The bottom of the Colombia River, somewhere near Astoria, Oregon, where Medsua, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, Alison Blaire a.k.a. Dazzler, Jennifer Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk, Singularity, and the alternate-reality Dazzler Thor sink to the river floor.'I... I killed them. Oh, God. A word. Just give me a word. One word' Nico Minoru thinks to herself from the Countess's citadel. '...breathe' she utters, and an instant later, the heroines all open their eyes.
Astoria Megler Bridge, somewhere between Washington and Oregon, ten minutes later, Dazzler Thor coughs as they climb out of the river and onto the bridge, and Medusa announces that she may have to kill Nico. 'Bite your tongue, Medusa. Why do you think we're alive?' Carol tells her. She-Hulk agrees, and points out that Nico allowed them to breathe, giving them time for whatever the hell she did to their feet to fade, without Nico, they would be dead right now.
'And why were we in the river in the first place, Jennifer?' Medusa asks. She-Hulk declares that Nico fought hard to save them, and now they are going to save her right back, along with this whole damn town. 'Also, I am gonna punch Countess in the face so hard' She-Hulk mutters. 'I'm as ready for revenge as the next chick who almost drowned in a river, but -' Dazzler begins, before Carol announces that they can’t risk making a run at Countess with Nico under her sway and the entire town in the crossfire. 'Nico could turn our powers off again -' Carol points out. 'Or drown us in a river' Medusa mutters. 'Or that' Carol agrees.
The heroines get to their feet, and Dazzler Thor reminds the others that the witch's power is unpredictable and vast. 'But she can't do the same spell twice, right?' Carol asks. 'But Nico can use her many tongues!' Singularity smiles, hovering above the others. 'Uh...' She-Hulk begins, to which Dazzler tells the others that she thinks Blue means languages. 'Though it's way funnier if she doesn't Dazzler adds. Medusa wrings her long hair, and reminds the others that they have seen Nico's magic has limits – as she does new spells, old spells seem to fade. She-Hulk cracks her fingers, and they look out to the transformed town around them, as She-Hulk suggests that perhaps it is Countess who is pushing herself too far, losing control of the finer details. 'You guys see what I see?' She-Hulk asks the others, while Carol suggests that the edges of the city look unfinished. 'Like maybe those edges are the edge of her power' She-Hulk offers.
'So Countess has limits, just like Nico. So what? We cannot just stay out of here, our of her reach forever' Medusa remarks. 'Of course not' She-Hulk agrees, before revealing that she has na idea. 'Of course you do' Medusa sighs, asking if she will be drowning again today, or fighting a raging Hulk, or drowning? 'Hush' She-Hulk mutters. Dazzler Thor tells A-Force that if their plan includes vengeance visited upon her enemies for the insults she has suffered, then they shall have her hammer in their justifiable war'. Carol quietly tells Dazzler Thor to tone it down a few notches, to which she shouts 'Nay!' But She-Hulk huddles the heroines together and tells them to shush. 'Here's how we play it... first, we're gonna need two teams' she begins.
A bit later, Dazzler and her alternate world counterpart walk together, and Dazzler asks the Thor if she is up for this. 'You're kinda key to Jen's “big plan” she points out. 'I am Thor, Alison. I am always “up for” war' Dazzler Thor replies. 'Let me put it another way... anything you want to tell me before we go in there, metaphorical guns blazing?' Dazzler asks. 'I did not wish to steal thy thunder... so to speak' Dazzler Thor replies. 'About having a disease that could kill you? You should have told me... maybe I can help' Dazzler offers. 'Canst thou cure thyself?' Dazzler Thor enquires. Dazzler frowns, before replying that she can't. 'Then what canst thou do for me?' Dazzler Thor asks. Dazzler replies that she isn't sure, but that she heard there are some vaccines that will slow it down, and that other mutants are leaving Earth. 'We can find out' she tells the Thor, who agrees, and suggests that after they defeat Countess, they can discuss this further. Dazzler asks Thor how it happened, and points out that she hasn't been in their world long, but that it looks bad.
Dazzler Thor looks at the markings on her leg and explains that as she and Countess fell to this world, it felt like an eternity, fighting all the while, and in some of that eternity, there was a mist. 'The Inhuman Terrigen Mists. Dammit' Dazzler gasps. 'Aye' Thor agrees. They both create a small glow of light, and Dazzler Thor tells Dazzler that she is correct. 'I should have told you, and your team' she admits, before calling out to She-Hulk, telling her they must speak. '
I know the teams are uneven, Medusa, that's the whole point! Or part of it. Were you even listening to the plan? I'll say it one more -' She-Hulk exclaims, before looking over at the Dazzlers and asking what is happening. 'I am going to tell them' Dazzler Thor announces. 'You sure?' Alison asks. 'Aye' Dazzler Thor confirms. She tells the heroines that they are here team now, and that if they are to enter the field of battle, they must know her strengths and weaknesses. She informs them that she has been inflected by the, “Terrible Mists” as Alison calls them. 'Terrigen' Alison corrects her. 'Aye. Terrible Terrigen Mists' Dazzler Thor declares. She raises her skirt to reveal the markings on her legs, and remarks that she tells them not to gain thy pity, but because the disease appears to be affecting her powers. 'Not the power I command as Thor, but my mutant powers... at times they fail me, becoming weak, or even surging beyond my control'.
Dazzler Thor continues, assuring the others that they will have her hammer in this fight – until they end. 'It will be okay, shiny Thor!' Singularity exclaims as she goes over and hugs Dazzler Thor. 'Come, small one made of stars, let us begin She-Hulk's master plan and get back our fellow warrior... even if she be a tiny troublesome witch!' Dazzler Thor declares as she produces her hammer, and energy radiates around her as she shouts 'Countess! Thou shalt face me on the field of battle or be known a coward by all who hear your name. 'Subtle. Reaaalllly subtle' Carol sighs. 'We're Alison Blaire, Cap. We don't do subtle. Besides, I thought you wanted a distraction!' Dazzler grins as she looks at her Thor counterpart.
At her citadel, the Countess asks Nico if there is something she needs to tell her. 'It seems your friends are rather less dead than I'd expect after sinking to the bottom of the river' the Countess points out. Still under the Countess's control, Nico tells the inter-dimensional villain that she is asking too much. 'With magic you have to give something to get something... especially when your demands are so large... so unnatural' Nico points out, adding that to keep incredible power from those it belongs to for even a short time takes remarkable strength. 'So many spells, some of them are bound to wear off... with time' Nico explains. The Countess muses that it is convenient this is the spell that wears off, that this is the time when Nico fails. 'Well, I'm gonna go out there and kick your friends' collective asses myself. You stay here and regain your strength. Understood?' the Countess asks. Nico doesn't respond, so the Countess scowls at her and asks 'Understood?' again. 'Understood... mistress' Nico replies as the Countess transforms into a large dragon. 'That's my girl. Together, Nico, we will have it all. Let me just kill your friends real quick' the Countess declares.
'Man, I hate that dragon' Dazzler remarks. 'It is still just Countess' Medusa points out. 'Yeah, tell me that when she's singeing all that pretty hair' Dazzler replies, to which Medusa declares that all beasts, those in this world and the next, know that singeing her hair begins only certain death! 'Catchy. Does that come embroidered on a pillow?' Carol asks as she flies towards the dragon, while Dazzler unleashes some of her light power towards the dragon. 'It could be arranged!' Medusa shouts as the heroines attack the Countess in her dragon form. 'Mine eyes have never before seen such a cowardly beast as thyself, Countess!' Dazzler Thor shouts as she strikes the Countess with lightning. Dazzler Thor is knocked backwards, but regains her composure and announces that she will be happy to die this day so long as the Countess comes with her. 'B-team. Now!' She-Hulk calls out as she and Captain Marvel continue their assault on the Countess. 'Oh-kay!' Singularity exclaims as she grabs Medusa and pulls her into the air. 'I continue to object to the naming of my team!' Medusa mutters. 'So noted!' She-Hulk tells her.
'On three?' Captain Marvel asks She-Hulk. 'Let's do two. She's heavy' She-Hulk replies as the two women hurl the dragon skyward, where she eventually crashes down, and calls out to Nico, asking her where she is going. 'Nico, I command you to stop... Nico, why can I not hear you?' the Countess calls out as she reverts to her humanoid form and flies over to Nico who is hovering nearby. 'Feel you?' the Countess gasps as she puts a hand to Nico's back, only she passes through her. 'Hologram powers for the win!' Dazzler calls out from below. 'A trick? But that means... no! You cannot take her from me!' the Countess declares, turning to her citadel, where Nico stands – only to be covered in Medusa's long hair. Medusa wraps the young heroine up, and calls out to Singularity, informing her that she has Nico. 'Teleport us back across the bridge!' Medusa exclaims. 'Yay!' Singularity replies, as they vanish.
Several minutes later, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Medusa, Singularity and Nico have taken cover in some nearby woods. 'You okay?' She-Hulk asks Nico, who announces that she has a headache that will never end, and asks where they are. She-Hulk tells her that they are across the river, beyond the influence of the Countess – at least as far as they can tell. Nico tells the others that she is sorry, and that she is really glad they are alive. 'It wasn't your fault' She-Hulk assures her, before asking Nico what she can tell them about how to take the Countess down. 'You're the only one that's been up close and personal'. Nico closes her eyes and reports that the Countess definitely has limits. 'I saw them and felt them. She even talked about now being able to hold onto all your minds at the same time' Nico explains, adding that it was part of how she was able to fight the Countess, but only barely. 'Even with limitations, she's insanely powerful. And she's like a kid with her power, abusive because she doesn't even understand what it means'.
'If you go back into battle, will she immediately control you again?' Medusa asks. Nico confirms that she will. 'She's not only really attracted to my power and how it compliments hers, but I think she'll take it personally that I'm gone...almost be offended, y'know?' Nico replies. She-Hulk asks Nico if she can do a spell to protect herself. 'What about one to protect all of us?' Carol suggests. Nico reports that she can definitely do something to help, but that they can't count on it lasting too long. 'The very nature of her reality-warping power means that things coming within her sphere of influence are how she wills them to be. And...' Nico's voice trails off. 'And what?' She-Hulk asks. Holding her staff, Nico explains that taking her in there, chancing the Countess getting control of her again, she might be a liability and isn't worth the risk. 'Or we continue to turn her obsession with you to our advantage' She-Hulk suggests.
Back at her citadel, the Countess is being attended to by the possessed civilians. 'I must admit, disappointment is softened greatly by pie and lemonade' she remarks. A figure appears before the Countess: 'Nico, you spineless little traitor. Thought you could just come crawling back, did you -' she begins, but looks up and sees that it is Dazzler Thor. While sipping her lemonade, the Countess raises a hand and blasts Dazzler Thor backwards. 'More dumb holograms?' the Countess wonders as as she walks towards Dazzler Thor. 'Leave her alone!' a voice calls out. It's Dazzler, who knocks the Countess over with a surge of light energy. 'She came at me, girl' the Countess mutters. Tending to Dazzler Thor, Dazzler reminds the Countess that it was her attacking Thor that brought them here in the first place. 'All your ridiculous reality warping crap may have saved you from a dead world, but it still signed her death warrant!' Dazzler shouts.
The Countess grins and gets to her feet: 'I don't even know what you're prattling on about, but I'm gonna give you a mouthful of your own light powers, girl...' the Countess warns Dazzler, who asks Thor if she can move, telling her they have to do. Dazzler Thor just groans, so Dazzler realizes she won't be moving. 'Gonna need... something' Dazzler tells herself, before setting eyes on the hammer nearby. 'Guess it's about time to find out...' Dazzler remarks as she reaches for Thor's hammer, and picking it up, she is transformed into a Thor: 'Eat punk-rock flavoured Dazzler Thor lighting, lady!' Dazzler exclaims as she slams the hammer into the Countess, knocking her backwards. The Countess coughs, then looks up, as a voice tells her to let the people of this town go. She sees five Nicos stand over her. 'I've had it with dumb holograms...you know I can feel into your minds...find out which one of you is the real Nico' she declares. But in unison, the Nicos reply: 'We don't think so... you see, unlike the hologram, we're all Nico. We made us all Nico' they reply. The Countess looks unhappy, and boasts that she will just control them all, then she will have five Nicos instead of one, which will be the best present ever.
'We don't think so. You came for us first. And there was a reason why. You're afraid of us. Of what we can do' the Nicos reply. 'Just finish her, dammit! I – I'm losing Thor!' Dazzler cries out urgently, holding the motionless Thor. 'No, Alison. We cannot win that way' one of the Nicos reply. 'Death will only bring more death. We know now how broken you are, Countess' another Nico announces. Another of the Nicos points out that the Countess comes from a place called Killville, and tells her that she doesn't understand that it doesn't have to be this way. 'You may be broken, but we can fix you. We can help you to know what love is' another Nico reveals. 'In the catchy 80s words of Huey Lewis and the News...that's the power of love!' the fifth Nico declares, as power radiates from the Nicos. The Countess looks puzzled, as strange visions appear before her, and someone sings “it's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes... but it might just save your life... that's the power of love”.
'Why – why didn't anyone tell me?' the Countess asks, looking up at the heroines who stand aorund her. 'Maybe because you're a nightmare person. Always trying to kill everyone and take over, violating people's minds, remaking realities in your image and crap' She-Hulk replies. Crying, the Countess announces that she didn't understand. 'And now you do, use it wisely... or else' She-Hulk warns her. The Countess turns to Nico and starts to speak to her, but Nico punches her in the face. 'Been waiting to do that for a while' Nico remarks. As the Countess lay motionless on the ground, Medusa asks 'What happened to the power of love?' Nico tells her that sometimes a little anger is good too. 'Uh-oh. Gone!' Singularity calls out when the Countess vanishes. 'Where did she go?' She-Hulk wonders. Nico curses, and points out that that the Countess could be anyone now. 'Do you guys think -' she begins, before Captain Marvel alerts everyone to Dazzler Thor, who has woken and tells Alison that she wield Lightbringer. 'I saw it. I knew thou couldst'. 'I... yeah, I did' Dazzler replies, to which her counterpart remarks that she is glad she was here to witness it before she goes.
'Hey, stop, no. Don't say that. You look... it's gonna be fine' Dazzler remarks. 'Lies do not become us, Alison. They never have' Dazzler Thor responds. She then asks Alison to promise her that she will find her light once again, as it is so much of what makes them who they are. '...I promise' Alison replies, before Dazzler Thor vanishes in a splattering of light. 'Oh no...Ali' Nico utters. She-Hulk goes over to Dazzler and tells her that she is sorry. She extends a hand, but a startled Dazzler doesn't take it. 'Don't turn from us now, let us help...' She-Hulk tells her. Dazzler suddenly gets to her feet: 'Help me with what, Jen? Can you bring her back? Can tou save me from the same fate?' she exclaims as she pulls up her shirt, revealing the M-Pox markings on her stomach. '...Alison' Medusa gasps. Medusa is the first to go over to Dazzler and embrace her. Dazzler is taken aback at first, before the others all join in for a group hug.
Dazzler kneels beside the Lightbringer hammer, as Nico remarks that Captain Marvel has called Thor, but that until then, it is best to “King Arthur” Lightbringer, keep her safe. 'Unless, do you want her?' Nico asks. Dazzler tells her that this is better. 'Maybe she'll come back, Ali...like you do?' Nico suggests. But Dazzler points out that there isn't even a body. 'How do you come back from that?' Nico tells Dazzler that she doesn't know, and admits that she is just hoping. Dazzler declares that everything is so hard. 'When did it all get so hard?' she asks. 'Wasn't it always?' Nico replies.
Medusa asks if there is still no sign of the Countess, to which Nico announces that there isn't, and that she could be anywhere, anything. She-Hulk points out that the real question is whether the spell opened her eyes, if it changed her for good, or if she will go back to her old ways. 'Only time will tell' Nico points out. Captain Marvel informs the others that she has to go back to New York, that something is happening. 'You need help?' She-Hulk asks. Carol replies that she is, and asks the others if they are up for it, after everything that has happened. 'Ladies? What do you say?' She-Hulk calls out. 'I'm still in' Dazzler declares. Carol adds that she isn't going to be the one to break up the band. Medusa sighs and mutters that soon they will be needing some sort of silly catchphrase. 'A-Force assemble!' Singularity grins, to which She-Hulk replies 'I think that might be trademarked, Blue'.