Battling the Red Skull.
"Repugnant machine! Your existence is an affront to the Almighty! As your comrades have crumbled by my avenging hand, so shall you fall. Thus spake the Dark Angel!" DA's bands of Darkforce bolt from his outstretched hands enveloping the robot. He would do more with the machine, but a voice nags at him from within.
As the Darkforce bonds fly forth, the Red Skull moves with superhuman speed and grace, ducking under the path of the ebon attack. The robot ends up in front of Dark Angel, grabs the hero's right wrist, lifts and twists. The room spins as DA flies heel over head, and is slammed roughly to the floor.
Knowing from previous experience that damaging the Skull will be quite difficult, Malachi moves forward into the machine. Once in close, he tries to draw the Skull's attention onto himself.
Janet focuses on the cracked and broken ceiling. _There is no way I can support this whole structure, but I should be able to hold it together_ Her animation powers reach out and try to strengthen the room to give the others time to destroy this foul creation of Henry's. "Union, I have the roof." The recognizable female voice echoes from behind the Red Skull, _If nothing else, that should make him wonder if someone is there._
The Red Skull turns away from the sprawled Dark Angel towards the sound of the woman's voice.
Malachi wastes no time taking advantage of the distraction. In a single, impressively agile motion, the hero of Harlem has the Red Skull in a half nelson. Malachi is immediately struck the sheer solidity and power underneath the robot's seemingly human facade.
Union whispers to Duststorm as he takes a few cautious steps back, watching his teammates move forward to attack. "Good. Hold onto it until I give the signal. If need be, we can bury that thing under tons of earth and stone..." _Without my actual armor I'm in no condition to fight that thing. I'd better hang back and provide support if I can..._
With that though Adrian took another step back, his eyes scanning the room to get a feel for its contents, exits, and hoping beyond hope that he would spot his cybernetic body suit and chain mail. At the same time, his hand played over the crude controls on his ersatz armor, hoping to get a magnetic lock on the Red Skull robot, so that he might disrupt any attacks the thing makes.
Looking this way and that, and noticing that Simba is nowhere to be seen, Union does spot a footlocker half hidden under the stairs leading into this room. He sees no other exits. The room itself appears to be some sort of meeting chamber. There is a table, a few chairs, and a map of Birmingham on one of the walls. The map has several colored pins stuck in it here and there. As for the magnetic lock on the Red Skull, Union quickly discovers that he is unable to get a hold on him. Some sort of shielding must be blocking the attempt.
_Fuss and Bother! The thing must have shielded itself somehow, and this makeshift suit isn't good enough to break through._ Union slides across the room with one gliding step, skating across EM fields an inch off the concrete floor.
Janet keeps her matter animation powers focus on the integrity of the ceiling. Seeing the Red Skull turn looking for her voice, she decides to step the ruse up. In effort to keep him off balance, and maybe make it easier for the others to stop him. A female voice lifts from the opposite corner. "Oh look Titus, Henry's plaything is searching for us." With a condescending chuckle a male voice answers from the opposite direction. "Yes my love, it is precious isn't it?"
_I can't hold him like this,_ thinks Malachi. _He'll tear my arms off. Maybe something more solid will make an impression._ With a mighty heave and twist, Malachi prepares to lift the Red Skull clean off the floor and send him hurtling towards one of the walls.
The robotic Red Skull proves not only to be impervious thus far to harm, but also amazingly fast. As Malachi begins to switch the half-nelson into a throw, the Red Skull's entire head swivels 180 degrees and twin laser blast flash from his eyes, striking the Harlem Hero full in the face. Malachi hollers and staggers back, blinking at the spots in his eyes.
"It vill take more than this untermensch to defeat the Red Skull!"
"Vile creation!" Dark Angel shouts. "You will not triumph against the likes of us, not while the avenging Angel is still His instrument and can act...like this!" DA englobes the Red Skull in a Darkforce bubble of deepest black, raising him off the ground where he can do little harm.
"Vhat!?" the Red Skull can heard to yell from inside the bubble.
Seeing the Spirit of Vengeance still analyzing the situation, Union's voice cuts across the din of combat "Ghost Rider! Chain those other three up and get them out of here! We can't risk their deaths!" _Or the Skull using them as hostages, or their getting in the way if Janet has to bring the house down. There must be some other way out of here, and some sort of power system for the bunker complex. The others seem to be holding the thing off. Perhaps I can..._
Ghost Rider does as ordered, binding Fasces, Warmonger, and the Wasp.
Union's slide takes him behind the stairs, where he magnetically locks onto the foot locker and tears it open, hoping that it contains his missing armor but prepared to leap clear if it has any explosive surprises. The footlocker proves to be nothing exceptional, but its contents are another matter. Inside, indeed, is Union's armor!
"Hah!" Union whispers as he sees his cybernetic suit and chain mail armor. _There's no time to put the whole thing on now, but this will help_ Adrian yanks his cap and goggles off, pulling two wires free from the harness as he does so. The Union helm slides over his head a second later, and with a sure hand the old engineer fits the two wires into the harness' sensors and power supply. The helmet's sensory array goes live instantly, giving Adrian a readout of the bunkers electromagnetic fields.
With the helm in place, Union can detect power lines under the floor and running up the wall near the stairs. Most likely, the lines are tapped into the city's power supply. No hidden doors reveal themselves. As for the Red Skull himself, Union's special senses cannot penetrate the Darkforce globe, which suddenly quivers under a violent blow from within, but holds together despite it all.
_Well, I've seen enough monster movies to know that Dark Angel won't be able to hold that thing in forever. We need a way to end this thing, and this should give me one..._ Union reaches into the footlocker and yanks out both the primary and back-up coils of highly-conductive grappling cable. Then he points directly to the wall near the stairs, marking the location of the submerged power cables.
"DuststormI need a hole in the wall here, about a foot in diameter and a eight inches deep." He waits for the concrete clad crusader to comply with his directions.
Janet leaves off her toying with the mind of the Red Skull, and focuses her power on the wall Union indicated. It seemed like a strange request, but once she peeled away the concrete, and bent the reinforcing steel to reveal the power cables, she began to understand Union's plan.
As the concrete slides away to reveal the power cables, Union drops to his knees and goes to work.
Dark Angel maintains his hold on the Red Skulltron. "What to do with this evil creation? I may hold it yet, but it struggles to break free! I would utterly destroy it and those who have unleashed it on the world!" DA glowers at the unconscious scientists on the floor while concentrating on the Darkforce globe bobbling in mid-air.
The Avenging Angel's attention snaps back to the black sphere as the Red Skull launches another attack at it from within. The Darkforce ripples and deforms, and Dark Angel knows it is only a matter of time before the evil creature frees itself.
Union doesn't even turn his head from his work on the exposed electrical cables "Just hold that thing for a few more seconds if you can. I have some ideas on how we can get rid of it permanently..." He glances up for a second, watching Dark Angel's sphere shudder again as another blow strikes from within. "Ghost Rider, get those prisoners topside, and see if you can't find out what happened to our 'pal' Simba. Malachi, are you all right?"
Ghost Rider quickly complies with the request, dragging the three unconscious villains up the stairs and out of sight.
Malachi shakes himself, "I'm fine, those eye beams only sting a little. What do you need me to do?"
Union doesn't answer. He patches into the exposed cables and wishes there was time for a test, but the Red Skull isn't feeling cooperative. The Darkforce globe bursts asunder with a flash and BOOM!, Dark Angel himself catching the brunt of the explosion. The Red Skull, crackling with energy, drops to the floor, grinning maniacally.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al