___ P L A N E T V - 0 1 2 6 7 3___ M A E L S T R O M
I felt gravity press down on me as I materialized. The Milano was miles above us, in the sky, standing by. It was just a spec, barely seen across a landscape filled with moons.
The orbs came in different sizes, all in different stages of crescents and spheres.
I stood on a platform of rock. At first glance, the surface of the planet was level and bare. Then I noticed the many cracks in the dull sandy-colored earth.
The sound of the wind underneath shrieked like a child screaming.
Carol appeared at my side. I looked around our bizzare surroundings.
"Are you trying to impress me or kill me?" I had to shout to be heard over the ferocious wind.
I saw Carol grin, but her laugh was faint and buried by the constant howl of the currents. She pressed a finger to her ear, activating her coms and her helmet.
Her voice came much clearer than mine. "You're a friend of Fury's. I can tell."
"How?" I asked. I didn't even know who Fury was. I wondered if I was supposed to have a helmet like her.
"He has good friends. You talk like him, too, sometimes." Carol replied. "Look, Quill told me what happened to you. And I saw that video. You're new to this.
But if you're going to be fighting with us, you need experience."
I looked around at the lifeless abyss and screaming tempest beneath us. "Where do we start?"
Carol grinned. "You need to let loose a little. This isn't Terra: space is crazy and chaotic and deadly."
"Shouldn't I have a helmet for that?" I finally asked.
Carol shook her head. "You don't need one. I told you: you're indestructible."
With sudden speeds that I knew weren't human, Carol was at my side. She placed a hand on my arm—
And tossed me through the cracks.
I couldn't hear myself screaming, but I knew I was. My lungs were burning like hot iron rods. My hair felt like it was being ripped from my skull.
Every atom in my body shrieked as the wind tore at my limbs.
Beneath the cracked surface of the earth were roaring, catastrophic winds, weaving through the eroded stems of rock that held up the platforms.
Light pressed through the cracks at the surface; an eternal, inky-black shadow of night was miles below, hiding whatever lurked beneath the tempest.
That darkness clawed at my memories, reminding me of something I couldn't recall, something disturbing and hiding in the crevices of my mind...
I didn't have time to think. I couldn't afford it as the currents threatened to smash me into the sandy stems of rock like squishing a fly. The force of the winds was remarkable.
I could feel the power of it as I was whisked through the howling caverns. How fast was it going? Sixty miles per hour? Seventy? That wasn't what mystified me.
I was still in one piece.
I felt the space around me. It was like an extension of my senses, an extra layer of realness. I could make myself go faster.
I could feel the lightness, the lack of gravity pressing against me, as I shot in between the winding pillars of rock. I was like a bullet. Strong. Lightning-fast. Indestructible.
Carol caught up to me. It was hard to mistake her; Carol glowed. Bright fluorescent energy filled the space around her, cackling and swirling. She was the embodiment of the sun.
A flicker of recognition crossed my mind.
No. Now was a very bad time for memories. Even if I wanted to remember—I didn't want to die to earn back fragments of my life. But I didn't really have a say.
I remembered the sun. The sun that shined even on rainy days.
I recalled days curled up on the couch with a red blanket, listening to the soft hymn of raindrops, listening to his stories or reading out one of mine from a book. Sometimes we cooked together.
There were other days too, with walks and gardening and jumping into puddles. Always bright. Always warm.
The memories were as forceful as the wind. The wind. I remembered that, too. The sound, the overwhelming pressure. I remembered embraces that took the breath out of me and held me together.
I remembered flying—I wasn't in control then, but I was still safe. I remember the air swirling around me, my stomach dropping as I fell, but I was holding onto something, to someone—
The sandy rock blocked my vision.
I swiveled to get out of the way. I went up—I towered over the roaring tempest curving through the cracks.
I was falling. Falling for real this time. The entire world was tipping. I was headed for the surface, one of the platforms. I held my breath, forcing myself to feel outward, hoping that the external force would obey.
My descent slowed. I hit the ground without an accident. I wasn't watching, but it felt like a flawless landing. No stumbling, no scratches.
So that's why I didn't have a clue why I collapsed on the ground as agony ripped through me.