The story so far
Clad in an experimental new suit of armor, designed for use in outer space, Iron Man encountered two battling starships in Earth orbit, and thereby met Mon-Dria, a female officer serving in something called the Kree Starfleet-in-Exile.
Rescuing Mon-Dria after she had been ejected from her ship by her bitter enemy and rival, Bal-Rogg, Iron Man set out with her in pursuit of the villain. Caught up in a space warp of unknown origin, the Armored Avenger and the Kree beauty found themselves hurled across space and, apparently, time as well.
They arrived at a gigantic space station, only to find Bal-Rogg already there, apparently for quite some time, and leading an underground organization dealing in the slave trade. Together, our heroes dealt Bal-Rogg a major setback, but with Iron Mans armor nearly drained of power, they had no choice but to flee
by Van Plexico
RACE THROUGH DARK PLACES"
Iron Man and Mon-Dria fled Bal-Roggs sanctum, the slaver army in hot pursuit.
Down the corridor they ran, Iron Man inside his experimental space armor, now much the worse for wear and nearly drained of power, and Mon-Dria still clad in the slave girl outfit Bal-Rogg had forced her to wear. She thanked the gods that shed managed to find some shoes to go with the outfit; it covered little enough else of her, with its slender metallic waist loop and golden breast cups trailing the tiniest amount of white silk over her blue-skinned hips and arms. The golden bracelets around her wrists and ankles, which could control her mind and body if the control ring she now wore fell into someone elses hands, served as a constant reminder of the evil she and Tony were fleeing.
Inside his armor, Tony Stark felt anger and frustration welling up. From the moment he and Mon-Dria had arrived on this station, nothing had made much sense. And, sure, the station was a scientific marvel, but hed hardly enjoyed a spare moment thus far to do much in the way of exploring new technology. No, hed been rather occupied with attempting to save his life, and Mon-Drias. And while hed normally have at least felt more comfortable facing a technological threat than a magical one, this station, with its inconceivable scale and incomprehensible technology, seemed so advanced as to be virtually indistinguishable from magic!
All of which made Tony Stark a particularly unhappy man, at the moment And thus made Iron Man a particularly dangerous Avenger If only I could somehow recharge this armor!
Tony snapped back to the present as they rounded a corner and came upon the small opening through which Iron Man had first entered this deck. Squeezing through, they found themselves in the open service space, then began to climb back up the way Tony had come with the green alien. *
[*It happened in IRON MAN #372. Van]
"Artificial lighting," Mon-Dria pointed out after a while, as they passed what must have been a bulkhead between levels. "We must be out of the Dead Areas."
Shouts from below echoed up through the shaft.
Mon-Dria glanced down. "Theyve figured out where we went. We have to get out of here now!"
Tony said nothing, instead reached out and pulled at what appeared to be another service hatch like the ones hed seen up and down the maintenance shaft. With a groan, the hatch opened, revealing a shadowed tunnel.
Mon-Dria peered through the opening. "Do you know where this leads?"
"Not even remotely."
The sounds from below grew louder. It sounded like they were being pursued by an army.
"Oh, well, no time to debate it." The sleek Kree female climbed into the tunnel, followed by the bulky armored human.
Iron Man reached back and pulled the hatch closed behind him. "Maybe thatll confuse em for a while," he said, hurrying to catch up. He saw that Mon-Dria had already reached the other end and stopped. "So what is it--?" He trailed off as he squeezed alongside her and saw what she was seeing.
They looked out, from far up in the air, over a vast jungle. They were at one edge, and the dense vegetation extended as far as they could see into the distance. If there was a far wall in any other direction, it was too faint to make out in the haze.
"What in the--?"
Iron Man hung partway out and twisted around. He could see the wall behind them as a gray curve extending away to the left and right, out of sight, and up into the sky. Far, far overhead, a clear dome separated them from the cold of space, light pods glowing along support beams. Inside the dome, it was steamy, tropical. Odd sounds echoed from the depths of the jungle.
"This must be one of those domes we saw from the outside," Tony whispered. "But that would mean..."
"Its huge," Mon-Dria finished for him. "Immense. The size of one of your worlds continents."
Tony swallowed, taking it all in. This station had offered him nothing but one crisis after another, one unimaginable circumstance after another, and his mind was reeling.
"What should we do?" Mon-Dria looked to him, her eyes wide. "We cant go back the way we came, and I dont see any other way out!"
Tony turned back, examining the wall behind them again. He became aware of a horizontal line about twenty feet up the wall; a ledge. "How do you get up there--?" He searched for a ladder or rungs, but there was nothing. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Mon-Dria.
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to save us. Come on!"
Climbing out and sitting on the edge of the tunnel, Tony activated his boot jets and surged into the air, a startled Mon-Dria clinging tightly to him as she stared down at the treetops far below. Quickly they soared over the ledge and touched down.
Mon-Dria started breathing again and extracted herself from Tony.
"You dont trust my flying?" he asked.
"I wasnt sure if your power would run out halfway, with all youve been through," she replied, glancing around.
"No, Im starting to power back up again now that were out of the Dead Areas," Tony stated. Realizing that he had worn his helmet for a very long time now, he popped the seals and pulled it off, breathing deeply. "That feels good. Ill be glad when I can get the rest of it off..." He extended a sensor antenna from his left eupauleta part hed added as a deliberate nod to a feature of his earliest armorsand noticed that it had been severely bent at some point in the recent past. Feels like the antenna isnt all that got bent. Ugh. Straightening it, he turned and saw Mon-Dria pointing further down the ledge. He blinked. "Whats that supposed to be?"
A rectangular box sat on the edge of the cliff, about fifty yards away. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be connected to some sort of narrow track, running off into the distance.
"A conveyance of some sort?" Mon-Dria squinted.
Reluctantly, he fitted his helmet back on. His telescopic lenses dropped into place, and he studied the object. "Yeah, I think so. You want to--?"
She smiled. "Why not? Perhaps--"
Her thought went uncompleted, for at that moment, a massive talon swept down from the sky and smashed between the two of them, sending them both sprawling.
"What the--?!" Iron Man quickly pulled himself to his feet, searching about for the source of the attack.
"There!" Mon-Dria pointed toward another access tunnel, just ahead. "A scaled, six-legged beast! I saw it run that way!"
"Run?" Tony's brow furrowed. "But-- it was flying--"
The blood-curdling shriek sent chills up Tony's spine. Facing in the direction of the noise, he spotted the creature at last, charging out of another tunnel--but it was nothing like he had expected or Mon-Dria had described. It was man-like, with shaggy, gray fur covering most of its body. Before Iron Man could react, it was upon him, tackling him viciously and driving him into the deck.
Mon-Dria looked about desperately for a weapon, even as Tony pulled himself free from the beast's grasp and ran a worried glance over his energy readouts. "I've got a little power built back up," he told his Kree companion, "but I have no idea if it'll be enough!"
"Just blast it," she shouted back.
He did. Iron Man's repulsors lashed out with a shriek, the beams raking over the creature, just as it charged at him again. With another ear-shattering scream, the creature whirled-- and charged straight at Mon-Dria!
"Oh, no, you don't!" With a single cybernetic command, Tony activated the magnetic skates he'd included in this version of his space armor, and sent himself rushing forward after the beast. Intended to use them skimming around on the hulls of space stations, during construction, he thought idly as he lunged for the monster. Good to see they have more direct uses, too!
Two powerful blows from Iron Man's crimson gauntlets staggered the creature-- but what he saw next staggered Iron Man even more. The monster stepped back, and its features seemed to melt, to flow. The next thing Tony knew, he faced an entirely different life form-- black, bat-winged and fanged, with long, skinny legs.
What must have been a battle-cry from Mon-Dria distracted Tony for just a moment, and the beast got a grip on him. But then, just as suddenly, the grip softened and vanished. As Tony regained his feet, he saw something unexpected: Mon-Dria had the creature held firmly in a martial arts lock of some sort.
"Don't just stand there staring," she barked. "Do something! I can't hold it much longer!"
The iron right cross to the jaw sent the monster to dreamland, and Tony then helped Mon-Dria extricate herself from the now-unconscious beast.
"How did you--?"
"Wait a moment," the Kree starship officer replied, "and you will see how."
She gestured toward the creature. Once again, its features were flowing, changing. And when they ceased to change, they revealed, all too clearly...
Mon-Dria smiled grimly. "Yes."
"But... how? How did you--?"
"You may rest assured," she stated flatly, "that Skrulls are one life form I have been extensively trained not only in identifying, but also--" and she indicated the limp beast-- "in neutralizing."
Nodding appreciatively, Tony could only smile. "I suppose so."
"It makes sense there would be at least one of them here," she continued. "What with so many other races represented."
"Why do you suppose he attacked us?"
"I saw a Kree. I thought perhaps you were responsible for my predicament."
Iron Man whirled, palms raised, repulsors ready. The Skrull was slowly pulling himself to his feet.
"No, no-- no need for further violence." He managed to stand, and dusted himself off. "I shall retain my native form, to reassure you."
"Uh... thanks," Tony replied, unsure.
"We need information," Mon-Dria began, all business. "We must escape this--"
"AAAIIEEEE!! He's coming!"
Before either Iron Man or Mon-Dria could react, the Skrull changed into a smaller, birdlike form and flew away, curving down toward the trees, far below. Within moments, he was lost to sight.
Tony and Mon-Dria exchanged uneasy looks.
Tony activated all of his long-range sensors, searching for any approaching threat. "Now, what on earth could have made him react like that?"
"I don't know," the sleek Kree female replied, "but I suggest we remove ourselves from this place with all due haste."
As if by unspoken agreement, they both raced toward the box they'd spied earlier.
As they approached it, they saw that it was mounted onto some sort of slender, single track which ran up the wall and disappeared from view. The box was gray, except for a transparent panel across the side facing out toward the jungle.
Iron Man examined it while Mon-Dria went around to the other side. Tony ran his gloved hands across the surface, eventually finding a small catch. When he pulled on it, the side of the box popped open.
"Nice work," Mon-Dria commented, leaning past him and peering into the box.
"Thanks," Tony mumbled, watching the scantily-clad female Kree with rapt attention as she leaned through the hatch.
"Yeah, me too."
"What?" Mon-Dria leaned back out, her face questioning.
"Um, nothing." Feeling somewhat guilty, Tony leaned alongside her. "What is it?"
She pointed back inside. "This is definitely a transport of some sort. I believe it travels along the rail, up the inside surface of the dome. The controls are here, see?" She indicated a panel which appeared made of gold; three red buttons were set into its surface, above a square panel.
Seating herself on the broad cushion which filled the back half of the box, she leaned toward the controls again. "Perhaps..."
Tony climbed in and sat down beside her. "We may not have any alternative."
His companion nodded, continuing to study the panel.
"Hello? Excuse me--?"
Iron Man and Mon-Dria almost jumped through the top of the box, so startled were they by the voice. Tony diverted power to one repulsor and leaned out the door.
The little man in the gray suit* stood outside, a clipboard in one hand.
[*We first met him in IRON MAN #371. --Van]
"Wha-- Where-- How--?" Tony gawked at the man, then tried to look around behind him, to figure out where hed come from.
"Im not sure how you got away from me before, but now I simply must ask you to register," the little man said. He held the clipboard out.
Tony blinked. "What?" Then everything that he and Mon-Dria had been through since theyd arrived passed through his mind, and his face hardened. He jabbed a metal-gloved finger outward. "Look, you. We want to get out of here." He spoke slowly, clearly. "And you clearly have something to do with this. We dont want to be here. Understand?"
The little man looked uncomfortable. "Um, well, Im afraid thats not an option, is it? Seeing as how youre so obviously here now..."
Mon-Dria had stepped out of the box and stood next to Tony. She studied the little man for a moment, her face registering surprise. Then she crossed her arms and leaned towards him. "At last, someone I can deal with. You have some sort of authority on this station, yes? Return us to our ship and tell us how to pass back through that portal to Earth," she demanded.
"Oh my, I wasnt expecting you to be so difficult." He tapped his pen on the clipboard, then looked back up at them again. "If you insist on causing delays, I suppose Ill have to bring in some sort of... brutish figures to threaten and menace you until you sign..." He looked peeved. "Why cant you people ever make things simple? Just once?" He sighed deeply. "Very well... Ill return momentarily..." And with that, he turned and walked toward the cliff wall. A rectangular panel that had not been noticeable before slid open, and the man walked through. The panel slid closed behind him.
Mon-Dria rushed to the wall and examined it. No sign remained of the opening. "Its perfectly smooth!"
Tony frowned. "I dont know who hes supposed to be, but hes clearly not going to help us."
"Hes bringing brutes, did he say?"
Iron Man nodded. "I think, if you can work that transport, wed better make ourselves scarce."
Both their faces creasing into determined frowns, Tony and Mon-Dria climbed back into the transport and set to work.
They'd made a number of enemies in their short time on the station, and those enemies were converging on them now... More quickly than they even guessed...
Next: Falling Toward Apotheosis!
SOCK IT TO SHELLHEAD!
This month, the esteemed TJ Duez writes:
I've never been an large fan of things cosmic, so I don't recognise any of the characters you've been using. Despite that, the story is thoroughly entertaining.
Heh-- there's another reason you don't recognize 'em, TJ. I made a conscious decision for this storyline to introduce some new characters, in the fine Marvel tradition. So don't go searching for Mondy or Bal-Rogg in old issues of CAPTAIN MARVEL-- you won't find 'em there! But here's hoping they're deemed good enough to pop up in future MV1 stories.
The other great point - 4 issues in, and your story isn't even over!! I like stories that take time for the telling, as long as they don't drag. You've found the perfect medium for me. Keep it up!
Hey, I'm having a ball. And not only do I want to "keep it up"-- depending on how far I go with this, I may need more than my 12 issues to get it all out! (And look for some more traditional Marvel characters to turn up, before it's all over. I'm going somewhere very specific with all this--it's all planned out.)
And, please, tell me you already have someone lined-up for the title after your twelve issues. Lie to me, if you have to! I don't want to wait any longer than necessary for my monthly fix of fanfic IM!!
The way it's going, I may not
want to give it back! Ha!
Thank you for writing, TJ, and I'm very glad you're enjoying it. Be sure to write again soon--the story can only be better with good feedback coming in.
And--hey, Ralph! I got your message, too, but lost the email. Please re-send, or better yet, send a new missive!
Story © 2000 - 2001 by Van Allen Plexico