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The source of evil.



Towards Armageddon

    Victor's lower lip curls upwards in anger. Someone had laid their hands on his equipment. He analyzed the device with his spectral analyzer to determine if he should remove it. Detecting nothing unsafe, Victor then removed the device quickly and placed it in his pouch and turned the fire suppression and security systems back on. Then he hoisted his weapon and went outside to join the others. He quickly heads outside and rejoins the others. Victor sees Duststorm by herself. "So where'd everyone go?"
    In repsonse to Victor, Janet said, "Malachi and Delta V are watching the unconscious form of Dr. Strange. Aegis and Ravdna have flown off, following his invisible form as well as Union. We are to follow as quickly as we can. Can you home in on his radio signal as we fly?" She grabbed Victor under his arms and gave him a strong hug so that he wouldn't drop from her arms and then took to the skies, following the direction that the other Avengers had taken.
    Several miles ahead, Aegis, Union, and Ravdna rocket through the sky, racing after the Strange's astral form, which is phenomenally fast. The gap between it and the heroes widens with every passing moment.
    "Press onward!" Ravdna cries over the wind. "Mayhaps e'en if we dost lose sight of yon astral form, I shall still be able to track it!"

     "I've lost contact with that fool Strange!" Mordo hisses. "Make yourselves ready, for he is undoubtedly leading them straight to me."
    Dark Angel is still ensnared in the Crimson Band of Cyttorak. Emerald, now free from the psychic domination of Mordo's invisible assistant, is unsure what to do. If Mordo can so easily best Dark Angel, what chance does he stand? But, if the Avengers are heading this way, the battle isn't lost yet.
    Quentin Beck, moving slowly, jerkily, bows to Mordo. "Your will is my only desire," he says flatly, and then moves up the stairs to the control booth.
    Sue Storm and Robert Preston, also apparently under Mordo's mental control move out into the center of the warehouse. The scene flickers for an instant, and the green interior is gone, replaced with the setting of Mordo's climatic scene: The foothills of Mount Wundagore, which looms in the distance. Storm and Preston are now hidden, standing inside the holographic scene.
    "Soon my Dark Lord will be free, Mister Jones," Mordo explains. "And yours will be the first life sacrificed."

     Kang in Limbo watches the Avengers race toward Manhattan, leaning forward most expectantly toward the hovering disk on which the scene plays out. The moment draws nigh. Soon, centuries of planning will reach fruition.

     The Avengers are now over Manhattan. Indeed, Strange's astral form proved too fast to keep up with, but Ravdna's psychic powers compensate. Minutes after leaving the castle, the assembled heroes have arrived at what is for some a familiar place: the studio in which Rick Jones has been working as an actor.
    The neighborhood around the studio is rundown and consists of mostly vacant warehouses, but apartment buildings are not too far away. A few pedestrians walk here and there. The studio sits in the center of a large parking lot that hosts a handful of cars and a couple of vans. The building's doors are all shut, and the windows have been painted over. Aegis, Union, Duststorm, Specter, and Ravdna pause for a moment to consider their next course of action....
    "This is the studio - Emerald described it at the party." That event now seemed ages ago to the increasingly frustrated Union. "He said in Albany that the film's author was an expert on the occult - that's who he and DA were going to meet. Now they're missing and our magical assailant fled into this building. This place has to be the center of everything that's going on."
    "With their attacks on Manhattan and Albany, I'm sick of playing games with these people" Union waves an arm at the non-descript building, "Ladies: no need to be gentle. Victor and I will play backup while you bring the house down."
    "Sounds fine to me. It'll give me a moment to adjust my scanner and read the results to let the main attacking Avengers know what they are about to come up against," Victor commented.
    Victor pulls out his scanner which is locked onto his rifle and directs it towards the building. He starts scanning for lifeforms, electronic machinery, psionic energy and any other unusual energy type signatures. If Strange was able to leave his body, perhaps their would be a spike in the psionic energies if his 'astral body' was within. And if this entity that they've been seeking is somehow connected to this place, then perhaps he could detect it or the energy it wielded.
    Victor gets several interesting readings. He detects eight lifeforms, two of them with the familiar signatures of Dark Angel and Emerald. There is indeed some sort of electronic activity that seems to be uniform throughout the warehouse. Finally, one of the lifeforms registers psionic energies at a level three to four times that of Emerald. Interference from the electronic activity makes it impossible to narrow down the locations of the people in the warehouse.
    Victor was pacing back and forth and ended up about twenty feet away from the others when he whipped around dramatically and speaks only through the telepathic link while looking down at his scanner, *Union I'm reading several lifeforms within the structure. He paused, ....three, four, five, six, seven, eight total. Two of which I can detect as Dark Angel and Emerald, the others are not known to me, but possibly one of them reads as somewhat familiar in energy signature... The entire building seems to be lined with electronics on a massive scale. That might be the holographic technology that Emerald spoke of. I'm also scanning for heightened psionic activity and I can tell you that we have at least one lifeform that detects at levels three or possibly four times that of our good Emerald. Therefore we must assume psionic domination of our I mean teammates. However their is too much electromagnetic interference in there to detect their exact locations. If I had time I could have devised a better product to do that.... We must also assume that they know we are here already either though electronic or psionic surveillance,* he added through the link.
    *I'm shutting down the scanner and switching to psionic shield mode. Those who are within twenty feet of me will be shielded to a certain degree. Its untested, but its better than nothing at this point.*
    *I'll take better than nothing over nothing at this point.* Unfortunately, Victor's jury-rigging, however brilliant, cannot copper wire, circuits, and sensitive filaments bear more stress than they can bear. With a brief sputter and a cough, the scanner/psionic shield shorts out. Undaunted by this minor setback, the Mighty Avengers move into action. Union thinks through the link *OK ladies. bring the house down.*
    "With pleasure. Don't wait too long." She drops Ravdna off and accelerates into a sharp arc, bringing her over the building and then down through the roof like a missile.
    Victor follows Ravdna in towards the broadside of the building holding his rifle as if he was going to shoot from the hip. Janet nodded her head in acknowledgement as she sank into the ground. She traveled as fast as she was able to until she was under the center of the warehouse. She listened with a mental ear to try and coordinate her attack with Aegis and Ravdna.

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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al