The counterattack commences.
Listening with at best half an ear to the pronouncements of his allies, Adrian's hands work with rapid precision: disassembling and reassembling parts, making modifications with a small electrical arc-welder, and occasionally dropping things in frustration. When it sounds like Lion is beginning to wake up, he lifts his head long enough to say "DustStorm, Dark Angel, could one of you make sure our guest doesn't wander off when he wakes up?"
Janet stands back in a quiet corner. _What am I doing here?_ She tugs absently at her costume. _What did you get yourself into Janet, you're not a superhero_
As he works, Adrian sometimes looks up at the hellbike, and makes sidelong glances over at Ghost Rider, wondering what form of technology is letting him generate such realistic effects. _Something for another day..._
After a few more minutes of work, Adrian puts the tools back into his bag, then straps on the device he had been working onthe flight harness Union had used to carry Malachi on their flight to Alabama has become a partial suit of armor, studded and laced with metallic threads. Adrian pulls on his soldering gloves, dons on the leather aviator's cap with goggles and ear flaps, and pulls his trenchcoat on over the whole affair. Finally, he pockets one or two smaller itemsone of which looks disturbingly like a spool of fishing wireand touches a hidden stud on his belt. There is a flare of blue-white electricity under the trenchcoat, and the old man's somewhat stooped stance and slow walk are once again replaced with Union's more gliding stride.
"Ok, I'm as ready as I'm going to get. The Union prototype auxiliary armor is now operational. What has our prisoner had to say for himself?"
Union's questions gives everyone cause to look at Lion, who suddenly sits bolt upright.
"Wha! Where the hell am I!?"
The animal-masked man looks ready to fight, or run, or both, but for the moment just sits, every muscle tense, ready for action.
Dark Angel takes an imposing step toward the lion-man. "Mortal, do not bother us with your questions, for you shall be the one giving answers.
"What is your purpose here?" Dark Angel, deepest black, wings high in annoyance, stands ready to confine the man-lion with Darkforce bands if he should bolt or charge.
Janet speaks in a comforting voice to the Lion man, struggling to remember the shouted names. "I didn't get your name, but Kiboko, Tembo, and Punda left, You were lying in the middle of the field, and Bull Connors was coming back with a posse. Wasp and the others left too."
After a long, wary stare at Dark Angel, Lion takes in the scene, person by person, and then turns back to Duststorm.
"They left me? Those bastards," he says, more to himself than anyone else. "Wasn't Punda hurt? The lady in the zebra mask? Didn't I see her go down after that big mother*&^%#$ Warmonger hit her? I shoulda known Kiboko and Tembo were unreliable, but...."
Dark Angel ruffles his wings and glowers.
"Back off," Lion says to Dark Angel. "What the hell you think my purpose was? We came down here to crack some redneck, Nazi oppressor heads together. Pretty much the same thing it looked like you might've been doing." He points to Ghost Rider. Slowly, Lion rises to his feet, dusting himself off. He looks at Malachi. "So what's the story, my brother? You sure ain't the police, and I doubt seriously you're any kind of lynch mob."
"Well, some of us came down here because... people were being hurt and we needed to see what we could do about it. I'm not sure why some of these people are here though. Now, it looks like those guys you fought might be in this bunker. Interested?"
Lion-mask doesn't think for long. "Hell, yeah. Payback is what this whole trip was about from the get go. I'm called Simba. What's your nom de guerre?"
There is now a contrast becoming evident. Although earlier, Simba spoke and acted pretty much like a street thug, the kind Malachi is used to dealing with in rough trade, the French is certainly out of place with that sort. Whoever Simba is, it seems as if there is more being hidden than just his face behind his African mask.
Looking Simba over again, Sam extends his hand. "You can call me Malachi."
"Groovy, man," Simba says, shaking Malachi's hand. "You're that cat from Harlem." It is a statement, not a question.
_Oh bother, Sam. I hope you know what you're doing... _ Adrian thinks to himself as the lion-masked man accepted Malachi's offer. _On the other hand, we need all the help we can get, and we certainly share a common foe. _ "OK, Simba, if you're with us on this, you have to be willing to follow our rules: no killing, no unnecessary violence. We are not going to stoop to the level of our adversaries. We're gong to go in there to stop what' they're planning and keep them from hurting anyone. If we do manage to capture any, we'll be handing them over to federal authorities.
"That's cool by me," Simba says. "I'm not a murderer. I'm a freedom fighter."
"Do not play us the fool, Lion-man," Dark Angel added, his voice dripping with menace, "for Retribution shall be swift and severe. If you know this, then you are welcome to aid us in our mission."
"Uh huh," Simba replies. "That's some creepy motif you got there."
"Mortal you try my patience. The one called Fasces possesses the ability to bend the will of his enemies, even beings such as myself. I have no love for the nazis and understand their evil better than you ever could.", Ghost Rider's intonation was biting and other-worldly.
Union, his trenchcoat flapping behind him, begins laying out the situation to his teammates and allies. A few sparse sentences sketches out the events of their last raid -- the design of the bunker, the construction of the Red Skull robots and the devastating strength of the Skull's stun beam. "I think the failure of the missiles to detonate must have thrown their plans up somewhat, but I have no desire to stake our lives on that." He turns to DustStorm, "If you were serious about being able to drastically reshape the earth, do you think you could cut us a tunnel into their bunker? We know where it has to be, and it's really too large to miss. I think we stand a much better chance of we don't go in through the front door. They surprised us last time -- lets see if we can't turn the tables on them."
Janet focuses her power, and a small mound of earth lifts itself from the ground. "I can reshape earth, and also concrete, stone, and steel, and just about anything else of that nature. You probably also know I control the winds, and can make shields from air, as well as a few other tricks."
DustStorm thinks back to the fight at the rally. "Fasces was ordering people around, I don't know how his power works, but I can silence him so that he can't give the orders. Warmonger is probably by far the biggest and strongest, and Hen.. I mean the Wasp seems to be able to control insects. My air powers will not work too well inside, but that may to be our advantage too. It takes a lot of air to create a shield, and there may not be enough left to breath."
"Union, did you say the bunker was concrete? If the walls are thick enough, I can create myself a suit of concrete, and that should provide me with quite a bit more protection, as well as strength. But it takes most of my concentration to maintain the suits flexibility, so I won't be controlling much else." Janet hopes that the idea she has are something the group can work with.
Dark Angel looks to his companions, "If you desire surprise, I shall appear inside this 'bunker' of theirs and compel their submission. Then we may interrogate them at our leisure. They will not anticipate such a sudden assault."
Union gives an appraising look over at Dark Angel, curious how far Stern was going to take this 'angel of retribution' persona. Still, the idea had merit... "OK, how about a two pronged assault -- we have some of our people teleport inside with Dark Angel, and the rest of us come in through a tunnel somewhere else. That should keep the enemy confused and, we should be able to provide distractions for one another."
"If this is Faces and the Wasp's bunker, wouldn't there be a landing pad for that flying saucer they had? Maybe that would be a good place to start too?" Janet wonders out loud.
_I wish to heaven that Aegis were here, or even Dumas. Someone with more tactical sense than me. Still, this doesn't sound bad._ After a moments thought Union continued, "OK, so Dark Angel and, " he scans the heroes to find others capable of causing as large a distraction as possible, "Ghost Rider go in together. Do as much damage and make as much noise as possible. The rest of us come in through the wall somewhere else and start dissembling them more quietly from another direction. We'll be able to cut down their ability to attack with the strike team, while you'll keep them from noticing the stealth team."
Adrian's eyes flick from person to person behind his goggles, taking in the reactions of the others. "Does that sound like a plan? If so, lets put it into action. I don't want to give these guys any more time to prepare for our potential arrival."
DustStorm stands poised to play steam shovel. "I can only move about 8 foot at a time, but I should be able to keep ourselves in the clear. Just show me where to dig."
When all is said and done, the group is ready. Dark Angel and Ghost Rider, dual personifications of vengeance, prepare to teleport into the bunker, while DustStorm moves into position in order to start manipulating earth and concrete.
With a dramatic gesture, Dark Angel conjures up a ball of darkness that envelopes him and Ghost Rider before it shrinks down to nothing in the blink of an eye. The two unearthly heroes are gone!
Duststorm focuses her will on the earth where Union indicated. There is rumbling and cracking as the ground shifts and parts, forming a tunnel leading at a downward angle. The layer of concrete underneath is next to twist and move.
| Top |
© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al