A Marvelous Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
Prisoner on an Alien World!
March 13, 1963
"My, what a nice day!" Hank Pym whistled softly as he walked down the quiet suburban street. He clutched the package under his arm tighter as he rounded a corner and made his way past neatly manicured lawns and white picket fences. "I hope Paul has his chessboard ready. I think I can get that old dog in check today."
Going up the walk towards a nice one-story home, Hank rang the buzzer as stepped onto the front porch. After several minutes and no answer but the birds chirping overhead, Hank tried knocking on the door. Setting his package down, he wiped his brow before looking around. "Odd, I wonder what's going on? Paul said he'd be waiting on my findings." Going around to the side, he peered in through the window of the garage. The familiar sight of Paul's 1956 Chevy stared back at him. "Well, he didn't drive anywhere. Maybe he's in his lab?"
Upon finding the backdoor locked, Hank's concern grew. A glance through the back windows showed the lab as being deserted as the rest of the house. "Maybe he's sick?" After checking on his package, Hank decided to resort to more drastic measures. "Alright, if Hank Pym can't help, let's see what Ant-Man can do."
Glancing around the neighborhood, and making sure nobody was watching, Hank popped one of his pills in his mouth. Quickly shrinking down to insect size, Hank easily crawled under the door. "I really am going to have to thank Reed for inventing those unstable molecules." He easily made it into the house before taking another pill to enlarge. "But he might be curious why I had him design a regular suit." Calling out, Hank heard no response.
After searching the house, Hank was puzzled. "Alright, perfect locked room mystery. Where did Paul go?" A warm cup of coffee sat unattended by an open series of books while two cold slices of bread sat waiting in the toaster. "It's obvious he was here, or someone was?" Everything looked normal for a bachelor scientist, but as Hank turned to leave, he spotted something on the floor.
"A card?" Picking it up, Hank examined it in the light. It was a simple business card; made of basic paper stock and cheap designs. There was something odd about it, something that just made it stand out among every object in the house. "Free Window Washing", proclaimed the brightly colored little figure on the card, with bright blue lettering. An address and phone number were printed on the back. Around the card was a small pool of what appeared to be hardened plastic. Hank lightly ran his fingers around the material. "It looks like two footprints." Turning the card over in his hands, an idea came to him. "Hmm, I wonder…" Hank pocketed the card before he let himself out.
Hank sat down at the kitchen table as the sounds of Maria tinkering in the back lab drifted through the closed door. "Honey, aren't you coming in?"
Maria entered the kitchen. Her overalls were dirty, her hair unkempt, and sported enough grease under her nails to render them all black. Hank still smiled at the sight of her. "Big project honey?"
She smiled as she washed her hands in the sink. "You might say that. With those new transmission towers we installed, I can actually listen in on insect conversations!" She grew animated as she sat down at the table and began to devour the meatloaf before her. "With that translator in the garage, I can fully understand what the insects are saying! Isn't that amazing?"
Hank beamed with pride at his wife's words. "Amazing, utterly amazing." Their conversation drifted back and forth between topics, but as they were putting the dishes up, Hank suddenly snapped his fingers. "Maria, does this card seem odd to you?" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the window washer card. Taking it, Maria flipped it over as she looked at it. He went into detail about the state of Paul's house.
"No, not really. But what about that plastic you found?"
"That was weirdest thing." Hank paused as he loaded the dishwasher. "It was pooled on the carpet, and there were two indentions in the center, like footprints. Paul never worked with plastic, so it just stood out to me."
"Maybe we should leave this alone. This isn't the first time Paul has stood you up." Maria grabbed a towel from the small rack and wiped her face.
"True, but he called me not ten minutes before I arrived. Paul can be a flake, but that's extreme even for him. I'd feel like a nut if I called anyone, and how could I explain how I got in?"
"So you think the Wasp needs to lend a hand?" Maria's smile grew bold.
"I was thinking more along the lines of feelers, but hands would work too."
Some time later
Hank stretched out before the television. His brow was furrowed as he listened to the evening news. "In other news, yet another top scientist has gone missing. Police and family members urge the public to please contact the nearest police station if any of these men are spotted." Hank stood up and switched the set off. "No names, but they could be talking about Paul." Listening in on the translator, Hank had been able to keep in touch with Maria and the various insects in the city, but so far she didn't have anything solid.
Lighting a match, Hank started to smoke his pipe as the sound of the doorbell tore him away from the translator. A quick glance through the peephole showed him the sight of a heavyset man getting into a blue van and driving off. "Hmm, I wonder who that was?" Opening the door, he was surprised by the sight of a plain flyer stuck under the welcome mat. A familiar card was held onto to by a paperclip.
The next day
After a brief discussion with Maria, and all possibilities examined, Hank stood nervously by the front door as a blue van pulled into the driveway. The heavyset man exited the truck and carried with him a large bucket and several wipers. He knocked on the door. "Winslow's Window Washed While You Wait." He smiled good-naturedly as Hank opened the door.
"Come in please." Hank ushered him inside. "I got your flyer, and as you can see, my windows do need cleaning. If your work is good, I would be interested in becoming a regular."
The man's smile increased. "Well partner that's what I'm here for! You just sit back and relax. When I'm done, your windows will never be a concern ever again!" The window washer doffed his cap and went outside to start his work. Hank nodded silently and slipped into the kitchen. Opening his coat, he peered into the inner breast pocket.
"Are you ok?"
The tiny figure of the Wasp looked up from her hiding place and gave him a thumbs up. If the washer were connected to the disappearances, they'd find out. Hank paced around the house as the washer worked outside. When the man finished, he came in through the front door. "Mind if I take a break before I start on the inside?"
"Not at all. Must be tiring work, eh?" Hank tried to sound casual.
"Oh, it has its moments." The man joked as he picked up his bucket and swirled it around. Hank noticed the contents appeared to be more solid than liquid. He opened his mouth to comment, but the washer's laugh made him silent. "Pal, trust, this stuff is not something you want in your eyes." With that, he threw the contents at Hank.
Hank closed his eyes as the thick goop coated him. To his horror, he found that he couldn't move as the strange substance hardened around his body. The washer dumped more material over him before he could feel something being attached to his head. "I know you can't speak or move right now buddy," he could hear the washer's words, "but right now I'm putting a special doohickey over that big brain of yours. Next time you can open your eyes, you'll be millions of miles away. No one can help you. It's nothing personal bud, just business."
Intense feelings of vertigo and bright flashes of light peppered his eyelids before Hank found he was free. Opening his eyes, he gasped in horror at the sight before him: inhuman green skinned humanoids mulled around him. The largest one stepped towards and beat on its chest. Its voice was deep and gravely, but Hank wasn't sure if it was a man or not. "I am Kulla, leader of Slaveworld! You are my prisoner. Work hard and live-resist and die. The choice is yours."
Hank tried to form words, but those efforts were abandoned when he saw a familiar face. "Paul?"
Paul stepped forward and helped him to his feet. "Hello Hank." Paul's shoulders were drooped and his head was low. "Come with me and I'll fill you in."
Silently the pair left the chamber and made their way down a long narrow corridor. Hank felt the floor vibrate under his feet as he walked and heard strange noises coming from outside. "Paul, what's going on?"
"We've been kidnapped." Paul helplessly gestured. "And don't bother trying to resist, you can't."
"That light that blasted window washer used? It's a form of mind control. It makes you capable of understanding these creatures, but it limits your will. Believe me, all of us tried."
"All of us? You mean all the missing scientists…"
"Were here all along. Kulla has us working night and day to build him an electro-death ray." Paul led the way to a large open indoor area. Scores of dirty and disheveled men labored around a giant cannon. "His people overthrew him, but from within this fortress he can withstand their assault. Once he crushes this rebellion he'll turn his attention towards Earth."
"And there's nothing we can do to stop it, right?" The movement Hank felt in his coat relieved him as he took a place near a large workbench.
"We can't. We can talk about it all we want, but we are helpless. We can't even eat or sleep unless ordered to by one of the guards." Paul took a seat next to him and started working with various chemicals. "You always were the better chemist Hank, that's why you're here. If the ray fails we are to create some other kind of weapon."
"Paul, I believe what you say about the light, but what if someone were here who hadn't been exposed?"
Paul blinked. "Well, that would be nice, but impossible. No human can arrive here without being treated with that infernal chemical or lightshow. It's hopeless Hank."
"No, not totally." Maria thought. She held tight to the fabric around her as Hank removed his coat. Once she was sure it had been placed on a solid surface, she slowly crawled out of it and looked around.
She was on the work floor. Legs shuffled around her, but from her height mile high trees might as well have surrounded her. Running to one of the giant table legs, she spied the surrounding area. "Alright, first thing's first. I have to free the slaves."
A guard stomped over to Hank's workstation and started to shove him. "Back to work slave! The master needs more weapons!" The sound of a whip cracking echoed like a sonic boom, but she took the opportunity to dash forward and latch onto the guard's nearby boot. Hanging on with all of her strength, her brow grew wet when she heard the guard's muttered curse. "What is this, another bug in this fate forsaken dungeon? Bah!" Before she could react, she felt her grip loosening as the guard shook her free.
Flying through the air, she hit the wall with a thud. The wind was knocked out of her, but she managed to land without breaking anything. Stunned, she rolled to her feet as the sound of clicking made her wince. Doing a quick check showed nothing broken, but the noise continued. A thought dawned on her; something so simple she cursed herself for nothing thinking of it sooner. "Bugs!"
Around crawled species of insects she could scarcely imagine. Many looked like beetles, but the overall appearance was something grotesque. Far too many legs scurried across the floor towards her. One creature in particular, which resembled a cross between a housefly and a rodent, opened a slimy orifice and lunged at her. Diving out of the way, she tried to tune in her helmet with one hand as she picked up a sliver of stone in the other. "Come on, work with me!" She hissed as she found herself backed up against the wall. Mind numbing static coming from the speakers made her wince, but she couldn't take the helmet off in time.
The helmet could have taken damage in the fall, or maybe it just wouldn't work with alien species. She didn't have the time to ponder the possibilities as a slender tongue (Oh, how she hoped that was a tongue) whipped around her wrist. On almost pure reflex, she yanked her hand back. She envisioned herself being yanked towards an alien maw, but much to her shock, the creature that had snagged her came flying through the air. Letting her go, it crashed into a large mass of its fellows, as she stood amazed. "How did I do that?" She barely had time to register her actions as the bugs swarmed again. Lashing out, she sent dozens scattering with little more than a push. Running, she covered half the floor and was back by Hank's side before she could blink.
Pausing for a breath, she took off her helmet. "How am I this strong? It's like I retained my full strength, but that's impossible." Sitting down within the folds of Hank's coat, she fiddled with the helmet as she thought of a plan. "Maybe my not being exposed to the light and the chemicals, plus the particles, did something. However it happened, I think I can use this to my advantage." Fine-tuning as she went, she put the helmet back on and tried to communicate with the crawling creatures. Their thoughts were alien, of course, but after a few tries she managed to reach an understanding with them.
As Hank labored above her, the Wasp slipped onto the back of the closest insect and quickly rode into the throne room of Kulla. Slipping off her mount, she stayed close to the wall as the dictator issued orders to his men. His words were little more than a confusing garble to her, but she could guess his meaning.
"When shall my weapon be complete?" Kulla growled at the cringing man before him. "Those blasted humans are much to slow for my liking!" The walls shook as the rebels fired another barrage at the palace.
"Sir!" The man visibly shook before the squat tyrant. "We, ah, have been getting more progress reports every hour! The main weapon shall be ready before nightfall, and the other weapons shall be ready shortly."
Kulla smiled as he took a swig from a nearby goblet. "Excellent! Once those traitorous slaves have been dealt with, we shall move on to the planet known as Earth!"
"Yes sir!" The underling quickly saluted and left.
"With my strength, I might be able to take this monster down with no problem, but what if he's stronger?" The Wasp finalized a plan. The strange otherworldly creatures around gave her an idea. Putting her fingers to her brow she ordered them all back to the dungeon, while she made a dash for Kulla's outstretched foot.
Leaping high, she landed directly into the purple folds of his tunic. "Oops, I guess I overdid it." She quickly held on as the tyrant stood up and marched towards the weapon.
"Ready the Electo Death ray!" Kulla shouted as he walked down the hall. "I demand a demonstration!"
"But sire, the men must have rest, food-"One of the guards tried to explain before a large chop to the head silenced him.
"Have this traitor's body tossed to the rebels!" Kulla ordered as he continued to march. "When Kulla orders the sun to rise, it rises! When I demand results, I get them, not excuses!"
As the Wasp held fast to the flowing folds, Kulla marched into the dungeon. The slaves at once stopped their work and stood at attention. Kulla quickly turned around to pointed at the large machine. "Open the roof, I want all those miserable worms outside to gaze in terror at it!" She nearly lost her grip as the world spun around her. Closing her eyes and forcing the dizziness away, she let go and slid down his leg to the floor.
"Kulla, I would have words with you!" She shouted at the top of her lungs. The giant tyrant stepped back and genuinely looked surprised at the sight of her. She knew he couldn't understand her words, but she hoped the point came across.
"What trickery is this?" Kulla cruelly laughed. "Do my enemies think me helpless before a mere mite?" Unseen by the green skinned ruler, Hank nervously sweated and tried desperately to rouse his limbs into motion. "Bah! Ready the cannon after I dispose of this!"
The Wasp couldn't understand what was being said, but the laughter of the man didn't relieve her. To her horror, Kulla raised his foot and brought it down on top of her. She froze as the gigantic boot came crashing down on her. Throwing her arms up in a feeble attempt to save her life, she felt the rich leather impact on her forearms.
There was no crushing, no sound of anything breaking, save for Kulla's grunts as he tried to increase the pressure. "My strength…I'm stronger than him?" The Wasp marveled for a second before deciding to take full advantage of the situation. With all of her might, she upended the giant man, sending him hurtling backwards into his guards. Issuing orders to the insects, she tried to keep all the attention in the room on her.
"What madness is this?" Kulla spoke slowly, as if he were still trying to comprehend what had happened. Turning to the assembled scientists, he angrily pointed at them. "One of you is responsible for this, I know it!" He angrily charged at the closest group and grabbed the nearest man. "Tell me, or I'll start slaughtering you one by one!" Hearing no voices, Kulla dropped the man and overturned a table, spilling dozens of beakers and sending various chemicals to cascade over the floor. "I command you to tell me!" Kulla's eyes bulged in their sockets as he ranted. "I command it! Kulla commands it!" He tore his robe free and used it as a makeshift whip as he raced around the room. The assembled scientists, as they were programmed to stay perfectly still while in Kulla's presence, were helpless as the tyrant raged among them.
"Hey gruesome, did you forget about me?" The Wasp shouted as she waved her arms. Kulla turned and stared down at her. His lipless mouth was pulled into a grimace as he bellowed in rage before her.
"You! I'll destroy you with my bare hands!" He shouted as he removed a small vial from the folds of his robe. Breaking the top off, he flung the contents towards the Wasp. Despite her best efforts, the rapidly hardening goop struck her, binding her to the floor. Kulla laughed as he strolled over to her and removed a small dagger from his belt. "Or perhaps I'll simply flay you." Kneeling before her, he held the dagger ready in his upraised hand. "Before I kill you, you will answer my question. What are you and who sent you?"
Now understanding his words. The Wasp smirked behind her helmet. Before she was immobilized, she had made sure to keep the channel open to the insects. "I have only one thing to say. Fire!"
Before Kulla could comprehend her words, dozens of insects moved across the control panel of the Electro Death ray and began to press all the buttons. The machine powered up with a hum as Kulla turned around to stare at his machine. "No, no! I command you to stop!" Turning to his guards, he shouted orders as the ray's barrel started to glow. "Shut that machine down, now!"
The words had barely left his mouth before a bolt of pure energy shot out of the barrel and struck him directly in the chest. Kulla, who had been born to rule, who had lain to waste countless cities, died. He toppled over onto his side and lay still. With their ruler dead, the guards were in a panic. So much so, that their attention shifted away from the captives, who suddenly found themselves free.
And thus it was, that a small group of guards, armed with swords and cudgels found themselves surrounded by the most brilliant minds of Earth and several weeks' worth of experimental weapons.
The round up was finishing up as the Wasp finally managed to remove the last bit of the binding agent from her costume. The rebels had seized the palace and all the scientists were assembled in the main hall. Those serving Kulla laid down their arms with no prompting. Hank was apart from them as The Wasp ordered the bugs to dismantle the ray gun. "Honey, how did you do all of that?"
"I'm not sure." The Wasp lounged on Hank's shoulder as the other scientists all came up with various methods to get them all back to Earth. "Perhaps this dimension affected my strength somehow. I wonder if I grew, would my strength increase?"
"I'm not sure." Hank gazed around as the scientists argued. "Darling, what do you make of all of this? Some of the tops minds from all over the globe in one room, but they can't agree on anything. Each one is arguing to try that blasted transport. "
"Sad, but I think I have the solution." The Wasp stood up and slid down his arm. "Take me over to the center."
Hank carefully walked with his hand outstretched. "Gentlemen, could I have your attention please." The room grew quiet as Hank pointed to his palm. "Our mutual benefactor has just told me of a possible plan to get us all home. Wasp?"
"Thank you Dr. Pym." The Wasp spoke as loud as she could before the men. "Gentlemen, am I correct in assuming that each of you were brought here by a window washer?" Numerous voices agreed with her. "Then allow me the chance to travel back to Earth. Using the machine here, I can open a gateway back to Earth, as well as making sure that turncoat pays for his crimes."
Back on Earth
Within a dingy basement level apartment, Winslow Harris was utterly unaware of what was being discussed of him. "He-he, another day another bucket full of gold!" The man dumped his ill-gotten loot in a small side closet, which was already overflowing with gold nuggets. Picking up the tools that earned him so much money, the window washer chuckled again as he carefully handled them. "I knew there was something special about you two when I saw you in that junkyard!"
As he doffed his cap and prepared to sit down, both devices began to glow. "What? Another one already?" Normally only the cylinder shaped device glowed, signaling an incoming message from Kulla. Both it and the ring shaped object gave off a bright glow. "Huh. Never did that before."
Picking up the cylinder, he pointed it at the wall like a flashlight. With a flick of a button he turned it on. Much to his horror, instead of the usual image of Kulla staring back at him, he saw a strange masked woman appearing on his wall. "Who, what are you?"
"The Wasp!" She said nothing else as she leaped off of the wall and landed fully sized before him. Slamming her knee into his gut knocked the wind out of him. Doubled over, he was helpless as she swept his legs out from under him. As he lay on the floor and tried desperately to collect his breath, he managed to gasp one question.
"What are you doing?"
The Wasp said nothing as she picked up the ring and placed it around his head. "Hmm, these buttons seem easy enough."
"What? No, no!" The man screamed before his body was enveloped in a flash of light and vanished before her eyes.
"Alright, now let's hope Hank and the others can figure those things out." Fiddling with the cylinder until she opened the portal back to the Slaveworld, the Wasp aimed it at the pile of gold. Once the precious minerals vanished, she turned the beam on herself and disappeared.
"So, what happened to that man once I sent him over?" Maria snuggled up to Hank under the covers.
Hank leaned back and put his arm around his wife. "It was pretty wild honey. After you left, the rebels tore that machine apart with their bare hands. I honestly thought they were going to do the same to us before that window washer appeared." Hank's tone grew distant as he recalled the events. "They set upon him and dragged him away. We were losing the ability to understand them, but I believe they were going to put the man to work in the mines as punishment. No one seemed interested in trying to determine what was being said or the impartiality of the court. Once we had that other transporter everyone seemed interested in getting back as soon as possible."
"So all's well that ends well?" Maria sleepily whispered as she flicked off the lights.
Hank was oblivious to his wife's statement as he continued to talk. "I'm not sure. What else is waiting out there? Or even under our feet? We're like explorers, discovering whole new worlds. Maria, I'm terrified, but at the same time I've never felt so grateful to alive. How do you feel?" Glancing over, Hank smiled ruefully as he saw his wife fast asleep. "Maybe we'll talk more over this in the morning."
Mail to Astonish
The story is based on "Prisoner of the Slave-World", which was first published in Tales to Astonish #41 (March 1963), with credits to Stan Lee, Larry Leiber (script), Don Heck (pencils and inks), and Art Simek (letters). All characters owned by Marvel and all rights reserved.
Next time, be here for "The Voice of Doom!"
Now for the fan mail
My sincere apologies to you, Cambot.
I'm afraid in all the hullabaloo I overlooked this post.
As per usual, another excellent story from you. Very cool Wasp story. And I look forward to your next story.
Thanks for sharing.
And again, thanks to you for reading it Tiff.
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