Marvel Mayhem - Thunderbolts #18 - Shadows of the Past - Part 3
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Last Issue things were not going well for the Thunderbolts. In Tehran Victoria Hand and Blackheath were ambushed by Whiplash and the Masters of Evil which resulted in Blackheath being shot by a herbicide laced bullet. Back in Seattle Meteorite and Orka went on the hunt for Piranha but ended up fighting unknown mercenaries in the tunnels. Things were worse for the others though as deranged former member Smuggler took Radioactive Man and Songbird hostage while his partner Hard Case mortally wounded Blizzard and was planning to execute Abe Jenkins
Mount Acheron - 761BC
With a roar of triumph Hercules smashed through the ionic pillar and carried on the attack, the sheer ferocity combined with the negative feedback enough to cause Atlas to stagger before being felled by a vicious smack from Hercules's mace, the giant falling face first into the ash covered slopes of Mount Acheron.
"Today Atlas you have learnt the reward turncoats get from Olympus." Hercules roared as his men cheered behind him waving spears and swords in the air. "My father Zeus will surely punish you severally for your treachery."
"Do what you want Lion of Olympus. I had my orders and I followed them to the letter." Atlas groaned. "Even as we speak the Falcon of Acheron activates the Eye of Oranus, if the titans can't have this world and its devotions then we will make sure there is nothing left for you."
"At last the location of Arke." Hercules murmured before turning to his Myrmidons. "My friends you must stay here and guard this vile monstrosity of a god until Hera can send Argus to aid in your vigil. I go now to the Eye of Oranus to stop the very havens from seeding the earth and bringing forth a new generation of titans."
"You will fail." Atlas coughed, "We have already heard about the demise of your wife Omphale, such a shame that you should lose a second person to the Falcon."
"You are lucky giant." Hercules snarled, "Any other day you would be dead on the ground, lucky for you I have other targets for my rage." He added as he looked up the sheer black volcanic cliffs at the revolving gold dome standing on the ledge. With a roar he started his climb and in only a few minutes had reached the Eye of Oranus, the sign of battle evident around the structure by the disrespected dead piled up outside the dome, all of them bearing signs of having sated Arke's hunger. With a roar Hercules smashed through the doors and felt his heart lift as Omphale turned to face him, her armour stained with silver blood. "Oh my dear lioness I feared the fates had not been kind this day." Hercules stated before looking on wide eyed in horror as silver spikes protruded from Omphale, the metallic protrusions expanding and ripping her corpse apart in a shower of blood.
"You don't know how long I have waited for you to say that." Arke purred as she stepped forward, her skin absorbing the film of blood that covered her until she shone like pure quicksilver under the moonlight. "To admit you loved me."
"I despise thee." Hercules roared as he charged forward only to see Arke accelerate towards him as warm blades sliced the underside of his arms. Turning with a snarl he saw Arke lick his own blood off her hands before she accelerated again, the rainbow contrail blinding him as he made a desperate grab for her only to feel blood on his hands. "You are a fell murderer Falcon of Acheron, but as you can see the mountain burns and your fellow titans fall from grace. You are alone, unsupported and trapped in this redoubt, the last of your kind to fight knowing that you will lose." Hercules told Arke as she unfurled her wings, the individual feathers sharpening to deadly points.
"And you my Lion." Arke purred, "Will be the banquet for the new generation birthed during the blessed spawning." She added flapping her wings and firing hardened feathers at him, the blades crashing onto Hercules' body and biting into his flesh before he shook them off with a roar. Charging in once again he saw the centre of the dome glow blue and crackle with lightning, the very sight of the Eye of Oranus throwing him off balance for a second as Arke sprung onto him and unhinged her jaw, teeth biting into his chin before her long tongue slithered down his face and start to constrict around his neck.
"You are the worst of your kind." Hercules growled as he reached up and snapped Arke's tongue before lifting her off his body, her flesh squirming and biting his hands as he held her. "A monstrosity," he roared as he smashed her into the ground, "a cannibal," he added as Arke slashed out at his hands to no avail, the act of aggression only gaining her a quick slam into a column, "and a turncoat." Hercules added as he rammed her face first into the Eye of Oranus.
The effect of the super-weapon was instantaneous on Arke, her flesh running and screaming as it twisted and writhed in pain before leaking out onto the outside of the Eye leaving the broken and smoking body of the Titaness underneath. "That is for everyone you killed Falcon of Acheron." Hercules rumbled as the Eye of Oranus's glow was smothered as the building shook and detached from the cliff as it tumbled down to the base of the mountain. With a grunt Hercules leapt out of the roof, gold tiles shattering as he landed on the cliff side, his powerful hands digging into the rock. With a scream Arke rocketed out after him and slammed swords first into his back impaling him onto the cliff side.
"You killed my other." Arke screamed as she slashed at his neck with her bare hands, "I can't hear her anymore. I can't hear her and I'm afraid of the darkness now that I face it alone."
"You are filled with a sickness." Hercules snorted as he elbowed Arke in the face before letting go of the cliff with one hand and plummeting towards a gate sunk into the volcanic rock and crawling with living flame. Flaring her wings Arke rocketed up as Hercules fell, not realizing that he was reaching for his mace. With a roar of triumph Hercules threw the mace and watched as it smashed through Arke's ribs and incinerated her body, her wings bursting into rainbow streaks as her screaming corpse fell through the gate and into the pit below, the granite bars reforming from the living rock as Hercules smashed into the stones next to it. Groaning he picked himself up and looked into the pit. "And so passes Arke daughter of Electra, Falcon of Acheron." He murmured before eyeing the stone stair back up the mountain, back to his men to morn the passing of Omphale. Wearily he started the long climb back up not noticing the vulture coated in quicksilver watching him with red burning eyes. With a long croak the bird spread its wings and fled south towards the glistening ocean, its body propelled by alien thoughts and a thirst for revenge.
Tehran, Iran - Present Day
Victoria watched as Whiplash cracked her whip on the floor, sparks spraying over Tambushi as he crouched behind the counter of his shop. "Don't make me ask again." Whiplash hissed, "Where is the data crystal?"
"I told you I don't know anything about a data crystal." Tambushi pleaded. "I wouldn't even know what one looks like. I am an antiques dealer not a futurist, now please leave my shop and stop harassing my customers."
"We don't really need him alive." The man in the spacesuit stated. "The crystal is durable enough to survive a fire."
"So you must be the new Firebrand?" Victoria groaned as she felt something warm and liquid whirl around her fingers. "What was Scorcher and Afterburner too busy to join Whiplash, this guy is more of a joke then Gilbert."
"Ha ha I'm not Firebrand SHIELD flunky." The man in the space suit announced, the light behind the face plate glowing even brighter. "Surely you remember Oort the Living Comet?"
"Oh my." Victoria snorted, "I take it back Firebrand is far more experienced then you. Seriously Whiplash you are scraping the bottom of the barrel this time." The last few words caused Oort to flinch and golden flames to dance around his hands.
"Relax Oort she is trying to frustrate us long enough for Blackheath to recover from the herbicide coated bullet that Gauntlet shot him with." Whiplash ordered, "Now focus on the energy signal and find the crystal while I deal with the mouthy SHIELD agent."
Oort tipped his head and let the energy fill the room, golden fire snaking up and down the walls, the majority running up and down Sam's body. Walking over Oort put his hand on the fallen Thunderbolt's chest and let more sparks run up and down the body before withdrawing and falling back in by Whiplash's side. With an evil smirk Whiplash raised her weapon and brought it down towards Victoria only to see the former SHIELD agent rise up and grab the energized cord with hands covered in silver.
"What the…" Whiplash gasped, "You can't do that?"
"I can now." Victoria answered snidely as she let the liquid silver spread across her body before feeling what felt like bony rods spring from her back as a twelve foot wingspan formed, rainbow energy running up and down her arms and along the whip before discharging on Whiplash's hand causing her to drop the weapon. "I have been imprisoned for so long." Victoria added in a more regal yet sinister voice. "Let's see if I remember the sins of the flesh." she finished slamming a fist into Whiplash and sending her smashing through the mud wall of Tambushi's store. Turning she saw Oort fire up the flames around his hands again and get ready for combat, his face not betraying the worry he felt as he propped Victoria's energy signal and realized what she had become.
Abe felt blinding pain as he awoke, his body bound to a chair, the darkness crowding around him. What really overpowered him was the overwhelming coppery tang of spilt blood and reluctantly he looked over to where the scent was strongest and gasped in surprise at what he saw. Suspended from the ceiling was his body, a massive meat hook rammed through his chest and cut's running down the left hand side of his face. Struggling he turned away and looked down at his hands to see long hypodermic like fingers attached to his hands, one gleaming cold and metallic and the other a light olive brown, both were a lot more graceful then his had been. "What have you done to me Conrad?" He asked, his voice now sounding deep and frighteningly similar to that of Darth Vader.
"Oh he had nothing to do with it." Keira's voice announced as she came trotting out of the gloom dressed in a nurse's outfit, "This was all me, but there's me toasting my own success when you have an old friend to greet." She added as she pulled a full length mirror in front of the chair. Abe stared at his new reflection and felt a twinge of remorse followed by an almost overwhelming tide of revulsion. Sitting before him was a woman with startling green eyes that almost seemed to glow against the steel plates arranged across eighty percent of her face. Long black hair stylized into a French plait was arranged along her back and her body was encased in steel grey cybernetics that ran down both legs, her feet ending in robotic talons. All of that was startling for Abe, but was more of a blow was that he knew this woman, for all the cybernetics and malnourishment sat Leila Davis.
"You recognize my sister don't you?" Keira asked. "The person to suffer most from your legacy of evil. Right now my brother in law sits in a seedy hole in the wall too terrified by what you did to him to face the real world, my sister sat for five years in a mangled heap before the scientists at project Strike Back rebuilt her and I have had to live with the knowledge that the man responsible for their pain is being hailed a hero."
"I'm sorry." Abe answered, "I can't imagine your pain but…" He stopped as the voice synthesizer went offline and his tones became more feminine.
"No you're not sorry." Keira snapped. "But I appreciate that you're making a difference in Leila's life now. You see Strike Back repaired her mind after Graviton crushed her inside your old armour, but her mind was dead, computers and fibre optics could only go so far, they told me if she was to be truly alive they would need a living mind to insert. It was then that I knew just who to use Abner Roland Jenkins or should I say Leila Eloise Davis."
"So let me guess." Abe replied. "You trained in a back alley clinic so you could perform the surgery and then drove Conrad mad so you could get close."
"I'll give you some information." Keira cooed. "Conrad was mad before I met him, I just kept him safe after Mattock caught him smuggling Harrier's body in to the quarantine zone. After that we went to see the Tinkerer in New York to get the equipment required for your surgery and that's when I caught him, he had just attacked Speed Demon and he was contemplating finishing him with an angel. After that I knew that even God was on my side and that Leila's second chance was supported by the divine."
"You're as sick as each other." Abe snapped. Keira just smiled and caressed Abe's human cheek. "That's no way to talk to your sister Leila." She purred before retreating into the darkness.
The smell of rotting flesh grew worse as Orka and Meteorite rounded the corner above one of the main cisterns, the chamber half flooded with smoking green tainted water eerily glowing below the many walkways to the central pump. Looking over the side the two Thunderbolts saw the numerous rotting corpses chained to the side, most were civilians but a few were dressed in ULTIMATUM white, their bodies a sickening grey-green in comparison with their uniforms. All were still intact and held above clusters of glowing orange orbs that shone like crystals above the polluted water.
"This is Piranha's lair." Orka whispered, "Or one of them."
"Why do you think there are more places like this?" Sara asked as she slid down one of the ladders onto a lower walkway.
"Yes Piranha has never been one to place all her eggs in one basket." Orka answered, "That's why none of the corpses have been touched."
"Wait this is a breeding ground?" Meteorite asked, "How do you know?"
"Those orange things are eggs plus the sheer heat in this chamber is a dead give away." Orka told her, "What is worrying is that this cistern is linked to the ocean, the brood will naturally face high mortality from predators and the conditions."
"That's good then." Meteorite suggested.
"Hmm maybe but if the water temperature is as warm on the outside then we may have a possible ecological disaster on our hands, one that makes Biohazard contamination look tame in comparison." Orka explained, "Piranha is smart of that there is no doubt but she has never been clever enough to rig something like this up on her own. Which begs the question who is helping her and what do they have to gain from an enhanced survivability rate of her brood."
"Perhaps I can answer that?" A voice called from above the Thunderbolts. Looking up the pair of them gasped as they looked up the barrels of twenty FAL assault rifles all pointed at them. With a thud Flag Smasher landed between them and smashed Orka in the ribs with his mace before firing a gravatonic pulse through the handle, propelling him off the walkway and into the radioactive water below. Before the splash could even be heard Meteorite reacted and fired a photon beam at Flag Smasher only to see the energy wash over him leaving the ULTIMATUM boss unharmed,
"How?" She gasped as Flag Smasher lowered his mace and smiled before waving the Overwatch away.
"Simple, I always prepare for the foes I meet and as such installed a device that lessens the heat transfer from photon attacks." Flag Smasher explained. "I also laced my gloves with an enzyme that denatures Kree DNA, a necessary precaution wouldn't you agree Dr. Sophen?"
"Well I must say that you're smarter then you look." Meteorite answered, "With all your fancy weapons and tech I would be an idiot to attack and you have gotten my attention."
"I thought you might." Flag Smasher answered, "My partner and I thought you may be interested in our plans for the city. We are willing to offer a seat at the table to you, allow you to be true to yourself rather then hiding behind the mask you wear at current."
"And your plans are?" Meteorite asked.
"Not up for discussion." Flag Smasher answered, "Still I can reveal that Piranha was my creature before she took her mothering duties too seriously and actively attacked people on the surface. Ultimately we disposed of her but her young will still serve a purpose even if we have to streamline the process."
"You expect me to join on blind faith." Meteorite answered, "And you haven't offered me anything I can't get already from my current alliances."
"So you decline?" Flag Smasher asked. "A pity since the alternative is your destruction." He sighed before double tapping his gauntlets. With a sickening crack the first eggs begun to open and a toddler shaped creature clawed its way out of the egg sack and started ripping into the flesh of the nearest dead body. Soon the cistern was crawling with emerging Piranha spawn, all of them quickly feeding and growing as they ate. "As soon as I leave a genetic dampening field will be deployed, the only way out will be in the stomach of my new foot soldiers."
"What no sinister ticking doomsday clock, a simple bomb not good enough for you?" Meteorite joked. Flag Smasher smiled and pressed his gauntlet again causing the entire Cistern to glow red.
"Not a bomb parse but a seismic charge, it will rip up anything above this cistern and allow my troops to escape into the city." Flag Smasher announced before climbing up the ladder. "You had your chance to join us Dr. Sophen, now you have to live with the choices you made."
Melissa groaned as she awoke strapped down on a gurney as Smuggler sat on the table opposite crying softly as he sharpened a machete. Looking around Melissa saw a Chinese man with long flowing black hair dressed in a hazardous-material suit chained to the wall, a trio of carbon rods sticking out of his chest. "Chen?" Melissa asked softly, "My god is that really you?"
"He can't here you Melissa." Conrad answered, "He's out cold as long as those carbon rods negate his radiological powers."
"Conrad why are you doing this, your not some serial killer like the Punisher or Scourge you are our friend." Melissa stated.
"I don't want to hurt you Mel." Conrad answered, "But I have no choice, the deaths of all the Thunderbolts are the only thing that will appease the lord and bring back Erik."
"That's bull and what have you done to Abe and Donnie?" Melissa snorted.
"Donnie is already dead, the sculptor already killed him." Conrad told her, "She took Abe and made him into a masterpiece, a beauty of the age."
"So you just let her kill Donnie?" Melissa growled, "He was your friend and you let her kill him."
"I tried to save him." Conrad whined, "I stopped the bleeding but he was already cold, you don't understand I am here to save you."
"Not what you said a few seconds ago." Melissa snapped, "The only person I need saving from is you."
"Then you don't know." Conrad cried before holding his head and groaning. "That you are dying."
"I know, or I know people have told me this two times before." Melissa replied, "I don't know what from or when but apparently I don't have long."
"I took a biopsy when you were sleeping." Conrad moaned as he stabbed the machete into the table between Melissa's legs. "Its terminal, your throat is damaged and will kill you. The cells are mutating becoming cancerous, your powers are to blame I'm sure but I need more data. The only way I can be sure is to remove the infected area."
"What?" Melissa shrieked as she thrashed about trying to free herself as Conrad raised the machete above his head.
"I am saving you from pain. I'm saving you from the ozone and the wars, the pollution and the monsters, the dying planet and the global warming." Conrad chattered as he got ready to bring the blade down. Before he could a jet of ice lanced out and struck the machete, the weapon falling to the floor and shattering as it landed. Turning Conrad saw Donnie stagger toward him, the air freezing around the injured Thunderbolt, an iced over meat hook stabbed through his chest as miniature blizzards whirled around his hand.
"I wouldn't worry about that." Donnie announced as he fired another jet of ice at Conrad, the sheer coldness causing the insane serial killer to freeze over. "It's a cold fucking future."