Turning the tables.
Tilting the Axis
In the bunker, Dark Angel and Ghost Rider appear in the large chamber in which Dark Angel, Malachi, and Union foughtand were defeated bythe Red Skull. Little has changed. The strange stun weapon that dropped from the ceiling to incapacitate Union is gone, but the twin wreckages of Red Skull robots are still laying on the floor. The five doors leading out of the chamber are closed, and it is quiet. Thick posts support the ceiling. All in all, the chamber is about a sixty foot square.
But not quiet for long. From overhead and behind the two heroes in the bunker, the ceiling and upper part of the wall cave inward and then spiral into the walls of the cylindrical tunnel Duststorm's amazing abilities have formed. Still topside, Union, Duststorm, Malachi, and Simba can see that Dark Angel and Ghost Rider have arrived safely.
Adrian rolls his eyes under his goggles, whispering "well, that was a clever plan," before manipulating the crude controls on his forearm to lock the suit onto the magnetic field of the complex. Using that to support himself, he floats down to the bottom of the shaft, where his feet settle on the ground. _Without the cybernetics the controls are just too clunky for complex flight. I *have* to get my actual suit back. Soon. _
Janet walks last through the tunnel, as she steps through the concrete wall, she pauses for a moment to let the concrete begins to flow around her. A eerie sight to say the least, 8 inches of concrete flows up her shapely legs, across her stomach, over her shoulders and down her arms. It mounds up, and swallows her head, The formless concrete mask leaves only two eye holes. The concrete suit makes a strange grinding noises as she walks, but doesn't seem so slow her down at all.
Once everyone has joined him in the room, Union points to the door where the last Red Skull entered. "That's where the last Skull came through, and for some reason I think he was the real one. That's my best guess for a direction. Let's get out of this room before they figure out where here and show up with the stun pistols."
Janet's disembodied voice seems to emanate from the concrete statue. "What do we do now?" she asks.
"Now, miss, we head out of this room." And with that Malachi strides over to the section of wall Union indicated, intent on opening it.
Union is a step behind Malachi, grasping something in the pocket of his coat. "Lets get this moving."
Close inspection of the wall section Union remembered the third Red Skull coming into the chamber through shows that there is indeed a cleverly concealed sliding door there. Malachi, with Dark Angel at the ready to entangle any lurking enemies, digs his fingers into the seal, and then pulls. Metal can be heard to snap as the panel is wrenched open to reveal a narrow, spiral staircase that descends to another level.
Laughter echoes up the stairs.
"What the hell are you laughing at!?" a man's voice echoes up afterward.
Duststorm recognizes the voice as Wasp's. "Those missiles were expensive, and now they've been wasted!"
"Nein." Union, Dark Angel, and Malachi recognize the voice of the Red Skull. "They vere part of an object lesson."
"Zola!" Wasp yells. "Is this your doing? Did you alter his programming?"
More laughter, then, "My programming. Dear fathers, I have no programming," the Red Skull explains in a reasonable tone. "I may be your creation, but I am my own master. I am Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull."
"Amazing," another German accented voice comments. "Do you realize vhat ve have done, Pym? Ve have succeeded in creating much more than the most advanced robot the world has ever known. Ve have actually created free-villed, intelligent life."
"What!?" Wasp gasps. "You're happy about this?"
"Of course," Fasces replies. "Don't you see? In the Bible, the verb 'create' is never used of man. It is an activity reserved solely for God. And here, right now, ve have truly created. Ve are like gods."
Janet knows enough to keep her voice down and her control over air keeps them from being overheard, but the shock in her voice is still evident. "Henry built the Red Skull? That's impossible!"
Dark Angel's reaction to this startling revelation is considerably more dramatic...
Abomination! Dark Angel thought. How dare they mock the Creator and his Divine works! The righteous rage that was true anger began to roil forth, first manifesting in Dark Angel's wingsthey were the barometer to his mood. Wings bristled, trembled. His expression, what could be discerned in the near blackness of his features, turned dour and malevolent.
His voice boomed from an unearthly pit, vomiting forth in frightful violence: "His WRATH shall be visited upon you...NOW!!" Dark Angel rushes down the stairs into the room unleashing the Darkforce in an expanding tidal wave of blackness, rushing outward stealing sight and pinning man and robot against the walls.
Dark Angel's attack is sudden and devastating. The bubble of darkforce explodes across the room, slamming Fasces, the Wasp, the Red Skull, and Warmonger against the far wall with great force. Meanwhile, still upstairs, Union assumes leadership of the group...
"That'll attract their attention, I think..." Adrian whispers, his voice being virtually eliminated by Duststorm's sound globe. "DustStorm, we need to make sure Fasces can't mind control any of usyou nullify his voice, I'll try and take out his equipment. Ghost Rider, you help DarkAngeland make sure that robot doesn't get to draw his gun! Malachi, Simba, take out WaspI doubt he has a bunch of hornets down there, but who knows what other tricks he has up his sleeve. OK, People, we have some avenging to do! Let's go!"
With that, Union followed DarkAngel down the stairs, his augmented agility letting him take them at a hazardous pace. When he reaches the bottom he drops into a low forward roll, keeping himself out of the line of fire, his trenchcoat flapping behind him.
The rest of the Avengers charge down the stairs towards the inky darkness that Dark Angel has englobed the room in.
"Dark Angel, Lights On!"
Realizing that his allies cannot see, Dark Angel recalls the darkforce, and suddenly there is light again in the room. Fasces falls forward and hits the floor face-first, where he lays very still. The Wasp staggers forward a few feet, trying to keep his balance, makes a clumsy half turn, and then trips over his ankles to fall onto his side. Warmonger and the Red Skull, released from the darkforce's pressure, land on their feet. Warmonger's nose and mouth are bleeding, but the Red Skull seems unharmed entirely.
Adrian is prepared for the sudden burst of illumination as the dark Avenger reabsorbs the blackness covering the room. He keeps low, pulling the roll of wire from his pocket and taking careful aim at the man matching Faces descriptionseeing that Fasces poses no threat, Union switches targets to the Wasp. The coil of wire springs from Union's gauntlet and wraps around the Wasp's head as the racist scientific genius is trying to regain his footing. The blast of electricity that flows of Union's gauntlet, through the wire, and into the villain causes the Wasp to go rigid and shake all at the same time. A second or two later, he collapses to the floor, unconscious.
With an astounding speed and grace Malachi follows down the stairway, entering the room with an acrobatic dodge and attempting to present as difficult a target as possible. Seeing Wasp taken care of, wastes no time switching over to a new foe, closing in on Warmonger, who was obviously hurt by Dark Angel's initial, surprise attack. The hero of Harlem lands a bone-rattling uppercut that picks the brutish Warmonger of the floor to hurtle forcefully into the concrete wall behind him. Warmonger hits the wall hard enough to crack concrete, and a shower of dust falls from the ceiling overhead as cracks spread in all directions. Warmonger himself slides to a sitting position against the wall, and then lists to the left, sliding down until his misshapen head smacks the floor. His blue eyes roll back into their sockets and then close.
The two ton concrete statue of DustStorm moves up the stairs with surprising grace. An eerie silence envelops the room, foot falls make no noise, no snappy banter or fascist rhetoric. It takes Janet only a few seconds to isolate the silence to only the racists, leaving the without the ability to hear or speak. Janet takes a position just inside the door, along the wall, hopefully out of harms way, and concentrates on quiet. It become apparent, however, that this is not necessary.
Union, Dark Angel, Malachi, Ghost Rider, and Dark Angel, arranged in a rough semi-circle around the Red Skull, look here and there as the realization dawns that in rapid succession the Avengers have thrashed three of the four Nazi super-villains. Only the Red Skull, hands on his hips, no strange ray gun in sight, remains standing, that cruelly insane grin spread across his horrid face. The basement room is not overly large, only about a twenty-foot square with a fifteen-foot high ceiling. The wall opposite the staircase has taken quite a beating between Dark Angel's darkforce bubble and Malachi's KO of Warmonger. The concrete is buckled and cracked, and a few fist-sized pieces of the ceiling fall to clatter on the floor.
"Vell, vell," the Red Skull says. "You have come to wisit again. Wunderbar." He looks disdainfully at his fallen comrades. "Ubermenschen, fah! Vhat shining examples of human frailty my creators and their monster are. To be defeated by the likes of you, especially der Neger." He spreads his arms as if about to embrace someone. "Come, Schwachlingen. Come and die at the hand of the master race!"
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al