A choice is made.
"Shaddup! I know what I'm doin'!" The voice is Sam Stern's but the form is still Dark Angel's. "C'mon, Chthon! Take me! All the power you want is right here!"
"If we can gain access to the control room, perhaps we can create something holographic to distract the Chthonian entity," Victor says in a low voice as strength in the form of normal blood flow is starting to return to his legs. "However we must take Beck down first."
The possessed Robert Preston cannot help but notice Union and Specter's movement. "No farther, mortals!"
He raises his hands to channel magical energy, but then catches a basketball sized chuck of concrete between the shoulder blades. Ravdna had twirled Gugnir, batting the piece of debris through the air with astonishing accuracy. Preston pitches forward and cracks his head against the floor, and then he lies very still indeed. About this time, Aegis flies back into the warehouse through the hole in the ceiling and hovers for a moment, taking in the scene.
"Thank you, Ravdna - Nicely timed." Union quips, still unconsciously averting his gaze from the increasingly real demon.
Janet stood in awe of the newcomer, not realizing who she was, or even caring at the moment, entranced by her unworldly beauty. She was jarred out of her reverie by Dark Angel talking to the monster in front of him. He was sacrificing himself! One word echoed through her mind as she come to the conclusion. NO! her mind screamed, unable to act after encasing Mordo in the vacuum bubble of concrete. She stood helpless of what was to come next, what she feared would come next. She only wished that she could act before Chthon decided to take Dark Angel.
"C'mon! You want power! Here it is!"
Duststorm stands, nearly in shock, watching Dark Angel taunt Chthon while she maintains concentration on the twin bubbles of rock and vacuum around Mordo. The pulsing mass of tentacles shifts forward just slighty toward Dark Angel and the alien, strangely beautiful entity standing near the ebon Avenger.
"Let's go, Chthon!"
Union and Specter are gliding up the stairs when Chthon lunges forward with a speed that belies its bulk. Any lingering doubts that the monstrosity was not quite real quickly vanish. Duststorm is caught flat-footed, and is roughly jostled aside by the advancing horror, but she is fortunately uninjured.
Union kicks down the door to the control booth. Beck stands near the controls, looking both very confused and very frightened.
Victor eyes Beck hungrily as if he were the unsuspecting prey of a Serengeti lion, "Surrender and you will not be harmed," he said with the great beast looming behind him through the glass window of the control room.
Even still, he hesitates only for a moment before rushing the two Avengers. The fight is short and very one-sided. Beck apparently lacks the magical powers exhibited by Preston and Storm, and tries to rely on brute force. A normal man against Union and Specter, however, is hardly a challenge.
Union gracefully releases Victor, letting the scientist feign strength by supporting himself on the edge of the control panel. When Beck charges, Union counters the move almost before it's begun, magnetically yanking a chair into the director's path, sending him flying directly into the Silver Avenger's fist. Beck drops without a sound.
"Sorry, Mr. Beck. You'll feel better when you wake up." Union tosses the unconscious man over his shoulder, "Victor, do what you can from here. I'm getting these poor souls out of here before it gets any crazier. Good luck."
After Union renders Beck unconscious, Victor goes to work at the holographic controls. They have been damaged by the power surge caused by Union when the Avengers first entered the studio, but appear somewhat functional. The array is sophisticated and quite impressive. Beck is obviously brilliant. The computer feeds digital information to scores of a projectors within the floor, walls, and ceiling, which use lasers to generate three-dimensional images that have the appearance of solidity. Those areas of the studio in which the projectors are intact should still function, though the systemic damage may cause overloads. With no time for repairs, Victor goes to work....
Leaving Von Doom to master the damaged holographic controls, Union zips across the field of battle, pausing just long enough to snag Preston in his path through the warehouse.
Duststorm stood stock still as the monstrosity forced its way past her. She was filled with an unnatural revulsion and fear of the creature, such that it overwhelmed her ability to function. She realized that Mordo was still trapped in the concrete bubble without air, as Union dragged Beck and Preston outside. With a thought the bubble opened several small openings to allow air back into the sorcerer so that he wouldn't die. I may not like the man but I will _not_ be the cause of his demise, she thought to herself.
The vacuum vanishes with a WHOOSH! of rushing air. The stone sphere remains. So far, however, there is no sign of Mordo. If he is still conscious within the rocky prison, he is playing his cards close to his chest.
Dark Angel howls in pain as Chthon collides with him and then actually begins to merge with him as well. Tentacles and eyes stretch and contract while Dark Angel's flesh expands and consumes. After a short instant, the two are a single, horrible sort of Siamese twin, each half at war with the other. The Darkforce claw holding Emerald to the floor fades away to nothing. The angel, if that is what she was, has vanished. Preston, Storm, and Beck are unconscious. Mordo, as far as anyone can tell, is still within the concrete sphere. And, it seems as Dark Angel is losing his very body and soul:
SUCH POWER! SUCH A WORTHY HOST! NEVER AGAIN SHALL CHTHON BE FORCED TO SUBMIT TO ANOTHER'S WILL! NEVER AGAIN SHALL I BOW DOWN!
_We'll see, won't we? And Mom wanted me to learn to play the piano,_ Aegis sighs to herself. _Unreal. Sorry about this, DA...._ She has no idea at all if it will do any good, but if it doesn't they'll know that much more about what they're up against.
Duststorm watched as Dark Angel was enveloped by the creature known as Chthon and started to become one with the thing. She was not sure what to do next. Her powers extended over the earth and air. Not over god like beings. She wasn't even sure where to start. With a flow of air she hefted the prone form of Susan Storm and moved her to safety.
Union's flight path ends up mirroring Aegis spectacular exit from the building moments earlier. _Yow. I hope she's all right. I think we can count this as a good indicator of the safe fight radius. If things get past this, things are really out of control._ He deposits his charges on the sidewalk half a block further away before rocketing back to the building, hoping that the situation is more under control--at least enough for him to get Miss Storm out of there as well.
_I may not like her attitude, but she deserves better than being crushed by a falling building._
Union returns just in time to witness Sue Storm floating out of the building, with Duststorm's air-cushion kicking up a small cloud of debris as it carried the actress and model to safety. *Good thinking, Duststorm. Aegis, your impact crater made it look like you took quite a hit. Are you...*
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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al