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The Invincible Iron Man #19

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  • The Immense One
    http://pinata.no-ip.org/~altmarvel/index.php? page=Series&seriescode=IM [Chicago, Illinois] Anthony Stark wore a special gray exoskeleton over his standard
    Message 1 of 54 , Sep 3, 2004
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      [Chicago, Illinois]

      Anthony Stark wore a special gray exoskeleton over his standard
      yellow and black Iron Man armor. It was specialized to aid him in
      digging beneath the surface without causing any damage to his tiled
      armor underneath.

      Stark Solutions had been hired to perform an important service in
      Chicago. Citizens saw odd, reptilian creatures rising up from the
      sewers as the city streets began to cave in. (1)

      Upon further inspection, Iron Man had found hints of a huge
      subterranean headquarters. Most of the technological aspects had
      been destroyed beyond recognition, but there were too much office-
      type materials there for it to have been anything else.

      Iron Man didn't know who it was; the Order was known to have
      operated in the city quite a bit, until the cave-in. Since then,
      the Order had been keeping a low profile, working primarily out of
      the Middle Eastern country of Trans-Sabal.

      Over the weeks since the cave-ins began, more and more of the city
      was crumbling. Tony had been successful in attaching new braces
      that kept anything more from falling in, but it would take some time
      before the damage that had already been incurred could be fixed.

      As he stood in the darkness in his bulky exoskeleton, which would
      probably break his legs if he were to fall, attaching a brace and
      activating adhesives within it as well as its internal computers,
      his thoughts drifted.

      After the loss of Stark Enterprises, he had been trying to walk the
      straight and narrow. No more 'the ends justify the means.' It
      turned out that that was much easier said than actually done.

      He had the resources and the intellect that he could achieve
      practically anything... but he knew that he had to keep himself
      reigned in and accountable. He was a hero, the knight in shining
      armor. Now was the time to prove that to himself.

      And even after having received a new pacemaker from the future, (2)
      Tony still had to worry about his heart. Though the pacemaker,
      which he loved to study, as Nighthawk had informed him that he would
      design it sometime in the future, worked flawlessly, he had
      sustained enough damage over a long enough period of time to his
      heart that it was extremely fragile. (3) Any overexertion could
      easily be his last. And that was why he controlled his suit of
      armor from afar whenever going into battle, as of late.

      A small, blue window popped up on his view screen. It read that
      there was a battle going on over his head, between two fierce super
      humans. With his work not yet completed, their battle could easily
      destroy all he had accomplished and send the rest of Chicago
      underground.

      With a sigh, Tony let out a mental command that released his exosuit
      from the modules on his golden armor.

      His chest felt fine, but he still needed to keep this battle as
      short as possible.


      Gravely injured by an act of industrial sabotage, billionaire genius
      Tony Stark saved his own life by designing a life-sustaining shell--
      the high-tech armor that transformed him into the invincible Iron
      Man!


      The Invincible Iron Man #19
      "Mashed"

      ******************************
      Writer: JM
      Batboy: Daniel Gordon
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      Editor: Josh Greer
      Editor-in-Chief: Thomas Logue
      ******************************


      Iron Man zoomed out through a gaping hole in the road. Flying above
      the rooftops, he quickly located the sparring partners.

      One appeared to be composed entirely of ice. He shot ice from his
      body and rode an ice slide, similar to Iceman and any generic ice-
      powered person. Iron Man's computer informed him that this was
      Frostbite, a villain previously encountered by the alternate,
      teenaged Tony Stark who had replaced him for a time.

      The other was a man about thirty feet tall, wearing light, golden
      armor and a clunky, rectangular, gold helmet. It didn't cover his
      face, but he wore a yellow mask underneath that did, exposing only
      his eyes. Iron Man's computer informed him that this was the
      Masher, publicly known as a member of the superhuman group called
      The Order. (4)

      The Masher was smashing through Frostbite's ice shields and attacks,
      while Frostbite continued to evade his blows and try to knock the
      Masher from his feet. Iron Man could tell from a distance that both
      participants appeared to be extremely angry. Unfortunately, their
      rage could cost them the entire city.

      "Shove it," Iron Man heard the Masher say as he flew in closer.
      Frostbite froze the ground beneath the Masher, causing him to trip.
      He fell backwards, moments away from knocking several more blocks
      into the sewers.

      Iron Man swept under his back and caught him, utilizing his armor's
      mighty strength to rise the Masher back up. "Hey," Masher
      growled, "What's the big idea?"

      "I'm trying to avoid any senseless destruction," Iron Man
      rebutted, "that's my big idea."

      "Just stay outta the way," Masher snarled as he back-handed Iron Man
      away.

      Iron Man's boot jets stopped his momentum inches from colliding with
      a building. Iron Man sighed in relief, then shook his head in
      disbelief before flying back into the fray.

      The Masher finally connected, smashing through a wall of ice.
      Frostbite flew back, spiraling. Iron Man doubted that he could
      survive such a long fall, even with his impressive abilities.

      Iron Man flew under Frostbite and caught him, setting him down on a
      rooftop, intact. Masher saw this and howled in rage, increasing his
      height as he leapt forward.

      Iron Man detected an unusual energy signature emanating from the
      Masher. It had previously been missed in his onboard computer's
      frequent sweeps of the area for any notable energies, but it grew
      more powerful and easier to spot by the second.

      While his computer analyzed the energy, Iron Man placed himself
      between the Masher and Frostbite. "I have this situation well in
      hand," Iron Man informed the angry hero. He realized how arrogant
      that sounded only after he had already said it.

      "You think you're some big shot," the Masher howled as he plowed
      into Iron Man. Iron Man knew that if he dodged the attack, the
      Masher would plow through more property and cause all the more
      damage.

      Instead, Iron Man's boot jets activated, lifting them both high
      above the city. Iron Man felt his armor's tiles begin to dent and
      even crack from the Masher's short, powerful blows.

      "You're strong, Masher," Iron Man told him, "but you aren't thinking
      straight. Look at the city down there. The harder you two fight,
      the worse it'll get. I'm trying to avoid a city-wide cave-in."

      "I don't care if the world collapses in on itself," the Masher
      cried, defiantly, "I'm gonna beat that jerk, and I'll go through
      you, too!"

      The Masher's words were beginning to slur, barely noticeably. Iron
      Man wondered... had he been drinking? Something Tony Stark could
      certainly relate to... but no, it was probably the lack of oxygen,
      as they continued to climb towards the heavens.

      Iron Man shut his boot jets off, continuing to hold the defiant
      Masher in his arms. "Lemme go!"

      "Calm down first," Iron Man responded.

      "Don't tell me what to do," Masher screamed, finally smashing a tile
      on Iron Man's chest. Tony's chest felt like it was on fire, his
      entire body momentarily immobilized.

      The Masher was in freefall, by himself. Iron Man was also in
      freefall, shocked by the powerful blow and aching inside. For just
      one second, he contemplated allowing himself to fall to a relatively
      painless death.

      But no.

      Iron Man's boot jets activated once more, rapidly decelerating his
      decent to the ground. His chest pain was still there, but
      subsiding.

      As a result of his deceleration, Iron Man was still high in the air
      when the Masher landed on the outskirts of Chicago. The impact was
      enough.

      Iron Man watched as an entire week's hard work went down the drain.
      Like a tidal wave sweeping over the city, more and more land fell in
      on itself, stopping too late to salvage most of Chicago.

      Iron Man went from sad to enraged in seconds.

      Ignoring his chest pains, which were now hurting more again, Iron
      Man flew to where the Masher had landed. The Masher was now at a
      more normal, six foot height, staggering, desperate to find his
      footing. His hands and legs were still shaking from the impact.

      He turned towards the noise of boot jets approaching. Iron Man saw
      that the Masher's nose was bleeding two seconds before walloping him
      in that same place.

      "You sonuvabitch," Iron Man scolded, punching him at near super-
      speed, "the entire city... the entire city! And now, Frostbite will
      go free! And you call yourself a hero? A hero?"

      The Masher looked scared as Iron Man landed undefended blows all
      over him. Finally, Iron Man backed off, disgusted at both the
      Masher and himself.

      Tony Stark was breathing hard, his chest tightening and stinging
      beyond expectations.

      "At least... at least..." The Masher panted, shakily wiping at the
      blood flowing down his chin, "I showed you... up... ya blowhard..."

      Iron Man raised his right hand and unleashed a full-force repulsor
      ray at the Masher's chest, sending him flying back and rolling
      away. The Masher coughed up more blood as he tried to laugh.

      "I should..." Iron Man huffed as he clutched at his chest. The
      Masher looked at him with blurry vision. He was sure he had done
      serious damage to the armor's chest plate, but it appeared to be as
      good as new, now. Maybe he stole some tech from the Tracker...

      Iron Man dropped to his knees, unable to breathe enough, his body
      going numb, and his chest practically on fire with pain. He heard a
      noise in his armor, a noise he recognized. One of his personal
      aircrafts was approaching.

      Iron Man fell forward, landing in the dirt, on his face. The Masher
      strained to stand up but fell over. The pair quickly drifted into
      unconsciousness.

      Bethany Cabe, Alex Wildman, and Aurelle exited the aircraft, heading
      straight for their employer. Alex then turned and investigated the
      Masher, to make sure he really was out cold.

      "Tony," Beth whispered to the unconscious man in the armor. She
      received no answer. "We need to get him to a hospital," she
      informed Iron Man's teammates in the Champions, "now!"

      [Certainly not the end...]



      FOOTNOTES:
      1. See AMU's The Order #47.
      2. See AMU's The Invincible Iron Man #16.
      3. See AMU's The Invincible Iron Man #13-15 and The Champions #13-
      15.
      4. But you astute Altmarvel readers know that he quit that group,
      right?


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      page=Series&seriescode=IM
    • Flint
      The Champions #50 Exeunt Ultron One month ago. Thunder Head stood, scratching as patches of his thick red beard fell loose, his skin pale and cold, as
      Message 54 of 54 , Feb 14, 2009
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        The Champions #50
        "Exeunt Ultron"


        One month ago.

        Thunder Head stood, scratching as patches of his thick red beard fell
        loose, his skin pale and cold, as Captain Victory sat, restrained by
        chains that kept him less than six feet away from the wall at any
        time. The pair had been taken captive and were in a prison cell in the
        catacombs beneath Macabra, while the rest of their teammates waged war
        on the infected hordes of the major metropolitan city above.

        "Hunh," Captain Victory said, as he bolted upright, pink light
        suddenly blinding his mind. Since his resurrection, the same mystical
        energies that had revitalized his dead body also served to make him
        immune to the nanovirus infecting the populace above as well as
        gifting him with a superhuman power he never had while fighting the
        Nazis in World War II, precognitive flashes of insight.

        "What is it, did you see something?" Thunder Head said, weakly, as he
        shambled across their shared cell to meet his teammate. He had been
        infected; though he was fighting it as best he could, they both knew
        that it was merely a matter of time before he would be gone. "One of
        your flashes?"

        "Victory," the captain proclaimed, with a serene smile on his face. He
        crossed his arms as best he could given his chains. "Neither of us
        will live to see it, but it happens. Ultron will be defeated. There
        will be further losses, but human life will continue."

        "I guess that's all that really matters," Thunder Head said as he
        struggled onto his robotic knees, "in the grand scheme of things."

        "Let it go," Captain Victory said, eyes closed, as Thunder Head fell
        backwards, his eyes rolling up, mouth opened, life dissipating.

        There was quiet in the room for several moments. Finally, Thunder
        Head's body began to jerk, briefly at first, and rising in frequency
        and violence. "I know you can hear me, monster," Captain Victory said
        to the robotic being who was their jailer. "Know this: you will not
        win. It has already happened, in the future.

        "The book has already been written," Captain Victory said. "Victory is
        ensured."

        Thunder Head shambled over to his former teammate and, with the
        strength granted him by his mechanical limbs, tore the undead Champion
        limb from limb, killing him once and for all.

        Invisible magical energy silently hissed, released from the mortal
        body, and returned to some otherdimensional fount, never to be seen or
        heard from again, retaining some vestigial traces of the mind and
        memories of the Champion.

        [Present. The catacombs.]

        Ultron watched on the massive view-screen as Giant Man and the Black
        Knight strode above ground, tackling the horde of infected who guarded
        the city over which stood the catacombs which he had taken on as his
        base in Morvania.

        "Your team has allowed other 'heroes' to pass through the field
        barrier," Ultron said to his captive, the man in the Iron Man armor.
        "I have not been able to discover any way of piercing the barrier, as
        yet, but this gives me hope that I shall soon do so."

        Iron Man kept silent, still groaning internally over his wounds
        sustained by the adamantium monstrosity, who took him prisoner an
        unknown infinity ago. His life was now measured by beatings rather
        than by minutes.

        "If they are advancing on my stronghold," Ultron said, "then it is
        only fitting that we finally end this game. A pity I had not brought
        in more before you sealed this nation off from the rest of the world."

        Two other Ultrons walked into the room, exacerbating the living
        nightmare Iron Man was already experiencing. He would have screamed if
        he still had the voice for it. "Weaker, secondary vassals; constructed
        of secondary adamantium, but that should prove more than adequate for
        the threats they will face.

        "Giant Man, Bill Foster; former flunky of my father. Black Knight,
        Dane Whitman; a modern-day Don Quixote. No, I shall only require one
        of my seconds to deal with them. The other shall take the battle to
        your comrades in the sky. I will obliterate the Golden Castle, and
        with it, whatever force is sealing my virus in."

        The two Ultrons departed in different directions, to head above
        towards their distinct tasks. Ultron walked up to Iron Man and grabbed
        the sides of his head. Finally, he thought, the monster was going to
        put him out of his misery.

        Ultron wrenched the faceplate off and stared at the man inside. His
        computer-mind scanned the features, searching international databases
        which he had uploaded before the communications freeze-up which
        resulted from the powerful barrier, and found no one on file matching
        his face.

        "A complete unknown," Ultron said. "Anomaly."

        Gas spat out from Ultron's jack o'lantern face, and Neal Richmond
        coughed. He had run into Tony Stark many months ago and was offered a
        job helping him run the Champions by leading them in the guise of his
        famous bodyguard, Iron Man. Tired of working alone in the guise of his
        deceased benefactor, Nighthawk, the man from an alternate Earth agreed
        and took the weeks necessary to learn how to use the armor before
        arriving.

        And now, he knew that he was going to die. Even if somehow the
        Champions could stop Ultron and free him, it was too late. He had
        breathed in the gas; he was infected with the nanovirus, which his
        armor had protected him from via air filters in his suit.

        Ultron turned his back and walked over to the computer console, though
        Neal knew he was in constant communication with the machine and
        instantly knew all data it gathered.

        All he needed was a few moments of freedom and he could show Ultron
        his feelings on the subject. Alas, that was time he didn't have.

        [Golden Castle.]

        Reed Richards moved furiously throughout the lab, his arms telescoping
        and winding about, nearly knotting himself up, as he worked to move
        beakers and study slides. He was sweating, but extended his eyelashes
        to wipe the sweat from his brow as he worked. He was the only one on
        this side of the barrier who could create a solution to the nanovirus
        which had stricken the nation of Morvania.

        Suddenly, the giant, flying castle shook with impact from the side.
        "What was that?" Jim Hammond asked as Mr. Fantastic went to work
        keeping everything from sliding off the table and breaking.

        'Attack,' was the only word Psykos could mentally project into their
        minds, as he was so supremely intent on maintaining the massive
        force-shield that kept Ultron and the infected trapped within the country.

        "We'll deal with it," Captain Wonder said, "you just keep working on
        an antidote!"

        The captain, Sersi, Wildman, and the high-flying Angel stormed out to
        face their foe, while Mr. Fantastic and Jim Hammond continued to work
        on a cure. It had been agreed upon that it would be best to play it
        safe and keep the Torch out of battle, since he was an android and
        might be susceptible to Ultron's dark designs.

        When the quartet reached the garden square, they found Ultron, energy
        snaking about his clenched fists, as he scanned the towers, searching
        for the structural weak point to attack to bring the entire complex
        down on the city below.

        Angel took to the sky, pulling out his mace from his jacket, while
        hammering Ultron with metallic feather-wings, which dinged and sparked
        as they struck his secondary adamantium shell but did not perceivable
        damage.

        "Blast him, Alex," Captain Wonder shouted, and Wildman complied,
        firing off an optic blast that had no effect on the robot but to
        distract him while Sersi circled around behind him and blasted him
        with cosmic energy.

        "Don't let him get too close," the captain warned, not wanting anyone
        else harmed, "everyone, keep your distance!"

        Ultron shot out an encephalo-beam, which Captain Wonder easily dodged.
        Ultron blasted Wildman and Sersi with energies from his fists,
        knocking them both back.

        "Weak flesh-puppets," Ultron said, "I am the future. I am cold, I am
        hard, I am unstoppable. I am Ultron."

        "Yeah, well," Wildman said as he plowed into his foe, "now, so am I."
        Wildman's skin grew hard and stiff and crimson energy glowed in his
        eyes and mouth, as he duplicated the mad robot's power for his own.

        [Macabra.]

        Black Knight ripped through the infected legions with his photonic
        sword. It was a good thing he hadn't brought the Ebony Blade instead,
        as he was sure that some of the unliving cyborgs he hacked through
        still had blood to ooze out. His helmet reassured him that they were
        dead; they lacked any vital signs and were cold.

        "Don't worry about killing them," Black Knight said, "They're already
        dead!"

        Giant Man had already heard him say this three times, but he would
        never be entirely comfortable with decimating human bodies and
        stomping them into paste. He waded through the crowd, twelve feet
        tall, costume armored to protect him from the sharper elbows of the
        rioters.

        "I knew this was a bad idea," Giant Man said as he threw twelve of
        them away, as twenty more instantly filled in the empty space before
        him, "I wish I still had gamma-rage to amp up my strength!"

        "We'll just have to make due," Black Knight said, "somehow." He had
        fought in the crusades, and so this horde was no worse than other
        battles he'd already met and fought nobly in, but never had the foes
        been so resistant to pain; while the photonic sword cut through metal
        as easily as bone, a one-armed cyborg would keep going, having felt no
        pain.

        "Avengers," a cold, electronic voice said as hard steps sounded and
        the infected parted to let Ultron through, "today is doomsday."

        "Maybe for you, buddy," Giant Man said. "I'm getting tired of this;
        wasn't that long ago we Wackos stopped you before!" (1)

        "The initial testing," Ultron said as he shot blasts of energy from
        his fists, the two Avengers almost unable to dodge it with the crowd
        around them, as the cyborgs got torn apart instead of them. They could
        feel the heat of the blasts. "This nation proves my virus to be a
        success. As soon as I can destroy this pitiable barrier, it will
        spread over all the world."

        "We won't let that happen!"

        Ultron recognized the voice from earlier battles, but Black Knight and
        Giant Man had to look beyond their enemy to see Superpro, his
        football-themed armor in tattered rags, a blood-stained axe in hand,
        as he came out from hiding within the city, rage painted profusely on
        his face.

        Thunder Head, the man's life now well ended, nothing more than an
        empty shell controlled by Ultron's nanovirus, stumbled towards his
        former teammate. Superpro immediately, unthinkingly, went to work,
        hacking at the large corpse, tearing at its vulnerable neck.

        With a squirt of black liquid, the head came free and the body
        shivered as it reached out to grab him. "Don't let up," Superpro
        yelled to the Avengers, "Keep fighting until we're dead!"

        [Golden Castle.]

        Wildman and Ultron tussled, Ultron's wild hatred for all things human
        giving him the advantage, his attack far more ferocious, and he flung
        the Champion away. "I will crush your bones into a fine powder,"
        Ultron announced.

        "Not this time," Wildman said as Ultron advanced. Captain Wonder
        hammered against his back, a minor annoyance Ultron tried to swat away
        with a quick backhand. The old hero dodged it easily enough, and Angel
        swooped down to smash at the robot with his mace, inspired by the
        adamantine mace of Hercules.

        Ultron took a step back to analyze their attack procedure, walking
        directly into Sersi's path, as she pushed her power to the limits and
        grabbed onto the robot, transmuting his secondary adamantium,
        degrading its alloy further and further until it was more tertiary
        than secondary adamantium, and began to crack and whine.

        "It's going to explode," Angel warned, "Everyone, get back!"

        "No, that won't be necessary," Sersi said, as she absorbed the energy
        quickly leaking out of the cracked open shell, redistributing it into
        the air as a bright light. "Just keep your eyes closed for another few
        seconds."

        Inside the laboratory, meanwhile, Reed smoked his pipe while looking
        down at the potential cure. "I think this will do it, but there's no
        way to test it first. If it doesn't work, it couldn't make the
        situation any worse than it already is. Now, the question is how to
        disperse it; air-borne would work, although I don't know if we have
        any way of--"

        "I have an idea," Jim Hammond said. He took the new creation, a
        syringe full of nanites which countered the nanovirus, neutralizing it
        and reversing its damage to tissue; assuming, of course, that he
        hadn't made any mistakes in the formulae.

        "Yes? What--"

        Jim injected the syringe into his own neck. "We do not have time to
        discuss this matter. I am sorry. Remember me, Reed. Please give my
        regards to the rest of your family."

        "You can't possibly be--"

        "Flame on," the Torch ignited himself and rose several inches off the
        ground, then flew through the door, melting the doorway, trapping Mr.
        Fantastic inside.

        [The catacombs.]

        Ultron watched as the Black Knight, Giant Man, and Superpro struggled
        with his other body and the infected hordes. The other Ultron might
        have been less successful, having been destroyed by the other
        Champions in their flying castle, but he would make sure to be wary of
        Sersi when he encountered her himself.

        Neal, meanwhile, began to shiver and shake as he felt an ungodly cold
        approach him. He knew that his time was fast approaching; it wouldn't
        be long before he would drop, and return as some... thing.

        "The hell... with it..." Neal croaked, his voice barely audible to
        Ultron's enhanced auditory sensors. He pressed thumb to forefinger and
        depressed an emergency button which Tony had warned him never to use.

        An electromagnetic pulse rang out, powerful enough to send Ultron
        crashing to the floor. The shackles, which were controlled
        electromagnetically by the computer, opened up and Neal crashed to the
        floor. He was in no shape to stop Ultron.

        He crawled across the floor, fear and anger and pain and cold shooting
        through his every fiber, and lifted his hand up to the computer
        console, plugging his armor's pre-planned virus into the system. A few
        moments more, and...

        Ultron grabbed Neal by the back of the neck and threw him across the
        room, to slam into the wall. His back would have been broken if not
        for the protection of the Iron Man armor. "You will pay for that,
        wretched human! Your attempt did nothing to harm me, but I will
        prolong your suffering!"

        "Guess again," Neal whispered, slamming fist into fist, hitting
        another secret set of controls in his armor that, when struck in the
        correct sequence, activated the self-destruct program.

        [Macabra.]

        Black Knight hacked at the legions of unliving cyborgs, while Giant
        Man futilely hammered Ultron into the ground, not so much as denting
        it, and Superpro continued to hack apart the flesh parts of the
        cyborgs with his ordinary axe.

        "Why is it getting so hot," Black Knight said to himself, his helmet
        read-out informing him that it wasn't just the heat of battle, the
        area was getting significantly warmer.

        "Oh boy," Giant Man said, looking up into the sky and smiling, "Looks
        like the cavalry has arrived!"

        Ultron looked up, vision magnifying it so that the figure looked as
        though he were right next to him. The Torch flew overhead, burning
        brighter and ever-larger flames, spinning and soaring wildly, like a
        madman.

        "It appears that another Champion has been infected," Ultron said, and
        back-handed Giant Man, sending him faltering into the crowd who began
        to elbow him.

        "Look upon my works, ye mighty," Ultron said, arms outstretched as he
        watched the android in the sky high above, burning hotter and hotter,
        "and despair."

        The Torch reached further, burning more than he ever had before, his
        internal registers warning him to slow down, to stop, before he would
        burn out. He pushed even harder, straining to keep it going, until he
        pushed beyond all unconscious safeguards and it was over.

        The sky exploded, fire licking at the roof of the energy barrier,
        nearly detonating the entire country into a massive fireball.
        Antivirus nanites rained down, carried by wind and dropping through
        gravity, while the Torch's seemingly magical healing blood quickly
        cooled and spattered over the cities and the countryside, the debris
        of his body mostly burning up, tiny pieces scattering and landing in
        the Dren Forest and the rubble and debris of the cities.

        "It's over," Ultron said, "Your friends are as doomed as you are."

        The infected started suddenly dropping dead, and the heroes stopped
        fighting them. A few scattered cyborgs remained standing, color
        gradually returning to their skin, wounds mystically healing,
        sentience miraculously returning to their minds.

        "Looks like your minions have changed sides," Superpro laughed as the
        army of cyborgs crowded in on the secondary Ultron.

        BOOM!

        The heroes turned to see huge clouds rising from the cellars of the
        half-ruined buildings, as the catacombs were destroyed by the massive
        explosion.

        "My god," Superpro said, "Iron Man was still down there..."

        [Aftermath.]

        The red energy barrier flickered repeatedly before going out, as the
        assembled heroes in the Golden Castle watched while Sersi opened up
        the power chamber. Nothing lie inside save for crackling cosmic energy.

        "Psykos?"

        "He's here," Sersi said, "The stress, the constant pressure of
        maintaining such a powerful field... it destroyed his body. This is
        all that remains of him now, the energy that powers his castle."

        "What are we going to tell everyone?" Angel asked to anyone.

        "The truth," Mr. Fantastic said, absently. "Perhaps knowledge of what
        happened here will keep anyone else from exploring these same avenues."

        "Or it could encourage people to investigate, try to replicate the
        virus," Giant Man said.

        "All anyone needs to know is this," Black Knight said. "Ultron took
        over Morvania, you sealed it off. Now the citizens who are still alive
        are cyborgs, freed of his mind control. Several Champions died to save
        them. The citizens tore one Ultron apart to be free of him, the
        mastermind Ultron has disappeared after his headquarters was destroyed."

        "What about Iron Man?" Wildman asked. "There was no body, but you say
        Tony Stark is out to the public as Shellhead now. Who was this other guy?"

        "We may never know," Black Knight said. "He couldn't have been Tony
        Stark. We'll have to have a talk with him when we get back to the
        States. Maybe it was someone on his payroll, maybe it was an imposter
        who stole the suit. I don't know."

        "Nobody needs to know," Giant Man said. "Say Ultron killed them. Leave
        out the virus."

        "The Torch?" Captain Wonder asked. "No one will know of his sacrifice--"

        "Yes, they will," Black Knight countered. "They'll know that he died
        to save the world from Ultron. That's all they need to know."

        Mr. Fantastic looked off into the horizon, his upper body stretching
        down the hall to the open window. "You're right, of course. The virus
        was eradicated. Best to leave it forgotten for all time."

        "And what if Ultron returns," Angel asked. "No body..."

        "Then we'll be ready for him," Sersi said. "After all, it isn't just a
        rag-tag band of super-heroes who will face him next time.

        "We have an entire nation of Champions to stop him."

        [The end.]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See West Coast Avengers Annual #3.
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