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Thunderbolts #11 - The Cost of Innocence
Jennifer Walters stepped out of the SHIELD shuttle into the Californian sunshine. Despite the ongoing crisis going on in New York due to a Unidentified Crashing Object landing in the city SHIELD had insisted she fly out to the West Coast. At first she thought she was being sent to Seattle to quell the ULTIMATUM attack on Seattle but no she had been shuttled down to represent a known criminal who had apparently taken the law one step to far and had murdered an even more disgusting piece of criminal scum.
"Ma'am you're car is here but for some reason protesters are rioting in the street and have erected barricades on the approach roads to the cort room." The SHIELD dock officer explained. "You will have to wait until we clear them out."
"What could they possibly be rioting about?" Jenifer replied sarcastically. "I mean from what I've seen from the evidence report it appears like a definite frame up job."
"You think so." The dock officer stated removing a slim line pistol from the small of his back. "Then Ma'am I'm afraid that you won't make it to the trial." Jenifer smiled before her body flexed and grew larger, her skin tinting green as her court clothes ripped to reveal a pink leotard. Looking down on the dock officer she saw that he seemed unsurprised and un-intimidated by her transformation as he pulled the trigger, the bullets bouncing off her chest before the jade giantess crushed his pistol and the bones in his hands before pushing the struggling man to the floor where he lay crying on the floor.
"Somebody doesn't want me at that trial." She Hulk mused as she picked up her briefcase and started to move toward the passenger terminal. "Maybe this MACH guy is innocent but why would SHIELD try and kill one of their own operatives? I've got a feeling that the answers are in that courtroom."
Melissa peered out of the windows at Seattle, the sight of smoking buildings and the intermittent lightning strikes made the once fair city look like it was a war zone, and with the military hardware that ULTIMATUM had unleased on the city it wasn't to far from the truth. Approaching the Space Needle she saw city engineers and construction workers bringing in a massive crane to help support the overgrown structure. Landing she led the orange clad Thunderbolts out into the hammering rain as a pair of SHIELD agents followed Blackheath to meet them.
"Songbird." One called, "My name is Agent Woo and Director Hill put me in charge of this circus."
"Huh well it's better then the alien invasion in NYC." Donnie mumbled as the second agent unlocked his handcuffs. Behind him Sara gulped and turned to look at the shuttle behind them.
"So what's the situation?" Melissa asked, "How many ULTIMATUM troops are there, what kind of equipment are they using and more importantly who is in charge."
"Well the air force flew two predator drones into the eye of the storm and followed a convoy of trucks to the Capitol building where they identified Flag Smasher overseeing the operation, not that we were surprised by that. What was surprising was the appearance of Sirocco, a member of Saddam's elite super human guard with the ability to manipulate the weather. We have him to thank for the hurricane force winds and torrential rain we are experiencing." Woo explained
"But that is not all." Blackheath announced, "I overheard Bombshell mention that there were a number of super powered mercenaries within the city limits supporting ULTIMATUM's push on the city centre."
"And we have satellite footage from half an hour ago to support this Intel." Woo added. "ULTIMATUM forces including mobile field artillery, IFVs and a missile launching platform were unloaded from the Tears of Anatoly, a Greek registered super container ship. We hoped that Mr. Orka could scuttle the ship for us and snag a list of what is being unloaded for us."
"If it's in the surf then it's mine." Orka snorted.
"Be careful however a villain called the Stag Beetle is below decks overseeing the offloading. One item in particular, a Soviet 'Buk' ICBM platform caught our eye, it was escorted to a construction site along with a firing and resupply team by a former SHIELD problem solver known as Shrike. If possible we need both the Buk and Shrike taken out quickly before they do to much damage."
"Problem solver." Melissa mused, "More like an assassin."
"Thanks for volunteering." Woo replied snidely, "We have another situation, the mayor was at the opening of a new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History when the storm hit. We believed ULTIMATUM had taken the building but when we investigated we found that any troops along with a number of benefactors had been decapitated and their heads but on stakes."
"So we have more then an anti-governmental group of terrorists to deal with." Sara suggested. ''Any clue on the party behind the desecration of their remained their remains."
"A letter from the Mandiporean alphabet was carved into each of the heads. To cut a long and boring translation short they want the arms embargo lifted and an apology from the US, British, French and Russian governments for invoking a measure designed to hurt their people." Woo explained, "It will never happen of course but whoever is inside is as devoted as any member of ULTIMATUM and that makes them deadly."
"I eat deadly for breakfast along with my granola." Sara stated as Donnie opened his mouth to make a comment.
"Then that leaves you for securing sector sixteen." Woo told Donnie. "A merc called Sandstorm is in the area demolishing buildings and scaring people towards the city centre alongside ULTIMATUM demo teams. They are currently heading towards your base but whether they are looking for something or just crushing city blocks for fun is still a mystery. When your primary targets are dealt with we'll move you on until we can get to Flag Smasher."
"Before you left I stored these for you." Blackheath announced as a flower sprouted from the ground before unfurling it's petals to reveal the Thunderbolt's costume and four miniature Simuloids. "They will help you stay in contact using the Green as a network."
"Oh great this will really set my allergies off." Sara moaned as she picked up her helmet and the squirming butterfly like Simuloid and stared at them disgustedly.
"Okay we know the score." Melissa told the others. "Let's kick ULTIMATUM so hard that they never get up again."
Victoria scuttled across the aisle as Crossfire fired at the police officers and guards taking cover at the judges stand. Peering round the desk she saw Abe sheltering behind the witness stand, the wooden podium already supporting several bullet holes. Reaching up to the desk Victoria pulled down a camera left behind by a panicked reporter for the Daily Bugle before crawling behind the desks to where Crossfire stood. As he ejected the clip from his Glock Victoria stood up and pressed the button, the flash lighting up the room.
"The SHIELD Agent." Crossfire sighed, "Get out of my way." He added as he leaned forward to pistol whip Victoria before she swung the camera into his face, the marksman ducking and finishing his reload and shooting the equipment out of her hands before kicking her onto her back. "Stay down or you become collateral damage." Victoria answered with a vicious kick to Cross's shins before he retaliated, grabbing her by the hair and holding his pistol to her head. With a below of anger Abe emerged from behind the witness stand and thundered down the aisle and delivered a manacled punch to the hitman's jaw before a telescopic stun baton smacked him in the chest, his body convulsing as he fell backwards.
"You should be fortunate that I don't have orders to kill you Jenkins." Crossfire snarled, "With this stun stick I could fry the Hulk."
"Oh really." She Hulk said as she towered behind him. Crossfire didn't replied and just spun round slapping her on the thigh with the baton before avoiding her follow up blow with a deft hand flip before producing a second baton ready for the fight. "Well that's a nasty little stinger you have there." She Hulk purred, "But it is nowhere near powerful enough to kill me or my cousin."
"Well let's see what happens when I turn up the voltage." Crossfire hissed, the tips of the batons sparking before he ran at She Hulk, swinging his batons and avoiding her attacks, each blow leaving stinging welts on her skin before with one punch she knocked him clear, his batons skidding across the floor in the opposite way.
"Forget this." Crossfire growled as he removed a set of smoke bombs. "I can't believe you three are protecting the basted who is manipulating the whole trial against you." He added before throwing the bombs down and rushing the exit. Victoria stood up in the aisle picking up one of the dropped batons and throwing it, the stun stick hitting Cross square in the back of his head, the electrical discharge knocking him out.
Popping his head over the top of the podium Judge Collins poked his head over the top of the desk. "Who are you?" He stammered as the other members of the court emerged.
"Jenifer Walters attorney for the defence your honour." She Hulk announced. "You could say I just brought order to you're court."
Meteorite landed delicately outside the Natural History Museum, the plaza outside littered with bullet casings as well as the bodies of dead bodyguards and ULTIMATUM foot soldiers. Quietly she walked in through the doors, her body glowing creating a strange sense of twilight in the abandoned museum. It didn't take long to find the first grisly marker of why she had been sent there, the heads of three soldiers on stakes in front of the gift shop, a potent warning that the area was dangerous. Walking past the grisly sentry Meteorite came to the stairs and ascended, walking past intact bodies clad in urban camouflage still supporting their heads up to where an PKM machine gun had been set up, a headless ULTIMATUM trooper leaned against the stand.
"So who are you; private security, free lance soldiers or just guests dressed in combats." Meteorite said to herself as she surveyed the atrium turning away from the PKM just as the ULTIMATUM soldiers corpse moved and a figure dressed in nothing but a loincloth, body art and a tribal mask fired a dart from a blowpipe, the metal tip embedding into the Thunderbolt's neck. Turning Meteorite saw her attacker and screamed before falling down the steps to the floor below, the dart splintering leaving the tip stuck in her neck. "Wh...what." Sara said as the tribal warrior descended after her, two massive swords slung across his back and a clever in his fist, chattering in his native tongue. Scrambling away on all fours Meteorite ran as the Headhunter emitted a guttural half scream-half cackle and chased after her.
Dashing into the exhibit hall Sara came to a stop as a battalion of blonde haired women turned to face her, each one dressed in a familiar costume. And while she knew that they couldn't be real her brain refused to acknowledge this as the majority of the Moonstone copies charged her. Panicking Meteorite blocked a punch from a Moonstone dressed in blue and yellow before firing a photon blast at her attacking. Turning she saw a blonde Meteorite open fire with an assault rifle, the shots ripping through a stuffed Kudu, the unfortunate antelope collapsing as Sara slid under the creature and took cover behind a White Rhino.
"Why do you hide from who you are?" A third Moonstone dressed in her original costume purred. ''Do you seriously want to be good?" She asked as Meteorite and a white clad Moonstone advanced on her the later clutching a shotgun.
"You are a trick." Sara cried, "You are all me."
"Do you really believe that." The helmeted yellow suited Moonstone asked. 'Oh you really do, your broken and so far from what you are." Meteorite simply ran towards her, the two doppelgangers opening fire as she ran, the stuffed animals taking the majority of the fire. Tackling the Moonstone duplicate Sara started pummeling her taunter, her face occasionally flickering to reveal a man's covered with a gas mask before reforming into the bruised form of the former Thunderbolt. "And what advantage did that give you?" She asked as the remaining Moonstones crowded round her, weapons trained at her head. With a quick body blow Moonstone flipped Meteorite on her back and withdrew as the Headhunter loomed over her, his cleaver poised ready to slice through her neck.