Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Heroes for Hire #5 - Secrets, Revelations, and More Mysteries...

Heroes for Hire #5

Iron Fist - martial arts master raised in the mysticcity 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!

"Secrets, revelations, and more mysteries....."

Written by: Wes A.


Throughout most of the Bransteg building, people were rushing around. Many of them were preparing equipment and supplies to be moved. On the landing pad outside, Mr. Morden appeared very calm and collected. He watched as two aircraft landed. The wide doors on both the craft opened and two dozen armored men and women came out. The armor on each person was somewhat bulky, and had a chaingun mounted on the shoulder. The group made their way toward Morden, the one with the highest rank was in the lead.

"Onex Guard units #22 and 23 reporting for duty sir."

Morden nodded at the leader.

"Ladies, gentlemen. I assume you've all been briefed on you mission here?"

"Yes sir, provide protection from hostile forces while materials and personnel are evacuated to a secure location." replied the leader.

"Correct. Follow me."

Morden led the Onex Gurad in and had them divided up into groups. Some would be guarding the landing pad, some would be guarding labs, and others would be placed on stand-by. After Morden was finished dividing the team, he made his way to the main lab. In here too people were rushing, preparing for the move. Morden looked around and saw Dr. Nordstrom overseeing some Battloid remains*(*from issue #1-Wes) being stored into large containers. He walked over to Dr. Nordstrom to check up on his progress.

"Careful with that! That piece is the epicenter of the entire Battloid's weapons system!" exclaimed Nordstrom to one of the men.

"Doctor, how goes the move?" asked Morden.

Dr. Nordstrom turned around to find Mr. Morden standing behind him.

"Oh, fine Mr. Morden. The first shipment left a short while ago. We should have everything moved out within two hours."

Mr. Morden nodded his head in a way that almost indicated joy.

"Good, good. Glad to hear it. I realize that this is very sudden, but for the good of the project we must move elsewhere."

Mr. Morden's expression changed to a very serious one.

"There are forces at work out there, Dr. Nordstrom. Forces that threaten everything this project stands for."

Nordstrom's face appeared more resolved after that speech, ready to take on the odds.

"Don't worry sir, this project won't be shutting down. I know how important it is to this country. Nothing will keep it from accomplishing its goal."

Mr. Morden's face cracked a smile.

"Thank you Doctor. With men like you on our side, we can't possibly lose."


In his office, Mr. Basset was busy cutting through a lot of 'red tape'. To just pick up an operation like this and move it was a rather large task, but it had to be done. Their enemies were on to them now and this place was no longer safe. If all went according to plan, then they'd have nothing to worry about. The Onex Guard had arrived, so they should have adequate protection if any complications had arose. Mr. Basset was signing some papers when he heard a knock at his office door.

"Come in." said Basset without looking up from his paperwork.

Dr. Jacob Frost stepped into the room.

"Excuse me sir, but is this a bad time?" the Doctor asked.

"No, no, not at all. What can I do for you?"

"Yes, well, I just wanted to report that the first prototype-or the remains of it-were shipped out with the first transport and the second will be ready to shuttle in a little while."

"Thank you Doctor." said Basset, still concentrated on his paperwork.

"Sir, there's one other thing as well I wanted to talk with you about. Are we in any danger?"

The question stopped Mr. Basset from his writing. He looked up at the small man before him and realized he saw fear in the man's eyes.

"Dr. Frost, I won't lie to you. There may be people on their way here that wish us harm. But don't worry yourself. You have this corporation and all the resources at its disposal protecting you. You have nothing to fear."

Mr. Basset had a smile on his face that conveyed a sense of security. Jacob's mood began to rise.

"Of course sir, you're right. Thank you." returned Jacob with a smile of his own.

After Jacob left the room, Mr. Basset thought on the words he spoke. He thought of what might happen if he failed Mr. Morden and his superiors. He knew that failure wasn't an option, but he was prepared just in case.


The young receptionist at the front desk was busy filing some documents on her computer when she noticed a man walk into the lobby. He was tall and wore an overcoat that covered most of his body. She could see his muscles bulge underneath the coat.

"How may I help you?" she asked sweetly.

The man returned the smile with one of his own. The receptionist felt herself melt a little under the man's charming smile.

"I'd like to talk with Mr. Basset please." he said politely.

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No, I don't." the man said almost apologetically.

"Then I can't let you in." she said.

"But it's very important that I see him."

"Well, what's your name? If I tell him I'm sure he'll be willing to see you."

"Cage." the man said simply.

"Excuse me?" she asked, confused.

"Luke Cage. And oh yeah, my partners came with me too."

With that, the rest of the Heroes for Hire walked into the door and joined Luke at the desk.

"Sure he's not too busy?" asked Black Knight casually.

The secretary's face went slightly pale. She hit a button on the underside of her desk and a squad of armed security guards burst into the room. They opened fire, only to have done little harm to the heroes. Luke and Black Knight were unharmed by the shots, Iron Fist and White Tiger were agile enough to avoid harm and Ant-Man merely shrunk down to ant-size and the shots just whizzed by. Iron Fist and White Tiger took the offensive and attacked the guards.

"Ok people, cover's blown! Let's get it over with!" said Iron Fist.

The guards barely saw Iron Fist and White Tiger coming at them before they were knocked out cold on the floor. Luke threw off the bullet-ridden remains of the trenchcoat to reveal his uniform. He tossed the coat to the secretary, who was frozen to her chair with amazement over what just happened.

"Say, would you happen to know where any labs would be around here?" asked Luke in a charming voice.

The secretary just gave him an amazed look, then pointed down a hallway.

"Go down your second left, pass another four offices, the take the elevator down to sub-level #2."

"Thanks." said Luke with a smile.


They had almost made it to the elevator when they ran into more security guards. Except this time though, the guards were armed with some type of stunguns. White Tiger took a direct shot and went down to the ground. The shots barely affected Luke, so he shielded Iron Fist. Black Knight absorbed the blasts into his shield, channeled the energy into his sword, then shot it at the guards. They were all knocked back by the force of the blow.

"Nice shot." said Ant-Man, who was riding around on his small Deviant flyer.

"How's Tiger doin'?" asked Luke.

White Tiger groaned and began to get back up on her feet.

"I am being fine, thank you for asking."

"Come on, let's go." said Iron Fist.


By now, Basset had made his way down to the lab. He called Mr. Morden over to him with urgency in his voice. Morden saw that something was wrong and ran over to Basset.

"What's going on?" asked Morden.

"The Heroes for Hire are here. They've made their way to the elevator entrance. I've assigned a squad of Onex Guard to intercept them. We have to get everything out of here NOW!"

Morden cursed under his breath.

"Very well, we'll have to make this next shipment the last one. Let's hope the Onex Guard can keep our foes busy long enough so we can get out of here."


As the elevator doors opened, the Heroes found themselves facing the Onex Guard. Each of them had their chainguns aimed at the heroes. For a moment, they all froze. But that was only a moment.

"Fire!" ordered the Onex Guard leader.

Just after the order was given, the Chi powered hand of Iron Fist smashed the Onex Guard right between the eyes. The Guard fell back, causing the two Guards behind him to misfire and hit the floor instead of their intended targets. Using the distraction, the Heroes launched themselves into battle. Luke leaped forward and tackled one of the Guards to the ground. White Tiger used her claws to shred one of the Guards chainguns to pieces. Black Knight and Iron Fist teamed up on one of Guards, Iron Fist using his Chi powered fist to hit him in the ribs and Black Knight using his sword to slice the chaingun like a knife through butter.

While the other Heroes fought off the Onex Guard, Ant-Man flew up into the air vents unnoticed. It was a tight squeeze, but it made it through with his Deviant. He flew through the air vent until her came to an air duct overlooking the lab. From what he saw, all the equipment in the lab was being prepared for shipping. In the middle of the operation, Ant-Man could see Mr. Basset along with another man overseeing the operation. Ant-Man could also see more Onex Guard in the lab, apparently Basset was prepared for an attack. Ant-Man pulled out a small communications device from his belt. It was given to him by G.W. Bridge. When the Heroes wanted back-up, all they had to do was give the word and a strike-team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would be there in a matter of minutes.

Ant-Man was about to use the device to call for the back-up when he noticed Dr. Nordstrom enter a smaller lab off to the side of the main lab. Ant-Man put the device away and made another trip through the vents. He came to the one in the lab where Dr. Nordstrom was. Nordstrom was working on a computer, pulling up some sort of file. Ant-Man landed on the floor of the room and dismounted his flying Deviant. He then grew up to full size.

"Dr. Nordstrom?"

Nordstrom jumped from surprise. He whipped around to face Ant-Man.

"You! How did you get past the Onex Guard?!" exclaimed Nordstrom a bit franticly.

Ant-Man raised his arms, palms out. He hoped to calm the Doctor and reason with him.

"I'm not here to hurt you, none of the Heroes are. Doctor, you must listen to me, Mr. Basset has lied to you, he's lied to all of you. Bransteg has no involvement with the government. They're up to something, something bad. We're here to stop whatever it is they're here to do, but we need your help to find out what exactly they're up to."

Nordstrom shook his head.

"No, that can't be true. They came to me, to ALL of us. They said they needed our help. They said that the government wanted to make a robot capable to combating super-powered criminals and they hired Bransteg to build them."

"Doctor, that's not true. The government had no such plans, and they sure didn't have any contracts with Bransteg."

Dr. Nordstrom shook his head again, except this time with confusion.

"But I don't understand, why would they lie to us? Why wo-"

Before Dr. Nordstrom could finish his sentence, the door to the small lab opened. The man that entered was the man Ant-Man saw with Basset in the lab. As soon as he saw Ant-Man, his face darkened.


Before Ant-Man could do anything, the man pulled out some sort of gun from his business suit jacket and fired. Instead of bullets though, the gun shot a sort of energy pellet. The pellet his Ant-Man square in the chest and knocked him flat on his back. Nordstrom was frozen where he stood, not believing what he just saw. The man turned to Nordstrom.

"What was he doing here?" the man demanded.

Dr. Nordstrom just stuttered his response.

"Mr. Morden, he just startled me.....I didn't see him until....."

"Did you tell him anything?"

"No, n-no, of course I didn't."

"Why don't I believe you?" asked Morden coldly.

Nordstrom saw the cold, hard look on Morden's face. He knew that no answer he gave would save him, so he chose to give none. Morden pointed the gun at Nordstrom, ready to fire. Suddenly, Morden was hit with a yellow beam of energy. Morden gave a hard grunt of pain as he hit the lab floor. Nordstrom followed the blasts path towards Ant-Man's gauntlet.

"Ready to reconsider your job options now?" asked Ant-Man.

Suddenly, alarms began to blare throughout the lab.

"Your allies I take it?" Nordstrom asked as he helped Ant-Man up.

"They must have gotten through the Onex Guard, they should be here in a bit. C'mon let's get that Morden guy and......."

It was then they realized that Morden was gone. They saw the open door and made their own judgement.


At the loading area to the landing pad, everyone was busy either loading materials or trying to get on one of the aircraft. Basset waited for Morden beside a smaller aircraft. The Heroes were very close now, and he wanted to leave. He breathed a relieved sigh when he saw Morden coming, obviously in pain.

"What happened? Where's Nordstrom?"

"I'm sorry to say that Dr. Nordstrom will no longer be with us. He just became a security risk."

It took Basset a moment to process this.

"You mean you......killed him?"

"Unfortunately, no. We'll have to settle that loose end later on. Right now Mr. Basset, let us leave."

The craft had just began lift off and Basset was about to shut the door, when an energy blast rocked the craft. The force of the blast rocked the craft and Basset was thrown out. He hit the floor very hard. Morden looked down to see Ant-Man ready to fire again. Morden pulled out his gun and fired back, forcing his attacker to take cover. While Ant-Man took cover, the craft left the hangar and shot off into the sky. Ant-Man cursed, then made his way over to Basset. Basset was in bad shape, his leg was visibly broken.

"Don't move, we'll get you to a hospital. You're going to be fine." said Ant-Man, trying to keep Basset calm.

"No, no I won't be," said Basset with a grim smile "not if I talk. If I talk, they'll know. And believe me, that's a fate almost worse than death."

"What are you talking about?" asked Ant-Man, confused.

Basset snorted, as if someone told a joke he only found half funny.

"You don't know. You don't know who you're dealing with, but you will. They aren't going to forget about you. SHE won't forget about you. I knew the job was risk. But it's an even bigger risk to run from them. Well, I'm not going to run."

He looked Ant-Man straight in the eye.

"I wish you luck. You'll need it for the road you're going to take."

Suddenly, Basset bite down hard on something in his mouth. Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head, his body going limp. Ant-Man just held Basset's body, unable to believe what just happened. He didn't know how long it was between Basset's death and the other Heroes arriving. They ran up to Scott.

"Scott, what happened?" asked Danny.

"Basset killed himself, poison pill."

All was silent for a moment. Finally, it was Scott who spoke again.

"We should call Bridge, let him clean this up. I heard Nordstrom mention the name 'Morden', maybe Bridge can find something on him."

"Where is Nordstrom?" asked Dane.

"He ducked out after I went to chase down Morden, I don't know where he went. Did you take care of all the Onex Guard?" asked Scott as he got up.

"Yeah. Sure was enough of 'em." said Luke.

The Heroes began to leave the hangar, tired from their battle.

"Wish we could get some answers about all this." said Luke idly.

"Perhaps I can give some." came a voice.

The Heroes looked up to see a section of the air in front of them shimmer for a moment. Then, a large blue and white robot stood before them. The Heroes stood, frozen where they took their last steps.

"Greetings," said the robot "My name is Mirage. I have come on behalf of the Autobots and Optimus Prime to ask your aid."

"Be careful what you wish for....." said Luke under his breath.

TO BE CONTINUED............

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