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Daniel Gordon Presents #69

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  • Flint
    Daniel Gordon Presents #69 ~~~ Josh Greer ~ Collective Man, Destruction at Midnight, 5/5 Josh Greer ~ Hauptmann Deutschland, Old Warriors, New Ways, 3/3
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 22, 2007
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      Daniel Gordon Presents #69
      ~~~
      Josh Greer ~ Collective Man, "Destruction at Midnight, 5/5"
      Josh Greer ~ Hauptmann Deutschland, "Old Warriors, New Ways, 3/3"
      John Flint ~ Silver Surfer, "Mask of the Mad God, 3/3"
      Josh Greer ~ Sunpyre, "Logging On, 2/3"
      ~~~

      [Tian Tan Park - Beijing, China]


      His name was Chao Shu. For the last twenty-seven years, he had
      labored as a mid-level criminal in the streets of the Hebei province
      of China, and the nation's capital. The thieves and purse-snatchers
      and murderers paid homage to him, and he paid homage to the true
      criminal lords in Beijing. He did not know their names, nor had he
      ever seen their faces. He simply dropped off their portion of his ill-
      gotten gains, and prayed they were satisfied with his collections. He
      was a lackey and a lord, and the duality of his station had slowly
      driven him to the very edge of his sanity.

      So he had changed it. His station, the Beijing underworld, the very
      way his life worked was altered as drastically as possible. His
      servant had taken out his enemies, then he drove the message home by
      committing the killing spree that had covered the Province in the
      last month. It was a process that had lead him here, to Tian Tan, the
      Temple of Heaven. A process that lead him to a confrontation he had
      known was probably inevitable. A process that brought him to the
      attention of China's hero, the Collective Man.

      It had been some time since the Collective Man had been seen in
      Beijing, or anywhere in China for that matter. Rumors floated about
      the criminal element that he had been killed by the Radioactive Man.
      (1) Other stories claimed that he had come to a disagreement with the
      Communist government and been banished or imprisoned. Still more
      tales told of a Collective Man whose will had been shattered beyond
      repair, and forced him into a lifestyle of scavenging through garbage
      cans and hiding in sewers. But now that he stood before the Altar to
      Heaven, Chao Shu knew the truth. The Collective Man, wherever he may
      have been, was very much alive and well.

      A part of the crime lord wished he did not have to give the order he
      was about to give. The Collective Man had become a cultural icon to
      the people, even those in the underworld. Things ran that much more
      efficiently while his underlings understood that the slightest slip
      could lead the hero to their very door. He was a nightmare told to
      young thieves and killers, a symbol that kept them towing their end
      of the line and careful not to make a mistake. On the other hand, he
      was a constant worry and aggravation that made his underlings anxious
      and nervous.

      "Allow me to introduce to you the man for whom I believe you have
      been searching," Chao Shu said, gesturing to the shadowy figure
      behind him. (2) The man stepped forward gracefully. His footfalls
      were soundless, and on a foggy night, the Collective Man may have
      imagined the man was floating. His head was covered in brown hair,
      but the rest of him was coated with a charcoal gray bodysuit. What
      the Collective Man noticed most, however, was the man's eyes. They
      were solid black, save for the two blue-white little circles of a
      pupil.

      "This, my friend, is Midnight," said Chao Shu. "Midnight, kill him."


      *****


      Alternate Marvel Presents...The Collective Man!
      in: "Destruction at Midnight" Part 5


      Writer: Josh Greer
      Editor: JM
      Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs


      *****


      [Back at the Altar of Heaven]


      The Collective Man did not recognize the man before him, but he could
      see clearly enough that this Midnight was dangerous. He guessed that
      he was standing in the fruit of Midnight's efforts, and the unusual
      coloring of the man's eyes made it all too clear that he wasn't quite
      as human as he may have looked. The Collective Man stepped back as
      Midnight stepped forward, and prepared himself for a battle, silently
      awaiting Midnight's attack.

      He did not have to wait long.

      Midnight lunged at the Collective Man with an unnatural swiftness
      that came very close to putting the Collective Man off guard. He
      maintained his poise, however, and allowed his opened palm to thrust
      forward, where it collided with Midnight's face. As soon as his hand
      made contact with the coolness of the covered metal, the Collective
      Man understood what he was up against. Midnight wasn't the ninja or
      assassin he was dressed as. He was a robotic killer, programmed to
      obey Chao Shu's every command. Now that he knew what he was up
      against, the Collective Man felt a bit more relaxed. A man was
      unpredictable, thus harder to beat. Robots, though, only had so many
      tricks.

      As Midnight lunged again, wrist-mounted knives extended, the
      Collective Man allowed his father's combat training to take control.
      The world became perfectly still, and all that existed were he and
      the robotic killer before him. He side-stepped Midnight's attack,
      grasping his wrist and flinging him with a hip toss. Turning
      confidently, the Collective Man locked eyes with Chao Shu. The
      shorter, slightly older crime lord was no longer smiling.

      "Your servant cannot win this battle, Shu," he said calmly.

      "I am afraid I must disagree," Chao Shu said, spotting Midnight
      making an attack at the legs of his opponent. The Collective Man
      sensed the attack, though, and leapt straight up, dodging the
      grasping hands of the robot. Landing with a foot on either side of
      Midnight, the Collective Man dropped to his knees and gripped the
      robot's head.

      Now it was Midnight's turn to anticipate the attack. He twisted his
      body quickly, and grasped the Collective Man's hands, pushing a knee
      into his back and throwing the Chinese hero off of him. He sprang
      back to his feet and whirled again, but rather than lunging once
      more, Midnight waited, allowing the Collective Man to take the
      offensive. He blocked the first two testing punches with ease, but
      the Collective Man had expected no less, throwing the punches only on
      the slim chance they'd get through. Once those two blows were out of
      the way, however, the real battle began.

      The pair circled one another like big cats stalking their prey. Every
      so often, they would take a tentative punch or a testing kick at one
      another, but this only happened once or twice. Then Midnight's
      patience -- if a robot could experience such a thing as patience --
      grew thin. His wrist-blades still extended, he darted one fist
      forward, aiming precisely between the defensively raised hands of the
      Collective Man. Knowing the hero would block the blow, Midnight swung
      again a split second later with the other hand, this one aimed at the
      Chinese mutant's face.

      The Collective Man did, in fact, block the first blow, but not in the
      manner Midnight expected. His hands clapped around the blade mounted
      on Midnight's wrist and used the strength of five men to snap it from
      it's place. He then raised the blade to deflect Midnight's second
      blow, catching the deflected blade in the same shoulder the
      mechanical dragon had sliced through earlier. (3) The Collective Man
      did not allow himself to scream, however. Instead, he adjusted the
      blade in his hands and whirled around, ducking a roundhouse kick and
      hammering the knife into the base of Midnight's robotic neck like a
      railroad spike.

      The robot locked up for a moment, a roar of anger erupting from its
      synthetic vocal cords, then it went completely limp and dropped to
      the pavement. The blue-white lights in Midnight's eyes faded to
      black. For the second time in recent memory, Midnight was dead. (4)
      Only Chao Shu remained.

      Turning towards the spot the crime lord had occupied moments before,
      the Collective Man found nothing but empty air. In the distance he
      heard footsteps though, and sprinted off in that direction. He found
      Chao Shu running for his life, winded and sweaty just two blocks
      away. The sight of the Collective Man ahead of him made Shu stop cold.

      "You are responsible for the death of nearly one hundred people,"
      said the Collective Man. His voice was low and angry. It sounded like
      a roar in Shu's ears. "Your robot acted on your behalf...that makes
      you a murderer."

      "You...you'll never prove it!"

      "I will not need to. China has maintained good relations with the
      Fujikawa firm. They will find the evidence in the robot's memory."

      "What do you what? Money? Women? Men?" Shu begged, trying to do
      anything to keep himself out of jail. The Collective Man simply
      walked forward and dragged the begging man up by his collar.

      "I want you to rot."


      ******


      [Two Days Later]


      "...Officials have captured Chao Shu, a noted mid-level gangster from
      Beijing, in connection with the slew of murders that has occurred in
      the last few weeks. Witnesses claim that the Collective Man, rumored
      to be dead in recent months, was actually responsible for capturing
      Shu and deactivating the robot assassin Midnight, whom Shu charged
      was responsible for the actual murders...."

      Walking out of the room, Han Tao Yu smiled. He and his brothers had
      put off their duty for far too long, but now things were back to
      normal. Chang, Lin, Sun, and himself had rededicated themselves to
      the cause of protecting their countrymen as the Collective Man. As
      far as Han was concerned, it was good to be back.


      [The End]


      Footnotes:
      1. Wondering what Dr. Lu is up to? Check out the pages of the AMU's
      Thunderbolts for those answers!
      2. All the dialogue in this tale is translated from Mandarin, thanks
      to the magnificent AltMarvel Translator!
      3. That happened last issue!
      4. Last time was back in AMU's the Sindicate #1!


      [Eastern Berlin, Germany]


      "Bullets? You see me and fire bullets? Ha!" shouted the armored man,
      his voice carrying a mechanical note making it sound hollow and
      somehow evil. (1) The bullets simply bounced off his metal hide,
      ricocheting into buildings, cars, and the corpses of the five German
      police officers he had already dealt with. The officer that was
      firing round after round and trying desperately not to soil himself
      in the process was the last of the six that had initially answered
      the call, and he had never regretted going into police work more in
      his entire life.

      The metallic monstrosity before him was like a walking tank. Green
      and orange in color, the armored man had a deep crimson faceplate
      with sharp metallic horns shooting skyward on either side. His chest
      glowed with a symbol of an ancient and disgraced era of German
      history: the swastika. He walked through the barrage of bullets the
      officers had thrown before him and tossed cars away like they were a
      child's toys.

      The police had never been given a chance. He had ripped the arms and
      legs off of the first officer like he was little more than a
      threadbare teddy bear hugged one too many times by its young owner.
      The next, he crushed with the door of his own squad car, pounding the
      man with it time and again until he could no longer stand. The third,
      a woman, he'd paused before for a moment, then simply reached forward
      and crushed her head like a ripe tomato. The other two perished in
      similar, singular blows. Even now, as he continued to fire, the last
      remaining officer did not believe he had any chance of escape.

      Click, click, click.

      Aside from the hollow, amused laughter of the armored Nazi before
      him, those were the last sounds he ever heard.


      *****


      Alternate Marvel Presents....Hauptmann Deutschland!
      in: "Old Warriors, New Ways" Part 3


      Writer: Josh Greer
      Editor: JM
      Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs


      *****


      [Jetting Towards Eastern Berlin]


      While it may be commonplace in New York, England, Russia, and Canada,
      the sight of a costumed man is hardly a frequent one in Berlin. The
      sight of a flying man is even more rare. Thus, when the people
      walking the streets of Berlin look up and see the black, red, and
      yellow vision of Hauptmann Deutschland soaring east, the stop and
      take it in. To the tourists, the real sight is the look on the faces
      of the Germans, and many imagine that they must have had the same
      look when they first laid eyes on Captain America or their own
      national heroes. It was a look of awe and pride, and it was an
      encouraging sight, indeed.

      In the German skies, Hauptmann Deutschland was oblivious to the
      stares of the German people below, however. His concentration was
      only on staying aloft and getting the place he was aiming for. He had
      believed his duties for the day were done when he did in Lunk and his
      partners, but apparently that was not the case. (2) Friedrich, his
      liaison with the government had given him a rather panicked order to
      get to Eastern Berlin, and then shut down communications, leaving the
      Hauptmann in the dark. He could have been flying into an invading
      army, for all he knew. In fact, given Friedrich's panic, that was
      probably be most likely scenario.

      When he landed, though, the Hauptmann saw something quite different.
      The corpses of several police officers were piled high by the side of
      the road, the remnants of their squad cars set neatly next to them.
      In the middle of the street stood a man in metal armor, a glowing
      swastika emblazoned upon his chest. He'd watched Hauptmann
      Deutschland from the point he came into view, and now that they stood
      across from one another, the metal man simply stared for a moment
      before speaking.

      "Hauptmann Deutschland," he groaned. His mechanical voice sounded
      angry, but the Hauptmann couldn't be sure. The sound was too
      distorted.

      "You have me at a disadvantage, friend," said the Hauptmann. "You
      know my name, but I do not know yours."

      "I am Zeitkrieg," the metallic monster replied. The Hauptmann could
      not avoid a glance towards to the missiles that protruded from the
      rear plate of the armor. He silently prayed that they weren't
      nuclear. He recognized the word as his armored foe said it,
      though. 'Time war'. It was a nickname for a Nazi project he'd been
      briefed about some time ago. One discovered by the American War
      Machine and S.H.I.E.L.D. (4)

      "Very well," the Hauptmann nodded, taking a step forward. "As a
      representative of the German government, I order you to stand down."

      "No," Zeitkrieg replied. "I do not believe that I will."

      In truth, Hauptmann Deutschland hadn't expected him to. It would have
      been foolish to expect it, considering just acknowledging or doodling
      the infamous Nazi symbol on Zeitkrieg's chest was cause enough for
      arrest. Instead, he'd spent the time Zeitkrieg had taken to answer
      absorbing the ambient kinetic energy flowing through the part of
      Berlin they occupied, and readied himself for the battle that was
      about to begin.

      Zeitkrieg was the first to act, charging forward in footfalls that
      sounded like thunderclaps and cocking back a gauntleted hand to
      deliver a massive punch. The Hauptmann focused his energy to his
      strength, preparing to catch the metal fist, but Zeitkrieg was faster
      than he anticipated and actually made contact. The Hauptmann soared
      backward into a truck that was passing by, rolling the automobile
      across the intersection and stopping traffic immediately. Thankfully,
      the truck's driver managed to climb out of the wreck relatively
      unharmed. As Zeitkrieg charged, the Hauptmann was not sure he would
      be so lucky.

      Snatched up by the throat, Hauptmann Deutschland fought to draw
      breath while Zeitkrieg held him aloft, but the armored Nazi soon grew
      tired of the slowness of strangulation. He raised his other gauntlet
      and aimed the small gun barrel at the hero.

      "I am disappointed, Hauptmann," said Zeitkrieg. "I expected Germany's
      vaunted hero to be more of a challenge."

      Normally, the Hauptmann would have replied, but with his throat being
      slowly crushed by Zeitkrieg and the prospect of being shot, he had
      other concerns. He concentrated on the gun barrel aimed at his face,
      and when he heard the click, directed his stored kinetic energy to
      repel the bullet. The tiny bit of metal flew backward past the man
      that fired it and lodged in the side of one of the crumpled squad
      cars instead. Zeitgeist paused, surprised by the change in the
      bullet's trajectory, and when he did the Hauptmann took advantage.

      Boosting his strength, he slammed a charged kick into the slightly
      softer, more malleable golden mesh of the armor and managed to knock
      the wind out of the armored Nazi in the process. Dropping back to the
      ground and taking a deep breath, Hauptmann Deutschland gathered more
      power from the surrounding area, charging his muscles with added
      strength and rushed forward in his own charge.

      Zeitkrieg met him head on, though, and the pair traded blows, neither
      of them getting a solid punch in. Whenever the armored enemy tried to
      fire his gauntlet mounted weapons at him, the Hauptmann would spot
      the attempt and repel the bullets, hoping to be able to direct it
      back into the barrel itself. The bullets traveled far too quickly,
      however, and he couldn't control were they went, only that they
      didn't get any closer to him.

      That did not mean, however, that Hauptmann Deutschland was doing any
      better with his own attacks. Thus far, most of his blows had been
      glancing at best, or blocked outright. Neither of the pair was
      getting any sort of an advantage. Zeitkrieg's metal frame towered
      overhead, and no matter what he did -- including using one of the
      doors from the damaged truck as a makeshift shield-slash-battering
      ram -- the Hauptmann could not get the proper leverage to bring the
      massive man-machine down. Not until Zeitgeist tried to use his most
      obvious weapons.

      Stepping away from a series of punches and throwing the Hauptmann off-
      balance Zeitgeist quickly tried to launch one of the missiles in the
      rear pack of the armor. Doing so took his mind off the battle for a
      split second, however, and that was all Hauptmann Deutschland needed.
      Strengthening his right arm with all the kinetic energy he'd stored
      up, the Hauptmann lunged forward and slammed into Zeitkrieg's
      midsection with a punch that may very well have downed any building
      in Berlin. It barely cracked Zeitkrieg's armor, but as it turned out,
      that was all it took.

      Zeitkrieg didn't seemed fazed by the shot at first. Then, all at
      once, he collapsed and began to jerk about like he was convulsing.
      There was no sound, no spark or smoke. The Hauptmann had no idea what
      was happening, but one thing was clear: the battle was clearly over.


      *****


      [The Office of Friedrich Stern, near Congress Hall]


      "His name was Otto Grinz," said Friedrich. "His grandfather was a
      Nazi scientist working on advancing wartime technology."

      "But what killed him?" asked Dieter. (5)

      "Electrocution," Friedrich answered. "Your punch caused a short
      circuit to be exposed in the armor, and when it made contact with his
      skin, it channeled the armor's power directly into his body. The
      technicians say it would have felt like having all the electricity in
      Munich running through you."

      "And the armor?" Dieter asked, not wanting to even think about the
      pain Grinz must have suffered.

      "We have it in custody. I think it is safe to say that Zeitkrieg is
      safely buried."


      *****


      [Government Storage Locker #458-3]


      "There it is," the man muttered, glancing around. "Get it and get out
      quickly."

      The second man nodded, but did not speak. The two were brothers in
      the same organization. A Nazi organization. The very same one that
      funded Otto Grinz' research. It was a shame that Grinz had to die
      showing the world his latest toy, but the organization was not about
      to let his sacrifice be in vain. As the man loaded the Zeitkrieg
      armor into his cart, he smiled. The next Zeitkrieg would not fail.
      The next Zeitkrieg would rule the world.


      [The End....or is it?]


      Footnotes:
      1. The dialogue in this story is translated from the German, thanks
      to the Mighty AltMarvel Translator, and his sidekick, Puzzleman! (3)
      2. That happened last issue, where were you?
      3. AltMarvel no-prize for anyone that knows who Puzzleman is!
      4. Check out RMU's War Machine #15-16 for the details!
      5. Deiter Stromm, if you missed our first two chapters, is Hauptmann
      Deutschland's real name!



      Alternate Marvel Presents...

      When the planet-devouring Galactus came to destroy the planet Zenn-
      La, the brave Norrin Radd offered his life in exchange for the
      planet. Galactus agreed, and made Norrin his herald, destined to
      search the stars for new planets to satisfy Galactus' hunger.
      Galactus infused Norrin Radd with a portion of the Power Cosmic, and
      thus Norrin Radd became the Silver Surfer. When the Surfer came to
      Earth, he turned on his master, and Galactus condemned him to roam
      the galaxy a wanderer forever. Now the Surfer sails along the cosmic
      pathways... defending the weak from those who would exploit them...

      The Silver Surfer
      "Mask of the Mad God!
      Part Three: The Mad God"
      Guest-Starring Namor, the savage Sub-Mariner!
      November 2006
      ****************************
      Writer: Black John Flint
      Webchief: Jimmy Swag
      ****************************


      On the mountaintop stronghold of the Clan of the True Man, the Silver
      Surfer pulled himself back to his feet before the menace known as
      Doctor Sunshine, surrounded by his Light Lovers Brigade, who prepared
      to blast him with their solar-based weaponry.

      "Surrender now, or face destruction," Dr. Sunshine commanded. His
      fists crackled and sparked with energy stolen from the natural
      sunlight. He had already knocked the Surfer down with one blast; he
      was confident that a few more could destroy him.

      "You say that you have already destroyed one 'of my kind' today?" The
      Silver Surfer asked, his eyes beginning to glow with the awesome
      Power Cosmic.

      "Indeed," Dr. Sunshine revealed, smugly, "and I believe he was an old
      friend of yours. Atlantean mutie freak, name of Namor."

      "You have harmed the noble Sub-Mariner?"

      "I have," Dr. Sunshine chuckled, blasting the Silver Surfer with both
      fists' built-up power. He staggered as the Silver Surfer stood,
      unmoved by the powerful onslaught.

      "Before, you caught me unaware," the Silver Surfer said, "as I can
      only suppose you did with Prince Namor. In you, I sense nothing but
      wickedness and bloodlust, and so I feel no pity for you as I did for
      those simple beasts your men called Doomsday Dogs."

      A bolt of Power Cosmic lashed out in a ring around the Surfer,
      knocking down the four members of the Light Lovers Brigade and their
      master, Doctor Sunshine himself. The Surfer walked over to Dr.
      Sunshine and grabbed his helmet with both hands, staring into his
      eyeslits and burning with rage and worry and Power Cosmic.

      "Ggggh," Dr. Sunshine said, as the alien pierced his mind, scouring
      it for the data he needed.

      "Good," the Surfer said, "I see that you merely incapacitated the Sub-
      Mariner and brought him here, alive. I shall rescue him as well as
      return the mask of the Mad God to Dr. Strange, and you shall forget
      your mad lust for power and return to your mundane life, doctor."

      "Yes," Dr. Sunshine said, "yes, of course."

      The Silver Surfer released him, and Dr. Sunshine passed out once
      more. The guards came at him with electrified maces, but the Surfer
      merely hopped onto his board and sped past them, entering the temple
      swiftly.

      [Elsewhere inside.]

      "Hurry!" The Mad God spoke inside the Prophet Prince's mind. "All our
      preparations shall be undone if you do not get on with it!"

      "The dagger has been purified in the flames of the Faltine," the
      Prophet Prince assured his master, "now I have only to return to our
      captive and spill his blood on your holy mask, sire, and you shall be
      free once more to roam this realm! All your humble servant asks is
      that you remember to grant him the power he so deserves!"

      "Servant," a small, skinny man with glasses said, standing in the
      doorway before the Prophet Prince, "you said servant, not servants.
      Weren't you going to share the power with the rest of us, Prince?"

      "Of course I shall," the Prophet Prince said, "Now, get out of my
      way! We must hurry! So says the Mad God, and we must obey!"

      "You're in it for yourself, aren't you?" The man continued, "You
      never really cared about the Clan of the True Man, you just sought
      after power to rule!"

      "Out of my way!" The Prophet Prince swatted the smaller man away and
      ran down the hall with the clean dagger in hand. It had to cut into
      the sacrifice and nothing else, or it would lose the effects of its
      magical purification.

      "Stop! I let you run things for far too long," the skinny man said,
      grabbing onto the Prophet Prince's sleeve. The pair scuffled, until
      the Prophet Prince again knocked the smaller, weaker man down.

      "You shall pay for wasting time!" The Prophet Prince looked down and
      saw, with horror, that the smaller man had been cut in the arm and
      was bleeding profusely. "No... no!"

      The dagger had blood on it. It was now unclean.

      [Meanwhile.]

      Namor heard the door explode inwards, and then a familiar voice rang
      out, "I've found you!"

      "Can it be? The Silver Surfer?" Namor turned his head to see his old
      ally once again. "What are you doing here? The next Defenders meeting
      is not for several months!"

      "Dr. Strange sent me on a quest for an ancient item," the Silver
      Surfer explained as he blasted the solar-kinetic bonds with the Power
      Cosmic, nullifying their effects, "stolen from his Sanctum and
      brought to this old temple."

      "Thieves of men and thieves of artifacts," Namor stood up, rubbing
      his sore wrists, "these foolish men shall pay dearly!"

      "Be that as it may," the Surfer said, "our top priority is finding
      the mask of the Mad God before it can be reactivated."

      "Lead the way, spacefarer," Namor said, as the Surfer rode near to
      the ground on his board, skimming out into the hallway.

      The pair quickly came to the altar, where the Prophet Prince wept
      before the mask of the Mad God. "Please, forgive me! I can purify the
      dagger once more, and spill the Atlantean's blood! All shall be well!"

      He heard no answer in his mind, and knew that his deal with the Mad
      God was no more. The Silver Surfer and Namor the savage Sub-Mariner
      stood behind him.

      "It is undone."

      He turned, and the Sub-Mariner socked him in the jaw, knocking him
      out. The Silver Surfer stepped around him and took the sinister,
      golden mask from its place on the altar.

      The pair exited the temple, the few remaining conscious guards
      proving to be little difficulty to the duo of Defenders.

      [The end.]


      [Fortress Yashida: Gardens]


      "You must focus, Kei!" Shiro snapped as he rapped her across the back
      of the head for what seemed to be the thousandth time that afternoon.
      Kei's neck was red and raw already from his shots, and her temper was
      rushing closer and closer to the breaking point with each strike of
      Shiro's hand. She spun and charged toward him, manipulating the
      nuclear fire that was their birthright into a wave of heat that
      pushed her against gravity, but when she should have struck her
      brother, Kei Yoshida found nothing but air.

      "Wha--?" she started, then she felt the all too familiar rap of
      Shiro's hand against the back of her head once again. She turned
      around and there was Shiro, his red armor glistening as though it had
      just been polished, the covered eyes of the mask looking back at her
      like great rubies.

      "Never attack in anger," he said calmly. "If you do, your opponent
      will always have the advantage."

      "Sound advice, brother," she nodded. "But you neglected one of your
      own lessons." Lunging forward, Kei snatched Shiro's wrist and
      wrenched it around, jerking Sunfire from midair and throwing him hard
      into the cobblestones of Fortress Yoshida's garden. "Never leave
      yourself open and in the reach of your enemies."

      The smirk on Kei's young face faded in an instant. As soon as her
      eyes returned to what she had assumed would be Shiro's disgruntled
      face, it took everything Kei had not to scream. Her brother lay with
      one arm outstretched toward her, dead. His skin had already begun to
      gray and wrinkle with decomposition, and his eyes rested in what
      looked like enormous well-like sockets. His lips were slightly curled
      back in a sort of death's head grin, and as she watched even more of
      his flesh withered and blew away like dust.

      "Shiro?" she asked, refusing to believe that he was gone. How could
      he be dead? Had he not just been standing there, talking to her? Had
      they not just been training together, as they always did? How could
      he be dead?

      Her efforts to rouse him were doomed to failure, and that fact was
      beginning to sink in when she heard the clink of metal against stone.
      When she looked back over her shoulder, Kei had expected to see the
      armor of her cousin. She had anticipated the well-polished silver and
      the long, diamond-sharp katana of Kenuichio Harada, the Silver
      Samurai. What she saw, though, was a wholly different thing.

      The man was wearing armor, but it was golden. Golden and glistening
      like the sun just hours before the night. He had long, straight,
      black hair that blew gently in the breeze, and the smirk upon his
      clean-shaven face made Kei's stomach roll with revulsion. He had the
      tattoo of a dragon crawling along the left side of his face, and
      somehow Kei recognized him. She was positive she had never met the
      man before, never seen him in her life, but she knew exactly who he
      was. His name was Die'ode, and he was one of the small group of
      Tatsu'O's cybersamurai.

      "Don't do it, little one," Die'ode said as Kei got to her feet. She
      supposed the venom in her eyes was all to clear to the cyborg before
      her, and she hoped it terrified him. "You don't want to end up like
      your brother."


      ******


      [Fortress Yashida: Kei Yoshida's Room]


      "I'LL KILL YOU!" Kei screamed, shooting straight up in her bed. The T-
      shirt she had worn was soaked through with sweat, even though she had
      kicked away most of her blankets in her fitful dreams. Her hair was
      matted to her forehead, and she was out of breath. She recognized the
      feeling of tear-streams on her cheeks and the semi- nervous lump in
      her throat. Die'ode's voice and words echoed clearly in her head,
      even though his face – and Shiro's – was already fading from the view
      of her mind's eye. As she tried to catch her wind again, the door of
      her room burst open and Meltdown charged inside.

      "Who is it? What's happening?" asked the blonde, both fists balled
      and ready to produce her time bombs as her blue eyes darted around
      the room. When she saw Kei was alone, she lowered her hands and took
      on a totally different posture. "What was it this time?"

      "One of the cybersamurai," Kei said as Tabitha sat down next to her
      on the bed. She had been suffering through the nightmares for the two
      weeks since Kenuichio gave her the new armor he had forged. It was
      like Shiro was speaking to her from the afterlife, trying to tell her
      that she should not follow through on her promise. She could not
      believe that, though. She refused to believe that he would do such a
      thing, if it were possible.

      As she sat silently with Tabitha and wrestled with the air, trying to
      get her breathing back to a normal, steady pace once more, Kei
      decided that she had had enough of the dreams. It was time to do
      something. She could not put off her word any longer, no matter how
      much the thought of putting on that costume was. The costume, the
      armor, that looked so much like Shiro's had been forged for a reason,
      and now it was time for her to make that reason a reality. She would
      take up the mantle of the defender of Japan...and she would start
      with the cybersamurai.


      *****


      The successor to a legacy of greatness, Kei Yoshida is a mutant with
      the talent to generate nuclear fire. Choosing to follow in her
      brother's footsteps, she has accepted the mantle thrust upon her, and
      strives to be every bit the hero Sunfire once was.

      Alternate Marvel Presents...Sunpyre!
      In: "Logging On" Part 2 of 3


      Writer: Josh Greer
      Editor: JM
      EIC & Webmaster: Liam Gibbs


      *****


      [Two Days Later: The Shipping District, Shizuoka, Japan]


      The irony of her situation was not lost on Kei Yoshida. She was
      staking out a series of piers owned by her rival in the same way she
      knew others had over the years. She still remembered the American
      heroes, the New Warriors, staking out this same port a few years
      before. (1) She knew Logan-san (2) probably had on one or more
      occasions as well. Throughout his past shady dealings, Tatsu'O had
      acquired his share of enemies, after all. It amazed her that such a
      man could leave his primary source of income so unguarded,
      particularly after the series of ambushes that had been staged at
      that particular pier. The peculiar inner-workings of Tatsu'O's mind
      were not of Kei's concern, though.

      She was there waiting for Tatsu'O's personal mercenaries, his
      cybersamurai. She was waiting on the men that had killed her brother.
      Kei knew that they had not ultimately been responsible for Shiro's
      passing, but they were as close to responsible as anything she could
      think of. They had attacked the Fortress and Shiro, fighting to
      defend his family's ancestral home, had nearly killed himself fending
      them off. (3) Now they haunted her dreams, taunting her and
      threatening her whenever they saw her in the armor she wore. They
      ridiculed her name and mocked her when she tried to strike them, only
      to end up blasting empty air.

      Kei used her powers to warm herself a little as a chilling wind blew
      in from the sea. The night's sky had pushed the sun back into
      hibernation, and she waited silently for any sign of activity on the
      pier. She had been watching for two nights already, and was met with
      nothing. A ship arrived the night before, but no one ever came to
      check it or unload it. She had not seen hide nor hair of anything. No
      Hand, no True Believer (4), no cybersamurai, or anyone else for that
      matter. She was starting to worry that Tatsu'O was slowing down his
      operations for some reason, or that she simply kept missing
      everything. Then someone finally arrived.

      The man was short, heavyset, and moved with a sort of limping waddle.
      His jowls wiggled every time he turned his head, and the trenchcoat
      and hat he was wearing reminded Kei of the bad Thing costumes she had
      seen some of the college students wearing at a party in Tokyo the
      previous summer. He seemed to be searching for someone, or something,
      and when he found nothing instead he gestured back the way he had
      come.

      Shifting her position a little, Kei looked in that direction. She did
      not see anything at first, but then the glare from a passing car
      shone against the midnight blue paintjob, and she could see the van
      clearly. It was big, but not so big that it would arouse suspicion.
      It had no windows beyond the driver and passenger doors, windshield,
      and rear doors, and what windows it had were tinted so dark it would
      be almost impossible to see into them. Several men poured out of the
      back of the van and moved toward the fat man, eyeing the boats
      carefully. When they came to a stop before the Manticore, the ship
      that had docked the night before, each of them gave another cursory
      look around and made their way up the ramp.

      There were a dozen of them total, perhaps thirteen if she had
      miscounted. They were all moving very cautiously, eyes darting around
      wildly and squinting to search the darkness. If that was not enough
      to make Kei curious about what it was they were bringing out of the
      Manticore's hold in heavy boxes, the fact that not one of them had
      produced a simple flashlight was. She had very little doubt that
      these men were doing something they decidedly should not have been
      doing, and it was time for her to step in and put a stop to it.

      She shot straight up into the air, emerging like a crimson bullet
      from between the enormous crates that had hidden her from view. The
      men, still travelling slowly down the ramp from the Manticore
      carrying whatever booty it had held, froze for a moment and looked up
      at her as she whirled and darted closer. She stopped and hovered in
      the air for a moment, appreciating Shiro's habit of taking up what
      she had always thought were rather silly poses before battle. She saw
      the awe in the eyes of the men before her, and understood it now.
      They were afraid, and fear made people confused. Suddenly, she did
      not think the posing and posturing Shiro had done was so silly
      anymore.

      The first of the men to dart into the darkness threw the box he
      carried with such force that it broke open as soon as it hit the
      ground. The tan, grainy cloud that erupted from the box told Kei
      exactly what it was that had been hidden away in the bowels of the
      Manticore: heroin. With a quick blast of her nuclear fire, Kei
      destroyed the box, and turned to the remaining eleven men with a hard
      stare.

      "Leave the crates, and I will not arrest you," she said, her voice an
      unnatural combination of stern and compassionate. The men looked
      baffled by her statement for a moment, then another two dropped their
      boxes and fled.

      None of the others had the chance before Kei heard the familiar tone
      of boot-jets rushing toward her. She spun in the air and ducked the
      charge, and watched the four men in golden armor pass overhead. They
      were accompanied by a trio of new cybersamurai that she did not know.
      They hovered in the air, just as she did, and turned toward her.

      "The Yoshida Clan is finished, girl," their leader, Fu'se, spat. "You
      should have let that armor rest with its owner."

      Kei gulped and forced herself to hold it together. She had waited for
      this, and now it was there. It was time for her to find out if she
      could put aside Kei Yoshida and embrace Sunpyre, just as her brother
      had so many times over the years.


      [To Be Concluded!]


      Footnotes:
      1. That happened in the now-classic New Warriors #20!
      2. That would be everyone's favorite X-Man, Wolverine!
      3. Check out the Sunfire: Slow Burn LS for that story!
      4. For those who may be unfamiliar, the True Believers are another
      ninja sect in the Marvel Universe, famous for their pea-green PJ's.
      They appeared in some late 90's/early 2000's Amazing Spider-Man
      stories. Keep an eye out, because I'm sure they'll appear in the AMU
      down the road too...
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