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The sacrifice is chosen.



    "No force can penetrate my magical shield!" a mocking voice echoes throughout the warehouse. "It's enchantment absorbs the energy of your pathetic powers, channeling them to my Dark Lord! The time is right Chthon! Seize the vessel prepared for you!"
    The pulsing monster now looks more solid than the warehouse floor on which is rests. Victor notes that it is even leaving puddles of slime wherever its foul tentacles drip.
    Near the entrance, Dark Angel, now free from the magical bands, stands stock still, mouth hanging open, eyes wide in complete terror as he as everyone - hears the inhuman words crash through the walls of the mind.
    "Dear God," Dark Angel whispers, tears starting to fall from his frightened eyes.
    Great Caesar's Ghost, Victor exclaims mentally as he curses the fact that he had no time to prepare for this fight or for the eventuality that Susan Storm, a woman he once courted, is using the powers that they gained together and one that Victor no longer possessed. The power to phase!
    Victor starts to backpedal and turns in a wide arc keeping an eye on Susan Storm the whole time. He starts to steer himself, as he's walking backwards, towards the control room where Beck is located. As he backs up, he tries to adjust the laser optics so that the device will emit a flash instead of a laser pulse. Perhaps he could blind the lovely Miss Storm... Within the mental link Victor communicates to his teammates, *I'll try to get a handle on Beck. I have a plan if I can just get to the control booth.*
    Victor doesn't get a chance to see if his adjustments would have worked or not, for the lovely Miss Storm, a look of pure murder in her eyes, dashes forward with inhuman speed and passes her hand into Victor's chest. The super-scientist's widen with alarm and then squint with pain as Storm's fist closes around his heart and becomes just ever so slightly solid! The pain is excruciating. Victor cannot help but cry out before he jerks away, collapsing to the floor in a fetal position, barely able to breathe or move.
    Sue Storm stands over Victor, pondering what sort of cruelty is next to come.
    It has to be another distraction. Has to, has to... And even if it's not, *I'm not leaving while this bastard is standing,* Aegis informs the others, setting herself for another attack.
    The mighty Aegis lunges back at Mordo, armored fist swinging in the long way around to collide with Mordo's mystic shield. The concussion roars through the warehouse, sending rocks and dust flying and shattering the crimson globe like a light bulb, the shards of which turn to light and fade away!
    Mordo is obviously jarred by the violence and surprised by the sudden failure of his supposedly unbreakable shield, but the self-proclaimed Sorcerer Supreme doesn't give Aegis time to act again. With a wave of his hand, an invisible bolt of force slams into Aegis, wraps around her, and keeps traveling, pulling the armored Avenger along with it. Aegis flies across the warehouse, through the far wall, crashes through the chain link fence around the parking lot, across the street, and finally grinds to a halt against the facade of a liquor store.
    Aegis gets back to her feet, does a quick check for damage, and returns to the fray via the hole she made in the roof, pausing for an instant in her silent approach to assess the scene.
    Janet hesitated only briefly before she called upon her powers over the earth and encased Mordo in a sphere of concrete from the floor around him. _That should keep him occupied and off of our backs for a couple of seconds as he destroys it,_ she thought.
    The dome of rock forms around Mordo, both trapping the wizard and concealing him from sight as well. Janet then turned her attention back to the monster assaulting Dark Angel, just in time to see Preston, now recovered from the shock of Victor's flamethrower attack, gesture at her. Mystical energy crackles from the possessed actor's hands and lances through Duststorm, body and soul.
    Janet reeled from the attack as the mystical energy ripped through the very core of her being. She staggered back a step under the assault. Realizing that Preston and Susan are under the command of Mordo she focused her attention back on the sorceror. Before he could react after attacking Aegis she opened a small hole in the concrete sphere she had created and evacuated all of the air before collapsing the sphere around him so that he was forced into a fetal position.
    _No! God in Heaven, No!_ Screams a small and increasingly besieged portion of Adrian's psyche, which falls into adamant prayer to buttress itself against the foul forces assaulting it. Union hears another voice in his mind, that of Ravdna, urging him to resist and telling the alien presence to depart. The mental battle is over in the blink of an eye even though it seems to have raged for minutes.
    Union straightens with sinuous grace and floats across the room, his voice a chorus of buzzes and screams. "No! Don't kill Von Doom! Take my hand and we shall kill him together!" The electrical currents of Union's armor spark and dance with a hellish fury as he reaches for Storm's hand, so that they might together spell the final death of Doom.
    Storm laughs, her voice a demoniac chorus. "Yes, let's!"
    Union's hand grasps Storm's, and then the actress suddenly goes rigid, her hair standing on end, jaw clenched, eyes wide, as electricity surges through her body. An instant later, Susan Storm collapses, lying on the floor near the stunned Victor.
    "Hot damn!" yells Emerald, who forms a giant trashcan that drops over Preston with a clunk!, trapping the possessed actor within it.
    "Lights out, Miss Storm. Just lie there and take ten." Union says, as he corrects the change in his voice modulator. He looks down towards Victor, finding the worlds foremost scientific mind stunned, barely conscious, but still struggling for the control room.
    Union reaches down and gently helps the stunned Specter to his feet. "Sorry if I worried you, Victor. It was the only way I could think of to get Miss. Storm to drop her defenses."
    "Tha...thank you Union," Victor manages as his heart muscle starts to relax again and he thinks that maybe Susan Storm had not been as adept as he was when he had those same powers. "Once again I owe you my life my friend."
    And then, there is Dark Angel. His eyes flicker from Chthon toward Emerald and then back again as if finally realizing something. It was Emerald that Mordo said would be the first sacrifice!
    "NO!" Dark Angel screams, a claw of Darkforce flying from his hands to pin Emerald to the floor! The telekinetic trashcan vanishes, freeing Preston. "Not him! Me! Take me!" Chthon's myriad tentacles and eyes shift, giving the monster an impression of having a front and a back, and Dark Angel becomes the center of their attention. Union, Duststorm, and Ravdna also cast their attention to the Ebon Avenger and then notice another figure standing next to him.
    She is tall, dressed in flowing white robes, with alabaster skin, golden hair, and great feathered wings the color of pure snow. Union and Duststorm moreso than Ravdna cannot help, even in the midst of the battle, to be awed by her beauty.
    "Peace or power, Samu-el," she says in a musical voice. "Choose wisely."

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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al