"Avengers: Code of Hero"
Chapter 3: "King of Nothing"
Disclaimer: Avengers belongs to Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios. This story is only being written for entertainment value and not with any concept of material compensation.
Author's note: At long last, we are continuing this hopefully epic futuristic Avengers tale of heroism in an age of villainy. Hank Pym, the new Iron Man, has already begun recruiting his new Avengers, but who else will join him? Who will deny his invitation? Who will oppose him? And just what really happened to the heroes of old? For the answers to those questions and others, read on!
Iron Man soared through the skies of New York City, while Ricochet followed him across the rooftops. Mockingbird rode his motorcycle down the streets of the city as he valiantly kept pace with Iron Man and Ricochet. Before they could really get anywhere, though, a lightning bolt struck Iron Man from out of nowhere.
"Where the hell did that come from?" Ricochet wondered.
"That better not be Ragnarok," Mockingbird murmured with some slight trepidation.
Indeed, it was not Thor's clone . . . it was the Mighty Thor himself. He wore an armored black tunic and pants over a chainmail undershirt, with armored gloves and boots. A red cape hung proudly from his shoulders, while the familiar winged helm rested on the Asgardian thunder god's blond head and Mjolnir was clenched tightly in his hand while lightning crackled around him.
"You . . . betrayer . . ." Thor accused. "I returned to wretched Midgard to retrieve someone precious to me . . . and I find you here."
"Thor, wait!" Iron Man protested.
"I will not wait for you, mortal," Thor declared, just before striking again with Mjolnir.
"Damn it, Thor, will you stop and listen?" Iron Man shouted, briefly overwhelmed by Thor's power.
"Once, I might have listened," Thor answered coldly. "After what you have done, betrayer, I will not do so any longer." He struck Iron Man again with a blast of lightning from Mjolnir.
"This is gonna be trouble," Tony 2.0 remarked.
"You think?" Hank retorted dryly before directing his next comment at Thor. "If you're not gonna listen . . . then I guess I'll just have to make you." He unleashed a powerful Uni-Beam from the arc reactor in the center of his armor, only for Thor to smack it aside with Mjolnir.
"You presume too much, Anthony Stark," Thor stated ominously. "Then again, you never did know your limits."
"Tony Stark is dead!" Hank shouted. "Norman Osborn killed him!"
Thor's eyes briefly widened with shock before they narrowed with anger. "Then who are you and why do you wear his colors?"
"He was my friend. And he was yours, too."
"Once, perhaps. But not after he created that hollow facsimile to fight his war for him. Not so long as it continues to besmirch my name."
Iron Man unlatched the faceplate of his helmet, revealing the face of Hank Pym. "Hey, Thor. Long time no see, huh?"
"Do my eyes deceive me?" Thor asked, surprised.
"No, they don't, old friend," Hank confirmed. "I've been gone a long time, and now it's time to make things right. Whoever you're trying to retrieve, I'm all right with helping you."
"You are a gracious man, Henry Pym," Thor remarked. "But I caution you against wearing that armor."
"I have no choice," Hank answered. "Someone has to show these people what a real Iron Man can do."
"Very well," Thor responded. "Now, who are these mortals that were following you?"
"Mockingbird and Ricochet," Hank replied, closing the faceplate of his armor once again. "You once counted their parents as allies and fellow Avengers. Anyway, wherever this person is, lead the way."
Thor launched Mjolnir before grabbing its strap and letting the divine hammer lead him, Iron Man following. Ricochet and Mockingbird followed the two veteran superheroes from their positions on the rooftops and the streets, respectively. "That's so weird," Mockingbird commented. "First, they're beating the crap out of each other and now they're teaming up."
"Superheroes do that a lot," Ricochet remarked over Mockingbird's communicator link. "At least they did back in my mom's day."
"Why?" Mockingbird asked.
"Hell if I know," Ricochet replied.
In a little hole-in-the-wall bar called Josie's Place, a redheaded young woman was eagerly gulping down her latest shot of beer. "You might wanna be careful there, missy," the bartender admonished. "Plenty of guys here'd love to take a shot at you."
The redhead, Lyra, snorted disdainfully. "Like they could handle me. I'd break them in two."
The bartender, a handsome man in his late thirties, chuckled. "Sure thing."
Just then, a young blonde in chain-linked black armor with a large sword strapped to her back walked into the bar. The first thing the bar's patrons noticed was that she was tall, almost six feet high by their estimate. The second thing they noticed was that she was quite "blessed" up top, something her armor did not fail to emphasize. The third thing they noticed about her was that she looked like she could break a man's skull with just her thighs. That last part, though, didn't stop a more foolhardy biker from approaching her.
"Hey, babe," the leather-clad bald man greeted her. "How's about I take you for a ride?"
"I'm not here for you," the armored blonde woman responded coldly.
"Hey, don't be so cold," the biker admonished. "I'm betting a lady like you is probably looking for a real man to show her a good time, know what I'm saying?"
The woman drew her sword, holding it at the man's throat right by the jugular vein. "Not interested . . . know what I'm saying?"
"Hey, hey, hey!" the bartender shouted. "I don't want any trouble here, so put that sword down!"
"Sure," the young woman answered calmly, withdrawing the sword from the man's throat and re-sheathing it.
Unfortunately, the biker's friends weren't so willing to let it go, and they charged her, intending to beat her by force of numbers. That turned out to be false hope, as the young woman slammed an elbow into one biker's stomach before pirouetting into a kick to another biker's chest. Both blows sent the two bikers flying, only to collide with opposite walls and fall unconscious.
"She's some kind of freak!" one of the remaining bikers shouted.
"Who cares?" another yelled back, obviously drunk. "We'll still take her!"
The one full of liquid courage got a tap on his shoulder, and it was from the redheaded girl who'd been stoically watching the fight. The interesting thing, though, was that her skin had turned a shade of green, and she was a lot taller and more muscularly defined than she'd been before. The drunken biker turned to see her, and nearly defecated himself with fear at the sight of her.
"What . . . what the . . . ?"
The green-skinned redhead, Lyra, turned to the bartender and lifted one red eyebrow. "Do you mind?" she asked sardonically.
"Just try not to wreck the place," the bartender answered resignedly.
Lyra smirked and punched the drunken biker so hard he went flying into the wall headfirst. "Bitch . . ." the biker had the will to mutter before falling unconscious.
The other patrons began fleeing en masse, stampeding over the unconscious bikers in their desperate haste. Lyra merely regarded the fleeing patrons with cool satisfaction, before turning her stare to the armored blonde. "And who might you be?"
"Torunn," the blonde answered. "You?"
"Lyra. Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Torunn responded.
"Well, since we chased your customers out . . . here you go," Lyra said to the bartender, putting down a roll of bills. "On me. See you around." She walked out of Josie's with Torunn following her.
As the two beautiful warriors walked down the street, Lyra turned to Torunn. "What brought you to Josie's?"
"I felt a kindred spirit there," Torunn replied. "I wasn't expecting it to be you."
Lyra smiled. "Well, what about the armor? Are you from Asgard?"
"Yes," Torunn confessed. "But I was utterly bored there. Midgard here looks quite interesting. Shame the men here aren't up to par."
Lyra chuckled. "You won't find good men in a bar, not unless they're drinking away their sorrows. Then you can offer them a little bit of comfort."
Torunn lifted one blonde eyebrow. "You are quite wicked, Lyra."
Just then, armored cars with H.A.M.M.E.R. markings sped up in front of and behind them, cutting off conventional escape routes. "Them again," Lyra groaned.
"Who are they?" Torunn asked.
"H.A.M.M.E.R.," Lyra replied. "Norman Osborn's goon squad for dealing with people like us."
As she said that, armored soldiers poured out of the armored cars, their colors violet and dark green, all of them pointing high-powered pulse rifles at the two women. "You will come with us now," the foremost soldier ordered.
Torunn drew her sword. "And just who do you think you are that you can give orders to me?"
"Resisting arrest? Your funeral, bitch," the foremost H.A.M.M.E.R. soldier answered, before directing his next words to his men. "Open fire!"
Torunn blocked the pulse blasts with her sword, while Lyra jumped over the Asgardian warrior and came down punching a H.A.M.M.E.R. soldier in his shielded face. As he fell, she contorted to hasten his descent with a vicious kick, following up with another acrobatic twist to kick another H.A.M.M.E.R. soldier. She back-flipped off him as the remaining soldiers opened fire on her, only to miss because of how fast she was moving.
Meanwhile, Torunn ran her palm along the flat of her blade, charging it with lightning. Immediately, she began slicing through the soldiers' rifles and armor at bolting speeds, visible only by the trail of electricity and scent of ozone she left behind. When she was done, she was surrounded by the prone frames of numerous disabled H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers.
Just as Lyra was finishing up with the remaining H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers, she and Torunn heard the sound of clapping distant yet near. "Do you wish to come out and face us instead of playing the voyeur?" Torunn asked.
A handsome, well-muscled young blond man stepped out of the shadows, a relaxed smile on his face. "Hey. Name's Iolaus. Would have joined in, but I was having too much fun watching you ladies kick their asses. Didn't think it'd be fair to interrupt."
"Hello," Torunn greeted.
"Hi," Lyra greeted.
"So, anyone wanna go for a party?" Iolaus asked. "I know a good spot."
Torunn stared at Iolaus. "And just what kind of party would this be?"
"Some dancing, some music, constant flow of good drinks, good company . . . for certain qualifiers of 'good,'" Iolaus replied.
That was when they were interrupted by Iron Man, Mockingbird, Thor, and Ricochet, who all came from differing directions. Iron Man and Thor landed from the sky, while Ricochet sped down the façade of a nearby tall building and flipped to land on the ground. Mockingbird parked his motorcycle in front of the trio.
"Torunn," Thor greeted sternly.
"Father," Torunn answered evenly.
"Father!" Iolaus shouted. "Thor's your father!" He quickly calmed down. "Oh, well. Shouldn't be surprised; you were throwing lightning around just like him."
"Yes, I am her father," Thor confirmed stoically.
"So she's the one you said you had to retrieve?" Iron Man asked.
That drew Lyra's attention to Iron Man immediately. "So who do you think you are?"
"Iron Man," the red-and-gold-armored man replied. He opened the faceplate of his helmet to reveal his face. "See here? Hank Pym, at your service, and I've got no more love for Osborn than you do."
"Really?" Lyra asked skeptically.
Hank's expression darkened. "He murdered a good friend of mine and perverted his life's work. I probably hate him even more than you do."
"So that's why you're wearing that tin suit?" Lyra remarked.
"Justice," Hank answered before closing his faceplate once again.
"You're going to return to Asgard with me," Thor ordered Torunn.
"No," Torunn stated.
"Midgard is not a safe place for you," Thor insisted. "It is full of evil men, and there are no longer heroes for you to fight alongside."
"Then what does that make us?" Ricochet asked sardonically.
"Fools," Thor replied.
"I can't believe you've gotten this cynical, Thor," Iron Man responded in shock.
"The degeneration of Midgard is something I have learned to cope with," Thor answered. "I merely do not desire Torunn to be ruined by it."
Torunn drew her sword and pointed it at Thor. "Do not presume to talk as though I was some fragile waif. I am by no means that. I am a Valkyrie, one of the shield maidens of Valhalla . . . and I am not going to quietly retire to Asgard while this world collapses under the weight of its own degeneracy."
"Is that so?" Thor inquired.
Torunn stared into her father's eyes with a steely expression. "Yes."
Thor allowed himself a brief smile. "You are very willful, Torunn. It reminds me much of your mother."
"I suppose," Torunn responded with a brief smile of her own before sheathing her sword.
Thor turned to Iron Man. "Henry Pym, I leave Torunn in your hands. If she wishes to join your Avengers, so be it. But I expect her not to die on your watch . . . or you will not face a god's wrath, but that of a father."
Iron Man nodded. "I'll remember that, Thor. And I appreciate it."
"Trusting you with my daughter?" Thor asked. "You may have made your share of mistakes, Henry Pym, but you are a far better man than Tony Stark ultimately proved himself to be."
That stung a little bit, Iron Man found. It wasn't that Hank Pym didn't have his own axe to grind with the late Tony Stark, but it was still a painful reminder that many Avengers were either dead or scattered, with the good names of several run through the dirt. He clenched his armored fist, silently renewing his vow that Norman Osborn would pay for what he'd done to the Avengers.
"Thank you," Iron Man found it in himself to answer. "I think."
"Be on your guard, Torunn," Thor warned before using Mjolnir to crack open a dimensional portal that led back to Asgard. He flew through it, leaving behind Torunn, Lyra, Iolaus, Ricochet, Iron Man, and Mockingbird.
"Hey, Lyra," Ricochet greeted.
"Hey yourself, Rico," Lyra replied.
"I'm guessing you're the She-Hulk of this time," Iron Man addressed Lyra.
"Yeah," Lyra confirmed. "Savage She-Hulk, at your service."
"Wasn't expecting you to be a redhead," Iron Man remarked.
"He's on the up-and-up, Lyra," Ricochet said.
"You just want to get into his armor," Lyra jibed.
"Well, he is kinda cute," Ricochet admitted. "Don't you think?"
"We'd better not stay in one place too long," Iolaus remarked. "These two ladies tore up a bunch of H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers. I'm betting more are coming to try their luck . . . or at least they'll send something tougher."
"And who might you be?" Iron Man asked Iolaus.
"Iolaus, son of Hercules," Iolaus replied. "He named me after his best friend and nephew."
"What happened to Hercules?" Iron Man inquired.
"He died as he lived," Iolaus answered somberly. "Protecting the innocent."
At that moment, the sound of repulsor jets in the sky could be heard. Lyra glared at Iolaus. "You bastard, you jinxed us."
"Just means we get ourselves a good workout," Iolaus commented coolly.
Surrounding the six would-be Avengers was a veritable legion of armored drones painted dark green and violet-black, H.A.M.M.E.R. logos adorning their fronts and backs. "H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids," Iron Man grumbled. "They sent the big guns after us."
"Bigger they are, harder they fall," Mockingbird answered.
"That's the spirit," Iolaus encouraged. "I think I'll like you."
Mockingbird drew a pair of Berettas, while Ricochet plucked a pair of explosive disks off her jacket sleeves. Iron Man readied his repulsors while Torunn unsheathed her sword and Lyra and Iolaus just readied their fists. Mockingbird smirked evilly at the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids as he brandished his pistols.
"I think it's time we brought the pain."
"That, I can agree with," Lyra remarked.
The H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids attacked them all at once, with surprising speed for their bulk. Unfortunately for them, Torunn was even faster, slicing several in half with her lightning-charged sword. Lyra and Iolaus charged at a particular Droid and punched it together, knocking its head off and punching through its chest armor at the same time.
Ricochet threw her explosive disks at the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids and they ricocheted between multiple Droids before exploding with enough force to blast a good number of them to bits. Mockingbird dodged the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids with incredible acrobatics while making trick shots with his pistols that hit the Droids in their weak spots. This made them collapse under their own weight – at which point he delivered the coup de grace by shooting them in their heads.
Iron Man blocked the Droids' assaults with a deflector shield that repelled every single attack they tried. Smiling underneath his helmet, he activated the offensive version of the deflector shield, using it to ram through several of the Droids. He then attacked the Droids with repulsor-enhanced punches, setting upon one with a special ferocity as he imagined Norman Osborn's smugly, psychotically leering face mocking him, mocking everything the Avengers stood for.
The only thing that stopped him beating the Droid past the point of utter uselessness was hearing Ricochet shout, "Look out!" At that point, Iron Man whirled and blasted through the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droid that was about to sneak-attack him with a high-power repulsor blast. Gritting his teeth beneath his helmet, he launched himself like a bullet at another H.A.M.M.E.R. Droid, tearing through it like a hot knife through butter.
Lyra was punching and kicking through H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids with no expression but that of complete focus. Beside her, Iolaus looked like he was having the party of his life as he fought through the Droids. Torunn merely slashed through Droid after Droid with her lightning-powered sword, having a look of concentration on her face similar to Lyra's. Ricochet continued throwing bouncing disks as she dodged the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids' assaults, the disks ricocheting between the drones before the eventual explosions blasted them all away.
"Time to finish this," Torunn murmured, running her hand up the flat of her sword to charge it up with lightning. She suddenly seemed to vanish for a moment, and a moment after she "reappeared," the H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids surrounding her collapsed completely, having been sliced to multiple pieces each. Torunn just stood there with her sword, looking as impassive as ever.
"You're good, girl, but leave some for the rest of us," Iolaus playfully chided her, prompting a sidelong stare from Torunn. Suddenly, she lunged past him and delivered a vicious uppercut to a H.A.M.M.E.R. Droid that was trying to attack Iolaus from behind. The uppercut sent the Droid flying, and she jumped above it to slice it apart as she came down, its pieces falling around her crouching frame. "Thanks . . ."
Iron Man activated laser weapons hidden within his gauntlets. "I'd duck if I were you," he warned his fellow would-be Avengers.
They ducked, just in time to avoid being sliced to ribbons by the laser beams that cut down the remaining H.A.M.M.E.R. Droids. "Damn it, my hair!" Ricochet yelled.
"Sorry," Iron Man replied, gazing at the scorched ends of Ricochet's white hair.
"They don't exactly make hair products for getting it burned off by a laser," Ricochet pouted.
"You're still alive," Torunn remarked stoically. "And mostly unharmed. Be grateful for that."
"Yeah, I am," Ricochet answered. "I just wish I hadn't had to sacrifice my hair to do it."
"I'd say it's about time we got lost," Mockingbird admonished. "We just smashed up their pet droids. H.A.M.M.E.R. won't be happy about that, and I don't intend to make myself more a target than I already have. You shouldn't, either."
"Good point," Iron Man conceded, opening a portal. "This will take you to the Infinite Avengers Mansion. You'll be safe there. Osborn or his goons won't be able to find you there."
"What about you?" Ricochet asked.
"I still have recruits to find," Iron Man replied before jetting off into the sky as the other Avengers-to-be entered the portal leading to the Infinite Avengers Mansion.
"Who are you thinking about?" Tony 2.0 asked.
"I'm thinking we might need a little speed on our side," Iron Man replied. "You know anybody that fits the profile?"
"There's always Luna Maximoff," Tony 2.0 suggested. "According to the files I have on her, she's got super-speed, but her version works by distorting time and space around her to propel herself to any given destination faster than most eyes – even superhuman eyes – can track."
"Like father, like daughter," Iron Man mused. "You think she'll want to join us?"
"Her mother might have issues with that, given what her father put her through," Tony 2.0 warned.
"What did he do?" Iron Man asked.
"Remember when Scarlet Witch triggered M-Day?" Tony 2.0 asked. "Quicksilver was one of the unlucky ones. He lost his powers, and he was so desperate to get them back that he stole the Terrigen Mists and even got Luna hooked on them."
"Damn," Iron Man uttered, completely shocked. "I knew he was an asshole, but I didn't know he'd go that far."
"Desperation does scary things to a person's mind," Tony 2.0 responded. "You know that better than most."
"Yeah, I do," Iron Man conceded ruefully. "Anybody else you have in mind?"
"There's a Black Knight active right now . . . and a new White Tiger," Tony 2.0 answered.
"Give it to me straight on them," Iron Man ordered.
"The Black Knight in question is Jason Garrett," Tony 2.0 explained. "He's related to Nathan Garrett, the first modern Black Knight, and Dane Whitman, the man who joined the Avengers bearing the Ebony Blade, but he's a more direct descendant of Garrett. Fortunately, he takes more after Dane. He's managed to unlock certain abilities that the other Black Knights didn't have, like a magical suit of armor for extra protection when he fights. It helps him maintain something of a secret identity, too."
"What about the White Tiger?" Iron Man prompted. "Does he or she have anything to do with Hector Ayala or Angela del Toro?"
"Black Panther," Tony 2.0 corrected. "In Wakanda, there's a cult that acts like some kind of militant religious order sworn to defend the Black Panther, and its representative is known as the White Tiger. The White Tiger here is the son of T'Challa's old foe Erik Killmonger, who managed to manipulate his way into ruling Wakanda by taking advantage of the panic caused by T'Challa's absence. Unfortunately for Killmonger, his son – Derek Slayton – decided to work with T'Challa's loyalists, and he got exiled for that. He's been fighting crime here ever since."
"What happened to T'Challa?" Iron Man asked.
"Nobody knows for sure, but he up and disappeared one day, years ago," Tony 2.0 replied. "There are those who suspect Killmonger was behind T'Challa's disappearance, or at least worked with whoever caused it, and it's still up for debate whether or not he's still alive. Whatever the case, he's been gone a long time."
Iron Man sighed. "Where can I find this White Tiger?"
"I'll lead you to him," Tony 2.0 replied. "Just let me handle the driving."
End Notes: There you have it. The Secret Avengers are beginning to come together as a team, but there are still more individuals to recruit. Who will join? Who will refuse? And what will the team have to face off against as they struggle to topple Norman Osborn's Dark Reign? For the answers to those questions and others, read on and be sure to review!