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Issue #6
March 2013

"Beggar’s Banquet!"

Written By Curt Fernlund

 

Prolog:

 

The Flight Deck of the USS Nimitz

25° 18’ S, 45° 9’ W:

Fury trembled as another wave of fighters rumbled to life and roared off into the darkness of the Southern skies.  The blasts of exhaust almost bowled him over; the successive waves of heat making him wince and sweat in his flight gear.  Ash flew from his cigar as he grabbed for the support of the chain guard beside him, trying to steady his sea legs.  It had been awhile.

 

The Southern Cross was out, shining brightly overhead; the entire sky sparkling like there wasn’t a worry or a care in the world.  There was a chill in the air though, but then there always was at night out at sea, despite the latitude.  Despite what you read in the books.  The weather was good, the seas a little choppy though it was impossible to tell from the deck of the Nimitz.  You could hardly feel the ship moving under full steam let alone feel a rocking from the waves.  Still, Fury wished that he was on his own ship and not relying on another- no matter how good and respected- to get him where he had to go.

 

Colonel Nicolas Fury bit down on the butt of his cigar as the next wave of Eagles was loaded towards the prop ramps.  The refitted F-15’s and the lighter F-20’s had been the best in their day, back in the Eighties.  Of course, advancements in aerodynamics and technologies in general had pushed the old fighter planes into the shadows as the newer Stealth Bomber and faster Scorpions caught the media’s attention back in the desert wars.  That was fine.  The government had transferred entire squadrons to SHIELD rather than scrap the planes, and Fury’s own technicians were more than up to the task of refitting the Eagles and Tigersharks, the Tornadoes and even the older Phantoms mothballed after the Nam.  Fury chuckled.  One man’s garbage…

 

Still he wished that the Leviathan was finished and operational.  It was annoying.  One would think that with the likes of Stark and Richards, Shaw and T’Challa and God knew how many other unnamed Tech-Geeks under government contract that they would be able to put together the blasted thing.  Granted, they were all a bit distracted recently, and the funding was tight with the Sentinel Program sucking up any excess monies, but still…

 

Fury lowered his earphones as he caught a glimpse of Sitwell running his way across the flight deck.  The deck crews frowned at his passing as he charged across the tarmac, ignoring the red and orange safety zones.  The kid was good, a good soldier if not a bit exuberant at times and more than a little green.  Fury had to smile as a cloud of exhaust almost ripped the kid’s papers from his hands, a flagman signaling his crew a bit prematurely if not on purpose.

 

“Colonel!” Sitwell shouted as he ran up, his voice hoarse and cracking to be heard over the constant roar of jet engines and the massive elevators. “Colonel Fury, Sir!  I have the preliminary reports!”

 

Sitwell snapped to attention just a few feet away, his body rigid as he waited for acknowledgement.  Fury sighed and snapped a quick but half-hearted salute before snatching the agent’s printout.  Fury scanned the faded green and white paper ream quickly before looking to Sitwell again.

 

“Gimme the short version a’ this, Sitwell,” he said, folding the bundle of papers again haphazardly and handing it back, “an’ try an’ make it sweet.”

 

“Yessir!” the junior SHIELD agent said with a quick, curt nod.  He did not stand at ease though he took a moment to gather his breath and push his glasses back up his nose.  He was sweating, and his face was smudged with exhaust.

 

“Squadrons Alpha through Delta have completed their initial perimeter assaults and are returning to command.  Squadrons Epsilon through Theta are approaching targets at three minute intervals two minutes out.  All preliminary long range bombers are returning to base with a 96% success rating according to initial reports-“

 

“What about the transports?  How far out are they?”

 

“The Oregon is approximately twelve minutes from the west.  The Nevada is listed at fourteen from the southeast.  The Calgary is seventeen minutes from the north.”

 

“Ground troops?”

 

“The troops of the neighboring countries are well into Santa Costa meeting with minimal resistance, mainly guerilla tactics.  The UN forces are somewhat behind.  There was some problem with the Russians that delayed their progress.”

 

“Figures,” Fury frowned.  It was always the Russians lately.  “What about Big Red and Shell Head?”

 

“Operative ‘Big Red’ is under one minute from the capitol.  ‘Shell Head’ went stealth and under the radar seventeen minutes ago but at projected ETA he should be just half a minute behind Big Red.  Neither has reported any resistance thus far, but of course Big Red is not online.”

 

Fury smirked, puffing on the bit of his cigar to get it back to life in the damp ocean spray.  “Don’t worry.  Kagi’ll start screamin’ as soon as his golden boy meets the enemy.  Tell Jones ta stop the Naval assaults as soon as Theta reports in.  Red an’ Shell Head can take it, we hope, but we don’t want our boys flyin’ into no stray shells.”

 

“Yessir!” Sitwell snapped to and saluted again, but Fury waved him off, tossing his spent cigar over the rail and pulling a fresh one from a small silver case inside his jacket.  It was monogrammed with his initials as well as SHIELD’s symbol.  A gift…

 

“At ease, Junior.  I ain’t got time for that from you right now.  Gimme an update when it comes through, ASAP.  Dismissed!”

 

Sitwell went rigid again, just for a moment then glanced around nervously.  Finally he turned and ran back towards the Command Bridge, barely dodging the deck crews again as they prepared for Alpha’s return.  Fury chuckled, then turned back to stare at the horizon again.  He pulled his Zippo from his pocket and sparked it to flame, touching it to the tip of his Cuban, puffing that to life in turn.

 

He pulled his headphones back into place as the next wave of fighters started their run.  Fury hoped that this would be a quick and painless assault, though he had his doubts.  War was never pretty, and throw the Ultimates into the mix and it was sure to be a blood bath.  They were under-trained and more or less still untested.  He wished that they had more.

 

Still, beggars and choosers and all that…

 

It was gonna be a long night…

 

 

 

The Masters of Evil

 

Chapter One:

Beggar’s Banquet!

 

 

 

Janet Van Dyne stared out of the small window squinting into the darkness.  It seemed a beautiful night out with shining stars and warm of course; Brazil was almost always warm though.  She remembered Carnival just two years ago.  She had gotten burned falling asleep on the beach.  God, her nipples had been tender to the touch for weeks after that, back when her biggest concern was where to go for holiday and more importantly what to wear.  Back when life was simpler.

 

The glass of the window was cool though as Janet pressed her cheek to it, peering at a cluster of lights moving by slowly far below.  Another village perhaps?  A firefight?  She had no idea.  She could not tell the difference and she had no knowledge of flight times and geography in Third World nations.  The cool glass felt good against her cheek though and she sighed, closing her eyes.

 

She was nervous sweating bullets from anxiety as well as from the added warmth of her assault suit.  The micro-weave mesh Vibranium did little to let her breathe, the kevlar and leather feeling heavy and leaden, weighing down her shoulders.  Still, though the costume was heavy it did little to slow her down in flight and it certainly served its purpose.  She had been hit by a Teflon-coated shell in training and the breast plate had done its job well.  Granted her tit had been sore for the better part of the week, but the bullet had not broken the skin and merely stained the flesh an ugly faded purple from the force of the impact.  At Wasp-size it was highly unlikely that she would ever be seen let alone hit, but Fury said ‘better safe than sorry’ and that seemed a good rule of thumb.  Still, it was a bit horrifying to see a bullet the size of a missile speeding your way-

 

Damn!  She had to pee again…

 

Janet Stood shakily, holding the ceiling straps for support as she made her way down the length of the transport towards the rear.  There wasn’t a bathroom so much as a tarp that a few of the soldiers had strung up to give her a bit of privacy for those more intimate moments.  They were good men- the soldiers- but she knew it was more out of fear of Fury’s wrath if she ratted on them than any sense of chivalry.  She had been around soldiers enough to know what spurred them on: sex and violence mainly and never in any set order.  She smiled however as she pulled the tarpaulin aside and stepped gingerly past the soldier in charge of the onboard latrine.

 

She settled in, holding on for dear life as the huge transport plane veered sharply to port, banking downward for some reason.  She hated this.  It sucked royally to be a soldier but she had signed all the papers and joined up of her own free will.  She held no illusions that she had signed on because of Hank, but that had been before the whole fiasco with Stark and Hank had made the move to Millenium Corp and Hikui Kagi.  Now she was more or less on her own.  Hank was on another transport though, volunteering as Giant Man to join in the assault, as Kagi’s other representative in the Ultimate Program.  She wished that he were here though, with her.  She would feel better if he were.

 

Janet pulled the tarp back again and made her way back towards her seat.  The soldiers she passed paid her little heed now, each caught up in their own thoughts, most staring blankly ahead and barely noticing her in her tight leathers.  The drop force that she had been assigned to was made up of US Special Forces as well as agents of SHIELD.  They were two tight groups forced to work together but she knew that they were all professionals- all ready to do whatever they had to do to free the tiny country of Santa Costa from the Baron Zemo’s rule.

 

Zemo and his Masters of Evil had taken Santa Costa almost a week ago now killing a sizable chunk of the population in the process of invasion and enslaving the rest.  Janet of course held no delusions that the entire affair would have been ignored if not for the Marvel twist.  Zemo’s terrorist faction used Mutants and mutates in his army and that made Santa Costa a definite priority.  That and the nuclear issue of course.  Santa Costa had announced that they were entering the atomic arms race just a month or so ago now.  They officially had nukes, and Fury and his superiors figured that they were all mostly, probably pointed at prime targets in the United States.

 

Fury made no deception that that was the primary goal of the assault.  Secure the weapons of mass destruction, no matter the cost.

 

Damn!

 

She had to pee again.

 

***

 

The Mighty Thor soared over the battlefield, his face twisted into a grim frown as he surveyed the scene not so far below.  Mjolnir pulled him along at breakneck speeds, his eyes sad as they flitted left and right.  Carnage reigned!  Buildings burned, crumbling in the aftermath of SHIELD’s initial attacks.  Bodies- both soldiers and peasants- littered the debris strewn streets.  Blood clogged the gutters, running freely and mingling with his rain.  But there was no amount of driving rain might wash the images of destruction from his memory.  This was not glorious battle.  This was slaughter.

 

The peoples of Santa Costa had been a simple folk his brother had told him.  They did not deserve the death and indignities that the Baron Zemo had heaped upon them.  It was his duty as the first and foremost protector of Midgard to set things right and free the hapless citizens of the tiny country, never mind that they did not believe, nor had he ever heard their name before.  They deserved better!  Seeing the devastation below him, Thor could not help but agree.  Loki was right again, as usual, as always.

 

Thor pulled up, spinning his mighty hammer overhead to hover over the battle-scarred streets of the capitol city.  It was horrible what he saw.  Those that could ran in terror, some actually pointing at him and shouting in fear, not knowing that he was their true salvation.  Others simply did not move at all, the force of their lives snuffed out by SHIELD’s softening assaults.  Fury had seemed an honorable man, but this unjust rape of the land and its peoples- even in the attempt to set them free- it was unacceptable.  Come an ending, he would be made to pay.

 

The Mighty Thor screamed in surprise as well as pain as something slammed heavily into his back.  His concentration broken, Mjolnir spun wildly, pulling him along in a long arch towards the ground.  He saw stars spiraling as he shook his head, his long-horned helmet falling away as he plummeted towards the rain-soaked earth.  He had never felt such pain short of the mighty blows of the Frost Giants of Jutenheim.

 

Thor hit the ground, hard, his body driving into the dirt like a cannon ball that had missed its target.  He moaned, strengthening his grip on his hammer as he strained to rise in the deeply blasted crater that he had created upon impact.  He was not bleeding he knew, but his back ached from whatever had hit him and knocked him from the sky and his head was spinning, his ears ringing.

 

“You’re the god?”

 

Thor looked up at the big man that had stepped to the ragged edge of the crater.  He was tall, bronzed from the southern sun and heat.  Rain washed over his body, dripping from huge muscles and running down his massive chest.  He was dressed in black leathers: armored breastplate and britches with thick-soled boots and an all-encompassing hood, though his bulging arms were free.  He was holding a huge two-handed axe, his hands working the well-worn grips.

 

“You ain’t shit,” the man snorted and raised his axe.  Thor tried to recall the man’s name from the tedious ‘debriefings’ he had endured before they had finally let him go.  Annihilator… Eliminator…

 

Executioner!

 

Thor stood as the man screamed and leaped, his axe raised high, ready to strike and cleave the killing blow.  Truly, finally, here seemed a foe worthy to test his mettle, since the monstrous Hulk.

 

Hulk?  A Troll perhaps…

 

“Have at thee!” Thor shouted, raising Mjolnir to meet the attack head on.  The bards would sing sweetly of this tale long after it was over.

 

***

 

Stark typed in a new set of commands as the armor started to shake and rock.  The Magnetic Stabilizers were off by a slight percentage, nothing that he could not compensate for, but here in the middle of a firefight was not the time nor the place to be field-testing the new Iron-Man Battle Suit.

 

He blamed the humidity, fucking with the onboard programs no doubt and sending the internal computers into a frenzy.  And Thor’s rainstorm was surely doing the suit no good either.  South America sucked and only Rio held any fascination to Anthony Stark and then only once a year.  Stark Enterprises of course had holdings in almost all of the countries of South America, but at the moment Stark did not care in the least.  He was too busy trying to keep the Mark-II armor from spiraling into the ground.

 

It had been a long, hard flight from Puerto Suarez under his own power after the transport had dumped him almost at Santa Costa’s borders.  Thor’s storms had not made it any easier of course, but he had finally crossed the borders into Santa Costa undetected- or so he hoped at least.  He knew that the battle suit was hardly designed for stealth, and if Zemo had any kind of sensor array that he was willing to brag about the armor would be detected right off but so far he had not been attacked and Stark thought that he was home free.  He was well within the borders of the country, following what seemed little more than a goat trail towards the capitol city.  His stabilizers were fluctuating and his internal life support was marginal but for the most part all systems were online and ready to go.

 

He pulled up, leveling off as a ball of fire rose up in the distance beyond the treeline.  Fury had promised that the air strikes would be over by the time he reached the capitol, but apparently the man had lied about that.  They were still bombing the city Stark could tell, watching as a Squadron of F-15’s raced by far overhead.  He would have to wait, maybe add to his internal batteries if he could tie into the local hydro electric system.  He had passed a power station about five miles back-

 

Stark screamed as something slammed into his back and drove him towards the muddy ground.  His stabilizers were for shit against the sudden added weight and he immediately felt the heat of radiation even through the armor’s metal as he plummeted into the jungle floor.  He twisted, trying to turn his attacker beneath him but he was too close to the ground and the weight drove him face first into the dirt.

 

His armor sealed automatically, but he could still feel the heat.  He was awash in uncontained radiation, and it reminded him of his battle with the Hulk not so long ago…

 

The Hulk?

 

When had he encountered the Hulk?

 

Stark shifted power to his servos and tried to pry himself out of the dirt despite the sudden extra weight resting on his back.  The armor had no problem compensating for the weight on the ground, but it was awkward and cumbersome and Stark felt an arm snake about the collar of the battle suit.

 

“Stay down!” the voice hissed in his ear.  Anthony Stark tried to turn, to see who had hold of him but the armor did not work that way.  His internal sensors simply showed a bright glow that vaguely resembled a human with arms and legs grappling with the suit’s extremities and his internal Geiger Counter was off the scale.  He was starting to sweat despite the sudden churn of internal fans.

 

The attacker said something, which Stark did not understand then shifted his grip.  He was a strong one.  He repeated whatever he had said in a broken, stuttering English.

 

“Surrender!  I have no… wish… to slay you.”

 

Stark recognized the chopped words’ accent as Chinese, recognized the twisted, burnt face and bald head as he twisted about.  It was Chen, the Radioactive Man!  He was a leader of Radio-Therapy in his own country and one of the foremost authorities of active radiation in general- not quite in Bruce Banner’s league but close enough- before he had been caught in an explosion in one of his own labs.  Rumor was that he had died.  Rumor was that the X-Factor had sparked and the radiation had changed him.  He wore the tattered remains of a containment suit, but it did little to contain the sickly green glow of the radiation that coursed through his body.  The uncontained energy was washing over Stark, overloading his batteries and seeping through his own defenses.  He could feel the unnatural heat irradiating his body.

 

He was starting to melt…

 

***

 

“Incoming!  We have incoming!”

 

Janet Van Dyne glanced up as the plane’s internal radio crackled to life.  The voice was terrified, trying to stay calm but failing miserably.  The soldiers about her fidgeted, some gripping their weapons more forcefully, others standing in confusion.  One actually ran for the cockpit to see what was happening.

 

Janet heard the high, shrill cry of rending metal as the plane lurched.

 

“Breech!  Bail!  Bail!”

 

Janet gripped the arms of her seat, staring in horror as the plane veered sharply and started to plummet towards the ground.  The soldiers were on their feet all about her, shouldering packs and adjusting their parachutes as the plane dipped and rocked.  Wind blasted from the cockpit, causing a cyclone of debris and dust throughout the transport.  Janet tried to rise but fear and gravity had her locked down.

 

“Miss Van Dyne!”

 

A soldier was standing at her side, his rough hand gentle under her arm as he tried to help her to her feet.  He was shouting, but beyond her name she could barely hear him let alone understand what he was trying to tell her.

 

Janet squeaked as the side hatch exploded outwards.  The wind seemed to explode as well as it trebled in intensity, rain washing in through the new opening.

 

“What?” she shouted as the corporal steered her towards the opened door.  Soldiers were diving through the opening now and she could hear the rising whine of the straining engines and acceleration as the plane angled steeper into a spiraling nosedive.  They were going down!  They were going to crash!  She did not want to die…

 

Janet Van Dyne screamed as the soldier shoved her through the hatch and out into open air, out into the dark, chill night.  She kept screaming as she fell, scrambling for purchase and clawing for a handhold that was not there.  She could see lights flaring far below, fires raging out of control and explosions.  There was a city off to the west far away.  The winds were howling in her ears as she fell, the rain cold and driving.  Something warm washed down her legs and she screamed all the harder.  She was going to die.

 

Blood filled her mouth as she bit into her cheek, trying to stop her teeth from chattering.  She tried to focus as Hank had taught her, picking a light on the ground to stare at and concentrate on.  She had plenty of time…

 

Plenty of time…

 

At first she thought that the rain and wind had increased again.  The weather was pummeling her about and she found herself losing focus.  Then she realized that she did not seem to be falling quite as fast.  Her head felt light and her back was aching.  She was shivering and sweating bullets, a sure sign that her body had shunted excess mass.  She felt more than heard the slight vibrations of madly beating gossamer wings but did not actually realize that she was flying until one of the soldiers shot past her in his dive towards the ground.

 

The Winsome Wasp tumbled wildly in the soldier’s back draft and she started screaming again, unprepared for the huge body as it shot by.  She struggled, trying again to find her center, straining as gravity tried to drag her down.  Finally though her screams turned to shouts of joy as she arched up and away, turning her death fall into flight.

 

Janet breathed deeply as she slowed her decent, curving out and about into a wide, lazy circle.  Her heart was beating crazily, a mile a minute.  Her pulse was hammering in her ears but slowly she calmed.  She took a calming moment to take stock of her heart rate, her uniform and supplies.  Despite the premature drop she thought that she had everything- little as that was: a water bottle and radio that Henry had infected with Pym Particles to shrink with her uniform, along with a now tiny knife.  He still had not perfected the blaster he had been fashioning for her and Fury felt she needed some type of weapon.  She just hoped that she didn’t cut off her arm with the thing.

 

Janet pulled up and hovered once she felt that she was back in control.  Two more soldiers rocketed past and beneath her she could just make out the dark silhouettes of dozens of parachutes angling in the general direction of the city lights.  That was probably the capitol- at least she hoped it was.  That was probably where she had to go.

 

Janet sighed, then took another deep breath.  She ran her hand back through her rain swept hair.  She was happy with the way it was growing back in.  She would have to make an appointment with Rico when she got back.

 

If I get back she corrected herself.  There was a pleasant thought.

 

***

 

Henry Pym strolled forward wading through the opposition.  Wherever he stepped, something was crushed.  When he kicked, something went flying.  Sometimes it was a tank or an anti-aircraft gun.  Other times it was a person, he didn’t really care.

 

Many of the Baron Zemo’s mercenaries simply ran having never encountered a giant before.  Not that Pym could blame them.  He could only imagine that if he were confronted with a man almost fifty feet tall he would probably shit his pants and faint dead away.  He gave them that much credit.  Luckily however it was something he would never have to deal with, or rather, had dealt with when he had shrunk down to his tiny, ant size.  Now was not the time for that, of course.

 

He hoped that Jan was all right…

 

The armor was doing its job though, and that was good.  He was an easy target at forty-eight feet, eight times his normal height and mass roughly.  It was the tallest size that he could achieve and still move within the laws of gravity and the planet’s density.  Still, he was hurting from the sustained effort.  His back was aching and he could feel the pressure in his calves.  He was breathing hard too, the slightest exertion making his head spin lightly, which was why he was strolling across the battlefield.  God help him if he had to run.

 

The bullets were bouncing off of the armor that SHIELD had put together; flak padding that fully insulated him even up to and against most AP shells.  He barely felt the sting of impact- thousands of impacts- as the form-fitting armor deflected or blunted the majority of the incoming lead.  Luckily no one had hit the goggles as yet.  Fury had assured him that they would protect against most ordinance, but armor-piercing shells might prove a problem.

 

Pym picked up a jeep and heaved it into a foxhole.  The vehicle crashed, exploding instantly in a huge ball of fire and shooting sparks as the ammunition erupted.  Blazing, screaming figures charged from the hole, wailing in agony as their uniforms were engulfed by fire, their skin burning and peeling away with every step.  He had to turn away.

 

He saw Hudson fly by overhead, his bulky battle suit wavering in the strong winds blowing in out of the jungle where Thor was apparently operating.  A good man Hudson, and intelligent.  They had spoken briefly on the Calgary before Pym was dropped to a safe zone too don his own suit.  His Canadian task force seemed well trained and ready for action as well.  It amazed Pym actually that the Canadian Government had been so prepared with their own version of the Ultimates.  And the Russians too, for that matter.  Just how widespread was the Mutant menace anyway?

 

Pym swept his foot through a band of mercenaries that had found their balls and were standing their ground against his approach.  He could feel the annoying sting of their hail of bullets, but paid it little heed as he strode forward, stomping down indiscriminately wherever he saw a purple-garbed figure running.  It was slaughter pure and simple, but both Fury and Kagi said it was necessary, condoning it.  What was he to do?

 

Pym winced, his hand slapping at his neck as though he had just been bitten by a mosquito.  Something had pierced the armor and hurt him.  It seemed impossible, but as Pym withdrew his hand, stared at his glove he blinked at the tiniest splotches of darkness on the red, padded leather.

 

Blood…

 

He was bleeding!  His armor had been breached and he was bleeding enough that he noticed it, the pain and the blood.  Something had hit the artery…

 

Pym stood dumbfounded as he felt about his throat again, finally finding the tiny needle-like device that had pierced both his allegedly impervious armor and his dense skin as well.  He held the offending, tiny thorn up before his face, squinting to see it actually, it was so small compared to him.  It was like a needle.

 

An arrow?

 

It was black, coated in blood all the way to the fletching and had a razor-sharp head edged with barbs.  Pym felt blood spurting from his neck and realized he had done himself even more damage by ripping the thing free.  He had ripped open the artery that the arrow had initially pierced.

 

Shit…

 

Pym’s hand flew to his throat, pressing down on the open wound.  Did he feel dizzy already?  Had he lost so much blood?  He spun about, staggering as he scanned the area to see the source of the arrow, ignorant of the tiny screams of terror at his feet.  It was hard to see with Thor’s dark clouds roiling overhead, the rain surging through in sporadic waves as the weather shifted at the Storm God’s whim.  Light flashed in the distance as UN peacekeeping forces mounted their assaults on the mercenary terrorists.  Thunder rolled, or was it the deafening roar of bombs?

 

Pym stumbled, his head spinning as a shadow swooped past, his neck craning to see.  His eyes widened behind his polarized goggles as he stared incredulously.  It was a man.  A man on a horse…

 

A winged horse!

 

It was huge, like a Clydesdale with a jet-black sheen and tufted white socks and mane.  There was a fiery glint to its eyes; nostrils flaring as it snorted in fury, raging.  A war-horse then, decked out in saddle and armor, but its attire was secondary to the massive wings spanning at least twenty feet and beating wildly to keep the great beast aloft.  It was an incredible sight, and ridiculous as well utterly impossible!

 

Pym’s scientific and analytical mind raced marveling at the creature and all of the rules of logic and nature that it was breaking.  Its musculature was all wrong to generate enough power to lift its great bulk, let alone achieve the speed it was bearing down with.  Its wings would have to be twice the size they were, and then it would be so unbalanced that it could not possibly-

 

A Mutant then?  Pym had heard of animal mutations of course, but they were rare.  More likely some biologically altered creation, and that was what made Pym stop and stare dumbly at the wonder of the animal- and the man riding it.

 

Henry Pym blinked; snapping back to reality as he focused on the armor clad figure holding the reins of the winged beast.  Like the steed he was dressed in black; his armor cast in a combination of loose-fitting chain mail and thick plate.  He wore a tower helmet, his red eyes gleaming through the thin slit and a dark blue cloak fluttered behind as he raced forward.  Pym saw the knight- the Black Knight cast aside a huge crossbow that snapped to the end of its tether, dangling as the man shifted position in his saddle and brought a long lance to bear.

 

Time had almost seemed to freeze as he had marveled at the great horse, but now as he saw the man driving at him, the clock seemed to race.  He felt the blazing pinpricks of bullets still battering his own armored form, pain in his leg as a mortar shell exploded off of his knee.  He glanced down to see dozens of purple-uniformed soldiers scurrying about at his feet; Lilliputians trying to bring down Gulliver.  He saw few of his own troops and finally realized that something was wrong.  He looked up again.

 

Henry Pym screamed as the Black Knight drove his lance right through the safety glass of his goggles and right through his eye.  He heard a muffled ‘pop’ even over his shrieks of agony as his right hand left his neck and flew to his shattered eye.  His vision was washed with blood as he swatted wildly, blindly with his left arm sweeping the air after the knight.  His head was really spinning now, pounding as blood and viscous gushed forth from his eye socket and neck alike.

 

God, I’m gonna die…

 

Henry Pym blinked, trying to focus his blurry vision, wanting nothing more than to get away.  He was overwhelmed by the assault; a scientist that should have stayed in his lab rather than thinking he could go out and kick ass with the real heroes.  Like Stark…

 

Pym chuckled madly at that thought as he staggered into a row of apartment buildings that barely came up to his waist.  He hadn’t seen them, looking skyward for the Black Knight and he screamed again as he realized that he was going to fall right into the midst of the complex and probably kill dozens of the people that he had come to South America to save.  He panicked, his mind awhirl and stunned from pain.  He could not concentrate to shrink, could not find the tiny pills that might reduce his height and mass.  He had not even considered bringing the size-altering gas along.

 

There were explosions as he crashed through the brick and concrete, his mass easily twisting the metal framework of the building’s skeleton.  He heard people screaming in terror as fire erupted around him.  Jets of gas burst into blazing balls of fire quickly burning him with the intense heat, making him sweat and broil in the fire retardant armor.  He smashed down through the roof and floors, eventually imbedding himself into the ground as he plowed through to the basement.  The very walls came tumbling down with him, crumbling under his weight and assault and piling in around him as he lay dazed and bleeding in the rubble.

 

He tried to focus, to move.  He could feel the blood seeping down his throat and chest, the wound in his neck still pumping.  His eye was throbbing now as dust and debris flitted into the gaping socket irritating the wound.  He could feel the shattered lance still embedded there, shifting as he winced in agony.  He tried to move, to get some support to pry himself from the hole he had wedged himself into and gasped to hear people start screaming louder as the collapsed building crumbled about him.

 

Smoke churned overhead as he craned his neck, wondering what to do.  His heart was hammering in his chest, tears welling his good eye from pain and fear alike as he stared up at the shadowy silhouette of the great war-horse come swooping down out of the haze.  Pym saw the Knight leaning over the pommel of his shadow as the horse snarled and shook its head.  The Black Knight was considering him, David mocking the fallen Goliath, and Pym saw another stone in his hand.

 

The Black Knight pointed a gauntleted fist in his direction and Pym saw that the villain was holding a remote of some kind.  Even in his agony Henry Pym knew what was coming next and strained, his hand flying to his bloody, gaping eye socket.

 

The giant man screamed as electricity arched out of his eye and danced down his body.  His shrieks of agony drowned out the chorus of cries by those trapped in the rubble as his body spasmed and jerked.  The spark of electricity set off those ruptured gas mains that had yet to catch fire and a blazing conflagration erupted over the shambled remains of the buildings.  Pym screamed again to feel the sudden wave of intense heat melting through his armor, burning it into his skin.  He was aflame, trapped and still frozen by the electrical storm sparking from the lance driven through his eye.

 

His heavy heart slammed into his chest, faltering as the electricity created arrhythmia.  He choked on the smoke and burning gas, huge lungs gasping for breath.  He felt his skin burning, his brain frying from the unending surge of energy.  He could not see.

 

Vision fading, body growing numb…

 

Shock…

 

God I’m…

 

Sorry…

 

***

 

Baron Zemo watched the flickering images on one of the many small monitors that lined the walls of his private chambers in the Presidential Stronghold sequestered somewhere in the dense jungles surrounding San Verde.  The images were staticky and grainy, blurred in black and white and kept fuzzing out from the electrical discharge but they still provided a wonderful, safe view of the battles.  Hoya, the deposed and quite dead President of Santa Costa may have been mad in his lust for power, but he was certainly not an idiot.

 

Zemo drew a cigarette from a golden box on a nearby antique oaken table and fitted it into his long, bone filter.  He smiled as he withdrew his gold-plated lighter from the pocket of his silken robe, remembering the wretch that he had hand-picked for execution to allow his craftsmen to carve the filter from the mongrel’s boiled femur.  He slipped the tip of the filter through the slit in his mask, lighting the cigarette as he dismissed the more pleasant memories of his days in the last Reich, returning his attention to the next.

 

The screen was still snow that had showed briefly the Iron-Man.  Chen’s radiation always wrecked havoc with technology.  Too, Zemo imagined that der Eisen-Mensch was probably doing something to jam signals as well, if not Fury himself somehow.  Zemo smirked, knowing that in the end it would not matter.  Still, he would have liked to have seen his lackeys destroy the American dogs in single combat, especially the alleged God of Storms and Crops; the fool calling himself Thor!

 

He could still see the giant however, though there was little left to watch.  The fires still flickered across the remains of his armor, but one of the freakish rain surges had doused the worst of the flames.  That same downpour though had sent the giant writhing in agony as the electrical discharge of the Black Knight’s lance coursed through his body in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics.  Now, smoke and steam roiled from the smoldering remains of the gargantuan form.  Occasionally the massive freak would twitch, but Garret confirmed that they were death spasms.  The Black Knight had done his work well and earned his bonus.

 

The Giant-Man was dead.

 

“Heinrich…”

 

Baron Zemo sighed at the whining, singsong voice, clouds of blue smoke billowing about his mask as he hung his head.  Gott, the woman was insatiable.  He took a final long drag from his cigarette before dabbing it out in one of the many ashtrays scattered about the vast room and finally turned.

 

Amora was lounging there in the huge bed, her long golden hair splashing loosely and tousled about her milky, soft shoulders.  The satiny sheets had spilled to her waist as she sat upright, beckoning him, her lips pursed seductively as she cocked a finger come-hither.  Her exposed breasts were huge and round, the dark nipples firm and inviting, making Zemo smirk and lick his lips.  She was a goddess to be sure, a perfect Aryan dream in every way but one.

 

“Come back to bed, Heinie,” she purred, cocking an eyebrow and giggling like a schoolgirl, which she was almost.  She was so damned young.

 

“I’ve told you not to call me that,” Zemo said as he strolled forward, letting his silken robe fall to the floor in his wake.  He actually blushed proudly to see the huge azure eyes of the Enchantress grow as she swept her gaze over his almost perfect body, her smirk turning to a lustful smile as she lingered between his legs.  “I am your lord and master after all, and should not be called an ass!”

 

Amora giggled again, a slight sound of crystal bells as she lay back, the Baron Zemo crawling onto the bed to straddle her warm body beneath him.

 

“Oh, don’t be mad lord and master,” she said with just a bit of sarcasm as she twirled her fingers, tugging at his graying chest hairs, “it’s just a joke here in private.  You know I only have eyes for you.”

 

Zemo smirked.  “I doubt that, slut,” he chuckled, adjusting his kneeling stance to pull the sheets from the rest of her body, “but I don’t care either.”  He settled in, chancing a glance at the open Laptop computer apparatus that lay upon the side table.

 

The device showed the small country of Bereich- formerly Santa Costa- in a topographical display, including the surrounding terrain some few dozen miles about the tentative borders.  The map was awash with splotches of red blips, the GPS tracing anklets that all of the lesser troops wore, indicating where the greatest battles were being fought.  There was also a blinking blue blip indicating the Stronghold.  It was almost surrounded by red, but the crimson seemed stagnant again.  They had time yet.

 

He glanced at the huge pulsing button on the laptop’s keyboard, still glowing green and ready, always within reach.  The arsenal was primed and ready to go.  The assembled atomic might of Bereich pointed at every world capitol and major city within range of the six ICBM’s that Hoya had managed to create before his country was invaded by the Fourth Reich.  Not many, granted, but more than enough to set off the war machines of the United States, Russia and China when the birds were in the air.  When-

 

Zemo winced at the sharp pain in his groin and glanced down.  Amora was smiling wickedly, her soft hand squeezing his manhood.

 

“Your attention is wandering again.  Problems?” she asked, fondling gently now, “Do we need to hurry?”

 

Zemo chuckled and turned his full attention on the Aryan goddess beneath him, adjusting his position one final time-

 

“Not at all, Madchen,” he said, looking for his rhythm.

 

“We have all the time in the world…”

 

To be continued…

 

Story © Curt F 2004/2011

 

Next Issue: Things are looking up for Baron Zemo, but not for our assembled heroes unfortunately.  The death toll rises as the Ultimates find they have something more to avenge in Chapter Two of The Masters of Evil:



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