Disaster averted, a new alliance is formed.
Ghost Rider laughs, "All who commit evil are the foes of the Ghost Rider!". He sends out more hellchains, intent on entangling the rest of the attackers in his area.
One chain encircles Warmonger's ankle. Cheetah zig zags around the attack with ease, closing the distance between herself and Ghost Rider in the blink of an eye, the hellchain about her arm trailing behind her. By the time Ghost Rider realizes what she is doing, it is too late for him to react.
Cheetah races past him, raising her ensnared forearm to neck height. In the next instant, the trailing hellchain snaps across Ghost Rider's face. The grim avenger of evil lets out an URK! as he tumbles backwards, heels over head, to land on his chest several feet back. In the process, Warmonger is jerked off balance and lands on his backside. Zebra, now able to regain her footing, grabs Warmonger's wrist with both hands and executes a deft judo move, freeing herself and rolling the big man onto his back.
"You!" Fasces cries out. "Kill her!" He points at Zebra, and immediately the recently mutated Lion rushes at his teammate. As he races forward, he bursts into flames, but is apparently unharmed by the immolation. Zebra ducks under Lion's pass, but tongues of fire lick at her nonetheless, raising a few minor burns along her back.
From behind the stage comes the sound of more wood breaking, followed by a scream, and then the buzzing of hundreds of insects. Vulture flies back into view, arms and legs flailing about. The screams are his, and the buzzing belongs to the thick cloud of wasps surrounding him.
"Dear sweet God! Help!" Vulture cries in terror.
Wasp leaps onto the stage, a self-satisfied grin plastered across his face.
Ghost Rider roars with pain and anger and leaps to his feet, "For your resistance the Spirit of Vengeance shall show you the true torments of the Pit." he sends out Hellchains at both Zebra and Warmonger, laughing insanely the whole time.
Warmonger bats aside the incoming hellchain, but Zebra fares less well. Too concerned with avoiding the flaming, mutated Lion, she is ensnared by another chain that wraps itself tightly around her torso, pinning her arms. Both Lion and Warmonger, the latter too strong to be easily jerked about by the chain about his ankle, quickly take advantage of the now defenseless Zebra. Fortunately for the hapless woman, the enormous force of Warmonger's blow, which sends her spinning free from the chain and almost jerks Ghost Rider off his feet again, extinguishes the nimbus of crackling fire that leaps from Lion to envelop her.
"Punda!" cries Cheetah as she watches her teammate crash into the bleachers and go limp like a ragdoll.
Overhead, Vulture continues to scream as the swarm of stinging insects inflict terrible damage upon him. Wasp stands on the stage, almost doubling over with laughter. Vulture hits the ground, feebly trying to crawl away from the horrible cloud of hornets that slowly kill him. From his perch atop the flying platform, Fasces observes the defeat of Punda the Zebra, as well as the tactics of Ghost Rider.
"You!" Fasces yells. "Vith the chains! Attack the blacks only!"
And, like he's watching himself from afar, Ghost Rider feels his body respond to Fasces's command.
Cheetah, seeing clearly that the tide is turning against her group, forgoes further attacks against Ghost Rider. Moving so quickly that she is little more than a tannish blur, she races towards Vulture, through the cloud of insects, and jerks the severely wounded "bird-man" to safety.
"Damn nigress!" Wasp yells, turning his attention to Cheetah. "Spoil my fun!" He points, and the swarm begins to move in Cheetah's direction....
The fight at the football field isn't going that well for our other two heroes, either. Outnumbered by the two groups of villainsthe white supremacists and the black nationalists, with Ghost Rider now under the power of Fascesthe momentum favors the side of evil, at least for the moment.
Duststorm, still hovering a few feet over the stands, watches as the events unfold around her. The skull faced man is following Fasces orders, Henry is controlling insects, and Warmonger is just too strong. Janet picks her targets easily, She lowers herself to the stands, still shielded in her air dome. _Lets see what happens to Henry's bugs now._ She reaches out with her will, grasping the gentle breeze, and amplifying it. Hurricane force winds begin blowing across the entire field, forcing the hornet's back towards their controller.
The powerful winds have their desired effect to a certain extent. The swarm of killer insects is blown to pieces by the powerful gale conjured up by Duststorm. Wasp, still on the stage, looks upwards and for the first time, apparently, notices the slim woman enveloped in a whirling sphere of air. He whispers some word to himself, and then he too is hit by the gust of wind, which lifts him off his feet and hurls him backwards several yards.
Eric, as Ghost Rider, fought desperately to get back in control of himself. As he fought he sent hellchains out against the enemies Fasces ordered him to attack.
The nearest targets are Tembo and Kiboko, who are rushing down the stairs towards the downed Punda. Ghost Rider, so far unable to break Fasces's psychic hold on him, runs forwards a few yards and prepares to let fly.
"Leave this freak to me!" Kiboko yells. "You get Punda!"
Tembo just nods, letting the overweight Kiboko interpose himself between their fallen teammate and the fearsome Ghost Rider. Hellchains fly, and, amazingly, Kiboko throws his arms into their path. The chains wrap around his wrists and forearms, and Ghost Rider gives a mighty tug.
But Kiboko doesn't even budge. He must weigh tons.
"Gotcha, gruesome," Kiboko hisses, and then begins to spin. Ghost Rider is yanked from his feet, whirling through the air at the end of his chain. "Get outta here! I don't how long I keep this up!"
As Kiboko continues to turn in place, with Ghost Rider trailing through the air around him, Tembo scoops up Punda and beats feet back up the stairs, heading towards the top of the stadium. Across the field, Cheetah sees Lion, still flaming and mutated, rushing towards her. She hoists Vulture up in a fireman's carry, and then races towards the nearest exit.
"Stop them!" Fasces orders to Ghost Rider. "Vasp, Varmonger! On board!"
The flying platform swoops down, allowing the brutish Warmonger to leap on, before turning in the direction of Wasp. Then, overhead, there is a high-pitched whining that grows slowly louder. Fasces looks up. Duststorm looks up.
"VHAT!?" Fasces howls. "That fool! Those missiles veren't to be launched until the blacks vere marching!"
Arcing through the night sky overhead, on a descending flight path towards downtown, are three missiles. Duststorm sees clearly that tied to each missile is a man, one of whom is apparently in his boxer shorts and a T-shirt....
_Missiles? Who would be launching missiles? I can't let them hit._ DustStorm leaves those on the field to themselves, and speeds on an intercept towards the three rockets. Her protective force field easily shielding her from the wind speed. As she closes, she tries to make out whether the men are dead or alive.
Duststorm moves towards the rockets as quickly as possible. Now closer, she can see one of the men is black, and is wearing a costume of sorts. The third is a powerfully muscled albino. As near as she can tell, all three are alive but unconscious.
Janet matches her fight with the path of the missiles, coming along side the black man. With only a quick glance, she looks at the approaching ground. _If he is wearing a costume, maybe he can fly. I could probably carry one with me, but more than that might be a stretch._ Janet tries to waken Malachi, at least, that's what the jacket says. _Malachi, wasn't there something in the papers, a guy from Harlem or something. Stop worrying about it Janet, You don't have time. Come on man, wake up!_
Duststorm, a sense of impending disaster heavy on her back, flies in close to Malachi, who, along with the other two men, is chained tightly to a missile. Looking back over her shoulder briefly, she can see downtown Birmingham getting closer by the second. She has less than a minute to act. So, with a sharp motion, she slaps Malachi across the face, yelling at him, her voice almost lost in the roaring wind.
And, blessedly, Malachi awakens, groggy for a few moments, but then quite alert.
"CAN YOU FLY!?" Duststorm yells.
Malachi blinks at her, the wind irritating his vision, confused for a second, but then, "NO! DARK ANGEL!" He jerks his head towards the albino.
Now, the downtown area is very close indeed, and Duststorm takes a moment to try a different tactic, channeling her mutant power to create a strong crosswind. Slowly, slightly, the missiles change course, aiming more upward on a new trajectory that will probably clear downtown. More time is bought.
In the next instant, Duststorm is near the one identified as Dark Angel, and shortly he too is awake...
Meanwhile, back at the stadium, the mind-controlled Ghost Rider rages impotently as his foes flee while Kiboko lets go of the chains by which he was spinning Ghost Rider. The skull-headed avenger of evil goes flying up and out of the stadium, crashing into the parking lot beyond, digging up gravel as he slides to a CLANG! against a Buick
Looking up, he can see Duststorm, becoming increasingly small as she chases the missiles. Fasces, with Wasp and Warmonger aboard, are vanishing in another direction, heading to the south. Of the animal-motifed attackers, there is no sign at all.
Slowly, Ghost Rider's mind becomes his own again. Seeing this as a chance to revenge himself on the nazis, Ghost Rider runs forward while summonsing his bike to him. When it arrives he roars after all three nazi's, chains ready to attack.
Janet leaves Malachi chained to the rocket for the moment, and wakes Dark Angel. This time the beautiful blonde lady with a scarf around her face lets the front half of the rocket into her shield, protecting the albino from the hazards of the wind. It takes but a moments thought for her manipulation powers to snap the links of the chain. "He said you can fly? You need to get the other two safely to the ground. I can redirect the rockets to land somewhere without hitting anything important. Unless you have a better plan to keep us all from getting killed"
The man known as Dark Angel comes awake, precious seconds before it would be too late to act. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. He thought he heard voices, but they could have been the other chained near him.
He exerted his strength, arms foraging outward for freedom, pushing out against the chains, the metal biting into his arms. The force within him was the only way. Extend it outward toward the ground. A dome to meet them...buy them time...arrest their downward momentum.. and alter it UP! Time to break the others free...time to LIVE!
At first Dark Angel's efforts had no effect on the rockets' course, but then, like an inky silent explosion, the darkforce reacted, reforming his wings, bursting the chains binding him the missile, and then three thick strands uncoiled from his hands, flying forth to grab the noses of the missiles and alter their course upward sharply.
Duststorm watched in amazement as Dark Angel's awesome power went to work, sending all three missiles flying at a roughly forty-five degree angle up and away from the city. Overhead, the bottoms of the clouds rapidly drew closer. The air would soon grow thin and cold.
A sputter and a BANG!, like an engine misfire, distracted Duststorm and Dark Angel from the sudden change in direction. One of the missiles' engines, the one bearing the old man in his underwear, misfired again and then sputtered out. In short order, the other two missiles followed suit. Obviously, their scant fuel load had been exhausted. The upward course began to slowly turn into a downward arc.
Thankfully, the downtown area has now receded into the background. The missiles now look to be heading towards a construction site on the outskirts of town....
Meanwhile, some distance away:
Seeing this as a chance to revenge himself on the nazis, Ghost Rider runs forward while summonsing his bike to him. When it arrives he roars after all three nazi's, chains ready to attack.
Ghost Rider roars after Fasces, Warmonger, and the Wasp, all three villains riding the flying platform. With uncanny skill, the grim avenger navigates the streets of Birmingham, weaving in and out of traffic, screeching through hairpin turns, and once even roaring sideways up the wall of a drugstore to vault across an entire street, all in an effort to gain on the Nazi villains. It doesn't take Ghost Rider long, however, to realize that, even as fast his hellbike is and how skilled he is as a driver, he has no hope of catching the amazingly fast flying machine.
Growling in frustration, Ghost Rider watches the platform vanish in the distance, still apparently heading south. Seeing there would be no way to capture the three nazis, Eric Williams aka Ghost Rider, returns to the scene of the rally. His intent, search for clues.
Dark Angel broke the links securing Adrian to the missile, and with the same ebony grip passed his limp form to Duststorm. "I will guide these weapons to where they will do no one harm."
A pause before he turned toward the missiles. "Thank you, mortal; you have saved us all."
Dark Angel envelops the missiles in an opaque globe of blackness and is intent on dropping them out at sea.
_Mortal? What is that about?_ DustStorm concentrates, creating a small concave disk of air, laying the underwear clad hero and Malachi on it. and gently lowering everyone down to a rooftop. Once down, The attractive blonde woman checks to see if Malachi and the other man are okay. "My name is Ja.. uh.. DustStorm. What happened to you? Who was that Dark Angel? Why were you chained to missiles?"
Miles and miles away, Dark Angel and the missiles reappear over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the albinoid hero watches with satisfaction as the weapons plummet into the waves below, detonating on impact, sending great columns of sea water skyward. He considers that, had the missiles hit downtown Birmingham, the destruction would have been catastrophic.
Meanwhile, on a rooftop near the construction site, Duststorm bombards Malachi and Union, who fitfully regains consciousness, with several questions, none of which receive immediate answers. It then dawns on Duststorm that the mysterious Ghost Rider figure, who appeared to be something like a good guy, at least insofar as he was fighting the bad guys, had been left alone in the stadium to face down all of the villains by himself.
"We can talk on the way back," she says, flying herself and the two freshly rescued heroes back to the stadium.
_My God! He took my armor. He took my clothes!_ These are the first thoughts to race through Adrian's mind when Malachi shakes the old man conscious. _I'm floating on air next to a debutante who takes costume advice from Emerald._ runs a close second.
"Talk on the way back where? Where are we?" _The last thing I remember was the third Red Skull robot kicking my head in. Now I seem to be over downtown Birmingham in my boxer shorts, which is not the best way to start a morning. Or evening. Or whatever this is._ "Malachi, could I borrow your jacket. It's awfully chilly up here... and a spare mask if you happen to have one, would not be turned down."
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al