Avengers I.Q

When a unknown army of wriaths threaten to fragment all dimensions, SHIELD must assemble a crack team smart enough to end this threat permantly. But everything is not as it seems.

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2. Chapter Two

 

 

    The looming Sentinels advanced upon the cobalt, agile Hank McCoy – AKA the Beast - as he leapt around the cavernous warehouse, dodging scorching laser beams as he did so. God, he missed the days of the Blob and

“Oh my stars and garters!” he yelped as he narrowly avoided having his head disintegrated.

“Do you have to say that every time we go into combat?” screamed Kitty Pryde – the X-Men’s resident walker through walls - as she phased out from behind a metal canister. “There’s Magneto – ‘Oh my star’s and garters’. New York has just been blown up – ‘Oh my stars and garters.’ McDonalds have changed the price of a burger – ‘oh my stars and garters!’ You need a new catchphrase!”

“So it’s okay for Ben Grimm to say ‘It’s Clobberin’ Time!” said the Beast as he tore one of the Sentinel’s synthetic fingers off.  “It’s okay for Namor to shout ‘ Imperius Rex!’ But whenever I saw my widely acknowledged catchphrase, you turn your nose up.’

“Well maybe it’s not as awesome and mighty as theirs,” debated Shadowcat.  “I would not really be intimidated if Magneto burst in quoting William Wordsworth, would you?”

    Before the conversation could go down a more ludicrous path, the small purple dragon known as Lockheed soared out from behind rubble. The Sentinel attempted to raise its hand to defend itself. Too late. Lockheed spewed intense flames, incinerating the Sentinel’s square head. Its headless body careened towards the floor whilst exploding violently.

“Grrrrr!” purred Lockheed.

“No, we’re not arguing,” said Kitty.

“Rah! Rah!” shouted Kitty.

“Yes, it probably is the wrong time to be arguing,” debated Kitty.

“Grrrrrr! Rah!” said Lockheed.

“Yes, we are going to deal with the others,” sighed Kitty.  “And mind your language, mister!”

    The Beast just stared at them, bewildered. Kitty sure had become fluent in Dragonese.

    Of course, the momentary distraction had gave the Sentinels the opportunity they required.   

“Mutant designate Beast,” another Sentinel blurted. “Also known as Hank McCoy. Currently a member of the terrorist organisation X-Men. Must be terminated.”

“You guys never paint me in a good light,” complained Hank. “How hard could it be for you; ‘The brilliant Beast. Also known as the totally spiffing chap Hank McCoy. Must be preserved and given a spa treatment.”

    As he confused the hulking abomination with his words, he scaled its leg up to its knee. That was when the problems occurred. In a single swift movement it thrust its hand at the Beast, attempting to swat him off like he was an mosquito. But before he could become a Beast pancake, he hopped from one knee to the other. Just in time as well, for the force of the blow almost fractured the Sentinel’s protected leg.

“Now play nice Mister Sentinel,” teased the Beast.

    Just in the corner of his eye, he could see Lockheed ushering Kitty out of the Sentinel’s vision. Instantly he knew what the youngest X-Man was planning. Already he could feel the interior of the Sentinel being altered.

    A giant fist knocked him from his position.  He’d completely forgot about the other remaining Sentinel. If it got to Kitty before she completed her mission, then victory would be impossible.

“Here we go again!” he sighed.

    He dusted himself down. This time, he meant business. Without hesitation he ran at his second opponent, baring his elongated fangs. Jumping from leg to leg, the Beast dug his nails into every crevice, making the robot’s pain as excruciating as possible. It reared its head and howled.

“I see you’re quite confused, my friend,” shouted the Beast. “You see I’m the only beast around here!”

    Charged by his battle cry, he pounced at the Sentinel’s head and gouged it on his claws. He punched relentlessly. Why wouldn’t this enemy fall? He punched out the fluorescent eyes. He punched out its expressionless mouth. He punched out its data card.

    That was when it fell. So did the Beast.

    Why hadn’t he taken that into account? His claws were embedded in the Sentinel’s head. Futilely he tried to extract them.

“Oh my stars and…” he yelped.

    Talons grasped his spandex costume as he was yanked from the wreckage as it hurtled towards the ground. It exploded. Just in time had his saviour salvaged him.

“Grrr! Roar!” said Lockheed as he lowered himself and the Beast towards the floor.

    The Beast didn’t need to be a linguist to know what the alien dragon was saying.   

“I am grateful!” thanked the Beast. “Now please don’t get me killed.”

“Raaah!” barked Lockheed, arcing his head towards the other Sentinel.

“I almost forgot,” said the Beast. “How is Kitty?”

“Kowabunga!” squealed Kitty as she phased out of the Sentinel’s head and plummeted to the ground, clutching the Sentinel’s data card in her hand. But she carried on falling until she fell through the earth.

    Lockheed squealed.

“Only joking!” Kitty rose from the floor angelically much to the Beast’s delight.

“Lovely reunion,” commented the Beast. “But what about the twenty foot robot that you’ve just left standing there.”

    All of the turned around. The Sentinel, like its predecessors, began to head towards the ground. Except this time it was set to hit them.

“Computer, end simulation!” the Beast bellowed.

    The derelict warehouse faded around them, as did the raging infernos and the toppling Sentinel. Instead remained the reflective panels and control booth of the Danger Room – the room that enabled the X-Men to fight holographic representations of their foes in a simulated reality.

“Good practice my friends,” commended the Beast. “You all fought terrifically. Now meet me in the dining room for toast at 0800 hours!”

***

    The aroma of the twenty-something woman who was smothering him in kisses enthralled Tony Stark. Her succulent texture, her blonde hair that trickled down her silken face, her slim physique. All of it was his. He responded with all of his skills from over two decades of womanising in between saving the world. Yet he was still not sure whether what he felt was genuine attraction or it was the twenty shots talking.

“So…mmm…Tony,” she spoke n between kisses. “How about that article?”

    Oh, yes. A reporter. Tony vaguely remember talking to her about a report for the Daily Bugle before he had decided to cloud his judgement with alcohol.

“What angle do you wish to take on me?” asked Tony. “Billionaire philanthropist helping those in need? Valiant Avenger who saves galaxies?”

“Maybe sex-addled alcoholic who leaves a party to his CEO when he still has guests?” the ginger-haired, slender Pepper Potts stood in the doorway, a frustrated frown upon her normally placid face.

“Maybe it would be best if I leave…” stammered the reporter as she gathered her clothes together.

“You think?” snapped Tony and Pepper simultaneously.

    She scarpered out of the room, dropping her shirt as she did so.

“So who is it this time?” snarled Pepper. Under her glare, Tony squirmed uncomfortably.

“A reporter?” blurted Tony. He suddenly began to feel a tad queasy.

“And I bet that’s the only thing you can tell me about her, isn’t it?” Pepper began to frantically pace the length of the bedroom. “You probably don’t even know her first name!”
”She works for the Daily Bugle,” Tony began.

“Wow – you two are like family now that you know that,” said Pepper. “Should I put the date for the wedding on the calendar? Where should I get the bouquet of flowers from?”

“Well I do know a lovely market down on the promenade…” Tony began, oblivious to the veiled meaning of Pepper’s comment.

“I was being sarcastic you idiot!” Pepper cheeks reddened and Tony swore he could see smoke snaking out of her ears. “I am no longer your secretary. I’m the CEO of Stark Industries and most of all; I’m your friend. So stop tormenting yourself. Stop quenching your desire for attention with alcohol and needy women.”

“I…I…” Tony began but was cut short as he kneeled over and spewed a grotesque mixture of alcohol and food onto Pepper’s turquoise, branded high heels.

“You revolting pig!” she headed for the door. When she reached it, she paused and faced Tony. “In case you’ve forgotten, you’re supposed to be hosting a party out here. Consider what path you want to take and then drag yourself out here.”

“But Pepper I’m only doing it…” he stuttered feebly. “Because I love you and I know you’ll never love me.”

    She had already slammed the door shut behind her.

    What had he done? He had shunned her for years, constantly patronising her and avoiding her. She had seen him court hundreds of woman and every one of those women only served one purpose – to enlarge his ego. Then he had realised that maybe love wasn’t a one-night stand with a nameless woman. Maybe it was a dear friend who had stuck with him throughout his darkest times. By then it was too late. She had watched him strip woman of everything that made them an individual and he had cast them out into the bitter cold without any remorse. He had demolished people’s conception of themselves just for purely for his self-image. It was only reasonable that she didn’t want to undergo the same treatment. She would never reciprocate to his lust for her.

“Aww, true love,” thousands of volts arched up Tony’s back. “How poetic.”

    He crumpled to the floor, unable to move a single muscle or bone in his body. His heartbeat slowed and his vision dimmed.

“You are now in the custody of the United States of America,” said the blonde reporter Tony had been leeching off before. “I would normally say that you have the right to remain silent but as you probably can’t even open your lips, it is kind of meaningless.”

    For once Tony wished that all blondes were mindless zombies.

***

“So in conclusion,” said Valerie Richards prolifically. “If you adjust the polarity of rotating neutrons in the molecular structure and alter the gravitational pull ever so slightly, it is highly likely that the two Italian plumbers would be able to conquer the monstrous abomination and obliterate the foreboding castle, thus salvaging the Princess from her bonds and ensuring that there is no further contact with the army of carnivorous beasts.”

“Oh come on sis,” Franklin Richards pleaded. “All I asked was could you help me clear this level on Super Mario Brothers!”

“Oh, yes,” said Valerie. Why couldn’t her brother make a request that challenged her intellect? “Press the ‘A’ button and jump on Bowser’s head.”

“Get in!” cheered Franklin as he began to play his mind-numbing videogame again. Her brother was so… limited. “Sometimes, sis, not everything is an equation. Boss! I’ve got a new high score.” Those few profound words had to be tarnished at some point.

    Just then, Reed Richards rounded the corner, juggling a bubbling test tube that was oozing foam. Finally - something actually hazardous and interesting.

“Valerie,” he shouted. “Pull the plug out of the sink. Now!”

“Yes, Daddy,” she ran over to the sink and did exactly what she was told.

    Reed fumbled with the test tube for a few minutes. Then he let the plug hole swallow the contents of the tube.

“What exactly was that?” Franklin’s attention was perked. Valerie thought it was pleasant to see him without his eyes glued to the screen.

“A word of warning children,” Reed panted. “Never try to mix the sweat of the Wizard, the blood of a Super-Ape and Mole Man excrement unless you want to see that again!”
”So where can I find Mole Man excrement?” Franklin asked. So. Moronic.

“Anything else you’re working on Daddy?” inquired Valerie.

“Sure, sweetie,” said Reed. “But why?”

“Because I’d rather be doing my brain less damage even I was doing geology than if I was spending any more time watching racially inaccurate plumbers jumping on mushrooms,” Valerie scowled.

“And turtles,” said Franklin. “Don’t forget turtles.”

“Just have a bit of fun for once,” Reed patted Valerie on the head. “I’ll talk to you later.”

    With those words he departed the room. Valerie contorted her face into an expression of complete and utter disgust. Just for once could her Dad have not forced her to engage in pitiful entertainment with her brother?

    Boys, huh!

***

    Papers containing revolutionary theses were scattered around the floor, obscuring any trace of the floor. Images of the Skrulls, the Kree and Galactus’ dozens of heralds decorated the walls. Hazardous experiments were left unattended on desks and shelves. Contained in a glass cabinet was a wired frame with tight spandex suit hanging over it, the number four emblazed on its centre.

 The putrid odour of blood, sweat and tears filled Reed’s lungs. To him, nothing felt more like home.

    Reed collapsed into his chair. Upon his desk was a framed picture of Reed in his alter ego as Mr. Fantastic alongside his wife, the Invisible Woman, his brother in law, the Human Torch and his close friend, the Thing. As always, the Human Torch was flirting with a petite young lady whilst signing a pile of images of himself posing. Invisible Woman smiled chirpily at the camera. Beside her, the Thing was arguing – and probably skirmishing - with an obese reporter. Good times. Invisible Woman was out with Johnny doing her usual early Christmas shopping and last Reed had heard, the Thing was fighting monkeys with Squirrel Girl in Hong Kong. Just a routine day.

    Someone banged heavily against the door, causing Reed to lurch forward, alarmed.

“Leave the door alone, Franklin!” he berated.

    A second attack was made upon the door.

“I said leave it alone Franklin!” shouted Reed, gradually becoming more aggravated. Could he not reminisce in peace? “It is impenetrable!”

    With a third knock, the door swung off its hinges and catapulted towards Reed. Propelled by his elongating legs, he managed to avoid behind rendered unconscious by a door.

    Five SAS soldiers stood in the doorway with their bulging muscles and carting on their backs what seemed to be an entire armada’s weaponry each.

“You’re not Franklin,” stated Reed as they raised their guns.

“This will hurt,” said the leader.

    Bullets peppered Reed’s garments, tearing them to shreds. When the penetrated his body, he began to feel a soothing mixture working its way through his veins, neutralising every cell in his body.

    Before his eyelids collapsed, he saw a patch on the side of his attacker’s sleeve.

    They were no SAS. They were SHIELD.

***

    After a magnificent victory in the Danger Room, the Beast strutted around the deserted hallways of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

 He may not have been the most extravagant member of the X-Men but he had still managed to take a Sentinel out with his bare hands.

    That was the problem.

    As soon as he began to pummel the genocidal Sentinel, he began to… love it. Savour it. Every time he had become more like his namesake – a Beast. All he could think about was what the Sentinels were designed to do; reap the souls of mutants, obliterate an entire civilisation and ensure that every one who was born differently faced an undignified death. The Beast had become feral. Even now he had no remorse.

“Hello Beast,” said a harsh, recognisable voice from behind the humanoid feline. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to have to take you with me.”

“Abigail Brand,” declared the Beast. “Why do let yourself in – oh, don’t worry, you’re not intruding. Long time no see – how about a kiss?”
”I do not care for your caustic remarks,” Abigail Brand said. “SHIELD have tasked me with bringing you in. Gent Hill wanted me to bring back up and knock you unconscious before you even had the chance to discover our presence. I thought it would be better to talk you into it.”       

“How nice,” the Beast said. “I would prefer it if you’d just asked me to turn up at the Hellicarrier. Or at least, you know, confided in me. I don’t care what you promise – there are at least twenty people outside looking in our conversation. Did you honestly think I would just let an entire platoon of SHIELD agents and my so-called girlfriend to break into my domain? So you tell me now what catastrophic, life-altering event has got SHIELD and SWORD working together?”

“You’re close,” taunted Brand. “But you didn’t notice about the two men behind you.”

    A piercing needle was embedded in his neck.

“I’m sorry Hank,” apologised Brand. “But desperate times call for desperate measures…”

    The world went black.

 

 

 

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