Heroes for Hire #3
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!
"Pieces of the Puzzle"
Written by: Wes A.
Luke barely dodged another swing from Absorbing Man's wrecking ball.
"You can't dodge me forever!" yelled Creel.
Luke hated to admit it, but Creel may have very well been right. The fight seemed to be going at a draw so far. Creel wound up for another swing. Luke leapt to his left, keeping close to the ground. Creel's wrecking ball smashed into the pavement, causing chips of concrete to fly all over.
"Turn, villain!" came a voice from behind Creel.
Creel turned around just in time to be greeted with a steel girder from a nearby construction site. The wielder of the girder was none other than Hercules himself, and he made sure Creel felt what was hitting him. Creel was knocked off his feet, his wrecking ball thrown from his grasp.
"This ends now." said Hercules as he closed in for another hit.
Hercules swung at Creel again, but Creel caught the girder in mid-swing with both his hands. Creel's hands glowed for a second. Then Creel's skin became shiny and gray. Creel had absorbed the girder and his body was now made of solid steel.
"My turn." said Creel with a snarl.
Creel threw away the girder and laid a powerful right fist into Hercules' stomach. Hercules doubled-over, and was hit again by Creel. Suddenly there was a loud 'clang' and a few sparks coming from Creel's right arm, like metal hitting metal. Creel turned to see Black Knight standing there, his sword at the ready. Creel only got a second to see his opponent before Black Knight hit him again, this time across the face. There was another 'clang', followed by another shower of sparks. Almost instantly recovering from the hit, Creel swung his right fist at Black Knight. Black Knight used his shield to block the punch but was knocked clear off his feet from the force of the hit.
"Offfff!" Black Knight hit the street hard, his armor taking the brunt of the fall.
Before Creel could press the attack, Hercules came up behind Creel and used his powerful arms to put him in chokehold.
"You shall not win this day yet." said Hercules.
"That's what you think." said Creel.
Creel used his right elbow and smashed into Hercules's ribcage, hard. Hercules was distracted long enough for Creel to spin himself around, grab Hercules, and throw him into the third story of a nearby building. The debris landed onto the empty street below.
"Isn't there any of you heroes that can take me on?" said Creel with a laugh.
"I could think of one." came Luke's voice.
Creel turned around to see Luke swing Creel's wrecking ball right at him. The wrecking ball smashed into Creel's face, pieces of it breaking off as it connected. Creel hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"Where's that big mouth of yours now?" Luke asked Creel's unconscious body.
About an hour later, police and guardsmen from the Vault*(*prison for super-powered criminals) showed up. Creel's body turned back to normal he was knocked unconscious and was placed in a special containment unit that could negate his absorbing ability. The city of New York also agreed to pay a fair sum to Dane and Luke for their assistance for Creel's capture.
"Ah, 'twas a worthy battle my friends." said Hercules merrily.
"Yeah, it was fun." said Dane uncertainly.
Luke hid a smile.
"Look Hercules, we better get going. You know how Danny and Jim are when we don't report in back on time."
"Yes, of course. It was honor to fight alongside my former comrades once again. If you should ever need my assistance, you need only ask."
Hercules and Luke shook hands.
"Thanks Herc, we will."
When Luke and Dane returned to Oracle, they walked into the meeting room. They saw Jim, Danny, Scott, and White Tiger all seated around the table. All of them except for Jim had their costumes on. Each of them had a grim expression on their face.
"What's wrong guys?" asked Dane.
"You guys better sit down." said Jim as he got up.
Dane and Luke sat down.
"What is it guys?" asked Luke, worried.
"Scott, would you like to explain?" asked Danny.
Dane and Luke shifted their gaze to Scott, who sat at the head of the table.
"You remember when we crashed that Hydra base for Bransteg?" asked Scott.
Luke and Dane both nodded their heads.
"Well, as you remember, I was supposed to purge the Hydra database for any saved copies of the Battloid schematics. But before I purged the system, I saved a copy for myself. The reason is because something about the technology just seemed.....off somehow, I couldn't really explain it. Then when we got back, I took a closer look at the technology."
Scott stopped for a second; he looked like something was troubling him.
"Well, what did you find Scott?" asked Dane impatiently.
"The technology was beyond anything I had ever seen before. The systems were very complex for anything a company like Bransteg could make. So, I got in touch with the Fantastic Four and Avengers. I cross-referenced the Battloid schematics with the all tech files they had. I even cross-referenced it with the files they had on alien technologies, like Skrull and Kree. When I was finished cross-referencing, I didn't find anything that even closely resembled what those Battloids were made out of."
It took a minute for Luke and Dane to process all this. Finally, Luke came out with the question.
"Scott, I don't think I'm hearing you right. It almost sounded like you said that those Battloids weren't made from human technology."
Scott's eyes focused on Luke.
"That's exactly what I’m saying."
The room was silent for several moments. Dane leaned back into his chair, almost as if without thinking. Luke on the other hand, wasn't as quiet.
"Scotty, no offense, but are you sure someone didn't slip anything into your coffee this morning?"
"This isn't a laughing matter Luke," said Jim, "I got in touch with Shield this morning. They haven't had any dealings with Bransteg whatsoever. No projects, no nothing."
"That means that they lied to us." said Dane.
"But why would they tell us otherwise?" asked White Tiger "What would there be to gain from deceit?"
"I don't know. But I suggest we find out." said Danny.
Scott was furiously typing away at Oracle's main computer. He had been busy working at the computer for over an hour now. The others were all spread out across the room. Luke had ordered a pizza and he, Danny, and White Tiger were eating away. Jim spent most of the time looking over Scott's shoulder, much to Scott's annoyance.
"You know Jim, it'd be a lot easier to hack into Bransteg's computer system without you hovering over me like that." said Scott with a hint of frustration in his voice.
"Sorry." said Jim as he walked over to another side of the room.
"Relax Jim, we all want the answers we're looking for here." said Dane as reviewed the Battloid schematics that Scott had 'borrowed'.
"Relax Jim Hammond, the answers will come to us soon." said White Tiger in that feline voice of hers.
Scott was still pounding away at the keyboard.
"I'll give this to Bransteg, they sure do know how to protect their files." muttered Scott.
"Don't worry Scott, you'll get in." said Danny as he finished his slice of pepperoni.
A low whistle coming from Dane, working at another computer broke the end of Danny's sentence.
"Scott you weren't kidding when you said those Battloids are advanced."
"What've you found Dane?" asked Jim as he walked toward Dane's direction.
"The whole Battloid design is different than anything I've seen. For instance, the main operating computer appears to revolve on a system that borders on artificial intelligence. It looks like the Battloids were designed with an adaptive combat program. So whomever the Battloid faced, it could learn an opponents moves and adapt to them, ensuring the defeat of anyone."
"So you're sayin' that those robots could think?" asked Luke after he was done swallowing a mouthful of pizza.
"Well, to a limit, yeah. If the program was furthered, I'm sure it could gain total intelligence. I've also found something else."
"What?" asked Danny, now heading towards Dane's direction as well.
"Well, it seems that the Battloids were equipped with a special piece of machinery. See this part here?" asked Dane as he pointed to the diagram on the screen, "Well, it seems that this piece is responsible for the...change that the Battloid went through went it became that tank."
"Have you seen anything like this piece before?" asked Jim.
"Damn it!" shouted Scott.
The others whipped their heads around to see Scott's computer screen go black. Scott leaned back in his chair and massaged his temples.
"What wrong has been done?" asked White Tiger.
"I couldn't get in. Bransteg's security systems caught up with me." said Scott bitterly.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about that?" asked Luke.
Scott turned to face the others.
"I tried to get out as quickly as I could, but," Scott let out a heavy sigh, "if I didn't get out in time, then Bransteg could trace us and know that we tried to hack into their system."
Suddenly, the room got quiet once again.
"What the hell is going on?!?" exclaimed Mr. Basset as he stormed into the Security office at Branteg Inc.
Over the past several minutes, sirens were blaring all over the building. Mr. Basset immediately hurried to the Security office to see what was the matter. One of the technicians at a computer turned to him.
"Someone tried to break into our computer system Mr. Basset."
"Did we catch them?" asked Basset, worried.
"Yes sir. We pinpointed were the hacker was coming from."
The technician checked a readout that came out over the computer. He read it over for a second.
"It came from Oracle Inc., sir."
Basset's face turned slightly pale.
"Really? Interesting. Thank you, I'll handle it. Keep up the good work." said Basset as he left the office.
As the door closed behind him, Mr. Basset leaned against a wall in the hallway. Mr. Basset took a deep breath and exhaled. He then withdrew a cellular phone from his suit. He punched a number on his speed dial. He waited a few seconds as the phone rang on the other side of the line.
"Mr. Elkins? This is Mr. Basset, from Bransteg. I have a little job for you and your team. Apparently, some ex-employees are causing a bit of a ruckus and I need someone to quiet them down. You interested?" finished Basset with a smile.
Next Issue: The Jury hands down their verdict on the Heroes for Hire.....