In Cloud-9's memories:
Is it so terrible to aspire to have a normal life?' Abby Boylen a.k.a. Cloud-9 wondered. Ever since she came into contact with an alien gas that lets her control it in all kinds of ways – like to fly, most awesomely – she just thought of it as a cool little life perk. But no. Apparently, she was supposed to become some sort of super hero and was required to register as a soldier in this whole big way against crime and villainy or whatever. She found herself under the instruction of Gauntlet, alongside other young heroes like Hardball, Trauma, Armory, Komodo, MVP and Slapstick. But she had to do things she never thought she'd have to – made choices a person with a normal life should never have to make. As soon as she was able, she hot out of the Initiative – she just wanted her normal life back. She tore her Initiative ID card up in front of Steve Rogers, and wondered if that sounded lazy, wanting to have her normal life back. But she never asked for any of that stuff – why should she endure it if she doesn't have to?
Las Vegas, where Cloud-9 flies through the air on a cloud, amongst buildings that collapse around her, and shouts 'TARENE!' as she calls out to Thor-Girl, who speeds ahead of her. 'You okay? That blast you took from Hardball and Gravity -' Abby begins, but Tarene tells her friend gto forget her well-being, as she must help her bring the people below to safety. A hotel is among the buildings to shake and tremble in the quakes, as Thor-Girl and Cloud-9 come to a stop at the hotel, Cloud-9 replies 'Safety? Right now, I don't think anywhere is safe!'
Nearby: 'Nnn... blondie...' Melati Kusuma a.k.a. Komodo utters, while Marina Zane a.k.a. Telemetry checks on her and tells her to take it wasy. 'You seem to have healed, but your head isn't quite -' Telemetry begins, before a voice above calls out 'What's the status here? Are Gravity and Hardball alive?' Telemetry turns, 'Prodigy!' she gasps as she sees Ritchie “Prodigy” Gilmore, accompanied by Angelica “Firestar” Jones, flying towards her. 'I asked a question, Telemetry!' Prodigy declares, as Roger Brokeridge a.k.a. Hardball and Greg Willis a.k.a. Gravity lie motionless in the rubble that covers across the ground. 'Firestar – do what you can to revive those idiots' Prodigy instructs Angelica, who goes over to her friend Gravity first, and creates a microwave pulse over his chest. 'I don't understand! How did you -' Telemetry begins, as Prodigy points at her and explains that he called in a favor and teleported in some back up. He adds that whether or not coming here was worth it will depend on her. 'On me?' Telemetry asks, surprised.
'Not cool! Not cool!' shouts Johnny Dee as something explodes behind him. 'We came here to you rescue civilians, man – not to watch you burn to a crisp!' Frog-Man exclaims as he leaps towards Johnny Dee and pulls him to safety. Madeleine Michaels a.k.a. Nonstop is trapped under a large pillar. 'Don't! Don't! It hurts!' she screams as Suzy Sherman a.k.a. Ultra Girl starts to pull the pillar off of her, 'If I don't get you out from under there, you'll die!' Ultra Girl exclaims. 'I always wanted to go to Vegas...' Butterball remarks as he surveys the damage, while Batwing is knocked backwards through the air as Debrii uses her power to shift rubble into the air. 'Watch it!' Batwing calls out. 'Quake ain't stopping! Heck we supposed to do?' Debrii exclaims, while a panicked Supermax asks 'Two-Gun! Where's Two-Gun! Is he dead!?'
Back at the collapsing hotel, Thor Girl flies a man and a woman into the air to safety, while remarking that the hotel's structure will not hold for long. 'We must make haste!' she exclaims. 'Okay!' Cloud-9 calls out as she flies back into the hotel. Down a lift shaft, she searches about, 'Whoever's next, outta the vault! Let's go! There's isn't much -' she begins, as several people in the vault are in a state of panic. 'Whoa, whoa! I can't take you all! I can't -' Abby calls out, before realizing they are looking at something behind them. 'What are you all looking -' she begins to ask, before she realizes the wall at the back of the vault is collapsing. 'Go! Everybody go! We've gotta get outta here now!' she orders them, ushering the last of them out of the vault. 'No now now now! The Ceiling's -' Cloud-9 exclaims as she looks behind herself as she leaves the vault. 'Abby!' Thor Girl declares as she lands near the civilians. 'Tarene! Tarene, it's too -' Cloud-9 shouts back, when suddenly, the massive hotel collapses into itself in spectacular display.
'That was my home' Hardball remarks as he and Gravity look at the hotel as it collapses. We – we should do something -' Gravity begins but Prodigy and Firestar appear overhead, and Prodigy tells them not to even think about it. He informs them that they are heading down with Firestar and Telemetry to fix this mess. Firestar is blasting at the ground to create an opening, while Telemtry taps at her psionic computer, and creates a psionic platform. She tells Gravity and Hardball to hop on, for even though they can both fly, they will need everything they have got if there is any hope of stopping this quake. The platform is lowered into the open ground, as Hardball and Gravity look downwards, while Prodigy flies up into the sky after Batwing, 'You get back here! People need us!' he shouts at the fleeing Batwing.
Beneath the collapsed hotel, there is darkness amongst the rubble and debris. 'I need...' a voice calls out. 'Need light. Can't see...' another utters. Cloud-9 switches on her mobile phone, and the light illuminates the area around her. 'God. Oh God' she utters amongst the concrete beams that surround her. 'I gotta get out! Let me out!' Cloud-9 screams in fear. She removes her goggles, 'No, no. not like this. Please not like this' Suddenly, 'Abby' a voice calls out to her. It's Thor Girl who is straining to lift some rubble from the area, while some civilians lay wounded nearby. 'We mustn't – mustn't give in... to fear...' Thor Girl exclaims.
In the tunnel that is being built swiftly, Firestar pours the microwave energy forward, 'Stay on target, Firestar!' Telemetry calls out as she fllies behind her, the psionic platform carrying Hardball and Gravity bringing up the rear. 'I'm trying my best!' Firestar responds. 'I know' Telemetry tells her, pointing out that they only get one shot – they have to reach just the right place in the Earth's crust. 'We can't be off the mark!' she declares. Gravity complains that they are moving too fast, and drops to his knees, announcing that he is going to be sick. 'Stay frosty up there! This hole isn't exactly stable!' Telemetry shouts back up the tunnel. 'Copy that!' Hardball replies, as he uses his power to destroy chunks of the tunnel that start to collapse towards them. 'Let this part be over. Let it be over...' Gravity utters.
Suddenly, Firestar bursts into a cavern, and Telemetry reports that this is the best spot she could map out near the root of the Valley's fault matrix. She instructs everyone to be careful, as nothing here is stable, and they are likely to be crushed to death as a fall through a fissure into the mantle. She taps at some computer screens that materialize before her, and informs Gravity and Hardball that she needs to generate a sustained electro-gravitational field, and it needs to be exremeely precise. 'So -' she begins, before stopping mid sentence. 'What is it?' Firestar asks as she hovers alongside Telemetry, who announces that she lost all signals – GPS, everything. 'Should've anticipated that' she realizes. Firestar asks Telemetry if they can still do this, to which Telemetry replies that they can, partially blind, so it will take some trial and error. She adds that the real problem is that they will have no way of knowing the safest route back to the surface.
'Oh, yeah, well... guess we can worry about that if we're actually able to -' Firestar begins, when suddenly, there is a rumbling. Firestar turns and shouts 'GRAVITY!' She then flies through the cavern towards her friend, 'Look out!' Firestar cries out as rubble falls towards Gravity. Suddenly, Hardball leaps towards the rubble and punches it with a surge of energy, shattering the large chunks of rubble. 'I – I -' Gravity begins as he and Firestar look at Hardball in shock. 'Think we can get this started already?' Hardball mutters. Telemetry taps away at her computers still and explains that she wiill need to monitor, and asks Firestar to be on the lookout. 'For any more rocks of death, uh-huh' Firestar adds, before Telemetry turns to Hardball and Gravity, who are still on the psionic platform, and instructs them to face each other and hold hands. 'We do what now?' Gravity asks. 'Is that really necessary?' Hardball adds. Telemetry frowns at them and reminds them that lives are at stake. Hardball turns to Gravity and through gritted teeth warns him that they can't mess this up. 'They we won't' Gravity replies calmly. They take each other's hand, and start to release their respective energies. Both men appear in some degree of pain as their energies increase and expand around them.
Back in the collapsed hotel: 'Help meeee! Someone help meee!' a woman screams, her legs trapped in the rubble. 'Shut up! Will you shut up!' Cloud-9 yells at her, before putting her head in her hands, then, teary-eyed, apologizes to the woman, explaining that she is not doing so well in here, in this small space, and the screams are just making it worse. 'I just, I just want it to stop. I want it all to stop' Cloud-9 utters. Thor Girl continues to struggle to hold the massive amount of debris from falling in on herself, Cloud-9 and the others. 'My dear friend...I do not wish to say to, but your whimpers serve no greater function than anyone else's' Thor Girl remarks. Abby looks over at Tarene and asks her if she is supposed to be a god or something. 'I was, once. It was my destiny to guide sentient life, but that means nothing now' Tarene replies. Dirty and covered in sweat, Tarene reveals that in truth, she grows ever more weary, and soon she will not have enough strength to keep this encumbrance at bay. 'The moment to come, not even I will survive. I, who was meant for such grand designs, will perish with the rest. That...this is the finality which we now face' Tarene woefully declares, while Cloud-9 continues to cry.
Back on the street level, 'Where are you – Scarlet Spider! What're you doing?' Prodigy calls out as he flies after the Scarlet Spider. 'Whatever I can in all this freaking chaos!' Scarlet Spider shouts back as he swings about amongst the destruction. Veda, Aralune, Anthem and Supernaut of the Order are with Prodigy as he exclaims 'Don't you see? We have to stay organized! It's the only way we'll -' he begins, but the Order take flight, and Prodigy tells them that they need to work together. 'There's enough trouble hwere we can find without baby-sitting!' Anthem replies. 'This is my command! It's – you can't!' he shouts, but it is no use. 'Can't take this. It's all falling away from me. It's all falling away. I need to keep it. Need to – to -' Prodigy utters, clutching his head, he then looks up and sees a liquor store.
'You always hear that, when the end comes, everything slows down and your past flickers through your head like some home movie'. Cloud-9 thinks to herself. She is slumped over amongst the rubble still, 'Sorry, but that's a bunch of crap. You don't see your past. You don't. You do see your life, though' Cloud-9 realizes. Up above, An tanker drops from a ruined bridge – plummeting straight towards Rage, until Ultra Girl swoops towards him and pushes him to safety. 'You see right now: all the different things you could be up to other than running out of air in a concrete-and-steel tomb' Cloud-9 tells herself, while in the liquor store, Prodigy picks up at bottle of Demon Whiskey. 'You see all your futures: ones you hoped for: ones you might have wanted to avoid but would have easily taken over no future at all. And when it's over...when every last never-was and never-will-be plays itself out and bids you farewell...' Cloud-9 thinks, as Firestar blasts some rubble in the tunnel, and Gravity and Hardball are both pushing their powers to their absolute extremes as Telemetry watches. '...that's when you finally remember you've stared down evil aliens and mass murderers and that not having a normal life has granted you the never to say to fate:' Cloud-9 thinks to herself as she declares 'Oh, #### this'.
Cloud-9 puts her goggles back on, and calls out to Tarene, asking her if she forgot that she is still a mega-powerful alien girl who aspires to the ideals of the most noble of the Asgardians? 'Do not... taunt me...' Thor Girl replies. 'No, my point is, you didn't let passive ideas like fate govern your life. You forge your own path, Tarene. You make your own destiny' Abby tells her, as Tarene continues to hold the massive structure above her. 'You can save these people. You can save me. Wanna know why? 'Cause you darn well can!' Cloud-9 exclaims. 'So come on!' she shouts, and Thor Girl's eyes glow, her feet gain traction on the ground, and in spectacular display, Thor Girl roars as she pushes upwards, breaking free from the crushing weight she has been holding up. 'Yes! Yes!' Cloud-9 shouts.
'No' Prodigy declares as he empties the bottle of whiskey. 'There has to be another way. Some kind of -' he remarks to himself as he walks outside, and contacts Telemetry, pointing out thast the quake has stopped. 'I take it that means you were successful down there?' he asks – but gets no response. 'Telemetry? Hello, do you read me? Are you there?' Prodigy asks while surveying the damage around him. Nearby, Debrii, Scarlet Spider and Frog-Man gather, 'Yes! It's over! Thank Shuma-Gorath, it's over!' 'ABBY!' Komodo exclaims as she pulls some rubble back and finds Cloud-9. They hug, 'I didn't know what happened to you -' Cloud-9 begins, while the trapped civilians emerge from the rubble, Komodo tells Cloud-9 that she is okay. 'What about you?' she asks. 'Physically, I'm, you know, whatever, but...' her voice trails off, and Komodo tells her that she understands. Abbby asks Komodo where Hardball is, and if he is okay, but Komodo avoids the subject and asks Abby if she needs any help.
Cloud-9 motions into the mess of the hotel remains and informs Komodo that Tarene is clearing a path so they can bring out the wounded. 'I just needed a minute to see the sky' she adds, before remarking that Tarene really pulled through. 'I've never seen anything quite like it -' Abby begins, when suddenly, Prodigy drops down from above. 'Are there any survivors in there? What's the word?' he asks. 'Prodigy?' Abby asks, before Thor Girl appears and starts to tell Abby that the path is sound, but that she is concerned about moving some of the wounded until they have been properly checked over. 'You' Tarene gasps when she lays eyes on Prodigy. 'Tarene, no, just forget about it for now -' Abby calls out, but Thor Girl strides towards Prodigy, 'But what mental deficiency would you have me imprisoned, then tortured, then hunted like a criminal?' Thor Girl demands. 'Hang on, now, that was -' Prodigy begins, putting his hands up. 'And then to stand here as we tend to those who need us most?' Thor Girl points out. 'I'm not -' Prodigy starts to say, before Thor Girl asks him who he thinks he is.
'I'm the reason things aren't any worse' Prodigy retorts, announcing that he has been the only source of order inside all this chaos. 'And you've got no idea what I've been through to make it this far' he adds. Thor Girl raises her hammer, 'You speak to me of WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH?' she shouts. 'I'm sorry I'm not some faux Asgardian poseur who believes their own ordeals are the only ones that matter!' Angrily, Thor Girl tells Prodigy that there are no words left, no words save these three, and as she smashes her hammer into Prodigy, knocking him back, she roars 'HAVE AT THEE!'