The Swooping Talon; Prisoners Quarters.
“Me neck’s been killing me since that hot Hello Kitty lady cut my head off,” grumbled Morph, “Hey do you ladies think when we get out of this you could give me a sensual massage?”
“This is no time for levity Morph,” replied Zarda. The mutant’s constant humour was gradually growing on her, though she still had to fight to urge to grind him into paste.
“Well P. P. this might be your last chance to-” he was interrupted by door suddenly opening.
A feminine figure stepped through. She was clearly Shi’ar, but distinctly different in the fact that she possessed wings on both forearms and dangerously sharp talons on each fingertip. Her name was Deathbird, and on many worlds she was a deadly villain.
“Hey Deathbird, how’s it hanging?!” greeted Morph warmly. The way she looked at him suggested he would get more respect from her if he was animal waste stuck to the bottom of her shoe.
“One year ago, an ambassador from the Terran Empire came to Chandilar, requesting an audience with the royal family. He said the Terrans wished to form an alliance against our ancient enemies the Kree. Consider their surprise when the ambassador exploded before them, killing every member of the royal family and destroying the palace, which had stood since Sharra and K’ythri’s marriage eons ago. In a way I should thank you, as your people’s assassination brought me out of exile and onto the throne I so sorely desired. But who wants to rule during a war I ask you?”
Blink tried to explain, “Look majesty, this is a mistake-” but she was cut short when the Empress grabbed her by the throat. Sabertooth roared in outrage, but Deathbird was unimpressed.
“You do not have permission to speak,” she let Blink go, but not before drawing some blood with her talons, “this past year, your assassins have slowly been picking off my greatest military leaders, Araki, Ka’Ardum, Samedar and others, trying to turn the great Shi’ar army into a blind, helpless beast. You attack farming colonies and remote mines to add to your heathen empire, and now, the greatest insult of all, you launch an attack against Aerie our sacred homeworld and birthplace of all our children!”
“We’re not with those guys Big Bird!” yelled Morph in frustration.
Deathbird whirled on him, slashing him across the stomach. Any other person would have been disembowelled, but thankfully Morph didn’t have organs. She looked in surprise upon the white, doughy mass that was his guts, before throwing up her hands in exasperation and crying “Damn Terrans! Do you think we wouldn’t be prepared for more assassination attempts?”
“Will this interrogation involve any actual questions or will it be all posturing and bravado?” demanded Zarda.
Deathbird grinned at her slyly, “The interrogation is already completed,”
Immediately the door slid open again and the cyborg Gladiator stepped into the room. Power Princess stared daggers at the alien, wishing to punish him for the indignity he had caused her, but he simply gazed coldly at no-one in particular.
He was accompanied by a smaller man, floating in a mechanical chair a few feet off the ground. Upon closer examination she realised he wasn’t a Shi’ar at all but a human.
“Corsair!” exclaimed a surprised Morph.
The human looked confused, “I’m sorry, you have me confused with somebody else, my name is Christopher Summers,” he replied, before adding sadly, “or traitor if you prefer,”
“What do you want Summers?” sighed Deathbird.
The human and the Shi’ar Empress spoke too quietly for anyone to hear, except for perhaps Sabertooth, though he gave no sign of overhearing them.
“Reality travellers?!” said Deathbird incredulously.
Christopher Summers nodded solemnly, “Oracle confirms it without a doubt. This is no hoax; she found no trace of mental manipulation in their heads. Although the white mutant-”
“So are you gonna let us down from here or what?” interrupted Victor.
“They’re here to help us Cal’Syee,” said Christopher.
Deathbird looked down at the human, her posture suggesting she was ready to try and gut someone again, but then her shoulder slumped and she suddenly looked very tired.
“Very well,” she sighed wearily, “let them down and bring them to the war room,”
Ten minutes later, the group were in a large circular room containing a hologram of what must have been the Shi’ar galaxy in the centre. The majority was coloured blue, but small sections along the right hand side were red. Zarda surmised the blue displayed Shi’ar territory and the red the Terran’s.
So far only the Exiles and the man named Christopher Summers were present and Morph used the opportunity to press him for information.
“So Corsair, what’re you doing here, I never saw you as one to help the Shi’ar?” he asked, while posing as a pseudo-Corsair.
“I don’t understand why you keep calling me that name…never mind. The concept of alternate realities just baffles my mind. I…I defected many years ago,” he looked slightly ashamed, “I had fallen in love with a wonderful Mephistoid woman, Hepzibah, and together we brought our beautiful daughter, Mam’selle, into the world. ”
“The cat woman with the laser whip fingers?” asked Creed.
“Yes that’s her. I’m sorry about that; she’s prone to shooting first and asking questions later. The Eternal ruling party had no qualms with interspecies unions, but when she started to display powers, they wanted to induct her into the military. The army had already taken both my sons, we wouldn’t let them take our daughter too. Unfortunately they wouldn’t take no for an answer; Hepz didn’t make it, and I barely came out of it alive,” he reached down to the hover chair and opened up the panel covering his legs; there was nothing there. From the thighs down he was legless.
“I’m so sorry Christopher,” said Blink honestly.
“It’s alight. The ordeal opened my eyes to what the proud Terran Empire is really like. Mankind has been ruled by the Eternals for so long that they don’t know any other way to live. Do you know how many Eternals are left? One hundred, that’s all, and yet humans can’t bring themselves to throw off the shackles. I didn’t want to be a part of that anymore,”
“So you joined the Shi’ar, who enslave and subjugate races also?” asked Power Princess sceptically.
The man looked dejected and gestured towards his legs, “I’m a prisoner to my own body. The Shi’ar will restore my legs and not execute us if we help them win the war,”
“So you’re a weak willed coward then,” she stated more than asked.
“Zarda!” cried a shocked Blink.
“No, she’s right,” said Christopher sadly, “but wouldn’t you do the same, if you had a child to protect?”
He said nothing more, leaving them to welcome Deathbird and some other Shi’ar who had just entered the room.
“That’s not the Corsair I know,” said Morph softly.
“You should come to expect that by now,” replied Blink, though not harshly.
“I have a question,” stated Victor, “who are these Eternals everyone keeps talking about?”
“Hyperion is one of them,” explained Zarda.
This did not put anyone at ease, seeing as an evil Hyperion had killed one of their comrades and proved more than a match for the entire Exiles combined.
The crippled human returned with Deathbird, Gladiator and two Shi’ar men in military dress.
“Her Highness Cal’Syee Nermani,” he stated, before introducing the others, “Gladiator, Praetor of the Imperial Guard,” the cyborg nodded but said nothing, “Grand Admiral F’Dor,” the older, greyfeather Shi’ar bowed but eyed the Exiles warily, “and Davan Skakari, head of the Shi’ar spy network,” the younger Shi’ar also bowed, and eyed the group in a much more calculating fashion.
Deathbird eyed the holographic map, curling her lip at the sight of the red zones, “Let’s discuss war. ”
The Eternal Hammer
After several hours of torture, it felt as Miguel could feel nothing but pain. Richards had used him as a guinea pig for a dozen various devices which did any number of wicked things to the human body. This universe’s Reed Richards was a cold blooded psycho.
He couldn’t believe that this was the same man who, on his world, invented machines of peace like the universal translator and the protein replicator. The mad scientist stretched his arm across the room to grab another instrument, and muttered thanks to someone out Miguel’s eyesight. He was intrigued by the fact his torturer had elasticity powers, even on a world so different to many others, but it was a mystery he would never get an answer to.
Richards picked up a small sphere covered in hundreds of tiny pins, like metallic sea urchin, and smiled to himself, “The sub dural atomiser perhaps? Or a bit too much? No you’re right; we need his brain to remain solid,”
A large holographic screen appeared before them, and an authoritative blonde man in a red and blue uniform could be seen. The man looked stern and impatient.
“Richards, have you extracted the information from the prisoners yet?” demanded the man.
“Admiral Ikaris…I…I’m afraid we haven’t successfully retrieved any vital information…that is to say we’re very close, but-”
“Dammit Richards, if I have to bring officer Frost back in from the Vanguard I’ll use your body as a victory flag when we crush Chandilar. Now find out what they know and how they teleported onboard before the assault on Chandilar begins. You have two hours. Don’t fail me,” the screen disappeared.
Reed rounded on Miguel as soon as the screen blinked out, and leaned so close he could feel the man’s beard hairs touching his face.
“Just tell me how you travel between worlds dammit!” he screamed, “Let me get away from this place, away from these damned Eternals,”
Spider Man couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pity for the madman, but it evaporated almost as soon as it had appeared. This man didn’t deserve to go to a better world; all he would bring it is pain and suffering.
He laughed, and Richards looked confused, “What?”
“On my world, and many, many others, you already cracked how to travel between realities. Its seem being and evil psychopath is impacting on your skills as a scientist,”
It would seem he had struck a nerve, as the rage could clearly be seen building in his captor’s face. His eyes bulged and a vein throbbed along his temple before he screamed in rage and punched the helpless Miguel in the face.
“I’ll show you my skills you worthless insect!” he yelled before storming away. The doors could be heard opening and then closing behind him.
Miguel was left alone to wonder what he had driven Richards to do. He had no idea but he didn’t want to stick around to find out. Unfortunately, his strength was no match for the shackles that held him. Luckily he still had his brains though.
Richard’s tray of torture devices lay nearby, out of reach even if his arms were free. He didn’t need his arms though; all he needed was to be able to twist his wrist around until he had the right angle.
Thhwwiipp!A long strand of organic webbing fired from his right wrist and stuck on one of the tools of torture. With a yank, he pulled it over and into his waiting hand. The device was some sort of cutting laser, Richards hadn’t used it on him yet but he had threatened to, even displaying its cutting power on a nearby wall.
Within a few short minutes the Exile had cut himself free and wearily lifted himself off the table. This was going to be the hard part; Richard’s torture had left him weak and aching with multiple minor wounds and a swollen left eye. Somehow he needed to rescue Longshot, find the information on the Warpring and escape from the ship in one piece.
The first step was getting out of this room. There was no handle or button or any sort of interface to open it for that matter. How was it meant to open?He took a step closer to investigate and the thing slide open automatically.
“Well that was easy,” he muttered.
Outside the door was a long, narrow, nondescript hallway, with a door exactly like his own across directly across from him. This door also opened automatically for him when he stepped towards it. Either the Terran military was extremely arrogant or extremely foolish.
Longshot lay within, shackled to a metal table as well. The blonde man looked a little better off than Miguel, and he didn’t know whether to feel resentful or strangely proud of the fact.
“Hello Spider Man,” smiled Longshot, “I was just about to come and rescue you myself,” one of his shackles had somehow almost been worn loose.
A minute later and the man was cut free by Richard’s laser cutter. With no real knowledge of where they had to go, the pair ran up the hall, hoping that Longshot’s luck powers would keep them on the right path.
It would seem his powers were a bit faulty at the moment though, for as soon as the rounded the first corner they came face to face with a contingent of armed soldiers.
The Swooping Talon, War Room.
The group discussed strategy for many hours. Well mainly Power Princess and the Shi’ar discussed it, though the other Exiles did chip in from time to time.
Zarda was shocked to see that the Shi’ar had pulled the bulk of their forces back to defend the planet Aerie. While the world contained a holy significance, being the birthplace of all the race’s children, it was not a vital tactical location. While F’Dor didn’t like it, she convinced Deathbird to bring the fleet back to more important areas. As she had said, eggs can be laid on any world, but only a few can win or lose you a war.
Although she had never experienced space based combat before, save for one battle against the Silver Surfer, she had found she had quite a knack for it. On its purest level, it was simply a combination of sea and air based warfare.
The Exiles knew that the Terran’s were coming for Chandilar, sooner rather than later, which gave them the advantage of preparedness. If only they knew how to beat them. Each of them prayed Longshot and Spider Man were alright, and that they were gathering the information they needed to push the enemy back.
The Eternal Hammer
“Would you know the way to the galley, I’m starved?” Spider Man asked the soldiers meekly, before quickly webbing up the passageway to prevent them from giving chase.
“Morph would be most proud,” laughed Longshot, as the pair ran as fast as they could.
“I try,” he gasped, his entire body hurt but if he slowed down he was as good as dead.
“Where do we need to go?”
“We need to get information off a computer first, and then we need to get out of here. ”
He suddenly stopped as they passed a holographic screen on the wall and typed away furiously.
“Will that give us what we need?” asked Longshot.
“No, but it’ll get us there,” a map appeared on screen showing them exactly where they needed to go. He quickly memorised it and led Longshot down the hall at a run once more.
After a fifteen minutes of ducking and weaving down hallways, and one very nervous elevator ride they reached their destination; the private quarters of Admiral Ikaris. They prayed to whoever was listening that the admiral wasn’t inside.
With Spider Man’s futuristic computer skills and Longshot’s luck, the pair was inside the admiral’s room within minutes. Inside they found a room decorated with all sorts of ancient artefacts; Greek, Aztec, Mayan, the list went on. Who was this man?
The admiral’s private computer sat at a steel desk nearby, and Miguel was hopeful his hunch was right; that it would be privy to all kinds of confidential information that other computers on the ship wouldn’t. The security on the machine was complex, but somehow he managed to crack it every time it tried to stop him, he theorised Longshot’s luck was helping.
Asher wasn’t stupid when he paired them up for this mission, though if the rest of the team had been here perhaps they wouldn’t have been captured.
“Yes I’m in!” he couldn’t help but yell when they entered the system finally.
The smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils and Longshot hit the floor. Reed Richards stood in the doorway, a pistol in one hand and a glowing yellow cube in the other. Before Miguel could react, the man’s foot stretched ten feet across the room and struck him in the face. When he opened his eyes again he was on the floor with the energy pistol pointed at his face.
“I knew you would come here,” he practically snarled, “you questioned my intelligence and yet you undergo the most predictable actions,” he raised the energy cube, “do you know what this is? Of course you don’t. This is my greatest creation, the Cosmic Cube…”
His mind reeled, Richards had a Cosmic Cube! One of the most powerful devices in the universe was in the hands of a madman.
He looked over the cube sadly, “Alas, I have only begun to test the depths of its power. I knew you were a man of science; I could see it in your eyes. I was going to share the power of the cube with you in exchange for the secrets of travelling realities, but now…” he lowered the hand holding the cube and looked an Miguel with cold hard eyes
“I’m disappointed it had to end this way,” said Richard’s coldly.
He pulled the trigger.
Nearby, Longshot lay with his eyes wide open, his left one glowing bright yellow. His inherent luck had caused the weapon to fail. Thinking quickly, fired webbing into Richard’s eyes, blinding him and causing him to drop the cube on the floor.
This time the pistol did fire, but by then he was already out of the way and grabbing for the weapon. He wrestled it from the madman’s hand and threw it away, before cocooning him in webbing. For the briefest moment he considered picking up the gun and shooting the villain in the head.
Longshot groaned in pain and rose to his feet, clutching a wound on his chest which was bleeding profusely.
“Just missed my lung,” he gasped, “pretty lucky I guess,”
“You luck has helped us more than once today. Hold still,” he webbed up both the entry and exit wound, hoping that that would halt the bleeding long enough until they could get out of here.
He jumped back on the computer quickly and grabbed some sort of small data chips from a drawer. Quickly he downloaded the information they needed without reading it thoroughly. Not for the first time that day he prayed it would be enough.
“Ok, now we need to find a way out of here,” he made for the door but stopped.
Richard’s lay nearby, virtually cocooned in webbing, and the cosmic cube lay nearby. Should he take it? Surely such a device couldn’t be trusted in the hands ofsuch a twisted individual, but would it mess up the timeline more than it already was?
The decision was taken out of his hands though, as they each disappeared in a familiar flash of light.