MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – RESCUE INC. TOWER

The new Young Allies walked through the tower owned by James and Monica Miles, who were the American Panther and Rescue respectively. After enduring the Wasp Dominion the team managed to return the two earths to their true forms. Counter-Earth returned to its space on the opposite side of sun and strangely Jolt and Toro didn’t return with it. They were allowed to come to the original earth with the rest of the Allies. Now they are all together in the Miles siblings’ building.

“So you’re all welcome to stay here,” said James as showed everyone around. “We have more than enough rooms, a fully stocked kitchen, and enough bathrooms to not have any awkward walk-in moments.”

“This place is sweet,” Ken Mack, better known as Mettle, caught sight of a flat screen TV. “Please tell me you have some form of a game system.”

“We got the 360, PS3, and Wii all connected together on this floor which is solely dedicated to recreational activities,” James replied. “We also have a room on this floor that is for training purposes.”

“Hey, where’s the bug?” asked the former Thunderbolt member Jolt who went by the nickname Hallie. “I thought she said she was gonna work with us.”

“She said she already had a place to live, but would stop in from time to time to see what everyone is up to,” Monica answered.

“Hmph…” sighed Rikki Barnes who until recently was planning to go to war with Araña and now she was part of her team.

“This place is great and everything but I can’t live here,” Jennifer Takeda, the poisonous Hazmat joined the conversation. “I’d have to stay in this costume all the time or poison you all by taking it off when I sleep. I’ve already hurt too many people because of these crappy ass powers of mine. I don’t want to be responsible for taking out the whole team.”

“Oh, relax,” Monica put a stop to her. “I’ve already taken that into account. I made sure the walls in your room were lined with a metal substance that would allow you to step out of your costume without harming anyone else.”

“Benny, you’re being quiet,” James turned to Benito Serrano, former resident of Counter-Earth who goes by the codename Toro. “Anything you want to add?”

“Don’t mind him,” Hallie stepped in when Benny didn’t speak. “He’s the silent type. But once he warms up to you, you won’t be able to get him to shut up.”

“Okay, well,” James scratched his head. “I guess just get settled in and if you need anything let us know.”


FIGHT FOR YOUR FREEDOM
Part I: Those Bastards
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


LATER

Jennifer Takeda was in her room. She was in her new bed lying flat on her stomach. Her helmet was off but she was still in her containment suit. Burying her head in her pillow she shed tears. Ever since developing her condition she had lost the ability to be around others as she would be dangerously poisonous to them. When getting her suit she was able to return to her family but they would not accept her.

“I hate this!” she cried.

It is unknown how she managed to develop her powers. The scientists that studied her determined she didn’t possess a mutant X-Gene. And she herself had no recollection of being exposed to anything radioactive. Her last memory regarding her powers’ manifestation was actually the day they manifested. The day she kissed her boyfriend and he slipped into a coma. Since that day he had woken up and since broken up with Jenny.

“I shouldn’t be here,” she continued to sob into her pillow. “Why did I decide to sign up for this?”

She thought that she had finally convinced herself that she didn’t need anyone. If it weren’t for her legal guardian she probably wouldn’t have even joined the effort to fight the insects that attacked New York. What made matters worse was the fact that she found someone she could touch. A young man she fought on the altered earth. She kissed him as an act of offense only to find out he was immune to her touch. She was surprised. So many thought rushed through her head at the time. And when the battle was over and earth restored she stood with the other Young Allies and the members of the Spider Society, among them he stood. She fantasized about the possibilities only to have her dream ripped from her when Araña kissed him, the wasp-themed hero Avispa.

“It figures,” she muttered. “Someone I can touch and I can’t touch him.”

On the entertainment level of the building, Mettle sat on a sofa with a game controller in hand. He had a headset on which he was talking through as he played one of the many video games on hand. Jolt sat next to him. She knocked on the side of his head as if she was knocking on a door.

“So you don’t feel that?” she asked.

“Iridium skin means I feel nothing,” he responded not shifting his eyes from the screen.

“What’s your story?” she continued to show interest in the red giant. “Not willing to tell me? Then I’ll tell you about myself. My name is Helen but people just call me Hallie. My parents were killed by this crazy psionic being called Onslaught which left me to fend for myself. After being given powers by this Nazi guy I joined the team called the Thunderbolts. The team was filled with villains who I tried to convince to change their ways and while under the leadership of Hawkeye I was ‘killed’ and now considered legally dead despite the fact that I’m right here sitting next to you. Ironically, I left the Thunderbolts to help the Young Allies restore order to Counter-Earth, a planet created to save the heroes that were killed trying to stop Onslaught.”

Mettle didn’t budge. Hallie was confused by the lack of expression. But then again how could anyone express anything with a metal face like his? She wondered if he had a problem talking to people or if he thought he was too good to talk to her.

“Hmm…” sighed Hallie.

“What?” Ken broke his attention from the television and looked at her. “Did you say something? I get a little caught up in these games. But I can’t help it, it’s so fun pwning these noobs.”

“Oh? So you didn’t hear a word I said?”

“Not a word.”

Hallie sighed again, “I’m trying to get to know everyone. When I was stuck on Counter-Earth, we were so busy defending ourselves that there was never time to just sit back and talk. I had good times with Rikki and Benny but we were really busy all the time and never really got to know each other. I was on an alien world and at times it felt kind of lonely. Now I’m back home and that’s gonna change.”

“I guess that would be lame to be stuck on a world where no one really knows you and you’re always fighting,” Mettle let go of the controller. “But then again what do I know about that?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you do see what I look like right?” he referred to his unusual appearance. “People look at me and think I’m a monster. And those who aren’t afraid of me just pity me. Like that Wasp girl we fought.”

FLASHBACK TO LAST ISSUE…

Estrella stepped into the building. There in the center of the room stood Mettle. His appearance was one only a mother could love. Estrella kept her composure. She knew how her brother felt about being shunned by all of his peers. She could only imagine how his life was.

“So, how are we gonna do this?” she asked. “You threw my brother around like a ragdoll but you won’t do that to me. Whatever your quarrel is with us, you should get passed it. There’s something bigger going on here.”

“I was told you’re the bad guys,” replied Mettle. “So you’re the ones I’m gonna hit.”

“Ahh, you’re just a follower,” she prepared to unleash a spell. “How sad… I guess that appearance of yours is what’s leading you to make this idiotic decision.”

Mettle was angered. He lifted a fist. “What you say?!”

He stepped to her and swung. She smiled expecting this and pressed her already folded hands harder together. A circle of light appeared around her hands and water began gushing behind her from an unknown source.

She looked up and gave a command, “Strike of the water serpent!”

The water took the shape of a giant serpent and its mouth swallowed Mettle whole. The room flooded all the way to the ceiling without leaking out the destroyed wall. Estrella stood completely surrounded by the water appearing to show no harm from her own personal attack. Mettle on the other hand was drowning.

“Safe from physical harm,” she said while in the water. “It’s a great thing to have unless you can’t breathe.”

BACK IN THE PRESENT

“I hate it when people don’t show me respect,” he stated. “That’s why I’m here. No one else would give me a chance. When I was asked to join the Young Allies I saw my opportunity to get my respect. This world will see me for more than a guy with red iridium skin.”

“I see,” she smiled. “Then I’ll be right there with you when you show the world how great of a person you can be.”

Mettle didn’t know what to say to that. He wasn’t sure what the rest of the team thought of him and told himself he wouldn’t let it bother him.

“So my appearance doesn’t bother you?” he asked.

“Nope not a bit,” she slapped him on shoulder which he didn’t feel. “One of my closest friends during my time on the Thunderbolts was a man made of charcoal. I’ve seen a lot of things while being a superhero and sitting next to you feels as normal as everything else.”

In another section of the building, Rikki looked out at the city from the large windows in her room. She had been living on this earth for a short time and thanks to James she was starting to get used to it. There were times she thought of Counter-Earth, her home. Of course there really wasn’t much of a home to return to. Her parents died when she was young and she was raised along with her brother John by her grandparents. And just before leaving Counter-Earth she was essentially on her own family-wise despite still being a teenager, her grandparents weren’t capable of taking care of her anymore so she moved to New York and tried to help restore the city while living on Attilan.

[Rikki Narrates]: I have no family here. I’m totally alone. Sure I have the team but what does that really mean for me? James and Monica are really nice. To let us stay here without having to pay a dime. Jolt is from this world, so I’m sure she’ll fit right back in. I’m not losing too much as far as Counter-Earth is concerned but Toro. He still had a family. I wonder how he’s doing. Now we got new members on top of the Miles siblings. Hazmat a girl who can’t touch anyone because of her powers and Mettle a guy who looks like the Red Skull. And then there’s her…the web-slinger. She calls herself Araña, the Spanish word for spider. I guess all the cool spider-themed names were taken. Why did I let AP convince me to let her be on the team? What a team we’ll be.

Rikki pulled up her shirt revealing a number of welts and bruises from her battles with the Sisterhood of the Wasp and the heroes aligned with Araña. She stepped in her bathroom and threw the rest of her clothes out the door.

[Rikki Narrates]: Don’t get any ideas. I’m just going to take a shower. My body is a mess. A girl my size probably shouldn’t be getting mixed up in the things I typically get mixed up in. I get told all too often by the people I’m fighting that I’m too scrawny to be a crime fighter. But just because I don’t look like some busty porn star doesn’t mean I can’t hold my own in a fight. And some of these costumes these superheroines wear…okay I’m getting off subject but you see where I’m going with this. Why am I thinking about this? Maybe I’m just trying to forget about Araña, or maybe she is the source of these thoughts. I don’t know I just don’t feel comfortable with her around.

The room steams up and we lose her within it.

ELSEWHERE IN MANHATTAN…

It is now evening. The sun had set and the sky was now dark but the city was still brightly lit as it always is. Manhattan never slept. And this time was the perfect time for a crime spree. A bank was being robbed. Even after being close for a hours. The NYPD was on the scene. They already gave their warnings and started firing upon the lone thief. They all missed their mark and a single arrow shot through the chaos and hit a squad car just barely missing a police officer.

“If you liked that wait until you see my trick arrows,” said the red-headed thief as she pulled back on her bow. “They’re explosive.”

THWIP!

“What the hell?” said the crook looking up to see the web-slinger Araña.

“Wait, don’t tell me,” snickered Araña. “You’re Robin Hood and you’re stealing from the rich to give to the poor? But then again you are wearing red and Robin Hood always wore green. Wait, wait, I got it! You’re Hawkeye’s kid-sidekick and you call yourself Speedy?”

“The name is Trickshot!” she yelled at the wall-crawler who was crouching down on the roof of a squad car. “Let me show you one of my tricks!”

“I don’t know if I like the sound of that,” Araña joked.

Araña sprung up and after Trickshot. The archer fired one of her arrows. Upon reaching the hero the cylinder tip of the arrow popped and took the shape of a boxing glove. Araña turned her body slightly to dodge the arrow. Another arrow was shot, this time it popped open to reveal a net. Araña shot a web-line in a different direction to get out of the way. She landed on the side of bank just behind Trickshot. Looking left and right she found an unsecured bicycle. She shot webbing at it and pulled it up toward the archer. Trickshot fired an explosive arrow at it, detaching it from the webbing and slamming it to ground with the sound of the tires popping.

“All right wall-crawler,” she said while she turned and fired. “I have a message for the Young Allies. I know you’re tight with them now.”

“Oh, is that what this is about?” Araña dropped from above with a kick that Trickshot blocked with her bow. “Am I not enough for you? That hurts, you know? We’ve only just met and you’re already trying to hook up with some other superheroes. What is this world coming to? Next thing you’ll do is give me the whole ‘it’s not you it’s me’ routine.”

“Do you ever not talk?”

“Nope, it’s my favorite pastime.”

They continued to fight as they rambled on. The police were confused about the whole thing. Neither of the two was trying to take the other one down. They traded blows. Even though Trickshot was outmatched strength-wise she still held her own. When Araña sent a kick Trickshot did a split to dodge. She then rolled forward back to her feet. Her next move was getting off the front stoop of the bank. She flipped away from the hero and pulled another arrow from her quiver.

It was aimed at Araña. She noticed this and started moving. She bounced off the stairs railing and then a decorative sphere that was placed at the end of the railing. She leapt closer to police car as Trickshot fired. Seeing her previous arrows Araña prepared to use webbing to strike it down, but just as she pressed her fingers into her palm the arrow released its contents. The putty like substance pinned Araña against one of the squad cars and made it impossible for her to break free. Trickshot stepped closer to the hero.

“Now as I was saying,” she started. “I have a message for the Young Allies. Tell them that the Bastards of Evil are coming for them.”

“Hold it right there girly!” ordered an officer pointing a gun at her.

“Sorry, but I have no time to play with New York’s finest.” She signaled that she was done and was lifted off the ground. “We’ll meet again Spider-Girl!”

In total amazement, the police didn’t even fire at her as she floated up into the air. She reached a helicopter in the sky that had its door open with a young man in black spandex with six white ovals running down the center of his body. The motions of his hands guided Trickshot into the helicopter.

“Took you long enough,” he said with a bit of an attitude.

“Shut your mouth, Singularity,” she barked back at him. “I did what the boss wanted us to do. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

They left leaving the police with no suspect to capture in the robbery. They actually started to wonder if anything had been stolen at all. There was one thing they got out of this. Araña was pinned to one of their cars. The officers all gather around to get a look at the hero.

“Well, at least we can find out who she is,” said one of them.

They all agreed on pulling off her goggles. Just as the person nominated to do so stepped forward, a small pellet dropped to the ground unnoticed. It broke open unleashing a cloud of smoke that covered Araña. When it cleared they found that she disappeared.

RESCUE INC. TOWER

Rikki stood in the kitchen drinking a glass of water. She would be joined by James looking for a late night snack. The two remained silent before he would break it.

“So everyone got together and had our first dinner together as a team,” he said. “Everyone but you that is.”

“Sorry, I just needed to be alone with my thoughts,” she replied.

He nodded his head, “Understandable. But don’t forget that you’re the leader of the team. None of us have seen you since the tour. How can our newest members have any confidence in their leader, if she doesn’t pop her head in on them every once and a while?”

“It’s just one dinner,” she defended herself. “I’m sure the Avengers didn’t lose faith in Steve Rogers when he missed one meeting.”

“Steve Rogers?” James was a bit curious. “Still finding it hard to accept that he’s dead? Have you even considered meeting Josiah?”

“I wouldn’t know what to say to him,” she answered. “I know nothing about the guy.”

“Josiah is the son of the first Captain America, Isaiah Bradley,” James shared some of the current Captain America’s background. “He’s been around for a while. I think he said he was born in the fifties. Over the years he would discover Islam and make the pilgrimage to Mecca where he took on the name Josiah al hajj Saddiq or Josiah X. He returned to the impoverished area of New York nicknamed Little Mogadishu and opened up a mission. Steve would find him there and after he retired he named Josiah his successor.”

“Do you make it your business to know everything about the super-community?” She became curious about him.

In the short time they’ve known each other, Rikki had learned that James Miles’ alter-ego the American Panther was a combination of the Black Panther and Captain America. She also learned that he along with his sister had been orphaned at a young age and together used their skills to build their company Rescue Incorporated from the ground up. They specialized in search and rescue equipment and technology.

[Rikki Narrates]: Neither James nor Monica actually have any powers. Which isn’t really a big deal, I mean I don’t have any powers and I do fine. What I don’t get is why they do this. There’s no motive from what I understand. When I asked him why he became the American Panther he never gave me a definite answer. It’s like there’s this misguided need to be like his heroes. He has endless resources, is skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well as weapon combat. It’s like he’s some caped crusader. But what drives him?

As they talked, a visitor arrived upon the rooftop of the building. It was Araña. She landed with ease from her swing and walked over to roof access door to enter the building.

“Are you sure you want to stay out here?” she asked the person who saved her from being unmasked by the NYPD. “This could be really good for you.”

“No I’ll be fine out here.”

Araña let out a brief sigh before she headed downstairs. She found the floor where Rikki and James were talking. The two of them were surprised to see her at this hour.

[Rikki Narrates]: Great just what I need. Doesn’t this girl have somewhere better to be? What could she possibly want at this time of night?

[Araña Narrates]: I can tell she still doesn’t trust me. She’s the only one on the team I still have trouble talking to and I understand her reasoning for her distrust but this is not Counter-Earth.

“Okay, it’s getting a little too tense in here.” James tried his best to cut the tension. “Araña what an unexpected visit. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thanks,” she replied. “I’m not here to stay. I have someone waiting for me topside. I just needed to tell about something that happened earlier. I fought this chick calling herself Trickshot and she said she had a message for the Young Allies. She said the Bastards of Evil are coming for us. Does that mean anything to you?”

“Nope,” Rikki answered with a negative tone.

“Actually yes,” replied James. “When we were on the wasp dominated earth I came across a couple of people that were working with the ant hero Hormiga. They called themselves the Bastards of Evil. If I remember correctly the three of them were Aftershock, Hydro-Girl, and the Goblin. I don’t know anything about a Trickshot but it is possible that I haven’t seen the full group yet.”

“The Bastards of Evil?” Rikki began. “What a stupid name for a team of villains. What would they want with us? We haven’t even established ourselves as a team to the public yet.”

“I don’t know,” replied Araña.

James thought for a second. “To use a name like the Bastards of Evil would imply that they are related to the Masters of Evil in some way. It might be best if I do some research into what little we currently know. I’ll check my private database and see what I can find out. Until then I think we should use caution when heading out on our own. Araña that goes more for you. I know how much you like running solo. Even if Avispa isn’t too far away you should be strongly aware of your surroundings.”

“Yeah.” She instantly thought about how Avispa was the one who stopped the police from discovering her identity. “And I can’t under estimate them. For someone who doesn’t have powers that Trickshot sure put up a fight.”

“No one needs powers to take you down,” Rikki claimed.

“What was that?” Araña got in her face.

“Stop!” James stopped them before they could fight. “This needs to end now. You two need to set aside your differences. That’s the only way this is gonna work out.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Rikki countered his argument. “She can leave and never come back.”

Rikki walked away as the others just watched. James apologized to Araña and said good night to her. She rejoined Avispa on the roof and together headed back to their homes in Brooklyn. James proceeded to his computer room where he began to look into things.

Bastards of Evil, huh? he thought. Now where could Monica be at a time like this?

OUT IN THE CITY

Rescue flew high above the city. It wasn’t really her thing to play superhero, but her brother told her it was important that she get involved. With that said she thought it would be best to practice with her new suit of armor which was a misplaced piece of Starktech. How her brother came upon this she doesn’t know and she probably felt better not knowing. Her repulsor systems propelled her through the sky, allowing her to reach great heights. Whether she liked playing hero or not she sure did enjoy flying over the city.

“Armor status?” she asked her built-in computer.

{All systems operating at one hundred percent.}

She read the information on her helmet’s screen. “Good keep me updated. I don’t need to fall out of the sky.”

{Radiation detected.}

“Say what?” Rescue looked for the source of radiation but was interrupted by an explosion that nearly hit her. “What the hell is going on?”

She found a number of metal objects flying behind her. They couldn’t be any bigger than a remote controlled toy helicopter. Confusion set in. She didn’t know what these things were and how they caused such an explosion.

“Analyze unidentified flying objects,” she commanded her armor.

{No data found. Objects appear hostile. Increased defensive measures suggested.}

“Thanks for telling me the obvious.” She flew up as she was fired upon.

The crafts were too small to be manned by a human. She knew this would mean she didn’t have to hold back when going on the offensive. She spun while going to her left. With both her arms drawn in front of her she shot at the drones. She hit a couple while the rest flew through the debris and smoke continuously firing at Rescue.

“These bastards never give up,” she stated as a miniature missile popped from above her wrist. “Let’s see how you like it!”

It shot off her wrist and collided with the drones. The resulting explosion sent her flying back toward the ground. While falling she noticed that there will still quite a bit of them left. She used her targeting systems to lock on to each one. The red box on her screen highlighted all five.

{Targets locked on.}

“Then fire!” she exclaimed as the panels over her shoulders popped up and began unleashing rounds on her pursuers. “I don’t know how ‘ol Shellhead does this day in and day out. Flight systems back on now!”

When she went back up more of the drones appeared. All together they bombarded her until she was low enough on the ground to be picked off by a hulking radiant green man. He ran her into a nearby wall and then turned slamming her into the street. All you could hear from Rescue was the sound of mechanical joints moving and sparks spewing from her upper body. She finally got up and looked at her attacker.

“This is where I would insert a joke about you being a Hulk Jr. but you’re glowing a little too brightly to be a Hulk,” she started. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“The name’s Warhead,” he replied. “And I’m here for you.”

With introductions out of the way he sent a radiation blast her way. Her armor protected her from any potential harm. She threw a punch which he blocked with his massive arm. He grabbed her armored limb and tossed her onto a parked car.

“Do you think this person’s insurance covers damage from superhero collision?” he asked jokingly.

Warhead pulled her off the hood of the car and threw her up into the air. She put her thrusters on and stayed above street level. With one arm out she started blasting the green villain. He ran to the right and then turned at an angle. Rescue missed every shot. Using the great strength he gained from his radiation powers he leapt after the armored Ally and pulled her back to the earth.

“Time to get your bell rung,” he said sending a fist to her helm.

She spun around violently. When she tried to strike back with her repulsors, he grabbed both her hands melting the weapons to the point she couldn’t use them. He then pressed a hand into her chest plate while using the other to grab an arm. He slammed her into the front stairs of a building, then picked her up and slammed her into the again street. Stuck underneath him she was unable to move. Now in this position he began firing radiation blast after radiation blast. Like his previous attack she was left unharmed but the intense power shorted out her systems.

“Well, I’ve met my quota,” he said looking at all the spectators who were using their phones to take pictures and videos of the fight. “Looks like I’m gonna be an internet sensation.”

He slung her over his shoulder and moved closer to the crowd of people. They all moved back as he stepped forward.

“No need to be afraid,” he claimed. “I only want to take this opportunity to use you all as a way to pass a message along to the Young Allies. And that message is, ‘one down, seven to go’. The Bastards of Evil are here to take you down and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

WORLD PARTY HQ

At the secret headquarters of the World Party, a bald man smiles after receiving the news of Warhead’s victory. This man is John Barnes, the one and only brother of Nomad.

“Well, little sister we should be reunited soon,” he said.