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Their leader imperiled.



    By this time, there are at least a dozen zombies crowding around Union. Others continue to climb from their graves. Three crash through one of the side entrances to the castle and vanish within. Others are not far behind.
    Duststorm flew high after Strange, interposing herself between him and Gyrich's car. The SHIELD agent was very brave to attempt to come back and help them but there was no way he could withstand an attack from the sorcerer supreme. Janet wasn't sure that she could withstand an attack but she knew she was better suited to than Gyrich was in his flying car. As she flew, she focussed all of her energy and concentration into the biggest kinetic bolt she could and fired at the retreating form of Doctor Strange.
    Duststorm's kinetic bolt ricochets off of the swirl of glowing disks that forms around Strange as he comes to a stationary hover about a hundred yards above the castle. A second later, Gyrich opens with the car's armament. The deep, staccato KRAK! KRAK! KRAK! of the machine gun fills the night air, but the hail of projectiles also proves powerless against the sorcerer.
    "The Shields of the Seraphim are more than adequate defense against any of your attacks!" Strange boasts. "Let us see if the same is true of the fool in the flying car!" Strange gestures, and a cloud of purplish gas forms around Gyrich's vehicle, clinging to it in a stubborn cloud, seeping in through the air vents. The brave agent begins to cough, and the flying car's trajectory becomes erratic.
    "As I thought!" Strange calls out. "Even the relatively benign Mists of Morpheus prove deadly in the right circumstance!"
    On the roof below, Malachi and Ravdna have a quick conference about tactics.
    "I don't think that's a good idea, Ravdna," Malachi admits. "I'm strong, but I don't think I could throw you *that* far." He points up at the floating villain, and then looks down at the shambling army of undead. "Dear Lord...."

On the grounds outside:
    Union is all-but-invisible in the midst of the scratching, punching, and biting zombies.
    "Ahhhhh! Union yells in shock, and without any conscious thought slams his fist into Victor's ashen face. It is that action that snaps him out of his shock. _Wait. This can't be Victor—we know where his soul is! These things aren't the risen dead, they're just automatons. Robots. I can deal with robots._ And with that he commences struggling against the corpses, trusting that his strength and the electrical shocks will drive the creatures off enough for him to escape.
    _These things are too well insulated for my electricity to effect, and too strong to shrug off. I just need to get clear for a second._ Union struggles to get himself free of his attackers for just a moment, combining his own not insignificant strength to the electromagnetic forces that power his flight. When he sees Aegis closing on his position, he smiles grimly, seeing an escape from the rotting limbs.
    _Damn. Time for Plan B. We should try to have one of those next time._ Aegis realizes that Union is in serious trouble—is something wrong with the armor?—and swats more zombies aside to clear a path to their embattled leader. As soon as he's in reach, she grabs hold and takes flight.
    "Aegis—Catch!" Union's entangling cable flies directly upwards out of the mass of zombie before taking a sudden turn towards his teammate. On the way, it wraps itself around his arm three times, providing backup if the casing gives way again. "Get me out of here!"
    Union is yanked free from the dogpile. Zombies are sent flying this way and that, and one even manages to hang on for part of the ride, but Union dislodges it with a swift kick to the head. The monster cartwheels through the air, crashes into the ground, and slides to a halt against a tree. The broken tangle of its body still tries to move.
    "You okay?" The question is a bit distracted as she sees the zombies breaking into the house.
     "Fine now. I was a little shocked when those things turned up, but I'm better."
    "Think fire would work on these things?" Victor has to have flammable chemicals in the place....
    "Don't worry about them—they're just distractions from the real threat. I'm betting they'll fall over once the intruder stops using whatever powers he's using to animate them. Let's come up with a plan to take this guy down."

Inside the castle:
    Delta V says, "We need to get you to safety, Alfred. Is there any place in the castle that's secure, or should we head to some place away from the grounds?"
    "Perhaps their is a secure area for him, but lets not risk Alfred's safety. Bring him into Glen Cove center and then hurry back here," Victor replied to Delta V and then looked at Alfred. "Delta V is going to rush you to town. Once your there, head into the city to your apartment and await my or one of the other's phone call before returning here."
    Delta V and Alfred both nod. "Hang on," the doctor says Alfred, hefting him up before racing down the stairs.
    Zombies come crashing into the entry hall and ballroom below, but they are too slow and clumsy to provide much of an obstacle to the fleet-footed Delta V, who snakes a path through them at close to fifty miles per hour, knocking several of them aside like ten-pins on the way. A moment later, he is on the road, accelerating to nearly ninety. Alfred squeezes his eyes shut and hangs on for dear life as Delta V races out of sight.
    Upstairs, Victor ignores, for the moment at least, the undead trespassers.
    After parting with Delta V and Alfred, Victor rush over to a full size floor to ceiling painting of himself as the chief of state of Latveria that was hung on the wall. Pressing a concealed button on the frame, the picture raised up quickly revealing a previously hidden elevator. He walked inside and pressed the button to close the painting and the elevator doors and within two seconds he was in his laboratory several hundred feet below the surface looking through his various devices and chemical compounds.
    In his lab, Victor quickly begins to mix chemicals and assemble various parts to form a flamethrower. Though he works at inhuman speed, thanks to the awesome power of his mighty intellect, which has already worked out all of the necessary formulae and materials for the project, Victor still feels as if he is too slow. Nevertheless, soon enough he hopes, the weapon will be assembled and ready for use.

    Janet never hesitated in her making her decision. Gyrich was in deep trouble for coming back and she could help him. She might be the only one who could. Janet focussed her air powers on the car pushing the purple cloud out and away from the car and filling the interior with fresh air, with a slightly higher concentration of oxygen so that any effects of the dire cloud might be mitigated. If what she remembered from her high school literature class was correct, Morpheus was an old god of sleep, or somesuch. The extra oxygen should help Gyrich stay awake long enough to land that vehicle before he passed out. She called out to Aegis to try and help Gyrich if he couldn't maintain control of the car. There was no way that she could lift and guide the vehicle.
    She refocused her attention on the sorcerer. She had never been so filled with anger as at this moment. All of the disasters they had been fighting, the futile attempts to stave the flow of damage being caused by the malignant beings below the earth and now this. She was nearly red with rage yet she was still in control. She waited for the magician to make his next move before she countered him.
    "He seems well protected from physical attacks—maybe electricity would--crap." Aegis heard Duststorm's cry, saw the erratically moving car and darted off to make sure it reached the ground safely.
    Union watches Aegis fly after the SHIELD car and shakes his head. _We're disorganized, and he's cutting us to pieces because of it. Your fault old Man. Put it right._
    *Ravdna, this is Union. Lets keep this telepathic link active. Malachi, you, Delta V and Specter are on zombie detail. Keep those things occupied and contained. The rest of us will deal with this "Doctor."*
    *Roger that,* Malachi responds, *But Delta V's out of the area right now.*
    Harlem's Avenger rushes to the edge of the rooftop and drops off, catches a ledge about fifteen feet down, plants his feet flat against the wall, and then back flips the rest of the way down, landing in the midst of the zombies, fists and feet flying in a series of jabs and kicks that send the undead sprawling backward in various states of injury.

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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al