Thunderbolts #15 - The Cost of Innocence
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Blizzard watched as Firebrand's finger hovered over the detonation trigger before he pressed the safety button causing the hero and the last hostage to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Taking a defiant step forward Donnie suddenly noticed the smile of triumph on his enemies face and stopped unsure of what Firebrand's motives were.
"Did you really think it would be that easy?" Firebrand yelled. "It slipped my mind earlier but with every 'correct' answer the high yield incendiary bombs I placed around the stadium arm ready to reignite the spark of industrial revolution."
"You know I only fought Gilbert once but at least he wasn't afraid to go hand to hand like you." Donnie replied, "With your bombs and hostages you are nothing but a coward and a bully."
"Oh I can cut it in close combat." Firebrand hissed as he charged towards Blizzard, his fists blazing as the Thunderbolt sprayed a jet of ice at him, the solid layer melting into the villains armour. Slamming his fist fight into Donnie, Firebrand laughed before noticing the flames on his suit turn to steam and expand the suit from within until the armour plating shattered. "How is this possible I am the flame?" He yelled before being subdued by a quick kick followed by a frozen haymaker.
"Easy, Songbird figured we may have to fight the Masters of Evil again so we came up with scenarios to take them out easily. One of Firebrand's weaknesses is that saturation of the incendiary gel causes a potentially lethal steam explosion to occur." Donnie lectured as he removed the trigger and pressed the disarm button before freezing Firebrand into a block of ice. "I just hope the others have been as lucky."
Melissa threw everything she had at Biohazard only to see her sonic constructs blow off course due to Sirococo's wall of wind. The others were faring little better, Blackheath in particular looked as if he was going to keel over any second, possibly due to the intense contamination that had been left in ULTIMATUM'S wake. The carnage left behind was incredible, everything in a half mile radius around Biohazard's methodical march had been vaporised by the low level radiation pulses the creature regularly emitted.
"This isn't working." Orka bellowed up at her as he threw a slab of ripped up concrete at the deadly caravan onto to see it fly off in another direction. "We need to get in front not behind. We'll have more things to throw and Plantman will feel better."
"One problem with that we would have to travel through a radioactive hurricane to get there." Melissa answered, "If we want to take down Flag Smasher first we need to ground Sirocco." She added as Meteorite appeared carrying a fuel tanker before throwing it down in front of Biohazard, the fuel igniting inside and forming a wall of flame that blocked the villain's progress. With a roar Biohazard span round and headed back the way he had came.
"Well you wanted to be in front." Meteorite chirped as she fired a photon beam into the storm, the darkness of the hurricane quickly absorbing the light leaving only a grunt of pain to show her attack had hit home.
"Not what I meant." Orka snarled as the sound of coughing erupted from inside the storm. "Hey the wind just shifted." He added as five or six ULTIMATUM troopers were flung away from Biohazard, their skin bubbling while foam leaked out of their mouths.
"Gas, your plasma strike must have caused the skin on Biohazard to boil temporarily." Blackheath called to Meteorite, "It looks like some kind of biological toxin that can survive extreme temperature swings. I suggest we don't repeat that feat."
"I just wish it had got Flag Smasher." Meteorite answered as the Thunderbolts retreated."I guess that's why they diverted away from the tanker."
"Sara you are a genius." Melissa stated, "A ring of fire could contain Biohazard if we could remove Sirocco from the fight."
"Well it was heading towards the stadium which would serve our purposes." Orka grunted, "If it weren't an evacuation centre. If we can stall long enough the National Guard could clear the place."
"Evac Control this is Songbird come in.'' Melissa called on the teams radio link.
"Mel this is Donnie I read you."
"Donnie? Listen how many people are in the City Link Evac point?"
"Forty maybe fifty, Firebrand decided to pop buy and punish the city."
"Firebrand? Isn't he dead?" Melissa asked, "You know what that's not important. I need everyone out so we can heard a killer sludge monster inside."
"Er...okay." Donnie replied, "Oh be careful Firebrand mined the area with eight incendiary devices."
"Great," Melissa announced, "That makes our life a lot easier." Turning to the others she saw Meteorite fly in with an M2 Bradley, it's sides emblazoned with the insignia of the Washington National Guard, the turret replaced with a high pressure water canon. "Do I even want to ask?"
"Orka and I are about to show Sirocco why we are called Thunderbolts." Meteorite answered as Orka climbed onto the tank before it was carried up into the cloud layer leaving Songbird and Blackheath alone on the ground.
"Don't suppose you have an oil tanker hidden in the green?" Melissa asked.
"No but I have a range of grasses and plant saps that are just as flammable." Sam answered.
The SHIELD shuttle ploughed through the squall line and descended over the clear line of destruction that caved the city almost in two. Sitting on the edge of the open bomb bay Abe looked down and saw flashes of pink igniting sections of road as the mounted canons on Biohazard's back lobbed shells towards her only to be ensnared by thick vines and detonated harmlessly away from there targets.
"Looks bad." She Hulk commented from the other side of the open hatch. "And the Avengers, SHIELD and anyone else worth noting are else where?"
"Dealing with UFOs." Abe mumbled as the shuttle jerked to the left. "Jeez Vic what was that about?" He cried as the shuttle begun to ascend again.
"The wind is picking up and the lightning just charred one of the external fuel pods. Considering the damage we are lucky to be alive and still in the air."
"Fair point." Abe sighed, "Go for another pass and...whoa come on we're not even down below the clouds yet."
"Well do you want to be hit by a flying tank?" Victoria snarled, "I didn't think so." She added as the shuttle descended, "Now jump."
"Yes Ma'am." Abe barked before he dropped out through the hatch. She Hulk gave a quick salute before following him out as the shuttle locked onto the tank and climbed after it towards the eye of the storm. Watching she saw a high pressure jet of water lance out and strike the armoured body of Sirocco as he fired bolts at lightning back, the sparks arching up the water and striking the soaked mutant. Seconds later he dropped towards the floor as Meteorite's voice came over the team radio.
"Take that scuzz."
"One problem." Victoria called back as the shuttle rocked, "Wind pressure has changed." She added as the tank and Orka were ripped out of Meteorite's hands before the lithe Thunderbolt followed. "And not for the better." She finished as she pulled hard on the throttle only for the slipstream to rip the shuttle from the sky and pull it down towards the ruined city below.
"That was close." Melissa commented as she deflected a rocket fired from one of the escort BMPs. So far the plan was working and Biohazard was marching slowly towards the City Link arena. Watching as massive tendrils flipped the vehicle away Melissa suddenly saw Flag Smasher point back towards the city centre and steer his massive mount away from the trap.
"Great he just ruined the plan." Sam stated, his voice full of snark, "What now oh master tactician."
"This is just great." Abe announced as he slowed his descent and hovered above the bickering pair. "I leave for a few hours and the city resembles a war zone."
"Abe." Melissa gasped, "So you got off on a warning then." She added
"Yep and I even got a specialist to help us fight the giant atomic snot ball. Introducing our special guest star..." He stated as She Hulk landed next to Blackheath, "super lawyer"
"Is it raining heroes?" Sam asked sarcasticlly, "I forgot to check the forecast."
"Nice to finally see you too." She Hulk spat back, "I guess he's not being cooperative." She added gesturing to Biohazard.
"We had a plan but it's gone awry." Melissa answered, "Any input would be good."
"Well we know from air-force recon that ULTIMATUM fitted a gravitonic core into the mould, if we remove it he'll just go with the flow." Abe announced.
"And we could channel him into the arena and trap him." Melissa finished, "Sam you thin between us we can carve something out."
"If it saves the Green then yes." Sam answered spreading out tendrils and catching Sirocco before he hit the broken concrete. "Two more by the way." He informed the others as Meteorite and Orka came plummeting down followed by the tank. With a quick jet Abe rocketed up and trapped Sara by the scruff of her neck while She Hulk intercepted the Bradley leaving Orka to hit the floor with a thud.
"You could have caught me." The Atlantean groaned as he picked himself off the floor.
"Well your airspace is now clear." Meteorite stated looking up at the rapidly brightening skies.
"And Victoria's shuttle?" Abe asked as the out of control aircraft slammed into Biohazard, the impact knocking the majority of the ULTIMATUM troopers off their mount.
"Crud." Meteorite swore as the shuttle begun to dissolve.
Victoria stared out into an ocean of green as the cockpit begun to hiss and spark. Giving the situation she was glad Abe had convinced her to use the pilot variant of the Mandroid armour rather then the usual jumpsuit.
"Victoria come in." Abe called over the helmet to helmet comm system.
"Abe I read you now come and get me out." She replied.
"Okay but first find the emergency beacon for the shuttle." Abe ordered. "After some quick fishing around she found what she was looking for. "Okay after that." Abe continued. "Head out and plant it on the Graviton Core."
"Are you serious?" She gasped as a molten lump of glass splashed onto the floor.
"Trust me we've got you." Melissa reassured. With a deep breath Victoria pulled the eject cord and saw the gel ripple as she was propelled directly to the core, the armour cushioning the impact of her banging into the device. As she placed the beacon she was painfully aware of the armour bubbling and quickly activated the device before taking two deep breaths. On the third the core glowed pink before flying out the front of the creature with her attached until she breached the outer layer and landed on the floor outside. Behind her Biohazard began to run, the arms and legs dropping off before the entire body collapsed into a pile of slime.
"Great Donnie get ready he's coming your way." Melissa called as she summoned a sonic plough, "Change of plan though put him on ice rather then vaporising him."
"Got it." Donnie answered over the radio. As Melissa flew off, her channel digging causing Biohazard to drain away Flag Smasher got to his feet and started to walk towards the remaining Thunderbolts.
"Stand down." Abe ordered, "Your beaten."
"I still stand and my arsenal can bring the Hulk to his knees." Flag Smasher snarled, "It will neutralise you with no problem."
"Like I haven't heard that before." She Hulk sighed before charging towards him. With a look of determination Flag Smasher swung his mace right into her chest the force causing her to stall before receiving a whack to the face, the spikes on the end slashing her cheek open. "Okay now I'm angry." She Hulk gasped before watching in horror as her skin lightened and she turned back into Jenifer Walters.
"Anti Gamma nanite cells." Flag Smasher explained, "If you don't want her to die from the contamination then I suggest you get her away from here." He told Abe.
"Dam it." Abe cursed, "Okay guys bring him down and make sure it hurts." He added before scooping Jenifer's now pallid body up and heading north away from the contamination zone. On the ground Orka charged in first only to be smacked in the gut by Flag Smasher, the mace's head sparking with energy that bit at his skin and caused him to stagger back.
"We take him together." Blackheath whispered to Meteorite who replied with a nod. Flanking Flag Smasher they watched as he put his mace down and pulled out a slim pistol. In an instant all three fired, photon beams, explosive plant spores and bullets flying everywhere. One of Flag Smasher's first shots hit Blackheath in the stomach the toxic coating causing the plant matter that made up his body to go haywire before he collapsed panting and retching. Turning he fired a snap shot at Meteorite, the round losing energy before it hit her.
"A bullet that's weak I can absorb the kinetic energy from a hundred rounds at once." Meteorite chided.
"True but that bullet like the one I shot at your friend contains Biohazard's toxin and is lethal even to you even when passively absorbed." Flag Smasher answered. Meteorite huffed and fired a photonic blast only to see slime erupt from her arms and creep up her skin until she was cocooned in a slime capsule. "Too easy." He purred before walking over to Victoria, "For causing my plans to collapse you will die first."
With a roar of rage Orka surged forward again causing Flag Smasher to swing round just in time to see the massive Thunderbolt grab his mace and shove the sparking tip into the villains face, electricity attacking the ULTIMATUM leader's face until he fell back, his features crushed and supporting a burn patten from where the spikes had penetrated.
"No one kills my pod." Orka snarled before picking Victoria up and heading over to Sam and Sara, slinging the pair of them over his shoulders. ''Especially my beloved Snerk."
The giant ball of slime lashed out with a tentacle, ice snapping off and becoming lethal shrapnel that bounced off Songbird's shield before heading into the stands and ripping through the chairs in the stands.
"This isn't working." Donnie yelled up at Melissa as she cut the main body in two only to see it fuse back together.
"Gee you think Captain Obvious." She yelled back down as he tried to entomb a second tentacle only for it to melt through his ice slide causing him to fall onto the burnt floor.
"Wait what if he was a gas, then we could bottle him." Blizzard suggested.
"Yeah if we want to turn him into sentient nerve gas." Melissa replied as she fended off a tentacle with some sonic scissors.
"Not if you can herd him into one place." Donnie stated as he picked up Firebrand's gauntlets. "Listen I'm going to heat things up so be ready." He added as he slipped the armour pieces over his costume. For a moment it almost felt like they were biting into his flesh but after a second the feel in subsided and he summoned up a ball of flame. "Time to smoke you." He muttered before pouring flame onto Biohazard, the blob of toxins evaporating into a swirling green cloud. Focusing her powers Melissa formed a sonic orb around the gas before sealing it away. "Another victory of the flame of revolution." Donnie yelled before throwing the gauntlets to the floor
"You okay?" Melissa wheezed.
"Yeah sure." Donnie answered looking at the minute pinpricks in his wrists. "Everything's cool."
Abe landed at one of the backup evac points and delivered Jenifer into the hands of the doctors. Waiting outside he suddenly noticed soldiers turning away people even forcefully pushing them back into the wasteland. Marching forward he noticed they weren't National Guard, the logo on their armour reading Mattock Military Solutions.
"What's the big idea?" Abe asked as he helped one of the fallen victims get to their feet.
"Enforcing Quarantine." The lead security agent sneered, "We have orders to control the perimeter so those not cleared to leave the site spread the contagion."
"What?" Abe spat, "Since when was this introduced?"
"Two hours ago Mr. Jenkins." The Captain announced, "SHIELD's departure was unexpected so we were asked to control the crisis." Until the area is cleansed we are in charge of who comes and goes and you are not on that list. But rest assured supplies will be provided for all the contaminated."
"And if I want to leave?" Abe asked.
"Then we have orders to shoot on sight." The Captain replied. "Now let us do our jobs or we will arrest you." Abe snarled something before taking off, somehow they had traded one occupying force for another and he had a feeling that Mattock was no better then ULTIMATUM.
Sara sat down on the edge of the newly formed tented city looking up at the chilly skies. Security forces had removed Flag Smasher, Biohazard and the other villains save for Bombshell who was still AWOL. What bugged her was why ULTIMATUM had attacked, they hadn't been brought in by her or the other masters which suggested another major player in the Seattle Underworld. Looking down at her pager she gulped as she read the message her boss had sent. "We need to talk about your insolence."
She had a feeling it wasn't going to end well. From behind her a shadow moved and she turned and bowed her head. As the true master emerged, his blue hands wrapped around an elegant war-hammer. Wordless she stood before the Kree Accusor before seeing him smile at her.
"Moonstone I admire your treachery." Ronan stated, "But the data we recovered has shown me information about the coming war. Terran troops sigiled with the lightning bolt will decide the fate of the Kree Empire. What is unknown is if they will bring salvation or destruction."
"I understand." Sara answered as her skin glowed blue in the fading moonlight, "Soon this world will be ours and I will be in my true flesh, I will be Kree."