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Thunderbolts #12 - The Cost of Innocence
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The metal sides of the Thunderbolts warehouse were pounded by the swirling eddies of sand as they revolved around the man dressed in armour as black as his unnaturally dark skin, his red eyes piercing the darkness around him. As a large section of the wall was ripped away the mercenary known as Sandstorm backed off and white suited ULTIMATUM troops moved forward clutching modernised AK assault rifles and revolver action grenade launchers before a wave of ice washed over them flash freezing them where they stood.
"What the?" Sandstorm hissed, his voice causing the winds to speed up and even pick up Melissa's parked Land Rover and throw it through the compound fence. "We were told the Thunderbolts wouldn't be here." He added as he formed a blade of sand around his hands. "You can't be here."
"News Flash but we are." Blizzard hissed as he fired a Freon pulse at Sandstorm, the dust coated villain gawking in surprise as the sand shrouding his body froze, falling in chunks around him. With a roar that caused the whole warehouse to shake Sandstorm surged forward towards Blizzard, razor sharp particles of grit cutting through his costume as the villain barrelled through him and inside. "Seriously what do you think that will accomplish." Blizzard announced before watching the warehouse walls shook before the entire building collapsed into sand before the villain emerged as a massive version of the smaller Sandstorm.
"Prepare to be buried alive Thunderbolt." Sandstorm bellowed, his voice creating gusts of grit filled wind that almost knocked Blizzard off his feet before morphing his hand into a massive hammer and slamming it down towards Donnie who hastily erected a dome of ice to protect himself. The impact from the gravel hammer shattered the ice immediately and crushed Blizzard under the impact, more sand pilling on and trapping him in a sandy tomb.
"Too easy, why couldn't they send someone who is a real challenge." Sandstorm boomed. "Like Songbird or that creepy Plantma...argh." He screamed as a massive spire of ice ripped through his sand form, the majority of his body freezing over as he ejected from the icy mound of sediment. Getting to his feet he looked around in horror as the entire area around him froze over. "Hey snot I'm not afraid of you. I can take you with just my bare hands."
"Go ahead." Blizzard suggested prompting the villain to run at him before slipping over and slid into a massive ice shield that had formed in front of Donnie before falling to the floor and knocking himself out. Looking down at the pacified villain Blizzard rolled him over and checked Sandstorm's pulse before noticing a manilla package strapped to his chest, big black handwriting on the front stating, 'For the Thunderbolts, it's time to answer for your crimes'. Opening the top Donnie reached in and pulled out a video tape. "Oh this can't be good." He moaned before freezing a slide away from the destroyed warehouse unaware of the skeletal looking barge that descended from the clouds and landing just outside the iced over car-park and foundations of what had been the Thunderbolts home.
Blackheath stirred as the ground slid open and a rose snaked up and opened it's petals, invisible messages transmitted through pollen, sub sonic sound and water movement before the plant withdrew. Looking over his shoulder at the still unstable Space Needle he sighed before striding off down the road. Before he could leave SHIELD agents rushed forward baring his way, their usual pulse rifles replaced with man portable flamethrowers.
"Mr Smithers where do you think you're going?" Agent Woo asked as he gestured for his men to lower their weapons.
"Meteorite has been poisoned with the toxins from the Moonflower. I could easily whip up an antidote and administer it if I were allowed to leave." Blackheath replied.
"How could you know that?" Woo spluttered, "Comms are being scrambled by the storm."
"The Green told me." Blackheath answered smugly before pushing past the agents. I give you my word that the plants supporting the structure will hold as long as they need."
"Your word, that ain't worth a single cent." One of the agents snorted as Blackheath started to run, his wooden feet propelling him a good two metres with every stride. If he was right then Meteorite would be feeling the toxins effect but her enhanced body should keep her from the worst of the symptoms. It was the person who drugged her he was really worried about and what he was going to do with her.
"Well what do we do with him." Victoria asked She Hulk as she and Abe sat in the cell opposite Crossfire. While the court room was being cleaned after the Thunderbolts skirmish all the prisoners had been escorted to their cells to prevent any escape attempts.
"Technically we can't interrogate him unless he signs a rite to wave his attorney." She Hulk answered from the guard station. "And a guy like Crossfire has too much legal knowledge to do that plus he was trained by the CIA as an interrogator so he will know all the usual tricks."
"Unless you can offer me something in return for what I know." Crossfire stated, "Maybe an early release for cooperating with such 'fine' folk as yourself."
"How about I make sure you don't get executed." She Hulk snapped, "Time off your sentence is moot because your heading for death row."
"Then perhaps something else can persuade you." Cross sneered, "I have time released files that if not checked by my password let spill all of SHIELD's dirty laundry. It's simple a laptop for the rat controlling the court room and the soon to be deceased Mr. Jenkins."
"Don't do it Victoria the guy is bluffing." Abe stated as Crossfire smirked at them.
"I'm sorry." Victoria stated, "If you're information acquits us then you get a computer."
"That I can live with." Crossfire answered, "When I was hacking into SHIELD's files I found a deleted threat assessment for Jackson Day AKA The Corrupter."
"I don't buy that." She Hulk spat. "For starters I don't see Day or anyone else in the courtroom."
"Oh he's there, my optic sensor was calibrated to track the control hormones he emits by my employer but the problem was that he had touched virtually everyone." Crossfire explained, "Hence why I had a hard time locking onto the target. If he had been alone I would be out of the country and he would be in his grave."
"And your employer? How did he know?" She Hulk asked.
"One of his people hired Day without consulting him." Crossfire announced, "Any other questions go through my lawyer." He added his smirk reforming. "And just to show I'm serious the file on SHIELD's involvement with the Advanced Genocide Mechanics in Rwanda just hit wiki leaks. If I were you I'd make sure I get connected real soon or worse atrocities get exposed."
"Can somebody take him downtown before he sees me when I'm really angry." She Hulk snarled as a pair of officers walked in. After a brief signing of legal papers Crossfire was removed from the cells.
"I have an idea on how to find Day.'' Abe announced. "Crossfire's optics were able to see the corruption but due to his use of a biological neural network he couldn't determine the level. But evidence item 5-561 has the processing power to track it."
"And the authorities won't let anyone walk in with that thing." Victoria replied, "Even if they believed us."
"Maybe we don't need all of it." Abe stated, "All we need is a cut down visor and a real time link back to the MACH IV armour. "It's pretty easy, maybe only a quarter of an hours work under my supervision. Apparently the prosecution wants to show the jury the suit's weapon systems and wants a supervisor. As I know the suit best they want me to instruct some mechanics how to use it. They will do our work for us."
"How long till this demo?" She Hulk asked.
"An hour maybe even less." Abe told her, "It doesn't give you much time to snag the optical node."
"Oh don't worry." She Hulk purred seductively as she strutted out, "You wouldn't believe how persuasive I can be."
Blackheath ripped the Soviet made BMP-1 into two pieces and chucked them down the streets, ULTIMATUM troops flying out of the wreckage, the majority unable to counterattack with those few that were able quickly falling to a few well placed leaf blades and seed bombs. This was the court barricade he had run up against and while the Green told him that ULTIMATUM wasn't behind the attack he was beginning to think differently. Striding past the burning APC something leapt across the street and disappeared. Sitting down on the floor in a trance, reaching out to all the surrounding plant life he caught the movement of his stalker just as it leapt towards him, it's claws slashing him through the neck and torso shredding the plant matter before springing out of reach and back into the shadows.
"They said somebody would try and rescue the girl in the museum so they sent me to block the way."
"I have no idea who you work for but...urgh." Blackheath grunted as the figure leapt at him again, this time cutting off his arm before kicking him in the back, the blade attached to his foot stabbing through his chest before he sprang out of reach. Coming around again the attacker leapt again only for Blackheath collapse before casting a tendril around his attackers foot causing him to fall face first into the road.
Getting to his feet Blackheath realised that he knew his assailant, clad in a gaudy rooster costume stood the Gamecock, widely known as being a joke villain yet something was different, he looked stronger, faster and the talons and spurs attached to his arms and feet looked and felt sharper. As he was analysing the situation Gamecock cut himself clear and thruster his talons through Blackheath's chest, ripping up and bifurcating him up the torso to just shy of the shoulder.
"You'll never get to the girl." Gamecock clucked, "Even if you could beat me after my sponsors enhanced my speed and gave me adamantium talons there is a unit of elite Mandipoorian Commandos and a grisly little Headhunter waiting for you at the end."
"You're forgetting one thing." Blackheath groaned as his body began to reform and reconnect the scattered pieces.
"What's that?" Gamecock asked.
"That I have the power of the entire Green and you..." Blackheath stated his hands growing long reinforced bark talons, "...you are just a common thug." He finished as he and his adversary charged towards each other."
The dock workers and sailors screamed in panic as they ran along the deck of the Tears of Anatoly, followed by three ULTIMATUM troopers who desperately fired shots from their MP5s as the hulking figure rounded the corner. At first Orka had enjoyed clashing through the lines of ULTIMATUM troops as well as bringing down the circling helicopter before climbing aboard the super-container ship. But now the gunfire and screams were annoying as he came round the next corner in the forest of containers before looking up at the deck crane and bridge looming in front of him.
"Finally." He grunted before feeling his body shake as a high powered rifle round sliced into his chest. With a snort he saw the marksman perched on the crane's super structure reloading his rifle. With a roar of fury Orka picked up one of the containers and threw it at the crane, the steel case slamming into the structure and causing the tower to collapse, the metal arm collapsing, the impact dislodging the containers and creating a ramp up to the bank. Striding forwards Orka headed into the pile of containers before ULTIMATUM returned fire, a deck mounted Anti Aircraft ascending from the deck, the gunner opening fire causing the Thunderbolt to withdraw behind a green container.
"Huh now where was that when that bloody chopper was after me." Orka moaned peering round the edge of his cover to see ULTIMATUM troops armed with RPGs and assault rifles gathering behind the AA gun as it lobbed a few more canon shells at him causing to withdraw back behind cover.
"Stop you imbeciles." A commanding voice boomed. "Do you want to kill us all?" Orka peered round the side again and saw an green armoured figure with massive jaw blades on the side of the head and long kevlar wings sprouting from his back. "Sigma Team switch to small arms and flush him out. You'' He snarled at the gunner, "Hold your fire till he leaves cover."
"Yes Stag Beetle." The gunner whimpered as the rest of Sigma Team moved forwards, armed with shotguns and SMGs.
"Captain Baines accelerate the offloading of the remaining canisters just in case the Atlantean makes it past us." Stag Beetle hissed down his helmet comm. link. Orka glanced at the container he had sheltered behind and noticed the massive yellow warning stickers marked with three crescent arcs that all pointed inwards. With a gulp he looked at the Simuloid on his shoulder before glancing at the advancing ULTIMATUM troops. "Guys we may have a serious problem on our hands."