DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Marvel Comics Group and
are used without permission. No profit is being made.
NOTES: This story was written for anniesj's Day After Tomorrow crossover fic challenge.
ARCHIVING: If anyone wants it, go ahead; I do request to be notified (email@example.com).
Chill water rushed through her gills as she darted forward; her sonar sang her a picture of the tunnel, emptiness echoing back to her time and again. Aboveground, she could hear the city convulsing in panic. Here, the water was comparatively still - one of the captive rivers the city had grown over, only subject to its own currents and the swell of the tide as it spread out and explored the flooded Underground..
Under most circumstances, she'd have shut out the fear and hurt and terror from above. These weren't most circumstances. Helpless to fight the death that faced London, she opened herself up to its people, living these moments out with them. Not so many years ago, she would have been paralyzed by the influx of raw emotion. As Queen of Otherworld, with all she'd learned from her distant kin there ... she simply endured..
("There's nothing we can do for them, Meggan," her husband had protested. "Not without losing every hint of balance we've managed to establish -").
("There's something I can do for them," she'd returned, and she regretted now the sharpness of the tone she'd used then. "I can keep them from having to die alone.")
The situation was more or less the same all over the Isles - London was simply the greatest concentration of population, and the one she'd been familiar with the longest. And with the tamed rivers breaking free, she could swim beneath it unnoticed. She'd have to surface before they froze - the warm currents that might have protected the islands from the worst of the effects had long since had their course ripped away from Europe by the storms. But she'd surface before then, anyhow. The water was slowly being tainted by sewage. And she didn't want the distraction that would pose.
Off at Stonehenge, and up in Lochalsh, there was a ritual in progress - she could feel its effects whispering out across the ley lines. It would not hold back the ice, or the water, or the wind. But it would try. She recognized the signature upon the magic, the self-conscious arrogance that breathed through the spells. Feron and Dark Mairi were committing everything they had to this; the magic would fail only when the strain on their bodies killed them.
Somewhere to the north, Muir Island would be tracking the glacier movements, and tapping into satellites to watch the tidal waves. One more monitor keeping time to the death of a civilization. She could easily imagine the picture - Warlock hooked into the computers, directing information flows, Rahne talking quietly long past the time when a normal girl's voice would be gone, directing refugees to the best chance of survival. Somehow she thought that they would be holding hands.
("What about our friends? What about the people we owe everything -")
("Would they thank us for saving them and letting the rest of the world die? They'd spit in our faces, Meggan!")
("I'm not sure I'd blame them!")
("Neither am I.")
Those who hadn't been able to flee for the continent were trapped above. The roads were choked in both directions: city-dwellers imagining there would be safety in more rural areas, conditioned by years on end of disaster films only showing the effects on the cities; others crowding into those cities on the theory that heroes there would surely find some way to protect them... or at least that it would be better to pass the last hours and minutes in company.
There were those still fighting to save lives. There would be until the end. Every so often, a flare of something like starlight intruded on Meggan's extended consciousness - a bright gleam of sudden hope, cut off in an instant. Not by death. By a woman, a singer and thief and adventuress who'd once forsaken Earth, and who now struggled to save what fragments of it she could. Each burst of hope marked one more trip to London, one more handful of strangers she plucked from the city and planted in her home among the stars. There would be more than room enough there for them to grow.
Meggan would have laughed, if the form she wore permitted it. No matter what happened here on Earth, humanity itself would not be eliminated from this universe - the species would survive, and grow again. Perhaps, this time, a little more cautious in how they treated their worlds. Or perhaps the seeming infinity of the Dyson sphere would encourage them to carelessness again - until there, too, catastrophe struck. In this moment, the ultimate outcome hardly seemed to matter. What mattered was the chance.
She'd wanted to offer that same chance, taking refugees into Otherworld. She'd been overruled at every turn.
("But the kingdom was founded by refugees. Camelot itself -")
("- was brought to Otherworld by Merlyn. I don't have his power, or his Machiavellian skills. And I pray I never will.")
Over and over, she relived the argument in her mind, always in reverse. Beginning with the end, with her stalking away from her husband to return to England and the Earth where they'd both been born. Over and over, she regretted it. Perhaps she might have stayed. Swayed him to judge with his emotions rather than his intellect - reminded him of the things he loved, and of how often they'd overcome the odds in this world's defense. Perhaps they might have found another way at the last minute, as they'd done so often before.
Magic flared again, not Feron's this time. Nearer, and a far more specific shield. Meggan turned her attention to it and knew it. Amanda Sefton, retracing in borrowed solar fire the wards about the demon under London. Locking them in place, then sealing the stone to last a thousand years. Ensuring that the city's death would not release a far greater darkness on what would remain of the world.
She reached out toward Amanda and the man who lent the sorceress the heat she used for the spell. They were talking, now. She could almost trace the conversation by the surges of emotion. A thin hope on Amanda's part, an offering rebuffed by a surge of cynicism that held, at the heart of it, compassion and pain.
She'd offered to take him with her, out of the city. He'd turned her away - sent her after others. A few minutes later, Amanda's magics flared again, and another handful of minds were gone from the city. Meggan had no idea where the sorceress might be taking them. But, again, it might be a chance at life.
And for those who remained...
Now she surfaced, climbing out of flooded tunnels. Trading gills for lungs again, sleek lines for blonde hair. She called clothing about her - green as the islands would not be again for a long, long time. Her feet remained bare, as always.
He was lighting a cigarette as she approached. She had no idea how he'd managed to keep it dry. Neither of them spoke a word aloud. But he didn't stop her from taking a place beside him, standing with him and watching the river. She'd known he wouldn't. The whisper of his emotions had told her more than his words ever would: he didn't want to be alone at the end.
None of them did.
She stood with him, with the city, with all the islands, beneath the fragile and doomed shield that the sorcerers struggled so hard to weave. With them. In company. Knowing that, afterward, she alone would survive to sing the frozen islands to sleep - to be there to help them wake, in time, and perhaps live again. But that would be afterward.
Together, they waited for the ice to come.