Heroes for Hire #1
Iron Fist - martial arts master raised in the mystic city of K'un Lun! Luke Cage - street-tough private eye with super-strength and steel-hard skin! Black Knight - man of science armed with weapons of sorcery! White Tiger - acrobatic feline fighter created by the High Evolutionary! Ant-Man - scientific genius with the ability to shrink to miniscule sizes! Together, they make the Heroes for Hire - an organization devoted to righting wrongs for a price!
"The best laid plans...."
Written by: Wes A.
Emile Nordstrom took a look at his surroundings. He stood on a catwalk above a gigantic lab, and everywhere he looked, there were technicians running around in lab coats. They were busy checking numerous control panels, sensor readouts, and comparing their findings with other technicians in the gigantic lab facility. For the past several months, this was what composed the bulk of Emile's days, along with everyone else in the facility. They rarely got a chance to see the outside world and scarcely more time to contact their families.
Emile wasn't what you'd consider a very old man. He was in his mid-to-late forties, moderately tall, with gray beginning to show through his brown hair. His specialty was cybernetics, and his talents were good enough to garnish the position as the head technician of the facility. Emile took pride in his job. He was handpicked out of dozens of candidates. And although the work was very hard, Emile felt, in his heart, it was worth it.
Emile was pulled from his daydream and turned to see Dr. Jacob Frost. Jacob was a man in his early thirties, with oily black hair, and thick glasses that always rested on the end of his nose. Over the past few months, Jacob and Emile had formed a friendship.
"Yes, Jacob, what is it?" Emile asked .
"Dr. Lee and Dr. Kirby have completed the recalibration of subject #3's internal CPU. They say that we can begin testing whenever we need to."
"Excellent." Emile said with a smile.
The men walked off the catwalk, and strolled across the giant lab. They approached three large cylinders on the far side of the room. The front of each cylinder was glass, and you could make out a large form in each cylinder, a robotic form.
"I can't believe the day has finally come Jacob. All our hard work has paid off." Emile said, still smiling.
"It has been a long project Emile." Jacob admitted with a sigh.
"Yes. But now, it's nearly over. The prototypes are near completion, and within a year, we can construct several dozen more."
"More work. Great!" Jacob said with more than hint of sarcasm.
Emile gave his friend an amused look and shook his head.
"Well, let's begin those tests on subject #3's CPU. I think we should start with-"
Emile's sentence was interrupted by a large blast that blew away the two gigantic doors on the other end of the lab. Debris was thrown everywhere and the technicians in the lab took cover. A few seconds after the explosion, costumed figures armed with weapons stormed the lab through the hole in the wall.
"DO NOT MOVE OR YOU WILL ALL DIE!" One of the figures shouted .
Emile looked up to see who the invaders were. They were clad in green uniforms with yellow boots, gloves, and two big yellow vertical strips on the front of their uniforms. Each of them carried some sort of gun with the top half of their faces covered in green masks. The invaders began to herd the technicians into a corner of the room. Several of the invaders went directly to the three large cylinders and began inspecting them.
"What are you doing?!" Emile demanded as he was herded with the other technicians.
"Silence!" said one of the invaders; "Your experiments now belong to Hydra!"
"Jimminy Christmas, Dane, you're one of the worst pool players I've ever seen." Luke Cage said with a chuckle.
Dane Whitman, also known as the Black Knight, gave Luke a dirty look.
"I'd like to see you do better hotshot."
Luke smiled widely and approached the pool table. He lined his pool stick up with the cue ball and knocked another ball into the right pocket of the pool table. Dane gave Luke another dirty look from across the pool table.
The two were in the rec room at Oracle Inc. The gigantic building was home to one of the biggest corporate buildings in the country. Oracle was founded by Namor, the Sub-Mariner. It was a corporation devoted to improving the Earth oceans. Over the past few months, it has become more. It's become home to the superhero team Heroes for Hire.
"You think you're pretty hot stuff dont'cha?" Dane queried.
"Can't deny what you are." Luke said with a shrug.
Dane just shook his head. Luke's face broke into a smile and took a drink of his Coke that he was drinking during the game.
"Now how's about I put you outta your misery." Luke lined his pool stick up with the last ball.
Luke knocked the ball into a side hole on the pool table and gave a whoop of joy.
"That's what I'm talkin' about right there."
"You're unbelievable, you know that?" Dane asked.
"Yeah, I am pretty amazing."
"Well if you're done Mr. Amazing, why don't you two get to the conference room." A voice said from the door of the rec room.
Luke and Dane turned around to see Iron Fist standing there in his green ninja outfit, minus the mask.
"Sure thing Dan, what's up?" Dane asked as he put his cue away.
"We got a job. And from what it sounds like, it's gonna be a doozy."
Within a few minutes, all of the Heroes for Hire were gathered around the large circular table in Oracle's conference room. Iron Fist, a.k.a. Danny Rand, wore his green ninja outfit with the yellow mask and collar. Dane wore his Black Knight armor. Luke wore his white shirt and white bands that covered his forearms. He also had black jeans and heavy black boots. Ant-Man, also known as Scott Lang, wore his black and red Ant-Man uniform with his cybernetic helmet and gauntlets. He also had his ant-size Deviant with him that he used to ride in ant-size*. The small winged Deviant looked like a mutated Horsefly. And then there was White Tiger. A female with a white uniform that covered her whole body except for the bottom half of her face. She was really half human-half white Tiger and it showed with her clawed hands, fangs, and animal-like voice.
Addressing the group was Jim Hammond, a man with blonde hair and beard. He looked like any other man, but was far from normal. He was the original Human Torch in WWII and an android. He hadn't aged a day in decades and has long given up his superhero career to run Oracle in the Sub-Mariner's place.
"Ok everybody, we've got a special assignment and here to explain it is Mr. Basset from Bransteg Incorporated." Jim said.
"Thank you, Mr. Hammond." Mr. Basset said with a nod.
Mr. Basset wore an expensive business suit and was all business from the look of it. The assembled heroes listened to Basset make his speech.
"As I'm sure you all know, Bransteg is one of the biggest research corporations in this country. We have designed much of the most advanced technology in the country. Recently we been working with the government agency called S.H.I.E.L.D.**. We have worked with them to try and better develop technologies to fight super criminals. We completed work on an experimental type of Battloid that would be able to help combat super-powered menaces, such as the Hulk. Unfortunately, just as we were making final improvements on the prototypes, the lab was ransacked and the prototypes were stolen, along with several schematics of the Battloids."
"Who raided the lab?" Ant-Man wondered.
"We retrieved descriptions of the invaders, and thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D. files, we have identified the invaders as Hydra agents."
"HYDRA? Man, you must have been workin' on something important to get THEIR attention!" Luke exclaimed.
"How do you want us to get the Battloids back? Hydra must have dozens of locations throughout the planet. It would take forever to search them all for the Battloids." Iron Fist said.
"Inside each of these Battloids was a homing device, in case something like this happened. We know where the Battloids are being kept, and we want you to get them back."
"Where is this base?" White Tiger asked in her animalistic voice.
"We have located the signals coming from a point in the Rocky Mountains. We think Hydra has a base either built in or on one of the mountains. We'll provide the location and money for your troubles if you get our Battloids back."
"So you want us to charge into a Hydra base, fight through who-knows-what, and steal these things back for you?" Black Knight asked.
Mr. Basset nodded.
"Might as well pack my good cup." Luke mumbled.
"I'm tellin' ya, I don't like this mission, Danny." Luke whispered.
The Heroes for Hire were aboard an aircraft soaring over the Rocky Mountains and approaching the coordinates given to them by Bransteg. The aircraft belonged to Oracle, and had the latest in stealth technology. Black Knight and White Tiger were flying the aircraft, while the others sat in the back of the craft. Luke was sitting next to Iron Fist.
"What do you mean, Luke?" Iron Fist asked.
"Danny, Hydra is the biggest criminal organization on the planet. And here we are, just waltzing into one of their installations, ready to take no prisoners. Doesn't that bother you at least a little bit?"
Iron Fist thought for a moment.
"No, not really. Should it?" He asked casually.
Luke stared at his friend in amazement.
"I musta been outta my mind to take this job." Luke grumbled.
"We're approaching the coordinates." Dane announced.
Dane barely finished his sentence when the aircraft flew over a mountain and a large base came into view. The base appeared to be built partly on a Mesa and partly built into the side of a mountain near the Mesa. Dane put the aircraft on autopilot as he and the others got ready to land.
"Ok team, let's get ready to-" Iron Fist was interrupted by a sudden rocking to the aircraft.
"What's happening?" White Tiger asked.
Scott looked out a porthole. Below, he saw several large cannons manned by Hydra agents. They were shooting at the aircraft.
"They're taking potshots at us!"
"We gotta get outta here before they blow up the jet with us in it!" Dane exclaimed.
"Then let's go!" Luke said as he opened the side door of the aircraft.
Luke jumped out of the aircraft, followed by the others. Ant-Man shrunk down to ant size and used his flying Deviant to fly down on.
"Strider, to me!" Black Knight called.
In an instant, Black Knight's magical winged horse Strider picked him up. Dane then grabbed onto Iron Fist and White Tiger, to ensure they didn't fall to their doom. Luke, on the other hand, cannonballed onto one of the ground cannons and smashed it to pieces.
"I love havin' skin of steel." Luke said as he got up.
In a few moments, the rest of the team was on the ground, charging the base. Luke smashed through the main door. When the door was smashed down, the heroes were greeted with over a dozen armed Hydra agents. Luke used himself as a human shield, while Black Knight used his shield to absorb the energy blasts. He then channeled the absorbed energy into his sword and blasted several of the Hydra agents. Iron Fist charged several of the guards. He roundhouse kicked one, then used a Judo throw on another, taking them both out. White Tiger used her claws to slash several of the Hydra agent's guns to scrap. She then hit them with a barrage of punches and kicks to knock them unconscious. Ant-Man snuck up on several of the enemy in ant-size and took them out with his Stinger Blast. In a few moments, the first wave of the enemy was gone.
"Christmas! That was fun." Luke said.
"Which way do we go?" Black Knight asked.
The moment of silence was broken by a moan from one of the guards as he began to regain consciousness. Iron Fist walked over to the guard and picked him up by his neck.
"I believe this gentleman would be happy to provide us with our answers." He said with a grin.
"What is going on?"
In the lab where the Battloids were being kept, chaos broke out.
"The base is being invaded." The Hydra Head Engineer said.
"So what do we do?" One of the Hydra technicians asked.
"You've installed the new programming, yes?" The Head Engineer asked.
The head engineer walked over to the three large cylinders they stole from Bransteg.
"I say it's time to test our new weapons." The Head Engineer said grimly.
The team of heroes ran down the corridors of the Hydra complex.
"You are sure he was telling the truth?" White Tiger asked in her animal-like voice.
"I didn't exactly give him very much choice." Iron Fist replied.
"That should be the lab up there." Ant-Man said, pointing towards a large double-door at the end of the hall. Iron Fist began to give orders.
"Ok, now be ready to meet some resistance. Luke, I want you to take point, you can take more punishment than the rest of us. Dane, I want you and Scott to-"
The doors to the lab being smashed open from the inside interrupted Iron Fist. The group froze as a large robot emerged from the smashed doorway.
"I think we've found what we're looking for." Luke said.
The Battloid stood at slightly over feet tall. It had armor covering most of it, and tubes running from its back shoulder blades to its forearms. Two more followed the first Battloid. The first Battloid extended its arm. The group was surprised when an energy blast shot from its hand. Iron Fist and Black Knight barely evaded the blast.
"Ok, new plan. Take 'em out!" Iron Fist said.
Iron Fist charged his right hand with Chi power. He did a backflip and landed right next to the first Battloid. He smashed his powered fist into the Battloids ribcage, tearing away some armor and circuitry. The Battloid responded by bringing it's massive fist on him, but Iron Fist dodged out of the way. Luke rushed up to help and belted the Battloid with a right hook. The large robot fell back.
"Now the fun starts." Luke said.
Meanwhile, Black Knight was busy with another of the Battloids. The large robot fired several energy blasts and Black Knight used his magical shield to absorb them. He then channeled the energy into his sword and blasted the Battloid. The Battloid was flung off its feet and landed several feet back from where it stood. Black Knight could see that the Battloid's armor was damaged. He rushed forward and plunged his sword into a spot where the Battloid's armor was weakened. Sparks flew from the wound as vital circuits were hit, but the battle wasn't over. One of the Battloid's fists drew back and knocked Black Knight with full force.
"Ooofffff!" Black Knight grunted as he tried to get back up.
The Battloid got to its feet and approached Black Knight, ready to finish him off. Black Knight raised his shield to block the oncoming attack, when the right half of the Battloid's head exploded. The remains of the Battloid stood still for a few seconds, and then collapsed. Black Knight stared at the Battloid remains for a moment in bewilderment.
"What the..." He trailed off.
"Hope you don't mind the assist." A familiar voice said.
Black Knight took a closer look at the Battloid and saw Ant-man fly out of the wreckage on his Deviant flyer.
"Scott? How did you..."
"I flew in through one of the cracks you made in this guy's armor. I flew into the head, set my Stinger-blast on full power, and BOOM!" He finished with a smile.
"Thanks, I owe you one." Black Knight said, returning the smile.
"No problem, now let's go help out the others."
Black Knight could see that Luke and Iron Fist were holding there own. White Tiger, however, was having a harder time. Black Knight turned in her direction in time to see her evade one of the Battloid's fists turning her into a smear on the floor. She back flipped out of the way and followed up with a slash to the Battloid's exposed chest. And even though her claws were razor sharp, it was clear she was having trouble getting through the robot's tough armor.
"I'll help White Tiger, you get to Iron Fist and Luke." Black Knight said.
"You got it." Ant-Man responded with a salute.
Ant-man flew over to Iron Fist and Luke, while Black Knight gave White Tiger a hand. Black Knight still had some charge left in his sword and unleashed it on the Battloid. One of the Battloid's arms was blown off in the blast, but the large robot was still standing.
"Oh, give me a break." He muttered.
The Battloid swung its remaining fist at Black Knight. He raised his shield at the last second, but was still knocked against a far wall. While the Battloid was busy with Black Knight, White Tiger underwent a change. Her body became larger, more muscular. White fur also grew from all over her body. She was morphing into more Tiger instead of human. She emitted a low growl and pounced on the Battloid's back. She dug her large claws into the Battloid and began tearing it to shreds. Black Knight watched what was happening with amazement.
"I gotta remember not to cross her." He said absently.
In a matter of moments, all that remained of the Battloid was slashed circuitry and armor. White Tiger used her meditative mental exercises to calm herself down, returning to her human form. She turned to Black Knight.
"A hard opponent to beat. We must help the others now." She said.
Black Knight nodded and the two turned to see how the fight was progressing against the last Battloid. The others had the robot on the ropes. The Battloid noticed its counterparts were destroyed. It almost seemed to ponder something for a moment. Then it did something the heroes didn't expect.
"What the heck?" Iron Fist looked on in shock.
Before their eyes, the Battloids turned into a vehicle that seemed to resemble to tank. The vehicle had two large tank-like treads on either side of its body. It also had three cannon barrels on it's front. The heroes were stunned for a second. They never saw anything like it before. The transformed Battloid used that second to fire a missile from one of its cannon barrels. The blast struck the ground beneath the heroes and they were flung all over like rag dolls. Iron Fist got up to see Black Knight on the floor, unconscious. White Tiger didn't look very good, but Luke was still up and kicking. Ant-man was nowhere to be found. Iron Fist guessed wherever Ant-man was, he wasn't doing too good.
"Time to finish this." Iron Fist said in a determined tone.
Iron Fist charged up his right hand with Chi power. He saw the Battloid-tank aim it's cannons at him. Iron Fist did a forward flip, a missile sailing under him. He landed on the side of the Battloid-tank and slammed his energy-powered fist into the treads on its side. The Battloid-tank's side was smashed in, but could still fire its cannons. Luke ran at the tank with his fists raised in the air. He brought them down on top of the Battloid-tank, smashing the remains to scrap. Luke and Iron Fist took a second to catch their breaths, then looked at each other.
"Yeah, like you said, nothing to worry about." Luke said with a smile.
In a few minutes, Federal agents arrived at the Hydra base. Nearly all Hydra personnel were being incarcerated. Mr. Basset also arrived on the scene, wanting to hear why Bransteg's Battloid's were nothing but scrap piles. A few technicians from Bransteg were also brought in to assess any damage the Battloid's may have taken.
".... So we are sorry Mr. Basset, but we had little choice." Iron Fist said.
Iron Fist was explaining what happened while the others were either getting medical help or resting.
"Yes, it's perfectly understandable. We're just grateful they didn't fall into the wrong hands." Mr. Basset said with a smile. "Now, has your partner been able to extract the Battloid schematics from Hydra's computer banks?"
"Not yet sir, but don't worry, Ant-man is one of the best. He'll purge the system of all documents that have been stolen."
Just as Iron Fist finished talking, Emile Nordstrom came walking over to Mr. Basset.
"How bad is the damage doctor?" Mr. Basset asked.
"I'm afraid the prototypes are in very bad shape Mr. Basset. It will take some time to get them put back together and running again." Emile said sadly.
"But you can repair them, yes?" Danny asked.
"Oh, of course. All it will take is some time." Emile replied.
"I'm sure it will take no time at all Doctor." Mr. Basset said with a smile.
Ant-man, meawhile, was busy at a computer terminal. He was scanning through a list of documents.
"No...no...no...There it is!" He said with a smile.
He pulled up a file called 'Bransteg' and found the Battloid schematics. From the looks of it, Hydra had some pretty detailed documents on the Battloids. As Scott made sure all of the schematics were there, he skimmed through some of the weapon systems the Battloids had. As he looked over the weapon systems, Scott's brow furrowed a bit. The weapon systems seemed to be more advanced than what Bransteg had made in the past. Scott looked around to be sure nobody was around. When he made sure nobody was, he inserted a disk into the terminal. He hit the COPY button on the keyboard. When the computer was done, Scott slipped the disk into a compartment on his costume. He checked to make sure no one saw him, then activated the purge virus and wiped the computer system. When he was done, he walked over to where Danny, Dr. Nordstrom, and Mr. Basset were talking.
"It's done. All Battloid schematics are now history." Scott said.
Mr. Basset's face broke into another smile.
"Thank you, gentlemen. It's been a pleasure doing business with you. If we ever need your help again, we'll call."
With that, Mr. Basset walked out of the base, where a Bransteg helicopter was waiting for him. Emile watched Mr. Basset leave, then turned to Danny and Scott.
"Well, if you'll excuse me. I'd better make sure we collect all of the Battloid's......leftovers."
Emile gave Danny and Scott a nod, then returned to his work.
"Come on, Scott. Let's go check on Dane and the others." Danny said.
And with that, the two walked out of the lab to check on their friends.
Mr. Basset got out the helicopter as it landed at an airport in New York. He approached a limo that was waiting for him. As he opened the limo door, he noticed another man in the back seat. The other man had on a maroon colored business suit and tie. He had dark African-American skin, and a shaved head. His eyes were light brown, and were slightly sunk into his head.
"Get in." The man said to Basset.
Basset sat down on the leather seat of the limo, with the other man on the other side of the large seat. The limo took off as Basset closed the door behind him. Basset straightened out his tie.
"Mr. Morden, I didn't expect to see you so soon" Basset said coolly.
"Let's get to business, Mr. Basset. What condition are the Battloids in?" The man known as Mr. Morden asked.
"They're trashed. It's going to take some time to repair them."
"How long?" Morden patience wore thin.
"Dr. Nordstrom's on it. He says it may take quite a while." Basset said.
A moment of silence filled the limo. Mr. Morden turned and looked Basset directly in the eyes.
"We're reaching a critical time, Mr. Basset. Even one mistake could prove...fatal."
Basset looked at Mr. Morden with a hint of fear.
"I'll make sure the project gets done on time." Mr. Basset said.
"See that you do."
*See Heroes for Hire #6 for all of the details
**Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate