Daniel Gordon Presents #79
- Daniel Gordon Presents #79
Black Brigade, "Purging the Demons, 2/3," Joshua Greer
Thundersword, "What is a Marvellite?" Joshua Greer
Protocol, "The Fires of Hellfang," Joshua Greer
Mr. Vampire, "Endgame, 2/2," John Flint
Four of his drones were on their way from Tblunka. It would take them approximately fifteen minutes to reach the southern village from his workshop without the use of his standard gunship. That meant fifteen minutes for him to face off against the extremely durable, unthinking zombies known as the Targoth. Fifteen minutes to battle creatures that did not comprehend pain or understand weakness. In his present state of mind Andrei Klerkovitch, the Black Brigade, would not need that long.
The Targoth were creations of science and sorcery, created by the life-force and corpses of the dead Slorenians that once occupied the refugee village of Pundilk. In the centuries since the Targoth first drew breath, none of their kind had ever uttered a sound or walked away from a battle. Like the fiercest fighters of legend, they pushed ever-forward and would annihilate any in their path. Armed only with their own bodies and electrically charged whips capable of bringing down a fully grown man with a glancing blow, they were a force to be feared. Black Brigade did not acknowledge that fear. When he looked upon the Targoth, he thought only of the recent past. A past in which the Targoth had been his to control.
He had lead them in legions, and they had served him without question alongside his own drones. (1) Together, he and the Targoth had slain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the so-called Dudak rot, in the service of Volkhvy, the spiritual champion of the Slorene people. He watched Dudak men, women, and children strapped into the machine that lay beneath the old Tabissara chambers, their life drained to create new Targoth and give Volkhvy strength. Seeing the Targoth once more, Black Brigade knew that such massacres were happening once more.
This time, however, there was a difference. This time, he would stop them.
Alternate Marvel Presents...Black Brigade!
in: "Purging the Demons" Part 2
Writer: Josh Greer
Bucky 5000: Tawmis Logue
Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs
[The Tabissara Chamber - Tblunka]
Irina Renko was not always the Prime Minister of Slorenia and head of the Tabissara. Once, she was little more than a refugee. (2) She had been a doctor distributing parcels of medicine and food amongst her people with the European Red Cross. She once treated the wounded Dudak in the war. Now she was charged with healing more than bullet and knife wounds, more than broken bones and strange rashes caused by the plantlife in their mountainside country. Now she was forced to heal the gaping wound of racial inequality in her country, and it wasn't something Prime Minister Renko believed she was up to.
It was in times like these, that Irina was glad she could count Andrei Klerkovitch as a friend. He had been involved in the war as well, albeit for the other side. That was what made him a valuable ally, though. While she spoke openly about the suffering of the Dudak, he could speak equally about the Slorenes that lost their lives in the war. It was a counter-balance that kept the chambers of the Tabissara peaceful.
Then the Targoth returned, and that fragile peace began to crumble.
In Slorenian history, the combat between the Slorene and Dudak people had raged on almost since the country was founded. It was a tribal war at first, then it grew. Racial war became eternal struggle, as two of the warriors were imbued with mystical energies and became the champions of their people: Ember and Volkhvy. The war continued all the same, one side swelling while the other was picked off until something occurred to cause a shift in power. Then the scales would reverse for a time. Before she was elected to lead the interim government, Dr. Renko witnessed the "death" of both Volkhvy and Ember, and believed the conflict was finally over. (3) The Targoth were destroyed, and the people had been brought together.
With the Targoth back, however, Prime Minister Renko had to wonder.....could the conflict end, even with its champions destroyed? Or had Slorenia simply been a nation at war for so long that they had no concept of peace?
As she looked over the Tabissara chamber at the ten other members of the Slorenian Parliament, she wondered if their country would ever be healed. The five Dudak representatives and the five Slorene
representatives sat separately in a self-induced segregation, whispering amongst one another about the other group. They blamed each other for the Targoth presence, and claimed their champion must still be dead to allow such an atrocity as the Targoth's return to occur.
'Find them and finish it, Andrei,' thought the Prime Minister. 'Help me save our home.'
"You will have to try harder than that, Targoth dogs!" bellowed the Brigade, his armor distorting his voice. He grasped one of the electrically charged whips being cracked in his direction and reversed the motion, jerking the Targoth warrior off his feet and flinging him overhead. "I will not be so easy to kill as the children of Pundilk!"
The Targoth did not reply, they simply continued their attack. They were mindless drones and crept forward with their whips and fists, oblivious to the fact that there would need to be a dozen more of them to even make a dent in their former captain's armor. Black Brigade didn't care. In fact, he preferred it that way.
The Targoth had decimated not only the village of Pundilk, but the people that lived there as well. People like young Anara, whom had been placed in the care of people that, only a short while ago, would have been slain for simply saying a kind word to the Dudak child. People who only wanted to live their lives in the peaceful nation that Prime Minister Renko promised Slorenia would become. The people of Pundilk had seen their share of the war in Slorenia, and now it was time for life. The Targoth had taken it from them, and for that, the Black Brigade would destroy them all.
As the three Targoth warriors surrounded him, the Black Brigade heard a familiar roar in the air. He looked up to see the secondary gunship, it's blades rotating quickly as it landed just a few feet away. The Targoth ignored it, pressing in closer until the gunship's doors flew open. A quartet of the Brigade's drones were housed inside the suped-up helicopter's belly, and they acted on the orders their master had given them from the start: Destroy the Targoth. As the drones stepped out of the gunship, though, the Black Brigade had other plans.
"Brigade Drones to stand-by," he ordered, and the four drones stopped, taking up a ready position and awaited further orders. He turned to the three Targoth, and charged.
The Targoth were not prepared for their quarry to take the offensive, and their momentary hesitation proved to be their undoing. Once again snatching one of the energized whips, Black Brigade used it himself, flaying not just flesh, but entire body parts from the Targoth with his powerful strokes. The electrically charged whip sizzled through shoulders and knees, carving and shredding the zombies before him until only one remained. He threw the whip aside and raised his gauntlet to this final creature. Then he opened fire.
"Very good," a voice sounded behind him as the Targoths' remains smoked on the ground before him. "You have found much strength since we last saw one another." The Black Brigade turned, and even if his expression could be seen by the newcomer, it would not have changed.
"You returned the Targoth to this country and threatened the fragile peace. By the authority of the Tabissara and the Prime Minister, I will take great pleasure in killing you once and for all."
[To Be Continued....]
1. As shown in Force Works #4-5, & 11-12
2. Also shown in Force Works #11-12
3. Force Works #12
Subject: What Is a Marvellite?
Since the opening of the Church of Marvels, I've received many letters, e-mails, and visitors all asking the same questions. What is a Marvellite? What is it exactly, that you believe in? Do you worship super-heroes? What is your stance on super-villains? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I'd like to take a break from discussing my armored persona and missions, and speak to you as the man behind the sword.
For the few of you that may be reading this and do not already know, my name is Stewart Cadwall. I am a priest in the New York Parish of the Church of Marvels, and one of the men that wrote the tenants by which we practice our faith. I have been a practicing Marvellite since the start of the faith, and continue to practice, and minister, my faith despite my recent activity as the super-hero, Thundersword.
The question I would like to address first is this: Do you worship super-heroes?
As a point of fact, no, we do not. At least, that is not what the faith was organized to do. Some of our parishoners have been known to say a prayer to Captain America or the late Captain Marvel on occasion, but that is not what we practice. We do not worship a deity or persona. Marvellites believe that superhumanity is here to act as a guide and protector for the world. We believe that men and women gifted with superhuman ability were given those gifts to serve as advisors and guides to mankind, and to usher in a better world as a result. We also believe that we, as the rest of the world -- and I would like to note that I am not the only superhuman member of the Church -- have a duty to aid those superhumans in the best way we can: by living up to the examples they provide and maintaining a peaceful, tolerant existence.
Next is the question of: What do Marvellite believe in?
As I stated above, we believe it is our duty to live up to the guidance and way of life our superhuman fellows grant us. That does not mean, of course, that Marvellites plan to run about in colorful costumes and bash one another's brains in. It does mean, however, that we are likely to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We defend one another, and help one another. We have several basic principles that can be viewed in the windows of my own parrish for anyone that wishes to stop by. They are principles that are known by the lessons they teach us and the things they advise us against. They are: Defense, Inspiration, Perserverence, Family, Reliability, Acceptance, and Divinity.
These tenents teach us simply that there are certain things we must accept and deal with in life, and these are the ways we must deal with them. Most people ask at this point why do we infuse the superhumans into these principles? We do that because it is through their example that we Marvellites have come to learn what these principles truly mean.
For example, who has taught us more about Defense than those superhumans who defend our fine New York from threat after threat after threat? Who sets a finer example than the heroes on the street that stand up for the average people? Heroes like Captain America, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and Cloak and Dagger should be respected and admired for doing such noble things, and we should follow their example. If not on such a risky and daring level, then at home or amongst schoolmates or co-workers, where such an example needs to be set. Likewise, we strive to inspire our fellows to follow the same examples, perservere over those who would try and keep us from our achieving our goals, and teach people that they can rely on our aid in their endevours should they need it. Marvellites try to teach acceptance of those unlike us (mutants in particular. More than one Genoshan refugee has joined our church.) As for the aspect of family, Marvellite's take a unique position on that.
Family is exceptionally important to the average Marvellite. It goes beyond our bloodlines, to our communities. We feel that all of those around us should be defended and inspired and so on. If they do not practice our faith, we can accept that and still accept that they should be looked after in times of need. We do not ostracise those that don't share our beliefs.
So what then, you might ask, do we believe as it regards to so-called super villains?
The Marvellite faith believes that all superhumans were set on earth to guide our society to a greater place. That being said, all faiths and religions and mythologies have their evil-doers. Egyptians had Set, Greeks had Ares, and Nordic peoples had Loki. We, unfortunately, have more than one vile element in
our belief structure. That does not mean that these men and women are without the possibility of redemption. I, myself, nearly killed a man I have come to admire and respect when I first gained my powers. Yet here I am, a hero -- so I am told, at any rate -- to the people of New York. A golden champion to my faith and friends. The Avenger Hawkeye, the bestial Hulk, and even the Black Widow herself -- all were once regaled as villains, all have done tremendous good. Even proud Namor of Atlantis has helped to save the world countless times, even working alongside Captain America and the Human Torch during World War Two. So do not count all of these villains as hopeless. Their present day deeds may yet be overturned.
I've found that many people are curious as to how my church feels about my powers as well. On that, I've found the Bishops are willing to let me take my own council. They don't advocate the use of my powers, nor do they scorn it. I use my abilities to help my fellow man, and my fellow superman, in the defense of the city and world. As such, it is looked upon by many as a blessing. A superhuman champion spreading the word of the Church. It is as a dear friend of mine wrote just the other day:
"In such hard and violent times, it is difficult to find anyone of deep beliefs. It is good to know there are at least a few more heroes out there that take heed of their beliefs and are unwilling to compromise them for the sake of what they feel is their duty. It is a lesson that could be learned by more, and I dare hope that you can be one of the ones to teach it."
Those fine words were passed to me by the woman Sabra, a super-agent of the Israeli MOSSAD, and a jew by faith. Sabra and I had our differences when we met, but have since worked past them. We are both looked at askew by some because our faiths preach a level of peace that our powers and duties normally does not allow. Yet, we maintain our beliefs and continue to practice them. It is a difficult road to walk upon, but I hope I do my Church justice as I tread along the path.
And lastly, the penultimate question I'm asked as it regards to my faith: Where do Marvellites believe they will go when they die?
This is a difficult question to answer, as there are so many possibilities. We Marvellites are well versed in the world of superhumans. We know that some are scions of Egyptian, Nordic, Greek, Celtic and other sorts of gods. I, myself, have met a son of Satan in the flesh. Likewise, I've been told of myriad Hell-realms and other realities and planets and a veritable maze of otherworldly places. So where would one go when they pass? It is not for me to say. I can quote the Marvellite Bible on the matter though. Book of Divinity, Chapter 23, Verses 19-23.
"And when one lay at their final rest, they will pass to another plane and find joy there, so long as they lived their life as a Marvel. That they led people to great happiness and peace, and protected even those that did not wish it. That they inspired creativity and brought joy into the hearts of children. That they accepted those that were unlike them, and strove past the jeers of those that would not accept them. That they set and lived their example until the end of their days."
It isn't so divine and well crafted as some other religious texts I've seen in my time, but it was written from the minds and muse of men, not gods. What it says, in essence, is that while we don't know exactly where the soul may go, if you live your life the right way, you'll go to a better place.
I hope that's been informative enough for you. If not, feel free to ask more detailed questions at TSword@..., and I'll do my best to answer them more clearly.
Father Stewart Cadwall
Writer: Josh Greer
Webmasters: JM, Liam Gibbs, Kenn Beck
EIC: Liam Gibbs
With the near-destruction at the hands of Onslaught a vivid memory, young Tony Stark created a program hidden within the Avengers Mansion computers called the A-1 Protocols. Designed to trigger the emergence of a new, unknown group of Avengers in the events that the originals should fall, Stark recruited five unlikely heroes to aid his cause. Coming together by accident and aiding the Mighty Avengers against a dire threat, the group has remained together ever since. Daniel Gordon Presents....Protocol! (1)
"The Fires of Hellfang"
Writer: Josh Greer
Webmasters: Liam Gibbs, JM, Kenn Beck
EIC: Liam Gibbs
"Why here?" Derek asked, lugging his carefully packed armor onto the opposite shoulder.
"Dunno," answered Fisher. None of the trio standing on the corner knew why they were there. Their captain, their leader had told them to meet him there, and there they were. Nonetheless, Fisher Todd, Derek Freeman, and Jack Carris did not care much for the secrecy. They had worked in secret too long. As the adventurous members of the new super-team Protocol, they had remained hidden, waiting for a call that may or may not have come. When it finally did come, they answered eagerly, but since then things had been put on hold. Their female member, Britannia had gone home to England for some reason, and while she kept in contact and was soon to return, their career as a super-team was pretty nonexistent.
Their silent member, Jack Carris, seemed to be the only one that didn't have a problem with that. As Jack Flagg, he had experienced public heroism at its finest. He had served as an ally to Captain America, a protégé of sorts. Since then, things in Jack's life had changed. His partnership with Captain America and Free Spirit ended abruptly, and Jack needed something more. When Tony Stark approached him about the A-1 Protocols, he felt as though he found a calling. He dedicated himself to learning the arts of the samurai and ninja clans in Japan, giving himself the title Ronin.
"Aren't you a little bothered by all this, Jack?"
"Yeah, I don't imagine secrecy bothers you much," Fisher said. Jack raised an eyebrow.
"I have no reason to question our leader. Nor should you."
"Good to hear," another voice added, strolling their direction. The man was short, and a bit pudgy. He smiled a goofy grin and waved at them nonchalantly. His name was Fabian Stankowicz, and of all the members of Protocol, he was the only one to ever hold an Avengers Identicard. Granted, it was only because he was a part of the Avengers Island support staff, but that made no difference to him. It was his experience and knowledge of Avengers history that had given him the leadership post in Protocol, and he took some measure of pride in that. "You guys haven't been waiting long, have you?"
"Yes. Now what's going on, Fabian?" Derek answered, shifting his heavy armor to the other shoulder with a grunt.
"Perhaps we should wait for our missing member first," Fabian said, glancing skyward.
"Kelsey's not in town until next week," Fisher answered.
"Shows what you know," said the enchantingly British accents of one Kelsey Leigh, known to the world as Britannia. Rather, she would be if Protocol had done anything noteworthy of late. Her voice surprised Fisher, though, whose hand immediately went to where his photon pistols were hidden under his coat. "Keep your hands off those bloody pea-shooters, Kid," she said. "It's me."
"Sorry, Kay," Fisher said with a nod. "Unfamiliar territory, ya' know."
"Right, and about that. I've got some information that might be of interest to us. But first, we should get into costume," Fabian suggested.
"Why? Just what are we doing in the middle of friggin' Hershey, Mech?"
"Trust me...you'll love this."
[Five Minutes, and one quick alleyway clothes change later]
"Remind me never to do that again. You guys have it made, with the costumes-under-the-clothes thing." said Harrier, stuffing his street clothes into his duffle bag. His red and silver Harrier armor shone brightly under the clear sunlight.
"Tell me about it," the Mechano Marauder agreed. "You should talk to Tony. He whipped up this magnetic-interlock setup. He says it works like the old Iron Man armor used to. Line up the joints and the suit discharges the connections. It's pretty--"
"Maybe we can hear about your spiffy new toys later," said the Two Gun Kid. "Are you gonna tell us why we're here now?"
"Hawkeye got a hold of me about two weeks ago," answered the Mechano Marauder. "He said he ran into this girl in some otherworldly contest. (2) He thinks she's a mutant or something, but regardless, she's got top marksman skills. Apparently, she swindled some of his arrows and helped them win the contest."
"So what, he wants us to bring her in for snatching his gear?"
"He wants to recruit her," Ronin said stoically. His teammates, knowing that --especially in costume -- Ronin spoke rarely, all just looked at him. Rarely was an understatement, and whenever the ninja deemed it a good time to speak, the things that came out of his mouth were almost always right.
"Is he right?" Britannia asked.
"Erm...well, yeah." It was a bit unsettling to the Mechano Marauder, how Ronin seemed to always instinctively have a grasp of the situation. It felt like a ghost was always lurking around, keeping an eye on him. Worse yet, despite having twice as much experienced, the Mechano Marauder always felt he had something to prove to the team's silent member. Like one day, Ronin might call him on some glaring error and try to take away his post.
"And she's in Hershey?"
"In that building across the road, actually. Bishop Publishing is run by her father."
"Wait, wait, wait," said Fisher, holding his hands up before him. "You're telling me that Hawkeye -- Clint Barton, the chairman of the Avengers -- sent us to recruit spoiled, little Katie Bishop? She's supposed to be a new recruit?"
"Who's next, Paris Hilton? I mean--"
The shafts of the arrows passed so close together that the members of Protocol could hear the steel meet in a quiet hiss. The arrowheads, both plain and pointed steel, pierced Two-Gun's trenchcoat and pinned his hands to the mortar between the bricks in the wall behind him. He never even knew they were coming. Their partners showed up moments later, clogging the rubber-bullet ports on Harrier's gauntlets and relieving Britannia of her mace by striking her hand with a hard-rubber tip and stunning it. The Mechano Marauder was awed by what he was seeing, and a moment later, Ronin turned, greeting their hidden guest.
"Fire another, and you won't be able to use your right hand again for a very long time."
"Threaten me again, and you won't be able to see. Ever."
"I doubt that very much."
"Try me, ninja-boy."
As the exchange occurred, the rest of the members of Protocol were slack-jawed. Ronin's katana was ready, and they all knew exactly how deadly it was. In contrast, the woman's hardened arrowhead was mere inches away from the ninja's right eye, poised and ready to strike.
"You...ah...you must be Sureshot, right?" Fabian said, not daring to step forward. While he would never admit it to the other members of his team, he was just as afraid of Ronin as he was of the purple-costumed woman with the arrows.
"My name is the Mechano Marauder. The gentleman you're threatening is Ronin. And just so you know, were you to loose that arrow, the results would be a broken arrowhead and an equally broken hand. I don't want to see that happen."
"Sell whatever you're selling somewhere else, Tinman, I ain't buying."
"Okay. Don't hurt her." Ronin gave a barely perceptible nod. A quick flash of his sword, and the arrow flew, striking the side of the ninja's head with a grazing blow, and falling to the ground without even a trickle of blood. Sureshot, on the other hand, found herself on her butt with a ninja holding her own bow, and her arrows strewn about the alleyway behind her.
"There's a bit more to Ronin that there appears. And I meant what I said before. We have no desire or reason to hurt you. We actually were sent to meet with you."
"Whom. And Hawkeye."
Sureshot's eyes grew big behind her shades, and an embarrassed redness permeated her cheeks. Her lips screwed in a strange little grin and she shook her head. Ronin offered her a hand and she took it, getting back to her feet. Once she and the ninja had removed the arrows from the rest of Ronin's teammates, they helped her gather her spilt quiver, and introductions were made.
"We're calling ourselves Protocol, until we can find a better name," said Harrier.
"Keep it. It's catchy, and it actually makes a little sense. I never figured out some of the other names. Seriously, Fantastic Force?"
"Well, we're glad to hear you say that," the Mechano Marauder said. "Because Hawkeye suggested you to us in the hopes that, well, that you'd join us."
"I...well, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm kind of the only local hero around anymore. Not like we get a lot of super-crime in Pennsylvania or anything, but with the Hero Societies gone, and the GLA sticking to the Midwest these days, there's not much coverage out here."
"True," nodded Mechano Marauder. "But there's a similar difficulty out west these days."
"No West Coast Avengers means there isn't much in the way of protectors in California. No Force Works, no Champions of LA, nothing," added Two-Gun.
"So you're asking me to choose between the other side of the country and my hometown? Seriously? And you think that's going to convince me to leave?" Sureshot answered, and not without a touch of sarcasm. Fisher only shrugged.
"Uh...Mech? You getting this?" said Harrier, tapping his helmet. the Marauder nodded. The pair of armored heroes had a special design in common. Whenever superhuman activity was reported, they were notified. Most of the time, it cluttered their helmets with things already being responded to, or crimes in a part of the nation they couldn't get to. This time was a little different.
"What is it?" Sureshot asked.
"Pittsburgh," Mechano Marauder said. "Someone called...Hellfang? The name's not bringing anything up on file for me. Harrier?"
"I got nothin'."
"Man...I wish we had a Quinjet again," grunted Fisher. "Can Brit carry me? Harrier's armor freezes my hands when he gets going."
"Come on, you sodding child," Britannia said, taking to air.
"Coming, Kate?" the Marauder asked, holding out his arms as he fired up his jet boots.
"Let's do this."
[Pittsburgh, PA: First Bank of Pennsylvania]
"Hellfang," he thought. "I like it."
The villain hadn't really fashioned much for himself beyond his costume, which he wasn't exactly pleased with. It was a hideous combination of orange and green, but it was functional and that was the important part. The spears of flame that burst from the helm of the costume were impressive and deadly, and nobody dared come close to him. They looked at him like he was the devil Himself, and he loved it. His flame-thrower-wielding henchmen were a plus, but most of the fear came from the man himself. The man that one of the aforementioned henchmen had nicknamed Hellfang. "Hellfang," he considered again. How had he not thought of it himself?
"Come on! We're on a schedule here!" Hellfang roared to his associates in the vault.
"What? It ain't like Pittsburgh's got super-heroes, boss," one of the henchmen answered. "I mean, who do we gotta worry about? The cops?"
"Just hurry up," Hellfang responded. "I don't wanna be the shmuck that ends up bringing super-cops to town, all right?"
"Oh, it's a bit late for that," a voice chimed in behind him. Hellfang hadn't even heard their entrance, but he knew before he turned around that the one speaking wasn't the only person behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that there were, in fact, six. Six brightly colored, very dangerous looking people in masks and armor. Not one of them looked inclined to aid him in the heist.
"Anyone want dibs?" asked the one in the red and silver armor.
"He's all yours, Harrier," said the other armored man. "Ronin, Sureshot, Two-Gun, you take the ones in the vaults. Harrier, Britannia, and I will deal with this bunch."
"Not gonna be that easy, tin-britches," Hellfang grunted quietly. Before anyone could move an inch, he had unleashed a spray of offensive chemical at the unsuspecting heroes. The original speaker, in his cowboy hat and trenchcoat, was drenched. The blonde woman with the weird stick-thing in her hand was doused as well. Hellfang might not be the most fashionable of villains, but he knew a thing or two about his own capabilities. He might not be able to put all these heroes down himself, but if he could take a few out quick he would have a fighting chance. Especially with several men with flame-throwers on his side. It was with that thought in mind that he triggered his most impressive weapon and blasted the pair with a seven-foot spear of flame. The same flame that gave Hellfang his name.
"Aaahhhrrgg!" cried Two Gun as his clothing burst into flame. Britannia fought off the feel of the fire for a moment, but she too went down as the flames coursed over her.
"Brit! Fisher!" the Mechano Marauder cried. "Harrier! Douse them! Everyone else, attack!"
The order was pretty cut and dried. Protocol moved forward immediately. Sureshot's deadly accuracy caused one of the men's flamethrowers to blow it's lines in seconds, a foam-dispersing arrowhead striking at the barrel and clogging the weapon. With fuel leaking over him, the henchman took the high road and fled before he caught fire himself. Harrier's counter-measures doused his burning teammates before the fires could do much damage. Two-Gun's right arm was burned pretty badly, but not so much that he couldn't use it. And use it he did, when he noticed a few sniper guards taking aim at Ronin. A pair of photon bolts put the snipers down instantly, and Ronin gave his teammate a nod of thanks before he delivered a roundhouse kick to his own enemy and put him down.
Enraged, the Mechano Marauder sought out Hellfang himself. With his repulsor-styled palm blasts and the other variety of weapons at his disposal, Fabian found a distinct advantage early. Of course, that's not to say that Hellfang was easy to defeat. The man was incredibly agile and quick. He dodged blows almost as easily as the Mechano Marauder could deliver them. After a few minutes, the pair had battled one another to a near-stand-still. Unfortunately for Hellfang, the Marauder was not alone.
Once the wind was back into her, Britannia returned to the fight with a vengeance. Harrier had gone to rid the vaults of their illegal occupants, and the British member of the team took after Hellfang like a mother bear protecting her young. Her rage was beyond words, and she didn't utter one as she leveled her power-scepter at the villain, channeling all her strength into every blow. He kept her at as much of a distance as he could, blasting geysers of flame at she and the Marauder, but sooner, rather than later, he found himself surrounded. He opened a different port to try his chemical release again, but that thought ended with an almost silent "thwump". One of Sureshot's arrows had found home.
"Think about it. Think about burning one of my friends again, and I'll mow you down," she said, eyeing the villain carefully. They all knew it, even Hellfang. This battle was done.
[One Hour Later]
"Thanks for coming, Lt. Stone. I had no idea Code: BLUE had a Pogo Plane."
"Well, it's a loaner. The Richards Foundation's been trying to find us a quick-transit between Code: BLUE areas. This is the best of it for right now. So what's the story with this Hellfang guy, anyhow, Marauder?"
"We don't know. He showed up, and we stopped him."
"Well, ya did good. Keep doing it."
The Mechano Marauder thanked him as he turned away and returned to his team. He'd been considering a lot of things that last hour. Their public debut was a success, and Sureshot had accepted a post on the team. Of course, the most important decision was still ahead of them: Where did they go from here?
"Well?" asked Two-Gun.
"They're taking him to Seagate until trial. Stone will get ahold of us to send a rep for the trial. You arm?"
"Minor second degree. They gave me some cream, said it should be fine in about a month."
"Good. Now, Sureshot...as far as I can tell, the call is yours. It's your home, and I can't force you out of it."
"But California needs heroes too, I know," Sureshot said. She'd been thinking it over herself. There were a few heroes that focused on the West Coast, but nothing like the East. The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Guard, Defenders...it seemed like there were dozens of teams sometimes in this part of the nation. Maybe it was time to do the same somewhere else.
"The Works, you say?" she asked. Fisher's eyes lit up.
"You'll love it. It's state of the art. Starktech everything, we've even got a butler. Well, we will when the Avengers are done with him, anyhow."
"Then let's go. I hate moving, and I'd like to get it done with as soon as I can."
[The End: For Now] (3)
1. The Protocol Orgin story was told in the AMU's Avengers issues 476-481.
2. That happened in our very own AMU Contest of Champions LS!
3. Want to see more Protocol? Let us know! And keep your eyes peeled for them in
upcoming issues of the Mighty Avengers, right here in the AMU!
After the slaughter of his family, Doctor Ralph Kingston vowed revenge upon the creatures of the night. Utilizing his Serum V, Kingston now gains possession of the powers of a vampire every night, to fight his constant crusade against the elements of darkness. He has become...
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
"Friend of yours?" Detective Reading asked, gun still smoking, as the Crusher lay on the floor of Dr. Kingston's living room, chest still smoking. "Another day-walking vampire? What are you people?"
"Not a friend of mine," Dr. Kingston said, his head spinning, "Detective, I really think you need to leave "
"I'd be happy to," Reading said, aiming his pistol at the doctor, "provided that you are coming with me. Peacefully, unless you want to wind up like that fellow."
"That won't work," Kingston said, as he breathed heavily, his chest warming and chilling sporadically, his jaws aching as the bloodlust returned. "I don't know what's going on, but something is changing "
"Withdrawal?" Detective Reading asked, as Kingston had his back to the man, leaning on his kitchen counter, arm muscles quivering, veins bulging out. "What the hell are you on, anyway, man?"
"You might want to turn around," the doctor advised, "the man you shot he's not dead. I can still smell his warm blood flowing "
Detective Reading turned and saw that the Crusher had risen, blood already coagulating over his bullet wounds, mighty fists wiping at his nose as his eyes stared through the detective.
"I hate guns," Crusher said, as he raised his fists to smash them down again.
[Mortimer Giamio's offices.]
Eleanor and Vladimir crept inside, searching for the coffins of the slumbering vampires while avoiding the bullet-torn bodies of their fellow Order of Assassins members and the bodyguards of the ancient undead. It had been a bloody massacre, in which both sides annihilated the other. A few men still breathed, desperately trying to hold their insides in, and Vladimir took pity, using his crossbow to finish them relatively quickly, with shots to the head and neck which he developed over years and years and hours and hours of practice.
"Come on," Eleanor said, as they kicked in the door to Giamio's private office, where a secret door led to a dark, damp cavernous room with his coffin waiting for them. "Let's get this done. This bastard has already cost us our entire Order."
"We'll rebuild our numbers," Vladimir promised, "Our army will always rise up to fight them. With Giamio gone, another of the major players will be swept from the table."
"Yes," Eleanor said, the spark of madness in her eyes as they tore away the top of the coffin. "We'll dust them all."
Mortimer Giamio sat patiently, waiting expectantly in his sleep for the wooden stake which Eleanor pierced his unbeating heart with. Vladimir took out his hammer and pounded it through, then tore at his neck with his blade, slicing away until his head was entirely separated.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Do you hear something," Eleanor whispered, "A clock?"
"Da," Vladimir agreed, "Like a clock or a"
The entire building exploded, instantly incinerating all the bodies within, forever destroying all evidence of the end of the Order of Assassins and Giamio's empire. None would ever even know that either party had ever existed.
"What does it take," Detective Reading asked, "to put you down?"
Blam. Blam. Blam blam. Blam.
Click. Click. Click.
"You're out of bullets," Crusher said, "Good."
"Don't hurt him," Dr. Kingston demanded, as sweat poured from every orifice and he collapsed on the floor, "I'm I'm warning you, Mr. Crusher "
The Crusher laughed. "You can't do anything to hurt me, human. But I can do oh, so very much to both of you "
Crusher grabbed Detective Reading by the skull, squeezing his brain like a grape, and proceeded to slam him through the floor, shattering many of the detective's bones.
"No!" Kingston threw himself at the Crusher, who easily swatted him away.
"You can't stop me," Crusher reminded him.
"Don't be so sure," Kingston snarled, as his bloodlust took over and he felt the change come over him.
Crusher chuckled to himself and continued to tear the already dead detective apart. He stopped upon hearing a loud hiss, and looked back to where the doctor had been, to find he was no longer there.
"Zombie," Mr. Vampire assessed, "advanced type, but I can smell the magic in your blood, keeping you `alive.'"
Before he knew what was happening, Crusher found Mr. Vampire clinging on his back, arms wrapped around the Crusher's head. Crusher yelped quickly as his foeman wrenched his head, snapping his neck and instantly paralyzing him.
Crusher dropped in a heap while the pseudo-vampire leapt away. "Now, even if they can bring you back again, you won't be any good to them," Mr. Vampire laughed.
Crusher's arms and legs twitched as he stared vacantly forward, as Mr. Vampire went to work dumping gasoline all over the rooms. "I'm done with this place," Mr. Vampire explained, "done with this life. I am what I am, and a human I am not. Not any longer."
Crusher watched as Mr. Vampire lit a match and let it drop. "Goodbye, old cruel world. Hello, brave new world."
And the building erupted in flames.
- Daniel Gordon Presents #80
Black Brigade, "Purging the Demons, 3/3," Josh Greer
Hulk, "Red Dawn, 1/6," John Flint
Dazzler, "Divergent Paths," John Flint
Angel, "The Humanist Agenda," John Flint
Light blue energy poured from his deeply set eyes, but the Black Brigade continued to stare him down. His maroon and slate-gray armor with its off-white highlights looked like it had just been forged and painted, though it hung loose on his decrepit body. Like the Targoth he commanded, his skin was stretched grotesquely across his muscles, giving his face a sunken and decayed look, even as he held his ceremonial rapier before him, where it glowed with the power of the Dudak dead.
He was Volkhvy, the spiritual champion of the Slorene people, and once, he was the Black Brigade's supreme commander. (1) Presently, the majority of the world believed that Volkhvy was dead, his power drained from him by the Dudak champion, Ember, who was himself destroyed only moments later. (2) Somehow, apparently, the eldritch energy that kept the war between he and Ember going throughout the centuries kept Volkhvy alive. Somehow, he survived that encounter and returned. For the Black Brigade, it was a most unwelcome homecoming.
"You do not seem overjoyed to see me, my old friend," said Volkhvy, his vampire-like fangs sparkling white in the afternoon sun.
"I am not," Black Brigade replied.
"No? Do not tell me that a good soldier like yourself has had a change of heart?"
"Nyet. I could not change something I ignored."
"How...poetic," Volkhvy scoffed. "Tell me, Brigade, do you tend to a garden and wash your Dudak masters' floors as well, or have they limited you to poetry like a common court jester?"
"You will not goad me into anger, Supre....Volkhvy," the Brigade answered. His voice remained flat, passive.
"And why is that?"
"I was already angry when you arrived."
Alternate Marvel Presents....Black Brigade!
in: "Purging the Demons" Part 3
Writer: Josh Greer
Freakishly Observant: Kenn Beck
Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs
[Tblunka, The Slorenian Capital]
"Madame Prime Minister, the Dudak people are obviously behind this!" shouted one of the five Slorenes on the Tabissara. "You surely cannot believe that the Slorene people would allow the use of the Targoth again. Doing so would be repeating the very mistake that nearly shattered our nation to begin with!"
"Prime Minister, the Dudak people have no more to do with the Targoth revival than our esteemed Slorene counterparts claim they do. Why would we unleash the very monsters that spent the entirety of the war trying to exterminate our own people? To suggest such a thing is little more than madness!"
Irina Renko, the Prime Minister of Slorenia, rubbed her temples as the representatives continued to bicker amongst one another. She wished desperately that she could keep them on the same page for more than a day or two at a time, but healing a racial segregation that had developed over centuries of oppression by one side or the other simply was not easy to do. The revival of the Targoth warriors had not helped matters. In fact, it had been that revival that re-segregated a normally unified new Tabissara to begin with.
"Representatives!" she called, her voice commanding silence in the decorative hall. "I do not believe that either the Dudak or Slorene people would have knowingly unleashed the Targoth. I do not even believe that the people have the knowledge to do so if they wanted to!"
"What do you suggest then, Madame Prime Minister?" asked an elderly Dudak. Radu Lorivich was the eldest and wisest of the counsel, but he too had been embittered by the war. As a result, he had a tendency to balk at authority, even authority that had been elected unanimously by his own people.
"I believe it is an individual that has resurrected the Targoth threat. Someone that wishes to see the nation we have built returned to the nation that was at war."
"Both the Black Brigade and I feel that only Ember or Volkhvy is capable of reviving the Targoth, and it is in them that we must lay blame. At least--"
"You can't be serious!" bellowed one of the Slorenes. The young man, Vladimir Rustakof, was of a new breed of Slorenian that did not believe in the ancient figures and myths of mystical champions. In this regard, the rest of the Tabissara was unified: they all believed Rustakof was an imbecile.
"Sit down, boy," barked Lorivich. Seeing that the rest of the council, Rustakof did just that, but he didn't look pleased about it.
"At least," continued the Prime Minister, giving Lorivich a nod of thanks. He did not return it. "Until we have proof otherwise. Black Brigade has gone to investigate the towns raided by the Targoth horde, and will return this evening to give us his report. Until then, I suggest we simply do our best to wait patiently."
There were no more words left to be spoken between the two men. The Black Brigade was well aware that his former master would step on whomever he needed to in order to ascend to the head of the Slorenian table once more, without regard to who may have aided him in the past. Likewise, Volkhvy could see all too clearly that his ex-servant would no longer do his bidding as he tried to rebuild Slorenia into a new, pure nation. That being the case, neither of the two men could not very well allow the other to walk away from Pundilk alive.
The battle was one that people would speak about in Slorenia for generations. They would speak of how Volkhvy, the power-mad champion of the Slorene people, charged forward with his black blade and slew the drones his enemy set against him, sending their mechanical carcasses crashing into the earth. They would speak of how Black Brigade used the Targoth whips to crease the armor of the ancient champion, and tore its plates from Volkhvy's body with his own gauntleted hands. Stories would tell of how the sounds and flashes of battle could be seen as far as Kliegstad eight miles west as the two warriors pitted their greatest efforts against one another.
What would be talked about most, however, (as was often the case in such epic duels), would be the final blow. Grandfathers would gather their young grandsons close then, in the light of fires built in old stone firepits, and they would whisper of how Volkhvy's blade had pierced the armor of the Slorenian hero time and again. They would speak of the buckets of blood and oil that dripped on the ground, and how the ancient champion believed his foe was finished. They would speak of how Volkhvy bragged as he tightened his gloves and raised his blade high....
....and fell to a last ditch blast from the Black Brigade's barely operational shoulder cannon.
For a generation they would whisper of how he spent the next days, his armor near ruins, burying the bones of the old champion in the wildest terrain of Slorenia, and rounded up and destroyed the Targoth. Children would gaze up in awe to learn that their grandparents had been rescued from the old caverns by him, and met the Slorenian champion first hand. It would be remembered as a day of celebration in the Balkan nation of Slorenia, both by the people, and the leaders.
The Black Brigade himself would never speak of that day. To him, it was little more than another day in which he was able to redeem himself. Another day in which he was forced to face his past and try to overcome it. Another day in which he was given the chance to purge his personal demons.
1. Force Works issues 4,5,11, & 12!
2. Force Works 12.
In the wilderness of Canada, far distant from any form of civilization, hundreds of miles from the nearest town, a day's walk from the nearest deserted cabin, a lone man walked on a solid sheet of ice, walking stick in hand.
The man, his face not betraying his advanced age, his mustache of a white shade in matching with the rest of his hair hidden beneath his hood, walked carefully, not wanting to slip on the ice. He walked with determination, as though there were somewhere in the long ice field that he was intending to go to.
"Stay where you are," a man commanded, and the old man with the walking stick did as commanded, raising his arms in a surrendering posture while surveying the two armed guards who emerged from beneath the ice before him.
The old man waited, wishing he had a cigar to smoke while doing so; he hated waiting, hated to be left with nothing to do. It wasn't how he was; there was always something to be done. He saw an opening, he could disable one of the guards with his walking stick and kick the gun from the other's hands. Unfortunately, he wanted to prove his good intentions here. He opted for inactivity as devilish as it was for him.
"Identity confirmed," the guard said, apparently talking to someone on a telecomm device within his black helmet, which shined only reflections out at the old man such that he could not see the guards' faces.
"You're good," the other guard said, raising his firearm up into the air. "Welcome back to Freehold, General."
General Thaddeus `Thunderbolt' Ross gave no oral reply as he brought his walking stick back down and strode between the two armed guards towards the hole in the ice field, the opening to an underground society of rejects and freaks.
"I want to talk to your leader," Ross said.
"And he wants to talk to you," one of the guards agreed.
Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner now finds himself transformed into Earth's Mightiest Mortal. Seven feet, 1,000 pounds of unfettered fury: The Incredible Hulk!
The Incredible Hulk
Chapter 1 of 6.
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
The rampaging man-monster smashed his way through the deserted buildings of the Old West ghost town, his indefatigable rage fueling him onwards to crush and crash through everything in his path. His red skin glistened with sweat as he paid no mind to the intense heat of the place.
The red Hulk grabbed the old-fashioned wagon sitting at the corner and hurled it high into the air, and the archaic vehicle disappeared from sight for several seconds before it came back down, smashing itself apart upon impact, several tens of feet in advance of the red Hulk's position in the street. The Hulk snarled in reaction, unable to understand the laws of physics.
"Oh god oh god oh god," Maria Alvarez squealed, holding her large, rounded belly as she slouched down in her car, unable to peel her eyes away from the massive figure down the street. Her car broke down while driving through the old ghost town, and she had looked around for a working phone or living soul until she heard the rampage of the Hulk on the other side of the tiny town and ran back to her car for safety.
Maria held her breath as she heard the red Hulk snort, his face turning towards her. She poked her head down beneath the windows, perspiration not caused entirely by the intense heat of the day. She tried to control her breathing, but she could feel her baby kicking in her belly and began to fear the possibility that she might never see the child born.
The red Hulk stood before the car, causing Maria to scream aloud; he moved so quickly, she hadn't even seen him coming in the back window and now he was before her. He peered in, golden eyes narrowing in rage.
"Oh please oh please oh please," Maria whispered, unable to close her eyes as she looked at the red Hulk before her. He slammed both massive fists down, smashing the engine of the car, keeping it from ever running again.
The red Hulk continued to glare at her, his breath hissing out of him, a veritable engine of destruction, pausing for reasons unknown as Maria stared at him. His eyes moved from her generally pretty, round face down to her swelled belly, as though the beast somehow recognized her condition.
The red Hulk growled as he arced his back, and Maria saw flames explode all around him from behind. A voice like gravel screamed past, while a hellish motor roared by.
Maria inched up in time to see a blazing skeleton on a similarly blazing motorcycle whiz by, shotgun in hand. Again, Blaze shot his hellfire at the red Hulk, sending him stumbling back several steps, causing no significant harm to the man-beast but keeping him from murdering the pregnant woman.
"Oh, thank you thank you thank you," Maria whispered, as she watched the battle commence.
"I heard that the Pantheon had taken over Freehold," General Ross observed as he walked past the radiation victims of the hidden sanctum.
"They did," the Leader agreed, "I took it back. I abhor violence, but sometimes it proves necessary when dealing with these lesser beings. I'm sure a man of your experience can sympathize."
General Ross snorted. "I'm sure you can figure out why I've come. I need a weapon. Something that'll stop the Hulk, once and for all."
"Of course," the Leader said, "we've already danced that dance a few times, yes? This time, however, I think I might just have the thing "
"I would remind you," Ross said, "that I'm no longer in service of the United States of America. I come to you as a private citizen, and there's no way you can use me to take over Hulkbuster Base."
"How unfortunate," the Leader said as they continued to walk through the open marketplace, "if that were my goal, which it is not. Not any longer. I have enough work here, among my own people, dear general."
"I can't pay you," General Ross said.
"That won't be necessary," Leader replied, waving a hand, "No, your participation will be of great service to science and knowledge."
"Beg pardon?" Ross and Leader entered a monument after the Leader slid a hand over a hidden sensor. The pair walked into the dark corridor, lit up moments before they walked in.
"General Thaddeus Ross," Leader said with a smile, "I'd like to introduce you to a member of the Pantheon say hello, Paris."
A blond man sat, clothes in tatters, chained to the wall by hands, legs, neck and waist. He wanted to curse but lacked the ability to do so, so dehydrated was he by this point.
"Paris here is an empath," Leader explained, "He will reveal to me your true intentions in coming here. One can never be too cautious, after all."
"Sure," Ross agreed.
"Doctor Banner," Blaze said, his voice deepened by the hellfire that burned about him, as he whizzed past the red-skinned behemoth, "you've got to regain control over yourself! You were about to harm an innocent woman, with child!"
The red Hulk growled and reached out for him, but Blaze eluded his grasp with ease. This new Hulk persona was slow-moving and slow-witted, giving him time to maneuver, but he appeared to have even less reasoning ability than the usual personae.
"I don't want to have to hurt you," Blaze warned, stopping his flaming motorcycle at a safe distance. "But that doesn't mean I won't if I have to."
The red Hulk began to pound his fists against his chest, then charged like a rhinoceros towards Blaze, who started up his engine and took off past the red Hulk, outspeeding him. Blaze straightened his shotgun and blasted the Hulk with hellfire once more, and this time the red Hulk was knocked off his feet by the force of it, howling with rage as the supernatural fire dissipated away from his chest.
"Please, Dr. Banner," Blaze pleaded, "I don't want to have to hurt you."
Maria cried out as she opened the door and fell out of the car. Her skin was blazingly red and Blaze could almost smell the flesh roasting. Hellfire didn't actually cause physical burns; so, what ?
"You're leaking radiation," Blaze turned towards the Hulk, "You're a danger to anyone around you! What the hell happened to you?"
The Hulk stood silently, arms drooped down, head turned at an angle as he watched Blaze rush towards the irradiated, sickly pregnant woman. Her skin had taken on a reddish hue, and the Hulk looked down at his own sausage-like fingers, his coppery eyes taking it in as his mind gradually dawned on the thought.
"Gruhh," Hulk said, before he turned his back to Blaze and the dying woman and sprinted as fast as he could, raising up a massive dust cloud in his wake.
Blaze's hellfire died out, leaving a human Johnny Blaze to bring Maria Alvarez to his ordinary motorcycle, to ride with him to the next-nearest hospital.
General Ross removed his hooded cloak and let it fall to the floor. His walking stick leaned against the wall of the high-tech, sterile environment. He stripped off his boots, socks, and pants, leaving black boxers only.
Walking into the next room, Ross observed the coldness of the place; it was not physically cold but rather void of emotion, void of feeling. Heartless.
Ross stepped up onto the platform and sat down in the special chair. Straps automatically wrapped themselves around his arms and legs, holding him down. A mouth guard slipped into place, operated by a robotic arm.
He sat back, resting his neck and shoulders and back against the rest behind him. He could see a darkened silhouette in the room beyond him, the mirror darkened to obscure the Leader from view.
"I should warn you, general," the Leader said through the intercom, "this is most likely going to hurt quite a great deal."
"Good," Ross said, mumbled through the mouth guard.
Then the Leader began the bombardment.
Alone, the red Hulk slowed his run into a walk, and then stopped, falling face-forward onto the desert floor. He could not understand how but he knew that somehow he had made the woman with the swollen belly sick, just by his presence alone. The flaming skeleton-man was not harmed by him, though.
Whatever the case, it meant that he had to remain isolated, to himself, quarantined. He was a threat to the safety and security of living things. The red Hulk began to think of things he knew nothing of, a warm bed, love, closeness with other human beings
And the Hulk began to doze off, face shaded from the roaring midday sun, as his skin began to lose its scarlet pigment, his muscles atrophying, as gamma radiation spilled from him, forever contaminating the land directly beneath him.
General Ross lie, sleeping on his back, in the middle of the vast, empty Mojave Desert, oblivious to the sunburn he was rapidly developing.
[To be continued ]
Guest-Starring the Spectacular Spider-Man, Goliath, and Longshot!
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
Alison Blaire left the club by the back door into a darkened alley. Her entourage consisted of all of one man, James `Jimmy' Fontana, a former bodybuilder who now doubled as a security guard and assistant. He still had his muscles though his body was beginning to show its age, his skin sagging ever so slightly and hair beginning to thin.
"It's alright," he said, gently, arm around her as he led her towards the car, "everyone has a bad night occasionally."
Alison struggled to hold back tears. She had once been an X-Man, saving the world on a regular basis; now she couldn't even put on a good concert. Ever since she had lost her powers to the Leech virus, it was as though she couldn't wrap her head around the rhythm anymore. The artificial light show staggered her. She was just going through the motions, burnt out, like everyone said. Her best times were behind her. Now was the time to fade away.
"I can't even get decent gigs anymore," Alison said, shaking with rage and frustration, "pits like this"
"You're rebuilding your career, that's all," Jimmy argued, "you've been away for awhile, superheroing it up with your hubby, and now"
They stopped before the car, staring at the gray and blue figure who was crawling down the wall behind it. He jumped off the wall, bouncing off the roof of the car before crashing into Jimmy's face, feet-first, separating the pair.
Alison instinctively crouched, pointing her index fingers towards the attacker, hands together as though holding an invisible gun. If she had still had her powers, the man would have gone down, struck by a beam of laser energy.
"No more powers? Too bad," the attacker said as he pulled a glowing stick from his belt and banged it against Jimmy's head several times, until he went limp against the grimy ground. "The Russians must not think too much of you, to send Americans after you."
"Please," Alison said, "you don't want to hurt me. I'm an X-Man. My husband is Longshot. My friends include Storm and Wolverine."
"Yeah, but they ain't here right now," the man said, as he stepped forward slowly, menacingly, "but I am "
"Me, too!" A jubilant voice cried out, as the attacker suddenly flew backwards into the air, accelerating as he went up. Spider-Man, in his black costume, landed on the dirty ground and let his webline snap back, smashing the attacker into a dumpster, leaving a large dent in the lid.
"This is the second time I owe you," Alison said. (1) "God, I'm so worthless "
"Don't say that," Spider-Man said as he webbed up the attacker. "I think I remember this guy from some Avengers files. Creeper, was it?"
"Clinger," the man moaned, "Clinger " (2)
"Right, the Clinger," Spider-Man said, "A mutant able to cling to walls. That's why he isn't wearing any gloves or boots. Sanded off his finger and footprints, so he can't be identified when he uses his power."
Alison lifted Jimmy into a sitting position, wiping at the blood on his forehead which was already coagulating. "Is he okay?" Spider-Man asked.
"Yeah, only hurt my pride," Jimmy said, "and my skull. We best be getting out of here, Ali."
"I can wrap things up," Spider-Man said, "but there was actually a reason for me coming here tonight. I wound up working on a case with Hank Pym and we got to talking afterwards. (3) Anyway, he thought he might have a way to restore your powers, if you're interested, Dazzler."
Alison Blaire did not hesitate to ask, "What's his number?"
[Two days later. Four Freedoms Plaza.]
"Reed already had the equipment set up that I think we'll be needing," Henry Pym explained as they strolled through the room full of giant computers and scanners. Pym was in excellent physical condition, though he obviously used too much product to keep his hair from going the Einstein route.
"I'm so nervous," Alison admitted, smiling at the scientist who smiled back.
"No need to worry, all the heavy-lifting's already been done," Pym said, "Henry (4) sent me the samples of your DNA, before and after the Leech virus. It's mutated but the x-factor gene is still present, just latent. I think we might be able to reawaken your ability by supercharging it with a high dose of sound vibrations.
"Too bad Banshee lost his powers or he might be able to help us. Anyway, you'll have to wear these specialized earmuffs Reed constructed," Pym raised a bulky set of earphones that looked like something from the 1980s, "otherwise, the intensity of sonics I'll be throwing at you would render you permanently deaf."
"I've performed several times," Alison said, "and the music never"
"Too rhythmic," Pym argued, "It needs to be steady waves of pure vibrations beating against your body, like waves against a beach. It will take several treatments before your powers return in full, and you might suffer from cramps and headaches for awhile, but"
"But I'll be the Dazzler again," Alison said.
"Theoretically, yes," Pym said. "I've never tried anything like this before, but I have no reason to believe it shouldn't work. Your mutant physiology is quite astounding, and its cellular healing properties are"
"Your human physiology isn't so bad itself," Alison said before realizing what she was saying and blushed. "I just mean thank you, Dr. Pym."
"Call me Henry," Pym smiled. "Or Hank. Just don't call me Ant-Man, please."
"Well, uh," Pym began to sputter, "I'm just going to double-check the sound barriers around your chamber before we begin. If any of the sonics escape the room, they might cause half the city to shake itself apart. Can't have that on my conscience, heh."
Pym walked over to the central computer console and went to work, his back to Alison.
"Thank you, again," Alison said, "even if it doesn't work. Thank you."
"That's what we Marvels are for," Pym said, "inspiring hope. I hope I get it right for you, Alison."
[A week later.]
"How's the head?" Alison asked Jimmy as they walked down the sidewalk. It was after midnight; she had only woken up an hour ago.
"Better," Jimmy said, giving a fake smile, "better. An' you?"
"My entire body just feels shaky," Alison admitted, "like I'm about to shatter. I don't know."
"From what you said, it sounds like that's good, though," Jimmy said, "any normal human would have fallen apart, right?"
"That's what Henry said," Alison said.
"I dunno about that guy," Jimmy said, his eyes crossing the street ahead of them, "I mean, you know his domestic situation, right? His ex-wife, the Wasp "
"Yeah. I know."
The pair paused before the crosswalk as a snarl sounded behind them. Alison turned to see the Clinger on the wall, energy sticks out in each hand.
"No super-heroes around to protect you this time," Clinger said, "I'm going to make sure it hurts, too. I don't do well with embarrassment."
"Al, run!" Jimmy said, pushing her behind him as he faced the villain. The Clinger bounced off the wall onto the sidewalk, as the few other pedestrians around began to flee to the nearest building or car they could find.
"No," Alison said, her rage building. Who was this man to hunt her down and try to hurt her and her friend? Who was she to need someone's protection?
"The X-Woman has stones," Clinger laughed, "Won't save you. Won't save either of you. When I'm done with you"
Hands balled up into fists on her sides, body shivering, Dazzler unleashed a thin, concentrated laser beam from her eyes, energy stored up from the intense sonic treatments she'd been receiving. It struck Clinger square in the chest and knocking him into the wall behind him with such force that he was immediately rendered unconscious.
"Wow," Jimmy said, "wow. Wow wow wow."
The Dazzler walked over to the Clinger and slapped him awake. "Come after me or my friends again," she warned, "and we'll see what orifices your sticks can cling inside of."
She dropped him and he passed out once again, his chest still smoking.
[One week later.]
The nightclub was closed, but they allowed the Dazzler to hang around as late as she wanted. Her drink was half-finished; she had spent an hour just staring at it as workers cleaned up around her.
"You were fantastic tonight," came a voice behind her, "really fantastic."
The Dazzler turned without getting up and saw Longshot, her husband she hadn't seen in several weeks. He now had the start of a blond beard growing in and his attire was different from what she was used to. He wore a battered army jacket, camouflage pants, and a plain black t-shirt beneath his bandolier lined with flechettes.
"I see you've turned into a hipster in my absence," Dazzler laughed.
"No one can be David Bowie forever," Longshot said as he stood beside her. They came close but didn't touch. "It's time we returned to the Mojoverse."
"I'm staying," she said. "Stay with me."
"I can't," Longshot said, "I have a responsibility now. Remember when I came to the X-Men, amnesiac, with no idea of who I was, what my role in the world was? Well, now I have an identity and a mission.
"I'm going to destroy Mojo and his entire Spineless Ones dominion over my homeworld. I was bred for revolution; I think maybe Mojo designed me as a self-destructive whim. I can't stay here and mess around with concerts and adventuring."
"That makes sense," Dazzler said, eyes closed, "and I'm happy for you. But I can't stay there, in constant war. This is where I belong, New York City. I'm happy here or on the road, but not in the Mojoverse. I'm sorry but I'm not coming with you."
"Fair enough," Longshot said, then was silent for several minutes before speaking again, "The Mojoverse isn't a good place for children. I think I want you to take care of our son, here. He can join me when he's older if he wishes."
"I'll take care of him," Dazzler said, as she met her husband's eyes and saw water in them. They knew that their marriage was over; each had his or her own world to live in now. "Thank you, Longshot. I hope the war goes your way."
"So do I. Goodbye, Al; you look as beautiful as you did on the day we met."
Longshot turned and walked out of the nightclub and out of her life.
[Two days later.]
Alison Blaire and Henry Pym sat in an outdoor eatery, enjoying the sun and the warming weather. It had been a very long, very cold winter for them both.
"Jimmy's watching Shatterstar," Alison said. "He's becoming quite a nanny, heh heh."
"I'm not surprised; sometimes it's the biggest guys who melt the most," Henry said, "he worked security for a few of the Avengers' parades. Good guy."
"He is," Alison said. "Hopefully he can find a good guy for himself."
"You mean he's--?"
"What, you didn't know?" Alison laughed. "How could you not know?"
"My tele-helmet only works with ants," Pym laughed. "So, that means, you I mean Longshot "
" is out of the picture, yes. And you're a wonderful man, Hank, but I need some time before I can invest myself in anyone else right now. I hope you can understand that."
"Of course," Henry said. "I can understand that. Take all the time you need. How are you feeling now? I mean, power-wise? Everything coming back to you?"
"Oh, it's like riding a bicycle!"
"That's great," Pym said, "really great. Maybe I should open up a mutant healing center."
Alison punched him lightly on the arm. "You should get back to being Goliath, Dr. Pym. The world always needs Avengers; this recent thing with Kang proved that." (5)
"You've got a point," Pym agreed, "and, you know, the Dazzler wouldn't be a bad addition herself."
"One thing at a time, doctor, one thing at a time."
1. See Spectacular Spider-Man #17.
2. First seen in Defenders Annual #6.
3. See Spectacular Spider-Man #22.
4. McCoy, the Avenger and former X-Man known more popularly as the Beast.
5. See "In Kang We Trust," the recent Avengers storyline, for details.
FOR THE DAZZLER'S NEXT ADVENTURE, SEE UPCOMING ISSUES OF THE MIGHTY AVENGERS
"The Humanist Agenda"
Guest-Starring Psylocke and Giant Man!
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
Betsy Braddock awoke from a horrible nightmare and sat upright in bed. She looked at the digital clock, its light burning a dim red. 3:15. She was sweating, even with the air conditioning on in response to their body heats.
She got up quietly and walked out of the bedroom to get a drink. She stopped at the fridge and tried to remember what her terrible dream had been about and found that she couldn't remember any of the details. It was something to do with Warren, but beyond that, she had no clue.
She got out the pitcher of filtered water and poured herself a glass. She walked over to the balcony of the high-rise apartment and looked out at the night-sky. There was a time when she would still be out, even at this hour, a champion of the mutant cause. Now, she was simply ordinary.
She sipped at the water slowly as she watched the world quietly pass her by. She was still in the Asian body the Hand had transplanted her into all those years ago, but now, thanks to the Leech virus, she no longer had her mental powers. She still had her martial arts training and experience, but that was all.
Her mind flashed back to the last superheroic outing she participated in; she, Chamber, and Phoenix went up against a band of de-powered mutants. It had ended with Phoenix's death in a blaze of fire. (1)
Everything, it seemed, was falling apart for mutantkind, thanks to the virus, now that they had finally gained the acceptance of the majority of humanity. There were still plenty of hold-outs, but for the most part, they were accepted and the X-Men were treated much the same by the general populace as the other second-tier public teams. They weren't held in the same high esteem as, say, the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, but they weren't seen as any worse than the New Warriors or the late Champions.
Betsy sighed and left her glass on the rail. She headed back towards bed, wondering for a few moments if she couldn't recover her old body armor and still fight the good fight that way. Maybe Charles could get a hold of Tony Stark and see if he couldn't develop some space-age armors for the former mutants to hold their own in battle.
Betsy returned to the bedroom to find Warren Worthington III, her boyfriend, sitting up in the dark, rubbing at his eyes. "Did I wake you?"
"Yeah, little bit," Warren admitted, "strange, bit of a headache "
"You're probably just a little dehydrated," Betsy suggested, "want me to bring you a glass of water?"
"No, I'll be fine," Warren said, stretching out his arms, "Maybe I'll take a few quick laps around the city, make sure there aren't any late-night burglaries or anything"
"Leave that to Giant Man. He's this city's protector."
Warren laughed. "We Geecees have to do our part, too."
"In that case, you should at least put some pants on before you go out," Betsy laughed and flipped on the light. Her jaw dropped as she looked at her lover.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"Warren " She began, but couldn't continue.
Warren looked down at his hands and chest and shock filled his face as well. His skin was Caucasian again! Ever since the tampering done by Apocalypse, he had had blue skin.
"What what?" Warren began to grab at his back, awkwardly, and stormed towards the full-length mirror on the wall. He turned his butt to it and turned around to look as best he could. His wings were completely gone. "Where'd they go? What's going on?"
"Maybe this is a new transformation," Betsy suggested. Of late, his wings had changed into a sort of hybrid between the original feather wings and the metal wings of Death. He had found he could somehow send them away to some extra-dimensional source and call them back when he willed it.
Now, he couldn't call them back.
[Stark Solutions, Los Angeles branch office.]
Bill Foster stared at the DNA sequence on the computer screen before him. "I'm not an expert of mutants, but I've seen this before, and yes, I can say conclusively that you have the Leech virus, Warren. I'm sorry." (2)
Warren stared at the wall far distant while Betsy held his hand. She gave him a light squeeze and he gave no response. He felt cold and dead inside.
"I know how terrible it is to lose your powers," Bill said, "I lost mine myself awhile back and did some things I'm not proud of to get them back. (3) The bright side is that the Leech virus isn't like the Legacy virus. It won't kill you; it won't even affect your health, beyond reducing it to the health of a normal healthy homo sapiens."
"You can't know what it was like," Warren said, his mind high in the sky, "to soar under your own power."
"No, I don't," Bill said, "but there are jet packs that you could use to replicate it. It wouldn't be the same, no, but it would be something, at least."
"Jet packs, ha," Warren said.
"Mr. Foster is only trying to help," Betsy said.
"Send my DNA sample on to Hank McCoy and Moira MacTaggert," Warren said. "I want their opinions, too."
"Alright," Bill agreed, "I'm afraid they'll agree with me, but I'll send it on to them."
"Let's go, Betsy," Warren said.
"Warren, slow down!" Betsy said as he sped through the city streets. She had a sudden flash of the sports car flipping off the road, killing them both instantly. She squeezed her eyes shut tight and slammed the image into Warren's mind without thinking.
He hit the brakes and skidded to a stop in the middle of the road.
"Did you do that?" He asked.
"Yes," Betsy said. "Can you imagine what it's like to lose the power to read minds? It's like losing the ability to speak or read. So don't tell me about how horrible it is that you can't fly now. You'll have to learn to be normal like the rest of us."
"Your powers are coming back," Warren said.
"And yours will too, eventually," Betsy said, although she knew that the recovery rate was as yet unknown. Some mutants' powers returned almost instantly while others still hadn't gotten them back yet, like Cyclops.
"Maybe, but you don't know that," Warren said.
"At least it's hope," Betsy said. "That's something to live for, isn't it?"
"I suppose so," Warren agreed, putting the car back into gear and driving again, ignoring the honks behind him.
[Two weeks later.]
Reporters crowded as close as they could to the stand on the roof of a Worthington-owned skyscraper as photographers stepped back and snapped photos. Warren thought it might be symbolic somehow to have the press conference take place on the rooftop. Ceiling of the world. The place that was once his domain.
Betsy squeezed his hand and this time, he gave a light squeeze back. After the introduction was made, Warren released her hand and stood, walking to the microphone and letting the flashes wash over him.
"As you can all see, I'm a survivor of what people are calling the Leech virus," Warren said, finally announcing what had been speculated on in the press for the last two weeks. He'd kept out of the public eye as much as possible, which only further fueled the paparazzi frenzy.
After the hubbub had finally died down again, he continued. "I'm here today to confirm, publicly, that the virus is real but it is not deadly. It is true that it somehow changes mutant DNA, turning us into ordinary human beings.
"I'm afraid I can't explain the science myself; that's more my friend Hank McCoy's arena of expertise.
"The transition from mutant to human is an even more difficult one than that which we went through as teenagers when our powers first manifested, ladies and gentlemen. Many mutants become suicidal. It isn't that they think they're better than you are, it's the fact that the one thing that made them feel special, like unique individuals with power over their own fate, had been taken from them. They felt powerless, a mere cog in an uncaring machine.
"This is why I am announcing the formation of a new nonprofit organization to help former mutants deal with their power loss. With the love and support of my friends, I was able to overcome the depression of losing my wings without well, we all know what happened when I lost my wings before. I won't go into that again today.
"X-Corporation will open its first office here, in Los Angeles, though we are planning to rapidly expand around the world so long as our services are needed. We will be giving you further information as soon as we possibly can, but I'm afraid we have work to do now."
The reporters called out their questions as Warren stepped off the platform and looked out over the horizon. A new day was dawning, speaking figuratively.
`Everyone inside,' Betsy flashed into everyone's minds, and Warren spun towards her.
Three dark figures buzzed through the air towards the rooftop. "Betsy, who--?"
"I don't know," she said, "too far for me to read, but their intent is hostile!"
"Frieda?" Warren asked, and the heavyset woman who was serving as security at the event, known colloquially as Permafrost, stepped forward, her body covered in a thin sheet of ice, her breath always visible.
"Whoever they are, they're armed to the teeth," Permafrost told them, using the magnification lenses in her mask. "I'd better draw more power." She flexed, and the air grew cold as she absorbed the heat from the air around them.
"Betsy, take the reporters inside," Warren commanded.
"You can use your telepathy to keep them calm and keep them moving," Warren said, "do it."
Betsy knew he was right and did so, keeping the reporters from stampeding as they took the exit stairs. Betsy gave a last look of love to Warren, then followed them down.
"Anyone you recognize?" Warren asked as he unzipped a pack kept on the roof for just such an emergency.
"Nope," Permafrost said, shivering with the power she had taken. "Whoever they are, they're"
Before she could finish, she had burst into millions of frigid pieces, shattering in every direction. Warren dropped to the floor of the rooftop, avoiding shrapnel. The three figures zoomed past overhead, cheering their direct hit.
"Some sort of armor-piercer," Warren muttered and pulled the rocket launcher from the pack. He loaded it quickly but unworriedly, as the three figures zoomed back around. "I hope this works," he said, knowing that it would as it had been designed by Forge.
The rocket shot off and came between the three figures, emitting an electromagnetic pulse that knocked out their rocket packs. The three came to a skidding stop on the rooftop, nicked but without any serious harm.
"Hello, boys," Warren said, aiming a pistol at them. "I wouldn't move if I were you. You killed my friend, and that makes me less than happy. If I were a vengeful man, I'd shoot you right now. Instead, I'm going to make sure you go on trial and"
"Justice is served!" Shouted one of the men as he threw a grenade at Warren, whose eyes grew large as he realized the men didn't mind killing themselves so long as they killed their post-mutant target.
Warren jumped away from the grenade but was caught in the explosion and sent over the edge of the rooftop. The men cheered madly.
Warren was in free-fall and watched the blur of high-rise buildings flying past him. His heart rate sped up, seemingly to several hundred beats a minute, as he felt his death approaching any moment. It was ironic that he would die by falling, he who had flown too close to the sun, a modern Ikarus
Something snapped inside his mind, he felt a hot surge of pain, and he saw an image of Apocalypse, while he was brainwashing his former Horseman. He was saying something. Warren couldn't make it out, but the pain enraged him further. He wanted his last thoughts to be of old friends and lovers, not his most hated foe!
He listened to the high-pitched scree, so familiar.
His body jerked and reversed itself in mid-flight. He was going up, up, up!
Warren knew without looking that the metal wings of Death had returned. Some sort of nanotechnological failsafe Apocalypse had installed into his favored Horseman for just such an emergency. It had fired when he was near death and powerless, restoring him to the state his body was in as a Horseman. What of his mind? Had it too been reversed to that unhinged individual?
Time to worry about that later.
Within moments, he had risen to the rooftop and snarled at the three men who were congratulating one another. They turned and looked at him, astonished. Before they could fight back, he'd pinned them to the roof by the razor-sharp knives ejected from his high-tech wings.
He didn't need a mirror to know that his skin was blue again.
"You killed my friend," he said, rage bubbling in his voice as he walked towards them. He fantasized about slicing them to ribbons with his wings. "Who are you?" His voice wavered as he fought against the homicidal urges.
"We're with the Humanists," one of the men said. "Following the example of of of the Human. (4)"
Warren knew of him; he'd tried to kill the mutants in Sanctuary.
The rest of the security force had stormed the roof now and had their guns trained on the Humanists. Warren stood silently for a moment, letting the breeze pass him.
Then he took to the skies once more.
The Angel was dead; the Archangel had returned. Woe to the foes of mutantkind.
1. See issue #76, "After the X."
2. See issue #75, "Chess Set."
3. See West Coast Avengers for the details.
4. See Uncanny X-Men #418.
FOR THE ARCHANGEL'S NEXT MOVE, SEE UPCOMING ISSUES OF THE MIGHTY AVENGERS