Firing up the Torch
"You want me to do WHAT?!"
Wincing slightly from the sheer volume the mutated scientist produced, I rub one of my ears as I repeat myself.
"I want you to lace my skeleton with Vibranium."
Vibranium is truly a miracle metal. It's one of the hardest, densest materials out there, but weighs about as much as steel, and the way it deals with kinetic energy is literally out of this world. If I were to lace my bones with it, then there was no force on Earth which could break them.
I could take a punch from the Hulk to the face and only loose a tooth (which would grow back in a minute or two)
Unfortunately, it didn't seem like Stein was sharing my enthusiasm.
"Do you even hear what you are saying! You want me to put metal on your bones! I'm not sure how well you did in Biology classes, but newsflash: metal isn't supposed to go there! You. Will. Die! Even if the procedure to get the metal through your skin, muscles and fat onto your bones doesn't kill you, you'll effectively be suffocating your bone marrow and not last the week. Even if, if, I would be able to get the metal on your bones and not immediately kill you, do you have any idea how hot the inside of your body is? You could melt the metal straight off you skeleton and then what?! I'm telling you it cannot be done!"
At that I frown. Because I know that it has in fact been done. Multiple times, even. For all that Adamantium is treated as a legendary metal that's rarer than an honest politician, there are a rather large number of individuals running around with the stuff inside their bodies.
Though didn't Wolverine die due to Adamantium poisoning, both in the comics and in that (awesome!) movie? I still wasn't sure how my healing factor stacked up to his, and that's not even considering whether or not he exists in this universe (though I think he does, as the Howling Commandoes are a thing, and Logan used to partner up with them occasionally).
So, given Stein's sheer outrage at my suggestion, the chance that lacing my bones with Vibranium will indeed kill me is significant (not to mention that even if it doesn't, it might still end up useless if I turn out to be hot enough to melt it, which is a possibility).
I thought back on my newfound conviction after my road rage incident, and decided to honour it now as well, no matter how disappointed I was by not being able to become indestructible.
No more mistakes.
Giving a deep sigh, I try to placate Stein.
"Fine. No metal on my bones, I got it. But I'm not walking away from this empty-handed Stein. I will use that Vibranium."
"Then build an armour out of it! That's what metal's for!"
"And do you know how to smelt and mould Vibranium to make armour out of it?"
"Well… no, not exactly…"
Giving a deep sigh, I plop back down on the workbench in one of the cubicles that Klaue had stored inside his warehouse. We haven't moved yet, partially because we don't really have anywhere to go, and partially because I suspect people have become aware of my existence, and some of those people will try and track me down.
Once they succeed, I'd much rather sit on a huge pile of military grade weaponry then be caught off guard somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
"I need an edge, Stein. I've been making bigger and bigger waves, but other than getting Extremis, I haven't become more powerful. Vibranium was supposed to be that edge, and now you're telling me I can't fucking use it!" I roar, jumping from the chair, flames spewing from my mouth, the air beginning to shimmer due to the heat I'm giving off.
Stein remains remarkably unfazed (seems that his time with me in the cargo hold while I was experimenting with my newfound status as resident flamethrower has done wonders for his nerves) simply fixing me with an incredulous stare.
"More powerful? Michael, you bench-pressed a shipping container! You throw cars around like they're toys! You breathe fire for God's sake!"
Containing my frustration (and heat) with great difficulty, I slump back down again, my head cradled in my hands.
"There are beings more powerful than me Stein. Hulk and Abomination are just a few of them. Aliens, gods, there are people out there who can lift ten times what I can. And I think that eventually, I'll piss off every single one of them."
Glancing up at the scientist, I gave him a wry grin.
"Indestructible skeleton now making more sense to you Doc?"
Stein seems briefly stunned, before giving a sigh of his own, crossing his arms with a scowl on his misshapen face.
"I'm still not doing it Michael. I'm not going to murder you."
Giving a slow nod, I lean back into my chair (which groans under my weight) as I close my eyes and massage the bridge of my nose.
Seems like I need to revise my Twenty-Seven Step Program. Step 7 had been acquiring Vibranium. Step 8: using the Vibranium (or acquire any other sort of edge) turned out to be significantly harder to complete
"Fair enough. But that leaves us with a cache of miracle metal, not to mention the attention of the criminal underbelly of South Africa. I'm not selling the metal, but I can't use it either. So, what are we going to do Stein? Because this trip of ours seems to be shaping up to be one enormous shit-show."
For a moment Stein remains silent, and I'm thinking he's given up and decided to leave or something, before his voice suddenly jerks me away from my musings.
"Give me three days."
Glancing at him with a raised eyebrow from underneath my hand in confusion, Stein (still with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face) seems to ponder something, before looking back at me.
"You need an edge right? I can't think of a way to make you even stronger than you are now, not without other materials to work from, but I can make you smarter."
Giving a significant look at his massive cranium (which adds almost a foot to his height) I sit up straighter, excitement hesitantly growing inside of me.
"You mean you-"
"Cracked it? Sort of. I could give you my brain size and the increased intellect that comes with it right now, but I doubt you'd go for that, and given how often you get shot at, having a massive brain for a target doesn't sound very smart. What I've been working on for these past couple of months is a way to increase a being's intellect, without giving them my deformity."
"And you know how to do that?"
"Give me three days and I will."
For the next two days, I barely even see Stein anymore, as he is holed up in the cubicle in which I have dumped all of our equipment and which has now been transformed into Stein's makeshift lab.
Which, for the first time in a while, left me with time on my hands.
Time, and a prisoner.
Slowly, as Stein is tinkering away and I look at the stirring Klaue (who passed out from shock shortly after I finally managed to get my hands on his Vibranium) the beginnings of a plan fall into place.
When Klaue wakes up, he sees me sitting not ten feet away from him, and hurriedly scurries away from me until his back hits one of the mounds of crates that are stacked throughout the bottom level of the warehouse.
"Shit! The fuck do you want from me, freak!" Ulysses spits out, grasping the stump of his left arm in pain.
He's clearly wondering why he's not dead yet, but the answer is rather simple; he's still useful. I have no doubt that for taking his arm he'll try to find a way to eventually kill me, so I have no qualms taking him out permanently, but before that he will still help me.
Whether he wants to or not.
Klaue is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world, a rather reputed name in certain circles of the shady underground of selling tools of death and terror.
So naturally, he has contacts all throughout the U.S. Government and Army.
I'm only interested in one though: Erik Killmonger.
Currently in Black Ops racking up quite the kill count for the American government, the cousin of T'Challa could turn out to be the key I needed in utilizing Vibranium.
"Ulysses. Je gaat een telefoontje voor me plegen."
At hearing my request for him to make a phone call, and seeing my fanged grin, Klaue visibly swallows his nervousness.
"En waarom zou ik jou helpen?"
Why should he help me? Well, how to convince him? Oh, wait, I got it!
Without a word, my hand lights up until it's burning a glowing white, air shimmering around it from the immense heat that it's giving off. Slowly glancing from the lightsabre my hand has become to the sweating Klaue, I just raise an eyebrow.
Ulysses is quick to make the call.
All of this is a smaller part in the bigger plan to complete my most ambitious Step yet.
Step 9: Use Wakandan information or technology to make use of my cache of Vibranium
"You really like that damned thing, don't you Doc?"
Stein lets out a tired grin at my grunted assessment and the weary look I'm sending at the syringe (*cough* medieval longsword *cough*), giving a shrug even as he starts prepping my arm (the alcohol dissipates the moment its rubbed on my skin, but between my glowing veins and massive healing factor, the prep work is more a thing of routine than necessity).
"It has grown on me. Watching you squirm away from it every time remains funny."
He's completely unfazed by the glare I send him, and without warning, shoves the needle into the brightly glowing vein in my arm.
Thankfully, because of Extremis the pain in my arm quickly vanishes, but it doesn't appear to do anything against the migraine that suddenly explodes in my brain. With a muffled groan of pain I fall of the chair I'd been sitting on, curling in on myself as my head feels like someone is taking an axe to my forehead with an unhealthy amount of sadistic enthusiasm.
While the pain isn't all consuming like the Extremis-transformation had been, this one feels somehow worse, the pounding against the inside of my eyes increasing with every heartbeat, my brain feeling like it's either liquefying or exploding.
Or maybe both.
The Hulk-transformation had taken a little over six hours to complete (with me only conscious for about three of those) while the Extremis-transformation had taken only half that.
This serum took effect immediately, and the pain started to gradually ebb away after about an hour and a half, but the migraine stayed with me for the next two days.
I hadn't quite known what to expect from suddenly having my IQ nearly doubled (and though not exactly off-the-charts, it had been nothing to sneeze at either), but all that I could say about it was… that it was weird.
No, but I mean, like really fucking weird.
It wasn't as if I had suddenly gained tremendous arcane knowledge or something, I didn't automatically just knew new things.
But I understood them.
Before, I had a rudimentary knowledge of why the arc reactor worked, but now I also understood how it worked, understood the way Stark had utilized the fields created by the coils of the reactor to keep itself from blowing up in a spectacular way.
Everywhere I looked, I just understood what it was, how it worked and why it worked, while idea's flashed through my mind faster than they ever had before.
From my kneeling position on the floor, I gaze up in wonder at Stein, who is looking back at me with a tired smile on his face at my amazement.
"This is how you see the world… all the time?"
"Breath-taking, isn't it?" the geneticist replies, and all I can do is nod, as my eyes have fallen on his laboratory, and my basic scientific knowledge (which before had just about grasped the basics of Stein's work) now apparently was enough to extrapolate the functions of most machines, and predict the likely outcome of combining the various chemicals the scientist had stocked in his lab.
I'm drawn from my reverie by the sound of something heavy slamming on the table next to me. Turning around, I raise my eyebrows (still on my normalish face thankfully, it was the first thing I checked for after the pain ebbed away enough for me to regain control over my limbs) at the tower of science books Stein has just dumped on our desk, giving me a somewhat savage grin.
"What is that?"
Stein simply laughs at my flat reply (the bastard) and turns back towards his laboratory, his earlier tired slump now replaced by an air of victory.
"You didn't think I would just give you the second best brain on the planet and not have you use it? The procedure didn't give you any new information you don't already know, it just allows you to absorb and combine new information on a whole different level of speed. So, get to absorbing. After you're done, its online college courses for you, and after that, chess games with me. Until then, good night."
Staring at the tower of books and the retreating back of Stein, I can't help but call out at the scientist.
"It's noon, you know!"
"Don't care! Go study!"
With a grin (and a killer-headache) I sit down at the desk, and pick up the book at the top of the small hill.
"An Introduction to Molecular Chemistry, by Dr. S. Stein… oh come on, you referenced your own books?! Only asshole professors do that you know!"
Still grinning, I crack open the book and prepare to enhance my knowledge of the science this wacky universe runs on (because on a fundamental level, something must be different, given the fact that some things that happen in here were considered blatantly impossible in my old one) when I'm stopped by an incredulous snort from the chained up Klaue on the only other office chair in the corner.
"Jullie zijn gestoord. Compleet getikt."
At his exclamation that me and Stein are completely mad, I just let out a fanged grin, channelling the heat in my eyes (ow! ow! ow! stupid migraine) until they are glowing with a hellish light, making Gollum flinch away.
He doesn't interrupt my study session anymore after that.
As I'm reading and expanding my knowledge at an incredible speed, I keep grinning to myself.
"Step 8: Complete."
Night has fallen, and in the near-darkness of the warehouse, I'm playing chess against myself fully clad in my armour, my only company a clearly nervous Ulysses Klaue sitting across the desk from me.
I'm not really sure what makes him more nervous, me in front of him, or the fact that somewhere out there, there's an elite Black-Ops team led by an unstable psychopath with a chip on his shoulder.
I like to think it's me, since given the sheer balls he has displayed in all his mcu appearances and during his 30 year long stint of making a fool out of Wakanda I don't think he's all that afraid of anything that might be out there, but I'm an unknown that has crippled him, captured him, and has only fed him water for the past three days.
As one of the walls to the warehouse is blown inwards, I reflect that it's probably not me.
A squad of six, heavily armed men in tactical gear burst through the hole they had just made, their weapons already aimed at me.
Which is when the IED's, hidden underneath the floorboards in that wing of the building, explode in a great fireball, wiping the team of contract-killers from the face of the earth.
To my assailant's credit, there's only a short lull in the fighting, before smoke grenades are tossed inside through the broken windows on the ground floor, while I hear smashing coming from the windows on the second floor, where another squad has now landed on the various walkways there, while a third squad bursts through the door I had just installed yesterday.
Which, of course I rigged with more explosives.
The group at the door taken care of, I stand up and turn towards the walkway behind me, where the operatives have already ducked down and opened fire (my chess set is absolutely ruined, while a cursing Klaue is hiding underneath the desk).
Smoke starts to fill the open space of the warehouse, but it has hardly any effect on any of us (with the exception of Klaue, who is the only one without a helmet and whose cursing has transitioned into coughing).
Not even bothering with the bullets that shatter against my armour (the few that find the gaps between my plating hurt with a lancing pain, but Extremis is quick to sooth and heal the wounds so I manage to grit my teeth and pull through) my tank gun swoops low and takes aim at the walkway my would-be-killers are stationed on.
Briefly, there's some panicked shouting, before the night is filled with the explosions my tank gun creates, completely destroying the walkway they had been standing on (and consequently, them as well).
Which is when finally, Killmonger himself enters the battle (given his singed and dusty uniform, he was probably thrown clear by the first chain of IED's and has only now recovered), as shown by him shoving a short sword through the base of my tank gun, sheering it off my armour almost completely in one masterful stroke.
I immediately react, my gauntleted arm coming around in a wild hay-maker, but Erik ducks in time, and uses the movement to spring forwards, aiming his sword at my abdomen the moment my arm passes over his head.
Right before it can pierce my armour however, my other hand shoots out, and stops the weapon cold in its tracks by gripping the blade, the razor-sharp steel cutting into my superheated flesh.
Even though he is more skilled, I'm still stronger and faster, and despite his shock at my unflinching catch of his sword with my bare hands, when he starts pushing, I don't budge.
The blade is already hot due to slowly being covered in my lava-like blood, but when I heat up my hand, the entire blade comes alive with a dull glow, smoke coming of its handle, forcing Killmonger to let go with an angered hiss.
Throwing the sword away, I lift my hands (already healed) towards my helmet, taking it off in a slow, dramatic movement (after thoroughly and triple checking the rest of Erik's squad is, in fact, dead), allowing the helmet to fall to the ground with a resounding clang.
"No more weapons. No more armour. Face me in combat, and prove that the blood of your father runs strong in you, N'Jadaka son of N'Jobu."
That grabs his attention.
With a snarl, he removes the mask from his own face (due to all of the broken windows of the warehouse, not to mention the two giant holes in its walls, the smoke has already dissipated) glaring at me with an intense gaze, which would probably have cowed me a bit, weren't it for the fact that he has to look up in order to meet my eyes.
It's amazing what height will do for your confidence, especially when it's stretching human limits.
"Who the fuck are you!? How do you know my name?! Did Wakanda send you!?"
At his roar, I simply chuckle, my deep, rumbling voice easily filling the ruined warehouse.
Slowly, I start removing the armour on my torso, and as I undo the last clasp, the plating falls away with a heavy clanging noise and my mutated body is shown to the world, my glowing heartbeat visible and steady.
"Do I look Wakandan to you?"
Taking a few steps back and dropping into a fighting stance at the sight of my enormous muscles and raised ribcage, Killmonger gives me a weary look.
"Who the fuck are you?"
"Who I am is not important. You are, on the other hand. Or rather, on what you plan to do with your life."
At my confused look, I start stripping off the rest of my armour, leaving me in only my cargo pants and combat boots, all the while talking in a relaxed, easy manner.
"Do you want to keep killing for your mother's country, the country that spat on her, that locked her up, that killed her, until you're so full of scars you won't even recognize your own face when you look in the mirror?"
At me mentioning his scars he's visibly taken aback, his fists clenching as it slowly dawns on him that I know far too much about him than should be possible for a complete stranger.
"Or… will you honour your father?"
And that's the final nail in the coffin, as Killmonger slowly drops out of his stance, confusion warring with cautiousness on his face.
Eventually, the urge to know more about the man who has shaped his entire life wins out.
"What do you know about my dad?"
"I know that he was a great man. That instead of allowing one country to selfishly hoard amazing riches for themselves, he wished to share it with the world, to lift all of humanity to a higher level. And that he got killed for it."
I pause in unclasping the greave on my thigh, glancing at the now silent psychopath with a knowing look.
"By his brother, no less."
Killmonger is trembling in fury, and the only thing that's keeping him from attacking me is the fact that I apparently hold the answers he's been after his entire life.
"The current king of Wakanda, T'Chaka, tracked down your father after he was betrayed by a man he thought his friend. Your father was confronted by his brother, the king, then still the Black Panther, but instead of showing mercy to his own flesh and blood, he gutted his brother like a common criminal and took off, leaving you an orphan, and the grand plans of your father unfinished."
Approaching the fuming soldier, I keep talking, keep filling his heart with hate, until he's ready to be pointed in the direction I want him to go.
"The claw marks…" he whispers to himself, but in the silence of the warehouse (Klaue is wisely pretending not to be there at all) my enhanced senses easily pick up his words.
"Yes. The people of Wakanda call him king and protector, but you know better, don't you? You know the truth. The Black Panther is no hero: he is a murderer, a kinslayer, a man who would kill his own family rather than help other people. But what are you going to do about it?"
At my question, Killmonger's gaze snaps up to my own, as he bares his teeth in a snarl.
"I'm going to kill him!"
My words register with him almost like a slap to the face, making him stumble back half a step, before his rage roars back to life inside him and he's suddenly chest to chest with me (holy shit, I think this guy has balls made of Vibranium) stretching to his full height as he clenches his fists.
"Bullshit! I've trained and bled and killed, all my life, just so I can kill him!"
And with that, he takes a few steps back, desperate hands grasping at the clasps on his own body armour, before he tosses it off him with jerking, angry movements, displaying the crocodile-like scarring all across his torso.
Looking at me with a challenging expression, Killmonger opens his arms wide, showcasing his macabre trophies to the world (the world in this case just being me and Klaue, but he doesn't seem to care).
"Every carving stands for one more scumbag I took out. The hardest criminals and mercenaries anyone had to offer, and all of those shitstains are now nothing more than marks on my skin. I will kill the Black Panther!"
I turn my back on him (mostly so I can keep my face from showing my shock at seeing such extensive self-mutilation) and try to make my voice sound disinterested as I slowly walk away.
"You will try, I'm sure. But you will fail."
"I WON'T FAIL!"
At his roared exclamation, I pause, before dramatically half-turning, sizing him up with a single eye over my shoulder.
"Then prove it. Fight me."
My challenge takes him off guard, and his rage is quickly replaced by wariness once again.
"Why do you want me to fight you? "
"Because not only is the Black Panther not a hero, he isn't really even a man. He's a monster in human form, a… freak like me." I say with a wry smile as I turn to fully face him.
"The Black Panthers are enhanced by the Heart-shaped Herb, a powerful medicinal plant that enhances anyone who eats it. Traditionally, whenever the King is challenged for the throne by his kin or the leaders of the other tribes, he must be stripped off his powers. But you know what kind of man he truly is: do you really think that a murderer like him will stoop to your level?"
I cross my arms and give the fuming soldier a savage grin.
"No, if you were to challenge him, he would just as easily gut you as he gutted your daddy."
"He won't get the chance to even touch me." Killmonger growls, sinking a bit lower into his combat stance.
"So prove it. Last in a fight against me, show me that you can defeat a superhuman, and then we'll talk about how I can help you get your revenge. Fail, and you just prove you're useless to me. An American lapdog, not worthy of the blood of the noble N'Jobu."
And that appears to be enough to tip him over the edge, as he charges me with a roar of hatred.
He's fast, really fast, unleashing a flurry of spinning kicks that force me back, and though I'm quicker, he proves his far greater skill by using every failed attack to set up the next one, targeting weak points in the basic guard I've put up.
And all the while he is trying his level best to kick my head in, I'm watching his every move.
It's only when he comes in with a sweeping kick at my left thigh that I counterattack, taking a page out of his book in how he uses the momentum of his body to fuel and chain his strikes as I turn and raise my knee, smashing it into his leg and throwing it back, making him lose his balance for just a split-second.
In a flash, I've extended the leg I've countered with, my boot slamming into his chest and throwing him back well over ten feet, where he crashes to the ground with nothing but a pained grunt.
As he quickly works his way to his feet (trying not to put any pressure on his cracked ribs), I slowly chamber my foot again, still standing in perfect balance on one leg, before I bring my other leg down and loosen my stance again.
Which is the moment Erik charges back in once more.
I have to hand it to the guy, even with cracked ribs he hasn't noticeably slowed down, and is even getting in closer now to add punches to his attacks, making sure to get shots in with short fast jabs, more striking true than missing.
And still I'm learning.
When he jumps up, I raise my arm to block his flying punch, briefly obscuring my vision of him, which he immediately exploits by ramming a knee into my diaphragm, and the moment he lands, he twists forwards with his elbow poised to strike the same place again, clearly trying to cripple me as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, as strong as he is, he isn't strong enough to really damage me, and instead of being winded by his knee strike, I'm still fresh and I twist my torso to the side, letting him slide in front of me.
I can see his eyes widen in shock the moment he realizes the opening he has left, but by then it's already too late.
Now behind him after his failed elbow strike, I shoot forwards, my massive arms wrapping around his middle, and before he can react I heave him upwards over my head, then slam him into the ground, striking the breath from his lungs.
As he lies there gasping for air, my boot crashes into his side, lifting him up and sending him flying into one of the stacks of crates, letting him fall to the ground at the base of the small mountain.
I patiently wait for him to regain his breath (2 minutes, having a few definitely broken ribs is probably not helping things any), and when he works himself to his feet he's swaying a bit, but the murderous look in his eyes hasn't dimmed in the slightest, and as he glares straight into my glowing eyes, he snorts in disgust, and spits out a wad of blood, before rolling his shoulders and getting back into his stance again.
This time, I'm the one to approach him, letting out a few testing punches of my own, our different levels of skill immediately apparent when compared to his earlier flurry of seamlessly chained attacks. In contrast, my own attacks are all very telegraphed and clearly not part of a greater combo like his were.
Erik manages to take advantage of my lack of skill, guiding away my heavy handed strikes rather than try and block their super strength. Each time he dodges, or forces one of my fists to the side, he exploits the opening he has created, by pummelling me with knee strikes and quick series of punches.
But he's tiring.
After nearly a full minute of me inexpertly wailing on the nimble form of Killmonger, he turns out to be just half a second too late to properly dodge one of my punches, which clips him in the shoulder.
Usually such a strike wouldn't be enough to create a proper opening, especially against someone of Killmonger's calibre, but when coupled with his current state and my enormous strength, it almost sends him spinning.
Immediately, like I've learned from him, I exploit the opening and punch him in the chest with a left hook, sending him crashing back into the crates, and as he's reeling, I turn in and punch him straight in the liver with my right, making him gasp out, though no sound escapes him. As he can't help but curl in on himself a bit (I don't care who you are, or how powerful you might me: a liver-shot from someone of greater strength will hurt like a bitch) I shoot towards his left side, fist raised high.
He brings up an arm in defence (impressive given the state he's in and how much faster I am) but it's useless as I let fly, my fist slamming through his feeble guard and into his jaw, sending him crashing to the ground.
I can feel his jaw dislocating under my fist, and when he goes down, for the first time during our fight he remains still for a moment, his world filled by exploding pain.
He impresses me however, by propping himself up on trembling arms, glaring at me with nothing but murder in his eyes. Then he goes and tops that, by grasping his dislocated jaw with one hand, and shoving it back into place with nothing more than a grunt (I feel slightly queasy at the sound of the bone popping back, though hopefully it doesn't show on my face).
And then he goes and tops that too, because before I can react, he comes up in a spinning kick that catches me in the back of my knee, making it collapse underneath me. While I'm brought low, he turns the spin of his kick in a leap towards the crate I had punched into, pushing off the moment his feet hit the wood, coming up in a cork-screwing back-flip, one leg snapping out and crashing into my cheekbone, making my head snap to the side.
The moment he lands, with me still off guard, he blasts off, nailing me in the chest with a flying knee, forcing me to the ground with him kneeling on top of my torso.
And he starts wailing on my face, roaring in pain and hatred all the while.
I can feel the impacts, but they don't exactly hurt; the best I can describe the sensation of his punches crashing into my super dense skin and muscles is like getting repeatedly shortly but firmly shoved.
Sure, you'll feel it, but it won't hurt you.
After about twenty seconds of him unleashing all of his fury, he slams his last punch into my face with a final yell of exertion. Slowly I turn my face back to look at him, wondering at what I can feel on my cheek.
Bringing a hand up to rub at the spot on my face, both me and Killmonger gaze in amazement at the glowing, burning blood on my fingers.
Looking at the shock I can see in Erik's eyes at the sight of the superheated liquid on my fingers, I just can't help myself, a grin growing on my face.
"All that… for a drop of blood."
And with that I come up and head-butt him in the chest, throwing him off of me. We both scramble to our feet, but he's tired and bloody and broken and other than a small cut on my cheekbone I'm still as fresh as when we started.
And with that I come back in again, this time my attacks noticeably better than five minutes before. I can see Erik's eyes widen when he realizes I'm chaining my attacks in the same exact way he has been doing all our fight.
Every time he finds an opening in my pattern and exploits it, the next time he tries to do the same thing, I block him perfectly. Every time he blocks or dodges one of my punches, the next one connects flawlessly.
All of it amounts to a merciless beat down, as I'm wearing him down bit by bit, while my regeneration keeps me at the top of my game.
It all comes to an end when he blocks one of my backhands. Seeing his midriff unprotected, my right fist snaps forwards in a perfect replica of the dozens of punches he has landed on me tonight.
Catching him full in the stomach, Killmonger slumps over with a pained grunt. Not letting up, I step forwards, bringing up my knee in a brutal strike against his chin, straightening his body with a snap, his feet nearly leaving the ground. As he slowly tips backwards, my hand shoots out, grasping him around the throat, before pulling him back.
I raise him high above me in the air with a single hand as I stride quickly towards the shot-up desk with a few great strides, before jumping up myself, and slamming down the black-ops soldier with an almighty crash straight through the furniture.
As I straighten myself, Killmonger doesn't get back up again.
I stand beside his broken form, gazing down at the man who once would have almost conquered the nation of Wakanda. He's barely clinging to consciousness and as he looks up at me, I can see the realization in his eyes.
I've done too much damage to his organs, ribs and spine for him to make a recovery without extensive surgery and extended hospital stay, both of which he isn't likely to receive in the rundown shithole that used to be Klaue's base.
But I can offer him something better.
As a door at the back of the warehouse opens, soft footsteps nearing us, I crouch down besides the broken Killmonger, keeping his gaze fixed on me.
"You are bleeding out, N'Jadaka son of N'Jobu, just as you would have if you were to challenge the murderer T'Chaka. But I offer salvation! I offer you a chance, to become stronger, to stand above the broken form of the Black Panther as I'm standing over you right now."
As I finish speaking, Stein comes up next to me, looking down at the JSOC Ghost with a closed-off expression, in his hand a syringe with a brightly burning serum inside.
Killmonger's eyes widen minutely at the sight of the mutated scientist, before his gaze tracks back towards me again.
"All you have to do…" I hold my hand out towards the marine "… is to accept."
Briefly indecision wars in his eyes, but eventually his pain and looming death, as well as the chance to do what I did to him to Black Panther, win out, and he lets out a feeble groaning sound, his hand slowly, trembling, rising from the splinters of the desk he's lying in.
And he clasps arms with me.
The moment he does, Stein steps forwards, injects Erik and then hurriedly leaves the scene of carnage the warehouse has become, not looking back as I follow after him, grasping an awed looking Klaue from the ground where he threw himself when I went for the desk he had been hiding underneath during my fight with Killmonger.
And behind us, the screams of Erik ring out into the night.
AN: While I still can't use the Vibranium, the first pieces of Step 9 fall into place, which will allow me to shape it to my whims once I've completed that part of my Program. Instead, I completed Step 8 by gaining an edge through enhancing my intellegence, which allows me to learn anything, which includes fighting, something I haven't gotten the time until now to really master, only knowing the basics of self-defenc. But with a new sparring-partner, that will change.
Fun Fact: There are several people worthy of wielding Mjolnir. Amongst them are Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, Conan the Barbarian, Superman, Wonder Woman and even Loki.