Thursday, November 11, 1999

Iron Man #2 - Twin Trouble!


Issue Two: "Twin Trouble!"
November 1999
Written by Mop-Boy and Maximus Prime

Tony Stark: entrepreneur, playboy, millionaire, alcoholic, genius. These are all the labels Tony Stark has had to live with through his life, the names that the public calls him. But there is one label that Tony Stark wears that the public is not aware of--that of the Invincible IRON MAN, warrior and chamipion. For in a world of mutants, superheroes and villains, nothing is as it seems. And in this transformed universe, Tony Stark finds that even that which he thought was the truth is not. For Tony Stark has founded his empire on technology he knows nothing of, and now there is a price to pay. . .

The darkness has many faces. It can be the bearer of peace after long hard day of work. It can be the cloak of evil, hiding it from sight. It can bring happiness from the beauty of a few sparks of colored light, and it can instill fear by the unknown that lurks in it's shadows. It was darkness that allowed George Washington to cross the Delaware unseen. It was the dark that aided in the survival of many Jews, as they hid from the Nazi death squads. And it was also the dark, that gave Thomas Edison the inspiration to the brightest invention of all time. In all of these instances, darkness was not a harbinger of evil. Not an emptiness of life, but a force that can change the world. Many times the darkness will bring about good will and peace...but not this time.

Sarah awoke with a start, her fingers playing across a painfully sensitive area on her cheekbone. She felt the hot, swollen flesh there and wondered how she got it. Her memory returned to her in spurts. . .she had returned from a dinner date with millionaire Tony Stark, had gone to bed. The dog was barking, and suddenly there were men in her room. One of them raised a gun. . .and that must be where this came from, she thought, frowning as she poked at her sensitive cheekbone.

After deciding that she was only causing herself more pain by running her fingers along the bruise, she extended her attentions outward, to her surroundings. The floor underneath her was cold, with the feel of concrete. When she reached out to touch the wall, she felt more stone--this time rough, rounded, as if part of a stylishly set wall.

Not a prison cell, then. A basement?

As she started to stand up, she noticed a tugging on her wrists and ankles. Reaching to them, she found metal bands encasing them, chained to the wall and restricting her movements. This wasn't a normal basement, then. . .she doubted many people had shackles built in to their cellars.

"So, my little red-haired teddy bear. You finally awake."

"Wha--?" Pain flared through the side of Sarah's face as she spoke. "Who's there? Where am I? What do you want with me?"

Laughter, like the tinkling of glass, echoed out of the darkness. "I am called many things by many people, but those who look upon me and live know me as the Raveness."

Faint light appeared in the room, and Sarah blinked back tears from her burning eyes. A woman moved toward her from the other side of the chamber. She wore her black hair cut at the nape of the neck, and her skin was so white it almost seemed to be painted, the porcelain face of a porcelain doll. She was in her late twenties, roughly the same age as Sarah, and she wore a tight leather outfit not unlike what Sarah had seen in pictures of the Goblin Queen's attack on Manhattan years before, though this was decorated with shining, silver metal studs and spikes. Her lips and long fingernails were painted to match the black of the leather, and she displayed piercings in her ears, nose and lips.

"You look like a Jerry Springer sideshow freak." Sarah couldn't believe she could feel the words forming on her lips, spoken with her breath. As she said it, she knew it could only anger this...Raveness. But as soon as she said it, she hardened her face to stone, staring down the woman.

The Raveness did not appear amused. She produced a long, leather whip from a thong at her side, uncurled it lovingly.

Suddenly, the chains binding her were pulled taught, splaying her arms and legs and raising her into the air, upright, exposed, defenseless.

"You have yourself quite a mouth. I think it's time someone taught you how to shut it." She twirled the whip above her head, and swung it down with a crack.



"Oof!", grunted Stark as he fell back on the table. "You have such gentle"

"Danke, Herr Stark.", the obese chiropractor said as she grabbed Tony and flipped him over, onto his stomach like a pancake. "Now hold still!"

"B-b-b-but...", the dashing tycoon tried saying as the dominating German began pelting his back with several heavy massaging chops.

"Just sit still, Mr. Stark! It will be over in a minute." She said as she put him into a headlock and flailed him about.

Tony reluctantly went limp as she tightened her grasp. "That's what I'm afraid of..."

"Mr. Stark, I've got the information you wanted." Pepper Potts walked into the room carrying an armful of papers and folders.

"What?" The confused chiropractor said as she let loose of Stark.

Tony fell to the floor. "Ah, Pepper, how nice to see you," he said as he grabbed a towel and scrambled for the door.

"Hey! Come back here!" Ordered the large body bender as she chased after the fleeing millionaire. "The session isn't over!"

"Quickly, Pepper." Tony calmly said as he took her arm and escorted her out of the room in a fast-paced manner. They left the room with the Jenny Craig-reject fast on their heels. Stark stopped just outside the room with Pepper and slammed the door shut. Just as the door closed, there was a booming THUMP against it, and then a FLUMP as a large body hit the floor.

"Sorry, Tony," Pepper said as she looked at her boss in a confused manner. "Did I come at a bad time?"

"Not at all, Pepper," Tony said as he secured the white towel around his waist. "Your timing is impeccable as always."

Pepper smiled, "Oh good. Well..."

"Whoever it was that recommended Frau 'Poundmeister' in there, have his background investigated and see if he's part of, or ever has been part of a terrorist group," Stark said as he fixed his out-of-place hair. "Oh, and have her rescheduled for a Monday session."

"Ok, but what about your self defense class?" Pepper asked.

"I want her in it. I could use a good sparring partner. And find someone to be my new chiropractor," replied Tony as he stretched his neck.

"Ok, now about Dr. McIntyre..."

"Sarah's a chiropractor?", asked Stark as he began daydreaming. "Well, with those strong arms and delicate hands, she could give a very good massage. It could even be erot..."

"Ahem! I meant I haven't be able to get a hold of Dr. McIntyre on the phone," said Pepper as she fished through the many papers and folders in her arms. "Her office at the University said she hasn't been in all week, and I've called her home number several times but there's no answer."

"Well I'm quite sure she's busy elsewhere," assured Tony as he stroked his mustache. "She's very fit, and looks very limber. She could be working out somewhere, sweating and..."

Potts slapped a manilla folder against Tony's chest to wake him up. "Look. Not that it's any of my business, but a single woman, in this day and age, that has no answering machine at home? She either lives in a tent, or something is wrong."

"Oh!" said Stark as he took the folder. "Yes, I was just thinking the same thing. Maybe I should pay her a visit."

"Good idea," agreed Pepper as she handed him another folder. "Here's her phone number and home address."

"Cancel all of my appointments for the day. Don't worry about calling Charles, I'm going to drive out there myself."

"Yes sir!", Pepper replied. She then mumbled, "I hope she's dead. . ."

"What was that Pepper? I didn't hear you."

"I said 'Go right ahead'!"

"Ah!" said Stark as he open one of the folders. "I wonder what she's doing right now. She probably just forgot to turn her answering machine on and is napping at the poolside."


"Wakies, my sweet." Those words, almost gentle, before the harsh splash of ice-cold water in her face, waking her.

Sarah gasped, spluttering the cold water out of her nose and mouth, angry that she had been awakened after finally drifting into dark, painless oblivion. . .relieved that the water was cold against the burning of the whip-scores on her body.

"What do you want?" Sarah asked, hearing the weakness in her own voice, despising it. The water running off her onto the floor was a dull pink. "Do you want money? I barely have enough to pay my bills!"

The Raveness cocked her head jauntily, as if thinking it over. Smiling, she shook her head. "No, I'm not interested in money. I could be, mind, but not at the moment."

The whip cracked, Sarah screamed.

"Information, then," Sarah gasped. "This is about Sector 17."

"Sector 17 is inconsequential to me. I'm certain you know more about what's going on there than I do. . .but I have the good sense not to involve myself in such matters.

The whip cracked, Sarah screamed anew.

"Tony," she sobbed. "Is this about Mr. Stark?"

The whip cracked, Sarah began to cry, hating herself for it.

"Not about him, either, I'm afraid. If I wanted Tony Stark, I have better ways of pursuing him. ..I wouldn't have gone through all the trouble of buying you."

"Buh. . .buying me?" She was stuttering, now, and once again she was a little girl in front of her second-grade class on show-and-tell day, holding a box of rocks in front of her. She was trying to tell the other children about the different kinds, and they were laughing and snickering about her. "I'm a geologist! I'm not merchandise. . ."

She had tried to keep it in, tried to hold onto that strength her father had so tried to instill in her. . .and she failed. Her thoughts turned to the situation she was in, trapped in a dark basement with an insane woman beating her for no discernible reason, with no one knowing where she was, as though she had crossed into Dante's Inferno itself, and she began not to just stutter or cry, but sob uncontrollably, her chest hitching and tears flowing down her face to burn in her wounds and mix with her blood.

"Please," Sarah begged. "Please, just let me go."

Raveness stared at her with an expression of utmost sympathy and wiped the tears from Sarah's cheeks with the back of her hand. "There, there. Don't cry, my red teddy bear. I'm sorry for being so cruel. Let me make it up to you."

Raveness raised herself up on her toes and, with one hand on Sarah's chin, kissed her.


Stark pulled in front of the doctor's two-story house. He was well aware of where she lived, even though Pepper took the time to even draw out a map to the place. And being Iron Man you really get to know your way around. Pepper seemed very cold, though. She was always cold when she talked with Tony about the women he would get involved with. Tony shrugged and put the parking break on before he turned off the engine. He thought about the other folder Pepper gave him. It had some interesting information about the goings on at this volcano Sarah had been talking about. No topographical maps on the area where this Sector 17 is supposed to be, it was all acquired as government property. Also, the Stark satellites in that hemisphere experienced a very advanced jamming signal when attempting a scan there. As he stepped out of car he noticed that Sarah's front door was wide open. "Looks like she's home," Tony thought to himself. "She must be getting ready to leave."

Tony walked up to the open door and noticed the doorknob had been ripped off. "I get the feeling she's already left." He walked in and looked around. The place had been turned upside down. Books and papers lay scattered across the floor. There wasn't any furniture in the house, save a few fold-up chairs, and a collapsible card table that was laying on it's side. Tony could tell that the furniture hadn't been stolen. It looked more like it was never there to begin with. He heard some noise upstairs. There was a crash, then rustling, like someone looking for something. Stark decided to go check it out.

When the curious tycoon reached the top of the stairs he saw two men, in the room in front of him, dressed in black business suits and ties, pulling out some drawers from a dresser, and dumping the contents all over the floor. Tony thought this odd, but nothing he hasn't seen before.

"Excuse me, gentlemen!" Stark said, causing the two men to stop what they were doing and turn their attention to him. "I hope I'm not intruding, but I seem to be lost. Would you happen to know the way to Dr. McIntyre's residence?"

The two men looked at each other through their sunglasses, and mumbled to each other. Tony heard bits and parts, "Stark...don't kill...Iron Man." They then both looked at Tony as one of them said, "Sorry, Mr. Stark. Dr. McIntyre isn't here. You'll have to leave now."

Tony argued, "I'm afraid that won't be possi..."


Sarah had been a tomboy when she was a many ways, she never grew out of it. Without a mother, her father never had the time or inclination to teacher her very much about "womanly things." When he was around, all Sarah could do was watch him, and learn what he did. The rest of her education came from school, as any other kid. She learned about the birds and the bees from her friends. . .and thus had never had any serious discussions about it. When Sarah was in college, her roomate was always hitting on her, but never tied her up when she was turned down. The first person the geologist had ever slept with was Dennis Franklin, a personal aide for her father just before he died. They had become very close, and because she was only 18, and Dennis was nearly ten years older, they had kept their relationship a secret from her father. In fact, the day both her father and Dennis died in the accident, Dennis had asked for Sarah's hand in marriage, but she would only agree if her father gave his consent. So that afternoon, the three of them sat down to talk, but then the phone rang. The Professor answered it--funny, that she should think of her own father as the Professor--and both he and Dennis ran out to his car and left without explanation. It was a clear, sunny West Coast afternoon when they died.

Sarah thought about her anger at them that day, and opened her eyes to stare at this Raveness who was first beating her, now kissing her. She pulled back from the woman, and slammed her with a headbut that was more painful for her than it was for the Raveness. The Raveness, already off balance, fell to the floor and stared up at Sarah with rage in her eyes.

"You'll PAY for that, pretty!"


"...ble." Tony found himself lying on the front lawn spitting out grass and dirt from his mouth. "Well, that didn't go too well," he said to the nearby ceramic Gnome. "Maybe Iron Man might get better results."

The Gnome said nothing. He just sat on his mushroom winking, with a pipe in his mouth.

"Thanks for the advice." Stark said as he got up and left.


A few hours later the two men in black walked out of the house, empty-handed.

"You boys find what you're looking for?" Iron Man asked as he shadowed them from the sun with his arms crossed.

The dark pair looked at each other for a few moments, then reached into their coats and both pulled out what looked to be little toy guns.

"Aww, they're sooo cute!" mocked Shell-Head. "Seriously, guns?? Please. I'm Iron Man. You've heard of me right?"

The small guns made and escalating high pitched whining sound, then exploded a flash of light into the air.

"I guess not," the armored Avenger said, as he lifted himself from the rubble of the house he had just fallen into. He turned around and looked at the destroyed building. "Bullet-proof, but not phaser proof. When the owners of this house get back from work, they're sure to get a surprise."

The two dark-clothed flunkies ran up to the metal hero, and charged up their pistols another time. This time, however, they didn't get the chance to fire a second time. "Give me those things!" Iron Man grabbed their weapons and threw them into the rubble behind him. "Didn't your mother ever teach you kids not to play with guns?"

The black-dressed duo looked at each other again, and nodded in some sort of agreement. In a few seconds, their clothes and skin split, and fell apart on the ground like shells of some sort. Standing where the two men used to be were two humanoid robots.

"Now, that was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen..." Iron Man said. "...well, almost the most dis..."

One of the robots slammed Iron Man with a left hook, and sent him flailing into another house. He disappeared under the rubble, as the two bots walked up looking for him. They began digging through the debris, throwing broken wood and blocks of cement aside. Suddenly, two red metal hands broke trough the pieces of house and grabbed the droids by their ankles. Iron Man then shot out of the destroyed building, and into the air, carrying the hard-shelled pair.

"Being that you two aren't human, it'll make this a whole lot easier.", he said as he flew over a nearby harbor. He soared high into the air, then released his grip. "Hope you boys can swim! Don't get sunburned!", the chrome dome said as he brushed his hands clean. Then he noticed the two robots flying back up after him. "You two just don't know when to quit...oof!", he grunted as the double team both blasted him with powerful red optical-beams. He fell, and crashed into a nearby shipping warehouse.

"That sure was an eye-sore!" Iron Man said as he climbed out of yet, more rubble. He looked around at all of the harbor workers. "Too many people, and I think I'm bruising from Olga's handiwork. I think it's time I finish this here, and now!"

The two robots landed and rushed Iron Man, as he sat hunched over, looking like he was wounded. The pair of bots got a foot or two away from him, as their eyes began to glow red. "If I didn't know better..." Iron Man started to say as he looked up. "...I'd say you guys were moving in for the kill!" He stuck both of his hands in each of their midsections. "Full power to hand lasers!" he said as the two robots gave each other an 'Uh oh!' look.

Lasers at maximum power, replied Iron Man's onboard computer.

"Just a gut!"

Iron Man's palm blasters flashed for a second, then the two droids exploded into flames, and their pieces scattered across the harbor. He stood upright and turned on his radio. "Miss Potts, this is Iron Man. I need a clean-up crew down at the south bay harbor, and the residence neighborhood of a Dr. Sarah McIntyre. And please contact Mr. Stark and tell him to check out the doctor's home."

"Damage control was dispatched five minutes ago when complaints were phoned in about Iron Man fighting again, destroying property. Y'know, the usual. And as far as Mr. Stark, he won't be able to make it. He's got a dinner with Mr. Dominic Franklin at five.", Pepper replied over the radio.

"Ah yes, Mr. Franklin.", Iron Man mumbled to himself.

"What was that sir?", Pepper asked over the radio.

Iron Man forgot he had left the radio on. "Oh, nothing, Miss Potts. Just leave a message for Mr. Stark that I'm going to do a few more things here, then come back in."


Nearby, a little yellow Volkswagen beetle sat parked along a street curb. A radio inside squawked as a voice talked over it. ". . .and they just went to pieces! Too bad they couldn't pull themselves together!"

"Good work," a voice on the radio replied. "After he leaves, return to base."

"You bet!" replied the voice inside the car. Just then, a police officer walked up and saw the little yellow bug sitting there.

"What a shame," said the officer as he pulled out a booklet of tickets and began writing on one. "Parked next a fire hydrant."

"So that's what that little red thing is!!" the voice in the little sunny car said.

"Wha. . .who said that?", asked the bewildered cop, as he looked around. "I must be losing it! I think it's time I took that vacation the Sarge has been trying to get me to go on!" He finished the ticket, placed it on the small Volkswagen's window, and then walked away.

The car just sat there for a few minutes, then the voice said, "Hey! Fifty dollars? Where am I gonna get that kind of money. . .where am I gonna get any kind of money?"


The Raveness swung her whip again and again until a hand grabbed her wrist and stopped her. "Monica!"

Raveness turned around to see a blond woman dressed in a maid's uniform. "What do you want, Gabrielle? Can't you see I'm busy?"

"Mr. Franklin is looking for you. Mr. Stark is expected in less than an hour for dinner."

"Tony!" Sarah cried out, hopeful and frightened simultaneously.

"Shut up!" The Raveness whirled around, clubbing Sarah over the head with the handle of her whip. White light popped inside Sarah's skull, not unlike a light bulb bursting, and she fell into darkness once again.

NeoKnights #2 - The Third Degree

NeoKnights #2

"The Third Degree"

By Karl V.

"WHAT? ARE YOU NUTS?" Blackrock blew his top as Egavar made the proposal to go to the Ark. The others were not surprised by Blackrock's reaction.

"Sir, this woman claims to know the location of a secret base. One that could be the cause of all the recent problems as of late."

"Look, you just met the gal and your ready to go on a golden goose chase? I mean, have you taken the time to look at her? She's covered head to toe like she has the plague or something."

Blackrock waved his hand up and down in emphasis. Egavar had noticed her odd appearance, but didn't pay much attention to detail at the time. Blackrock was correct, as Egavar saw the woman wearing a long raincoat that drooped down to past her knees, the sleeves covering up her arms, and a big hat that kept her face in its shadow. Of the small parts that were exposed, several odd metallic strips ran across them.

"The man has a point, what's with the shiny stuff babe?" Lee was the only one who raised hubris when Egavar was too quick to allow the woman to follow them back to Blackrock's office.

"As mutants, I don't think you want to hear the answer to that. And, call me babe one more time, and I give you a whole new definition of pain." She said coldly as she raised her head. Her face was covered in spots with the metallic stripping as well.

"Oh, what's that? I suppose you'll tell us resistance is futile." Katrina quipped in the extremely rare agreement of Lee's previous statement.

Josie only gave a stare of complete spite. "You want the truth, fine."

Josie took off the hat and placed it on Blackrock's desk. She disrobed the long raincoat, as a complete metallic uniform was revealed underneath.

"Well, care to explain the getup?" Katrina acted unimpressed by Josie's costume.

Josie gave only a wry smile. "The nanotechnology that runs through my veins is something that I don't want. You see this tape provides a magnetic interference in the nanotech, a nice little side effect is that I get to fly as long as there are ferrous objects around. Not only that, the tape is rather useful in conducting electricity. If anyone were ever severely injured or paralyzed, it would act like a secondary nervous system. But, I don't need it for that. "

Josie shot off a spark for display. The others gave confounded stares.

"Not to be rude, but why didn't you just shock the heck out of the Onex Guard?" Hector decided to be the spokesman for the question on everyone's mind.

"The micro batteries that power the electricity can be drained. It takes awhile for them to recharge. Those five you encountered were originally twenty. "

Blackrock sighed for a moment. "Look, it's obvious you have outstanding expertise in your field of technology. Even though I gave Egavar a lecture, we could use someone like you on the team. I do need to know what the nanotech is meant to do."

Josie lowered her head. "Get the mutants out, because I don't want a fight in your office."

Lee grunted. "I don't know what your beef is against mutants lady, but we can handle whatever you dish out."

Josie glared in rage at Lee. "I NEVER HAD ANYTHING AGAINST MUTANTS. I hated Dr. Sesimen for putting this in me, as he knew I stood for mutant rights. He made me something I've grown to hate. I'm what you would call a sleeper. This suit is to prevent the awakening."

"Come on, you're still speaking in gobbledygook. What the heck is wrong with you already?" Katrina snapped in impatience.

Josie's face flushed red with embarrassment. "I'll give you a real big hint. The nanotechnology was stolen from a man who had Zero Tolerance for mutants."

The biting sarcastic statement made the room became deathly quiet as stares of surprise and loathing were cast upon Josie. The four mutants in the room couldn't help their instincts and took a step back.

"You better not be what I think you are, or else I will have words with you." Katrina said with bitter contempt.

"Dr. Archibald Sesimen made me the worst evil and tainted form of technology on this planet. So have words with him, he's the one that made me a Prime Sentinel. But, I use this suit to shut down every little twisted machine of Dr. Sesimen's, including the ones he put in my body."

"She's a human circuit breaker, how quaint." Katrina grunted in disgust.

"What happens if you remove the tape?" Blackrock seemed like the only one keeping his head above water.

"I don't know. Dr. Sesimen reprogrammed the nanotech. I don't know what he has planned for me. I just know that it's the same nanotech made to make the Prime Sentinels. At least that is what he told me."

Blackrock shot a dark glance at each of the mutants. "All right you four, she doesn't even know if it is the Prime Sentinel nanotech. We do, however, need to confirm what it is exactly, and what it will do if you take off the tape. But, since you're the one with the intricate knowledge of the stuff, you'll have to be an escort of sorts. We shouldn't give out your real name, and I think Katrina said it best. You are a human Circuit Breaker."

Josie grudgingly nodded in agreement. "A bit trite, but good enough for now. And it's better than the Star Trek reference. I'll be happy to show you Dr. Sesimen's lab, just be warned the Onex Elite guards it. The guys that have been running around are just the grunts."

"Great, I suppose better armor, weapons, and experience." Hector quietly stated.

"You got it." Josie replied while pointing her finger to her nose.

"All right, we can make the plans for this after I make my big announcement. I have an important statement to give about my financial backing of a new health care company. I also need to introduce you to someone else, a real major player on my team."

A tall approximately thirty-year-old man entered. His hair was black and his stature gave him away as a man of pride and power.

"Mr. Blackrock, I told you that hiring your own team of mutants was not advised."

Blackrock chuckled a bit. "You know me, I don't always follow your advice. This is my team, the Neo-Knights. Neo-Knights, I want you to meet my lawyer and future Senator, Spike Witwicky."

"You're too much G.B. I'm pleased to meet you all." The man shook each of the team member's hands. He stopped at Josie who didn't extend her hand to return the shake.

"You know those trick hand buzzers? Well, mine has more of a kick to it. The kind of kick that gets you unconscious." Josie created a spark from her hand once more.

Spike didn't waver. "Nonsense, you would shock anyone within a few feet of you from the static electricity. You can turn the power off if you want. Just tell me if you don't want a handshake and skip the convenient lie."

Josie gave a blank stare. "I can see why you hired him."

She extended her hand and gave an extremely brief handshake. He returned it and winked at Josie.

"See, it didn't kill you after all. I suppose you all have code names or something like that. Real Names would help too." Spike stood waiting for his indirect hint and direct request to be acknowledged.

The tall red headed soldier type stepped forward first. "Allow me. I'm the commander of this little brigade. My name is Jean Paul Egavar, also known as Ravage. The big fellow is Lee Gruber known as Impact."

Lee enlarged his hand and made a fist. "For obvious reasons, aye."

"The fair but obnoxious brunette is Katrina Vesotsky, she goes by Rapture. This is due to her ability to enrapture the opponent's mind with vivid fantasies."

"Keep talking mister and I shove one of those horns where the sun don't shine." Katrina sneered at the comment of being a snob.

"The quiet but bold Hector Dialonzo, his alias is Dynamo. He taps into the earth's vast energies. And, I guess our newest acquisition is Josie Beller. She just decided on Circuit Breaker as a name. And that silver suit helps her break more than circuits as she pointed out. "

"Well, thank you. But, I would like to know why they call you Ravage. What mutant power do you posses?"

Egavar changed into his bestial form. His black horns sprouting from his face and long sharp secondary nails extracting from his fingers. "This is about three fourths the reason. The other fourth is my experience in battle."

Spike nodded. "Well, I guess you are more than meets the eye. But enough discussion, I suggest all of you switch back to civilian clothes for the announcement. We have about an hour G.B."

"I can't get out of this tape for a particular reason Mr. Witwicky. I'm afraid I won't be able to make it." Josie smiled at having such a legitimate excuse.

"You're definitely trouble. But, there isn't anything that a little makeup can't handle. I'll have Mr. Blackrock's cosmetic artist cover that metal up. If that's fine with you, G.B."

Blackrock nodded. "All right, you heard the man. Get into civilian attire and meet us down by the podium in an hour. Josie follow me and we'll see what wonders my makeup artist can do."

"Yeah, just look at him." Lee joked.

The Egavar and Hector snickered while even Josie and Katrina cracked a smile.

"Funny Lee, maybe I should look into how I dock you pay." Blackrock flashed a smile as he whimsically retorted.

Lee gave a startled look and wondered if Blackrock was serious or not. Blackrock just smirked and shook his head in an indirect answer to Lee's question.

An hour later….

Blackrock stepped to the several microphones that were placed on the podium. On the big grandstand, the four teammates were seated on his right and his lawyer on his left. A huge rectangular block that was covered by a blue blanket was up above and behind them. Blackrock began to speak as the media started to take notes.

"As you know, there are two sure things that you can place money on, Technology and Health Care. As my esteemed college, Tony Stark has already got the foothold on the technology frontier. Therefore, I have placed my money on one of the many aspects of Health care, Pharmaceutical drug development and research. I would like to present the future of this bold new era."

Blackrock pulled a cover off the block revealing a sign that was placed by the podium. Several cameras flashed as the audience applauded. The sign read: Alchemax Co.

Loud clanking was heard as a woman's voice echoed forth with a metallic twinge. "You're dead meat Blackrock."

"WHO?" Blackrock looked as a woman came up to the podium. She was covered head to toe with metal junk.

"I ain't no Junkpile, so you can call me Amalgama." She leaped up by Blackrock with a thud.

She grabbed him by the throat and whispered in his ear. "You done good G.B. Mr. Boone is happy, now it's time to…"

"DREAM!" Katrina yelled as Amalgama was hit with Rapture's psionic attack.

She stood, crime lord over all men, as they bowed and kissed her feet. She smiled in ultimate bliss as her benefactor knelt before her and she quickly gave him a swift kick in the jaw. He fell unconscious as she…


"Damn…she has adamantium in there…" Impact shook his hand as it shrunk back down.

"Someone rang?" The female bundle of scrap metal turned to face Impact, while shaking off her induced dream.

"Yes, the death knoll tolls for you." Circuit Breaker powered up a charge and shot it at Amalgama.

Amalgama shrieked in sheer pain as she fell from the jolting shock.

"Cripes, you didn't have to kill her, aye." Impact rushed to where the woman fell.

Dynamo and Egavar instantly took to crowd control as panic took hold of the press personnel. Blackrock glared at Josie then turned his attention to the woman.

"What did you do?" Blackrock jumped to the woman's side and then frantically checked the crowd.

"She'll live. It's that time traveler you are worried about. Isn't it?" Circuit Breaker scanned the screaming masses for a solitary figure.

"How did you know?" Blackrock snarled with rage.

Circuit Breaker shook her head. "I was able to get some information about every player in the grand scheme of things. I learned about Jordan Boone when I was Sesimen's assistant. Was he the one who blackmailed you into creating this?"

"No, I had plans before but he told me how Alchemax would run this country into the ground, in his future. I didn't want anything on my hands; even with the slightest possibility that is was true. He blackmailed me into continuing with my original plan."

"Didn't pay your taxes or something?" Impact looked at Blackrock with a bit of lost respect.

Blackrock looked up and shook his head. "He had information that I was one of many anonymous backers of the Xavier Institute. Information like that could have destroyed me, with all these anti-mutant lobbyists around."

"Well, it don't matter now. Circuit Breaker was right, the heavy metal chick is still breathing. I guess she didn't bang her head too hard after all, aye." Impact smirked at his pun.

"L…Impact, no time for jokes. Where's Spike?" Blackrock looked around in concern.

"You idiot, you can't keep anything straight!" Spike yelled from afar.

"What is wrong with you? Oh no…"

Blackrock watched as his assistant morphed into a green ghoulish figure.

"This just proves that you don't know Jack." The crook gave a wicked smile as he displayed his pristine white teeth then cackled with delight as he disappeared into the crowd.

"That goblin the one blackmailing ya?" Impact asked the obvious.

"He goes by the name of Halloween Jack. He claims to be from the future, a hundred years from now. He can change his form at will, as you saw. " Blackrock noted with spite.

"Yeah, just peachy. At least we caught his merc. I'll make sure she'll talk." Impact clenched his bruised fist.

"First, we get her and you to the doctor, then we can interrogate. I'm sure Jack will be back, it's a guaranteed bet." Blackrock went looked up to see that Egavar and Hector standing with blank faces as the crowd seemed to disappear into thin air.

"I'm fine, just bruised. I just gotta train myself on some of the denser metals." Impact rubbed his hurt hand.

"Try hitting your own head, nothing is thicker than that." Rapture quipped as she walked up closer to the pair.

"Rapture, can you use your powers on several people?" Blackrock noticed the crowd was still trampling over each other.

She sighed. "I've tried before but the effect is lessened with the more amount of people."

"DREAM!" Rapture yelled, as the crowd stood motionless for a second.

Blackrock stood up and made an announcement. "People, the situation is over. The matter has been resolved. Please, continue to calmly go about your business."

They shook their heads as they heard Blackrock's announcement and wondered what had happened. Each simply assuming a mutant attack caused their situation; they dispersed while shaking their heads from the effects of Rapture's psionic blow.

"That went well." Blackrock sighed in relief.

Egavar walked up to Blackrock. "Are you going to tell us what just happened here?"

"Some loon from the future was blackmailing him to make this company a sure thing. He's a shape shifter, so it would be pointless to check the crowd." Impact bluntly stated.

"I guess that's the real reason why you wanted a team of mutants." Egavar looked at Blackrock for an answer.

Blackrock shook his head. "No, the reason for the pressure pills though. I swear that I didn't hire you guys to protect me from my own problems. I hired you to protect my assets."

"I think you got it the other way around. You didn't hire us to protect your property, you hired us to protect your ass." Rapture fumed in anger.

Blackrock grunted in frustration. "Look, I'll be more open with anything that might affect you guys in the future. That's all I can promise."

"Fine, you do that, after we take the tin woman to get her new heart. She'll probably need one after Circuit Breaker's little shock therapy session."

"I ain't in the scrap heap yet, girlie." The female mutant coughed up a bit of smoke as she began to get up.

"How the heck?" Rapture stated as the metal woman coyly smiled.

She simply shoved the others out of the way as she quickly ran off into the horizon. The others continued to stare in amazement as they watched her go.

"You knew she could take that didn't you?" Rapture asked the silent Circuit Breaker who was levitating overhead.

No reply was given as Circuit Breaker slowly descended down.

"Never mind her. I guess we got to find your lawyer friend. Obviously, that freak has him in captivity." Rapture pointed out the obvious.

Blackrock practically doubled over at the statement. "Oh no, Spike! Carly will not be happy about this."

"Carly?" Hector wondered about the name that Blackrock had dropped.

"His wife, she won't be happy to know a mutant has taken him hostage." Blackrock said with dread.

"Gee, don't care to much for you lawyer friend, ay?" Impact asked.

"Jack is more of a blackmailer then a murderer. I doubt he would honestly hurt Spike, but we do need to rescue him before I am proven wrong."

"I guess raiding Dr. Sesimen's lab will have to be put off for now." Circuit Breaker finally spoke upon Blackrock's statement.

"Yes, I'm afraid so. " Blackrock apologetically stated.

"Fine, I will go by myself." Circuit Breaker flew off into the horizon.

Impact shook his head. "She's got curves but she ain't much of a team player."

Rapture rolled her eyes and grunted in disgust.

Egavar spoke up. "I can track Circuit Breaker with my heightened senses. I'll go after her and you three can handle Halloween Jack and Amalgama."

"Gee, thanks for the enthusiasm Sarge." Rapture crossed her arms across her front.

"I was an officer, not enlisted." Egavar snapped back.

"Enough, all of you!" Blackrock shouted at the top of his lungs, "I'm the one signing your paychecks, so you better listen to me!"

They stood quiet as they turned to look at Blackrock.

"Now, Egavar I want you to track Halloween Jack and find Spike, and take Rapture with you. Dynamo and Impact can go after Circuit Breaker."

Egavar looked irate at the decision and was almost inclined to argue the point. "Fine, but I don't approve."

"Your disapproval is noted, and is too bad. According to your military standards, I’m your commanding officer now." Blackrock boldly stood up to the tall red headed man.

"Yes, sir." Egavar saluted with a bit a cold sarcasm.

"Now, go quickly before someone is hurt. And be careful. I'll handle Carly, and believe me when I say this. It will be as difficult as what you guys are about to do."

Blackrock walked off to tell Spike's wife the news as the teammates split up to complete their assigned tasks.

Halloween Jack entered his hideout twirling and laughing as a bound man grunted at his entrance.

"I don't suppose you are going to let me go, are you?" He spoke with bitterness.

Jack only smiled. "Why should I do that? I've told you everything you need to know. Even more than you could imagine."

"I don't believe what you have told me. It can't be true." The man shook his head in denial.

Jack hideously laughed. "Oh please. The history of the Armageddon of Heroes was lost, and I know what most likely caused it! I mean it's kind of hard to miss these guys. No wonder a great extent was went to cover it up."

"Look, I don't care who you are or what you think. Blackrock will send people to rescue me, that's for sure."

"Mr. Witwicky, I already met some of Blackrock's motley crew. Especially, that highly addictive babe that gave me such a nice dream. It's no wonder she is called Rapture. Poor Domino will just have to suffer the loss of being without me. I guess everything doesn't fall into place for her after all."

Spike shook his head once more. "You are one sick puppy."

Jack morphed into a small puppy and made a sarcastic coughing sound. "Your request is granted!"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Let me have my one call. It will be to a vet."

Jack morphed back into his ghoulish form and put a pointed nail to Spike's chin. "You're quite good with the wit. I'll be waiting for Blackrock's mutant friends to come and try to save the day, and I'll let them. I just thought someone else besides me should share the wealth of information that I managed to obtain. Besides, I'm just here to ensure my own future, and I've already guaranteed that."

Spike hesitated to add another comment, as he wanted to return home to his wife and four-year-old kid.

Sunday, October 03, 1999

A World Transformed #3 - Beyond the Space Bridge!


Issue Three: "Beyond the Space Bridge!"
October 1999
Written and Illustrated by Bryan Richard Shipp

The Transformers: powerful warrior robots waging a neverending battle across space and time. Autobots and Decepticons, fighting a war of long-forgotten ideologies, now trapped in a cycle of violence that threatens to consume them all. They have traveled across the ages from their homeworld of Cybertron to a blue-green orb we know as the Earth. But this is not the Earth we know; it is a world transformed, a place of mutants, superheroes, and villains. It is a world where nothing is as it seems. . .and these alien robots will soon find that those they thought were allies and enemies are not. They will find that there are greater threats than each other. . .

Cybertron. A world without peace, at war for nine million years. It is a wonder that this enormous planet has not been completely destroyed by the war between two factions of its populace, the Autobots and the Decepticons. Four million years ago, the Autobots launched one final, desperate effort to save themselves--an effort met by the greatest offensive they had ever seen, led by Megatron himself, leader of the Decepticons. They were driven underground, forced into hiding, their sustenance stolen from their enemies and their battles a pathetic guerilla movement.

The Autobots have known defeat for four million years. They have lived with it, struggled to not accept it, but with the death of their former leader, Sentinel Prime; the loss of their last source of power, Iacon; and the disappearance of their current leader, Optimus Prime, there is little else for them to do but waste away, ending their lives in futile war against the Decepticons.

It is into this environment that we return to Cybertron. The Decepticons, under the leadership of Governor Straxus, have rebuilt their forces and now dominate the Saturn-sized world. The Autobots, numbering barely in the thousands, do their best to hide from the millions of Decepticons, sabotaging them where they can. Under the leadership of Alpha Trion and Emirate Xaaron, the Autobots have rediscovered their ancient religion, and not a day goes by without them praying to their god, Primus, to deliver them from the Decepticon evil. Under the leadership of the Generals Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus and Elita-1, the Autobots have managed to succeed in enough battles against the Decepticons to still make them a force to be reckoned with. Even still, though, they are in constant search of a way to gain the upper hand on the Decepticons, to keep the conquerors from spreading fear across the universe.

And now, they may have found it.


"Ultra Magnus! Ultra Magnus, I must speak with you without delay!"

Ultra Magnus sighed, then turned around to face the Autobot running down the corridor after him. "What is it now, Perceptor? I’ve got better things to do that to listen to your scientific gobbledygook."

Perceptor stopped dead in his tracks, a hurt expression passing quickly over his face. "I regret you feel that way, Ultra Magnus, because while you’ve been leading hardly-successful raids against the fuel depots of the Decepticons, I have been searching for the source of energon which lead Optimus Prime and many of our greatest warriors off into space. Should we find the one, we find the other, and the key to victory will lie in our hands."

"Yes, yes, Perceptor--that’s exactly the kind of logic that’s kept your search going--you may have Alpha Trion and Emirate Xaaron convinced, but I’m just a soldier, and I know the only thing that’s going to win this war is good fighting."

"Yes, I’m certain. That’s why you’ve refused to mount a rescue operation for Spanner."

"He’s a neutralist scientist, not one of our own. We’ve had this argument before, Perceptor. Just because he’s your friend doesn’t mean we can head off half-cocked and shoot up Polyhex looking for him!"

Perceptor cleared his throat, frowning slightly to indicate his distaste for Ultra Magnus’s attitude. Arguing would get him nowhere, so he decided to change the subject. "As you know, my search has led to little over the past four million years. Five days ago, however, I was running a routine search for Cybertronian energy signatures when I discovered one. It was extremely faint, but nevertheless active. Here are its coordinates."

Perceptor handed Magnus a datapad.


"Lord Straxus, the delivery is about to be made. Do you wish to see our warriors off?"

Straxus, the Lord of Darkmount, Scourge of Cybertron and Master of the Decepticons, stared blankly at the unnamed soldier standing before him. It was certainly true that under his leadership the Decepticons had been able to rebuild their army--over four million years, he had increased the population of Decepticons on Cybertron from barely a thousand to in the millions. However, without the power of either the lost Creation Matrix or the deactivated Vector Sigma, he had not been able to create sentient soldiers for the war against the Autobots. Nor had his forces had the energy required to make full-sized Transformers.

Straxus, Lord of Darkmount, Master of the Decepticons. . .captain of a horde of forces no larger than his own foot. The humiliation of it burned within him, until he remembered how efficient they were--under his command, the Decepticons had united Cybertron in a way Megatron had only dreamed of--Megatron had bee the conquering warrior, but every empire needs an administrator to survive, and that administrator was Straxus. After all, he had already held the Decepticon Empire together for four million years--now, with their expansion plans gaining momentum, he would finally expand it in ways Megatron never could.

All these thoughts and more passed through the mind of Straxus the Tyrant as he stared at the messenger by his foot. It was one of only a few models of drone built--this one could transform into a fast, armed aircraft, and was particularly useful when accompanying a squadron of Seekers.

"I will be there momentarily." Straxus watched the Skybolt drone transform and leave, no doubt to deliver another message. Always another shipment, always another delivery--always more warriors departing his realm and traveling on to parts unknown, perhaps never to be seen again. Straxus had never been off-planet; most likely, he never would. This was his domain; and with every Decepticon who left to expand the empire, his domain shrank by comparison. But Megatron, fortunately, was long since disappeared; and without that impediment to his power, he could rein unchallenged.

Straxus transformed into his artillery mode and engaged the powerful thrusters he could call upon in that mode. It was safest for him to travel as a living weapon; even with the Decepticon Empire stretched across Cybertron and, now, into the stars themselves, the Autobots were still extraordinarily effective when it came to sabotaging his plans. With the firepower he could muster in his alternate form, no Autobot would dare attack him.

As Straxus flew out of his Citadel, he did not notice the Autobot below, shadowing his every move through the ruined streets and buildings of Polyhex.


Straxus stood on one side of the enormous bridge spanning an artificial chasm in the Cybertronian landscape. Standing before him were three of his most powerful warriors--Blitzwing, Octane and Astrotrain. Their presence was demanded far from Cybertron, and Straxus knew he would not be seeing them again. In one way, that was a good thing--they would not remain to possibly challenge his throne. In quite another way, though, he would feel their loss. They had done excellent work as his enforcers, and they would be greatly missed.

"Are you prepared?"

The three triple-changers nodded. "We are, Lord Straxus," Astrotrain said.

"Very well. May you find satisfaction on this world of. . .fleshlings. Conquer it in the name of the Decepticons. . .conquer it in the name of Straxus."

The triple-changers nodded and saluted their master by banging their right fists on their left breastplates. Straxus, satisfied by this show of loyalty, turned away and looked at the engineer at the bridge’s operating console.

"Activate the trans-dimensional reactors."

The reactors built into the space bridge began to whir, and the entire structure was surrounded in an electrified haze, as if it were warping the very bounds of space and time itself. Of course, that’s exactly what it was doing, thanks to the extraordinary mind of the captured neutralist scientist Spanner. Soon enough they would be developing a propulsion system based on the space bridge that would be capable of transporting ships through the vast reaches of space without the need of the clumsy space bridge or the frustratingly complex space-time coordinate system it used.

But, for now, it was functioning quite well. . .well enough to take many of Straxus’ best warriors away from him. As if in time with the thought, the three triple-changers step onto the bridge. . .and disappear. The cycling hum of the reactors dies down, and silence once again descends upon the Cybertronian surface. The gathered troops dissipate and Straxus returns to his citadel, leaving behind only a few guards for the Space Bridge.

A few guards, none of whom notice the hidden surveillance device transform and slink away from Darkmount, to the hidden headquarters of the rag-tag Autobots.


"Blaster! Report!" Ultra Magnus crossed his arms and stared down at the Autobot, only now returning from his reconnaissance mission into the heart of Decepticon territory.

"It’s just as you feared, Magnus. The Decepticons are leaving Cybertron in droves thanks to something called a ‘Space Bridge.’ I watched the Triple-Changers leave myself, just before I left. Straxus is only sending out his best troops, though--the drones are staying here. He mentioned something about them going to a world of. . .what was it he said?. . .that’s right--fleshlings. You know what a fleshling is, Magnus?"

Magnus frowned. "No. No, I don’t. But this is definitely terrible news. If the Decepticons have found a way to leave Cybertron, to try and conquer other worlds. . .I fear the worst. We must stop them, immediately."

Emirate Xaaron stepped into the entrance hall of the hidden Autobase. "Ah, Blaster, you’ve returned. What news?"

"The Decepticons are heading off for other worlds," he said unenthusiastically. Then, he brightened. "Say, you wouldn’t happen to know what a fleshling is, would you?"

Emirate Xaaron’s optics narrowed.


The Autobot Council chambers was in an uproar. The 12 Autobot Elders, the oldest and wisest of the Autobot civilian leaders to survive to the current day, were debating the news laid out before them. First, they had learned that Optimus Prime and the Autobots he had taken with him to hunt energon in the stars 4 million years before, just as the Decepticons attacked and destroyed Iacon, were apparently alive and recently reactivated. Hope! At last, hope!

Then, they learned from Blaster that the Decepticons had found a method of travel to those selfsame stars, a method which allowed them to circumvent space travel and arrive instantly at their destination--a method which gave them the power to colonize the universe, to conquer everything in their path. A method which allowed them to bypass the Autobots entirely, and continue on the mission which the Autobots had for so long tried to stop. Chaos! Despair! Doom, and failure!

Emirate Xaaron, the oldest of the Autobot Elders and the High Councilor, rapped his knuckles on the podium before him three times. The other Elders quieted out of respect for Xaaron and sat back in their seats, their discussion concluded. Xaaron’s optics passed over the eleven Elders, then nodded.

"Fellow Autobots, you’ve heard the information that our scout and our scientist have given us. You know the threat the Decepticons at large pose to the universe. . .you know that Optimus Prime may still be alive, and the Matrix with him. With the Matrix is the key to defeating the Decepticons, once and for all. But there is more.

"If Optimus Prime and the Ark live, then there is the possibility that Megatron and the Nemesis live, as well. And if this is so, our mission is all the more imperative. Straxus has been our enemy for the last four million years, but even with the new development of this Space Bridge, he has not been the threat to either us or the universe as was Megatron. Now, that dynamic may very well change.

"Even with this, though, is something more disturbing. Blaster has overheard that the Decepticons are traveling to worlds of fleshlings. Many of you here do not know what that means--but I have summoned Alpha Trion here to inform those of you who do not understand."

The Council Chambers, with the 12 Councilors at the center and the hundreds of remaining Autobots in the base in the observation gallery along the outer walls, went silent as the entrance doors on the far side of the room opened for the oldest and wisest of the Autobots.

Alpha Trion, he who built Optimus Prime from Orion Pax, he who refused a position on the Council, he who--alone--carried the ancient secrets of Cybertronian theology. His very name commanded respect. His presence inspired awe. His calm voice was heard by all Cybertronians, and could instill reason and compassion even in a Decepticon core processor. He was an Autobot--but he was much more. He was the voice of Primus, the last remaining priest of the Cybertronian religion. Everyone in the chamber bowed their heads as he stepped into the central circle of light, a fighting staff in his hand, and looked out over the assembled crowd.

"Before our recorded history begins, Primus lived. Primus lies still, at the core of this world, dead but dreaming. Primus created us; He is our Father, the Father Of All. He is life, that which He has given, that which He is made from. We praise Him, and honor Him. His is the Holy Metal; from Him we are born, to Him we return, until All are One. Amen."

"Amen." Each single, tiny voice combined with its brethren to produce a sound like a roar; a holy invocation sure to awaken Gods.

"But we are a corrupted people. For Primus could not create us himself, lest he draw to us the Chaosbringer, the Master of the Void. So he summoned others to do his Holy Work; the Quintessons, pure of heart and noble of spirit. They came to our world, the world of Primus, and from him drew forth the essences of Vector Sigma. With Vector Sigma there was life; with Vector Sigma, we were born. I was among those thus created; I live on, 13 million years later, that you may know of this truth.

"But the Chaosbringer was not so blind as Primus would believe. From afar, not able to attack Primus Himself, the Chaosbringer corrupted His servants, and the Quintessons in turn corrupted the dream of Primus, that His glorious creation would be made mere slaves, consumer products for the consumption of those rich enough, and powerful enough, to be able to purchase them. In this Primus grew angry, and sought to punish his servants.

"Then came to us Prima, the Son of Our Father and the Light of the Matrix. In him Primus was well pleased, for Primus was with him, and Primus was in him, and Primus was him. Prima taught us the evil of the Quintessons, showed us the Dream that Primus the All-Father sought for us. For this, Prima was killed by the Quintessons, and we, in turn, rose up against the Quintessons and drove them from our world. We became the masters of our own destiny. . .or so we believed.

"For hundreds of thousands of years ever after, we were the servants of the universe around us--its protectors and its guardians. Until Megatron rose from the ranks of the warriors, and demanded that we not serve those around us, but rather enslave them, as they had once done to us. It was then that the Great War began. . .nine million years ago, we Transformers split ourselves over issues of philosophy, becoming Autobots and Decepticons, fracturing the Primus Dream that we could make war upon His world.

"For four million of those years, we have laid in wait, underground, seeking out what small existence we could muster in order to continue our quest to end the Decepticon threat. Because of the destruction of Iacon in Megatron’s final assaults against us, all knowledge of where Optimus Prime, Bearer of the sacred Creation Matrix, was lost. Without the Matrix, we fought a losing battle, confident only in the prophecy that the Matrix would return one day, and lead us from our darkest hour.

"Now that Matrix has returned. . .and so, too, have the beings of this universe returned to our consciousness. For millennia, we have fought a war over whether those beings should be conquered or served. Know now that, with contact once again established, this war will only escalate--and with that escalation, more than Cybertron will be at risk. All things that touch upon the Matrix, the divine essence of Primus, are now immediately threatened by the Decepticons. Know this, that you know also the added importance our Great War has now gained. May Primus watch over you all in the dark hours ahead. Amen."

The Autobots murmured another "Amen" in one voice, and Alpha Trion left the way he came.

Emirate Xaaron stood, passed his optics over the crowd. "Ultra Magnus, pick your team. Your mission: to infiltrate Darkmount, read the datatracks of the Space Bridge’s travels, and destroy the Space Bridge, no matter the cost."


"Hold on, let me get this straight. We’re being used as a diversion? You can’t be serious, Magnus."

The Wreckers murmured their agreement with Springer as he frowned at Ultra Magnus.

"Look, Springer, I can’t deal with this right now. If you don’t like your assignment, that’s too bad--right now, you and the Wreckers are not what I need. You’re to make a frontal assault on Darkmount, but a careful one. We can’t afford to lose any of you, you’re the best warriors we’ve got." The flattery worked; the Wreckers stood down, began thinking about the Decepticons they could lay waste to in the upcoming battle. "While you’re making your attack, my team and I will sneak into Darkmount, read the Space Bridge’s destination coordinates, sabotage the Space Bridge itself, and then escape. Once we’re out, you’ll get the signal to retreat. Is everything clear?"

The Wreckers nodded, as he knew they would. He had hand-picked them, trained them, honed them to the same deadliness as the micro-millimeter edge of an energon blade. They would do well in the upcoming battle. Before he left, he patted each of their shoulders--Impactor, his second-in-command, the most powerful of the Wreckers standing before him; Rack and Ruin, the twin Autobots, unparalleled at melee combat; Topspin and Twintwist, the Jumpstarters; Springer, perhaps the toughest-minded of the Wreckers; Whirl and Roadbuster, masters of air and land. They would fight the good fight, win, and live.

But Ultra Magnus had the sneaking feeling that he would not fare so well.


The spire of the citadel of Darkmount rose high into the Cybertronian sky, casting a shadow over the landscape that served as an appropriate symbol of the oppression Straxus, master of Darkmount, had cast upon the denizens of Polyhex. Darkmount had never been attacked directly, and with good cause; it was guarded by nearly a quarter of the Decepticon army, with enough combined firepower to wipe out the rest of the Autobots on the planet. It was impossible to attack Darkmount and succeed--it was a great source of contentment to the Decepticons of Polyhex that they had such a secure capital.

Which is why they were so very stunned when Darkmount shuddered under a massive explosion at its base, collapsing one of its mighty spires and causing the giant Decepticon Sigil on the Great Spire to hang askew. Dozens of drones moved toward the attack point, only to be cut down by laserfire from within the cloud of dust and debris kicked up by the explosion. The destruction of the drones caused ever more to be summoned to the spot, automatically attracted to their fallen, mindless comrades, only to be destroyed by the same hidden enemies.

In his chambers in the great spire of Darkmount, Straxus looked out over the battlefield. So, the Autobots finally attack me here. So be it; let them come to their own doom. He activated his internal communication system, keying it automatically to the frequency he wanted.

"Spinister," he said, "disperse the debris cloud immediately south of Darkmount."

"Yes, Lord Straxus," came the immediate reply.

Straxus watched as the Decepticon helicopter flew out of an exit port on the side of one of Darkmount’s towers and hovered over the sensor-jamming cloud of metal filings, the power of his rotor blades dispersing the Autobots’ cover. He was shot several times from below, but he stayed on hovering until no trace of the cloud remained--he knew very well that he would be thrown to the smelting pits if he failed in his mission. Once the cover was blown, though, he began to flee back toward Darkmount--only to be finally shot down by Springer.

Straxus felt no sadness when he watched Spinister crash into the side of Darkmount and explode. If he could be salvaged, then all was well--an effective warrior would be restored; if not, then he had served his purpose, and the energon used to power him would be used on other warriors who would be more difficult to destroy. He did, however, note that this battle could have potentially devastating consequences. The majority of his sentient Decepticons were away from Polyhex, and the Skybolt, Deathtread and Cycler drones that were left to defend Polyhex were not nearly as effective warriors as true Decepticons.

Activating his inter-Decepticon radio, he called out to the greatest of his generals. "Scorponok, this is Lord Straxus. The Autobot Wrecker Squadron is attacking Darkmount. Return here immediately and dispatch them."

"And so shall the Autobots be destroyed!" came Scorponok’s ever-enthusiastic reply. As Straxus cut the link between them, he thought about the danger Scorponok would pose to his position should the larger, more powerful Decepticon ever decide that his political aspirations were more important than quenching his all-powerful bloodlust.

As Straxus stared down into Darkmount’s courtyard, watching the battle with all the casual interest of a giant swatting away an insect, swarms of drones flew and drove in from nearly every direction, surrounding the Wrecker squadron with a hail of fire and light that would have dazzled any less seasoned warrior. The Wreckers continued in their attack, though, engaging the drones and actually pushing the hordes back. Straxus knew they couldn’t win, though--already they had taken enough hits from the drones to assure that. No matter how many drones they destroyed, they would eventually have to fall back. He could tell that they knew it, as well--they were protecting their route of escape, a waste disposal access shunt near the long-dead energon fountain that had once flowed rich in glowing energon before the Great War. This was not an attack to gain ground, then--merely something to take out many of his troops, to occupy their time for a while. . .

To occupy their time. This attack was a diversion, then. But for what?

"What are you after, Autobots?" Straxus growled.


"The Space Bridge control center is right up here," Blaster said, leading the Autobots further into Darkmount, ever deeper into the lions’ den. Following him were Perceptor, Cosmos, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Seaspray, Warpath and, taking up the rear, Ultra Magnus.

Once they got inside the control center, Perceptor went immediately to the controls while Ultra Magnus took up a position as sentry. The others stood guard over Perceptor as he worked, ensuring that no attack could come from outside Darkmount even as Ultra Magnus ensured that none could come from within. Beachcomber whistled quietly when he saw the massive Space Bridge outside the command center windows.

Perceptor’s hands went to the controls, his fingers dancing over the keys with the rapidity of a master at his craft. As he worked, the frown on his face deepened to a scowl.

"I recognize this technology. The Decepticons did not develop the Space Bridge."

"Who did, then?" Blaster asked.

"Every engineer designs in certain ways--it is the engineer’s signature, a recognition of his art. After analyzing the structure of this device, I have come to the conclusion that it represents a pinnacle in neither Autobot nor Decepticon technology--rather, it was developed by neutralist science, in particular that of Spanner."

"Zowie! Your buddy?" Warpath asked.

A shadow passed over Perceptor’s face. "My captured ‘buddy,’ you are quite correct."

The conversation was not lost on Ultra Magnus. Even though he stood outside the door, watching out for approaching Decepticons, he heard every word Perceptor spoke, as well as the unspoken accusation that, had he allowed a rescue mission to recapture Spanner, the Decepticons would not have the technology of the Space Bridge, would not be travelling across the universe in triumph.

He leaned in the door. "Perceptor, we can’t deal with that now. Just grab the information, set the charges, and let’s go."

"Yes. . .sir," Perceptor said, turning back to the controls before him. After a quick search through the datatracks of the Space Bridge’s use, he gasped.

"What is it?" Cosmos asked.

"These coordinates. . .they’ve only been sending their troops to a single planet!"

"Well, that’s a good thing. . .isn’t it?" Seaspray murmured in his bubbling voice.

Perceptor paused, running some calculations through his head. "It is both good and bad, Seaspray. Good, in that we do not have to worry about massive colonization. It is extremely bad, though--because if my calculations are accurate, then the planet they have been reinforcing is the same that Optimus Prime and the Ark currently inhabit!"

"You’re not serious." Magnus said, abandoning his post and stepping into the room, frowning. "If that’s the case, then our old comrades are in dire trouble."

"Oh, indeed they are, Magnus. And now, so are you."

The Autobots turned around. Standing in the doorway to the control center, his armor gleaming in the light of the stars outside the window, stood Lord Straxus, ruler of the Decepticons, his energon axe at the ready.


In the courtyard of Polyhex, the Wreckers stared in horror as the drones they were fighting were joined by Scorponok and his finest warriors.

"Autobots, tremble at the power of Scorponok!" The massive Decepticon thundered.

"Well, guys--I can’t say it was nice knowin’ ya, but it sure as slag was fun!" Whirl cried.

"Fear not, fellow Autobots--Fortress Maximus will not let you die this day!" Fortress Maximus appeared at the opposite end of the battlefield from Scorponok, ignoring everything but the enemy general. Behind him, surging onto the battlefield, came the cavalry: nearly every warrior Autobase could muster, guns blazing, turning the tide of the battle even as the arrival of Scorponok seconds before had.

"Deus ex machina?" Topspin asked no one in particular.

Twintwist glanced at his twin. "Does it matter?"

Topspin shrugged and fought on.


"You could fire those," Straxus said, his optics passing over the weapons the Autobots had drawn on him, "but I can assure you that the majority of your blasts would only be deflected back at you. You see, I have maintained my post as leader of the Decepticons through my intelligence and my strength. So fire, please--it will mean fewer of you that I will have to deal with myself."

The Autobots stared at him silently, and all but Magnus lowered their weapons.

"Excellent. Tell me, whose idea was it to send the vaunted Wrecker squadron straight at Darkhold? Yours, Magnus? I sincerely hope not--it demonstrates such a total lack of strategic ability that it embarrasses me to admit that I had to spend more than half an astrosecond to realize your ploy."

Magnus growled, stepped forward. In response, Straxus pointed his axe straight in Magnus’ direction, the glow of its energon-enhanced blade a deadly barrier between the Decepticon leader and the Autobot general.

"I suppose that even now they are being ground to metal filings under the assault of my drones coupled with Scorponok’s insanity. I’m certain you can hear the echoes of distant battle; feel the rumblings of faraway destruction."

Straxus was right; Magnus could indeed feel the tremors of the battle. He balled his free hand into a fist, his optics moving between Straxus and the axe before him and the empty space to his sides, gauging how difficult it would be for him to find an avenue of attacking Straxus without first being torn apart by him. Even as he worried that he would find none, his internal battle computers calculated the most probable course. . .

"That destruction won’t be far away for long--already my drones come to me, my loyal Decepticons, reinforcements to mop up what I don’t finish in time. After all, one must keep the rabble happy. . ."

Before Straxus could finish, Ultra Magnus ducked forward, tossing his gun to one side of Straxus and rolling to the other. Straxus swung the axe to intercept the gun instinctively, slicing cleanly through it and shattering it in a powerful explosion, knocking him off-balance just as Ultra Magnus came out of his roll and, turning on one heel, leapt at Straxus. Both fell into the hall to continue their fight, and Perceptor turned back to the control array for the Space Bridge.

"What are you doing, Perceptor? We’ve got to get out of here!" Beachcomber’s voice betrayed his fear of the incoming drones. He wasn’t a warrior by choice--few of the Autobots were. But they had a job to do, worlds and innocent lives to protect from the Decepticons and Perceptor wasn’t willing to shirk that duty.

"I’m setting the charges and powering up the Space Bridge. I intend to cross it."

"You’re out of your mind!" Blaster cried.

"No, I’m not. Someone needs to be a messenger from us to the Autobots stranded on that planet--perhaps even warn them of what’s coming. My purpose here on Cybertron is finished--for the last four million years, I’ve been searching for Prime and the others. I am not a warrior--what else can I do?"

"What about Spanner?" Beachcomber asked.

Perceptor frowned, looked away. "The Decepticons got what they wanted out of him. I have no doubt that he is already dead."

Blaster stared at him, then, raising his gun to his shoulder: "I’m going with you, buddy. You’ll need somebody to fire a gun if you ain’t gonna."

The others chimed in their agreement, and Perceptor nodded, setting the final charges.


In the hallway, the battle of the titans proceeded apace. Straxus had lost his axe and Magnus had sacrificed his gun, and the only thing between either robot and a successful mission was the other. They grappled, Magnus just as tall as Straxus, just as powerful, neither powerful robot giving or taking so much as a centimeter of space. Steel muscle cables groaned with the effort of the battle, shell plating buckled, and still each stood his ground.

Magnus realized the stalemate, knew that he would have to break it in order to gain any advantage. He relaxed his grip on Straxus and the Decepticon leader, feeling it, took the initiative and raised Magnus over his head, ready to throw the Autobot general. Magnus anticipated this, though, and swung his legs around behind Straxus, shifting his balance enough to throw Straxus into the far wall.

The throw didn’t even phase Straxus. He slammed into the wall, landed on his feet and, using the momentum of his fall, sprang back at Magnus, taking him in the midsection and slamming him into the ground. Magnus clawed at Straxus’ face, tearing at the smooth metal there, finally grabbing onto it with one hand and slamming his other fist into it repeatedly. Straxus howled in pain and rage, releasing Magnus and trying to pull free from the Autobot’s grip. When that failed, he reached out, grabbing at the ground, trying to find his dropped axe.

His hand closed over it.


"I don’t like it. We’re too open, too exposed." Cosmos glanced around, seeing the Decepticon citadel behind them, the Space Bridge in front of them, and he and his fellow Autobots in the center of the plain between the two.

"We’ll be on the bridge shortly--what we need to worry about is what we’ll find once we get on the other side." Perceptor said.

"We’ll find Prime, Perceptor. And nothin’s gonna stand in our way once we do." Blaster grinned.

Warpath called out an enthusiastic string of onomatopoeia, and Perceptor couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t so sure about the future fate of the Autobots, but then Blaster always did know how to boost morale. And, strangely enough, Blaster’s predictions usually had a way of coming true, despite all odds.

"Uhm, guys? I don’t think we should celebrate yet." Beachcomber muttered.

"Why no--" Blaster asked, then stopped as he stared ahead at the Space Bridge. Perceptor looked up, out of his own thoughts, and saw what was perhaps one of the most unpleasant things he had ever seen.

Gathering between the Autobots and the Space Bridge, like an armada of tiny, deadly insects, were hundreds of Straxus’ warrior drones, weapons at the ready.


Ultra Magnus screamed with the pain of the axe buried deep in his chest, howled in greater agony as Straxus rose, planting one foot firmly on Magnus’ abdomen, and tore the axe back out, only to slam it back down with twice as much force as before.

Magnus had felt pain before, but nothing as deep, as gut-wrenching, as this. He felt as if his very laser core were about to give out, and that thought, the idea that Straxus would win, that Straxus would first kill him and then take down his Autobot allies, was unbearable to Magnus. It lent him strength of will; that strength gave him power.

Even as his energon reserves were draining, leaking out of the massive holes Straxus had torn in him, Magnus reached up with both hands and grabbed hold of the axe. Confusion crossed Straxus’ optics for a moment, then he realized what Magnus was about to do. A nanosecond too late, however: Magnus, holding onto the shaft of the axe, holding it within his chest, swung his legs underneath Straxus’ open body and kicked upward and outward, knocking the Decepticon leader off him with a scream of pain and effort.

Straxus fell, stunned, and Magnus rose, yanking the axe out of his chest, shutting down all his internal damage warning systems. He had to; otherwise, he would not be able to find the strength to go on. He might very well die this day; so long as he could save Perceptor and the others, and perhaps even destroy the Decepticon leader, then he would not die in vain. He could die in peace, knowing that.

He drove the axe down hard into Straxus, blinking his optics against the sparks flying against his face from the hole he punched into the Decepticon. He raised the axe again, smashed it down again, this time tearing apart the cables and wires attaching Straxus’ left arm to his body. Straxus roared, more in anger than in pain, and reached out to grab the axe as Magnus brought it down a third time. The axe shattered Straxus’ hand, driving deep into his forearm and exploding an energon packet there. Straxus’ optics flickered and went dark, but Magnus knew the Decepticon wouldn’t be dead. After all, he wasn’t, and he had taken more critical damage.

He turned, stumbling, back to the control center--and saw the charges set, his team gone. He saw the timers, the control panels set to activate the Space Bridge, and understood immediately. They were going to cross the Space Bridge, to try to get to Optimus Prime and the others, if they were still functional. He saw the plan immediately, understood the reasons behind it, and agreed with it--he wished only that they had told him about it first, but at the time he had been rather preoccupied.

Not that any of that mattered at the moment--as he gazed out the window of the control center, he saw a horde of drones moving in around Perceptor and the others, and knew he had to do something, and quickly, or else those drones would take out the team, and all hope of communication with the Ark would be lost. He looked around, thinking of what he could do. . .


The laserfire surrounded them like a blanket, and they were trapped, pinned in the open while the drones circled them, firing inward. They had already taken major damage but, fortunately, the drones did not have firepower equivalent to the blasters the full-sized Transformers carried, relying instead on massive amounts of fire to damage their enemies. So, while the trapped Autobots had taken a lot of damage, it wasn’t as much as it could have been, and for that they were grateful.

"Decepticons, to me! I shall finish these Autobot fools!" The drones broke off immediately and headed for the control center for the Space Bridge where, Perceptor was shocked to see, Straxus stood, badly beaten but still functional, standing up and almost seeming to float in the air.

"He looks damaged. We may be able to take ‘im," Blaster murmured.

"It would be a fool’s errand. Straxus may be damaged, but his drones are not. We would never be able to get past them, even if we were able to beat Straxus. We do have one chance, however--we can run as quickly as we can to the Space Bridge. On my mark--go!" Perceptor and the Autobots around him broke into a dead run, hauling skidplate to the Space Bridge before Straxus could catch up to them, before the trans-dimensional generators shut down, before the charges could blow.


Ultra Magnus, holding the unconscious Straxus between him and the drones, watched his fellow Autobots leap onto the Space Bridge even as the generators cycled up and the entire structure began to glow with unparalleled energies. Those energies built to a crescendo along Perceptor’s pre-programmed timetable and then, with a flash of light, they were gone, the Space Bridge was still, and the badly wounded Ultra Magnus was face-to-face with a legion of drones.

He grinned as he focused on the charges he had strapped to Straxus’s back. The Space Bridge would have survived their assault; they had brought only enough explosives to destroy its control system, but the Decepticons no doubt had blueprints of that. No doubt they had blueprints of all of it--no, it was better to destroy their leader, for whom they could have no blueprints.

He threw Straxus into the Vehicon drones and ducked back into the safety of the walls of Darkhold, feeling only the heat and the rumble of the explosion that had surely torn apart the Decepticon leader and his troops. Then, wounded, Ultra Magnus clutched at his chest to keep his insides from falling out, then stumbled his way out of Darkhold through the Autobots’ long-concealed secret entrance, back to Autobase, to tell the others that the battle was won, that Straxus was dead.


On the other side of the Space Bridge, Blaster looked up to the blue sky filled with white clouds in amazement. He had never seen something so extraordinary as a planet with an atmosphere lightening the black void to blue; he had never imagined anything like clouds. He gaped in awe, and would have cried, had he the capability--such a pure place, untainted by war, its atmosphere unburned by eons of war, was what every Autobot fought to preserve, though it had cost them their own homeworld. He felt as if he had been lifted into the very dreams of Primus, and his spark rejoiced.

And then he looked down from the sky, to the ground before him, and he saw an enormous city of purple and black towers, silver and steel glinting in the yellow light of this world’s sun. In the city walked robots every bit his equal in size, moving equipment and weapons of war into place. And on the highest spire of the city, emblazoned as great as in the largest stronghold on Cybertron, stood the ancient symbol of the Decepticons.

Next Time: "Enter: The Nemesis!"

Thursday, September 23, 1999

Spider-Man #1 - Endless Cycle

Spider-Man #1

By Karl V.

Original Plot by Aldalin

"Endless Cycle"

It's a rather quiet night. Only a few robbers and muggers that I helped bring down. I think the boys in the blue could do without a certain web head tonight! Time to get back to...

As his head buzzed like a loud alarm clock, a horrid blood-chilling scream broke out.

...Business...Hook, line, and slinger!

He swung to the scene of the shrill sound as a darting sensation went off in his head. "Well, there's the Spider sense again. I guess I can't clock out yet. "

The fleeing woman ran right past the upside down costumed hero without noticing him.

"Ok, I'm in for it if they don't spot me." He peeked out from the alleyway to witness a set of five bulky short robots walking in a precise formation.

"Why me? If not Spider Slayers there's always the next version of Sentinels. I could use an X-team right about now, although I do have some extra Slingers I could call in."

One robot glanced directly toward the hero. "Target Acquisition: Designate Spider-Man."

I need to stop talking out loud. Spider-Man leaped right in front of the quintuplet of Sentinels. "The one and only! Can I help you boys with something?"

"10% probability that Designate Five has taken the form of his adversary. Implement capture to eliminate all probability." One jet-black robot droned.

"Uh oh, in other words," Spider-Man felt yet another alert sound off in his head, "move!"

Spider-Man leaped out of the way of a capture net that sprung from the robot's hand.

"Target has resisted capture. Factor raised by 20% probability." Another seemed to move quicker and faster towards Spider-Man.

"You guessed it, I'm double the trouble and then some!" Spider-Man spewed forth webbing from his wrist on the optics of the Sentinels. "Now mind telling me who this Designate Five is?"

"Webbing compound composed of various chemical compositions and not organic. Factor lowered to 15% probability. " The robots easily tore the webbing off their optics with their hands.

"Okay, this is not good. Where's Arnold when you need him?" Spider-Man shot some webbing at the bottom of the Sentinels feet. They tugged at the goo for a moment and then regained their freedom.

They still came lurching towards the web crawling hero. Okay, Spidey. Two choices, I can try and fight five robotic guards all by your lonesome probably get yourself almost killed, and find out what make these things tick. Or, give your self up in hopes they just accidentally release some information on this designate Five. Gee, hard choice.

"All right, you got me." Spider-Man jumped once more in front of their path. "Test away."

The five robots looked at each other as the one in the middle stepped forward. "Testing requires all Designates to be rendered unconscious." The lead construct buzzed.

As Spider-Man's sixth sense went off, he looked down to see a dart in his leg. "Oh no..."

After pulling the small sharp object out, Spider-Man fell to sleep as he heard only a few more words.



Spider-Man awoke to a gathering crowd of pedestrians, one of which was the screaming lady.

"Are you okay?" She whispered softly in his ear.

"Ouch. I have a killer headache from that dart but I'll be fine. Did anyone take off my mask?"

"No, I made sure of that. It was the least I could do." She smiled as she waved the intrigued pedestrians away. "Come on, just give him some air!"

Spider-Man got up and shook his head in hopes of getting rid of the banging in his head. "Thanks. I don't suppose you saw where those misfit metal heads went?"

"They took off in the air after they pointed their finger at you. I don't know what the heck they were doing but all the dogs in the neighborhood went nuts."

Spider-Man rubbed his chin. "I heard something about emitting before I got knocked out. Well, I'll save that for later. This Spider has to get back to his web!"

He leaped forward and grabbed onto a wall as he shot another string of webbing at a lamppost. He swung quickly all the way back home.


The Next Morning...

"WHERE IS THAT PARKER?" The infamous boss with a buzz cut yelled at the top of his lungs.

"Right here!" Peter rushed in as J. Jonah Jameson gave a deep stare at the boy.

I wasn't late today! I wonder what's up the old...

"TODAY PARKER!" Jonah opened the door to his office.

Uh oh.

The head of The Daily Bugle put down a plain brown envelope on the desk. "Go ahead open it kid."

For once, Peter was at a loss. He never has heard the level of sincerity in Jonah's voice before. "What's this?" He grabbed it and pulled out a color photo.

"Personally, I think it's a hoax. It has Eddie Brock written all over it." Jameson put his hands on his desk and lowered his head for a moment. "But with all these reports of armored guards and robots cropping up, my journalistic instinct can't avoid any possibility."

BROCK! I wondered where he disappeared.

Peter glanced at the photo. The picture had a bottom of a mountain with a military base that surrounded it. Peter did a double take as he spotted a peculiar large bulge sticking out of the mountain.

"What the heck is that?" Peter turned it every which way to try and guess at the odd shapes.

"You know for someone your age, I would assume you would know the tail end of a spacecraft when you see one. "

Peter finally snapped out of his denial and tried to gauge the size of the ship. "If this is a mountain, then this thing has got to be huge."

"It's a volcano to be more precise. Mt. Saint Hillary is what the note that came with it said. I want you to go there and confirm this. Personally, I think that Brock is trying to pull a fast one on me. But, this is something I can't ignore. Brock has never been one to not take advantage of the situation to make a name for him. He sent this anonymously."

Is it me or is Jameson talking to me like I am Brock? It must be all that is happening. The old guy is about to crack.

"Well, if it's a military base, I doubt I could even get past the guards." Peter explained to Jonah. At least, not just as Peter Parker, he thought to himself.

"Well, you always manage it somehow Parker. I know your still friends with that web slinging idiot, so I suggest you use that to your advantage."

Whoa, J.J. Jameson just told me to use Spider-Man to get a picture. Now, this is BAD!

"Well, the plane leaves in an hour. I suggest you plan accordingly. And, Parker..." Jonah practically muttered the next words beneath his breath. "... be careful."

"Will do chief!" Peter hastily departed back for home. He took the quicker route in his web swinging gear.


Ok, it's obvious by now that Venom's involved. Jonah was right about the picture, it stuck out like a sore thumb to me too, since a photo is like a thumbprint to an experienced Journalist. I just need to find that symbiotic simpleton but I need to keep my day job more. I hate it when I have to make snap decisions. Ouch! Bad pun, even for me!

Peter entered his room as he quickly put a set of clothes over his costume. As he grabbed the needed camera equipment, Mary Jane entered.

"An assignment somewhere else?" She queried with a bit of sparked interest.

"Oregon." Peter replied in a monotone voice.

Mary Jane gazed deeply into her husband's eyes. "Peter?"

"I have to confirm a photograph sent by Brock." The room remained silent for a brief and eerie moment. "It was a picture of a big spaceship lodged in a volcano."

Mary Jane seemed a bit stunned by the news although she was accustomed to most things ever since she knew her husband was Spider-Man.

"Any idea of who or what the occupants were?" She found herself open to the possibility.

Peter bowed his head a bit. "I'm going to find out."

Mary Jane grabbed her husband and hugged him. "I'll take you to the airport. And, you had better be careful mister or else."

Peter briefly smiled. "Aren't I always?"

The drive was a quiet and rather somber one. Mary Jane's smile picked up Peter every time but he could not help but think of what laid ahead.

Peter's spider sense went off as the car came to a screeching sudden stop as Mary Jane yelled in panic.

Peter looked ahead to see what the problem was. VENOM! And those five robots I met earlier are thrashing him!

Before Mary Jane could say anything, Peter hopped out of the car and quickly looked for a place to change into his costume. Peter searched for a discrete area to change into his superhero persona. He spotted a nearby outhouse close to a construction area.

"I guess they found Designate Five." Spider-Man swung in like Tarzan and grabbed the ailing Venom from danger. "Hey tall dark and gruesome."

Come on Brock, I don't want you to go out on me yet.

"It's about time you..." Venom passed out from the punishment that the Sentinels had dished out.


"Designate: Spider-Man relinquish Designate Five immediately or prepare for termination." One of robots droned as it began pursuit of the two.

"Sorry rust bucket but only I have rights to use Designate Five as a punching bag." Spider-Man twirled a line around the robot's legs as it landed on the ground with a heavy thud.

The other four seemed to grow more intent on their new directive of eliminating the web-slinging obstacle as they moved faster and with more precision.

"Uh oh, they've gone into second gear!" Spider-Man yelled as he evaded several laser blasts from the robot's hands. Spider-Man carried Venom in one arm as he swung away from the crowded area.

Spider-Man reached a barren back lot area and placed Venom in a trash receptacle before the robots reached him.

"Put Eddie where he belongs and now to do the same with those tin plated terrors." Spider-Man turned his attention toward the five robots that rounded the corner as if on cue.

"Designate: Spider-Man, your interference with these Units' objectives requires full implementation of armament systems."

"In other words, you've been authorized to use full force! It won't do you much good to find out where Designate Five is, if I'm dead."

To the awestruck Spider-Man, the robots immediately stopped and seemed as though to think about his statement.

Whoa boy, these things are not like all the others. They have a brain!

"Designate: Spider-Man please divulge last known coordinates of Designate Five or face full..."

"Yeah, ok. I can take a hint. He went that way." Spider-Man pointed in a general direction that led the Robot's away from the area.

"Thank you for your cooperation. Search Mode Implemented." The robots began scanning the area with high frequency waves.

Obviously not smart enough to know a lie when they hear it.

Spider-Man waited until the Sentinels disappeared in the distance to retrieve Venom.

"Peter what is that...." Mary Jane shrieked at the site of Peter supporting Eddie Brock.

Peter quickly put Eddie in the back of the car, then entered the passenger side.

"I missed my flight. Jonah will get a bit steamed but not once I tell him about the snap shots of those robots."

"Mr. Parker, what about him?" Mary Jane gazed darkly at Brock then back at Peter.

I think I was better off with those Sentinels, Peter gulped.

"He and his 'other' took quite a few blows, I doubt he's in any position to be a threat. Besides, he is the one that contacted J.J. Jameson anonymously. "

"Others.... Overseer...Five...Xenotech..." Eddie was incoherently babbling.

Mary Jane grimaced at the sound of his voice. "What is he going on about?"

"I don't know but I intend to find out."

The drive back was eerie and foreboding as Brock continued to ramble in his dazed state.

After Mary Jane pulled up, Peter grabbed Brock and helped him go inside. Peter put Brock on the couch.

"I need to ask a favor. Watch him. Call in the Avengers or anyone else if he gives you trouble." Peter hugged Mary Jane.

"Okay, Tiger. I'll do just that. But you owe me big time." She hugged back.

Peter smiled from ear to ear. "I have to go back to the office and clear things up with old J.J."

"And Peter, be careful." She kissed him passionately.

"You too." He winked then departed for the Bugle.

Mary Jane instantly picked up the phone as soon as he left.

"WHAT? Parker these photos better be good or else the cancellation fee is coming out of your check." Johan hit the desk in a fit.

Typical, Peter resisted the temptation to roll his eyes.

Jonah shook his head and continued. "Well, your fortunate it works out for the better anyway. I got to thinking about Brock's picture; he must have found work somewhere. So I dug up all I could on him, and found a boatload of pictures shouting his name. They were mostly on those good for nothing magazines like National Enquirer. Then, I found these."

Jonah put a pile of magazines on the desk. "All these are conspiracy theorist magazines, all of them had pictures or small stories from Brock."

Peter watched the magazines tumble to the floor. "He's been rather busy."

"That's not the half of it. All his stories or pictures had a location." Jonah pulled a map down with several red dots scattered all through out on it.

Peter quickly noticed a small circle area that had no dots at all. He looked closer as he saw the state of Oregon and in the center of the circle a small triangle, which indicated a mountain or, in this case, a volcano.

"Mount Saint Hillary." Peter read the name outloud for emphasis.

Jonah nodded. "It's too coincidental if you ask me. Brock may not be that bright, but he knows how to pull a fast one. I don't want you to wait until tomorrow. Leave on the next possible flight and confirm this as soon as possible. This will be ground breaking news, and I want the Bugle to be the first to get it out."

Despite Jameson's enthusiasm, Peter noted a bit of hostility as though Jonah wanted him to leave.

"Is something wrong?"

"Nothing, " Jameson lied through his teeth, "I want you to confirm it Parker. I don't want any ifs, ands, or buts. I want verifiable proof in my hands. Now, you're wasting time, GO!"

Peter ran out the door as he replied back. "Yes, sir!"

I wonder why this has Jonah so spooked...

As Jameson watched the door shut, he pulled another photo from his desk.

"For your sake, I hope this another one of Brock's tricks Parker." He let the picture fall on his desk, as he gazed at it with spite.

"Because if you do confirm it, then you also will prove that you are that web slinging maniac."

The photo on the desk was a shot of Spider-Man taking off his mask and revealing Parker's face.