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Thunderbolts #13 - The Cost of Innocence
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The ULTIMATUM troops inside the BMP scattered as a sonic field ripped the armoured vehicle apart, all of them running towards the raised command position next to the "Buk' Missile launcher. Passing overhead Songbird threw down a hail of sonic blasts, the pink energy tinting the rain violet before they exploded stunning the troops struggling to swivel the 20mm AA gun round into a firing position.
"Miss Gold." A voice announced over the Comm Link as Melissa reflected an RPG round with a sonic shield back down towards a flatbed truck parked next to the missile launcher. "Is the area secure we need to move you onto another target ASAP?"
"It will be in half a minute." Melissa replied as she converted her sonic shield into a set of heavy weights and threw them at the command platform, stunning the majority of the troops sheltering there. "I still haven't seen hair nor hide of your elusive turncoat." She added as she dived down and landed feet first into the platform before releasing a sonic shockwave that knocked the last of the ULTIMATUM defenders to the floor. Reaching down Melissa slammed her fist into the console and reached into the console and pulled out the missile launchers targeting system leaving the formidable weapon system harmless. "Buk neutralised." Melissa stated, "Judging from the simulations that ULTIMATUM were running it looks as if they were going to launch a biological weapon at targets as far afield as Denver, Las Vegas and San Francisco."
"Then our fears were confirmed. With your capture of the 'Buk' and Orka's discovery of Bioweapons on the Tears of Anatoly ULTIMATUM just became a credible threat to areas other then the Seattle-Tacoma urban centre." Agent Woo explained. "That's why we are moving you to the eye of the storm to neutralise Sirocco so we can start flying drones again. Bring the guidance chip to the Space Needle and we'll brief you on what we know there."
"And Shrike?" Melissa asked, "What about him?" She asked as the line erupted into static and a silent figure emerged from the wreck of the flatbed truck and levelled a silenced pistol at Songbird's head. Suddenly there was a quiet pop causing Melissa to spin around and see Shrike collapse to the floor, his skull showing a cooling accelerated round embedded in his head.
"Bugger stole my name." The new figure announced. Melissa looked up to see the winged form of Killer Shrike above her, arm mounted blasters charged up and ready to fire. "Talking about stealing I believe that targeting chip is mine." He added opening fire, the accelerated particles chewing through the 'Buk's' missile restraints causing the projectiles to topple and fall. Reaching out with her powers Melissa steadied them with sonic scaffolding before Killer Shrike tackled her to the floor and wrestled the data chip away before slamming his boot into her face. ''Thanks little Mimi." Killer Shrike chuckled as he took flight, "If I weren't on a schedule I would have some fun but...well you know." He added as he headed downtown.
"Change of plan." Melissa grunted as she got to her feet, "I'm going after Killer Shrike, he stole the chip and mentioned he was on a schedule. It might mean that there are other launchers in the city." With only hissing static as an answer Melissa took to the skies before locking onto the retreating orange blur and taking up the pursuit.
Meteorite groaned and opened her eyes to see Songbird and MACH IV lying on the floor next to her, their hands bound as two Moonstones clad in blue and yellow stood over them holding SMGs ready to act if they stepped out of line. Behind them stood another Moonstone clad in silver clutching a video camera and the Headhunter, the grotesque villain holding a struggling Jolt down while still clutching his cleaver.
"Jolt no." Sara screamed, "Guys we have to help her."
"And why should we help you Karla" Melissa spat with venomous intent. "Why should we help somebody who will betray us."
"No you can't know who...Oh my god." Sara whimpered as the Headhunter cut off Jolt's head. "Oh my god you didn't even try and stop it...you...you're not real."
"Oh we're very real." Abe hissed as one of the guards threw Jolt's headless body in with the other Thunderbolts. "This is the path you walk so we followed, became tougher, started looking for the advantage and now that we are your the weakest one here." He added as the body flashed momentarily from Jolt to a man in a business suit before turning back into the deceased Thunderbolt. Sara looked up to see a forth Moonstone, clad in the classic helmeted yellow cat suit she used to wear, a hypodermic needle in her hand. "So what advantage can you possibly gain by serving him?" She asked before bending down and grabbing Meteorite by her hair.
"Power, he promised me the power to bend all to my will. The power to never be weak like my mother." Sara snapped reaching out to punch Moonstone only to be pushed to the floor by her torturer, a fresh dose of toxins injected into her neck.
"Power?" Moonstone mocked, "You can't even think straight, stand or speak without drooling. It's obvious what I have feared has happened, this mask has become real." She purred before reaching down and pulling off Sara's face to reveal the Caucasian features of Karla underneath before working down and pulling more dark skin off. With a whimper Karla looked up to see Baron Zemo, Fixer, Goliath looking down at her as the Beetle and Screaming Mimi crouched nearby.
"Is that it Baron?" Goliath asked as he kicked Karla, pain shooting through her ribs.
"Looks like a Cheerleader." Screaming Mimi cackled as Zemo bent down and stabbed a dagger into her chest.
"I must admit with her reputation I thought Moonstone would be more." Zemo sighed before his face flashed becoming wooden before becoming hooded again. "Can you hear me child? You're worthless."
"I'm worthless." Karla whimpered as dark skin spread across her hands. "Please just kill me."
"You're not worthless.'' Zemo stated his voice going from a Teutonic accent to a brisk British drawl. "I need you to fight the toxin." Karla blinked to momentarily see Blackheath injecting fluid down his long bark like fingers before being replaced by the Masters of Evil, only this time she was once again back in Sara's costume and skin..
"Fight you. I don't' have to because I am real." Sara snapped as she vaulted over Goliath's attack before grabbing Screaming Mimi by the neck with her legs and twisting, the gaunt villainess transforming into a Mandipoorian soldier before vanishing. With a yell she turned around and met Goliath fist to fist, her strength causing the bones in his hand to crumble into dust before the commando fell back crying with pain. Turning she just caught Fixer shift slightly and reached out just in time as he fired feeding energy to the bullet as he fired and supercharging it as it flew across the room, the round puncturing the Beetles and sending him spluttering to the floor. In a few mortifying seconds Fixer realised he was alone and surrendered, his actions earning him a punch in the jaw.
"I did it." Sara announced triumphantly.
"Meteorite behind you.'' Blackheath yelled. Sara didn't turn she simply went intangible and watched as the thrown cleaver embedded in the back wall. With a graceful kick she lashed out sending the sword wielding Moonstone reeling before grabbing her by the hair and slamming the duplicate face first into the floor, her body melting away to reveal the Headhunter knocked out on the floor.
"And stay down freak." Sara commanded as Blackheath walked over. "You took your time.''
"Had to deal with a man dressed like a chicken." Blackheath told her. "Needless to say I now know why he crossed the road." Meteorite gave him an odd look as her teammate bound the unconscious soldiers with vines.
"Wait give me a minute." Sara asked, Blackheath nodded and walked off leaving Meteorite alone with Headhunter. Walking over to the unconscious villain Sara bent down and pulled a dart from his belt before stabbing it into his neck. "Sweet Dreams" she purred as she gave him a swift kick before heading towards the sender exit.
Donnie stood outside Century Field, the carnage seemingly slipping around the stadium as if an invisible shield kept it safe from attack by ULTIMATUM. Despite the calm atmosphere Donnie knew that it was anything but, judging from the footage he had seen it was being used by a murderer. Forming an ice ramp Blizzard cleared the wall and slid down to the centre of the field. Almost immediately the smell of incinerated bodies hit him like a physical force, the sheer stench causing him to choke.
"So the Thunderbolts sent you." A voice sneered as high powered spotlights activated bathing the stadium in light and revealing charred corpses surrounding the field and a line of chairs on the try line each one with a gagged and bound civilian strapped in by cords linked to an orange breastplate. Standing behind them was a figure that looked all too familiar, the armour was clearly similar to the one Gilbert had worn but the wearer was clearly younger then the previous user. "Tell me how many people do I have to kill before the murderer shows up?"
"You have the wrong man." Donnie yelled at the new Firebrand. "MACH IV didn't kill Gilbert."
"Don't...you say his name hero." Firebrand snapped. "He was my mentor, my friend, he made me into something special. I loved him like an older brother and you and the rest of the frauds killed him."
"We didn't, what the media has picked up on is a stitch up." Blizzard explained. "Even if MACH did kill Firebrand then this is not the way to get his attention. The hostages, everyone you killed are or were innocent"
"I'm assigning rightful responsibility for his death." Firebrand hissed, flames igniting along his arms. "I know you want to save them so I rigged a little game for us to play. If you answer my questions correctly then they don't become human torches. But if you are wrong or even move in a way I don't like they go up in smoke. Now will you play?"
"You don't have to do this." Donnie stated. With an evil smile Firebrand flicked a switch and one of the civilians ignited, her screams filling the stadium for a few seconds before all that remained was charred bone.
"Wrong answer. Now were you with the murderer when he killed my mentor?"
"No I was tracking a gang of thieves." Donnie announced, "It was on the news and everything." He added as Firebrand ground his teeth before flicking a second trigger, the vest on the second civilian disarming itself and freeing the man trapped in the chair."
"See that wasn't to hard." Firebrand announced as he looked at the six remaining hostages. "Now let's see how long it takes for you to burn."
Filing into the court room Jenifer Walters slipped on the visor 'sun glasses' and blinked as the majority of the figures turned purple, only a few remaining their normal colours. Taking a swig from the water she had brought from the vending machine in the corridor she sat down and looked around, searching for the Corrupter. "Ms Walters can you remove those stupid glasses now we're inside." Judge Collins asked as he sat down, his hand wrapped around his gabble.
"Ah sir you see Ms Walters was blinded by a flashbang that Crossfire dropped when he crashed the court room." Victoria spluttered. "As such she needs to keep her eyes protected from bright lights."
"Thank you Ms Hand but we don't need to hear from you." Collins snapped as one of the bailiffs whispered into his ear. Covertly Jenifer pointed at him before giving Victoria a thumbs up, her head aching as the MACH IV armour was brought in. Staring at the suit Abe watched as the prosecution identified the mercy rounds he used, showed the court before stating that despite the evidence the suit could fire live ammunition such as the round used at the murder of Gary Gilbert.
"I've heard enough." Collins stated, "It's time for the Jury to make a decision."
"Wait...your honour." Jenifer gasped, "We have...evidence...that there is corruption in the court."
"What?" Collins asked as he removed a shotgun from behind his desk. "I call for order in my court." He yelled as the clerks, jury, guards and members of the media all pulled out weapons.
"I would like to turn this matter over to my legal council." Abe announced as Jenifer hulked out behind him.
"And I think we should skip to sentencing." She Hulk snarled as she grabbed Abe and threw him into the middle of the court room before blocking Victoria's punch and pushing her into the aisle. "The defence rests it's argument."
"Then I sentence Abner Roland Jenkins to death." Collins stated banging his gabble down on the desk as the entire court room moved in for the kill.