Thunderbolts #16 - Shadow of the Past
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Last Issue the Thunderbolts found themselves facing an epidemic of Emplate Thralls alongside Emma Frost and her mutant students. After a pitched battle the Thunderbolts and their mutant allies triumphed although their victory came at the destruction of Abner Jenkins MACH IV armour. And while the battle may have been one their enemies Ronan the Accuser and Baron Zemo move ever closer to their insidious goals
Peloponnese, Ancient Greece - 820BC
The pair of angel winged figures circled above the crash site before landing, streams of golden sunbeam and rainbow contrails following them as they landed. Both were women with long black hair streaked with red and dressed in leather armour and boots, a pair of swords hanging from their belts. A quick glimpse could see that they were twins but their faces showed different emotions, one was grim and ready for battle, the other fresh faced and full of laughter. There names were Iris and Arke the messenger gods of Olympus. Their mission had been given by the shining lord of the heavens Helios himself after he and his sister Selene had spotted the falling star land in the south of their Greek powerbase. Despite their concrete grip on the peninsula and the fledgling empire that stretched west to the Etruscan camps and east to the Persian steppe Zeus's reign was not definite and the old gods, the titans were keen despite the fragile peace accord between the two forces to remind the Olympians where they had come from.
"The fallen star." Iris stated glumly as she walked to the edge of the crater, the silver fragment of stone sitting inside glowing slightly in the early morning sun. "Right where Hyperion the far seer said it would land. Come sister it is our job to ferry this back to the Cyclops forge so Zeus himself can rearm himself with the lightning that protects our sacred mountain."
"It's so tiny." Arke said softly as she skidded down into the crater, "I can't imagine how this could be turned into the deadliest weapon in the entire cosmos."
"Well it is which is why we must secure it before the Titans can claim such as valuable resource. Fortunately our lines of supply and communications are better equipped for such missions." Iris lectured her, "Be careful the stone is likely to still retain some of the fires of Helios that keep such bodies afloat in the heavens." She warned as Arke bent down and picked up the stone.
"It's cool." Arke told Iris, "Almost as if it were cooled by the waters of Oceanus and the winds of Boreas." Iris didn't reply she simply stared in disbelief as a silver metallic gel slithered up out of the stone and wrapped a tendril around Arke's wrist before retreating.
"Sister what was that?" she hissed as Arke looked into the hole where the living silver had retreated. Cautiously Arke put her index finger into the hole before withdrawing it, the end dripping with a mixture of silver fluid and her own blood.
"It's aggressive whatever it is." Arke told her as a fluid tentacle emerged from the rock before reaching out and pulling the goddess hand back towards the rock, silver fluid crawling up her thrashing and squirming body until her entire body was covered in what looked like liquid metal. Rushing forward Iris slashed out with her swords before being thrown back by a writing tentacle of the infectious fluid as Arke screamed and writhed under her liquid prison, rivers of silver running under the main body like maggots in a human corpse left too long in the sun. Coming in for a second strike Iris brought down both blades only to feel her whole arm jar as if she had hit a shield wall rather then flesh.
"By Zeus and Hera what is this fell bewitchment?" She asked as Arke spread her now liquid silver coloured wings, her eyes reduced to scarlet slits in a metallic face.
"It's warm." She replied, "And so lonely but now we will never be alone again."
Seattle, Washington - Modern Day
Dressed in an armoured SHIELD flight suit Abner Jenkins stood and examined the ripped apart bodies that littered the area known as 'the Stage' a semi natural amphitheatre that had been created in the south of the quarantine zone by intense ULTIMATUM shelling. Whoever or whatever had killed the two dozen protesters had been brutal and disappeared in the space of fifty seconds, the time it took Seattle Internal Security agents housed in the barracks across from the entrance to react to the screams.
"This was some party." Victoria said coldly, "Do we have any idea what they were protesting about?"
"They wanted to force a democratic election." Abe told her, "Their candidate against her."
"Anyone we know?" Victoria asked picking up a blood stained placard and looking at the picture, "Oh my god is that you?"
"Yes, they made a bad decision but it shouldn't have cost them their lives." Abe answered, "As soon as Mel and the others are finished over at the museum we will rendezvous with Chen and Sam to see what this magnificent discovery of they found. Speaking of discoveries, Mel has been quiet for too long." He added before opening up the Thunderbolts emergency communications line. "Mel how is your tomb raiding adventure going?"
"We're just about finished up." Melissa replied as she crushed the red armoured figure in a sonic vice while Meteorite and Blizzard dodged fire from the arm mounted sonic canon, the blast smashing open the crates that littered the room. "Sea Urchin turned out to be a bit more dangerous then we were told."
"But not as dangerous as a giant shark." Sara commented as she fired a photon beam at one of Sea Urchin's viewing ports. "I couldn't imagine anything more dangerous swimming off the coast then one of those Megalodons."
"No your getting it all wrong." Donnie argued, "A giant eel or something like Titanoboa would eat a Megladon for brunch. Trust me I fought a massive water snake once and it almost killed me."
"Orka what's your opinion?" Sara asked as Orka worked at removing the backpack mounted power generator.
"Need…to…concentrate." Melissa grunted as the vice began to dissipate before being slammed into the crates by a focused sonic blast. Seconds later Sea Urchin was free and fired a pair of ion harpoons at Meteorite, the energy spears exploding on contact causing her to collapse into a case holding a set of urns, the impact shattering the glass and sending the jugs flying. With an aggressive thrust Orka knocked Sea Urchin to one side and caught one of the containers before it hit the floor, the rest smashing on the floor.
"I will take that Atlantean." Sea Urchin stated his voice amplified by his armour's speakers. "My employer Mr. Tumbushi is paying a lot to get his hands on that Canopic jar so hand it over. Oh and to answer your infantile question the Sea Urchin is the deadliest creature under the waves."
"Nah Titanoboa is a lot meaner." Donnie hissed as he iced over the armour's viewing ports before slipping under the suit's attached acetylene welding torch as Sea Urchin went to melt the temporary obstruction. Blindly he opened fire once again, this time with an arm mounted rivet gun and flinched as heard a grunt of pain as one of his projectiles hit Blizzard in the leg.
"You stand between me and a lot of money Thunderbolts but I am a gracious man. Get out of the way and surrender the urn and I will split my fee with you." The Sea Urchin snarled as slammed his fist around Orka and begun to squeeze the Atlantean in an attempt for him to release the urn.
"You're an idiot." Orka growled, "That jar contains something not worth releasing. If you read the warning on the side you would know that." With a single kick he ripped half the arm off of Sea Urchin's armour before reaching inside and pulling a bunch of cables out, the resulting damage causing the suit to collapse on one side as the left hand hydraulic system went offline. "That should keep you busy." Orka told the Urchin as Meteorite removed the power generator, the damage causing the suit's high beams to flicker before dying, the pilot ejecting out the back only to be caught in a sonic cage.
"Nice bluff Orka." Sara purred as Orka placed the urn in a separate sonic bubble. "But you even read English let alone Ancient Egyptian."
"I can't, nor can I read the Phoenician or Coptic Egyptian but at he bottom is old Minoan, a language that is around eighty percent identical to classic Atlantean, the basis for all underwater language. It basically says; Beware the horror that forms a second skin, this abomination will cause death to all Olympian kin."
"Nice rhyming couplets." Donnie stated, "I have one; Sea Urchin is at fault, now he's going to the Vault."
"No hero have you not heard the Vault was destroyed, I and at least fifty others were rescued by a man named Arnan Koral who offered us employment. Some like myself turned his generous offer down but others took his offer." Sea Urchin smirked, "I imagine that SHIELD will be facing an influx of problems thanks to him and his allies."
"Shut up." Melissa ordered as she formed a solid sound hammer and knocked the villain senseless. "Orka bring that urn, if this Tumbushi sent the bottom dweller he can send others and I would rather not have any horrors unleashed on the city this week. Not after the Emplate and his plague of terror at least."
"Koral where have I heard that name before?" Donnie thought out loud as he froze the Sea Urchin armour in a block of solid ice.
"The same place where a Titanoboa can kill a Megalodon." Sara joked as she flew past dragging the pilot. "Your imagination."
Blackheath stood and smiled proudly as he and Radioactive Man watched as the rest of the team stood and looked on in awe at their success. While only modest the pair of them had restored a 50 square meter patch of land back to flourishing meadow, wild flowers already lighting the space up with patches of colour that stood out in the early evening sunshine.
"My god it's beautiful." Melissa gasped as she delicately bent down and rubbed her hand up one of the stems of grass. "I knew you guys were working on restoring the city but this is amazing."
"I couldn't have done it without Doctor Lu's help." Blackheath told her. "His ability to feed off of radiation was invaluable in removing the contamination. From their I sat and waited for the Green to stir and as soon as it did commanded the grass and flowers to re-colonize the barren ground."
"I hate to rain on your parade." Meteorite said, "But the rest of the city is massive compared to this little patch, it may take years to completely heal the rest of the quarantine zone."
"I thought about that." Chen said glumly, "That's why we are going to grow a terra-forming centre on this patch. One that can run off radiation and pollution and use the base compounds to encourage plant life to return. We just wanted to show you before Blackheath grew it out of the soil."
"Sound's like an idea." Abe announced smiling briefly before his face was replaced with a frown. "Unfortunately we have Thunderbolts business to deal with. Earlier this afternoon a protest group was attacked and ripped apart, Seattle Internal Security doesn't seem to care enough to send patrols in and Mattock have yet to be informed meaning it's up to find whoever did this."
"Not whoever." Orka corrected as he turned the Canopic jar in his hand over to check the base. "I can smell one of Piranha's protein markers on your clothes. Dr. Dorcas injected all of his creations with a unique marker that only he and his modified creatures could track. It would take me only a few hours to find our man-killer and force him to the surface."
"Not alone you won't." Abe warned him, "And before we go anywhere what is with that jug?"
"Sea Urchin was trying to steal it for a man called Tumbushi." Meteorite explained, "We stopped it but Big Blue over there thinks it's dangerous so we are holding onto it for safe keeping."
"Tambushi?" Victoria asked, "Are you sure he's not the kind to steal relics, he generally deals with private collectors for museums. He has a shop in Tehran protected by ancient Massi spells of protection. SHIELD's Magical Artefact Containment and Experimentation Unit do regular business with him. He's also in the process of buying the sister piece of the statue the Power Tools and Masters of Evil were after."
"MACE, SHIELD has a department called MACE?" Donnie snickered, "Man you guys love your acronyms."
"Just a shame we can't get out and talk to him personally." Chen mumbled before looking at Blackheath. "Oh right that's the other good news." he added, "This field is a connection to the 'Green'."
"And that means?" Meteorite asked as she quickly sent an SMS message on her phone.
"It means we can go anywhere in the world where there is plant life." Blackheath told her proudly. "Including Tehran. Of course for the first few trips I would have to come along and access the Green's reactions just to make certain it isn't going to be dangerous for it or us."
"That is doubly amazing." Melissa stated, "Okay Sam you and Victoria head off to Tehran and maybe stop by at the Raft on the way to drop off our 'guest'." She added dropping Sea Urchin from the hard sound bubble he had been trapped in. "We also need to check in on Emma and her students, they did say we could drop in to see them any time plus Monet left her toothbrush in the girls hut."
"I have their address." Abe announced, "I can't believe they got given a new school when we barley get clean water and enough food to keep us running."
"You know the West Coast Avengers have their own supply lines into Seattle. They are about the only ones who can get in and out without Mattock shooting them down." Melissa spat. "While you two are in Tehran the rest of us will deal with Piranha in the sewers."
"I told you I don't need company." Orka growled as he glared at Sam while handing the Canopic jar over.
"Actually he may be right." Meteorite piped up, "The structure of the sewer tunnels works against large groups. We really only need two people; Orka to track him and me to light up the tunnel so we can see where we are going. Between us we can make sure that Piranha isn't the one who got away."
"I still don't like it but its better then going in alone." Abe announced grumpily. "I just received a hail from the towers in Stark Tower. I hacked into them a few days ago by posing as a construction engineer." He added sheepishly, "Anyway we have a celestial body incoming, estimates of where it's going to fall but it into Redwood Point, the site of the second biggest refugee camp. The impact shouldn't be too deadly but it will damage property and cause a panic. The rest of us will move in and help keep control. If you two get into trouble call us and we will work our way towards you."
"I suppose that's okay." Orka mumbled.
"Then Thunderbolts disassemble." Abe yelled before the rest of his team gave him a look. "What we need some kind of catchphrase and 'Lightning like Justice' doesn't cut it." he added as vines wrapped around Sam and Victoria before pulling them into the soil.
"Yeah well that isn't it." Donnie answered as the rest of the Thunderbolt's left 'Flower Field' unaware that Blizzard had a second shadow, one that seemed to have a life of it's own.