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The Defenders: In Kang We Trust #1 of 2

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  • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
    Pyramid City, New Mexico. A city far removed from the centers of superhuman activity in the United States, a city in which nothing much ever happens. One time
    Message 1 of 32 , Apr 3 1:27 AM
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      Pyramid City, New Mexico.

      A city far removed from the centers of superhuman activity in the United States, a city in which nothing much ever happens. One time many months before, Iron Man was seen flying by. Other than that and ordinary mutants, who used their powers to little or no effect, there was little to say about the place as far as Marvels go.

      That was before.

      Bill Jinkins had been unlocking the driver's side door to his truck when a bug flew into his ear. He felt a painful sting, and then the bug apparently died, planted deep within his ear drum. His eyes glazed over, his muscles spasmed for a fraction of a second before a tranquility settled over him.

      He got into his truck, started the engine, put it into gear, and drove off, his thoughts as empty as his stomach. He was no longer concerned with going out to pick up some groceries. Only one thought continued to echo through his emptied-out mind, and it was not a thought of his own.

      Within minutes, he was able to see the gas station, and he slammed his shoe down on the acceleration pedal. Before anyone knew what was happening, the truck ran into the gas pump, igniting both in a massive fireball. A half-second later, a second explosion erupted, taking the other pumps and the gas station itself along with everything else.

      Two costumed individuals, one male and one female, looked on with smiles on their faces. One wore green, plated like the exoskeleton of an insect, with red bulbous eyes and wings like propeller blades on his back. The other, the female, wore a gray bodysuit with blue gloves, belt, boots, helmet, and pointed shoulders. Her hair flowed out a hole in the back of the helmet in a ponytail.

      "Kang will reward us for our conquest, August," the Lady Controller said to her cohort.

      "Call me Dr. Hopper, or Locust," the other said, "and I still don't know if I agree. Why strike such an inconsequential place as this?"

      "It was the site of the last battle between my sweet Basil and Tony Stark," the Lady Controller explained. (1) "Whatever reason he had for being here, it was something important. I am certain that this is a place of power, a place that will prove—"

      "Enough, Deborah," the Locust said, holding up a hand. "I entered into this pact because the bioengineering of your slave discs into my insects proved too beautiful a partnership to pass up. That doesn't mean I want to hear you drone on about your lover."

      "Fine, Hopper," Lady Controller said, her mood changed, "Let's just get this done, then. And in the future, you will call me the Lady Controller."

      "That suits me fine," the Locust said. "Shall we?"

      "By all means," Lady Controller said, as they strode forward, a swarm of locusts clouding the skies behind them.



      The mysterious DOCTOR STRANGE! The savage WHITE TIGER! The alien RINTRAH! The high-flying VALKYRIE! Evil-doers tremble at the names--for these four form the crux of the greatest NON-TEAM in history, heroes called together only when the need arises--to battle MENACES that threaten the security--or the very LIFE--of the planet Earth!
      Dan Gordon Presents: The Dynamic Defenders!

      The Defenders: In Kang We Trust
      Chapter One
      "Gods & Insects"
      January 2010
      ************************
      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      ************************



      An hour later.

      People ran through the streets, panicked as the swarms ate at them, the mind-controlled slave-humans smashing whatever they could, more and more of the people suddenly seizuring for a single moment before becoming slaves themselves.

      Buildings erupted, smoke filled every inch of air not covered by the locusts, windows shattered as a result of bricks flying, baseball bats or bare fists smashing them.

      In other words, there was chaos in Pyramid City, just as the pair of super-villains had intended. With all the other hotspots on Earth right now, the superhero community would not descend on them, leaving them to claim this city as their own in Kang's name.

      No one was looking up to notice a break in the swarm as the heroes finally came. The golden-armored Valkyrie rode in on Aragorn, her winged Pegasus, the White Tiger riding behind her on its back, his eyes glowing yellow beneath his mask as he scanned the horrid sight below. Beside them buzzed Angel, herself an insect-based superheroine.

      "Angel, can you mind-control these insects as Ant-Man can?" Valkyrie inquired of the junior associate of the Defenders.

      "I wish," she responded. She was still a young mutant, uncertain as to the full extent of her powers, but thus far she had been unable to do anything like that. "They're not biting me but that's about it."

      "Nor us," White Tiger said, "Praise Bast."

      "Locusts are a pestilence on the face of the Earth," Valkyrie said, "Remind me sometime to tell you about how the evil god Loki invented them. They will ignore us as they can smell the aura of Death on the Chooser of the Slain. As we are fellow Horsemen, they will not mind me or my steed."

      "That's sure convenient," Angel said as they came down to land in the midst of the chaos, near the town hall, smoke billowing out of every orifice of the building.

      "This town is ours!" Lady Controller said, standing on the steps to town hall while the Locust, just down the street, was enlarging beetles to adult human size. "You can find another to claim for your own, there are plenty to go around!"

      "We are not Kang's henchmen," Valkyrie announced, stepping down from Aragorn and unsheathing Dragonfang, "We are the Defenders and we have come to defend this town from your disgusting invasion!"

      Lady Controller laughed. "Hey, Hopper! The Defenders have come to stop us!"

      "Use your slaves," Locust responded, not turning around to talk to her. "I'm busy."

      "You are the senior member of the team," White Tiger said, "we will follow your lead."

      "Angel, stop the Locust from powering up any more insects; Tiger, stop the woman. I will destroy these oversized insects myself."

      "Sounds like a plan, Goldilocks," Angel said, buzzing her way over to the Locust, spouting acid from her mouth to clear the path.

      The White Tiger said nothing, pulling out from his leather trenchcoat an energy dagger in his left hand and a 9mm pistol in his right.

      Valkyrie smiled as she charged the nearest eight-foot-tall grasshopper, Dragonfang arcing through the air.

      [Deep inside the Earth itself.]

      In a vast subterranean chamber protected from the intense heat at the core of the planet by the spirit of that globe itself stood Doctor Stephen Strange and his otherdimensional bride, Clea. Clea had helped him climb through the vast and complicated caves, a labyrinth through which only the Eye of Agamotto could have possibly guided them unfailingly.

      "We've made it," Strange said, still weak. He had been suffering from age and decay for some time now, a victim of various depredations. Now, having taken a leave of absence from the Defenders, it was time for him to restore himself once and for all.

      And that was why they were here; they entered into a vast cavern, a waterfall filling a vast pool which fed into numerous places on the planet. The top of the waterfall was a blinding white disc of light, an interdimensional source which none could enter from time-space.

      "It's beautiful, Stephen," Clea remarked.

      "It's the barrier-point," Stephen explained, "the access way to the realm from which the fabled Fountain of Youth flows. From here, there are several tributaries to different places on Earth, but this is the source; this is where it is most powerful."

      "I can feel it," Clea said, "It… it is pure life-force."

      "It is unrestrained vitality," Stephen said, feeling the vibrations of life fill him up, strengthening his body and mind, as a serenity began to come over him. He sat beside the lake, dipping his fingers into it.

      Clea closed her eyes, burning with internal power, as her husband, nearly completely drained, slowly refilled his cup of life at the lake.

      They passed no further words, Clea sitting down beside him. They felt the pulse between them, adding to their own rather than overpowering them.

      [Pyramid City.]

      "The more slaves I have, the stronger I become," Lady Controller explained, as she shielded her face with her gauntlets, plastic bullets exploding against them, harmlessly, "and the longer we stay here, the more of Locust's kamikaze slave-disc insects infect the populace."

      "The forces of justice will prevail," the White Tiger said, as he let off three more shots at the Lady Controller before he had to focus on the slaves about him. Before they could tackle him he leapt into the air and spun, kicking them away from him. He didn't want to cause them any harm since they could not help themselves, but he had to admit that he couldn't keep this up for very long.

      If only he had a jet-pack like Nighthawk or like his lord had once given the Falcon, he could fly over the slaves. Unfortunately, having no such device nor natural flight at his disposal, he fled from the slaves, zigging and zagging towards his foe-woman.

      "Honor demands that you fight me yourself, not through hapless surrogates," the White Tiger said, nearing her.

      He threw his energy dagger and she protected herself as expected, shielding her exposed face with a glove. The dagger went through the glove like a knife through a mass of gelatin, stopping stuck halfway through.

      Lady Controller looked at her wrist, glowing energy dagger sticking out of it, little blood dripping from it, and the pain began to overwhelm her senses.

      She cried out, pulling the energy blade from her wrist, and drew on the strength of her slaves' mental energies to block out her own pain. The artificial technological nervous system overrode her own, keeping her conscious though less than pleased.

      She dropped the energy blade on the sidewalk and glared at the White Tiger, who was dropping an elbow on a man who had nearly tackled him.

      Moving with speed comparable to his own, she grabbed him around the midsection from behind, squeezing tight, and hurled him down the street, to bounce off two car hoods before shattering a windshield and falling into the front seat of the parked car.

      "May Bast protect me," White Tiger whispered to himself. He felt nothing broken or fractured; that was a gift from the gods, to be sure. He could hear his foe stomping towards him, howling in rage.

      The White Tiger took three calm, deep breaths, then slid out the now non-existent windshield, pulling out his spare pistol and making a mental note to retrieve the one he lost when thrown.

      "I'm going to kill you!" She screamed, nearly incoherent.

      The White Tiger took aim and opened fire on her onrushing form, plastic gel bullets exploding harmlessly against her body armor.

      [Earth's Moon.]

      Rintrah sat cross-legged, tens of feet off the surface of the moon, a small pocket of self-producing air all around his green-furred body. He opened his eyes with a start and saw the space-fleet of Kang in orbit around the planet the Defenders called home.

      "I wonder," Rintrah said, "should I attack? With my knowledge of the mystic arts, I could pass by their defenses undetected and stop the war before it has reached a fever pitch. I could stop the bloodshed now.

      "But I won't. For some reason, I feel compelled towards noninterference in this conflict. As though a greater power compels me back. I should take heed; hasty action has resulted in my death before, after all."

      The extra-dimensional minotaur mage remained fixed in place, watching the armada from afar, wondering at the ultimate questions of the cosmos. His heart burned with a need to stop Kang, to save lives, to defend the Earth, his second home.

      "And you will," came a voice, "but not this time. Others will perform that task. You will have that role in the future."

      Rintrah saw floating before him a black man in all white clothing, a business suit meticulously cut and a fedora in his hand. He reached out the other hand and Rintrah looked at his face and saw that it was not smiling or jeering but merely passive, contented.

      "I am the White Man," he explained, "and I come to enlighten you, Rintrah. Let us away."

      "Very well," Rintrah agreed, taking his hand, and the two disappeared without so much as a flash of light or blur of motion. They simply ceased to exist on this plane of reality.

      [Pyramid City.]

      Angel found her super-strength well matched with that of the Locust. While Dr. August Hopper had originally been nothing more than a scientist with bizarre theories about insects, he had since become so much more. After gestating for a period of several months in a cocoon of his own, he had emerged with his own insectoid powers.

      "You have an insect side to your own nature," Locust said, grappling with her before throwing her into a parking meter, bending it over. "And I can control insects. I've never tried it with a human hybrid like myself before, however, this should be a valid test of my new abilities."

      Angel could feel his mind inside her own, telling her to lay down, telling her heart to slow its savage beatings, her eyes to close, to curl up and fall asleep. "No," Angel denied him, "I'm more than an insect! I'm a Defender now!"

      "Your mind has been clouded over before," Locust responded, punching her in the jaw, knocking her back down, "and it shall be so again!"

      She felt his will overpowering her, and desperate for breath, she spat as much acid as she could at him, hitting him in the face with it. She heard a hiss like an egg cooking and a scream of pain as the Locust backed off, face steaming, permanently disfigured from the attack.

      He swore viciously as she regained her feet, her mind quickly clearing out. She had been Baron Mordo's lackey, nearly killing the Valkyrie in the process, while her powers were augmented by his magic and the Power Cosmic. She had promised never to let another control her like that.

      "Agh!" She felt a thousand knives pierce her mind, as the Locust, hunched forward, covering his face with his hands, trying to clear away the acid that still burned his skin and mouth and nose and eyes, his goatee completely gone, his face mask evaporated away, stepped towards her. He had only one thought on his mind, and it was murder.

      "Die," he said, hammering her with blows as she reeled from the mental assault. Struggling to work her way out of the haze in her skull, to fight it enough to reclaim corporeal existence, she found her grip sliding off, and she fell towards the yawning abyss.

      She whispered something, unheard, as the Locust savagely beat her, his fists bloody and nearly broken already. He sent the full force of his mental fury into her mind, unconcerned with any of his insect beasts.

      Angel dropped, bloody, broken, beaten, after several minutes of the onslaught.

      The Locust stood over her, breathing madly, unable to catch his breath, unable to do anything but focus all of his hatred, all his disappointment, fury, shame from all his failures over the years, into this one woman.

      His vision was clouded over by hatred and the damage done to them, but he saw another woman walking towards him, this one the other female Defender, who carried a sword and wore strange alien armor.

      The rage on her face terrified him, even in his state of madness. He summoned a giant beetle on her and she grabbed it by the torso and tore it in two down the middle with a terrible shredding sound. She let it fall and continued on her path.

      Wordlessly, he threw himself at her and she backhanded him with her sword. He spun through the air as he fell, and couldn't feel the left side of his face.

      "I am taking her to Valhalla," Valkyrie said, sotto voce, emotions bubbling just beneath the surface, "if you are still alive when I return, I will kill you."

      She continued in a straight line to the body of Angel, as Aragorn landed beside them. Picking her up in both hands, Valkyrie gently hoisted her onto the winged horse and then slid up onto its back herself.

      The Defender flew off with her teammate, as the disfigured, battle-mad Locust looked on in fear and anger and confusion.

      [To be continued.]


      FOOTNOTES:
      1. See Invincible Iron Man Annual #2.
    • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
      San Francisco, California. Bobby Drake drove his rented SUV across the Golden Gate Bridge, admiring the waters below. Not such a long time ago, he could have
      Message 32 of 32 , May 1, 2010
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        San Francisco, California.

        Bobby Drake drove his rented SUV across the Golden Gate Bridge, admiring the waters below. Not such a long time ago, he could have frozen those waters by sheer force of will, his mutant condensation power allowing him to ice over anything he pleased.

        Thanks to the Leech virus, this was no longer the case. (1)

        Now, he was just plain, ordinary Robert Drake, spokesperson for human/mutant relations. He worked with the X-Men in cases of public relations and meetings with diplomats. He was no longer involved in any combat scenarios.

        This suited him just fine, for the moment; he knew he would have to settle down some day, he just hadn't anticipated that day coming so soon. He had been distraught, depressed, at first, upon losing his powers. Now, he was gradually beginning to accept it as a fact of life, and come to terms with being an ordinary human being with no x-factor gene separating him from ninety-nine percent of the population of the planet.

        "Just a normal guy on vacation," Bobby chuckled to himself, wondering what he was going to do tonight. Too bad Hank couldn't get off monitor duty with the Avengers, or they could paint the town—

        Bobby had to swerve out of the way of the car before him as he slammed on the brakes. Whatever was going on had stopped all traffic. Bobby got out of the vehicle and hopped onto the hood to get a better view.

        In the middle of the bridge, a giant scorpion, the length of a semi trailer, was snapping its pincers and wagging its tail at the parked cars.


        The mysterious DOCTOR STRANGE! The savage WHITE TIGER! The alien RINTRAH! The high-flying VALKYRIE! Evil-doers tremble at the names--for these four form the crux of the greatest NON-TEAM in history, heroes called together only when the need arises--to battle MENACES that threaten the security--or the very LIFE--of the planet Earth!
        Dan Gordon Presents: The Dynamic Defenders!

        The Defenders #73
        "Scorpion Crisis"
        Guest-starring Iceman!
        April 2010
        ************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        ************************


        Bobby got back in the rented SUV and rummaged through his bags in the back until he found the one he was looking for. It had the gift from Forge that he had asked for. He hadn't planned on making use of it so soon, but when duty called…

        In under two minutes, Bobby had slipped out of the normal clothing he had been wearing and had slipped on the cold blue costume that had been in the bag. He slipped the mask over his face to protect his identity as he stepped back onto the bridge, resembling Blizzard more than Iceman of the X-Men.

        He iced up a bridge over the cars between him and the giant scorpion, and once he had crossed it he saw that another hero was already on the scene. At first he didn't recognize him as he was also wearing new duds.

        "Doctor Strange!" Iceman said as he came to a landing on the pavement, happy to be off the ice-slide which wasn't so natural to him as it had been when his own body made it and his feet were made of ice.

        Doctor Strange turned to look at him, eyes scrutinizing the unfamiliar costume. Strange was dressed in a sharp blue suit, black tie, and quickly yanked a silver pocket watch from his pocket, opening it up and shining its blinding light at the Iceman.

        "Yikes," Iceman said, shielding his eyes with his arms, "I'm a friend! A friend!"

        "I apologize, Iceman," Dr. Strange said, "I wasn't sure just who you were at first. I've been out of the loop of late and I don't know who is wearing what anymore."

        "Right, it's cool," Iceman said, "So what've we got here?"

        "What we have here," Dr. Strange said, "is a giant scorpion. Frankly, I'm surprised you had to ask."

        "Where did it come from?" Iceman asked, watching as the scorpion snapped and whipped about but did nothing to actually strike anyone.

        "That's what I would like to find out," Strange said, "he means no harm, of course, but given his size, could do considerable damage if let loose in a populated area. Worse, he isn't alone; where there's one…"

        Iceman watched as Valkyrie loaded up civilians on the back of her winged steed, Aragorn, flying them over the hastily parked vehicles to get them clear of the bridge. Rintrah wrapped several people up in his levitating cloak, carrying several more as the cloak carried them over the scene to safety.

        "I thought the Defenders disbanded awhile ago," Iceman said.

        "When the need arises," Dr. Strange said, "now, if you could be so kind as to freeze up our friend here, he won't present any problem as we take him home."

        "What? You want me to freeze him up?"

        "It won't hurt him but it will keep him from lashing out at us," Strange said.

        Iceman obeyed, firing his palm freezer-rays at the giant scorpion and slowly slathering it until it was iced over and had stopped moving. "Is it… is he okay?"

        "Yes, as long as we get him back quickly," Strange said.

        "Everyone is safely away," Valkyrie reported as she returned on Aragorn.

        "Excellent," Strange said, "I'm going to need you and Rintrah to carry the scorpion back to its island."

        "Lead the way, Stephen," Valkyrie said.

        [Shortly.]

        A tiny island poked up its head from the waves, and Dr. Strange hovered above it while Rintrah and Valkyrie, still astride Aragorn, lowered the iced scorpion down onto the island. Iceman followed on an ice-slide, which he repeatedly nearly fell off of.

        "Here we are," Strange said, "Scorpion Island."

        "Never heard of this place before," Iceman said.

        "That's because it was never here before," Dr. Strange said, as he used the flames of the Faltine to melt away the artificial ice and the giant scorpion stirred back to life.

        The scorpion fled towards a cave, and the Defenders and Iceman watched as several more scorpions, just as large, poked their heads out of the large cavern beneath the island.

        "The island rose above the surface recently due to seismic shifts," Strange explained, "the cave system under Scorpion Island protects them from drowning, but when they found they could leave the caves, well, naturally, this one wanted to explore a bit."

        "How did you know all this?" Iceman asked.

        "The Eye knows all," Strange said with a smile, slipping out his pocket watch again.

        "Okay, so now what?" Iceman asked. "Like you said, they aren't evil, but we can't just leave them here, so close to San Fran."

        "Whatever we are going to do," Rintrah said, "we had better do it quickly."

        The Defenders looked towards the water. "I can feel it," Valkyrie said, able to detect the movements in the waves. "Submarine?"

        "Yes," Strange said. "They're going to attack Scorpion Island."

        [Inside the sub.]

        The Blue Sabres went to work at their stations, prepared to launch missiles that would return the small island to beneath the ocean waves where it, in their opinion, belonged.

        `Wait,' a psychic voice commanded, and everyone halted immediately through the sheer force of the voice's will.

        The commander stared into the astral image of Doctor Strange, appearing before him as though it were a hologram. "Out of the way, mutant; we're here to protect humanity from those bug-eyed monsters!"

        `They're not monsters, they're living beings the same as you or I,' Strange replied, ignoring the mistake of labeling him a mutant. `They mean no harm; give us an hour to relocate them. We'll move them to an island further out to sea, too far for them to swim to shore, and you'll never have to worry about them again.'

        "Uh-huh," the commander grunted, "until the Mole Man or Doc Doom gets a hold of them an' sends them to crush the United States!"

        `I won't let that happen, I promise you. Please, an hour?'

        "Fine, have an hour," the commander agreed, "then we're demolishing your precious scorpions!"

        [A half-hour later.]

        Iceman, riding Aragorn, flew through the rip in the fabric of spacetime which Valkyrie tore via Dragonfang, thus moving swiftly from one ocean to another, plastering the sea beneath him with a steady ice-bridge which the giant scorpions crossed, with Rintrah riding the scorpion in the lead, having established a mental rapport with her.

        A mile ahead, Valkyrie and Doctor Strange waved to them from the beach. Though still carrying the dimension-splitting Dragonfang, Val now wore a pale yellow bikini, Strange in red swimming trunks. The Eye of Agamotto was in a pocket of his suit of levitation, wrapped over a branch of a nearby tree.

        The giant scorpions crossed the ice-bridge to Akhnet, and Rintrah patted their queen's head in silent praise.

        Iceman set down on the sand and hopped off the winged horse's back, sliding off his mask to enjoy the salty breeze. "Nice place you've got," he said, admiring the Rune Island.

        "And thanks to Stephen, animals can live here once more," Val said as the scorpions began to explore their new habitat, crawling into the massive forests full of lush habitation.

        "What are they gonna eat?" Iceman asked, scratching his head.

        "Akhnet will provide for them," Rintrah said.

        "Works for me," Iceman shrugged and laughed.

        "While we're all here, I thought we might enjoy ourselves for the afternoon," Stephen said and motioned with two fingers towards something in the forest. A volleyball rolled out onto the beach.

        "I'll do the honors," Iceman said, using his gloves to create an ice-net. "Should last long enough for one game, and I can make another when it starts to melt."

        "Alright, then," Stephen said, "Val, you're with me."

        Rintrah stepped onto Iceman's side of the net, and the game commenced.

        [The end.]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See Uncanny X-Men #421.
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