The story so far
Caught up in a space warp of unknown origin, the Armored Avenger and the beautiful Kree starship officer Mon-Dria found themselves hurled across space and, apparently, time as well.
Escaping the enigmatic being known only as the Gatherer, they now know where they are-- the Earth-- but the big question is... When??
by Van Plexico
"INTERSECTIONS IN REAL TIME"
The world as Tony Stark knew it was no more.
Gazing out the viewport of Mon-Dria's spacecraft, he surveyed the New York City landscape. It was in ruins--or nearly so. Most buildings still stood, but rubble lay in the streets, and few people were visible out in the open. A grim haze floated over it all, here in the twilight hours, contributing to the sense of hopelessness, of recent cataclysm, of impending disaster.
"What on Earth...?"
Tony glanced at his Kree companion, his eyes filled with unspoken questions, but she could only shrug. "Remember, time moved at a different speed on the station," she said. "We may be some distance in the future."
"The future...?" Tony returned his gaze to the wreckage of New York. "This is the future? How--?"
Mon-Dria absently scratched at the skin around the golden wristbands she unwillingly wore. "Perhaps there is somewhere we can go... and inquire about all of this...?"
Tony blinked, came back to himself. "Yeah... of course. Let's try my local apartment."
Mon-Dria's ship, on stealth mode and virtually invisible to most forms of detection, hovered silently just above the roof of Tony's apartment building. The side hatch slid open, and Iron Man helped Mon-Dria down onto the rooftop. The two walked quickly over to the penthouse door, and Tony flipped his faceplate up, studying the locking mechanism.
"All I have to do is give it a look at my fingerprints and retinas, and we'll be inside." He leaned forward, keyed the sequence, and...
Mon-Dria pursed her lips impatiently. "You were saying?"
"I don't understand it..." He bent down again, started to key the lock sequence again, and--
--the door slid open.
"Who the hell are you?!"
Tony straightened, stumbled back a step. "Wha--?"
Before him stood an Asian woman wearing a red silk robe, her thick black hair tied up in an intricate knot atop her head. She held a dangerous-looking weapon of some sort, aiming it directly at Tony's chest.
"I repeat: Just who the hell--" She paused, studying Tony's face, then realizing what he was wearing. "N--no... it can't be..."
"Excuse me?" Tony instinctively moved to lower the visor of his helmet, but realized that it was too late--this strange woman had gotten a good look at him already.
"You-- you're Tony Stark. You're Iron Man."
Jeez, Tony thought, the old secret identity is taking a real beating, lately. Tony studied her--quick impressions: Wow. She's just stunning. Maybe early forties--a bit older than I usually go for-- but... wow. Back to business-- "Any you're in my apartment," he retorted.
"Your apartment...?" The woman seemed unsteady on her feet. "This is my apartment. It's been the property of Stark-Fujikawa for years. It--" She teetered again. "You're really Tony Stark." She laughed a bit hysterically. "Well, then, maybe it is your apartment. But-- this is impossible. You have to be an impostor!"
Mon-Dria stepped forward, losing patience. "This is Tony Stark. The one you call Iron Man. We are here seeking information about what has happened to this city. Can you be of assistance, or do you intend to stand there the rest of the evening, repeating yourself?"
The Asian woman steadied, glared at Mon-Dria. "You-- you're a Kree. I recognize the look."
Tony was losing patience himself. "Okay-- I'm willing to set aside the issue of whose apartment this is for now-- clearly we have much bigger things to be worrying about." He indicated his blue companion. "This is Mon-Dria. And you are--?"
She extended a delicate hand. "Rumiko Fujikawa. President and CEO of Stark-Fujikawa International."
Mon-Dria's ship descended again, this time over Avengers Mansion.
"Probably should have just come here first," Tony was saying, as he flipped down his golden faceplate once more.
Mon-Dria glanced over at him. "This woman--Rumiko--I couldn't make a great deal of sense of what she was saying. Some sort of world war brewing... two of your continents now armed camps... This nation in economic ruin... And what was that about your super-heroes?"
"We'll find out soon enough." Opening the hatch, Iron Man swooped out of the spacecraft and down to the front door of the Mansion, Mon-Dria cradled in his arms.
Mon-Dria seemed to stiffen. "You may be wrong."
And at that moment he actually got a good look at the place.
Avengers Mansion was a burned out husk, decaying and abandoned.
Numbly, he set Mondy down on the sidewalk, and raised his eyes toward the sky. Anger, frustration, a sense of futility--it all boiled over for him.
The ground shook.
"VIOLATION! SUPER-POWERED BEING DETECTED! ELIMINATE!"
Iron Man gathered himself, turning around rapidly. He and Mon-Dria gazed up at something quite unexpected: a forty-foot robot, made of dull gray metal with green trim, with its gaze clearly locked on them.
Iron Man scooped Mon-Dria up and lunged out of the way, just as a searing blast of energy lanced down from the robot's eyes and shattered the sidewalk where they'd stood.
"What the-- what is this thing?"
Looking back over his shoulder, Mon-Dria replied, "It reminds me of a Sentry from my world. But it is a different design from anything I've seen before." She pointed into what appeared to be an empty sky above. "Head back to the ship. Why fight it when we can leave?"
"Well, there's the principle of the thing, but... yeah, under the circumstances..." Dodging another blast, Iron Man propelled them both up into the sky. "It seems familiar to me, somehow-- and I'm not thinking of the Sentry robots, either. It--"
The robot's energy beams caught Iron Man in mid-flight, as he closed in on Mon-Dria's ship. Skewered by the twin beams, he lurched backwards, his armor splintering and cracking in numerous places--and at the same moment, the Kree woman in his arms...
"No!" Iron Man spun about, sparks flaring from cracks in his armor, and started to dive after her, but he knew instinctively that it was too late--they were too low. By the time he could swoop down to her, she would have hit the ground. Still, he started after her--
--when something amazing happened.
Energy sparkled around her as she tumbled toward the pavement. In an instant, it surrounded her, and her descent stopped. She hovered momentarily, a few feet above the ground, even as Iron Man caught up with her. He hovered next to her, and saw the confused expression on her face.
"What in the world?"
She shook her head. "Now is not the time to ask. MOVE!"
The two lunged in opposite directions as another barrage of energy blasts knifed towards them. Iron Man was struck another glancing blow, his armor half-melting along his hip and more sparks flying. Mon-Dria managed to spin and dive out of the way, then swooped up and circled around behind the robot.
"This power--I seem to have an almost innate sense of how to use it," she called to him, even as she leveled off at the altitude of the robot's head. "And I think I can also do... this..."
She pointed both her hands toward the back of the robot's head, and a surge of sparkling energy leapt out, seemingly coming from the golden bands she wore about her wrists. The energy tore into the robot, ripping open the back of its head and sending it tumbling forward.
"Wow--nice!" Iron Man settled to the ground and aimed his repulsors at the robot as it struggled to rise.
His repulsors smashed into its face, crushing it inward. Mondy unleashed another barrage of energy as it sought to raise itself once more, and then Iron Man brought up his armored fist into its jaw, nearly snapping the head off. With an audible electronic groan, the robot collapsed to the pavement.
As Mon-Dria settled beside him, Iron Man leaned forward, studying the robot's remains. "I've seen this design somewhere before," he muttered, "though not quite so big..." He glanced back at his Kree companion. "So, where did you come up with those powers?"
She shrugged. "I am not entirely sure... though..." She pursed her lips, considering. "When we were attacked by those cosmic beings, after we left the station... they hit us with some sort of strange energy. Perhaps..."
Iron Man blinked. "You know, now that you mention it-- that was when I had the... what, vision?-- of what had happened to the Earth. Maybe those things did something to us..."
"Something that has given me powers... but apparently, tied into my golden bands..." She grimaced.
"I think the robot did sort of announce that it had detected a 'super powered being,' when it attacked us," Iron Man said. "I was assuming it meant my armor, but... maybe it meant you."
Mon-Dria nodded slowly. "Perhaps. But--I wonder what else those beings might have done to you?"
"I found out later what happened to the X-Men," Ben was saying. "It wasn't what you'd call pretty."
Iron Man and Mon-Dria sat in ragged chairs in Ben Grimm's living room, watching as the old man tossed back another shot of bourbon. When they'd failed to locate any of the Avengers, they'd sought the Fantastic Four--but hours of searching only turned up the man who was once the Thing, Benjamin Grimm.
"So they're all gone, then?" Tony shook his head slowly, taking it all in. "The Avengers, the FF... even the X-Men?"
"Every last one, Shellhead," Ben replied, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. His gray hair was disheveled and appeared not to have been washed in days. His skin had a sickly tint to it. One of his legs had been amputated above the knee.
Ben leveled a sober look at him. "It was Doom."
Tony's eyes widened. "Doom! Yes-- I knew I recognized that robot's appearance. It was a giant Doombot!"
The story came quickly, then. Tony took it all in, his mind doing the math concurrently, keeping a running total of years, figuring out how long...
The answer fell together quickly: Two decades they'd been away.
Ben: "It was about ten years back, that the Russkie government went belly-up. You can imagine the chaos that came outta that. Ya got what ol' big-brain woulda called a 'power vacuum.' So-- who should step in, to pick up the pieces? Magneto hisself. Think about that--Magneto, master of Russia."
Tony's eyes widened.
"So," Ben continued. "You can imagine that Xavier and his X-Men didn't care much for that situation. Word is, they went lookin' for a fight. Well, they found one. We never heard from them again."
"My god." Tony glanced at Mon-Dria, then back at Ben.
"An' who happened to live right next door to Russia, but our ol' pal Dr. Doom. Doom didn't take too kindly to having Maggy living so close, an' especially with the whole stinkin' Red Army at his disposal." Ben ran a trembling hand through his hair. "He started makin' all kindsa threats, toward Maggy and everyone else who cared ta listen. As you can imagine, pretty soon Reed an' Cap got fed up, and took the FF an' the Avengers after him. It was lookin' pretty--you'll pardon the expression--grim for Doom about then. He knew he wuz outclassed, big time."
Tony nodded, waiting.
"...So Doomsie came up wit' a plan."
It made perfect sense, Tony realized, listening. So many of the world's mutants would have rallied to Magneto's banner. Plus the Avengers and the FF on his tail, too. Doom would have known, in his heart of hearts, that he was outmatched. So-- he'd have come up with a way to level the playing field.
"He set off some kinda bomb, or... something," Ben continued. "Took away pretty much all the super-powers in the world. The mutants, overnight, became normals. The non-mutants with special powers--like yours truly, here-- the same." He snorted. "Lost my rocks fer good, that time."
Tony swallowed. He could think of nothing to say.
"There wuz a major-league throwdown. We waded in, not really understandin' that all our powers were gone. Most of us didn't last too long. Reed an' Cap, though-- I still get shivers thinkin' how long they held out, before..." Grimm stopped for a moment, his eyes closed. He swallowed, then, continued. "Me-- I got pinned under some wreckage." He gestured toward his missing leg. "Couldn't get out. Most frustratin' thing I've ever felt."
"But you got away?"
"Yeah. Eventually. Me an' a couple of others got outta there, but there wasn't much we could do after that. We came home, an' here we sit. An' meanwhile, the whole world's goin' down the crapper, what with Doom's and Maggy's armies facin' off. They say th' big, bloody showdown could happen any day now. An' Doom's off his rocker, even worse than before. He don't care if the whole world goes down wit' him, so long as he takes out his enemies. It's freakin' Armageddon, Shellhead. We're right on what ya call th' precipice."
He turned his gaze fully to Tony, then, for the first time. "So-- what about you, Tin Britches? Where you been, all this time?"
"It's a long story, Ben--and one I'm not really sure I could even tell, yet. But, to us, we've only been gone a short time. I think we're about twenty years in our future."
"You gotta get back, then. Maybe you can change alla this. But there's just one problem."
Tony leaned forward. "What?"
"There ain't no way to do it."
Mon-Dria spoke up for the first time. "What do you mean, Mr. Grimm?"
"Lady, I'll tell ya. Doom wasn't content to just wipe out most all of the super heroes and villains. His agents also destroyed high-tech facilities all over the world, so's no one could do just what yer talkin' about doin'. There ain't a workin' time machine left in the world today." He frowned, his eyes moving over Tony, seeming to take his measure. "Ceptin' of course for one."
"One?" And then Tony instantly knew exactly which one Ben was referring to.
"Doom's machine. In Latveria. Right there in Castle Doom itself. That's where ya gotta go, Shellhead." He threw back another shot of bourbon. "You gotta."
Mon-Dria's spacecraft once again hovered over Tony's old apartment. On the rooftop, his armor nearly in tatters, Tony knocked on the door.
The door slid open. Rumiko stood there, dressed in combat gear. "I knew you'd be back," she said, looking him up and down. "And I know what you want." Her mouth formed a tiny smile. "Come in."
Iron Man and Mon-Dria walked into the penthouse apartment. Rumiko gestured toward a blank wall to one side. "It's all still there. I've never disturbed it."
Tony smiled, sending out the code signal. The wall slid open.
Crimson and gold metal glinted in the flaring lights.
"Time to get to work," Tony said.
Next: ASSAULT ON CASTLE DOOM!
SOCK IT TO SHELLHEAD!
No mail this month, gang-- but you gotta think this issue will get folks writing again! So send in your thoughts and commentary, and we'll see you back here next month, as things really get cooking!
Story © 2000 - 2001 by Van Allen Plexico