The Panoptichron, Outside Time and Space.
The man named Axel Asher sat in his crystal chair, watching the goings on in the universe. He hadn’t slept in three days; every time he did the voices came back.
A skittering noise to his left caused him to jump out of his seat, but he relaxed when he realised it was just one of the pathetic Timebreakers. The insectlike creatures maintained the Crystal Palace, but were completely pacifistic and had done everything he had asked of them since he took over.
At first he had felt guilty; banishing Heather Hudson and locking the Exiles out of the Panoptichron was hard but necessary. Although, a small part of him enjoyed the power he had gained over the six reality travellers.
He shook away the thoughts, realising they were not his own. They were the Monolith’s; the massive ancient entity that used him as a tool to destroy the Multiverse. He and his Exiles toiled hard to repair the damage but even now it searched for him, to finish the job.
There was something inside of him, changing him from the inside out, and he had to fix reality before he was Axel Asher no more.
Earth 4680, The Temple of Sobek, Egypt
The sword blade missed Longshot by an inch as he expertly leant backwards. While his opponent, an Egyptian man in full ancient Egyptian clothes, was off balance he retaliated with a kick to the stomach, doubling him over. Before he could regain his wind a wooden staff as hard as steel slammed down on the back of his head, knocking him unconscious.
All around the ancient sandstone temple his fellow Exiles engaged in combat with Egyptian warriors. Sabretooth laughed in rarely seen glee as he knocked scores of warriors aside like rag dolls with his enchanted club.
“I love this thing!” he laughed.
Morph shrugged off spear and sword attacks, his putty like flesh completely unaffected by the weapons, as he constantly adjusted his newly acquired wizard hat. In the blink of an eye he turned from Gandalf to Harry potter and knocked his foes down with an oversized broom.
Random flashes of pink light were the only thing that revealed Blink’s location. The team’s leader had donned a magical cloak, which rendered her invisible. However her teleport signatures were still visible, illuminating the various hieroglyphics and carvings of crocodiles decorating the temple.
Power Princess stood locked in combat with the owner of the temple, the Egyptian God Sobek. God of the Nile, Sobek was a menacing sight; seven feet tall with powerful muscles and, worst of all, the head of a crocodile. Zarda held both of the god’s wrists in a crushing grip; though she was forced to constantly avoid his vicious crocodilian mouth. If she had a hand free she could wield her magical shield, which was capable of creating powerful force fields.
Too distracted by the plight of his comrade he didn’t notice the guard charging towards him with his spear. Thankfully though a giant green fist slammed into the man, knocking him across the room. Longshot turned around to find the newest member of the Exiles smirking at him.
“You better watch yourself, that face is too pretty to mess up,” teased Jade Nova.
After the tragic death of their comrade Migeual O’Hara, a.k.a Spiderman, Access had replaced him with this mysterious woman. She obviously came from a world very different to any of the other Exiles, as none of her contemporaries she describes sounded familiar. Dr Strangefate, White Witch, Iron Lantern, Dark Claw, none of these names rang a bell.
She reminded Morph of a woman named Frankie Raye, who became the Herald Nova for Galactus. She certainly shared a resemblance to her, and her name was Frankie Rayner, though her powers were different. Frankie wielded a powerful alien ring, which, when activated, transformed her body into living green flame. She could fly, possessed super strength and could created constructs out of green energy.
Everyone else on the team refused to trust the woman, and kept their distance. If Axel Asher chose her for the team she was on his side. Longshot though, who was naive and trusting to an almost dangerous level, had been nothing but accepting to the woman, just as he had been with Zarda.
The blonde man smiled back and he hurled his staff at the woman like a spear. Partially thanks to his inherent luck powers and his amazing skill the staff missed her head by inches and struck another guard square in the forehead.
“I would provide the same suggestion to you,” he laughed.
“Should we help Gladiatrix over there?” asked Jade Nova, gesturing towards Zarda.
“I…Don’t…need…your help!” stated an obviously struggling Zarda.
“I’ll eat your heart for this disrespect!” snarled Sobek.
“That’s no way to treat a lady,” called a sassy voice behind him.
Blink removed her hood, ending the invisibility enchantment. As Sobek swung his reptilian head around to snap at the pink skinned mutant he was struck by one of her crystalline javelards, and teleported somewhere far away.
Upon the disappearance of their god, the two dozen or so Egyptian guards lost heart with the fight and fled in fear. The Exiles were indeed a fearsome sight, with their bizarre appearances and dangerous enchanted weapons. Even Longshot, the currently most normal looking of the bunch, only had four fingers…and a mullet.
All six pairs of eyes turned to the objective of their attack on Sobek’s temple; a polished marble dais upon which rested a gleaming golden bow. Frankie took a step towards the dais but before she could reach the bow it vanished in a flash of pink light and reappeared in Blink’s hand.
She shot Blink a dirty look, “Everyone else has an item Blink.”
The pink mutant looked dour, she didn’t trust Jade Nova as far as she could throw her, but she had her orders. The Timebroker…Axel, had tasked them with collecting six magical items from around the world. Each member of the team was required to carry at item, it didn’t matter who had what, just so long as they each carried one.
Reluctantly, she handed Jade the bow, and she eagerly took the weapon. She examined the item for a moment; it had no strings and no quiver but as she held it out an arrow of what appeared to be sunlight manifested. She let the arrow fly and it blasted a hole the size of a melon in the sandstone wall. Blink instantly regretted handing her such a powerful weapon.
“Come on, lets get out of here and find out the next step in the mission,” she said, and teleported the group away.
Earth 4680 was very different to any other Earth the Exiles had visited. A few had been technologically behind, but none until now still existed in pre-Christian times.
It was all because of the ancient gods, or in this case the still current gods. In most worlds, the gods slowly removed themselves from the world, but on this world something very different happened. A dark powerful force came to Earth, an alien god that existed only to consume other gods, and laid waste to the divine realms.
Olympus, Asgard, Heliopolis and all the other divine realms went to war with this terrifying alien deity, known only as The Hunger, and its fanatic followers. The gods were no match though, and soon fell one by one to the beast’s unending hunger. Not all of the gods died though; some of the most self serving or capricious of the various pantheons fled to Earth. They soon learned that The Hunger and its minions could not locate them while in the mortal realm, as if the alien god could only exist in places of great divine power.
Those that fled to Earth thrived without their fellow gods looking over their shoulders and each staked a claim to the planet and watched as their empires grew over the millennia.
The Exiles had arrived in this world with a very specific mission from Access; steal six certain magical weapons from six gods. Sabertooth carried a mighty club that once belonged to chief Celtic god The Dahgda. It bestowed him with superstrength to rival Thor, and he loved it. Anpao, Celtic death god, used this weapon to enforce a brutal regime across all of the British Iles and Western Europe.
The pointed, wide brimmed hat Morph wore was rumoured to have belonged to Merlin himself. How Baba Yaga, Slavic goddess of misfortune and witchcraft, had got her shrivelled hands on it non-one could guess. The hat had so far served no real purpose and seemed only capable of dispensing random items from its interior.
Blink’s cloak of invisibility had served Greek god of the dead Pluto well for many centuries, but after a near death battle in his underground labyrinth he lost it to the Exiles. The cloak had then aided the group in easily stealing an enchanted staff from Amitsu-Mikaboshi, a particularly nasty Japanese god. Longshot had no idea who once owned the staff or who had blessed it but the weapon was stronger than steel and seemed to suit his innate agility naturally.
The shield Power Princess wielded was perhaps the easiest to take possession of. Loki, the current owner of the shield was busy leading an invasion against rival Anpao. He had not even been present to defend his precious item; a unadorned platinum shield, which projected mighty walls of light. Zarda suspected the shield was of Greek origin, possibly having once belonged to Apollo.
Having collected their last magical weapon, the team of reality hopping heroes had regrouped in a dense woodland somewhere in southern Europe. They had no idea whether their mission was complete until Asher contacted them; either through the Tallus on Blink’s wrist or the Timebroker hologram. Blink’s green eyes glazed over, a sure sign she was receiving a telepathic message from Access.
“What’s the plan pup?” asked Victor, ignoring the fact Blink no longer wanted him to call her “pup”.
“Asher has a series of missions for us. Destroy a temple, free some slaves, so on. First stop is to destroy a temple to Mikaboshi in Japan. I have the co-ordinates.”
Morph, who was sitting on a log, pulled a series of useless items from his seemingly bottomless hat; a pile of sticks, a rusty sword and a duck. He said, “I have to say one good thing about Asher; his mission details are a lot more specific than the Timebreakers. Remember ‘Find your greatest teacher’? That turned out great, thanks bugs,” he said sarcastically.
“Seems to me like Asher’s got a lot of messes on his conscience,” said Frankie dryly.
The woman had turned off her green flame, reverting to her human form. She stood not taller than Blink, with short blonde hair, round sunglasses, and a leather jacket. Every so often her jade coloured ring would flash, as if it contained the emerald flame within.
“What do you actually know about Asher girl?” asked Zarda sternly.
“Just that he’s unhinged,” she shrugged.
“I believe you’re hiding things from us,” P.P took a menacing step forward, “if there’s information you’re not sharing with us, information that could free us from this servitude, you’d best tell us.”
Jade Nova wrapped her hands around the golden bow they had stolen from Sobek. She didn’t raise it, but held it close, to remind everyone she had it, “I don’t know anything about Asher that can help you. I’m as much a victim as you are; yanked from my reality and stuck with a bunch of people who’ll probably stab me in the back first chance they get.”
Longshot stepped between the two women, “Be at peace friends. Zarda, our new comrade has done nothing to warrant our suspicion. Frankie, you must earn our trust, but we will endeavour to treat you with respect while do you do so.”
Both women backed down, arguing with Longshot was like arguing with a puppy; it was hard to do so without breaking into a smile. Morph didn’t get what he saw in either woman, but he decided now was not the time to make any ménage a troi jokes. Instead he continued pulling items from his hat; a boot a, fishing pole and a leg of ham entertained him this time.
“Longshot’s right,” stated Blink, much to Zarda’s consternation, “Frankie has to earn our trust, but there will be no inn fighting during the mission.”
Morph quickly shifted into a military officer and saluted his leader. The comedic effect was further enhanced by a pile of spoons falling out of his hat.
“And all I needed was one knife, so ironic,” sighed Morph.
The Temple of Sobek, Egypt.
The crocodile god raged. How dare these heathens invade the sanctity of his temple! His disciples cowered as he punched holes through sandstone and reduced columns to gravel.
“In hindsight, you’ll regret demolishing your own temple just as much as you regret letting those heathens escape with your precious bow…well, Horus’ bow,” spoke silky voice behind him.
“He doesn’t need it anymore,” spat Sobek, as he turned to face Loki, trickster god of Asgard, “Come to gloat?”
Loki put on a show of being offended, “Dear friend Sobek, I could never take pleasure in your suffering. I come because we have both been wronged. These mortals have stolen from both of us, along with each of the other gods.”
“They mock all of us,” mused Sobek.
“Indeed! Even now they challenge the gods; attacking our monuments and temples!”
“Rrragghh!” Sobek slammed his fist through the altar that once held his mighty bow, “I’ll crush their skulls!”
“Yes, indeed,” muttered Loki snidely. Sobek was not exactly known for deep thinking. “There shall be much death.”