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Alternate Marvel Presents #52

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  • Flint
    Alternate Marvel Presents #52 Daniel Gordon ~ Wildstreak in Enter the White Dragon ~ Page 1 John Flint ~ The Incredible Hulk in Nightlife ~ Page 4 Lord
    Message 1 of 51 , May 10, 2006
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      Alternate Marvel Presents #52
      Daniel Gordon ~ Wildstreak in "Enter the White Dragon" ~ Page 1
      John Flint ~ The Incredible Hulk in "Nightlife" ~ Page 4
      Lord Populous ~ Generation X in "Bumble Bees" ~ Page 7
      Kenneth Beck ~ X-Statix in "Get Yo Freaks On" ~ Page 11

      Alternate Marvel Presents
      Rookies Reborn featuring Wildstreak
      A Night on the Town Part Two
      "Enter the White Dragon"
      By Daniel D. Gordon


      Seconds seemed like an eternity as Tamika Bowden tried to figure out
      what to do. She never thought the night would turn out like it did.
      She was spending an evening with her father, having dinner and
      recounting her recent adventures as an Avenger. They were discussing
      if she should accept the team's offer to join their West Coast
      branch when the restaurant was robbed by a gang sponsored by the
      Maggia.

      Luckily, she was in the restroom when the robbery took place. She
      was able to leave her wheelchair there as she donned her Wildstreak
      exo-suit. With the enhanced speed and agility it gave her, Tamika
      was able to stop the robbery by snatching the duffel bags the gang
      used to transport their goods. That was when the gang leader, a
      Chinese enforcer known as the White Dragon, grabbed her father and
      threatened his life. (

      Now Tamika had to figure out what to do next. Should she exchange
      the bags for her father's life? Should she call White Dragon's
      bluff? The result of whatever choice she made would haunt her for
      the rest of her life.

      "Give them to me or he dies!" White Dragon repeated.

      "Fine," Wildstreak started to hand the bags over. "If you want them,
      you can have them."

      Wildstreak threw the bags at White Dragon. Out of instinct, White
      Dragon released his hold on Dennis Bowden and reached for them. By
      the time the bags were in his hands, White Dragon felt an unnatural
      breeze behind him. He turned to see that both Dennis Bowden and
      Wildstreak were gone.

      The slamming of the restaurant door was the only remnants of
      Wildstreak's dashing rescue of her father. Once they were across the
      street, she stopped to check on him. "Dad, are you all right?"

      "I am now," Dennis looked into Wildstreak's tear-filled face.

      "I won't let him get away," Wildstreak told herself, replaying the
      events of the past few minutes in her mind. She looked back to the
      restaurant to see White Dragon making his exit. "He's going to pay
      for hurting you."

      "Let it go, sweetheart," Dennis called out. His words fell on deaf
      ears since Wildstreak was already gone. All he could do was watch
      his daughter race to fight the man who almost ended his life.

      Wildstreak chased the black Escalade through the busy New York
      streets. She dashed through the heavy traffic, determined to catch
      White Dragon.

      The driver of the SUV noticed the upcoming blur in his rearview
      window. "Boss, that girl is right behind us. What do we do?"

      "Deal with her," White Dragon rolled down the window and in a fluid
      motion, jumped out of the speeding vehicle. With a somersault, he
      landed gracefully on his feet in the middle of traffic.

      Wildstreak stopped herself from crashing into White Dragon by
      swerving to her right side. She backstepped when she realized that
      she was about to collide in the Sudan next to her. When she regained
      her bearings, her hatred of White Dragon flared as he stood in the
      middle of the street, defiant of the traffic jam he caused.

      "You're going to pay for hurting my father!" Wildstreak promised.

      "Challenge me and you forfeit your life," White Dragon taunted.

      Wildstreak's rage did not allow her to give White Dragon a response.
      She charged with her fists extended, hoping to deliver a blow to his
      face. With nimble reflexes, White Dragon dodged the attack.

      With a quick chop, White Dragon tagged the back of Wildstreak's
      neck. The sudden pain caused her to grab it and stumble backward.

      "You still wish to die, young one?" White Dragon posed to attack
      again.

      Wildstreak did not waste time talking. She repeated her attack. When
      White Dragon evaded her telegraphed attacks, she plunged her right
      knee into his stomach. White Dragon jumped back, rubbing the injured
      area.

      "Impressive," White Dragon applauded. "You did not strike me as a
      worthy opponent. I will no longer underestimate you."

      Wildstreak let a small smirk slip from her face. She was going to
      show him that she was not a pushover. She was not someone he could
      trample over. She had been a victim too many times in her life. She
      was not going to be victimized by people like him anymore.

      Wildstreak ran behind White Dragon and jabbed her leg behind his
      right hip. The sudden attack crippled him and he laid on the ground
      gripping his wounded limb.

      Wildstreak stood over her fallen foe and wanted to his life. She
      wanted to show him what it was like to be a victim. He wanted White
      Dragon to feel the helplessness she felt as he threatened his
      father's life.

      "How does it feel?" Wildstreak balled her fists. "How does it feel
      to be weak and powerless?"

      "Just because I am crippled does not mean I am defeated," White
      Dragon stated. With his left leg, he did an arching swipe which
      caught Wildstreak off guard.

      By the time Wildstreak regained her balance, White Dragon and
      regained his footing. Hopping on his good leg, he snapped his right
      hip back into place and prepared to face Wildstreak again.

      Wildstreak did not wait for White Dragon to recover. She tackled him
      and pushed him again a car door. She plummeted White Dragon's body
      with kick after kick until he stood motionless before her.

      Wildstreak stopped when she noticed that White Dragon was not
      fighting back. She looked at his unmoving form and wondered if she
      had killed him. She had never acted so relentless before. Had she
      committed an act that she could not undo? Had she crossed the line?

      A small cough told Wildstreak that White Dragon was still alive. She
      slowly backed away and noticed the sounds and noise around her. She
      heard sirens, screams, and the clicking of guns. It took several
      moments for her to realize that she was surrounded by a dozen police
      officers.

      "I said back away from him!" the sergeant shouted, his gun trained
      on Wildstreak. She complied and watched in silence as medical
      personnel loaded White Dragon into an ambulance.

      After giving a statement to the police, Wildstreak saw a familiar
      face among the bystanders watching events unfold. She pushed her way
      towards Dennis Bowden and gave him the warmest hug despite being in
      the presence of gawking onlookers.

      "Dad! Are you okay?"

      "I'm fine," Dennis assured his daughter.

      "I thought I was going to lose you," Wildstreak finally let the
      building tears run down her sobbing face.

      "But you didn't," Dennis reassured.

      "I thought I killed him," Wildstreak started. "I really wanted to..."

      "But you didn't," Dennis stopped her. "That's what counts."

      "All this made me realize something," Wildstreak wiped her
      face. "I'm not leaving you."

      "So you're not moving to California to be a big-time superhero?"
      Dennis wondered if his daughter was in her right frame of mind as
      she made her decision.

      "There's no rush for me to head to the West Coast," Wildstreak
      sighed. "Plus, I need some time to sort some things out."

      "Are you sure this is what you want?" Dennis questioned.

      Wildstreak did not hesitate with her answer. "All I want is to be
      right here with you."



      The End



      Alternate Marvel Presents...
      "It always starts out this way," Bruce Banner mumbled to himself, as
      he looked through his binoculars through his eyeglasses. He didn't
      have to look to know he was wearing a white lab coat as well; he
      always wore that white lab coat. Each and every time.

      "What was that, dear?" Betty asked, bright-eyed and with a devious
      curve to her lips. Always in that light sundress. Yellow, was it? He
      wasn't entirely sure; it wouldn't matter. Not in another minute.

      "More infernal delays! Humbug!" General Ross stood in the center of
      a thick cloud of smoke. This was one of his more exaggerated
      performances, but it was nothing new. "Get on with it, you spineless
      milksop!"

      Then, following the script as he always did, Bruce spotted the boy,
      driving his antiquated jeep onto the testing range. He never knew
      the boy's name, not during the dream, even after all these years,
      all the memories. He was certain he had attended the teenager's
      wedding, but knowledge can change in dreams and nightmares.

      "Good lord," Bruce said, and rushed towards the door, "there's a boy
      out there! Igor, stop the countdown!"

      Igor, quite naturally, wore devil horns and red skin. He carried a
      pitchfork in his right hand, and his shirt contained the hammer and
      sickle symbol of the USSR. The bad Soviet's role had mutated over
      the years, as had every role in this mockery of memory.

      Bruce drove out onto the range, a blur of motion that had once been
      a calm, pacifistic scientist. Time then slowed, and Banner gradually
      grabbed the boy's wrist and practically drug him behind the barrier.
      This time, as was wont to happen every now and then, the boy shoved
      him back over the barrier.

      This time, unlike the others, Bruce saw a different face. It was
      still a teenaged boy's, but it was definitely not that of the usual
      boy whose life he was to save. He pondered what this meant as gamma
      radiation washed over him, destroying his life and rebuilding his
      soul.


      Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce
      Banner now finds himself transformed into a powerful, dark, and
      distorted reflection of himself. Alternate Marvel Presents: The
      Incredible Hulk!

      The Incredible Hulk in
      "Nightlife"

      ****************************************
      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      Editor: Hoang Thai
      Editor-in-Chief: Tawmis Logue
      ****************************************


      Bruce Banner awoke in the early morning hours, alone, cold, and
      shirtless in a dark, empty, lonely warehouse. The first rays of dawn
      pierced the darkness in the vast empty space, and Bruce moaned as he
      rubbed the back of his neck. Business as usual, for the fugitive
      with a half-ton, gamma-spawned monkey on his back.

      He tried to recall the previous night's dreams. Presumably, his
      nightmares had set him off and allowed the transformation to occur,
      slipping the Hulk loose upon the world once more. It wasn't a
      surprise at this point. Something... something had troubled him in
      his dream, but he could no longer recall what it was.

      Rising, he noticed something particularly odd... his pants had no
      tears or rips in them. His shirt was gone entirely; no tattered rags
      remained to examine. These pants were no different from those he
      usually wore, other than being a darker shade of brown. Banner had
      decided to expand his wardrobe over the years; that, and he took
      whatever he could get. Desperation leads to fashion changes.

      He stumbled as he took his first few steps towards the back door. He
      was weaker than he'd expected, though that wasn't necessarily a sign
      of any foul play. Sometimes, the reversion to his persona just
      simply did that.

      Banner's hands held a long box that sat against the wall. It was the
      right size to be a coffin, but Bruce dismissed that. This was far
      too simple a design for the modern casket, after all. He continued,
      slowly, on his way out, releasing his hold on the big box and
      struggling down to the door on his own.

      Oddly, he noticed a terrible itching on his neck. He felt it; two
      puncture wounds of some sort. If he didn't know any better, he would
      have thought... then again, he was friends with the world's Sorcerer
      Supreme, so why couldn't it be?

      He decided upon a course of action, and rested the rest of the day,
      further formulating his plan of procedures as the time went by. He
      stayed nearby, not wanting to stray too far from the warehouse. He
      ate a little, what he could get without making human contact, and
      let his strength gather as much as it could.

      [Nightfall]

      Bruce Banner returned to the near-empty warehouse and shifted his
      eyes over the rafters of the darkened place. He mentally chastised
      himself for being such a fool, for even formulating this very silly
      plan, but then he heard the slightest creak sound from within that
      box.

      He stepped towards the center of the room, his head beginning to
      spin. He focused and kept himself upright. The lid to the box slowly
      shifted down its length until it fell against the floor before it. A
      hand could be seen, barely, removing the lid.

      Bruce Banner rubbed the sore holes in his neck once more and
      swallowed. He hated this sort of thing; he was a man of science, of
      logic and reason. He wasn't a religious or spiritual, nor
      superstitious man. And yet, here he was, facing down a monster meant
      for cheap amusement and romanticized diversions.

      A pale young man, dressed all in black and wearing shades, stepped
      out of his rudimentary coffin. He saw that Banner was there, yet
      failed to address him as he rose from his sleeping quarters,
      stretching and yawning in such a fashion as to fully display his
      long, sharp fangs.

      "It's really nothing personal against you, Mr. Banner," the young
      man said, still not looking directly at Banner, "but I must feed,
      you can't understand how hard it is to fight these cravings... And
      to drain you, the man who becomes that monster, the Hulk, won't be
      harming the world any."

      "I... see." Bruce replied with no emotion as the young vampire
      walked towards him, shoes clop-clop-clopping all the way over to the
      center of the large void.

      "I thought you might," the vampire said, "if you want, I can
      hypnotize you again, only this time I'll have you experience nothing
      but the happiest of dreams. You'll have the happiest death a man can
      hope for, dying pleasantly in your sleep. You owe it to the world to
      let me do this, doctor."

      "Yes, yes," Bruce said, dryly, "of course."

      The vampire stepped forward, a hand on Banner's naked shoulder, and
      leaned in... Bruce reached his opposite hand back behind and dug a
      quickly sharpened wooden stake out from its hiding place there. He
      stabbed it into the vampire's chest and stepped forward to deepen
      its placement, then took several steps back to see what would happen.

      The vampire looked down, grabbing at the stake with both hands,
      coughing in an attempt to curse him. Finally, he yanked the bloody
      stake out his front and smiled, flashing Banner those sharpened
      fangs, "Not deep enough."

      Before Banner could utter a snappy reply, the vampire was on top of
      him, smashing him down into the dirty floor face-first. Banner
      panicked, being helpless, and the release of hormones and
      neurotransmitters commenced a chain reaction within him...

      The vampire didn't notice until he was smacked and was sent back.
      Holding his cheek, he knew he was in trouble now.

      The Incredible Hulk stared at him, into him, through him. Banner's
      neck wounds were now perfectly healed. His dark brown pants held
      together, though they tore at the knees. The Hulk's dark green hair
      flowed down his shoulders and curled slightly against his back. He
      snarled at the vampire standing agape, gazing in horror at the
      monstrosity before him.

      "You want rid of me?" The Hulk challenged, raising a hand and giving
      the Bruce Lee motion to come, "Just try it."

      [Sunrise]

      Benjamin Stevens inserted his key into the doorknob, then turned the
      knob and opened the door. No one kept this large old place clean on
      the weekends, and so he would have some work to do today, Monday,
      sweeping up the dirt and grime and any drained rats.

      He didn't know the truth of what this warehouse was for; he didn't
      ask, he didn't care. Before he had left that night, Banner had
      discovered it. There was a backroom, separate from this one.

      The lone vampire's makeshift coffin was not supposed to be in the
      empty front storage room. Benjamin would not see any trace of
      Banner's presence; he was long gone.

      He would however, notice a large pile of dust in the center of the
      room. When he would enter the back room, he would find many, many
      more such piles beside the rows and rows of now-empty wooden boxes.

      [The end.]



      Alternate Marvel Presents...
      Alternate Generation X
      Bumble Bees
      by Lord Populous

      {Previously presented as Generation X #34}

      Everett 'Synch' Thomas, sat in the chair, wishing that he was
      anywhere but his current location. Glove and Gown was a Bridal and
      Formal wear store, and he had somehow managed to get himself dragged
      along. Sarah and the rest of the female members of the team had
      decided to start shopping for a dress for Sarah's wedding. Not an
      easy task, given the massive bone protrusions that were part of
      Sarah's mutant power.

      "So Ev," commented Monet. "Which one do you like?"

      Ev looked up to see the perfect form of Monet St. Croix. Or rather
      the body of Monet, which was occupied by Claudette, Nicole, and the
      true Monet. Claudette and Nicole were the sisters of Marius, the
      mutant Emplate. According to Emplate. the aboriginal mutant Gateway
      was their father. The team had learned of this revelation during
      their fight with a group calling themselves the New Hellions.(#)

      "The white one is nice," answered Ev not sure what else to say.

      "They're all white," the group of females said as they threw what
      ever they could find at him.

      [ Back at the campus ]

      Emma Frost sat in her office, going through the database of students
      enrolled at the school. The overall results were disappointing, Most
      of the students possessed no formidable powers, just low level
      abilities that would hardly be useful in an attack. How was she
      suppose to mold these students into fighters if they gave her
      nothing to work with. As she continued to scroll threw the list her
      phone rang. Not looking at it, she reached over and picked it up.
      The voice on the other end started o speak up, when Emma cut them
      off quickly.

      "I told you not to call me here. No, I will contact you when I am
      ready. And stay out of site, I don't need the others seeing you in
      town."

      She hung the phone up, and shut off the computer. She made her way
      over to the door, stopping to look around the office one last time.
      She might be back eventually, but for now, this was the last time
      Emma Frost would leave this office. She opened the door and stepped
      through. She closed the door and headed down the hall, as the sound
      of her phone slowly trailed after her.

      [ Off Campus ]

      Nathaniel 'Nate' Grey sat on the edge of the river, looking at the
      reflection that the was faintly visible. He looked up at the clear
      sky, watching the pair of Bald Eagles as they seemed to dance across
      the sky. He was still amazed by the things he saw on this world. In
      his reality, there had been no birds, killed off long before he was
      born. This world was so much unlike his own, unlike the Age of
      Apocalypse.

      "You are one of the fit, I see it in your eyes." comment a cold
      gravely voice from atop the river bank.

      Nate turned to see a gentle looking old man standing there. "Do I
      know you?"

      "We have never met, but I know much about you young Nathaniel. I
      have come to make you an offer, become my Horseman, become War and I
      will promise you that the world can be ours."

      'Apocalypse,' the words escaped Nate's mouth. The old man just
      smiled and walked away. Nate flew to the top of the river bank, but
      the man was long gone. Nate was unable to pick up the man's thoughts
      anywhere. It was almost as if he had not been there in the first
      place. But Nate knew that he had been, and a sick feeling began to
      form in his stomach. Something big was coming and he knew that there
      was possibility he would be involved.

      [ In Town ]

      Japheth, the oddly named mutant Maggott, was spending the day with
      his close friend, Jesse Aaronson. Better known as Bedlam, he was of
      the few people Japheth though he could relate to on the team.

      "So, Jesse. I gotta know, do you think Jubilee is hot?"

      "Jubilee? Oh man that was funny," answered Jesse, But when he looked
      over at Japheth he saw that he wasn't laughing with him. "Oh man,
      are you serious? You and the firecracker? I don't know, I guess you
      could say she was hot. I mean, I like my girls with a lil' bit of
      cushioning on the 'six'."

      "Do you think if I asked her out, she would say yes?"

      "Dude, you are serious. I say go for it, what harm could it cause?"
      Jesse commented as he popped another pill from the bottle he always
      carried with him.

      Japheth grabbed the bottle and looked at it. Jesse tried to get it
      back, but Japheth let Eany and Meany loose and they held Jesse at
      bay. The label was for a type of pain killer, one that was well
      worn. Japheth took the bottle and poured the contents down the
      nearest storm drain. Jesse started to freak out and ran over trying
      to pull the pills from the drain.

      "How long have you been taking those?" asked Japheth crushing the
      bottle and feeding it to Eany.

      "None of your business. You had no right to do that. How am I
      supposed to ease the pain now?"

      "You are addicted to pain killers. I suspected that for a while now,
      but didn't want to admit it to myself."

      "I see what it is, you are jealous. Because I don't have to worry
      about my mutant power killing everyone. I knew that the only reason
      you hung around me was because you didn't want to look like such a
      loser. You are nothing but a pathetic brother, who clings to others
      to make himself feel better."

      Japheth backhanded Jesse. They two just looked at each other. Jesse
      started crying and hugged Japheth,

      "I am so scared, the pain, it is just so bad. It always hurts, and I
      just started taking them. The next thing I knew, I couldn't stop. I
      am sorry Japheth. I didn't really mean what I said, I am just--
      please don't tell the others. I don't want they to feel sorry for
      me."

      Japheth held his friend, and assured him, "They won't. But we will
      have to get you some help." The two started back to the school,
      followed by the two 'slugs' Eany and Meany. They climbed up onto
      Japheth's shoulder and curled up. They slept as if nothing had
      happened.

      [ The Dorm Room of Samuel Guthrie ]

      "You know what Tab? Take your sorry's and excuses and shove them up
      you--" Sam Guthrie slammed the phone down before finishing the
      sentence. He had really hoped that things between him and
      Tabitha 'MeltDown' Smith could have worked out. Yet the distance
      between them had seriously become a problem. He looked around the
      room he shared with Jonothan Starmore. His half of the room was
      organized and clean, a stark comparison to the rest of the room.
      Jono kept his possessions in cardboard boxes, that lay on the floor
      in a sporadic manner. His clothes were tossed where ever he felt
      like placing them.

      He wondered where the soon to be ex-bachelor was, as he started to
      gather up the mass of clothes and place them in one big pile. As he
      picked up a shirt, he saw the face of Katherine 'Kitty' Pryde appear
      in the floor. He cried in out in fear and tried to step back, only
      to trip over one of Jono many boxes. He crashed the floor without
      any harm thanks to the piles of clothes behind him.

      "Yep, it is true. You are as graceful as a 'Cannonball'," mocked
      Kitty as she emerged from the floor to stand inside the room. She
      looked around as was amazed at the contrast in the living style of
      the rooms occupants.

      "I have a door you know. Ever try using one I could have been naked
      for all you know," Sam offered as he managed to untangle himself
      from the clothes he had fallen into.

      "You ain't got nothing, I haven't seen before Sam."

      "You might be surprised, hows you know my being an External don't
      give something a lil' extra?"

      "Okay Sam, maybe your right. I'm sorry, next time I will knock.
      About my visit, How well do you know Emma Frost?"

      "About as well as you. The woman has her secrets. You still holding
      the Hellion incident against her?"

      Kitty tossed a pair of Jono's underwear onto the ever growing pile
      of clothes. "I don't trust the woman, she is hiding something. I
      know it, but I don't know where to start looking."

      Sam began pushing the pile of clothes toward the end of his
      roommates bed. "Maybe, you are just over thinking this. People do
      change. I could mention a certain shy thirteen year old who used to
      be a member of the X-Men."

      "Point taken. By the way, the new teacher arrived today. He is
      talking to Sean right now. He is kinda cute, in that science geek
      type of way," Kitty commented as she started to disappear into the
      floor. She stopped midway and looked up at Sam. "So is it true what
      they say about southern men?" she disappeared the rest of the way
      before the dumbfounded man could reply.

      [ The University grounds ]

      Jubilation Lee, Jubilee to her friends, was jogging down the
      sidewalk. Her closest companion her at the school to her right. The
      girls name was Yvette, but most people called her Penny. It was
      short for Penance, the only name the team had known for her since
      Gateway dropped her off on their doorstep. (#)

      Somebody suddenly stepped onto the sidewalk and Jubilee ran directly
      into them. She pulled herself up off the person she hit. She looked
      an saw that it was a man, with a nicely trimmed haircut and a half
      way decent suit. He got up and turned toward the girls. He
      apologized and offered his hand to the girls.

      "Hi, my name is Ben Reilly. I am the new chemistry teacher."

      "I know I am feeling the chemistry," replied Jubilee as she smiled
      at the man. Ben raised an eyebrow and the two girls laughed at him.



      Alternate Marvel Presents...
      X-STATIX: "Get Yo Freaks On" (August, 2004)

      {Originally presented as X-Statix #10}

      [Somewhere...]
      "Yo, whassup, twisted sister?" R. Kelly said as Tiffany secured him
      to the rack in the back of the Ex-Men's transport, which was, at the
      moment, a Ryder truck.
      "Quiet down, swine!" Yvette yelled, backhanding R. Kelly's
      face. "For too long you have degraded the women of this country, and-
      "
      "Wait, I think you're thinking of PRESIDENT R. Kelly, not me, 'cause
      that dude has had problems with you in-"
      "Shut it!" Julie yelled, her Adam's apple bobbing furiously in her
      throat. She punched him in the face.
      "Why you hittin' me, bitch?"
      "How do you like it, 'bitch'?" Claudia yelled. "You treat women like
      garbage! It's about time you reap what you sow!"
      "Enough," Tiffany said. "You can all have your fun with him once we
      get him back to the wo-mansion."
      "The wo-mansion? Aw shee-it, y'all some of them nazi-feminists,
      aren't you?"
      "Shut it, rapper!" Julie repeated.
      "Bill, how long until we get to the wo-mansion?" Tiffany said
      through the sliding window to the driver.
      "Wilma," Bill said.
      "What?"
      "That's my code-name. Wilma. Ten minutes."
      "I told you," Tiffany yelled, "you don't get a codename until you
      officially become an Ex-Man!"
      "But Tiffany-"
      "Quiet! Our mission is nearly over! Soon, we will rid the world of
      the evil of R. Kelly once and for all! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
      Tiffany slid the window shut.
      Bill looked in the rearview mirror and sneered. "Ohh, we're the
      mighty Ex-Men," he mocked. "You're still an asshole, Tim."
      [The X-Statix Transport...]
      "Get it together, Rob!" Anarchist yelled.
      "They took R. Kelly! Those freaky bitches!" His arms reached around
      to the spot where the dart had penetrated his neck. "Man, that
      hurts!"
      "Well, Corkscrew, R. Kelly and R. Shelly are both abusive bastards,"
      Vivisector said. "Just be lucky they didn't know about your 'dating'
      history, or it'd be R. Kelly telling someone about how the Ex-Men
      kidnapped you."
      "Yo, check yourself, fool!" Corkscrew said. "You wouldn't know what
      to do with a woman if she fell in your lap and starting hopping."
      "Enough, you two!" The Orphan said. "We have visual contact with the
      Ex-Men's van. Anarchist, you disable the van. Corkscrew, you are in
      charge of getting the package open. Vivisector, you're on retrieval.
      Dead Girl, Stacy and I will take care of the Ex-Men."
      "What about me?" Corkscrew said. "I want a piece of those trannies!"
      "We're going for zero fatalities, Rob," Vivisector said. "You can't
      even get through a first date with a zero fatality rate."
      "Fuck you, Miles!"
      "Ooh, don't tease me."
      "I mean it! Enough!" Orphan said. He keyed in his microphone
      transmitter. "Camera one, ready?"
      Spike Freeman was riding in the camera chopper, and he sounded
      absolutely thrilled. "Green light, Guy!"
      Orphan shook his head. "Okay, team, let's move!"
      The X-Statix transport streaked overhead, with Anarchist leaning out
      of the hatchway, dropping orbs of his acidic excretions onto the
      road just in front of the large Ryder truck. The tires exploded, and
      Bill was unable to keep the van on the road. It hurtled off the
      pavement and onto the sandy strip along the side. Sand flew up as
      the van plowed through, coming to a rough stop. Bill was thrown
      through the front of the van, the jagged glass shredding his groin
      as he flew past the windshield.
      The rest of the Ex-Men were slammed against the wall of the rear
      part of the truck. Only R. Kelly, secured to his rack, was
      uninjured.
      As Tiffany staggered to her feet, she was the sides of the truck's
      storage compartment being pierced by two long, metallic
      coils. "Corkscrew." The walls split and were hurled aside, and
      Vivisector leapt through the gap, claws out. He sliced away R.
      Kelly's restraints but was tasered by Claudia before he could carry
      the rapper out.
      "Damn, woman, chill wit dat shit!" R. Kelly said.
      Tiffany turned to him, her eyes wide. "What did you just say?"
      [Outside...]
      The rest of the X-Statix were ready outside the van. Stacy X went
      over to Bill, who was screaming in agony and clutching at his groin
      with bloody hands. "Oh, my god! It hurts! My balls are gone! Oh
      GOD!" His genitalia were shredded, hanging in bloody tatters from
      the base of his pelvis.
      "Jeez, that's disgusting," Stacy said, grimacing. "This one's out of
      it."
      Orphan stood with his chest pressed to the wall of the van, feeling
      for vibrations with his fingertips. "Movement. Six beings.
      Vivisector is down... can't tell much else." He looked at Dead Girl
      and nodded. "Let's do it."
      The turned and rushed through the opening in the wall and stopped.
      R. Kelly had two big handfuls of Tiffany's butt and was kissing her
      like there was no tomorrow.
      "What the hell?!?"
      "Yo, s'a-ight, dawg," R. Kelly said. "Sweet momma and I just had us
      a little understanding. She's not so bad, once you get to know her."
      Corkscrew stepped into the van and his jaw dropped. "R! What up?"
      R. Kelly smiled, "Yo, R, it's cool, she's a-ight."
      "Homeboy, she ain't no she! That's a dude!"
      R. Kelly's face froze. Tiffany looked at him and her eyes
      melted. "Aw, baby, no, you see me for what I really am! You know I
      am all woman!"
      "Wait, hold up. You mean, these aren't the X-Men?" R. Kelly said.
      "No," Orphan said. "EX, as in former. Not X, as in Xavier."
      R. Kelly, his hands still clamped firmly on Tiffany's butt, stared
      wide eyed for a few seconds longer. "I thought you was that Jean
      Grey!" he yelled, and began to wipe his mouth. "Damn!"
      With that, the other Ex-Men hurled themselves at the X-Statix.
      Orphan caught Julie by the neck and flipped her over his head,
      spinning into a roundhouse and kicking her square in the stomach as
      she came down. She dropped to the sand, gasping for breath.
      Vivisector grabbed Claudia by the hair and yanked her in a wide arc,
      swinging her body into the side of the van. She dropped unconscious
      to the ground.
      Yvette ran at Stacy, but she stopped once she caught a whiff of her
      phermones. "What... who..." Suddenly, Yvette smiled as she stared at
      Stacy. "Hello," she said, her thighs reflexively twitching.
      "Eww!" Stacy said. "That's fucking gross!" She punched Yvette in the
      nose, knocking her back into the van.
      Tiffany snarled in rage and ran at Corkscrew. She leapt through the
      air and screamed, "I told you I would have to hurt you!"
      Corkscrew put his hands up and impaled Tiffany. She slid nearly half
      way down his metal arms, until she hung limply on the corkscrew
      shapes. Her eyes seemed to glow a bright pink. "I can see your
      thoughts..." she said roughly.
      "What?" Corkscrew said. His eyes grew wide.
      "Scott... Lucy... Rob... which one is the real you?" Tiffany said.
      Her eyes faded, and her head turned weakly towards where Bill was
      rolling on his side, screaming in pain. "Looks like you don't need
      the operation, Bill! Or should... should I say... Wilma?" She let
      out a weak chuckle, her head dropped to her chest, and she moved no
      more.
      [X-Statix Headquarters, The Next Morning...]
      U-Go Girl walked into the lounge with her phone to her ear, passing
      between the T.V. and the couch, where Stacy and Dead Girl were
      watching MTV. Her steps were long and quick, keeping her just ahead
      of Spike Freeman. "Look, Terry, I need to talk to you, but I'm not
      in my office at the moment!"
      Spike gave chase, speaking in shrill yaps. "Edie! You're under
      contract!"
      "Can't you just hold for a minute longer?" she said, ignoring Spike.
      Spike continued in pursuit. "I don't care what Terry tells you,
      you're signed for the rest of this season!"
      "No, I can't teleport there. Because I'm fucking exhausted, that's
      why! No, I'm just getting in." She exited the lounge, with Spike
      still on her heels.
      "What the Hell was THAT about?" Dead Girl asked.
      Stacy rolled her eyes. "You heard the reports. She's probably hoping
      to get out before the ship sinks. They made us look like psychos for
      beating up a bunch of transvestites."
      "Transsexuals," Dead Girl corrected. "Transvestites still have their
      penises. In which case only the driver would have counted. Except
      not anymore." She shuddered.
      "Whatever. For a person who is legally dead, you sure creep easily."
      Stacy took a long sip from her water bottle, and sat for a long
      moment. "What do you think the dead one meant? About Rob?"
      "What, that whole 'Scott Lucy' thing?" Dead Girl said quickly. "Who
      knows. Maybe his name really is Scott Lucy."
      "Did you read anything from Tiffy the Trannie when you touched her?"
      "No," Dead Girl said quickly. "Just that he- she- it, was very
      fucked up."
      Stacy was silent for a very long time. "He's such an asshole."
      "Rob? Absolutely," Dead Girl said.
      "They all are," Stacy corrected. "I mean, Guy can be nice, but he's
      such a wuss. Edie's a whore, plain and simple. Tike is a maniac, and
      he plays the race card WAAAAY to often. Myles... well, he's just...
      he's such..."
      "A queen," Dead Girl finished, idly flipping through channels.
      "Yeah. They're all so... phony. So self absorbed. So dramatic."
      Stacy looked at her teammate. "But not you. You're real. Someone I
      can relate to. Ironic, isn't it? The only one on this team I feel I
      can really relate to is dead, and strangely enough, it doesn't make
      things any harder." She leaned back on the couch, looking up at the
      ceiling. "It's just... perfect."
      There was a long silence. "Stacy," Dead Girl said, suddenly putting
      down the remote.
      "What's up?"
      "I'm not gay."
      Stacy was quiet, looking around with an arched brow as if searching
      for the camera man. "Cool. What the Hell does THAT have to do with
      anything?"
      Dead Girl smiled nervously and looked down. "I'm sorry. I- I thought
      you were- you know- hitting on me."
      "What?" Stacy's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding? I'm not gay, and I'm
      not a necrophiliac!"
      Dead Girl's shoulders dropped. "That's a relief."
      "That being said, I'd rather spend the rest of my life with you than
      one night in bed with Rob."
      Dead Girl bristled at the mention of his name. "You go to bed with
      Rob, it WILL be for the rest of your life. Sick fuck."
      Stacy laughed, but Dead Girl merely smiled.
      [Corkscrew's Quarters...]
      Corkscrew sat on the edge of his bed, rocking back and
      forth. "Relax, Rob. Nobody knows anything. She died before she could
      tell anybody," he thought. "Dead Girl touched the he-she," he said,
      and uttered a single, hysterical chuckle, "and hadn't said anything.
      But that didn't mean she didn't know."
      He looked at the mirror on the wall, and hated what he saw. It was a
      face not his own, haggard and worried. And it was entirely possible
      he was imagining it, but did he see a slight touch of knowing
      contempt? Like a mother who suspected all along that her son had
      been stealing from the church offering plate and had finally caught
      him first hand.
      If Dead Girl knew, he'd have to kill her. It was just that simple.
      Or was it? He didn't know if he could kill her. She was already
      dead.
      [Three Days Later...]
      "Ratings are down," Spike said, setting the folio on the briefing
      table. The other members of X-Statix, save for Corkscrew, sat around
      the table looking disinterested. U-Go Girl had a pair of half
      glasses on, and was perusing a thick contract, making markings with
      a felt tip pen. "The debacle with the Ex-Men wasn't exactly
      endearing to the public. A 'man on the street' indicates that
      seventy eight percent of our viewers think we should have killed R.
      Kelly instead of the leader of the Ex-Men."
      "Is it too late to opt for that?" Anarchist said.
      "Tike?" Vivisector said, "I didn't think YOU'D be trashing R.
      Kelly."
      "Why not? Because we're both black? I don't see you with any
      autographed pictures of Harvey Firestein."
      "Point taken," Vivisector demurred.
      Spike continued. "We're calling up some feeders, they'll be
      introduced on the next-"
      There was a knock on the door, and The Janitor stepped in. "Sorry to
      interrupt, Mr. Freeman, but there's a package for Ms. Girl."
      "Which one?" Spike said.
      "Dead," he replied. "Security already scanned it clean, so they told
      me."
      "Thanks," Dead Girl said, taking the package and setting it down on
      the table. She went back to her notes.
      "Why don't you open it, Dead Girl?" Spike said.
      "Because it might not be any of your business," she replied matter
      of factly.
      "C'mon, Dead Girl," Stacy said, "don't leave us in suspense."
      Dead Girl sighed, and then began to tear off the plain brown
      wrapper. Inside was an ornate wooden box. "Wow," she
      said. "Beautiful."
      "Open it up!" Spike said, his eyes glittering with excitement. "I
      wanna see what it is!"
      Dead Girl opened the box, and inside was a beautiful golden
      medallion. "Oh, my," she said. "This is incredible."
      She held up the medallion to the light.
      "Bling bling," Anarchist said.
      "It looks expensive." Spike said. "Put it on!"
      Dead Girl smiled and looked at the others. Orphan looked like he was
      deep in thought and fighting a major headache, but everyone else was
      looking right at her. She dipped her head down and put it through
      the necklace.
      Suddenly, Orphan looked up, and held out a hand. "No!" But he was
      too late.
      A yellow glow erupted from the medallion and enveloped Dead Girl.
      For a moment, she was completely obscured from their vision. The
      glow ended so suddenly, Dead Girl had to wonder if she had imagined
      it all. Everyone looked at her, and then to Orphan.
      "What is it, Guy?" U-Go Girl asked.
      "There's a funky vibration coming off that thing. It's...
      uncomfortable," he replied.
      "I'll put it away," Dead Girl replied, removing the necklace and
      holding it out towards the box. Her scream instantly drew back the
      attention of her teammates.
      "My God!" Dead Girl screamed, "My hands!" She saw the others looking
      at her and watched as their eyes widened. She knew what she saw on
      her hands had happened to the rest of her.
      Her flesh, normally a pale, spongy greenish-white, was a healthy
      pink.
      She felt a hot pain in her chest, and realized that, for the first
      time since the emergence of her mutant powers, her lungs were crying
      for air. As she took in a deep breath, something she hadn't needed
      to do in a long, long time, she heard a thudding sound in her ear
      drums. It took her a moment to identify the noise as the beating of
      her heart. She put all the pieces together. She didn't know how it
      was possible, but there was only one explanation.
      Dead Girl was alive.
      [To Be Continued...]
      [Writer's Note: Justin Larson departed Alt Marvel some time ago, and
      starting this issue, I will be wrapping up X-Statix, which will
      conclude with issue #12. This issue contains elements of stories
      originally drafted by Justin, and as such, he deserves credit for
      much of what you've just read. Justin, if you're out there, I hope
      you approve of how the series is gonna end. - Kenn Beck]
    • Flint
      Alternate Marvel Presents #63 Josh Greer ~ Absorbing Man & Titania in The Path of Virtue: Mercy ~ Page 1 Josh Greer ~ Holy Roller ~ Page 7 Josh Greer ~
      Message 51 of 51 , Nov 27, 2006
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        Alternate Marvel Presents #63
        Josh Greer ~ Absorbing Man & Titania in "The Path of Virtue: Mercy"
        ~ Page 1
        Josh Greer ~ "Holy Roller" ~ Page 7
        Josh Greer ~ "Fruit-Filled Vengeance" ~ Page 12
        John Flint ~ The Champions in "Day Off" ~ Page 16



        Gifted by two of the greatest forces of evil in the world with
        incredible powers, Carl Creel and Mary McPherran became Masters of
        Evil! After a promise to a hero, however, the pair have begun a
        quest to right their wrongs and redeem themselves as heroes!
        Alternate Marvel Presents....The Absorbing Man & Titania in:

        The Path of Virtue
        Part One: Mercy

        Writer: Josh Greer
        Inspirational Assist: Tawmis Logue
        Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs


        [New York Headquarters for the Commission on Superhuman Activities]


        Carl Creel groaned contentedly as he curled the bar once more,
        feeling his biceps flex and a droplet of sweat drip down the center
        of his back. Another droplet slid down from his bald head, dripping
        off his brow and landing on his cheek, but he ignored it. It didn't
        matter. All that mattered to him at that moment was the moment
        itself. The feel of the steel bar in his hand, and gravity's pull on
        the weight that it held.

        Skeeter's blue eyes were locked on his as she spotted him, and that
        made him smile. Every time he looked at his wife and took in her
        muscular, yet still feminine form and long orange-blonde hair he
        smiled. He couldn't help it. He could never figure out what he'd
        done right to end up with a tough broad like Titania on his arm, but
        he was glad he had. Nothing in his miserable life had made him
        happier than the day he'd married her, even with the troubles they'd
        had at the wedding. (1)

        "What?" she asked, the corners of her lips curled upward a bit as
        she kept her hands loose on the bar.

        "Huh?"

        "What are you smiling about?"

        "What, a guy can't smile while he works out?"

        "Sure, a guy can...but you usually don't," she shot back, her grin
        spreading.

        "Maybe I just like how you're lookin' in those sweats," Crusher
        grinned. She did, indeed, look incredible. That's how he knew he'd
        made a good call in hooking up with Mary McPherran. No matter what
        she was wearing, Titania looked damn good. He didn't think she'd
        looked bad a day since they'd met on Battleworld (2).

        Coincidentally, Mary "Skeeter" McPherran was thinking the same thing
        about her barrel-chested, bald husband. Every time his cool gray
        eyes swept over her body she felt a shiver of excitement. Even back
        on Battleworld when she'd spurned him at every turn, and during
        their time with the Masters of Evil where they had a real love-hate
        thing going on. (3) She'd known on the day they met that she would
        marry Carl "Crusher" Creel, and since she had, she hadn't once
        looked back.

        They didn't speak any more during the last few reps, just staring
        into each other's eyes and remembering everything they'd been
        through over the past few years. One item, in particular, sprang to
        mind, of course: Thunderstrike. If it hadn't been for him, they
        wouldn't have ever gotten married, and both of them knew it (4).
        He'd let them go, given them their chance to do things right, and
        because of it, they'd had the freedom to tie the knot.

        "We haven't been to Eric's grave in a few months," Titania said,
        taking the bar from her husband when he was done and dropping it on
        the bench.

        "Yeah," Carl said, a pained expression coming over his face. Skeeter
        bit her lip, ashamed that she'd forgotten so easily.


        *****


        [Several Months Ago]


        When they saw Eric Masterson's gravestone for the first time, it had
        been completely by accident. They'd been in the cemetery visiting
        Skeeter's aunt, who had passed away only a few weeks before.
        Unfortunately, they'd been stuck in Brazil fighting with a batch of
        renegade Lava Men at the time, and couldn't attend the services.
        When they'd finished paying their respects, though, they turned
        around to find themselves standing eye to eye with none other than
        Simon Williams. Wonder Man.

        At first, they thought he was going to start a fight. Something in
        his eyes told both Skeeter and Crusher that Wonder Man was
        considering just that. He regarded them closely, his jaw clenched
        tight and his fingers curled into fists at his side. The red, ionic
        energy in his eye sockets flared a bit, but then settled back into
        the normal crimson pools that passed for eyes.

        "What are you doing here?" he asked.

        "Could ask you the same, Williams," Crusher said, rolling his
        shoulders and loosening up for the fight he was sure was about to
        happen. For once, though, Titania was the voice of reason. She
        rested a gloved hand on her husband's shoulder and eyed Wonder Man
        for a moment.

        "My Aunt Nancy died two weeks ago," she said, swallowing the shake
        in her voice. "We came to pay our respects." Simon looked
        legitimately surprised by her answer, and looked from her to Crusher
        and back before he said anything more.

        "Cooper says your with the CSA now."

        "What of it?" Crusher snapped. Titania knew why, though. Ever since
        their quest to reform had been taken up by the CSA, it seemed like
        they were being mistaken for the bad guys at every turn. News hounds
        like Gayle Rogers, other heroes like the Defenders, and everyone in
        between still focused on their stints with the Masters of Evil.
        Nobody focused on the good they were doing now, and it had slowly
        begun grating on Carl's nerves.

        "Come with me," Simon said, motioning for both of them to follow. He
        stepped carefully around the graves, the fresh, but slightly frozen
        snow crunching underfoot as he walked. He curled around one large
        headstone and stopped, motioning for both of them to come and have a
        look. When they came to an uneasy stop next to him, they read the
        stone. Titania admired the epitaph "The World Still Needs Heroes",
        but she didn't recognize the name.

        "Any reason you're pointin' this out?" Crusher grunted, looking
        sidelong at Wonder Man. Wonder Man kept his eyes on the stone,
        though.

        "You owe the man that's buried here an awful lot, Creel," he said.

        "Why's that?"

        "I read a few old files while I was on monitor duty at the Mansion
        last week," he said. "A handful were by Thor's successor,
        Thunderstrike, about some of his solo work as the new Thor. One of
        them mentioned you. Both of you."

        "So?"

        "So," Williams huffed, growing impatient with the Absorbing Man's
        barks and snaps. "They were written by Eric Masterson." The
        connection came to Titania instantly and she gasped. Crusher was
        having a little bit of difficulty.

        "You mean to tell me--"

        "Yes."

        The Absorbing Man looked sadly at the tombstone before him. He
        didn't look away when he spoke again. "Why're you telling us this?"

        "Valarie Cooper seems to think you're being legitimate with your bid
        to reform. So does my brother.(5) I don't know either way, but I
        thought reminding you of your promise might help me sleep a little
        easier. That and Eric seemed like the kind of guy that would want
        you to know."

        Wonder Man left without another word, and both of the Creels were
        fine with that. Titania stood and stared in amazement at the stone,
        wondering if Williams had shown them this to remind them of their
        oaths, or to show them that sometimes even the good guys get the
        shaft. She couldn't believe that a man that once claimed the title
        of Thor, God of Thunder, was buried not twenty feet away from Nancy
        McPherran, a seventy year old lady that didn't even have the
        strength to raise a glass to her lips when she died. Something about
        it seemed wrong. Almost blasphemous.

        Carl Creel had had a far more profound reaction to Wonder Man's
        revelation. He'd dropped to his knees right there in the snow and
        wept like a baby. He never really explained why he'd reacted that
        way, but he hadn't needed to. Titania was his wife, and she
        understood all too well.


        *****


        [Present]


        "You know...I never would have thought that--"

        "I know," she said, resting her head against his shoulder as they
        stood and looked down at his grave.

        "Hey! Hey, get away from there!" a boy shouted, charging like a
        football linebacker at the pair. At first, the Creels thought he was
        speaking to someone else, but they soon realized they were the only
        ones there. Carl held his surprised hands out, ready to throw the
        kid off course, but he froze. Something in the kid's eyes stopped
        him cold. That momentary trance was enough, and the kid slammed into
        him at full speed, becoming the first human being in years to
        actually knock the wind out of the Absorbing Man.

        "Whoa there, sport," Titania said, grabbing the kid's wrists before
        he could drive his angry fists into Crusher's face. It wouldn't do
        to have this kid pissing him off and getting hurt by accident.
        Pulling him up, despite his wriggling and struggling, Titania
        managed to get him off of her husband, and look back to
        Crusher. "You okay, baby?"

        "Yeah...yeah, I'm good. Squirt just surprised me, is all."

        "Get offa me! Get away from his grave! You don't have any right to
        be here!"

        "You're his kid, ain't you?" Carl asked, looking at the struggling
        Jr. High kid carefully. Titania was surprised, but she understood
        why her husband had frozen up now. As she looked at the boy, she
        thought she could see the resemblance too. The eyes...it was always
        the eyes. The kid didn't answer, and when Crusher got close enough,
        the kid spit right in his face. "Yeah, I'd be pretty mad too, I
        guess. Now if I tell Legs to set you down, are you gonna play nice?
        If not, she can hold you there all day long, you know."

        He nodded.

        "Good. What's yer name?"

        "Kevin."

        "Okay, Kev, I guess you know who we are, right?" He mumbled
        something, but all they were able to make out of it was Masters of
        Evil, and jail. They ignored it. "We're not here to do anything to
        your old man's grave, kid. We're here paying our respects just like
        you."

        "Right," he said. "Like you care."

        "More than you know, kid," Carl said, and even Titania did a double-
        take. She had only ever heard that tone on her husband's lips once,
        and that was on the day he had proposed. It was his same gritty
        voice, but impossibly soft and gentle at the same time. It got her
        attention, that was for sure. It had also gotten the attention of
        Kevin Masterson. None of them spoke for a moment, just staring at
        one another, then Carl sighed and explained.

        "I never thought I really cared that much," he said, as much to his
        wife as to Kevin. "See, kid, a couple years back, your old man did
        me an' Legs here a big favor. He let us go."

        "He wouldn't--" Kevin started, but Crusher cut him off.

        "Just listen. He would, and he did. He let us go so we could get
        married and go the straight an' narrow. It was a deal we made,
        see...I promised not to be a bad guy anymore, and your dad, he took
        me for my word. Nobody had ever done that for me before. Nobody, not
        even my own Pops. Turned out to be one of the roughest promises I
        ever made. It was hard, goin' straight, and we fumbled the ball a
        few times. (6) But we kept tryin', 'cuz...well, we owed it to
        ourselves to try, and we owed your old man for helpin' us out."

        "You're still villains, though," Kevin grunted. "Everyone still
        looks at you the same way."

        "Yeah, they do," Titania said. "But that's not what it's about. It's
        about doing the right thing despite what everyone thinks."

        "See, your old man knew that. He knew that it would be hard, but he
        knew that it was the right thing to do, lettin' us go. He knew that
        if we managed to change our ways, that'd be two more people out
        there protectin' the folks that needed lookin' after."

        "Like you," Titania said, watching Kevin's face. A small tear
        trickled down his cheek. A matching one had slipped down her
        husband's cheek as well.

        "I owe everything I've got to your dad, kid. Everything. My Pops
        used ta say that everyone in the world has a path they have to walk,
        and some people's path is harder than other folks'. I figure your
        dad was there to show me an' Skeeter where our path was supposed to
        go, so that we knew where to walk. He could've fought us and
        probably would've whupped us good in the long run, but he picked a
        better way."

        "What was that?"

        "Mercy, kid. He showed us mercy. Think you can manage the same?"

        The Absorbing Man, ex-Master of Evil, one of the most dangerous men
        on the face of the Earth, held out his hand, and young Kevin
        Masterson looked at him carefully. He studied the man's gray eyes,
        hoping to see whatever it had been that convinced his father that
        this man was worthy of his mercy and forgiveness. He hunted for
        anything that hinted at this man being worth a second chance. Kevin
        looked to his father's tombstone for guidance, and found it easily
        enough. His father's epitaph spoke volumes to what the bald man
        before him had just been saying. The world did need heroes, and if
        the Absorbing Man and Titania were volunteering for the job, Kevin
        Masterson wasn't going to be the one to stand in his way. He reached
        forward and shook the man's hand.

        "My dad trusted you," he said, standing. "I guess I should too."

        Titania watched the two men turn towards the grave that held a
        fallen Avenger and a smile began to curl on her lips once more.
        Kevin Masterson accepted their change of heart. That was one. Now
        all they had to do was convince everyone else.


        [To Be Continued....]

        Footnotes:
        1. See Avengers Unplugged #5
        2. Back in the original Secret Wars.
        3. During the RMU Avengers' Siege of the Mansion storyline!
        4. Back when Eric Masterson was playing Thor in the RMU!
        5. The Grim Reaper, for those that don't know.
        6. Look in the pages of RMU's pre-Onslaught Hulk and Amazing Spider-
        Man, for examples.


        Alternate Marvel Presents.....

        "Holy Roller"
        Writer: Josh Greer
        Ritual Sacrifice: JM
        Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs


        The Fringes of Downtown Chicago


        Liam McKinnon smiled like a young boy on Christmas morning as his
        limo pulled up to the front of the building. It was like seeing the
        Christmas tree for the first time as you came down the stairs, its
        base smothered in brightly wrapped gifts and outrageously large bow
        ties. Rather than waiting just one year for Santa to return and
        grant him his every wish, though, Liam felt as though he had been
        waiting a lifetime.

        "How long's it been now, Mr. McKinnon?" asked Horace, his rather
        burly driver. He and Horace had known one another for almost a
        decade, and despite the man's continued status as a servant, Liam
        couldn't help but think of the man as a friend, or perhaps a
        brother. While they hadn't realized it initially, Liam and Horace
        had come to discover that they shared the same beliefs about the
        world, and Liam knew that despite his calm demeanor, the driver was
        dealing with the same growing excitement he felt, himself.

        "Four and a half years," Liam said, his voice distant and awed by
        the sight sprouting out of the dingy chunk of Chicago's streets. It
        was beautiful.

        "When are we going to tell people?"

        "A press conference has been scheduled for tomorrow." he answered
        absently, scanning the cars in the lot. There were three, and he
        recognized them all.

        The first belonged to a man he knew only as "Jumbo". The man was of
        Asian descent, but Liam had never gathered up the courage to come
        out and ask the man more specific questions about his heritage. He
        hadn't felt too good calling the man Jumbo either, truth be told,
        but he had insisted, so Liam acquiesced. Jumbo was the foreman of
        the job, and another amongst the faithful. He had as much personal
        stake in the building as Liam or Horace, and was smiling brightly at
        the door while the pair pulled into their parking space.

        The second automobile, an evergreen Ford Ranger, belonged to Brett
        Mero, liaison between Liam and the city. After all, on such a long
        and important bit of construction, some form always needed filling
        out, or some assurances needed to be made, or protections needed to
        be granted. There was always something. The important thing was that
        Mero was on Liam's side, and not the city's. As he thought about it,
        for the first time in his three year association with Brett, Liam
        realized he wasn't sure if Mero was a man of faith or not. He would
        have to make a point of asking today.

        The third car, a long, black Lincoln town car, belonged to one of
        his two partners in this endeavor: Dory Anderson. Dory, Liam, and
        Kerry Karbo had created this vision, and the two like it that would
        open in the next two weeks in Los Angeles and New York. They were
        the visionaries who, six years ago, had come to a simple agreement.
        An agreement that had changed their lives for the better, and one
        that -- to the best of his knowledge -- none of them had regretted
        for an instant.

        Opening the door and sparing Horace the effort, Liam stepped out of
        the limo and walked alongside his massive friend to the front door
        of the magnificent structure. He met Jumbo and Dory there, and saw
        Brett sitting just inside, gazing in amazement at the building
        around him. When he heard Liam enter, he got to his feet and smiled
        a rather goofy smile.

        "This is amazing," he said, his voice hushed out of respect. "I
        mean, I always knew it would be something...but I never imagined
        anything like this! The intricacy of the etchings alone is
        breathtaking. And the functionality is even better than we
        discussed."

        "How so?" Liam asked, surprised by the news.

        "We were able to get enriched titanium for the interior walls,
        rather than the steel in the original plans. It cost a little more,
        but Mr. Anderson had money left over from his building to loan to
        us. There's a three inch thick layer of titanium between the
        exterior and interior brick, as well as full titanium/vibranium mesh
        shielding on the subbasement and scanning equipment in the arch. The
        archway's keystone holds a full-spectrum bio-scanner designed by
        Henry Pym and Tony Stark, equal to the scanners used on the Avengers
        Mansion gates, and...." Brett stopped to catch his breath and just
        shook his head. "Sir, even the chairs are reinforced. It's truly
        amazing."

        "Isn't it?" Liam nodded, taking a seat in one of those same
        reinforced chairs. Sturdy, but comfortable. Yes, they would do
        nicely. He turned to Dory. "I trust Kerry will be here in time for
        the announcement?"

        "Yes," Dory said with a nod, looking through his thick, coke-bottle
        glasses at the stained glass of the windows. "The jet will be
        landing this afternoon. I was hoping that Horace would do us the
        honor of picking him up from the airport."

        "Of course," Horace nodded, taking a slip of paper from Dory. It
        listed a time and gate, and he read it once before shoving it into
        his pocket.

        "The world will look at us like we're nuts, you know," said Jumbo.
        His round, jiggly body sat down on one of the reinforced chairs and
        proved its worth. Liam was more concerned with the discontent on the
        Asian man's face.

        "This has never concerned you in the past," he said.

        "It's easy to overlook things when they're so far off."

        "You wish to leave us then?"

        "No," Jumbo answered, shaking his head and making his cheeks quiver
        like Jell-O. "I just wanted to be the voice of the world for a
        moment. Devil's advocate."

        "We've noted that concern in our meetings," Dory said, resting a
        calming hand on Jumbo's shoulder. "We believe it is something we can
        afford to overlook. I, for one, don't believe it will be as much of
        a difficulty as you think."

        "I agree," said Brett Mero. Liam smiled, glad to see he didn't have
        to ask his rather unusual question after all. "I don't think it'll
        be a problem. I've been probing some people at the mayor's office
        over the last few months, they all seemed at least mildly receptive
        to the idea."

        "I must say, Brett," Liam said. "I am pleased to see that you are
        with us fully in the endeavor." Brett nodded, blushing slightly.

        "I wouldn't have taken the job otherwise, sir."


        *****


        The Next Day: Fifteen Minutes Before the Press Conference


        "Gentlemen, this is the time in which history will be most curious,"
        said Kerry Karbo, smoothing the wrinkles in his robes. "These
        moments before the announcement. People will look back on these days
        and wonder just what was going through our collective heads. They'll
        wonder what kind of insane thing we might have done to dream all
        this up and make it work, and they'll wonder what we planned to do
        if it failed. You know what I say to that?"

        "No doubt something extraordinarily long-winded," joked Dory,
        getting a smile from his longtime friend.

        "I say let them believe we're mad and crazy and men of pure evil,
        because we three know, far better than they, the kind of men we are."

        "Napolean thought he was a good man, too," teased Dory.

        "And Hitler," nodded Kerry with a downtrodden look. "Of course, they
        were both military men. We are not. The worst atrocities we can be
        found guilty of is wasting time."

        "A sin if ever there was one," muttered Liam. He had blocked out
        most of Kerry's ramblings over the last hour, as they donned their
        robes for the first time. He'd spent far more concentration on the
        words he was about to speak, and the etchings within the building
        itself. They were quite intricate and telling, just as Mero had
        said. He would have to arrange a substantial tip for the masons that
        molded and etched the bricks.

        Looking towards his comrades, Liam McKinnon realized that in a more
        symbolic world they might be seen as a trinity of sorts. Perhaps
        even a living allegory for the Holy Trinity with he -- the serious
        one -- as the Father, the joking and sentimental Dory as the Son,
        and the energetic Kerry -- of course -- as the Holy Spirit. He knew
        that, invariably, someone outside the doors would see it that way,
        but he didn't care. Let them think what they would, it wasn't his
        job to change their mind. It was only his job to explain his own.

        "Gentlemen, it is time," he said, pulling open the dual oak,
        reinforced doors of the building and stepping out onto the entrance
        in his white robes. Navy sashes hung around his waist and neck,
        trimmed in the deepest crimson. Around his neck hung a doubled arch
        of silver. A perfect letter M. Behind him, Kerry and Dory wore
        robes, sashes, and pendants, and the photographers were already
        taking dozens of pictures.

        "Please, please," Liam said, raising a hand to the crowd. "Keep some
        of your film for the tour." They chuckled, but stopped taking
        pictures. Liam cleared his throat and adjusted one of the
        microphones to cut down on the feedback, then he began the words
        he'd prepared.

        "I am Bishop Liam McKinnon, and I welcome you to this blessed
        occasion. Today, myself and Bishops Anderson and Karbo, unveil not
        only the structure behind us, but the belief for which it stands to
        the world. We invite you inside to be the first witnesses to the
        Church of Marvels." A murmur of shock and disbelief rose through the
        crowd, and Liam nodded. It was to be expected, as Jumbo had pointed
        out the day before.

        Despite the disbelief, the reporters and photographers followed the
        trio of bishops inside, and were silenced by the majesty of the
        building itself. The stained-glass windows depicted seven images of
        the most well known costumed adventurers in the world: Thor, Iron
        Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Goliath and
        the Wasp, and the Angel. The Bishop explained that the windows were
        created to represent what he called the Seven Aspects of Marvel:
        Divinity, Defense, Inspiration, Persecution, Family, Reliability,
        and Acceptance.

        "Each Aspect," said Bishop McKinnon, "represents a piece of
        ourselves and tells us who we really are. Recognizing these things,
        these pieces of ourselves, allows us to see our potential in the
        world, and allows us to grow enough to reach that potential."

        From there, the Bishop pointed out the etchings. Each interior brick
        in the entire structure, except the keystone of the entrance
        archway, was etched with Marvelite Script, a series of symbols
        invented by the trio of bishops that represented each individual
        Marvel. He mentioned that no two etchings in any of the three
        Churches was the same, and that they would never be able to build
        enough churches to provide the proper homage to all the Marvels.

        "It is a task we aspire to, all the same," he said humbly.

        "A question, if I may, Bishop?"

        "Of course, Ms. McLauren."

        "What, exactly, does your church preach? Christianity, Islam,
        Judaism, Buddhism, these all teach very specific things. What does
        the Church of Marvels provide that separates it from the rest? Or is
        your church, and I hope you'll forgive me for phrasing it this way,
        just fanatical 'hero worship'?"

        "An understandable question, Ms McLauren," Liam said with a
        grandfatherly smile and a nod of understanding for her slight. "Our
        church preaches one simple thing: The stories of the Marvels. They
        are parables of their own, after all. Spider-Man is persecuted daily
        for his deeds, yet he continues to swing through New York protecting
        the innocent without regard for the world's views on him. Wouldn't
        you say that speaks volumes in the vein of the Bible's "Do unto
        others"? Captain America, likewise, was thought dead for years, only
        to return to us just as he left. Quite a bit like a resurrection,
        wouldn't you say?

        "Each of the Marvels has a story that teaches us right and wrong and
        instructs us to overcome the difficulties of the world. They teach
        us to rise above the pressures of man and mutant, and stand for
        ourselves and the betterment of all. If you believe nothing else we
        preach here, Ms. McLauren, believe this: The Church of Marvels has
        the same base principle as any other organization of faith. We wish
        to give help and guidance to those who need it, and in the process,
        make the world a better place in which we all may live."

        "Sir, Phillip Urich from the Daily Bugle," a young man said from the
        pew behind the Bishop. "Aren't you worried about negative feedback
        on all this? Or the attention your church may garner from super-
        villains?"

        "The Church has ways of dealing with those darkest of Marvels, Mr.
        Urich," Liam answered calmly. "As for unwarranted negativity, as I
        said, the Church's message is one of perseverance. If the world
        doubts our teachings and convictions, that is for them to deal with
        as they will. My brothers and I, however, shall suffer through and
        insure our message is heard."


        [The End? Perhaps.]


        Alternate Marvel Presents....

        "Fruit-Filled Vengeance!"


        The Word Guy: Josh Greer
        The Living Spell check: JM
        Big Giant Head: Liam Gibbs


        "All right, men, and Linda...this is it," he said, shifting the
        silver skull gearshift quickly and whirling towards them. His four
        allies grinned evilly as they looked up at him. "We let them get the
        best of us before...will we do it again?!"

        "No!" his compatriots answered in unison, pumping their collective
        fists in the air.

        "Then lets go!" he shouted, pumping his own fist in the air before
        whirling the wrecking ball around and shifting into drive.

        Honestly, the Home Wrecker was surprised they had been able to get
        this close. It seemed that, in the past, they had been spotted and
        taken down with ease. The Ricochet Monster, Icemaster, Battleaxe,
        and the Hairdresser had all been bested quickly and efficiently by
        the so-called heroes of the world, but now that they'd united,
        nobody had so much as batted an eye. Not that he was complaining,
        mind you. He'd gone through considerable effort to plan this caper,
        and he didn't want to see so much as a jogger in spandex if he could
        avoid it.

        Thankfully, his little Horde had taken to his plan with a child's
        enthusiasm, practically salivating at the possibilities. He glanced
        their way again as he steered the bulky vehicle towards the factory
        that was their target. The enormous Ricochet Monster had fought Thor
        to a near standstill, bouncing everything the so-called thunder god
        had right back at him. Icemaster had battled both the Human Torch
        and Iceman and nearly won both times. The Hairdresser had come close
        to besting the Torch as well, thanks to her super hair-drier.
        Battleaxe had the loot in his hands and was on his way out when Iron
        Man showed up. As for the Home Wrecker, Spider-Man had been his
        downfall. All because the heroes had used an unexpected weapon
        against them. Something that they couldn't have possibly planned
        for. Something so heinous...so revolting that the Home Wrecker could
        scarcely believe the heroes would sink so low...

        But now the Horde would have their vengeance. The heroes could wait.
        First they would have their revenge on the people that had given
        their enemies such a weapon. They'd destroy the factory as a
        message, then the heroes would pay.

        Swinging his enormous wrecking ball, the Home Wrecker demolished the
        fence surrounding the factory and grounds with one foul swoop,
        flattening it and allowing the Ricochet Monster to storm ahead. The
        only partially trained security for the plant rushed to the now-
        crushed fence and fired a few shots with their pistols, but the
        bullets just struck the Ricochet Monster's impossibly hard hide and
        bounced off in every direction. From behind him, the Icemaster and
        the Hairdresser dealt with the guards quickly, Icemaster freezing
        them to the ground, while the Hairdresser used her super hair-drier
        to blow them into a pile for her partner to deal with.

        "Nice work Icemaster, Hairdresser!" shouted Home Wrecker as he
        climbed down from his wrecker, laser rifle in hand. "Battleaxe! Make
        us a doorway!"

        "With pleasure, boss," answered the axe-wielding merc in the semi-
        medieval armor. Rushing forward with a series of clinks and clanks,
        Battleaxe pulled his ax overhead and swung for all he was worth,
        carving a hole into the side of the factory with ease. Alarms began
        to blare all around them, and the Ricochet Monster clapped his hands
        over his ears, roaring back at the alarms as though they were some
        sort of enemy beast. Home Wrecker had a struggle getting the
        Monster's attention, but he did, ordering the creature into the
        building with the others.

        "Can someone shut that blasted alarm off?" bellowed the Home
        Wrecker, frightening the stunned night crew even more. While he'd
        hopped around outside trying to get the Monster's focus off the
        sirens, Hairdresser and the others had gathered the factory's
        skeleton crew together on the processing plant's floor. One of the
        workers nervously raised his hand, and Icemaster dragged him away. A
        few seconds later the sirens died away, and the smile returned to
        the Home Wrecker's face.

        "We did it, boss!" cackled the Hairdresser, her enormous orange hair
        bobbing atop her head as she skipped around the plant's floor,
        celebrating her victory.

        "Oh...I wouldn't go that far," a voice sounded from behind the
        Horde. Standing in the gaping hole that was once the factory wall
        stood the Swordsman and Magdalene.

        "No...NO! You will not ruin my revenge!" yelled the Home Wrecker,
        leveling his laser-pistol at the pair of Avengers. "Destroy them!
        Destroy them right f***ing now!"

        "Such language," smiled Magdalene, ducking under a barrage of laser
        blasts and slamming her staff into Battleaxe's armored stomach. "I
        know you are villains, but that's no excuse."

        "Forgive them, my love," said the Swordsman, blocking an ice blast
        from the Icemaster and somersaulting into a kick that slammed across
        the villain's jaw. "I fear their less-than-noble work has caused
        their vocabulary to shrink."

        "The only thing that's gonna shrink is your lifespan, you
        egotistical piece of--OW! Get out of the way you idiot!" Home
        Wrecker shrieked, his face growing beat red as a blast recoiled off
        the Ricochet Monster's hide and bit at his own trigger finger.

        "Do you see what happens to little boys who speak that way now?"
        said Magdalene, knocking the super hair-drier out of the
        Hairdresser's hand and knocking the villainess out cold with stiff
        right hook. "They get punished!" The Home Wrecker wanted to respond,
        but he couldn't. Magdalene's armored foot had already slammed into
        his mid-section, knocking the wind out of him. Unable to regain his
        breath, the leader of the short-lived Horde passed out.

        "Hold still, blast it!" yelled Battleaxe, who has managed to hold
        onto his weapon and was using it quite well against the Swordsman's
        blade. It was quite obvious to Phillip that the villain was easily
        the most skilled of the assembled group, even if he wasn't the
        brightest. "Ricochet! Get over here!" he belted, swatting away a
        weak thrust from the Swordsman. Slamming his ax into the Ricochet
        Monster on the back swing, Battleaxe proved he was actually quite a
        bit brighter than the Swordsman had given him credit for. The long-
        handled ax shot forward at twice the speed, and it took every bit of
        the Swordsman's reflexes to block it. Even then, the Avenger was
        thrown backwards into the crates behind him.

        "Phillip!" Magdalene shouted as her purple-garbed love was thrown
        into the crates. She turned towards the pair before her and measured
        them carefully as they approached. Leveling her staff carefully,
        Magdalene fired an energy blast directly into the Ricochet Monster's
        chest. As expected, the blast bounced off the beast's chest and into
        the side of Battleaxe's head. The blast rattled him, but he didn't
        fall.

        "Adamantium, hot stuff," he smirked. "You ain't crackin' this shell."

        "Perhaps not," Maggie answered, firing again. This time, the blast
        hit a little lower, but ricocheted the same way and crashed into
        Battleaxe's exposed chin. The blast sent the mercenary soaring
        across the plant floor. "But their are other ways to strike you."
        she finished, pleased with her handiwork. She quickly refocused on
        the largest of the five villains, though...the Ricochet Monster.

        The creature was simply enormous, and Magdalene did not know how she
        would possibly overcome such a mammoth enemy, considering its unique
        abilities. When she saw something zip past her head, though,
        Magdalene found that she wouldn't have to. Whatever it had been
        captured the creature's attention, and it caught the object. A
        second later, it tore open a package and flopped down to the plant's
        floor, smiling.

        "Wha--?"

        "You'll never believe this," the Swordsman said, his blade sheathed
        as he walked over to her from the demolished crates he had landed
        on. "The revenge that little one was talking about? This is who they
        were trying to get back at." Taking the package from the Swordsman,
        Magdalene looked down and shifted it a little to make sure she was
        reading it properly:

        Hostess Apple Pie.

        "I guess it's true...nobody can resist the fruit filling of a
        Hostess Fruit Pie," she muttered, looking back at the Ricochet
        Monster, still sitting and chopping happily.


        [The End]


        Author's Note: Yes, all of the villains in this story appeared in
        those lovable ads for Hostess Twinkies and Fruit Pies, though I
        believe the Hairdresser actually appeared in one of DC's tales,
        opposed by the Red Tornado. I tried to find the old ads to be sure,
        but well...I've got a LOT of comics from that era, and when I
        couldn't find them after a couple boxes I gave up. It might interest
        some to know that Icemaster later got his break into the RMU as a
        part of the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil in Thunderbolts. Two of
        these characters may also appear down the road in some of my own
        projects, but it's too soon to confirm those plans. Stay tuned,
        though, True Believers...who knows what could happen!


        Alternate Marvel Presents...

        Tired of being defenseless when super-villains and mystic threats
        arise, the city of Detroit decided to do something! By a narrow
        majority, a new ordinance was passedÂ…. An ordinance calling for the
        formation of Detroit's Champions!

        Currently Off Duty: Aquon--Half-Fish Hero!
        Pyron--The Thermal Man!
        Atom Smasher--Nuclear Powerhouse!
        Illusion--Master Magician!
        Earth-Lord--Growing Goliath!


        The Champions
        "Day Off"
        By John Flint

        {Originally presented as The Champions #3}


        Mayor Rodgers growled as he slammed the newspaper down on his desk.
        A number of editorials that shredded apart the Champions, for
        something like the fifth day in a row. Public opinion had slumped to
        a dramatically low level. The mayor's big idea needed a big boost if
        it was going to survive.

        Luckily, he heard something on the radio that made him smile. "Mr.
        Lee?"

        The mayor's assistant rushed into the room. Mayor Rodgers had a hint
        of excitement in his voice, something very uncommon for the
        man. "Yes, sir?"

        "I need to make a call to Los Angeles."

        [The Highland Park Fire Station]

        Dr. Nagan, his boredom and bitterness visible, groaned, "Nothing
        appears to be wrong with you, Pyron."

        Pyron exclaimed, "Are you sure, Doc? I--"

        Nagan cut him off, "Maybe you just weren't as powerful as you
        thought when you tried to take Frostbite down? (1)"

        "No," Pyron raged, "I know my power, and its limits. I was nowhere
        near my maximum output when I started to run out of juice."

        Nagan shrugged, "Then drink more juice," and walked out.

        Pyron stared down at his hand, enraged by everything: the doctor's
        refusal to help and/or incompetence, his own weakness, and
        Frostbite's making him look bad. He had let the team down, and on
        their first outing against a true super-villain. Of course, it also
        didn't exactly help them win the media over any.

        "What's wrong with me?"

        [Elsewhere]

        Aquon walked back towards the station as he read his latest purchase
        and drank a slurpee. His 'civvies' were a little too tight for his
        taste, but he was glad enough that they could find anything for a
        seven foot man-fish that he wasn't about to go and complain about it.

        This was everyone's day off; not that they had been doing much on
        their 'on' days lately, anyway. Help demolish a few abandoned
        buildings, break up a few nasty gang fights, but overall it had been
        a fairly easy-going couple of weeks. Plenty of reading time.

        Aquon wondered what the other Champions were doing today. Earth-Lord
        had some day job that he didn't care to talk about; the level of
        trust between teammates was still too low for Aquon's taste. They
        needed to be able to have the utmost trust in each other if they
        were going to be working together in such potentially hazard
        situations as they might have to occasionally go up against.

        Pyron had to see Dr. Nagan, the team's physician, about something or
        other. He hadn't said anything specific about that. More of that
        brilliant Champions trust. Whatever it was, it wasn't the general
        physical check-up; Nagan had done that for everyone the day he came.
        Not one of Aquon's personal highlights of his short time with the
        team.

        Atom Smasher said he had some personal errands to attend to. He
        seemed pretty nice, in Aquon's opinion. Camera shy and willing to
        stay back when others want to be in charge, and the worst driver
        he'd ever seen, but other than that, he seemed to be a pretty laid
        back, casual, ordinary guy. He didn't really seem to be concealing
        anything from the rest of the team, so much as he didn't seem to
        have anything he believed was worth talking about.

        Illusion and Glamour... what happened there? Aquon still didn't have
        many details, but what he could gather is that they had some major
        argument, and Glamour stormed out. Why, no one but Glamour and,
        possibly, Illusion knew. Now, whenever possible, Illusion just sat
        around whenever not working and kept the atmosphere at the station
        depressed. Atom Smasher and Aquon tried several times every day to
        cheer him up, but every attempt so far had been met with complete
        and utter failure. Maybe it was just a married people thing...

        So now, with no female members, nearly no clear successes that the
        police couldn't do just as well, the Champions were far from well-
        received. No one had actually gone so far as to throw anything at
        Aquon, verbally or physically, but, then again, he was a seven-foot
        man-fish, strong as the Hulk.

        As Aquon walked and thought, a bullet surprisingly struck him square
        in the chest. He looked down at the tiny hole it made in his shirt
        as it ricocheted off and hit a woman, who was walking towards Aquon,
        directly between the eyes.

        Aquon stared at the body, mumbling, "Oh God..." repeatedly before
        realizing that for a bullet to kill, someone has to fire it...

        [Meanwhile]

        A man pushed the older man out of the car. "See ya later, pops!" The
        man laughed as he sped away. The older man cried out in pain as his
        hip snapped loose.

        The young man continued to laugh as he looked in his rearview mirror
        at the misery of the old geezer. This had to be the best hobby in
        the world, and Detroit was the best city in the world to get away
        with it...

        ...until something weighing almost a half-ton landed on its hood,
        completely obliterating the hood and sending the back end of it
        flying up. The young man bit his tongue as his head slammed into the
        ceiling.

        Dazed, the young man staggered out of the car and collapsed. His
        injured tongue on the pavement, he looked up and saw what hit him. A
        large gray monster.

        "A lot easier to hassle old geezers, ain't it?" The monster asked.

        The young man peed his pants in reply.

        "Too bad I ain't a geezer, huh?" The monster picked the young man
        up, and leaped over to where the older man was. There, he saw that
        the old man had broken a hip.

        "Eye for an eye," The monster smiled before tapping the young man's
        hip with the side of his hand. The hip bone instantly smashed into
        millions of tiny bone fragments. The young man screamed out in pain
        as the monster dropped him on the ground. "Hip for a hip."

        The monster took something out of his pocket; a cell phone. "Hello,
        I'm going to need an ambulance, two men with broken hips, one old,
        the other a young man who tried to steal his car."

        "My name?" The monster smiled. "I'm the Hulk."

        [At the same time]

        Atom Smasher sat back in his only chair, next to his only couch. The
        apartment wasn't much, but it would do, for now. Tomorrow, he would
        have to suit up in his armor again; how he was able to switch
        between his normal clothes and the green armor whenever he willed
        it, he wasn't really sure. He just could.

        Atom Smasher needed to sit down and spend some time studying his
        powers, and practicing until he had them all down perfectly. If he
        were to accidentally expose his friends to too much radiation,
        well... that would kinda suck.

        He also needed to come up with a better secret identity name
        than 'Art Faxanadu.' He couldn't use his real name, of course, not
        with everything in his past... but that, the best he could do when
        he got his fake driver's license, was just pathetic. He didn't
        really look much like an 'Art.'

        'Art Faxanadu' flipped on his television, by jiggling his index
        finger in the air just right. One of his favorite of his abilities.
        What he saw, he didn't much care for; Aquon was alone in the street,
        looking into the air as someone shot round after round down around
        him. Probably not a good thing.

        'Art' switched to his armor and flew out the window.

        [Meanwhile]

        Aquon screamed, "Everybody, stay back! If he hits me, it may bounce
        off and hit you!"

        The police quickly came and helped keep everyone back. Aquon could
        hear them mumble about how much of a 'help' this Champion was at the
        moment. Just the kind of encouragement Aquon needed to hear right
        now. Right.

        Aquon squinted as he found the sniper. So... now what? If he rushed
        towards the building, the sniper could still pick off a person or
        two before he could get to him. Him? It could theoretically be a
        female, though probability would suggest otherwise...

        Aquon glanced around. Anything to throw at him? No, Aquon didn't
        quite have that good of aim yet; he'd just barely begun training his
        hand/eye coordination for such maneuvers, and hadn't been successful
        anywhere near that range just yet. He wasn't sure if he could jump
        up there or not; he'd never really tried before, and this would be a
        terrible time to try and find out that he couldn't.

        Atom Smasher flew down beside Aquon. "'Sup?"

        "Not much," Aquon replied, "Just screwing our chances of public
        approval further."

        "Sounds good," Atom Smasher said, "Mind if I help?"

        "Not at all," Aquon smiled, "Be my guest."

        Atom Smasher erected green shields over the bystanders who were
        still out in the open, along with the windows of the buildings in
        the surrounding area with people huddled within for safety.

        "Nice," Aquon complimented him.

        "Thanks," Atom Smasher bowed, "You may now take down your sniper."

        "No, thank you," Aquon marched towards the building, "Don't mind if
        I do."

        Aquon suddenly stopped as a gray missile slammed down into the
        building through the roof. It just came from out of nowhere, high in
        the sky. No, it wasn't a missile; it possessed no explosive force,
        simply concussive.

        The sniper suddenly came flying out of the window, flailing his arms
        about uselessly. Atom Smasher quickly caught him, saving his life
        from certain death. His stomach had a large, bloody dent in it. The
        sniper was unconscious.

        Aquon stared, in complete disbelief, as a face came to the window. A
        grim, gray face. Aquon looked into its eyes and instantly knew
        exactly who it was, even with all the changes his body had evidently
        gone through. This was most definitely the Hulk.

        Aquon sighed. "Oh crap." (2)

        [The End...]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See last issue!
        2. This issue takes place between scenes in The Incredible Hulk #27,
        coming out this month!
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