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Bad 25 ∥ Liberian Girl

"People underestimated how radical that was; nobody else was writing songs about African women as beautiful in 1987, 88 ... he was the biggest pop star in the world, who "made himself look white", and yet he's very engaged with beauty and idea of Africa as a site of beauty. It just speaks to the fact that Michael had a very strong African consciousness; he went to Africa a lot, he was very engaged with the continent."

Marvel!AU

This was written before Origins and Volpina, hence some of the weirdness.

  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng is the only daughter of Sabine Cheng, descendant of Chinese immigrants from the days of the gold rush, and Tom Dupain, a Frenchman and a veteran of the final days of the First World War.
  • When WWII first breaks out, Marinette is all for hopping on the first ship bound for France to help in the war effort.
  • Obviously, her parents object.
  • She’s an adult by the time the Women’s Army Corps is formed, though, and they can’t really stop her then.
  • She gets seconded to the SSR, and specifically to Project Rebirth.
  • Her first assignment: infiltrate a prison in Germany where Professor Abraham Erskine is held and assist a crack commando team in extracting him before he’s executed as a traitor.
  • It goes swimmingly.  Only forty percent of the compound is on fire by the time they escape.
  • With the professor and his super soldier serum safely in hand, Project Rebirth proceeds apace.  Erskine doesn’t particularly like any of the candidates presented to him.
  • With time running out, they eventually decide on Marinette as Project Rebirth’s first test subject.
  • On the day of the test, they initially think that the super soldier serum hasn’t worked, since, well, she’s still tiny when she gets out of the Vita-Ray chamber.
  • They quickly revise their opinion when one of the men in the room makes a snide comment and Marinette picks him up with one hand and hurls him across the room.
  • Unfortunately, Erskine is killed by a HYDRA spy, and all remaining samples of the serum are destroyed.
  • With only Marinette as the only success of Project Rebirth, her superiors are left in a bit of a pickle.
  • She’s not exactly propaganda material, given her height and slight build.  She’s an exceptionally physically capable soldier, but she’s a girl, so they’re a bit leery of assigning her to a front-line unit.
  • Eventually, her superiors get their heads out of their asses and ship her to France, where she joins the French Resistance to begin preparations for the eventual Allied push into Nazi-occupied Europe.  Marinette insists that she be assigned a codename in order to keep her family and friends from becoming targets for Nazi spies and saboteurs.
  • They eventually decide on Ladybug.
  • Marinette is assigned to work with Adrien Agreste, youngest son of the Agreste line and one of the Resistance’s single best saboteurs.  He’s picked up the nickname “Le Chat Noir”, since everywhere he goes, rather unfortunate accidents tend to happen to the Nazis.
  • The first time he meets the mysterious Agent Ladybug, he nearly laughs.  Still, he was raised to be a gentleman, and there are rumors of how she broke into a high-security facility all by herself on her first major assignment.  He calls her “My Lady” and tries to kiss her hand.
  • She throws him into a wall out of sheer annoyance.
  • He’s hopelessly in love after that.
  • On their first mission together, she nearly gets captured when the guards surround the railyard they’re blowing sooner than expected.  She orders him to get out, anticipating that she might be able to fight free.  Of course, he leaves, only to come roaring in with a commandeered car, running over the soldiers pointing guns at her.
  • “Why in the sweet name of god did you come back?”
  • “I’m with you to the end of the line, my Lady.”
  • The two of them working together cause so much damage inside of a month than an entire regiment is assigned to hunt them down.  Inside of three, they have half a division chasing them across France.
  • As the Nazi grip on France weakens, though, a new threat rears its head: the rogue Nazi faction HYDRA.
  • It’s about then that Adrien is captured by HYDRA forces and sent deep into Axis territory.
  • Marinette wants to go in and break him out, but Allied Command shoots her down; she’s too valuable an asset to risk on what looks to be a suicide mission.
  • Her response is summed up as “blow that.”
  • She proceeds to follow through on her response, literally and figuratively.  Figuratively in that she completely ignores her orders and parachutes deep into enemy territory on her suicidal solo rescue op.  Literally in that after she rescues a tortured and weakened Adrien and most of the 107th, they blow the entire compound sky-high.
  • It’s more or less personal now, and Ladybug and Chat Noir burn a swath through HYDRA base after HYDRA base alongside the Howling Commandos as the Allies begin to push inland from Normandy.
  • Everything is going perfectly well up until they go on leave for a week in Paris and run into an old flame of Adrien’s, Chloe Bourgeois.
  • Marinette hasn’t had a very high opinion of Adrien since their first meeting, but months of sneaking around Nazi-controlled Europe and posing as a couple to avoid suspicion has done odd things to her feelings towards him.
  • The incessant flirting is less annoying and more endearing now.  His insistence on minimizing casualties, even enemy casualties and even when they are literally ten seconds from finding us we need to blow it and leave now, is less of a reason for her to want to pull her hair out and more something that’s just him.
  • The constant punning is still near-intolerable, though.
  • And also the constant need for him to throw himself in harm’s way for her, even though she’s the one with a minor healing factor, and who can outrun a racehorse and punt a man two stories straight up.
  • Needless to say, Chloe draping herself all over Adrien who is not her boyfriend not at all makes her a little prickly all week.
  • Things come to a head when she gets a call that they have an opportunity to capture lead HYDRA scientist Dr. Arnim Zola but that the Commandos need to be moving before noon tomorrow.  She calls up the other Howling Commandos, but when she walks into Adrien’s quarters, she finds him lip-locked with Chloe.  He protests that it isn’t what it looks like.  She just tells him to get packed and get moving and slams the door on them.
  • She refuses to speak to him in anything but monosyllables for the next 24 hours as the Commandos prep for their mission.
  • She regrets it later when Adrien takes a shot for her yet again, and is blown out of the train and off of a hundred-meter mountain cliff.
  • Maybe the guilt plays a part when she plunges the HYDRA superbomber into the Arctic Ocean in early 1945.  Maybe it doesn’t.  She’s not around to be asked.
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng, codename: Ladybug is declared MIA, presumed KIA.  Adrien Agreste, codename: Chat Noir is declared KIA.  The remaining Howling Commandos are not assigned to any further missions prior to the end of the war in Europe and are officially disbanded as a unit eight months later.
  • HYDRA interference and the actions of Ladybug and Chat Noir are instrumental in ending the Nazi regime in Europe early.  With the resources of the Allied war machine now freed, the Americans proceed with Operation Downfall as Soviet troops push eastward.  Casualties are monstrously high for all involved.
  • Japanese resistance continues even after their official surrender following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Various splinter groups from the Imperial Army, Navy, and Air Force eventually band together into a resistance group called AKUMA.  Another three months of intense fighting annihilates all but a few of their leaders, who are never captured.
  • The leaders of AKUMA flee to the remnants of the largely leaderless HYDRA and are absorbed into the organization.
  • The Howling Commandos are reinstated as a unit a year after the final end of WWII, operating under the aegis of SHIELD.
  • They are considered to be the single most successful unit in SHIELD history, with over forty successful missions completed prior to their retirement and zero casualties.
  • Tom Dupain dies in 1979, aged 80.  Sabine Cheng dies in 1987, aged 88.
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng, codename: Ladybug is found and successfully revived in mid-2011.  Her MIA status is officially canceled, and she is transferred from US Army to SHIELD Special Forces.
  • (Let’s skip a bit quickly through Avengers 1 and 2, shall we?  I’m not really as invested in them and really care for them only for the cast list.)
  • Fast-forward a couple years.  Ladybug has just met Volpina, rescued hostages from the Lemurian Star, and had a spat with Mylene over Project Insight.
  • Someone blows up Mylene’s car shortly thereafter.  And her house.  And her office in the Triskelion.
  • When Mylene shows up at Marinette’s apartment, someone shoots her four times in the chest.
  • Ladybug chases the shooter down.  It turns out to be a man with a metal arm and a hauntingly familiar silhouette, his blond hair a long and ragged halo about his head.
  • She talks to Juleka about it later.
  • The man who shot and killed Mylene is practically a myth.  Someone like him has shown up once every couple years for the past 50 years or so and there are maybe a hundred deaths officially attributed to his actions.  There are hundreds more highly suspicious deaths that he’s suspected to have been involved in.
  • He’s known to every major intelligence organization in the world as the Winter Soldier.
  • Except the French.
  • Out of twisted tribute to the most famous saboteur in French history and one of the most important people in the French Resistance, they call him Chat Blanc.
  • Before anyone has a chance to dig further, Marinette is called away to a meeting with the Secretary of Defense and the American member of the World Security Council.  He’s known to her only by the security codename Hawkmoth.
  • About two minutes after the meeting ends, a dozen people and a Quinjet try to capture her.
  • She wins.
  • Juleka goes AWOL and catches up with Marinette later.  Eventually they find Arnim Zola’s uploaded brain room and things go boom.  Volpina joins the crew.
  • That’s roughly when things begin to go poorly.
  • As they make their way back towards the Triskelion, Chat Blanc attacks them.
  • That is to say, he comes in out of nowhere (“Che cavolo,” Volpina curses in startled reaction), punches through the windscreen (“My car!”) wrenches the steering wheel out (“This is an import, you dick!” Volpina screams) and tosses in a grenade.  They just barely manage to get clear before it explodes.
  • Things get rather more hectic when half a dozen Russian-speaking men pile out of a black Hummer and open up with assault rifles.
  • Marinette gets blown off of the overpass by a shot from a MK19 grenade launcher, Juleka jumps clear, and Volpina scurries back to the flaming wreckage of her car to grab her flight pack.  Everyone ignores Volpina, which turns out to be a mistake when she dropkicks one of the shooters in the neck hard enough to snap it, takes the man’s rifle, and starts laying down some very effective covering fire.
  • Juleka manages to get in a couple good hits on Chat Blanc as she runs away, but takes a bullet to the chest.  Marinette intervenes in the fight before he can finish her off.  Cue fight scene.
  • Chat Blanc fights without much technique and an animalistic fury, but he’s insanely fast and strong and he’s very good at slipping aside from blows and putting knife stabs where he wants them.  It’s enough to keep Marinette from immediately taking him apart.  Eventually, though, she gets the upper hand and judo-flips him into a car.
  • The mask falls off.  Marinette stares in shock.
  • “Adrien?”
  • “Who the hell’s Adrien?”
  • Volpina tries to repeat the dropkick trick, but he hears the roar of her flight pack’s portable jet engine and rolls with it, keeping the kick from being fatal.  About ten seconds after that, a few dozen HYDRA agents show up and put them in shackles.
  • Then Ivan rescues them!
  • Cut to Chat Blanc having his arm repaired in a repurposed bank vault.
  • “That woman on the bridge.  I knew her.”
  • For the first time in a very, very long while, he remembers something.  Warmth and compassion and sheer gutsy brains paired with a burning righteous hatred of those who would persecute the innocent and defenseless.  A laugh that could move cold stone.  Something warm wells up in his chest and guts at the thought.
  • Then the electrodes come down, and he forgets everything except for pain.
  • Yadda yadda, Mylene wants to try to salvage Project Insight, Marinette disagrees strenuously.
  • Tick tock: twelve hours now to the launch of the Insight carriers.
  • Infiltrating the Triskelion is surprisingly easy; they wait until midnight and have Volpina fly them to the rooftop one by one.  None of the security measures installed on the building are really intended to deal with something as small as her, both in terms of physical size and heat and radar signature.  They’re lucky that this is happening now, and not a month later, when the security refits that would allow the Triskelion to deal with something of her size and heat and radar signature would have been installed.
  • They wait until Hawkmoth has the World Security Council in his office to spring into action.
  • Marinette delivers her speech.  While that distraction is going on, Volpina flies up, chucks a sticky breaching charge at the window, and flies away towards Insight Carrier Bravo.  Once she has her hole, Juleka rappels down and dives through.  It takes her roughly five seconds, even wounded, to finish off the HYDRA strike team in the room.  Mylene makes her entrance, all classified secrets get uploaded to the Internet.
  • “You know, there was a time I woulda taken a bullet for you.”
  • “You already did.”
  • Mylene doesn’t bother with any more fancy banter and just double-taps him in the chest.
  • Insight Carriers Alpha and Bravo get their targeting blades swapped out, and they proceed to Carrier Charlie.
  • Sudden Chat Blanc occurs.  Marinette gets hurled off of the side; Volpina gets thrown off the carrier and lands on the Triskelion roof.
  • AU!Rumlow appears.
  • Volpina gets the jump on him, gets her butt kicked initially.
  • “This is going to hurt.  There are no prisoners with HYDRA.  Just order.  And order only comes from pain.  You ready for yours?”
  • “Testa di cazzo!” Volpina says.  “Shut the hell up.”
  • Then she shoots him twice from near point-blank range.
  • Marinette saves herself with that nifty grappling hook thing Black Widow had and makes her way to the computer core room.  Chat Blanc is there, waiting for her, a look of utterly insane fury on his face.
  • “Please don’t make me do this.”
  • He really doesn’t give her any other choice.
  • Adrien was never that good of a fighter, since being a saboteur was for him always more about being very, very sneaky than it was being good at punching things, but HYDRA conditioning has given him the reflexes and vicious ruthlessness of a cat.  Compounding this is how reluctant Marinette is to hurt the man she still loves and the sheer fatigue of being on the run for three straight days with only about four hours of sleep and half as much food as she needs to keep her metabolism going.
  • She still takes him to pieces fairly easily once she realizes that she’s balancing his life against the lives of millions of people.
  • And then he gut-shoots her.
  • “Okay, Ladybug, get out of there.”
  • “Fire now.”
  • “But Marinette”—
  • “Do it!  Do it now!”
  • A gigantic support beam falls on Adrien as the carrier they’re on is shot to pieces.  Marinette hobbles down and gets him free.
  • “I’m not gonna fight you.  You’re my friend.”
  • “You’re my mission.”  Face-punching ensues.  “You!  Are!  My!  Mission!”
  • “Then finish it.  ‘cause I’m with you to the end of the line.”
  • Ladybug falls.
  • Chat Blanc dives in after her and pulls her out of the Potomac, then runs for it.
  • Mylene burns her past, asks the others to come along, they refuse.
  • Juleka shows up, hands Marinette the Winter Soldier’s dossier.
  • “Be careful, Marinette,” Juleka tells her.  “You might not want to pull on that thread.”
  • “You’re going after him,” Volpina says to Marinette.
  • “You don’t have to come with me,” Marinette says.
  • “I know.  When do we start?”
  • Aaaaand scene.
  • Mylene as! Director of Shield
  • Ivan and Alya as! her Agents Hill and Coulson, respectively
  • Nino as! Agent 13, Shield Special Service
  • Juleka as! SHIELD Agent Black Widow
  • Kim as! SHIELD Agent Hawkeye
  • Max as! genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Iron Man
  • Rose as! Pepper Potts, who’s been dating Juleka since the events of Iron Man 2
  • Nathanael as! the Hulk
  • Alix and Jalil as! Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, respectively, born out of the chaos of the Syrian Civil War
  • Aurore Beauréal as! fem!Thor
  • Volpina as! AU!Falcon, the Flying Fox

Just a few side notes.

  • The specifics of how they get into the building are changed because the whole supermask thing in Winter Soldier came right outta left field and made no goddamn sense to me and I want Juleka being a wounded acrobatic badass.
  • Tikki and Plagg don’t get mentioned because I have no bloody idea how to fit them in.
  • ALYA DOESN’T DIE SHE’S FINE SHE HAS A YEAR IN INTENSIVE CARE BUT SHE’S FINE.
  • Mylene as AU!Nick Fury takes a bit of doing to justify, but I think about it this way: when Mylene is turned by Papillon in canon, she turns into something that people fear, and a whole lot of Nicky’s motivations in Winter Soldier center around the idea that you can control people with fear (in this case, control them into not being homicidal douchenozzles with the fear of instant death from the skies).  And in this AU, guess who’s largely responsible for building the new HYDRA as an organization?  That’s right, a bunch of nice people from this little thing called AKUMA, da-dum-tish.
  • Juleka gets to be AU!Black Widow because she’s always tended to be the kind of person that fades into the background, which is a lot more important when you’re a super spy than being an ass-kicking badass is.  That Juleka happens to be an ass-kicking badass who just happens to mysteriously be unable to caught on camera is the icing on the cake.
  • Rose is Pepper because frankly, no one else is enough of a pacifist to be Rescue, and yes, I’m going off of the comics version of Pepper Potts instead of the cinematic universe but I really like Rescue shut up.
  • No one else gets their positions based off of their personalities as akumafied villains because no one aside from Fury has been exposed to HYDRA ideology via Hawkmoth as much.

Submitted by @eliasraine