall make you proud, sire. And rest assured, no one shall be ‘touchin’ this.'”
Grand Central Station
The four Mighty Avengers stood outside of a large, translucent blue dome. It was perfectly round, and as far as they could tell, perfectly solid. They had yet to go up and try themselves. From where they were standing, they couldn’t see the source of the energy, but they heard the screams. And they heard him shouting. As far as T’Challa’s Intel team could tell, he had no intelligent motive, only the will to hurt people.
“Why do I do this?” asked Carol.
“The paycheck?” Luke offered.
“Oh yeah…” she said, lost in thought. “Anna…”
“Who’s Anna?” asked Jennifer.
Carol ignored her. “Let’s go,” she said. “Thor. See what maryjean, or whatever does against this bad Stephen King imitation.”
“She is called Mjolnir, but your meaning is understood.”
Thor yelled and ran towards the dome, bracing himself for a tremendous impact. The sound of the hammer hitting the wall was slightly reminiscent of the sound made when a door-stopper is pulled back and then released, only the volume was enough to hurt even Thor ears. He looked at where he had impacted. There was a visible crack. But then it started getting smaller, as if the shield was regenerating.
“Hurry!” cried Carol. “He’s fixing it!!”
Thor struck again, this time with a louder thud than before. Again and again he struck, his cracks growing faster than the unseen villain could repair them. Thor raised Mjolnir high above his head and paused long enough to take one short breath.
The last blow was struck. The sound of the impact was louder than any of those before it. Lightning streamed down from the heavens at the might hammer’s command, making for a spectacularly brilliant display. Carol squeezed her eyes shut, almost forgetting to hold her ears. When she opened them again, there was a hole twice as big as Thor, but it was closing at an alarmingly fast rate.
“Avengers! IN!!!” Carol shouted to her teammates. She felt a drop of rain. “Dammit!” The use of Mjolnir has caused rain to fall, which would make Carol’s job all the harder. She ran through the hole once she saw that the other three were in. “Let’s go!” she called, leading them to the apparent source of the energy.
People were screaming all around her, and the bastard had opened the roof of the dome so that the bad weather could do its part in adding to the anarchy. It started to pour harder.
“He’s that way,” Carol screamed. “Let’s go!”
The team ran toward the man at the source of all this.
“What a pleasure!” the man cried, with a crazed look. “The Mighty Avengers? All for me?” His accent was the strangest they had ever heard. It had bits of Irish and English, even some Australian maybe. The man must have been traveling his entire life.
“Stop this now!” cried Carol.
“Oh come now. You can do better than that, can’t you? I was hoping for something more dramatic like, ‘This ends today,’ or something.”
“Drama’s what you want?” asked Jennifer, cracking her knuckles. “It’s what you’ll get.”
“You all are just disappointments all around, aren’t you? The bar sure has gone down since I fought Captain America and the Torch.”
“He’s definitely crazy,” said Carol. “He would have to be at least ninety for that to be true. Luke, Amazon, you two attack straight-on. Thor and I will back you up.”
Luke and Jenifer did as they were asked. Running towards the man, whose long chestnut hair was flowing in the wind as much as the energy he was producing, Luke jumped. He felt at least one punch land right on the man’s jaw. The man was caught off-guard by Luke’s strength, but quickly adapted. He sent a concentrated burst of energy at the man attacking him. Luke’s insides felt as though they were freezing and burning all at once. It was quite unpleasant. The man’s energy seemed to be able to affect Luke, even though his skin was impenetrable.
Jennifer tried next, and was met with the same as her companion. She was able to handle it though, and she kept moving forward. She was able to connect her fist with the man’s face several times, but she couldn’t ignore the incredible amount of pain for long. She flew back and hit a dumpster.
“She’s out!” called Luke, getting up. “What’s next, Carol?”
“Carol is unconscious as well, Luke Cage!” Thor called.
Luke looked to where Thor gestured. There was Carol, a gash above her eyebrow, looking like she was sleeping peacefully. Luke swore loudly.
“No need for that kind of language,” the crazed man taunted. “You never know who’ll hear you…”
“Shut up!!” cried Luke, hurling a crow-bar that he found on the street towards the man.
It hit the man’s shoulder, but he seemed unaffected. He snickered. “Don’t let your rage get the best of you. You’ll do terrible things that you might regret later.”
“Thor!” Luke called to the Thunder god who was busy helping a family out of their crushed car, “Go behind, hit him with everything you got!!”
“Secret plans aren’t much good when they’re not secret,” the attacker observed.
“Aarrgh!!” Luke shouted his loudest to capture the man’s attention. He flung himself at the man and started beating his fists wildly.
Just before Luke landed, Thor’s hammer collided with the man’s back. His spine shattered and electricity coursing through him, the man let out an ear-splitting scream and poured out more of his own energy, ripping off the simple clothes he wore, as well as Luke’s.
And then it stopped. The light gone, the screaming silenced. The rain continued to pour down on the two men, who were both breathing heavily.
“Stop,” said Thor, “Hammer Time.”
Luke sat next to the now-dead body of their foe. It was the first villain he had aided in the killing of. It wasn’t doing anything to help his mental state. The room was quiet. The walls were a light blue, the exact color of the blankets that covered the ten or twelve dead bodies of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or other unfortunates.
The doors slid open.
“Right this way,” said a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Luke didn’t recognize. He was with a woman who looked to be about in her early forties. She had grey/white hair with a few strands boasting her former color.
The two had a quiet and brief conversation about where the body she sought was located. Luke didn’t pay them much attention; the same thing had happened three times before since he had come in. So he was slightly shocked when the woman made her way right to the bed he was seated next to.
“Oh,” said Luke. “Are you-“
“Grace Destine,” she sighed, fighting back tears. “That’s my brother.”
Luke was silent, not sure of what to say. “Look, I’m-“
“Don’t,” said Grace. “Don’t do that. Don’t tell me you’re sorry when you’re not.”
“But I am,” said Luke. “Look, I never signed up for this,” he gestured to the man’s body, “I just wanted to be a hero.”
“Well congratulations then.” She was furiously blinking the moisture from her eyes. “He was terrorizing your precious populace. And that’s probably what you’ll tell yourself to get some sleep at night.”
“You have a different theory?”
She gave a small, dark laugh and brushed some tears from her eyes. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’d be surprised. I’m friends with a god.”
“He was under a spell.”
Luke wasn’t sure how to react to this. What did she expect him to say?
“See? You think I’m nuts. But whatever, I’m used to it.”
At this point, two S.H.I.E.L.D. MedTechs came in to transport the body. They transferred the man to a gurney, and wheeled him out to whatever vehicle was supposed to take him to his final resting place.
Grace turned to walk out the door. Just before she reached it, she looked back. “Vincent.”
“His name was Vincent. He had a wife, and a daughter, and more siblings than I can keep track of. They all depended on him.”
Luke was silent for several seconds. “I truly am sorry for your loss.”
“Of course you are,” she said, sniffing. “Merry Christmas, thank you for your service.” She hurried out the room before she fell apart in front of him.
Luke sat back down. In his pocket, he felt Carol’s gift, still there. He retrieved the box. It was white, with still a few scraps of wrapping paper taped to it. It was partially smashed, having been through the entire fight. He opened it, and pulled out a glass bulb, stuck to a slightly smaller glass bulb. The bigger one had three small glass stick-shaped structures coming off of it. Luke struggled to make sense of the gift, when he looked at the bottom of the box. There were five more of the stick-structures and Luke envisioned what the item would look like if they were all attached.
“It’s a spider.”
Luke looked up to see Carol standing there.
“Sorry it’s broken,” she said, apologetically as if it was her fault that it was broken.
“That’s my fault,” said Luke. “It’s nice. Where’d you get it?”
“Actually, I made it. One of my sister’s hobbies was to make things out of glass. She sold a cup to Laura Bush once, back when she was the First Lady. I’ve been trying lately to replicate some of her stuff, but I’m not very good.”
“I think it’s great. And hey, in our line of work, we’re bound to meet someone that can fix it for me. Someone who can…control the harmony of the atoms that make up the glass or something.”
She laughed. “Maybe…”
“So how are you spending this most wonderful day of the year?” asked Luke.
Carol checked her watch. It was indeed after midnight, making it officially Christmas morning. “Hmm…Well, I had planned on a Tudors marathon with my Snuggie. But if you have a better idea…”
“As great an actor as Jonathan Rhys Meyers is, I do know this little place that’s open. And there’s a complimentary breakfast in the morning served by people who are grouchy that they’re working on Christmas, even though they’re getting paid well over time and a half.”
“Sounds great,” said Carol.
Luke stood up to walk her out. He thought about Christmas, about what it meant. And he thought about Vincent Destine’s family; how they would probably wake up on Christmas morning to find out that he was gone. Taken from them, forever. He looked back at the empty table that used to hold the warm body. He thought of Carol’s sister, and what she was doing right then, without Carol with her. He thought of Thor, and whether or not he felt as bad as Luke did for the man’s death. He thought of Jennifer, who was probably spending the holiday looking for her cousin Bruce. And he even let his thoughts stray to what T’Challa might be doing. Luke wondered whether or not T’Challa had a wife, or maybe even kids.
In all of this, Luke struggled to find a lesson. Some glimmer of hope, some reason why the supposedly enchanted man’s death was justified. He allowed himself one last look at the empty table, somehow symbolically empty. He shed a tear, and turned once more towards Carol. The two Avengers walked out the sliding glass doors, through the many hallways, and out to where their cars were parked.
Neither said a word as she climbed into his car and her into hers. Luke felt the sudden urge to say something uplifting. But all that came out was, “Merry Christmas, Carol.”
She smiled. “Merry Christmas, Luke.”