The Millenium Tower
Janet Van Dyne gasped her eyes wide with horror as she stared hard at the scene playing out before her. She and Henry Pym were media darlings, the first real heroes of a new age having made their public debuts as Giant-Man and the winsome Wasp just a few short weeks ago. They had fought the Top, and that poor, annoying mutant kid who called himself the Porcupine. They had stopped a bank robbery. But she had never seen anything to compare to this-
She backed farther into the shadows as chips of wood and plaster flew through the tiny openings in the air vent grating. Her hiding place was barely safe from the battle raging just a few feet away. She bit down on a knuckle, actually drawing blood as she tried to stifle a scream, her body shivering in terror. The noise was deafening to one of her shrunken stature, echoing throughout the hollow vents and ducts that laced the building. Worse, she could feel the heat radiating off of the monster. Radiation! It had to be!
Janet heard the whirring blasts of the Iron Man’s magnetic Repulsor Rays, feeling the ache and tug in her fillings. The armor was running full tilt on power she could tell, hearing the groan of the metal about her. She had seen Stark’s Iron Man armor in many of its stages before of course. She had been there for much of the development as well as the final testing at the Stark LI facility, along with Henry and Reed Richards, Bolivar Trask and several representatives from the government. And Anthony Stark of course! He had developed the prototype armor in response to the government’s growing concern over the alleged ‘Mutant Problem’. Stark and Richards and the rest had all contributed; to the Sentinel Program, or the containment issues, but the armor was Stark’s baby, his pride and joy. Janet wondered if that was him inside the armor now!
The big man with the hammer, she did not recognize but she could hazard a guess. There had been rumors and whispers around the coffee machine in Millenium Corp about an altered human that Kagi was developing for one of the government’s programs. He was code-named Thor, and from what Janet could tell, this was probably him. He was huge, muscular, and decked out in a rag-tag suit of archaic armor of his own complete with a long fur cloak and a metal horned helmet. He seemed- at least from what she could see from her hidey-hole- dirty and vulgar, like a Viking of old ready to rape and pillage the country side. The give away though was the huge war hammer that he was wielding. It was impressive to say the least, and she wondered briefly how someone, even someone with all of his muscles could even heft the thing. He however was swinging it about like a madman.
And with good reason…
The monster; the huge, hulking radioactive creature had picked up what was left of Hikui Kagi’s oaken desk and was using it to hammer toe to toe against Thor’s attacks. He was monstrous, ungodly strong and, even slouching under the weight of his own mass, hovered at least a foot above the tall thunder god. Bones protruded through his sickly gray-green skin, and his hairless body oozed puss from sores that glowed with radioactive burn. He seemed to be in the final stages of radiation sickness to look at him, but he was active and vital and did not seem to waver from lack of energy. Worse, he seemed to be feeding off of his own radiation somehow. Janet Van Dyne was no scientist in the league of Stark or Richards, or even her own Henry Pym, but she knew enough to recognize when something was changing through metamorphosis. The Hulk was evolving somehow, she was sure of it. But into… what?
There had been rumors and stories about the monster just like Thor. He was some creature spawned in the result of a mishap with Bruce Banner’s Gamma Bomb tests, some said. He had killed dozens! Hundreds! He could lift a tank and bounced mortar shells off of his chest. It had seemed absurd to hear some secretary say it, but now she was not so sure that it was not far from the truth. Seeing the Hulk’s strength and anger now, first hand, the stories did not seem so far fetched.
She saw the Hulk swing what was left of Kagi’s desk at the Thunderer, Thor barely raising his war hammer in time to block the blow. The big man stumbled back as the thick wood shattered spraying chips and splinters in an explosive shower that disintegrated what was left of the desk. Janet dove to safety as wooden shards shot into the air vent; bullets and missiles to her. She was barely two-inches tall in her diminutive Wasp size and what would barely cause a scratch to another normal-sized person would skewer her like a spear!
When the storm of wood had passed she carefully inched forward again, crawling on her belly towards the metal grate. She could hear the roar of the Iron Man’s boot jets, and again the sounds of his repulsors. She could hear the monster’s cold laughter and foul-mouthed taunts, Thor’s booming voice answering in kind. He spoke queerly, rather like a character from a Shakespeare play than an ancient Norseman, whereas the Hulk sounded like one of the Bowery Boys. Iron Man wasn’t saying much at all, and as Janet peered through the openings in the grating that shielded her from the battle she saw why-
The Hulk had stepped up to the armor hovering near the gaping hole in the side of the building and swung his massive fist in a mighty backhand. The blow rang the armor like a bell’s claxon, and Janet screamed to see Iron Man’s head go flying into the wall. Her shrieks of terror echoed through the vents as she stared at the armor, faltering but still hanging in the air somehow. She was gasping for breath as she saw a human head poking up from the wide bulk of the iron shell. The head was awash in sweat and coolant was spewing from a ruptured line in the collar, but still she recognized the handsome face when it finally turned her way. It was Anthony Stark!
Stark looked battered and dazed as the Hulk stood before him, chuckling. Blood ran from his ear as he shook his head trying to get his bearings. Janet looked quickly about, now halfway hanging through the grating, forgetting her own safety in the excitement. She saw Thor struggling to rise from where the Hulk had slapped him to the floor, and behind him stood Hikui Kagi wearing his infamous shit-eating grin. She had never really trusted Kagi, despite the fact that she had given Hank and her jobs after Stark had stolen so many of Pym’s patents. He seemed a slimy little shit, out for a buck like most of his ilk in the business world. She wondered what he had to do with all of this?
She wondered what was taking Hank so long to join her? He would know what was going on, and what to do.
“Stark! I might ‘a known!”
The Hulk’s gravelly voice turned her attention again and Janet gasped to see the creature lining up Anthony Stark’s head for another blow. A punch from the Hulk on his unprotected face would really take Stark’s head off, but it seemed inevitable. Thor was still staggering to his feet too far away, and Kagi was not moving to help at all. It was up to the Wasp then, though what she might do against that, Janet Van Dyne had no idea.
Still, she had to do something! She scrambled through the remainder of the metal grill, her tiny gossamer wings beating furiously once they were free and clear. She leapt into space, barely seven feet above the floor to anyone of normal size but hundreds of feet to her. The huge, gargantuan world of the giants was still a new and exciting place to her despite the hours she had spent at Wasp-size. Everything loomed about her, and the ground seemed to stretch out below like a rolling field viewed from a plane. The overhead lights glowed like a thousand suns and every sound was close to deafening, booming over her fragile form. The slightest movements of the giants sent air currents rippling about her but she had learned to manipulate the winds in flight early on. She rode through them now with ease, actually using the flow to speed her along.
She wished that Hank had developed some sort of weapon for her to use at her decreased size. She was far from helpless, and too quick and small to catch, but offensively she felt useless. He had promised to come up with something weeks ago, and had actually created a sort of exo-skeleton that augmented her strength and fired a blast of energy like a laser that disrupted a target’s nervous system for a time causing pain and temporary numbness. He had jokingly named the bioelectric blast her Wasp’s Sting, but in the end he had had to abandon the skeletal frame. It was too bulky and weighed her down in flight as well as interfering with her wings as it drew its energy from their beating like a hydro-electric generator draws energy from a cascading waterfall. He had redesigned the apparatus but had never gotten around to rebuilding it as his fleeting attention had shifted to his Cybernetic Helmet, which he hoped might allow him to ‘talk’ to ants and other insects. Hank was like that; brilliant with the attention span of a couch potato flipping channels to find something more interesting.
Still, she had her wits, and more importantly her speed as she raced towards the Hulk. She could feel the heat of the radiation as she drew closer and wondered how long she might survive unprotected. Stark was in danger too, and she could actually see burn marks on his face from where the brute was touching him, turning his head from side to side as he drew back for the killing blow-
“Hold that pose, pretty boy.” He snarled, angling Stark’s head back as he dramatically wound up for a Popeye haymaker! “This ain’t gonna hurt a bit…”
Janet blinked in shock as she flitted past the Hulk’s face. They both yelped in surprise as she flew by, looping about his gargantuan head and buzzing about his ears to distract him. He staggered back, waving his hands in the air to ward her away as she looped and dove, easily avoiding his slaps and riding the air currents that he was whipping up with his efforts. What had surprised her was not the brute however, but the boy that had suddenly appeared. He had leaped in between the Hulk and Stark, grabbing at the monster’s massive arm. He was screaming at the brute, trying to stay his blow and being tossed about for his efforts as the creature swatted at Janet. She half expected the boy to burst into radioactive flame from touching the monster, but oddly he seemed unfazed by the killer radiation.
He was bruised and battered however. The boy’s clothes were ripped and soiled and even at the speeds that she was traveling she could smell the stale odors of piss and sweat and vomit that clung to him. She wondered who he was of course, but did not have the time to dwell on the thought as one of the Hulk’s blows came too close for comfort, the churning air bowling her over and sending her tumbling.
Janet screamed, panicking as she tried to right herself. Her wings were beating furiously as she tried to pull out of the dive that was sending her straight at the floor at blinding speed. She was caught in the slip stream of the Hulk’s blow however, the rush of air dragging her down. At the speed that she was traveling she knew that she was dead if she could not pull out. She would break her neck when she hit, shatter every bone in her body on impact. She hoped that it would be over quickly-
A flash of pink shot under her, scooping her up and out of danger. Janet felt the warmth radiating off of the rough, fleshy palm as her momentum shifted and she soared upwards again, this time lifted as though in a high-speed elevator. She had never seen anyone move so fast, but the mighty Thor had apparently seen her falling and caught her, now holding her before his billboard-like face. His unruly mane of red hair was plastered to his skull with sweat, framing his face. He looked grimy and smelled, but Janet did not care as he looked at her longingly to see if she was all right. He had saved her-
“Fear not, tiny sprite. The scion son of fabled Asgard has thee well in hand.”
He spoke softly, almost tenderly as he stared down at her, as though realizing that his booming, deep voice would cause her pain. Janet blushed, feeling her skin warm as she realized that she was naked in the palm of his hand. She had not put on her uniform, a sweet leather jump suit laced with Pym Particles that would conform with her size changes. It was too hot under her regular clothes, so she had not worn it that day. Who knew?
“Thanks!” she shouted so that the Thunderer could hear her, but before he could respond both of them turned to hear the Hulk’s bellowing again-
“Get offa me, bitch!” the Hulk was shouting as he shook his arm, trying to dislodge the boy that was still clinging on for dear life. Janet saw that Stark was drifting backwards, out of the hole and out of reach while the monster’s attention was diverted. His armor still seemed functional, but without the helmet Janet wondered just what he was willing to do. The Hulk shook his arm and the boy was jostled again, but somehow he managed to hang on-
“Yer getting’ on my nerves, Jones! Leggo, or so help me I’m gonna peel you out the window like a grape!”
“No!” the boy shouted, and Janet could hear the fear in his voice. She had no idea who he was or why he was there, but the brute obviously cared about him. At least a little bit-
“That’s it, kid!” the Hulk snarled, his massive hand wrapping about the boy’s head. “I’ve had enough of you ‘n’ yer whinin’! Say ‘Hi’ ta Betty fer me!”
“I say thee nay!”
Janet barely took to the air as Thor closed his fist about his hammer and charged forward. She felt the blow from afar as the Thunderer slammed the war hammer into the back of the monster’s skull. She thought for certain that that would be the end of the creature, but he staggered forward, finally dropping to his knees and shaking his head as the boy clutching at his arm was thrust out of the gaping hole in the side of the building. Thor stood heaving, his breath coming in mighty gasps as he stared in wonder at the brute as he struggled to rise. The Hulk turned, a sneer twisting his jade lips as anger contorted his face-
“Oh, it’s like that, is it? Okay, longhair! The gloves are off!”
The Hulk flicked his arm as he stood and Janet saw the boy go flying. She gasped, shooting forward towards the hole even as she saw a sparkling streak of gray shoot past the window. Stark would catch the boy! Ignorant of that- or simply uncaring- the Hulk rose and strode forward, and the Thunder God matched his stride in kind.
They struck in unison, both screaming their rage, both attacking without reservation. Thor’s hammer slammed into the creature’s ribs even as the Hulk drove his sledge-hammer-like fist into the Thunderer’s face. Janet heard bones snapping though she could not distinguish whose as she raced forward to see to the boy. The sound of their blows was like thunder to her, and the turbulence they churned up caused her to flutter and flit, finally to light on the edge of the gaping hole.
She peered down and out and saw that Tony Stark had indeed caught the boy and was even now flying back towards the hole to rejoin the fight. She stared beyond the Iron Man however, at the dark cloud that seemed to be roiling up in his wake. It moved against the winds that whipped through the canyons of Manhattan’s tall buildings, actually avoiding the exhaust from Stark’s boot jets. It seemed a thing alive, and with a gasp Janet realized what it was.
She scrambled backwards as a horde of flying ants came swarming through the gaping, raggedy hole. There were thousands of them- millions and they were all spiraling in a loose formation, a buzzing swarm headed straight for the Hulk!
Quickly Janet scanned the room, knowing exactly what this meant. Her eyes finally rested on the metal grill that had been her hiding place not so long ago. She saw him there, just barely, his tiny body clinging precariously to the grate in the wall no taller than she. He was wearing his Cybernetic Helmet, and she knew that he was actually controlling the swarm of flying ants, directing them to attack the Hulk. Hank Pym- the astonishing Ant-Man had finally joined the fray!
Janet watched as the swarm of ants enveloped the lumbering brute. They lighted on him, trying to bite but the Hulk’s skin was too thick and the radiation burned their tiny bodies almost instantly on contact. Others swarmed, attacking his eyes and ears, flowing into his mouth by the hundreds. She heard him gagging, hacking and coughing as he stumbled about, swatting the annoyance as he waved his arms. Thousands of ants died with his every move, but more came to take the place of those that fell. The office was abuzz with the hum of beating wings and all too soon everyone was trying to shield their eyes and ears from the onslaught.
The ants were smaller than Janet, and she easily avoided them as she soared through the swarm towards the man she loved. They were like ugly little dogs to her, and they seemed as intent on staying away from her as she was on avoiding them-
“Hank!” she shouted, flitting up to the grill and landing lightly next to the man that she loved. He smiled, but she could see that he was caught up in the battle and the task of directing his insect army. She could not imagine what it must be like-
“You… okay… ?” he gasped, chancing her a glance. She nodded with a smile that she was but kept her distance. If she interrupted him now she knew that the ants would disperse and he would not have the energy to gather them into an army again. As it was, despite their ineffectual attacks on the Hulk they were still blinding him and taking all of his attention. He was swatting frantically, but really accomplishing nothing at all. Janet saw that the ants were avoiding Thor now, and she knew what she had to do. She flew out again, heading straight at the Thunderer-
“Hit him now!” she shouted. “Hit him!” and Thor finally looked up, acknowledging that he heard her tiny voice. He stepped at the brute, drawing back with his hammer as Janet arched up and away trying not to get caught in the blow. She heard the impact as Thor’s mighty blow hit home, slamming down between the Hulk’s shoulder blades. She heard the monster bellow- hopefully in pain- and saw him turn on the thunder god. He swung in return, but it was a feeble blow and easily blocked by Thor’s hammer. Thor retaliated however, arching his war hammer down and about to drive it again into the creature’s back. The Hulk screamed, dropping to one knee with the force of the blow.
Thor did not hesitate as he pounded again and again, relentlessly at the brute. The force of his assault drove the monster down, making him grovel and clutch at the floor in apparent agony-
“Feel the might of Mjolnir, troll! Fall before mine unfettered rage!”
Janet saw the monster dig his fingers into the hardwood floor and rip it away. For one brief moment she saw the reinforced concrete beneath the façade, and a moment later the monster was driving his fist through that-
“He’s trying to get away!” she shouted, but it was too late. The Hulk smashed a hole into the flooring and literally fell through, letting gravity help him to escape. She heard the massive THOOMas he hit the floor below, the horde of ants swarming down the hole after him. Thor stood over the hole, heaving with every breath as he stared after the monster-
She saw Stark fly back through the hole in the side of the building then, dropping the struggling boy as he landed in a blast of dirt and smoke. The boy pushed away from Stark and charged forward-
“No!” he shouted, running right up to the hole and peering down, trying not to fall.
“Hulk! No!” he shouted, and Thor stepped over the hole, pushing him back-
“Rest easy, child. The brute dost seek to escape and lick his wounds.” Thor tried to put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, but he swatted at it, hurting his hand but causing the Thunderer to pull back.
“Are you for real? He ain’t lickin’ his wounds, pal! He’s getting’ ready to-“
The Hulk leapt, smashing back up through the hole that he had created, leaving the swarming ants behind. The boy fell back, but the Hulk directed the force of his attack at Thor, his fist smashing into the Thunderer as he passed, knocking him back and away. The creature arched up, landing almost lightly on the already unstable floor. Janet knew that the Millenium Tower had been built to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, and she was thankful that it apparently had the ability to withstand the assault of a rampaging monster as well. The creature bellowed his rage and leapt forward over the hole to land above the God of Thunder. He screamed again, a feral shout devoid of humanity as he began to pummel the fallen god. His massive fists hammered down again and again like a jackhammer, beating into Thor’s battered body without hesitation or remorse.
Janet Van Dyne saw the ants come swarming up and out of the hole again even as Iron Man surged forward. She heard the whine of his repulsor rays, but the Hulk held his ground against the magnetic attack, ignoring too the swarming insects. He knew where his foe lay and simply kept pounding over and over.
“He’s mad!” the boy shouted, scrambling back to his feet. How he was even still alive Janet had no idea, but he was charging forward, apparently hoping to stop the brute again.
“And the madder he gets, the stronger he gets!”
Janet flew forward, knowing that she would be no use if the swarm of ants were not stopping the brute’s rage. Even Stark had stopped firing his repulsors, knowing how useless it all was. The Hulk seemed indestructible- a killing machine! Still, she had to try!
She barely heard Stark’s warning and veered to the side. Even so she gritted her teeth, feeling her bones vibrate as a sonic squeal rose in pitch and volume, quickly going beyond her range to actually hear. She felt a trickle of blood as she soared away to the side and heard the Hulk’s screech of pain as he was hit full on by Iron Man’s sonic attack. He rose, standing upright as he clutched at his ears in agony, Stark’s assault apparently getting past his thick skin and causing him intense pain. The brute turned to face the new attacker, leaving Thor bloody and broken on the floor behind-
“Fuckin’ Stark! I’m gonna… peel that tin suit… off a’ you like a… banana!”
Amazingly the Hulk staggered forward even as Stark increased the gain on his sonic screech. His chest plate erupted in blinding light as he clicked on the search lamp installed there, but the Hulk kept coming. The creature snarled in rage, thumping forward as puss oozed from his ears and through his fingers. His eyes were clenched shut against the glare of the lamp as he started swinging blindly ahead of him. Stark backed away, raising his hands to attack with the magnetics again. Janet saw the fear in Stark’s eyes, but there was determination as well. He was not going to run.
A gigantic fist came crashing down, slamming the Hulk into the floor again. Janet yelped to see the mammoth hand, even though she knew what and who it must be-
“Eat that, freak!”
Janet saw her man grown to at least twenty feet and curled up in the confines of Kagi’s office. Unlike her he was dressed in his containment suit, the fabric of the uniform conforming to his size as well as protecting him- at least somewhat- from the creature’s irradiated form. He had slammed the brute to the floor, hoping that the reinforced building would help to pin him down, at least long enough for Stark to get away. Despite what Stark had done to Henry Pym, he had still just saved the industrialist’s life. She doubted Stark would care.
Stark blasted the brute with his repulsor rays, the magnetics pounding into the monster’s head. Janet could feel the magnetic waves as she arched up and away and knew that the monster must be suffering. She saw Thor struggling up onto his elbows, shaking his head and trying to rise. His face was a bloody and bruised pulp, but he seemed to be ignoring whatever pain he was feeling as he shook his head, trying to regain his senses. The boy- Jones was screaming as well, shouting for the Hulk to run away. It was Kagi however who finally spoke, calmly and succinctly-
“Gentlemen…” he turned, nodding at the Wasp, “and Lady. My appreciation of course, but it seems that we’ve reached an impasse.” He strolled forward, his body bathed in a pale, purple glow as he approached the battle. Seemingly he ignored Iron Man’s magnetic attack as easily as he sidestepped Henry Pym’s gigantic hand. He stared down at the Hulk, still trapped beneath Giant-Man’s giant hand and shook his head. He glanced at the boy-
Janet heard the whisper in her own head but fought the urge to go away. The boy however turned and headed towards the hole in the far wall without reservation. Kagi turned to Hank and Stark-
Shugo kare o yuttarishita!
The Wasp heard the words but had no idea what they might mean. She saw Stark stiffen however, his repulsors powering down even as Hank lifted his gigantic hand allowing the creature to wriggle free. Surprisingly the Hulk simply stood and walked calmly to the window and the gaping hole. He was trembling, as though he did not want to leave and was fighting the desire, but in the end he grabbed the Jones boy by the collar and leapt out of the hole. Jones screamed, but it was a pathetic thing that quickly vanished with distance. Kagi turned and scanned the room, searching…
Something was up! Something was wrong and Janet Van Dyne flew for the metal grill in the wall, hoping to get away before she was seen. Somehow she knew that Kagi was behind all of this. He had some kind of mental powers to control minds, and she was his next target! She whimpered, pushing her wings and making them beat as never before. She was almost at the grill; almost safe-
Janet’s body locked up, frozen, her wings stopping in mid beat at the ‘sound’ of Kagi’s voice in her head. Her momentum carried her forward for a bit, but then she started to fall. She saw the wall coming closer, but there was nothing she could do to get her body moving again. She was done… Dead!
Hikui Kagi’s hand snatched her out of midair just inches before striking the wall. He cupped her frozen body in the palm of his hand as he probed at her private places with the tip of his gargantuan finger. Janet tried to get away, to scream or even move, but she was frozen solid, trapped and at his mercy. He smiled down at her, his finger probing between her legs, pushing them apart.
He hummed some giant’s tune…
Janet Van Dyne blinked, looking up from the microscope and rubbing the strain from her eyes. She stretched and yawned, leaning far back on her high stool and finally shaking her head as though to shake the sleep from her body. It had been a long day…
She stood and walked slowly towards the kitchenette in the lab that she shared with Henry Pym, thumbing through her notes as she went. The numbers and notations just seemed to blur so finally she tossed the papers aside and reached for the coffeepot.
Her bones popped with the movements, and her muscles ached as though she had just run a marathon the day before. Why, she had no idea. She was tired as well. Not just sleepy, but physically and emotionally tired. Her head hurt. She hoped that she was not coming down with the flu.
Janet leaned against the countertop and sipped at the bitter, black coffee. It tasted terrible, but hopefully it would do the job and wake her up, get her head straight again. She had been dull and sluggish all morning, forgetting the simplest things. Worse, she felt as though she had totally forgotten something really important; an appointment or a scheduled test…
It seemed almost at the tip of her tongue, as though a rap on the back of her head would knock it forward again so that she might remember. It annoyed her, and nagged at her, almost within her grasp-
Janet turned at the sound of the voice, her train of thought lost again. She shrugged, almost shivered. Whatever it was- as they said- could not be too important.
She smiled to see Henry Pym step through the doorway and into the lab. She always smiled to see the love of her life. He brightened her day, and his mere presence seemed to lift her spirits and make her feel so much better. She stepped towards him to meet him half way before realizing that there was someone with him.
“Jan?” he smiled, stepping forward to give her a quick peck on the cheek, then she noticed that he suddenly looked concerned as he looked her up and down. “You okay, honey? You look a little pale.” Janet shrugged, glancing past her fiancé at his guest-
“I’m all right. Just a little ‘bleh’.” Janet screwed up her face and stuck out her tongue to accentuate her feelings. “Who’s your friend, Hank?”
Pym was about to introduce the man when he stepped past and extended his hand. He was big, and handsome in a rugged kind of way. His hair was wavy and dark with a hint of gray at the temples. Normally, the eyepatch over his left eye and half covering an old scar would have drawn her attention the most, but it was the bit of cigar clamped between his teeth that caught her eye; despite the numerous ‘No Smoking’ signs that hung on almost every wall between the lab area and the front doors. Janet coughed into her hand and cleared her throat, but the man just smirked as he took her hand-
“Miss Van Dyne? I’ve heard a lot about you.” The man smiled, blue-gray smoke billowing from between his clenched teeth. His voice was low and gravely, and his grip was firm, but Janet could tell he was smooth. “Colonel Nick Fury! Pleasure!”
Fury smiled. “Retired, Ma’am. It’s an old title that I can’t seem ta lose. Officially now, I’m the Director of SHIELD.”
“SHIELD? What’s that?” Janet knew before she asked. The man reeked of the government.
“I’m a Federal agent, Miss Van Dyne-“ The man sighed and Janet could tell that he was wrestling with just how much he should tell her. “Pure and simple, I’m a spook. Uncle Sam pays me ta do things that the more public agencies can’t. Most recently I got orders ta keep an eye on mutants and altered humans- folks like you an’ Pym here.” Janet licked her lips and looked at Henry Pym. She did not like where this was going, but Hank seemed unconcerned, grinning actually from behind the Colonel.
“Well, Ma’am…” Fury cleared his throat,
“I’ve got a proposition for you.”
Anthony Stark stared at the numbers scrolling down his computer screen. There were some problem spots of course; the armor was only a Mark 2 version after all. There had been some loss in the solid fuel ratios within the jet boots, and the magnetic repulsors had almost over-heated at one point, but overall the specs were good.
With one exception…
The armor’s internal clock had logged an extra fifty-six minutes compared to what he knew visually, and try as he might Stark could not recall anything to account for almost an hour’s worth of memory. There had been an electromagnetic pulse scheduled as part of the testing, and it had fried the suit’s video and audio recordings- as well as those of the testing facility- but Stark was certain that the armor should have been shielded well enough that something as insignificant as a clock should not have been effected. It ran through the same subsystems that kept track of his bodily functions. There should have been no problem.
It was just a little thing, but Stark knew that it would nag at him and keep him awake at night until he found the reason why.
Stark leaned back and moved to rub at his chest, remembering too late that he could not actually touch it. His chest hurt from where the shrapnel still sat, lodged close to his heart after the terrorist’s bomb had changed his life forever. He sighed, checking the leads running from the chest plate that he would have to wear the better part of everyday for the rest of his life. Everything was connected properly, so he adjusted a few dials and felt the slightest tingle as more energy flowed through the leads, increasing the pulse of his pacemaker. Within moments the pain had subsided and Anthony Stark poured himself a finger- two fingers of vodka to celebrate the lack of pain. He thought about going sober for a moment, before he saw another obscure number scroll by-
Stark almost jumped at the sudden buzz of the intercom and the sound of his Personal Assistant’s voice. He leaned forward and keyed the phone, his eyes scanning the computer screen in front of him with intensity-
“Sir, there’s a Jasper Sitwell on line four. He says it’s important, but I told him you were in conference. He says he wants to hold.”
“Sitwell?” Stark leaned back again, wracking his brain trying to remember the name. His memory seemed fuzzy over the last couple of days, but he had no idea why. He glanced at the last swallow of vodka in his tumbler, but downed it anyway. "What does he want?”
“He says that he represents someone named Nicolas Fury, but won’t go into details. He won’t explain who Fury is or what company-“
“It’s okay, Pepper.” Stark sighed, wondering what the old man wanted now. It couldn’t be too important if he was going through some flunky that Stark had never met…
At least he thought not…
Stark sat forward again and reached for the handset of his personal phone. He held the receiver to his ear, listening as the dial tone kicked in followed by a number of recording devices queuing up and a white sound device of his own invention to disrupt outside wire taps. He counted to ten and took a moment to refill his tumbler before he spoke into the phone again, trying to sound cheerful-
“Put him through!”
Hikui Kagi sipped at his near-scalding Sake and marveled at the sunrise. There was a dazzling glow of red reflecting off of the surrounding buildings. The dull smudge of smog lingering about the horizon was burning away with the growing light. It was another start to another glorious day.
He smiled, luxuriating in the warmth of the rising sun as it beamed through the triple-paned windows of his private offices. He would have been quite annoyed had he missed the spectacular display; morning was his favorite time of day.
Maintenance had reacted quickly, replacing the window within a matter of hours and refurbishing the offices soon thereafter. It had taken just a bit longer with the building’s façade, but that was to be expected. There was still a worker out on the scaffolding, attending to the final touches, as was his job.
Kagi watched the window cleaner as he went about his business, thinking back on the events of the last day, almost twenty-four hours, lacking just a few minutes. It had gone well, the gathering of heroes. Fury’s Avengers would indeed be a force to reckoned with, given the proper guiding hand of course. Pym and Stark had great potential beyond their basic, flat-scan flaws, and even the Wasp had shown initiative.
It was a pity about Banner, however. The brutish form that he had evolved into had proved a great strain on Kagi’s mental powers. The radiation alone was overwhelming, and it had taken most of his will just to hold the killing waves at bay whilst the battle raged. It would not do to have his new toys dying from radiation sickness before he had tired playing with them. It had taken much just to get the monster to leave there at the end.
Much, but not all…
Kagi glanced to the side, his eyes roving over the still form standing stoically in the shadowy corners of his office. His bogus ‘half-brother’ stood tall and proud, his fabled hammer held majestically before him. Kagi’s raincoat was draped over the Thunderer’s stiff arm, his hat angled rakishly on the tip of one long horn of his silver war helm.
Hikui Kagi sipped at his Sake, a smile forming on his lips.
The dolt had served his purpose, and when Fury got his little strikeforce up and running to full steam, the God of Thunder would so again. For the nonce, however, he made a good coat rack.
Hikui Kagi- Loki the Trickster- laughed again…
Next Issue: Back to our regularly scheduled story as the Ultimate Avengers head up a strike force to invade the South American country of Santa Costa! Who will join the battle, and what will they find there? If you don’t know, go back and read Issue Zero, then come back here next month when-
Enter: the Masters of Evil!
Story © Curt F 2003