Rick and Marlo Jones strolled down the sidewalk, arm in arm. They had just finished dinner and were moving on to the movie they were planning to see. Their roommate, Betty Banner, was at home, making phone calls.
"I feel guilty going on `date-night' like this," Marlo admitted, "while Betty is still trying to get information about her father's death." (1)
"I still think something stinks about that," Rick said, "I don't know, there was something behind Stark's eyes when he told us, like he was keeping something important from us. Betty thinks it's important to find out what that was.
"But, like she said, there's not much we can do to help her right now, so we should try to live our lives."
"I know, but between the general's death and Betty staying with us, after we've finally got Phyla to go
"Hey, she needs to be with people right now," Rick said, "it isn't a permanent situation. Outside of Bruce, she's my oldest friend. I can't just leave her hanging."
"I know," Marlo said, "I just wish we had more time alone together like this without feeling"
Marlo stopped talking as they both stopped walking. A robot head bounced on the sidewalk before them, leaving a tiny indentation in the pavement after it. They, along with the rest of the pedestrians out and about this evening, looked up into the sky to see three beings in black armor attacking a decapitated, sparking robot and an adult male silverback gorilla in a red robe, who was defending himself with martial arts and riding on a small hover-disc.
"Man, we moved back to Reno to get away from this kind of stuff," Rick complained.
Half Kree. Half Titan. A bastard child, born in a laboratory. Some even say he's destined for greatness. Destined to become something above the photonic energy manipulating powerhouse he is right now. He is Genis-Vell. He is Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel #82
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
"Oh, you fools," Dr. Ape cried out, "you will pay for that! It took me years to perfect the Tomorrow Droid technology! That was my way to travel between the dimensional folds!" (2)
The Slashers remained silent as they tore at the air before them with their sharp-edged arms, tearing tiny cuts into the fabric of reality itself, which the bobbing pyramids called the Suture Artists quickly sewed back up.
"Anomaly," the Suture Artists repeatedly said, "Anomaly!"
"I know I'm an anomaly here," Dr. Ape protested, kicking one of the Slashers back through the air, knocking it into the other two without doing them any damage. "I was testing new controls on my Tomorrow Droid so that I won't be stranded again! I was about to leave, if you hadn't destroyed him!"
"Anomaly," the Suture Artists said.
The decapitated Tomorrow Droid began to fall towards the street, no longer staying in flight by its own internal power. One of the Suture Artists bobbed through the air after it, needle and invisible thread in hand.
The Tomorrow Droid crashed to the ground, breaking off into several pieces. The Suture Artist opened up a fold in the fabric of spacetime and delicately swept the pieces of the Droid into it, then began to sew the fold back up.
"Now I'm going to remain an anomaly," Dr. Ape said, "Oh, why must you interfere?"
The Slashers circled him, so Dr. Ape rose through the air on his hover-disc, flying above them and then coming down for a landing on the sidewalk. "There are powerful heroes on this world," he said to himself, "all I have to do is find one of them and
[Further down the sidewalk.]
"No, Richard, please," Marlo begged, knowing what her husband was contemplating before he could say anything. "Leave it for the police!"
"This isn't a job for the cops," Rick said as he watched a Suture Artist shove the Tomorrow Droid's head into a hole in spacetime. "Call the Avengers and stay out of sight. Don't worry; this should be a cakewalk compared to Thanos."
"Rick," she said, as he ran down the sidewalk towards the silverback and his three pursuers.
"Geronimo!" Rick said as he threw himself into the air, landing feet-first into one of the Slashers, knocking the armored foe off his feet and onto the ground. The other two turned around to view their opponent and saw that he was an acceptable contemporary and returned to pursuit of Dr. Ape.
"Thanks for the assist," Dr. Ape said, turning to face the Slashers, striking up a defensive pose. "Are you a, what was it they're called, Marvel?"
"I don't think we have any Marvels in Reno," Rick said, "Sorry. I take it you aren't from around here?"
"Another reality, how'd you guess?"
"You're a talking ape doing kung-fu," Rick said as the Slasher rose and slashed out, nearly cutting him in half. "Jeez! What are these guys?"
"Continuity auditors," Dr. Ape said, "removing from this plane of existence anyone who doesn't belong. I've met a few in other realities; they're usually more
scholarly, shall we say? Like accountants, really."
"I hope I never meet any accountants like these guys," Rick said, kicking the Slasher in the face to no effect. "What are these guys made of, anyway, adamantium?"
Dr. Ape chopped both the other Slashers, hurting his hands. He back-flipped out of the way as they cut at the air, avoiding each other.
"I'd ask what adamantium is, but I don't think we have the time," Dr. Ape said as he swept a leg out, knocking the two Slashers off their feet without harming them.
[In the future.]
Lightning and thunder rolled through the skies as the massive storm blasted Los Angeles. A lithe figure appeared in the bursts of lightning, high in the sky, unnoticed by the millions of people far below.
If anyone had noticed her, they would have wondered at the fact that she ceased to exist whenever the lightning did not flash. Finally, after several minutes of blinking in and out of existence, Mimi-Vell stayed coherent, smashing onto the nearest rooftop.
"Ugh," she moaned, wiping the soaking blonde hair out of her eyes. Some first outing for the Private Marvel, newest member of the Captain Marvel Family of Marvels. She was guaranteed a slot on the West Coast Avengers, if she could survive long enough.
In this thunderstorm, that was not much of a guarantee.
"Weird," Mimi said, rubbing her chest. Though she did not have Cosmic Awareness, she still had well-developed cosmic senses as a result of her heritage. She could tell that something was wrong, though she could not quite place what. It was as though the entire universe had shifted just off-center.
"Anomaly," she heard someone say behind her. She spun to find three floating pyramids, with three black-armored humanoid figures behind them.
"Uh-oh," Mimi said as the Slashers' arms licked at the air, cutting through the fabric of spacetime.
Rick Jones picked up a trash can lid and threw it through the air, distracting the Slasher who had its arm raised to strike down Dr. Ape. "Chew on this," he said, as the other two marched towards the intelligent silverback.
Suddenly, Rick felt a jolt of energy surge through his body and looked down to find himself in the familiar costume of his former mentor, Captain America.
"Anomaly," the Suture Artists said, now staring with their one organic eye and one cybernetic eye at him.
The Slashers turned and two moved towards him, the other returning to the task of swiping at Dr. Ape.
"What?" Rick yelled, looking down at his red-gloved hands, his muscles surging with super-soldier serum. Then he noticed the two Slashers marching towards him and pulled his vibranium-alloy shield from his back in time to block a slash.
The slash of the Slasher's arm cut through the shield, ripping it into two halves. "What?!" Rick said, assuming that nothing could do that, not aware of the fact that the Slashers could only because it was an anomalous shield.
Rick took the two jagged edged halves of the shield and jammed them into the Slashers' necks, causing sparks and darkforce energy to sputter out. One of the Slashers lashed out in retaliation, instinctively, and tore through Rick's midsection before he could dodge it.
Rick cried out in pain and stumbled back, his hands going to his stomach to keep what he could inside. He slumped against the wall behind him and felt that surge of energy leave him suddenly.
"Acceptable contemporary," the Suture Artists now said of him, his temporary powers and costume gone. He was mere mortal Rick Jones once more, now bleeding to death on the street. The Slashers turned away and went back to Dr. Ape, who was on his knees, bleeding from various cuts.
"No," Rick whispered hoarsely, unable to rise, as he watched the three Slashers tear Dr. Ape apart. The Suture Artists quickly and quietly swept his body into a fold in spacetime and then sewed it up again.
The three Suture Artists and three Slashers disappeared as Rick lay dying on the sidewalk.
"Rick! Rick!" Marlo's voice called out as everything faded to darkness.
[To be continued
1. See upcoming issues of Daniel Gordon Presents.
2. For Dr. Ape's first excursion into the AMU, refer back to Spectacular Spider-Man #20.
NEXT TIME: THE RESTLESS KING