Spacer Towards Armageddon 149
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The end of the matter.



    He looks up to see Aegis pull loose a steel I-beam with a casual wrench from the shattered ceiling and hurl it like a javelin at the more-Chthonic portion of the mass.
    *Never mind.* Union projects across the link. "I guess you're fine. Carry on.*
    The results are disappointing. The I-beam sinks several feet into the pulsing mass of flesh merging with Dark Angel. Then, with an equal amount of force, the large piece of metal fires across the warehouse, puncturing the far wall and landing in the parking lot with a clang!
    Victor calls out to Ravdna through the psychic link, *Ravdna can you link our minds with Dark Angel's? Maybe we can help him fight off Chthon as a team?*
    *Mayhaps* Ravdna replies. *But methinks we shall not have the opportunity right now.*
    The Dark Angel-Chthon creature thrashes about, smashing through the wall of the studio into the parking lot. The pair - Avenger and monster, half-merged - thrash and wrestle, and then Dark Angel is airborne and heading into town, the mass of Chthon trailing behind.
    "Where's he going!?" Emerald wonders.
    "More importantly, why couldn't he have stayed here where we had some chance of containing things?" Union sighed. "Right. Emerald, if you're up to it. follow Aegis and I after him. The rest of you, back up Duststorm I want you to peel open that prison and see if Mordo's in any mood to explain what's happening and how we can stop it. Then get him trussed up for the cops. Delta V and Malachi should be on their way.
    With that, Union takes off after the retreating Dark Angel, placing a call through the police band to get some cruisers and an ambulance to the studio.
    Janet was feeling quite good despite the pain she still felt from the mystic blast she had taken earlier. Union had complimented her on her actions and was now leaving her here with Ravdna and Victor to talk with Mordo. She smiled despite herself as she caused the prison Mordo was in to roll over to the other heroes in anticipation of opening it up. Hopefully Mordo would be more cooperative after spending so much time encased in concrete, and some of without air.
    She waited for Victor and Ravdna's signal that they were ready before she opened the concrete cocoon.
    Victor readied himself to attend to the wizard medically because of the vacuum. Though for some reason he didn't expect to see their foe still within the prison when it was opened.
    Union, Aegis, and Emerald race through the air after Dark Angel, who, it turns out, doesn't go far. A few blocks away there is a Lutheran church. The hybrid Dark Angel-Chthon crash through the church's facade and slide to a halt before the altar. The other three Avengers enter just seconds later.
    Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, Ravdna and Victor move into position near the stone sphere. Ravdna, spear at the ready, gives Duststorm a nod. With a gesture, the stone sphere crumbles to pebbles. Not too surprisingly, there is no sign of Mordo within.
    *The vile sorceror hath fled.* Ravdna communicates to everyone.
    In the church, Dark Angel staggers to his feet. The union with Chthon appears almost complete. Some of Sam's ebony flesh ripples. The tips of a few tentacles are still visible. Suddenly, everyone notices the angelic figure from the warehouse standing next to the altar.
    "Peace or power, Samu-el," she says, a beatific smile on her face.
    "Peace," Dark Angel responds, turns to face the altar, and then drops to his knees, head bowed.
    The noiseless flash of light temporarily dazzles Union, Aegis, and Emerald. A wave of mystic energy ripples out from Sam Stern, through the church, across the surrounding neighborhoods, reaching into the warehouse, where it buffets the Avengers there, especially Victor, who lurches into a fetal position onto the floor. A few seconds later, all is calm.
    In the church, Sam Stern lays before the altar. The angel is gone. A quick check discovers that Stern is quite dead, although there is not a mark on his body.
    In the warehouse, the earthen body of Victor Von Doom staggers to his feet, unsteady, as if unused to the weight of his own body. He looks at Ravdna and Duststorm, and both women can tell there is something quite different about the man. Ravdna realizes as well that Victor's mind is no longer part of the telepathic link.
    "It worked," the stranger in Victor's new body says as if pointing out something quite obvious. "As if the plans of Kang could ever go awry."
    Janet worked her mind furiously to remember where she had heard that name before. Sudden realization dawned on her Victor's captor in Limbo! as she used her powers over the air to lift the man who used to be Victor Von Doom off of his feet and hold him in the air.
    Gazing at Victor's clay-like form with her Valkryic sight she notes that Victor's soul is nowhere to be found. Holding Gugnir at the steady she says, "What hath thou done with our companion?"
    The man called Kang smiles at Ravdna and then at Duststorm. The Valkyrie cannot help but note the air of authority about him. Whoever this Kang is, he is obviously a man accustomed to being in a position of authority.
    "That," Kang replies. "Is a pressing question. His soul - as you might be inclined to call it--has been displaced from this body and into the body of a coma patient some distance from here. Von Doom should be waking about now, if memory serves me correctly. He'll call his manservant Alfred in due time. Now, if there are no more questions for which you require answers, I will be on my way."
    "And what of that host's essence? What of that mortal's soul?" Ravdna asks not without some personal context.
    With a lump of nervousness and anxiety, Janet licked her lips and said, "I think not, Kang. You can not just waltz in here and expect to leave uncontested. I won't let you do that here and now." She said with more courage than she thought she possessed. "What is your purpose here?"
    Again, Kang smiles. Ravdna and Duststorm cannot help but notice how patronizing an expression it is. He addresses the Valkyrie first. "I'm quite certain I don't know. That is not my concern. Von Doom wanted to live again. I wanted my freedom." He looks at Duststorm. "These two wants coincided and took advantage of the situation in order end my timeless imprisonment. My 'purpose,' as you so quaintly refer to it, is to be free, and I will not be dissuaded from it by anyone."
    Though his voice is pleasant, even cultured, there is just the hint of threat in his last words.
    The smooth, calculated manner in which the Lord of Limbo makes his challenge rankles Ravdna to no end. It reminds her too much of Loki. "Thou wouldst threaten an Asgardian Warrior-Born? Hold thy tongue, Kang lest ye have it held for thee. The All-Father's Spearbearer shall not spoken to thusly."
    Janet glanced at Ravdna out of the corner of her eye before gathering her courage and standing defiantly beside her comrade, said "Now that you are free, what are your intentions Kang? I did not realise that I had to spell out my questions to one who effaces such intelligence." Janet hoped that it would not come down to a fight, but they couldn't just let Kang go free without determining what he wanted in this dimension.
    Kang actually laughs. Not a cruel laugh, or an insane laugh, but a simple laugh induced by something that strikes him as humorous. Seeing the flash of righteous anger on Ravdna's face, he holds up a pleading hand.
    "A thousand pardons," Kang says. "I am not used to such spirited conversation, and find it quite delightful. My dear Duststorm, I entirely understand your concerns, even if I do not share them. Judging by the debris hereabouts, it seems as if there has been enough violence this day. Therefore, ladies, I ask simply: What is it that you would have me do?"

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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al