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Chapter Two: Black as Night
Releif swept over the arachnid at the news he recieved, though he did well to keep it hidden. They had made it. All of them. He was thankful that no one had been lost to their mission, thankful that they had survived. And yet, the knowledge that they had survived brought back the memory of those who had not. The spider's relief slowly melted away to remorse and anger as the faces of those they had lost flashed before him. And for what? They had risked their lives for a cause that was vain, for a leader who ignorant. That ignorance had costed them dearly, some more than others. His thoughts drifted over to Scott, silent yet loyal. He had the chance to go after him, to track him down, but he didn't. He second guessed himself, let doubt get the better of him. And because of it Scott paid the price. That price was too high. If he had gone after him, if he had acted, Scott may have been with them right now, sharing this moment with his friends. Now all that was left of him was another name added to his list of those he had lost, another memory, another regret.
Peter's eyes shifted to those around him. First to his recent allies. Though they had only known them for a short period of time, they had helped them do something that they had waited so long to do. They had helped them go home. His gaze then moved over to Tessa, thinking about the rest of the team. He been with them for since his first mission, through this entire ordeal. The thought that he would probably never see them again, never again fight by their side, gave birth to an awkward feeling that he couldn't describe. And though he would never show them, never tell them, or even admit it to himself, he was going to miss them.
But every begining had an end, and every end gave birth to a new begining. A begining that he had waited for for so long. He would be going home.
"I apologize, Rogue. I probably frightened you beyond belief. I know you probably have many questions for me. To answer the one that more than likely plagues you the most, I am the TRUE Silver Surfer. The memory loss that my friend here suffers is no memory loss at all. The fact of the matter is, he HAS no memory to recall from to begin with. When I betrayed Galactus back in my reality, he didn't strip me of my memories. Instead he placed my consciousness into my surfboard and left my orginal body a mindless husk. Galactus ignited some life in my original body, however, and now it believes itself to be the original Norrin Radd and acts as a member of your team. Since the surfboard is more like an extension of my soul, I am able to make a limited psychic connection to my original body from where my mind is now doomed to rest. I am able to feed it limited psychic suggestions, and assist the Watch in whatever way I can. I have just recently tried feeding it memories of my past to help it understand what happened to me. Perhaps if it knows what happened to me, Galactus's curse will be broken. Another part of my punishment is that I am only able to walk around as I am now while my old body is in an unconscious state. Since I don't require sleep, I am more often than not trapped within the confines of my board. Also, while in this state that you currently see me in, I am without the majority of my power. I retain my impervious silver skin and my ability to heal others, but the raw power that I once held now belongs solely to my other half. It is as if Galactus gave the power to crush worlds to one with the struggling and still learning mind of a child."

The REAL Norrin tried to explain his plight in the best way possible. He hoped he was not confusing or scaring his young teammate in any way.

"Now, are there any other questions I can answer before my other self regains his awareness?"
When life hands you lemons, you gotta squirt lemon juice and life's eye and make it your B!TCH
Hank crouched silently, looking down at the scrap of ripped cloth in one hand and the bladed feather still gripped in his other fist, gripped so tightly so as to almost draw blood. Warren was gone. The vampires were gone. They had won again. "So why do i feel that we.. that I have lost something?" The snarling animal reflection did not answer but simply stared back at him from the surface of the blade as though posing it's own questions. As he pushed himself to his feet, he caught sight of 'Toria's reflection over his own shoulder. He wanted to go to her and hold her, but she had been so distant recently, preoccupied with everything else that had happened around them. But more than that she seemed so focused away from him that he was unsure if his advances would be welcomed.

Hank closed his eyes, his head dropping slighly as his shoulders sagged. Carefully wrapping the scrap of Warren's uniform tightly around the feather blade, Hank obscured the reflections which tormented him. Without even fully understanding why he kept it, although he was aware that he had performed this act of retaining a keepsake before, Hank pushed the covered blade into the deep pocket on the thigh of his pants. He half listened to the conversations between his team mates, both those audible to him and the ones he could still overhear on his mental link to 'Toria. Everyone seemed ok if still shaken. "I'm going to check out the Institute." he said aloud. "See if I can find out how much damage has been done to this reality." This was at least partially true although he really just wanted some quiet time to think. Without waiting for a response Hank took several quick steps forward and then launched himself skywards. He glanced backwards as he arced into the night sky towards this reality's version of his former home, his eyes fixed on 'Toria standing in the clearing behind him.
She stood there silently and watched him go. Her expression had went from one of relief to one of intense sadness.
Shaking her head, she pushed a wayward strand of white hair behind her ear.
"Well, I guess that answers that question." she muttered to herself as Hank bounded off.
Once again, she felt that swell of unreasonable anger flow through her. Much like the one she had experienced at Dr. Strange's abode in this reality. And the Phoenix, blissfully silent. The only thing that played across her mindscape right now, was an eerie image of her father. Which only succeeded in making her even madder than she was. Clinching her fist, she turned away from everyone and took a couple of deep breaths. Doing her best to contain whatever it was lurking beneath the surface.
"No use standing around here, I'm going to check some things out myself." she stalked off in the opposite direction of what Hank had gone, melding into the trees and talking to herself the entire way.
"You know, I understand the need to check things out, I understand all that happy crap. But Jesus Christ!" her irritation welled as she shook her head again. She tried concentrating on the sky and the things around her, but one thought kept creeping in and she finally voiced it.
"Why should I tell him anything? It's pretty obvious to me he's avoiding me for some reason. Why should I even rationalize it to myself. He's probably already heard the thoughts in my head, so he knows what I'm there you go." letting out a slight growl of frustration, she levitated herself up into the nearest tree and sat down on a limb.
"I didn't ask for this. I didn't KNOW it could even happen...and I may not be...but somethings going on with me and I can't even discuss it with the man I love."
Leaning against the tree, she let out a deep sigh and closed her eyes.
"This just sucks. I'm ready to go home."
”I watch as the heroes the Sorcerer assembled fight valiantly to deliver this reality from the clutches of the purest of evils. They have proven themselves this night. I only hope that the rest will fair as well in the adventures to come. If you please Stephen, retrieve your defenders.”

Castle looked on as Hank flung himself skyward, heading for whatever was left of the Institute. Speaking to Barry, Paige and Vance, the Punisher said, “I think the big guy is right. We should see what kind of hell Logan left behind up at that school. Come on.” Castle had no hope of keeping up with Beast’s powerful leaps, but he made a good show of it. As did Vance and Paige, who conversed pleasantly as they walked at a slightly slower pace. The jovial tone would have usually sent Frank into a furious rage, but he knew they had won the night, and that a few friendly laughs were exactly what his city needed right now.
Never one to fall behind, Barry sped along, easily keeping Hank in sight as he made the short trip to Westchester. The speedster skidded to a halt moments before his teammate landed, and was forced to side step quickly in order to keep from being squashed beneath the descending powerhouse. Hank landed, sending a jolt through the earth, rousing Norrin from his unconscious state, instantly reverting his counterpart to his previous form before Rogue had the chance to question the mysterious alien further. Rogue, Norrin and Blade did their best to compose themselves as Hank and Barry arrived. Blade and Hank compared notes and quickly decided on the best coarse of action.

Soon enough, Castle, Vance and Paige arrived at the mansion and found the grounds deserted. There were definite signs of a battle in the nearby treeline, but the combatants were no where in sight. He quickly deduced that they must have moved into the structure, so he led his two companions along the same route. It took no time at all to find them, deep within the bowels of the X-Men’s long deserted home. But what they found as they rounded the corner surprised even the battle hardened Punisher. Blade, Beast and the others were busy freeing Logan’s captives from their shackles in the make shift dungeon that the vampire Lord had created from the defunct Danger Room. These poor people had been kept in the dungeon on the brink of life and death, used as a feeding source for Logan and his inner circle. But with the vampires vanquished, the dozen or more innocents were now free of the control that Logan had placed them under.

Back in Greenwich Village, Wong, Sage, Spider-man and the human again Dan Ketch walked the streets, shouting out to the terrified populace that the hold over them was finally broken. The people of New York were free to leave their homes once more. As they reached the end of the block, they exchanged smiles, happy with the night’s success. Just then, a shimmering portal opened, setting the Punishers instantly on edge, a reflex that would take some time to overcome. But as the large, green Minotaur creature emerged from the portal, a sense of calm came over them all. Rintrah was there to take Sage and Spider-man home. After a few minutes of goodbyes and heart felt thanks, Dr. Strange’s alien apprentice ushered the heroes into the white light. A similar light appeared in the hall of Xavier’s school, but it was not Rintrah that appeared. From this portal an alternate reality version of Wong stepped forth. The familiar looking man smiled and spoke, “Yo u did very well tonight. Master Strange is quite pleased. These people, along with the rest of this city, can now begin the road to recovery, free of the evil that has plagued them for so long. But that is a road that must be traveled on their own. It is time for the Watch to go home.”

But there was one last member of the Watch that had yet to be transported home. Victoria sat quietly, contemplating her life. But then beside her, unnoticed at first, a small white light began to appear. But no one came through this portal. Instead, a very familiar voice spoke from the other side, “Wade and Victoria sitting in a tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G...first came shock...with very little regard...I come with a gift from mighty Asgard.” Before she could turn, shocked by the voice she heard, an arm jutted through the portal and yanked her inside. There, decked out in the finest red and black kevlar money could buy, stood Deadpool, with Victoria’s long lost sword in hand. “I called in a few favors. I thought you might want this back.”

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