ASTONISHING X-MEN #2

FALLEN IDOLS (PART ONE)

Now, above New York City…

Colossus gripped tightly to the handrail above the open door of the X-Jet, the wind blasting in his face. No doubt if he had been in his human form, as opposed to organic steel, he would have been forced to close his eyes against the force of the air rushing past him. He scanned the streets below as Warden piloted the jet remotely from their base of operations several miles away. Although he couldn’t make them out clearly, he could see a number of strange creatures marauding through Times Square, scattering tourists and locals alike.

This was it– his team’s baptism of fire. The moment when he would see if they would be able to sink or swim on their own merits, whether they could measure up to the mantle of ‘X-Man’, a cause that was close to his heart and–

“Would you either shit or get off the pot already?” bellowed one of his fellow passengers, disturbing his train of thought. He turned to face the cabin to see Lady Mastermind scowling at him, her eyes narrowed into slits as she twisted her head from side-to-side rapidly, trying to keep her hair out of her face as the wind rushed into the vehicle from outside. “Jesus, tin-man, not all of us are built to just go sticking our heads out of moving planes!”

“Ha!” laughed Christian Frost. “Wizard of Oz! I got that reference!”

“Good for you, Scarecrow,” snorted Regan, yanking the zipper of her deep purple jacket right up to the neck.

“As much as it pains me to say,” sighed Sunfire. “And as much as she lacked the eloquence and battle experience to phrase it in such a way that would be of any use, I agree with Miss Wyngarde. I’m the only one here who can fly. Perhaps it would make more sense for us to land before trying to assess this threat?”

“We already know the threat,” responded a mechanical voice from the cockpit. Warden wasn’t in the jet in person, but was routing information from onboard surveillance to their base to help the team analyse the best course of action. “Creatures resembling those created by Arnim Zola are loose in Times Square, and generally causing NYPD a major pain in the ass.”

“It’s creepy that our robot sounds like a kid, right?” asked Cain Marko, gesturing with an over-sized thumb.

“Everyone’s got their quirks,” shrugged Avalanche.

“Well there’s a surprise,” said Regan, rolling her eyes. “Zorba the Greek refuses to have an opinion on anything… colour me shocked.”

“That’s actually kind of racist, you know,” shot back Avalanche.

“Team, that’s enough,” said Colossus sternly, as he slammed the hatch shut. It still surprised him that they actually listened to him, but then again, the majority of the members of his team were under no illusion that this, for all of them, was a second chance at life– and for most of them, the final one they were liable to receive. He addressed the AI piloting the craft. “Warden, take us down, and tell us what we’re looking at.”

“Mostly property damage and superficial injuries,” began Warden. “By my estimation, there are roughly four dozen of these creatures, and they all appear to have been genetically altered in different ways. My best guess would be that these are escapees from one of Zola’s labs, probably abandoned experiments that he saw as a failure, or perhaps remnants from his genetic tampering just after the Onslaught crisis. Either way, they’re kind of crappy looking. One of them kind of looks like a daschund made out of tin cans and play-doh. Only bigger and with laser eyes.”

“Are any of them airborne?” asked the Russian mutant.

“Not as far as I can tell,” replied Warden. “But most of them are showing some kind of weird power or ability. It could just be that we haven’t found the ones with anti-gravitational gifts yet.”

“Thanks,” said Piotr. “Juggernaut and I will go in first, get their attention. Avalanche and Sunfire, your job is to keep them off our backs while we work. Mastermind, Flood, you’re defending bystanders. Clear?”

“Sure,” grumbled Cain under his breath as he clipped his helmet into place. “Let’s just fling Cain at our problems until they get beaten to a pulp…”

“The perils of being the muscle on any team,” offered Sunfire.

“Yeah,” snorted Cain, rising from his seat and joining Colossus by the entry hatch. “Like you’d know about being the muscle with those skinny things ya call arms,” he added, lifting one of Shiro’s arms with one of his over-sized fingers before letting it drop again. Juggernaut stopped directly in front of Colossus and frowned at him.

“Is there a problem, Juggernaut?” he asked

“You’re damn right there’s a problem, Russkie, you’re in my way. C’mon, thought you said there’s weird monster things to smash?”

“There are, Cain, but–”

Before Colossus could finish, Juggernaut shoved at his shoulders with tremendous force. Inertia took over, and Piotr felt himself falling backwards, too fast to grab a handhold on anything inside the jet. Before he could properly register what had happened, he realised that he was outside of the jet and falling towards the ground, the open doorway of the craft becoming farther away with each passing second. After a few moments, he saw Juggernaut hurl himself from the vessel too, joining Colossus in his descent.

“I have to be patient, he’s a former villain,” muttered Colossus, twisting around in mid-air to prepare to land on the asphalt that was rapidly rising to meet him, the wind rushing past his ears with a tremendous howl. “I have to be patient, he’s a former villain…”

After making sure that he wasn’t going to land on any civilians, Colossus glanced upwards, noticing that the jet was beginning it’s own descent to the out-lying area, a trail of flame darting out from the craft– Sunfire preparing to join the fray. Returning his attention to his descent, Colossus prepared himself for impact, bending his knees and bringing his arms into his chest. He made impact with a heavy thud, concrete cracking in a radius around him as he landed in a crouch, followed seconds later by a second, heavier thud, one that created a small shockwave. Piotr turned around to see Cain behind him, cracking his knuckles as he geared up for a fight. Colossus glared at him.

“What?” shrugged Juggernaut. “Shortest distance between two points and all that. Thought I’d save us some time waitin’ on the robo-kid to take the plane down.”

“That’s not how– never mind,” he replied, clearly frustrated. He turned around and took off at a run towards the centre of the carnage. “We have a job to do, Cain.”

“Yeah, I know how this one goes, bust my chops after I save the day,” grumbled Cain as he followed Colossus.

Okay, we’re down,” sounded the telepathic voice of Lady Mastermind. “But you’re gonna get pissy when I tell you that I can’t get into the heads of these monster things, right? Could mean that they won’t be effected by my illusions, either.”

 “Not a surprise,” replied Colossus. “Just get people to safety, Regan.”

 “Sorry, but how the fuck?” she replied. “I’m not a fucking packhorse.”

Just get them out,” he ordered, as he and Cain reached the outskirts of the main attack.

He started taking stock of the situation and noticed that a small unit of police officers had set up a makeshift barricade of police cars, and were positioned behind them, guns raised and periodically firing at the creatures nearby. The ones on the ground were squat creatures, almost like rhinos the size of a hot dog cart, but armed with clawed feet, tusks jutting out from their lower jaws, and some of them had tentacles sprouting from their backs. They ran amok through Times Square, crashing into the fronts of stores nearby, and knocking over fire hydrants simply by kicking at them. The bullets being fired by the police were causing little, if any, damage to the beasts, who weren’t so much shrugging off the attacks, but ignoring them completely.

“Concentrate on the ones going after the civilians first,” ordered Colossus, as he placed his left hand on the back of one of the creature’s necks. He heaved, and with a flick of his arm, hurled the creature in an over-arm arc to bring it crashing down onto the pavement. The beast squirmed and let out a high-pitched squeal of pain, before wriggling against Colossus’ choke hold. “Cain?” he called out, risking a glance over his shoulder. He watched as Juggernaut picked up two of the creatures by their tentacles and began using them as clubs against two of their fellows, using them as hammer-like bludgeoning tools.

“Well, that’s one way to do it,” mumbled Colossus, before returning his attention to the creature he had in his grasp. He raised his right fist and pounded the creature in the side of the face, rendering it entirely insensible.

“Ah, crap,” cried out Cain. “INCOMING!”

Colossus barely had time to register Juggernaut’s warning before something heavy slammed into his side, bowling him over in a flurry of mustard-coloured fluid, flailing limbs and screeching. Catching a glimpse of Juggernaut, he noticed that he was clutching two handfuls of still-twitching tentacles, entirely dismembered from the creatures that they had belonged to. Colossus grabbed hold of the tusks of the creature that was now atop him, but the combination of being covered in it’s blood and the amount that the beast was now writhing in pain caused him to lose his grip almost immediately. The creature kept flailing, and despite the fact that it’s claws and tusks simply bounced off of Colossus’ armoured form, he couldn’t get enough of a hold to get it off him.

“Juggernaut,” he called out through gritted teeth, as more of the beast’s blood spurted in his face. He closed his eyes reflexively. “A little help?”

A mere second later, and he felt a rush of air followed by a crunching noise, the beast squealing in agony as it was punched off from his chest. He felt a large hand grab his left wrist and haul him up to his feet as he began to wipe the oddly-coloured gore from his face. Perhaps Juggernaut had started to take instruction after all?

“Thanks, Cain,” he said, as he turned to face the rest of the creatures attacking the buildings of Times Square– and Juggernaut right in the middle of the fray. “What the–” began Colossus, turning around to face his rescuer.

Benjamin Grimm, AKA The Thing, stood before him, arms folded across his chest.

“Tin-man,” he said with a nod. “Seems like we’ve had this talk about weird monster things bein’ our schtick before.”

“We didn’t see that you’d responded before we got news of this,” shrugged Colossus. “Also, we didn’t know if your team was even still together, after–”

“Talk later,” interrupted Ben, charging towards where the Juggernaut was brawling. “Save lives now.”