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AltMarvel Team-Up #41--Brother Voodoo & Dead Girl!

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  • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
    Baron Samedi threw the unconscious Jericho Drumm into the restraint chair like a lumpy sack. The man known as Brother Voodoo had a busted lip, his white shirt
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 25, 2010
      Baron Samedi threw the unconscious Jericho Drumm into the restraint chair like a lumpy sack. The man known as Brother Voodoo had a busted lip, his white shirt and gray pants torn. He had been beaten up by Deathless Frenzy-modified zuvembies, but had managed to last more than a minute or two, at which point those zuvembies burned up and turned to ash. (1)

      Modifications were in order and Brother Voodoo would be the first to experience it. "I only hope it kills you slowly," Baron Samedi whispered at his slumbering foe. "It's only fitting that, after you thought you had killed me once and for all and I returned, praise be to Satan, that I do kill you!"

      Zuvembies strapped Jericho Drumm into place as Baron Samedi turned his back to him and left the room, to work on developing the next version of the Deathless Frenzy. "Shouldn't take long," he mumbled to himself, "just have to make a few modifications to keep him alive longer, and then see what effects it has. I just hope it hurts. A lot."

      The undead baron laughed uproariously as the ghost of Daniel Drumm flittered away, out of the AIM stronghold, to find someone who could help him to save his brother's life.

      `Where are the Avengers when you need them?' He asked himself as he passed intangibly and invisibly through the ceiling of the hidden laboratory in the middle of Greenwich Village. `Hey, I'm not far from Strange's place, maybe I'll see if he's home!'

      Daniel Drumm soared through the cold-soaked rain and snow to the Sanctum Sanctorum, only to find that his ghostly form could not pass through the mystically defended walls. `What nerve! And after I helped save their lives and bring this blasted house back into reality!' (2)

      Daniel scanned around for someone he can enter and make call the Avengers. But how would they believe some random man or woman? What could—

      `Aha,' he said.


      Find out what happens when AltMarvel's heroes occasionally find themselves with unlikely allies! Alternate Marvel Presents…

      AltMarvel Team-Up #41
      "Brothers & Barons"
      Featuring Brother Voodoo & Dead Girl!
      February 2010
      *************************
      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      *************************


      Dead Girl wasn't sure where to go from here. With X-Statix canceled (3) and X-Factor disbanded, (4) she was left with nothing to do and nowhere to go. She had spent some time traveling the world, and visiting with friends, but in the end, she was getting bored with the empty life she had been living.

      She didn't need any money for food. Just something to occupy her time. She fought a few super-villains here and there on her travels, but nothing she could really concentrate her efforts on, nothing to devote herself to.

      She had come to Greenwich Village to see if the Defenders were recruiting. She had heard around that they were the team to go to for the supernatural set, and that was definitely a bill she fit to a tee. Though presumably a mutant, her powers activated upon her death.

      Now, she was apparently unable to die a final death, her body regrowing itself whenever anything destroyed it. She didn't need to eat or drink, no toxin could keep her down for long, lack of air just made her sleepy.

      Unfortunately, the Defenders were not home. (1) She tried several times, even trying to sneak in through the back, which just sent her somehow back to the front door again.

      The Avengers wouldn't have someone like her; and so, Dead Girl walked the streets of Greenwich Village, unsure once again of where to go from here. She sighed, and then turned her head at an awkward angle.

      "You're a ghost!"

      `Nah, really? Hadn't noticed!'

      "Nice get-up," Dead Girl said, in reference to the astral form of Daniel Drumm, clad in the costume of Brother Voodoo. He swore at her for several seconds in reply. "Are you supposed to be a super-hero? Dead Man, maybe?"

      `I'm Brother Voodoo, the better half,' Daniel said, `and my lesser half is going to be dead if I don't get you to come with me and stop them.'

      "Them? Who's them?"

      `AIM. Interested?'

      "You bet!"

      [Elsewhere.]

      MODOK shivered secretly as he smelled brimstone and heard the eruption of a sudden blazing fire behind him. He felt the heat and knew immediately that it was hellfire. His hated master had returned.

      "What do you have for me, ugly? Anything I can use as yet?" Daimon Hellstrom wrapped an arm around MODOK, tickling his chin.

      Repulsed, MODOK was thrown off for a moment before responding, "Your servant, Samedi, is developing a new strain of the Deathless Frenzy we acquired from SHIELD, making it so that subjects can survive longer with the benefits of the serum still in their system."

      "And this is a super-science weapon I can use against my enemies how?"

      "Super-strong, super-fast, super-mad fighters under your command," MODOK stammered nervously, the hellfire licking at him. "Once I fix the issue of dehydration destroying the subjects, I'll test it on the resurrected Samedi himself and see how it reacts to an undead system. Imagine super-strong, battle-crazed warriors by the millions for your hell army…"

      "Not bad," Hellstrom agreed, "Continue. Just remember, every moment of your life exists because I will it. You will work for me at all times. Understood?"

      "Of course," MODOK said, narrowing his eyes as his dark lord disappeared in a cloud of black smoke. "For now…"

      [AIM hidden laboratory.]

      "Now, we will see how the new version of the Deathless Frenzy reacts," Baron Samedi said, "to the body of one Brother Voodoo."

      He held the full syringe up, savoring the moment, as Jericho Drumm was beginning to enter into a state of half-lucidity, consciousness wavering in and out.

      "Goodbye," Samedi said as he brought the syringe down to stick into Jericho's arm, "Mister Dru— Ummh!"

      The nearest zuvembie slapped him across the face, and Baron Samedi dropped the syringe and staggered back several steps, taken aback by the surprise blow. "What are you doing, you idiot?"

      "Just… stalling… for… time," Daniel said in the body of the zuvembie, one that was not filled up with Deathless Frenzy.

      Dead Girl passed through the wall, still wearing her special X-Statix uniform that could go intangible with her, and became tangible again in time to clobber the nearest zuvembie. "You monster! Injecting that sick drug into people when you know it'll kill them!"

      "Don't talk to me about monsters," Baron Samedi said, grabbing his cane and aiming its head at her, "Whatever you are, you obviously aren't human yourself!"

      "That's right, mortal," Dead Girl said, her eyes burning with fury. She became intangible again before the baron could fire his shot, the energy beam passing harmlessly through her insolid form, smashing against the wall beyond.

      "C'mon… brother…" Daniel said, tearing away Jericho's bonds. His head was still swirling, so Daniel wrapped his arm around his brother and carried him out away from the battle.

      Dead Girl held her own against the zuvembies, super-strength being only one of her many powers. She battered them around, only to watch them get up and attack again, no mind of their own, no fear or strategy. "Call them off or they'll wind up hurting themselves!"

      "That suits me just fine, my dear," Baron Samedi said as he clutched the syringe.

      Dead Girl was still clubbing the various zuvembies as Baron Samedi slipped in behind her and injected the serum straight into her neck. She opened up her mouth as wide as possible to scream as fire burned through her veins.

      "Now we shall see what happens," Baron Samedi said with glee, "When the already dead are injected with Deathless Frenzy!"

      Dead Girl shrugged off her attackers with ease, her super-strength suddenly increased, her mind a blurry haze of red and hatred as the fire burned through her entire system, her body feeling not just alive for the first time in months, but as though its life was being spent at an astronomically fast rate.

      If she were alive, she would be dead within minutes. As she was already dead…

      [Outside…]

      "You can't just… leave her there… we've got to go back… help her," Jericho stammered as Daniel laid him down on the sidewalk.

      "She's a hero; she'll get out. She'll be fine," Daniel said through the mouth of the possessed. "An ambulance should be here soon; I called ahead and—"

      Sirens.

      The zuvembie stared blankly as Jericho felt his brother's spirit slide back into his corporeal form. Having no instructions from his boss, the zuvembie stood there as though lacking life.

      Jericho felt his injuries begin to heal faster with his double-soul in place, and fell back into unconsciousness as the ambulance arrived to take him safely away to hospital.

      [To be continued…]


      FOOTNOTES:
      1. See last issue.
      2. See Defenders Annual #8.
      3. See X-Statix #10-12, the series finale.
      4. See Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1.

      NEXT TIME: DEAD GIRL & MACHINE MAN!
    • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
      A penthouse high above New York City. Two groups of six shady men stood at opposite ends of the room, neither admiring the view through the large glass
      Message 2 of 15 , May 14 3:13 PM
        A penthouse high above New York City. Two groups of six shady men stood at opposite ends of the room, neither admiring the view through the large glass windows of the city at night. Each group was obviously led by one individual among them; the black men were led by a man whose face was obscured by a black metal plate. It had holes for eyes, mouth, and nostrils and lie on his face as flat as possible, without anything apparently adhering it to his face.

        He was Blackjack.

        The leader of the white men sipped champagne as he stared down the other side, his eyebrows mocking them as they mocked anything else living or dead. His brown hair was slicked back, his widow's peak pronounced, and his goatee curved like a downward pitchfork.

        He was known as the Goat.

        Finally, Blackjack spoke; "You have the codes?"

        "Naturally," the Goat said, "I wouldn't have come here if I didn't. My network's Wakandan contacts were captured and killed for their efforts, but they got it to us."

        "My condolences," Blackjack said, "I've arranged for an accident to keep his majesty occupied for the time being. With any luck, it will even the score."

        "That doesn't matter to us," the Goat said. "This is a business, and these things happen. Are you going to hold up your end of our agreement?"

        "It is done," Blackjack said, walking up to the Goat and shaking his hand. "Now, as for the code?"

        The Goat smiled. "You will find it already has been transferred, encrypted as per your specifications. You have everything you need now to—"

        Conversation ceased abruptly as two large men came crashing into the room, splitting the door apart as they flew through it. Without stopping for so much as a breath, an athletic man in a familiar red, white, and blue costume ran in, a dull gray circular shield raised before him as the dozen gunmen automatically opened fire on the interloper.

        "What the hell?" Blackjack said over the chaos of gunfire. The man continued his charge, as bullets ricocheted off his shield with sparks and some of the men went down, struck by their own and their fellows' bullets.

        The man threw his shield and it smashed into one gunman's jaw, bouncing off to strike another in the stomach before hitting the floor and returning to its master, who took it up and smashed it into another of the gunmen.

        "Who have we here?" The Goat asked, calmly, before taking another sip of champagne.

        "I'm Captain America," said the black man in the costume as he knocked out the last of the grunts with a kick to the forehead. "And I'm shutting your organizations down."

        The Goat laughed. "I very much doubt either of those statements."


        Find out what happens when AltMarvel's heroes occasionally find themselves with unlikely allies! Alternate Marvel Presents…

        AltMarvel Team-Up Annual #3
        "Mastery"
        Featuring the Black Panther & Captain America?!
        May 2010
        *************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        *************************


        A black stretch limousine rolled down the streets of Manhattan, its driver cautious but fast, handling turns as though it was the easiest thing in the world without decreasing speed much at all.

        Without warning, there was a ball of orange flame beneath the right front tire and the limo went up into the air, flipping over several times before coming to a stop with a heart-deadening crunch.

        The dead limo had diplomatic plates. Wakandan.

        King T'Challa accessed the situation; besides himself, there was only Nakia, the driver. Okoye, his other Dora Milaje, was away on a fact-finding mission for him. He had been on his way across town to see if the Avengers' computers would have the necessary software he would need to find out who had stolen the codes. This time, Kimoyo alone would not be enough.

        He was dizzy, but that would pass. No serious injuries; thankfully, the limo was well-armored and the vibranium plating absorbed most of the impact.

        "Beloved," T'Challa whispered in Hausa, "are you alright?"

        Nakia groaned, semi-conscious. T'Challa withdrew an energy dagger from his suit jacket's inner lining and unbuckled his seatbelt. He cut away her seatbelt and crawled into the front seat beside her. He kicked the passenger side door open and carried her out.

        T'Challa ran towards the nearest buildings, Nakia in his arms. He wanted to get away before the vehicle exploded or another attack happened while they were trapped within. Setting her down in the doorway of a shop closed for the night, he examined her wounds. Nothing major. She would be fine.

        A man in a tuxedo chuckled. His face was distorted, wavy, such that you couldn't make out any of the details, as though someone's thumb had smudged all over a photograph. He stood about ten feet off from T'Challa, staring him down, arms crossed.

        Another figure leapt out from the shadows, this one dressed like a mountain man, with a simple black mask over his eyes and a harmonica in hand. His hair was long, jet-black, and greasy. He had a pencil-thin mustache.

        "Thanks to Hologram's illusions, you couldn't see me," the man with the harmonica said. "Now that you've met us, it's up to Harmonica to send you off…"

        Hologram chuckled. "What's wrong, King? Cat got your tongue?"

        The King of the Wakandas rose from his crouched position, back still to the men. As he lifted his head, it was noticeable that his head was now covered in a black mask, and gradually the men noticed that he was wearing the costume of the chieftain of the Panther clan once more.

        With speed beyond belief, the Black Panther spun around, hurling an energy dagger at Harmonica, blasting him into the deserted street. "I cannot smell your friend," Black Panther said, "but I can smell you."

        "He got me," Harmonica cried out, "Help!"

        "You can't touch me, kitty," Hologram said, "because I'm not even here; this is just a hard light projection, beamed via satellite to this location. You'll never find out where the signal is coming from, and—"

        The Black Panther pressed his Kimoyo card and Hologram said, "Stop him."

        Harmonica blew a note on his namesake musical instrument and a beam of energy shot out, blasting the Black Panther in the chest. He stood for a moment, then fell to his feet, staggered, smoke rising all around him.

        "That would have killed anyone not wearing serious body armor," Harmonica said, energy dagger still plunged deep in his shoulder. "Fortunately, I've got more than enough time to get the tune right…"

        [A week earlier. The Trophy Room of the Black Panther.]

        T'Challa had just returned to the present (1) and felt a need to remind himself of the past that brought him and his people to the now. The trophy room held various items of memorabilia, from all the ages of Wakandan civilization. It was a private museum of sorts, and a private memorial of his own for his adventures and the legacy of the Black Panther.

        He entered the room to find a man in black skintight armor, typing something on a laptop. Without saying a word to the man, whose back was turned to him, T'Challa shifted his suit into that of the Black Panther.

        He grabbed the man and spun him by the throat with his left hand as his right unsheathed its anti-metal claws. "You have two seconds to explain yourself," the Black Panther said.

        "Too late," the man said, gasping for air, as he stabbed a knife into the Black Panther's chest, only for the blade to snap in half. The Black Panther threw him across the room, smashing into the large cylinder which contained THROB, a dangerous gift from Doctor Doom.

        The Black Panther stood before the laptop on the table and studied the screen. It had just uploaded an encrypted file to an outside network. The Black Panther looked at the log book sitting beside it and realized what he had sent.

        "You endanger Wakanda," Black Panther said, "you fool, you've endangered the world! Who are you working for?"

        The man said nothing as he rubbed his neck.

        "You will answer me," the Black Panther said, "answer me!"

        "Security is slipping around here," the man said, removing his mask and smiling, "when ordinary spies can get through to your trophy room, King!"

        Before the Black Panther could reach him, the man had bit down on a false tooth, releasing cyanide into his mouth. The Black Panther watched as he spasmed briefly and slumped over, dead. Black Panther returned to the laptop. It was now his only link to whatever network had compromised his key codes. He would have to use it to retrieve them and remove it.

        [A week later.]

        The Black Panther suddenly found himself walled in, trapped between four brick walls, giving him inches to move in any direction. He looked up and it seemed the walls went up forever. He closed his eyes and tried to pass through them but could not.

        "Those aren't just illusions," Hologram said, "they're actually solid light; as real as anything else in this transient world. You can't pass through it."

        "Give me an opening," Harmonica said, wiping off his harmonica with a dirty rag.

        "No," Hologram said, before chuckling maniacally. "First, kill the girl. Let the king listen to her death-screams, unable to do a thing to save her."

        "No!" The Black Panther shouted, and clawed at the wall to climb it, but, it having no actual existence, could not get a hold on it to pull himself up and over.

        "I like that idea," Harmonica said, and walked around the towering walls encaging the Panther. "Hope you enjoy this next song, kitty…"

        Harmonica stood before the unconscious Nakia, and licked his lips to wet them before playing the next deadly note. He put the machine to his mouth and was about to blow when a gray shield smashed his fingers.

        Harmonica dropped his weapon, his fingers broken, crying out in pain. The shield, meanwhile, bounced repeatedly before returning to its master, who was already in motion, running towards the assassin. As Harmonica turned towards him to face his new opponent, Captain America smashed his red boots into the man's chest.

        "Who are you?" Hologram asked.

        "I'm Captain America," the man responded as he stomped on the harmonica, shattering it, "I'm the sentinel of liberty."

        "You're as fake as I am," Hologram said, raising a magician's wand towards the man. Captain America raised his shield in time for a lance of photonic energy to slash straight through it. Captain America dodged to the side, before it could strike him, and the energy dragged the shield off to the wall behind them, pinning it there.

        "You won't be able to keep dodging me for long," Hologram said, aiming his wand for Captain America's heart.

        "He won't have to," Black Panther said as the brick walls around him dissolved into thin air. "Your systems are state-of-the-art. It took Kimoyo a considerable amount of time to decipher it all and take control of your satellite. SHIELD has been alerted to your whereabouts. I would log off and flee, if I were you."

        Without another word, Hologram disappeared.

        The Black Panther walked over to Harmonica, still reeling from having his fingers broken, and put a boot on his shoulder. He took the energy dagger in his hand and yanked it out, pushing Harmonica down in the process.

        "You have been marked," the Panther announced, "wherever you go, I can find you. Stay here and wait for the police."

        Harmonica moaned in agony and curled up into a fetal position, sucking on his fingers.

        [Several minutes later.]

        After the authorities arrived to clean up the mess, the Black Panther went with Nakia towards the embassy, to pick up another car to drive to the dock. He had to return to Wakanda tonight to clear up more of the problems caused by the dead spy.

        "Good luck," Captain America said, handing him an address, "I got this from Blackjack. He was the one who paid for the information."

        "One of them," the Black Panther said, "for an international player such as the Goat to be involved, he would have sold the codes to several parties. I will investigate how many of them now have the codes and deal with them each in their own time."

        "What were the codes to?" Captain America asked. "Nukes?"

        "THROB," Black Panther said, "A vibranium robot which absorbs sound and could explode with the force of an H-Bomb if allowed to store too much. I have changed the control codes, of course; as soon as I saw that this was stolen, I had to for fear it would be used to ravage Wakanda."

        "That's a relief," Captain America said, "so this is going to be a revenge mission, at least, and not a `stop the destruction of the world' mission."

        "Correct, and that is why you cannot join me," the Black Panther said. "Take pride in the fact that I allowed you to fight by my side, whoever you may be, in the costume of my friend."

        "Hey, nobody knows what happened to Cap," Captain America said, "if and when he ever shows up again, I'll be more than happy to take on a new costume and name. Until then, the world needs Captain America, whoever he may happen to be."

        "True enough," the Black Panther said, "he justifies my faith in your country. Perhaps you will live up to the mantle. Perhaps."

        The Black Panther stepped into the shadows as a car arrived. It stopped; Nakia was driving. T'Challa returned from the shadows, dressed in a black suit. "Fare well."

        "Good luck," Captain America said, waving as the car sped off into the night.

        [The end.]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See recent issues of Captain Marvel.


        Tokyo, Japan.

        The crowd's murmurs died down as flashbulbs exploded. Dr. Noriyaki Ito stood before the podium, basking in the success of the official debut of the Geoportal. His daughter and research assistant, Oji Noriyaki, stood before the control panel of the great metal circle, ready to lock the coordinates and activate the machine that would forever revolutionize the way humanity traveled.

        Lucy Cervantes stood to the side of Dr. Ito, her eyes scanning the crowd, her helmet glowing as it analyzed the thousands of faces, checking them against international databases. "All clear," she whispered into her headset.

        "Keep your eyes open," said a man in her helmet, "you never know when something might happen."

        It was as much her moment as it was Dr. Ito's; it was her grand unveiling of her super-hero persona, Gadget. She was lucky to get her start at such an important function as this, the first public unveiling of the Geoportal, able to transport large quantities of items or people across the planet in a moment. There would no longer be the dependence on fossil fuels and avoidance of volcanic ash in the skies. The pace of human progress would only snowball from here. And she was the hero on hand to protect the scientists responsible.

        "Now, to begin our demonstration," Dr. Ito said in stilted English. He turned to his daughter and nodded his head to indicate that it was time. She nodded her head in agreement, smiling, and reached for the controls.

        A quivering, shimmering ray of light appeared between the two scientists as a human figure clad in black body armor leapt out of the strange liquid light, landing on feet in heavy boots. His whole body was in bulky medieval armor, save the lower portion of his face. His cape fluttered behind him as it pushed away from the liquid light before the light diminished and faded away.

        The helmet was instantly recognizable to the masses; in Japan, Marvels were practically a religion, and the Black Knight was well-known among them.

        "Don't turn that thing on," the Black Knight ordered, pointing at Oji.

        Gadget quickly used her thumb triggers to switch settings, turning towards the former Avenger, and blasted him with a pulse beam from her head lamp that knocked him off his feet and away from the stage.


        Find out what happens when AltMarvel's heroes occasionally find themselves with unlikely allies! Alternate Marvel Presents…

        AltMarvel Team-Up
        "Gadgets"
        Featuring the Black Knight & Gadget!
        May 2010
        *************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        *************************


        Twelve years old, Lucy Cervantes worked in her garage, tinkering with the bulky metal plates that she meant to turn into a suit of body armor. She dreamed of becoming like Iron Man, and though she was said to be more gifted than anyone else in her school, still nobody believed in her dream.

        "Lucy, honey," her mother said, coming into the garage even though she knew not to disturb Lucy when she was at work after supper. Lucy turned, making a face of annoyance, and squinted at the black man standing beside her mother.

        "Who're you supposed to be?" She asked, arms crossed, already knowing the answer and not liking it one bit.

        "I'm a friend of your mother's," the black man said, walking towards her. He had thick glasses on and was chubby, his clothes somehow looking baggy on him regardless. He was a silly looking man and Lucy found she wasn't able to maintain her anger at the goofy man. "And I'd like to be your friend, too, if that's possible."

        Lucy said nothing, turning her back to the man. He looked past her at the chestplate she'd been working on. "An advanced suit of armor, huh? I've some experience in the building of, ah, gadgets, myself. Maybe I could help you out."

        "Doubt it," Lucy said, back still turned to the man who would later become her step-father.

        [The present.]

        "Please tell me you did not just attack an Avenger," the original Gadget said over their comm-link.

        "Former Avenger," Lucy reminded him, "he's solo now, it's not the same."

        "Still, he has friends, powerful friends," Gadget said, "We don't know why he's here, so be careful."

        "Yeah, yeah," Lucy said, hopping off the stage to land beside the Black Knight, who was rising unsteadily to his feet, the breath knocked out of him. His armor had taken the brunt of the impact, thankfully. His eyeslits glowed red with arcane energy as he studied his opponent.

        Lucy toggled her thumb-switches, changing the intensity and variety of the headlamp's power settings.

        The Black Knight dodged the repulsor ray that came next, as he threw a shuriken that almost struck her headlamp. The new Gadget dodged, barely, and turned a heat-ray at the former Avenger, who pulled up his heavy cape before him to protect him from the burning flames.

        "No," Black Knight said, lowering his cape, smoke still billowing, "They've activated it! Whoever you are, we've got to—"

        "You can just stay right where you are," Gadget said, "I'm not entirely convinced you aren't possessed or something—"

        Gadget heard the gasps from the crowd on the other side of the podium and turned to see the Geoportal open, a blackness within its large circle of metal. "What… what?"

        "That's what my chaos computer had warned me of," Black Knight revealed, "the Geoportal has become a quantum-mirror of sorts; it uses absolute values in space, but not in sequence; it's become a gateway to parallel worlds!"

        A shambling mockery of humanity lumbered out of the portal, its clothing ragged, its teeth sharp.

        [Past.]

        "I just thought I'd check in since Mr. Deponty got sick," Luke Cage said as Mrs. Cervantes led him into the garage, "it's been awhile since I've seen Gadget, and I was hoping—"

        Cage and Mrs. Cervantes entered upon the garage which had become like a laboratory to the two mechanics. Gadget and Lucy worked on the suit of armor, Gadget behind a welder's mask, a torch in hand, while Lucy had a microscope-lens in one eye, carefully adjusting a circuit.

        "Ah, Mr. Cage," Gadget said, nervously, as he turned off the torch and lifted the helmet, "I was told my usual parole officer would be unable to stop by. It's a, er, pleasure to see you again."

        "Don't worry, I'm not here to bust your head in," Cage said, "what's this you're working on?"

        "It's a suit of armor for Lucy," Gadget said, as Lucy continued at her work. "When she's grown up, she plans to be a sort of Iron Woman, you know. So far, we've made the industrial steel bullet-proof and flame resistant, but it still needs a lot of work."

        "You've got all the time in the world to work on it," Cage said.

        [The present.]

        "Truce," Black Knight said as he leapt onto the stage.

        "Truce," Gadget said as she chased after him.

        The zombie snarled and clawed at the air between himself and Oji. Dr. Ito trembled, unable to protect his daughter from the otherworldly monster his machine had brought to her.

        Suddenly, the zombie was repelled away from Oji, thanks to Gadget's repulsor ray head-beam. The Black Knight tackled him, keeping him away from anyone else, while Gadget worked on shutting down the Geoportal.

        "Back you go," Black Knight said, hurling the zombie into the portal before it shut off. The black void of the other world became clear sky once again as everything returned to normal.

        Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

        "Dr. Ito, I think you're going to want to test this on a much smaller scale before a grand reopening," Black Knight said.

        "I'm sorry for doubting you," Gadget said, walking up to the former Avenger.

        "You had no way of knowing," Black Knight said, clapping her armored shoulder, "and you proved you can think fast when it counts. I hope I can count on you in the future."

        "Of course," Gadget said, smiling.

        [The end.]




        Angela Del Toro watched from the shadows of the rooftop as the men far below unloaded their merchandise from the back of one car into the other. She had been watching the cartel for some time and this was it, the payoff, the big score.

        Angela slinked further back into the shadows, rubbing a long, thin finger against the tiger amulet hanging from her necklace. She pulled off her black jacket and pulled her mask over her face, obscuring her features.

        She rose to stand straight and tall, her firm body lithe and sleek. Her costume was all black, save the retractable steel claws on her fingertips and the tiger amulet on her chest. Her mask exposed her lips and nose and had an opening for her hair to flow out from the top. Her eyes glowed with a coppery yellow as the lenses of the mask allowed her to take in more light, enhancing her night vision.

        "Here we go," she whispered to herself, looking down at the distant cars parked below. She unholstered her baton from its hip-holster and prepared to plunge into battle as the daring she-cat, the Coal Tiger.

        She paused and continued to watch, her eyes narrowing, questioningly, as a familiar superhuman stepped out of one of the cars of the drug traders down below.

        Hidden beneath a fedora and oversized trenchcoat was a very large man whose skin was orange and rocky with deep crevices. The Coal Tiger's eyes widened as the Thing removed his hat, as though to confirm his identity.


        Find out what happens when AltMarvel's heroes occasionally find themselves with unlikely allies! Alternate Marvel Presents…

        AltMarvel Team-Up
        "A Very Bad Thing"
        Featuring the Changeling and the Coal Tiger!
        May 2010
        *************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        *************************


        The Coal Tiger stood silently in place, watching as events unfolded down below, as the Thing argued with the buyers.

        Pfft!

        Coal Tiger saw the shot spark against the rooftop beside her, missing her body by inches. Her costume was supposedly bullet-proof, but the longer she went without testing that theory, the happier she would be.

        She scanned the adjacent and parallel rooftops and saw the sniper, dressed in black just as she was, blending in with the night darkness just as easily as she had. Somehow he had spotted her and nearly pegged her, if not for a pinkish blob knocking his arm away.

        "I'll never complain about mutants," Coal Tiger said as she watched the X-Man Changeling knock out the sniper with a sledgehammer-shaped fist.

        Without missing a beat, the Changeling ran to the edge of the roof and threw herself into the air, flattening out and catching some air resistance on her way down to cushion and slow the descent.

        `The cat's out of the bag,' someone said over the communications link, `best to wrap it up quickly.'

        "I'm on it," Coal Tiger said, grabbing onto the ledge and spinning a semi-circle around until her feet hit the side of the building. She ran down it, her vibranium-layered soles absorbing the impacts enough for her to keep running down the side of the building.

        When she arrived, she landed without a sound. The men had already started their cars and attempted to flee, but the Changeling had tangled herself up in the cars, making it so that they were straining against each other to move out of the alley.

        The Thing growled and swore at them as he picked up a dumpster and hurled it at the Changeling. It bounced away harmlessly as she kept at it. The men in the cars finally gave up and got out and fled in every direction.

        "Stay right where you are," the Coal Tiger said, "we're taking you in."

        "Fat chance, frail," the Thing gloated as he smashed a fist into the wall behind where the Coal Tiger had stood a moment earlier.

        [Earlier that day.]

        Andrea Margulies peered over the deck of the Helicarrier, the ground a mile below obscured by the clouds. G.W. Bridge, still clad in his electric red exoskeleton, stood beside her.

        "We're all very glad to have your assistance for the next few days," Bridge said, "when Xavier and I spoke about this cooperation, I wasn't sure if it was actually going to happen."

        "SHIELD is short on manpower thanks to cutbacks," Changeling said, feeling warm in her x-uniform even in the chill so high above the earth. "Whereas the X-Men tend to have more members than we know what to do with. Only natural that I offer to help out a bit."

        "Well, I appreciate it," Bridge said, "and SHIELD won't forget this favor the next time things fall in line against your people. That being said, I think it's time you meet the field agent you'll be working with."

        Changeling turned to see the young Hispanic woman in an all-black costume. "Hello," she said politely, "I'm Angela Del Toro, the Coal Tiger."

        "Interesting codename," Changeling said, "Mind if I ask…?"

        "My uncle is Hector Ayala," Angela said, "the original White Tiger. He has retired and left me his amulet of power, the Tiger Amulet. It grants me peak human performance and enhanced senses.

        "As there is now another White Tiger operating in the New York area, I thought it wise to rework the identity a little and, thus, I became the Coal Tiger."

        "I see," Changeling said.

        "The Wakandan government was kind enough to loan her the use of a costume similar to that of the Black Panther," Bridge said, "part of another cooperation agreement between us and that sovereign nation. SHIELD is trying to build bridges with the various superhuman communities of the world now, not simply to use and manipulate them as we did in the past."

        "And we appreciate that," Changeling said, smiling. "So, who are we picking up?"

        "I've been tracking a drug cartel for several weeks," Angela said, "and we believe that their profits help to fund the Hand."

        "Count me in."

        [Later.]

        The Thing lifted one of the cars over his head, the Changeling having let them go after the men ran on foot out of the alley. She shifted to a more humanoid form and stood by the Coal Tiger.

        "Don't worry about me," Coal Tiger said, "do what you can to stop him."

        "Ben!" Changeling shouted as she wrapped herself around him, making it so that he couldn't throw the car anywhere, "Don't you remember me? You helped me to stop the Puppet Master!" (1)

        "Leggo of me," the Thing snarled and struggled against her. As much as the Changeling continued to flow and twist around him, his superhuman strength and impossible rage was too much, and soon he would be free.

        "Why are you helping these people to poison this city? And the proceeds go to the Hand! Ben, why?"

        "I'm not helping these people," the Thing argued, "I'm going to take over their organization! I have the power now, and nobody's gonna stop me! I'm the Thing!"

        "Something's wrong," Coal Tiger declared, and leapt at the Thing's face, her steel claws slicing out of their casings. "I have a hunch…"

        She slashed out and the Thing cried out in pain. She sliced through his neck, and then yanked at his head to remove it.

        "A-ha," Coal Tiger said, leaping away with the Thing's head.

        A white man's head, much smaller, was within, and snot was running down the side of his humiliated face.

        [Four Freedoms Plaza.]

        Coal Tiger and the Changeling presented Reed Richards with the Thing exosuit, now empty.

        "I was wondering where that went," Mr. Fantastic said as he eyed the exosuit briefly before returning to the complex calculations on his large chalkboard. "A disgruntled accountant left us the same week as it went missing, I'd been meaning to call in the authorities about it but hadn't found the time."

        "I told'ja it was worth checkin' out, Stretcho," the real Ben Grimm said as he tapped out the ash of his cigar in an ashtray. "Nothin' good can come of keepin' that suit where scrawny suits can get to it."

        "SHIELD will have to hold onto it for awhile," Coal Tiger said, "as it is evidence in our investigation."

        "Not sure if that's any better," the Thing frowned. "Can't trust them spooks, y'know."

        "Just like those spooks can't trust us mutants," the Changeling said, "or you cosmic-powered Marvels. It has to start somewhere."

        "Guess yer right, kiddo," Ben said.

        [The end.]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See issue #37.



        Eli Bradley watched the television in the hospital room as he sat in the chair by the bed. His friend had been beaten nearly to death the previous night by the Needle, and it was on the news. Thus, Eli had opted to change the station to the History Channel, which had on a documentary about Captain America and Bucky's exploits during World War II.

        "I'll bring him to justice," Eli promised. "I swear to do everything in my power to make sure he pays for what he did to you."

        Eli left the room, slinging his backpack over a shoulder. Inside was a steel triangular shield.



        Find out what happens when AltMarvel's heroes occasionally find themselves with unlikely allies! Alternate Marvel Presents…

        AltMarvel Team-Up
        "Needle in L.A."
        Featuring Giant Man & Patriot!
        May 2010
        *************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        *************************


        Several weeks earlier.

        Josiah X stood in Eli Bradley's bed room, Eli sitting on his bed, calmly listening to the story of their family.

        Eli had always wondered why it was that Josiah didn't look a day over twenty-five even though he was well past fifty now. Now he knew.

        Josiah's father had been Isaiah Bradley, the failed super-soldier. Josiah had inherited the age retardant factor and peak human abilities. Eli's mother, Josiah's sister, had been born before the super-soldier experiments; as such, Eli had no superhuman abilities and would age as any normal man, reaching his peak and then declining as normal.

        "Why are you telling me this now?" Eli asked.

        "I had to tell someone, I guess," Josiah X said, "before I start, in case anything happened, just… just so that you could explain it, maybe."

        "What do you mean? What're you going to do?"

        "The world needs a Captain America," Josiah X said, reaching into his duffel bag and removing the mask of Captain America. "Who knows what's happened to the original, so someone has to be ready to step into his shoes in his place until he comes back. Might as well be the son of another super-soldier, right?"

        "You're going to need help," Eli said, "I'll be your partner, like the Falcon—"

        "You have no powers," Josiah said, "it's one thing being dumb enough to leap into battle myself, but I am not throwing my sister's kid into the fray as well. No, stay in school, get good grades, change the world in more socially acceptable ways."

        "But," Eli began.

        "I'm telling you in case something happens to me," Josiah said, "you can explain it to the rest of the family. If you died too, who would explain it? Stay a civilian, Eli. Promise me."

        "Okay," Eli said, lying.

        [Weeks later.]

        Eli Bradley walked the streets in the area where the Needle had been attacking random youths. He studied up on the villain; apparently Josef Saint had been an ordinary man until a horrible incident with a gang of street youths nearly killed him. Now he sought his vengeance by lashing out at the young and those in unfortunate places, regardless of whether or not they were the same caliber of mean as those who had nearly killed him.

        After spending half the night walking about, Eli finally noticed a strange, long, thin man following a couple of kids into an alley. Eli followed at a distance, then stopped before the entrance into the alley.

        He peered in and saw the kids frozen in place, as the man removed his trench to reveal the costume of the Needle. He had a large needle in hand, ready to sew their mouths and eyes shut.

        Eli tore away the buttons on his shirt, revealing his red, white, and blue costume beneath. He slung his mask over his face and pulled out his triangular shield and leapt into the alley, ready for battle.

        "Needle," Patriot said, shield in hand, ready for a fight, "let those children go."

        The Needle turned, a glint in his eye, and the Patriot found that it was now he who could not move.

        [Several weeks prior.]

        Dr. Bill Foster sat at his desk at Stark Solutions' Los Angeles complex and opened his email. One was from a concerned party calling himself the Shroud, and Bill wondered for a moment if it was the villainous leader of Night Shift or not. Then he saw that, if not, it was a joke in poor taste.

        The message explained that the Needle had taken a leave of absence from their group, and the Shroud believed he had become deranged, looking to seek vengeance on any young people he came across. He was violent, mad as a rabid dog.

        Several articles were attached; it was believed that the Needle was in L.A., and so the Shroud contacted the local super-hero, hoping he could rein in his former teammate.

        Bill found it curious that the enemy would contact him, but as he read the articles about the torture the Needle was performing on random youths, he decided he would have to act as Giant Man to put a stop to the Needle's acts of vengeance.

        [Several weeks later.]

        Patriot watched, unable to move, as the Needle approached, oversized needle in hand, waving menacingly in the air before him. He began to wish he had listened to his uncle's advice after all.

        The Needle's one eye closed, tight, and he seemed to suffer under a great strain, as a black man in a yellow and blue costume suddenly appeared on his shoulder, seemingly growing up out of nowhere.

        The Needle collapsed in a heap under the man, who continued to grow until he was at least twelve feet tall. The Needle passed out and the two youths could move again and ran off, presumably towards their homes. Patriot spasmed, finally able to move once again, and shook off the chill of fear.

        "Bucky?" Giant Man asked with a grin as he wrapped a cloth over the Needle's exposed eye so that he could not make eye contact with anyone when he awoke.

        "Patriot," Eli replied, "I'm my own man."

        "Okay," Giant Man said, "I'm guessing I won't be able to talk you out of this line of work if you've already got your codename and costume down. So here, take this."

        He handed Patriot a card with a web address on it and a code to sign in. "Join the Champion Network and get some training and assistance from more experienced heroes, okay? We don't need any more dead Marvels these days."

        "Okay," Patriot said, "thanks."

        "I think I can handle this guy from here," Giant Man said, tying the Needle's hands together while still sitting on his lower back. "Best of luck to you."

        [The end.]
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