#7 - When the world knows your name
Genosha. The ruins of the Presidential Palace
“I can't believe this!” She-Hulk's words reflect the emotions coursing the Avengers' souls as they emerge from Sif's teleportation flash into a veritable war zone. What was until a few hours ago a testament to Genosha's wealth and power is now a devastated spot where a terrible being just vanquished one of Earth's most powerful mutants. What makes it even more painful to the Avengers is the knowledge that the aforementioned being was once their friend and teammate, the Scarlet Witch. And the irony of it all is that the mutant they've come to save is one that has been an enemy to the world time and again, Magneto, the Master of Magnetism ... at least till a few moments ago. *
(* as seen in AVENGERS: VISION QUEST ls # 2, Alex)
But some of these notions escape the Avengers' minds, for they don't know the details of what happened before their arrival, and their surprise is actually due to the battle that is presently going on between their reserve member Quicksilver, who called them here, and a quartet of deadly beings, most of them mutants, clearly trying to harm the prone body of a very battered Magneto.
Tension is something usual in the lives of the Avengers and their might is measured not just by their awesome powers, but from the way they manage to react in such pressing circumstances. It matters little that they're possibly at their first outing as a team with this line-up, or that they lack a complete knowledge of the situation they're facing. Not even the fact that half the team has just returned from a terrible ordeal at Thor's side, which has exacted a possibly lethal price from their teammate Hercules, * fazes their mind, as they move with a cohesion and a prowess that strikes the warrior nature of the goddess Sif, who's offered to help them for this mission.
(* check THOR # 1-2 for more on this, Alex)
“Cliched as it might sound, hit them fast and ask questions later, Avengers!” the Wasp orders, trying to put aside her worries for Hercules and concentrating on the matter at hand.
“They're the Blob, Toad, Post and the Mimic, the last two being the most dangerous” Iceman quickly explains, while changing into his ice form and projecting a barrage of ice, aiming at the flying form of Calvin Rankin. “Stay away from the Mimic! He's mine ... he could replicate your powers, but he already has an outdated version of mine, so it's better I tackle him, not to boost his abilities further”
“Well thought, Iceman” the Wasp nods “And you help him, Black Knight, for you don't have powers the Mimic can duplicate ... and you can get to him with Strider. Keep him as far as possible from the others!”
“Since Photon is already frying Post, I'm taking care of the Blob!” She-Hulk says, slamming her powerful fists on the ground and causing a massive shockwave that cracks the terrain under the fat mutant. Photon's electrical form is arcing around Post's bulky figure, trying to stun him.
“Let me give you a hand, Greenie!” Sandman hits the Blob's face with a fistful of sand, blinding him and then clubbing him with the other hand shaped as a hard hammer.
“Let's not get too confidential, Baker!” the Jade Giantess retorts, sinking her powerful fingers into the ground and ripping the pavement from under the unmovable mutant, unbalancing him and forcing him on his back.
“Stand your ground, dwarf! And feel the fist of the Lady Sif!” the Asgardian is annoyed by the Toad's leaping all around her. Meanwhile the Wasp is checking the situation with Quicksilver.
“What's up, Pietro? What happened to Magneto? Where is Wanda?” she asks.
“Wanda has fled, but the Vision, Quasar, Crystal, Adam Warlock and Jocasta are looking for her. * She has absorbed Magneto's powers, he's defenseless as is. The Blob and the others said they want to terminate him in the name of Apocalypse!” Pietro quickly recaps the events that just transpired.
(* again in AVENGERS: VISION QUEST ls # 2, Alex)
“Magneto powerless and Wanda more dangerous! Things couldn't be worse! And now the insane ramblings of that mutant obsessed with survival of the fittest! The Beast has told me about him” Janet shakes her head, not too much worried about the fight, since she can see her team is already gaining the upper hand, with Iceman using his powers in new ways the Mimic has never experimented before and the Black Knight blocking with the Shield of Night his optic blasts, She-Hulk and Sandman having Blob on the ropes, Photon's immense powers bombarding Post relentlessly and Sif smacking the Toad around.
“We must take him away ... I'd run him to a hospital, but Wanda has damaged the main facility on the island. Maybe we could ask Sif to teleport him to ...” Pietro's words are stopped as a metallic voice speaks, revealing a new threat for the life of the fallen Master of Magnetism.
“We have uses for Magneto and we won't have him taken away”
“What?” Jan sees dozens of shining armored knights appearing in the air, resembling the Mandroids in a vague way and carrying a symbol she has never encountered before. “Who are you?”
“BLACK AIR!” is the only answer, before the Mandroid starts shooting their lasers at them ...
“Why are you siding with Apocalypse, Rankin? You have never been evil ... deranged, maybe, but not evil!” Iceman has surprised the man who has the powers of all the original X-Men, using his recently acquired increased control on his abilities and now, thanks to Black Knight acting as a distraction, he has encased his foe in a column of ice, rising out of the very water of Hammer Bay.
“For he is Fate and Destiny for every living being in the world. He has given me the light of truth ... and you won't take it away from me!” the Mimic uses his optic blasts to shatter the ice, but Bobby is faster in replacing the broken parts with newly formed ice. Having an ocean as the unlimited supply for his powers makes it very easy for him.
“We must finish him quickly and go back to the others, Iceman! There are new forces opposing us ... see that horde of Mandroids?” Dane Whitman reports, feeling a bit distracted, for a reason all to clear to his mind ... the unspoken question in his heart 'What has happened to Crystal? Where is she?'
“Photon! She-Hulk! Sif! Concentrate on the Mandroids! Sandman, keep the Blob occupied with Pietro! I will take care of Post ... we must prevent this conflict from escalating. Genosha has hundreds of wounded to tend to ... and they're on their knees, right now” Wasp orders, seeing that Pietro has already carried Magneto to a safest spot, faster than the lasers aimed at them, and has already returned and taken care of the bouncing Toad with incredible ease.
“Let's see how their weapon systems fare against a localized e-m storm!” Photon bombards the men in armor with radiations disrupting their controls and forcing many of them to land ... toward the waiting fists of the She-Hulk and Sif.
“We weren't warned the Avengers were present” one of Black Air's men says “But who is this one fighting alongside them? Using a sword against our state-of-the-art armors ...”
The mockery in the man's voice doesn't escape the warrior goddess, but she answers in a fitting way with a trust of her sword, slashing his vaunted armor with ease, then grabbing his stunned form with her free hand, lifting him effortlessly from the ground and throwing him at two more Mandroids approaching.
“Learn thy lesson, mortal! Do not ever underestimate an Asgardian sword ... or the arm wielding it!” Sif says, without stopping her attack on the Mandroids.
“Way to go, Sif! We're a great team!” She-Hulk is thrashing around a few more armored attackers, but the two strong females know they have dozens more to take care of.
At the same time, flying at top speed, the Wasp is circling around Post, as the villain is preparing to strike, now free of Photon's interference, for the black woman is busy taking care of a good portion of the Black Air army. Janet was counting on the dismissive attitude many opponents have in her regard, while they face her for the first time. Post is sure that his body is proof against any attack the diminutive Avenger can carry against him and that's his downfall.
Having been the longtime partner of Giant Man, the Wasp knows how even a giant is susceptible to specific attacks on his internal ear. And that's where she goes, entering it and blasting her bio-stings full force on the tympanus, damaging it and deafening the mutant. Avoiding the blood that starts filling Post's ear she fires another salve on the delicate portion of the body that controls the equilibrium while walking, then she flees, calling for Sandman to exploit the advantage gained with her maneuver.
William Baker follows her orders immediately, leaving the Blob momentarily to Quicksilver's attention. So, when Post loses his balance, screaming for the pain in his ear and the disorientation caused by the Wasp's attack, he ends up coughing with his mouth full of sands, his eyes blinded by the same substance and his head slammed between two sand-made giant fists and kept so until he falls unconscious for lack of oxygen.
The Wasp surveys the situation of her team and is proud that, even outnumbered and divided on two fronts, they're faring quite well. Photon's versatile powers are keeping a good half of the Mandroids busy trying to figure out a way to stop an opponent that has the whole e-m spectrum at her disposal. She-Hulk and Sif are taking a less subtle approach on the remaining Mandroids, but one as effective as Photon's, judging by the growing pile of shattered armor shells around them. She sees in the distance that Iceman and the Black Knight are containing quite well the Mimic, while below Quicksilver and the Sandman are busy with the Blob.
-I must put an end to this- she thinks -and I have to do it the hard way-.
So she swoops down and repeats onto the Blob the same maneuver she accomplished against Post, since the fat mutant can't possibly guess what really happened and so he's quite open to her simple but effective strategy. Once the Blob is reeling in pain, clutching his bloody ear, and has fallen to the blows of Pietro and the Sandman, Janet orders both of them to flank the She-Hulk, while calling Sif to her side ...
“Listen, Sif, I'm sorry to impose this much on your kindness toward the Avengers, but I'd wish you would take Magneto away with your teleportation powers” Janet says.
“Where to, friend of my beloved?” the Asgardian replies.
“The safest place you could think of on Earth ...” the Wasp says, knowingly. To which the Lady Sif grins with understanding and proceeds with the plan.
“You are too unfocused, Black Knight!” the Mimic says “Your mind betrays your confusion and your worries about the one you call Crystal!”
Dane Whitman is enraged knowing of the violation carried on his thoughts and presses Strider forward, just when the villain unleashes his optic blasts on him.
“Taste you own medicine!” says the Black Knight, absorbing the blast through the Shield of Night and releasing it immediately onto his opponent through the Sword of Light..
“Bah! I'm immune to my blasts as much as Cyclops is immune to his” the Mimic boasts.
“But he distracted you enough to give me the chance to shut up that trap of your mouth!” Iceman states, slamming two gigantic hands made of ice and catching the Mimic inside, like an insect would be. The villain is stunned long enough to let the mutant lower the temperature around him to the point that it slows down the Mimic body functions to a coma-like slumber.
“Let's rejoin the others! The Wasp is telling me through the comm-link that she's putting an end to this madness now!” Black Knight warns and the two carry the frozen Mimic on the shore, rejoining the rest of the Avengers against the Mandroids.
“MAGNETO IS NOT HERE ANYMORE!” the Wasp shouts regaining her full size at She-Hulk's side “And now we're ready to repel you with our undivided attention”
The Black Air operatives check on their scans and know she speaks the truth, for no reading can be obtained on the Master of Magnetism from the whole island. Also they are faced now by the complete current roster of the Avengers, when just half of it was strong enough to keep them at bay ...
It's no surprise that they teleport away without any further word ...
“They're gone! I was sure that, once we removed the prize, the players would leave” Janet nods.
“That holds true for Apocalypse's minions, too” Black Knight says, staring at the disappearing forms of the beaten followers of Apocalypse.
“Track them down, if you can, Monica!” the Wasp orders as the electro-magnetic Avenger uses her attunement to the e-m field to follow the residual trace of the teleportation ray retrieving Blob and the others.
“This has been a good workout ... when does the true fight begin?” She-Hulk jokes.
“And where is my father, Janet?” Quicksilver asks, worried.
“That would be something we would like to know as well” a hateful voice, well-known to the Avengers, speaks.
“Gyrich!” the Wasp exclaims, noticing the Commissioner walking toward them, with Dr. Alda Huxley at his side. “How could you get here this fast?”
“I was already here, for a meeting with Magneto” Gyrich grins with his usual insufferable attitude.
“I guess you should find your answers with her” the Wasp points at Sif, reappearing on the battlefield.
“I don't think you have the authority to question any of my guests here, Gyrich” Pietro speaks with hostility, as the Sandman stares at the Commissioner with defiance, remembering how he tried to have him off the Avengers and in jail. “I am Prime Minister here, and, since my father is unavailable at present, I'm the highest ranking officer of the State”
“That's not true, Mr. Maximoff” Dr. Huxley interjects “We have reasons to think that Magneto has lost his powers during the previous battle with the unknown female attacker. If that's the case, the treatise the UN stipulated with him is broken and the international community will provide to Genosha's needs.”
“What?” Pietro is shocked “You can't ...”
“Easy, Pietro, calm down!” Dane and Iceman move to block him.
“Don't touch me, Whitman” Quicksilver glares toward the champion of Avalon “I don't need your help ..”
“Let me reason with him” Bobby Drake whispers to his comrade “I've known him longer than everybody here”
“This is ridiculous, Gyrich. But I'm sure you know it yourself.” the Wasp says, willing to put an end to this emergency, for there are more important questions she would devote her attention to at the moment. “There will be a reckoning on this, trust me. But right now I have other things in my mind. So, if you'll excuse us, the Avengers are leaving now. We will take Quicksilver with us and you or the UN can do what you want with Genosha. Just remember that the Avengers saved your hide again ...”
“Not so fast, Mrs. Pym ...” he says, frozen in place by the sudden angry look the Wasp gives him ...
“MISS Van Dyne! And what do you plan to do? Stop us? We came here on a request from the rightful authority. We helped avert a crisis against two sets of foes. I can tell you I don't know where Magneto is at the moment, and that holds true for my team as well. You can play your political games with Dr. Huxley here, but the Avengers are requested elsewhere, so we're leaving!” Janet says, firmly.
“Why ...? You told me the sword-lady knows where Magneto is ...” Gyrich objects.
“She's not an Avenger ... yet. If you want to ask her about it, you're my guest!” Janet says as Sandman can hardly repress a laugh.
“Thy dark fame journeyed to the Golden Realm, mortal! Sif won't answer thy question” the Asgardian says coldly, ignoring Gyrich afterwards.
“You HAVE to ... I'm empowered by the UN to know Magneto's whereabouts at any given moment ...” Gyrich protests.
“Listen, Petey, before you put your foot in your mouth even further” She-Hulk interjects “As the Avengers' resident lawyer I feel obliged to let you notice that the Lady Sif here is not an American citizen, or any other country's citizen, for that matter. She's not subject to the UN authority and she's not even technically 'here', unless you can prove in court that an ancient Norse goddess truly exists. Also, even if you were lucky enough not to upset her, remember she's Thor's legendary betrothed, so guess how Goldilocks would react to any offensive step you could take toward her. You know Thor, don't you? Tall, strong, all-powerful and ... hot-tempered at times ...”
Gyrich stares at Jennifer's grinning face, then at Janet's angry features and Sif's cold stare, turning to Sandman's grin and the Black Knight's serrated lips ... and then he speaks.
“It doesn't end here ... you will hear from me again ...” he feebly protests.
“I'll be sure to tell Thor ...” She-Hulk replies “Now ... get lost!”
“Thanks, Jennifer” Jan says, as Gyrich leaves the place, fuming, but preferring not to push his luck “Has Pietro calmed down? It's essential he comes back with us”
“It looks like Iceman talked him into it” Sandman says.
“I lost them!” a voice speaks as Photon materializes a moment after “Once I got to the place where their teleportation beam originated, the whole facility exploded. According to the X-Men data, Apocalypse is no amateur. He must have been monitoring everything and he wasn't intentioned to let us track him down yet.”
“Did he sacrifice his minions?” Black Knight asks, astonished at the thought.
“Probably teleported them someplace else before he set off the explosion” Iceman says “That is, if he has some use for them. He was sure that the blow-up would scramble the e-m field enough for Photon not to be able to attempt a second tracking”
“Can I ask you what became of my father, Jan?” Pietro asks.
“Not here ...” Jan replies in a whisper “Sif, will you be so kind ...?”
“Already on it!” the Asgardian spins her sword, transporting them back to ...
“Now you'll get your answer, Pietro” Jan says “Dr. Foster, how is our patient faring?”
“Sleeping” Jane Foster replies through the Avengers comm-link “I sedated him soon after Sif brought him here”
“You can go and see him, Pietro” Jan says, slumping on a chair, tired after two battles in a row.
“But you said you didn't know ...” Dane objects.
“She didn't, for sure. When she asked me to remove Magneto from Genosha she hinted to this location but didn't tell me openly to carry him here. Possibly to be able to negate it afterward” Sif explains.
“We're taking some chance here, Avengers” Jan says “Hosting Magneto, though powerless, is a risk. But leaving him alone and powerless would have equaled to signing his death warrant. And the Avengers have sworn to protect every man!”
“What about Crys ...?” Dane forces himself to ask the question filling his mind.
“She's off someplace, chasing Wanda with the Vision and other people” Wasp shakes her head. “Get some rest, all of you. Dire times are preparing for us. We need to do some planning, otherwise we risk losing someone dear ... Wanda mad, Thor unavailable, Hercules dying, Cap replaced by an impostor, the Vision who-knows-where ... and Magneto powerless in our infirmary! I'll call Hank on the West Coast to schedule a joint meeting in a couple of days ...”
“And God knows what old Pocy is up to ...” Iceman comments as everyone remains in silence.
Next: The Avengers try to address the many problems they're facing as a team and Magneto's presence at the Mansion. A certain God of Mischief makes a cameo appearance, Photon encounters problems with her powers, Natasha plans to pay a visit to Zeus with some old friends at her side. Lots of guest stars for a characterization issue. Only problem: who will face the menace attacking New York if they are all that busy? Well, the Sandman, of course ... in a one-man heroic fight against all odds!!
Author NotesI want to thank Adam Di Stefano for his online review on our previous issue. And those who commented on it online, in one way or another. Mails have slowed down a bit of late, but that's probably 'cause I've been behind with my writing. Hopefully I have got back on tracks with the recent release of new issues and things will heat up again, both IN the stories and IN the lettercol. Keep writing, folks!!