Marvel 2000 Presents
Force Works 40
"Summer of Terror."
North Korean Science City
Able Squad Sniper Jackson O'Hare found night time in North Korea to be disturbingly quiet. Having worked in dozens of forests and jungles all over the world, he'd quickly learned that each one had its own pulse, its own back ground noise or even one might say its own music.
But not this forest, and O'Hare wasn't much surprised. North Korea was almost always on the verge of famine, as the army hoarded foreign aid meant for the people, and fields capable of feeding millions were filled with cocaine instead of wheat.
That was one of the reasons why, when his mission watch beeped softly, he felt no regret about what was planned next. He leveled his customized MK-12 Special Purpose rifle, and began scanning the army camp ahead of him for his target. This late at night, the base was dimly lit, just enough for the guards to make their rounds, but it didn't matter to O'Hare. He knew when and where his target would be.
He waited several seconds before, like clockwork, his target approached for his regular smoke break (with a highly placed uncle in the party, he was the only one at the base who could afford them) just on the fringes of the camp's lights. Even with an uncle in the party, he wasn't about to flaunt his guilty pleasure in a camp filled with ruthless armed men.
As the guard lit his match, he might have well hung a bull's-eye around his neck.
O'Hare pulled the trigger, and his silenced rifle spat out a single sub-sonic bullet that crossed the distance between him and his target in the span of a heartbeat, and shredded the muscle and tissue of the sentry's throat.
The guard grabbed his pulverized neck, now sporting a red hole, trying to shout out a warning as he choked on his own blood but speech was impossible now. He fell over dead, seconds later.
"Okay heroes, front's open," O'Hare whispered into his radio.
O'Hare watched as two figures burst out of the woods ahead of him. If he didn't know where to look, he might have missed them entirely.
Sabre and X-Treme covered the distance in seconds, faster than any sprinter O'Hare had ever seen, and for a moment, the sniper felt as if he understood the hatred many felt for mutants. O'Hare trained almost twelve hours a day, and was recognized as one of the finest soldiers in the army. Yet no matter how hard he trained, he'd never be as fast or strong as them. There was no amount of training that would make him bullet proof, or able to throw a car.
But O'Hare dismissed the thought as he began to repel down the tree to take up a better firing position elsewhere. After all, the first lesson any soldier learned was that life was never fair.
Che-U was in the middle of his patrol when he felt something smash into his jaw, then darkness. Ju-Kan had just left the bathroom when he was rendered unconscious, while Tong-Lim was knocked out seconds after looking wistfully at the night sky.
Sabre circled through the base just under the speed of sound, punching out every guard she came across, counting off as she went. The army base had both regular and irregular patrols, but the numbers never changed.
Meanwhile, X-Treme climbed the last of four guard towers. This late at night, or rather early in the morning, the people inside were practically asleep. With two quick, inhuman leaps, X-Treme scaled the ladder and was inside.
When the three man team saw the armed blond man in a trench-coat standing just outside their door, they blinked and rubbed their eyes, certain they were dreaming.
X-Treme kicked in the door, and it floor like a missile into the first man. Once inside, a simple split kick was enough to deal with them.
That simple task complete, he went to the tower's filing cabinet, yanked open a drawer and began searching through the files.
"Come on, be here," X-Treme muttered. His Shi'ar sub-dermal implant was keyed to Korean, but that wasn't worth a damn if he couldn't find the right papers. Acutely aware that the clock was ticking, X-Treme was only seconds away from trying to awake the guards he'd put under, when he finally found it. He pulled out a modified scanner/camera, and ran it over the sheet.
"You get all that?"
US Army Base Tori Station, Okinawa Japan
Technocrat was at the main heart of the base's state of the art communication hub. Due to security concerns, it was only him and three other support staff even in the room, plus Namorita and Charcoal. Namorita loomed over his shoulder, while Charcoal was sprawled out on a bench, fast asleep.
"Good work, Adam," Technocrat replied, "those command codes will allow me to misdirect the defense computer running the base for a little while. Meet up with your team, and avoid the radio."
"…I thought the system couldn't be hacked," Namorita stated as she stood over Technocrat's shoulder.
"I can't," Technocrat replied, "but the sequence that X-Treme sent us basically translates into binary as 'good boy' and 'heel!'."
Namorita gave Technocrat an odd look, as if waiting for the punch-line.
"Funny things happen when you enslave alien artificial intelligences for security control," Technocrat shrugged. He then flipped a switch for a different radio frequency, "Blink, you're on. Tread carefully and move quickly."
Seo Tae Woong felt his heart pounding as he heard the soldiers rushing around outside. He dreaded what new torture they were going to be subjected to, in the name of the 'Glorious Kim Jong II'. Forced marches were just the beginning of the horrors that their 'commanding officers' liked to inflict upon them.
So he was completely baffled when two heavily armed men who looked nothing like the regular soldiers burst into the room, their guns sweeping the area, accompanied by a blond haired, metal winged man.
"We're here to take you home," the men said, "you need to follow us."
Seo hesitated. The men certainly weren't Korean, but then, neither were their 'instructors' Panzer and Black Brigade. Hiring foreign mercenaries to test their 'loyalty' certainly wasn't outside the realm of their captors usual cruelty.
They could be especially creative with their sadism.
Corporal Henderson watched as the teenagers sat up in their beds, but none moved to join him and his team.
"They don't trust us," he remarked dryly.
"Good thing we prepared," Arsenal replied.
"Kim Jong is scum of the earth! A parasite that will be wiped clean from the earth by the glorious United States!" Arsenal boldly shouted.
Almost as one, the children jumped from their beds and raced out of the barracks, their hearts brimming with hope since the first time their feet had touched this nation's soil. After all, no ally of North Korea would even dare whisper what Arsenal had said.
"That was a little too easy," Henderson remarked.
"Hey, there's no rule against using a bastard's brutality against them," Arsenal shrugged, "besides, I doubt things will stay this easy for long."
Several Hundred feet below the barracks
Whenever he couldn't sleep, the mercenary Rheinhardt, AKA Panzer, found himself drawn to the main security. Part of the reason was the desire to know the systems that could one day be turned against him (Panzer wasn't so naïve as to think his employer would never betray him), but the main reason was just a childhood fascination with alien life.
The room was about as large as an opera hall, with two dozen technicians making their way about at any given time, and at the center of it all was a large, transparent glass tube that contained a yellow, shifting techno-organic alien. The form shifted from human, to a cross between a praying mantis and butterfly, to a sphere of yellow and gold wires, to human again.
Panzer had no idea how North Korea had managed to enslave the creature for their security system, but on nights like this, he simply didn't care. He was looking at an actual alien, a living creature created billions of miles away that somehow managed to cross the vast expanse of space. The simple sight of it was enough to make Panzer forget about his harsh life of mud, blood and bullets.
He just wished that the North Koreans were a little more self aware in naming it. The system was called SIN, after Korean shamanism. And though he was sure that SIN meant something else entirely in Korea, in English, well...
"It seems to change forms more quickly tonight," Panzer remarked to a technicians who happened to pass by.
"Our readings say it is especially content," the man replied, too terrified to look at the mercenary directly. He had no way of knowing that, hundreds of miles away, Technocrat was sending the phalanx drone a soothing stream of white noise, "perhaps it's the weather?"
A moment later, the phalanx transformed into a ball of spike, and alarms began blaring.
"What's happening?" Panzer demanded.
"It's detected a teleport signature! Someone had breached the base!"
"Damn it," Panzer growled, "summon Black Brigade, get eyes on the barracks and get a strike team ready! They're here for those mutie bastards, I guarantee you!"
"Everyone jus' remain calm, we'll have ye out of here inside the hour!" Wolfsbane said in a calm, soothing voice as nearly a dozen terrified young girls raced after her. She, along with Lt. Commander Hardcastle, were less leading the children than riding herd on them.
At a separate barracks, Tarene and X-Treme, along with four members of Able Squad, were leading six children who'd been held in isolation towards the base's hangar, the intended extraction point.
"Do we got everyone?" Hardcastle shouted to Wolfsbane.
"Give me a minute," Wolfsbane stopped, and inhaled a deep breath through her noise, the scents of the base rushing through her brain. Hardcastle felt a shiver shoot down his spine when her eyes snapped open in alarm.
"There's some…!" Wolfsbane never finished her sentence, as a blur of steel smashed into her from above.
"Surrender and I'll make it quick!" Bushmaster snapped.
"Wolfsbane!" Hardcastle leveled his Carbine, and stepped in between the two, and the crowd of now terrified mutant children.
"Get them out o' here!" Wolfsbane snapped.
"God damn it…!" Hardcastle hesitated only for a few seconds. The way the two were rolling around on the ground, trying to claw or beat the other into submission, there was no way in hell he could get a decent shot, "ten years combat experience and here I am playing storm trooper to a kid in spandex."
"Alright, move it!" Hardcastle snapped at the young girls. The drill sergeant in his voice cut through their fear and panic like a knife, and they followed him towards the hangar. That taken care of, he activated his radio and all but screamed, "all units! We have new, unknown hostiles! Repeat, unknown hostiles! Wolfsbane has engaged! Someone, respond!"
All Hardcastle heard in reply was static.
"They have our comm. frequency, oh this just gets better and better!"
Nova, known to some as The Human Rocket, clenched his fists again and again as he hovered five feet above the ground at the center of the camp. Like the two snipers that surrounded the base, Nova was held in reserve. In theory, if something went wrong, they'd radio him, and his combination of speed and power.
In theory, it was a sound plan. In practice, it meant that Nova was alone, by himself while his teammates went about risking their lives.
Nova's nerves were on edge, worried that he might be doing nothing while his friends died.
So when he saw his lover Namorita, in a lovely flowing gown, his first reaction wasn't suspicion, but confusion and relief.
"Babe? What are you doing here…like that?" Nova shook his head, which felt like it was full of cobwebs. In his head, he knew that his lover should be a hundred miles away, and even if she were here, she wouldn't be dressed in a drop dead sexy gown, looking to make out.
But those thoughts were lost somewhere between his brain and the rest of his body, as he wrapped his arms around the women he loved, and kissed her passionately.
Several feet away, Black Mamba held her forehead, struggling to maintain the illusion that Nova had fallen into.
"Nova is down," Black Mamba said into her radio, "but someone needs to get to me, fast. He's fighting me, and I can't keep him here forever!"
"How many do we have?" Blink asked. She, along with the other members of Able Squad, were in the army base's main hangar, and were being to get twitchy. This close to the finish line, it was almost unavoidable.
"Head count's low by ten," replied Warrant Officer Barnes, "we should get these kids out while we can."
"We want to keep down the number of times we teleport," Blink answered, "if they catch on…"
"We'll fall back on the alternate plan," Barnes replied, "but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We get them out and worry about the rest later. Besides, less kids means it's less work for you, right?"
"Right," Blink nodded, and then took a calming breath. She reached inside herself, feeling her mutant powers, and cast out the energy like she'd done a hundred times before, blanketing the children in her power. Then, with a slight mental nudge…
"Arrgh!" Blink clutched her head as she felt her own power thrown back at her, and fell backwards.
"What the hell?" Barnes was at Blink's side in seconds, as members of Able Squad gave each other an 'oh shit' look, and the children began to bunch closer together in fear, "Blink, what happened, answer me!"
The mutant teleporter shook her head, as she struggled to hear, let alone understand the words coming out of Barnes' mouth.
"…something blocked me," Blink forced out, as she climbed to her feet, "they know we're here!"
Suddenly, the ground beneath them began to shake.
"Tell me your boy wouldn't do something like that if he didn't have to," Barnes hissed through clenched teeth. He looked back over his shoulder at the terrified children, and began to feel the weight of the mission on his shoulder.
Blink shoved Barnes hard in the chest, pushing him backwards, but wasn't quick enough to pull her arm back as a streak of yellow energy clipped her just beneath the wrist. Blink clutched her arm to her chest as it went numb.
"Well, I can't say we expected this," the Serpent Society member known as Asp. Her hands glowed a poisonous yellow, "what's with the GI Joe entourage, Blink?"
Blink clenched her fist, and was relieved to find that even though she couldn't feel them, they still worked, "You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don't know yours."
"Sorry honey, it's going to stay that way," Asp purred.
The mutant teleporter mentally sighed in relief as she reappeared behind Asp, javelin in hand. Though her distance was being limited by some outside inference, it was hard to completely suppress the power of someone who could skip across all the continents of the world inside of a minute.
Of course, Asp wasn't about to stand still while she was sliced to ribbons. The snake themed villainess ducked underneath the swing, danced backwards a few steps and unleashed another venom bolt at Blink, who teleported away.
"Damn it Blink, get back here!" Barnes shouted, to no avail. He was confident that his men could end Asp in a hail of bullets, but there was no way in hell his people could hit her without shooting Blink too. Friendly fire isn't, and Blink was too important to endanger.
But at the same time, Barnes wasn't sure he could get close enough to kill the snake bitch without getting him or his men killed.
"Damn spandex idiots," Barnes muttered, as he activated his radio and began broadcasting on their secondary frequency, "this is Barnes to all points!"
"We have engaged an unknown enemy!"
X-Treme reached into his belt as he leapt backwards. He landed in a skid, and threw a pair of throwing stars.
Death Adder slid under the throwing stars without breaking stride and swept his claws across where X-Treme's chest had been only seconds later. The Shi'ar warrior leaned back, and then pitched forward, slamming the flat of his palms into Death Adder's chest as he came back.
The Serpent was pitched backwards, and dragged his nails across the ground to stop his slide. Death Adder raced forward, claws still gleaming with poison.
X-Treme was fast, but so was Death Adder, and he knew he needed only one scratch to win this.
"I have no idea how many there are, but they appear to have intel on us!"
Tarene turned her head just in time to see the fist that was barreling towards her face.
The blow sent her flying, and Anaconda smirked as she extended her left arm and brought it crashing down on Tarene while she was still in mid-air.
"Come on, blondie!" Anaconda grumbled, "gimmie a fight!"
"I'll give you more than a fight," Tarene hissed as she grabbed Anaconda's extended right arm, and pulled it like a fishing line, "I'll give you war!"
Anaconda had fought The Thing on even terms, but she still wasn't strong enough to keep the young goddess from pulling her off her feet and through the air like a missile. Tarene stopped Anaconda's flight with a simple clothesline, and the larger woman could barely grunt when she hit the ground.
"That all?" Tarene hissed, as she felt her blood beginning to boil.
"Hey, that's my woman!"
Puff Adder, the second tough man of the Serpent Society, tackled Tarene through one of the barracks as if it were tissue paper.
Tarene was about to throw him off, when Puff Adder took a deep breath, and spewed poison gas across Tarene's face.
The gas was powerful enough to kill twenty men, but to Tarene, it was simply a stinging, blinding irritant. As she attempted to clear her eyes, Puff Adder made the most of his advantage by connecting with a powerful right hook.
"Be advised, our primary method of extraction is no longer an option!"
Vibraxis wiped the sweat from his forehead as he struggled for breath. The Serpent Society member called Rattler had ambushed him and the people he was with. Rather than risk the lives of the children they were tasked with saving, the Master of Vibration ordered the soldiers to take the children while he held the villain back.
But as both used super-sonic vibrations as weapons, the fight became an instant stalemate. Neither could hit the other directly. Vibraxis would just absorb it, while Rattler had enough experience to create a counter wave, nullifying the Wakandian's attack.
Seeing that, Vibraxis tried to use a different form of attack. He directed his power at the ground itself, liquidizing it, and sent the wave of rock and debris crashing towards Rattler. But Rattler split the wave in two with a single blast from his tail.
"It seems our powers would avail us nothing!" Vibraxis finally said, "would you care to settle this in honest combat, as the Panther God prefers?"
Rattle rubbed his chin. Long before he acquired his powers, he was a mercenary who loved getting his hands dirty, "Sure, why not. Show me what you got, young man."
Vibraxis cracked his knuckles, and raced to cross the distance between himself and the villain. His first punch was an excellent right cross that split Rattler's lip, and loosened a tooth.
Rattle responded by swinging his tail around, slamming it into Vibraxis' ribs and pitching him a good five feet through the air.
Rattler missed getting his hands dirty, but he wasn't stupid.
"Didn't think this through, did you kid?" Rattler smiled.
"…nor did you," Vibraxis gasped, as he turned his powers inward. He became invisible instantly, and seconds later Rattler found himself blasted into one of the barracks, "if you will not engage in violence in a civilized manner, then I will crush you like the traitorous snake you are!"
US Army Base Tori Station, Okinawa Japan
"…tell me I didn't just hear that."
Technocrat licked his lips as he felt his throat run dry, "The fun doesn't end there. They're jamming our communications'. I can't raise any of our people and without that, I can't help!"
"I thought we took precautions so this wouldn't happen!" Namorita snapped.
"We did! But they have our frequency!" Technocrat shot back.
For a moment, the comment simply hung in the air.
"An inside job…" Namorita whispered.
As a general rule, inside jobs were possibly the most dangerous threat the team could face, outside of tackling Dr. Doom or Galactus. An enemy that had inside information could easily, casually, come up with a dozen ways to kill you before you even realized he was there.
"It doesn't matter," Technocrat said quickly, "I can fix our communications, just give me a few minutes. After that, we need to get that hellicarrier in the air!"
"N.C. won't remain clueless long! Disengage and rally at the hangar, ASAP!"
Mirage watched in horror as Arsenal stumbled in pain. Seconds ago, the Serpent Society member known as Sidewinder had appeared out of nowhere, and lobbed a metal sphere at the faux mutant's back. The devise was magnetized, and stuck on Arsenal like a tick. Even worse, it began to pulsate a strange, agonizing energy.
Mirage was racing through ways to get that thing off him in her mind, when she sensed someone behind her. Moving on instinct, she dove to the side, and just barely missed being sliced in two by Coachwhip's electrified steel whips.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Mirage pointed a psychic arrow at the snake-woman, "tell me now, and just maybe I won't lock your mind up in its own worst fear!"
"Thought it was obvious, darling," Coachwhip cracked her weapons, and Mirage was seconds away from unleashing her arrow when she noticed her foe glance behind her. The former shield agent dove to her left, just barely dodging two bolts of energy.
"You freakin' snakes are everywhere!"
Sidewinder teleported away from his perch atop one of the barracks, and reappeared right behind Mirage. As much as he preferred to leave the fighting to the other members, Sidewinder knew all too well that Force Works were not to be trifled with, and if they wanted to win this they'd need all hands on deck. These kids had experience, and were not to be underestimated.
And there was no better evidence of that when Sidewinder's blasts traveled through Mirage, and struck the startled Coachwhip.
"Don't feel too bad," Mirage smashed her bow across the back of Sidewinder's head, knocking the Serpent Society leader senseless, "just because you know my powers doesn't mean you know how I use them."
"Oh, it is on!"
Mirage didn't even have time to gasp when she saw a blur, Black Racer, barreling towards her.
"Oh, come on, we don't have all day!"
And Mirage had just barely begun to bring her hands up to defend herself when Sabre rocketed out of nowhere and slammed Black Racer aside. The two speedsters were gone in an instant, and Mirage realized she was safe only seconds after thinking she was in terrible danger.
Well, perhaps safe wasn't the right word, Mirage reflected. The mission was blown, they were under attack by the Serpent Society, they were hundreds of miles behind the North Korean border, Arsenal was disabled and she had no idea the status of her team, let alone that of the Special Forces unit that had joined them or the children they intended to rescue.
"This is going to get messy," Mirage muttered under her breath, as she raced to Arsenal's side. The steel giant was writhing in the ground, with electricity arcing off his body. Mirage quickly realized she had no way to get the devise off his back, and thumbed her radio, "Force Works, this is Mirage! Disengage and form on me in the main courtyard, now!"
"…form on me in the main courtyard, now!"
The sound of his leader's voice cut through Nova's mind like a knife, and he broke the kiss with Namorita.
"Did you hear that?" Nova could still here Mirage's voice rattling around in his head, even as the woman he loved was intimately pressed up against him.
"I didn't hear anything, lover," Namorita replied, with a seductive smile.
"No, you didn't."
Nova clapped his hands together, dispelling the dark-force creation that had taken the form of his lover, and creating a wave of pressure that through Black Mamba from her feet.
"Nice try," Nova glanced towards Black Mamba, "but I ain't as dumb as I look. No way Namorita would want to make out on a mission like that!"
The Human Rocket rose up into the air, and then sped off.
"Oh crap…." Black Mamba muttered, before mustering up her courage, and racing after him.
Sabre almost laughed as she ran alongside Black Racer. She saw how the other woman was straining to keep up with her, while Sabre was barely straining a muscle.
With a childish smirk on her face, Sabre pulled a foot ahead, and then stuck her foot out. Black Racer was going too fast to stop, and she tripped. . Sabre, far from a complete sadist, had angled their run away from the bad and into the open area that surrounded the base.
The mutant speedster skidded to a halt, just to watch the show, as Black Racer tumbled head over heads the distance of a city block. It was like an old Warner Brothers cartoon, and instantly became the high light of Sabre week.
"…oww," Black Racer droned as she finally came to a stop, flat on her back.
"That was just embarrassing," Sabre stopped over to the snake almost casually, "I mean really, do you qualify as a speedster?"
"As much as you qualify as an ass," Black Racer retorted.
"Hey, there's always someone better," Sabre said smugly, as she cracked her knuckles, "just accept it."
"I have," Black Racer replied, "I accept that I have to be smarter."
Black Racer began running her heels across the ground at super-sonic speeds, kicking up a cloud of heavy dust inside the blink of an eye. Sabre took a step back, and by the time she realized she couldn't see, she was hit with an hundred mile per hour arm bar that knocked her off her feet and on her ass.
"My suit is a special vibranium mesh that can absorb high speed impacts," Black Racer explained, "in addition, my cowl has special goggles that lets me see different spectrums while protecting my eyes."
Sabre didn't see the right cross that smashed into her jaw, but she recovered in just enough time to duck under the left hook that Black Racer followed up with.
Sabre brought her arms up and defended herself as best she could, but at the moment Black Racer had the advantage. Sabre was faster, but she learned early on that her reflexes increased relative to her speed.
Standing still, she had to concentrate to bring her reflexes up to snuff, to be fast enough to keep up. And it was damned hard to concentrate when you were being pummeled at four hundred miles per hour.
"…disengage, and form on me …!"
Sabre barely heard Mirage as she fought to keep Black Racer back.
Well, it's not running away if it's an order, Sabre thought to herself, rather unconvincingly. She backpedaled at mach one, and then dashed around Black Racer and back towards the base.
"Yeah, you better run!" Black Racer threw her hands up in celebration, then paused, "oh crap, she's running!"
Hardcastle breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the last of his people arrive with the kids they were sent here to rescue. They were supposed to be accompanied by a member of Force Works, but Hardcastle quickly realized that, whoever the new players were, they were here for the superheroes, and not them.
"Never should have brought those spandex idiots to this operation," Hardcastle muttered, "everyone form up!"
"We in deep, aren't we?" Corporal Henderson said.
"It's neck high and getting higher," Hardcastle replied, "we can't run. Even if we made it out of here with the brats, the border is the most heavily guarded in the world."
"So what's the plan, sir?" Corporal Blackwell asked.
"We dig in," Hardcastle replied, "Blackwell, Santos, Barnes, I need you to get me some vehicles, we're going to have to make our own cover. Get O'Hare on the horn and let him know the situation."
"And Force Works?"
Hardcastle looked at the kids they had hoped to rescue, and then back to his men.
"Once we have a defensible position, we'll go remind them that we don't have time for this private spat of theirs."
"Slippery little snake, aren't ye?"
Wolfsbane had fought her fair share of animal themed villains in her past, but she never imagined that it would be a snake themed one who'd give her the most trouble.
But then, while Bushmaster was snake themed, his body was cutting edge technology, literally. His arms were enhanced cybernetics, deadly even if they weren't tipped with two foot long poisoned blades, and his lower body was like that of a snake, enabling him to slither across the ground faster than he had any right to.
"When I need to be," Bushmaster said simply.
Wolfsbane leapt over Bushmaster's wrists, and landed in a crouch. She then sprang forward and slashed the serpent across his chest, drawing blood. Bushmaster winced, and acting on instinct swung his tail like a whip, catching Wolfsbane in the stomach.
The lupine mutant was hurled a good thirty feet before she crashed back to earth in a heap. Her vision swimming, Wolfsbane didn't even register that she had landed in the base's training area.
Bushmaster pushed his cybernetics as fast as they would go, and was looming over Wolfsbane in seconds.
Still struggling to collect her wits, the Scots mutant picked up what she thought was a branch, and swung it at Bushmaster's head. The villain ducked, and backpedaled, before stopping dead.
"Well, come on then!" Wolfsbane hissed as she leapt to her feet, 'branch' still in one hand.
Bushmaster barely replied, as his mouth hung agape in disbelief. Against her better judgment, Wolfsbane glanced around to see what had the man so horrified. The training area seemed standard to her, nothing that one wouldn't find in your average boot camp. The only thing that seemed odd to her where the white branches and scattered bleach white rocks…
Wolfsbane looked closer, and then glanced at the 'branch' that she'd grabbed to defend herself.
"Bloody 'ell!" Wolfsbane dropped the bone in disgust.
"What do they do here?" Bushmaster asked.
"Ye don't know?" Wolfsbane eyed the villain carefully. His disgust seemed genuine, but that might be because he only knew half the story, "do ye have any idea where we are?"
Bushmaster looked around, and felt a sinking feeling forming in his gut.
"Our employers only gave us a location and time as to where you'd be," Bushmaster replied, leaving out a few key details as a matter of habit, "we…should have researched the coordinates better."
"Well, then," Wolfsbane was quacking in anger. These fools had completely blown their mission, without the slightest clue what they'd done, "allow me to let ye know the truth. But I kin promise, it will do anything but set ye free."
"That's enough slacking, Arsenal!" Nova grabbed the devise that had been attached to the metal pseudo-mutant and crushed the steel devise like an eggshell, "get your ass up, we got work to do!"
The entirety of Force Works stood side by side now, across from the Serpent Society. Both teams had decided to regroup and catch their second wind. Once the element of surprised was lost, the Serpent Society knew that they'd need teamwork to overcome Force Works, while Force Works knew that they'd need their combined strength if they were to have a hope in hell of salvaging this mess.
An unsteady stalemate hung in the air, as Death Adder flexed his claws, Nova's eyes crackled with energy, while Black Mamba tried to find the best target for her darkforce as Mirage sought to line up a good shot at Sidewinder. Each side looked for an opening, while unwilling to be the one to take the first shot.
"Society…" Sidewinder began.
"Force Works," Mirage took a deep breath.
"Stop! Everyone, stop fighting, now!"
Both teams turned as one, as Bushmaster and Wolfsbane raced towards them.
"We have to stop this!" Bushmaster said, as he placed himself in front of his team.
"Wolfsbane, what's going on?" Nova demanded.
"They don' know why we're here!" Wolfsbane explained.
"…so?" Arsenal asked suspiciously.
"Jus' trust me!" Wolfsbane snapped.
"Well, what is going on?" Sidewinder demanded, "I should kill you where you stand, Bushmaster, but you've earned my loyalty, and trust. Now explain why you have betrayed both!"
"Do you know what they're doing here?" Bushmaster asked.
"It isn't important!" Sidewinder spat, "this contract is worth millions! Our reputation will be made! We'll…!"
"North Korea has been kidnapping mutant children for their army," Bushmaster replied, "I just came from an obstacle course littered with human bones, meant to toughen them up. They are turning children into slave soldiers!"
The statement was slap in the face to the Serpent Society. They were criminals, of course, but there were things even they couldn't abide. On top of that, none of them wanted to risk being beaten and captured in one of the world's most infamous dictatorships. At least in America, they had rights!
"I will have no part in hindering them further," Bushmaster drew a line in the sand with his tail, then slithered backwards to Force Works' side, "and I intend to make amends for the damage I have already done. Please join me, my friends. I don't wish to harm any of you, but if you stand against me, I will not hesitate to strike you down."
"You can't mean that, Bushmaster!" Black Mamba pleaded.
"I will not relent," Bushmaster replied, "everyone here made a choice. They did not. They are children, not warriors."
"Not to interrupt this touching moment, but you need to make your choice now," Mirage stated, "because this whole mess has been spiraling out of control since you first got here and started a fight. This situation gets more dangerous by the second!"
Asp and Black Mamba glanced at one another, and with a nod crossed Bushmaster's line.
"Ladies, please!" Sidewinder implored.
To the surprise of his team, Death Adder crossed the line next. The deadliest serpent was unmistakably chest fallen, and his head hung low, but none of it lessened the shock of seeing one of their most deadly, and like Bushmaster, most loyal, cross the line against them.
"Come on, babe," Puff Adder sighed.
"You gotta be kidding me!" Anaconda snapped, "does anyone remember how much we're getting paid here?"
"There's not enough money in the world to pay me to fight my friends to hurt kids," Puff Adder replied as he stepped over, "I know we done some crazy stuff in the past, but there's gotta be a limit."
"Thank ye," Wolfsbane said softly.
"Oh, shut up," Puff Adder huffed, "you guys beat me and my pals up when you were just getting started. Any other time, I'd bury you all."
"We don't have to fight," Mirage said, bow still pulled taut, "but if you want to, we can still go. Your best are on our side, how do you think you'd last?"
"Okay, okay!" Sidewinder threw his hands up in defeat, "fine, in retrospect I can see that this contract was seriously flawed, and defaulting is our only option. I mean, North Korea? I'd rather invade Latveria! Truce?"
"Truce," Mirage lowered her bow, and blew out a sigh of relief. She wasn't entirely certain that the Serpents sided with them would actually be willing to hurt their friends if push came to shove. Force Works was already up to their necks in trouble, and one less fight meant one less thing likely to go wrong in a night where everything had gone wrong.
"If it's all the same to you, I'd like to take my people and leave," Sidewinder stated. The Serpents who crossed the line drifted back to their friend's side now that their crisis of conscience was over.
"That'd be perfect," Mirage answered. She was tempted to issue a threat, but given the situation she had no desire to push her luck. If the Serpent Society was willing to leave peacefully, a shut mouth was small price to pay.
"It's not going to be that easy," Blink muttered softly.
"Thank you," Sidewinder bowed politely, like Dracula in some B-horror movie. He remained in that pose for several seconds, even as he turned his head in confusion.
"…I can't teleport," fear began to creep into Sidewinder's voice, "why can't we teleport out?"
"They're blocking us," Blink replied, "it's like a radio, the closer we are, the less effect it has…but we can't get out. The security system has us on lock down, and it's unlike anything I've felt before."
"This contract just gets better and better," Sidewinder sighed.
"So we're stuck in this arm pit country?" Coachwhip snapped.
"It would seem so," Sidewinder remarked.
"Mirage, we have trouble!" Wolfsbane snapped, and Death Adder hissed.
"Everyone, back to back!" Mirage barked. The Serpent Society and Force Works fell into a perfect circle, as the night around them came alive.
North Korean soldiers swarmed out of every nook and cranny. They were on the roofs of the barracks, out of the alleys, the shadows themselves seemed to come alive with heavily armed men.
"Hold your fire!" Mirage ordered. While she was certain that her team alone could decimate the North Korean army, she didn't like starting a fight without knowing what the exact situation was. Given that there was still a Special Forces team and a few dozen terrified mutant teenagers out there, starting a firefight without knowing their status was beyond reckless.
Not only that, but there was the possibility that the North Koreans were willing to negotiate. Once their 'secret army' was revealed, Mirage hoped that they would be smart enough to see that folding was their best option to avoid both an international incident.
It was, in her opinion, the smartest option available.
"Attention American invaders!"
The Balkan cyborg known as Black Brigade landed in front of Mirage. He was like an unholy combination of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Iron Man and The Hulk.
"You will be property of North Korea. Surrender now, and maybe we only kill half of you."
"Err, which half?" Sidewinder asked softly.
"If we surrender?" Mirage acutely felt the dozens of guns aimed at her and her people.
"The lucky ones."
Next issue: It's the Serpent Society and Force Works vs. the North Korean army! And no, I haven't forgotten about the Apocalypse Dawn…